I LOVE PINOCCHIO. Episode 4 sealed the deal for me. This episode was everything perfect in K-drama storytelling style, with tension and laughter and so much heart I was flailing through even the non-OTP scenes. The familial unit is fast becoming one of my all times faves even if Dad is currently not onboard any possibility of the Dal Po-In Ha ship. I know he’ll come around and his reluctance for now makes for great comedic fodder. Grandpa is precious beyond belief and the makeover and confession scene with Dal Po made me so deliriously schmoopy.
Even if news and reporter dramas aren’t all that interesting a setting, this story uses it correctly merely as a canvas to showcase dramatic and heartfelt character connections. That’s what makes Pinocchio so much win already in four short episodes. Park Shin Hye finally came into her own as In Ha and more than matches Lee Jong Seok’s brimming chemistry and intensity, making for double the pleasure and torrents of future epic romance to come. I’m so happy I could cry that the drama year is looking to end on a high note for me thanks to Pinocchio. Who needs truth when dramatic fiction is so stirring.
Episode 3 recap:
Turns out Dad arrived on the rooftop minutes after Dal Po but hides himself behind a beam to observe Dal Po and In Ha’s discussion about her ending her reporter dreams. In Ha admits she doesn’t really want to burn her books and end her reporter dreams but she has no choice. She made the deal with Dad to stop now plus she’s known all along the sacrifices Dal Po made to let her go to college and have all these chances. She can’t in good conscience continue with so many failures behind her and nary a success.
Dal Po grabs In Ha’s wrists to stop her from burning the books just as the fireworks light up over the Han River. He declares that he wants the books, he needs her reporter study books because he wants to be a reporter like In Ha. Dal Po says with a smile that they can become reporters together. In Ha stops hiccupping while Dad watches in silence.
In Ha is back to her mouthy self and on the way down from the roof she reminds Dal Po how much all those books costs and she would have made a pretty penny selling them. Dal Po knows she’s fishing for a thanks but In Ha is more concerned about Grandpa learning how smart Dal Po is if he becomes a reporter. Dal Po tells her to stop jumping the gun since there’s a low chance he can become a reporter anyway and may end up driving a taxi forever.
In Ha and Dal Po get in the elevator and he tells her again not to worry. He plans to keep driving the taxi while studying to become a reporter since the chances are so low. In Ha thinks it’s the same odds for both of them to make it – a 50% chance. In Ha’s dad stands up on the roof looking over the river deep in thought.
Grandpa and Dal Po help In Ha put all her reporter books back and Grandpa tells In Ha to continue her dreams regardless of what she agreed with Dad. A parent has no right to impose on the dreams of the child.
The front door opens and In Ha nervously goes out to greet her dad. She admits failing the reporter interview today and then scurries behind Dal Po’s back to hide from her dad’s wrath. Dad isn’t angry and summons Dal Po rather than In Ha downstairs to talk in private. In Ha is confused why her Dad wants to talk to Dal Po instead of her? Dal Po pats her hand and tells her not to worry.
In private Dal Po calls In Ha’s dad “ahjusshi” respectfully rather than their public pretense that Dal Po is Dad’s “hyung”. Dal Po pleads for another chance for In Ha to continue her reporter dreams and tries to use what Grandpa just said to convince Dad. Except Dad isn’t here to talk about that and brings up seeing Dal Po and In Ha on the roof. Uh oh. Dal Po’s face falls as he knows what Dad wants to talk about and there’s no denying it this time. Dad’s seen enough to know that Dal Po likes In Ha. A lot. He wonders if In Ha feels the same way? Dal Po hurriedly explains that In Ha doesn’t know and also doesn’t like him back. Dad wants to know when Dal Po started liking In Ha and Dal Po admits he doesn’t know but it started a long time ago.
Dad doesn’t want In Ha hurt because she’s his most precious thing in the world. He wants her to be happy and admits that since he’s her dad then no guy is good enough for his daughter. Even if a very accomplished guy comes to woo In Ha, Dad would still find fault with him. Dal Po listens to all this silently with his head lowered until Dad mulls over Dal Po….which is when Dal Po speaks up to list his own faults.
