The Con Job
Along with Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol, Private Lives is the second Wednesday/Thursday Korean drama to be broadcast on Netflix. Based on this showing though, this one is definitely worth sticking around for.
Episode 1 of Private Lives begins with a simple narrated introduction about privacy. Specifically, Korea’s current war against privacy.
As we soon see from Joo-Eun, she feigns being happy as she prepares for her upcoming wedding.
Only, thanks to a really slick well-shot rotating segment, we jump back to 2010 to see this girl sitting in a fancy restaurant with her parents. Only, as they leave she’s hit by a car. Only…this is actually a complete scam fabricated by her parents to swindle the driver.
With a neck brace on and a broken leg, Joo-Eun is driven back home. There, they explain that Joo-Eun is the “stuntwoman” for this gig and her parents are the main and supporting acts.
Unwilling to hear anymore, Joo-Eun decides to go to the police… until her Father promises to buy a new jacket. It turns out, this was a big charade and she’s not actually hurt and was playing them all this time; she’s definitely part of the family now.
Her Father Hyun-Tae has absolutely no shame, feigning a serious injury to swindle people out of money. He drags himself along singing songs while bagging a fair amount of cash. Joo-Eun notices too and follows him back home.
Hyun-Tae calls himself a “documentary artist” but she implores him to come home early and not to drink. As she leaves, Joo-Eun promises to make something of her life and be a fantastic success.
As we jump forward 9 years, Joo-Eun leaves a woman’s correctional facility and immediately snaps photos for social media. Only, she edits out the background and puts herself in another country.
Joo-Eun heads to Ottu Restaurant and fools the waitress into believing she’s just arrived from a big conglomerate rather than jail.
Only, a large gentleman known as Hanson arrives and starts singing in front of her. Eventually she tells him to sit down and they discuss her potential revenge for what happened 9 years back.
As we cut back in time, we see Joo-Eun break the news to her Mother that she got into college. Only, she’s not happy and tells the girl she’s giving up her real career – which is acting. Hansom shows up not long after and she’s introduced to him for the first time.
Unwilling to listen, Joo-Eun walks away. A she does, she sees her Father outside swindling people and this time, it’s broadcast to everyone who spots what he’s doing and he’s called out for it. Only, this happens to be an elaborate scam.
Hyun-Tae is working with another swindler known as Bok-Ki who encourages him to evolve the story. She arrives on scene and makes a big song and dance about him helping the sick and elderly. This seems to do the trick too and it really grows into becoming mainstream news – along with a pretty hefty payday too.
Despite being a Buddhist, Pastor Cha is invited into church to read a sermon. Only, when Hyun-Tae gets there he realizes he’s dropped the letter outside and has nothing to work off.
Instead, he improvises and it seems to do the trick. He even shows the group around and encourages them to give up stacks of cash “for the cause”. On the back of this, the group hit their goal of 10 billion won.
Hyun-Tae is convinced to be a new Pastor for the upcoming church Bok-Ki intends to build. Only, this is a lie given she’s actually swindling him herself.
Jae-Wook has put the down-payment on the space but the rest of the money? Well, let’s just say they want to take off and go on a long vacation. It goes deeper than that though, it turns out Hyun-Tae has donated all of his funds leaving him with nothing.
When the church-goers learn what he’s done, Hyun-Tae is beaten to the ground. Joo-Eun is forced to watch as he’s taken away by the police.
In prison, Joo-Eun visits her father but he’s keeping silent. He wants his daughter to graduate no matter what. While he settles into prison life, Joo-Eun is given one final check from her Father including enough money to buy a place to stay. Joo-Eun meanwhile is enraged and determined to find Bok-Ki and get revenge for what she’s done.
Joo-Eun and Uncle Han Son eventually work together, donning numerous different disguises through the years to harness Joo-Eun’s acting skills.
This continues through to late 2016 where Joo-Eun meets her Uncle who hands over a luxury bag full of money. He tasks her with buying new clothes to go with the bag, informing her she’s going to play a fourth year Chaebol next.
Only, Joo-Eun has had enough and wants to walk away. Outside the building she notices Bok-Ki of all people. This only works to further fuel her desire for revenge. She dons a detective disguise next -Detective Kim to be precise- and manages to get the owner to ring her if Bok-Ki shows up again.
As she continues on, Joo-Eun manages to learn more about the company Bok-Ki is working for and – more specifically – the ins and outs of this pyramid scheme.
She breaks into Bok-Ki’s office and starts sifting through the drawers for clues. After a close encounter with athe woman herself, Joo-Eun heads out the office and runs into a suspicious worker called Mr Park in the hallway.
She manages to blag her way into avoiding suspicion and heads out for a drink with Park. There, she pitches the idea of setting up an account and switching the company’s finances over with a lower interest rate.
Eventually it’s enough for her to twist his arm and get him to set it up with the bank. Park arrives before the Branch Manager and hands over an envelope. Only…that envelope isn’t the right one as Joo-Eun has got them mixed up. Thankfully, Han-Som arrives just in time and switches them over.
The momentary panic is over and the duo – along with Mi-Sook posing as the branch manager earlier -celebrate their victory. This is quite the minefield and Joo-Eun worries that the plan may go awry.
After switching the banks over, Bok-Ki learns about the low interest rates and calls a meeting with Joo-Eun. Mi-Sook’s greed is too much though and she doesn’t withdraw the funds, watching as the money keeps piling up in the account.
It’s too late though, Bok-Ki calls out Joo-Eun and asks her whether she’s there to avenge her Father. As the two stare one another down, the episode comes to a close.
The Episode Review
There’s some serious Good Casting vibes going on with this one, mixed in with a bit of Hustle and White Collar for good measure. The result is something that feels like a really fun romp with enough memorable characters to make for an engaging watch.
The idea of the entire drama revolving around con artists is decent and the set-up is pretty strong too. Hopefully we’ll see some good cat and mouse tricks across the season as both Bok-Ki and Joo-Eun try to outsmart the other.
For now though ,the first episode gets off to a strong start and the humour works surprisingly well against some of the stronger melodrama. The cliffhanger ending is enough to come back for more with this one too.