To be absolutely honest, I don’t know how many episodes I’ll be able to recap. For several reasons. I’m so very behind on My Daughter Seo-young, Rascal Sons, Can’t Live Without You, and all the other stuff I never quite got around to crossing off on my To Do list. It’s gotten quite long. I also have an itty bitty feeling – though I have no clue where it came from – that I’m gonna be bawling my eyes out watching this show. And bawling is not conducive to recapping.
I was just so very excited for this drama that I couldn’t stay silent, so here is the first episode.
Lee Soo-yeon (Kim So-hyun) quickly walks down the alley, her head bowed down, and she lets herself into her rundown home. She hears a noise from inside the house and cautiously opens the door, calling out for her mom. Suddenly, a man’s hand reaches out and grabs her, roughly yanking her to him and demanding if anyone is outside. The man is none other than her father, Lee Tae-soo, who proceeds to beat her despite her protests and begging, demanding to know where his wife is. Kim Myung-hee (Song Ok-sook) is watching the whole scene through the window, peering over the sill before quietly sneaking out in an attempt not to get caught.
An interminable time later, Soo-yeon remains motionless while Tae-soo drinks away. The doors slam open and Detective Kim Sung-ho (Jeon Gwang-ryeol) subdues the violent Tae-soo, arresting him for murder and child abduction, among other offenses. Lee is taken away, protesting that he didn’t kill the child, and Kim finds Soo-yeon, weakly begging for forgiveness. He carries her outside and runs into Mama Lee, who tells the Detective that if he’s so concerned about the girl, he can take her and raise her himself.
The United States of America, 1998 Fall
Han Jung-woo (Yeo Jin-gu) is tearing up the football field (yee! A wide receiver, perhaps?) before getting tackled, but all the pain is quickly forgotten when he hears his father has come to see him. Unable to hide his excitement, he hurries to his dorm room, but the person awaiting him is his father’s right hand man, here to deliver an Ivy League Tour proposal from the mistress of the house.
Said mistress is Hwang Mi-ran (Doh Ji-won), wife of Han Tae-joon (Han Jin-hee) and stepmother to Jung-woo. She’s on her way to see her husband for the first time in six months, and Jung-woo surprises everyone by showing up and unceremoniously shoving his way into the car. The place they go to is a prison (iiinteresting), and Jung-woo sees Soo-yeon standing outside, her head hanging. Mi-ran goes in to see her husband, passing by a small crowd of reporters throwing questions left and right. Jung-woo sits in the car and sees Soo-yeon again, and he stares in fascination as the gentle breeze plays peekaboo with her hair, alternately revealing and concealing her face.
He’s soon distracted, though, when his father comes out in a wheelchair and is escorted into an ambulance. Jung-woo hops on and they leave the premises, passing Soo-yeon and Myung-hee, the latter who tells her daughter that “it’s all done.” Soo-yeon silently looks over at a corpse being loaded onto an ambulance.
Away from the prying eyes of the media, Han Tae-joon quickly sits up, hale as can be, and tells his man to stop the ambulance. The stop? His father’s home, where a wailing Kang Hyun-joo (Cha Hwa-yeon) tries to stop Tae-joon from removing the bed-ridden President Han (Tae-joon’s father) from the premises. The nurse, Jung Hye-mi (Kim Sun-kyung), takes the proffered money from Tae-joon and leaves, much to Hyun-joo’s shock. Hye-mi vows to call the police on Tae-joon for murder if anything happens to President Han. Turns out Tae-joon went to jail because of her (or so he claims), and demands to know where the money is. She demands at least some modicum of respect – she gave birth to President Han’s child – but he threatens her child without blinking an eye. She runs out of the main house to her son’s quarters, but the child is already gone. Tae-joon, though, is equally surprised to see that the boy escaped by breaking a window, and we see the young Kang Hyung-joon limping along the road, blood streaming down his leg. Tae-joon’s dogs sound in the distance and the boy tries to continue on when someone suddenly grabs him and yanks him away.
