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Notching superbly those climactic cliff-hangers and seamlessly presented the consistent timeline transitions and convergence, this drama would have mocked all the time-traveling stories last year.  Halfway through 2013, story, directing and editing wise, I found my kdrama to beat.

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My Sherlock veins was immensely gratified that I paid less attention to the romantic side which in all fairness was also a satisfying bliss.  It was a balanced fusion of a character and plot-driven tale where its incredulous premise was chronicled unembellished and not leaning to injecting inconceivable trajectories due to its supernatural setting.

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It was the story of a man who obtained 9 incense sticks that functioned as a time-trekking machine which helped him leave clues to his past self in escaping his looming death in the future.  His time warping brought him to events of 20 years ago and divulged pieces of information that his future self utilized to change the course of time in the past to protect the people he loved and his soon to be taken away life.

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The incomprehensible plot paraded a stunning picture closed to perfection where I was set into constant debate with my thoughts, but Nine Times Travel was always emerging victorious when I’m deconstructing the path and curves on where it was heading.

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Park Sun-woo, a broadcast journalist, went to Nepal to validate the news of his brother’s passing and to propose a short-stint marriage to a junior at work, Joo Young-min.  He retrieved his deceased brother’s possessions and was drawn to the incense stick his brother was holding when he died.

Min-young was boggled at the sudden love offer and unbeknownst to her, Sun-woo was actually dying of brain tumor thus he wanted to live the remaining moments of his life with her.

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On his news program, Sun-woo was posed to interview Choi Jin Cheol about his stem cell therapy research breakthrough.  All was going well until the journalist threw unscripted allegations of the unethical procedures and casualties done for the research.

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Min-young learned from Sun-woo’s doctor bestfriend Young-hoon about his diminishing days and was upset knowing that it was his motivation to marry her.  Sun-woo finally uncovered the mystery of the incense sticks as time portal and was sent back to his room of 20 years ago.  He got his old beeper back to the present time.

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Sun-woo appeased Min-young’s angered heart with his sweet convincing and when he went again to Nepal to prove his deductions on the stick mojos which his brother was in search before his death, he acquired not just the 9 magical incense sticks but also Min-young’s heart.

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Sun-woo discussed with Young-hoon the impossible power he just obtained and told him that he will be using it to honor what his brother wanted to have.  So off he went to meet the woman his brother loved so much.  He rescued her from a suicide attempt and gave her daughter Shi Ah his brother’s number for her to call to make her mother feel better.  Jung-woo bound to his filial duty broke up with her but softened when he got the call and decided against his father’s will.

Sun-woo didn’t know that the change he made to happen will affect the present time as Min-young who was with him vanished and became his niece since his brother in the past time line married her mother Yoo-jin.

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Sun-woo and Young-hoon faced the dilemma of the altered memories as the former has to accept that his girlfriend became her niece overnight and that she will also be soon engaged.

Jin-cheol hinted how he owed nothing to his family and that he never killed his father and to uncover the events of his father’s murder, he leapt through time and got the biggest surprise of his life.

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Sun-woo woke up his younger self and ordered him to prevent their father’s imminent death.  The younger Sun-woo was asked to phone aboji to make him come home, he agreed half-way but blurted an intrusion.  Worried aboji left office to go home as younger-Sun-woo was knocked down accidentally by his future self.  Before his 30-minute time lapsed, Sun-woo told younger self that he will be saving another life and he has to meet him the next day if he wants to know who it was.

Back to present time, Sun-woo was almost done unriddling the connections but was afraid of his suspicions.  Jin-cheol’s taunting was not helping too as he told him how his father has been dead even before the fire started.  Sun-woo left his just starting news program and went back again to face the sad truth that it was his brother who killed their father.

