This show is just all kinds of amaztastics. For seriously. This episode, we meet the rest of the crew that will be battling it out for supremacy in the city, and pieces slowly fall into place…
We backtrack a little to see Shi-hyun rocking his stuff and Hyung-min figuring out that a coup d’état is happening before their eyes. Using his lovely powers of persuasion, Shi-hyun finds out where Mini and Papa Scale are enjoying their little Kpop fandom time. Shi-hyun ain’t one to waste words and cuts to the chase: Scale’s position and place remain the same. The only difference is that Shi-hyun will now take care of the business – Scale can just stay home and receive a paycheck.
“You will accept my terms,” Shi-hyun says, motioning to the room where Mini Scale is being held. But Papa Scale says that killing his son won’t make a difference – despite his adoration and love for him. “Why would I kill a sinless person when I have someone right here who has committed so many sins?” Shi-hyun responds. Listing in detail all the ways he will torture Papa Scale while Mini Scale watches, Shi-hyun concludes, “Dad’s ear-splitting screams… the spraying blood… It will be a wonderful memory your son will never forget.” Dang. Scale finally caves, and Shi-hyun asks where the druggie factory is.
A decked out, feisty Lee Jin-sook (Kim Yoo-mi), aka Yi-seul or Dew, enters our little world, and she excitedly greets Shi-hyun, who smoothly gifts her with a gorgeous necklace. Seriously, he is smooth. Their relationship is affectionate, and Shi-hyun seems indulgent of her antics. Jin-sook is all sugar with Shi-hyun – who surprisingly calls her “Auntie”, to which she insists, “It’s Noona!” – but with anyone else, including Soo, she’s got a viper’s tongue on her. Shi-hyun explains that it turns out Scale was getting his goods from Busan and merely refining the stuff before selling it. They’ve only got 2 months worth of stuff at the factory, thus Shi-hyun must now do business with Busan in Scale’s stead.
Enter Moon Deok-bae (Choi Moo-seong) aka Safari, who is ordered by Chairman Cho (who I’m assuming is from Busan, hence he’s also referred to as “Busan”) to get rid of Doctor’s Son (Shi-hyun). Oh my. We get a flashback to a drizzly night in a red-light district. Safari makes his way to a tiny ‘porch’ where Jin-sook is playing hwatu (traditional Korean card game) with a young boy named Shi-hyun. Eee! She asks him if he wants to go on a date with Auntie this weekend to the amusement park, and he suggests they see a movie instead. Safari marvels that Shi-hyun is so good at hwatu (he has a pile of money already, and the movie date was a consolation for letting Auntie off this round), and Jin-sook brags about how smart Shi-hyun is. Recalling that the man who heartlessly abandoned Shi-hyun was a doctor (Ph.D. not M.D.), Safari says the little boy must then be “Doctor’s Son”. Laughing at the new nickname, they christen it with high-fives all around. Back in the present, Safari smiles(?) at the memory.
Shi-hyun heads off somewhere, trusting Soo to watch over Scale and Kim Bbong. Soo gets a call from a lady friend and goes to meet her… and I start getting a bad feeling about this. Sure enough, Shi-hyun finds an unidentified phone in his car, through which he gets a call from Safari. The tension is unmistakable, no matter the pretty words being used, and Safari tells Shi-hyun to let Scale go. “I can’t do that,” Shi-hyun responds, and Safari just laughs and says, “Then die.” Gollies. He continues, “I’ll just give my greetings today in deference to our past jeong, so no need to be too grateful. Let’s see each other again, then.” Oh noes.
The following sequence is done so well, as we cut back and forth between the besties: Filled with a sense of foreboding, Shi-hyun yells at his driver to turn the car around. At the hotel, Soo gets ambushed at the room his girlfriend was supposedly waiting for him in. Shi-hyun’s driver screeches a u-turn only to be hit straight on by a semi. Nooo! Kim Bbong, who somehow got free, does the honors with ruthless stabs to the abdomen while Soo is held up by hulking dudes. Shi-hyun manages to get out of the car, and when police arrive, he tells them someone is still in the car. Spotting the empty police car, he gets in and speeds away. In the hotel room, Kim Bbong spots Soo’s weeping girlfriend and proceeds to stab her as well. *covers eyes*
Trying to shake off what has gotta be a bad concussion, Shi-hyun races down the empty streets and finally screeches to a halt outside the hotel. He bursts into the room (where they had been keeping Scale and Kim Bbong) and finds his men bloodied and scattered all over the place. Grabbing one of his semiconscious men, he screams, “Where is Soo?!” and finally finds his friend on the floor of the other room, barely hanging on to life. Before he can lift Soo, someone grabs his sleeve – it’s the girl, begging to be saved. Shi-hyun hesitates for a second before pulling his arm away and carrying off his friend. Bros before hoes.