Soo-yeon sits by the river as her mom spreads her husband’s remains, and Soo-yeon asks if Dad is never coming again. Tears in her eyes, she asks, “Is it really the end now?” Myung-hee bawls and Detective Kim watches from afar, sadness clouding his eyes. The mother-daughter pair go to eat, where everyone is gossiping about Tae-soo’s death (capital punishment) and how glad they are.
Unable to sleep, Jung-woo heads out for some air when he comes upon Soo-yeon, who is quietly swinging herself in the deserted playground. He recognizes her as the girl he saw at the prison and sits down in the swing next to her. She immediately gets up to leave, but he stops her and chatters on before introducing himself. “I’m Han Jung-woo, fifteen.” She’s remained silent the whole time and he cautiously asks if she can’t speak. Hahahaa, awww. Soo-yeon shakes her head before tentatively asking if he doesn’t know her. Jung-woo is confused, asking if she’s someone he should know (“Are you famous?”), but she disappears without a word while he’s distracted.
Soo-yeon walks along the road when she hears Jung-woo call out, “Red Uniform! Famous kid!” She ignores him and walks on, but he finally calls, “Lee Soo-yeon,” and that stops her in her tracks. (Awww, memories of Cinderella’s Sister – the beginning, before things went whack.) She goes back to the playground, and Jung-woo asks what her identity is. It suddenly starts raining and Jung-woo finds shelter under the slide, but Soo-yeon just stands there staring at his beckoning hand before racing off. She runs into the house, where her mom is rolling around drunk, and she excitedly tells her about the weird kid she met – Han Jung-woo, who talked to her and called her by her name, not “Number 27.” She finds the umbrella she was looking for and races back to hand it to Jung-woo, who gratefully accepts it and promises to return it to her tomorrow.
Early the next morning, Soo-yeon races out of the house in high spirits. As she’s running down the alley, a window shatters and a bowl falls at her feet. A small hand sneaks out but the young child to whom it belongs quickly shrinks back when Soo-yeon asks if everything is okay. The child hides under the covers and Soo-yeon sees the small padlock barring the child from the outside.
Han Tae-joon still hasn’t found Hyung-joon, much to his frustration, and he gets a call informing him that President Han is dead. Jung-woo is on his way out, umbrella in hand, when Stepmother dearest relays the news about his grandfather with all the aplomb of an elephant.
Soo-yeon waits and waits at the playground, and the day slowly goes by. Jung-woo is at the funeral home, acting as the head of the family because Tae-joon is too busy with the whole money business. Myung-hee talks to Tae-joon on the phone, asking him if perhaps she should meet Hyun-joo to ask about the money. Jung-woo overhears it all and is disappointed to learn his dad isn’t at the hospital as he was told. Myung-hee tries to pacify him, but Jung-woo coldly shakes off her hands and tells her not to bother with the “Mommy” act when no one is around. She tells him that his dad is not concerned with him right now – he even went to jail to protect “that money,” and it’s all that matters to him. “And,” she adds, “if you don’t want to hear the word ‘Mommy’ then hurry and go to America. I don’t want to see you either.” Geez, this family.
Tae-joon is at a mental institution, where he has put Hyun-joo. He grills her about the money, but she refuses to budge. She tells him that the money was given to her by President Han because he knew the cruel Tae-joon would never protect or help Hyung-joon. If he doesn’t safely bring her her son, then he can kiss the money goodbye. Tae-joon storms out , demanding his men find the boy immediately. Nurse Jung sneaks into Hyun-joo’s ward, posing as a nurse for the hospital, and she tells Hyun-joo that she has Hyung-joon safe and sound, though he hurt his leg. Hyun-joo tells Nurse Jung that the money is their only hope of survival, especially now that President Han is dead. “Bring me Han Tae-joon’s son.” Oh noes.
