Mystic Pop-up Bar: Episode 4
Our philanthropic otherwordly trio think they’ve found a quick and easy way to nab another point, but the situation becomes more personal than they expected. A life is at stake, and it’s up to them to convince the powers that be to have mercy. We also learn a bit more about one of the three, leading to some very interesting potential connections.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
A customer gets physical with Kang-bae for not processing a return without a receipt, but when he raises an arm to hit Kang-bae, a strong hand stops him. Kang-bae is shocked to see Yeo-rin, the former bodyguard, and she’s equally shocked to see him.
Yeo-rin lowers the customer’s hand (ha, love the machine sounds — she’s so strong!). Kang-bae’s friend Jin-dong runs up to say that the item the man wants to return is only sold online… he apparently bought it at a discount and is trying to return it for full price. Yeo-rin offers to physically remove the customer from the premises, but he goes meekly on his own.
Yeo-rin assumes that Kang-bae is targeting the store like he targeted the hotel chairman she used to work for, so she tries to take him to security. But this time Wol-joo intervenes, so Yeo-rin demands to know why a supermarket employee would be taking down corporate corruption. Wol-joo grumbles that they’re trying to meet a quota, and Yeo-rin asks if they’re with the NIS or something.
Wol-joo says vaguely that they work on a larger scale, and she calls out to a “Mr. Smith”… HAHAHA, it’s that one guy who’s in every drama when they need a white English-speaking actor (what is that guy’s name, anyway?).
He yells at Wol-joo in English that she’s exposed herself and him, but she argues that it’s better for Yeo-rin to learn the truth than to speculate. Mr. Smith apologizes to Yeo-rin for letting her get involved, and when Yeo-rin says he looks familiar, Wol-joo shows her an article naming him the new director of the CIA.
They let Yeo-rin assume that they’re all CIA secret agents. As soon as she’s gone, Mr. Smith speaks to Kang-bae in perfect Korean, then shakes his head to reveal that it’s just Manager Gwi in disguise again, hee.
While shopping for groceries, Wol-joo takes all the noodles in the store. An older lady asks for one bag, but Wol-joo says haughtily that she needs them all. The lady tries to sneak a bag out of her cart while she’s not looking, but Wol-joo catches her and accuses her of stealing.
Wol-joo is ready to throw down over the noodles, but the lady is aghast that such a young woman would try to fight her. She flatters the 500-plus-year-old Wol-joo into complacency by complimenting her beauty, and soon the two are fast friends.
The lady, whose name is Jeom-rae, tells Wol-joo that she uses these noodles in her grandson’s favorite soup. She offers to fix Wol-joo up with her grandson, but he turns out to be Jin-dong, Kang-bae’s work friend, and Wol-joo decides she urgently needs to be anywhere else, hee.
Mystic Pop-up Bar is closed while Wol-joo and Manager Gwi get ready for the field day. Admiring the signs Manager Gwi is making, Wol-joo asks what he was in a previous life, assuming he was highly educated, but he can’t seem to remember.
Kang-bae can’t stop thinking about Yeo-rin’s resistance to his ability. He follows her at a respectful distance after work, wondering why she’s not susceptible to his touch. She suddenly turns and asks why he’s following her, but Kang-bae insists he’s just going in the same direction.
He asks if she really has no feelings towards him, which she understandably misinterprets. She says she feels awkwardness, annoyance, discomfort, and frustration for him, and that she wishes he’d stay away from her.
Kang-bae hurries to Mystic Pop-up Bar, but when he bursts through the door, he finds himself in a sunny field, at some kind of parade of the dead. Wol-joo and Manager Gwi are working a food cart, and Manager Gwi explains that this is the Annual Dream World Lottery Battle.
To put it simply, souls compete in field day races, and the winner gets to visit a descendant in their dreams and give them the winning lottery numbers. Wol-joo tells Kang-bae that all of the souls here are worried about their descendants, so escorting the winner to their descendant’s dream automatically counts as a point for her.
A few souls sit at a table and talk about how much their descendants need to win the lottery. One soul in particular, SEOK-PAN (cameo by Jung Eun-pyo) is determined to win this year and save his family from generations of poverty. Just as Kang-bae delivers some snacks to their table, Seok-pan bellows his grandson’s name – Jin-dong.
