Warning: this drama is not for the faint of heart. It is graphic, twisted, sleek, dark, sultry, and it is amazing. I have never seen such fine acting from Joo Sang Wook, who is as twisted as his suspects. The first episode is over 2 hours long, working like a standalone movie, and is supposedly based on a real life case. I’m splitting episode 1 into two parts. because it’s way too long.
Ready to take the plunge into Episode 1: The Tape Murder Case?
We begin with a young woman taking a shower, listening to some classical music. Glimpses of newspaper clipping and photo cutting, and a woman begins primping herself before going to a bar to work as a hostess. We see some scrapbooking with those cut photos, and then that same woman stumbles out of the bar, drunk.
The newspaper/photo clipping person finishes up, grabs a glass jar of cranes and a bag, and leaves.
Chapter 1: Baek Dok Sa (White Venomous Snake)
BAEK DO SHIK (Kim Sang Ho) is a veteran detective whose instincts and intuition always prove right over his partner’s more tedious method of finding evidence. His nickname is “baek dok sa,” or “venomous snake” because of his sharp talents, and his ability to pinpoint the evidence and solve cases with near perfect accuracy.
He heads to a cliffside in Gangwon province for a recent suicide case. It’s only fitting that there’s a large sign at the edge of the cliff saying “No jumping for suicides.” Apparently there have been a lot of suicides and attempted suicides ever since a casino opened up nearby. When Do Shik and his partner Yoon head down to inspect the body, Do Shik quickly figures out that it’s not a suicide, but a homicide.
Since suicide is a selfish act, the jumper would be cowardly. He would not fall with his glasses on (which they find cracked a little ways away), and his there’s no sign of his wallet, so his identity has been stripped off him. The only thing in his pocket is a casino chip. Do Shik is clearly nonchalant about the whole thing, opting to go catch a flasher in front of a high school rather than work on this case, but Yoon reminds him that they’re supposed to work on this case. Orders from the top.
When Yoon falls asleep checking the CCTV tapes from the casino, Do Shik throws an empty nut shell at Yoon and tells him to find the person already. The corpse is a month old, so they should have gone back in the tapes far enough. Yoon scoffs – how does Do Shik know it’s been a month? But he flips on the tape and finds a man walking to the elevators matching the description of the corpse. And yes – that shot was recorded a month ago! Off they go to the casino!
They walk around the casino floor and find a beautiful woman sitting by the slots, already propositioning a desperate, disheveled man who appears to have lost all his money. She’s Soon Ok the Moneylender – or so it says on her calling card. Do Shik knew this moneylender as Kim Kong Ji, but it doesn’t matter – he wants to know if she recognizes their dead guy. She does – but he doesn’t fit the usual case of desperate man driven towards suicide because of debts. SEO JI SUK was relatively well-off and always paid his debts on time. There was one instance when he missed payment, and therefore had to call his younger sister to help bail him out. Do Shik requests for Ji Suk’s number, and his younger sister’s contact information.
Next thing we know, Do Shik is having all the police officers scour the crime scene at the foot of the cliff all night, searching for any evidence. (Perhaps he suspects the sister may have had something to do with the murder, trying to rid of her pesky, gambling brother.) Yoon complains about Do Shik’s unreasonableness, but the intense hunt for evidence pays off: they discover a silver tennis bracelet.
Chapter 2: The Monster… Hunting the Monster
In a dark living room, YEO JI HOON (Joo Sang Wook) reviews a tape of a killer he interviewed years ago, where the killer admits to trying to kill and rape two women at the same time. He gets a call from the police station, and immediately heads over. Despite being a former-detective-turned-professor, there is one unfinished case on his record…
The medical examiner notes a new victim’s body – SEO EUN BI, 24 years old. Her hands, feet, and face are bound by tape, and all of her fingers are cut off. We are told she was a bar hostess – presumably the one we saw in the beginning – who was killed sometime between midnight and 1:30AM on September 6. There was one male eyewitness.
Chief Jung of the precinct presents all of these superficial evidence to his superiors, and points out its similarity to the Daejeon Tape Murders seven years prior. Enter Ji Hoon, who has gone to examine the body first before speaking to the other officers. Ji Hoon was an expert on that unsolved case seven years ago, and notes only one discrepancy between the cases – this time, the victim’s mouth was taped shut, and there was no blood on her face. It indicates that the killer has become more sadistic in wanting his subdued victim to watch her fingers get cut off while alive.
