The case is short but sweet today, and showcases some really nice character beats for everyone. The show continues to use the weekly cases as vehicles for our main cast’s developments, while managing to get us invested with the guests who come in and out rather fleetingly. I’m liking the little steps we’re seeing our tin men make, who aren’t perhaps as empty-hearted and tin-canned as they first appeared.
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Ye-rim – “Caller Ring” [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
So the first love comes back. Yi-seol chats with Byung-hoon, and it appears they’re ignoring the elephant in the room—the whole whoops-I-fell-and-landed-on-top-of-you couch embrace she witnessed—but it’s not so easily forgotten. Byung-hoon finds himself looking through the window at Min-young, and Yi-seol clocks his distraction.
Min-young tries to pretend she doesn’t care about the cozy couple, and notices that they have a visitor: that scary woman who’s been lurking around (cameo by Jung Yumi).
She calls Byung-hoon to deal with the client, which is when Yi-seol notices that Min-young wears a particular necklace. It’s the one Byung-hoon bought from her, which suggests (somewhat erroneously) that these two are closer than he’s letting on.
Byung-hoon insists on sending this client away, while Min-young wants to take her on. When the client starts to ask whether this is the dating agency, he cuts her off before Yi-seol catches on that they’re not a theater troupe and instructs Min-young to see her out.
Instead, Min-young sits with her at the restaurant next door, eager to hear her story. The client—her name is Su-ah—wants the agency’s help in changing herself, with no interference needed for the target. As in, Su-ah wants to win his affection the good old-fashioned way by expressing her sincere feelings, but she needs guidance getting there.
This speaks to Min-young’s love of romance, and she promises to do everything she can to help. Watching from outside, Arang notes in voice-over, “Up till that point, Min-young noona looked full of confidence.” I’m assuming that means we get a twist.
You can’t quite blame Byung-hoon for wanting to pass on Su-ah, because she seems haunted by an air of morbid forlornness. She’s also dogged by a bad luck streak, though she says she’s used to it, as though it’s no big deal. For instance, the tab of her soda can pops off, and Moo-jin steps in to fix it—and the moment Su-ah meets his eye, she keels over unconscious. Ha.
Byung-hoon agrees to a compromise of sorts, leaving the case in Min-young’s hands, warning that she’d better not come running to him for help. Su-ah thanks Min-young for taking on her case, and then runs into a street sign. Again, she assures Min-young that she’s used to stuff like this happening to her, which I’m not sure is much reassurance.
Min-young briefs the team on the stats: Su-ah works as a ghost in an amusement park (how fitting), lives with only women (mom, grandma), and only attended all-girls schools. She’s also curiously tight-lipped about her target, choosing not to reveal who it is.
Byung-hoon mocks Min-young for her inability to identify the target, and she huffs to her skeptical team that she can pull this off. This leads to a bet: If she succeeds, she can order Byung-hoon to do one thing. If she loses, she has to do something for him.
And again, Future Arang narrates, “Noona didn’t know then that she’d just made a big mistake.”
Min-young shares the bet with Seung-pyo, who throws his support to her. She points out that even if she isn’t positive she’ll succeed, she can’t work with a client thinking of failure first. Seung-pyo offers a bet of their own, though since they’re both rooting for her to succeed it’s kind of a faulty wager from the start: If she wins, he’ll grant her one wish, and if she loses, they’ll have a consolation drink.
Min-young films herself as she begins the mission, adopting a romance guru tone as she offers advice. For instance: It’s on the inside that counts… but in order to get to see that inside, how about we not scare off people with our outsides? That’s her reasoning behind the hairdo makeover session (“It’s like watching The Ring”), but Su-ah isn’t quite ready to shed her hair-curtain, saying that showing her face is like how others would feel walking out of the house naked.
They move to the next step: making eye contact. Using Moo-jin as a test subject, Min-young coaches Su-ah to think of him as a girl and look him in the eye. But Su-ah’s too timid to go through with it.
Byung-hoon has been watching all this while, looking like he’d do sooooo much better. I love that he was so smug about not helping and then can’t help himself. He steps in and instructs Su-ah to consider Moo-jin a mere rock… but even then she can’t meet his eye.
Frustrated, he’s all, “Is this hard? Why is this hard?” He turns to demonstrate with Min-young, only now they’re gazing into each other’s eyes and hearts start thumping. He excuses himself and hurries away looking perturbed, as Omniscient Future Arang narrates, “The mistake… wasn’t only made by noona.”
Min-young asks about Su-ah’s hairstyle, and Su-ah explains that it just naturally ended up this way. Before, people would whisper about her or treat her like an outcast, so she hid behind her hair. Then, she found that it was less difficult being feared than being ignored.
But something happened recently to make her change her mind and decide to buck up her courage. We see it in flashback:
Su-ah gathers to watch a magic show at the amusement park, but gets shoved around and pushed back. She shrinks back in her usual way, until someone taps her shoulder, then clears the way for her to step forward.
