Pied Piper: 1-2 (First Impression)

Subdued colors.  High stakes.  Two people are brought together due to a botched but successful negotiation and there’s someone pulling the strings from behind.  But, what is the story of the puppet master? The guy boy who plays the flute…i.e., the Pied Piper?

FIRST IMPRESSION – Episode 1

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The series opens up in the middle of a riot that is being subdued by gangsters.  The riot gets worse as a girl reads the story of the Pied Piper…

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Joon Sungchan (main character a/k/a genius negotiator) flies out to another country on a private jet.  During the flight, he calls his boss and discusses the risk of carrying the amount that the boss gave him for negotiation.  However, the boss (Suh Gun-Il ) is firm.

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So, Sungchan goes with his silver briefcase to the meeting point after he’s driven and then taken on a boat into some far-off and hidden cabin-like place where the hostages and company employees are waiting for help.  Sungchan sits down and the tense negotiations start.  The hostage holder demands to see the money first while Sungchan refuses to open the briefcase until he confirms that the hostages are alive.

Sungchan wins Round 1 and the five hostages are brought out. Then Sungchan opens the briefcase and the hostage taker is taken off guard.  The company only sent one fifth of what the the kidnappers requested!  The head boss first points his gun at Sungchan who flinches but calmly responds that if he is killed, no company would ever trust this group again…or even bother to negotiate.  Sungchan tells the hostage taker to cut his losses.

The moment is broken and we sigh a breath of relief … only for the boss to then point his gun at the hostages…

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And the scene shifts back to the cop training school.  Oh Junghak teaches a class on hostage negotiation.  He’s actually the adoptive uncle of our female lead Yeo Myungha who gets in trouble in the latest test as part of the special task force.  She was supposed to shoot the hostage taker to diffuse the situation but she didn’t because she believed he wouldn’t shoot.  The department head is pissed off at his protege but Junghak overhears the students who played the hostage and the hostage taker talking and we find out that they are actually dating. Thus, Myungha’s inclination that the hostage was not in true danger.

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Junghak goes into the room and Myungha asks to be transferred into hostage negotiation.  When the two department heads ask her for her reasons, she stutters that she just feels like it is a meaningful department. They know that she’s not telling her true feelings and pretend to fight to get Myungha to admit her full feelings; she thinks that even a hostage taker has his own reasons for his actions.

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Myungha transfers from the elite Special Task Force to literally the basement Negotiations Department with her uncle.  The two other team members welcome her awkwardly trying by noting all of their information on her including guestimated cleavage size and the whole team goes out for drinks that night.

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Meanwhile, Sungchan holds a press conference on behalf of the company.  The official story is that they saved everyone as one of the five hostages died due to his weak condition.  Everything goes well until one reporter (Yoon Heesung) begins to grill Sungchan.  Specificallly, Heesung asks Sungchan to confirm that the fifth hostage died out of medical causes and whether he truly and sincerely is sorry about the loss.  Sungchan begins to answer confidently but with each question freezes little by little.  Then he cuts off the conference short when he’s asked if his apologies are sincere.

Though Sungchan played it off coolly, his brooding gaze into the night with alcohol implies that there was more to the story than we know…The fifth hostage? Yep, he died when the hostage holder angrily wanted to vent his frustration on the company not keeping its part of the bargain…

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A little background is given the next day when Sungchan is called to lunch with Gun-Il. Well, to be more clear, Gun-Il is having lunch with his wife’s little brother Suh Joon and an assemblyman Jung Taesoo.  Interestingly enough, when Assemblyman Jung leaves, he takes time to note that it’s not good for a negotiator to be in the news. Joon sees this as well and orders an investigation as the rest of us wonder if maybe Sungchan is an illegitimate child of Assemblyman Jung?

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Then Sungchan goes to a fancy restaurant to meet his girlfriend. She’s a chef there and hasn’t seen him for a bit.  He hands over a necklace and the girl answers that she would rather trade couple rings instead. She asks him if he has ever showed his true feelings to anyone.