Shi-hyun carries Soo into a hospital, screaming for a doctor. Taking out a wad of cash, he desperately folds it into the doctor’s hands and asks that he think of the patient’s life as his own. It’s the first time we’ve seen Shi-hyun be anything less than perfectly cool, and it really gets to you because it’s not his own life but his friend’s that has broken him. Gah, bromance.
Back at The Mansion, Scale finally learns where his place is: on his knees begging for his life. Safari says in usual, nonchalant way, “I will teach you what you need to do to live. So will you do it?” Trust me, he will. Hyung-min (is this really the first time we’re seeing him this episode?!) gets a call, and guess who it is? “This is Scale.” Dun dun duuun! Aaaand commercial break. Drats.
Back from the commercial break, Hyung-min races off to some weird Japanese restaurant – it’s out in the open like some pojang macha – where Scale is enjoying some yummy sashimi. We get a flashback to Safari giving Scale a USB and telling him to become the bait for Shi-hyun – not only that, the owner of Donghae Construction is now Shi-hyun as well. Ooh, so we’re dumping everything on the hottie now, eh? Back in the sashimi bar, Hyung-min ain’t buying any of it. “Who is it? Don’t act like you don’t know – we both know. The reason you kindly turned yourself in, the reason prison is a safer place right now – is it because of Doctor’s Son?” Don’t let those muscles trick you into thinking he ain’t got a brain! Scale can have his moments of inspiration as well – though they are far and few in between – and he says Hyung-min is right: he turned himself in so he could live; he ran away from Doctor’s Son.
Said bad man of the day is sitting at his friend’s bedside when he hears cars and two-way radios squawking outside. He peers outside and sees a nurse frantically motioning to the upstairs room as she speaks with the police. Yeah, it’s not every day that a guy comes in with knife wounds. Shi-hyun carries his unconscious friend and narrowly makes his escape.
Hyung-min tells his team to find out anything and everything about Doctor’s Son – he’s the person closest to the truth, and he’s their ticket to figuring out what in the world is going on. To everyone’s surprise, Hyung-min moves Kyung-mi to the intelligence gathering team aka no more field missions for you, girlfriend. Kyung-mi, of course, is pissed that he is making decisions for her and demands, “Have you ever thought about what it is I want?” He asks, “What about you, then? Have you ever thought about me even once? Can’t you be understanding of me? … This is the best way I can protect you.” Uh… stop flirting and making me jelly.
Jin-sook is lost deep in thought when a perfunctory knock-kno-kno-knock-knock knock knock! raps on the door. It’s Safari, and Jin-sook reminds him he agreed not to come here. He sits down for a drink though, and he notes that she seems to be have some regrets. “You know Chairman Cho. I have to scatter Doctor’s Son’s ashes as of that day.” (In other words, Safari is saying that he has to kill Shi-hyun immediately – the day the orders fall from Chairman Cho, it’s the end.) Tension fills the room and Jin-sook tells him, “Don’t touch Shi-hyun. Promise me.” Safari leans forward, sliding his hand up her leg and says it all depends on her. The phone jangles in its cradle, announcing the arrival of Shi-hyun. Eeeeek. Jin-sook tells Safari to get out – Doctor’s Son is here – and Safari surprisingly backs off for the day but promises to see her again.
Just as a hidden door closes in front of Safari, Shi-hyun walks in through the main one. Jin-sook says she heard Soo got hurt. “Did he die?” she asks, as if commenting on the weather. Shi-hyun’s face don’t look so nice ’bout that one. He tells her that Scale turned himself in, and he explains that it’s Busan’s way of saying he won’t acknowledge Shi-hyun. “He doesn’t want to do business with me. Scale’s arms and legs are all cut off. He forced Scale to turn himself in in order to expose me to the police.” Dang our hottie’s a smart one. Smirking, he reassures Jin-sook, “Don’t worry. The police will never be able to catch me.” Why does that sound so much like you’re tempting fate? Please doooon’t.
