Room No. 9: Episode 4
When your enemy is the chairman of a huge corporation with the power to manipulate the truth, it’s going to take a lot of work to bring him down. However, power breeds greed, and enemies lurk in every corner waiting to pounce. Hwa-sa will have to learn how to navigate this new world filled with people willing to deceive and betray each other. With Hae-yi trying to return to her body every chance she gets, Hwa-sa will have to watch her back as she moves forward in her mission to prove her innocence.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
December 25, 1984. Young-bae drags Ki San to his car, and after tampering with the engine, he locks Ki San inside along with Hwa-sa. Some time later, young Secretary Park jogs past the car, and after seeing people inside, he yanks open the door.
By morning, police officers and paramedics swarm the scene, and Secretary Park informs his superior that the unidentified male is dead while the female is alive but unconscious. Meanwhile, Young-bae watches everything from behind the trees.
In the present, Hwa-sa rolls on the floor, gasping for air, but Hae-yi coldly tells her that she’ll survive before calling for help. Before Hwa-sa loses consciousness, she remembers that fateful evening in the car, but instead of Young-bae besides her, she sees a man resembling Yoo-jin (who we know as the real Ki San).
The guards can’t find Doctor So, so a prisoner offers her assistance since she’s a trained nurse. However, as the prisoner brings in the defibrillator, she exchanges nervous glances with Hae-yi. In flashback, Hae-yi fed the prisoner meat while learning about the defibrillator’s strange glowing as well as Doctor So’s unexcused absences. Everything goes as planned by Hae-yi, and as the prisoner uses the defibrillator on Hwa-sa, Hae-yi throws herself on top of her body.
Meanwhile, Chairman Ki learns of the identity of the person who called him “Young-bae,” and confirming his hunch, it’s “Hae-yi.”
Hae-yi dreams of becoming a senior partner at the law firm, but once she wakes up, reality hits her—the body swap didn’t happen. As Hwa-sa wakes up, unable to recall her memories before passing out, Hae-yi barges into the room. Yoo-jin calls for the guard, but Hwa-sa allows Hae-yi to stay since they need to talk.
Hwa-sa berates Hae-yi for nearly killing her with that allergy stunt, but Hae-yi would rather die trying to return to her body than die in Hwa-sa’s. Though Hae-yi threatens to hide Hwa-sa’s mother forever, Hwa-sa won’t listen to her demands and stomps off.
A guard pulls Hae-yi away, causing her to fall, and she screams in pain to get Yoo-jin’s attention. As he dresses her wound in silence, Hae-yi asks about his relationship with “Hwa-sa.” He tells her that he thought she might be his mother, but according to the paternity test, she’s not.
Hae-yi is relieved that “Hwa-sa” isn’t his mother, but Yoo-jin finds her use of the third person peculiar. Taking a step forward, Hae-yi confesses her true identity to Yoo-jin, but he laughs in disbelief. She begs him to listen, reaching out to touch his face, but Yoo-jin stops her and asks if she fed “Hae-yi” the peaches on purpose. When Hae-yi admits the truth, he calls her crazy and leaves.
Hae-yi chases after Yoo-jin, but he ignores her pleas since she’s now just a murderer to him. Hae-yi grabs Hwa-sa, telling her to confirm her identity, but Hwa-sa warns her about transferring to the psychiatric hospital if she continues.
Devastated, Hae-yi goes through the rest of the day in a trance, and narrates, “Just like the amateurs I’d loathed, I expected a lucky punch and threw my punches too easily. The result was a complete K.O. defeat.”
Yoo-jin brings Hwa-sa home, but he’s locked out since she’s changed the code to her lock. He tells her that she feels distant as of late but leaves her alone as per her request.
Mi-ran coaxes an older man to a jewelry store to buy her a necklace, but a phone call from Hwa-sa interrupts them, giving the older man an excuse to run away. Mi-ran angrily hangs up the call, disregarding the caller’s claim to be Hwa-sa, but Hwa-sa waits for Mi-ran at her home.
