The arrival of Prime Minister and I was like a clean fresh breeze airing out a stuffy room filled with disappointment and lament. This is a promising start with an entertaining first episode. Considering that all the good parts in episode 1 was already shown in the long preview, it’s a testament to this story being interesting and the performances well-acted that I wasn’t bored in the least despite knowing what was coming. There is a lot more than meets the eye with the contract-relationship-marriage arrangement tucked into a political environment, with all of that really just a backdrop to develop the romance between Prime Minister Kwon Yul and scandal reporter Nam Da Jung. I’m just going to pick a ship right off the bat because its not even remotely close to having anything resembling shipping wars unless a viewer wants to paddle behind the only ship in the ocean. Lee Bum Soo as Kwon Yul and Yoona as Nam Da Jung are SO MUCH LOVE from the get go. There is the off-the-wrong-foot bickering and even some genuine tension and sparks, but all of that is wrapped in so much chemistry I had to pinch myself. Yoona? Raging intensity and chemistry onscreen? Girl either got acting lessons in the last year so Lee Bum Soo is some magic magnet of a wonder co-star.
I don’t care to analyse the why other than be relieved for the arrival of an endearing female lead that is suitably well-acted. Never look a gift horse in the mouth so early in the game is my MO. Kwon Yul is also a very impressive male lead that is immediately likeable. He’s not an ass for the sake of being rude and mean, and his interactions with Da Jung are very realistic given the situation and the misunderstandings. Even better is that it gets cleared up quickly and the two of them have a delightful banter that serves to introduce their characters to each other and to us. This first episode actually reminds me so much of the cute and funny first episode of My Princess with Song Seung Heon and Kim Tae Hee, with the same zippiness, broad comedy, political stakes that are pretty cartoonish but serviceable as narrative drivers, and OTP chemistry and interactions. Clearly MP lost its way in the middle of the story though it did return to goodness by the end, but I think a comparison of Prime Minister and My Princess is actually a compliment because MP did perfectly capture an effervescent romantic charm in the cold Winter backdrop. I’m so excited to see all the funny things that will happen when Da Jung and Yul are forced to date and then get married all for the greater good of the nation but also for their mutual interests. The best part of a contract marriage set up is seeing that the couple is perfect for each other and then loving the various complications that allow them to spend time together so their romance can blossom. PM is off to a charming start and I’m onboard for another journey.
Episode 1 recap:
Waiters are setting up a banquet for the Prime Minister of Korea. His aide Kang In Ho introduces Kwon Yul to the applause of the various dignitaries from other countries. His wife Nam Da Jung walks in after him and she’s a vision of beauty and elegance wearing a pink lace dress. Da Jung takes Kwon Yul’s hand and they walk up on stage as a happy couple.
Da Jung narrates that this is her husband Kwon Yul, the Prime Minister beloved by the nation for his integrity and honesty. During the applause they sneak glances at each other and the facade slips, with Yul giving Da Jung a sneering once-over while she curls her lip and sasses him right back. Ha, I love it!
Da Jung enters her own fantasy land where she and Yul are sparring martial artists, their fighting representing their antagonism in this fake marriage. Da Jung continues her narration that he’s so cruel and mean to her, he’s a man that causes all her goosebumps. Da Jung snaps out of her reverie and flashes back to how this ridiculousness all came about.
Da Jung is a reporter for entertainment tabloid Scandal News and on this night she’s disguised as a waitress to snap a picture of a starlet with her rumored boyfriend. Also dining at the same establishment is Kwon Yul and his chief of staff Seo Hye Joo. They are dining with another politician discussing the vote for Prime Minister and how it hasn’t passed and the politician asks Yul to agree to be in the running.
Da Jung run outside and peers over a wall to snap pictures of the starlet having a rendezvous with her boyfriend. Kwon Yul is leaving the restaurant and spots Da Jung and thinks she’s taking his picture. Yul goes to confront Da Jung but she has no clue who he is. He says she has no permission to take pictures here while Da Jung tries to shoo him away.
