Café Minamdang – K-Drama Episode 2 Recap & Review

Old Friends, New Enemies  

Episode 2 of Café Minamdang starts with Jae-hui kicking a shoe off someone’s clothesline and sending it flying at Han-jun’s head, allowing her to flee the sticky situation we left her in.

The next day, her team does a sweep of the intersection where Gyeong-ho’s crash occurred. It’s a CCTV blind spot and he has already erased any evidence.

With no other choice, they comb through footage of all the vehicles that drove toward the intersection until they spot his car. Running the plate number through their database produces his details… They spell disaster. Gyeong-ho has been a murder suspect once before, but his case was ruled as an accident with the help of his wealth and connections. Hearing this, Jae-hui decides that they need to focus on identifying his passenger instead.

Gyeong-ho is at home with his secretary, whingeing about not wanting to dispose of his car, the model being one of the only two that exist in Korea. Han-jun struts in with Gyeong-ho’s wife and claims that the spirit of a bleeding woman is present.

We jump back two hours and watch Han-jun sifting through the reports of Gyeong-ho’s first murder until he figures out that Gyeong-ho killed his victim by choking her with his left hand while he held a vase in his right hand.

In the present, Han-jun relays the murder method to Gyeong-ho with enough specificity – and details that the police never pieced together – that Gyeong-ho starts taking him seriously as a shaman. Han-jun agrees to help Gyeong-ho avoid a charge after making him swear to avoid another incident. His first instruction for Gyeong-ho is to bring him the car and the dashcam footage before the police can get to either.

The police locate Gyeong-ho’s car very quickly the next day, probably owing to its rarity. They need a warrant to search and seize it, but the chances of finding someone that will go against Gyeong-ho and issue one are slim.

Jae-hui makes the request of prosecutor Cha Do-won, who is renowned as the chatterbox of the Seoul Western District Prosecutor’s Office, and he agrees.

Burning with his old fire, Detective Jang wants to find the car while they wait for the warrant so that Gyeong-ho’s people can’t intercept them once word spreads. Detective Na is left at the station to wait for the warrant.

Little do they know, Hye-jun has been watching them through their own CCTV. As the team heads out, she signals Han-jun and starts a five-minute countdown. Han-jun and Su-cheol follow the truck towing Gyeong-ho’s car to the police station.

The tow truck driver was told at the junkyard, presumably by Han-jun, to deliver the dashcam to Jae-hui’s team. Detective Na accepts it and calls back the rest of the team. A minute later, his phone lights up with the warrant notification. The Café Minamdang crew is all smiles.

Jae-hui’s team, armed with the footage and the warrant, arrive at Gyeong-ho’s doorstep to arrest him. Gyeong-ho starts hollering for Han-jun, who strolls out and reassures him that he’ll be released soon.

Jae-hui confronts Han-jun, telling him that she’ll get to the bottom of whatever he’s scheming. This proclamation causes him to suspect that she was the ‘stalker’ at Café Minamdang. He still thinks that Jae-hui is going to such lengths because she’s in love with him, which earns him a kick to the shin.

Meanwhile, Hye-jun, unusually put together in corporate attire, impersonates an MK Nobel Hotel secretary and meets with Internal Inspector Jun Cheong-gi, who covered up Gyeong-ho’s first murder case. She offers him a bribe to follow orders that will apparently be issued by her CEO.

Jae-hui finally has Gyeong-ho in an interrogation room when Han-jun intrudes with the assertion that the dashcam footage forming the basis of their arrest was obtained illegally and is therefore inadmissible. They check the station’s CCTV and discover that, while the dashcam arrived at 10:35am, the warrant was only received at 10:36am.

Gyeong-ho walks free without a charge. Jae-hui, frustrated, follows Han-jun out of the station and asks if he orchestrated the dashcam farce. He admits it, a little chagrined but not ashamed to follow the smell of money.

She has a flashback to an extended version of the scene of Han-jun smiling that we saw in Episode 1. He’s about to verse a young girl in a taekwondo match. A bit of conversation reveals that he’s on his way to becoming a police officer, and the girl plans to follow his footsteps. He praises her even after he wins and imparts a life lesson: police protect both civilians and criminals within the boundaries of the law in order to protect the law itself.

In the present, Jae-hui flips Han-jun onto the asphalt and reminds him that he was once an officer. She throws his own lesson back at him and promises to arrest him herself if he continues down this path. Han-jun… thinks this is because he jilted her love.

