Okay, it’s official. Nice Guy (The Innocent Man) rocks my world. This drama is more than I expected and everything I hoped for. The story is nothing new, but how it comes together is utterly captivating. I’m already rooting for Eun Gi and Maru to team up and destroy everyone loathsome around them. And then go make happy babies far away from this hell hole of a world around them. They can take Choco with them so their kids have an auntie for a babysitter, though right now the girl is annoying to the max. But luckily for the viewers, every single scene between Eun Gi and Maru fairly explodes with chemistry, so much so that it masks whatever annoyances that flit around in the background. I’m now fully onboard with the “destroy Jae Hee” ship, and that applies to both Maru and Eun Gi.
I appreciated that the drama didn’t flat out introduce Jae Hee as a cackling witch bad woman, but instead allows us to see vulnerable Jae Hee and weak-willed Jae Hee. Whatever teeny tiny bit of pity I had for her flew out the window today when she decided to start her campaign to oust Eun Gi as the heir of Tae San Group and install her precious sonny boy in that spot. Sometimes I wish people would be thankful for what they have, instead of grasping for more. Jae Hee already has security and her son won’t be cast out on the street even if he doesn’t take over the company. But for a woman who had nothing and is in a world where she has everything, whatever qualms she had about being a decent person appears to be readily discarded for a greater reward. Thank god Maru and Eun Gi are no wilting flowers but instead stand as capable foes to try and thwart her. Viewers must be loving this drama in Korea because ratings exploded in episode 3, jumping by 3 points to catch up to Arang and the Magistrate. Nice one, Nice Guy.
Episode 3 recap:
The episode starts with a protest outside a factory, with workers gathered to protest wrongs done by Tae San Group. Eun Gi arrives and gets out of the car, with Joon Ha walking up to greet her. Eun Gi immediately wades into the fray and approaches the protesters. Security personnel swarm forward to protect her but she’s pelted with eggs and other debris by the angry workers.
We hear Joon Ha’s voiceover describing Eun Gi – the daughter of the Chairman of Tae San Group, arrogant and rude, has no friends, doesn’t go shopping or engage in other typical leisure activities, with her only source of relaxation going outdoor motorbike riding. Eun Gi cleans herself up from the egging and is about to go riding. She suddenly opens her drawer and takes out an old Barbie doll. She asks the doll if it wants to go with her?
Turns out the interrogation of Maru didn’t end with the scene we saw in episode 2, as the camera returns to the interrogation room where Jae Hee once again betrays Maru and this time stabs him in the back to protect herself. Jae Hee asks if the interview is over as she needs to go back to her child. The detective apologizes for taking her time to come here to sort out this unfortunate business. As Jae Hee gets up to leave, Maru speaks up for the first time and asks “Madam” if he can ask a question. What is the world like that she lives in now? What is that world like which would cause her to discard everyone and turn the innocent into a sacrifice? Obviously Jae Hee has no answer for that doesn’t involve saying “I am a horrible excuse of a human being.”
Back up to the mountain top we go, as Maru rides a motorcycle and zooms right beside Eun Gi to engage her in a race. His bike slides out but a few moments later so does Eun Gi’s bike. She goes hurtling over the side of a cliff but manages to grab a protruding branch. When she’s about to lose her grip on the branch, Maru’s hand reaches out and grabs hers. He pulls her to safety.
Once Eun Gi is safely pulled up, she suddenly realizes something. She asks for her motorcycle and then tries to slide back down the cliff to reach it. Maru stops her, asking if she’s trying to kill herself? He tells her to buy a new motorcycle but Eun Gi is almost frantic trying to get back down there. God, she’s such a broken person.
Eun Gi suddenly cries out “Mom!” and Maru realizes she’s not fixated on the motorcycle. He asks if there is anything in the motorcycle? He tells Eun Gi to stay put and rappels down to the motorcycle with a rope tied to his waist. He looks through her bag and finds the doll, asking if this is what she’s looking for? As Maru climbs up, his rope snaps and he falls backward.
Eun Gi, all dirty and sullen, sits in the hospital corridor. A doctor walks out and says the patient fell down a cliff and hit a tree. He’s broken some ribs but will recover after some rest. The doctor asks what Eun Gi’s relationship is to Maru? Eun Gi replies that she doesn’t know him.
Eun Gi walks into the hospital room and sees a bruised and bandaged up Maru resting in bed sleeping. She talks to the sleeping Maru, asking if he knows her? If they’ve met before? She asks why he would do something so crazy for someone he doesn’t even know? What if something happened to him?
