It’s usually true that the simpler the set-up, the better the execution. The more convoluted a story needs to be in order to get the ball rolling, the more it runs the risk of feeling scattered. Worse yet, it runs the risk of feeling contrived. Right now, Lie to Me stands just at the brink of that possibility, which is that the hows and whys of getting Ah Jung and Ki Joon into a fake contract marriage are so jam-packed with misunderstandings on top of inaccuracies wrapped in misleading statements, one almost gets exhausted just watching it.
Episode 2 of LTM didn’t exactly wow me or up the initial quality. Again, no one can be more disappointed in this outcome than me. But you know what? I still like this drama and I enjoy watching it. The interaction between Ah Jung and Ki Joon is adorable, even if I am tired of the layers plot machinations required to keep getting them together and bickering. I’m hoping that LTM is a drama that takes off once the contract marriage is in place, where it becomes the growing awareness, attraction, and understanding between the two leads which drives this car.
Episode 2 Recap:
Ki Joon returns to his hotel after a golf-outing which turned out to be the end of any possible future with matchmaking chick, and finding out that he’s supposedly married. It’s like going out for ice-cream and discovering that you got fired from your job AND someone hacked into your bank account and drained it. The staff at the hotel are as gossipy as any staff at any workplace, and word spreads like wildfire that their president is married, and it’s a “secret marriage” no less. Oh the scandal. Oh how romantic it is. Oh how it’s like drama fiction within a drama fiction.
Some discuss the reason for the secret marriage being that his family (i.e. Auntie) disapproves, which rumors add fuel to the fire by linking it with the reason Ki Joon ended his first engagement. Ki Joon doesn’t hear this exact exchange, but can tell the rumors are flying. He turns to his trusty assistant Park Hoon to find out if there are rumors concerning his possible marriage. Hoon confirms said rumors, which leads Ki Joon to wonder who started it. Hoon informs Ki Joon that there is a name of a particular woman attached to this rumor, not some unknown wife. Hoon offers to take care of it, but Ki Joon asks him to stop.
Ah Jung, adorably bumbling yet bright Ah Jung, walks along the boulevard drinking an energy drink and not wanting to go to work. Suddenly a car pulls up and Ki Joon exits the car and walks up to Ah Jung. He looks her straight in the eye and asks – are you my wife? Damn, if Kang Ji Hwan walked up to me and asked me that, my answer would be “hallelujah thank you drama gods, and oh hell yes I am, when is the wedding night?”
Ah Jung and Ki Joon move their little pow-wow to a restaurant. Ah Jung finds this entire rumor just funny as hell, laughing her head off and asking why Ki Joon is so serious about it. This rumor is like an elementary school prank, and she wonders who started it? Both deny being the person who started the rumor, but Ki Joon doesn’t buy Ah Jung’s protest of innocence so easily. He accuses her of planning this from the very start – from her bee sting seizure to her pretend fainting in his hotel.
Ah Jung expression is all like “dude, who do you think you are – Korea’s #1 bachelor?” – she tells Ki Joon that she’s successful and accomplished in her own right (read: she is a desirable lady for any man), so why would she entrap Ki Joon into a rumored secret marriage? Ki Joon goes straight to threatening a defamation lawsuit if she doesn’t clear up the rumor, which gets Ah Jung’s goat up for insinuating that being rumored to be married to her is a slanderous offense.
Ki Joon says that his insult of Ah Jung is not important, but to her that is precisely what is important. Ki Joon laughs, asking if she’s always this way? It might work with others, but won’t work with him. Ah Jung is in no mood to be conciliatory anymore, and she tells him to bring proof that she started the rumor or else bugger off. She further goads him for coming to accuse her without any concrete proof. In fact, Ah Jung turns the tables on Ki Joon – what if he started the rumor and is blaming it on her now?
Ah Jung really says it like she thinks it, I adore her for that. Ah Jung’s coworkers arrive at the restaurant during the heated staredown, and hide to try and watch the conversation, but Ki Joon notices them so he tells Ah Jung to be prepared to meet in court then since he’s given her an opportunity to explain herself. She tells him to bring it on, and don’t forget to bring the evidence. Ki Joon glares at her one more time and walks out. Ah Jung tells her nosy coworkers that the man who just conversed with her is her stalker.
