Tale of the Nine Tailed: Episode 8
We’re in for some noble idiocy this hour as our lead uses the revelation orchestrated by his estranged brother to take a step back from our heroine for her supposed protection. Of course, that leaves her more vulnerable when an unwelcome visitor arrives to wreak havoc. Naturally, our heroine finds herself in danger again, but there’s more than just her life at risk. This puts our supernatural hero in a bind since he can’t be everywhere at once and must choose where he’s most needed.
EPISODE 8: “Reincarnation”
We jump back into Ah-eum’s memories, starting with a picturesque scene of her and Yeon under the red umbrella in the rain. She worries about what he’ll do once she dies and remarks that it’s impossible to make time stop. Yeon takes her hand and briefly does just that, water droplets suspended in the air.
He levitates them up to a sturdy tree branch and states he’ll live fine without her, so she should live normally and forget her patricidal plans. Ah-eum asks him to promise his feelings won’t change. Yeon jokingly tells her to shoot him if he betrays her.
Her servants – Sae-rom and Jae-hwan’s past selves – anxiously tell her she’s been summoned to the palace. A man’s voice says it’s a royal command. Ah, it’s the CEO. He claims the king is in critical condition.
Ah-eum hasn’t seen her father in years, and he’s looking rough. He comments on how she’s grown and asks about life outside of the palace. She seethes as she remarks that his subjects are starving. He reasons that the nation is in chaos, but she disagrees. “The king’s mind was in chaos because something evil is possessing him.”
The king laughs, and we see the imoogi scales. His health suddenly seems to improve as he remarks he should’ve killed her years ago since she’s the only one who’s caught on. Ah-eum whips out her bow and trains an arrow on the king.
She orders the imoogi to come out and shoots a warning shot by his head. The imoogi taunts her to go ahead; this body will die anyway. He reveals that she was a sacrifice to him from birth, but her father gave his body to save her. If she brings him Yeon, he’ll release her father. Otherwise, her father will die within three days.
Ah-eum lowers her bow and agrees. However, Yeon can’t leave his mountains. She offers to let him possess her instead of her father. She thinks to herself that she’ll get him out of the palace and trust Yeon for the rest.
Now we’re back in the forest where Yeon holds a sword to Ah-eum’s throat. Yeon asks scornfully if the imoogi thought it was using Ah-eum as bait. Did it never consider Yeon was using her to lure it? They begin to fight.
Jia whips off the glasses to regain her composure before continuing. Ah-eum is now on the ground, begging Yeon to save her. He promised his feelings wouldn’t change. Yeon rushes at her, yelling for the imoogi to come out. He thrusts his hand into her chest. Presently, Jia gasps and cries in pained shock.
Yeon arrives, and Jia accuses him of using her to catch the imoogi from the start. “Is that really you?” He says it is and admits he killed her with his own hands.
She tearfully asks why. Yeon thinks of Hyun Eui-ong warning that history would repeat and one of them would die. He responds that it’s just who he is. She yells at him for playing with her heart and not even making up an excuse.
Jia hits his chest and cries. He lightly pushes her off and says he chose to sacrifice one person to save the world. She wonders why it hurts so much and why she was worried about him even as he killed her.
Yeon sighs and wipes her tears. Those feelings are Ah-eum’s, not hers. She calls him a jerk which he acknowledges. She should live long and not have feelings for a jerk like him. Yeon walks out, and Jia sinks to the ground, sobbing.
Rang saunters into the Snail Bride to meet Yeon who’s playing baduk against himself. He begs to know what Jia said after seeing the past. Instead of answering, Yeon asks what Rang would choose to be if he were reincarnated. Rang doesn’t much care but says maybe a shrimp. Pfft.
Yeon shares that he’d like to be human. Rang thinks that’s pathetic, but Yeon wants to experience all the firsts and lasts. Rang is weirded out by this conversation, wondering what’s up with his brother. Yeon comments it’s been a while since they talked like this.
He asks where the imoogi is, but of course, Rang won’t spill. Yeon figured as much and states with finality, “So this is your decision.”
Yeon asks him to play a round of baduk like old times. Rang claims Yeon is no fun to play against since he always loses, but he plays anyway. We flash back to happier times when they played baduk while little Rang ceaselessly asked questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” Yeon got frustrated and rapped him on the head. Little Rang smiled and said he just liked hearing Yeon’s voice.
Presently, Rang smiles non-menacingly for once, but his smile drops when Yeon starts winning. We flash back again to see Yeon letting little Rang win, smiling at his excitement. He constantly supports Rang quietly from the sidelines, urging the wind to fly his kite and ensuring he doesn’t get hurt.
