Criminal Minds: Episode 4
Criminal Minds clearly has no intention of letting up on the pace, and the cases continue at a fast clip. No sooner is one solved than another arises, but the question that plagues everyone this hour is the hardest one of all: At what cost? It’s an episode that feels strangely like a finale with its sky-high stakes and many revelations, but it seems the Reaper has been telling the truth all along—this is only the beginning.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Team Leader Ki-hyung’s wife, Hye-won, searches the department store desperately for her son, whom we see being taken in the opposite direction by a masked stranger. The Reaper makes a threatening call to Ki-hyung, and hands the phone over to little Han-byul, who chirps happily to his father.
The Reaper asks Ki-hyung if he’s up to cutting a deal with him now, but Ki-hyung menacingly tells him not to lay a finger on his son. “Look forward to it, because things are going to get interesting,” the Reaper promises.
Sun-woo and Hyun-joon arrive at the scene, and Sun-woo finds Hye-won while Hyun-joon heads straight to the security office. He tracks Han-byul’s last movements caught on CCTV, and discovers that he was taken out of the building by the killer via a fire exit.
He rushes out that exit himself, and catches sight of Han-byul riding a carousel. The child is pleased to see him, and Hyun-joon and Sun-woo both hug him in relief. Ki-hyung finally arrives and the family is reunited, but he remains mute and grave, his face a mask.
Hyun-joon drives mother and son home. While Han-byul sleeps, Hye-won asks Hyun-joon to look out for her husband. She tells him how hard it was for Ki-hyung to come back to work since the bomb incident, and how he suffered nightmares every night for a year. As night falls, Hyun-joon thinks over what she said.
The medical examiner shows Sun-woo how precise the Reaper’s method is despite the seeming chaos of stab wounds: He kills with cuts to major arteries, knowing exactly where to place his blows, and it’s a pattern consistent across the Reaper’s victims. “Did the Reaper really come back?” she asks. Sun-woo nods.
Sun-woo and Nana visit Ki-hyung’s office and tell him that they’re going to put his wife and son into a protection program. He says nothing.
The next morning, Hye-won ties his necktie for him and laughingly asks how he’d live without her. Serious and sad, he apologizes to her, but she smiles up at him and tells him that this is the path she chose for herself. They embrace, and Han-byul runs to join in, making it a sweet family group-hug.
Ki-hyung hands them off to their guard escort, and the guard promises to protect Ki-hyung’s family as if they were his own. Ki-hyung is left watching desolately after them.
At NCI headquarters, the team collates a list of Reaper suspects based on the profile they’ve built. Estimating him to be in his 40s and in an elite profession, they narrow the list down to three men.
Of the three, the first was imprisoned for sexual assault and attempted murder, but released on parole two years ago. The second is out of the picture since he emigrated to the Philippines, while the third went off the grid and hasn’t been heard of for a year.
Sun-woo suggests they start with the first suspect, Go Sung-jin. She and Hyun-joon head out to his workplace, but maybe it’s something in the way they walk, because as soon as he spots them in the crowd, even before they see him, he flees. They chase him down but he takes a woman hostage, putting a knife to her throat.
Hyun-joon and Sun-woo exchange looks, and he calls out to Go Sung-jin, before diving in and pulling the woman free by her apron, allowing Sun-woo to disarm the man and tackle him to the ground. Ha, it’s cute that Hyun-joon is impressed.
They take him to headquarters where Hyun-joon shows him the crime scene photos of the recent victims. Go vehemently denies any involvement, but can’t answer when Hyun-joon asks why he ran away from them. Furious, Hyun-joon seizes the man by the collar, but Sun-woo’s arrival interrupts him as she tells him, lip curled, that Go was filming a sex tape with a minor at the time of the campsite murder.
Meanwhile, Ki-hyung and Han examine the video testimony of the Reaper’s surviving victim seven years ago, Kim Yong-chul (Kim Won-hae) whom we met in the previous episode. He describes how much pain his girlfriend must have been in when they couldn’t even unfurl her hand. Strangely, it’s nearly word-for-word what he said to him the other day.
