Dr. Frost: Episode 1
Why yes, the doctor will see you now. OCN’s newest Sunday psychological crime procedural Dr. Frost is one slick and shrewd show, working through its first case at near breakneck speed, thanks to one sexy brain and his plucky teaching assistant. Meet the one psychology professor that can get a read on your psychological and emotional state in the blink of an eye, but unable to feel certain emotional responses himself.
The arrival of the newest big man on campus is certain to turn heads—and not just because he’s sportin’ a platinum ‘do. And while Frost comes with mysteries of his own, he’ll be busy cracking down on cases and giving them his Baekpercent. As for the numbers, Dr. Frost premiered with a solid 1.8% in ratings, with a minute-to-minute high of 2.4%.
And believe you me when I say to you that it greatly pains me to say that this will be a one-off recap. I wish I could bend the time-space continuum to cover all the things, but alas—you’ll find me a dedicated viewer to the end.
SONG OF THE DAY
MBLAQ – “You Ain’t Know” [ Download ]
EPISODE 1: “Another’s Desire”
We open at a drama set where an actress, YOO ANNA (Lee Hee-jin), delivers her lines about how she doesn’t want to live in her lover’s shadow anymore. She suddenly stops mid-sentence when something off-camera startles her: a figure slinking through the production crew.
Her mind flashes images of a figure standing in a darkened room, a hand extended towards her throat. Several split-second frames reveal some key information: the ominous silhouette bearing the same face as hers, the hand over her throat as her own. Frightened, she runs off-set, much to the crew’s frustration.
Some distance later, a panic-stricken Anna trips and backs into a beam, her fearful eyes still searching for her pursuer. As a looming shadow draws near, she slowly turns her head… and her eyes grow wide in shock.
Time to meet our hero in DR. FROST (Song Chang-eui) at a bar, where he stops working at his Rubik’s Cube long enough to take in some quick observations of a pair of customers nearby. His fellow bartenders have been dubbing the couple’s heated conversation for their own amusement, so when another man enters the picture, they believe that the girlfriend cheated on the guy.
Frost smirks, saying that the woman chose the wrong kind of guy. His remark is met with puzzlement, so he elaborates on how everyone’s body language says it all—from the woman’s expression of shock and repugnance to the two men’s navels pointed towards each other, signifying that those guys are an item.
After an initial gagging reaction at the truth of the situation, the curious younger bartender asks if studying psychology equates to gaining the ability to completely read people instantaneously, like fortune tellers do.
“Psychology isn’t mind reading,” Frost answers. “it’s the study of the mind.” Human emotion and behavior all start from the brain; that heart-pounding “love at first sight” phenomenon is nothing more than visual information processed in the brain that sends neurological signals to increase one’s heart rate.
And that’s when a voice chimes in greeting: “Still the same, Dr. Baek.” (I think it’s okay to reveal that Baek is Frost’s actual surname, which can also mean “white” in Korean. How apt for our snowy-haired hero.)
That voice belongs to Professor CHEON SANG-WON (Choi Jung-woo), the head of the psychology department at Yong-gang University. When encouraged to smile, Frost curls his lips ever so slightly, then catches onto Professor Cheon’s hesitation to conclude that he’s here with an agenda.
Next thing we know, Frost arrives at the university campus, and when he bends down to pick up a rogue baseball, a female student approaches with a cheerful greeting. She says he hasn’t changed at all, but then her voice turns into an echo: “Why… did you come back now?”
Another student collides into him and runs past just then, and when Frost looks back… there’s no one there.
Over at Professor Cheon’s office, someone else is less than thrilled by the news of Frost’s arrival: psychology professor SONG SUN (Lee Yoon-ji), who is vehemently against the idea of Frost heading up the university’s counseling center: “Have you already forgotten about what he’s done?”
She doesn’t believe that people can change, not when it comes to Frost. It doesn’t matter if it’s been seven or seven hundred years, either: “How can someone who doesn’t even know what empathy is change?” Frost finds amusement in poking at other people’s emotional wounds, she argues, thus he must not counsel others.
