Friday, August 29, 2014

Triangle: Episode 12

The story of our three estranged brothers becomes even more tightly wound as enemies are made and alliances are formed in what turns out to be the best episode yet. It’s nice to know we’re on a general uphill trend, even though the same can’t be said of Dong-soo and Young-dal’s fortunes. But now that Young-dal has a fairy godfather and a new friend in Dong-soo, maybe things will start looking up for them too.
Ratings-wise, Triangle’s numbers continue to stay pretty low at 6.2%, trailing behind Big Man at 10.3%, and Doctor Stranger at 11.5%. Then again, no one’s really pulling in the big numbers lately.

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Young-dal finally confronts Manbong about their daily beatings, arguing that he won’t get his money back by hurting them. So Young-dal instead offers another proposal, a gamble, with Manbong’s five billion won and Young-dal’s life on the line.
Manbong hyungnim scoffs at the bet as he asks if Young-dal’s life is even worth five billion won. “Whether my life is worth five billion won or fifty won, it’s still the only life I have,” Young-dal counters. “Whether you accept it or not is your decision to make.”
Now that Manbong is listening, Young-dal gives the conditions for the game: Once he gets out of prison, he’ll return to the lifestyle that put him behind bars and will have one year to pay Manbong back. If he can’t pay him, then Manbong can do as he likes with his life.

Manbong calls him on his bet, and adds menacingly that if Young-dal doesn’t pay him back, he’ll chase him down no matter where he is and kill him with his bare hands. Eep.
While Jang-soo and Jailbreak are ecstatic that they’ll no longer receive daily beatings, Young-dal is filled with regret as he remembers Jung-hee’s wish for him to give up his gambling lifestyle—because now he has no choice but to return to the very thing she doesn’t want for him.
Back at Yang-ha’s Surprise Couple Retreat, Jung-hee at least gives him a chance to explain himself. At least he apologizes as he claims he’s unable to express his feelings properly, but Jung-hee cuts him off: “It’s not that you don’t know how to express your feelings, it’s that you’re selfish. You never even consider what the other person is feeling.” Go Jung-hee!

Yang-ha is clearly trying to be sincere, but it sounds like an excuse when he says that he was raised without having to care about anyone else’s feelings. “I never wanted to be that way with you,” he admits. “But I just can’t seem to help myself.”
Jung-hee, however, isn’t moved. She doesn’t have any interest in his feelings, nor does she understand what he hopes to accomplish in spending a day with her. Yang-ha’s tone remains genuine as he attempts to explain why he’s interested in her—and how, when he first met her at the casino, his first thought was that he had to have her.
Her eyes roll at this, but Yang-ha continues on to tell her that it wouldn’t have mattered who was dealing the cards last night, because he would have made the same offer. He admits that while he’s never dated women, he’s always been able to get one when he “needed” them.

But Jung-hee was the first woman to ever turn him down. Jung-hee rightfully asks if his interest just stems from wounded pride, and while he agrees that it was at first, he goes on to say that his interest toward her turned sincere. Even if she fascinated him by being the only woman who wanted no part of his chaebol world, and seemed happier in her own—and with Young-dal, specifically (though he doesn’t mention his name).
So as his confusion with her grew, so did his feelings. “I found myself wanting to share my deepest secrets with you. I wanted to tell you what I truly felt inside, what I’ve never shared with anyone before, because I felt like you would listen to whatever I’d have to say and accept me for who I am. Will you… listen to the story I want to share with you?”
Since Jung-hee isn’t made of stone, and since Yang-ha’s plea was so heartfelt, she admits that she’s curious to hear the story of a chaebol son who doesn’t care about other people’s feelings. He smiles, because this means she’s giving him a chance.

He promises to tell his story slowly so as to use their whole day together, until he gets a sudden call from his father ordering him back to Daejung. Aww, and I was actually looking forward to their day. Even though Yang-ha is deflated that he’s now lost his chance, Jung-hee reassures him that he can tell her another time.
Chairman Yoon tells his son about his confrontation with Dong-soo, and how the latter wants him to come clean about his involvement with Daddy Jang’s death to the public. Yang-ha echoes viewer sentiment regarding Dong-soo showing all his cards: “He’s more simple than I thought.”
However, Yang-ha promises to take care of Dong-soo by using Chairman Go, whose minion has been collecting information on the errant former detective for over a decade. Yang-ha votes that they use it to take Dong-soo down.

