White Christmas: Episode 4
The boys go on a witch-hunt to find their murder suspect, resulting in a game of cat and mouse that just so happens to take place in a creepily large, snow-covered glass prison. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I LOVE THIS SHOW. Love everything about it. Love it from the top of its head down to its dark, twisty, murderous depths. Sigh. Being at the halfway mark has never been sadder.
SONG OF THE DAY
White Christmas OST – Heureun “그렇습니까 (Is That So)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 4 RECAP
We see now why Kang-mo is the only one who didn’t come running at the sound of Eun-sung’s whistle, because he didn’t have his hearing aid on at the time.
Moo-yul is the first one to approach Teach’s dead body, his hesitation evident in the slow sound of snow crunching under his feet. He checks Teach for a sign of life, and there’s none. While walking back to the group he kicks the knife used to kill him and picks it up.
Ji-hoon tells him what we’re all thinking: Put it down. They retreat back into the school, all in a state of shock as they wonder if Teach is really dead, with Ji-hoon there to coolly deduce that Teach must have been dead before dawn on account of the snowfall. Ji-hoon: “Sometime between midnight and sunrise this morning, someone killed the teacher and cut us off from the rest of the world.”
Young-jae is quick to jump to the assumption that Kang-mo is the murderer, and everyone goes still when they spot Kang-mo in the cafeteria, wielding a knife to cut vegetables. He does seem to be using the knife as a warning as he asks everyone where they went.
And in the mountains, someone in hiking gear begins heading toward Mi-reu, half-buried in snow from the avalanche.
Kang-mo starts heading back to his room with his plate and butcher knife, and it’s only when Moo-yul brings attention to it that he seems to leave the knife reluctantly. Kang-mo, you have seriously got to work on being less creepy.
Young-jae is sure that Kang-mo is the murderer, since their suspect list consisted of him and Teach – so if one is dead, then it must be the other. Tellingly, he looks to Moo-yul for guidance, and asks him what he plans to do about it. Young-jae: “He killed the teacher. He could kill us all. We have to get him first.”
Moo-yul seems stunned when Ji-hoon brings a tray of food to the table, wondering how he can eat when they just saw a corpse. Ji-hoon looks at it logically – it’s going to be a long night, and they’ll need the energy. Well, he has a point there.
Meanwhile, the mysterious hiker checks Mi-reu’s flashlight (the label shows that it’s Susin High’s property), and loads his unconscious body onto a sled, which the hiker then laboriously drags up the snow-covered slope.
Doctor Kim’s fever is only getting worse, and Eun-sung can’t get him to swallow any fever reducers. Moo-yul puts a scalpel in her hands for protection, since pretty much everyone is operating under the belief that Kang-mo is the murderer.
Looking down at it, she wonders if she could stab Kang-mo if she has to. Eun-sung: “Would you be able to do it?” Moo-yul: “I will if I have to.”
The rest of the boys get makeshift blunt objects, courtesy of Young-jae. Ji-hoon doesn’t take one and notes that four armed boys should be enough for Kang-mo, and stays behind with Eun-sung. There’s something about the way Moo-yul tells Eun-sung that he’ll be back, like this is his golden opportunity to be the hero, the knight in shining armor. (Which we know he wants to be.)
Young-jae leads the boys to the dorms, pipe at the ready. Moo-yul reminds him that they’re supposed to catch Kang-mo, not kill him, as they break into the room and find him sitting in the dark with his back turned toward them.
Everyone’s nervous when Kang-mo doesn’t respond, and Moo-yul gives him till the count of three to turn around. One… two… three! The lights flicker off and Young-jae loses it, and begins to furiously beat Kang-mo with a metal bar…
Only, it’s just Kang-mo’s clothes stuffed with feathers. Kang-mo knew they’d be coming after him.
So the hunt continues, while Yoon-soo notes that it’s normally the cowards who are most violent, and that Young-jae is just scared.
In the mountains, Mi-reu finally wakes up in a warmth-cocoon. He’s got a cut on his cheek but seems fine overall, and I love his super awkward “H-hello…” when he spies the hiker who saved him.
Ji-hoon draws a diagram of the school, the location of the gate and clock tower, along with the location of the body. He then makes a timeline of events. On March 4, 2010, the school gate was completed. On March 1, 2010, the clock tower was completed. On December 25, 2009, Kim Jin-soo had his first suicide attempt, and on January 19, 2010, he died.