Ki Joon tells Hoon that Gong Ah Jung dared to accuse HIM of spreading of rumor. He’s feeling exceedingly huffy and irritable now, so he tells Hoon to get him the best lawyer around. Hoon goes, where else in this drama full of coincidences, to the law offices where Jae Bum works. Hoon quietly asks for some preliminary advice from Jae Bum about his friend’s false marriage rumors. When Hoon picks up So Ran, she pressures him to reveal that he was late because he gave a friend some advice about a person’s false marriage rumors.
Back at the hotel where no one really seems to work, Ki Joon can see his staff pointing and gesturing, so he loudly exclaims that he’s not sure how the rumor spread? He wants Hoon to find out if Ah Jung told anyone at the hotel. While Ki Joon believes that if he continues to deny that he is secretly married, people will believe him, Hoon (and the staff) shake their heads at such an easy solution. Hoon tells Ki Joon not to sue Ah Jung, since women respond better to conciliatory gestures. Hoon warns Ki Joon that if Ah Jung continues to insist they are married, people are more likely to believe her. Hoon tells Ki Joon that people are wont to believe there is some truth in the rumor.
Suddenly Ki Joon’s friend shows up (a cameo appearance by Danny Ahn) and reminds Ki Joon about a weekend gathering of friends. Before walking way, he asks Ki Joon not to forget to bring his (new) wife, and he leaves Ki Joon with a heart sign and the parting words “love is forever, fighting”. Ki Joon’s continued denial falls on deaf ears, and this confirmation that simply denying the entire falsehood isn’t going to clear up the rumor gets Ki Joon further in a bad mood. Hoon wants to talk with him in the elevator, but Ki Joon just tells him to shut up.
Ah Jung is going through presentation slides at work, when suddenly she sees Ki Joon barging in and slamming her against the wall. He rages at her for spreading a lie that Hyun Ki Joon is her husband. Ah Jung keeps protesting that she didn’t, but Ki Joon calls her out for lying and threatens to destroy her. Ah Jung asks for proof, and Ki Joon points to the slide projector and says that the proof is right there. Suddenly the projector shows scenes from the beauty salon where Ah Jung tells So Ran and Jae Bum that she is married.
Ah Jung snaps out of her reverie as she finally puts two-and-two together and realizes that she may have in fact started the rumor inadvertently, though it wasn’t exactly the lie Ki Joon is accusing her of. She only lied that she was married, not who she married. Suddenly her phone rings and it’s a call from Ki Joon, which Ah Jung avoids. Ki Joon wonders to himself how to resolve this quietly if Ah Jung refuses to take his calls.
Ah Jung is trying to compose herself, all the while Ki Joon keeps calling her. She takes out her cellphone battery when Ki Joon keeps calling, wondering why the hell it had to be Hyun Ki Joon, of all people. She correctly worries that Ki Joon will come find her at work, and lo and behold, she walks out to the lobby to see him waiting for her there.
She hides behind a banner and tries to imagine different ways of getting out of the ministry without him spotting her. She can accuse Ki Joon of being a pervert who molested her, but then she imagines her co-workers wiill just pass the buck and claim that they have no authority to act in this case. She imagines making a run for it, but worries that Ki Joon is too fast and will nab her. Just then the (now recovered) Minister of Culture walks up to the lurking behind a banner Ah Jung and asks what she is doing?
Ah Jung quickly uses this opportunity to escape, telling the Minister she has (another) great idea and asks for a ride from him so she can share it with him. Ah Jung gets into the Minister’s car as Ki Joon watches, which confirms for him that she’s feeling guilty by the way she is avoiding him. The Minister approves Ah Jung’s made-up-on-the-spot new great idea, and drops her off. In getting out of one mess, Ah Jung may have just gotten herself into another one.
Ah Jung goes to the café owned by her dad’s lady friend Ae Kyung. Ah Jung collapses on a table, but Ae Kyung doesn’t want to hear her woes since it seems too complicated. Ae Kyung walks off, and Suk Bong asks who the girl is, and Ae Kyung smiles and says it’s a girl who never learns to behave. Looks like these two have a bit of a complicated relationship.
