Witch’s Court: Episode 9
A shift of focus to the bad guys today reveals that there may be trouble amongt even the strongest allies. The question is: How can you trust someone when you have seen how duplicitous and manipulative they are? On the heroes’ side, big truths come out today, which might feed old obsessions and insecurities. Yi-deum has always been a hothead, and now we’ll find out what happens when you really cross her.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
We rewind to the night before, and an agitated Min-ho stops driving in a deserted area to haul Soo-ah’s battered body from the trunk. Soo-ah’s eyes flicker open, and Min-ho drops her, shocked that she is still alive. As Min-ho rushes to call an ambulance, a bored Tae-gyu pulls the phone away and warns his friend that everything they have done so far will certainly get them locked up.
A truck driver interrupts Min-ho, and Tae-gyu drops to the ground. Thinking quickly, Min-ho lies that he hit an elk, and the driver’s eyes notice the dark lump that is Soo-ah’s body (can he see that it’s a person?) and leaves. Before Min-ho can finish his call to the ambulance, Tae-gyu dispassionately kicks Soo-ah down the side of the hill, and orders Min-ho away from the scene. Min-ho reluctantly complies.
Left alone, Soo-ah’s eyes slowly sink closed.
The next day, Yi-deum and Jin-wook are sickened to find Soo-ah’s body. The officers show them Baek Min-ho’s ID card found at the scene of the crime, and the truck driver gives his testimony nearby.
Meanwhile, Sang-ho calls Min-ho and warns his brother he needs to get away immediately. Despite rushing to rescue Min-ho, Sang-ho arrives too late and sees Min-ho being escorted away in handcuffs by the police.
Desperate, Sang-ho turns to Jo Gap-soo and pleads for his help. Jo Gap-soo growls that he knew Tae-gyu was going to be trouble, but Sang-ho ignored all his warnings and tried to take care of Tae-gyu himself without coming to Jo.
Sang-ho frantically admits that he was wrong all this time, and that it’s his fault because he mismanaged the Kingdom. Falling to his knees, Sang-ho begs, “Please, save Min-ho just this once.”
Jo Gap-soo slowly turns around, and sighs. He decides, “Forget it. There is no need to kneel for such a thing. I know what Min-ho means to you. He is like a nephew to me too.”
Jo Gap-soo promises a grateful Sang-ho that he will hire the best lawyer there is so that Min-ho will walk away without a scratch.
At the morgue, Yi-deum and Jin-wook sorrowfully look on as Soo-ah’s grandmother stands beside Soo-ah’s lifeless body. Granny takes off her coat to lay it gently over her granddaughter, and pitifully explains that it’s cold out today. She pleads with Soo-ah to come home, but her sobs grow louder as reality hits. Breaking down, Granny wails, “I said I’m here. Don’t go. You can’t go. You should take me if you want to go. How can I live without my baby?”
Devastated, Granny seizes Yi-deum’s hands and tearfully asks her to catch the people who did this to Soo-ah. Yi-deum silently nods her promise to the old woman, her bleak gaze returning to Soo-ah’s body.
The mood in the prosecutor’s office is somber as Jin-wook debriefs: At 8 p.m., the Eel talked with Min-ho, and an hour later Soo-ah and another girl, Hyun Ji-soo, were seen entering Hyungjae Hotel. Unfortunately, the prosecutors haven’t been able to find Ji-soo—another of the Eel’s teenage girls—so whether she is a witness or secondary victim is unknown.
Jin-wook isn’t sure that Min-ho was solely responsible for Soo-ah’s murder, because the autopsy results show that Soo-ah had sex with two people the night she died, and evidence to indicate that she was raped. In addition, the evenness of the marks on Soo-ah’s face means it was probably a ring or knuckle duster that did the damage.
But, Jin-wook explains, what killed Soo-ah was being left out in the cold after she was beaten, which caused her to go into hypoglycemic shock. Prosecutor Jang sighs that Soo-ah might have lived if someone had found her in time, and Yi-deum hangs her head in guilt.
Prosecutor Min states that there may be two killers, not one, and counsels Yi-deum and Jin-wook not to get too emotional about this case because they need to find the culprit. Prosecutor Min finishes, “That is the best thing that you can do for the girl and her grandmother.”
