I’m so sorry for the delay in recaps. I’ve been falling behind on Empire of Gold episodes because I started avoiding watching it because every time I did, I felt guilty for not annotating and recapping. Unfortunately, writing recaps makes watching dramas more like work and less like fun. (Also, I’ve been preoccupied with tumblr lately and tumblr is a major time leech ;P) I’m still figuring out a work flow/method for recapping this series.
EMPIRE OF GOLD EPISODE 2 RECAP
Episode two opens with a scene of Hee Joo talking with Tae Joo in a prison visiting room. Tae Joo has been arrested for taking Pil Doo (the mob boss) hostage and possibly for attempted murder, since he intentionally crashed Pil Doo’s car. Hee Joo updates her brother on their father’s humble funeral. Their mother decided to cremate their father and scatter his ashes in the ocean, since their father grew up by the sea. She informs him that she’ll quit school and start working at a restaurant. When he remains silent, she tearfully bursts out that he promised to take care of everything: the restaurant, the house, and her college tuition.
In his prison cell, Tae Joo has a dream in which his father appears and feeds him. Tae Joo apologizes to his father for his failings, but his father gently replies, “I lived 60 years of my life like a fool. And all I’ve left behind are burdens. I’m the one who’s sorry. Tae Joo, you have to win. In this world where I never won, try winning once.” When his father disappears, Tae Joo cries as though his heart were breaking.
In the next scene, Chairman Choi Dong Sung scans the newspaper from the back seat of his car. One headline catches his attention, “Choi Yong Jae of Sung Jin Group, sentenced to 5 years for stock price manipulation.” (Yong Jae is the youngest son of Vice Chairman Choi Dong Jin and Chairman Choi Dong Sung’s nephew). Chairman Choi Dong Sung has fully recovered from his surgery and has been discharged from the hospital. He returns home and his children welcome him.
In a ritzy French restaurant, Choi Dong Jin excitedly instructs Min Jae to prepare for Yong Jae’s release from prison. He happily greets Congressman Kim Gwang Se, whom he’s invited to lunch. Unfortunately, Congressman Kim informs Choi Dong Jin that he won’t be able to get a special pardon for Yong Jae because the new Secretary of Civil Affairs is a friend of Chairman Choi Dong Sun. Congressman Kim adds that he suspects Chairman Choi Dong Sun used his influence to cause the Ministry of Justice to deny Yong Jae bail on health grounds. Choi Dong Jin is stunned when he hears that he can’t use his money or connections to get his son out of jail. Choi Dong Jin returns to his study in a rage. While loading a gun, Choi Dong Jin mutters to himself that he’ll shoot his brother, and then himself.
Chairman Choi Dong Sung ties Sung Jae’s, his youngest son, necktie for him while grumbling about his son’s inability to tie his own necktie. Sung Jae is obviously the apple of both of his parents’ eyes. Choi Dong Jin interrupts this scene of domestic felicity when he bursts into their living room. It is the anniversary of their parents’ deaths and he came to pay his respects.
In Chairman Choi Dong Sung’s study, Choi Dong Jin reminiscences about the past. “During the war, when I was shining shoes to pay for your tuition, I shined twice as fast as the others. I thought, if I can shine one more pair, my brother can buy one more book.” Chairman Choi Dong Sung opens the silk wrapped package his brother gave him, and sees the gun. Choi Dong Jin threatens that if his brother doesn’t get his son out of prison, he’ll shoot both his brother and himself. Without a flinch, Choi Dong Sung picks up the phone and orders his secretary to send documents incriminating Min Jae of accounting fraud to the Secretary of Civil Affairs. Choi Dong Sun realizes he’s lost, and gives up. Broken, Choi Dong Sun bids his final adieu to his parents, “Father, Mother. I don’t think I’ll be back next year.”
In another prison visiting room, Min Jae visits his younger brother, Yoon Jae. Min Jae informs Yoon Jae that he will be released from prison next week. Yoon Jae is overjoyed by the news, because it’s his son’s first birthday next month. He asks if his son still cries when his grandfather holds him. Min Jae callously remarks that their father won’t be attending his grandson’s birthday party because he and Min Jae will be in the states. They’ve agreed to sell all of their company shares to get him out of prison. Min Jae bitterly warns Yoon Jae that he had better not embezzle or manipulate stock prices again. Yoon Jae is deeply shaken and has an asthma attack. He whispers that he can’t let his father and brother sacrifice themselves for him and that he’ll stay in prison. Min Jae softens and replies, “But Father will come to see you tomorrow. You’ll cry again. And Father will be heartbroken again.” Yoon Jae pastes on a brave smile and assures his brother that he can take care of himself.
