Vampire Detective: Episode 5
One step forward, two steps back. Popularity is a double-edged sword today, as this week’s case will require our private investigators to act as bodyguards for their client. It will be up to San to narrow down the list of suspects and figure out who might have the greatest motive to harm the popular actress. And while his superhuman abilities come in handy as a bodyguard, he’ll need to use his human brain to crack this case.
SONG OF THE DAY
ZE:A – “Heart For 2” [ Download ]
EPISODE 5: “In Order to Live, An Actress Must Die”
A woman runs in fear through the streets and hides in a dark corner. But that solace is only temporary as someone grabs her from behind. The director yells, “Cut!” and the actress takes a break in her car.
There she finds a gift waiting for her, which her agent believes must be from a fan. She shrieks upon opening the box, which contains a dead bird and threatening messages in blood.
We then cut to San, who narrates: “People believe that the cruelest thing in the world is death. Even though they’re headed towards that final stop with each passing day, they’re afraid of acknowledging it.”
He’s back to pay Jung Ji-woong another visit, specifically to ask about how Yo-na and Yoo-jin know one another. At the warning that San would be in dangerous waters by digging into Yo-na, San draws close and asks tauntingly, “Do I look like I’m afraid of dying right now?”
Jung Ji-woong declares this will be the last time he’ll agree to see him, and again warns him against dealing with the devil. Plus, San has no need to find Yo-na when she’ll seek him out in time.
Meanwhile, Gu-hyung hears a string of shallow and spooky case consultations involving missing puppies and dead husbands. Needless to say, he’s tired and annoyed by the end of it, and kicks at Gyeo-wool to greet their next potential client.
Her name is CEO YOON YOUNG-RIN, who believes the private eye team will handle her case with utmost confidentiality. She shows them a news article about a crazed fan named LEE KI-HYUNG who walked into a police station ten years ago and confessed to killing someone on behalf of actress YOON SEOL-AH (Goo Jae-yi). Her request: “Please protect Seol-ah.”
Our team approaches Seol-ah at the shooting range, where she claims to be practicing for her role. Methinks it might be for self-defense, but Seol-ah is against the idea of having three people tagging along with her.
Gu-hyung explains that Lee Ki-hyung has finished serving his ten-year sentence, and it’s possible he could harbor some deep-seeded resentment. CEO Yoon wants to nip this danger in the bud, and with some resignation, Seol-ah agrees in so long as her new bodyguards remain unseen in the public eye.
Gu-hyung agrees and tells his teammates how this is the start to the beautiful journey he and Seol-ah will take. He’s already has a plan in motion, which of course involves meeting up with Detective Park in a food stall to pick up photos from the crime scene.
One would think that looking at photos of a bloody crime scene would make anyone around them lose their appetites, and again Detective Park tells us crucial clues with his mouth full: Lee Ki-hyung was a taxi driver and killed a woman in her 20s and a housewife in her 40s.
These victims appear to be chosen by random, though Gu-hyung believes Lee Ki-hyung committed murder to get attention from the actress. What’s most important is that Lee Ki-hyung has been off the grid for the past few days, and the cops would appreciate it if someone caught him.
San is introduced to Seol-ah’s handler, MIN-SOO, and Gyeo-wool is her new stylist. As for Gu-hyung, he’s with Doctor Hwang and the gift box with the dead bird. As Gu-hyung and Se-ra chat about her newest temporary tattoo—a bird—Doctor Hwang removes a tarot card hidden underneath the messages.
The card pictures a dead raven in a pool of blood and marked as “Death”. San knows the card’s meaning—of how shooting down a bird with a needle represents bringing someone down from the pinnacle of one’s life. But it could also be a forewarning for murder.
San chats with Min-soo on set, who was a fan of Seol-ah’s before he became her manager. Min-soo also thinks Gyeo-wool’s rather pretty, and says he hasn’t run into any suspicious persons while working for Seol-ah in the past year.
