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Circle: Episode 2

So, this is what it’s like to have your expectations exceeded… and then blown away. Circle is a science fiction thriller out of my dreams, and the storytelling is so confident that I’m instantly reassured. This tale is less about aliens as we think of them — UFOs and long-limbed humanoids — and more about the consequences of freely giving up a part of yourself so that you can live without pain and misery. Who would refuse such a gift? But the show seems to be asking us: Is it such a blessing after all?

 
EPISODE 2 RECAP

Some time after they first met the alien, little Woo-jin, Bum-gyun, and their dad sat in a restaurant with their extraterrestrial guest. It was the boys’ birthday, and a waitress had taken a Polaroid picture of the boys with the unsmiling young woman. Seeing his brother’s excitement at having a picture to show his friends, Bum-gyun had stressed that she’s not an alien, though Woo-jin remained convinced.

Their dad had simply said that it would be nice if she told them something about herself, but the woman continued to study the view outside in silence. Nothing about her expression changed, but when Woo-jin turned to look in the same direction, his own eyes widened as he spotted a car racing straight towards the glass wall of the restaurant.

At the last moment, Dad glimpsed the car and pulled Bum-gyun to safety, but there was no time to reach Woo-jin on the other side of the table. The car plunged through the glass, crashing into tables, and finally came to a stop. Dad jumped up to look for Woo-jin and found him safely held in a protective embrace by the woman.

With trembling hands, Woo-jin pointed out the blood on the woman, and his dad finally registered the large shard of glass sticking out of her neck, though she had no reaction whatsoever to it. As Dad hurriedly called for an ambulance, the woman with the emotionless eyes met Woo-jin’s shocked gaze.

Part 1: Beta Project

Ten years later, Woo-jin follows his brother out into the rainy streets as he races off to find the “alien.” When Bum-gyun comes to a sudden stop, looking riveted, Woo-jin turns to stare across the street at a familiar figure walking towards them.

He stands frozen in place as memories of the alien’s first arrival replay in his mind. There is no doubt that this woman is the same creature. Then, as she takes a walkway and moves away from them, Bum-gyun gives chase. Unfreezing, Woo-jin realizes that his brother is running into speeding traffic with little care for his own safety.

Following him across the road, he grabs Bum-gyun, but his brother is too engrossed in his pursuit to pay him any mind. He notices a bus moving away the nearby bus stop and studies the passengers. The woman from their past turns and looks straight at them.

Bum-gyun chases after the bus, but Woo-jin — after almost getting run over — gives up and watches in frustration as his brother disappears after it. He walks back to Bum-gyun’s hidey-hole and notes the post-it on the wall under the mugshot of a stereotypical movie alien that says, “Culprit. Han Jung-yeon = Alien.”

Turning away from the wall map, charting the suicides, he notices a camera stowed with the bedrolls on top of the cupboard. When he examines the pictures in it, they are of the “alien” woman. But this one is smiling happily with friends in the campus of his college. Woo-jin tries to convince himself that this woman is just a lookalike.

Then he gets a call from his brother’s number, and it turns out that Bum-gyun is in the emergency room with a fractured foot. Woo-jin runs to the hospital, and the first thing his brother asks him is if he saw “Exhibit three… the woman from ten years ago.”

Barely restraining himself in front of the nurse treating Bum-gyun, Woo-jin snarls at him to finish his treatment first. When Bum-gyun brings up the woman again outside, Woo-jin argues that she just looks like the same person. Bum-gyun points out that she ran away when she saw them, convinced that she’s the one responsible for the deaths of the college students.

Woo-jin calls him delusional, but Bum-gyun reminds him that he was the one to first call her an alien. He pushes Woo-jin to acknowledge the truth, but this time Woo-jin looks at him squarely and asks why: “What if that woman is an alien? Why is that my problem?”

Bum-gyun begins to shout that that woman took their father, but Woo-jin cuts him off and asks if anything would change if their dad came back. “I already feel like I’m dying dealing with you. But dad too? Why should I?” Woo-jin asks. Bum-gyun falls silent at the clear desperation in Woo-jin’s eyes, but he can’t give in when Woo-jin asks him to forget about their dad and the alien and just live normally.

Bum-gyun walks away, saying that he has to confirm it with his own eyes. Watching his brother leave, Woo-jin shouts out a final ultimatum: “If you walk away now, I’ll never see you again.” Bum-gyun pauses at this, but after squaring his shoulders, he keeps walking. Behind him, Woo-jin looks crestfallen, until he too walks away in the other direction.

When he gets back home, Woo-jin packs up his brother’s bag and throws it out in the hallway. Slamming the door shut, he tells himself: “There are no such things as aliens.”

The next morning, the bag is still sitting outside, but Woo-jin has to run to his college and apologize to Professor Park for missing their meeting the day before. The professor seems keenly interested in Woo-jin’s reasons for wanting to join their PTSD Research Team.

He asks Woo-jin which of the current treatments for PTSD is most effective, in his opinion. Woo-jin answers that he thinks none of them are — since traumatic memories remain untouched by the normal curve of human forgetfulness, people can never forget the pain and horror of the experience. His solution is to eliminate the memory completely, much like one eliminates cancer cells.

On his way out of the building, Woo-jin spots the woman from last night crossing the campus grounds. He chases after her, but soon loses sight of her.

During his next class, as he tries to convince himself that he had been mistaken, his professor teams the students up in pairs to study. His partner gets a sudden nosebleed and has to leave the classroom, but moments later, another girl walks in and introduces herself as HAN JUNG-YEON.

Woo-jin’s mind flashes back to the post-it in his brother’s motel room, and he slowly looks back at the alien he remembers from his childhood. As she walks towards him, he can’t stop staring. She takes a seat beside him, and the professor outlines their next assignment.

Jung-yeon brings up branches of data-mining they can work on, just as if she were a real college kid sitting beside a new partner in class. Woo-jin’s response is to bluntly ask her name, origin, and age. Jung-yeon visibly bristles at his rudeness, until the professor snaps at them to pay attention.

Outside the class, Jung-yeon strides up to him (while Woo-jin stumbles back a few steps) and asks for his phone. Putting her number in, she tells him to meet her in the library at six to work on their assignment. Then, she walks away with her friends, just like a normal college kid. Woo-jin watches her leave with a frown.

Later, he sits at a cafe with his student — a school-aged Lee Dong-soo — while distractedly playing with a Rubik’s cube. When he gets a text from Jung-yeon about their meeting, Dong-soo sniggers that he’s got a girlfriend. He tries to cut their study session short by claiming that he’ll succeed by using his computer skills anyway, but Woo-jin gets him to focus by pinching his eyebrow. (Ouch.)

At the library, Woo-jin sits across from Jung-yeon while they work. She catches him staring a few times, and Woo-jin tries to cut it out, until he remembers the glass shard in the woman’s neck from ten years ago. Jung-yeon’s hair is down, but Woo-jin tries to get a glimpse of the skin there in order to check for a scar.

This is simultaneously nerve-wracking and hilarious, since Woo-jin looks utterly embarrassed at his actions, despite being unable to stop his curiosity. He fails, but when Jung-yeon gets a call and leaves early, he decides to follow her.

She goes into a local bar and greets a group of young boys in army uniforms like a friend. As Woo-jin watches from across the room, they challenge her to chug a tumbler of beer, and she braces for this by tying up her hair. Woo-jin sits up and finally gets to see… completely unmarred skin where a deep scar should be.

Laughing at himself for thinking she was an alien, he gets up and leaves.

A younger Chief Hong, still a detective, is busy sketching the perpetrator of the serial college suicides — only his sketch has no face, just a cap pulled low over the eyes. His partner hands him the file of all criminals caught using a taser, then grumbles to another cop that when Chief Hong gets a hunch about someone’s guilt, they always turn out to be innocent. At his desk, Chief Hong pulls out Bum-gyun’s sheet from the file and places it beside his own sketch.

When Woo-jin gets home, he finds Bum-gyun’s bag still sitting out in the hallway. He picks it up and brings it in, then rings up his brother. Bum-gyun’s voice sounds hushed as he says that he thinks he’s found the alien’s hideout. Woo-jin tries to tell him about the woman, but Bum-gyun suddenly says, “The criminal is Bluebird!”

Woo-jin tells him to come home and tell him about this Bluebird, and Bum-gyun promises to come over right after he checks something. But the next morning arrives with no sign of Bum-gyun — his phone’s switched off and his boss at the bakery hasn’t seen him after his first day at work.

Chief Hong arrives with his partner at the bakery too, and after speaking to the boss, he decides that Bum-gyun is the man with the taser.

Woo-jin visits his brother’s motel room and faces an irate owner, who says that Bum-gyun was supposed to pay his dues that day. Before leaving, he notices a map stuck to the wall with “alien’s hideout” written on it. He takes the map and runs to the location. It’s a PC gaming den, and there is no sign of his brother among the gamers.

The other thing he remembers from the wall is another post-it note about the library, and runs there only to find Jung-yeon studying by herself. He walks up to her and begins to ask a question before changing his mind and running out.

Back at the motel, he remembers the camera and pulls it down from its place on top of the cupboard. The recording in it shows Bum-gyun placing it there and leaving it on as he switches off the light and leaves the room. Woo-jin almost groans, until he fast forwards a little to see a hooded figure enter the room and switch on the light. The person scans Bum-gyun’s wall, then turns to leave.

