Kill Me, Heal Me episode 11 elegantly balances its humor, romance and suspense. It always amazes me that the crew and cast can put together a great show this quickly, given how fast they have to produce footage under Korea’s “live shoot” production system. But they deliver again!
We’ve got plot development here, excellent comic scenes, and a few chances for Shin Se-Ki to seduce us with his big brown eyes. Tomorrow after episode 12, maybe I’ll aim to say something deep. Right now, it’s time to indulge in fangirl enthusiasm—for people behind the camera as well as in front of it.
Good job, cast!
Episode 11 gives Ji Sung a chance to stay mostly in Shin Se-Ki’s personality. But the episode takes Shin Se-Ki rapidly from emotional collapse, to boisterous rebellion, to intense anger. Ji Sung’s got the hang of the character, now, and makes these changes look like second nature. In this episode, he brings out Shin Se-Ki’s growing realization that he isn’t as impervious to emotion as he thinks.
Hwang Jung-Eum aces her scenes, too, showing Oh Ri-Jin at her most thoughtful and also her funniest. It’s impossible to pick my favorite comic moment. Is it Oh Ri-Jin and Oh Ri-On doing their childhood superhero schtick? Or Oh Ri-Jin and Shin Se-Ki turning their argument about his necktie into a rhythmic impromptu rap?
The perfect timing in those two scenes demonstrates Hwang Jung-Eum’s rapport with her costars. We usually talk about “chemistry” in romantic scenes, but good comedy also requires actors to connect well. Though I’m not crazy about Hwang Jung-Eum’s tendency towards shrillness, she’s outstanding at holding her own with Ji Sung in comic scenes (below, “Don’t touch the hair!”).
In recent episodes, Park Seo-Joon has been outgrowing my image of him as the cute, bland puppy from last year’s Witch’s Romance. I still have trouble believing that someone could be attracted to the adopted sister he has known since age 8, but Park Seo-Joon gives Oh Ri-On enough depth that I’m suspending disbelief. He didn’t have many lines in this episode, but he made every one of them count.
In his four or five scenes, Oh Ri-On quietly wrestles with his hatred for the Seung Jin Group and his desire to protect Oh Ri-Jin from the truth. He goes from arrogantly dragging Oh Ri-Jin away from Shin Se-Ki, to reluctantly driving her back to Shin Se-Ki’s villa. He’s realizing he can’t stop his sister from helping Cha Do-Hyun. He’s also considering giving up his research into the Seung Jin Group. He’s no longer sure whether or not digging up the past will help Oh Ri-Jin or hurt her.
What makes his development in this episode particularly poignant is that he falls completely silent in a couple of his scenes. When Oh Ri-Jin explains why she has to return to Cha Do-Hyun, he listens from the other side of the door. And when he discovers her looking at his notebooks, he’s struck dumb. The guy who always has a quip—the guy who makes his living with words—has nothing to say.
Good job, writer-nim!
The writer keeps delivering surprises, even if the main outlines of the story are becoming clearer. I also appreciate the crisp dialogue and the wry humor in many of Shin Se-Ki’s lines.
Shin Se-Ki starts this episode broken down by Oh Ri-On’s comment about Se-Ki being “a son of the Seung Jin Group.” But Oh Ri-Jin’s return to the villa allows a return to comedy. We head back into the absurd with Shin Se-Ki’s “wheel of chance” and his attempt to dress for work in gold lamé. He looks like Dave Bowie, not a corporate vice president.
The smart dialogue makes even minor scenes entertaining. When Shin Se-Ki meets with his cousin Ki-Joon, he listens to his latest marching orders and says sardonically, “Why don’t you just tell me off? You come up with such unnecessarily elaborate ways to annoy me. Is this because you studied abroad?” It’s hard not to laugh at Shin Se-Ki’s sarcasm, even if Ki-Joon isn’t as much of a villain as Se-Ki pretends.
In serious scenes, the dialogue reveals character beautifully, as when Shin Se-Ki explains he’s staying awake because he’s afraid of losing control to Cha Do-Hyun. When Oh Ri-Jin invites him to rest his head on her shoulder, he coldly says a man doesn’t rely on a woman like that. But turning his head away, he gives a very small, secret smile (above). Shin Se-Ki acts like he’s upfront, but he has things to hide, too, like his fears and weaknesses.
The writer delivers the right number of narrative developments here. With Shin Se-Ki’s kidnapping of his father, Grandmother Seo will soon have to take action against him. She essentially declares war against him in this episode.
We also see Oh Ri-Jin’s tenuous influence over Shin Se-Ki growing. She asks Shin Se-Ki to share some of his memories with Cha Do-Hyun, a request that angers him at first. But in the closing sequence, Shin Se-Ki appears to follow her advice. Cha Do-Hyun’s return, on the heels of Shin Se-Ki’s rage at his grandmother, shows something is shifting in the balance between the two characters.
