Oh My Ghostess: Episode 9
…and we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming! Thanks for being patient while we got recaps out, since our KCON weekend took a huge chunk out of the recapping schedule. But I’m happy to be back on track with Oh My Ghostess, which continues to bring on the funny while pushing our characters on toward growth. Our ghost is as indefatigable as ever, but turns out even the dead have a few things to learn about respect, and I’m glad to see that strides are made. Everything gets a little more entangled and complicated, but in a good way.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Soon-ae steps out of Bong-sun’s body as Sun-woo is kissing her, which means Bong-sun awakens in the moment and is rendered speechless and wide-eyed. Frazzled, she excuses herself and hurries out, trying to get her thoughts in order.
Thankfully Sun-woo follows her out, wanting to talk this out and arrive at some kind of understanding. He’s flustered by his own actions and stammers awkwardly, but tells her that this isn’t a mistake—he means it for real.
He grabs her tight in a hug and blurts, “I don’t know whether it’s from the start, or when you changed and pursued me, or yesterday, or today. But one thing I’m sure of—I keep missing you, and when you’re not next to me I’m uneasy.”
Then he pulls back to look at her stunned face and bursts out, “So what the hell—let’s go for it.”
He asks her to say something, and Bong-sun clumsily fumbles for words; she reflexively bows and says, “Th-thank you.” She tries again to say something, but he interprets her response as okay, asking if she likes him back. She nods and replies, “Yes, Chef.”
He pulls her in for a softer hug this time, and from a short distance, Soon-ae watches, looking rather morose. She tells herself to get a grip, since she’s a ghost (“You’re not Na Bong-sun!”), which is interesting. Is she feeling envy?
As they clean up the restaurant together, Sun-woo takes over mopping duties from Bong-sun, lifting her up onto the counter to seat her there as he cleans. Noticing her still-wet hair, he brings the fan close to ostensibly dry it for her, smiling uncontrollably all the while. They just grin at each other bashfully like adorable lovesick fools.
Officer Sung-jae gets a call that his partner, Officer Hwang, had an accident, and rushes to the hospital. Officer Hwang was the man in charge of Eun-hee’s hit-and-run case, so she and her mother are worried to hear of it.
Sung-jae seems genuinely shocked to hear of his partner’s condition; he was found unconscious in the parking lot, his phone and wallet taken, and there was no CCTV footage to see what happened. But the ominous mood grows darker the longer we linger on Sung-jae’s reaction…
Bong-sun heads to her room, pinching her cheek to make sure this is real. Sun-woo thumps on their shared wall, telling her to sleep well and dream of him, “But that’s not an order, it’s a suggestion.” She agrees to, and he goes to bed giddy.
Soon-ae joins Bong-sun to ask how it felt to hear his confession. Bong-sun admits to fearing that it’s all only a dream, but Soon-ae chirps that they’re well on their way to their win-win solution, where the ghost resolves her grudge and Bong-sun gets her man. Soon-ae tells her to trust her, and they fist-bump.
In the morning, it’s Soon-ae in the body who greets Sun-woo as he steps out of his room. He looks dead tired, though he says of course he slept well: “Why, did you think I’d be unable to sleep because I was so excited?” Well, I think that now.
She just grins and points out that his eyes are bloodshot. He tells her that they should take care to keep this quiet around the other employees, and she assures him that she has that much control.
At work, though, he struggles to keep his poker face on, which is difficult with Soon-ae tagging along like an adoring puppy. The others wonder what their deal is, and he tells her almost panickedly not to be so obvious, a warning she blatantly disregards while sending aegyo-filled text messages.
Sun-woo tries to remain professional but calls her outside to chide her for the distractions. She wheedles cutely at him about how she wants to do something for their first day as a couple, suggesting an overnight outing—and if they should happen to run out of things to do, they could always duck into a motel to “get some sleep,” wink-wink.
Sun-woo half-finds her behavior adorable, but he also sticks firm to what he feels is appropriate and says that he wants to treat the relationship seriously and thoughtfully. She pouts at the constant put-offs, but he says that if she wants to date him, she can’t rush ahead all on her own; she has to match his slower tempo.
The medium unni arrives outside the restaurant as Soon-ae is heading in, and hurries to assure her that she’s not here to capture her. So they sit down for a chat, and mostly the unni wants to check that Soon-ae’s mission is going well. She’s excited to hear that they’re dating, and Soon-ae says it’s practically a done deal and she’ll for sure earn her passage onward from ghost-dom. Unni admits to letting Soon-ae get away on purpose, and since she’d be in huge trouble if that got out, she urges her to succeed no matter what.
