Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Nine: Episode 4, New mail, new glasses, new name

Nine: Episode 4

Sun-woo leaves incense burning in his car and goes off to reconnoiter his dad's hospital of 1992, where he runs into Dr. Choi. [fifth time travel – 2:00] After that he sees hyung getting sloshed over losing his girlfriend and takes him home. He is first amazed to see dad alive, and then amazed to find that dad is harsher than he remembered. The incense runs out just as they are carrying hyung into the house and he disappears.

December 24, 2012. In one of a trio of brightly painted town houses, Min-young wakes up jet-lagged. She and Sun-woo exchange cute text messages and she reviews pictures of them together in Nepal, in one of which she is shown sporting the fur-trimmed parka from Sun-woo's phone screen in episode 1.

December 24, 1992. Teen Dr. Han finds a Christmas card on his desk at the study hall. [sixth time travel – 13:57 – although we don't see it happen, just the evidence of it] It is from Sun-woo and says he will get mail on that date in 20 years at 10 am, and then he will know what that card means. It's got a 2012 copyright mark. Back to Dec. 24, 2012. Dr. Han gets an email from Sun-woo right at 10 am telling him about the time travel incense. He remembers the card and does a creditable impression of Doc Brown running through the halls screaming. Haha! I thought he was totally overacting until I got the connection. He runs (literally, because he's out of breath) to Sun-woo's office for an explanation. He wants brain scans from age 30 on. Sun-woo thinks it will be hard to convince his past self. He decides to do what hyung had wanted to do first: get back his girlfriend and save their father. Sun-woo remembers opening the door to his father's office and being blown back by the blast; the entire room was in flames.

Sun-woo uses an incense stick to go talk to the girlfriend [seventh time travel – 24:15] but finds she had OD'd on drugs. He gets her to the ER and gives hyung's phone number to her eight-year-old daughter, Shi-ah. When he disappears the camera tilts 45° and I am sure this time we will get dire consequences.

Sun-woo and Min-young meet for dinner, but he gets a call about visiting his mother at the care center. He suddenly remembers he had stood her up on Christmas Eve in 1992 and runs out, promising to be back in half an hour. He had been supposed to go out to dinner with his mother and lied to her so he could go to a movie with a girl he liked. Mom had decided to go too and seen him there. This time [eighth time travel - 37:55] he steps on her glasses and takes her to a nearby optometrist for new ones. Into her purse he slips a heart necklace, that we later see she is still wearing at the care center. He returns to the restaurant majorly pleased with himself, and Min-young remarks he must be close with his mom. She is not, because her mom is difficult. She even had to change her name twice because of her mom; it used to be Shi-ah. Split-screen to watch 1992 Shi-ah dialing hyung's number. When he answers, we see 2012 Sun-woo's shocked face as Min-young disappears right in front of him. I am pretty shocked too; but seeing the preview for the next episode, where hyung wearing a doctor's coat walks up to Dr. Han with a smile on his face, leaves me with a lump in my throat.

Usually in time-travel stories any changes that are made in a visit to the past are felt immediately in the future, but in this show things don't work that way. They change in the parallel moment twenty years from when someone in the past makes a decision that will cause the future to be different than it was the first time around. Hence, when Sun-woo returns from his seventh visit to the past, his world seems unchanged. It is not until young Shi-ah makes the phone call to hyung and he decides not to break up with her mother, that a change is seen. Min-young disappears in a puff of smoke and reappears in a new life; her mother disappears from a life with her second husband the Boston lawyer, and hyung disappears from the dead and has a new life as head of the hospital.

Running count – time travels: 8; remaining incense sticks: 5; Timelines: Past3, Present2

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nine: Episode 3, Retrieving Incense

 Nine: Episode 3

We backtrack a teeny bit to watch Sun-woo light the incense again. [third time travel - 00:55] We hear the tech call his name, sounding odd, like a monk chanting, or as if from a Doppler effect. The news team has a cow about their missing anchorman while Sun-woo looks around 1992 curiously. In 2012 someone runs in to grab a case sitting on the counter by the incense holder, knocking it over. Sun-woo in 1992 has called the pager number and had time to figure out he is conversing with his teenage self before the 2012 furnishings rematerialize around him and he sees the incense stick lying on the floor, the ash knocked off and no longer burning. The tech verifies that the pager belongs to the study hall Sun-woo had attended in high school.

Sun-woo calls Dr. Han to exclaim over the whole thing, and they both remember that the pager had been lost. We see a flash-back of the two as teenagers talking it over. Teen Sun-woo goes home and tries to tell hyung, but is brushed off. Hyung is preoccupied with telling his girlfriend goodbye because his father doesn't approve of her. Teen Sun-woo writes it up in his journal while adult Sun-woo reads it. He remembers writing it, but of course it is a product of time change and was different the first time around. Here we have one of the rules: 1992 and 2012 are marching along in parallel, and what gets changed in 1992 doesn't affect 2012 or even get remembered until that parallel moment rolls around exactly twenty years later.

