Pied Piper 피리부는 사나이 - Episode 1 (a Shortcap)

kakashi: I am somewhat late to the game, but I have recently started watching Pied Piper, currently airing on tvn, and I am very smitten. The drama is written by Ryoo Yong-Jae, who we all know from Time Between Dog and Wolf (if you don't know this, watch it!) and more recently Liar Game. It has all the elements of a show that I like: a strong script, intriguing characters, strong directing, and suspense (with a touch of mystery). And not to forget: no wtf-medical or military or police crap, and in addition, an original type of set-up (crisis negotiation) upon which it develops its human-centred drama.
Jaehyus: Not my usual sort of show, and maybe it's my sudden fascination with the lead actor, but I will watch it.  Plus, it's well-written, and keeps things moving, so it is good.  I don't know if it will make me mentally tired with all the ins and outs of the hostage situations, but I'm going to trust the Liar Game writer knows what they're doing. 
JoAnne: I do like these kinds of shows, but - in a dramatic departure from my usual stance of 'eh, so what' when medical/military/police details aren't exactly up to snuff - ONLY when they are well-done. While I can't pretend to any experience at all with S.W.A.T or crisis negotiators and sure, they take some of the usual leeway...it all seems very real while it's happening and that makes me happy.
Unfortunately, I cannot do full recaps due to other commitments, but I thought I'd do something quick nonetheless to give the drama some well-deserved space on this blog.
Just doing our part to spread the word about good KDramas, to balance out all the fun we have making fun of the rest of them.

Episode 1

Episode 1 introduces us to the main characters of this show (and kills off a few side-characters right away, thus giving the mains grief and purpose). We have Joo Sung-chan (Shin Ha-kyun) (Got to look him up), a talented, but somewhat shady negotiator, who is working for a conglomerate called K-Group as "business" negotiator (meaning he negotiates mergers and acquisitions for them). We are left in the dark about his background and backstory, but he quite obviously knows how to play people (useful for the job) and the media (also useful if you want to go places). He is also immensely full of himself, and is said to say things like: If I can't negotiate a deal, not even God could.
Helpful for letting us know that this will be a journey of humanizing him.
He has a girlfriend, a chef, but apparently, he has issues opening up to people.
Surprising he was such a wuss considering how cool and tough he was negotiating hostage releases.
That's not personal, though.
He has issues, that much is clear
Later in the episode, he meets up with her in her restaurant and gives her a necklace. She is disappointed about yet another lukewarm gesture and frankly addresses her wish for marriage, which makes him so uncomfortable that he pretends he is getting an important phone call and leaves the table. Sad detail: he actually has a ring in his pocket, but doesn't manage to give it to her. At the crucial moment, he panics - and not much later, she is dead (that ring turns up hanging from a chain from the rear-view mirror in episode 2)
Considering his whole world is about give-and-take, you'd think he'd give.
Give what?
Loooooove? His heart? His soul?
At the beginning of the episode, Sung-chan is sent to negotiate a deal in the Philippines, where several of K-Group's employees have been abducted. The company gives him far less money than the abductors asked for because for them, it's not important that he saves all the employees. For them, it's solely about their image: They just want to look good at the end. Sung-chan knows that he has just enough money for one of the hostages. So he comes up with a horrible but sadly effective plan ... which requires the sacrifice of ONE of the hostages. It works: the kidnapper shoots one guy out of anger, but because Sung-chang plays it well, he is able to get the remaining four released afterward "for a discount".
This was a very creepy thing to do.
I didn't get the impression this was his firm plan going in. A guy like this, wouldn't he play it by ear? It did turn out that way very quickly though.
So you mean he lies later on when he claims he had it planned out all the time? 
This comes back to haunt him BIG TIME when the brother of the killed hostage turns up in the restaurant of his girlfriend with a suicide vest. What we do realize as we watch is that the whole thing is orchestrated by yet another person (who remote controls / detonates the suicide vest) ... a person who talks to Sung-chan in an electronically scrambled voice, whistles a tune and likes to call 911 to tip them off about his schemes. It's a person who has personal beef with Sung-chan. But who could it be? And what's with Assemblyman Jung, a "friend" of the K-Group chairman? Him and Sung-chang clearly have (loaded) history with each other.
I bet it's that Assemblyman Jung. Or is that too obvious?
Although very often, we do meet the villain early on without realizing it - this time I'm not so sure it's the Assemblyman.
The other lead character is the rookie policewoman Yeo Myung-ha (Jo Yoon-Hee, haha, so many people hate her!) (I don't hate her, but I don't love her. I'm expecting she'll grow on me, since it's probably the terrible shows she's been in before that I didn't care for. I don't hate her.  She does have kind of a 'I just finished crying' face, though, so that could change.), an orphan girl who grew up with policeman Oh Jung-Hak (Sung Dong-Il), the leader of the police negotiation team. At the beginning of the episode, Myung-ha requests to work in his team and not in the SWAT-team, for which she initially trained. Sadly, her foster father is killed in the same blast that kills Sung-chan's girlfriend.
I was so excited we were getting Sung Dong Il. Oh well.
Last but not least, there is a reporter, Yoon Hee-sung (Yu Jun-sang) who does not trust Sung-chan and K-Group's whitewashed story that the dead hostage died a natural death. When Mr. Disguised Voice forces Sung-chan to confess his crimes in front of the rolling cameras in order to save his girlfriend, it is Hee-sung's team that records it all. However, K-Group is powerful enough to stop the broadcast (which results in Disguised Voice triggering the vest). Because he witnessed it all, the Reporter knows something is off ... but when he is promoted and made the new news anchor, he steps away from investigating further. At least for now.
This reporter made zero impression on me. I think it's because Sung Dong Il and Shin Ha Kyun are such strong performers that they outshadow others. 
This is Grapevine Dad, it took me a couple episodes to figure that out. Now him, I'd go for as Piper.
Yes, something about him is not quite right

