Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 9
You can always count on Village to have a shocker for an ending, and this episode delivers. The show isn’t always shocking in the same way, which I appreciate; some episodes it’s gruesome, others chilling, or just a plain surprise, as in today. And it’s nice to see that a dead girl is still causing ripples, if only for the satisfaction in knowing that as much as people tried to ignore her existence when she was alive and again after she’d disappeared, in the end she isn’t going quietly. Anything but.
SONG OF THE DAY
Sung Shi-kyung – “잃어버린 것들” (Lost Things) [ Download ]
EPISODE 9: “Time Capsule”
At the meat processing factory, So-yoon finds Woo-jae just moments before he accidentally sends the meat rack in motion. As pig carcasses roll by, so does a man—a factory worker, hanging from a rope around his neck.
So-yoon approaches the body tentatively, but Woo-jae advises her not to touch it and risk destroying evidence. The man’s nametag identifies him as Oh Gab-soo—the man they were both looking for, who knew the illegal adoption broker Madam Baengi thirty years ago.
At the same time, we finally meet Madam Baengi, an older woman who’s a patient in a hospital of some sort. Also the mother of two of Achiara’s most mysterious (and suspicious) ladies, Joo-hee and Ji-sook.
Joo-hee dresses her mother up in fancy clothes and tells her that “that child” will come looking for her, and that Mom must tell the truth this time: “Our Hye-jin is so pitiable.” Mom just stares blankly, unresponsive.
So-yoon gives her statement to the police, while Woo-jae slips away to inspect the crime scene along with the detectives and forensic experts who have been called to the scene. Ha, he adopts his authoritative detective pose, telling them he’s also a cop, though he comes off more like a kid in dad’s clothing than a real detective.
He’s called out in no time, and the lead detective takes him to task for the interference while Woo-jae insists he was just trying to help. Oh Gab-soo’s body is found to have no external injuries, and the cause of death is strangling. But suicide seems unlikely, and So-yoon recalls that before he died, he had another visitor—she’d heard him saying, “Why are you guys here?” to someone before their call cut out.
She notes that it’s quite the coincidence that the man died right before they’d both been on their way to see him, suspecting that he was killed to silence him. Perhaps the person who killed this man also killed her sister. She wonders who wrote about Madam Baengi in the internet cafe that tipped Woo-jae off, and he figures it’s the person who knew both that Hye-jin had looked for Madam Baengi and that So-yoon is currently searching for her.
There are two types of people in the village, they decide: those who are trying to tell them of Hye-jin’s birth secret, and those who will do whatever it takes to stop that.
When So-yoon arrives home that night, her fortunetelling neighbor is waiting to tell her of one more woman who disappeared without word from this village—Madam Baengi, twenty years ago. That gets So-yoon’s attention, and the fortuneteller begins her reading: After her husband died, Madam Baengi had another man’s child. Her daughter married into the town’s richest family, and she left the village at the demand of that family.
So-yoon asks where that daughter is now, only to be told that the spirits have closed their mouths. She asks about the rich family, and the fortuneteller instructs her to think it over: That should be obvious.
Over at that house, Assemblyman Seo rages at Ki-hyun for not firing So-yoon as bidden. But today, Ki-hyun stands up to his father, barely flinching when the assemblyman throws a wooden box at his face, saying that he has no grounds to fire a teacher just because she’s related to Hye-jin. When Assemblyman Seo huffs that So-yoon’s the cause of trouble at school, Ki-hyun fires back that the true cause is his father’s affair with Hye-jin.
“You said you had nothing to do with Kim Hye-jin’s death,” Ki-hyun says. “What are you so afraid of?” If he persists in firing her, people won’t just quiet down—they’ll think more than ever that he had something to do with the death.
The way to handle it isn’t to hide, he adds, but to face the situation. “If you’re innocent,” he says meaningfully. The two men glare furiously at each other.
Ji-sook tends to his face cut afterward and tells him that while his words have a point, it’s best to go along with his father’s plan for the sake of peace. Ki-hyun challenges, “Whose peace is that?” Ah, so on the day he was seen last with Hye-jin, he had gone at Ji-sook’s request, to deliver something. As soon as Hye-jin had seen it, she had decided to go to the lake, and was never seen again.
That’s why Ki-hyun harbors guilt over his part in her death, feeling responsible for making her go to the lake. Ji-sook says that all she did was give Hye-jin the money she’d demanded, and that neither of them has any hand in what happened afterward. But Ki-hyun puts his foot down, refusing to chase Hye-jin’s sister out of town: “My conscience won’t allow it.”
At the pharmacy, Joo-hee starts her day reading the newspaper, and sees the article about the man found dead in the meat factory. For whatever reason, this spooks her badly, and when Gun-woo drops by to see her, she’s visibly jittery. Out of the blue, she blurts that they have to leave town right away, saying first that she’s tired of this, and then that she’s scared. Wow, somehow it’s more creepy to see Joo-hee actually scared of something else than to see her being frightening.
