Tale of the Nine Tailed: Episode 3
Our leads continue investigating the strange deaths that have taken place on the island and find that our heroine may be more linked to the island than they thought. Meanwhile, our resident evil schemer teams up with a local to enact his newest diabolical plot. If all goes according to plan, his older brother’s painful past will come back to bite him and, better yet, destroy him.
EPISODE 3: “The dragon king’s secret”
We back up 12 hours to one of the fishermen desperately chugging any water he can find. He resorts to drinking out of the toilet, but he suddenly begins struggling and drowns. Rang plucks a straw doll marked with the character for “death” and the man’s photo out of the sea.
Later, Jia examines the body. Adding to the mysteriousness of him drowning in the toilet is the fact that he was on the boat that capsized with Pyeong-hee’s father. Yeon comes in and complains of a rotten-fish smell, finding a clump of hair gripped in the man’s hand. Disgusted, he passes it to Jia and notes it smells kind of like Pyeong-hee’s blanket.
Pyeong-hee sits by the water and pricks her finger, drops of blood landing on two of those straw death figures and a photo of the three survivors from the capsized boat.
When Jia shows Yeon an article about the survivors, he speculates they’ll all die. Jia drags him along to stop it. At his house, the hammer wielder hears Pyeong-hee’s father call out to him and screams at the headless apparition before him.
The other fisherman desperately stuffs himself with food and begins to choke. Yeon busts into his house and wrenches the knife he grabbed away from him. Yeon threatens to break his fingers one by one if he doesn’t tell him what happened on that boat.
The man explains that a storm hit, and Pyeong-hee’s father drowned. The other three were floating in the sea, but he can’t remember what happened after that. Before Yeon can start breaking fingers, Jia takes over, guessing that it was terrible waiting on that raft for 28 days to be rescued.
As she details what must’ve happened, we flash back to the men near death on that raft. They’d been starving and dehydrated. Pyeong-hee’s father tried to encourage them to live, and they turned toward him with a dangerous gleam in their eyes. Oh, they ate him, didn’t they?
Jia and Yeon come to that same conclusion, and the man shakes and repeatedly says he didn’t do it. Except the flashback shows us he and the others did indeed do it. He laughs in a deranged way and points his knife at Jia, calling her “meat.”
Yeon shoves him away and stands between him and Jia. Abruptly, the man begins choking and drops to the ground, dead. Jia pulls his hand away from his mouth – there’s a clump of hair. Elsewhere, Rang approaches Pyeong-hee and asks how she intends to repay him.
At the Afterlife Immigration Office, Taluipa angrily demands to know who’s messing with her list. A warning flashes on her ancient computer, showing an unlisted death. And it’s not the first time this has happened.
On the island, Jia checks out the final survivor’s home and notices a folk painting that creeps her out. (The other survivors had that same painting too.) Yeon comes in, munching on snacks. Jia takes issue with his blasé treatment of death, but he’s too conditioned to it to care.
Jia reasons he must’ve experienced at least one death that affected him. Yeon stares at her face and thinks of Ah-eum dying in his arms. Jia pulls him out of his thoughts to have him look at the painting of the Dragon King.
Yeon comments it doesn’t resemble him at all; they took a “leadership seminar” together. Pfft. Back on topic, Jia points out that the dragon in this painting is missing its feet. Yeon notes that makes it a snake. An Imuoogi (legendary serpent), Jia supplies.
Rang makes his way to a well bound in rope. The shaman greets him respectfully and tells him the revered serpent is slumbering inside. Rang heard it died after fighting Yeon, and “that human girl” died too. The shaman says the serpent left “a part of his body” with her family before taking the girl’s body.
It sounds like the shaman has a female sacrifice prepared. While Rang takes care of Yeon, he tells her to pick primroses from the graveyard that “grew from the deceased’s blood and flesh.” The shaman asks one question: are he and Yeon biological siblings?
Rang replies they’re half-siblings. She clarifies that Yeon won’t survive if this creature awakens. Why help his brother’s enemy?
