MYSTIC POP-UP BAR: EPISODE 9 – RECAP

So, it turns out that this show only has 12 episodes (I thought it would be the usual 16), which means we’re getting closer to the end! For a show that has a shorter season than others, this was a filler episode, but it did set us up for a lot of exciting things in the last 3 episodes.

Evil spirit revealed

The ending of the last episode revealed that Yeom is the evil spirit’s father. The show starts in a warehouse, where he confronts Won-Hyun and asks why he’s still doing this when he just ended his 500-year sentence in Hell. Won-Hyun wants to get revenge on Gwi by making Weol-ju fail her mission, so that Gwi can feel the pain and suffering that he endured in Hell. Yeom attacks him and Won-Hyun cries that his father always took the Crown Prince’s side, even when he was executed, and all he ever wanted was for his father to love him. Yeom falters at that, and Won-Hyun seizes the opportunity to grasp his father’s hand.

Case of the week

This week’s case is simple: a mother has been looking for her child, Jun-a, for the past 15 years. Using Gwi’s connections in the Afterlife Police, they find out that the kidnapper is this sleazy guy who was harassing the mother all those years ago. But before the team can reach the kidnapper’s location, Yeom gets there first and kills the man. (I didn’t understand why, at first, but more on that later.) The team catches up to the man but he’s already dying. Weol-ju, unperturbed by this dead end and with a surprising determination to see this case through, still goes into the man’s dream world, despite Gwi’s warnings about being stuck there if the man dies. Gwi follows while Kang-bae stands guard in the outside world. This sounds a lot like Inception, doesn’t it?

In the dream world, we’re taken back to the past. The man is trying to take Jun-u but Jun-u resists, resulting in a fall that knocks him unconscious. In a panic, the man abandons Jun-a in front of an orphanage. When Weol-ju and Gwi step closer to find the name of the orphanage, the dream starts collapsing. Kang-bae calls out to them as the man dies. They make it out just in time, and with the orphanage’s name to boot.

Back at the bar, the orphanage tells them that Jun-u was in the United States but he’s come back just recently. He has a serious illness, and Weol-ju brings his mother to see him at the hospital. The two are reunited and after shedding some tears of her own, Weol-ju leaves them alone. She envies the mother who was able to see her son, which leads us to tonight’s revelation: Weol-ju was pregnant when she died.

Weol-ju’s promise

Remember what Kang-bae would get in return for helping Weol-ju out? She would close his spiritual vision so he can lead a normal life. There’s a glitch, though: Weol-ju can’t access the door of spiritual vision anymore, and she needs to find a different way to fulfill her promise to Kang-bae when this is all over. She goes to Samsin and learns that if Kang-bae is filled with yin energy, it can be cancelled out by falling in love with someone who has the yang energy; in particular, the human reincarnation of the Cinnabar, a mystical rock during the Joseon era. Weol-ju tries to get Samsin to spill on the identity of the Cinnabar, but Samsin says that she’ll get punished if she reveals it. Weol-ju’s stuck on another dead end.

Now more than ever, Kang-bae needs Weol-ju’s help as he keeps on seeing ghosts. He sees one in the parking lot (where Yeo-rin startles him and they address the awkwardness between them) and another one in the employees’ locker room. This time, Yeom gets rid of the spirit for him. He tells Kang-bae that he saw this coming and wanted to check on him. (Sure, Jan.) For some reason, he starts talking about not being able to see the true side of people, and how the truth can be ugly. Kang-bae agrees and says that it’s why he didn’t have a lot of friends when he was young. Because of his ability, he was able to see what people really thought and felt, and most of the time, it was unpleasant. But thanks to Weol-ju and Gwi, he was able to meet people who really cared about others, and the happiness and gratitude they radiated when their grudges were resolved – those were real. Yeom, this little troll, plants a seed of doubt in Kang-bae’s head: Your powers never worked on them, how do you know what they are really feeling and thinking?

Weol-ju is telling Gwi about her conversation with Samsin and Gwi says that they don’t have time to make Kang-bae and whoever the Cinnabar is fall in love. They only have a few days left to meet their quota and they don’t even know who the Cinnabar is. Weol-ju wants to keep this a secret from Kang-bae but Gwi’s argument is that they shouldn’t make Kang-bae work for them if they can’t hold up their part of the deal. As luck would have it, Kang-bae overhears their conversation and confronts them.

He’s angry, and rightfully so.

Kang-bae thinks it’s a prank at first but Gwi confirms it and apologizes. He feels betrayed and accuses Weol-ju of using him, the very thing that she hated other people doing. In his hurt, he walks out and runs away. Gwi follows him. And, of course, we see our favorite troll, Yeom, watching the scene from afar with a little smirk.

Kang-bae goes fishing the next day, and Gwi coaxes him into a conversation. His dream to be a normal person must have been too ambitious, and he should be used to being exploited then abandoned by now. We get a flashback of his orphanage days: when his teachers thought he was too weird, when he was adopted by a set of parents who wanted to use him to fix their marital issues. Because of his ability, he hears about everybody’s problems but sometimes, he just wants the same thing for himself. (It’s an echo of Weol-ju’s wish when she looked at the moon). Gwi offers to listen and Kang-bae says he trusted the two of them, to the point where he didn’t mind if his vision couldn’t be closed, as long as they got to all still be together. And when Gwi tells him that they’ll find a way no matter what, Kang-bae stops him. He doesn’t want to trust and to be disappointed and hurt in the end. He tells Gwi to leave and that he never wants to see them again.

Once Kang-bae returns to work, Samsin pays him a visit to talk about Weol-ju. Kang-bae doesn’t want to hear it but Samsin forces him to listen. Weol-ju isn’t selfish enough to use someone to avoid going to hell, she says. She’s self-sacrificing and she’s been doing this for the last 500 years to save the soul of her child. See, when Weol-ju hanged herself on the Sacred Tree, the Tree’s soul entered the fetus and, with Weol-ju’s act, the baby was destined to live a thousand miserable lives until the grudges of the Sacred Tree were settled. Instead, Weol-ju offers to settle the grudges herself. Samsin tells Kang-bae that not even Gwi or Yeom know about this, and she only told him because she’s never see Weol-ju be this worried over another human being. She shows him the contract that Weol-ju signed, stating that in exchange for the confidential information, she will not be reincarnated and she will be sent to the Hell of Extinction. She takes it without hesitation, and says that she’s glad there’s still a way for her to keep her promise to Kang-bae. He tells her that it’s not right and he’s fine living the way he has but Samsin says there’s no going back, and they need to reconcile for Weol-ju to fix him.

Kang-bae rushes to the bar and tells Weol-ju that she doesn’t have to do this. But really, she does and she’s ready for it. All she needs him to do is help her settle the remaining grudges so she can fix him and leave honorably. Oh, and he can’t tell Gwi and Yeom about this. Just in time, Gwi enters the bar, and Kang-bae and Weol-ju pretend that all is right again.

Kang-bae and Gwi are walking home and as they talk about the resolved case, Kang-bae wonders if his mother is looking for him as well. To their surprise though, a woman approaches them and addresses Gwi:

Final thoughts

There were a lot of touching moments this episode but now that someone recognizes Gwi as royalty, things are bound to get more interesting. Also, what is Yeom up to? And finally, I’m pretty sure that Kang-bae is Weol-ju and Gwi’s love child, with all the mother and family references.

But we’ll see next episode!

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K-drama enthusiast, aspiring yogi, and loves angst

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