“But…sometimes mothers…want what’s best for them…not what’s best for us.” Young-Ja
Fall 1949. Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung) is in a nearly empty movie theatre in Daegu South Korea, watching Meet Me in St. Louis with Korean subtitles. When the only couple in the theatre leaves, Ji-Ah gets on stage and joins Judy Garland singing and dancing. It turns out this was all in her imagination because she is still sitting quietly in her seat. Ji-Ah is a nursing student, she is helping her mother Soon-Hee (Cindy Chang) make kimchi. They weren’t invited to join their neighbors gimjang, in preparing the kimchi. Ji-Ah tells Soon-Hee that when she graduates from school it will bring honor back to the family. Her mother says, “The only way for this family to be whole again is for you to bring home men.”
At nursing school, the other student nurses surround her friend Young-Ja (Prisca Kim) who gained a boyfriend from Mee-Ting, their version of speed dating. Ji-Ah tries to impress her dates quoting dialogue from Judy Garland movies. Her second date (Jon Lee) is against assimilating American culture, especially since they just got liberated from the Japanese. The third date (Richard Jin) likes Judy Garland too, but he still doesn’t pick her. He picks Young-Ja who invites Ji-Ah along since she finds him boring. Her mother ordered her to bring a man home, Young-Ja thinks that’s unlikely with the engineering nerds at this event. She advices Ji-Ah to date a guy she likes, not do what her mother wants. Ji-ha dolls up and goes to a bar and picks up a man (James Kyson). She brings him home, lights a bunch of candles and undresses. He quickly follows suit and they have sex. Her eyes go dead and suddenly, hairy tentacles come out of her various orifices. The surround him and lift him in the air, she can see his memories. He explodes and Ji-Ah lays in his blood. Soon-Hee walks in and coldly says, “10 more.”
“You don’t understand why his love was wrong because you can’t feel love. You can’t feel anything because you’re a monster.” Soon-Hee
Summer 1950. Ji-Ah is back at the movies to see Easter Parade when the theatre starts shaking. The crowd goes outside, and American troops are marching down the street, over a bull horn they tell the Koreans that America is here to fight for their freedom. The troops toss out fliers from their tanks which say, “There’s nothing to fear. The United States is here.” Ji-Ah goes home and is surprised Soon-Hee prepared a special dinner; she didn’t know it was her birthday. When she absorbs the men’s lives, she retains their memories but she doesn’t have Ji-Ah’s memories. She has the Kumiho spirit in her and she must absorb 100 souls for the spirit to leave her and she can become human again. She only has two more to go, Soon-Hee orders her to bring an American soldier home.
The hospital is bloody and chaotic. Young-Ja is whispering to an orderly. Later that evening Ji-Ah and Young-Ja are walking down the street discussing the orderly. She knows he’s a communist. Young-Ja pulls her aside and tells her to be quiet, Ji-Ah promises not to tell anyone. She doesn’t care because she’s different too. The crowd on the street grabs a man and hangs him for being a communist. Young-Ja is upset, because they hung him for being different and the American soldiers just stood by and let it happen. Ji-Ah tells Young-Ja how her mother keeps trying to change her because she’s different. Young-Ja: “No, that is not love. Your mother can’t see you, just who she wants you to be. You cannot let her fear control you.” Ji-Ah sees a M.P. smiling at her, she takes him home, and she and Soon-Hee clean up the mess afterwards.
Ji-Ah remembers her father loving her, Soon-Hee tells her that was the wrong kind of love, Ji-Ah doesn’t understand the difference. Soon-Hee went to a mudang to summon the Kumiho spirit to kill her husband for abusing her daughter. The spirit went into Ji-Ah. She must kill 100 men so Soon-Hee can get her daughter back. Ji-Ah remember her father loving her because it’s his memories, not Ji-Ah. Soon-Hee hopes Ji-Ah gets her daughters memories back when the spirit is gone. Ji-Ah stars singing a song she sung as a child, it gives Soo-Hee hope. Ji-Ah quickly squashes it when she tells her she remembers the song, because Ji-Ah would sing it when he would rape her. Soon-Hee had her daughter out of wedlock, she married her husband to avoid being a pariah, her husband married her because he wanted Ji-Ah, and Soon-Hee allowed him to rape her daughter.
