Trolley season 1, episode 1 recap – what happened to Ji-hoon?

December 20, 2022 (Last updated: last month)
Nathan Sartain 0
Netflix, Streaming Service, Weekly TV
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With an engrossing twist thrown in right off the bat, Trolley gets underway with plenty of style.

We recap the Netflix K-Drama series Trolley season 1, episode 1, which contains spoilers.

Straight away, Trolley wasted no time giving viewers an engrossing twist by revealing the death of Joong-do’s (Park Hee-soon) son, Ji-hoon (Jung Taek-hyeon). It opens the show up to numerous possibilities as a result, and thanks to controversy already following the passing of the assemblyman’s troubled child, episode two has become a must-watch.

Trolley season 1, episode 1 recap

We begin with a panicked Kim Hye-joo at a police station, talking about how her child, Nam Yoon-seo, is missing with her phone turned off. “I think my daughter ran away from home,” the worried mother states, pinning this first-time occurrence on the argument the two had that day. Nevertheless, Hye-joo does appear somewhat separately concerned at the suggestion of abduction.

Next, we cut to 13 hours ago. Here, we watch our protagonist working her day job, restoring books for members of the public. Her current client is a mother looking to fix up the baby book of her 22-year-old, and is someone brazen enough to ask if Hye-joo prefers her daughter to her now grown-up son (the answer is no). Following that, Hye-joo attends a meet-up with other parents, one chock full of gossip on whether the high-achieving Yoon-seo has a tutor.

When the mothers arrange a Sunday meet-up at Seoul National University, Hye-joo rejects. She seems uncomfortable with the idea of her young daughter getting her name in a professor’s thesis so early, despite it apparently being a “door opening” opportunity. Later, Hye-joo treats an underprivileged child to food at Yeo-jin’s restaurant, but becomes slightly unsettled by questions on her hometown of North Chungcheong.

While Yeo-jin tells her colleague that Hye-joo mustn’t have many fond memories of Chungcheong, and doesn’t like discussing her hometown because of her “rough childhood,” the restauranteur also reveals that the book repairer donates all money she earns. Concurrently, Hye-joo greets some acquaintances, who blab about her husband being the district assemblyman for Sinyang-gu.

Now, we see Nam Joong-do of the Daehan Party in action. The politician is delivering a speech to condemn the “repeated illegal land speculation engaged by my fellow assemblyman,” wanting Korea to be free of corruption by getting rid of such unlawful practices. In particular, he wants a “special investigation led by experts” into Kang Soon-hong (Nation and People’s Party), whose sister-in-law purchased farmland in Youngsan the previous year which was chosen to be redeveloped by the MOLIT.

Elsewhere, Joong-do’s aid staff discuss how the wealth of Soon-hong’s wide got him elected, which is why he is now “returning the favour” with corruption. However, Min-seok believes the opposite – Joong-do has no family to give backhanders to – isn’t exactly favourable either, given his wife Hye-joo has strangely never shown herself in public. “The other wives do their best to win over the electorate,” he explains, concerned his statement has been the public’s opinion during the last general election.

After it’s clarified that Joong-do was able to run for office in exchange for his wife’s protected privacy, we watch the assemblyman bump into Soon-hong. It’s not a pleasant meeting though, with the two exchanging bitter words on Joong-do having the appearance of a secretary, and the tethered corrupt politician actually being one when he was the former’s age.

At a meeting with the experienced Daehan Party Chairwoman Woo Jin-seok, Joong-do assures he will do his best with his upcoming work. Then, the assemblyman hears he will no longer be required to be “humble” once he gets elected for his third term, and can pick whichever office he likes. Joong-do insists he is comfortable where he is for now, but does slip in his Blue House ambitions.

As Joong-do heads off for an interview with SBC, Hye-joo becomes aware of a university student’s suicide when shopping for perilla oil. It’s a tragic tale, with Namgoong Sol choosing to end her life due to threats from her boyfriend (who hasn’t been arrested) involving the spreading of “embarrassing” photos, so the book restorer chooses to attend the young woman’s funeral. There, the student’s grandmother expresses her gratitude in having a guest attend the service, and Hye-joo listens to the elder’s emotional frustrations on how her granddaughter’s partner hasn’t been apprehended.

Next, Joong-do talks about the need for a special education school construction in the area so disabled people can be spared travelling unnecessarily long distances, and listens to constituent concerns on things ranging from bus timings, to addressing speeding in school zones. It’s a productive discussion for the assemblyman, who is happy to admit he picks up calls from those with worries to at least give them an assuring outlet to vent. “Some of them curse me out as soon as I pick up, but I’ll live longer thanks to them,” Joong-do says to his staff.

