Friday, August 29, 2014

Triangle: Episode 16

As much as it defies the laws of physics, Triangle just keeps getting better and better with each passing episode. For once it feels like we’re building up to a proper ending rather than simply counting down to the inevitable moment where the show will drag itself across the finish line just to put itself out of its own misery.
Orrr maybe I’ve just become jaded after watching so many shows falter at this point in the game, which means I’m more than happy to report that this power hour delivers an emotional wallop that couldn’t be more gratifying if it tried. If I had only one request, it’d be that we cut all the phone conversations used to plan meetings that are then used for more planning. If we can cut out even one step of that process, we’d get a much more streamlined experience, don’t you think?
As far as ratings, Doctor Stranger kept its moderate lead at 11.8%. Triangle is on the rise and took second with 8.6%, while Trot Lovers brought up the rear with a dismal 5.4%.
Jung Joon-il – “안아줘 (Hug Me)” [ Download ]


Yang-ha makes his refusal of Young-dal in the boardroom loud and clear to everyone present as he questions Elder Ahn’s judgment in bringing him, as if he wasn’t aware of Young-dal’s reputation as a street thug.
Of course, Elder Ahn knows all this very well and announces to the board that he used his own personal experience and wisdom in choosing Young-dal for his unique talents—especially when it comes to Young-dal’s knowledge of the inner workings of casinos.

But again, Yang-ha strongly interjects that he won’t accept Young-dal, no matter the agreement they made. Chairman Yoon finally intercedes to quiet his son when Elder Ahn says he’ll take back his offer to invest in Daejung if they won’t take Young-dal, and invites the snazzily dressed young man to introduce himself to the board despite Yang-ha’s protests.
Young-dal is up front about his past when he speaks to the board, and honestly elucidates that though he may have once been nothing more than a beggar at their casino, that experience gave him the tools necessary to understand Daejung from the viewpoint of their customers.
Yang-ha seethes impotently as Young-dal wins the boardroom’s approval with his eloquent speech and his promise that he’ll work toward creating a brighter future for the company.

Young-dal gets a title and a fancy new office, which comes with a warning from Elder Ahn: Everyone will be waiting for Young-dal to show even a hint of weakness, so he has to be careful.
And he’s right, since Chairman Yoon orders Director Hyun to dig up any dirt they can find on Young-dal as well as to keep a sharp eye on him. Chairman Yoon has to also put aside Yang-ha’s argument that Young-dal is nothing but trash, if only because they can’t risk losing Elder Ahn’s investment.

Jung-hee is in the dealer’s room when word spreads that the infamous Young-dal is now a casino executive, and tries to piece together this new development with what little she knows.
Remembering her conversation with Young-dal and how he claimed to know who was responsible for making his life a living hell, Jung-hee seems to be wondering whether Young-dal’s sudden appearance has something to do with his vow to fix the past.

After Jang-soo and Jailbreak make casino buddy Jun-ho promise to take care of Young-dal, Dong-soo suddenly flatlines in the hospital. Shin-hye stands by worriedly as the initial attempts at defibrillation fail.
Meanwhile, Boss Min also proves to be looking out for Young-dal’s best interests, since it’s revealed that casino Manager Bae has been acting as her informant in Daejung Casino. Now she’s asking him to watch over Young-dal.

Manbong has changed his tune when it comes to Young-dal now, because despite Young-dal’s promise to give him his life if he couldn’t pay him back, the gamble Young-dal is taking with regard to bringing Daejung down could make them both rich.
So in that vein, he promises to help Young-dal to achieve his goal. First on the list is taking Chairman Go down, which Manbong admits will be no easy feat—they can’t rely on the law to help them, so they need to find some other way to prove that Go had a hand in Dong-soo’s attempted murder. He knows of one way…

A text from Shin-hye about Dong-soo’s critical condition sends Young-dal rushing to the hospital. After Dong-soo is tentatively stabilized, Detective Tak decides to tell Shin-hye about Dong-soo’s mother, who he never went to visit even after Tak told him her whereabouts.
Poor Detective Tak is worried that Dong-soo could die without ever meeting his mother, which is when Young-dal cuts in: “Where is she right now?” He’ll be the one to pay her a visit—after all, she’s his mother too.

Standing outside the shabby place where his mother works, Young-dal thinks back to Shin-hye telling him how Dong-soo never went to see her because of his resentment toward her for abandoning him and his brothers.
When asked what Young-dal planned to do once he met the mother he can’t even remember, Young-dal simply replied that he had no idea what he’d do.
Young-dal ends up at a small dive bar/restaurant, where he’s served by a chipper ajumma who can’t help but pry into why such a handsome young man would come alone.

