Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 6
As our heroine notes in this episode, just when one path seems to be going nowhere, a new one opens up. I still find the investigation plodding in regards to connecting dots quickly (in that they don’t), but at least there are a lot of dots being connected. What we lack in speed we at least make up for in quantity, as our leads track down more clues, connecting loose threads that must connect below the surface, if they just dig far enough to uncover the connections.
One gets the sense that Achiara is built on a whole web of intricate connections, and once you start pulling at the loose threads, the whole place comes under risk of tumbling down. Not gonna lie, I’m looking forward to watching it crumble.
SONG OF THE DAY
Big Baby Driver – “Dead and Gone” [ Download ]
EPISODE 6: “Funeral”
With Ba-woo acting strange, Yoo-na goes home and looks up the pills in his prescription. Among them is stilnox, a sleeping aid. Hmm.
Ji-sook notices the necklace Yoo-na is wearing, and when she reaches for it, Yoo-na grabs it protectively, saying it belonged to Hye-jin. Ji-sook says with chagrin, “You definitely came from my belly, but I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like you’re on my side.”
That night, Yoo-na sees Hye-jin in a dream, reaching out to her and leaving a chipped fingernail in her palm. When Yoo-na wakes up in a cold sweat, it’s Hye-jin’s necklace she finds in her palm, instead of around her neck.
Ji-sook tells her husband she wants another child, driven by fears of being ousted from the family by Grandma now that Yoo-na’s ghost visions are back. The last time it happened, it caused tumult in the family and Grandma and Assemblyman Seo were ready to commit Yoo-na to a mental hospital. Ji-sook feels that having a son would secure her and Yoo-na’s places in the family.
Assemblyman Seo points out that they could have another daughter, but Ji-sook is certain that she would have a boy—a son is supposedly in her fate. He shuts her down firmly, so Ji-sook takes another tack, saying that it would be such a shame if this Hye-jin scandal disrupted his political ambitions… and that she wouldn’t be a mere affair but a dead body on top of that… and how a steadfast wife at his side would be a calming influence… especially if the assemblyman had a young son to soften his image.
“Think it over carefully, whether you really don’t need a child,” she advises.
Yoo-na returns the necklace to So-yoon, saying that it would be better for her to keep it. She’s starting to find the connection curious as well, how So-yoon moved into Hye-jin’s old place, and how she discovered the body right after moving here. Strangest of all was the day Yoo-na followed the ghost in the street, and it led her right to So-yoon.
So-yoon points out that she only opened the door because Yoo-na knocked, but Yoo-na says she didn’t. Yoo-na asks, “Who are you?”
So-yoon finds that there are no traces of her sister after age 16—no paperwork or records of any kind. It’s not feasible for a regular citizen to live like that, but she’s told that there are sometimes cracks in the system, when people live as other names.
On her way home, So-yoon sees the newly posted notice inviting the town to Hye-jin’s funeral. Agasshi joins her to read the sign, and So-yoon can’t contain her fear of him, even though he speaks to her quite politely and insists on paying her back for the bus fare she gave him. He sighs that Hye-jin’s death is a pity, and hopes the killer is caught.
At the police station, Woo-jae muses that Hye-jin’s mother is odd for inviting to the funeral all the townspeople who didn’t bat an eye when Hye-jin disappeared. Sergeant Han merely supposes she wants the people Hye-jin had lived amongst to be there to send her off. For the most part, the notices meet with indifference, though Ji-sook sees one and angrily crumples it.
Yoo-na tells Ba-woo that his pills are probably why he feels so sleepy these days, and asks why her aunt (Joo-hee) gave them to him. Ba-woo stops her from asking his father, though he doesn’t give away anything of his agreement with Joo-hee, saying that it’s just treatment.
At work, Ga-young looks at the photo she snapped showing Ji-sook in Ki-hyun’s arms, and asks the head secretary about their relationship. But the other woman just warns her to keep her mouth shut if she wants to keep her job.
Then Ga-young gets a text from her friend that teacher Gun-woo has been absent without leave for the past two days and is on the verge of being fired. Alarmed, she runs out of the office.
The officers drop by Ji-sook’s art studio to ask follow-up questions now that they know of the affair, and why she never mentioned it before. Ji-sook replies that it’s nothing to brag about, and that while her husband’s woman troubles became common over the years, she never stopped feeling crushed by them.
