Well hello, ladies (and some gentlemen). Did you miss me?
Here, finally, is the Queen of Reversals episode 4 recap I’ve been promising. It’s a full recap, too (3474 words!), unlike the partials from before. Again, I’ve inserted starting time code (minutes:seconds) for all Goo Yong-shik/Park Shi-hoo scenes, should you need it. Enjoy!
Jun-soo arrives at lay-off headquarters, and is amused to see Yong-shik (00:15). His amusement fades, however, as he realizes that his former army kicking boy “Private Goober” is actually the Restructuring HQ Head.
Yong-shik’s No. 2, Kang-woo, informs Jun-soo that Queen’s needs to lay off 15% of its workers for financial reasons, then asks him, “Do you have any desire to look for another job?” He tells Jun-soo they are not asking him to leave, exactly, but if he did decide to seek other opportunities now, he would receive a nice severance package plus other benefits. Jun-soo is then encouraged to review his options before the next interview, and dismissed.
Insulted, Jun-soo demands to know why they want to fire him, of all people. The reply? It’s because (as he must know) he’s received the lowest reviews on his team for five years running. Ouch. When Jun-soo blusters an explanation, Yong-shik levels another accusation: that Jun-soo was heard publicly disparaging the company two days ago. What’s more, “someone” said Jun-soo badmouths the company all the time. Jun-soo demands to know who this “someone” is.
Surprisingly, it’s Manager Mok. Jun-soo chases him into the restrooms, and they have it out. Jun-soo asks how could Mok, as his mentor, betray him like that, especially since Jun-soo said those things during an after-hours (and presumably off-the-record) drinking session. Manager Mok apologizes, but says that he has to keep his job no matter what. Jun-soo might have a five-year-old daughter, but Mok has to send money to his wife and two children in Canada. As an old man, too, he’s much less likely to find another position.
Tae-hee visits Queen’s to see her woman-on-the-inside Yoo-kyung, having heard about Jun-soo being called upstairs. As she enters the building, she and Yong-shik (8:55), both absorbed in their smartphones, slam into each other and knock their phones to the ground. Tae-hee starts to tell him to watch where he’s going, and Yong-shik just walks away as she’s talking. “What’s with that weasel-face? What crappy manners,” she says for his benefit, then meets up with Yoo-Kyung.
Tae-hee learns from Yoo-kyung that Jun-soo’s on his department’s lay-off list, and that those lists were created by the department heads. In Jun-soo’s case, by Baek Yeo-jin, who we see interrupt Song-yi’s [least convincing ever, wtf] yoga workout.
Thus commences a truly squirm-inducing scene where Yeo-jin compliments Song-yi’s youthful figure and Song-yi says it’s because she never made the mistake of marrying and having children, blah, blah, blah, etcetera. Ugh. The writers made Song-yi too much of a cardboard villain, to the point that I’m just counting the seconds until she gets off my screen.
Yeo-jin asks Song-yi about Jun-soo being called upstairs, confirming that someone other than Yeo-jin assigned him to the list. Yeo-jin & Jun-soo then have a tetchy conversation on the roof, with Jun-soo angry at her about his job situation, and her still simmering at him for choosing Tae-hee (it’s been five years, you crazy lady).
As Tae-hee leaves lunch with Yoo-kyung, she gets a phone call from a young woman, who wants to know why Tae-hee answered her baby’s (Yong-shik’s) phone. Meanwhile, Yong-shik (15:30) grumpily tells the dry cleaners they’ve got the wrong number. Once he hangs up, Kang-woo runs through the list of previous wrong callers–the store, a tutor, the dry cleaners…aha! Yong-shik must have switched phones with that ahjumma! Just then, Tae-hee’s phone rings again, and Yong-shik switches it off in irritation.
Yong-shik tells Kang-woo to get him a new phone. Kang-woo offers to retrieve his old phone as well, but Yong-shik says there’s no need. Kang-woo persists–doesn’t Yong-shik have important contacts in his address book? And won’t he miss important calls without his old phone? Yong-shik says no to both. Kang-woo says it’s as he thought:
KW: You’re an outcast. Do you have any friends, other than me?
YS: Are you my friend? You work for me!
KW: (pause) Mmm-hmm. Yep, no friends at all.
Which appears to be true, as Yong-shik can only respond by childishly hitting Kang-woo in the head. Poor woobie.
Back in the lobby at Queen’s, Tae-hee tries calling her own phone, and is confused to find it turned off. Consequently, she doesn’t see Song-yi approaching until it’s too late. Song-yi asks her how long has it been (like you don’t know!), and tells her that “just when I think I’ve forgotten, I hear something about you.” For example, that small company that Tae-hee recently applied to? Its personnel people just called Song-yi for a reference. Well, there goes that job.
