An engrossing episode that sets up the second half of the drama tensely.
This recap of Cafe Minamdang season 1, episode 9 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Picking up where we left off, with Han-joon left floored by Jae-hui, the police take over in the arrest of Gyeong-cheol. Then, the shaman rises to warn the loan shark or his need to repent, before he falls again, carried away by medical staff, unable to explain to Do-won why he was at the building in the first place.
In questioning, Jae-hui asks why Eun-hye’s lease is under Gyeong-cheol’s name, with Du-jin showing the gang member the video of the murdered girl’s ‘audition’ in an attempt to “refresh” his memory. Still, the crook holds out, even when tensions rise and the detective tries to pin accusations of sexual bribery on him. Elsewhere, Gyeong-cheol’s associates are interviewed, though no leads are afforded.
When Do-won enters the room, he shows the loan shark records of his streamer’s debt settlements and prostitution, only able to evoke a reaction when a document seemingly containing people’s initials, as well as the dates of services provided, is produced. However, this doesn’t manifest into anything, with Gyeong-cheol swiftly pleading ignorance again about his involvement, wishing for his lawyer to be called.
Meanwhile, True Conservative Party member Park Jeong-hyeon requests to the police chief that Gyeong-cheol is let go due to his strong support of arts and culture. It’s an appeal dually agreed to, as Cheol-geun rues Du-jin’s division constant acting up, informing his friend that they need to indict the loan shark’s goons, but let Gyeong-cheol go.
Next, Du-jin feeds back to his colleagues that there are high-up people trying to protect the chief of the Jjokmun gang, causing Jae-hui to understand the need for more conclusive evidence. Then, after a rather out-of-place scene of awkward encouragement between the detective and Do-won, we return to Han-joon’s group. They’re looking into similar things as the police, surmising the same conclusions about documents containing potential dates and fees for the acts of prostitution. But they soon find themselves distracted by the release of their target, who the shaman wishes to stoke the anxiety of so that he comes to Minamdang of his own accord.
Such a plan begins as soon as Gyeong-cheol starts dancing around in celebration, with Han-joon greeting the criminal to warn him of the waning energy that will see him die soon, unless of course he wishes to pay him a visit to extend his lifespan. What follows is Na-dan’s entry into the scene, where we see the youngster drain the loan shark’s phone of battery, steal his wallet, and continue the bad luck Gyeong-cheol was told he will have. Then, a fake taxi ran by Su-cheol sees the Jjokmun gang chief left in the middle of nowhere, before the crook is beaten up by girls he decided to carelessly taunt.
Naturally, all this leads Gyeong-cheol to Minamdang. When there, he begs for help while Hye-jun obtains the data from his phone. Additionally, Han-joon gains ground on discovering who Gopuri may be when claiming that the killer has been haunted due to his sins, as it causes a ham-fisted namedrop of Tae-su. Realising who this is, the shaman attempts to capitalise instantly, only for Gyeong-cheol to leave, hoping that his silence will buy him life. “Turn yourself in if you want to live,” Han-joon states, explaining that telling the world is the only way to stop these criminals coming after him.
That night, Gyeong-cheol watches a video of someone discovering Eun-hye’s death in a hotel room, calling Tae-su in the hopes he can blackmail him with it. Listening in on the call, the Minamdang group hear of the situation being reported to someone else, striking a realisation in Han-joon that Tae-su alone couldn’t have done everything, and that there is someone behind him. After vocalising his discovery, attention turns to just who this man is, as he is not a registered director listed on Joyce Entertainment’s payroll, but someone who effectively lives a ghost. Even using a nameless company credit card, the hope is now that Gyeong-cheol takes the bate so more can be investigated.