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Enraged at finding the truth, Sun-woo punched his brother in the current time and fainted afterwards.  When he gained consciousness, he went back to the scene of his dead father.  He saw the camera feeds he recorded and witness Jung-woo out of protecting their mother accidentally killed their father.  It was also revealed that Jung-woo was Jin-cheol’s son.  Sun-woo made it back to present time, collapsed in exhaustion and since his time-trekking took also his life span while doing it, an emergency surgery was set to save him.

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In the midst of battling for his life, younger Young-hoon stumbled on the medicine pack that made them realize why Older Sun-woo didn’t show up.  Having knowledge that he will soon suffer brain tumor, they have made adjustments on it to save future Sun-woo.

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Sun-woo bought a Whitney Houston LP when he went to Nepal to get the sticks and Min-young.  While he was asleep, Min-young wrote an “iloveyounote” on the record and accidentally discovered by her fiancé who jumped into assuming her infidelity.

Min-young sat to write again the text and the lost memories dawned on her.  She confronted Sun-woo about it but he was left no choice but to deny it.  Overnight Min-young reclaimed all her memories of her togetherness with Sun-woo and went missing trying to reconcile what was happening to her.  She called Sun-woo who was frantically searching for her and told her that she was in the place where they shared their first kiss.  Sun-woo showed up to Min-young’s wondering, and Sun-woo kissed her in the pouring rain.  He reeled off the unearthly fate he unintentionally unfold and gave her an option for them to flee in a far place or stay as family.

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While taking care of sick Min-young, younger Sun-woo sent a message to his future counterpart if he has received what he sent him.  And presto! The remaining sticks were back in Sun-woo’s hands.

Sun-woo sought his brother’s opinion in using one of the two sticks by revealing all that has happened.  They were intending to surrender evidence that would pin Jin-cheol but in the past time line, Jin-cheol has warned younger Jung-woo of the witness who might approach him.  Sun-woo luckily escaped the record store after eavesdropping on Jung-woo and Jin-cheol’s conversation but was chased madly by the villain’s man Chang-min.  He stabbed Sun-woo but he was able to speak again to Jung-woo to convince him to turn himself in.  Sun-woo was cornered and in the dying seconds he jumped to the river and appeared fatally wounded in his dressing room.

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Jung-woo from the past finally saw sense in his conflicted life and went to the police station but unfortunately he spoke with the detective who was also bribed by Jin-cheol.  Jung-woo from the present informed Sun-woo that their plans failed.

Min-young’s fiancé also confirmed of her true relationship with Sun-woo and as Sun-woo wants to use the last stick to hope for making it right one last time, Min-young insisted on him not doing to protect him from the adverse effect of utilizing the unpredictable sticks.

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They decided staying as family.  Jung-woo visited his hermit-ing brother and blaming that he was the source of the problem attempted to kill himself.  In the morning when Jung-woo died, Young-hoon and Sun-woo fought for the stick as the latter wanted to use it one last time.  Young-hoon was in the brink of destroying it but it vanished.

Aware now of the mystifying trick Sun-woo has played Jin-cheol ordered his men to look for clues of what his secret was.  The incense was highlighted from Sun-woo and Young-hoon’s conversation as Jin-cheol remembered it while waiting for the verdict of his crimes to be in his possession when the detective 20 years ago gave it to him.  He feigned losing consciousness and commanded his right hand to get the incense stick in the archive. 

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Jin-cheol lit one of the two sticks but it transformed to ashes, so he lit the second one and landed him to his office.  He called Chang-min not to stalk about the body of the man he stabbed and just kill younger Sun-woo.  Older Sun-woo forced himself to Jin-cheol’s room and abated his time warping but he has already sent out the command for Chang-min to kill.

Young-hoon and Sun-woo delved to their memories but they can’t recall what errand Sun-woo did and in the past timeline, Chang-min found younger Sun-woo and they engaged to a fight.  Younger Sun-woo was able to escape and went back to the store but the psychopath broke the lock, but just as he would swing the hammer to kill younger Sun-woo, future Sun-woo stopped it and knocked the killer down.

