Room No. 9: Episode 2
Whether by heaven’s purpose or accident, the two leads have switched bodies, throwing them in completely opposite worlds. Hwa-sa uses her newfound freedom to experience everything she missed while Hae-yi pleads for hers, to no avail. The lives of our leads begin to collide, and the skeletons of the past bare their heads in the present. Though our leads may now have new faces and lives, they might not be the only ones living under someone else’s identity.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
December 24th, 1984, a man resembling Yoo-jin steps out of his car to observe a meteor shower as a stray meteorite plummets toward the earth. It crashes into a hospital where a newborn cries, and a familiar looking defibrillator glows in the dark as bolts of electricity surge into it from the fallen meteorite.
Back in the present, Hwa-sa stares into a bathroom mirror and is greeted by Hae-yi’s reflection. She slaps herself to wake up from this dream, but when the prison guard calls her by Hae-yi’s name, she realizes that the impossible has truly happened—she’s in Hae-yi’s body.
Hwa-sa sits in Hae-yi’s car and remembers the day she first entered prison. Every day was the same, the fear of death never abating, and she prayed constantly for an admission to heaven. Hwa-sa narrates that her prayers were answered, though in a different way, and runs past the prison gates, finally free after all these years.
Learning that “Hae-yi” left the premises, Yoo-jin rushes out in search for her and finds her walking on the side of the road. He pulls her into a hug, much to Hwa-sa’s surprise, and sits her down to help her put on her heels again. His terms of endearment and demeanor confuse Hwa-sa, who can’t quite figure out the relationship between him and Hae-yi.
In the hospital, Hae-yi wakes up, handcuffed to a bed, and is startled to find Hwa-sa’s face staring back at her through the window. Released from her restraints, Hae-yi stumbles into the bathroom and screams at the sight of her reflection.
After calming down, Hae-yi asks about her body, wondering if she died, but the prison guard assures her that “Attorney Eulji” is fine. Realizing that Hwa-sa must be in her body, Hae-yi plans her escape. When the guard takes a minute to use the bathroom alone, Hae-yi uses the opportunity to escape, pausing to steal clothes and a phone from some sleeping patients.
Intern Bang is working through the night with the others at the law firm when he receives a text from Hae-yi, instructing him to bring her car to the hospital. Though he protests and acts like he won’t go, Intern Bang dutifully follows her orders.
Hwa-sa is still acting awkwardly around Yoo-jin, which he notices, and she doesn’t even know what to do when Hae-yi’s phone rings. With some prompting by Yoo-jin, Hwa-sa tentatively answers the call, and is shocked to hear her voice over the phone—it’s the real Hae-yi asking to meet.
In the privacy of the bathroom, Hwa-sa tells Hae-yi to wait until she’s ready. That only riles up Hae-yi further, and she scoffs at Hwa-sa’s audacity when she hears Yoo-jin calling for “Hae-yi” over the phone. She orders Hwa-sa to meet her at a convenience store alone. Before Hwa-sa can reply, Yoo-jin walks into the bathroom, and Hwa-sa throws the phone into the sink and turns on the faucet.
Yoo-jin notes how strange she’s acting, but Hwa-sa argues that it would be weirder if she was acting normally after her injury. He raises his hand to check her temperature, but Hwa-sa recoils from his touch. With a sigh, he says that they should go home.
Meanwhile, Hae-yi runs as fast as she can through the hospital, though her new body limits her physical abilities. She hops into a taxi, barely evading capture with the prison guards just seconds behind her. She makes it to the promised meeting spot, and texts Intern Bang to bring her car to the convenience store instead.
Hae-yi waits at the convenience store when the doors open and in walks Hwa-sa with her body. She takes a seat next to Hae-yi, unfazed by this literal out-of-body experience unlike her counterpart, and berates Hae-yi for wanting to meet without a plan.
Hwa-sa orders Hae-yi to take their conversation elsewhere, but once outside, Hae-yi realizes that she’s fallen into a trap. Though the guards arrive and Yoo-jin tries to stop her, Hae-yi refuses to give up, and pushes Hwa-sa to the ground in her attempt to escape.
However, hearing Yoo-jin call out her name in worry stops Hae-yi in her tracks as she watches her boyfriend unknowingly comfort Hwa-sa. Hae-yi crumples into the arms of the guards who surround her, and silently screams while Hwa-sa stares at her with a pained expression.
Yoo-jin calls the doctor at the prison to ask about Hwa-sa’s predicament, and finds it unfair that she was placed in solitary confinement given her medical conditions. In prison, Hae-yi refuses to eat, and cries out to the guard to let her go because she’s the real Hae-yi.
Elsewhere, Hwa-sa wakes up in a fancy hotel room, courtesy of Yoo-jin. He calls her, offering to drop by to check on her, but Hwa-sa turns him down. Instead, she tells him that she’ll be busy for a while and asks for some time alone.
Hwa-sa looks out the window at present-day Seoul, and scans the changed landscape of the city. She narrates, “What I saw when I opened the curtains wasn’t Seoul, but the passage of time.”
