Hell Is Other People: Episode 5
The tension continues to build at Eden Goshiwon as our hero has unwittingly made himself a target for the rest of the residents. While some are driven by bloodlust, others’ motives remain unclear. Regardless, one way or another, Jong-woo’s days at Eden Goshiwon are numbered.
EPISODE 5: “The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge”
With the other residents of Eden Goshiwon looming ominously outside his door, weapons in hand, Jong-woo teeters from the drugged tea and collapses onto his bed. In doing so, his head smacks against the wall, jarring the flimsy hook above and sending his backpack crashing onto his head. The impact immediately sobers him, and he sits up, groggily urging himself to get his head on straight.
Moon-jo watches through the peephole in their adjoining wall and chuckles to himself. Joining the others in the hallway, he whispers something to Deuk-soo. The twin’s shoulders slump in disappointment as Moon-jo shuffles happily down the hallway. Flashing back to that morning, we see Deuk-soo had questioned Moon-jo if Jong-woo was intended to be a replacement for Ki-hyuk. Guessing that Deuk-soo thought Jong-woo weak, Moon-jo had warned him not to judge a book by its cover.
In the present, Jong-woo forces himself up from the bed and sits at his desk. The twins and Nam-bok scowl as sounds of activity echo from Jong-woo’s room, indicating a failed plan. Jong-woo opens his laptop and starts to realize the dust he’d strategically placed is now missing. He’s now positive someone has been in his room and storms out into the (now empty) hallway.
He barks through the window to Bok-soon’s office that someone has broken into his room. She laughs that no one would do such a thing and Jong-woo demands she check the footage on the CCTV camera outside her office. She tuts that he has a temper, but lets him into her office to check the footage. He quickly zooms through the day, freezing when Nam-bok appears standing outside his door.
Bok-soon says Nam-bok sleepwalks, but Jong-woo doesn’t believe her. They stare at the footage of Nam-bok reaching out for the door… only to have the screen go snowy. Bok-soon sighs that the camera is too old and broken, but insists Nam-bok didn’t open the door. Jong-woo is convinced, however, and stalks out into the hall and bangs on Nam-bok’s door.
There’s no answer, so he attacks the handle and the door swings open to reveal an empty room. Nam-bok calls out from the other end of the hallway and Jong-woo gets in his face, accusing him of breaking in. Nam-bok laughs and starts to walk away, but Jong-woo yanks him back and then men square up as Jong-woo continues to accuse him of entering his room and Nam-bok threatens to kill him.
Bok-soon’s protests fall on deaf ears, but everyone freezes when Ki-hyuk appears behind them, calmly ordering them to stop. It’s not really Ki-hyuk, though, but Moon-jo (why does it keep doing this?). He asks if Jong-woo is okay and Jong-woo looks around at everyone staring back at him, thinking to himself that he finally understands why Hee-joong was so afraid of the other tenants. “These people smiling at me right now…” he realizes, “are terrifying.”
Jong-woo retreats to his room and Moon-jo sends everyone else to theirs. He knocks on Jong-woo’s door and asks to talk. As they walk up to the roof, Jong-woo pauses at the door to the abandoned 4th floor, having heard a sound. Moon-jo claims not to have heard anything, offering an explanation that one of the women used to own a cat and it still prowls around. But the “cat” is actually the fortune teller woman that Bok-soon had taken home to torture.
On the roof, Moon-jo asks why Jong-woo made a fuss. Jong-woo asks if Moon-jo has ever had someone break into his room, saying that Hee-joong had the same issue. He’s uncomfortable to find Moon-jo filming him, but Moon-jo shrugs it off that he looks nice and puts the phone away. He points out that Bok-soon said they didn’t see Nam-bok breaking in, but Jong-woo insists that’s only because the footage cut out right before.
Jong-woo explains to Moon-jo about the dust he places on his laptop everyday and that he always turns it off, but when he gets home, it’s back on and today the dust was gone. Moon-jo nods that he’d do the same. “But…” he adds, “you really wanted to kill that man, didn’t you?” He asserts Jong-woo feels different from the others, but fears becoming like them.
