CUBIC (A SnarkCap) -- Episode 1

Trot:  I don’t know what the titles are for individual episodes or even if they have them, so I’m just going to make up my own.
Shuk: Yay! I'm excited about this project. This was a crazy show in my early lakorn-watching days that convinced me to try more Thai entertainment options. For the record, I always thought it would be a great drinking game to have a sip of Tsingtao Beer every time you recognize Taiwan masquerading as Hong Kong.
Kmuse: This is my dream come true. Now I can share all my snarky thoughts regarding Cubic with the world episode by stare-filled episode. I am overwhelmed with joy just thinking of the fun we are going to have with this one.
JoAnne: I might peek in. Don't be confused. Kmuse is not me.

Episode 1: So many characters, so little time

We open at a restaurant/club (?) that’s decorated with these gauzy curtains separating the private rooms. A man dressed in plain black clothes leads another man into one of these rooms. The first man, Jongsing (NOT VORARIT FUANGAROME)(so then, who?)comes in to introduce a fairly nervous looking businessman to his boss, who clearly has quite a bit of power. This businessman wants to borrow money and not a little bit but 20 million Hong Kong dollars. Boss Man agrees to loan him the money as long as he pays it back within 3 months with 20% interest. (My first thought was 3 months?—how is he ever going to recoup 20 million dollars in 3 months?). He also wants some collateral (and who can blame him?). What surprises them all is that the man offers up his daughter as collateral. Yikes. Boss Man, who is our lead, looks through the gauze at a girl who is presumably this man’s daughter and agrees. He seems to go soft a bit when he looks at her, but it’s hard to tell in all the gauze.
You would think Boss Man would want to inspect the collateral a little closer to make sure she was worth 20 million dollars. Maybe open her mouth to check her teeth? Push against her legs to make sure she is sturdy? Maybe even have her speak so you can confirm she doesn't have a voice that could shatter glass. You know, the important things.
I know, right? I mean, he hasn't even really seen her except through all that gauzy material.
Oh, you didn't tell me there would be ZOOM stares...
We then get introduced to our heroine, Ruthainark or Nark (MINT CHALIDA WIJITVONTONG), who tells us about herself in a voice over. She is in high school and is 17 and has no friends. Not only does no one like her, but they seem to go out of their way to be mean to her—tripping her and dumping buckets of dirty water over her. It is not explained here why no one likes her. Turns out the father/daughter duo from earlier are her older sister and dad. Her sister is clearly the only one who talks to her at school and seems oblivious to the fact that Nark is in her gym clothes instead of her uniform (or is she used to her sister having to change?). They clearly have a close relationship even though they are completely different.

Nantaka, or Nan, is busily talking about what they should get their dad to buy them for dinner while Nark is wondering about a suspicious car that’s been parked by the school all day. We find out that car has Jongsing in it who has been given orders by his boss to bring Nantaka to him (in Taiwan/Hong Kong?) no matter what because the time is up.
Because we all know that dark stretch cars with blacked-out windows are suspicious. Unless they have a pretty rainbow on the side. Then they are okay parked but occupied outside a school compound...
The Thai version of a sketchy van? If he rolls down the window and offers candy I am screaming, "Stranger Danger!"
If he's got any of those Special Dark Hershey Bites, though, grab me some.

We get a family scene that sets up this family dynamic very clearly. They have not lived in the countryside for long. Nantaka complains about being there and no longer having servants while she sits and Nark cleans. Her father actually tells her to ask Nark if she needs something which makes Nark look up in protest but immediately stop when Nan starts acting upset at the hints her father is making about his new financial circumstances. Nan gets mad because she thinks he is teasing her, but it’s clear that Nark understands and that she and dad often don’t tell Nan much because she is kind of dumb and very naive.
The older one is a ditz not to realize the younger has become the only domestic help and could probably use a helping hand. I do hate the Cyrano de Bergerac trope of Pretty=Vapid / Ugly = Smart. But it's not like I thought this was going to be an Dara Awards-worthy screenplay. 
The dad is so obvious that he thinks one sister is better than the other. If I didn't already hate him for prostituting his daughter for a loan, I would hate him now. I surprisingly don't mind Nan. Sure she is crazy amounts of dumb, but at least she seems to care about Nark despite her "hideous" looks.

