Two brand new dramas just started last Wednesday, vying to get your attention for ratings. They are both thematically different but both highly anticipated dramas. From what I’ve seen so far from the first two episodes, I am optimistic about them so here’s a rundown of the storyline from these episodes.
On a complete sidenote, I am a little annoyed that some of the major broadcasters are inserting commercial breaks in the middle of the episode and therefore, the numbering has been adjusted to reflect the two parts as standalones. From a budget standpoint, it just means more advertising dollars can go to the production and I’m hoping that won’t make the project rely on product placement. Ultimately, this is just a minor detail and it’s easy to look past this as long as the story doesn’t suffer.
Set in Joseon during the reign of King Yeongjo (Kim Myung Soo) and his son, Crown Prince Lee Sun (Yoo Seung Ho), Ruler: Master of the Mask is a story about political intrigue and romance. The story seems like it is partly based on the Prince and the Pauper as well as The Man in the Iron Mask.
At a secret meeting, King Yeongjo is seen asking for help to become the next king from Dae Mok (Heo Joon Ho), the leader of Pyunsoohwe, a powerful shady organization. In order to ensure that Yeongjo will do their bidding, they force him to take a poison that will only be released if he doesn’t take his monthly pill provided by the organization. And so, Yeongjo becomes the next king but as Pyunsoohwe’s stooge.
King Yeongjo’s only hope for the kingdom lies in his future heir. With the birth of his son, he hopes that Crown Prince Lee Sun will be able to rule freely. Unfortunately, Dae Mok has other plans. Fortune tells the king that his son will be able to escape his negative fate only if he is born within a certain hour and his consort holds out as much as she can to ensure the good fate. He is born close to the hour so his fate depends on the interpretation of the hour so King Yeongjo banks on the hopeful news to Dae Mok’s dismay.
However, as the baby is given a name by his father during a ceremonial procedure, Dae Mok has a royal court lady switch out the ceremonial dragon’s blood for poison that gets mixed into the ink. The baby is poisoned and King Yeongjo is forced to vow his allegiance and secure allegiance of his son to Pyunsoohwe.
Years pass, Lee Sun grows into a young man who is forced to wear a mask. He assumes that he has to wear it because he is hideous and learns that anyone who sees his face is immediately executed. However, the truth is that his father wants to keep him safe from Dae Mok. Unfortunately, the mystery over why the prince is masked builds up people’s curiosity and the Crown Prince has become quite the urban legend.
Dae Mok comes up with another plan to uncover the prince’s identity by sending Kim Hwa Goon (Yoon So Hee) into the palace as a candidate to become the prince’s wife. She’s the daughter of the nobleman who is a member of Pyunsoohwe. She’s quite a shrewd, young girl who wants to uncover the prince’s identity herself but also aims to become a princess. Dae Mok is quite fond of her and treats her as if she were his own granddaughter.
She seizes an opportunity to enter the prince’s private conservatory. At first, Lee Sun is quite shocked to see Hwa Goon but when he hears an eunuch approaching his chambers, he grabs her and they hide. Hwa Goon tries to break free, not realizing that this man is the prince, and she even tries to prick him in the neck. However, she comes to realize who he is and that he doesn’t mean her harm. As soon as she is able to break free, she leaves the conservatory only to be confronted by royal court guards. Fearing that she has seen the prince, they aim to execute her but he comes along wearing his mask to save her. Immediately, she becomes quite charmed by him.
Unable to withstand his curiosity, Lee Sun aims to seek out Woo Bo (Park Chul Min), once an influential advisor to the royal court, to hear why he must wear the mask. He swaps his clothes with a terrified eunuch who keeps his eyes shut the entire time. Quickly, the eunuch is found out by King Yeongjo. Although he doesn’t raise the alarms, he sends out a trusted bodyguard to retrieve the prince.
Being confined to the palace, the prince quickly learns that water is being charged to commoners for exorbitant prices. The wells are controlled by a group of people lead by Jo Tae Ho (Kim Young Woong) with the backing of Pyunsoohwe. In an attempt to help a young, thirsty boy, the prince gets unintentionally gets caught in the middle of a scuffle when the commoners band together to protest the price of water.