Dal Po knows he’s an orphan and doesn’t have a high income. He’s also crossing the line even liking In Ha so he doesn’t have any hopes about his feelings going anywhere, whether in the past or going forward. He assures Dad that the thing he worries about won’t happen, to Dal Po family comes first. He won’t destroy the family dynamic and will control his feelings. Dad quietly thanks Dal Po.
Dad and Dal Po walk in the apartment and a teeth-brushing In Ha confronts Dad right then and there to argue her case about continuing her reporter dreams. Dad stares at loud and messy In Ha and contrasts that with what he just said to Dal Po about how perfect and precious his In Ha is to him. Dad shoves In Ha inside the bathroom and allows her to continue pursuing her reporter dreams.
Jae Myung and his colleague view the damaged fender on the truck and Jae Myung doesn’t think it needs fixing nor does he want to text back Dal Po to get the repair fee. The colleague brings up that the date is set to demolish the burned down factory and they can work on the demolition crew to transport explosives. The colleague wonders why Jae Myung seems happy to work on a project at a place known as being haunted. Jae Myung thinks to himself that he wishes it were haunted and he could see his dad.
In Ha has found a final network reporter audition for YGN that is based only on ability without reviewing the resume of the applicant. In Ha takes down all her reporter books and asks if Dal Po can learn it in one month. Dal Po just needs one week and already he’s memorized a book he read in the bathroom. He assures In Ha that he’s got an exceptional memory so she needn’t worry.
In Ha brings out her notebook of tips and Dal Po just stares at her and looks sad. He goes back to his room with the notebook and stacks of reporter study books while thinking about Dad’s request that he not like In Ha. He remembers his interactions with In Ha including finding her headshot photo on the floor in the living room and happily tucking it inside his wallet.
Dal Po then throws his energy into studying for the reporter audition. That includes sneaking around Grandpa to study, except Grandpa totally knows and is happily keeping an eye on his progress.
Dal Po as usual is always looking out for In Ha, including sitting with his back to the window at the library to shield the sun for her as she also studies for the audition. They practice their reporter diction up on the roof and In Ha is totally bossy as she repeatedly corrects Dal Po and pulls his cheeks apart to enunciate better.
Grandpa takes matters into his own hands with cleaning up Dal Po’s visual appearance and goes to the bookstore to pick up a male fashion magazine before calling Dal Po out. Grandpa drags Dal Po to a salon and flips open the magazine to describe the haircut he wants for Dal Po, a look that is handsome and energetic .
Grandpa then goes shopping for a new suit and tie for Dal Po and this is seriously THE best makeover K-drama scene ever! Dal Po with his new haircut walks out wearing the most stylish suit and tie combo and Grandpa lights up in happiness. Grandpa accompanies Dal Po to the photo studio to take headshots and even reminds him to smile for the camera.
As Dal Po and Grandpa are waiting for the bus to go home, Dal Po is concerned that this new look makes him look not like his son anymore. Grandpa laughs and tells Dal Po that he looks great and Grandpa himself was quite handsome when he was young. Grandpa tosses Dal Po’s old clothes in the trashcan and tells him not to waste his talents anymore because of Grandpa. Dal Po tries to deny he did that but Grandpa doesn’t want Dal Po to lie anymore. He knows Dal Po has been hiding his true ability to pretend to be Grandpa’s son.
Dal Po is shaken to the core that Grandpa knows the truth all alone and chases after Grandpa onto the bus. He wants to know when Grandpa found out and hears that it was a long time ago, about a year after Dal Po arrived. He didn’t reveal it in case In Ha’s dad kicked Dal Po out. Initially he saw Dal Po as a replacement for his son but soon afterwards he couldn’t bear sending Dal Po away. He doesn’t want Dal Po to live for others anymore, not when he’s this handsome and smart. Grandpa pats a crying Dal Po on the head and tells him to live his life to his full potential and Grandpa will be just fine.
