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Series / Vagabond (2019)

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Vagabond (Korean: 배가본드; RR: Baegabondeu) is a 2019 South Korean television series starring Lee Seung-gi, Bae Suzy and Shin Sung-rok. It premiered on SBS TV on September 20, 2019. It airs worldwide via Netflix.

A mysterious plane crash kills over 200 civilians, including Cha Dal-gun’s (Lee Seung-gi) nephew. Determined to find out the truth behind the accident, Cha Dal-gun travels to Morocco and embarks on an investigation that leads him to a tangled web of corruption. This leads him to get mixed up with Go Hae-ri (Bae Suzy), who appears to be a ditzy intern with the South Korean consulate in Tangier, but is actually a covert operative for the National Intelligence Service. Together they investigate the plane crash, which leads them to a criminal conspiracy that may reach up to the highest levels of South Korean government. The conspiracy may also involve one Jessica Lee, president of the Asian branch of an arms manufacturer called John & Mark; her company was bidding for a lucrative fighter plane contract, against the company that also made the civilian airliner that crashed.


Vagabond contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Hae-ri is an NIS agent who investigates the mysterious deaths of 200 people in the plane crash and capable of shooting firearms.
  • The Alcoholic: Chief Kang, Hae-ri's immediate supervisor at NIS, who seems to have been driven into alcholism by his depression over the NIS basically turning into a PR agency for the Blue House. On a couple of occasions people smell alcohol on him, and in episode 5 he's unashamedly swigging from a flask right in front of Hae-ri.
  • Almost Dead Guy: In episode 15 Oh Sang-mi, bleeding out after a mook slashed her throat, has just enough time to gasp "Sa-ma-el" to Dal-gun (Samael being the code name of the Big Bad) before she croaks.
  • Answer Cut:
    • Upon being told in episode 3 that one Gi Tae-ung has ordered a security sweep of the NIS offices, Chief Kang asks "Where is that prick?". Cut to the man the audience has previously seen at a memorial, laying flowers.
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    • In episode 14 Hae-ri, told that Kim Woo-gi is in a hospital for drug addicts, asks "What hospital is it?". Cut to a hospital, where an alarm klaxon is going off while the loudspeaker announces that "Patient 114" has escaped.
  • Artistic License – Law: Apparently, American citizens in Korean jails can be "recalled" to the United States, as happens with Jessica in episode 16.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: A big scene in episode 8 has Woo-gi the pilot going into heroin withdrawal symptoms. The good guys have a physical fight over whether to give Woo-gi a shot of morphine immediately, to avoid the chance of death, or to wait a bit until he gives up the name of who organized the bombing. The only problem with this is that opiate withdrawal, while agonizing, does not involve a chance of death.
  • Big Bad: Edward Park aka "Samael", who beneath his friendly exterior is a criminal kingpin who has essentially taken over the government of South Korea.
  • Bitch Slap: How President Jung works out his frustration with Director Ahn of the NIS, slapping him hard across the face after Dal-gun hijacks his meeting and reveals the coverup of the accident to the world.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Does Edward just shoot Dal-gun in episode 15? Of course not! No, his people tie Dal-gun up in an elaborate booby trap and then walk away before triggering it. Dal-gun is promptly rescued by Lily, who had followed them to the scene.
  • The Chessmaster: Edward Park, who orchestrated events from the beginning not just to get a defense contract, but to destroy his competitor John & Mark, take down President Jeong, and get his own puppet Prime Minister Hong elevated to the presidency of South Korea.
  • *Click* Hello:
    • Dal-gun is outside Hae-ri's door in episode 2, calling for her, when she greets him by putting a gun to his head. It turns out that her gun wasn't loaded.
    • The lady terrorist in Morocco does this with the sniper (the same guy who blew up the plane) in episode 3, just as the sniper is about to put a bullet into Dal-gun.
    • Kim Woo-gi, the missing copilot, does this at the end of episode 7 when catching Dal-gun by surprise.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Oh Sang-mi scrawls something in her own blood as she's dying in episode 15. Dal-gun eventually figures out that she was trying to draw the tattoo that he saw on Jerome's chest way back in episode 1.
  • Corrupt Politician: President Jeong, who took a five hundred million dollar bribe (!!) in return for giving the fighter plane contract to John & Mark.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In episode 3 Ho-sik, who's been shot and wounded, runs out of a hospital. Dal-gun and Hae-ri chase after him, and find themselves on a back street...where, somehow, a sniper is already perched and waiting.
  • Death of a Child: Dal-gun's little nephew Hoon is killed in the first episode when the plane to Morocco that he was on is bombed out of the sky.
