Gap-dong: Episode 7
It’s a bit of a regrouping episode, as both sides solidify their stances and prepare for the upcoming battle—that is to say, the next murder. It’s an interesting choice to have the current case such a perfect copycatting of the original in that you would suppose it gives the good guys a huge advantage over the bad guy, but in doing so it shifts the conflict away from the whodunnit narrative typical of most detective crime shows to a psychological interplay. Just how is our evil mastermind able to thwart the good guys when they already have a blueprint for his actions? I suppose sheer incompetence is one answer, but I’m hoping for a better answer—one that gives us a suspenseful battle of wills between the foes, now that they’ve recognized each other as such.
SONG OF THE DAY
Beautiful Days – “왜 말하지 못할까” (Why can’t I say it?) [ Download ]
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Mu-yeom confronts Tae-oh on the rooftop of his building, having put together that he’s our killer. He bids him farewell, calling him Gap-dong, and Tae-oh blurts, “Hold on.”
On the ground, police cars pull up near the building with sirens blazing. Just then a gunshot sounds.
But it’s Mu-yeom who slumps to the ground, his forehead bloody. What the? Tae-oh looks over in surprise—and Chul-gon stands at a distance, his gun smoking. Fuuuuuuu. And just when I was warming to you. Or at least despising you less.
Tae-oh looks stunned, then actually smiles. Fucker.
Mu-yeom isn’t dead, but he looks like he’s fading. He loses consciousnes as his partner Hyung-nyun rushes to his side, begging him to wake up. He gets taken away in an ambulance, while Chul-gon stays back looking shocked at himself. Sorry if I’m lacking in sympathy for your pain.
In the interrogation room, Tae-oh politely thanks Chul-gon for intervening before something happened to him, though Chul-gon isn’t buying his sweet act. He still considers Tae-oh the killer and calls him that, but the arrival of Tae-oh’s high-powered attorney puts an end to the questioning. The lawyer makes it clear that he’ll be defending Tae-oh like a bulldog and informs him that he’ll be filing suit against Mu-yeom shortly.
Chul-gon flashes back to the rooftop, which answers some of our questions: He arrives in time to see Mu-yeom about to shoot, and raises his own gun to shoot Mu-yeom’s weapon away. But he hesitates at the last moment, his long-harbored rage welling up, and his hand drifts over to Mu-yeom’s head instead. His mind flashes to his daughter, sitting dully in a wheelchair, and that inspires more anger. But when he finally pulls the trigger, the bullet hits Mu-yeom’s gun—and then ricochets off it, hitting his head next.
At the scene of Murder No. 4 in the subway, Section Chief Cha notes that there was no fishing knot this time and wonders if it might not be part of the Gap-dong case. However, there are enough details in common to connect the two, such as the victim being a newlywed and found with a whistle. By now the public outcry is furious, with the media all over the scene.
Doctors worry about the location of the bullet in Mu-yeom’s brain and decide they can’t remove it, which would be too dangerous. Ji-wool breaks down, begging the doctors not to let him die.
Profiler Han checks in with Maria and mentions Mu-yeom’s situation, which sends her to the hospital straightaway. She looks in on Mu-yeom, then assures Ji-wool that he won’t die. But she’s worried about more than that: Is Mu-yeom going to be stupid now, running around recklessly like an animal? Maria asks what she’d do if that happened, and Ji-wool decides, “I’m going to take care of him. Fine, I can just tie him and drag him around so he can’t get into trouble.” Aw.
Although the police know that the actual killer was Mr. Jo, the school janitor who threw himself in front of a train, they’re on the hunt to find his link to Tae-oh. Mr. Jo has a young son, and perhaps it’s that detail that sends Chul-gon into flashback:
Chul-gon tries a gentler tactic with Mu-yeom’s father today, guessing that Dad’s concern for his son is the reason he won’t confess to the murder (and not, you know, his innocence). He tells Dad to confess, promising to look after Mu-yeom after he’s gone to prison and even send him to university. But Dad just says that Mu-yeom told him not to, and that he’d die if anything hurt Mu-yeom.
