YAYAYAYAYAYA! You all probably have no idea how excited I was for this drama. And no, it’s not because of So Ji Sub or Lee Yeon Hee (pshaw, who?). Rather, I’m more excited for the writer Kim Eun Hee, as she gave the drama world Sign and Harvest Villa.
We start off with a suicide case – an up-and-coming actress (played by model Lee Som) under the glare of a sex scandal has committed suicide. Shin Hyo Jung’s death shocks netizens all over, and they begin demanding to see this “list of sexual favors” that supposedly exists within the entertainment industry.
We go back 10 days before the incident. KIM WOO HYUN (So Ji Sub) walks down an empty hallway towards a lecture hall, where hundreds of police cadets are restlessly waiting for class to start. As soon as he enters the room, he pinpoints one student based on his cell phone number. That student had just texted to a friend, bitching about being indoors at a “bullshit” class on cyber investigation.
Woo Hyun: “Student – I’ll tell you why you have to listen to this bullshit about cyber investigation. Just now – someone hacked all of your information through your smartphone.” And I have access to it!
Woo Hyun explains that through cyber-hacking, someone can steal their identity and use all the information dangerously. There are no boundaries to this crime. We even watch Woo Hyun and his team taking down an illegal gambling site as he lectures – an illegal site where users make money with Korean Won from all over the world. Servers are located in Japan; call centers in China; financial transactions in Hong Kong. The only way to take down this pan-Asia gambling ring is to bust all of them at the same time without getting their attention. In addition, the police have to be careful that no one is tipped off because if the computers are shut down or destroyed, all the evidence is gone.
A woman in the Hong Kong center prepares to leave for the day, with Woo Hyun and his men surrounding the front door, armed. And what do you know – that woman ends up being YOO KANG MI (Lee Yeon Hee). She opens the door for Woo Hyun and his team, and holds down the nearest criminal. The police quickly grab each criminal in the room and push them far away from the computers before they can turn it off. One man manages to throw two computers out the window before he is finally subdued.
But then they all encounter a bigger problem – all the servers are set to self-destruct. Kang Mi and another officer quickly try to counteract the program, but to no avail. They lose all the servers and all the evidence. The screens turn blank, and then a binary code sequence forms the letter H in the middle of the screen. It’s the notorious hacker Hades. Woo Hyun ain’t pleased.
The next day, the media swarms around the police investigation bureau asking for clarification on whether the cyber team failed in their investigation. Director JUN JAE WOOK (Jang Hyun Sung) storms into the cyber team’s office – how could they have lost all the evidence that was right before them? He throws a mouse angrily across the room. That’s when Woo Hyun comes in to see his team getting yelled at. He calmly reminds Director Jun that as an outsider to the cyber team he’s not allowed to touch the computers or any device because he could be destroying digital evidence. There’s even a little placard on the desks that says “Do Not Touch.” I can see how Woo Hyun’s expressionless but condescending manner can also be quite infuriating.
Jun reminds him to keep his manners, but Woo Hyun didn’t join the police to be respectful. He joined to catch criminals. Touche. Besides, did Jun really think he’d arrive to work empty-handed? He’s already gone through the record of the Bangladesh server that Hades worked through.
Jun reminds the team that they all have to catch Hades because all of their jobs will be on the line – not just Woo Hyun’s. That’s when the head of the Investigation Bureau SHIN GYUNG SOO (Choi Jung Woo) arrives. The head is more easygoing and calm, and he tells Jun to just go and collect evidence from the crime scenes in Hong Kong. Sure Woo Hyun’s team messed up, even with international cooperation, and sure they made the police look bad. But Woo Hyun said he’d catch Hades, didn’t he? Gosh, Chief Shin has so much faith in Woo Hyun.
Woo Hyun does a presentation to his team. He’s found all the IP addresses that Hades worked through when running that self-destruct program. Scientist KANG EUNG JIN (Baek Seung Hyun) shows the team a modem-like reverser that can help the team backtrace the connection to Hades. The team installs the reverser at each of the IP address locations, counting on the hope that Hades will use those same IP addresses when he hacks again.
It ends up being a late night for Woo Hyun and Kang Mi as they wait for a hit on one of the IP addresses. Kang Mi asks what Woo Hyun would do to Hades if he caught him. After all, Hades’ behavior is not usually associated with gambling sites, but he’s more of a hacker for secret intelligence and then sharing them to the world. (A dangerous WikiLeaks?) Woo Hyun: “He committed a crime, so he needs to be punished.” Duh. Kang Mi – what other ideas were you thinking?
