Jirisan: Episode 9
Our story gets twisty this episode, with unexpected developments happening in both timelines. On one end, a tragedy creates tension and divide, as evidence points to one particular ranger as the culprit. On the other end, our protagonist is introduced to a strange disappearance on the mountain that may have its roots in the supernatural. As the tangible and the otherworldly entangle further, our rangers find themselves with a mystery that continues to grow in scale.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
At Jirisan, Da-won pretends to be relieved upon seeing a ranger she recognizes. Somewhere on the mountain, where a tree is surrounded by blooming flowers, a signal of twigs and rocks has been set up.
Yi-kang’s phone calls to Da-won don’t go through so she resorts to texting. When she spots Gu-young coming out of the restricted trail, she asks him if he’s seen Da-won and explains that Da-won is suddenly unreachable.
The next day, with Da-won considered officially missing, a search commences. Yi-kang and Gu-young are at the control room, providing instructions to the rangers out in the field. A glass board in the room ominously indicates Dae-jin’s days off schedule. Gu-young asks Yi-kang if she’s been able to call Dae-jin, but Yi-kang tells him that Dae-jin’s phone is turned off.
Woong-soon enters the room and tells Yi-kang and Gu-young that Da-won’s credit card statements indicate that her last transaction was yesterday. She wasn’t seen in any of the security footage around the restricted trails either. Woong-soon concludes that Da-won’s still at Jirisan, like Yi-kang suspects.
When Yi-kang suggests that they search around a specific dead tree in an area southeast of a lily habitat, Gu-young realizes Yi-kang intends to rely on her signalling method. He’s exasperated when he finds out that Da-won’s disappearance happened because she was looking for the same signals that only Yi-kang and Hyun-jo knew.
He doubts the dead tree would have clues, but Yi-kang insists on the accuracy of the signalling method as it’s helped them find hikers that entire rescue teams couldn’t. And most importantly, Yi-kang feels responsible for Da-won’s disappearance and she pleads with Gu-young to have the rescue team sent to the dead tree.
A team of rangers arrive at the tree, confused about why they’ve been sent here. They spot the twig formation and send an image of it to Yi-kang. She quickly interprets the signal, and explains that it’s pointing toward the pebbly road at Haebawi Rock, and Gu-young relays the message.
As the rangers outside search around that area, they find a bloody pink cellphone with the letters “LDW.” They relay this to Gu-young via walkie-talkie. When Yi-kang confirms that it’s Da-won’s phone, Gu-young tells the rangers to continue searching that area.
Woong-soon meets up with some of the rangers from the search and they hand over the phone they found. Night falls, and Da-won is still nowhere to be found. When Gu-young tells the rangers to look around a rocky ridge nearby, Yi-kang tells him Da-won wouldn’t be there–she’s warned Da-won about the dangers of that trail. However, Gu-young tells her that being stranded can impair judgement and pointedly tells her that she of all people should know.
When Woong-soon finally returns, Gu-young tells him that there’s been no progress. Woong-soon asks if there’s any word from Dae-jin. He plays a voice recording that was found on Da-won’s phone.
It turns out, the ranger Da-won saw at Jirisan was Dae-jin. When Dae-jin had asked her why she was here on her day off, Da-won gave the excuse that she was training. Dae-jin then suggested they go down together, while also attempting to hide a plastic bag with a yakult bottle inside. Da-won declined the offer, and they seemingly parted ways.
Now knowing that Da-won and Dae-jin had met, Gu-young prepares to call Dae-jin but Yi-kang interrupts him. Based on the sound of Da-won’s voice, Yi-kang believes that Da-won recorded the conversation, because she was scared. A flashback of Da-won reaching toward her phone when she sees Dae-jin carrying a yakult bottle confirms this. As Gu-young asks if Yi-kang suspects that Dae-jin is related to Da-won’s disappearance, she picks up the work log.
Yi-kang points out that Dae-jin was supposed to be at Baektogol for base patrol according to the log, but he had suspiciously gone to where Da-won was, Jeonmukgol, instead. Gu-young is angry at the implication, but before things can escalate, Dae-jin enters the room.
As the rangers outside search around a rocky ridge, they suddenly spot Da-won. While everyone else in the control room listens intently, Dae-jin is confused by what’s going on. A ranger gets closer to Da-won, who’s lying on the ground unconscious with blood on her head. His voice quivers as he delivers the tragic news–Da-won’s dead.
In the control room, everyone is shaken, with Yi-Kang holding back tears. The rangers outside don’t notice, but Da-won is also holding a pair of black gloves. It’s the same pair that the killer was wearing in Hyun-jo’s.
