Jirisan: Episode 8
Danger takes many forms on Jirisan and our protagonists find themselves battling not only the sinister human forces out to get them but also nature itself. We get a look at our newbie ranger’s deepening affection for his partner and a glimpse into the immense grit that’s required of our rangers on the job.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
As the fire rages around her, Yi-kang is stunned by what she finds — a skeleton on the forest floor. She gasps, “Se-wook” but there’s no time to linger on her discovery. The fire is spreading quickly and it’s all hands on deck to try to minimize damage and danger.
The fire department, rangers, and police split up with the rangers mobilizing to stop the spread on the mountain. The sight of the fire is a sight to behold — an angry, fiery orange line snaking through the mountain’s ridges.
The rangers frantically begin digging fire lines in an attempt to curb the fire’s spread.
Desperate to escape the warehouse, Hyun-jo tries to see if he and the poachers’ kids can escape through a window near the ceiling but ends up hurting his leg further.
As the fire increases in intensity, he has the children wrap one of the fire warning banners around themselves because it’s fire resistant. The oldest boy points out a small opening they could use to get out of the warehouse.
Gu-young and Il-hae lead a group of stragglers away from Jirisan. The children’s mother is among the group and they move on without much fuss.
In the warehouse, Hyun-jo helps the kids crawl out a gap in the building’s exterior wall. He tells them to run to the town and get help but a burning tree falls in their path. Looking through the gap, Hyun-jo realizes with a shock that this was the vision of flames and destruction that he’d seen.
One of the villagers sees the warehouse on fire and calls for help. By the time the fire department arrives, the whole area around the warehouse is choked with smoke and the firefighters can barely see anything.
Having finally arrived at the warehouse, the poacher sees the fire and starts racing towards it, screaming for her children. She’s held back by firefighters for her own safety and an explosion from the warehouse knocks everyone back.
Once the fire is under control, the firefighters make their way in to try and locate the kids. One of them spots a patch of red fabric caught on the exterior wall’s hole. The owner of that patch is Hyun-jo, who made it out successfully before the explosion. He tells a firefighter that the children made it out of the warehouse and he saw them head up the mountain.
The rangers are working at full speed to contain the fire on the mountain but something stops Dae-jin short. He watches the flames and realizes that the wind’s direction has changed. Il-hae and Gu-young, driving back to the mountain, spot the change too. They receive a report over the radio that the fire’s now approaching the village so they turn back.
They arrive at the village to find the poacher desperately pleading with the fire chief to save her kids. She’s certain that they’re at the gap cave, that’s where the kids would always run off to. Dae-jin, hearing this, tells her that he and the rangers will go. The road to the cave may be too narrow for a fire truck, the rangers’ vehicle can make it.
Hyun-jo limps after Gu-young, and says that he wants to be a part of the rescue team. Gu-young dismisses the request right away, citing Hyun-jo’s injuries as reason enough to keep him off the mountain. He asks where Yi-kang is, but Hyun-jo hasn’t seen her.
She had left the rest of the rangers to meet up with Hyun-jo but they realize that she must still be up on the mountain — exactly where the fire was headed — without any fire equipment. Gu-young runs to the car, leaving Hyun-jo behind. Hyun-jo remembers that the rangers have a drone and he flies it out.
On the mountain, Dae-jin issues orders: half the rangers will dig fire lines, the other half will head to the gap cave for the rescue mission.
The Haedong and Bidam teams are still a distance away when a voice comes in over the radio. It’s Yi-kang! She asks who and where, and once Dae-jin gives her the details she tells them she’ll head there first. Hyun-jo looks relieved to hear her voice and lets out a soft whisper, “Sunbae.”
Hyun-jo watches the footage from the drone intently; at the same time Yi-kang darts through the fire and makes her way inside the cave. The kids are inside, terrified, and she just as she tells them that they need to head back down, flames flare up in front of the cave.
By the time Dae-jin and the team reach the cave, the fire’s scorched everything. They put out the fire and push their way in, but Yi-kang and the children are nowhere to be found. The fire is growing more intense around them, but Dae-jin tries to continue the search. Il-hae stops him and says firmly that they’ve done all they can.
Dae-jin brings out his radio and gravely gives a status update that they’ve failed to find any survivors and are turning back. Hyun-jo looks stunned, but a beeping sound from the drone grabs his attention. He spots a fire equipment cabinet with a now-open door and radios Dae-jin and tells him he’s convinced Yi-kang made it there.
The location isn’t far from the cave and Dae-jin orders the other rangers to head down while he stays back to continue the search. Without any hesitation, every single ranger follows him.
Moments earlier, Yi-kang had managed to get the kids out of the cave before the fire reached them. Yi-kang leads them through the forest and to the equipment cabinet. She breaks it open and takes out a fireproof tent, managing to zip it over her and the kids just as a huge blast of fire rushes in their direction, enveloping the entire tent.
The sun rises, and we see exhausted firefighters and rangers taking a break with the worst of things behind them. The rescue team arrive with the children and their mother cries in relief. Hyun-jo searches frantically for Yi-kang and she’s in bad shape. Il-hae is carrying her piggyback-style and she’s barely conscious. Hyun-jo asks if she’s all right and before she’s taken away to the hospital, she manages to get out a few words, telling him that Se-wook was at the pine tree habitat.
