Life on Mars: Episode 10
Everyone is forced to face some harsh truths this hour, but it’s a necessary growing pain in order to move forward. People are dropping like flies and if Tae-joo wants to stay alive, he’ll have to keep on his toes because if one thing’s for sure, he’s running out of time.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
After a quick recap of the entire Kim Min-seok mystery from Tae-joo’s first encounter in 2018 up until Tae-joo’s “present,” we see our favorite detective leaving work for the night. As he steps into the hallway, however, the lights begin to flicker and an eerie voice calls out to him.
The voice—identifying itself as Kim Min-seok—leads Tae-joo to a window that lights up like a screen to show 2018 Kim Min-seok, dressed as a doctor. As he leans over Tae-joo’s hospital bed, he remarks that the detective looks surprisingly well. Min-seok says he brought a gift and produces a tape recorder. When he presses play, ex-fiancée Seo-hyun’s voice screams for Tae-joo to save her.
Tae-joo runs towards the window, but the hallway warps and stretches, keeping him in the same spot. Smirking, Min-seok says there’s nothing Tae-joo can do—no matter what, he can’t come back. He walks away and the window reverts to normal glass. The lights flicker again and Tae-joo begins to choke, gasping for air. The hallway goes dark and suddenly, Tae-joo is lying on the floor of his room still struggling to breathe.
The television beside him shows his 2018 doctor and nurse rushing into his hospital room. Doc says Tae-joo is having a seizure and as he applies the defibrillator, Tae-joo’s body spasms. Between jolts, Tae-joo flashes back to the roof—when he was about to jump, thinking it would return him to 2018. He remembers Na-young had held his hand over her heart and said that whether he’s dreaming or traveled back in time, there’s a reason he’s here.
As he holds her hand in the vision, Tae-joo’s body finally relaxes.
That morning at work, Tae-joo calls around to elementary schools looking for young Kim Min-seok. After crossing paths with him the night before (when young Min-seok had rescued young Tae-joo from bullies), Tae-joo had attempted to ask his younger self about the other boy. Unfortunately, all little Tae-joo could do was confirm the other boy’s name.
Suddenly, Tae-joo’s ear begins to ring and blood trickles out. A bright light flashes and the TV clicks on to show Tae-joo’s doctor giving an interview. Doc starts by saying Tae-joo’s case is extremely rare. Tae-joo’s body has suffered severe damage and his prolonged coma is only making things worse. He continues that even if Tae-joo were to regain consciousness, his body wouldn’t be able to function properly—essentially, Tae-joo has no hope for recovery. Oh dear.
Doc’s voice overlaps itself, reiterating that Tae-joo is doomed and it would be better to pull the plug. With an anguished cry, Tae-joo throws a hand-radio at the TV and then nearly jumps out of his skin when a voice asks if he can hear the voices from such a distance.
A young man stands beside Tae-joo and warns him not to believe the voices—they lie. Blinking back, Tae-joo tentatively asks if the stranger heard everything. Nodding emphatically, the young man confirms he hears the voices all the time. He then reveals that he’s from 2018 and a stunned Tae-joo starts to say the same when the man holds up his hand. He warns Tae-joo that others might be listening… and then taps his ear, wondering if Tae-joo also has a wiretap.
The man continues that he has a wiretap in his ear and Tae-joo realizes that the stranger is not a fellow time-traveler—he’s just crazy. The rest of the team arrives and apparently the man is no stranger to the station. Turns out, he always shows up around the same time every year, escaping from the psychiatric hospital and causing a ruckus at the station.
The detectives are forced to chase him around the room, and eventually manage to tie him up. He refuses to leave before performing the E.T. finger touch with both Dong-chul and Tae-joo. Hee.
As he’s being escorted out, the mystery patient greets a young officer, seeming to recognize him. The officer quietly watches the man get dragged away before reporting to the team that a crime scene has been discovered.
Driving out to the countryside, Dong-chul comments that Tae-joo looks tired. Tae-joo says he didn’t sleep much, which Dong-chul takes to mean he made use of the dirty magazine Dong-chul had left him. Irritated, Tae-joo tells him to speed up, and Dong-chul leans out to yell at the tractor in front of them.
