Missing 9: Episode 5

A quick mention of my thoughts on episodes 3 & 4 before going into episode 5, since I didn’t have time to blog about them.

I didn’t enjoy episodes 3 and 4 as much as the earlier episodes, because I felt that the light-hearted, almost comedic tone detracted from the dark, pensive tone that the show had established in its first two episodes. I found it so strange that the scene of Joon Oh stepping on an old landmine was played as a comedic scene, though from what I read, there were many who also found it funny. I also felt that it was particularly unconvincingly how everyone on the plane survived almost without injuries, even though there were no seat belts on the plane and how they just somehow managed to survive on the island so well. Best of all, they even managed to retrieve their luggages and find shelter. Life almost seemed too rosy and there was a lack of desperation, loss, and hopelessness that characterised the experience of the first two episodes. However, I felt the show regained its momentum in episode 5, which marks the beginning of things falling apart in our group of 9.

Summary of events

There was so much happening in episode 5 – both on the island, as well as in the present – and the show interweaves both timelines very well, with scenes from the past being perfectly juxtaposed those from the present.

In terms of what happens in the island, we progress very quickly from where we left off in the last episode with Tae Ho returning to camp and immediately deciding who to pick to bring with him on the lifeboat. He makes a very strategic decision to pick President Hwang and let him choose the final person; however, So Hee finds out about this plan and demands to be the final person on the boat. Tae Ho has no choice but to agree when she threatens to reveal the truth about what he did, i.e. his murder of the pilot. The next day, Tae Ho splits the group into three groups to search for the intruder, with him, President Hwang and Soo Hee in one group and they immediately run off to find the boat while the others are engaged in the search. However, President Hwang backs out at the last minute, leaving just So Hee, Tae Ho and the captain to row the boat, which is made even more challenging because of the weather. Just as they are leaving, everyone finds out and runs to the coast to call them back because them rowing out is just seeking death.

As they row out, So Hee is exhausted and can’t row anymore. She loses her oar which angers Tae Ho. The boat capsizes, and Joon Oh and Bong Hee swim out to save them. As they are trying to save them, a huge wave sweeps over them, which splits the group into three – with Tae Ho returning with the boat to the rest of the group, comprising Ji Ah, Cheol, Ki Joon, President Hwang and Ho Hang (President Hwang’s secretary). Bong Hee and So Hee end up on a separate island, and Joon Oh is nowhere to be found, as well as the captain. Everyone else except Tae Ho want to go save So Hee and Bong Hee and he stops them by puncturing the boat. Instead of fighting Tae Ho, Ki Joon decides to ask everyone to go back to rest, but secretly works with Yeol and Ji ah to find materials to patch the boat so they can go out to save Bong Hee and So Hee without Tae Ho’s knowledge. Of course, Tae Ho finds out and just as Yeol goes to repair the hole, he confronts Yeol which leads to a scuffle that ends in Yeol’s death. Tae Ho is evidently shocked by what happens, but decides to hide it by putting  Yeol’s body out into the sea.

While all this is gong on, So Hee is breaking down mentally while waiting for the rest to come save her. She decides to commit suicide, and Bong Hee tries her best to stop her by showing the necklace. We get no news about what happens to Joon Oh, but given that he is the protagonist, we know nothing will happen to him.

The modern day happenings are equally exciting as Tae Young shows his devious, scheming side and manages to get hold of the therapist’s recording of Bong Hee saying she killed So Hee. With this recording, he calls Bong Hee and tells her he’ll do everything he can to send her to prison if she doesn’t confess.  He takes this recording and goes to find Chairwoman Jo, demanding her to make the findings about So Hee’s murder and Bong Hee’s confession public or else he will reveal the truth about her underhand dealings.

Separately, we realise that Bong Hee is not the only survivor and President Hwang has survived too. The current CEO of Legend Entertainment, President Jang, asks about what happened, to which President Hwang only mentions there’s a lot of bloodshed. On his way to the airport, President Jang’s car moves past a construction crane and a huge load of beams fall on the car, crushing it. We see the man in the construction crane calling President Jang, telling him that all has been settled.

Chairwoman Jo eventually succumbs to Tae Young’s threatns and holds a press conference on the interim findings, but is cut short when Investigator Oh comes to her and tells her that they’ve found another survivor. Bong Hee also appears at the press conference and tells Tae Young that she’s regained her memories and she knows who killed So Hee.

