We open on a hushed auditorium, where two ridiculously handsome gentlemen are seated at tandem grand pianos. The man to the left, Yoo Ji Ho (Joo Ji Hoon) softly plays the opening chords of Franz Liszt’s La Campanelle from the Paganini Etudes, No. 3 in G-sharp minor. The man to the right, Yoo In Ha (Ji Chang Wook) joins in on the bass line, then his right hand slowly takes flight. As the two melodies join in harmony, In-ha looks up and glares ever-so-slightly at Ji-ho. These two men are brothers who share a father’s genes but a mother-in-name only. Ji-ho and In-ha may have finally reached the point where they are able to exist together, but at what price the journey…
As the brothers proceed to the adagio movement, a voiceover states that Yoo Ji-ho, who has just assumed the Chairman position at Boosung Enterprises, is holding an inauguration ceremony in a concert format with his younger brother, Yoo In-ha, where it is noted also played magnificently in the ‘piano battle’ between he and his brother.
More voicing-over tells us that Choi Yeong Rang (Chae Si Ra), the highly-regarded leader of one of the 10 largest companies in Korea, and considered the most influential woman by today’s college students, will be presiding over the inauguration banquet to be held after the concert. The third movement of the etude begins, as the voiceover continues to say that the Boosung Group’s largest shareholder, Chairman Ji-ho, promises that drastic corporate restructuring will be announced at the inauguration, while his relationship with the second largest shareholder In-ha, seems to be at odds. (And if they were not bitter enemies, we wouldn’t have a drama to recap now, would we?)
We see Yeong-rang in her bedroom getting dressed in a vibrant pink gown dripping with jewels. The voiceover continues and states that Chairman Yeong-rang will be wearing said pink gown to the new corporate building inauguration party. The same pink gown that she wore to her wedding banquet over 30 years ago, which her husband gifted her this 500,000 won dress as a wedding present, and was such a hot issue back then.
As she reaches for a diamond necklace, a man dressed in black enters the dining room and surveys the buffet spread out on the table. He picks up a lighter and puts the candles ablaze… and then deliberately knocks over a candelabra, setting the room on fire. Young-rang sees the smoke wafting underneath the door, and as she tries to escape, finds that the door is locked. Screaming to open the door brings no response, so using a conveniently-placed statue, she breaks off the lock and rushes into the dining room to see it completely engulfed in flames. Across the room, the man in black looks up as Yeong-rang yells out to him. “Ji-ho!! Please save mom! Didn’t you like mom?” The chandelier comes unmoored from the ceiling, and falls to the ground as Yeong-rang screams…
14 Years Before
A younger Ji-ho (Kang Yi Seok) runs to the beach on Jebu Island, being chased by an older woman. She screams at him because he ate the clams that he caught instead of bringing them to the market to be sold. He yells back that since he caught the clams, she reneged on her promise to cook him sausages. As Granny chases him around with a stick, he insists on being fed fried eggs for dinner or he will tell her home-stay guest that she is starving her grandson to death. Ji-ho runs off so carefree through the forest to the small market in town, and watches from afar as some other boys from the town snack down on milk and ice cream and other goodies. As his stomach growls in hunger, he runs past them.
Meanwhile, at Stately Rich Person Manor, Yeong-rang and second son In-ha (Kim Ji Hoon) sit down to lunch. Yeong-rang tells him that he will be busy with lesson plans until at least 10:00 PM, so he needs to eat up. In-ha commences to mouth off that he’s sick and tired of the side dishes because they’re always the same — he wants shrimp instead. But he’s not done crabbing yet; he snarls that there’s a solo recital later where he’s the accompanist. In-ha takes his schoolteacher to task for assigning him more work when he’s so busy (like a 12-year-old boy can be that busy). Yeong-rang tries to calm him down by telling him not everyone can be an accompanist, but In-ha claims that the Chopin etude he’s picked is just child’s play and stomps off anyway. Yeong-rang orders her staff to quickly prepare the shrimps and pack them in a lunchbox so he can chow down in the car.
After getting dressed up, Yeong-rang and In-ha prepare to leave, but are interrupted by an old woman wearing sunglasses asking where they’re off to. We quickly see that she’s the stereotypical mother-in-law, Min Ban Wol (Na Moon Hee) by the way she snivels at her daughter-in-law for constantly going out with In-ha at her side. Yeong-rang apologizes and states that they will not be back too late, as Grandma complains that Yeong-rang pays way too much attention to her son and not to her husband/son, as she thinks he looks extra tired these days… and by the way, why isn’t she buying Grandma oriental medicine at the same time? Yeong-rang is confused, but decides against making a scene and agrees to call the clinic right away.
In-ha’s had enough of this, as he says he’s outta there because he’s tired of hearing his mother say she’s sorry all the time. Grandma then orders Mom to get her ‘golf sticks’ ready, as the head maid Dong Yi (Song Ye Ju) brings out In-ha’s lunchbox. Grandma changes up her mind and wants shrimps instead, as Yeong-rang tells her she’ll make some after Grandma returns from golf practice. Grandma says she never told Yeong-rang anything of the sort, because she has a bad back. She wants shrimps NOW, and then wanders off to the kitchen. Dong-yi leans over and whispers that she thinks Grandma should go to the hospital, but Yeong-rang shushes her into silence and orders her to never speak of that again.
