Gap-dong: Episode 10
We totally take one step forward in the Who Is Gap-dong mystery, but also, maybe one step back? I don’t know. It’s way too early in the show to be arriving at conclusions—not with ten episodes left—so I am taking our latest case development as yet another twist and not our destination, which means that with the answering of one question, we usher in a bunch of new ones. I guess that’s why they call it a myestery.
SONG OF THE DAY
Siborongborong – “Wanna Know” [ Download ]
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Backing up slightly, we open with the conversation in Tae-oh’s apartment. He holds up Maria’s unclaimed coffee card, stamped nine times, and says he’s curious to know about what happened in Gap-dong’s ninth murder. “I feel like there’s something interesting about it,” he says. “Something different than what the world knows.” Maria says that to know the secret of the ninth murder, he’d have to be the one to perpetrate it. “I’ll never tell you,” she says.
Tae-oh says he’s glad to get the chance to see her before he dies, which naturally grabs Maria’s attention. He explains his mother’s “gift” to him, and tells her that it’s up to her to decide whether he’ll live or die. He swallows the pill.
Mu-yeom answers the ringing pay phone, all nervous anticipation, only to find that it’s Officer Young-ae on the line (she’d helped him locate the pay phone). He’d put her to the task of tracking Maria, and Young-ae reports that Maria is at Tae-oh’s place. Mu-yeom heads over immediately.
Maria sneers at Tae-oh for miscalculating her decision, then leaves him to die alone. But the moment she steps outside, her hands are trembling as she calls Mu-yeom, asking shakily, “Is it okay… to kill him?” She cries that she wants Tae-oh to die, but the conflict is tearing her up.
Mu-yeom calls it in, bringing both ambulance and police officers to take Tae-oh to the hospital. The nosy reporter tries to get a glimpse of the suspect and pokes her nose around, though for now she’s held off.
Afterward, Mu-yeom tells Maria she did the right thing in calling him. She’s shaken at her own thoughts, but he assures her that it’s a normal human response—it’s the psychopath who would face that moment without feeling any conflict. Maria asks fearfully how they can stop Tae-oh, but for now he doesn’t have a good answer.
The story makes front-page headlines in the newspapers, with a large photo of Tae-oh identifying him as the Gap-dong suspect. Not only is this a big development for the case, it’s also noteworthy given the prominence of the Ryu family. We’d been told previously that his father was the president of a company and could see that Tae-oh came from wealth, but now it seems he’s actually close to chaebol-level. Well, that explains why his mother would have wanted to keep a low profile for all of them.
The media is all over the story, which only adds to the headache for the authorities. First of all, Tae-oh’s legal reps hit back hard with lawsuit alleging libel and emotional distress, and the prosecutor worries that he’s been backed into a corner.
Detective Ki-ri confronts the nosy reporter for leaking the story, since she was so keen on getting a look when Tae-oh was being taken away. However, she insists that she didn’t do it, arguing that this was a calculated ploy orchestrated by Tae-oh’s side. She advises Ki-ri to take a good look at who benefits from this latest turn, which makes Tae-oh’s family a lot craftier than anyone had given them credit for. But also, why is the reporter on the outside smarter than the team of cops who’ve been working this case for months?
The Ryu family’s high-powered lawyer reports to Tae-oh’s mother that they were lucky at how things resolved, because Tae-oh could have lost his life if things went awry. Hm, so Mom hadn’t ordered him to die?
In a flashback, we see how the scene had actually played out when Mom gave Tae-oh the pills. She tells him to take those pills in an angry suicide gesture (angry over being wrongly accused, she means), but in a situation where he’d be saved in the last minute. Thus he gains credibility for going through with the attempt, but gets to keep his life.
That’s why the lawyer says Tae-oh got lucky after calling Maria, since there was no guarantee that she’d call for help. They’d meant for Tae-oh to call someone a little more friendly, but in the end it all worked out in their favor. Mom leaves the rest to Lawyer Kwon to settle, and he assures her that he’ll make sure Tae-oh is declared innocent.
At the prison hospital, the inmates gossip about Tae-oh being a psychopath, all sharing how they totally felt that about him while Tae-oh was here but just didn’t say so for one reason or another. Everybody’s a genius in retrospect, eh?
