Yong Pal has already taken the number one spot among the Wednesday-Thursday prime time dramas. According to AGB Nielsen Korea, Episode 1 clocked in at 11.6% compared to its competitors Scholar Who Walks the Night and Assembly, which earned ratings of 8.5% and 5.3%, respectively. Episode 2 took an even bigger lead. It scored 14.1% compared to Scholar’s 7.4% and Assembly’s 4.9%. I think viewers were drawn to the same things that drew me in: a fast paced plot and pretty faces. It doesn’t hurt that the story is interesting too. Fingers crossed that it keeps up the good work!
EPISODE 2 WEECAP
Having leaped off the bridge and landed in the frigid water below to escape the police, Tae-hyun and Mob Boss Doo-chul make it to the riverbank. The gangsters whisk their hyungnim away while Man-shik helps Tae-hyun to his car and drives him back to the hospital.
We then learn that Yeo-jin may be more lucid than we initially thought. As she recalls the high speed chase and resultant accident that killed her boyfriend, she starts to have a seizure. There’s an attendant at the nurse’s station outside her room who receives up-to-date information on her condition via cell phone and tablet. The attendant rushes into the room when Yeo-jin’s latest seizure begins.
Across town, Detectives Lee and Kim find the scalpel Tae-hyun left behind at the nightclub where he operated on Head Gangster Doo-chul, and Detective Lee gets excited that they may be able to use it to identify Yong-pal.
By that time, Chief Lee has arrived at the hospital to combat Yeo-jin’s latest episode. He sees Man-shik dropping Tae-hyun off and hides to avoid Tae-hyun seeing him. He stores that information away for later though and rushes inside to deal with Yeo-jin.
The next morning, another attending physician, Chief Shin (Cha Soon-bae), invites Tae-hyun to visit a patient in the VIP ward on the 12th floor with him. Once there, he runs into Chief Lee, who reprimands him in front of Chief Shin for accepting money from patients. When Chief Lee walks away, Tae-hyun notices him going into the heavily guarded wing where Yeo-jin is housed and recalls the shareholders from the day before referring to a VIP patient named “Young-ae.”
When he returns to the 6th floor, he asks Head Surgeon Park Tae-yong (Jo Bok-rae) about the VIP Young-ae. The Head Nurse (Kim Mi-kyung) berates them both for not knowing that “young-ae” is not a name—it refers to a high ranking person’s daughter. Tae-yong claims he knew all along what a young-ae was, but Tae-hyun doesn’t believe him. Tae-yong punishes his insubordination by assigning him an ICU patient whose name is Kim Young-shik. When the director leaves, Tae-hyun asks what they’d call a high ranking person’s son. It’s “young-shik,” the Head Nurse tells him, lol.
Tae-hyun heads to the ICU to see his new patient. The patient is unconscious and doesn’t have any money or a guardian. The nurse, Nurse Soo (Oh Na-ra), is unhappy that the doctors have ignored the patient since his emergency surgery. She gets even madder when Tae-hyun examines the guy and decides the most they can do is transfer him to a government facility.
He’s in the Administration Department working on the transfer when Detectives Lee and Kim arrive from the police station. They’ve discovered that Hanshin Hospital is the only hospital in the country that uses the brand of scalpel they found at the gangsters’ nightclub, and they’ve come to investigate.
Tae-hyun gets called away before he can hear the detectives’ conversation with the Administrator. The ICU patient has gone into cardiac arrest and Tae-yong is angry that Tae-hyun’s idea of treating the patient is to transfer him to a government facility. He slaps Tae-hyun, vowing to find a way to fire him, and assigns the patient to a different resident before storming out.
Tae-hyun hurries back to the Administration Department just in time to see the Administrator introducing the detectives to Chief Lee. He follows them upstairs to spy from afar. Luckily the Chief doesn’t tell them much. Although that particular scalpel is listed as missing in his records, he tells the detectives that it was donated to a disposal service to be used as scrap metal.
