At 24-episodes, Man of Honor is that type of drama where the story can be revealed at a more measured pace like an even longer weekend drama, but without the ancillary filler material either. The dialogue still errs on the side of scripted, but thankfully doesn’t cross the line into self-aware. We’re running parallel with the story reveals, rather than the more typical K-drama of having all the facts beforehand so what remains is to sit back and just watch it all unfurl. In Woo finally clues in on Jae In’s identity, Young Kwang finally learns that pride can be a motivator but shouldn’t be a crutch, and Jae In remains ever the cheerful and resilient girl she always was. As yet another Candy-esque heroine, she manages to strike just the right tone of hopeful sincerity mix with steely sizzle.
Episode 8 recap:
Group 13 gets their marching orders – place their desired annual salary in bricks into a burlap bag, and then hoist that bag up 33 flight of stairs to the roof within 10 minutes. It’s a carry your corporate weight in bricks metaphor test. Some quit right there, others start climbing. In Woo walks over to Young Kwang to point out the obvious, that Young Kwang’s sure got a heavy load.
Jae In watches In Woo lay the smack down on Young Kwang about how he can never beat In Woo no matter how hard he works. In Woo tells Young Kwang to give up now and go home. In Woo summons Jae In to come along, but she stops before Young Kwang to confirm that he will get to the top, right? He won’t get up even if he’s just the son of a driver, right?
Young Kwang tells her not to worry, he will get to the top no matter what. Jae In smiles and says that she will wait for him on the roof. In Woo doesn’t look pleased to hear Jae In encouraging Young Kwang, who hoists his giant bag of bricks and starts staggering over to the stairwell. Young Kwang tells In Woo that he will get to the roof of this company, this stupid test can’t possibly stop him.
Young Kwang starts climbing, but In Woo doesn’t like seeing how Young Kwang steals the spotlight like this. Young Kwang passes folks who have given up, encouraging them to keep going as well. In Woo slowly walks upstairs without a care since he’s not carrying a single brick. In Woo’s dad watches on CCTV and looks pleased.
In Woo finally catches up to Young Kwang on the 20th floor, and then pulls his bag of bricks until Young Kwang tumbles down the stairs. In Woo says he can’t stand seeing Young Kwang succeeding in front of him. Everyone watching on CCTV sees this despicable act, including In Woo’s dad, Dae Sung, and In Chul. Young Kwang’s mom shatters some bowls at the restaurant, always a bad omen.
Jae In arrives on the roof to the cheers of the other applicants from the previous groups who have also passed the test. She gets a towel and goes to sit down, but looks curiously at another passed applicant, who hides his face in the towel. That guy looks like the head loan shark gangster! Ooh, this is interesting.
Jae In sits down and waits for Young Kwang, but the next to arrive is In Woo, who tosses his bag away and announces his name. He smirks at the back of Jae In’s head, thrilled to know Young Kwang won’t be coming. Young Kwang picks himself off the floor and looks at the bricks strewn everywhere.
Up on the roof, Jae In informs Young Do that another person is coming, he promised he would make it and he always does what he promised. Jae In is told that if she takes one step down the stairs to check on him, she will be eliminated. Hong Joo says there is only 20 seconds left. Jae In walks towards the stairs while Young Do warns her again she will be eliminated.
Jae In keeps walking, but before she can take the first step, Young Kwang turns the corner and arrives on the roof, still carrying his bag of bricks. Jae In smiles to see him, and he smiles back. His smile disappears the second he sees In Woo, which causes him to go flying towards In Woo and lay a punch on his face. The CCTV group also see this.
Young Kwang reminds In Woo that he vowed would get on this roof, and in fact even harder to get to places he would get there as well. So In Woo better take a good look at this. In Woo’s daddy does not look pleased to see his son on the ground. He tells Dae Sung to delete this CCTV footage of his son getting beaten and the stairwell sabotage, and he also wants to know what Young Kwang’s background is.
Dae Sung informs Young Do that the CCTV footage has all been deleted, including In Woo pushing Young Kwang down the stairs. Dae Sung offers to testify as a witness, but Young Do says to let the two men sort it out. His test was simply to see who could get on the roof in ten minutes carrying the bricks. In Woo is told that he ought to let go of Young Kwang hitting him, and then him pushing Young Kwang down the stairs will also be brushed aside.
Young Do changes the topic to why In Woo’s bag had no bricks. In Woo says his desired salary, this bag is not enough to contain it all in bricks. Plus it was a hassle to put bricks in the bag. He doesn’t even want to join this company, so he had no impetus to do it. Young Do asks why he climbed up 33 flights of stairs then? In Woo just wanted to eliminate someone else.
