We’ve changed our minds about recapping Come Back, Ajusshi, which is really delivering on the humor and heart promised in the first episode. I’ll be helping catch up to the currently airing episodes, and I’m excited to get a chance to weigh in on this fun show.
I’m finding this to be an extremely entertaining watch, with a lot going on besides just the obvious eye candy and body-swap humor. Young-soo and Gi-tak are hilariously hapless as they try to figure out how to adjust to their new bodies, which causes a lot of problems when they try to approach those they used to care about. Their learning curve will be steep, but such a fun curve it will be for us to watch.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
The afterlife ticket seller, whose name we’ll learn is MAYA (Ra Mi-ran), tries and fails to get into a locked room, grumbling about humans creating problems. She finally just kicks the door down, pulls a file out of an old cabinet, and seats herself at the desk just as Gi-tak and Young-soo fall out of the sky into a pair of chairs.
She calmly waits for them to stop screaming (it takes a minute), and presents them with Request to Return forms. She explains that, since they were determined enough to actually jump off the train to Heaven, they will be given a chance to return to Earth. If they refuse this chance, they can take the next Heaven-bound train.
The guys hardly even need to think about it, but Maya stops them from signing too quickly — this is very dangerous. If they break the rules, “something really horrible” will happen to them. She doesn’t say anything other than whatever it is, it’s much more horrible than anything they can imagine, even Hell.
Young-soo snatches the form and signs, saying that he’ll be careful, but Maya still tries to stop Gi-tak. He doesn’t have a family, so why does he want to go back so badly? He admits that a gangster like him should feel lucky to have a chance at Heaven, but if Yi-yeon is unhappy because of his actions, then his life will have been meaningless.
And so, both Young-soo and Gi-tak sign, and are sent back to Earth.
Young-soo is woken by a ringing phone, and finds himself in a fancy hotel room. It’s Maya on the phone, and Young-soo wonders why his voice sounds strange. He catches a glimpse of himself in a full-length mirror, and gasps at the gorgeous stranger. He stares for a long time, hardly believing that this sexy specimen is himself.
He takes the time to inspect every inch of his new body, and I do mean every inch. Maya explains that they’ve given him a body and face that are the exact opposite of his former self, HA. Young-soo bristles at that, but he’s mollified when Maya says that they designed him to look like he’d always wanted to in his fantasies.
Maya lets him know that there are three rules to their return to Earth: First, they can’t reveal who they truly are. Second, revenge is forbidden. Third, they can’t engage in any human affairs. If any of the three rules are broken, that unspoken “really horrible” thing will happen.
Gi-tak wakes in a different hotel room, and finds something… crucial… missing when he goes to the restroom. He calls Maya to demand an explanation when he realizes that the new body he’s been given is female. HA, his body just instinctively acts feminine, whether he wants it to or not.
Maya casually offers to send him to Heaven now if he wants to change his mind, and he reminds her that he has something important to do. But how can he do that with a body and face like this? PFFT, even as he whines about his new body, he can’t help but take a good look.
Maya goes over a few more things for Young-soo and Gi-tak — they have phones that they can call her with at any time, and a watch to keep track of time. They’re each given an empty wallet, which will produce whatever money they need, when they need it.
Young-soo is thrilled with how well he wears a suit now, and he can’t help but admire his physique in the elevator mirror. He gives his own ass a few firm slaps — which is when the elevator door opens, of course. HA.
Gi-tak is not so pleased, stuck in a tight dress and spike heels he can barely walk in. The guys’ struts through the hotel lobby are distinctively different (well, Gi-tak’s is more like a wobbly stompy shuffle), and they accidentally crash into each other. Young-soo ends up catches Gi-tak before he falls, and Gi-tak asks if his butt is soft enough, considering that Young-soo has his hands all over it.
On the train Gi-tak snatches someone’s newspaper — there’s a story that Yi-yeon’s supposed boyfriend, the model who lied about having an affair with her, has been cast in a drama. Guess that worked out well for him. The new gossip about Yi-yeon is that she’s so strapped for money, she’s going to do a nude photo shoot, and Gi-tak grits his teeth just thinking about it.
He gets in a bit of trouble for kicking a pervy ogler where it really hurts, and Maya reminds him that if he gets in a bind, to press the star button on his phone. If he decides to end his time on Earth at any point, he can just press the pound key.
He’s told that a day in Purgatory is the equivalent of a month on Earth, which means that it’s been a month since the men died. Gi-tak goes to his restaurant, getting a bit choked up at the idea of seeing his boys, but the restaurant has been taken over by someone named Na Suk-chul. He seems to know who this is, and he’s not happy.
The place is no longer bustling like it was when Gi-tak owned it, and he demands to see Suk-chul immediately. He runs into the office to find that his precious restaurant is now just a front for a gambling operation.
