Mystic Pop-up Bar: Episode 3
Not every grudge is life or death…some people have very ordinary dreams. But those ordinary dreams are just as important as the world-changing ones for the dreamers. Life isn’t always fair, but at least people should be able to count on their hard work and dedication to get along in the world, and when they can’t, sometimes a little otherworldly magic can.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Hundreds of years ago, Wol-joo began her punishment by drawing water from the Afterlife. Chief Yeom had greeted her and asked why she needed so much water, so she’d explained that when mortals drink the water, their souls go to the Dream World for a while.
She’d said she was going to settle people’s grudges in the Dream World. Chief Yeom had asked if she would be okay settling the grudges of the people that drove her to kill herself, but Wol-joo said she didn’t have a choice. She’d asked who he was, and he’d said that he’s Death, and that he’d been ordered to watch over her in the Living Realm.
He had started to tell Wol-joo that she could bow out if it got too hard, but she’d interrupted. She’d said firmly, “I’ll succeed no matter what. I’ll lie to them, scam them, or use another human if that’s what it takes.”
In the present, Kang-bae imagines how great it will be to ride a crowded subway once Wol-joo takes his “ability” away. Manager Gwi tells him to forget the subway and go to a sauna, and he scratches Kang-bae’s back to show him how good it feels to get scrubbed until Wol-joo yells at them to knock it off or people will think they’re perverts, hee.
She reminds Kang-bae that he’s supposed to be bringing in people with grudges, so he hands out cards for Mystic Pop-up Bar to the customers at work who unload on him. His friend Jin-dong notices and asks why he’s only giving cards to depressed people, and Kang-bae says innocently that they’re easier to take advantage of.
Many of the people Kang-bae gave cards do show up at Mystic Pop-up Bar, but kicks them all out for having the wrong kinds of problems. She kicks Kang-bae out, too, and Manager Gwi joins him and tells him not to let Wol-joo push him around. Kang-bae says it’s difficult when she killed 100,000 people, but Manager Gwi tells him not to believe everything Wol-joo says.
HAHA, Manager Gwi seems to have his own grudges regarding Wol-joo’s bossiness, as he rattles on and on about how she orders him around but never does anything herself. He says he’s going to go give her a piece of his mind… only to jump obediently when she barks at him to get back to work, ha.
Wol-joo explains to Kang-bae that the people he’s been sending in don’t have grudges, because a grudge is something a person can’t settle on their own. He’s sending in people with weight and intimacy issues, which is something those people can fix themselves.
She says the people she helps also can’t desire something out of greed, like the woman whose husband “only” sleeps with her five days a week instead of seven. Most importantly, Wol-joo says, the people must be desperate enough to kill, or can’t die because of their grudge.
The following day, a young man asks to speak to Human Resources in a hotel, but he’s roughly turned away. He sees a chance when CHAIRMAN CHOI (cameo by Yoo Sung-joo) arrives to work, and he asks the chairman why he didn’t get hired. But Chairman Choi’s bodyguard just tosses him to the ground as Chairman Choi ignores him.
Inside, the bodyguard apologizes for not seeing the guy sooner. Chairman Choi says it’s the security men’s fault, speaking about them like they’re worthless. He tells his bodyguard that she’s worth the money he pays for her, but she looks unsettled.
While at the grocery store, Manager Gwi tells Wol-joo to lighten up on Kang-bae. They run into Mi-ran, and Wol-joo gets offended when Mi-ran assumes Manager Gwi is her husband. Manager Gwi notices that Mi-ran is out of samples, and she says the mothers are cooking for their children who are going through the hiring season.
Wol-joo gets a good idea and moves the pojangmacha to Noryangjin, in the hopes of attracting someone who is carrying around a grudge after being rejected for a job. Right on cue, the young man from earlier enters Mystic Pop-up Bar right after declining a call from his girlfriend. His name is BYUNG-JAE (cameo by Oh Kyung-joo), and he barely starts eating his stir-fried octopus before bursting into tears.