We see Sang Hee is in the café as well, and he looks up to see Ah Jung muttering to herself. Ah Jung wonders why it had to be Hyun Ki Joon, of all people! Ah Jung looks up and makes eye contact with Sang Hee, both of them recognizing each other simultaneously. He calls her “resignation letter” and she calls him “thief”.
Sang Hee thinks to himself that its fate which keeps making him run into Ah Jung, and he confirms to Ae Kyung that he knows Ah Jung just as Ah Jung tells Ae Kyung that she doesn’t know that guy. Ah Jung leaves because the café is no longer conducive to her thinking quietly. Sang Hee follows her out, trying to get a grateful response from her because he took her resignation letter which ultimately saved her job.
Ah Jung retorts that she wouldn’t have turned it in anyways, to which Sang Hee calls her on her attitude that she would certainly have turned it in. To which Ah Jung boldly concedes that had she turned it in, she wouldn’t have been fired anyways. Wow wee, what a confident and brassy girl. Sang Hee likes to revel in thinking he was her white knight, but asks a departing Ah Jung what he should do with her resignation letter then?
Sang Hee’s friend Suk Bong, who is friends with Ae Kyung, tells her that Sang Hee is currently homeless. Ae Kyung wonders why, and Suk Bong confirms that Sang Hee has been kicked out, for reasons he can’t divulge. Sang Hee and Ah Jung end up munching on some food at a food stall. Ah Jung reminds Sang Hee to bring her the resignation napkin, especially since she’s treating him to a meal.
Sang Hee asks why Ah Jung is buying him a meal just to get her resignation napkin back? And why isn’t she asking for his name? Is it lack of interest? Sang Hee tells Ah Jung his name and asks her to remember it. He leaves, and Ah Jung repeats his name, wondering why there is someone with the last name Hyun, is it that common?
Ki Joon is at a staff meeting at the hotel. He then has lunch with his Aunt, who reminds him of the importance of this upcoming project (entering the Chinese market with a Chinese partner), with the future of the hotel on the line. Ki Joon assures her that he will take care of everything. Aunt warns him that if he fails, he’ll lose his job.
Aunt asks about Sang Hee, and is told by Ki Joon that Sang Hee is staying with a friend. Ki Joon confesses that he doesn’t want to go find Sang Hee, who likely doesn’t want to see Ki Joon. Aunt reveals that Sang Hee was the reason Ki Joon ended his previous engagement, and she’s embarrassed to remember her nephews fighting over the same girl. When Ki Joon is back in his office, he picks up a framed picture of himself, Sang Hee, and a girl who we know is Oh Yoon Joo (Jo Yoon Hee). Suddenly Ki Joon gets a call from Ah Jung, who asks to meet so they can talk quietly.
Apparently Ah Jung’s idea of a secret meeting to have a secret talk involves a swan paddle boat into the middle of a lake. I guess they can’t exactly get a hotel room, which would send the marriage rumor into overdrive if they were accidentally discovered. Absurd, yes, but let’s keep going with it, shall we? At the river banks, Ah Jung wears over-sized sunglasses and a white hoodie pulled up around her face, which makes her look like some female stalker and calls attention to her more, if you ask me.
Ah Jung hurries Ki Joon into the paddle boat, telling him a couple is taking wedding pictures nearby so they need to quickly get somewhere they can’t be seen. Ah Jung and Ki Joon paddle out to the middle of the lake, with Ah Jung peddling like some mad woman in a 100 yard dash, and Ki Joon fixated on scraping the gunk off the inside of the boat. He is seething at her insistence in riding this paddle boat, and she explains that she has no clue how the rumor started, but if they met at a coffee shop or his hotel, it’ll surely fan the flames of the rumor.
Once they are a safe distance away from civilization, Ah Jung confesses she asked him here to discuss away from the prying eyes and ears of other people, to which Ki Joon snarks that she should have picked a remote mountain top then. Ah Jung says that being cautious sometimes is necessary, and she proudly states that she is quite considerate, isn’t she? He asks for her explanation and/or a plausible defense, and is about to get mad but remembers what Hoon told him and holds his temper in check.
