The world of Heirs/The Inheritors loves to throw out allusions and illusions, signs that seem to point to something more, something greater, something more substantive to come. If we wait patiently, we will be rewarded. I have long since discounted this drama having more below the surface of the superficial narrative we see, but I had hoped to sail to the end with a sense that it was still a story with a heart even if it was wrapped in layers of Kim Eun Sook manufactured artifice. But episode 19 strongly pulled me back to this drama’s repeated reference to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If only Heirs was a broad comedy such as that, because within the comedy comes an understanding that we are being tricked to laugh but that’s the price to be paid. Instead the easy and rather befuddling resolution of big problems continues to make me feel utterly manipulated.
Is Kim Eun Sook and the cast of Heirs all Puck, and we the audience the leads in the play that are led by magic that makes no sense? So will tomorrow bring the grand finale that releases us from this thrall so that we can exit that dang wooden forest and return to a world where people say what they mean and decisions come with genuine consequences? I can’t even critique episode 19 anymore because it’s jumped the shark so completely. There were amusing interludes for the sake of shilling more mango drinks and showcasing the snazzy features of Kakao talk, all the adult plotting evaporated into a veneer of self-pitying regret, and a new villain emerges so that Chairman Daddy can get redeemed as part of the grand re-write to turn the dysfunctional Kim house into one of solidarity. There wasn’t enough Young Do for my liking since he’s the most dynamic story arc around still, and way too much Eun Sang and Tan who I have long since stop caring about because whatever obstacles they face seem to just evaporate into thin air.
Episode 19 recap:
It’s the night of Kim Tan’s big 18th birthday bash and his proud parents Chairman Daddy and Ji Sook play the part of the hosts with fake warmth as they greet the guests inside. Ji Sook notices the Chairman’s siblings coming and tells him that with so many lurking he’s going to have to stay healthy. Daddy agrees especially since his two sons aren’t being obedient. Ji Sook heard that Ki Ae ran away and snarks that she seems to think she’s still in love with the Chairman (i.e. the heroine in a love story). Daddy says that is her problem, if Ki Ae wanted his money she ought to stay quietly beside him, clearly a shade at Ji Sook doing exactly that. Ha.
Chairman Daddy’s siblings arrive along with their kids and everyone pretends to be concerned about the scandal regarding Tan. Ji Sook says there is no problem since they raised both sons well. Won’s matseon date arrives with her rich dad and goes over to greet the Chairman. Ji Sook gives the date an once-over.
Myung Soo is taking selcas like crazy and notices Tan’s dad staring and gets really scared since Chairman Daddy is glaring at him.
Bo Na notices a guy and yells out “Oh my god, Oppa!” before running over to him. Chan Young stares while Myung Soo and Hyo Shin wonder what’s going on. Bo Na brings Oppa over to greet Chan Young but he warns her that he said he would break her legs if she flirted with other guys. Turns out Oppa is Bo Na’s real oppa who is studying in NY.
Oppa goes over and asks Chan Young what he was just saying about doing to his sister Bo Na’s legs? Everyone scurries off while Chan Young looks really sheepish.
Won arrives and sees Ji Sook talking with his date. They go off to talk and the date says her poor boyfriend can’t come to a place like this which is why she came with her rich dad. She finds out Won has a girlfriend as well and says they suit. Her dad wants them to get married but Won isn’t interested.
Tan and Eun Sang arrive at the party, getting out of the car to stare at each other while the cameras go off. Tan asks if Eun Sang is nervous and she is a bit so he thanks her for being by his side at this time. More staring and then they hold hands and walk into the party. The reporters have followed Tan and Eun Sang into the party and cause a stir which draws everyone’s attention. The Kim folk all turn to stare as Tan and Eun Sang walk towards Chairman Daddy. The high school classmates all stare as well and Bo Na hits Chan Young jealously.
Tan and Eun Sang greet Chairman Daddy who just stares at their held hands. Tan thanks his parents for this grand party and then greets his uncles and cousins. His uncle asks who this girl is and Tan says she is his girlfriend Cha Eun Sang. A cousin asks if Tan broke the engagement for this girl? The reporters start screaming questions at Chairman Daddy who smiles and asks them to end the questions for tonight. He looks FURIOUS.
Chairman Daddy drags Eun Sang and Tan off to talk and ask if they are crazy and how dare they come here? Tan is proud to show Eun Sang off and no longer care about what his dad thinks. Daddy points out that this “love” is insignificant so how dare he make such waves with it. He wanted to give Tan a greater world and place it before Tan. But Tan doesn’t want that world, whatever it is cannot compare to the person beside him. He begs his dad to allow them to be together.