Seol-ah is joined by her co-star PARK JOON-YOUNG, who gets too close for comfort with her and Gyeo-wool. At the mention that Gyeo-wool should pay him a private visit sometime, Gyeo-wool whispers in his ear not to touch her again.
San’s senses are inexplicably heightened with all the activity on set, and then he and Gyeo-wool are approached by another actress EUN-CHAE, whose strong perfume Gyeo-wool can’t ignore. She explains how Seol-ah and Joon-young used to be an item years ago.
While Gu-hyung heads to Lee Ki-hyung’s address, only to find it locked, Gyeo-wool resignedly takes Seol-ah’s coffee order. San catches her tip some of the contents of a cup with cigarette butts (ew), then he notices a set piece tipping over above Seol-ah.
He runs just as the wooden structure falls and scoops the actress out of the way. Upon examining the damage, San is somehow able to envision the set piece falling due to a frayed rope. Yes, even without a drop of blood present.
Showing Gu-hyung the rope upstairs, San says someone did it on purpose. Could it have been the guy he saw working on the ropes earlier? It probably is. But San scans the set and says the person responsible is here. Gu-hyung: “Who?” San: “I don’t know.”
San says it’s up to Gu-hyung to find out and smiles that he’ll let Seol-ah know. He later engages in target practice at the shooting range. Seol-ah is impressed by his precision, and he offers her tips.
She smiles and thanks him for saving her life earlier, claiming that her prickly personality doesn’t allow her to express gratitude. San says she probably didn’t want to show her vulnerability, which she agrees with. She wonders if she’ll be a good enough shot by the time she crosses paths with Lee Ki-hyung.
With that, San raises the gun in her hands again and says she’ll be able to knock Ki-hyung down. She shoots… bullseye.
But since possession of a firearm is illegal without a permit in Korea, San presents her with a taser. He notices her pull down her sleeve to hide the scar on her forearm.
Gyeo-wool calls just then to share some alarming news: someone broke into Seol-ah’s apartment and destroyed a dress hanging in her closet. Even with this frightening incident, San says Seol-ah will be safest here because the threat could scare the victim into running away elsewhere.
Seol-ah requests that San stay with her tonight, believing that one person would be best. San says nothing, and later in the car, Gu-hyung laments over San’s silence. Doctor Hwang calls with news that the needle found in the dead bird was an acupuncture needle.
Speaking of which, San accompanies Seol-ah to an Eastern medicine clinic. Eun-chae shows up moments later and sighs over the dog-eat-dog world of entertainment before smiling again.
While Seol-ah is left alone during her acupuncture session, CEO Yoon finds another gift in the office. She braces for the worst, just as a masked man in a hoodie approaches Seol-ah’s bed and closes the curtain behind him.
CEO Yoon breathes to find a music carousel inside the box and winds it up. It explodes before her eyes, and San hears Seol-ah’s screams in the clinic. He runs, checks that she’s okay, then chases after the masked man.
San bursts into the stairwell, and when the masked man tries attacking him with a plank of wood, San punches it cleanly. He unmasks the man to reveal Joon-young, who cowers. To the actor’s utter relief, they’re interrupted by a phone call.
CEO Yoon is hospitalized, but thankfully her injuries are limited to her hand and neck. Gyeo-wool wonders why anyone would risk their lives in such danger, to which San tells her that it’s because the actress and CEO fear that rumors would spread.
She wonders if Joon-young and Lee Ki-hyung are accomplices then, and she’s told to keep tabs on the actor while they check out the crime scene.
San’s vampiric abilities activate when he sees the blood stains, seeing the music carousel and the explosion. He doesn’t need his blood-filled inhaler this time, though, and Gu-hyung finds a handheld saw in the drawer.
Gu-hyung confirms that CEO Yoon also wanted to become an actress in the past, but it was her sister Seol-ah who found success. San finds it suspicious that only CEO Yoon’s hand were injured in the explosion, and has Gu-hyung look into whether or not this saw was used to cut the rope on set.