Back at Jebu-do, Ji-ho walks back from the beach on the one-land dirt road with a bag of freshly caught clams. A Range Rover speeds by and honks at him to get out of the way, kicking up mud all over him and the clams. He looks at the SUV and sees a stuffed green frog stuck to the back window, so he curses at the ‘pabo frog ajusshi’ for being so careless. (Plot Point!)
Arriving back at the restaurant that Granny runs, Ji-ho sits on the outside bench where he sees a guitar. Picking it up, he strums the open strings until a guy comes up and whacks him in the back of the head to scold him. He tells the home-stay ajusshi to not tell Granny because “she starves him when he touches a guest’s stuff.” That must amuse the guest, because he hands over the guitar to Ji-ho and asks him to play something. Ji-ho has a better idea, though… and ends up mimicking sounds instead: his Granny’s snoring (running up and down the bass strings); a clock ticking (finger-hammering the middle strings); and the sound of the wind with three strings, finishing off with a harmonic at the end to boot. The guy is impressed, as we fade out to…
… the concert hall at school where In-ha is the accompanist to a girl singer. As he mutters “rotten girl” under his breath, he starts playing and she starts singing until her voice breaks. She starts crying and runs off the stage, as In-ha keeps on playing. (And so ends another episode of Korea’s Got No Talent.) After the recital, Mom and In-ha are walking out, when all of a sudden, In-ha gets a backpack to the head and is knocked down. Yeong-rang is indignant, but In-ha even more so when he accuses the girl of being mad that she didn’t win a prize. The girl’s mom is there asking why In-ha changed the key of the song from a G-major into an A-major, so it was in too high a register for her to sing properly. Yeong-rang wants to go somewhere else to quietly discuss the matter, but the other mom calls her out for her family’s influence at their school – she will not let this slide, as they walk out in a huff.
Sitting on a park bench, Mom asks In-ha why he did it – that was not an honest mistake. In-ha, still in Pissy Mode, asks to transfer schools. The one he’s at now can’t be the only one town, right? Mom is more scared of what’s going to happen when his dad finds out and tells In-ha he has to stop being a brat – quit disappointing both her and his father. That’s too much for In-ha, as he yells back at her that he will never be weak and bow to anyone – he refuses to apologize to that wench and stomps off. Yeong-rang tries to run after him, but is interrupted by a phone call.
At a posh restaurant somewhere in downtown Seoul, we see Yeong-rang sitting across from another impeccably-dressed woman. She is a college hoobae of Yeong-rang’s, and they dissolve into small talk about a maid named Sun-mi, who was working for the hoobae’s family until Yeong-rang ‘stole’ her away to work for them. Sun-mi still keeps in touch with her previous employer’s maids, so hoobae hears all the gossip that emanates from the Yoo Family. Hoobae also spills the beans that she is putting on a recital soon, with Boosung Instruments as her sponsor. Young-rang spits out a “what?” but then backtracks to say that it was her idea to put in a good word for her sponsorship. Hoobae then asks if it was her idea to buy an officetel as well? Yeong-rang just stares at her, as she says she’s been seeing the President for six months now, and it was his idea to buy her an officetel and a new car, and thanks to that, she now has the opportunity to present in a solo recital.
But hoobae (who has now suddenly switched to Mistress Lady) ain’t done yet; she admonishes Yeong-rang to get out of the kitchen sometime and see the real world around her. Then she reaches into her designer purse and pulls out a black box, which when opened, shows a wedding ring. Yeong-rang’s wedding ring. (Oh noes!!) Mistress says that even though Yeong-rang’s family is overflowing with money, she’ll take advantage of that, but she cannot accept the ring. Mistress Lady gets up and walks out, to leave Yeong-rang sitting there fuming.
Over at ConHugeCo Corporation, we look in on President Yoo Man Se (Jo Min Ki) as he reviews his will paperwork with his General Counsel, Choi Seung Jae (Jang Hyun Sung). Attorney Choi asks him why he requested this paperwork, as Man-se notes that a lot of Boosung stock is in In-ha’s name. Attorney Choi reminds Dad that even though he is a minor, he’s still his only son, but why all of a sudden did Dad want to see the will again? Man-se says that he’s thinking about drawing up yet another will (apparently he does this with some regularity depending on his whims). Man-se says that every time In-ha does something wrong, he is going to cut down his stock holdings by 10,000 shares. BWAHAHAHA!
Man-se returns home later that evening to the domestic staff bowing in respect, when he notices that his wife is not there to greet him. When he asks her whereabouts, Dong-yi states that Madame is resting in her room – she does not look well. Man-se is slightly miffed and asks if she is really sick? Meanwhile, Yeong-rang is napping (to the Piano Concerto No. 14 Adagio Sostenuto by Beethoven) and doesn’t hear her husband enter. As he reaches for her forehead to check for a fever, Yeong-rang awakes with a start and jumps up to turn off the music, all the time apologizing for not hearing him arrive home.
