Mystery Queen: Episode 10
The case of the week is close to the hearts of each of our main characters. While some were engaged in solving bigger crimes, an innocent amongst them was harmed. For Wan-seung, the passing of a bright young soul is a reminder that every case deserves his full attention. For Joon-oh and Seol-ok, it’s a call to walk the path they were always meant to. But just as all our investigators begin to gather under the same roof, a new character walks into their lives to make things a tad bit more interesting.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Young Joo-yeon is murdered in her own home. When Wan-seung and Joon-oh come to investigate the crime the next day, Wan-seung is shocked to see the young girl’s dead body, her head wrapped in black tape.
Seol-ok heads to Joo-yeon’s home with the side dishes she left behind, but she gets a call from Ho-soon on the way. Ho-soon complains about not being able to find a pink sweater that she simply has to wear today, and Seol-ok sighs while agreeing to come home and find it for her. Hanging up, she wonders why Ho-soon shows no signs of changing even after going through a near-death experience.
Seol-ok texts Joo-yeon about leaving her side dishes at the shop and heads home to sort things out before Ho-soon throws a tantrum. Wan-seung notices her in the crowd below, but is distracted when Joon-oh comes up to him. He directs the lieutenant to check all the railings for fingerprints.
At home, Ho-soon berates Seol-ok for handwashing a sweater that was only meant to be dry-cleaned. Frustrated, Seol-ok asks why she couldn’t take the sweater to the dry cleaners herself, and Ho-soon accuses Seol-ok of spending all day at home doing nothing.
Seol-ok loses her temper at this and follows the younger girl to her room, where she finds Ho-soon lying on her bed, weeping. Seol-ok notices the laptop on Ho-soon’s desk open on a news article about her serial killer boyfriend. Immediately, her tone softens, and she agrees that the dry cleaners would do a better job than her.
Outside her sister-in-law’s room, Seol-ok wonders why Ho-soon can’t control her feelings. She remembers Wan-seung talking about how people do all sort of things because they can’t help themselves, but that kind of volatility feels foreign to her.
As Joo-yeon’s body is taken away to the morgue, Wan-seung apologizes for the pain and fear she suffered in her last moments and promises to catch the culprit for her. Joon-oh runs around the neighborhood taking statements from the locals, and Wan-seung smiles to see his earnestness.
Joon-oh talks to one neighbor who seems to have known Joo-yeon from work — she was the one to tell her about the vacant apartments in this neighborhood. The young woman is sad and scared at the way Joo-yeon died, and talks about moving away. When Joon-oh asks, she admits that a lot of her own underwear has gone missing recently too.
Wan-seung talks to one of the forensic officers, and she tells him that while there are signs of resistance all over Joo-yeon’s body. But she admits that the extent of her injuries are difficult to determine, since the killer washed Joo-yeon’s body clean.
Joon-oh comes back to the apartment to report that none of the neighbors heard the girl scream the night before. Given the thin walls of the building, this seems unlikely to the police, unless the girl willingly let the killer in. Wan-seung notices the piles of folded laundry on the dresser, finding it strange.
Joon-oh’s notes tell them that the man living in the rooftop room next door saw laundry hanging on Joo-yeon’s roof last night. Wan-seung wonders why the neighbor would pay attention to someone else’s clothes.
They visit the man, and he says that he noted the laundry when he came out to smoke after a drama episode. Joon-oh, an avid drama viewer himself, says that it must have been around eleven then. The man is excited to find a fellow drama follower in Joon-oh and confesses that he is a “Wan/Seol” shipper on Queen of Instinct. Joon-oh admits that he prefers “So/Seol” himself. Hehe.
Wan-seung brings their gossip to an end, and the man leaves. Having established the time when the laundry was still hanging on the roof, Joon-oh mentions that Joo-yeon was drunk when she came home. Wan-seung finds it odd that Joo-yeon managed to take down and fold her laundry perfectly, even in her inebriated state.
Meanwhile, Inspector Woo walks into a real estate agent’s office and says that he’s looking for a place to move into.
As Wan-seung walks out of the neighborhood with Joon-oh, he notices a woman asking the other policemen about Joo-yeon. He comments that Joo-yeon’s mother is here, and when Joon-oh asks how he knows, he says that he can tell by looking at her.
Joon-oh approaches the woman, but when she asks about Joo-yeon, he can’t muster up the words to tells her about her dead daughter. As the woman’s desperation increases, Wan-seung takes over and gently break the news. He holds her as she breaks down, and Joon-oh can only stand beside them, feeling helpless.
