When the drama gods decide to giveth I can only be grateful for the bounty with nary a peep about the overabundance of it. Its been premiere central these past two weeks in K-drama land and I’m currently watching five out of the six prime time dramas. I hope a few will stumble soon and I can drop it like a hot potato, but that better not happen to You’re All Surrounded because I freaking love this baby! This was my most anticipated Spring drama and the first episode didn’t disappoint even if it was mostly a teenage sequence flashback. I loved the cold open with the adult characters dropped into action on a busy Gangnam street as members of a major crimes unit fighting violent criminals. That the four rookies played by Lee Seung Gi, Go Ara, Ahn Jae Hyun, and Park Jung Min are too pretty and soft to ever cut it as a gritty cop doesn’t even matter when this drama plays up the danger for laughs. It’s broad humor mixed with slapstick cop comedy right off the bat. Then the episode takes a turn towards dark and twisty territory as it introduces the back story of the three leads, and gives us a reason to empathize with Lee Seung Gi’s motivations and understand a bit more about what makes Cha Seung Won‘s senior cop captain tick. YAAS is sleek but not slick, with a decidedly character-oriented narrative coupled with tense action when the moment calls for it. It’s a solid start bolstered by the promise that I’ll love it even more because so far I’m totally behind both well-written male leads. I’m ready to call it for the bromance right off the bat as Lee Seung Gi and Cha Seung Won make the joint come alive with potential for more sparks ahead.
Episode 1 recap:
A police car chase is underway in the streets of swanky Gangnam district in Seoul. A police van carrying a major crimes squad races down a busy wide boulevard after a black car containing two fleeing gangsters. Driving is rookie cop Ji Kook (Park Jung Min) whose hesitant driving incurs the ire of his captain Seo Pan Seok (Cha Seung Won). Captain Seo tries to scream for him to go faster and even waves a bus aside but Ji Kook’s driving is clearly not up to the task of stopping the getaway vehicle.
Captain Seo makes Ji Kook pull over and then literally kicks him out of the driver’s seat and takes over driving duties. His maniac driving includes driving in opposing traffic and swerving fiendishly to avoid a head-on collision, all the while the remaining scared out of their wit cops in the van hang on for dear life. It’s only funny because we know nothing bad will happen to them.
The rest of the passengers in the van include Captain Seo’s colleague Lee Eun Do (Sung Ji Ru) along with three more rookies Eun Dae Gu (Lee Seung Gi), Eo Soo Sun (Go Ara), and Park Tae Il (Ahn Jae Hyun).
Captain Seo makes a particularly gutsy maneuver to drive across a median and broadsides the criminal vehicle, disabling it and sending the two gangsters inside running away on foot.
The cops all jump off their van in pursuit on foot. Captain Seo is the first out and takes off like a bullet with Eun Do behind him. Dae Gu and Tae Il shake off the crazy ride jitters and also bolt after the bad guys. Poor Soo Sun manages to get out of the van and ends up barfing at the side of the road. Punted driver Ji Kook drives up and asks if Soo Sun is alright before they run off together after their colleagues and the escaping gangsters.
Dae Gu is all business and with his youthful legs manages to catch up to Captain Seo and even surpasses him. LOL at the dick-waving already between these two.
Too bad Dae Gu bumps into a messenger on a scooter and takes a tumble, giving Captain Seo enough time to vault over the fallen Dae Gu and continue chasing the criminals with a little satisfied smirk on his face that he wasn’t just shown up by a rookie.
Eun Do and Tae Il corner one gangster but the smooth Tae Il first takes off his trench coat to drape over a passing scantily dressed lady before resuming his police work. Captain Seo rounds a corner and finds the other gangster, but that one has the upper hand as he’s currently holding the frightened rookie Ji Kook in a head lock with a giant knife perched on his neck. Soo Sun is also there and she’s freaking down trying to defuse the hostage situation.
Captain Seo is trying to find a way to save Ji Kook when Dae Gu strides right up to the dangerous situation and pulls his revolver out of his police holster. He points it at the gangster holding Ji Kook hostage, and to the horror of everyone watching, appears to pull the trigger. BANG!
