A young man struggling with a disorder and stuck in unhealthy secrecy because of his family, his position, and the ambition of his friend isn’t necessarily the character I was expecting from Introverted Boss. Yet we were not just given a fully fleshed out hero, we were plunked down in the middle of his story, where he’d already realized that he had to battle his demons instead of living in safe solitude. This episode recounts the first steps in those battles, as Hwan-ki finally makes one of the many apologies stuck in his heart.
EPISODE 2: “I’m Sorry, I Cannot Apologize”
Hwan-ki stands at the edge of a roof, contemplating a worn business card for a flower delivery service. He looks up and says: “I’m sorry.” He apologizes to the empty sky and city below again and again, until a voice behind him asks what he’s sorry for. Hwan-ki snaps around to see Ro-woon walking up to him, looking curious. His eyes widen as they meet hers, then he loses his balance and begins to tip off the edge.
Rewinding back to the moment Hwan-ki walked away at the theater with the flowers, we see him wondering where Ro-woon had gone and why she quit her job. Ro-woon runs right past him to find her friend and ask if her flowers had been delivered. He tells her that the guy just left, and Ro-woon rushes out to find him. She spots Hwan-ki trying to throw the bouquet away and grabs his arm. Startled, Hwan-ki uses the bouquet to hide his face, as Ro-woon asks if he’s “Mr. Smith.”
Hwan-ki tries to blurt out his well-rehearsed “I’m your fan” introduction, but all he manages are sputters, while Ro-woon tries to get a look at his face. Assuming he’s just the flower delivery guy, she insists he tell her about the identity of her admirer. Unable to answer, he thrusts the bouquet into her face with an apology and runs into the men’s washroom.
The drunkenly determined Ro-woon barges in after him and chases him until Hwan-ki locks himself in a stall. Ro-woon bangs on the door and tells him that she has to meet Mr. Smith today, since it’s the last time.
Realizing that he won’t come out, Ro-woon tells him to pass on a message to Mr. Smith. She asks him to tell the man how grateful she is for his support in the last few years. Then, she bids him a mournful goodbye and moves away a few feet from the door. She waits for him to come out, but Hwan-ki asks a question instead: Why is she leaving the stage? Unrepentant at getting caught, she tells him that it’s a secret, even from Mr. Smith.
Hwan-ki asks why she uses that name for him, and Ro-woon enters the stall next to his to tell him that it was the penname used by Daddy-Long-Legs in the famous epistolary romance of the same name. Quietly, she explains that her sister committed suicide three years ago. She used to send flowers on the days Ro-woon would perform, and now the flowers come from this mysterious man who she figures must be her sister’s friend or past lover.
Hwan-ki asks if she really wants to know who he is, and Ro-woon ruefully asks him not to tell her. This way, she can imagine him as she likes. Ro-woon wonders why she’s telling all this to a quiet stranger who doesn’t know how to console her. She likens him to her quiet sister, who hid her pain so well that she still doesn’t know why she took her own life. Hwan-ki thinks back to the moment he ran into his office and found Ji-hye’s shoes on his windowsill.
As Ro-woon breaks down crying in the next stall, Hwan-ki helplessly touches the wall separating them, his face pained. He thinks to himself: “I must tell her, so tragedy doesn’t repeat itself.”
Hwan-ki walks with a bouquet of flowers again, but this time, he’s in the hospital where his secretary, Kyo-ri, was admitted earlier. Ah, so Kyo-ri was the “her.” He’s directed to her bed and stands on the other side of a privacy curtain. Kyo-ri wonders with fear if she’s imagining his voice when he tells her to just hear him out. He stands frozen, almost trembling with nervousness, but finally tells her that he has a difficult time interacting with people. He explains that he has a disorder and asks her not to tell anybody.
His anxiety is clear in his voice, but so is his sincerity, as he apologizes for making Kyo-ri’s life hard in the past. He tells her to take a paid leave and offers to introduce her to his psychiatrist, though he wryly admits that she may not be very good, since she couldn’t fix him. As realization and sympathy dawns on Kyo-ri’s face, Hwan-ki bows his head and leaves the flowers for her on a medicine cart.
Walking out, he calls his doctor and reports that he got rid of his “constipation,” using her metaphor. She tells him to breathe as he excitedly repeats that he told her–he finally told her!
