The Fiery Priest: Episodes 3-4
This episode lets us in on some of our cranky priest’s reasons for being so, well… cranky. He’s dealing with a lot, and he’s fortunate to have someone firmly in his corner. But in escaping one bad situation, he’s inadvertently landed himself in an even worse one, and he may be about to find himself in over his head.
Hae-il tries his best to ignore the brawl at the museum groundbreaking ceremony, but he sees Chul-beom about to punch out a protester, so he steps in and grabs Chul-beom’s wrist mid-swing. He tells Chul-beom not to commit a sin and let the protester go, and Chul-beom does, recognizing Hae-il as the new priest at his church.
Dae-young runs over to make sure Chul-beom is okay, and Hae-il yells at him for doing nothing while the protesters were being beaten. He asks the protesters, who are still being held by Chul-beom’s men (Hae-il pushes Jang-ryong out of his way by the face, ha), if they go to church, twitching when they say they don’t, since they just begged for his help in God’s name.
Chul-beom decides to introduce himself. He laughs when Hae-il asks if he’s the town gangster and tells Hae-il to leave while they’re still being nice. Hae-il informs them that Sung-kyu took pictures of all their faces, correctly guesses that Dae-young is bad at his job, then sends the injured protesters to the hospital.
Chul-beom snaps at Dae-young for not protecting him like he told him to do, and Dae-young looks nervous. Chul-beom asks if it’s because of “that incident,” but Dae-young insists that it’s not.
Sung-kyu tells Hae-il that Chul-beom is a company CEO, though he’s almost certainly a gangster, too. Hae-il wishes that churches could suspend or disqualify parishioners, but Sung-kyu thinks that’s probably against God’s will.
Kyung-seon’s boss, Prosecutor Kang, gives her half of a gift of sweets that he received from Chul-beom, making a point to give it to her outside of work instead of the prosecutor’s office. Oddly, he tells her not to cause trouble with the gift, and when she nervously opens it at home, she finds several stacks of cash in the box.
Back at the police station, Detective Lee introduces a new member to the team — a female detective named SEO SEUNG-AH (Geum Sae-rok). The guys comment that she doesn’t look tough enough to be a detective so she shows off her kicking skills, which earns their respect, then her rapping skills, which earns their WTF expressions. Detective Lee asks who wants to be Seung-ah’s partner, and all the other guys but Dae-young suddenly realize they urgently need to be somewhere else.
Hae-il and Sung-kyu finally make it to the orphanage, where one precocious cutie pouts that Father Lee told them the new priest was good-looking, but he lied, HAHA. Another girl says that Hae-il has big nostrils, so he crouches and asks if he’s better-looking from there, but she just informs him that there’s food in his teeth.
He’s good with the children, pretending to growl and chase them around the playground and making instant friends. But off to one side, a barrel with a fire under it has a small explosion, and the kids begin to cry. It sends Hae-il into a PTSD flashback, where he experiences a memory (in reverse, which is terrifying) of being blown into the air by a grenade.
Hae-il and several other men are dressed in military fatigues, hiding inside a building from enemy fire. One soldier tells Hae-il to toss a grenade into the next room, but he argues that there may be children in there. The other soldier yells that he checked and it’s safe, and he orders Hae-il to throw the grenade now.
Hae-il pulls the pin and tosses the grenade into the next room, only to see a tiny hand pick up the grenade. Hae-il freezes in the doorway as about ten children stand up from where they were hiding, and the little girl holds out the grenade as if to give him his ball back. Horrified, Hae-il reaches out — but the sudden fireball hurls him backwards across the room. Oh no. No no no.
Hae-il eventually comes back to the present, shaken but okay. He and Sung-kyu head back to the church, where Father Lee introduces Hae-il to a parishioner who also happens to be a psychiatrist. After seeing Hae-il’s sermon this morning, she gives him her card and suggests he see her sometime.
Father Lee encourages Hae-il to get treatment, but Hae-il insists that prayer and meditation are all he needs. Father Lee tells him that prayer doesn’t solve everything, and when he tries to get down on his creaky knees to beg Hae-il, he agrees to give therapy a try.
Chul-beom is brought in front of Dong-ja, Prosecutor Kang, and Chief of Police Nam to explain why he let things at the ceremony get out of hand. Prosecutor Kang asks how things are going with Father Lee’s church and the welfare center project, and Dong-ja defends that it’s more difficult because the land is owned by a priest. Prosecutor Kang says that convincing the church to hand over their land is Chul-beom’s most urgent task, and he’s told that if he fails, he’ll have to leave the neighborhood.
