Hell Is Other People: Episode 7
How do you gauge your mental state when the people you think are crazy say you’re fine, and those you believed were on your side turn away? Our hero is quickly unraveling as his life continues to fall apart. A new tenant alters the dynamic of Eden Goshiwon, but whether that’s for better or worse remains to be seen.
EPISODE 7: “The Horror of the Basement”
Jong-woo stirs from his sleep when Moon-jo’s voice whispers, “Honey, how would you like to be killed? Open your eyes. Wake up.” Sitting up, Jong-woo pulls out his earbuds to listen again, but the voice says no more. He leaves his room and finds Moon-jo’s door wide open, but the room beyond is dark and empty — although a shadow crosses the doorway as soon as he passes by.
The next door is also ajar, and Jong-woo pushes it open to find a blood-spattered room and his own nightmare doppelganger sitting at the desk. The apparition tells him to run before bursting into maniacal laughter as Jong-woo remains frozen in fear.
Morning breaks and Jung-hwa sits down to breakfast with her family, but her tooth has begun hurting again. Dad tsks and Jung-hwa promises to go to the dentist. She tells him about the weird things she’d found out about they mysterious deaths of Bok-soon’s husbands and the fire that destroyed her orphanage… all leaving her with sizable insurance payments.
Dad muses that such a story would’ve made the news and Jung-hwa excitedly searches the internet, noticing that the name of the orphanage is eerily similar to Moon-jo’s dentistry practice. Recalling the dentist’s chair on Eden Goshiwon’s abandoned 4th floor and the glimpse she’d caught of Moon-jo watching her squad car from the roof as they drove away a few nights prior leads her to a flashback of her discussion with Moon-jo about the dead cats when he’d agreed that serial killers often start with animals.
Meanwhile, Jong-woo is tired of the constant nightmares and reaffirms his desire to move out. Leaving his room, he’s stopped by new tenant, Seok-yoon. The younger man returns the borrowed phone charger and Jong-woo warns him to lower his voice because the other tenants are strange. Seok-yoon asks if he’s lived there long and Jong-woo says he hasn’t, offering to talk more outside.
Noting the equipment Seok-yoon carries, Jong-woo asks if he’s a singer. Seok-yoon clarifies he’s a rapper and Jong-woo shares that he works for a performance promotion company. Jong-woo agrees to allow Seok-yoon call him “hyung” and says that the only other people close in age at the goshiwon are in their 30s and are insane.
Seok-yoon starts to invite Jong-woo out that evening, but is cut off by Moon-jo calling out to them from where he’d been sitting around the corner. He introduces himself to Seok-yoon and the younger man asks if he isn’t hot, wearing a long-sleeved shirt in summer. Moon-jo admits he has a scar and takes his leave after suggesting they all have a beer sometime.
When he’s gone, Seok-yoon finishes inviting Jong-woo to watch him perform and, reluctant to stay at the goshiwon, Jong-woo agrees. To Jong-woo’s surprise, they relocate to a park and when Seok-yoon starts performing, he quickly draws a crowd.
Across town, two women discover that one of them has paint on her leg. They duck into a restroom to remove the soiled pantyhose and as they leave, Nam-book peers out from his hiding space. He retrieves the hose, leaving what appears to be the thing that painted the woman on the toilet seat.
Jung-hwa heads in for her dentist appointment and studies the volunteer photo of Moon-jo (and Bok-soon, the twins, and Nam-bok) as she waits. Moon-jo appears behind her, explaining that it was from providing aid to the neighborhood seniors. He invites her to join next month’s event, but Jung-hwa instead asks if he recognizes the name of Bok-soon’s orphanage.
Moon-jo says he’s from that orphanage and that’s why he named his office after it. She asks about Bok-soon and he confirms she ran the orphanage is is like a mother to him. He adds that she now runs the goshiwon where he lives. Moon-jo comments on her interest and Jung-hwa agrees that there’s a lot of coincidences.
Jong-woo and Seok-yoon stop at a pub for dinner and drinks. After a few shots of soju, Seok-yoon asks why Jong-woo had a murderous look in his eye the night before. Jong-woo tells him that his first week at Eden Goshiwon has been a hard adjustment. From Seok-yoon’s rap, Jong-woo guesses he’s also not a Seoul native and was raised by a single mother. Feeling a kinship with the younger man, Jong-woo tells him they need to leave the goshiwon.