When Jae-hui surmises that Gyeong-cheol either killed Eun-hye, or took her to the killer, due to his constant appearance at the young girl’s house, she notices a car that does not belong to the loan shark when watching back CCTV footage. As we soon see when he arrives at a temple to see “The Oracle,” it’s Tae-su’s vehicle. What follows is more intriguing, however, as we watch a shaman ritual performed by Auntie Im over a defaced drawing of True Progressive Party candidate Yang Jae-won, which not only seems to change the election results, but also the health of the man. As such, when candidate Lee is elected as the Mayor of Sinmyeong, Jae-won collapses. Later on, we see the victor call Im over his thankfulness to “him,” and impending visit, so that “the thing you spoke of proceeds with no issues.”
Following this, Tae-su updates “The Oracle” on what Gyeong-cheol has done, frustrating Im. So, she heads to her locker – where we see the Han-joon folder meant to be given to the former profiler by his deceased friend – pulls out the fabric commonly used in Gopuri’s killings, and instructs her ally to take care of the loan shark, as it is what ‘he’ wants. Concurrently, Han-joon gets ready to head to the office of the gang chief, knowing that he needs to arrive before Tae-su. The police are on their way too, hoping to catch Gyeong-cheol after viewing footage that shows he was at Eun-hye’s apartment at her estimated time of death.
While staking out the area, Han-joon gets a bad feeling from the fact that the lights are off in Gyeong-cheol’s office. Such doubts are not exactly unfounded either, as when the shaman and his associate enter, the man they’re hoping to help has already been killed, and the video evidence stolen. Yet Han-joon notices that Gopuri is still in the room, so draws him in to kickstart a confrontation. It’s a hard going fight, stunted by a microwave explosion, before the police head in with Su-cheol to investigate what’s happened. Do-won doesn’t follow, though, with the prosecutor instead tailing the man he noticed exiting the building.
In time, Gopuri manages to properly escape, leaving the police to deal with the fallout. Back in the hideout, Jae-hui reads the suicide note which appears to show Gyeong-cheol’s confession of guilt, but the wiser Han-joon is on hand to ensure the truth is revealed, leading to the launch of an investigation into Tae-su. Then, the shaman turns his attention to Do-won, revealing the secret that he is the cousin of Jin-sang, although it has no effect on a prosecutor happy to assure that personal connections do not get in the way of work. Following that, it’s Han-joon’s turn to be embarrassed, as he is taken in by the police for questioning.
In the interview scene, we hear of Han-joon’s reputation for solving cold cases, with Du-jin amazed by his achievements until he stumbles upon the evidence tampering part of his backstory. We also get to understand Jae-hui’s motivation for holding the shaman, given that she wishes to find out exactly what happened three years ago from him, not attempt to frame him as a genuine suspect. A rather tense questioning occurs after this, with Han-joon quizzed over his knowledge of Tae-su, before the two sides come together to discuss the motifs in Gopuri’s murders. “He believes himself superior, punishing sins using his own rules,” the former profiler says, inviting an offer for a joining of hands to attempt to try forensic hypnosis.
However, Han-joon isn’t interested in an act unable to be submitted as evidence, even if there are other benefits, so finds himself put in the holding cell. It’s a tactic that works, as the shaman soon becomes revolted by his company to the point he agrees to try the forensic hypnosis he was previously completely against. And, though the procedure initially fails, when a bit of pain is inflicted, Han-joon is suddenly susceptible enough to believe he is in a dream. As such, he informs the police of his version of events from 2019, devastated by Jae-jeong’s death to the point he admits to still feeling “sudden bursts of fear” in the present. While vulnerable, he confesses that he is scared that he might endanger those he loves again, putting an end to the hypnosis as Jae-hui emotionally watches on, ready to console the shaman when he wakes.
As Jae-hui and Han-joon head back, the latter experiencing some heart fluttering as a result of the detective’s acts, they share sweet moments together both in the car and on a bench. Though their time is swiftly interrupted by the appearance of Tae-su in the police station. At that point, we head to the epilogue, which shows the culprit’s unflinching murders from a more sinister angle.