Sun-woo thinks about hyung wanting a return to the past and reads the little notebook that was found with the body. We get a flashback of hyung on the plane going to Nepal. It's January 5, 2012. He writes in the notebook, “Maruna Lodge room 201, under the window side mattress. Nine incense sticks that he left.” Sun-woo chews that over and returns to Nepal to look for Maruna Lodge. It had been torn down ten years previously, but he finds a guide to the spot where it had been. Split-screen shows us that he is indeed following hyung's footsteps and we're told it's December 22, 2012. We see (flash-back - 25:22) in a darkened empty cafe, a bearded man speaking English, telling hyung that someone had used the incense to save his family and not needed nine additional sticks, which could be retrieved. The bearded man dates that as 1992 and they were then in January 2012, so it had been 20 years since that man had gone to the Himalayas. It is after this interview that hyung flies to Nepal. It seems that the bearded man was not in Nepal, or in Korea either, or they would have been speaking Korean.

The thought crosses my mind that the man who only used one incense stick could be Sun-woo in a different time loop, but there is no way to know. Hyung wrote in his book that the incense stick is 30 cm and burns for 30 minutes. This must be information from the bearded man. We are told their father died December 31, 1992, so hyung in January of 2012 would have had time to do something about it using the twenty-year jump.

Sun-woo dictates a message to send Dr. Han and hikes up out of a forested area through dead brush and then to a bare snowy hillside. He lights his incense stick (he has ten minutes left on it) and disappears in a puff of smoke. [fourth time travel - 29:40] He reappears on the terrace of the Maruna Lodge twenty years previous, but surprise! It is surrounded by green trees and not a snowy waste at all. This I attribute to an oversight on the part of the production team, because it has to be December in both cases, and the surrounding vegetation should be the same. There is even a 1992 November-December calendar on the wall. Or wait – maybe the lodge had been watered by a hot spring. Are there hot springs in the Himalayas? At any rate, Sun-woo finds a beautiful turquoise lacquered incense case but has to fight it out with the locals. He luckily has hold of the case when the original incense stick burns out and returns him to the present, bringing a record album that was in his hand as well.

He buys a turn-table and is listening to the record when Min-young walks in. She tries to act cheerful and refers to the three month marriage, but he acts skeptical until he suddenly gets up to lock the door and pull her in for a kiss. After tipping her over onto the bed in the approved swoony manner he tells her he wants to extend the three months to thirty years. He ends his message to Dr. Han by saying, “Believe in the fantasies you want to believe. Love the girl you want to love.”

Running count - time travels: 4; remaining incense sticks: 9 new ones; Timelines: Past2, Present1

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nine:Episode 2, The Pager

Nine:  Episode 2

We open with Dr. Han running an ER and getting after a couple of interns for watching Dr. Choi on tv. One of them is Kang Seo-joon, played by Oh Min-seok, who we remember as an assistant manager from Misaeng. He is going to be Min-young's boyfriend. Min-young calls Dr. Han and he tells her about the tumor. Speaking of which, we watch Sun-woo painfully endure another sudden headache. Then he notices the incense stick and lights it again. [second time travel - 13:45] He tries to use his phone but has no connection.

When he looks around, his room has changed to the way it was when he was in high school, featuring a poster of the DeLorean from Back to the Future. He finds a pager and has a run-in with his Mom, who we have seen as a catatonic mental patient; his Dad, who died when he was young; and a teen-age hyung, who swings a bat at him. A huge fish tank breaks and he is cut by the glass. Dazed, he returns to his room, only to have his phone beep and his room turn back to the way it had been. The incense has gone out again, but he still has the cut. Sun-woo has visited 1992 and changed history. The fish tank gets replaced by a modern sculpture and his family remembers an intruder. They are in Timeline Past2 now. He has a pager in his pocket and a sculpture instead of a fish tank in his house.

He goes to the ER for stitches and gets a lecture from Dr. Han, who wants him in chemo stat. At work, he takes a call from Min-young in Nepal, who is angry at him. His housekeeper is dusting his room when the pager goes off. [a time incident, not a time travel – 36:52] He has her send it to him and asks a techie to find out how old it is and who had the number. He talks to Dr. Han on the phone about seeing things when the incense stick is lit and wonders if it is a drug. It would be pretty lame if the whole show were a hallucination caused by the brain tumor or a drug. A courier delivers the pager and incense stick, which he lights. [third time travel - 42:22] We get a split screen as he looks around the room in its 1992 d├ęcor, and the tech enters in 2012. Same space, different times. The tech doesn't find him and leaves. Our guy is freaked out to find a newspaper dated December 21, 1992 and when the pager rings again he calls it back on a desk phone. The person answering is his teen-age self wanting his pager back.

The pager ringing is a puzzle. The first time it rings, teen Sun-woo is calling it from 1992, so why does the signal register in 2012? It was not caused by the incense, at least it wasn't lit. Are we saying electromagnetic signals travel across time? The second time it rings it makes sense because the pager has gone back in time with Sun-woo. Some of the group members feel it may be that since he had owned the pager, he has a personal connection; and that it works because the required tech support is there. Or that since this show was written by the writers of Queen Inhyun's Man, it may just have similar mystical telephones. Perhaps it is just the quirks of a mystical power, and we are expecting the well-ordered working of a machine built by Doc Brown.

