Gap-dong: Episode 8
The game heats up in this episode, with ramped-up intensity and a lot more action. That’s a welcome shift, because I really felt the energy surge today—a drama like this tends to be more about the psychological interplay and the battle of wiles between our good and bad guys, so it’s been lighter on action than I wanted. A mind puzzle is fine and all, but sometimes you just want to see some guys running around and getting stuff done, you know?
SONG OF THE DAY
Louie (Geeks) – “Change the Game” [ Download ]
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Mu-yeom gradually lets go of Maria, saying that there’s definitely something wrong with his head seeing as how he can’t control his impulses. He wonders why she put up with it, considering how skittish she was about keeping people at a distance.
Maria deflects, saying that he doesn’t have to put on a strong front to cover up feeling pain. She also has an inkling that he knows more than he’s letting on, and asks if there’s something he knows about her. Mu-yeom leans in close and says gently, “Surviving is nothing to be ashamed of. Just like it’s not shameful to be a suspect’s son.”
Ah, so he did know. Maria is stunned, and Mu-yeom explains that he caught on when she started talking about the victim’s perspective. “I didn’t want to ask this if I didn’t have to,” he says, “But why are you ashamed?”
The question stirs something in her, since he’s hit the nail on the head about her survivor’s guilt. But his phone rings, breaking the moment, and he answers expecting Ji-wool while Maria tries to collect her rattled composure.
But it’s Tae-oh on the line, which shoots his alarm meter up to eleven. Tae-oh says that Ji-wool is fine for now—but her continued safety depends on Mu-yeom’s answer to his proposal. He’s got until the end of tomorrow to comply, with a photo of himself at the fifth murder scene to be sent as proof.
Listening to his end of the call, Ji-wool guesses that she’s to be the fifth victim. She says that the moment she saw him, she’d thought, “My fate must end here.” Thinking of Mu-yeom embracing Maria, she says that she might be okay to die anyway, and asks where she should go to await her killing. Despite the words, her tears and trembling belie her bravado.
Tae-oh shuts off Ji-wool’s phone and starts walking, muttering to himself, “Let’s go for a walk, us two wounded people.” Interesting wording there, putting him in the place of the wronged party.
Chul-gon hears that his cops lost both the perp and the potential victim and is furious with his team. They’re able to narrow down their probable area given call logs and GPS coordinates, but no leads about where they may have gone.
Section Chief Cha suggests that release a public notice identifying Tae-oh as the wanted criminal, saying that’s the fastest way of recovering Ji-wool safely. But Chul-gon balks, saying that this is likely what Tae-oh wants them to do, and that if they go public and then things go wrong, it could blow up on them—for one, they’ll be blasted for constantly going after the wrong suspects. Profiler Han agrees, suspecting that Tae-oh is laying a trap.
Mu-yeom bursts into the briefing room to share his news that Tae-oh is putting him up to be the fifth case’s murderer. He’s fired up and raring to go, declining Hyung-nyun’s offer of help because he wants to make sure to nail Tae-oh personally. It’s Chul-gon who warns him not to lose his cool, because that’s what Tae-oh wants from him—he’s toying with Mu-yeom’s “Crazy Monk” energy, and that may be the real reason he kidnapped Ji-wool.
Tae-oh pauses on a bridge and waits there a while with Ji-wool, who asks where he means to take her next and if that’s where she’ll die. He asks why she isn’t running or doesn’t seem scared of him, and Ji-wool answers that in the movies, the victim always runs. The killer waits it out until they get lulled into a false sense of security, at which point he strikes.
“If I’m going to die anyway,” she says, “I want to die in a dignified way.” I know I know, she’s being rather passive about her fate but I’m going with it because for one, it’s something different, and two, Ji-wool was always going to be the complication, not a solution. Plus her reaction takes Tae-oh by surprise, and I prefer him as off his guard as he can get.
Ji-wool asks if he’s really a psychopath, killing without emotion. He tells her that being a psychopath isn’t that simple.
Mu-yeom spots a girl at a bridge railing and pulls over, though it doesn’t turn out to be Ji-wool. The sight does remind him of her, though, as he flashes back to two years ago when Ji-wool had very nearly stepped off a bridge in tears, and he’d yanked her away just before she could.
She’d blamed him for getting her ostracized at school as a thief, and now everybody knows and she’s so ashamed she could just die. He points out calmly that she could just prove herself by being a good kid. Ji-wool tells him to take responsibility, since it’s his fault the rumors got out, and he grumbles at her for being absurd.
