Episode 13 of Café Minamdang begins as Han-jun chooses Jae-hui, leaving Tae-su on the ground to rescue her from the trailer. He carries her to safety before passing out.
Han-jun awakes in a hospital bed with Jae-hui by his side. He’s come to the realisation that even though he scares easily, if he runs away, he’ll always come back to Jae-hui. He asks her to wait for him to catch Gopuri to earn Jae-jeong’s approval so that he can give her his heart.
The detectives visit the next morning as Han-jun is discharged. When Jae-hui pulls out the portrait she saved from Tae-su’s trailer, Detective Jang produces the identical one he took from the old arson site.
Detective Jang is now sure that Tae-su is Lim Yeong-ju, the suspect in his first murder case. Still a child at the time, Yeong-ju’s alcoholic father abused him, and his mother had already fled. We flash back to Yeong-ju’s father threatening to kill him with a pickaxe. Yeong-ju’s fear propels him as he knocks his father to the ground and wounds him with his own weapon.
Detective Jang reveals that Yeong-ju didn’t stop there, setting fire to his family home while his father was still alive. He’s been missing ever since. Han-jun notes the white shoes Tae-su’s mother wore in the portrait – the last picture she ever took with her son.
That night at Café Minamdang, the crew is joined by Jae-hui. Hye-jun has gotten into Tae-su’s laptop and found pictures of the gopuri knots with the victims’ names on them as well as videos of the prostitution. It’s likely Tae-su and Aunty Im had a two-person system, one where she gave prophecies and Tae-su fulfilled them through blackmail and favours.
From one of the videos and the files names of the others, the group recognises N.Joy Club. Do-won joins them in time to add that the dividends Aunty Im’s cartel members received were from the club. Rumours of drugs being sold there leads the group to believe that the profits generated the dividends.
The cartel can’t be pinned down on charges of narcotics trafficking alone because it would be too easy for them to claim that they are unrelated to the club. Do-won suggests that they go undercover, and Han-jun readily agrees.
Meeting concluded, Han-jun and Jae-hui take a romantic stroll and pinkie promise to go out and do more normal things when the case is over.
The next day, the Minamdang crew, along with Jae-hui and Do-won, get all dolled up to infiltrate N.Joy Club. Inside, the men change into staff uniforms. Do-won is peeved by his waiter costume – the source of Han-jun’s easy agreement the night before. Jae-hui and Hye-jun get eyes on a man dealing pouches of red crystals and mark him for Su-cheol and Han-jun.
Do-won and Na-dan spy a man spiking a woman’s drink with a single red crystal. Despite Na-dan’s worried protests, Do-won gets involved and saves the woman. The shady drink-spiker is outraged since the club’s employees are supposed to turn a blind eye.
Na-dan tries to control the damage by claiming he can get them hotter girls, calling Hye-jun. When the shady men call the club manager, Su-cheol answers. He and Han-jun have the club manager kneeling before them and scare him into admitting that he knows Tae-su.
Hye-jun and Jae-hui rescue Na-dan and Do-won and rendezvous with Han-jun and Su-cheol, who have found out that the drug is called ‘Ruby’ and Tae-su managed the trafficking of it at the club. They need to find his ledger, which would be decisive proof that the dividends are drug money, but it’s hidden in a safe on the building’s top floor.
The crew migrates to their van, where Hye-jun hacks into the building’s CCTV. It’s crawling with security, but Han-jun has already taken care of it. He discloses that he told Detective Jang to conduct a raid by using Jae-hui’s name.
Jae-hui is annoyed, but she and Do-won join the detectives when they arrive all the same. They end up in a messy tussle with the security guards in the lobby, where Jin-sang and Min-gyeong have been moping after getting rejected by the N.Joy Club bouncers.
The two of them spot Han-jun sneaking through the lobby and, ever the faithful disciples, run up to him excitedly. He pretends that the spirits sent him to save Jin-sang’s family from ruin, which aligns with the building being owned by Dong-gi and the top floor being under Tae-su’s control.
Han-jun and Su-cheol take the private elevator as per Jin-sang’s instructions. Hye-jun tries and fails to keep them off the CCTV, so Su-cheol is left to deal with the posse of guards that meet them. Tae-su sees the fight and answers a call to confirm that he’ll collect some files and leave.
Han-jun makes it to the safe, opening it with a date provided by Jin-sang. Inside is the ledger and some other files, including an inspection report on Seung-won. Tae-su emerges and the men are pulled into a rematch that Tae-su wins. He leaves with all the files but one, which Han-jun managed to hide under a rug.