Ah Jung concedes that she may be at fault, somewhat, in this steamrolling rumor mill. She confesses in telling a wee small fib that she was married (when she wasn’t), but Ah Jung quickly adds that she never said WHO she was married to, much less that the man in question as Hyun Ki Joon. Before they can discuss further, a couple in another paddle boat start to fight, and the man pushes the woman into the lake. Ah Jung dives into the lake to save the girl, and Ki Joon has no choice but to dive in after her.
Ah Jung and Ki Joon are fished out of the lake to the applause of many, heroes for their dramatic and brave rescue. Ki Joon is quietly furious with Ah Jung for diving in there, wondering what happened with the girl who claimed to be so cautious?
He stalks off to his car, only to discover that somewhere between the river and its bottom lies his car keys. Ah Jung, wearing skin-tight jeans, manages to dig into her pocket and unearths her car keys. Memo to self: skin-tight jeans help protect one’s valuables when one takes a dip in a lake. She waves it at Ki Joon, offering to drive him home. He hesitates, and she’s got no qualms about leaving him behind, which is when he stalks to her tiny little coupe and gets in.
On the drive back to his house, Ki Joon is trying to adjust the seat, which results in his seat back reclining completely. Okay, that was funny. Ah Jung tells him to stop fidgeting, it’ll make her nervous. Ki Joon seethes that he didn’t ask her for a ride, but Ah Jung magnanimously says that even though Ki Joon can make one call and get a ride, it’s not good for anyone to see him in his current state. He glares at her, and she apologizes if that was a mistaken assumption, to which he replies that she was indeed mistaken.
She drops him off at his house, but he asks her to come in so they can finish talking. Ah Jung covers her face again, but Ki Joon tells her there is no one around to see. After Ah Jung washes up, she peeks around Ki Joon’s house, wearing just a bathrobe. Ah Jung asks Ki Joon how much it costs to rent a place like this, and Ki Joon reminds her that she’s a civil servant who can’t accept bribes. Ah Jung says that she is not talking about bribes, she is talking about landing a man who lives in a place like this. When Ki Joon stares at her, she realizes the implication and clarifies quickly that she was just joking.
Ah Jung sits down and tells Ki Joon that she will handle how to end this rumor once and for all. Her plan is to gather everyone together, and just inform them that she is not married to Hyun Ki Joon. Ki Joon looks at her, wondering why she thinks it’s so easy to solve a problem. Ah Jung shrugs and says that complicated solutions don’t solve problems either. She graciously offers to end the farce not because she started the rumor, but because she, too, is a victim in this mess. Ah Jung changes into her freshly washed clothes and leaves, all the while Ki Joon keeps muttering “victim?”
Ah Jung finds her dad drinking away all his recent misery, stemming from his friends being more successful than him. Ah Jung ribs her dad, wondering whether he’s envious of his friends in high government positions. Ah Jung suggests her dad attain those positions, to which her dad asks if Ah Jung wants him to go to jail. He asks her to make sure she is successful, okay? Ah Jung confirms that her goal to become a 1st Level Civil Servant. Her dad reassures her that if she gets into trouble, he’ll be her lawyer. Father and daughter have a drink.
Ki Joon heads back to work, telling Hoon that he didn’t fight with Ah Jung, and may have misunderstood her intentions and complicity in this rumor. In the elevator, Ki Joon talks with Director Park, his hotel manager (and friend). Apparently there is a request to shoot a drama at their hotel, and Ki Joon authorizes her to find out more about it. He wonders what she thinks about his secret marriage humors, but she keeps it professional and does not discuss it further.
So Ran and her gaggle of friends are arranging flowers and still gossiping about Ah Jung’s newly discovered marriage. So Ran is told that Ah Jung’s husband is supposedly Hyun Ki Joon, who was the man that was seen carrying Ah Jung. Turns out another classmate of Ah Jung’s has now stepped forward and claimed to have gone to Ah Jung’s wedding. Oh this lies on top of lies is priceless.
So Ran refuses to believe the rumor, since that girl also claimed to have attended Brangelina’s wedding. So Ran tells the other two to use their brains – how could a rich chaebol marry a girl “like” Ah Jung? So Ran’s description of Ah Jung (as someone somehow not worthy of Hyun Ki Joon) now has the friends wondering why she refuses to just be happy for Ah Jung? Because her heart is constructed of slithery snakes named jealousy, envy, and petty, that’s why.
