Criminal Minds: Episode 14
As the focus lands squarely on our team this hour, they face serious tests of faith and are forced to examine their loyalties to each other. What happens when a staunch ally becomes a formidable foe, or an old enemy turns into a friend? Allegiances flip, and villain or hero, everyone is playing a game. But how long will they last once the long-hidden truths of the Nadeul River case come home to roost?
EPISODE 14 RECAP
A handcuffed Hyun-joon paces the interrogation room he’s being held in. He thinks back to when Ji-eun’s body was discovered, and how his older brother was taken away by the police. Crying out for his brother, he had run desperately after them.
Alone at a restaurant, Choi Sang-ho (Hyun-joon’s twitchy friend) recalls a dark memory of his own, of waking up to find himself half-undressed while a man’s hand stroked him. Horrible. Sang-ho tries to leave when Ki-hyung and Min-young find him, but fearfully sits back down when Ki-hyung tells him that he knows what happened at the training center back then.
Ki-hyung shows him a picture. He asks if that was the person in charge, and if Sang-ho was the victim that fateful day in 2003. Sang-ho tells him that he and (the recently murdered) Kang Ho-young were both victims, but on that day, the molester had his eye on someone else.
Ki-hyung next shows him a picture of Hyun-joon’s brother, Tae-joon, and asks if he was the one. Shaking with emotion, Sang-ho can’t answer, which is answer enough.
Nana shares her findings with Ki-hyung about the molester. His name is Kim Jung-soo, and though he worked at the center for several years, he doesn’t appear on their official records. But she notes that his possessions are all registered under the center president’s name, and guesses he must be an illegitimate son.
She also learned that Hyun-joon was questioned by the police a few times (probably having a hard time after his father’s death, she thinks), but later he received a scholarship to enter the police academy. But she tells Ki-hyung that his brother was the victim of a hit-and-run, and is even now still hospitalized.
Min-young can’t find any electronic records for Kim Jung-soo to locate him, and asks if they should get help from the police. But Ki-hyung says not yet, still pondering why the victim had sought out Hyun-joon instead of going to the local police. He also notes that Kim Jung-soo was recorded as away on a business trip at the time of Ji-eun’s murder, forming a flawless alibi.
Han finds another point of interest in Ji-eun’s murder investigation records: Hyun-joon first gave a statement describing the person he saw walking with Ji-eun, but later changed it. Hearing that, Ki-hyung dashes to the interrogation room.
He confronts Hyun-joon about his secret investigations and remarks that he seems to be conflicted about finding the culprit. Ki-hyung brings up his hospitalized brother Tae-joon, speculating that Hyun-joon was afraid it was him, and so changed his testimony to protect him.
Ki-hyung also guesses that Hyun-joon must have been searching for his brother’s motive, and reveals that he was being molested by Kim Jung-soo. The news shocks Hyun-joon. Ki-hyung tells him that Ji-eun witnessed it, and suggests that Tae-joon wanted to silence her so that Hyun-joon would never find out his shame, “Because your brother was like a father to you.”
Remaining implacable, he asks Hyun-joon if he was deliberately concealing the facts of the case and challenges him about whether he really did kill Ho-young, to bury the case once and for all.
Furious, Hyun-joon lunges at him and they fall into a violent brawl. On the other side of the glass, Sun-woo holds the team back from interfering, certain that Ki-hyung has everything under control. The head officer, Detective Oh, orders his men back to work.
Ki-hyung backs Hyun-joon into a corner, then whispers that they won’t be overheard now. Hyun-joon’s eyes dart to the dislodged mic and understanding dawns. Ki-hyung treats him roughly for the onlookers’ benefit, but quietly says that Kim Jung-soo fabricated his alibi for Ji-eun’s murder. He must have made Ho-young and Tae-joon bring Ji-eun to him, then had to silence them.
But more importantly, Ki-hyung’s certain of an accomplice within the police, which would explain why the case was never solved, and why Ho-young secretly sought out Hyun-joon. That also means that Tae-joon’s accident was no accident at all. Ki-hyung doesn’t know who that accomplice is, but he’s sure he’s about to make his move. Then Sun-woo comes in to privately tell Ki-hyung that they’ve discovered Kim Jung-soo’s current location, and they depart together.