If he’s looking for someone, she claims she knows all the young ladies in the area and can help—but he just sighs ruefully. “I doubt you’ll know who it is even if I told you.”
Methinks Young-dal has already found who he’s looking for, since something inside him seems to break as he watches the ajumma flirting with some other handsy men in the restaurant.
Young-dal also watches, in silence, as the ajumma’s son(?) comes in to demand money, treating the ajumma like a piggy bank he’s willing to break open if that’s what it takes.

When the other patrons asks why she lets herself be treated that way, the ajumma sighs heavily as she says that she’s being punished for her past sins. “I committed the worst sin I could have ever committed, and deserve to be boiled alive in the depths of hell for it.”
Whether or not she’s talking about abandoning her children, Young-dal has had enough and gets up to leave. He mentions nothing about Dong-soo, but leaves the ajumma with a one hundred dollar bank note.
Only when he’s outside does Young-dal allow his tears to fall. Poor Young-dal.

With fire in his eyes, Young-dal tracks down the ajumma’s/Mom’s good-for-nothing “son” and gives him a solid and well-deserved beating. “Get your head on straight and treat your mother well,” Young-dal warns him.
But when the kid (cradling his broken fingers) asks why Young-dal is doing this to him, Young-dal replies: “Because you’re living your life like a piece of trash, the heavens are punishing you for it.” Oooh, I could watch a whole series of Young-dal as The Dark Avenger.

At Dong-soo’s bedside, Young-dal heartbreakingly calls him “Hyung” for the first time, even though Dong-soo can’t hear him. He still talks as though he can, and begins to tell his hyung how he built up his image of their parents as these larger than life figures when he was at the lowest points of his horrific childhood.
Young-dal: “Because I couldn’t have endured the life I had to live without doing that. If I’m right about what I’m thinking, then you must have done the same… which brings me to say this: I think it would be better for you if you don’t see mom. I think it would be better… if you kept the image of her you have in your mind.”

Grandma has heard about Young-dal’s new and prominent position in the casino, though her attempts to get more information out of Jung-hee don’t work because Jung-hee knows no more than anyone else.
It’s cute how Grandma assumed otherwise since she was sure the two of them were dating behind her back, which, ha. But it’s clear that Jung-hee is more frustrated than anyone about being left out of Young-dal’s life.
Yang-ha is driven to drink as he flashes back to a confrontation he had with Young-dal after the boardroom meeting. Young-dal was as cool as a cucumber as he told a furious Yang-ha not to get so worked up over a street thug like him, but in a patronizing way that only made Yang-ha angrier.

“Don’t flatter yourself. I haven’t accepted you yet,” Yang-ha spat, causing Young-dal to comment that despite his ignorance, he’s still good at playing janggi (Korean chess), and that there’s a move that translates to a checkmate. That’s where Yang-ha is: stuck in checkmate.
But Yang-ha, always the petty one, sneered back that he would just flip over the chess board. Young-dal, unfazed, remarked that though Yang-ha had stabbed him in the back using Chairman Go before, those kinds of cowardly move won’t work on him anymore.
Young-dal: “For a smart guy like you who has everything to resort to using dirty tricks just to get rid of a piece of trash like me… Don’t you find that humiliating?” BURN. Oh, that burns so good. No wonder Yang-ha can’t help but imbibe thinking of that.

Detective Tak and his crew are reluctantly forced to let Chairman Go free by morning, since they have no solid evidence to tie him to Dong-soo’s current critical state. It’d help if they could find the Scarred Man…
Except for the fact that Chairman Go has already taken care of him. Now that he’s free, the first thing he wonders is why Dong-soo won’t just die already, before he tells his minion that Young-dal is really Dong-soo’s little brother. He plans to do something about the two of them.
Since Boss Min fooled Chairman Go, he sends his minions to abduct her for a chat. The normally proud and haughty woman is brought down when one of the men gut punches her before dragging her off. Ouch.

Boss Min is tied to a chair in an abandoned warehouse (y’all know how I feel about these), but try as she might to threaten Chairman Go about the retribution he’ll face from her frightening husband if he lays a hand on her, Chairman Go is way too upset to care.
He demands all the information she has about Young-dal and Dong-soo now that he knows they’re brothers, and when she doesn’t speak, he smacks her hard across the face. Nooo, I like her!
Elder Ahn introduces TUTOR MOON to Young-dal in order to teach him everything he needs to know about casinos so that he can fight Yang-ha on more even footing.

