This isn’t the first time I’ve had to churn out back-to-back recaps for a K-drama but previous experience certainly doesn’t make it easier. It does help that the drama in question is Pinocchio, still so compelling and satisfying even if the light moments are few and the serious stuff remains front and center. I suppose the two cute leads have a lifetime to be happy together living their age rather than with the weight of the world on their shoulders, so might as well focus on getting that big gorilla off their backs with three episodes left. Operation Bring Bad Mom down runs into a major landmine as the writer either coincidentally or intentionally includes an action sequence straight out of the pages of recent real life news.
Bum Jo is confirmed to be faking the return to momma’s boy routine but his mom turns out to be onto him from the very beginning since she knows him even better than he knows himself. The drama has turned into a serious of lead characters needing to battle forces within the family as well as the greater pressures of public discourse, but each time the right decisions reached never feel forced or inevitable because there is always a price to pay. My reluctance over Cha Ok’s redemption is now washed away by the drama handling it the way Jae Myung’s criminal acts were fully his burden to bear. Cha Ok can finally come clean in her own terms not because she’s suddenly a person with a conscience, but because she has finally decided to stop.
Episode 18 recap:
Ha Myung gambles on Cha Ok’s conscience to finally do the right thing, handing over the cell phone and text message records so that she can report on her own collusion with Bum Jo’s mom, rather than leave it up to In Ha to do it and become a whistleblower in the process. Cha Ok acts all uninterested in doing the right thing until after she starts to walk away which is when she breaks down and starts crying about how the kids are making her feel so pathetic. ‘Bout time!
Cha Ok puts the items Ha Myung gave her safely into her desk drawer and locks up tightly. In Ha returns to the MSC newsroom and both her sunbae reporters warmly welcome her back. In Ha is determined to keep voicing her strong opinions going forward, to be the reporter who covers the truth to better serve the public. It’s the same thing Reporter Kim said to her before and she’s never forgotten it even if he demurs that he doesn’t remember saying that. In Ha knows the truth and vows to follow the lead of the real Reporter Kim who also believes in reporting the truth.
PD Hwang isn’t so sure Ha Myung was correct in placing his bet with Cha Ok to do the right thing. Ha Myung admits he’s not certain she’s swayed or that she’ll do the right thing, but he has a backup plan with another whistleblower who is feeding information to him. We see Bum Jo leaving his mom’s office and passing Cha Ok as she comes to talk with his mom.
Cha Ok informs Bum Jo’s mom that she got the text messages and cell phone back and destroyed both so this worry has been eliminated. Bum Jo’s mom is relieved and trusts Cha Ok who she calls “her person”. Bum Jo’s mom hasn’t forgotten the request to meet In Ha but Cha Ok claims there is no need since this issue has been resolved and she’ll better educate In Ha going forward. Bum Jo’s mom acts fine with that except she points out that this is the first time Cha Ok hasn’t done what she asked.
The MSC reporter duo hears that Cha Ok is missing an upcoming editorial meeting and doesn’t plan to attend those going forward. Reporter Kim starts celebrating after Cha Ok walks away, happy that finally he gets his voice heard in those meetings without Cha Ok around.
In ha immediately brings up revealing Cha Ok’s misconduct during the recent waste treatment facility fire and digging into who is behind it. The meeting is awkward but In Ha isn’t swayed and calls out to Reporter Kim to support her. He awkwardly half-raises his arm to join In Ha when there is a vote to cover the story but then lowers it in the end.
Reporter Kim claims he’ll cursorily pass the request onto to Cha Ok knowing full well she’ll scuttle it. Shockingly Cha Ok orders Reporter Kim to cover the story and investigate per In Ha’s request and she’ll report on it afterwards. Reporter Kim is shocked and collapses on the desk afterwards. Reporter Lee hears and worries what will happen if Reporter Kim gets fired over this, what with his wife and kids overseas. He calls his wife to summon the family home and asks if his wife can fry chicken to open a store.
Bum Jo’s mom gets a call from the MSC chief who is sitting with Reporter Lee after hearing that Cha Ok has authorized the investigation into this story. Ugh, I hate these people. Bum Jo’s mom isn’t surprised that Cha Ok is turning and thinks back to all the recent pressure she’s faced from Ha Myung digging into the past. She muses that the recent events gives her a bad premonition.