Man-se says that he heard In-ha caused trouble in school again today, to which Yeong-rang says it wasn’t that big a deal – just a small mistake. Man-se is not amused, because the school principal called him in tears. Again. This time around, Man-se settled the matter with giving the school five more pianos. Young-rang thanks him and says In-ha is reflecting upon it, but since he’s young, can he just forgive In-ha this once? Man-se goes on to say that since Yeong-rang looks so tired, just call in Sun-mi to give him a massage and she can go rest. Yeong-rang states that she had to let go of Sun-mi today because her wedding ring disappeared and that Sun-mi was the last one to see it in their bedroom. Man-se does not look happy over this news and shifts uncomfortably in his chair. A small beeper goes off, and Yeong-rang runs out to go take care of Grandma again. Man-se sits and wonders if Yeong-rang knew about his affair after all? Nah… He reaches over and picks up the album lying on the side table and turns it over to see the inscription “To Young-rang. Happy Birthday. J.W.” Man-se throws down the album in disgust. (And you all know this will be a major plot point later, because one never introduces an item in the first act, to not make it count in the third act.)
Back in Crazy Granny’s room, Yeong-rang is brushing her hair but CrazyGran doesn’t like the way she’s handling it by messing up her handiwork, saying that her hair and clothes are all a mess. After all that, CrazyGran wants to go for a night swim, so she orders Young-rang to go ‘put on the swimming water.’ When Yeong-rang reminds her that she just got done with her evening bath, CrazyGran doth protesteth that she did nothing of the sort – she just sweated all day trying to keep alive. (Don’t worry; I’m reaching for my gun now.) CrazyGran also wants an ice cream cake for her birthday… plus throw in an extra strawberry cream cake too. When Yeong-rang reminds her that her birthday was last week and Man-se has reserved a cruise ship for her, CrazyGran goes off saying that Yeong-rang is just trying to wheedle out of buying In-ha’s Grandma her birthday presents! Just because she came into the family with no money, that’s why CrazyGran can’t trust her one bit. (Where’s that gun?!?) When Yeong-rang apologizes (again) for lacking, Man-se surprises her by sneaking into the room to scold his wife for getting his mother all worked up, and asks if she wants to go for a swim.
We see Man-se assisting his mother in the mansion pool while Yeong-rang stands silently by, flashing back to her earlier conversation with Mistress and the returning of her wedding ring. A hand on her shoulder, and she jumps – it’s In-ha coming out to make sure his mom is okay because she looks sick. She’s sick because of the mistakes he made earlier in the day. Yeong-rang says she’s not sick… she believes in her son. In-ha’s all over that comment, and tells her that she’s to believe in him alone. Don’t get down because Grandma’s being a pain, that he’ll be the best pianist, and he’ll make her dream come true instead. Okey dokey?
She asks In-ha what he’s chosen for the upcoming contest, and he says he’ll do the Chopin Butterfly Etude… which was also the same piece his father performed to win his own Daesang many years ago. Yeong-rang approves of that selection, and tells her son that they should go in and hear him play while Dad is still taking care of Grandma in the pool. As Man-se admonishes Grandma not to get too tired, he steps on something in the water. Diving down, he finds the wedding ring that was returned to Young-rang earlier that day. Man-se is not amused that Yeong-rang said there was nothing wrong, to say the least. She’s just going to stand by as if nothing happened? Pffft.
Meanwhile, back on Jebu Island, a thunderstorm has started. Granny sits at her table looking at a bank book while lamenting that it has been 10 years already… why is she still only receiving a lousy $200 a month? It’s only as good as goat crap. (hee!) Ji-ho is sleeping soundly on a pallet nearby, but wakes up with a start upon hearing the thunder and lightning. Granny says that it was storming bad when he lost his parents, but why at 13 years old is he still afraid of the thunder… as the next clap of thunder sends Ji-ho flying into her arms. Poor little guy is scared of storms, but Granny tells him to get off of her because it’s already too hot — go back to sleep while she goes outside to fetch some wood for the cooking fires. Ji-ho insists on following her, but that lands him a whack to the head instead and an admonition to stay inside. Another peal of thunder, and Ji-ho runs outside to catch up with Granny.
As he yells for Granny, thunder sounds again, and then Ji-ho hears a car horn and a huge THUD, as Granny gets hit and left for dead in the middle of the road. Ji-ho screams and pleads for her not to die, that he’ll be a good boy from now on, but she can’t leave him. The rain continues to pour down as he screams for his Granny not to die…
A phone rings, and we see Man-se awaken to pick it up. He asks the caller what he wants so late at night, and then asks “Who died?” We resume at a local police station, where Ji-ho and the home-stay ajusshi with the guitar are both there for questioning. Guitar Ajusshi insists it wasn’t him who was driving last night, and when the investigator asks Ji-ho what car type it was, he states that since it was raining, he couldn’t see it very well. Guitar Ajusshi turns and tries to shake Ji-ho to death, saying that it wasn’t him who hit his halmoni. Ji-ho then remembers that he heard a horn honking before the runaway car hit Dead Granny. They all head to the parking lot, where the investigator hits Guitar Ajusshi’s horn. Ji-ho insists that’s not the sound he heard last night – it was in a much higher pitch — and the investigator gets annoyed. Ji-ho flashes back again to the SUV that almost ran him over the day before, and the horn sounded the same as the one on the car that hit Dead Granny – the Crazy Frog Ajusshi!! (dun dun dunnnn!)