We learn that Maya’s last bit of information for the guys is that they have two months on Earth before the next train to Heaven departs. If they miss that train, “something horrible” will happen. She never clarifies what the “something horrible” is, but by her expression, it must be pretty bad.
Young-soo finds himself drawn to Sunjin Department Store, and he sees that the banner that he died trying to fix, is now being taken down. He thinks to himself that he may have died, but the world moves on.
He just happens to overhear his old manager being asked if he thinks that Kim Young-soo committed suicide. He clenches his fist in anger when Manager Park confirms that yes, he killed himself to avoid being investigated for taking bribes — especially since that same manager told him to keep the money that his wife took home accidentally.
Young-soo’s coworkers actually think that he was overworked and stressed, but Manager Park takes the stance that he was stressed because he couldn’t hack the job. Ugh, you slimy little worm. Young-soo watches from a distance, sad and frustrated, thinking how he gave his life to this place that would stab him in the back.
He finds himself striding into the store, giving himself a pep talk. He walks through his old department like he used to do, greeting the employees and motioning for them to straighten their nametags or wipe off their lipstick, and they instinctively obey though they have no clue who he is. He creates quite a stir, with his new face and body.
He collides with an employee carrying a pile of clothing, and when he stoops to help her pick them up, he’s shocked to see that it’s his wife, Da-hye. She must have gotten a job here after he died, and he thinks to himself how sorry he is about their last, tense conversation.
Gi-tak gets the lowdown on the rumors surrounding his own death: everyone is saying that he was in love with a divorcee, and beat people up for her and gave her his life savings. He asks the gangsters where his boys are, the ones he took in and gave jobs in his restaurant, but they don’t take him seriously.
Things get ugly when one of the thugs hits on him and Gi-tak has to deliver a few beatings, which he does quite handily… except that it’s only in his imagination, and in reality he’s just a tiny woman standing on a table waving her arms around. HA. So he does the only thing he can do, and threatens their leader with a high heel to the face.
He’s carried out to the street anyway, completely unable to inspire fear in anyone. He hears a commotion in the alley and sees that one of his boys, Jae-gil, still works here. But he’s treated terribly and cowers in fear of his superior, and Gi-tak nearly cries seeing it.
Jae-gil has no clue who this strange woman is who knows his name, but Gi-tak has thought of a cover story, and tells Jae-gil that he’s Gi-tak’s little sister. Jae-gil wails right there in the street and hugs Gi-tak — then cops a feel, heh.
Gi-tak thumps him and asks where Seung-jae is, but Jae-gil calls that guy a traitor. Apparently he now works for Suk-chul as Yi-yeon’s manager-slash-bodyguard. That news sends Gi-tak flying down the street barefoot, lost in memory.
We see young Yi-yeon battered and bruised, while nearby young Gi-tak fights with several boys. He screams for Yi-yeon to run when they get the better of him, and she does, looking back once to see Gi-tak being brutally beaten.
Now Yi-yeon lies in bed, a single tear tracking down her face. She’s just signed a contract with a new agency, but she hadn’t met the agency president until after the papers were signed. Her excitement turned to horror when she realized that she’s now owned by Suk-chul, the leader of the boys who’d hurt her that day long ago.
She tried to grab the contract to rip it up, but Suk-chul was too fast for her. He said that he was just trying to help an old friend, in a tone that implied that helping her is the last thing he plans to do. He’d ominously added that he also owes her late father a favor.
Yi-yeon crumples as she recalls how Suk-chul told her that Gi-tak died because of her — just another threat to keep her in line as his new acquisition. As she sobs alone in her room, Seung-jae stands outside her door like a stone statue.
Young-soo watches Da-hye for a moment, but he’s distracted by the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which is the store’s secret code for a fire alarm. He realizes that Da-hye is too new to react quickly to the code and he grabs her arm, and she misunderstands his intentions and stammers that she’s a married woman.
Da-hye finally hears the music and catches on, but they hear through an employee’s walkie-talkie that it’s a false alarm. He asks the man why customers weren’t evacuated, earning some pretty suspicious glares. His behavior calls enough attention to himself that the employees all start to wonder if he works there.
As it happens, Jae-gook is not Chairman Cha’s only son. And there are rumors that Jae-gook may not inherit the company, as the other son is on his way here to work at the store. Sure enough, Chairman Cha tells Jae-gook, through his freaky secretary Ms. Wang, that he’s worried about the store. He’s aware of Jae-gook’s plans to sell the store and strongly disapproves.
The recent scandal with Young-soo’s “suicide” and Jae-gook’s messy divorce are making it difficult for the store to make a profit, but Chairman Cha thinks they can turn it around. He blames the management team, and tells Jae-gook (still through the shrieking Ms. Wang) that they’ll be making some drastic changes. Someone is on his way from the States to take over.
