Genius ex-con, Ha Woo Jin (Lee Sang Yoon) confidently walks towards the voting booth that is being blocked by the congressman’s supporters. He raises his hand before the washed-up actor. The actor breaks links with the other supporters of the congressman to give Woo Jin a high five; Woo Jin had won over the washed up actor by appealing to his desire to take centre stage in turning the tables on the congressman.
It also turns out that the gangster is in league with Woo Jin. With his support and that of the washed up actor, ex-loan shark candidate, Jo Dal Goo (Jo Jae Yun) wins the presidency in Round 2. As promised, Dal Goo is ready to distribute the national fund to all his supporters. However, when Dal Goo is led to the vault, it turns out to be empty.
A surprised Woo Jin asks for time to speak with Dal Goo’s supporters before elimination in order to inform them of the missing funds. The washed up actor and the gangster are quick to blame the only contestant incapable of lying, Nam Da Jung (Kim So Eun) of subterfuge. Woo Jin loses his cool as he realizes that one of the Round 1 supporters of creepy candidate, Kang Do Young (Shin Sung Rok) has all national funds.
Dal Goo’s supporters must identify and eliminate the keeper of the national funds, so that it is all returned to the national safe. After checking the safes of the gangster and the washed up actor, the suspects are narrowed down to evil Jamie (Lee El) and the lawyer.
Woo Jin approaches Jamie first, telling her through a written message that she is a suspect. She writes her denial of the accusation on the floor as directed by Woo Jin, giving the appearance of opening her safe for Woo Jin to the lawyer. Thus, Woo Jin is able to bluff to the lawyer that he knows that the lawyer holds the national funds, then threaten him with elimination. Sure enough, the lawyer starts begging for mercy. Woo Jin coldly walks away, and the lawyer is escorted out. Do Young rubs his forehead with a look of mild frustration.
Woo Jin reveals that in Round 1, he had Dal Goo classify his outrageous statement as true, knowing that no one would vote for Dal Goo. Woo Jin had been hoping to save the ability to make a false campaign promise for Round 3, but thanks to Do Young, Dal Goo will have to give a true campaign promise in the final round. Unfortunately, Do Young can still make a false promise.
Jamie approaches Do Young, a little miffed that he chose to stash the national funds with the lawyer instead of her. Do Young placates her by claiming that he wanted to keep her by his side. Jamie becomes frazzled by the odds they are up against, but Do Young seems to have a plan already.
The congressional aide is desperately trying to come up with a strategy for Round 3, but his presidential candidate, the congressman has already given up and is ready to scramble for any money he can get. During the campaign promise speeches, the congressman relinquishes his candidacy then announces that the vote of his congressional aide is available to the highest bidder.
Dal Goo promises that he will share the national fund equally with each of his supporters, so there is no fear of him resorting to Do Young’s trick. Do Young promises to give up all presidential authority and follow the wishes of his supporters.
After the polling, the gangster and the washed up actor have decided to join the congressional aide in the undecided camp. They, too, want to receive money for their votes.
The congressional aide panics, because if he is eliminated, he will be in debt to the broadcasting company since all the game winnings have been spent on the congressman’s campaign. The congressman simply tells him to pretend to support Do Young then after receiving money to sway his vote, support Dal Goo, who is sure to win. The congressional aide does not seemed convinced by the congressman’s strategy.
Meanwhile, Do Young has given $10,000 to the gangster for the opportunity to make a pitch for his vote. The gangster is still bitter over Do Young hiding the entire national fund in the lawyer’s safe, but Do Young claims innocence, and attributes the strategy to Woo Jin instead. He points out that the gangster has not actually checked Woo Jin’s safe nor that of Da Jung. The gangster’s confidence in Woo Jin is shaken.
To the congressional aide, Do Young offers to expose the congressman’s true nature to the world, thus paving the way for the congressional aide to run for office himself.
Jamie approaches the washed up actor and, in spite of having identified herself as a supporter of Do Young, she says she will vote for Dal Goo. However, she points out that with seven voters for Dal Goo, the money for each supporter will dwindle. She directs the washed up actor to sway the gangster and the congressional assistant away from voting for Dal Goo. However, Woo Jin is already aware of the washed up actor’s efforts to increase his cut of the funds, and is confident that the actor will still vote for Dal Goo.
“Liar Game” PD, Lee Yoon Joo (Cha Soo Yeon) and Station Director Jang (Choi Jin Ho) are watching the proceedings from above. Yoon Joo had been confident about Woo Jin’s win, but thanks to the chaos, she now sees that the game is up for grabs. Director Jang is amazed that Do Young appears indifferent to how despicable he might appear to the audience in his drive to win.
The gangster is now spreading the idea of Woo Jin being the mastermind behind the hiding of the national fund. He, the washed up actor and the congressional aide begin to suspect that Do Young’s final campaign promise is true whereas Dal Goo’s is actually false.
Watching the three contestants huddled together, Woo Jin starts to fear that Dal Goo may have lost the washed up actor’s vote. He is about to propose showing their safes to the other contestants when Do Young suddenly requests a group campaign, preempting any opportunity for Woo Jin to set the record straight.