Yi-kang comes to at the hospital and Hyun-jo is by her side. He lets her know that she’ll be okay. Despite inhaling a lot of smoke, her lungs are fine and she only has some light burns. He offers her some juice and says someone stopped by to see her earlier.
They step out into the hallway where a little girl zooms past them. It’s one of the children Yi-kang rescued, and when her mom sees Yi-kang, she gives a deep bow and then wordlessly walks away. Hyun-jo tells her that the woman had visited Yi-kang earlier and left a gift box of juice.
Yi-kang smiles in relief to know that the kids are okay. Her contentment is cut short by a sharp smack on the back — it’s Moon-ok. She’s furious at Yi-kang for being reckless and worrying her, and Yi-kang flees to avoid getting told off and smacked more. Hyun-jo does his best to calm Moon-ok down, but it’s no use and he ends up struggling to keep up with Moon-ok with his hurt leg.
When the two get a moment of peace, Hyun-jo tells Yi-kang that they found the skeleton and dental records showed that it was Se-wook. Based on the fractures found on the skeleton, the police have concluded that he fell to his death. Yi-kang remarks that it’s all over now, but Hyun-jo doesn’t think so. He gives her a notebook where he’s written down all the deaths he saw in his visions.
There have been dozens of deaths on Jirisan since his first vision, yet he’s only seen a handful of them. Hyun-jo believes that there’s a reason for his selective sight, the visions he had only showed him murders disguised as accidents.
Hyun-jo continues that the visions he had were all of instances where the deaths could be made to look like accidents. Yi-kang asks if that means that Se-wook murdered all of those people, but Hyun-jo responds that he thinks there’s an accomplice. He’s certain that someone locked him in the warehouse and set fire to it on purpose.
He’s already informed the police of his suspicions, but without any evidence there’s not much the police can do. Hyun-jo calmly states that he’s being targeted, and that since the culprit wasn’t successful this time, they’ll likely try to kill him again.
At this, Yi-kang stands up, indignant, and demands they go to the police immediately. Hyun-jo reminds her that no one would believe them. Yi-kang wants to do something, though, he’s in danger. He gives her a little smile and says he’s actually relieved that he’s the one being targeted and not an unsuspecting hiker. After all, the culprit doesn’t know their secret: his visions.
Hyun-jo is confident that the mountain will show him a vision the next time the culprit comes after him, and that they can catch the person then or report them to the police. Yi-kang is still worried, but Hyun-jo’s smile grows wider as he tells her, “Who are we? The needle and thread of Jirisan. We’ll get the culprit for sure.”
Looking stern, Yi-kang tells him to promise that he won’t do anything alone and that he sticks close to her. She gives him a warning that she won’t forgive him if he gets hurt. Hyun-jo replies that except for when he’s sleeping or using the bathroom, he’ll stick to her. Yi-kang tells him she isn’t joking, and his reply is swift — he isn’t joking either. Aww. She finally gives him a smile when Hyun-jo tells her that they got lucky with the last vision. There were no casualties since she was able to rescue the children.
Hyun-jo is in uniform, seated, and discomfort is written all over his face as he ignores Yi-kang’s repeated phone calls. He finally gives in and answers, telling her he’s in the bathroom. She hangs up, but she isn’t patient and yells at him to hurry up since she just so happens to be keeping watch right outside the bathroom. He steps out and Yi-kang gives him a little wave before running off and Hyun-jo sighs, looking like he wants to disappear. Lol.
The reason for the urgency is a town hall meeting, and all the rangers are in attendance. Unlike the potato bomb meeting, pretty much all the locals have gathered. The meeting gets off to a slow start, with Dae-jin is reciting a poem about Jirisan to the restless audience. Yi-kang decides they need to brighten up the atmosphere, and they launch into a dance-along with a little trot music. That does the trick, and the meeting goes from staid and boring to bright and cheerful with all the attendees dancing their hearts out.
At a mid-year meeting with all the rangers, Gu-young is presents information on a new wheelchair accessible walking path that’s going to open up. It will allow people with mobility issues to enjoy the park as well.
After the meeting a couple of the rangers say hello to Yi-kang. When they leave, Da-won looks at their retreating backs suspiciously, remarking that any of those people could be the culprit they’re searching for.
Yi-kang thanks Da-won for all her help and requests she keep their work a secret. Da-won reassures her that she’s good at keeping secrets. When Yi-kang apologizes for getting her involves in dangerous situations, Da-won remarks that a ranger’s job is dangerous work, Yi-kang is reminded of Hyun-jo saying the same thing years back. Yi-kang replies that their job is to come back safely from dangerous situations and tells Da-won to stay safe.
Once back at the ranger dorms, Yi-kang goes over a trail map with Da-won, taking time to point out several different areas. Da-won heads onto the mountain (alone) on one of her missions for Yi-kang. She makes her way through the park cautiously, keeping in mind all of Yi-kang’s warnings about the culprit and their various ways of staging danger in innocuous-seeming ways. She reaches one of the locations where she’d installed a camera, and notes that there’s been no change in the stone formation.