Jin-sook tells Shi-hyun to go to Japan or something and stay out of this one – she’ll clean up everything. But Shi-hyun just nonchalantly asks if she hasn’t heard from “Safari Ajuhsshi”. Dang. “The only person who would show up if Scale got taken down is Safari Ajuhsshi.” Dang dang dang. Jin-sook says she cut ties with “Safari Uncle” a long time ago, but Shi-hyun knows Safari had to have had an insider – he ‘hit’ as soon as Shi-hyun left the hotel, something impossible without inside info. It isn’t too far of a stretch to infer that the insider is the person Safari is closest to: hint = Jin-sook.
Hotly denying the accusation, Jin-sook repeats that she cut ties long ago, and Shi-hyun laughs and says, “Of course Noona would never have done that. It’s never that easy really knowing someone…” and out of nowhere slams his tumbler on the table, smashing it into smithereens. “The person that made Soo that way… I will not forgive him, no matter who it is.” Yowzas. Shi-hyun takes his leave of a clearly rattled Jin-sook and tells one of the big guys outside to keep tight watch over her.
Hyung-min gets nowhere trying to interrogate Scale, and things get even more complicated when Chairman Park of Donghae Construction, who had been under investigation by the D.A.’s office, commits suicide. Chairman Park’s death conveniently eliminates any chance of linking Scale to Donghae Construction, and of proving that Doctor’s Son is being set up. It’s all too easy, and Hyung-min is sure that there’s someone even bigger out there manipulating all of the pieces.
We get a bit more background on Hyung-min when he meets with his father, who turns out to be the Attorney General. *whistles* The two are obviously not anywhere close to being close, much less on good terms with one another. It’s the classic Korean tug-of-war between parent and child: Daddy demands that Hyung-min quit his loser cop job and return to being his “son” aka an attorney, while Hyung-min vows to show Daddy dearest that federal attorneys are not the best or most powerful members of society. Add to the mix some bad history with Daddy’s treatment of Hyung-min’s older brother and their mother, and we’ve got a whole ’nother drama.
Flashback: Hyung-min goes to visit his brother, who is at a convalescent hospital. Turns out the older bro suffered brain damage from doing drugs, and Hyung-min vows to find and kill all the druggie lords who made his brother this way. The heretofore unresponsive older bro suddenly grabs Hyung-min’s hands and asks, “What about the drugs? Give me just one needle… Please. Please!” He starts convulsing and foaming at the mouth, and poor Hyung-min is helpless to do anything but hold his brother. *tears* Well, if that ain’t enough motivation, I don’t know what is.
Two new pieces are introduced to the game: Teeth (pronounced Yi-bbal) and Kim Eun-soo (I didn’t catch another name for her… please do share if you did!). Safari concocts a master scheme: Hyung-min is by now desperate for goods, and Jin-sook is sure to be trying to find a supplier. Teeth’s job is to become the supplier, and Eun-soo’s job is to lead Hyung-min to the location where Teeth and Doctor’s Son are doing business. The police catch Doctor’s Son red-handed, and Safari and his peeps don’t need to get blood on their hands. Brilliant, no?
But who will take the goods? Safari makes a visit to Kim Bbong and offers him Scale’s position if he can pull of the job: he is to take Mistress Scale to the deal site where the police will be waiting. Ooh, looks like another dude will be left hanging. (For those confused about the big scheme, things will become clearer very soon!)
As predicted, Jin-sook is desperately searching for a supplier, and Teeth neatly catches her in his trap. She agrees to buy his goods – from North Korea, respected even by the Mexicans! LOL – and he sets up the meeting.
Kyung-mi is being a good girlfriend and pushing papers when she comes upon a report: Police received a call and busted a poker night. (I’m being sarcastic here, but the cops did bust a group of gamblers because gambling is illegal in Korea.) One of those arrested was a woman named Kim Eun-soo, who had 3 kilograms of meth on her. *whistles* She claimed that she was Scale’s woman and needed to deliver the meth to a person named Doctor’s Son. *facepalm* Please don’t fall for this.
