Tale of the Nine Tailed: Episode 4
Their recent adventures bring our leads a lot closer, and our lonely gumiho notices more and more similarities between the tenacious PD and his long-lost love. Thanks to one malicious little brother, our heroine finds herself once again plagued by danger. Our hero’s growing attachment to her leads him to make some risky decisions to protect her, regardless of how dire the consequences could be.
EPISODE 4: “Aura of death”
Jia films the now desolate village, showing a questionable grasp of ethics as she enters people’s homes. Yeon reports that even the fisherman’s body is missing from the bathroom. Everyone clearly went willingly, but they took nothing with them.
On the beach, they find several bamboo posts with flags forming a walkway. Yeon confirms that bamboo attracts lost souls and notes it’s like the trails used to welcome the Dragon King, except it’s facing the wrong direction. He calls this one a gwimunbang, a gate through which impure things travel.
At the Afterlife Immigration Office, Taluipa briefs Hyun Eui-ong on the situation with the imoogi. It’s hidden from her sight, suggesting talismans were used. Despite Hyun Eui-ong’s urging, Taluipa insists that Yeon not be told. To herself, she wonders if this is why she couldn’t see Yeon’s future.
On the island, Pyeong-hee shares that she heard a baby crying at 2:40 A.M. She’s sure of the time since all the clocks stopped. Jia realizes even her watch stopped. Yeon concludes something entered their world during the time when the doors between worlds open (1:00-3:00 A.M.).
Meanwhile, Yoo-ri celebrates her birthday with her rich parents who gift her expensive jewelry and a car. Her dad nags her about getting married, but her mom says she’s still only 25. He corrects that she’s 24 and confusedly says his daughter got into an accident at age 24 and died. Oh. Yoo-ri frustratedly sighs when he asks who she is.
Once they’re back in Seoul, Yeon buys Jia a new phone since Rang stole hers. He warns her not to answer any numbers she doesn’t recognize. She’s amused to hear he fell victim to a phishing scam once, losing a bunch of money. Jia asks for his number which he gives after some hesitation.
Rang shows up at Yoo-ri’s just in time to stop her from possibly murdering her supposed father. He turns his single golden eye on Yoo-ri’s father, reminding him that he fulfilled his wish to have his beloved daughter back.
Once they’re alone, Rang checks on Yoo-ri’s meeting with Shin-joo. Ah, he orchestrated it. He won’t let her kill him just yet, instructing her to play Shin-joo well – Yeon cherishes him.
Rang meets a disgruntled Yeon at his favorite ice cream shop. Yeon wants to know about the non-human entity on the island, but Rang prefers to toy with him. Is he worried it’s the same snake that separated him from Ah-eum?
Yeon asserts that he killed the imoogi, but Rang counters that Yeon doesn’t determine life and death. Of course, he doesn’t elaborate. He says with certainty that Ah-eum won’t live a long life this time either. They glare across the table.
Elsewhere, Jia muses over the missing villagers with Detective Baek. She likens it to the mysterious disappearance in 1590 of an entire colony from Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina.
Yeon and Rang talk atop a helicopter pad, as you do, and Yeon wonders what made Rang so twisted. What does Rang want from him? Rang places a knife in Yeon’s hand. Kill him like that time he hunted him down.
We flash back to Joseon where Rang is slaughtering villagers. Yeon calls his name, and Rang turns to him wonderingly with tears in his eyes. He runs and hugs him, crying in relief that Yeon is alive and exclaiming how he’s missed him.
Why didn’t Yeon come for him? Yeon strokes his hair and says he did, but he couldn’t find him. Rang explains that people set the mountain on fire, so he couldn’t wait there. Yeon asks if that’s why he killed these innocent people.
Rang reasons with a smile that living was hell for them anyway and laughs that they begged him to spare them. Yeon observes with sadness what his little brother who once couldn’t pass by a wounded animal has become. Rang says they should teach these humans a lesson together.
Yeon blinks back tears and tells Rang to pick up his sword. He has an order from the gods of the afterlife. Tears fall as Yeon summons his sword and announces Rang’s death sentence for killing the innocent. Rang is so hurt and bewildered that he doesn’t even move to protect himself from Yeon’s sword.