Ha Myung walks In Ha home and hears that she’ll keep investigating the story. They arrive outside the condo and Ha Myung asks how Grandpa is doing? He hears Grandpa is mostly fine and turns down In Ha’s suggestion to go inside and see him. A motorcycle comes racing towards them and Ha Myung pulls In Ha away to safety. She thinks it’s just a reckless driver but Ha Myung doesn’t look so confident about that.
Ha Myung goes back to his apartment and finds Bum Jo playing with hyung’s dog outside. Bum Jo is here to share information with Ha Myung like he promised last time. Flashback shows us that Bum Jo told Ha Myung before he quit as a reporter to go back to his mom’s side. But Bum Jo is doing this to get to the truth because he will never hear the truth from his mom as a reporter but only as her mom. He promises to tell everything to Ha Myung after he finds out and the two make a pact.
Ha Myung welcomes Bum Jo to his studio apartment and the rich boy marvels at such compact living quarters. Ha Myung offers him beer but purposely shakes the can beforehand, heh. Bum Jo starts by telling Ha Myung that he still sees his mom as the kindest person in the world. Which is why he’s so tormented doing this now. Turns out Bum Jo has been using his cell phone to record all the conversations he’s privy to while being around his mom.
Bum Jo asks how In Ha is doing and hears that she misunderstands Bum Jo as still being a momma’s boy. Bum Jo thinks he probably is and opens his beer can only to have it sprayed all over him. We see a strange man standing outside Ha Myung’s apartment staring at it.
The guy arrives at YGN network carrying a box and claims to be making a delivery to the newsroom. The team is gathered for a meeting to discuss the updates to the investigation between Bum Jo’s mom and the congressman. The fake delivery guy walks into the newsroom and opens the box to pull out a giant nail gun and screams out Ha Myung’s name before starting to randomly fire.
Everyone screams and takes cover while the guy uses up the nail gun to shoot up the newsroom while screaming for Ha Myung to come out. Ha Myung grabs a bottle of water and throws it at the guy, knocking him off balance and giving him room to kick the nail gun out of his hands. Chief then kicks the nail gun away while Ha Myung tries to subdue the guy. They tussle but the guy manages to get away and runs out of YGN while Ha Myung runs after him.
The police pull up to YGN with their sirens blazing while the guy succeeds in evading capture and runs into MSC network. In Ha is working in the video room watching old news footage of the congressman and discovers MSC covered that particular congressman a lot. Cha Ok joins her and sits down to help. The guy runs into Reporter Lee in the lobby and asks to make a delivery to Cha Ok and In Ha and is directed to the newsroom.
Ha Myung runs back to the YGN newsroom and is asked if there is a personal vendetta against him since the guy called out for Ha Myung by name. Ha Myung remembers the near bike accident last night and runs back out with a bad premonition. Yoo Rae notices blood around and everyone looks around for an injury but the one who is cut up is Ha Myung who is growing increasingly worried when he can’t reach In Ha by phone.
MSC is now under attack as the guy now wields a knife and is demanding In Ha and Cha Ok to come out. Cha Ok calls the police to report the attack while Ha Myung runs into MSC and bypasses the security guards to rush inside. The guy finally locates In Ha and Cha Ok locked inside the video room and smashes the window to grab them.
Ha Myung arrives and tussles with the guy who raises his knife to stab him. In Ha runs out and hits the knife out of his hands while Ha Myung finally holds the guy down long enough for the slow-ass security guards to arrive and drag him away.
In Ha looks over Ha Myung to make sure he’s okay only to see that he’s bleeding from his arm. Ha Myung relaxes and collapses on the ground.
Cha Ok and In Ha are waiting outside the surgery room as Ha Myung gets stitched up for his arm injury. Reporter Kim and PD Hwang arrive together and everyone pieces together that the attacker is unknown to Cha Ok, In Ha, and Ha Myung, yet he attacked both news networks specifically demanding them. Cha Ok remembers back to her last ominous conversation with Bum Jo’s mom.
The two reporting teams run into each other racing to interview the other network for the newsroom attack. Reporter Lee reluctantly agrees to be interviewed and sighs that In Ha and Cha Ok are just too bold lately. The YGN team doesn’t think so as they are just being good reporters to try and report the true. They decide they don’t even care to interview Reporter Lee and swan off, leaving Reporter Lee wondering why he’s so disliked these days.
The newsroom attacker is handcuffed and being interviewed at the police station. The various rookie reporters are all clustered around the door and trying to eavesdrop but they can’t hear anything. Yoo Rae texts the detective and wheedles for him to talk louder and he actually does start shouting his questions. The attacker claims he doesn’t know In Ha, Cha Ok, and Ha Myung and did it to avenge his dad.
