Private Lives episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

By Daniel Hart
Published: October 7, 2020 (Last updated: February 13, 2024)
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Episode 1 is slightly convoluted but it provides a strong basis for a good story. It’s evident that the lead character will show a transformation from the very first scene.

This recap of Netflix K-drama series Privates Lives episode 1 contains significant spoilers.

We will be recapping this weekly — check out the archive.

The opening

And here we are with the second k-drama premiere of the day after an energetic Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol opening. Private Lives is a different proposition, a different beast.

Episode 1 opens up with the narration how everyone has private lives and questions if our privacy is really protected when data analysis captures all our personal matters and we share it — there’s mention that Korea is in a privacy war right now. It then flits to Cha Joo-eun who is about to get married.

Con artist parents

Episode 1 presents naivety in the characters early on.

It moves to Spring, 2010 — Cha Joo-eun is having dinner with her parents. Suddenly, her parents have a job to do — they are con artists and they throw their daughter in front of a moving car so they can claim compensation. Cha Joo-eun is now in hospital, which feels oddly abusive — she’s genuinely injured. Cha Joo-eun is curious about how much their parents got in compensation. When Cha Joo-eun gets no reward for helping and buying them stuff, she threatens to go to the police so the father offers to purchase her a jacket. Suddenly, she can walk again — she truly is a stunt woman.

Learning the truth

But it’s bizarre how much Cha Joo-eun does not understand what her parents do as episode 1 exposes.

At the shopping mall, she sees her father begging for money and asks what his real job is. Her parents have made out they are documentary makers for a film about redistributing wealth. She’s angry to learn what her father truly does — con people. Cha Joo-eun tells her father she will be successful at life and walks off.

Leaving prison – 9 years later

9 years later and Cha Joo-eun leaves prison — looks like she didn’t have a successful life. She visits a restaurant and orders a stew. The owner gives her a meal on the house because she senses she’s just come from prison. Cha Joo-eun lies and says she’s from a large conglomerate business. A man with a suit walks into the cafe and starts singing at Cha Joo-eun. He asks her if she wants to get back to work or try and get revenge again.

9 years earlier – disapproving mother

As we have established by now, Private Lives presents a dysfunctional family and episode 1 shows the extreme side of it.

Cha Joo-eun is in the same restaurant with her mother — she reveals she got into college. She congratulates her but doesn’t seem impressed. Her mother tells her to get a part-time job or she won’t support her college. The same man in the suit (named Kim Jun-beom) sits on their table so Cha Joo-eun walks out. It’s clear that her parents do not view things the same.

Acting as a pastor – 9 years earlier

The scene then flits to her father doing more cons. He’s pretending to be a beggar and that his legs do not work. Two men prove his legs work and embarrass him publically. A woman kneels down next to him and asks if he’s okay and pretends to be from a disability center — she makes out like he’s a pastor who has helped the community by begging for money. Cha Joo-eun sees the commotion from a distance.

I got into college – 9 years earlier

There’s a vast difference to how Cha Joo eun’s father feels about college…

When her father (Cha Hyun-tae) returns home, she’s waiting for him. Cha Joo-eun asks if they are Buddhists — he tells her they should widen their perspectives. Cha Joo-eun asks if he is okay with her mother and he makes out like everything is fine. The father is then ecstatic that his daughter got into college. Such a difference to her mother’s reaction.

The sermon – 9 years earlier

Meanwhile, on social media, Cha Joo-eun’s father is trending for being a charitable pastor. The next target is the largest congregation and the biggest slush fund. He arrives at a revival meeting and many people respect him — he’s given a sermon to do. As he looks in his pocket, he cannot find the sermon notes as he gets on stage and he panics. His con artist colleagues are worried. Cha Hyun-tae admits he lost his sermon which makes the audience laugh. He seems to be a natural.

The biggest church in Gangnam — 9 years later

Cha Hyun-tae’s popularity rises and he’s given plenty of donations and the money keeps rising. They’ve got ten billion won so far. The woman working with him (Bok-gi) tells him it isn’t a documentary and that he should dream of a bigger picture. We are treated to a flashback of this woman, on the sofa, drinking wine. A man gives her an iPad to show the biggest church in Gangnam. In the present, she shows Cha Joo-eun the designs for this church and asks him if he’d like to be the pastor. He also wants to invest in it despite not needing to. This scene confirms that Cha Hyun-tae does not understand what he’s got himself in for.

