Criminal Minds: Episode 3
It’s another spine-tingling case this time as a ghost from the past returns to wreak havoc. The murders are bloodier and darker, and more lives are at stake the longer it takes for the NCI team to capture the killer. While Team Leader Ki-hyung continues to struggle with his own inner demons, he must learn to trust himself and his new team as they chase after a real demon roaming the streets of Korea.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Two men run on top of railroad tracks, and the camera pans to a train with profiler Min-young riding inside. An attendant brings her a requested charger, but as she plugs it in, she drops her folder which has the NCI emblem printed on the front.
A man in black notices it, and tells the passenger sitting in front of him that Min-young works for the NCI. He whispers to the man, calling him CHO SEOK-HWAN, and needles him to act. Suddenly, the train stops, and in the confusion, a shifty-looking man slinks into the back of the train car, unnoticed by the other passengers.
An attendant and a plainclothes officer come through, and the attendant quickly reassures everyone about the train’s status. Min-young realizes the man behind him is a detective and offers her assistance. Noting that Min-young is NCI, the detective tells her that a murder suspect might have fled onto the train after his accomplice was hit.
He suggests that she remain seated, but the stranger who snuck in notices their little exchange with worry. The man in black also watches the detective, and points out to Cho that the man is carrying a gun.
As the detective resumes his investigation, Cho lunges at him and steals his gun. In a panic, he shoots the detective dead, and when the attendant rushes at him, Cho shoots him, too. With two people instantly dead, no one dares to move, and Cho swings the gun at Min-young, accusing her of being a police officer, too.
The NCI team watches security footage of the hostage situation inside the train, but Ki-hyung stops the video, recognizing Min-young. Hyun-joon asks Nana to zoom in on the assailant, and from Cho’s contorted facial expression, Han guesses the culprit suffers dyskinesia.
Inside the train, Cho locks the doors and lowers the blinds while the man in black continues to pester him about killing Min-young. Cho grows more agitated as the police arrive, and a female passenger cautiously approaches him, asking him to calm down.
Unfortunately, the passenger’s attempts at calming him only anger Cho further, and she sits back down in defeat. Another male passenger tells the female passenger to reason with her boyfriend, and she corrects him: He’s her patient.
They were on their way to a conference, and the doctor is just as shocked as everyone else by Cho’s sudden and uncharacteristic violent behavior. Min-young tells the doctor that she’s NCI, and when she offers to help, the doctor explains that Cho must think he’s in a dangerous situation. Sitting next to Min-young, a pregnant woman starts to hyperventilate, which only increases Cho’s panic.
Nana informs the group about Cho’s history as a scientist, and how he held one-person protests—believing his research had been stolen—which is why he started to undergo psychotherapy. She explains the other hostages’ backgrounds, but was unable to find any records concerning the unknown man seated in the back.
Remembering that the deceased detective was onboard the train to catch a murder suspect, Hyun-joon surmises that their mysterious person may be the suspect. Nana does a quick facial recognition search and verifies that the man indeed is the murder suspect who robbed a house and killed an entire family.
The SWAT team as well as the NCI team arrive at the scene, and Ki-hyung takes over negotiations. The man previously in charge thinks talking with a madman is futile, but Ki-hyung disagrees since all they must do is convince Cho that they’re trying to do something.
Which means if Cho is asking for the person in charge, then Ki-hyung will give him what he wants and play the part of a senior manager to deceive him. Thus, he stages an act as an aloof higher-up, and Cho watches Ki-hyung’s performance with glee: He’s caught hook, line, and sinker.
In a van, the NCI team watches the security footage of the train car, and Ki-hyung tells the group that they must first figure out Cho’s delusion. Hyun-joon suggests sending in the SWAT team, agitated with simply sitting and waiting, but Ki-hyung tells him to be patient since Cho is bound to become anxious and contact them first.
Just as Ki-hyung predicted, Cho paces in the train, perturbed by the lack of contact, and forces the pregnant woman to call the police through the phone they provided for negotiations. Watching everything unfold, Ki-hyung waits until the third ring to pick up, and calmly answers Cho’s questions.
Though Ki-hyung gives him vague answers, Cho eagerly accepts his replies and frantically asks them to get rid of it. Without missing a beat, Ki-hyung tells him that they need time, but Cho demands him to get rid of it now. Unyielding, Ki-hyung says that it isn’t easy, and when he goes to hang up, Cho succumbs, giving them an hour before he kills the hostages.
