Rescue Me: Episode 5
Sang-mi is about to find out how impenetrable the walls of Guseonwon are to her cries for help. While she fights for her own safety and freedom, Sang-hwan struggles to find his own way through the world, and all of his doubts and regrets will need to propel him to make significant changes if there’s going to be any hope left for either of them in the end.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
In the dead of night, the van carrying Sang-mi and Jeong-gu back to Guseonwon pulls off the main road and changes course to an unknown destination as Disciple Jo eerily tells Sang-mi that they’re just going for a drive.
A loose screwdriver rolls out from under the seat, and Sang-mi arms herself with it, suspecting that Disciple Jo is plotting something nefarious. She tells Jeong-gu to hold on tightly for safety and lunges forward to stab the driver in the shoulder.
The driver loses control momentarily, and Disciple Jo attempts to thwart Sang-mi’s attack, but as he does, she stabs the screwdriver right through Disciple Jo’s hand.
As a result of the scuffle inside, the van flies off the road and tumbles down a hillside, rolling several times before coming to a stop upside down.
Sang-mi is the first to come to her senses, and she quickly releases herself and Jeong-gu from the wreckage so that they can make a run for it. “We’re going to play hide and seek,” Sang-mi tells Jeong-gu. “You have to hide where those people absolutely can’t find you.”
Back at the van, Disciple Jo stirs and ties a crude bandage around his bleeding hand as the mute (deaf?) driver, who’s revealed to be Disciple Jo’s brother JO WAN-DUK, boils in silent anger at Sang-mi. But Disciple Jo responds with a series of slaps as he tells Wan-duk (half-using sign language) to calm down and reminds him that he once told him not to rebel against his older brother (him) or their father.
Meanwhile, Sang-mi leads Jeong-gu through the woods as the Jo brothers give chase. She asks to see Jeong-gu’s phone with the incriminating video of Disciple Jo’s attempted rape, then tells the boy that if he goes with her to the police station, she’ll get him a soda. An excited Jeong-gu asks for ten cans, and Sang-mi promises to give him just that once they’re safe.
In the darkness ahead, Sang-mi finds a set of train tracks and confirms the all-clear before turning to tell Jeong-gu to follow… only to see the Jo brothers standing next to him.
Terrified, Sang-mi trembles as she declares, “You are evil.” But when she threatens to turn Disciple Jo in to the police, he just laughs and says that Sang-mi’s talking like a child, but then he takes a second to admire her and comments nastily, “Your body has fully bloomed though.”
Sang-mi tries to run, but Disciple Jo effortlessly throws her to the ground as Jeong-gu cries. Jo deletes the incriminating video of himself off Jeong-gu’s phone right in front of Sang-mi’s face.
Just then, the sound of a train approaching pierces the air, and Disciple Jo menacingly reveals his plan, “Now, let’s send Jeong-gu to the promised land.”
Sang-mi screams for Jeong-gu to run, but he wanders closer to the tracks on his own accord in an effort to get closer to Sang-mi, who repeatedly sobs, “No! NO!!” with each step. But all poor Jeong-gu says is, “I like soda,” before the full-speed train plows right into him. Oh my God.
Beyond distraught, Sang-mi calls out for Jeong-gu to hide carefully in the afterlife, using the same hide-and-seek song he liked, and promises to come find him again someday. “Found you,” Discple Jo says with a hand on Sang-mi’s shoulder, as a crude way of playing along.
Later that morning, Disciple Kang arrives to pick up the remains of the stranded party. After slapping Disciple Jo harshly, she worries over Sang-mi’s health, reminding Jo that Sang-mi is “special.” Jo assures her that there’s not a scratch on Sang-mi’s body, and Disciple Kang’s demeanor completely changes as she ushers a numb Sang-mi into the car.
They drive back to Guseonwon together, and a despondent Sang-mi hands over her cell phone at Disciple Kang’s urging (“You need to desert all worldly things now.”). Once they arrive, Sang-mi barely has the strength to put one foot in front of the other as Disciple Kang guides her to meet with Father Baek.
Dad is waiting in Father Baek’s office, but before Sang-mi can tell him what happened, he admonishes her for acting out, asking if the devil is controlling her.
He is fully engulfed by the cult’s religious teachings, and both he and Disciple Kang tell Sang-mi that they will never give up on bringing her to accept New Heaven’s God. They relentlessly badger Sang-mi into begrudgingly choking out the cult’s mantra, “Our wishes will be fulfilled,” in response to their concern for her.
Father Baek arrives to fawn over Sang-mi, but Dad steps in to repent for his daughter’s sins. Father Baek tells him not to worry and that Sang-mi’s safe return is a happy occasion, since it means that she is now safe from the evils of the outside world.