Flashback to eleven years ago – a gang fight is about to break out by the seaside as a group of high school students gather to face off. Teenage Soo Sun is a total tough girl and faces off against the properly dressed snobby classmates. She’s pissed at her younger brother and orders him to come over to her side but he won’t because he’s now dating the rich girl next to him.
Soo Sun agrily yells at her brother for breaking up with her friend to move on to the transfer girl from Seoul. Soo Sun’s friend starts bawling which is when teenage Dae Gu speaks up that love changes. Soo Sun asks the rich girl “are you going to see him from now on?” but the girl insults Soo Sun for being a country girl and having no fashion taste.
Soo Sun is so pissed and jumps in the air to kick the rich girl but Dae Gu blocks her attack while yelling at she can’t mar that pretty face. Pretty soon the girls get into it until the entire gathered group is mired in a fight. It’s so awesome.
All the kids get dragged off to the police station and Soo Sun tries to plead with the police officer to let her off the hook since she wants to be an actress in the future and can’t have a record. The cop gets her name and address and realizes she’s siblings with the beaten up guy right next to her. The siblings start bickering and Soo Sun reveals her brother’s nasty habits at home which grosses out his new girlfriend.
Suddenly the Eo siblings’ parents arrive and dad is one scary gruff dude. Soo Sun immediately tries to explain that she was standing up for righteousness when her brother dumped her good friend for another girl. Dad grabs Soo Sun and flips her over his shoulder and the entire police station gasps. Suddenly everyone sits up straight as Soo Sun’s dad apologizes on his children’s behalf for not teaching them well while mom goes to smack Soo Sun around a few more times. Teenage Dae Gu smirks while Soo Sun points at him with a “you’re so dead” glare.
On the way home, Dae Gu’s mom chews him out for getting into a fight for a girl. Dae Gu thinks there is nothing wrong to fight on behalf of the girl he loves and defend her safety and honor. The Eo family is driving home when they see Dae Gu and his mom on the street and the Eo parents gossip about the rumor that Dae Gu’s mom was just a concubine and left with her illegitimate son to live here in the countryside home of a relative because of the scandal. Dad says she’s sad for raising a child alone and should be pitied.
A young Seo Pan Seok is out trying to collect evidence from building with a bucket. He thinks the crime scene here matches another and wants to collect all the dropped cigarette butts for DNA testing. His partner calls him crazy and sits in the car as Pan Seok goes floor to floor to pick up used butts.
Pan Seok and his partner come back to the precinct with the collected butts and finds a tied up perp who is causing a ruckus and throwing things. When he throws a potted plant Pan Seok flips out and kicks the bastard for ruining the plant that their captain loves more than his own children. His partner tries to stop him and asks if he knows who the perp is? The news flashes about the perp being the just caught serial killer of fourteen women.
A halmoni arrives at the precinct to speak with Pan Seok who immediately goes to talk with her. He assures her that the court will convene next Tuesday and all the evidence will be shown so the bad guys will be locked up. Pan Seok calls Dae Gu’s mom and confirms that she will be at the court hearing to testify. She assures him that she will be there and declines a car to come pick her up.
Dae Gu sneaks into the broadcast room to do something for his crush and has his buddy keep watch. He sees Soo Sun singing and dancing in the broadcast room but she has ear phones on and doesn’t notice Dae Gu.
Dae Gu suddenly causes all the televisions to start playing a H.O.T performance which causes all the girls to freak out ecstatically. The teachers go to smack the students but they all claim to know nothing about why it started playing. Dae Gu suddenly speaks into the microphone to say that he is doing this broadcast for Shin Hye Ji noona and says he is her younger classman Kim Ji Yong. Oooh, so Dae Gu had a different name when he was young.
Dae Gu books it out of the window before the teachers rush into the broadcast room so all they find is Soo Sun singing and dancing there. They confront her with broadcasting music without permission and drag her off by the ear. Dae Gu runs outside to the courtyard and all the girls look out the window and cheer him on. He declares his love for noona and does a cute heart shape. Soo Sun sees this and is pissed.