Dal Po embraces Grandpa as they both cry together, with Grandpa apologizing to Dal Po before thanking him for everything.
Dal Po and Grandpa return home and both In Ha and her dad are shocked to see new and improved Dal Po. In Ha fawns over her “uncle” cleaning up so handsome. Grandpa gushes over his son Dal Po being as handsome as his young self. Dad stares at Dal Po with concern until Dal Po lightens the mood by posing like a male model.
In Ha’s dad thinks that his daughter is his most precious treasure while In Ha is still teasing Dal Po about his makeover. Dad suggests In Ha change her look herself rather than living in sweats all day long. Grandpa and Dal Po smile to watch In Ha and her dad bickering before leaving them to keep nagging each other. In Ha thinks her dad is being weird since last time he said she was as pretty as Miss Korea. Dad claims he was drunk that time. In Ha thinks Dad is being weird but he’s worried that Dal Po might like In Ha one day.
In Ha assures Dad that it will never ever happen! Dal Po has never seen her as a woman nor does she see him as an uncle or a man. Dal Po hears this exchange from his room and sadly closes the door. In Ha takes the chance to speak up for Dal Po to her dad, explaining that Dal Po isn’t as bumbling as Dad thinks he is. All the homework that took In Ha three years to learn, Dal Po has memorized it in a month. There’s few guys like Dal Po out there now, smart and good looking, he’s like a one percent genius. But of course In Ha is a rare beauty herself!
Dal Po sadly sits in his room and sits down to study. In Ha goes to her room grumbling about why her dad said all that weird stuff to her. There’s no way Dal Po could ever like her. In Ha then starts to heat up and fans herself while complaining some more about her dad.
It’s a month later and outside YGN network a reporter and his camerawoman are preparing a report on their network doing an open audition for new reporters. The reporter doesn’t think this is newsworthy while his camerawoman pulls his hairband off forcefully before he starts the report. The reporter is on fire once the camera rolls and reports that the 2013 YGN reporter audition has begun and isn’t an easy road to join the network. We see In Ha and Dal Po taking the written exam and weird text stalker Bum Jo also arrives at the network. YGN will not look at the resume and this is a blind test that is solely based on written exam and audition scores.
The MSC news team watches the YGN report and Cha Ok sees In Ha sitting in the audition room. Talk goes to what MSC can do to raise interest in their own network what YGN’s open audition getting so much publicity. Cha Ok stares at In Ha’s picture frozen on the screen thinking to herself what program to do for buzz.
In Ha is practicing her diction for the upcoming screen test portion and keeps making the mistake of referring to the network as MSC rather than YGN. Dal Po notices she’s still wearing the button as a necklace and suggests she take it off since it didn’t give her a good result last time. In Ha refuses because it was a good result, her dad agreed to let her continue her reporter dreams and now she’s made it to the final screen test round.
Five of the aspiring reporters are called in for the screen test and this group includes In Ha, Dal Po, Bum Jo, and Yoo Rae. Bum Jo and Dal Po exchange a look before going to stand in front of the blue screen while Yoon Rae thinks she’s met In Ha before but In Ha doesn’t remember her. Yoo Rae then places In Ha at the MSC auditions and keeps staring at her as In Ha practices her enunciation.
Bum Jo spends the entire time staring at In Ha and she notices and starts feeling awkward. Dal Po also notices and doesn’t look happy. Bum Jo then sneezes really really loudly on purpose before smiling at In Ha.
Flashback to Bum Jo driving to the audition and on the phone with his mom assuring her that he can recognize Pinocchio because she once texted a picture of herself. Mom wonders what will happen if Pinocchio doesn’t pass the audition and Bum Jo will just not continue if she doesn’t pass. Mom offers to help but Bum Jo pulls up alongside a bus with In Ha and Dal Po inside and recognizes her. He declines Mom’s help because he’s found Pinocchio now.
