Rescue Me: Episode 16 (Final)
This is the moment of truth for Sang-mi and the boys—after weeks of planning and a multitude of failed attempts, they know that they won’t ever get another chance to overthrow Guseonwon. The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been before with both Sang-mi and her rescuers willing to put everything on the line, and no matter what the outcome, their lives will be irrevocably changed.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
We open on Father Baek preaching to his devout congregation with a lighter in one hand and New Heaven’s Bible in the other. “Now watch and see what is real and what is fake,” he commands as he flicks on the lighter and sets the Bible on fire, much to the believers’ consternation. Dad stutters in shock to a speechless Disciple Kang, and they watch with the rest of the congregation in growing horror.
Father Baek solemnly looks out at his distressed congregation and drops the flaming Bible to the ground before displaying his unharmed hand: “Do you believe that this charred Bible is the truth, or do you believe in me, who the fire did not harm?” The shocked believers immediately rock back and forth in frenzied prayer as he cries out, “From now on, I will be with you. I will spread the truth through you. I will lift your hand and bless you.”
We cut to Sang-hwan waiting for Ji-hee at the boys’ riverside hangout spot. When she arrives, he demands to know where she hid his mother, but she feigns innocence and claims that they moved his mother for her own sake. “Using helpless people to satisfy your own greed makes you no different than that cult,” he seethes. Ji-hee doesn’t even bat an eye as she replies, “You’ll understand later on that what’s real and fake isn’t different in this world.”
Ji-hee reminds him that she told him to bring the damning recording (in which Yong-min confessed to pushing Sang-hwan’s mom) if he wanted to see his mom again. “Your mom seems to miss you,” she remarks with a chilling smile, before turning heel and walking away. Sang-hwan glares after her with gritted teeth as an angry tear slips down his cheek.
When Sang-hwan pulls out his mother’s recorder and plays it, we’re taken back in time to the scene of the crime as Sang-hwan’s devastated mom confronts Yong-min about his affair with Ji-hee. He denies her accusations, and in turn, she tells him to withdraw from the election. When he protests, she tearfully interrupts him: “Our Sang-hwan. I want him to grow up without shame.”
Her expression turns cold as she threatens to turn in the evidence of his affair to his congressional opponent, and she walks away from his frantic pleas in order to call the opponent’s office. When her back is turned, Yong-min’s eyes take on a dangerous glint before he staggers towards her and shoves her off the side of the mountain.
Back in the present at Guseonwon, Father Baek and Sang-mi recite their spiritual marriage vows in front of the congregation. She stares blankly at him as she says, “I will serve you. My salvation, my eternity, my Spiritual Father.” She slowly sinks to her knees to kiss his hand, and the believers break out in applause as Dad closes his eyes in relief, leaving Disciple Kang and Dong-chul to watch with dismay.
In her room, Dad happily shows Sang-mi the white dress she’s to wear as Spiritual Mother. She watches his face pensively before leaning into to softly tell Dad that she pities him: “You don’t know what terrible things are happening here.” Dad takes her hands and earnestly tells her to stop having such thoughts and just focus on the blessings that she’s been given.
Disciple Kang cautiously enters one of Father’s Baek’s rooms and finds a container of flame retardant. We see in a flashback that Father Baek had secretly coated his hand with it before his fireproof act, and in the present, Disciple Kang’s face fills with shock and dismay as she processes this new information. But before she has much time to think, Father Back enters the room to ask what she’s doing there.
Disciple Kang isn’t able to meet his eyes nor respond to his question, and he realizes that she’s figured out what he did. “New Heaven’s God permitted deceit to be used with the purpose of spreading salvation,” he states, and she finally looks up at him as she recalls teaching a similar lesson to the believers.
He questions whether her belief is faltering, and she quickly denies it, declaring that her faith will never be shaken: “It’s not because I doubt New Heaven’s God, it’s because I doubt you.” Father Baek stares daggers at her, and though clearly uncomfortable, she meets his eyes with determination.
“Doubt. Worry. Fear. These are all thoughts of satan the devil,” he glowers, before commanding her to immediately cleanse her spirit through prayer.
At the same time, Sang-hwan calls So-rin’s superior to tell him to release the articles about his father if he doesn’t get in touch with him the next day. Afterward, he rides to hospital after hospital in search of his mother, but to no avail.