As Lee Sun runs away, he runs into Han Ga Eun (Kim So Hyun), the daughter of a nobleman. She’s headstrong and kind and helps Sun escape the goons who are chasing him. She also helps him find his way to Woo Bo, the advisor that he’s been seeking. Expecting to find a great teacher, he instead finds a drunkard but he’s eager to learn what Woo Bo knows about his past.
Lee Sun also re-encounters the guy who had been dolling out the water at the well. He’s just a commoner who works for the man but the two have clearly gotten off on the wrong foot. The kid assumes Lee Sun is just another rich nobleman who is out of touch with society. He also doesn’t like the fact that Prince Sun seems to show some interest in Ga Eun as he also harbors feelings for her despite the differences in their status. Due to their egos, the two get into a scuffle when Ga Eun tries to pull them apart by calling the kid by his name, Lee Sun (Infinite’s L). Surprised by it, Prince Sun laughs it off to Sun’s confusion.
Yang Yo Seob – 남자라 울지 못했어 (Because I’m a Man I Couldn’t Cry)
Later on in the evening, they learn the Sun’s mother is ready to conceive her child but there have been complication. It would help if they had some water but the wells are now all closed. Prince Sun, Ga Eun and Sun all set off to see if they could get some water from the organization guarding the wells. Although they aren’t able to convince the guys, despite offering more money, Sun’s father (Jung Hae Kyun), who also works for the group, uses his charms to slip to get some water. Despite the fears that the group could retaliate against him, Sun’s father just shrugs it off saying that he’ll just pay them back in the morning. What’s important is that his family is happy and healthy.
However, Pyunsoohwe has heard rumors that the prince has left the palace and they are desperate to sniff him out of hiding. Hwa Goon comes up with a plan as she suspects that she saw the prince in the town center. She directs Jo Tae Ho to find out who these water thieves are and retrieve them. Early in the morning, Sun goes to Ga Eun’s house to seek the help of her father, Han Kyu Ho (Jun Noh Min).
Han Kyu Ho arrives in the nick of time but it’s not enough to help Sun’s father from the debt that he owes Jo Tae Ho. Seeing this, Prince Sun disappears to change his clothes and reappear as the crown prince. He shows his seal proving that he is the prince and demands that Sun’s father be released immediately.
Later on, Ga Eun is overjoyed that the prince came to save the day as she shares the news with Prince Sun, not knowing who he is. He’s delighted to hear how happy he’s made Ga Eun. Unfortunately for the two, Hwa Goon sees their exchange and immediately becomes jealous.
As Sun and his father return home, they are ambushed in the woods. Sun is knocked out and awakes to discover that the goons have killed his father.
Angry and despair, Sun sets out to prepare to kill Jo Tae Ho. Prince Sun stops him just as he’s about to attack. He tells him that there is another way to go about getting justice for his father and murder is not the way to go. Sun doesn’t believe him and tries to fight Prince Sun off until the prince’s bodyguard, Lee Chung Woo (Shin Hyun Soo), stops him. Prince Sun reveals that he’s the prince and he makes a promise to Sun that he’ll do what he can to help him out. He’ll even give Sun his seal, despite Chung Woo’s protestations, to prove that he’ll keep his promise.
However, it might too late for Prince Sun before he even begins. As the prince aims to head back to the palace, Pyunsoohwe has gotten wind of the prince’s whereabouts and surrounds the group.
Already, the drama has set up the plot for major anguish and heartbreak. It’s clear that Lee Sun will eventually be brought in the palace to take Prince Sun’s place at some point. What’s not clear is how this will affect the love triangle between the two and Ga Eun. The other interesting thing about Prince Lee Sun is the historical aspect as he is later known as Crown Prince Sado. As a reminder, Sado has an incredibly sad fate in Korean history as he doesn’t ascend to the throne but ends up dying of starvation in a rice chest after his own father sentenced him for his supposed crimes. I don’t think that the drama will deviate from this outcome but seeing that the drama has already set us up for the character swap, the thing that’s yet unknown is which “prince” will face this fate in the drama.