As Da-won’s body is carried to an ambulance, the air is heavy. The police believe Da-won had died from falling from the ridge, and they have a few questions for Dae-jin. When Gu-young tells Woong-soon now’s not the time, Woong-soon explains that it’s not just about the recording, but also because Da-won was found holding a pair of gloves. Woong-soon holds out the gloves and Dae-jin is surprised to see that they’re his.
Distraught by the new piece of evidence, Yi-kang interrogates Dae-jin. She asks him why he had killed Da-won, if he’s killed others, and if he tried to do the same to Hyun-jo. Gu-young interjects by saying that she was the one who told Da-won to go to Jirisan in the first place, and she shouldn’t treat Dae-jin this way. Dae-jin doesn’t respond to Yi-kang’s accusations and heads to the police car for questioning.
At Jirisan, Spector Hyun-jo opens his eyes. He sees a vision of a gloved hand pushing Da-won. When he arrives at Jeonmukgol, he notices that the signal has already been formed. He then gets a vision of gloved hands setting it up. As he’s confused by this discovery, he happens to see a man he recognizes–it’s the herb collector who was previously rescued after drinking a poisoned yakult.
At the station, Gu-young tells Yi-kang that there’s a lot he doesn’t know, from why she and Hyun-jo had gone to Black Bridge Valley on the day of the accident to why she suspects Dae-jin. However, he does know that ever since she’s returned, things have gone awry. He tells her that she shouldn’t have come back.
Yi-kang stays in the room, grieving silently. She looks at Da-won’s desk, which is full of traces of her hoobae’s life. Yi-kang recalls all her interactions with Da-won, from their first meeting to the final words they shared.
Suddenly, the herb collector rushes into the room. Yi-kang tries to tell him to come another time, but he hurriedly explains that he bears a message from Hyun-jo: someone else set up the markings this time. When the man was at Jeonmukgol, he had seen Hyun-jo’s ghost and was even able to verbally communicate with him. Hyun-jo asked him to deliver this message to Yi-kang, and fearing for his life, he came to do as he was told. Completing the task, the man runs away before Yi-kang can ask him any more questions.
Yi-kang then calls the ranger who found the trail formation by the dead tree to ask if he retrieved the sensor camera near the tree. However, the ranger tells her he didn’t see one. When Yi-kang asks about Da-won’s notebook, which should have been in her bag, he tells her that all her belongings are with the police now.
She gives Woong-soon a call to inquire about Da-won’s notebook, the one she’s known to always carry with her. He tells her that there was no notebook found.
Somewhere in Jirisan, a pair of gloved hands flip open Da-won’s notebook. Notes and diagrams of the markings are written down, along with their locations on a map. The gloved individual also has the sensor camera.
As she wheels herself across a bridge in Jirisan, Yi-kang wonders who had sent the signal and what their purpose was. We flashback to when Da-won was pushed by the gloved person. After killing her, they’d taken both her notebook and phone, keeping the former and dropping off the latter on the pebbly road.
Yi-kang reaches a restricted path and after a pause pulls open the gate keeping visitors out. Now on uneven mountain terrain, she struggles to move forward. A wheel gets caught, and she falls over. She carries on, half crawling, but she keeps falling over. She thinks about needing to meet Hyun-jo, who she trusts the most, about what he knows. As tears well up in her eyes, she loses consciousness.
In 2019, Hyun-jo is carrying a hiker on his back, while Yi-kang carries everyone’s bags. When they reach the end of the path, Hyun-jo lets the hiker down and the man stands up, looking perfectly healthy. He tells them an ambulance doesn’t need to be called as he feels better. Yi-kang calls him out for pretending to be sick, and an argument ensues.
The hiker suddenly receives a phone call and leaves. Before Yi-kang can go after him, Hyun-jo stops her and says they should consider all of this as a training session. Yi-kang notices Hyun-jo looks like his leg his bothering him and she bends down to check on him. The slightest touch has him groaning in pain, and she tells him he shouldn’t have offered to carry the hiker.
They suddenly receive an SOS report that a hiker has sprained his leg, and they need to be on the move again. Yi-kang is annoyed that this is the third time they’ve been told to mobilize, but the voice over the walkie-talkie explains that they’re short-staffed. Before she can say more, Hyun-jo pulls her up with his hand and cheekily cracks a joke. He carries both their rucksacks to show he’s fine and heads out. Yi-kang follows him, asking him to hand hers over.
