I think watching Heirs/The Inheritors and expecting more is going to be mentally exhausting and ultimately unsatisfying. If you like what you’ve seen so far, then chances are this is the extent of it. Episode 2 spanned a day in the life of meet-random couple Cha Eun Sang and Kim Tan, and I’ve actually never watched a Kim Eun Sook drama where so little happens substantively but still I’m curiously bopping along. The start of Heirs gives me the impression that the popular screenwriter was hired to write a drama where the concept was handed to her – rich kids in high school, toss a poor one into the mix, shake and stir and come up with something with her usual verbal dexterity to it. A writer will tell you that ghostwriting is always just a pale imitation of the writer’s voice, and I feel like Heirs is a lackluster version of a Kim Eun Sook drama. It doesn’t have her snap, crackle, and pop to it, and even the two leads Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye feel like they are going through the motions at half energy. All this is prefacing my realization that I’m actually enjoying Heirs, and the recapping process for this drama is a combination of grousing about the lame bits but humming along with the inoffensive cute stuff.
A break up with a beloved can be a long and arduous process of letting go, and I’ve had two dramas from Kim Eun Sook (Secret Garden and A Gentleman’s Dignity) where I’ve come to grips that she’s not a writer that connects with me in general even if one of her dramas just happens to be my all-time favorite (City Hall). Heirs came along at just the right time in that I’ve let go of expectations from her and find myself ready for a high school drama. The scenes in LA continue to be absolutely cringeworthy and atrocious anytime it involves a local denizen (thank god the surfer friend is in the hospital and out of commission). While Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye evidence about as much chemistry as two puppies sitting side by side, I quite enjoy their character’s banter and interaction. I will find all the secondary characters wholly unpalatable except for Chan Young, but he’s so adorable and awesome he makes up for the other characters’ lackings. I was praying the drama could wrap up the LA portion today but it looks like the kids won’t get back to Korea until episode 4 at the earliest. I will be so happy when the LA part ends and everyone puts on a school uniform and gets down to business
Episode 2 recap:
Eun Sang realizes staying outside in this neighborhood isn’t safe and grabs her suitcase and starts walking down the street. Kim Tan pulls up having turned around and asks her if she wants to go to his house.
He can tell she’s weighing the danger of staying her or going with a guy she just met, and she actually asks him if he’s safer than staying here. In K-drama logic – the answer is yes because he looks like Lee Min Ho and drives a Maserati. In real life logic, the answer would probably be – call the cops and ask for help finding a safe place to stay tonight. His answer is that he’s safer than this place.
Eun Sang goes home with Tan and she’s utterly wowed when she walks into his beachfront modern mansion. She asks if he lives alone and even wonders if he’s a drug dealer (especially with his choice of friends). Tan rhetorically asks her what if he is?
Eun Sang heads to the guest room he directs her to, but then she starts backing up when she sees Tan sauntering towards her. He asks if she thinks he’s “only” a drug dealer and asks if both her kidneys are still intact. Ha! He’s just there to open the door for her and says to call him if she needs anything.
Eun Sang goes inside and sits down with a sigh. She thinks back to her confrontation with Eun Seo on the beach. She realizes she’s hungry and heads back out.
The living room is all dark and Tan is upstairs in his study. He hears sound and peeks over the railing to see Eun Sang headed to the kitchen. Not sure why she didn’t tell him she was hungry since he just told her to get him if she needs anything. She peeks inside and grabs a few items, but Tan turns on the lights and comes over to ask why she’s eating expired items since that was all she grabbed.
Eun Sang promises to pay him back and tries to leave but he tells her to come back and clean up. He asks for her name. She thanks him for taking her in and he snarks that she has a very weird name. There is nothing to apologize for since he was the cause of her powder present to her sister getting ruined.
Big brother Kim Won is headed to the US for a business trip. I’m glad the drama picked the US for a location shoot, imagine trying to explain away half the characters in this drama coincidentally all showing up in a less popular overseas place for work, play, study, sister seeking, etc. Kim Won is followed by Secretary Yoon (Chan Young’s dad) who is arranging the trip and meetings. Turns out Zeus Hotel (Young Do’s dad) wants him to stay at their place, and Won says the hotel thinks its already an Empire Group shareholder since the president is marrying the President of RS International (Rachel’s mom), who is a minority shareholder in the Empire Group.
This stops Secretary Yoon in his tracks for a moment before he hands Won the guest list for the party in the US. Turns out he already emailed it to Won but printing it out is an old habit for the Chairman. Won calls him out on being a servant to two masters right now. Secretary Yoon says he serves the Empire Group. Won warns him to start serving the right master or he could get fired once the Chairman retires.
