Rescue Me: Episode 7

Danger draws breathtakingly closer to Sang-mi with every passing day, and there’s no one for her to rely on but herself as the cult finally reveals the dark plans they have in store for her. Our bumpkin bikers have their own difficulties to face outside the compound with broken fences in need of mending, but here’s hoping that they can learn to work together to help save our heroine.

 
EPISODE 7 RECAP

Sang-mi’s father prays in the house until he hears the clanging noises from outside caused by the boys jumping over the fence. He makes his way outside, but sees nothing as he cautiously rounds each corner.

After a few close calls, it turns out that the boys have taken refuge on the roof of the house. They stay quiet while Dad makes a phone call to Disciple Jo.

When Dad finally makes his way back into the house, they sigh in relief and decide to come back another day—until Jung-hoon realizes that he’s dropped his phone during the botched reconnaissance mission.

Offering to retrieve it for him, Sang-hwan makes his way down the stairs. When he picks up the phone, he looks straight into the window of the room Sang-mi is staying in and sees Sang-mi, unmoving, as she faces a mirror hung on the wall.

Dong-chul sits in the police station quietly as Officer Choi questions the woman he’d stepped in to save. Officer Woo makes his way to Dong-chul and grills him about his presence in the station so soon after his release. “You should get your act together if you’ve been through all that,” Officer Woo says scoldingly, while Dong-chul meekly apologizes.

Sang-hwan joins the other two back on the roof. Jung-hoon is all set to leave, but Sang-hwan holds him back. “Since we’re already here, let’s check it out one more time,” he says thoughtfully.

Jung-hoon exclaims that they’ve almost been caught already, but Sang-hwan has a plan in mind: “We should be bold and ring the doorbell.”

Meanwhile, Dong-chul makes his way out of the police station, but is called back by Officer Woo, who stammers a bit before asking him not to meet with Jung-hoon any more. “You know what I mean, right?” Officer Woo prods.

Dong-chul looks down for a moment before pasting back on a polite smile. He reassures Officer Woo as he says, “I’m not going to see him again. Don’t worry.”

Officer Woo watches Dong-chul walk away, moments before Officer Choi runs out and informs Woo that there’s been a report of a fight.

At the scene of the “fight,” the boys watch from behind a truck as the officers talk with Sang-mi’s father outside of the house, Jung-hoon still filming on his phone. Looks like this was their way of ringing the doorbell.

When Dad asks why the officers here at this late hour, Officer Woo hems and haws until Officer Choi cuts straight to the point: “What is your daughter doing?”

According to the report they received, Dad was using violence on Sang-mi, which Dad vehemently denies. He even claims that she’s taking medicine for her “problems,” and that she’s asleep at the moment.

Meanwhile, inside the house, Sang-mi takes the mirror off of the wall with a calm, deliberate motion.

Uneasy, Officer Choi presses further and asks to check inside, but Officer Woo drags her away and apologizes to Dad for bothering him.

The boys can’t hear anything, so they try to move closer to the conversation to record it better. Jung-hoon strains forward until he drops his phone, and it clatters to the ground, drawing the attention of the two officers.

Caught, the boys leap out of hiding and run away with their backs facing the officers to hide their identities as the officers dive into their cruiser to give chase.

Dad walks into Sang-mi’s room, only to be greeted by the sight of Sang-mi trembling as she holds the mirror above her head, with its base aimed at the window. “What on earth are you doing?” Dad demands to know.

Sang-mi turns toward him and lowers the mirror. “Dad, I don’t want to hate you,” she says, growing increasingly frantic as Dad focuses on getting the mirror out of her hands. As they tussle over the mirror, Sang-mi pleads, “We have to get out of here, Dad. We must save Mom.”

As Dad wrests the mirror from Sang-mi’s grasp, Sang-mi turns her anguished gaze on him again, even as he turns away. She accuses him of being the crazy one and wonders how he became such a monster. Dad doesn’t seem to take in anything Sang-mi says, but as he walks out the door, there seems to be a moment of awareness as he looks into the mirror and tenses his jaw.