Da Jung says she didn’t take his picture but Yul thinks she heard about him being the next Prime Minister which won’t be announced until tomorrow so tells her to keep quiet about it until then. Yul snatches her camera and deletes all the pictures on it. He then realizes that she’s taking kissing pictures of the starlet and asks if she doesn’t feel shame earning a living from this? After Yul leaves she does think he looks familiar. She turns back to keep taking pictures but its too late.
Park Joon Ki, brother-in-law to Kwon Yul and current nemesis, is meeting with a staffer and watching the news of Kwon Yul being considered for the position of the youngest Prime Minister and his candidacy is very well-received by the public. His staffer says its a shock that the position went to Kwon Yul when it should have gone to Joon Ki. His staffer thinks Yul will be confirmed easily and Joon Ki says all they need is to create some problems then.
Da Jung is meeting with her editor and he gives her a new job to follow Kwon Yul. She spots Kwon Yul on the front page of a newspapers and realizes he’s the guy from last night. She’s told that he’s in line to be the next Prime Minister of Korea, the youngest and most stylish one ever.
Kwon Yul was a prosecutor who made name for his righteousness and since he entered politics he has had a clean reputation, garnering a nickname as the political world’s Lee Byung Hun. But he also has a sad past which is the death of his wife in a car accident 7 years ago in Jeju. Since then he has refused to re-marry and has raised his three kids alone. He tops the list as Korea’s hottest politician and most eligible bachelor. He also tops the list as the man all married women want to exchange their husbands for.
Da Jung is assigned to Kwon Yul to dig up dirt on his personal life, namely the rumors that he’s in a secret romance with his chief of staff Seo Hye Joo. She’s worked for Kwon Yul for ten years and is his junior in college but their relationship can’t be that simple. Da Jung is told to do this assignment otherwise the editor will deduct from her salary for the lost pictures.
Kwon Yul addresses the reporters in the lobby of the building saying he will work hard before heading off. Da Jung sports a pair of glasses to look more professional and mixes in with the political beat reporters gathered at the lobby of the Prime Minister’s office. As Kwon Yul leaves all the reporters scurry after him and throw out questions hoping he would answer. Da Jung’s question as to whether he’ll ever remarry gets Kwon Yul to stop in his tracks and all the other reporters stare at her as well. Yul walks over and learns that she is Nam Da Jung, reporter for Scandal News. The other reporters titter to hear where she’s from. Yul gives Da Jung a dressing down and asks if she knows what politics is? The definition is working for the greater good of the people of the country so why would he place his own marital future in the same consideration as political issues facing the country. He leaves and the other reporters tell Da Jung to go back to covering starlets.
Yul and Hye Joo are in the car and chatting, she’s worried that he’s too direct to reporters and will get in trouble in the future. That’s Yul’s personality and he’s not about to change. He does think Da Jung looks familiar but can’t place her. Hye Joo says he will be getting new security detail and staffers as well as selecting a new aide. She hands him resumes and Yul pulls one out to read. Da Jung rides her scooter alongside Yul’s car and keeps trying to peer inside. Yul finally notices Da Jung on a scooter following him when both stop at a light. Yul rolls down the window and asks how long she plans to keep following him?
She tries to feign ignorance but he remembers her as the reporter who asked about him remarrying and then also remembers her as the reporter from last night. Da Jung is embarrassed to be discovered. Hye Joo asks why she is following them and Da Jung says she wants an interview is all.Yul invites Da Jung into the car to interview him.
Da Jung parks her scooter and tosses her helmet aside and happily runs inside at the opportunity to land a scoop. She’s so happy the Prime Minister is giving her an interview but he explains he’s not the Prime Minister yet, just the candidate for the position. Da Jung starts sniffing around Yul and says he smells so good, what cologne does he use? He says no cologne and she changes the topic to his style and wonders who picks his clothes? Himself or perhaps Hye Joo? Yul calls her ridiculous and if she followed him to ask such stupid questions? Da Jung thinks of course not but she can’t ask directly if he’s dating his chief of staff? She says of course and these are just her warm up questions. Yul asks whether she’s not curious where they are going?