The boys come back to find Ji-hoon ready to go to the lab to concoct a rescue signal for passing helicopters, since it’s less risky than trying to walk out.
He asks Jae-kyu to join him, which is slightly odd, and they’re watched by Moo-yul & Co., who have transferred Mi-reu’s laptop with the security hack into the clinic. They finally spot Kang-mo on screen, and Young-jae is the first one to go running.
He opens Kang-mo’s door just as Kang-mo was leaving, and Kang-mo shoves him out of the way before he escapes, the other boys hot on his heels.
Seems all is not well with Mi-reu since he has to limp to the hiker’s tent, but he’s much more excited to find a pretty girl beneath all those layers. He asks if she’s a soldier or a spy, and she just laughs. He gives an adorkable half-laugh in return. Oh Mi-reu, I luff you.
In the lab, Ji-hoon explains to a curious Jae-kyu that he’s not constructing a rescue signal, but something he’ll need beforehand – an electric shock device. Jae-kyu: “Where will you use that?” Ji-hoon: “On you. Why did you send the letters?” Uh-ohhh.
Doctor Kim, still down with a fever, ends up vomiting the fever reducers Eun-sung crushed up and tried to feed to him. She moves his head so he won’t asphyxiate.
The boys end up losing Kang-mo, and Young-jae heads into a dark classroom to look for him, calling his name menacingly and dragging the pole he’s carrying in the process. We see Kang-mo hiding beneath a desk holding his sharp weapon (I honestly can’t tell what it is – a screwdriver? An icepick?).
Lucky for him, or for both, Young-jae had the wrong room. Kang-mo keeps hiding.
Jae-kyu’s eyes slowly fill with tears as he looks at Ji-hoon, and finally asks: “How did you know?” Ji-hoon calmly replies that all the evidence points to him, and that the letter changed Kim Jin-soo’s words. Ji-hoon: “‘Walk up the path by the Zelkova tree. Under the clock tower, you will see someone dead.’ I think this is how it was written originally: ‘Walk up the path by the Zelkova tree. Stand in front of the gates. You will see someone dead.'”
Ji-hoon’s power of deduction is awesome, and we even get an animated diagram of the school’s layout as he explains that Kim Jin-soo fell to his death from the east wing, which can’t be seen from the current gate. But the placement of the gate was different when he died, since it was only after Kim Jin-soo died that the clock tower was built along with the current main gate.
So Jae-kyu, who transferred in without knowing how the school used to be, must have thought it was strange that Kim Jin-soo wanted to lead people to a place where they couldn’t even see him, and changed the location to the clock tower.
The cat’s out of the bag, and Jae-kyu sinks down into a chair as he explains that it wasn’t a suicide note, but Kim Jin-soo’s last diary entry. And he did change the location to the clock tower because he could only see the south wing from the main gate.
He thinks he should have just left it alone, but muses ruefully that as a science major, things like that really bother him. Ji-hoon: “You’re a science major?” Jae-kyu: “…We’re in the same class.” Ji-hoon: “Are we?” Awk-ward.
Jae-kyu goes on to say that admission to Susin High was his mother’s number one goal for him, and when he didn’t pass the entrance exams, she would just cry like the world was over. He ended up as the smartest kid in a regular school, “But since coming here, I’ve become a nobody. Everyone around me is like a monster. I’ve wondered whether I was a ghost. Friends, friendship? Does any of that exist here?”
Through a mixture of voiceover and flashback we see Jae-kyu settling into Kim Jin-soo’s old room, having taken his spot, and he explains how he found the diary that way. Kim Jin-soo wrote about how he didn’t fit in and how lonely he was.
Jae-kyu: “But I could empathize with his pain. It was like it was happening to me. None of you even knew whether he was here or not… Whether he was dead or alive. So I wanted to let you all know his pain. My pain. Do you understand?”
I love Ji-hoon’s honest reply: “No.” Jae-kyu doesn’t find it surprising, since Ji-hoon doesn’t even know people in his same class. Ji-hoon asks whether that’s such a bad thing, and Jae-kyu doesn’t know the answer. But he asserts that he didn’t kill the teacher or break the communications mainframe.
