Sell Your Haunted House: Episode 3
Our leads form an exorcism partnership but things get off to a rocky start. The newly-crowned medium is confronted with some unwelcome truths and begins to realize that he may be in for more than he bargained for.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
A young Ji-ah is repeatedly stabbing a teddy bear with great relish when her mother intervenes, telling her not to be reckless. Under her direction, Ji-ah stabs the bear just once in the heart, with much less enthusiasm. She complains to her mother that she doesn’t want to be an exorcist, but HONG MI-JIN (Baek Eun-hye) says that the spirits are trapped in this world, cold and scared and angry, and they need an exorcist to set them free. Just then a man rushes in clutching a bag, crying and pleading for help.
In the present, In-bum asks Ji-ah about her mother’s death and she replies that it was her fault before asking him to leave, downcast by the failed exorcism. In-bum proposes that the two of them form a partnership but Ji-ah refuses, not wanting to work with a conman. She only wanted to use him for one exorcism and now she wants nothing more to do with him.
Hwa-jung objects strenuously when she finds out that Ji-ah promised In-bum such a large amount of money for helping her. He offers to work with Ji-ah until she can get the money together and Hwa-jung asks him for time to consider it, despite Ji-ah’s protests.
After he’s gone, Hwa-jung tries to convince Ji-ah to use In-bum as her medium, shocked to find out that he made it upstairs. Ji-ah can’t see the point in bothering with him if he wasn’t strong enough to help her mother, but Hwa-jung points out that In-bum’s abilities would make exorcisms easier on her. He can reduce Ji-ah’s hypothermia and take the ghosts’ memories on her behalf, and Hwa-jung wouldn’t have to worry about her safety so much.
Meanwhile, Ji-chul’s worried that In-bum’s going to abandon him for Daebak Realty. In-bum shows him the necklace Ji-ah gave him, identical to the one he got from his uncle, and says he wants to investigate the connection between them.
In her room, Ji-ah — tearful but trying to hide it — apologises to her mother for failing and tells her that next time she’ll find a better medium. Back in the office, she and Hwa-jung wonder why Mi-jin’s spirit couldn’t possess such a strong medium as In-bum. Mediums must be virgins — apparently spirits are composed of yin energy, so mediums must be full of untainted yang (male) energy to balance that or they could die — so they wonder if he lost his virginity since his possession at Dream Apartments.
In-bum shows up to the contract negotiations with Ji-chul in tow, insisting that they’re a package deal, and without even bothering to ask his name Hwa-jung just adds a “+1” to In-bum’s contract. As he leafs through it, In-bum notices a chastity clause and objects to it as a violation of privacy.
Ji-ah says that it’s there for professional not personal reasons and explains why chastity is so important in a medium, before asking if he’s had any sexual encounters since Dream Apartments. In-bum’s flustered but Ji-chul says that he’s been with him the whole time since then except for when he met with Ji-ah, so unless something happened between them — both Ji-ah and In-bum cut him off there, outraged at that implication. In-bum — clearly embarrassed but trying to maintain his dignity — puts his stamp on the contact.
Outside, Ji-chul sniggers at In-bum’s “innocence” and tells him that he’s found a place for them to stay: the rundown cafe opposite Daeback Realty. In-bum’s not impressed, but Ji-chul argues that they can monitor the agency easily from there. Meanwhile, Hwa-jung is bribing the cafe owner to keep an eye on the boys and report back.
In-bum tags along with Ji-ah as she goes back to the artist’s apartment that night to do a preliminary investigation. She explains to him that she needs to know a ghost’s name to exorcise it, and the artist left no records behind. In-bum makes some pointed remarks about living a lonely life of solitude while looking meaningfully at Ji-ah, and she retorts that he’s in no position to judge her on that front.
The ghost is summoned by the incense and Ji-ah pursues it, blocking the hall with a barrier to stop it from getting away. She manages to get a glimpse of its face before the incense burns itself out and the spirit fades away.
Ji-ah’s cold and exhausted after that encounter, and grabs a wide-eyed In-bum’s hand to recharge. In-bum’s gaze softens as he looks at her, and Ji-ah tells him that he better not be getting any feelings for her. He argues that she’s the one who grabbed his hand first, so she’d better not be getting any feelings for him.
