Since there are literally no recaps anywhere for this drama (I understand, it’s not most people’s cup of tea), and I’ve decided to spare all of you from my incessant and incomprehensible rambling, to try to practice/take on some recapping. I’ve recently gotten pretty good at the screen-capping thing, though I don’t know if there’s much in Empire of Gold people want to see screen-capped other than Go Soo‘s smoldering stare-downs that seem to do more bad than good. (Sorry Go Soo! You’re handsome…just not the best actor.) I decided to start at Episode 8 because it’s a half way compromise between doing an umbrella 1-8 recap (which would probably lead to more EoG rants no one wants and a ton more work) and starting with Episode 9 (zero context for an episode that is all about the previous one).
I also want to ask that you please, please comment, so I can get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work while I try the active recapping instead of the vague summaries I normally do, or in the case of Empire of Gold, crazy rants. Just FYI, I’ve basically “stolen” the recap format from Dramabeans because it works really well. (Imitation is the greatest form of flattery?) Hopefully they’ll forgive me for that.
You can read my first impressions post for a better idea of the tone of the drama, but I’ve written out the “premise of the story” as well as “character summaries.” Just click on the (2) at the bottom of this post to see them. I have to admit though, you’re probably better off watching the show.
Choi Seo-yoon thanks a government official at the home office for supporting Sung Jin’s acquisition of Han-sung Steel (her last gift to her father), giving him an antique vase. In the mean time, Choi Min-jae‘s “secretary”/Sung Jin Director brings Min-jae news that Jang Tae-joo has secured the necessary technology for Sung Jin Construction’s development of Sung Jin Steel. He smirks, thinking about how Seo-yoon has no knowledge of the huge amount of hidden capital that Sung Jin Construction has and how close he is to toppling Seo-yoon.
Seo-yoon arrives at Sung Jin Headquarters, and to Min-jae’s surprise, orders that development of Sung Jin Steel be halted immediately. This turn of events throws a wrench in Min-jae and Tae-joo’s plans, leading the two of them to meet up later that night (over a beer) to discuss how to counteract Seo-yoon.
Min-jae apologizes for the fact that Tae-joo’s work had become useless, but the latter would have none of that. Instead, Tae-joo suggests that they take over Han-sung Steel overtly, using the 200 Billion Won they have accumulated over the past three years. Min-jae thinks he’s crazy, but lets Tae-joo do it.
The next day at Eden, Yoon Seul-hee and Tae-joo start planning how to accumulate investors into their takeover scheme. While the two begin to find creditors to contact, Tae-joo tells Jo Pil-joo to go Singapore to meet with President Kim of Han-sung—who had to flee the country because of his company failing and the risk of his embezzlement money being uncovered.
Seul-hee then randomly starts discussing about the Sung Jin Suites model, Yoon Hee-jung, asking Tae-joo out for a “thank you” dinner…by himself. (Seul-hee, can you be any more obvious about your humongous crush on Tae-joo?) She muses that it’s obviously a date, and that Tae-joo should go since he should probably be getting married soon. In response, Tae-joo remarks:
Do you know when Hitler got married?… In the underground bunker surrounded by the Allied Forces—when there was no more hope left, when he could no longer go forward—he married Eva Braun. They died together a few days later.
Say what? Is he trying to say that he’s Adolf Hitler and she’s Eva Braun???????
And then, right when you think Tae-joo couldn’t get anymore cryptic, he hands Seul-hee an envelope of 100 Million Won as a birthday present—right after telling her to go contact some more investors for their Han-sung takeover.
Choi Dong-sung is in critical condition at the hospital for his glioblastoma, having only days to live. Evil Stepmother gets nervous from the news, because she needs Dong-sung to be alive for three months in order to finish preparing her stocks to steal the Chairman position from Seo-yoon. The Doctor suggests that “Evil Stepmother,” Han Jeong-hee, contact the rest of the family, but she lies to Seo-yoon and the rest of the family, downplaying Dong-sung’s hospitalization to give herself time. Sung-jae can only look weakly at his mother, conflicted between his loyalty and love for his mother, and the love that Dong-sung and Seo-yoon have given him. Dong-sung, unaware of his wife’s motives, calls her in to ask her to relay to Seo-yoon the existence of some hidden accounts where he has kept a significant sum of money. Evil Stepmom realizes that this could save her evil plan, and keeps the information secret.
Seo-yoon continues to convince Directors to help her takeover Han-sung Steel, and asks (read: demands) her brother to help her in accomplishing that. Won-jae notes that the Directors are reluctant because of growing fears that the Korean economy could collapse due to too much credit, but Seo-yoon dismisses it as a petty worry. On the other side of things, Tae-joo succeeds in getting the bank presidents to join his consortium, and prepares a letter of intent to go against Sung Jin’s.
That night, Dong-sung and Sung-jae have a heart to heart, wherein Dong-sung reveals that he knew that Sung-jae wasn’t his son since the beginning, and the fact that he just wanted to raise Sung-jae as well as he could so that Sung-jae’s father would be happy. Sung-jae breaks down, to Dong-sung shock, and confesses of his mother’s malicious intents. While this is happening, at home, Evil Stepmom blocks everyone from visiting Dong-sung.
The following day, Seo-yoon finds out about Eden’s letter of intent and immediately guesses that Min-jae is behind the events. She gets upset at Won-jae for doing a terrible job of keeping watch over the Han-sung Steel takeover, and sends him to talk to Minjae about his plans. Some evil bantering goes on between the two, and by the end, Min-jae has reduced Won-jae to an incompetent fool who is no better than a lapdog for Seo-yoon. Afterwards, Min-jae’s Director/Secretary tries to convince Min-jae to stop Tae-joo but Min-jae just ignores him, telling the Secretary to just let the racehorse do what it wants.
