Gap-dong: Episode 6
Ah, here we go. I was okay with the drama once I got over my disappointment that it wasn’t going to be a mystery thriller, but I’m much happier now: This week it’s stepped up its game to become more than a simple murderer-on-the-loose story. That’s still the main premise, but now the plot takes on a distinct cat-and-mouse-game flavor, which brings thrills of a different kind. I’m not on the edge of my seat to solve the crime since we already know whodunnit, but now we’re in a game of one-upsmanship and back-and-forth mindfuckery, and that brings the tension back into play. It’s a solid way to heighten suspense in light of the fact that we already know who the killer is, so good on the drama for figuring it out.
SONG OF THE DAY
Untouchable – “VAIN” [ Download ]
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Mu-yeom shows up at Maria’s trailer and makes the connection: Tae-oh is Gap-dong’s accomplice outside of prison. I find it gratifying that Tae-oh resents his presence, and that he gets sulky when Mu-yeom seats himself at their table.
Mu-yeom calls Tae-oh sunbae (having been in the prison hospital longer) and asks if he heard any gossip about Gap-dong. Who does he think it might be? Tae-oh replies that he’d guess Mu-yeom, but sighs that he can’t expect to guess correctly when not even the cops can. “Although who knows if I were a psychopath like him,” he says. After all, like recognizes like.
Maria has been quietly watching this interplay, but now speaks up to excuse Tae-oh. But Mu-yeom isn’t done with him yet and interjects, proposing a fun test, referring to the questions used when testing for antisocial or psychopathic tendencies. He gives the example: Two sisters go to their grandmother’s funeral, where an attendee happens to be a man matching both sisters’ ideal of a mate. The next day, the older sister kills the younger one. Why?
Maria offers that jealousy is what most people say. Tae-oh smiles, saying, “I think I know the answer. Shall I tell you?” But we don’t hear his answer.
The police take the heat for wrongly arresting one of their own, and the public scorn over their inability to catch Gap-dong is scathing. In response, the case is deemed too large for the city of Iltan to handle alone, and jurisdiction is expanded to the province bureau, which adds officers to their team. Chul-gon is appointed detective in charge.
Maria reviews the psychopathy test that Tae-oh had taken while in the hospital, which rated highly for charm, need for stimulation, and lack of empathy. It’s low on cunning and lying, which suggests to me that Tae-oh’s sharp enough to know how to outsmart the test. Maria speaks with a doctor who previously worked with Tae-oh, who says that his trauma related to his father can’t be treated until he faces it. But Tae-oh studiously avoids the topic.
Mu-yeom hasn’t been reinstated to the force, but goes to the station to get a background check on Tae-oh. That’s when he learns that Tae-oh’s father (the president of a company, which explains the wealth) was murdered twelve years ago by an apparent intruder. At the time Tae-oh had been only 12 (and has a younger brother—wonder if we’ll ever meet him).
He takes this to Profiler Han, who fills him in on the details: It was a particularly notorious case because not only did they never find the culprit, they couldn’t even find a likely suspect. But Mu-yeom’s got a hunch, and notes that Tae-oh was never questioned. What if… he was the killer?
Tae-oh goes in for a session with Maria, ready to divulge a story he’s never told anyone before: “But I think I could tell you, because I trust you.” Looking haunted, he asks her to promise him to “watch over me” through the end. She asks what that means, and he says, “The beginning and ending of my unhappiness.”
With that, he begins recounting a memory, which we see in flashback. Notably, his words differ from what we see onscreen, which begins with a young Tae-oh overhearing his parents arguing heatedly in hushed voices. His father says, “That child is a monster—we can’t handle him.” His mother is in denial, unable to contemplate reporting their child to the authorities, but Dad reminds her that they both saw him throwing his brother as though he were a doll.
It sounds quite different as he explains his childhood to Maria, though: “My father treated me very specially. I found his interest overly burdensome.”
