Rescue Me: Episode 9
Teamwork, loyalty, and trust are the order of the day for our heroes in this episode of Rescue Me. The boys pull together to show what they are made of, and Sang-mi’s trust is finally rewarded. Not everything is coming up roses yet, however, as the Guseonwon cult continues to extend its sinister reach throughout Muji, making sure to leave no safe harbor for anyone who dares to defy them.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Governor Han Yong-min meets with a few political colleagues over dinner and drinks. The air is rife with tension, as least in regards to Yong-min. One guest insinuates that Yong-min is having an affair with his campaign manager by saying, “Working with your young secretary must be making you look younger.”
Yong-min, not missing a beat, snaps back just as backhandedly that the other guest also looks youthful, despite enduring the stresses of a recent scandal.
Assemblyman Park is at the meeting and tries to calm everyone down before talking with Yong-min about the terminal relocation project, which was one of the assemblyman’s campaign promises. Yong-min insists that he will help him and make sure there are “no mistakes.” Park echoes back in a somewhat menacing tone that yes, “There must not be any mistakes.”
The former governor of Muji, Mr. Cheon, joins them, and he and Yong-min greet each other politely but with some hesitation, as the rest of the group continues to chat and drink.
When the party breaks up, all the men, clearly inebriated, stumble outside to go home. Lee Jin-suk, the nightclub owner and gangster boss, approaches them (with several of his thugs following closely behind him) and asks if they enjoyed their food. Assemblyman Park does not know Jin-suk, but the former governor introduces him as “the head of the youth committee,” and Park receives Jin-suk’s enthusiastic greeting.
Yong-min hangs back a bit, and we see the flashback of Yong-min’s campaign manager explaining to Detective Lee that Lee Jin-suk is Mr. Cheon’s “henchman.” Yong-min calls Jin-suk out as a thug, to which Mr. Cheon replies, “Can’t thugs be in politics?”
Before Yong-min gets in his car, Mr. Cheon makes a comment about Sang-hwan being back in town, and mentions his being a witness to the fight between Dong-chul and the bully who broke his back. Yong-min yells back that he had better not try to threaten him, and suggests that the former governor, instead of shaking hands, should use his hand for wiping his rear. Yong-min’s campaign manager echoes the sentiment, albeit in a veiled tone of politeness.
The three boys (minus Dong-chul, since he was late showing up at the Im’s house) follow the Guseonwon van in their borrowed food delivery truck, knowing that this may be their last chance to save Sang-mi. They take a shortcut and lie in wait for the van.
When the van arrives, they block its path on a bridge. Disciple Jo and Wan-duk get out to take out the “evil spirits” – the three boys that are approaching them. All three boys are ready to fight, as Sang-hwan mouths the words “We’ll rescue you,” to Sang-mi. Remembering the message that Sang-hwan had typed out on his phone to her when she was locked in her room, she tearfully gives an almost imperceptible nod back to him.
A fierce fight ensues. Jung-hoon and Man-hee take on the two brothers, while Sang-hwan runs to free Sang-mi, who struggles to get away from Disciple Kang and her dad’s grasp as she attempts to escape the van. Sang-hwan throws open the door and hauls Sang-mi out as Disciple Kang screams that she’s being misled by evil spirits.
Disciple Jo knocks Jung-hoon to the ground with a blow to the jaw and starts to follow Sang-mi as she sprints to the delivery truck for safety. Jung-hoon stops him, managing to grab his leg and keep him away from her. Man-hee uses eye-gouging and head-butting to subdue the much larger Wan-duk.
Sang-hwan forces Disciple Kang and Dad back into the Guseonwon van before taking the keys from the ignition and hurling them off of the bridge. Finally, after felling Disciple Jo with a single slug, Sang-hwan helps Jung-hoon back to the truck.
As the boys drive away, Dad and Disciple Kang try to chase after them on foot. A distraught Disciple Kang yells after them, “How dare you steal New Heaven’s God’s possession!”
Father Baek sighs heavily upon hearing the news of the escape over the phone. Alone in his office, he finally shows his anger by throwing his religious book at the wall, causing a number of framed photographs of himself and others to come crashing down.
Man-hee drives the getaway truck while Jung-hoon groans from his injuries beside him. Sang-hwan sits silently with Sang-mi in the back and notices the bandage on her hand and wrist. Sang-hwan tells Man-hee he can slow down a little bit now since they are not being followed, while Sang-mi nervously looks out both the front and rear windows.
