That. was. INCREDIBLE. I’ve watched. I’ve re-watched it. And I’m probably going to watch it again. I have yet to see Episode 10 (which will probably happen sometime today, as I’m awful at balancing university life with overly additive shows) but I honestly won’t be able to function until I do. I think I’ve calmed down enough over the past 9 and a half hours to get my thoughts down, so here goes.
This is arguably, the most character defining episode we’ve seen yet, as layers upon layers peel back from our yet, little-explained secondary characters. We begin at the revelation that KDY was a member of a psychological experiment when young. One so hideous that it’s only known in rumours and hushed whispers. No matter how hard he digs into KDY, no past records turn up. As such, he asks for help from…CSJ? In a surprising twist of events, CDJ gets his turn to shine, and is revealed to be a brilliant hacker. Considering that he technically lost the Presidential game due to WJ’s face-off against KDY, it is clear that he has his own misgivings about KDY in order to agree so readily to HWJ’s request.
PD Lee meets up with DJ’s dad and asks something I found rather interesting.
I can’t help but wonder what caused her dad to leave her to fend on her own, and pay off his debt. He clearly seems to be a loving father, so you have to wonder what sort of father would knowingly put his daughter through such a situation and run away. Like PD Lee, I can’t help but wonder if there’s something more he’s afraid of, or if he’s just too ashamed to face his daughter (though he technically has more to be ashamed of by running away like this).
We finally get a sense of where KDY is heading.In an incredibly eerie moment, KDY reveals what he’d do with the money, should he win.
The mask is definitely slipping with KDY who doesn’t appear to mind that his words and actions are highly suspect and bizarre at this point. Or perhaps that’s just me, because he honestly give me chills whenever he appears onscreen. I’ve said it before and I’ll happyily say it again. Shin Sung Rok is fantastic in this role. I have never seen such a level of barely repressed manically intensity. More so, one played so eerily normally. Knowing (or at least suspecting) part of his true nature as we do, we watch for hints in his behaviour that reinforce our impression of him as the twisted baddie. Yet to others such as Direction Jang, he appears perfectly normally. Perhaps dominated by a rather odd sense of humour, but absolutely harmless. And that’s a bit unnerving to be honest, because he’s proof of the fact that you can never truly know what someone’s like. I’m sure PD Lee barely spared a thought as to what his true nature could be, during their acquaintance (which I’m really curious about, by the way. How on earth did the two even become partners?)
But let’s return to KDY and JDG’s interview. It’s an answer, I believe we were only half expecting, but it was nevertheless chilling to have his God-complex in such plain view. He literally wants to be seen as some sort of God, with people looking up to him from the sky and everything. It’s an incredibly twisted ideal so I can’t fault DG seemly incredibly nervous during the interview. Am I the only one who got seriously You WHo Came From the Stars vibes at this scene? I was practically yelling “Don’t drink it!” at my screen.
But there’s something slightly off about his behaviour. When asked whether he has the confidence to win, he immediately cites NDJ, and barely stutters HWJ’s name afterwards. We switch to HWJ, NDJ and JDG watching this interview air some days later. DG, oddly enough, brings up the possibility of NDJ quitting the show to HWJ who remains silent. NDJ then reveals that she’s, in fact, in debt to the show of about $250,000 but if they were to leave that they should leave together. But even this doesn’t seem right as she promised to help the other contestants. I love this girl so much. HWJ gives her the silent look of love as well (I assure you I’m only partly delusional)
As they’re leaving JDG spots one of KDY’s lackeys heading past them. He gives him a long stare before we cut to the fifth round: The Smuggling Game. Jamie is promptly dumped onto HWJ’s team by KDY who chooses CSJ (much to her fury, and what seems like fear). Both CSJ and Jamie seem extremely nervous around KDY as well. Jamie’s characteristic brashness and flair diminish around KDY, and it’s painfully obvious. I mean this is the woman who stands up so easily to Director Jang, who clearly has more clout within the JVN broadcasting station than KDY (and is clearly her sponsor). However, Jamie walks on eggshells around KDY, and it doesn’t appear to simply be because she wants to be a part of his team. She tries a simple “I’ll do well” on him with some of her old charm, and he looks at her as though she’s some sort of insect before embracing CSJ. HWJ watches impassively.