In the Kim household, Chairman Kim (who is in a wheelchair) talks with his second wife Jung Ji Sook. She’s not Kim Won’s birth mother, who is the deceased first wife to the Chairman. She raised Kim Won and left after the Chairman brought his mistress Ki Ae (Kim Tan’s mother) into the house. I look at the Chairman and he is way to stodgy to be so salacious with the wives and mistress, but whatever.
Chairman Kim admits he was at fault while Ji Sook laments her situation due to her not giving the Chairman any kids. Ki Ae is eavesdropping outside when Kim Won walks up. She says his “mother” is inside and Won says he has no “mother” in this family. Ouch. Ki Ae amends it as the ahjumma who raised Won is inside.
Kim Won enters the room and Ji Sook greets him as long time no see. Despite raising him for ten years before Won went abroad to study, he’s very cold to her. Chairman Kim tells them to stop the biting duel of words and informs Won that since he’s going to the US for work, he’s to take Kim Tan along to the business gathering to present the air of Empire being a family business.
Won doesn’t want to but Chairman Kim overrides him since he’s still officially the Chairman of the company.
Ki Ae talks with the still legitimate wife Ji Sook, upset that fiancée Rachel’s side of the family wants to meet Ji Sook as Tan’s mother. Ji Soo is listed in the official registry as Kim Tan’s mother not to mention she’s still the Chairman’s legal wife. She correctly derides Ki Ae as the mistress as long as she’s still alive. Ji Sook will never divorce the Chairman and give Ki Ae a proper name. I’m now officially disgusted with every member of the Kim family other than Tan, who should be thanking his lucky stars big brother sent him away with all the money he can spend and no requirements to do anything.
Tan lays in his room writing in his journal. He sees his mother as always coveting another woman’s purse, house, and even husband. That is the world she lives in. Ki Ae calls her son but Tan doesn’t pick up.
Eun Sang calls her mom and turns out Mommy Cha is only mute but not deaf. Eun Sang lies in the entire call that big sister is doing well, looks healthy and happy in sunny California, and that she’s staying with her sister in her big house. Mom still looks worried and taps on the phone to indicate to Eun Sang that she’s listening. Eun Sang tells her mom not to worry and to eat well and get some rest.
Tan arrives to drop off a sandwich for Eun Sang and pauses at the door when he hears this conversation. He looks quite sad for Eun Sang. He comes in after she ends the call and hands her something nutritious to eat. Tan admits he eavesdropped when he compliments Eun Sang on being quite a liar.
Eun Sang hands Tan her precious dreamcatcher, explaining that it’s mean to capture the bad dreams and only allow the good dreams in. It’s her way of thanking him for taking her in. He teases that it ought to let in the pretty girls as well, and then reminds her to eat the nutritious food that is good for her kidney health. Heh.
Tan hangs the dreamcatcher on his wooden surfboard display out in the yard. He looks at it before turning to look at Eun Sang through her bedroom window where she is barricading her door and he scoffs at how insulting that is to him. He quickly walks away when he notices she’s getting ready for bed and he brushes the dreamcatcher as he walks back to his room.
Eun Sang wakes up the next morning and takes her a second to process where she is. No jetlag? It’s lucky to be so young and not subject to the laws of travel. She walks outside and looks out over the pool towards the ocean.
Kim Tan walks out on his balcony and looks down to see Eun Sang standing prettily by the pool. Cue staring scene. Eun Sang looks up and notices him and she nods her head in greeting.
Tan is all packed for school and tells Eun Sang to stay put while he’s in class. She wants to leave and not bother him anymore but he points out her sister’s shift doesn’t start until the afternoon. He offers to let her tag along to school especially if she’s curious about the life of a foreign student.
Tan drives Eun Sang to school in his convertible and barreling down Pacific Coast Highway. Eun Sang enjoys the wind in her face but squints at the bright sunlight. Tan hands her an extra pair of sunglasses and smiles a bit to see Eun Sang enjoying this drive.
Tan goes to class in what is definitely a college classroom and professor, but he’s supposed to be a high school student so I’m assuming he’s auditing at a community college. Or whatever. It’s a linguistics class and the professor is talking about the meaning of words. He lands on “mother” as being the most beautiful word English language and Tan freezes. After class ends, the professor stops Tan and asks when he’s planning to turn in his writing? Tan says his writing isn’t meant o be turned in.
Eun Sang sits outside with all the college students soaking in the atmosphere. She takes out one of her mom’s notebooks and flips through it, missing her mom. Tan walks out after class and doesn’t see Eun Sang where he left her.