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Older Sun-woo asked him to go to the police station with the evidence that will convict Jin-cheol and called younger Jung-woo who was about to get married.  Deciding that he will atone the sin he committed, he walked away from the wedding.  Sun-woo waited for his 30-minute time to end and hoped earnestly that he has made everyone happy in the future.  The clock ticked to the end time but when he opened his eyes, he was still in the past time line.

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In the present timeline, everything changed and people were getting ready for Sun-woo and Min-young’s wedding not realizing that the groom was suspended 20 years ago, to make it worse, Jin-cheol from past timeline saw Sun-woo inside the telephone booth and his character reeking of Darth Vader’s theme geared up to bump the telephone booth fatally wounding Sun-woo.

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In the present time Young-hoon and Jung-woo got the police report about Sun-woo’s accident and death 20 years ago.  In his dying moment, Shi Ah saw Sun-woo when she returned to get her favorite teddy bear before their flight abroad.  Sun-woo summoned his strength and made the little girl promise that if she see someone who look like him in the future, she has to stay away from him.

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Then we jump to Sun-woo working at a crime scene.  He headed to new recruits party where he knocked out Min-young.  Min-young was initially smitten by his pretty face but remembered the promise she had 20 years ago.  Sun-woo learned of her stupid trauma story and promised her that them together will never happen but over the years, Min-young’s adoration grows stronger. 

Sun-woo met up with his brother who was set to go to Nepal and when he arrived in the station, Min-young was waiting for him.  She was also sent to cover an expedition.  He played with her locked the door, kissed her sweetly and muttered that he will kiss her again in 5 years.  Confused at how Sun-woo was playing with her emotion, she went back and ranted that what he’s doing was really what the dying man he met him 20 years ago meant. 

The last piece of saving my life quest dawned on Sun-woo so he set off to Nepal to reach his hand to his brother lying down in the frosty land.

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For a change, I witness this hindered love story not because of vengeance or inability of the couple to sit down and talk about the usual jumping into wrong conclusions.  This time around there’s no trusting blindly, there’s no let’s leave it to fate or love something resolution but a pure, most of the time cute love tale fighting to survive 9 incense sticks.  *giggles

For me it was a satisfying ending that fulfilled the hard work of all those time warpings.  I stuck to my preconceived notion that it will be the couple’s love that will resolve everything so the dying part I thought didn’t make sense and even the lead man’s suspension in the past he doesn’t belong, but the finale explained that it was bound to happen for him to give an unrealized warning that he will be needing for him to survive and to make everything right.

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The connection of the sticks and Sun-woo was not explained to the fullest and we can only conclude that when he used it, its binding power can be luck or curse depending on how his mind works to process the incidents presented to him.

The fluidity of the characters from past and present helping each other out to pin down the villain whose evilness transcended time was depicted efficiently even if the antagonist was a more contrived worker than the joint protagonists.

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 Sun-woo has always been leaving clues for his future self to pick up, so the last clue he left to Shi Ah enabled him to save his brother’s supposed frost accident which span his awareness of changing the past.

True, this was a hard to follow drama as the supernatural kicks bordered to beyond impossible but that’s also what made it strong.  It was not afraid to push its limit without abusing the “this is metaphysical banner”.

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The well linked conflicts and the focus on just one villain helped in drawing a clear flow on the main character’s battle.  Instead of myriad problems coming from the usual meanies appearing most of the time with no basis, the hero-villain showdown here was solid except the part when the baneful old fiend’s does his habit of mouth twitching.

It was an exceptional labyrinth themed story where the enchanted incense sticks functioned like Ariadne showing proudly the coherent flow of events and the liaison of the past and present time.

With its smart characters, nifty writing and dexterous editing I fell in love with this drama big time.  –jediprincess ^_^

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 Nine Times Travel Episodes Recap 1-4

 

 

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