Hi, I realize that Baker King, Kim Tak Gu has been out for a while, and you may have watched it. I wasn’t interested but I am curious as to why the ratings are so high. Since there are no detailed recaps of the drama, I’m trying my hand at it. I don’t know if I will last all 30 episodes, but I’m filing this in case anyone finds it useful.
A woman is screaming in the surgery room. She’s giving birth to a baby. Outside, an old lady prays at a temple while a younger woman and a little girl stands by. The old lady’s rosary breaks, dropping beads. Things do not look good. The baby comes out and the woman asks the doctor whether it’s a boy. I guess this show is set in the recent past before they had ultrasound scans. The doctor is reluctant to reply and the woman looks bitterly disappointed.
A man, the husband, is informed by his assistant that the baby is a girl. He looks disappointed. He decides to change the topic to a meeting instead of his wife. He seems to be an important person of the Geo Seung company. His name is Il Jong. His assistant is Manager Han.
Grandma, accompanied by Manager Han, shows up in the hospital to visit the new mother, and she laments that the heavens are not blessing them with a grandson and blames the woman. Naturally the woman is unhappy to see the Grandma. The other two younger girls have also come with her.
The woman asks for her husband, but Grandma tells her that he is at a meeting and is too busy for such things. The woman seems disappointed by the fact. Grandma tells her to leave the hospital as soon as she stops bleeding, which seems kinda harsh on top of all the not-so-nice words about how girls are trivial.
Manager Han gives a look of regret and sympathy and follows Grandma out of the room. The nanny and the little girl stay behind, but the woman has no patience to entertain the daughter who misses her. We find out that the little girl is Ja Kyung, and the much older girl is the nanny, called Mi Sun. After the girls leave, the woman stares at the baby for a while, shedding a bitter tear.
The woman goes to some potterymaker/fortune teller/miracle man to ask how she can get a son. One wonders why she is so desperate to get a son — besides the disapproving mother-in-law, and usual disappointed husband. He tells her that she is trying too hard, that she is being greedy, and that greed will only bring her ruin. She even attempts to bribe the miracle man.
He tells her that some things are just not meant to be, especially between her and her husband, all the while smashing pots with a hammer. The only way a son will appear is if she had another man. And by the way, the husband will have a son by another woman before she gets her son.
It is a dark and rainy night. A somewhat stressed out looking Il Jong comes home, accompanied by the usual Manager Han. Mi Sun sees him and greets him, only to be ignored. The house is quiet. Mi Sun double duties as maid and serves tea, and then switches to nurse mode and checks Il Jong’s blood pressure.
Cue moody music as Il Jong’s gaze is drawn to Mi Sun. His stressed out face softens looking at Mi Sun. He asks whether his wife is back, and she says no. He asks how old she is, and she says 24.
There is something in their interaction that suggests some active decision making on Il Jong’s part as he evaluates Mi Sun, a longing like he wished that his wife was the one saying all those caring words. For her part, she seems to slightly be embarrassed talking to him in a way that suggests that she likes him. The tension in the room increase. It’s a dark and stormy night. He strokes her hair, and things proceed in slow-mo. She tries to resist, but not in a convincing way — in a way that again suggests some attraction to Il Jong.
Of course, the little girl has to wake up to look for her nanny. She goes down the stairs of the mansion, and is drawn to the slightly open door where the two adults are. Thankfully she only sees a PG13 hug, and a kiss, but you can guess how traumatized the four year-old might be. Grandma somehow stumbles upon this scene and closes the door, leading the girl away. Grandma will be kind tonight and let Ja Kyung sleep with her.
Greedy Woman finally returns home one day. She sees little Ja Kyung, and senses that something is wrong in the house. She rushes around looking for Mi Sun, and finally finds her in her room, throwing up. That puts the estimate at about two months or so. Really woman, the miracle man tells you that a son will be conceived without you, and you don’t bother to rush home to check that things are in place? I could be wrong, but Il Jong didn’t seem like the kind of guy who goes around with multiple women on the side (I could be so wrong).