Back at Minamdang, Han-jun launches into a lengthy explanation. Aunty Im runs the cartel that invested in Joyce Entertainment. Joyce Entertainment then reinvested into N.Joy Club, where Tae-su generated profits by selling Ruby to pay out the cartel members. Aiming bigger, Aunty Im planned the Jakdu-dong land development project, the victims of which will be unaware apartment buyers. The cartel will get richer while Seung-won reaches for the president position.
Han-jun infers that Dong-gi prepared a ledger of the cartel’s crimes, including the inspection report on Seung-won, as a contingency plan. Another document Han-jun found in the safe showed that Seung-won sold the Jakdu-dong land at a marked-up price. With Choekang doing the construction on the project, Seung-won was able to sell his cheap land to the government for a higher price while setting the construction plan into motion.
Meanwhile, Aunty Im and Tae-su sit before Seung-won with the inspection file. Seung-won clicks a pen with ire, realising that Dong-gi played dumb while positioning himself in the way of Seung-won’s succession.
Knowing that an investigation will delay the Jakdu-dong development, Seung-won commands Aunty Im to fuel a media frenzy and begin selling apartments right after the ground-breaking ceremony. Even if things go astray, the contract they entered into means that they get half the fee anyway. Seung-won also orders them to deal with Dong-gi – an outcome they planned for after siphoning off his assets overseas – before the shareholders’ meeting.
Back at Minamdang, Do-won found a discrepancy in the cash flow. The dividends that used to be invested totally into the Jakdu-dong development have been diverted into KM Leaders. Do-won thinks that Aunty Im established it as a paper company to direct all Dong-gi’s investment money into. Hearing this, Han-jun concludes that Aunty Im and Seung-won are going to steal the Jakdu-dong development investments through KM Leaders after conning the cartel and gaining their trust. He’s also sure that they’ll dispose of Dong-gi.
Tae-su is, in fact, escorting Dong-gi to the old arson site at that moment. After Jin-sang alerts Han-jun to this, Han-jun, Jae-hui, Su-cheol and Hye-jun drive to the last place Tae-su’s car was captured by CCTV before he entered a blind zone.
Han-jun explains that if this is Aunty Im’s last big job and she’s planning to wrap everything up, she’d choose a place that holds meaning for Tae-su so that he’ll stay silent even if he becomes the fall guy. His old family home.
They get there in time to stop Tae-su from choking Dong-gi to death. Tae-su stands with a lighter held over a gas cannister, ready to set them all ablaze.
The epilogue goes back to Yeong-ju/Tae-su walking away from his burning home, a fresh burn scar on his forearm. He falls to the ground and is found by Aunty Im. Peering out from behind her is a young boy, who remarks that Yeong-ju is like a blackbird – they’re all the same but one is called an ominous crow while the other is a welcomed magpie. He claims Yeong-ju as his very own magpie.
We then skip to Jae-jeong’s murder. Tae-su holds out a gopuri knot to an approaching person making a clicking noise.
The Episode Review
We’ve transitioned into the romance subplot proper, and the first half of this episode dragged because of it. Han-jun’s profession of love in the hospital felt so out of place. He has only known Jae-hui as an adult for a very short period (most of which she spent behaving atrociously towards him), and there’s been no substantial romantic build-up between them.
He couldn’t have already felt this way when he knew her as Jang-mi because she was a child, and nothing in the flashbacks suggests as much either. The result: a random and bland shift into couple-y behaviour.
On that note, the casting choices for this drama have been perplexing when it comes to character ages. Han-jun is supposed to be older than Jae-hui, Jae-jeong and Su-cheol, but he passes as younger than all of them.
Jae-hui is supposed to have miraculously grown up from the little girl in the flashbacks while no one else aged a day. And now we have Aunty Im, who was an adult when Tae-su was a child, but the actor playing him is 14 years older than the actress playing her. None of it is convincing.
This episode highlighted the way Café Minamdang’s writing and direction favours dialogue-heavy infodump scenes over trusting its audience enough to show us the mechanics of the plot. And honestly, the former is more confusing to watch, especially when the mystery is not gripping enough to keep you engaged through all the yapping.
Speaking of the mystery, is Seung-won the child spinning riddles about blackbirds? The crow adopting Tae-su as his magpie points to misdirection. It also explains the man Han-jun saw walking away from Jae-jeong’s apartment during the fire. A man whose presence came with a clicking sound eerily like Seung-won’s obsessive pen clicking.
One thing nagging at me is that the child’s behaviour is far too level-headed to match up to what we’ve seen of Seung-won in the present… Bad writing or more misdirection?
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!|