Yeon orders Jia to leave the island immediately, warning her she could die. Jia doesn’t see why he cares about saving her when he’s made it clear he’s not interested in saving people. And she isn’t about to leave without answers about her parents.
At the well, Rang thinks the shaman is smart for not trusting him and asks if she’s familiar with what Yeon was like as a god. She recites that he was the harshest of the four gods and ensured no one exploited his domain.
Rang reminisces about Yeon giving him the bigger half when they’d share an apple. “He cut into my stomach with that kind hand of his that used to halve an apple.” He reveals a scar on his stomach and says the scar on his heart is bigger. And foxes always repay debts. Soon, he and Yeon will go to hell together. Sooo that explains a lot.
Meanwhile, Jia gets Jae-hwan to look up any incidents that happened on the island, particularly strange deaths. Yeon calls Taluipa to make sure she hasn’t heard any news of the supposedly dead imoogi – he can’t have it in the same world as Ah-eum.
Jia checks in with Pyeong-hee who’s reading Moby Dick. Sharp as ever, Jia immediately knows it’s not her, and Rang shifts back to himself. He advances on her, noting with a wolfish smile that she’s alone. Jia scoffs at his obvious book choice and surmises he’s the one who killed the fishermen.
While Yeon threatens another man into talking, this time about the Dragon King painting, Rang is impressed by Jia’s deduction that he’s up to something and using the deaths as a smokescreen. He offers her a prize for her correct answer: he’ll find her parents.
After Yeon learns that an elderly neighborhood woman bought those paintings from the market for everyone, he erases the man’s memory of their conversation. As he goes to leave, the man mentions the “pretty young man” who was looking for Pyeong-hee’s house.
Said pretty man tells Jia to just say the word. She steels herself and declines – foxes always repay, so favors come with a price. Jia gives him a “friendly” warning to stop playing with people’s pain, calling him a bullying bastard.
That actually gets him angry since he apparently hates profanity. Ha. She asks why he hovers around her, but he won’t say. He leaves her with a warning in return: don’t trust Yeon too much. Things won’t go well for her if Yeon gets what he wants.
Yeon comes running up to find a dejected but fine Jia. She tells him about Rang’s offer, and he looks smug when she admits she turned him down because she’s betting on him instead. Jia doesn’t mention Rang’s warning.
At the Snail Bride, Shin-joo watches Yoo-ri and says she’s not a local gumiho. He muses to Hye-ja that the only ways for a fox to have that kind of status is to be born rich (like Yeon) or steal someone’s life.
On the island, Jia thinks a boring, relaxing life sounds nice. Yeon would rather have modern luxuries like his beloved mint chocolate ice cream and americanos than nature. Besides, life is harsh everywhere.
Jia wonders if his long life has been harsh, but Yeon turns the question on her. Why wait so long for her parents? Jia simply missed them. Yeon shares he’s also waiting for someone he misses.
Jia guesses it’s his first love. Who was she? How did they part? Yeon reveals she was human and died. He’s waiting for her to fulfill her promise to reincarnate.
At the Snail Bride, Shin-joo catches Yoo-ri trying to sneak into the staff room. She introduces herself, calling them the same species (So he is a gumiho!). Shin-joo correctly guesses she’s from Russia, and Yoo-ri claims she was smuggled into Korea.
She knows he’s curious about how she got so rich and waves him close. “Sweetly and violently,” she discloses as she kisses him on the cheek and puts a pistol against his stomach. Yoo-ri swipes his necklace and walks away. (Swiper, no swiping!)
Shin-joo calls Yeon all depressed because he can’t talk to animals without the necklace. Yeon berates him for losing his head over a woman, which Shin-joo thinks is rich coming from him. Shin-joo was shot once and lost his tail, so he’s scared of guns and begs Yeon to come help him. Yeon hangs up.
While the shaman prepares for a ritual, Yeon heals a broken tree, and Jia talks to Jae-hwan who tells her about the four suspicious murders over the years on the island. She realizes they all happened on the same day on the Lunar calendar, which happens to be that day.