Hwa-sa shares memories of them together in prison, waiting for Mi-ran to make the connection, but the latter asks if she’s the daughter of “Hwa-sa” or possessed by a spirit. Hwa-sa comes out with the truth, “I’m Hwa-sa,” but Mi-ran yells at her for joking.
Seeing a cross hanging on her apartment, Hwa-sa asks how she has faith in the resurrection, and caressing Mi-ran’s hair, she says that Mi-ran should have met better parents. Hwa-sa’s parting words rattle Mi-ran, and after mulling things over, she remembers hearing the exact same thing from Hwa-sa while in prison.
Mi-ran arrives at Hwa-sa’s doorstep, drenched from the rain, and cries as she embraces Hwa-sa, finally recognizing her.
Yoo-jin plays basketball with his nephew Chan-sung, but memories of recent events muddle his mind. Chan-sung’s notes how Yoo-jin is off his game, and Yoo-jin laments how complicated his life has become.
Now that Mi-ran knows the truth behind the body swap, she takes Hwa-sa to see her mother. As Hwa-sa tends to her, she notices a scar on her scalp, and a doctor tells them that the scar is most likely a result of a blunt force trauma which could have caused her dementia.
Hwa-sa remembers her mother visiting her at the prison with evidence that would prove her innocence. With tears streaming down her face, she told her daughter to continue living, but then she suddenly stopped visiting. Though Hwa-sa called, her mother sat alone in her home looking dazed.
Fulfilling her wish, Hwa-sa makes noodles for her mother, but she begins to cry as she feeds her—the reason why her mother stopped visiting weighing heavily on her heart. She promises her mother that she’ll prove her innocence, and Mi-ran wipes away her tears as she watches Hwa-sa cry into her mother’s shoulder.
Yoo-jin meets with Chef Hong to ask if he saw anyone in the stairwell after making dinner at Hae-yi’s place. He remembers getting a fright by someone, and when Yoo-jin shows him some pictures, he recognizes the watch Attorney Ma wears.
Doing some sleuthing of his own, Officer Oh pesters his junior at the police station for information about Chan-sung’s case, but his junior advises him to forget about it. Officer Oh’s attention is drawn elsewhere when he spots Hwa-sa, who’s looking for the files about her case. She has nearly everything except for the initial case file, and Officer Oh offers his help in exchange for a meal.
Yoo-jin pays a visit to Attorney Ma while someone snaps photos of their encounter from a distance. Attorney Ma greets Yoo-jin cordially, but the atmosphere tenses when Yoo-jin brings out the antique pill box he received on his birthday.
Meanwhile, Chairman Ki draws a Venn diagram of Hwa-sa, Hae-yi, and Yoo-jin, and the overlap between all three seems too convenient to be coincidental. He notes the possibility of another player manipulating everything behind the scenes, thus, when Secretary Park shows him the photo of Yoo-jin meeting Attorney Ma, it all clicks.
Attorney Ma asks Yoo-jin if he has any desires to take the SHC Group, and offers to solve Yoo-jin’s puzzle if he takes over the group and gives him control over his law firm. Before Yoo-jin can answer, a scream from Attorney Ma’s daughter brings them both outside where they see Attorney Ma’s dog stabbed.
Instinctively, Yoo-jin reaches out to help the dog, but Attorney Ma seizes his hand. He hisses at Yoo-jin to get out of his house immediately, and his eyes dart around anxiously, clearly aware of Chairman Ki’s warning.
Chairman Ki tinkers with his car and remembers the day he first met Yoo-jin. He watched dumbfounded as his father, Chairman Ki Se-woong, held a baby in his arms and introduced him as the heir of the SHC Group: Ki Yoo-jin.
In the present, Chan-sung watches his father, who’s lost in thought, and playfully steals his beer. Chairman Ki teases his son for taking his drink and lifts him up in his chair. He tells Chan-sung that he built everything for him so the SHC group is rightfully his.
Yoo-jin looks for Hae-yi’s comfort in his time of distress, but his text gets ignored by Hwa-sa who’s busy poring over the case files. Mi-ran cautiously mentions the statute of limitations, but Hwa-sa never intended to rely on judges or detectives. Instead, she places a picture of Chan-sung on her wall of information, and tells Mi-ran that she intends to strip Chairman Ki of everything besides the name “Choo Young-bae.”
