Life on Mars: Episode 6
More family hijinx are in store for Tae-joo as we take a turn for the sentimental this hour. Tae-joo is finally face to face with the man he seems to have been trying to forget. Ever since falling into 1988, Tae-joo’s been forced to face his fractured past but the more he remembers, the more his world is turned upside-down.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
While attempting to bust the notorious “Lottery Gang,” our time-traveling detective Tae-joo and company stumble across Tae-joo’s father instead. The shock sends Tae-joo reeling and he flashes back to a happy memory of Dad bringing him the game ball before shifting to him sobbing in his mother’s embrace. Mom assures Young Tae-joo that Dad had to leave without warning, but that he loves him and will return soon. However, judging from the dark tones and what appears to be a mourning ribbon in her hair, it seems unlikely.
Upon returning to the station, fellow officer Na-young greets the team but Tae-joo is too freaked out to respond. Dad tries to negotiate a trip to the bathroom but officer Yong-ki snaps that if it’s urgent, he can go where he stands. Tae-joo steps in and unlocks Dad’s cuffs, much to Yong-ki’s annoyance.
Yong-ki grows antsy while waiting for Dad to finish his business. Ignoring Tae-joo’s insistence that Dad will be out soon, Yong-ki bursts in to find Dad tying the door shut with his pants. Dad panics and scrambles out the window and the detectives give chase. They follow him out into the parking lot, where their captain Dong-chul manages to apprehend Dad by opening his car door just in time to send the escapee flying over it.
In the interrogation room, Na-young treats Dad’s wounds and as thanks, he shows her some cheesy magic tricks with his pen. Dong-chul reprimands him for fooling around instead of writing up his statement, while Tae-joo watches with an uncertain expression. Dad swears he knows nothing of the Lottery Gang and merely works at the brothel.
He admits that he’s supposed to be working in Saudi Arabia, but after his travel money was stolen, he was too embarrassed to return home empty-handed. At the mention of his son, Dad brightens and proudly produces a picture of Young Tae-joo. Dong-chul chuckles that the boy is much cuter than some other Tae-joo he knows, but muses that they look similar.
Dad is thrilled to learn that the young detective shares his son’s name and wonders if they’re somehow related. Fortunately, Dong-chul smacks Dad in the head with his clipboard before Tae-joo is forced to fabricate a response. Dad grins sheepishly and returns to writing his statement.
When Dad has finished, Dong-chul agrees to release him on the condition that officer Nam-shik accompanies him home and confirms his address. Tae-joo volunteers to go instead and Dad asks to make a quick detour. They stop off at the bathhouse so Dad can clean up before facing his family. Tae-joo stares distractedly at his father until Dad catches him and offers to scrub his back. Despite Tae-joo’s protestation, Dad insists and it brings forth Tae-joo’s memories of visiting the bathhouse together in his childhood.
Afterwards, Dad takes Tae-joo to the Hawaii Room Salon—where he’s been staying since he was robbed. Dad notices Tae-joo’s uncomfortable expression as he looks around the closet-sized space. Laughing self-consciously, Dad admits that he had nowhere else to go and this was all he could afford.
Unwilling to go home empty-handed, Dad shuffles to the kitchen and fills his pockets with candy for his son. He then starts piling the fruit set out for customers into a basket. Tae-joo asks what he plans to do with it and when Dad replies that it’s for his family, Tae-joo snatches it away. Instead, he takes Dad to buy a nicer fruit basket with fresh fruits. Aww.
Dad leads Tae-joo to the beauty salon where Tae-joo already knows his mother lives and works. Taking one of the candies from his pocket, Dad offers it to Tae-joo as thanks before scurrying happily to the shop door. Peeking inside, Dad is met with a fiery glare and Tae-joo’s aunt bursts outside to grab him by the ears.
She drags Dad inside and Tae-joo follows the sound of their bickering all the way to the kitchen. Aunt is furious that Dad sold the house to pay for his trip to Saudi Arabia. Dad argues that he was trying to make money, but Aunt points out that he came back broke.
It’s all Dad can do to defuse the situation by diverting her attention to Tae-joo. Aunt’s demeanor takes a 180 degree turn and she smiles coyly. Her tone softens as she greets him and Dad is stunned that they know each other. This revelation is interrupted by the arrival of Mom and Young Tae-joo.
