The investigation takes the forefront this hour and there’s progress on our mystery, even if it’s lateral rather than forward. We knew Hwang was shady, but now we find out how shady everyone else is, too. The classic “closed circle of suspects” element gives it all an Agatha Christie feel, which I think the show was going for originally. We don’t know anything about motives yet, only that everyone has something to hide, and surely there’s nowhere better for that than The Secret Hotel.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Detective Kim tells Hae-young his wallet was found under Hwang’s body, making him Suspect No.1. Hae-young is unimpressed with the conclusion — Hwang could have picked up his lost wallet anywhere. Detective Kim agrees but then asks him to explain a photo we don’t see. Hae-young is visibly shaken.
In her office, Sang-hyo’s team comments on the white chrysanthemum she put on Hwang’s desk. Both Kyung-hee and Young-mi look uncomfortable.
Detective Kim lays out a scenario he thinks is the best explanation: Hae-young had a whirlwind romance with Sang-hyo either during the wedding arrangement process, or even back when he was in the US. Hwang found out and threatened to expose it, so Hae-young did away with him. He reveals the photo from his wallet, and it’s of Sang-hyo.
Outside the office, Shi-chan is trying to listen in, and when a co-worker asks about the detective, he goes overboard in defending Hae-young, “He has an alibi! I’m his alibi!” It’s adorable and so unhelpful.
Hae-young agrees to cooperate with the investigation, but on the condition that he keep secret his past relationship with Sang-hyo, “Because of me, I don’t want Nam Sang-hyo to be hurt.” Detective Kim agrees.
Hae-young tells the story of their quick marriage that lasted only three months; it was never registered, so legally it didn’t count. He confirms that Hwang threatened him about it and they had a fight, but he didn’t kill him.
In a flashback, we see the rest of that scene: in the tussle with the ice pick, when Hae-young has Hwang backed up against the wall, he drops the pick and instead asks him to back off from Sang-hyo. When Detective Kim asks if he met Sang-hyo that night, he says he saw her talking to someone else in the garden, so he turned back.
Detective Kim now admits he knows Hae-young isn’t the killer. Since he reported his wallet lost at 8pm — at which time multiple witnesses put Hwang alive and kicking in the employee canteen — it’s unlikely that Hae-young would have reported it lost and then left his wallet to be found under the body.
Hae-young is put out by the detective’s tactics, and the latter tells him he was just curious to know why he had that picture. He keeps the wallet as evidence but returns the photo to Hae-young, along with the advice that as a man about to be married, he really shouldn’t be carrying around his ex’s picture. With a trademark wink, he gets up.
Shi-chan spills inside, clamoring with his alibi. Detective Kim, however, says he won’t be needing one, and leaves. Shi-chan completely misunderstands him; he takes his place in Hae-young’s chair, promising to visit lots in prison, and bring him snacks. Aww, you dummy. So loyal and so misguided.
In the hotel, Sang-hyo worries about the replaced skylight, but Gi-chul assures her it’ll be fine even if you jump on it. Then, she receives a call that Soo-ah wants to meet her to sign her cancellation papers. Afraid of being slapped again, she has a plan and ropes Eun-joo into helping.
She asks Eun-joo (who’s all too happy to oblige, ha) to slap her, but she doesn’t want to be hit for real — instead, she wants to choreograph her defense moves so if Soo-ah tries to hit her again, she’ll grab her wrist, spin her around and generally appear badass: “Slapping me once is enough.”
To Sang-hyo’s dismay, Soo-ah apologizes for slapping her — given the circumstances, Soo-ah says, her behavior was excusable. She delivers dig after dig about how even people who plan other people’s weddings probably have pride, and although Sang-hyo smiles, she can’t help making a fist at her.
In the gardens, Sang-hyo mulls over Soo-ah’s papers and sighs that now there’s really no reason to see Hae-young again. In a flashback, she remembers asking Hae-young how they could marry after dating only for a week. He tells her, “I’m confident I’ll only love you.”