The Greedy Woman proceeds to drag Mi Sun out and beats, demanding to know who the father of the child is. Grandma arrives and tells her off: you only have yourself to blame if you go away for so long, leaving your man at home. Implicit backing of Mi Sun. Grandma proceeds to explicitly take Mi Sun’s side, and asks the other servant, Mrs Gong, to feed her well. After Grandma leaves, Greedy Woman asks Mi Sun to abort the baby, otherwise she will kill her.
Mi Sun is driven to the hospital for the abortion, accompanied by Manager Han. She sees the pregnant women at the door, and she looks clearly hesitant about the abortion. In the meantime, Grandma learns through Ja Kyung that Mi Sun has disappeared and frantically tries to find her. Manager Han pretty much leaves Mi Sun at the doorstep of the hospital, and sighs with relief that he did not meet any resistance from her.
Inside the hospital, pregnant women were strolling around left right and center. Mi San was already having doubts about the abortion, and with all the pregnant women walking around her, it is pretty much impossible for her to abort the baby. Mi Sun looks lost and asks a nurse where she should go. But where does she want to go? She finally makes her decision and asks for the backdoor.
The sympathetic nurse escorts Mi San to the backdoor, and even gives her some money, and off Mi San goes.
The Greedy Woman drinks in frustration at the news of the failed abortion, and Manager Han tries to console her. He’s sent men to search for Mi Sun, and have ensured that she cannot contact Grandma and Il Jong. Greedy Woman recalls the miracle man’s words and is still upset.
She stumbles, and Manager Han reaches out to steady her, grabbing her hand. She then recalls the next part of the prophecy, that she too can get a son if she used another man. She continues to flail around and he tries to get her to snap out of it. Finally, he addresses her by name, “Don’t be like this, In Sook.” It seems like they may know each other from before.
In Sook looks defeated, but tries to hurt him: “Don’t call me by name. I am your boss’ wife.” Maybe she is trying to taunt him. In Sook brings up the past, that Jo Seung and Manager Han grew up like brothers, but Han gave way in love to Il Jong. Is Han content to live under Il Jong and suffer his wounded pride? Can he bear to see In Sook living in fear? Her taunts seem to fail.
Han responds that he was an orphan taken in by the family so he is indebted to them. He apologizes for his lack of ability to do more. In Sook then uses the classic back hug, and her feminine wiles to win Han over to her side, throwing herself at him. It works brilliantly.
Cut to a short scene where Il Jong strokes the blood pressure pump thing and thinks of Mi Sun. I guess it was not just a fling.
Grandma is frustrated about the lack of progress in finding Mi Sun and calls Manager Han in. She refers to Mi Sun as a child, which suggests that grandma liked Mi Sun as a person. Manager Han looks strangely vacant and non-chalant (compared to his usual intensity), trying to look innocent. I guess he sold his soul.
Grandma discerns possible disloyalty from Manager Han, and tries to re-affirm his loyalty. He says that he is loyal to the company, and in a flashback, we see In Sook telling him about her pregnancy, and promising that the company will be theirs through their son. Both Grandma and In Sook ask him to take care (in both senses) of Mi Sun. They trust him.
We shift scenes to see a very pregnant Mi San working in a doctor’s office. I am surprised that she managed to find a job being pregnant and all, but the doctor seems to like her.
In comes Manager Han and assistants to do something about Mi San. With the doctor’s help, Mi San escapes once again through the backdoor, but how is a pregnant woman supposed to run?
By some brilliant timing or lack of luck, she seems to be going into labor. She might have gotten away, but the labor pains begin and Manager Han finds her groaning in pain in an abandoned house. Being a semi-decent man (before he was corrupted by In Sook), he takes her back to the doctor for birth. Right after birth, Mi San runs away again through the backdoor, unwilling to give her son up. You can’t pull the same trick three times — Manager Han is waiting for her on the street.
In his second decent move, Manager Han relents and allows Mi San to keep the baby, under the condition that she disappears and never approaches the family or the company. Mi San runs away and takes the train to somewhere. We now learn that the baby will be called Tak Gu. His father managed to name him a while ago. Baby High (Tak) Saving (Gu, uncertain if it means wealth or heroism).
In the midst of all of Mi San’s suffering, we see In Sook contentedly enjoying her life, certain that she has a boy, and promising in a rather evil way that everything will one day belong to her son.
