Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Doesn’t Pil Joo look amazing in this screenshot? I love how focused, hardworking and smart he is. And those rolled-up sleeves certainly don’t hurt. 😉🤩
A little bit of admin, and our usual ground rules, before we begin:
1. I’ve put up a poll here, so that you can vote for the show(s) that you’d like to watch next, as a community. You can vote for up to 3 shows, and you can revote, if you change your mind. Do take time to vote!
2. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. I repeat: no spoilers for future episodes please! We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.
3. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?
Without further ado, here are my reactions to this pair of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️
Ooh. Just when we think that Show couldn’t possibly get any twistier, Show goes ahead and proves us so, so wrong.
For starters, I don’t know what I was expecting Mal Ran’s reaction to be, after Pil Joo’s smoothly lethal confession, but it certainly wasn’t derisive laughter. When I think about it, though, it makes sense for Mal Ran’s character to react that way. She so deeply desires to have the upper hand, and she so dearly wants her world to function the way she expects it to, that it’s too much of a shock, to suddenly consider that she might actually be at Pil Joo’s mercy, all of a sudden. The laughter is a defense mechanism of sorts; a denial that she desperately hopes will prove true.
It seems that Pil Joo isn’t even that surprised by Mal Ran’s reaction; he stands there, unmoved, and simply continues to speak as if Mal Ran had never laughed or brushed off his words as an unfunny joke, “You could’ve let us leave after bowing at Father’s funeral. Did you have to kill us?”
Well. I guess that throws any last shred of hope that Mal Ran might have had, that Pil Joo was joking, right out the window. Even though Mal Ran blames Pil Joo’s mother for bringing Pil Joo and his brother to the funeral, I doubt that Mal Ran would have spared the three of them, even if Mom had taken her sons and hidden away with them.
From the flashback when we’d seen Mal Ran watching from afar, as her husband spent time with his other family, we know that Mal Ran knows of their existence. And she would see their very existence as a threat for the Cheong A throne. Therefore, I call bluff. Mal Ran would’ve hunted them down and had them killed, even if they hadn’t shown up to the funeral.
I was really quite startled by the way Pil Joo grabs Mal Ran by the throat and pins her down; it feels so in-yo-face and unrefined. However, when Pil Joo explains that it’s to give Mal Ran the same experience she’d given them, when they’d struggled to breathe in the water, it all makes sense to me.
The thing that Show has been demonstrating about Pil Joo, in the various small beats, is that his revenge is very personal. This isn’t about snatching the Cheong A throne, even though it might look like it on the surface, since it involves dethroning Boo Cheon after having him crowned Chairman. In actual fact, he’s looking to hurt the ones who’ve hurt his family, in the way that he and his loved ones have been hurt, and in the way that hurts the most. It just so happens that the Cheong A throne matters that much to Mal Ran. And here, right now, he just wants Mal Ran to have an understanding of the kind of terror and fear that she had put him and his family through.
Even though what Pil Joo is doing is violent and criminal, as I look at things through his eyes, I can’t say I blame him, for wanting Mal Ran to walk in his brother’s shoes; feel what it’s like to be literally unable to breathe; understand what it means to fear for her life, if only for a while.
Even though I’m sure Pil Joo knows that Mal Ran wouldn’t be willing to take the out that he offers her – to dethrone Boo Cheon as Chairman, and leave with him – I actually believe that in the event that Mal Ran accepted, Pil Joo would honor that promise. That’s something that I feel Show has been consistent in showing us, that when Pil Joo gives his word, that word is not given lightly. As dysfunctional and twisted as Pil Joo is, he is a man of his word.
For all of Mal Ran’s sophistication, sometimes she shows surprising lashings of little girl naïveté, like when Pil Joo tells her that if she doesn’t take his offer, she will have to spend the rest of her life in prison, and she looks at him with wide innocent eyes, and says to him that the statute of limitations on his brother’s death has expired. It genuinely surprises me, that it doesn’t seem to occur to her that Pil Joo’s got lots of other evidence of her many other crimes, that can put her in jail. After all, he’s been doing her dirty work for many years.
