Jirisan: Episode 4
As we delve into the deepening bond between our ranger duo in the past, we see the foundation for our heroine’s present-day determination to find answers. But how did they really get to where they are now? There are some answers, but they beget more questions even as the mystery unfurls amid yet more sinister events.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Da-won returns to the spot where she created the trail marker for Yi-kang. She retrieves the memory card from an automated camera she installed there and she realizes that the formation of the marker has changed since she was last there.
Suddenly the skies turn dark and flocks of birds circle ominously. Da-won hears a twig snap and makes a run for it just as our specter Hyun-jo reaches out for her — she runs right through him.
At the same time, comatose Hyun-jo’s vital signs go wild and the noise fills his hospital room. Specter Hyun-jo turns and watches Da-won rush away and this time, his face is visible under his hood.
In the privacy of her room, Yi-kang thumbs through several files and cross-checks some of the information against a notebook of Hyun-jo’s where he’d made notes on all the missing persons cases on Jirisan. There’s a suspicious pattern — the dates of disappearances all coincide with Dae-jin’s off-duty days.
As Yi-kang processes this information, someone rattles the door insistently. She grabs a trekking pole for defense and cautiously wheels herself toward the door. Strangely, she can’t see anything through the door grate but then sees someone rushing at the door.
Yi-kang flings the door open and as she screams, she’s met with more screams — from a freaked out Da-won. Yi-kang looks around and asks if someone else is out in the hallway but Da-won doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Da-won informs Yi-kang that she has something important to share.
Da-won plays a video on her laptop, and it’s footage of the formation. The thing that’s got her freaked out? In the video, a twig moves on its own through the air and rearranges itself. Da-won is still spooked and can’t stop talking about how strange it all was but Yi-kang understands the message that was being sent — someone is going to die near Sumgol Rock in Dawon Valley.
She radios an urgent SOS message to all teams out in the field and reports that someone near Sumgol Rock is in urgent danger. Two teams near the area immediately mobilize to move there. Da-won tries to step in, worried about Yi-kang making a false report, but to her shock the rangers locate a victim. The man is foaming at the mouth, much like Private Ahn was, and he’s evacuated from the park by helicopter.
At the hospital, Woong-soon tells Yi-kang that the man was rescued just in time and that he’s doing much better now. She asks how he fell ill, and Woong-soon says that the hiker had found a yakult bottle by a stream and drank it, and fell sick almost immediately.
While on patrol, Hyun-jo spots two hikers about to drink yakult and he stops them to ask if they brought the drinks themselves, or if they were given the yakult drinks by someone. The women take umbrage to all the questions over two measly drinks so Yi-kang steps in and apologizes for him.
She drags Hyun-jo away, asking what his deal is. Hyun-jo brings up Geum-rye, still upset that the police ruled her death an accident. He explains that he met up with Private Ahn again, and Ahn remembered that the man who gave him the yakult was closing the zipper on Geun-rye’s backpack. Hyun-jo’s hunch is that the mystery man could have put the poisonous mushrooms in the backpack on purpose, to mislead the authorities.
Private Ahn also remembered that the man looked to be in his early thirties and was of average height and average looks. Hyun-jo’s convinced that man is the culprit and tried to get rid of Private Ahn so there would be no witnesses to his crime. Yi-kang is still skeptical and reminds him that Geum-rye’s family is suffering through enough as it is; they have to have solid evidence to show the police.
In the present day, Yi-kang asks the rescued hiker about the yakult drink: where and how did he find it? He explains that the drinks were in a plastic bag cooling in a stream and there was no one around at the time he took one.
The man then muses that the stories about the ghost being a harbinger of death must be true. Lately, hikers have been swapping stories about a ghost on Jirisan and that anyone who saw it ended up dying. He spotted the ghost a few days ago and at first, he hid, thinking it was a ranger.
But the man looked strange — he was covered in blood and wore a long white coat with a national parks logo. Yi-kang asks if it was a snow suit and shows him a picture of her and Hyun-jo in them. The rescued hiker is aghast and insists that Hyun-jo is the man he saw.
Yi-kang thinks back to Hyun-jo telling her that there were things she couldn’t understand that were still true — about him receiving a gift and wanting to save people.
She calls the hospital where Hyun-jo now lives and checks in on him. She asks the nurse if he’s regained consciousness, and though he’s still hanging in there, he hasn’t yet.