Over at Eden Goshiwon, Bok-soon finishes preparing a container of mystery meat that she then happily brings down to the basement. Inside, she walks over to barred door which unlocks to reveal a cell with Hee-joong inside! Wait, he’s alive?!? Meanwhile, Deuk-jeong exits his room and enters the one across the hall. Extracting a wrapped suitcase from beneath the desk, he holds it for a moment before picking up a blowtorch.
Back at the restaurant, Jong-woo recounts the events he’d witnessed at the goshiwon to Seok-yoon, who agrees something is off. He suggests he and Jong-woo look into things but Jong-woo dismisses the idea, thinking it best not to provoke their neighbors. Seok-yoon insists the 4th floor is sketchy and wants to check it out but seems to let it go immediately when Jong-woo warns him to stay out of there.
Jong-woo asks how long Seok-yoon plans to stay and the younger man laments he’ll need at least 6 months to save up to move out. In the meantime, Jong-woo asks Seok-yoon to take a picture of anyone that tries to enter his room when he isn’t home. Seok-yoon points out the door is locked, but Jong-woo argues that Bok-soon could easily be in on the conspiracy.
They leave, and Jong-woo breaks off to go see Ji-eun while Seok-yoon says he’ll go home and sleep. Outside, Ji-eun’s apartment building, Jong-woo sends her a text just as a car pulls up behind him. He watches as Ji-eun and Jae-ho exit the car and she playfully turns down Jae-ho’s requests to come inside. He quickly ducks back to avoid being seen and someone appears to be watching him as well.
A text from Seok-yoon shows Nam-bok standing outside Jong-woo’s door with a knife again. Ji-eun replies, claiming to be going to bed and a second text from Seok-yoon is a photo of Nam-bok turning on him with the knife. Jong-woo frantically texts Seok-yoon, demanding if he’s okay. Ji-eun calls, but
Jong-woo takes off for Seok-yoon.
He hails a cab and calls Seok-yoon, praying anxiously for the young man to answer. Seok-yoon finally does and Jong-woo barks at him for being foolhardy after all his warnings. Unconcerned, Seok-yoon assures him he made an excuse when Nam-bok caught him and escaped to the roof. Jong-woo orders Seok-yoon to lock himself in his room until Jong-woo returns.
Racing into the goshiwon, Jong-woo bumps into Deok-jeong running out. He snaps at Deok-jeong to watch where he’s going, but Deok-jeong giggles that he’s the one who should watch out. Jong-woo demands to know what he means and Deok-jeong replies, “You know this is all because of you, don’t you?”
Jong-woo shrugs him off, and Deok-jeong’s demeanor shifts as he asks if Jong-woo is belittling him. He snaps back to his usual snickering and shouts that Seok-yoon is on the roof as Jong-woo clambers up the stairs. He’s relieved to find Seok-yoon alive and well and the younger man excitedly shows Jong-woo the wallet he’d found in his room.
It’s Hee-joong’s and Seok-yoon points out how weird it is for a man to return home without his wallet — especially when it’s full of cash. Jong-woo tells him not to spend the money, thinking Hee-joong might come back for it. He adds there’s a detective looking for Hee-joong as well and Seok-yoon suggests they bring the wallet to the police. Jong-woo implores him to mind his own business and decides to move out when he gets his paycheck.
Seok-yoon worries the rent will be expensive elsewhere, but Jong-woo argues it’s better than living in a room where a man stands outside his door with a knife. He asks Seok-yoon to come with him, but Seok-yoon has even less money. Jong-woo wonders at the odds of everyone in the building being nuts, thinking it seems more by design than fate.
Jong-woo warns Seok-yoon that the worst of them all is Moon-jo. He continues that they should all just die since they do nothing to contribute to society, only pausing in his rant when Seok-yoon hushes him and nods behind them. Jong-woo turns to find Moon-jo standing there. Moon-jo advances, reiterating his approval of Jong-woo expressing his true feelings.