As Tae-oh drives along the highway, Ji-wool asks questions, never mind the fact that they’re speeding along on a motorcycle wearing helmets. Did Tae-oh kill victims one through four? Did he approach her from the start thinking to kill her? She tells him she won’t run, so he can tell her the truth.
Mu-yeom pores over his Gap-dong notebook, studying the details of the fifth murder. Is he looking for clues, or noting ways to follow through on Tae-oh’s threat? He fights tears as he imagines an animated figure materializing in front of him, reaching out her hand to his.
Mu-yeom outstretches his own hand and pleads with the hazy figure, “Please grab on.” But the hand eludes him.
The district attorney meets with Section Chief Cha to remind him that Chul-gon will be out of a job if a fifth murder arises. The subtext is clear—that job could be yours. I don’t see anything opportunistic in Section Chief Cha’s reaction, but the district attorney’s smirk is unsettling.
The monk drops by with fresh clothing for Mu-yeom and asks if anything’s the matter with Ji-wool, because she hasn’t been by the temple. Mu-yeom lies that there’s nothing to worry about, but is readily contradicted by the arrival of Ji-wool’s frantic mother, who alternately blames Mu-yeom for Ji-wool’s disappearance and begs him to save her.
Tae-oh and Ji-wool wind up at the beach, where they sit silently on the sand. She asks when he plans to kill her, and he clarifies that he never said he would—that was her assumption. She perks up, asking if that means she won’t die after all. He just says, “Possibly.”
He asks her how it feels to like somebody, and she thinks about it. She describes the experience as painful and depressing, something that makes you feel miserable and irritable. “Then why do people do it?” he asks, genuinely curious.
“It’s not something you can control. It’s something that just happens,” she says. She clues in on his interest in the topic and asks who he likes, and he replies that he doesn’t know if it’s there yet, “But it feels like it could happen, if it were with Dr. Maria.”
She asks what he means by “it” happening. He answers, “Me changing.” Then he grins at her and notices the heart she’s painted on her fingernail, lingering on it long enough to be significant. Gack, I hope it didn’t just give him more unsavory ideas. Trust me, he doesn’t need any more of those.
Outside the station, our older cops notice Mu-yeom idling around, humming to himself and kicking at a wall. Not a promising sight, and Chul-gon sighs that Tae-oh’s succeeded in getting to him. He orders Mu-yeom to pull it together.
At the prison hospital, Gentleman Choi asks to see Dr. Maria—a request that draws the interest of the other inmates, in particular our bumbling Poopy. Is this the turning point? Is he more than the resident idiot, or just another red herring? Perhaps both?
Choi is fidgety as he sits with Maria, conflicted about something. He slides over a folded note that he’d hidden up his sleeve and asks her to pass it along to Chul-gon. He explains that Chul-gon had asked him to be his spy and to seek out Maria if something happened. She agrees to convey the note, and he leaves in a hurry.
When Gentleman Choi returns to his room, he pales to find a Bible open on his bed, a particular verse underlined. It’s Psalms 21:10, which reads, “You will destroy their descendants from the earth, their posterity from mankind.” A threat against his family? Choi looks around in panic.
Maria opens the note, and finds only a number scrawled in it: “0314585466.” She starts to copy it down, only to have the paper snatched from her hand. Choi has returned, and asks her to pretend she never saw it.
In a flashback, we see Choi waiting in line to use the prison phone. Again we don’t see the caller, but he’d taken note of the numbers being punched into the phone. Shortly afterward, he saw a note passing from that inmate to Tae-oh.
Maria follows Choi out and urges him to tell her who he suspects—it’s Gap-dong, isn’t it? But he’s been thoroughly warned and clams up, denying it. She asks him to trust her, and starts to confide: “Because I… actually…” But she chokes back the impulse and finishes by saying only that she’ll protect him. It’s not persuasive, and Choi excuses himself.
Mu-yeom’s desperation mounts as time passes without word about Ji-wool’s situation. He gets angry at the force not working hard enough, and suspicious that he’s being kept out of the loop because they fear he’ll do something rash. He hasn’t lost it completely yet but seems well on his way, and pre-emptively warns Hyung-nyun to not inform him if they find Tae-oh, because he might kill him.