We find out that the photo Hae-young keeps in his wallet was taken then, and the scene blends into Sang-hyo ripping it in half while crying. Hae-young runs into their apartment calling her name, but it’s empty and all he finds is the torn photo. He swallows back tears.
In the present, Hae-young says goodbye to the photo, and burns it.
At the police station, Detective Kim and his sidekick Detective Lee discuss the case: Hwang was a loner, with no known family or relationships, so the people who know him best are at the hotel. The autopsy results arrive, and put Hwang’s time of death sometime between 10pm and 12am.
The detectives start by investigating hotel staff alibis. First up is Kyung-hee, who lies that she went home early because she didn’t feel well. Curious. Kim asks if anyone can confirm her alibi, and she counters by asking if she’s a suspect. Instead of replying, he asks if she had a good relationship with Hwang. She says no — nobody at the hotel got on with him.
Young-mi is next. Her tearful façade falters when Kim asks about her relationship with Hwang. She lies that they got on, which surprises Detective Kim, but she remembers Hwang threatening her at the noraebang about revealing what she heard.
Forgetting her mask for a second, she wonders how he could just die like that. She can’t produce a solid alibi either, and she broods bitterly about how some people have all the luck — living good lives and meeting competent (rich) men.
Now it’s Gi-chul’s turn, and he’s oddly nervous. His alibi is that he was drinking all night with Security Team Leader Cha, just the two of them. He admits they’re not close, but when Kim asks if they had something private to discuss, Gi-chul spills water all over himself. Deflection? No one else can confirm his alibi, and Gi-chul is even more unsettled.
Back in the office, Young-mi asks Kyung-hee if she was asked about having an alibi. Kyung-hee thinks it means they must believe the killer is among them. This brings Sang-hyo out of her office, just when Gi-chul comes to get her for her interview, scaring her even more.
On her way, she remembers again Hwang’s words about disrupting the wedding for her. After a brief internal struggle, she decides to tell Detective Kim. She is resolute and tells him to ask her anything, “I’ll tell you everything.”
Detective Kim has one question: “Is it Gu Hae-young or Jo Sung-gyum? In your heart, who do you like more?” Sang-hyo is Very Confused. Detective Kim explains that he’s curious about what type of man women like more, and gives her a Wink. Haha. She pleads the fifth, much to his disappointment, and so he concludes the interview. ‘Cause that’s all he wanted to know.
Sang-hyo is nonplussed — is that all? Doesn’t he want to know if she has an alibi, or if anything happened with Hwang? He rattles off that she was talking in the garden with Sung-gyum, and that Hae-young saw her because he came to the hotel that night.
This information catches her by surprise and she asks Detective Kim why Hae-young came that night, but he says he doesn’t know. Another wink and the interview is really over.
In the lobby, Detective Kim catches up to Team Leader Cha and asks about Gi-chul’s alibi. Gi-chul is skulking around the corner — out of Detective Kim’s line of sight — and gives Cha a nod. In response, Cha confirms to Detective Kim that they were drinking together. Kim lets him go. What are you up to, Gi-chul?
Elsewhere, Sung-gyum tells Simon he must find out who else was working at the hotel in 1984 when his father died, apart from General Manager Lee and Hwang Dong-bae.
Now back at the hotel, Sang-hyo runs into Sung-gyum in the elevator. She’s deep in thought and he smiles to see her. He calls her “Future of the Hotel” which embarrasses her, so he switches to the obviously less embarrassing “Beauty and Brains,” and teases her about snoring into the phone the other night. He invites her to have a friendly drink with him.
Exiting a different elevator, Eun-joo runs into Team Leader Cha. She conscripts him and his team into a marathon, and emphasizes that it’s a good cause (PR is a good cause?). Of course, mandatory participation is strictly voluntary. Okay, then…
Just then, they run into Sung-gyum and Sang-hyo. On finding out the two are going for a drink, Eun-joo grabs at Cha and says they were just about to do the same and invites herself along. Sung-gyum and Sang-hyo look none too happy.
It’s Awkward-town for Eun-joo as Sung-gyum acts cutesy towards Sang-hyo right over her. She tries to take back control by pointing out he’s wearing the tie she gave him, although Sung-gyum downplays it as a mere inaugural gift.