At the last moment, the figure looks towards the camera, and Woo-jin jerks back when he sees Jung-yeon’s face. He immediately goes back to the library and waits for her outside. When she sees him and asks why they keep bumping into each other, he walks up to her and asks if she’s really Han Jung-yeon.

He grabs her by her collar, and in the face of her seemingly genuine outrage, he yells: “Who are you? Who the hell are you?”

Part 2: Brave New World

Finally in Smart Earth, Joon-hyuk stands outside the imposing building housing the Human B control room. He glances down at the Rubik’s cube in his hand and thinks, Wait for me. I’ll find you, wherever you may be.

He watches as a few smartly dressed people enter the building, led by Deputy Chief LEE HYUN-SEOK (Min Sung-wook). Deputy Chief Lee walks into the control room, where dozens of employees monitor live feeds of their Smart Earth citizens. He asks the men in charge of the Stable Care chip and software how the murder could have happened.

Each man tries to push the blame on the other department while claiming that neither the chip nor the software could be at fault. He tells them to find the cause fast and keep silent about the murder. SECRETARY SHIN, his second-in-command, informs him that Mayor Yoon wants to meet him.

In Mayor Yoon’s office, Ho-soo reports on the background of the murder. The murdered man, Gong Min-woo, had kidnapped a seven-year-old Kim Min-ji twenty years ago, but got away due to lack of evidence.

Mayor Yoon asks about Min-ji’s location, but Ho-soo says that the Human B system can’t locate her. The mayor orders Ho-soo to report to him directly and to also keep an eye on Joon-hyuk during the investigation.

The mayor next meets the deputy chief and asks how such a crime is possible under the Stable Care System. Instead of answering, Deputy Chief Lee asks if he had to go to the extreme length of allowing an unchipped detective into their city: “You’ve planted a bomb in Smart Earth.”

Mayor Yoon doesn’t back down, retorting that the bomb is already on the loose. Deputy Chief Lee brings up an elusive “chairman,” and the mayor cuts him off to ask if the man even exists. The deputy chief avoids the question and stresses that the chairman finds Joon-hyuk’s presence in Smart Earth unfortunate, but the mayor confidently assures him that the Ordinary Earth detective will solve the case.

Unsurprisingly, Deputy Chief Lee looks into Joon-hyuk, and Secretary Shin tells him that the detective didn’t exist on paper until ten years ago, when he joined the police force. He guesses that this was the reason he refused to have a chip inserted in his head, and Secretary Shin adds that he probably came here with another motive.

Chief Hong and Joon-hyuk meet in the white space of virtual reality, and the chief immediately rags on him for looking like he just rolled out of bed. Joon-hyuk says that things are crazy because of the care chip and asks Chief Hong how a chip could keep crimes for happening for five thousand days. “That chip definitely has a purpose we don’t know about,” Joon-hyuk stresses.

Chief Hong says that this would mean that the Human B program was responsible for the disappearance of the twins. Joon-hyuk agrees: “If it weren’t for that child, this chip wouldn’t exist.” Chief Hong tells him not to get caught, since his identity could bring everything down.

Finishing the call, Joon-hyuk takes out a notebook and scribbles in it. Ho-soo walks into his apartment (he really likes white) and finds his guest sprawled on the couch with food and clothes strewn about. He passive-aggressively remarks on the talent it takes to be this untidy in so short a time.

As he picks up the clothes, Joon-hyuk adds his socks to the load with a smile. Ho-soo comments on his backward habit of writing in a notebook, and Joon-hyuk snarks that the analog process gives him a clarity Ho-soo wouldn’t understand.

Ho-soo says that they have to go to a place that is far from analog, and they take a trip to Smart Earth’s investigation lab, buried deep underground. As they take yet another flight of stairs, Joon-hyuk calls Ho-soo “Erro,” explaining that his plastic smile reminds him of the pantomime character, “Pierrot.”

As they walk into the lab, Ho-soo seriously explains that they have to keep their investigation hushed. Joon-hyuk takes another shot at Ho-soo by claiming to be surprised that the care chip lets him stop smiling.

Ho-soo patiently explains that the stable care system only controls emotions to prevent misery and crime. Joon-hyuk wonders exactly what needs to happen for the care system to step in, and Ho-soo says that it intercepts excessive emotions like over-excitement, sudden surprise, or anger.

Joon-hyuk nods along as he circles Ho-soo, then abruptly grabs him around the neck and chokes him. He lets him go when Ho-soo’s chip doesn’t light up in his neck. As Ho-soo readjusts his suit, Joon-hyuk tries another attack — this time, with the picture of a woman in a bikini on his phone.

As Ho-soo blinks in confusion, Joon-hyuk look downward and wonders if the care system controls that function too. Ho-soo almost rolls his eyes at Joon-hyuk’s immaturity.

Joon-hyuk finally gets serious and asks to see Gong Min-woo’s body. When they visit the morgue, and he pulls out the drawer with the dead body, Joon-hyuk finally gets the answer he wanted from Ho-soo.

The younger man reacts badly to his first glimpse of a corpse and runs out of the room. As he hyperventilates in the hallway, the care system stabilizes his vital stats so that he can calm down.

Joon-hyuk comes out and asks if this is the first body he’d seen. He tells Ho-soo that he’d thrown up after his own first glimpse of a corpse, but Ho-soo doesn’t see why he has to be like Joon-hyuk and says that it’s rational to avoid harmful human emotions.

When Joon-hyuk wonders if rationality is all that matters, Ho-soo claims that it has kept their city free of crime for fifteen years now. Joon-hyuk scoffs and asks if he really thinks that’s true. As Ho-soo spouts the Stable Care maxim with conviction, Joon-hyuk just says, “Ignorance is bliss.” Ho-soo is utterly thrown by the idea that there is something he doesn’t know.

Back inside the room, the two look over the body. There is a “No. 1” etched into the dead man’s forehead, which prompts Ho-soo to wonder if this is only the first murder. Joon-hyuk recalls Min-ji’s call, where she had said, “Those guys are back.” He deduces that there could have been accomplices in the kidnapping.

As they examine the body further, they find a slit on the side of his neck and realize that someone has taken out the dead man’s chip. Joon-hyuk immediately heads to the office of the doctor who performed the autopsy, with Ho-soo at his heels. He confronts the woman for damaging the evidence and demands the chip back.

She hands it over easily, saying that she was following protocol, but Joon-hyuk is clearly not satisfied. He waits in the car in the parking lot below, while refusing to answer Ho-soo’s questions. As Ho-soo gets a call and steps out to take it, Joon-hyuk notices the doctor getting into her own car. He immediately drives off after her, leaving Ho-soo yelling after him.

The doctor meets Secretary Shin and hands over the real chip. Secretary Shin says that Joon-hyuk couldn’t have accessed the information without the Human B software anyway. As Shin takes the chip, a hand grabs her wrist. “This is evidence in a criminal investigation,” Joon-hyuk tells her. “Who told you to do it?”

Secretary Shin takes him to the Human B building, where a company of guards immediately blocks his way. Deputy Chief Lee walks down the stairs, and with a cold look towards his secretary, he introduces himself. Joon-hyuk shows him the chip and asks if its unauthorized removal was his doing.

When he feigns ignorance, Joon-hyuk asks to see the chairman, since it could only be on his order, then. The deputy chief tells him that the chairman doesn’t see outsiders, but Joon-hyuk brings the book down on them by quoting the law that entitles him to arrest the chairman for forging evidence.

Deputy Chief Lee immediately claims it was a mistake and promises full cooperation in the future. He extends a hand to Joon-hyuk, which the detective ignores and walks out. Secretary Shin steps forward, shamefaced, as Deputy Chief Lee clenches his fist.

Joon-hyuk makes a virtual reality call to Chief Hong and shows him the chip he confiscated. He directs the chief to quickly arrest Lee Dong-soo so that they can crack the secrets of the chip.

Dong-soo is up to his usual swindling in a bar when Detective Ho and Chief Hong arrive on the scene. They arrest him by clapping an electronic anklet on his leg, all the while bantering with him like old friends.

Dong-soo is brought to the gateway to Smart Earth, where Joon-hyuk hands him the chip. He tells the hacker to analyze it, which frustrates Dong-soo, since he’s a software hacker and the chip is a piece of hardware. Getting increasingly worked up, he shouts that the chip only connects the brain to the Human B software, but holds no data in itself.

Asking if the Bluebird can do it, Joon-hyuk directs Dong-soo to find the legendary hacker in five days. Dong-soo tells him that it’s impossible, but Joon-hyuk clearly has him cornered. Later, when Dong-soo sits in his lair, stewing in frustration, his monitor lights up with Bluebird’s logo.

Back in Smart Earth, Ho-soo confronts Joon-hyuk about his behavior. Joon-hyuk asks if Ho-soo knew about Human B’s forging of the chip, adding, “I can’t trust you people.” Ho-soo shoots back that he can’t trust Joon-hyuk. “Detective Kim, why did you come to Smart Earth?”

Joon-hyuk claims that he’s there to solve the murder, but Ho-soo points out that instead of looking for Min-ji, he’s been entirely focused on Gong Min-woo’s chip. He warns Joon-hyuk to behave himself, or he’ll be thrown out of Smart Earth.

Just then, both men get an alert on their phones: Min-ji’s chip has come online. They race to the location, but just then, the chip vanishes from the system again. They find a man bleeding from a stab wound in an apartment, and while Joon-hyuk tries to stem the blood, Ho-soo freezes at the sight. Joon-hyuk yells at him to call an ambulance, but Ho-soo can only move once his chip’s light changes to green.