Young Do calls In Woo conceited and delusional. He makes the final hiring decision, so In Woo being the Chairman’s son is nothing to him. He wants In Woo to be more respectful going forward. In Woo scoffs and moves to leave. Young Do picks up an umbrella and beats In Woo, reminding him that if he dares to be disrespectful to Young Do again, In Woo will get his arms and legs broken.
Young Kwang is pissed that In Woo won’t be punished since In Woo broke the rules first. Young Do knows, but tells Young Kwang to just swallow his pride. Young Kwang climbed to the roof with 35 bricks, and Seo In Woo is the successor of this company Young Kwang wants to enter. Seo In Woo will always be Young Kwang’s boss. He refuses to endure and says he won’t join this company then.
Young Do tells Young Kwang to go ahead and give up, isn’t that what he’s good at? The easiest thing in life is to give up. Young Kwang can continue to be a failure like he has been in baseball against In Woo. Young Kwang takes umbrage to this insult and lunges at Young Do, who grabs his umbrella and restrains Young Kwang, telling him to accept that he has lost to In Woo in baseball. Young Kwang asks what that will do for him? Young Do says that is the only way for Young Kwang to start winning, if Young Kwang has anymore dreams left in him.
In Chul hands Young Kwang’s file to In Woo’s dad and pretends that he was shocked to discover Young Kwang’s family background. In Woo’s dad wonders how the two sons know each other, and is told Young Kwang was on the same baseball team as In Woo but was demoted to the minor leagues for failing to meet his potential.
In Woo’s dad stalks out to the secretary’s desk and asks Kyung Joo if she remembers what he said to her when she joined the company? He gave her the job, despite her third rate schooling, because of her dad. He shows her Young Kwang’s job application and wants to know how shameless she is to try and get her younger brother in the company now. He wants her to remember her place as the daughter of a driver. Everyone watches as Kyung Joo is humiliated, with In Chul shaking his head to remind her to hold tongue. Kyung Joo apologizes and In Woo’s dad tells her to leave quietly. Kyung Joo crumples up Young Kwang’s job application.
Kyung Joo calls Young Kwang and goes to meet him. She demands to know what he is doing here? He tells her that he’s applying for a job, what else can he do here. Kyung Joo wants to know why Young Kwang hit the Chairman’s son? Young Kwang explains In Woo pushed him first and gave him all the cuts and bruises, showing her his owies. Kyung Joo looks stricken, and then steps forward asking Young Kwang if he’s serious about joining this company? She tells Young Kwang to enter this company through his own means and work hard so no one can criticize him.
Kyung Joo goes to the bathroom and splashes water on her face. She remembers asking In Chul if her dad’s accident was no accident. She clenches her fist and looks determined.
Jae In is in the stairwell and picks up Young Kwang’s discarded shoes, socks, and jacket. Which is when a barefoot Young Kwang walks down the stairs and meet up with her, asking what she is doing here? Jae In says she is retrieving someone’s discarded clothing items. Both confirm their interviews went well, and Jae In reminds Young Kwang that the following round is next week. Young Kwang wonders what Young Do has up his sleeve next.
Jae In blurts out that she just has to work her two months, and then she can go back to the hospital. So will Young Kwang stop being mad? He’s figured out that she’s been hired as In Woo’s personal nurse, since he’s seen In Woo with his previous nurses, all of whom can’t stand it and have quit. Jae In keeps explaining, but Young Kwang doesn’t want to hear it. He’s just upset that she is working for In Woo.
He knows that if he asked her to quit, she still won’t, so he won’t even bother. Jae In smiles to know he’s not angry anymore. He asks if it’s really just two months? She says yes, plus the salary is quite high. She hands him back his jacket and says she’ll see him back home. As Jae In walks away, Young Kwang tells her that he just doesn’t want to see her get too close to Seo In Woo, that is all. She nods her head with a knowing smile and leaves.
In Woo waits for Jae In outside the building, with In Woo asking whether she is late because of Young Do or Young Kwang? Jae In asks if he wants to argue with her now or they can just get going. Young Kwang walks out and makes eye contact with In Woo, who gets in the car and looks at Jae In, who asks if she has to ride in this car? She reluctantly gets in as Young Kwang watches.
In Woo drives like an insane maniac all the way home, causing Jae In to scream in fear the entire time. In Woo pulls up outside his building and Jae In climbs out, looking a fright with her hair all over the place. In Woo actually looks a little worried and walks over to her side, where she is sitting on the ground. She yells at him for scaring her, confirming that she doesn’t know when it started but she has a vague memory of a car accident. So crazy car driving is a fear of hers.