On the drive back to the station, Joon-oh tells Wan-seung that he knew the victim. He had given her rides back home whenever he’d seen her walking back late at night. We see in flashback that she couldn’t afford to take the cab back home when it got late, and so, she walked or took the bus.
Joon-oh feels responsible for not giving her a ride last night, but Wan-seung points out that she died in her own home. Joon-oh says that he often selfishly wonders if he became a cop just to break up fights, send drunks home, and find lost cats. Wan-seung understands his mood and tells him that since a tragedy happened, they should just work to catch the perpetrator.
Joon-oh says that he doesn’t think he’ll be able to sleep that night, and when Wan-seung offers to sing him a lullaby, he chides him for laughing. Wan-seung tells him that cops who laugh are the ones who last longest in this line of work.
Their car passes by Seol-ok, who’s busy carrying a large bag of laundry to the dry cleaner’s. As she walks by the real estate agent’s office, she bumps into Inspector Woo, spilling all the clothes on the street. She recognizes him with a gasp, and he offers to walk her to her destination in apology.
Joon-oh drops Wan-seung off at the main station and follows him out to tell him that he’ll be getting called up to the Intelligence Services soon. Wan-seung is suitably impressed and asks if Joon-oh knows some higher-ups. Joon-oh says that he wanted to be a detective, but Wan-seung warns him off that way of life, pointing out their long work hours and low income.
He tells Joon-oh not to forget him when he’s Chief of Police, since he’s quite a pitiful guy. Joon-oh smiles as Wan-seung walks into the station, though his eyes remain regretful.
Jang Do-jang comes by Kyung-mi’s shop to buy some food. He pointedly asks why she’s working alone in such a large shop, and Kyung-mi regretfully says that she has to work alone despite having a part-timer. After standing around for a while, clearly hoping to catch sight of Seol-ok, Jang Do-jang leaves without his package, saying that he’ll be back again.
Seol-ok is on cloud nine as she walks through a park with Inspector Woo, especially when he says that he recognizes her from his lecture. She gushes about living in the same neighborhood as him, and when she finds out that he’s unmarried, she says that that married life isn’t all that great anyway. He guesses that it must be particularly hard with demanding in-laws and bowls her over by profiling Kyung-suk and Ho-soon just from their clothes.
She asks if he can profile her husband too, and he takes one look at the contents of the bag and says: “He’s a prosecutor.” Turns out that one was based off Ho-chul’s badge in the bag, but he figures out which district he’s posted in from a campaign t-shirt in the pile.
He leaves her at the dry cleaner’s and says that he had fun walking with her. She stares after him with an admiring smile, wondering how he does it.
Wan-seung is greeted back at work enthusiastically by his two “wives.” They are pumped about their new designation, though their coworkers scoff at the new “Special Unit Seven,” sniggering that the three got kicked out of narcotics. They reach their new desks to realize that their unit might not be that special, though Dong-ki is happy about their proximity to the bathroom.
Their desks are right next to the copier machines too, and it becomes quickly apparent that they will get no work done with all the noise around them. They spot the section chief walking by, and Kwang-tae chases after him to ask about the poor state of their task force.
The section chief says that budget constraints are making it hard to get them a better work area, but he’s working on getting them two more members for the team. One is a guy whom the central headquarters wants to poach, and the other is a profiler. Kwang-tae is placated and lets his boss go.
On her way out of the dry cleaner’s, Seol-ok gets a call from the section chief, who’s holding Joon-oh’s report in his hands. He says that he knows about her assistance in their cases, which makes her vehemently promise never to do it again. (Heh.) But the section chief says that she must not stop now and addresses her as “Professor.”
Next thing we see is Seol-ok walking into the neighborhood convenience store and sticking her head in the refrigerator to cool off. The store owner tells her about a death in the area and asks if she’ll be investigating with Joon-oh, but Seol-ok says that she can’t do that anymore since she’s a bad housewife.
Joon-oh spots her in the store, and they greet each other. They walk together for a while, and Joon-oh tells her that he was the one to volunteer her for the Civilian Recruitment Program that made the section chief call her with an offer.
Seol-ok says that she won’t be able to accept, and though Joon-oh is disappointed, he doesn’t press the issue. He tells her about leaving the substation and getting called up to headquarters before admitting that he’d grown fond of the neighborhood and didn’t want to miss a chance to say goodbye.