It’s a small neighborhood — both Hae-il and Kyung-seon end up in the same convenience store, where Yo-han, the man Hae-il kicked out of church for eating, works. He looks guilty that Hae-il catches him eating again, and he says he can’t hear well when he’s hungry.
When he spots Kyung-seon shopping, Hae-il guesses that she lives near the church, and she notes that he’s buying a lot of alcohol. Kyung-seon tells Hae-il that she plans to give confession again next week, but he says no thanks, heh. Kyung-seon complains that he’s judgmental of everything she says, but she stops mid-sentence when he turns around and they end up nose-to-nose.
She loses her train of thought completely from being so close to his handsome face, and he calls her “old man” again and tells her to bug someone else. Kyung-seon flinches when he raises a hand, but he’s only reaching for some snacks beside her head, lol.
Back at the church, Hae-il finds Father Lee sifting through the garbage looking for a stuffed bunny that a little girl accidentally threw away, that was given to her by her father. Hae-il groans that her father can just buy her another, but Father Lee says that her father died in a car accident two months ago.
Hae-il still doesn’t like seeing Father Lee going through trash, but Father Lee says that this is what priests do — find precious things that people have lost. Grumbling, Hae-il joins him, and he soon finds the bunny.
The next day, Kyung-seon meets with the president of the agency that represents the idol she’s prosecuting for drug distribution. He insists that the idol went to a party thrown by a chairman’s son where there were drugs, but that he didn’t distribute anything. He threatens to sue her for conducting a coercive investigation, but Kyung-seon laughs and offers to investigate the idol very thoroughly, which frightens him into backing down.
Dae-young takes Seung-ah, his new partner, to show her the areas he normally works. Their main jurisdiction is Chinatown where all the good restaurants are, but Dae-young orders Seung-ah never to go alone to Russia Street, right next door, because it’s a very scary place.
Of course, he says, he’s fine there because the bad guys are all afraid of him. Seung-ah thinks Russia Street sounds like a great time and looks forward to using her kickin’ leg soon.
Jang-ryong and his lackeys show up at the church to put the pressure on Father Lee again. As usual, Father Lee is polite and friendly, and as usual, Jang-ryong and his goons get violent, make a huge mess, and threaten to beat up everyone until Father Lee sells Chul-beom the land.
But this time, Hae-il witnesses the argument and offers to wipe the church floor with Jang-ryong’s face. Jang-ryong is willing to fight it out, but Father Lee begs Hae-il to stop. Dae-young and Seung-ah happen by as things are about to get physical, and Seung-ah’s issues a loud command for everyone to freeze.
She shows Jang-ryong her badge, and Sister Kim runs over to tattle that he harasses them daily. Jang-ryong roughly shoves Sister Kim aside and tells Seung-ah to learn to read a room, and know her place as a newbie. Instead of arguing, Seung-ah just hits Jang-ryong with a roundhouse jump-kick to the face, and he drops like a stone.
Hae-il asks Father Lee why Chul-beom’s thugs are coming to the church to throw fits, wishing he could ban them from the congregation, but Father Lee says that’s not really how church works. He gets angry at Hae-il for saying that they’ll never change, calling it their duty to wait until they change, even if they don’t.
Hae-il asks what good waiting does, and Father Lee tells him that everyone changes the world from where they stand. He says their blessings aren’t like passing out candy, but like medicine to warm cold hearts. He tells Hae-il that he didn’t lead him to the priesthood to challenge the world, but to use his pain to warm people’s hearts.
He says it’s Hae-il’s duty to abandon hatred and pain and save others. Hae-il argues that it’s his job to separate the good people from the ones who are less than human, and he storms out of the chapel.
Dae-young and Seung-ah take Jang-ryong and his goons to the station, but before they even finish their intake, Detective Lee tells Seung-ah to let them go. Both sides trade threats until the guys leave. Meanwhile, Chul-beom gets in trouble with Chief Nam because his guys made the situation with the church worse.
That night, Hae-il sits in his room drinking, still upset over his fight with Father Lee. He gets a text notifying him that the gangsters were released and he rushes out, not noticing the letter that someone slipped under his bedroom door.
Seung-ah finds the pictures circulating the internet of Dae-young in his sash and birthday suit after running afoul of the Exit Three Gang, which to her explains why he didn’t object when Jang-ryong was set free. Hae-il barges in wanting to know why the gangsters were released, and when Dae-young says it was just a small incident, Hae-il yells that threatening a priest and damaging church property is not small.
