Butts don’t lie, folks. You’ll see what I mean when you catch tvN’s hotly anticipated remake of the HBO series Entourage, which just premiered and was simulcast in multiple countries worldwide. Let’s meet the movie star and his boys who make up the titular entourage, as they navigate the treacherous and glimmering waters of the entertainment world. Sink or swim, they’re in it together, and lucky for us, there’s strength and comedy in numbers.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
The camera zips across the water and lands right in the middle of a raucous yacht party. Music’s blaring, bikini-clad girls are shimmying, and hot young movie star CHA YOUNG-BIN (Seo Kang-Joon) and his buddies LEE HO-JIN (Park Jung-min), CHA JOON (Lee Kwang-soo), and TURTLE (Lee Dong-hwi) make their way up to the top of the vessel.
Joon’s fastidiously massaging a sunbather, Turtle’s snapping pictures of the attractive woman before him, Ho-jin’s lounging, and Young-bin’s sipping champagne. Soon, they’re dancing with the ladies, and from the look on Young-bin’s face, he’s tickled that this is his reality.
Later, Turtle, Joon, and Ho-jin unwind at a neighborhood spa, reflecting on the hot women from earlier. For Turtle, “the pelvis is everything.” Joon disagrees: “Only boobies matter,” because when a fatigued man momentarily rests against said boobies, his vigor instantly returns. He tries to get Ho-jin on Team Boobies, but Ho-jin says he doesn’t want to get dragged down to their level of immaturity.
Young-bin finally joins his crew in the tub, and marvels at the fact that this spa still exists; he and Ho-jin were regulars as elementary school kids. Joon, who is Young-bin’s older cousin, chimes in that while the two were doing that, he marveled at the nude Venus painted on the ceiling. Ho-jin remarks that the ceiling was blank then, and wonders if they should even be here when tonight’s the big film festival debut for Young-bin’s film.
Young-bin says that he always wanted to revisit this spa, and notes that the other men here glanced at his face before shifting their gaze down to his nether regions. Turtle deems that a natural reaction upon seeing a famous celebrity and makes fun of Joon’s package for looking exactly like his face: “Are those teeth?!” A naked splash fight ensues.
That evening the boys head to the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), with Joon standing awkwardly in the van to keep his suit from wrinkling. Ho-jin inquires if Young-bin’s nervous, and Young-bin feigns hurling before breaking into a smile. He tells Ho-jin to relax, but Ho-jin advises him to take the interviews seriously. No more verbal missteps, he warns.
Joon teases them for sounding like a couple, and Turtle retorts that that’s why Ho-jin’s girlfriend hates Young-bin, prompting Ho-jin to flip him the bird. Joon suggests that Ho-jin sleep with her as a panacea to all their problems. Turtle calls Joon an animal, and Joon snaps that Turtle’s right hand is still his girlfriend. Turtle proudly raises it.
Turtle doesn’t get Joon’s formal attire when he’s merely an extra, and Joon contends that he’s the integral scene-stealer of the movie. As they arrive, we see red carpet footage of A-list thespians making their entrance (a seamless incorporation of actual 2015 BIFF footage). Finally, the boys step out. Despite claiming to be an experienced celebrity, Joon appears quite nervous and stiff while Young-bin waves and smiles with ease.
Young-bin supportively guides Joon next to him in the photo zone. He addresses reporters and states that he’s happy to be back in his hometown of Busan and even introduces Joon as his cousin and costar.
When asked for his thoughts on the early negative reviews of his film Flowers of Evil, he responds with: “I don’t like them. They just criticize to criticize. I don’t think critics have the right when they’ve never made a movie themselves.” Yikes. Ho-jin motions for Young-bin to cut it out, to no avail. Just then, talent agent KIM EUN-GAB (Jo Jin-woong) rushes to Young-bin’s side and attempts damage control by suggesting that they revel in the festival atmosphere and celebrate cinema.
Inside the venue, Eun-gab reminds Young-bin that he needn’t react to every negative opinion, but Young-bin admits that he said what he always wanted to. He spots Ha Jung-woo (bring on the cameos!) who introduces him to The Handmaiden director Park Chan-wook and actress Kim Tae-ri. As The Handmaiden crew leave, Eun-gab reassures Young-bin that he’s way cooler than Ha Jung-woo, whose head is too large, heh.