Hyun-joon asks Ki-hyung what it is, but Ki-hyung merely tells him that it’s their job now to find out. Han rewinds the video, and they zoom in on Cho’s arm, which is riddled with scars. Sun-woo guesses that Cho thinks there’s a microchip planted in him, so now the problem is how to convince an articulate and logical madman that a non-existing chip came out of his arm.
Holding up a coin, Hyun-joon puts on a small magic show, making the coin disappear and reappear by sleight of hand. Sun-woo scoffs at the idea to use a fakeout, but with no other option, the team decides to send in Hyun-joon as their “expert.”
Han advises Hyun-joon to play along with Cho’s delusions, and Sun-woo goes over the protocols, which Hyun-joon already knows, as he finishes her sentences with a cheeky grin. Once prepared, a bespectacled Hyun-joon follows Ki-hyung to the train.
Cho lets Hyun-joon aboard, but still suspicious, he orders him to take off his bulletproof vest. Hyun-joon complies, and once Cho feels safe, he takes a seat across the aisle from Hyun-joon and holds out his arm.
Hyun-joon uses a scalpel to make a small incision in Cho’s forearm and then produces a bloody microchip. Cho cries in elation, his anger dissipating, and the passengers relax in relief. Min-young cautiously asks for his gun since he got what he wanted, holding her hand out.
The NCI team watches with bated breath as Cho starts to hand his gun over, but suddenly, the murder suspect laughs out loud. He says that he saw Hyun-joon slip the microchip from between his fingers and accuses him of being a police officer.
Enraged, Cho pulls back the gun, and the murder suspect uses this opportunity to claim that they’re on the same side. He suggests that they join teams, and from the van, Ki-hyung quickly tells the SWAT team to move in.
Hyun-joon remembers Han’s advice, and tells Cho that the police have been monitoring the murder suspect—not Cho. He invents the lie readily, blaming the murder suspect as the reason they stopped the train, and accuses him of breaking into a research lab and killing all the researchers to steal their data.
The murder suspect shakes his head in disbelief, but Cho listens to Hyun-joon’s lies with eagerness. Hyun-joon explains that the murder suspect planted the chip in Cho, and in fact, the police have been chasing Cho to protect him.
Ki-hyung runs to the train, worried about the sudden change in plans, and inside the train, Cho turns the gun against the murder suspect. He’s torn, wanting to believe Hyun-joon but not quite sure, and he grabs his head in pain as each man tells him to believe him, not the other guy.
Cho swings the gun wildly in one direction and then another, and finally Hyun-joon grabs an opening to grapple with him. A three-way scuffle breaks out between the suspect, Cho, and Hyun-joon, and just as Cho regains control of the gun, Hyun-joon aims a kick at his hand…
A shot rings out. Outside, Ki-hyung freezes in shock and Sun-woo races for the train, looking down at Hyun-joon’s limp body. But to her relief—and irritation—Hyun-joon gets up unharmed. He gives her a cheeky grin, and she leaves without a word.
The SWAT team leads Cho away, and he screams at them, jerking his head towards the man in black for orchestrating everything. However, the man in black disappears, an illusion created by Cho this entire time.
Han tells Ki-hyung that his mother talked to illusions like Cho, and wonders if he’ll be like that, too. Ki-hyung reminds Han that inheriting his mother’s mental illness is only a possibility and not a reality. As they both turn to leave, Han narrates a quote from Sally Kempton in voiceover, “It’s hard to fight against an enemy who has outposts in your head.”
Nana hugs Min-young as soon as she arrives in the office, then thanks Hyun-joon for saving her. He says that it’s only natural since they’re a team now, and Nana gushes to Min-young about his beautiful smile, though everyone on the team hears it, including Hyun-joon. Ha.
Min-young suggests that they celebrate the addition of a new team member with a meal, and Ki-hyung tells the group that his wife invited everyone over for dinner.
After everyone separates, Sun-woo looks over to Hyun-joon’s desk and sees the case file for the Nadeul River murder incident. She notices a photo sticking out of the file and takes it out. She gulps nervously as she stares at the photo of a teenage boy and girl posing together, but Hyun-joon catches her in the act and swipes it away. He looks at her accusingly, but Sun-woo walks away in silence.
