The more I watch Heirs/The Inheritors, the less it feels like a Kim Eun Sook drama. Normally screenwriters can evolve and change from drama to drama, but Kim Eun Sook’s resume of popular K-dramas over the last decade have been consistent with her thematic presentation and narrative sharpness. If I didn’t know any better, I would have never guessed she penned Heirs. I’ve had to reorient myself now that I’ve thrown expectations out the window, and Heirs still comes across as overly packaged and simplistic but strangely appealing. Watching it is an enjoyable experience both in sniggering over the lapses and sighing over the sweetness. What I love the most is the sense of melancholy that surrounds the two leads, as well as the exploration of friendship and human connection. For the most part this drama gives family a bad name (with a few exceptions), so if its about a bunch of high school kids who use their rich high school as a microcosm of the messy adult world around them then I think the drama has potential there.
The entire LA portion of Heirs still feels like a prologue, and would work much better if any strong hints of OTP romance could be reigned in rather than piled on. I like Eun Sang and Tan’s fates getting all intertwined in LA, and his loneliness and self-doubt is absolutely a compelling character creation that gets us to connect and root for him. I find Eun Sang and Tan’s interest in each other much more meaningful than romance, it’s one that has the chance to grow into support and encouragement. She’s there when he’s at his lowest, he’s there when she’s at her lowest. Their mutual disappointment in having older siblings who have hurt them makes for an understandable bond. I don’t feel the romance in the air, but know when it arrives I will likely be completely onboard for these two to create a healthy safe haven of their own. One not stemming from exile or poverty, but a companionship that has the chance to grow into something positive and meaningful.
Episode 3 recap:
Kim Tan and Eun Sang hide from the inexplicably random goons by ducking into a small theater. They sit down and Tan immediately closes his eyes to rest. Eun Sang watches the movie and mutters that she has no idea what they are talking about. Tan translates for her, and then brings her name into the translation and says that he met a girl named Cha Eun Sang and finds himself curious about her.
Tan wonders if maybe he likes her? Eun Sang points out that he’s engaged and he says that stranger things have happened, especially since they are in Hollywood. I think it both rude and strange that these two are literally talking in normal voice in a movie theater and not getting death glares and loud shushes. Despite getting a swoonworthy potential declaration, Eun Sang doesn’t let Tan continue by exclaiming her surprise at being in Hollywood.
Eun Sang and Tan run outside and she marvels that it really is Hollywood when she sees the Hollywood sign. LOL, so even the drama is sticking with the story that these two ran all the way from Malibu to Hollywood.
Tan wants to head home now that the coast is clear but Eun Sang refuses, likely remembering that super bitch fiancée is back at Tan’s place. She thanks him for all he’s done and wants to head back by herself to get her suitcase and leave. Tan just walks off and she has no choice but to run after him.
Tan and Eun Sang are back at his place and she sees her suitcase still sitting by the front door. She walks over to grab it and tries to leave, but Tan takes it from her and goes inside.
Rachel left Tan a note that she ate lunch alone and wants to have dinner with him tomorrow. Tan sees his cell phone has a message from Chan Young asking Eun Sang where she is and for her to quickly call him. Eun Sang walks in and wants her suitcase. Tan asks why it’s cracked, and then reveals he left it in his room. Tan doesn’t tell her Chan Young responded and instead tells her to wait here for her friend to call and he heads upstairs to his room to take a shower. Eun Sang’s suitcase being held hostage in his room is pretty funny, though I would have barged in there and taken it, Tan showering or no showering.
Tan gets a call from Secretary Yoon informing him that the Chairman wants Tan to attend a company event in LA this afternoon and Kim Won will also be there.
Secretary Yoon ends his call with Tan and runs into Bo Na, who is a bundle of energy and calls him “dad” as if she was already his daughter-in-law. He tells her to call him “ahjusshi” and she teases that she only calls Won Bin ahjusshi. She complains about Chan Young being away and not calling, but then doesn’t like it when his dad calls Chan Young a bad kid. She then flounces off. I try and try, but goodness gracious is this girl’s voice and acting style absolutely grating.
Bo Na heads to the campus broadcasting room and finds Hyo Shin there surrounded by younger classmates who obviously idolize him and have brought him some food they claim to have prepared but Bo Na calls bullshit that its all store bought. She name drops her dad being the President of Mega Entertainment.
Hyo Shin and Bo Na sit down to eat the food. Turns out being in this club is taboo for the overachieving parents but so far Hyo Shin hasn’t been found out yet. Bo Na notices Hyo Shin taking a pill and he claims it’s just vitamins. Riiiiiight.