Mom sits outside looking lost as she clasps Sang-mi’s note to her chest. She quickly hides it when an ambulance pulls up in front of the sanitarium, and after the driver leaves to find a staff member, she hears sounds of distress coming from the vehicle.
She carefully approaches to find Sang-hwan’s mother on the floor of the ambulance, and though Sang-hwan’s mother struggles to get words out, she manages to convey that she was brought there against her will. Horrified, Mom embraces the shaking woman before agreeing to call the woman’s son, Han Sang-hwan, to let him know of her whereabouts.
Mom slowly walks into the sanitarium muttering nonsense about salvation as she strategically approaches the front desk. The nurse annoyedly tells her to go sleep, and after she leaves, Mom eyes the nurse’s phone.
Sang-hwan gets an anonymous call, and the woman—who we know is Mom—whispers reassurance that his mother is safe and that she’s at the Guseonwon sanitarium. After Mom hangs up on him, Sang-hwan receives a text from Dong-chul alerting him that he intends to carry out his plan (to be ratted out as a mole so that he can find where all the other hostages are being held) at dawn.
In a bathroom stall, Dong-chul deletes all the information on the phone and hides it under his usual panel. He steps out, when all of a sudden, a spade whacks him hard on the head. Dong-chul falls to the ground groaning as Dad lifts the spade for another strike, but Father Baek stops him.
Sang-mi is also watching, and a flashback reminds us that this is all a part of Dong-chul’s plan. He had predicted that once his friendship with Sang-hwan was revealed, he would be locked in the underground cell with the other prisoners, and he’d concluded that this was the only way to reveal Guseonwon’s nefarious deeds.
With that in mind, Sang-mi points to the stall and informs them of Dong-chul’s hiding place for his phone. Bleeding from the head but still playing along, Dong-chul desperately asks why Sang-mi is doing this to him, and she responds by telling him that it’s all over.
After Father Baek has some of the male believers drag him out, he asks Sang-mi exactly what Dong-chul said to her when they met outside. “He told me that if I pretended not to know him, he would rescue everyone in Guseonwon,” she says innocently. Father Baek comments on the foolishness of people, and Sang-mi obediently nods in response.
Dong-chul comes to in a dark cell filled with several other male hostages, all of whom seem to be significantly older than him and weakened by their imprisonment. He fixates on one inmate in particular, realizing that it’s his father. The hunched, sickly shell of a man who begs for mercy as soon as Dong-chul taps him on the shoulder contrasts sharply from his memory of an angry drunkard of a father.
Completely blindsided and frustrated, Dong-chul lets out a cry and asks his father why he’s there. His father doesn’t seem to recognize him and shrinks away in fear, begging Dong-chul not to hurt him. This only makes Dong-chul sob harder, and he realizes that the reason his father never came home to his grandmother was because he was locked up at Guseonwon.
Poor Dong-chul breaks down next to his blubbering father and swears to destroy Guseonwon before letting out an anguished scream.
Disciple Jo reveals to Wan-duk that Guseonwon’s money is stashed in a safe in Father Baek’s room, and suggests that the two of them steal it after the early morning service, when all the congregants have left the sanctuary.
Inside said sanctuary, Disciple Kang prays fervently, asking New Heaven’s God to protect the Boat of Salvation and stop it from drowning. She pauses for a moment with her eyes closed, listening intently, before she looks up with enlightened ecstasy. She promises to guard the Boat of Salvation and change everything for the better, responding as though New Heaven’s God has just spoken to her.
Meanwhile, Sang-mi sneaks into Disciple Kang’s room and takes the syringe and green tranquilizer that Kang had used on Mom.
We return to the underground cell to see Dong-chul remove a phone that he had taped to his side. In flashback, we see Sang-hwan giving him the phone and telling him to always have it on him so that he could track his location. “I’m not worried at all, because you’re going to come, Sang-hwan. And just like then, you’re going to tell me to stand tall,” Dong-chul says to himself.
Dad walks to Sang-mi’s room, but when he sees that her door has been left ajar, he rushes in, shouting her name. He finds Sang-mi inside, dressed in her white bridal dress, and she calmly tells Dad that she’s going to save everyone here. He smiles joyfully at her, completely missing the underlying meaning of her words.
