Monday, August 8, 2011

Protect the Boss: Episode 1 Recap

This show sparks my interest in a way very different from Myung-wol, which is weird, because I got a very similar vibe from it, watching the previews. Not to say that's a bad thing, because I know just from Episode 1 that I'm going to love it. I'm drawn to flawed chaebol heroes like bees are to honey, and kick-ass heroines are never a bad thing, so put them both in one show? You couldn't possibly go wrong. I hope.

Watch Protect the Boss on DramaFever!

Episode 1 Recap
Episode 1 starts off with Noh Eun-seol (Choi Kang-hee) narrating a flashback from her high school days, wherein she saved a student from rival school bullies by beating the crap out of them. In voiceover, she comments that she wasn't all that great in her studies during the high school years, allowing friendship to take over her time with textbooks. But she doesn't regret it, she says, as we come back to present day.

Eun-seol is sitting in front of a group of interviewers, explaining about her background. She goes on to describe her college days, during which she learned leadership (by leading a protest against high tuition costs), and spent most of her time ignoring love.

As Eun-seol goes through various job interviews, Cha Ji-heon (Ji Sung) attends a phobia clinic. The patients go around, talking about their various fears, and Ji-heon watches on, wearing a mask and sunglasses. One of the patients turns to him, asking what "Mr. Mask's" problem is, and Ji-heon finally loses it, throwing a fit. 

After the clinic, he rails on his doctor for putting him through something like that. His doctor tells him that since he refused to take any of the prescribed medications, they'd had no other choice.

As they're talking, a wadded up tissue on the ground catches Ji-heon's eye and he starts to panic. Doc gets up, telling him to breathe. Ji-heon moves past him and picks up the tissue, exclaiming that hearing all those people at the clinic has made him start having symptoms he didn't even have before. He makes his way out of the doctor's office to Secretary Kim, his assistant, waiting for him by the car. Ji-heon holds out a hand, and Kim spritzes his palm with disinfectant before they leave.

Elsewhere, Eun-seol is on a shift at her part-time job. She gets a call and finds out that one of the places she'd interviewed at has decided to hire her. Eun-seol can't believe her luck and rushes out of the restaurant, thrilled. 

Ji-heon heads to work after his appointment. He's the head of a department at his family's corporation, D.N. Group, and it's presentation day. He gets up to make his spiel, stumbling over most of his words and having a rough time overall. Dad (the president) is at this meeting, along with cousin Mu-won (Kim Jaejoong), who's the polar opposite of Ji-heon, both charismatic and confident. Oh, and he's also vying for the chance to inherit D.N. Group over Ji-heon, which puts a strain on their relationship with each other, to say the least.

Ji-heon presents his proposal for a new telecommuting idea, but when Mu-won asks him for specifics, he freaks a bit and ditches the meeting saying he was busy and didn't get any farther with the plans. He rushes out and overhears Mu-won get up to finish the presentation for him.

On the way back to his office, Secretary Kim asks him why Ji-heon did that again, which indicates this isn't a first time thing. Ji-heon doesn't answer, and instead tells Kim to cancel all the rest of his meetings for the day. He's tired of everything and doesn't want to do it anymore. Well, then, drama queen. 

Apparently, Secretary Kim agrees with that assessment of mine, because he mildly berates Ji-heon for taking such a route: "I would understand if you did so much work that you'd get tired, but until now, you've just been trying to make decisions. Why--how are you sick of it all?" Of course, this doesn't go over well, and Ji-heon replies, "Are you lecturing me right now?" Secretary Kim, in a completely Secretary-Kim-from-Secret-Garden passive aggressive turn, backs down and says, "Me? When did I?" Lol.

Meanwhile, Eun-seol excitedly heads to her new job, momentarily hesitating outside the building when she sees the rundown state of it. But she's in too good of a mood to let that get her down, and heads up to meet her new boss. That doesn't help any, because her boss seems like a slippery, pervy type right off the bat, with his own crew of mafia-looking thugs.

Back at D.N. Group, Ji-heon runs into Dad, who's just walking out of the meeting. Upon seeing each other in the hallway, Ji-heon takes off running into an elevator, but Dad and his secretary catch up before he can make his escape. I honestly wish I could screencap every frame of these elevator scenes because they're just so damn hilarious.

Anyway, they're on the 20th floor, so Dad rails on Ji-heon, kicking him and pulling his ear on the ride down (as the two secretaries attempt to hide the security camera with their tablets), until his secretary notifies him they've almost reached their destination. Everyone stops what they're doing and regains their composure just as the elevator doors open up.

They walk out of the building, Dad telling Ji-heon that if he ever tries something like that again (saying he was too busy to finish a proposal and walking out of a meeting), he won't be inheriting the company. Ji-heon nonchalantly replies that he doesn't have much interest in it, so Dad tells his secretary to take Ji-heon off the registry. Ji-heon continues on, saying that by law, Dad can't cut him off, and Dad strikes him down right in the middle of the D.N. Group lobby, before realizing what he's done and walking off.