Sun-woo and Hyun-joon head over to see the campsite kids, who have something to tell them. The find the kids watching a play, and are surprised to discover Nana is one of the actors. She admits she volunteers in victim support regularly.
Afterwards, Hyun-joon asks the little girl what she wanted to tell them. “Peppermint candy,” she says—that’s what the murderer smelled of.
That night, a couple are driving through heavy rain when a police motorbike pulls them over. He wears the Reaper’s featureless mask, and he lunges at the husband with a knife.
Sun-woo and Hyun-joon are dispatched to the murder scene, and they realize that it’s close to a photo studio run by the third suspect, Seo Jin-hwan, whose whereabouts they’d acquired earlier in the day. Already on scene, Ki-hyung and Han find the campsite pendant at the wife’s neck, while the husband’s wedding band is missing.
The rest of the team arrives, and Sun-woo and Hyun-joon share their intel on Seo Jin-hwan. Together, they raid the studio but find it empty. But Sun-woo discovers a room lined with grisly crime scene photos, especially of the survivor, Kim Yong-chul, and they realize that the Reaper must be after him.
Yong-chul himself is certain of the same thing, and calls Sun-woo out the next day. He’s surprised at how quickly she arrives, but she informs him that they’ve been watching the area since last night.
The rest of the team is busy staking out Seo Jin-hwan, who senses their presence and breaks for it. He nearly gives them the slip, when Hyun-joon—making off with a rather convenient deliveryman’s motorcycle—finally runs Seo to ground, causing him to drop a wrapped blade, which appears to be the murder weapon from the night before.
Min-young announces Seo’s capture to the press. In his secret hideout, Yong-chul watches the news and asks Sun-woo if he really is the Reaper. Sun-woo replies that ninety percent of the circumstances match, causing Yong-chul to point out that the truth may lie in the ten percent that does not match. “What happens then?” he asks.
Pacing uneasily, he guesses that Sun-woo had a happy childhood with loving parents, and she merely says that it seems that way based on the usual criteria. But he tells her that he was at his happiest after his parents died in a house fire when he was nine, because his alcoholic father used to beat them and it was miserable. “Every day was like hell,” he says.
He found happiness with his girlfriend whom he wanted to marry. “I thought that was the best revenge I could have on my parents who made me like this,” he tells her, and blames the NCI for his loss. Overcome, he downs a handful of pills, and adds that once you fall into the pits of hell, there’s no escape.
Hyun-joon pops by Nana’s control room with a flash drive they found at Seo’s place. She plugs it in and finds it full of gory murder photos. In the interrogation room, Seo confesses he killed everyone even before Ki-hyung sits down.
He recalls his first murder, a couple in a forest, and a flashback shows him taking the woman’s shoes while leaving a hairclip. He says he called the police from a public payphone after that, and eerily repeats the pattern of the original report, finishing: “If I carry on doing it, I’ll get used to it, right?”
Ki-hyung leaves the room and joins the rest of the team, who observe on the other side, telling them that Seo is not their culprit. When they’ve got the forensic evidence and confession, Hyun-joon asks what more they need, but Ki-hyung says that the forest couple murder was Reaper’s third murder, and he only started reporting them via payphones from his fourth.
Han points out signs of anxiety on Seo, and they wonder what’s making him so afraid. Recalling that the Reaper was after Ki-hyung’s family, he digs frantically through an evidence box and barrels into the interrogation room. Showing Seo a photo of an older woman and a child—likely his mother and kid—he asks Seo where they are. Hyun-joon bursts in and urgently asks Seo if he’s being threatened. Seo breaks down and begs them to save his family.
There’s more bad news: Nana tells them she’s been hacked, but it was from an internal source. Hyun-joon realizes it was the flash drive and that the Reaper must have planted it to discover the secure locations of Kim Yong-chul and Ki-hyung’s family. Luckily the hack didn’t penetrate that far, Nana says, but Han replies that it’s only a matter of time before he does.
