First Impressions: A New Leaf

Has a drama ever had so many elevator scenes? They’d better make good use of it and give us a make-out session in one.

This is a drama that I’ve chosen to follow solely for the story line. While I’m familiar with both Park Min Young and Kim Sang Joong from City Hunter, I’ve never seen any of Kim Myung Min’s work so I’m not watching this for fangirly reasons.

With that in mind, what did I think of it?

***

The drama opens up with a lawsuit filed by steel workers who were forced into labor during Japanese colonization. They are suing for restitution and have already lost a previous case in Japan. Their lawyer argues that they were misled and forced to work under harsh conditions without pay while our hero, Kim Seok Joo (Kim Myung Min), argues for the defendant, saying that it was a consequence of war and as a result, the current company shouldn’t be responsible for what took place back then.

We also learn that his company –  named for its owner Cha Young Woo – is a prestigious and successful law firm. He’s a tough lawyer who doesn’t have time for juniors who don’t bring their ‘A’ game.

We meet our heroine, Lee Ji Yoon (Park Min Young), at a wedding. Her irritation at being seated on the groom’s side disappears once she discovers that she’s been seated next to a handsome guy. They talk about the books that fell from her bag – a law book and a novel – but unfortunately, she doesn’t get to spend a lot of time with him because her friend – the bride –  panics upon seeing our hero at the wedding and makes her get rid of him. We don’t know why but Ji Yoon assumes he’s an ex and does everything in her power to get him out. And when she mistakenly drinks the wine the bride had spiked for him, she drags him home with her…

… and wakes up in her underwear and sees him at her place.

Is this a romcom?

She doesn’t remember what happened and yells at him until she slowly recollects everything she did earlier… everything but what happened when they got to her place and her clothes were taken off. She puts two and two together and gets sex. 50 bucks says she’s wrong. He leaves her place after she insists that they exchange names and numbers.

As drama convenient coincidences dictate, Ji Yoon is hired as an intern at Cha Young Woo. The interns’ first task is to go through boxes of documents and look for problems. Later in the day, she panics and hides when she sees Seok Joo at work. Ottoke?

In the meantime, a chaebol hires the firm to defend his son who’s been accused of assault and rape. He’s dug up dirt on a lawyer one of the firm’s employees is running against for a ministerial position and insists that Seok Joo take the case despite his expertise being in corporate and not criminal law. It’s really hard to take this chaebol seriously because the actor usually plays a gangster.

He’s also a very annoying guy that rebuffs anyone’s concerns or suggestions by insisting that things are done his way because he’s simply a loving father abiding by his son’s wishes.

Our intern finds something in the documents and is called to the boss’s office. While this would normally make an intern’s panties wet, she dreads it because she thinks he’d already made her panties wet in a different way. When she gets there, she’s directed to gather more information and meet him in the conference room.

He’s with some clients and calls her when they want more details on her discovery. She’s told to explain it in English, impressing everyone with her pronunciation but for some reason a.k.a. K-drama heroine syndrome, she doesn’t realize that she’s on speakerphone and in a meeting and tells him that he left her watch at her place. Uhm. Does this even make sense? She does everything in her power to avoid him but the minute he calls her to talk about work, she references their night despite the very good chance that he doesn’t know who the heck she is.

After the meeting, our hero is understandably furious and confronts her. She doesn’t realize what she did and begs him to please ignore her during her time there and not fire her. She doesn’t even have the watch and he instructs her to give it to him as soon as possible then make herself scarce.  He turns to leave then remembers that there was prize for discovery and invites her to his team. A promise is a promise even if it’s to a naive girl who’d broadcast their supposed affair to the whole world.

The chaebol son shows up and tells our lawyer what happened. He was drunk and pissed when he saw his actress ex-girlfriend with another man in the car he got her. So he called her into his hotel room then raped and beat her.

Now that he knows what happened, it’s time to go to war defending the devil and even though it’s not the kind of case he usually takes – nor wants to take –  he gathers the troops and prepares to draw blood.

There’s this other story line about the firm being investigated about some accounts and a lawyer being asked to resign.

The entire firm hears about the “affair” and gossips about it, wondering what Seok Joo sees in the average-looking intern. She overhears this and as usual, jumps into conclusions, assuming that he’d blabbed about it. So when they meet in the elevator on their way to court, she yells at him for spreading rumors because unlike him, her job could be in jeopardy. He cuts her off and points out that she was the one who embarrassed him in front of clients. She’s all “Oops, that’s what happened?” instead of getting on her knees and begging for forgiveness.