Yang-ha meets with Dong-soo to threaten him into backing down—he’ll only hurt himself if he takes this any further. Despite Dong-soo telling him that this involves his father and not him, Yang-ha still acts like the head honcho and promises to forget this ever happened if Dong-soo stops now.
Dong-soo grabs the younger man by the lapels in order to drive home the point that while his father and Chairman Go may be too far gone to ever come back, Yang-ha is too young to live his life with such contempt. (Aw, life lessons from big bro.)

But Yang-ha scoffs at the advice as he claims he’s merely defending his honor before asking, “Why are you so naive, Director Jang?” This earns him a punch that sends him sprawling, as Dong-soo spits on Yang-ha’s use of the word “honor” when all he’s fighting for is money.
“Money is honor,” Yang-ha retorts. “Money is pride, and money is everything. You’re naive because you’re still unaware of that fact at your age.” But Dong-soo merely grabs him again and growls his order that Yang-ha tell his father to do as he said, or else it’ll be the end of Daejung Group.
We find Young-dal writing letters in the dark of night, as he tells us in voiceover that he missed Jung-hee and hoped that she’d visit again. He’s been writing her letters every night, but has sent none of them.

Young-dal thinks he’s seeing things when he spies a new prisoner… because that prisoner is Dong-soo. Whoa. Okay.
Dong-soo explains to Young-dal that it was Yang-ha who had him arrested, with the help of Chairman Yoon and Chairman Go—the two men responsible for killing his father. He explains that he tried to bring them to justice himself since the law wouldn’t, but admits that he didn’t think money could topple the law. And that’s how Yang-ha put him here.
What keeps Young-dal up that night is the fact (relayed by Dong-soo) that Yang-ha, with Chairman Go’s help, was responsible for putting him in prison too. I hope this means they’ll get revenge together now.

Shin-hye visits Dong-soo in prison to tell him she’s begun her divorce proceedings as well as to admit her feelings for him. Dong-soo looks to be on the verge of tears as he curses himself for not expressing his feelings for her sooner, for being a coward, and for being foolish enough to be deceived and put into prison.
He flashes back to the moment Yang-ha had him arrested and shakes with rage as he declares, “When I get out of here, I’ll sell my soul to the devil if I have to. There’s nothing that I can’t do now.”
One year passes. Jung-hee is chosen to represent her casino in a worldwide dealers competition, and returns home to find someone interested in renting the spare room. She says it’s not for rent, because it’s still Young-dal’s.

The gang Young-dal formed (remember them?) eagerly greet their hyungnims the second they’re released from prison, offering the mandatory stay-out-of-jail tofu.
But they’re also greeted by a fancy minion in a fancy car, who tells Young-dal that an elder by the name of Ahn Chan-bong wants to see him. Ohh, it’s Elderly Inmate 4224, who was apparently released when everyone else thought he’d simply died.
Boss Min is furious to find out that Chairman Go has betrayed her by giving all her VIP high rollers to Lady Kim, and confronts the woman at Madame Jang’s casino to get her to back off. Lady Kim is unfazed by Boss Min’s threats and dares her bring it. Oh, it’s on now.

Young-dal finds Elder Ahn looking well and wealthy, as the kindly old man claims that he wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for Young-dal. He wants to repay Young-dal for his kindness, and has a pretty good read on the younger man as he compares him to a moth unable to stop itself from flying into the flames.
“When the time comes for you to face the most difficult battle of your life, I’ll become the hidden card that helps you win that battle,” Elder Ahn says. “When the time comes that you need me, make sure to find me.” Young-dal thinks the elder is just talking out of kindness, but methinks he should believe him.

After grudgingly forgiving Young-dal for causing his son to go to prison, Boss Yang pours him a drink so that he and the boys can celebrate their release. D’aww.
It’s there Young-dal finds out what’s changed in the past year: Lady Kim has become Sabuk’s newest success story and is currently rolling in dough, while Boss Min has been down on her luck ever since Chairman Go stabbed her in the back.
Young-dal spends a long time that night wistfully staring outside Jung-hee’s house, but leaves before she gets home. If only he knew that she misses him too, since she stops outside his old door to stare longingly at it, as if hoping he would just emerge.