Sun-woo’s mom calls out Unni to ask about a worrying dream she had about Sun-woo, asking what it means that he was wandering in a field of dead flowers. Unni says it’s not a bad dream—in fact, splendid flowers would be a warning sign, while dead flowers indicate keeping misfortune at bay. Mom is thrilled and relieved, though I’m not convinced Unni’s being straight with her.
Sung-jae looks decidedly shifty as he enters Officer Hwang’s hospital room and reaches down toward the oxygen mask on his face. He pulls back immediately when Officer Hwang’s sister enters, though she hurries out to get a doctor when her brother stirs awake. Sung-jae tells him that he’s in the hospital and asks if he remembers what happened to him, and relaxes when his partner replies no.
Sung-jae is all solicitousness now and reaches over to mop Officer Hwang’s face with a handkerchief… and his left wrist comes into the man’s direct sightline. This triggers a memory of his attack, and the arm that wore that same watch.
After the restaurant closes, the staff heads home, blurting excuses to go home to avoid being roped into another night out with sous chef Min-soo. Min-soo accepts this tonight, but makes vague references to something happening tomorrow.
Sun-woo texts Bong-sun for a date tonight, and Soon-ae jumps to get ready, deciding she can make “it” happen with or without an overnight trip. He takes her to a fancy restaurant for dinner, though the date is partly another cooking lesson. He gets a little jealous when Soon-ae takes a bite and exclaims that it’s delicious, asking, “More than my cooking?” She angles for some skinship by playing footsie under the table and then moving to sit next to him, but disappointedly complies when he tells her to go back to her seat.
As they climb into his car, Sun-woo gets nervous when Soon-ae gets all into his space, though she says innocently that she’s just putting his seatbelt on for him. He seems to like that, but he jumps when she leans over to supposedly brush something off his clothing—and while we don’t see what (or where) that is, I’ve got a pretty good guess based on the way he yelps, “Where are you touching?!” He stops the car, all rattled and wound up, and when he starts to scold her, Soon-ae retorts that she’d like him to follow through and scold her.
He’s ready to return home for the night, but she insists that they have to do more on their first date. He agrees to go for some shaved ice, following Soon-ae as she leads him along… to a motel. She feigns surprise and fakes leg pain to get him to agree to go inside, and now he looks genuinely upset and pulls her aside for a serious talk.
He asks why she likes him, half-disbelieving that he even has to ask, “Is it me you like, or my body?” Soon-ae says she likes both, and that it’s not strange for young, healthy couples to want to have sexual relations. He says he’s conservative when it comes to relationships (Soon-ae hangs her head at that) and that there should be some kind of a progression, not jumping ahead from the start.
“It’s because I like you!” she says. “If you like me, you should be cautious,” he replies.
Soon-ae points out that he was the one who kissed her and is now talking about progression, and huffily steps away to (sarcastically) respect his wishes.
Sung-jae returns home in good spirits since his crime is safely undiscovered (or so he believes), and starts to open a bottle of wine. Eun-hee sighs over the criminal, saying that heaven will send its punishment, and not one second later Sung-jae cuts his finger on the bottle opener. When she reaches to check on it, he flings her arm aside so hard it takes her aback, and he apologizes and suggests a late-night walk.
Eun-hee talks about how it was nice to meet up with her university friends, reminiscing on how good that time was. She comments that Sung-jae doesn’t speak much of himself, and asks how it was growing up in an orphanage, and being adopted multiple times.
He says simply that he was never there, and in a flashback, we see him being neglected by his adoptive parents, who barely spare a glance for him and coo over a newborn baby instead. He hovers over the crib with a stuffed toy in his hands, like he’s about to suffocate the child, but he draws back when Dad enters. Dad grows angry and hits him, shoving him out of the room and, presumably, out of the family, because Sung-jae lands back at the orphanage, where he gets into a brutal fight with another boy.
Later, he lies battered on the ground in pain when a black mist materializes next to him… and then the flashback ends.
Eun-hee wonders, “Three years ago, if I hadn’t met you at the hospital, and so I didn’t regain the desire to live again, what would have happened? I probably wouldn’t be here now, would I?”
Sung-jae agrees, and we get a flashback to that encounter: Eun-hee, dressed in a hospital gown, struggles to get over the railing of the rooftop. Sung-jae hurries forward to grab her, ignoring her cries of “Leave me to die!”
Present-day Eun-hee reminds him that he’d told her then that people don’t all live or die as they want. She asks what he meant, and he says he doesn’t remember.
As Sun-woo and Soon-ae arrive back home, she pointedly keeps her distance, honoring his conservative wishes, and hammers in the point by speaking in elaborate sageuk speech like a servant to a king, bidding him good night. He says she doesn’t know how he feels, and in his own room, he tells himself with effort that he can do it—he can hold back and endure.
