Liar Game (tvN): Episode 2 Recap

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A strong episode despite following closely to the Japanese drama this time around, we finally get into the second half of round 1. Will Woo Jin help Da Jung successfully get back her money? And if so, can she still escape the game in one piece?

We rewind a little back to see that Dal Goo escorted Da Jung to the prison entrance, where a whole bunch of other gangsters and businessmen are waiting around for Woo Jin to come out. Someone comes out but it’s not him, so Dal Goo goes up to the guard and asks when Woo Jin will come out. The guard says he left already, so Dal Goo starts running out chasing after the man that just left the prison. Everyone starts chasing after Dal Goo, thinking that he knows exactly where Woo Jin is, and one of the guys knocks Da Jung aside.

It’s when she’s on the ground nursing her leg that she encounters Woo Jin, who leaves the prison after the crowd has dissipated. He holds his hand out to her, and recognizes her from TV. Da Jung hesitates for a moment, but when she reaches out to hold his hand, he pulls away and walks off. Lesson 1: Never trust anyone.

Dal Goo then calls her and asks if she saw anyone leave the prison after they ran off. She then limps over to the bus stop, where Woo Jin is waiting, to check if he left the prison and what his name is. Woo Jin: “Aren’t you more curious about the crime I committed?” She’s not, as she only wants to look for Professor Ha Woo Jin for a favor. He tells her to give up looking for him without revealing his identity, as he believes entangling their lives together will hurt her in the long run. After all, he had killed someone who trusted him completely. (I have a feeling he’s exaggerating here and just feels deeply guilty for said person’s death.)

The bus arrives and Woo Jin gets up from the bench. Before boarding, he tells her that the Professor Ha she seeks hates people like her who are gullible and too kindly to the point of being stupid. The bus drives off, and Dal Goo calls her to check if she saw Woo Jin. When he describes to her his handsome-but-annoying face and the beaded bracelet he wears, she realizes that she was talking to Woo Jin the entire time and chases after the bus.

She immediately plops herself next to Woo Jin, much to his annoyance, and does not notice the other bus riders taking pictures of her because they recognize her from TV. Woo Jin immediately cuts her off, not wanting to do anything with her even though she hasn’t even asked her favor yet. I’m sure her encounter with Woo Jin will end up on TV somehow…

Undeterred, Da Jung follows Woo Jin off the bus silently, waiting for him to hear her out. Annoyed, he finally tells her that he’ll hear her out, but because he needs to use the bathroom she should wait for him in the alleyway they just walked through. Da Jung happily waits, not realizing that he just told her the same excuse that old woman gave her, and that he was lying.

The day turns dark, and Da Jung continues to wait. Woo Jin hasn’t returned, having gone to the temple to visit a deceased relative (my money’s on his mother). He passes by the same alleyway on his way home and sees Da Jung sitting by the curb, still waiting. A pair of drunk men see her there alone and try to grab her away to entertain them. She struggles against their grasp and tries to get away, but they are stronger than her.

Thankfully Woo Jin steps in and threatens to get the police involved. He grabs Da Jung away from them and protectively puts his arm around her shoulder until they leave. Da Jung is more relieved that he came back than angry. In fact, he’s the angry one because she stupidly waited for him when he clearly lied after not coming back for hours. Da Jung fires back: “Is it so wrong for one person to believe another?”

Flashback to some time ago, and Woo Jin is leaning over the edge of a roof, holding on to his fallen mother’s one hand for dear life. He tells her not to let go, but she stops holding on to his wrist. Woo Jin apologizes for not having known how much she was struggling, and his mother still doesn’t understand what exactly happened to her. She asks the same question, “Is it so wrong for people to believe one another?” His mother slips out of his grasp, and all he has left is the beaded bracelet that she wore.

It’s no wonder Da Jung reminds him of his mother, but he doesn’t want to help her win the $500,000 back from her teacher. He, a recently released prisoner, does not want to get involved with helping her steal money from someone else and appear on TV. He tells her to get lost, and she finally leaves but drops her participant contract on the ground. Woo Jin takes it home as some reading material and finds himself disgusted at the terms.