Cha Hyun-tae shows the biggest church plans at his latest sermon and the crowd love it. We learn they aren’t really buying a church. Cha Joo-eun gets a call from her mother, asking where her father is. Meanwhile, Cha Hyun-tae rings Bok-gi and she’s suddenly leaving town, which means he has nothing.

Heckled and protested – 9 years earlier

Later in the evening, Cha Hyun-tae heads to a karaoke bar, realizing he has been conned by the people he was working with. He’s heckled for being a crook and people ask for their money back. Cha Joo-eun tells the people that her father is a victim as well. Her mother is the one that called the police. She’s angry that her father gave all the money away to Bok-gi and that they’ve lost everything.

No regrets — 9 years earlier

Cha Joo-eun visits her father in prison and he doesn’t regret anything. He tells her not to worry about him and asks her to finish college. On the way out, a lawyer gives Cha Joo-eun her savings account. There’s a note from her father asking her to get a small apartment and a part-time job — he apologizes.

Become that B*tch – 9 years earlier

Private Lives episode 1 starts the transformation of our lead character.

Kim Jun-beom sits with Cha Joo-eun at a restaurant — she’s downbeat. She wants to find the woman, Bok-gi, who did this to her father and gain revenge. Kim Jun-beom tells her that once she learns how to act, she will become that “B*tch” and walks off. Later, as she falls asleep in a hallway, a man tries to touch her and but Kim Jun-beom enters to help her out.

Bok-gi returns – 2016

With no parents to depend on, Cha Joo-eun ends up working with Kim Jun-beom on cons. In 2016, after taking on various jobs, Cha Joo-eun looks tired looking in the mirror. She meets Kim Jun-beom again who has been laying low. He gives her a bag of cash and tells her to buy clothes to match the bag — “You’ll be playing a fourth-generation chaebol next”. She asks if she can take a break as she’s been working like a dog for years — he tells her they should continue while they are good at it.

As Cha Joo-eun walks out, she believes she sees Bok-gi drive off in a car. She asks Kim Jun-beom if he knew she was back. He tells her they can’t catch her. Cha Joo-eun states she will catch her alone. She acts like a police officer and enters a store; she asks a staff member for CCTV recordings. Later, Kim Jun-beom decides to help. Cha Joo-eun infiltrates an office that Bok-gi works for and looks through files. She finds a safe and cannot figure out the passcode.

Health and wellbeing – 2016

The next scene shows Cha Joo-eun’s flair for the con…

Bok-gi enters the office as Cha Joo-eun hides under the desk. As she leaves the office, someone asks her she is. Cha Joo-eun manages to blag it and walks off but the man takes a keen interest in her. She then joins a pyramid scheme for a wellbeing company. She tells the man (named Mr. Park) that she’s a broker/lobbyist over drinks. Cha Joo-eun asks him if they can set up an account for three years.

The ending

Cha Joo-eun introduces Mr. Park to Kim Jun-beom who pretends to be a banker to discuss opening this account. The con nearly goes wrong due to a traffic jam. Afterward, Cha Joo-eun wants to shut it down as soon as they receive the money. She then thanks Kim Jun-beom and her mother who helped her. Cha Joo-eun then meets Mr. Park for drinks who tries to make a move on her — she says she wants to be a good b*tch and just be business partners.

With the money in the account, Cha Joo-eun’s mum wants to see the interest rise rather than take it straight away. Mr. Park meets Bok-gi and says he’s moved the account. Cha Joo-eun is worried that the money hasn’t been withdrawn but her mother is getting greedy. Suddenly, Bok-gi wants to meet Cha Joo-eun in her office as she’s the director of the wellbeing company — she congratulates her for becoming a diamond member in the shortest time.

Bok-gi changes the conversation and asks Cha Joo-eun if she’s the target for revenge for her father. She recognizes her. Suddenly, men come in with a beaten Mr. Park.

Private Lives episode 1 is slightly convoluted but it provides a strong basis for a good story. It’s evident that the lead character will show a transformation from the very first scene.

Netflix, TV Recaps
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