Elsewhere, Kim Jung-soo frantically packs a suitcase. A flashback to the past shows Detective Oh raiding Kim’s office. Finding a stack of photographs of boys hidden in his desk, Oh rounds on Kim, calling him a pervert. Kim cowers under Oh’s beatings but readily admits that he’d molested at least six boys.
In the present, Kim’s escape is curtailed as someone grabs him from behind and puts a knife to his throat. When Ki-hyung’s team arrives, the place is empty, and they only find Kim’s passport and abandoned suitcase.
At the police station, Hyun-joon realizes something and calls urgently for his arresting officer and nemesis, Detective Tae.
Meanwhile, Ki-hyung learns from Nana that the officer in charge of investigating Tae-joon’s accident was Detective Oh. Ohhh. Ki-hyung had surmised that the inside man had to be someone close to the case who knew Hyun-joon well, and a series of quick flashbacks reveals the mysterious watcher was none other than Detective Oh.
Detective Tae is perplexed by Hyun-joon’s guess. Hyun-joon also reveals that it was Oh who told him to change his testimony back then—to divert any possible suspicion away from Kim Jung-soo, he now realizes. He points out that Detective Oh was also the one who investigated Kim’s alibi, and was the first to reach the scene of his brother’s accident.
Hyun-joon is sure that Detective Oh has Kim Jung-soo right now, and appeals to Detective Tae to let him go. Tae argues that he could get hurt, but Hyun-joon insists, saying it’s his problem to take care of. Eyes warm, he promises to take responsibility if anything goes wrong. It seems like the two men have made peace with each other.
Detective Tae uncuffs Hyun-joon, giving back his phone and gun. Before Hyun-joon leaves, Tae offers his cheek and tells Hyun-joon to hit him, saying they’ll call it even with that. Aw, you’re a good egg.
Detective Oh speeds along the highway in a patrol car with Kim Jung-soo tied up in the back. We flash back to Ji-eun meeting Tae-joon after he was molested, and he’d assured her that he would put a stop to it. They don’t see Ho-young eavesdropping out of sight, and after Tae-joon leaves, Ho-young leads Ji-eun away… and to Kim Jung-soo.
Kim throws her into a room, and Ji-eun fiercely warns him to stay away from Tae-joon, threatening to report him to the police. While he leers at her, Ho-young tries to calm her down and stop her from leaving, but she kicks him down (losing her couple-bracelet in the process).
Kim seizes her from behind, but when she bites him, he throws her down so violently that her head slams into the ground, and then he strangles her. As soon as he realizes she’s dead, he hisses in annoyance, then turns around and blames Ho-young.
In the present, police rush into the interrogation room where they find a beaten-up Detective Tae handcuffed to the table. He yells at them to go after Hyun-joon. Haha.
Ki-hyung arrives at the police station and tells Nana to track Detective Oh’s location as fast as she can. He hears about Hyun-joon’s escape and Sun-woo says that they have to find him first. Nana reports that they caught Detective Oh’s car on a CCTV near Kim Jung-soo’s house. Briefing the team, Ki-hyung tells them they’re the only ones who know about Oh taking Kim Jung-soo, but they need to figure out why.
Detective Oh now has Kim Jung-soo captive in a darkened building and rages that scum like him should die. He regrets ever getting tied up with him, and lunges at him in fury.
Hyun-joon evades the police search and makes his way to Sang-ho’s shop. He grabs Sang-ho from behind, clapping a hand over his mouth, but it’s only to gesture at him to be quiet. Once they’re secure inside, Hyun-joon lays a sympathetic hand on Sang-ho’s shoulder. He says he heard what happened to him back then, and vows to get the culprits.
Hyun-joon asks Sang-ho what he tried to tell him before. Sang-ho reveals that Ho-young had come to him one day after having a little too much to drink, and said he had evidence hidden away that would set things right. A quick cut shows us Ji-eun’s bracelet in a pool of her blood.
Hyun-joon recalls how Detective Oh was interested in what Ho-young had to show him. He calls Detective Tae and tells him he knows what Oh is planning. Meanwhile, Ki-hyung tells the NCI team that Oh’s plan would be to find that critical evidence, kill Kim Jung-soo, and then frame it as a suicide, thus getting himself off unscathed.