Tan has changed into a suit and tells Eun Sang that he needs to head out and tells her to wait here. She still wants to just leave but he tells her not to. Tan’s annoying friend Jay shows up and he claims that he got his situation taken care of. Jay is happy to see Eun Sang and clearly wants to hit on her, so Tan has no choice but to take her with him.
Tan and Eun Sang drive down the California coast and it’s just beautiful and quiet. Eun Sang looks at Tan and then looks away, which is when he sneaks a peek at her.
Kim Tan’s mother Ki Ae is at a rich ladies tennis club and her friend comes to talk about the Chairman’s legal wife. Friend suggests Ki Ae manipulating Ji Sook into having an affair, or at least make the Chairman think so, so he’ll have to divorce her and Ki Ae has a shot of being the legitimate wife. Did this drama just steal a playbook from I Summon You, Gold?
Ki Ae heads down to the wine cellar to make a discreet call to try to hire a male gigolo to entrap Ji Sook and take a picture of them. Eun Sang’s mom overhears and Ki Ae is freaked out. Forget her overhearing, Eun Sang’s mom says Ki Ae needs to worry about being caught if she uses her own phone to set up Ji Sook. Looks like Eun Sang’s mom has a bargaining chip on Ki Ae now.
Tan pulls up in front of the party location and hands Eun Sang the car keys and asks her to stay outside and watch over the car. He might get kicked out right away or get to stay, he’s not sure, but she needs to watch out for a really icy dude. Tan heads into where a party is in full swing at the almond farm.
Tan walks up nervously and the guests are the first to notice him and point him out to Kim Won, who immediately stops smiling and excuses himself. Won storms over to Tan who swallows hopefully and calls him hyung but Won yells at him to follow.
Eun Sang is wandering in the almond farm and sees Tan and Won walks over. Tan asks how his brother is doing while Won wants to know why he is here. Did Secretary Yoon tell him? Won says Tan should not be here but Tan just wanted to see his hyung, it’s been three years and he’s grown.
Won asks if he’s been just growing and doing nothing for three years like he told him. If so then continue, but this is as far as Tan can go. Won walks away and Eun Sang watches sadly from the distance. I totally feel these two with their older sibling similar woes.
The sprinklers turn on but Tan just stands there swallowing his unshed tears. Eun Sang looks at him sadly and then walks over. She asks if he’s fine, and he honestly replies that he’s not fine. She points out that he’s all wet and he asks why she is here. She teases that if he was in danger, she would have grabbed his hand and run away. Tan asks why she didn’t take his hand and run then, because he was in danger a moment ago. Tan turns and walks away while Eun Sang turns to look at him.
Tan and Eun Sang are driving back home and he’s silent and brooding in the car. Eun Sang turns to look at him and he asks what she wants? He tells her to forget what she just saw and she plans to since this entire experience has just been like a Mid Summer Night’s Dream.
Tan turns to look at her and doesn’t see a pile of rocks in the middle of the road until it’s too late and he has to veer sharply to avoid it. The car goes up an embankment and Tan reaches his hand out to shield Eun Sang. The car is stuck in the mud and can’t move. Tan notices a leak and tries to call for assistance but has no cell service.
The two of them end up trying to dislodge the car with him in the driver’s seat and Eun Sang trying to push from the front. Shouldn’t it be the other way around, dude? Tan’s car runs out of gas during this process and now the two of them are totally stranded.
Tan decides to abandon the car here and walk to find a place to bring help. Eun Sang is worried since all the horror movies she’s seen convinces her that it’s dangerous to go find help. He tells her to stay but she runs after him. But they eventually walk down the highway to the nearest town.
As they walk, Eun Sang says she’s hungry and remembers that she bought some cookies to bring her to her mom. She eats one and offers one to Tan. He complains and still eats it. He asks what she’ll do when she gets in touch with her friend and Eun Sang plans to borrow money to buy a ticket home. Tan offers to lend her the money but she’s not ready to part with a kidney yet. Heh. She doesn’t have the courage to keep asking him for help. Tan tells her that her friend replied but without cell service she can’t call him now.
Tan and Eun Sang arrive at a gas station and the manager says they are closed for the night and so is everyone else. If Tan stays for the night he’ll book them a tow in the morning. Tan agrees. Eun Sang and Tan check into the motel and he tosses her a t-shirt to change into. He starts to take off his shirt and change into it and Eun Sang turns around to avoid looking. After he leaves, she grouses about the missed opportunity to sneak a peek.
