Lee Joo-young finally gets her shot at a leading role in Times, OCN’s new drama about a young woman who finds herself living in a future she doesn’t recognize. Her life turns upside-down in an instant when she travels to a very different timeline from her own, but a mysterious connection to her past may help her get back the only life she knows.
NOTE: This is only a first episode recap.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
During a political rally, presidential hopeful SEO KI-TAE (Kim Young-chul) is brutally assassinated by a sniper. His daughter, SEO JUNG-IN (Lee Joo-young) is in the crowd and witnesses her father’s murder, and there’s nothing she can do but scream as he falls. We hear her voice say pleadingly, Lee Jin-woo, please save my father!
In another time, Jung-in runs to her father’s house, where he’s alive and well and watching the presidential election results roll in on television. A man’s voice asks desperately:
I know it’s hard to believe what I’m saying. How could one believe such nonsense? But since it already happened, why don’t you just believe me? To put it bluntly, you can I can’t die like this, right? The hunting is over. They’re going to kill us! Are you going to do nothing even when you know what will happen? You know you’re going to die there, but you’re still thinking of crawling in there?
I sacrificed so much to get here. I tolerated so much and did whatever I needed to do to get myself here. In order for us to survive, in order to avoid being a dog killed and eaten after the hunt is over…
Jung-in interrupts this fraught monologue by arriving at her father’s house just in time to see him declared the country’s new president. But the voice continues: We need to bite first. We need to make the first move. Before he makes a move, we need to cut that bastard’s head off. That’s how we’ll survive. That’s how Korea will survive.
In 2019, Seo Ki-tae has been Korea’s president for four years and boasts a phenomenal 78% national approval rating. The streets are blocked as he travels by car to the Blue House, planning a speech aimed at the reporters who used to be his colleagues.
He orders his own cavalcade to pull over so that emergency vehicles can reach an accident. There were no casualties, but communications have been disrupted, so he can’t reach Jung-in by phone. He quips that she seems busier than the president these days, ha.
Jung-in is also a reporter, and she’s on the scene as Former President Baek leaves the prosecutor’s office after being questioned for his role in the creation of a 300 million dollar slush fund, which he of course denies. He singles Jung-in out of the crowd, disdainful of the current president’s daughter “digging up dirt” on the former president.
He offers to answer her questions, so she mentions how he’s denied the allegations against him. Former President Baek says that the charges are the work of those currently in power trying to dominate him. Jung-in notes that throughout his career, whenever someone accuses him of anything — from illegal use of campaign funds to bribery — he always claims that it’s a political move against him.
She asks if he really believes that. Former President Baek leans in close to whisper in Jung-in’s ear, but we don’t hear what he says.
That evening, Jung-in reports on the news about the incident, promising to uncover the truth. During a commercial break, her cohost SHIN-WOOK (Jung Sung-il) asks what Former President Baek said to her. Jung-in tells him truthfully that Baek had whispered, “You think your father will be any different? As soon as his term is over, he’ll end up like me.”
She’s not happy about it, but she’s used to being accused of having gotten her cushy job at DBS broadcasting company because of her father. She says breezily that it’s her job to ignore lies and uncover the facts, and that when she’s wearing her DBS badge, she’s not her father’s daughter.
Jung-in goes home to her nice apartment filled with reporting awards, and gets to work on yet another report. She falls asleep on her keyboard and doesn’t wake up until morning, when her father calls to tell her to come to his place for breakfast. Awww, it’s her birthday, and her dad has his bodyguards join him in singing to her.
During breakfast, which her dad made himself (double awww), he chides his daughter for working too much and not taking care of herself. He asks what Former President Baek said to her, and she fibs that he told her to do her best until she becomes a great reporter like her dad. Dad knows Jung-in is lying, but she insists she’d never lie to the president.
She brings up a recent conference in which her father refused to assist with the Former President Baek issue, riling up the members of the ruling party. Her dad says that he wanted to shake up their wrongful thinking, and that there’s nothing he can ethically do to help Former President Baek anyway.
Elsewhere, a man we’ll come to know as LEE JIN-WOO (Lee Seo-jin) joins a presentation already in progress for a company’s new employees. He sits near another man (cameo by Go Kyu-pil) who starts rambling about how nice the company seems and how hard it was for him to find this job.
Irritated, Jin-woo finally tells the guy to be quiet. But then he feels bad for the nice man so he points at his bag, which has a hidden camera, and informs the guy that this company is an illegal pyramid scheme and that he’s a reporter. Suddenly, the other guy jumps up and heads down to the presenter, wildly whispering that a reporter is in the room.