Sun-woo meets with a woman in a lab coat about the Nadeul River murder case, and the woman informs her that the profile she provided about a twentysomething culprit matched.
Back in the office, Hyun-joon looks at the photo of the young couple, which spurs a memory. The girl in the photo had placed a bracelet on his wrist—the one he wears in the present—and shown him the matching one on her own wrist, declaring it their first day as a couple.
The NCI team meets at Ki-hyung’s house, and Ki-hyung’s son Han-byul jumps into Sun-woo’s arms. Hyun-joon greets Han-byul with a wink, and by dinnertime, Han-byul sticks to Hyun-joon like glue, much to Ki-hyung’s jealousy. Heh.
After dinner, the group relocates to the patio where they begin to play a quiz game. Han starts off with a difficult question, asking for a quote from a specific episode in a television show, but to everyone’s surprise, Hyun-joon gets it right immediately.
Having lost, Han has to drink as punishment, but Sun-woo offers to drink for him since he can’t hold his liquor. Now it’s Sun-woo’s turn to ask a question, and she stares at Hyun-joon as she asks how many suspects there were in the Nadeul River murder case. Holding her gaze, Hyun-joon answers.
Ki-hyung receives a call asking him to meet the chief commissioner, and soon the evening festivities are over. As Sun-woo carpools home with the other ladies, the radio station reports the recent acquittal of a rapist, and Nana huffs at the lack of justice displayed in the case. Sun-woo asks if they can listen to music instead and looks out the window somberly.
Ki-hyung visits the chief commissioner, and someone secretly photographs him from afar. The chief commissioner (cameo by Park Geun-hyung) sits in a wheelchair while hooked up to a machine, and tells Ki-hyung this will probably be their last meeting since he doesn’t have much time.
The chief commissioner plays a recording of the Reaper—the same one Ki-hyung used in class—and asks if Ki-hyung remembers the voice. Ki-hyung says that he could never forget, and the chief commissioner suddenly admits that they failed to catch the Reaper because of him.
He knew Ki-hyung was after the Reaper, but he was afraid and so excluded Ki-hyung from the investigation. The chief commissioner hands him a blood-stained note, the Reaper’s message to the chief commissioner: Stop the chase and he’ll stop hunting as long as they’re both alive—but continue the chase and his family will be next.
Ki-hyung asks if he really bargained with the Reaper, and the chief commissioner expresses his regret. He reaches out and holds Ki-hyung’s hand, and profusely apologizes. Ki-hyung, however, merely stares at the dying chief with reddened eyes.
In voiceover, the chief commissioner warns Ki-hyung that the deal will end once he dies, and the next target will be him since the Reaper hunts the best. Meanwhile, a man places photos of Ki-hyung on his wall, then opens a chest revealing the Reaper’s mask.
The chief commissioner falls asleep in his yard while his gardener prunes the bushes. Suddenly, the gardener throws down his clippers, which wakes the chief commissioner. The gardener asks him if he’s curious about his face, and the chief commissioner looks up to seetThe Reaper standing before him. The Reaper takes off his mask, and the chief commissioner falls to the ground, shocked by the reveal.
A couple stops their car on the side of the road when they get a flat tire. The man calls for help when a random car pulls up from behind, and the mysterious driver approaches the couple, hidden by his bright headlights.
Before the man can react, the mysterious driver stabs him repeatedly and cuts his Achilles tendon. It’s the Reaper, and he makes the dying man watch his passenger be killed.
The car becomes a crime scene by morning, and the couple’s bodies are rearranged into grotesque positions, heightening the brutality of their deaths. Ki-hyung notices the glasses from the Reaper’s last victim on the woman’s face—his signature is to leave something from the previous victim with the body of the latest—and Min-young wonders if it could be a copycat.
The NCI team looks over the Reaper’s known murders, and Hyun-joon asks why they’re digging up an old case. Ki-hyung hands him the bloody note from the chief commissioner, and Hyun-joon is disgusted that the old police chief would bargain with a serial killer.
Hyun-joon deduces that Kim Yong-chul, the Reaper’s last victim who miraculously survived thirty stab wounds, will be the next target, but Nana informs them that there’s no record of his current whereabouts. However, she did find something interesting about the reporter—also an author who writes about victims—that Ki-hyung told her to look into. Apparently he received the same call from a downtown phonebooth every Wednesday, so Ki-hyung and Sun-woo leave to investigate the reporter.