Meanwhile, back at the bridge, Disciple Kang nervously bites her nails as Sang-mi’s dad asks if Sang-mi will be okay. Kang, talking more to herself than Dad, says, “No. She needs to receive salvation. She must.”
Disciple Jo impatiently watches his brother search for the keys, then goes to talk to Disciple Kang and Dad. He tries to reassure them by saying, “What belongs to New Heaven’s God always comes back to his arms.”
When Disciple Kang doesn’t respond, Jo asks if she is worried that Sang-mi might end up like her daughter, Yu-ra, who she found lying dead in a river. She tells Jo to watch what he says and reiterates that she is more determined than ever to “make sure Sang-mi becomes Spiritual Mother.”
The boys and Sang-mi are safe and catching their collective breath on the pier when they spot Dong-chul walking across the bridge toward them. Sang-mi and Dong-chul share a meaningful look, and we see a flashback of Sang-mi visiting Dong-chul in the detention center.
She had apologized and thanked him, and when he tried to brush it off, she had gone on to say that if he hadn’t been there on the roof that day, she would have died like her brother. “So,” she had finally said, “please live.”
In the present, Sang-mi thanks Dong-chul once again, and then thanks all the boys sincerely. Jung-hoon says that she is what brought the four friends back together again. Sang-hwan says that things might get harder from now on, and Man-hee wonders where they can hide, since Guseonwon will try to track them down.
Back at Guseonwon, Father Baek has plenty of restrained anger and blame to go around. He tells Dad, who begs him to forgive Sang-mi, that his daughter ran away because he has not been praying earnestly enough. He has Wan-duk take Dad away, presumably to one of the “prayer rooms,” to fast and pray.
To Disciple Kang, Father Baek warns that if she makes one more mistake, she will not be allowd on the Boat of Salvation, which shakes her terribly. When Disciple Jo suggests that Father Baek is being too hard on Kang, he tells Jo that he too needs to do a better job to grow the church (though it almost sounds more like a threat, especially when he brings up a powerful politican). He then instructs the two disciples to “go and bring Sang-mi back.”
With two vans full of young female congregants, Disciple Kang looks for Sang-mi in town. Disciple Jo and his brother scour internet cafes and pool halls, but come up empty-handed. Afterward, they meet with Officers Woo and Choi, who ask for a description of the men who took Sang-mi.
Both officers look slightly uncomfortable when the descriptions sound strikingly like Officer Woo’s son and his two friends, but cover it up by saying that all young people look alike these days.
When Disciple Jo goes on about Sang-mi not being “of sound mind,” Officer Choi looks at him earnestly and asks him to take Sang-mi to the hospital if he finds her. Jo pastes on a saccharin smile and agrees, as disingenuous as ever.
Meanwhile, Sang-mi and the boys have been holed up in their deliveryman friend’s apartment. The friend is exasperated that they are just lying around with seemingly no intention of leaving, but there’s not much he can do.
While the three boys relive their fight against Disciple Jo and his brother, Dong-chul sees that Sang-mi, sitting alone in a corner, is visibly shaking. He goes over to her and tells her that she doesn’t need to worry anymore.
During their meal of ramyun in the apartment, the boys discuss their next steps, which unfortunately involve going to Jung-hoon’s dad police station in the morning. When Dong-chul gently advises Sang-mi to eat, Sang-mi looks distant as she says, “They said they should let the cult leader have me… to find salvation.”
That silences the group as Sang-mi looks steadily into Dong-chul’s eyes, and he returns her solemn gaze.
Back in Guseonwon, a young man delivers a tray of food to Sang-mi’s mom. She looks at him and, hallucinating, is convinced that he is one of her son’s tormentors. When she tries to attack him with her chopsticks, two women have to pull her off of the boy as she hysterically screams for Sang-mi to help her.
Deciding to leave Sang-mi by herself in their friend’s apartment for the night (I question their judgement here), the boys give her Jung-hoon’s cellphone and go to their local bar to debrief and discuss their next plan of action. Sang-hwan says they should go to Jung-hoon’s dad’s police station in the morning and let the police investigate.
However, Dong-chul does not want to turn Sang-mi over to the police. He says they have no evidence yet, and, “In this town, if you have money and connections, you can make an innocent person guilty.”
