This uncap includes bonus reference materials! And there won’t be a test.We’re roughly at the halfway point now, 9 episodes into a series scheduled for 20. No word yet on whether MBC will change scheduling to make up for last week’s sports preemption, so it’s possible we’re looking at a total of 19 episodes. Or perhaps they’ll keep “Pride and Prejudice” going for a twentieth episode, delaying the start of historical drama “Shine or Go Crazy.”
With Tuesday’s episode, the backroom politicking becomes clearer. Also, Prosecutor Lee (Choi Woo-Shik) and Detective Yoo (Jung Hye-Seong) get close—to Prosecutor Lee’s surprise as well as ours. As in episode 8, the story is structured around side characters Lee and Yoo. Dong-Chi and Yeol-Moo are just starting to re-investigate Han Byul’s death, only to meet with dead ends. Meanwhile, Prosecutor Lee succeeds in retrieving his stolen case files, leading to that spur-of-the-moment celebration with the straight-talking Detective Yoo.
(Figuring out Moon kind of obsessed me this week, so this is definitely not a summary of the episode. I recommend this blow-by-blow account at Couch Kimchi.)
Balancing out these shenanigans, we have Chief Moon’s continued maneuvering. Up till now, we haven’t had all the puzzle pieces. With episode 9, the lay of the land is becoming clearer. Moon is as oblique and long-winded as ever, but he took pity on us and drew a diagram. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve made my own version of his reference chart here.
One reference chart to rule them all:
the “Pride and Prejudice” web of intrigue
- Three men are competing for the position of Chancellor, including Moon’s superior, the guy playing the board game baduk in this episode.
- Board Game Guy is pressuring Chief Moon for his support. Chief Moon can’t say no, because in the past he was involved in something shady that also involved Board Game Guy, Prosecutor Choi and possibly Oh Taec-Yoon. The awkward episode 8 dinner was “a knife”—a threat. Dong-Chi didn’t know the dinner was a threat, however, which is why he was puzzled in the elevator episode 8 when Moon said, “If you’re going to pull out a knife, use it.”
- The creepy-looking Oh Taec-Yoon wants to be Chancellor as well. That’s why Taec-Yoon accidentally-on-purpose left something in Moon’s car trunk—an attempted bribe. Moon refuses it when he concludes he has to support Board Game Guy.
- Song Ah-Reum named four influential men as involved in the Panda case in some mysterious way. On the chart, they’re shown with red lettering. We don’t know what Ah-Reum accuses them of, because Moon promptly sent the case to headquarters in Seoul.
- The four “Panda Guys” include a couple guys who have appeared in the team’s recent cases. Board Game Guy hopes Moon can use those cases to get dirt on them, and thus bring down his rival.
- I don’t know for sure who the tough Chief Oh supports, but she organized that dinner at the request of Board Game Guy. And he’s also her superior, so I put her on his side. And did you know that the actress who plays her, Kim Yeo-Jin, is married to “Pride and Prejudice” director Kim Jin-Min?
- Yeol-Moo, like Prosecutor Lee, is just happy to get a case to work on. She’s not aware that her work has political ramifications. Dong-Chi, however, is thinking about it carefully. He knows Moon wants to prosecute these cases for a reason, but he’s not sure what it is. He wants to know more before giving Moon valuable information, which is why he was unenthusiastic at the meeting and told Chief Moon, “We’ll see.”
- Detective Choi and Park Man-Geun are both unaligned so far. But Oh Taec-Yoon looks like he’s about to make Choi an offer.
- Oh Taec-Yoon hasn’t given up on Moon. He sends him the revealing document showing that Jung Chang-Gi legally adopted Kang-Soo. We don’t know the full story, but presumably Oh Taec-Yoon hopes to blackmail Chief Moon with the information.
If you’re confused, well, so is my computer processor. This diagram made my computer crash twice. The square outline around Joo Sang-Woon doesn’t mean anything except that I had to rescue it in a hurry when my processor broke down. Joo Sang-Woon is a young relative of Joo Yoon-Jang, not one of the major players. I refuse to think about him any more than I have to.
The frustrating part of this web of intrigue is that we haven’t even seen several of the key players yet. Also, these names come up once or twice in an entire episode, and sometimes the subtitlers change spellings on us between episodes. Chief Moon didn’t really need to make a reference chart for his own understanding, but I badly needed his chart and handy exposition.