Even though it’s clear that Mal Ran’s in denial, and Pil Joo has the upper hand, I have to say that her line – “If you’re not going to kill me now, I’ll leave” – is pretty cool.
Of course, trust Pil Joo to know exactly what will bring Mal Ran to her knees, in every sense of the word. Mal Ran might be willing to take her chances with the prospect of a life in jail, but she’s unwilling to risk having her dark secret, of Secretary Oh being Boo Cheon’s father, see the light of day.
That sure changes Mal Ran’s tune right away – though I’m sure she’s only doing this to buy time. Knowing Mal Ran, she’s still going to try every means possible, not to comply with Pil Joo’s demands.
I have to wonder what Pil Joo was thinking, when he calls Boo Cheon over to his quarters, and offers him that drink and that apple. I’m sure it’s not the homonymous use of “apple” for “apology,” especially since Pil Joo fingers that knife so thoughtfully. It sure is a clear callback to the scene in that earlier episode, when Boo Cheon had passive-aggressively threatened Pil Joo using that same knife. Perhaps this is just Show’s way of demonstrating to us that the tables have turned – and that Pil Joo is unwilling to hurt Boo Cheon, even though he has the power to do so.
We soon learn, from Mal Ran’s conversation with Boo Cheon, that her plan now, is to eliminate Pil Joo. Dang. This woman and her go-to murderous solutions. What strikes me about this conversation, is how Mal Ran plays innocent, when Boo Cheon asks her why Pil Joo might have a personal vendetta against their family. I guess her credibility with Boo Cheon is really of utmost importance to her. Not only would she rather die than have him come to know that she’d conceived him with Secretary Oh, she also seems to not want him to know that she’s got a killer habit.
What’s even more interesting to me, is how, when she’s alone in her room, Mal Ran talks to herself. On the one hand, she tells herself that she’s pathetic, and on the other hand, she tells herself that she’s done nothing wrong; that Pil Joo’s the evil one for having deceived her. Could she.. be slowly losing her mind? Because this is just too huge of a shock for her?
As expected, Mal Ran hatches a plan, and it involves collaborating with ex-President Jang, to take down Grandpa Chairman and Pil Joo in one fell swoop, and then split Cheong A between Boo Cheon and Yeo Cheon. I mean, I’ve long gotten the idea that kinship means nothing in the fight for Cheong A’s throne, but it’s still rather startling to see how happy ex-President Jang looks, while discussing how to overthrow his own father.
While this is going on, we learn that Mo Hyun is starting to investigate the shady accounting at Cheong A Culture Foundation, which is likely to implicate Pil Joo. It says a lot that Mo Hyun would alert Pil Joo to this, out of consideration for him, and it says just as much, that Pil Joo tells her – meaningfully – to do everything that she feels needs doing, without thinking about what anyone else thinks. I wonder whether Pil Joo’s already figured a way out of this, or if he’s willing to be taken down, if it’s by Mo Hyun.
In the meantime, Boo Cheon gets more and more desperate to establish his power, particularly with Pil Joo. The way he throws that bottle of water, during the meeting with Pil Joo, Yeo Cheon and Secretary Woo, it’s clearly to make a point with Pil Joo, more than anyone else. And yet, it’s Pil Joo who remains completely unmoved; he doesn’t even flinch, when that bottle goes flying right past him.
The way Pil Joo eventually leans forward, and, in his signature restrained voice, as if he’s speaking from the very back of his throat, says, “Yes.. Chairman,” it feels like he’s half humoring Boo Cheon, and half daring him, rather than actually submitting to him. Again, this makes me think of a tiger playing with a kitten.