Eun-gab asks Young-bin if he read the drama script, but Young-bin doesn’t answer as he leaves to tend to something. Eun-gab fumes when he finds out that Ho-jin didn’t read the script aloud to Young-bin like he asked. Joon and Turtle look uneasy as Ho-jin describes the drama as terrible and boring with overdone tropes. Eun-gab interrupts and calls Ho-jin “Cup Ramyun” since Ho-jin’s first job when they met was to deliver instant ramyun. He reduces Ho-jin to a former cup-ramyun-gopher who’s still too inexperienced a manager to make judgments on scripts, and orders Ho-jin to stop with the opinions and make Young-bin read the drama script.
He shoots down Ho-jin’s ideas by bluntly declaring that Young-bin’s movie bombed. This throws everyone for a loop, and Eun-gab shoos Turtle and Joon away so he can explain to Ho-jin in more detail. Apparently, everyone at the VIP preview hated it. Ho-jin thinks maybe there’s still a life for it once it’s officially released, but Eun-gab informs him that they should make as many TV deals now while he’s still hot. “Just do as I say,” Eun-gab says.
Eun-gab says he’s skipping the screening since he’s seen the film too many times, and plans to schmooze with investors before returning to Seoul. Joon and Ho-jin are offended by Eun-gab’s behavior, but head off to eat cup ramyun, heh.
Outside, Young-bin walks toward a parked minivan. The door opens to reveal actress Lee Tae-im waiting for him. She assures him that the coast is clear, so he enters. They sneak an intense makeout session, and afterwards, Young-bin exits and adjusts his shirt. He buttons the back of Lee’s dress and sweetly asks about her dog. She’s touched that he remembers and laments that they were a good match. He points out that she initiated the split, but she reminds him that her plan was always to breakup at the end of a project, which she informed him of before they began dating.
Young-bin thought she was joking, but she says there was no ill will; they needed to be in love for real to play their parts. She bids him farewell, and Young-bin heads inside for his screening. He and his buddies are seated in the front row, watching closely. Female members of the audience swoon when Young-bin’s character smiles at Lee Tae-im in the movie. Perhaps this movie isn’t totally a lost cause?
Joon sits at the edge of his seat anticipating his scene. His one line is heard, but his face is unseen before the movie abruptly cuts to the following scene. Uh oh. Joon bolts up in disbelief and shouts that he got edited out. He curses and throws a loud fit, but his buddies restrain him and tell him to simmer down.
Later in the movie, Lee Tae-im repeatedly stabs Young-bin’s character while he’s asleep, and the audience cringes and cowers. Young-bin wonders why the movie was re-edited since he was only supposed to get stabbed once.
At the after-party, Joon is still fuming and calls the director insane for re-editing the movie. Turtle chides him for calling the director a genius before, and Ho-jin bemoans the new runtime of two-plus hours. Young-bin suggests they go and talk to the director and learn what happened.
In a private room, the boys sit down with the schlubby director, who’s in a dismal mood, and Young-bin admits that the latest cut of the film isn’t any better than the previous version. Joon asks if his lines could be inserted back in, but the director scoffs.
The producer mentions that the investors now want to edit the movie themselves. That doesn’t sit well with the director nor Young-bin, who insists that he liked the latest version, but that the ending could use a revision. The producers threaten to hand the movie over to the investors who’ll edit it themselves, and the director flings his beer across the room in a fit.
The club’s hoppin’, but the boys aren’t boppin’. Ho-jin’s worried about the movie, but Young-bin wants his friends to cut the brooding and enjoy themselves. Joon wants to leave, but decides to stay for Mamamoo’s performance.
Turtle and Joon head downstairs for a better view of the stage. Young-bin stays with Ho-jin upstairs and urges him to lighten up because everything will be fine. But Ho-jin tells him to stop bluffing, knowing full well that Young-bin’s the most anxious of the bunch and putting on an optimistic front.
Actress Ahn So-hee surprises the two from behind. They’re all pleased to see each other; it’s been years since their schooldays together. Ho-jin gives Young-bin and So-hee a moment to catch up. They relocate to the roof where it’s quiet. So-hee congratulates Young-bin on his film, and he asks for her opinion. Her response is iffy, and it saddens him, but she laughs and says she hasn’t seen it yet.
