Room No. 9: Episode 3
Our heroine learns that secrets, deceptions, and corruption run amok, and justice may be hard to obtain. Though the heavens may have given her a chance to seek revenge, Hwa-sa remains powerless in front of the enemy who destroyed her life many years ago. Despite her current incapability, her mere presence poses a threat to her enemy who wants nothing more than to be rid of this last remnant of his past.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
June, 2002, high schooler Yoo-jin watches Hae-yi work at a sandwich shop, and when her shift ends, he shields her from the rain with his umbrella. He presents Hae-yi with a sketch he made of her, but after seeing his school uniform, she tells Yoo-jin that she has no plans of raising a high schooler and returns the gift.
Sometime in the future, adult Yoo-jin enters Hae-yi’s law firm, and she learns that he’s Chairman Ki’s brother as well as an heir to a hospital. This time, Yoo-jin gets caught in the rain, and Hae-yi shares her umbrella with him. They both recognize each other, and Hae-yi tells Yoo-jin that she does raise younger men.
At the prison, Hae-yi accuses Hwa-sa of trying to send her to the psychiatric hospital in hopes of stealing her life, but Hwa-sa explains that Yoo-jin forced her here to stop the transfer. However, seeing Hae-yi’s hostile attitude, Hwa-sa thinks transferring might be best. Enraged, Hae-yi throws herself at Hwa-sa, and the two crash to the floor. Hwa-sa easily pushes Hae-yi off, and reminds her of the harsh reality—no one will believe her even if it’s the truth.
Hwa-sa calls for the guards, and in front of everyone, she declares who she is–“Hwa-sa.” After being stunned for a moment, they laugh it off as a joke, and Hae-yi is dragged towards the bus awaiting her pickup. Accepting her loss, Hae-yi admits to being “Hwa-sa,” and begs the guard to cancel the transfer. She promises to stop causing a ruckus, so the guard allows her to stay.
Hae-yi meets again privately with Hwa-sa and orders her to submit a leave of absence at the law firm through Intern Bang. In addition, she wants Hwa-sa to leave her house and come to the prison whenever she calls. As for her last demand, she forbids Hwa-sa from sleeping with Yoo-jin.
The last command bothers Hwa-sa during her ride home, so she asks Yoo-jin what “Hwa-sa” means to him. He shares his theory about Hwa-sa being his birth mother, and she shouts at him, saying that she never gave birth to him. Heh.
Yoo-jin follows Hwa-sa into Hae-yi’s apartment and asks how she can confidently say Hwa-sa isn’t his mother. He thinks that the Hwa-sa and Young-bae as lovers story might be a coverup, but she tells him that the two were engaged.
Meanwhile, Chairman Ki looks over the security footage of that rainy day when he heard his name, but none of the cameras were able to capture the face of the person. Only he, Secretary Park, and Hwa-sa know his true name, but Chairman Ki grows suspicious of someone else: Hae-yi.
Hae-yi returns to her cell, realizing that she’s now at the bottom of the food chain. Though the other inmates look to her for guidance in the kitchen, Hae-yi places the responsibility on someone else while she nonchalantly makes a cup of coffee. Ignoring the confused glances of the other inmates, Hae-yi thinks to herself that the only way to survive is for her to become Hwa-sa.
Intern Bang furiously rings Hae-yi’s doorbell and pretends to be a deliveryman to get Hwa-sa to open the door. His ploy works, and Intern Bang barges into the apartment. He argues with Hwa-sa to do her job or quit, but his plan backfires when Hwa-sa presents him with a resignation letter. Ha!
He begs her to rescind, but then changes his tune, instructing her to submit the letter in person. Thus, Hwa-sa ends up at the courthouse, and when she calls all lawyers swindlers, he cheerily tells her that she’s the top one. Pfft.
Hwa-sa turns around to leave, but Chairman Ki arrives just then. Ignoring the crowd of reporters and flashing cameras, he saunters over to Hwa-sa and extends a hand. Hwa-sa immediately recalls the moment when Young-bae did the same, and she falls to the floor as Chairman Ki catches her.
Running out of time, Intern Bang decides to take over as the main attorney, but Hwa-sa suddenly gets up and enters the courtroom. She stares at Chairman Ki and remembers back to the evening in the car when Young-bae sat next to her beaten and bloody. They both swallowed some pills, and Hwa-sa told Young-bae that they’ll meet again before closing her eyes.
The appeal trial concerning Chan-sung starts, and the prosecutor calls forth Officer Oh as his witness. As the primary investigator of the case, Officer Oh calls into question the reliability of the NSF document that claims faulty brakes on Chan-sung’s car.