Woo-jae sympathizes with her feelings, saying she must love her husband a lot, but she replies that the reaction wasn’t out of love, but humiliation. And when asked about the fight the ladies had, Ji-sook says Hye-jin started it. Woo-jae gets carried away taking Ji-sook’s side, scoffing at Hye-jin for being the mistress, heaping on the sympathetic words and missing how Ji-sook’s hand shakes, then clenches into a fist under the table. It’s a good thing Sergeant Han is here with his more observant eye, and he clocks her tension.
Ji-sook has a solid alibi for the time of the disappearance, during the Chuseok holiday, and confirms that her husband knew about the fight and agreed to end his relationship. Asked if he actually did, Ji-sook replies that the officers will have to ask him.
Joo-hee shows Assemblyman Seo a picture of Hye-jin’s box, which Ba-woo retrieved for her, and the contents inside: an envelope and a USB drive. They only talk about the files in oblique terms, but apparently it contains a recording of the assemblyman. He calls her “an even more vicious bitch than your sister,” but it’s clear Joo-hee is in control here, and this box is her threat. He asks for time, and she reminds him that he’s had two years already.
The officers arrive at the assemblyman’s office just as Joo-hee leaves it, here to ask about the affair and its end. Assemblyman Seo explains how Hye-jin had threatened to go public, so he’d paid her off in cash for her silence. Conveniently untraceable, Sergeant Han notes. He adds pointedly if he would have killed her if the payoff didn’t work, since he got the silence he wanted in the end.
The assemblyman tenses at the veiled accusation, but is willing to open up his records to prove his alibi and asks the officers to do their job thoroughly. And as they find once they look into his schedule, the assemblyman was booked solid in highly public engagements.
Sergeant Han makes two points: First, that a man like the assemblyman isn’t likely to do his own dirty work, and second, that most people can’t cover their alibis perfectly two years after the fact. Curious how this married couple has airtight alibis, he thinks. Woo-jae, on the other hand, is willing to accept it as a coincidence.
Meanwhile, Agasshi pores over the video footage, rewinding the last part as Hye-jin leaves the field, trying to find something. And then he alerts to something—did he find a clue?
Assemblyman Seo sits his son down, telling him of Ji-sook’s desire to have another child. Ki-hyun guesses it’s because of Grandma, but the assemblyman has a different line of thinking—that Ki-hyun is working too hard at his school director job. Meaning, he’s strengthening his place in the family, which threatens her.
Ki-hyun laughs at the idea that she would think of him like that, but his father presses, “Did you think she would think of you as a son she’d birthed?” Ki-hyun’s face shadows, and his father says Ji-sook has always felt insecure about her educational background and fixated on the school, wanting to take over as the next director.
Ki-hyun interprets this as a warning to step back in his role, which is really for Ji-sook, and focus on taking over for his father at the steel company. It’s upsetting, but he contains his emotions and says he understands.
But he pauses to ask his father pointedly, “You said there was something you had to receive from Kim Hye-jin. Did you get it?” His father dismisses it, but he presses, “Did you kill Kim Hye-jin, Father? Do you have something to do with her death?”
Ki-hyun stares fiercely at his father, who steps closer and says, “You may be the son of a libertine, but you are not the son of a murderer.”
That night, So-yoon wonders, “If you’re my sister, what would you have done here?” The next day, she inquires about the adoption process and how it’s possible to do it illegally, as her parents did with her sister. It could be done as simply as registering a child into the family registry and passing her off as one’s own, either with a child they already know or one procured through a broker.
A disturbance arises in the hallway of the adoption center as a distraught mother demands the return of the child she accuses them of selling. The employee explains that the woman is notorious as the Phantom Baby Mother for causing disturbances at adoption agencies, after losing her child ten years ago. She advises So-yoon to try the police, who would know better than adoption agencies who wouldn’t have insight into illegal cases. But one that’s thirty years old is bound to be tough to track down.
As she leaves, Phantom Baby Mother joins her in the elevator, cradling a stuffed animal like a baby. She mutters aloud that she must not have found her mother yet: “Your mother doesn’t want to see you. Not all mothers love their children.” Yeesh.
Then she faces So-yoon suddenly: “Your little sister too. So-yoon has totally forgotten about you.”
Startled, So-yoon asks if the woman knows her. The woman laughs wildly, “We were both on television together!” Then she sings to her stuffed animal and leaves, while So-yoon gapes in shock.
Next, the officers speak with Grandma, who does as Ji-sook warned and only gives cursory answers, saying she doesn’t like chatter and doesn’t know much about Hye-jin. So Woo-jae tries a different tack, saying that Grandma’s current helper must be quite skilled, asking for a reference for his own sickly grandmother.
At that, Grandma says she’s not nearly as good as Hye-jin was. The officers ask how a volunteer could be better than a professional, and Grandma realizes her slip and clams up again.
