Café Minamdang – K-Drama Episode 9 Recap & Review

Gopuri Unmasked

Episode 9 of Café Minamdang begins with Jae-hui’s terrible mistake. Han-jun goes down and is taken away by paramedics, though not before telling Gyeong-cheol that the gods with smite him for his deeds.

Gyeong-cheol is taken in for questioning, but he pretends to be completely oblivious – an act his subordinate backs up. The police chief quickly orders his release after getting a call from Park Jeong-hyeon, a senior member of the True Conservative Party.

At Café Minamdang, Han-jun thinks that the numbers on the modelling fee record they took from Gyeong-cheol’s safe indicate prostitution dates and fees. After Hye-jun alerts the others to Gyeong-cheol’s release, Han-jun decides that they need to make him anxious enough to come to them of his own accord.

Han-jun is the first of the Minamdang crew to approach Gyeong-cheol that day with another warning of an early death. He also says that this day will be a particularly bad one. The rest of the crew ensures that it most certainly is, and soon enough, Gyeong-cheol finds himself at Café Minamdang asking for help.

Gyeong-cheol’s fragile state makes it easy for Su-cheol to pickpocket his phone, give it to Hye-jun to mess with and then return it without garnering suspicion. Meanwhile, Han-jun tries to make Gyeong-cheol divulge Gopuri’s identity. Gyeong-cheol is too scared to talk, but he does have a flashback to a hidden camera he placed in a hotel room.

Han-jun continues to press for information until Gyeong-cheol accidentally mentions Tae-su’s name. Knowing he’s said too much, Gyeong-cheol leaves.

Back at his headquarters, Gyeong-cheol watches the secret video he took on the day of Eun-hye’s death of a client trying to rouse an unresponsive Eun-hye. Gyeong-cheol calls Tae-su and tries to make a deal for three billion won in exchange for the footage and his silence.

Eavesdropping, the Minamdang crew’s interest is piqued when Tae-su says that he will report the situation. Hye-jun looks into Tae-su and finds that he isn’t a registered director or even on the payroll of Joyce Entertainment. She does uncover a company card without a name attached to it, but it hasn’t been used for a few months.

At the police station, Jae-hui and Detective Jang have been going through the CCTV from Eun-hye’s apartment building to find evidence that Gyeong-cheol can’t shake off. Jae-hui sees footage of Gyeong-cheol escorting Eun-hye to a car but thinks that it’s unusable because the car appears to be registered until a debtor’s name.

What Jae-hui doesn’t know is that the car is Tae-su’s. He’s in it when he pulls up to a big mansion and is told to wait outside.

Inside, Aunty Im, the mysterious woman from the footage of Eun-hye, performs a shamanic ritual. At the same time, votes are being counted to decide the new mayor of Sinmyeong. As Aunty Im increases the intensity of her ritual and sacrifices a chicken, a sudden surge puts Lee Myeong-jun of the True Conservative Party in the lead. He wins the majority as Yang Jae-won of the New Progressive Party collapses, clutching his chest.

When Myeong-jun calls Aunty Im to thank her, she says to thank a certain him instead. Myeong-jun also says that he’ll visit soon and ensure that things proceed without issues.

Tae-su comes inside to report the situation with Gyeong-cheol. Aunty Im opens a safe that contains the file Jae-jeong compiled before he died and pulls out a gopuri knot. She paints it with red characters, including Gyeong-cheol’s name, and gives it to Tae-su, saying that this is what an unnamed ‘he’ wants. Tae-su leaves while calling Gyeong-cheol under the pretence of agreeing to his terms.

Still going through CCTV footage, Jae-hui reaches the last video of Gyeong-cheol and Eun-hye together. It was taken at Eun-hye’s estimated time of death, and it’s enough for Jae-hui to rally Detective Jang and Do-won to apprehend Gyeong-cheol.

Han-jun and Su-cheol are already outside the Jjokmun headquarters, where all the lights are off. They venture inside to find that Gyeong-cheol has been killed and the scene has been arranged to look like a suicide. The hidden camera footage is also missing.

After Su-cheol goes outside to see if the culprit is still close, Han-jun follows a beeping sound to a microwave that has been turned on, a phone visible through its door.

Han-jun senses someone coming up behind him and dodges just in time avoid a masked man’s fist. Han-jun pulls off the mask and finds Tae-su underneath.