Young-bin says he can’t be depressed in front of Ho-jin these days. So-hee’s glad to know that he and Ho-jin remained close. She reminisces about their Busan adventures, watching movies and pigging out as a group of five. A ricecake joint stands out in her memory, and Young-bin suggests they all eat there tomorrow, but So-hee’s got a shoot.
Young-bin has an idea and tells her to stay put. He runs to their beloved ricecake joint, and right before So-hee’s van leaves, he returns and hands her a bag containing her favorite ricecakes, which he was able to get by using his handy fame card.
At the club, Joon’s munching on carrots when an older woman marches up to him and grabs his butt. Hard. He’s mortified as the woman asks if he’ll be joining her in her room. He turns to face her, and the woman apologizes for mistaking him for someone else and dashes off.
Joon’s still frozen in place when his buddies return. Turtle recognizes Joon’s horrified look as the same expression he had when he found out his first love had thirty kids, heh. Joon stutters that he just got sexually assaulted and recounts what happened. He acknowledges his preference for older women, but still feels violated. He points her out, and Turtle jokes that he should seriously date her since she seems like his type. Ho-jin thinks she looks familiar.
The next morning, the boys walk up a familiar path in a small neighborhood of Busan and reminisce about their adolescence, when they were broke, movie-loving kids. Joon credits himself for turning Ho-jin and Young-bin into young cinephiles who went on to attend film school. Turtle distinctly remembers Joon’s unfair dating ban while all four of them lived together and stunk up a cramped room. Young-bin remarks that not much has changed since, because the four of them are still a unit today. They reach the top of an old house and gaze at the view. They all have grave and wistful expressions on their faces, concerned about the film’s potential for success.
Back in Seoul in their swanky bachelor pad, Joon whips up breakfast while Turtle scans the harsh critiques of Young-bin’s film. Young-bin is bummed, but there’s nothing he can do. Joon reassures him not to fret because even acclaimed films get slammed.
Turtle quips that there’s even a critique of Joon’s performance, but he was only kidding; Joon was hardly in the film so obviously there’s nothing. They fight like always, and then Joon says he has to train hard today to prep for an audition that specifically calls for a sexy butt. When Ho-jin arrives, they all hop into Young-bin’s car and head to Eun-gab’s office for a meeting, which Young-bin is dreading.
As soon as Eun-gab arrives at the office, he answers his phone and reassures the person on the other line that Young-bin will definitely be signing a contract. His assistant joins him in the elevator and gives him a rundown of all the latest talent deals.
When he hears that one of his actors didn’t get cast, he orders his assistant to find a woman his client can sleep with so he’ll stop being a prude and become a seasoned actor. A man of creative solutions, this one. He barks at his colleagues and threatens to fire his assistant.
But Eun-gab is nothing like his acerbic self for his meeting with Young-bin. Eun-gab is dismayed that Young-bin still didn’t read the drama script he had mentioned, and explains that Ho-jin found it boring because of blue balls — a boring existence devoid of sex made him perceive the script as boring.
Eun-gab says the script is a goosebump-inducing, hot commodity. But Young-bin surprises him by saying he wants to rest. Eun-gab tries to sympathize while offering another solution — invigorating eel extract — to no avail. Eun-gab gingerly states that his movie will probably bomb, so now is the time to lock down his next project, one that’ll appeal to women and cause everyone to forget about his flop.
But Young-bin asserts that he doesn’t want to play a chaebol and advises Eun-gab to find his next project carefully. After everyone leaves, Eun-gab criticizes Ho-jin for being too hands-off with Young-bin and orders him once again to simply do as he says. A furious forearm jerk follows.
While they wait for Young-bin to see the dentist, Ho-jin and Turtle regret Young-bin’s lackluster film debut. Joon can relate since his debut album flopped, and he became depressed. Ho-jin notes that Young-bin’s probably feeling the same way. But as Young-bin’s lying on the dental chair, I.O.I member Nayoung approaches him. She says she’s not here for treatment, but for him.