Manager Gwi calls Kang-bae back to the cart to introduce him to Chief Yeom. It makes Kang-bae nervous to be so close to the personification of Death, but Chief Yeom is friendly and tells him that he helped with Landlady Andong’s case.
Back in the living realm, Jin-dong and his grandmother Jeom-rae watch dramas while eating dinner. Jin-dong offers Jeom-rae the savings account he’s been building up to pay for back surgery she needs, but she refuses to take his money and tells him to get use it to married. She says her back pain isn’t that bad, and the surgery wouldn’t help much at her age.
The lottery battle starts with a quiz competition, then continues with an obstacle footrace. Seok-pan does well in the race, but a nobleman named DO-YOUNG (cameo by Woo Hyun) openly cheats. Seok-pan also aces the limbo competition, but again Do-young cheats when nobody is looking.
Eventually it’s down to just the two of them, and they face each other in a one-legged chicken fight (this couldn’t possibly be more hilarious!). Do-young cheats again, poking Seok-pan in the butt with his hand then switching legs and kicking Seok-pan in the face. But Seok-pan pulls out his secret weapon, the hurricane windmill technique, which sends him spinning high into the air then down to knock Do-young to the ground. He won!
Seok-pan visits Jin-dong in a dream, excitedly showing him the winning lottery numbers one at a time. Meanwhile, it’s back to work as usual for Chief Yeom, who peruses the list of souls he’s supposed to reap tomorrow. Wol-joo and the others return from helping Seok-pan with his dream, and Wol-joo gets nosy and snatches the list… and oh no, Jin-dong’s name is on it.
Wol-joo is upset because if Jin-dong dies instead of winning the lottery, she doesn’t get her point for helping Seok-pan. Kang-bae and Seok-pan are more worried about Jin-dong himself, but Chief Yeom says kindly that he can’t change the list.
Seok-pan begs so pitifully that Chief Yeom relents and gives them some advice. He says that in order to change a persons’ destiny, you have to change the deity’s mind. But the only way to do that is with a great deed that touches even the deity’s heart.
Unfortunately, Seok-pan hasn’t done anything that meets the criteria, but Chief Yeom says that he can purchase good deeds from another soul with something of great value. Seok-pan despairs that he has nothing of great value, but Kang-bae points out that he has the winning lottery numbers.
Chief Yeom tells them that they have to buy the good deeds from someone connected to Jin-dong’s family. Wol-joo is ready to give up, since she’s on a deadline and can’t afford to spend a lot of time on this. But Seok-pan wails that he needs her help since he’s weakening and has to go back to the Realm of the Dead. He sobs that he’ll do anything for Jin-dong, even go to hell.
It reminds Wol-joo of how her own mother gave up her life to save her, so she grouchily agrees to help Jin-dong. Chief Yeom tells her that Jin-dong will die in an accident at Kapeul Mart at 11:03 a.m., so she has to bring the good deeds before then.
The Mystic Pop-up Bar trio head to Afterlife City Hall to look at Jin-dong’s family register and the good deeds records. Luckily the records have all been recently computerized (by a new employee who bears a striking resemblance to Steve Jobs, and he’s even eating an apple in case we missed the joke).
They quickly locate a friend of Jeom-rae’s named KKEUT-SOON (cameo by Lee Joo-shil), who’s done so many good deeds that she’ll probably be a billionaire in her next life. Kkeut-soon volunteers at the Afterlife Orphanage, taking care of children who die before their parents. She’s busy, so while they wait, Wol-joo and the others make lunch for the children.
Eventually Kkeut-soon is free to talk to Wol-joo, and naturally, she’s more than willing to give Wol-joo her good deeds if it will help her old friend Jeom-rae. Wol-joo gives her the lottery numbers, and Kkeut-soon hands over a small green pouch containing her good deeds.
In the morning, Jin-dong excitedly writes down the lottery numbers that Seok-pan gave him. The Mystic Pop-up Bar trio prepare to head back to the Living Realm, but cinnamon roll Kang-bae says he’s worried about the orphan children. Manager Gwi and Wol-joo assure him that they’ll be reunited with their families once their parents die.