At the pier after a successful escape, Jung-hoon wonders why Sang-mi is in “that kind of a place.” Man-hee knowingly replies that her dad must have dragged his whole family in: “That’s why it’s a cult.”

Jung-hoon flops back onto the bench and suggests that they give up as he says that what ends up happening to Sang-mi doesn’t matter.

“It matters to me,” Sang-hwan says solemnly. He asks to see Jung-hoon’s cell phone — specifically, the recording that was captured when he dropped it outside of Sang-mi’s house.

They hear Dad’s phone call to Disciple Jo on the recording. He’d requested a surveillance camera, citing the presence of evil spirits in the area. Jung-hoon urges Sang-hwan again to butt out of the situation, but Man-hee only asks what Sang-hwan is going to do next.

Sang-hwan gazes out over the water and replies, “What would Dong-chul do?”

The three friends bid each other goodbye on the road, and Sang-hwan confirms to the other two that he’s not returning home tonight. Instead, he makes his way to Dong-chul’s house, but there’s no sign of life inside.

That’s because Dong-chul is making his way back from a beer run. He spies Sang-hwan’s motorcycle and ducks behind a building to avoid being seen. He steels himself to walk over to Sang-hwan, but at that moment, the motorcycle engine revs and Sang-hwan drives away.

Dong-chul goes inside the darkened house and opens a beer. The room is full of painful reminders of his grandmother, including her memorial portrait, which takes him back to a memory of her memorial service.

He’d sat at the service lifelessly, alone until Jung-hoon, Man-hee, and Sang-hwan walked in to pay their respects. The sight of Sang-hwan stepping up to his grandmother’s picture galvanized Dong-chul into throwing a punch. An emotional Man-hee had held Dong-chul back while an officer nearby threatened to cancel Dong-chul’s leave.

Sang-hwan had put a stop to Man-hee’s blubbering by saying, “That’s enough. Dong-chul is more hurt than I am. Just let him do whatever he wants.” He acknowledged that he knew Dong-chul didn’t want to see him, but had asked for him to put up with it just this once.

Full of rage and hurt, Dong-chul asked Sang-hwan, “Do you know how my grandma died?” He tells Sang-hwan how his grandma wanted to send him money, but had died in a hit-and-run when she was collecting boxes to sell.

“It’s all your fault. Just because you wanted to make sure your stuck-up father gets elected as a governor, you ruined my life and killed my grandma. You killed both of us!” Dong-chul had cried as he lunged forward and punched Sang-hwan again. But the move knocked over his grandma’s portrait, and at Jung-hoon’s intervention, Dong-chul finally stopped to cry over her picture.

Back in the present, Jung-hoon gets flagged down by his father, Officer Woo. He nervously sits and feeds his father snacks to avert suspicion. Musingly, his father tells Jung-hoon to drink with him and notes that Jung-hoon is his everything.

Sang-mi and her father wait for the Guseonwon van to take them to the sunrise service. When Dad grabs Sang-mi’s hand, she coolly says, “Let go of my hand.” She warns him never to touch her again, and tells him to mark her words: She will never forgive him, even if he begs her and Mom later.

Just then, the Guseonwon van pulls up. Though Sang-mi doesn’t answer when Disciple Kang asks her whether she slept well, she climbs willingly into the back of the van.

When the van arrives at Guseonwon, Sang-mi declares that she’ll go to see her mom, and at the look of alarm on Disciple Kang’s face, she adds, “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.” Kang relents and lets her go.

Afterward, Disciple Kang runs up to Father Baek, who’s weeding with a scythe in hand. He asks her about the recent run-ins with Sang-hwan and friends. Disciple Kang thinks it’s no big deal but explains that they’re Sang-mi’s friends from high school, adding, “They asked her if she needs any help and said they’d help her if she’s in danger.”

Father Baek (referred to by the congregates as “Spiritual Father”) orders Disciple Kang to prepare Sang-mi to become the Spiritual Mother, an “innocent spiritual wife” so that he can get everyone on what the congregation keeps referring to as the “Boat of Salvation.” Disciple Kang looks surprised, but acquiesces to his request.

Meanwhile, Sang-mi sits beside her mother as her mother reads from the church’s book. Sang-mi futilely tries to counter the book’s teachings as she quietly says, “No one will save us here.” Mom continues repeating the passages about salvation.

Frustrated, Sang-mi grabs the book from Mom’s hands and starts tearing out the pages. “These are all lies. They’ll will only encage and ruin us,” she says, voice shaking. “Please don’t fall apart anymore.”

Unfortunately, Mom only grabs the book back, shrieking that she needs the book so she can live together with Sang-jin in paradise. She looks over at the doorway, where Sang-jin’s specter stands. She tells Sang-mi that Sang-jin’s disability disappeared after he came here as a way of proving that this is paradise.

As Mom clutches the book to her chest, Sang-mi quietly says, “But now… I’m the one in pain.” Mom beckons Sang-jin over and lies down, her arms patting empty air. She tells Sang-mi to lie down too.

Unable to object, Sang-mi lays her head down on Mom’s stomach as she vows to herself, “Mom, I will keep knocking until someone hears me. I won’t stop knocking. And… I will escape this place no matter what. I will get out of here with you, Mom.”

Father Baek calls for Sang-mi and quizzes her on a portion of the church’s teachings. She recites it perfectly, but Father Baek says she has to show her faith with her actions, not her head. Sang-mi is quick to retort that faith isn’t something that can be imposed on others.

Jung-hoon is back at it with his livestream, this time promising to pay up to his viewers if he doesn’t finish his noodles within sixty seconds. He starts the timer and makes it through one bowl but is foiled by Man-hee, who shoves his face into the second bowl.

While he’s bickering with Man-hee, the timer goes off, and Jung-hoon’s father walks in. Jung-hoon quickly shuts off the livestream and pretends he’s been studying English with Man-hee the whole time. But when he asks his father for money to buy a book, his father lets slip that Dong-chul’s been around, leading Jung-hoon and Man-hee to spill that Dong-chul’s been working at a nightclub to Sang-hwan.

As Sang-hwan drives down the street, he flashes back to happier times with Dong-chul. In his memory, we see the two boys lying down on the ground after a round of basketball. They’d quibbled about the score, but Dong-chul claimed to be right because he had perfect eyesight.

Smiling, Sang-hwan asked Dong-chul what he would use his good eyes for. Dong-chul replied that he wanted to be a police officer so that he could find his mom and support his grandmother. Oof.

They exchanged the familiar “Stand tall” / “No, you stand tall” banter, until Dong-chul had said, “Whatever, let’s both stand tall.”

Back in the present, Sang-hwan parks his motorcycle in front of the nightclub where Dong-chul works and shouts through the door: “Dong-chul! Dong-chul, are you in there?”

Instead of Dong-chul, his friend, Dae-shik, comes to the door. When Sang-hwan asks if Dong-chul is inside, Dae-shik cautions him to stay away. Dong-chul is getting his life back together, Dae-shik says, and he doesn’t need people from his past to sway him from that.

Sang-hwan bursts out, “What do you know?” But the friend counters with a fair point: “We’re not living in Seoul. Our town isn’t that big for you to have never seen Dong-chul. It’s not that you couldn’t find him. You just avoided it. Understand?”

Meanwhile, Dong-chul works his day job as a courier, and he takes a package into a building across from where Sang-hwan is stopped for a traffic light. But just as Sang-hwan looks across the street, a truck blocks his view of Dong-chul.

The light turns green, and Dong-chul comes back out to hear the sound of Sang-hwan’s motorcycle starting up. He looks up as the truck drives away, but Sang-hwan is gone. Instead, Dong-chul stares at the kids playing at the pool hall across the street, memories clearly weighing heavily on him even as he starts his own motorcycle and drives away.

Later in the evening, Father Baek approaches a group of church workers (and Sang-mi) doing laundry. They insist that there’s no need for him to help with the washing, but they delight in Father Baek’s praise and allow him to help anyway.

Jeong-gu’s grandmother hurries over to Father Baek and eagerly asks if he thinks Jeong-gu is doing well. With a warm smile, Father Baek assures her that he is, and reminds her to pray hard so that she can join Jeong-gu in paradise.

“You liar,” Sang-mi says forcefully, standing up. In front of Jeong-gu’s, she declares that she saw what happened, and the place where Jeong-gu went wasn’t paradise.

Enraged, Jeong-gu’s grandmother throws soap at Sang-mi and demands to know how she could say such a thing. “You good-for-nothing devil!” she yells. “I hope you get hit by lightning!” The other women chime in, all agreeing in their dislike for Sang-mi.

Father Baek calms them down and urges them to consider Sang-mi’s doubt not as sin, but as the pure and naïve faith of a young lamb.

He tells the women to pray for and bless Sang-mi, and they immediately do so, crowding Sang-mi with words of prayer and stroking her hair. Through the throng, Sang-mi fixes her gaze on Father Baek. He shows her a smile that appears indulgent but seems to send a message: He’s the one in control here.

Detective Lee is enjoying a face massage when he gets a phone call from someone named “Weasel.” Weasel immediately lays it on thick when Detective Lee picks up the phone, and they make plans to meet up for a meal.

We find Sang-mi back in her mother’s room, this time clipping Mom’s fingernails for her. Mom’s eyes are as unfocused as always while Sang-mi reminisces about Mom clipping her and Sang-jin’s nails when they were little. “Now, it’s my turn to clip your nails for you,” Sang-mi says with a smile.

The smile drops when Dad walks in to tell Sang-mi that Father Baek wants to see her. Sang-mi replies woodenly, “I’m almost done. So please… just let me finish this.”

In Father Baek’s office, Disciple Kang, Disciple Jo, and Dad stand up as soon as Father Baek enters, with Sang-mi noticeably lagging behind.

They all sit, and Father Baek addresses Sang-mi: “Do you remember how you were when you first came here?” She had a very big scar on her heart, he says, comparing her to a young lamb.

He casts himself as a shepherd that had no choice but to love the lamb, Sang-mi. But Sang-mi spits that he’s a liar and the true devil among them. Father Baek acts as though he didn’t hear her as he adds, “I should save Sang-mi before it gets too late.”

“Finally, Sang-mi’s going to become the Spiritual Mother,” Disciple Jo pipes in creepily from the corner. “Becoming the Spiritual Mother is the biggest blessing you can get in Guseonwon,” adds Disciple Kang.

Sang-mi, shocked at this turn of events, stands up and declares them all crazy as she backs away. “Dad, do you really not understand what this means?” Sang-mi asks desperately. But Dad and Disciple Jo just admonish her, and Sang-mi sees no other way out but to break the glass display case next to her.

Picking up a broken shard, she brandishes it at the two men approaching her. “I’m telling you not to come near me!” she cries out, then holds the shard to her own neck. “If you’re going to make me do as you planned, I’ll kill myself right now,” Sang-mi threatens.

The sight of Sang-mi threatening to end her life triggers a memory for Disciple Kang, as we see her frantically splashing into a river to reach a girl who’s face down in the water. She yells the girl’s name, Yu-ra, as she breaks down sobbing and hugs the girl’s motionless body to her own.

The recollection pains Disciple Kang in the present, and even she seems surprised when she suddenly shouts, “No!” She tries to calm Sang-mi down, saying that Sang-mi won’t be able to receive salvation if she dies now.

This is the wrong tactic—Sang-mi’s anger flares up even more: “Salvation? What do you even think that is?” She screams that they’re just going to hand her over to Father Baek anyway. As Disciple Kang continues to try using religious reasoning with Sang-mi, Father Baek calmly walks in front of her.

He talks to her measuredly, and explains that he doesn’t expect her to fulfill his worldly desires: “Do you still not realize how much New Heaven’s God and I love you?”

Sang-mi yells and slices the shard across Father Baek’s face, scoring a cut on his cheek. She gets ready for another swipe, but Father Baek grabs her arm and asks, “Are you really not scared of death?”

Sang-mi hisses that Father Baek is probably the one who’s scared to die, given how much he talks about salvation and eternal life. “But,” she grits out, “I’m not scared to die at all.”

Suddenly, the door opens to reveal Mom, who walks in oblivious to the scene unfolding in front of her. The mute driver, Wan-duk, lurks a step behind her.

Sang-mi, wide-eyed, is forced to listen to Father Baek’s lesson: “If you believe in my words and abide by them, you shall be allowed on the Boat of Salvation. However, if you do not believe in my words and refuse to abide by them…”

He turns to look at Mom and finishes, “I shall take away from you that one thing… you cherish… the most.” He turns his chilling stare on Sang-mi.

Trembling, Sang-mi drops the glass shard, her hand bloody from holding it. Mom asks Sang-mi what’s wrong, and she doesn’t even seem to register Sang-mi’s bleeding hand as she grabs her other one, telling Sang-mi they should all pray together so that the whole family can go to paradise. Mom urges the specter of Sang-jin to come into the room, too.

Sang-mi turns her tear-stained face away from the doorway and catches sight of Father Baek’s horrifyingly smug smile.

Detective Lee takes Weasel up on the meal, with pretty girls to boot. Weasel is all smiles as he sits Detective Lee down, but the detective isn’t taken in. To the girls, who have just come from Seoul, he muses about Muji, “It’s a strange place. From the outside, it seems like a peaceful place, but if you look carefully, there’s something fishy about it.”

Our bumpkin bikers, drunk in their favorite haunt, lament on the state of their lives. Man-hee tells Sang-hwan, “Don’t be too sad. I’m sure Dong-chul knows how you feel.”

The jjajangmyun delivery guy makes a stop in the bar and asks why the friends are here if Dong-chul is at the stadium. He adds that if they’ve had a fight, they shouldn’t put off making up. Sang-hwan stands up: “Man-hee, I think I should go. I… have something I need to tell Dong-chul.”

Sang-hwan parks at the stadium and sprints in. It’s empty, but he spies a dark figure ambling along the pavement: Dong-chul.

Sang-hwan shouts his name, and Dong-chul slows to a stop when he hears Sang-hwan tell him to stand tall. He turns around, and their gazes meet.

Sang-mi and Mom take a walk outside. Mom bursts out, “Sang-jin, what’s wrong with you?” Sang-mi looks over, tired, and Mom explains that Sang-jin keeps saying strange things about this being wrong and that they shouldn’t stay there.

Sang-mi snaps to attention: “Did Oppa really say that?” Mom nods.

Sang-hwan catches up to Dong-chul and puts a hand on his shoulder, but Dong-chul throws him off. Dong-chul says that if Sang-hwan says his name one more time, he’ll kill him. Sang-hwan: “Seok Dong-chul.” In response, he gets a punch in the face.

Sang-hwan keeps calling Dong-chul’s name, and Dong-chul punches him again. “If it’ll make you feel better, go ahead and hit me,” Sang-hwan says, opening himself up for more hits.

But then he asks if that’s all Dong-chul’s got, and starts punching back. Now, the fight is on.

As Sang-mi watches over her mother and stares out the window into the distance where the red cross glows, we cut back to Dong-chul, bruised and bloody.

In a trembling voice, he says that he told Sang-hwan to never show his face again. “But why do you keep showing up like this?” he screams.

Sang-hwan, staggering onto his feet, screams back, “Because you’re my friend!”

Sang-mi looks at her mother’s sleeping face and promises to save her from this place: “I’m sure that’s what Sang-jin wants me to do.”

In an echo of the basketball scene from Sang-hwan’s memory, both Sang-hwan and Dong-chul lie on the ground looking up, spent. Sang-hwan tries to bring back memories of their friendship, but Dong-chul just tells Sang-hwan not to look for him again. When Sang-hwan asks why not, Dong-chul replies, “It’s hard for me to look at you.”

They’re silent for a moment, then Dong-chul rolls to his side and stands up, ready to walk away. Sang-hwan tries to catch his attention again: “I saw Sang-mi. I think she could be in big trouble.”

Dong-chul stops and turns back around, listening. Sang-hwan continues, “She asked me to rescue her. And this time, I won’t run away.”

 
COMMENTS:

Yeah, Sang-hwan! Let’s hope he actually makes good on that declaration. And that Dong-chul joins him, because our friends could definitely use a boost to accomplish their rescue mission. He’s definitely made strides in terms of responding to injustice, but he also has a tendency to be reactive rather than proactive.

A lot of glimpses into the past were revealed this episode. The tragedy of Dong-chul’s imprisonment intensified as we found out exactly how his grandmother died, and that he’d wanted to become a police officer. When he screamed that Sang-hwan had killed him and his grandmother both, I really believed it. There’s a part of Dong-chul that he’ll never get back, even if he punches Sang-hwan a thousand times.

Surprisingly, we also got insight into why Disciple Kang has been so lenient on and almost protective of Sang-mi. I wonder if Yu-ra’s death had anything to do with the cult, or if the death of Yu-ra made her more susceptible to joining the cult later on, like it did with the Im Family.

The cult itself is horrifying for reasons even beyond what happens within the compound. Guseonwon has a long reach into the community, as we can see with the police and the hospital, and its insidious grip means that Sang-mi has nowhere to turn for true escape from the cult, even if she didn’t have Mom to consider.

On that note though, I have to admit that I’m slightly frustrated with the treatment of Sang-mi’s character. Any time she attempts to escape, it barely feels like there was a deliberate decision involved. Has she really been doing this for three years? There have been so many failures that there’s no longer any real emotional stakes involved, and I would have expected Sang-mi to have a smarter plan of escape by now.

But I don’t blame Sang-mi herself for this lack of forethought. Victims of abuse are often deliberately isolated and made to feel like they have no way out. Guseonwon has taken this a step further and presents Sang-mi as crazy to the community and to Sang-mi herself. After three years of this, I’d imagine that Sang-mi is traumatized and emotionally numbed, and I’m amazed she’s been able to hold onto herself for so long.

Part of the reason for my frustration, however, is that the writing is lacking in a few areas. One is the characterization. Characters (cough—Sang-hwan) can make dumb choices, sure, but when I don’t understand why they make those choices or what it means to who they are, I can’t empathize with what they do and the consequences of those actions. A lot of emotional value to the plot is lost this way, and when a big chunk of the rest of the plot is shock value, it feels like the writer is relying too much on shortcuts.

Another is consistency: The time skip was an understandable choice that really emphasizes the terrible situation Sang-mi is in, but in some other parts of the story, it’s like time hasn’t passed at all. Sang-hwan feels guilt over what happened, but he only confronted his father on his promise three years later? And why does the whole town act like the cult is normal, but the biker gang revealed that it’s known that they’re a cult?

But I’ll give the show’s writing the benefit of the doubt, for now—after all, they did address the fact that Sang-hwan never seemed to see Dong-chul around town, which I didn’t expect. (Meanwhile, he can run into Sang-mi twice in about as many days.) I nearly cheered when Dong-chul’s friend told Sang-hwan off for disrupting Dong-chul’s job/life as if it were the most urgent thing in the world but hasn’t even tried to contact him otherwise.

The cult has stepped up their plans with Sang-mi’s new status as Spiritual Mother and ominous allusions to the Boat of Salvation. Even though it seems like Sang-mi is stuck in an endless cycle of escape and recapture, mentally and physically, I hope that the resolution isn’t simply a matter of the biker gang swooping in for a rescue. Hopefully, Sang-mi’s iron will and the will of her would-be rescuers will lead to a strength that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

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