He clearly remembers the examiner telling him that the inspection would be finished in two hours, but the report was released twenty-four hours later. Officer Oh also tells the prosecutor that the NSF follows a numerical documenting system, but the number for this case is 0978 while the last report number is 0976—meaning that one document is presumably missing.
Things look bad for Chan-sung, and he nervously glances at his father. Chairman Ki nods reassuringly at his son, having faith that “Hae-yi” has a counter-plan. However, when it’s time for the cross-examination, Hwa-sa declines, much to everyone’s bafflement.
After the trial, Intern Bang hands Hwa-sa her resignation letter and ushers her into Attorney Ma’s office. As soon as she enters, Chairman Ki chokes her, demanding to know if “Hwa-sa” ordered her to ruin his son’s life, and releases her just before she loses consciousness.
In his garage, Chairman Ki tinkers with his car when Yoo-jin arrives. The two sit down for some beer, and Chairman Ki casually throws an envelope on the table containing pictures of Yoo-jin and Hae-yi. He tells Yoo-jin that Hwa-sa isn’t his mother, but when he tells Yoo-jin to patiently wait, Yoo-jin refuses since he’s planning to find her himself.
The inmates swap ghost stories while prepping food, and one inmate talks about the strange machine that glows by itself in the medical supply room. This particular tale catches Hae-yi’s attention as she gulps down a cup of juice.
An inmate comments on how Hae-yi drank all the peach juice, and Hae-yi grabs her throat and gasps for air. Through labored breaths, she tells the others about her peach allergy, but an inmate points out that peach is her favorite flavor, reminding Hae-yi that she’s in Hwa-sa’s body.
Hwa-sa finds Professor Kang in his office with Hae-yi’s father, Sung, and asks why Professor Kang thought Hwa-sa was innocent when he visited her in prison.
Flashing back, Young-bae asked Hwa-sa for the code to his father’s safe, but when she refused, he showed her Ki Se-woong’s building. He mentioned how nothing belongs to him despite his father’s riches, so rather than stealing, he saw this as reclaiming what was rightfully his.
In the middle of the night, Young-bae opened his father’s safe, but before he could escape with the money, a man resembling Yoo-jin caught him stealing. The other man was “Ki San,” and he asked who Young-bae was.
Young-bae furiously claimed himself as Ki San’s brother before pushing him out of the way. Ki San gave chase to the fleeing Young-bae, eventually tackling him in the stairwell. As the two fought, Young-bae accidentally flipped Ki San over the edge and watched, stricken, as he fell.
These are Chairman Ki’s memories, and he shakes them away before heading out to a party.
At Professor Kang’s firm, Sung pulls out a stack of photos, explaining to Hwa-sa how their focus is on those who got a free ticket into the SHC Group. The first is Attorney Ma, who was Hwa-sa’s public defender. He’s now the managing director of the country’s top-earning law firm, which is basically owned by Chairman Ki.
Meanwhile at Chairman Ki’s party, Attorney Ma compliments the chairman’s grilling skills, but another man snidely remarks on how Attorney Ma is tasting money rather than the steak. Sung narrates that this man is Busan’s District Prosecutor Kim, previously the head detective of the homicide department in charge of Hwa-sa’s case.
Next is Director Bong of SHC Group’s hospital who was the medical examiner in charge of Young-bae’s autopsy, and lastly, there’s Secretary Park who’s currently Chairman Ki’s right-hand man and was an investigator who first found the crime scene. The only female of the group is Chairman Ki’s wife who also happens to be Prosecutor Kim’s sister. Coincidence? Probably not.
While Hwa-sa silently clenches her fist, Chairman Ki laughs jovially, surrounded by all the players who had a hand in Hwa-sa’s demise. Sung hands Hwa-sa the files and asks her to uncover the truth before the case gets buried by time.
Hwa-sa takes a taxi to Chairman Ki’s house and watches the party from outside the gate. Seeing him laugh with his son, Hwa-sa narrates, “Choo Young-bae, you’ve become so happy. Did you try to kill me so you could have all this?”
A tear falls down Hwa-sa’s face as she sits alone, staring at the photos. With a determined look, Hwa-sa burns her resignation letter.
Mi-ran visits Hae-yi in prison and cheerfully greets her, though Hae-yi merely watches her warily. Mi-ran asks if she can hire a caretaker for Hwa-sa’s mother since “Hae-yi” offered to pay for everything. Hae-yi is surprised to hear her real name, but an idea forms in her head, prompting her to ask Mi-ran for a favor.
Meanwhile, Hwa-sa visits Attorney Ma at the law firm, but seeing his face reminds her of when they first met. He introduced himself as her volunteer public defender who was there to save her life. In the present, Hwa-sa tells Attorney Ma that she won’t step down from Chan-sung’s case, but their meeting is cut short when Hwa-sa receives a call from the nursing home.
