Liar Game (tvN): Episode 11-12 Recap and Review

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I’m finally finishing it! I feel terrible not watching the last two episodes, but I guess drama fatigue got to me. As much as Liar Game from Korea is different from Liar Game in Japan, at the end of the day I still knew what to expect and the games were more or less the same. So even though I had two more episodes left and I knew in my heart that this Korean version was not the same as the Japanese one, I was in a bit of a rut. That, and more K-dramas took hold of me.

Need a refresher? This is episode 10’s recap.

Episode 11: Final Round Part 1

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Woo Jin has no choice but to admit to Da Jung that what she heard on TV is true – he did cause her father to go broke and contemplate suicide. She walks off, and he attempts the feeblest wrist grab ever to stop her. Meanwhile, her father tries to make a call in the subway station but is stopped by a black-gloved hand. Who wants to bet it’s Do Young?

Meanwhile Director Jang goes to meet with the station’s biggest investor, Lloyd Capital, to convince them not to take over the broadcasting station. The negative press surrounding the show’s “truthfulness” has prompted Lloyd Capital to want to shut down the station. Director Jang insists on meeting the chairman (Ahn Suk Hwan), and states that if Nam Da Jung wins, the public will be won over. However the chairman wants Kang Do Young to win; there is no way if Ha Woo Jin wins he will give Da Jung the money (and make her the winner), and there’s no way Da Jung can win by herself. On top of that, the chairman shows a damning video about Woo Jin’s past and how he swindled and hurt Da Jung’s father in the process. Director Jang is so easy to be manipulated and is shocked to find that Woo Jin is no hero. The chairman also adds that even though Do Young may have a checkered past, it’s not important. He should win the game to ensure that Lloyd Capital does not takeover JVN; besides, Do Young also apparently owes Lloyd Capital a lot of money.

Director Jang leaves, formulating his own plans on how to ramp up the tension on the show, and that’s when the chairman goes to respectfully greet the real chairman – Kang Do Young, the guy whose head has been peeking over the executive chair and somehow Director Jang never noticed. Meanwhile Woo Jin meets with Ja Young to investigate more on Do Young and they only now notice that L Company and Lloyd Capital have similar initials and logos. (Really… it took you that long to figure out…) She asks what the picture of his mother standing outside of the orphanage with two boys means, but Woo Jin answers with a stony silence. He’s wary of whom he’s going to trust information with now.

Da Jung sits backstage with Jamie and Dal Goo before the Reinstatement game begins, where either Bulldog, Do Young, or Goo In Gi can win a spot with the finalists. (Sung Joon would join but unfortunately he’s incapacitated under a crashed elevator.) They try to reassure her that Woo Jin is a good guy, and that the whole “expose” with her father was done for TV. Da Jung understands this, as she knows Woo Jin must have felt guilty when she said she’d never forgive the man who made her father this way. She tries to find out where her father is from Yoon Joo, but unfortunately the producer has no idea where he went.

The Reinstatement game is a simple game of 17 poker. Only 17 cards are used: 4 aces, 4 kings, 4 queens, 4 jacks, and 1 joker. The idea is to make the best combination out of the four cards you receive, with four of a kind being the highest, then three of a kind, then two pair and one pair. The joker acts like a wild card.

Bulldog’s secret talent is that he can spot where the joker is; he has really quick eyes which benefitted him when he was a boxer in his youth, and so he can spot it while the dealer shuffles. The players can also tell the dealer how many cards to cut and put at the end of the deck, so Bulldog uses it to his advantage to make sure he gets the joker and can get a three of a kind each time. He wins in the beginning, helping clean out In Gi (as planned) so that he can take down Do Young.

However, even though Do Young is losing it’s not like he doesn’t have a card up his sleeve. When it ends up being him and Bulldog left, Bulldog continues with his very obvious attempt to keep getting three of a kind. But Do Young swaps out all of his cards each game, thus ensuring that the odds of him getting a four of a kind are forever in his favor. And that’s how he ends up taking Bulldog out of the game.

During a break in the Reinstatement game though, Do Young texts Woo Jin a picture of Da Jung’s father bloodied and tied up somewhere. He got kidnapped! The question is where, and Woo Jin grabs his detective friend to go to the same building where his mother died to find him. They head to the basement, where the detective gets hit with a wooden log from behind. He drops his gun, and Woo Jin rushes to his side. Fearing danger, Woo Jin picks up the gun and goes down the basement halls.

