Over the weekend I was writing the recap for Two Weeks episodes 1 and 2, because this drama is totally jjangbak and it was siren calling me to recap it after it revived my enthusiasm post my disappointment with The Master’s Sun. Alas, I lost my recap in its entirety due to a freak computer outage. Instead of re-writing it when I was more inclined to Hulk Smash my computer, I decided to drown my sorrows in somaek and just dive into the recaps for this week. I’ll do a quickie recap below of the first two episodes which was mainly set up but oh did it do a fantastic job with it. This drama lives and breathes on the one-two punch of writing and acting and so far the two sides are doing a superb job of balancing it all to create taut stakes. This drama has a central conceit of setting the action in quasi-real time, with the unjustly accused anti-hero Jang Tae San played by Lee Jun Ki needing to clear his name and get back to his dying newfounded daughter in two weeks time. The first two episodes creates the backstory and the current dilemma, and at the end of episode 2 we start the countdown for the two weeks aka fourteen days to correspond with the remaining fourteen episodes. So far the drama is gripping and earnest, the conceit merely creates the framework but all the characters feel fleshed out and grounded in their own issues.
Lee Jun Ki is back in fine form as a man-on-a-mission without the requisite hero aura. Rarely has a leading man character been written as wallowing in such low societal dumps but immediately Lee Jun Ki makes the viewer pity him with a side of hope. We want Tae San to succeed in his quest for redemption and rebirth, and this drama will slowly take us along the journey. Anchored with an excellent cast consisting of Kim So Yeon, Ryu Soo Young, Park Ha Sun, Jo Min Ki, and Kim Hye Ok, this drama is a slow burn with all the right foundation being laid that I know it will pay off. Doesn’t hurt that So Hyun Kyung did something similar with 49 Days, starting off rather shaky and gimmicky, but quickly ratcheting up the emotional connection between the characters and the audience to the point that the fantastical concept is merely the garnish on the main dish of people dealing with tough decisions and looking for a chance to make a difference with their lives. In the case of Two Weeks, Tae San gets thrown into the pits of despair right after he seems a ray of hope in the discovery of a sick daughter. Their connection is sincere and immediate, and I am wholly invested in his quest for absolution.
Quick refresher on episodes 1-2:
Jang Tae San is a two-bit gangster lowlife working at a run down pawn shop and even sinking so far as being picked up as a rich ahjumma’s boy toy. He’s been to jail twice, taking the fall for crime lord Moon Il Suk. During his jail stays, he broke up with girlfriend Seo In Hye and ordered her to abort their child. In Hye ended up having the baby girl Seo Soo Jin, who is now 8 years old and dying of leukemia. In Hye is now engaged to earnest and besotted police detective Im Seung Woo and she reluctantly finds Tae San and reveals the sick daughter to ask him to get typed for a bone marrow match. Tae San is a match and he agrees to the transplant. Tae San meets Soo Jin, who recognizes him immediately as her dad despite In Hye telling her that her dad was dead. Soo Jin has a picture of her parents during happier times and she tells her dad to promise to return a stuffed animal to her.
Crime boss Moon Il Suk is in cahoots with Congresswoman Jo Seo Hee, who in a twist of brilliant public image maneuvering on her part has a reputation as being frugal, wise, and honest. She’s even being pushed to run for Mayor of Seoul. Turns out Seo Hee is as corrupt as politicians come, even worse because of her two-faced public reputation has garnered her earnest fans. She and Il Suk is currently planning a big drug transport that will be stashed in artifacts to be auctioned off at an upcoming charity event. Il Suk’s latest girlfriend is Oh Mi Sook, who is actually an undercover spy placed there by prosecutor Park Jae Kyung. Jae Kyung has spent the last 8 years investigating Il Suk and Seo Hee and wants evidence to bring down their illegal activities and corruption.
Mi Sook records a clandestine meeting between Seo Hee and Il Suk, but before she can give the evidence in the camera to Jae Kyung, she’s violently murdered by Il Suk in a fit of jealous rage when he discovers she has a soft spot for Tae San and that she’s spying on him. He frames the easy target that is Tae San, who is arrested and proclaims his innocence to no avail. Seo Hee worries that Tae San is a liability and orders Il Suk to have him killed. Tae San’s case is being handled by Seung Woo’s precinct. As Tae San is being transported from the police station to jail, his transport is involved in a freak car accident that is tangentially caused by a crying Jae Kyung driving while grieving over Mi Sook’s death. Tae San manages to crawl out and steals a motorcycle and makes his escape. Time starts on the two weeks as Soo Jin undergoes a procedure to prepare her for a transplant which now must occur within two weeks or else she dies.
Episode 3 recap:
After crawling out of the overturned police transport van, Tae San rides off in the motorcycle with a towel wrapped around his handcuffs. He thinks back to his promise to Soo Jin and wants to live like a human being instead of a piece of loser trash for the first time in his life.