Over at the hospital, Seol-ah apologies to Gyeo-wool for her rude behavior over coffee. Seol-ah says they’re alike in how they work so hard to keep their inner feelings under wraps. When Lee Ki-hyung killed those people ten years ago, she died that day too.
She gained unwelcomed attention, and ever since then, she worked hard to appear strong and happy, and Gyeo-wool likely knows what it feels like to put up a facade. Gyeo-woool doesn’t mind it so much, taking the self-fulfillment approach—if she keeps that wall up, it’ll stay there.
Gyeo-wool takes a deep breath before asking about Joon-young, whom Seol-ah believes wouldn’t take such drastic measures like hurting someone. And somewhere in an apartment where the walls are adorned with crossed-out photos of Seol-ah a man in a hoodie works on a green control panel.
San reads up on the siblings’ history before Seol-ah arrives at the pojangmacha. Seol-ah describes CEO Yoon as the only person she could trust, but now she thinks she can trust other people outside of her family.
She hides the scar when San asks about it, and the team later pays her a visit in the hospital while CEO Yoon is still asleep. She takes offense that they think her sister’s injuries were too minor, but is then presented with a photo of the hand saw found in CEO Yoon’s office.
She gets worked up at the insinuation that the scar on her arm had anything to do with her sister, arguing that it was an accident. San presses a little more while he can, asking if it’s possible that CEO Yoon was jealous of her. He and the others are told to drop the case, but San is determined to see it through.
Joon-young apologizes to Seol-ah for the creeptastic incident the next time they meet on set. Even though her entourage is gone, she keeps her taser on her person.
CEO Yoon comes to at the hospital and sees Eun-chae sitting beside her. On set, the production crew prepares for an explosion inside the hood of a car, and the camera hones in on a control panel. When Joon-young taunts Seol-ah with a handheld firework, San takes it from him.
San keeps a watchful eye out as the actors play out the scene, and sees both CEO Yoon and Min-soo nearby. When Gu-hyung joins him, San explains how musicians use distraction to trick their audience; in other words, he thinks they’ve been paying attention to the distraction.
Filming begins, and to everyone’s surprise, the car door doesn’t open. The explosive employee presses the stop button, but the timer keeps counting down.
Everyone scatters, and when Seol-ah turns to the backseat, she screams to see a corpse there. She’s trapped inside, and San appears with barely four seconds left on the clock. He rips the car door and pulls Seol-ah away just in time before the hood explodes.
Detective Park sits with someone in the interrogation room—it’s Min-soo who says he couldn’t forgive Lee Ki-hyung (the body in the backseat) nor Seol-ah, whom he held hostage by knifepoint after the car explosion.
Seol-ah had used the taser against him and San had blocked his attacks with ease. Min-soo had been the one to rig the control panel and give CEO Yoon the dangerous music carousel. “Do you think I was the only person who wished Yoon Seol-ah dead?” he poses.
San comes to see Seol-ah and her sister upon her discharge from the hospital. They’re accompanied by Eun-chae… who also played a part in all this. He claims she sent the dead bird to Seol-ah and cut that rope, using a handkerchief that was sprayed with her perfume to wipe off the fingerprints.
Furthermore, he noticed that Eun-chae was the only one who wasn’t panicked when that set piece fell. That’s what finally breaks Eun-chae, who projects her inferiority complex onto Seol-ah, saying that her success was based on luck.
What’s more is that CEO Yoon always paid special attention to her younger sister; Eun-chae comes clean with her crimes and asks San what he’ll do next—put her in handcuffs?
“No,” San replies. It’s the police’s job to arrest her, but he does have one more thing to share: Seol-ah had agreed to appear in the movie she was filming on the condition that Eun-chae would be given the lead role. Shocked tears run down Eun-chae’s cheek.