In Woo says he’ll take that under advisement the next time. Jae In wonders what part of her screaming for him to slow down during this drive he didn’t understand. In Woo tells her not to let him wait so long then. If Jae In makes him wait because of Young Kwang, next time he’ll tie her to the car and take her away.
Jae In grabs her backpack and smacks him over the head, calling him heartless, especially since he knows what it’s like to have a phobia and be confronted with it. In Woo says he doesn’t have a phobia or know anything about it! Jae In says In Woo twitches when he answered his dad’s call, so is it his father that triggers his symptoms.
In Woo says he lives a great life, but we see his memories of being disciplined repeatedly by his dad as well as the kidnapping incident. In Woo insists that the hospitals don’t know what is wrong with him and how he got it. This boy is in such deep denial it’s crazy to behold. Jae In says In Woo has to open himself up before he can take the first step towards recovery.
In Woo thinks Jae In isn’t even a doctor, how dare she think to cure him? Jae In smiles and says doctors treat mental diseases but nurses heal the pain in the heart. She wants to help him recover. In Woo’s mom arrives and sees Jae In standing by the car with In Woo. She looks curiously at them.
Young Kwang’s mom goes inside Jae In’s room to clean up. She naturally peeks around, looking at pictures that show Jae In really is a nurse. She sees a box hidden behind a stuffed animal and goes to open it up. Inside contains the letters Young Kwang’s dad wrote to Jae In at the orphanage, as well as bank account information that shows Young Kwang’s dad gave money to the orphanage for Jae In.
In Woo’s mom asks her son who that girl was earlier? In Woo says it’s the nurse In Chul hired. His mom wants the entire scoop, name, age, etc. She says that the first impression of Jae In annoys her, and she wants to make sure In Woo’s tastes haven’t slipped. She asks In Woo if he wants to hang out with her, but he begs off because he’s tired. Before leaving, mom wonders why that name Yoon Jae In sounds so familiar. It’s like the name of someone that was in a car accident a long time ago.
In Woo puts two and two together, remembering adult Jae In explaining her memory of a car accident, and his recollection of the aftermath of child Jae In’s accident. He sits down and calls In Chul, asking for Jae In’s resume. In Chul sends the resume and In Woo immediately takes a look. He realizes that Jae In grew up in a orphanage.
He tells In Chul that Jae In told him she had a dad. In Chul says that all he knows if that it was the man who brought Jae In to the orphanage 17 years ago. In Woo’s eyes widen, but he pretends he doesn’t know anything when In Chul asks. He begs In Chul to keep this information from his dad until he can get more facts. In Chul agrees.
Jae In is at the hospital discussing In Woo’s condition with his treating physician. She’s given a notebook to keep track of In Woo’s daily progress. We see that the doctor is the same doctor who is treating her mother. As Jae In walks out, she bumps into the prosecutor, who is here to discuss Jae In’s mom’s recovery with the doctor.
As Jae In leaves the hospital, she thinks there is a voice calling out for her. We see her mom crying in the hospital room for her Jae In. In Woo paces in his apartment and looks stunned and worried as he makes the connection that this Jae In is in fact the Jae In of his childhood.
Jae In comes home happily only to find that Young Kwang’s mom has packed all her belongings. She demands to know where the money Jae In loaned them came from? Jae In says it really was money she earned. Young Kwang’s mom takes out the box of letters and then tosses it at Jae In, asking why she is lying right now. She shows Jae In the account book where Young Kwang’s dad sent money for the past 17 years. Jin Joo runs out and sees all this.
Young Kwang’s mom says that the money sent to her for her tuition and upkeep came from her working her hands to the bone at the restaurant. She can’t believe her husband would send money away, money that she worked so hard to earn. Young Kwang’s mom kicks Jae In out of the house, saying that the money sent to her for the past 17 years is equal to what Jae In loaned to her. Jae In cries that she has nowhere to do, and she just wants a family to live with. She never wanted that loaned money back. Jin Joo the bitch grabs Jae In’s stuff and tells her to scram, they don’t want anything to do with her. They leave Jae In standing in the living room. She bends down to collect all the letters.
Young Kwang’s mom looks at her husband’s portrait and asks what he is doing to her. Then she wonders why Jae In is so quiet and hasn’t come in the beg her some more. She opens the door and finds Jae In gone, wondering if Jae In really left the house.
Grandma is told that Jae In left, and she chastises her daughter-in-law for losing her temper. Young Kwang’s mom says she can’t help it, she just lost her temper when she say the account book, and she never believed Jae In would actually leave. They worry where she might go so late at night.
