Finally I feel it. The slight uptick in story progression, pace, and cohesiveness in episode 5 of Spy Myung Wol was what I needed to keep my interest in this drama. I genuinely laughed a few times this episode, felt the faint stirrings of my heart for the OTP, and found myself actually interested in what’s coming down the road for the major characters, the mysteries, and spy tactics.
I also think the drama has found a comfortable balance between the off-beat vibe of its screwball premise with the sincerity of a love story that potentially spans the most divisive of ethnic impasses in North and South Korea. There are still execution problems (what’s with the excessive flashbacks of scenes that happened not five minutes ago?), but nevertheless I glimpse the drama has settled into its groove.
Episode 5 recap:
Kang Woo and Myung Wol are back on that balcony in Singapore. A masked Myung Wol subdues the assailants and saves a masked Kang Woo. He walks over to her, all slow mo. She puts her hand on his face as they look into each other’s eyes. Kang Woo removes her mask and of course he sees Myung Wol.
Turns out this was just a dream, and Kang Woo wakes up in his bed. He gets a drink of water and wanders over to Myung Wol’s room. He recalls saving Myung Wol from falling. He sees her sleeping and mutters to himself that it can’t be. Suddenly Myung Wol’s cellphone alarm goes off at 4 a.m. Myung Wol sits up and then plops back to sleep. Kang Woo stares at her and mutters again that it can’t be.
During the drive to work, Kang Woo keeps staring at Myung Wol from the back seat. She asks if he wants to say something but he says there is nothing. He resumes staring at her, leading Dae Kang to point out the obvious that even if Kang Woo is wearing sunglasses, everyone can still see his eyes (which are staring at Myung Wol).
Kang Woo asks Myung Wol if she’s ever been to Singapore? Myung Wol stammers and says of course not, she doesn’t even know where Singapore is? Agent Kyung wonders why Kang Woo is mentioning Singapore? Kang Woo says he suddenly recalls meeting someone there. Normally he doesn’t remember people he met once, but this person is rather unique.
On set, Kang Woo keeps staring at Myung Wol. She worries that he’s placed her as the same girl from Singapore. In Ah comes strutting out wearing a new outfit from Paris, asking Kang Woo what he thinks. Kang Woo isn’t even paying attention, he just says “no, no, it can’t be”, which leads a pissed off In Ah to stomp off to yell at the costume designer.
Kang Woo goes to assemble a prop gun to prepare for his next scene. He fumbles with the pieces and almost drops one when Myung Wol catches it. She quickly and efficiently assembles the gun and hands it back to Kang Woo. He asks why she’s so familiar with it? She lies that she grew up near a place with lots of army folks. She turns to leave, which is when Kang Woo throws the prop gun at her back. Myung Wol deftly turns around and catches it. She runs off before he can say anything else.
Kang Woo asks Agent Kyung to get a hold of Myung Wol’s departure records from Korea. He asks if she’s ever met Myung Wol’s parents, or know where she came from? Agent Kyung says it doesn’t matter, Myung Wol saved Kang Woo’s life and she likes her.
Myung Wol tells Ok Soon about Kang Woo starting to suspect her identity since he keeps looking at her weirdly and asking if she went to Singapore. Ok Soon tells her not to worry, if Kang Woo already put two-and-two together, he would have confronted Myung Wol.
They decide to practice more skinship between Kang Woo and Myung Wol. Hee Bok pretends to be Kang Woo walking through a crowd of fans, and Myung Wol needs to pretend to hug him under the pretext of protecting him, in order to engage in skinship. She’s horribly unsexy and terribly awkward, but Ok Soon blames it on Hee Bok’s unattractive face and gut for the hug being so bad to look at.
Choi Ryu arrives and is roped into playing the part of Kang Woo. Myung Wol hugs him and Choi Ryu freezes, then he promptly pushes Myung Wol off him. He quickly leaves, and Ok Soon moans that Myung Wol is truly lacking in feminine appeal.