Professor Song doesn’t buy the argument that Frost’s intentions extend beyond pure interest. Whereas Professor Cheon wants Frost to be able to be in tune with more emotions, even come to experience those feelings himself in time, she doesn’t share that same sentiment: “Dr. Baek is a murderer. No matter what you say, that fact doesn’t change.”
Those are powerful words, and a flashback reveals that they come from a painful past: an inconsolable Song Sun discovers a woman dead in a bathroom, blood dripping from her slit wrist. Oh god, that’s horrifying.
Meanwhile, Frost roams around campus and gets a glimpse of the student that ran into him earlier: YOON SEONG-AH (Jung Eun-chae), a plucky and kind-hearted young woman whom he deduces is an exhausting person. Despite sneaking into judo practice late (and getting caught, ha) Seong-ah isn’t worried about possibly being cut from the team; she is, however, interested in learning about the new prof on campus.
Everyone calls him Dr. Frost, a genius psychoanalyst who studied under Professor Cheon and obtained his doctorate in a year. Rumor has it that he’s emotionless and a finicky personality.
Neither Seong-ah nor the other professors really think Frost will end up at in the counseling psychology department. How can a therapist lack in empathy? Cut to: Frost standing outside the university’s counseling center. Hahaha.
Successfully throwing her judo sunbae over the shoulder allows Seong-ah stay on the judo team roster, and she arrives at the counseling center to discover a visitor reading up on the latest case files.
It’s Frost, who in lieu of introducing himself, tells her that this male patient with a history short-lived, serial relationships doesn’t have narcissistic personality disorder (Fans of the webtoon will know that said client is the first case in the series). Grabbing the file, Seong-ah counters that the patient’s psychometrics tests suggests the diagnosis, and she empathized with the client in therapy.
“Empathy?” Frost returns. He asks if she looked more into the patient’s background history, including his parents, ex-girlfriends, and his home. She overlooked basic information, he says, then comments on how he can tell that his predecessor did a poor job of running this office.
Seong-ah speaks up on her professor’s behalf, but Frost shuts her down. Before she can offer a counter-argument, they’re interrupted by their first visitors looking for counseling: Anna and her manager.
Seong-ah gapes to find out that the man before her is none other than Dr. Frost himself, as well as seeing top actress Anna before her. It takes less than a second for Frost to get a read on a nervous-looking Anna, and he asks if she’s unable to sleep at night because she thinks someone’s watching her.
The rapid insight is certainly impressive, and Frost sets down a mirror in front of his potential client, noting her fear, anxiety, and terror. Anna averts her eyes from her own reflection and his words evoke a panicked reaction out of her. When asked why she fears the mirror, Anna answers in a shaky voice, “[She’s]… going to kill me.”
In the same flat voice, Frost asks who that is, and again, the images of Anna sitting in her dark room, her own face looking murderously at her flash onscreen. “Me… I’m trying to kill myself!” Seong-ah thinks to herself, confused, Who’s trying to kill whom?
Seong-ah introduces herself to Frost as a third-year psychology student and the counseling center’s teaching assistant. He doesn’t seem all that interested in Seong-ah’s questions, picking up on how Anna refuses a flower bouquet from an adoring fan. Right then, Professor Cheon joins them to offer proper introductions, but Frost makes it clear that he doesn’t need a TA.
Astounded, Seong-ah asks if she’s just been fired, and she grows worried that she won’t be able to attend school if her scholarship gets taken away. Professor Cheon chuckles, and tells her to take good care of Frost.
Frost ends up at Anna’s lavish abode, where he explains to her manager that every space leaves traces of its owner. He’s here to read clues on a client’s state of mind, otherwise known as snooping. There are three kinds of information available: (a) signs of what that person wants other people to know about themselves; (b) items that call attention to themselves and minimizing their own emotions; and (c) traces that point to subconscious behavior.
A narcissist like Anna wouldn’t care for anything but herself, which also applies to her own errors in her ways, Frost explains. Someone who’s unable to admit their own wrongs wouldn’t voluntarily seek counseling, to which her manager replies that that’s what he’s here for.
Frost lets himself into another room down the hall, where he uncovers a group of mirrors hidden away. He’s surprised to find Seong-ah in the same house a little later, and barely gets a word in before Seong-ah remarks on how there isn’t a single mirror in this house. She’s eager to start psychoanalyzing, but Frost tells her not to get in the way and picks up more clues before heading to the bathroom.