At the police station, Woo-jae mulls over the meat factory case and agrees with So-yoon’s suspicions—perhaps Oh Gab-soo was killed to shut him up, and maybe his killer is also Hye-jin’s killer. In fact, maybe they’ve been barking up the wrong tree, he thinks.
But just then, Ex-Driver Yang comes by to announce that he’ll turn himself in. The officers’ tactic of reporting his farm’s every infraction has worn him down, and he angles for a deal: If he tells them what they want to know, they’ll stop reporting him. He divulges that the money to pay off his gambling and loan debts came from Assemblyman Seo.
So-yoon meets with Ji-sook to request a meeting with her mother, having heard that she’s Madam Baengi. Ji-sook says the sisters are the same, recounting how Hye-jin came to her two years ago and asked the same thing. Ji-sook denies the Madam Baengi claims and says she told Hye-jin the same thing, and Hye-jin apologized and left.
But So-yoon counters that her sister would have been more persistent, and adds that she has heard that Hye-jin may be Madam Baengi’s daughter, which makes Ji-sook tense up in alarm. But she sticks to her story, telling So-yoon to go find Madam Baengi rather than pestering her.
Ji-sook calls her sister to warn her that So-yoon will come asking about their mother, and orders her to keep her mouth shut. But it turns out that So-yoon is already at the pharmacy, and Joo-hee answers So-yoon’s questions readily, explaining how Ji-sook is afraid she’ll be kicked out of her family by her mother-in-law.
That’s because Grandma hated their mother for several reasons: One, because she was a loose women who had children by different fathers, but even more than that, because Yoo-na’s supernatural gifts came from her. Madam Baengi used to read people’s fortunes, before she was run out of town.
However, when So-yoon asks to be put in contact with Madam Baengi, Joo-hee declines. Ji-sook raised her, put her through school, and helped her set up her pharmacy—she won’t put her livelihood at risk. The best she can do is suggest that So-yoon find someone else to help her who has nothing to lose over this, or who is strong enough to withstand it.
That takes her to Ki-hyun, and though she’s reluctant to ask him for a favor when it puts him into an uncomfortable spot, she doesn’t have anyone else to ask. He assures her that he also wants to find out what happened to Hye-jin and agrees to look into it for her.
Assemblyman Seo holds a festive town party to celebrate Achiara being awarded designation as a special tourist location, and promises to turn the town into a noteworthy destination. That comes with the requisite family photo ops, and as Yoo-na poses with her parents for the cameras, she catches Ga-young’s eye, who stares at the family intently.
Woo-jae and Sergeant Han show up as the event winds down to ask additional questions. They tell the assemblyman of his ex-driver’s claims that he paid him off an exorbitant amount of money because the driver tried to blackmail him with pictures of his affair with Hye-jin. Assemblyman Seo deflects by saying he’s a very busy man who manages his many jobs by clearing his brain of things as soon as they’re over, and chides the officers to use their time working on more useful things.
Their hacker friend makes headway and sends over Hye-jin’s cell phone records from around the time she disappeared. They need a search warrant to investigate who the numbers belong to, but as it happens, Sergeant Han recognizes a number and pulls it up on his own phone: The last call Hye-jin made was to Ga-young’s mother.
She has a reasonable answer, though, that Hye-jin regularly bought side dishes from her restaurant and would call to see what was available that day. That’s not much of a lead.
Ga-young arrives home in a stormy mood and stomps upstairs, dumping ice in the sink and thrusting her hands in it until she’s screaming with pain.
Her mother bursts in and chides her, but Ga-young just demands to know who her father is. She knows it’s not the man in the official records and has deduced that she married someone while pregnant with another man’s child, and thus the husband left within months. Mom slaps her, but Ga-young guesses she hit a nerve.
Grandma goes to a temple to pray, hoping to soothe the young woman’s soul. The monk replies that it won’t be easy, but advises her to do her best. Grandma calls Ji-sook an exceptionally chilly person, threatening to steal away her child from her.
Grandma comes home thinking over the monk’s advice about how family should stick together, and tells Ji-sook that they won’t be sending Yoo-na abroad.
So-yoon finds Yoo-na and Ba-woo waiting for her outside her home, and they tell her of the time capsule they’d put together, with their wishes inside. They didn’t know what was in Hye-jin’s envelope, but Yoo-na does recall Hye-jin speaking of her wish once.
“Do you know a monster lives in this village?” Hye-jin had asked. “My wish is to reveal its identity to people.” She’d said that if she revealed it too suddenly, the monster might kill her. The children are sure that the time capsule would explain, but the capsule was handed over to Joo-hee.