Every day life in Seoul is revolved around the phone and internet. People check the news, the weather, and follow their favorite stars’ tweets. It is the same for Shin Hyo Jung, who knows how to promote herself via Twitter by snapping a photo of her make-up free face first thing when she wakes up. Her uber-fans swallow it up (with a cameo from Sign serial killer Kim Sung Oh as a regular guy craaaaaaaazy about her), and soon she’s the talk of the town because of how pretty she is, or what her latest projects are. Her search ranking goes up in Naver, but what really makes it go off the charts is when one person makes a comment that Hyo Jung performed some sexual favors to get where she is now, and that there is a list. Everyone starts bashing her, or demanding to see proof of this list.
Even some of the cyber team members, such as Eung Jin and Lee Tae Kyun (G.O. from MBLAQ), look at pictures of her endlessly, but they justify it by saying they’re investigating Hyo Jung’s defamation case.
Suddenly Kang Mi bursts in, announcing that Woo Hyun’s found Hades. Everyone huddles around Woo Hyun’s laptop in an attempt to make typing computer code look exciting. Woo Hyun narrows down the IP address to one, and he and Kang Mi set off for the location.
Hades, sitting in a dark stairwell with only a laptop, hacks into Hyo Jung’s computer. Now he can see her monitor, and has turned on her webcam so that he can watch her as she types. Hyo Jung is visibly rattled, and she signs in to Twitter to post one last message – a message that shocks her followers, and gets forwarded to everyone else in Korea.
Woo Hyun receives the building number and apartment where Hades is supposedly hacking through. Just as he and Kang Mi are about to enter the building, a sudden crash through the glass awning catches their attention. A girl has just jumped to her death from high above, and a bystander confirms that it’s Hyo Jung. Her last tweet? “I just want to die. I just want to die. Goodbye.” And now we’re back to the beginning of the episode.
Kang Mi and Tae Kyun collect evidence at Hyo Jung’s apartment by taking pictures of everything on her computer and desk as it was found. Unfortunately for them, the blustering, brawny violent crimes chief KWON HYUK JOO (Kwak Do Won) is in charge of the investigation, and he wants the cyber team out. He dislikes Kang Mi for having been a dim-witted police cadet a couple years ago who didn’t even realize she was talking to the suspect and got herself handcuffed. To Kang Mi’s credit, she eventually caught the guy.
Woo Hyun comes in bearing more bad news for Hyuk Joo. He’s gotten permission from the higher-ups that the cyber team take care of all the digital evidence, as it is closely connected to their Hades case. If they find any evidence regarding Hyuk Joo’s investigation, they’ll give it to them. Hyuk Joo blusters his way through, angry that he has to answer to Woo Hyun and his team of hackers. He doesn’t believe in cyber crime and all that nonsense.
Calmly – and irritatingly – Woo Hyun points out that cyber investigation is the new form of profiling. Instead of using psychology when seeing the victim or suspect, they can go into the computer records and find out what kind of person he/she truly is. After all, people are usually more honest behind a computer with that cyber veil of anonymity. Can’t argue with that. Woo Hyun wins this round.
As they leave, Tae Kyun wonders why Hyuk Joo hates Woo Hyun so much. Kang Mi explains that one time, Woo Hyun found evidence that pointed to Hyuk Joo as a suspect. Hehe – that would make a guy hold a long grudge. The only puzzling piece about this case is that Hades usually hacked police or government offices, so why did he go after an actress this time?
Kang Mi heads to the parking lot to drive back her own car, but she finds a sneaky fellow writing down her phone number on the car. She quickly pins him down by twisting his arm, and the fellow cries mercy. He’s PARK KI YOUNG (Daniel Choi) and
boy is he charming he is a reporter. He quickly figures that she must be an investigator and tries to get a comment out of her, but she stays mum. She realizes that the black SUV next to her was parked by an idiot who did it so close she can’t even get into her car. She calls up the number on that car and it connects her to none other than Ki Young. Yes he parked it, but he only did it because he had no space.
Kang Mi orders him to pull it out so that she can get out, but he feigns having a pain shoot up his arm from her arm twisting earlier. So she takes his car keys and expertly re-parks his car so that there’s more room on her car’s driver side. Ki Young: “Wow… Bravo! But… how are you going to get out?” Now, Ki Young’s driver-side car door is too close to the pillar! Heeeeee! Kang Mi crawls to get out through the passenger side to get to her car.
