Rescue Me: Episode 12
Guseonwon has never been the joyous, peaceful place it pretends to be, but Father Baek and Disciple Kang have been able to maintain a façade of spiritual wisdom and bliss. But in this episode, that façade starts to crack, allowing us to see the darker sides of these two leaders as they grow more desperate to maintain their hold on Sang-mi.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
We rewind to the events of the last episode, as Sang-mi’s mom walks slowly down a hall in Guseonwon’s sanitarium, only to stop when she hears Sang-jin crying out to her. As she starts to run towards him, she gets pulled back by the specter of Sang-jin’s tormentor, who menacingly asks, “Don’t you know that you’ll never be able to get out of here?”
Mom implores Sang-jin to help her, but he stays where he is and says, “You need to get out of here for Sang-mi to live, so please rescue Sang-mi.” All of a sudden, Mom wakes up in her bed screaming, and we see that she had been dreaming. Sitting straight up, she suddenly yells out, “Sang-mi!”
Sensing that something is amiss with Mom, Sang-mi manages to escape her prayer room. After she leaves the main Guseonwon building, Sang-mi starts running toward the sanitarium. At the same time, Mom nervously walks outside and into the woods to look for her daughter.
Instead of Sang-mi, Mom runs into Disciple Kang and, stopping dead in her tracks, she warns her not to come closer and asks where Sang-mi is. Disciple Kang just gives Mom a curious look and muses aloud that the drugs must have worn off.
With an awareness we haven’t seen in Mom for quite a while, she demands to know, “What kind of drugs have you been dosing me up with?” Kang replies that it is the drug that will allow her to stay in paradise forever before beckoning Mom to go back inside with her.
Mom doesn’t move and asks instead, “What are you trying to do to Sang-mi?” Kang explains that they are trying to get Sang-mi on the Boat of Salvation first, and wonders if Mom doesn’t understand how blessed Sang-mi is.
Mom is not having any of it, and continues, “Why on earth are you doing this to us? Why?” To this, Kang gives her a more personal answer, saying that she needs to make Sang-mi Spiritual Mother so that she and her own daughter can reach paradise.
Mom shakes her head at this and stumbles away from the disciple, calling out to Sang-mi to run away. Kang follows her, grabs her from behind, and pulls her away with a hand over her mouth.
Sang-mi runs to find Mom, but stops short when she sees Mom’s butterfly-shaped hairpin lying on the ground. She picks it up and remembers buying the clip for her mom with Sang-hwan during her own short period of freedom after being rescued by the boys.
Back in the present, Sang-mi looks up from the butterfly clip, her expression worried.
Mom is now bound and gagged in her bed back in her room, while Disciple Kang carefully prepares to inject her with what she calls an “elephant” tranquilizer. As Kang administers the injection, Mom sees a faint, silent image of Sang-jin as she falls into a stupor.
Sang-mi arrives at Mom’s room just after the injection has been administered, with no signs of the restraints that held Mom earlier. When confronted by Sang-mi, Kang tries to hide the syringe behind her back and blames her for her mom’s worsened condition: “Because you’re not taking the training faithfully, the evil has gone inside your mother’s body to disturb your mind.”
Sang-mi takes a look at her listless mother and yells, “What nonsense is this?” Kang then threatens to have an “exorcism” performed on her mother if Sang-mi does not participate in the training with all her heart.
When Sang-mi hears this, she slowly sinks to her knees and apologizes to Disciple Kang, begging her to let her mom go. Kang insists that she wants her mom to be happy more than anyone, adding that Sang-mi should trust her. Sang-mi agrees to do just that, and in turn, Disciple Kang lets her stay with her mom for a while.
Alone in the Mom’s room, Sang-mi looks her mom’s dirty and bare feet, proving that she had tried to find her outside. Grasping Mom’s hand, Sang-mi asks her to hold on for a little bit longer before placing the clip back in Mom’s hair, sobbing all the while.
When Sang-mi comes out of Mom’s room, she finds Disciple Kang with So-rin, whom Kang chides for letting Sang-mi go around by herself. So-rin agrees to take better care of her charge.
Meanwhile, we find Dong-chul in the Guseonwon sanctuary waiting for the service to start. Watching the seated congregants fitfully wave their hands in the air, Dong-chul notes to Disciple Kang that things seem different from yesterday, and Kang replies that today will be an exorcism service: “Illnesses, misfortunes, and accidents happen because our souls are captured by satan the devil.”