Yang-ha chats with Jung-hee about the upcoming casino competition she’ll be participating in, though he insists that she needs real world experience by playing the game herself. But since dealers are forbidden to play at the casino, he suggests going to Madame Jang’s casino instead.
Young-dal seems to have been on his way to the casino to see Jung-hee when he spots her outside, smiling and laughing with Yang-ha. He looks like the saddest kicked puppy ever when she gets into Yang-ha’s car, likely mistaking the two as dating. Aww, Young-dal.
Madame Jang makes a big deal about Yang-ha visiting her casino, only to lose the wind in her sails when he says he’s only there to watch Jung-hee gamble.

She and Lady Kim watch with interest as Yang-ha teaches Jung-hee the rules of baccarat, noting how close the two seem. Madame Jang clucks her tongue as she calls Jung-hee a sly fox, since she thought Jung-hee was Young-dal’s girlfriend.
Speaking of, we find Young-dal angsting over Jung-hee, especially her last words to him in prison. I wonder why she never went to visit again.
Shin-hye greets Dong-soo upon his prison release with an embrace, which he gives in to as he holds her tight. “You’re not going to back away from me anymore, are you?” she asks.
“No, I won’t,” Dong-soo replies with this faraway look. “I’m not going to do anything I’ll end up regretting anymore.”

Cut to: Shin-hye sleeping in bed while Dong-soo stares out the window. (Omo, did they sleep together?) He flashes back to his prison time, when he asked Young-dal to teach him everything he knew about gambling and casinos so that Dong-soo could have a prayer in his fight against Chairman Yoon.
Shin-hye calls Dong-soo back to bed and tries to ease his worried mind by telling him to take one problem at a time instead of tackling them all at once. “Don’t let yourself be deceived again,” she adds, which causes Dong-soo to remember Yang-ha laughing at his naivety when he got arrested.
Yang-ha had told him then to spend his prison time on self-reflection, and it looks like that’s exactly what Dong-soo did. He won’t be so naive again.

Jang-soo and Jailbreak approach Jung-hee’s friendly casino buddy, OH JUN-HO, since they all know each other from living in the same neighborhood as children.
Jun-ho was clearly the stepped-on underdog then, and proves to be the same now as Jang-soo threatens him into giving them a list of the casino’s VIPs, however illegal that may be for Jun-ho. And unfortunately for him, one of the casino managers watches the exchange.
Boss Min is overjoyed to see Young-dal out of jail, even though the two now have a common enemy in Chairman Go, who not only put him behind bars but also betrayed her.

Young-dal promises to pay Chairman Go back for what he did, but in order to do that, he needs Boss Min to give him a list of every client of hers who lost over ten billion won (roughly ten million USD). But he won’t yet reveal why.
Meanwhile, Chairman Go finds out that Chairman Yoon plans on selling some of his precious casino shares to a large casino group from the States in order to get the money he needs to build that long talked about luxury resort.
Knowing that this means Daejung’s stocks will skyrocket in price, Chairman Go instructs his minion to buy up as many shares as possible before the deal with the Vegas group goes through.

It turns out that Young-dal was compiling those lists of VIP casino members and those who lost over ten billion won at Dong-soo’s request. Dong-soo has actually come up with a good plan to cause Daejung’s stock prices to plummet so that Chairman Yoon won’t get the money he needs for his luxury resort, by convincing those who lost that grand sum of money to file a class action lawsuit.
The reason they can is because they subverted the casino’s max betting limit by paying people like Young-dal to act as solider ants on their behalf, so if they paid five soldiers, they could bet five times the maximum limit. Even though that seems like a wrong deed on their part, the reason why the lawsuit would work is because Daejung knew this practice was happening and allowed it, thus breaking the law for betting limits.
Even though Shin-hye expresses doubt that those people would join in a class action lawsuit and make their loss public, Dong-soo is sure that they’ll do it in order to attempt to regain the money they lost. And once the news goes public, the Vegas company will back out of the deal and Daejung’s stocks will lose all value.