Back at the McMansion, In-ha is taking a bath. Not by himself; he is tended to by the domestic staff and Yeong-rang massaging his fingers, reminding his to not touch dangerous things. As a pianist, he needs to keep his hands out of trouble. In-ha continues to fuss, when the Beeper-From-Hell goes off and Yeong-rang has to leave to attend to the Grandma-From-Hell again. She orders Dong-yi to finish up and bolts out of there. In the dining room, Grandma is stuffing her face with foods she’s apparently not supposed to be eating because her doctor said that she shouldn’t. Grandma sputters that it’s not like she has long to live – why couldn’t she eat what she wants, and demands that the maids be dismissed! Yeong-rang can’t take it anymore and grabs the spoon out of her hand, while telling Grandma she can’t allow her to eat all that forbidden food because her glucose level will bust through the roof! Grandma begs and pleads for Yeong-rang not to tell her son – she’ll hand over all her holdings if Yeong-rang keeps her mouth shut – and orders the maids to bring the food to her room instead. Whoever helps Grandma out will get a huge piece of gold!!
The house phone rings, as Yeong-rang asks the caller why they’re up so early in the morning. A well-dressed woman, Na Gye Hwa (Cha Hwa Yeon) is wandering through a boutique and tells Yeong-rang that she saw her father in her dream last night, so she had to make a visit to his grave. (Her mother? Stepmother?) And by the way, she’s going to the States next week to go make kimchi for her siblings… and also by the way, can Yeong-rang buy her a plane ticket? (HAH!) Yeong-rang scolds her Mom that her siblings have been over in the States for over 10 years now; if they’re not going to get their degrees, then they need to immediately come back and become dishwashers instead. Yeong-rang flat out denies Mom’s request and hangs up on her. Gye-hwa mumbles that she’s the one that made her a chaebol wife, so what’s the big deal about a lousy plane ticket? Hmpf.
We’ve returned to Jebu Island, where Ji-ho walks into the living room to see the breakfast table Dead Granny had already set for him for when he woke up. Right in the middle of the spread are sausage patties with egg on top. Ji-ho stares at the foods while asking her how can he live by himself? He’s lost all taste for sausages, so hurry up and come back home because he’s scared! (Commence hearts breaking… now.)
Next we see three yakusa-type men walk into the house and ask him if he is Ji-ho. He doesn’t answer, but is instead dragged out to a waiting car that is to head back to Seoul before the tide comes in. They get as far as the causeway, but have to stop because it has partially flooded out. Not being the sharpest knives in the drawer, they get out of the car to figure out what to do next. That gives Ji-ho the chance to hop out himself and try to run to safety. His escape ends up being more like wading to safety, as the water continues to rise and Ji-ho decides that swimming to safety might be a better bet. That comes to an abrupt halt, as Ji-ho starts floundering in the water as the thugs swim after him…
… and Ji-ho is then seen laid out on the sand, being administered what I like to call “Gangster CPR” by being slapped awake by one of the thugs. Ji-ho starts backing away, accusing the bad men of killing his Granny and not to kill him, when we see a well-dressed foot (belonging to Man-se) alight from a town car. The thugs bow to Man-se, and he asks Ji-ho if that is his name. When Ji-ho asks who the ajusshi is, Man-se tells Ji-ho that he is the “man that is known as his father.” As they all head back to the town car, Ji-ho runs up to Man-se and tells him that if he plans on selling him overseas, that he can’t fight and he eats a lot, so if they do take him away, they’ll regret it!! (I like his spunky nature!)
Ji-ho continues on by saying that he hasn’t even had his Granny’s funeral yet, but Man-se tells him that the person who hit and killed her has been caught. It was the Crazy Frog Driver that Ji-ho suspected earlier. Man-se goes on to tell Ji-ho that he does not respect a person with so much fear in his life; he does not know how Ji-ho has made it this far in his life, but he should be more like his appa in the future. Ji-ho ain’t having any of that, and instead of calling him father, yells at him as a scammer gangster instead. That must have hit a nerve with Daddy Dearest, so he pulls out a business card which states that he is the Boosung School’s President – Yoo Man Se – and from now on, Ji-ho’s last name will be Yoo as well. Ji-ho repeats that back, and Man-se tells him not to forget that name, because that name will protect him. Man-se goes on to tell Ji-ho that he is sorry… that this was the first time he said sorry in his life. And it will be the last time, because appa will never have to say it to Ji-ho again. Ji-ho just stands there with an immense WTF? look on his face.
Returning to the House on the Hill, Ji-ho is paraded (filthy and barefoot, no less) in front of the rest of the Yoo Family. Man-se explains to them that there was a woman he “met” for awhile before marrying Yeong-rang. Apparently Man-se was not told he had a child (wha?) and that his grandmother raised him by herself. When that woman passed away, Ji-ho became entrusted to Man-se’s care. Crazy Granny is beside herself asking how that could happen – In-ha has a hyung out there? Man-se says to just look at him – because of age, he’s obviously the older of the two boys. (And maybe not because he’s a little on the chubby side?) Appa says that it always bothered him that Ji-ho was an only child due to his mother’s illness… but he feels much better now.