A friend finally accuses So Ran of being jealous, especially since Ah Jung graduated from a better university than So Ran, and has passed the civil service exam. So Ran claims that she’s just refusing to buy into a Cinderella fairytale story is all. So Ran gets a stomach ache from thinking about the possibility of Gong Ah Jung living a Cinderella story.
Sang Hee brings Ah Jung’s resignation napkin to the café, but it’s accidently used by Suk Bong as, well, a napkin. He wipes his butt with it in the toilet when he runs out of toilet paper. God, I love the irony of that. Ah Jung is angry that her all-important resignation napkin (her pride and honor) was thus desecrated. Ah Jung runs off, with Sang Hee trailing behind her, asking to take out her for a meal as his apology. She continues to ignore him, until he just grabs her for a hug.
Ah Jung is not mollified, and Sang Hee wonders why his hug doesn’t cure all anymore? Bystanders are watching the hug and exclaiming over the PDA. Ah Jung breaks free of his embrace, telling him that what he just did is illegal. Ah Jung is not interested in Sang Hee’s attempts to make it up to her, until she sees other women eying him, which gives her a great idea. She asks him if he’s free tonight, and tells him that she’s giving him an opportunity to make it up to her.
As Jung picks up Sang Hee and he reminds her that she’s twenty minutes late. Ah Jung confesses that she wanted to call him but who doesn’t carry a cell phone these days. He’s not ready to go to a party with her based on what she’s wearing. Just because she is a civil servant doesn’t mean she needs to dress like one. He takes her to a boutique, reminding her that she needs to be dressed to dazzle if she intends to tell the world that she’s not interested in that certain guy. Sang Hee selects a drop-shouldered, form-fitting, snake-print dress, which frankly screams hoochie more than classy.
Ah Jung looks pleased with her makeover, and Sang Hee completes the outfit by selecting a necklace and shoes to go along with it. Ah Jung goes to check out, and is stunned to discover the exorbitant price tag on the entire purchase. Sang Hee wonders why she’s so reluctant since she must earn a lot of money as a government employee, to which Ah Jung rhetorically asks which government employee earns a lot. Ah Jung hands over her credit card, but doesn’t let go so easy, as the sales lady as to literally pry it out of her hands.
Ah Jung staggers out of the boutique, wobbly because the amount of money she just spent makes her unable to walk straight. Sang Hee then reveals that he had intended to pay for it all. He asks where they are headed, and is stunned to discover that the party is at the World Hotel. At the hotel, Ki Joon has gathered all people who believe in the rumor. While waiting for Ah Jung to arrive, he keeps telling people he’s not married, and people keep not believing him. Everyone congratulates Ki Joon on his marriage.
When Ah Jung and Sang Hee arrive at the hotel, he’s reluctant to get out of the car, and when he does, he hides his face like some guilty person. Ah Jung wonders if perhaps this is his first time in any hotel. Sang Hee wants to lie and ditch Ah Jung, but ends up going inside with her.
He keeps his hand shielded over his face, which leads Ah Jung to wonder if he’s embarrassed to be seen with her. Sang Hee easily tells her that it’s clear everyone can tell he’s enchanted with his date. They go up in an elevator, and when the doors open, Hoon is waiting to pick up Ah Jung. Sang Hee takes off running down stairwell, and Ah Jung ends up chasing him, leaving Hoon behind.
At the same time, So Ran and Jae Bum arrive at the hotel, with So Ran asking the front desk to confirm whether Hyun Ki Joon is married. The front desk refuses to reveal that information. Jae Bum runs into Hoon, asking about how his friend’s marriage issue is being handled. Ki Joon calls Ah Jung, telling her to hurry up and get to the party. Ah Jung, all mussed from chasing after Sang Hee, tells him she needs to fix her hair first then she’ll be down.
In the bathroom, Ah Jung runs into So Ran, who proceeds to ask the 21 questions about Ah Jung’s husband. Ah Jung is not interested, but tells So Ran that she ought to be grateful to Ah Jung, because it was through Ah Jung that So Ran met and ended up marrying Jae Bum. So Ran than sticks a dagger into Ah Jung by revealing that Jae Bum wanted So Ran to help him get Ah Jung to stop hanging around him.