The nurses from the hospital are driven to an empty field by American troops. They order the women on their knees. Someone in the hospital is a communist spy who is sending information to the enemy out of the hospital during their shift. A black soldier asks the group who the spy is, he directly asks a nurse, she denies it and she’s shot for her trouble. He prepares to shoot another nurse but he’s out of ammo, he calls for a private. It’s Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), he shoots the nurse next to Ji-Ah in the head. He aims his gun at Ji-Ah next, Young-Ja gets in front of her and confesses that she is the spy. Atticus and the other soldiers drag her away.
“You went to the movies to get away from everything, everybody. I stuck my nose in books. I guess it just got me to a point where they couldn’t take me far enough away.” Atticus Freeman
Fall 1950. The movie theatre is closed for being communist sympathizers. Ji-Ah is at work and she sees Atticus, he’s a patient. She immediately wants revenge. Atticus’ glasses are broke, he can’t read his book The Count of Monte Cristo. He begins to sob. Back home she tells Soon-Hee she’s found her 100th victim.
Ji-Ah begins to make Atticus’ bed up, he helps her since he has nothing to do. He asks her to read his book to him because his glasses are broken. He only has two chapters left. She tells him the ending, but the ending she gives him is the movie ending, Hollywood had changed it from the original. Ji-Ah is outside tossing a ball around with her fellow nurses when it gets loose and rolls over to Atticus. A Korean American soldier, Sung (Daniel Chung) is with him. Atticus had told him about the book ending mix-up. After joking around, Ji-Ah sincerely asks if they knew Judy Garland. Both men laugh, they explain to her that the only way they would know her if they worked for her, people of color are treated badly in America. She tells Sung he should come back to Korea, but he tells her he’s considered an outsider by Americans and Koreans. She asks why he would fight for a country that mistreats him, his reply is he was drafted, unlike Atticus who volunteered. Sung leaves and Atticus and Ji-Ah continue talking. They discuss both of their loves of escaping into entertainment. Later, Ji-Ah reads the final two chapters of The Count of Monte Cristo to Atticus. She asks why he chose this book; he answers that it’s his father’s favorite book. He thinks Montrose likes it because it talks about oppression or because it was written by a Negro man. They discuss how difficult their parents are and that both want Ji-Ah and Atticus to be different people. Atticus left home to get away from his father changing him, but the war has done that better than he ever could. Ji-Ah tells him they must stop letting their parents’ fears shape them. Her best friend told her that. Atticus would like to meet her. Ji-Ah grimaces since they did actually meet.
Sung meets Ji-Ah outside the base to escort her in. The American troops jeer at her, they think she’s a prostitute. It turns out the only Korean women allowed to enter are comfort woman. Sung leads her to a dark tent, it feels ominous, but the lights come on and it’s Atticus waiting for her. Ji-Ah had wanted to see the Judy Garland movie Summer Stock, but because the town theatre is closed, she was afraid she would miss it. Atticus was able to get it because of some connections Uncle George has. They watch the movie and begin kissing. Ji-Ah takes Atticus home. Before they get started, Atticus confesses that he is a virgin, she tells him she’s not. Atticus is telling her because he’s done horrible things, when he’s with her he feels good because when she looks at him, she sees the good in him. They begin making love, but Ji-Ah stops and orders him to get out. Soon-Hee walks in after Atticus leaves and asks why. Ji-Ah tells her she feels for him and can see the good in him. Soon-Hee tells her if she can feel for the man who killed her best friend, she is a monster.
Ji-Ah goes to see Atticus, he tells her to go away. She tells him he killed her best friend. He asks why she would go out with him. Her plan was to kill him. Ji-Ah: “The first time I saw you at the hospital, the anger shot through me like lightning. And all I could see was a murderer. Then I got to know you and I realized how this war has torn you apart. We’ve both done monstrous things, but that does not make us monsters. We can be the people we have seen in each other. We just have to choose to be.” Atticus is driven to tears. They go to the tent they watched the movie in, and Ji-Ah gently takes his virginity. Later she tells Soon-Hee she loves him. Soon-Hee: “So you’ve made my daughter a murderer and a whore.” Ji-Ah tells her you said no one could care for me, a lie you told so you wouldn’t have to. Young-Ja cared about her, Atticus cares about her. Soon-Hee shoots back that he cares about her because he doesn’t know who she is.