The other Wednesday-Thursday drama that started last week is Suspicious Partner, which is a fun, mysterious romcom. The plot is straight-forward, which I’m grateful for. As much as I do like complicated plots and characters, there are times when I enjoy the occasional light-hearted, romantic drama. Especially nowadays when the world seems dark and grim, I just want to go home and watch something that will make me laugh and swoon at the same time.
Suspicious Partner follows the story of Eun Bong Hee (Nam Ji Hyun), a first year trainee who first encounters Prosecutor Noh Ji Wook (Ji Chang Wook) on the subway. She mistakenly assumes that he’s the pervert who grabbed her ass on the train and publicly embarrasses him.
This unfortunate incident is the least of her worries. She’s off to a hotel to see if her suspicions can be confirmed. She discovers that her boyfriend, Jang Hee Joon (Hwang Chan Sung), is having an affair. She’s known that something was up all along but seeing him at a hotel with another woman confirms her suspicions. She breaks it off with him and vows to sleep with the next guy she runs into. Unfortunately, that next guy is a middle aged man and so Bong Hee tries to side step out of his way but fall flat on the floor instead.
Bong Hee gets back up and tries to walk away despite that she’s already lost the upper hand of having the dramatic exit. She tries to hold back tears and as she quickly tries to wipe the tearsf from her eyes, her contact lens falls out. She bumps into Ji Wook again, or more accurately, he runs into her. She’s not able to see his face clearly but asks if he wants to sleep with her, which he agrees to.
After exiting the hotel, the two end up at a bar after some back and forth. Unfortunately, Bong Hee becomes drunk and Ji Wook is forced to take her back to his place. However, not before she throws him on the couch, which she painfully recalls the next morning.
As for Ji Wook, despite the fact that she mistakenly accused him and publicly humiliated him, he knows what it is like to be betrayed. Overhearing their conversation, he bumps into her so that she could make her dramatic exit and he convinces himself that that’s the reason why he stepped in.
A few months later, the new law school graduates are out of school and joining the work force, including at the prosecutor’s office. Bong Hee is assigned Ji Wook’s team who is known for his unyielding drive in putting bad guys in prison. Bong Hee is mortified to see Ji Wook again but she soon gets over it and rehashes whether he grabbed her butt on the train or if they slept together.
Shin Hyun Hee and Kim Root – 너는 왜 (Why You?)
The other members step outside the room so the two can hash things out. They certainly don’t want to believe all they heard and they don’t want rumors to spread around. It’s too late as Lawyer Ji Eun Hyuk (Choi Tae Joon) has heard them and curious to find out more. He barely hears anymore before he’s hit by the door in the head when Bong Hee steps outside. Ji Wook is not pleased to see him and it’s hard to know why as Eun Hyuk is none the happier.
Despite their outwardly discord, when it comes to Bong Hee’s ex, Ji Wook seems to show up like a knight-in-shining-armor. We learn that Hee Joon cheated on Bong Hee with her fellow law school classmate/rival, Na Ji Hae (Kim Ye Won) and now the two are openly dating. They flaunt their relationship in front of her and Bong Hee uses every opportunity to annoy them with a song about being betrayed and breakups. The song lyrics are quite dark in that she sings them like she’s putting a curse on them. The pair try to ignore her when Ji Wook comes by to pet her like a dog and reassure her that he likes her. It’s an awkward encounter and Bong Hee is not sure how to react but Ji Wook does it to save face.
That evening, Ji Wook tells the hardworking Bong Hee to go home and wash up as she’s been working round the clock for days. After washing up at home, she decides to relieve the stress of work by getting some beers. As she steps out, her neighborhood experiences a blackout. She goes to the store where she pays for her beer with cash and returns home. On her way home, she passes by a man on a bike whistling a strange tune. She thinks it odd but doesn’t think much of it before she continues on her way.
At home, she trips over a body on her floor. As it is dark, she can barely make out that it is Hee Joon on the floor but not sure why he’s there. That is, until she realizes that her hands are covered with blood.