Min-ji’s second victim (with a “No.2” etched on his forehead) survives, but claims to have been a loving uncle to his friend’s daughter. Ho-soo reports the man’s name and residence to Joon-hyuk, who notes it in his book. The man is Min-ji’s legal guardian, and he tells his visitors that Min-ji had been behaving strangely for the past few days.

Ho-soo asks if he has any memory footage they can examine, and Joon-hyuk is surprised to learn that people can download their memories and store them. In the uncle’s memory, Min-ji speaks about remembering being kidnapped as a child. The uncle’s voice tells her that she’s never been kidnapped, and Min-ji agrees, except the memories are becoming more and more vivid.

Ho-soo turns to Joon-hyuk and asks why everyone keeps saying she had never been kidnapped when it was a fact of her past. Joon-hyuk slowly says that her lost memories were returning to her. Ho-soo wonders how she lost them: Stress? Mental trauma? Joon-hyuk shakes his head and says, “No. It was because of Smart Earth.”

Later, Joon-hyuk walks out of the shower with an aching head. He takes a pill out of a bottle and clears the fogged mirror. He pushes away the hair from his left ear and examines a scar there. It’s eerily similar to the one on the dead man’s corpse.

Memories from twenty years ago rush in as he stands there clutching his head. Woo-jin pleads with someone to find his brother. “I don’t care if he ends up in the hospital or jail, so please…!”

There are fragments of memories where Bum-gyun bangs on a door, where Woo-jin runs after a car while a bloody hand presses against the window, and where a hooded figure walks away from Woo-jin. The final, most vivid memory is of Woo-jin sitting in the police station, begging to have his brother found. Joon-hyuk shuts his eyes against the flood of these images.

Deputy Chief Lee rides in an elevator alone and ascends to the penthouse where “the chairman” resides. The man sits in a deep armchair, with his back to the room. As the deputy chief walks into the room, he finds the chairman watching Kim-ji’s memories of being kidnapped as a child.

The deputy chief promises to get rid of the memory from the system before Joon-hyuk finds out about it. He asks the chairman why he halted their investigation into Joon-hyuk, who clearly forged his identity and has something to hide. We don’t hear an answer, but Lee says that he understands.

As he turns to leave, a thought stops Deputy Chief Lee. “Perhaps… you already know who he is?” The chairman doesn’t turn around, but one gloved hand extends to show him a picture on an old phone. From it, the twin brothers look out at us, and it’s the picture Bum-gyun had taken with his phone back in 2017.

 
COMMENTS

Circle grabs you from the first scene and refuses to slacken its grip until the very last minute. The tone, pace, and music are all calibrated to infuse a delicious sense of urgency into the show. Just two episodes in, and I’m utterly invested in the fates of its characters. Not only has the drama sold me on the various motives and conflicts in both timelines, it has also managed to make both “worlds” equally compelling. As Beta Project ends, I want to scream at the cliffhanger, and then Brave New World starts and I’m back on the edge of my seat again.

Who is Joon-hyuk? Why does he have both the brothers’ memories in his mind? Where are the brothers? Who is the Chairman? And who or what is Jung-yeon? I have my theories, but what makes me love this new drama is that I don’t know if I’m right! I don’t remember the last time I was this thrown by the mystery at the heart of a show. And the execution so far has been so tight that I feel a deep conviction that there is a satisfying answer at the end of this road. That anticipation is half the fun of watching each episode!

Beyond the impressive effects of the set and costume designs, the show has put a lot of work into the smaller details of the story. While the subtleties maybe easy to miss at first, their presence lends a depth to each character in the two main timelines, as well as the flashback into the brothers’ childhood. Small things like Bum-gyun using that image of a movie alien to depict Jung-yeon, when he had a camera full of her pictures, show how determined he is to keep her dehumanized in his mind.

Ho-soo only hyperventilates when he faces scenes of violence, but not when he is attacked. This seems to foreshadow something in his own past that he may have forgotten or chosen to remove. At the very least, the extent of his reaction makes you realize that of all people, Ho-soo needs to believe that the Stable Care System works, since it so obviously keeps him functional.

In the future timeline, when the people keep talking about a crime free era in Smart Earth, I wonder how they define crime. Is forgery not a crime? Obstruction of justice? Knowingly erasing evidence that can shed light on a murder case? If “crime” simply means violent crime, then I can see how removing triggering memories and dampening emotional excesses could quiet those urges. But then, doesn’t the abuse become more insidious? The ones in the know are manipulating the feelings and knowledge of the rest of the citizens. How much goes unquestioned? How much unreported? When Woo-jin brought up the idea of erasing traumatic memories to ease the suffering of humans, I doubt he ever meant for the idea to be used in such a way.

This is a case of splendid actors being directed by a skilled master. Gong Seung-yeon gives her alien such lifeless eyes, that I have a hard time believing the smiling Jung-yeon could possibly be her. She seems to lack that endless age that the alien held in her gaze. And it’s because I question Jung-yeon’s extraterrestrial origins that her first interactions with Woo-jin were wrought with so much tense uncertainty. I don’t know if he’s about to uncover the existence of an immortal alien, or if he’s creeping out a college girl who just wants to do her assignment. It’s brilliant!

There is an abundance of moments like that in Circle, where a character’s present action ties into some future payoff. The actors have such a great range of expressions that their reactions carry the narrative. There is also beauty in the simplicity of the show’s emotional hook — we can’t help but care for Woo-jin and Bum-gyun, and therefore, we can’t help but keep watching to find out what happened to them. Suffice to say, I’ve taken the bait.

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I really really love it so far! I have soooo many questions. How sad that this show will only have 10 Episodes.

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By the way, thanks for the recap festerfaster, but as I understood it Joon-hyuk was confirmed to be Woo-jin. I guess he had to change his identity for some reason. I'm so curious for as to how and why. Also the alien(?) doppelganger girl really intrigues me.
I also very much enjoy the antagonistic dynamic of Ho-joo and Joon-hyuk. It is hysterical how JH tries to push HJ's buttons, but I'm also very worried for HJ and his willingness to give up his negative/extreme emotions. Is he even able to love with this thing inside of him. Hope JH can get trough to him and helps him to get rid of the chip.

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Joonhyuk being Woojin is definitely the biggest giveaway so far with all the glaring clues (his close relationship with Dongsoo, pinching his eyebrows like before, rubik's cube, the way he gives Dongsoo deadlines - 10 mins vs 5 days). However, I still do want to hold on to that slight possibility that he could also be Bumgyun.

Like festerfaster noted, the drama did show us the flashback from both the POVs of the brothers.

There really is nothing much to support Bumgyun is Joonhyuk though I just really want the idea of both brothers looking for each other in both timelines. ?

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The thing is we have 10 eps. Is that enough time for the writers to play the guessing game with us?

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Correction 12 episodes.

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It all depends. They have given all these huge clues that spell out Woojin=Joonhyuk that they might as well have 100% confirmed it, but they haven't.

Although in the end... it could really be WJ=JH, again, I just really like the idea that the twins are looking for each other in both timelines. ^^

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I think the superior in smart city more like to be bum gyun bcs he has a selfie pict in his phone

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Wow, what if Joonhyuk really is Bumgyun??? It doesn't seem very likely, but it'd be a crazy plot twist. Especially because Woojin is the one in the past who wanted to create something that "cures" PTSD by taking away bad memories. Maybe the hidden chairman is WJ - the mastermind behind Smart Earth. *Shrugs* Although I have to say JH really does look like the older version of WJ.. who knows! Please add lots of good plot-twists writer-nim!!!

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That's what I was thinking, even though it might be unlikely I totally thought about when Woo Jin mentioned his idea for curing PTSD by erasing memories. Maybe he came up with the whole idea of Smart Earth and is the Chairman in the future...I can't wait to find out!

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I think so too that WJ is that man-behind-the-scenes guy at that smart world cos he said he want to erase memories to cure PTSD but then again that selfie photo ?

Come to think of it, the writer like to play with the viewers. As in, rmb when the twin brothers were kids Woo Jin was the one who obsessed over aliens but when they grew up it becomes the other way round that his older brother now is the one who is obsessed in finding the alien. So I won't be surprised if it goes the other way round again to become his older brother actually want to invent a way to erase memories to cure PTSD instead of implying to us that Woo Jin was the one who initially was interested in this invention.

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I forgot about that bit! It would be wonderful if Woo-jin is the Chairman since Joon-hyuk being him will be a little to predictable.

The only I can get of Bum-hyun being Joon-hyuk is his obsession about Smart Earth. It's not same obsession as BH with aliens but it's the same determination to find the truth.

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I think you're onto something here! Can't wait to see how Circle reveals itself. This show is awesome!

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I am intrigued by the entire premise! Like you, I have many questions that need answers to, especially that alien woman. The actress differentiates the two characters so convincingly that I find it difficult to believe they are the same person.

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Yes, she really seems like two completely different people.

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Either the actress playing lead gal was so good at portraying two different characters or that the alien has some superb acting skills that we can't convince ourselves that she is that alien.

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I'm really impressed by the amazing casting choices. All cast members are great at interpreting the characters to life. They also did cast quite a few people from Six Flying Dragons. :D Yeo Jingoo also did shortly appear in Deep Rooted-Tree. Both dramas were written by the current producers/creators of the show.

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nelly, sooo good to have a show that sparks so many questions, but you can't tell which one it will take. All with the proviso that once memory is manipulated, no past "truth" can be a certainty.