Tae-joon tells Jung-woo that he doesn’t have to go back to America if he wishes to stay. “I’m not like your grandfather. I don’t trust any of the people around me. I only trust my son,” he says. A lot of pressure to put on a little kid. Stepmother dearest is listening to the whole conversation from the other side of the door…
Jung-woo returns to his room and sees the yellow umbrella, forgotten in the hullabaloo of the day. He checks his watch, and it’s a quarter after ten. At the playground, the swing is empty, though still swinging, and Soo-yeon is slowly walking back home, head hanging once again. She remembers the young child who was locked up and asks if he’s okay. He’s under the covers, shaking from pain, but manages to barely nod in response to her question. Nurse Jung appears out of nowhere, yelling at Soo-yeon to scat, and my suspicions are confirmed: the child in there is Hyung-joon, though that mop of a wig is pretty darned good at concealing his features.
Detective Kim has found the real culprit of the child kidnapping/murder case and wants to come clean, but his supervisor tells him that’ll only cause a storm of ugliness for the entire police department. Aiyah, no bueno. Lee Tae-soo was defs a hardened criminal with eight prior convictions, but he was actually telling the truth when he said he didn’t commit the murder.
Soo-yeon walks to school, enduring the jeers of all the kids, and Detective Kim watches with grief, regret, and frustration. Jung-woo arrives at school as well, umbrella in hand, looking for Soo-yeon. She’s quietly waiting in her home-ec class while the rest of the class is outside, gossiping amongst themselves and demanding that the murderer’s daughter be sent to another school. Poor baby. Jung-woo hears all the news with surprise, and when Soo-yeon comes out, he stares at her with horrified eyes. She cautiously takes a step toward him, calling his name, but he hastily takes a step back, fear and bewilderment all too apparent. Her eyes fill with tears and she quietly walks past him.
During lunch, Jung-woo is surrounded by new friends who eagerly tell him about “Number 27” and her murderer of a father. He vents his frustration during P.E., which leads to a big fight between him and three boys who were roughed up by Jung-woo during the basketball game. As Jung-woo is getting beat up, Soo-yeon sends a bunch of balls rolling toward him, breaking up the fight. She slowly picks up the balls, telling them she was just cleaning up, and she crouches down to tell Jung-woo to stay still – the boys will get bored, then, and leave him alone. She gets up and walks toward the guys, asking if they want to help her, and that predictably sends them packing. Jung-woo, though, is rarin’ for a fight, and he instigates another beating while Soo-yeon watches helplessly, memories assailing her of her own beatings.
Rain pours from the skies and Soo-yeon sees her umbrella hanging on her locker door. She walks toward the school entrance, where Jung-woo is standing under the awning, and she offers him her umbrella. He stands there uncomfortably then looks at her in surprise when her eyes fill with tears. “It’s not me. I didn’t do it. I don’t kill anyone.” Poor baby. Jung-woo’s eyes, too, fill with tears, while Soo-yeon hastily wipes her tears away and offers him her umbrella again. He shakes his head, backing away from her and into the rain. “You, why are you being like this to me? If I pretended not to know you, then you should understand and just leave! I gave you your umbrella – isn’t that enough, then?!” Stop crying, you two! Soo-yeon just smiles through her tears and apologizes for making him get all wet. As tears continue to stream down her face, she reassures him, “It’s okay. I’m not crying because I’m sad. It’s because the wind is blowing. Because my eyes are irritated.” Gaah, stop it you two. Head bowed once again, Soo-yeon races off, leaving Jung-woo rooted to his spot, tears slowly dripping and mixing with the rain.
Soo-yeon hears sounds coming from the little boy’s house and opens the window, only to be screamed at again by Nurse Jung. Her mom sees her standing there in the alley and grabs the yellow umbrella, opening it and revealing a small green tag Jung-woo had affixed: “This belongs to Lee Soo-yeon, the most famous girl in this neighborhood.” Gaaah, so sweeeet. Just kill me now. Soo-yeon breaks into a small smile and chases after her mom, telling her not to be so rough with the umbrella.