In the next scene, Secretary Kang Ho Yeon enters Min Jae’s office to inform Min Jae that he has discovered antidepressants in Yong Jae’s office. Yong Jae has a severe case of depression and was about to be hospitalized when he was arrested. Min Jae silently empties the bottle’s contents into his hand. In a parallel scene, Yong Jae pours pills onto the floor. (Excellent music and cinematography here, btw). Yong Jae takes apart his asthma inhaler, enters the kitchen, and opens an oven door. He chokes on the smoke. Tae Joo frantically tries to save him, but Yong Jae dies. The cogs turn in Tae Joo’s head, and with trembling fingers, he steals Yong Jae’s glasses.
After the death of his son, Choi Dong Jin throws himself into work and refuses to see people. Bent on revenge, Choi Dong Jin gets to work bribing government officials and using all of his connections to get his nephew, Won Jae (Chairman Choi Dong Sung’s eldest son), thrown in jail. His plan is to turn himself in for accounting fraud and getting his partner-in-crime, Won Jae, arrested as well. Min Jae is concerned by his father’s recklessness and implores him to be patient and wait a little longer for revenge. But his father bursts out, “I’ve waited for ten years! Yong Jae cries in my dream. I try to hold him to say goodbye, but I can’t reach him. My child died. At the least, I have to send my brother’s child to prison.” At this point, Min Jae hands over Yong Jae’s glasses to his father and tells him that there is someone who heard Yong Jae’s dying wish.
In a flashback, Secretary Kang Ho Yeon gets Tae Joo out of jail and chauffeurs him to Sung Jin Corporations’ headquarters. Tae Joo waits for Min Jae by reading the newspaper. Min Jae holds out his hand, which Tae Joo coolly ignores, and Min Jae’s eyes narrow. Tae Joo reads out loud figures from the newspaper article, “Sung Jin Construction, ranked fourth in domestic subcontracts. Last year’s net profits, 87.2 million USD. I think the price for the last words of the brother to the president of Sung Jin Corporations should amount to an apartment in Seoul.” Tae Joo glibly adds that he has a bad memory and could forget Yong Jae’s last words. Min Jae cuts to the chase and bites back that he knows Tae Joo is lying. Yong Jae could barely breathe during asthma attacks, let alone talk. He sneers at Tae Joo for wretchedly pawing at the chance to make money like a bat, a wild dog. Min Jae tells Tae Joo he’ll give him the money, the apartment, and a job in exchange for telling his father that Yong Jae’s last words were to forgive Chairman Choi Dong Sung. Secretary Ho Yeon interrupts their conversation to tell Min Jae that protesters have taken over one of their buildings. Min Jae ruthlessly orders Secretary Ho Yeon to call in gangsters to subdue the protesters by force. Tae Joo’s face hardens as he recalls how a similar order caused the death of his father.
In the next scene, Tae Joo narrates the events of Yong Jae’s death in Choi Dong Jin’s office. However, instead of following Min Jae’s instructions, Tae Joo looks straight into Choi Dong Jin’s eyes and says, “Yong Jae asked that you avenge his death. That you wipe his tears. And that you make Chairman Choi Dong Sung shed tears of blood.” Min Jae is frozen in shock. Choi Dong Jin immediately rises to make some calls and turn himself in.
Min Jae, shaking in cold fury, asks Tae Joo who he is. Tae Joo breezily replies, “A bat. A wild dog, wretchedly pawing at the chance to make money.” Min Jae is incensed that Tae Joo is treating his brother’s death so lightly, but Tae Joo remarks that everyone dies, some from asthma attacks and some from fires caused by Molotov cocktails. “You asked who I was? I’m the son of Jang Bong Ho, who died in the fire at your mall complex. Jang Tae Joo.” Min Jae evenly replies that everyone dies, but some leave inheritance and some leave debts. He remarks it’s a pity that Tae Joo passed up the chance to make a lot of money. Tae Joo retorts that it’s not up to the loser to decide whether the winner made the right choice or not.
Tae Joo returns home and hears from his mother that she wants to move to Busan because Seoul is littered with painful memories of her husband: the subways where he sold pens, construction sites where he toiled in the sun, and the markets where he delivered food at the crack of dawn. Tae Joo vows that he will get the money his father’s sweat and blood paid for. “Big men make big money. I’ll become really big. I promise.”
Meanwhile, Chairman Choi Dong Sung furiously barks orders to his secretary to destroy all evidence of his son’s accounting fraud, to grease up government officials and to ply reporters with alcohol to keep them quiet. Seo Yoon takes charge and meets with the necessary government officials, initiates the prosecution of her uncle and cousin, and organizes the upcoming shareholders’ meeting.