Ji-heon picks himself up off the floor and follows the president outside to their cars. Dad warns him not to skip his meetings that night and leaves. Secretary Kim, passive aggressive little bugger that he is, makes some comment about how he's always been jealous of chaebol heirs but after working for Ji-heon for three months, his opinion had changed. Ha.

Ji-heon does actually listen to his father, and has the driver take him to a bar so he can have drinks with some new employee recruits like daddy told him to. This is, of course, the same bar at which Eun-seol and her new coworkers have come after work.

In his meeting, Ji-heon is the biggest buzzkill on the planet, and shoots down any atmosphere-lifting attempts by being... well, himself.

Eun-seol, meanwhile, tries to brush off her new snakey boss's come-ons in a way that won't result in her getting fired. The creep doesn't take the hint, and moves onto one of Eun-seol's coworkers. But that's pretty much the last straw for Eun-seol, and she steps in to get him to back off. She tells him that what he's doing is sexual harrassment and he could be arrested if she decided to call the police. His response? Throwing his drink in her face. What an ass.

But we've seen some of Eun-seol's now-latent delinquent nature. She calls some of that back into action and finds her (former) boss in the bathroom while he's taking a piss. She gives him one last chance to apologize, but he calls her a psycho and attempts to raise a hand to her. Eun-seol doesn't even give him a chance, kicking him in the groin and then clubbing him in the face with her hands. When he's sufficiently disoriented, she grabs his tie and ties it to the faucet of one of the sinks.

She tells him she'd cleaned up her act and sacrificed having fun for years just so she could get a good job and not have to deal with assholes like him. Eventually, one of the boss's thugs finds him all tied up, but the jerk sends off his goon to find Eun-seol and deal with her properly.

Ji-heon makes his own departure from the staff social, literally climbing over the table to get to the door so he doesn't have to touch anyone, lol. He calls Secretary Kim to bring around the car, and bumps into Eun-seol leaving. She makes him drop his phone which, in Ji-heon world, doesn't fly. Calling her "Bun Head," he makes her pick up the phone.

They go back and forth about who should apologize to whom, but that gives her boss's goons enough time to catch up. Eun-seol makes quick work of them (even accidentally punching Ji-heon a couple of times, and losing a shoe in the process) and then runs out of the club barefoot, without giving Ji-heon a chance to find out who she is.

This, of course, leaves him alone with her boss's henchmen and he gets a right good beating from them for his arrogance. He walks out of the club to Secretary Kim waiting for him and, busted lip and swollen cheek and all, asks him if he happened to see "Bun Head" running out. Only, he sounds a bit crazy asking such a random question, so Kim replies nonchalantly that he didn't see her.

In typical Ji-heon form, he blames Secretary Kim ("I told you to bring the car around within one minute." Kim: "I did!" Ji-heon: "But you didn't see her? Does that make any sense?") for Bun Head getting away, and Kim protests that he's being unfairly accused. Ji-heon just asks him why he didn't come inside, then. Frustrated, Kim replies, "But you told me to wait..." They go back and forth a bit, Ji-heon berating his secretary for not coming inside to see if something was wrong.

Lol. Secretary Kim eventually gets around to asking him why he's been holding on to a woman's shoe since he came out (uh oh!), to which Ji-heon looks heavenward, as though searching for answers. Looking about ready to cry, he tells Secretary Kim to find the owner of the shoe. Kim makes a crack about Ji-heon not even being some prince trying to find his Cinderella, but Ji-heon gets back out of the car and tells him not to come to work until he's found the owner of the shoe. He drives off, leaving Kim at the club.

Their dynamic is actually pretty funny, and it upsets me that Secretary Kim will have to be axed in order for Eun-seol to make her way into Ji-heon's life. Maybe he'll stick around for other reasons. I hope.

A little worse for wear, Eun-seol heads to a fight club to see her best friend (and roommate) Myong-ran. She cleans herself up and the girls go outside to have a beer and talk. Eun-seol admits to Myong-ran that she's jealous of all those people who work for legitimate companies. Realizing she's pretty depressed, Myong-ran tells her she shouldn't be jealous. The city is all lit up at that time of night because those office workers haven't even had a chance to go home yet. They get overworked and that's not something to envy.

Myong-ran assures her that some great company will eventually come along and ask her to work for them. She yells out to the city that she's not jealous of them at all, and Eun-seol follows suit. It's only when they're facing away from each other that the girls let their smiles fall.