CSJ smoothly slips HWJ a flash drive in his way out. I don’t know what he’s discovered but it can’t be good. The fellow looked incredibly frightened to be a part of the “winning nation”. Things are already intersting with Jamie on HWJ’s team and CSJ on KDY’s team. A mole in each, if you will (at least I hope it plays out taht way). Thankfully, this means that HWJ and NDJ, have a new ally.
The Smuggling Game is just as complex as the others, and has an added problem in that it essentially pits HWJ and KDY against each other. But there’s a slight difference here in comparison to their coin-tossing game. While that game did show us KDY’s true colours in being able to manipulate his microexpressions (that is, his foolproof capacity to lie), it never showed us how good he was at determining when OTHERS were lying. We still don’t know if he was faking his inability to guess whether HWJ was lying during the earlier parts of the coin-toss game. I wonder if the ability to “wear his mask so naturally” (as HWJ said) allows him to guess what’s behind others’ masks. But a simulation of the game is underway and NDJ volunteers. Naturally, HWJ follows.
As the groups separate into their respective factions, the smuggling begins. This where each character really begins to shine on their own. Let’s start with Bulldog and Goo In Gi (BD and GIG) that can be lumped in the same boat for now. These two have always been the nastiest players in the game, in my view. They don’t care whose camp they’re on so long as they get their money (As evidenced in the President’s Game) And even being on the winning team isn’t enough for them. They’ll grab any chance, any moment, they can, to make a quick buck. GIG’s overconfidence and disgusting treatment of HWJ was honestly expected. This is a man who sees things in black and white and is too darn stupid to distinguish when KDY is messing with his mind. I mean, HWJ is the reason he’s even still in the game. He’d never have survived episode 3, or 6, without him. And yet, a single defeat (by KDY at that, not him) is enough for HWJ to be relegated to the same level as ‘things I’ve trod on’. Thus, the shock on his face, upon the realization that HWJ was fully in control was extremely satisfying to see. And his grovelling and flattery upon KDY’s consecutive wins during his turn as inspection evidence that these men are honestly, quite unlikely to change. In their mind, there’s a bigger cat in town, and he’s got all the cards.
(Ugh, you slimeballs. I love CSJ for staying in that corner.)
CSJ remains one to watch. His fear is palpable, more so when KDY orders them to hand over their cards, and especially when KDY decides to reward anyone who spots a betrayal. I cannot wait to see what he found, and what deeper role he’s going to play in the game.
Tensions run extremely high between JDG and Jamie. JDG behaves rather unusually, even for one who cares about NDJ’s wellbeing. He continuously yells at Jamie (who gives as good as she gets) until even NDJ has to plead several times for him to stop. That in itself, is unusual for JDG who just proved himself to be a big old softie in the last episode. But let’s focus on Jamie, who is proving to be the most nuanced character in this show (and Lee El is absolutely gorgeous). Jamie and NDJ are two sides on a coin in behaviour, yet both are unusually similar in their honesty. Queen of Betrayal though she may be, Jamie has made no secret of the fact that the only side she’s on is her own. If she finds herself on the winning side, she’ll continue to work with it to ensure nothing prevents her win. This is where the disparity lies between her, BD and GIG, as the latter will happily leave their own team for a few bucks, and then return to said team, expecting their share of the loot. They’re overconfident, foolish, and only look for instant gratification. Jamie, on the other hand, has her eye on the main chance.
(Ugh you bastard)
There is little doubt at this point, that Jamie fears KDY. The look on her face when she realized that KDY had used her as a distraction, to ensure the other team’s loss, is actually pretty sad to see. But I wonder if KDY can really read into people that well. Because Jamie will do anything to ensure that her side wins (and she is exceptionally clever in her own right), and in this case that’s HWJ and NDJ. And NDJ is most certainly prepared to trust her (which moved even Jamie’s cold heart for a moment). KDY may be just given them another ally. Because NDJ, is someone he can’t predict.
This is but the first of the many mistakes KDY makes throughout this episode, that have me extremely wary. It’s almost as if defeating HWJ has gone to his head (which is extremely strange seeing as this is KDY whose mask has never dropped before). But for some reason, it wavers like crazy during this episode. He appears to be fascinated with mirrors, or his reflection in particular, unable to tear his eyes away even when washing his hands.
He takes away his own teams’ cards, and actively encourages betrayal by rewarding the tattler. It’s almost as if he believes he can’t put a foot wrong. It was electrifying when he suddenly began to guess the amount within the briefcase to the dot, to the point where even HWJ started.