Now, Rang says he’d be in hell had Yeon not missed his vital organs. Killing him is the only way for Ah-eum to live. Yeon agrees it’d be better for Rang to die than live like this and strikes. Rang looks down in surprise – Yeon flipped the knife so the handle is against Rang’s chest. Rang furiously asks why Yeon can’t do it a second time.
Yeon tells him it’s time to stop acting like an abandoned child. When he turns, Rang slices Yeon once on each arm. Rang furiously insists he could kill Yeon if he wanted, but he’d rather see Yeon’s face when Ah-eum dies again. Yeon stares at his little brother knowingly. No matter how he acts up, this isn’t the true him.
Detective Baek informs Jia that the villagers don’t have any family or acquaintances. Oddly, they all arrived at the island in 1950 on the same day in the same boat.
At the Snail Bride, Hyun Eui-ong cautions Shin-joo never to marry and urges Hye-ja never to remarry. He shares his and Taluipa’s story. After seeing him bathing and falling in love, she kidnapped him and gave him a choice. Sleep with and marry her or be sent to hell. Well, that’s disturbing.
Meanwhile, Yeon gets an earful from Taluipa for killing the shaman, but he’s ready for whatever punishment has been decided. She asks if it was because of Ah-eum. Did he find her? Yeon is pretty sure, but she doesn’t have the bead. Taluipa gets a shifty look and suggests he has the wrong person.
Yeon argues her skin reacted like Ah-eum’s when she died (the burning and scaley pattern). Taluipa warns him they’ll both suffer if he tries to be with her, but Yeon just wants to see her live and grow old. He doesn’t expect to return to those best years of his life with her.
Ha, he actually shushes Taluipa when Jia calls and gets all excited because she wants to eat together. Yeon whines at Taluipa, so she gives him until midnight to report back for punishment.
He’s all self-conscious as he arrives at Jia’s place. She notices Yeon hiding something behind his back and reaches out her hand to receive … greens. If he’d come empty handed, he’d have to repay her for the homecooked meal. Yeon claims mugwort is a survivor like her. Ha.
She smiles and pets his head, making him jerk back. Like Ah-eum, she states that animals like being pet. He stares at her in a daze.
Jia feels the meager meal is not a good enough thank you for saving her life, but she couldn’t think of any other way to thank him. Yeon says it’s good enough for him, making her smile.
Later, Yeon notes that Jia didn’t move after losing her parents. She explains it’s hard to move when you’re hoping for someone to come home. Yeon reasons she must’ve been lonely here and thinks her parents seem like good people.
Jia wonders if she could’ve forgotten them more easily had they been worse people. She starts to tear up and touches her ears just like Ah-eum used to do. Jia says it helps stop the tears; she learned it after losing her parents.
Yeon resolves to find her parents and encourages her to live “boringly and warmly” like everyone else. Jia starts to ask if, maybe, his first love … Yeon says to stop dreaming – his first love was like a lotus flower. Jia playfully smacks him with a pillow, saying she knows she’s a weed. Yeon laughs and observes this weed grew up well.
Rang meets with his associate – the man he gave the crying baby to – who thanks him for his help on the island. Rang waves it off since he was the one to save Rang after Yeon almost killed him. A fiery band appears on the man’s finger, and he says it was fate.
Rang asks after the baby, which is asleep. He’s impressed by the man’s fortitude in serving for 600 years, extending his normal human life. It sounds like the man plans to raise the baby as part of their plan. Rang can’t wait for the day Yeon watches his lover die again in a repeat of their tragedy.
Yeon tries to talk Jia out of going to a funeral hall while he’s not there to protect her from his world. He has to leave Seoul for a few days. But Jia won’t be dissuaded, so he buys her a pouch filled with red beans as a sort of talisman.
As she walks away, he worries about leaving her. She texts to ask his favorite movie. It’s Toy Story 3. HA, unexpected choice. He smiles at her text that she wants to know more about him. She turns back to wave one last time.
Jia attends Sae-rom’s mother’s funeral and consoles her grieving coworker. Meanwhile, Yeon listens to Taluipa read out his sentence. Taking into consideration how many people he’s saved – Yeon does a double fist pump – he’s put on a seven-day probation in hell. The caveat is he’s to be human during that time to fully experience the pain.
At Shin-joo’s clinic, Yoo-ri enters right as he’s reading up on her. She says she wants to “play” and scandalizes Shin-joo when she removes her coat, wearing little underneath.