Father Baek warns, “We are always capable of falling for the devil’s temptation. The devil comes to us with an innocent mask and tempts us very strongly.” Disciple Kang and Dad rave in agreement.
Disciple Kang leads Sang-mi back to her room, but Sang-mi stops at Jeong-gu’s door to take one last look and wails in grief when she sees his abandoned bed and soda cans inside. She’s stopped when Disciple Kang leans down to warn her to be quiet during the silent prayer period, adding menacingly, “Don’t forget that your mother is also here with us.”
Back in his office, Father Baek confronts Disciple Jo about Jeong-gu, telling him to repent for his sins to New Heaven’s God, which Disciple Jo half-heartedly agrees to.
Father Baek also tells Disciple Jo to allow Sang-mi to leave Guseonwon. Disciple Jo opposes this completely, arguing that Sang-mi is already obsessed with escape, but Father Baek is unrelenting as he says that New Heaven’s God knows all.
When Disciple Jo continues to argue, Father Baek smacks his hand down on the top of Disciple Jo’s head and forces him to his knees, despite Disciple Jo’s indignant resistance. Father Baek prays to New Heaven’s God, “Although we pray to you in repentance, there are still moments when the evil greed of human beings takes over our souls.”
Practically hissing as he reaches the end of his prayer, Father Baek concludes, “For those poor souls, please help them get rid of the evil in their minds. Please guide them with your merciful power, so that they can fully obey your words.”
This act completely pacifies (or terrifies) Disciple Jo, who quickly agrees to bring Sang-mi to a new home in Muji.
In the church sanitarium, Mom sways back and forth as she repeats a verse from New Heaven’s God to herself until Disciple Kang enters to administer Mom’s medication.
When she sees Disciple Kang, a crazed-looking Mom instinctively opens her mouth wide as if conditioned to do so, and quickly downs her pills before showing her empty mouth again.
Meanwhile, Yong-min treats Detective Lee to another dinner, hoping to bring attention to some troublemakers who are getting in the way of Yong-min’s development plans. Detective Lee swears loyalty to Yong-min again, who looks more like a mob boss than a governor at this point.
Back at Guseonwon, Disciple Jo recounts the story of the car accident to the congregants, dressing it up with religious imagery as he claims he received a divine message from New Heaven’s God during the crash.
He turns the story into a sermon to emphasize New Heaven’s God’s grace in allowing him to escape without significant injury, and the believers wallow in it, singing the praises of their god.
In the church, Dad prays alone as he asks for New Heaven’s God to protect Sang-mi, pledging everything — including his life and soul — so that their family can be together again on the day of salvation. Sang-mi witnesses his prayers and leaves as he sobs over his bible, which bears a picture of their family taped on the outside.
Back in Muji, Sang-hwan visits his mother, who’s still comatose in the hospital. He apologizes for not coming to visit her more often, explaining that it was hard to be reminded of what happened whenever he came back to Muji.
Their quiet moment is interrupted by the arrival of Yong-min and his campaign manager, and his father looks especially flustered to see Sang-hwan there when he wasn’t expecting to.
Sang-hwan notices the campaign manager caring for his mom and stops her to question why she would do that, clearly suspicious. Yong-min says he told her to do it, but Sang-hwan says that not just anyone should be able to touch his mom like that.
Yong-min hastily agrees, and rushes to massage his wife himself. He tells Sang-hwan not to worry his mother, but Sang-hwan replies by bringing up his father’s promise to help Dong-chul, which prompts Yong-min to clear the room so that he and Sang-hwan can talk privately.
Once they’re realtively alone, Yong-min argues that he did his best, but he explains that since the bully became a cripple because of Dong-chul, getting him out of prison is a difficult task.
Sang-hwan doesn’t buy it, so Yong-min says he’ll talk to the warden again, but Sang-hwan interrupts with the news that Dong-chul is getting out today. Disappointed with his father, Sang-hwan adds, “If you really did your best, how can you not know that?”
Sang-hwan states that he expected that his dad’s election win would result in his mom’s health improving and Dong-chul getting out of prison. But, with a defeated sigh, Sang-hwan concludes that nothing changed.
Meanwhile, Dong-chul is released with a group of other prisoners. Dong-chul is the only one without a welcoming party, and though he acts cool about it while walking away from the prison, when he eats jjajangmyun alone later, he can’t hold back his tears as he scarfs down his meal between sobs.
On Sang-hwan’s favorite pier, Sang-hwan and friends order jjajangmyun for themselves. The gang reminisces about enjoying some with Dong-chul, making Sang-hwan look regretful as he remembers how much Dong-chul loved jjajangmyeon.
In the sanitarium, Sang-mi tends to her mother as Dad and Disciples Jo and Kang arrive to bring Sang-mi back to Muji.