However, Young-dal’s late night study session is interrupted when Boss Min (now safe and sound, thankfully) calls to tell him that Chairman Go abducted and humiliated her. Apparently Chairman Go didn’t believe that Young-dal and Dong-soo were actually brothers, probably because it reminded him that he killed their father.
Now that he’s losing a hold of his sanity, he’ll be coming after Young-dal with a vengeance—but first he has to wrap his head around the fact that Young-dal is now a director at Daejung Casino.

Yang-ha wears his sour face while out at a club with his kinda-sorta-girlfriend(?) Jiyeon, who asks if he actually hates the time he spends with her. With an unchanging expression, Yang-ha honestly replies that “hate” is a strong word. He’s just not having any fun.
Jiyeon plants a kiss on him and asks if that made it any better. Yang-ha retorts that he can’t tell from just a kiss. If they sleep together, though…
“Let’s go then!” Jiyeon chirps happily, which takes Yang-ha by surprise. “I kind of like you,” he wryly admits, and Jiyeon seems confident that he’ll come to like her more once he realizes how much fun she is.

Chairman Go meets with Yang-ha to demand that he get Young-dal out of his casino at all costs as he drops the bomb that Young-dal and Dong-soo are actually brothers with a clear agenda against Daejung.
Boss Yang’s attempts to woo Madame Jang are interrupted when a group of thugs start trashing her place and beating her customers. She meets them fearlessly (even though her faithful lackey, like Boss Min’s, proves to be capable of taking only one punch), but lacks the manpower to fight the gang now declaring ownership over her casino.

Luckily for her, Manbong comes to the rescue and takes the group of thugs on single-handedly. You can all but see the hearts in her eyes after Manbong sends them all home beaten and bruised, which puts a serious damper on Boss Yang’s comparatively pitiful attempts to win her heart.
After Jung-hee rescinds her letter of resignation so she can keep working at Daejung Casino, she runs into Young-dal inside. Their conversation is strained even with Jung-hee trying her damnedest to have an inoffensive chat with the man she loves.
When she asks if Young-dal will ever come home, he responds that he’s been too busy trying to learn about the casino business. It’s a cold reply, but Jung-hee takes it in stride and offers him a sincere smile as she expresses her hope that he continues to take care of himself no matter how busy he gets.

She turns to leave, and Young-dal, feeling guilty, stops her. “I don’t want you to fall victim to this filthy world I’m having to rot away in… I can’t ask you to keep waiting for me. Just forget about me and move on.” Omo. He’s breaking up with her?
“No,” Jung-hee replies. Gah, she doesn’t even need to say more—I totally love her for rejecting his rejection. “What upsets me the most right now is that there’s nothing I can do for you except watch over you and wait for you to finish what you need to do before you can come back to me. Whatever battle you’re fighting… end it soon.”
Yang-ha tells his father about the blood tie between Young-dal and Dong-soo in the hopes that Chairman Yoon will oust Young-dal from the casino, since he clearly has ulterior motives.

But Chairman Yoon is actually of the opposite mind, and doesn’t see a reason to get rid of Young-dal now that they know his game. He even chides his son for being so afraid of someone he himself called street trash, and tells Yang-ha to man up.
Even if Young-dal’s hiding a metaphorical knife up his sleeve, Daddy argues, then all Yang-ha needs to do is stab him first.
Acting as Young-dal’s informant within the casino, Jun-ho warns him in advance that Chairman Yoon plans to sit in on Young-dal’s meetings to check on his performance.

Shin-hye is the one at Dong-soo’s bedside when he finally, finally wakes from his coma. But it’s not clear whether he recognizes Shin-hye… ohh, you guys BETTER not pull the amnesia card.
Jang-soo and Jailbreak get all dressed up in suits (without floral prints!) because Young-dal wants them by his side at the big meeting. They’re clearly awkward in front of so many board members, but Young-dal doesn’t allow their presence to be questioned.
Meanwhile, Boss Min addresses a small army of her jailed husband’s gangsters like a general preparing her troops for battle. And that proves to be exactly what it is as Manbong, acting as her second-in-command, declares that they’re officially going to war with Chairman Go.

We find Dong-soo with his wits about him (phew!) but still very weak. Shin-hye updates him on what’s been going on since his attack, and Dong-soo knows well enough that if Chairman Go hired someone to kill him, it’s likely that the would-be assassin is now dead.
Shin-hye struggles to broach the topic of Young-dal recovering his memories as she tells Dong-soo that Young-dal remembered his brothers’ names. Dong-soo is glad but not all that interested, though when he asks what their names are, Shin-hye considers him for a moment before saying, “Jang Dong-soo… and Jang Dong-woo.”
When she’s met with disbelief, she continues: “Young-dal’s real name is Jang Dong-chul.” Dong-soo’s eyes grow wide as his face goes slack with shock. “Young-dal is… Dong-chul?”

