What A Mess
Episode 16 of Private Lives begins with Byung-Jun briefed on the new strategy, including getting rid of Bok-Gi. With Joo-Eun knocked out in the basement and bundled in the back of the car, she awakens to learn (through commentary in the GK office) that she’ll be used to donate her organs.
However, as she’s placed in the back seat rather than the boot (compartment) she manhandles the driver and manages to get free.
Jeong-Hwan meanwhile holds officer Kyeong-Seob up at gunpoint and gets away from his predicament. He’s made to cuff himself to his associate as Jeong-Hwan races away. Only, as he does Joo-Eun shows up after running all the way back to the parking lot and gets in the car. Wait, what? How quick was that?
Anyway, afterwards the pair realize all of this has been scripted as Joo-Eun wonders whether GK is involved. Myung-Hyun rings all the same and confirms that he’s wanted for Kwon’s murder. Jae-Wook is wanted too of course and realizes that Chief Dae-Sang is involved in all this.
As we cut across to Chief Dae-Sang and Jae-Wook, the former admits that he wants to work in the Blue House. When he mentions Kwon’s murder, Jae-Wook soon perks up as he realizes he’s been played.
Knocking out the Chief, courtesy of his dog, Jae-Wook breaks free and quickly rings Kim. There, he learns that his boss ordered the hit and has double-crossed him.
Bok-Gi meanwhile outsmarts the guards and brandishes a gun to stop their advance. She runs straight into Jae-Wook outside while fleeing, who saves her life and gets rid of the guards for her. Taking the gun out of her hands, he works with Bok-Gi to help an injured Poong-Yeon outside.
There, Jae-Wook finally admits that Bok-Gi is his weakness and he keeps switching sides because of his affection for her. Eventually the two begin kissing.
Meanwhile, Seok-Ho breaks the bad news that everyone has escaped capture. Kim is not happy but Seok-Ho promises they have their best men on this and they should be captured soon (I wouldn’t hold your breath on this one).
Kim goes one step further and phones the NSO (counter-terrorism group) who immediately show up at the agency and begin searching through everything.
Elsewhere, Kim ramps up his search and decides to try and carve a new narrative. As he does, Bok-Gi introduces the “new and improved” Jae-Wook who shows up and has decided to join them after all.
Jeong-Hwan instead tells them to leave, given he doesn’t trust either of them. When Han Son arrives, all of them eventually speak plainly about how everything links back to the original incident with the phone.
It turns out GK killed Kwon because of Jeong’s phone and specifically because of incriminating evidence against former President Lee. Only, this would mean there’s a mole inside GK. If that’s the case then Kim killing Kwon is the biggest danger for them.
Jae-Wook and Bok-Gi corner Manager Ji Min-Hui and find out she’s recorded the entire conversation with Kim. She happened to be the one who planted – and fed – the sedative to Kwon before Kim showed up and injected the Assemblyman.
As the group find this out, a masked assailant suddenly shows and shoots Jae-Wook in the head. That assailant also grabs the evidence out of Bok-Gi’s hands and walks away.
This same masked man stabs Myung-Hyun and looks set to kill him until Soo-Jin shows and saves the day. He quickly rings Jeong-Hwan and gives them crucial intel to go on. Jeong-Hwan hurries out but he’s hit by a car and knocked out on the ground. Just before he dies though, Han Son shows and reveals that he’s working with these guards.
It’s been 15 days (at least according to Joo-Eun) and she wonders quite where Jeong-Hwan could be. She’s being watched constantly by the NSO but Jeong-Hwan happens to be fine as he awakens in the hospital.
He’s greeted by a man named Choi Yong-Jin from UI. He admits he’s not too fond of Jeong-Hwan as this man reveals the truth about Joo-Eun working with them. He promises to allow him to leave but only if he disbands GK’s Innovation Vision Room once and for all.
Jeong-Hwan seizes his opportunity and snatches up Joo-Eun, managing to get away from the NSO. Instead, Joo-Eun shows up in front of Kim at the familiar restaurant we’ve seen in the past. She happens to be recording everything they’re saying.
He demands Jeong’s phone to be handed over, taking offence when she calls him a two-bit conman. While Jeong-Hwan sits with the chairman, they happen to be listening in as Kim throws himself under the bus and claims that he single-handedly saved GK and built it up to what it is today.
Jeong-Hwan however, hands over the driver’s phone to the Director and on the back of this, big changes are made. Kim is made the managing director of HIT Home Shopping, a subsidiary of GK, while Oh is made the acting President of the company.
Seok-Ho is also arrested too – followed closely by Kim who Myung-Hyun happily arrests. It turns out Jeong-Hwan has an entire notebook full of orders given to him and although it’s tough for him, given the past, it’s enough to put him away for 10 years in prison. Jeong-Hwan meanwhile is sentenced to 5 years in prison.
With GK exposed and people boycotting GK’s products, their stocks begin to plummet.
3 years pass and the spy agency continues to struggle with work. Jeong-Hwan is released on parole though, with Joo-Eun rushing over to greet him. As the two kiss, all the characters reconvene for Jeong-Hwan and Joo-Eun’s wedding. For real this time.
Inside the prison, Kim and Byung-Jung reconvene and play a game of Go. However, Kim has a visitor in the form of Bok-Gi. It’s only a brief visit, promising that he’s in debt to a lot of people and will meet his end soon. That end arrives in a secluded spot, when he’s stabbed by another inmate and left for dead.
Meanwhile, Bok-Gi briefs a group of prospective investors before introducing “Jae-Min” to them. Really this is just a wheelchair-bound Jae-Wook.
President Mo Gyeong-Il is appointed as the new leader of Korea while the final shot of the inside of GK shows UI presumably taking control. As the episode closes out, a solemn In-Sook arrives before Joo-Eun on the eve of her wedding with some news. What news you ask? Well, it’s a cliffhanger. Because of course it is.
The Episode Review
Where do you start with Private Lives? From the unnecessarily convoluted storyline full of layered flashbacks to the multiple layers of contrived plot points dotted all the way through, this espionage thriller has not been one to remember.
In this episode alone we had all of our characters breaking out of their situations thanks to the stupidity of their captors. All the while, both Joo-Eun and Jeong-Hwan haven’t really grown as characters. Joo-Eun is still the poor con-woman she was at the start and still trusts everyone.
If the end scene shows anything, it’s that the threat of GK hasn’t really gone away either. They’ve just switched to new colours in the form of UI. That’s before mentioning the completely anticlimactic ending to Kim who’s killed with a whimper rather than at the hands of one of our main characters.
That’s before mentioning the fake-out wedding at the end which, I guess, is a ploy to seem clever and tie it back to episode 1 but it ultimately undermines any struggle the characters had.
And speaking of struggle, the haphazard way Jeong-Hwan’s return has been handled since the midway point has been really disappointing. The constantly changing allegiance of Jae-Wook and Bok-Gi isn’t much better who – despite some decent character development through their shared flashbacks – really lost their spark and energy at the end.
Unfortunately this one ends with indifference, a weak whimper and ploy at a possible second season that’s very unlikely to occur. It’s such a shame too but unfortunately Private Lives becomes one of the more disappointing dramas of the year.