As the officers discuss the case over lunch, Woo-jae notes how everything is just a little off. Sergeant Han connects a few dots, like how Hye-jin had taken active steps to work for Grandma, and they suppose she did it to seduce Assemblyman Seo. So was she a gold-digger?
But why would a Seoul native come to a small village to find a rich target? That gives Sergeant Han pause, and they wonder at the possibility of a personal grudge.
Just then, Ga-young’s mother trips and falls. She’s heard their conversation, and looks disturbed by it.
At school, Ki-hyun asks the principal and math teacher why it took a year and a half to fill So-yoon’s job, and gets back nervous answers about how they had no applicants. The answers are reasonable, but the teachers’ obvious discomfort is suspect.
After the meeting, the math teacher makes a call about how he didn’t press the issue this time, but how this makes her nervous. On the other end of the line, Joo-hee tells her to let it go. What is the pharmacist doing meddling in school affairs?
Sergeant Han has the feeling that Ga-young’s mother knows more than she’s letting on. He asks if there was something more between Hye-jin and the assemblyman than the affair, while she just retorts that the affair is obvious enough.
Woo-jae resumes his online searches for Kim Hye-jin, which is a common enough name to be a daunting task. He narrows the search to Achiara and finds mention of an adoption from thirty years ago. It’s a post asking for information, and there’s a reply from a poster asking for information of the adopters, calling it a matter of life and death. The name they leave is Han So-jung, aka So-yoon’s sister, and a phone number.
The last four digits are 0229, and it triggers something in Woo-jae’s memory. The birthday So-yoon had asked for.
Woo-jae calls So-yoon right away, then drops by the pharmacy to talk to Joo-hee. She says she doesn’t know much about Hye-jin, who never talked much about herself, and assumed Hye-jin moved back home once she stopped seeing her around.
Woo-jae wonders why Hye-jin came to Achiara in the first place. Joo-hee recalls Hye-jin mentioning searching for someone, possibly a family member. Woo-jae only knows of the mother, but Joo-hee explains—as So-yoon listens nearby—that Hye-jin spoke of a younger sibling who would come to meet her here.
So-yoon leaps up to ask about that sibling, but Joo-hee doesn’t know.
So-yoon explains to Woo-jae how her suspicions keep leading her to the idea that her sister is Kim Hye-jin, and Woo-jae agrees that he thinks the same. He tells her how Hye-jin’s phone number digits end on her birthday, which is also unni’s birthday—and the name left on that post online, Han So-jung.
The one thing that doesn’t fit is that Hye-jin has a mother whose family tree doesn’t line up. But Woo-jae says excessive coincidence is often not coincidence.
Ki-hyun finds an old schoolmate of So-jung, who recalls running into her in the street ten years after losing touch. She had denied being So-jung, but the schoolmate is sure she was, pointing out that So-jung had stopped and reacted when she’d called her name.
The doubts grow in Ki-hyun’s head, particularly as he recalls Ji-soo’s distraught words about how Hye-jin can’t do anything now that she’s dead. He nearly runs over a pedestrian, distracted, and thinks to his father’s conviction about not being a killer.
So-yoon looks up the Phantom Baby Mother online, who’s been in the news repeatedly over the years. Recalling the woman’s comment about appearing on TV together, she looks up the program to request the files.
She receives a call from Ki-hyun and meets him at the bar where he’s drinking alone. He’s in a contemplative mood and tells her how he wanted to be an architect, and has started to think that he should have pursued that path. She asks if he regrets returning to Achiara, and he replies with the adage that family is what you wish you could throw away if no one were watching.
Ki-hyun admits that sometimes he finds family too much to handle, and she reminds him that she has nobody. He asks how her search is going, and she says that she’s making her way and finding new paths. He asks why she’s looking so hard when her sister isn’t her blood sister, and So-yoon replies that it feels like her sister is the one looking for her, that she’s going where her sister leads her.
“If I have to describe it, it’s a feeling stronger than blood connection.” She teasingly adds, “It’s different from a family you want to throw away when nobody’s watching.”
Woo-jae shares his theory that Hye-jin is So-yoon’s sister with Sergeant Han, who scoffs that it’s outlandish. He points out another point of investigation they’ll need to follow up on, which is finding out why the assemblyman switched chauffeurs two weeks before an important election, when he would be at his busiest. Which happens to also be when Hye-jin disappeared.
Sergeant Han notes that the relationship between a politician and his driver is very intimate, which Woo-jae interprets sideways as a reference to a homosexual affair. Oh, honey. So cute, but so dim. The good sergeant just sighs and tells him to forget it.