A nurse informs Hwa-sa of her mother’s abrupt transfer, so Hwa-sa has Intern Bang drive her to the nursing home. Unfortunately, they speed past Officer Oh who chases after them and pulls them over. Hwa-sa yells at Office Oh, saying that she needs to go, but he laughs, thinking that she’s just mad about the appeal trial from earlier.
Intern Bang informs him of their destination, and Officer Oh finally notices the distraught look on Hwa-sa’s face. He escorts Hwa-sa to the nursing home, but upon arrival, Hwa-sa only finds Mi-ran in her mother’s room. She learns that Hae-yi ordered the transfer, and Mi-ran relays a message from Hae-yi: “If you’re curious, come visit me.”
Yoo-jin gets the results for his paternity test, and he sighs as he reads the report—the results kept hidden from the audience.
Hwa-sa barges into the prison, demanding to know where Hae-yi moved her mother. Now with the upper hand, Hae-yi tells her to calm down and sit. She slides a peach sandwich over to Hwa-sa and orders her to eat it.
Unaware of the danger, Hwa-sa complies and begins coughing as soon as she takes a bite. Hae-yi feigns ignorance, saying that peaches are apparently Hwa-sa’s favorite, and watches her fall to the floor, gasping for air.
As Hwa-sa loses consciousness, she’s thrown back to the fateful evening in the car. She slowly opens her eyes, but the man sitting next to her isn’t Young-bae. Hwa-sa’s vision gradually sharpens, and to her surprise, the person in the car that evening looks uncannily like Yoo-jin.
As the show reveals answers, more questions take their place. This episode made it obvious that Yoo-jin isn’t Hwa-sa and Chairman Ki’s child (though the final nail has yet to be hammered into the coffin), but now it seems that the real Ki San is his father which makes the birth secret more complicated. In addition, part of the explanation of Chairman Ki’s plan to assume Ki San’s identity was revealed this episode with all the important figures from the case now under Chairman Ki’s thumb, but the most important individual has yet to be explained—why did Ki Se-woong accept Young-bae? In fact, how involved is Ki Se-woong in all of this? From the little that has been revealed of Chairman Ki’s past, I would venture to guess that Young-bae was a relatively poor and powerless man who was never acknowledged by his father. It doesn’t make sense, then, for Young-bae to manipulate all those people related to the case by himself. The most likely player is Ki Se-woong, but exactly why he would go along with Young-bae’s scheme is still a mystery.
Despite the revenge plot, the show is surprisingly fun, and I find myself chuckling at the humorous bits thrown in here and there. Intern Bang continues to serve as comic relief, being caught in a difficult situation where his superior disappears from work only to show up and destroy their case. Another funny moment is the one where Hae-yi fake chokes from the peaches, thinking that she’s still allergic, but then pretends nothing happened after realizing her mistake. These scenes feel lighter in tone, which reveals the stark contrast between them and the more serious scenes while also heightening the tension of the darker moments. For example, Intern Bang hands Hwa-sa the resignation letter after her failure in court (a small joke playing on his earlier pleas to have her stay), which is followed immediately by Chairman Ki choking Hwa-sa (a much more sinister scene that portrayed how volatile Chairman Ki can be). Similarly, the peach scene is used for humor at first, but takes a dark turn at the end of the episode when Hae-yi, essentially, tries to kill Hwa-sa.
Though parts of the show feel fast, such as the reveal of Chairman Ki’s identity and Yoo-jin’s relationship to Hwa-sa, some parts feel slow. In terms of action, Hwa-sa hasn’t done much except be at the right place at the right time, and she’s still only gathering basic information for her revenge plan. My issue isn’t with Hwa-sa taking time to develop her plan—because she’s clearly ill-prepared and needs to be cautious—but the reaffirmation of Hwa-sa’s need for revenge is starting to feel repetitive. I thought the show already revealed the motivation behind her revenge against Chairman Ki in that scene in episode two where past and present collided, so the scene where Hwa-sa cries and burns her resignation letter lacked subtlety compared to the previous one and felt too on the nose. However, I thought the reveal of how deep the corruption went was well-executed and highlighted how little remorse these people had for ruining someone’s life.
Overall, I think the show is doing a fine job in terms of pacing the mystery and the reveals. Every question answered is replaced with several more, which satisfies the audience’s curiosity while keeping them on their toes. Though the show still seems busy with laying down the groundwork and setting things up, I’m intrigued thus far, and find the story to be entertaining. The show is definitely enjoyable, with solid performances by the leads and supporting cast, but it’s still too early to determine if Room No. 9 will become something remarkable and have that addictive spark that makes me clamor for more. For now, I’m enjoying the ride and will patiently wait for Hwa-sa’s revenge to gain traction because justice is sweet and Young-bae deserves it.