Officer Oh rings the bell to Hae-yi’s apartment and informs Hwa-sa of the approval to obtain the documents. She thanks him for his help and invites him inside for a cup of coffee. Yoo-jin arrives right then, and after hearing their conversation, he silently walks away.
The next day, Officer Oh and Hwa-sa look through the box of documents, but neither of them finds a picture of the victim since even the original film was cut. They share drinks after their unsuccessful search, and Officer Oh carefully asks why she’s digging into this case.
Hwa-sa looks off to the distance while recalling a time in her life when time seemed to pass by too slowly, so she memorized everything she read. Hwa-sa talks about a woman who was like sadness, because that woman was like her, and because she was like Hwa-sa. With tears pooling in her eyes, Hwa-sa answers Officer Oh’s question: “Because what Hwa-sa did was so funny and sad.”
Officer Oh runs in the rain to get umbrellas and finds Hwa-sa crouched on the floor outside the restaurant, sleeping. He sits next to her and lists her nicknames: Mental Breaker, Crocodile, and Seizure Eulji. He doesn’t think any of them fit her and mutters to himself that everyone seems to just misunderstand her like he did. With an umbrella shielding them from the rain, he piggybacks Hwa-sa home.
Hwa-sa wakes up the next morning with a hangover as Mi-ran scolds her for drinking. The news reports Chairman Ki’s latest donation of 100 billion won for a business helping young entrepreneurs, and he tells the reporters that the incident with his son has nothing to do with his latest activity.
The doorbell of Hae-yi’s apartment suddenly rings, and a slew of women march inside, bearing luxurious clothes and accessories. I guess she really did have a fashion team.
Hwa-sa wants to kick them out, but Mi-ran reminds her that she needs to become Hae-yi if she wants to take down Chairman Ki. Hwa-sa might be in Hae-yi’s body, but if she doesn’t fully embody this new role, no one will believe her to be Attorney Hae-yi. Convinced, Hwa-sa allows the fashion team to stay and picks out a few new outfits.
Hae-yi manages to use Doctor So’s laptop after bribing a fellow prisoner, and reads an article about Attorney Ma and Chan-sung’s case. However, Doctor So returns to his office earlier than expected, and Hae-yi scrambles to shut off the laptop. He yells at her for being in his room, but Hae-yi lies about needing an insulin shot and leaves without arousing too much suspicion.
In her cell, Hae-yi quotes Sheryl Sandberg and says that even if you accomplish the best option A, you must find strength to live on because you still have option B left. As she writes a letter in English, Hae-yi calls Attorney Ma her “option B.”
Hwa-sa walks into the law firm with Mi-ran in tow as her new personal secretary. This riles the others in the firm, particularly Intern Bang who confronts Mi-ran in the breakroom. The two fight over who gets to deliver coffee to Hwa-sa, and both exaggeratedly laugh while trying to one-up each other.
Mi-ran checks the mail with the other secretaries and discovers a letter addressed to Attorney Ma from Cheongwon prison. Realizing that it’s from Hae-yi, Mi-ran pretends that the letter is for Hwa-sa, but the other secretary doesn’t fall for her ruse.
Having failed, Mi-ran dashes to Hwa-sa, informing her of the letter, and Hwa-sa quickly visits Attorney Ma’s office before he can read it. Despite the suddenness of her presence, he greets her amicably, even offering her some food, and tells her to take a seat.
Hwa-sa spies the letter in the stack next to him which Attorney Ma notices. He pulls out the specific letter from the pile, and mentions how odd it is of “Hwa-sa” to write to him. Hwa-sa explains how the prisoner is frustrated with her situation and tries to take back the letter, but Attorney Ma whips it out of her hands.
Speaking in English, he asks her if she knows what’s written inside. Even though it’s an unbelievable tale of switching bodies, the detailed information is undeniable, and lowering his voice to a menacing whisper, Attorney Ma asks, “Are you Jang Hwa-sa?”