Tan and Eun Sang head to the diner and the manager makes them a plate of eggs and sausage. They banter which leads to Tan teasing that she’s quite cute and she openly accepts that compliment. Eun Sang starts eating while Tan just looks at her. She tells him not to look, she’s not going to answer any of his questions. He suggests answering her questions, such as who the mean guy was at the almond farm?
Tan explains that the person he saw at the almond farm was the person he likes the most in this world. Eun Sang’s mind starts wandering so Tan explains that the guy is his hyung.
Eun Sang leans in to confirm and Tan barks at her which causes her to jolt backwards and almost falls off the stool. Tan moves forward to grab her and they stare at each other. He calls her an idiot though his hand tightens around her back for a second.
Tan teases Eun Sang for blushing but she makes the excuse about being upset her trip to the US hasn’t involved famous American pancakes yet. Pancakes with a glass of orange juice is so very American. Tan makes a promise with Eun Sang to take her to the best pancakes in LA when they get back. She tells him not to make promises because in horror movies he would die before it could come true.
Tan walks into the motel room to see Eun Sang making the sofa and he announces he’ll get the bed. She already knows that and lays down to go to sleep.
Tan asks if she’s asleep and walks over to shake the phone to make noise and wake her up. Eun Sang refuses to wake up so Tan wakes over and kicks her sofa. Eun Sang wakes up and Tan reveals that he’s read her messages and asks why she wants the Empire Group to go bankrupt? Eun Sang asks why he cares, does he own shares in the company?
Tan heads to bed and tells Eun Sang that she’s not allowed to fall asleep before he falls asleep because he’s scared due to all her nattering about horror movies. Eun Sang sits there complaining and yawning. He tells her not to get ideas about him and she tells him he’s not all that good looking. Tan turns around and then asks when she’ll go back to Korea after she gets in touch with her friend. Eun Sang says as soon as possible.
Tan is about to say something but turns around to find Eun Sang already nodded off. He gets up and manages to catch her in time as she topples over. Tan sits there just staring at the sleeping Eun Sang. He adjusts her pillow and then covers her up with a blanket.
Tan sits back on the table and quietly watches Eun Sang sleeping with a slight smile on his face. Oh I like them so much.
It’s morning time at Rachel’s hotel (the poor Biltmore has become the Bilt Hotel) and she gets a text from Chan Young thanking her for giving him the address where Eun Sang is right now.
Tan and Eun Sang drive up to his place and get out. Suddenly Chan Young walks down the driveway and calls out Eun Sang’s name. She is so happy to see him and asks what he is doing here?
Tan is annoyed and storms into the house saying it’s hot and they can talk inside. Chan Young notices their couple tees and asks about it but Eun Sang says she’ll explain later.
Tan grabs a drink from the kitchen and Eun Sang walks inside to thank him for everything. She wants to leave but he tells her to stay here even if she borrows money from her friend. She says there is no reason for her to stay now. He says he burdened her and staying is his way to apologize for her getting her passport taken away.
Chan Young walks in and asks if she’s ready to go? Tan says not yet. Eun Sang thanks Tan again and Chan Young stares at Tan and then asks if he’s Kim Tan? Tan asks how Chan Young knows him, and Chan Young asks if Tan knows him. Tan wonders if he tormented Chan Young back in middle school? Chan Young says no, their relationship isn’t that simple, and then takes Eun Sang away because the taxi is here.
Eun Sang says goodbye and Tan sadly watches her go. She pauses ever so slightly on the stairs but keeps walking. Tan looks so lonely in the huge house.
Eun Sang and Chan Young arrive at his apartment. He’s not happy she crashed with Tan but Eun Sang had no choice since she had no money, no passport, and no sister to stay with. She asks if that guy’s name is Kim Tan? Chan Young is surprised she didn’t even know his name. Eun Sang didn’t ask because she didn’t want to talk about herself. She asks if he’s a good kid and Chan Young says he’s not particularly nice.
Chan Young takes Eun Sang into his place and asks her about Eun Seo. Eun Sang cries that she lied and was with a really bad guy. Chan Young tells her not to worry about her plane ticket home. The most important thing is what Eun Sang wants to do and eat. He asks what she wants to eat and she wants deokbokggi.
Chan Young and Eun Sang walk through Universal Citywalk eating a giant lollipop. They take a picture and Chan Young posts it on his SNS. Right on cue, within 3 seconds Bo Na is calling all pissed off. It makes him laugh and he thinks she’s so cute.