She returns to the pharmacy to demand the time capsule, not believing Joo-hee when she says that they’d both needed money, and the rich assemblyman liked women, so Hye-jin’s item in the box was probably some kind of dirt on him. Joo-hee won’t return the box while she’s in the middle of trying to make a deal with the assemblyman, and asks So-yoon to keep this quiet until the deal is finished. As enticement, she offers to tell her where to find Madam Baengi.
So-yoon is in no mood to make deals, but Joo-hee warns that her sister is the person she should most be wary of. She drops the bomb that Ki-hyun met with Hye-jin after that encounter near Agasshi’s shack—the next morning, in fact, on Ji-sook’s command.
Ga-young waits for Gun-woo outside his place again, lighting up when he arrives, and just as quickly feeling crushed when she sees he’s with a woman. It’s Joo-hee, and they head inside together as she fills him in on her encounters with So-yoon, saying they ought to hurry their plan to get the assemblyman to cave and give them control of the school. It appears that’s her endgame.
Gun-woo’s phone rings with a text from Ga-young, which now tells him that he makes her sick. Joo-hee reads the message, then scrolls up to read the barrage of previous messages where Ga-young had declared her love. He waves it aside as nothing, but Joo-hee warns him to watch his behavior—even if he’s innocent of anything, it won’t look like that to outsiders.
He asks, “Who says I’m innocent?” That gets her attention. “Nobody is innocent under heaven,” he says cryptically. “Are you?”
At the main police station, the police chief holds a press conference regarding the progress of the serial killer case. The press has heard snippets of information and ask him about the intensifying violence and discrepancies in the pattern, which the chief evades by saying they’re still investigating. But the media is putting pressure on the police, demanding more information and results.
Woo-jae finds the lead investigator, Detective Choi, sitting outside afterward and offers a few snacks to butter him up for his request to trace the callers on Hye-jin’s phone log. But with his own case spinning its wheels, Detective Choi has no patience for Woo-jae running around trying to solve an old case that isn’t even properly his.
When Woo-jae presses, Detective Choi grabs him by the shirtfront and roars that there is a killer on the loose and orders him to get lost.
Woo-jae is crushed, but gathers his nerve and rallies back. Just as Detective Choi gets a call hinting at a potential breakthrough, Woo-jae kicks in the door (the door kicks right back, ha) and exclaims that a serial killer case isn’t the only one that matters. Full of idealistic passion, he shows his police badge and asks why they wear it, reminding Detective Choi of their duty to the citizens, calling the dry old corpse a citizen too. How dare the police discriminate between people’s lives?
Woo-jae shows the phone logs again, explaining why they’re so crucial, and requests a warrant, bowing deeply at the waist. And his earnestness isn’t lost on Detective Choi, who maybe even looks a little proud of him.
So when he returns to his own station, he hears that Detective Choi has approved the warrant, and has even given him and Sergeant Han the right to handle Hye-jin’s case (as long as they keep it a secret from their boss).
That night, Ki-hyun calls So-yoon to his office to pore over his family’s household expenditure records. His idea is to track the money to find Madam Baengi, since Ji-sook would have been sure to send money to her mother. But So-yoon informs him that she’s already found out where Madam Baengi is, and confronts him about his last real meeting with Hye-jin. His lie makes him untrustworthy, and she eyes him with suspicion.
Ki-hyun recounts that last morning, when he’d run into Hye-jin on her way to the bus terminal. He’d given her a ride, and handed over an envelope from Ji-sook, which had been full of money. That’s when she’d asked how low a person would go to hide their weakness: “Would they go as far as murder?”
Her mood had suddenly turned from bright to tearful, and she’d asked to go to Achiara Lake instead.
So-yoon asks why he never told her this, and he replies that he was afraid his family might have had something to do with Hye-jin’s death. His isn’t a peaceful family, but he’d wanted to protect it. She asks why he helped her, and he replies, “I wanted to confirm that my suspicions weren’t true.” He explains being torn between those two sides, wanting to cover things up in case they’re guilty, and revealing the truth in case they’re not.
She asks angrily if there’s anything else he hasn’t told her, and he discloses that Joo-hee sent the letter to her in Canada. She’d said it was because nobody was looking for Hye-jin, but he suspects it’s really to put pressure on Assemblyman Seo.
To Woo-jae’s shock, the meat factory death is ruled a suicide. There’s no room to argue, either, because camera footage caught Oh Gab-soo hanging himself directly. Case closed. Or is it?
Woo-jae continues to look around the factory, not buying the supervisor’s explanation that the CCTV had a chronically bad connection and was mostly useless, but just happened to catch the suicide scene.
He theorizes that the criminal took advantage of the faulty camera to stage a false suicide, then swap in Oh Gab-soo’s body later. But there’s no proof, and on the surface there’s plenty of grounds: Oh Gab-soo had been deep in debt, and he’d left a suicide note.