Sang-mi refuses to leave her mother behind unattended, but Disciple Kang reveals that Sang-mi will only spend the nights outside of Guseonwon, and return during the day to continue her daily routine.
Sang-mi insists they bring Mom with them, not wanting to leave Mom in Guseonwon’s care, and she desperately urges Mom to pull herself together so they can all leave together.
But Mom is too far gone, and she pushes Sang-mi away: “I’m going to live in paradise with Sang-jin!” Exasperated, Sang-mi tries to convince her mother that this is hell, which only makes Mom more frantic as she cries over and over again that she’s in paradise.
Mom begins to sing a chorus of a religious song with mad fervor, which Dad and the disciples are more than happy to join in on, leaving an overwhelmed Sang-mi with no one on her side.
As they drive into town later, sans Mom, Sang-mi asks to pull over so she can use the restroom, and Disciple Kang convinces Disciple Jo to oblige.
They pull into a rest area, and though the owner initially rebuffs them, she changes her tone when Disciple Kang mentions that they are from Guseonwon. Sang-mi heads off ahead of Disciple Kang, who the owner holds back to return a lost wallet.
On her own in the bathroom, Sang-mi recalls watching her brother and Jeong-gu’s deaths, and ponders her parents’ fall into the teachings of the cult.
Overwhelmed, Sang-mi can’t stomach thinking about it any longer and retreats into the stall, retching. She pulls her head out of the toilet and collects herself before something nearby piques her interest.
A short time later, Disciple Kang enters the restroom, but Sang-mi doesn’t respond to her calls, and Disciple Kang soon realizes there is nobody in the locked stall. Finally noticing that the nearby window is open, she realizes that Sang-mi escaped.
We find Sang-mi sprinting down a back road as Disciple Kang returns to an annoyed Disciple Jo, who realizes what happened before Disciple Kang says a word.
Meanwhile, Sang-hwan and gang are at a convenience store together, and we see Sang-mi attempting to cross a busy street to get to a convenience store herself.
She seems to spot something inside the store, and Sang-hwan looks out as something catches his eye as well.
Sang-mi dashes to the middle of the street and throws her hands in front of a police car. The officers who emerge are none other than Officers Choi and Woo, and Sang-mi begs for their help.
We see Sang-hwan heading outside the convenience store, but instead of running into Sang-mi and the police, he runs into the group of bullies from high school instead. Sang-hwan confronts them for avoiding him.
He says they seem to be doing fine, but they reply that they are the real victims here, having missed out on college entrances last year because of what happened with Sang-jin, while Sang-hwan was unhindered.
Furious at their audacity, Sang-hwan grabs one of them by the collar, and when the bully blames Dong-chul for crippling their friend, Sang-hwan punches him in the face.
Sang-hwan tells them all, “Listen to me carefully. It wasn’t because of Dong-chul. It was my fault.” He yells at them one last time to confirm that they understand before letting them go.
In the police car, the officers prod Sang-mi for information so they can take her home, but Sang-mi has nothing to give them.
Just then, Officer Woo receives a call from someone and turns to ask Sang-mi if she is from Guseonwon, which prompts a frightened outburst from Sang-mi. She tries desperately to escape the car, pleading with Officer Choi to help her.
At the station, Sang-mi starts to ask Officer Choi if someone from Guseonwon contacted them, but before she can finish, Dad and the disciples run out of the station to collect her.
Officer Woo quickly hands Sang-mi over to them, but Sang-mi frantically appeals for his help by grabbing onto his arm as she declares the disciples to be the murderers responsible for Jeong-gu’s death.
But Officer Woo ignores her by turning to the disciples and responding as if Sang-mi’s a lunatic, clearly having heard from Guseonwon that she’s crazy and not to be trusted. Fully believing the lie, Officer Woo signs that such a young girl would be so mentally unstable after witnessing such a horrible accident.
Though Sang-mi says that she’s not crazy, she doesn’t help her case when she beats at her father’s chest and begs him to help defend her. But Dad is on the church’s side, and he tells her to get ahold of herself. “The things you see right now are all lies made up by devils!” he raves.
When Disciples Kang and Jo grab her by the arms, Sang-mi screams that it’s their fault that her mom and dad are like this as Dad just looks to the skies and prays in a trance-like state for New Heaven’s God’s intervention.
Weeping now, Sang-mi clutches at her father as she begs him to snap out of it. “If you keep doing this, I think I’ll really lose my mind,” she wails helplessly, sliding down to her knees.
Dad takes the opportunity to place his hand on Sang-mi’s head in the same way Father Baek did to Disciple Jo earlier as he prays desperately for New Heaven’s God to help Sang-mi overcome the devil inside her. Even this proves to be too much for a nervous Officer Choi, but she’s pulled away by Officer Woo for interfering.