The subject for the meeting at Daejung seems to be the casino’s declining profit margin. While Yang-ha’s solution leans more toward offering something for the whole family like casinos in Vegas do, Young-dal thinks differently.
He provides statistics to back up his theory that the casino has been losing money because it’s been losing its high rollers to casinos overseas. He posits that they need to lure their VIPs back along with wealthy Chinese gamblers in order to increase profits.
Chairman Yoon is the first one to approve by clapping, and the rest of the boardroom joins suit. Yang-ha looks fit to be tied as everyone forgets about his plan in favor of Young-dal’s, even when Young-dal introduces Jang-soo and Jailbreak as members of his special task force formed to net more overseas clients.

After the meeting, Yang-ha receives what he’s been most afraid of: his father’s disapproval. Chairman Yoon is the first to say that Yang-ha completely lost to Young-dal in that boardroom.
Young-dal runs off to Seoul as soon as he hears word that Dong-soo is conscious, and bursts into his hyung’s hospital room… only to stop dead when his eyes lock with Dong-soo’s for the first time as brothers.

“Dong-chul-ah,” Dong-soo breathes. “Hyung,” Young-dal replies with tears welling up in his eyes. As both of them flash back to the exact moment they parted as children, Young-dal rushes forward into his brother’s waiting arms.
“Hyung! Hyung!” Young-dal cries into Dong-soo’s shoulder as they hug each other fiercely and weep openly. At long last, they’ve finally found each other.

You know, with all the dramas I’ve recapped (including the few that were actually good), I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a cliffhanger that ended on such a warm and uplifting note. I feel ill-equipped to handle it. Then again, Triangle does seem to be the rare white elk of reunion-based shows, since you’d be hard pressed to find a story dealing with a reunion that somehow isn’t about romantic love. And if you can recall a show that based its premise upon a very belated familial reunion, then—and let’s just be honest with ourselves—there’s a very high probability it was more about fauxcest than family. This is dramaland, after all.
So watching a story play out that’s genuinely about three brothers unknowingly finding their way back to each other after spending twenty years apart has not only been refreshing, but surprisingly engaging. It helps that the important emotional beats have been handled with extreme care, enough so that each one resonates without feeling overwrought or hokey. Young-dal’s realization that Dong-soo was his brother was everything I’d hoped for and more last week, and his long-awaited reunion with a conscious Dong-soo was pitch-perfect this week. I’d be worried that the show wouldn’t be able to top itself next week if not for the fact that it’s had a pretty stellar track record for self-improvement thus far. Which, again, has become a quality we should be seeing more often in other shows but don’t.
It’s no secret that Young-dal gets the lion’s share when it comes to character development and scenes, but it’s also hard to complain when he’s just so fascinating to watch. Especially when all of his scenes have been revelatory in one way or another, without a moment wasted—gone are the days where he’d aimlessly wander about waiting to be kidnapped, or the days spent acting like a dog flitting from one bad master to another. The fact that he’s grown exponentially as a person is something I’d write songs to if I had any musical talent, but for now I’ll have to settle with a (limited) amount of words to simply declare my love for Young-dal and his amazing ability to adapt.

The saying that two’s company while three’s a crowd does seem to apply when it comes to Yang-ha though, since he’s mostly distanced from the bulk of the action by virtue of being Crazy McCrazerson. I know for a fact we’ve seen characters like him before, ones that are too emotionally repressed to show their feelings in any normal fashion but who have them nonetheless (Heirs is probably the most recent), but even knowing what makes Yang-ha tick doesn’t make it any easier to sympathize with him. On the one hand, it is kind of sad that he’s spent an entire life unloved and has seemingly pinned all his dreams of ever knowing what that’s like on Jung-hee.
On the other hand, if Yang-ha is self-aware enough to recognize the psychology behind the weird things he does, then he has adequate space to do something about it. Unlike Young-dal (and Dong-soo, to a lesser extent), Yang-ha refuses to change to suit his wants. He actually did the best job of summing himself up when he responded to Young-dal’s chess metaphor—like the petulant child that he is—by claiming that he wouldn’t even need to play his stupid game when he could just as easily flip the board over.
You’d think there’d be at least a small part of him that would want to study what Young-dal may be doing right when it comes to matters of the heart, because he still can’t seem to grasp why Jung-hee wouldn’t jump at his (creepily) sincere proposal, even though he’s intelligent enough to realize that he wouldn’t be able to protect her from his father’s persecution when he can’t even protect himself. If only he knew how much he’s been distancing himself from the family he’s longed for his whole life. Irony, thy name really is Yang-ha.

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