Hwan-ki’s sister notices that his name is trending on the net and checks out the article written about him. It’s a sensational piece about a congressman’s son who abuses his power by starving his secretary to the point of hospitalization. Even as his dad finds out, the staff at Brain try to fend off calls from reporters about the piece.
Hwan-ki walks into the lobby and is surprised to see the media fighting to get to him. One of the paparazzi spot him and they start lobbing question at him about his supposed mistreatment of Kyo-ri. Hwan-ki ducks and runs, and then comes up against a wall of employees on the other side. Ro-woon emerges from the crowd and looks at him. He swivels back to avoid her eyes and watches in horror as the reporters break through and run toward him.
Then, like water parting over stone, they run around him and towards the descending Woo-il. They had never even noticed Hwan-ki. He watches as Woo-il appeases the reporters and promises an official statement soon. Woo-il begins to walk away when he notices Hwan-ki standing in the lobby alone. Hwan-ki looks quickly away, clearly feeling cornered.
Woo-il turns back to the reporters and engages them in talk, easily commanding everyone’s attention as Hwan-ki makes a break for the elevators. The only one to see him leave is Ro-woon.
As he enters an elevator car, Ro-woon stops the doors from closing and walks in. Hwan-ki cowers against the wall as Ro-woon reminds him of their meeting the other day. She admits that they didn’t officially meet, since she didn’t even see his face, but she saw a lot of the rest of him, ha. Hwan-ki wonders if the current situation started from that point, and if Ro-woon is involved with the article. But then Woo-il arrives and pulls Ro-woon out, pleasantly telling her to take another elevator.
Once the doors close, Woo-il tells Hwan-ki to stay low, but Hwan-ki is more interested in how he knows Ro-woon. He’s startled to learn that Ro-woon works for his company now and wonders why she left her job to join Brain.
Up in the penthouse, Woo-il tells Hwan-ki that Kyo-ri has gone into hiding after being discharged. He heard about a man visiting her at the hospital and speculates that Kyo-ri took money to talk to a reporter. Hwan-ki defends his secretary, but Woo-il laughs that he knows her better. He had visited the hospital himself and given Kyo-ri money to smooth over things before the article came out. He predicts that Kyo-ri will call them if she wants more, and just then the phone rings, proving him right.
Woo-il goes down to fetch Kyo-ri, who is waiting outside the building. Hwan-ki sits there worrying about Ro-woon’s involvement in the article. If Kyo-ri talks, then Ro-woon could be in danger. The subject of his concern walks up to the building’s roof and gazes out at the city. She imagines her sister standing beside her and promises to make Hwan-ki fall all the way down.
In the lobby, Woo-il meets Hwan-ki’s enraged dad and escorts him back up to Hwan-ki’s office. Meanwhile, Hwan-ki intercepts Kyo-ri, who is rushing away from the building after overhearing the dire punishments Hwan-ki’s dad is planning for her. Hwan-ki puts his cloak over her head and pulls her aside to talk in private.
Woo-il tries to calm Hwan-ki’s furious dad by promising to turn the crisis into an opportunity. The ex-CEO clearly knows the project he’s talking about, and Woo-il assures him that he just needs to convince Hwan-ki to cooperate.
Trembling under the hood of the cloak, Kyo-ri can barely look at her boss’s uncovered face. She starts blabbing in a panic and tells him that she just spoke to one person about him. Hwan-ki wonders if it was Ro-woon, but stops her from telling him who it was. He directs her to say that she never spoke to anyone about him. He emphasizes that it’s the only way she can get out of this unharmed. The cloak slips off her head as Kyo-ri realizes that Hwan-ki is worried for her. As she turns to face him though, she finds him gone.
Instead, Woo-il comes around the corner and addresses her with concern. He sighs and says that he wishes she had reached out to him instead of breaching confidentiality. He places a hand on her shoulder and sighs that if she’s known as a whistle-blower, no one will hire her again.
Kyo-ri stammers that she never talked about Hwan-ki to anyone. She goes on to tell him about Hwan-ki’s visit at the hospital and the flowers he brought her. Clearly taken aback, Woo-il listens in disbelief before noticing the familiar black cloak at Kyo-ri’s feet.
Hwan-ki climbs up to the roof and steps on to the ledge. He looks at the red flower delivery card and thinks about a day three years ago.