Dad immediately scoops up his son and they giggle together before Dad turns to Mom. He bashfully apologizes for giving his wife a hard time. Mom only notes that Dad looks weary and they hold hands until Mom notices Tae-joo standing awkwardly in the doorway.
Dad deems their connection fated and despite Tae-joo’s objections, the family insists he stay for dinner. As they gather around the table, Tae-joo soaks up the warmth he’s surely missed in his 2018 life, watching as his family dotes so lovingly on his younger self.
The peaceful moment is interrupted when the women ask why detective Tae-joo is with Dad. Tae-joo doesn’t argue when his father sputters out a lie that he’s helping the police with a “secret investigation.” Although not entirely convinced, Mom does look relieved. Meanwhile, Aunt continues to flirt with Adult Tae-joo, much to his discomfort.
After dinner, Tae-joo watches his mother washing Dad’s clothes. She smiles, discovering the pocketful of candy, before wincing. Holding her wrist, Mom attempts to ease the pain by applying a hot rag, but Tae-joo steps out and exchanges it for a cold cloth.
He tells her a cold pack is more effective and urges her to visit the hospital if the pain persists for more than a week. At Mom’s quizzical expression, Tae-joo continues that peritenonitus lasts longer than she’d think and admits that his mother was also a hairdresser who suffered the same affliction.
He says his mother had to quit working when he was in middle school and suggests that Mom go to the hospital before it worsens. She promises to do so and Tae-joo gets up to leave. Mom stops him to ask if Dad really didn’t cause trouble and Tae-joo assures her that’s not the case. She wonders how they’ll ever repay Tae-joo for everything he’s done, and while Tae-joo says there’s no need, she insists he stop by for a haircut.
Outside, someone calls out to him and Tae-joo turns to find his younger self staring up at him. He takes the boy to the corner store for banana milk and Young Tae-joo marvels at their shared name. He asks if the detective carries a gun and is disappointed when Tae-joo says no, but happily settles for playing with his handcuffs.
Young Tae-joo says the detective is cool, but his dad is cooler. Pulling a candy from his pocket, the boy hands it to our Tae-joo and says it was a present from his dad, but he’ll share just one with the detective. Slipping his wrist through one cuff, Young Tae-joo hands the other to our detective and they playfully tug back and forth. It’s surreal but so cute.
Later that night, Na-young arrives at the bar to find Tae-joo sitting alone with a few already empty bottles at his table. Walking over, Na-young asks if Tae-joo escorted his “father” home safely. He looks up, surprised, until Na-young explains she was joking since Dad’s son had the same name.
Tae-joo says Dad got home fine and Na-young cheerfully bounces into the seat opposite him. She asks about the candy piece sitting on the table and a secret smile spreads across his face as he tells her it’s a gift from his father.
Tae-joo continues that when he was young, his father would bring him something in his suit pocket whenever he went out. “I always looked forward to what my father’s pocket may have inside,” Tae-joo says, “And I put my hand in his pocket… and this is what came out of there today.”
His expression sobers as he pours himself another drink. Tae-joo confesses that he used to consider his father his everything, and thought he knew everything about his father. “But that wasn’t true at all,” Tae-joo finishes.
Na-young listens quietly and then asks if Tae-joo has ever seen his father’s back. She explains that fathers always want to appear cool and confident in their children’s eyes. It wasn’t until she grew up that she found out that her father had also been hiding a weaker side that was suffering.
Tae-joo thinks over her words and asks if she’s going home. Na-young sighs that she has more paperwork to do and asks Tae-joo to pour her a drink. He complies and on the other side of the bar, the barman cheekily plays some romantic music. Hee.
The next morning, Tae-joo grabs breakfast from the corner store and settles into the passenger seat of Dong-chul’s car. Suddenly the radio goes wild and a woman’s voice urgently informs him that his brain activity is dropping. Tae-joo tries to respond but she just pleads with him not to give up.