Sang-hwan runs through the Guseonwon compound, following Dong-chul’s location on his phone. At the same time, Dad leads Sang-mi to the sanctuary, and she slowly follows, hesitating only once.
Sang-mi walks into the sanctuary, where the believers pray passionately in a multitude of incomprehensible syllables. Father Baek smiles widely when he sees her, and he announces to the congregation that when they receive the fire of the Holy Spirit, their dirty sins will be burnt away.
Everyone eagerly stands to receive the fire, and they collapse in groups as he “gives” them the fire with exaggerated body movements. The believers writhe and scream in religious ecstasy as Father Baek preens with satisfaction.
While this is going on, Sang-hwan enters the basement prison and calls out for Dong-chul, who shouts his name in response. It turns out that the large cell is hidden behind some dilapidated lockers, and Sang-hwan struggles to move them.
Sang-hwan and Dong-chul manage to pry the cell door open together, and they check on each other before Sang-hwan’s eyes land on the cowering occupants of the room. Before he can finish asking who they are, they hear a noise from the hall and quickly conceal themselves so that they can jump out and confront their attackers. Luckily for all of them, it turns out to be a terrified Jung-hoon and Man-hee.
The boys agree to split up, with Jung-hoon and Man-hee contacting the police and evacuating the prisoners while Dong-chul and Sang-hwan go to help Sang-mi. Struggling to control his emotions, Dong-chul reveals to the boys that his father is one of the prisoners, and he asks his friends to take good care of him. With a final glance back at his father, Dong-chul rushes off with Sang-hwan.
We find Disciple Kang talking to Mom, and the former muses that she made a mistake bringing Sang-mi’s family into Guseonwon. Speaking tearfully of Sang-mi, Mom appeals to Disciple Kan’gs maternal instinct: “If you were also once a mom, please let us go now.” Disciple Kang tosses a duffel bag of Mom’s clothes at her feet, and avoiding eye contact, she mentions that Sang-mi is about to share a bed with Father Baek. Horrified, Mom grabs the bag and hurries out of the room.
Now alone, Disciple Kang addresses the photo of her with her daughter: “I’m going to burn everything and start anew. That way, I can go to New Heaven with my daughter and meet New Heaven’s God.”
After the wedding, Father Baek welcomes Sang-mi into his room and commands Dad to go pray. “Don’t be scared,” Father Baek grins creepily after Dad leaves, “you’ll learn to enjoy it too.” Sang-mi swallows her disgust before following him into the adjoining room.
Sang-hwan and Dong-chul run toward the sanctuary, but are confronted by some of the male believers, led by Dad. He angrily pronounces them evil spirits and orders them to leave, and Dong-chul quickly tells Sang-hwan to go help Sang-mi while he handles the men.
While Dong-chul fights off the men, Sang-hwan races up the stairs and toward Sang-mi, and back in the basement prison, the inmates are led out by Jung-hoon and Man-hee.
In Father Baek’s side room, which is adorned with a bed and candlelit wall, Sang-mi stares straight ahead as Father Baek leans in close to her, leering. He strokes Sang-mi’s hair and face before his hand slowly trails downward. Alarmed, Sang-mi grabs his wrist, and in return, Father Baek whispers for her not to reject the touch of New Heaven’s God.
Meanwhile, Dad grabs a shovel, and a trapped Dong-chul braces himself for impact. But suddenly, Joon-gu appears out of nowhere and hits Dad across the back with an aluminum bat. Dad collapses to the ground, and the two other believers prove to be no match as Joon-gu and Dong-chul manage to knock them down immediately, only to turn and see another herd of men hurrying to challenge them.
Positioned on top of a helpless Sang-mi, Father Baek explains, “In order for you to erase sins, you have to share your body and soul with me. That’s how I can give you the very best strength of spirit from inside my body.” When Sang-mi glares up at him in revulsion and scoffs about his dirty tongue, he warns her not to disobey him: “That is, unless you want to die at such a young age like Disciple Kang’s daughter, Yu-ra.”
Sang-mi’s eyes widen with horror as she demands to know just how many people he’s murdered. “We’re all going to meet in New Heaven anyway,” he says by way of reply.
