Tale of the Nine Tailed: Episode 16 (Final)
We’ve come to the end of the road, and I have mixed feelings about it. We get some lovely developments, but there are some big unanswered questions that left me feeling frustrated. This hour, everyone grieves and begins picking up the pieces after the battle, but our heroine and our favorite half-gumiho struggle to move past their loss. Neither are ready to give up, so they continue searching for a way to save our hero, despite everyone saying it’s hopeless.
EPISODE 16: “A Rewritten Tale of the Gumiho”
In the Samdocheon river, Yeon watches the imoogi disintegrate. He hears Jia’s sobs and wants to tell her not to be so sad – this is how love stories end between gumiho and human. He’d hoped to enter her world and become human. In lieu of that, his death was like “a passionate love letter to my human first and last love.” (Pretty sure she could’ve done without that letter.)
He wishes for her not to wait for him or cry too much and longs to see her one last time. A vision of Jia appears, and they reach for each other like they’re recreating that Michelangelo painting. She floats further and further before winking out of existence, and Yeon closes his eyes.
While Yoo-ri comforts Shin-joo at the clinic, everyone who was infected by the plague throughout Seoul is cured. At the Afterlife Immigration Office, Hyun Eui-ong joins Taluipa. Huh, guess that stone situation was temporary.
Taluipa blames herself for failing Yeon, but Hyun Eui-ong thinks she did her best. It’s why he returned to her side. Hyun Eui-ong assures her Yeon is at peace – he saved Jia, after all.
At that moment, Jia makes her way to the building. She calls for Hyun Eui-ong, but Taluipa doesn’t let him go see her, arguing that Jia needs to forget Yeon. Jia begs through tears to know how to save Yeon. Over the coming days, Jia keeps coming back. Even Taluipa looks affected by her cries, but they refuse to respond.
Rang isn’t faring any better, sitting huddled and shaking in his apartment as that night replays in his mind. As usual, he’s drinking away his sorrow. He rebuffs Yoo-ri’s attempts to talk to him, and when Puppy Boy tries to cheer him up with stickers and toys, Rang screams at him. Yoo-ri sweetly covers the kid’s ears and leads him out.
Jia’s loitering pays off one day when Taluipa lets her in. She bluntly tells Jia that Yeon is dead, and rules prevent her from bringing him back. Jia asks her to help him reincarnate, but Taluipa is firm that jumping into the river and giving up reincarnation was his choice.
Even so, Jia isn’t ready to give up. But Taluipa has nothing more to say and shuts her out again. On her walk home, memories of Yeon fill Jia’s mind. She stumbles in the dark, but Shin-joo catches her. A light flickers on, and he tells her he contacted the district office. Aw.
Shin-joo is his usual smiling self if a bit deflated. When Jia checks if he’s okay, he responds he has to be with so much to take care of. She tells him what Taluipa said and wonders what to do now. He encourages her to follow Yeon’s wishes and forget everything.
Next, Shin-joo heads to Rang’s. He rips the bottle out of his hand and sternly tells him this won’t bring Yeon back. Rang calls him disloyal for seeming totally fine. Shin-joo raps him on the head (HA, Rang’s face is priceless) and commands “Pull yourself together! Don’t be a crybaby and live right!” This is what Yeon wanted to tell him.
Rang immediately calms down, and Shin-joo tells him to listen to the rest himself. Yeon recorded a video for him right after they had naengmyeon together. Ha, Yeon cringes at himself – this isn’t as cool as he thought. Rang laughs through his tears.
Yeon astutely guesses that Rang is busy downing wine. Being a villain doesn’t suit him since his little brother who can’t even pass by an injured puppy hasn’t changed. He tells Rang he needs to live well because he has a family to protect.
Rang quietly retorts that he doesn’t need them. Yeon presciently chides him for talking back. Yeon gets emotional as he tells Rang again that he never abandoned him and asks him not to abandon himself. Rang lets out these whimpering cries as Yeon says it’s his final request.