Baek Min-ho nervously looks around the interrogation room, while Yi-deum stares at him through the glass, calculating. As Jin-wook flips through Min-ho’s file, his eyes widen in surprise at the fact that Baek Sang-ho is his brother. Yi-deum orders Jin-wook to worry about that some other time.
Yi-deum’s tone is controlled as she starts the interrogation, and asks Min-ho whether he was as nervous as his internet search history reveals, when he was researching terms like “female corpse.” Jin-wook adds that a truck driver saw Min-ho and his accomplice at the crime scene, and asks Min-ho who was with him that night.
Min-ho refuses to answer, igniting Yi-deum’s fury, and she slams down the horrifying pictures of Soo-ah’s beaten body in front of him. Min-ho objects that he didn’t kill Soo-ah, but Yi-deum just scoffs that all the evidence points to him. Min-ho looks hunted as he says that it really wasn’t him, and brokenly whispers, “It was… Tae-gyu.” Lawyer Heo looks perturbed at Min-ho’s confession.
Discontented, Jo Gap-soo switches the off news of Tae-gyu’s arrest. A man hands him a tablet, and Jo asks, “Is this it? Did you take pictures of anyone else?” Jo Gap-soo warns the man not to let this information leak.
Chairman Ahn arrives to confront Jo Gap-soo, irate at Tae-gyu’s arrest. Jo is nonchalant as he denies responsibility for his nephew, and vows to protect Min-ho. Incredulous, Chairman Ahn asks whether Jo Gap-soo is in any position to protect anyone, and threatens to take pictures of Jo’s secret room, Kingdom, and reveal them to his mayoral candidate rival. Jo Gap-soo sharply answers that this would jeopardize Hyungjae Hotel itself, putting Chairman Ahn in a difficult position.
Chairman Ahn isn’t fazed by that, though—because now he is fighting for his future. Jo Gap-soo looks troubled that the chairman could really mean this and Chairman Ahn urges Jo Gap-soo to give up his right-hand man Sang-ho, who is more easily replaceable than a sponsor.
In the interrogation room, Tae-gyu’s attitude is contrite as he explains that Min-ho had hired the girls without his knowledge. When he woke up later that night, Min-ho had beaten Soo-ah to death, and Tae-gyu claims it was because Min-ho had always been jealous of everything Tae-gyu had. Jin-wook doesn’t look convinced.
At the same time, Yi-deum and Investigator Gu interrogate Min-ho. Min-ho insists that it was the other way round, and Tae-gyu killed Soo-ah because he always hits women when he’s drunk.
Tae-gyu meekly explains to Jin-wook that he only helped Min-ho because they were friends, but was actually asleep when Min-ho dumped Soo-ah’s body. Head bowed, Tae-gyu sighs sadly, “I should have stopped him.”
In the other interrogation room, Min-ho is frantic as he tries to convince Yi-deum that he was too afraid of Tae-gyu to resist helping him, or to call the police like he originally wanted to. Yi-deum’s tone is biting as she asks, “Do you not have free will?” She explains to him that even if he didn’t kill Soo-ah, dumping her body will easily get him three years in jail.
The conflicting accounts don’t make it easy for Yi-deum and Jin-wook, and they can’t find Ji-soo to verify the crime. Investigator Gu arrives with even more bad news: The hotel room was coincidentally re-carpeted that day so there is no physical evidence of the scene, and he can’t find out what the “K” is that Soo-ah mentioned.
Meanwhile, Sang-ho is rebuffed by Hyungjae Hotel security, who have been instructed not to give him any CCTV. Sang-ho looks worried as he wonders who gave the order.
Tae-gyu handed in a USB drive to the prosecution team, with numerous interviews from acquaintances detailing how jealous Min-ho was of Tae-gyu and how cruel he would get when drunk. On another file is footage of Min-ho carting Soo-ah down to his car. The team is still uncertain, but for now all the evidence points to Min-ho being the perpetrator.
Sang-ho rushes to inform Jo Gap-soo about the edited footage Chairman Ahn has submitted, and asks Jo to bargain with the chairman on Min-ho’s behalf. Jo Gap-soo brushes his concerns away, and promises that Lawyer Heo is doing everything she can already. Sang-ho doesn’t say anything, but his expression is deflated as Jo Gap-soo drives away.
