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Mysterious Il-seung (Doubtful Victory): Episodes 1-2

Mysterious Il-seung (Doubtful Victory) promised a lot, but boy did it deliver with its premiere. This show managed to cover action, comedy, mystery, suspense, and the subtlest hint of a romance to come, all in its first hour. There’s a complicated web to unravel here but I’m already completely invested in our hero and his story.

 
EPISODE 1 RECAP

Two cars careen down the road, locked in a high-speed car chase. The white car’s tinted windows mask its driver but the pursuing black car holds two men in suits. The unknown driver searches frantically through the glove box and then a suitcase as he speeds down the road.

The black car catches up and slams into the rear of the white car. To avoid a collision with an oncoming car, the white car driver exhibits some Fast and Furious-caliber driving techniques to swing out of harm’s way. The black car pulls up even with the white car and the Men in Black shout for the other driver to pull over.

Inside, the unknown driver punches the cigarette lighter and when it pops out, he stops the car. At length, the window rolls down to reveal our hero, KIM JONG-SAM (Yoon Kyun-sang). He sighs that he didn’t want to do anything bad… before lobbing a Molotov cocktail (comprised of tissues and a bottle of toner he found in the suitcase) into the other car. He flashes a cheeky grin and speeds away while the Men in Black stamp out the flames.

Jong-sam’s hands fall on a police badge that reads “Oh Il-seung” but he tosses it aside. He allows himself a satisfied smile and turns up the radio… as a dead body rolls around in the trunk.

Elsewhere, a team of detectives burst into an abandoned home led by JIN JIN-YOUNG (Jung Hye-sung). Inside, they find a trio of druggie squatters. They’re also foreigners and don’t speak a lick of Korean, to lead detective PARK SOO-CHIL’s consternation.

Detective Park and Jin-young search the house and find a cannabis farm. Blitzed out of their minds, the squatters giggle as officer KIM MIN-PYO tries to explain their situation using his limited English. It goes about as well as you’d expect, so the team turns to Jin-young—who’s bragged about graduating from an American high school—to read the criminals their rights.

Rolling her eyes, Jin-young shouts “Attention!” and then proceeds to tap a button on her phone that plays a recording of their rights in English. She asks the trio if they understand, and they cheerfully present their wrists to be cuffed. Hee.

Jong-sam buttons himself into a suit somewhere off the side of the road. He notices the mystery body’s hand dangling out of the trunk and quickly tucks it back in before slamming the lid. He runs back to the road just in time to see a passing bus and chases after it.

Back at the police station, Detective Park announces that they’ll credit Min-pyo with the arrest. Shooting a nervous glance at Jin-young, Min-pyo tries to wave it off but Detective Park is adamant. Jin-young argues that she’s the one who gathered the intel and actually slapped on the handcuffs, but Detective Park points out that they all worked together to complete the arrest. Furthermore, Min-pyo’s been in the same position for six years and recently fathered twins.

Detective Park asks Jin-young to pass the credit but she promises to do it next time. Exasperated, Detective Park asks if it’s because she wants to be in first place, but Jin-young doesn’t respond. He says that while she won’t be up for promotion for a while, Min-pyo could advance now with this case. He reiterates that Min-pyo will be credited and dismisses them.

The other detectives scuttle away but Jin-young glares daggers at her team leader before clapping her hands together in a prayer pose. He asks what she’s doing and she bites out that she’s meditating to control her anger. Heh.

After she’s gone, Detective Park wonders what her obsession is with first place. The maknae officer starts to say that Jin-young used to be wealthy before her family’s company went under. but Detective Park snaps at him to be quiet. Waiting for the elevator out in the hall, Jin-young grumbles when she receives a text from her mother, asking her to pay a cheap bill.

Jong-sam disembarks at the Seoul terminal and braces himself against a wall, overcome with fatigue. He splashes water on his face in the bathroom before donning a newly purchased cap. Walking over to the pay phones, he slips a bill over the receiver and calls in an abduction notice to the police.

