Liar Game tells the story of Nam Da-jung (Kim So-eun), a young college student who holds noble qualities of innocence and virtue. Her father has left her to pay off his massive debt, and she struggles to get by with measly jobs that earn her a mere five dollars per hour. The first episode opens with a young professor, Ha Woo-jin (Lee Sang-yoon) teaching his students about trust. He says simply, “Don’t trust anyone.” Most of his students don’t believe the statistics he spouts off about the number of lies humans come into contact with daily. However, after experimenting with the class on the spot, they quickly learn that these statements hold some truth. The class comes to an abrupt halt when he blatantly admits to having killed a man, putting his hands behind his head in a relaxed state and holding the position as the police, soon after, come to collect him.
We then see Da-jung rushing down the street, only to be stopped by an old woman in need of help. At first, Da-jung apologetically declines her request, explaining that she’s in too much of a hurry to assist her. A few seconds later, Da-jung has a change of heart and is back, taking hold of the old lady’s bag and leading her carefully out of the dangerous streets. The old woman appears to be looking for a specific place, but even with the help of Da-jung, they can’t find it. After a significant time passes, the old woman excuses herself to use the bathroom, leaving Da-jung alone with the heavy bag. Meanwhile, Da-jung gets a call from her friend, who complains to Da-jung about how long it’s taken her to carry out the favor. She tells Da-jung she should at least look inside the bag to see what she’s been carrying around. Da-jung is reluctant at first, but eventually caves to curiosity. Upon opening the bag, she’s met with various thick stacks of money, adding up to ₩500,000,000. This startles her and she frantically closes the bag and begins searching for the old woman. Hours go by and she’s without luck. Ultimately, she decides to take the bag home, with the plan of taking it to the police station the next day. Da-jung arrives home and considers all the positive outcomes that could arise from keeping the money for herself, but remains conflicted. She falls asleep on the stack of money, which are spread out over the bed underneath her.
The next morning, Da-jung’s “landlord/roommate??”Dal-gu, (Not really sure about this relationship here. She owes him rent money and he also seems to live with her or at least spends a lot of time eating and accompanying her at the house.) raps at her front door, asking where her payment is. It takes a few good knocks to wake her, but once she comes to her senses, she’s quickly gathering the money and throwing it back into the suitcase. Dal-gu assumes she’s packing to try and escape and makes an effort to find the spare key in order to gain access to the house. Da-jung barely manages to get all of the money into the suitcase by the time he opens the door, aside from one lone stack that managed to fall under the bed. When he enters, she pretends to be caught in the act of undressing, feigning outrage and disgust as she begins wildly throwing objects at him. Thankfully, this seems to work (he doesn’t seem too bright) and he tries to calm her down as she drives him outward toward the kitchen. They sit down and have breakfast together, but the unfamiliar suitcase occupying her room has not gone unnoticed by him. He enquires about it, but she’s able to calm his suspicions for the moment. Eventually he gets up in pursuit of kimchi, and she takes the opportunity to put the last stack of money into the suitcase and bolt out of the house. Unfortunately, on her way out, he notices her and now he asks what’s in the suitcase. Da-jung pretends not to know, but her face is giving him the answer he’s looking for. “Is it money?” he asks. This is enough to send her flying out of the door and Dal-gu chases after her recklessly in hopes of taking the money.
After a barbarous chase, the two argue in front of the police station, where Dal-gu makes one last greedy plea in attempt to convince Da-jung to keep the money. Da-jung admits that she thought about doing so, but out of pity for the troubles the grandmother and her consequent family members might face if she followed through with those actions, she refuses to hold onto the money. It’s an emotional scene, and Dal-gu appears moved. However, this moment is interrupted by a ringing cellphone. Da-jung unzips the bag and answers the phone. A strange voice congratulates her on passing the test which qualifies her to appear on the new show “Liar Game.” The show will grant her the opportunity to win the ₩500,000,000 contained in the bag. Immediately, Dal-gu grabs the phone in an attempt to sign Da-Jung up. The two squabble but a man disguised as a police officer, approaches them, asking if there’s trouble between them. Da-jung answers no and it turns out that the police officer is actually the host of this new game show. Suddenly, cameras are everywhere.
In a change of scene we have Woo-Jin sitting across from an alleged criminal. He’s already making quick observations about the man’s habits, conditions, and personality. He’s able to use his quick wit to trick the man into revealing more about his crime and it doesn’t take long before the man confesses completely, showcasing Woo-Jin’s incredible skills at reading human behaviors. A detective looks on, satisfied with Woo-Jin’s work, commenting that he’s a “human lie detector.”
Back in the Da-jung department we now see her on the live set of this mysterious new game show. She looks frightened and confused to say the least. Do-young (the show’s host) reveals the camera footage of Da-jung helping the old woman. It comes to light that she was merely an actress and Do-young points out how Da-jung was the only individual that stopped to help her. He also emphasizes that, had everyone been aware of the money in her bag, many would have lined up to help. Da-young finds out that her good virtue is what earned her a place in the game. However, she’s still confused and explains that she thought this was the end of the game. Do-young wryly replies that it’s only the beginning. In fact, it’s just the first round, and in order for her to win, she’ll have to deceive her fellow players. This shocks Da-jung, who openly admits that she’s not good at lying. Her intention is to quit, but when Do-young mentions the pricy prize for the 10 round she becomes conflicted.
