K-Drama Premiere: “VIP” Entices With Secretive And Complex Characters
SBS’ new mystery workplace melodrama offered an intriguing premise enough to hook viewers.
Jang Na Ra headlines VIP alongside actors Lee Sang Yoon, Lee Chung Ah, Kwak Sun Young and Pyo Ye Jin. Their characters are tangled in a web of secrets and lies. A combination potent enough to greatly impact their relationships and, most of all, lives.
The drama provides a glimpse of how complicated human interactions can be – both in their personal and work environment. Working together in the same team that takes care of the VIP (very important person) clients of Sungwoon Department Store, it is quite interesting to see how those secrets play a pivotal role in their lives. A morsel of doubt, once it starts to creep in, can truly alter the way people look at things, no matter how much you tell yourself there is nothing to be worried about.
Pilot Week Rating:
VIP Pilot Week Quick Recap
VIP Team Management
Inside Sungwoon Department Store is a group of people, whose jobs are solely dedicated to the establishments’ affluent clientele. It comprises one percent of the store’s customers, but these people are big spenders, the reason for a special team. Na Jeong Seon (Jang Na Ra) is the Deputy Head of the section that deals with the store’s VIP customers. Under her leadership is section chiefs, Lee Hyun Ah, Kwak Sun Young and Ma Sang Woo. She answers directly to Team Leader Park Sung Joon (Lee Sang Yoon), who also happens to be her husband.
Lee Hyun Ah (Lee Chung Ah), just returned from a year of hiatus after getting embroiled in a controversy with the HR Department Head. Song Mi Na (Kwak Sun Young) is a mother of two who is struggling as she juggles between motherhood, being a wife and a career woman. Meanwhile, Ma Sang Woo (Shin Jae Ha) is the youngest member of the group and often clueless about his job.
VIP Team at work
Jeong Seon’s team receives a request to acquire a rare and expensive pair of shoes and have it delivered to prison in time for the customer’s release. The client, who is the wife of the Vice President of Sungwoon Department Store, is in jail for drug possession. She is adamant to have the shoes as she has been photographed during her arrest wearing less glamorous footwear. However, Jeong Seon’s team is having a hard time securing a pair and tries to contact all branches that has one.
To pacify the client, Jeong Seon personally meets with her in prison. She offers alternative brands but the customer refuses. She insists on having the one she actually ordered. After verbally admonishing Jeong Seon and her lawyers, Jeong Seon ends up promising to deliver the shoes. Fortunately, a Japanese branch has one and the team immediately requests for its transport to Korea. They run into another problem, but this time it is with the customs as they need to secure some more paperwork.
Determined to get the shoes, Jeong Seon decides to ride her motorcycle to give Sung Joon and Sang Woo the document required by customs. But as the two are about to exit the customs department with the shoes, Sung Joon receives a call advising that the client is dead.
Apart from securing hard-to-get items for their VIP customers, members of Jeong Seon’s team also act as a personal shopper. In particular, Mrs. Lee, a client labelled by some of the store’s staff as picky and nouveau riche, has been coming in and out of the VIP Team room whenever she shops in the department store. This special service is part of the apology Jeong Seon offered when the client overheard the staff bad-mouthing her. Instead of firing the employees, Jeong Seon went down on her knees and promised ti to everything and anything to make Mrs. Lee happy. Every time she comes to the Sungwoon, one team member has to accompany her in her shopping spree.
The newest team member
After the shoe fiasco with the Vice-President’s wife, a new member joins the VIP team. On Yoo Ri’s (Pyo Ye Jin) transfer from the food sample corner to the VIP team stirs rumour of an affair with the Vice President. Though Jeong Seon and the rest of the team do not mind such rumour, Sang Woo has been quite curious which earns him a slight scolding from Hyun Ah.
She spends her first day shopping with Mrs. Lee. While sipping tea, after the gruelling hours of buying stuff, Mrs. Lee tells her that Yoo Ri looks nervous and that she reminds Yoo Ri of her old self – the one before she has the money. She also tells her that no matter how many expensive things she has bought and will buy, she would not belong to the world of the rich and will always stick out, never fitting in.
Yoo Ri mumbles if they really need to be someone who fits in, to which Mrs. Lee acknowledges the wisdom behind her words but dismisses it at the same time, saying that people assess others based on the things they see. For her efforts and wise words, Mrs. Lee gives her a shopping bag as a gift.
Mysterious text message
As the day comes to an end, Jeong Seon goes to her husband’s office but he tells her to go home without him as he needs to finish up some more work. She agrees and tells him she will prepare dinner and that he needs to be home by then. She goes out to buy ingredients as well as lingerie, clearly planning a romantic evening with Sung Joon.
While Jeong Seon is making dinner, Sung Joon receives a text message. The person is asking if he is still in the office. The sender also asks if it is oaky can come over. At the same time, Mi Na, Hyun Ah and Yoo Ri, all coming from different locations, change their plans and seem to head back to the direction they came from – the Department Store.
At home, Jeong Seon gets excited when someone opens the door, thinking her husband is finally home. Jeong Seon feels somehow disappointed and surprised when she sees Sung Joon’s mother instead. She hurriedly changes clothes and entertains her mother-in-law. She tries calling her husband but when he did not answer, she sends a text message instead to inform him of his mother’s visit.