Daddy scoffs and says “fine”, they can date if that is what they want. But don’t take this as his consent, he knows Tan will regret it one day. He also tells Eun Sang that she will regret shaking his son’s heart today. Daddy asks Tan if his mom is staying in room 3409 at this hotel? He tells Tan not to take this as winning over him, he’s merely letting him get away with it for now.
After Daddy leaves. Eun Sang asks if he gave them permission or threatened them? Tan says one day it may become a threat but its permission now. He asks Eun Sang to forgive his dad’s harsh words, it’s the only pride he has left. They hug each other and Eun Sang wishes him a happy birthday. Tan is so happy to overcome this huge obstacle.
Tan tells her that they can go to a real birthday party now, his mom left home and is on the 34th floor. He wants to celebrate with her. Ki Ae stands in her room and looks out the window. The doorbell rings and she opens it to find Tan with a cake outside. She is so happy and is also happy to see Eun Sang and immediately asks about her mom. She notices Eun Sang’s dress and asks if Tan took her to the party?
They go inside and sit down to celebrate. Mom wishes her son a happy birthday, she is so happy to have him. He says likewise and blows out the candles but won’t tell Ki Ae what he wished for. He puts a diamond key necklace around her neck as a present thanking her for having him. He wants his mom to live a happy life from now on as Kim Tan’s mom. Ki Ae wonders how they came out of that party alive? Tan says Daddy back downed and Ki Ae also vows not to lose to him. Tan thinks Daddy has already backed down towards Ki Ae as well. He knows she’s staying here already. Ki Ae immediately asks Eun Sang where her mom is right now.
Eun Sang’s mom is waiting by the side of the road and a car pulls up to deposit Ki Ae and Eun Sang. They two moms hug and Ki Ae wonders how she could leave just like that without saying goodbye. She thinks Eun Sang’s mom has lost weight and says her embrace (company) is the warmest, right? She asks if Eun Sang’s mom missed her and mom nods but Ki Ae complains about why she didn’t contact her. Eun Sang calls Tan to say they arrived safely and hears he’s going to see Young Do.
Tan and Young Do sit in awkward silence and finally Young Do tells him to just spit it out. Tan thanks him for his mom and then apologizes. Young Do finally says that his mom…..missing her was not Tan’s fault. She left first. But Young Do needed someone to hate for it, that was it. Tan tells Young Do that he knows and then leaves.
Young Do is in Myung Soo’s playroom and sees pictures of Tan and Eun Sang at the birthday party. Myung Soo tries to hide all the pictures to keep Young Do from being sad. Myung Soo reminds Young Do that he warned him that first loves are bound to fail. He’s put together a poster of Tan and Eun Sang and a dog and says that all three are barred from coming her and he’ll post it on the wall. Later on, Young Do is sparring with his coach who wonders why he’s so intense all of a sudden. Young Do wants to win over his dad just once.
The two moms are drinking and Eun Sang’s mom chides Ki Ae for running away from home at this old age. Ki Ae is annoyed she used two exclamations to lecture her. Ki Ae never thought her life would turn out like this either, living in another woman’s home, using another woman’s bag, being with another woman’s husband. Because she coveted all that, her life turned out like this. She has never been a man’s wife and she can’t even be her son’s mother. Ki Ae makes an excuse to go to the bathroom but instead goes to cry by the beach.
Eun Sang’s mom comes by and quietly sits beside her to keep her company.
Tan is at a cafe about to call Eun Sang when she walks in. He finds out she’s here to meet another guy and is about to freak out when Won walks through the door. Tan hears that Eun Sang is going to move back to their old apartment and declines Won’s offer to give her the new apartment to make up for some of the harm they suffered.
Eun Sang doesn’t want to because what if she breaks up with Tan in the future, it’ll get messy. Maybe one day she’ll dump him, who knows? Tan drags Eun Sang out while Won smiles at their bickering.
Tan and Eun Sang goes to kneel before Eun Sang’s mom. Tan apologizes for what they suffered during this time and asks for permission to date Eun Sang. His dad already agreed. Eun Sang’s mom says nothing and Ki Ae can’t stand it and comes out to ask why she won’t agree. Eun Sang’s mom can’t agree because Eun Sang was in such pain before. Ki Ae says her son is handsome, tall, and nice. And he’s done so much to be with Eun Sang, so what’s wrong with him? Eun Sang’s mom signs that her Eun Sang is nice, pretty, and very smart.
