It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Episode 6 of Jirisan has us in 2018, two whole months after Se-wook disappeared and the rangers still have no clue what happened to him.
Christmas arrives as the mountain is blanketed in snow. Hyun-jo, who has a Christmas date with a mysterious someone, is pressured into taking Gu-yeong’s shift at Bidam Shelter instead so that Gu-yeong can go on his own movie date with Yang-sun.
Yi-gang and Hyun-jo end up being the two rangers in charge of Bidam Shelter for Christmas. Il-Hae calls to let them know someone is coming to retrieve something from lost and found. The logbook has the person down as Im Cheol-gyeong, which has Yi-gang looking dazed.
Off the mountain, Gu-yeong waits inside the movie theatre building for Yang-sun with a bouquet of flowers. She stands outside but doesn’t go in.
A car pulls up to the entrance of Mount Jiri and a man gets out to hike up the mountain. Shortly after, a taxi brings another man who also starts to hike up. Meanwhile, a woman is already on the mountain.
From his home, Dae-jin watches a news report about a police officer, Lieutenant Im Cheol-gyeong, who has been arrested for receiving bribes from a drug cartel.
We cut to Yi-gang’s grandma who is complaining to her friends about Yi-gang’s teenage infatuation with Cheol-gyeong. We flashback to 1997 and it is Yi-gang’s first day at a Mount Jiri training centre for troubled youths, which her grandma sent her to after she ran away into the mountain for three days and broke her arm.
Along with the other kids, her first task is to climb to the top of the mountain. Yi-gang stays firmly in the lead, along with a boy she’s been stealing glances at.
When her time at the training centre comes to an end, Yi-gang waits at a bus stop with the boy. Her grandma comes up and admonishes her since they live nearby. Just as the boy is about to get on the bus, Yi-gang runs up and hits him on the back before sprinting off.
The flashback ends and we’re back at Bidam Shelter as an SOS alert comes through. Someone has sprained their ankle on the way to the shelter and Yi-gang goes out to help them.
As darkness descends, Woong-soon arrives at the entrance to Mount Jiri with his patrol car siren blazing. His junior checks the license plate of the car from earlier and it ends up being on the wanted database.
They hear a gunshot from further up the mountain. We cut to the car’s owner collapsing onto the snow in the light of someone else’s torch.
At Bidam Shelter, Hyun-jo also hears the shot. Strange sounds come from outside and he cautiously peers through the window when Gu-yeong pops up. Gu-yeong is cold and miserable, revealing that Yang-sun apparently stood him up.
Gu-yeong sees Cheol-gyeong’s details in the logbook and recognizes him as Yi-gang’s first love. He tells Hyun-jo the story of Yi-gang and Cheol-gyeong’s second meeting in Seoul after she ran away from home.
His story transitions into another flashback, this time to 2002. Yi-gang is handing out flyers when Cheol-gyeong approaches her. He has his own flyers advertising the restaurant he works at.
Yi-gang gets a job at the restaurant alongside Cheol-gyeong while she studies for the university entrance exams. After the big test, Cheol-gyeong shows up and takes her to the beach on his new motorcycle. Yi-gang tells him that she hit him at the bus stop because he had somewhere else to go while she was stuck on the mountain.
Later, the restaurant owner accuses Cheol-gyeong of stealing 100,000 won to buy the motorcycle. Cheol-gyeong denies this and Yi-gang swoops in to defend him. The owner fires them both.
The flashback ends and Gu-yeong picks up a call from Woong-soon about the car. Woong-soon also says that Cheol-gyeong is assumed to be on the mountain. The call cuts as the lights in the shelter go out. Gu-yeong checks the mains fuse box while Hyun-jo takes off to find Cheol-gyeong.
Out in the snow, Yi-gang finds the stranded hiker. It’s the woman from earlier and she asks about Cheol-gyeong. It seems that she’s his junior on the drug squad and she believes he was wrongfully accused. The evidence to prove this is supposedly in Bidam Shelter where Cheol-gyeong has been meeting his informer within the drug cartel.
Gu-yeong is still puzzling over the mains fuse box when he finds a severed cable. The door to the storage shed near him closes on its own and Gu-yeong goes to investigate.
At the same time, a police squad from Gunsan arrive at Haedong Police Station. Woong-soon informs them that no one on the mountain is answering his calls, and the captain decides they must go up immediately.