Finally, a clue surfaces. After combing mountains of CCTV footage, the police pinpoint Tae-oh’s motorcycle on a particular highway, and that gives them a direction to pursue. Hyung-nyun raises the worry about Mu-yeom seeming unstable, so Chul-gon decides to leave him out of the loop and mobilizes the force without informing Mu-yeom of their lead.
Mu-yeom happens to be canvassing the general area, however, and clocks the entourage of police cars whizzing by. He calls Officer Young-ae to ask for the new info, only to have her lie that there’s nothing. He must know she’s lying but doesn’t press, instead saying that he has something to confess: He’s decided to go through with the fifth murder—it’s the only way to save Ji-wool, who will die because of him.
The big question: Is this a ploy, or is he serious? I’m going with ploy, because at that Young-ae shares the info and informs him about the CCTV footage location.
Maria calls Chul-gon to relay her exchange with Gentleman Choi, and he promises to check back with her once he’s looked into it. At the same time, Choi huddles in his room, fashioning something out of shredded bedsheets with shaking hands. A noose?
The neighborhood is crawling with students, and Mu-yeom starts scolding a group of girls for not being in school. When they say it’s class picnic day, he barks that all picnics have been cancelled because of the murder forecast, only to hear that this isn’t Iltan—those rules don’t apply in this neighboring city.
Now that they have the general region, Chul-gon looks into flower gardens and greenhouses to narrow down their search, as that was where the original victim was discovered. Sure enough, Tae-oh has made his way inside a greenhouse with Ji-wool, who’s tied up and unconscious on the ground. He takes a photo of her bound hands, focusing on that heart on her fingernail, and uploads it to an SNS account. The accompanying message reads: “Time over no. 5.”
Mu-yeom has the same hunch and runs all over the premises of a greenhouse trying to find a way in. Officer Young-ae is the one to call and alert him to the SNS update, and he blanches upon recognizing Ji-wool’s hand in the picture. Is he too late?
While the police scramble to get the GPS coordinates of the phone that uploaded the message, the fifth installment of “The Beast’s Path” webtoon is published. Section Chief Cha informs Chul-gon that the toon contains a clue.
Mu-yeom finally finds one greenhouse whose doors are open and heads inside, a pair of nunchaku in hand. (He’s trained in them, as we saw from his younger days, but is it significant that nunchaku were also the weapon the previous killer used? Does Tae-oh have anything to do with it?) As he advances, we see Tae-oh watching from the shadows. But then Mu-yeom gets a call about the webtoon clue, which points to a real-life address. He dashes off, to Tae-oh’s seeming annoyance.
Mu-yeom pauses to call Chul-gon and report that he’s on his way to that address, because he’s closer and will get to Ji-wool faster. Chul-gon warns him to stay put because the webtoon could be a trap, and while Mu-yeom agrees that it’s possible, he’s too concerned with getting to Ji-wool asap to care, and disregards the order.
That leaves Tae-oh free to drag his victim through the greenhouse—mere feet from where Mu-yeom had been—to continue his plan.
Maria stays put in her office, waiting for Chul-gon to get back to her about the number clue. Her mother calls her in a panic, worrying that something happened after Profiler Han bolted in response to some kind of SNS alert. Maria goes online immediately, her blood running cold to see the message.
Mu-yeom pulls up to a local boardinghouse, whose name was in one of the webtoon drawings, and bursts inside. And wouldn’t you know, Ji-wool is there, alive and awake. Ohhh, so Tae-oh’s going to kill his other victim? She bolts up in relief, having planted that clue on purpose in the webtoon, hoping it would lead someone to her.
Mu-yeom motions her close, then raises a hand as though to smack her for frightening him. But she’s terrified and contrite enough already, and he just flicks her forehead, scolding her for disobeying his warnings. He asks where Tae-oh is, but she doesn’t know.
In a flashback, we see them waiting together in this room while she finishes her fifth webtoon. She asks if she can upload it, and tenses when he spots the frame with the name of the boardinghouse in plain sight. But he gives her the green light to send it in, filing away her comment that it’ll take about two hours to go live. Tae-oh heads out saying he’s going to buy dinner.
This is where the story gets interrupted by Chul-gon, who arrives with the rest of the police force, and he retorts that Tae-oh probably really meant he was off to go hunting. At that, the light goes on in Mu-yeom’s head about Tae-oh’s true intentions, and he starts running.
At the station, Profiler Han explains to the team about the uploaded SNS message and how it’s likely a decoy, because the police would fixate on Ji-wool and be distracted from Tae-oh’s real purpose. But that means the girl in the photo may not be safe.