As Dong-soo and Young-dal start working on convincing the people they need to join in on the plan, Yang-ha receives the news of the class action lawsuit brewing against Daejung. Stock prices are already falling.
This is also bad news for Chairman Go, who bought all the stocks at full price before they plummeted, meaning that he’s just lost a lot of money. He takes a golf club to his desk in rage and goes to town.

Chairman Yoon’s team is called into an emergency meeting to discuss their grim options. Now that selling their low-priced shares is not an option, Chairman Yoon votes to take out a loan—he won’t give up on that resort now.
But Yang-ha turns his attention to finding the source of the lawsuit, since he knows someone must be behind it. He orders Director Hyun to find out who.
News of Chairman Yoon’s loan-seeking reaches Team Young-dal, though he’s in for a pleasant surprise: The man Daejung is seeking to borrow money from is none other than Elder Ahn, an incredibly wealthy moneylender who would rather serve prison time than pay fines. Ah, so that explains it.

Young-dal’s face breaks into a smile as he puts two and two together, especially when he remembers Elder Ahn’s promise that he would become his hidden card.
Jung-hee bribes littlest bro Byung-soo into making good grades by promising him a smartphone. Appeased, Byung-soo decides to tell her that he just saw Young-dal walking near their house, causing his sister to run off searching for him.
She finds Young-dal walking away, and calls out his name with tears in her eyes. He turns around, almost reluctant to face her but unable to stop himself.

She smiles, and they share a long, silent moment just taking each other in.
Just as Director Hyun informs Yang-ha that Dong-soo is the one behind the lawsuit, he also finds out that Dong-soo is currently playing in the VIP area.
Yang-ha storms into the room to find Dong-soo calmly playing at the table, and at the sight of Yang-ha the older man offers a cold grin. “It’s been a while, Yoon Yang-ha-sshi. Thanks to you, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the naive and foolish life I’ve led.”

I’m loving all this openly simmering conflict, because Triangle never forgets to give us smaller surprises and payoffs even as it sets the stage for bigger and better things ahead. Instead of drawing out one conflict over the course of twenty-four episodes and delivering payoff in the final hour, we get multiple conflicts constantly evolving and changing while staying true to a central theme—and that saves the plot twists from feeling like they’re coming from left field, even when we consider Dong-soo’s devolution from detective to vigilante to prisoner and back again.
I also like how lessons in this drama are delivered fairly instantly, which forces our characters to deal with the problem as they learn from the aftermath. Dong-soo is a great example, because as disappointed as we might feel in him revealing his cards way too early, that was exactly how we were intended to feel about him. Dong-soo’s move wasn’t championed: He did something stupid and paid dearly for it, and now he knows not to make the same mistake again going forward. Whether he’s fully and truly learned from Yang-ha’s cruelty still remains to be seen.
It feels like so often we get shows with characters bashing their heads against the same brick wall over and over again, and so rare that we get a genuine character drama that gives us a chance to explore the extremely fallible nature of man. Maybe that’s what happens in a drama landscape populated by geniuses, and maybe that’s why watching these characters of (more or less) average intelligence make normal and sometimes stupid mistakes remains so oddly compelling. Best of all, it only seems to be getting better.
And I’m glad Young-dal has firmly left the Chairman Go station, because it means he can finally commit fully to being Dong-soo’s ally instead of trying to be an underling desperately vying for some greedy loser’s approval. It’s why I even enjoyed Elder Ahn’s secret wealth reveal, because it was gratifying for Young-dal to be rewarded for the kind person he is, and not for the con man he’s always trying to be. Just like Dong-soo, he’s been given a golden opportunity to learn from his mistakes, and I can only hope he takes it.
As far as Yang-ha goes, I’m still sorting out how to feel about him. His pity ploy genuinely worked in the beginning of the hour, since it seemed as though he was speaking from his heart, or at the very least a close approximation of one. And while it’s easy to see why he’d peg Jung-hee as a good listener and decide to show her his vulnerable side, he certainly makes it hard to keep rooting in his corner when he’s such a tool. I have a feeling that while his life lesson may not come any time soon, it’ll hit pretty damn hard. After all that he’s put his own flesh and blood through, and all the suffering he’s still sure to cause them, his number’s bound to come up sometime.


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