Jung-woo angrily swings himself back and forth, attempting to exorcise his demons, until he finally leaps off and goes in search of Soo-yeon’s home. Soo-yeon is sitting at home, writing a letter to Jung-woo that she’ll never send. Someone suddenly bangs on their door, and Jung-woo comes upon the ensuing scene: the mother of the child who was murdered has come to vent her anger on Soo-yeon and her mom. Detective Kim, too, sees the heartbreaking scene. Soo-yeon tries to crawl away from the madness and sees Jung-woo watching her with a stricken face, and she runs away in shame, leaving a shoe behind.
Jung-woo grabs the shoe and races after her, but can’t find her anywhere… until he hears the creaking of the swings and runs to the playground. It’s deserted, though, and he stands there a moment in disappointment, until he remembers the slide. And sure enough, there is her bare foot, peeking out from under the slide.
Soo-yeon is still sobbing quietly, and Jung-woo drops the shoe beside her before brightly announcing, “I found her!” She looks at him in shock and quickly buries her face, to which he responds, “Are you only gonna cover your face?” She hastily brings her dress over her bare foot, which sports an ugly scar along the entire length. His face clenches with pain at the scar, but he nonchalantly asks, “Are you only gonna cover your foot?” She draws her arms into herself, and he gently tells her, “Don’t forget the flower print,” to which she grabs a handful of her dress. Gaaah.
Famous kid. Lee Soo-yeon. Lee Soo-yeon! Murderer’s daughter, Lee Soo-yeon. Be my friend.
Where to begin? One thing just to clarify: I can’t unequivocally promise continued recaps, because, well, you read the reasons above. And I don’t wanna make promises I can’t keep – ’cause the Korean-Japanese investor from King of Dramas may just well come and show me again what happens when promises are broken. Anyhoo.
I was so hyped up for this premiere, and in some ways I wasn’t as satisfied as I could have been – perhaps because I was just expecting so much. But upon a second watch, I think I like this episode more and more. As befitting a “legitimate melodrama,” as the media and production like to call this work, the tempo is a bit slower. There are more pauses along the way for us to catch a breath, for us to simply immerse ourselves in the mood and ambience, in the color and sounds. The color palette is a bit more subdued – no Nice Guy palette here – but it’s gorgeous nonetheless and obvious that painstaking care was taken with each and every scene.
As I feared, there’s quite a bit of makjang where the parents’ generation is involved. And I fear that more ugliness will follow suit before we get to the ‘adult’ actors, because what fun is it if the leads don’t have a long history of angst and betrayal and revenge and pain and sorrow? Or so the Kdramaworld says. But in all seriousness, it’s gonna be pretty darned makjang, so get ready.
I can’t wax lyrical enough about Yeo Jin-gu, who for seriously never fails to bowl me over with those eyes of his. Kim So-hyun has improved a lot, though she’s still learning, and I can only marvel at how accomplished these kids are. What was I doing at that age? Seriously.
As for the veteran cast, they were as solid as you could have desired. Jeon Gwang-ryeol is usually so immaculately groomed that it’s a bit of a shock seeing him like this, but he’s just so good at whatever he does that I’m excited to see his continued amaztasticness in the episodes to come. And how amazing is Song Ok-sook, who is so different in My Daughter Seo-young? I’m telling you, I for seriously have a secret penchant for middle-aged romances and veteran actors.
Random connections: Yoochun and Kim So-hyun were in Rooftop Prince together. Kim Sun-kyung (Nurse Jung) was Yeo Jin-gu’s mom in The Moon that Embraces the Sun. Yeo Jin-gu and Kim So-hyun, obviously, were also together in Moon. Any others you can think of? These are always so fun for who knows what reason.
I am so so so excited for the adult cast, but these child actors are so amazing that I really want to have my cake and eat it, too. Someone figure out how to do it. Stat.