He goes into a deserted room and finds a dummy tied up on the chair instead. There is a painting of two people standing with their backs faced to a hole, and footprints of a third person. Woo Jin remembers that the painting was at Do Young’s house and starts seeing connections to this “three-point triangle around a circle” reference everywhere, from the logos of L Company/Lloyd Capital to the discs on the floor surrounding the dummy. He gets a flashback of three kids standing on a well, and cries out in pain from the memory. What’s going on?

The final round is about to begin, and Woo Jin barely makes it back in time. He catches up with Dal Goo, sharing that he still has no idea where Da Jung’s dad may be. They all then get on stage, where they find out that the last round of Liar Game is called “Last Man Standing” – a version of Russian Roulette. All five players will start off with five lives and one bullet in the gun, and in each turn must decide whether they will load one bullet in their gun, dodge a bullet, or shoot at someone. If they shoot, they must continue to shoot the person until they have no more shots. If they avoid, they can only do it three times in the game. And if they manage to eliminate someone they get that person’s gun and start the whole game afresh. They can only speak during their turn though; speaking out of turn will lead to disqualification. Oh and the bullets are blanks, so no one will die.

The order is as such: Do Young, Dal Goo, Da Jung, Jamie, and Woo Jin. The good guys start off at a disadvantage because they don’t know what Do Young will do exactly until the end of the turn, and they don’t have Woo Jin there to guide them. Dal Goo and Da Jung try to shoot Do Young right away, except their guns click empty. Jamie loads her gun, and Woo Jin orders everyone to continue loading until he says to shoot. They all keep loading their guns until the probability of them firing a shot is higher. However Do Young also has the power to avoid.

Dal Goo worries about the probability of Do Young avoiding because if Woo Jin says to shoot, then it becomes Do Young’s turn and he can prepare first by avoiding. So he shoots, and fails. Da Jung also shoots and gets one shot in. Jamie, also thinking like Dal Goo, shoots and gets one bullet in. Now Do Young is down to three lives and they all know he didn’t avoid in his last turn. However Woo Jin just loads his gun and orders everyone else to shoot in the next round. Even if Do Young avoids, at least it will slow him down in loading a full barrel of bullets.

Dal Goo shoots – but Do Young did avoid. And Do Young redirected that hit back to Dal Goo. So then Da Jung, Jamie, and Woo Jin decide to load their guns because they know it’s fruitless to hit Do Young. And Woo Jin also manages to load a full barrel of bullets first. He then orders Dal Goo to avoid the next round and for everyone else to shoot.

When it’s his turn again, Do Young starts off by taunting Da Jung about her father, and how difficult it must be to not be able to see a parent when you want to. This gives Woo Jin a hint to her father’s whereabouts, as Do Young had promised to provide one if cornered. He gives Dal Goo a meaningful look, and we realize that during their catch up Woo Jin wanted Dal Goo to get eliminated first to find Da Jung’s dad. He mouths “the orphanage” and Dal Goo makes the stupid “mistake” to shoot Do Young instead of avoiding. However his gun comes up empty, so we still don’t know if Do Young chose to avoid or not. Da Jung shoots, and comes up empty. Jamie shoots, and successfully fires two shots.

And… turns out Do Young has avoided and redirected the shots to Dal Goo. Dal Goo now has two lives left.

Woo Jin decides to “avoid,” and so Do Young finishes Dal Goo off with two shots. Now the game is down to four.

Everything resets, and this time Woo Jin and Do Young switch positions so that Woo Jin is now first and can order his team on what to do. He also is most likely able to load five bullets first before Do Young. However Do Young now has Dal Goo’s gun so whenever he chooses to load, he gets to load a bullet in each gun. Woo Jin orders the other two to load and fire, while he will continuously load until he has a full barrel. Da Jung manages to shoot Do Young successfully with two bullets in the barrel, bringing him down to three lives.