Now, Rang realizes the truth before Yeon says it: he let him win every time. Embarrassed and angry, he sends the baduk pieces flying as he tells Yeon to shut up. Yeon warns that he no longer intends to let Rang win.
Rang declares it’s truly over between them if Yeon walks out the door this time. Yeon turns to him and apologizes. He’s sorry he saved him after his mother abandoned him. They wouldn’t have lived as brothers were it not for that. Oof, the look in Rang’s eyes – I think Yeon just crushed his soul.
Alone, Rang thinks back to after his mother abandoned him and that creature found him in the woods. It bit him, but he managed to get away and hide. A noise from above. Little Rang looks up to see another creature scurrying down the tree toward him. He closes his eyes, but the creature is felled. Yeon walks up, asking if he’s the half-human progeny of his father.
Yeon declares him nothing special, disappointed in his weak survival instinct, and goes to leave. The creature groans, still alive. Yeon tells Rang it’s an agwui (hungry ghost of a person who starved to death) and can’t be killed.
Rang can decide whether he’ll live as a human or fox, “but there’s no salvation for someone who doesn’t save themselves.” Little Rang makes up his mind and runs after Yeon. “Let’s go, hyung,” Rang says as he takes his brother’s hand, and they smile. Now, Rang stands alone, blinking back tears.
Yeon lurks outside Jia’s house, staring sadly. Inside, Jia sits despondent on her bed. At the Snail Bride, Rang drinks alone, depressed. It’s a broody night, one and all.
The following day, Jia arrives at work and blinks back tears at the sight of the empty lobby where Yeon had waited the day before. Unbeknownst to her, Yeon hides around the corner.
At the mansion, the CEO sounds like he’s having an asthma attack. He laboriously makes his way over to the Chinese lantern tree and plucks a piece of fruit. He sniffs the evil-looking vapor emanating from it and recovers.
Rang is lounging on the sofa and jokes the CEO will live longer than he will. The CEO offers him the world’s most evil inhaler, but Rang doesn’t like the smell of human souls. The CEO agrees about the unpleasantness, especially since their memories seep into you. But they’re both alive thanks to it.
Rang asks to see the imoogi, but the CEO wants to talk first. He’s worried his “precious guest” will get hurt. Enraged at his audacity, Rang flies forward and grabs him. Does he think him weak because he’s been agreeable? The CEO laughs when he sees the imoogi who forces Rang to let go. The imoogi says pleasantly he’s been hoping to meet Rang.
Elsewhere, Shin-joo ambushes Yoo-ri in her car since she won’t reply to his messages. She notices the bruises on his face but says nothing. Shin-joo wants her to name the dog since she’s its mom.
Yoo-ri repeats the word “mom” to herself and names the dog Anastasia. She gets all happy when he praises the name. Shin-joo wonders if she’s the same Yoo-ri he thought she was. No matter her circumstance or why she approached him, he vows to prove to her there’s good in the world.
She says she’ll make sure he regrets saying that, but Shin-joo counters he looks forward to it. Just like she did when they first met, Shin-joo startles her with a kiss on the cheek.
At the mansion, the imoogi asks Rang why he’s so sad. Is it his brother? Rang does not appreciate being analyzed and warns the imoogi he won’t wait for him anymore. He’s going ahead with his plans. The imoogi realizes Rang wants to kill Jia, but he can’t let that happen. She’s a sacrifice to him and will become his bride. Yikes.
Jia’s in a bad mood at the office, and Sae-rom guesses Jia fought with Yeon. Watching Sae-rom and Jae-hwan makes Jia think of their past selves. She smiles and tells Team Leader Choi she just thought of an item: past lives.
Shin-joo finds a gloomy Yeon sitting outside Jia’s office. He brings him lunch and hand feeds him when he won’t eat. Shin-joo asks why he won’t clear up the misunderstanding with Jia and tell her there’s more to the story.
Yeon thinks Jia seeing him as the bad guy will help prevent history from repeating. Shin-joo knows he’s worried Jia will sacrifice herself to save him like Ah-eum did, but he can’t believe Yeon is going to protect her from the sidelines after waiting so long for her. Yeon tasks Shin-joo with looking out for Jia and leaves.
Rang spots Puppy Boy and tries to sneak by to no avail. The kid comes running up, saying he’s been waiting for Rang. See, he’s been thinking about his career. He first wanted to be a triceratops (LOL), then an internet café owner, then—Rang tells him to get to the point.
Puppy Boy smiles and says he wants to be “handsome and courageous with superpowers” like Rang when he grows up. Rang says the kid can’t be like him if he isn’t a fighter. He sees the bruise on the boy’s face and asks if he was hit at school or at home. Aw, is that why he’s always alone? Rang reluctantly shares Yeon’s advice about saving yourself and walks away. The boy runs after him.
