Pinocchio is off to an excellent drama start after the second episode solidified the heart of the story without losing a beat from the quick first episode lead off. This particular story has picked a thematic conflict with broad based appeal, who hasn’t dealt with rumors big and small both as the spreader and as the recipient. News reporting is basically a public audience to pass along information which may or may not be fact but nevertheless eagerly consumed by a society constantly bombarded with news bites. Every person at some point contributes even when withholding judgment is the ideal choice.
What happened to Dal Po’s real family is tragic with a preventable element whereas the deaths of all those firefighters was the type of bad luck confluence of events that feel beyond control. Dal Po’s life isn’t necessarily meaningful because it’s all that tragic, it hurts because he didn’t have a choice and was too young to face the hard realities of life. Now that he’s grown up into someone actively living a lie, it’s interesting to watch him start to do things for himself and his own feelings. Even better is seeing his decision to show the world his real self all because of his undeniable affection for In Ha.
Episode 2 recap:
Dal Po correctly answers the fifth and last quiz question and passes through the preliminary round. Up next is going head-to-head with reigning champion Ahn Chan Soo. Dal Po thinks to himself that five years ago he made a decision to never get close to a broadcast station or talk with anyone who works there. The reason he broke his vow and is standing here on this stage today is because of an even bigger secret he has.
Dal Po and In Ha head off to school together and In Ha tries to aegyo Grandpa for money to buy herself a bike. Grandpa doesn’t have any money to give her nor does he think she needs her own bike since her uncle takes her to school every day on the back of his bike. True dat.
Apparently that’s not the case as In Ha immediately says “noooo, uncle he…..” but gets her cheeks squished to shut up. In Ha wisely goes along with the implicit warning and babbles on about how happy she is to ride on the back of the bike every day. She shoots Dal Po an angry look before they both put on happy faces to say goodbye to Grandpa.
In Ha climbs into the back of the bike cart and off Dal Po goes riding down the mountain to the port. Midway along In Ha calls out for Dal Po to stop and then gets off. She bends down to tie her shoelaces and Dal Po appears to want to go back for her.
He stops when he sees In Ha’s dad standing there looking at them and continues to ride off. In Ha runs all the way down the port to climb into the school ferry to the mainland. The ferry master yells at her for always being late.
As In Ha catches her breath she demands to know why Dal Po is so mean to her all the time? Why does he dislike her so much? Is she his hated foe? Dal Po remembers back to learning that In Ha is the daughter of reporter Song Cha Ok. He smiles and tells In Ha that she’s right, he sees her as his enemy.
In Ha is all worn out by the time she arrives in class and plops down in her seat. Ahn Chan Soo slides over to sit down next to her and asks if All Zero left her behind again today? In Ha sighs that she’s going to die if she has to run like this every day, everything would be solved if she had her own bike. Chan Soo offers her an extra bike he has at home and In Ha eagerly accepts while shooting a dirty look over to the sleeping at his desk Dal Po. Chan Soo points out the bike is really old school but In Ha doesn’t care as long as it works.
Chan Soo brings the bike to school for In Ha who lights up at seeing the object of her need. She thanks Chan Soo again with a vigorous handshake and he stares at his hand extra long, clearly totally crushing on her. In Ha climbs on to try it out and happens to see Dal Po walking towards her.
In Ha pedals past him to splash a puddle on him but he avoids it by using a piece of paper to duck. In Ha cackles maniacally to have gotten the upper hand with Dal Po for once.
Too bad she didn’t as the paper that he used to block the puddle is In Ha’s important future aspirations forms. Chan Soo notices that the suggested career for In Ha is attorney and she thinks it’s a perfect fit. Dal Po points out that it’s the wrong job for someone with Pinocchio syndrome since she can’t tell a lie.
In Ha fantasizes that she’s the public defender for killer Min Joon Gook (from I Hear Your Voice) and she announces in open court that he’s the killer because he confessed to her. That gets her client to vault over the desk and try to strangle her for her terrible defense. In Ha snaps out of her nightmare scenario as Chan Soo agrees with Dal Po, but his reason is that it’s a waste of In Ha’s pretty face to be a lawyer.
In Ha switches to wanting to be an actress but Dal Po pooh poohs that choice as well, pointing out that In Ha can’t even play a corpse right as an actress. In Ha dreams that she’s being carried by her leading man through a sunlit field and she hiccups even though she’s supposed to be dead. In Ha argues with the PD that she has the Pinocchio syndrome so can’t pretend to be dead when she’s not. She thinks the PD can just use CGI to fix the problem but the PD is so furious that he demands In Ha dragged out of there and he’ll go play the corpse himself.