Tan asks what her mom said and Eun Sang’s mom warns her not to come back after 9 pm and if she catches them holding hands then Eun Sang will get it. Eun Sang lies and says her mom said they can stay out at 9 pm and can holds hands as well. Mom moves to smack Eun Sang and Tan takes the hit instead. Eun Sang tells him to do what he’s good at and Tan hilariously falls over. Tan says he’ll be fine if Eun Sang’s mom gives permission. Mom smacks Tan one more time but then says nothing. Eun Sang thanks her mom and Tan quickly gets up and thanks her as well.
A moving truck pulls up outside Eun Sang’s old apartment and she gets out. She sees Tan walk out and asks what he’s doing coming out of there? Tan asks if he only comes out of fairy books and then waves her over. Tan covers Eun Sang’s eyes and brings her inside. He presses play on a video and takes his hands off her eyes.
The video is a compilation of Eun Sang scenes and watching it makes Eun Sang very teary. Eun Sang reminds him that she doesn’t like romance movies and likes horror movies. She gives Tan a surprise peck and says she likes this kind of sudden moves. Tan locks the door and chases her around the apartment saying they can make a romance movie now.
Rachel bumps into Yi Seul in the lunchroom but says nothing and just sits down. Yi Seul and some of the other girls confront her for being rude. They insult her poor breeding which led to broken engagements for her and her mom. The other students were cordial to Rachel because she was engaged to Tan, not because they were scared of her.
Young Do steps in and extricates Rachel from this confrontation by saying Rachel is his younger sister. The girls scurry off and Young Do tells Rachel to get up. They walk out with him putting his hand on her shoulder. Rachel suggests he put his hair back up if he wants to return to being cool. Young Do thinks this is nice.
Rachel points out that people aren’t scared of him anymore but Young Do has enough clout to save his sister at least. Young Do wants to be her oppa and says she can lean on him if she needs. Rachel asks if things have ended with Cha Eun Sang and Young Do says as long as he’s done then it’s over. She asks about his dad’s company and Young Do says it’s fine. Rachel is relieved she doesn’t need to comfort him about that then.
Rachel leaves and Young Do sees Eun Sang walk up. He walks right past her without acknowledging her like he said he would.
The final exam grades are out and all the students are gathered in front of the posting board. Bo Na warns Eun Sang to stay away from her because if Chan Young loses first place to Rachel because he was worried about Eun Sang then Bo Na will whup Eun Sang’s ass. Tan uses his height and jacket to block it completely, and finally just tears it down and runs away with it. LOL, whut? Eun Sang yells at him to stop and then reminds him that he promised to always walk behind her. Tan stops and tells her to walk ahead but she grabs the test results from him and runs off.
Tan keeps trying to get the list back but Eun Sang has hidden it away. She warns him to not touch her since her mom doesn’t want them to even hold hands. She asks why he did it and hears Tan isn’t ready to face his score yet. She asks if he got last place again? She offers to buy him a drink and he spies the list in her wallet and takes it.
Eun Sang gets a text from Chan Young to the entire group with the list. Turn out that Myung Soo is in last place and Tan got 50th place. He is so pleased that he finally got something in the middle for the first time in his life. Young Do gets 27th place and Eun Sang says he’s very cool. Tan says he already improved so much, who knows what he’ll get next time. Tan then asks Eun Sang what her grade was but she looks alarmed and runs away.
Young Do is sparring with his dad and finally beats him. The only thing he wants is to know where his mom is? Turns out his dad really does not know.
Young Do goes back to the dokbokggi restaurant and this time he’s wearing his school uniform so the ahjumma reads his name and hands him a business card that is from a woman who said to give it to him.
Tan stops Bo Na in the hallway to ask about what Eun Sang likes. Bo Na says she isn’t friends with Eun Sang so how would she know. Eun Sang has many things she needs and borrows from people so if Tan wants to buy her a gift there are many places to start. She heard some crazy dude stole Eun Sang’s wallet and Tan says he did it because he wants to buy her a new one.
Hyo Shin is meeting with Bo Na and Eun Sang to talk about how another school wants to borrow some of their broadcast club members for a joint event. Bo Na hears the high school and says they have to do it because the guys there are really cute. Eun Sang points out Bo Na has a boyfriend already but she says it doesn’t mean she can’t look at handsome guys. They head to the meeting at Eun Sang’s part time job. Eun Sang asks Bo Na if the guys really are cute and Bo Na says of course. Hyo Shin waits until the door closes and immediately picks up his phone to call Tan and Chan Young with a grin.