He gets uncomfortably close as he urges to Jong-woo to hate and curse and kill the people he wants to. “That’s a true sign of courage,” Moon-jo says, patting Jong-woo on the shoulder before taking his leave of the young men. Jong-woo winces at Moon-jo having overheard his rant while Seok-yoon agrees with his earlier assessment that there’s something creepy about Moon-jo.
The pair hit the showers and Jong-woo can’t help but laugh good-naturedly when Seok-yoon’s rap gets nonsensical in his pursuit of a rhyming phrase. Unbeknownst to them, Nam-bok is listening just outside. The guys are still laughing when they head back to their rooms for the night, and Jong-woo admits that Seok-yoon’s presence finally makes Eden Goshiwon feel like home.
Unfortunately, not long after retiring, Jong-woo is struck with the urge to use the bathroom. Grabbing his keys, he punches the lock on his way out the door… but fails to notice he didn’t fully close it as he shuffles down the hall. After finishing his business, Jong-woo grimaces at a new wad of gum on the bathroom mirror. On his way back to his room, he sees Nam-bok looming outside his door again with a knife.
Jong-woo decides to record evidence and send it to the police and has his phone poised just as Nam-bok reaches for the doorknob… only for Bok-soon to call out loudly to Jong-woo. When he turns back, Nam-bok has vanished. Bok-soon wonders what’s upsetting him and they’re joined by Seok-yoon, having overheard the commotion. Jong-woo tells Seok-yoon what he saw and blames Bok-soon for interrupting before he could take a picture.
Bok-soon demands if he’s sure of what he saw and Jong-woo suggests they check Nam-bok’s room for the knife. She declares Seok-yoon the witness and storms over to Nam-bok’s door. He opens it when she knocks and Bok-soon slaps him hard across the face, shouting at him for scaring the others. She berates him for being late on rent and wallpapering his room with porn, but Nam-bok just laughs.
Jong-woo insists they search his room for a knife and she orders Deok-jeong to do it. Bok-soon turns on Jong-woo and asks what he’ll do if it isn’t there. She shouts that everyone is awake now because of him and Seok-yoon asks if he really saw the knife clearly. Deok-jeong reports that he’d found no knife and Jong-woo forces his way inside, tearing the room apart looking for the knife.
Seok-yoon tries to drag him out while Bok-soon suggests he was just seeing things. Jong-woo grabs Nam-bok’s scissors and orders him to strip. Nam-bok laughs as he drops his pants. Moon-jo joins them in the hallway and notices the knife tucked in Deuk-soo’s waistband, but says nothing. Afterwards, Jong-woo sits in his room, sure that he wasn’t mistaken.
He stays awake all night, his own knife in hand, leaving him exhausted when he reports to work. His desk-mate, Byung-min, growls at him for being late but is visibly intimidated by the glare Jong-woo returns. Jae-ho enters the office and complains about his aching back, wishing he had a girlfriend to take care of him. He comments that Ji-eun must take good care of Jong-woo and he has a brief fantasy of telling Jae-ho to shut up… but remains silent.
Jong-woo goes to the bathroom and Byung-min follows him. He accuses Jong-woo of pretending to be nice and badmouthing others behind their backs. Byung-min says he’ll never make peace with Jong-woo and issues a challenge to see who leaves the company first. Jong-woo levels him with another glare and Byung-min scuttles out of the bathroom.
“At that moment, I realized something,” Jong-woo narrates, “The hell wasn’t the studio, or the company. It was the people around me.” Later, the office leaves for lunch and Jong-woo opts to stay back and continue working. He receives a call from Seok-yoon, saying Nam-bok was staring at him when he went to the kitchen. Jong-woo reminds him to be wary of their neighbors.
The rest of the day passes with Jong-woo completely dazed. Everyone leaves for the day, but Jong-woo remains behind. As soon as he’s alone, Jong-woo picks up Byung-min’s keyboard and smashes it, unaware he’s being filmed by the office CCTV. He walks home and gets another call from Seok-yoon, asking to get dinner.
Jong-woo says he’s in a bad mood and doesn’t think he’ll be able to hold himself back from exploding at their neighbors if he goes home. He decides not to call Ji-eun and heads over to an internet cafe. Some of the boys inside get rowdy and jostle his seat. Jong-woo manages to hold it in enough to report them to the staff and they get kicked out.