Yoo-na heads out to Hye-jin’s funeral, asking her mother if there are any last words to pass along. Ji-sook tells her to rest in peace.
So-yoon receives a call from the photo shop letting her know her order will be ready today. It’s the shop where she’s taken Hye-jin’s drawing of the mother and baby, which will be framed.
Hye-jin’s mother rides in the funeral limo as it drives through town, and Ji-sook looks spooked as her car passes by it. A good number of villagers turn up for the service, including Gun-woo and Joo-hee, who pretend not to know each other.
Ga-young perks up to see Gun-woo safe and sound, saying she was worried to hear he’d missed school, but he treats her coldly, saying she has no reason to worry for him. “Like you said, nothing happened that day,” he tells her. “So let’s cut it out now.”
Joo-hee clocks the exchange. Shudder. I wouldn’t want her interest.
Yoo-na finds Joo-hee and asks why she changed Ba-woo’s medication to include sleeping aids, because he’s acting strange lately. Joo-hee answers that the medication switch was a result of his behavior, answering that of course his father knows about it, though she looks unsettled to be confronted about it.
Woo-jae receives an update from the friend he’s put to the task of tracking down Han So-jung’s old classmates. Somebody reported seeing her, and Woo-jae asks his friend to widen the search as much as possible.
Agasshi heads out to the field from his video, looking for clues, comparing the landscape to his video. What are you looking for?
The weather turns dark and stormy.
The picture framer gets to work on Hye-jin’s drawing… and finds a false backing. Hidden inside the picture is an envelope.
Meanwhile, Ji-sook visits the doctor for a procedure related to pregnancy.
The funeral proceeds. The villagers take turns paying their respects at the coffin, and So-yoon receives an email with the file of her requested video. Lightning flashes and thunder sounds outside, and then the lights cut out. The candles blow out inside the church. The thunder is so strong it shakes the building.
Agasshi follows a trail outside, arriving at a padlocked gate. Daekwang Lumber. Must be the mill Ki-hyun referred to.
Ji-sook wakes up from her procedure with her husband at her side, looking happy and hopeful.
In the church, Hye-jin’s mother looks up and screams. Everyone looks up, eyes widening in horror.
On the wall, written in blood, are the words: “MOM SAVE ME.”
Okay, that blood message takes us to a new place. Thus far we’ve been mostly avoiding supernatural elements, with the exception of Yoo-na’s visions (and maybe So-yoon’s feeling of being compelled by her sister). So we’re not a hundred percent restricted to the physical world, but the presentation of the case has been mostly a mystery of crime and hard facts, not the paranormal realm.
It’s possible that the blood writing has a logical explanation, too—a prank? A part of a scheme? But whether it’s a supernatural occurrence or a human-contrived one, the message takes us in a new direction, or at least opens a line of inquiry. There’s an interesting motif of mothers and daughters (and abandonment) that keeps winding through the story; not all pairs share the same dynamic, but all of them are conflicted, perhaps even dysfunctional.
I like this theme—it’s complex, it’s interesting, it’s fraught with twisted emotional dynamics—and it lends itself to such a wide swath of dramatic territory that there’s a lot the show can do with it. The mystery, of course, is what the show will do with it. The show has hinted that Hye-jin may be pregnant, but how does that tie into the message at her funeral? Who is her mother, and how does she fit into the timeline of Hye-jin’s life? Does the blood message come from Hye-jin in reference to her mother, or is it the voice of her child asking to be saved? Or is it some cryptic other explanation?
On the other hand we have Ji-sook, who’s desperate to be mother again. At first it seems like she’s driven by a fierce maternal longing, which is sympathetic and understandable; today, it comes out that she wants a child to secure her own place. For all her devotion as a mother, Ji-sook is looking at her children as pawns. I’m sure she does love Yoo-na, but she’s also very aware that Yoo-na is of no use to her (politically, in the family) and actually a liability.
Then we also have Ga-young and her creepy overprotective mother, and Phantom Baby Mother, and Hye-jin’s painting of mother and child. Yet at the end of the day, we also have So-yoon going against the argument that blood is stronger than water, being driven (or pulled) along by a connection that never died despite two decades of separation. It’s an interesting point of diversion, and maybe a hopeful one, in this messed-up village where bloodline connection seems more of a misfortune than blessing.
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 5
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 4
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 3
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 2
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 1
- Oh Snap! Hands of death in the Village
- A missing woman and a dead body in the Village
- Village’s mysterious new schoolteacher and eager policeman
- More moody mystery in second teaser for Village: Secret of Achiara
- Secrets burned and buried in The Village