That night, Chul-gon puts in another call to his daughter Seon-joo, telling her that he shot a man today. Another flashback takes us to the day he came upon Mu-yeom’s father looking down over a wall, blubbering, “I didn’t do it.” And lying down in the grass below was Seon-joo, unconscious. Well, at least now we know where his irrational hatred for the two Ha men came from.
Chul-gon and Profiler Han meet for drinks for the first time in years—their relationship never recovered after the Gap-dong case, over which they’d butted heads. Profiler Han had insisted Ha Il-shik was innocent and Chul-gon, as we know, was convinced otherwise.
Chul-gon brings up Maria and watches for Profiler Han’s reaction, which is decidedly uneasy since he’s keeping Maria’s cover. Profiler Han attempts to be blasé when Chul-gon mentions that Maria makes him think of that witness Jae-hee, just speaking vaguely about Jae-hee and hoping she’s well.
In flashback, we see the day Profiler Han had left his job at the police station, saying that he was off to Australia to get away from Gap-dong for a while. That’s why he no longer works as police profiler, instead lecturing at the university and doing some writing.
So now Chul-gon makes a special request, asking Profiler Han to return to the police to work on his team—he needs somebody who knows Gap-dong well. Profiler Han readily turns him down, saying merely that he’ll consider the offer a sign that their old grudge is settled.
Tae-oh’s lawyer makes life difficult for the authorities, coming out strong against the police. Since Tae-oh was elsewhere when the fourth murder happened, they’ve got their hands tied. Chul-gon says he’ll have to take responsibility in the only way possible: Catch the criminal. But the police chief warns that if the investigation doesn’t go anywhere, he’ll have the case taken away.
The district attorney asks for a compromise of sorts, wanting to give Chul-gon a little more time—say, hold off on taking him off the case until a fifth incident arises. Chul-gon vows to prevent that murder, and to quit the force altogether if he fails.
At the station, the detectives’ conversation about the case gets overheard by the TV reporter, who’s here to glean more details about the case. Detective Ki-ri tries to block her from snooping around and accidentally grabs her chest in the process, which makes him extra uncomfortable when she corners him for info.
The reporter clocks his unease and takes advantage, leaning in closer as she gets flirty. Gah, you’re making her a recurring character? She’s so annoying.
Mu-yeom wakes up in the hospital to see Chul-gon at his bedside. Chul-gon says gruffly that he won’t apologize since Mu-yeom’s the one who broke the rules, but Mu-yeom doesn’t harbor a grudge. In fact, he says that it’s a good thing Chul-gon shot him and not Tae-oh, “Otherwise we would never be able to catch Gap-dong.”
In the following days, Ji-wool stays glued to Mu-yeom’s side as he undergoes tests. Through it all she tends to him and also keeps sketching, capturing details of his recovery in her sketches.
Maria busies herself with a project of her own, molding a three-dimensional sculpture of Gap-dong using the police sketch from twenty years ago, as well as her memory.
Police activity ramps up as the projected fifth murder date approaches, and two cops are assigned to tail Tae-oh everywhere. He doesn’t seem too disturbed by their presence and goes about his doings, which includes dropping by the hospital to pay Mu-yeom a visit, though he finds the bed empty.
Mu-yeom is out in the hallway with Maria, feeling well enough to joke about being sent to her care at the prison facility. After all, with a bullet in his prefrontal lobe, he’s no longer right in the head. He points out the theory that there’s something wrong with psychopaths’ prefrontal lobes that keeps them from feeling emotion, though Maria shoots that down as an unproven hypothesis. Still, Mu-yeom grabs her hand and presses it to his head, saying that his prefrontal lobe is acting funny.
That’s the scene Tae-oh witnesses, and it darkens his expression. He doesn’t understand his own reaction, wondering why this would make him upset.