At the service, a woman from the audience limps meekly onto the stage with the help of Dad and Disciple Jo, and comes to stand in front of Father Baek.
After Father Baek lays his hand on her head, she starts laughing hysterically, claiming to be possessed by her father-in-law, who the voice claims was able to get inside her when her faith was weakened.
Father Baek lays his hand on the woman’s head again and curses the woman’s father-in-law as an evil soul, ordering both him and her physical illness to leave her body. When Baek pushes his hand away from her head, the woman falls to the floor, motionless.
A moment later, the woman gets up and tells Father Baek that she is no longer in pain. “Power, miracles, salvation, and eternal life. I shall give all of these to those who believe in me,” Father Baek preaches as the audience goes wild with excitement and joy.
Watching the performance alongside an elated Disciple Kang, Dong-chul does not look as convinced as the others. “They’re crazy,” he mutters under his breath.
After the service and with a few other new recruits, Dong-chul asks Disciple Jo when they can meet Father Baek in person. To do that, Jo says, they must receive the basic training process, which requires moving to Guseonwon and receiving training for three weeks. Otherwise, Jo warns that they can’t meet Father Baek without blinding themselves, as they are all currently too spiritually weak to withstand Baek’s awesome presence.
Dong-chul asks if there is a cost to the training. Disciple Jo says that it is free, but there are two offerings totaling $2,000 that must be made to New Heaven’s God to complete the process.
The group seems to balk at that amount of money, but Jo insists that it’s a small price to pay to live in paradise and escape the eternal pain of living in a fiery pit.
While the others continue their discussion with Jo, Dong-chul excuses himself to go to the bathroom. But instead, he heads straight to the individual prayer rooms, since So-rin had tipped him off that he could find Sang-mi there.
He quietly descends the stairs and opens the door to that awful hall where the prayers sound more like the wails of people in agony. He is stopped short, however, by a voice asking, “What are you doing there?” Dong-chul turns around to see Father Baek himself. Gulp.
Father Baek explains that the noises that Dong-chul hears are the prayers of people in pain, the people who the outside world does not listen to. He goes on to tell Dong-chul that he can sense his own deep anger and despair.
Laying his hand on his chest, Father Baek tells him that in neglecting the resentment and sorrow in his heart, Dong-chul will burn himself up, as well as everything around him. Making his final pitch, Father Baek sums it up by saying, “So now, you should surrender everything to New Heaven’s God. That’s the only way you’ll be able to free your soul.”
Meanwhile, Wan-duk continues his search in town for the three boys. He goes into the boys’ local hangout and gives the bar owner a start because of his huge size. “Was that a bear or a human?” she asks herself afterward.
In another part of town, Detective Lee observes a protest against the disruption of Muji’s development from the safety of his car. On his cellphone, Lee tells Yong-min’s manager, Ji-hee, that the press have shown up, along with more protesters.
The Arabian Club owner and gangster Lee Jin-suk stands on the sidelines of the protest and smiles with a look of satisfaction while the protesters shout, “The governor of Muji should keep his promise!”
In Sang-hwan’s mom’s hospital room, we see Ji-hee finish her call with Detective Lee. She tells Yong-min, “Things are going as Governor Cheon planned,” and reports an increase in protesters, the press taking the other party’s side, and people going against Yong-min “for no good reason.”
As Ji-hee loosens Yong-min’s shirt and tie and holds his hand (right in front of his wife – ugh), she suggests a way to get rid of Governor Cheon and win back the favor of the citizens of Muji: She proposes that he make a deal with Father Baek to help build a general hospital with a sanitarium. If he could get the hospital built before the end of his term, she argues, it could help him in the next election.
Yong-min likes her idea and, caressing her cheek, he asks her to make plans for him to visit Guseonwon himself.
After Ji-hee leaves, Yong-min has only harsh words for his wife. “Do you know why I take care of you?” he asks. “It’s because you’re a flower to me. You’re a flower that I can show off to others. You’re still worth using, so please stay dead like this until I’m done using you. I’ll come visit you every day to water you.”
A tear rolls down her face as he speaks, and her husband gently wipes it away, a gesture that does not match his cold words.