Soo Sun confronts Dae Gu after school and warns him about his infractions towards her. First he got involved in a fight and left a teeth print on her beautiful arm, and second is sneaking into the broadcast room without her permission and causing trouble for her. And the final infraction is that he caused her to miss her audition and ruined her future forever. Dae Gu accepts the first two but says he didn’t know about the third, but it doesn’t matter because she’s not pretty like his crush noona so why does she think she has a future in entertainment. They think make fun of her funny name Oh Soo Sun.
That pisses Soo Sun off and she screams “you’re mom is a mistress” and announces that this gossip is now all over the city. Dae Gu grows silent and then runs off without a word.
Dae Gu sits by the basketball court and ignores a kid who asks him to toss the ball back. The kid calls him the son of a concubine and Dae Gu runs forward with fists flying. Dae Gu’s mom is called in to pick up Dae Gu after the fight and she keeps apologizing.
When Dae Gu and his mom arrive home that night, a man is waiting outside and Dae Gu’s mom orders Dae Gu to go inside first. She then asks why the man is here and he boldly announces that he is here to take a good look at her son’s face. If she testifies it’ll be a problem for the chairman so it’s only fair they do something to her. She agrees not to testify and the guy takes her at her word and tells her not to believe the cops can protect her.
Dae Gu’s mom goes inside to patch up Dae Gu and he asks who that man was? She refuses to explain and says it’s not a good man. She wants to know why he got in a fight with his friend but he refuses to tell her until she keeps pressing. Dae Gu finally asks if his dad really is dead? Dae Gu’s mom says of course so Dae Gu reveals all his friends think he’s an illegitimate son. Dae Gu doesn’t know why he’s never been given any information about his dad and that doesn’t make sense if he simply died.
Pan Seok goes to see Dae Gu’s mom and she’s not happy to see him. They sit to talk and he reminds her that she’s the only eye-witness and without her testimony the perp will go free. In the three months since the incident, the victims grandmother keeps coming by and wants justice for her dead granddaughter. Dae Gu’s mom reveals that a man come yesterday to threaten her and Dae Gu so she can’t testify. Pan Seok promises that he will protect her if she testifies.
Dae Gu comes home and overhears this. He walks in and Pan Seok introduces himself as Officer Seo Pan Seok of the major crimes unit. He leaves behind an envelope of the victim’s pictures and his name card and asks Dae Gu’s mom to reconsider testifying.
Dae Gu sifts through the victim pictures and it’s horrifying how much she was assaulted before being killed. Dae Gu’s mom thinks back to walking through the park at night and seeing two men run out of a closed area. She goes in and sees a bruised and battered woman lying dead there. Pan Seok’s entreaty flashes through her mind about how she’s the only eye-witness and her testimony will be needed to put the perp away.
Dae Gu’s mom finds her son still awake and the two sit down for some late night hot chocolate. Dae Gu reveals he looked at the victim pictures and asks if his mom isn’t going to testify because of him? He says she can testify or not but he thinks that noona is very sad. Dae Gu’s mom confesses that Dae Gu’s dad really is dead but they never married before he died so she was just a single mom. She feels so guilty that she couldn’t give him a father. Dae Gu doesn’t want her to feel guilty because she didn’t have a husband like he doesn’t have a father. All he wants now is to grow up as quickly as possible to protect and take care of her. She starts to cry and he gets some tissue for her.
Dae Gu’s mom visits Pan Seok at the precinct and agrees to testify. Pan Seok is so grateful and assures her there is nothing to worry about.
It’s raining out and Soo Sun is trying to dodge the rain when Dae Gu walks up to offer his umbrella to her. She declines and says she doesn’t feel bad about what she said. Dae Gu tells her that his mom is not a concubine but she did have him before getting married. But he doesn’t feel embarrassed and instead feels proud that she had him and raised him. He wants to give her the umbrella but she declines and tries to dart off only to have her shoelaces untied. Dae Gu has her hold the umbrella and ties her shoelace for her. He tells her to be careful going home and then runs off in the rain leaving Soo Sun flustered.