A masked man enters a building and steals a pair of underwear. He then walks out coolly to a parked car and exchanges his green shoes for polished black ones. Taking off his mask and gloves, he gets into the car and drives off.
Seol-ok walks back, deep in thought. She feels regretful that she never even bought Joon-oh a meal, despite him doing so much for her. An acquaintance bids her hello, and she stops to greet him. Wait! Is that the panty thief we just saw?! His family comes up beside him, and he picks up his little girl. Seol-ok compliments them on being such a close family and sighs to herself as they walk away. Oh god.
When Seol-ok gets home, she finds Kyung-suk watching the news and finally sees the report about Joo-yeon’s death. Though they don’t show her face, she recognizes the outfit from her picture and understands who the victim is.
Wan-seung takes his partners to Joo-yeon’s apartment. Upon hearing that her head was wrapped in tape, Kyung-tae immediately wonders if Filipino drug dealers are involved, since it’s their signature move. Pfft. Wan-seung tells him to start thinking like a Violent Crimes detective.
Leaving Kyung-tae with directions to search the apartment for clues (Kyung-tae: “Are you the team leader?”), Wan-seung goes up to the roof. A few floors below them, the masked killer sneaks down the stairs. Wan-seung hears a sound and switches off his flashlight before he swings around the corner and directs the light… at Seol-ok.
Surprised (and half-pleased) to see her there, he asks what happened to her promise of never crossing paths with him. She points out that this is not his station and says that she was just out looking at the view. Wan-seung threatens to call her husband, and it looks like Seol-ok calls his bluff, because the next thing we see is them walking down the street together.
He tells her to take a cab home, and she reminds him of the Killer Cabbie he had tried to scare her with. As he grins, she admits that she knew Joo-yeon. He only catches the girl’s name and gloats that he knew she was here about the case. Then, once he registers what she said, he asks how she knew the girl.
Seol-ok tells him about meeting her at the shop, and how the girl was always bright and smiling. She asks that he let her help catch the murderer, but Wan-seung firmly says no. She asks if he looks down at her for the way she panders to her mother-in-law, and Wan-seung just says that it must be because she’s afraid to lose her family.
As she stares at him in surprise, he tells her that he knows that the Shinim-dong case is about her parents — a man and his wife had been found dead in their taxi, which we see in a brief flashback. It was marked as a suicide, but Seol-ok says with confidence that it was a murder. Wan-seung promises to solve the case for her before packing her into a cab.
Seol-ok and Kyung-mi drink together and mourn Joo-yeon’s death. Seol-ok says that she can’t sit back and do nothing, and she considers accepting the position of the Citizen Specialist. Kyung-mi is fully supportive of the idea, though Seol-ok cautions that they may have offered her the position because they think she has a Ph.D in psychology.
Kyung-mi doesn’t think it’s an impediment — she tells Seol-ok that people will take her more seriously now, and if she gets found out, then she just has to apologize sincerely. When Seol-ok brings up lying to her family, Kyung-mi snorts that she’s going to do it anyway, so there’s no point in pretending otherwise.
Seol-ok asks Kyung-mi if she believes in her, but her friend just says that investigating suits her better than cooking. Then she points at the dish between them and asks what the hell it’s supposed to be. The two friends smile at each other.
Meanwhile, we see the masked man stalking Joo-yeon’s friend as she walks home from work. Eeep.
Wan-seung, Kwang-tae, and Dong-ki watch with glee as boxes of furniture and appliances are brought into the station, and they crow that their unit must be really special. They are told that the boxes are headed for the new office (next to the section chief’s office) and go up to check out their new digs.
There they find Joon-oh, and Wan-seung realizes that the “top guy who is wanted by headquarters” is none other than this boy. He warns Kwang-tae not to partner him with Joon-oh, but Kwang-tae is busy being impressed that Joon-oh gave up a position at the Intelligence Service to work as a detective.
Wan-seung visits the morgue to get the autopsy results, but is strangely told that someone from his unit already came by and collected it.
Inspector Woo is holding a briefing with top police officials about the best criminal profilers in the field. They ask him if they can be relied on, and he says that they have his weighty assurance. He informs them that he’s setting the unit up in the Seodong Police Station and promises to find the criminal.
On his way to his car, Inspector Woo speaks to someone over the phone and instructs them not to let anyone but his team have access to Joo-yeon’s murder case — including the section chief. He then looks over the bio of the Unit Seven team members, pausing at one of their newest civilian recruits: Yoo Seol-ok.