Sungchan pauses when the conversation turns at his girlfriend’s words and his hand goes to his pocket.  But he pulls out his phone instead of a ring box and excuses himself as a guy with a cap watches.

When Sungchan makes it as far as the elevator, he puts away his cell phone and pulls out a ring box instead.

At the same time, Myungha is at a nearby police station where the attendant gets a weird call.  There was flute music in the beginning and then someone wanted to report a hostage situation.

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Back at the restaurant, the guy in the cap stands up and shouts at everyone for their attention.  They ignore him until he throws down the table and takes off his jacket to reveal a vest rigged with bombs.  Everyone runs away but Sungchan sees this and runs toward the dining area.  Too bad; he’s too late. The guy has locked the glass doors and stands in front of five people…exactly the same number of hostages from the earlier scene.

He tells Sungchan that he will give Sungchan a choice…Four of the hostages can live but Sungchan has to choose who will die… Just like his older brother died because Sungchan tried to play games with people’s lives.

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As the police race to the scene, the guy gives Sungchan five minutes to decide who will die or everyone can die.  Sungchan tries his best to talk his way out of the situation but the hostage holder is serious and even looks like he’s going to push the trigger when Sungchan tries to negotiate his way out.  So, Sungchan asks the guy to free the child first and give him more time to decide about the fate of the other hostages.

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Sungchan brings the little girl out where he gets stopped by the negotiation team. Junghak barely convinces Sungchan to leave the negotiation to them since he’s emotionally involved.  Sungchan agrees to a degree and ends up pacing in the police bus.

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That is until the hostage holder lets everyone out except for Sungchan’s girlfriend-to-be-fiance as she offered to stay.  When Sungchan hears this, he tries to run back but Myungha physically restrains him from going back.

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Meanwhile, Sungchan’s girlfriend tries to talk to the hostage holder.  She asks him for his reason.  He is about to open up when the police arrive and the tension increases.  He pulls the girlfriend in front and forces her to call Sungchan as Junghak approaches alone.

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Except Sungchan does not pick up as he’s already talking to someone. The person called Sungchan first and told him to get away from the police.  Sungchan hides in the bathroom where the person gives Sungchan an ultimatum. Currently Sungchan is being held up as a hero by the press but the both of them know that it’s not the truth. Sungchan has one minute to hold a press conference and tell the truth to everyone about the most recent hostage situation.

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Sungchan believes the caller and runs back to the lobby of the building where Heesung and a camera man is waiting to get a scoop.  Sungchan tells the camera to film him and falls to his knees.  He confesses that the company only gave him the equivalent of the ransom price of one person. So, going in both he and the company knew that there was a high risk of the hostage holders killing one of the hostages in an angry response…But, he was supposed to do it and the best likely outcome was that he would be able to bring back four people for the price of one.

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As expected, the hostage holder killed off one guy…who was the brother of the current hostage holder.  He was also prepared for the situation as a flash back shows and he explains. He then negotiated with the hostage holder that since the price was for all five of the hostages, they would both agree that the killed hostage died due to his illness…That would make the exchange more agreeable for Company K since their original offer was the same amount for five people.

Myungha and Heesung stare in shock. But then the guy on the phone notes that none of the TV stations are broadcasting his confession; it’s useless now.

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Back in the hostage room. Junghak manages to get the hostage holder to put down his phone and even let go of Sungchan’s girlfriend.  Junghak promises that whatever the hostage holder wants to tell the world, they can do it in legal manner and even opens the door to go inside.  The hostage holder? He holds the remote control to the bomb in front of him but he falters and looks like he wants to trust Junghak. The thumb falls to the side and Junghak reaches for remote control when the vest gets triggered and the bomb detonates.

Sungchan and Myungha both run toward the room…only to find both of their loved ones dead.

FIRST IMPRESSION – Episode 2

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In the aftermath of the fiasco, Heesung hits his head against the shadow as well. His superior tells him that they could not broadcast his scoop because it was unverifiable. However, they are willing to offer him a promotion to a news anchor in charge of his own team.  Heesung falls back with the weight of the decision but a year’s time jump shows us that he took the offer.

