Snowdrop – K-Drama Episode 5 Recap & Review

Hosu Woman’s Battlefield

Episode 5 of Snowdrop exposes two North Korean spies within Ha-na’s ranks. One is Comrade Joo. During the foyer standoff, Gang-mu spots one of them point his gun at Ha-na instead of Soo-ho. Gang-mu throws himself in front of Ha-na and takes a bullet to the shoulder.

Luckily, the shot has distracted Soo-ho, stopping him from putting a bullet in Yeong-ro’s head. The spies drop their cover and close ranks with Soo-ho as a gun fight ensues. All the while, Soo-ho keeps Yeong-ro trapped next to him.

Comrade Joo is shot in the arm as the dorm becomes collateral damage. ANSP reinforcements burst in armed with riot shields and form a line of defence on their side of the impasse – the side closest to the door.

With ammunition running low, Soo-ho shoots the cord holding up the chandelier above the agents to break their line. He then clips grenades to himself and drags Yeong-ro out where the ANSP agents can see them. Soo-ho pulls the pin out of the extra grenade in his hand, keeping his grip on the striker lever. Holding it up like a threat, he orders the agents to withdraw. Gang-mu complies, fearing for Yeong-ro.

As the agents exit, Soo-ho decides to keep Gang-mu hostage. Ha-na doesn’t want to leave him behind, knowing that his bullet wound needs medical attention, and has to be dragged out by the other agents.

Outside, Ha-na briefs Chief Ahn on the situation. He stalls retaliation, worried that Chang-su will be furious when he finds out that his agents continued hunting Taedong River 1.

He calls Mi-hye, who is currently outfitting Ae-ra at her fashion boutique, for advice. Ae-ra listens in as Mi-hye takes this chaos as a good time to sacrifice 13 virgins. Mi-hye, now seeing the possibility that Chang-su could become their president, tells Chief Ahn to gain his favour.

Back at the dorm, Byeong-tae and Gwang-tae are blindfolded and tied together with a grenade between their shoulders. Soo-ho sets about boobytrapping the entrances to the dorm while Comrade Joo and the other spy, Comrade Lee, round up the students and a lone lunch lady in the second-floor cafeteria. Gang-mu is also left there with them, tied to a pole to make sure he can’t try anything.

The matron has been slipping through the dorm, unseen, and she tapes something up in her office. The girls are beginning to think she’s abandoned them when she strolls into the cafeteria voluntarily. They don’t get a chance to be relieved because Comrade Joo choses three of them, one being Seol-hui, to stand in front of the windows so that the ANSP cannot open fire.

Outside, the ANSP agents set up a base of operations and station riflemen around the campus perimeter.

Safe in his office, Chang-su verifies with Ji-rok that Taedong River 1’s team has left the Port of Incheon with Professor Han. Tae-il, also there, celebrates the victory as Chang-su notes that the North will only receive full payment once they air a press conference in which Professor Han confirms that the opposition party’s presidential campaign is funded by North Korea.

Chief Ahn arrives with news of the hostage situation, blaming it entirely on Gang-mu’s search for Taedong River 1. Tae-il wants to clean up the mess with force before it can take attention away from Professor Han’s press conference. Chang-su is too worried for the students’ safety to agree.

Dismissing Tae-il, Chang-su calls Ae-ra, who sent a driver to pick up Yeong-ro earlier that day. Ae-ra wails as she relays that the driver couldn’t get near the dorm. Though, after they hang up, she wipes away her crocodile tears and saunters off.

Chief Ahn confirms that Yeong-ro is in the dorm. Cautious of the Capital Defence Force being mobilised, which would be noticed by the media, Chang-su orders Chief Ahn to free the students quickly even if it requires lethal force.

At the dorm, the girls have been made to lie in neat rows with their eyes closed. Bun-ok breaks this rule to whisper words of blame into Yeong-ro’s ear.

Yeong-ro notices Gang-mu’s blood dripping onto the floor and gingerly asks to patch him up. She sits up, insisting that she needs to stop the bleeding even as the spies point their guns at her. Soo-ho leads Man-dong and his son into the cafeteria as Comrade Joo is about to strike Yeong-ro’s head with the back of his gun.

Soo-ho calmly stops the violence and deems the need for first aid harmless, adding that Comrade Joo needs it too. He lets Yeong-ro lead him to the infirmary to gather supplies. She avoids his eyes, and they stay silent the whole way there.

At the top of the main staircase on the way back, Soo-ho grabs Yeong-ro to stop her from stepping on the trip wires he set up. She breaks the silence, asking if he’s really a spy and despairing that she helped him. He only tells her to stop being nosy if she wants to stay alive. She leaves the conversation, and him, right there.