 Back at the Cha mansion, Grandma (Dad's mother) comes into Dad's office (while he's playing computer games) to berate him for his treatment of Ji-heon. She blames Dad for the way Ji-heon is, saying he's got an illness of the heart because his father beats him and belittles him all the time. She tells her son to take her words into consideration and leaves. After she's gone, Dad gets a thoughtful expression on his face, knowing she's probably right.

Later that night, Ji-heon comes in from the club to Dad sitting in the living room, waiting for him. Dad starts to apologize, as much as his pride will let him ("I was a bit harsh... but you did something to deserve it, that's why!"), but gets angry when Ji-heon refuses to face him. He's scared of showing Dad his torn up face, and rightly so, because Dad flips when he turns around.

Ji-heon explaining that it happened because of a woman he met doesn't help either, as Dad comes to the conclusion that he got beat up by a girl. Regardless, he's furious and sends Ji-heon off to bed.

That night, Dad can't sleep so he calls his secretary in for a favor: he wants him to find Secretary Kim, along with the guys who beat up Ji-heon. Cut to Dad in mafia clothes standing in front of the thugs from the club, having beaten them all up. They all promise to forget everything that happened that night.

A few days later, Dad receives a "best businessman" award, and in attendance at the reception is the whole family, including sis-in-law (Mu-won's mom) and Mu-won. The relationship between Dad and Aunt is tense, to say the least, and almost mirrors the one between their sons, with just a slight hint of darker animosity. A conversation between them alludes to Mu-won's father being the reason for the tension. Mu-won's mother believes her son to be the rightful heir to D.N. Group (think Goong and Prince Yul).

As their parents share some biting words, so too do their sons. Ji-heon has spent the entire party trying to get a hold of Secretary Kim, but randomly comments on Mu-won's face when Mu-won pokes fun at him for it. His cousin admits to putting on some BB cream, saying even businessmen need to look good. Ji-heon counters by telling him to be careful putting it on next time cuz it's a bit cakey. Hahahaha.

All this time, Ji-heon's jaded assistant has been at a pojangmacha drowning his sorrows in soju. While he's there, he gets a phone call and begins drunkenly complaining about his crazy bosses, spilling the beans about Dad going out and beating up those guys from the club, and about Ji-heon making him find Bun Head. Unbeknownst to him, a reporter is seated at the table behind him and hears the whole conversation. Ruh-roh.

Dad's secretary/assistant is a little more reliable, and runs in during the reception to fill in the president; reporters begin to storm the building almost immediately after the story breaks. Dad gets accosted by them all as he makes his way out of the party.

Meanwhile, Mu-won and his mom watch the story unfold on their car's TV, and Mom breaks out laughing. At home, Grandma catches the story as well, and covers her face in embarrassment.

Dad calls a meeting to try and come up with some options, but his board tells him there isn't much that can be done. They're just going to have to hire some lawyers and do damage control. As they're talking, Dad's assistant brings up the stock profile on his tablet; the stocks are plummeting as stockholders begin jumping ship.

Back at home, Ji-heon Googles himself to find out how widespread the damage is, which is when Secretary Kim makes his reappearance. He eventually confesses the whole story about the reporter (who'd given his card to Kim after the fact), and Ji-heon figures they'll both die by the president's hands when he finds out. I'm glad they didn't drag that out.

He asks Secretary Kim to arrange for him to go overseas for a bit, as his last request. Kim is pretty much resigned to his fate, which surprises Ji-heon, who tells him not to give up so easily.

But Secretary Kim's fallen over the edge at this point and, switching to banmal, begins to rail on Ji-heon one last time. This scene is particularly hilarious, as Kim basically tells him that his personality is shit, which is why he keeps losing his secretaries. He tells Ji-heon to live his life better if he wants things to change, and then runs away, falling all over himself a couple of times on the way. The words rankle Ji-heon's chains a bit, but he brushes them off quickly.

Dad heads to his court date soon after and gets sentenced to two years' probation and 180 hours of community service. He's exiled out to the countryside to care for some old folks and has a terrible time of it overall. Meanwhile, Ji-heon gets ready to head out of the country, and sees the news on TV. Hilariously, he picks up a dart and chucks it at a life-sized cardboard cutout of Bun Head/Eun-seol with the face missing.

Back at Eun-seol's house (man, it's a been a while since she had some screen time, huh?), she's busy looking through her bank books, trying to sort out her finances. She realizes she'd better get on this job hunting thing, or she's going to be in real trouble. Of course, now that Ji-heon is out one secretary, his company is where Eun-seol next ends up for an interview. And lo and behold, Mu-won is one of the interviewers.

There's a cute moment back at her house where Eun-seol imagines a bunch of golden zeroes with wings magically adding themselves to her bank account total.

Anyway, to say the least, the group interview goes badly, with the company skipping right over her for every question. Eun-seol thinks back to all the other bad interviews she's had--one where she'd sung and danced, and even one in which she'd given a kickboxing demonstration. The scenes are funny, but it's quite the sad montage as she recalls the pitiful things she's had to do to get people to notice her. 