Ki Young tries to get one comment out of her, asking if the rumors are true – that Hyo Jung didn’t write the last Twitter message. Kang Mi doesn’t answer, and heads straight back to the bureau instead. Ki Young watches her leave with a smile, but it quickly fades away into a hard stare.
Ki Young heads back to his shabby office for his little newspaper “True Story.” He only has one assistant/writer CHOI SEUNG YOON (Song Ha Yoon), who is such a rookie that she doesn’t even know how to write an article yet. Ki Young advises her to go try writing a novel, and that in itself may turn into an article, for practice. It’s enough to distract her so that he can go into his locked room and shut her out. Inside he has whiteboards and papers hanging all over his room, like some secret obsessive killer or investigator’s den. Hmmm – Ki Young is quite suspicious…
Back at the cyber team office, the members carefully record everything in Hyo Jung’s laptop before taking it apart and copying the hard drive. Investigator HAN YOUNG SUK (Kwon Hae Hyo) is impatient as he wants to take a look inside Hyo Jung’s computer already and see if her sex list exists. Kang Mi opens up Hyo Jung’s desktop on her computer and finds that there’s nothing out of the ordinary on her computer. The recent searches made were all related to symptoms of stress, which made sense considering the scandal she was going through. Kang Mi then remembers Ki Young’s comment about her Twitter post and takes a deeper look into that.
Conclusion: Hyo Jung didn’t write that last Twitter message. Instead, it was written from a different IP location. Woo Hyun immediately asks if Hyo Jung could have used a different device. Hyo Jung’s phone is eliminated as a possibility, as it was undergoing repairs at that time. No one remembers if there was a tablet or another phone around. Woo Hyun calls up Hyuk Joo, who isn’t keen on believing that Hyo Jung’s last Twitter message was a fake. But Hyuk Joo does have one of his detectives to look into whether another device was found at the scene, and to check the CCTV cameras of that building.
Hyuk Joo’s station is also busy with callers from pranksters and tipsters regarding Hyo Jung’s death. When Hyuk Joo himself picks up a phone call to tell the prankster off, that “prankster” seriously says that Hyo Jung’s death was murder. Hyuk Joo hangs up on the guy, and the “prankster” walks out of a phone booth, wearing a dark cap. We don’t see his face, but we can presume he’s Hades. But he also sounds a lot like Ki Young…
Woo Hyun is also in Hyo Jung’s house, searching for any sign of another device, when he gets a call from Kang Mi. She’s confirmed that the tweet was sent from Hyo Jung’s IP address. However, at the time stamp of when the tweet was sent out (11:13 pm), she was actually writing an email. Therefore she couldn’t have been doing both at the same time. Woo Hyun then catches sight of Hyo Jung’s router – she’s had an unsecured wireless network. Anyone within 50 meters and with access to Hyo Jung’s Twitter account could have done it.
The possibility of murder growing ever stronger, even Hyuk Joo tries to convince his chief that it’s too early to rule Hyo Jung’s death as a suicide. However, the chief is adamant in calling it a suicide for the press conference – and of course it’s not because he’s getting pressure from higher-ups, oh noooo…
What’s better is that Hyuk Joo’s detective, BYUN SANG WOO (Im Ji Kyu), comes in during the press conference with something to show Hyuk Joo. The building Hyo Jung lived in had a lot of important officials and politicians as well, and so to protect their privacy there were no cameras in the hallways and staircases. However, Sang Woo managed to find some cameras from outside that pointed towards the building. In the video, they see a mysterious person leaving Hyo Jeong’s floor…
Woo Hyun drives back to the office, and phones in his members to put Hades on the top suspects list. Stuck in traffic, he can see the police chief at the press conference ruling Hyo Jung’s death as suicide on the jumbotrons. At that moment, the people on the street around him get a text message – “Shin Hyo Jung was murdered. She didn’t commit suicide.”
At that moment, the big jumbotron changes from the press conference to the web cam on Hyo Jung’s computer. People, including Woo Hyun, watch entranced as Hyo Jung gets up from her computer, greets someone, and then is subsequently pushed out of the window by a dark figure. It plays on repeat, and the message and video spread like wildfire.
Woo Hyun dashes off to the building, where the tech team controlling the jumbotron is having a hard time overriding the system. He takes over at the computers and does a search on who hacked in to the system. It’s Hades. Duh. But a brief call to Kang Mi confirms that Hades didn’t use any of the IP’s where they had installed a reverse tracker. So Woo Hyun does some quick calculations. Hades must have used the building’s WiFi service, and because he sent out the text to people 50 meters from the building, it’s likely that he’s in the building.