HAHA, he’s not a naive new hire, he’s the CEO! Jin-woo quickly retreats, and is forced to run for his life from the burly bodyguards chasing him out of the building. He catches a cab and calls cheekily out the window that he’s Lee Jin-woo from the Times and that his article will come out tomorrow, and cheerfully inviting the CEO to sue him.
Meanwhile, some communications are still down after the recent accident at a base station, but it’s not causing much disturbance and Jung-in reports that everything should be restored soon. While working on her report, Jung-in nods off at her desk and has a short nightmare of her father being assassinated.
When she wakes up, everything around her looks distorted, and when it clears up she finds herself in a tiny, dingy office. Even the story she was writing has changed to one about an assemblyman’s sexual identity scandal. A man comes to her, calling her by name and fussing loudly that she ordered a more expensive lunch than the rest of the office.
Confused, Jung-in has no idea where she is or who these people are, though they certainly seem to know her and believe her to be their coworker. Jung-in stammers that there’s been a misunderstanding and hurries to catch a taxi, and she notices that her phone is filled with contacts marked Daily Search, the office she just left.
She’s confused again when the taxi driver recognizes her as Seo Ki-tae’s daughter and tells her not to lose courage. She arrives at the DBS building but can’t find her press ID, and to her frustration, the security guard she’s worked with for years doesn’t seem to know her.
She spots Shin-wook in the lobby and asks for his help to get upstairs to her desk, but although he also recognizes her, he acts like they’re strangers. He tells her that life must be difficult for her now, but that she needs to get a grip, and asks coldly, “What would your father think if he sees you living like this?”
Jung-in takes a call from KIM YOUNG-JOO (Moon Jung-hee), one of her father’s employees (I’m not sure of her position), who says she’s on her way to Jung-in’s office to take her to dinner for her birthday. Jung-in thinks she means the DBS office and tells Young-joo that people are acting like she doesn’t work there, and worried, Young-joo tells her to wait for her.
Security tries to remove Jung-in from the building, but she sees something on the TV that shocks her — coverage of the anniversary of her father’s assassination. Jung-in watches in horror as her father’s death plays out onscreen, just like in her nightmare. She runs to a computer in the lobby and looks up her father’s name, only to find out it’s true… he’s been dead for four years.
He was about to give a speech when a sniper shot him, killing him instantly. The shooter, a former reporter named KIM JIN-CHUL (cameo by Yoo Jae-myung), had been fired as a result of an article by Seo Ki-tae of his poor reporting of the police, and he’d blamed Seo Ki-tae for the loss of his career and family. He was also shot and killed at the scene of the assassination.
Young-joo catches up to Jung-in, who begs her to explain what’s going on and asks where her dad is. Young-joo explains sadly that her father is dead, but Jung-in insists that he made her breakfast just this morning. Young-joo takes Jung-in to the cemetery to see her father’s gravestone, which still looks to be visited by admirers and bears the epitaph: Here lies one who didn’t back down and fought against the world.
We see that soon after her father’s murder, Jung-in had sat right here and vowed never to bring him shame, and to live life to the fullest. Young-joo reminds her of this promise and asks her to honor it. Jung-in falls to her knees, crying at the sight of the candles and notes that have been left in honor of her father, finally understanding that he’s truly gone.
They make their way to Jung-in’s father’s home, where Jung-in apparently lives, though the place is pretty neglected. Inside, she’s staggered again by a little shrine that’s been kept with flowers and photos of her and her dad, and Young-joo asks her to start living in the present now.
One year later — 2020
Jung-in sees a therapist, and she talks about how her whole life changed in a single instant, “As though someone was behind it all.” She admits that all evidence, including people, point to the fact that it’s all true, and that she now believes the therapist’s explanation that she fabricated a delusion because she couldn’t accept her father’s death.
But she also says that, as a reporter, there are many elements of the investigation into his assassination that she can’t let slide. The therapist reports Jung-in’s improvement to Young-joo, who sighs with relief, saying that Jung-in is like a niece to her.
Of course, Jung-in is still pestering the police to reinvestigate her father’s murder, to the point that DETECTIVE YOON SUNG-HO (Heo Jae-ho) hides whenever she shows up at the police station. She says that the details of the case don’t add up, and she’s not afraid, to threaten, beg, or just lay in the street to convince Detective Yoon to look at the case again, though he insists that there’s no point.
In sheer self-defense, Detective Yoon asks his superior, DETECTIVE HAN DO-KYUNG (Shim Hyung-tak) to let him take another look at the case. A weaselly-looking reporter visiting the station looking for stories overheard Jung-in’s name and finds out why she’s at the station from a detective who’s annoyed at her persistence.
