We are in the final stage of “Liar Game”: a Russian Roulette style game called Last Man Standing. The only contestants left in the final round is former show MC, Kang Do Young (Shin Sung Rok), genius ex-convict Ha Woo Jin (Lee Sang Yoon), and trusting Nam Da Jung (Kim So Eun).
Multiple forces are working against Woo Jin. Just before the final round, Da Jung is taken aside by Station Director Jang (Choi Jin Ho) who insists she should not trust Woo Jin, because he is secretly in league with Do Young to win the grand prize of $10 million. He recommends that she shoot Woo Jin in the final round. Meanwhile, Woo Jin’s cop friend realizes that he is missing a bullet in his gun while watching the “Liar Game” contestants shooting blanks at each other. He jumps to the conclusion that Woo Jin stole a bullet to use on Do Young.
Show PD, Lee Yoon Joo (Cha Soo Yeon) tries to maintain control over the final round by intercepting a call from Director Jang, then collecting her crews’ cell phones and locking them up. She directs her assistant not to let anyone into the building without her permission.
In a cold, abandoned warehouse, the final round of Last Man Standing is under way with revised rules. Avoidance is no longer an option, but each contestant has 15 lives. The choice to shoot or reload must be made simultaneously by all contestants within 30 seconds.
The contestants are given a chance to voice some final words before the game begins. Da Jung expresses doubt as to whether she can trust Woo Jin. Woo Jin tells her to trust him while avoiding eye contact. Do Young laughs, and expresses excitement at the prospect of masks being removed.
To everyone’s surprise, Woo Jin decides to aim his gun at Da Jung in the first and second turns. He fails to shoot his single bullet both times.
Back at the studio, former contestants watch on, and cunning Jamie (Lee El) realizes that Woo Jin must have a reason for targeting Da Jung since he is demonstrating a lack of malice by refusing to load his gun. Jamie is right; Do Young had threatened to harm Da Jung’s kidnapped father if Woo Jin did not shoot Da Jung. Woo Jin is biding his time as another former contestant, Jo Dal Goo (Jo Jae Yun) is sent to rescue Da Jung’s father. In the abandoned orphanage, Da Jung’s father is watching the show while gagged and bound to a chair. He is sitting in a puddle of gasoline with an open flame tied to him, precariously perched on the edge of a table.
In the third turn, Da Jung voices her fear that Woo Jin is working with Do Young, and pleads for him to explain why. Woo Jin looks tortured as he silently shoots her, and fails again. An impatient Do Young offers to explain the nature of his relationship with Woo Jin. Da Jung refuses, stating that she does not trust him.
In the fourth turn, Woo Jin finally succeeds in firing off his single bullet at Da Jung. Da Jung sits back on her heels in shock at the betrayal. Do Young laughs uproariously while he loads another bullet into his gun to fill his cylinder to capacity. Woo Jin shoots lasers from his eyes at him.
In the fifth turn, Da Jung trains her gun at Woo Jin then parrots his mantra to reward loyalty and punish betrayal. He tells her to shoot him, and she empties her gun, leaving Woo Jin with 10 lives. Do Young shoots her simultaneously, and she is left with nine lives. Do Young remains hale and hearty with 15 lives.
During a commercial break, PD Lee receives word that a detective is attempting to stop the shoot, claiming that there is a real gun in play. PD Lee stubbornly refuses to have her show interrupted by any outside force, and decides to have the contestants’ guns swapped out instead. She takes Woo Jin aside to frisk him (suspiciously focusing on the his back side). Finding nothing, she warns him not to sink to Do Young’s level.
It turns out that Do Young has the real bullet, which his subordinate had stolen from the cop after knocking him out. He places the real bullet in the supply case of one of his competitors.
When the show resumes, Do Young starts telling a story of woe about two boys and a woman who could not obtain the funds to maintain an orphanage. Of course, the two boys are Do Young and Woo Jin, who were misfits among the other children. The boys enjoyed playing a game of trust where they balance off of each other over a well. Woo Jin loses his temper over the telling of the story, and Last Man Standing resumes.