Tae-joo demands to know who’s talking and the radio crackles before Na-young responds. She tells him a body has been found and Dong-chul—who must’ve been sleeping in the driver’s seat—springs forward and snatches the radio. He cranks the engine and Tae-joo sighs that they’re on a one-way street. Undeterred, Dong-chul speeds backwards. Ignoring Tae-joo’s resigned remark that he’s committing a traffic violation, Dong-chul merely flips around using a side street and continues driving the wrong way down the one-way street.
At the crime scene, the detectives wonder if the man got drunk and froze to death. Finding a busted watch under the body, Tae-joo says that’s unlikely as it would take an hour minimum to freeze to death but it seems the man died in under fifty minutes. Yong-ki scoffs at Tae-joo’s deduction and snidely calls him “Detective Columbo.”
Dong-chul rifles through the dead man’s wallet and questions why the man was found so far from his own neighborhood. He tells Yong-ki to check it out, but when he goes to hand over the ID, both men stop and look warily at Tae-joo. Yong-ki carefully grabs the card using the tail of his shirt and slips it into his pocket.
Next, Dong-chul finds a slip of paper with a phone number scrawled across it. He assigns it to Nam-shik, but when the young detective moves to take it, Dong-chul again shoots a pointed look at Tae-joo. He tentatively asks if it’s okay to handle normally, and Tae-joo nods. How cute, they’re trying to preserve fingerprints!
Finally, Dong-chul pulls two Opening Day baseball tickets from the wallet. Yong-ki nearly swipes them but Dong-chul sends him and Nam-shik on their way… before trying to slip them into his own pocket. Tae-joo catches him and Dong-chul laughs it off, passing the tickets to another officer for safekeeping.
They meet up with a sneezy Manager Park at the clinic, where he informs them that the victim died from a heart attack. He confirms that the man was a heavy drinker, but it wasn’t alcohol that killed him—rather, a rusty pipe to the ribs triggered his heart failure.
Back at the station, Nam-shik reports that there was no answer when he called the number. Yong-ki has discovered that the victim had lived with his wife and child before his divorce the previous year. Now, he lives alone and his only relative—a distant one—avoided him due to his bad drinking habits. His drinking, along with his criminal record (seven property damage charges and three violent assaults), destroyed his marriage.
Na-young reveals that the victim’s ex-wife lives with her child and new husband just twenty minutes from the crime scene. Dong-chul tells Yong-ki to pay her a visit but he suggests Na-young is better qualified. While she’s clearly a great officer, Yong-ki’s words hold no sincerity. Tae-joo offers to go with her and as soon as they leave, Dong-chul reprimands the other two detectives for being lazy. He’s not amused and threatens them not to do it again before shuffling back to his desk.
The ex-wife bitterly tells Na-young and Tae-joo she’s already heard about the victim’s demise through the neighborhood gossip network. She cries that he should’ve died somewhere else and worries about rumors. Na-young calmly starts her questioning while Tae-joo steps outside to speak to the victim’s son.
The boy asks if his father has done something bad again. Tae-joo gently assures him that’s not why they came. Innocently, the boy asks why did they come. Tae-joo opens his mouth but the boy’s mother calls him home and he runs off. Na-young joins Tae-joo and they hear the mother screeching at her son to stop crying since his father never did anything for them. Na-young explains that this is why the other detectives didn’t want to come.
At the station, Na-young calls about the tickets found in the victim’s wallet. She’s puzzled to learn those tickets aren’t even for sale yet. Tae-joo questions how the victim obtained them and Dong-chul shoots him a cheeky grin.
A young man scurries around selling tickets to people on the street. He’s startled when Dong-chul calls out to him and bolts. Yong-ki and Nam-shik block his path so he turns only to be blocked by Tae-joo. The scalper growls at him to move but Tae-joo deadpans that he’s a detective, too. Heh.
Having relocated to a bathroom, they’ve stripped the scalper down to his skivvies. Yong-ki rifles through his clothes and asks if that’s all the tickets. The young man says yes, but Dong-chul manages to ferret two more out of his underwear. He hands the tickets to a reluctant Nam-shik while Tae-joo confirms that none of the tickets are for Opening Day.
The young man cries that he’s never even seen those tickets since someone bought them all up. He explains that scalpers typically buy 50 tickets right before they’re released to be sold to the public. However, this time a group of guys bought 3000 for an exorbitant 50 million won (or roughly 50 thousand dollars).