Maru opens his eyes and tells her that if she wants to say thank you or to apologize, she should just say it. He then correctly assesses her personality and says forget it, she’s someone who does whatever she wants. Maru dismisses Eun Gi, telling her he wants to rest now. Eun Gi leaves and as she’s walking through the hospital, she keeps flashing back to Maru climbing down to retrieve the doll and her worry during that time. She asks herself again why he would do this for her? Maru lays in bed uncomfortable with the pain.
We see Jae Hee at a kid’s amusement place in the ball pit watching her son play. Jae Hee flashes back to the encounter between the Chairman and Eun Gi where he yells at his daughter for being incompetent and immature. Turns out Jae Hee was eavesdropping outside the door, and she appears to realize this is a good time for her to take some action once she hears the Chairman say that even if Eun Gi doesn’t inherit, he still can hand it all to Eun Suh or his mother.
Jae Hee hugs her son in the ball pit, telling him that the Chairman will give them a chance. The world that she once only imagined can be his and she won’t let anyone take it away from him. We see lawyer Ahn watching her.
Lawyer Ahn meet with an investigator and finds out from him that the man who supposedly blackmailed Jae Hee was formerly her lover. Before Jae Hee got together with the Chairman, Maru was her boyfriend.
The same investigator meets with Joon Ha, and likely under threat from lawyer Ahn, lies and tells Joon Ha that the man who allegedly blackmailed Jae Hee has no previous relationship with her. He hands Joon Ha a picture of Maru, and Joon Ha doesn’t buy this report. He thinks there must be something since there is no reason for a stranger to start blackmailing someone. A beat up Maru stands in the rooftop of the hospital and stares at the sunset, his eyes steely with resolve and broken pain.
The Seo family have yet another tension filled awkward meal. Eun Gi thinks back to how Maru dismissed her from the hospital room, telling her to leave if she has nothing more to say since he’s in pain. We see that in Eun Gi’s notepad, she’s written Maru’s name over and over again.
Lawyer Ahn gets a call during the meal and tells the Chairman that it is Dr. Kim, who is preparing for a transplant operation for the Chairman who needs a donor match. Eun Gi offers to donate but the Chairman yells at her for suggesting it when she’s not physically well herself.
Jae Hee speaks up and says Eun Gi needs to listen to the Chairman since she needs to run Tae San in the future. She reveals that she went to get checked for a donor match and she is indeed a match for the Chairman. She wants to donate. Ugh.
Jae Hee is in the car with the Chairman and she discusses how she’s willing to be a donor for him because she’s his family. Even if no one accepts her, she is the mother of his child and his family. Even if he gave all of Tae San Group to her she wouldn’t want it. The Chairman is furious to learn that people are dismissive of Jae Hee and he asks lawyer Ahn if this is true. Jae Hee is so manipulative it’s scary. The Chairman tells Jae Hee that it will all change from now on and she won’t be ridiculed anymore. She is the mother of his son after all.
Eun Gi receives a call telling her that the Chairman is planning to have an official wedding ceremony with Jae Hee and marry her. Eun Gi flashes back to the meeting with her mom when her mom was leaving. Wait, how did Yoon Jae and Kyung Joon’s mom morph here? (Heh, just a Big reference). Her mom hands her the doll that used to be Eun Gi’s favorite when she was a child. Her mom apologizes for not staying here to protect Eun Gi. She tells Eun Gi to be like this doll, grow up well and wear pretty clothes and marry a nice guy and live a happy life.
Eun Gi’s mom asks if she wants to leave with her? Eun Gi throws the doll on the ground and tells her mom that she will stay in this place that is suffocating and survive. She will wear pretty clothes and meet a nice guy and be like this doll. She will endure and she will win, but she will not live like her mom did.
A maid hands Eun Gi the doll that Maru risked his life to go retrieve, which leads Eun Gi to head to the hospital to visit him. She finds his bed empty and the nurse says the patient checked out an hour ago. Eun Gi gets his address from the hospital, and lord there must be no patient privacy laws in Korea.
Maru goes home and gets a text from Choco that she’s run off to find her birth mother and plans to live with her from now on. She tells Maru he doesn’t need to worry about taking care of her or paying her medical bills anymore. She thanks her oppa for everything.
Maru walks back to the house and we see Jae Hee following behind him watching but not making her presence known. Maru enters to find Jae Gil laying with a woman on the table in the courtyard. It’s the woman from the flight back from Japan who was ogling Maru. She wakes up Jae Gil, who ask Maru where he’s been lately and why his phone was turned off? Was he with a woman?