“You swore you’d make it on your own, but it wasn’t as easy as you thought, right?” Song-yi tells her. Tae-hee quietly agrees, then adds how surprised she was that her many years of hard work could be erased by one person’s bad words. Song-yi smugly tells her, “That’s what real power is.” Song-yi adds one parting shot before rejoining her entourage: “Your husband’s doing his best…tell him to keep it up, while he still can.” Yeah, I can’t stand this character or her lipstick.
Jun-soo’s late coming home that night, and since he’s not answering his phone, Tae-hee begins to worry. She sees a suicide on T.V., and calls the police to double-check that it’s not him (“What’s he like? My husband’s handsome, really handsome”), then goes hunting for him in the neighborhood. After a long, fruitless search, she ends up back home, teary with concern, and discovers Jun-soo passed out in the building elevator, one leg keeping the doors open (*ouch*).
Tae-hee’s worry quickly turns into rage, and she wakes Jun-soo up with ice cubes down his shirt (heh). She confronts him about not answering her calls, and then starts in on him about the lay-off interview (couldn’t she have waited until he was sober? Yikes). Jun-soo says not to worry, that the lay-off manager is his “boy” from the army, which Tae-hee correctly interprets to mean Jun-soo picked on the guy, and now Jun-soo’s job is doomed. Jun-soo manages to calm her down, but his subsequent insomnia shows us how concerned he is.
Jun-soo tries to see Yong-shik the next day, but Kang-woo brutally puts him off. Eventually, he gets Yong-shik’s phone number through a coworker, calls it…and Tae-hee answers (neither spouse recognizes the other’s voice). Nice pay-off there on the phone switcheroo.
Next we see Yong-shik (29:50) drinking coffee alone on the roof, in a yachting jacket, like the poor lonely rich boy he is. Several of Jun-soo’s teammates, including team ditz Ki-ppeum, her hapless suitor Dong-won, and Yeo-jin, take a coffee break on a nearby bench. Ki-ppeum starts talking about how “yummilicious” the new Restructuring Head (Yong-shik) is, which makes me wonder–has she actually seen him before? If so, how does she not see him sitting a few feet away, staring at her? She’s even facing him. I enjoyed the scene anyway, but the set-up felt clumsy.
We get some meta: Ki-ppeum says that on T.V., chaebols like Yong-shik always go for normal cute girls like her. She’ll treat him mean to keep him keen, and then he’ll say, “No one’s ever treated me this way. I love you.” Yong-shik smirks and preens as the women gossip, his ego-fest interrupted only by Dong-won’s jealous interjections (“Everyone says the Restructuring Head’s a turd”). Finally, Kang-woo shows up and calls out Yong-shik’s name, alerting Ki-ppeum, et al. to his presence. Whoops.
More of Jun-soo’s coworkers (including Yoo-kyung) get called in for lay-off interviews, and it’s interesting to see how workers morph from smug sympathy to terror as their own jobs are placed on the chopping block. We get a montage of crying, protesting employees (and randomly Manager Mok, asking if he can reschedule. What happened to keeping his job at all costs?), all watched by Yong-shik (34:18) on his computer.
Yoo-kyung’s tears prompt Yong-shik to say that it’s the crying girls that always get to him. “Momentary empathy is the clinical term,” Kang-woo snarks back. He happily tells Yong-shik that a projected 50% of the employees will opt for the severance package before the next interview.
Kang-woo has also arranged a dinner tonight for the about-to-be-fireds. It’s an effort to comfort the workers and make them feel less isolated, he explains, so they’ll be easier to let go later. Looks like Kang-woo hit it with the “momentary empathy” stuff, as Yong-shik says fine, whatever, just get this over with so we can return to the United States.
Thus commences the company dinner from hell. Yong-shik tries to frame it well, but everybody knows the deal and resents it. And I don’t blame them: it’s a horrible, insensitive set-up. Boo, hiss.
Thankfully, we cut away to Grocery Store Throwdown, Round 2 between Yeo-jin and Tae-hee. Tae-hee initiates this round, confronting Yeo-jin about Jun-soo’s lay-off interview. Yeo-jin deftly sidesteps by saying she doesn’t have to explain herself to Tae-hee. Tae-hee presses on, pointing out that while she knows Yeo-jin’s negative feelings towards her resulted in negative work reviews for Jun-soo, putting him up for lay-offs is different.
Yeo-jin’s response? “At least you know that his work trouble is your fault.” Oh no you DIDN’T.
Instead of calling Yeo-jin on her B.S. (like, how is it Tae-hee‘s fault that Yeo-jin’s petty & vindictive? And Song-yi is insane?), Tae-hee brags that it doesn’t matter, because Jun-soo’s great friends with the Restructuring Head. Yeo-jin counters, “Then why did that guy give your husband a zero on the interview?” Even if Jun-soo had a chance to save his job before, she tells Tae-hee, a zero on the first interview means he’s a priority lay-off now, no matter what he does. Yeo-jin finishes Tae-hee off with another dig at her uselessness as a wife, and flounces off. Winner of Grocery Throwdown #2: Yeo-jin (dirty tactics, but a win is a win).