The cops in Seung Woo’s precinct learn that Jang Tae San escaped during a car accident as he was being transported. Jae Kyung arrives at the precinct to demand to know who killed Mi Sook! She is shocked to learn that Jang Tae San is being held for the murder of Mi Sook.
Flashback to a teenage Jae Kyung screaming in a courtroom that the defendant Jang Tae San is NOT the man she saw beating up her father. She points to Moon Il Suk sitting in the galley and screams that he is the perp! Il Suk smirks. I like that Jae Kyung knows Tae San was once a patsy for Il Suk, at least she’s less likely to believe he did it right off the bat.
Apparently all of Seoul is under surveillance and the cops monitoring the feeds find Tae San riding through an intersection and track him to a certain neighborhood.
Jae Kyung asks her boss the Chief Prosecutor to let her handle this case. Mi Sook is like her little sister and she wants to find her killer. Her boss says not so fast – she just got back from an overseas work trip and she’s not exactly the most capable prosecutor on the team. Jae Kyung comes clean and reveals she placed Mi Sook as an undercover with Moon Il Suk. She believes Il Suk and Jo Seo Hee have been in cahoots since they were locals in Busan. Mi Sook died because of Jae Kyung so she needs to handle this case.
Il Sook and Seo Hee meet on the roof to discuss Tae San’s case. Tae San is worried that it’s being handled by the same prosecutorial division where Jae Kyung works. Seo Hee tells him that she will handle it. Right then a minion rushes to the roof to reveal that Tae San escaped and Park Jae Kyung has been assigned as the prosecutor on this case.
The cops are all angry that Tae San escaped. Jae Kyung returns to the precinct with her colleague and reveals that she has been assigned to prosecute this case. She tells the cops to stop wasting their time with Tae San’s friend Man Seok, he would never go back to a place under surveillance. She asks if the evidence is overwhelming that Tae San was the killer? She heads to Mi Sook’s place and warns the cops not to let Tae San leave Seoul.
Tae San ditches the motorcycle outside a school and some kids take it for a joyride, thereby leading the cops on a wild goose chase. Tae San gets into the back of a fruit delivery truck, which makes it out of Seoul right before the check points go up to check all departing vehicles for the missing fugitive Jang Tae San.
Tae San gets out of the fruit truck at the outskirts of Seoul. He’s near a construction site and in a truck he finds a bottle of coke and gulps it down.
Seo Hee talks with a Chief Prosecutor and tries to get Jae Kyung pulled from the case, making insinuations that Jae Kyung isn’t capable of handling such a high profile case. Dayum, bitch is evil AND smart AND methodical. I’m seriously scared of her.
Jae Kyung goes with her colleague to Mi Sook’s house to gather up her belongings. She cries that she left Mi Sook all alone to head to the US to look for Jo Seo Hee’s son and evidence she was funneling money there. She reveals Mi Sook had a camera that is missing and may contain evidence. Jae Kyung vows to find Tae San and keep an eye on both Il Suk and Seo Hee, who must be up to something since both are involved with an upcoming charity auction.
Seo Hee goes home and finds her supporters and fans have left flowers and notes for her outside. She calmly takes it all and enters her very frugal and small apartment. She turns on the lights and its set to automatically stay on and turn off at a set time. She walks down to the basement and through a tunnel and emerges in a fancy rich mansion with a maid, who takes her purse and Seo Hee asks for a glass of red wine. This is her real home, and where she’s spent all the ill-gotten gains she amassed with Il Suk.
Seo Hee calls Il Suk and says that she’s taken care of Jae Kyung on this case and tells them to find and remove Tae San and then this matter will be resolved.
Tae San’s roommate and friend Go Man Seok is out at the noraebang. He wants to know more about Mi Sook and asks the girl there if she knows anything about Mi Sook and Il Suk’s relationship. He believes that Il Suk killed Mi Sook and framed Tae San.
Tae San escapes yet another check point by burying himself in the dirt that is on the back of a truck and using the straw from the coke bottle to breath. He gets out in the countryside and it’s nighttime by then. He finds a tool shed and grabs a handheld rotating buzz cutter and a bike.
He rides to a home that seems empty though there are shoes outside. He throws a rock at the door to determine if anyone is home but gets no response. He goes to hide in the shed of that house.
Man Seok comes home to their little apartment to find Seung Woo and the police there. The police want to know if he has a way to contact Tae San and who else Tae San keeps in touch with.
In Hye sits with Soo Jin as she lies in bed. Soo Jin can’t sleep because it’s too noisy, she’s so nervous her heart is beating too loudly. The news on TV reports about a fugitive on the run and Soo Jin says police ahjusshi will be busy now so her mom will be lonely. She mentions the nice ahjusshi who will give her the bone marrow and her mom is surprised Soo Jin knows it’s a man. Soo Jin claims she just guessed it.
Tae San tries to keep the handheld blade upright so that he can sever the handcuff chain but it keeps falling over. In the end he manages to hold it with his legs and manages to cut the chain. He cries in relief and exhaustion.