Next door, Soon-ae’s ranting about Sun-woo’s frustrating conservativism, which is an unexpected obstacle to her plan. Bong-sun, on the other hand, thinks it makes him appealing—his seriousness and sense of responsibility—though Soon-ae doesn’t appreciate her siding with her thwarter.
Bong-sun perks up when Sun-woo calls out to her from outside, though Soon-ae instructs her to play a little hard to get. So she just peeks out the door to look at him, though she doesn’t do anything further.
In the morning, the assistant chefs realize that today is the sous chef’s birthday, which explains his veiled comments yesterday. This is worrying news, because they know Min-soo will want the whole birthday shebang—a party, congratulations, expensive gifts. The guys suggest flat-out denial as a tactic, and agree to feign ignorance rather than get roped into some elaborate mess.
Min-soo skips into work in high spirits, humming the Happy Birthday song and hinting about seaweed soup. He chuckles to himself expecting a surprise around every corner, and snaps at everyone once he realizes it’s not in the plan.
The disappointment puts him in full drill sergeant mode, taking issue with every little detail like messy hair and long nails and excessive height (“What are you, a model? You punk, go get a bowl cut or go to a plastic surgeon and get uglier!”). The assistants suffer through the tirade, sticking to their plan, but suppose that it may be easiest to just give Min-soo something and be done with it.
Joon speaks up, saying that he received a clothing order in the mail this morning, and a freebie belt came with it. What if they give that as a gift?
So while Min-soo fumes about how he’ll make everyone work like beasts today, they come in singing and present him with the gift. Min-soo brightens and opens the gift, making them tense when he asks if it’s fake leather (which it is) before laughing that he knows it’s totally real. He even asks if it’s too expensive, and he feels so great that he offers to treat them later (and happily takes Sun-woo’s credit card when offered).
Soon-ae’s dad and brother Kyung-mo head home after grocery shopping, and Kyung-mo complains about the tedious errands until Dad replies that Soon-ae did them all the time. As they cross a bridge, Dad pulls out an apple and places it on the railing—Soon-ae liked apples, and this is for her. Dad looks mournful as he asks why “the bad kid” did it, and Kyung-mo takes his hand in support. Hm, did Soon-ae jump and commit suicide? Yet Sung-jae sees them a short distance away, and the tone grows darker, suggesting more to the story.
Sung-jae insists on giving them a ride in his car and ushers Dad along. As he looks down, he sees Dad’s shoelace tied in a distinctive knot—and thinks of when Soon-ae did that for him once (before she’d died). When Sung-jae comments on it, Dad replies that Bong-sun was the one who tied this lace. This certainly strikes Sung-jae as odd.
After the restaurant closes, the staff heads out to celebrate Min-soo’s party. They invite Sun-woo along and he starts to consider it, but Soon-ae pipes up (still peevish at him for rejecting her advances) that he won’t want to, since he’s so conservative and all. Sun-woo goes with it, but looks pitifully sad about it. Aww.
As the group goes, Sung-jae watches from a distance, taking particular interest in Bong-sun.
They gorge on chicken and beer, and at one point Bong-sun slips away. Joon goes out looking for her and finds her whispering to a motorcycle light drunkenly. He laughs at her cuteness, and sits her down in a chair while she asks him for guy advice “about my friend” whose boyfriend didn’t like when she made advances. She asks if guys generally dislike it when the girl makes a move, and Joon replies that it’s one of two things: He doesn’t find her pretty, or he likes her so much he wants to wait and build trust. The first type of guy is ordinary, but the latter is a really decent guy.
Soon-ae wails in frustration that it’s super confusing and she doesn’t know which it is. Joon speculates that it’s the latter: “You’re pretty.” She protests that it’s about her friend, and he advises her friend not to let him slip away and regret it.
Then he says that she isn’t touchy-feely with him these days: “You must’ve worked out your affection-deficiency problem.” Aw, does he think she’s talking about him?
At home, Sun-woo checks in on the Sunshine blog, wondering why she hasn’t updated lately. He wonders why the kids are out so late, and we cut to the party, which has moved to a noraebang. They move through the usual progression of upbeat pop songs to the love ballads, which ends with Joon and Soon-ae singing together, heads resting against each other, looking super-cute in a problematic way.
Sun-woo gets antsy waiting for Bong-sun to return home, and grumbles at the stream of credit card confirmation texts he gets, letting him know they’re still out and having fun. He idles in his room, pacing and passing the time fitfully, waiting waiting waiting.
And just as he’s really getting upset, he gets one last text: A bill from a motel. Frantic, he calls Bong-sun and yells at the phone to pick up, and finally gets a drunk Min-soo on the line. The guys have crashed there, and Bong-sun has “gone to shower.” Cut to: Sun-woo running down the street until he gets to the motel.