After a second, Yeon announces that the video will self-destruct in 10 seconds. Rang holds it away in alarm, but Yeon smiles that he’s always wanted to say that. Pfft. The message ends, and Rang sobs. We see Yeon breaking down in tears after he filmed it.
Jia has decided to record Yeon’s story – she doesn’t want to forget and plans to wait like he did for her in hopes that they’ll meet again. Looking a lot better, she goes to meet Rang at a hair salon, one of his many internet-suggested attempts to cure heartbreak.
She tells him of her personal project. “Tale of the gumiho [nine-tailed]? That’s a crappy title,” he criticizes. Heh. Jia wants to interview the people close to Yeon, and Rang is her first stop.
For once, they smile and laugh together, trading stories about Yeon. Jia is amused to hear that Yeon used to stare at his reflection and declare his face the personification of beauty. Rang finds it hilarious that Yeon fell for a voice fishing scam and eagerly shares that Yeon was scared of spiders, finding their legs creepy (amen to that).
Rang can’t help smugly asserting that Yeon spent more time with him, and Jia fires back that Yeon cooked (badly) for her. They start going back and forth, listing all the things Yeon did for them. Pfft.
Jia notes that Yeon did so much for them both. Rang asks if she knows what Yeon’s dream was. “To be human,” Jia responds sadly. They both grow quiet.
Despite what Taluipa said, she does try to get her brother King Yeomra to reconsider Yeon’s situation. She starts off sweet but ends up screaming at him until he hangs up. Hyun Eui-ong laughs at her calling her brother “inflexible.”
Yoo-ri waits for Shin-joo at the Snail Bride. Oh gosh, he comes around the corner with a guitar and serenades her with a love song. Ha, she hides her face in embarrassment. Shin-joo laughs and asks her to marry him.
He kneels and presents the ring. Yoo-ri grumbles that a ring isn’t enough, so he tells her about the apartment. Yoo-ri says that they might have some guests living there … Shin-joo is ecstatic she’s agreeing. Yoo-ri said she was going to ask if he didn’t and squeals in delight as she slips on the ring.
Aw, everyone is gathered – even Sae-rom and Jae-hwan. Puppy Boy tosses confetti, and Jia films as Rang gives his blessing. Shin-joo thanks Yeon and says he misses him. His sniffles turn to sobs when he says Yeon was supposed to officiate.
They have a joyous family dinner during which Team Leader Choi drops by to join them. Jia gets people to record messages for Yeon. Rang actually looks relaxed and contented, even wiping Puppy Boy’s messy face.
Jia narrates that she doesn’t cry anymore when she misses Yeon since that would make it a true tragedy. Six months later, she finishes her project. And that’s when news of Yeon comes.
She forgot it was her birthday until her parents presented her with a cake and gifts. She sees a large box on the table and opens it. Inside is a white dress. We flash back to when she’d asked Yeon to buy her a proposal gift for her birthday. Her dad hands her the letter that came with the delivery.
Poor Shin-joo might’ve gotten more than he bargained for in marrying Yoo-ri. Rang and Puppy Boy are also living at their place, and Shin-joo struggles to manage the household like a frazzled daughter-in-law while Rang lounges around and complains Shin-joo’s food is salty.
When Shin-joo complains of the “in-law stress,” Yoo-ri tells him off. Oh, this is great. But Shin-joo perks up when Rang says he bought him the kimchi fridge he wanted. “I love you, hyung!” Shin-joo cries. Yoo-ri excitedly notes that they’re all like real family now, and Rang gets this little smile.
Elsewhere, Jia reads the letter from Yeon. He writes about how much he liked her for the way she kept going despite her burdens. He loved every moment they had together. He knows she’ll be fine and encourages her to let him go. Yeon had sobbed as he wrote the letter, and now Jia sobs as she begs him to come back.
On Rang’s way out, Puppy Boy asks if he’s going looking for that “gumiho hyung” again. Rang has been beating info out of supernatural creatures, hoping to find a way to save Yeon.