“You’re a murderer,” she screams, and in response, Father Baek sits up and slaps her hard across the face. He then proceeds to rip off his tie and eagerly lean down to kiss her as she shakes in fear.
Just in time, Sang-hwan flies in and punches Father Back off the bed. He starts ushering Sang-mi out of the chamber when Father Back attacks him with a candlestick. “Do you really believe that you’re a god?!” Sang-hwan jeers as they struggle. “You’re not a god, you’re just a beast.”
Mom enters Father Baek’s room and tearfully runs to her daughter, and they embrace as Sang-mi reassures her mom that she’s okay. Dong-chul makes it in and checks on Sang-mi before asking about the evidence.
Sang-mi pulls out the phone she had hidden underneath her dress as she declares that she recorded the truth about Father Baek. “Everything’s over now,” pants Sang-hwan, as the boys guide Sang-mi and her mom toward the door.
Just then, Father Baek runs out and grabs Sang-mi with a knife to her throat, demanding to know where she’s going. Dong-chul frantically restrains Mom as she screams for her daughter, and Father Baek drags a terrified Sang-mi away and into the sanctuary, where they find Disciple Kang waiting.
He calls out to Disciple Kang, and when she sees him, she sloshes gas all over the altar. Filled with new strength and conviction, she declares that she’s received a clear message from New Heaven’s God: “I’m going to burn all the dirty sin in this place and start anew.” Father Baek calls her crazy and releases Sang-mi so that he can wrestle the lighter away from Disciple Kang.
Seizing her chance, Sang-mi forcefully plunges Disciple Kang’s syringe into Father Baek’s shoulder, and he cries out in pain as he falls to the floor. Disciple Kang is also thrown to the floor, and she stares up at Sang-mi in shock.
In the midst of the chaos, Sang-mi grabs the lighter, and her eyes take on a maniacal look as she challenges Father Baek. Disciple Kang takes this opportunity to escape, and she shakily tells herself that New Heaven’s God is going to recreate this place.
Sang-hwan runs in just as Sang-mi vows to burn the place down. Weakened by the tranquilizer, Father Baek can barely muster the strength to beg for mercy, but a delirious Sang-mi declares that he needs to die. “Go to hell,” she screeches, preparing to throw the lighter onto the altar.
“Sang-mi!” shouts Sang-hwan, momentarily staying her arm. “You can’t do this. If you do this, you’ll become a murderer.” With tears in her eyes, Sang-mi shakes her head: “No. I’m going to end this man’s life with my own hands.”
She attempts to throw the lighter a second time, but Sang-hwan stops her again with his words: “Didn’t you say that you wanted to escape from this terrible place and go back out into the world? Let’s let the law handle this.” He slowly approaches her and carefully grabs the lighter from her hand.
“I… I am New Heaven’s God. I have eternal life. I am immortal!” Father Baek grits out as he helps himself up using the altar, but in his unstable state, he knocks over a candle and sets himself on fire. The altar goes up in flames and the fire spreads as he screams hysterically.
Sang-hwan and Sang-mi run out, leaving Father Baek to writhe and wail in the fire as memories of Sang-mi flashing through his mind. Finally, he looks up to see the flaming red cross of the altar falling toward him, and the screen fades to black.
Once outside the burning sanctuary, Sang-mi declares that it’s finally over. Sang-hwan gently makes sure that she’s okay and holds back his own tears when she states that she’s going to leave this place with her head held high.
Disciple Jo and Wan-duk make their way to Father Baek’s side chamber, and they frantically transfer all the cash and gold from the safe into a duffel bag. “This is New Heaven,” grins Disciple Jo.
Detective Lee heads to Guseonwon with several other police cars, lost in the memory of the moment when Sang-hwan had revealed the connection between his father and Father Baek. Before they can get far into the complex, the police cars are stopped by a mob of angry believers armed with wooden clubs and sharp farming tools.
Luckily for them, Joon-gu drives through on his motorcycle and smoothly opens up a path for the police cars to drive through.
Disciple Jo and Wan-duk run around the side of the building and spot Dong-chul as he leads Mom outside. Dong-chul puts up a good fight, but gets knocked to the ground as Sang-hwan comes running to his rescue—but as soon as Sang-hwan takes Wan-duk down, Disciple Jo hits Sang-hwan in the stomach with a wooden club. He continues to knock Sang-hwan around as he yells at them for ruining things for him.