  • Determinator: Dal-gun. He chases the man responsible for the death of his nephew through the streets of Tangier and despite the culprit pulling the brakes catapulting him out, he still stands up moments later.
  • Dramatic Drop: President Jeong does this in episode 13, dropping the glass of bourbon in his hand when Dal-gun is shown on live TV, looking straight into a camera and accusing him of complicity in the B357 crash.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Happens from time to time, like in episode 6 when Hae-ri dramatically chambers a round in her automatic before going into the karaoke club to arrest Chief Min.
  • Dutch Angle: Used heavily in episode 15 as Dal-gun is having his Eureka Moments about how Edward Park is Samael and his secretary Micki is the Femme Fatale who got Michael and Kim Woo-gi together.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When the president of South Korea, President Jung, first appears in the first episode, he complains about his makeup as he's getting ready to address the nation about the plane crash. He later is more concerned about liability for the aircraft manufacturer than he is about the deaths of over a hundred of his citizens, including twenty-odd children on a taekwondo team.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Lily is an ice-cold assassin. But when Jessica orders her to shoot the innocent people surrounding Kim Woo-gi in episode 12, so that she can then shoot Kim Woo-gi herself, Lily refuses.
  • Everything Is Online: In episode 4 Lily the assassin is able to "cut" the brakes of the car Dal-gun is in, by remotely hacking in to the car's control system and disabling the brakes.
  • Evil, Inc.: John & Mark defense contractors, perfectly willing to blow up a plane and kill over 200 people in order to discredit a rival for a fighter jet contract. And it's not the first time, since they were apparently responsible for some sort of Noodle Incident in Chechnya that got a lot of people killed.
  • Face Doodling: In episode 1 little Cha-hoon draws a kitty face on his uncle, who is apparently passed out from drinking.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Jessica Lee is introduced in the first episode with her high heels click-clacking across a stage as she walks up to a podium, to make a pitch to a large audience for her company's new fighter jet.
  • Flashback: Many. A flashback in episode 4 reveals the uncomfortable history between Hae-ri and Tae-ung: she got drunk at a party and made a pass at him. In the present day the ultra-serious and very strict Tae-ung tells her she should have been fired.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Hae-ri's drivers in episode 16 make a bunch of crass, sexist comments about her in Arabic, thinking she can't understand, only for her to answer in Arabic and embarrass them.
  • His Name Is...: Chief Min realizes there is a sniper taking aim at him and his fellow bad guys, and he asks his own sniper who the other sniper is, but Min's sniper has only time to say "It's—" before the bullet goes through his brain. It's Min's rival, Chief Kang.
  • How We Got Here: The opening scene of the first episode shows Dal-gun, in a sniper's nest, waiting for a target who turns out to be Hae-ri. As he hesitates to shoot her, the series jumps back thirteen years to 2006 and the story starts to play out.
  • Idiot Savant: The delivery boy at Bullet Chicken (Kang's secret base and comms center) is mentally challenged and apparently autistic, but he's also a genius hacker. He masks Dal- gun and Hae-ri's IP location as the latter two are taking the boat back from Morocco.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy:
    • The big shootout in episode 8 has Lily's hit squad, pre-positioned on rooftops with automatic weapons, seemingly unable to hit any of the good guys, while the good guys (Tae-ung's team) are able to pick them off one at a time with pistols. Only Lily herself, wielding a rifle with a scope, can hit a target. (She shoots Woo-gi in the knee.)
    • Some more egregous examples in episode 12. An entire North Korean hit squad on the docks can't manage to shoot Dal-gun and the good guys once, despite pouring a hail of automatic weapon fire, even though the good guys with their pistols (and Chief Kang with a sniper rifle) nail the enemy with pinpoint precision. Then later in that same episode, the Seoul cops and the NIS goons unloose another storm of gunfire on the good guys and again hit no one. Once again Lily the assassin has a sniper rifle, and once again she only manages to wing Kim Woo-gi, this time in the arm.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Chief Min's confident assertion in episode 10 that there's no way the good guys could have escaped from Morocco, is instantly followed by Secretary Yoon entering and telling everyone that the good guys have escaped from Morocco (the crooked local cop who was working with the bad guys was killed).
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Dal-gun says this to the police when the body of the murdered reporter (episode 4) disappears from the hotel room.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: How Chief Kang eventually figures out that Michael was murdered: the gun was in his right hand but Kim knows Michael was a lefty.
  • Kubrick Stare: "Jerome", aka the guy who blew up the plane along with Woo-gi, does this when confronting Dal-gun at the end of episode 14.