The news reports on the dual attacks on YGN and MSC and the attacker is the twenty year old son of the bus company president that the reporters outed before as a liar. He claims to be doing this to avenge his dad’s ruined reputation. Bum Jo watches this report and hears that Ha Myung was injured in the attack. He then plays a recording of his mom insisting that she built up her empire through years of hard work and can’t sit by and watch it be destroyed now.
In Ha and Dad meet Ha Myung at the hospital to take him home. Dad wants Ha Myung to come back to live at home while he recovers otherwise he’ll risk a permanent injury to the arm. Ha Myung hears that the attacker is the son of the bus company president and the attack was revenge for the reporters outing his dad as a liar.
Chief informs the YGN team that he sent Ha Myung home to rest until he recovers. Discussion goes to the attack being in revenge for the report and the sunbaes all wonder why they have been threatened over the years over various angry members of the public yet Ha Myung has just been a reporter for such a short time and is already the target of a real terror attack by a disgruntled person.
PD Hwang thinks there is more to the story and the attack might be a warning of sorts, to warn Ha Myung off what he is investigating. PD Hwang reveals that Ha Myung is investigating the connection between Cha Ok and Bum Jo’s mom. We see the YGN rookies trying to eavesdrop on this meeting and another rookie tells Yoo Rae that PD Hwang may be interested in her as he grabbed her to safety first when the attacker came. The team notices the rookies eavesdropping but PD Hwang speaks up for them as eavesdropping is a sign of their dedication.
Cha Ok meets with Bum Jo’s mom and brings up her suspicion that the attacker was sent by Bum Jo’s mom to warn against further investigation. Bum Jo’s mom claims there is no such thing……but if she were to have sent an attacker that means their relationship has cracks. She warns Cha Ok to be careful lest their relationship completely shatters.
Bum Jo walks with his mom and asks if she sent the attacker to the news networks. Mom candidly admits she sent the attacker as a warning to back off and we see Bum Jo recording her. Mom then tells Bum Jo the same warning to back off before taking his cell phone away. She knows when her own son is lying so he can’t pull anything over her. She knows her son is disappointed in her but can’t they return to the way things were. She does the dirty deeds while he lives the way he likes.
In Ha and Ha Myung return home together and find dinner a nutritious meal of abalone porridge. All three members of the Choi family immediately pick up a dish to offer to Ha Myung who just smiles to be back with family.
In Ha finds Ha Myung trying to shave with his left hand and sits him down to shave him. She promises to be careful and not cut him. In Ha then jokes that shaving is dangerous in horror movies and she might slice his neck should she suddenly hiccup!
In Ha then laughs at Ha Myung’s worry before settling in to shave her man so tenderly while he smiles at her. Ooooof, so sweet! Dad chances upon the tender shaving scene and is about to get upset before leaving the lovebirds be.
Dad offers to help Grandpa make his bed and brings up a weird dream he had recently. He dreamed that Dal Po hyung was in love with In Ha and asked for his approval. Grandpa hits him with a pillow to speak of such incestuous things happening! Dal Po is his son while In Ha is dad’s daughter, they can never be together! Dad shrinks back as Grandpa threatens to smack him.
Cha Ok orders Reporter Kim to release the text messages immediately otherwise if their chief finds out then he will stifle the report. Cha Ok reveals that Bum Jo’s mom has gone crazy and ordered the attack to warn them off. That’s why she wants the report to go out now and if the entire world knows then there is nothing Bum Jo’s mom can do to stop the truth from coming out.
Cha Ok and Reporter Kim find the other reporters are gathered around a human resources announcement where the two of them are being transferred to different departments to stifle their ability to report on this news.
In Ha finds Reporter Kim packing up and hears that he got demoted because of In Ha’s insistence on investigation the case. Cha Ok approved and told him to keep investigating which is what caused this mess. Their continued investigation led to Bum Jo’s mom sending the attacker as a warning to back off. In Ha is shocked to hear this, Reporter Kim is resigned to his demotion and sees it as a chance to go back to being a real reporter.
Cha Ok calls In Ha out to meet and she rushes over to break room to find her mom making coffee. In Ha knows her mom and Reporter Kim have been demoted to keep them away from reporting the story. Cha Ok hands the cell phone and text messages to In Ha to hand back to Ha Myung. She wants him to report it but she’ll be the whistleblower isn’t of In Ha.