We’ve caught back up to Jia getting hurt after chasing the fisherman. She grabs Yeon’s throat, asking why he killed her. We see a series of images wherein Yeon points a sword at Ah-eum and Ah-eum is stabbed.
“Jia” continues that he shouldn’t have stopped the boat that day. Yeon doesn’t buy that she’s Ah-eum since she doesn’t have his bead. She laughs and says he knows nothing.
And suddenly she’s Jia again with no recollection of what just happened. He yells at her, asking who she is. They’re both confused as she replies she’s Jia.
When Rang appears, Yeon grabs Jia and runs. But she goes back for her picture (seriously?!), and Yeon shields her from Rang’s rock missiles. He tells Jia to run away and tries to hold Rang off.
Rang jokingly calls this domestic violence, and Yeon argues he wasn’t able to discipline Rang, so a fox turned into a dog. Rang accuses him of kicking him out first, and they fight.
Jia wanders through the woods and comes across a house. Uh-oh, it’s the shaman. Jia shows her the picture of her parents, and the shaman recognizes them. She serves Jia some tea (ack!) and says that her mother came to pray for a safe birth.
Their island was once rich in ancestral rites and held the Festival of the Souls each year. Jia observes the date matches when the mysterious deaths occurred and says the shaman must’ve personally held the ceremony.
Jia noticed the flag typical of shamans outside her house. Plus, her mother was a doctor and would’ve gone to a hospital, not the gods, for birth complications. The shaman says Jia can’t leave, and Jia assumes it’s because of the tea she didn’t drink.
But when she tries to walk away, her feet won’t move. She falls to the ground, and the shaman explains it was the fragrance, not the tea. In the mirror, the shaman appears as a much older woman.
In the forest, Rang laughs that he’s bought enough time. Jia will become a sacrifice soon. He holds up her phone, taunting that Yeon can’t reach her. Yeon rushes to find her, but he can’t catch her scent anymore.
Night falls, and the shaman tells the unconscious Jia that her mother also came to the island voluntarily. Pregnant, she dreamed the same dream every night. “You lured your own mother from the womb.” Jia opens her eyes, listening.
Yeon raises his arms majestically and commands the forest to light the way to Jia, but nothing happens. Then, fireflies begin gathering and lead him forward. Jia, meanwhile, is dragged to the well. The shaman tells her the other women were important sacrifices. She calls Jia a “very special child.”
The shaman tries to stab her, but Jia holds her own and fights. Yeon sees them struggling but can’t cross the primrose line the shaman drew. He threatens to cut the shaman into pieces if she hurts Jia. Who gave her life? Who is she serving?
She laughs and says he can’t stop her. When she strikes with the knife again, Jia grabs it. The shaman pushes her into the well, but Jia gets ahold of the side. Yeon watches, pained as he thinks of Ah-eum’s death.
The wind gusts, and Yeon’s eyes go golden as his fiery tail appears. It begins to rain, wiping away the shaman’s primrose line. With a word he strikes the shaman down with lightening. He grabs Jia’s wrist right as she falls. Elsewhere, Taluipa is livid Yeon killed someone, and Rang watches the rain with a scowl.
Yeon bandages Jia’s hand and carries her when she can’t walk. She asks what that shaman was, and he explains she was just a human who wanted an extended life. The music turns ominous as we focus on Jia’s blood staining the well.
Shin-joo worriedly scolds Yeon for causing trouble over a human again. Yeon shares that Jia seems to know about Ah-eum’s past life, so he’s going to keep an eye on her. Shin-joo hangs up when Yeon catches on that he’s using Yeon’s credit card to console himself.
Inside their room, Jia is drinking. Yeon takes offense at Jia’s informal speech, but he changes his mind when she suggests calling him “grandfather,” the polite address towards an elderly man, instead. Jia asks why he saved her. Does she have something he’s looking for?
