Manhole: Episode 12

Oh my, aren’t we getting a bit dark for a romantic comedy? You would think I’d have learned by now not to expect Manhole to follow any set plot lines, but I’m really surprised by the turn this show is taking. Still, the increasing suspense makes for an interesting watch, and I’m sure the feeling will return to my fingers eventually… once I manage to unclench them from my pillow, that is.

EPISODE 12: “Love, the unknown”

Deciding that he can’t live in a timeline where he’s not with Soo-jin, Pil races back to the manhole. As he runs through the tunnel, a countdown clock tells us that he has thirty seconds until midnight. Except, when he gets there, he finds the manhole not only closed up, but paved over.

Pil yells to the skies in disbelief and starts shouting at the manhole for disappearing, causing a nearby couple to skirt nervously past the “crazy person.” Heh.

When his phone beeps that it’s three minutes past midnight, Pil collapses by the inaccessible manhole, worrying that this means he can no longer go back in time.

Back at Pil’s house, Mom and Dad have selected the picture of the girl they prefer for their future daughter-in-law. As they happily gush over how pretty she is (and the good-looking grandchildren she and Pil could make for them – ugh), Pil charges into the house, dashing past his parents as they wave the headshot at him.

Pil runs up to his room and tries to use the internet to find information on the town manholes, but since he searches clever things like “manholes that disappeared,” he unsurprisingly doesn’t find anything. Remembering that Seok-tae works for the city, Pil calls his friend, however, Seok-tae just quips that he’s off duty right now and to call him at work tomorrow. Reaching a dead end, Pil swears, resigning himself to another day in 2018.

The following morning, Jae-hyun is out for a run when he senses someone watching him. Turning around quickly, he catches his ex-girlfriend (and maybe-stalker) Young-joo watching him from behind a tree.

The two of them sit on a park bench to talk, and Jae-hyun has his creepy blank face on when he casually mentions that he heard that Young-joo was hospitalized. In answer, she grabs his hand and says that she can’t eat or sleep, threatening to die without him. Jae-hyun replies with an oh-so-sensitive, “So?” Damn.

Jae-hyun yanks his hand away and asks if she’ll keep following him around forever. He yells that he has a family now, but Young-joo insists that he doesn’t love “that woman” more than her.

Taking his hand again, Young-joo desperately asks if she did something wrong to make Jae-hyun marry Soo-jin, but he replies that he loves his wife. “You can’t even imagine how much I love her,” he says.

Throwing her hand away again, he snaps at her to stop following him and get herself treated (as in, psychologically). He storms off, not seeing that his phone fell out of his pocket onto the bench… where Young-joo eagerly picks it up. Ruh-roh.

Soo-jin is fixing breakfast at her apartment, and keeps flashing back to last night when she witnessed Jae-hyun yelling at the elderly man who asked him to move his car. Thinking about how he beat his steering wheel in rage, Soo-jin doesn’t notice Jae-hyun return from his run until he swoops up behind her.

They sit together at the table, and Soo-jin smiles as her husband eats his breakfast, but she keeps watching him, trying to match his happy countenance with the anger she witnessed last night.

Jae-hyun notices her stare, but is distracted when he realizes his phone is missing. He guesses that he dropped it while running, but when Soo-jin calls it, no one answers.

Figuring that he can call it later, Jae-hyun heads off to work. Soo-jin walks him out, and as they hug goodbye, we see Young-joo watching the couple from afar. After Jae-hyun leaves, Young-joo calls Soo-jin with Jae-hyun’s missing phone, claiming to be a stranger who found the phone and that she redialed the last number received.

Agreeing to meet her to pick up the phone, Soo-jin runs to the park where Young-joo is waiting. Young-joo hands the phone back and Soo-jin thanks her profusely, asking how she can repay her. Young-joo brushes it off, saying she lives in the neighborhood and that Soo-jin can just buy her lunch the next time they meet.

Pil runs to city hall and, after fibbing to his police sunbae that he’s running late to work due to breaking up a fight (he even acts out yelling at imaginary assailants), he heads inside looking for Seok-tae. Happy to find that his friend works in the civil construction department, he and Seok-tae head outside for a chat.