Kang-bae sighs with relief. He says it’s the opposite in the living world, where kids in orphanages will never see their parents again. He tells Manager Gwi and Wol-joo that he knows, because he was one of them.
They don’t notice that the nobleman who lost the Lottery Battle, Do-young, is lurking nearby. He sneaks up to Wol-joo and steals the pouch of good deeds from her pocket, and Manager Gwi chases after him. Kang-bae tries to help, but Wol-joo stops him, saying that they need to go back and protect Jin-dong.
Their plan is for Kang-bae to watch over Jin-dong inside the store, while Wol-joo blocks Chief Yeom from entering the building until Manager Gwi brings back the good deeds. Kang-bae follows Jin-dong around, shielding him from any possible injury, but soon there are only ten minutes left and Manager Gwi still hasn’t returned with the good deeds.
Chief Yeom arrives at Kapeul Mart to collect Jin-dong’s soul, though he doesn’t look happy about it. He easily tricks Wol-joo and slips into the warehouse behind the store, where Kang-bae is hovering nervously around Jin-dong as he handles some backstock. Suddenly a full cart moves on its own and begins barreling down on Jin-dong.
Wol-joo sees Chief Yeom using otherwordly energy to push the cart towards Jin-dong. She screams, alerting Kang-bae, who tackles Jin-dong out of the way at the same time as Wol-joo jumps on Chief Yeom. Kang-bae saves Jin-dong’s life but knocks him unconscious, and when he pats his cheeks to wake him up, Jin-dong starts telling him all about all his women problems, HA.
Meanwhile, Wol-joo sits on Chief Yeom to stop him from taking Jin-dong’s soul. Thankfully Manager Gwi has caught up to Do-young and retrieved the pouch of good deeds, but the next ferry to the Living Realm isn’t for two hours. He can’t afford to wait, so he just dives into the water and starts swimming
At 11:04, one minute past Jin-dong’s predicted time of death, Wol-joo releases Chief Yeom. But he just crosses out accidental death next to Jin-dong’s name and writes in heart attack, then winds up for the death blow. Wol-joo blocks him so he tries again, but this time his powerful energy blast only produces a pitiful spark.
It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Yeo-rin walks into the warehouse just then. Wol-joo and Kang-bae both hide from her, but she can’t see Chief Yeom and walks right through him. The contact seriously affects Chief Yeom, who feels suddenly sick to his stomach.
Wol-joo continues blocking Chief Yeom from killing Jin-dong, and WHEW, Manager Gwi finally arrives, soaking wet. He gets the full backlit slow-walk hero treatment, and Wol-joo stares as if she’s seeing him for the first time. He hands over Kkeut-soon’s good deeds to Chief Yeom, who places the pouch on his tablet, and the pouch and Jin-dong’s death file both dissipate into thin air.
Jin-dong’s grandmother Jeom-rae takes a small break from housework and falls asleep on the couch. She’s visited by Kkeut-soon, who notes how stiff and sore Jeom-rae’s bad back makes her. The friends talk about the old times for a bit, then Jeom-rae grows tired and falls asleep in Kkeut-soon’s lap.
Kkeut-soon tells Jeom-rae to live healthy and well until it’s time for them to be reunited. She takes a small glowing bead from a pouch and rubs it into Jeom-rae’s back, and a curious Wol-joo shows herself to ask about it. Kkeut-soon says that she bought a cure for Jeom-rae’s back with the lottery numbers Wol-joo gave her for her good deeds.
Wol-joo breaks the fourth wall, looking directly into the camera to tell us that people need to be nice to each other and help each other. If we do, she says, those good deeds will come back around and benefit us.
When Jin-dong arrives home from work, Jeom-rae wakes from her peaceful dream. She jumps up to cook for him as he checks the lottery numbers (which are now no good, since they were used as currency) and grumbles that his ancestors were no help.
He runs to the kitchen to lift a heavy container of kimchi for his grandmother, but she realizes that her back doesn’t hurt anymore. They have a little dance party to celebrate, just as happy with a cured back as they would have been with winning lottery numbers.
Back at Mystic Pop-up Bar, Wol-joo fusses at Manager Gwi to get to work instead of playing games on his phone. She gives him a huge bowl full of dried anchovies to clean, and he complains that if he hadn’t been reassigned to her he’d be the chief of the Afterlife Police Force by now. But he gets to work, even singing a silly made-up song about the “poop of love,” hee.