At home, Joon does pelvic thrusts as part of his workout while Turtle gropes the air with VR goggles on. Young-bin exchanged numbers with Nayoung at the dentist and made plans to meet her and her friends later today. He suggests they all go. Ho-jin parses through the script Eun-gab raved about, but Young-bin remains uninterested in it.
Ho-jin presents Young-bin with a film script called Im Hwa-su and encourages him to read it if he doesn’t want to do the drama; he liked the story, and never mentioned it to Eun-gab. Ho-jin orders him to read it now, but Young-bin feels no urgency to line up his next project, which frustrates Ho-jin.
Ho-jin receives a text from his on-again, off-again girlfriend who wants to see him briefly. Only then does Young-bin promise to read the script, in order to make Ho-jin go and see her.
Clothes are strewn on the floor of Ho-jin’s girlfriend’s apartment. They cuddle in bed, and she scolds him for not calling. He counters that she blocked him on Kakao. She observes that he’s skinnier, and Ho-jin says he’s been stressed, what with Young-bin’s film bombing, and someone pestering him. But she notes his package is looking bigger as a result of the weight loss, and they laugh.
Meanwhile, Young-bin and his buddies go bowling with Nayoung and her friends. Turtle tries to impress I.O.I’s Chungha by throwing down some English. But he’s jobless and sans ambition so when he asks if she has a boyfriend, she answers that Turtle’s not her type. Despite the rejection, he plays it cool.
Joon passes on bowling, feeling self-conscious about his butt. He stares at the burly men bowling in the next lane and leers enviously at one beefcake’s butt, saying it resembles two watermelons. That doesn’t go over well, and Joon nearly gets pummeled, but Young-bin effectively defuses the situation. Na-young finds Young-bin’s friends funny, but she says next time she wants to hang out with Young-bin one-on-one.
Ho-jin and his girlfriend are kissing when his phone rings. It’s Eun-gab, who chews him out for not being within ten centimeters of Young-bin, and informs him that Young-bin’s got a meeting with a drama production company this week. Eun-gab is calling from a boutique where his wife (Yoon Ji-hye) is shopping; she clearly doesn’t approve of this. Ho-jin explains that Young-bin doesn’t want to do the drama and mentions the film Im Hwa-su instead, but Eun-gab refuses to hear it and yells at him to meet later.
Eun-gab tells his wife he has to leave; he’s a busy workaholic who barely has time to eat, let alone shop with his wife. But when his wife calls him by his full name, he looks up from his phone, encourages her to buy the more expensive outfit, and promises to return, heh.
Ho-jin quickly dresses to meet Eun-gab. His girlfriend’s exasperated by the fact that Ho-jin’s life revolves around Young-bin; they even broke up because of that. Ho-jin asks her to understand since it’s his job, but she’s tired of his lack of ambition and the freewheeling, pathetic lifestyle he shares with his friends. “So what if Young-bin’s a star? What are you?” she asks.
Eun-gab takes Ho-jin for a joyride on a field, spinning his car in circles with alarming speed. Ho-jin hangs on for dear life while describing the film script to Eun-gab. When the car finally screeches to a halt, Eun-gab reiterates that Ho-jin’s merely “cup ramyun” while he’s a seasoned professional. Right now, saving Young-bin’s popularity is first priority, and Eun-gab hollers that Ho-jin’s nonsense opinions need to end now because turning Young-bin into a star is their first order of business, and he can become a real actor after that.
Eun-gab reminds him that because Ho-jin is Young-bin’s friend and became his manager through nepotism, no one respects him in this field; therefore Ho-jin has zero clout. He says the best thing Ho-jin can do is to stay still. Ouch.
Young-bin, Turtle, and Joon are at the barbershop. Ho-jin joins them, and he’s noticeably glum. He divulges that his girlfriend called him pathetic because all he does is look after Young-bin. Young-bin says she should understand that it’s part of the job, but Ho-jin agrees with her; he is pathetic because he’s not even a real manager, but a friend doing Young-bin a favor.
The mood shifts, and Ho-jin expresses that he no longer wants to clean up after Young-bin, but become a real manager, official contract and all. He’s tired of being belittled and wants to work for Young-bin professionally, but Young-bin’s opposed to a professional employee relationship with Ho-jin.
Young-bin: “I don’t expect any more from you than what a friend does.” Ho-jin replies, “That’s EXACTLY what bothers me!”