“You must be worried that just living here…” Moon-jo muses, “will make you weird.” Jong-woo is saved from having to respond by his phone ringing. Moon-jo assures him he is different but Jong-woo just awkwardly excuses himself to take the call. It’s his mom and she asks for money because his brother had a seizure and she can’t cover the medical bill.
She assures him the injury is minor, but tentatively asks if he can spare 200,000-300,000 won (or roughly 200-300 dollars). He asks for the exact amount needed but Mom just apologizes and Jong-woo hangs up with a sigh so he can wire the money. He types out 300,000… and then changes it to 500,000 (about 500 dollars). Aww, what a good son.
Jung-hwa returns home and is pleasantly surprised when her grandmother recognizes her as her granddaughter. They hug and then Grandma turns serious, warning Jung-hwa not to trust anyone. Jung-hwa asks what she means… but Grandma’s moment of clarity is gone and she blinks back, “Who are you?”
Back at the goshiwon, Bok-soon pumps a red liquid into multiple bottles of tonic via a syringe while what looks like bloody mushrooms boil on the stove. In his room, Jong-woo thinks that while Moon-jo is friendly, his smile is deeply unsettling. Before bed, he decides to shove his suitcase and desk chair against the door.
In his dreams, Jong-woo returns once again to his military service. He watches as Sergeant Jo brutally beats another officer… except when he turns it isn’t Sergeant Jo, but Jong-woo. The other Jong-woo says, “See? This is how you should deal with people like this jerk,” as the camera pans to reveal Nam-bok lying unconscious and bloody beneath him. Giggling alerts Jong-woo to Deuk-jeong standing behind him and then the dream shifts to Ki-hyuk at the goshiwon and his echoed assurances that they’re not always “like this.”
It shifts to Bok-soon and her words that only good men are left at the goshiwon now. Then co-worker Byung-soo and his claims he knows the kind of person Jong-woo is. Jae-ho, ordering him to smile. Ji-eun, chiding him for being overly sensitive. Finally it returns to the original dream and Moon-jo appears behind him, assuring Jong-woo that he’s different. Upon waking the next morning, Jong-woo notes that he’s had nightmares every night at the goshiwon.
Ji-eun arrives at work and her boss, Han Go-eun, makes a beeline for her. She pulls Ji-eun aside and orders her to conduct an interview tomorrow. Ji-eun reminds her they’ve discussed her workload before and that she has a previous engagement tomorrow and therefore won’t be able to do the interview.
Manager Han glowers at her for talking back, but they’re interrupted by another employee informing her that she’s arranged the interview to be taken care of by the marketing team. Clearly displeased her plans backfired, Manager Han pointedly praises the employee for handling it while someone doesn’t seem to care.
One the employee leaves, Manager Han snidely wonders why Ji-eun doesn’t seem to share her work ethic. Ji-eun’s phone rings and she quickly sets it aside, but Manager Han guesses it’s Jong-woo and orders her to answer. She does, but cuts off Jong-woo’s concerns about his room saying she’s busy. When she hangs up, however, Manager Han is already sashaying down the hall.
Jong-woo sends a text, asking if she’s okay, and then looks anxiously up at the police station. Before he can decide whether or not to go in, Jung-hwa comes up behind him. She notices he doesn’t seem well, but Jong-woo just says he hasn’t been sleeping and hands her the notebook he’d found from the previous owner of his room.
She asks if he’s noticed anything strange at Eden Goshiwon and Jong-woo tentatively tells her about the weird sounds he hears coming from the allegedly abandoned 4th floor. He stops short, however, when he spots Bok-soon over Jung-hwa’s shoulder, watching them intently. Quickly excusing himself, Jong-woo all but runs up the street as Jung-hwa confusedly reports to work.