At Wol-joo’s urging, Kang-bae puts an encouraging hand on Byung-jae’s arm, and Byung-jae is compelled to tell them his story. He says he wanted to eat spicy octopus with his girlfriend on their anniversary. But he’s spent the last several years studying to get a job, so he hasn’t much time to work — he’s several months behind on his rent and only has a few dollars to his name.
Outside the restaurant, he’d faked a stomachache to avoid telling Yu-mi that he couldn’t afford to buy dinner. They’d run into an old classmate of Byung-jae’s who’d invited them to eat together, but Yu-mi seemed to know what was up and had lied that they’d already eaten.
The couple ended up at a much cheaper restaurant, though Yu-mi seemed genuinely happy just to be with Byung-jae. After dinner they’d walked past a “love hotel” and Yu-mi had pretended to be so tired she needed to rest right now (RAWR). But Byung-jae had been unable to afford a room and pulled her away, to her disappointment.
Byung-jae confesses to the Mystic Pop-up Bar trio that he feels back for Yu-mi because she’s always self-conscious with him. He’s applied for jobs at Sangil Hotel for three years in a row, certain that it’s his ticket to a comfortable life with a house and family, but it’s very competitive. He says that he aced the written test and felt great about his interview, but he was still rejected.
Even Yu-mi’s mother, who likes him a lot personally, asked Byung-jae to let Yu-mi go since it’s becoming clear he hasn’t got a stable future. He’d taken Yu-mi to dinner and told her that he didn’t get the job again, and he’d said he was tired of always putting everything off until later because of money.
He’d broken up with Yu-mi over her objections, saying that being with her makes him feel pathetic and useless. On his way home he’d run into his landlord, who told him that Yu-mi had come by earlier and paid his back rent and the next month in advance. This made Byung-jae feel even worse, and he’d ugly-cried himself to sleep.
Awww, Byung-jae’s story makes Manager Gwi weepy, making Kang-bae guess that he’s been hurt by love, but Manager Gwi says he’s thinking about “a friend,” ha. Wol-joo asks Byung-jae if he wants to get back together with Yu-mi, but he says he wants to know why he didn’t get the job, so he knows what to fix next time around.
Wol-joo gives him a glass of her ssanggapju, which sends Byung-jae right into the Dream World. The trio find themselves in his dream, in the middle of the job interview at Sangil Hotel. HAHA, Kang-bae is alarmed to find himself cast as another job candidate, with Wol-joo and Manager Gwi both posing as interviewers.
The candidates are instructed to speak English, and Kang-bae does a decent job, but Byung-jae’s English is excellent. The third guy just introduces himself, rolling his eyes like he’d rather be anywhere else, but he’s inexplicably praised by Chairman Choi. LOL, Wol-joo and Manager Gwi stare at Chairman Choi like he has three heads.
Byung-jae continues to be impressive, displaying his vast knowledge of the hospitality business in general and Sangil Hotel in particular. The third candidate just says the food is good, and again Chairman Choi shows blatant favoritism towards him.
After the interview, Kang-bae tells Wol-joo and Manager Gwi that he heard other candidates saying that the interview is rigged — their parents got them the jobs. They look deeper, this time at Byung-jae’s confrontation with Chairman Choi outside the lobby. They overhear more employees saying that you can only get a job at the hotel if you have good connections, and Chairman Choi sneering that Byung-jae should blame his parents for being born a failure.
All this reminds Wol-joo of something that happened while she was still alive… after finding her home burned and her mother murdered in her place, young Wol-joo had gone to beg the governor for help finding the murderer. The governor (also played by Yoo Sung-joo) had laughed in her face and said people aren’t born equal, angry that his sleep was deserved for a “mere shaman.”
He had slapped Wol-joo to the ground and snarled that she has nobody to blame but her lowborn ancestors. His men had thrown Wol-joo out of his house, and she remembers him laughing uproariously as the gates slammed shut.
Wol-joo wakes Byung-jae and shows him a social media post by the rude candidate, who got the job at Sangil Hotel because his father is an assemblyman and friends with Chairman Choi. Byung-jae is stunned to learn that he never had a chance, and for a reason he can’t control. He leaves the pojangmacha, and Wol-joo tells Manager Gwi and Kang-bae to be ready to go to Sangil Hotel tomorrow — she’s going to deal with Chairman Choi herself.