At the funeral, Jia is unpleasantly surprised to find Rang there. He threatens to kill Sae-rom if Jia doesn’t sit with him. She calmly sits. Isn’t she afraid of him? “I am. I’ve learned that a man with an inferiority complex is like a time bomb.” Heh.
Why does he hate Yeon so much? Rang tries to play it off, but Jia hits his weak spot by guessing it must be because he liked Yeon before.
Back at the clinic, Shin-joo realizes Yoo-ri’s story of being smuggled in are true, judging from the scars on her body. She doesn’t like the turn of this conversation and says she won’t return his necklace. He asks whose orders she’s following to which she replies she’ll tell him once he finds his necklace.
Rang tells Jia a story. There was once a god who abandoned his mountains, so the people set them on fire. Every living creature died, including Rang’s puppy companion. Jia guesses it was because of Yeon’s first love.
Rang shares that Yeon believes Jia is his first love reincarnated. That’s why he killed the shaman despite the consequences. Jia’s eyes fill with fear as she asks where Yeon is now. We see Yeon chained shirtless in a freezing cave high in the snowy mountains.
Jia demands to know where Yeon is, but Rang just warns her to stay awake tonight if she wants to live. He surreptitiously slits the bag of beans in her coat. We see that unbeknownst to Jia, the room is filled with children, two of whom follow her out.
Taluipa narrates that seven days equals seven years in hell. Yeon looks on the verge of collapse as she states you can’t eat, sleep, or die. While Taluipa polishes her precious Leslie Cheung VHS from her 80s collection, she thinks of Yeon’s “foolish” willingness to suffer for Jia.
Jia tries to call Yeon to no avail. As she walks down the hallway, all the lights go out. Two little girls appear before her and ask if she’s seen their dad. We zoom in on their funeral portraits in a nearby room.
Jae-hwan comes running up, and when Jia turns around, the girls are gone. She and Jae-hwan part in the parking lot where Jia realizes the beans have fallen out of the ripped bag.
Abruptly, Jia’s scarf begins to choke her. The little girls giggle as they pull on the ends, wrapping it tighter and tighter around her neck. She drops to the ground unconscious. Jae-hwan sees her collapse and calls her name.
In the cave, Yeon feels his talisman separate from Jia. He yells for Taluipa and begs to go to Dosan Hell since it’s his only chance of making it out today. She warns him he might never escape, but it’s worth the risk to Yeon.
Jia wakes at her place with Jae-hwan looking after her. She explains about the little girls, and he wonders if they were ghosts. The funeral hall was originally where dead children were buried. He seems … off. Sure enough, Jia asks why he’s reading that book upside down.
The lights flicker, and Jae-hwan is gone. The little girls peek out from under the couch, giggling that she caught them. They scurry back under the couch, and Jia looks around in fear.
Yeon stands at the bridge to Dosan (“Knife Mountain”) Hell. Taluipa warns him he can’t turn back once he starts across. Yeon worries that he won’t make it in his current state.
At home, Jia clutches her pouch and mutters Yeon’s name. Her doorbell rings. She goes over to the video intercom, but there’s no one outside.
Yeon, looking worse for wear, takes a deep breath. Taluipa rolls her eyes when he casually says he’ll be back soon. He crosses the terrifyingly rickety bridge as knives fly at him. So that’s why it’s called “Knife Mountain.”
Jia starts in fear as the hall light begins to flicker incessantly, and she asks what they want from her. The lights go out. Jia looks down to find the little girls each hugging one of her legs. They whine and tell her to give them her body.
Yeon grits his teeth and makes his way forward despite the many cuts on his body. Jia takes her chances outside, running as the little girls tail her. She finds an empty building and locks herself inside, stifling her cries. The girls seem to multiply as many little hands bang on the door.
While Yeon’s situation isn’t looking so good on that bridge, Jia hazards a glance outside once the banging stops. The little girls are gone, but you can hear them laughing. It’s coming from right behind her. Jia sees the girls and screams, running upstairs.
After a little breather, Yeon wrenches a knife from his leg and continues his literal hellish journey. Or he tries, but he falls unconscious.
The little girls chase Jia onto the roof, except now, it’s a horde of children wanting to steal her body. On the bridge, Yeon thinks of Jia saying she’ll protect him and how Ah-eum had said she’d kept her promise to protect him as she died.