Detective Park and the team respond to Jong-sam’s report. Jin-young was out when they got the call and will arrive separately.

A young woman, CHA EUN-BI, answers her phone outside a pizza joint. We see that the caller is Jong-sam, who watches from a nearby phone booth, her photo clutched in his hand. After confirming her name, he hangs up and she tilts her head in confusion before disappearing inside the restaurant.

We pick up with the Men in Black from the car chase. The younger one scoffs at Jong-sam for using easily traceable credit cards, wondering if he knows who they are. Twisting the boy’s ear, the older man snaps that he’s not supposed to know. Scanning the security footage, he notices Jong-sam’s new cap and sends the boy to retrieve the tag for prints. The younger man starts to obey but stops when he receives a text that Jong-sam used the card again.

Jong-sam peeks around a corner and sees Eun-bi walk past in her work uniform. Noting the security camera, Jong-sam straps on a face mask and follows her into the bathroom.

Jin-young arrives at the pizza counter and asks if the attending girl is Eun-bi. The girl barely manages to reply that Eun-bi is in the bathroom before they hear a scream and Jin-young races off. She finds Jong-sam accosting Eun-bi in the bathroom and knocks him back with a flying kick.

As Jin-young checks to make sure Eun-bi is okay, recognition flits across Jong-sam’s face. He attempts to slip out behind Jin-young, but she catches his legs with her own and pitches him to the floor. Jin-young slams Jong-sam into the wall, one hand pinned behind his back. She reaches for her cuffs but Jong-sam breaks free and bolts outside.

Chasing after him, Jin-young meets her team in the hall and Detective Park goes to take care of Eun-bi while the other two follow Jin-young. The detectives hot on his heels, Jong-sam dashes down a narrow alleyway. When he breaks out into the street, he slides down another alley just as Jin-young bursts out of the first. Her eyes dart around but Jong-sam has vanished and she tries to catch her breath as the other two officers run ahead.

Jong-sam peeks out from behind the clothes donation box in the dead-end alley. The sight of Jin-young’s profile triggers a flashback to when they were teenagers and he’d watched her from behind a potted plant.

Presently, Jin-young races off after the other officers and Jong-sam steps out from his hiding place. He strips off the mask, hat, and suit jacket, tossing them into the bin before taking off in the opposite direction of the detectives.

Back in the pizza place, Eun-bi can’t offer any leads to Jin-young and Detective Park. No one caught a glimpse of Jong-sam’s face either. The maknae detective informs them that a patrol car has arrived for Eun-bi so they get up to leave. Eun-bi suddenly stops them when she remembers that her kidnapper had a nice voice. She explains that he’d asked her to wait and calmly listen to him, and he’d been so persuasive, she nearly had.

The Men in Black arrive at the phone booth by the pizza place and the younger one asks if they should report to their superiors. The older man shushes him, pointing out they don’t even know who Jong-sam is yet. A text message with the fingerprint results clears that up and the boy’s jaw drops to discover their target is a death-row convict.

Jong-sam watches from across the street as Eun-bi is loaded into a police car and speeds away.

We flash back to a cheerful group of men in blue jumpsuits. Jong-sam sits in the prison yard surrounded by fellow convicts as he races against another inmate, Baek Kyung, to construct some sort of device. Jong-sam clearly has the upper hand and swiftly completes the task, blowing the assembled fan in Baek Kyung’s face as the others cheer.

Victorious, Jong-sam horses around with fellow prisoner, DDAKJI, and they both shout, “We’re the best!” The crowd goes cold when inmate SONG GIL-CHOON echoes them. Gil-choon balks when Baek Kyung calls him a rapist, and another inmate concedes that he was technically charged for attempted rape. When asked why he did it, Gil-choon replies that he was curious.