When she returns to the goshiwon, Bok-soon runs into Moon-jo and tells him that Jong-woo seems to meet with Jung-hwa often. She adds that he even seemed to give her something this morning, but admits she was too far away to see what it was. She asks if she should “take care” of Jung-hwa and is startled when Moon-jo assures her he’ll do it.
A young man stands awkwardly outside Bok-soon’s office and she guesses he’s searching for a room. She urges him to look around, adding that she provides kimchi and eggs and he won’t beat the price. Still, he remains reluctant, backing away even as she offers to give him a discount. The young man leaves and Bok-soon grumbles that there’s no other place like this one.
In her room, she shoves a red box into a bag and heads outside. In an alleyway, she looks cautiously around before unlocking a gate and stepping inside. She calls out to the elderly woman living there, who pouts that Bok-soon is late visiting. Bok-soon says she’s been busy with the goshiwon and pulls out one of the doctored tonics from her bag, urging the elderly woman to drink.
The woman finishes the bottle and Bok-soon helps her lie down. Once the woman is unconscious, she quickly searches the room. Finding what she’s looking for, Bok-soon smiles down at the insurance papers.
Reporter Jo arrives at Jong-woo’s office to find he’s the only one in. He makes himself at home, and asks Jong-woo to fetch nail clippers from Byung-min’s desk. Jong-woo finds them in a drawer next to their co-worker Yoo-jung’s photo, which Jong-woo finds creepy. Reporter Jo then has Jong-woo make him iced coffee and a snack.
Satisfied, Reporter Jo appoints Jong-woo his official coffee-maker from now on. He asks about Jong-woo’s writing and tells him to come to him if he ever needs ideas. Reporter Jo prattles on about Jong-woo’s goshiwon, thinking of all the interesting characters living there, one could even be a serial killer.
Jong-woo interjects that he’d know, since he walls are so thin. He adds that no one there is a student, either, and Reporter Jo nods that only poor people live there. Reporter Jo uses a internet cafe killer as an example of the kind of people that live in goshiwons, but Jong-woo corrects his assertion that the man looked oppressed by saying the man laughed and looked like he was enjoying it.
The tense moment is broken by the arrival of the rest of the office staff and Reporter Jo takes his leave when he realizes Jae-ho isn’t with them. Byung-min finds his clippers missing and asks Jong-woo about it. Jong-woo simply replies Reporter Jo wanted them and turns back to his work. The others wonder where Jae-ho is and we see that he’s actually meeting with Ji-eun.
He pouts when she asks about Jong-woo, and gripes that he’s sensitive whenever the topic of his living situation is broached. Ji-eun wonders if something is really happening, but Jae-ho says Jong-woo is just feeling sorry for himself. Ji-eun asks him to look after Jong-woo.
Jae-ho sends her off with coffee for her office but Manager Han catches sight of them parting and asks if that’s Ji-eun’s boyfriend. Ji-eun says they’re just classmates and Manager Han smirks that Ji-eun is playing the field. Ji-eun repeats that Jae-ho is just a friend, and offers to set him up with Manager Han.
At Eden Goshiwon, the twins are playing Jenga with Bok-soon when Jung-hwa arrives. She recalls Jong-woo’s statement about noises and makes her way up to the fourth floor. She finds the door unlocked, but the creak is heard by Nam-bok. As Jung-hwa slowly makes her way through, Nam-bok hides in the farthest room holding an knife to the fortune teller’s throat to keep her quiet.
Jung-hwa bypasses the closed door and finds the operating room, the pristine dentist’s chair odd against the decrepit surroundings. She turns and leaves, but as she passes Nam-bok’s door, he sneaks out behind her. She senses a presence as she walks and stops.. but he darts into a room when she turns back so her flashlight illuminates only an empty hallway.
She manages to leave and shut the 4th floor door without encountering Nam-bok and he returns to the room… only to find the fortune teller is missing. He searches for her and runs when he hears a creak, but she manages to lock him into the operating room and hobble towards the door to the stairwell while Bok-soon and the twins howl at their game.