Ji-ah insists that she only did it because touching him raises her body temperature, and In-bum teases her for being so bold. Ji-ah rolls her eyes at him but In-bum, smug, asks why it only works with him and not other mediums and she leaves in a huff, having no answer for that.
In-bum and Ji-chul discuss their plans over a meal at the cafe. Ji-chul’s made no progress catching the director, LEE EUN-HYE (Baek Ji-won), with the holographic ghost, but he hacked the museum’s servers and found out that she disabled the security and entered the gallery alone at night recently. He did some digging and discovered that it would actually benefit Eun-hye financially if the construction of the new museum was delayed, and speculates that she’s actually behind the whole ghost rumor. In-bum doesn’t think she’d damage the museum’s reputation for money.
Eun-hye is out golfing when Director DO HAK-SUNG (Ahn Gil-kang) shows up, following up on an offer he’s made for the museum. He mentions that he has concerns now that her husband is no longer in charge and Eun-hye, stone-faced, says she’ll get back to him when she gets round to looking at it.
Ji-chul has been looking into Ji-ah’s mother and has found rumors that she died while performing an exorcism. In-bum thinks that there must be a hallucinogenic substance in Ji-ah’s incense, which is why he can’t remember what happened during his possessions. He theorises that Mi-jin must have had a stress-induced heart attack while she was hallucinating, and thinks to himself that her client — his uncle — must have died the same way.
When Ji-ah next goes out In-bum seizes the opportunity to break into Daebak Realty and steal the incense. Unbeknownst to him, Mi-jin’s spirit follows him around the apartment and drains his phone battery when he tries to take a photo of her portrait — meaning that Ji-chul, tailing Ji-ah, can’t warn him that she’s on her way home.
Mi-jin scares In-bum by knocking Ji-ah’s shoes to the floor as he’s stowing the incense burner in his bag. He grumbles about how many identical shoes she owns as he puts them back — Mi-jin seems to agree — but he has to hide when he hears Ji-ah approaching. She complains loudly to her mother when she sees the mess in her apartment, assuming Mi-jin’s responsible, before a frantic Ji-chul calls her back downstairs.
In-bum takes the chance to escape out the window while Ji-chul, desperate to distract Ji-ah, suddenly blurts out that he’s in love with her before running off. Ji-ah takes the confession in her stride, blaming her good looks. Meanwhile the guys reconvene in the van, where they discover that the incense burner that In-bum took has somehow been switched with a melon.
Eun-hye’s brother-in law meets with Director Do, surprised that he made Eun-hye such a low offer for the museum. Director Do says that when an area is redeveloped people often fight it, but he’s never seen anyone win. Eun-hye may be putting up a fight now but she’ll succumb in the end.
Hwa-jung gives a briefing about the dead artist, telling Ji-ah that although he was killed by head trauma, he actually had terminal lung cancer and would have died in a month anyway. Interestingly the police still haven’t managed to identify him because the body has no fingerprints.
Eavesdropping outside, the guys wonder how the women have access to autopsy and crime scene photos, guessing that they must have a contact in the police who’s been leaking them information. They join the meeting and Hwa-jung is surprised when Ji-chul offers his help with researching. Ji-ah attributes his sudden work ethic to the power of love — stunning In-bum — and says she can find the ghost’s name herself at the museum.
In-bum goes with her, nervous because he believes that the spirit at the gallery is just part of his hoax. Ji-ah stands in front of a painting that In-bum recognises is of the view from the artist’s apartment, and he realises that means that either the artist knew the ghost, or the artist is the ghost. The only problem with that is that the artist, JO HYUN-SEO (Seo Jin-won), is still very much alive, and Eun-hye leads him into the gallery to meet them.
Gesturing to a self-portrait of the artist facing away, Ji-ah demands to know the real name of the man in the picture, which Hyun-seo insists is himself. As he threatens to sue her for defamation, she pulls out a knife and cuts away the top layer of canvas to reveal another self-portrait underneath, in which the painter — obviously not Hyun-seo — faces the viewer head-on.
Hyun-seo is irate, railing at Ji-ah for damaging his painting. Ji-ah catches his arm when he tries to strike her, observing that 20 years of finger-painting would normally wear away a person’s fingerprints, but his appear to be perfectly intact.
