Spy: Episode 9
We finally get a few long-awaited explanations in this episode, though they do little to quench the thirst for answers in this world of spies. Learning what that hard drive contains and why it’s so important counts for something, right? Suspicion runs high in all of our relationships as the clues start to bring bits of the truth to light, and a new face threatens to actually get this mission in motion. With all this intelligence-gathering going on, one might think that analyzing dossiers is the only thing spies get to do in this world.
SONG OF THE DAY
Shinhwa – “Run” [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
1988. Shenyang, China. After Mom finds out that she’s pregnant, she calls Dad from the hospital, asking him to meet her later tonight because she has something to get off of her chest. She’ll tell him everything—if she survives, that is.
That takes us back to the flashback we’ve previously seen: the one where Mom informed Ki-chul that she’s with child. He had told her to abort the baby, but Mom declared that she’ll have it because it’s “that person” (aka Dad’s) child.
Those words, however, has Ki-chul smugly return that the chances that he’s the baby’s father are higher. He receives a firm slap across the face for that remark, and Mom vows to live a decent life from now on, sick of the grunt work she’s been subjected to do.
But Ki-chul won’t stand to see her run off and living happily in the South. Instead, he tells her that their orders are to bring the South Korean man into the North. When Mom protests, he pins her down on the table, reminding her through gritted teeth to pull herself together.
Mom fakes a sudden bout of nausea so she can run out of there. Once she’s at a safe distance, she takes out a detonator. Inside, Ki-chul checks her purse and discovers a beeping item—remember that GPS tracker-looking object she still carries with her in the present?
Yeah, that’s a bomb, because Mom sets it off moments later. Oh Mom, still depending on the same over a quarter-century-old (failed) killing method as your getaway? Someone ’round these parts have got to hook her up with better tech.
We know that Sun-woo was eventually born and grew up to be the spy he is today. Which brings us back to the present as Sun-woo is left speechless at the discovery of seeing Ki-chul and Mom standing together.
The meeting is brief, and Sun-woo climbs out of his car to chase Ki-chul’s van on foot. Unfortunately, he loses the van and picks up Hyun-tae’s call to apologetically inform that he must have been mistaken.
Sun-woo beelines it for the office to sift through the files on the Shen-yang explosion and sees a blurry image of a woman that resembles Mom. Speaking of whom, Mom tucks something away in the secret compartment of her bathroom mirror, then takes her medication again.
Sun-woo puts in a request to track the van, and for some reason his software records a better match between that photo and the barely recognizable face from the subway than a clear photo of Mom. Still, it leaves him rattled. Someone tell me he’s figured it out now.
Ki-chul tells the unknown caller on the other end (whose voice we actually get to hear) that despite their failed mission tonight, they’ll still be able to pick up the item in a few days’ time. He stops short upon seeing his unlocked front door and approaches with caution in the darkness.
Ki-chul drops his things, however, upon seeing the source of the unknown caller—a fellow North Korean comrade, Oh Tae-shik. Comrade Oh had been sent down because Ki-chul wasn’t getting things done fast enough. He also appears to outrank Ki-chul despite being younger than him, and tsks at how Ki-chul could’ve been seated in a higher position if only he hadn’t made that mistake back then.
Comrade Oh isn’t impressed by the decision to use Sun-woo’s parents to carry out their grunt work, particularly Mom, whom he regards as no better than a traitor to the government. She must be killed, he states.
Comrade Oh turns out the contents of Ki-chul’s wallet (which I realize may still contain Sun-woo’s family photo inside), then relays his mocking concern that their superiors aren’t happy with Ki-chul, given the slow progress of his mission to capture Sun-woo and search for the traitor.
But what Comrade Oh wants to know is why Ki-chul didn’t report how Mom was still alive and if any lingering feelings are to blame for Ki-chul’s peculiar kindness towards her. To that, Ki-chul shows him the still-evident injuries on his hand, saying that Mom was the one that did this to him.
He’ll be the one to get rid of Mom and prove his sincerity, Ki-chul vows. That finally gets a laugh out of Comrade Oh, who promises to put in a good word for him with their North Korean superiors. But Ki-chul is nothing if not wary when it comes to a surprise guest in his home; he slowly reaches for the inside of his coat, but removes it when other men show up at the door.