Chan Young goes to talk with Bo Na leaving Eun Sang to notice the I love California t-shirt hanging there.
Tan is home along hanging out by the pool nibbling a sandwich. Later he goes to study and checks his phone and sees the updated picture of Chan Young and Eun Sang happily sightseeing. He is annoyed and then flops down on the bed and sees his engagement picture with Rachel.
Rachel is sitting in the hotel lobby pissed and about to leave when she gets a call from Tan. He’s there to see her and she changes her schedule to leave tomorrow. Rachel gets a call from her mom Esther and tells mom that she’s with Tan right now.
Esther meets with Ji Sook (Chairman Kim’s legal wife) to discuss Tan and Rachel hanging out together in LA right now. Esther compliments Ji Sook on still looking good despite giving birth to Tan at such an advanced age. Esther is here to tell Ji Sook that she is getting re-married, as a courtesy to her future in-law. Esther asks about Young Do’s broken friendship with Tan which appears to be news to Ji Sook that those two aren’t friends anymore.
Young Do is hanging out with Myung Soo. Young Do looks at the wall of pictures which includes one of younger Tan and Young Do hanging out together.
Young Do gets called out to play Taekwondo with his dad, and dad is intense and so good that Young Do is literally thrown around like a rag doll. Dad says Young Do will never win because he doesn’t put in the homework, but Young Do thinks the reason is that he’s more like Mom. Dad orders him to go pick Rachel up at the airport.
Rachel and Tan are walking down the street and she thanks him for the things he bought for her. But what he gave her is his time and not the things he bought and she knows that.
Rachel asks if that girl has left and Tan says she left yesterday just like Rachel intended since she gave Chan Young the address. Rachel gets a call from Young Do who is annoyed that she wants to be picked up at the airport. Tan hears that Rachel and Young Do are becoming siblings and asks how he’s doing. Turns out Young Do is doing the bullying all by himself.
Rachel wants to go eat Tan’s favorite pancake place and Tan wants her to go elsewhere because she might run into Eun Sang there. Rachel insists on going to see if it’s fated they keep running into each other in LA.
Tan and Rachel walk to the restaurant and see Eun Sang and Chan Young sitting there. Tan stops to see them sitting there and Rachel is surprised as well. Chan Young asks how Eun Sang knew this particular famous breakfast place, did she do her research beforehand? Eun Sang notices Tan first and the two of them stare at each other.
Rachel asks if they made plans to come before, and why Tan keeps stopping her from meeting Eun Sang? Tan tries to drag Rachel off but she storms inside and asks to sit down with Eun Sang and Chan Young. Eun Sang asks if they know each other and Chan Young explains he’s classmates with Rachel but they are not close and in fact today is the first time they’ve talked. Rachel says Chan Young is a scholarship student at their school and he doesn’t know move in her circles.
Tan wants Rachel to leave but she won’t since it’s their engagement anniversary so he sits down as well. Rachel asks how Chan Young knows Eun Sang and he explains they are friends. She asks how they picked this place and turns out it was Eun Sang’s choice. Rachel snarks that her fiancée and his friend seems to think the same way.
Rachel brings up Bo Na since Tan won’t let her talk about the coincidence of showing up here. She says right here is sitting Bo Na’s ex-boyfriend and current boyfriend and tells them to say hello. Chan Young asks why she is bringing up Bo Na who is not here. Rachel says its Chan Young’s fault for hanging out with this girl behind Bo Na’s back. She then bitches at Eun Sang for hanging around guys who are taken.
Tan can’t stand it anymore and drags Rachel off. Chan Young asks what Eun Sang wants to do and she wants to finish eating and go buy a ticket home. She needs to get back to work to earn money to pay him back.
Tan tells Rachel that he used to think she was cool but right now she’s not anymore. They met when they were 10 years old and got engaged because they knew each other was the best choice in their small social circle. Back then she had a crush on older brother Won and Tan thought she was more mature than him. For the last 8 years, he’s thought she was pretty, smart, and practical, but not anymore. If she is acting this way because of him, then stop because he’s not worth it. He leaves her there but tells her that he’ll pick her up tomorrow for the airport.
Rachel goes back to the hotel and passes Kim Won in the lobby. He asks why she’s not staying at Young Do’s hotel and she refuses to owe him, and correctly points out the same reason he’s staying here. She asks if he saw Tan and he says sorta, and she feels the same way. She asks to stick with him since she doesn’t want to be alone in the hotel waiting for Tan to call. He says it’s a long drive but she doesn’t care. Won takes Rachel and goes to visit his mother’s grave. He reveals his mother was an American country girl who married rich. She made wine and even made one bottle named Won the year he was born. She thinks Tan will be jealous knowing she got to come here with Won oppa. Tan gets a call from Secretary Yoon and asks for a few extra days, telling him to lie that he went to Singapore. He also calls out Secretary Yoon for revealing his itinerary to Tan.