At the NSA, Agent Yoo Da Hae is giving a report confirming Kang Woo was in Singapore and attended the secret auction. She shows a picture of Kim Eun Joo at Kang Woo’s concert, who they have identified as the daughter of high-ranking North Korean official Kim Young Tak. Yoo Da Hae doesn’t know what the connection is between Kang Woo and the North Koreans being in Singapore, but she intends to find out.
Kang Woo is performing in a very horrible music video, something about needing a rocking space ship. Oh my eyes and ears. Turns out a high ranking official (I’m assuming it’s a proxy for Kim Jong Il) in Korea is watching the music video and hearing from Kim Young Tak that Kang Woo will be brought over to the North. He’s pleased, but warns Kim Young Tak that he doesn’t have patience and won’t wait too long.
Kang Woo holds slip of paper and appears to be looking for an address. Team Seduce Kang Woo is holding a meeting where Ok Soon has done her homework on Kang Woo’s interests. Kang Woo has dated three actresses, all former co-stars from his dramas or movies. Kang Woo apparently likes picking his own co-stars.
Ok Soon points out Gu Hye Sun (who starred with Eric in Strongest Chil Woo), Han Ga In (who worked with Eric in Super Rookie), and Jung Yumi (Eric’s co-star in Que Sera Sera) as his former girlfriends. Ok Soon says Myung Wol needs to learn to be classy like these actresses, but Hee Bok disagrees, saying Myung Wol needs to go the cute route.
Ok Soon reminds everyone that she’s the expert, but Hee Bok says only men know what other men like. Men like pretty girls, that’s it. Suddenly there is a knock at the door. Myung Wol opens it thinking it’s Choi Ryu, but finding herself face-to-face with Kang Woo. She shuts the door on him and rushes inside to put all the Kang Woo intelligence away.
Kang Woo opens the door and walks in. Ok Soon and Hee Bok introduce themselves as Myung Wol’s parents. Hee Bok hilariously acts like he didn’t already meet Kang Woo before at the detective agency. Everyone sits down for some awkward chit chat.
Kang Woo apologizes to Hee Bok and Ok Soon for Myung Wol being injured because of him. Hee Bok acts all sad that his precious daughter was hurt. Kang Woo asks if Hee Bok recently remarried? Ok Soon suddenly notices that a Kang Woo file is visible, and she makes spy gestures that alert Myung Wol to the situation. Hee Bok and Ok Soon pretend to fight and cause a distraction so Myung Wol can hurry up and conceal the Kang Woo picture.
After heading back to his house, Kang Woo sees that Agent Kyung has procured Myung Wol’s departure records, which shows she’s never left the country. He’s satisfied that the woman in Singapore cannot be Myung Wol.
Choi Ryu is attempting to open the secret safe when suddenly Chairman Joo walks down into the hidden room with another lackey in tow. He notices something is weird about the safe, and we see Choi Ryu concealed right behind a beam. Before the Chairman can get closer, he gets a call and heads out. Choi Ryu’s presence remains undetected.
Kang Woo calls Myung Wol and mutters on why she’s not picking up. Myung Wol comes in right then and tells Kang Woo that she had her phone on vibrate. He hands her a college registration, saying that if she wants to keep being his bodyguard, she needs to get a college degree. Myung Wol smiles and says that she hardly has time for that now, but then explains that she already went to college.
Kang Woo says her resume never mentioned it, so Myung Wol explains that she didn’t finish her degree. Kang Woo asks who she really is – first a high school student, then a college student, now she’s not finished with college. He doesn’t care about her other than if she causes him to lose face in public. He warns her that he hates people not answering his calls, so she has to pick up in three rings or else she’s fired. Myung Wol quickly says yes. After he leaves, she wonders if she looks that pathetic.
Suddenly the phone rings and Myung Wol picks up, and it’s Kang Woo calling her as he’s walking up the stairs, checking to see if she’ll pick up within the required three rings. Later when Myung Wol is in her room, the phone rings and it’s Kang Woo calling her from the living room. He’s sprawled on the sofa and asks that she grab his script for him, which is about 1 feet away from where he’s sitting.
Myung Wol is brushing her teeth when Kang Woo calls again. She heads out to see him walking on the treadmill. He says “sweat” and makes her take a towel and wipe the sweat off him. Myung Wol goes back and grumbles some more.