Ki-hyung wonders if Reaper’s had an eye on them all along, and Hyun-joon suddenly recalls what the little girl said about peppermints. Both Ki-hyung and Sun-woo remember Yong-chul’s strange testimony and Ki-hyung slowly realizes that due to Yong-chul’s own injured state, there’s no way he could have known about his girlfriend’s hand at the time of the attack… unless he had done it.
In flashback, we see Yong-chul placing peppermints in his battered girlfriend’s hand, crushing her hand around them, and then breaking her fingers to open her fist, so he could lick the mints off her palm. Argh, this is too sick for me.
The pieces begin to come together for Sun-woo, too—why the Reaper kills couples, how Yong-chul said he was happiest when his parents died, and that being happy was his revenge on them.
We’re led through a montage of the Reaper’s moments which finally reveal Yong-chul as the face behind the mask, and even see how he stabbed himself to appear like a victim. He took Seo’s family captive and handed him the knife to frame himself.
“Kim Yong-chul… was the Reaper,” Ki-hyung breathes.
Nana gasps as a video suddenly starts to play and Yong-chul reveals his face. Addressing Ki-hyung, he gleefully asks if he was surprised. He shows them that he has Seo’s family tied up and challenges Ki-hyung to save them.
Hyun-joon and Sun-woo both block Ki-hyung’s way when he tries to leave, telling him he would be playing right into Yong-chul’s hands. Min-young points out that the recording was made twelve hours ago, and shockingly, Yong-chul proceeds to murder both Seo Jin-hwan’s mother and son on camera while they look helplessly on.
Though Nana is hard at work trying to block Yong-chul, he manages to obtain the data on the guard protecting Ki-hyung’s family. But Ki-hyung can’t get the guard on the phone, and they head out in force to his last known location.
Oh no, they find the guard barely alive, and Hye-won and Han-byul nowhere in sight. The guard struggles to tell them that he didn’t give up Hye-won’s location, but Yong-chul stole her number.
A flashback shows us how Yong-chul tortured the guard but didn’t kill him on purpose, so Ki-hyung would hear what happened. As they take him away in an ambulance, the guard has one more thing to tell Ki-hyung: The Reaper used his phone and called Hye-won, pretending to be an NCI officer, and told her that the guard had been murdered along with her husband. Whoa.
He then told her that her security was compromised, and she needed to find another phone immediately and call him back. The stricken guard is certain Hye-won is heading toward the Reaper right now, and can only apologize to Ki-hyung over and over. But his injuries overtake him and he flatlines.
The rest of the team is on the road in the special operations bus, where Nana has no success tracking Hye-won. Ki-hyung calls in and updates them with the guard’s last words. He tells himself that Hye-won won’t take Yong-chul’s bait, but Sun-woo harshly cuts through his denial.
Nana shouts out that she’s finally got a read on Yong-chul, and sends the location to Ki-hyung, who heads off. They’re shocked when he hangs up on them and calls Yong-chul on the guard’s phone, which is being monitored, so they can all hear the conversation that follows.
Yong-chul tries to get a rise out of Ki-hyung, but Ki-hyung replies that Yong-chul doesn’t know where Hye-won is—that’s why he’s luring her out, and making a show of it to Ki-hyung to intimidate him. He riles Yong-chul up by guessing that he hated his mother because she couldn’t protect him from his abusive father, and so he must see all women as weak.
“Kim Yong-chul, to me, you’re not merely a famous serial killer—you’re the Reaper. I promise you now, we’ll make a study of you. We won’t look down on you,” Ki-hyung says, and beseeches him to think again. Yong-chul is pleased that Ki-hyung seems to finally be properly afraid, and tells him he wants to take away all that is good in his life precisely because he didn’t have it himself.
Yong-chul gloats as he watches a taxi pull up in front of him and Hye-won and Han-byul emerge, and Ki-hyung’s face contorts in horror. In the bus, equally horrified, the team continues to listen in, this time as Yong-chul takes a call from Hye-won.
He goes back to Ki-hyung and tells him he has to go. “Your beautiful wife is waiting for me,” he exults, gun in hand. Ki-hyung looks positively broken. Back at the bus, the location tracking fails and they try to figure it out themselves. Since Yong-chul enjoys power plays, Sun-woo says it must be a place that will affect Ki-hyung the most.