Jae In sits in the subway station, and she boards the same train that Young Kwang is getting off of. They pass each other unwittingly. Young Kwang goes home and yells at his mom for Jae In leaving. Mom tries to explain she just lost her temper and didn’t mean for Jae In to really leave. Mom wants to know why Young Kwang keeps taking Jae In’s side in everything.
Young Kwang says their family got to stay with their dad and live in familial bliss, but Jae In was abandoned at the orphanage. Young Kwang says the money is what their dad ought to do for abandoning Jae In. He gets up to head out and look for Jae In, but telling his mom that he passed the first interview round.
Young Kwang rushes outside and calls Jae In. We see Jae In getting a call in the subway, but it’s not Young Kwang, who gets only her voicemail. Turns out it’s In Woo, who asks her to come by his apartment right now.
Jae In’s mom lays in her hospital bed and vows to reclaim Geodae and her Jae In. The prosecutor tells her to first recover, then worry about everything else. Jae In’s mom says once she recovers all her strength, she will kill In Woo’s dad, that bastard.
In Woo’s dad drinks with Young Do, complimenting Young Do on his innovative idea to winnow down 1293 applicants to 11 so easily. He wants to know if there are any promising candidates in the remaining batch, and whether it includes his son In Woo. Young Do is reminded that In Woo must be among the final two no matter what. Young Do says there is someone who has potential, someone who is satisfied with enough in life.
We see Young Do’s interview with Jae In, asking why she took only one brick. She says that she was thinking what the purpose of Young Do’s test was and what kind of answer he was looking for. She’s written on the brick “those who are satisfied with enough have the real wealth”.
Young Do explains this to In Woo’s dad, that there is someone out there who know when is enough. Otherwise people who desire more will have an insatiable need. In Woo’s dad asks what the person’s name is, and Young Do remembers Jae In introducing herself to him as Yoon Jae In. Young Do plays coy and won’t tell him her name, saying In Woo’s dad will know if that person makes it through to the final round.
Jae In leaves her bags with the front desk as she heads up to In Woo’s apartment. In Woo hears a knock and opens the door thinking it is Jae In only to discover that it’s his dad. In Woo rushes inside to grab the tablet computer with Jae In’s resume open on it. When his dad takes a drink of water, In Woo swipes the tablet and hides it.
In Woo’s dad says he saw everything that happened during today’s interview on CCTV, including In Woo pushing Young Kwang down the stairs. In Woo’s dad compliments In Woo on doing well, he needs to get rid of interfering fellows like Kim Young Kwang. In Woo’s dad is pleased with his son’s performance today and wants him to continue this way. If people fear In Woo, that is the only way In Woo can succeed. In Woo’s dad strokes in Woo’s head and pats him on the back before getting up to leave.
Which is when Jae In runs into the apartment, finding herself face to face with In Woo’s dad. We see Young Kwang running around looking for Jae In and calling her, worried that he can’t get a hold of her. Jae In looks around in confusion. In Woo’s dad asks her who she is. Both In Woo and In Chul look tense, but Jae In happily bows and says she is……
Thoughts of Mine:
Oh boy, I’m really curious to see how the heck are In Woo and In Chul going to keep Jae In from introducing herself to In Woo’s dad. Or was that In Chul’s plan all along, to hit two birds with one stone, having Jae In help In Woo and bring her into the orbit of In Woo’s dad. I can’t figure out In Chul at all, so I’ll just have to wait and see. But it’s clear that In Woo will likely be watching out for Jae In from now on, at least he ought to if there is any good left in him. He might not know what his dad did to her family, but at least he knows his dad isn’t going to hand the company back to Jae In today without a fight.
In Woo’s dad is a classic violent sociopath, without any ability to feel remorse or compassion. No wonder In Woo grew up so screwed up. And his mother is no better, someone who will watch her husband abuse their child but then turn around and try to mother him in other ways. In Woo is the classic case of the abused spouse who tries to rationalize the good things he has rather than find the courage to break free. It’s clear that he was groomed to be an entitled and condescending jerk by his father, so I’ll be a little more lenient with his shitty attitude towards people.
Young Kwang and Jae In really are the highlights of this drama, bringing light and joy the moment they come onscreen. I appreciate how hard it must be for Young Kwang’s mom to deal with her husband’s supposed infidelity, and still accept Jae In into the midst. I think it telling that she’s mostly all bluster, and is the type to lose her temper first but doesn’t actually mean all the angry things she says. I hope Young Kwang finds Jae In and brings her back, because Jae In’s desire to live with her family is so strong I want her to have that before things get even uglier once In Woo’s dad finds out who she really is.