Maria asks whether Mu-yeom will be returning to the force soon. He sees the approaching inspectors and sighs that he’s not sure: “To return I’ll have to lie to them, and I don’t want to do that.”
The inspectors ask him whether it’s true that he played Russian Roulette with Tae-oh, saying that if he did, he’d better give up his badge. Mu-yeom declares that he doesn’t want to let Gap-dong slip away and that he’s sure Tae-oh is the copycat. Therefore, he can’t (or won’t) admit mistake. I guess that’s enough to get Mu-yeom cleared for duty, inasmuch as they can’t prove he did it. Tae-oh hears this from his lawyer, who warns that the police are reinvestigating his father’s murder case and looking into Tae-oh’s psychological records as well, which isn’t good.
But Tae-oh assures him not to worry, because he’ll handle it. He just asks his lawyer to make the threat clear to the prosecutor: Outing his identity as the suspect will get them slapped with a slander lawsuit. “If my face gets recognized, it’ll become bothersome to move around freely.”
Hm, the lawyer definitely knows a lot about Tae-oh and his doings, but the question is just how much. Is he fully apprised of Tae-oh’s extracurricular activities, or just vaguely aware? He leaves Tae-oh with the request: “Please don’t do anything excessive that would be difficult for me to cover up.” The comment actually gets Tae-oh worked up, as though offended at the comment.
Mu-yeom dreams he’s back on the rooftop, only this time Tae-oh tells him that his father is Gap-dong. Mu-yeom fires his gun repeatedly at Tae-oh, but it’s his head that bleeds from the bullet wounds. He wakes up with a jolt.
Tae-oh drops by the temple to pay him a visit. Mu-yeom asks whether he’s here to out himself as Gap-dong, but Tae-oh has a better idea: “This time, you’ll be Gap-dong. How about you commit the fifth murder yourself?”
Mu-yeom scoffs at his absurd proposal, but Tae-oh is completely serious, saying that he’ll do it—or “someone close to you” will die. The fifth victim was a high schooler, wasn’t she?
Ji-wool reads over the comments on her latest webtoon, which range from “This is so fascinating” to “How do you know what’s going to happen?” to “Are YOU the criminal?” No longer thrilled at the attention, she’s feeling uneasy and scared at the synchronicity, so when her editor calls to ask when she’s sending in the latest part, she says she doesn’t want to do it anymore.
Tae-oh smirks that he’ll expect Mu-yeom’s response by the end of tomorrow. To which Mu-yeom says, “Do you know what I feared most? Pitying you. Wondering how a person could turn into such a monster and feeling sorry for you. But I won’t have to worry anymore. Starting today, I’ve decided: You’re not a person. From this moment forward, you’re the same as a cockroach or a rat.”
The police are briefed on the fifth victim’s defining traits: high school student, on her way home from a spring picnic, tied up with her stockings, handkerchief stuffed into the mouth, partial fingerprint on her glasses.
While reading over the casefiles, Chul-gon learns that Section Chief Cha called off the investigation into the prison hospital and rips into him for it. Is he just trying to ensure Chul-gon fails so he can take his job when Chul-gon is forced out? Section Chief Cha says that they found no leads at the hospital, but Chul-gon won’t accept that. He’ll have to see for himself.
At the hospital, Gentleman Choi approaches a man whose face remains conveniently hidden from view, telling him that he can rest at ease since nobody knows who he is. News spreads rather quickly through the facility that Chul-gon is here to investigate, and Poopy wonders whether the feared Chul-gon is stronger than Gap-dong, or vice versa. For what it’s worth, I’m not sure that Poopy’s idiot shtick isn’t an elaborate cover, but until we’re given clues supporting that, I’m treating him as our resident exposition fairy.
Chul-gon meets with Maria first and comments on her interest in profiling. She admits that while she initially came here with the hope of catching Gap-dong, currently she doesn’t believe he’s here. She did suspect a few inmates, but concluded that none of them was the killer.