As a viewer, it is now a tightrope to navigate the story...as it is for the characters.

Thanks to the writer for such a cool opening.

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its 12 episodes

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So many questions ! Is she really the alien or was bumgyum mistaken ?

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I'm so curious to find out too! But if she isn't, how come she looks like the alien?
In any case, Gong Seung-yeon's perfomance is amazing.

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There's always the option that aliens use a host body – they might look like something else entirely (or have no corporeal form as we imagine), so the girl's body might have been "possessed" by the alien back then... and she might be herself right now, with no memory of the time when her body was taken over. Though it's questionable – we're 20 years on and she doesn't seem to have aged at all. We'll find out eventually what the truth is...

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The kids were 10 when they first saw the alien, and in Beta Project, they're 20. So it's only ten years, but yes, she didn't even age a day.

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Thanks for the correction. I'm getting confused with all the timelines... still need to get the hang of that.

Really, she would have 'aged back'/not aged if it's the same body... she seems like the same age as Woo-jin at university, which means she would have been 10 in the past as well. But the alien they encountered certainly wasn't 10....

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That's one option or it could be that she doesn't age normally like a "real human" and thus she looks the same from when they first saw her.

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Yeah, like Do Min-joon's never-changing (good, great, handsome, squee-inducing, fluffy, and all synonyms of these adjectives) looks.

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I have a theory that the existence of Smart Earth is based on Woo-jin’s idea on how to cure PTSD.
He thought the best method was to make people forget their traumatic events, and coincidentally that girl couldn’t remember being kidnapped. Maybe the chip was developed as a cure for PTSD, and later people (or aliens) realized they could use it for somethings else. But then there’s the question of if Woo-jin was personally involved in the creation of the chip/ Smart Earth or if someone else (his professor, aliens?) took the idea from him. So, perhaps the memories of everyone in Smart Earth have been tampered with.

Whether the chip is the reason the city was supposedly crime-free… that’s still up for question. Joon-hyuk seemed to think otherwise when he commented that “ignorance is bliss.” But his statement also indicates that he knows more about Smart Earth than the S.E residents themselves (which would make sense IF he is Woo-jin and IF Woo-jin had a hand in the creation of the chip/Smart Earth). We did see that he has a scar from where he had a chip inserted. I’m assuming the chip isn’t there anymore, but does that mean he was once a resident of Smart Earth? And if Joon-hyuk is one of the twins, why is he hiding his identity? I think he’s Woo-jin, because that last scene heavily hinted that Bum Gyun is the chairman (unless the show is intentionally misleading us. AND Lol, the chairman still uses a Samsung galaxy 8 in 2037, when everyone else has a fancy transparent phone). But if he indeed is Bum-Gyun, how did he end up in that position? Is he good or bad?

Lastly, I think the students’ deaths in 2017 are also related to the chip. In 2037, when Joon-hyuk and Ho-soo were viewing the memories of Min-ji's uncle, he asked Min-ji if she was experiencing headaches or nosebleeds. And one of Woo-jin’s classmates had nosebleeds. Maybe the students are being experimented on? To have the chip inserted in them (or it is already being inserted in them).

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I'm pretty sure you are on the right track yuyuu, at least I had the same thoughts. Circle is really intriguing me :)

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There are SO many questions already, I can't believe we're only on episode 2

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I think that Joon Hyuk helped make the chips with his professor and that he and Bum Gyun were the first subjects to be implanted with the prototype.... but something went wrong? and he had his chip taken out.... maybe? thats my guess....

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whoaaa. you're good.

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Agree. They were definitely in the 'beta project' as the name imply. I think they are one of those failed expriments as Joon Hyuk has to ask HoSoo how the chip really works. He didnt experience it first hand.

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I agree with your conclusions. I wrote very similar thoughts. Woo-jin's idea on treating PTSD by removing the memory is possibly the basis for the care chip. Does the care chip not only limit strong emotions but also removes memories that may be problematic? Joon-hyuk definitely acts sometimes as if he was once part of Smart Earth. I am so curious!!

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And if Joon-hyuk had a chip inside of him at some point, does that mean his memories were also tampered with?

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I think yes. Especially if he is one of the brothers. And someone was saying maybe memories were implanted instead. So many questions and possibilities.

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I think that experiments were definitely taking place on the college campus. And I'm very suspicious of Professor Hwang Yong-woo.

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Omo!! What if the deaths were caused by the chips, maybe implanting thoughts or memories to cause them to want to kill themselves?

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I'm thinking about Inception.

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Wow! That makes a lot of sense! I haven't thought of it that way. ?

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I thought the Chairman was the alien! Like, how carefully the gloves concealed his/her hands - GSY's hands would definitely give her away as a woman, too.

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I definitely have the same opinion with you...
Ah.. Monday, please come faster...

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Not sure if the 2017 deaths are chip related because I took it to be that the chip was invented once Woo Jin starts working with the professor. But I completely missed the (possible) implications of WJ’s classmate's nosebleeds. I was so focused on the brothers' heartfelt emotions and the mystery of the alien that I never even considered that the students are being experimented on (!)

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I haven't made such an elaborate hypothesis but I also saw the link between Woo Jin's idea of curing PTSD by removing memories (surely to help his brother I think) and the way the chip works in 2037 by making people forget about their memories. But about the murders in 2017 I haven't thought of them much actually. If indeed they are used in an experience then OMG that's crazy!

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I have so many theories. But for sure the dead/dying college students are being experimented on (by aliens or just nefarious humans, that is the question) and their bodies are basically hosts for those chips/alien breeding ground (I soo need for aliens to exist or even alien like artificial intelligence -Han to me is either an alien or an AI original prototype of future smart earth human B nonsense) and whatever, whomever is developing now, is perfected (flawed as we see it is) by 2037. Much of this started before Woo Jin's involvement and Bum Gyun onto something. But Woo Jin and his whole "erase memories" is definitely huge consequences in 2017 and 2037. I guess he never watched 'Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind' to understand why "erase bad memories" is never good. Memories/experience (good or bad) make us who we are and prepare us to face the world. Ironically sad that his plans/quest to save his brother (erase his alien obsession) puts him and the world in danger and kind of have all future human, partially disappear (lost memories means you're missing a part of yourself) as his brother does/will be in the present.

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I believe that you're definitely on to something. I wouldn't be surprised that Woo-jin’s idea was twisted and altered for a more nefarious purpose.

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I like your observation and theory. Maybe I'm not a good observer so I didn't think much about that classmate's nosebleed.

Actually something kinda freak me out is that rmb that that alien should have a scar on her left neck cos she had a glass pierced into her when she tried to save Woo Jin in that accident so when that detective shown that he had a scar at his neck, I wasn't thinking about whether he had a chip in him previously but I was thinking "is he that alien" instead? Lol. Sounds absurd I know. But the coincidence is there.

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Gong Seung Yeon looks eye-catching in that header.

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She is quite pretty. I bet she's so happy right now acting alongside Yeo Jin-gu since she's said how much of a fan she is. She's a successful fan.

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Can Park Bo-young be like her too?

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Lol, I don't think Park Bo-young would survive because she adores him so much. She would probably die if she was told her co-star was Yeo Jin-gu. I love watching celebs fangirl/fanboy over other celebs.

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I quite like some of the interactions between HS and JH. JH is so animated with his expressions whenever he tries to get a reaction out of the normally unemotional HS, and HS deadpan reaction makes the scene more hilarious. And the way he tries to be cheeky with HS... hahaha.

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I'm still of the opinion that Joon-hyuk isn't Woo-jin, I just feel like it might be a red Herring. But I'm almost certain the chairman is one of the brothes, I'm leaning towards Bum-gyun.
Also, please tell me I'm not the only one sick of this epic pirates of the carribean music played every five seconds.

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My doubts about Joon-hyuk being Woo-jin, lie in the fact that his cheeky personality doesn't seem consistent with Woo-jin.
But people change and 20 years is a long time. Perhaps hiding his identity means he also has to act differently.

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This is what I originally thought too. He could be putting on a sort of lighthearted persona to help him get through to Smart Earth, but it's hard to tell what purpose that would serve. He actually seems different from both brothers to me.

At first, I thought he actually seemed more like the kid Woo-jin was tutoring, but the computer skills thing ruins that. Woo-jin did seem a little bit similar to Joon-hyuk, though, if you compare how he treats his student to how JH treats Dong-soo...the computer hacker. So it could very well be that Woo-jin has just become a very different person while coping with the drastic changes to their world.

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My bet for now is Bumgyun = Joonhyuk and Chairman = Woojin.

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this is also my guess. i'm going to assume there's going to be a twist somewhere and that's going to be it haha

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for me it is the total opposite. Joonhyuk is too cheeky to be Bumgyun.

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but i am curious about the identity and the past of Ho-soo, i feel that there is more to him given the lingering scenes that focus on his reaction

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yes. joonhyuk=woojin. chairman=bumgyun.
I just wonder how could YJG when he grown up as a man his face become KKW LOL

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One of the brain killing stuff is guessing who is who in this drama. Hahaha. Maybe the chairman of smart world is an alien.

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Well, dang, I was hoping this wouldn't be good but now I have to watch this on top of the other new shows I've taken on. Can't pass up a good sci-fi show, with Gikwang in it to boot!

I'm thoroughly confused by the alien woman. Is the college student her, or not? Is she a clone like someone suggested? Did the alien steal someone's soul? Argh.