Tae-joo flashes a photo of the victim and the scalper confirms he was one of those guys. Tae-joo asks how they obtained the tickets. The scalper reveals that there’s a government employee who manages the company and will happily take bribes. Dong-chul tells him to set up a meeting.
Tae-joo stumbles across the victim’s son crying at the spot where his father was discovered and offers to walk him home. The boy tells Tae-joo his mother called his father’s death “punishment” for his crimes. Tae-joo attempts to comfort him, but the boy asserts that his father lied when he promised not to do any more bad things.
They arrive at the boy’s house and Tae-joo offers the boy the watch he’d found on the body. Curiously, the boy denies it, saying his father never wore a watch. Tae-joo reports back to Dong-chul and they figure that the watch must belong to the assailant.
That night they arrive at a nightclub for their meeting with the ticket supplier. A waiter leads Dong-chul and Tae-joo back to the private room area where the scalper is waiting. He asks which detective will be going with him and Tae-joo holds Dong-chul back. He correctly guesses that Dong-chul will immediately try to roughhouse and argues that they should tread carefully with a civil servant.
Dong-chul agrees to let him try the “gentlemanly approach” first. The scalper adds that the supplier expects a woman to join them and Dong-chul assures him he’s already called someone. Tae-joo follows the scalper into the room and meets the supplier, Chief Oh. They exchange pleasantries but when Tae-joo asks for 1000 tickets, Chief Oh balks. Sensing something is off, he tries to leave but stops when Na-young walks in.
Tae-joo’s expression is impassive until he steps out in the hall and demands that Dong-chul tell him why Na-young is here. Dong-chul whines that the alcohol is already expensive and he didn’t have enough money for a call girl as well. Besides, Na-young volunteered!
Suddenly, Na-young screams and they rush back inside just as Chief Oh slaps Na-young across the face. For once, it’s Dong-chul holding Tae-joo back. Their interference is unnecessary though, as Na-young judo-flips Chief Oh onto the table. The detectives yell when she winds up to punch Chief Oh… but she does it anyway. Hee.
Chief Oh has an identical watch to the one found by the victim and admits that it came from a mutual acquaintance, Kim Eung-shik. He swears ignorance of the victim’s death but reveals he’d witnessed him arguing with Kim Eung-shik about wanting to quit. Dong-chul lets Na-young handcuff Chief Oh and they leave.
Outside, Yong-ki catcalls Na-young and Tae-joo offers her his jacket to cover her ripped skirt. Walking over to the others, Tae-joo calls Yong-ki out on his sexual harassment. Yong-ki scoffs that he doesn’t like Na-young that way—as if that excuses his comments. Tae-joo is about to say more but Nam-shik arrives to report that the number in the victim’s wallet was for a deep-sea fishing company where he was to start working in a week.
Tae-joo pays a final visit to the victim’s son and gives him the Opening Day tickets. The boy cries, realizing his father had been on his way to deliver them the night he died. Tae-joo tells him that his father was trying to keep his promise (about not doing bad things) and repeats Na-young’s words that fathers want to only show their best sides to their children.
The next day is Opening Day and the men at the station are betting on the winner. Everyone is geared up for Haitai when Dong-chul steps up and points out that Haitai had a bad run last year. The men instantly flip to cheering for Samsung until Tae-joo silences them by announcing Haitai will win—even listing which players will make the winning home runs. Dong-chul balks that they’d be lucky to hit anything but leaves before completing his bet.
Na-young returns Tae-joo’s jacket, pointing out that she’d washed it after noticing a stain. He worries that she did extra work but she beams that it was no problem.
They get the call that the tickets are now on sale so they go down to the stadium to wait for Kim Eung-shik. Tae-joo’s mouth quirks into a small smile when he sees the victim’s son among the crowd and Chief Oh—who they’d cuffed in the backseat—draws their attention to a passing van. He identifies the passenger as Kim Eung-shik.
Unfortunately, Kim Eung-shik catches wind of the detectives and bolts. While the team manages to nab his cohorts, Eung-shik escapes on a bicycle. He’s no match for Dong-chul’s car, however. He’s already wheezy when Dong-chul pulls up alongside and the detective cheerfully mocks him as Tae-joo shouts that he’s under arrest. Eung-shik responds by spitting at Dong-chul. Incensed, Dong-chul hocks a loogie right back and a spit fight ensues that is equal parts hilarious… and gross.
