Sell Your Haunted House: Episode 5
An unexpected encounter with a ghost drives our exorcist to look into her mother’s death, while our leads learn that they’re stronger together than apart.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Ji-ah’s focus is on the ghost as Director Do walks towards her, but it disappears as he starts to speak. The Director thinks that Ji-ah is refusing to sell up because she’s holding out for a bigger pay-out and invites her to work for him instead, but she replies that she doesn’t work for just anyone, offending him.
Director Do gives Ji-ah a few days to think about whether she wants to be his ally or his enemy. In-bum notices Ji-ah’s pale and shivering and realises there must be a ghost somewhere nearby, grabbing her hand once the Director has left, but she pulls away and stalks off. Ji-chul wonders if they need to run again now Tae-jin’s found them, but In-bum has noticed that he’s afraid of Ji-ah and they resolve to stick close to her for protection instead.
The restaurant owner is relieved that the thugs have gone, telling the boys that they show up every couple of weeks to try and pressure them into selling. Ji-chul counsels her to give in before things get worse, but In-bum stops him — the owner’s son left 12 years ago and she’s been waiting for him to return ever since, so she can’t move in case he comes back and finds her gone.
Still distracted by the ghost, Ji-ah tasks Hwa-jung with investigating the death of her mother’s last client when she gets back to the office, and In-bum and Ji-chul arrive shortly afterwards to give an update on the Green Villas case. Ji-chul, bragging about his research skills, has found 3 people who died as a result of the fraud and puts their photos up on the screen. He’s about to launch into an in-depth explanation when Ji-ah cuts him off and identifies the ghost from the pictures, having seen her at the apartment. Her name is JOO KYUNG-HEE (Nam Ki-ae) and she died of a heart attack aged 60.
Hwa-jung goes to speak with Kyung-hee’s daughter, who says that she thought the apartment purchase was a bad idea all along but her mom was so happy about it. It was her first time buying a home after renting her whole life, and she wanted her pregnant daughter and son-in-law to move in with her. Thugs turned up after only a week and claimed she was living there illegally, ransacking the place and forcibly evicting Kyung-hee. Her daughter claims that it was anger at the injustice of it that really killed her mother.
Ji-ah and In-bum head to the apartment that night to exorcise Kyung-hee’s spirit. The ghost is happy in her own little world, humming to herself as she scrubs the floors, but the muddy footprints Ji-ah and In-bum purposely leave trigger flashbacks to the thugs bursting in and she snaps. Snarling, the ghost loses her human appearance and everything in the apartment starts to shake, Ji-ah pushing In-bum out of the way as knives fly across the room. This time In-bum removes his necklace immediately when Ji-ah calls for him to do so, stopping the ghost mid-charge.
Now possessed, In-bum attacks Ji-ah, screaming at her to get out of his house, but Ji-ah quickly stabs him in the heart. In-bum witnesses Kyung-hee’s memories of visiting the real estate agency, looking for a deposit lease that would let her pay a deposit up front rather than rent every month. A realtor had convinced her to use her savings as a downpayment on a property instead, but after she had been evicted her money hadn’t been returned – she’d been scammed.
Kyung-hee had intended to buy an apartment to provide for her pregnant daughter, but ended up having to move into the one-room space she and her husband rented, becoming a burden to her. As the ghost disappears, her last words are an apology to her daughter and Ji-ah is reminded of her own mother apologising to her as she died.
Back at Daebak Realty, the mood is somber. In-bum is angry at the injustice of Kyung-hee’s situation, and says that he’d have murdered people by now if he’d been doing this for as long as Ji-ah. She says that that would just create more vengeful spirits, which is why her involvement ends at the exorcism.
In-bum is struggling to deal with the emotions possession left behind. He tells Ji-ah that his parents passed away when he was very young, so he never knew them and never missed them, but Kyung-hee’s anguish at leaving her daughter makes him wonder if they were in this much pain when they had to leave him. Later Ji-ah pours herself a drink in her apartment and thinks again about her mother’s dying moments, wondering if Mi-jin felt the same way about leaving her alone and that’s why her ghost stuck around, to keep watch over Ji-ah.
Mi-jin had made Ji-ah promise to stay upstairs while she worked but Ji-ah was curious and had disobeyed, going downstairs to find the man who had come looking for help possessed and strangling Mi-jin. The ghost screamed at Ji-ah and she fell backwards, covering her ears, and when she looked up again Mi-jin, now possessed, was kneeling opposite her instead.
