Missing 9 wastes no time dropping us right into the action, and I have to say, I was gripped from the very first moment. The cinematography is fantastic, and the music underscores and informs the action perfectly without being distracting. The characters are compelling and sympathetic, and the story is as heartbreaking as it is terrifying. I went into this show cautiously optimistic — it’s had a bit of a rough time making up its mind on what it wanted to be — but I think we’re in for an incredible ride.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
On a lonely, deserted mud flat by the ocean, a young girl wakes, filthy and disoriented. She sees a nearby structure and stumbles towards it, frantic to find help.
Elsewhere, a man paces an opulent office, complaining to someone on the phone that “this won’t bring them back from the dead.” He corrects himself that of course they are only missing, then loses his temper. He says “they” may as well be dead, and tells the man on the phone to accept that his son is gone.
The name plate on his desk identifies the man as the CEO of Legend Entertainment, JANG DO-PAL, and he barely gets a chance to sit before his assistant wheels in a television. A breaking newscast announces that a survivor of the Legend Entertainment plane crash was found on a beach in China, four months after the accident.
The news of the survivor sweeps the country, and candlelight vigils for the remaining missing victims are held in front of the Legend Entertainment building. While citizens criticized the government for not trying hard enough to find the crash victims, which included several celebrities, hope is now renewed that they may still be found alive.
A lady diver in Jeju sees the news flash, along with a picture of the survivor. Her face blanches, and she silently screams. And in a dark office somewhere in Seoul, a man calls an acquaintance, PROSECUTOR CHO. He says that he’s found Prosecutor Cho some work.
The survivor, a young girl named RA BONG-HEE (Baek Jin-hee), is released by the Chinese officials and sent home to Korea on a plane. The ride causes flashbacks of the terrible plane crash she recently experienced, but she manages to hold herself together.
Her escort talks about how they didn’t have the budget to do a thorough search after the accident, and that they assumed everyone died, so her being found alive creates an awkward situation. He asks if what she told the Chinese police is true, and Bong-hee’s eyes grow haunted. She ekes out a tiny “yes.”
She arrives at the airport in Korea to a crowd of reporters screaming questions at her, as well as desperate fans holding “Save the Dreamers” signs. But Bong-hee only sees one person in the crowd — the Jeju diver, her mother.
Mother and daughter embrace each other tearfully, both having thought they’d never see the other again. At the back of the crowd, the mysterious man we saw calling the prosecutor watches, and he notices that Bong-hee is wearing a distinctive necklace. It’s a silver infinity charm, with a pearl nestled inside one of the loops.
Prosecutor Cho calls him to report that they’re safe, because Bong-hee told the Chinese police that she doesn’t remember anything that happened after the accident. The mystery man asks if this means they won’t be able to find out what happened during those four months, and Prosecutor Cho assures him that her memory should come back eventually.
A polished woman approaches Bong-hee and her mother and introduces herself as JO HEE-KYUNG, chairwoman of the special investigation commission for the accident. She pulls Bong-hee into a hug, making a show for the cameras while ensuring that they’re photographed from all angles.
But she’s cold as ice in private, only showing cursory concern for Bong-hee before asking if she truly doesn’t remember anything. She’s says it must be a relief to Bong-hee that she’s lost her memories of those traumatic months, but makes it clear that they need her to remember so that they can find out if there are any other survivors.
Chairwoman Jo makes it sound as though, despite her amnesia, Bong-hee owes it to the special investigation commission to remember what happened. She tells Bong-hee that as soon as she remembers, she’ll be expected to tell everything on camera, as if it’s her patriotic duty.
In a halting, tentative voice, Bong-hee begins to tell Chairwoman Jo what she does remember of the day leading up to the crash. She says it was her first day of work at her first job, and her first trip abroad. “I thought that day would be the happiest day of my life.”
Four months ago.
A happier, more cheerful Bong-hee lugs an armful of clothing across town. Nearby, manager JUNG KI-JOON (Oh Jung-se) answers a call from his client, SEO JOON-OH (Jung Kyung-ho). Joon-oh sits dejectedly in the mud, on location filming for a reality show.
Joon-oh is a down-on-his-luck former idol, and though we don’t see his face yet, his body language telegraphs defeat to be degrading himself this way. He orders Ki-joon to come get him in ten minutes, and drags himself up to go back to filming. Ki-joon calls Bong-hee, and says he’ll come get her so they can get to Joon-oh quickly.