Back in Guseonwon, Sang-mi asks So-rin to find out what kind of injection Disciple Kang gave her mother. So-rin agrees to look into it and tells Sang-mi that she suspects that Mom has also been given psychotropic drugs.
She adds that if they can prove that the cult is administering illegal drugs, Guseonwon could face legal charges and punishment. Sang-mi’s eyes grow wide at this, and she suggests asking her friends to help find evidence.
So-rin meets Dong-chul in the woods and tells him to look for drug ledgers, medical charts, and especially a drug that is a milk-like liquid and is probably kept well-hidden.
Following So-rin’s instructions, Dong-chul sneaks into the darkened pharmacy to look around. He narrowly avoids getting caught by a security guard before he leaves, having found nothing.
Outside of the main building, Disciple Jo waits for Dong-chul to take him back to town. Just as Dong-chul is about to get in the van, Sang-mi and So-rin appear while taking a walk around the building. He shakes his head slightly to tell Sang-mi “no,” and she nods back to him and watches the van as it drives out of Guseonwon.
As Sang-hwan waits for Dong-chul on the pier, Lee Jin-suk visits Joon-gu at his auto repair shop. Jin-suk suggests they let bygones be bygones and go into business together again like old times.
Even though Jin-suk knows that Joon-gu is working for a policeman and offers him a briefcase of cash to work together, Joon-gu is having none of it, and he tells Jin-suk that the only reason he hasn’t killed him yet is because he’s purposefully trying to make him nervous.
Placing one of his cross-tattooed hands on Jin-suk’s shoulder, Joon-gu leans in to warn, “You should start going to church. You should at least go to paradise when you die.”
On the pier, Dong-chul tells Sang-hwan about his encounter with Father Baek. “I met so many monsters in prison,” Dong-chul says, “but I’ve never met anyone like him. I couldn’t feel any kind of emotion in him. So I couldn’t figure out what he was thinking.”
Sang-hwan agrees that Father Baek must be beyond insane, judging by the actions that he got to witness firsthand.
Dong-chul tells Sang-hwan that when he saw the look in the Father Baek’s eyes, he realized that he is not the only one who suffered in prison; Sang-mi and Sang-hwan have also been living in prison. Dong-chul smiles warmly at Sang-hwan and tells him, “So it’s now time for you and Sang-mi to get out of that prison.”
In the woods near Guseonwon, we see a man hiking. He sees something that startles him so much that he falls to the ground, amidst the sound of buzzing flies.
Elsewhere in the woods, Disciple Kang leads Sang-mi and So-rin on an early morning walk to some shacks, like the one where Disciple Jo had attempted to rape a young woman and severely beat Jeong-gu.
There, Disciple Kang tells Sang-mi that in order to stay pure and be ready for New Heaven’s God’s salvation at any time, she must go into one of the shacks every morning to “pray earnestly.”
When they first arrive, Sang-mi is her usual unenthusiastic self. But upon hearing that she would be coming here to pray every morning, she fervently repeats, “Our wishes will be fulfilled,” with a strange smile on her face and tears in her eyes.
Her smile starts to fade until she meets Disciple Kang’s gaze, and then, it suddenly reappears.
It turns out the hiker found a dead body, and we find Detective Lee and Officers Woo and Choi at the scene. When the body is identified as a female named Kim Hae-eun, Detective Lee thinks back to the grandmother who had pleaded with him to look for her missing granddaughter.
He looks in his notebook and reads the notes he had jotted down at the time: “Kim Hae-eun, age 18, religion, ran away from home.” For once, Detective Lee looks legitimately concerned as he walks to a nearby clearing, where another investigator tells him that the large building in the distance is Guseonwon.
Lee then has a more recent flashback to the Muji police station and remembers Sang-hwan saying, “They locked her up because they want her to marry the cult leader!” He also remembers Sang-mi’s emotional but resigned decision to go back, causing him to look troubled in the present.
Meanwhile, Dong-chul eats lunch with the other congregants, though when he asks to know what they keep sprinkling all over their food, they tell him it’s “Living Water.” What they share that truly disturbs him is that the water either comes from Father Baek washing his face, or from him washing his feet. Ew.
Detective Lee meets with Dad and Disciples Kang and Jo in Guseonwon’s sanctuary, but his questioning does not go well. Dad continues to insist that the boys abducted his daughter, Kang claims that everyone comes to Guseonwon and stays of their own free will, and Jo calls Lee a lowlife not fit to meet with Father Baek.