She gets another call and rushes out. Choi Ryu informs Team Seduction that their superiors are anxious for this project to be successfully completed as quickly as possible, so their timeline needs to be sped up. Ok Soon has another tactic ready – on the day of the drama’s press conference, which is also Kang Woo’s birthday, she’ll have Myung Wol seduce him.
Myung Wol heads out to meet Choi Ryu, and we see Agent Yoo and another NSA agent is surveying Kang Woo’s house. They wonder if it isn’t weird that Kang Woo lives with his female bodyguard? Myung Wol gets into Choi Ryu’s car and tells him that no matter what the requested activity is, she is ready to sacrifice all for her country.
Choi Ryu sighs and is about to give her the assignment when suddenly he sees a car drive by and grabs Myung Wol for a tight hug. She tells Choi Ryu not to do this and he tells her to be quiet. Agent Yoo drives up and mutters that it looks like the bodyguard girl isn’t Kang Woo’s lover.
Choi Ryu finally gives Myung Wol her assignment, which he has a hard time saying out loud. Myung Wol’s mouth gapes open in shock. Wow, North Korea just asked Myung Wol to prostitute herself. This is sorta really not funny. Choi Ryu goes back and thinks about his hug with Myung Wol in the car. He tells her that she needs to do this for their country. Myung Wol lays in bed and tosses and turns.
The day of the press conference arrives and Kang Woo and In Ah are joined by throngs of media at a plush resort. Agent Kyung walks with Chairman Joo, who is happy to arrange such a lavish press conference. He has high hopes for Kang Woo, and Agent Kyung knows that Kang Woo has come so far only because of the Chairman’s support.
Choi Ryu arrives and informs the Chairman that he has new intel on the Four Books, which points to the Chairman having one in his possession. He tells the Chairman to be honest with him otherwise he can’t assist him.
Kang Woo asks Myung Wol to practice sparring with him so that he can look spiffy at the press conference tomorrow. He takes off his sweat suit jacket and Myung Wol gapes at his hotness, remembering Choi Ryu’s instructions that she’s supposed to sleep with Kang Woo. Myung Wol shakes her head, telling herself not to think about it. Ha, good luck with that.
Kang Woo promises to be gentle with her as he hates using violence with women. Myung Wol notices the sweat on Kang Woo’s chest and is distracted for a second, so Kang Woo starts first and hits Myung Wol on the head with his stick since she’s totally not ready. He asks if she’s okay, and she says that she’s in a bad mood so he’s messing with the wrong person.
Myung Wol kicks the stick into her hands and Kang Woo notes that she’s not just athletic. She asks if he won’t regret it, and he says he’ll be careful with her. They start sparring for real, and this time Myung Wol is pissed as she keeps hearing the order that she has to sleep with Kang Woo.
She ends up disarming Kang Woo and smacking him on the head with a stick. Kang Woo falls to the ground and grabs his head, writhing in pain. Myung Wol just walks away in a slight daze. The next morning Kang Woo is eating his breakfast and adjusting his creaking joints. He mutters that he let Myung Wol win last night, and she says he can keep thinking that if he wants.
They start to bicker about how each was the person who wouldn’t let up last night, which is when In Ah arrives and overhears this suggestive conversation out of context. She demands to know what they are talking about? Kang Woo ignores her and says he’s got better things to do than explain. He leaves and In Ah grabs Myung Wol, demanding an explanation. Myung Wol also shakes her off and leaves. I love how both Kang Woo and Myung Wol treat In Ah like a buzzing fly and genuinely ignore her existence in this world. Heh.
Ok Soon and Hee Bok arrive at the resort, pleased to be at such a place. Hee Bok is especially keen on having even a pretend honeymoon here. Ok Soon reminds him they are on a work assignment, shoots down Hee Bok’s continued suggestions that they get to know each other better.
The media is gathered for the press conference. Kang Woo and In Ah walk out and do the obligatory pose and smile for the cameras. Kang Woo greets the guests as Myung Wol walks behind him. She sees Ok Soon and Hee Bok taking a mini boat ride and goes off to talk with them in secret.