Running count – time travels: 3; remaining incense sticks: 1/3; Timelines: Past2, Present1

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Nine: Episode 1, Time Travel?

Nine: Episode 1

I belong to a kdrama facebook group that has decided to watch Nine: Nine Time Travels together. I loved that one, and scoured lots of blogs looking for a good explanation of that confusing and ambiguous ending. Yay for talking it out with people! If I ever get a chance to meet a celebrity, I'm going to choose writer-nim and ask her exactly what she meant by that ending. And now that I'm going to rewatch, I'm going to keep track of all those crazy timelines.

The very first scene may be a clue. We have a shot from the air of mountains covered in snow. According to the story they are meant to be the Himalayas, but you couldn't tell them apart from the mountains of New Zealand. Especially since music from Lord of the Rings is playing. I am already happy, because I think it's a clue that this is a fantasy. We see someone who turns out to be hyung walking up the mountain accompanied by an epic elf chorus and then a flute. (The hobbit theme is played by a flute, but this is a more somber song.) He tries to light a stick of incense but falls and starts to freeze to death and we hear footsteps; someone's shadow falls on his face and he looks up.

Change scene to our hero flying into Pokhara, Nepal, on December 15, 2012 (yay for a firm date). He's unshaven, which might be important later, and greets the heroine with a surprise smooch only four minutes into the show. They bicker and he teases her. He's kind of a jerk, but not your standard kdrama chebol jerk. He asks her to marry him for six months. Then he goes to the police station, where they give him hyung's belongings and say he died a year before. What? Hyung is dead? Didn't we just see him get rescued? That first scene didn't have a time-stamp on it and could be a sneak peak at the end of the show; otherwise how does it fit in?

In a flash-back dated a year ago (December 2011, and presumably just before dying in Nepal) hyung meets Sun-woo in a cafe in Seoul, needing money and hinting that he wants to return to the way things were back when their father was alive and their mother healthy. He is very nervous and looks a little unbalanced, and says if he told Sun-woo the whole story he wouldn't believe it.

While we are fielding names, here is our cast:
Park Sun-woo:
     a well known tv news anchor (2012: Lee Jin-wook; 1992: Park Hyung-sik)
Joo Min-young:
     a junior reporter who loves Sun-woo (2012: Jo Yoon-hee; 1992: Jo Min-ah)
Park Jung-woo:
     hyung - older brother of Sun-woo (2012: Jeon No-min; 1992: Seo Woo-jin)
Han Young-hoon:
     best friend of Sun-woo, a doctor (2012: Lee Seung-jun; 1992: Lee Yi-kyung)
Kim Yoo-jin: Min-young's mother (2012: Lee Eung-kyung; 1992: Ga Deuk-hi)
Choi Jun-cheol: ruthless doctor directing medical research (Jeong Dong-hwan)
Oh Chul-min: Sun-woo's boss, the station news chief (Eom Hyo-seop)

We have seen Sun-woo cringe in pain and take pills on the plane; it happens again in the hotel, but he keeps Min-young from noticing. He tells her he likes her because she is always so cheerful, and won't let her commiserate about his brother. She argues with him about the six months business, why not longer? He claims he will be busy, lowers it to three months, and tells her that he is going home the next day. Later, trying to get some sleep and failing, he notices an incense stick that was found with his brother. He lights it and lies down again, only to find himself lying in a snowy waste. (First time travel: 30:30.)

When he gets up he is in his room again, but we see that the burning incense has hit the edge of the holder and gone out. He thinks he was hallucinating, but it seems to us like time-traveling. Except. The rules of time-travel weren't followed here. In every other case he gets moved back twenty years but doesn't change location. This time, he was either moved, or the hotel hadn't been built yet. But it's in town, surrounded by green trees. It could be that in changing owners, the incense stick sent him to the last place the previous owner had tried to light it - where hyung had been. Or it could have been a warning sent by the magic. In either case, it seems to be hiccuping and having a hard time staying lit.

We skip to a few days later. Getting ready for a tv interview, Dr. Choi says he thought Sun-woo was abroad and is told he had been back for over a year. During the interview he goes off-script to ask Dr. Choi some embarrassing questions about his research. Everyone is upset. His boss endearingly stands up for him to the network brass, but yells at him and suspends him. Sun-woo hands in his resignation and we discover that he has a brain tumor, with six months of normal life left. (Hence the six-month marriage.) He asks Chief Oh to keep pushing Dr. Choi and gives him a thumb drive with evidence on it.

Min-young calls him from Nepal. The picture on his lock screen is of her wearing a fur hood, which we haven't seen her wearing. He doesn't tell her about the tumor, just that he doesn't want to get too attached. In reality he doesn't want her to get too attached.

Running count - time travels: 1; incense sticks: most of 1;  Timelines: Present1