He runs into Jia who’s surprised to see him. Rang says he came to talk to “that old man.” Following his gaze, Jia sees the fortune teller. Ah. He introduces himself as a god of the underworld, the Great King Odo.
After making Rang sit up straight (heh), he admits reincarnation is his jurisdiction. When Jia realizes he still has Yeon’s fox bead, she jumps at the possibility of saving him. She knows the terms of the trade and is willing to do it again.
King Odo reminds them that reincarnation is random, and they may never meet or even recognize Yeon’s reincarnated form. Jia and Rang look at each other and both agree it doesn’t matter. He gives them until the hourglass runs out to bring him their item.
Taluipa senses that King Odo has come and runs outside excitedly. She and Hyun Eui-ong sober as a crow caws three times. “We will have another funeral,” Taluipa proclaims.
Jia reasons that Yeon is her most valuable thing, so she’ll trade her memories of him. King Odo refuses the trade and instead wants the remaining lifespan Yeon’s sacrifice gave her. Rang shakes his head at her, but after confirming that Yeon will get to reincarnate if she gives her life, Jia agrees.
Rang jumps up and berates her for easily throwing away the life Yeon died to give her. “Does your life mean nothing if he’s dead?!” King Odo turns to Rang and asks if he’d give his instead, then. Rang observes that his lifespan is stolen anyway, and he agrees despite Jia’s protests.
King Odo is dubious, seeing as Rang never treasured his life. He’s surprised by what he sees – Rang now has a family and values his life. “Pass! The deal is valid,” he declares. Jia jumps in front of him as King Odo raises his staff. Rang requests the remaining time of the hourglass and asks Jia to call his family.
Yoo-ri, Shin-joo, and Puppy Boy come running, but the hourglass is almost out. Rang nervously waits and smiles with tears in his eyes when he sees them coming. A light appears in King Odo’s hand and slowly expands. Rang smiles as the light engulfs him. He and King Odo are gone. Noooo.
His family watches in shock. Yoo-ri sinks to the ground in grief. Jia picks up Rang’s phone and cries to see the background photo is of him with his new little family. Soon after, Puppy Boy places a bouquet on Rang’s grave in the mountains. It’s a small gathering of Rang’s family, Jia, and Hye-ja.
It’s raining as Jia exits work one day. The security guard runs up to her with a familiar red umbrella. He claims it was left in their office for her a few minutes ago. Jia goes running through the streets. Just as she’s losing hope, she spots Yeon across the street.
Girl is so excited she almost gets run over when she tries to dart across the crosswalk. Jia can barely believe it’s him. He assures her it is, but he’s not quite the same – he no longer has powers. Jia flies across the street and embraces him. They both cry when he tells her he’s human now.
At his place, Jia marvels that he managed to wait 600 years for her while she barely managed 6 months. She’s still amazed that he’s human now. They bask in each other’s company and kiss.
Later, Yeon watches the documentary Jia filmed. He can barely handle the cringe when Shin-joo starts singing to Yoo-ri for his proposal. Ha. He smiles while he watches the messages to him from Hyun Eui-ong and Hye-ja. When the camera focuses on Rang sweetly taking care of Puppy Boy, Yeon leans forward and his smile turns sad.
Yeon surprises Shin-joo outside his apartment. As expected, Shin-joo almost squeezes him to death with his ecstatic hug accompanied by much sobbing. Inside, Shin-joo jokes that he didn’t miss him because he was so busy being a newlywed.
Yeon whines that his emotions are volatile now that he’s human, and he feels inferior for the first time. Shin-joo is glad he’s back and says they all dealt in their own ways but relied on each other. Yeon is quiet for a beat and then asks, “What about Rang?”
Shin-joo tells him what a mess Rang was after Yeon died. He got better living with them, but he kept searching for Yeon. Yeon asks if Shin-joo was with him when he died and worries that Rang was scared and alone.