Determined to help his brother, Sang-ho goes to ask Min-ho if there isn’t anything else he can remember about that night. Min-ho suddenly recalls the other girl that was there, Hyun Ji-soo, but doesn’t notice Lawyer Heo’s sharp look. Sang-ho vows to find Ji-soo before anyone else can.
Lawyer Heo reassures Sang-ho that Jo Gap-soo will do everything he can to help Min-ho, unaware that Jin-wook has overheard their conversation.
Yi-deum and Jin-wook scroll through Min-ho’s social media, and decide that the testimonies of Min-ho copying Tae-gyu are indeed credible. Yi-deum freezes at a picture of Min-ho on his graduation day standing beside Jo Gap-soo, but she ignores Jin-wook’s silent attempt at sympathy. She brusquely scrolls to the next picture, of Tae-gyu with his arm slung around Min-ho’s shoulder, and something about the photo makes Yi-deum pause.
Triumphant, Yi-deum confronts Tae-gyu in the interrogation room with the studded gloves from the photo, now bloodied, and accuses him of using these to beat Soo-ah. Although the prosecutors are certain the glove is Tae-gyu’s, they’re thrown off when he starts laughing. Tae-gyu pulls a hair from his head and tells the prosecutors to compare the DNA, because they’ll find the glove isn’t his.
Mi-young interrupts the interview to whisper that the witness Hyun Ji-soo has been found. Ji-soo admits that she hid because she was scared, but when she saw the news knew that she had to come forward. Ji-soo’s voice trembles as she states that Soo-ah didn’t do anything particularly wrong, but “he” just put the gloves on and started to beat her, until it looked like she died.
Ji-soo looks haunted as she says, “And then… that demon started to laugh.” Yi-deum asks intently if Tae-gyu was the one to kill Soo-ah, but is nonplussed when Ji-soo declares that it was Baek Min-ho. Ji-soo asks whether she’s done now, and when the prosecutors look surprised at her tone, she quickly covers, “To be honest, I don’t want to talk about what happened again.”
In disbelief, Yi-deum points out that it could have been Ji-soo that died that night. In flashback, Ji-soo remembers grasping Soo-ah’s ankle as she was about to leave, her look pleading. Ji-soo’s gaze flickers in guilt, but demands, “What? Should I have died instead?”
Disappointed at her response, Yi-deum blames Ji-soo for not calling the police for help when she got away, and says that if she had, Soo-ah might be alive today. Voice heated, Yi-deum asks whether Ji-soo ever thought about Soo-ah’s grandmother, and how much pain she would go through looking for her granddaughter. Concerned, Jin-wook watches as Ji-soo silently weeps at the accusations.
Afterwards, Yi-deum sighs that they will have to prosecute Min-ho as the perpetrator, not Tae-gyu. She notices Jin-wook’s turbulent expression, but he rushes away before she can find out what’s wrong.
In need of fresh air, Jin-wook steps outside. He flashes back to 2003, when a fire broke out at a hospital.
Teenage Jin-wook and another person were trapped inside a burning room while the hospital was being evacuated, and no one could hear their screams. Just as he was about to slip into unconsciousness, Yi-deum’s mom noticed as she was evacuating, and turned back to rescue them both. But as Mom was pulling Jin-wook from the room, a burning tower of metal fell on top of her.
This is the accident that put Mom in a coma, which would require her to transfer to another hospital. It was also when Jin-wook discovered that Mom had a daughter. In the present, Jin-wook breathes deeply at the horrifying memory. He looks conflicted as he receives an invitation to dinner from his mom.
Soo-ah’s grandmother struggles to pull a cart of boxes up a hill, and wipes a tear away as two giggling schoolgirls pass by. Watching nearby, a forlorn Ji-soo approaches and hands Granny a present that Soo-ah wanted to give her. Inside is the money that Soo-ah earned from her last night of work.
Resolute, Ji-soo calls Yi-deum to ask if she has received the package yet—she sent in the glove that Tae-gyu was wearing the night that killed Soo-ah. Yi-deum realizes that Ji-soo has just admitted to lying earlier, and quickly searches the office for the package. It hasn’t arrived, and she hurries out to find Jin-wook.