Chan Soo speaks up for In Ha again and tells Dal Po to stop messing with her. There are tens of thousands of jobs out there and is bound to be one suitable for In Ha. Dal Po points out that 6% of the population suffers from Pinocchio syndrome so In Ha has quite the competition. In Ha flops her head on the desk and sighs that her future looks bleak.
Teacher enters the classroom to inform the class that one student from their school will be selected to enter the Quiz Show competition. Tomorrow the class will take an exam and the highest scorer will be selected. In Ha’s seatmate thinks Chan Soo will surely get the highest score but he tries to demure that the test is based on broad knowledge and isn’t something that can be studied for. He stares sadly at In Ha waiting for her encouragement but gets none.
In Ha meets up with Chan Soo by the bike racks and asks what he called her here for? Chan Soo has fastened a cute pink bike bell for her on the bike. As In Ha admires the new bike bell, Chan Soo gets up the courage to reveal that if he goes on the Quiz Show program he’ll confess on air that he likes her. In Ha is shocked and is about to say something but Chan Soo plugs his ears and refuses to hear her answer now. He wants her to answer him after he confesses on TV.
In Ha does a headstand at home trying to clear her mind and sharing with her mom about getting her first love confession today. Strangely she didn’t feel anything nor did she have any reaction. Dal Po comes out and asks In Ha if something is bothering her? In Ha bickers with him that her head might burst.
Dal Po’s older brother Jae Myung continues to work as a water delivery boy. He brings water to a store and notices a Wanted Poster for his missing dad on the wall. Some folks wander by the burned out husk of the factory where all the firefighters died and talk about how the place has such a scary history.
The class sits down to take the Quiz Show test and immediately Dal Po leans down to sleep on the table. He then gets up and writes his name down. The teachers are grading the quiz and muttering about how everyone is scoring so low with no one breaking 50 points yet. Then In Ha gets 92 points followed by Chan Soo with 96 so the class isn’t all knowledge deficient. One teacher decides to stop grading more since Chan Soo clearly got the highest score.
Teacher suddenly grades one exam with a perfect score of 100 and then turns it over in shock to see that it’s Dal Po’s exam. The class is in an uproar to hear that Dal Po scored the highest in class. Chan Soo looks disappointed not only to be beaten but now he can’t go on TV and confess to In Ha like he vowed to do. Later Chan Soo is surrounded by other students who can’t believe All Zero is representing their school on the show, or that the last place student could suddenly score the highest overnight.
Rumors start to spread, with Chan Soo leading the chatter, that Dal Po cheated. He even suggests that Dal Po stole the test paper beforehand and thinks that Dal Po could be tempted by the prize money. Dal Po ignores all the mean gossip about him until suddenly he hears two boys gossip that his dad has a criminal record.
Dal Po pushes the boy against the wall and warns him not to say anything like that again. Teacher confronts Dal Po in the hallway and smacks him while demanding that he confess to stealing the quiz paper. Dal Po calmly insists that he didn’t cheat but Teacher doesn’t want him to represent the school regardless. In Ha stares from inside the classroom and starts hiccupping.
Chan Soo ends up representing the school on the Quiz Show and the question he answers correctly to win his match is what instrument is easy to blow but once it starts can spread like a monster. The answer is rumor. Host asks what Chan Soo wants to say now that he won and Chan Soo stares at the camera and says “Choi In Ha, I really like you!” before making a heart shape.
In Ha is doing a headstand again while telling her mom that she’s been hiccupping nonstop for three days now and nothing she tried works to stop it. She feels like she’s going to die. In Ha remembers how the entire class is accusing Dal Po of cheating and she didn’t do anything.
Teacher orders Dal Po to write an apology letter and will let it go. Dal Po refuses because he did nothing wrong, the accusations that he stole the test paper are just rumors. Teacher says the rumor can’t be proven wrong but Dal Po demands to know why he needs to bear the burden of proving the rumor false. Teacher says it’s up to Dal Po to prove it because the rumor is about him. Dal Po stares at another female teacher in the office and says he’ll spread a rumor that the two teachers are getting it on. Then it’ll be up to Teacher to prove that the rumor is not true, and if he can’t then he’ll have to write a resignation letter.