Tan finds Eun Sang staring at some Korean students chatting in the courtyard and she’s rather envious of luck to be born into a good family that can send them here. She wants to part ways with Tan now and go find her sister. She can’t even find her way out of the college so Tan sticks with her and takes her back to the restaurant, the perfect excuse to avoid his hated math class.
The manager at the restaurant explains that Eun Seo texted her resignation yesterday and also a message for her sister to return to Korea and that she is fine. Eun Sang is upset because she really needs to get the money back from her sister.
Eun Sang and Tan leave the restaurant and runs into Eun Seo’s loser boyfriend outside. He’s also looking for Eun Seo, calling her the bitch who left with his money. Tan must be a martial arts expert because he effortlessly subdues to guy.
Suddenly the boyfriend’s two white fat friends lumber up and notice the scene. Tan and Eun Sang run off while the two dudes chase after them. Let’s not forget one of the fat dudes is running while carrying an open bottle of beer in his hand. They pause thinking that those two fat guys can’t possibly catch up.
Rachel calls Tan again and Tan’s face hardens when he sees the call. Eun Sang grabs Tan’s hand to alert him that they need to keep running. He’s upset at Rachel so brushes her hand off roughly. He sees her alarm that she upset him and he jokes to Eun Sang that it’s a buyer calling him to buy his organic weed. The two fat guys manage to catch up so Tan and Eun Sang take off running again.
Rachel is in the hotel and puts down her phone pissed that Tan is not answering. She gets a call from her mom and lies that Tan is in school. Esther asks if Tan knows now that Rachel is about to become step-siblings with his friend Young Do? Rachel says that Tan and Young Do are not friends anymore.
Young Do rides his motorcycle to his dad’s Zeus Hotel where he works in the kitchen washing dishes. The employees discuss how the hotel president makes his son work from the bottom up. Young Do is chastised by the manager for his bad attitude today and Young Do throws a plate down because he’s in a bad mood.
Young Do reminds the manager that he’s going to own and run this hotel in ten years. The manager is told that a very VIP group is here to dine. It’s the Lee family, consisting of lawyers and prosecutors all powerful in the judicial world. Lee Hyo Shin (Kang Ha Neul) is the youngest son and he can barely eat when the conversation is all about expectations of him.
Young Do arrives to greet the family and is complimented for being a very outstanding hotel heir. He puts on an actor and pours water for everyone. He specifically fills up Hyo Shin’s glass to the brim.
Young Do goes to a hotel room and Hyo Shin arrives and runs to the bathroom to throw up. What? He thanks Young Do for letting him use the bathroom and the two exchange pointed words that they know about each others stuff that shouldn’t be aired so it’s a fair trade.
Eun Sang and Tan are hanging out and she buys him some coffee. He teases that she took so long but she doesn’t care and just wants to enjoy her American coffee and make good memories. He asks if she hasn’t made any good memories so far, obviously hinting at her meeting him.
She ignores his question and asks if he sold all his organic weed. She wonders how long he’s been living in the US? Before he can answer, she notices lots of girls taking cell phone pictures and she asks to borrow Tan’s cell phone to contact her friend in Korea.
Eun Sang texts Chan Young to let him know that she is in the US. He asks if the guy is her boyfriend but Eun Sang clarifies its her friend who is a guy. He tells her to just call but Chan Young changed his number plus he mentioned going out of the country so Eun Sang doesn’t know how to reach him. Tan doesn’t think her friend will contact her back but Eun Sang is sure that he will. He’s annoyed that she’s speaks so highly of Chan Young, especially when he hears she’s known him most of her life. Tan walks off peeved and Eun Sang chases after him.
Eun Sang and Tan take a cab back to his place. Chan Young still has not texted back and Tan is unimpressed with this so-called good friend. Eun Sang begs him to let her know when he texts back, Chan Young is her only hope right now. Tan seems annoyed, probably because he is helping her now but she doesn’t seem impressed. The cab drops them off at Tan’s place but he hands Eun Sang the house keys and tells her to go in and wait for him while he has to go pick up his car.
As Tan sits in the cab, he flips through Eun Sang’s use of the text message network to find her chats with friends and even Chan Young. He realizes she works many part time jobs but is still trying to be a normal high school kid and chat with her friends. Eun Sang appears to have a love of horror movies which makes Tan think she’s weird. When it comes to her convo with Chan Young, she snaps his picture and labels him as her most difficult customer at the café. Tan sees Chan Young’s picture and mutters “so this is the guy.” Chan Young teases in the text that she doesn’t have a difficult customer as cute as he is, to which Tan retorts “are you insane?” Eun Sang says the same thing back which gets Tan to nod happily that she shares his same sentiment. Tan notes that Eun Sang and Chan Young are likely just be friends.
