Woke up this morning to read about the plagiarism claim wrt Piper, about how Writer-nim Ryoo Youg-jae is accused of copying a webtoon artist’s work. Maybe that explains why Piper‘s story is so engagingly different from say, Scholar who Walks the Night? (i’m excluding Liar’s Game cos, it’s an adaptation from Jdorama).

Quite sad for Piper though, to receive its sharp ratings slide (whether attributed to the copycat accusation or not), cos me and kooriyuki simply adore this show.

Synopsis:

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Hee-sung leaves after his greetings to Sung-chan et al at Team Leader Ko’s funeral to prepare for the evening’s news telecast…but not before Sung-chan proposes an idea to ensnare Piper. He suggests that Hee-sung broadcasts the Piper’s details to the public to enlist their help in capturing him. Hee-sung looks uncomfortable with the suggestion (too close for comfort), but has no valid reason to reject.

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And so it happens. The evening’s new telecast reveals the Piper’s (or rather, Su-kyung) details, and seeks help from the public to call in if they spot him. The police hotline (including the Negotiation Team) is flooded with random calls from strangers who claim to have “seen” Su-kyung. Although most turn up to be false, Ha-na (the head call operator) receives a call from a pawn shop owner one day about Su-kyung being in his shop. A check with the neighbouring CCTVs reveal a person that looks like Su-kyung in the vicinity. The police rush down to check out the claim.

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Meanwhile, another group of people are hunting down Su-kyung — the mobsters under Chairman Seo. He is hospitalized after his collapse, but is now alert and ready to go on the offensive. He gathers his “best people” (basically everyone who gathered there looks like a bear or a wolf) to track down, and kill, Su-kyung.

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Sung-chan, who knows who the REAL Piper is but is unable to prove his claims, takes up Jae-hee’s advice to tail him. And so he follows Hee-sung around for the entire day, and isn’t aware that his team is getting ready to capture Su-kyung. Although Hee-sung acts quite normally, Sung-chan catches him urgently calling Su-kyung — to warn him of possible police arrest. And how does Hee-sung knows what is going on at the police HQ? Well, he has planted a hacking software in Computer Whiz Sung-bum’s PC…and has been using that to track the Negotiation Team’s progress in capturing Piper.

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The police mobilises to capture Su-kyung, who after receiving the warning call from Hee-sung, manages to escape by a hair’s breadth. But his ordeal isn’t over. Hee-sung pretends to “check up” on Chairman Seo (with Sung-chan on his tail), and learns that Chairman Seo has sent his own men after Su-kyung. He also appears to be very confident that his mobsters have tracked him down. Hee-sung places another urgent call to Su-kyung to evacuate from his hiding hole.

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And juz in time too, cos Chairman Seo’s men surround Su-kyung as he plans his escape. They get into a fight, and Su-kyung gets injured (even a pro-wrestler can’t fight without injuries against like 30/40 hardcore gangsters…). He still manages to escape though, with Hee-sung’s help. And Sung-chan, who witnesses Hee-sung driving off with Su-kyung, calls the police to track and stop Hee-sung’s car.

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But when they DO, there’s no Su-kyung in the car. Ever alert Hee-sung has already noticed Sung-chan tailing him the entire day, and has also discovered the tracker Sung-chan planted under his car. So before he gets stopped by the police, he has squirreled Su-kyung away on another truck…which zooms right pass the police check point. Unflustered, Sung-chan cooks up a story for tailing Hee-sung — he has “received news” that Hee-sung is the next target. So to ensure Hee-sung’s “safety”, he assigns Jae-hee to be his “protection” 24/7. Hee-sung is pissed as this would mean his movements will be restricted, but again, he has no valid objections to make.

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Back at the team’s HQ, Myung-ha pulls Sung-chan aside for his “strange behavior” towards Hee-sung. Sung-chan leads her to a quiet corner and informs her of his belief that Hee-sung is the Piper. Although Myung-ha is shocked, Sung-chan’s claim that Team Leader Ko’s last moment is to point him towards Piper’s real identity convinces her. Sung-chan also tells her he suspects their office is rigged.

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Su-kyung hides himself in Ahjusshi Shin’s hospital room, under orders from Hee-sung. He receives a call for his “last mission”, and Ahjusshi Shin takes note of Su-kyung scribbling something on a notepad next to his bed. In the night, Ahjusshi Shin has a nightmare — he dreams that young Myung-ha and Su-kyung (both were his neighbours) playing catch with each other. Myung-ha cheekily hides behind Ahjusshi Shin, and suddenly, Su-kyung pulls out a gun. He threatens Ahjusshi Shin to stop hiding her, if not, he will shoot. Ahjusshi Shin wakes up in cold sweat. He calls for the nurse, and instructs her to write a letter to Myung-ha.

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Unfortunately, the nurse reports the letter writing to Hee-sung, who immediately guesses Ahjusshi Shin is trying to warn Myung-ha of something. He pay a visit to the Negotiation Team, on the pretext of congratulating Team Leader Han (the SWAT team leader) for taking over the team on a temporary basis. (actually, that position is very jinxed. already 2 team leaders have died) When the rest are not paying heed, he sidles to Myung-ha’s table and looks through her mail.