Finally, Dong-chul is fed up and bumps Eung-shik off the road with his car. They arrest the killer and by the time they get back to the team, the game results are out: Haitai won. What’s more, it happened exactly as Tae-joo had “predicted.” Staring at Tae-joo in awe, Nam-shik wonders if inhaling briquette gas made him psychic.
The other detectives giggle that Dong-chul lost the bet, but Dong-chul corrects them that he’d placed his money on Haitai. He says that sometimes Tae-joo is right… he just doesn’t like to admit it. Ha!
As the team rounds up criminals in squad cars, Tae-joo finds two tickets in his pocket and asks Na-young about them. She cutely replies that it’s just her gratitude for all he’s done. Tae-joo awkwardly thanks her but says he doesn’t have anyone to go with. He tries to return them and Na-young blurts out, “Then do you want to go with me?”
Tae-joo is taken aback and Na-young quickly adds that she doesn’t have anyone to go with either, but she’d received them for free (as thanks from the scalper for standing up against Chief Oh). Furthermore, the tickets are supposed to be difficult to get so it’d be a shame for them to go to waste…
Tae-joo can’t think of a response before Na-young is called away to arrest more people. As he stares after her, Tae-joo hears someone call his name. Turning, he sees Dad running after the crowd with Young Tae-joo on his hip. Dad is trying to get the ball he’d caught autographed but the team piles onto the bus before he gets the chance. Setting his son down, Dad chases the bus until both disappear around the corner.
The crowd watches with bated breath until Dad comes back into view. His head hangs dejectedly and little Tae-joo’s eyes well up with tears of disappointment. Then Dad holds up his hand, proudly brandishing the signed baseball. It’s a scene Tae-joo has replayed often in his memories as Dad races forward and scoops up his son.
Tae-joo looks on with teary eyes but snaps out of it when Young Tae-joo drops the ball and it rolls to the detective’s feet. He bends down to pick it up, but the second he touches it, he flashes back to the tunnel where he’d seen that woman being murdered through a hole in the wall as a child. As he looks back up at his father, the blurry face that had jumped out at him in the memory finally comes into focus… Dad, splattered in blood.
What?! It’s amazing how this show consistently leaves off on such great cliffhangers. Helcat and I had discussed the blurry face after the last episode and while we’d both thought it kinda looked like Dad (if you paused perfectly and squinted just right), I was sure we had to be wrong. This is definitely the kind of trauma that would result in Tae-joo’s brain locking away his childhood memories, but surely not all is as it seems? While Dad being a crazed serial killer is certainly an interesting twist, it feels too early to expose what I suspect is 2018 serial killer Kim Min-seok’s mentor, right?
So that leads to the question: What is Dad doing there, covered in blood? Maybe it’s just wishful thinking because Dad was very endearing this episode. He’s your typical lovable screw-up… but that could just be his (very crafty) cover. Looking closely, it did seem like Dad struck that woman but his expression when he looked through the hole was so dazed… hmmmm. What do y’all think? Because I just don’t know!
On a less mind-crushing note, how cute is Na-young? I don’t think I’ll ever stop singing her praises. She has such a sugar-sweet character that could’ve so easily rang dull and yet she’s just so darn endearing. Throw in her badass judo skills and it’s a wonder Tae-joo isn’t just as in love with her as she is with him. Na-young’s budding relationship with Tae-joo is such a treat and I am so proud of her for taking that first leap, because as Helcat pointed out, it’s really not Tae-joo’s forte. Luckily, this couple has supporters who aren’t afraid of a little meddling.
I love everything about this show (with the exception of Yong-ki, who—while I can appreciate him as a character—is just an ass) and it makes me that much more anxious for the episodes to come. Tae-joo’s mystery is a conundrum and no matter how many theories I craft, none of them produces a full picture. More than anything, I’m nervous that once Tae-joo completes the puzzle, he’ll have to return to 2018. Because while that is his “correct” timeline, I’ve grown so attached to 1988, I don’t want to leave!