Bum Jo rolls down the roof on his convertible and then purposely drives alongside the bus while staring at In Ha inside. Both In Ha and Dal Po notice him staring. Dal Po asks if In Ha knows that guy but she’s never seen him before. Bum Jo takes off his sunglasses and winks at In Ha which gets Dal Po to clench his fist before pulling In Ha behind him. Awwwww, jealousy is soooo cute here. Bum Jo shoots one last smile at In Ha before driving off.
Back at the screen test, Dal Po steps forward and blocks Bum Jo’s view of In Ha and breaks the silence to remind Bum Jo to wipe his nose. The interviewees are told to switch places according to their numbers so Bum Jo moves to the end of the row next to In Ha. The judges file in and Dal Po recognizes PD Hwang from the quiz show and mutters about his bad luck.
The screen test requires everyone to announce what is happening on screen. Reporter Im (the camerawoman) wonders if the first person to go is at a disadvantage since the others behind can view the same video and prepare better their narration. Reporter Jang doesn’t think so. PH Hwang notices Dal Po is the first person and clearly recognizes him.
Dal Po watches the video and starts the narration of a video showing a bird attacking a cat repeatedly until the cat catches the bird. Dal Po does well but his narration is a bit simplistic. Yoo Rae goes next and adds more flavor to her narration including using descriptive slang. The next guy’s narration claims there there is a bird’s nest on the tree and the bird is attacking the cat to protect the nest.
In Ha is up and she stands there in a daze until Bum Jo purposely sneezes really loudly to snap her out of it. In Ha watches the video and starts the narration but can’t finish with the part about the bird attacking the cat to protect her nest. In Ha says she can’t lie and when asked why, she says “I’m a reporter” at the exact same time both Bum Jo and Dal Po also say the same thing.
Dal Po interjects that a reporter can’t lie about the bird attacking the cat because of a nest since there is no visual evidence of the nest, he even uses the slang Yoo Rae used to say that a reporter can’t conjecture with evidence. In Ha continues that it was a good conjecture but a reporter can’t report something without evidence. Chief Lee wonders what will happen if a reporter can’t report anything because of the lack of evidence?
Up next is Bum Jo and he declares that he won’t be reporting at all. He believes the same as In Ha in that he won’t report anything that isn’t the truth.
The judges retreat to the conference room to mark down their scores and selections. Discussion turns towards this being a blind test so they can’t get rid of anyone even if they know that one of the interviewees is a famous sasaeng fan. We see Yoo Rae plastered against the conference room wall trying to sneak a peek.
In Ha and Dal Po are squatting by the wall waiting for the results. In Ha thinks it’s fine if either of them get selected which upsets Dal Po. She tries to scurry away but he totally pins her against the wall to press her further on why she thinks it’s okay for only one of them to get through. Is that what she really believes?
In Ha tries to demur that it’s best is both of them get selected but the reality isn’t always like that. Dal Po just stares at In Ha and plans to walk away if he’s selected but she’s not. In Ha doesn’t want him to since it’s giving up such a hard to come by opportunity. In Ha gets flustered by Dal Po’s intense staring and starts to fan herself.
Bum Jo walks up and sees Dal Po and In Ha against the wall and interrupts by loudly announcing that the screen test results are out. Everyone rushes to check the results.
Grandpa gets a call that both Dal Po and In Ha passed the screen test and he’s all smiles that uncle and niece will be working at the same company. Dad hears this and starts to imagine mornings when In Ha and Dal Po get ready for work together.
Dad’s blood starts to boil as seeing In Ha with a toast in her mouth while helping Dal Po fix his tie. He imagines Dal Po leaning in to bite a piece off In Ha’s toast and he’s so pissed he tosses a pillow at them but the pillow hits Grandpa in the head. LOL.
Reporters Im and Jang are discussing the new reporters and why they aren’t filming the final round. Reporter Jang thinks they will turn against each other in the final weed out.