Over the next five turns, all the contestants load their guns. Do Young continues to talk about Woo Jin’s mother, and Woo Jin pulls his gun on Do Young while demanding to know why Do Young killed her. Do Young demurs, claiming there is no reason to kill Woo Jin’s mother since she was as selfless as Da Jung.
On the 11th turn, Woo Jin unwillingly points his gun at Da Jung again, and shoots. Do Young shoots Woo Jin this time. Da Jung aims her gun at Woo Jin, then swings at the last minute to empty her gun on Do Young. A surprised Do Young holds on to 10 lives, Woo Jin has five, and Da Jung is reduced to four. Da Jung now believes that Woo Jin must be shooting her for a reason.
As Do Young is about to resume his story, Woo Jin demands to know why he has involved Da Jung. It turns out that Da Jung was at the orphanage. She was drawn to Do Young and Woo Jin, and joined them in the trust game above the well.
Da Jung narrowly missed being adopted by the American philanthropist who expressed interest in Do Young and Woo Jin instead. Of course, he is permitted by Woo Jin’s mother to adopt only Do Young for a sizable donation. Do Young saw what Woo Jin’s mother seemed incapable of discerning: that the philanthropist was actually a money grubbing adoption broker. Do Young asserts that Da Jung’s father had also sold her for money to save her ill mother, though he had hoped to get Da Jung back eventually.
Meanwhile, Dal Goo arrives at the abandoned orphanage. He quickly finds Da Jung’s father, but is beaten down to the ground by Do Young’s associate, wrestling-style with a fold up chair. Watching his dirty secret being aired on “Liar Game”, Da Jung’s father rocks his chair in agitation, seemingly obliviously to the lighter inching off the table. Dal Goo manages to break free and bite down on his attacker’s ankle. After a struggle, Dal Goo knocks out his assailant, and catches the falling lighter just as Da Jung’s father drops to the ground.
Do Young hints at the horrors and deaths resulting from the Walden Two experiment that Woo Jin and Da Jung were fortunate enough to avoid. In revenge, Do Young manipulated the philanthropist that had sold him to Walden Two into becoming the president of L Company. Do Young then sent the sham president to defraud Woo Jin’s mother. Woo Jin is held back from attacking Do Young, and in the midst of this soap opera, Director Kang attempts to return to the relatively boring game of Last Man Standing.
Just as turn 12 is about to start, Dal Goo manages to contact Jamie to confirm that Da Jung’s father was now safe. However, Jamie and the other contestants are unable to contact anyone on set. Five more turns pass, and the contestants all have five bullets loaded. Jamie chooses that moment to jump in front of Director Kang, and barely manages to convey Dal Goo’s message to Woo Jin before being dragged away.
On the 17th turn, Woo Jin faces Do Young with new resolve, and reveals to Da Jung about her father being held hostage by Do Young. Woo Jin and Do Young train their guns at each other, and Da Jung aims hers at Do Young. The three of them standing in a triangle echoes the formation they took on while balancing precariously around the well at the orphanage. This childhood accident in the making ends rather anti-climatically. Woo Jin’s mother calls Do Young away, and he simply suggests that they play again. Later, Da Jung is picked up by her father, as he had promised, while Do Young is prepared to be shipped off to the US. Standing by his suitcase, Do Young watches Woo Jin and his mother walk away from the orphanage. Woo Jin questions his mother’s deal with the American philanthropist. As she hesitantly stands by her decision, his hand slips out of hers.
PD Lee is not even paying attention to this excitement, because she is busy reviewing the behind the scenes footage, in order the pacify the cops still attempting to enter the set of “Liar Game”. PD Lee finally spots Do Young’s placement of the real bullet in Da Jung’s supply. She jumps up and stares wordlessly as Da Jung is about to fire her gun at Do Young. Woo Jin is such a genius that he realizes in that split second that Do Young is about to be hit with a real bullet. Rather than shout at Da Jung to stop, Woo Jin jumps in front of Do Young and takes the bullet as they both fall. Da Jung is literally the last man standing and wins “Liar Game”.