The next flashback shows his father lying in a pool of blood. Mom sobs over his body as Tae-oh approaches, then turns fearful eyes on him: “Tae-oh… did you…?” Tae-oh’s voice remains flat and emotionless as he replies, “I don’t want to die, Mom.”
Adult Tae-oh tells Maria, “The criminal hasn’t been caught yet. That drives me crazy.”
Back at the scene of the crime, someone draws Tae-oh away from the body—it’s Mu-yeom, then a petty officer. Young Tae-oh asks who killed his father, and Mu-yeom whispers a name. Does he mean it as consolation? Whatever Mu-yeom’s reasoning, Young Tae-oh looks invigorated to hear the name Gap-dong.
Maria notes that this incident must have been the beginning of Tae-oh’s hell… which may not be so inaccurate a descriptor if we figure that he became the devil. Tae-oh says that afteward, the world seemed different—he lost interest in things he’d previously liked. His inner monologue tells us, “From then on, I wanted to meet him, my hero, Gap-dong.”
Mu-yeom wonders why Tae-oh seems to be purposely engaging his suspicions—is he toying with him? He hypothesizes that as a child, Tae-oh enjoyed fooling the dumb cop, and when he later found out that the cop had become a violent crimes detective, he decided to keep playing with his toy. It’s like he’s taunting, “Just try and catch me.” But more upsetting is seeing Tae-oh constantly in Maria’s orbit, a fact that alarms Profiler Han as well.
That night, Tae-oh meets a scared lackey in a deserted part of town and orders him to do something. The lackey tries to resist, but Tae-oh threatens the life of his son, trapping him.
At the station, the team is briefed on the original Gap-dong’s fourth murder, which was the incident to draw the most heat out of all nine murders. A flashback takes us to that night, as a young woman leaves her friends. As she’s walking down the road, she senses a presence and hurries along, only to be ambushed by the killer. In the flashback, he’s again played by Mu-yeom.
The next morning, Victim 4 was found dead. Among her possessions were a whistle and a carton of milk, which puzzled the cops: In the third murder they’d determined Gap-dong to have B blood type, but there was blood on the milk carton (not the victim’s) that was AB type. That led to confusion and criticism that this murderer wasn’t the same as the other one.
At the temple, Ji-wool is busily working on the next installment of her webtoon when she hears Mu-yeom and dashes over to his shed in excitement. She sneak-attacks him with a hug, first relieved to see him for the first time in days, then annoyed at the suggestion that he was avoiding her. She snatches up his phone to check if he’d even gotten her messages, sees that there are 118 of them from her that have gone unread, and then narrows her eyes at the ongoing text conversation with Maria.
Ji-wool snaps that Maria made her think she had nothing to worry about, then huffily goes to meet her at the hospital the next day. She informs Maria (with a hilarious uppity air) that she’s the writer of a super famous webtoon and is here for research, asking Maria to show her around the facility. She gets snippy when Maria declines, saying that she’s too young, though she’s mollified when Maria adds that she’s also too pretty. Ji-wool is so transparent and it cracks me up.
Ji-wool notices Maria’s whistle and comments on it, bristling at the thought that Mu-yeom gave it to her. She slaps down sundry items on the desk—book, mirror, wallet—and says that he gave all of these to her. Furthermore, Mu-yeom is already helping her with “The Beast’s Path” so Maria needn’t trouble herself about it, hmph.
That grabs Maria’s attention, and she asks to see it.
At the temple, Mu-yeom finds the monk and asks why he took him in all those years ago. We see that the monk had found Mu-yeom soon after his father’s death, just as he’d realized that Dad wasn’t guilty. The monk merely asks for more food money, which leads the two to bicker over the spending of his paycheck, which is cute.
Maria calls Mu-yeom out, and he jokes that her boyfriend (Tae-oh) might not like them hanging out together. Or maybe it’s way of asking questions, because he notes that she was with Tae-oh during the first and third murders.