Tae-oh is set up in his own luxurious private wing of the hospital, where Mu-yeom visits him (while he’s reading Crime and Punishment, by the way). Mu-yeom revisits the lie detector question, asking whether Tae-oh truly wants to stop his behavior, but Tae-oh says that he doesn’t know himself.
Mu-yeom then asks if he started Tae-oh on the wrong path all those years ago by planting the idea of Gap-dong into his head after Tae-oh’s father was killed. He explains that he’d spent some time in his youth fixated on Gap-dong, too, thinking that Gap-dong must be some impressive person to thwart capture, with extraordinary abilities or intelligence. But now he’s realized that Gap-dong is just a son of a bitch who has evaded capture.
Tae-oh answers, “You’re right. At first, it was you. And you were also my hero and my god.” For a while, Tae-oh had entertained the theory that Mu-yeom had been copycatting his father, and had wanted to meet him and find something out. Mu-yeom leans forward, eager to hear this question, only to have Tae-oh tell him that he doesn’t know the answer—only Gap-dong and Maria know.
Mu-yeom’s curiosity spikes as he asks what Gap-dong was like, and Tae-oh replies that he “had an unexpected appearance.” That’s the only clue he offers, though, and calls this visit to an end.
Tae-oh’s lawyer visits with him next to apprise him of latest events, which are looking favorable for Tae-oh—there’s a growing belief that he’s been wrongly accused, and it’ll be harder for the authorities to have him arrested.
Ji-wool makes a delivery for her mother’s chicken restaurant (the product placement on this show is seriously amusing, in that it’s so random and out of place), not realizing that Tae-oh is the destination until she’s in front of him. She tries to excuse herself right away, but he plays on her sympathies and asks her to stay because he hates eating alone, and gets her to sit back down.
She admits to still feeling confused around him, because she keeps thinking he’s not guilty. But at least her head still issues some warnings, because she knows she ought to keep her distance, and she leaves.
Mu-yeom resumes his stakeout of the phone booth, and just like last time he’s just about ready to call it a day when the pay phone starts to ring. Heart pounding, he picks up the receiver, and is greeted with Gap-dong’s whistle. Bingo.
Gap-dong starts by saying that this’ll probably be the last call, and asks if he’s listening. Mu-yeom doesn’t answer, and Gap-dong hangs up the phone. Finally we see the face on the other end, and to nobody’s surprise, it’s Poopy, aka Park Ho-seok. After hanging up the call he resumes his meek demeanor (and speaks in a deliberately higher-pitched voice) as he collects his belongings—he’s being released.
Poopy/Park Ho-seok steps out of the prison a free man, leaving just as Mu-yeom drives up to the prison. But Mu-yeom doesn’t see him, and Park Ho-seok makes his way to the bus stop, where he borrows a phone from another passenger to call Tae-oh. Just to make things absolutely clear, Park Ho-seok says the words “Ha Mu-yeom knows that I’m Gap-dong,” but interestingly, he sounds panicky about being discovered while Tae-oh remains cool-headed. It almost sounds like it’s Tae-oh bossing Gap-dong around, rather than the reverse.
Tae-oh tells Park Ho-seok that his statute of limitations has run out so he’s got nothing to worry about, and sighs that the only thing he’s disappointed about is not getting to learn about the ninth murder’s secret. But he can hear that from Park Ho-seok later, he says, and hangs up.
We see that ninth case from Maria’s perspective, as she flashes back to that day after she’d played rock-scissors-paper and her best friend had died instead of her. She had begged Gap-dong for her life, trying to bargain by offering to keep silent if he let her go. She’d asked, “Wasn’t winning the game supposed to let me live?” Maria shakes that memory from her head.
Mu-yeom arrives at the hospital to check on its call logs, and flips out to hear that Park Ho-seok was just released. Ah, they’d gotten a sudden order from above, suggesting that Tae-oh had his lawyer pulling strings.
Park Ho-seok tracks down Maria while she’s out on a jog and calls out to her from the taxi he’s driving. As she recognizes him from the hospital, she gives us the low-down on his stats: 43 years old, suffering from social phobia and delusions, imprisoned for repeated thievery. He insists on driving her home and ushers her into the car… which Tae-oh notes, having trailed behind Maria in the park. He looks upset—is this not a part of the plan?
Mu-yeom reviews Park Ho-seok’s file, and frankly nobody is all that worried about his release other than him. Park’s cover was so thorough that they all know him to be the prison loser, and are skeptical of Mu-yeom’s claims. But when Mu-yeom realizes that Park’s assigned doctor was Maria, he wonders, “Was this it?”