Mi-jin was clearly fighting her possession and desperately tried to get Ji-ah to stab her with the spirit awl the way she’d practiced, but Ji-ah was too terrified to do it. Mi-jin, unable to resist the ghost any longer and scared that she’d hurt Ji-ah, seized the awl and plunged it into her own heart instead, exorcising the spirit but killing herself in the process.
Hwa-jung has been looking into Mi-jin’s last client, as Ji-ah requested. His name was OH SUNG-SHIK (Kim Dae-gon) and he killed himself 20 years ago, 2 days after his visit to Daebak Realty. The area was being developed back then too, and when Sung-shik was forcibly evicted he started a fire in revenge which ended up killing 7 people, and soon after committed suicide, presumably from the guilt. Coincidentally, it was Director Do’s company behind the development then too, so that’s presumably why Sung-shik’s ghost has attached itself to the director.
Still thinking of Mi-jin and Kyung-hee, Ji-ah asks Hwa-jung to look into the whereabouts of the missing president of the realty office involved in the Green Villas scam, HWANG JAE-WOO (Kwon Dong-ho). Meanwhile, Director Do is bribing a politician to overlook pressure from protestors and allow Dohak Construction to develop some government land. It looks like he may have political aspirations too.
In-bum’s sleep is disrupted by Kyung-hee’s memories and Ji-chul observes that In-bum has been acting like his mother lately, wondering if it’s Kyung-hee’s habits coming out. They resolve to placate her ghost by finding President Hwang and recovering the stolen money.
As In-bum tuts over the state of the van and clears up trash, Ji-chul looks into the president’s sister, who’s been making a suspicious amount of calls to an unregistered burner phone since her brother disappeared. Ji-chul hacks the burner and sets an electronic trap that will let them trace the phone’s location the next time it sends or receives a call.
Meanwhile Hwa-jung has been doing her own research and tells Ji-ah that there have been a lot of rumors that President Hwang’s company was funneling slush money for Dohak Construction — the police even investigated it but couldn’t find enough evidence for a conviction. Although it may look as though President Hwang ran off with the Green Villas money, it’s more likely that Director Do was behind the scheme. Looking at President Hwang’s real estate portfolio, which he co-owns with his sister, Ji-ah notices that the market value of one property has dropped dramatically and decides to use that as bait to lure him out.
Ji-ah and Hwa-jung’s planning is interrupted by a noise from the backroom and they find In-bum mopping the floors in a trance. He’s annoyed when he snaps out of it, disgruntled that the ghost didn’t put rubber gloves on first to protect his hands. He follows Ji-ah outside but she refuses to tell him where she’s going and he slinks back to Ji-chul as both pairs, eyeing each other mistrustfully, decide to keep their investigations a secret from one another.
Ji-ah meets with President Hwang’s sister to make her an offer on their under-performing property and she calls her brother to consult him, giving Ji-chul a chance to trace his phone’s location. President Hwang agrees to sell and Ji-ah insists that they meet in person to sign the contract.
In-bum wants to check President Hwang’s actually at the phone’s location before tipping off the cops, so he rings the bell posing as a delivery person with an important package that needs to be signed for. He’s surprised when Tae-jin, Director Do’s subordinate, answers the door and tries to see into the apartment past him, causing Tae-jin to get suspicious and flip up the visor on In-bum’s helmet.
In-bum tries to claim he has a part-time job as a deliveryman before giving up and running away, but Tae-jin’s lackey catches him. They beat him up in the hallway and are just trying to drag him inside, In-bum clinging desperately to a pillar, when Ji-ah coincidentally arrives with President Hwang’s sister just in time to save the day. She runs towards In-bum as soon as she sees the predicament he’s in, and he’s ecstatically relieved to see her.
At the police station, In-bum, President Hwang, Tae-jin and the other thug all sit in a row with bruised and swollen faces, while Ji-ah looks fine. In-bum is upset that he was arrested too when he was only trying to defend himself, telling Ji-ah that he couldn’t just sit still and do nothing when that conman, President Hwang, was out there. She points out that In-bum is actually a conman himself, so maybe he’s just getting a taste of his own medicine, but he insists he only ever conned people who deserved it. In-bum accuses Ji-ah of being a hypocrite, telling In-bum not to get involved and then secretly getting involved by herself anyway.
Ji-ah and In-bum are released but Director Do pulls some strings and gets the charges against his men dropped too, and Tae-jin gloats as the thugs drive away. Back at Daebak Realty, In-bum is frustrated that their efforts came to nothing in the end. President Hwang hiding out with Dohak Construction’s thugs is only circumstantial evidence of collusion, and without something more solid Director Do will only be given a fine and not have to compensate the Green Villas victims.