The schoolchildren catching a ride on the back of the tractor jeer at the detectives and Dong-chul good-naturedly teases them back. All’s well until one boy makes a rude gesture—one that Dong-chul is fond of using himself—and after a shocked beat, Dong-chul starts screaming at the kid to learn some manners. Hehe.
The pair finally arrives at the crime scene to find that they’re short-staffed, due to the Olympics. Na-young leads them over to a deep hole in the ground where a woman’s body had been discarded. She explains that a farmer found the corpse while working and Tae-joo notes that the body appears to have been dead for about a month. Unfortunately, there’s nothing more they can do until the forensic team arrives.
Sometime later, the forensic team turns up along with a crew of officers and the other two detectives in Dong-chul’s unit. The officers scour the fields for the victim’s belongings. Na-young finds a shoe, maknae detective Nam-shik a purse, and so on until they’ve located everything they could.
The victim’s ID says her name is Kim Bok-rye and she lives in the village. Tae-joo assumes she was murdered on her way home from the bus stop. He, Na-young, and Dong-chul head over to Bok-rye’s house and find it oddly void of any photographs but her own. In the bathtub, they find the charred remains of the missing photos.
Dumb luck leads them to the only surviving family photo when Dong-chul trips and spots it under a dresser. Tae-joo’s stomach drops when he looks at the picture and recognizes little Kim Min-seok staring up at him from between a man and Bok-rye. Adult Min-seok sneering at him in his hospital bed flashes across his mind along with Min-seok’s promise that Tae-joo will never return.
Tae-joo’s ear starts to ring again and he abruptly drops the photo to cradle it. Na-young and Dong-chul stare it him concernedly as Tae-joo’s nose beings to bleed. Excusing himself, Tae-joo stumbles into the bathroom. The ringing intensifies and he crashes around a bit before sliding to the floor as Min-seok’s chuckles echo in his mind.
Rejoining the others outside, Tae-joo assures Na-young that he’s okay and Dong-chul jokes again that Tae-joo overexerted himself with the dirty magazine. Whatever Tae-joo was about to retort is cut off by the arrival of Nam-shik.
The youngest detective tells them murder victim Bok-rye’s husband works on a fishing boat, but the couple divorced three months ago after a fight. Apparently, Bok-rye has a notoriously bad temper and didn’t get along with any of her neighbors either.
Tae-joo asks about the child, but no one’s seen him and they assume his father took him. Tae-joo asks about the boy’s school—surprising the other detectives by already knowing his name. Nam-shik is unsure but Na-young figures he likely attends the nearest elementary.
She and Tae-joo go to the school and confirm that Min-seok is a student. They also learn that his attendance is abysmal due to “illness,” and following a bad injury a few months prior, his mother had notified the school he’d be taking a long-term absence. The teacher adds that Min-seok didn’t get along with his classmates.
Outside, Na-young asks Tae-joo if this Kim Min-seok is the same one he’d had her look into—and had said was a serial killer. Tae-joo admits that he is, adding that Min-seok has something to do with why he’s here. “He’s my only clue to find my way back,” Tae-joo concludes, causing Na-young’s heart to sink.
Back at the station, Tae-joo and Dong-chul stare blankly at the murder board they’ve constructed for Bok-rye. Nam-shik runs in and announces the husband has been found, however, he has a clear alibi for the murder as he was on an overseas fishing trip until two days ago. Sighing, Dong-chul removes the husband’s picture from their suspects section.
Tae-joo still wants to speak with the husband, so Nam-shik leads him down to the docks. They find him drunk in a restaurant and Tae-joo questions him about Min-seok. The husband barks that he doesn’t know, or care—Min-seok isn’t his biological son anyway. The husband reveals that Bok-rye had adopted Min-seok solely for the benefits, but everything went wrong after taking him in.
Tae-joo joins Dong-chul at the morgue. Manager Park frets that with all the deaths in the area, he’s not safe. Skimming over the report, Tae-joo notes that Bok-rye suffered extensive injuries. Looking at the body, Tae-joo points out that she bled from her broken leg. Dong-chul innocently asks the significance of that observation, earning stunned looks from Tae-joo and Manager Park.
Manager Park explains that for the wound to bleed, it had to have been inflicted while the victim was alive. He continues that she was beaten to death with a metal bat, breaking and fracturing several bones in the process. The killing blow was a strike to the head and Manager Park bemoans a world where a robbery (as Bok-rye’s jewelry was missing) would warrant such a brutal beating.