Ki-hyung calls the reporter from the phonebooth, and when the reporter answers, he asks if it’s “Kim Yong-chul.” The reporter comes out to meet with Ki-hyung and Sun-woo, and asks if the recent murder isn’t a copycat but the real Reaper.
Ki-hyung refuses to answer, and instead, asks him for Kim’s address. The reporter wonders what he would receive in return, but Ki-hyung coldly asks him if writing an article or catching the Reaper is more important to him. After a pause, the reporter hands over the address, and warns them that the next murder will be soon.
Ki-hyung and Sun-woo find Kim Yong-chul, who lets them into his hideout. Ki-hyung hands him his old glasses that were found on the latest victim, and Kim frantically looks out the window asking if the Reaper is back. Sun-woo promises the frightened man that they will protect him, and Ki-hyung adds that they understand how painful that night must have been.
Kim scoffs that no one can understand the pain of being stabbed thirty times and left to watch their loved one die. He calls the Reaper the devil, and pops some pills with shaking hands. He tells them that he was going to propose that day, and flashes back to that fateful night as the Reaper pretended to ask for directions and then stabbed them ruthlessly.
Ki-hyung assures Kim that they will protect him, but Kim says that no one can. Ki-hyung argues that the Reaper is only a criminal, but with a menacing look, Kim asks, “Then, why can’t you catch him?” Ki-hyung says that they will, and finally, Kim relents. He writes down an address and forces them to keep this a secret since this is his last resort.
Back in the office, Han looks over all the Reaper’s case files, and Hyun-joon joins him in his task. In another room, Ki-hyung watches interviews of suspects and Min-young drops off even more files for him to review.
At a campground, a teenage boy complains to his friends about his parents dragging him out on vacation. His mom and dad start to blame each other for their son’s rudeness, and their young daughter goes to the boy to ask him to fix her toy. From a tree, a man watches them.
Ki-hyung continues to look over the interviews when he gets a call from a restricted number. It’s the Reaper, and Ki-hyung maintains his composure as he refuses to humor the Reaper, telling him to acknowledge his status as a low-life criminal.
The Reaper asks if this means there won’t be any negotiations, and Ki-hyung challenges him to surprise him. (Is provoking a serial killer a good idea?) The Reaper laughs, noting that Ki-hyung is fun, and promises to not disappoint him before hanging up.
The Reaper holds up a locket, looking at the picture of the two children from the campground. At his feet are the children’s parents, tied and already battered, and the father begs the Reaper to spare his children’s lives. In response, the Reaper stabs him, and the scene loses color as the Reaper lies down next to his victim, in a pool of their blood.
The Reaper leaves the parents’ tent, and from behind a tree not too far away, the son watches in horror, holding onto his sister. He calls the police, but the Reaper pops up suddenly and boy drops the phone in surprise. He begs for their lives, while over the phone, the operator asks what’s wrong.
The Reaper picks up the phone, then adopts a frantic tone and tells her that someone’s dead.
The next morning, Chief Director Baek leads the NCI team to the scene of the crime where reporters swarm them for answers. They push through, and are briefed on the details of the murder. They learn that the Reaper reported the crime and left the two children alive.
At the sight of the bloody tent, Ki-hyung imagines how the murder transpired, shuddering at the thought. Skimming through the photos taken of the crime scene, Hyun-joon notices the watch from the previous victim on the mother’s leg.
Ki-hyung remembers his call with the Reaper when Han shouts for them—he’s found the children’s pictures from the locket lying on the ground. Ki-hyung rubs his head at the sight of the kids, which Chief Director Baek notices.
In a private conversation, the chief director asks Ki-hyung what’s wrong. He explains how he refused to bargain with the Reaper last night, resulting in this. Chief Director Baek asks if he thinks this is his fault, and tells him that the crazy murderer is the one to blame.
He reminds Ki-hyung that he was only doing his job, and if he refused, then someone else would have needed to fill that position. He tells him to trust himself and his team because they will catch the Reaper.
Hyun-joon and Sun-woo go to talk with the children, but the counselor informs them that the son may be unresponsive. Hyun-joon instantly charms the young daughter with his magic tricks, and coaxes the son to come outside to talk with him.