His voice rises, and Ho-jin’s point is proven when Young-bin admits that he didn’t read the film script. Ho-jin is annoyed that Young-bin never listens to him and wonders why he’s doing all the work Young-bin should be doing to line up his next project. Young-bin asks Ho-jin why he didn’t reveal how much he hated working for him sooner, and Ho-jin answers that he came to do that today. “I quit,” he says.
As soon as Ho-jin enters his small apartment, his landlord calls reminding him that his lease is almost up and that she’s going to raise the rent. He screams into a pillow and tosses the Flowers of Evil script that he heavily annotated for Young-bin.
It’s the day of Young-bin’s official film release, and Joon dresses for his audition. Young-bin seems like he’s waiting for a call, and they advise him to call Ho-jin first and make up. Joon says Ho-jin won’t be heading to the theater with them. Young-bin checks his phone instantly when it buzzes; it’s a text from So-hee, who enjoyed his film. Before heading out, superstitious Joon makes sure Turtle’s wearing his lucky boxers and forbids Young-bin from tagging along to the audition.
Joon feels intimidated by the nicely sculpted derrieres of the other actors auditioning, and regrets that he wasn’t well-endowed like them. When he steps into the audition room, he greets the director too loudly and awkwardly stands right in front his face before he’s asked to back away.
He flatters the director too much before auditioning, and his delivery is impassioned and terribly over-the-top, but the director cuts him off early to focus on what’s more important: butts. The director explains that he wants to rediscover the male body through his film, and asks Joon to turn around. Joon stalls for as long as he can before slowly turning and flexing his flat behind with all his might. It’s no use though; the director is disappointed by his lifeless butt.
Ho-jin takes a seat inside a movie theater and ignores a call from Eun-gab. Much to his surprise, Young-bin plops down right next to him and wonders why Ho-jin’s watching his movie of all things, after he quit being his manager. Aww.
Young-bin says he knew Ho-jin would be here because they used to watch movies for hours at this theater. He adds that he read the film script and liked it because he always wanted to play an evil protagonist. Ho-jin tells him to call Eun-gab, but Young-bin wants Ho-jin to do it as his manager, and says he’ll even draw up a formal contract.
But Ho-jin doesn’t want a nepotistic handout. Young-bin explains that he prefers having a friend as his manager because he knows that Ho-jin’s not after the money, but truly cares about what’s best for him. Aww! He adds that Ho-jin also happens to have an eye for good stories. Ho-jin asks if he rehearsed this monologue, but Young-bin’s serious: “Don’t say you’ll quit. I’d be useless without you.”
Ho-jin agrees to schedule a meeting regarding the new film project, but wants to sign on as an official manager after the movie performs well and Eun-gab recognizes his ability. Later that day, Young-bin and Ho-jin step out of an unsuccessful meeting with CJ E&M; apparently casting for Im Hwa-su is “postponed,” which is just another way of saying that they’re not interested in casting Young-bin. They wonder who opposed his casting when they recognize Joon’s butt-grabber a few feet away. Oy. She just so happens to be the production executive of the film they want.
Young-bin thinks the butt-grabbing lady is the reason he wasn’t cast; that’s the only plausible explanation, but Turtle thinks that’s unlikely. Meanwhile Eun-gab calls Ho-jin with “good news” and “even better news.” Ho-jin asks to hear the good news first, and Eun-gab informs him that Song Joong-ki has signed on to the drama project Young-bin had no desire to do. Oof.
As for the even better news? Young-bin has no chance at Im Hwa-su because the production company and CJ don’t want to work with him, and they didn’t offer a reason. Fiddlesticks. Eun-gab asks if Ho-jin may know why that is, and Ho-jin almost brings up Joon’s butt, but decides not to.
He breaks the terrible news to his buddies, and Turtle can’t help but laugh because Young-bin lost an opportunity due to Joon’s butt. Ho-jin laments their single, jobless selves, and wonders what they should do next. Young-bin, undeterred, brightly suggests that they grab some grub.
