Burn The House Down – J-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

Episode 1

The first episode of Burn The House Down opens with a flashback memory of a young girl named Anzu Murata who witnesses her family home being burned down after her mother Satsuki’s mistake. Satsuki breaks down, blaming herself for the fire and the bystanders claim that the woman left the stove on, causing the fire to break out of the kitchen into the house.

Now, 13 years later, Anzu and her sister Yuzu are grown up and taking care of their single mother who was admitted to the hospital after she was diagnosed with generalised amnesia. Anzu goes back to her family house, Mitarai House, with a new identity – Yamauchi Shizuka – posing to be the new house help for the house.

On her first day at work, Shizuka introduces herself to Mrs Mitarai Makiko, the second wife of Mr Mitarai, the director of the local hospital. Makiko instructs Shizuka to steer clear of the upstairs rooms and focus on cleaning the living area and the rooms on the ground floor of the house.

Makiko claims that Shizuka’s skills were on trial for a day and leaves the new house help alone as she goes to the hospital for work. At the hospital, Makiko meets Mr Mitarai, the director of the hospital and then goes about her day working at the hospital.

Meanwhile, Shizuka finds her mother’s hair clip in the house and pockets it despite Makiko’s warning about stealing from the house. A man from upstairs watches Shizuka take the hair clip but goes to his room before Shizuka can notice. The day passes by and Makiko is impressed with Shizuka’s work.

She hires the new house help and Shizuka is glad that she can get on with her mission. Shizuka recalls how Makiko was among the bystanders, watching the fire and laughing as her mother blamed herself for the accident. She is sure that Makiko was behind the fire and wants to make the woman pay for what she did to her family.

That night, Shizuka visits her mother at the hospital where she and her sister Yuzu discuss how Makiko used to steal their mother’s accessories before the fire. The next day, Shizuka offers to clean the upstairs room but Makiko asks her to clean the pantry as the upstairs is off-limits.

Shizuka finds her mother’s favourite heels dumped in a box in the pantry. She recalls how Makiko had first gotten inside their house to befriend her mother and had slowly started mimicking Satsuki’s style and behaviour. That night, Shizuka takes the heels to her mother, hoping that Satsuki will recall the heels.

Satsuki recalls the hairpin and the heels but does not remember her own daughter. During dinner, Yuzu asks if Shizuka had checked out the box yet but she claims that Makiko had kept her from going upstairs. The next day, Shizuka decides to impress Makiko with her cooking skills.

Makiko is impressed at Shizuka’s skills at a young age and slowly starts opening up about how she too used to be a single mother before marrying Mr Mitarai. She claims that her older son, Kiichi, works abroad and her younger son, Shinji, was a pre-med student. Makiko claims that she is proud of her sons and goes to the nail salon.

Impressed by her cooking, Makiko allows Shizuka to go to the first floor and clean up there. That evening, Shizuka makes it to the first floor of the house and notices the tv running in one of the rooms. She sees how messy the room is and learns that it belongs to Shinji, her classmate. She introduces herself to Shinji who is shocked. He puts the hood of his sweatshirt on and kicks Shizuka out, asking her not to look at him.

That evening, Shizuka tells her friend Claire all about Shinji. She recalls how as a child, Shinji was not very smart. She wonders how he got accepted into med school because he only used to play video games. Claire claims that Makiko was hiding the fact that her son is good for nothing and wanted to keep her perfect life in the media to maintain her image as the stellar homemaker she is.

Claire decides to help Shizuka in trying to get items that belonged to her mother in order to jog Satsuki’s memory back. She claims that Makiko still may have kept her mother’s items in the walk-in closet and asks Shizuka to look there. Shizuka claims that the closet was also probably the place where she could find evidence to support the fact that Makiko was the real arsonist.

The next day, Shizuka gets to work and is determined to find a way to go to the closet. Makiko goes out for a photoshoot and Shizuka decides to try and tame Shinji first. Shizuka goes to Shinji’s room with a meal but he won’t listen to her. However, Shizuka leaves the fried chicken for him which he sneaks inside his room a while later.

The day after, Shinji eats up his meal again. Shizuka asks Shinji for tips about video games trying to get through to him. She recalls how he used to be a soccer fan as a child and talks about soccer but Shinji does not respond. Shizuka continues to talk to him about the beautiful sky and how she used to love star gazing as a child.

She finally gets to him and Shinji talks to Shizuka about the stars. Shizuka recalls how it was not Shinji but Kiichi that she was talking to all along. The real Shinji is a student in college who avoids going out with his friends because he wants to study for the exams.

That night, Shizuka goes home and recalls how Kiichi had given her a compass when they were out stargazing. That night, Kiichi watches the stars from his room and recalls his conversation with Shizuka earlier that evening. He looks Shizuka’s social profiles up. Makiko reads her interview in a magazine where she talked about being a good mother and housemaker.

Shinji returns from college and calls out his mother for lying in the magazine about how she did all the housework herself when Shizuka was the one to help her. Shinji claims that talking more about their family will make the public look into it more, eventually learning the truth they had been hiding all along.

Makiko heats up some udon noodles for Kiichi and recalls the night of the fire from all those years ago. Back then, Kiichi had asked her if she really believed that Satsuki could be so reckless as to cause the fire. She takes the food up to Kiichi but he does not open the door for his mother.

Makiko claims that she would always be there for Kiichi. Meanwhile, Kiichi finds no record of Shizuka on the internet which makes him suspicious. The next day, Shizuka brings more food for Kiichi. He comes out of his room to eat the chicken and Shizuka offers him some more.

The two come face to face for the first time and Shizuka tries to talk to him. She asks Kiichi about the walk-in closet and wonders what it would be like. Shizuka is about to leave but Kiichi stops her and thanks her for the food. At her house, Shizuka tells Claire how she had finally gotten to Kiichi and would soon take her to the closet.

Claire shares her research about the items of clothing and accessories Makiko shared on social media and guesses which ones belonged to her mother. Shizuka recalls seeing the CCTV footage from the night of the arson with her father. Back then, her father had cut off the tape and destroyed the footage before they could see the woman who set the house on fire.

Shizuka recalls seeing her mother’s jacket on the arsonist. Claire claims that Makiko could have worn Satsuki’s jacket before setting the fire to frame her. She asks Shizuka to find the jacket and bring it for Claire and her friends to investigate. The next day, Makiko finds a button from Shizuka’s apron in her closet.

When Shizuka gets to work, Makiko offers her an iced Americano and asks about the button from her apron. Makiko claims that she was disappointed in her and asks if she saw something. She gaslights Shizuka and claims that there was nothing but a bird upstairs in the house.

Makiko gives Shizuka her final salary and fires her for lying to her, leaving Shizuka stunned. The episode ends with Kiichi recalling how he pulled the button off from Shizuka’s apron on purpose to set her up.

The Episode Review

This show is unlike the other Japanese dramas Netflix has released lately. The episodes are well-written and the plot itself is interesting. However, the execution of the show could be better. The show is slow but it is getting there, as it ends in a mystery.

While everything points to the fact that Makiko was the arsonist, I have a feeling that Shinji was behind it. It is possible that he was the person who caused the fire and Kiichi was asking his mother if she was okay hiding it from the world.

It is also possible that Makiko was trying to protect her older son and Kiichi himself was the person who caused the fire after learning that his mother was having an affair with Anzu’s father.

The first episode has already piqued my interest and I cannot wait to find out who the real arsonist was as the show progresses.


Next Episode

Read our full season review for Season 1 of Burn The House Down here!

  • Episode Rating

Leave a comment