Eun-joo keeps trying to get his attention, even suggesting something a little Fifty Shades (haha) and finally resorts to trying to matchmake Sang-hyo with Team Leader Cha. This is too awkward for Cha, and he excuses himself, causing the whole party to break up as they follow suit.
Outside, tenacious Eun-joo asks Sung-gyum to drive her home. Once he’s seen her into the car, he instructs his driver to take her home and shuts the door on her. Hahahaha. Also aww.
Sung-gyum takes Sang-hyo home instead, riding the bus with her. As he walks her to her door, she invites him to have ramyun with her, ’cause she makes a mean ramyun. Aw bless, he looks like no one’s ever asked him that before.
Cut to: the two of them sitting outside a convenience store with takeaway ramyun bowls, and a seriously unimpressed Sung-gyum. But she’s so cute he can’t help smiling anyway. She’s worried he doesn’t like it, but he just says he feels constricted and pulls off Eun-joo’s tie.
Now at home, Sang-hyo gets a call from Sung-gyum, who left her just moments ago. He’s ringing in case she’s afraid to sleep again, and like before, conducts her in an inspection for ghoulies and ghosties. Last stop: the window, where she looks out to see he’s still there. He waves goodnight, leaving her grinning to herself.
At a construction site, Hae-young is going over plans with the foreman. He treats the workers to a meal, and the foreman says that the heavens helped him, to the extent that a dead body fell on his wedding to save him from marriage.
Just then, the foreman receives a call and his words jog Hae-young’s memory about Hwang’s call which he had overheard: “If you’re not interested, I’ll talk to your son.” He wonders if he should tell the detective, but shrugs it off as not his problem.
Hae-young’s own phone rings: It’s Jung-eun saying that she told him Sang-hyo was the killer, and she alerts him that Sang-hyo is being questioned at the station right now. Hae-young leaves the construction site immediately (leaving Shi-chan to foot the lunch bill, ha).
At the station, Detective Kim explains that because Hwang has no relatives, they’re handing his belongings back to the hotel to take care of. He points out a piece of jewelry that could be valuable.
Sang-hyo takes the opportunity to tell Detective Kim about Hwang’s cryptic last remark to her, and asks if it’s possible he committed suicide. Kim actually snorts at the idea that Hwang might have died for Sang-hyo, and asks her if there should be some reason for her to want the wedding stopped.
At this very moment, Hae-young runs in, causing Detective Lee to comment that their prime suspect is here. That shocks Sang-hyo, but Detective Kim dismisses her before she can ask about it.
Outside, Sang-hyo is still perturbed by the fact that Hae-young is a suspect — this must be why he was at the hotel that night.
Hae-young gets straight to the point with Detective Kim: Sang-hyo isn’t the culprit, because she’s not that kind of person. Kim surprises him again saying they know she isn’t. He elaborates that Hae-young left the hotel at 10pm after seeing Sang-hyo and Sung-gyum together, and they left at 11pm after talking in the garden: All of it was captured on CCTV.
Hae-young then tells him about the threat he overheard Hwang making, which intrigues the detective. He also tells him about coming across crying Kyung-hee, and Kim recalls that she denied being in the hotel at that time.
Detective Kim orders Detective Lee to find out who Hwang was speaking to that night. Randomly, from their office window, they notice Sang-hyo dashing between cars in disguise… making her way to Hae-young’s car. Of course.
She still takes him almost by surprise (but maybe he’s getting used to being surprised?) and orders him to go somewhere quiet to talk. When he resists, she grabs a backscratcher from Hwang’s box and threatens him with it (again): “Drive.” Oh my, help, so much laughing. Between pokes and jabs, they actually start laughing together, until they remember themselves and stop.
Across the car park, Jung-eun has witnessed the whole scene and seethes, “You two are still seeing each other?”
Sang-hyo (still threatening Hae-young with the backscratcher) asks if it was him — did he kill Hwang? He can’t even dignify that with an answer. She wants to know why he came to the hotel, and he just tells her he was looking for his wallet, which Hwang had.