On her way out, Yi-kang runs into Sol and asks him if he thinks anything is possible on Jirisan… Even ghosts? Sol answers earnestly that the people who seek out Jirisan are usually troubled, weighed down by sorrows and regret. Ghosts are similar in that way, and if a soul was determined enough they could remain on the mountain as a spirit.
Gu-young is purchasing tickets to a mud festival on his computer and when Yi-kang and Hyun-jo hover over him, he hurriedly tries to close all his tabs. It’s no use — they’ve seen it all and Yi-kang even knows why he wants to go to the festival. She pokes fun at him, saying his taste in date locales is why he keeps getting rejected by LEE YANG-SUN (Joo Min-kyung).
Hyun-jo asks if they’re dating, and Yi-kang dismissively calls it an unrequited crush. Gu-young retorts that it’s not; Yang-sun’s definitely been looking at him differently lately. Yi-kang promptly tells him that asking Yang-sun to the festival will indeed change how she looks at him — like he’s a pervert, lol.
Yi-kang and Hyun-jo pull up to an endangered species restoration center, where animal roars greet them. The center studies all sorts of flora and fauna found on Jirisan and the rangers are there because of a call from one of the staffers, Dr. Yoon Soo-jin.
Dr. Yoon wants their help tracking down a missing snake. The center had tagged and released ten endangered rat snacks on Jirisan, but one has gone missing. She asks that they keep an eye out for the critter when they patrol, but Yi-kang looks grim and says that if animals go missing, Jirisan isn’t the place they should be searching.
Yi-kang and Hyun-jo head to a traditional Korean health store. When the couple who own the store assume the two of them are a married couple, Yi-kang plays it up and asks for something that could help with virility…such as snake. *Wink* They return to their car where Dr. Yoon is waiting with the snake tracker. They’re empty-handed but Yi-kang is positive that the store will lead them to the snake since word on the street is that that store has been making bank lately.
They continue their stakeout and Hyun-jo asks Dr. Yoon about the poisonous mushrooms that had been in Geum-rye’s backpack and if a layperson could extract poison from the mushrooms. She think it’s unlikely and Yi-kang shares Hyun-jo’s suspicions about the poisoned yakult. Dr. Yoon concedes that it would be possible once you had the right extraction method and if you knew the mountain well enough to be able to find the mushrooms. She also adds that only someone like a ranger would know both, and why would a ranger try to poison people?
Hyun-jo’s contemplation of her question is cut short when Yi-kang spots the storeowners leave the store and drive off. They follow the truck and get a signal on the tracker when they drive near a warehouse.
Outside of the warehouse, night’s fallen and there’s still no sign of the couple. Before they can decide whether or not to call the police, Yi-kang rushes into the building. The storeowner couple are taken aback and we see that the entire warehouse is filled with crates of snakes.
The police are called in and the storeowner is defiant despite being caught red-handed. He asks what gives anyone the right to tell him where he can and can’t collect herbs and catch animals. Things get heated as the man and Yi-kang argue. A crowd’s gathered and the storeowner’s wife and children look on, distressed by it all.
After the incident, Dr. Yoon and Woong-soon confiscate all the snakes. Yi-kang and Hyun-jo head out, and someone wearing black gloves watches them walk away and removes a glove, revealing deep scars on their hand.
That same hand places something that looks like a stone on a mossy surface deep in the park. Splatters of dark blood drip off leaves. Hyun-jo wakes with a start — it was another vision.
A little while later, Yi-kang and Hyun-jo hike to a restricted area of Jirisan. It’s the only place in the park where there are graves. Hyun-jo crouches and peers closely at one old gravestone. It’s definitely the place from his vision, but there’s nothing suspicious there. They look around, but after finding nothing out of order Yi-kang says they have get back to work.
Hyun-jo comments that it’s weird that Yi-kang accompanied him to the grave right away when she used to complain and make a fuss if he asked her to take her somewhere. She plays it off but when he calls her Demon Seo she tries a little harder to look tough again, hehe.
As they head off to finish their patrol, a familiar-looking couple sneak into view. It’s the couple who run the health store and they’re toting giant bags full of traps. Despite getting caught and fined, they’re back to poach more animals. The wife is nervous about being there but her husband says poaching is the only way they’ll be able to pay off their fines and feed their family.
Making their way through the forest, Hyun-jo remarks how strange it is to see graves at a national park. Yi-kang explains that the graves pre-date the founding of the park, which is why they were allowed to remain there. Though there may not be human visitors to worry about anytime soon, she says the area is always teeming with animals — especially snakes.