Additional Thoughts: 

* The Disguised-Voice / Bomb-thing reminded me of Sherlock ("The Great Game"). 

* I liked the whole location shot in the Philippines, especially that bit when Sung-chan walks through the streets during the Sinulog Festival (everything is colorful, but he is in blackest black).
I liked that sequence as well but mostly was consumed with thinking how hot all black clothing would be, and how irritated I would be with a dress shirt that fit so snugly.

* I like that we don't at all like this Joo Sung-chan. He is an arrogant bastard that is clearly selling his services to the highest bidder. However, we can also say that he did the best with what he got ... the money for just one hostage, with which he managed to free four men in the end.
I think, he admitted in his confession scene, he could have insisted he needed more money. Or used his genius negotiating skills to get all of them out, but then one of them gets killed or something to trigger the brother's anger.
I will admit, I generally like the cocky bastards. This guy, though... he could go either way.

* Later in the episode, we see that he is in fact quite capable of emotions. He is extremely agitated when the Disguised Voice gives him a deadline to save his girlfriend. And in a flashback, we see how shaken he was after the kidnapper shot the one hostage. Liked the symbolism in this shot.
Now I'm confused: I thought he went in with the plan of letting one die?
Even if he did, though - thinking something will happen is different than experiencing it, especially if it's something so violent.
That's why I liked this particular flashback a lot. He may pretend to be a badass kinda "I can do it all"-guy, but the truth is, he is very human. He does not show that face to other people though
* I like that our main lady is a very capable policewoman. She is a sharpshooter by training, but more interested in talking things out than shooting. Fair enough. I also like how she manhandles our negotiator when he is not following orders. It's not the last time. He is the kind of guy I don't mind getting a beating from time to time so I hope she keeps it up.
I was surprised hostage negotiators were working from a terrible basement office. And why didn't she go into that office in the first place if it was her dream? The actress is doing well, so no issues with her here.
The negotiators aren't considered much of an asset within the police department at this time (in the drama.) S.W.A.T. is where it's at, and the negotiators are just supposed to keep things moving until S.W.A.T. can get there.
* when a bomb like that goes off right next to you, you don't really just lie there with a bit of blood on your face like Oh Jung-Hak and Sung-chan's girlfriend. That was the only thing that seemed quite unrealistic in this episode.
No, it's all a lot more gruesome.
Which no one needs to see.
Agreed, they couldn't really have grieved over bits and pieces of their loved-ones. Only the bomber seems to have been pulverized.