Baek Kyung breaks up the tension by slapping his prize (a dried fish snack) into Jong-sam’s hands and gruffly telling him to enjoy it. Jong-sam notices a burn on Baek Kyung’s bicep.

Afterwards, Ddakji sits in their room, staring at the photo of Eun-bi we saw Jong-sam holding before. Jong-sam playfully wishes he had such an adorable younger sibling. Ddakji lays on the aegyo and replies that he’s Jong-sam’s adorable dongsaeng, throwing his arms wide and going in for a hug, only to be good-naturedly rebuffed.

Their bromance is interrupted when a letter arrives from Eun-bi. Opening the hand-drawn card, Jong-sam and Ddakji read the message, “Miss you. I’ll be waiting for you.” Jong-sam marvels that Eun-bi must love Ddakji a lot, while next to them, Gil-choon watches with disturbing interest.

Suddenly Gil-choon snatches the card and scampers to the other side of the room. He giggles and dances about until one of their bunkmates grabs hold of his pants so the boys can retrieve the card. When they do, Gil-choon reaches out and bites Jong-sam on the arm. He calls Gil-choon crazy and Gil-choon parrots it back in a mocking tone.

A guard responds to the noise and Jong-sam immediately withdraws while Gil-choon flits around with a crazed smile. They’re all called outside and Jong-sam pulls back his sleeve to reveal a set of teeth marks.

In the yard, the inmates are practicing for a field day. Two tattooed teams face off on the court while Ddakji and Jong-sam wait for their turn in a race. Jong-sam notes that this will be Ddakji’s last since he’s set to be released the following day.

Jong-sam asks if Ddakji will meet his sister and Ddakji sighs that his mother told him to stay away. He reveals that his mother had given Eun-bi up for adoption to a wealthy family and for fear of ruining her, had passed away without ever seeing her again. Jong-sam reasons that Eun-bi already knows Ddakji’s situation, so he should just meet her.

Ddakji laments that he’ll only burden her as a convicted murderer and Jong-sam snaps that he’s innocent. Jong-sam growls that Ddakji is only here because of him and Ddakji cries that they were both framed. Unfortunately, he’s the only one getting out and Jong-sam isn’t. He buries his face in his shirt but denies that he’s crying when Jong-sam asks.

That night, Gil-choon stares at the picture of Eun-bi in Ddakji’s cubby while no one watches. Jong-sam asks Baek Kyung how he’d burned himself, wondering pointedly if he could’ve been on the outside. Baek Kyung warns him to drop it, so he does.

Ddakji and Jong-sam munch on their treat and exclaim their catchphrase “We’re the best!” in delight. Gil-choon tries to join in again, earning uncomfortable looks. He asks for some of their snack and another roommate tells them to do it since Gil-choon is also getting released tomorrow. Ddakji doesn’t look pleased but he concedes and hands it over, telling Gil-choon to share it with the others.

Gil-choon happily complies, divvying out portions to their bunkmates. Baek Kyung, who’s doing pushups, shakes his head when Gil-choon holds some out. Despite Jong-sam’s warnings, Gil-choon persists and Baek Kyung attacks him. He kicks Gil-choon repeatedly until the guards drag him away, and Jong-sam watches as he’s locked in solitary cell number 1.

After lights-out, Ddakji asks Jong-sam why he’d bothered Baek Kyung about his wound. Jong-sam whispers that it’s weird… Baek Kyung had gone into the solitary cell injury-free but had come out with a burn. Ddakji realizes Jong-sam thinks there’s a way out through the cell but quickly dismisses the idea. Jong-sam laughs and agrees to drop it, but his expression remains thoughtful.

As it turns out, Baek Kyung is outside. In an abandoned church, Baek Kyung beats a man hanging from the ceiling by his ankles. The older of the two Men in Black appears to stop Baek Kyung and addresses their prisoner, OH IL-SEUNG. Calling Il-seung a whistleblower, the man asks, “Where did you hide what you stole?”