Back at the grave, a man with a scarred hand places a stone on top of the grave.
The storeowner makes his way to the grave and he takes in the stone curiously. He gives it a little toss in the air and on its way down, it explodes.
Hyun-jo and Yi-kang hear the explosion and immediately radio for help as they race back to the grave. Blood drips off the leaves and the storeowner is beyond all help. His wife reaches him and wails in anguish. Hyun-jo arrives at the site first, and stops Yi-kang from witnessing the gory scene (aw, he wanted to spare her having to see another corpse).
At the station, Dr. Yoon tells the rangers that the explosion was a potato bomb. The homemade bombs were used widely by poachers in the ’60s and ’70s. She adds that since potato bombs were encased in wax, the seal allowed the bomb to stay “live” despite being so old.
Hyun-jo takes this opportunity to tell the other rangers that he and Yi-kang had patrolled the area just before the accident. They searched for any dangerous-looking objects and there was definitely no bomb at the time. The others are shocked and Gu-young even asks if they really looked everywhere. But Hyun-jo is positive. Dae-jin grimly says they better be certain, because if they’re wrong that means a civilian died due to a ranger’s mistake.
The meeting is interrupted by a ruckus outside the station. They step out to find cars pulled up to the entrance, all honking their horns. The grieving family of the storeowner are all in attendance, as is the victim himself (in a coffin). As soon as the rangers step outside, the wife confronts them, railing about what “they” did to her husband.
When Dae-jin tries to calm her down, she grabs him by his collar and demands they bring her husband back. She screams in frustration that Yi-kang and Hyun-jo were right there and didn’t do anything about the bomb.
She’s inconsolable and points at Yi-kang, accusing her of being the reason her husband was even on the mountain that day. She rages that the rangers murdered her husband and that she or her husband (in the coffin) won’t leave the station until the rangers have paid for his life.
A journalist stealthily takes photos of the confrontation and the victim’s family, and the papers are full of headlines about the death and the family.
The coffin-in carries on for days with no resolution in sight. With the situation looking dire, upper management convene a meeting. Dae-jin informs his team of that a conclusion was reached: the chief of the national park service has decided to take responsibility for the incident and resign.
Yi-kang runs after Dae-jin and tells him that Hyun-jo is right: there’s indeed a killer on the loose, and they just need to catch him. Dae-jin doesn’t want to hear it, and he tells her heatedly that even if she’s right, it’s the police’s job to find them. Their duty is to protect visitors to Jirisan, and right now they need to regain the trust of the locals who visit Jirisan most.
The national park chief kneels in front of the bereaved wife to apologize and she collapses to the ground in grief. The coffin is finally moved from the station and given a funeral. Yi-kang and Hyun-jo pay their respects from a distance. Hyun-jo is as determined as ever to uncover the culprit behind the bomb. He tells Yi-kang that he’ll find that person no matter what it takes.
The rangers cover the park with banners featuring a potato bomb and a message to report any sightings. Yang-sun leaves her house to report for work, but a noise prompts her to go to her shed. There are two rusty, dangerous looking metal traps lying open on the ground.
The team is busy setting up for a town hall meeting to discuss the potato bomb. Gu-young and Il-hae grumble about Hyun-jo being MIA, having called in sick that day. Yi-kang comes to his defense, saying he called her in the morning to tell her he was going to get a checkup. When Gu-young curiously asks her what was wrong with him, she’s caught off-guard, heh, and stares blankly for a beat before responding: “His head.”
She change the subject by saying there aren’t enough drinks. Yang-sun volunteers to buy more and Gu-young tags along.
Meanwhile, Hyun-jo is fine, but trying to get more info on the detonated potato bomb from Dr. Yoon. She’s been examining the bomb and tells Hyun-jo that she’s sure the bomb was one of the original ones from the past, since the parts needed to make them weren’t available anymore.
At the time, confiscated bombs were dismantled and the parts burned. She has heard that some people who found bombs kept them as souvenirs, but as far as she knows even those were later confiscated.
Hyun-jo jumps at this information and asks for a list of the people. Dr. Yoon sighs in exasperation, and says she doesn’t have a list but can introduce him to one of the people who worked there at the time.
On their way back to the town hall, Yang-sun and Gu-young carry bags full of drinks. Yang-sun looks lost in thought while Gu-young looks pleased to be spending one-on-one time with her.