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Sung-chan and Myung-ha choose to return to the office at this time, and immediately spot Hee-sung acting fishy. Sung-chan draws Hee-sung out and confronts him point blank on his suspicions. Hee-sung, as usual, claims that Sung-chan is over reacting and he is innocent. However, before he leaves, he receives a notification from his spyware that Myung-ha is making her way to Ahjusshi Shin. He texts Su-kyung to retrieve the letter — without hurting Myung-ha.

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Easier said than done. Su-kyung carries out the orders and rams into Myung-ha’s car enroute to the nursing home. Knowing that Su-kyung is after the letter, Myung-ha hides it under the car mat. She is taken by Su-kyung to his new hideout, and he threatens her to reveal the contents and location of the missing letter. Myung-ha claims that Sung-chan has it, and is already decoding it.

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To verify her claims, Su-kyung calls Sung-chan using Myung-ha’s phone. Although Sung-chan is alarmed when he learns of Myung-ha’s kidnapping, he latches on immediately to her bluff. He calmly tells Su-kyung that he will exchange the “evidence” for Piper’s identity for Myung-ha. Before he leaves, Sung-chan instructs Sung-bum to comb through the office’s PCs to check for hacking activities. Although a little affronted that a hacker got through to his network, Sung-bum complies.

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Sung-chan deduces that Myung-ha would have gone to the nursing home to check out Ahjusshi Shin’s letter. He finds Myung-ha’s wrecked car by the road, and retrieves the hidden letter. Although the contents appear harmless (Ahjusshi Shin is merely asking after Myung-ha), Sung-chan notices an imprint on the letter paper. Yup, it’s the same notepad which Su-kyung took notes on after receiving Hee-sung’s call. With a few pencil shadings, Sung-chan discovers a note to go to a locker at Yong-san train station.

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He dashes down to Yong-san station, while delaying Su-kyung on the phone. Su-kyung has no intention of letting Myung-ha live, and has rigged up a sniper rifle aimed at her heart. Thankfully, when he learns that Sung-chan has taken away the briefcase containing Hee-sung’s last mission, he aborts the assassination attempt. He decides to meet Sung-chan at an empty shopping mall. Refusing to give in to Su-kyung’s threats, Sung-chan says he will leave the briefcase on the floor of the shopping mall, forcing Su-kyung to go down a level to retrieve it. Sung-chan dashes up to level 2 to rescue Myung-ha.

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Hee-sung, meanwhile, is antsy that Su-kyung hasn’t reported in. He shakes off his police tail, and decides to track down Hee-sung on his own, fearing that he will kill Myung-ha if left to his own devices. And not a moment too soon…cos Su-kyung has tied a bomb on Myung-ha, intending to kill her (and Sung-chan). Failing to cajole Su-kyung to give up his plans, Hee-sung pulls out Su-kyung’s gun and aims it at his head.

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On level 2 (and unaware that Hee-sung is here), Sung-chan tries to detach the bomb vest on Myung-ha, to no avail. A floor below him, Su-kyung’s hand clutches the bomb trigger. He apologises to Hee-sung, explaining that he cannot let Myung-ha be his Achilles heel, and presses the button…but Hee-sung shoots him in the head first. Shocked at what he has done, Hee-sung staggers backward. He hastily picks up the briefcase, and runs from the scene.

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The police are called in and Myung-ha gives a statement to prove Hee-sung is the Piper and probably shot Su-kyung.Team Leader Han mobilises the police to arrest Hee-sung. In no time, Hee-sung is hauled to the police station for questioning. Sung-chan takes over the interrogation, and starts off with Hee-sung’s background. He has spoken with Snr Reporter earlier, and learnt that Hee-sung appeared overly adamant on reporting about New Town Development 13 years ago, and was upset when Team Leader Oh didn’t show up with the pen recorder. Hee-sung casually explains he was a young and hotblooded reporter then.

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Sung-chan then points out the family photo he (or Ahjusshi Shin, as Hee-sung said) has given Myung-ha (after rescuing her from the fire). He claims that Hee-sung was the photographer, and thereby connected (and a possible victim) to the New Town riot. In a flashback, we learn that Myung-ha has requested for a hypnosis session to retrieve her childhood memories. In the scenes prior to and after the photo was taken, she remembers going home with her parents after a trip to the market. Su-kyung (then training as a pro-wrestler) met with them while jogging. The group convened at Ahjusshi Shin’s house for a game of baduk, and someone snapped a picture of the happy gathering. Myung-ha also remembered Su-kyung’s noona (Su-jin) kissing the photographer. But she was unable to see the photographer’s face.