Meanwhile, Jin-wook meets with his mother outside and faces her solemnly, asking, “Why did you do that Prosecutor Ma’s mother?” He asks why she would lock up someone and ignore their daily pleas to see their daughter. Distraught, he doesn’t let his Mom reply, and demands, “Don’t you know how badly you ruined someone’s life?”
That’s when Yi-deum steps out from the pillar, having heard everything, and asks in disbelief whether it’s true. Distressed, Dr. Ko turns to leave but Yi-deum stops her and asks in desperation where Mom is now. She grows increasingly agitated when Dr. Ko refuses to answer, and screams at the doctor to tell her where her mother is.
Jin-wook steps in to pull Yi-deum away from his mom, and earnestly pleads with Yi-deum to calm down. He entreats her to give his mom time to get over her shock, after which he will find out about Yi-deum’s mom.
Yi-deum’s face hardens as she contemptuously asks, “Is your mom being upset more important than whether or not my mom is alive?” Jin-wook tries to explain, but Yi-deum refuses to listen.
Gaze intense, Yi-deum states, “I can’t trust you. I don’t need you. I’ll find out myself. And if your mother did anything to Mom… I will make her pay.” Jin-wook stares after Yi-deum’s retreating back, his expression lost.
Yi-deum storms inside the prosecutor’s office, and finds the glove Ji-soo sent over. She picks it up and leaves, wordlessly brushing past Jin-wook on her way out. I don’t like where this is headed…
…which is to the release of Tae-gyu from prison for lack of evidence. Min-ho yells in fury as Tae-gyu gives him a self-satisfied shrug on his way out.
Intent on helping his brother, Sang-ho goes to confront Jo Gap-soo. Jo once again cautions that they should wait, but this time Sang-ho won’t countenance the refusal. Sang-ho gruffly asks, “Are you really going to be like this? Don’t you know that Min-ho is more precious than my own life?”
So Jo Gap-soo admits to his intentions for Min-ho to make a sacrifice and go to jail in Tae-gyu’s place. Jo Gap-soo seems dismayed about Min-ho’s fate, but not enough to save him; he asks Sang-ho to understand that Chairman Ahn won’t let Tae-gyu go to jail for his crimes. Moreover, even if they did save Min-ho, the chairman wouldn’t let Min-ho go unpunished while Tae-gyu took the fall.
Angry at the betrayal, Sang-ho demands to know whether Jo Gap-soo knew about the edited surveillance tapes Chairman Ahn released. He takes Jo’s non-answer as guilt, and says, “I understand. Then I’ll take the secret planner to the police.”
Sang-ho is hurt but resolute as he explains to the shocked Jo Gap-soo that he has written every bad thing Jo asked Sang-ho to do over the 20 years into a secret diary. Sang-ho states that he hoped he would never have to use it, and begs Jo to save Min-ho.
Jo Gap-soo puts on a smile and agrees to help Min-ho after all. Sang-ho’s expression breaks in relief as Jo makes a phone call.
Late that night, Yi-deum arranges a clandestine meeting with Sang-ho. Yi-deum promises that she will clear Min-ho of the multiple charges he faces if Sang-ho will tell her where Mom is. Just then, Sang-ho receives a message from Jo Gap-soo to inform him that he has spoken with the district attorney, and Sang-ho decides to end the bargain with Yi-deum, not needing it after all.
Yi-deum notes that Sang-ho is more naive than she thought, and asks if he knows that ace defense lawyer Heo has switched sides, and is now defending Tae-gyu. Min-ho is totally alone.
After the meeting, an unsettled Sang-ho tries to contact Lawyer Heo, but can’t get through. Sang-ho drives to Jo Gap-soo’s house, where he sees Jo Gap-soo entertaining Lawyer Heo and Chairman Ahn. Sang-ho despairingly remembers Jo Gap-soo’s words that he wouldn’t be where he is without Sang-ho.
To give him one last chance, Sang-ho calls Jo Gap-soo and asks how the meeting with the district attorney is going. Jo Gap-soo’s tone is warm as he assures Sang-ho that it is going very well, while Sang-ho can see the lies pouring from his lips. Sang-ho calls Yi-deum and asks if her offer still stands.
Meanwhile, Jin-wook earnestly asks his mom where Yi-deum’s mother is, and pleads, “She’s still alive, right?” Jin-wook’s mom looks bereft as she answers that that Mom is actually dead.