Hyun-joon catches a glimpse of a photo on the son’s phone, showing him with a motorcycle. He uses that to open up to the boy, bragging about his delinquent past and telling him a story about the time he tried to hide from the police after falling off his motorcycle, thinking he’d get in trouble. However, as he hid in an alleyway, he witnessed a criminal stab a police officer—his own father.
Hyun-joon admits that he ran away out of fear, and tells the son that he, at least, saved his sister. He hands the son his business card, and as Hyun-joon gets up, the son starts to cry. He says that he was scared, but he’s more regretful for acting so mean towards his parents when he actually liked going camping with them. Hyun-joon holds the crying boy and promises to catch the killer.
At the campsite, Han notes a change in the killer’s pattern, and wonders why the Reaper would kill in an open area and leave behind witnesses.
Back at the counseling center, Hyun-joon and Sun-woo leave, but the son comes running out. He hands Hyun-joon a photo the Reaper placed in his sister’s pocket, and it’s a picture of Ki-hyung’s wife and son. Sun-woo calls Ki-hyung to tell him about the photo, but Ki-hyung can’t get a hold of his wife, Hye-won.
Hye-won frantically searches the mall for her son, but little Han-byul follows a masked man in black to a secluded hallway. Ki-hyung receives another call from a restricted number, and the Reaper tells him that his son has pretty eyes. The Reaper lets the boy talk to his father for a moment, and then asks if Ki-hyung ready to negotiate.
Like the previous murder incident, the Reaper case so far has been predictable. However, even though I knew Ki-hyung’s family would be targeted, I still felt a sense of dread when the Reaper led Han-byul away and then called Ki-hyung. I doubt Ki-hyung will bargain like the previous chief, but that only makes me more nervous for Han-byul’s safety. Part of me wants to believe that the show wouldn’t kill the adorable child, but there have been so many murders that a part of me is unsure if Han-byul will make it out safe and alive. Since it’s already the third episode, it was smart to show Ki-hyung’s family early on and then again in this episode because it allows the audience to get to know the characters and their relationships better. Though some of the interactions have been superficial, I feel like the extra screen time has made me more invested in Han-byul’s safety than I did with Na-young. On paper it was an interesting relationship (the sister of the man who Hyun-joon feels immense guilt towards who might also be harboring a crush on our hero) but there really wasn’t enough time to explore and develop it.
The bulk of the episode was about the Reaper, and as a result, it was more about Ki-hyung than the other members of the team. While we saw more of Hyun-joon (and his adorable interaction with Han-byul), it was Ki-hyung who took the spotlight this time around as we delved a bit deeper into his psyche. He exudes confidence, and rightfully so since years of experience and training has made him one of the best in his field. However, he seems to harbor a deep-seated self-doubt since the serial bomber case. It creates a fascinating dichotomy in our team leader as we see his outer façade crack ever so often. It even happened in the train hostage situation when Ki-hyung ran out of the van when Hyun-joon’s cover was blown, almost as if Ki-hyung constantly assumes the worse in himself and his decisions. It’s telling that Chief Director Baek told him to have confidence in himself and his team because while Ki-hyung has to act tough in front of the criminals, out bluffing them at every turn, he really is “acting” to a certain degree.
For the most part, there hasn’t been a stark improvement or dip from this episode to last week’s episodes. The show continues to focus on its strengths such as its strong main cast and fast turnaround for solving cases, but that also means its weaknesses still remain, like how characters solve problems offscreen or claims are made with flimsy evidence. Since it’s only the third episode, there’s plenty of room for growth and change, and even from the beginning of The Reaper arc, there does seem to be more of an emotional investment than from the previous serial murderer.
There were a few parallels between episode one and three which was an interesting choice. Both episodes start off with standalone cases—Episode 1 was about a past event that had no relation to the murder case later in the episode, and in Episode 3, the hostage situation seems to be unrelated to the Reaper. Then the show reveals the murder of the victim to start the new case, and ends with the capture of a loved one. Similarities aren’t a bad thing, especially since the episodes or cases aren’t carbon copies of each other, but it does make me wonder if the writer could be sticking with familiar tropes and narratives. It’s too early to say whether the show will get repetitive (I doubt it, especially since there’s so much to take from the source material), but here’s hoping that the writer will dazzle us in the upcoming episodes!
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