Things aren’t looking great for Boo Cheon, with Yeo Cheon managing to acquire his DNA (by stealing his toothbrush from Mooshimwon), and running a DNA test, which proves that Boo Cheon doesn’t have Jang blood after all. Uh oh?
That scene, where Mal Ran gets into Pil Joo’s car, and tells him that she will leave with Boo Cheon as requested, as long as Pil Joo gives her some time, is an interesting one. On the one hand, it feels like Mal Ran’s just putting on an act to buy some time, so that she has more time to put her plan to eliminate him and Grandpa at the same time, into action. On the other hand, she cries alone in the car, after telling Pil Joo these words:
“Thank you. Your eyes. They were always firm when you looked at me. Those eyes that shone sedately. Now I realize they shone for revenge. I was a sunflower.. every day following those lights without realizing it. How could I have been so stupid? Just the fact that you’re not Kang Pil Joo, but someone else breaks my heart. You’re not just anybody, but Jang Eun Cheon. It can’t get any worse than this. If your goal was not to bite and rip Boo Cheon and me, you’ve already succeeded your revenge, Pil Joo. You made Boo Cheon and me rely on you completely. I’ve raised a flag of truce to you. Even during the war, they don’t attack the person who raised a flag of truce and treat them nicely.”
At first, I’d thought that these tears that Mal Ran cries, after Pil Joo exits the car, might be indicative of at least some lashings of sincerity in her words to Pil Joo; that perhaps she really is that broken up about losing Pil Joo, a person whom she’d trusted implicitly. However, on further thought, I think it’s more likely that Mal Ran’s crying for herself; pitying herself, for being caught in such an awful situation. Additionally, I think the tears are also, at least in part, because Pil Joo does not back down from his position, even after she’s lowered herself to proclaim a truce between them.
Boo Cheon manages to glean some important clues from Mo Hyun about why Pil Joo might have such a strong personal vendetta against the Jangs, but it isn’t long before he receives a text purportedly from Pil Joo, telling him to meet at Yong Goo’s studio, which then leads to Boo Cheon getting locked in, in the secret room, in the midst of a fire. That’s not good. 😬
Honestly, I’d thought that this was engineered by Yeo Cheon and his father, since, more than anything, they wish to remove Boo Cheon from his Chairman position, so that it will become available to Yeo Cheon.
HOWEVER. As we’ve seen from the way Grandpa Chairman is the first to reach out to Seong Man, and from the way he sits expectantly in his study, waiting for news of Boo Cheon’s successful death, it becomes clear that Grandpa is the one who had ordered this. DANG. That’s cold. 🤯 He looks a little sorry and sad, sure, but he’s definitely not sorry or sad enough, to decide against having Boo Cheon killed. 😳
Thanks to a tip-off from Secretary Ahn, Pil Joo manages to find Boo Cheon in the secret room, but the fire is raging, the smoke is thick, and Boo Cheon’s barely conscious. Ack. 🙈
We don’t get to see exactly how Pil Joo does it, but he manages to save Boo Cheon in the nick of time; any longer, and Boo Cheon’s life would have been in danger, the doc says. Yes! I knew Pil Joo would be able to do it! (Also, doesn’t Pil Joo look oh-so-schmexy, when he’s a touch mussed up like this, and his tie is a little bit undone? 🤩)
Although Grandpa Chairman’s plan fails, it is a deviously clever one, I have to admit. He’d have gotten rid of both Boo Cheon and Pil Joo in one move, if he’d been successful. Two lives destroyed, for the price of one; just the kind of thing that would appeal to the devil. 😜 It’s credit to Pil Joo, that Grandpa Chairman looks as uneasy as he does, when he gets that phone call reporting that the mission has failed. It’s like he knows Pil Joo isn’t going to take this lying down, and that there will be a price to pay, for his attempt to take Pil Joo down.
The way Mal Ran immediately concludes that Grandpa is behind the attempt on Boo Cheon’s life, and insists on staying with Boo Cheon at the hospital, so that she can personally prevent anyone from taking him off the ventilator, is quite plaintive, I feel.