The men return to find Na-young staring intently at the crime scene photos. She snaps out of it long enough to report that due to so much time passing, the forensic team was unable to find anything useful.
Detective Yong-ki adds that the bus driver remembers Bok-rye disembarked alone the last time he’d seen her. Unfortunately, that means there were no witnesses to her murder. Dong-chul notices Na-young staring at the photos again. He starts to send her to fetch some tea, but wants to know what’s caught her attention. Na-young finds something off with the photos and when everyone gathers around to look, Tae-joo announces that they need to return to the crime scene.
On the way, Tae-joo explains that one of Bok-rye’s socks is far filthier than the other, indicating that she’d still been trying to get away after her leg had been broken. Disturbingly, this would mean that the killer had drawn out her death, practically toying with her. The killer had planned this attack and waited for Bok-rye at the bus stop.
Na-young points out that the killer’s behavior suggests resentment or revenge, therefore robbery was never the motive—the true purpose was murder. The detectives fan out to search for anything they’d missed. Nam-shik takes the field, but only finds garbage. Meanwhile, Yong-ki and Dong-chul jam out to the radio.
Na-young and Tae-joo return to the hole the body was found in, and Na-young comments that moving the body here would’ve been difficult. Tae-joo agrees, thinking that the assailant must be familiar with the area. Back at the car, the other detectives are standing around chatting when Na-young suddenly calls out to them.
Rushing over, they find Na-young standing next to the hole which Tae-joo is kneeling in. He picks up a badge and hands it to Dong-chul, who recognizes the organization it belongs to. Tae-joo then holds out his hand for Dong-chul to pull him up, but Dong-chul just slaps a low-five and scurries off leaving him and Na-young to fend for themselves.
They must figure something out, because both are present when the team investigates the organization’s headquarters. The club representative confirms the badge belongs to a member of their branch, and Tae-joo requests a list. Yong-ki calls their attention to a photo hanging on a corkboard, having recognized one of the members as a junkie they’d arrested previously.
According to the club rep, the junkie, Yang Gil-soo, has apparently since cleaned up his act and dedicated his time to volunteering. He adds that Gil-soo also helps out with the daily bookkeeping, but didn’t show up today. Yong-ki leads the team to Gil-soo’s house, where they find the utilities have been cut for nonpayment.
Searching the house, Yong-ki finds a bundle of meth, while Nam-shik stumbles across Bok-rye’s missing earrings. A noise draws the team to the shed, where they find Gil-soo drugged out of his mind. He lashes out when Yong-ki approaches and it takes all four men to wrestle him to the ground. Yong-ki gets injured in the scuffle and faints when he sees the blood.
Gil-soo is brought to the interrogation room, but can’t answer any of Dong-chul or Tae-joo’s questions. Dong-chul barks that Gil-soo can’t even pay his bills, but somehow managed to buy meth. He accuses Gil-soo of robbing Bok-rye to fund his drug problem but Gil-soo continues to reply that he doesn’t remember. He does add that the meth just suddenly appeared two days ago.
Dong-chul’s patience has reached its limit and he lunges at Gil-soo. Tae-joo manages to hold him back, suggesting that they wait for Gil-soo to sober up before questioning him again. Yong-ki and Nam-shik return from getting Yong-ki’s head wound stitched up and Dong-chul puts the two in charge of Gil-soo while he and Tae-joo go out.
In the hall, Na-young informs them that she finished going through Bok-rye’s loan shark record book and that Gil-soo had borrowed 1,000,000 won (roughly 1,000 dollars). To date, he’s only returned a tenth of his debt. Dong-chul figures the loan was enough to buy three months worth of meth.
Tae-joo asks about Gil-soo’s whereabouts on the day Bok-rye died and while there had been a club event, Gil-soo was unaccounted for. Dong-chul thinks they have enough circumstantial evidence and tells Tae-joo to send Gil-soo’s statement to the prosecutor’s office as soon as he gets it. For now, though, Dong-chul wants Tae-joo to get himself checked at the hospital—he’s worried Tae-joo will faint sooner or later.
