Nam Da Jeong is living by herself after her father ran away from home and left a debt behind. She is desperate and has to work all the time to get by, yet still doesn't earn enough to repay her father's debt. One day, she gets offered to participate in a TV game show that offers a very large sum of money to the person who will win it. But this is no ordinary game. In order to win, one must lie and deceive others.
So, everyone always tells me my dislike of Korean culture has no rational background. This may be true (though dislike doesn't always have to irrational), but after Random chan told me about this series and that it's not bad, I decided to give it a shot. I haven't watched a complete Korean drama before, so I would have an opportunity to try something new. New isn't bad.
For the background, I have neither watched any of the Japanese dramas nor read the manga. So besides saying I'll probably dislike it because I don't like Toda Erika, I don't have any background on the story.
In terms of production, this series isn't bad. I'm not familiar with Korean standards of production, and I always get the feeling that Korean productions are sort of 'cheap', but I guess you get used to it. I was bothered by it in the first few episodes, but once you delve more into the story, you can overlook this fault.
In terms of acting, I found it average most of the time. Lee Sang Yun and Sin Seong Rok's acting was not bad, while Kim So Eun sort of disappointed me. She got better as the show progressed, but to me she sounded all too often like a whining 'ajeossi' girl.
But all of this is irrelevant if the story is good, in my opinion. I mean, good production and good acting can obviously top up a story, but if it's bad, there's only so much they can achieve. However, even horrible production and bad actors can still not ruin an excellent story to the extent that you don't feel intrigued or entertained by it at all. So if the production and acting are average here, the good story manages to pull everything up considerably.
This show is divided into small arcs representing parts of the game. Of course, there is a big plot intertwined in every aspect of the drama/game, but your attention as a watcher is usually most concerned with the current game at hand and how U Jin will manage to solve the apparently unsolveable.
The riddles range from relatively obvious (say, the scene Jamie tricks Da Jeong – it was pretty obvious to me) to more complex. While your mind is concerned with how a riddle which seems impossible to solve could be solved, you have to remember that most of the story's concept is based on probability. Probability is one of the branches of mathematics where people too often hurry to false conclusions. Because many times, probability isn't intuitive to many people. I'll give an example. Let us select a random city, be it for example Seoul. Look at two possible events, we'll call them A and B. A is the event where a burgler breaks into a house in the city. B is the event where a house's alarm goes off when someone tries to break in. Now, say that the probability for event A is 0.1%. So on a given day, one of every thousand houses would get broken into. Now, say that the probability for event B is 99%. So in ninety-nine out of hundred cases, the alarm goes off when someone breaks in. We also know, that the alarm can also go off randomly (through a misfunction) in the case no one breaks in – with a probability of 0.5%.
We already know that our alarm system is pretty good – it works in most cases. But what if we want to know what is the probability that someone broke into the house if the alarm goes off?
What would you say? Some of you may reason that this is pretty high – because as I wrote before, the alarm works 99% of the time when someone breaks in, and it only works in 0.5% of the cases where no one is trying to break in.
Actually, it is pretty low. Using statistical formulas (Bayes' law if you're interested), you would reach the conclusion that the probability that someone broke into the house if the alarm went off is roughly 17%. Or in general terms, only in one out of five cases when you hear a house's alarm going off, there's really someone trying to get in.
Not really intuitive, is it? And this is the strength of this series, relying of a branch of mathematics which is nothing close to intuitive to mislead the viewers and make them question themselves how impossible feats can be possible.
But that's also where it ends. Once you figure out the trick (or get it told in case you haven't), it becomes sort of straightforward. Not to mention that in many cases, the characters aren't using basic reason even where it doesn't take a lot to figure out a winning strategy. For example, in the poker game round, after eliminating his ally and gathering most of the fortune for himself, Bulldog could have easily folded five times and progressed to the next round without losing more than the pay in money for each round. He would have faced only allies in the last round and they could finish the game quick and divide the money amongst them as agreed. But no, he was senseless enough into to fall into the trap laid out for him.
There were several other inconsistencies and weird things, but the general plot helped keeping it up. I liked the general story and how the people were all connected. So in the end, the drama gets three stars from me. If there is a second season, I'll give it a go, maybe it will get better.