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Meanwhile, Sungchan whistles the flute melody as he walks into another police situation. He’s less preppy and put together now; a little more comfortable and rugged.  He asks the guy on top of the bridge (threatening suicide) if the guy knows the melody.  The guy does not but Sungchan is willing to help nonetheless. He hops on and climbs up to the top of the bridge where he convinces the guy to come down.

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Of course, the onlookers tsk at the guy when he seems willing to come down on his own volition and Sungchan has to change his tactic. He offers to put his coat around the guy and pretend that he’s bringing the guy down with force.  But as they are about to come down, Myungha and the real Crisis Negotiations Department arrives and Sungchan has to escape first.  He does, however, watch from a little off, for the full four hours that Myungha takes to listen to the guy and bring him down.

Turns out that things are not looking good for the Crisis Negotiations Department.  They got a new head who is only interested in killing time until he’s transferred when the police get rid of the Crisis Negotiations Department.  Myungha hears this from her colleague and runs off to stop the head of the police.  She asks him to reconsider his decision.

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But the guy answers that the Crisis Negotiations Department has no experienced leader.  The police cannot risk letting amateurs handle crisis situations when none of the remaining department members actually have substantial experience.  Plus, he notes that most of the crises are resolved before the Crisis Negotiations Department arrive anyways.

Myungha has no answer to that assertion and backs off.  But, when she gets back to her department, she asks her colleagues to look into the matter.  They do and they find Sungchan…who is running from guys in suits? Maybe his past company – K Company?

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Sungchan evades the suits but gets caught by Myungha and co.  She confronts him on pretending to be part of the Crisis Negotiations Department and charges him with impersonating the police.  Sungchan answers by telling her that her Department Head did not fail in the hostage negotiation from the year ago but no one wanted to listen to the truth.  He was talking to the hostage holder’s accomplice on the phone who told him about no channels willing to broadcast his confession…When he ran into the room where he found his deceased girlfriend, he heard the flute melody on the other side of the phone…This was even though the hostage holder was dead.

Myungha offers to cooperate and Sungchan lies that he will drive.  When she walks over, he leaves in his car. ^^;;;

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However, his words remain with Myungha who remembers her adoptive uncle’s funeral. Sungchan had come to the wake in a drunken fury claiming that the perpetrator was still out there.  Myungha had not been interested as she was so distressed about her uncle and none of hte other cops seem to pay any heed.

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She then gets her colleagues to look into the old case files.  Rewatching the tapes confirm our suspicions.  The hostage holder had not detonated the bomb…

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The next day, a new crisis! A newbie reporter (Boram) is at the bank trying to get some information on something when she gets caught in a hostage situation.  She manages to call her boss (Hessung) and begins to videochat/stream him the feed through a camera that she hides behind her head.  He picks up on the situation and his department prepares their news program for the night.

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At the same time, Myungha tricks Sungchan into showing up for a fake crisis through the police band walkie talkie.  He’s not really cooperative on her attempt to get more information about the prior hostage situation from one year ago until he overhears her colleague get the 911 call about a new hostage scenario…that may be a prank as the caller played some weird flute music.

Sungchan jumps to the conclusion that there must be a connection and forces Myungha to take him by pretending to swallow the handcuffs key. Yet, when they get there, Myungha gets a second pair of keys from another police officer whom she tasks to watch over Sungchan.

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The Crisis Negotiations Department then attempts to contact the bank robber. He tells her to get her superior on the line and explains that all he wants is a few things…Once he gets his things, he will leave and no one will be hurt. I guess Myungha became the highest ranking officer in her department after her uncle died? Not sure why she’s the one handling the negotiations.

The Special Task Force arrives and the Crisis Negotiations Team is called down.  Things of course get more chaotic with the arrival of the Special Task Force Team which believes that force will solve the matter.  They contact the robber and warn him to stand down before he gets hurt.  Then, they prepare to infiltrate under the guise of negotiations.