He says that this is why he’s never trusted the cops, and kicks the water cooler and breaks it on his way out. He and Dae-young scream at each other as he leaves (“Fix the water cooler before you go!” “No, I hate you!” “I hate you, too!!”).
As he’s settling into bed, Father Lee gets a call from someone asking him to meet them, right now. He leaves the church and gets in a car that’s waiting for him, and oh, this just seems very bad.
Over celebratory dinner with Dae-young, Seung-ah gets a bit drunk and says that everything at this new job sucks. She asks Dae-young why he lets the bad guys get away with everything, and he says that he’s like a firefighter, whose first job is to protect his own life. Seung-ah decides that Dae-young sucks too, and goes home.
Once he falls asleep, Hae-il dreams about his life as a soldier again, of his squadron breaking into a building and killing the people there. The nightmare wakes him, and he sits on his bed with his head in his hands.
In the morning, he finds instructions from Father Lee in the kitchen for his breakfast. Sung-kyu comes into the kitchen, worried because Father Lee didn’t lead dawn mass and he can’t reach him. They call the police station, where Dae-young answers the phone half asleep, but he sits up, wide awake, when he hears that Father Lee is missing.
Hae-il and Sung-kyu are in the chapel, still trying to call Father Lee, when Sister Kim comes in sobbing her heart out. Oh no. Hae-il goes to the station to identify Father Lee’s body, and it nearly breaks him to see his mentor’s fatal injuries from a fall from a cliff. Police are assuming it was a suicide.
Hae-il climbs to the spot where Father Lee supposedly jumped to look for clues, but he doesn’t find anything, either there or on Father Lee’s body. He goes to the police anyway, insisting that Father Lee wouldn’t commit suicide.
Dae-young tells Hae-il that the circumstantial evidence points to suicide, but Hae-il thinks that Chul-beom’s men may have murdered Father Lee. He insists that a man who served God and his fellow humans would never have killed himself, particularly since the Catholic church considers suicide a mortal sin.
Hae-il requests a formal investigation, including review of all CCTV from the church to the cliff and an autopsy. Detective Lee refuses to do all that just to make Hae-il feel better, and that they’d never get a warrant anyway.
Hae-il shows them pictures of bruises on Father Lee’s body that are identical on both sides, and this finally gets someone’s attention. Seung-ah says that when she studied bruises and lividity, she saw similar marks when a body was held tightly shortly before death. Dae-young shoots her a “shut up” glare, and she does with an annoyed eyeroll.
Hae-il agrees — he thinks that Father Lee was moved by someone while he was still alive. He adds that the climb to the top of the cliff was difficult even for him, who’s younger and healthier, but Father Lee had bad knees and could never have walked up there alone. Dae-young accuses Hae-il of manipulating the facts to match his theory, and Hae-il yelps that that’s why he wants an autopsy.
Chul-beom, meanwhile, is in a lot of trouble with his bosses. Chief Kim panics over Hae-il’s insistence on an autopsy, and Prosecutor Kang says that if they can’t fix this, they may have to cancel all their plans. Chul-beom promises to fix his mistake, saying that he has a plan but he needs their help.
When Hae-il returns to his room that evening, he finally notices the letter that was slipped under his door. It’s from Father Lee, and it says:
Hae-il, it seems like you’re drinking alone, so I’m writing instead of disturbing you. I’m sorry for getting angry with you earlier. I understand your pain better than anyone. I may be older, but I guess I haven’t grown spiritually at all. This is the first time I’m confessing this – I get angry as well, many times a day. But the reason I hold back is because I don’t want things to end with anger.
A priest’s anger should be used only to better the world and the people. But your anger is still only for yourself. One day you will anger for something. With that, I believe you’ll do something nobody else can. Forget about that – you’ll be making faces with a hangover tomorrow morning. I’ll make bean sprout soup. Enjoy it. I love you, Hae-il.
As Hae-il reads the letter, he can’t control his emotions anymore, and he breaks down crying.
Detective Lee gives Dae-young a list of instructions on how Father Lee’s case is to be handled, “in case things get messed up.” Dae-young thinks it’s wrong, and he’s suspicious that Detective Lee is suddenly giving him something important to do, but Detective Lee just tells him that this could finally get him promoted if he does well.