Yi-kang receives a call from Woong-soon requesting her help. When she gets to the station, she sees herb collectors sitting around a table piled high with confiscated herbs. Woong-soon tells her that the herb-collectors went overboard because it was a spirit-less day. (Days ending with 9 and 0 on the lunar calendar are thought to be days when spirits and ghosts don’t come out.)
Back at the mountain, we see Specter Hyun-jo, lying in the forest and struggling to get up. Even with an immense effort, he’s unable to move off the ground.
At the station, Yi-kang stops one of the herb collectors; he’s the man whose life she saved because she was able to decipher the message left by Specter Hyun-jo. The man says that he’s sorry for collecting so much, but he can’t give up his livelihood and he can’t stop just because he’s scared of a ghost. All the herb collectors know about Jirisan’s ghost and the death that accompanies it so they chose to climb on a spirit-less day.
Yi-kang asks him if the stories about the ghost is true, and the man asserts that the ghost is real and a harbinger of death. He recounts all the incidents when someone he knew had seen the ghost had died or nearly died a few days after. She thinks back to Da-won telling her about seeing a ghost in a ranger’s uniform whose hands and clothes were covered in blood.
As Da-won continues her mission on Jirisan, Yi-kang pays a visit to another herb collector who saw the ghost and nearly died soon after the sighting. She shows him a photo of Hyun-jo and asks if that’s who he saw before his accident.
The herb collector jumps back in fear and he asks Yi-kang how she knows the man in the photo. He refuses to even refer to what he saw as a man, he says it was a ghost — a grim reaper and anyone who saw it ended up dead.
Deep within the park, Da-won is checking on another camera and stone formation. Someone else is in the forest, observing her from afar. The person’s face isn’t visible but there’s a flash of black clothing and gloves.
She keeps going but is getting increasingly anxious; every rustle and noise has her scanning her surroundings.
Hyun-jo, still lying on the ground, has another vision. This time, he sees Da-won, looking terrified as she’s being pushed to the ground by a black gloved-hand. He makes yet another determined effort to get off the ground, and this time seems to break through.
Da-won starts to run but she trips and falls to the ground. When she turns to look behind her, the person following her has caught up. They’re holding a plastic bag with a yakult bottle — and wearing a ranger jacket .
Yi-kang arrives at the entrance to the trail. She makes a note of a ranger car already parked there and makes call after call to Da-won. There’s no answer.
Da-won slowly gets up. She breaks into a smile as she says, “You scared me! What are you doing here?”
It’s crystal clear now that a ranger is involved in all of these murders. I’d gone back and forth on this, both because I didn’t want it to be one of the people I’ve grown attached to and because there hasn’t been much hard evidence yet. But from the way Da-won smiled and greeted the gloved person, it has to be someone we the viewers have met. And it’s difficult to see how this could be a red herring since Spector Hyun-jo’s vision showed Da-won looking terrified and getting pushed by this person. Judging by the build, I’m guessing the person Da-won encounters is Dae-jin. It’s an unpleasant surprise, although the hints were there earlier on when we saw that his days off coincided with the deaths Hyun-jo saw. But I don’t fully understand it yet, and I can’t reconcile Murderer Dae-jin with Ranger Dae-jin. His desperation to find Yi-kang at the gap cave, and the tears and helplessness in his eyes, when they couldn’t locate her seemed so genuine. It even made me feel bad for ever suspecting him as one of the culprits. Someone with such a connection to Yi-kang surely couldn’t be the murderer, could they? But now, I don’t know what to think.
Was there a change in Yi-kang and Dae-jin’s relationship between the fire and the time of the life-altering event that she and Hyun-jo experienced? I have to agree that the pacing is now just frustrating. Each episode leaves me with a lot of questions, but I don’t feel eager to get my answers, I’m more frustrated that so little has been divulged. Even with something like the motive, we have at least two people who were working together to murder visitors to Jirisan and no answer as to why. What is their overarching goal? If they just want to keep people away from the mountain, it’s unlikely “accidental” deaths would do anything to deter visitors. The way the murders have been disguised actually serves to keep lots of visitors coming to Jirisan. After all, if you think a national park has a pair of serial killers running loose, you would avoid it. But deaths that were tragic accidents? That’s not going to stop herb collectors or hikers or anyone really.
There are interesting and truly enjoyable moments in Jirisan, but sometimes I feel like Hyun-jo struggling through that spirit-less day. When Jirisan gets it right though, it can be a thrilling watch. The way the firefighting and rescue sequences were written and shot had my heart beating wildly. I knew Yi-kang would be safe because we see her in the present, but that didn’t stop me from worrying when it seemed like there was no hope at the gap cave. Rangers aren’t lauded in the way firefighters or police are, they just quietly go about doing their job despite the constant peril they’re in. I doubt rangers (both real-life ones and the Jirisan ones) would even care about plaudits but they really do just take the danger in stride and do their best to save the people who visit their parks. All of this makes the revelation that a ranger is in the running to be the culprit all the more chilling. What makes a person go from saving lives to taking them?