Meanwhile, Chairman Choi’s personal bodyguard, YEO-RIN (Jung Da-eun) asks to be reassigned. She complains that Chairman Choi is a criminal and she feels like she should be protecting his victims, but her boss tells her it’s not her place to judge her clients but to suck it up and do her job.
She’s back at work when Wol-joo, in a sexy Chinese-style dress, arrives with drinks while Chairman Choi is eating his lunch. Chairman Choi goes slack-jawed and drops his spoon, and when Wol-joo picks it up, she actually body-rolls her way back up, LOL. She easily seduces him into drinking the ssanggapju.
At the hotel, Kang-bae poses as a bodyguard with another Chairman Choi who turns out to be Manager Gwi in disguise. They let themselves into Chairman Choi’s office where Manager Gwi shakes off the disguise.
Yeo-rim alerts Chairman Choi that someone suspicious is in the building and may be looking for the secret VIP list. When he gets to his office, it’s been ransacked, but he gets a book down from a high shelf and confirms that the USB holding the list is still there. He tells Yeo-rim to confirm that it hasn’t been switched, but it’s Wol-joo who steps forward — heh, she’s in Chairman Choi’s dream.
She tries to see the title of the book, but everything begins shaking as someone tries to wake up Chairman Choi. Wol-joo is kicked out of the dream and finds Yeo-rim shaking Chairman Choi, and the two almost get into a fight. Chairman Choi wakes and Wol-joo takes off, calling Manager Gwi and Kang-bae to tell them that the USB is in a book.
HA, they’re terrible at this, but eventually Manager Gwi finds the book with the USB. Moments later, Yeo-rim and Chairman Choi burst in with several security guards, but they only see Manager Gwi. He manages to fight them off and escape with Chairman Choi and the guards on his tail. Yeo-rim is the last left in the room and she spots Kang-bae’s reflection in a glass bookshelf.
She pretends to leave, then crashes back in and surprises Kang-bae. She orders him to give back the USB, but he tries to run, only to end up on the floor with Yeo-rim looming over him. He attempts to use his ability as a weapon, pulling her down into his arms and telling her soothingly to unload all her problems.
Except Yeo-rim doesn’t seem affected — she calls him crazy and flips him onto his stomach, then fishes the USB out of his back pants pocket (lucky girl). Taking a risk, Kang-bae tells Yeo-rim that the USB is evidence proving that Chairman Choi hires based on connections, and that they want to expose him. Yeo-rim says she’s just doing her job, but Kang-bae asks if her job is to protect a client who ruins lives.
Yeo-rim wavers, knowing that Kang-bae is right and that Chairman Choi is crooked and hurts good people. Kang-bae begs her to help him make things right, so she lets him up. She gives Kang-bae the USB, then tosses him her security pass so that he can escape by the employee stairwell.
They turn the evidence in to the police, creating a media stir about the unfair hiring practices. Chairman Choi meets with his cronies and says they need to stick together. The grandfather of one of his hires calls a reporter contact and tells him to spin this as a case of sour grapes by a rejected candidate, and the men celebrate their superiority… for the hidden camera that’s been installed atop the chandelier.
In the parking lot, Kang-bae uploads the video to an email and sends it off. Minutes later, a lackey notifies Chairman Choi that he and his buddies are on the news. HAHAHA oops… the video of them discussing their illegal doings is being played on television.
Not long after their arrest warrants are issued, Byung-jae gets a call from Sangil Hotel. The caller apologizes for the unfair way he was treated, and says that they’ve reviewed his interview and would like to offer him a position, effective immediately. Byung-jae and Yu-mi get back together, and he finally gets to take her for spicy octopus at a nice restaurant.
The Mystic Pop-up Bar trio watch from outside, and Kang-bae admits that he’s jealous that Byung-jae and Yu-mi can connect with each other just by holding hands. Manager Gwi says that people open up to Kang-bae just with a touch, but Wol-joo teases that Kang-bae means he wants to hold hands with a woman. Hee, Manager Gwi teases Kang-bae and chases him down the street, trying to hold hands with him.