Hyun-jo is well into the snow by this point, having followed the direction of the gunshot and estimated the distance Cheol-gyeong would have been able to hike from his car. He finds Cheol-gyeong lying in the snow.
Yi-gang and the woman arrive at Bidam Shelter. Yi-gang notices the severed cable and checks her phone to see that there’s no signal. She leaves the woman outside and goes into the storage shed, finding Gu-yeong passed out on the floor with blood dripping down his face.
Yi-gang is about to use the landline in the storage shed to make a call when the man from the taxi points a gun at the back of her head. Yi-gang swings around and aims a spray can right into his eyes, kicking away the gun as he crashes into the floor. She resumes making the call when the woman she helped uses the gun to hit her across the head. The police pick up as Yi-gang hits the floor.
The woman and the man search the storage shed for the evidence Cheol-gyeong apparently had on them – the real corrupt cops. They find nothing, realizing it’s a setup as Hyun-jo bursts into the shed with Cheol-gyeong. A brief flashback shows us Hyun-jo rolling Cheol-gyeong over in the snow to see his bulletproof vest. A tussle ensues, as Hyun-jo and Cheol-gyeong restrain them as the police squad arrive.
Yi-gang wakes and sees Cheol-gyeong, which prompts a flashback to 2006 while Yi-gang is crying on the bus to her grandma’s house. She arrives to find that her grandma is playing a lively game of cards, and isn’t, as she was led to believe, horribly ill. Her trickster grandma drags her to an interview with Dae-jin to become a ranger.
All Yi-gang displays is apathy towards Dae-jin and the job. He asks if she still holds him responsible for her parents’ death. She doesn’t answer and he tells her to do what he couldn’t and save people from dying on the mountain.
Yi-gang, now a ranger, is minding Bidam Shelter when Cheol-gyeong comes looking for something he lost on the mountain. They go outside to talk and Cheol-gyeong tries to say something when the shelter receives an SOS alert and Yi-gang has to leave.
After helping the troubled hiker, Yi-gang and Gu-yeong rest at the peak of the mountain. Distressed, Gu-yeong finally understands why Yi-gang keeps wanting to quit. Yi-gang, on the other hand, shows a desire to stay on the mountain for the first time.
The flashback ends and we come back to Cheol-gyeong and Yi-gang in a similar position outside Bidam Shelter. He finally gets to say what he had wanted to say years ago. It turns out he really did steal the money from the restaurant so that he could take Yi-gang on a motorcycle ride to the beach. While their affection may have been mutual after all, he’s now married.
The next day, Yang-sun rushes to Bidam Shelter to gush over Gu-yeong. He’s surprised, and obviously delighted, that she cares for him. They both realize they had been waiting for each other in different places on the day of their date, too uneasy to call each other.
As the holidays continue, they finally follow through with a proper date. At the hospital, Il-hae welcomes his newborn child.
One night, over a round of drinks, Hyun-jo wants to know if Cheol-gyeong is the reason Yi-gang stayed in the mountain even though she claims to hate it so. She downs a bowl of sweet potato makgeolli and starts her infamous rant in response.
Hyun-jo carries Yi-gang to her grandma’s house. He looks over the pictures on the walls from her life in the mountain and it becomes obvious that, contrary to her words, she loves it there.
The sweet moment is ruined by the onslaught of another vision – the mountain, burning with wildfires.
The Episode Review
This episode dropped a foot on the brakes, which was unexpected considering the quicker pacing we’ve been enjoying. While filler episodes like this can be executed successfully (and give us reasons to root for our characters), the placement of this one right after the story really started to climb was almost frustrating.
It also felt like we got caught in a bizarre genre shift from thriller-fantasy to healing-cop drama. The flashbacks to Yi-gang’s youth with Cheol-gyeong were fluffy and enjoyable. But the connection between her first love and literally anything else is murky.
The exploration of her complex relationship with the mountain could have been achieved (probably with more nuance, too) sans some random guy from her past. Hopefully both him and the drug cartel scandal become important later because that felt like a lot of unnecessary and shallow drama to trudge through.
If Yi-gang’s love story was cute then Gu-yeong and Yang-sun’s date fail was downright adorable. They easily became the highlight of this episode.
Hyun-jo’s vision foreshadows another curveball for our ranger team. Hopefully that means we’ll be getting back on track for our next round of episodes.
|Expect A Full Season Write-Up When This Season Concludes!|