They are here to make sure Myung Wol succeeds in this plan. Ok Soon wants to share some womanly tips with Myung Wol, and Hee Bok hilariously tries to eavesdrop. Ok Soon tells him to bugger off, this is private talk. Ok Soon tells Myung Wol that relations between men and women are simple, it all boils down to sexual energy.
Myung Wol doesn’t understand what sexual energy is like. Ok Soon says when a man desires something, it raises their energy level. So Myung Wol needs to generate the kind of energy that will make a man desire her. Ok Soon points to Kang Woo standing on the stage and tells Myung Wol to hypnotize herself into desiring that man. Telling herself that he moves her heart and she wants him. Myung Wol stares at Kang Woo and tries that. Ok Soon asks if something is rising inside of Myung Wol? She looks dejected and shakes her head.
In Ah is on the phone asking if all the preparations are done. She’s planning a surprise birthday party for Kang Woo. Her birthday present to him? A helicopter.
Kang Woo films a scene on the beach where he jogs. He continues jogging even after the filming has ended. Dae Kang asks if he wants to stop now. Kang Woo takes a drink of water and keeps jogging. We see Choi Ryu doing closed fist pushups in his room and he thinks about Myung Wol’s upcoming assignment to commence at 10 p.m. He checks his watch and shakes his head, going off to do pull ups.
In Ah sits on the beach surrounded by a lavish spread, waiting for Kang Woo to arrive, sure that he’ll fall for her after seeing all this. She is so delusional it’s actually sad. Kang Woo heads back to his hotel room. We see Ok Soon and Hee Bok have planted cameras in the room and radio back to Myung Wol that their target is coming.
Kang Woo walks into the room to find it lit in red romantic lighting. Myung Wol turns on the sexy music and takes off her coat. She’s wearing a red dress and starts to dance “suggestively” which actually is this painfully herky-jerky body twitching. Kang Woo asks if she’s trying to seduce him? She moves closer to him and then actually knees him in the groin. LOL.
Myung Wol decides she can’t give up, and her final orders are to just launch herself at Kang Woo. She tells him that he can’t leave, and then throws him on the bed and then throws herself on top of him. Ok Soon and Hee Bok gasp at seeing this on their video feed.
Kang Woo walks out of the room with a nose bleed. Myung Wol rushes after him asking to take care of it for him. Ok Soon mutters that their plan failed. Choi Ryu gets a call and he collapses in exhaustion.
Outside the hotel, Kang Woo asks what the hell Myung Wol was doing back there? He cut her some slack because he understood she was crazy, but if she attempts this again, he’ll fire her. Myung Wol tells herself she can’t fail now. She suddenly remembers that it’s Kang Woo’s birthday today. In Ah waits at the beach and keeps calling Kang Woo, getting only his voicemail.
Myung Wol finds Kang Woo again, this time holding a birthday cake. He tells her to scram, he doesn’t celebrate birthdays. She starts to sing happy birthday and he looks totally pissed. He tells her to stop singing, and when she doesn’t, he upends the cake and screams that he doesn’t celebrate birthdays because he doesn’t have a birthday.
He walks away and Myung Wol wonders how there can be a guy like him. She uncorks the wine and starts drinking. Kang Woo flashes back to celebrating his birthday with his father. Myung Wol, drunk on wine, finds Kang Woo and yells at him for treating her so poorly and having a bad temper.
He tells her to go to sleep. She says she’s drunk, but it’s not like she wants to be doing this. Myung Wol asks Kang Woo to just celebrate his birthday, to which he finally admits that his dad died on his birthday. He walks away but stops when Myung Wol trips because she’s so drunk.
He piggybacks her and hears her muttering that she has to succeed in her mission and marry Kang Woo. He doesn’t take the word “mission” to be anything more than her individual fantasy, telling her that she can keep dreaming. In Ah is sulking at the beach, and even her assistant tells her to call it a night. Suddenly fireworks go off since In Ah raised her voice.
Kang Woo piggybacks Myung Wol past the pool and sees the fireworks going off in the distance. He wishes himself a happy birthday. Suddenly Myung Wol murmurs “I love Kang Woo. Love you. Love you.” Kang Woo wonders why she loves him so much, since he’s a cold-blooded arrogant jerk. We see someone secretly taking pictures of Kang Woo piggybacking Myung Wol.