Ji-hoon knows that since he knows Jae-kyu’s alibi, and doesn’t seem bothered that he’s the letter sender as he begins to concoct a chemical rescue signal. He doesn’t tell Jae-kyu’s secret because he knows that the mob would just hunt him down.
The boys lose Kang-mo yet again, and the hiding Kang-mo finally realizes that they’ve been tracking his whereabouts using the CCTV system, while Mi-reu’s savior asks him about his school. They’ll have to go there to avoid the coming snowstorms.
Doctor Kim’s fever keeps rising, and Eun-sung calls Young-jae out on being terrified of Kang-mo. He lashes out at her, claiming that Kang-mo should have killed her instead of Teach, because at least she wanted to die.
Moo-yul finally puts a stop to them, but Doctor Kim’s fever has put him into a state of delirium where he’s spouting nonsense. Moo-yul rolls up his sleeves and goes into crisis control mode, and plans to enlist all the boys’ help in getting Doctor Kim into a bathtub of ice.
Ji-hoon and Jae-kyu keep working on the rescue signal, though they’re interrupted when Kang-mo comes in, weapon in hand. Jae-kyu rushes for his bat and Kang-mo kicks it away from his grasp, before unplugging the security camera.
He wants to know why everyone is doing this to him – is it because he took photos of Eun-sung? Most of all, while Kang-mo can believe Young-jae would hunt him down, he’s even more betrayed that Moo-yul has joined him.
Kang-mo hides the second Young-jae comes in to announce Moo-yul’s plans for Doctor Kim, and neither Jae-kyu nor Ji-hoon rat him out. The fact that Teach is dead comes as a surprise to Kang-mo, before he insists that he couldn’t have killed a judo athlete. Ji-hoon suggests a method to protect Kang-mo, whether he’s guilty or innocent.
Young-jae is shocked to realize that Moo-yul plans to put Doctor Kim into a bathtub full of ice, but Moo-yul has some experience from his dad being a doctor. All the boys are unsure until Ji-hoon charges in, throwing down his coat and rolling up his sleeves to go through with it. Then, everyone works together.
They all carry Doctor Kim into the bathtub, and Moo-yul gives himself three minutes to perform CPR while he’s in there. We see Kang-mo sitting in the detention cell, before we cut back to the boys hauling Doctor Kim back to bed. Moo-yul begins toweling him dry, but Doctor Kim still isn’t coming to.
Soon we see that Moo-yul is the only one still with Doctor Kim, though his drying movements have become frenzied and his breathing heavy, it’s clear he’s very afraid of Doctor Kim dying, or him failing. Eun-sung finally stops him and reads Doctor Kim’s temperature – and it’s only gone up.
Young-jae sneers, and tells Moo-yul that all his showing off was useless. Moo-yul insists that he’ll take responsibility but Young-jae calls him out – what’s gone right for them since they started following Moo-yul? You know this hits Moo-yul where it hearts – his hero complex – and Young-jae is basically telling him that he’s failed. Epically.
He brings up Kang-mo and the fact that they haven’t found him as proof, which makes it interesting when Ji-hoon intervenes and says that, actually, he’s already found Kang-mo.
They go down to the detention cell, where Kang-mo feels free to tease Young-jae from the safety of his cell, saying that among all of them, Young-jae is the likeliest murderer. Young-jae tries his best to get inside, even taking a metal pipe to the glass, but it’s bulletproof. Kang-mo just laughs from inside, and Moo-yul doesn’t put a stop to any of it.
Only after the others have gone does Moo-yul ask him if this is Ji-hoon’s idea, but Kang-mo looks him dead in the eyes and says, “Park Moo-yul. I’m really disappointed in you.”
Young-jae accuses Ji-hoon of locking Kang-mo up to protect him, but Ji-hoon simply replies that as long as the person Young-jae thinks is guilty is locked up, then what’s the problem? Young-jae fumes impotently while Moo-yul zombies his way in and stares at his hands like he’s just grown new ones.
Apparently it’s time for everyone to stare introspectively at their own hands, since Young-jae does the same in his own room, until he clenches that hand into a fist. Jae-kyu looks at Kim Jin-soo’s diary and wonders, “Where did it all go wrong?”