Bo Na and Eun Sang sit with the two guys from the other high school broadcast club. They are very friendly and the guys are wowed by the two pretty girls. They ask if all the girls at Empire are this pretty and Eun Sang says she and Bo Na are the prettiest. One guy likes her personality and asks if she has a boyfriend?
Suddenly a male voice calls out “Yeobo” (wifey) and of course it’s Tan standing there, with Chan Young right beside him. He snarls that she’s got a hubby so the two guys need to scram. The two guys haven’t talked about the broadcast yet but decide to wisely leave. One guy says he’ll contact them later and Chan Young warns him not to.
The two couples sit down face to face. Tan asks what the heck is that ribbon in Eun Sang’s hair and she pulls it off. He is upset that Bo Na dragged Eun Sang out. Chan Young tells him not to be mad at the wrong person, Eun Sang can also check out guys. Eun Sang yells at Chan Young which upsets Bo Na. They start bickering and finally conversation turns to Tan and Chan Young says good looks only last three months. Eun Sang says a man is valued by his intelligence and there is silence.
Tan and Eun Sang walk home and he’s still annoyed those guys admired his Eun Sang and might be thinking about her. He tells her than all guys are the same except for him. He likes Eun Sang sincerely, she’s as precious as a treasure to him. Eun Sang asks how he’s going to show her? Tan turns to leave but Eun Sang asks for her wallet back. He tosses her a present and then says he was really happy to argue over such simple things today as between lovers. Eun Sang opens the present and its a new wallet and inside there is a picture of Tan.
Secretary Yoon arrives at an old-school cafe and runs into Esther there by herself. She’s about to leave but they sit down to chat. She heard he has become a VP and he heard the marriage was off. Esther says Zeus Hotel is being investigated and Secretary Yoon says Esther is still as smart as she was 20 years ago. He asks about Rachel and hears she cried over the broken engagement. Rachel never cries but she really liked Tan but didn’t know how to like someone. Because she had no role model because Esther didn’t know how. All Esther knew was how to make money and live a life without Yoon Jae Ho.
Tan pours a glass of wine for his mom and shares a drink with her, saying that from now on she’s his mom and his dad. Won wants to know when she plans to move into the villa but Ki Ae wants to live her own life from now on. Not live a life with a driver between the home and the department store. Tan wants to go with her and hold her hand. Ki Ae tells him to go home since his dad is all alone. Tan doesn’t want to, preferring his mom to also be his dad.
Chairman Daddy walks through the living room and suddenly his head hurts. The entire house is empty and he hears the door open. A teenage Won walks past him and a little Tan runs after him asking about his day. Little Tan sees Daddy and runs over to hug him. Daddy wants to hug Tan back but then Won turns and looks at him so he stops and doesn’t hug Tan. This memory disappears and Chairman Daddy grabs his head and collapses.
Chairman Daddy is taken to the hospital and both Tan and Won rush there. It’s a brain hemorrhage but the doctor can’t operate on him yet until he regains consciousness.
Ji Sook’s brother tells his sister to act now rather than waiting for the Chairman to wake up. She’s waited 20 years and suffered in that household waiting for this day. Doesn’t she want payback for all the pain she’s suffered in that house? Ji Sook does want it and tells her brother to gather information.
Won and Tan get the report from Secretary Yoon that Ji Sook is still the Chairman’s legal wife so while he is incapacitated she has power of attorney. She will also summon a Board meeting to relieve the Chairman of his duties. Won asks Secretary Yoon if they can prevent the Board meeting? He tells Tan to stay at the hospital with their dad while he goes to the company.
Tan goes back to the hospital room and finds his mom sitting by the bed. He wants her to go back to the hotel and wait but Tan tells her that Ji Sook appears to be readying something and he doesn’t want her to run into Ki Ae here. Ki Ae agrees to leave since she didn’t think this far. She tells Tan to take care of his dad and call her when he wakes up.
Ji Sook talks with the major shareholders who are all Kim siblings and says she doesn’t trust either Won or Tan. The shareholders asks what Ji Sook wants to do next? Ji Sook says the battle for Chairman was fought before and Chairman Daddy won. She doesn’t have any kids, so all she can give the brothers is another chance to battle for Chairman. If they don’t support her, they will never get another chance as long as Tan and Won are alive.
Young Do sits in his hotel room and thinks about getting that business card. He’s frustrated and goes down to the kitchen to work washing dishes. He hears the busboys gossiping about something and runs up to his dad’s office to find prosecutors collecting files to take away for the investigation. Young Do’s dad yells at him to go out and he’s tossed out by the prosecutors.