Later, Dae-young tells Hae-il that the prosecutor won’t allow an autopsy, so Hae-il demands the prosecutor’s name. Chief Nam comes in and tells Hae-il to stop pestering them, saying that they have to follow principles, but Hae-il growls, “Since when do you follow principles?”
They nearly get into a fistfight, but Seung-ah pulls Hae-il out of the room, yelling loudly that he’s going too far. But she slips something into his hand before going back into the station — Kyung-seon’s name.
Kyung-seon is unwilling to budge when Hae-il confronts her about allowing an autopsy, even after hearing his theories. She says condescendingly that hope is not truth, and Hae-il tells her she has no soul. He says that once he leaves, he’s calling the media, the diocese, and the Vatican about this.
She snaps at him to do whatever he wants, but when he forbids her to return to his church, Kyung-seon says he can’t do that. He says he has as much right to refuse her as she has to refuse warrants, then points an accusing finger at her and intones, “I strip you of your qualifications as a Catholic.” LOL.
He heads back to the church, where Sister Kim is scratching her head at her inability to reach the head of general affairs to ask what to do next. Sung-kyu comes skidding into the office to show Hae-il a newscast on his phone. In it, the anchor says that the police now believe that Father Lee killed himself because he was being investigated for racketeering, embezzling from the church’s offertory, and sexually molesting a female parishioner.
Kyung-seon sees the newscast, and even she thinks that “these guys” are going too far.
Dae-young, Seung-ah, and the entire team are watching the news when Hae-il walks into the station with a giant grin on his face. Dae-young walks over to ask what he’s smiling about, and Hae-il hits him with a right hook.
Awww, I had a feeling that Father Lee was too good for this world – from the beginning, he felt like a sacrificial lamb meant to spur Hae-il into making a personal change. Father Lee was a good man and a wonderful priest, but he wasn’t getting through to Hae-il about how to best serve the people, no matter what he said. Hopefully, while investigating Father Lee’s death and seeking vengeance (because I’m sure that’s what Hi plans to do), Hae-il will learn the lessons that Father Lee was trying to teach him about forgiveness and love.
I had assumed that Hae-il, Kyung-seon, and Dae-young would be working on a murder case together based on the teasers, but I kind of love that they’re all on opposing sides at the moment. Hae-il desperately wants to learn the truth about Father Lee’s death, Kyung-seon is obstructing the investigation (I think) because her crooked boss is telling her to and she’s more interested in making a name for herself than doing the right thing, and Dae-young is so desperate for a promotion after years of being told he’s incompetent that he’s willing, for now, to do something he vaguely feels is wrong. I’m sure that, once some enlightening facts are unturned, that Kyung-seon and Dae-young will see things Hae-il’s way – though I’m most worried about Kyung-seon. Dae-young at least seems like a good guy, if a little dim, but Kyung-seon is knowingly taking bribes.
I was still on the fence a bit about this show until that grenade went off in a room full of tiny children, but from that point on my heart was involved. It makes complete sense now why Hae-il has such a huge chip on his shoulder towards people who hurt those weaker than them, and such a problem with authority – an authority figure lied to him, causing him to kill a whole roomful of innocent children. I can’t blame him for feeling so much anger and lashing out like he does. Father Lee seems to have tried to help him by bringing him to the priesthood, hoping that a life of service would calm Hae-il, but it only seems to be making him worse.
I’m armchair diagnosing Hae-il when I say he has PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental health condition caused by a traumatic event) but based on what he did and the symptoms he’s displaying, I think it’s pretty safe to call it that. Frankly, he’s a lot healthier than I would be if I had done what he did, albeit accidentally, and I find it amazing that he manages to function as normally as he does. But Father Lee was right – Hae-il needs serious therapy, and soon, especially now that the one person who was capable of keeping him under control has been murdered.
Having said all that, one of the things I like most about The Fiery Priest so far is that, despite Father Lee’s murder and Hae-il’s traumatic past, the show doesn’t forget that it’s also a comedy. It makes interesting choices like giving Hae-il a ridiculously inflated sense of self-importance (he really thinks he can just declare someone no longer Catholic, ha), and having baddie Chul-beom be scary but also a bit prone to bad decisions. Even the cute little touches such as Sister Kim’s inability to shut her freaking mouth, and the music that chirps “honey, honey!” every time Honey Lee’s character is struck speechless keep the show nicely lighthearted in a way that balanced out the dark moments well. I wasn’t sure what “extreme investigative comedy” was supposed to mean, but now that I get a sense of it, I find I like it quite a lot.
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