In a private hospital room, Min Jae clips his invalid wife’s nails. Though he speaks lightly, there’s a note of pain in his voice as he mentions that Ji Yong (Yong Jae’s son) can say “mom” and “dad” now. He chuckles as he mentions that Ji Yong likes dolls, just like Yong Jae did when he was little. His wife interrupts his ramblings to say she wants to adopt Ji Yong. Moved, Min Jae thanks her. Seo Yoon interrupts this moment by entering the hospital room with homemade waffles and asks to speak with Min Jae.
Sitting on a park bench, Seo Yoon and Min Jae reminisce about their childhood when she, Yong Jae and Min Jae used to play together. The mood swiftly changes when Seo Yoon notifies Min Jae that he will soon be charged with insider trading and accounting fraud and that the penalties will be severe. Alarmed, Min Jae pleads for time, promising he’ll get his father to stop incriminating Won Jae and that he’ll sell his stake in the company. Unmoved, Seo Yoon bitterly states that if she had been successful at ousting Min Jae and his father at the company board meeting, Yong Jae wouldn’t have gone to prison and would still be alive.
With a steely glint in his eye, Min Jae prepares to fight for his place in the company. His plan is to buy land and build the largest shopping mall in Asia. Using the business rights to the shopping mall as collateral for a loan, his objective is to buy enough shares of Sung Jin Construction to become the majority shareholder. It’s a race against time as he only has one month until the general shareholder’s meeting. Min Jae once again recruits Pil Doo to force people to sell their land. Word reaches Seo Yoon, and her side rushes to halt Min Jae’s proceedings.
Tae Joo visits Seol Hee’s office once again saying he wants to make more money. Seol Hee makes a big show of agreeing to help him, and advises him to bid on an apartment and use a private loan to pay it off. She offers to drive him to the private loan office and drops him off at in front of a dilapidated building. When Tae Joo enters the office, he’s greeted with a flurry of fists. It turns out Seol Hee handed Tae Joo over to Pil Doo and his gang as a reconciliatory gesture. While Tae Joo’s getting pummeled, he flies across the desk and scatters some documents. Tae Joo’s friend overhears Seol Hee’s phone call with one of Pil Doo’s gangsters and realizes that Tae Joo is in danger and races off to help him.
Pil Doo’s gangsters have Tae Joo cornered and Pil Doo propositions that Tae Joo join his gang (fee fi fo fum, I smell future bromance ^^). Tae Joo’s response is to wield a knife in his face. Acting quickly, Tae Joo slices open a gas hose, locks Pil Doo under his arm and threatens to light the lighter. Edging towards the door, Tae Joo suddenly releases Pil Doo and makes a run for it. He finds his friend waiting for him on a motorcycle and they make their escape.
Bloody and beaten up, Tae Joo bursts into Seol Hee’s office. Startled, Seol Hee stammers excuses, but Tae Joo doesn’t care about her betrayal and brusquely asks if he can make money with the document he stole from Pil Doo’s office. It’s a list of all the land owners whose land Min Jae needs to buy to build his shopping mall. The answer is yes.
Back at the Choi house, Jung Hee (Seol Hee’s stepmother) reminds her son, Sung Jae, to visit his father and that his father’s favorite flower is white chrysanthemum. Sung Jae is reluctant to go, but Jung Hee reminds him it’s his father’s birthday. Sung Jae sighs, and unexpectedly visits a cemetery. It turns out that his father is dead and is not Chairman Choi Dong Sung.
Jung Hee brings her husband an herbal tonic and informs him that Seo Yoon plans on leaving the company and pursuing a doctorate degree. She muses that it must be because of her trauma regarding Yong Jae’s death. She advises her husband to let Seo Yoon take a break for a few years since it will take time for Seo Yoon to forgive him. Choi Dong Sung gives a noncommittal grunt, and then asks his wife how long it took her to forgive him for his wrongdoings. Jung Hee lightly responds that it’s been twenty years and she still has half her grudges left.
Secretary Ho Yeon informs Min Jae that they have purchased 0.23 hectares of private land and only need to purchase 6.6 more square meters. However, the owner of the remaining land is in prison. One step ahead of Min Jae, Tae Joo reaches the final land owner first by using the connections he made while in prison and purchases the land.
Min Jae is unaware that the ownership has been transferred to Tae Joo and his secretary arranges a meeting with Tae Joo at a hotel restaurant. Once Secretary Ho Yeon arrives, Tae Joo calls Min Jae and evenly tells him he’s never going to sell the land to him. Min Jae clenches his fist.
Tae Joo then calls Seo Yoon.
“Lot 532-4 in Zone B. 6.6 square meters. Do you want it?”
“Let’s meet. Now.”
– END EPISODE 2 –
TEN OUT OF TEN. Sooo much characterization. Perfectly executed plot. Amazing soundtrack. Go Soo is a sexy bastard. *will add more thoughts later*