Then Jamie is ordered to shoot Do Young in the next turn. However, he avoids it… and redirects the shots to Jamie herself. So she ends up going down two lives. Woo Jin calculates the chances of Do Young taking anyone out and feels confident enough to order everyone to load their guns. But when it’s Do Young’s turn again, he decides to shoot Jamie – with two guns. And the two guns shoot a total of three bullets. Jamie’s out.

Now that it’s just three of them left, the game is shifted to a new location and this part will be shot and aired live to avoid any editing trickery. Do Young can’t wait for the three of them to play – together again, just like old times. Before they move to the new location though, Director Jang corners Da Jung in the bathroom and shows her video evidence that Woo Jin is not all that he seems and might be plotting with Do Young, and so she should betray him because he betrayed her father.

The second part of the finale begins, and even the police in the station are watching it. One of the detectives comments on how realistic the guns look and Woo Jin’s friend immediately checks his own gun, which looks like the toy guns. He notices a bullet is missing from his barrel. Not good – time to stop the production!

Episode 12: Final Round Part 2

Yoon Joo secures the set to make sure no one at the station can interfere with filming, and no one can enter the set without her permission. As Da Jung gets set up with a mic, she notices Woo Jin and Do Young talking in a distance, with Do Young smiling and acting friendly. This sort of confirms her fears that Woo Jin and Do Young may be working together. The rules are changed where the three players must choose simultaneously whether to shoot or load, no avoiding is allowed, and they also get fifteen lives instead of five.

The first round starts and Woo Jin immediately tries to shoot at Da Jung with one bullet. Da Jung – and the others at the station – freaks out because she feels like he’s turning against her, and she quickly chooses to load her gun with Do Young. Turns out that in the earlier conversation, Do Young had threatened to harm Da Jung’s father if Woo Jin does not eliminate her first. Wanting to protect Da Jung and her father, he decides to just keep shooting her until he hits her with his one pre-loaded bullet.

And finally he does, reducing her to fourteen lives. She and Do Young manage to load their guns fully so when it’s their turn again, Da Jung shoots five bullets at Woo Jin, and Do Young shoots five bullets at Da Jung. Do Young leads with fifteen lives left, Woo Jin ten, and Da Jung nine.

The detective arrives because he wants to inspect the guns, stating that there’s a real gun on the show. Yoon Joo won’t let him in to inspect but does agree to swapping out all the guns during a commercial break just in case. During this break, Do Young inserts a live bullet among the blanks in one of the podiums – he’s setting up someone to kill. Where did that bullet come from you ask? From the detective’s gun. How did Do Young get it? His henchman who knocked out the detective in the basement managed to steal one. It’s really hard to believe though considering how fast Woo Jin ran to the detective’s side and didn’t see the henchman steal a bullet.

When they return from commercial break, Director Jang decides to buy some time and ramp up the tension by asking for Do Young’s story. His comments had implied he had a shared past with Woo Jin. Turns out Do Young was an orphan at Woo Jin’s mother’s orphanage. She was hard-pressed for donations and trusted anyone who would help give her money. This included a particular adoption broker who actually sold these kids off to other skeevy “parents.” The adoption broker was particularly interested in Woo Jin and Do Young, both of whom were very intelligent for their age. They connected over the fact that they knew they were a little different, and played this game of trust where both stood over a well and had to lean in at the same time to catch each other and prevent the other from falling.

Woo Jin yells that he doesn’t want to hear it anymore, which implies that Do Young’s story is kind of true. But is it? They begin the next rounds and everyone just loads their empty guns. Do Young continually taunts Woo Jin about his mother, who trusted easily, and eventually by the eleventh round they all have fully loaded guns. Woo Jin aims at Da Jung, who aims back at him. And Do Young aims at Woo Jin as well to take him out. At the very last minute though, Da Jung turns her gun on Do Young. Now Do Young has ten lives, Woo Jin five, and Da Jung four. Why did she turn on Do Young at the last second? Well she finally figured that perhaps Woo Jin had a reason to shoot her, and she trusts Woo Jin more than anything Do Young says.

Meanwhile Dal Goo arrives at the orphanage and manages to locate Da Jung’s father. He’s tied up in a chair in front of the TV, forced to watch Liar Game live. The floor is covered with gasoline, and a fishing line is tied on the leg of the chair to a lit lighter on the table. If the father moves around too much, he could light everything up in fire. Sadly he can’t keep calm because Do Young is revealing another “truth” about Da Jung’s past on TV right now. Dal Goo fights with Do Young’s henchman and breaks free, stopping the lighter from hitting the floor at the very last second. They’re saved.