All the noise finally makes Bok-soon topple the tower and she angrily storms off to find out what’s going on. The fortune teller stumbles down the stairs and by sheer luck manages to avoid Bok-soon. She grabs onto the first person she meets outside and pleads with him to help her, saying her legs are too injured to walk.
“Then you should crawl,” Moon-jo replies. She stares up at his cold eyes in horror as he repeats that if she wants to live, she should crawl. Needless to say, she ends right back up in the chair on the 4th floor. The residents crowd around her and the woman prays to be spared. Moon-jo chuckles that praying is pointless since she’s going to die anyway.
He leaves and the other men rush the woman, holding her down and tipping her head up as Bok-soon walks up with that jug of red liquid in her hand. She identifies it as mushroom water and assures the woman she’ll be dead soon after drinking it… and then pours the jug down the woman’s throat as she tries to scream.
Jong-woo’s office goes out for after work drinks, but he’s subdued as the others laugh heartily. When they leave, he receives a phone call, but there’s no answer from the caller. A woman tries to sell flowers as they pass and while the others shrug her off, Jong-woo stops to buy one. Yoo-jung asks if it’s for his girlfriend, but Jong-woo explains the woman just reminds him of his mom.
Yoo-jung coos over the gesture while the others grumble. She considers buying one, so Jong-woo gives her his. Looking back at the woman he flashes to a memory of his mother trying hard to sell her stock at the fish market. He’d told her his college classmate was offering him a job in Seoul and she’d happily told him Jae-ho must be a good person and to treat him well.
In the present, skeevy Jae-ho tsks that if not for Yoo-jung, the men would be able to have a fun evening. He asks what Jong-woo thinks of her, noting that she seems to have a crush on him. Jong-woo says he already has Ji-eun and denies Yoo-jung liking him. Jae-ho asks what it was Jong-woo wanted to discuss and Jong-woo asks if he can stay over for a few days.
Jae-ho cuts him off saying he has work this weekend and he doesn’t allow guests. The others rejoin them and as they make their way to the next round, Yoo-jung says she’s grateful Jong-woo works with them. Byung-min angrily shoves between them and Jong-woo’s phone pings with a text, “Don’t you just want to kill him?”
Jong-woo spins around and catches a glimpse of Moon-jo in an alleyway. Running after him, Jong-woo wonders how to handle it. He realizes calling the police is pointless since Moon-jo technically hasn’t done anything. He senses someone coming up behind him.. but it’s just a drunkard so Jong-woo rejoins the others.
As they sit in the pub, Jae-ho brags about his popularity in school, turning to Jong-woo to back him up. Jong-woo halfheartedly agrees, as he continues to check his phone. By the time Byung-min returns from the bathroom, Jong-woo is drunkenly telling the others of Jae-ho’s tricks to pick up girls. Annoyed, Jae-ho stumbles to the bathroom with help from employee Sang-man.
Yoo-jung also leaves to settle the bill and Jong-woo slurs that he has to tell Byung-min something. “Don’t… look at women’s buttocks at work,” he frowns, “What are you, a pervert?” Byung-min springs up and slams the table, demanding if Jong-woo ever saw such a thing. Jong-woo just continues that he’ll report him for sexual harassment.
Their argument is put on hold when Yoo-jung runs in to say Jae-ho is having a fight of his own. Out in the entryway, Jae-ho is shouting at another drunken patron while Sang-min tries feebly to keep the men separate and a fourth man records the altercation on his phone. The others arrive and try to mitigate but Jong-woo stumbles in behind and shouts, “Bring it on!”
Jong-woo shuffles over to the drunken patron, but he’s easily pushed aside by Sang-min and the situation is diffused. They take Jong-woo outside and wrinkle their noses as he vomits. They load him into a taxi, and Jae-ho calls Ji-eun for Jong-woo’s address. Jong-woo resists, begging Jae-ho to let him stay just one night, but they send him off anyway.