The situation is made stickier by the fact that Jung-hoon obviously admires his dad, and none of the boys know just how complicit Officer Woo is in the cult’s affairs. But Sang-hwan promises Dong-chul, “It will be different this time. Trust me.” (No, listen to Dong-chul!)
Back in Guseonwon, Disciple Kang stands motionless in what looks like the cult’s pharmacy. A young woman who had spoken to Sang-mi previously, Hong So-rin, comes in to get medicine for the patients, and Disciple Kang, saying she is not feeling well, asks her to give Sang-mi’s mom her medicine.
So-rin agrees, but when Mom opens her mouth and shuts her eyes to take her pill, So-rin hesitates, then gives her a digestive aid pill instead of her usual medicine.
Alone in a prayer room, Dad prays to New Heaven’s God for salvation for his family. He works himself into a frenzy as he begins to babble “in tongues” and hits himself repeatedly.
Detective Lee meets with Yong-min, who is night fishing, and his manager, Ji-hee. Ji-hee gives the detective a packet of companies related to former governor Cheon. “Just scare them a little,” she says, “so they can make the decisions on their own.” Ji-hee then asks if Cha Joon-gu can be trusted to not cause trouble later.
Detective Lee replies that since Joon-gu has no family and holds a deep grudge against Lee Jin-suk, he can make anything Joon-gu does look like the “revenge of a thug.” Yong-min interjects then, telling Lee that he “should realize how valuable a person is,” and reminds him that Joon-gu will have a vote in the next election.
Yong-min catches a big fish that the Dectective Lee helps pull in, but Lee is surprised when Yong-min promptly throws it back in the water. Detective Lee suggests that Yong-min is a humanist (for not killing the fish), but Yong-min says he likes fishing not to eat the fish, but because he is amused at how they struggle to live even with a hook in their gills. The metaphor is not lost on Detective Lee as the smile quickly fades from his face.
Detective Lee visits Joon-gu to ask him to steal the accounting files of the companies in the packet from Ji-hee. He presents it as part-time job and a way to get revenge on Lee Jin-suk, but at the same time, he threatens that if Joon-gu does not want to do it, he can be easily sent back to prison as an ex-convict.
Joon-gu unenthusiastically says he’ll do it and takes the package, and when he goes back inside, Detective Lee looks at him and comments to himself, “A hooked fish struggling to survive. It’s interesting.”
Disciple Kang fixes her chewed-up nails by putting fake ones on and changes her clothes in her room. When she sees her scarred back and shoulder in the mirror, she has a flashback to when she lived with her daughter and her husband, before she started living in Guseonwon.
In it, we see Disciple Kang huddled on the floor praying with her daughter, Yu-ra, as her husband had yelled and accused her of having an affair with “that pastor,” presumably meaning Father Baek. Kang had denied it, and her daughter had also chimed in to call her father crazy while championing their paster as “a great person.”
Enraged, Kang’s husband had called them both insane before hurling a kettle of boiling water at them. Kang had shielded her daughter with her body, sustaining all the burns herself.
Back in the present, Disciple Kang prays, “Please save me from this agony. I will get on the Boat of Salvation and see you no matter what, New Heaven’s God. I love you, New Heaven’s God.”
The next morning, Officer Woo walks into his son’s bedroom to see his son, Man-hee, and their deliveryman friend all fast asleep. Seeing his son’s bruised face, he gets some ointment to put on it. (Aww, he really must love his son.) But within moments, he rudely awakens his son by twisting his nipple and yelling at him not to cause any more trouble. When Jung-hoon denies any wrongdoing, Officer Woo just drags him off to breakfast.
Alone in the apartment, Sang-mi remembers Sang-hwan’s promise to her and repeats out loud: “’I will rescue you. I will rescue you no matter what.’” She stares out the window with an intense look on her face before calling someone on Jung-hoon’s cellphone. For a moment, it looks like she might be calling Dong-chul, and we also see Sang-hwan driving somewhere.
When there’s a knock at the door, Sang-mi jumps, but thankfully, it’s just Sang-hwan.
The phone call Dong-chul received wasn’t from Sang-mi, but from Joon-gu, who tells Dong-chul that he needs him to do something with him today. Dong-chul is hesitant, but agrees to help at his friend’s insistence.