After Dong-chul leaves, Tae-joo turns to go back into the interrogation room, but Na-young stops him—she’s found the hospital where Kim Min-seok received treatment. They head over and although the doctor is out, the nurse at the desk hands over Min-seok’s medical records.
Flipping through, Na-young concludes that Min-seok had been repeatedly abused. Furthermore, Bok-rye’s injuries mirror Min-seok’s records. They realize Bok-rye was murdered in revenge for Min-seok and Tae-joo says they need to find him quickly.
They return to the station to find a commotion outside the interrogation room. Tae-joo pushes through the crowd of officers and sees Nam-shik sitting outside the door, nervously wringing his hands. Nam-shik springs to his feet when Tae-joo approaches and attempts to block him from entering the room.
Tae-joo pushes past and sees Yong-ki watching anxiously as a paramedic attempts to resuscitate Gil-soo. Alas, it’s too late and Gil-soo is dead. Tae-joo demands to know what happened, but neither detective will look him in the eye. He asks Yong-ki why there are bruises on Gil-soo’s face and the other detective leaves the room.
Pausing only to shoot a glare at Nam-shik that causes the young man to flinch, Tae-joo follows Yong-ki out into the hall. He demands for Yong-ki admit whether or not he hit Gil-soo and Yong-ki shouts defensively that he smacked the guy around a bit, but it can happen in an investigation. Tae-joo barks that a person has died and Yong-ki throws back that there’s nothing he can do about it now. He sobers, however, when Dong-chul walks up.
Rejoining the others in the interrogation room, Dong-chul calmly asks what happened, demanding the truth when Yong-ki stumbles over his words. Before he can answer, however, Chief Kim walks in. He then proceeds to berate the team, ignoring Dong-chul’s insistence that he’ll take care of the issue himself.
The reprimanding escalates until Chief Kim smacks Nam-shik across the face, and then Yong-ki. Angrily, he wonders if they’re cops or bullies and reels back to hit them again, only for Dong-chul to grab his arm and pin it behind his back. Crying out in pain, Chief Kim barks at Dong-chul to let him go, but Dong-chul calmly repeats that he’ll take care of his team.
“Even if I get disciplined or fired, it’s none of your business,” Dong-chul snaps, “How dare you hit my subordinates, you arrogant jerk!” He releases Chief Kim and tells him to get lost. Glaring daggers, Chief Kim scoffs that he’ll be watching how Dong-chul deals with this before stomping out of the room.
Dong-chul demands to know how Gil-soo could suddenly die of a heart attack when he was perfectly fine earlier. Tae-joo points out that his drug addiction could’ve weakened his heart to the point that even a minor shock would’ve killed him. Yong-ki defensively shouts that he couldn’t have known that, but Dong-chul tells him to shut up.
Finally, Yong-ki admits that Nam-shik didn’t do anything wrong—it’s his fault. Nam-shik snivels that he’s also responsible but Dong-chul doesn’t want to hear apologies right now. Instead, he sends Na-young to call Manager Park and they lock the interrogation room while they wait for him to arrive.
Dong-chul and Tae-joo look in on Yong-ki’s guilt-ridden form, hunched over his desk as he smokes a cigarette. With a sigh, Dong-chul goes in to comfort him while Tae-joo heads off to find Nam-shik. The youngest detective is sobbing alone in the darkened hallway and Tae-joo sits next to him. Nam-shik whimpers that he’s sorry—he only wanted to get a confession and show Tae-joo that he and Yong-ki were capable.
Tae-joo gently tells him that while the investigation is important, that doesn’t justify illegal acts. Nam-shik apologizes again, but Tae-joo says he should be saying that to Gil-soo’s family, instead. Nam-shik promises to do so and Na-young appears to fetch them—Manager Park has arrived.
Manager Park examines the body and confirms cause of death to be a heart attack. He asks Yong-ki to explain what happened when Gil-soo died. Turns out, Gil-soo didn’t die from the beating but from a forced drug overdose. Everyone shoots a look at Yong-ki and he adamantly denies involvement.
Tae-joo wants to know if they’d ever left Gil-soo alone, and Yong-ki admits that there were a few minutes after Gil-soo fainted when he’d gone out to call for an ambulance. Tae-joo declares that to be the killer’s window and Dong-chul asks if they were recording the interrogation. Nam-shik confirms he’d been trying to emulate Tae-joo and had indeed turned on the recorder.