In Ha hands it back to Ha Myung and confirms her mom wants to report the truth finally. Cha Ok knows that the case from 14 years ago is now passed the statute of limitations so she needs help from Chan Soo. She wants Chan Soo to press charges again her for slander and libel in ruining a reputation. Ha Myung goes to find Chan Soo to ask him to do as he asks.
Chan Soo returns to his old precinct to press charges against Reporter Song Cha Ok for running his reputation. Once Cha Ok is a defendant then she can reveal the truth from now and from 14 years ago during the trial. Cha Ok wants In Ha to report on the trial and don’t miss a single word. She warns In Ha that Bum Jo’s mom will use her wealth and connections to try to discredit her and squirm free so In Ha needs to be strong.
In Ha worries that her mom’s career is over if she does this but Cha Ok doesn’t mind. She’s tired after all these years doing this. In Ha cries and Cha Ok tells her not to cry because it’ll worry her. In Ha holds her mom’s hand and cries while promising to be strong.
In Ha asks Ha Myung if he also felt such pain and agony before when he was sending his hyung away? How did he endure and survive? Ha Myung moves over next to In Ha and hugs her, telling her that he still hurts now and doesn’t know how to get over it. In Ha apologizes because she knows her mom brought this on herself but In Ha still hurts seeing Cha Ok make such a difficult decision. Ha Myung can only embrace In Ha as she cries.
Ha Myung tells hyung about what’s going to happen to get the truth out. Jae Myung can tell Ha Myung doesn’t look happy about this turn of events. Ha Myung apologizes to hyung because In Ha reporting on her mom’s wrongdoing reminds Ha Myung of how he turned Jae Myung in. Hyung wants Ha Myung to stop feeling guilty and reveals that Ha Myung actually saved his life. Jae Myung’s original revenge against Cha Ok, he actually planned to kill himself afterwards. But Ha Myung’s promise to avenge their dad his own way gave Jae Myung hope to keep living so he could see Ha Myung accomplish that goal. Because Ha Myung reported on Jae Myung truthfully, now he can hold his head up high to question Cha Ok for the truth.
Cha Ok receives the summons for the charges Ahn Chan Soo filed against her. Bum Jo’s mom gets a report that charges have been filed against Cha Ok for her false reporting ruining Chan Soo’s reputation. Bum Jo’s mom isn’t planning on stepping in to help her since Cha Ok could have orchestrated this herself so she has a platform to reveal the truth after getting demoted at the network. Bum Jo’s mom is not worried that reporters will cover this trial.
Cha Ok arrives at the police station and looks around the empty lobby. The rookies at the station notice Cha Ok and rush over to interview her about whether she’s here for questioning on the charges against her. In Ha walks up and Cha Ok shoots her a look before answering the rookie questions. She promises the truth will come out after questioning. She schools a rookie for asking her a stupid question like how she feels and tells them to have substantive questions for her after she comes out from the questioning in a few hours. The rookies are impressed with her reporter aura.
Cha Ok encounters Ha Myung upstairs and he asks to interview her after the questioning. Cha Ok remembers her first meeting with Ha Myung when he promised to come back after he learned what it means to be a real reporter. Cha Ok asks if Ha Myung knows what it means to be a reporter now? Ha Myung knows a bit and Cha Ok smiles, telling her that he’s ready to go up against her now and she’ll be ready to answer his questions.
Thoughts of Mine:
There were tons of great developments in this episode but knowing episode 19 was right around the corner made some of the tension deflate. I feel compelled to address to big news room attack scene, an effective trigger for things to get real serious real fast in the drama, but really leaves me discombobulated watching it so close to the real life terrorist attacks in Paris on reporters. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t a gambit to milk a real life tragedy since the event happened just week ago and this story line unfolded in episode 18 with synergy in pushing the narrative forward.
With that said, it’s not the easiest thing to watch in a fictional drama even if toned down the attacker wielding a less deadly nail gun and knife. I also didn’t think Bum Jo’s mom was ready to go commando on her pesky reporter flies pestering her for the truth. It worked as the catalyst to finally turn Cha Ok from her clutches but it felt too much and too fast, an over-the-top warning for an investigation that really didn’t seem to be going anywhere. At least it kickstarted the final showdown as the two moms will take it to the end rather than leaving their kids to do the dirty business. I’ll keep this thoughts section short and save it for after I tackle the recap for episode 19!
Click here to watch Pinocchio.