Dal Po storms out of the office and can barely hold in his rage and anger at the same rumor mill trying to destroy him again.
Chan Soo comes back as the champion and the entire class is celebrating for him. In Ha keeps hiccupping and finally gulps down a large drink of water before storming into the classroom. She sprays the water in her mouth on the candles on the cake and for whatever reason she stops hiccupping. In Ha smiles and first apologizes to Chan Soo for not being able to accept his confession before ordering the entire class to apologize to Dal Po for falsely accusing him. The students don’t believe they did anything wrong since he couldn’t have scored 100 after scoring all zeros before. In Ha says that’s just conjecture and isn’t evidence.
Chan Soo tells In Ha to prove that Dal Po didn’t cheat. In Ha agrees to bring the evidence that Dal Po didn’t cheat, and if she does then Chan Soo needs to apologize to Dal Po and also share half his prize money with him. If Dal Po didn’t cheat then he should have been the one to go on the Quiz Show. Chan Soo asks what In Ha will do if she can’t produce the evidence? He remembers a saying that Dal Po always uses and tells In Ha that if she can’t bring the evidence then Chan Soo gets to slap her 10 times. The rest of the class is taken aback but In Ha agrees to the deal and tells Chan Soo not to change his mind. Chan Soo throws a basketball next to In Ha and warns her not to change her mind.
The class starts to laugh at In Ha as she hiccups her way out of the classroom because she clearly doesn’t believe she can produce the evidence. Dal Po follows In Ha outside and watches as she tries to stop hiccupping by eating a candy bar.
Chan Soo stands by the bike he gave In Ha and stares sadly at the pink bell he fastened on the bike. He angrily kicks the bike over and Dal Po sees it. What worries Dal Po is seeing that a screw came loose on the bike. Dal Po tries to tell In Ha but she launches into a “don’t be mistaken” talk about how she’s helping him because it’s the truth. Dal Po waves In Ha off thinking that she’ll be able to see the loose gear on the bike.
Unfortunately In Ha doesn’t notice it and rides the bike off so Dal Po races after her on his bike. Dal Po manages to intercept In Ha’s runaway bike and pull her off to safety. He ends up getting a cut on his head and they fall into the ditch. In Ha has a mild sprain on her ankle but freaks out when she sees that Dal Po is unconscious.
Dal Po wakes up in the ambulance and sees In Ha crying to the first responder pleading for him to save her uncle. What if he turns into an idiot after he hit his head? In Ha cries and cries that she doesn’t know how to go on if her uncle turns into an idiot. Dal Po sits up and tells In Ha to stop wailing. She waves three fingers before him to ask how many she’s holding up. He pushes her aside and says I don’t know. In Ha freaks out even more before Dal Po holds her lips shut. In Ha and Dal Po get off the ambulance and walk to the port to catch the ferry.
Dal Po walks ahead but then stops to kneel down and piggyback In Ha who is limping. Dal Po takes off his head bandage on the ferry so as to not worry Grandpa when they get home. He orders In Ha to stick with the story that they fell off the bike in a little accident. In Ha agrees before putting a bandaid on Dal Po’s cut. In Ha then asks why Dal Po doesn’t explain that he got the 100 on the quiz without cheating? And why is he pretending to be an idiot?
Dal Po reminds In Ha that the whole family thinks her real dead uncle Dal Po was an idiot when he was alive. In Ha can’t believe that Dal Po has been pretending to be an idiot this whole time to keep up pretenses for Grandpa. In Ha doesn’t know why Dal Po suddenly used his real smarts to take the quiz, why did he want to go on the program? Uh, because he doesn’t want Chan Soo to go on the program and confess to In Ha, of course. Dal Po doesn’t answer but assures In Ha that she doesn’t have to worry as Chan Soo won’t be smacking her 10 times.
Dal Po takes the money from his piggybank and heads out to school without riding his bike. He also tells In Ha’s dad that he won’t be coming home tonight and will be spending the night at a friend’s house.
In Ha goes inside Dal Po’s room and finds all his report cards which is a string of zeros. She looks through his bookshelf and sees all useless comic books until she finds a book on British history checked out at the library. In Ha goes to the same library and finds all sorts of books inside that Dal Po has been checking out to read over the years.