So Ran makes it seem like she did Ah Jung a favor by stealing Jae Bum, and keeping it a secret from Ah Jung, because if Ah Jung knew, she would have never studied so diligently to pass her civil service exams. So Ran repeats that she doesn’t believe Ah Jung is married, especially that someone like Ah Jung could be married to someone like Ki Joon.
Ah Jung then cuts to the chase, asking So Ran is what bugs her is that Ah Jung is married to a man better than So Ran’s husband, to which So Ran readily concedes. In fact, So Ran says that it is the law of the land, the order of the universe, that Ah Jung cannot marry a man more successful than So Ran’s husband.
The confrontation leaves Ah Jung shaken, and seething with anger and frustration. Jae Bum tries to greet Ah Jung, but is dragged away by So Ran. Which is when Ki Joon steps out of the party and turns to see Ah Jung standing there. Ki Joon points to his watch, indicating that time is pressing, and smiles at Ah Jung, happy that she’s finally here to set things straight.
Ah Jung thinks to herself – there are many times when I am ruled by my heart rather than then my head, which always causes trouble. Ah Jung makes up her mind, and she smiles back at Ki Joon, waving her hand and calling out “Yobo (honey), I am here.” Her greeting causes So Ran and Jae Bum to stop in their steps, and turn around and look at Ah Jung in surprise.
Ki Joon lowers his hand and stops smiling, his face freezing into a deadly stare at Ah Jung, who lifts her chin higher and she stands up for herself.
Thoughts of Mine:
Lie to Me episode 2 takes the preliminary set-up and runs with it further, but doesn’t really feel all the satisfying yet. Two episodes in, I find the plot pretty middling, and the execution (directing, scoring, editing) a bit choppy and somewhat distracting. I don’t dislike it, but it definitely isn’t as good as I had hoped. I think the acting from the two leads is good, but also not yet anything to write home about. Their chemistry is excellent, which bodes well for the romance factor of this drama. The story factor remains to be seen whether it can grow compelling as it develops.
I think the drama is doing a good job of balancing the comedic moments with the realistic beats, never letting the need for manufactured laughs overwhelm the requirement to tell a story that connects with the viewers. I’m not quite sure if the lack of zip in the first two episodes is a sign that the drama lacks that certain joie de vivre which makes a good rom-com snap, crackle, and pop with energy, or simply that we need to slog through the set-up to get to the good parts to come.
I really like Ah Jung’s personality, and I like the potential for Ki Joon’s to change and grow. Ah Jung feel refreshingly different, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, because there are plenty of sassy, ballsy, and forthright K-drama heroines before. Maybe it’s because she stands up for herself, not necessarily in a rude way (which is how most bold K-drama heroines tend to express themselves), but in a way that is honest and proud. I love how she really doesn’t think of Ki Joon as some great catch, but is instead insulted that he doesn’t think she is.
To be honest, Ki Joon is, thus far, a pretty bland and cardboard male lead character. For once I really do feel like I’ve seen his incarnation so many times before, in rom-coms, in melos, even in thrillers. But you know what, I trust Kang Ji Hwan to make the character come alive, and he’s already doing it in his little comedic throwaway moments. I find the brother-girl-brother previous love triangle already annoying and I haven’t even seen a single flashback, LOL. I guess it’s just piddling to be that two people are in love, and one party unilaterally ends for the sake of a third party. Like, what? So lame.
I don’t really like Sang Hee because he’s so emotionally immature, running away from his relationship demons, leaving everyone else to suffer the consequences of a chain of events he set in motion. Plus his devil-may-care attitude kind of riles me up, because I feel like he ought to have grown and changed in the years since he’s been gallivanting around the world. I can safely say there will be no second lead shipping from me in this drama.
I think there are too many secondary character and speaking parts. Perhaps it’ll seem necessary later on, but for now nothing outside of the OTP interactions interest me or are even remotely compelling. But I do love that none of the lead characters, or even secondary characters, are damaged individuals. There are quite a lot of selfish and self-absorbed activity going on in this drama, but it feels logical and flows from the brief glimpses of the characters so far. I like how everything hinges on one half-lie which becomes a whole lie, which looks to become a fake truth. I’m looking forward to LTM, with more hope that expectation, and a whole lot of goodwill.