Just then, Joon-gu swaggers toward him with an aluminum bat and lightly scolds the boys for getting into trouble. Sang-mi hugs her terrified mother and pulls her back into the safety of the building as Joon-gu and the boys take on Disciple Jo and Wan-duk. After the fight is nearly won, Joon-gu winds up for the finishing blow, but Disciple Jo throws dirt in his eyes and limps away into the forest.
Disciple Jo stumbles through the fields and onto the road, where he repeatedly collapses due to his injuries. A police car pulls up, and when Disciple Jo sighs in relief to see that it’s Officer Woo, the latter darkly asks him if he’s thinking of running away alone. Disciple Jo attempts to escape, but he’s too weak to get far, and with one punch from Officer Woo, he lies on the ground unable to move.
Disciple Jo scoffs at Officer Woo, asking if he thinks he’ll be safe, and Officer Woo dryly comments that a crime must be punished as he handcuffs himself to the disciple. He then orders Officer Choi to arrest them both.
Back at Guseonwon, Dad runs into the sanctuary to see the altar in flames, with Father Baek’s unmoving body in the midst of the fire. He turns in horror to Disciple Kang, who has been watching the fire apathetically. She declares that a new era has begun, addressing the voice of New Heaven’s God she’s hearing in her head, and when Dad hesitantly asks if they can really recover from this, she confidently replies in the affirmative.
Outside the building, several cops drag a handcuffed Wan-duk away as the boys and Mom watch. Sang-hwan asks Dong-chul to take care of the rest while he looks for his mother, and when Mom realizes that he’s the son of the woman in the ambulance, she says she knows where his mother is.
The next thing we know, she’s being loaded into an ambulance under Sang-hwan’s supervision.
Before he leaves, Sang-mi calls out to him and thanks him, recalling the day when she had first asked him to rescue her from the Guseonwon van: “If you hadn’t heard what I said in the van that day, I would have fallen apart a long time ago.” Sang-hwan smiles and kids with her in return.
Holding her mother, Sang-mi looks toward the sky and says, “If an omnipotent being really exists up there, he’ll be sure to punish them, right?” Mom replies, “Of course. He will definitely answer our prayers.”
Some time later, news reports reveal that further investigation of the Guseonwon compound turned up corpses of people who died from physical assault. Sang-hwan is also on the news for holding a press conference to reveal his father’s crimes, and he announces his intent to formally press charges against his father.
Yong-min isn’t worried, however, and gives Ji-hee a gameplan to follow. He talks freely until she interrupts him and ends their relationship: “I wanted to see how high you could rise, but I ended up seeing you fall.” He looks at her, stunned, as she gives him a final bow and hands him over to the detectives.
Ji-hee gets in her car as she makes a phone call to a politician in Yeouido in an attempt to secure her next job, but Detective Lee opens her door and smirks that she’s needed at the precinct too. Outside the precinct, a group of believers chant and clap with fervor to show their devotion to Father Baek, and Jeong-gu’s grandmother even claims that she saw Father Baek rise from the ashes and ascend into heaven.
Some time in the future, we see Disciple Kang dressed all in white as she tenderly preaches to a small congregation that addresses her as Spiritual Mother.
Mom and Sang-mi visit Sang-jin’s memorial to say their goodbyes, now that their torment is over. After they leave the building, Mom looks back with a rueful smile and bids her son a final farewell.
Dong-chul visits his father in the hospital and awkwardly asks if he’s eaten, and his father returns the same question. Upon hearing that he hasn’t eaten yet, his father asks Dong-chul if he wants to get jjajangmyun, and Dong-chul looks up with a small smile as he says yes.
Officer Woo has joined Jung-hoon on his live broadcast, and their challenge is to eat a giant bowl of spicy jjajangmyun in five minutes. Jung-hoon is enthusiastic and his father seems cooperative enough, but when he can’t take the spice anymore, Officer Woo pushes his son’s face into the food and storms out of the restaurant, much to the viewers’ delight.