  • Le Parkour: Dal-gun chases the culprit through the rooftops and ended up landing on the culprit's car.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: A goofy montage at the end of the last episode has Dal-gun getting ready for war, loading magazines and chambering rounds and sheathing knives and such, while Hae-ri is, just as dramatically, putting on makeup and lipstick and perfume.
  • Love Triangle: It takes a while to develop—Tae-ung does not even show up until episode 3—but eventually the love triangle sets in. Hae-ri is attracted to Tae-ung but also to Dal-gun, who is jealous.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Dal-gun twice walks away from accidents that flipped vehicles. He spills out of a moving car and down a rocky incline in Morocco. He jumps from a three-story building and lands on a car windshield. He takes a licking, and keeps on ticking.
    • It's impressive enough when Ho-sik manages to crawl through a hospital window and run away after he's shot In the Back, but it's really impressive when he stands back up after Hae-ri hits him with her car as she drives up to the scene at high speed (episode 3). The suicide pill he swallows moments later does the trick.
  • Microwave Misuse: In episode 3 Dal-gun escapes from an assassin in a convenience store by throwing a spray can of—something (WD-40?)—into a microwave and turning it on. The microwave explodes as the killer is passing by, delaying him long enough for Dal-gun to get out.
  • Missing Mom: A flashback reveals that after Dal-gun's brother, Hoon's father, died, Hoon's mother dumped the boy at an orphanage. Dal-gun took him home.
  • Monochrome Past: Used in episode 2 to show that Hae-ri was sent to Lisbon to investigate Michael's suicide (actually murder). Not used for the many other flashbacks in the series.
  • No Ending: Unlike most Korean dramas. The story ends in "Kiria", with Edward and Acting President Hong trying to get a drilling contract, Hae-ri trying to stop them, and Dal-gun a mercenary who apparently hopes to use that position to somehow take down Edward Park. There's no resolution to the plot.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: To her coworkers at the Korean consulate in Tangier, Hae-ri comes off as a ditzy Brainless Beauty, scatterbrained, often late for work. This is a deliberate disguise for Hae-ri, who is actually a secret agent with Korean intelligence.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Episode 2 reveals that the co-pilot's Spanish-language conversation with a girlfriend in Episode 1, right before the plane took off, was actually with the black-clad bomber. The co-pilot is revealed to also be a co-conspirator.
  • Piggyback Cute: In episode 14 Dal-gun uses Hae-ri's sore legs (she's slowly recovering from a gunshot wound) as an excuse to give her a piggyback ride.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The death of Dal-gun's nephew Hoon brings Dal-gun to Morocco, first to go to the mass funeral, then to find out what happened.
  • Precision F-Strike: In episode 1, after the presentation about the plane doesn't go great, Jessica yells at her flunky Michael. Michael seems to be of Slavic extraction instead of Korean, so she addresses him in English, saying that they have to make that deal about the plane, or "Otherwise, we're dead. You and me—so fucking dead!". (Maybe they got away with the F word because it was in English.)
  • Product Placement: Weirdly averted with Subway, a common product placement sponsor of Korean dramas. In one episode, Hae-ri's friend Hwa-sook is plainly eating at a Subway, and in another Lily the assassin and her sidekick are plainly drinking from Subway cups—the yellow and green color scheme is visible in each. Yet in both scenes the shot does not reveal the Subway logo. In several other shots throughout the series, characters are plainly eating and drinking Subway products, with the logo never shown.
    • The logo is finally shown in episode 13, complete with a big "Subway" storefront sign, as the bereaved families of Flight B357 eat together. There are several more instances of Subway being prominently featured in the remaining episodes, as if to make up for lost time.
    • Episode 15 reveals that if you're driving a Hyundai SUV, you can choose special settings for different terrain! Dal-gun chooses "Muddy, Unpaved, Uneven Road" while driving to his rendezvous with President Jeong.
  • Professional Killer: Lily the hitwoman, hired at the end of episode 3 by Jessica to kill Dal-gun. She drops into English to proclaim herself "Angel of Death."
  • Puppet King: How much of a puppet is Acting President Hong in the last episode? So much, that Edward Park is giving him lists of people to staff even junior positions at ministries, as well as a disc detailing his trade and policy positions. And he's specifically instructed to stop all investigations into the B357 crash.
  • Qurac: In the How We Got Here 2019 prologue, Dal-gun is sitting in a sniper's nest, waiting for a target, in the North African "Kingdom of Kiria". This is a little weird, since a good chunk of the story will take place in the entirely real country of Morocco.
    • "Kiria" is not mentioned again until episode 12, when Jessica asks President Jeong about an oil-drilling operation in that country.
  • Revealing Reflection:
    • Dal-gun escapes from the assassin sent to kill him in episode 3, because they are in a convenience store, and Dal-gun sees the killer reflected in the glass of a cabinet of drinks, Just in Time.