Yeon picks himself up at the thought of Jia’s possible death and begins crawling forward. Whether she’s Ah-eum or not, Yeon knows her death would cut deeper than the blades here. He begs her to stay alive until he gets there.
As Jia cries in fear, she says in voiceover that she got used to having no one beside her when she has nightmares. So why is she looking for Yeon now? She closes her eyes, seeing the times he’s protected her.
Yeon makes it to the other side of the bridge, thinking of Jia. But the horde of children push Jia from all sides until she falls backward off the roof. And of course, Yeon catches her at the last second before she hits the ground. (How did he have time to change?)
Jia sees he’s injured and rushes to him. She cries and begs the unconscious Yeon not to die because of her. A teardrop falls, and the fox bead appears. Yeon wakes to find the golden sheen illuminating her. “I found you,” he says.
We cut to the stolen baby, still covered in talismans. Yeon wipes Jia’s tears and said he’s been waiting for her. Jia cradles his head.
Okay, what is up with this baby situation? I’m guessing either the baby is the being that entered their world on the island or that being entered the baby. I thought Rang was intending to release the imoogi, but is that on hold now? We still don’t know what those villagers were doing at the well and where they’ve gone. I had expected Yeon and Jia to stay on the island a bit longer to figure things out, so I was surprised when they were back in Seoul. I suppose there wasn’t a lot more to glean from the site itself. And I’m sure anything nefarious will find them anyway.
Things got pretty dramatic this episode, but Yeon’s trek through hell to get to Jia felt a bit premature to me. They’ve known each such a brief time that I couldn’t feel the emotional pull I think I was supposed to. I need to watch a relationship naturally develop to buy it and feel invested. While I can sort of buy Yeon’s attachment to Jia because of Ah-eum, it doesn’t make sense that Jia is suddenly so attached to Yeon. Being fated isn’t enough for me – it feels like a cop out. One day they’re tentatively getting to know each other and the next they can’t live without each other.
I’m sort of disappointed that Jia is almost certainly Ah-eum, although I expected it. Her being Ah-eum’s reincarnation was the obvious move, and it could’ve been more interesting to have her not be. I do wonder what’s up with the fox bead, though. Taluipa seems to know something based on that shifty look she got when Yeon mentioned it. I have to say, I’m getting fed up with her. It seems like her only character trait is getting angry. And was that story of how she coerced her husband into being with her supposed to be cute?! Because that was straight up assault, and it made me averse to her character. I hope there’s more to that story and that their relationship is more consensual than it sounds.
Rang must be one patient dude because he’s waited 600 years for Ah-eum to be reincarnated so he can get his revenge. Honestly, I’m finding Yeon and Rang’s relationship a lot more interesting than his and Jia’s. Rang really did adore his brother, which I had assumed given the strength of his hate. While Rang’s actions were reprehensible, he seemed so lost in that flashback. From what Yeon said, Rang must’ve been a sensitive kid who couldn’t handle the cruelty of people and the loss of his brother. Yeon and Rang were obviously close before Yeon’s fall from grace, so it was pretty cruel to make Yeon be the one to slay his own little brother. Did they have no one else they could send to exact the sentence? And Rang didn’t even die, which I’m thinking was intentional on Yeon’s part. I can’t imagine he just missed. Who knows? Maybe Yeon accepted the job just to keep Rang alive by “missing.”
It seems like Rang completely depended on Yeon, which makes me wonder about their parents. There’s been no mention of any parent so far. I’m not sure if gumihos typically maintain familial relationships like humans do, so it’s possible they strike out on their own at adulthood or something. We know Yeon and Rang only have one parent in common, and Rang only has one golden eye, so does that mean he’s only half gumiho? Either that or maybe it has to do with age, like you upgrade to two golden eyes once you pass 1,000 years old.
I come out of each episode with more questions about the lore and supernatural elements, and I really hope we get answers since that’s one of the things hooking me. We’re dealing with a lot of familiar tropes, so this drama isn’t bringing anything particularly new to the table. We’ve got tragic first loves, a jaded hero pining, reincarnation, a girl caught up in destiny, an evil brother with a backstory, dramatic last-minute saves, and so on. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing if it’s executed well or given a fresh spin. Judging from the first couple of weeks, I don’t expect anything super original story wise. For me, the horror aspect and supernatural elements add a fun twist that keeps me engaged despite the familiar beats. More of that and Kim Bum soulfully emoting would be appreciated.
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