Woo Jin can understand why Do Young included him in the game now if he’s bitter about his orphan past, but doesn’t know why Da Jung is involved. Well it turns out that while her mother was sick and her father was looking for work, he left Da Jung there to be taken care of during the summer. He lied about where she was actually at though, and she was too young to remember or understand. Little Da Jung always followed Do Young and Woo Jin around and wanted to be included in their games over the well.

During one of the adoption broker’s visits, Do Young passes by the office and overhears Woo Jin’s mother willing to “sell” a child to the broker in exchange for a donation. She doesn’t know that the broker is a shady man, and allows for him to “buy” Do Young. Woo Jin is out of the question as her own son, and Da Jung was rejected by the adoptive family because she was too young. So Do Young resented the mother all this time because she ended up selling him to the Walden Two experiment. Not that she knew of course…

When he got older he got “revenge” on Woo Jin’s mother by approaching the broker to be the president of a paper company. That paper company swindled the mother out of everything, and Woo Jin eventually got revenge on him for that. Do Young makes it seem like Woo Jin was aware of the relationship between the broker and his mother back when they were children, so he presents the “murder” of the broker as revenge for selling children, not for swindling his mother. Woo Jin erupts in anger at the accusation and is ready to attack Do Young, but has to be restrained.

The rounds progress and Do Young continues telling the story of how the three of them played the game of trust over the well. It is even more scary because at this point, young Do Young knows he’s about to be sold off and resents little Da Jung and young Woo Jin for not getting adopted. Instead of leaning in over the well, each person needs to tug the hand of another and hopefully they stay in balance. If two people tug one person’s arms, he’s most likely to fall in the well. Before they even get to “three,” Woo Jin’s mother calls him away, and the game is left unfinished. Soon after Do Young has to pack up and leave for the States; Da Jung’s father actually picks her up and saves her from adoption; and Woo Jin goes home with his mother. So now they’re going to finish the game here.

Just as the twelfth round starts, Jamie receives a call from Dal Goo about Da Jung’s father. While she doesn’t understand what’s exactly going on, she knows she needs to find a way to get on TV and tell Woo Jin. She, Bulldog, and In Gi take their turns rushing the stage to where Director Jang is and screaming “Da Jung’s father is okay!” However security is on it and restrains them quickly. Jamie succeeds in yelling “Da Jung” and then putting a thumbs up sign as she’s dragged off during the seventeenth round.

At the same time, the detective continues to insist outside the set that there is a real gun inside. Afraid of how dangerous Woo Jin and Do Young can be, Yoon Joo decides to check the monitor of the secondary cameras to see if they caught anything during the commercial break. Yep – Do Young was doing something shady to one of the podiums.

By the seventeenth round, everyone has their guns loaded to the max – but who has the real bullet? Woo Jin then reveals to Da Jung that Do Young kidnapped her father and forced him to shoot her lest he hurt Da Jung’s father. Da Jung believes this, and points her gun at Do Young, who points his gun at Woo Jin. And Woo Jin points his gun at Do Young. At the same time Yoon Joo sees that Do Young had messed around with Da Jung’s podium – she has the real bullet!

They all fire at one another, and just as Do Young and Woo Jin finish their barrels, Do Young turns to Da Jung with his eyes closed in peace. He’s waiting for the final bullet. Yoon Joo gets up from behind the monitors and Woo Jin reads everyone’s expressions to realize that something is about to go terribly wrong. He runs to push Do Young down, and the real bullet hits him in the arm instead.

Viewers everywhere keep thinking, “This is all staged.”

So in conclusion, Da Jung wins the game and the grand prize of 10 million dollars. But it wasn’t really 10 million as everyone got paid out $500,000 after they split the final check. Better than nothing, and at least people return to their normal lives with Dal Goo and Jamie sort of becoming very good friends. Woo Jin recovers in the same hospital as Sung Joon – who’s got a broken leg, arm and neck but is alive! Do Young is in prison, and refuses to talk to anyone but Woo Jin. He warns him that Liar Game is not over, because “those who made him this way” will start a new game soon. Woo Jin can’t see what’s going on because he’s swirled up in it, but there’s a whole conspiracy going on that will take advantage of those in debt.