In the elevator heading back downstairs, the Detectives are disappointed that their lead didn’t pan out. However, Detective Lee hits upon an idea. He suspects Yong-pal is a licensed doctor. A desire to protect his medical license would explain why he risked his life jumping into the river instead of surrendering to authorities the night before. Detective Kim laughs at this suggestion, but Detective Lee doesn’t think the idea is so far-fetched. When they get off on the first floor, we see that Tae-hyun was in the elevator with them. Eavesdropping as usual I see.
When he returns to his duties, the Head Nurse is mad at him for the callous way he treated the ICU patient. She thinks he should have more empathy for patients like Young-shik because of the way he lost his mother (so his mom is dead!?).
In a flashback, we see mom arriving at the hospital via ambulance bloodied and in full cardiac arrest. The ER doctor only revived her after he learned her son was a doctor at the hospital. Then the staff rushed her to surgery, but a VIP arrived and the surgeon set to operate on her cancelled her surgery to care for the VIP patient. As the other staff and Tae-hyun stood in the operating room arguing over what to do, mom coded on the table and died.
Back in the present, Tae-hyun is unapologetic about his razor sharp focus on making money, but he also shows Head Nurse he’s not as cold-hearted as she thinks. He’s diagnosed the ICU patient with an infection and the only way the patient can get treated is at a national facility.
After his talk with the Head Nurse, he learns that Chief Lee has summoned him to his office. Chief Lee has figured out that he’s “Yong-pal” and Tae-hyun doesn’t bother denying it. He’s astute enough to realize that Chief Lee must want something from him or else he’d already have turned him in. He goes down on his knees and begs the Chief to save him, assuring the Chief he’ll do whatever he says.
The Chief arranges for Tae-hyun to meet a man he introduces as “Director” at dinner that night. Tae-hyun wastes no time assuring Director Byung (Park Pal-young) that he’ll do whatever they tell him to do. Director Byung says working for them means he’ll have to stop working for the gangsters and it’ll be hard to grab the scalpel in the operating room from now on (does that mean he has to give up his career!?). Tae-hyun looks dejected, but he readily agrees. He perks up when he returns to the hospital though. Chief Lee tells him from now on, he’ll be a fellow at the hospital and work on the 12th floor VIP ward.
It’s his last day as a resident so when the ICU patient Young-shik goes into cardiac arrest again, he decides to go out with a bang and do a final surgery. With Nurse Soo’s help, they take the patient to the O.R. under the guise that he’s just going for an x-ray, and they prepare to operate.
Meanwhile, in Yeo-jin’s room, her eyes are fluttering again and the alarms on the machines monitoring her vitals are sounding. We see her eyes fly open as the attendant at the nurse’s station heads inside to check on her. The attendant is stunned when she arrives to see Yeo-jin’s bed empty. She looks around and sees a broken vase of flowers on the floor. Finally Yeo-jin pulls herself up from the floor. Both of her hands are bloodied and she holds a shard of glass to her throat when the attendant tries to approach, warning her not to come any closer.
Another great cliff hanger! This show is going to ruin my nerves. There’s a whole week to find out what the heck is going on with Yeo-jin. With an ending like that, I can’t really think about anything else, but I suppose I’ll try.
We didn’t get much more on the back story this episode, but we did get to delve a little deeper into Tae-hyun’s psyche, and we learned that his sister’s financially draining medical expenses may not be the sole source of his willingness to do anything for a buck. His mother’s senseless death also plays a huge role. You can tell he wants to be way more cruel than he really is and that makes him slightly more likeable than if he were truly pitiless.
Chief Lee seems to be turning out to be as shady as the gangsters Tae-hyun/Yong-pal secretly treated. I was kind of hoping he wasn’t one of the bad guys, but it looks like that hope was in vain. I’ll turn my attention to trying to figure out his modus operandi now that Yeo-jin is awake and we’ll get to learn more of what he’s doing to keep her comatose.
On a slightly related note, I must say that my attempt to weecap this series is as hard as I thought it’d be. This post is about twice as long as I’d like it to be. Wish me luck as I try to master the art of brevity. I’d appreciate it!
*This post has been updated to correct character names and reflect that Tae-hyun diagnosed the ICU patient with an infection instead of Hepatitis as I previously wrote.
Yong Pal: Episode 1 Recap