Meanwhile, Gu-young gives Yang-sun hiking tips as they trek the mountain. When they take a break, Gu-young tells her they should stop for the day. Yang-sun insists they keep going as part of her training and to see the place he wanted to show her. Aw, they hold hands while they hike.
When they reach the top of a ridge, Yang-sun tells Gu-young that she finally feels like a ranger now that she’s climbed this far. Gu-young assures her that she’s always been one, as she’s a huge help in the office. They talk about other places to train, and Gu-young encourages her whenever she doubts her capabilities.
When they eat, she asks Gu-young if he’d be interested in meeting her mother when she comes during the Mountain Spirit Ritual. He agrees to it, though there’s some hesitation on his face. Elsewhere, Il-hae comes out of a health clinic and sits down with a sigh just outside the place.
A calendar in the ranger station indicates that it’s now May. Some important events that have been marked include the week-long Mountain Spirit Ritual, a promotion exam, and Dae-jin’s work schedule.
At the ranger station, Hyun-jo carries over a box of items to be used for the Mountain Spirit Ritual, while Yi-kang takes care of the calls. When they take a brief break, Hyun-jo complains about how the mountain spirit is giving them so much work. Yi-kang tells him that it’s not just the mountain spirit, there are evil spirits too. She says that it wasn’t until she met Hyun-jo that she started considering there might some be truth to her grandma’s stories about spirits.
At an educational museum about Jirisan, the previous chief, KIM KYE-HEE (Joo Jin-mo) gives high school students a tour. When a student picks a flower off the ground and rips off its petals, Kye-hee slaps the student’s hand. He explains that the pain he feels is how nature would feel. He tells him that he’ll need to dock off points and asks for the student’s name. In the background, Dae-jin overhears and chuckles. The student scoffs, saying that he’s only a guide.
After the tour, Kye-hee and Dae-jin catch up. Dae-jin asks him if he still wants to work at the museum when he used to be the chief. Kye-Hee simply says that all jobs are respectable. Dae-jin mentions that he’s heard that Kye-hee has been appointed to be the chairman of the Preservation Committee, and they talk about how the newest chief is too soft.
Kye-hee then asks Dae-jin why he’s come by today. When Dae-jin mentions the thought of quitting, Kye-hee wonders if it’s due to Dae-jin’s daughter returning. He then tells Dae-jin that it’s hard to take on and leave a job of this nature since it involves saving people. Dae-jin responds that he’s seen more people die than live lately, and the former chief reprimands him for complaining.
Before Kye-hee leaves, Dae-jin stops him and shows him a business card. It belongs to a Yang Geun-tak, who’s the president of the Jirisan Cable Car Promotion Committee. Dae-jin mentions that Geun-tak has come back, and Kye-hee responds that the mountain spirit will be angry again.
Near the national park, hikers are signing petitions and casting votes in favor of installing a cable car on the mountain. Geun-tak passes out his business card, explaining that a cable car would decrease hiker accidents and provide convenient transportation for the people.
Kye-hee challenges Geun-tak, and says the cable car would destroy the mountain as the installation process would harm the ecosystem. When Geun-tak responds that it’s ultimately beneficial to the environment and the residents, Kye-hee tells him to remember what happened at Black Bridge Village. Kye-hee is determined not to allow a repeat of the incident.
Meanwhile, some of the Haedong villagers complain that their village should have been chosen instead of the neighboring village for the cable car installation project. Moon-ok clicks her tongue with disapproval. She finds them greedy, not learning from what had happened in the past. Soon, a parade for the ritual walks by, and it catches all the villagers’ attention.
Out on a restricted trail, a female hiker in distress dabs the sweat off her face with a handkerchief. When she sees another hiker, she asks him for help, explaining that she’s ill and there’s no cellular signal in the area. However, the other hiker is annoyed and unwilling to so much as inform a ranger that she’s there, claiming he’s busy. Before he leaves, he says that he’ll make a report once he’s finished his business and leaves the woman behind.
The parade continues, but all of a sudden, one of the flags used for the ritual snaps. Yi-kang’s grandma and the other villagers are horrified. Meanwhile, a gloved hand picks up the female hiker’s handkerchief.
Close to the station, Yi-kang stops the patrol car when she catches Gu-young. She asks him why he’s here, since he took a day off. Then, she questions him on why he’s been absent so often lately. Suddenly they see Il-hae, and Yi-kang begins to reprimand him too (LOL how the tables have turned). Hyun-jo tries to calm her down by saying they probably have their own reasons.