Comments

I’m really loving how this show keeps peeling back the layers and revealing that there’s more than meets the eye. This happens on several fronts.

Firstly, there’s the So Hee storyline – we’ve known from episode 2 that she’s dead, but we don’t know how she died. So Hee confesses to killing her during her hypnotism session, and we see Bong Hee failing to save So Hee from falling off a cliff. Yet, in episode 5, it becomes more apparent that Bong Hee couldn’t have killed So Hee given how much she cares for her. Everything then starts to point towards Tae Ho, since he’s already killed two people and there’s a very strong motivation for him to kill her.

Then, there’s the larger conspiracy of what exactly happened with the plane crash, which President Jang, the current CEO of Legend Entertainment, most certainly had a role in orchestrating. He has such a sinister presence and his killing of President Hwang just confirms his role in this even further. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone amongst the 9 is also in cahoots with President Jang and if this may also be linked to the death of Jae Hyun because we know that the all of them on the island, except for Bong Hee, have a connection to him.

We also have several characters in the present day storyline whose intentions still remain unclear. Chairwoman Jo is keen on shaping the testimony of Bong Hee in a way, possibly to assuage the public’s anxiety and lack of closure over this event. However, her intentions may not solely be positive as there also seems to be some bigger political agenda at play. Tae Young’s revenge motivation is rather straightforward, but there certainly is more between the him and So Hee that we have not seen yet.

Besides the way in which the narrative and motivations keep shifting, I also liked how this episode explored darker areas relating to self-preservation and hopelessness. Tae Ho represents a mix of both and while we are not meant to condone his killings, we can see how they were motivated by a desperate,  frenzied desire to ensure his own survival. That is why he smothers the pilot, justifying his act by saying that the pilot was going to die anyway. This desperation is also what leads to his frenzied rage that leads him to do irrational, rash acts like puncturing the boat, and also eventually killing Yeol – which he never intended to do. I actually found myself understanding where Tae Ho was coming from, even though I did not agree with what he did. We also see hopelessness through So Hee, who cannot bear the uncertainty of waiting and not knowing if or when death will come. The only way she can regain control of her future is by deciding to end her life.

While it’s not the focus of the show, the show does explore interesting ideas relating to group behaviours and dynamics. On an island when everyone is stripped of their title and social position, what determines how they relate to each other? Bong Hee is initially very respectful and submissive towards Joon Oh, but soon realises she doesn’t need to because she’s the one who knows how to survive here, and not him. Similarly, while President Hwang may be the head of Legend Entertainment, but he’s evidently not in control on the island and is arguably one of the most passive at least for now. Tae Ho naturally takes charge because his personality and drive are the strongest amongst all, next to Joon Oh. I’m glad we’re not going down the ‘hunger games’ route where every one is fighting for themselves because that would be too dark for me, but episode 5 shows the formation of alliances and the splitting of the group and it’d be interesting to see how these pan out in the episodes to come, especially when Joon-oh comes back into the mix. Can’t wait to catch up on episode 6 and I’ve heard great things about it!

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Missing Nine Episode 1

Image result for missing nine

Having been a big fan of the American series Lost, this new series by MBC certainly caught my eye and it’s the one I’m most likely to be following after the current slate of dramas end. It does seem like we’re starting 2017 with a few darker series, like Voice and this one, plus the ongoing Solomon’s Perjury.

Summary of key events

Episode 1 moves us promptly into the storyline as we begin with Bong Hee (played by Baek Jin-Hee) appearing in China four months after a private plane, flight HL0079, by Legend Entertainment goes missing. She claims to have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and hence has forgotten everything that has happened in the past four months. However, since the plane crash has been so detrimental to Legend Entertainment and been such a significant event for the public, eyes are on her and everyone wants to find out the truth. The chairwoman of the committee of inquiry, Song Hee Kyung (played by Song Ok-sook), is especially interested and tells Bong Hee upfront that she needs to recover her memories, because the whole nation depends on her.

We then flashback to the very day of the flight, which was coincidentally also Bong Hee’s first day of work as Joon Oh’s (played by Jung Kyung-ho) stylist. She’s bubbly and excited about her first day of work and is fetched by Joon Oh’s manager, Ki Joon (Oh Jung-se), to find him on the beach. On the car journey there, we get filled in on Joon Oh’s fall from grace, where he used to be extremely popular but then immediately lost all his fans after something strange he said after being arrested for a traffic accident. After the accident, the three person band “Dreamer” that he was a part of was disbanded and he’s lost his reputation completely, partly also because of his temperamental nature.