Eun-soo puts on a show worthy of an Oscar in the interrogation room, confessing that she got a call from someone named Doctor’s Son who told her to find and be ready with the goods that Scale had hidden away. Kyung-mi eats up every single line and tear, asking when this Doctor’s Son dude said he’d call again. Hyung-min finally arrives and calls out Kyung-mi, demanding to know why she acted alone when he specifically asked her to remain with the Info Team. Right on cue, Eun-soo gets a call, and Hyung-min is forced to go back inside with Kyung-mi. Eun-soo pulls out all the stops, crying that she’s too scared to pick up the phone, and the hotheaded Kyung-mi grabs the phone instead. *headdesk*
On the other end is Kim Bbong, who tells Hyung-soo-nim (wife of a hyung; gangsters call their bosses hyung-nim [just honorific form of “hyung”]) that he’s Doctor’s Son’s younger bro. (Once again, the whole brother thing is not about actual blood relations.) He said he heard she has Scale’s goods – they need to meet, no? Kyung-mi decides she’ll impersonate Kim Eun-soo since Doctor’s Son has never met the woman before and doesn’t know what she looks like. Hyung-min wants to send out the real Eun-soo and just put on tail, but Kyung-mi says it’s too dangerous, especially considering the state that the real Eun-soo is in.
Hyung-min asks his team to try to find someone who looks more similar to Kim Eun-soo, and then he goes to meet Scale and confirm that Eun-soo is his woman. Sliding him a picture, Hyung-min asks Scale about leaving his goods with his girl. Scale recalls his instructions from Safari and marvels over how pretty his Eun-soo looks. “Don’t touch my Eun-soo. She’s a nice and sweet girl – I just left my stuff with her for a little,” he says. Hyung-min scoffs and says it’s a minimum of 2 years for possession of illegal substances, then gets up to leave. And then we see the picture: of one of their team members, not Kim Eun-soo. *fist pump* I knew it!
Having confirmed that there’s a whole lot more going on, Hyung-min races off to confront Eun-soo. Alas, our victory is short-lived: Scale puts in a call to Safari and says he was shows a picture. Safari is a quick one and asks if the woman had a beauty mark, which Scale obviously does not recall seeing. Drats! Hyung-min meanwhile slams Eun-soo up against the wall, demanding to know who sent her. She plays dumb, and he continues to pressure her, screaming, “Whose orders are you taking? Tell me!” Dun dun duuuuun!
Thank god. This this the first time I have ever seen a Korean drama that shows a car crash as a result of an emergency U turn. Thank you for being real Heartless City! You must obey the traffic laws if you don’t want to get into an accident!
Heartless City just gets better and better. At the end of episode 1, we think that Doctor’s Son might just have taken over the drug empire but this is quickly overturned in episode by the entry of Safari (another one of the top players in the drug world). If might all just be chaotic and a giant complicated drug war, but for the existence of the bonds and background of the characters.
We find out more about Doctor’s Son’s past and his connection to Auntie and Safari. These childhood bonds mean nothing in the present drug war though as Auntie is backstabbing Doctor’s Son and Safari declares war. But we see that Doctor’s Son is not completely heartless as he desperately tries to save his bff (I forgot his name but he’s the Casanova kid). As cold hearted as he may seem, Doctor’s Son still has some degree of an honor code and this makes us want to root for him and relate somehow.
I love how Safari concocts a crazy intricate web to get the police off his scent and to snare Doctor’s Son. He’s really playing chess as he moves his pieces to win the game. It’s great to see his plan from his point of view because we really want to know how the different players can possibly break from this web.
At this point, I am still annoyed at Hyung-min because he tries to be that big man and keeps holding his girl back and putting his girl on desk duty. Too much machismo dude. Lay off on the steroids. His girl is a smart chick and even though she’s too stubborn, I think she actually has one of the quickest minds in the show. Too bad she keeps getting held back by Hyung-min. Hyung-min does do one thing right when he shows Scale the wrong picture and Scale totally falls for it. Hyung-min realizes a trap is being set up. Smarter than I expected, you big oaf.
I guess one of the great things is that despite Safari’s great plan, all his enemies are hyper-vigilant and aware of the plan to a certain degree. For example, Doctor’s Son also pretty much knows his auntie betrayed him to Safari. That’s why we get another one of his super violent outbursts. This is another point of what makes Doctor’s Son such an interesting character. He’s so silent and stoic all the time but you feel these intense vibes from him, then he just explodes and he’s more violent then all the rest of these drug people combined.