That night, Yeon looks through the happy family photos on Rang’s phone. He stops on a video and hits play. Rang says he’s about to die and wanted to make Yeon experience this video will like he had to. He tells Yeon not to cry – he didn’t cry at all when Yeon was gone. Ha! Right.
Rang gets choked up as he says he bothered Yeon for a long time, but he doesn’t want to apologize since it went both ways. Yeon always gave him the bigger half and the eggs he loved, yet in the end, he still left him for love. How could he not become twisted?
He informs Yeon he intends to be reborn as a Dokdo shrimp, so Yeon better not eat any shrimp just in case. Pfft. Rang struggles to compose himself and tells Yeon to be reborn soon. He hopes he’s super ugly (such a brother), “but if it’s possible, let’s meet again, hyung,” Rang entreats as he smiles through his tears. Yeon covers his face and sobs.
Puppy Boy is harassed by a couple of mean little boys from his class who taunt him for having no mom and being a “beggar.” Yoo-ri appears and he runs to her. She tells the kids they aren’t beggars, and they flinch from her raised fist.
Yeon watches from afar and smiles to see the effects of Rang’s good deeds. He goes and sits by Rang’s grave, staring out at the mountains.
Next, Yeon pops by to visit Taluipa and Hyun Eui-ong. Taluipa acts all gruff and pretends she didn’t work her butt off to save Yeon, but Hyun Eui-ong sells her out. Yeon came to see them one last time; he can’t keep coming now that he’s human. He thanks them for taking care of him all this time.
Taluipa begrudgingly tells him to have tteokbokki with them before he goes. Yeon watches the couple fondly and narrates that they now compromise and talk about their son.
We cut to Jia wearing that white wedding dress and Yeon in a tux. They exchange flower rings in a field. Jia keeps it simple and notes they’re a perfect fit because she likes the egg yolk and he likes the white. Yeon isn’t confident about being human yet, but he is confident about loving her.
Flower petals rain down as they declare their love. Elsewhere, Taluipa smiles and says nature is congratulating its former mountain god. Jia and Yeon kiss amidst the petal rain in autumn.
While Jia and Yeon happily watch their wedding video, Jia proposes, “Should we have a baby?” Yeon is all for it but has one concern. What if their daughter is embarrassed because he didn’t go to college? Jia laughs that they’ll say he was busy saving her and the world.
Yeon shares his woes about being human with Shin-joo; it’s not all puppies and rainbows. He even has astigmatism – seeing Yeon in glasses puts Shin-joo into a fit of laughter. We see Jia hauling Yeon by the ear into the dentist for a root canal. But he gets to enjoy ramyeon and soju with Jia later at home.
One day, Yeon sits in the park and sees a boy lose control of his bike. Ooh, is that little Rang? Yeon goes over and helps the kid up. Aw, it’s definitely little Rang’s face. Yeon stares at him tenderly and tells the kid to pick himself up next time he falls.
Yeon watches with a smile as the kid runs over to his mom who puts her arm around him. “So he couldn’t become a Dokdo shrimp,” Yeon notes amusedly. Heh.
Jia is still running into strange creatures it seems. She tells Yeon she met a man who wore a traditional mask that wouldn’t come off. After hearing Jia stepped in gum, Yeon ascertains he was samjae, the embodiment of bad luck that strikes every nine years.
That night, Yeon stands on the balcony and narrates that being human is full of firsts and lasts like his “forever first love.” Jia joins him, and he wraps his arms around her as they stare at the night sky.
In the middle of the night, Yeon grabs his red umbrella and heads out. “Are you samjae?” he asks a masked man. Yeon’s sword materializes, and his eyes turn yellow.
Seriously? So he’s not human, and he’s just lying to everyone about it for some inexplicable reason? I guess that makes as much sense as him reincarnating as a fully grown man with the same face and all his memories intact a mere six months after he died. *Sigh* I’m guessing it has something to do with the fox bead, but that’s just speculation since they gave no concrete explanation for what happened. I had hoped we wouldn’t get some deus ex machina happy ending; I would’ve preferred a bittersweet (and more logical) ending where Yeon gets to reincarnate thanks to Rang’s sacrifice but doesn’t necessarily meet his loved ones again this lifetime.