Maru starts to bleed and goes inside to change. He looks at pictures of himself with Choco and their dad. He comes out and sees Jae Gil and his new lady love flirting with each other. Girlfriend says Maru is really good looking and Jae Gil gets jealous and disdainfully says Maru got his pretty face through plastic surgery. Ha, good one, Jae Gil.
Maru walks out of the house and runs into Eun Gi who is walking up the steep hill leading to his house. She thanks him, because she would have never known such an out of the way neighborhood existed if not for him. She asks how he goes to work everyday since he can’t even drive the car up hill, and wouldn’t the roads ice over in the Winter?
Maru says nothing so Eun Gi asks if she insulted him? Is he angry? Maru asks if she’s interested in him? If that why she’s being rude to him, to get him intrigued by her? He asks if her ideal is a good looking man? Eun Gi says she’s here to repay the debt because she doesn’t like having an outstanding debt over her head.
Maru tells her to go away and she doesn’t owe him anything. He leans in and smirks at her before turning and walking away.
Maru get in the car and receives a frantic call from Choco. She is going on about how the birth mother she’s located after 20 years has turned out to be so bad and she doesn’t know what to do. Maru hears a man’s voice in the background yelling at Choco and her screaming back that she’ll call the cops on him. The call ends and Maru can’t reach her again as her phone has gone dead.
Before Maru can drive off, Eun Gi gets in the car and says she hasn’t finished talking with him yet. Maru is in a rush to get somewhere so Eun Gi decides to just talk to him en route. Maru tells her to get off now because this is her last chance. She tells him that he doesn’t scare her.
Maru drives to find Choco and asks if Eun Gi doesn’t understand when someone is declining an offer? Eun Gi doesn’t know why he’s declining the present she brought to give him for saving her life? Maru asks Eun Gi what she will do if he was an ambitious person with ulterior motives? What if he wants money from her? What if he planned to seduce her from the very beginning? Maru says before the accident he wouldn’t ever look at a girl like her, all angry and irritated all the time. But now she seems interesting.
Eun Gi admits that he’s piqued her interest and asks if he can stop the car so they can talk. Maru says the car’s not stopping until he reaches his destination. Eun Gi asks where he’s going and how much further is it? Maru says nothing and Eun Gi spends the drive sneaking looks at him. Maru tells her that he can let her off here and she can catch a bus or taxi back to Seoul. Eun Gi doesn’t get off.
It’s nighttime when Maru arrives at the seaside town. He pulls up to a street food stand and they get out. A man walks up to an ahjumma and kicks a table over, yelling at the woman for her daughter calling the cops on him for domestic violence. No shit. The woman says her daughter was just feeling sorry for her.
The man starts to beat the woman up until Maru stops him. The man tosses Maru aside but he goes back and subdues the man, threatening to break his arm if he doesn’t stop. The man is angry and asks Maru who he is? The woman tells Maru to stop beating her husband and hits Maru on the back with a stick. Eun Gi is about to step in, which is when Choco arrives and tells her mom that this is her brother.
Maru sits by the jetty when Eun Gi walks over and tells him that he was pretty cool back there, two against one.
Choco sits with her mom and says if it wasn’t for her brother, her mom would’ve been beaten to death by the ahjusshi already. Mom gives her some food but Choco refuses to eat. Mom asks where her brother went?
Mom brings Choco to Maru and Eun Gi and tells Maru to take Choco back. Choco refuses to go, saying her mom abandoned her for 20 years and now needs to take responsibility for her. Mom says she has no ability to take care of Choco, so if she doesn’t go with Maru, there is no other way for Choco to survive. Eun Gi watches all of this silently.
Mom tells Choco that she has no feelings for her since its been 20 years. Maru tells Choco to pack her bags now. Choco is so angry there could be a mother out there like her, and her Mom tells her that is why she should go with her brother. Mom tells Maru that he’s raised Choco for 20 years and he has to keep shouldering that responsibility.
Maru loses his temper and yells at Choco to grab her stuff now! Mom tells Maru to contact her in the future if Choco gets married, but Maru vows never to contact her. Choco’s mom turns around to walk away and she actually looks distressed and upset.
The trio get back in the car and Choco finally registers Eun Gi’s presence. She asks who Eun Gi is, wondering if she is her brother’s girlfriend? Maru says no and tells Choco to fasten her seat belt. They drive back to Seoul and Choco continues to snivel and cry in the backseat.
Lawyer Ahn is working out while Jae Hee drives in a car to go see him. He opens the door to find Jae Hee outside bearing a bottle of red wine. She asks if the all-knowing lawyer Ahn doesn’t have anything he wants to ask her about?