Tan retrieves his car and keeps reading Eun Sang’s posts, including one where she doesn’t want her mom to work so hard and she hopes the Empire Group collapses. Tan’s eyes widen. There is a knock on the window and it’s the cop from last night. He returns Eun Sang’s passport to Tan and says it was all a misunderstanding. Tan says it’s not the first time and then drives off.
Bo Na is hanging out with Myung Soo and he asks why she’s not answering her phone. Bo Na likes it that way and he calls her a weirdo. Young Do arrives and the three friends start bantering.
Bo Na calls Chan Young in the US and gets jealous when she hears a woman’s voice in the background. Chan Young teases about the woman who is really just a lady ringing up his purchase. He placates Bo Na that he’ll video chat her when he gets back to his room and she’s all happy again.
Chan Young hangs up and receives the text message from Eun Sang.
Eun Sang has packed up and starts to take her suitcase upstairs when she stops to see Rachel walk in. Does she have a key to Tan place? Or he never locks his door? They recognize each other from the airport and Rachel immediately informs Eun Sang that she is engaged to Kim Tan who lives here. She demands to know why Eun Sang is here!
Eun Sang explains she stayed her last night for very accidental reasons. Rachel storms down the stairs and grabs Tan’s keys from Eun Sang and then kicks her suitcase down the stairs “accidentally”. The suitcase cracks a corner but Rachel is unapologetic. She orders Eun Sang to open up her suitcase so she can inspect whether anything has gone missing since the owner of this house is not here.
Eun Sang asks what will happen if nothing from this house is found in her suitcase? Rachel doesn’t care and goes to rummage through the suitcase and calls everything inside trash. She orders Eun Sang to leave with all her trash before Tan gets home. Eun Sang swallows this degrading treatment and packs up her suitcase and leaves.
Eun Sang leaves Tan’s house and stands by the harbor staring out as she decides what to do next. She makes up her mind and leaves.
Bo Na is very upset because Chan Young didn’t text her like as quickly as she wanted. Young Do says men never tell the truth but Bo Na says her Chan Young does. Young Do teases that Bo Na should dump Chan Young and date Myung Soo instead. Myung Soo tells Bo Na to go to the US to see Chan Young if she misses him so much. Myung Soo mentions Rachel heading to LA to see Kim Tan, and the mention of Tan’s name makes both Young Do and Bo Na tense.
Eun Sang goes to the travel agent and tries to buy a return ticket. This actually makes sense that she needs one what with her original plan to not go back to Korea. She remembers that she doesn’t have her passport.
Tan comes home and finds Rachel in the house and no Eun Sang. He confirms that Rachel informed Eun Sang that she was his fiancée and then kicked Eun Sang out. Rachel doesn’t want to talk about Eun Sang and demands to know why he didn’t contact her.
Tan flops down on the sofa and lazily explains that he knew she was coming but it was too hot so he didn’t go pick her up. Plus the airport is too far away. He doesn’t know if he’ll really marry her one day, all he knows is that they are presently engaged.
The doorbell rings and Tan goes upstairs to see Eun Sang outside. She tries to leave but he grabs her arm and asks where she’s going? Eun Sang is headed home but she needs her passport so she’s here for the policeman’s business card. Rachel says she tossed it in the trash outside and Eun Sang runs off to find it. Tan demands to know why she threw it away and Rachel says she never even saw it. Tan explains that Eun Sang got her passport taken away because of him and now she can’t go back to Korea. He warns Rachel not dare be so difficult. Tan runs after Eun Sang and Rachel looks pissed.
Rachel goes back into the house and sees Tan’s cell phone on the sofa. She opens it and sees Chan Young’s return text to Eun Sang. He says gives her his number in the US and tells her to call him ASAP. Rachel stares at the text.
Eun Sang is rifling through the trash to find the business and crying over her string of terrible luck. All she wanted was a better life in the US but now she’s stuck digging through trash. Tan apologizes and tells her to go up. He hands her back her passport and explains he just got it back.
Suddenly a cab pulls up outside the house and out jumps two black dudes and a woman. The dudes ask if the bastard lives here while the woman tells them to calm down. I’m assuming they are after Tan’s loser surfer friend but who the heck knows.
Tan grabs Eun Sang and runs off when the two angry black dudes spot him. They run through Hollywood, which is about an hour away from Tan’s house in Malibu. Nice magic teleportation, drama.