Secretary Yoon gets into the elevator at Zeus Hotel and runs into Esther and Dong Wook. They walk in and discuss Young Do going to pick up Rachel. Esther knows he doesn’t want to but Dong Wook says Young Do will do whatever he says. After Dong Wook steps out first, Esther turns to Secretary Yoon and says it’s been a long time. He congratulates her on getting married. She says twenty years ago and twenty years later, the guy she is marrying is still not him. Esther candidly says that she’s still nervous around him.
Tan calls Secretary Yoon to ask about Won’s whereabouts, and he finds out that Chan Young is his son. Tan calls Chan Young’s cell and asks to speak with Eun Sang. She’s not there so Tan asks Eun Sang to call him back. Eun Sang went back to the restaurant where her sister worked but she really hasn’t come back.
Chan Young reveals Tan called for Eun Sang and wants her to call him back. She declines since she’s leaving tomorrow and won’t ever see him again. He asks her what time is her flight and she wants to go by herself since he shouldn’t be skipping class for her.
Tan sits by his pool staring at the phone waiting for Eun Sang to call but she never calls. He notices that she’s hung a pair of bunny socks out to dry on her door handle.
Eun Sang goes back to Tan’s school and leaves a note on the board for him which says that this trip was a dream for her and like a dream she’ll wake up soon.
Tan goes to the hotel to take Rachel to the airport. Tan drops her off and she asks if he’s not coming back to Korea. He wants to but needs impetuous courage to do so. Rachel steps forward and hugs Tan. She still hates him and hasn’t forgiven him. He pulls his hand out of his pocket for a second, but then stops and puts his hands back in his pocket and says likewise.
Which is when Eun Sang walks into the departure hall and sees this embrace. She stops and then turns to leave which is when Tan sees her. He calls out “Cha Eun Sang, don’t go!”
Thoughts of Mine:
When I watched episode 3, I tried to brush aside my internal timer that chanting for the LA segment to end already and ship everyone back to Korea. This drama moves so slow so that very little happens because of its pace and the fact that there are so many characters inhabiting this world. I could easily do away with half already, especially Bo Na, Myung Soo, and Hyo Shin, those three bore me to death so far. The PD is still very clunky, editing everything a half-pace too slow, but he does a good job with the cinematography and LA landscape from the beaches to the valley to the desert are wonderfully rendered onscreen. This drama tries to make everything seem so serious, what with the bickering and scheming parents, but the tension just doesn’t rise to the surface so I’m seeing that there is a lot at sake but it doesn’t feel immediate. I just don’t get Won’s giant chip on his shoulder, and with the vast wealth of Empire Group he has to literally send his brother away so he can’t vy with the inheritance but isn’t there enough to go around? The narrative aims for all or nothing in setting up the stakes, but I’m rather amused everyone is so serious and like Tan for being so blasé about it. He’s just lonely, and that emotion is currently the only one that really shines in the story.
I’m still firmly on the Good Ship Chan Young, currently still the most endearing character in the drama and a nicely crafted secondary character that functions as a convenient plot device when required but manages to come across as three dimensional. Doesn’t hurt that all the scenes involving me are the ones that come across as high school-esque. I must be said that the machinations Kim Eun Sook resorted to in episode 3 to get Tan and Eun Sang to spend time together, and even crash as a roadside motel in the middle of nowhere, are patently ridiculous and should just be accepted at face value. I think the OTPs conversations fall somewhere between the inane and the sweet, but still lack in any zing or sizzle. Whereas Rachel may be a bitch from hell right now, she’s actually quite incisive and calls it like she sees it. Doesn’t hurt that Kim Ji Won has more chemistry with Lee Min Ho than Park Shin Hye does, but again it’s not enough the tip anything in her favor since the leads are easy enough to like. Three episodes in, I don’t see anything about this particular drama or script that would have lured so many actors to sign up, other than it’s written by a famous screenwriter who usually gets ratings gold. I’m still optimistic this drama can ratchet up the energy and compelling narrative soon, but for those who have been bored so far, it might not be enough to resurrect the mildly decent ratings Heirs has garnered so far. This drama might end up being a disappointment because it didn’t live up to expectations, but so far it’s been more entertaining that I personally expected.