I enjoyed it, and I laughed! Success! This was a solid pilot largely (if not entirely) due to the assured performances of the pitch-perfect cast. Seo Kang-joon’s Young-bin is more than just the handsome star, and I was pleasantly surprised that his reason for not wanting Ho-jin as his official manager was because of his desire to preserve their friendship, and not let work drive a wedge into their strong bond. I found that pretty touching even if Young-bin was being a bit selfish. Little acts of goodness like Young-bin making sure to walk down the red carpet with Joon right beside him, surprising So-hee with ricecakes, taking the first step in reconciling with Ho-jin…all paint a picture of a rising star with a heart of gold who just really loves and cares for his friends and wants for all of them to be happy together. He’s a sensitive soul who needs his friends more than they probably realize, and I admire the fact that he’s not afraid to show it. I can see why he’s the mediator of the group, maintaining equilibrium and ascertaining that everyone’s all right.
Park Jung-min, who plays Ho-jin, has always been a very talented yet inexplicably underrated actor. He’s so natural, and he was the main reason why that escalating feud in the barbershop was such an excellent scene. Ho-jin’s not the type to push buttons, and we were able to see his inner conflict of wanting to be something other than his best friend’s gopher without losing his best friend in the process. There’s that saying, “Never mix friends with business,” and that scene perfectly depicted why that phrase often rings true. I guess I can see the advantage of having your best friend as a manager, which Young-bin explained in the movie theater, but that kind of relation is a rarity in entertainment because it’s just too difficult to separate personal from professional. It can get messy. I was able to relate to Ho-jin the most because I’ve worked in entertainment and witnessed industry executives and creatives who had big egos, a propensity to yell, and an uncanny ability to shrink anyone below them into a pool of insecurity. Eun-gab’s treatment of Ho-jin? It’s nothing out of the ordinary, and just a regular occurrence on a “normal” day in the world of entertainment.
How amazing is it to have Jo Jin-woong back on our screens in dramaland?! He’s nailing the role of the hotshot, douchebag talent agent, and I know I’m not supposed to like him, but I was grinning in every scene of his. I hope he has more screen time in the coming episodes. Lee Kwang-soo and Lee Dong-hwi as Joon and Turtle, respectively, are driving the comedy with ease. I find it hard not to laugh even when they’re being still and not acting silly or saying something stupid. Lee Dong-hwi has played the jokester in previous works, and while his portrayal of Turtle isn’t anything new, he’s a reliable source of comic relief that I can still appreciate.
The first batch of cameos was impressive! My favorites were Ha Jung-woo, Park Chan-wook, and Mamamoo. Cameos in general are fun, but here they also lend some credibility to the showbiz backdrop of the show. I’m looking forward to seeing who pops up next, and hopefully I won’t have to turn to Google to recognize them.
I can detect the efforts to infuse this remake with the original’s trademark ribaldry, overt sexualization, and R-rated content, but in much lighter strokes, and I don’t mind at all. I don’t feel that what I’ve seen so far is lacking because there wasn’t enough nudity, swear words, or crass dialogue. It doesn’t work like that; more butts or boobs isn’t necessarily going to make this show better, and I’m all for remakes retaining the essence of the original while still taking on a new identity. I absolutely loved what tvN did with their remake of The Good Wife, and I’m hopeful Entourage will get the same methodical treatment.
Two aspects of the show that I truly loved were the authenticity of the boys’ friendship and the accurate portrayal of the entertainment industry. It really did feel like the boys grew up together. The way they conversed and their ease with being around each other seemed genuine. Moreover, each person had his own distinct voice, quirk, and aura so I never felt anyone was being overshadowed or getting lost in the mix.
Eun-gab quarreling with Ho-jin and not recognizing him as a serious manager felt real and believable. It takes a village to groom a star, and when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, disagreements can take place. Industry professionals dropping out of projects over “creative differences” happens all the time. And Young-bin not getting that film because of Joon’s butt incident? It sounds like a silly and unfair reason, but in an industry in which keeping up appearances is half the job, there are a lot of factors that are superficial and illogical. Case in point: Joon not nabbing his part because of his lackluster posterior.
For the rare few who make it to the top, life can be quite glamorous and full of luxury, and that’s where we can see the boys have some fun. (And we can have some fun vicariously, too!) But it’s also nice to see that Young-bin isn’t thoughtless. He knows how capricious and fleeting fame can be, but as long as he has his friends, an uncertain future seems less terrifying.