He’s slightly impressed when Seong-ah asks if Anna doesn’t live by herself. The manager admits she occasionally has guests over, and when Frost asks how she arrived at that idea, she replies that this place is way too big for one person, perfect for hide-and-seek. Hee.
She thinks the best hiding spot is somewhere the seeker can easily see them—there they would keep watch and find a new spot just when the seeker’s about to find them. Frost acknowledges that she’s not entirely wrong and bangs on a closet door. A fanboy pops out, whom Seong-ah takes down with a judo throw.
Detective NAM TAE-BONG (Sung Ji-roo) is called over to deal with the blubbering and bleeding fanboy, and he’s left impressed by Seong-ah’s strength and lightning-fast reflexes. He and Frost check out the saesang fanboy’s place plastered with all things Anna, and the detective has to beat the truth into the guy that he is considered a stalker, and maybe a pervert, too.
Seong-ah offers a ride in her dinky vintage car to Frost afterwards, but the latter is too busy in his own deductive reasoning to accept. Piecing Anna’s confession and the collective mirrors together leads him to the reasoning that the stalker-fan isn’t the core issue. He walks off, leaving Seong-ah stewing.
Later that evening, Anna hangs up on her manager’s call, annoyed by his nagging, when a noise startles her. She warily makes her way to the roomful of mirrors, trying to convince herself that nothing’s there. Multiple reflections shine back at her, including one dark reflection that seems to approach menacingly. She gasps.
Something is markedly different about Anna the next morning, judging from how she greets her adoring fans without complaint before climbing into the van. Over at school, Frost sighs at Seong-ah’s persistence about telling him about the workings of the counseling center and the types of cases they would commonly see.
He suddenly gets up to catch a broadcast of Anna looking happy with her fans, then asks if Seong-ah brought her car. He believes Anna might have dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder), but Seong-ah isn’t so sure.
Once they arrive at the drama set, Seong-ah walks past Anna’s stylist grumbling about why she’s being yelled at for bringing the same shoes that suddenly don’t fit anymore to join Frost. He picks up a few tidbits from the gossiping crew at how Anna’s so agreeable all of a sudden.
So when Frost and Seong-ah swing by to check on their client, he asks for her autograph, taking note of which hand she uses. She’s been using her left hand all day, something her manager also seems to find strange.
As Seong-ah reads up on symptoms of DID, she notes that unlike those with the disorder that can’t remember any experiences from their other personalities, Anna had remembered who they were. Frost argues that Anna provided a stock answer—she’d say the same to anyone out of politeness.
While Seong-ah nods off, Frost closes his eyes to enter his mind palace, and you guys—It. Is. So. Cool. He walks up to an array of hanging portraits, presumably his former clients, and focuses on the discrepancies in Anna’s behavior, like the switch from her using her right to left hand.
He has a descriptive idea board up by morning, and Seong-ah wonders if he didn’t sleep at all. He isn’t inclined to answering Seong-ah’s questions about the next steps they should take with Anna, and Seong-ah picks up the ring Anna dropped the other day with curiosity.
Setting it down, she checks with Frost about whether multiple personalities should share the same shoe size, citing how Anna’s stylist complained about the suddenly too-small high heels.
Taking the ring with him, Frost drops off the pen Anna used with Detective Nam to scan for fingerprints. Then he and Seong-ah head over to a jewelry design showcase just in time for the designer to freak out over the news that Anna lost his prized ring.
Asked where she lost it, Anna replies that it must have been in the bathroom, an answer that makes Frost rethink handing over the ring in his hand. He prevents Seong-ah from speaking up, offering to find it himself.
He suggests using hypnosis to trigger her memories, but Anna flatly refuses that idea. He insists that they try this method unless there’s a specific reason why they shouldn’t, so she agrees.
Frost begins, and he too is surprised when Anna falls under right away. He tells her to recall where she was and mentally catches her in her lie that she’s in a foyer. But he feigns ignorance and moves on, asking about the faces of the women she sees. She mumbles that it’s dark and can’t see anything.