Yul drags Da Jung to the police station and she says he can’t report her for traffic violations or interfering with public service since he’s not the Prime Minister yet. He reports her for stalking him.
Kwon Yul interviews Kang In Ho for the position of his aide and asks why he keeps getting second place in all his exams. In Ho says first place will lead to interviews and that’s not his style. He’s interested in this position because he’s waiting for someone to see his worth. Yul asks if that is all and In Ho admits he doesn’t want to be a personal assistant of sorts for the Prime Minister but he wants to do something for Yul and if this is it he’s willing to do so. All famous rulers in the past have their consigliere such as Liu Bang had Zhu Ge Liang. Yul scoffs that he doesn’t want to be Liu Bang and he wants to be Zhu Ge Liang. He wants to be the consigliere to the President of Korea. So what he needs is Zhu Ge Liang’s fan and In Ho doesn’t mind being the fan. Yul hires In Ho and tells him to start immediately.
In Ho leaves Yul’s office and runs into Hye Joo. She asks how it went and hears he got hired. After she enters Yul’s office In Ho turns and glares at the door. Is he glaring at Hye Joo or Yul inside we don’t know. Yul tells Hye Joo that from now on all reporters from Scandal News are to be barred from here.
Da Jung remains persistent in getting an interview with Kwon Yul and this time dresses like a janitor working at the building. She gets tossed out and the other reporters spot her and one particular odious Reporter Byun goes to scoff at her. Da Jung gets upset and whacks him with her mop and has to be dragged out. Yul sees her yelling as she’s dragged out. Yul and In Ho hear that the Scandal News reporter snuck in.
Joon Ki walks by and greets Yul and there is tension all around. They head back to the office to talk and Hye Joo tells Joon Ki to call her Chief Seo instead of her name. Yul asks Hye Joo to leave and then asks what Joon Ki wants? He wants Yul to decline the position of Prime Minister because he can’t stand watching him being so lofty. Yul asks if he still blames him for Na Young’s death and Joon Ki does. For the sake of his nephew and niece he’s warning Yul to decline otherwise he’s going to have to watch out.
Da Jung goes to visit her sick Dad in the hospital and they are playing hwatu. Dad asks if she still saved Dad’s number as “My man” and she does to keep the men away. Dad smacks her and says this is why guys don’t pursue her. Da Jung says she’s so beautiful he needn’t worry, all the guys will love her. Da Jung hears from the doctor an update on her dad’s condition. Dad calls the doctor “wife” and turns out he has alzheimers and all they can do is keep him comfortable but there is no cure. Dad worries about her being a reporter and his biggest wish is to hold her hand and walk down the aisle. Da Jung agrees to get married soon. Dad’s shoulder is stiff and Da Jung goes to give him a massage. She thinks that she’s going to have to disappoint him since she doesn’t want to get married so she can stay by Dad’s side to take care of him.
Yul stands in his room and thinks back to Joon Ki saying that his younger sister died so horribly he can’t stand to watch Yul doing so well as the Prime Minister of Korea. Da Jung and another reporter Park Hee Chul sit in the car and discuss other ways to approach Kwon Yul. Hee Chul suggests Kwon Yul’s three kids, eldest adolescent son Woo Ri (Our), elementary school daughter Na Ra (Nation), and littlest kindergarten son Man Se (Hooray). Da Jung thinks it’s low to go after the kids and Hee Chul reminds her that if she doesn’t get this scoop she’s in trouble. Da Jung refuses to go after the kids and will find her own way.