He asks one of the technicians which rooms in the building are closest to the intersection and have WiFi. They spot a rest area where employees can have snack breaks, and Woo Hyun sees a man in a blue jacket and dark cap walking out with a laptop bag. Bingo.
Ensue chase through the subway station. Woo Hyun very nearly loses Hades in the crowds, and so he decides to use Hades’ trick against him. Using a hacking program, Woo Hyun sends a text to everyone on the platform to point and call out if they see someone matching Hades’ description. People start pointing, and Hades starts running. He darts off and eludes Woo Hyun again.
Chief Shin calls for a conference with Director Jun, Hyuk Joo, and Hyuk Joo’s chief present. He wants an explanation for this media fiasco. Hyuk Joo steps in to say that he never ruled it a suicide, thus leaving his boss out hanging to dry. Rather, he’s found the prime suspect for the case – Hades.
At the same moment, Hades is hiding behind a pillar, waiting for the coast to clear. Except… Woo Hyun appears behind him, gun at his head. He orders Hades to turn around… and it’s Ki Young!! What’s worse is, Ki Young was Woo Hyun’s roommate at the police academy! That is, until Ki Young dropped out. Woo Hyun is stunned – and he remains stunned for the duration of their conversation. Ki Young can only smile wryly.
Woo Hyun comes to his senses and pins Ki Young against the pillar. How could he commit those crimes? Ki Young admits to hacking into Hyo Jung’s computer, but he swears he didn’t kill her. He never saw the killer’s face either, but saw the killer’s watch with a face of a map. As soon as he witnessed the murder, he ran for it, but then realized maybe he should go check and see if he could catch the killer. That’s how Ki Young got caught on the CCTV camera footage that Sang Woo found. However, by the time he got to Hyo Jung’s floor, the killer was gone.
Hyuk Joo’s presentation to the police paints Ki Young as the killer though, and he’s already dispatched a team to Ki Young’s home. But it’s also unlikely that he is the killer because if he were, why would he have posted a video that would incriminate him? Ki Young has a good reason to hack Hyo Jung’s computer too. (Ha – don’t all hackers?) He was contacted by a mysterious person who knew his identity as Hades. If Ki Young found a file called “Phantom” on Hyo Jung’s computer, he would be paid handsomely.
Ki Young took on the task because he was curious as to who this person who knew his identity was. If he found the file, perhaps he could trace it to the person. Also, he knew Hyo Jung had the file hidden somewhere in her computer because that last email she was composing was to a newspaper saying that she had a document that would reveal a dastardly crime.
Then she was killed, and her murderer deleted the email before it was ever sent. It’s highly possible the document she was going to send was the list of sexual favors.
Woo Hyun can’t process all of this immediately, though it fits with everything Kang Mi also told him. He wants Ki Young to come in to the office with him. Fat chance. Ki Young wants to find the killer on his own first, as he has a different sense of justice than Woo Hyun. And with that, he jumps over the tracks, right past a speeding train, and escapes on that train right before Woo Hyun’s eyes.
Back in the office, Kang Mi has an update on the video upload that Ki Young did. One of the team members, Officer Lee Hye Ram, managed to zoom in on a window that contained the killer’s reflection. The glare was very strong, so Hye Ram creates an outline of the reflection to map out the features and find a match. Meanwhile, Hyuk Joo and Sang Woo’s team break into Ki Young’s office in True Story, with Hyuk Joo doing the old-fashioned shoulder smash against the super fancy locked door. It works. Inside they see a den full of notes and pictures of Hyo Jung. Ki Young is Hyo Jung’s stalker.
And when the face match comes in for Woo Hyun’s team, it matches Ki Young’s.
Woo Hyun still can’t wrap his mind around the idea that Ki Young is the killer, remembering what Ki Young told him. He orders Kang Mi to locate the sexual favors list if she can, as he believes there is someone powerful backing up Hyo Jung. He wonders if the whole video is possibly a set up, since he’d much rather believe in Ki Young. So Kang Mi goes digging, but it gives her a headache after staring at the computers for so long. She searches for ‘headache’ and some auto-search terms show ‘headaches during pregnancy’. Kang Mi realizes that all those search terms Hyo Jung had in her computer all had auto-entries related to pregnancy: headaches during pregnancy, stress during pregnancy, vomiting during pregnancy.
Hyo Jung was pregnant.