Pil asks about the manhole in their town, and Seok-tae reveals that the city had received a number of complaints from people about hearing strange noises or seeing ghosts coming out of it. (No surprise there.) Pil gets huffy that the city would block off a perfectly good manhole over a few complaints, but Seok-tae wonders why a police officer is so interested in manholes.

Realizing that there’s no other way to ask for his help, Pil tells Seok-tae about his time traveling.

We cut over to the see the two guys standing over the manhole, with Pil swearing that he’s telling the truth. Claiming that he needs the manhole to go back in time, Pil asks his friend to restore it for him.

Seok-tae nods along with Pil’s story… then asks if this is all part of some bet Pil made with Gu-gil to see if they could fool him. (Heh.) Pil tries to say that that’s not it, but Seok-tae yells over him at the perceived prank and stalks off. After he leaves, Pil sighs that it really is a hard truth to believe and worries about how he’ll convince his friend.

Meanwhile, a man is walking down the tunnel when our man in black from last week marches up behind him. (I’m going with the assumption that this is once again Jae-hyun.) Without preamble, Jae-hyun punches the man in the back and starts furiously wailing on him.

The man’s cries of pain draw Pil’s attention, and he starts to run towards the fight. Jae-hyun immediately sprints away and, after checking that the victim is all right, Pil gives chase.

Jae-hyun runs through the neighborhood, barreling through couples and throwing trash behind him. Pil stays hot on his heels up until a windy staircase. Giving an almighty leap, Pil closes the gap and grabs Jae-hyun’s shoulder.

Unfortunately, he can’t get a good grip, and his hands slide off, sending Pil sprawling. His quarry runs away, vanishing around a corner.

Pil calls in the assault and limps back to the tunnel where the paramedics are tending to the injured man. Pil’s sunbae is there as well and sighs when Pil admits that he couldn’t get a look at the assailant.

The two turn to go back to the station, but Pil stops to see something on the ground. It looks like a crumpled piece of paper and metal clip, and Pil’s sunbae bags it, hoping that it’s evidence.

Jin-sook is busy working at her restaurant when Soo-jin comes in to steal her friend away for lunch. While eating, Jin-sook teases that she’s envious of Soo-jin’s happy married life, but Soo-jin looks uncomfortable.

Soo-jin hesitantly reveals the scene she saw last night when Jae-hyun yelled at an elder, worrying that it’s so out of character for her normally mild-mannered husband.

Jin-sook agrees that it’s strange, but then she figures that most men tend to overreact when they get mad. Suggesting that there may have been more to the situation than Soo-jin saw, Jin-sook tells her not to worry about it. Relieved, Soo-jin agrees.

Pil and his sunbae arrive at the station, and the older man grumps that yet another assault happened in that tunnel. He notices that Pil is limping after his chase with the man in black and sends him home to rest. (Aww.)

At the juice truck she took over from Jin-sook, Jung-ae looks morose as she faces yet another day with no customers. Unbeknownst to her, Dal-soo gazes at her from his fancy company car, parked fifty feet away. His assistant reminds him that they’re running late, but Dal-soo gets a sudden idea and asks the man for a favor.

Outside, Gu-gil runs up to Jung-ae with an armful of freshly printed flyers for her business. He’s all excited to start distributing them for her, when Dal-soo’s assistant shows up and places an order for forty cups of juice. Gu-gil drives Jung-ae to deliver the order, and Jung-ae eagerly thanks the assistant. But the man reveals that it was actually the director who wanted to order from her truck.

Said director is in his office when Jung-ae slowly pokes her head in the room. Panicking, Dal-soo grabs his nameplate off the desk and slouches down in his chair, turning it around so only the top of his head is visible from the doorway.

Jung-ae and Gu-gil both enter the room, and Jung-ae thanks him for ordering from her business. Dal-soo calls out a brief “You’re welcome,” prompting Gu-gil to pointedly add that they wanted to thank him, you know, face to face.

Pitching his voice, Dal-soo offers up the excuse, “I am not comfortable talking to strangers.” (Pffft.) Gu-gil snarks that this is one picky customer (earning him a kick from Jung-ae), but Jung-ae recovers and thanks Dal-soo again, leaving a flyer for him to order from her again.

Jung-ae and Gu-gil start to leave, but Gu-gil pauses when he sees a small pile of manhwa in the corner. As Jung-ae literally drags him out of the office, he wonders why a company director would read such things.