Jae-hui’s mistake and Gyeong-ho’s release has reached the papers by the time her team gets back to the station. The chief is not happy and doesn’t approve of Jae-hui’s insistence on a continued investigation of Gyeong-ho. Detective Jang reasons that the responsibility will fall on the chief’s head if Gyeong-ho commits another crime after they failed to arrest him. Easily swayed, the chief then orders them to catch Gyeong-ho or risk their jobs.

Detective Jang has already used his connections to identify Gyeong-ho’s passenger as Min Yu-seon, but when Jae-hui and Detective Jang try to question her, it’s obvious that she wants nothing to do with them or the case.

That night, Han-jun tosses and turns, tormented by Jae-hui’s words. He reluctantly gives into his conscience and resolves to hand Gyeong-ho over to Jae-hui. For this, he concocts a plan to use Jung Cheong-gi as bait.

Hye-jun reminds him that they’ve tried and failed to intimidate Cheong-gi before. We flash back to the incident in question – Cheong-gi is blindfolded and bound, dumped on a set of train tracks. While Hye-jun and Na-dan simulate an approaching train, Han-jun and Su-cheol try to get Cheong-gi to admit who fabricated evidence in Choi Yeong-seop’s case and pinned it on them. Cheong-gi’s lips are sealed, and he’s confident that Han-jun and Su-cheol, both policemen, won’t kill him.

Back in the present, Han-jun puts the failure down to their being too gentle. The new plan is to set Cheong-gi up by spreading word that he will pass evidence from Gyeong-ho’s case to CEO Lee Min-gyeong. They predict that Gyeong-ho, not particularly smart or restrained, will try to kill Cheong-gi as a result. When that happens, they will save Cheong-gi and strike a deal.

The plan laid out, Hye-jun is to tell Cheong-gi that the CEO wants to meet him and Su-cheol is to tip off Gyeong-ho’s secretary. The trio heads out, followed by Na-dan, who leaves his key under a pot by the front door.

Watching as they file out is Jae-hui, and she uses this as an opportunity to go snooping through Café Minamdang. She comes across their digital map of perpetrators and victims. One of the victims on the screen is her older brother, Han Jae-jeong. According to their information, Jae-jeong was the prosecutor who released Choi Yeong-seop but was then murdered by him. A serial arson suspect, Choi Yeong-seop then went missing.

Jae-hui’s snooping is cut short by the return of Han-jun, Hye-jun and Su-cheol. Jae-hui hides herself inside a cupboard in Han-jun’s walk-in closet. She almost gets away it too, but Han-jun hears her phone buzz. As he pulls open the door, Jae-hui throws up an article of clothing.

The epilogue shows the young girl from Jae-hui’s flashback giving Han-jun a congratulatory gift for becoming a police officer. Her accompanying card asks for a rematch when she joins him on the force. Their exchange is interrupted by a woman that seems to be Han-jun’s girlfriend. The young girl, disappointed, walks away. She’s joined by Jae-jeong, who calls her Jang-mi.

The Episode Review

Episode 2 levels out the pace and gives us a bit of breathing room now that we’re familiar with most of the major players.

We also got more time with Jae-hui’s team to balance out all the time we spent with the Café Minamdang crew in the first episode. They’re starting to warm to each other and learn each other’s quirks, which in turn allows us to warm to them too.

A connection between Gyeong-ho and the events of the past – those which resulted in a dead brother and Han-jun’s more unhinged line of work – has formed through Cheong-gi. As much as he’s been pulling strings, he’s definitely not the larger puppet master. Choi Yeong-seop is also an unlikely candidate, so who’s looking out for him and why? And where is he now?

With all these names making an appearance on Han-jun’s map of perpetrators and victims, one might just think that his bizarre turn to fraud is actually part of a long-term plan to seek justice. Or, if not justice, revenge.

Seo In-guk and Oh Yeon-seo also got more time in the same frames, and her internal torment clashing with his obnoxious behaviour made for a lively watch. Does he really not remember her or is he playing oblivious to some unknown end?

It seems safe to assume that the young girl in Jae-hui’s flashbacks is Jae-hui herself, which then raises the question: Why did she change her name? The change does certainly help explain Han-jun’s obliviousness about her identity.

Overall, Café Minamdang rounded out into a solid first week that sets the foundation for likeable characters caught up in a larger scheme.

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