Joon-oh rolls around in the mud for the cameras, then stops to text Ki-joon to hurry. He calls to say the same thing and hangs up, and Ki-joon only looks guilty for a moment before blocking Joon-oh’s number. Ha. Joon-oh finally finds an octopus in the mud, and the PDs urge him to eat it. But instead, he screams in frustration, throws it down, and has his assistant call Ki-joon again.
When he realizes he’s been blocked, Joon-oh storms off the set. He heads to a tiny nearby restaurant and orders a bottle of soju, then objects when the only brand they have is one he used to promote, as evidenced by the ratty old poster on the wall.
Ki-joon and Bong-hee head to the shooting location to pick Joon-oh up for their trip. Ki-joon is a friendly guy, and he asks Bong-hee if this is really her first job. Bong-hee admits that she couldn’t find a job after graduating college, so she’s been working with her mother for the last few years. She thanks him for hiring her, and he jovially says that nobody else applied.
Ki-joon explains that the trip is to attend the Legend Town anniversary concert, and asks how much she knows about Joon-oh. She says that he was the leader of Dreamers, a three-man idol band, but that he’s fallen from grace since a drunk driving incident three years ago.
She alarms Ki-joon a bit with her brutal honesty, outlining how the real problem came from a strange comment Joon-oh made as he was leaving the police station. In front of reporters, he’d said, “I did drink, but I didn’t drive under the influence.”
Because of that, his fans deserted him, and Dreamers disbanded. We see Joon-oh and his old bandmates at a press conference, with Joon-oh sobbing dramatically into the microphone while the others look humiliated.
Bong-hee gets a little carried away, talking about Joon-oh’s flopped solo album and calling him an epic failure. Ki-joon defends Joon-oh, saying he’s not that much of a failure, and that he’s releasing a new album soon. He continues that while Joon-oh may not be as popular as he was, Dreamers was a legendary group that topped all the charts, and so it will never die.
He chuckles when he gets a call from Legend Entertainment’s current CEO, HWANG JAE-GUK (Kim Sang-ho), telling Bong-hee that this proves how important Joon-oh still is. He even puts CEO Hwang on speaker phone to prove it, only to have the CEO demand to know why Joon-oh is being difficult on set. Ki-joon tells him that he’s on his way now, and CEO Hwang hangs up angrily.
When they finally arrive, Ki-joon and Bong-hee go inside to talk to Joon-oh, and to add insult to injury, the TV is tuned to a show interviewing one of Joon-oh’s old bandmates, CHOI TAE-HO (Choi Tae-joon). Joon-oh is busy eating and isn’t inclined to rejoin the shoot, saying that the show lied to him about having to catch his own food.
Ki-joon persists, and Joon-oh blows up at him, yelling that he only got this job because Tae-ho couldn’t do it. There’s a long silence, then Ki-joon asks who told him about that. He admits that it’s true, but says it’s a good opportunity for them. He goes on and on about how it could lead to bigger and better offers, and asks Joon-oh to just endure it.
That seems to get through to Joon-oh, and Ki-joon adds that he makes things harder on himself. He reminds Joon-oh that he needs to do this if he wants to revive his career, and Joon-oh looks as if he’s about to say something important in response, but then he notices Bong-hee standing there, looking uncomfortable.
He perks up and agrees to do the shoot, though he insists on wearing just the perfect outfit. He tells Bong-hee to bring his clothes, stressing that the success of the shoot is entirely on her shoulders.
Bong-hee enthusiastically jumps into action, bringing Joon-oh outfit after outfit, while he refuses each one for different reasons (he nixes one shirt for looking like graph paper, and another for having an even number of buttons, HA). It takes so long that Joon-oh orders delivery and eats while declining even more outfits.
Eventually, Joon-oh sighs that they can’t shoot today, because he can’t wear any of the outfits. He starts to leave, but Bong-hee follows him with a pair of sunglasses she borrowed from a friend. Joon-oh takes the case and glares at Bong-hee, and Ki-joon says that she’s new and doesn’t know any better.
Whatever offends him about the sunglasses is enough for Joon-oh to tell Ki-joon to fire Bong-hee. She chases him and accidentally knocks him to his knees, so he grabs the sunglasses and throws them into the sand. Ki-joon informs Bong-hee that Joon-oh’s former bandmate Tae-ho models that brand. Oops.