    • This happens again at the end of that same episode when Dal-gun sees a killer approaching through the reflection in Hae-ri's sunglasses.
  • Roof Hopping:
    • Dal-gun does this in the first episode when chasing after the man he saw at the hotel—the man who should not be there, since he was caught on the video Hoon sent his uncle from the plane.
    • He does this again in episode 7, when he's back in Tangier, hopping roofs in the tightly-packed slums, trying to find the hideout of Kim Woo-gi, the copilot of Flight B357.
  • Scenery Censor: Dal-gun gets so excited about figuring out Oh Sang-mi's dying message that he charges out of the shower, naked. Hae-ri's head hides his private area.
  • Second-Face Smoke: In episode 3, a mysterious man in a uniform blows cigar smoke in the airplane bomber's face, before casually shooting the said airplane bomber, who bungled things, in the head.
  • She's Got Legs: Mixed with Distracted by the Sexy. Hae-ri is caught by another intern at the embassy in a locked room, a place where she really shouldn't be. So she rips her stockings and, when the man comes in, dangles her long legs at him while claiming that she has to change her stockings.
  • Shoot the Fuel Tank: In episode 8, Tae-ung manages to take out a good chunk of Lily's hit squad by shooting some fuel tanks that just happen to be there, sitting on a flatbed truck in the street.
  • Shower Scene: This isn't a romance like many Korean Dramas but there's still a shower scene in episode 4, as the show gets to show off Dal-gun's chiseled physique while he takes a shower and thinks about events in his investigation.
  • Sleep Cute:
    • The ship teasing gets strong in episode 3 when Hae-ri nods off on Dal-gun's shoulder during the long plane flight back to Korea from Morocco.
    • In episode 11 the two are sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a cargo ship. Hae-ri complains about Dal-gun's snoring and teeth-grinding...but when she falls asleep she wraps herself around him, to his discomfort.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Smart People Play Go, in the case of President Jung and his prime minister Hong, who play a game in Jung's office. This establishes them both as not just smart, but schemers.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: A batch of drugged noodles knocks out the NIS guards and allows an assassin to enter the safe house and come after Dal-gun.
  • Title Drop: "Vagabond" is the Trust Password that Chief Kang has set up as the secret base that only he and Tae-ung know about. Hwa-sook uses the password when calling an order to the chicken place in episode 9, so she can eventually transmit to Tae-ung in Morocco the word that the supposed replacement team sent to relieve them in Tangier, is actually a death squad sent kill Woo-gi and Dal-gun.
  • Trust Password: "Vagabond" is the password that Chief Kang uses at the chicken shop, which is his secret base and communication center.
  • Unflinching Walk: Dal-gun simply chucks a grenade backwards over his shoulder, and then walks unflinchingly away as the grenade goes off, killing Jerome in the last episode.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Lily the assassin tries to kill Dal-gun in episode 4 by remotely disabling the brakes on his car using some kind of fancy hacking device. He survives the crash.
  • The Voice:
    • Hoon's Missing Mom, who didn't care back in the day but calls Dal-gun in episode 4, suddenly very interested now that there's the prospect of financial compensation for relatives of the victims of the crash.
    • "Shadow", Jessica Lee's boss and the Big Bad, who is directing events; not seen even when he's talking to Jessica on the phone.
  • Within Arm's Reach: In episode 3 a masked assassin is garroting Hae-ri. She pushes him backwards and they smash through her coffee table together, but he is able to maintain his grip on the garrote—until her flailing hand finds her letter opener on the floor. She stabs him in the leg with it and escapes.
  • Your Mom: When Chief Min catches Kang in a restroom in episode 9, Kang having overpowered his captors, he sees Kang with his phone. He asks "Who were you calling?", and Kang answers "Your mother. I told her you were being a bad boy." (Kang was actually calling a newspaper reporter and telling him that Woo-gi the copilot is alive in Tangier, but a goon squad has been sent there to murder him.)
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: By episode 13 it seems like the bulk of the story has been resolved. Kim Woo-gi has testified, John & Mark has been publicly exposed, Jessica is in prison, Chief Min has been arrested, Secretary Yoon is taking the fall. Hae-ri even calls the case "solved". But there are loose ends, like who sent the video that got Jessica arrested, and who was the mystery sniper taking shots at Lily, and just what was up with Dal-gun thinking that he saw supposedly dead Reporter Jo alive on the streets of Seoul. And of course there are invokedthree episodes left. Sure enough, at the end of the episode Jessica sends Dal-gun his nephew's video from the fatal plane, and the mystery deepens.

Alternative Title(s): Vagabond SK