Maria asks about his involvement in Ji-wool’s webtoon, which appears to be one step ahead of the murders. But Mu-yeom is confused, not even recognizing the title “The Beast’s Path,” and has to be shown the webtoon, which depicts real-life events that we’ve seen in each of the cases.
So Mu-yeom calls Ji-wool out to ask how she came by the information, such as the last victim being a hairstylist. She pouts that she wrote it way before the murder happened, but he points out that that’s even stranger. He asks which cop tipped her off, and she says that she actually got the idea from another oppa. And just then Tae-oh walks in for work, and she points him out.
Mu-yeom pulls Tae-oh aside and asks point-blank: Is he particularly interested in Gap-dong, or does he know who Gap-dong is? How did he know about the hairstylist?
Tae-oh replies that it was easy enough to deduce from the news. If DNA was left at the scene, it’s reasonable to think that DNA was hair, and if there was hair, perhaps she was a hairdresser. “Are you saying that I’m Gap-dong?” Tae-oh asks.
“Yeah,” Mu-yeom says. “Are you Gap-dong?” Tae-oh laughs like it’s absurd, but thinks to himself, “You’ve recognized me at last.”
Mu-yeom meets with Chul-gon to apprise him of his findings. “Rather than me finding Gap-dong,” he says, “it may be more accurate to say he came looking for me.”
Tae-oh returns home and fiddles with a figurine on his shelf, then reviews a video file. Ah, he’d hidden a camera on his shelf, and his face darkens as he sees a crew of men conducting a search of his place. He calls his lawyer.
That night, Ji-wool pesters Mu-yeom about what he said to Tae-oh earlier. He declines to explain but barks at her not to meet Tae-oh anymore, and that’s enough to make her wonder, “Is he really a psychopath?”
Just then, Tae-oh calls to request a meeting, saying that he’s ready to give him his answer to the sisters-at-a-funeral question. So they meet by the river, where Tae-oh replies that perhaps the girl killed her sister to meet that man again. They met at a funeral, so if a second one were to take place, she could see him again.
Mu-yeom’s wearing a wire, which enables his team to listen in from a nearby team, and they figure the guy must be a real psycho. But why show it on purpose? Mu-yeom has the same question, saying that actually the answer most given by true psychopaths was the simple jealousy one. So why is Tae-oh going out of his way to reveal himself to Mu-yeom?
“You’ll have to figure that out for yourself,” Tae-oh says.
Mu-yeom heads to Maria’s trailer next, which he inspects from corner to corner. He suggests that she sell it, or lend it to him and live with her parents for a while. He gives the excuse that he’s being kicked out of the temple, but Maria guesses his real motivation and asks, “Is Tae-oh Gap-dong?”
He’s surprised that she could think that and still keep company with him, but she answers that she needed certainty. He scolds her for her recklessness, calling her Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs, “all brave and strong and clever and sexy to boot!” Haha. Maria smiles, even though he barks that he didn’t mean it as a compliment.
She points out that he wouldn’t stop chasing her if she ran, but Mu-yeom orders her to stop seeing Tae-oh anyway.
Section Chief Cha wants to arrest Tae-oh right away, making use of the 48 hours they have to find a more permanent way to nail him. Chul-gon argues against it—if they have to let him out on insufficient evidence, it’ll be harder to get him down the line. Then they get a hunch about his next target from looking through Tae-oh’s call records—Maria.
Maria drops by the cafe the next day and presents Tae-oh with the note she’d found in her office—the one telling her to hide. He looks like a hurt little puppy when she asks, “It wasn’t you, right?” Then he takes on a depressed martyr tone as he says that she sees him just like everyone else, when he thought she would take his side.
She tells him she hopes it’s not him, so Tae-oh asks if she’ll stay with him tomorrow. It’s the predicted date of Murder No. 4, so being with him would prove that he’s innocent, wouldn’t it? She agrees.