At the car repair shop, Man-hee and his brother eat meat with Joon-gu and the chicken restaurant delivery guy. Man-hee finally feeds his brother a wrap, and the atmosphere is warm and pleasant.
Next, we see the boys back together on Sang-hwan’s enlistment day. The boys joke around to keep the mood light and nag at each other with the familiarity of lifelong friends.
Sang-hwan turns to leave, but he suddenly spots a radiant Sang-mi gliding toward him. They smile warmly at each other, and he repeats the phrase he first said to her in high school: “We’re all friends, right?” Sang-mi smiles genuinely and nods in agreement.
In voiceover, Sang-mi’s explains that she was able to survive in Guseonwon because of three things: hope that she would one day escape, hope that there was a true god watching over her, and hope that someone would hear her pleas and respond.
Epilogue. We see Dad passionately evangelizing alone while wearing a sandwich board with a red cross on his back and a large poster with the fundamental tenants of New Heaven on the front. His ravings that the day of judgement is imminent go mainly ignored by the passersby, and with his face contorted, he fervently declares that their Spiritual Father will be back.
It’s been a long ride filled with small victories and heartwarming moments, but mainly frustration at a malicious organization that abuses its daunting power to prey on the weak. It’s strange though, because now that it’s over, I feel nothing but pity for the once hateful leaders of Guseonwon. Father Baek died in a horrifyingly gruesome way, and it’s ironic that the after all the effort he put into pretending that he’s fireproof, he died in a fire. It’s almost as if some infuriated heavenly being was punishing him for playing God.
The scene with Dad alone at the end, with nothing left to sustain him but an all-consuming need to serve New Heaven’s God, also tugged at my heartstrings. I despised him with a passion while he neglected to care for Sang-mi properly, but once stripped of his power and control over Sang-mi, he’s reduced to a pathetic lunatic who means nothing to the world. It’s like he’s taken it upon himself to be a martyr and bear a cross, especially to make up for the fact that he failed to make Sang-mi the Spiritual Mother. I don’t doubt that in his sick, twisted mind, he genuinely thought he was doing what was best for his daughter, and now that he’s supposedly let her down (by not securing her salvation), he’ll push himself beyond his physical limits due to guilt.
Although the cross on his back and the sign on his front may weigh him down physically, I believe that they serve as a shield between him and the “sinful” real world. Guseonwon took him in when he was at his worst and gave him a purpose and the chance to have a happy ending; holding his faith near to him ensures that he still has a shot at that happy ending. I don’t think he’s ready to let go of that psychological safety blanket yet—if ever.
On the other hand, I’m amazed by Sang-mi’s resilience. She experienced unspeakable horrors during her time at Guseonwon, and the fact that she’s able to smile so radiantly is a testament to the strength of her character. It also shows how important it is to have even just one person believe in you; the boys’ loyalty broke down the walls of mistrust and suspicion she built up around herself, and she’s able to see good in the world because they showed it to her in themselves when she had lost all hope.
While the ending of the episode was cute and made me feel all warm inside for our protagonists, I’m still left with a vaguely dissatisfied feeling. There was so much buildup and tension escalating since the beginning of the show, and the finale felt anticlimactic to me. Maybe part of the reason is that there were storylines that were never completed—what happened to Dae-shik and his mom, and also to Joon-gu and the friend who betrayed him? What about So-rin—was her body ever found?
I didn’t expect a perfect ending all wrapped up with a bow, and this episode could be argued as staying true to the tone of the story, but I needed more from the show to be able to justify the hours of frustration and angst I felt while watching it. I needed more closure on the nefarious deeds that were being carried out at Guseonwon and more answers from the writers. Perhaps I’m asking for too much, but I feel like Rescue Me had the potential to be a more complete show.
- Rescue Me: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Strongest Deliveryman, Rescue Me
- The four unlikely heroes of OCN’s Rescue Me
- Untold terror and strange happenings in Rescue Me teaser
- Storming the cult gates for OCN’s Rescue Me
- In the leader they trust for OCN’s Rescue Me
- Spooked in the dark in latest Rescue Me teaser
- Cross burnings and religious fanaticism in Rescue Me’s eerie teaser
- Lee David confirms psycho-religious thriller Rescue Me
- Taecyeon offered OCN thriller Rescue Me opposite Seo Ye-ji