Jae Kyung sits outside the morgue until sunrise, unable to go inside and see Mi Sook’s face because she cannot face her. Finally Jae Kyung goes to the morgue to identify Mi Sook’s body and cries over the brutality of the crime as she was stabbed viciously multiple times. It’s clear the killer intended to kill her.
Jae Kyung is handed Mi Sook’s belongings on her body when she died. In the pocket of her dress, Jae Kyung finds the pawn slip that indicates Mi Sook pawned her camera at a pawn shop. She’s relived the camera hasn’t been taken by the killer.
The police continue to track Tae San.
Jae Kyung goes to the pawn shop to get back the camera. She gets a call from the Chief Prosecutor asking where she is? She reveals looking for the camera, which might contain evidence of Il Suk and Seo Hee’s corruption and Mi Sook wanted to keep it safe even when she died. She begs for the chance to continue this investigation because she became a prosecutor to avenge her father’s death. She puts her career on the line to catch the bad guys. Her boss warns her that if she continues, forget her career, her life may be in danger.
Seung Woo goes to visit Soo Jin in the hospital before she’s moved into a sealed off room because the bone marrow pre procedure will leave her immune system vulnerable. He picks her up one last time for a hug.
Jae Kyung can’t find the camera at the pawn shop and is told that Jang Tae San took the camera when it was pawned. She thinks Tae San is Il Suk’s minion and will do whatever he asked. She orders a report on what Tae San has been up to since he was released from jail.
Il Suk gets a report that Jae Kyung is looking for a missing camera belonging to Mi Sook and he starts to worry that she recorded his meeting with Seo Hee. Killer Kim takes a call from inside a creepy dark room from Il Suk and he tells his father that he understands.
Tae San wakes up in the morning to find the halmoni who lives in this house outside chasing a chicken in the courtyard. He laughs wryly at the halmoni battling with the chicken. He wonders what to do now, he’s thirsty and starving. He only escaped because otherwise he will die, Moon Il Suk will never let him live even in jail, and he made a promise to Soo Jin to see her in two weeks and give her his bone marrow.
Imaginary Soo Jin pops up to discuss with him what do so. Should he just hide here for two weeks until her surgery date? Tae San wonders why Il Suk wants to kill him that badly, since the evidence is so thorough against him for Mi Sook’s murder. He wonders what Mi Sook’s relationship was with Il Suk? He also wonders how he can contact Man Seok.
Tae San makes his presence known, claiming to be a hiker who got lost. He offers to catch the chicken for her. The halmoni shares her breakfast with him, impressed with his chicken catching ability. Tae San adjusts his jacket to hide the two handcuffs still around his wrist.
The town mayor arrives for a visit and Tae San books it. Soon he’s racing through the nearby hills as the cops led by Seung Woo and Jae Kyung are all swarming the same area having been tipped off.
Tae San looks like he’s cornered. Soo Jin sets up her clean room at the hospital and puts up her homemade two weeks calendar and crosses off another day.
Thoughts of Mine:
There is this increasing tendency to start off dramas with a bang, almost treating the viewers like impatient idiots who lack the ability to stick with narrative building. That almost always leads to dramas losing steam as it goes on since all the good stuff has been shown and not much is left in the tank. So Hyun Kyung’s 49 Days was not a perfect drama by any measure of the book, chock full of plot holes and wildly inconsistent acting amongst its motley crew, but it did manage to really tell a story in the right way. It started off slowly and built the momentum for the audience concurrently with the characters. We learned things as they learned things, so their journey became ours, and boy was it a satisfying one with all the ebbs and flows of a great hook. That was a story about a heroine learning to live her life, however long remained, with purpose and conviction. Two Weeks echoes shades of that, with a hero learning to redeem himself with however long remained of his life which is now tied to his daughter’s life. I love how all the characters are using their brains, thinking though issues and trying to find solutions to questions or conundrums. The baddies Seo Hee and Il Suk are especially worthy adversaries, with their methodical plotting plus capacity for violence.
The entire cast is really shining in this drama, even if Lee Jun Ki gets the majority of the screen time and needs to act mostly alone. The leading lady is definitely Kim So Yeon’s character of the dogged and guilt-ridden prosecutor Park Jae Kyung, and I love that her story stands alone and I don’t feel any need for her to have some far-fetched romance with Lee Jun Ki’s Tae San to make this drama work. I don’t even need Tae San to get back together with his ex In Hye for the sake of their daughter. The drama has already raised the stakes above the personal into the greater reach for justice and a second chance. The drama smartly gives enough so that we know everyone has stakes on the line here, from Tae San clearing his name and saving his daughter to Jae Kyung getting justice for Mi Sook and her dead dad as well as Il Suk and Seo Hee have their own stakes on the line in their upcoming big drug deal. Two Weeks is more than just a run of the mill wronged-man-on-the-run story, it has enough substantive grit for me to patiently and avidly watch along to see how it all unfolds. I hope the ratings rises steadily for this underrated treat.