Vincenzo — Episode 1 Recap

Vincenzo returns to Korea, where he doesn’t receive the warmest welcome and everyone is kind of odd.

[Author’s note: Since this seems to be a popular landing spot for Vincenzo recaps, here are links to all recaps.]

Vincenzo — Episode 1 Recap ← You are here. Keep on a-scrollin’!

















(finale)

Summary

Number of times Vincenzo is called handsome: 3
Number of times Vincenzo’s name is butchered: 4
* Vincen Zo
* Bin Senjo
* Mr. Casanova
* Vincenzo Quassano
Number of times someone says “che cazzo”: > 5

Next:

Recap

The show opens with our titular character, Vincenzo Cassano, standing in front of a building in Seoul. His goal is to demolish it.

72 hours earlier, he wakes up in Italy and visits a man named Emilio at a vineyard. An airplane overhead is crop spraying the acres of grapes surrounding them.

It turns out today is the day of Vincenzo’s boss Fabio’s funeral, and Emilio was responsible for his death. The vineyard used to belong to the Cassanos, but Emilio has taken it over and now has the backing of another mob family. Vincenzo is there to present an offer on the deceased Fabio’s behalf, but Emilio tells the “arrogant yellow” to go back to his country. Vincenzo tells him he’ll regret not taking the offer, then in Korean calls him a Neanderthal and tells him he’ll pay for disrespecting his people.

As Vincenzo walks away, Emilio and his men on the terrace are sprayed by the plane. He takes a whiff, and… uh-oh, that’s not pesticide. Vincenzo flicks a lighter behind him and the vineyard erupts into flames. Badass.

Lol at the stereotype of a man kissing someone’s ring at the funeral while Vincenzo stands over his boss’s body and quietly calls him Papa. Outside, he meets with the new head of the Cassano family, who chides Vincenzo for burning the vineyard on the day of the funeral. Vincenzo replies that it was Fabio’s last order to do it by any means necessary. Turns out the new head is Fabio’s biological son, Paolo, and he doesn’t like Vincenzo because his father trusted him more than Paolo. Apparently, Paolo violated Fabio’s order not to harm women and children. This exchange, though…

Paolo: “Vincenzo, my friend. My brother. Now that I’m your boss, I’d like to see you be more loyal.”
Vincenzo: “Paolo, my brother. I am always ready to show my loyalty to you… as long as you deserve it.”

Zing!

That night, three armed men break into Vincenzo’s house and shoot at his bed — but he isn’t there. He’s hiding in the bathroom with a gun and takes them all out with a flick of his wrist and the whoosh of his bespoke silk robe. Later, he calls Paolo from a plane to apologize for his favorite car. Before Paolo can ask what he’s talking about, the beautiful red sports car behind goes BOOM! Bahaha! Vincenzo tells him if he tries to look for him, he’ll make sure he’s in the car next time he blows it up.

Meanwhile, a well-heeled woman brings a cake to a man in a shipping dock. She threatens to sue him for blowing the whistle on a pharmaceutical trial even though he didn’t suffer any side effects himself, then asks him to pull the topper (which says “You Only Live Once,” ha) off the cake. It’s a roll of hush money! Apparently unpopular opinion: I love this scene. Jeon Yeo-been, instant #girlcrush.

The woman is a lawyer named Hong Cha-young, and she and her intern, Jang Joon-woo, are defending the pharmaceutical company Babel E&C against wrongful death charges related to the clinical trial. In court, Cha-young accuses the plaintiff of provoking the press with unproven evidence before revealing that the main witness has just turned himself in for perjury.

Outside, Cha-young tells the plaintiff’s lawyer he shouldn’t have started the case if he couldn’t win. Turns out he is her dad, Hong Yu-chan, and he accuses her of buying off the witness and working for a mafia. When she tries to appeal to his fatherly love by telling him he should stop because she’s so worried for his health, he replies that she should have been an actress and not a lawyer. Ha!

Vincenzo lands at Incheon, where airport officials are looking for a wanted man. Security checks his passport and is impressed with his exotic-sounding name (“Vincen Zo?”), asking which Zo clan he’s from, har har. Outside the airport, he’s offered a ride in a limo. There’s a report on the radio about foreigners being scammed and robbed at the airport, but Vincenzo is too deep in thought to notice and falls asleep.