Bong-hee follows Joon-oh to his van, apologizing for her mistake and begging him not to fire her. When he peels off his jumpsuit to reveal a bib full of baby octopi, Bong-hee sets to removing them while Joon-oh looks at her like she’s an alien.
It takes both Bong-hee and Ki-joon to get Joon-oh out of the jumpsuit, and he tries to shut himself in the van. Bong-hee blocks the door and starts begging for her job again, and Joon-oh grapples with her, trying to shut the door in her face. It goes on forever, and just gets funnier the longer it lasts.
Finally Ki-joon pulls Bong-hee away, and she sits in the sand as Joon-oh’s assistant drives away. Except that he can’t steer the van well, and keeps pulling back up next to her, over and over, so that Joon-oh gets a good look at her face as she starts to cry.
They finally pull away, but before he gets far, Ki-joon calls to argue for Bong-hee’s job. He tells Joon-oh that it’s her first day on her first job, and Joon-oh orders his assistant to go back. He goes to find Bong-hee still sitting in the sand, and holds out a hand.
She looks up at him with those big eyes, and he starts to look uncomfortable. He looks up at Ki-joon standing behind her and demands the keys to his car, leaving Bong-hee to get up on her own. Oh, you jerk.
Bong-hee starts to follow Joon-oh again, but Ki-joon stops her. He says that Joon-oh isn’t firing her, and she falls all over herself thanking him.
Later, the airport is full of paparazzi waiting for the Legend Entertainment stars to arrive for their flight to the concert. Top actress HA JI-AH (Lee Sun-bin) arrives first, though she declines an interview and quickly leaves for the plane. Joon-oh is next, and he mugs for the cameras…
…until Tae-ho arrives a few seconds later and all eyes go to him. Awww. Tae-ho stops for a short interview, and it’s adorably pathetic how Joon-oh wanders around behind him just to get in the shot. Actress YOON SO-HEE (Ryu Won) arrives next, and a close-up shows us that she’s wearing the same infinity necklace that Bong-hee was wearing when she was rescued.
To the side, CEO Hwang and his assistant TAE HO-HANG (Tae Hang-ho) stand by, prepared to travel to the concert with the performers. Next to CEO Hwang is Jang Do-pal, acting CEO of Legend in the present (future?), and he warns Jang not to try any embezzlement tricks this time.
Once on the plane, Ki-joon tells Bong-hee to get Joon-oh something comfortable to change into. She’s impressed by the luxurious airplane, and gets distracted wandering around the main cabin. So-hee pushes past her and mutters in English, “You’re so screwed,” when Bong-hee says she’s Joon-oh’s stylist.
So-hee asks if Bong-hee knows what kind of person Joon-oh is, and warns her not to lose his trust, as if she knows from experience. Joon-oh enters and casually greets So-hee, complimenting her on her recent movie, and she retorts that she’s working hard so as not to turn out like him. Well, ouch.
A flashback shows us that So-hee was a rookie when Joon-oh was still a top star, and he’d been kind to her. She’d once asked if she would become as successful as him, and he’d told her that she’d be even more successful. Now he says that she definitely won’t turn out like him, looking more sincere than he ever has so far.
Bong-hee follows Joon-oh to the restroom and gives him his pants, and she cringes when he strips down right in front of her. She hides around the corner and listens as he whines that she gave him a turtleneck to wear. Bong-hee steels herself for a difficult road with Joon-oh, only to get distracted by a fancy bar in the next room. She moves to get a closer look, but instead gets an eyeful of Tae-ho and Ji-ah making out on the couch.
Ji-ah spots her and jumps up to yank her into the room, accusing Bong-hee of filming them. She grabs Bong-hee’s phone to check, but Joon-oh bursts in and shoves Tae-ho and Ji-ah away. But he’s not defending Bong-hee, he just wants to complain about this turtleneck, hee.
So-hee pronounces Bong-hee’s phone clear of incriminating photos, and cheerfully tells Joon-oh that he’s aged. She and Tae-ho leave, and he turns back to Bong-hee to ask about a change of clothes. Ha, her face.
In the main cabin, CEO Hwang and his assistant Ho-hang go over the itinerary, and greet three members of a girl group when they enter the room. The queen bee orders coffee and tells Ho-hang not to get the others anything.
A few of the stars meet in the bar, where CEO Hwang pours them drinks. Joon-oh joins them and is greeted by LEE YEOL (EXO’s Chanyeol), the third member and maknae of Dreamers. Yeol looks genuinely glad to see him, and Joon-oh moves between him and Ki-joon at the bar.