The characters in this show are different shades of gray ranging from flawed to quite despicable. However, I love how the show brings up the duality of humans and the selfishness that seems to drive most people. Chairman Ki is clearly the main antagonist who killed the real Ki San and then attempted to murder Hwa-sa in order to claim a new identity. However, he’s not a completely coldhearted murderer, and from his interactions with Chan-sung, he dearly loves his son which also gives Hwa-sa leverage for her revenge. Like Chairman Ki, Hae-yi is also a selfish character who isn’t afraid to subvert justice for her own gain. Being in Hwa-sa’s body only fuels her hatred and ambition, and this experience hasn’t made her more empathetic to Hwa-sa and the predicament she placed her in. Hae-yi is cunning, and the show doesn’t back away from portraying the negative sides of her character which makes the dynamic between her and Hwa-sa much more interesting because neither can trust the other completely even if they do team up in the future.
This leads to fascinating character dynamics and manipulations shown throughout the show. Though there are similar goals between characters (bringing down Chairman Ki being the most overarching), vastly different motivations exist behind everyone. Consequently, loyalties are tested, alliances change, and new enemies are formed. Hae-yi uses Attorney Ma to get back her body, Attorney Ma tries to use Yoo-jin to take over his law firm, and Officer Oh initially gets close to Hwa-sa for information about Chan-sung. Not only that, Hae-yi controls Mi-ran under the guise of Hwa-sa until the real Hwa-sa gains her trust and turns her into an ally. The element of body swap not only moves the plot forward by giving Hwa-sa a vehicle to plan out her revenge, but it also acts as a catalyst to see how fragile trust is within these relationships. Even Yoo-jin, who is arguably one of the kindest characters, was quick to turn his back on “Hwa-sa” and label her a murderer like everyone else—but the twist is that his girlfriend was the one who broke any possibility of forging a relationship by pulling that nasty scheme that nearly killed Hwa-sa (or “Hae-yi” in his eyes).
Currently, Yoo-jin is a relatively passive player within everyone’s schemes, but ironically, he might be the most important piece to all their puzzles. Unfortunately for Yoo-jin, who only wants to live an uncomplicated life, he might have to start fending for himself and devising plans if he wants to survive and not be a puppet thrown this way and that. His passivity so far, however, seems to be a deliberate choice by the writer since it’s a subversion of a very typical, and all-too-familiar, female trope found in Korean dramas. He’s essentially the damsel in distress being controlled, but there’s no knight in shining armor for Yoo-jin. Hae-yi is too busy fighting for herself (and I wonder how much she genuinely loves Yoo-jin outside of his prestigious background), and Hwa-sa repeatedly showed no interest towards him. I actually feel bad for him since he desperately wants affection and recognition but everyone around him seems to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Surprisingly, my favorite relationship is between Officer Oh and Hwa-sa (in Hae-yi’s body). He, understandably, hates Hae-yi, and Hwa-sa has no clue who this stranger is. Like most relationships in this show, Officer Oh has ulterior motives when he acts friendly towards Hwa-sa, and since she doesn’t know better, she falls into his trap. However, this sudden change in character leaves him bemused, and he starts to reevaluate his opinion of Hae-yi. In some ways, their relationship complements the one between Yoo-jin and Hae-yi (in Hwa-sa’s body). While Yoo-jin grows further away from Hae-yi as he sees her true character outside of her body, Officer Oh grows fond of Hwa-sa because of her character, despite initially hating Hae-yi. It’s an extreme case of liking someone for what’s on the inside instead of the outside, but at the same time, the show portrays how important outer appearances are for human interactions.
In terms of revenge, Hwa-sa still has a long way to go, and honestly, she’s way in over her head. Being in prison for over thirty years anxiously wondering when her time would come has not prepared Hwa-sa for revenge against the chairman of a huge enterprise with control over all the players involved in the subterfuge of her case. Mi-ran was correct in saying Hwa-sa wasn’t Hae-yi just because she occupies her body, and as a result, Hwa-sa’s relatively unable to make actual change. However, the plot is slowly revealing itself like layers of an onion, and while it might not be the most thrilling in tone, I find the show enjoyable and look forward to the inevitable crash between individuals on all sides of the equation. Because when you’re dealing with a murdering rich man who keeps his enemies close, calamity is bound to follow.