Dae Gu’s mom is at home when suddenly the door opens and she looks frightened. Dae Gu returns home after class and finds a necklace outside on the patio. He picks it up because it’s unique and then heads inside where he finds the house dark and ransacked. He walks through the rooms until he finds his mom collapsed in a pool of blood. Dae Gu tries to wake her up and thankfully she opens her eyes. Dae Gu asks her to hang in there and he’ll save her. Dae Gu tries to call 119 from his cellphone when suddenly the front door opens again.
A man walks into the room where Dae Gu’s mom is laying and Dae Gu is hiding under the bed now. The man walks out and continues to toss things everywhere. He turns Dae Gu’s mom over and then starts walking towards the bed. He is about to bend down to check under the bed when Dae Gu’s mom grabs his leg while shaking her head at Dae Gu under the bed not to make any noise.
Dae Gu silently cries as his mom dies right before him. The man answers a phone call and says he hasn’t found the pendant and asks what it specifically looks like? He reveals the son isn’t home yet. He promises to clean up well knowing the Officer Seo will be investigating this crime scene. He leaves which is when Dae Gu crawls out from under the bed. He tries to revive his mom again but she’s truly gone. Awwww puppy.
The police have cordoned off the entire house as a crime scene by evening time with Pan Seok leading the investigation. He finds a crying Dae Gu sitting outside and asks if he is hurt anywhere and wants to go to the hospital. He offers to take Dae Gu home tonight but Dae Gu shakes him off and asks if Pan Seok begged his mom to testify? If he asked her to testify then he should have kept his promise to protect her. Why didn’t he get a protective order for their house? Pan Seok has nothing to say to that and looks anguished. Dae Gu angrily runs out of the house.
Dae Gu sits in a dark classroom and thinks back to the attacker on the phone asking about the pendant he’s supposed to find. Dae Gu remembers picking up the pendant and takes out his phone to call Pan Seok. He tells Pan Seok that he picked up the pendant and it’s in the pocket of his school jacket that was taken away as evidence. He heard the attacker talking about it and hopes this is enough to catch him. Pan Seok asks where he is and says he’ll come to pick him up in 30 minutes. He tells Dae Gu not to go anywhere and wait for him.
Soo Sun is finishing up at the broadcast room when she spots Dae Gu walking alone in the hallway of the school. She is about to call out to him but stops herself as she wonders why he’s here. Dae Gu hears footsteps coming down the hallway and then sees the attacker who killed his mom. He starts running and the attacker starts chasing. Soo Sun broadcasts her apology to Dae Gu over the loudspeaker – she didn’t mean to blurt out about his mom being a concubine, she’s known for her hot temper and she’s willing to accept her fault for doing it. She apologizes to him and asks if he’ll accept her apology. She looks out but doesn’t find Dae Gu there anymore.
Dae Gu runs through the school and then down a stairwell. He hides behind a wall which is when Soo Sun sees him and broadcasts over the loudspeaker that he’s in the stairwell against a wall. Dae Gu cringes and keeps running until he ends the chemistry classroom but Soo Sun spots him there as well and broadcasts it. She asks why he keeps running, does he not want to accept her apology?
The attacker breaks down the door to the chemistry classroom and is about to grab Dae Gu when he throws acid on his face. Dae Gu drops the pendant and runs off. Soo Sun is leaving school when she hears footsteps and darts behind a wall. She sees the attacker leaving and notices he has a scar behind his ear. The attacker is limping in pain and turns the corner.
Dae Gu walks off alone and thinks back to the series of events that happened today and believes Officer Seo Pan Seok betrayed her mom and sent someone to kill her and also kill him at the school since he was the only one who Dae Gu called and said he was at school.
Back to the present, a grown up Eo Soo Sun is walking through Seoul and arrives right outside the Gangnam Precinct. She finds it all rundown which is when Ji Kook walks up next to her holding a plant. He recognizes her from police academy and is about to say her odd name when she glares at him. Tae Il also arrives and Soo Sun admires his pretty face. Dae Gu walks up beside her and they stare at each other before the light turns and all four cross the cross walk.