With that, Frost snaps her out of her subconscious state, and the entire crew head out to check Anna’s statement—that is, apart from Anna herself. Oh snap, did she fake the hypnosis act? She barely lets her manager speak once she arrives home and shatters a mirror into pieces.
It doesn’t take long for Frost and Seong-ah to arrive at the same conclusion that the hypnotherapy session was an act. They call Detective Nam, who says the prints will take some time, but he found something interesting: Anna was scheduled to be at a shoot in the countryside, but the saesang fan caught her on camera at home. How could she be in two places at once?
It was a different woman, Frost concludes. The other woman is suffering from severe delusional disorder, believing herself to be Anna and acting as such. He warns that the other woman will eventually become so obsessed and fixated on becoming Anna that she’ll eventually think she is Anna and try to kill actual Anna.
That would put actual Anna in grave danger, though Frost believes that she’s still alive just so long until the delusional woman seeks to do away with Anna. And sure enough, we see Anna collapse on the ground. Someone approaches, knocking her out unconscious.
Anna comes to at a theatre, where she sees her own face glaring back at her. Her doppelganger screams, “Who are you to be tormenting me so?!” Anna screams and so does her copycat, the latter of which turns to greet her audience. Too bad that round of applause and standing ovation is merely a hallucination.
A voice whispers, “Die… die, die. The fake one must die.” The copycat screams at the voice to go away. At the same time, Detective Nam calls in to inform them that the fingerprints match with a Jung Sung-hye, a theatre actress, who was reported as a missing person over three years ago.
Frost and Seong-ah head over to the apartment, where dozens of mutilated photos of Anna hang on the wall. Seong-ah trips in the dark space and backs away, only to find herself face to face with Anna’s manager.
The manager pins Seong-ah to the wall, strangling her, when Frost finally appears and knocks him out of the way. That leads to a struggle between the two men, and Seong-ah quickly uses her judo skills to pin the manager to the ground. Handy, that.
Frost demands to know where Anna is, and when he doesn’t get an answer, he shows off Jung Sung-hye’s ID he discovered—where can they find her? Frost warns him that Anna could die if he doesn’t fess up.
While Sung-hye grabs a sharp object to use against Anna, Frost accuses the manager of turning a blind eye to the matter when he knew from the very beginning. Did he wish Anna to die or for that other woman to live as Anna?
The manager says they look exactly the same but Sung-hye’s a better actress— who could tell the difference? Frost is disappointed that this is all the manager’s long-standing career by Anna’s side amounts to. Showing him a picture of a cast, he demands to know where the theatre is.
At the theatre, Sung-hye charges at Anna, who throws an object at her. Unfortunately one exit is locked, and when Anna tries to mosey over to the other side, Sung-hye grabs her by the ankle. It’s actually pretty creepy watching Sung-hye climb Anna like a rope, but Anna wards off another attempt and throws her off.
Just as she’s about to run out the other exit, Sung-hye stabs her hand. Frost and Seong-ah can hear Anna’s scream, and Anna runs down the stairwell with Sung-hye in hot pursuit. Sung-hye finds Anna hobbling in a hallway and approaches threateningly.
As Sung-hye raises her weapon, Seong-ah rushes forward and pushes Anna out of the way. When Sung-hye raises her hand again, it’s Frost who catches her arm. He pulls her close and whispers a few words we can’t hear, but whatever they are, it effectively gets Sung-hye to drop her weapon.
Sung-hye ends up at the psychiatric hospital, as Seong-ah and Frost look on. Her diary recants Sung-hye’s painful past of being praised for her acting but dismissed for her plain look and large nose.
Seeing Anna receive constant praise and being called a “knockoff” herself made Sung-hye feel like a shadow. Convinced that Anna stole her thunder, Sung-hye went under the knife and spiraled into the state she is now. Frost says she might end up in a psychiatric ward in prison if the law upholds her mental illness.
Seong-ah pities Sung-hye’s present state, and asks what it was that Frost had said to her. “You’re a knockoff,” he answers—the phrase that tormented her is the phrase that would free her of her delusion.
Seong-ah considers that harsh, to which Frost tosses back to question what she would say to someone who has lost their self-identity. Still, he should have tried to emotionally connect with Sung-hye, she argues. “Jung Sung-hye lost herself long ago,” Frost replies.