Maria leaves the cafe lost in thought, flashing back to the night she was forced to play rock-scissors-paper for her life. Now we see that both girls had been so terrified that they were unable to play the game, until Gap-dong had barked at them to do it. Scared, one girl played and the other didn’t. “This time I won’t ever…” she thinks.
Mu-yeom and Chul-gon discuss their plans for nabbing the criminal, and all we can glean is that this is a risky, perhaps controversial, plan. Mu-yeom insists that Maria won’t come to harm because they’ll get the criminal first, but Chul-gon warns him not to give any guarantees—a cop can’t always protect the ones he loves. Ah, insight into his daughter, perhaps.
That night Mu-yeom prods Maria to be honest if she’s scared about the plan and wants to back out. She just says that she won’t run.
He comes up behind her as she readies some coffee, but the sudden proximity makes her jolt, spilling hot water on herself. We know she’s skittish with physical contact, but she relaxes a bit as he tends to her burned hand.
Then he says, “And if you’re not going to run away, then don’t look around elsewhere and just look at me.” She shoots him a questioning, wide-eyed look—does he mean that the way it sounds? He adds, “If you’re not going to run, don’t step out of my view.”
Chul-gon presents the plan to his team, which elicits fierce opposition from Section Chief Cha. He argues that this isn’t the best way to handle things, that it’s too risky, and that Mu-yeom could ruin his future if things go awry. He warns Chul-gon not to assume he knows Gap-dong. Chul-gon pulls rank, though, and thus the plan gets going.
The next day there’s heightened police presence as everyone is on the lookout for a potential fourth case. Tae-oh’s lackey nervously eyes a teacher at the school where he works as janitor; he’s a sweet man who dotes on his son, but as we’ve seen, also under Tae-oh’s thumb.
Speaking of whom, Tae-oh has a couple of cops on his tail as he walks through the city, though he catches on pretty quickly. The cops lose sight of him when a truck blocks their view, and although they bump into the lackey in their hurry to catch up, the lose Tae-oh.
Mu-yeom waits with Maria until Tae-oh calls to meet up, and doesn’t miss that she’s actually pretty nervous about going forward with things. She grips the whistle tightly.
Tae-oh takes her to an amusement park and leads her to the carousel, where he calls her brave for coming out when she doesn’t know whether he’s Gap-dong. She reminds him that he promised to prove that he’s not.
Mu-yeom observes at a distance, but grows anxious when the two disappear from the ride before it ends. He jumps onto the carousel looking for them, and catches a glimpse of their retreating figures. He runs after them, but loses the trail.
Elsewhere, our unfortunate teacher blows on her alarm whistle, terrified and crying as she’s confronted by Tae-oh’s lackey on a subway platform. He advances on her wielding a pair of nunchaku, looking just as scared as she is. But he forces himself to proceed, screwing his eyes shut as he raises his weapon and strikes. Once, twice, repeatedly. Blood spatters everywhere.
The call comes in, and the officers are thrown for a loop. A murder has arisen, and it’s not one they’d anticipated.
Mu-yeom finally catches up to the other two as they’re sitting on a bench with cotton candy, calm as you please. He advances slowly, glaring, furious with Tae-oh but also maybe himself. Tae-oh notices his presence as Mu-yeom thinks angrily, “I’ve been caught by your trick.”
Tae-oh thinks smugly, “I knew you’d take the bait.”
The murderer staggers along by the railroad tracks, covered in the teacher’s blood. Trembling, he steps onto the tracks and awaits his end. Bam.
Tae-oh watches the news that night, which is all about the fourth murder and the citizens’ ire at the police’s incompetence. In flashback, we see that he’d planned this in his call to Gap-dong in prison, telling him that he would become the suspect as Mu-yeom took the bait, and then escape perfectly: “That’s the key point of the fourth murder.”