The final group is gathered in a conference room and Bum Jo is sitting next to In Ha and keeps staring at her which does not make Dal Po happy. Chief Lee announces the final test is to watch a news report and discuss it. Dal Po gives In Ha the assuring thumbs up and she returns the same as the video starts the play. Of course the news report is the firefighter deaths from the factory fire. OF COURSE.
Dal Po starts getting more and more dismayed as the video runs through the aftermath from the fire, the Pinocchio eyewitness who claimed to have seen his dad, the report that the authorities are planning to charge his missing dad with negligence, and finally the report from the cliff where his mom committed suicide. Everyone is taking notes except for Dal Po.
The video finishes and Chief Lee wants to ask the assembled team how they would have reported the same story from 13 years ago. Yoo Rae interjects to ask what the status is on the case? Is the fire chief still missing? PD Hwang reveals that the remains of the fire captain (Dal Po’s dad) was discovered a few days ago. Dal Po is absolutely floored to hear this.
During the factory demolition the remains of Dal Po’s dad was discovered buried under the dirt and the DNA test confirms that it’s the missing fire captain. Jae Myung is working on the demolition so he’s there when his father’s skeletal remains are found. Jae Myung pulls his hard hat low so others can’t see him crying before stumbling away and breaking down sobbing for the fate of his dad when he’s alone. Poor boy. Jae Myung remembers when his father got a commendation from the fire department and shared the honor with him and little Dal Po. Jae Myung cries and cries for his dad.
Discussion starts on this case with Yoo Rae declaring that the reporters were at fault for jumping to conclusions. Bum Jo doesn’t think so since the prosecutor made the decision to charge the fire captain so the reporters can’t be held responsible. Yoo Rae believes reporters should only report factual evidence. Dal Po starts to sweat as all the terrible memories come rushing back and he has to loosen his tie.
In Ha speaks up and suggests the fault stemmed from the Pinocchio eyewitness who was mistaken. The police and the prosecutor believed him because he couldn’t lie. In Ha believes no one should take responsibility for this tragedy which was just a series of unintended errors.
Dal Po finally speaks and asks if In Ha really believes no one is responsible? He then launches into an increasingly angry diatribe about how people believe in reporters and even those suffering from Pinocchio syndrome for always telling the truth. That’s why such people need to know what they say is more important and dangerous than what others may say. But the reporters in this case and the Pinocchio eyewitness didn’t do that! They destroyed a family by their casual words so they are responsible for the fall out.
In Ha points out that the Pinocchio eyewitness only said what he believed he saw, he didn’t lie. Dal Po sits back and says coldly “Number 444 (In Ha’s number), now you know why someone with Pinocchio syndrome can’t be a reporter.” OH MY DAL PO! In Ha blinks and stares at Dal Po as everyone around the table stares at both of them. Dal Po continues and chastises In Ha for putting her point of view first and excusing the mistake. In Ha asks if Dal Po is referring directly to her and he says yes.
A judge reporter asks if In Ha suffers from Pinocchio syndrome and she says yes. Everyone gasps as In ha gets up to try and leave the conference. Chief Lee orders In Ha to sit back down because the test isn’t over. Bum Jo suddenly stands up and announces that he’s done with this test and gets up to leave thus opening the door for In Ha.
PD Hwang stares at Dal Po sitting there totally upset and remembers what Dal Po said to him years ago after the quiz show. Chief Lee asks if PD Hwang is impressed with Dal Po and PD Hwang says Dal Po leaves quite an impression, now and years ago.
Bum Jo follows In Ha out and gets into the same elevator as she’s trying desperately not to cry. He presses the first floor and asks if she’s angry that Dal Po revealed her situation. In Ha isn’t upset that Dal Po had a different opinion and challenged her, that’s what he had a right to do in that test situation. In Ha is upset because Dal Po is always supposed to be on her side. Because he’s not just anyone, because he’s Dal Po. Bum Jo asks if she’s so upset because she likes Dal Po? In Ha immediately says no, she doesn’t like Dal Po! Wherein she starts hiccupping like mad even as she keeps insisting she doesn’t like Dal Po.