Kang Mi searches for the nearest pharmacy and asks if the pharmacist remembers seeing Hyo Jung. The pharmacist doesn’t, since she’d remember a celebrity. Kang Mi then shows her a picture of a cap and mask that were found next to Hyo Jung’s computer at the crime scene; that the pharmacist remembers. She also remembers seeing disguised Hyo Jung get into someone’s really fancy car and drive off. Hyo Jung was arguing with the driver though. It’s possible that the man Hyo Jung was with didn’t want her to be pregnant.
Woo Hyun returns to Hyo Jung’s apartment building, replaying Ki Young’s version of the events in his head. He’s puzzled over why Ki Young was caught by the cameras, but not the killer. Even with no cameras in the hallways and staircases, and even if he avoided Ki Young, the killer should have been seen by the CCTV cameras placed at the lobby and outside the building. Unless… the killer never left the building. Unless… the killer was Hyo Jung’s next door neighbor.
He rings the doorbell to the apartment next door, and slowly, a person wearing a watch with a map on the face opens the door.
And Ki Young, dressed in a sharp suit, enters the Investigation Bureau with Woo Hyun’s police ID.
So Ji Sub: *shocked face.*
WHAT IN THE WHAT!? Damn you, Cliffhanger!
Some caveats before I get to the comments: 1) This is my first So Ji Sub drama so all of my judgments come solely on this drama. 2) I don’t like Lee Yeon Hee. Paradise Ranch – ’nuff said. 3) I’m only watching this for the story. That’s it.
OK so let me comment on the drama overall. It’s exactly what I expected out of a crime thriller and suspenseful enough. It doesn’t have Park Shin Yang‘s hysterics, which makes me feel like this drama is so much more toned down, but actually it’s not. It still has its twists and turns, and it’s quite expositional – more so than the OCN dramas I’ve been watching of late (namely Special Affairs Team TEN and Hero). The OCN dramas leave much unsaid. This drama leaves little to be unsaid, BUT knowing this writer, it just means there will be more questions and more twists. She and her husband are known for tightly plotted storylines, where every possibility and evidence is explored. I love that Ki Young’s character is so rife with possibilities because you really don’t know if he’s good or bad, and he always seems to have an ulterior motive.
I also have to say – I love the cameraman and director in that they give this drama a movie-like quality and use the camera and space to help depict the emotions and relationships going on in that scene. At one point, the camera swings upside down to reflect the chaos in Seoul over the video broadcast and Woo Hyun’s night turning upside down literally. Then there’s this great pan between Woo Hyun and Ki Young when they face off at the train station; they were friends, but the distance between them is so great that they can no longer fit in one frame. Plus, the use of focus and soft focus is great – where the foreground is sharp and the background is blurred out.
While hacking and cyber-crime isn’t all too interesting (I don’t feel an adrenaline rush watching people huddle around a computer), it is fun when it comes down to solving the case and putting the clues together. I like some computer manipulation – like when you discover the reflection in the window matches Ki Young’s face – but I don’t like watching people write code. But that’s up to the actors to make it look interesting… and speaking of which…
I’m going to say it now that I think Lee Yeon Hee and So Ji Sub are the most boring parts of this show. Yes I said it! My opinions may change as the show goes along. For Lee Yeon Hee, her character is supposed to be a beauty and smart, but she doesn’t seem all that smart. She’s great at reading the lines out loud with some feeling, rather than really acting. As for So Ji Sub, the dude is expressionless. And stiff. I don’t know if he’s usually like this, but he’s not usually in this type of thriller, so I wonder if this drama is a good way to change public perception of him. I don’t mind him as much as Lee Yeon Hee, but he needs to learn a new expression. He’s kind of alternating between “stoic-straight-face” and “I’m-so-shocked-my-eyebrow-is-arched-up-a-little face.”
At least they have a decent supporting cast. In fact, I feel like Daniel Choi is carrying on the exciting element of the show. He has a wider variety of expressions to boot, and also he’s the one with the complexities in motive and personality. I wonder who the real killer is, and if Uhm Ki Joon will come out as well. I only realized now that if you squint, Daniel Choi and Uhm Ki Joon kinda look alike, which would mean that either of the two could pass of as the killer. Gah! Exciting!
I can see this list of sexual favors ramping up to be the major story arc for the drama, because it can involve so many people in high, public places. I also hope we have more episodic cases that can be started and solved quickly so that we’re not spending all our time on this one. But I really trust the writer of this drama, as long as she has some help from her husband Jang Hang Joon too!
Once again – NO SPOILERS PLEASE! Especially if you’ve seen episode 2 and ahead.