Kang-bae comes in from sweeping and collapses, so Wol-joo takes him home. Chief Yeom shows up and tells Manager Gwi that it’s probably because Kang-bae is the only person who’s been to the Afterlife realm and come back. He relays Seok-pan’s thanks and the news that Do-young has been punished.
He sighs at the sight of a former detective squad chief who used to hunt evil spirits reduced to cleaning anchovy poop. He says the police chief has been considering reinstating Manager Gwi, but Manager Gwi says it’s too soon. Chief Yeom gets a call from the chief about an evil spirit in the area right now, and he makes Manager Gwi go with him to fight it.
Okay, Manager Gwi is nothing short of a total badass. He chases the evil spirit on foot until it turns to fight him, but he’s so quick and nimble that it can’t land a blow. Manager Gwi kicks the spirit around a little, then summons a fiery halberd out of thin air. He uses the halberd to slice the evil spirit in half, and as the spirit disperses, it leaves behind a fist-sized glowing bead.
Wol-joo gets Kang-bae home and tucked into bed. When she stands to leave, he grabs her hand and pleads in his sleep, “Don’t go.” It reminds Wol-joo of how she would sit by the crown prince’s bedside while he slept, and once when she was ready to go, he had done the same thing.
Another flashback to the past shows the crown prince, covered in blood and wearily dragging the point of his sword in the dirt. He trudges to the hilltop where the Sacred Tree stands, and with tears in his eyes, he sobs, “I could not save you after all.” He sinks to his knees, wailing, and he vows, “If there is a next life, I will be sure to find you. Then, even if I have to sacrifice my soul, I will protect you.”
Hmmm, lots of very interesting stuff to sift through in this episode. First of all, Manager Gwi is turning out to be a lot more complicated and to have a much more interesting past than I anticipated. He’s clearly an accomplished warrior and even used to be on the Afterlife Police Force. It was amazing watching him fight, but what happened that he ended up as Wol-joo’s Onion Boy, and why can’t he remember his past life?
It was also very timely that we saw that flashback to Wol-joo’s crown prince, and now I’m even more convinced that the two were in love. The prince fought his way to the tree where Wol-joo died, and he looked pretty devastated as he made his vow to find and protect someone in the next life. Could Manager Gwi be the crown prince? It would explain his fighting ability and his ever-more-apparent feelings for Wol-joo, though not his memory loss. But it would also be sad if Wol-joo and her prince have been together all this time and just not known it.
And what the heck is up with Yeo-rin? Apparently, she’s not only completely impervious to Jin-dong’s ability. Just her presence pretty much nullified Chief Yeom’s death blast, and he was sickened when she walked through him. There’s absolutely something Not Normal about Yeo-rin, and I can’t help but wonder if it also contributes to her disproportionate strength. I have a few vague theories along the lines of Kang-bae and Yeo-rin somehow being polar power opposites, but at this point I have no clue how they might be connected… maybe Yeo-rin is also an orphan, and the answer lies with her and Kang-bae’s unknown parents?
Speaking of which, I’m fascinated by the interesting concept of afterlife orphans who need to be cared for until their parents pass away and join them. As Kang-bae said, it’s the exact opposite of the situation in the living realm. It was so bittersweet to see Kang-bae understand that orphans in the afterlife have the happiness of reunion to look forward to, whereas living world orphans like him face a life that’s missing something important. I wonder if Kang-bae being an orphan has anything to do with his ability, or if it’s just one of the many reason he longs for a real human connection.
As for this episode in particular, I think it was my favorite so far. The Dream World Lottery Battle was hysterically funny — I honestly think I could have watched all the dead ajusshis competing in silly games all day long. I was amused by the concept of ancestors fighting it out for the chance to help their descendants, which is just another example of how simple but clever the storytelling is in Mystic Pop-up Bar. None of the people that the trio have helped have a complicated problem, and this was the first time there were life-and-death stakes involved, but the vignettes are so heartwarming that I’ve shed at least a few tears during each episode. It helps that the awesome cameos endear the characters to us quickly, so we get very invested in their struggles.
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