Tan pulls Eun Sang into a movie theater and they sit down in the dark to catch their breath. Neither really understands why they were running in the first place.
Tan tells Eun Sang to watch the movie and closes his eyes to rest. Eun Sang has no clue what the movie is about since she doesn’t understand the dialogue. Tan keeps his eyes closed and translates the dialogue for Eun Sang: If I am to believe you, I need to first know your name.
Tan continues from that line of dialogue: I met a girl yesterday, her name is Cha Eun Sang. I am curious who she is. Could it be that I’m falling for you?
Eun Sang and Tan stare at each other.
Thoughts of Mine:
The world of Heirs is unintentionally funny but not in a way that makes it impossible to chuckle and the move along. Everyone seems to share the exact shade of bright pink lipstick, men and women alike. The Americans that our plucky heroine Eun Sang has encountered in her short two days in LA have been nothing short of every offensive and brain dead reduction of the diversity of the US down a few stereotypes acted by what appears to be random people plucked off the street as a walk-on part. The rich kids are thus far wholly annoying, but the greater sin is that they are uninteresting. I don’t care why Rachel is a bitch, why Bo Na is an insecure whiner, why Young Do is a calculating bully, why Hyo Shin barfs under so much pressure, why Myung Soo just hangs around one play room all day long. I’ve already written them off as there for a narrative purpose, and if they surprise me and unearth some depth later on, that’s even better. I don’t find the two leads Eun Sang and Kim Tan all that interesting either, which is where Kim Eun Sook’s writing in this drama has really managed to surprise me. She writes interesting leads if nothing else and all her plot points go to convenient pots later down the line. Yes, normally her female leads pale in comparison to the focus she puts on her male leads, but here I actually think she writes Eun Sang with more richness than Tan. I get Tan’s complicated family situation and his lonely living abroad situation, but I don’t get why he acts or reacts a certain way. Whereas Eun Sang is clearly a typical poor girl who tries to hold onto her pride but swallows the unfairness of it all in the end.
What I like the most are when the kids are interacting in situations that teenagers would experience. When the rich kids are bantering in the playroom, when Eun Sang and Tan go to school, and when they discuss texting friends. I know that these characters are all preternaturally mature due to life circumstances, whether it’s Eun Sang being a family bread earner as well to all the rich kids being raised well aware of their status and expectations. But this drama isn’t going to appeal to the audience wanting a mature storyline but acted out by teen characters, and those wanting a school based story is going to get tired of all the extraneous and ridiculous adult situations. In one episode already Eun Sang and Tan have had to run from danger twice! Either LA is teeming with angry Americans, or else those two happen to be around danger all the time. All of the LA scenes thus far have reeked of staged conflict and chance encounters that all happen in LA for the sake of the drama having an overseas shoot to bring in the location eye candy. Eun Sang and Tan’s meeting could have happened in Korea, but it would be harder to give them an excuse for her to stay with him unless it happened outside of Seoul and she couldn’t get back home. I don’t mind location shoots if integrated properly, and Kim Eun Sook used to do it so well. My favorite overseas shoot in her drama has to be On Air where the cast when to Taiwan and spent two episodes there doing a drama-within-the-drama and with so much production drama. Here it’s awkward and a tad silly, but I’ve already said ultimately it doesn’t bother me to the point I can’t keep watching.
I’m quite enjoying the friendship between Tan and Eun Sang, which rather flows from how much I enjoy the friendship between Eun Sang and Chan Young. Romance is so on the backburner for me in this drama, and I would rather it develop on a super slow burn and let all the other issues get fleshed out first. I don’t mind showing that Tan is interested in Eun Sang, as he already is, but no need to toss him into the pits of falling in love so soon. Same goes with Eun Sang. If the drama wants to posit that all these kids are dealing with a mountain of family issues, then show me how they are doing to deal with it rather than gloss it over with love heals us all. Tan has money which could solve Eun Sang’s worries, Eun Sang can be the companionship lonely Tan needs – that is good and all but the drama has introduced so many characters and complicated ties the next 18 episodes needs to be spent digging deeper one step at a time into this world. As for ratings, the big jump of Secret surprised me since I thought Medical Top Team would come out ahead, but I’m not surprised that Heirs debuted with around 11% in ratings. Despite Kim Eun Sook’s name brand and tossing in so many young actors, this is just not a sure fire viewer lure for the domestic audience as much as the international fans are clamoring for it. So far this drama is a bundle of star power and laid back superficial pleasantness. I like it but not sure it’s got the teeth to hook a greater swath of the viewing public in.