With her newfound freedom, Hwa-sa enjoys the pleasures of the world, ordering a spread of rich foods, but in the middle of her meal, she begins to cry. After dying every single day for all those years, she finally realizes that she was alive all along.
Hwa-sa dances in her room as memories of her fellow inmates dancing intertwine with the present. With the soft glow of sunlight enveloping her, Hwa-sa dances, no longer in Hae-yi’s body, but in her own.
Sporting a new perm, Hwa-sa visits her mother with a cake to celebrate her birthday and thanks her mother for waiting all these years. Hwa-sa asks her mother if she remembers Choo Young-bae, the man who wanted to marry her; the man she supposedly killed.
However, Hwa-sa tells her mother that Young-bae might be alive. Believing that the heavens always have a purpose, Hwa-sa takes these turn of events as a sign to reveal the sins Young-bae committed.
Hwa-sa’s visit ends when Mi-ran, who watches over Hwa-sa’s mother for her, asks her what she’s doing here. She’s suspicious of the new face until Hwa-sa introduces herself as the appeals attorney.
Hwa-sa departs soon after, and a nurse tells Mi-ran that Hwa-sa moved Mother to a private room and is paying all future bills. Mi-ran watches Hwa-sa suspiciously, unsettled by the excessive act of kindness.
The prison guards wake Hae-yi, and she looks up at them, whispering that she isn’t Hwa-sa. Desperately clinging to the guard’s leg, Hae-yi softly cries that she’s Attorney Eulji Hae-yi. Her distressed insistence worries the guards, though one of them thinks it’s a hoax, and the doctor informs them of the possibility of dissociative identity disorder.
Hwa-sa finds her way to Hae-yi’s apartment, and remembering a tip from a fellow inmate, she uses a taser to unlock the door. I’m no expert in breaking-and-entering, but maybe it’s not the best idea to get advice from someone who was captured. Just saying.
Unsurprisingly, the alarms go off, and a security guard is dispatched. As luck would have it, the security guard is a friend of Officer Oh’s, and informs him about the security breach at Hae-yi’s apartment. Even turning down a free meal, Officer Oh accompanies the guard to the apartment.
Once they arrive, the security guard scolds Hwa-sa for using a taser on her lock, but with Officer Oh confirming her identity, he lets her off with just a warning. Since he helped her, Officer Oh asks for a drink, and lets himself into her apartment.
He excuses himself to go use the bathroom, but slinks into Hae-yi’s office to snoop. Rummaging through the drawers, Officer Oh finds a document from the National Forensic Center, and quickly snaps a few pictures before Hwa-sa finds him.
After getting his drink (literal sugar water), Officer Oh leaves, and Hwa-sa escorts him to the elevators. Her uncharacteristic behaviors puzzle him, and he states that she must not be Hae-yi. Without a hint of sarcasm, he asks her what’s going on: face-off or multiple personalities?
Unnerved by his accusation, Hwa-sa yells at him for spewing nonsense, and stomps away. Officer Oh finds her reaction surprisingly cute, but then slaps himself for even entertaining the thought. Heh.
Alone in the apartment, Hwa-sa raids the fridge for the little food Hae-yi has, and starts pressing buttons on remotes, curious about all the new technology and fancy equipment. She accidently turns on the projector, which displays slides containing information about her case.
A picture of Chairman Ki pops ups, and Hwa-sa reaches out to touch his face as if in a trance. Though the information on the slide calls him Ki San, the half-brother of Young-bae and the oldest son of the late chairman, Hwa-sa recognizes him as the real Choo Young-bae.
Elsewhere, Chairman Ki receives an update on Yoo-jin’s recent activities, including his visit to the prison and Hae-yi’s role as Hwa-sa’s appeals attorney. Though curious, Chairman Ki seems relatively unperturbed by the news, but when his secretary informs him of Hwa-sa’s recent hospital escape and current mental state, he drops his utensils in shock.
Chairman Ki drives alone in the middle of the night, wondering if Hwa-sa really went crazy. He thinks to himself that it would have been better if she died back then, and remembers sitting in the snow-covered car, bloody and bruised with an unconscious Hwa-sa next to him.
As Chairman Ki turns a corner, he nearly hits a hooded passerby and barely manages to swerve out of the way. Cursing under his breath, he notices the pedestrian on the ground but still moving, and drives away.
The hooded figure looks up, revealing it to be Hwa-sa.
The chairman arrives at a rundown carousel where he once went on dates with Hwa-sa, and flicks a lighter on and off out of habit. Hwa-sa reaches the same spot, but stops at a distance as old and young Young-bae overlap before her eyes.
Without thinking, she calls out his name, her voice mounting with fury. Chairman Ki whips his head towards her direction, bellowing for the bastard to reveal himself. The shrubs and darkness cover Hwa-sa’s face, and she twirls around before he sees her.
Hwa-sa runs down the familiar streets of her youth with Chairman Ki chasing after her, and she trips over a stone. As she falls, the scene flashes to her past where a young Chairman Ki offered his hand to help her up.