“You have not even become one with the darkness yet. You will see countless deaths before your journey is done.” The Madung
Winter 1950. After playing in the snow, Ji-Ah reads Atticus the tale of the Kumiho spirit. Atticus announces he can go home but he’s thinking of staying to be with her. Ji-Ah knows he hates the war and can’t ask him to stay. He asks her to come to America with him. They make love again, but this time Ji-Ah loses control and the furry tentacles come out. She tries to pull them back, but they have Atticus. She sees his past, Young Atticus (Marcus A. Griffin Jr.) with his mother Dora (Erica Tazel), him reading a book, him getting a whipping, torturing Young-Ja. Ji-Ah is able to kick him off. She sees his future, he’s in bed with a black woman [not Leti], buying a bus ticket to Chicago, being emerged in water with Leti (Jurnee Smollett) watching, and being strapped to a chair and dying. Atticus is frightened and confused, he’s busy trying to collect his clothes. Ji-Ah begs him not to go home, she saw that he’ll die. Atticus scurries out of there not paying attention to her warning. Ji-Ah breaks down in tears. Soon-Hee comes home later and sees her in pain and hugs Ji-Ah to comfort her. Soon-Hee and Ji-Ah go to the Mudang (Alexis Rhee) to find out Atticus’ fate. Ji-Ah sees a red fox in the snow. Soon-Hee tells the Mudang she is willing to pay the price herself to help Ji-Ah. She asks the Mudang if Atticus will die. She tells her she shouldn’t be concerned about mortal questions; she has her own journey to go on.
Ji-Ah is a nursing student who Atticus met during the Korean War. She seems to be your typical movie loving girl looking for romance. Judy Garland is her avatar. She has a little secret though, she has a Kumiho spirit in her; a Kumiho is a fox with nine tails. The Kumiho spirit transforms a beautiful woman into a merchant of death. Soon-Hee had the local mudang summon the spirit to kill Ji-Ah’s stepfather who continually raped the girl, and have Ji-Ah return to her mother spirit free, once she had killed 100 men. Her 100th victim is to be Atticus, the soldier who tortured and killed her friend. A strange thing happened, she and Atticus fall in love. While making love the last time, her furry tentacles come out, she’s able to keep from killing Atticus but she sees both his past and future. When she kills a man, she only sees his past and retains his memories. Atticus will die if he goes back home. He’s too busy running to listen to her.
While there has been romance on the show, mainly between Atticus and Leti, this was the most romantic episode of the series. It also had one of the show’s wildest scenes when Ji-Ah killed her first victim of the episode. The production staff did their usual excellent job with the Kumiho spirit and the resulting blood and gore from the creature and American soldiers. The episode told a touching story between mother and daughter and the expectations parents have for their children. This was all done within the backdrop of the Korean War and exploring America’s imperial escapades. This makes this episode one of the show’s strongest and my favorite so far.
Jamie Chung does an exceptional job with her role. She makes Ji-Ah a lovable character that the audience can root for even though she has killed 99 men, probably all deserving. They immediately win you over with her song and dance routine with Judy Garland in the movie theatre in the beginning of the episode. I think we’ve all been transformed by a work of art and needed the escape it can provide. This was Jonathan Majors strongest episode. We learn about Atticus’ Korean War experience and really see what makes him tic. I understand Atticus better. The two actors have great chemistry and made me very invested in their relationship. Their best scene was the argument in front of the base when they confront each other and realize they are both monsters who can heal each other. Special mention must also be given to Cindy Chang as Soon-Hee and Prisca Kim as Young-Ja. Ms. Chang created a believable mother daughter dynamic with Ms. Chung, a difficult and heartbreaking one. Soon-Hee wanted her daughter back and refused to believe she already had her. Ms. Kim did the same with her and Ji-Ah ‘s friendship. With her longing looks and delicate touches, when they talked about both being different, I took Young-Ja’s different being her sexual orientation and her attraction to Ji-Ah. Who could blame her, who wouldn’t be? This episode gave me the feeling this show can go anywhere and do anything. It seems to be getting stronger each week and I really look forward to next week’s episode spotlighting Hippolyta.
The only music was from Judy Garland musicals, so enjoy, I know Ji-Ah would.