Disappointed, Yoon-seo confronts her mother over the fact she isn’t being allowed to go to Seoul National University that Sunday. “My friends’ parents are pulling all the strings they can to beef up their kids’ resumes. It’s not like I asked Dad for help,” she states, upset that she’s unable to get any assistance for her future prospects. Hye-joo is blunt, pointing out the oddity of a middle school student being put as a co-author in a professor’s thesis, but it doesn’t stop her daughter from releasing frustrations, like how she isn’t allowed to do as her friends do because of her assemblyman father.

After Yoon-seo locks herself in her room, Hye-joo opens up to Yeo-jin. At first, she describes her concerns in her daughter’s frequent “acting out,” as well as how she feels terrible whenever her child is scolded. Then, Hye-joo confesses she believes her and Joong-do aren’t doing “as well as” other parents, though Yeo-jin frankly rebuffs this.

When Joong-do returns home, there’s a warm air in the household, and the assemblyman wishes to take advantage of the good feeling in bed with Hye-joo. However, Woo-jae’s phone call sticks an abrupt pin in proceedings, and the politician is made to go out and attend the wake of the Taeyang Shopping Centre leader’s mother-in-law.

Left alone, Hye-joo continues some food preparation, then heads into Yoon-seo’s room to check on her. However, the student is not there, kickstarting a frenzied search.

Now, we return back to the setting of the episode’s beginning. Here, Hye-joo fills the police worker in on what Yoon-seo was wearing, so they can attempt to track her down despite her phone being turned off. Following that, Joong-do arrives, ready to help with the search.

By the time the next day rolls around, Yoon-seo is still missing. As such, Hye-joo worriedly requests more detectives offer their help, not content with the current operation of CCTV checking and minimal police officers actively searching. Fortunately, thanks to Joong-do being recognised – and persuaded to use his influence – higher-ups are soon able to get involved, meaning Yoon-seo’s absence is turned into a missing persons case.

During the heightened search for Yoon-seo, Joong-do consoles his shaken wife, noticing how drained she is. However, things get worse for the couple when they’re called to the Han River, where their son, Ji-hoon, lies dead, wrapped up in a body bag by the police. Elsewhere, Yoon-seo appears to have returned home.

Reflecting on her now deceased son (as an important aside, it’s later revealed the two were not biologically related), Hye-joo thinks back to the time she told Ji-hoon, who was on probation, she’d rather he “disappear than cause trouble,” horrified that she might actually have favoured Yoon-seo, and is now being punished for it. Back at the station, Hye-joo then has to relive the day she picked Ji-hoon up from prison, recalling how he was moved into an apartment away from the family using money initially meant for his college tuition.

In the flashback to the aforementioned day, we see Ji-hoon was terse with Hye-joo, unwilling to properly engage with the effort she put in. Then, he lost his composure completely, accusing the book restorer of wanting him to “drop dead” instead of ruining his father’s career when she asked to stop “breaking each other’s hearts.” This is, of course, what then drove Hye-joo to express her want of Ji-hoon’s disappearance, which subsequently meant both parties ceased contact, with neither seeing the other again until his death.

After Joong-do confirms he too didn’t meet Ji-hoon in the 15 days between his prison release and passing, the policeman talks about how the deceased man was found with meth in his coat pocket, and a burner phone (his actual mobile is still being looked for). Thanks to heavy rain at the time of death, and a lack of cameras at the Han River, the investigators admit they are struggling to find anything else, with their only lead a testimony about Ji-hoon being spotted drinking “heavily” alone at a Gangnam nightclub a few hours prior to his passing. As such, while the autopsy is yet to be released, initial signs point to Joong-do’s son dying from drowning caused by a loss of footing when under the influence. At that point, a wailing Yoon-seo arrives, talking about how she only wanted to make her parents worry with her absence, and how she believes everything is her fault.

At Ji-hoon’s funeral, Jin-seok scolds politicians speculating on how the troubled youngster’s death may be “for the best” with an election coming up, and goes to pay her condolences. Meanwhile, the mothers at Yoon-seo’s school gossip about Hye-joo, in addition to the status of her husband. In addition, we see a currently unidentified person seem to waver when approaching the memorial, and watch Joong-do silently comfort his wife.

Ending Explained

Two weeks later, Hye-joo busies herself by tidying up Ji-hoon’s filthy apartment, before she tearfully signs his death certificate. Following that, the book restorer gets a knock at the door when home, and a mystery woman proclaims herself pregnant with Ji-hoon’s baby. Elsewhere, Joong-do watches the negative news coverage on his late son, and the episode ends with both parents’ reactions to what they’re seeing/hearing.

What did you think of the K-Drama series Trolley season 1, episode 1? Comment below.

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