Ji-ah instructs Ji-chul to hack President Hwang’s phone and see what’s on there. The guys didn’t bother before because they figured he wouldn’t have anything important on a burner phone, but Ji-ah suspects he’ll have kept something incriminating about Director Do as a back-up plan. In-bum points out that she was telling them not to get involved before, but Ji-ah says that now they’ve begun, they must see it through to the end. Smiling, In-bum says he’s finally starting to like her a little bit, and Ji-ah grouchily retorts that she’s not doing this to make him like her.
Ji-chul finds a recording on the phone of a secret conversation between President Hwang and Director Do’s secretary discussing the Green Villas collusion, and releases it to the press, causing a great public furor and calls for a criminal investigation into the case. Director Do knows that Ji-ah and In-bum were behind the leak, but there’s nothing he can do but deny Dohak Construction’s involvement and try to pin the embezzlement solely on President Hwang. makes a public pledge to pay consolation money to the victims.
President Hwang is eventually sentenced to prison but Dohak Construction and Director Do get off scot-free, to In-bum’s disgust. Watching the news, he points out that Hwang’s realty company won’t have the funds to pay the compensation the victims are entitled to, so they’ll be forced to settle for the meagre consolation money that Dohak have pledged to pay out as a gesture of good will instead.
He storms over to the office to complain to Ji-ah, only to find her angrily whaling on the punching bag. She rips her gloves off and stomps upstairs, and Hwa-jung tells In-bum that she’s been at it for the last hour, ever since Director Do’s press conference. It’s better Ji-ah takes her frustration out on a bag than a person.
Ji-ah convinces the apartment’s new owner to rent it out as a lease deposit rather than selling it outright, telling him that there are rumors that they’re planning to build a new railway in the area in a few years and the property value will be much higher then. In-bum, mopping in the background, smiles to himself.
Ji-ah and Hwa-jung offer the apartment to Kyung-hee’s daughter, explaining that the consolation money she received from Dohak would be enough to cover the lease deposit. The daughter asks why they thought of her, and Ji-ah says that it’s their job to match the correct person to the correct property, and she’s the right person for that apartment.
In-bum smiles knowingly at Ji-ah as she closes the Green Villas casefile, annoying her. He simultaneously praises and teases her for fulfilling Kyung-hee’s last wish of providing a home for her daughter, while Ji-ah tries to claim she was making the best decision for her client and it just happened to work out that way.
Later that day In-bum sneaks into the record-room to look for his uncle’s casefile, but gets caught by Ji-ah. He starts grabbing random cases off the shelves, pretending he was cleaning in a trance again, Ji-ah doesn’t buy it and bodily ejects him from the room, assuming that he’s up to no good again.
In-bum is offended, telling Ji-ah that he likes helping with exorcisms and feeling like he’s doing some good, but he’s struggling with the emotional aftereffects and was looking for a solution. Ji-ah tells him there isn’t one, so he should just leave once the contract comes to an end.
A new client arrives at Daebak, struggling to rent out commercial spaces in his building because of rumors it’s haunted. He shows them footage that a ghost-hunter investigating the site posted online, and Ji-chul and In-bum are shocked to see an actual ghost caught on tape. Excusing them as part-timers, Ji-ah asks her usual blunt questions about deaths connected with the building and the owner is surprised that none of them recognised the ghost.
Hwa-jung gives a briefing about the deceased, a 23 year-old man whose death was highly publicised about 3 months ago. He had spent 2 straight days and nights playing games at a PC room in the building and then died of a heart attack as he was leaving. Since she already knows his name and face, Ji-ah decides to head over and exorcise the spirit immediately.
Ji-ah tells In-bum to spread salt in front of the doorway when they arrive and he asks her why it’s necessary as he scatters it about half-heartedly. Ji-ah tells him that it’ll form a barrier to stop the ghost from escaping while it’s possessing his body, reminding him that her last medium ended up dangling from the roof of Dream Officetel after In-bum broke her salt circle. Aghast, In-bum crouches by the door to make the salt line as solid as he possibly can, realising that his life might depend on it later.
Ji-ah can see the ghost’s traces on the stairs and predicts that it’ll appear at around 4am, as it seems to be repeating the events leading up to its death every night. Right on time the ghost appears at the bottom of the steps and Ji-ah instructs In-bum to remove his necklace, giving the ghost no chance to fight back before it’s exorcised by slamming her awl into his chest immediately. In-bum collapses to the floor and Ji-ah sits down next to him looking tired.