The rookies are dressed in uniform and lined up on the precinct floor to meet their precinct director. Team captain Seo Pan Seok walks out and Dae Gu glares at him and clenches his fist. The director walks out and gives a speech about how many old officers have been fired due to the recent spate of corruption and wrongdoing which is why there is so many new rookies joining the force this year. He calls up Captain Seo to make a speech.
Captain Seo says from now on their Gangnam Precinct is a disaster zone since in the past rookies were never accepted to the major crimes unit. Kim Sa Kyung arrives and apologizes for being late and introduces herself as Team captain for the missing persons unit. Captain Seo stares at her sadly.
All the female officers are gathered outside a room whispering about the hotties inside. Soo Sun opens the door and gasps to see the three guys changing inside. She quickly closes the door but Captain Seo walks up and tells her to go inside.
The rookies gather around a table to do self-introductions. Ji Kook starts first and reveals he wanted to work in the Gangnam Precinct but didn’t know how he got assigned her. Soo Sun says she’s from Masan she loves to sleep and decided to apply here because the salary was the highest. Tae Il is a Seoul native and took the job sounds because it sounds interesting. Dae Gu curtly gives his full name and sits back down and refuses to say anymore.
Captain Seo sneers at his ragtag team of rookies and tells them to start packaging their bags to leave. He points out Soo Sun’s long hair and says he’s never had a long-haired team member before. He stands up and asks them not to do anything and begs that they do not kill anymore. Dae Gu keeps glaring at him and Pan Seok calls him out on it. Dae Gu sneers and looks away but before Pan Seok can confront him a call comes in over the intercom about a situation that needs their immediate response.
The rookies suit up with their weapons and then walk out on their first mission. The entire precinct stares as they slo-mo walk out together. Ahahaha!
Thoughts of Mine:
I found the first episode of YAAS qualitatively good but not great. My personal affection for the two male leads tips it over to emotionally great territory because I already love their characters. Lee Seung Gi finally gets to play a cold angry character rather than one who still needs to grow into his skills. Eun Dae Gu is clearly smart as a whip and more than capable of being a cop. The problem is his motivation and reason for doing so. He thinks Captain Seo Pan Seok either indirectly killed his mom or directly ordered a hit on her, then tried to take him out as well. That’s a mighty good reason to be intensely vengeful towards someone, but it speaks volumes to Dae Gu’s self-control that he’s managed to keep it under control until he can get his payback in the most opportune way. Clearly someone tapped Pan Seok’s phone or Pan Seok asked a subordinate to pick up Dae Gu and that subordinate was in the bad guy’s pocket. It was horrifying for Dae Gu to lose his mom just like what when she was all he had, not to mention actually watching the life snuffed right out of her while he could do nothing but hide. I think Dae Gu needs lots of therapy as well even after he’s apprehended the real villains responsible for his mom’s death and his teenage orphaned plight. I was taken aback at how suddenly the playful drama turned dark and disturbing so suddenly but I guess it needs to happen to push Dae Gu into becoming a man on a mission.
I’m going out on a limb to say that I can’t stand teenage Eo Soo Sun. It’s a combination of the teenage actress who plays her with zero nuance and over-the-top shrieking as well as how in-your-face her personality is. She has no off button it seems, coming across like a version of early Geum Jan Di from Boys Before Flowers who resorts to violent and harsh words in pursuit of whatever justice she decides is right. Adult Soo Sun isn’t onscreen enough for me to form an opinion but I definitely did not ship the teenage version of her with teenage Dae Gu. That fact that she inadvertently broadcast his every move to the attacker is just such a dumb thing to do. Does she not even think it weird Dae Gu is wandering the school alone at night? Does she ever stop to think about anything other than what she feels like doing? It’s too late to ask for a different female lead character so I can only hope adult Soo Sun exhibits none of the brain-dead me-first personality of her teenage self. The rookie foursome (R4?) is absolutely adorable even if they bear no semblance to any real cop EVER. I can’t wait to watch them bicker and grow together under the tutelage of Captain Seo, kicking crime in the arse and unearthing secrets buried 11 years ago that may still lead to solving a very personal crime.
Click here to watch You’re All Surrounded.