How bizarre and disturbing is it, to live a life where the first person you’d suspect of trying to murder your son, is your father-in-law – and partly because your father-in-law caused your husband’s death by pulling the plug early? 🤯 In this moment, for this reason, I do feel a little sorry for Mal Ran.
Triggered by this incident, Yong Goo makes his first attempt to persuade Pil Joo to withdraw from the situation. He points out to Pil Joo that Grandpa’s tried to kill the grandson who’s lived with him for 37 years, and that Grandpa will try to kill Pil Joo too. “Everyone’s insane,” he says, and I have to agree; all the players in this dark, morbid game of vying for the Cheong A throne, is dangerous and at least a little bit crazy.
However, it feels like Pil Joo’s been in this for too long; it doesn’t seem like he can imagine a reality where he isn’t fighting the Jang family with everything that he has. We don’t see Pil Joo’s response to Yong Goo, but it’s clear that Pil Joo isn’t about to default on the fight.
I have to admire the calm audacity that Pil Joo has, in going right up to Grandpa, laying out the evidence of Grandpa’s involvement in instigating the attempt on Boo Cheon’s life, and then methodically listing exactly what he wants Grandpa to do, now that he has the upper hand. He’s so quietly threatening, like he doesn’t even need to really try, to be intimidating. I have to admit that I do love that about Pil Joo.
Afterwards, though, we do see Pil Joo sitting alone in his living room, contemplating the various things that Grandpa has said to him, including Grandpa’s assertion that he hadn’t had to drag Pil Joo’s dad to the altar to marry Mal Ran; that Dad hadn’t been able to say no to the money either. It’s a rare moment, where we see Pil Joo looking a touch conflicted. More than that, what strikes me is how alone Pil Joo looks, sitting there in the dark by himself. This is the first time that it really hits me, just how lonely Pil Joo must be, living this kind of life.
Congressman Na wakes up from his coma, to his family’s relief, and when Pil Joo rushes to see him, Mo Hyun informs him that she plans to ask her father to turn himself in, when he’s fully recovered – which, again, would trigger an investigation that is likely to implicate Pil Joo. I must say, on this point, Pil Joo is remarkably consistent.
Each time Mo Hyun’s told him that her actions are likely to implicate him, he’s respected her right to do whatever she sees fit, and he even encourages her to make full use of that right. In this case, he even tells Mo Hyun that he will return the recordings taken from Congressman Na’s phone, because Congressman Na will likely look for them. Sometimes, I almost feel like Pil Joo welcomes being incriminated for his actions; it’s almost like he thinks of it as well-deserved punishment.
Grandpa Chairman makes the announcement about temporarily removing Boo Cheon from the Chairman position, and interestingly, it isn’t exactly as Pil Joo had dictated. Instead of Pil Joo being the only recommended candidate, ex-President Jang is also in the running, along with one other unnamed candidate, who is recommended by the presidents of affiliates. Also interestingly, Mal Ran, who’s managed to insert herself into the meeting, manages to successfully lobby for a co-Chairman arrangement instead.
The changes don’t seem to bother Pil Joo one bit, however, and he remains genial and clear-eyed through the entire meeting. I feel like this means that he already has solutions in mind, on how to remove these sudden obstacles.
Mo Hyun shows up at the hospital to briefly look in on Boo Cheon, and informs Mal Ran that her divorce from Boo Cheon is effective as of today. Mal Ran is furious, and it’s just quite satisfying to see how calm and collected Mo Hyun is, in the face of Mal Ran’s displeasure.
Notably, Mo Hyun no longer addresses Mal Ran as “Mother,” which she’d always done; instead, she now pointedly addresses her as “Executive Jung Mal Ran.” Ooh, I’m sure that’s gotta rile up Mal Ran even more. I’d call this a win for Mo Hyun, since she’s managed to proceed with the divorce without Mal Ran’s knowledge or approval.