At the end of a work day, his secretary Ji-hye had nervously approached his office door and asked if there was anything else for her to do. Expecting to get off work, she was surprised when he asked her to come in. Hwan-ki sat at his desk, sharpening his pencil, while she waited. Finally, he produced one cufflink and said that he lost the other. He told her to find a matching second one immediately.
Ji-hye clearly had plans for the evening but couldn’t argue with her taciturn boss. She came out of the office and called up her sister to apologize for missing her performance. Ro-woon was clearly angry at her for missing yet another show and accused her of showing off her fancy job. Bouquets of flowers were a poor substitute for her sister’s presence. A man bumped into her just then, and her phone went flying. She didn’t see his face as he picked up the pieces from the floor with an apology. Ro-woon had only sighed as she put the battery back into the casing.
At the other end, Ji-hye took out a red flower delivery card and called the number. Hwan-ki watched this from a crack between his office doors. He closed the door and sat on the steps, then looked down at the cufflink in his hand–clearly not lost, after all.
In the present day, he looks out to the city and apologizes. He bows repeatedly and says what he couldn’t say to his secretary, Ji-hye. Ro-woon hears him from where she’s standing below and comes up. She asks why he’s sorry and surprises him into losing his balance. She grabs him at the nick of time, and they begin to fall safely towards the roof. Except, Hwan-ki sees that she’s about to hit her head on the floor and swerves her around, taking the impact on his shoulder instead.
Then he’s pinned under her while she asks if he was thinking of jumping, clearly not associating his black-clad figure with the shrouded one in the CEO’s office. Hwan-ki manages to get away, but not before Ro-woon gets a look at the flower delivery card. He stops in the stairwell and looks back. He thinks to himself that if he does what Ro-woon wants, then things will go back to how they were.
Back in the penthouse, he dresses in a suit. He looks himself in the mirror and practices what he needs to say: “Regardless of my intent, I ended up hurting someone. I admit that it’s something I can’t deny. I’m reflecting upon it.” He ends his apology with a bow.
Brain sets up a press conference to release an official statement, and the office staff gather to watch the spectacle. They speculate on whether Hwan-ki will turn up to apologize, and no one seems to think he would. Ro-woon insists that he’ll have to, if he’s human.
Hwan-ki walks slowly towards the crowded conference room, practicing his lines under his breath. Palms sweating, he tells himself that he can do it and walks towards them. Just as he’s about to come out, Woo-il grabs him and drags him to his office.
Hwan-ki explains that he has to apologize for the wrong that he did, but Woo-il is clearly concerned that someone might bring up the incident that happened three years ago. Hwan-ki asks if that’s what he’s worried about. Woo-il sighs and points out how small his office is compared to Hwan-ki’s. He tells his friend that he doesn’t mind that, or the fact that people say he shouldn’t work so hard for this company since none of the money will ever be his. He’s always worked to cover up Hwan-ki’s weaknesses, just as Hwan-ki covered up his secret three years ago.
Hwan-ki promises that no one will ever find out about that incident, but he still asks Woo-il to let him apologize in person today. Clearly frustrated, Woo-il wonders if he’s even Hwan-ki. He asks in anger if Hwan-ki is confident that he can go in front of all those people and not make a fool of himself.
This gets to Hwan-ki, and Woo-il apologizes for being harsh. He asks Hwan-ki to step down as CEO and take over a new project. Hwan-ki agrees to resign but is surprised that Woo-il and his dad have already planned on what he’ll do next.
The press conference begins, and to everyone’s surprise, a nervous Kyo-ri is almost carried to a chair before them. She takes out a paper and haltingly reads out her statement from it. She denies any mistreatment and insists that she was hospitalized because of a chronic disease. She tells the reporters about Hwan-ki’s hospital visit and tears up as she apologizes for the trouble she caused. As the reporters start asking questions, she stumbles up from the chair to escape and has to be supported by two of the staff.
Woo-il comes in and takes over. He tells the reporters that Hwan-ki is currently abroad, so he’ll answer any questions they have. Ro-woon scoffs in disbelief.
Hwan-ki is getting beaten up with tennis balls by his dad. Used to playing racquetball and clearly not his best self in front of his father, Hwan-ki labors to hit the balls being hurled at him with a racquet but takes most of them on his body. His father wonders why he makes a fool of himself whenever people look at him.