Il-seung doesn’t answer so the man tells Baek Kyung to keep hitting him. Unfortunately, one of the hits lands just right (or wrong) and Il-seung spurts out blood. Baek Kyung backs off, announcing that he messed up. Panicked, the man cuts Il-seung down and frantically attempts to perform CPR, to no avail.

Whipping out his phone, the man calls for backup and then smacks Baek Kyung across the face. Unfazed, Baek Kyung points out that he’d been called in to kill Il-seung, but the man snaps that he should’ve waited until Il-seung answered the questions.

Back in prison, Gil-choon is back to staring creepily at Eun-bi’s photo. He repeats her promise from her card to wait and holds up the peace sign, mirroring the photo.

The next morning, guards come to collect Gil-choon for his discharge. Ddakji becomes alarmed when he’s unable to find the letter or photo of Eun-bi. Gil-choon stops when he reaches the door and turns back, pulling the letter and photo from his box of belongings and returning them to Ddakji.

Disturbed, Ddakji asks why Gil-choon has them and then calls him a crazy bastard. Gil-choon parrots it back and Ddakji asks if he was going to steal the items. Gil-choon denies it, smiling that he doesn’t need them. Grabbing Gil-choon’s collar, Jong-sam demands to know why, and Gil-choon replies that it’s because he’s memorized them.

The guards come in and tell Jong-sam to let go. Ddakji tries to explain but the guards brush him off. They guide Gil-choon out and Ddakji shouts that Gil-choon memorized his sister’s letter and photo. Apathetic, the guard asks “So what?” and closes the door.

Ddakji screams after them that Gil-choon is a rapist, which finally manages to wipe the smile off of Gil-choon’s face. He runs back to the cell and shouts that he’s not a rapist. Jong-sam recalls Gil-choon’s earlier denial where he’d said he was just curious and that rape is lame.

Anxious, Jong-sam asks what Gil-choon does do to women. Jong-sam goes pale as he whispers, “Murder.” This time, Gil-choon only offers an enigmatic smile before walking away.

 
EPISODE 2 RECAP

2 hours before death-row convict Kim Jong-sam’s jailbreak.

The inmates line up in the hall and shell-shocked, Ddakji mutters that all of Eun-bi’s information is in the letter. He asks Jong-nam what he should do, crying that he can’t live if anything happens to her. Baek Kyung is released from solitary and Jong-sam notices mud on the bottom of his shoes. Suddenly, Jong-sam leaps at a guard and is immediately subdued by two others.

Outside, Ddakji follows around another guard, begging to be allowed a phone call to check on his sister. The guard sighs that they hear these things all the time and even death threats have always been empty ones.

Ddakji drops to his knees and pleads with the guard to call Eun-bi or the police. The guard concedes to calling Eun-bi but just as he pulls out his phone to dial, a parade of officials arrives and he quickly puts it away, promising to call tomorrow. Ddakji cries that it’s pointless when he’s getting out tomorrow but the guard argues that he’ll be fired if he’s caught.

Detained in solitary cell 1, Jong-sam scours the room for a secret exit and notices a shoe mark on the wall. Looking up, he sees a displaced ceiling tile high above.

Sometime later, Ddakji delivers his lunch and Jong-sam asks if he was able to call Eun-bi. Ddakji shakes his head sadly, and then asks why Jong-sam attacked the guards.

We cut to the opening of the field day event. Ddakji joins his fellow inmates on the stands, clenching his hands together anxiously. Now we hear that Jong-sam had answered that he plans to escape. Ddakji was worried, but Jong-sam told him he’d use Baek Kyung’s passage and be back before evening roll call. Jong-sam then promised to throw out his spoon when he returned as a signal.

Luckily, the inmates are all wearing track pants under their prison garb for the field day and Jong-sam is able to race through the woods free of the damning blue uniform. When he reaches the street, he sees a recently patched section of road with Baek Kyung’s shoe print stamped into the concrete.