Chul-gon requests to see those erstwhile suspects, and meets with them in turn. There are people we’ve met before and some we haven’t, but Gentleman Choi (okay, his name is Choi Tae-shik) is the first one he lingers on. Is it significant that he used to work on installing and maintaining pay phones? Before even being asked, Choi says plainly that he’s not Gap-dong, which is a question he’s heard a lot because of his resemblance to the police sketch.
Chul-gon asks whether he thinks Gap-dong is in this facility. Choi says merely, “How could I know something that even you don’t know?” And then Chul-gon asks him to be his spy, and Choi laughs, since that’s the same thing Mu-yeom said in his brief stint here. Choi turned him down then.
Mu-yeom calls Ji-wool and orders her to remain home all day—no school, no leaving for any reason, and especially no meeting Tae-oh. Ji-wool is happy enough to agree, and gets giddy at the thought that Mu-yeom (or, as she calls him, “Husband”) is worrying about her. Then her mother ruins the effect by snatching the phone and barking at Mu-yeom to stop calling, threatening to personally shorten his lifespan.
The pressure mounts with the fifth murder looming on the horizon. Chul-gon bears the brunt of the heat, and the police chief says pointedly that if they can’t pin this on the suspect despite all this attention, either Tae-oh isn’t the criminal or Chul-gon is incompetent.
He has a point, but then again, Chul-gon also has a point when he tells Mu-yeom later that the reason for the scattershot investigation is that every time a leader was replaced, the new leader would decide on a new direction to the case.
Mu-yeom informs Chul-gon of the exchange he had with Tae-oh, where Tae-oh told him to become the next murderer. He scoffs at Tae-oh for being a nutjob, but Chul-gon counters that he’s up to something and instructs Mu-yeom to get to the bottom of it.
Ah, Profiler Han comes back to the police after all, which makes me happy. He briefs the team, drawing similarities between Tae-oh and Ted Bundy, like how he lulled people into a feeling of safety with his good looks and manners. Tae-oh, furthermore, shows excessive interest in the old Gap-dong case, and therefore catching him requires shattering his fantasy about Gap-dong. To that effect, he suggests that they change the name Gap-dong, and gets a few laughs by suggesting Gap-soon and Loser as alternates.
Maria is finishing up her bust of Gap-dong’s head when she receives an unexpected visitor: Tae-oh, here with a serious face and ready to confess something. He’s still tailed by his cops so she’s not in imminent danger, but it’s certainly unnerving.
He asks directly whether she believes he’s guilty, and after confirming that he wants her honest answer, she says yes. He plays the wounded victim role, saying that both she and Mu-yeom hurt him, even though he already proved to her on the day of the fourth murder that he wasn’t the killer.
As for his confession, he says that he told Mu-yeom something dumb, because he was feeling provoked at all the Gap-dong accusations. He’s worried that Mu-yeom may have not interpreted it as the joke he meant it to be.
As he’s voicing these concerns, Mu-yeom comes racing up to Maria’s trailer and bursts in, upset at her for meeting with Tae-oh despite her misgivings. Tae-oh just tells Maria to hear the story from Mu-yeom directly, then leaves.
Maria asks about Tae-oh’s so-called joke, but Mu-yeom doesn’t want to tell her, saying that just the thought of it drives him crazy. Maria worries that Ji-wool is still in contact with Tae-oh, with Victim No. 5 on her mind, but he assures her that Ji-wool obeys his instructions well.
Not only is Ji-wool ordered to stay indoors, she’s also got a team of cops standing sentry outside her home. She’s just dying for some contact from Mu-yeom, but it’s Tae-oh who texts instead. He knows just how to pique her interest, too, asking, “Who do you think your Crazy Monk is with right now?”
Hearing Maria’s name is enough to get her fired up, and the next thing you know she’s tiptoeing past her guards. Hyung-nyun spots her darting away in time to chase her through the neighborhood, and manages to catch her. But Ji-wool wheedles and whines to see Mu-yeom.