He’s on a plane right now, and we learn that he’s a Stanford graduate with a very high IQ, nicknamed the Wizard of Management Consulting. His name is Lee Hae-joon, and he’s also Chairman Cha’s illegitimate son. He could be the secret weapon that saves the store, but his arrival is also a huge threat to Jae-gook.
Manager Park and Ji-hoon, another member of the management team who’d been friendly with Young-soo, pass by Da-hye on their rounds of the store. Manager Park hates that she’s here, though it’s not known that she’s Young-soo’s wife, though Ji-hoon makes a point to stop and offer her a small bow.
They run into a glowering Young-soo, who just heard Manager Park tell Ji-hoon to fire Da-hye. He’s had enough of Manager Park and gets right in his face, using his newfound height to tower over his old boss to hilarious effect. He asks Ji-hoon where the president’s office is, intending to go complain about how Manager Park ignored him just now.
Manager Park is mystified but he bows an apology, and Young-soo takes great satisfaction in making him keep bowing lower and lower until his forehead nearly touches the floor.
Maya calls, but he swears he won’t let them identify him, while Manager Park and Ji-hoon wonder who he is (“Have you seen any normal people with such long legs??” Hee). Manager Park decides that he must be a celebrity who’s angry that he didn’t recognize him, but the other employees think that he’s the new store manager.
Jae-gook grumbles about his father’s plans to Ms. Wang, who ominously wonders how things would be if the brothers’ fates had been switched: “You can never be sure that it didn’t happen.” After all, his father started as a shoe shine boy and made it to the top, and he enjoys switching things up. Ooo, interesting.
Ms. Wang tells Jae-gook that the President of Korea recently gifted his father a pair of dogs. The dogs attacked the male dog who already lived there, and the chairman’s favorite is the dog who won the fight.
Jae-gook ignores Yi-yeon’s call, looking for their son, and Seung-jae stops her when she tries to get in her car. He’s utterly respectful and calm, and clearly isn’t enjoying his new job as her bodyguard/jailer, and his voice is practically robotic as he reminds her that it would be bad to break her ordered visitation with her son.
When Yi-yeon loses her temper, Seung-jae gives her an envelope from her ex-husband containing the incriminating photos of her hugging Gi-tak. Jae-gook finally answers her call and assures her that they’re still private, but Yi-yeon knows that he’s protecting his own image, not hers.
Jae-gook is a nasty piece of work — he makes it clear that if she doesn’t behave herself, he’ll release the photos and then the whole world, and their small son Young-chan, will know what kind of woman she is. Or at least, what kind of woman he wants them to think she is.
Livid, Yi-yeon growls that he killed Gi-tak. Jae-gook doesn’t answer, but just says that he’ll be keeping Young-chan for a few extra days, and Yi-yeon spits back that whatever she’s done, it will never be as despicable as his acts.
With nowhere to aim her fury, Yi-yeon slaps Seung-jae, saying that she can’t believe that Gi-tak ever thought he was trustworthy. Seung-jae says that he’s only trying to survive, and asks why she went to Gi-tak instead of staying with her husband.
Yi-yeon winds up for another slap, but this time he grabs her wrist, angry now himself. He says that it’s not his business what happened between her and Gi-tak, but calls it betrayal either way. Gi-tak abandoned his family (the boys at his restaurant) over a woman, and broke his promise to them.
Suddenly a hand clamps down on Seung-jae’s arm, and he and Yi-yeon look down to see a strange woman standing there. It’s Gi-tak, though they don’t know it, and he heard every word Seung-jae said about him. “Stop. It hurts,” he says quietly, addressing both Seung-jae’s words and his grip on Yi-yeon’s arm.
He says that every word was true, but it hurts… so Seung-jae better stop before he beats him up. Cut to: Seung-jae and Yi-yeon staring at Gi-tak, actually on the same side now, thinking that this chick must be nuts.
Neither of them believe his story about being Gi-tak’s sister, especially since Yi-yeon has known Gi-tak since childhood. He says that his “brother” raised his sister away from everyone to protect her from being associated with him, and snarls when Seung-jae is all Yeah, I don’t think so.
For a moment it seems like Yi-yeon might be buying it…. but nope. They roll their eyes when Gi-tak says that he lived in the States, but not to study, and it becomes increasingly clear that he’s lying through his teeth.
Yi-yeon speaks to Gi-tak in English as a test, which Gi-tak fails, and I don’t blame them one bit for kicking him out — his lies are so obvious. He tries one last time to prove his story by saying that his “brother” has a dragon tattoo, but Seung-jae just whips off his shirt to display his own giant dragon tattoo on his back. “I must be your brother then.” HAHA.