Looking up, he sees the Men in Black loading Il-seung’s body into the back of a white car. Unfortunately, they spot him too and Jong-sam escapes back up the mountain. The men follow and Jong-sam ducks behind some tall grass. After the men pass, he loops back the way they’d come.

The older man spots him and they give chase but Jong-sam reaches the cars first and jumps into the white one. As he speeds away, he pauses to throw out the smoldering charcoal block intended to set the car alight.

7 hours after Jong-sam’s jailbreak and 3 hours and 50 minutes before roll call.

The car chase we saw at the beginning now over, the Men in Black place a call to a “Chairwoman.” He reports that they’ve lost the corpse and she tells them they have until the end of the day to recover it since they need to release Il-seung’s suicide news ASAP.

Meanwhile, Jong-sam ensures that Eun-bi is safely inside the police station. Glancing at the clock, he grimaces as he realizes he’s going to be late. He’s about to leave when he spots Gil-choon across the parking lot, making his way towards the station. Before he can do anything, though, the Men in Black block his path.

Jong-sam congratulates them for tracking him down and the older man replies that he’s the impressive one for breaking out of jail. The man wonders if he should report him but Jong-sam’s curious why he hasn’t done so already. He guesses that they need him to find their corpse but the older man confidently replies that, as professionals, they’ll find it regardless.

Stepping forward, he rips out a few strands of Jong-sam’s hair and threatens that if he has to find the body himself, Jong-sam will get the blame for the murder. Jong-sam concedes that it would be a spectacular headline. The man continues that if Jong-sam tells them where the body is now, they’ll let him go.

Over their shoulders, Jong-sam sees Gil-choon guiding Eun-bi to his car. Jong-sam agrees to go with the men but when they walk past him, he stops them. Holding up the man’s phone, he notes that they must’ve been unaware that he’s a pickpocket. Clocking their anxious expressions, he confirms that the phone is important and then tosses it into the bed of a passing truck.

The Men in Black chase after the phone and Jong-sam stops another car pulling out of the parking lot. Jin-young is behind the wheel and they stare at each other for a beat as recognition crosses her face and she utters his name. He slides into the passenger seat and tells her Eun-bi’s been abducted, pointing after Gil-choon’s car.

Jin-young just continues to gape at him and asks who he is. Frustrated, Jong-sam flashes Il-seung’s police badge and introduces himself as Detective Oh Il-seung. Jin-young finally snaps out of it and reports the abduction.

In Gil-choon’s car, he sings a lullaby and Eun-bi nervously asks if they’re really going to a police station. He assures her that they are and offers her a piece of gum. She accepts but as she chews, her eyelids grow heavy.

Jin-young weaves through traffic as another officer directs her after Gil-choon using street cams. The car disappears on a side street and Jong-sam spots it parked in front of an abandoned construction site. As Jin-young checks the license plate, Jong-sam finds Eun-bi’s shoe abandoned by the steps.

They race around the building calling Eun-bi’s name but it yields no results. Thinking of something, Jong-sam runs back outside and screams Gil-choon’s name at the building, his eyes darting across the various floors.

Meanwhile, Gil-choon is on the roof, still singing his lullaby to Eun-bi, who he’s trapped in the water tank. She screams for help as the water rises, but Gil-choon just smiles.

Jong-sam continues to call for Gil-choon but when he continues to be ignored, he calls out that Gil-choon is the best, using his catchphrase. The sinister smile drops from Gil-choon’s face as he listens and when he hears Jong-sam repeat the phrase, he gets down and peeks over the edge of the roof. Jong-sam sees him and they race to the roof just as their reinforcements arrive.

Jin-young bursts onto the roof first but Gil-choon is nowhere to be seen. Looking down, she notices damp footprints and scales the water tank. Eun-bi is already submerged and unconscious so Jin-young dives down to untie her ropes.