Do Young’s speech condemns convoluted lies while pointedly looking at Woo Jin. While he does not outright associate himself with the truth, he offers the chance for the contestants to determine the truth themselves. Woo Jin steps in and proposes opening everyone’s safe to determine if Do Young was lying. Do Young brushes the idea aside, claiming that everyone should be focusing on who to believe in this round and the coming vote.
Do Young will only permit Woo Jin and Da Jung to make their case if Woo Jin wins a coin flip game. One person flips the coin then identifies the side facing up as heads or tails. The other person must guess whether he is telling the truth. The game plays right into Woo Jin’s amazing ability to detect lies. Da Jung appears troubled by Do Young’s proposal, but Woo Jin agrees to his terms.
As expected, the game heavily favours Woo Jin. With only one point away from winning, Woo Jin expresses scorn over Do Young’s strategy to drag the game out in order to increase his odds as the coin flipper. Do Young denies that he was even putting in an effort, and suddenly goes on a winning streak that shocks everyone, including Woo Jin. On the final coin flip, Do Young’s masklike face forces Woo Jin to resort to chance, and he loses.
Round 3 voting results in a win for Do Young over Dal Goo, four to three. Do Young reveals to his supporters that his last promise was a lie, so he will retain presidential authority, but he rewards each of his supporters with money. The exception is Jamie whose cut he will give to the eliminated lawyer, instead. He promises to reward her if she shows more loyalty towards him in the next game. Jamie is left spluttering without recourse.
Do Young immediately eliminates the congressman. Do Young then names Woo Jin, only to direct some words of encouragement towards him. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he eliminates the congressional aide. But, in the spirit of Da Jung’s generosity towards the eliminated contestant in the last game, he bestows the congressional aide with the remaining prize money as election funding for his run against his former boss.
Director Jang is frothing at Do Young’s methods. Yoon Joo voices her opinion that Director Jang and Jamie are both being manipulated by Do Young, and vows to stop Do Young from running roughshod over her show. Director Jang has a tantrum.
Dal Goo is drinking the pain away after his team’s defeat, and loudly blames it on Woo Jin. Dal Goo is about to reveal something about Do Young to Da Jung when Woo Jin claps a hand over his mouth and prepares to drag Dal Goo home. Da Jung jumps up and reassures Woo Jin that they will have another chance to win. However, a humbled Woo Jin advises her not to trust him too much.
A drunken Dal Goo is still raging against Woo Jin when Woo Jin asks why the former loan shark is so protective of Da Jung. Dal Goo reveals that after going to jail for the sake of a woman, he had vowed never to trust anyone again. However, honest sucker, Da Jung had restored his faith in others.
Dal Goo has a bout of vomiting then suddenly remembers what his former boss told him about his connection to Do Young. Apparently, there is none, because the loan shark refuses to associate with a psychopath like Do Young.
Woo Jin goes to meet with investigative reporter, Koo Ja Young (Choi Yoon So) who reveals that both the psychic and the lawyer were seemingly rewarded in ways not associated with the show after being eliminated. She also provides him with a file on Do Young. A worried Woo Jin posits his belief that Do Young is capable of controlling micro-expressions, thus making him impossible for Woo Jin to read, and a worthy adversary.
Yoon Joo tracks down Da Jung’s father and an informant notifies Do Young of this meeting. Do Young directs his operative to wait and see. Sitting alone in his dressing room, Do Young partially covers his face, using his hand as a mask, then tests out different facial expressions of emotion. When he lowers his hand, his figurative mask is back on.
Woo Jin reviews Do Young’s file, and sees that he had falsified a previous address; Walden 2 refers to the imaginary town of psychologist, B.F. Skinner. It is also the name of a rumoured experiment that took place in the US 20 years ago. Digging through files, Woo Jin finds an article about the infamous Walden 2 Project. He sticks the article, with its photograph of creepy masked children, next to a photo of creepy Do Young.
Never did I think that Da Jung’s honesty might become an asset in “Liar Game”, but the President Game proved this to be true. Woo Jin’s reputation for cunning and ruthless manipulation of others, including Da Jung, worked against him, ultimately causing other contestants to abandon him and his team.
However, what put the nail in the coffin was Woo Jin’s arrogance about his abilities. He did not have to participate in Do Young’s coin flip game, but he agreed to Do Young’s terms, and ended up playing right into Do Young’s strategy.
It is a bit of relief to see that Woo Jin is fallible. He was beginning to look as much like a robot as Do Young. Now, with two episodes remaining, we are assured of excitement as the possibility of Woo Jin failing and Da Jung suffering the consequences have become plausible.
Speaking of robotic Do Young, I thought they might make him more human, and perhaps an amoral supporter of Woo Jin and Da Jung against Director Jang. Instead, he is becoming all out creepy what with his miming of human emotion in the mirror, and the possibility that he was the product of some freakish experiment. It is worth noting that Walden Two is a novel in which characters reject the idea of free will and, instead, attribute behaviour to the environment. It appears to fit perfectly with the idea behind Do Young’s creation of “Liar Game”.
Still, Do Young made a great MC. Director Jang is just coming across as an amateur in comparison, and he should just fire himself.
I leave you with the two faces of Woo Jin: grim and confident, and grim and humbled.