Once alone in the meeting room, Ji Hoon pauses and looks at the projector screen. “Is it really you?” he smiles. “I nearly forgot about you.”
Chapter 3: Lie Detector
NAM YE RI (Jo Ahn) isn’t your typical police officer. Her sweet, “easy pushover” demeanor makes her a terrible traffic cop, but she is a talented criminal profiler working in the victims counseling department. She has the innate ability to tell when people are lying or not. A superior comes to her boss, requesting that she be put on a missing person’s case. The person asking is a relative, GUN SANG WON, and he’s desperate to find his girlfriend KIM EUN YOUNG, even though she hasn’t been gone for more than a day yet.
Her gentle personality helps when she meets Sang Won for the first time in Eun Young’s apartment, and she even crushes on him as well. She inspects the apartment, noting the neatness of the room and the lack of photos of the boyfriend. She asks him what their relationship is, and he sheepishly admits they were to be married.
Lies – and Ye Ri knows it. She prods further, and he admits that they hit a rough patch 3 months prior, and she wanted to break up a month ago. He’s not over her, even though she doesn’t put any indication of him having been in her life.
Chapter 4: Public Telephone
The call records for Seo Ji Suk’s phone come out, and show that he was alive on August 5 at 11pm, walking out of the casino. Do Shik pinpoints an 033 number that Ji Suk didn’t answer, but Yoon has no explanation. Frustrated, Do Shik goes off on his own and calls that number. It leads to a public telephone booth that has no CCTV cameras in sight. Do Shik puzzles over what could have happened, and how the sister fits in on all this.
Meanwhile, Ji Hoon and his new sidekick PARK MIN HO (Choi Woo Shik) listen to a 911 recording of a guy reporting a murder in Eun Bi’s house. Ji Hoon picks up on a discrepancy – the witness gave the wrong street number for the apartment. He heads out for the apartment, telling Min Ho to go into the apartment himself while he goes and wanders the area’s alleyways and dark corners.
Ji Hoon finds a building across from Eun Bi’s apartment and climbs up a few floors until he can see Min Ho in Eun Bi’s apartment clearly. The witness was a peeping Tom, and further proof of that is the numerous cigarette butts lying on the floor.
Reuniting with Min Ho, the duo check out the neighborhood and find the pay phone the witness must have used. There are several traffic cameras and store CCTV cameras that could have caught the witness. Ji Hoon pulls out his badge to a cashier and insists on seeing her CCTV tapes.
That evening, Ye Ri reviews the case and Sang Won’s testimony. She discovers that Eun Young had transferred out 3 million Won and then 5 million Won out of her bank account, and calls up Sang Won for verification. However, he knows nothing of it. She puzzles over why Eun Young broke up with a seemingly good man, dropped out of her Masters program, and only received calls on her phone rather than called out… puzzling so much that she falls asleep in the office, to her boss’ chagrin the next morning.
Her boss also hands her what he found about a certain phone number – it led to a public pay phone. Ye Ri heads on over to the phone’s location and looks around for cameras. And so… our three teams are now connected by the coincidence of pay phones…
Chapter 5: Rain Shower
Do Shik purchases a bus ticket to Seoul and, while waiting on the benches, sits across from two siblings fighting over a game. Big Bro steals it from Lil Sis, who insists she has 5 more minutes left to her turn. Lil Sis cries, and Do Shik reprimands Big Bro. Big Bro starts crying, and then Momma Hen comes over! She ain’t happy that Do Shik seems to have hurt her little chicks, and so Do Shik escapes by claiming that his bus is leaving. Hee.
Meanwhile, Ji Hoon and Min Ho have located the witness who called in Eun Bi’s death from a pay phone. Min Ho speaks to the man, YUN JI EOM, face to face, and Ji Hoon watches with a multi-monitor set up in another room. To ease the witness’s nerves, they allow him to smoke.
Ji Eom claims that he was at home during the night of the murder, sleeping, but Min Ho quickly points out that he can get a DNA sample off the cigarette he just smoked. He also shows him the bagged cigarette butts from the building across the street; won’t the DNA match? His alibi busted, Ji Eom admits that he couldn’t sleep, and so he took a “walk” around 1 AM. Read: he went to his usual spot to peep at half-naked girls through the windows. When he passed by and saw Eun Bi’s room though, the girl was already dead with tape around her face.