Dal Po goes to Seoul and the Quiz Show network to participate in the preliminary selection. In Ha makes a evidence collage of all the books that Dal Po has read over the years to increase his general knowledge. Dal Po passes the selection process and gets to face Chan Soo.
It’s now the final round between Chan Soo and Dal Po and whomever scores the most points wins. Dal Po immediately starts playing for real and answers questions correctly. In Ha’s dad watches from the television while the class watching now all believe that Dal Po scored 100 on the quiz based on his own ability. Teacher sighs that Dal Po has proven his innocence in the end by his own ability.
The score is 410 Chan Soo to 440 Dal Po with one more question remaining worth 50 points. Whomever answers the question correctly wins this match. The question is Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech (Want, Fear, Worship, and Speech). Chan Soo rings the bell first and answers one out of the four correctly but can’t remember the other three before the time runs out.
The question is given to Dal Po who answers the other three but is told he needs to answer all four to win. Dal Po claims he doesn’t know all four despite the fact that Chan Soo just said the the first one. Everyone knows that Dal Po is losing on purpose especially the unamused PD Hwang in the control room. The turn goes back to Chan Soo who takes it and answers all four correctly but he doesn’t look happy doing it.
The class marvels at how smart All Zero is and suggest he should be all 100 from now on. In Ha is marveling not at Dal Po or Chan Soo but at the power of television. She told everyone that the rumor about Dal Po wasn’t true but no one believed her. When they saw the truth on TV is when the truth came out. In Ha has decided and written in ink (not changing her mind) that she wants to be a reporter.
In Ha’s dad is at the market and finishes watching the Quiz Show with a merchant who points out that Grandpa will collapse if he ever found out how smart Dal Po is because it’ll shatter his delusion that Dal Po is his long lost son. In Ha’s dad calls home and is relieved Grandpa didn’t watch TV today. But Grandpa ends up seeing In Ha’s evidence collage in her room when she wrote that Dal Po got 100 on the quiz and is only pretending to be stupid.
Chan Soo and Dal Po sit backstage and finish filling out paperwork. The casting director giggles about whether the other bet will happen, that Chan Soo gets to slap Dal Po ten times because he beat him today but no one finds that joke funny.
PD Hwang walks Chan Soo and Dal Po out of the network and asks Dal Po why he purposely lost to Chan Soo. Does he think broadcast television is a joke? Chan Soo and the PD get into the elevator to go down and Dal Po pauses for a few moments before answering the PD’s question.
Dal Po doesn’t think television is a joke, it’s very powerful and one word can kill a person. That’s the power and attraction of television so how can he think it’s a joke. But if he answered correctly then he has to come to this place again next week, this place filled with people collecting conjecture and reporting it as fact.
Dal Po screams that he can’t breathe the same air as these people so coming here is worse than death for him. Does that answer the PD’s question? Dal Po steps back and lets the elevator go down without him. PD Hwang remembers the moment at the cliff where Jae Myung accused all the reporters of causing his mother and little brother’s death. Chan Soo thinks the PD is mad at Dal Po’s rudeness but the PD isn’t, he found what Dal Po said to be true.
In Ha goes home and freaks out when she thinks Grandpa saw her evidence collage. Grandpa asks In Ha for a back scratch but lies when she asks if he saw the paper on her table. He wonders when Dal Po is coming home and worries that It’ll be raining soon.
Chan Soo and Dal Po get into the van taking them back home. Chan Soo keeps staring at Dal Po on the drive home and Dal Po asks if Chan Soo likes him? Chan Soo just wants to know why Dal Po has been pretending to be an idiot all this time but suddenly stopped so he could go on the Quiz Show? And if he wanted to be on the show why did he say that he doesn’t like being at the network? Dal Po isn’t in the mood to answer Chan Soo’s questions and goes back to looking outside.
In Ha can’t decide whether to let Dal Po come home alone through the rain or go get him. The van drops off Chan Soo and Dal Po at the station and Chan Soo’s mom is there with a car to drive him home. He gives Dal Po one last look before leaving him standing under the awning. Dal Po looks up and sees In Ha waiting for him.
A flashback shows us that Dal Po noticed every little interaction between Chan Soo and In Ha from when Chan Soo offered her the bike to his vow to confess publicly when he got selected for the Quiz Show. That’s why Dal Po decided to take the test seriously. In his mind Dal Po finally answers In Ha’s question from the ferry about why he used his real smarts to take the test. “Because I like you. I like you.”