Joon Oh gives Bong Hee an extremely difficult time on her first day, rejecting every single outfit she proposes. She makes several other faux pax, like proposing he wear a pair of sunglasses that’s being endorsed by his rival and Joon Oh decides to fire her. However, after persuasion by Ki Joon, Joon Oh retracts his decision and thus she ends up joining him on the flight – her first ever flight.

While on the flight, we’re introduced to all the other characters briefly, but the main ones we need to note for now are Tae Ho (played by Choi Tae-Joon), who was the bassist in Dreamers, and Lee Yeol (played by Park Chan-yeol), who was the drummer of Dreamers. There is a tense confrontation in the plane between the three of them, as Yeol plays his latest track for President Hwang (president of Legend Entertainment, played by Kim Sang Ho)) and it turns out to be a piece written by their friend, Jae Hyun who committed suicide due to the accident earlier mentioned. Tae Ho tells Joon that Yeol released that single to make Joon Oh feel guilty and we get a flashback to an encounter at a recording studio where Jae Hyun expressed his guilt after the accident, saying he can’t live with it anymore. Jooh Oh flares up at him and tells him to end his life, since he can’t handle it, which is exactly what Jae Hyun does. And almost all the key members who are on the flight are witnesses of his death as he jumps down from the building.

As the three of them are quarrelling, the plane hits some turbulent weather with hailstones assailing them continuously, which destroys the plane engine and ultimately causes the plane to crash, which brings the first episode to an end.

Thoughts

That was a real good start. I have to admit I’m a little biased because I loved the American TV series “Lost” and this drama has a very similar structure to it. Essentially we’re dealing with three ‘levels’ of story-telling in this drama – (1) the present day story which begins when Bong Hee is discovered four months after the plane crash, (2) the four months on the island, and (3) all the characters’ backstory leading up to the plane crash. We get no insight into (2) during the first episode, but we get some of (1) and plenty of (3). I’m pretty sure the balance will shift as we move along, but I really enjoyed what we saw in the present day story as well as the backstory.

While the present day story didn’t present anything new plot-wise (i.e. we already knew before watching the show that Bong Hee was the only survivor), it did a very good job of building the atmosphere of anxiety, uncertainty, and threat towards Bong Hee. We can already sense that she’s in a vulnerable position, since she holds the key to the truth of a catastrophe that had huge amount of media coverage. Having her suffer from PTSD almost seems like too convenient a plot-device, but even her PTSD may be cast in doubt as we’re not sure if she really forgot everything or is using that just as a cover-up. I found the chief investigator rather chilling and scary, as she almost threatens Bong Hee to recover from her PTSD. Of course, the mystery remains too as to whether she really is the only survivor, given that we learn that there have been rumours of sightings of other members of the flight. The whole atmosphere of uncertainty and suspense has loads of potential for meaningful and exciting storytelling already.

While I did wish we got some more insight into what happened on the island, what we saw about Joon Oh’s backstory was interesting enough and given sufficient weight for us to care about what happened with the Dreamers and the accident. What we saw gave us enough to connect with Joon Oh, Tae Oh and Lee Yeol and all the emotional baggage between them. The death of Jae Hyun was a surprisingly powerful moment for me and I could almost empathise and feel for Joon Oh as he looked upon his friend, with such shock and guilt in his eyes. Since Jae Hyun’s death, they have all tried to move on on their own ways, separately, but will now be brought together due to this crash where they will be forced to reconcile their differences in order to survive.

That Bong Hee is the survivor is also interesting because from what we see, she’s the one who seems the least street-smart, having never flown before and completely not understanding how the media world works. Nevertheless, she makes up for her lack of experience with her persistence and willingness to learn, which I guess are good traits to have in a survival situation. She would be the one who adjust the most easily to life on an island given that the rest of those on the plane are used to a life of luxury. Given her ‘outsider’ status to this rest of the 8 on the plane, it’d be most fascinating to see how she eventually emerges as the survivor.

I’m intrigued and can’t wait to see how the show unfolds. With so many different levels of storytelling and a tight group of 9 characters who already have pre-existing relationships (except for Bong Hee), there’s so much potential for quality character-driven storytelling here. I’m in for the ride