Yeon just stares at her, so Jia says to leave it be for now. She thanks him for both times he’s saved her, in her childhood and now. She doesn’t have powers, but she’ll make sure to protect him too one day. Yeon’s eyes widen as he recalls Ah-eum saying she’d protect him with that same smile. Jia snaps him out of it, asking him to make her soju bottle into a case of soju. “Am I Jesus?” Ha.
Elsewhere, all the villagers gather at the well, peering inside intently. That can’t be good. In the early hours of the morning, Rang hands off a crying infant wrapped in a blanket covered with talismans to a man on the beach.
That morning, Yeon sees Pyeong-hee limping and guesses her leg was the price for revenge. He advises her not to curse someone again since it’ll come back on her. Jia comes running up saying every villager is missing. She and Yeon walk through the empty streets in what now looks like a ghost town.
I’m guessing the imoogi isn’t down for the count yet. Are Yeon and Jia going to have to fight off the whole village now too? As if Yeon wasn’t in enough trouble already. I have a feeling he’s going to pay for his unauthorized slaying of that shaman. Taluipa did not look pleased. I hope we learn more about Yeon’s arrangement because we don’t know much yet about the rules of his servitude of sorts. That kind of goes for everything, though. We’re still in the early stages, so it’s not a big deal yet, but I would like some more worldbuilding soon. I’m enjoying the different mythical creatures and folklore, but nothing has really been explained about how things work in this universe. I’m glad we’re not getting info dumps about it since I much prefer when the information is incorporated naturally as the story unfolds. But as a viewer, I want enough info to know that this is a well thought out world that isn’t just being thrown together on the fly.
We haven’t spent a whole lot of time developing our side characters either. They’re feeling a bit flat so far, coming off more as caricatures than nuanced people. Shin-joo, for example, just seems like your typical comic sidekick. A gumiho sidekick, apparently. I really dropped the ball on that one – I totally misunderstood and thought he was human. Whoops. Now he makes a lot more sense but is also less mysterious than I thought he was. I was kind of disappointed his special power to communicate with animals just comes from an amulet. There are hints that he has an interesting backstory though, so I hope we explore that.
Onto our main character, there’s definitely something weird going on with Jia. Everything points to her being Ah-eum, which would mean something happened to the fox bead. I don’t know if it can be extracted or changed in some way, so it’s hard to speculate. Then there was that weird thing the shaman said about Jia being a “special child” and luring her mother to the island from the womb. Either the fox bead somehow was drawing her there or something else makes Jia unique among humans. This is where more information about how things work would be helpful.
Dramas have made me paranoid when I have a female character I like because she often turns into a vehicle to showcase the hero’s impressiveness and loses what made her distinct. I really don’t want this to happen to Jia. So far, even when Jia is saved by Yeon, she’s still not helpless. Both when she was little and now, Jia has used her own resourcefulness and great perceptive skills to keep herself alive and intact until Yeon got there. It feels more like a joint effort than the hero swooping in to single-handedly save her. I just don’t want Jia to lose her spirit as we go.
Everything about Ah-eum and her death is still pretty vague. It looks like the imoogi had something to do with her death, but then we also had that flash of Yeon pulling a sword on her. Although, this world is populated by creatures who can shapeshift, so I’m not sure it was even Ah-eum. And now the imoogi Yeon killed is coming back somehow. I guess it was only mostly dead. How did Rang know about this creature when even Taluipa didn’t seem to be aware? I feel like Rang is that person you go to who knows all the latest gossip. He’s such a busybody, involving himself in everything and telling everyone his family’s business. His hatred of Yeon makes a lot more sense if Yeon tried to kill him in the past. That would make you a bit bitter.
I’m glad the backstory is being doled out bit by bit since it helps give Rang some nuance. As much as I enjoy a fun, campy villain, it is easy for them to become one note. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen here and he’ll continue gaining more depth as we go. Really, everything in this drama is a bit over-the-top, but I kind of like that. For shows like this, I usually prefer when they don’t take themselves too seriously. It keeps things fun and makes it easier for me to overlook believability issues and just enjoy the ride.
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