Outside of the Muji Construction Office building, Joon-gu hands Dong-chul a metal bat. Joon-gu asks if Dong-chul wants to know what he needs help with, but Dong-chul is not interested, since he’s only returning a favor. In the stairwell of the building they run into some thugs keeping watch, but they are no match for Dong-chul and Joon-gu, who quickly take them out with the baseball bat and plain brute force.
Back at the apartment, the other boys and Sang-mi prepare to go out. In an effort to disguise Sang-mi, the boys give her some of their deliveryman friend’s clothing, and when she emerges wearing a plain, dark outfit and hat, Jung-hoon wonders aloud, “Why does she look cute in that?” Ha. Although she appears fairly calm and collected, Sang-hwan notices Sang-mi’s nervous hesitation before she opens the door to leave the apartment.
Outside, Sang-hwan suggests they take a taxi instead of riding their bikes, which would be more conspicious. When Jung-hoon offers to call his dad instead, Sang-hwan breaks it to him that they will be going to the Muji Police Headquarters instead of the local station. Sang-mi tactfully explains to Jung-hoon that the people from Guseonwon convinced his father that she was mentally ill, and she is afraid she will get sent back there if they go to his dad for help.
Jung-hoon reluctantly agrees, but he suggests that they call Dong-chul before they go, at least. Sang-hwan again says no, using the excuse that Dong-chul probably needs rest and that they can take care of this themselves.
Cut to: Dong-chul, who is getting anything but rest as he and Joon-gu encounter more groups of thugs protecting the building. At the back of one group is Dong-chul’s friend, Dae-shik, who helped get him his job at the nightclub.
Dae-shik sees Dong-chul and pauses with a worried look on his face as Dong-chul and Joon-gu start their next attack, brutally kicking and hitting everyone in their path in the narrow hallway. Dae-shik quickly ducks into a room and closes the door behind him.
As more gangsters join the scene, Joon-gu tells Dong-chul to get the files while he holds them off. Dong-chul nods and goes into the office that his friend escaped to. Surprised to see Dae-shik there, Dong-chul exclaims, “Hyung-nim.”
His friend tells Dong-chul that he can’t take the files: “You have to understand that I work for Jin-suk.” Dong-chul looks at his friend, and then to the door, where Joon-gu is fighting on the other side. He looks distressed, but says nothing.
Meanwhile, Sang-mi and company are on a very tense taxi ride, and we see why: The driver has the distinctive Guseonwon symbol as a decal on his rearview mirror. The driver recognizes Sang-hwan as the governor’s son and asks why he would be going to the police station, and Sang-hwan lies, telling him that his father asked him to do something for him.
After getting to the police station, Sang-mi calmly walks back to the driver, who has been staring at her incessantly. She asks if he knows her, and when he nods, she says, “You can call them and them that I’m here.”
Unfortunately for our heroes, but not surprisingly, the driver immediately calls Disciple Jo to let him know of Sang-mi’s whereabouts. Disciple Jo tells Father Baek, and shares his concern that the police may find out incriminating information about the cult. Father Baek tells Jo not to worry since New Heaven’s God “puts all our believers into great use,” and promptly makes a phone call of his own.
Inside the station, the gang runs into Detective Lee, who also recognizes the governor’s son. He listens to their case, but after learning Sang-mi’s name, he realizes that she is the “abducted” girl that he and the police have been looking for all night. He flat-out refuses to help them, treating Sang-mi’s situation as a matter to be solved within her own family.
He holds firm, despite Sang-hwan’s eloquent arguments that laws have been broken by both her father and the cult by keeping her against her will and forcing her to marry. “How can you call the assailant and tell him to take the victim back?” Sang-hwan asks angrily, citing all the various law-based reasons to prove that what Lee plans to do is wrong. Lee snaps back that the boys themselves could be charged with abduction and obstruction of justice, although Sang-mi insists that she asked for their help.
The discussion continues to devolve into a shouting match, and when Sang-hwan calls the detective a piece of trash after asking if he’ll have enough “evidence” once Sang-mi is forced to marry a cult leader, Lee orders the boys to be locked up. Sang-mi begs everyone to stop fighting, says she will go back to Guseonwon, and asks Lee let the boys go.
The boys are shocked into silence at this, but Sang-mi looks resigned as she tells Sang-hwan, “I knew things would turn out this way. I’ll do my best to take care of it.”