One shift is that he’s recovering his memories. Cha Do-Hyun now recalls the basement, and another child there with him. Most importantly, he remembers he’s afraid of physical abuse from his father. We learn everything we need to know when Cha Do-Hyun recoils in terror seeing his aged father unconscious in a hospital bed (above). Is it possible he hasn’t seen his father since the fire 21 years ago?
Another exciting development is that Oh Ri-Jin finds Oh Ri-On’s notebooks about the Seung Jin Group. As smart and perceptive as ever, she immediately understands he knows much, much more than she thought. But when she asks him, he’s silent, speechless. He has no idea what to say.
This episode doesn’t give viewers much new information—except the identity of the abuser—but it gives the characters new information that will explode the situation. There are also tantalizing suggestions of another family secret. The newspaper clippings in Oh Ri-On’s scrapbook refer to a “secret reaching back three or four generations.” Could this be a history of mental illness? Of child abuse?
And something I remembered during this episode: Cha Do-Hyun’s mother isn’t listed in the family registry. Does that mean that Cha Do-Hyun is formally Min Seo-Yoon’s son, according to the registry? If Oh Ri-Jin is Min Seo-Yoon’s daughter by blood, are we looking at another layer of faux-cest? Whose registry did Oh Ri-Jin appear in before adoption? Or did she officially not exist?
Good job, director-nim!
Directors set the tone for a show with their choices about locations, lighting, editing and how to approach scenes. Kill Me, Heal Me doesn’t take itself too seriously, providing humor and over-the-top moments that acknowledge its makjang plot elements. Incest, birth secrets, madness, a crazy grandmother—this is unabashed soap opera.
The director makes the nutso plot work. On one hand, he does this by exaggerating the melodrama at times. Chairwoman Seo, the villain of the piece, is pure evil. In her confrontations with Shin Se-Ki, she’s almost grotesque (screenshot above)—the one character who doesn’t show any human quirks or emotions.
But the other key to keeping an intense story entertaining is that the director draws real (not exaggerated) emotion from small gestures. The best scene in this episode is Shin Se-Ki’s quiet struggle to put on a neck-tie. He completely lacks Cha Do-Hyun’s skills in the corporate dress department.
Finally, he allows Oh Ri-Jin to fix the tie around his neck. It’s a sexy moment, because he’s admitting he can’t do something and he’s letting Oh Ri-Jin come close at a moment of weakness. But getting dressed is a commonplace enough thing that the scene beautifully balances the melodrama as well.
The director also works with the camera operators to choose camera angles and shots. This episode shows the distance growing between Oh Ri-Jin and Oh Ri-On with medium shots. Early in the episode, Oh Ri-Jin speaks to her brother through the door, and the camera shows this by editing two shots together to give a view of the scene from the wall’s perspective (above, left). The twins show a united front to the world again in their superhero ritual (above, right), but it’s a slightly eerie image, since it’s night and they’re lit mainly by the car’s headlights.
Finally, when Ri-Jin confronts her brother about his research, they appear in starkly different worlds, even though they’re in the same frame. Just by choosing to have Oh Ri-On stand in front of the sliding panel and by showing the twins in a medium shot, the director emphasizes Oh Ri-On’s sudden distance from his sister (below).
The director uses a couple other tricks as well. By saving Shin Se-Ki’s conversation with Chae-Yeon until this episode, instead of showing it in episode 10, we experience more suspense over their conversation. And when we learn the devil’s offer he made to her, it comes in the middle of an episode in which Shin Se-Ki is relatively “well-behaved.” It’s a reminder that as attractive as he is, he wants to hurt people.
Shin Se-Ki is at his most seductive in this scene, as he asks Chae-Yeon to consider being his lover even though she’s engaged to his cousin (below). It’s a cruel suggestion, but he makes it very tempting. No wonder Chae-Yeon has that confused look on her face as she tries on wedding dresses.
The director also plays around with light, using green toned lighting when Shin Se-Ki or Cha Do-Hyun are most unwell. The slight green hue shows up when Shin Se-Ki is collapsed in despair early in this episode, and when he’s driving away in anger at the end after meeting his grandmother. We also see it just before his first appearance, as Oh Ri-Jin thinks about the situation and pours a cup of coffee (below).
These quiet moments can be boring or fascinating, depending on the director and crew. Choose an interesting prop like an antique coffee pot and give the scene slightly eerie lighting—and you’ve got something for viewers to look at during a transition from flash-back to confrontation.
Wisely, the director and writer omit a number of scenes that would be too complicated and time-consuming to film. How on earth did Shin Se-Ki smuggle his unconscious father, plus medical equipment, out of the hospital? Is this plausible?
The director solves the problem by not even attempting to show the unlikely kidnapping. Instead, he simply shows us Shin Se-Ki’s triumphant gesture towards the CCTV camera, as if he knew Chairwoman Seo would be watching later (below). Skipping to this image gives the sense that there’s something slightly supernatural about Shin Se-Ki.
Perhaps it takes a guy like this to scare the monstrous Chairwoman Seo. At least I hope she’s scared—even with many things still unclear, there’s no doubting she’s the “bad guy” in this family.