Woo Jin wakes up in a hospital with his arm in a bandage (sadly, with a shirt on), and finds that his reporter friend has revealed Do Young’s true identity to the world. Da Jung and Woo Jin run into former contestant, Choi Sung Joon (Lee Shi Hoo) who appears to have survived the falling elevator. Woo Jin wordlessly places a hand on Sung Joon’s shoulder, because there are no words to express regret at not even bothering to find a missing ally.
An incarcerated Do Young admits to Woo Jin that he wanted to end it all with the conclusion of “Liar Game”. However, it is not the end, but rather, the beginning. Do Young says that the people who made him this way will not stop. Do Young cryptically hints at targeted attacks on key people and enemies from within, then tells Woo Jin that though he failed, if he is not stopped, chaos will reign.
Woo Jin is standing on the edge of the orphanage well, while he ponders about the subjective nature of people’s view on the world to Da Jung. When asked what she will do now, the ever optimistic Da Jung says that she will aim to become a philanthropist or charity worker. Woo Jin smiles with approval. Thanks to the $500,000 each of the contestants ended up receiving, the gangster is now a boxing coach, the actor is working, Jamie has opened a lounge, and Dal Goo delivers flowers to her. Living with her happily employed father, Da Jung is back at school, and appears to still be ready to trust on faith alone. Meanwhile, Woo Jin burns his files on Do Young, and continues to be paranoid about lies all around him.
Just as a news ticker announces that Do Young has escaped from police custody during a car accident, Woo Jin, Da Jung and others receive a phone call inviting them to the real Liar Game. A trussed up Do Young, flanked by two men in masks, delivers the message before laughing hysterically.
A gathering of puzzled looking people are told by a masked man that the third round of Liar Game’s Mask Game begins. The crowd dissolves into confusion over the terms of the game, when someone announces that he has a way to win. Woo Jin steps forward wearing unfamiliar hair and clothing, but the same scowl. With this shocking makeover reveal, Season 1 of “Liar Game” ends.
Woo Jin’s horrendous makeover at the end is pretty much the personification of this final episode: an off-putting display of inepitude. For ten episodes, I easily suspended disbelief and got swept up in the intrigue and surprises of “Liar Game”. In episode 12, the intrigue is done away with as the reasons for Do Young’s motivations are revealed. Meanwhile, Woo Jin disappoints by resorting to playing by Do Young’s rules, relying on Dal Goo to turn the tide against his nemesis.
Added to the rather predictable story were the inexplicable annoyances. Did Da Jung’s father have a death wish? How else to explain his insistent rocking back and forth in spite of the open flame tied to his chair, as he is drenched in gasoline? When did PD Lee become so ruthless that the threat of a shooting fails to stop the show? When someone does get shot, PD Lee is still focused on filming Da Jung, as Woo Jin bleeds out.
It was not a complete horror show. I liked seeing Da Jung take aim at Do Young in the face of pressure to shoot Woo Jin. Though, I liked Jamie even more for being clever enough to understand Woo Jin’s predicament right away, and resourceful enough to find a way to convey Dal Goo’s message to him. I suppose it is too much to ask for a confident and competent female like Jamie to be a main character in the strongly hinted second season. I also found it intriguing that Woo Jin insisted on calling Do Young’s memories a complete fabrication. I wonder if he truly does not remember, or if he is just shielding Da Jung from the truth by lying to her.
I admit that the ending piqued my interest, and if a second season is released, I will probably watch it. I just hope there is a return to the clever plot twists of the first 10 episodes of “Liar Game”. It does beg the question of whether the series would have been better off sticking with the original number of episodes.
I leave you with Lee Sang Yoon’s original hair, which I believed was the worst possible style he could wear. How wrong I was.