Jirisan – K-Drama Episode 2 Recap & Review


Episode 2 of Jirisan begins 62 days ago as a hiker follows a trail of yellow ribbons up the mountain. Somebody wearing black gloves, whose face remains obscured, takes down the ribbons once the hiker has passed and reties them in new locations. Another hiker unknowingly follows the new trail of yellow ribbons while the suspicious person watches.

It’s now 2020 and Yi-gang is paying a visit to Damseong Police Station. The officer on reception duty, Kim Woong-soon, recognises her with awkward surprise. She asks him about the Yiseokjae case, and the yellow ribbon found with the body, but Woong-soon can’t offer much as a low-ranking officer.

Returning to Haedong Station, Yi-gang reviews footage from search areas to try and spot whoever has been signaling her. Dae-jin interrupts her and wants to know if her interest in the matter links back to Hyun-jo.

We then get a series of flashback scenes occurring on the mountain during heavy snowfall: Hyun-jo appears to be struck on the head with a rock; someone falls as the snow under their boot gives in; Yi-gang is carried away on a stretcher; and rescuers kneel over Hyun-jo’s body.

Jumping to 2018, Hyun-jo preps to go up the mountain on his day off. Team leader, Park Il-hae, is curious as to why Hyun-jo came to Mount Jiri instead of Mount Bukhan, which is closer to Seoul. Hyun-jo only evades the question.

Hyun-jo ascends the mountain, hiking to the peak where he has another vision. This one features a foggy pine tree range, yellow ribbons, and a bloody hand.

Down in the village, Yi-gang struggles to be both the cook and the waitress at a restaurant bustling with hikers. She finds her grandma, who should have been helping, chatting with Gu-yeong and some other off-duty rangers about how attached she was to the mountain as a child.

Yi-gang gets a call from “crazy guy” Hyun-jo, who asks her about a foggy pine tree habitat with yellow ribbons. Yi-gang narrows it down to a restricted pine tree habitat 4km from Mujin Valley. Hyun-jo finds the habitat but someone else seems to be there too. After they confront each other, the other man says he is looking for the body of his father who went missing over a year ago.

That night, Hyun-jo joins the other rangers at the town hall where villagers have gathered for the ancestral rites of over 100 vacationers, volunteers, and rangers who died during an incident in the summer of 1995. Torrential rainfall had exceeded 200mm overnight and caused the worst flood damage ever witnessed on the mountain. In a flashback to the incident, we see Yi-gang watching her grandma cry over the lifeless bodies of her parents.

Yi-gang doesn’t join the gathering, preferring to leave the past in the past. Hyun-jo reminds her that not everyone thinks like that and tells her about the man searching for his father, who he identifies as Hong Sang-gyu. Producing a case file, he explains that because there was no security footage, card transactions, or phone calls linking Sang-gyu to the mountain, a search was never conducted.

When Yi-gang berates Hyun-jo for digging up a cold case he brings up his visions. He thinks the bloody hand might belong to the man searching for his father and wants to prevent it from happening. Yi-gang just thinks he’s crazy.

Hyun-jo isn’t dissuaded and meets the man the next morning to determine a starting point for his own search. After some begging, Hyun-jo lets the man accompany him.

At Bidam Shelter a college student holds up a winning lottery ticket worth 1.4 billion won but the wind carries it away. Yi-gang and the other rangers are called to help wrangle the flock of hikers that have roamed into restricted areas to find the ticket. Yi-gang fixes the issue by waving around a receipt while declaring she’s found the ticket.

As the rangers collect the IDs of the trespassers, Yi-gang wonders where Hyun-jo is. Another ranger tells her he asked for a year’s worth of files on Mujin Valley and is probably there. The ranger is right; Hyun-jo is searching Mujin Valley with the man.

Yi-gang visits Damseong Police Station to ask about Hong Sang-gyu. When she tells Woong-soon that Sang-gyu’s son is looking for him, Woong-soon informs her that Sang-gyu only had one daughter. On Woong-soon’s desk is a picture of the man Hyun-jo met. His name is Kim Gi-chang and he’s wanted for fraud.

Meanwhile, Hyun-jo sends Gi-chang into the valley to search while he plans to check the cliff where Gi-chang implied Sang-gyu might have committed suicide. Before they split up, Gi-chang says that Sang-gyu was wearing a green windbreaker the day he disappeared. Hyun-jo rappels down the cliff and spots a bag.

Back at the village, Yi-gang visits Sang-gyu’s home. In the backyard is a pine tree that could only have grown the way it has on a windy cliff. Yi-gang tells Sang-gyu’s daughter about the great ecological cost of illegally digging up a tree like that, insinuating that Sang-gyu went up the mountain the day he disappeared for another illegal tree removal project.