Soo-jin wanders around her neighborhood, happily snapping pictures and not noticing Young-joo watching her from around a corner. Popping in front of Soo-jin as she takes another picture, Young-joo reveals herself and claims that they’re having a coincidental “neighborly” meeting.

Soo-jin is happy to see the woman, especially when she says (lies?) that she also has an interest in photography. Young-joo suggests that they go take pictures together sometime and officially introduces herself.

Pil limps his way home after his sunbae released him from work. He pauses to check his injury, lifting his pants up to reveal a bloody gash on his shin. (Yikes!) He resumes limping, but stops to see Soo-jin right in front of him, taking pictures.

Looking at her with the saddest expression, he thinks back to last night when she gave him back his things and asked to be just friends. Soo-jin looks up just then and smiles to see him, but frowns to note his limp. Pil hedges that he “fell,” but she insists on checking his leg.

Soo-jin freaks out to see his wound, asking if Pil went to the hospital. The downtrodden Pil replies that it’s not a big deal, but Soo-jin isn’t having it and grabs his hand, pulling him along after her.

Oh boy. It looks like Soo-jin’s solution is to take Pil (the guy who’s loved her for 28 years) to Jae-hyun (the guy who married her) and have him patch up Pil. Acting a lot like a concerned girlfriend, Soo-jin very nearly pushes the reluctant Pil inside the pharmacy, mother-henning him while Jae-hyun watches, looking like he sucked on a lemon.

Jae-hyun fixes up Pil’s leg as Soo-jin fusses, and Pil finally limps out of the pharmacy, miserable. Inside, Soo-jin thanks Jae-hyun for helping her friend, then remembers to give him back his phone, saying that one of their neighbors found it in the park.

Over at City Hall, Seok-tae is preoccupied, thinking back to when he received a complaint about the manhole. His coworker had said that there had been multiple complaints before, and joked that there must be a ghost hiding inside.

Still in a flashback, Seok-tae had stopped by the manhole after work that night to inspect it. As the streetlight flickered, Seok-tae pulled off the manhole cover and there was a sudden, ominous gust of wind.

Shining his flashlight into the manhole, Seok-tae heard a faint voice (which sounds a lot like Pil whenever he slides down the time-travel slide) echoing from inside and had peered closer. Then, a mystical force gripped Seok-tae and started pulling him into the manhole. Screaming in panic, he pulled himself back out and bolted.

Back in the present (future?) Seok-tae wonders if Pil really is able to travel through time using that manhole. He cheers up when Jin-sook calls him out for lunch, and the two have a super cute lunch date.

Seok-tae brings up Pil’s “prank” and reminds Jin-sook of how he had told her about the supernatural experience he’d had at that very spot. He asks if it’s possible that Pil was telling the truth, but Jin-sook assures him that he was just overly tired that night, and tells him not to let Pil get to him.

Pil sits by the manhole that night, thinking back to Soo-jin’s worry over his injury. Sighing, Pil admits to himself that he still can’t accept the fact that Soo-jin is really married now. He looks back at the covered manhole and wonders what he should do now that it’s gone.

Pil’s musing are interrupted when Soo-jin sends him a text, asking how his injury is doing. Cue PPL moment as Pil uses his phone to send her a photo and personalized message.

Over at their apartment, Soo-jin and Jae-hyun are watching TV together when she gets Pil’s message. She mentions that Pil is doing better, but Jae-hyun is suspicious and asks if Soo-jin had ever liked Pil.

Jae-hyun says he knows that Pil likes Soo-jin, but he wonders if there was ever a time when she returned his feelings. Soo-jin brushes it off, saying that he’s always been just a friend, but Jae-hyun points out that the way she looks at and acts with him is different.

Soo-jin’s smile falters a bit, but she insists that she grew up with Pil and he’s just like family, the same as Jin-sook or Jung-ae. Jae-hyun warily says he’ll trust her, and she quickly dashes to the kitchen for more food.

When she leaves, Jae-hyun idly starts skimming through her camera pictures, but his face does that eerie blank look again when he sees the photo Soo-jin had accidentally snapped of Young-joo (when she’d jumped in front of the camera).

Soo-jin comes back, and when Jae-hyun casually asks who the woman in the picture is, she cheerily answers that it’s the neighbor who returned his phone.