Still reeling from Yeo-jin’s words, Tae-hee gets a phone call from Yoo-kyung, who’s sobbing about the lay-offs and the horrible dinner. At the same time, Jun-soo’s trying to butter up Yong-shik (40:25), and it’s as awkward as you’d expect. Jun-soo tries to play the “we’re army buds” card, and gets this bitter rejoinder from Yong-shik: “Oh, I’ve often thought of my old army bud.”
Jun-soo backtracks, quickly dismissing that as being all in the past. Yong-shik agrees: “Yeah, it’s all in the past, gone and forgotten. But as you said, Korea’s no bigger than the palm of a hand. So now I have my chance.” “Chance?” “To see you again and remember old times,” says Yong-shik ominously. He tells Jun-soo to screw his fists into his eyes and tell him what he sees, parroting one of Jun-soo’s army taunts. “It’s dark, huh? That’s your future.” (Buy a clue, Jun-soo! The guy hates you.)
Yoo-kyung lets Jun-soo know that Tae-hee’s waiting for him out in the hallway. He asks Tae-hee what she’s doing there, and Tae-hee throws his posturing about Yong-shik back in his face. “Your boy? Like a son to you? Can’t look you in the eye, you said?” She reveals that Yong-shik gave him a zero on the interview, to Jun-soo’s surprise [and I’m like, why are you surprised?]. She tells Jun-soo they’re leaving; the dinner is nothing but a grubby little consolation prize, so let them keep it.
And here we see one of the key differences between the couple: Jun-soo tells her he won’t leave. While Tae-hee’s pride would never let her accept the situation, Jun-soo chooses to bear it. He tells Tae-hee he has to do whatever he can–apologize, even beg–to keep his job and keep her and Sora from going hungry, pride be damned.
He puts on a brave face for Tae-hee’s sake and returns to the dining room, where Yong-shik (46:33) immediately summons him to his side. Yong-shik smilingly offers to fill Jun-soo’s glass, then fills it to the brim with soju, telling Jun-soo to drink it in one shot. Jun-soo manages to choke down his glass…which Yong-shik promptly refills, again to the brim. Oh, Yong-shik. You are being such an ass.
Jun-soo gets the second glass down, but with very apparent dry heaving, and Yong-shik sadistically pours him another one. Thank goodness, then, that Tae-hee arrives and grabs the glass from Jun-soo. Saying she’s Jun-soo’s “Black Rose,” Tae-hee surprises everyone by chugging down the soju.
Tae-hee apologizes to Yong-shik for interrupting, but says her husband’s stomach is too weak from overwork for heavy drinking. She offers to drink in his place while they talk. Jun-soo protests, but Yong-shik agrees, amused by her pluck. Tae-hee then asks if she’s met Yong-shik before, saying he looks familiar, but he says no, and pours her another “shot.” She chugs it, then defiantly extends her glass for a refill.
One short time skip ahead, and Tae-hee is sauced. She slurrily tells the boys to talk, that’s why she’s drinking, so they can talk, and Jun-soo tries to get her to go home instead. Which is a tactical mistake on Jun-soo’s part, because Tae-hee says if he’s not going talk to Yong-shik, then she will.
She tells Yong-shik it must be nice being born an alpha, in a world full of betas. She extends that alpha-beta terminology, saying as an alpha, being born rich, with no effort of his own, he can sit all high & mighty at that table and make better men kneel before him.
As an alpha, he can fire he people he doesn’t like, for no other reason than that he doesn’t like them. The betas are everyone else, those who work hard and still have to kow-tow to smug do-nothings like him. He might think they’re losers, Tae-hee says, but at least they work for a living. Or they will, until he cuts their jobs so he can keep funding his playboy lifestyle.
She also outlines the real reason for this company dinner: he wants the employees to bond so they’ll relax, and thus be easier to fire. Which is a STUPID idea, she says, because how can someone relax when they’re about to lose their job? Does jumping off a cliff with others make the resulting pain any less painful? Only an insensitive alpha could be so clueless. He and Kang-woo shift uneasily while the workers nod & weep in drunken appreciation. “You don’t know anything,” Tae-hee concludes, and promptly passes out. I love Tae-hee. She’s like the Korean Julia Sugarbaker.
Note: If this were a different type of show, I would totally root for this couple.
Jun-soo carries Tae-hee home (“Vomit on me and I’ll drop you!”) while Yong-shik (54:26) fumes to Kang-woo in the car. He can’t believe “that ahjumma” made him look bad in front of all those people. Especially since he’s the victim:
YS: Am I doing this because I want to? It’s also hard for me!