Kang Woo sits in the living room of his hotel room and reads the newspaper. Agent Kyung, Dae Kang, and In Ah arrive, all wanting to know where he went all night and no one could reach him. He wonders why everyone was looking for him. Myung Wol stumbles downstairs, wearing only Kang Woo’s dress shirt and nothing else.
Everyone gapes at her, and she looks confused to be there. Kang Woo leans back with a sigh. He flashes back to last night when drunken Myung Wol confronted him and he piggybacked her. He explains this to everyone present and says it’s the truth. In Ah stalks out.
She runs into Choi Ryu at the elevators, where he’s caught someone secretly taking pictures. In Ah grabs the camera and sees that the secret pictures taken were of Kang Woo piggybacking Myung Wol last night. In Ah says she’ll handle it and grabs the camera.
Myung Wol sits outside, realizing that wine has such high alcohol content. She also thinks back to last night’s events. She realizes that Kang Woo doesn’t seem as much of a bad guy as he appears. She sees him walking towards her surrounded by media as he gives an interview. She holds her heart.
She remembers what Ok Soon said about the desire to make Kang Woo her man, and how that desire will make her heart beat faster. Choi Ryu sits down and asks how she’s doing? He concedes that the last battle plan was a mistake on his part, asking her to do something like that. Myung Wol suddenly says that she feels it. She clutches her heart and stands up, announcing that she feels it!
Thoughts of Mine:
I’m really like the fact that Kang Woo and Myung Wol are simultaneously becoming affected by each other. That makes sense for me, since both are adults, albeit very dramatically constructed characters that can only exist in a drama. They are coming at it from very different emotional hooks – Kang Woo wants to ignore Myung Wol but can’t help being intrigued by her, and Myung Wol needs to force herself to like Kang Woo and despite all her emotional wires being set to zero, he manages to click an on-switch that she never even knew she had. Very cool.
At this point In Ah is a waste of a character, and Jang Hee Jin’s shrill and painfully grating acting only exacerbates the problem with such a horribly written second lead. She has no nuance or depth, and creates no tension with the leads or serves as any plot driver. She is literally dead weight I wish the drama could chuck.
Choi Ryu is theoretically a very interesting character construct, and but for Lee Jin Wook’s wooden acting, could be fascinating for me as an alterna-ship. I’m picturing Ryu Jin in this role and rocking it big time. However, even with the bad acting, I actually chuckled a few times at Choi Ryu in this episode, especially the scene when he lurched forward as a stand-in for Kang Woo so Myung Wol can practice her skinship. I like that a spy robot like Choi Ryu is starting to notice he’s affected by Myung Wol.
I like where this drama appears to be heading, as the stakes are raised and the pressure is on from the North Korean side to get it done as soon as possible, and as Kang Woo continues to suspect Myung Wol’s oddness more and more. I have to point out that the editing and script almost made me headdesk myself into a stupor when both Kang Woo and Myung Wol were shown to flashback to their piggyback scene, which was shown not 5 minutes before in the drama! This type of elementary drama-making needs to stop, because it just drags down the flow of the story and makes me feel like the drama wants to treat its viewers as dim and lacking in even basic short term memory.
Han Ye Seul and Eric have settled into a very comfortable rhythm with each other, so what’s lacking in strong acting from either or both of them during any given scene, is somewhat compensated for by their compatibility with each other. Their chemistry isn’t sizzling insofar as it’s more physical. His manly aura paired with her sharp sexiness gives off visual frisson of energy whenever they are in scenes together.
I’m looking forward to watching them fall into crazy confused love with each other, and then team up to kick everyone else’s ass, from North Korea to the NSA to In Ah and her shady daddy. Then they can go on double dates with Ok Soon and Hee Bok, and all four defect to Hawaii and live on the beach forever. According to AGB, today MBC‘s anniversary sageuk Gye Baek premiered at 10.6, with Warrior Baek Dong Soo leading at 14.5, and SMW increasing its rating a bit from last week’s low of 6 up to 8.4 for today.