So-yoon finds it fishy, and Woo-jae sighs, “For some reason, it makes me think that tracking down Kim Hye-jin’s family may be more dangerous than chasing a murderer.”
The initial findings of the call log turns up a number of suspicious points. In the week before she died, she spoke to Driver Yang 17 times, and with Assemblyman Seo (after they’d broken up) five times. A handful of calls to Gun-woo doesn’t seem so strange since they worked together briefly, but Sergeant Han tells Woo-jae to look into it.
The officers revisit the assemblyman, and this time he owns up to paying off his ex-driver, but clarifies that Driver Yang and Hye-jin had been working together to extort him. He suggests that the driver offed Hye-jin to keep the money for himself.
Driver Yang, on the other hand, vehemently denies it, saying it’s all a lie. He insists he’s been set up.
So-yoon calls Ki-hyun and presents him with his choice: Will he cover up the truth, or find it no matter what it may reveal?
He chooses truth and accompanies So-yoon to meet Madam Baengi, admitting to being afraid of what that truth may be. So-yoon figures the key is in the envelope Ji-sook had passed on to Hye-jin, which may have contained something else in addition to money.
Ki-hyun recalls stealing a peek at the contents, which included a hospital business card.
Driver Yang recounts a conversation with the assemblyman when he had pressured him to kill Hye-jin for him. The assemblyman hadn’t said so explicitly, of course, but he’d outlined how alone and friendless Hye-jin was, and how he could dig himself out of his debt-ridden life if he just took care of this one problem.
Driver Yang hadn’t realized the conversation was recorded until Hye-jin confronted him with it later. She’d promised him an even bigger payout without him having to kill anybody, then gave him the recording, telling him to take it to Chairman Noh for a payout. Ah, is Chairman Noh our mysterious boss who pulls the assemblyman’s puppet strings?
Driver Yang did exactly that and got his money, but can’t describe the man or say who he is or what he does.
So-yoon and Ki-hyun arrive at the hospital and attempt to introduce themselves to Ji-sook’s mother, but she just stares blankly. A nurse explains that she suffered a severe stroke and lives “in a different world,” and is essentially unconscious.
So-yoon tries to talk to her anyway, holding up a photo of Hye-jin and asking if she’d come by. Ji-sook’s mother seems to recognize her, moving a hand to touch the picture, then eyeing So-yoon’s necklace with alarm.
It sparks a memory of Hye-jin kneeling before her wearing that necklace, pleading for help. Hye-jin cries, “I want to live. Please save me.” Then she asks, “Are you… my mother? Mom?”
Her mother starts to cry, saying, “I’m sorry, my baby. Why does it have to be that if only you’re gone, it would be good for everyone? That if only you’re gone, everyone else would be comfortable? So you shouldn’t have come. You shouldn’t have returned.” As she speaks, the look on Hye-jin’s face turns stricken.
Then suddenly, Hye-jin lunges forward and strangles her mother.
I’ve mostly given up trying to anticipate where the show is going and just follow along where it’s taking us, because first of all, the story keeps changing direction and unfolding in new ways, and secondly, it’s clear that the story knows where it’s going. And while I don’t find it especially mysterious (I’m curious to know where how the clues line up, but not dying to know omg right now), there are so many threads in play that I’m wondering how they all come together.
I like that we’re seeing bits of development with our characters, because I think that’s something that’s been a bit flat. That’s the danger of dramas that rely on a whodunnit—if you pour all the energy into the plot, the characters go along for the ride and don’t necessarily have personal arcs of their own. I’d still like more oomph in So-yoon’s depiction, but I do much prefer her being sarcastic and distrustful than naively simple.
I would also like more consistency in Woo-jae, who seems to bounce between sharply suspicious and dumb as the plot requires. There were some days when I really couldn’t believe how gullible he was, but if he can keep up the momentum from his speech on police duty and justice, I think it’ll go a long way to bolstering his development.
Where I really see the development the most is with Ki-hyun, who I find myself rooting for on an emotional level—I don’t necessarily care about his external issues like running the school, but I want for him to come to terms with his family’s dark side and find a way to stand on his own, emotionally. He’s a good person at risk of letting fear and weakness overpower his inner decency, and I find the struggle for him to find some kind of independence really very compelling.
Lastly, and somewhat unexpectedly, I’m glad to see movement in Hye-jin as well, which I find surprisingly in that she’s dead. But since we’re tracking her movements as they mirror So-yoon’s in the present, it makes sense to see how she dealt with her discoveries, and she goes from seeming like a cipher to decode to feeling human and fraught. Someone you wish you could save, except it’s too little, too late.
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 8
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 7
- Village: Secret of Achiara: Episode 6
- 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