Da Jung goes to Kwon Yul’s house and lurks around outside and rifles through the trash looking for useful information. She wonders if she needs to climb his wall into the backyard when In Ho arrives and asks what she is doing? Da Jung starts humming a Chinese song by Teresa Teng so In Ho starts speaking in Chinese. Da Jung then pretends to be a Japanese tourist so In Ho switches to Japanese with Da Jung and asks why she’s rifling through the trash cans. He then switches to English and Spanish before asking if she’s a reporter and tells her to scram. Da Jung concedes defeat and turns to leave but stops and asks who he is? In Ho identifies himself as the Prime Minister’s aide.
Kwon Yul is at work when he hears that youngest son Man Se has gone missing. He rushes back home and hears from the ahjumma that Man Se got home from school but then went out to play and is missing now. Da Jung is wandering around Yul’s neighborhood and sees the Reporter Byun talking with a crying kid who demands bread. She recognizes the kids as Kwon Yul’s son Man Se. Reporter Byun tosses him one more bread and Man Se chows down. Reporter Byun tries to ask if Yul’s closest friend is Chief Seo. Da Jung walks up and chews out Reporter Byun for stooping so low as to dig for information from a kid and warns him what Kwon Yul will do if he found out. Reporter Byun stands up and curtly apologizes to Man Se before leaving.
Kwon Yul and his team are running around the neighborhood searching for Man Se. The worry that he might have been kidnapped though the CCTV shows only Man Se leaving by himself. In Ho remembers running into a female reporter outside and Hye Joo says it might be Nam Da Jung from Scandal News. Yul is relieved its not a kidnapping at least and heads out.
Da Jung walks Man Se home and tells him not to go with strangers with bread. Man Se says no one at home is worried about him. He asks which newspaper she’s from and hears that she’s a scandal news reporter. Da Jung confirms Man Se said nothing to Reporter Byun because his dad told him not to talk with reporters. He went with that reporter because he promised him bread and he was planning to eat and then say nothing.
Man Se runs to a playground to swing and won’t go home while Yul is running around the neighborhood screaming Man Se’s name. Da Jung tries to coax him home but Man Se wants her to buy him bread otherwise he won’t go home. Da Jung says he can eat food at home if he’s hungry. Man Se doesn’t want to go home and cries on his swing, which is when Kwon Yul finds his son.
Da Jung recognizes him and tries to sneak away to avoid a misunderstanding. Yul sends Man Se home with the ahjumma and goes to confront Da Jung. Yul tells her to stop and goes over. Da Jung tries to explain that he’s misunderstood the situation and asks if he thinks she kidnapped Man Se? Yul says she’s not smart enough to do that but asks when she’s going to grow up. How could she use a kid to get dirt? Yul asks what she tried to get out of Man Se.
Da Jung tries to explain but he keeps talking, asking if she asked Man Se if he wants a new mom or misses his dead mom? Is that what she would ask a 7-year old kid? Da Jung tries to leave since he’s not listening to her explain. Yul pushes Da Jung against a pole and gets really close to warn her to stay away. We see someone snapping a picture of them at this very moment. He tells her never to appear before him again if she wants to remain a reporter. Da Jung cries but Yul just walks away.
The next morning, Yul lines up his three kids to warn them to stay away from reporters. He hears from Man Se that the person who took him was a guy reporter and the ahjumma lady saved him and was taking him home. She even told Man Se that the guy reporter was a bad guy and not to tell him anything. Ooops.
Da Jung is at her newspaper and telling off the editor that she will NOT cover the Kwon Yul story. Her editor and Hee Chul wonder what’s gotten into her? Da Jung is upset that Yul called her sleazy when a call comes in that Prime Minister Kwon Yul is willing to sit down for an exclusive interview with Scandal News.
Da Jung and Hee Chul happily rush off to see the Prime Minister, and when the other political reporters try to heckle them, they are vindicated when In Ho comes down to the lobby to bring them up for the exclusive interview with Kwon Yul.