In the cab ride, Maria notices that the name on the placard isn’t Park Ho-seok’s, though she forces herself to sound casual as she congratulates him on finding a job so quickly. Park Ho-seok merely says he got lucky, then sounds sheepish when he “accidentally” takes the wrong street.
Mu-yeom calls while she’s in the car, and warns her that Park Ho-seok is Gap-dong. He instructs her to get out as naturally as she can, without drawing his suspicions, and she manages to get him to pull over without betraying her knowledge. Park’s face contorts angrily at being thwarted, but he holds on to his meek persona and lets her go.
Maria asks him to explain why he came looking for her, but Park just excuses himself, saying he’ll tell her next time. Maria hurries home to her trailer in a near-panic, peering out of her window as she calms herself. But then Park Ho-seok comes into view in her front yard, and she ducks out of view and tenses as she holds onto her locked doorknob, trying not to shake.
But then anger wells up and she comes to a different decision, throwing open the door and stomping out into the yard to face Park Ho-seok. She flinches when he pulls something out of his pocket, but it’s only her phone, which he holds out to her. He leaves without further fuss.
Mu-yeom speeds right over and finds her in her yard, looking confused. Even she doesn’t seem convinced that he’s right about him being Gap-dong, having never once suspected him while at the hospital. Mu-yeom is certain, though, and reminds her of her words earlier that Gap-dong is sure to have changed.
Now we flash back to Tae-oh’s discovery of Gap-dong in the prison kitchen, this time seen from Park Ho-seok’s perspective. He’d shown the fishing knot to Tae-oh and called it his signature, while an awed Tae-oh had asked how he managed to stop killing before he was caught—he’s the only one who’s been able to do it. The others only stopped because they were caught, but Gap-dong stopped himself.
It was Gentleman Choi who had stepped in before Park could answer, perhaps explaining how he found out about Gap-dong.
Park Ho-seok steps out of his car, and when he returns there’s a surprise visitor in his backseat: Tae-oh. The air is tense, and they don’t seem thrilled to see each other. Ooh, is this story about to take another turn with our buddy killers no longer buddies?
Tae-oh asks why Park Ho-seok sought out Maria, and also reminds him that he was supposed to tell him the secret of the ninth murder. Park hedges nervously, saying that he’d promised to tell him when it was time for the ninth murder, and Tae-oh retorts, “Then should I go ahead through the ninth case?” Park’s eyes widen in alarm—this guy is way too scared to be the real Gap-dong, isn’t he?
Tae-oh narrows his eyes, guessing the same: “You don’t know, do you?” Park Ho-seok clings to the story, saying that he knew about the knot, and Tae-oh asks him to demonstrate his stuff in person. Park gulps, and Tae-oh laughs.
So now Park sweats over his dilemma, looking over a bridge at the water below, and trying to flag down a cop car in a burst of desperation.
There are twelve days left until the anniversary of the sixth murder, but Profiler Han has a brainwave and calls Mu-yeom to alert him. Twenty years ago, if they’re counting by the lunar calendar the sixth murder occurred on the day before Budday’s birthday. In other words, today.
Mu-yeom checks his notes, and sure enough, there it is—May 17 by solar calendar, which was April 7 by lunar.
Meanwhile, the investigation unit is briefed on the key points of the sixth case: a middle-aged victim this time, her hands tied with a scarf, with rolls of wallpaper found nearby and a taxi somehow involved… Believing themselves to have twelve days, they’re not operating at full urgency, but Mu-yeom joins the briefing to declare that it could happen today.
Maria has made mention of seeing a hypnotherapist before, but today’s the first time we see her in a session. She is instructed to think back, and describes being in the field of reeds at the scene of the ninth killing. She’s trying to glean more details from her memory, and the therapist urges her to buck up her courage to look at the ajusshi’s face.
She isn’t able to come up with anything new, and Profiler Han worries afterward that she’ll be plagued with nightmares again, like she used to be. But she needs more clues to help her make sense of her confusion about the new suspect, because she keeps thinking it’s not him. “I’m afraid I’m going crazy,” she worries to him. “I’m so sorry that I can’t do anything, and it drives me crazy.”