KW: If you don’t, the president will take away all your cash & credit cards. You’re just doing it so you don’t get kicked out. You’re only vice-president in name; it’s not like you have any real power. You’re a puppet.
YS (infuriated): Did you get my new cellphone?
KW: It slipped my mind. Today was a busy day.
YS: I’m firing you first!
KW: Ooooh, scary. The world really is about alphas and betas…
YS: Don’t say that!
At home, sobriety brings regret, as Tae-hee asks if she actually said all those things out loud (“You said everything,” Jun-soo confirms). She apologizes, but tells him to hang tough–by law, the company can’t let him go unless he signs the resignation form. So, at the second interview (56:33; Yong-shik’s watching silently), Jun-soo stands firm, stating his intent to stay at Queen’s.
Unfortunately for Jun-soo, the company’s ready to play hardball too. Kang-woo brings up a December 2008 incident where Jun-soo put $450 on the company credit card for his high school reunion. More seriously, Kang-woo continues, Jun-soo’s been selling company samples on the side, which is a fireable offense. Jun-soo is stunned. He corrects Kang-woo, saying his wife is the one who uses the company products, for market research with the neighborhood ladies. He didn’t know there was a rule against it, since everyone else does it too.
“Everyone else does it” isn’t good enough to protect his job, though, and Kang-woo breaks it down: either Jun-soo resigns voluntarily or he loses his benefits, his severance, and has the black mark of being fired added to his resume. Damn, that’s cold. Today’s his last day to sign the resignation form, Kang-woo says, and encourages the shell-shocked Jun-soo to consider his answer a little bit more.
Tae-hee’s administering one of her job-killing neighborhood lady sample sessions, when one woman asks why Tae-hee turned off her phone. That jogs Tae-hee’s memory, and she finally realizes Yong-shik is the rude guy from before. She heads to Queen’s to return his phone, bad-mouthing him the whole way. She arrives just in time to see Jun-soo throw himself at Yong-shik’s mercy.
Jun-soo finally apologizes for the way he treated Yong-shik in the Army, asking what he has to do to ease Yong-shik’s heart. Yong-shik says Jun-soo’s mistaken: he isn’t being laid off because of a personal vendetta (O RLY?), but because of his subpar abilities. Jun-soo says he doesn’t care why, if only Yong-shik will save him this once (“as the President’s son, it’s not even work for you to save my job”). But Yong-shik says there’s nothing he can do, and walks away as Jun-soo and an unnoticed Tae-hee break down in tears.
I’d forgotten how bad Yong-shik is in the early episodes. I mean, we don’t know what happened in the Army. Up to two years of harassment, however petty, is bound to leave a mark. Even so, the way Yong-shik delights in torturing a desperate Jun-soo is gross. Don’t play with something before you kill it.
That said, several factors kept me on the Yong-shik train despite this episode’s (and the soundtrack’s) best efforts. One, Park Shi-hoo is a sexy cuddlebear. Two, the conversations between Kang-woo & Yong-shik are the highlights of the show so far. I love Kang-woo’s sassy mouth by itself, but its ability to send Yong-shik into hissy fits completes me.
It’s also speaking that Yong-shik chose someone like Kang-woo for his assistant. Compare Yong-shik to Song-yi, who just wants minions to go shopping with and to tell her she’s right about everything.
The final factor keeping me pro-Yong-shik is that I’m frustrated with Jun-soo. The show wants us to sympathize with him, but I mostly didn’t. He shouldn’t have treated Yong-shik badly in the Army in the first place. He also should have realized his job was history from that first interview (wouldn’t you? Yong-shik wasn’t exactly subtle about his feelings).
More to the point, Jun-soo should’ve gotten a new job during the five years he was antagonized at Queen’s, before Yong-shik even arrived. He knew Song-yi hated him, and it’s not like she was going anywhere. Ditto Yeo-jin. The way Jun-soo casts aside his pride toward the end of this episode might be heroic, if it wasn’t a completely useless gesture by that point. To clarify, I did feel sorry for Jun-soo (how could you not?), but more in the “you’re being really pathetic right now for no reason” sense. I dunno, what did you guys think? Am I being too hard on him?
Finally, let’s talk shop. I find recapping insanely hard. It’s getting easier as I continue, but it’s still one of the most frustrating blogging-related things I’ve done. That said, I want to continue and to get better/faster, so if you have recapping tips, share them with me!
Right now, I watch the episode on Dramafever (I need subs), stopping the video frequently to take notes. Then I turn those notes into the recap text, occasionally returning to Dramafever for clarification. This takes approximately 50 years, with all the writing, edits, rewinding, and advertisements about diabetes. Then I pull up the non-subbed video in Windows Media Player and use Windows Snipping Tool to take screencaps. It’s a ramshackle set-up, for sure. Any advice (and your patience) is much appreciated.