The kids grow up slightly. Tak Gu is now a cheeky 12-year-old and still wetting his bed. He is healthy otherwise, and talks back and gets into fights like boys do. They are living with another family with a son of a similar age. While she is willing to discipline her son, Mi San is highly protective of him and they are very close.
In a somewhat hilarious scene, we see Mi San taking a broom to discipline Tak Gu, but somehow pointing at the landlady who was beating her son. She swings, frightening the landlady into releasing Tak Gu. He runs and she gives chase, only to eventually hug him and check him for injuries.
In Sook’s son, on the other hand, is a spoilt 12-year-old with a tantrum problem, probably thanks to his mom who bribes him with money and toys. Grandma is harsher on him, and thinks he needs to be disciplined. Ma Jun hates his grandma. The girls have also grown up and seem sensible. Because he is a boy, Ma Jun gets to follow his dad to the company on Saturdays. Jo Kyung wished that she could too, but she is a girl and she knows her place.
There is a scene where Manager Han tries to tuck in Ma Jun’s collar, only to be rudely pushed aside. But he only looked proud of his son. Il Jong does not seem very comfortable with Ma Jun.
Tak Gu seems to have a highly developed sense of smell. He can smell stuff coming out of the village bakery before his friends. But because they are poor, they can’t afford to buy anything. We see that Tak Gu is quite the talker; he tries to talk the baker into letting him have crumbs, “You’ll be blessed.” He is at least somewhat bold. He might also have a developed sense of taste, “Crumbs from sweet bread are the best”.
The landlord’s fat son offers to get Tak Gu and friends bread if they play with him. Tak Gu reluctantly agrees and they troop off to the bread factory where the landlord works at. Fat kid must have done this before — he claims to be the son of the manager, and walks into the factory with Tak Gu following as a friend. Tak Gu is mesmerized at the sight of a bread production line , but the fat kid reminds him that they have to move on.
Fat kid tells Tak Gu that it is okay to take the bread because his dad is the manager and Tak Gu believes him. On the way out, fat kid’s dad spots them, and gives chase.
The kids make it out of the building, but the fat kid falls. The factory owner’s car almost runs into him, but Tak Gu, displaying a flash of loyalty (possibly misplaced), runs back and protects the bigger kid with his body. The car brakes in time, and the kids are safe. But now they have to answer the question of what they are doing there, and with the bread on the floor, it seems quite obvious that they are thieves.
Tak Gu acknowledges that they were taking the bread, and Il Jong wants to call the police. Ma Jun gives a delighted sneer. By the way, this is the first time the father and son are meeting.
The story is fleshing out rather rapidly. In some dramas, the backstory is given several flashbacks and is alluded to in conversations. The PD has decided to give the backstory more screentime for reasons that are currently unclear. Given the possible meeting of the father and son, it makes some sense since the first encounter is much earlier than I thought it would be. And I like the use of music so far — all instrumental, and very good for setting the mood.
For someone who was supposed to disappear, Mi San managed to pick a village where the mighty Geo Seong company has a factory. Are we supposed to understand that the company is too big to avoid, even in a rural part of South Korea? It really looks to me that there are just enough factories to drive to and visit in a day.
The characters so far are revealing bits of their personality in a way that I think suggests that there will be character development. We see different sides of the Grandma as a loving mother who dislikes her daughter-in-law, is perceptive and is maybe not really evil. She does badly want a grandson though.
In Sook is about plotting and greed. I wonder how the couple met, and whether she loves her husband. Certainly she never thought of betraying him, except she got greedy. I wonder to what extent she really cares about Manager Han. So far, I think she’s just exploiting him.
Jo Kyung may grow up to be an interesting character. She seems smart and has ambition. Currently her ambition is thwarted by the fact that she is a girl.
Young as he may be, Ma Jun is already annoying. He throws tantrum, but is weak against his grandmother and father. It doesn’t help that his mother bribes him with money and toys. More decay of personality to come I bet. The child actor is excelling at sneering.
And Tak Gu has the makings of a hero — somewhat glib, loyal, brave, optimistic and with some inherited(?) smell and taste talent that I did not sense in his dad or mom.
The drama is well-made, and I look forward to the 2nd episode.
Episode rating: 15.7% (source: Dramawiki)
Read Episode 2 recaps