Ji-wool’s mother heads out of her chicken shop, and the next-door ajumma notes her pretty new scarf. And who should be on hand to offer his cab services but Park Ho-seok, who has been watching outside her store for just this opening, it seems.
Mom requests a ride to the temple, which gives him the chance to note that tomorrow is Buddha’s birthday. Mom says she’s off to make a wish for her troublesome daughter, and Park Ho-seok hands over some money and asks her to make a wish for him, too. His request? “To return me to my twenty-year-old self.” Why, is all that serial murdering giving you a backache, old man?
Mom tells him to give her his name and address so she can fulfill the wish, but he declines.
At the station, Mu-yeom pores over CCTV footage of the city, watching the movements of the taxi. The cops wonder where he’s heading, and Mu-yeom plots his course on the map… and the trajectory taking him to the temple.
Ji-wool is busy at work at the temple, accepting templegoers’ payments in exchange for their wishes. Or rather, I should say hustling at the temple, because she sure knows how to manipulate anxious moms into coughing up more dough to upgrade for premium wish-making locations. After all, what’s an extra hundred bucks when your child’s second-chance university admission hopes are at stake? (“Ah, you want to upgrade to thirty dollars? But the number three seems rather unlucky, like you’re heading for a third attempt… Ah, you’d like a hundred dollars then?”)
Mu-yeom shows up at the temple to ask about any strange taxis making an appearance. But on a busy day like today, there have been more than a few taxis making the rounds, which offers little help.
Ji-wool pulls him aside to tell him of her encounter with Tae-oh at the hospital, and she’s pretty much decided he can’t be that terrible. She sighs sympathetically about him being rich but lonely, with nobody to visit him, and then says that she thinks Tae-oh called her specifically there because he likes her. PSH. You know, if she were the victim of the day I’d be pretty annoyed, but at this point her delusions are kind of cute. She says that it’s such a worry that his feelings are moving toward her, and asks, “Aren’t you jealous? Angry?” She cuddles up to him, and he grumps, “You want me to hit you?”
Chul-gon finds himself in the hot seat with the special investigators, who turn their icy cynicism on him in the interrogation room. Now a new rumor is circulating that Chul-gon is working to help Tae-oh, which is so absurd that Chul-gon bursts into laughter. But not only is he being grilled, the investigators delve into questions that they weren’t able to turn on him before he was taken off the case, due to his position of authority. Now they ask why Mu-yeom ended up shot instead of Tae-oh, as though that was his plan all along.
Ji-wool mentions to Mu-yeom that her mother is on her way to meet her, and should be arriving any minute. But Mom is taking longer than expected, and Ji-wool calls to check on her, leaving a voicemail asking whether she’s drunk or asleep. She’s not worried—yet. But she ought to be.
Park Ho-seok has claimed his next victim, and drags mom’s body along a dirt road in a secluded neighborhood.
Mu-yeom is driving along when he has a sudden flash of insight and thinks back to the taxi he’d seen on the CCTV cameras earlier. He pulls over next to the empty parked cab, and sees the cell phone in the passenger’s seat as it lights up with a new message. Mu-yeom reads the text (from “daughter Matilda”—Matilda being Ji-wool’s pen name) and it’s a worried message asking why Mom isn’t responding. Nearby he finds a discarded purse.
Chul-gon is presented with bank records, with a particular (very large) deposit from a Mr. Kwon noted. That’s Tae-oh’s lawyer, and Chul-gon both recognizes what has happened and realizes that he’s screwed by it. He tells his interrogators that an investigation is understandable given the deposit, “But after Gap-dong is caught. Got it? I’ll see you then.”
But he’s surprised by the declaration that Gap-dong has already been found. Chul-gon beelines for the detectives’ unit and asks about the arrest, and is handed Park Ho-seok’s file.
They mean Gap-dong has been identified, but he hasn’t yet been apprehended. Currently Park Ho-seok is still at large, and hovers over Ji-wool’s mother as he prepares to do the deed. Notably, his hands are shaking. Are you doing this just to prove yourself? Park begins to strangle Mom with her scarf, but that wakes her up and she fights back, biting into him and running away.
Mu-yeom races along the road trying to locate Mom, and finds the track marks indicating where she was dragged. He follows the trail, while Mom struggles to evade her pursuer.