Woo-il gets the question he was expecting about the incident from three years ago and easily dismisses it. Instead, under Ro-woon’s angry gaze, he redirects attention toward Hwan-ki’s resignation from the position of CEO. Instead, he tells them, Hwan-ki will be taking over an in-house venture where he’ll be the leader of communications.
Moving on from the tennis of terror, father and son visit the sauna where Hwan-ki is wrapped in towels from head to toe while his father sits sans clothing. He tells Hwan-ki about the project he’ll be heading and steamrolls over his protests that he would do better alone. He’s determined to break his son out of his shell. Poor Hwan-ki is made even more uncomfortable when his dad invites more naked men in to sit with them.
Ro-woon realizes that her plan to see Hwan-ki humbled had failed, and she stomps up to the penthouse to confront Kyo-ri. She finds her packing her things and asks if Hwan-ki made her lie. Kyo-ri says that the part about Hwan-ki visiting her in the hospital was true, but Ro-woon sneers that the man didn’t even step out of his office when Kyo-ri was dying outside. Unable to defend Hwan-ki, Kyo-ri only says that Ro-woon should keep her mouth shut about ever having spoken to her, unless she wants to doom them both.
Ro-woon looks at her with disappointment and asks how much they paid her to lie. Angry, Kyo-ri points out that she wouldn’t have to sell her conscience if a “missionary of justice” like Ro-woon hadn’t taken it upon herself to get her kicked out of her job.
Taken aback, Ro-woon tries to say that she was helping and that Kyo-ri can get another job, but Kyo-ri cuts through her justification and asks who will hire a whistle-blower. Finally silenced, Ro-woon looks at the woman who’s now worried about being able to pay her bills. She wonders if her sister had been in this much distress and pain.
Back at the sauna, Hwan-ki is getting his body scrubbed by a professional. He bears the pain of the scrubbing even though his skin is on fire, telling himself that the man is trying his best, and he shouldn’t complain. His thoughts start to snowball, and he ends up wondering what kind of tragedy made the guy so angry that he’s taking it out on his back. This goes on till he lets out an involuntary whimper, and the man realizes that Hwan-ki’s back is scrubbed raw.
Ro-woon drinks with her reporter buddy and rues that Woo-il handled the matter too well. Her friend tells her to leave the company since it won’t be easy to take a congressman’s son down, but Ro-woon is determined. She tells him that what infuriated her the most was that Hwan-ki didn’t even bother to show up and apologize in person.
Brain’s staff gets emails about the new in-house venture, asking for applications. They discuss how it’s all for show, and that Woo-il is just being subtle about demoting Hwan-ki in the company. Hwan-ki stands in the shadows and listens to their speculation. The previously theatric employee, Dang Yoo-hee, wonders who would apply to be on that team, and Ro-woon raises her hand. She says that it might be fun.
Yoo-hee pulls her up, saying that she has too much time on her hands, and gives her a job to do. She has to find a courier service that’ll safely deliver a pile of expensive designer bags and shoes to the site of a photoshoot. Yoo-hee tells her to boss around the delivery guys, since they’re the only people lower on the totem pole than the staff. Ro-woon immediately thinks of Hwan-ki’s apologetic figure on the rooftop.
Outside the offices, she bumps into Hwan-ki again, remembers him from the rooftop, and immediately assumes that he’s a newbie working for an express delivery service. He avoids her cheerful questions and ducks her gaze, and Ro-woon looks at his nervous face with sympathy. She pretends to have something in her eye, and he looks up in concern. Her hands fall away, and she grins. “I like that you’re looking me in the eye now,” she tells him.
Handing him her bags full of designer accessories, she gives him the address and tells him to get there in an hour. Hwan-ki later sits in his car with the packages beside him, torn about what to do. He grumbles that he never claimed to be a courier, and yet he doesn’t want her to get in trouble. After aborting several times, he finally drives to the park.
Unfortunately, the traffic is heavy, and where a scooter could have wound its way through, Hwan-ki’s big car is stuck in place. At the site of the shoot, the staff start freaking out since the packages haven’t arrived yet. Yoo-hee asks Ro-woon if she had sent them, and Ro-woon insists that she did… only she neither has the number of the delivery guy, nor the name of his company.
Sitting in his car, Hwan-ki thinks that he should give up now. If he’s late, the shoot would be canceled, there would be complaints against Brain, but none of that is his concern since he isn’t CEO any more. Cut to: Hwan-ki running through the stalled cars with bags in hand, his hood flopping on his head as he tries to get to the shoot on time.