Though frustrating, the script is also clever, in the sense that we experience the same, baffled viewpoint that Dong-Chi has. One effect of this (besides bafflement) is that we have to keep re-evaluating Chief Moon’s actions.
In my latest reassessment, Chief Moon looks a bit better. Ironically, he now looks good for sending Song Ah-Reum’s case to headquarters in Seoul, which originally made him look bad. When Chief Moon meets with Board Game Guy in this episode, he apologetically says he doesn’t know if he can help since the case involving Board Game Guy’s enemies is already at headquarters.
Board Game Guy doesn’t let Moon off the hook, but I think Moon forwarded the case to HQ to try to avoid the situation he’s in now. By having some dirt on Kim Jae-Hak, Moon is now a target for all three men in the power struggle, along with his entire team. Board Game Guy is blackmailing him. Now Oh Taec-Yoon appears to be trying as well.
Is it corrupt for Moon to have ditched Song Ah-Reum’s case in order to avoid these complications? Well, if his career record was spotless, he wouldn’t have to worry about blackmail. It’s because of his prior misdeeds that he treats the case like a hot potato, passing it on quickly. If he were an idealistic citizen like Dong-Chi, he would hang on to the case and defend justice even if it led to receiving threats.
But even though passing on the case wasn’t idealistic or noble, it was pragmatic. Chief Moon knows that investigating will expose his team to political consequences. Moon might be agile enough to survive making enemies with a member of the National Assembly (the Parliament or Congress). But most of his team are youngsters without connections, whose careers could be ended with a word from the Assemblyman or his cronies.
As when Kang-Soo was accused of manslaughter, it looks like Moon is thinking of his team, but in a roundabout way. He wants to keep himself out of trouble, and that means establishing what the folks at Langley call “plausible deniability.” He gives Prosecutor Lee the hiring case, which looks unimportant, and pretends not to know it may lead to useful information. And he looks the other way when Dong-Chi and Yeol-Moo pursue the suicide case. He doesn’t want to start any battles he can’t finish, making him the opposite of Dong-Chi, whose career has already had setbacks because of Dong-Chi’s impractical idealism.
The Fun Stuff
The characters continue to develop in ways dramatic (can you believe Kang-Soo might actually be Han Byul with amnesia from childhood trauma? really, amnesia?!?) and comic (Choi Woo-Shik continues to be hilarious as the good-for-nothing Prosecutor Lee).
Dong-Chi made up for last week’s badly-timed kiss by listening to Yeol-Moo’s doubts about Han Byul’s case, and by offering her his support. Yeol-Moo came around to realizing she owes him an apology, though she didn’t express herself very eloquently.
“I’m beginning to feel bad for hating you,” she says. She avoids saying, “I’m sorry.” Lucky for her, Dong-Chi doesn’t seem to hold grudges—or he understands how emotionally messed-up she is when it comes to her brother’s death.
Dong-Chi also shows tact and consideration when he realizes that Kang-Soo has a crush on Yeol-Moo. In a bit of dialogue that is pure Guyspeak, at least as translated by subtitlers, he asks Kang-Soo if he’s fallen for her and gives the young man a hard time about it in a good-natured way. Kang-Soo always calls him hyung (elder brother), and here he really does act like Kang-Soo’s older brother. He encourages him when Kang-Soo says Yeol-Moo thinks of him as a kid, and tells him that if they become rivals, he wants to remain friends afterwards. Dong-Chi doesn’t like the situation, but he also doesn’t want to lose Kang-Soo’s friendship or see the younger man get hurt. And like a real mensch, he suggests that Kang-Soo compete with him—maybe the kid will be less heart-broken and their friendship will survive if they compete fair and square. For the rest of the episode, Dong-Chi makes a point of “playing fair” by refusing to let Yeol-Moo into his bedroom and inviting Kang-Soo to help him and Yeol-Moo with late nights at the office.
To make this love triangle more sad, Kang-Soo does treat Dong-Chi like his older brother. It almost didn’t occur to him to compete for Yeol-Moo’s affections. When Dong-Chi asks if he’s going to pursue Yeol-Moo, he sounds like a little kid looking for permission as he says, “Can I?”
The episode emphasizes repeatedly the new information that Kang-Soo’s childhood is connected to Han Byul—or that perhaps he actually is Han Byul. He’ll probably have other things to worry about besides a love triangle soon enough. But it’s a strength of “Pride and Prejudice” that it sketches Kang-Soo’s adoptive relationships (with Grandmother, Jung Chang-Gi and Dong-Chi) in a few, strong scenes. Even the love triangle is vivid but not overemphasized. And Lee Tae-Hwan continues to hold his own with this strong cast without losing his wide-eyed look of youthfulness.