(Thank you for making the distinction, babe. Clearly we’re of the same opinion)
PD Lee and Director Jang appeared to have spotted his secret and I hope they let us in on that soon. But something doesn’t sit right here. He’s far too at ease, I wonder if it’s just pretense as it was during the President’s Game, or whether he has something far more sinister up his sleeve for our West Nation.
(“Why did you do it, hyung?” Can I find it adorable that he calls him hyung?)
Onto the most vocal member of this nation, during this episode. JDG’s character has by been a fluffy bunny so far, but he suddenly puts out claws. His blatant antagonism of Jamie is extremely grating, seeing as he made the same error. Yet, I was surprised and glad when he got his time to shine, and appeared to have the ability to know the amount of money within the briefcase just as KDY did. But that’s when the snag occurred and it was one I never saw coming. DG and betrayal were the last two ideas I’d have put together.
KDY’s uncanny ability to guess the numbers makes all the more sense now that we know JDG was feeding him the numbers (though we have yet to see how). And his new-found “abilities” are suddenly made clear. It’s amazing how quickly all these small moments can fall into place: his nervousness around KDY, his somewhat reticence with HWJ. It all adds up. I’m honestly on the edge of my seat, waiting to see episode 10, and I really hope this shocking twist won’t hurt our leads and that KDG can be redeemed (or at least has good reason for what he did, because I don’t get why he’s die with someone HWJ made clear was an enemy).
Onto our beautiful leads, NDJ and HWJ. I love these two beyond words. This episode really shows them building off each other, starting to think like each other,and (the best part) trusting each other.
(You two are just perfectly in sync)
They’re the only ones who’re looking at the situation objectively from the get-go, and of the people they have to face, while Jamie and DG go at it consistently (DG being the instigator). HWJ shows a surprisingly human side during his first inspection (against GIG). I’m so used to seeing him closed up and brooding with but a few flashes of emotion slipping through that this scene honestly made me a little teary-eyed. It’s clear that his defeat at KDY’s hands did unnerve him, but it also (for the first time) shook his confidence in his abilities. The relief in his eyes as GIG falls for his trick is palpable and brings out the second true smile he’s had for the entirety of episodes thus far.
(Oh gosh he’s just so happy!)
(…aand we revert to deadly seriousness)
But even more beautiful is the happiness in his face when he returns and sees how happy the others are.
(Awww! Excuse, me I think I’ve something in my eye *sniff*)
With that verified we return to the beautiful NDJ, the star of this show and most definitely this episode. While NDJ’s acting was an epic fail, the likes of which stunned even HWJ (who got up and walked to the window unable to take anymore), there’s no doubt that she’s taking this far more seriously than the usual ‘let’s all be happy and work together’.
(That’s right DaJung-ah! Think positive!)
and she turns in her finest performance yet, at the end. The synergy between HWJ and NDJ is brilliant here. This isn’t an issue of her being weaker than him due to his genius and her naivete. NDJ may feel one-dimensional to some, but she’s far more than that. Her strength of will rivals even Jamie’s here, as she shows that her greatest strength is trust, and her desire to fight for a world where everyone will win. HWJ also rises to the occasion here, demonstrating his trust in her, by asking her to carry out his plan.
(Dammit, you two *sniffsniff*)
And then we get to the scene from the teaser that I was dreading, and DaJung shows her true colours. And they’re beautiful. NOt once does she suspect HWJ, not once doesn’t is she swayed by those words. She gets upset, she gets angry, that someone dares to go this far. It’s incredible to her put out her claws for the first time…and she succeeds in smuggling $100K.
(I love this girl so much!)
The look of stupefaction on KDY’s face is beautiful to seesand verifies what HWJ said earlier. KDY’s specialty is telling lies, not detecting them. Unfortunately for him, both areas remain HWJ’s forte. He remains frozen in position throughout NDJ’s passionate, moving speech.
(*pumps first* ATTAGIRL!! )
This honestly sent goosebumps down my spine. NDJ shines brilliantly in this episode, and I honestly can’t wait for the chaos this speech is going to create. This is NDJ we’re talking about after all, and she has a power that both HWJ and KDY don’t: that she’ll always be unconditionally trusted (though you could say that HWJ technically has NDJ’s unwavering trust). What will this mean for KDY? Has the king finally fallen? I can’t wait to find out!