Back at the shoot, their team leader MANAGER KANG decides to call the police. Ro-woon insists that the delivery guy would never steal their packages, which makes everyone suspicious, since Ro-woon had said she didn’t know the guy. Manager Kang immediately concludes that Ro-woon is in on the take, and asks if she’s splitting the profit with the thief. Yoo-hee tries to defend Ro-woon by admitting that she should have booked the courier herself, but all that does is get her roundly cut down to size by Kang, who resents Yoo-hee’s overly familiar way of addressing her.
Watching the older woman be humiliated by Manger Kang, Ro-woon thinks back to Hwan-ki’s apologies on the rooftop. She thinks how only the weak have to apologize and feels chastened. She humbly asks that Manager Kang give her a little time, and promises to find the packages and bring them back. She runs off just as Woo-il arrives on the scene.
She runs around the park, worrying that her delivery guy might have been in an accident, when she finally sees him running towards her. She almost squeals with happiness at having her trust in him vindicated. She watches him run with the packages and begins to run towards him. Looking at her in the distance, he thinks that he should never have come, that he should never have gone near her to begin with. “What if she finds out who I am?”
Ro-woon shouts her thanks that he came, and tells him that she had faith that he would. He keeps running and thinks that he should have told her the truth, then he thinks of Ji-hye and amends his thought: Before all this, if only he had told her… We see a flash of Ro-woon stumbling along a road in funeral clothing, and Hwan-ki following her at a distance.
In the present, Hwan-ki suddenly notices a courier scooter headed through the trees, coming straight at Ro-woon. He yells a warning, but she can’t hear him. He wonders if it’s too late now, but manages to reach her in time and push her out of the way. Ro-woon falls on the ground, but Hwan-ki ends up in the scooter’s path, bracing for impact.
As wonderful as Yeon Woo-jin had been in Marriage Not Dating, I have to admit that I’ve never loved him more than as Hwan-ki. This is an over-thinking, hyperventilating, smart, insightful, yet painfully shy man, and Yeon Woo-jin brings such an amazing heartbreak into his eyes that I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. I’m wholly in Hwan-ki’s corner.
Park Hye-soo is undoubtedly talented, and yet I’m getting flashes of Beautiful Mind, where the female lead spent much of the first half being a bit too overzealous. Now, despite my reservations about Ro-woon, we did get a very satisfying moment when Kyo-ri knocked Ro-woon off her high horse and showed her the true consequences of her action. This gives me hope that they have an interesting arc planned for her character. For now, we need to see more facets of her life, if only to give her motives some depth.
While Ro-woon doesn’t seem to think that Hwan-ki literally murdered her sister, her strong belief in his involvement leads me to think that she is basing her suspicions on something as yet unrevealed. Perhaps it’s the rumor that Reporter Woo had told her about. Between Woo-il’s reference to his secret from three years ago and Hwan-ki’s cufflink flashback, I have a decent, working theory about what might have happened. It’s a much better backstory than I had anticipated, made richer by the complicated dynamics between the two friends. Now, if the show will just spend some time breathing life and intelligence into characters other than Hwan-ki, I have a feeling this is going to be a very interesting story to watch.
Second male leads are the bane of my existence, because I end up falling for far too many of them. So, I appreciate that Woo-il has a very definite character throughline in this drama. I have no fear that he’s going to be sidelined as soon as the main love story takes root. I also like how he’s quite possibly a bit of an anti-hero. I don’t think Woo-il is out and out evil, but selfishness and greed does tend to be best friends with self-justification. I’m sure he believes that he’s an excellent friend to Hwan-ki, but his little speech about how he covers Hwan-ki’s weaknesses tells a lot. Yoon Park’s best moment in this episode was probably the moment he realized that his fearful, dependent friend was taking a step towards self-reliance. The blatant panic on his face was ridiculously well done. But his words still acted like a hammer on anvil for his friend, making his insecurities ring loudly in Hwan-ki’s ears.
I find that I have good feelings about this show. The story is moving much faster than I had expected, and I’m already invested in the hero’s journey. Hwan-ki’s sanctuary is being stripped from him, and I can’t wait till next week to see how he copes. If this week was any indication, it’ll probably involve hilarious monologues and heartfelt introspection.