Checking the area’s CCTV, Hye-jun realises that Tae-su entered the building but never left. She tells Su-cheol to help Han-jun, but he’s halted by Jae-hui’s arrival.

Tae-su chokes Han-jun with the gopuri knot, telling Han-jun that he should have given before as the phone in the microwave starts to spark. It blows, allowing Tae-su to escape and drawing the attention of the police. They rush inside as Tae-su leaves. Only Do-won spots him walking away and follows.

At Han-jun’s insistence that he was assaulted by Gopuri, Su-cheol and Jae-hui run back out in time scare off Tae-su, who was attacking Do-won. In their scuffle, Do-won managed to see the burn scar on his forearm.

As the scene is flooded with the forensics team, Detective Jang finds a note on Gyeong-cheol’s desk that says he prostituted Eun-hye to Yeong-seop, resulting in her death.

Han-jun claims that Tae-su killed Gyeong-cheol and attacked him. At this, Jae-hui calls Detective Kim with an order to investigate Tae-su. Still, she pretends to have seen no one else at the scene and takes Han-jun to the station as a suspect.

Detective Kim has the same findings as Hye-jun, with the addition of Tae-su’s old workplace. He plans to go there find out more.

Outside the interrogation room, Do-won doesn’t understand why Jae-hui has brought Han-jun in. She says that she wants the truth from him before going to question him. Detective Jang goes through Han-jun’s file and finds something that pulls his face into a frown.

Han-jun insists that Tae-su is also Gopuri. Jae-hui demands concrete proof so Han-jun points out that the gopuri knot with the red characters left in the Jjokmun headquarters after his fight with Tae-su is identical to the ones found on Jae-jeong’s body and wrapped around Eun-hye’s. He thinks that Tae-su must have believed himself to be punishing evil.

Jae-hui wants to try forensic hypnosis to unlock Han-jun’s memory of Gopuri in Jae-jeong’s apartment and confirm his theory. After a lot of protesting, Han-jun is made to cooperate and his memory confirms that Tae-su is Gopuri.

Jae-hui watches as he relives the trauma of finding Jae-jeong and blaming himself. While still in an unconscious state, he also says that he’s happy with his new-found family, but he’s scared he’ll fail to protect them as well. When Han-jun is finally allowed to wake up, Jae-hui tells him that Jae-jeong’s death wasn’t his fault and Han-jun breaks down in her arms.

Jae-hui gives Han-jun a lift and makes a stop to get a plaster for the cut he got while flailing around during the hypnosis. Han-jun is startled by sudden onslaughts of feelings for her and tries to convince himself that they are also side effects of the hypnosis.

He doesn’t have to dwell on them for long because Jae-hui answers a call that has them both going back to the station. They return to find Tae-su sitting among the detectives.

The epilogue shows us the murders without obscuring Tae-su’s face. He stands over Jae-jeong’s body, films Yeong-seop ‘killing’ Do Jun-ha and wraps Eun-hye’s body.

The Episode Review

We’re finally halfway through Cafe Minamdang’s 18-episode run, and it seems like a change in direction for the mystery has been planned to coincide with the middle mark.

As the hints suggested, Gopuri/Tae-su is not too high on the chain of command at all, though that ending suggests that he could still be a nuisance yet. The threat we’re trying to uncover seems to grow bigger and bigger as more information is revealed like some kind of reverse matryoshka doll. Even Aunty Im speaks of someone higher than both her and the new mayor of Sinmyeong. Will it be worth it when he’s revealed?

There are still some loose cogs floating around, including Choekang Construction and the strange person Han-jun saw walking away from Jae-Jeong’s apartment while Tae-su was inside doing his ritual. There’s also the man who Tae-su attacked in Episode 5’s epilogue and whose fate we haven’t yet seen. Then we come to the question of why the powerful person at the top cared about killing any of these people at all?

Aunty Im is an intriguing character and much more compelling than the wild chaebol men running around without restraint. I also appreciate the contrast between her earnest practice of shamanism and Han-Jun’s highly stylised and self-inflating act.

I’m glad that the fledgling romance is being treated as a punchline, and I hope this lasts because there’s basically no romantic chemistry between the leads. Jae-hui is still quite annoying and her detention of and violence towards Han-jun in this episode was unreasonable to an extreme. This problem was highlighted by the fact that his (non-consensual) hypnosis session only confirmed what he’s been openly petitioning her to believe. At this point, I’m over hoping that she’ll grow on me.

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