Back in the city, Tae-oh puts in an appearance at a nightclub, scanning the crowd of partiers until he sees what he’s after: Maria, sitting alone at the bar. Today she’s sporting a cross between her normal appearance and her Vixen Maria getup, dressed much bolder than usual but lacking the wig and extravagant makeup.
His smile drops when she comments on his “suicide performance” and says that she ought to have made sure he died. “It can’t be that that pathetic Gap-dong is your hero,” she says with scorn. “You have to go farther—you should complete what he failed.” Her tone borders on mocking as she asks if he wants to relocate to that reed field, and Tae-oh, suddenly angry, grabs her arm and drags her aside to a dark corner of the club.
He shoves her down to the couch, then hovers above her, his fingers brushing the hair out of her face. “I don’t know either when I’ll strangle your neck,” he says. “So don’t provoke me. I’d like for you not to be the woman who dies tonight.”
Out in the field of reeds, Park Ho-seok has caught up to Ji-wool’s mother and regained control of the situation, dragging her along as she cries for mercy. He glares at her as he grasps a weapon in his hand—a hammer.
He raises it with a trembling arm, just as Mu-yeom races toward him through the field. Mu-yeom launches himself at Park…
Hm, so Poopy is our guy—or is he? The show definitely likes to mess with misdirects and red herrings, plus he’s way to full of fear to be the real Gap-dong, but there are enough hints built in to keep us guessing for now. Such as him wanting to return to his youth, and the suggestion that Gap-dong has changed. I don’t suppose a ruthless killer would have changed into a scared loser over the years, but you know, I suppose stranger things have happened. Until the show clears this up for us, we can’t quite conclude whether Park Ho-seok is our guy or merely another copycat.
My gut is going with copycat, though, considering how fearful he seemed of Tae-oh thinking he was lying. And if he were the true Gap-dong, what the hell does he have to fear? So the question in my mind is why he decided to take on this guise, and what he could possibly gain from it.
Oh, and who the real Gap-dong is, if he’s just another wannabe. It’s entirely feasible that he learned the fishing knot from the real criminal, but we’ve already sort of exhausted the prison family for suspects, haven’t we? I wonder where the show will go from here, because at this point any new character is going to seem glaringly obvious, so how will they continue to keep us guessing? Not that the show has done a stellar job of that—I think we all sorta saw Poopy coming a mile away, whether it was from Day 1 or more recently. In any case it wasn’t a stunner, and I’m still holding out hope that the show will have a few surprises up its sleeve, otherwise the path to the finale could end up dull indeed.
But on the upside, even if the mystery of Gap-dong’s identity hasn’t been the most scintillating enigma to hit dramaland, well, ever, at least I can enjoy the characterizations. I don’t really care about Poopy as a person or his backstory, but I find it interesting to watch his bravado clash with his scaredy-pants flashes. The show hasn’t made me too curious about the facts of the case (we’ll get those details as they become necessary, but there’s no sense of ticking clock or urgency about the case itself), but I do find myself wondering at motivations of our characters, and trying to parse their psychological underpinnings.
For instance, is Tae-oh feeling an actual emotion about Maria—say, concern or anger or care—or is it just the detached possessiveness of somebody who has marked his territory and doesn’t want anybody else claiming his property? Is he the only one who gets to toy with her? Or is he motivated by anything deeper?
I find it interesting that he took the pill for real despite the possibility of Maria not calling for help. Granted, she did end up calling somebody, even if she didn’t direct the inquiry to emergency services directly, but he miscalculated with her and I do think that was a risk he was taking. There was no certainty that she’d do as he wanted, and things could have ended very badly for him. So did he feel a need to prove something to her, in addition to fooling the world? What really drives him?
Not to give short shrift to our heroes, but I do find the villain’s psychology much more compelling in this drama, which is too bad. The thing is, I do love Yoon Sang-hyun in this role and I’m thrilled that he finally aligned with a role that allows him to show as much of his range as he is capable of handling (as opposed to some previous roles where I felt he was wasted). On an acting level, I’m enjoying pretty much everybody’s performances across the board, which includes Kim Min-jung, Kim Ji-won, Sung Dong-il, Kang Nam-gil, and so on. It’s just that on a character level Mu-yeom and Maria are turning out rather straightforward, and so Tae-oh ends up being the only one I puzzle over, and whose inner workings I’m actually curious to know. I suppose there are worse problems to have (you know, like finding nobody compelling), but you know, I like to be greedy.