Back at the dinner, Jo Gap-soo’s good mood is ruined when he is sent a picture of Sang-ho and Yi-deum’s secret meeting.
Sang-ho admits to Yi-deum, “Kwak Young-shil… is dead. She died fourteen years ago.”
Siiiiigh. I’ve avoided talking about Jo Gap-soo until now, but then an episode like this happens, and I’m forced to talk about Jo Gap-soo. Okay, here are my thoughts:
He’s boring and takes up too much screen time.
To elaborate, I’m baffled as to why Jo Gap-soo and henchman Sang-ho get so much screen time while other elements of the story fall to the side. Someone needs to tell this show that if you’re going to focus on the villain, they need to be a twisty mastermind, or deliciously evil, or struggle with what they’re becoming. Something. Instead we’ve been given a man who thinks the key to his success is a hotel room. I wish that Jo Gap-soo’s story was more connected to the main one—which I thought was the point of Prosecutor Min’s character—but the show decided to focus on his political machinations instead. Even that could have been tolerable if they hadn’t made them cliched and terrible. My last big problem with Jo Gap-soo is that there is no compelling character development–he just reallllly wants to be mayor—so I don’t have any investment in this side of the story. For example, did anyone think for even one moment that he wouldn’t betray Sang-ho? I sure didn’t. I did feel (a bit) for poor Sang-ho today, though, which surprised me, but watching as he found out his whole world was a lie was undeniably rough.
The large majority of the emotional moments come from Yi-deum in this episode (though I did cry when Granny asked Soo-ah to wake up) and it has never been more clear how much of the heavy lifting has been done by Jung Ryeo-won. In this episode, Yi-deum seeks revenge for Soo-ah, has her fragile trust in Jin-wook broken, and after decades of searching learns of a way to find her mother. It would have been difficult to balance these elements correctly if Witch had actually focused on Yi-deum, but it didn’t even try, which is disappointing. Jung Ryeo-won is so marvelous that I could almost buy her bargain with Sang-ho, or fractured trust in Jin-wook, but the writing fell flat.
Yi-deum has been so strongly characterized until now that I can see exactly why she would make the decision to betray Soo-ah and her promise to Granny—searching for Mom has consumed every part of Yi-deum’s life and that is her ballast when she is in emotional turmoil. Likewise, Yi-deum has been repeatedly rejected by society and failed by those supposed to help her, so it makes sense that she would quickly turn on Jin-wook. But we never quite saw these decisions being made, and it felt like we were filling in the gaps of Yi-deum’s emotional journey ourselves.
This oversight extends to Jin-wook as well, who was a particularly egregious victim of the show’s decision to focus on the bad guys. Our hero finally confronts his mother with her lies, and we weren’t able to linger on what this means to him at all. It does tie in nicely with the thematic focus on broken trust that runs throughout, and affects all our characters, but I would have liked to see a space for Jin-wook to process the bombshell. But because the pace was so fast, all the focus of the reveal is on Yi-deum, who seems to have turned to the dark side again (or for the first time?). Yi-deum’s growth last week was lovely to see, but her fledgling attempts at connection were dealt a staggering one-two punch this week—from Soo-ah’s death to Jin-wook’s “betrayal.” It’s no wonder that her newfound relationships couldn’t withstand her desire to find her mother, when all she was rewarded with was pain.
Nevertheless, it was still wrenching to see Yi-deum manipulating Sang-ho, and leveraging Soo-ah’s chance at justice with a deal. Unfortunately, this development also means the death of the blossoming romance between Jin-wook and Yi-deum. I unreservedly love our lead couple, and I’ll be sad if we are headed for separation and heartbreak. These two were so cute together, and I absolutely adored the intensity with which Yi-deum threw herself at Jin-wook. When Yi-deum knows what she wants, she fearlessly goes after it. While that was wonderful when she wanted Jin-wook, now that she doesn’t, I have a feeling she will be ruthless in cutting him from her life. Jin-wook’s face when Yi-deum told him that she doesn’t trust him any more was a little bit heartbreaking, but it doesn’t look like Jin-wook is about to give up on her any time soon. If Mom really is dead (and I’m not convinced she is) I just hope his trademark empathy will be enough to pull Yi-deum back from the dark places she might go…
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