Before he leaves, Comrade Oh leaves him with the reminder that he’s in charge now. All missions are halted until he’s satisfied with the way things are going. It’s only after Comrade Oh is gone does Ki-chul remove the torn piece of Mom’s picture tucked inside his wallet. It also looks like Ki-chul’s been keeping count of the days on the back.
Sun-woo stays up all night at his desk, contemplating about Soo-yeon’s words of the failed mission in China because of a female North Korean. He doesn’t pick up Mom’s call when she tries to reach him. Mom lights up at an incoming text, only to deflate when it’s Ki-chul informing her that their mission has been postponed.
Eun-ah is adorably singing praises about Mom as she comes into work that morning with Hyun-tae. She envies the harmonious relationships within Sun-woo’s family, an idea Hyun-tae is quick to stab a pin at.
Citing that an outsider never truly knows what’s going on inside the home, Hyun-tae says he didn’t know how his wife truly felt until she asked for a divorce. He sidesteps the question of why he came to dinner last night when he had no interest beforehand.
Hyun-tae sends Eun-ah out on a coffee run when he sees Sun-woo at the office. At the question of why Sun-woo believed he was mistaken, Sun-woo spins the half-truth that he saw a van that looked like Ki-chul’s but wasn’t.
But Hyun-tae doesn’t buy that story, and brings up how Sun-woo had replied in his lie detector test that he wasn’t hiding anything from them. He hopes that that statement is true because he doesn’t want to lose another agent. Although Sun-woo assures him that that won’t happen, Hyun-tae can’t shake off his suspicions.
Sun-woo runs into Eun-ah on his way out and asks her to identify the pill he found in Mom’s bathroom.
Yoon-jin receives a fax under Mom’s name which notes a time and place. She barely gets to dwell on it before Comrade Oh waltzes in under the pretense of a customer. All it takes is one look inside his passport — which contains a photo of her family — for Yoon-jin to freeze on the spot. Comrade Oh continues to taunt her, wondering if she’s seeing anyone.
Dad is pleased when Sun-woo pays him a quick visit at the workplace, though his face falls when Sun-woo asks if he’s noticed that Mom’s been acting a bit different lately. Dad feigns ignorance to the assumption, blaming his son’s sense that Mom’s been more sensitive and like a different person as menopausal symptoms.
But Sun-woo presses the point further—that is, until Dad mentions that they need to understand Mom because she’s concerned about how their son is in a dangerous line of work. Dad manages to cover up that slip of the tongue by citing how Sun-woo ended up in the hospital during his last “business trip,” and then adds that he and Mom are just worried for him.
Sun-woo keeps a smile on his face until he leaves Dad’s office. As for Dad, he immediately calls Mom to let her know that their son seems to suspect something. Mom reassures him that she has a way to find out without getting caught…
…though that doesn’t really work out for her when Sun-woo arrives home and discovers a bug in his room. He thinks of all the oddities — the mention of a mysterious “uncle,” how Mom had known that Eun-ah had spent time abroad, and how Dad had known that his job was a dangerous one.
All those pictures of Maybe Mom are what sticks out in his mind, though, and then Sun-woo spills out the contents of his bag before taking a knife to it. He discovers yet another bug hidden inside, only to drop it into the sink when little sis Young-seo arrives home unexpectedly.
Sun-woo wraps the microphone in a wad of gum before turning to his sister to ask about the uncle she mentioned last night. He’s unaware of the other bug in the ceiling lamp that allows Ki-chul to listen in on their conversation, instead pegging Young-seo with questions about that visitor.
When Young-seo describes him as a rather skinny and scary-looking man with a scar, Sun-woo rushes to show her an old photo of Ki-chul. Young-seo confirms that it’s the same man, and moments later, Sun-woo takes a call from Ki-chul himself, who says it’s about time that they meet.
Identifying himself as the “uncle” they were talking about, Ki-chul wonders how Sun-woo had known of the bug, since he’d seen it go off-line a little while ago. Had anyone told him about it?
Sun-woo figures that must mean Ki-chul is still listening in somehow, which Ki-chul acknowledges. However, there’s much for Sun-woo to learn as well. He offers to satiate Sun-woo’s curiosity once they meet.