What’s better, “Crazy Monk will prove my innocence personally… A fish that bites into bait will thrash around, but the more it does, and the angrier it gets while flopping around, the faster it tires. That gives it a better taste. That’s the beauty of fishing.”
True enough, Mu-yeom fights with his rage and bitterness as he watches over the train crash scene. It makes him flash back to his youth, as his father had been locked in a struggle with Chul-gon. At the sound of the approaching train, his father had wrested free of Chul-gon’s grip… and run onto the railroad tracks.
It fills Mu-yeom with renewed determination, and walks over to his partner and grabs Hyung-nyun’s gun. He heads over to Tae-oh’s apartment, calls him out, and loads that gun with a bullet. Out there on the rooftop, he levels the gun at Tae-oh’s head.
He orders Tae-oh to reveal the identity of the prison Gap-dong, giving him the Russian roulette treatment. One bullet, six chambers, one game of truth chicken. Tae-oh smirks at him until Mu-yeom pulls the trigger—one empty chamber down.
Tae-oh smiles, saying, “If you kill me, the Gap-dong inside will never—”
Click. Another empty chamber. Mu-yeom cocks the hammer again. Still, Tae-oh remains silent.
Click. Click. Two left. “Your good luck ends here,” Mu-yeom warns, looking deadly serious. Tae-oh swallows—is he nervous or acting? Mu-yeom bids him farewell, saying, “See ya, Gap-dong.”
“Wait,” Tae-oh says.
Given that we already know who’s committing the murders in the present day, I’m glad that our good guys have clued in to it sooner rather than later. It’s rather early to have everyone aware of Tae-oh’s villainy, but I prefer this to having them running around cluelessly, guessing everywhere but in the right direction. Keeping the police in the dark just made them look more incompetent, and there’s little thrill in a murderer who outsmarts idiots.
So now what we’re dealing with a game of one-upsmanship, where our hero knows the villain is evil, and the villain knows the hero knows, but the trick is in actually bringing him down. Tae-oh’s earlier murders were so easy to carry out that the plot felt rather flat, but now he’s actively muddling the investigation and complicating the issue. That forces everyone to up their games, and as a story that’s just more exciting.
I feel like we’ve seen this version of the evil-child-without-a-conscience in enough dramas before that it didn’t surprise me; Story of a Man had a nicely chilling version, but unlike that drama I don’t expect this one to explore Tae-oh’s psychopathy or motivations. Still, it was an interesting detail to have Mu-yeom be the young officer at the scene, planting the Gap-dong idea in his head. We can’t blame Mu-yeom for too much since he just gave a name—it’s not like he pointed him toward hell with a Murdering for Dummies handbook—but it makes Tae-oh’s involvement in the story more meaningful. When he says that his father’s killer being uncaught drives him crazy, is he just lying to sound sympathetic, or is there truth in that? As in, is he waiting for (wanting, taunting) someone to catch him for it? Does he want to be recognized for his crimes, despite enjoying getting off scot-free?
Or maybe he just knows how to say the right thing to sound innocent. Who knows.
Mu-yeom’s place in the original case also explains the inclusion of Maria, in that she truly is bait. Perhaps he would have killed her for his enjoyment in some other way, but her place in his master plan now is to make Mu-yeom—his Gundam toy, he calls him—squirm even more, like that fish on a hook. Yum?
- Gap-dong: Episode 5
- Gap-dong: Episode 4
- Gap-dong: Episode 3
- Gap-dong: Episode 2
- Gap-dong: Episode 1
- Gap-dong’s special webtoon high on chills and thrills
- Oh Snap! Killer on the loose
- Mystery-thriller drama Gap-dong’s main posters
- Character previews abound with tension for Gap-dong
- First look at detective Yoon Sang-hyun in serial-killer drama Gap-dong
- Yoon Sang-hyun’s suspense thriller Gap-dong moves to weekends