Her helper is the magician performing here (whom we know is Gong Yoo, though we don’t see his face), and that brief encounter leaves a lasting impression. It also leaves behind his old watch, which she finds dropped on the ground.
Su-ah says that she’s most comfortable in nature, so to ease some of her anxiety, Min-young puts her in Arang’s tent… and then locks (er, zips) her in with Arang for an hour. If Su-ah bolts before then, she’ll get stuck with the “ghastly ajusshi” (Byung-hoon) next. HA.
Su-ah comments that having a tent in your room is strange, and Arang muses, “Is it?” He shrugs, saying that he doesn’t mind what people think as long as he’s happy, and Min-young (who watches from the surveillance station) smiles approvingly. Of course, she doesn’t know that he’s being fed dialogue by Byung-hoon, hee. She thanks Moo-jin for his great idea, not seeing Byung-hoon smiling smugly behind her. Just couldn’t keep his nose out of it, could he?
Turns out Min-young is taping everything because she’s come up with the idea to provide future clients with a guide of sorts. Ah, that’s cute, and kind of clever. She asks Byung-hoon to film her, but they’re interrupted by the loan sharks, here for another round of rooftop threatening.
The thugs find Su-ah in the main room and put on their intimidating gangsta faces to demand Byung-hoon’s whereabouts. She stutters that she doesn’t know, which they assume is a lie. So they get ready to menace the information out of her… until she stammers, “I saw you calling the restaurant Master h-hy-hyungnim.”
They immediately jump up and make nice, calling her noonim. Haha. Byung-hoon and Min-young catch some of the exchange, but not enough to get the real story. Thus Min-young assumes that the loan sharks were scared off by Su-ah’s hair, and decides she’ll have to do something about it.
Her methods are questionable—surprising Su-ah with the scissors before she can protest—but I’ll admit that Min-young has a way with the gentle explanation. She encourages Su-ah to accept herself and not hide, because those who don’t love themselves won’t be able to receive love from others. And so, Su-ah puts herself in their hands.
Next, it’s a test date in a restaurant with Moo-jin as her partner. Min-young gives Su-ah instructions over the earpiece, walking her through the exercise. Su-ah fights down panic at the thought of being watched by others, but Moo-jin explains that a person’s gaze can feel different based on how you let it affect you—and interpreting them as negative can become a habit.
Min-young is impressed with his long-winded and wise explanation… which is, of course, being secretly provided by Byung-hoon.
Su-ah says she’s plagued with bad luck, but Moo-jin answers (on his own, this time) that she isn’t unlucky—if she were, she wouldn’t have met someone who spurred her to come out of her shell. He encourages her to tell herself she’s cute, have confidence in herself, smile brightly… and it’s starting to sound like Moo-jin is drawing upon someone specific for this example.
That’s when Su-ah gets a text message, and she frets, “But I’m not ready yet.” Moo-jin tells her that timing is more important than preparation, because it’s hard to get that moment back once you’ve lost the timing. Su-ah takes that in, and looks him in the eye. Moo-jin says, “I finally see.”
He means he’s seeing Su-ah’s eyes for the first time, but perhaps he really means he’s seeing his own situation clearly, because after work that night he’s waiting outside the restaurant for Hye-ri.
He takes her on a motorcycle ride, arriving at the top of a hill overlooking the city lights. Moo-jin offers her his helmet, fiddles with some dials, and has her look at the city through the visor. The view activates a show of lights, which he’s rigged himself.
Hye-ri oohs and awws, and asks if he’s going to look too. He says he only has one, “Because until now, one was enough.” Aw.
As Seung-pyo locks up that night, he’s visited by some smarmy-looking gangsters. They’re obviously on familiar terms, though it seems Seung-pyo’s been tucking himself away; the leader scoffs to find him running a restaurant instead of being part of whatever shadiness is in his past.
Seung-pyo warns them to take a hike, they don’t, and a fight breaks out. He’s the fastest and quickly knocks down the minions and whips out a switchblade—whoa, where’d that come from?—and holds it to the leader’s throat.
The leader loses his bravado and calls off his goons. Seung-pyo warns them to get lost for good, which makes me wonder if maybe he’s the boss of this bunch, too.
He sends them off and turns around… and sees Min-young standing there, eyes wide. Whoops. He realizes he’s still holding the open knife and starts fumbling for an explanation, only the excuse sounds flimsy and panicked and Min-young instinctively backs up away from him.
He actually looks quite lost and scared, and Min-young puts on her reassuring face to tell him he doesn’t have to explain if it’s awkward. She says, “I know you’re a good person,” though her voice shakes. Then she hurries away, spooked, while Seung-pyo gets drunk in his empty restaurant.
Su-ah’s text message the other night turns out to be a notice of the magic show’s last night at the park. Hence her dilemma about timing versus preparation. So she calls Min-young to explain that she’s on her way to confess her feelings, which panics Min-young, who says that it’s too early.