Hyun-joon picks up on something Yong-chul said earlier: He had told Hye-won to open the front door. They realize they must be at Ki-hyung’s house, and tell him so just as Yong-chul calls him again.
It’s Hye-won. She’s desperately relieved that he’s okay, but then wonders why the new agent told her… and realization dawns. Her glance flits to Yong-chul, who’s listening to them while playing with Han-byul in the background.
Ki-hyung tells her not to show him fear or weakness while Yong-chul needles her. She tries to stay calm and Ki-hyung calls Han-byul over. He tells his son that he needs his help solving a case, and adds, “Han-byul, in my place, can you make sure to give Mom a hug?”
Sobbing quietly, Hye-won wraps her arms around her son, too. “You know how much I love you, don’t you?” she says to Han-byul. Ki-hyung signals a start, and Han-byul tells his mom he has to go now. “I have to investigate a case with Dad,” he tells her solemnly, before running off.
Left alone with Yong-chul, Hye-won struggles to contain her terror. Yong-chul seizes her from behind and holds his gun to the back of her head. Driving ever more urgently, Ki-hyung whispers an apology to her, but despite her fear, she tells him not to be sorry, and that she was happy with him. Yong-chul cocks the gun, and she cries out.
She wishes she could see Ki-hyung one more time, “But I can’t, can I?” No, this is too sad. “So you tell Han-byul for me… that I didn’t leave him. Promise me,” she pleads.
“I promise you,” Ki-hyung replies, “I promise you I will.” A gunshot sounds, cutting off her cries. Oh holy crap sdlfkjsdl;ajg.
In the bus, the team freeze in mute shock, tears slipping down their cheeks.
Ki-hyung finally reaches his house where he finds the lower level empty, save for a blood-soaked rug dragged to the foot of the stairs. Looking like he’s aged a thousand years, he pushes open the door to a room upstairs and discovers Hye-won’s body splayed on the floor.
He catches sight of a pair of shoes behind the long curtains, and rapidly fires off several shots. Though Yong-chul collapses, he’s wearing a bulletproof vest and is completely unharmed. They engage in a vicious, close-quarters fight, and Yong-chul grins that he’ll go after Han-byul when he finds him.
Ki-hyung gains the upper hand when he sends the killer tumbling down the stairs, mid-gloat. Dragging him across the floor, he slams his head into the coffee table, breaking it in half. Overwhelmed by grief, he releases a volley of punches that batter Yong-chul, and only Sun-woo’s voice halts him as the team finally arrives.
“If we start to get shaken by scum who aren’t even worthy of life, we forfeit our own right,” she warns. Ki-hyung struggles to master himself, but at last, he drops Yong-chul and withdraws up the stairs.
We visit a memory of Ki-hyung working in his study when he heard a tapping sound come from a chest. He found Han-byul inside, and with a grin, the little boy told him he was investigating a case, just like Dad. Grinning back, Ki-hyung thanked him and said that he’d always need his help.
Now, Ki-hyung returns to the same chest and opens it. A solemn Han-byul sits up and gives his father a hug, saying that he was investigating just like Dad asked. Ki-hyung holds him tightly and tells him he did well. He leaves Han-byul with the team and returns to Hye-won’s body, where Sun-woo holds vigil beside her. Upon his arrival, she leaves.
Sinking to the floor, Ki-hyung cradles his wife’s body and sobs with abandon.
Yong-chul is taken away, and in a voiceover, Sun-woo quotes Dostoevsky: “I think the devil doesn’t exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.”
Hye-won’s cremation is attended by the whole team, and Ki-hyung is gaunt and haggard. Her loss triggers each team member to seek out their loved ones that night, to cherish them a little more. Min-young lovingly tucks in a little girl; Hyun-joon visits his mother; and Sun-woo watches her parents from afar, seemingly estranged from them.