Family Assessment: Nark is younger but clearly the smartest and most adult person in this family. She takes care of everything to the point that Dad openly wishes she had been born the older sister. He talks to Nark like a peer and to Nan like she is 8. Nan is clearly the "pretty" sister. She is spoiled but not mean and stands up for Nark when her father tries to act like her little sister is a maid. She even believes (and this is true) that Nark is pretty just worn out because dad works her so much. We clearly know that dad isn’t going to come up with that money in 3 months, and who puts up his daughter for collateral? We also can foresee that he’s definitely not going to send Nan but send Nark instead. So it does not surprise us that when Jongsing calls, he decides to make a run for it.
Bad Dad.
I think no one is surprised by Dad's actions. Except maybe Jongsing.
More zooming! Yes! Also: WTF is with that TIE?
There are loads more where that came from.
Cue loud Dramatic Music (DM) and a Men on Stairs (MoS) shot while Jongsing talks to his boss about the situation. We get dad dropping daughters off at school and telling Nark that he loves her, which makes her suspicious. Later Nan doesn’t show up to their appointment for lunch and in flashback we see Dad telling Nark about his debt to the gangsters and that if anything happens, she should use her special ability. (I have to say here I was hoping she had a super power or could read minds or something—no such luck).
"I am going to leave you to be murdered by the mafia, dear. Do your best to be smart enough to not die. Ta-ta." This dad is unredeemable. 
This was a big puzzlement to me. She's underage and abandoned, while the two adults (using this term as an age marker and not a level of maturity one) sneak off into the sunset. I mean, couldn't Dad at least turned over the house deed or something?
Wait, so Dad ran away with the pretty daughter and left The One Who Will Transform all alone? 
When Nark runs home, she finds the house empty but not for long because Jongsing shows up with some of the men from the stairs threatening to kill her if she doesn’t tell him where Nan is. What they don’t expect is the sassy and angry Nark. She is pissed because she realizes that her dad has left her to the gangsters and taken her sister. Jongsing and the rest are a bit taken aback when she tells them to just kill her—one bullet please, less pain. He calls his boss. They knock her out and take her away.
I am loving Nark's sass.
You know how I read that, right.

Meanwhile, we see Nan and her father in a car with Nan crying and upset that they left Nark to gangsters. Dad insists that Nark can take care of herself and that he’ll explain everything later. Good luck, dad. I know what’s going on, and there’s nothing you could say that can “explain” this away.
We see Nark in a car with Jongsing clearly not in Thailand anymore. Later we will find out that Boss Man is supposed to be a bigwig Hong Kong mafia person but people keep mentioning Taiwan, so I don’t know where they are.
SHUKNOTE: Dadaocheng Wharf is located along a busy ferry route that services Taipei City up to Tamsui City. TransAsia Airlines is a now-defunct Taiwan-based domestic transportation company. And that tall building framed by MoS is Taipei 101, the tallest structure on the island.
Nark is curiously and worriedly looking outside. We see a shot of Boss Man in The Robe sitting on his bed or looking out at the night sky. Is that anger on his face? Confusion? Consternation? We just alternate these scenes for a long time with DM—car SA/robe SA/car SA/robe SA/car SA/robe SA—until we assume time has passed and it’s the next day.
If I had something like that to wear, I'd probably find a rooftop for that perfect dramatic pose bracketed by skyscrapers of Not Hong Kong. 
Oooh. I am feeling the power of those intense SAs.
He probably bankrupted dad because he was secretly in love with the pretty one but since his manhood is inversely proportional to his bank account he knew he would never win her over unless he bought her. Now both his little friend AND his bank balance are sad.
This would actually make it more interesting. Dad is just bad and a dumb businessman.
Boss Man comes in with a spectacular VEST (the second vest sighting--VS--of this recap) and asks the same questions to Nark. He shows Nark the agreement her father signs, which infuriates her even more than she has been already. He even has Jongsing cock his gun at her (don’t get excited, Jo. It’s not that kind of show)(HOW DID YOU KNOW I WAS HERE?) to get her to give information. She just hilariously faints (in cross-eyed glory), which proves to them that she really doesn’t know where her family is.
I have decided that we don't get enough cross eyed fainting in Lakorns. They should totally become an official must-have trope.

He has to decide what to do with her. She offers to pay off the debt herself. He scoffs at the idea. How is she going to pay it off? She’s a kid, and she’s not pretty (wow, the way they harp on this—I think they have to keep saying it because it’s really not true), but she taunts him (to the surprise of Jongsing and the minions who keep pulling out their guns at her) saying he’s afraid to lose a bet to a woman and a kid.
Does Nark figure she has nothing to lose? I am surprised that a girl that young is that calm when threatened with violence. Maybe because they didn't do anything to her after she passed out before?
That she remembers, anyway.

He takes the bait, telling her that he will kill her if he finds Nan before she can pay off the debt and walks out. But before he goes she asks his name. He is Lin. Lan. Ser. (BOMB TANIN MANOONSILP).
Full name is Bombastic.  Look it up.  It fits.
Not either of these "Lancers".