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I am a sucker for sci fi series, which is unfortunately not plentiful in kdramaland, so imagine my surprise when Circle appeared on my radar. I am loving this show, the stark contrast between the two worlds and the twins' disappearance and their alien woman. I like the pacing of the story so far, and the fact that it has only about 10 episodes means there is hardly time for fillers, which translates to a tighter storyline.

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This drama actively engages us at every scene and makes us speculate the meaning behind every small action of the leads and guess the mystery surrounding both worlds. Which I'm more than happy to do :D

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"Why does he have both the brothers’ memories in his mind?"

Ok, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one wondering about this because it certainly feels this way to me. The very similar antics between Woo-jin & the student planning on succeeding with computer skills and Joon-hyuk & Dong-soo, the hacker, seem to spell out that Joon-hyuk is Woo-jin. It just feels like they have to be the same people. But I can’t help shaking the feeling that there’s more to it…

Maybe I’m reaching for an overly complex explanation. While, so far, everything is pointing at Joon-hyuk as Woo-jin and the chairman as Beom-gyeon, they currently live in a world where memories can be taken away (or, at least, attempted to be). And so, you can rightly assume that memories can probably be given as well. So could this be something completely crazy like their memories getting switched, and their real memories come peeking through at points?

This could be a completely ridiculous theory, but I found it posed so many interesting questions. Like, how much of who you are is dictated by memory? Could memories of "yourself" as a different person fundamentally change who you are?

Haha, can't believe it. This drama is making me come up with some pretty wack theories already. And it's only the beginning...

Thanks for the recap!

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Hmm, that's a pretty interesting theory about memories. I know for sure that a lot of what has shaped me into who I am is based on the things I have experienced so if I got those memories taken away, I probably would be a different person.

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"you can rightly assume that memories can probably be given as well." Yes, yes, yes!

I think that we are starting to think along a similar vein. Like you, I still don't think that Joon-hyuk is Woo-in or even Beom-gyun. There is something more to this. I think another big clue into what is going on is the Kim Min-ji story in 2037. I tried to articulate some of those thoughts in my post.

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Exactly! I also don't really think Joon-hyuk seems like either of the brothers. Could he simply be someone who ended up with one or both of their chips?

Off to read your theories!

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"Could he simply be someone who ended up with one or both of their chips? "

Anything seems possible. We'll just have to keep watching and see what revelations come our way on a weekly basis.

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But why the senior detective told him I find his brother(s) when he was going to smart world to investigate that crime ? He won't say that if he isn't one of the twin right ??

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Yes. That lady who killed her kidnapper who kidnapped when she was a kid. Why did she say that she is 7 year old when she is already an adult. Is it another wrong memory at work again?

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I think she is remembering. But, she is unable to discern past and present memories. So as she remembers she is transported in her mind to that time and place.

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Have you all seen the show 'Dollhouse' or the HBO show 'Westward'? Your theories are reminding of those two shows and movie especially Westworld.

i believe Joon Hyuk is one of the brothers (which one I'm still not sure). He's been asleep for years aka had the human b chip in him and his memories suppressed and even new ones created (of his own doing as he lived as Joon Hyuk). Now he had the chip removed, and is awakening to who he is (he doesn't remember everything but as he goes along in Smart World Normal World he remembers more and more.

My questions are, who put the chip in Joon Hyuk? Did he volunteer to do this or was it forced on him? How did he discover the chip (if he discovered it that is) and who took it out and why? Again did Joon Hyuk/which ever brother his is or is not, discover this all his own and choose to do it (why then?) or was it forced on him and he is a player is someone else's bigger game and still doesn't know it...?

Who founded and began all of this? Who is the big brother, the puppet master behind all this? All of this began long before the brothers stumbled on things (the alien or ai they found in the woods who took their father).

I actually like the idea of kidnapped now brainwashed alien host father being the chairman and unknowingly having and continuing to destroy his sons lives.

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I think it's possible that Joon-hyuk doesn't know which brother he is. He created the identity of Joon-hyuk because (among other reasons) he has two sets of memories and isn't sure which of the twins he really is, so he took a third option and became a brand new person while he investigates.

It would also explain why neither he nor the chief have identified which twin he's searching for, because they can't. They literally don't know.

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Ooh... that would be frigging awesome if that's the case. :D He's displaying both brothers' personalities too... Woojin's habits and Bumgyun's cheekiness.

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I'm still inclined to think he's Woo-jin, but the idea that he might be Bum-gyun is very, very interesting.

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@elle1 I'm thinking along the same lines here. It would be the coolest twist. =)

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Oooh yes, this is definitely one of my theories, but the way you put it makes it sound even more fascinating and now I definitely want it to be the case. I hadn't thought about the fact that HE wouldn't know which brother he is and that adds a fascinating layer of excitement to things. Now I don't really care which brother he is because it ties exactly into those questions I was asking about who you become when your memories become intertwined with someone else's! Ugh, this is too good. Is it tomorrow yet?!

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Favourite mind blowing bits:

Woo-Jin seeing and meeting the girl who looks exactly like the Alien from the past. Plus the ending where she sneaks into Beom Gyun's secret room. Is she a real alien? Was Beom Gyun right all along? And where exactly has Beom Gyun disappeared to??

Anvil sized hints confirming that Joon Hyuk is indeed Woo Jin- the rubix cube, the pinching of Dong Soo's eyebrow. What happened to him in the 20 years we missed? Why does he look so different? Why does he have a different identity? Does Chief Hong know all about this? And if he does, why?? and How?

The Chips implanted also remove memories- Why does the chip wipe memories? And if so, what other memories has it wiped out? Is that the reason why Smart Earth has no crimes? Because no one can remember them??

Who is this elusive Chairman of Human B? That photo he/she was looking at on the phone- that's the selfie Beom Gyun took with Woo Jin! Who else but the 2 of them would have it?? Is Beom Gyun the Chairman???

And omo, the biggest shock of all- Joon Hyuk has a scar behind his ear- as if he had a previous chip that was taken out! Was he responsible for creating the first prototype of the Chip and then the first subject, together with his brother? And if so, how does the Alien girl fit into all of this??

So many questions and so much excitement for the next episodes!! Gimme gimme gimme! *grabby hands*

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Those things you mentioned could also point to Joon-hyuk being the kid Woo-jin tutored. I'm so excited to find out stuff, this drama is really good.

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I think it's pretty clear that the kid he tutored is the same Lee Dong-soo who is Joon-hyuk's hacker in 2037!

I wonder if the chip is some kind of brain-computer interface that allows the programmers to get into people's memories remotely and take stuff out or put it in. So it would be technically feasible to skim off memories from two/a few different people and 'upload' it into a third person's brain. Like @Chandler above, I also can't quite reconcile Joon-hyuk's personality with either brother, despite being led by the nose to think he must be Woo-jin. It's too obvious...so it must be a feint? That's the rule of storytelling, right? It's too smartly and tightly written for it not to be a deliberate nudge. The hints would be much more subtle if he really *were* Woo-jin?

I don't knoooow but I'm dying to find out!

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Ohhh snap. I never though about there maybe always being crime on Smart Planet but all of it always being erased from residents minds. This drama be some Dollhouse, Westworld, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind mixed in with Battlestar Galatica, The 4400 and Brave New World...aka everything I need and want in a sci-fi and my new love.

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The only reason why I think Joon Hyuk is Woo Jin is because I don't see another top billing actor to play Woo Jin 2037 if it isn't Kim Kang Woo. Actually, Joon Hyuk's behavior resembles more of Bum-gyun. Woo Jin was more reserved and not such a wise cracker as Joon Hyuk.

I like Gong Seung Yeon in Six Flying Dragons but thought she was weak in Master: God of Noodle. I love her here! I agree with festerfaster, there's such a contrast between the totally emotionless alien and the expressive college girl.

Deputy Chief Lee looks like a bellhop sans hat ?

Last but not least, I am not Exhibit 4 though I do wish I look like Gong Seung Yeon when I am in human form.

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LMAO

I am overly-biased for saying this, but another reason I kinda don't want to believe Joonhyuk is Woojin is that I want to see Yeo Jingoo in 2037 timeline too.

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I already miss him when the drama switched to the New World.

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Same... his acting is just way too captivating not to be missed. I mean 2037 has a very engaging story too, but still there's a part of me that groans everytime YJG's part is over.

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for me when it switched I'm getting confused and my mind just circling around exactly like the title

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My brain is going in circles just like its title every time I watched an episode of it.

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Thanks for this well-written recap.

I wonder if the chairman might be Professor Hwang Yong Woo, the more reserved professor who listened intently to Woo-jin's memory-erasing answer to the PTSD question. For a few brief seconds, I thought about the Chairman being Woojin--silently watching over his creation--but my thoughts quickly went into another direction. I was getting more of an older-person/older being vibe, even though viewers only see his gloved hand. There is just something about that professor.
Could he be an alien? I can't help but feel that more than one alien landed on earth. Were they working on something that was taking years to develop? There definitely were experiments taking place on that college campus. The research assistant who committed suicide was working alongside Possessors Hwang Yong Woo and Park Dong-gun (the grumpier professor whom I don't suspect at his point). Something happened to him and I think he reached out to Woojin's brother for help.

Perhaps Han Jungyeon was one of those aliens on a secret mission. Maybe something changed and she is no longer working on the "evil" side. If she and the college girl in the 2017 story line are one and the same, then what could account for the dramatic change in demeanor and facial expression? While she appears to be sinister, there is more than meets the eye (like everything in this drama). It's also funny that she seems to be more expressive and emotional than the humans in our 2037 timeline.