Realizing the recorder probably captured what happened in the room when Yong-ki left to call for help, the team searches for the device. Nam-shik had left it on the table, but when Yong-ki had scuffled with Gil-soo, it had gone flying. Na-young finds it in a corner and everyone gathers around to listen.
The tape starts with Nam-shik stating their names, date, and the purpose of the recording. Yong-ki had quickly grown irritated and sent Nam-shik out of the room to keep watch. Nam-shik confirms this now to Dong-chul and they continue listening. The tape reveals that Yong-ki had then begun his investigation, but it soon devolved into a beating—more than he’d admitted to Dong-chul earlier.
Suddenly, Gil-soo had begun gasping for air and Yong-ki is heard rushing out of the room to get the ambulance, which he confirms to the team. They continue listening and after a prolonged silence, footsteps are heard entering the room. A voice tells Gil-soo that he hadn’t intended for things to turn out this way, but in order for him and Min-seok to be happy, Gil-soo has to die.
We see that gloved hands had then dumped the entire contents of the package of meth (that had been recovered from Gil-soo’s house) into the addict’s mouth. He seized briefly and then fell still, while the killer pulled out an inhaler and took a puff. From the floor, the killer then picked up an officer’s hat. As he places it on his head, we see that it’s the same officer from earlier in the episode (the one the mental patient had recognized).
Tae-joo replays the recorder and recognizes the sound of an inhaler being used, immediately linking it to the inhaler found where his father was murdered—thereby connecting all the deaths (Dad, Dad’s girlfriend, Go Yeong-suk, Min-seok’s adopted mother, Kim Bok-rye, and finally, drug addict Yang Gil-soo) to one killer. Na-young wonders how the killer managed to get into the interrogation room and Nam-shik agrees, since they were only gone for ten minutes.
“He was watching us,” Tae-joo declares, “He’s close to us.” He rushes out of the room and into the main part of the police station. Scanning the crowd, Tae-joo doesn’t even register the killer officer cheerfully saluting him as he walks past. What’s more, he walks away just as little Min-seok runs into the station and calls out “Hyung!” He happily runs up to the killer and they laugh together as they leave the station, hand-in-hand.
Ooof! So close! Now Tae-joo knows the serial killer is close by, but as Officer Psycho demonstrated with that cheeky salute, it doesn’t make a difference if he doesn’t know who he’s looking for… and this guy is going to be a hard one to catch. He’s already killed four people (as far as we know) and has a knack for blending in. And while I can understand his motivations for killing the two we saw this episode, what was his reason for Dad and Go Yeong-suk? Was he really just following CEO Oh’s orders? Or does he have another agenda entirely? And what does this mean going forward?
Fun fact, when Dong-chul is listening to the radio (instead of helping the other detectives look for clues), they’re listening to Jo Yong-pil’s “Mona Lisa” and Dong-chul declares that the singer will still be active in his seventies. Yong-ki scoffs, but joke’s on him because Jo Yong-pil is one of Korea’s most influential music artists and is still active today. Hehehe.
This wasn’t an easy hour for any member of the team. Tae-joo is still struggling with his dual timelines. The doc said that even if he wakes up, he’ll never be the same. Meanwhile, his episodes are escalating and it would seem he’s running out of time. Na-young was reminded that Tae-joo didn’t come here by choice and regardless of whether she believes he’s a time-traveler or not, he’s made it clear that he intends to return home. Yong-ki and Nam-shik had a huge scare with Gil-soo’s death and all I can hope is that they learn from it, particularly Yong-ki. He dodged a bullet by not being the one actually responsible for the death, but I hope this serves as a wake-up call that he needs to rethink his methods. He’s learned some really bad habits along the way and while it’s not entirely his fault (rather a side-effect of a corrupt system at work) he still nearly made an irreversible mistake.
On the other hand, Nam-shik was heartbreaking. He really respects Tae-joo and wanted nothing more than to prove his and Yong-ki’s worth. It’s hard to compete with a golden trio like Dong-chul, Tae-joo, and Na-young so I can understand why he and Yong-ki feel a little left out. Hopefully everyone can learn from this and find a way to come together as a solid team. They need to have each other’s backs with a serial killer in their midst.