They get word of Hyun-joon’s location because he’s switched on his phone. Sun-woo wants to retrieve him right away, but Ki-hyung’s doubts prove true as police chase down a capped figure who turns out to be Sang-ho, carrying Hyun-joon’s phone. Hyun-joon, meanwhile, is safely at a distance, driving a truck.
Ki-hyung tracks the location of Sang-ho’s truck and finds that it’s heading for the youth center. “The place where it all started,” Hyun-joon thinks as he drives out there. Once he arrives, he runs stealthily into the building.
Kim screams at Detective Oh to spare him. But with a knife at his throat, Oh forces him to read off a confession of his misdeeds while he records it. He admits Ji-eun saw him molesting and that he he killed her, caused Tae-joon’s accident, and murdered Ho-young. Midway through, he breaks down sobbing, saying that he wasn’t responsible for Ho-young or Tae-joon.
Meanwhile, Hyun-joon closes in on them, and readies his gun. “You did it,” Kim says to Detective Oh. Oh lunges at him with his knife, and, revealing himself, Hyun-joon tells him to drop the knife. Oh attacks Kim anyway, and Hyun-joon shoots, getting him in the arm. The two men fight and Hyun-joon loses his gun while Oh draws his and points it at Hyun-joon.
Oh admits that what Kim said was true. Hyun-joon recites a list of his crimes in covering up the truth of Ji-eun’s murder, from faking Kim’s alibi, to turning a blind eye to the kids’ abuse. “Tell me. Why did you do it? Why on earth did you do that to my brother?” he demands, voice rising in a mixture of rage and grief. Oh can’t answer.
Flashback. Kim Jung-soo’s father (the center president) interrupts his son’s arrest and presents Oh with a suitcase full of cash, telling him to let his boy’s mistake go. Oh scoffs disbelievingly at his words and threatens to charge him with bribery. Unfazed, Dad says he heard Oh’s daughter has a rare disease, and that he’s gone into debt because of it. He leaves the cash—with the offer of more—even as Oh yells at the man to get out.
Sometime later, Oh gets a call at the police station from Kim Jung-soo, who tells him that Tae-joon found out that he killed Ji-eun. Immediately after that, Tae-joon calls him. Oh arranges to meet him at an intersection, and tells him not to say a word to anyone else.
Tae-joon heads there by motorbike. Carefully timing his own arrival, Oh deliberately collides with Tae-joon, sending him flying off his bike and down a ridge. As he lies bloody at the bottom, Oh answers another call-out, leaving Tae-joon there.
We return to the present, where Hyun-joon tells him to drop the gun. But still aiming it at him, Oh recounts how happy he was when Hyun-joon entered the police. “But I was also afraid,” he says, explaining that he wanted to save his daughter before being a good policeman.
Oh says he should have finished this sooner, and in a flash, he turns on Kim and shoots him, and then holds the gun to his own head. Screaming, Hyun-joon dives for him, but it’s too late. With his last breaths, Oh rasps out, “I’m sorry… Tae-joon.”
Later, Hyun-joon visits Tae-joon in hospital, where he has remained in a persistent vegetative state. His mother wakes up at his arrival, and he merely tells her that he was in the area for work. He notes her thinness, and she admits she can’t eat or sleep in comfort when Tae-joon is like this—that’s what it means to be a parent, she tells him.
He takes over from her, tucking Tae-joon in and massaging his legs. After his mom falls asleep at hyung’s side, he covers her tenderly with his jacket.
The next day, he visits Ji-eun’s grave. This time, he leaves the bracelet he’s worn all these years as an offering, and smiles at her picture in farewell.
He meets Sun-woo on the bridge where she used to meet Ji-eun. It took this long for her to come here again, she tells Hyun-joon. Looking out over the water, he says he never realized before how lovely the view was from here. Together, they enjoy the quiet.
The team finally manages to get together for dinner—which Ki-hyung is buying, of course, Nana teases. Min-young nudges Han to say something to lift the somber mood, and Nana suggests they tour quiz shows with his nerdiness. Hyun-joon finally cracks a smile, and thanks them all for their hard work.