Just then Ji-ah’s breath turns to vapor again and she notices that there are still spirit traces on the floor below. Telling In-bum urgently to put his necklace back on, she leaves him on the stairs and follows the traces to the sauna in the basement. Leaning over the edge of a shallow pool, Ji-ah sees the ghost of a girl looking up at her from under the water. She tries to run, but the ghost appears behind her and pulls her down into the pool.
Struggling under the water, Ji-ah tells herself that she’s been bewitched and this is not reality, urging herself to wake up. Sinking to the bottom, she pleads with her mother to help her, reliving the night Mi-jin died yet again. Just then Ji-ah hears In-bum’s voice faintly calling her to wake up and opens her eyes to find him in the water in front of her.
In-bum pulls Ji-ah out of the water and she clings to him gasping, suddenly remembering Sung-shik clinging to a bag and pleading for help, except now he isn’t holding a bag, he’s holding a boy. The boy in Ji-ah’s memory turns around and there’s just a blank space where his face should be.
That was a great cliffhanger! Ji-ah is apparently an unreliable narrator and her memories may not be accurate, casting doubt on the bits of the past we’ve seen so far. Did she subconsciously repress that memory, or was something more supernatural at work? I really like the way the writers have used narrative tricks and misdirection to keep the audience on our toes and present the story in an interesting way.
I think we can assume that the boy in Sung-shik’s arms was In-bum, presumably possessed and in need of an exorcism. Was the facelessness a side effect of the possession, or just Ji-ah’s mind obscuring the boy’s identity? Why was her memory about In-bum repressed, when she could still remember Sung-shik’s presence and her mother’s death clearly? It’s also interesting that Ji-ah clearly remembers Sung-shik strangling Mi-jin, but earlier In-bum remembered Mi-jin strangling Sung-shik, their positions reversed – can both of these memories be correct? It reminds me of the client in the Dream Officetel case following his wife up to the roof and seeing her standing on the ledge, only to snap out of it and find himself standing on the ledge instead. Perhaps Ji-ah, In-bum or both were bewitched by the ghost and what they thought they saw didn’t actually happen.
It now seems as though the exorcism got out of hand somehow and the ghost ended up possessing Mi-jin. Mi-jin tried to get Ji-ah to exorcise it but ended up having to exorcise herself, and either the stress that put on her body or the massive drain of energy killed her. Now we know that exorcists can be possessed, I suspect that the Ji-ah will have to act as a medium for Mi-jin and exorcise her that way. We already know that In-bum’s special powers can mitigate the negative effects of exorcism for Ji-ah, so hopefully he’ll be able to lend her enough strength to do it without killing herself. It all makes sense, but given the twists and narrative sleight of hand we’ve seen so far I wonder whether things will actually proceed that way. I’m also hoping that there will be a good explanation for In-bum’s very convenient special medium powers, rather than it all just being a lucky coincidence.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that Sung-shik was possessed when he set the fire that killed those people, although I think he may have genuinely committed suicide when he saw what he’d done. I still wonder if he was Mi-jin’s medium — Ji-ah doesn’t seem to remember that but we now know that that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. He died far too soon after Mi-jin for their deaths not to be linked somehow. I also can’t see a link between Director Do and Mi-jin yet, but given how his plans in the present seem to echo his actions in the past, I suspect he’s tied to what happened somehow. When will Ji-ah realise that In-bum is Sung-shik’s nephew? We now know that ghosts can sometimes be caught on film, so maybe that’s how In-bum will realise that his uncle’s spirit is still hanging around.
I very much liked the way that the Green Villas case was centred around a real estate con, combining both Ji-ah and In-bum’s specialities. It was fun to see how they each approached the same problem, but even separately they were inadvertently filling in for each other’s weaknesses. I think they’re starting to realise that they really are stronger together than apart, and not just in a supernatural sense. They make a good team.
I really thought the righteous Ji-ah would be the one pushing In-bum, the self-centred conman, to do the right thing, but we’ve mostly had it the other way round so far. I think Ji-ah speaks from years of disappointed experience when she warns In-bum to think of the ghost’s memories as a sad movie he can’t affect. Although so far they’ve managed to right some wrongs and provide some comfort for loved ones left behind, an exorcist’s victories can only ever be bittersweet, because at the end of the day they can’t give the spirits their lives back.