The following day Da Jung waits outside of Teacher Hyun’s house until he returns, begging him to explain why he just took the money like that. Easy: it’s all greed. They’re on a reality show and it’s a competition, so shouldn’t he try to win? Not to mention, he thinks that if every other contestant is as gullible as she is then he might have a chance at the grand prize!

Dal Goo’s boss is quite disappointed that they won’t be able to get the money Da Jung owes considering that she’s already losing Liar Game. On top of that, because she’s on TV all of her father’s creditors are coming to look for her demanding that she pay them back first if she wins. Before she can stamp her thumb on anyone’s contract, Woo Jin intervenes. He shows his own “contract” to the pesky creditors, which he properly had notarized and aligns with the rules of Liar Game, considering that she signed a participant contract that is very strict about who collects the winnings. Cameramen continue rolling as Woo Jin calls Da Jung a very manipulative woman despite her innocent appearance.

One of the creditors doesn’t believe that Woo Jin actually has a notarized contract with Da Jung and so they make a run for it, escaping the cameramen and her creditors. She’s surprised he knew where she lived, and he says it’s not so hard to look her up especially since he has her participant contract. He tells her to give up the game again; if she does not act in a way that the show wants her to for entertainment purposes then she will have to pay a huge penalty. (There’s basically a penalty for everything!) But Da Jung can’t give up. Winning the money is her only chance for a normal life with her father, and, though simple, it’s her dream.

It’s finally enough to convince Woo Jin to help her, but she must promise to leave the game after this round and give him half of her winnings. She has a condition of her own: she wants him to pinky swear that he will never betray her. Such a simple gesture, but so meaningful to her. Then she realizes maybe she should have a contract… Ha, should have thought of that first!

The following day the Liar Game team have a production meeting to discuss the reaction from the public regarding the show. Da Jung is clearly their star, and many are annoyed with her, believing that she’s been acting innocent this entire time. Some also feel bad for her situation and want her to win. Nevertheless, her next move is to bring in a helper, which is legally allowed within the realm of the contract but the director of JVN may not be happy. Yoon Joo is impressed with Woo Jin’s resume (and good looks), but is concerned about Woo Jin’s criminal record. Though he was charged with murder, he was only in prison for illegal trading and financial crimes. Do Young leaves the decision up to Yoon Joo on whether or not she wants to bring him on to the show, though he thinks it’ll be quite controversial. He leaves the meeting, and it makes Yoon Joo wonder if Do Young anticipated this to happen because the contract already had a clause about bringing helpers on the show.

Woo Jin and Da Jung arrive at the studio so that he can meet Do Young, and it becomes a tense war of words. Do Young attacks first by asking why such a young and promising professor ended up in jail. Woo Jin retaliates by asking why a successful financial analyst would come try to revive a television station. Woo Jin is merely proving Do Young’s point that people change in the face of money, as that was his main reason for agreeing to appear on the show. Do Young then tries to see if he can find out Woo Jin’s strategy. As if Woo Jin would talk! He knows that Do Young is pulling the strings behind the scenes to reach this exact situation, that Do Young purposely put Teacher Hyun and Da Jung against each other so that the teacher would steal from her and she would have to turn to Woo Jin for help. They end up being incredibly interested in each other because they know that they have met their match.

Back at home Da Jung cooks a meal for Woo Jin to thank him for his help. Dal Goo joins in, and Woo Jin is surprised to see that they get along so well despite one being a loan shark and one a debtor. Da Jung makes tofu stew for Woo Jin and has him eat the first bite, as tradition is for people who get out of jail. Woo Jin then asks Dal Goo for help; once they’re on air they won’t be able to move around or do things easily so they’ll need his help for certain tasks. Dal Goo appears honored to be selected for this mission, and I really hope he ends up not betraying them.