Moo-yul goes back down to Kang-mo’s cell, and Kang-mo offers to forgive Moo-yul for hunting him if he shows Eun-sung the pictures he took of her properly, without letting his own emotions get involved.
So Moo-yul gives Eun-sung the album, and what she sees inside makes her break down in tears. Moo-yul is quick to apologize and say he was wrong, but she just keeps crying.
Once she’s collected herself, she tells Moo-yul, “I think I was happy back then. I didn’t know anything. I smiled. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to smile like that again. Thank you. Tell Yang Kang-mo that I said thanks.”
Mi-reu is the only one awake in the tent, and gets visibly uncomfortable lying next to a girl. Eventually he works up the nerve to lean over her and almost goes in for a kiss, but he chickens out at the last second and scurries back to his spot.
Doctor Kim’s fever finally goes down, and Moo-yul and Jae-kyu celebrate, since they’ve pretty much saved his life.
Young-jae wakes up from a nightmare the next morning where he tried to tell his mother, “Mom, it’s not me. Mom…” (How can you not have nightmares when the photo above your bed is of creepy doll heads?) While Moo-yul goes down to the detention cell to return Kang-mo’s photo albums, and to tell him that Eun-sung said thanks.
Moo-yul has taken a second look at the photos and has come to peace with them, because he can tell that Kang-mo genuinely likes Eun-sung. Okay, that’s kind of fine and all, but NOT a justification for Kang-mo taking stalker pictures of Eun-sung. I don’t care that the photos led her to some grand self-realization, the ends don’t justify the means for me on this one. Hundreds of photos without permission? Photos of her when she tried to commit suicide? Not cool. Not cool to try and justify that under the umbrella of good intentions.
Whatever the case, Kang-mo shows his favorite picture of her smiling, which turns out to be a folded half, and the other half reveals that she’s smiling at Moo-yul. Kang-mo: “Why didn’t I ever confess my feelings for her? The Eun-sung that I like best… is the Eun-sung that’s with you.”
Jae-kyu looks through the security camera footage from the day Teach died, and only gets a partial view of two men’s legs. He basically reenacts how he think it happened, with Teach’s attacker getting a judo throw to the floor before wielding a knife and stabbing Teach in the stomach.
He’s interrupted when Doctor Kim comes to, finally conscious and on the mend. He finds Moo-yul in the cafeteria making porridge, and before he takes a plate back to Doctor Kim he tells Moo-yul that he’s sure Teach was stabbed from below, so whoever stabbed him would have blood on their clothes.
I like that everyone’s doing a little sleuthing on their own, considering that Teach’s body is still outside in the snow. Moo-yul finds Eun-sung staring at it, but she’s more curious than anything – why would the killer leave the knife nearby? Eun-sung: “If they take it out, it’s because they want to hide the weapon. Why would he take the knife out and leave it beside the victim?”
Meanwhile, Doctor Kim struggles to put his own shirt on due to the huge bruise on his back. Jae-kyu helps him into it and notices the bruise. (C’mon, Jae-kyu, put it together!) But instead he tells Doctor Kim that they’ve made a rescue signal.
While Ji-hoon finds a lighter, we overhear the news on the radio talking about a serial killing at a girls’ high school, where the murderer killed an officer and drove away, while police have only found a car that fell off the cliff. We know one car that drove off a cliff…
And we get a silent shot of Doctor Kim, just eatin’ his porridge. Then he goes to a medicine cabinet, but we don’t see what he pulls out before we cut back to Jae-kyu. He’s still thinking his way through the murder, but now everything starts to come together – Mi-reu showed them a bruise from Teach’s judo throw identical to the one Doctor Kim now has. Uh oh.
He starts running, while Doctor Kim sluggishly takes his first steps out of the clinic, his arm still in a sling. He’s alarmed when he hears Young-jae tapping his metal pipe nearby, but Young-jae just smiles and says that Doctor Kim is lucky – he could’ve died.
Doctor Kim smiles weakly: “Yes, I guess I’m lucky.”
Meanwhile, Moo-yul approaches Teach’s body, brushes off some snow, and peels back some of the frozen layers of cloth… but we don’t know what he sees that has him and Eun-sung so startled.