Elsewhere, a man running the Italy Organized Crime division receives an alert that a mafia consigliere has arrived in Korea and tries to inform his boss, but his boss thinks the man is probably just there on holiday and tells him to buzz off. He stomps off adorably.

Back at the Woosang law offices, Cha-young and Joon-woo receive congratulations for their win in the courtroom. She does a victory dance in her office before her boss comes in and say she should have gone easy on her dad. He tells her he’s sent her a bonus for a job well done and to take the rest of the day off. She frowns when she sees how much tax is withheld. Don’t we all.

In an open field, the limo driver and his accomplice are robbing a passed out Vincenzo of his Hublot watch — which I’m drooling over more than Song Joong-ki — $4K in cash, and his apparently very nice smelling cologne. Vincenzo wakes up, but they knock him out again. He wakes up alone with only 50,000 won wrapped around his finger and screams. While waiting for the airport bus, he flips out and curses out Korea in Italian, frightening the people around him. But once on the bus, they all marvel at how handsome he is, lol.

Vincenzo finally arrives at Geumga Plaza and we are taken back to five years ago. A Chinese gangster comes to Vincenzo for help hiding his gold in Korea, so they buy Geumga Plaza under an associate’s name and stash his gold bars and Buddha statues in a secret room underneath a retail space. In the present, Vincenzo meets his associate Cho Young-woon while a neighbor watches from afar. Mr. Cho tells Vincenzo that Babel is buying up the buildings around Geumga Plaza, but he has refused their offers. The tenants, distrustful of the owners, have formed a Development Opposition Committee to stop the sale. The neighbor reports back to the head of the committee at Jipuragi law firm, who turns out to be Hong Yu-chan.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cho gives Vincenzo a tour of Geumga Plaza, where he meets an assortment of eclectic characters including a creepy piano player that looks like she was in The Ring, a knife-wielding Italian chef, and a germophobe zombie dance studio owner. The secret gold room is underneath a Buddhist temple, and a monk tells them they have also joined the Development Opposition Committee. It seems like there’s some wordplay in the dialogue:

Monk: “He felt a strong presence of Buddha from beneath the temple. He’s been fasting.”
Vincenzo: “‘From beneath?’’ What about it?”
Mr Cho: “He’s just fasting. He’s not eating.”
Monk: “I don’t know who you are, but you should clean your outfit before you clean out your mind.”

(If you know what’s going on, drop some knowledge in the comments!)

Vincenzo drops his suit off at the dry cleaners and some fun is had about the name of the designer Booralro, which sounds like testicles in Korean. On his way out, he is ambushed by the tenants and Yu-Chan introduces himself. Vincenzo reassures them that he and Mr. Cho have no intention of selling the building and that there will be a meeting tomorrow to discuss. In his less-than-luxe new digs, Vincenzo takes a really unpleasant shower and is harassed by a pigeon on his window sill while he tries to sleep. Am I the only one who got anxious about him using his phone to scoot the pigeon over? Eek!

Unable to sleep, Vincenzo looks at records belonging to an inmate at the women’s correctional facility, Oh Gyeong-Ja. He flashes back to the woman’s trial, where she is accused of murdering a man who sexually harassed his employees. The defense lawyer does nothing to defend her while the prosecution uses her giving up her young son up for adoption as evidence that she doesn’t value human lives. In the present time, Vincenzo sees that Hong Yu-chan is also the current defense attorney for this woman, but she is refusing a retrial.

Cut to a goofy scene of a random ahjumma dancing in a laundromat the next day. Two guys take photos of her behind her back, but she gives them hell for sexually harassing a woman in a public place. This is all we see of her, for now.

Vincenzo has lunch at the Italian restaurant and bluntly tells the chef the food tastes like trash. Aw, poor guy. Afterward, he goes to the women’s prison but walks away just as Yu-chan is walking in. Yu-chan and Gyeong-Ja seem to be good friends, with him joking that she can tell everyone he is her secret husband. She refuses the retrial again, saying she deserves it for all the bad things she’s done. Back at Jipuragi, Vincenzo and Mr. Cho meet with a representative from Babel. The rep makes his best offer, but the two won’t bite.

At the tenant meeting, they explain that they intend to tear down the building themselves and rebuild it, reassuring them that they will all get their units back in the end. The tenants seem skeptical, but go along with it. Outside, Hong Yu-chan tells Vincenzo he doesn’t really trust him and that he’ll be ready for whatever plan they’ve concocted. Vincenzo asks why he doesn’t trust him, and Yu-chan says it’s because they have different jobs — Vincenzo represents money, and Yu-chan represents people.