Regarding memories and reality not being what it appears: are people's lives being experimented with? Kim Min Ji had been living in a familial relationship with one of her kidnappers. That "uncle" was completely shocked by the seemingly unprompted attack. Memories are not the only things being manipulated, but people themselves are being manipulated. What would the chances be that the victim and kidnapper would be interacting together on such an intimate level? It wasn't like she recovered her memories and then went looking for her kidnappers. One of those kidnappers was right there, so to speak. He was like an "uncle" to her. Sorry if I can't articulate myself that clearly. It seems, in other words, that some "experimenter" has placed them together. If we put this on a broader scale, then the lives of people on Smart Earth are being arranged, manipulated, and moved around like pieces on a chess board. I wish I could explain myself better. Sorry, everyone :(.

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I'm glad I'm not the only one who is suspicious about that professor. From the first time I saw him, I thought there was something about him.
He kept giving Woo-jin curious looks, and why is he the only one that seems to not hate Woo-jin in the neuroscience department? I've also asked myself if he's an alien.

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But if he is the Chairman, how did he get access to that selfie of the twins?

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He could have taken the phone from Woojin all those years ago.

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And kept it...as a memento? CREEPY
The professor could definitely be the chairman as well. If so, that would still make Bum Gyun absent from the 2037 timeline (assuming Joon-hyuk is Woo-jin), so Bum Gyun disappeared for real... and maybe Woo-jin, suspecting that his brother's disappearance was related to his professor's shenanigans...he changed his ID, because he didn't want his professor on his tail?

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@yuyuu

I'm not sure about it possibly being a memento. Either way, the professor remains on my radar for now.

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Yeah, I'm keeping an eye out for him too.
There are endless possibilities in this show.
Monday can't come sooner

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Don't be sorry at all! You articulated a lot of things I'm wondering about in my head, but can't attempt to put into words yet. I kind of have been wanting Woo-Jin to be the chairman, just because I would be fascinated to discover how he ended up there. This is part of why I'm so resistant to believe he's Joon-hyuk, but your idea about the professor also crossed my mind. I hadn't thought of him being an alien just yet, but it would definitely make sense that there'd be more than one and that the college became their basis for staging a sort of cleansing of humans for Smart Earth. But is a creation of a utopian society really their goal? There has to be something more sinister going on beneath the surface.

Thinking about this sort of manipulation...it's likely possible that several other crimes have occurred in Smart Earth, but the memories of these events have been stripped from spectators and even those involved. And, horrifically, in the case of murder, they may even attempt stripping memories of a person's very existence from their loved ones. Now that gives me the shivers.

I also can't write off the possibility of their father still being involved too, since, as far as we know, he left with the alien years before 2017. When he left, he seemed like he definitely had a new-found purpose in life, something that she must have somehow awakened in him. This fascinates me as much as it freaks me out, because it hints that whatever the alien's aim is has some kind of hold over people.

There is just so much to wonder about already, I doubt I make sense either...

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Thanks :).

Yes, I haven't completely ruled out Woojin possibly being the chairman, but right now, I'm leaning towards the Professor.

About the father--that's a good point. I wonder how he figures into things. When he first appeared, it was like he had been chasing something. How did he know where to find his sons? Perhaps he was following something and then saw his sons.

The whole possible manipulation/erasing/creating of memories is definitely worthy of causing shivers :).

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What if the chairman of actually the long-lost father of the twins? Is he a scientist? Maybe he left with the alien to do some 'project'. He seemed like am loving father so we don't know why he could just leave them and left with that ?

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*is actually

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I want their kidnapped haven't been seen in 10 years, probably been invaded by aliens and is now a host, father to be the chairman soo bad. What a twist and a boatload the drama would have to do. But now having said this, I know it won't happen. I am the worst at picking drama out comes. I been 0-3 and expect that streak to keep going LOL.

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yes the professor is looking fishy. i do think that he has answers for the central mysteries in the 2017 timeline.

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It's possible that the professor could have stolen Woo-jin's idea and then tried to get rid of him. Only Woo-jin would know how to bypass his own creation.

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What??!?!!? That ending. This show is trippin me out.

Do we think that Joon-hyuk is possibly Woo-jin? Or maybe even the other brother? Woo-jin could also be the Chairman, creator of the care chip. Follow me here: The care chip seems to be based on the idea of repressing strong emotions. And we find Woo-jin is interested in treating PTSD, where this kind of technology might be useful in treating it. Plus, we learn the chip, most likely, can also erase memories, just as Woo-jin had said was the best way to treat PTSD - by removing the trauma completely. So, it would make sense that Woo-jin created the chip and is currently running the company. Unless, he was somehow pushed out of the company and Smart Earth by Byum-gyun and his memory was removed. Who knows!!!

So now, I am wondering if Joon-hyuk was previously inside Smart Earth? He seems to know a lot for someone on the outside the entire time. It appears he is missing some memories as well, but they seem to be returning.

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My main hook for the drama lies in the love and affection between the two brothers, Woo-jin and Bum-gyun. As @festerfaster said, above and beyond all the scientific mazes, there is this underlying human bonding, and that's how woo jin tries to keep his brother safe, when it's clear that he doesn't have no one else to look up to, since the father is MIA. So just for that reason, I would love it if the show doesn't forcefully try to take a romantic route, and keep woo jin and GSY's character at friend level, [ if she's not an alien that is], and focus more on the sibling connection. At this point I have no idea whether she IS the alien or not, though I think I would be much more thrilled or excited if she is The one[ the alien kind of reminds me of that female robot from terminator 2?] Also, Kim kang woo better be not one of the twin, since I would be more thrilled if the two of them work together to solve this mystery. Superficial reasons much hehe. Off topic that sherlock reference is So wrong though LOL, how in earth could there be a Korean named sherlock holmes rofl, also sherlock doesn't work in a police department hahah.

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"how in earth could there be a Korean named sherlock holmes"

name her Seol-Ok and have her star in a drama called Mystery Queen where she works in a police department ;)

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I am also really intrigued now after episode 2. I was not planning on seeing this drama since I found episode 1 confusing, but now I want to know what is going to happen next.

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I love this show so far. But two facts about this particular episode stuck out like a sore thumb.

First, our genius neuroscience student Woo-jin blabbered something about treating PTSD by forgetting the particular memory causing stress and trauma. Yea because there has been a concrete brain region associated with specific memories which can be targeted chemically and/or surgically...NOT. Okay so maybe this isnt such a huge problem since I shouldnt be expecting television to be factually accurate. Also he's a neuroscience student and not a phd holder or doctor or anything so it could just be an error or a theoretical possibility in his mind (a naive one ?...). This isn't a huge issue; just something I LOLed at when Yeo jin-gu said it.

Second sore thumb hit me like a ton of bricks once we got to Smart Earth though. 5000 days on Smart Earth without crime because humans have a state-of-the art chip tech in their necks which controls emotions. Without emotions such as extreme anger, fear and anxiety etc., humans are dissuaded from crime committing. Tied together in one neat bow, it all works out perfectly. Wait what's that? People can train themselves to keep their emotions at bay at work, even criminals? So technically emotions arent even necessary when working? Wait hold up, many people are born or raised such as to be without regulative mechanisms such as empathy and remorse? So some people's emotions are more naturally or easily subdued whether because they were born that way, raised to be so, or faced traumatic events?

Alright, so undoubtedly, controlling citizens' emotions is NOT how Smart Earth accomplishes their goal of a crime-free world as our protagonist correctly guessed. Yet what bothers me is that people on Smart Earth buy this logic!!! Did the dystopian doctors mess with their cognition as well?! I admit even I was ready to buy they chip tech explanation for why they were crime free at first. But on an earth with a huge population of diverse individuals, weren't at least sooome people bound to figure this out? I'm not saying this show is disappointing me, by no means. I just hope this latter issue is somehow explained as this show progresses. I wanna love this show to bits so here's to hoping.

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<Without emotions such as extreme anger, fear and anxiety etc., humans are dissuaded from crime committing. Tied together in one neat bow, it all works out perfectly.

I think there's a flaw in that premise (hypothesis?) anyhow.... It doesn't consider that some of the totally psycho criminals are completely emotionless to begin with...

<Yet what bothers me is that people on Smart Earth buy this logic!!! Did the dystopian doctors mess with their cognition as well?!

These days (when you-know-who-is-president and when even quality newspapers have fallen for fake news) I have to say that strikes me as quite possible. I don't know how many e.g. interviews I have read with individuals that have at least average intelligence, can be staring the evidence in the face, might even acknowledge it and then just go into total denial. The Guardian recently had an long article on a chemtrail conspiracy theorist like that which perfectly illustrated this.

<But on an earth with a huge population of diverse individuals, weren't at least sooome people bound to figure this out?

I'm sure some do indeed... and promptly get thrown out (or perhaps disposed of otherwise) by what obviously is an authoritarian ruling elite on Smart Earth.

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I like you're explanation of how people can miss evidence staring them in the face. Perhaps you're right indeed, and dissuaders are kicked out unbeknownst to us, the audience. I hope they make clear to us this later on.

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I'm sure we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg right now... many things will be revealed in due course.

On a sidenote, the drama brings "The Giver" to mind, with its perfectly controlled world where emotions where surpressed as well...

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You're probably right.

You know I never read that book. I should. The drama is reminding me of Netflix's Wayward Pines. It was a 13 episode drama based on people who would sucked into a dystopian town that would monitor their every word and move. Perhaps Circle's world will be like that.