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However, the robber realized that something was funny from the earlier call when the Special Task Force knew his name (due to Heesung’s news team).  He had one of the hostages pick up the phone and the hostage gets shot by the Special Task Force before they realize their mistake.

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Sungchan sees all this and calls in a favor from Gun-Il.  He reminds Gun-Il that nothing will be achieved if this is not handled efficiently and offers to clean up the mess for Gun-Il.

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Just as the robber is pissed at being deceived by the police as well as pissed that Boram was filming him, Sungchan takes the lead over the negotiations through Gun-Il’s influence over the police chief. He walks Myungha through the negotiations, beginning with giving her confidence that she can do this just like she diffused the situation with the jumper when he did not.

Myungha then turns toward their usual protocol as she sends over a phone and then buys time to bring the robber his car.  She then empathizes with the robber when he emphasizes that he was not the one who shot the hostage and gets him to let the wounded hostage out in exchange for the car.

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At Sungchan’s coaching, Myungha manages to approach the robber with a cigarette as they wait for the car. He also ascertains that the robber is far away from the other hostages and coordinates with the Special Task Force to preemptively attack when Myungha has the robber’s trust.  He just does not tell Myungha this as she’s still a naive lamb.

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Myungha goes up to offer the cigarette to the robber and he begins to confess that this bank robbing scenario was not his idea.  But as he’s about to say how he got into the situation, the Special Task Force arrives and he gets stun gunned to the floor.  Myungha screams at everyone to stop and the robber sees her getting pulled away.

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Later, the robber is brought into the police station where Heesung is on the news. He turns around and looks confused as he repeatedly looks toward Heesung’s image.  He mutters…”the Pied Piper.”

MY TWO CENTS

Since this is just my first impression, I’m going to make this short. Originally, I was not planning to recap this series and I’m still not sure since we already have a lot being covered at DRAMAFEED.  However, I thought the teasers looked interesting and we decided to watch this over dinner…And, as you can guess it, it was too interesting for me not to recap.  The whole family was engrossed in the first two episodes.

Shin Ha Kyung, Jo Yoonhee and Yoo Joongsang are amazing leads.  There’s something about Shin Ha Kyung’s voice that makes him seem like he’s being played by a voice actor to me but he’s a veteran and he plays Sungchan well.  I still don’t trust that we have the full story on Sungchan and my mom has her doubts as well. ^~ Meanwhile, Yoonhee is a fully empathizable female lead.  She totally killed the earnest and hardworking but naive cop character, which is a great foil to Sungchan’s obviously more jaded and calculating character.  I’m not sure if there’s chemistry there between Sungchan and Myungha.  But I can accept that they make a great Mentor/Mentee relationship.  Additionally, storywise, the whole naive younger sprout healing as she learns from the wiser but wounded tree is a time-tried relationship vehicle.

Additionally, even though there has only been two episodes, Joonsang plays a great nebulous third main.  Is he the Pied Piper? But he can’t be since he was recording Sungchan’s confession.  So, why then did the robber look so surprised when he saw Heesung’s face on the broadcast?

Panning out for the larger picture, the director (Kim Hong Sun) and screenwriter (Ryu Youngjae) previously worked together on the drama series Liar Game, which was also a blast to watch.  Though it looks like Pied Piper will fall into the episodic framework as most police dramas, the backstory is interesting enough that I will be watching the episodes next week.  Like the fairy tale Pied Piper, there were enough clues that I’m not even sure that the mastermind puppet master is evil since Sungchan did seem like he was truly calculative in the beginning.  He did not care if there were losses as long as the final outcome was a success… Even in Episode 2, while Myungha is trying to help diffuse the situation by understanding and healing the wounds of the perpetrators of the crises, Sungchan only cares about diffusing the current problem and getting his answers.  So, did Sungchan inadvertently or purposefully make a mistake in an earlier negotiation that is now coming to haunt him? Or is the Pied Piper just a villain?  Who knows?

(CC BY-NC-ND) DRAMAFEED 2016.

Korean Drama Pied Piper  1-2 RECAP by DRAMAFEED|Copy & Paste Guidelines – Always put a link back to the source.

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