Those last words finally sets off In-ha, who demands that the little Beggar Boy be tossed out on his backside. In-ha never wanted nor was jealous of people with brothers – if they were really worried, just buy him a dog. In fact, that would be better! Man-se gives it right back to In-ha, reminding him that they share the same blood. Treat him like the older brother he is! In-ha continues his hissy fit, ordering Yeong-rang (who is basically standing there like a statue) to chase away that guy (Ji-ho) because he refuses to share anything with him!! Man-se tells In-ha to STFU, because Ji-ho is his oldest son, and nothing will change that. If no one will accept it, it’s Dad’s way or the highway!
Man-se pushes Ji-ho toward Dong-yi the maid, and orders her to draw a bath for him. He needs to be cleaned up enough to meet the tailor so he has proper clothes to wear, and also put another bed in In-ha’s room – Ji-ho needs to be turned into a boy that belongs in this family by tonight! Man-se leaves the room (not before bumping into Yeong-rang on his way out), and In-ha can only do the thing he does best… wail and run up the stairs to hide! Yeong-rang follows Man-se into their bedroom and demands to talk. Man-se has other plans, and tells Yeong-rang that they need to register Ji-ho first. And how about the two boys share the same room so they can become brothers faster? Yeong-rang says that there are other things more important, like how In-ha feels about this. Man-se turns to her and wants confirmation that she’s fine with everything and still concerned about In-ha? Oh yeah, she’s the Ice Princess without any feelings of jealousy? She spits back at him that it was a sin to endure for her family.
Man-se gets up and grabs Yeong-rang’s shoulders and tells her she’s really something – she puts up with all his cruelty and philandering with a smile, even if he goes after her hoobaes? How much more crueler can he be before she does something about it? Man-se grabs her so hard she’s going to break in two, yelling at her that she’s betraying him and belittling him at that very moment. When Yeong-rang protests, Man-se pulls out the big guns: when she was studying abroad (on his sponsorship, no less), she met another man. There’s always been a threesome in their marriage (say!) and that other man has made him angry (no duh) standing in between the two of them. Yeong-rang attempts to calm down Man-se by telling him that meeting the other man was all in the past; that she’s never regretted marrying him. Husband needs to please forget all about him now. Man-se grabs her by her ears and says that it’s his turn now, that he can’t live with ‘debts hanging over his head.’ He’s going to show his wife how it really is to feel like she’s in a threesome now. (All right, get your heads out of the gutter.) He releases her and stomps out of the room, while she collapses onto the floor.
Now we have the obligatory “clean up the beggar boy” scene, where the tailor for his new clothes is measuring Ji-ho, then it’s time for a dip in the soaking tub, where the entire domestic staff takes a limb and scrubs it clean. After getting dressed in matching teddy-bear silk jammies (LOL!), Ji-ho enters his the bedroom he’ll be sharing with In-ha, where he’s laid out reading a book. In-ha decides the grass is greener on the other side, so he bounces over to the bed that Ji-ho is supposed to be using and calls Ji-ho out on how he feels to have a rich dad in his life now… because isn’t that how beggars feel?
Ji-ho reminds him that this is his father’s house too, to which In-ha tells him that he wants to put it into scientific terms, since Ji-ho doesn’t quite understand – Ji-ho is a ‘defective product’ from his appa’s younger, wilder days. When Ji-ho grabs the little shit by the collar, In-ha taunts him and says to go ahead and hit him… because then for sure the Beggar Boy will be tossed out onto the streets. Ji-ho releases him, and In-ha calls him a coward. He should just act like a dog, so his kind mother can feed him and take care of him… and then puts his hand on Ji-ho’s shoulder. That was the last straw for Ji-ho, as he grabs In-ha’s wrist and twists it behind him.
As In-ha cries out in pain, Mom and Dad come running into the room. Ji-ho finally lets go on In-ha’s hand, as Yeong-rang fusses over her widdle Piano Boy and Man-se orders Ji-ho to let go of his brother’s hand. Mom tells In-ha that he must have done something wrong in order for Ji-ho to act that carelessly, but since nothing is broken or twisted, In-ha will be fine. But Dad has other ideas, since he doesn’t allow violence in his house. (And I betcha those words will come back to bite him in the butt later on.) In-ha plays the piano, so his hands cannot be injured in any way. Man-se orders Ji-ho to put his hands up in the dark laundry room as punishment. Ji-ho meekly complies, but as the door is closed upon him, you can see he’s not a happy little camper.
Yeong-rang is sitting in their bedroom, calmly arranging flowers. When Man-se enters and asks her why she hasn’t played Twenty Questions with him on the identity of Ji-ho’s birth mother, he decides to spill his guts alone. He tells her it was one of Yeong-rang’s friends from university; the friend that went to study abroad; the friend that was Yeong-rang’s rival as well… and the friend who passed away in a car accident when Ji-ho was a baby. Seeing those statements not getting Rise One out of his wife, he twists the knife even deeper by saying that Ji-ho’s mother was no match for his wife, as she was a piano prodigy extraordinaire. Man-se goes on to say it was a waste to lose her, but that he’s going to raise Ji-ho well.
Yeong-rang sits there, still calmly arranging the flowers, and Man-se decides to give up if she’s not going to confront him about the affair. He stomps out of the room… as we see blood dripping onto the newspapers that are protecting the table from scratches. Yeong-rang is gripping a rose stem so tightly that the thorns are cutting into her flesh. (Ah, so she does have a pulse after all!)