As expected, Director Jang (Choi Jin Ho) refuses to allow Woo Jin on the show. The station has been getting a lot of criticism that everything is staged, and the top level executives are uncomfortable with this show. Even though the ratings are soaring, if the station gets audited for any illegalities it will be the end of JVN. Do Young believes that Woo Jin may end up becoming the main source of ratings instead of Da Jung, and manages to put a positive spin on the situation. Yes, Woo Jin is a criminal and a swindler, but what if he did it for revenge? He hands a folder of his research on Do Young and it’s enough to make Director Jang think twice about not showing Woo Jin at all.

It’s three days before the first round ends. First order of business, Da Jung must declare war on Teacher Hyun. She goes to his door and boldly declares that she will win the whole $1 million dollars. Second step, they keep watch over Teacher Hyun. They need to see if he leaves for the bank, but Teacher Hyun ends up closing himself up in his house. Woo Jin then has Dal Goo get information on Do Young and we learn that though he’s incredibly rich and did well on Wall Street and in Korea, he recently suffered some great losses. Dal Goo also gets Woo Jin some supplies and a smart phone.

Woo Jin rejoins Da Jung in the car for the stakeout but suddenly the police arrive. Teacher Hyun had called them to try to get rid of Woo Jin and Da Jung! Immediately, Woo Jin pretends that he’s kissing Da Jung so that the police will not think of them as the suspicious folk but rather just a couple on a date. Of course the proximity of his lips makes Da Jung really nervous, as she’s probably never been so close to a guy before.

Two days until the round ends, and Da Jung is feeling helpless. Why are they watching Teacher Hyun all the time? Woo Jin points out that even though the money was supposed to be in a bank, Teacher Hyun hasn’t left his home the entire time. This means that the money is actually in the house. His deduction is right, as we see Teacher Hyun check a safe in his closet is still secure.

Smoke fills up Teacher Hyun’s home, which distracts him from seeing that an intruder has entered his home. Woo Jin makes his first face-to-face appearance with Teacher Hyun. He announces his position as Da Jung’s helper and begins to deduce based on Teacher Hyun’s reactions that he had swapped out the cases in his car for an empty one to get Da Jung’s money. Da Jung then appears carrying a duplicate money case, which is pretty easy to get, and instinctively the teacher turns his head right to where his money is.

Teacher Hyun is confident that they won’t touch his money, but Woo Jin’s equally confident manner that he will get the $1 million unsettles him. It makes him put heavy chains around the safe and board up the closet to ensure no one can get through.

One day left before the game ends and Da Jung and Woo Jin keep their watch over Teacher Hyun, who’s slowly going crazy. Their inaction also makes Da Jung worried because she wonders just how Woo Jin plans to get their money when they’re not even doing anything. She begins to doubt Woo Jin’s strategy, and he ends up leaving her to do the watch on her own. Just then, she and Teacher Hyun get an automated call that the Liar Game Retrieval Team will visit their home at 5pm to count the money and determine the winner, which makes her even more nervous.

The next day, D-Day, Da Jung starts begging for Teacher Hyun to open the door as a last ditch attempt to get his sympathy. He holds out until 5pm and the retrieval team arrives to count the money. She desperately asks him for help, but he gives her no sympathy. Teacher Hyun shows his true colors when he admits that he was actually fired from his job for embezzlement, thus proving that in the end the robbers will survive.

While the money is being counted, Yoon Joo checks with her cameramen to see if Woo Jin is nearby. Once it’s confirmed he is, she sends over the official retrieval team at 6pm on the dot. Teacher Hyun is confused as to why they showed up now, and just then one of the guys hands over the two cases of money to Da Jung. It’s actually Dal Goo posing as a fake retrieval team member! Teacher Hyun had mistakenly handed over all of his money to a fake retrieval team, which then handed it off to Da Jung just before 6pm so that she could officially win.

Thanks to Woo Jin’s timely appearance, he explains that when he learned how the show was communicating to all the contestants through the phones, he got a duplicate from Dal Goo and started a fire in Teacher Hyun’s home to swap out the phones. He then got the real message about the retrieval time, and then sent an automated message to Teacher Hyun with an earlier retrieval time. As for tricking Da Jung, he pretended that he was fixing the time on her watch but actually set it an hour early so that she would actually despair when she thought the time was up. If Teacher Hyun saw her giving up, he’d be more confident and less suspicious about whom he was the money to at the deadline.