As Frost gives a lecture and Seong-ah types up the case report, we hear her narrate in voiceover:
“There are times when every person wants to deny the reality before them, times when we dream of having someone else’s life besides ours. However, the moment we deny ourselves is when tragedy begins. When we hold a weak heart, tragedy consumes us in an instant. Nevertheless, I want to believe that the human’s heart is strong, that we’re not weak beings. That where we stand, we must find meaning and purpose in our lives.”
Over at Bar Mirror, Frost scans the various emotions expressed among the customers. Someone walks through the door to see him: Professor Song Sun.
I’ll be the first to admit that after reading the premise and the cast line-up, I was so intrigued by this show that I promptly went online and devoured as much of the source material as I could prior to the live-action drama premiere. So yeah, you could say I was excited.
In fact, I think that reading the webtoon beforehand actually helped place the characters that inhabit this world, because the show wasted no time with providing long character exposition introductions and instead threw its audience right into the world and the case of the week. To that end, I can also see how these character snippets could also leave a viewer confused and scratch their heads as to why they should care about a character they know little about. Any adaptation is bound to face comparisons between how a drama lives up to its source material, and while I’m of the belief that a good adaptation should retain core elements of what made fans love it in the first place, a good show should still be able to establish itself as a solid stand-alone project as well. Granted, it’s never easy and most of the time, the execution is far from perfect, but no one project will ever be able to satisfy everyone’s desires, either.
Still, I feel we’ve gotten to know enough about our case-crackin’ duo in Frost and Seong-ah in the first hour to tell that their intellectual, bickering relationship will provide us with countless moments of entertainment. What better to complement Frost’s restricted emotional range than with a plucky assistant who can defend herself? I love that Seong-ah brings her optimism and empathy to the table, and that she’s so outspoken about her opinions and hypotheses with Frost, a personality trait that bugs him a little. She speaks her mind whereas Frost collects information and calculates in his head, and it’s great seeing both approaches at work here, even more when they clash. Which is why I love Jung Eun-chae in this role, as she breathes life into a character that could easily fade away standing next to a genius professor.
Speaking of genius, I appreciate that Frost isn’t depicted as an infallible brainy character here, if Professor Song’s words count for anything. Furthermore, unlike the rumors being spread about him, Frost isn’t entirely incapable of emotion either—we’ve seen moments of his rage and impatience, but something like empathy isn’t in the man’s emotional utility belt. I’m happy as a clam to see Song Chang-eui in dramaland again, and yet, I can’t help feel a bit let down by the portrayal of Frost here so far because his reaction to certain emotions is borderline scornful rather than an incapability to understand them because he cannot experience them himself. It’s something that I hope that the show keeps in mind as it moves forward because I always love watching a character arrive at the realization of an abstract notion like an emotion for the first time, especially when it’s aided by those around him.
As for the case of the week, I will mention that the Anna storyline is one of my favorites from the webtoon. So I was pleasantly surprised that she would be the first case Frost would take on, and eager to see how the drama might seek to illustrate the story. I worried that the drama showed its hand too early within the first minute or so, and that it showed us the answer, but was willing to see how the case would play out, even if it meant watching like an outsider impatiently waiting for Sherlock to figure it out already. Let me tell you that it felt like treading dangerous waters for a good forty minutes, because I actually thought that the show allowed its viewers to be smarter than the brainiacs on the case, which can easily lead to frustration and impatience. Then I was both shocked and let down when the narrative twist finally came, because I wished that the show chose to venture more into Anna’s psyche (which would have been fascinating) rather than root the psychological issue in a delusional stalker instead.
There’s no doubt that the directing in show is slick, flashy, and just plain cool at times—those are all great and meritorious qualities, and yet, I also want our characters and our cases to rise above and speak louder than that. There are plenty of rich character conflict in these waters that I would hate for the show to rob us of—Frost and Professor Song, in particular. I was most excited for Lee Yoon-ji’s return to dramaland, especially in a character that was written with her in mind. Professor Song’s bitter feelings towards Frost because of the past and how that affects everything about their relationship with each other since is a gold mine of dramatic tension and countless questions. Something tells me that the day she even considers reconciling with Frost will be the day when hell freezes over.