Enter yet another off-stage thunderstorm, with Ji-ho still locked up in the laundry room. He begs and pleads to be let out, but ends up passing out in fright… to wake up in his new bedroom calling for Dead Granny. But she’s obviously not there; it’s Young-rang hovering over him and checking up on his breathing. She tells him it looks like he caught a cold from all the stress of the past few days, and the doctor (who just left) prescribes some bed rest. Yeong-rang asks Ji-ho if he’d like some porridge, but when she passed the tray over to him, Ji-ho puts it aside and leans over to rest on Yeong-rang’s chest instead. She is visibly taken aback, and asks what the heck he’s doing (calmly, of course, because that’s how she rolls). Ji-ho says it’s because she “smells good.” Hunh?
Ji-ho says that this is the first time in his life that he’s ever been hugged. Yeong-rang is still taking all this in, when Ji-ho asks why she doesn’t hate him? She explains that it’s not his fault that he ended up in their household this way, and that he can come to her at any time. Ji-ho should not get hurt because of the adults, because it is his house too. She strokes his face and leaves the room, visibly touched.
Back in the practice room, In-ha is beating the death out of Chopin’s “Butterfly” Etude, when Yeong-rang stops him for playing the wrong notes. In-ha protests, saying that he’s completely memorized the score, so how could it be wrong? At that moment, Ji-ho pads into the room (still dressed in those adorkable teddy-bear jammies) and says the same thing – that what In-ha played right then was different from the last time he heard it. Yeong-rang tells In-ha to wait and goes over to the score. Flipping to the page with the chordal runs, Yeong-rang confirms that Ji-ho is correct – In-ha missed a G-sharp in the middle passage! In-ha tells her to not pay attention to anything the Beggar Boy says – he doesn’t know his way around a piano like In-ha does. But Yeong-rang has another idea…
She sits at the piano and plays a C-major scale while reciting the solfeggio, and asks Ji-ho to pick out the note in the progression (and then proceeds to play a C chord). Ji-ho stands there and thinks about it until In-ha opens his yap and says that he doesn’t know anything about music… when Ji-ho tells her that there was more than one note there. He definitely heard Mi (E) and Sol (G). Yeong-rang then plays an F-minor chord, with Ji-ho picking out all three notes in sequence. Yeong-rang then just decides to bang on the keys, but Ji-ho properly picks out each key regardless! Just at that time, Man-se decides to saunter into the room and asks what’s going on here? Does this little exercise mean that Ji-ho has perfect pitch?!?
Back to the living room, where Yeong-rang is cutting up fruit. (A pianist handling a knife? I call no way!) CrazyGran asks how could Ji-ho be able to have perfect pitch, when In-ha has been winning all the piano competitions? Man-se reminds her that In-ha has been playing the piano since he was three years old; Ji-ho was born a natural prodigy (he says with a smirk on his evil face). CrazyGran asks that isn’t it imperative for a musical instrument company owner to have perfect pitch, to which Man-se agrees with her and smacks down any foreign owner who doesn’t have a family member with perfect pitch. (True Fact: The Korean market has been flooded recently with cheap-ass pianos from China, and it sounds like the scriptwriter needed to get a little dig in there. Hee.)
CrazyGran (actually sounding more lucid by the moment) wonders what will happen if both In-ha and Ji-ho are both musical geniuses. Man-se then comes up with the bright idea to have a competition between the two brothers – Ji-ho will learn the piano in a set amount of time, and then the most outstanding child will end up being the future Chairman of Bo Sam School. Man-se then orders Yeong-rang to sign up Ji-ho for lessons right away (as she is still peeling the same apple that she started in on five minutes ago), because he wants to make it a fair competition after all. She agrees with him, as Ji-ho sadly looks across the table at In-ha seething inward at him.
Back to the “Butterfly” again. We get a nice little montage of Ji-ho meeting his piano teacher, his going through the motions just learning the basics of fingering and wrist placement… all the while In-ha is still banging away so hard on the Chopin that he’s sweating all over the keys, but with no feeling whatsoever. Apparently Little Prodigy has moved on from the basics and is starting in on another teaching piece (Tchaikovsky’s ‘Barcarolle’ from “The Seasons”), with high praise from his teacher.
Meanwhile, at Snooty Snoot School, Ji-ho walks into the music room to In-ha getting in his face about his presence there. Ji-ho tells him that he wants to practice with other instruments besides the piano, which makes In-ha snort at the gall of this newbie who only just started learning piano the night before. Ji-ho gives it right back to In-ha, saying that he at least knows the difference between the white and black keys! (Oooooh… um, burn?) One of their classmates asks In-ha if he is really brothers with Ji-ho, that his mom told him he was born from an extramarital affair. In-ha tells him to shut his piehole because what he said doesn’t make sense – his dad went to an island and brought back this orphan boy.
In-ha tells Ji-ho that there’s no room for him in their Secret Music Club, but Ji-ho asks what he has to do in order to join in. In-ha decides to give him an ‘audition’ since he’s only following his mom’s orders to be nice to Ji-ho. Opening the piano lid, In-ha says that all Ji-ho has to do is ‘parrot’ the instrument that is playing before him. In-ha nods to a little girl with a violin, and she starts playing the “Humoresque” by Dvorak (you might remember this piece used in a lot of Bugs Bunny cartoons). All Ji-ho has to do is listen, and he plays the same piece back perfectly. In-ha pushes another girl up with a flute for her turn, as she lights into a minuet (can’t remember the composer off-hand, though). Lather, rinse and repeat for Ji-ho, who then riffs on the melody with left-hand harmony and everything. Now if that little performance doesn’t scream PRODIGY, then I’ll eat my metronome!