My question now is how they are going to incorporate Nam Gyu-ri as Soo-min into the story. She’s already made an appearance as Kyung-mi’s sister, but we don’t know much about her. Nam Gyu-ri is gorgeous, but, as I have complained previously about a lot of other Kdrama actresses, she is just way too plastic in the face. I find it difficult to determine what feelings she’s trying to portray on her face. Again I think Kyung-mi might have been the better choice as the heroine.
I’m sorry my thoughts have no rhyme, reason, nor order. Just letting the thoughts flow out organically in response to just watching the episode.
Pinkblossom and I are officially declaring Heartless City as our baby. We are making this our summer project. Woot!
So much to say, but I’m gonna try to stick to one topic each episode. Hehehee. This week: language.
I’m not sure how much is lost in translation (since I’m not watching with subs), but there are so many little gems nestled in each of the conversations. I admit that a lot of it is very ruthless and quite chilling, but I love the way they play with words. In the opening, when Scale’s little Kpop party was crashed, Soo told Scale to sit. The actual line was “Sit. Before I make you a cripple.” In Korean, the word he used for cripple is “ahn-jeun baeng-ee” which is a coarse word for “someone who sits”. So in ugly translation: “Sit. Before I make you someone who sits.” Get it? Another little example: When Scale is being interrogated by Hyung-min about Donghae Construction and money laundering, Scale scoffs, “Money laundering? I don’t even launder my clothes.” It’s clever and, in this situation, totally reflective of the no-care-in-the-world attitude of Scale.
This is prolly gonna plague us until the very end, but we’ve got more names to clarify. Safari is the druggie name of Deok-bae, but because no one calls our afro man by that name, I’m sticking with his African desert name. Why, then, you may ask, do I insist on calling our hottie “Shi-hyun”? Well, it’s because “Doctor’s Son” is just a mouthful (admit it, we all ‘read aloud’ in our heads) and not very aesthetically pleasing either. Some have been calling him “Doctor” or “Doc”, and while he is called “Park-sa” (=Ph.D. = doctor) often enough, it’s actually the shortened form of his full name “Park-sa Ah-deul”. So call me nitpicky, but I wanna stay true where possible, so I’m sticking with “Shi-hyun”. If you noticed, I did try to keep “Doctor’s Son” when that was the actual name used by the characters, but I personally refer to him as “Shi-hyun”.
Also, turns out “bbong” is the street name for meth (methamphetamine). Missed that one with all my extensive knowledge of druggie names – in English and Korean! – ya know. So some subs will have second-in-command Kim Bbong named as “Meth Kim” or something along those lines. For realsies lastly, latest addition “Teeth” might be “Tooth” in the subs. Korean doesn’t naturally have plurals (though they have been incorporated the last decade or so), thus it’s unclear whether his name is referring to one or many of those pearly things. (Fun grammar lesson: “yi-bbal” is what we call the teeth of animals. For humans, it’s called “yi”.)
Okay, for those who need clarification about what’s going down with the big scheme: Teeth is bringing Jin-sook (and thus Shi-hyun) to The Meeting Location by offering to sell his drugs. Eun-soo is taking her drugs to Kim Bbong, who is gonna take her to The Location – the latter operation is done so that the cops will follow them to The Location. Kim Bbong knows that his job is to let the cops tail him; he does not know, however, that Eun-soo ain’t actually Scale’s woman. So, the cops follow Kim Bbong (since he’s claiming to be taking his stuff to Doctor’s Son) and end up at The Location and catch Shi-hyun. Clear? 😉 Don’t hesitate to ask away if you’re confused!
I feel like each episode, I get sidetracked by the small stuff and don’t actually get around to really talking about the show. But… it’s early yet and we’ve got a LOT coming our way the next few episodes. So I will save my ranting and raving for then and just let you get back to watching for now. Bottom line: I LOVE THIS SHOW.
One last note: Tried to go summary mode with this recap and once again let my longwinded-ness get the better of me. I really wanna catch up with the live episodes, so smaller scenes might get cut out and the recaps might get a little briefer. Perhaps it’ll be a good push to get you to watch the show? 😉