Otherwise, I did like where we left most of the characters. I loved seeing how Yeon, Rang, and Jia brought everyone together to become family. Shin-joo’s new family in particular was adorable, and Rang as the stress-inducing in-law was fantastic. Of course, all of that made Rang’s sacrifice hit that much harder. I had a feeling from the start that Rang would end up dying for Yeon. Although his death was sad, it felt like a fitting ending for him. He created a wonderful little family and learned to value those around him. Selflessly stabbing the imoogi and then choosing to give up his stolen time so his brother could reincarnate was a great way to “redeem” him. But for reincarnation supposedly being random, it’s funny how almost everyone who reincarnates in this drama has the same face as in their past life and just happens to reincarnate during the same lifetime as all their loved ones.
I feel like the writing in this drama was a mixed bag. The overall plot was engaging with good pacing – things kept moving and didn’t always go the direction you expected. We got changes in dynamics between characters and shifts in the plot focus that kept things interesting. But sometimes style came before substance and explanations fell by the wayside. In the case of the ending, rationality clearly wasn’t a huge factor. Some characters were well-written like Jia and Rang, while others were much less consistent like Yeon and Taluipa. The character situation I was most baffled by, though, was Jia’s parents. They were such a large part of the early episodes, but it’s like the writer had no idea what to do with them once they returned. It all felt so awkward I just assumed something was wrong with them. All Jia did was talk about getting her parents back, but when she succeeded, they faded to the background.
But then we had a character like Rang who was so well-written. His character development from villain to a broken man who struggled to heal was handled naturally and believably. Even though he got a redemption arc, he wasn’t given a personality transplant to become “good.” Rang was layered, interesting, and problematic, and none of that changed. He just learned to embrace his better nature and stop lashing out. Of course, a lot of credit for the character goes to Kim Bum for his nuanced performance. This role could’ve easily been overdone in the wrong hands, but he infused Rang with such pathos and vulnerability. I’ve always liked Kim Bum as an actor, and this just solidified my appreciation of him.
The brothers’ storyline was one of the highlights of the drama for me. Their fraught relationship always felt more emotionally engaging than the main romance. In general, I think this drama did a better job with creating an emotional pull from the depictions of family than romantic love. Yeon and Jia’s romance just never landed for me. It’s not that I necessarily disliked them as a couple – I just felt no emotional connection. I already talked about my issues with the rushed development of the romance, so I won’t belabor that point. I feel like they tried too hard to make the romance feel epic and didn’t let it breathe. Seeing as the romance was the crux of the drama, this did make it hard to feel fully invested in the story.
In the early episodes, the horror elements and the way the drama put its own spin on traditional mythology were what primarily held my attention. I’m disappointed those aspects were less prominent in the latter half since they added something unique and fun, but I wasn’t surprised because I did kind of expect the drama to turn more stereotypical fantasy-romance down the line. Although I didn’t feel the romance which was the main focus of the later episodes, I cared enough about some of the characters to stay invested. I’m sure it’s no surprise that Rang was my favorite character, but I also really liked Jia. From the start, I found her to be an interesting heroine thanks both to the writing and Jo Boa’s portrayal. I’m glad Jia stayed consistent all the way through (with maybe a few blips) and didn’t wilt or lose agency as sometimes happens.
While there are things that I wish had been handled differently in this drama, I did find it fun overall. It may not have answered all of my questions or delved as deeply as I would’ve hoped, but I liked the supernatural world our characters inhabited. The ending was frustrating, but unlike a certain recent drama that shall not be named, it wasn’t bad enough to ruin everything for me. In the end, I’ll still fondly remember the family our gumiho brothers cultivated and the journey that brought them there.
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