Back at the Palatial Mansion, In-ha and Ji-ho are walking past the swimming pool to return to the main house. In-ha turns around and yells at Ji-ho to stop following him around; first at the music class and now in his shadow walking back home from school. Ji-ho tells him that if In-ha was going to be that uncomfortable about it, then he should have told him to stop. That was enough for In-ha to wheel around and grab Ji-ho’s shirt, saying that his presence has brought shame upon his family – his dad is now known as a cheater, his mom is being pitied by anyone and everyone, and he… he… BAH!
In-ha just gives up and pushes Ji-ho into the pool, walking away and muttering that he’s distressed by all these new developments, when he suddenly realizes that there’s no splashing coming from the pool at all. Turning around and seeing that Ji-ho is floating face down and not moving, In-ha curses at him for being stupid over not knowing how to swim and jumps in to save him. But ha ha ha, the laugh’s on In-ha, as Ji-ho pulls a PSYCHE! on In-ha and pops up alive and breathing. In-ha sputters his discontent, as Ji-ho tells him that he’s going to stick to In-ha like a tick from now on, so In-ha needs to get very prepared for the competition. In-ha looks like he’s going to implode and starts beating the pool water into submission instead.
A street vendor, Hong Soo Pyo (Oh Dae Gyu) and his very pregnant wife, Song Nam Joo (Jeon Mi Seon) are tending to their pop-up hoddeok cart (thin sweet pancakes with a gooey brown-sugar/cinnamon filling inside). We then see CrazyGran peeking around the corner at the sight of the hoddeoks… she casually saunters over to the stand, grabs a few hoddeoks, and runs for her life!! (So Crazy Granny is also a kleptomaniac? That would explain things.) The two vendors run after her, but give up as CrazyGran is probably already in the next county by now. Nam-joo hits her husband, but it’s not what you think – she starts signing because Hubby is deaf! At least we get to hear in voiceover his thoughts, that he wishes CrazyGran wouldn’t take the cold ones – if she would just wait, Hubby would make some fresh ones for her anytime. Mom doesn’t approve, because the need to save their hard-earned hoddeok money on the piano they want to buy for their daughter… and when Hubby asks why Da-mi isn’t home yet, Mom accuses him of spoiling her when she’s out gallivanting after school lets out.
Later that day, Ji-ho is biking home from school, when he comes across one of his father’s music stores. Hopping off his bike, he pressed his nose against the glass to gaze lovingly at one of the grand pianos for sale. Looking over, he sees a little girl doing the exact same thing (Kim Seon Kyeong as Hong Da Mi). She asks Ji-ho if he’s there to buy a piano, as she’s there just to stare at the piano until the sun sets. Ji-ho tells her she should just go in and play it, but she says she can’t because she got kicked out for good the last time she went in to play.
Ji-ho has an idea, and pulls Da-mi into the store with her. When the ajusshi confronts them, Ji-ho leans over and tells the man that his mother is parking the car. It should be okay if they play the piano over there until she arrives, right? The ajusshi gapes at them when Ji-ho and Da-mi head over to the black grand and sit, where Ji-ho says they now have permission to play, so have at it! Da-mi tells him that she can’t play the piano because she’s never been given the chance, but that doesn’t deter Ji-ho and he ends up teaching Da-mi the bass line to “Heart and Soul” (so stereotypical, but cute nonetheless).
Ji-ho takes the right hand melody part, and they play a few bars before Da-mi stops and breaks down in tears. When Ji-ho asks why she’s crying, she explains that it’s all because of her dad, who is deaf and will never hear such beautiful music. Ji-ho doesn’t understand that’s why she’s crying, because anyone can hear the piano through their hearts. As Da-mi attempts to process such a profound statement, the ajusshi comes over and asks if Ji-ho’s “mother” is still parking the car. That gives him the opportunity to grab Da-mi’s wrist (they’re married now, right?) and drag her out of the store and away from the fussing ajusshi.
They run out and then we get the Obligatory Bicycle Ride Scene through the infamous ‘Winter Sonata’ stand of trees – wind in their hair, smiles on their faces, etc. etc. etc. You would think everything is hearts and flowers with these two, until Ji-ho gets home…
… and then gets the crap beat out of his legs with a switch, courtesy of Daddy Dearest, who was worried that Ji-ho didn’t come home straight from school as he was ordered to. Ji-ho attempts to apologize his way out of it by saying he lost all track of time. It’s too suffocating just studying all the time, and… WHACK! Man-se tells Ji-ho that because he’s put a roof over his head and food in his stomach, that he will not allow Ji-ho even a minute of free time. If he wants to be like that, go back to Jebu-do and roam the open fields again… as in the past. (Ah, so he DID check up on the little tyke as he was growing up; how else would he know those details?)