CEO Hwang serves Yeol a drink, a clear slight as Joon-oh is older, and ignores Joon-oh’s request for a glass. He asks Yeol about his newest album, and Yeol mentions that Joon-oh is also releasing an album soon. CEO Hwang ignores Joon-oh again, and asks Yeol to play his new song.
After an awkward pause, Yeol agrees to play the song. He pulls out his phone and plays a file (while staring almost defiantly at CEO Hwang), and the room goes silent when they hear it.
It sends Joon-oh into another flashback, when Dreamers were still together and they’d previewed a song that sounded very like Yeol’s demo. They had praised the songwriter, a man named Jae-hyun, but he’d told them that he couldn’t write for them anymore.
CEO Hwang comments that the songs sound similar, and Yeol says that he’s thinking of making it the main song on his album. Joon-oh objects, but Yeol says it’s the least they can do “to remember him.”
Upset, Joon-oh excuses himself, but the plane lurches and he bumps into a server. The plane continues to shake as Bong-hee tries to find Joon-oh something else to wear. Joon-oh throws his jacket at her and scoffs at her nerves over the turbulence. A few minutes later, Bong-hee accidentally witnesses Ki-joon slipping Ji-ah a bottle of pills, and he tells her not to take too many at once.
Yeol explains to Joon-oh that he wasn’t trying to hurt him. Joon-oh asks why he wrote a song just like “that one,” but Tae-ho interrupts them. He smirks and tells Yeol to tell Joon-oh the truth: that he wrote it to make him feel guilty for the rest of his life.
The pilot is growing concerned about the weather, and decides to fly higher to hopefully get above the approaching storm. But the turbulence increases, and Ho-hang starts to panic a little when he sees lightning.
In the bar, Yeol tries to stop Tae-ho, but he shoves Yeol away and asks Joon-oh angrily why they disbanded, and whose fault it was. Yeol tries again to placate Tae-ho, but Joon-oh asks Tae-ho what he really wants to say.
Tae-ho says that he heard Joon-oh is going to this concert to extend his contract, calling him a leech on the agency. Yeol tells him to stop, but Tae-ho finally says what he’s really thinking about Joon-oh: “This bastard killed someone.”
He means the songwriter, Jae-hyun, and Joon-oh remembers a conversation he’d had with Jae-hyun, who’d told him that the stress of writing songs for Dreamers was killing him. Joon-oh had screamed at him to just die, then.
The storm worsens, and Ho-hang is completely freaking out now. He begs CEO Hwang to put on his seat belt, but CEO Hwang tells him not to be ridiculous, that the plane isn’t going to crash (also, he had all the seat belts removed).
The hail damages the plane’s left engine, and it starts to smoke. Ji-ah finds the former Dreamers in the bar and tells them to sit down. A hard lurch has them all grabbing for something to hang onto, and they begin to realize that something is terribly wrong.
Yeol asks about seat belts, but there are none in the bar. Ji-ah starts to scream, and Tae-ho tells her that the plane isn’t going to crash. Joon-oh calmly tells everyone to sit down and hang on tight, but he loses his temper when Ji-ah screams even louder, and he chucks a pillow at her.
The plane’s damaged engine is on fire now, and the aircraft shifts so hard that everyone in the main cabin is thrown to the floor. Bong-hee is stuck in the restroom, where she went to wash a jacket for Joon-oh, and the turbulence is so bad that she can’t even stand up.
Ji-ah tries to stand, but she’s thrown to the side and collapses. Yeol rushes to her, while Tae-ho just cringes and stays put. In the main cabin, Ki-joon whispers Ji-ah’s name and runs to find her.
Joon-oh notices that the chandelier above Yeol and Ji-ah is swinging wildly, and looks about to fall. He grabs a pillow and throws himself on top of them, shielding his own back with the pillow, just as the chandelier crashes down.
In the cockpit, the pilots struggle to keep control of the plane, but it’s a swiftly losing battle as the left engine starts to break apart. Meanwhile, Ki-joon makes it to the bar and finds Ji-ah still unconscious. He screams her name and tries to wake her, shielding her with his body while the other passengers are thrown about the room.
Bong-hee is still trapped in the restroom, and she resorts to kicking the door down to get out. She finds So-hee huddled nearby, nearly catatonic with fear, and tells her to stay put while she tries to find out what’s happening.