Pil waits for Seok-tae in front of his house, very nearly pouncing on his friend to ask him to hear him out about the manhole. Frustrated, Seok-tae pries Pil off and ducks into his home, wondering just what has gotten into him.

In her apartment, Young-joo sits amongst a pile of torn up pictures, crying as she thinks of Jae-hyun’s insistence that he loves his wife. Ripping up her final photo, Crazypants tears around her room, throwing her belongings and screaming out Jae-hyun’s name.

At the same time, Jae-hyun approaches Young-joo’s building. He heads to her apartment, but halts to see a small crowd of ajummas clustered around her door, worried about the noises coming from inside. Shying away from potential witnesses, Jae-hyun retreats outside.

Taking matters into his own hands, Pil returns to the manhole, now armed with a sledgehammer, and starts pounding ineffectually at the cover, barely making a dent. His construction attempts are interrupted, however, when his police sunbae calls to ask him to look into a complaint at Young-joo’s apartment.

Speaking of, Young-joo leaves her apartment building to find Jae-hyun waiting for her. He asks her to come talk with him and grabs her arm, pulling her to his car. Pil arrives at the building just as Jae-hyun shoves Young-joo inside, and he watches Jae-hyun drive off with another woman.

Jae-hyun takes Young-joo to a dark, secluded area, throwing her up against a fence and yelling that he warned her to stay away from Soo-jin. Laughing creepily, he guesses that she took his phone on purpose to meet her. Young-joo looks petrified as she tries to say that she just wanted to see what kind of woman he left her for, but Jae-hyun isn’t buying it.

Furious, Jae-hyun reaches out and wraps his fingers around Young-joo’s neck, cruelly choking her. With a manic look, Jae-hyun snarls, “You know how I become when I get mad. If you try to see her one more time, I won’t let it slide, so you better behave.”

With a final deadly squeeze, Jae-hyun pushes Young-joo away and slithers off, leaving her in a gasping, terrified heap.

After seeing Jae-hyun drive away with Young-joo, Pil waits for the pharmacist in front of his building. Pil confronts him as soon as he drives up, asking Jae-hyun why he’s with Young-joo when he claims they broke up.

His temper rising, Jae-hyun barely stays civil as he asks if Pil is accusing him cheating on Soo-jin. Undaunted, Pil replies, “Who knows what you scheme in secret.” Truer words…

Pil asks if Young-joo is really a stalker, or if Jae-hyun never truly ended things. Jae-hyun argues that it doesn’t matter what he says since Pil won’t believe him, but he does warn Pil not to mention any of this to Soo-jin and cause a “misunderstanding.”

In the apartment, Soo-jin thinks about Jae-hyun’s comment that she doesn’t treat Pil as just a friend. At that moment, Pil calls and asks if they can speak in person, promising it will only be for a moment.

Soo-jin agrees, but as she heads out to meet Pil, Jae-hyun spies her leaving and follows.

Pil waits for Soo-jin at their spot at the observation deck. As he sits on the bench, he thinks back over all their times together, from when they were children and Soo-jin kissed him, to when Pil was a ghost and Soo-jin confessed her feelings to his memory, and finally when he possessed Seok-tae and she teased him that when he goes back to the original timeline, they should get married.

Back in 2018, Pil thinks that they went through so much together, except right now, “There is no one beside me, but you already have someone else beside you.”

Soo-jin joins Pil on their bench, and after a few false starts, he asks how well she knew Jae-hyun before she married him. Soo-jin wonders why he’s asking, so Pil admits that he’s not sure Jae-hyun is a good person, and there may be something about him that she doesn’t know.

Soo-jin quickly cuts off Pil’s line of questions. She states firmly that Jae-hyun is her husband and she knows him better than anyone. Reminding Pil that she asked him to respect her decision, Soo-jin asks if he’s trying to make her marriage fail.

Offended, Pil replies that he – more than anyone – wants her to be happy. Soo-jin says that if he really wants that, then he should never speak ill of Jae-hyun in front of her again. She continues, “I’m not sure what you’re trying to say, but no matter what you say, I will trust Jae-hyun. Even if… he did do something really bad, I’m the one who must accept him.” (All right, blind faith it is, then.)