He recalls her face from his concert and then later outside the real estate agent’s office. “What an interesting woman,” he says to himself. “And a Ph.D in psychology, huh?”
Kwang-tae has an unpleasant meeting with the section chief, and he’s clearly displeased at whatever news his boss just delivered to him. Kwang-tae protests that he can’t throw all of his men under the bus while maintaining his own position. The section chief pleads with him that it’s not that bad before he grabs Kwang-tae’s hand and calls him his “work wife.” Hahaha, these two.
Wan-seung comes up to Dong-ki and asks if anyone in their team took the autopsy file. Unfortunately, it turns out that they are no longer the Special Unit team, since Dong-ki and Joon-oh are waiting outside the section chief’s office while Kwang-tae argues with him inside.
Hearing that they’ve been disbanded, Wan-seung heads towards Captain Jung’s office, determined to have it out with the section chief’s boss. Dong-ki stops him, and as Wan-seung struggles in his hold, Seol-ok comes up the stairs.
Wan-seung asks why she’s here, and she proudly tells him that she’s here to work. As she greets Joon-oh with delight, Dong-ki observes that they sure see this ajumma around a lot. “What kind of relationship do the two of you have?” he asks Wan-seung, who snorts and tells him to look at the glare Seol-ok is shooting at him. “Enemies, then,” says Dong-ki. Lols.
Joon-oh asks Seol-ok if she’s here as a Civilian Profiler, making Wan-seung chortle. When she heads towards the newly furnished office, he follows to tell her that the team has been disbanded and that she has no job here. Seol-ok ignores him as he threatens to arrest her for breaking and entering, purposefully showing him the plaque on her desk with her name on it.
This shuts Wan-seung up, and he observes that she’s quite something. Just then, he notices the captain walking in with CEO Ha, and he quickly grabs Seol-ok and ducks behind her cubicle. It’s clear from the conversation that the disbanding of Wan-seung’s team is all his father’s doing.
After they leave, Wan-seung and Seol-ok get up, only to see Inspector Woo walk in. Seol-ok brightens at the sight of him and calls out his name. Inspector Woo turns to look at them and greets Seol-ok politely. Wan-seung looks between Seol-ok and this “fake profiler” and frowns to himself.
What a great episode to step in to recap! I lucked out. This show’s greatest strength is the interplay between characters and their development, and there were some solid moments of growth for our favorites in this hour. I was also really happy to think that Kwang-tae and Dong-ki would finally get to work in the same team as Joon-oh and Seol-ok, but that dream got snatched away pretty quickly. I’m still hopeful that they turn this around and give our disbanded team a chance to work as one. How many times is the section chief going to disappoint his “Work Wife,” eh?
Joon-oh’s idealism and inexperience has always been tempered by his earnestness and willingness to learn, so I liked that they underlined the soft edges of his world by putting him before a grieving mother and making him deal with the reality of a human life lost. It’s all good to want to pursue the romantic ideal of the life of a detective, but regular police work mostly involves painful moments like these. It made me think better of Joon-oh that he then went on to choose the harder path instead of entering the Intelligence Service and distancing himself from the intimacy of tragedy.
Seol-ok’s decision was long overdue, yet it still felt organic. While duty and obligation has a strong hold on her, somewhere she seems to have realized that she wasn’t really living before she began to solve mysteries. This work breathes life into her, and it’s only human for her to want to pursue a dream that had long remained elusive. I also personally believe that she has given enough to that family, and I’m hoping that she begins to see that too. The lies and mind games that are natural parts of her home life ensure that all the bonds that held her are slowly becoming hollow and frayed. Seol-ok’s decision to take up the job as a profiler was inevitable from the moment she met Joon-oh and solved that convenience store theft case.
On the other hand, Inspector Woo is an enigma. He’s backed by powerful men (quite possibly for all the wrong reasons), but he’s established himself as some kind of genius profiler pretty early on, even managing to impress our Ajumma Sherlock. However, something about his slickness strikes me the wrong way, because what made Seol-ok so relatable was the fun she had in detecting clues during a case. My hope for his character is that he teaches Seol-ok to value herself more as she realizes that she’s better at her job than even Korea’s top profiler.
Finally, since I only have this one episode to say this in, I just want to point out that Seol-ok and Wan-seung are the best buddy cops ever. I have loved the arc of their friendship and have not-so-secret hopes that it develops into more. But mostly, I just really, really want them to become official partners and solve cases together. That would complete my OTP right there.
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- Choi Kang-hee courted to be ajumma detective in KBS’s Mystery Queen