At the mansion, the imoogi tells the CEO he was “touched” by Rang’s pain and suggests trying something out – perhaps it’ll be another weakness for Yeon. “A guest is on their way,” he announces.
While Team Leader Choi tries to chat up Hye-ja at the Snail Bride, she’s alerted to the arrival of a guest. She’s not happy to see the woman and tells her to leave. The woman threateningly asks if Hye-ja has forgotten who she is, but Hye-ja claims she could never forget the woman who took her husband from her.
“Are you still not over that farmer?” the woman asks derisively. All she did was bring his trauma to the surface; it’s his fault his fragile mind couldn’t find its way back. The woman implies she chose him because of Hye-ja. She hates fairy tale heroines like Hye-ja – no one remembers her name.
When Team Leader Choi butts in, the woman asks what scares him most and grabs his hand. She observes he’s afraid of flying. “Oh, why is he here?” she asks in confusion. Hmm. Hye-ja pulls him behind her and tells the woman to leave. “Spring comes and goes again,” the woman proclaims cryptically.
Meanwhile, Yeon joins Hyun Eui-ong. It’s his son’s memorial. Hyun Eui-ong says Taluipa has shut herself away and comments the loss of their son is why she’s so hard on Yeon. She’s afraid he’ll lose the right to be reincarnated like their son did. Yeon declares he’s going to do everything he can to save himself and Jia. Inside, Taluipa cries at her son’s memorial alter.
Elsewhere, Jia meets a psychiatrist friend and tells her about her new project on past lives. She gives Jia a notebook with collected news articles about a boy in Syria who claims to recall his past life. Jia is stunned to hear her mother asked the same thing and even helped collect those articles.
Jia is confused why her surgeon mother would care about past lives. The psychiatrist is surprised Jia doesn’t remember undergoing hypnosis at her mother’s request when she was nine.
At the station, Sae-rom and Jae-hwan also discuss past lives. Sae-rom believes in the concept, but Jae-hwan isn’t sure. Either way, he hopes reincarnation isn’t real since you don’t know what you’ll come back as.
While Shin-joo very non-discreetly tails Jia at her station, she watches footage of herself under hypnosis. Little Jia smiles and begins laughing as she says seeing all the people in hanbok lying down is funny. The psychiatrist asks why they’re lying down. “Because it’s a mass grave.”
Appropriately disturbed, the psychiatrist wakes her up. Jia grabs her face and says it’s not time to wake yet. She claims to be Jia yet not. The being shares it was born on the mass grave of those who died from a plague. One day, a beast in human form emerged from a cave: the imoogi.
The being in little Jia says it needs to find the mountain god. It turns to the camera and begins reading the signs behind Jia in the video room. “So that’s where you are,” she says. Jia throws off her headphones and shuts off the video, terrified.
Rang is paid a visit from the woman who came to the Snail Bride. She’s posing as a saleswoman and asks him what he’s most afraid of. He shuts the door in her face, but she says in sing-song she already saw.
Inside, Rang hears children singing, “Doorkeeper, doorkeeper, open the door. I can’t open it without a key…” It’s coming from his wardrobe. He flings open the door and Narnia-style walks into his past.
He’s hit on the head by a villager who tells the crowd he’s the illegitimate child of a gumiho. They blame him for all the village deaths and begin beating him. An eye stares out at him from a hole in his house’s paper door.
Suddenly, the villagers are gone. Rang confronts his mother who’s hiding inside the house. “You saw, didn’t you? That day, you were looking at me.”
His mom tells him he never should’ve been born. She tried everything to abort him, but nothing worked. She calls him a monster who won’t die. Jeez. Rang’s hands shake. He realizes he’s bleeding – this isn’t a dream.
Now he’s in the forest where his mother abandoned him. The agwui attacks, and he sees a horde coming for him. Recalling Yeon’s words that he shouldn’t have saved him, Rang knows he’s on his own this time and begins fighting his way through the creatures.
At the station, Jia contemplates sending a text to Yeon. She’s interrupted by the fake juice saleswoman who asks Jia what her biggest fear is. “Would it be Fox Ridge?” That same children’s song plays as Jia follows the woman out the door … and into her parents’ car.
As Rang fights for his life in the agwui forest, the fake saleswoman appears. She warns him he dies for real if he dies here. To make things more fun, she’ll tell Yeon both Rang and Jia are trapped separately. Meanwhile, Jia begs her parents to stop the car, but they don’t respond. The streetlights wink out one by one.