As he’s being shoved out the door Gi-tak yells out a question: Who took the picture under the bridge? That brings Yi-yeon back, since supposedly nobody knows about the photos, and her eyes are steely as she demands to know who Gi-tak really is.
Da-hye collapses at work when she sees a policeman, and it reminds her of the policeman who came to tell her of Young-soo’s death. She rests in a storeroom, but she can’t escape the knowledge that her husband worked here. Ji-hoon brings her a drink, leaving her to her thoughts with a kind smile.
Da-hye knocks over a tall stack of boxes when she tries to avoid a cart, but someone pulls her close and shields her from the falling merchandise. She doesn’t know that it’s actually Young-soo, only seeing the handsome stranger she ran into earlier.
At the same time, Maya gasps at her screen — Young-soo’s new body was supposed to be unique, but she’s accidentally made him the spitting image of a man who already exists. And what’s worse, the real man is Lee Hae-joon, Chairman Cha’s illegitimate son, right now on his way to take over the department store. This is bad, very bad.
Young-soo holds Da-hye for a long moment, thinking to himself the words he can’t say out loud: “Honey, if I knew this was going to happen, I would have hugged you more. I should have said that I love you, and thanked you.” But when Da-hye jumps out of his arms, he remembers that he’s a stranger to her.
He snaps in frustration when she tries to wipe off his suit, then realizes that he liked the contact and points out some more dirt. She jumps again when he picks some lint from her jacket, and he’s so flustered that he puts the lint right back where he found it. Cute.
Yi-yeon is willing to listen to Gi-tak now, since obviously he knows something about her situation. Still in his little sister persona, he claims that he spoke to Gi-tak that night, and that he/she is here because Yi-yeon needs someone she can trust.
Maya calls Young-soo to tell him about her mistake, and the news that he’s the doppelganger of Chairman Cha’s son hits him like a ton of bricks. But Maya has a plan, and she conducts events like a maestro, as we see the real Hae-joon’s plane hit a storm and start to go down into the ocean.
I really like the unusual tone and feel of Come Back, Ajusshi — it’s too complex to pin down to any one genre. There’s a weighty feel to many of the scenes that keep it from being a comedy, yet there are a lot of moments of cuteness and humor that stop it from being pure melodrama. The reasons that Young-soo and Gi-tak needed to go back to Earth are very real issues, and both men take their responsibilities to those they left behind quite seriously. And though seeing them navigate the world in new bodies is hilariously entertaining, whose same bodies create problems that will make their missions difficult to execute.
Most of this episode was dedicated to both men trying to find a way into the trust and good graces of those they love without being able to tell them who they are, which made them look like crazy people which I find vastly amusing, but I can see where that’s going to become frustrating and cause a lot of heartbreak very soon. But I have a feeling that they’ll figure out how to forge new relationships as they settle into their new personas, which could be beneficial in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s too difficult to talk to the source of your pain directly, but talking about their lost loved ones could be much easier for Yi-yeon and Da-hye, once they come to trust these new people in their lives. Of course they won’t know that they’re actually talking to the men who died, but that bit of distance could have them opening up in a way that helps the men accomplish their goals.
It’s still the early days, but I’m quite impressed with the acting performances so far, especially those by Honey Lee and Lee Min-jung. Both seem to have matured in their acting style, and portray Yi-yeon and Da-hye so well that you can sense what they’re feeling without them saying a word. I’ve thought that both ladies are serviceable actresses in the past, good enough and I’ve enjoyed their performances, but never considered them standouts… but this show might just be the one that makes me change my opinion. And I like that both of the women that were left behind are expressing their loss in different ways — Yi-yeon by acting out in fury, and Da-hye suffering in quiet despair. Both are giving dynamic performances so far, and I’m enjoying every moment they’re on my screen.
And speaking of acting, I really have to commend Rain and Oh Yeon-seo for their spot-on portrayals of Young-soo and Gi-tak. It’s frighteningly easy to think of them as their “true” selves, even though they look completely different. Rain especially is nailing Young-soo’s frustration at the situation he left behind and his longing for his family, and I can easily see the bumbling beta male he really is beneath all that gorgeousness. I’m looking forward to seeing him learn to use his new persona to get a little payback at work, and benefit Da-hye in the process. And Oh Yeon-soo plays the alpha-male-in-a-girl’s-body hilariously well, throwing herself into the role with enthusiasm and a complete disregard for looking pretty and feminine. She completely is Gi-tak, head to toe, and it’s fantastic and perfect.
Though I’m still unsure exactly where the show is taking us,at least in regards to Young-soo and Gi-tak’s futures, I have found myself bonding with the characters so strongly that I honestly don’t even care. I just want to watch Young-soo and Gi-tak forever, learning about the important things in life even as they face the reality of their deaths, and trying to figure out how to take care of those they love. If the show continues as strongly as it started, we’re in for an amazingly fun ride.