Everyone’s passed out dead drunk, and he rouses Soon-ae and tries to usher her out quietly. He picks her up and carries her out, anxious to get out undetected. Once outside, she’s so loud and boisterous that he ends up picking her up again and carrying her off, feeding her water to sober her up at a convenience store.
She’s still snappish, and says he should have come with them if he’s so bothered, and he reminds her that she was the one who told him not to come. She says he totally didn’t read the situation right, and that it’s no big deal to crash with dudes in a motel room when none of them even think of her as a woman. Sun-woo bursts out, “Why aren’t you a woman? You’re such a woman that it makes me uneasy to death.”
He says she doesn’t know men, and that they can change in a second, and that she’d better stick to him like glue from now on because he can’t handle the anxiety. She notes that he’s always flip-flopping, having pushed her aside before, and Sun-woo returns, “Cancel the first one. Stick to me from now on.”
She’s only too happy to, and sidles up to his side and clings to his arm, sighing how nice this is. They walk back hand-in-hand, with him ordering her to stand even closer, and she cheerfully obliges. She asks if he doesn’t want to have sex, or if he’s just holding back the urge, and he sorta roundabout-ly answers that he’s a man too.
He takes her hand and says, “Let’s start like this. And let’s go slowly, for a long, long time, Na Bong-sun.”
Aw, I find Sun-woo’s emotional progression to be really sweet, enough that in the first half of the episode I found Soon-ae’s chirpy disregard for his wishes to be annoying, and on the verge of advancing to deeper antipathy. But this show does have a knack of giving you a look into a character’s flaws and then tempering that with a solid dose of growth, whether it’s the annoying-but-amusing Min-soo or the miniature-bulldozer-in-pink that is Soon-ae’s force of will.
I really enjoy the character of Soon-ae as a ghost (that is to say, when she’s outside of the host body) because there’s an inherent pathos in being a disembodied spirit—when someone has physical presence, there’s an automatic significance to their being, and you feel that absence when they’re drifting without a physical form to take shape in. I feel the ticking clock and pressure of her situation (fearing turning into a malevolent ghost) when she’s outside of the body because she’s powerless in the most literal way when she has no form.
But you put her in the body, and as freaking adorable as her antics are, there comes a point when it wears on your nerves to see her ignoring feelings in her single-minded pursuit. It’s funny that I desperately want her to solve her grudge when she’s a ghost and to use any means necessary because I feel for her desperation, but when she’s actually doing that it sometimes rubs me the wrong way. Which is why it’s such a relief to see the little moments when she’s taken aback by someone’s sincerity, when she stops to listen to what Sun-woo is saying and is affected by those words.
That’s the key reason I haven’t lost my love of Soon-ae, because her flaws are depicted in the context of growth. I don’t want my characters acting like paragons all the time—that’s the pitfall of the Candys and perfect Prince Charmings who made for honorably boring leads in dramas past. Characters are allowed to do problematic things because in no way does the drama position such behavior as ideal, or aspirational. It’s particularly moving to me that Sun-woo’s refusal to just sleep with her on Date 1 is based in his desire to make this relationship the long-lasting kind, rather than a flash in the pan.
It’s rather funny to see how this drama has flipped the stereotypical dynamic in the relationship with the man insisting on slow progress and chasteness, while the woman presses for greater physical intimacy, pushing beyond his comfort level. If it were played purely for humor I’d balk at it, because I bristle to see someone so obviously uncomfortable at being pressured into doing something they’re not comfortable with, even if he’s the man, the boss, and the elder half of the relationship. Soon-ae’s behavior does dance along that line between humorous and uncomfortable, because it’s not enough to say that she’s a harmless tiny woman who can’t really hurt anyone. But I’m hoping the drama’s doing more than just having a laugh by flipping a familiar dynamic around; Soon-ae is meant to be adorable as she whines for sex, but the emotional line shows a thoughtful respect of Sun-woo’s wishes that makes this less of a sticking point for me. For now.
I’m curious to see how the drama progresses in showing Soon-ae’s feelings in this whole scheme, because thus far her emotions have been mostly reserved for her family; she hasn’t shown a deeper level of emotion about the romance/sex/grudge side of things. Is she starting to confuse herself with Bong-sun—or more specifically, is she confusing Sun-woo’s feelings for Bong-sun as Sun-woo’s feelings for herself? I wouldn’t blame her because it’s a messy tangle they’re all in now, and the feelings are only deepening all around. It’s a good kind of angst, because I feel like they’ve earned their angst and want to see them finding a way to rise above the transgression (because it is a transgression of trust) and work their way out of the tangle.