Ki-hyung offers him encouragement back, and says the hardest thing about being a profiler is having to profile your colleagues, because you have to hold them in suspicion.
“I didn’t doubt you for even a moment,” he tells Hyun-joon. Everyone chimes in supportively, and they toast to the team.
The next day, Ki-hyung asks Chief Director Baek to give him a little more time, and Baek asks if it’s because of the Reaper.
Nana has been busy restoring the rest of the black box video that confirmed Hyun-joon’s alibi for Ho-young’s murder. The team, including Chief Director Baek, watch a startling new sequence that shows the hooded figure dragging Ho-young’s body away. That murder wasn’t committed by Kim Jung-soo or Detective Oh after all, Sun-woo realizes.
Hyun-joon reiterates that the Reaper wants to take down their whole team. A flashback to just after Ho-young’s murder shows the Reaper laughing maniacally as he pulls on Ji-eun’s bloody bracelet, mirroring Hyun-joon’s. Thinking of his conflict with Hyun-joon, Ki-hyung agrees that the Reaper’s goal this whole while has been to sow the seeds of suspicion among them.
Ki-hyung had told Chief Director Baek earlier that his departure wouldn’t stop the Reaper from targeting the remaining team members. Now, Baek says, “He’ll come to know in the end that we’ll never succumb to him. In the end, we will catch him.”
We close the arc with a Nietzsche quote delivered by Ki-hyung: “I’m certain that neither god, nor the devil, nor hell, exists. So, don’t be afraid anymore.”
A girls’ swim team finishes practice for the day and their coach dismisses them with a warning to look after themselves and sleep early. Three of the girls are close friends and they secretly get ready to go clubbing, although one of them, Yoo-jin, has a bit of a cough. Another girl, Hye-in, teases her friend Song-yi about her overprotective mom, and tells her to switch off her phone so she can’t find them.
Running late, Yoo-jin runs back to the showers to pick something up. Hye-in stops off at her locker, but as she makes her way to the exit, a hand suddenly reaches out and grabs her.
In the shower rooms, the lights flicker, and Yoo-jin calls uncertainly out to Song-yi. Her friend’s voice replies cheerfully, but when she comes into view, she’s being held by an unknown man with a knife at her throat. Calling Yoo-jin by name, he tells her that if she doesn’t do what he says, he’ll kill her friend.
The three girls are locked in a bare, cold room in only their underclothes. They realize with shock that the kidnapper already knew their names, and Yoo-jin worries that they’re going to be killed. Hye-in grabs her friends’ hands and tells them to keep it together—they’ve been through worse in training. Heartened, Song-yi says that if they stick together, the kidnapper can’t hurt them.
Addressing the air vent, Hye-in asks the kidnapper what he wants. To their surprise, a voice replies, telling them they have to make a choice: “Among the three of you, two will make it out alive, but the remaining person will die here. You three choose which one will die. That’s the only way to escape.”
While Min-young is out getting coffee for the team with Han, her aunt calls her on her friend’s behalf. The friend turns out to be Song-yi’s mom, and she’s worried sick about her missing daughter, certain that something’s happened to her.
Min-young takes it to her teammates and shows them the identical messages sent from each of the girl’s phones to their parents, after which all electronic activity from them ceased. Nana wonders if they’re just having fun somewhere, but Min-young tells her that they’re competitive swimmers who take their sport seriously.
They watch a video Hye-in recorded after Yoo-jin placed first in a competition, in which all three of them celebrate her win. Min-young says they had a competition coming up, so they wouldn’t just skip out like that. The team agrees to look into it themselves for now.
The girls have found some straw to wrap themselves in, and try to warm up. But they sit isolated from each other, and Yoo-jin’s cough worsens.
Hyun-joon and Sun-woo check out the girls’ training center, and note that the CCTV at the entrance is broken. Hyun-joon shows Sun-woo the girls’ strict training schedule and says that for someone to kidnap them, they would have to know that schedule.
Min-young goes to meet with the girls’ parents. She hears from the detectives that Hye-in’s father can’t be found since he went away on a fishing trip, but learns that the two of them lived alone. Yoo-jin’s parents wonder why they’ve received no demands if their daughter was kidnapped, and Min-young asks if any of them have noticed anything or anyone strange recently. Just then, an officer reports that a trace of the girls has been found.