They arrive at the court where he runs into the prosecutor of the rape case. They exchange fighting words with her quipping that money can make him take a such a sordid case while he says that she’s just trying to make a name for herself by using his important client. Plus he’s disgusted that she stooped so low and leaked information to the press. That gets a fat “whatever” from her because she feels that the odds are in her favor.

Then it’s showtime.

The prosecution states their case and the evidence supports it but unfortunately, rape trials are notorious for further victimizing victims and tarnishing their reputations which is exactly what happens here.  While the plaintiff insists that their relationship was over and she had only gone to his hotel room because she thought he’d called her for work-related reasons, Seok Joo’s side uses it as proof that it wasn’t. He paints her as the gold-digging sole breadwinner of her poor family who’s claiming consensual sex as rape to get back at the ex who’d stopped supporting her financially.

Then something worse happens. Her current boyfriend is called to the stand and he testifies that he’d hit her out of anger after she’d spent a long time in her ex-boyfriend’s hotel room. So the bruising that the prosecution had claimed was evidence of the chaebol son’s assault could have been caused by him.

It gets even worse for the defendant when Seok Joo brings up her STDs and paints her as a promiscuous woman.

We later learn that her boyfriend had lied on the stand and been paid off by the disgusting, entitled chaebol son. I have nothing against lawyers who defend guilty criminals because everyone deserves a defense, however, only a dirty lawyer would knowingly place a bought, lying witness on the stand. Can’t he be disbarred for this?

Ji Yoon is disgusted throughout the trial and later apologizes to the devastated actress. If I were the actress, I would slap her. She refuses to ride back to the office with her boss and takes the subway instead. Hmm. This is the difference between a drama and real life. For starters, someone with her values shouldn’t have applied to such a law firm in the first place (unless the nature of their cases isn’t widely known) and secondly, an intern wouldn’t have such an attitude with her boss. Either kiss ass or leave.

He reminds her which side she’s on and tells her that if she wants to be all self-righteous, she can switch teams and work for the prosecution. As she walks away, he informs her that they didn’t sleep together so she should know her place and act like an intern.

We then get to meet her family who must have been on vacation when Seok Joo stayed over. She lives with her aunt and a brother with idol dreams.

Hours later, the actress attempts suicide and Ji Yoon rushes over to the hospital. The prosecutor senses her sincerity and considers her a harmless intern so she lets her visit her. When the actress wakes up, Ji Yoon advises her to settle because it’ll be hard for her to win the case and they’d probably drag her family into it and hurt her more. I feel there must be something ethically wrong with this. How do they know that this isn’t a ruse by the defense to get her to settle?

They end the conversation wondering how much money is enough to make rape okay.

The actress listens to her advice and agrees to settle with the condition that Lee Ji Yoon handles it.

The chaebol son and our lawyer go to a hostess club to celebrate and we see that he’s a brute that treats women badly, forces them to get abortions and what not. He does as he pleases and never takes responsibility for his actions because he believes that everyone is after his money. Dude, it’s not like you have anything else to offer. He’s got some dodgy deals planned and proposes to keep Seok Joo on retainer as the company’s lawyer.

We then get to see our scary lawyer’s soft side. He’s got a sick dog that’s terminally ill and he battles with the right course of action to take.

While Ji Yoon and Seok Joo ride the elevator together, she remembers that she hasn’t returned his watch.

It’s his mother’s death anniversary and his boss, Cha Young Woo, remembers and gets him a gift. The older man finds his relationship with Ji Yoon amusing especially as she’s been making a name for herself at the firm. Later on, when he meets her in an elevator, he tells her that he’d grant her one wish to thank her for her recent contributions and all she wants is that the firm looks favorably at graduates of her third-rate university. Can this girl get any purer? He’s tickled and promises to hire an intern from her college every year.

We follow Ji Yoon home where we meet her annoying brother. How annoying? He saw the men’s watch he knew wasn’t hers, took it and exchanged it for a drum. Why must we have these leeching relatives (usually brothers) whose selfishness makes the heroine indebted to the hero for one reason or the other?

Seok Joo meets his family for the anniversary dinner and his father is disappointed with him for being on the Japanese firm’s side in the steel workers’ lawsuit. He scolds him for not having a conscience and asks him to think of how his dead mother would feel knowing that he’s an unscrupulous sell-out.  Way harsh, Appa.