The daughter’s expression confirms this, and she tells Yi-gang that Sang-gyu did it under pressure from a fraud named Kim Gi-chang. She never told the police because she was afraid her father would face jail time.

After their respective searches, Hyun-jo and Gi-chang meet up. They trek around until Hyun-jo decides it’s too late to continue. Gi-chang confronts him for stalling and Hyun-jo lists evidence that Gi-chang has been lying. Namely, Gi-chang knew to search Mujin Valley when the police didn’t, and he knew that Sang-gyu was wearing a windbreaker even though it was hot enough that he wouldn’t have had it on when he left on the day of his disappearance.

If that wasn’t enough to cast suspicion on Gi-chang, Hyun-jo pulls out Gi-chang’s wallet, which he found in the bag hanging off the cliff.

We flashback to the day Sang-gyu went missing. While on the cliff with Gi-chang, Sang-gyu took the backpack containing the deposit for their current job from him and put it on. The two men scuffled and Gi-chang pushed Sang-gyu, who pulled down Gi-chang’s wallet bag with him when he went over the cliff’s edge.

In the present, Gi-chang draws a knife on Hyun-jo, slicing him across the abdomen and admitting to pushing Sang-gyu. Gi-chang steals Hyun-jo’s GPS to continue his search for the backpack with the deposit.

An injured Hyun-jo tries to keep going. As he does, it becomes clear that his earlier vision was of this moment, down to the yellow ribbons and his own bloody hand. Hyun-jo just has enough strength left to make a rock arrangement signaling Gi-chang’s location before passing out. Gi-chang is later intercepted by Yi-gang and remains cocky until he’s caged in by police on one side and rangers on the other.

To see how Yi-gang got there, we must go back 14 hours to when she called for reinforcements before going to find Hyun-jo after her conversation with Sang-gyu’s daughter. Yi-gang found Hyun-jo unconscious next to his signal, and, after calling for help, used it to pursue Gi-chang.

While Hyun-jo recovers in hospital, Yi-gang carries out a days-long search for Sang-gyu’s remains. His body is brought back, and his daughter breaks down, triggering Yi-gang’s own memories of her grandma crying over her parents and a fight she seems to have had with her father. Yi-gang gives the backpack with the deposit to Sang-gyu’s daughter.

We jump to 2020 and Yi-gang asks the rookie, Lee Da-won, to do her a favour and build a rock arrangement pointing to Haedong Station on her next patrol. Da-won agrees, and when she leaves with Gu-yeong the next morning, Yi-gang is approached by Dae-jin to transfer to the Wonju headquarters.

Out on the mountain, Da-won builds the arrangement exactly where Yi-gang told her to by Mang-bawi Rock.

At the station, one of the Yiseokjae case photos causes Yi-gang to remember finding red ribbons while on patrol with Hyun-jo. She had told him that ribbons were used by illegal hikers to point a path to the top of the mountain. Hyun-jo had then told her that the yellow ribbons he saw after being injured by Gi-chang led away from the mountain-top, as though they were placed there to confuse hikers.

When Yi-gang receives a call asking her to find a missing file, she comes across a plastic bag full of yellow ribbons stained with blood in Dae-jin’s desk draw.

The episode closes with Da-won when she gets separated from Gu-yeong after getting distracted while taking pictures. Mist rolls in around her and someone walks into her path. She stares at their boots, one of which is curiously wet with dripping liquid. Da-won looks up and we see their blood-stained poncho with the hood pulled up so that their eyes are only just visible.

The Episode Review

Fortunately, Episode 2 has helped Jirisan pick up its game. We got ample doses of the mystery-thriller elements, along with some added supernatural spookiness, in a way that fleshed out the situation in both timelines while raising even more burning questions.

The room for improvement that Episode 1 left in the characterization department was capitalized on this time around as we got to see the rangers interact outside of a pressure-cooker situation.

Gu-yeong is becoming a fast favourite despite his selfish attitude, and the ramen scene with Il-hae was fluffy and entertaining. Even Yi-gang got to be more than a superhuman-like ranger extraordinaire while we watched her navigate her grandma’s restaurant, tease Hyun-jo, or remember her past. Seeing everyone forming such bonds of familiarity in 2018 has only added to the stakes for their strained relationships in 2020.

It seems like the show might follow a semi-episodic pattern, wherein we get self-contained stories (like Seung-hun and Gi-chang) while still moving along through our overarching plot. This is working well for now and helps with characterization. But there is the worry that we’ll see more instances like the lottery-ticket subplot, which, while fun to watch, added nothing valuable to the story. That is, unless the writer is a genius who intends to make it count later on, which would be ideal.

Now, that ending! Talk about a double cliff-hanger. Why did Dae-jin have those ribbons? And who or what approached Da-won? Hyun-jo’s spirit perhaps… the suspense is more than enough to keep audiences coming back next week!

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