Another kind of youthfulness possesses Lee Jang-Won and Yoo Gwang-Mi in this episode. Given his haplessness and her competence, I wasn’t sure if they would ever become friends, much less lovers. Gwang-Mi typically acts as if she’s barely putting up with Lee. But Jang-Won’s opinion of her seems to have changed the moment he first saw her dancing in a leather miniskirt.
The two spend an exhausting day running around town searching for his briefcase. Prosecutor Lee appears to be rethinking his frivolous ways—at least a little. As he listens to an old man gathering trash and to the young man who stole his case files, he shows the frustrated confusion of someone accustomed to having plenty of money and opportunities. I thought “Pride and Prejudice” was the rare Korean show free of wealthy heirs, but if anyone on the show turns out to be a secret chaebol, it will be Prosecutor Lee.
He and Gwang-Mi drink soju at a sidewalk bar after getting his files back, and Prosecutor Lee unexpectedly steals a kiss. When a startled Gwang-Mi slaps him, he blames his “bad habits.” This phrase comes up a lot in Korean subtitles. Must be a popular excuse.
“Where did you learn that kind of bad habit?” Gwang-Mi asks. But then she tells him to “finish what he started,” and pulls him in for a longer kiss. He looks shocked and perhaps a little terrified when he realizes what he’s started. Gwang-Mi has the upper hand as usual.
But since when was Prosecutor Yoo the father of Detective Yoo Gwang-Mi? In episode 8, Yoo mentioned the relationship for the first time—a bit late in the series for a major piece of information. The father and daughter treat each other like colleagues most of the time, but the veteran prosecutor does appear to keep tabs on his daughter’s social life. At the team meeting the next morning, he makes a few dry comments suggesting he knows where Prosecutor Lee spent the night.
Yoo’s response is a dead-pan, “Well, I heard he slept.” The way Yoo (Jang Hang-Sun) delivers the line, it’s hilarious. At this point in a series, we know the characters well, and a good writer and cast can derive a lot of humor from small touches—this scene is a good example.
Gwang-Mi isn’t at this meeting, but at her next work appearance, she’s wearing a tight skirt and once again ahead of the game. When Prosecutor Lee starts to sputter that he made a mistake last night because he was drunk, she says, “Oh, I know.” I’ve never heard a dialogue quite like it in a Korean show, and neither has Lee Jang-Won, to judge from his flustered reaction.
I’ll enjoy seeing what happens next with them, not only because the characters are entertaining, but because Yoo Gwang-Mi is unusual. A young career woman who owns her own sexuality, she’s nothing like the promiscuous “bad girl” stereotype that K-dramas like to contrast with the “good,” sexually-innocent young woman. Though Yoo Gwang-Mi and Lee Jang-Won function primarily as the comic relief in “Pride and Prejudice,” Gwang-Mi is a likable, three-dimensional character and a bracing antidote to Yeol-Moo’s more traditional heroine.
One last way in which the humor and dramatics work well together. As I get used to Chief Moon’s roundabout way of talking, I increasingly enjoy the way the show handles the scheming. Too many television shows (Korean or American) spend time restating the situation. This exposition helps the viewer but too much of it leads to questions. Why do the leads keep explaining to each other the situation they already understand? Do they suffer short-term memory loss?
“Pride and Prejudice” could use a little more explanation for viewers, but I appreciate that the writer and director are taking a risk by presenting conspiratorial conversations that sound authentically obscure. These guys are experts at never saying anything out loud that could be used against them in a court of law. Board Game Man blackmails Moon without a word, and Moon agrees to bring down his rivals’ supporters without either of them naming names. I bet it’s confusing to them sometimes, too (wait, what did I just agree to?) but it’s a good way to avoid getting arrested. The dialogue has the ring of habitual, low-level corruption, the kind that presumably happens every day in every capital city in the world but doesn’t call attention to itself. It’s a far cry from the simplified images of embezzlement and graft that appear in a more action-oriented show like “City Hunter.” Hopefully, Korean television has room for both approaches. The political realism is particularly successful in “Pride and Prejudice,” where it comes well-tempered with idealism, humor and romance.
Despite the guarantee of heartaches to come, things for the characters and viewers are getting better. The dour Yeol-Moo is starting to smile, and our central couple are on speaking terms. I hope they keep it up. Fighting!