Big Bet – K-Drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Casino Bar

Episode 1 of Big Bet begins in the Philippines, 2015. A pair of guys show up in Korea Town, with one of them heading upstairs to a real estate shop, shooting the place up and taking off with a package.

This paves way for Cha Moo-Sik to show up at his special spot in a lavish restaurant. He seems to be a regular here and he asks about an American waiting for him. However, the waiter acts shadily, hurriedly phoning someone and asking them to show up quickly.

Moo-Sik tries to stay calm, until he receives a message from his associate, telling him the whole thing is a trap. And just like that, a whole bunch of armed guards show and arrest him. On what charges? Well, apparently he murdered Min Seok-Jun. Mu-Sik tells them it’s a mistake but it’s no good, he’s handcuffed and taken to the Bureau of Immigration.

We then jump back to Gyeongnam, Yangsan in 1972. Moo-Sik narrates his life growing up, including eking out a living at the daycare center. He has big dreams to eat more than the slop served by the nuns and he strikes up a friendship with Jong-Hyun, another orphaned kid.

The pair head out exploring together, deciding to hustle and make some money. Some of that comes from catching fire ants which obviously have a nasty bite. Fighting through the pain, they head up to meet the old man at the herbal shop, who’s grateful and hands over some money for them. It’s not enough to buy some fried chicken though, so the group end up gambling with fellow kids, playing rock, paper, scissors. It doesn’t pay off for them.

After recovering from his fire ant bites, Moo-Sik’s mother returns to the center. Of course, this leaves Jong-Hyun all on his own.

Fast forward three years and Moo-Sik’s mum (Suk-Ja) works hard to get them money to survive. Moo-Sik also works hard, hustling for as much Won as he can, catching tadpoles and helping his mum. As for his dad, he happens to be a gangster and well-known in the area too, known as The General (Kyung-Duk). He talks down to Suk-Ja and grows disdainful when he learns that Moo-Jin is way behind with is studies. He hits his son for discipline until he learns how to read.

At night, the place is turned into a gambling den, with Kyung-Duk demanding Suk-Ja make food for them all while Moo-Jin is sent out for errands, told to collect 2 boxes of Bacchus-D. Kyung-Duk actually does help Moo-Sik with his studies though, but between that he ends up beating a couple of gamblers who try to pull a fast one. Naturally, as all of this is illegal, Kyung-Duk is thrown back in jail again, leaving Moo-Sik and his mother alone.

Learning that Kyung-Duk was taken to prison in Daejeon, we’re up to 1976 as Moo-Sik and Suk-Ja are back to eking out a living again. Funnily enough, he ends up running into Jong-Hyun who happens to be hustling in the street. He ran away from the orphanage and is now working as a newspaper seller. Moo-Sik sees this as a good opportunity, although even now it’s high stakes.

For every newspaper he doesn’t sell, he’ll end up getting smacked. So naturally, Moo-Sik decides to take 100 copies and manages to sell them all. He decides to sell them for a larger amount.

This continues through to the year 2000, where Jong-Hyun continues to do business with less than savoury characters. Only now, things are much higher stakes than before. Moo-Sik has opened an academy for English speaking and is on the straight and narrow. When Chi-Young (one of Jong-Hyun’s subordinates) shows up, they enlist his help. The trip sees them off to Busan, where Moo-Sik gets a taste of gambling, and even tries his hand at a few of the games.

Moo-Sik ends up raking in 1.9 million won as a result of his venture, and in the morning he’s given a couple of alcohol vouchers and told to follow him. Now, this alcohol is just a front for the business behind closed doors but it’s certainly big bucks. And naturally, it gets Moo-Sik thinking. He’s confident he can take care of the cops, but for the operation to go ahead, he’d need a solid 12 dealers to make it happen. In order to make this a reality, he scouts out a location and pays off the owner, cleaning the place out and setting it up as the new casino joint in town. “Fuck it, let’s give it a shot.” Moo-Sik says.

The Episode Review

Big Bet gets off to a decent start here, with a pretty lively 50 minute chapter that cycles through a lot of Moo-Sik’s upbringing until this point. We get a fair chunk of time passing between 1976 and 2000 though and it’ll be interesting to see if those years are actually fleshed out in future episodes or whether we’re just left with this big time jump.

Either way though, what’s here feels like a blend of Pachinko and Insider, two K-dramas that released this year. The ensuing result is a pretty good offering and it’ll be interesting to see where the future chapters progress from here.

Next Episode

You can read our full season review for Big Bet Season 1 here!


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