Jung-in still works at the Daily Search, which is practically falling down around her ears. She gets mobbed outside the office by reporters who have discovered she’s trying to get her father’s case reopened, but the Daily Search’s CEO DO (Kim In-kwan) chases them off for her. He yells at her to quit if she’s going to keep being like this.
After work, Jung-in visits her work friend, MYUNG SOO-KYUNG (Moon Ji-in), who assures her that CEO Do is just a jerk and not to worry about him. Apparently he’s just worried for her, after a friend of his lost his brother, and was always at the police station begging for help, and it ruined his life. Soo-kyung begs Jung-in not to let this ruin her life, and she takes the warning to heart, though not without some tears at the thought of accepting her father’s death.
When Jung-in gets to work the next morning, she starts to apologize to CEO Do, but he stops her and gruffly tells her to go write something. She’s the only one left at work after dark, and she starts to pack up all of her articles and research regarding her father’s death. There’s a storm raging outside, and a flash of lightning makes the light flicker for a moment.
A bit later, Jung-in gets a call from reporter Jin-woo, who wants to see if she got the interview questions he sent to her. He believes they spoke recently and that he’s scheduled to interview her tomorrow, but Jung-in has no idea what he’s talking about. She assumes he’s got the wrong number and hangs up on him.
Turning back to her article, Jung-in finds that the internet has gone out. She goes home to work, but the internet is out there, too. She turns on the news, which is broadcasting a story about a fire at an underground telecommunications center, causing the outage.
The next day, the whole area is being affected by the loss of electronic communications, which affects wireless service, internet, and IT devices. Even businesses are limited to taking cash only. The Daily Search office is in an uproar, yet somehow Jung-in still gets another call from Jin-woo on her phone, when nobody’s phones are working.
He’s ready to meet for their interview, but Jung-in says again that he’s got the wrong person and hangs up. Jin-woo keeps calling back and Jung-in keeps hanging up (which is really cuter than it ought to be!) until she finally answers, and Jin-woo gets her attention by saying, “I thought you wanted to help your father!”
Jin-woo repeats that Jung-in said she’d do an interview if it helps her father, so an angry Jung-in agrees to meet him at the War Memorial of Korea. When she arrives, the place is empty, so she calls Jin-woo again.
Strangely, he’s in the exact same place, but Jung-in isn’t there. In fact, Jung-in is in an empty courtyard, but somehow, in that exact same courtyard, Jin-woo is standing in the middle of a Seo Ki-tae campaign rally. Ooooooh no, he’s in the original timeline, isn’t he?!?!
Jin-woo holds up the phone, and Jung-in can hear the crowd chanting her father’s name, though where she is, there’s no people and no rally. Suddenly her blood runs cold as she hears her father’s voice addressing the crowd.
First of all, hooray for Lee Joo-young in her first leading role! She’s a fantastic character actor, but I’ve thought for years that she’s leading material, so I’m excited to see her finally getting that break. And this role seems perfect for her — it will show off her acting chops well. In fact, I love the casting all around — Times is full of solid, experienced actors that have played lots of different kinds of characters. Often you can tell what to expect from characters based on who is playing them, but in this case, I have no idea who’s going to be the good guys, who will be allies, and who will be the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
As for the show itself, it’s a pleasant surprise for me, for reasons I’ll go into more later. This first episode wasn’t very exciting for me until it was almost over, in fact I found it quite dry until Jung-in and Jin-woo started talking to each other across time and suddenly I got very interested. To be honest, I didn’t expect this show to be one I’d want to continue watching after the first episode. Even with the time travel mystery elements, it didn’t sound like a drama that would catch my attention. And at first, it wasn’t… until that last scene, and then I was suddenly very invested in Jung-in’s trauma. I mean, to go from having a privileged life, having professional success and being from a respected family, to near poverty and considered a pitiful laughingstock, and have no earthly idea how your world changed on a dime… that’s got to be so disorienting and honestly, I wouldn’t have handled it as well as she did.
And what the hell with that ending?!?! It appears that Jung-in is getting calls from Jin-woo, who is still in her original timeline five years ago where her father is alive, while she is now living in this other timeline five years later where her father was assassinated. So, how did Jung-in time-travel and why does she have five years’ worth of memories that didn’t happen? And what does it mean, that she can still communicate with the other side? I was intending to drop the show after this recap, but now I want answers, dammit! Something about that first scene, and the voiceovers, leads me to believe that Seo Ki-tae was seen as a threat to someone and taken out, and that he’s not the benevolent leader Jung-in believes him to be. It’s fascinating because he seemed like a good man, a good father, and a good president, but I’m bracing myself for some pretty big twists. Certainly his survival seemed to be a positive thing, both in Jung-in’s life and politically for the country, so who wanted him dead and why? I need to know.
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