He can’t believe she would suspect him, and his disappointment is so palpable when he says, “You still… don’t know me.” Sang-hyo is crestfallen as he continues, “Let’s not see each other again, whether by coincidence, or any reason.”
Before she can say anything else, he’s gone.
Sang-hyo returns to the office with Hwang’s personal effects, which she says she’s taking to General Manager Lee. Kyung-hee, with a funny look in her eye, offers to take it, but before she can do so, Young-mi’s already got it.
Young-mi lays the box on General Manager Lee’s desk and leaves him with some encouraging words — he should be strong, now that Assistant Manager Hwang is dead.
In the ladies’ room, Young-mi holds a locket up and admires her reflection — it’s the same one Detective Kim pointed out to Sang-hyo, from Hwang’s box. She hides it as Kyung-hee emerges. The latter asks if she delivered the box all right which Young-mi confirms.
In General Manager Lee’s office, the camera pans over a variety of belongings from Hwang’s box: tools, gloves, a book. Lee himself is deep in thought. Did you find something? Or… is something missing?
Jung-eun, meanwhile, is warming up her reporter-muscles to pen an angry, angry article on “S Hotel.” She types furiously about dead bodies falling from the ceiling and the truth behind the scary stories. This culminates with Eun-joo flying through hotel corridors yelling for Sang-hyo, Jung-eun’s damning magazine in hand.
After her frenzy of writing, Jung-eun is having a kip by the pool when Eun-joo calls to yell at her for dragging their hotel through the mud — they’ll sue her for defamation and slander. Jung-eun calmly tells her to go ahead.
Sang-hyo takes the phone and is more diplomatic. This makes Jung-eun sit up. Yes, the article is hate-filled, she explains, because there is hate, “I know all about you, Nam Sang-hyo.” She knows about her marriage and how it was over in less than three months — and that even now she still flirts with Hae-young. Sang-hyo is alarmed, but Jung-eun only says she’s letting it go because of Hae-young.
At Hae-young’s office, the phones are ringing off the hook, callers eager to confirm the identities of the people concerned. Hae-young unplugs his phone in frustration, and Shi-chan’s backhanded consolations don’t help either.
Soo-ah’s also being pestered by incessant calls, and she takes her frustration out on her staff, slapping one across the face. Well, that’s not nice.
At the hotel emergency board meeting, Eun-joo wants to sue but Sung-gyum says that would be admitting they are the hotel in question. His stern words put Sang-hyo on the spot and she offers to tender her resignation — but that, Sung-gyum raises his voice to point out, doesn’t solve the problem.
Instead, the hotel will fully take care of Hae-young and Soo-ah’s wedding to see them safely married, and with that, bury the entire story. Sung-gyum charges Sang-hyo to execute the rescue plan.
Hae-young is working late (in glasses, cute!) and finally calls it a night. He’s surprised — and happy — to find Sang-hyo waiting for him downstairs, cutely straightening his pictures. He pretends to be cool and tells her if she came to say sorry, it’s fine. But it’s not that. She asks him to entrust his wedding to her.
Just when she thought she’d got out of having to see Hae-young married, Sung-gyum comes along with his executive order. That’s got to suck. Still, we’re only at the beginning so I doubt it’s serious — it’s more interesting as a plot vehicle because it will force them to seriously examine themselves. Is Hae-young really going to go ahead with marrying Soo-ah? He’s gone along with it so far because of external pressure and perhaps because he didn’t care enough either way, but Sang-hyo reappearing in his life has thrown him for a loop. Even if neither of them is actively trying to get back together (well…), just being in each other’s spheres messes with both of them.
It’s a nice step for Sung-gyum’s character that instead of vacillating between two women and playing on their rivalries, he’s now taking firm steps towards Sang-hyo. I’m warming to him — I don’t entirely trust his motives, but I do think he genuinely likes her (he can’t help it, it’s her rabbit-face). I can’t help thinking that he puts up a clueless façade, but actually is acutely aware of what he’s doing and the effect it has. It’s what makes him so good at his job, and you certainly don’t get to the top of the pile by being nice or altruistic.