At work, someone enters Sung Joon’s office while another person seems to watch from a distance. Sung Joon decides to go home but his mother already left. Jeong Seon’s plan for a romantic evening did not pursue as he finds her husband fast asleep. As she is about to go to bed, their phones ring at the same time as text messages come in. She reads hers and gets shocked as it says her husband is having an affair with someone from her team.
A case of identity theft
Hyun Ah and Yoo Ri go to one of the Department Store’s branches to check how the staff treats clients. Meanwhile, Jeong Seon and Mi Na investigate a client who has been overly using some VIP services. They find out that the client’s secretary has been booking the services reserved for VIP customers. She is also pretending to be one to impress her boyfriend. Feeling ashamed and fearing the repercussions of her actions, the secretary jumps from the yacht.
Fortunately, rescuers saved the woman and she did not suffer serious injuries. She pleads with Jeong Seon not to reveal her secret. Jeong Seon agrees to this and Mi Na blurts out that she can’t comprehend the secretary’s actions, as people will eventually find out her secret. With her colleague’s words, Jeong Seon recalls the text message he received the night before. The next day, Mi Na says the secretary promises to pay for the services she misused.
Secrets, Doubts and lies
With the text message in her mind, Jeong Seon starts to wonder about her female teammates. She becomes even more suspicious upon learning that the colleague who called Sung Joon the other night, was in fact in China for a business trip. She becomes more anxious after discovering another client using a VIP service while having an affair. With the nagging suspicions in her mind, she requests to have a talk with Sung Joon.
While making up her mind to start the conversation, a colleague calls once again. Jeong Seon demands to talk to him. She finds out Sung Joon is really talking to their co-worker and she feels guilty. After mumbling to herself, Jeong Seon asks Sung Joon if he is having an affair. But before he can answer, she quickly dismisses it and blames the text message she received.
While Jeong Seon is washing up, Sung Joon calls his friend and thanks him for backing him up. Mi Na leaves her family saying she is off to the market but goes to an apartment unit. Hyun Ah drinks by herself in a shabby room, far from her glamorous facade. Yoo Ri dresses up and goes to a hotel room. The door opens and shows the Vice President as Yoo Ri lets herself in.
The next morning, Sung Joon obviously bothered by Jeong Seon’s inquiry, sends a text message to someone asking to meet and talk. Hyun Ah, Mi Na and Yoo Ri’s phones ping at the same time indicating a message has been received. The Vice President invites all employees for a get-together and praises the VIP team for their hard work.
Sung Joon receives a reply to his message telling him to meet after the gathering. Other office workers gossip about Yoo Ri and the Vice President when Hyun Ah jumps in to Yoo Ri’s defense. She tells them off and says to be careful with rumours as it may not be true. She also advises Yoo Ri to be mindful of office gossip.
As the gathering ends, Sung Joon tells Jeong Seon to go home before him. He says he will attend to an inebriated superior. However, he politely declines subordinate’s invitation for a second round of drinks. Sung Joon tells him he needs to go home. Jeong Seon decides to head back and sees his husband goes inside a taxi.
She asks her cab driver to follow and ends up in front of a hotel. The driver advises her it is better not knowing but she still proceeds inside. She searches for him and decides to call. He answers and tells her he is with Vice President Park and that he will be done soon. His surprise evident when he sees Jeong Seon standing from a distance looking straight at him as he tells her lies.
Pilot Week Afterthoughts
VIP went right into the conflict on its first outing. From the get-go, it was clear someone is being an infidel and people around Jeong Seon are keeping secrets. The way the drama presented the connection of the characters and gave previews into each of them outside their place of work was nicely done. The opening scene where Jeong Seon’s husband was inside a hotel room and all the other female characters were shown seemingly heading to a single direction easily caught attention.
Jang Na Ra embodied the type of woman who has been secure all her life. She comes from a well-to-do family and graduated from a good school. She also enjoys a stable job and a husband who has doted on her from the start of their relationship. One would think that nothing could ever go wrong. Though there have been signs that romance is gradually fading in their married life, a solitary text message planted a seed of doubt which will cause their already fragile relationship to crumble. I loved how Jang Na Ra portrayed her character’s confusion, denial and finally acting on her gut feeling which led her to uncover her husband’s lies.
Infidelity theme is not one of my favorites, however, there is something about the narrative that suggests it has more to offer than just the usual storyline. First off, the female leads all appear to be strong and independent women. They all have struggles and problems viewers can easily relate to. These characters are layered, and their actions hinted at some depths that makes me, and the audience as well, curious about the secrets they are hiding.
People working closely in an environment where work-related stress and demands are constant, and add in their personal challenges, can definitely affect a person’s state of being. The physical, mental and emotional toll of dealing with outrageous requests from elite clients, monetary problems, family issues, career advancements, and relationship dilemma are slowly manifesting in each character. I am looking forward to seeing how each of them deals with their secrets and personal issues.
Watch the intriguing episodes of VIP on SBS every Monday and Tuesday at 10 PM.
Photos from SBS.