Father Baek approaches the group and consents to talk with a suspicious Lee in his office. There, Lee asks Father Baek if his “spiritual wedding” with Sang-mi includes a sexual aspect, but Baek and the three disciples skirt the issue to avoid giving Lee a definitive answer.
Sang-mi joins the group and looks surprised to see Detective Lee sitting there. Looking him straight in the eyes, she denies being kept against her will, and claims that she wasn’t really herself that day at the police station.
The afternoon service is about to start, so the Q&A session comes to an end. Detective Lee wants to ask one more question, which Disciple Jo does not allow. “It’s not like we’re criminals,” Jo says. “We live in a country where everyone has the freedom of religion. Aren’t I right?”
Detective Lee laughs at this and says that he was wondering when the whole “freedom of religion” thing was going to be brought up.
Back in town, the boys get a lead on finding out more about the cult, thanks to Jung-hoon’s fan’s internet postings in response to the video that Sang-hwan took at Guseonwon.
The boys examine a photo that was posted of a woman standing in front of the Guseonwon emblem on a wall by a gate in Daegu. A deliveryman on a scooter can be seen in the background, which gives Man-hee an idea on how to find the woman.
Just as he is leaving Guseonwon, Detective Lee is surprised to see Yong-min and Ji-hee pull up to the steps of the main building. He wonders to himself, “What on earth are you guys up to?”
Back at the station, Lee remembers a conversation he had with another detective about the missing girl. His colleague had told him that the girl had fought with her grandmother over money ($2,000 to be exact) that she said she needed to get to “paradise.”
While Dong-chul and the other newcomers attend a class led by Disciple Kang, Sang-mi uses skills taught by So-rin to break into Disciple Kang’s room. As for the class itself, Dong-chul answers every question about salvation wrong.
Using a video playing as an excuse, Kang leaves the class to go to her room to take some pills. Sang-mi fearfully hides in her closet, but is thankfully not discovered by the disciple.
After Kang leaves her room, Sang-mi takes the pill bottle she used, then frantically goes through Disciple Kang’s drawers. She stops when she finds her own cellphone, and thinks back to when Disciple Kang had taken away it from her.
With the pill bottle and phone in hand, she slips out of the room without being seen.
In Father Baek’s office, Yong-min is joined by Assemblyman Park, who congratulates him on being chosen by New Heaven’s God. The two schmooze it up while Father Baek watches them with a smug look on his face.
Meanwhile, the boys ask around and find out the name of the deliveryman in the picture on Jung-hoon’s website, getting them one step closer to getting more dirt on Guseonwon.
Back at Guseonwon, Sang-mi meets Father Baek at the altar of the sanctuary. He bids her to come closer and stands behind her with his hands on her shoulders, clearly making her uneasy. “Are you ready to accept New Heaven’s God with all of your heart?” he asks.
Sang-mi’s eyes grow wide before she turns around to face him and ask: “Why did you choose me as Spiritual Mother?” She does not accept the official canned answer that she has been chosen by New Heaven’s God to atone for all of Guseonwon.
Telling him that she is only going along with him to protect her mom, she steps closer to him and presses him for the real reason that she and her family were singled out. “Why are you doing this to me? What is the real reason?” she asks as tears stream down her face.
Father Baek acknowledges, “Sang-mi, you don’t believe in me even though I’m Spiritual Father. All right.” He then tells her of his experience with a pretty young female volunteer from “a long time ago” who used to visit him.
Father Baek: “I guess I was too impatient back then. Fruit has to ripen to taste sweeter and more delicious. One day, I heard that she jumped to her death from the rooftop at her school. It was very sad. All I wanted was to teach her the secret to salvation. That’s why I thought this when I first saw you: ‘This time, I must not fail.’”
Sang-mi trembles as he tells her this, and we see flashes of Father Baek watching Sang-mi’s family eating outside together when they had first moved to Muji. “Now, do you understand the real reason why I chose you?” Father Baek asks.
Still trembling, Sang-mi slowly backs away as Father Baek blithely tells her that she has nowhere to run. She can try all she wants and scream for help, he says, but he is the only one who can save her.
With a lascivious look, he starts to caress her cheek, and she quickly bats his hand away. “Are you saying you’re doing all this because I look like the girl you killed? Is that why you chose me and my family?” she screams at him.