As Ki-hyung dresses for work in the morning, he finds a whole rack of ties, ready-knotted for him by Hye-won. That is the saddest thing in the whole world. Unable to find his voice, he whispers goodbye to a photograph of her, telling her he’ll be back, just as if she were there for real.
Han-byul is being looked after at NCI headquarters by the rest of the team, and Ki-hyung joins them just as the news breaks that the Reaper, Kim Yong-chul—arrested fifteen days ago—escaped prison while being transported to hospital due to an attempted suicide. Attempted suicide? Yeah, right.
I’m naive. Very, very naive. Looking back on the episode, it’s thick with foreshadowing I should have noticed—so obvious in hindsight!—but I didn’t even believe it was for real until I saw Hye-won’s actual body. So this whole second half hit me like a sucker punch, especially because I became really attached to Hye-won’s character from the moment she told Ki-hyung that she chose this path for herself. There’s a woman who took her agency seriously. She doesn’t sideline herself in her own life, but places herself squarely on the same board as Ki-hyung, actively choosing to be his ally. It’s clear that he sees her the same way: They’re in this fight together. She never resents her husband, never wishes herself away from her life—she knows exactly who he is, and that’s the person she chooses to stand beside, risks and all.
She could argue that it’s not her fight, but she doesn’t believe that, and I find her far more affecting because she’s not a cool, angelic figure: She’s an earthy, warm, real human being, who faces her end with strength and composure. It’s not that she’s not afraid—she is—but she refuses to choke on her fear or lose herself to it. Though he took her life, Yong-chul couldn’t take her dignity, and I’m certain that he feels the sting. As the team pointed out earlier, he delights in power, and emotional control is his ultimate goal with Ki-hyung. He said he wanted to take everything away from him, but I think what this will prove in the long run is that yes, the Reaper can take lives, but he can’t steal their spirits. That’s why Hye-won, even in death, has far more power than her killer ever can, and that’s why it won’t destroy Ki-hyung, because the essence of her, the warmth, the trust, the deep belief in his goodness… those are things that survive even when her mortal presence is gone. He loved and was loved. Trite or not, that’s a powerful thing.
It’s clear now that these four episodes were the first act, and the setup for the longer arc of the show, especially with Yong-chul’s escape now setting a new stage. Hye-won’s death is a tragedy that solidifies the emotional bonds between all our team members, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this will change Ki-hyung. We’ve known him so far to be clever and implacable, but this hour, we’ve seen him getting constantly outplayed, with the worst consequences possible. I think his determination to bring Yong-chul to justice will be rock-solid, but the killer is evidently not finished with Ki-hyung. Since we still have sixteen episodes to go, I’m a little scared of how much more horror we’ll experience before he’s caught for good. I don’t think Ki-hyung will go on to blame himself for Hye-won’s death, any more than he did for the bomb explosion, because he knows he’s not responsible, but I also don’t think that will give him any comfort in his grief. Loss is loss, whichever way you cut it.
I’m surprised at just how dark this show has gone, and if I weren’t recapping it, you can bet my eyes would be closed half the time. There is a lot of death, and it is all very violent. But this show has the right touch when it comes to making its minor characters count and feel emotionally significant. I first pegged the guard as a possible Reaper suspect, but then he went and proved his loyalty and courage in protecting Ki-hyung’s family. He could have been a throwaway character, but instead, he was the hero of his moment. The fact that Ki-hyung inspires that kind of loyalty, too, is something, and I think I’m beginning to see why.
Criminal Minds’ strength definitely lies in its characters and their ability to make the emotion land, though I’m slightly dissatisfied with Moon Chae-won’s delivery of her character (although it’s also true she had very little to do this episode). I’m trying not to pay too much attention to weaknesses in the writing because I’m genuinely into the show, but there are points when it’s hard not to notice the occasional leaps of logic required to reach certain conclusions (for instance, the reason Yong-chul kills couples wasn’t really clear). What I enjoy the most is when the NCI team is together and using their brains. So far, the focus has really been on Ki-hyung, but I’m looking forward to the other members of the team—especially Sun-woo and Hyun-joon—playing a bigger part.
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