While past Hwa-sa received a piggyback ride from Young-bae, present Hwa-sa currently runs for her life away from him. Past and present oscillate as the once-lovers retrace their steps, the warmth from their past in stark contrast to the darkness of their present.
With Hae-yi’s younger body, Hwa-sa manages to outrun and hide from Chairman Ki who roars into the rainy night for her to come out. Flashing back, she remembers the moment she learned Young-bae’s father was Chairman Ki Se-woong — her boss. In the present day, Chairman Ki questions who else would call him by that name except for Hwa-sa.
Hwa-sa returns to the apartment completely drenched, and Yoo-jin waits for her outside with an umbrella. He asks her what’s going on, but Hwa-sa walks past him without uttering a single word. He tells her that “Hwa-sa” is being transferred to another prison because of her mental state, which finally gets her to turn around and face him.
Early in the morning, the prison guards escort Hae-yi to a van for her transfer, but Hae-yi instantly recognizes the name of the facility as a psychiatric hospital for prisoners. Knowing that her chances to return to her body would be slim once she goes there, Hae-yi argues that she never approved of this transfer and calls it a violation of her rights.
She fights against the guards, and from the corner of her eye, she spots Hwa-sa standing by the gate. Hae-yi launches herself at Hwa-sa, who motions to the guards to let her be, and the two stare at each other.
Hae-yi accuses Hwa-sa of requesting this transfer, asking if she was that desperate to live as her. Holding Hae-yi’s gaze, Hwa-sa states, “I’m Attorney Eulji Hae-yi, and you are Jang Hwa-sa.”
Hae-yi scoffs at her shameless claim, calling her crazy, but Hwa-sa merely repeats her assertion as Eulji Hae-yi. Pushing Hae-yi back, Hwa-sa doesn’t even blink as she asks, “Inmate 122, who are you?”
Episode two throws us deeper into the lives of Hwa-sa and Hae-yi, and reveals hints of a larger secret intertwined in both their lives. While Chairman Ki’s secret wasn’t necessarily surprising, I thought the execution of the reveal was well done and conveyed the feeling of shock experienced by Hwa-sa. The show hinted that Chairman Ki is probably Young-bae, but by showing the viewers the overlap between young and old Young-bae, and the juxtaposition of the past and the present, it really drove home how much there is yet to be revealed. The stark contrast of the two chases between Hwa-sa and Chairman Ki highlighted the change in their relationship, which only reinforced the weight of the discovery for Hwa-sa. All these years she lived with the fear of dying, never really living, because she supposedly murdered the man she loved. However, he was alive this entire time, and to make matters worse, he knew she was in jail for his death.
I don’t think Hwa-sa was entirely sure that she wanted revenge until that fateful encounter by the carousel. She was clearly shocked to see Chairman Ki in that video right before her heart attack, but from the way she talked to Hae-yi in the beginning and her conversation with her mother, it seems like she wasn’t quite sure what to make of everything and still needed time to process. However, seeing Chairman Ki in the flesh and the instant overlap with past Young-bae was a watershed moment for Hwa-sa, as well as the viewers, signaling the start of a revenge plan. The wound of betrayal is fresh, thus, this still leaves a lot of question marks in terms of an action plan. This also gives space for Hae-yi to insert herself in Hwa-sa’s revenge and gives the show room to explore different relationships and character growths. In terms of setting up the plot, I think the first two episodes did a good job.
Given the body swap premise, I was naturally worried about how the switched characters would be portrayed. It’s difficult to have two different actors convey the same character while also acknowledging the differences that come along with having different bodies. Even if Hae-yi is the same, spiritually and consciously, her body is that of Hwa-sa’s. Physically, there would be certain limitations due to age but also habits—likewise with Hwa-sa in Hae-yi’s body. Quelling my fears, Kim Hee-sun and Kim Hae-sook are doing great, and hopefully, their portrayals will go from strength to strength as the plot thickens.
Besides the two leads, the other characters are slowly getting fleshed out, and I find their interactions with the leads interesting so far. There’s a clear difference between the way Hae-yi is treated compared to Hwa-sa. Part of it is that Hae-yi is claiming to be herself while Hwa-sa is not, but more than that, Hwa-sa’s body is stigmatized because of her label as an inmate which gives Hae-yi very little power to have her voice heard. Her pleas for help are either considered an act or a psychological disorder. For strong-willed Hae-yi, who knows how to bargain and argue, she’s going to have to realize that her previous way of life won’t nicely translate to her new body and life as Hwa-sa.
While Hae-yi struggles with getting people to see and hear her, Hwa-sa is struggling with the opposite. She doesn’t want people from Hae-yi’s life to observe her for fear of being discovered. In fact, I like how the show is already putting seeds of doubt into the characters’ heads even if making the leap that Hae-yi is actually Hwa-sa might be too fantastical to make. It leaves open the possibility that characters like Officer Oh or Yoo-jin will eventually accept the truth and then act accordingly to the switch. Just as Hae-yi has to learn how to navigate the world as Hwa-sa, Hwa-sa will have to learn how to live as Hae-yi which might be just as difficult a task after living as a death row inmate for 34 years.