With one fell swoop, he grabs her, throws her flat on her back, and pins down her arms next to her head. As Sang-mi looks at him with horror, Father Baek menacingly threatens, “If you keep this up, I might have to change my ways.”
And then, Father Baek grabs for the bottom of Sang-mi’s skirt as she cries out in alarm.
This show continues to be as dark and intense as ever, but it has me completely hooked. As I watch, I wonder how many poor souls are locked up in the dungeon that Dad has been put in charge of, and how many other girls before Sang-mi were put in her horrifying position only to be met with tragic, untimely ends.
As for Father Baek himself, he has been somewhat of an enigma so far. Unlike Disciple Jo, whose facial expressions can turn on a dime, Baek has so far never broken character to expose himself as the charlatan he is, and unlike Disciple Kang, he has not made us privy to his inner thought process. But now, if there was any doubt, Dong-chul, Sang-hwan, and finally Sang-mi’s most recent experiences with him have shown him to be a cold-blooded, psychopathic megalomaniac.
Terrible, unspeakable things still occur on a regular basis, but there are rays of hope in these more recent episodes that were missing in the earlier ones. The fact that Sang-mi was able to escape once gives us hope that she will eventually escape for good, and that she’ll bring the entire cult down when she does.
Another ray of hope is Detective Lee. Until this episode, he was the character I despised the most. He was utterly opportunistic and indifferent to anything that didn’t serve his own needs, even when he had the knowledge and resources to do the right thing. However, he has now turned from my most hated character to the best hope for an adult in a position of authority to help Sang-mi and the boys.
The fact that Lee saw Yong-min at Guseonwon right after his unsettling discussions with the folks there hopefully will compel him to pursue the truth; he knows things are not right in Guseonwon, and it might be just too much for him to look the other way. Let’s just hope his natural curiosity as a detective and sense of justice overpowers his desire to take bribes from Yong-min and the other corrupt power brokers of Muji.
On the other hand, there is a part of me that doesn’t trust So-rin. We still don’t know much about her, other than that she is a reporter, and her actions raise a lot of questions. For example, why did So-rin have Dong-chul look for a “milky-white liquid” in the pharmacy? First of all, it seems like she would have much better access to the pharmacy herself. Also, why did she specifically tell Dong-chul that the drugs to look for were “not red pills or clear liquid,” when she knows that Mom had been given red pills and that the elephant tranquilizer was a clear green color?
So-rin also showed Sang-mi how to break in to Disciple Kang’s room, and the two probably discussed Sang-mi’s breaking in during the newcomers’ class. So-rin was present at the class, so she saw Disciple Kang leave during that time. Did she try to stop Disciple Kang from going back to her room, or did she perhaps encourage her to go? I hope that So-rin’s intentions to help Sang-mi and her friends are sincere, but her actions certainly seem suspicious.
Of course, the true heroes of our story, regardless of how things turn out, are Sang-mi, Sang-hwan, and Dong-chul — it was very touching that Dong-chul was able to see that Sang-mi and Sang-hwan are living a prison-like existence not unlike his own experience, and that he wants to help his two friends live better lives. His compassion for them shows that he no longer holds resentment towards either of them and sees them as his equals, no more or less victims than he is himself.
It is obvious that Sang-mi needs to be freed from the cult, but Sang-hwan also continues to suffer as his dad further aligns himself with Father Baek. Although the father and son relationship is already strained, it seems like the two will need to go head to head in some way before the end of the show.
The superb acting in Rescue Me has helped draw me into the world of Guseonwon and Muji, giving it a realism I wasn’t expecting. And despite finding Taecyeon bland in Bring It On, Ghost, I like him as Sang-hwan in this show. Granted, Taecyeon’s Sang-hwan doesn’t break my heart repeatedly like Woo Do-hwan’s Dong-chul, or make my skin crawl every time I see him like Jo Sung-ha’s Father Baek. Nevertheless, his portrayal of Sang-hwan and his often-intense relationships with the other characters strike me as genuine, and it makes me care and root for him as a character.
As I become more and more invested in the story and characters of Rescue Me, I find I am less fearful of what will happen and more curious and energized with each episode. Despite the hardships they continue to face, I feel like the tide is slowly turning for our heroes. With any luck, they can bring the cult of Guseonwon down for good and go back to living freer, happier lives.