In the conflicts that are sure to come down the line, I wonder if he’ll lose to Hae-young because he puts his own interests first. Hae-young, on the other hand, is a big fat bleeding heart when it comes to Sang-hyo, who plays at being cynical the rest of the time. Like I mentioned before, it’s a way he can create distance when he wants it — this episode showed us the regard and warmth his contractors have for him, as well as the care he shows them. I think his life’s anomaly is his relationship with Soo-ah, not the other way around.
Detective Kim is really the star of the hour. At the beginning, I was sure he wasn’t competent, but behind the winks and apparent flubbery lurks a sharp, no-nonsense detective who knows how to play his game. On the other hand, he seems less clued up about attracting women — he’s so smitten with Sang-hyo! So funny. (Can I also just add: I love Yoo Inna’s earrings this episode — here and here. So pretty!)
I’m glad the misdirection with Hae-young didn’t last long. I suspect this is the first of a string of red herrings: It was not Hae-young, in the hotel, with the ice-pick. It would have been interesting if the show had plausibly gone down that route and/or kept us guessing because even five minutes of Dark Hae-young was pretty compelling, but then this would have to be a melo, right?
So far, there are two concurrent murder mysteries: Hwang, of course, but also Sung-gyum’s quieter background investigation into his father’s death, which got just a token mention this episode. It’s obvious they are linked, but we’ve yet to see how.
Sang-hyo’s entire team is now on the suspect-list: Kyung-hee, Young-mi and Gi-chul all qualify as extremely dodgy. Why did Kyung-hee lie about her alibi? Where was Young-mi? What is Gi-chul’s deal?
Who does the “son” of Hwang’s threat refer to? I think there are a couple of possibilities: a) Sung-gyum, as the son of his father who worked and died there, or b) Gi-chul, an unknown quantity who seems to have an unusual hold on Team Leader Cha for someone so apparently junior. We’ll have to look out for tips about his parents, and whether he has a US connection. Team Leader Cha is another unknown, but we have less to go on with him.
There must be at least one other person who was at the hotel from ’84: I would pin it on Kyung-hee, as the apparent oldest (surgery? Name change?), but that doesn’t exclude the possibility that one of the others (i.e. Gi-chul) could be connected to someone from ’84.
Is Young-mi trying to make an alliance with General Manager Lee? It fits with her calculating character to follow the lines of power. She seems cold and resentful, likely to go where the money is. What significance does the locket she lifted have? Did she pinch it for a reason, or simply out of greed? Is it possible Kyung-hee and Young-mi are in league or do they have separate agendas? The bathroom checkup was weird, and Kyung-hee’s been looking robotic all episode — is this the actress being bad at acting bad, or did something happen?
I want to know what’s up with Stalker Jung-eun. Last episode, she ran away when she saw Sang-hyo, which I thought meant they must have met before and she didn’t want to be recognized. But she writes under her own name and speaks directly to Sang-hyo in a full-frontal attack… so what’s her game, and more importantly, does it have any rules?
Lastly… did Hwang commit suicide? It’s actually a good question, and offers some context to his bizarre behavior: 1) he seemed to be goading people to attack him, like provoking the fight with Hae-young, 2) he told General Manager Lee that “this” wouldn’t end unless he died, and 3) the strange offer he made Sang-hyo. Perhaps not suicide per se, but did he court death deliberately, or set himself up to be killed? It’s possible.
We’re left with a zillion questions — hopefully the show will dole out some convincing motives and satisfying answers…after giving us a good runaround first.
- My Secret Hotel: Episode 3
- My Secret Hotel: Episode 2
- My Secret Hotel: Episode 1
- My Secret Hotel’s love triangle gets into its groove
- Falling bodies and marrying exes in My Secret Hotel
- First script read for tvN rom-com My Secret Hotel
- Rom-com mystery My Secret Hotel confirms cast
- Namgoong Min, Yoo Inna, Jin Yi-han for tvN’s next romance