Meanwhile, Gil-choon is on his way down through the building and watches the team of officers pass. Jong-sam reaches the roof with the team and Jin-young shouts for something to cut the ropes since she couldn’t untie them. Jong-sam immediately runs to the water tank but he drops the police badge and when Jin-young picks it up, she notices that it bears someone else’s face.

She yanks Jong-sam back from the tank ladder and he drops to the ground. Jumping on top of him, she asks who he is. Other officers quickly assist in subduing him but Jong-sam manages to swipe a gun. Brandishing the weapon, he snatches back his badge. He fires twice into the air to keep the officers at bay and then dives in to the tank.

Quickly realizing he can’t untie Eun-bi, Jong-sam begins kicking at the wall of the tank. It doesn’t budge so he fires the remaining bullets into it and kicks again. This time it gives and the water pours out, crashing into the team of officers.

Jin-young dashes over to Eun-bi and screams for an ambulance. Sometime later, Eun-bi is carried away on a stretcher and Jin-young looks around to realize that Jong-sam has disappeared.

23 minutes before roll call.

Jong-sam races back to prison in the white car while Ddakji peers out of the cell door.

In his urgency, Jong-sam presses the accelerator further and a cop car pulls out of a side street after him. He anxiously glances in the rearview as the trunk bounces ajar. Meanwhile, roll call is starting at the prison.

Pulled over on the shoulder, an officer glances at the cracked trunk on his way to Jong-sam’s window. He flashes his light in Jong-sam’s face and then walks back to the trunk. It’s jammed so he indicates for Jong-sam to pop it open. At the same time, Jin-young asks someone to run the prints on the gun and Jong-sam watches the clock roll over to nine o’clock as he grips the gear shift.

 
COMMENTS

Wow. Now this is the kind of premiere I like to see: a show that grabs the viewer and sucks them into its world. I don’t see how Jong-sam is going to make it back in time, and while I never really expected him to (the premise kind of dictates he stay out of prison), I still found myself sweating along with him in his race against the clock. Jong-sam’s predicament is actually another reason why I love this show because he’s a death-row inmate that’s managed to escape, and yet he’s trying his hardest to get back before they miss him? That alone intrigues me because most people in his position would be trying their best to stay out.

There may be other factors we don’t know yet, but the only reason I could come up with for Jong-sam to willingly return to numbered days was his desire to protect Ddakji. Their friendship is so lovely and it broke my heart when Ddakji started crying because he was going to be released while Jong-sam is condemned to stay. They’re such a cute pair and it’s easy to see how much Ddakji respects and loves Jong-sam. When we went back and discovered that the reason he was chasing down Eun-bi was because she was Ddakji’s sister, I felt a sudden fear that Ddakji had died. It’s a paranoia I always feel when I like a character too much and lives are on the line so I’m glad he’s okay… for now at least.

I didn’t expect Jong-sam’s cover as Oh Il-seung to be blown so quickly. Just another way this show puts a different spin on an old setup. I fully expected him to stumble into the identity and manage to pull it off through sheer dumb luck but I cannot express how much I appreciate that that didn’t fly. I do wonder how he’s going to remedy this going forward, but right now, he’s not even thinking about assuming another identity.

Eventually, he’ll have to though, if we’re going to track down the bad guys. That’s going to be quite a feat since at the moment, we don’t even know who they are. Our Men in Black are clearly only a cog in a bigger machine and I wonder how/if they’re connected to whatever landed Jong-sam and Ddakji in jail. I can’t tell which I’m dying to know about more, the past or the future.

It’s not just the murder mystery that raises questions about Jong-sam’s past but also his ties with Jin-young. She’s an interesting character all on her own as a former rich girl turned the breadwinner for her family. She’s sassy and smart and does not play well with others. But it’s her reaction when she saw Jong-sam that intrigues me the most, because she instantly recognized him just as he did her, and I don’t know why. Is it just because she knows Jong-sam became a murderer? Or is there more to this story? I’m putting my money on the latter.

 
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