Pushing him up against the wall, Ji-ah snarls at Hyun-seo that he can either be haunted by a vengeful spirit for the rest of his life or tell her the real artist’s name so she can exorcise his ghost. Unsurprisingly, Hyun-seo gives in: the spirit’s name is KIM BYUNG-HO (Im Ji-kyu). Im-beom applauds Ji-ah’s performance, looking impressed, while Eun-hye fumes next to him.
In Eun-hye’s office, Hyun-seo tries to pass the portrait off as a prank by one of his assistants, but she isn’t buying it. She’ll cover the deception up because she doesn’t want the gallery involved in a scandal, but she demands his retirement after the exhibition.
Hyun-seo curses her as he heads to his car, where the ghost is waiting to terrorise him. First the car won’t start, then he catches glimpses of the spirit in the mirrors, and finally bloody handprints appear one by one on the windshield.
As they leave the museum, In-bum tries to get Ji-ah to tell him how she knew about the hidden painting. She just says that their work is confidential and swears him to secrecy on pain of death — so obviously he immediately tells Ji-chul everything.
The cafe owner delivers jajangmyeon to the van – scolding the guys for ordering delivery when they’re parked just outside – and Im-beom takes his necklace off to eat it while Ji-chul fills him in on what he’s found out. Hyun-seo has two different phones registered in his name: one which moves around with him, and a second one which stays in one place, in the area where Byung-ho’s studio was.
Byung-ho had used that phone to upload dozens of videos of himself painting to the cloud, which he presumably intended to use as blackmail material. In-bum remarks that it would be a shame to let those videos go to waste, so they should fulfill Byung-ho’s dying wish on his behalf.
Ji-chul and In-bum (still sans necklace) head to Hyun-seo’s house to blackmail him, and find him sequestered in a room filled with religious icons from different cultures in an attempt to keep the ghost at bay. Agitated, he hands over part of the money they’ve demanded, but refuses to give them the rest until they get rid of the spirit. As they go to leave, the talismans drop from the walls and the icons fall over, and Hyun-seo pleads with them to stay and help him but it’s too late: In-bum has been possessed by Byung-ho’s vengeful spirit.
Ji-ah arrives soon after to find Ji-chul lying crumpled on the floor while In-bum strangles Hyun-seo. She tackles him to the ground and gets the necklace on him, ejecting the spirit which then disappears. Ji-ah tells a dazed In-bum off for messing around before stalking out, leaving Hyun-seo and Ji-chul staring at him in shocked horror.
Ji-ah, In-bum and Ji-chul are sitting at the police station when Eun-hye’s legal advisor calls to arrange for Ji-ah to be released. She leaves without a backward glance. In-bum can’t remember anything that happened and denies assaulting Hyun-seo, but the officer has photos of his injuries and testimony from the housekeeper that In-bum caused them.
In-bum appeals to Ji-chul to back him up, but Ji-chul just stutters that he can’t really remember and shrinks away when In-bum goes to touch him. Sat in the holding cell later, Ji-chul apologises for flinching, but says that In-bum seemed like a completely different person earlier and it was actually really scary.
In-bum remembers an incident when he was a child, when he suddenly came back to himself to find he was standing over another kid holding a blood-covered rock. Adults called him a liar when he said he didn’t do it, and his grandmother just walked away shaking her head as he called to her for help. In-bum sits in the cell thinking about Ji-ah calling him a medium and begins to wonder if everything she’s said is true.
Meanwhile, Ji-ah tells Hwa-jung that In-bum will always be a conman and she shouldn’t have expected anything better from him, making up her mind to dissolve their partnership once the case is over. Ji-ah has realised that Byung-ho’s spirit is obsessed with his paintings, which means she can use them as bait. She thinks about the ghost’s attachment to his old studio and deduces that there must still be some artworks there, using the traces the spirit left behind to lead her to a hidden cache of paintings.
The next day, Hwa-jung has tea with Eun-hye, whom she’s apparently known for years. Hwa-jung promises to sell the gallery but asks for a small favor first, and In-bum and Ji-chul are released that evening. In-bum sulkily gets into Ji-ah’s car, but she speeds off before Ji-chul can do the same, telling In-bum that it would be dangerous for a normal person to accompany them during an exorcism.