The detective is satisfied with Sang-mi’s decision, but insists on the three boys being placed in a holding cell anyway. Sang-hwan looks at Sang-mi in frustration and dismay, while Sang-mi looks back at him with a sad, defeated expression on her face.
The three friends are each deep in their own thoughts while being held: Jung-hoon is annoyed, Man-hee thinks the situation makes no sense at all, and Sang-hwan just nods to himself, saying, “Something needs to happen in order for them to become guilty.”
Sang-mi takes a long, silent van ride back to Guseonwon with Dad, Disciples Kang and Jo, and Wan-duk. On their way, they almost run into the jjajangmyun delivery man, pass by Officers Woo and Choi (“Such a kind man,” Woo says of Disciple Jo), and drive into the woods and through the gates of Guseonwon. All the while, some of the creepiest, most mournful music I have ever heard plays in the background.
When they arrive at the foot of the church steps, Disciple Kang tells Sang-mi that the worship service has already started and takes her arm. With a slight smile on her face, Sang-mi says, “I’ll go on my own.” Both disciples seem pleasantly surprised at Sang-mi’s willingness to comply, as she leads the group up the stairs of the church.
While the story is far from over, this episode of Rescue Me was immensely satisfying. After so many episodes of dark despair and helplessness, we get the satisfaction of the good guys fighting back and winning a battle, if not the war, for a change. The three boys really came together and risked life and limb to rescue Sang-mi. I was worried how they would fare without the brains and brawn of Dong-chul, and was gratified to see they persevered and succeeded in getting Sang-mi away from the Guseonwon cult members, if only temporarily.
Regrettably, they underestimated, or simply were unaware of, the reach of the cult into so many aspect of their lives. The fact the cult has so much influence over so many people: assemblymen, police officers, and even taxi drivers, made it next to impossible to keep Sang-mi safe without keeping her in complete hiding. Hopefully they will be able to come up with a plan to rescue her for good.
I have been intrigued by the characters and their relationships with each other. Jung-hoon has proven to be a very loyal friend to Sang-hwan. He was originally the naysayer of the gang, but he took most of the hits when it came to fighting for Sang-mi. At the same time, Jung-hoon also clearly loves and respects his father, which could create conflict for him once he realizes how supportive his dad is of the Guseonwon cult.
Dong-chul faced some divided loyalties in this episode, but not with his old school gang. He unquestioningly helped Joon-gu because he had helped him in the past (we don’t know exactly how yet). He then found himself in a tight spot when supporting Joon-gu meant going against his nightclub friend, who had been sincerely helping him make a new start. The episode left the question open as to what Dong-chul ultimately will decide to do. As the most thoughtful and intuitive of the four boys, if there is a way out of this situation, I am confident that Dong-chul will find it.
We also learned about Disciple Kang’s motivations in this episode. Until now I was not sure where her loyalties lied; whether she was an opportunist like Disciple Jo seems to be, or a true believer. This episode drove home the fact that she has unwavering faith in the cult and its beliefs. Given her tragic and violent past, I had been hoping that Disciple Kang would have some human compassion for Sang-mi, but it seems that her driving force is on her own salvation, and Sang-mi is her means to achieve it.
Sang-mi’s mom seems to be going through some changes — unlike her husband, whose faith in the cult has only grown stronger, Mom seems to have a sense that things are not right. In Episode 8, she said that her son told her to leave Guseonwon, and in this episode, her violent outburst against her unfortunate caregiver indicates that her faith in the cult may be waning. If So-rin can continue to get her off the medication the cult has been giving her, Mom’s own true thoughts and feelings, although painful, may be able to resurface.
As for Sang-mi, her actions in this episode were both courageous and heartbreaking. Despite suffering from the stress of her forced captivity at Guseonwon, she fought for herself, spoke up on her own behalf, and put her trust in her rescuers. At the same time, she seemed to have a quiet resignation that she would very likely have to go back. When she told Sang-hwan that “I will do my best to take care of it,” I became hopeful that she has a plan on how to continue to survive at Guseonwon until she gets another opportunity to escape. And at the end of the episode, although she agreed to return to Guseonwon, she seemed to have a new confidence about her, indicated by her leading the others into the church.
Survival is one thing, but because of the immense power the cult holds over her and the whole community of Muji, Sang-mi will need the those who truly care about her to band together to help her escape from Guseonwon for good. Because she will escape at some point, right?
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