He takes the one bag she’s carrying, and tries to show off his strength while attempting to make conversation with her. Yang-sun suddenly remembers something — a man holding three potato bombs, standing in her shed — and her eyes widen. Gu-young, meanwhile continues chattering, telling her about a Milking Goats Festival. While Yang-sun’s obviously having A Moment, he gathers up his courage to ask, “Do you want to go milk some goats with me?”
Yang-sun hasn’t heard a word he’s said and answers his question with an excuse that she needs to get back to the station. He watches her literally run away and thinks aloud, “Ah, I got rejected again.” He trudges on sadly and wonders what his problem might be.
Hyun-jo arrives at a quiet house and an elderly man pokes his head out. He looks scared when Hyun-jo introduces himself as a park ranger. Hyun-jo surreptitiously checks out the man’s hands carefully and they’re scar-free. The man is hesitant to talk about the bomb disposal squad.
When Hyun-jo presses further, the man blurts out that the bomb disappeared on its own. He leads Hyun-jo into the shed to show him where the bomb used to kept and asks for his silence as this could put his granddaughter in a tight spot.
The town hall meeting is about to commence and the rangers try to hand out flyers at the entrance but most people brush them off — except one man, who grabs a flyer from Yi-kang. It’s just a glimpse, but she notices scars on his hand.
We see Yang-sun is out on Jirisan, trekking with a purpose and she’s clearly looking for something.
The elderly man has finally invited Hyun-jo inside, and he’s mostly concerned about his granddaughter, Yang-sun. Hyun-jo stares at a family photo but his attention is drawn to a young man pictured with Yang-sun’s family.
It’s the same man who’s now at the town hall meeting, reading the flyer he took from Yi-kang. Yi-kang observes him, taking in the scars on his hand and the fact that he’s sitting next to her grandma. He turns and smiles at Yi-kang. She meets his gaze and keeps her expression neutral.
That smile at the end from the mystery man gave me the creeps! Even though we now know the face attached to the scarred hand, we don’t really know who he is. He seems closely related to Yang-sun but is he? Regardless of his relation to Yang-sun, I wonder if he is truly the person behind all these deaths. Based on what Hyun-jo has uncovered, there are likely many more murders that were incorrectly classified accidents. Is the scarred man working alone or with a partner? With the way everything has been unraveling, nearly everyone seems suspicious. Someone who’s still at the top of my suspects list is Dae-jin. His days off coinciding with so many missing persons cases seems like it’s too big to be a simple coincidence. If it turns out that there are murderers plural rather than just the one culprit, that has a lot of implications for the danger that await the rangers.
At this point, it’s difficult to sort out the true leads vs. red herrings. Some things, like Dr. Yoon saying that only a ranger would have the knowledge to extract poison from mushrooms, seem designed to make us suspect Dae-jin. But what motive would he have to kill visitors? What is motivating the real killers right now? Motive is something that I’ve been mulling over since the first episode — when it comes to the whys, what are they and why Jirisan? Does the culprit have a grudge he has against the park for some reason? Or is the real motive more about harming the people who work in and visit the park?
Speaking of visitors, this episode was a good reminder that not all visitors to Jirisan come with good intentions. Though it’s hard to feel bad for someone poaching endangered animals, that potato bomb was diabolical. And those little kids who lost their father! The rangers really do have dangerous, thankless jobs. I’m glad to see the bond between Yi-kang and Hyun-jo continuing to develop. In the previous episodes, we did get the sense that she trusted him, but in this one we’re seeing a deeper understanding between them. It’s in the little moments, like Yi-kang covering for Hyun-jo’s absence without hesitation and Hyun-jo keeping Yi-kang from having to see another dead body on the mountain. It was also quite heartbreaking to see specter Hyun-jo trying to reach out to Da-won literally, but failing to. He’s still stuck roaming the liminal sphere. I’m really curious about how that came to be and if he can make his way back to this realm. After all, he’s comatose rather than dead, but I’d imagine that there’s a physical limitation to his condition that has kept him from regaining consciousness.
Because of how heavy the other parts of the show are, the moments of lightness are especially welcome. Gu-young is currently one of my favorite characters and his scenes are just extra funny. His attempt to ask Yang-sun out (“Do you want to go milk some goats with me?”) is pretty much on the same level as one of my other favorite lines of dialogue, “Do you like Messi?” from Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju.