The Village: Achiara's Secret: Episode 15
Korean Drama Reactions & Reviews | December 2, 2015 | 319 viewed
Director: Lee Yong-Seok
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Release Date: December 02nd, 2015
Just when I thought we’d all had Village figured out, the drama throws in a curveball, and it’s a doozy. You won’t hear me complaining about tossing in a late-game twist, since my concern was that there was too little mystery heading into the finale, with most of the clues being revealed to the audience while we waited for the characters to catch up.
The show hasn’t always been the most surprising, but I appreciate that it’s worked very hard to keep the story moving—not an easy feat, when so much of the plot happens in the past. It makes me curious to see what explanations are in store for us tomorrow, with only one hour left to go.
SONG OF THE DAY
Name: Stella Jang – “뒷모습” (Appearance from behind)
EPISODE 15: “Murderer”
So-yoon is drawn to the wooden box given to her by Yoo-na, and when she looks up in the mirror, she sees Hye-jin’s ghost in the reflection. She whirls to face her, and sees that the box is now in front of Hye-jin, and when she runs a finger across the lid, the nail breaks. So-yoon snaps awake—it was a dream.
She gets up to see the box lying where she left it, but now notices something in the pattern—right where Hye-jin broke her nail, it looks like an actual fingernail is embedded in the wood.
Ji-sook comes home to see a mountain of luggage in the entryway, and the maid informs her that Grandma wants her to move out. Ji-sook takes this about as well as you’d expect, and storms in to confront Grandma, screaming that she’s not leaving this house.
Her rage pushes her so far that she drops all pretense of respect and uses the lowest banmal to tell Grandma that she should be the one to leave.
Grandma is so stunned that she stiffens and gasps, and as Ji-sook looms over her, it seems as though she might even start to choke her. But Ki-hyun enters the room and rushes to Grandma’s side, and Ji-sook quickly composes herself. He may have missed the worst of it, but Ki-hyun has seen enough and stares up at her with horrified eyes.
The shock actually causes a cerebral hemorrhage, which kills Grandma. Ji-sook is overcome with emotion and begs Grandma to wake up, but neither Ki-hyun nor Assemblyman Seo look convinced by her distress.
So-yoon visits the craft shop and talks to the sales clerk about the patterning in the designs, which is created from a mix of bark and chips. She casually mentions the likelihood of a fingernail getting mixed in, and the clerk confirms that it could easily happen while woodworking. He points at the date written on the box, indicating that it was completed two years ago, on September 27. (Currently, Hye-jin’s death is pegged at around September 15.) She asks how long the carpenter would have worked on this box, and is told about two to three weeks. Very curious timing, that.
The carpenter’s wife comes out to join them, asking rather aggressively why So-yoon wants to know about the box. So-yoon shakes her off and says she was just curious, but the woman looks worried.
After Ga-young’s mother decides to report her long-ago-suffered attack, our two cops return to the lumber mill to confront the carpenter about his past crimes, laying out their suspicions—that he suffers the same genetic disease Ga-young had, that he raped her mother 19 years ago, that he raped another woman 32 years ago, that he raped a victim and got caught for it in Jeju.
But the carpenter argues hotly that there’s no proof of any of their accusations, that they cannot have seen his medical records, that they’re accusing him of crimes well past their statute of limitations, and that they’re not acting within legal bounds. Unfortunately, all of this is true. They have to leave empty-handed, to Woo-jae’s frustration.
Ji-sook wastes no time clearing out Grandma’s things, which further upsets Ki-hyun. She tells him briskly that there’s no use waiting on it, but notices that he’s now looking at her quite differently.
Agasshi dresses in a sharp suit to disguise himself, as he’s now one of Achiara’s most wanted, with signs posted in public with his picture.
So-yoon tells Woo-jae and Sergeant Han about her latest discovery, explaining that the box contains Hye-jin’s fingernail, which would prove that she was at the mill right before she died. Sergeant Han points out that they can hardly request a forensic exam on the fingernail on the grounds that she had a dream and saw a ghost.
She gets more concrete facts from Ga-young’s mother, whom she visits next. Ga-young’s mother has decided to leave Achiara, saying that she isn’t strong like Hye-jin and able to put up a fight on her own. She also recalls that Hye-jin called her before her death—her number was the last one in Hye-jin’s cell phone records—and mentioned going to fight one out with the monster.
Ki-hyun steps in when Ji-sook starts to scold Yoo-na for forgetting to pass along a message, and broaches the topic of taking Yoo-na back to the States to live with him. But she turns him down, wanting to stay with Ji-sook: “Because Mom is my mom.”
Ji-sook drops in to see Ki-hyun, understanding that he’s distanced himself from her. She confesses that she was Yoo-na’s age when she had Hye-jin, and desperately wanted to erase it from her life. That’s why she clung to the desire to live happily and well—so when Hye-jin showed up in her life, she was thrown into terrible old feelings. She says she didn’t do everything just to protect her cushy life—it was because she was legitimately terrified of her.
Ki-hyun’s expression remains stone-faced, and she adds that he can’t begin to imagine how she felt, and that when she saw that Grandma had packed her things, it’s like her mind went blank. She doesn’t even remember what happened or what she did—all she remembers is that terrified feeling. She tells him she’s not defending herself or saying she did the right thing, but even if it were to happen again, she wouldn’t be able to react any other way.
It’s clear Ki-hyun doesn’t want to be moved by her, but he’s not entirely cold, though he tries to keep up a stiff demeanor.
The police get confirmation of the carpenter’s car passing certain toll gates on the day of Hye-jin’s death which confirm that he had returned to Achiara. They confront him with the logs just as his wife comes into the room, and the couple exchanges quick looks before the carpenter blurts that he returned—alone. Ah, he’s totally covering for the wife, isn’t he?
He insists he didn’t see Hye-jin, though, and the cops ask why he returned to the workshop. He says it was to pick up a project he was working on, and flips through his record book to show them a picture—and his wife jumps in to grab the book, saying that he only came to pick up materials.
It’s entirely suspicious, and Sergeant Han insists on seeing book—it’s So-yoon’s box.
Woo-jae takes this to Detective Choi, who scoffs at the far-fetched explanation of the dream and the ghost… but then sighs that he’ll okay the forensic exam.
The carpenter only now learns from his wife that she’d driven back to the workshop that day—all this while, she’d lied that she’d visited family. But he realizes what this means and decides firmly, “You weren’t here.” She starts to protest, but he argues that he’s already sick, and she has to take care of their daughter. So he’ll take the fall.
The lab results confirm what we’ve suspected: It is in fact Hye-jin’s fingernail in that box. That’s enough to secure a warrant, and they return to arrest the carpenter for Hye-jin’s murder.
So-yoon fills Ki-hyun in on her theory of how Ji-sook reacted to her rape and pregnancy with denial, refusing to connect the baby with herself, which is why some rape victims even kill their newborns. It fits with Ji-sook calling Hye-jin a monster, like she’s something foreign to herself. She speaks of Ji-sook with some sympathy now, and when Ki-hyun worries about Ji-sook’s connection becoming public knowledge, So-yoon assures him that the police will make sure that doesn’t leak.
That’s when Woo-jae calls to inform her of the arrest. Currently, the carpenter sits in the interrogation room, and confesses to the killing. As he tells his story (I’m presuming some of it is fabricated), we see it in flashback:
The carpenter first met Hye-jin at a gathering of Fabry disease sufferers, then ran into her in town. But when he’d told her that Achiara was his hometown, Hye-jin had started to put the pieces together, suspecting him. Soon thereafter, she confronted him in his workshop, asking point-blank if he’d raped a young girl 32 years ago.
Following that, Hye-jin pestered the carpenter at every opportunity to turn himself in, threatening to reveal the truth if he didn’t. She’d shown up repeatedly in that field outside the mill, staring defiantly at the carpenter, who grew increasingly nervous and jittery. He swears to Detective Choi that he’d mended his ways and lived an honest life for years—and she showed up to ruin it all.
He’d begged Hye-jin to leave him alone and let bygones be bygones, arguing that it was all in the past. That had angered Hye-jin, who asked if his family was the only one that mattered—what about all the lives he trampled on with his actions? The argument had escalated and he had grabbed her, choking her in his workshop.
With the confession given, the lumber mill is taken over by the police, who inspect it for evidence. So-yoon relays the message to Ki-hyun that the police will make sure Ji-sook’s name is left out of the case.
Ji-sook takes Yoo-na shopping for a mother-daughter date, doting on her and apologizing for sending her to the hospital, promising to never do that again. Yoo-na smiles with happy tears, glad to have her nice mother back, and Ji-sook assures her that she could never hate her, “my one and only daughter.”
They arrive home in high spirits, and Ki-hyun tells Ji-sook that the criminal was caught. The news rattles her, but he passes on the assurance that her story won’t get out, telling her that it’s all over now.
Gun-woo packs up his belongings, having resigned his post and readying to leave, although it’s not to leave with Joo-hee, as she wants. She tries to persuade him to go with her, inventing new identities with her new wealth (from the school) and embarking on new lives together. But he argues that as long as they’re together, they won’t be able to live new lives, being weighed down with the past. He won’t ever be able to see her without thinking of Hye-jin or Achiara, and that’s why it’s better for them to split up.
Agasshi, still decked out in his smart disguise, reads about the carpenter’s arrest in the paper.
So-yoon meets with Joo-hee to request the full, unvarnished truth, pointing out that Joo-hee’s never given it to her before. So Joo-hee tells her what she knows, that Ji-sook had shot herself in the foot by trying to rid herself of Hye-jin initially by informing her of her mother’s hysterectomy. She thought that would be enough to convince Hye-jin she was barking up the wrong tree, not knowing that Hye-jin had already had a DNA test run on herself and Yoo-na, proving kinship. So if Ji-sook’s mother wasn’t who she was looking for, then it could only be Ji-sook or Joo-hee.
Joo-hee recounts how soon thereafter, she’d had a visit from her estranged mother, and it had made her light up in happiness… until her mother had told her the truth about Ji-sook giving birth to Hye-jin.
Joo-hee hadn’t known the truth until then, and her mother had argued that Ji-sook would lose everything—so she asked Joo-hee to say she was the mother, no matter that she’d only been ten at the time. “You have nothing to lose,” her mother had said, “You can just keep living. We have to save your sister!”
That had hurt, and Joo-hee explains how deep the pain runs when your mother loves her children differently. So she had decided then to do exactly the opposite as her mother wanted, and told Hye-jin everything—and proposed a way to get revenge. Hye-jin had accepted easily, making Joo-hee think she was a money-grubber. But now she knows otherwise, that Ji-sook had already rejected her.
Hye-jin had seduced the assemblyman, provoked a fight to get DNA samples, and presented the evidence to the assemblyman. He hardly wanted it known that he had an affair with his wife’s daughter, and they had further ammunition with the audio file of him ordering a hit on Hye-jin. She’d handed that over to the assemblyman’s co-conspirator, Chairman Noh, trusting that he had the contacts to find So-yoon’s whereabouts.
And all went according to plan, and she found out So-yoon’s address. But suddenly, Hye-jin had changed her mind, and wanted out of the revenge plan. That’s because Ji-sook had divulged to her the truth of her origins, and Hye-jin’s view of her changed—from terrible abandoning mother to pitiable victim. Hye-jin had started seeking out her birth father then.
So-yoon interprets Hye-jin’s change of plans to mean that she’d forgiven Ji-sook for rejecting her. Joo-hee begs to differ—Joo-hee couldn’t forgive her own mother for not loving her as much as her sister, so she can’t believe Hye-jin forgave a mother who treated her as inhuman.
So-yoon wonders why Hye-jin never told Joo-hee that she was sick. Joo-hee can only think of one explanation: She had given up her hope of living.
That night, the carpenter’s wife calls Ji-sook in tears, saying she can’t handle this. Ji-sook tells her coldly that it’s better than the wife going to prison.
Assemblyman Seo presents Ji-sook with divorce papers, informing her that their marriage has been loveless for a long while now. She protests that she’s been devoted to him, but when pleas don’t work, she changes tactics—suddenly shrewd, she asks meaningfully after Chairman Noh, the dearly deceased. “I know how he died,” she warns.
Joo-hee drops by to tell Ji-sook her last goodbye, and says bitterly that Ji-sook’s quite lucky. She ended up losing nothing, while Joo-hee lost the thing she wanted most—the person who can’t see her without thinking of the sister who died and his monstrous father. “You won everything,” Joo-hee says.
The carpenter is taken back to the mill for the police reenactment of his crime, and demonstrates on a dummy how he choked Hye-jin. He becomes flustered when the detective asks if that’s all he’s got, because there were signs of struggle, which means he probably knocked her around more. The carpenter mumbles that she “probably tripped” or something, and Woo-jae can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. The descriptions conflict, and there’s something that doesn’t quite work.
Agasshi is still on the lam, and borrows a phone from a stranger to send a text message to So-yoon. It merely says that the man doesn’t lie, while the wife does—but So-yoon recalls Agasshi saying that earlier and is sure he’s the one sending the message.
She turns over the text to the police, who jump to trace its origins, since he’s still wanted for the serial murders. So he sends her another text warning that if she hands this one over, he’ll give her no more hints. So-yoon writes back, “Please tell me.”
He replies with something that sounds like a riddle: “The child grows taller rapidly, the parents record it. Di-li-gent-ly.”
Meanwhile, Woo-jae takes another look at the traffic logs that noted the carpenter’s toll gate passages. This time, he notices that before going to Achiara, the car stopped elsewhere. Why?
So-yoon heads to the mill, thinking over Agasshi’s hint, and looks around until she sees the wall where the parents recorded the little girl’s growing heights, with the dates recorded by the hash marks. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a notch marked the day of Hye-jin’s death—September 15. That means the child was here that day… and thus probably also the mother.
The wife finds So-yoon here, bristling with hostility. But So-yoon has put together enough facts to confront her about her hunches, warning her that the police are investigating right now. She asks point-blank whether the husband took the fall for her: “Did you kill my sister?”
The wife bursts out, “No!” She gets worked up with agitation, eyes darting as she mutters that if “that person” hadn’t done it, she would have. “It’s all because of that person,” she exclaims. “That person!”
Flashback to September 15. The wife walks into her home to see Hye-jin struggling as someone pins her down, choking the life out of her.
Ah, in retrospect it isn’t shocking to find Ji-sook here as our culprit, but now that we’re here, it makes sense. Mostly, I appreciate my expectations being thwarted here, since it felt so obvious and simple to have the carpenter couple as the final answer to the mystery—it’s logically fitting, but we’ve had these suspicions for too long to be wholly satisfied ending on that note.
I’m guessing that Ji-sook either paid off the wife or offered some irresistible deal in exchange for her silence—or held her husband’s crimes over her head, maybe, the way she’s blackmailing her husband now into not divorcing her. It’s entirely her style to have found out damning information and use it to her advantage, and I like the idea of our ultimate culprit being someone who actually fills the twisted villain shoes with aplomb.
That’s not to say that the carpenter isn’t plenty guilty, and quite possibly beyond redemption as it is, especially after seeing him trying to dismiss his crimes as bygones—like it shouldn’t matter to the victim because it was so long ago and everyone’s totally fine now, right? But the couple strikes me as extremely weak, selfish people, full of fear and cowardice. I can see them killing someone if pushed to it, but narratively it’s less interesting.
It makes for a much more complex, rich story to bring this back to Ji-sook, who all drama long has been walking that razor-thin edge—sometimes sympathetic, sometimes inhumane, sometimes understandably selfish and sometimes reprehensibly so. She’s a brilliant villain figure, because as So-yoon says in this episode, it’s difficult to scorn her for her actions given what she suffered. Ki-hyun finds himself distancing himself too, but is brought back to a middle ground—he can’t see her as the loving mother figure he used to, but his caring for her isn’t swept away entirely either.
There’s a really nice (by which I mean twisted) irony in having Ji-sook cling fiercely to this notion that she gave birth to a monster as a way of coping with her trauma, which you can see as an attempt to compartmentalize her attack and keep herself separate from it. But in insisting Hye-jin’s the monster, it’s turned Ji-sook into a monster of her own, becoming the mother who denies her child not only her origins, her parentage, and identity, but also her humanity. But that’s what makes it a tragic irony, I suppose, in that Ji-sook is so often the creator of her own misery. With her at the center of it, no wonder this town is such a mess.<
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