Ji Hoon communicates with Min Ho via earpiece and has him ask Ji Eom about the color of the tape. Ji Eom says it was green. Suddenly the room is filled with Ji Hoon’s voice through the sound system: if Ji Eom saw the color of the tape at such a far distance, he must have had a camera with telephoto lens, right?
Meanwhile, Ye Ri films the surrounding area of her telephone booth with a mini camcorder. Her boss then calls, asking which detective agency a marked phone number belonged to. Looks like Eun Young needed some private investigating. Ye Ri visits the agency, who kindly looks up Eun Young’s account. She checks out some of the detective’s tools, including a telescope, cameras, and a wrench, when the detective says Eun Young had a case from June 3rd to June 17. Reason: to kill a person.
The detective breaks into a laugh – he was kidding. EHHH?! Ye Ri freaks out and rushes forth, wrench raised in her hand. Ahhh – don’t kill the detective! He nervously admits that Eun Young was looking for someone, and backs away from the wrench. Hee.
Ji Hoon and his team investigate Ji Eom’s apartment, where his wife and son watch on nervously. Ji Hoon looks through Ji Eom’s camera and finds photos of the crime scene, time stamped at 1:22. Ji Hoon still thinks that Ji Eom might have been the culprit, and wonders how he left the crime scene. That’s when Min Ho calls Ji Hoon over – he found more photos of Eun Bi in her apartment, half naked and romping around in bed with another man. They find a shot that shows the man’s face clearly.
Our characters then contemplate their respective cases, and Do Shik and Ye Ri’s leads bring them to – of all places – Eun Bi’s address.
Suddenly there comes a rain shower, and while Ye Ri and Do Shik find shelter under two roofs across the street from each other, Ji Hoon drives right by them in his car. And then, it stops raining. Talk about cinematic coincidence – our characters are all colliding!!
Ye Ri and Do Shik discover that the address their looking for is the same as Eun Bi’s crime scene. Pulling out their badges, they investigate the apartment. The sister of Ji Suk (in Do Shik’s case) and the missing person Eun Young was looking for (in Ye Ri’s case) was Seo Eun Bi. And Seo Eun Bi is dead.
Do Shik flips through a photo album, hoping to see the girl wearing the bracelet. Suddenly Ye Ri grabs the album and takes out her own photo to check… And then to make things worse, Min Ho finally identifies the guy Eun Bi was sleeping with – it’s her brother!! Wait – before you think it’s incest – it’s her adopted brother, so they’re not related. It also means, she was sleeping with Seo Ji Suk.
Ye Ri and Do Shik find their way to Ji Hoon’s offices and introduce themselves. Baek Do Shik – currently investigating the suicide of Seo Ji Suk. Nam Ye Ri – currently investigating missing person Kim Eun Young. She holds out the photo of Eun Young, and Ji Hoon snatches it for a better look.
Eun Young looks EXACTLY the same as their victim Seo Eun Bi. Eun Bi… is Eun Young?!
So what just happened? I hope you’re all not confused yet, because honestly, after the first hour of the drama I was starting to get there. But I think that’s what makes this drama so uniquely amazing – it’s twist after twist, and they’re smart twists. At first, I couldn’t see how all our main characters’ lives are supposed to intertwine; in the plot, this foursome make up the Special Affairs Team assigned to solving the unsolvable murder cases. (It’s a way to give us viewers our juicy, intelligent crime solving fix, and for the Seoul police bureau to improve their reputation of leaving less cases unsolved.) But by the end, things started to make sense.
The strands are far and separate, but eventually, because of our characters’ great sleuthing skills they manage to find the right clues that lead them to each other.
I really enjoy watching Joo Sang Wook and Kim Sang Ho in these roles, mainly because they’re both so cool – one is a sharp lone wolf, and the other acts like a lazy bum until he’s ready to strike. In fact, Kim Sang Ho reminds me a little of Mark Harmon’s character Gibbs in NCIS because both are such seasoned investigators who act so nonchalant all the time, but their brain is moving 100 miles a minute. Jo Ahn had a bit part in Secret Investigation Record, but I don’t remember her much there. In this drama though, she shines. She may look too cute or too adorable, to be taken seriously as a detective with a specialty in criminal profiling, but it’s part of her charm. When surrounded by such cold, stiff men, you need someone who can at least act human. And, at least she can offer something to the table with her psychological insight into the suspect’s minds. As for Choi Woo Shik, his major role prior to this was playing the young Jung Gi Joon in Tree with Deep Roots. I have to say, I definitely like him better here than playing the sarcastic, jaded scholar. Heh.