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You might find this short article from the NYT interesting: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/27/opinion/sunday/youre-not-going-to-change-your-mind.html?_r=0

It summarises the findings of a study looking into why people don't necessarily change their beliefs when they look at evidence.

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Good article. Nicely sums up desireability and confirmation bias. I get that. Everyone is to an extent guilty of them I believe.

My question was why and how Smart Earth managed to make it to 5000 days/roughly 13 years without crime. If they were as surprised as they were when the girl murdered her past kidnapper, then I assume Smart Earth was actually successful in this feat and not lying about it after having covered up for numerous incidents. And if this was indeed the first time, then what was holding the people of Smart Earth back? If a majority of people on Smart Earth were persuaded by the system to keep their mouths shut and live comfortably, what about the small minority bound to want to - no, need to rebel? There is aaalways such a minority. So have they been covertly planning these many years? How have the people been suppressed all these years without rebellion was my question.

I guess we'll find out ?

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Oh yea and also the existence of psycho and sociopaths along with humans abilities to accomplish desired goals without using emotions in general...that was also part of the question hahaa.

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But interesting read indeed. I totally hear ya.

Imma stop spamming now ?

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To be fair to Woo-jin, his judgement isn't exactly impartial when it comes to PTSD. He's seen first hand how it's taking its toll on his brother, and he himself is suppressing some memories to keep himself functional. It won't work in the real world, but I can see why it would be tempting to him in this setting.

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True.

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Right? ALL the actors are super splendid! Especially the alien girl and yeo jin goo (whose acting makes me especially interested in his character) and even joon hyuk! Their acting is out of this world!

Before reading the recap i'd thought joon hyuk was wo jin, but now i'm not so sure. which is all the more intriguing and i love it!

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This episode convinced me to go all in! The narrative is so gripping and I desperately want to know what is happening next. What I love about the episode is how the events in the present show themselves to be threads of connections in the future. It makes you want to put 2+2 together and end up with a bajillionty new theories.

Also, I have to say. The scene in the bookshelves was HILARIOUS. Woo Jin was trying to be srs bizness and look for a scar, but that was one of the most awkward checkouts I've ever seen. His conscience was warring between wanting information and feeling like a creep. And he knew it as well!! I was gasping with laughter. :D

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One thing that super confused me at the end of ep 1 was my subtitles said "go find your siblings." I started ep 2 going "what?? They have a donsaeng??" Now JH is pretty much confirmed as Woo Jin? I sort of wish that he's actually Bum Gyun, and that the reason why he exhibits so many of the same characteristics as WJ (pinching DS' eyelid, etc) is either because of twin mentality and/or tied into the reason why he has both brothers' memories. And it'll be a nice reversal to see Bum Gyun searching for his brother 20 years in the future.

But anyways. I love Ho Soo and Join Hyuk's budding bromance--at least I hope it is a budding bromance. Those two are hilarious together. Reminds me of Kirk and Spock.

Anyone else got freaked out at the part when Han Jung Yeon suddenly turned around on the bus to stare at our boys? Gong Seung Yoon does the creepy emotionless dead eye stare so well.

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I think Ep 1 just got mistranslated through context and it was intended to mean as: "Find your brother." But yeah, I'm entirely with you, I really like the idea of both brothers looking for each other in different timelines. And yes to GSY. She does both characters so well as the alien and Han Jungyeon.

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The second episode of Circle is fantastic! I'm so excited about this. Some of my initial questions were answered and my suspicions, confirmed. Kim Joon Hyuk is most likely Kim Woo Jin and the hacker is most likely little Dong Soo who was being tutored all those years ago. Is Dong Soo, Bluebird? I suspect so, since he talked about being Bluebird when he was younger. Other give aways: Joon Hyuk's habit of playing with the rubic cube with one hand is the same.as Woo Jin's. Plus Joon hyuk pulled the hacker on his eye brow, as Woo Jin did many years ago.

I think Chief Hong is in on the secret of his true identity due to some of the things he says. I at first thought that Ho Soon was the missing Bum Gyun, but there's a clear age difference between Ho Soon and Joon Hyuk, so they can't be twins. Maybe the chairman is the missing twin? Why else would he have the phone with the twins' picture?

As for the scar on Joon Hyuk's ear, its further proof to me that he was Woo Jin. I believe the thesis he proposed to his professor when he was an undergraduate, that people with trauma should forget painful memories is key to the core of this drama. Maybe he was one of the initial guinea pigs until he had a change of heart after discovering the detriments to his thesis? Anyway, I have a million questions and clues are scattered throughout the drama. I can't wait to see how it unfolds.

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So it's not that the chips control the emotions that make you want to commit crimes, it's that it manipulate your view of things to make you think there is no crime.

I suddenly got 1984 vibes in a way that they try to manipulate the horrible reality and that people are just straight out buying it.

It's interesting to note as well that out of all the places the alien could have been wounded at, it's that specific spot on the neck where the chips are installed.

And I'm also curious at the start of Episode 1, why was the UFO intent on chasing after the twins? Was it just pure coincidence that they happened to be the people present at the time, or maybe the UFO really came for them?

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Yes, my sister and I both noticed the place where the alien was wounded. That might be important.

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Yes I second this. I was wondering why the coincidence of the alien wound at the neck which is the very same place where they implanted the chip at the timeline of 2037.

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This show is horribly confusing.

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Thank you for the recap!

I'm loving all of these mysteries too, particularly with our maybe-alien-maybe-not. Even in the first episode, even though we know thanks to the flashback that there /are/ aliens, Woojin's horror that his brother may have been involved in student deaths because of his "delusions".... It really makes you question exactly what's going on and what it all must look like on the outside.

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This episode was too good. It left me with so many questions unanswered and a deep interest for all of the characters/their fate. Like others said before, I too think that Joon Hyuk is Woo Jin (although their personalities says otherwise-but it's possible that he has to pull this new identity off) and that his idea from the past to cure Post Traumatic Stress disorder resulted in this new technology/world. Maybe, that chip was his solution to solving that problem. But, what do I know, that is just one of my other theories that many people already thought too. Also, it seems pretty likely that the chairman is Woo Jin's brother, with that picture on the phone and whatnot. I think that the he show might be implying that idea, but then totally give us a twist at the end. I don't know yet, but I do know that I need more of this show. Furthermore, this unsolved conundrum is so intriguing that I seriously wonder if my guesses are actually just a tip of the iceberg. It could actually be more complicated than I think it is, but I'll continue to welcome it. The most mysterious question as of right now though, is who is that alien girl? Gong Seung Yeon did such a great job portraying the lifeless alien girl and the typical student, that I couldn't tell if they were the same person or not. Hopefully, more will be revealed in the next couple of episodes, including her backstory.

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I have to watch this episode again to focus on the memories of joon hyuk. I also am deeply suspicious of Woo Jin's professor.

Also, what do we know of the twin's father? Why do I feel like all of his interactions with the "alien" were sketchy? Could the boys have been the subjects of experiments for a long time?

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I find it weird that after seeing a nake gal appear out of nowhere, the father kept her beside them though she did not utter a word and later he gladly left with that alien. Hmm....

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I'm glad you mentioned this thing. but I think everybody's concern only who is this and who is that.
their father acted like the alien is their new mother or what

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Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one that is utterly confused and has a million questions.

One thing that really struck me is that 'Smart Earth' (more like an island) seems to be a bubble under the control of a private company that acts like a sort of separate state, enforcing border control AND requiring payment to enter. Yet unwillingly, it is still under the Korean government and liable to its laws. I can't decide if this is what capitalism could lead to, or a form of communism - both are extreme and authoritative in any case. It's scary to see, as others have noticed, that people in Smart Earth are willing to buy security and comfort by allowing their emotions to be manipulated, without full consideration of how this is achieved.

HOWEVER, Ho-Soo seems like an intelligent guy, which makes me hesitant to just classify the population of Smart Earth as an ignorant crowd. They may have good reasons for choosing the chip. 'Erro' is in for some painful realisations, and has become one of the most interesting characters for me. That and I love the pseudo-bromance with the detective.

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These are all good questions and thoughts :). I have been trying to formulate similar questions about Smart Earth and more and more, I think of it as some kind of experiment. I also would like to now how the government works. For example, Joonhyuk was able to quote an article of the South Korean penal code, which was enough to get a response from the Smart Earth officials. I really hope the 2017 part will delve into some of these questions. Maybe how the futuristic world is governed on a practical level is not as important as how the world itself was created, but I still would like to know.

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Beta Project is everything; I want to stay in 2017 forever. 90% of it is because of acting prodigy Yeo Jin Gu, and the other 10% for its gripping story. Every revelation builds anticipation, and the cliffhangers are genius: "Exhibit #3: an alien." "Who the hell are you!?"

Not that I'm not intrigued by the mystery of Brave New World. I suppose the Rubik’s cube is confirmation that Joon Hyuk is Woo Jin. I already suspected the chairman whom even the mayor has never met to be Bum Gyun, but is Hyung smart enough to have created the enormous Human B system that controls a person's innate behavior via chips? We know Woo Jin is a med student but don't know what Bum Gyun studied before being consumed by his obsession with aliens. When Bum Gyun told Woo Jin, “The criminal is Bluebird,” that eliminated the possibility of Bum Gyun being the legendary hacker Bluebird.

So Woo Jin's family took the alien in. I seriously wonder if Dad ran off with her because she looks significantly younger than him. I was surprised to see the alien's blood was red instead of green or blue. Woo Jin's tutoring student is hilarious: "I suck at studying, and you suck at dating." Gong Seung Yeon is gorgeous that I ship Woo Jin with this alien.