In the meantime, the candidates for Chairman are narrowed down to two; it’s ex-President Jang against Pil Joo. Ex-President Jang seems quite confident that if Mal Ran and Boo Cheon pool their share holdings with his and Yeo Cheon’s, they’d be able to influence the outcome of the election.
..Which is when Pil Joo visits Grandpa Chairman to encourage him to sign the lawsuit consent form for property transfer nullification, saying that this readiness to proceed with the lawsuit, would in turn encourage Mal Ran to give up her shares, since she wouldn’t want the public to know that Boo Cheon doesn’t have Jang blood. Ooh. Sneaky.
Pil Joo, on his way to see Boo Cheon who’s just woken up, gives Mal Ran the news, and warns her to give up on the shares she’d received, before standing trial. He also advises her against colluding with ex-President Jang. When Mal Ran accuses him of eavesdropping, I love how Pil Joo calmly remarks that there really isn’t a need to, since he knows her so well. Touché.
Boo Cheon asks Pil Joo accusingly, how it feels to have made Grandpa kill him by telling Gramps that he’s not a Jang – only to then save him from the flames. I have to appreciate how clearly Pil Joo sees the entire picture; he’s not at all swayed by Boo Cheon’s accusations, and instead reminds Boo Cheon that this would have never happened if not for Mal Ran’s actions.
There are two things that Pil Joo says during this conversation that strike me extra. 1, that he’d only ever had two options; living to take revenge against Mal Ran, or walking into the river, to be reunited with everyone whom he’d lost, and 2, that he hadn’t saved Boo Cheon for Boo Cheon’s sake, but his own, because he would have had to shoulder the blame, had Boo Cheon died.
That last statement’s gotta hit Boo Cheon hard; it’s probably a really hard thing to hear, that the reason Pil Joo had saved him, wasn’t even for the sake of their longtime connection or any kind of affection Pil Joo might have had for him. As to the other thing.. I wonder if Pil Joo sees himself as the walking dead? As in, is this the lens through which he views his life? That he’s as good as dead..?
Meanwhile, Pil Joo effectively removes ex-President Jang from the election race, by submitting evidence of his tax evasion of tens of millions of dollars, which means that ex-President Jang will have to serve jail time.
And then, on election day, when things aren’t looking so great for his odds, Pil Joo visits Grandpa Chairman with evidence of all his borrowed name accounts, to the tune of more than 4 billion dollars, telling Gramps that if Gramps doesn’t vote for him, Pil Joo will reveal the information on his borrowed name accounts to the public. Ooh. There goes Pil Joo, again, with his powerful one-two punch.
And so it is, that Pil Joo once again has occasion for his slo-mo panther-hero walk in Mooshimwon (he’s so cool! 🤩); he is now the new Chairman of Cheong A.
What a significant milestone, filled with important moments like Boo Cheon’s nameplate being replaced by Pil Joo’s, and Secretary Woo greeting Pil Joo as “Chairman,” and offering his first work report.
Through it all, Pil Joo comes across as measured and all-business. There is no gloating or any other sign of preening; he even cancels his inauguration, because it hasn’t been long since Boo Cheon’s inauguration.
Instead, it feels like Pil Joo’s ready to do an amazing job of being Chairman, judging from the detailed plans for Cheong A Group that he hands to Secretary Woo, which are impressive enough to prompt Secretary Woo to ask just how long Pil Joo’s worked to prepare them. Our Pil Joo just never does anything halfheartedly, does he?
Of course, Grandpa isn’t going to take all this lying down, and we see that he sends masked men to infiltrate the Na household, presumably to nab Congressman Na. However, Congressman Na is nowhere to be found.
..Which is when we see a video clip of Congressman Na appear on the news, in which he announces that he’s alive, and that he will soon be back to reveal the truth. What consequences might this have, for our newly appointed Chairman Kang..? 😱