In Ha wakes up and wants to bring the umbrella over for Dal Po but it won’t open. Dal Po brings over two traffic cones for them to use to shield from the rain. In Ha doesn’t want Dal Po to misunderstand, she came to get him because Grandpa was worried he would catch a cold in the rain. Dal Po laughs because she’s hiccupping.
In Ha wonders what Dal Po wanted to say to her on the program before he was cut off? Dal Po pauses before telling In Ha to keep riding behind him on the bike and not to get off anymore. In Ha asks “Are you….” Dal Po thinks to himself that he should have left then, he should have left and not kept being with her.
Jae Myung stands outside the house of the man who claimed to have seen his dad after the fire. Jae Myung knows today is the last day of the statute of limitations so if he’s still alive then he hopes his dad will come back because he misses him so much. The camera pans over the outskirts of the burned out factory to show a skull and bones hidden under dirt along with their dad’s fireman’s uniform and badge.
Dal Po thinks to himself that before it became an undeniable fact, before it become a memory in his life, he should have left. Dal Po tells In Ha not to misunderstand because he didn’t win so she doesn’t have to ride on his bike. In Ha claims she didn’t misunderstand anything but she’s hiccupping again. Dal Po thinks to himself that he thought these feelings would lessen with time and later he can just leave. But he understood later that he was just using that as an excuse so he could continue to stay by her side.
Thoughts of Mine:
On one hand I’m happy so much substantive plot and character interactions happen in every episode of Pinocchio so far. On the other hand it certainly ups my recap length and time spent when the recent batches of empty drama filler fluff have been shills for product placement rather than storytelling. I don’t think I’ve spotted a single obtrusive PPL in this drama yet, but it certainly makes a compelling case for disliking mass media operating for ratings at the expense of journalistic integrity. I don’t think it’s an either/or choice and in many ways Pinocchio makes broad assertions for the sake of its story that don’t hold up to closer scrutiny. But it does so in a fluid rather than hamfisted way so the moralistic pill is easier to swallow. I also think the story doesn’t want to take sides but aims to show that the very act of casting judgment, whether real or rumor, contributes to the infliction of pain on others.
The bookending Quiz Show scenes from episode one was so seamlessly woven into how episode two explained the backstory and fleshed out Dal Po’s character through it. I can see how the Dal Po cheated on the quiz exam rumor plot was intended to elicit the same memories of how his father’s reputation was shredded by a series of false statements taken as fact. It is a tad obvious but the writer managed to make it work because the high school setting is so often the ground zero for rumors to thrive and mutate. I can’t even blame the classmates for thinking Dal Po cheated since he went from 0-to-100, but the lack of investigation by the teacher before judging Dal Po was ridiculous.
I don’t find Chan Soo an annoying twat because the young actor played him perfectly and the character is nicely written with depth even as a supporting role. The thrill was watching how Dal Po managed to reveal the truth himself (and one-up Chan Soo) by showcasing his intelligence, yet it also highlighted the conundrum of when there are rumors with no effective weapon to disprove, like Dal Po’s dad being labeled an incompetent coward of a firefighter. Poor older brother Jae Myung has it even worse than Dal Po, IMO, since he really is all alone and wallowing in the weight of his father’s ruined reputation. I hope the brothers will reunite sooner rather than later and work through their issues together.
I adore Dal Po’s character so much it’s not even funny. I like him not for being smart and snarky, or sweet with Grandpa and self-sacrificing, I like him most for being such a resilient young man soldiering on in life despite all the pain of his past. He’s not perfect and doesn’t always do the right thing, but he tries so darn hard and keeps his past hidden but not forgotten. In Ha is conversely a less accessible character because she’s still so reactive most of the time. I don’t feel what she’s feeling even if she’s written to be an open book. Perhaps it’s the lack of angst in her life so compared to Dal Po she feels like a kid still while he’s an old soul inside.
I am sweet on their uncle-niece relationship, both in the “I got your back” attitude as well as the clear stirrings of romantic interest in each other. There isn’t even any icky fauxcest since everyone knows they are not related and treat the uncle-niece front as just a pink elephant everyone ignores. I’m not seeing much angst later on either since whatever In Ha’s mom did is not attributable to her nor would her choosing to walk in her mother’s reporter footsteps necessitate Dal Po keeping away from her. The story probably has many more future layers to come and that’s the good stuff I’m expecting to keep this romance ever changing as they grow and brave the real world together.
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