Back in the interrogation room, Min-soo says Seol-ah is the reason he lost his mother. Oh I see—did Lee Ki-hyung kill her? Detective Park tells him that hatred only begets more hatred, and his late mother would be brokenhearted to see her son like this now.
We cut to the cafe where San advises Seol-ah to focus on the positives—surely there are more people who adore her than hate her. To that, Seol-ah admits that this scar was given to her by her sister, whom she forgave in time.
After CEO Yoon had given up her dreams as an actress and wholeheartedly supported her instead, Seol-ah decided to trust her no matter what. She asks if San has ever trusted anyone wholeheartedly, and when he doesn’t answer, she thanks him and leaves.
Since we can’t forget about our villain, an incoming call comes in from Yo-na. She believes they should get to know one another—how does he feel about meeting up now? She smiles when he agrees.
So after leaving us with an intriguing question like Yoo-jin’s possible entanglement with Yo-na last week, Vampire Detective re-shifts our attention back to the case of the week today, which to its credit, was more layered than the open-and-shut cases in previous weeks. It had all the elements of a good mystery—motive, multiple suspects, some subtle and specific clues, and a red herring or two—and yet like before, the focus on one plot point over another undercut the dramatic oomph of a potentially interesting case.
Perhaps that’s because certain clues are cleverly inserted whilst others are brought up once convenient for the plot. Take for instance how Eun-chae wears too much perfume, which Gyeo-wool commented on upon their first meeting. Tying that into how Eun-chae wiped off her fingerprints using the same perfume-smelling handkerchief is smart… only that there wasn’t even the slightest suggestion that said handsaw contained anything of worth. So to use that information as part of the debriefing in the last minutes of the episode leaves us as viewers robbed of knowledge important to the case.
Furthermore, between Min-soo and Eun-chae, I was far more intrigued in Min-soo’s side of the story. It’s suggested that Lee Ki-hyung killed his mother (though, no one knows why aside from possible insanity) and he projected the blame onto Seol-ah. Although Eun-chae’s story was also important to know, Detective Park’s conversation with Min-soo was quickly glossed over. What a pity too, since that moment contained a rare nugget of wisdom from the show about how anger is a vicious, never-ending cycle.
And as much as I enjoy seeing subtle clues inserted into potentially throwaway lines of dialogue (when used expertly, not shoehorned in), I really wish that Detective Park would tell us crucial information about our weekly cases without his mouth full of food. Sure that hoddeok he was chomping on looked scrumptious, but we easily could’ve missed that a woman in her 40s were among Lee Ki-hyung’s victims, which would later be important for us to know why Min-soo hated Seol-ah so much. Often times the most important bits of information gets lost between his bites, which can easily be misinterpreted as gaps of story logic by the time the case is solved.
Now that we’re approaching the halfway mark in this series, it really worries me that we aren’t given any boundaries to San’s vampiric abilities. I know I sound like a broken record when I mention it every week, but each passing episode contains something new about his vampirism that goes unexplained. And the most frustrating part is that San doesn’t even question his apparently limitless powers either—like how can he envision the falling set piece without even a speck of blood? At this point, I’m not even worried about any negative consequences to his supernatural transformation because there doesn’t even appear to be any. Or if there are, they were discussed in some offscreen conversation none of us as viewers were a part of.
So with every week, there’s a growing sense of detachment with our hero when it really should be the other way around. I should feel for his pain, care about his worries, and root for him to figure out what the hell happened to him five years ago. But if you won’t let me be privy to any of it, how can I get any closer to cracking the impenetrable safe that is San?
- Vampire Detective: Episode 3
- Vampire Detective: Episode 2
- Vampire Detective: Episode 1
- OCN’s Vampire Detective drinks, dodges, and sheds blood
- Vampire Detective: To suck or not to suck
- Lee Chung-ah joins Vampire Detective amidst air of mystery
- Kim Yoon-hye joins Vampire Detective to romance Lee Joon
- Lee Joon becomes vampire private eye for OCN