As far as Seok Joo is concerned, the old man has no room to talk given that that very woman was the long-suffering wife who’d been abandoned because he spent his life as the principled fighter for the great cause. My guess is his father was a famous human rights lawyer or someone like that.

Now that the dinner has turned sour, Seok Joo leaves.

The next day, there’s news that the actress took justice into her own hands and killed the sonofabitch rapist. To everyone’s surprise (and respect), Seok Joo is not devastated and has enough presence of mind to work at 110% and clean up other lawyers’ messes. But despite what others might think, he’s not made of wood as he’s visibly affected when he sees the kids the chaebol son is survived by. And when he’s alone, it’s clear that while he’s ruthless and works hard, he’s neither happy nor content with his life.

At the end of the day, he walks past a construction site on this way home when a motorcycle appears out of nowhere and he gets pushed onto some scaffolding and is eventually buried under it. Ouch.

***

These episodes were introductory so we haven’t gotten to the meat of the story yet but I quite liked them. The drama is more lighthearted and comedic than I expected but I consider it a plus. Beside, it’s a Korean drama so sooner or later, the jokes will probably stop.

I found these episodes pretty interesting and fun and hope it only gets better from here. We got to know a bit about our main characters  – their backgrounds, motivations, personalities etc etc – and I am interested in seeing how everything comes together. I quite like the big boss and can’t wait till he and Seok Joo are on different sides. Apparently, the cutie she sat next to at the wedding is the second lead so I wonder what he’ll bring other than being a romantic rival.

As previously mentioned, I’m not familiar with Kim Myung Min but think he’s doing a good job even if it looks like he’s storing nuts in his cheeks. While it’s also in the writing, I think he’s made his character even more sympathetic than he could have been. Park Min Young isn’t awful but in an ideal world, I would want our lead to end up with the female prosecutor. Would it have hurt to make Ji Yoon’s character less typical?

Seok Joo is cold and calculating but his insistence that the prosecutor took the rape case for glory and to make a name for herself makes me feel that the type of lawyer he’s chosen to be is directly related to his daddy issues. Why do I feel that he’s rebelling against his father and wants to be the exact opposite of what he would have wanted him to be?

Ji Yoon is our enthusiastic, naive lead who needs to be brought down a peg or two. It’s not her self-righteousness that I dislike but how she wears it on her sleeve and has the gall to yell at her boss at the office. Why hasn’t she been fired yet? However, I like that she’s bold and that instead of crying when she overheard her coworkers gossiping about her, she made her presence known.

There’s still much to learn about Cha Young Woo and I can’t wait to see how cutthroat he will become. It’s clear that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to benefit his firm. He pretty much plants former employees in high places so that he can call on them for favors when needed.

In addition to being unable to see the chaebol as anything but a gangster, it’s so hard to take Lee Han Wi seriously as a lawyer because he always plays comedic roles. I feel like laughing every time he comes on screen.

Anyway, the real story will soon begin and if the previews are any indication, it’s going to be a lot of fun. How will our hero behave when he’s reset with a pure mind? From the synopsis, he’s engaged but not only did we not meet a fiancee, there was no implication that there was one – as she should have been mentioned during the “scandal” – but I suppose we’ll find out more next week.

Till then!

4 Comments

  • D's handphone says:

    I love PMY to bits but i wish her character is less naive and idealistic. Like another version of Kim Yoo Shik. What’s even better is that i recognized most if not all the supporting casts. Seems like almost every actor/actress i know from other dramas is in this. My fav has to be Oh Jung Se.. after done with lipgloss, now upgraded to a lawyer? ajushi, stop hanging around with Da Hee’s useless appa, k?

  • jeanmarri torres silva says:

    waaaaaaaaaa la veré por que es muy buen actor en prime instancia no me producía flojera pero leí una 2° vez la sinopsis y lo que me acabo de convence es el actor confió mucho en el (<3<3 김명민 / Kim Myung Min) #1 El es muy bueno por que siempre toma trabajos buenos con substancia así que oppa soy su "Fan" <3 desde que lo vi en The King of Dramas que en el 2012 fue uno de mis dramas preferidos

  • Brynn Mui says:

    “Nuts in his cheeks”–that’s so mean, but I can’t stop giggling (rather loudly). I admire him for not caving and getting plastic surgery! And yet…

  • princessmetal says:

    LOL! gosh, I was so distracted with KMM’s cheeks! What’s wrong with them?
    I started watching the drama but i’m disappointed.
    Thanks for the recaps though. I guess I’ll just read them and skip the drama altogether.

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