The other disciples hold Sang-mi in place as Dad brings his hand down over and over on Sang-mi’s head, trying to draw the devil out of her, and Sang-mi finally collapses, unconscious.
The disciples take Sang-mi back to their van and Officer Woo lightly remarks on what they just witnessed, but Officer Choi looks unsure as to whether they did the right thing.
Back at their usual restaurant, Jung-hoon and Man-hee wonder why Sang-hwan is so upset today, and he reveals that it’s because today is Dong-chul’s prison release day.
The boys try to cheer him up with more food, but the owner scolds them, saying they still haven’t changed a bit since high school. Sang-hwan mournfully agrees, “She’s right. Years have passed, but nothing has changed.”
Back in the van, Sang-mi awakens from her unconsciousness and spits more venom at her father and the disciples as she calls them devils living in hell. “You’re just like them,” she tells her father. “You’re a devil just like them.” Her father doesn’t flinch, and instead reveals his dislike for living outside of Guseonwon, since he feels ill when he is in the city now.
Disciple Jo tells him it is because of the evil souls in Korea, and the disciples and Dad share a round of praising New Heaven’s God while Sang-mi remains powerless to do anything. Realizing now that nobody around her is willing to listen to her cries for help, Sang-mi looks truly and utterly broken.
While the van cruises through the back streets of Muji, they accidentally collide with Sang-hwan, Jung-hoon, and Man-hee on their motorcycles.
Disciple Jo offers to settle the accident with money right away, but since Sang-hwan is studying law, he retorts that the accident is actually fully the fault of the van driver, which induces Disciple Jo to dig deeper into his wallet.
Unappeased, Sang-hwan tells Disciple Jo to get out of the car and apologize properly if he is truly sorry. Disciple Jo complies, exiting the van and bowing deeply to the three boys.
Disciple Kang gets out of the back seat and offers her own apology, but the boys try to milk a little more cash out of them, with Jung-hoon casually mentioning that his dad is a police officer.
However, Disciple Kang notices that the boys smell like alcohol, and she encourages them to call Jung-hoon’s dad and check their blood alcohol levels. The boys relent and agree to settle on the spot.
Just then, another car drives by down the street, and Sang-mi is temporarily illuminated by its headlights and she softly whimpers, “Rescue me.” Sang-hwan looks into the van, eyes full of concern.
Rescue Me really revels in its ability to be absolutely, unflinchingly brutal. I suspected Jeong-gu might meet his demise at some point in the future, but watching it actually happen in such a horrifying way left me yelping in shock at my screen. It’s hard to even imagine what was going through Sang-mi’s head at the time, watching the closest she had to a friend just be obliterated in front of her eyes, while chillingly, Disciple Jo just chuckled to himself in the immediate aftermath.
Building the atmosphere is perhaps what this show is best at, though, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised that they managed to deliver even more despair when I finally felt that there was very little they could do to surprise me, but I appreciate that they are letting us soak in the dreariness so much. The absolute misery that permeates this world is so thick and full, and it’s a testament to the excellent world-building that both the writing and, in particular, the directing accomplish with deft hands.
It was interesting to get a closer look at the relationship between Father Baek and Disciple Jo, if only briefly. That Father Baek asserted total dominance over Disciple Jo with relative ease, and that Disciple Jo so readily changed from the diabolical schemer we are used to seeing into a docile servant was one of the more shocking events of the past hour, and one I’m curious to know more about.
Are we really to believe that Father Baek holds some divine power over him, or is there some other factor which contributes to Disciple Jo’s submission? Disciple Jo doesn’t strike me as the type to submit himself so easily to anyone, so whatever Father Baek does have, it would need to be incredibly compromising for Disciple Jo to surrender himself to Father Baek so fully, and I wonder what could possibly be so burdensome.
But with Jeong-gu now gone, Sang-mi is left completely alone, and New Heaven’s God seems content to sap any semblance of hope she might be holding onto out of her by throwing hardship after hardship at her. How long can Sang-mi hold out before she is broken completely and gives herself over to New Heaven’s God? Or worse, how long can she hold out against whatever Father Baek plans to use her for?
It seems up to Sang-hwan and friends to be Sang-mi’s savior now, as even the police are swayed by Guseonwon’s stories. I think Sang-hwan is being a bit too hard on himself, though. He claims that nothing has changed since high school, but that’s not totally true. Sang-hwan himself is more willing to stand up for what he believes is right, whether that’s admonishing his father for broken promises, or confronting bullies for treating others poorly.
Sang-hwan certainly learned from his failure to defend Sang-jin three years ago, and he’s taking it upon himself to change how he takes responsibility for those who need his help to defend themselves. Now he’ll need to do the same for Sang-mi, and after he already failed her once, I can’t imagine he’ll let himself fail her a second time.
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