After making sure that little sis will keep this conversation a secret, Sun-woo heads out to his car to get his gun. And boy, let me tell you I’ve never been so happy to see some sort of actual firearm in this show. Is he planning to meet Ki-chul to avenge his fallen secret agent?
Director Jung is none too pleased to hear that Chief Song failed in his password-cracking mission. Now we know that the encrypted hard drive contains information about the deceased North Korean general Jang Sung-taek’s slush fund.
What’s worse is that the director has already promised the money to the National Assembly, but Chief Song has a number to the amount: about one billion won. Chief Song asks for some more time, promising his superior that they’re nearly there.
It sure seems like Director Jung is aiming for bigger and better things by promising those illegal funds to the politicians, and now we know that Chief Song is in on this plan because there’s a possible career advancement in it for him. However, Director Jung reminds him that they’ve already past the point of no return, and if this plan backfires and someone needs to take the fall, it’ll be on him.
So Chief Song heads straight for Dad’s company with a band of agents trailing behind him. Then Chief Song comes clean about his and Sun-woo’s real jobs by showing him his NIS badge, using the argument that this is an urgent matter that concerns national security.
Yoon-jin follows Mom’s instructions to meet her later that evening and takes a seat next to Mom on the practically empty bus. Mom asks if Yoon-jin knows anything about why the mission was postponed, and Yoon-jin’s “I’m not at liberty to say” response is pretty much a dead giveaway that she indeed knows something.
Mom asks if it involves Sun-woo, only to get another “I’m not at liberty to say” reply, though this one is less stilted. Mom asks if they weren’t on the same page about loving and protecting Sun-woo in this mission, to which Yoon-jin answers, “I have a family too.”
Her feelings about Sun-woo might not change, but if she had to choose between love or family, she’d have to choose the latter. That’s certainly an interesting way to phrase that statement, and while Mom accepts that answer, she does note that it was her mistake to trust Yoon-jin for a moment in time.
Telling Yoon-jin to protect her family, Mom vows to do the same with hers. Yoon-jin rises to get off the bus just then, though not before telling Mom of a new person-in-charge of the mission. These will be the last words she leaves Mom with, Yoon-jin says, and asks not to go looking for her anymore.
Sun-woo pulls up to the same abandoned warehouse where Yoon-jin had first received her mission. He climbs out with his gun in hand and approaches just as Ki-chul exits the building…
… and makes that familiar gesture across his face. Go time it is, then.
This is going to sound odd, but I’m actually glad that there’s another spy running around in this dramaverse, if only to break the monotonous interactions between people who know everyone else within two degrees. In a short span of time, Comrade Oh has proven to be a frightening presence, even if he’s currently acting as a messenger pigeon between Ki-chul’s mission and the higher-ups in the North. He’s also the first person to call Ki-chul out for being uncharacteristically nice.
I’m also relieved that we finally got some explanations to some plot points, particularly in the case of Chief Song’s mysterious hard drive. Not only does knowing that the drive contains intel on the deceased North Korean general Jang’s slush fund reveal Chief Song and Director Jung’s motivations, it also serves to explain why Ki-chul and his crew would be after it. I’d assume that Ki-chul’s mission involves something to the manner of recovering that drive for the North, though that also begs the question of how it arrived in Chief Song’s hands in the first place because it does seem like the hard drive suddenly appeared one day.
Although the revelation of Director Jung’s motivation for those illegal funds was weak and anticlimactic, we knew so little about the man in the first place that I could buy his shady desire to keep the corruption in politics running like a well-oiled machine. I might not understand why the funds had to come from the North and not through a different channel right now, but it certainly seems like that One Hard Drive is the reason why the North crossed the 38th parallel in the first place.
How that specifically involves Sun-woo is still a mystery, and now I’m waiting for that unveiling like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. And while we saw Sun-woo actually doing things and taking small steps towards discovering the truth, we also saw him spend a lot of contemplating as well. Which is fine so long as we also know what our hero is thinking. Yet there were a few instances where I thought he might have known that Mom used to be spy, but couldn’t be entirely sure.
All of the clues are either in plain sight or at your feet, Sun-woo—the sooner you arrive at the realization, the faster we can let the bullets fly.