Mu-yeom’s fury builds and builds as he drives back to the greenhouse, looking seriously close to the brink of snapping. Tae-oh, meanwhile, prepares the scene by heaping flower petals onto the girl’s body.
In a flashback, we see how Tae-oh met her acquaintance earlier this evening, when he’d run into her outside the greenhouse. With his meek politeness and pretty face, she hadn’t suspected a thing as he asked for her help finding some yellow tulips. She initially turned down his request to show him directly, but he’d been so nice and friendly that she had second thoughts, turning back after all.
Soon his true colors (and intentions) had become clear and he’d forced her to paint her nail with the heart. The girl had cried as she’d complied, asking what she’d done wrong. Tae-oh had just stared at her blankly, saying that she’d done nothing wrong.
At the prison hospital, Maria can’t shake a niggling worry and asks a guard to let her into Choi’s room that night. What she sees has her gasping in horror.
Mu-yeom returns to the greenhouse with nunchaku in hand, shouting for Tae-oh to show himself. Tae-oh appears to be long gone, though, and Mu-yeom gets no response. Instead, he finds what Tae-oh has left for him to discover: the grave of flower petals, covering a girl’s body with only her bound hands and feet showing.
Mu-yeom falls to his knees, overcome with emotion. He hangs his head in defeat, then gathers his resolve: “Ryu Tae-oh,” he growls. “Either I die, or I kill you.”
Aw, I’m a fan of the Ji-wool-in-peril turn. I knew it was coming (based on descriptions from the very outset), but that didn’t diminish my appreciation for what it did for our story—namely, for Mu-yeom himself. I find Ji-wool as a character amusing and silly, but regardless of how you see her on her own, she’s really here to provoke response in Mu-yeom, and in that she’s remarkably effective.
We’ve seen Mu-yeom spurred by righteous indignation and protectiveness for his father, but those are things in the past that he was powerless to change, so his adult self was fueled more by a vengeful spirit of righting old injustices and proving his father innocent. This was the first case where he was driven by a fear that was present and current, and it gave us some really nice moments of poignancy as he dealt with his fear over her safety. She’s something of a pesky little sister/daughter to him, and in that regard his response is very parental, and I loved watching him wrestling to keep his Crazy Monk tendencies in check long enough to actually be of use to the person he loves. You know he’s dying to just lose control, but that’s about as productive as sitting down in the middle of the street and screaming, so he’ll get a grip if it kills him. And you get the sense that it really might.
I do wonder where this leaves for future cases, because other than the monk and his monk-in-training boys at the temple, there isn’t anybody more important to him than Ji-wool such that future incidence can increase the intensity of his reaction. I suppose Maria can join the list (and I mostly expect her to), but a recent romantic attraction is very different from kind of bond you feel for the kid you feel responsible for saving and (somewhat) raising.
Furthermore, I’m curious to know if the drama is going to shake things up in the case-of-the-week format, because I dearly want it to. It wouldn’t feel as much of a cycle of repetition if we didn’t know who the bad guy was, but with him out in plain sight (well, one of the two at least), I don’t know how they’re going to keep things fresh for the next four cases. Because we’ve got ten weeks and nine murders, so I’m resigned to the one-murder-a-week being our pattern. If they could find a way to surprise me, I’d really appreciate it.
As for Tae-oh, I have to say I get a huge kick out of his new lovelorn turn. Not because it’s reasonable, but because it’s just so hilarious to me. The serial killer gets mopey romantic angst and a love triangle? Oh, K-dramas. Why did I expect anything less? It’s such a weirdly funny twist for his character, that of all things he’s hurt over the budding romance of two of his victims. But I suppose that to a pychopath, finding himself out of a position of control is aggravating. Boo hoo, says I, but it makes sense in a larger sense.
Now, I do worry the drama is going to take his “she could change me” bit to the hilt and pursue a redemption arc, in which case Imma have words for the show. Many, many words, mostly obscene. Because c’mon, the guy has personally murdered three women, one father, and ordered another person killed. You don’t get redemption at this point, nope, sorry. I don’t care how mopey you get over the pretty doctor who doesn’t love you back, it doesn’t excuse the whole part where you hunted down and murdered people gleefully.
But that’s getting ahead of the show, and I won’t condemn it for something it hasn’t even done yet. If it steers clear of that, I think I’m really going to enjoy the sad, lovesick psychopath murderer twist, because COME ON. That’s just comedy.