Da Jung chats with In Ho in the elevator about why Kwon Yul agreed to the exclusive. Was it because Man Se explained everything and Yul felt bad? Da Jung is pleased and thinks that is really sweet but she won’t go easy on Kwon Yul in the interview. Yul walks in and gives her ten minutes for the interview. Hye Joo fixes Yul’s tie and Da Jung tries to crane her neck to look and falls over adorably.
The interview begins and Da Jung happily rattles off all these questions for Kwon Yul, the first is what his relationship is with his chief of staff Seo Hye Joo. He wonders why he needs to answer this question but Da Jung says people are curious. Yul says she is his college junior and his loyal chief of staff, that is all. Hye Joo hears this and leaves but looks disappointment but says the reporter’s question is so trivial.
Da Jung asks what Yul likes to eat and finds out he likes strawberry ice-cream which is also her favorite. How much can he drink and he doesn’t drink much. If he sees a girl what part of her would he look at first? She finds out that he likes the same singer as her and thinks they have a lot in common. Yul asks if she wants to keep asking these shallow questions but Da Jung rattles off a serious political question but points out all the other reporters have been throwing the same questions at him already. Da Jung asks what Man Se’s favorite movie or favorite idol is or the name of his best friend or where he wants to go or his future dream or his favorite sport. Kwon Yul doesn’t know the answer to any of these questions. Da Jung says he gets a zero for being a dad but she understands because its hard and he has three kids to raise alone. Her dad raised her as a single dad but Yul has three kids.
Yul asks if she’s done and Da Jung throws out one final question. What causes him to feel the most exhausted right now? Yul remembers the car accident where his wife died. He doesn’t answer Da Jung and looks lost in his memory. He ends the interview since ten minutes is up and leaves the room.
Da Jung chases after him and asks if he wants to apologize for yesterday? Yul tells her not to appear before him again. Da Jung thanks him for the interview and hands him a present from the newspaper. It’s boxers and Yul throws it back at her saying he doesn’t wear boxers. Da Jung screams that he wears briefs then and then gives the boxers to In Ho before rushing off all excited with Hee Chul to learn that he wears boxers. In Ho grins and Yul asks if he finds Da Jung amusing.
Da Jung and Hee Chul are high-fiving in the car and Da Jung realizes that Kwon Yul is a straightforward guy and rather blunt. He’s very different than other politicians and she wonders why he couldn’t answer her last question?
Yul goes back to his office and takes out his wedding picture. He puts it away when Hye Joo walks in with files for his new staff. She asks if it was tiring to have such a silly interview today? Yul says no, it wasn’t that bad. He tells her that he will finish up her and she can leave. Hye Joo seems to want to say something else but doesn’t and walks outside. She tells herself that this is enough.
Da Jung sits in her room that night typing up the interview and she finally connects the dots about her last interview question and the fact that Kwon Yul’s wife died. She chastises herself for asking a widower that question and feels really bad now. She decides to make it up to him and write a very good interview. She writes the headline “The Prime Minister Who Wears Briefs” and imagines hilarious cartoon versions of Kwon Yul in his underwear briefs. She giggles and changes the headline to “The Prime Minister Who Loves Strawberry Ice-cream” and decides this is a great headline.
Da Jung dreams about hitting it big with that interview which is the top search term and a total hit. Her editor comes in with wads of cash and apologizes for mistreating her, he gives her a raise and makes her a permanent employee. In Ho then runs in and hugs her, calling her a truly cool girl. Kwon Yul runs in with red roses and pulls her close, saying that he sincerely wants to scout her to join the office of the Prime Minister. He then gives her a flirty wink.
Da Jung wakes up from this dream and Hee Chul barges into Da Jung’s apartment the next morning to drop the bombshell front page picture of her and Kwon Yul in a seemingly very intimate moment, which was actually Yul threatening her in the playground.