The cameras cut and Da-jung approaches PD Lee Yoon-Jo, requesting that her footage be cut from the show. The PD explains to Da-jung that the money she’s make from appearing on the show alone is worth participating for. She still fails to convince Da-jung, who claims that she wouldn’t feel right benefitting by the deception of others. This seems to rub Yoon-jo the wrong way and she coldly tells Da-jung that being a “brown nose” hasn’t seemed to serve her well so far, so it might be time to cut the act. However, it’s Da-jung who gets the last word, commenting that despite her lack of success, she’s worked just as hard. It’s because the world has treated her poorly that she’s been fated to suffer this way.
The next day, at her coffee job, Da-jung is struggling to stay focused. She runs into her old teacher, who once used his own money to save her from bullies who had wrongfully accused her of stealing. They sit down and chat about their less than stellar family/financial situations and the teacher reveals that he is also participating in the game show. He proposes that they work together, promising to let her win and then split the money in the end. Da-jung is put off by the idea of cheating, but she has trust for her old teacher (Poor thing. This guy is seriously seedy as fuck).
Flash forward the the press conference for our dazzling new game show. Looks like things aren’t as pretty as they appear. The show’s network is actually tanking financially, which prompts reporters to question how they’re able to offer up such a meaty prize. Do-young is quick to meet their suspicion with grand claims of his will to revive the network with the help of some unnamed investors. He reveals that the show was his own idea as well. One reporter is clearly not pleased with his answers and accuses him of trying to buy public interest for the network. He doesn’t openly negate this idea, but instead enforces it by baiting reporters with hefty prize money for whichever one of them writes the most popular article about the show. It works, because the next scene shows coverage of “Liar Game” on every form of media known to man.
The next day, Da-jung thinks she sees her father in the street. She hurries up to the man, who turns out to be a complete stranger. Meanwhile, Dal-gu is confronted by his boss who questions where Da-jung’s payments are. Dal-gu is quick to defend Da-jung, reasoning that her poor job wages make it difficult for her to meet the deadlines. The boss (a total asshole) makes the crude suggestion that she could become a prostitute. He goes as far as to laugh about potentially becoming one of her regular “customers.” Dal-gu curses him out under his breath, but the boss is quick to put him in his place, reminding him that he could lose his own job at any moment and warns him to make sure that Da-jung makes her payments.
Da-jung appears late to the game show but states that she’s ultimately decided to participate. She’s still very popular among the audience, ranking at number four. Do-young asks her reason and we see that this dramatic scene has actually all been planned out by PD Yoon. Yoon convinces Da-jung to mention her father to draw sympathy from the audience. Da-jung doesn’t seem to keen on doing this but once we return to the show we see that she complies and tells her father that she is determined to win so that he can return home to her.
Do-young commences explaining the rules of the game. Each of the contestants is given a briefcase containing a large sum of money. Over a designated period of the next seven days, they will have to find ways to keep their own money safe, but also obtain money from their competitors. They are free to use any method to carry out this task with the exception of physical violence. The contestant who possesses the largest sum of money at the end of the round will be able to win up to a half a million dollars.
The game commences and Da-young is given a thick booklet or should I say contract explaining how forfeiting the game also means forfeiting the prize money. The game rules also stress that adding your own real life money to the game money is a breech of conduct. The whole process seems to be a whirlwind for our innocent Da-jung, and she immediately calls teacher Hyun for ideas on what to do next. He tells her the best idea would be for them to combine their money and store it in a safe place (Yikes…).
Back at home, Dal-gu expresses his delight in Da-jungs final decision to join the game. However, since he’s aware of Da-jung’s honest nature he advises that they make use of an expert to help her win. The expert just so happens to be Dal-gu’s old prison mate, who will be released from jail quite soon (Hmm… I wonder who that could possibly be..). In attempt to avoid cameras, Teacher Hyun stops by later that night. He takes Da-jung and the money to the bank, where they deposit it into a secret safe. He leaves the keys with her, claiming that he trusts her and reminding her that the idea was for her to win. (Ok buddy…)
The next day the show airs the truth behind Teacher Hyun’s intentions. Turns out he stole all the money from Da-jung. (The crusty old bastard…) Looks like all along he was just using her and Da-jung is devastated to find out the truth. Even worse, all of it is played out on camera so viewers everywhere can see her humiliation. She runs to his house to try and have a word with him, but the old goat turns up his campy music to drown her out. (Lucifer in his true form?)
At this point all hope is lost to dear Da-jung, who’s ready to call it quits. Dal-gu isn’t ready to let her give up quite yet, and insists the she meet up with his old prison mate. The next day, that very meeting happens. Woo-jin finds Da-jung waiting for him and offers her his hand. And that, my friends, is where our first episode cuts off.
I must say, even with only one episode, I can tell this is going to be a captivating drama surrounding a battle of great psychological wit. A lot happened in such a small scope of time, which makes me eager to see what will take place next. It’s only twelve episodes, so it will have to keep packing each one with action in order to achieve a satisfying run. I’m curious to see how Da-jun and Woo-jin will interact with each other. It should be quite interesting! If you’ve already seen the drama, let me know what you think. I’d love to know your thoughts!