So with that, the official retrieval team gives Da Jung her $500K winnings, who in turn gives Woo Jin $250K for his share. Now all she has to do is promise to no longer participate in the game.

Yoon Joo tries to get an interview with Woo Jin, threatening him that he’ll be breaking his contract if he doesn’t agree. He’s not scared of her, as he now has money to hire a lawyer if need be. Dal Goo then tries to get payment for his services, but Woo Jin can’t give him any of the money just yet. For Da Jung to leave the game she will have to hand over half of her winnings (which is $250K) as a penalty. Once she hands it over, he plans to give her his $250K so that she can pay off her debts. Aww…

Just then a bunch of creditors arrive at Teacher Hyun’s house. They’re here for the money, whether he won or not. Yoon Joo has the cameras rolling as the creditors beat up Teacher Hyun and then call up his son in the States to witness the brutality. Da Jung is rooted in her spot as she watches them try to get her teacher to sign a contract where he must give up a body part if he fails to pay his debt.

A large van drives right up next to Woo Jin and Dal Goo; it’s Do Young and he wants to speak to the professor. Inside he has Woo Jin watch the events unfold inside Teacher Hyun’s house. Based on the contract, a helper can become a full fledged contestant if he wins half of the winnings, so Do Young wants Woo Jin to participate. However Woo Jin quickly declines. He has no interest in participating in this dastardly game.

But Do Young keeps him in the van to see what happens next in the house. Da Jung wants the creditors to stop abusing her teacher, but they don’t care. No one’s stopping them anyways, and the crew is just busy recording rather than interfering. So before the creditors can force Teacher Hyun to stamp his thumbprint, Da Jung takes matters to her own hand. She’ll pay off her teacher’s debt, which just so happens to total to a nice solid $250K. It’s a move that shocks all, including the jaded Yoon Joo.

Woo Jin is disgusted with this manipulation as he feels that Do Young orchestrated the whole thing so that Da Jung would end up giving her money. He hands over his case of $250K to pay off Da Jung’s penalty fee so that she can leave the game. Do Young then taunts him: is he helping pay off Da Jung’s penalty because she reminds him of his late mother who helped everyone until she was swindled herself? Letting on that he knows more than it seems, Do Young also adds that the company Woo Jin took down was just a shell. Doesn’t Woo Jin want to know who was behind that company and take the real top person down? If he joins the game he can find out the truth.

So what purpose will Woo Jin’s $250K serve? To save Da Jung and pay her penalty, or to be his entrance fee into the Liar Game and take down his mother’s real killer?

Comments:

This episode was so much more faithful to the original in that everything happened exactly as expected. The manipulations used were pretty much the same, so I have to admit I lost a little bit of interest with this episode.

But on to the acting: It’s really strange to see Lee Sang Yoon act angry, especially when he was frustrated with how naive Da Jung could be. I don’t mind him so much when he has this distant, bored look on his face or when he’s crying over his mother. But when he gets angry, it feels strange because he looks like he’s in pain for you while yelling at you. It’s as if you’ve hurt him, and that’s why he’s yelling at you. While it does add some depth to his acting, it also makes him appear less of an expert swindler. I didn’t feel very confident right off the bat that he knew what he was doing or had a plan ready. He just seemed too nice of a guy sometimes.

However his scenes with Shin Sung Rok were fantastic, and I’d like to think that Shin really makes everyone bring their A-game to the table. He is intense and brings an air of theatricality to everything even when no one is watching. That just makes him even more untrustworthy in my eyes, but I also believe that because everything feels so rehearsed with him that he is a man with a plan and is always ten steps ahead.

And finally, I just have to say that if Dal Goo is meant to be like the police officer that works with Liar Game in the Japanese drama, I’ll be really sad. I hope Dal Goo does not end up betraying Da Jung and Woo Jin.

 

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