Maria presses Mu-yeom to share what Tae-oh said, because she has to know what he’s thinking in order to catch Gap-dong. Mu-yeom snaps at her not to try to catch him—that’s his job. In fact, don’t do anything at all and stay out of trouble. She asks why, and he barks, “Because I’ll go out of my mind worrying!” Maybe that’s a bit more revealing than he intended, and Maria looks rather pleased.
He turns his attention to the bust she’s sculpting and wonders where he’s seen that face before, and Maria darts in front to cover it up. Then he’s seized with a horrible pain in his head, which sends him crashing to the ground. Her materials fall too, and he sees the police sketch she’s working from, which she nervously snatches away.
He’s already registered it, though, and though his head is still ringing from pain, he staggers to his feet and pulls Maria into a back hug. He pleads with her to stay for just three seconds, then amends that to thirty seconds. She looks shocked, but doesn’t move away.
Ji-wool storms up to Maria’s trailer with Hyung-nyun hot on her heels, ready to burst in. But she has a clear view through the window, and the sight of Mu-yeom holding Maria makes her stop short. Hyung-nyun tries to shield her eyes, but Ji-wool shoves him away and runs off, tears falling fast and furious.
And then the news gets worse: Tae-oh’s cops have lost him.
Tae-oh finds Ji-wool as she’s walking back, and greets her with a blank smile. Ji-wool’s eyes widen in alarm and she knows to be afraid, but her nerves send her stumbling to the ground.
The story (and backstory in particular) shifted over more toward Chul-gon today, and surprisingly enough, I didn’t hate it. It’s like Mu-yeom said, where you go from hating someone to pitying them, and I guess that’s how I felt about Chul-gon today. He’s still an infuriating character in many ways, but even though I hated him for so long and thought he bungled the case in many ways, I felt like it was a cop-out to make him the scapegoat for the failed investigation. By all means oust him if he can’t nail the bad guy, but don’t delude yourselves into thinking that he’s the reason you haven’t caught the killer, and that y’all would have done better.
His brief moments with his daughter do finally explain my big question of why he had such a burning hatred for Mu-yeom’s father, if he’s blaming Mu-yeom’s dad for injuring his daughter, he leapt wildly to conclusions in the same way that he did about the killing later. Granted he’s still wildly off base about that hate, but I can at least understand the pain from a protective-father-instinct perspective. (I do wonder if there’s more to the daughter storyline than that, because it’s pretty simplistic to base a lifetime of extreme prejudice on an incident with so many holes in the logic that I want a fuller explanation. We’ll have to see if we get one.)
I wasn’t really into the detective-doctor romantic angle at the outset, but at this point I’m fine with it and enjoy their interplay, especially since the attraction is very clearly there but isn’t the primary focus of their interactions. I don’t want a murder show to lose focus and start being about the love story, of course, but adding a layer of subtext to scenes that are mostly about the murder case is a perfectly welcome touch, in my book.
Plus I like the idea of two people whose lives have been so fundamentally shaped by this one dark force finding some sort of understanding in each other, and perhaps being able to shed that darkness together. Yeah it’s a little neat, but it makes sense to me that they feel a level of rapport that others wouldn’t understand, and more importantly, that connection can be shared without having to go through the messy, painful work of verbally explaining it. It gives me hope that once the case is over, they have a shot of closing that door and moving forward fresh, on the same page.
Now, I’m not quite sure how I feel about Tae-oh joining in the lovefest, because, uh, are we really heading toward a serial killer love triangle? But you know, the sheer fact that this complicates his side of things is enough to get me onboard, because I like seeing Tae-oh upset and bothered rather than so goddamned smug all the time. I know he’s evil and waaay beyond the “needs to build character” point, but you know what, if suffering makes his path toward villainy the tiniest bit more rocky, I say have at it. Suffer away, psychopath.