The plane goes into a straight dive, and all anyone can do is hold on while they plummet towards the ocean. Bong-hee makes it to a window, and her eyes grow wide as she realizes what’s happening.
Each of the passengers has a moment when everything slows, and they all remember one particular night, four years ago. Yeol recalls a poster announcing Dreamers’ new album, while CEO Hwang remembers talking on the phone to Joon-oh, asking about Jae-hyun.
Ji-ah and Ki-joon were in a car together, and Ki-joon had told Ji-ah that he would no longer be her manager, though he declined to say why. She’d asked if it was because of “that,” but he’d just reached over and buckled her seat belt. Tae-ho and So-hee had been there too, and they had all met up at the Legend building.
Joon-oh had said they needed to talk, but before they got inside, a body had fallen from the rooftop and landed on a car next to them. Everyone had stared in shock to see that it was Dreamers’ songwriter, Jae-hyun, and Joon-oh had screamed his name over and over.
The plane hits the water, and instantly breaks apart. Water fills the cabin, tossing everyone in the violent flood.
Missing 9 had a firm grip on my emotions right out of the starting gate, due in no small part to Baek Jin-hee’s portrayal of Bong-hee, the lost girl who seems to be the only survivor of a tragic plane crash. She played the youthful exuberant newbie and the stricken, traumatized victim equally well, drawing me into her story and making me care about her immediately. From there it wasn’t much of a stretch to grow attached to all of our characters, even the ones we’ve only gotten small glimpses of so far. The premiere did a great job giving us just enough information about each castaway to pique our interest, and to let us know that they all have a story to tell, if we only stay to listen.
I really enjoyed pretty much everything about this first episode, from the film work (it’s strange to say, but the way the plane crash was filmed was absolutely lovely), to the music that perfectly enhances each scene, to the backstory that ties all of our castaways together and binds them through a shared loss. I thought the humorous and the serious moments were very balanced, neither distracting from the other, and I can see now how the trailers sometimes had wildly different tones to them. The show is definitely here to tell a dramatic story, but it doesn’t forget that life can be funny even in the midst of catastrophe, and shifts between the two seamlessly.
Going in, I wasn’t sure about some of the casting for Missing 9, but this first episode really set my fears to rest. Each character was played with careful nuance, and there were so many tiny moments that conveyed so much information just through the actors’ expressions and body language. Even little seemingly throwaway comments, like when So-hee warned Bong-hee not to lose Joon-oh’s trust, felt as if they had deeper meaning. The way Joon-oh looked like he was reaching deep down for some confidence during the media circus at the airport told us so much about him, more than any dialogue did. The scene in the airplane bar is another great example — the way Tae-ho stood tall and his expression seemed to challenge Joon-oh, while Joon-oh stood hunched over and couldn’t hold the eye contact. There was also a moment when Yeol glanced over at Tae-ho, just a fraction of a second where Yeol looked a bit scared, that really telegraphed a lot about Tae-ho’s character. It’s a testament to great directing, to be able to illustrate so much information from unspoken moments.
But the characters, oh my goodness, I’m in love with them all. After one episode it’s obvious they’re well-written with full lives and backstories, and they each have such an interesting uniqueness to them. Particularly Joon-oh, played to perfection (as usual) by Jung Kyung-ho — I just adore his assy, entitled “But I’m a star!” attitude. It’s obvious that it comes from a place of insecurity, having lost his good name and being the only one of Dreamers who hasn’t managed to reinvent his career. But he also showed flashes of the better man inside, like when he was nice to So-hee even though she was rude to him, and the way he selflessly shielded Yeol and Ji-ah from the falling chandelier. I think his prima donna attitude is all an act to save his pride, and that there’s a very good, selfless man underneath all that bluster.
I find the other two former Dreamers members fascinating as well, both Yeol’s gentle manner and Tae-ho’s explosive temper. They’re an interesting trio who obviously cared about each other once, and there’s a lot of anger and resentment between them to be worked out. It’s obvious that several of the castaways have secrets — I wonder what that bottle of pills that Ki-joon gave to Ji-ah was all about, and why he shoots her loaded looks when he thinks nobody is watching. In fact, the entire show seems full of loaded moments and hints of more interesting discoveries to come, and I think we’re going to get a lot more than just “plane crash survivors rough it on a deserted island.” There’s so much more I could go on and on about, but it all boils down to this: Watch this show.