She asks the interviewers why they aren't asking her any questions, and Mu-won looks up, finally more than peripherally interested. When one of the interviewers apologizes, Eun-seol admits to knowing that she probably won't be picked. 

She goes on to tell them, "I know you're not going to pick me, so I'll get something off my chest. Everyone here is sure to be very well off, and your time is sure to be precious. But so is my time. Writing my resume, preparing for the interview... I'm saying the time I spent getting ready for this interview is precious as well. I might look ridiculous to you, and you may look down on me, but rather I find you all ridiculous. Anybody can be successful or a failure. Some are smart and some are ignorant. This person may be better at this, and that person may be better at that. Everyone has different sell-able traits. To you people who only look at SAT scores and specifics... I think that rather, you are the ignorant ones. People like you who called me out but don't even treat me like a person... How could you possibly manage this big corporation? How will you be able to safeguard the people? I'm really, really worried about that. The future of Korea seems bleak, do you know? Please do well in the future."

After sufficiently railing on them, Eun-seol gets up and walks out of the interview, patting herself on the chest and steeling herself against tears as she does.

Back in the interview, Mu-won opens up Eun-seol's application. Seeing her personal statement, he laughs to himself.

Stuck with part-timing again for the moment, Eun-seol takes a job at a grocery store. While she's working, she receives a call from D.N. Group, telling her she got the job, even though she walked out of the interview. Eun-seol doesn't exactly know what to make of this and doubts that she even got the job.

In fact, she did actually get the job, but the problem is that everyone at the company thinks she got it through nepotism or other means (the term they use is "nakazan," which is a person who gets a job by having connections within the company). All the women in the office give her the cold shoulder (I think they think Eun-seol slept with Mu-won to get the job), but she soldiers on and asks to personally speak to Mu-won.

It's only after she walks into his office that she realizes he's the same person from the interview the other day. She asks him what his reason was for hiring her: she knows she has a nice appearance, or maybe it was because she resembles his first love... if not, then did he fall for her at first sight? HAHA.

Mu-won is gracious about this, and laughs it off saying, "Sorry, but it's none of those reasons." He explains that the son of the President Cha who's been on the news lately is her new boss, Cha Ji-heon. He's a bit difficult for normal people to deal with, but the notorious Noh Eun-seol should have no problems.

Mu-won gets a call from the president, relegated to the countryside still, asking why he'd pick a girl like Noh Eun-seol to be Ji-heon's secretary. Mu-won calmly explains that a change was necessary. The more elite employees that had been hired until now weren't able to handle Ji-heon, but a woman like Eun-seol, without good recs but with a great mindset and strong will should be able to take him on just fine.

Ji-heon gets back from his trip and Grandma's waiting to pick him up at the airport. She takes him straight to the office, where Dad drags him upstairs to meet his new assistant.

Eun-seol gets up to greet her new boss, and he stops for a second, getting a confused expression on his face. The two of them stare at each other, trying to figure out where they've seen the other person. Ha.

But yeah, so I was right about this being a ratings thief from Heartstrings. That poor show. For real. It just can't catch a break. That's not to say it sucks or anything, it's pretty good, but I think it's a bit polarizing and it can't hold up to big names like City Hunter, Protect the Boss and The Princess's Man. Both PTB and CH (and I guess TPM, too) appeal to a wider audience, since Heartstrings is more or less a young adult show.

This show is all sorts of quirky, but the humor isn't slapstick, which makes it likable. It's got all sorts of ridiculousness going on that it's goofy, yet goofy in the broadest of strokes. The humor is funnier because it's so outlandish and the situational comedy is completely appropriate. Even through all this, however, Protect the Boss has a lot of heart. Underlying every interaction, there is reason and motive. The characters don't just do things at random because they're funny; they do them because it's inherent to the situation, and funny things happen as a result of that.

Which brings me to my next gush point. The characters are brilliant and the actors are killing it in the roles they're playing. Choi Kang-hee, oh ye of a thousand facial expressions, is amazing as Noh Eun-seol, and her characterization in this episode makes me love her already. She's a spitfire and I hope she stays that way. Ji Sung is doing awesome as well, as basically the most anti-chaebol chaebol I've ever seen. He is reminiscent of Kim Joo-won from Secret Garden (and I think that comparison is going to take a while to be shed off) but he's not the kind of asshole that Joo-won was. He's got his quirks, but he seems to be an okay guy, if not majorly socially inept. We haven't seen enough of Mu-won (Jaejoong) to know what kind of person he is, but I like him so far, and his interactions with Ji-heon are hilarious. Hopefully, we'll also meet Wang Ji-hye's character in the next episode.

Last, I leave you with this screencap of father dearest doing laundry in the countryside. His assistant sprays him with cologne as he works, lol.

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