Tailing Soo-jin, Jae-hyun arrives at the platform and watches as Soo-jin tells Pil that this is the last time she will meet with him at night. With a final farewell, she leaves, and Jae-hyun glares at the left-behind Pil.

At the police station, the man who likes to get drunk and sleep at the station (to avoid his wife) tries to head in to his “room.” Pil’s sunbae and another officer have to repeatedly repel the heavily inebriated guy, finally getting him to leave by fibbing that his wife is waiting inside the station. Heh.

At the manhole, underneath the magically flickering light, Pil tries once again to use the sledgehammer to bash his way back to the past. He seems to be in a battle of wills against the manhole, panting between hits that he really has to go back this time.

But alas, the cement covering is too strong. Midnight comes and goes, and Pil stays in the present… er, the future… well,whenever he is.

Rejected from the police station, Mr. Drunk is stumbling home in the dark when he catches the attention of a passing man in black. (Oh no.) As he meanders down a back alley, the masked Jae-hyun swoops up behind him with his trademark punch-to-the-back and starts beating the poor guy.

Then, who should be passing by the alley but Gu-gil, who is currently on the phone with Jung-ae to wish her goodnight. The noise of the assault pulls his attention and when he sees the fight, he quickly hides around the corner to call Pil.

Pil answers, and Gu-gil whispers that there’s a guy getting beat up, giving his location. Suddenly, the kicking sounds stop and Gu-gil looks down the alley to see that the attacker has vanished.

Still on the phone with Pil, he tiptoes down the alley to help the guy, but then Jae-hyun emerges from the shadows and punches Gu-gil straight in the face.

Gu-gil puts up a fight though, and soon the two are rolling around the alley, trading hits. Gu-gil’s phone goes flying in the scuffle and Pil can only listen to the sound of the fight, repeatedly asking if his friend is all right.

Rolling over Jae-hyun, Gu-gil gains the upper hand and tries to yank off the black hat (and reveal his identity), but Jae-hyun reaches up to hold it down. The motion jerks up his jacket sleeve and Gu-gil is distracted by the scar on his inner wrist (the one that Pil saw during his fight with Jae-hyun).

Jae-hyun knocks Gu-gil away and starts kicking him repeatedly. Gu-gil struggles weakly, but it’s too much. As Jae-hyun stands over the fading Gu-gil, Pil yells frantically into the phone, calling for his friend.


Ack! Not Gu-gil the Lovable Goof! If he dies, Pil better put some muscle behind that sledgehammer and get back in the manhole so he can fix everything. Although, considering his track record with trying to “fix” the past, we should probably have a backup plan ready.

I’m pretty torn over how I feel about Pil’s trip to the future. While I like the writing consistency where a change in the departure time (11:00 p.m. instead of 12:00 a.m.) results in traveling forward rather than backward, the fact that his future trip was a year later from the original timeline poses some issues. It makes everything that has happened over the last few weeks moot, and calls into question why Pil went through all of it in the first place. It’s also really confusing because I can’t keep track of what happened in the original timeline vs what happened in the alternate times.

I spent a large part of this episode trying to remember what did or didn’t happen between characters. Did Jin-sook still steal Pil’s letters? How did she get over him and move on to Seok-tae if she and Pil never broke off their engagement? Was Dal-soo always doomed to return to his family business? If Jae-hyun never found Soo-jin’s camera, then how did they meet? And now my head hurts.

Still, in spite of the plot (or lack thereof), there’s some really great acting going on, and no one is more memorable than Jae-hyun and his terrifying Choke of Death. I have to hand it to Jang Mi-kwan: He’s proving once again that he really knows how to do creepy. I think I’m actually more invested his storyline than Pil and Soo-jin. I especially want to know how Jae-hyun became so obsessed with Soo-jin. From all appearances, he and Young-joo are rather perfect for each other, what with their matching brands of crazy.

It seems like the show’s end game has morphed from stopping a wedding, to catching Jae-hyun as he continues on his random assault spree. I’m guessing that the wrist scar we’ve now seen twice will come into play somehow, but honestly, I can’t really bring myself to care. Given this show’s general nonexistent plot, there is a very real possibility that the entire time-traveling adventure could turn out to be some weird dream, and the last six weeks will have been for naught. At this point, I’m dropping all expectations and adopting Pil’s philosophy: I’ll just ride the manhole and see where time takes me.


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