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Sung-chan also highlighted he had gone to Myung-ha’s old residence and spoke with the photo developer there. The old grandpa had kept good records of people who had sent photos to him for development, and Hee-sung’s name had appeared in the log. Hee-sung admits that yes, he was the one who sent the photo for print…but no, he isn’t the photographer. Sung-bum, who has been checking up on Su-jin’s boyfriend, also returns to say the man which Myung-ha “saw” Su-jin kissing is Ahjusshi Shin’s son (Kyung-min) who died in the fire that day.

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With no more evidence against him, Hee-sung is released. On his way out, he is stopped by Myung-ha, who screams that he is nothing but a murderer, even though he thinks he is a matyr and savior. Although Hee-sung doesn’t respond, he seems very affected by Myung-ha’s accusations.

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We learn why soon enough… when Myung-ha quiets down, she remembers Su-kyung sneering that he cannot stand Hee-sung hyung looking at Myung-ha with “regret and pity” in his eyes. This phrase leads Myung-ha to vaguely recall when she has seen that “look”. She remembers seeing the same anguished gaze in the police officer who tried to arrest her father, but set off the fire (and explosion).

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In a similar flashback, Hee-sung recalls the New Town Riot — he was on the police’s volunteer roster then, and was called up to remove the blockade by the residents. When he reached the rooftop, he saw a man brandishing a Molotov. Hee-sung reacted and grabbed him in a bid to stop him. Unfortunately, in the struggle, the firebrand was tossed onto a pile of flammables…and the entire rooftop exploded. Myung-ha’s parents and Su-jin died in the fire. When Hee-sung realized what he had done, he was paralyzed with shock, and could only gaze into young Myung-ha’s eyes with regret. After the incident, he picked up the Pied Piper storybook which Myung-ha had been reading in her hideout, and howled in anguish.

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The police storm Hee-sung’s apartment after Myung-ha and Sung-chan alert them to Hee-sung being a possible volunteer riot police. In his apartment, they discover the burnt last page of Piper‘s storybook which belongs to Myung-ha. On the back of the page, Hee-sung has scrawled 4 names — Sung-chan, Team Leader Oh, Police Comm Yang…and Chairman Seo.

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So it doesn’t take much for the police to rush down to the hospital where Chairman Seo is in order to stop Hee-sung. Jae-hee and Sung-bum split up towards TNN to arrest Hee-sung, but he has given them the slip. Jae-hee suddenly recalls brushing past a man dressed in black with a motorcycle helmet. He alerts Sung-bum who is waiting in the carpark to give chase. Unfortunately, Sung-bum loses him.

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The mobsters are alerted to a potential assassination by Hee-sung (supposedly dressed in black with a motorbike helmet) and rush to find anyone who matches the description. The police arrive not long after, and both groups discover there are plenty of men who somehow match the description. Juz as Chairman Seo is insisting to discharge from his hospital ward, Sung-chan arrives to stop him. A suspicious man approaches, and Team Leader Han draws his gun. Turns out that all who dressed in black with a helmet that night is a non-Hee-sung. The SWAT team also reports that Chairman Seo’s car is rigged with a bomb.

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So then, where is the real deal? Hee-sung apparently has returned to TNN after giving Sung-bum the slip. He arrives at the studio for the usual evening broadcast. When he completes the news segment, he reveals that he is the Piper. In addition, he also divulges what he knows about New Town and the atrocities committed by Chairman Seo. He admits that he was too weak in the past to redress the wrongs, but is now ready to fight the corruption head on. As he finishes his rhetoric, the police arrive to arrest him at gun point.

Review:

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As kooriyuki puts it, the action is almost over…so what now for Piper? I’d say plenty. With Hee-sung’s heartfelt admission of guilt, he has overturned any negative public sentiments towards the Piper. Of course, some will still remember those acts of terrorism committed under the Piper’s name (and likely carried out by an over zealous Su-kyung). But the powerful image of Hee-sung proudly confessing his sins, including his motive for committing those crimes…and more importantly, the police “violence” against an unresisting man…the next 2eps of Piper will be pretty interesting.

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I foresee 2 camps — one who supports the Piper and views him as a martyr to expose corruption, another camp who will question whether his means justify his ends. And let’s not forget about Chairman Seo. He is the one who really started the whole thing, imo. His high handed, and ruthless method to get what he wants, no matter the cost, eventually breeds an antithesis.

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Similarly, Sung-chan is culpable as well. Although he is the protagonist of Piper and we gradually see him drop that callous mask to reveal a softer underbelly, he had been a willing tool to Chairman Seo’s plans. The idea to use violence to quell the riot, disregarding the potential lives lost, belonged to Sung-chan.

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Ironically, the only character in Piper who possesses the biggest heart is Myung-ha. She not only forgives Team Leader Oh (who led the riot police), but subsequently “adopts” him as her father. And later, when she learns that riot quelling is Sung-chan’s brainchild, she also pardons him, and looks at the bigger picture — preferring to learn negotiation techniques from him instead of shutting him out from her life. In the same vein, I suppose Myung-ha will likely forgive Hee-sung eventually?

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After all, the reason for Hee-sung taking up the Piper’s mantle is all because of the accusing look young Myung-ha gave him when her parents were killed in the fire.

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