Young-jae drops his pipe in the clinic and sees something sticking out from under the bed when he goes to pick it up – and ends up finding a bloody sweater stashed under the mattress. As Doctor Kim laboriously climbs up a labyrinth of stairs, we hear Jae-kyu in voiceover:
Now that time has passed, I’m trying to explain what happened. In a weird twist of fate, everything changed for the worse. Even the person who started it all had no control over it. It’s because two mirrors were stood up face to face. Darkness shines on darkness to create another darkness. A monster appears from the two mirrors facing each other. And another uncontrollable darkness is formed.
Doctor Kim climbs, and climbs, and climbs. The stairs seem infinite, and every step is torture. He finally huffs and puffs his way to the roof where Ji-hoon is just about to light the signal fires, since a helicopter can be heard approaching and now is their golden opportunity.
But Doctor Kim’s voice interrupts him: “Put that down.” He’s holding a gun, which he aims at Ji-hoon. Ji-hoon stands slowly with the fuse and lighter behind his back, and tries to light it without Doctor Kim noticing, but in the end he does, and warns Ji-hoon that he’s too tired. “I’ll tell you one more time. Put that down.”
Ji-hoon drops them, and a strange smirk crosses his face. The voiceover continues as the helicopter flies right over the school:
It was a doppelgänger. I met another version of me, who would die after we had faced one another.
And Mi-reu and his savior make it to the top of the mountain overlooking the school. Mi-reu announces proudly: “To a place where hot baths and coffee await… To paradise!”
If last episode belonged to Ji-hoon and Moo-yul, this episode belonged to Kang-mo and Jae-kyu. If there’s one glaring difference between them, it’s that the tiny thought that I’ve fostered since episode one finally got fleshed out, and that’s the fact that Kang-mo is a bit of a tool.
There’s a baseline level of sympathy I have for him, but I find any efforts to extend it further just don’t work. I get that he’s a victim and that the boys’ witch-hunt of him is unwarranted, which is something that Moo-yul has to come to grips with when Kang-mo expresses disappointment in him. It was sort of an “Et tu, Brute?” that made Moo-yul turn the mirror back on himself, which consequently is something used both thematically and as a recurring motif, since we frequently get shots of characters reflected in multiple mirrors.
Mirrors and reflections are used frequently in dramas, but I feel like the idea of multiple sides really works best in this drama, which is about the multifaceted sides to each of these people – and there isn’t just good or bad, but a lot of in-between. It’s partly why Kang-mo’s disappointment speech hit Moo-yul so hard, because as the leader/beacon of morality in the group, everyone expects better of him. But that flawed aspect of Moo-yul is what I love about him most; he isn’t the born hero, he’s the made hero, and he’s still figuring it all out.
Ji-hoon seems to understand that he’s got a different set of leadership skills than Moo-yul (more importantly, he lacks the burning desire to lead that Moo-yul has), so I like that Ji-hoon tries to help Moo-yul when he can and that those moments are subtle.
When Eun-sung was making Moo-yul feel bad after her suicide attempt, it was Ji-hoon who walked in and called her out to defend Moo-yul. When everyone was waffling about on whether to follow Moo-yul’s advice and put Doctor Kim in the bathtub, it was Ji-hoon who set an example. When Young-jae started blaming Moo-yul for being such a poor leader that they couldn’t find Kang-mo, Ji-hoon piped up that actually, he already found him. It’s interesting because each time I get the sense that Ji-hoon is genuinely trying to help Moo-yul, sensing something good in him, only he doesn’t understand that he frequently steals Moo-yul’s thunder because of it and that’s the quality in him that inspires such jealousy and hatred.
Similarly, Ji-hoon handled the realization that Jae-kyu was the black letter sender in a way that was sympathetic to Jae-kyu, even without understanding Jae-kyu’s motivations. I liked that he didn’t feel threatened into putting on a fake facade when he asked if it was such a bad thing to not recognize someone in your class. The fact that Ji-hoon wasn’t chomping at the bit to rat him out seemed to help Jae-kyu out of his shell a bit, since he took a proactive role in the rest of the episode when he’d normally fade into the background.
I also can’t express how much I love the use of the school’s architecture as almost a character of its own, and how it’s strong enough to set the tone during scenes. All the chase scenes have used the architecture and glass walls to great effect, but it was the endless climb Doctor Kim took that really got me. It felt like I was watching a monster rise.