Back at the pool, Hyun-joon theorizes that in order to kidnap the three of them, the kidnapper either had an accomplice, or he picked them off separately when they were alone. After taking the first girl out, he could control the third using the second, he says.
They rush off after Min-young calls them. They meet her in an outdoor location where three bags belonging to the girls have been discovered, all cut up. “It definitely looks like a grudge-driven kidnapping,” Hyun-joon says darkly.
I might be completely wrong, but I’m seriously suspicious of Hye-in and her missing dad right now. Also, she’s wearing a black top while the other two are in white, which is obviously meaningful symbolism… right? I found her defensiveness when the girls asked her if she told the kidnapper their names a little off, too. She’s also the one who made sure Song-yi switched off her phone, and hey, maybe she was envious of Yoo-jin’s competition win. Okay, I’m deliberately building a case right now and most of my suppositions are circumstantial, but to counter it, I felt the little video the profilers found on her phone showed oodles of affection.
I can’t help admiring how effectively the kidnapper undermined their loyalty to each other, just moments after they vowed to stick together. It’s like a kidnapper’s twist on the prisoner’s dilemma, and it’s clever because by planting those doubts, it breaks the trust between them immediately. Each girl is now suspicious of the other two and can see a way out for herself—once they feel desperate enough, making that choice wouldn’t even be hard. Even if they know exactly how they’re being played, it takes a different level of emotional fortitude to refuse to play. I like how this case is shaping up, and with two-thirds of the show under my belt, I feel confident predicting that there are going to be some good twists, and speculating on them is the fun of it all!
Finding the fun is especially important in this show, because of its more lacking aspects. I had to watch this pair of episodes twice (and revisit the episode 7 recap) to pick up all the threads properly in this long-awaited Nadeul River case. I’m a bit disappointed that it was ultimately treated like a regular case, though, when I expected there to be some lasting impact and a longer denouement. It struck me as odd from the beginning that Hyun-joon and Sun-woo didn’t form some deeper bond from their respective attachments to Ji-eun. Isn’t it unusual to have so little interest in someone who knows your hometown, and with whom you share both a friend and a tragedy? I also thought there would—finally!—be much more Sun-woo in this case, but she’s a shadow-character as always. On the other hand, it was interesting to find out that Hyun-joon’s fixation on the case came less from an enduring first love, and more from his fear that his brother would turn out to be the culprit. His emotions towards Ji-eun seem in retrospect to be mixed up with guilt as much as sorrow.
It’s been an episode for unlikely contrasts, such as reluctant villain Detective Oh, who seems like he never reconciled himself with his wrongdoings. But what’s been really great about this case is actually having our team as its focus. We got to spend time on their interactions with each other, and better, some really intense ones. Ki-hyung and Hyun-joon’s face-off early in the episode was fraught and complex on multiple levels, raising some really interesting questions about what it really means to be in their line of work. Ki-hyung is a crack profiler, with an incisive ability to get under his opponent’s skin. It’s not surprising that he’s immediately able to home in on Hyun-joon’s cracks. What’s surprising is that despite being wholly aware of Ki-hyung’s abilities (and despite actually being innocent), Hyun-joon still cracks, and wide open at that.
Ki-hyung’s profiling relied on him accurately targeting Hyun-joon’s weaknesses, and until now, none of our profilers have had that razor-sharp scrutiny turned on themselves with such intensity. This ability reveals itself as an unsettling tool that I can see undermining the trust you’d have in your team. It’s intangibly invasive, and at times you could even argue, unethical. And that was Ki-hyung being nice—imagine that same skill applied with malice. So is it an occupational hazard? Do profilers always profile, friend or foe, on the clock or off?
If this episode proves anything, it is that trust is more fragile than we think, and to destroy it completely, just a pinch of doubt and suspicion will do. But at the same time, it also proves that same trust is more resilient than we think; it’s what allows Hyun-joon, after he’s been popped emotionally open like a mussel, not to doubt Ki-hyung when he explains himself. That’s why I’m keen to see whether the girls’ trust will survive the kidnapper’s test. I’m sure it will fall to pieces first, but will their friendship prevail, or will it be destroyed forever?
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