In-bum wants no part of it, but Ji-ah tells him he can choose between helping her or going back to jail for attempted murder. She knows In-bum didn’t take their contract seriously when he signed it because he didn’t believe in ghosts then, and asks if he’s having second thoughts now because he’s changed his mind.
In-bum strongly denies it but Ji-ah points out that the only reason for him to suddenly be so against the exorcism is because he’s started to believe it’s real and that scares him. In-bum refuses to admit she’s right, so he reluctantly follows Ji-ah into the studio.
Salt barrier drawn and incense lit, Ji-ah tells a shaking In-bum that all he needs to do is take the necklace off when she gives him the word. She pulls out a lighter and goes to set fire to the paintings, when a sudden wind blows the flame out — the ghost is here.
Ji-ah orders In-bum to remove his necklace but he balks, scared of being possessed. He admits that he was often possessed as a child and would wake up with blood on his hands — he doesn’t want to experience that again. Rapidly running out of time to trap the spirit, In-bum and Ji-ah stare at each other desperately.
Sell Your Haunted House has exceeded my expectations, deftly balancing humor, horror and suspense. I’m impressed with the consistent internal logic so far — even the yin/yang energy explanation for a medium’s virginity makes sense, and I assume that clause is there purely to serve as an impediment to Ji-ah and In-bum’s attraction later on. The supernatural mythology seems well thought out and the characters’ actions are rational and often smart – I liked the way In-bum was speculating about hallucinogenic incense because that reasoning makes sense from his perspective. The trick with the hidden self-portrait made for a great dramatic reveal, and even the supernatural special effects are done well. Despite the case-of-the-week structure, the plot flows smoothly and the hints to the overarching story — Ji-ah’s mother, In-bum’s uncle, Director Do — have been seamlessly woven in. I’m impressed by how smart the writing has been so far and I really hope it continues.
I’ve never seen Jang Nara play a serious, bad-ass character before but she’s really nailing it — Hong Ji-ah is so cool! I love her commitment to black, her love of home shopping, and how physical and aggressive she can be, not just during action scenes but when she grabbed Hyun-seo’s chin and wrestled the necklace onto In-bum — and she even dresses practically to fight ghosts!
I like the reversal of the usual gender roles we’ve got going on, with Ji-ah as the bold lead and In-bum as her more fragile support. I had some reservations about Jung Yong-hwa’s casting, but he actually suits a less traditional male lead like In-bum well. I appreciate the vulnerability he’s showing us as In-bum starts to come to terms with the implications of his abilities – you can really feel his pain and fear. I assume that as Sell Your Haunted House progresses In-bum will be channeling a variety of spirits, so this role should really test Jung Yong-hwa’s acting skills.
Ji-ah and In-bum have a classic opposites-attract relationship, and there’s a budding attraction brewing there underneath their bickering already. We’ve already seen that In-bum’s supernatural strengths complement Ji-ah’s weaknesses, and I suspect that their personal relationship will develop along the same lines as they learn to trust and rely on each other. As exorcist and medium they’re two sides of the same coin, and I like how the costume designers have decided to allude to that by dressing In-bum in pale shades that contrast visually with Ji-ah’s signature black.
The main cast is rounded out by the sidekicks, Hwa-jung and Ji-chul, both highly competent at what they do and seemingly the sole friends of their respective leaders. If it wasn’t for Ji-ah, Ji-chul’s comic antics might be stealing the show, but I also appreciate Hwa-jung’s understated elegance (and outfits!). I’m greatly enjoying the interactions between the two camps so far as both sides regard each other with mistrust, and the mutual spying made me laugh.
I’m interested to see how things will develop now In-bum believes in the supernatural. His fear and reluctance to act as a medium are easily understandable, but I’m not sure what will push him to overcome it and keep taking part in exorcisms. I don’t think his connection with Ji-ah is strong enough yet for him to do it for her, and I can’t see him deciding to exorcise ghosts for altruistic reasons, as Ji-ah does (yet, anyway). Is In-bum’s determination to find out what happened to his uncle really strong enough to motivate him to keep risking his life for Daebak Realty?