Walking home, however, Jong-woo is cornered by the teens. They claim they have nowhere to go now, thanks to him. Jong-woo tells them to just go home, but they insist on accompanying him back to his place. He tries to leave, but one of them grabs a brick. A beating ensues, but it’s Jong-woo that ends up the aggressor — his mind back at his military service as he punches the lead teen repeatedly.
One of the boys runs while the other pleads with Jong-woo to stop before he kills his friend. Jong-woo eventually stops and hobbles over to his backpack. He collapses and flashes back to a day in his service. One of his fellow soldiers had run up and told him Sergeant Cho is causing trouble again and Jong-woo is the only one he remotely listens to.
The soldier leads him to where Segeant Cho is waling on another officer. Jong-woo rushes over, yelling at him to knock it off. He grabs Sergeant Cho’s arm and freezes because the victim is Seok-yoon, begging him to save him. “You liked him too, isn’t that right?” Moon-jo says and Jong-woo turns to find himself standing in the goshiwon hallway. Turning the other way, he sees Hee-joong who says he’d warned Jong-woo to get out of there.
The scene shifts back to Sergeant Cho and he growls at Jong-woo for interfering. That’s the last straw and Jong-woo jumps on him. The other officer rushes over to drag him off and Sergeant Cho repeats those words, “Save me.” Afterwards, the officer that fetched Jong-woo apologizes for involving him. Jong-woo says he doesn’t regret it and actually considered killing Sergeant Cho.
Jong-woo continues that if they do nothing, people like Sergeant Cho think others are afraid of them. He thinks they’ll only come to their senses after being beaten up. The other officer sympathizes and excuses himself as Jong-woo looks down at his bloody knuckles and laughs that he should’ve killed him.
In the present, Moon-jo finds Jong-woo. “Don’t worry,” he says, “I’ll be next to you.”
Jong-woo’s anger issues have been a concern from the start. Up until now, however, he’s managed to keep it to just violent fantasies and a few impassioned rants. There have been hints of a very dark side of Jong-woo’s psyche and this most recent flashback was absolutely chilling. It doesn’t help that it comes on the tails of Jong-woo beating teenagers to the brink of death. True, those boys came at him first, but there’s a fine line between self-defense and blood-thirsty violence. I might’ve been able to argue that getting smacked around by Jong-woo would be better than him leading them to the goshiwon… but with the arrival of Moon-jo, they might not survive anyway.
I’m still unsure what to think of Seok-yoon. I like the kid, but his motives are just as murky as Moon-jo’s and I find his flippant attitude very unnerving. He’s sided with Jong-woo for now but whether that’s because he’s at Eden Goshiwon to uncover the murder cult or to join them, I don’t dare guess. What is clear is that he’s a lot smarter than he’s letting on, even to Jong-woo. He knows things aren’t as they seem and is playing his own game. I just hope it doesn’t get him killed.
So far, Seok-yoon’s managing to fly under the radar, but the same can’t be said for Jung-hwa. Moon-jo is already wary of her snooping and him freely offering up information to her probably isn’t a good sigh. He was fully ready to kill her the last time she was in his office. Fortunately, she seems to be equally wary of Moon-jo so perhaps she’ll be more careful going forward. She’s the only one making any real headway with the mystery and I’m glad she pulled rookie cop Hyun-ho into the loop a little so that if anything does happen to her, someone on the force is still aware all is not well with Eden Goshiwon.
Because Jong-woo is more than happy to cut and run. He was very adamant with Seok-yoon that they shouldn’t investigate or provoke the other tenants… but he also disregarded his own advice and continued to pick fights with Deok-jeong and Nam-book. I wish he’d go off on Byung-min and Jae-ho too, because I’m honestly tired of their one-sided bullying. Byung-min may be picking up on some of Jong-woo’s duality, but his attacks are petty and unfair. And I don’t think I need to say more about Jae-ho. The explosion in the office after hours is probably going to get Jong-woo fired and I wouldn’t put it past Jae-ho to show Ji-eun and try and cement her breakup with Jong-woo. It’s enough to drive anyone to the edge and the question now is, will Jong-woo jump?
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