Jongsing takes Nark to where she will be living and working, a cargo container in what looks like a complex of cargo container turned bunkhouses for workers on a giant construction site. She does more angry wiggling and cursing her dad for making such an agreement and leaving her, but then she realizes that her dad probably was smart because she isn’t pretty enough to be a mistress, so she is safer than Nan would be.
That is true unless Lan Ser had simply shot Nark for being quarrelsome. Dad's thinking is faulty.
Dad's entire soul is faulty.

Meanwhile, Jongsing goes back to ask Lin Lan Ser (LLS) what he plans to do because keeping Nark as she is will make everything more complicated, but LLS is suspicious. He doesn’t think Nark is an ordinary kid. Now he not only wants Jongsing to keep looking for Nan but to also look into Nark’s background (DM and SA). Poor Jongsing. He already probably has a pretty big job description, but now he also has to keep an eye on Nark as well. I’m thinking that I’m going to be saying “Poor Jongsing” a lot in these recaps.
Am I the only one who sees Jongsing and thinks sexy mafia priest? I know this is a style of clothing in Thailand, but for this westerner, my mind shifts to a casually dressed priest.
Nope. You are not the only one. This was the reason I tracked down and watched other lakorns with Not in them. He's a very versatile actor, but unfortunately, never wore these types of outfits again.
I need to figure out which one is which, clearly.

Next scene introduces us to a well-equipped high-powered board room. But we know it isn’t typical because this is Chaibong Group, the conglomerate/gang that LLS rules. They are clearly having a board meeting with one of the elders, San Gui, talking about a potential partner, Carlos Tapia, who sells weapons both legal and illegal. He thinks it will be essential to get him as a partner even though he is so elusive.
If they are big enough to have a huge boardroom and a rainbow logo, why do they need to add additional partners that may put their activities under scrutiny? Especially one already known for illegal business. 

He suggests that LLS try to broker this deal, and it’s clear that this challenge is potentially a set up since no one has been able to contact or partner with this guy. There is much more power play going on in this group between the older generation but also between the possible heirs—LLS and Pey Lin, who volunteers to broker the deal himself if LLS thinks he isn’t capable (cue SA).
Zoom stares combined with double side-eye, with just a hint of rueful smile to cap it off. (Smiler is cute, but I think the guy in the white vest is the cutest.
San Gui’s godson, Lan Yong Wen, speaks up trying to smooth over the hostility only to become Pey Lin’s target who claims that the man doesn’t have the right to speak at this table being only a godson. San Gui is insulted, but Lan Yong Wen  meekly says that Pey Lin is correct and apologizes, but we all know this is an act and not just because this actor always plays crazy people. Cue SA.
I was totally distracted from the mafia politicking by San Gui's mustache. It looks like they took Christmas tree flocking spray to achieve that artfully gray look. I would also like to note that the amount of gray seems to change depending on the scene. It looked a lot less flocked when he was in the bathroom.
Sometimes he has to get the flock out of there.

We move to some random European town where Carlos Tapia (I keep spelling it Tapioca or Tilapia) is in bed with some random blond European woman. His room in under surveillance from Thai police (yup. Thai police. Not in conjunction with the police of this European country or Interpol—just there, hanging). He manages to escape (he even has a small pipe bomb to throw into room) and clearly this happens frequently because he calls the police officer by first name, Patrick.
The true star of this scene was the hotel concierge. You know he was attempting to make the most of his ten minutes of fame. Too bad he wasn't injured during the crossfire. We could have had a dramatic death scene to round out his character arc.
There's a couple of flags in the background of the shooting scene. One is the European Union. I'm not sure of the other one; it almost looks like Western Samoa. Anyway, there is a blurb at the end that identifies Patrick as Interpol. But going into a firefight with a tie but no ballistic protection or tactical gear seems silly at best and deadly at worst.

In the next scene, finally get to meet the female 2nd lead, Fan Mei Jin (NOEY CHOTIKA WONGWILAS). She struts into Chaibong group suite with her strapless dress, fur wrap, and curtain tassel earrings (please have a pic of this outfit) demanding attention just by her appearance.
Hi, just on my way to my usual street corner, thought I'd come say heyyyyy.
She is an actress / super model who is frequently LLS’s date for events. She is really pretty but very over the top in her dressing and her trying to convince LLS to see her as a woman. I was intrigued that he has her but was still taken with Nan. Not that this type of thing is new or surprising in theory, but the show clearly does not set him up as a womanizer. He is presented by the writers as too somber and focused on Chaibong to even think about women or anything else for that matter.
True. I think they imply that this is a business arrangement, to give him public eye candy for events, and to boost her popularity.