When Yi-kang comes back, she sees her grandma has laid out talismans on the table. Moon-ok tells her that one of the mountain flags used in the ritual broke. It’s a bad omen and an indication of evil spirits. She warns Yi-kang not to head north tomorrow or the day after as they’re both inauspicious days–days the evil spirits are coming out. Deokseoryeong, and particularly the Black Bridge Village, should be avoided.
Meanwhile, Hyun-jo receives a message from a friend, who sends him a video of someone livestreaming from a restricted trail in Jirisan. The individual is the annoyed hiker from earlier, Tae-ju. He tells viewers that he’s heading to the Black Bridge Village, a ghost village in Deokseoryeong that disappeared for some mysterious reason 30 years ago.
It’s uncertain what happened to those villagers, but there are rumors that they were forced to leave by the national park to protect nature or that they had willingly left for a better life. Tae-ju points out that there’s one odd thing he’s heard. Prior to the disappearance, 3 people had died. He wonders if it’s really a coincidence.
Suddenly, he hears the sounds of someone (or something) moving. He looks away from his phone and sees blue lights approaching him. Though he tries to run, the lights relentlessly chases after him then the screen goes dark.
Though we’re a little past the midway point, the show continues to raise more questions, which is surprising. What were those blue lights that attacked Tae-ju? Is the killer connected to the disappearance of the residents at Black Bridge Village 30 years ago? And, are they even fully human? There’s a lot to explore, and though I’m intrigued, I’m a bit worried there won’t be enough time to address it all in a satisfying way. Though we don’t have an answer to the killer’s identity or overarching motive just yet, I think Dae-jin may be in the clear after this episode.
We got to see a different side of Dae-jin through his conversation with Kye-hee (who I didn’t expect would be back!) this episode. All the deaths on the mountain have culminated in him feeling resigned with a sense of helplessness, which doesn’t strike me as emotions the killer would have. It seems very possible that everything that’s been making him look suspicious (possessing yellow ribbons and yogurt bottles, his days off, etc.) could have actually been indications of his own undercover investigation. Perhaps he had wanted Yi-kang to leave, because he realized she was digging into this too and wanted to keep her out of danger. If that’s all true, this makes the current situation in the future timeline even more worrying.
It looks like the mastermind intended to deflect attention and create a major rift amongst our rangers by framing Dae-jin. They set up a signal that led our rangers to a trail of evidence that incriminated their commander. The voice recording is real, but it felt like Dae-jin’s gloves were purposely planted there, given his surprise. With Da-won’s notebook and the camera missing, there’s a strong sense of tampering and omission of evidence. And if the killer had learned to replicate the signals perfectly from Da-won’s notes on the markings, it also widens the scope of possible suspects. As of now, I don’t think Gu-young is the killer at least, which makes his fallout with Yi-kang even worse since she’s in dire need of allies.
Speaking of allies, I had thought Da-won’s role in the story was to be a beacon of hope for our protagonist duo. However, it turns out to be the complete opposite–she’s killed before securing concrete evidence. As Da-won facilitates communication between Hyun-jo and Yi-kang, who are stuck on the mountain and in the ranger station respectively, I’m curious to see how they can work together without such an important ally. The 2020 timeline left off with Yi-kang collapsing on the mountain in an attempt to reach Hyun-jo, so it’s all looking rather bleak.
But aside from all the plot developments in this episode, we got to see the emotional weight of Da-won’s death. It’s obvious Yi-kang’s been feeling all sorts of emotions since Hyun-jo ended up in a coma and evidence has been pointing to one of her own colleagues as being Da-won’s killer. It’s only with Da-won’s death that she released her feelings out in the open. Aside from the complicated feelings she has toward Dae-jin, it’s clear that Yi-kang genuinely feels massive guilt for asking Da-won for help. It makes Gu-young’s comments cut even deeper, and I really felt Yi-kang’s devastation this episode.
Which is to say, I’m glad the show spent time developing Yi-kang and Da-won’s friendship before Da-won’s eventual death. Like other viewers, I’ve had trouble emotionally connecting with the other characters. As we don’t get enough time to know them as people, most of the previous deaths have felt too much like plot devices to move the story along. At times, I couldn’t feel as sympathetic as I probably should have. This made me particularly worried about how ranger deaths would be handled, since they’d be an integral part of the story both in terms of major plot progression and emotional impact. If another key member of the group ends up a victim, I hope there’s emotional build-up like in Da-won’s case (though I’m still sad to see her go so early). All’s to say, some of my concerns have been relieved in this episode, and I hope the trend continues for the rest of the series.