Man-se ain’t done yet with his venomous wrath, as he takes it out on Yeong-rang and accuses her of sitting around all day waiting for Ji-ho to come home. Her lack of caring is the reason that Ji-ho decides to wander around all hell and creation everyday! Of course, Yeong-rang apologizes again and again that she was wrong, which sets Man-se off even more and orders her to give the same amount of caring to Ji-ho that she gives in In-ha. As he gets up to leave the room, Man-se drops the bombshell that at the next Boosong competition, he’s going to enter Ji-ho in it. Finally that gets a rise out of Yeong-rang, as she tells him there isn’t enough time for him… She gets cut off with a TSCH! and demands that Yeong-rang do the same thing she did with In-ha. Make him practice day and night – maybe Ji-ho will finally get in his right mind if there’s a specific goal to reach.
Later that evening, we’re in the boys’ bedroom as Yeong-rang applies a salve to Ji-ho’s bruised legs. She insists that if it hurts too much, he should go to the hospital in the morning. Ji-ho rolls over and apologizes that it’s all his fault, but Yeong-rang was glad that nothing happened on his walkabout. She does want to know if there was something that she did to make Ji-ho sad, but he dismisses that right away. She turns to him and says that even though she didn’t give birth to him, she thinks of him on the same level as In-ha. She’s hoping they accept each other, and maybe Ji-ho could find it in his heart to call her “mom” some day. When Ji-ho doesn’t answer right away, she tells him she can wait, as a solitary tear rolls down her cheek. Ji-ho reaches up to brush it away and asks her not to cry.
Man-se is in his study, reviewing some documents. He looks up, and wonders out loud “Is it really the time?”
Back in the music room, where In-ha is spouting off that he doesn’t want to perform in the competition now that Ji-ho has been entered in it as well. It’s bad enough that they have to share a room and towels (ew!), but Yeong-rang stops him in his tracks and tells him it’s Dad’s idea… and hers too. In-ha tells Ji-ho that if he’s so willing to enter the competition, then he’s quitting. Ji-ha calls him out as a quitter, which riles In-ha up even further because he’s the best, dammit — he’s never lost at any piano competition!! Ji-ho says that if In-ha thinks he’s the best, then act like the best and go up against him!
Madder than hell, In-ha grabs Ji-ho by his collar and throws him up against the humongous fish tank to shut him up. Unfortunately for the fish tank, it starts to splinter and crack. Yeong-rang yells at the boys to look out and runs over to push them out of the way. The fish tank gives way to gallons of water rushing over the three, but as the camera pulls away, we see that Yeong-rang has Ji-ho in her arms, shielding him from the damage… and In-ha across the room, writhing in pain!!
End of Episode 1
Flowers and Brickbats
Firstly, I need to get this off my chest…
SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE MY PRECIOUS IS BACK ON TELEVISION!!!!!
::dance dance dance dance dance dance::
Okay, I’m done. Thanks for understanding. I know this is an excruciatingly long recap, but there was so much character development and other items that went right past me in my first few viewings. You should have seen how much I had to leave out! But I have been chewing my nails for months waiting for this drama to start airing!! I majored in Music Education (and still play piano and guitar to this day) before I started shilling for lawyer-types, so it’s about freakin’ time that a K-drama focused on classical music. It was a stroke of genius to start the series with the adult actors (no matter how brief their appearance) and also to use the Liszt show piece in the beginning, as it is probably the most famous work written for four hands and it does remind you in that this is not going to be any ordinary melodrama. A production like this will either sink or swim on the unsung film editors to make sure the transitions between the professional hands and the actors’ hands are seamless, and so far it looks like they’re doing quite well.
As usual, the kids are hitting it out of the park – for the six of you who watched KBS’s “Man of Honor” last year, young In-ha is played by Kim Ji Hoon, who also played the younger version of Lee Jang Woo’s character. Kang Yi Seok, who plays Ji-ho, was in such heavy-hitters as “Cain and Abel,” “Life is Beautiful,” and “The First Wives Club” (he’s also a real good friend of Yeo Jin Goo!). These youngsters are no lightweights, that’s for sure! We haven’t seen enough of Kim Seong Kyeong (young Da-mi) for me to form an opinion yet, but I’m sure that will change with Episode 2.
Of course, the Father of the Year Award goes to… Jo Min Ki. NOT. We’re only done with the first episode, so we still haven’t figured out why Man-se acts like he does. On the surface, you would be thinking “geez, this guy is such a prick,” but there has to be a reason (or 17) why he acts that way (and I’m sure CrazyGran plays a big part in that). Only four episodes in total to figure out how he ticks? Rats.
Chae Si Ra is her usual gorgeous self in this production, and I’ve read that she has been a stylist’s dream to work with on her outfits and accessories. Playing the ‘ice queen’ with quiet desperation, the chink in her armor will eventually show itself and it ain’t gonna be pretty. Ooooh, can’t wait!!
Sigh. I could watch the beginning of this episode over and over and over again. I think I’ll do just that. Episode 2 up next!!
P.S. Trying to be consistent, so I’m using the romanization of “Boosung” for the piano company, because that’s how it’s referenced on the pianos coming out of the factory, and on Man-se’s business card as well.
P.S. Part 2. I am not getting into the whole Eunjung-dismissal situation that exploded with a bang this week. I would appreciate it if anyone reading this could post your comments in another forum. Thanks.