Before she stepped out to the convenience store that evening, she opened her window for some fresh air. But not before she took off her glasses. Enjoying the fresh breeze and the dark, hazy view, Bong Hee did not realize that there was someone watching her.
Unfortunately for Bong Hee, she doesn’t have a solid alibi. And Hee Joon just happens to be the son of a top prosecutor. Ji Wook is angry that Bong Hee has gotten into so much trouble so quickly. She clearly did not heed his warning that she avoid encountering him as a defendant in court.
Ji Wook has been tasked by Hee Joon’s father to take on the case and the pressure is on for Ji Wook to put Bong Hee being bars.
In turn, Ji Wook asks Eun Hyuk to take her case. Even though he hates Eun Hyuk, he knows that he’s a very capable lawyer. On the flip side, Eun Hyuk is like a helpless puppy dog around Ji Wook. Ji Wook pushes him away and Eun Hyuk can’t help happily wagging his tail. He’s overjoyed when Ji Wook recommends him for the case. After all, when was the last time Ji Wook call him for anything?
Despite not having the highest of IQ’s, Bong Hee understands the law and even knows Ji Wook well enough to know his interrogating techniques. He doesn’t get anywhere with Bong Hee who is adamant about her innocence.
During the investigation, Ji Wook discovers a knife underneath the fridge in Bong Hee’s apartment. Then, another knife is also discovered in a nearby park. Following a forensic analysis of both weapons, they both have Hee Joon’s blood on it. The likelihood that Bong Hee is the killer is lessened as why would there be two murder weapons, one of which is conveniently placed at the scene of the crime? It certainly wasn’t there before when the official swept the place. Ji Wook comes to believe that Bong Hee was framed.
In court, it becomes clear to Bong Hee that Ji Wook is doing his best to put him away. Certainly, she realizes that he’s doing his job but she also believed that he believed in her and her innocence. Although she gives her own testimony, it doesn’t go well for Bong Hee and despite Eun Hyuk’s best efforts, the outcome of Bong Hee’s verdict is not in her favor. That is until Ji Wook reveals the second piece of evidence at the last minute. He retracts his case against her and she is now free woman. Bong Hee is confused but warmed by his behavior.
That is until Ji Wook reveals the second piece of evidence at the last minute. He retracts his case against her and she is now free woman. Bong Hee is confused but is grateful to him.
Ji Wook has committed career suicide and is fired as a prosecutor. He has only become a prosecutor because of his father, who passed away when he was young, but he has had to give that up because of Bong Hee.
He packs up his belongings at work only to see that Bong Hee has arrived at the prosecutor’s office to thank him. Except he doesn’t want to have anything to do with her. He was once told by a monk when he was younger that a woman will come to his life and she will be nothing but trouble for him. He now believes that woman to be Bong Hee and although he’s done the right thing, he doesn’t want see him ever again.
Clearly, Ji Wook’s cheundaerae (Cold on the outside but actually warmhearted) style is what draws me to his character. Ji Chang Wook’s deadpan look is hilarious and sexy at the same time. I can understand why Bong Hee drives him crazy but he also is inexplicably drawn to her. That’s why he does nice things for her despite their discord. However, the drama will have to delve deeper into why he’s drawn to her more than the fact that he pities her because I’m not totally buying his reason. But so far, I’m liking their chemistry.
I’m also looking forward to the bromance between Ji Wook and Eun Hyuk. After seeing Choi Tae Joon brilliantly playing the antagonist in Missing Nine, I was hoping to see a reversal of that role. I wonder if the discord between Eun Hyuk and Ji Wook might be the fact that he’s the other guy that Ji Wook’s ex cheated on him with. If that’s the case, then why is Eun Hyuk so hell-bent on being friends with Ji Wook? If not, then what is the discord between them because there’s clearly more to the story than the fact that Ji Wook finds him annoying.
Finally, there’s the mysterious killer. Who is he and why is he on a killing spree? We know from one of the felons that Bong Hee interviewed has informed her that he had wanted to go to jail because he may have been a witness to a murder. That’s clearly going to come up again later but who is this guy and why didn’t he kill Bong Hee when he had the chance?