Wol-joo thinks to herself as she watches Byung-jae and Yu-mi together: “When you run a race, you either come in first, second, or last. But it’s important to have a fair start. But you suffered because of those who used money and power to get a head start. I bet you think it’s all over now that you got a job, but this is only the beginning. I hope you survive in this jungle. You and your girlfriend should support each other… or not. Whatever.” HA, Wol-joo, never change.
The trio are in good moods as they return to the pojangmacha, where the sign has ticked to 99,993 people helped. Kang-bae finds Yeo-rim’s security pass still in his pocket and wonders how he can return it. He tells Wol-joo and Manager Gwi that Yeo-rim didn’t react when he touched her, and pfft, he blushes a little when he remembers her touching his butt.
Wol-joo says that Yeo-rim probably just doesn’t have anything to worry about, but we switch to her having drinks with Mi-ran, who happens to be her friend. She’s got plenty of worries, particularly the fact that she was caught and fired for helping Kang-bae and has been blacklisted as a bodyguard.
Mi-ran asks if the guy was handsome, but Yeo-rim says he was common looking (is she blind??) and clumsy. She insists he’s not her type, but Mi-ran asks how she knows her type when she’s never dated. Yeo-rim has no idea how to make a living if she can’t be a bodyguard.
Soon after, Kang-bae is at work in customer service at Kapeul Mart. A customer gets physically aggressive when Kang-bae won’t process a return without a receipt, and he raises a hand to hit Kang-bae. But a hand stops him — HAHA, it’s Yeo-rim, who works in security at the store now. She and Kang-bae recognize each other at the same time, and their mouths fall open in shock.
Am I the only one that’s starting to see little sparks of attraction between certain characters? I mean, besides the absolutely adorable bromance between Manager Gwi and Kang-bae. I definitely see Yeo-rim as a possible loveline for Kang-bae, especially since she’s apparently immune to his ability. I really, really like her as a potential love interest for our sweet boy Kang-bae…on the surface, she seems to be a complete mismatch with her hard shell and her rigid demeanor, but I have a feeling they’d fit together quite well.
Plus, Yeo-rim doesn’t seem to be affected by Kang-bae’s ability despite being a living human, when supposedly only supernatural beings are immune. This excites me for a few reasons… one, because she obviously has a story of her own. Two, because Kang-bae could have a normal relationship for the first time ever. And three, because maybe if he’s got one person he can truly be himself with, Kang-bae might choose not to have Wol-joo nullify his ability when this is all over so he can keep helping people.
But sometimes, I also think I see something between Wol-joo and Manager Gwi, or at least some interest on Manager Gwi’s side. He’s a big squishy ball of emotions and has cried over love more than once, and although he often fusses at Wol-joo, he always caves in to her demands pretty easily. I wouldn’t be surprised if Papa Cinnamon Roll (as opposed to Baby Cinnamon Roll Kang-bae) has more than a passing crush on his charge. I still believe that Wol-joo is in this position in large part because of her crown prince (I have no idea how he’s involved, but I just feel it in my soul that he is) and that she’s too focused on completing her punishment to notice anything or anyone else. But Wol-joo is a human first and foremost, with human feelings, and sooner or later I think that will catch up to her in one way or another.
One thing I’m really enjoying about Mystic Pop-up Bar (among the many, many enjoyable things it offers) is how the grudges Wol-joo handles are nicely varied in subject and tone. Mi-ran was being harassed to the point that she wanted to kill herself, which was pretty serious, but then Landlady Andong’s dying wish was simply to reunite the father and daughter that were separated by her careless actions. Now we have Byung-jae, who only wants to get a good job and marry the woman he loves… a simple and even common wish, but one that led to some great wrongs being righted. A peek into the next episode shows that it continues with the show’s pattern of offering a short yet satisfying foray into the lives of ordinary people. Not every grudge has to be life or death, and I love that I can count on experiencing lots of little fulfilling stories as the show goes on.
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