Dal Po finishes throwing up in the bathroom before walking out to the empty courtyard and finally able to react to the news that his father definitively died all those years ago. Dal Po sinks to his knees and starts to call out “dad, dad” while breaking down into gut wrenching sobs. Shit, he breaks my heart so much.
In Ha is still freaking out that she can’t possibly like Dal Po because he’s her uncle and he has a girlfriend. She can’t do this, she can’t have feelings for him! If she does…..
Thoughts of Mine:
Oh Pinocchio, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The fundamental requirement of a romance K-drama is a likeable and rootable OTP. That’s done so magnificently here with plenty of goodness to spare. Dal Po is equal parts broken and healed, able of great love but also inflicting great pain. His choices have always been living for others because living for himself is too daunting when the real him comes with so much tragedy as baggage. As Dal Po he can be goofy and giving, as Ha Myung he’s shouldering the weight of a missing vilified father and a suicide driven mother.
It’s no surprise that he snapped in the conference room during the final interview and that In Ha bore the brunt of his pent up anger. Both her being Pinocchio syndrome afflicted and her mom Cha Ok directly contributing to the sensationalized reporting against his father, Dal Po has hidden that away so that he can love In Ha unconditionally. It’s not that he’s unaware of what comes with loving her, he has chosen not to address it until it becomes something he can’t ignore. I’m not angry he lashed out at In Ha because he’s always been hiding his own feelings for the sake of her future and happiness, for once he allowed himself to say what he thinks even if he probably doesn’t mean it. These two are required to fight for their happiness and part of the satisfaction in their romance journey involves challenging each other.
I also ship the entire Choi family so hard. Grandpa is all sorts of amazing as a patriarch who supports without being controlling. He also knows when to do certain things and how to express himself with all the right affection and understanding. The makeover scene followed by the bus confessional had be smiling and crying so effortlessly because the drama has built up so well Dal Po’s love for the family and vice-versa. He’s not spent as much time with the Choi family as he did with his own real family, and in many ways the world has been good to Dal Po. He suffered but he was given a second home filled with love that both came to him and he contributed towards.
That’s why Dal Po is so emotionally healthy for the most part, he had a support group to sustain him even if there are still unresolved anger and grief to work through. I suppose being a reporter allows Dal Po to understand and criticize the world of news reporting in ways that are more substantive than to simply stand on the outside passing judgment. It’s an easy narrative crutch for him to become a reporter with In Ha so they experience the same issues but wrapped in their background angst it works wonderfully to suss out more conflict and then work towards a resolution. I also like Dad’s approach with Dal Po liking In Ha, his silent request for Dal Po not to go any further is understandable and doesn’t hinder our OTP since it’s clear he’ll eventually come around.
Who else finds Bum Jo really skeevy and thus far an annoying presence? Sure he’s never in a million years going to be a viable rival to Dal Po for In Ha’s heart, but at least don’t be such a stalker and so blasé about it. His creepy staring at her all the time is not the least bit welcome since he’s not even made the effort to approach her. Yoo Rae is still in the background but so far the go-getter reporter wannabee is nicely brought into the narrative fold while leaving room for her character to be fleshed out. She appears to have zero interest in Dal Po, or even notice him, which is great because I can do without a second female lead’s one-sided interest in the male lead.
I know Cha Ok is written to be interesting for how ambitious and cold she is towards her career and family, but she doesn’t interest me since there is no excusable reason to be so cruel all the time so having little of her in this episode was nice. All I want to see is how Dal Po and In Ha strive to become reporters when one is stymied by a physical affliction and the other hampered by a personal grievance. It’s important that their togetherness doesn’t become a crutch for either of them, and Dal Po’s meltdown in the final test at In Ha shows they need to each become reporters on their own terms. If In Ha can’t work around her Pinocchio syndrome and Dal Po sinks under the anger of his own prejudices, then both might as well go drive a taxi together. I can deal with that actually, watching them drive a taxi and bicker all day long would be plenty entertaining for me.
Click here to watch Pinocchio.