Jae Hee drinks with lawyer Ahn and tells him about her past. She lived in a poor neighborhood for 25 years with a prostitute for a mother. She never knew who her father was, and her brother was a thug. Because of that man, she survived. Because of Maru. To her, Maru was home. He’s someone who always had a warm bed ready for her. No matter how terrible the world was to her, he would protect her. No matter what she did, he would always support her.
To this man, she actually betrayed him! She killed someone before and Maru took the fall for her. Because of her, Maru’s entire life was ruined. And now, to help herself, she betrayed him once again. Now she’s reached the pinnacle living a life like a dream, this was the dream she’s always harbored. She wants to live like this forever, and if it’s a dream, she wants to die before waking up from it. Jae Hee asks lawyer Ahn to help her.
Chairman Seo sleeps alone in bed and wakes up from feeling some pain.
Maru drives Eun Gi home first, with the two ladies asleep in the car. When Maru pulls up to the Seo mansion, he sees Jae Hee getting out of lawyer Ahn’s car and he’s helping her. Lawyer Ahn asks if she needs something to clear her head but she says no. She chides him for not helping her drink the wine that’s why she downed it all.
Lawyer Ahn tells Jae Hee that he’s been with the Chairman for 25 years and the Chairman is like his family. Jae Hee asks if he likes her, and he admits that he’s loved her since before the Chairman got together with her. Jae Hee kisses him and tells him to go tell the Chairman everything she just said to him.
Maru sits in the car and coldly watches all of this, the only betrayal of his emotions is when his hand grips the steering wheel hard and his eyes briefly shutter when he sees the kiss. Afterwards his eyes turn this scary steely hardness as he looks back up.
After lawyer Ahn drives off and before Jae Hee walks into the house, Maru gets out of his car and slams the door shut. The sound makes Jae Hee turn around.
Maru meets Jae Hee’s eyes before walking around to the other side and opening Eun Gi’s door. He tells the sleeping Eun Gi to wake up since she’s home. Eun Gi is surprised she slept in someone else’s car, and thanks him for driving her home.
Eun Gi wants to see Maru again, telling him candidly that she’s suddenly interested in him. Jae Hee stands by the front door watching this exchange with her mouth gaping open. Maru smiles and looks towards Jae Hee.
Thoughts of Mine:
This episode really solidified the direction of the drama, showing us the starting point from here on out. What happened in the past is over now, and from this point on it’s a different game. Maru had accepted that he willingly sacrificed for Jae Hee and lost her to a glittering world full of money and security, only to be told that his very existence is a threat to her and she wouldn’t hesitate to throw him under a bus to keep herself safe. What Jae Hee has done is kick a wounded dog that was just lying there, and turned him into an animal ready to strike to protect himself. This isn’t just about revenge, though destroying Jae Hee does have some satisfaction to it. This is about Maru making sure he doesn’t get sacrificed again by the noona he used to love more than himself. Song Joong Ki is truly magnificent in this role, and to know that he’s acing his first leading man role leaves me giddy beyond belief.
Eun Gi has finally been fleshed out for me as a character, and I freaking love her. She’s all spikes on the outside while being an emotionally stunted person on the inside. When she freaked out and tried to slide down the cliff to get that plastic doll, I could feel how she snapped inside and how she is really just one tense being always ready for battle. Her world consists of an authoritarian and emotionally abusive father, a mother who left her to save herself, and childhood that most likely had nothing but demands to excel and perform. No wonder she turns to daredevil mountain motorcycle riding to relieve the stress. Though she eschews the feminine traits, Eun Gi isn’t a tomboy inasmuch as she’s someone completely hardened because she always expects pain and she needs to be ready for it. Moon Chae Won’s acting really evened out and found its footing in this episode, showing us that Eun Gi is herself awkward and uncomfortable in her own skin.
While I think Maru definitely planned to get close to Eun Gi by targeting her motorcycle racing hobby, he doesn’t exactly have a plan mapped out. It feels like he’s making it up as it goes along, and he’s as unclear where it’s all going to end as we are. Does he want to date Eun Gi to make Jae Hee jealous and keep her worried that he’s lurking around to potentially threaten her position with the Chairman? Does he want to use Eun Gi to find an opportunity to destroy Jae Hee? Will he team up with Eun Gi accomplish whatever goals they have together? I’m not sure he’s using a particular tactic to intrigue Jae Hee, because it felt like Eun Gi’s broken need to find that doll again triggered the old Maru’s tendency to take care of wounded people. Perhaps Eun Gi is the trigger for Maru to regain his innate caring side again. I have no clue what lays in store for NG, but as long as Eun Gi and Maru fall madly in love and this drama doesn’t have a rocks fall down ending, then I’m totally psyched to get swept up into its thrilling world of emotional hard knocks.