This breaking news is now the talk of the country. Yul asks Hye Joo how this picture got leaked and tries to do crisis control. The news is being misinterpreted that Da Jung is a high school student (thinking she’s wearing a high school uniform) and therefore Kwon Yul is having an inappropriate relationship with a minor. Ooooh. The netizens are very disappointed in Kwon Yul. Joon Ki tells his staff not to butt in and let Kwon Yul kill his own career.
Yul meets with Hye Joo and In Ho about how to resolve this mess, including revealing Da Jung’s identity to show she’s not a minor and finding out who spread the minor story. The problem then becomes that Da Jung’s newspaper got an exclusive yesterday so it might lead to bribery questions. At least it gives his opponents room to manufacture that story. Hye Joo says they need Da Jung to lie that she was paid off by Park Joon Ki to set up Kwon Yul, that will resolve the problem.
Yul is on the roof thinking when Hye Joo joins him and tries to urge him to approve her idea. Kwon Yul won’t agree to it even if his career is over. To protect himself he can’t throw Da Jung under the bus.
The political reporters are gathered around Reporter Byun because they think he knows who that girl is. He doesn’t but pretends he does. He then sees Da Jung and remembers what she was wearing when she confronted him about Man Se and it looks like the same outfit in the picture.
Da Jung goes to see Kwon Yul but has to try and remain surreptitious in the building because there are so many reporters around. As the Reporter Byun is following Da Jung, suddenly she’s pulled into a stairwell by Kwon Yul to hide. The two of them look at each other and lock eyes.
Thoughts of Mine:
This drama has the luxury of moving so fast because everything about its set up is absurd and ridiculous but so easy to swallow. I can accept the broad strokes it takes to force the Prime Minister candidate into a fake marriage with a scandal reporter despite the incredible risk to his career not to mention the impact on his three kids. We know it’s all going to work out in the end for the best, hence why trod on the various premise however far-fetched. Nothing about this story touche upon any of my pet peeves so I happily swallow the coincidences and move on. Kwon Yul is a nicely written character and Lee Bum Soo plays him perfectly. He’s not perfectly polished as a politician but he has his head on straight and his priorities in order. We see glimpses of his absentee parenting but it’s not something where he has angry bitter kids but more like kids who just want some more attention. I really have zero problems with the age difference of Lee Bum Soo and Yoona in real life and in the drama they look really good together. Her character has a very warm and funny personality, not that out there and definitely has a head on her shoulders. She has a temper but so does he and I can’t wait to watch more sparks fly. We learn a bit about their emotional baggage, her with the dad with Alzheimers and him with a dead wife and three kids to raise. Clearly his wife’s death isn’t as simple as a car accident and we’ll have to wait and find out what exactly happened 7 years ago.
The supporting characters are all nicely introduced with not too much fanfare. We have loyal chief of staff Seo Hye Joo who nurses on crush on Yul. I’m all good with her as long as she doesn’t plot to break up the OTP later. Newly arrived aide Kang In Ho is pretty bland of a character so far since we don’t know his back story, but Yoon Si Yoon always makes me happy so I’m glad he’s playing this character rather than another actor I don’t like nearly as much. Antagonist Park Joon Ki works because he has a personal grudge against Yul but he’s still family, so I hope they butt heads but use that also to resolve their conflict over the death of Yul’s wife. The Scandal News team is pretty entertaining to watch but once Da Jung becomes the Prime Minister’s wife I hope they stick around to help smooth over any hiccups with the contract marriage illusion for the public. I do worry that this contract marriage has HUGE stakes, but then again perhaps Da Jung really intends to stick it through forever with Yul since she doesn’t intend to get married and is doing this all for her dad. There isn’t a third party on the horizon for either Yul or Da Jung so I hope the drama allows their relationship to hit its own natural bumps and bruises on its way to an unexpected romance. The political stuff just has to make a modicum of reasonableness and I’ll happy swallow the silly obstacles that push two very random but interesting people together where the sparks fly every which way.
Click here to watch Prime Minister and I.