Won-jae gets affected by Min-jae and Seo-yoon’s words and visits his father, drunk and devastated. He begs his father to acknowledge him at least once, while Evil Stepmother freaks out about whether Won-jae will be the means by which Seo-yoon will find out about Evil Stepmother’s real face. Dong-sung, like an idiot, ignores his son’s pleas, and keeps asking for Seo-yoon. His one, short comment on borrowed name accounts falls on deaf ears, and Dong-sung’s chance send the message to Seo-yoon is gone.
Tae-joo, Seul-hee, Min-jae, and Choi Dong-jin go out to dinner. As they eat, Dong-jin randomly mentions that Seul-hee should meet up with an eligible bachelor he knows, President Kim. Tae-joo responds (half-jokingly?) that she can’t because she might become his wife. But he doesn’t stop there, oh no, for he continues on to say that it’s because Director Yoon sees him as a man…and then turns around and asks her if he’s correct about that. (WTH Tae-joo?) What’s more, he asserts that the only person he’ll marry (if he ever gets married) will be Seul-hee, because he knows that she’ll wait forever for him. (Tae-joo, you win for strangest, most male chauvinistic, unromantic confession I have ever seen.) Seul-hee, with a shy smile, just responds that she has no idea how to react to Tae-joo’s words.
However, this dinner takes a serious turn when Dong-jin (with Seo-yoon’s influence) asks Min-jae and Tae-joo to drop their bid for Han-sung Steel and let his brother get the company he built back. Min-jae coldly asks in return why the steel company truly belongs to Dong-sung, when it was Dong-jin who went to Jail for Dong-sung because of corruption charges from the Steel company and brought back the technology from Japan for it. The issue drops.
Tae-joo and Min-jae share a heart to heart afterwards (if Tae-joo has such a thing) about their dissatisfaction with their fathers. Both are embarrassed by them, upset by how naively straightforward they are. The two talk about their painful experiences watching their fathers live with high moral code and an open heart, only to see them reduced to being a servant to throw around. Tae-joo and Min-jae come to the conclusion that while they love their fathers, they’ll never live like them. And with that, they start to move forward on their Han-sung takeover in “all or nothing” fashion.
The artillery in this figurative war begin to build up and move on both sides, but not before we have another moment between Seul-hee and Tae-joo. As he leaves the office, she tells him that she’ll wait for him, but she’ll never enter the bunker. Tae-joo laughs and assures her that he doesn’t ever plan on going to the bunker. She retorts back that she’s gone too soft. He awkwardly pokes her cheek and with a smirk, counters that she hasn’t gotten soft, she’s surrendered to the man she loves.
(Oh dear lord, I don’t know how much more of this I can handle. Tae-joo is both an utterly awful human being and immensely charming.)
Evil Stepmom knows the end is near for Dong-sung, and changes her ring back to the one she shared with her first husband. Tae-joo sends media fire against Seo-yoon getting President Kim to tell the public that Han-sung was pressured by Sung Jin. Seo-yoon holds her ground, only adding more to the bidding price with the advent of negative press, now at 1.2 Trillion Won. In the evening, Seo-yoon comes home dejected and tired from the media onslaught and familial pressure, and goes to Sung-jae for comfort. When Sung-jae is cold to her, she shares how much she’s worked to care for him and how gifts are all about the timing…and she wishes that she could have gained Han-sung Steel far earlier to give back to her father what he had given to all of them.
And that’s when Sung-jae breaks down and tells Seo-yoon that their father was about to die.
There were a surprising number of heavy, emotional moments in this episode, and they’ve made very clear the real actors in this drama as opposed to those who..are not. The moments between Choi Dong-sung and [insert person here] were extremely powerful, especially those with Han Jeong-hee verbally suffocating the man. It was both heartbreaking and stunning to watch Dong-sung gain and lose hope (just by noticing his facial gestures change) as he lay in bed like a vegetable, trapped by his own body. Park Geun-hyung was absolutely stellar in this episode, and it’s really really sad to think that he has to go very, very soon.
The Won-jae, Min-jae verbal spar was epic as well, and the two actors played off each other so, so, well. Every line from Sohn Hyun-joo had impeccable delivery, especially the section that started with “There was a wind blowing, I had to survive. There wasn’t a wind blowing, I had to survive…” In fact, it was amazing, and I had to watch it three times. Despite not knowing any Korean, the words stung. At times, it felt so real that I honestly became Won-jae, being verbally abused by Min-jae. Incredible.
And then we get to the other three main leads and the acting quality basically jumps off the cliff. Down. Lee Yo-won holds up pretty well, but could loosen herself a bit to avoid coming off dry. Jang Shin-young‘s character is so annoying I can’t even watch her anymore—and it’s not entirely because of the writing. Seul-hee was complex in the beginning, but at this episode she became a lovesick puppy and her facial expressions became more grating than ever. On a similar note, we have Go Soo succeeding at one and only one thing: making his character extremely dislikable. I actually wanted to see as little of Jang Tae-joo as I could. If only he would be satisfied with Eden, would marry Seul-hee and would get on with his life.
In all honesty, this is my big gripe with this story is how useless Eden’s presence is to the underlying story of Empire of Gold. I think we would have had a compelling story without Tae-joo, his family, Seul-hee, and Pil-joo, because there’s already so much going on within the Choi family to make me interested and invested. Yeah, I’m still curious about how those “first ten minutes” came to be, but in the grand scheme of things, I really don’t care anymore. All I want to see is Seo-yoon, Min-jae and Stepmom duke it out from a business level all the way down to a moral level. There’s so much to address just with them that it could easily fill 24 episodes.
Unfortunately though, contemplating “what if”s is not going to change anything.
(SBS) Episode 9 Recap