News then breaks that Do Young has been broken free from jail during his transfer between prisons. And next thing we know, Da Jung and Woo Jin get a fateful call from Liar Game. A new game is about to start.

Some Final Thoughts:

The last couple of episodes were a little confusing because it felt like there were a lot of plot holes. The bit about how Do Young got the real bullet makes no sense because it seems implausible for his henchman to have palmed it from the detective’s gun in the first place. There were also many jump cuts from one location to another so I started to get confused as to where in the Russian Roulette game we were playing – are they shooting? Are they loading? How did Director Jang not realize that there was also another person in the room when he spoke to the chairman of Lloyd Capital? How did no one realize that Lloyd Capital and L Company were practically the same thing until the end? The reporter was also left totally forgotten and to the side, when she started off as a character who could expose everything. She only gets a nod in the end as having written an article, but she doesn’t get a “glory moment” of having uncovered it all.

Those inconsistencies aside, I actually really enjoyed this series because of the liberties it took to change and update the Liar Game story. There were a lot of games, and there were a lot of bait and switches that were too confusing to keep track of, but the drama also enriched Ha Woo Jin and Do Young’s characters. Instead of making the man in the mask a background character, or even waiting until the end to show the face of the man who planned it all, this drama unmasked the bad guy almost immediately. Do Young was wearing a different kind of mask, and I loved seeing it crumble every time he got outsmarted by Woo Jin. The thing is though, was he really getting outsmarted or did he let Woo Jin outsmart him so they could reach this point in the game?

It was a little cheesy to entwine Woo Jin and Do Young’s backstories together, and even more cliche to tie in Da Jung’s. However, I loathe to believe anything that was said during Do Young’s storytelling time because he’s 1) a liar and 2) Woo Jin and Da Jung acted like everything he said was not true. Granted everyone’s memories are fallible, so maybe Do Young was telling the truth. And Da Jung’s father’s reactions when tied up made it seem like Do Young was telling the truth he had worked so hard to shield. But I had hoped that we could get some clarity on whether Do Young was telling the truth or just twisting the truth to fit his narrative. Even though Woo Jin and Da Jung seemed to recover some of the memories from their youth, and it aligned with Do Young’s memories, I do wonder if he still spun it differently. The drama gave Do Young so much credit towards the end, more than I expected it to. I did not want to sympathize him at all, and his storytelling time made you feel like you should.

Speaking of Do Young – Shin Sung Rok is freaking brilliant. He makes this show. Truly great casting in making him the villain because you actually end up getting invested in this show. It doesn’t matter who they pit against him as the good guys, he makes you fear for your life. I really liked that he and Lee Sang Yoon had more depth to their characters written into the script compared to the original actors, Matsuda Shota and whomever you consider to be the bad guy in the Japanese version (whether it’s Yokoya, Leonira, or Hasegawa). Their backstories, however cliched it was, were instrumental in making feel any sort of empathy with the characters, and I felt more attached to the Korean characters than I did to the Japanese actors. That makes me feel that Liar Game Korea was a success compared to Liar Game Japan. Acting wise, Shin Sung Rok added something invaluable to Kang Do Young’s role and I would love to see him reprise it in a second season – if it’ll come to fruition. As for Lee Sang Yoon and Kim So Eun, both were good enough but I do feel that it almost didn’t matter who was cast against Shin Sung Rok. He makes everyone bring on their A-game, and he is the real star of the show. It was nice to see Lee Sang Yoon play the tough guy for once though.

Overall, both the original and the remake had their own merits, but if I had to choose one I liked better, it’s the Korean version. Even with all the confusing inconsistencies and additional characters that weren’t even part of the original, it was still, for me, a better drama. I appreciate that the writer tried to color the world a little more fully and ground it in some sort of reality than put these contestants in a bubble where their actions don’t really have repercussions seen by the rest of the world. It certainly tried to make it less of a straightforward procedural

Verdict: 7.5/10 – solid, solid show. Shin Sung Rok is the best. The writer needs to clean up some threads and characters, but this show is solid.

Sorry it took so long to finish.

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