Jongsing, poor thing, tries to warn her that LLS isn’t in a good mood, but she is sure that she can put him in a good mood. He’s definitely grumpy and, worse, he is sitting in front of a picture of Nan that he has framed and sitting on his desk. Mei Jin doesn’t think Nan looks strong enough to be his mistress and says so. LLS tells her that maybe he doesn’t want Nan for a mistress, which worries her, but changes the subject and says he's hungry so they should go eat.
Ha! I had almost forgotten that creepy photo of Nan. Did LLS have it taken from security cameras at the club? Did he have a professional photographer following her in order to get high-class photos of the object of his lust? Either way, Lan Ser has reached an unhealthy level of stalkerdom.
I told you he bankrupted the dad on purpose...

Back at construction site, Nark is working moving pipes with a wheelbarrow when another young guy, Tahai, comes up to her and asks if she is new (ShukNote: The white overvests read "Rainbow Group" in Chinese). She says she is paying off a debt to LLS which surprises him because he wants to know why she isn’t a mistress instead because that pays better. But she says that she isn’t pretty enough (yawn--we get it), which he finds surprising because he thinks she is pretty, but she scoffs. He tells her he has to go to another job, and when she find out he does deliveries, she asks if he can get her a job, too. We then get a sequence of them bicycling around town while he shows her around (I’m assuming to help her learn the area for her deliveries).
It's nice she now has a friend, but does he have purpose to the plot? Is he there to get LLS jealous? Or just another 1899 Newsies fashion icon? Is he the next-door neighbor to the DoP who wanted a cameo?
You mean he's not the second lead?
Nope. He's just her Newsies colleague.
Once they stop to get drinks and see LLS and Fan Mei coming out of a building. Tahai wants to hide because he finds LLS scary, but Nark goes right up to LLS, blocked in the last minute by his minions and Jongsing, to ask him (beg him really) not to make her go to school so she can use all her time for earning money. But LLS is going to stick to her father’s request to let her finish school.
Gun running, prostitution, and kidnapping are all on the table. But when it comes to a good education, that is where LLS draws the ethical line. 
Fei Ming wants to know more about Nark, but LLS doesn’t want to talk about her. In fact, he doesn’t even want Fei Ming to stay with him tonight—even after she suggests running a bath for them to share. He tells Jongsing to take her home.

Poor Jongsing spends quite a bit of his time taking women home. But this one is different. You can tell he is both frustrated by and sorry for Fei Min. He refuses to take her to a bar, which is where she wants to go, because he has orders to take her home. She denies that she is LLS’s mistress because she just goes on dates with him for his public functions. Jongsing suggests that she get out of the contract, but she admits that she has fallen in love with LLS and wants to be treated like a real girlfriend. We get a fairly long sequence of her SA because we need to hear her complete theme song (TS).
I never quite understand the plot logic, where these women walk into a relationship, knowing that the lines are clearly drawn and visible, but then get all moody and upset when they want to change the rules but nobody else does. This is a frequent lakorn trope that always confuses me.
The episode ends with Nan sitting on the wrap around deck of the most beautiful running away from the mafia retreat bungalow I’ve ever seen. Ironically, she is SA while thinking of LLS. Apparently she had seen him, too, watching her when her father went to meet with him. She clearly thinks he’s attractive, and I am not sure she would have been upset by having to be his mistress for this debt no matter how horrified she acts.
I'm thinking some of that "bow-chicka-wow-wow" music is echoing in her head. But, in reality, how much of LLS did she see, behind that rosy gauze? The premise seems tulle-flimsy. But I'm convinced neither LLS nor Nan are geniuses, if he thinks she's the prize catch and she thinks that paying a debt that way is the best thing to happen to her. 

Favorite Line of Episode:

“You should spend your time finding my dad instead of sitting here being handsome.” Nark to Lin Lan Ser right after she says she doesn’t want to call him stupid.

"I don't like these color contact lenses. Your own eye color looks much sexier." 
"I told you not to discuss this matter. It's personal." - Proof that LLS is actually Spike hiding out from his former crew on Cowboy Bebop.

"I have never seen this car before. Are they here to pick up a young master/mistress? Or are they waiting to kidnap a student for ransom?" - Nark noticing Jongsing's car outside her school. Oh, Jongsing. You are such a cute mafia priest looking creeper.
He is super cute. He's my favorite person of all.


This drama is all that I remembered and more. I am so excited to have an excuse to watch it again.
Yes. Watching it all unfold again is its own reward.
Whoa there, some great method acting there...