In the taxi, the driver frowns when he can’t find Eden Goshiwon on his GPS. Jong-woo weakly asks to be let out because he doesn’t want to go to the goshiwon. Meanwhile, Jae-ho calls Ji-eun and reports that he sent Jong-woo off… and then asks to meet.
The taxi driver gets fed up with Jong-woo drooling in his backseat and takes the fare from Jong-woo’s bag and drops him off at Jung-hwa’s police station. Jung-hwa offers to take care of him and Jong-woo rolls over, his phone falling to the floor as he dreams of the day he arrived at Eden Goshiwon, wondering where everything went wrong.
He imagines turning his back on the building, instead. Jong-woo thinks maybe things would’ve been different and pictures laughing along with his co-workers over drinks. His phone rings on the floor with a call from Ji-eun as he dreams of laughing with her, while in reality she wonders why he isn’t picking up and frowns at her low battery.
Jae-ho and Ji-eun exit their taxis and walk down the street. As Jae-ho looks up at an apartment complex, however, he flashes back to their conversation and we see that she’d actually turned him down, choosing instead to see Jong-woo. Which is when we see her standing outside Eden Goshiwon. Oh no…
Jung-hwa wakes Jong-woo and asks what’s going on at Eden Goshiwon. Jong-woo’s eyes begin to water as he forces himself to admit he’s scared. He says the residents are strange, but before he can elaborate, his phone pings with a text from Ji-eun telling him she’s at the goshiwon. Meanwhile, Moon-jo finds Ji-eun outside and guesses she’s there for Jong-woo.
I’m unsure whether to be grateful Ji-eun did the right thing by turning Jae-ho down since now it’s landed her at the mouth of the tiger’s den. I was uncomfortable with her meeting Jae-ho without Jong-woo’s presence, let alone knowledge, but perhaps Manager Han’s nasty remarks served a small purpose. There seems to be a competition among the characters as to who can be the skeeviest, but Jae-ho is winning by a long shot. Perhaps he’s always been jealous of Jong-woo, or maybe it’s just a damaged ego because he couldn’t get Ji-eun, either way, his scenes aren’t getting any easier to sit through.
It broke my heart when Jong-woo begged Jae-ho to let him stay over — that he’s so terrified of the goshiwon that he’d throw himself at Jae-ho’s mercy. And then when he cried to Jung-hwa… that hit in the gut. Unfortunately, Ji-eun has inadvertently thrown a wrench in his escape plans. I would like to say I don’t think Moon-jo will kill Ji-eun — opting instead to use her as a means to manipulate Jong-woo — but I can’t put it past him to do both. The only upside is that Jong-woo is with Jung-hwa right now so when he goes to retrieve Ji-eun, he won’t be going alone.
Now that we’ve hit the halfway mark, I’m hoping the show will reveal more of the goshiwon’s backstory. There were a lot of hints strung throughout the episodes, but not enough to piece together a coherent picture yet. What is Moon-jo’s deal? He’s so obsessed with finding others like him and clearly seems disappointed with the murder cult he’s built so far. Ki-hyuk was the closest to Moon-jo’s standards, but then he went rogue. Speaking of Ki-hyuk, why does Jong-woo keep seeing him in Moon-jo? I don’t think this is a ghost story, so is it just Jong-woo picking up on that same murderous vibe or… what? It’s weird and I don’t really have any theories for it.
Jung-hwa continues to be my favorite character and I’m glad that the bright side to the dire situation Jong-woo now finds himself in, it at least facilitates a partnership with Jung-hwa. I was glad he’d sought her out and handed her the notebook and that he shared his concerns about the 4th floor noises. And although it scared him enough to send him running, I’m glad he saw Bok-soon watching him because I desperately want him to learn to be more cautious. Jong-woo is a loose cannon and more impulsive than you’d think from his generally subdued demeanor. He tends to avoid acting unless driven by anger or fear and then all logic goes out the window. He’s going to need to be more crafty if he wants to go up against Moon-jo and with Ji-eun hanging in the balance, that might happen sooner, rather than later.
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- First script read for OCN’s Hell Is Other People
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