Chang-su calls Ji-rok again to ask if he’s sure that Taedong River 1 left the port with Professor Han. Ji-rok is angered by yet another mishap from the ANSP and declares that their deal will be off if any of his spies are hurt. Soo-ryeon catches the end of the conversation, satisfied with the thought of Soo-ho’s demise.

Chang-su heads to the dorm. Tae-il, who has been occupying himself with Chung-ya, gets confirmation that Taedong River 1 is responsible for the Hosu situation. Chung-ya mulls over this information while Tae-il is focused on the call and tries to convince him to stay when he rushes to dress and make for the dorm.

Meanwhile, Yeong-ro tends to Gang-mu and swears that she didn’t know Soo-ho was a spy. Gang-mu comforts her while signaling to the tweezers she brought with her. They make a show of his pain, and she helps him slip the tweezers into his sleeve without raising suspicion.

Chief Ahn is on his way to the dorm when Chang-su revokes his order to kill the spies. At the base, Chief Ahn arranges for a field telephone to be set up outside the dorm’s main entrance.

Aware that a negotiation is their best chance at escaping, Soo-ho uses Hye-ryeong as a hostage to motivate Gwang-tae to collect the field phone in his stead.

Gwang-tae reaches the field phone as Ha-na sees Soo-ho through the glass windows. She fires a shot at him, only missing because the agent Chang-su tasked with keeping the rest of the ANSP out of Operation Phoenix tackles her down. Comrade Joo opens fire, but Chief Ahn stays his agents. Soo-ho uses the commotion to get Gwang-tae and the field phone inside.

Chang-su arrives to the sound of gunfire and banishes Ha-na to their headquarters. She’s dragged away for a second time. Tae-il reaches the base shortly after.

In the cafeteria, Gang-mu hacks through the ropes at his wrists with the tweezers. Yeong-ro pretends to have stomach pains, distracting Comrade Lee while Gang-mu slips out from under the ropes keeping him against the pole. He looms behind Comrade Lee, tweezers raised.

Man-dong notices Comrade Joo returning with Hye-ryeong, Byeong-tae, and Gwang-tae in tow. He whines about backpain to alert Gang-mu, who slithers back into his bonds.

Comrade Joo insists on killing a hostage as Chang-su contacts Soo-ho through the field phone. Chang-su recites the coordinates of the spy team’s planned rendezvous point and names Ji-rok as their leader to gain Soo-ho’s trust. He then instructs the team to escape through the mechanical room’s secret passageway.

Soo-ho uses Yeong-ro’s radio to confirm whether Chang-su can be trusted. He tunes into the channel his instructions from the North are sent through. It plays the song that signals a change of plans and a coded message tells him to cooperate with the South.

At the Marine base where Yeong-u is stationed as an administrative clerk, he asks to fill in on that night’s coast guard patrol.

The “fishing” boat that Professor Han and the spies are on idles at the rendezvous coordinates when the coast guard boat that Yeong-u is on sights them. Professor Han loses his nerve and screams for help. One of the spies shoots him in the chest and opens fire on the coast guard.

Chang-su gets a call – the coast guard sunk the spy ship. Tae-il says that Plan B is their only option now.

Soo-ho and his spies emerge from the secret passageway. They only make it a few paces before gas and bullets are hurled their way. Comrade Lee is shot in the leg.

The bonus clip takes us back to the matron while the girls were being rounded up. She uses her hidden key to open a secret door in the wall and slips through.


The Episode Review

Episode 5 was the most enjoyable offering from Snowdrop since its pilot. Finally giving us a break from the gradual political maneuvering, a sense of intensity returned with the breakdown of Operation Phoenix on all fronts.

Soo-ho is completely unmasked as Taedong River 1 and Jung Hae-in has handled the switch well, grounding the smug and experienced spy enough to flow into any complex character arcs that might be in store.

It was a relief to see that Yeong-ro’s palpable fear didn’t pigeonhole her into the damsel-in-distress box, nor was she rendered useless by her feelings for Soo-ho. The juxtaposition between them has climbed to a peak, perfectly shown in the shot where she clutches the first aid kit and stares into Soo-ho’s eyes as he carries his gun.

This episode also got closer to deserving the black comedy label that JTBC threw around in the lead-up to Snowdrop‘s release. The drama felt too sincere until now for any humour that was not related to dorm life to land tastefully.

Out of the secondary characters to watch, the matron continues to be full of secrets and Chung-ya is clearly more than she seems. Is she also a spy? Could she even be Bun-ok’s sister?

With this episode picking things up, we have to wonder if JTBC also managed to avoid the cries of controversy with it (as it promised to do by the end of Episode 5). While there have been fleeting comments made by Gang-mu and the matron about the true nature of the ANSP, their methodology remains sanitized on-screen, and they’re still painted very much as the heroes of this hostage situation.

International viewers certainly should not base their knowledge of this time period in Korean history on this drama alone.

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