Tan sits by his dad’s bedside and stares at him. Ji Sook arrives and asks where Ki Ae is? Tan asks why she came so late and Ji Sook says there is a lot to take care of since the Chairman might not wake up. Tan says his dad will wake up. Ji Sook speaks with the unconscious Chairman and says he’s lucky to have kids who are caring for him at a time like this.
Ji Sook says all her waiting paid off. Since he’s incapacitated and Tan is still underage, she is now Tan’s sole legal guardian. Tan warns her not to touch his shares, he’s already changed the power of attorney to Won. Ji Sook is fine with kicking Tan and his mother out of the house without a single penny. She welcomes Tan to the world of fighting and taking, the world of stepping and being stepped on. If Tan wants to learn, he ought to have learned to be ruthless.
Won arrives and greets Ji Sook who says she’s leaving because what she wanted to say to the Chairman she’s already said to Tan. She notes that the two brothers are very similar in the end. After she leaves, Won tells Tan not to worry about what Ji Sook said. He’ll spend the night and tells Tan to go back since he has school tomorrow.
Tan goes up to the roof to brood and runs into the equally stressed and brooding Young Do. They silently stand there staring out into the night.
Thoughts of Mine:
Let’s just get this out of this way – the entire plot of Heirs is just a string of things that could happen but strung together into one big nonsensical chain. If each plot element is taken out of context I can easily buy it – Won keeps Tan at a distance for fear of brotherly infighting, Eun Sang is scared to date Tan what with all the familial objection, Chairman Daddy wants Tan to have a partner who can help him rather than a nobody who might be a hindrance, et. al. Yet the way Heirs is mashed together just doesn’t work. The totality of Heirs is just a series of markers to tell yet another Cinderella love story with a bigger cast than usual and so much PPL my eyes spin. All of that is fine if the markers made more sense, and really it doesn’t when one steps back. The entire last two episodes have been just bizarrely absurd from Chairman Daddy threatening Eun Sang, her leaving, Won stepping in, her coming back, Chairman Daddy giving reluctant consent after Tan and Eun Sang attend a birthday party today. Does no one stop and think “but nothing had changed behind the HOW of why everyone had so many issues.” Tan is still illegitimate, there is still family inheritance risk, nothing has changed except people’s feelings and decisions turning on a dime. And now we have the last minute redemption of Chairman Daddy courtesy of a brain brain hemorrhage and Ji Sook taking over the villain crown. If this isn’t an absurdist comedy like A Midsummer Night’s Dream where all the problems are solved magically (and it might all even be a dream!), then I don’t know what is. Too bad this drama couldn’t just stick with broad comedy and had to throw in so much unnecessary angst. Kim Tan’s descent into rock bottom feels so pointless when all he had to do was waltz into a party with Eun Sang and his dad would capitulate.
Kim Eun Sook has been annoyed at the comparison to Hana Yori Dango (Boys Before Flowers) and I think she’s right because Heirs uses a few of the same set ups but developed differently. It doesn’t even feel like Gossip Girl either in tone and execution, what with GG being a guilty pleasure and all those silly parties and ridiculous petty conflicts with easy resolution at the end of every hour. I did have an epiphany though about Young Do. Took awhile for me to really place him, but he’s the K-drama version of Logan Echolls. I would be giddy if anyone was nerd enough to watch Veronica Mars (I own all three seasons on box set), one of my favorite US shows and absolute quality through and through. Season 1 was the best and the most astonishing twist was the unbelievable yet totally perfect romance between abused bad boy bully Logan and smart sassy and hurt Veronica. And Tan is of course Duncan, the emo rich boy with a mountain of family woes. Too bad Eun Sang is no VM otherwise she’d probably pick Young Do, though as much as I was a LoVe shipper part of me loved the Duncan-Veronica messed up fauxcest. In Season 2 when Duncan left her with “true love stories never have endings” and Logan told her “I thought our story was epic, you know. You and me. Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined and blood shed. Epic.” – I knew that a love triangle could hook me good when I could believe in the love the leading lady felt for both guys. The problem in Heirs is that I could overlook all the writing stumps if the central romance won me over. We’re this close to the end and I can say that Tan and Eun Sang never made me a believer in their feelings for one another being that deep and powerful. In that regard, Young Do did make me believe for a few fleeting moments until he let it go, and that is what I’ll probably remember more in this drama.
Click here to watch Heirs.