Su-ah knows that it is, but today may be her last chance. She’s not expecting him to return her feelings: “Looking at his eyes and expressing my feelings honestly—right now, to me that’s the most important thing. It’s thanks to you that I can summon my courage like this. Thank you.”
Min-young grabs her things and runs out, determined to get there in time, and Byung-hoon growls a curse to realize he’s gotta leave the agency while he’s still in his unlucky phase if he wants to follow her. But he wants to follow her, of course, so off he goes.
Arang narrates, “And that’s when I knew that thinking everything had been a mistake… had been my mistake.”
Su-ah arrives at the magic show and works up her courage to approach, calling out to the magician, whose face we finally get to see. She asks if he remembers her, but he looks at her rather blankly, even when she says she watched every one of his shows here. Oh no. Is this going to end badly? He’s looking at her in puzzlement, polite but not exactly encouraging.
She explains, “That was my happiest moment of the day, like I was a different me in a different world. And so, I was always thankful to you, and I wanted to tell you how I felt.”
He just keeps standing there with that stoic face, and Su-ah returns the watch he’d once dropped. He says nothing. So she wishes him well and starts to walk away, whereupon he calls her back.
He holds out the watch and says that it’s stopped, and she’s embarrassed at her bad luck striking again; she explains that she didn’t break it, not seeing that he’s smiling now. Oh phew—I was afraid for a second that he was going to be an ass. Instead, he tells her she ought to fix it and return it the next time they meet. Okay, so that may sound a leetle assy still, but it’s all in the delivery. It’s sweet.
Min-young scours the park without finding Su-ah and arrives at the pier that must be part of the premises—which also looks just like the pier in Byung-hoon’s drowning nightmare, by the way. She doesn’t realize that as she dabs the sweat from her neck, the necklace falls off and lands in a boat.
Byung-hoon arrives at the same pier a bit later and tells himself to stay away; it’s bad luck to go near water while he’s still in his unlucky phase. From his reaction, I’d say the drowning wasn’t a memory after all, but a premonition. Despite the foreboding Byung-hoon approaches anyway, all while muttering, “This feels unlucky…”
That’s how he sees the necklace in the half-submerged boat, and grumbles at Min-young losing his present so carelessly. He reaches for it, stretching himself toward the water—and falls in.
Now we replay the scene we’d seen previously, as Byung-hoon sinks underwater. He reaches for his Sherlock pendant, but it remains out of his reach.
Min-young returns to the pier in time to see the danger, and dives into the water. She reaches out a hand to him, signaling for him to grab it… Byung-hoon opens his eyes… and throws a V sign. HAHAHA.
His scissors beats her paper, which is the most hilariously inappropriate response to your rescuer as you’re halfway to drowning, but SO HIM.
It’s also a nice way to put a period on his unlucky phase, since he’s back to winning. She shoots him this exasperated look even in the water and drags him back up (with his hand clutching her dropped necklace).
On the pier, Min-young rouses first and starts slapping his face and yelling at him to wake up. He doesn’t move, and she starts to administer CPR. Still he remains unresponsive.
Finally he opens his eyes just as she’s breathing into his mouth, and they both freeze.
I really liked the case of this week, even if it was a pretty skimpy cameo on Gong Yoo’s end. But from a story standpoint, it was actually very effective to cast the big star, build him up in our minds just as our client did, and then to have the great big sinking sensation in the moment that we realize he’s just a guy. Who doesn’t know who Su-ah is, who never registered her presence before, who isn’t a jerk because of it but certainly not the heroic guy who merits the slo-mo reveal highlighted by angelic choruses and glorious backlighting. It’s a case where the show actually played with our meta expectations and used them to subvert the moment, which I really appreciate.
At the end of the day this was an episode about Su-ah, which was poignant and sweet—not for the way she found herself a cute potential boyfriend, but because this mission spurred her to loving herself and stepping out into the world. Whether she won the guy’s heart was, as she said, not the point of the story, and I think I would’ve been fine had she walked away from the confession a rejected but braver person. It’s just icing on the cake to have a hint of hope. And I like that the hope isn’t for their relationship to work out, but for Su-ah to simply even have a relationship.
What made the case even better was the way it utilized each member of the team and spurred them to their own little growths. Min-young has always been heart over brain, hope over cynicism, and sometimes you can see how that needs a little grounding. In this case, though, her brand of acceptance and encouragement were just the push Su-ah needed.
Truth be told, none of the actual events that the team planned were all that remarkable—a haircut, a makeover, a mock date—and so, the success was in the little bits of advice that came from the heart. Byung-hoon provided some of that on the sly, while Moo-jin had his little epiphany as well. And Arang’s narration had a clever twist too, by starting out seemingly all about Min-young’s errors and ending up with the understanding that his assumptions were the erroneous ones.
Now, if we could just get to the bottom of the Master mystery.