The last few minutes of this episode jump between scenes quickly and often. I think they want to show that some shit is about to go down, but ow, the whiplash…

  • Mr. Cho and his family are held hostage by a group of suspicious men who want him to sign the building over to Babel.
  • Cha-young receives a legal document from her father formally disowning her due to ethics rights violations.
  • The hired guns leave Mr. Cho’s house after the bank transfer for the building sale is complete.
  • Cha-young barges into her father’s office with the documents he sent her. One of them forbids her from using the word father in six languages, lol.
  • Vincenzo curses the dry cleaner owner out in Italian for shrinking his Testicle suit before threatening him in what sounds like really polite Korean, haha. The dry cleaner leaves to meet with the other tenants while Vincenzo receives a call from Mr. Cho. Mr. Cho is driving and explains that he was held hostage but will fix everything… until he is t-boned by a Truck of Doom(tm)!!!
  • Back at Jipuragi, Yu-chan and Cha-young argue about their very separate ideas of justice — he seeks justice for people, but she thinks money and power are justice. They are interrupted by one of the tenants, who informs them the building has been sold.

And then, the final face-off:

The Geumga Plaza tenants come face-to-face with Ant, the company in charge of redeveloping the building on Babel’s behalf (and who was behind the hostage operation on Mr. Cho’s family). Ant promises to compensate the tenants well for vacating the premises as long as they aren’t difficult. When one of the Ant lackeys manhandles Cha-young’s dad, she steps up and tells them to stop acting like they’re in a gangster movie. Just as one of the guys is about to hit her, Vincenzo walks in. He’s not into dudes who mess with women and children, remember?

The Ant mob tries to take him down, but he uses the dry cleaner’s tape measure to grab the Ant CEO by the wrists and hang him out of the window. Vincenzo vows to take down Ant and Babel no matter what, concluding with, “Cuesto edificio e mio!” The Geumga Plaza tenants have no idea what he just said, but they cheer in delight.

Comments

I appreciated the fast pace of this first episode. There wasn’t a dull moment, though I think we are introduced to a wide array of characters very quickly which makes it difficult to relate to or root for them right away. The pacing of the last little bit is also very jumpy, although I didn’t really notice until I watched it again to write this recap.

The sound editing in this drama is top notch and really sets the mood. I love the piano that plays as Vincenzo is paying respects to his boss and the way it’s abruptly stopped by Paolo’s cigar cutting. And the use of Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni in that silly shower scene is pure gold. This drama is not afraid to play with music and mix genres, whether it’s Clint Mansell-esque electronic, grinding metal guitar, or squeaky violins. It really complements the cinematography beautifully.

(Btw, I tried to find the triphop track that plays when Vincenzo is flying to Seoul using SoundHound, but no dice yet. I am really going to love this OST, aren’t I?)

The acting in this show seems pretty solid all around. I’m not sure how I feel yet about all the side characters, so I’ll comment on the two leads, for now.

Song Joong-ki is an actor that transforms into his characters really, really well. He is a chameleon and, in this role, I see only Vincenzo. I am not reminded at all of Yoo Si Jin, Kang Maru, Eunseom, or Saya, and it is wonderful. His performance isn’t flawless but it’s fun seeing him try on a more overtly comedic character, even if I can’t quite reconcile his sillier, over-the-top moments with his badassery just yet. It’s a shame to see so many people comment more about the size of his pores than the quality of his acting. The show sure loves to point out that he is handsome, too, and I am curious if or how they will use this for comedic effect.

In contrast, the response to Jeon Yeo Been’s portrayal of Hong Cha-young has been extremely negative, and I do not understand why. She is supposed to be absurd and her cuteness is supposed to be cringey, because she is manipulates people to get what she wants. My partner and I both loved the way her character moves and the over-the-top facial expressions she makes. One commenter on the Reddit thread pointed out that this was blatant sexism… and the number of downvotes it received basically proved the point. Keep doing what you’re doing, girl! Girl crush. All. Day.

I am looking forward to seeing whether that end scene will earn Vincenzo any actual brownie points with the Geumga Plaza tenants, or if they will find him even more suspicious. Also, who is laundromat ahjumma? And where is Kwak Dong-yeon??

Onward to !

Proud Filipina immigrant. Founder of travel-inspired streetwear brand Common Skies.