The fake saleswoman presents Yeon with a choice: go through the door leading to his brother or the one leading to his girlfriend. If Yeon doesn’t play by the rules, Rang and Jia will be lost forever. Yeon guesses the imoogi sent her; she says they’re “partners.”
Yeon promises to repay her for this. He stands facing the two doors, contemplating. While Yeon walks forward, Rang trips and the creatures descend. Yeon opens a door.
Rang is dragged up a tree and set upon by the creatures. He scoffs that as expected, Yeon only cares about Jia. Rang’s eyes widen when Yeon calls, “Hey, little kid!” and comes running toward him, swinging his sword. Rang pettily swats his hand away as he tries to help him up, and they face the horde back-to-back.
We got some more supernatural creatures thrown in the mix, which I like. One thing I enjoy about this drama is the way they take folklore and myth and put their own spin on it. This fake saleswoman who traps people in their worst nightmares is interesting; I wonder what exactly she is. Since the imoogi is involved in these latest shenanigans, there’s no way Jia is meant to die or get trapped forever. He made it clear he wants her alive. Maybe that’s why Yeon went for Rang – he knows the imoogi won’t let Jia die right now. That’s a stab in the dark since I’m not sure how much Yeon knows about the imoogi’s intentions regarding Jia. Alternatively, if Yeon isn’t the only one who can enter the doors, he could’ve sent Shin-joo in to help Jia. I can’t imagine Yeon just left her to fend for herself; we know how obsessive Yeon is about protecting her.
And, of course, what better way to protect someone you love than noble idiocy? *Groan* Just freaking tell her the truth about the situation! If Yeon is really worried about her sacrificing herself for him, does he think lying will change that? Jia already has feelings for him, so it’s too late on that front. In that case, he should’ve never gotten close to her again. He chose to be in her life even knowing that their involvement was dangerous and could lead to a repeat of their tragedy. Cutting her out now and pretending not to care is not the answer. In fact, it’s just making things worse. Jia is connected to the imoogi and will continue to be in danger regardless of what Yeon does. Thanks to his deception, she’s way less likely to ask him for help now. I will never understand the point of dramatically suffering alone as opposed to including the other person and making smart decisions.
Now Jia has to dig around on her own to figure out her past. It looks like there’s a lot about her early childhood that she’s forgotten. If Jia’s mom wanted her hypnotized, she must’ve showed signs of something unusual when she was little. It’s strange that Jia doesn’t remember any of it, but maybe she blocked it. Or like in her hypnosis session, maybe it wasn’t even her. It looks like Jia is close to discovering the truth about her connection to the imoogi as well, thank goodness. Then, she can put an end to Yeon’s misguided attempt to protect her, and they can work together to get through this mess.
Yeon was just hurting people left and right this episode. His comment to Rang that he shouldn’t have saved him made me mad. That was a low blow and uncalled for. There are some things you just don’t say, no matter the situation. It didn’t put Yeon in a good light, that’s for sure. If I’m being honest, I find Yeon hard to sympathize with in general. He makes selfish decisions in that I-know-best way that’s frustrating because it deprives people of their right to make their own choices. And all of Yeon’s suffering stems from his own decisions and being cryptic about his thoughts and feelings. I had hoped he’d become less stereotypical and more nuanced as we went, but that’s not happening. His character still feels flat to me, especially in contrast with other characters like Jia and Rang who are given more depth. I think this is a writing issue, not an acting issue. Lee Dong-wook is bringing the charisma and a sort of ethereal quality which works well, but that can’t fully cover a character that seems to be written to be cool rather than interesting or believable.
I find it kind of odd that the over-the-top Rang is somehow a more grounded and believable character. He’s written in a way that’s layered and elicits empathy, despite how awful he can be. His feelings may explode all over the place, but it’s honest and vulnerable. He experienced a lot of trauma as a child, and there was no one to help him work through it. And now he’s so, so broken. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dude more in need of a hug. It’s sad to realize how differently he could’ve turned out if he’d had stability and love as a child. While his childhood abuse and trauma doesn’t excuse his behavior now, it does make him easier to understand and sympathize with. It also helps that Kim Bum is killing it with his expressive eyes. That look like he’s dying inside every time his family rejects him … it just gets to you.
I’m not expecting Rang be completely won over because Yeon came through for him once, but I hope it helps him start to work through his issues. He’s like a tornado when he’s hurt, and nobody needs that destruction. We’re only halfway through, so there’s plenty of time for him to let his better nature win and redeem himself. I’m ignoring the sinking feeling that he might die and willing a happy ending for him into existence. Because he is definitely going to survive and adopt Puppy Boy and be part of a functional family for once in his life.
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