A big thanks for the recap, @festerfaster!

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HO- LY. CRAP. I think this is the best thing on TV in the entire world right now. You know it's going to be good when you're crying in Episode 1. I won't dive into fan theories or anything at the moment But I did want to share why I think this show is so amazing, so more people watch it!

First off, breezy romcoms tend to be my usual fare (I guess because that's what Dramaland usually has to offer), but - perhaps unusually - Joseon X-Files was my first ever Korean drama, which was amazingly written, suspenseful and riveting to the end (you don't have to take my word for it - there are some great recaps on DB). So while I was excited about going back to my sci-fi roots with Circle, I was also feeling dubious about Dramaland's ability to pull off such an ambitious project.

Fantasy dramas after all, have a track record of having difficulty with world building (See: the slow collapse of W), and to have 2 worlds PLUS 2 timelines seemed like a lot to take on... not to mention the need for good writing to at least ground us emotionally in our characters, even if the world they lived in turned out to be unbelievable.

Thank god, Circle bursts out the gate, balls-to-the-wall (excuse the language), no holds barred, and completely blew me away.

1. Emotional grounding: The immediate establishment of emotional tension between the brothers is so heartbreaking. They walked away from the same traumatic childhood experience, with diametrically opposing motivations. Yet even when they disagree, you can see how much they love and need each other.

2. The story (plot/pacing): Both Part 1 and Part 2 have important stories to tell. Even though Part 1 is chronologically prior to Part 2, details from Part 2 build layers into questions and conflicts in Part 1, and vice versa. Thus, just like the title of the drama, there really seems to be a Circle, or a symbiotic relationship to the 2 timelines that prevents the Parts 1/2 from becoming a useless trope. The pacing keeps me clutching my heart with every twist and turn, as we discover things along with the characters (that camera reveal of alien woman in the hotel room!). And the philosophical questions that Circle is beginning to limn - about emotion, autonomy, the interface between human and technology - are fascinating. I find myself literally chanting WTF (in the best way) at the end of every Part.

3. Cinematography: The shots are absolutely beautiful, with vivid long shots to establish the location and (that chase scene in Episode 1 in the "slums") and world building (hello, Smart Earth!). And how much did I lose my breath in Epi 2, when Woo Jin is getting ready to walk into his brother's room with that backlit tight frame of his head profile).

4. Writing/world building: The attention to small details (the mention of increasing particulate in the air on the TV behind the 2 brothers when they were in the chicken shop, the coroner's chip turning red when Joon Hyuk demanded the murder...

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[...cont.] murder victim's chip back), the callbacks (when Chief Hong brags about his intuition always being right in Part 2, but we see in Part 1 that his early reputation is that the person he suspects is probably innocent), the world building (those airplane landing stations!) is amazing and makes me believe the writer truly knows what he/she is doing.

Conclusion: This is a suspenseful action/detective drama with the creepy utopia of The Giver, the dark dysfunction and social commentary of Snowpiercer, an undercurrent of Neil Gaiman-esque horror/fantasy (I'm thinking The Ocean at the End of the Lane's Ursula as Alien Woman), topped by a brief dusting of humor, and a side of the bromance that everyone loved in Hello Monster between Park Bo Gum and Seo In Guk (I'm going to go ahead and predict some Gaksital levels of angst in the future).

We have a writer who knows where he/she wants to take us, an amazing director and production team to make his/her vision happen, and I am SO strapped in and ready for the ride.

This is going to be one for the books!

(oh god I hope. I haven't been so excited about a drama for a while please don't let me down)

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I share your excitement. I have my own theories but this is a case where I'm more than willing to just lay back and enjoy where the show takes me. From what I can see in the first 2 episodes, we're in good hands.

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Mine changes at every road block so I think I'll give it 2 more episodes before I start going theory crazy lol.

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Nicely put.

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Thank you, dear! And thank you for the recaps!

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I love how more than half of the comments are all long ones making our own theories. I don't have much of interest to add except that it was great to read all of them.

And thank you festerfaster for the recap. It's good to see you back to recapping so soon. Welcome back, and let's hope for a good run with this one too. <3

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Never been much a fan of sci-fi thrillers, but CIRCLE just grabs one's attention, while happily making your head spin with a lot of questions and theories - is she really an immortal alien? is JH on of the brothers or both or not? what's up with HS?

I don't know if I like that's it's only a 12 ep drama with my tons of questions, I hope drama pulls it off.

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1. Love the pace. Chewing through plot so fast is great. Makes for a tight drama that forces you to pay attention every second in case you'll miss something.
2. Dislike the structure. Don't want 30/30. Want you to take the scenes apart and weave them together.
3. Casting Director spot on. Am I wrong thinking KKW and YJG look like they could be the same person? It's the cheekbones that are doing it for me.
4. The Rubik's cube and no-glasses make it pretty conclusive that KKW is YJG. Buuuutttt...what if it's not. FUN THEORY: KKW = the crazy brother who has had his memories worked on. We see that he has a missing chip from the scar behind his ear and Smart Earth appears to be built on YJG's hypo around removing memory.
5. Is it Monday yet?

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Given the story, I feel like it would even be more confusing to the viewers to see Part 1 and Part 2 mixed together. And the tones in both parts are just so different. Part 1 is more dramatic whereas Part 2 has more comedic scenes in it. Also, somehow watching the show feels like reading a novel with the 2 timelines interchanging per chapter. :D

And I totally agree about the cheekbones! These two leads sure have got outstanding cheekbones, which really should be added to the list of proofs why Woojiin is Joonhyuk. :D But like your #4 statement, just what if Joonhyuk is Bumgyun?

Urgh yes, let it be Monday already.

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Yeah I need monday too. My doses of Circle and Lookout.

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My mind feels like it explodes after I watch Circle episodes, and I smh like it XDDD Why do I like dramas with a young cast lately?

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Thanks @festerfaster!

Wow! This is the way to do a sci-fi show. It gave me happy memories of the sci-fi shows I loved to watch ... it's got the right feel, the right tone and wonderful production value. I really liked how Smart Earth looks and how in 20 years some things are the same and yet different.

One thing that got me puzzled is that if Joon Hyuk is actually Woo Jin, how is it that his personality is so different from the student of 2017. Then again, if they are the same person, he could be putting on a great life-long performance to avoid being identified. What came out more clearly from this recap is that his good friend and boss, Chief Hong, is worried that his real identity is found out. And again... he might not be Woo Jin???

I'm wondering about the link in these statements: "Joon-hyuk says that things are crazy because of the care chip and asks Chief Hong how a chip could keep crimes for happening for five thousand days. “That chip definitely has a purpose we don’t know about,” Joon-hyuk stresses.

Chief Hong says that this would mean that the Human B program was responsible for the disappearance of the twins. Joon-hyuk agrees: “If it weren’t for that child, this chip wouldn’t exist.” " - how does guessing that the chip had other purposes link to the twins? I'd take a leap (since there is unspoken pieces of info in that convo) to say that at least one of the twins has something to do with the chip.

In the 2017 talk with the PTSD Research Prof Park, it was Woo Jin who suggested that forgetting was the way to deal with PTSD... in 20 years, could he have been the one to develop a chip that did something to control memories? Then is he the Chairman now and Joon Hyuk yet another person with a secret identity?

So much delicious guesswork and theorising to do!!

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Oh no... I really want to recommend my friends to watch this drama but it's exam season lol... I got excited by myself
I don't expect stairs still exist in 2037 and people still driving car around lol what about jetpack?

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I also would think we'd have more "smart" cars. I would think no one should be able to easily drive someone's else's car, especially is one is not chipped or connected to the "system" in some way.

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Ikr I was expecting all those
"smart" stuff when read the synopsis about "smart earth"

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I wasn't sure about this at first, but episode 2 sealed the deal for me. I HAD to continue watching. Thank you @festerfaster for the recap <3

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Joon Hyuk being Woo Jin is 90% while Joon Hyuk being Beom Gyun is 10%. Maybe Beom Gyun was once inserted with the chip in the "Beta Project" part and got it removed and then he became Joon Hyuk. But both episodes have shown hints that Woo Jin is Joon Hyuk. The Chairman is either one of the twin or the Professor in 2017. The death of students in 2017 have a connection in the beta project, maybe the professor is already doing it(inserting the chip to the students).
About Alien Gong Seung Yeon in 2007 when the children first saw her, I think she was from the future and definitely not an alien but a citizen of Smart Earth and probably escaped? Their father left them to study/examine the alien more and discovered the chip, removed it and then the alien became normal and she is now Han Jung Yeon.
Wonder who is Blue Bird though.. Beom Gyun said he is the criminal but in 2037 he is a hacker, a super genius hacker(I'm claiming he is the one who hacked Min Ji's chip that's why she remembered she got kidnapped when she was a child)

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Am I the only one who thinks that bluebird might just be the alien?? Bumgyun did say that 'the criminal is bluebird' of course I may be wrong, but if you remember what Dongsoo said in the first episode about not knowing whether bluebird was human or AI, there is the possibility that he may not have been so wrong and that the fact could be that it is the alien that's the hacker?? Could be wrong, could be right, but I'm already starting to form a theory, I guess we just have to wait to see if any of us got it right.

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I suspect Bluebird may be the alien too.

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That possibility has also crossed my mind. At this point, there are so many possibilities, so I agree that we just have to wait and see.

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