Criminal Minds: Episode 12
The NCI team faces a new type of challenge this episode—the criminals may already be behind bars, cutting out the physical chase, but the mystery remains. As the truth gets slowly uncovered amongst all the lies, can our heroes discern what’s real from what’s fake, or will another innocent life be lost?
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Ki-hyung and Han-byul watch a cello performance in a small music hall, but while Han-byul is engrossed in the music, Ki-hyung winces as if in pain. In his office, Ki-hyung packs some files when Chief Director Baek comes in to hand him a new assignment.
The order comes directly from the Justice Department, and the higher-ups want the NCI team to settle the case quickly. With the increase in bizarre and brutal crimes, the government has recently decided to resume capital punishment, which means a few death row inmates will be executed in a couple of days. However, additional crimes were discovered that may be connected to some of the convicted criminals. As a result, the government thinks adding the NCI team is crucial in countering possible public backlash.
The case is about couple, Jo Young-hoon and Ahn Yeo-jin, who murdered and buried 12 women. As reported on the news, capital punishment on the two murderers has been finalized, and public interest in the case has grown. The NCI team watches the news report and wonders why they’ve been assigned to this case, which occurred 15 years ago.
Ki-hyung tells them that remains were found two days ago at a construction site, and according to the forensics, the murder and burial patterns match the other victims of Jo and Ahn. Since their execution was decided before the discovery, the government wants them to resolve the case as soon as possible.
The team splits up to investigate, and Hyun-joon goes to the couple’s old home with Min-young while the rest leave for the prison. Both groups discuss the case, highlighting the differences between Jo and Ahn. Unlike her husband who flaunted his crimes for the media, Ahn remained uncooperative and even flip-flopped on her testimony.
Min-young particularly shows no sympathies towards the criminals, especially Ahn, who confessed to murdering her two-year-old son, Shi-on. With only 38 hours left, Hyun-joon grimly says that the victims who aren’t found will never get their justice.
Ahn is escorted to a special solitary confinement room where two guards will constantly watch her. The warden gently asks Ahn what she would like for her final meal, but she wonders if she could see the full moon instead. The warden tells her that it’s against the rules, and Ahn silently enters the room.
Jo is also taken to his room, but acts much more brazenly than his wife—even scoffing at the warden. In voiceover, we hear Han asking if the recently discovered body is truly the last victim, and Ki-hyung answers, “Through profiling the culprits within the given time, finding out the truth is our job.”
With 35 hours left, Ki-hyung’s team arrives at the prison, and they give a quick presentation about the case and its two criminals. An unidentified female informant tipped the police off about Jo, and when the police interrogated him, they sensed his abnormal mentality. By the time the authorities arrived at his house, his son disappeared, but they discovered 12 dismembered bodies buried below his workroom.
The bodies were found wearing children’s clothes, and like other crimes committed by people with Lolita Complex, the victims’ arms and legs were cut off. Though Jo was reported to have a sexual disorder, the prosecutor notes that no reports were made about Ahn. Han explains that Ahn most likely suffers from hybristophilia (an attraction to criminals), and given Jo’s remorseless attitude, Ki-hyung says that Jo is likely under the delusion of full control over his victims and wife.
Hyun-joon and Min-young examine the couple’s deteriorating house, and she explains how Ahn lured the victims to Jo, who would then kill them. They enter Jo’s workroom, imagining what the place would have looked like in the past. Hyun-joon mentions Jo’s abusive parents, and wonders about Ahn’s childhood. Min-young points out that her mother refused all interviews, but Hyun-joon thinks she may have changed her mind given the circumstances.
The warden tells the NCI team that the prison officers refer to the hall in front of the condemned cells as the path to the underworld. Ki-hyung asks if Ahn saw Jo, and the warden explains that Ahn refused to meet anyone.
Ki-hyung enters Ahn’s cell, and she stares at her paintings on the wall—one of a young boy and the other of a river. He compliments her pictures, and Ahn finally faces Ki-hyung, asking him what he wants to know. He states, “I think it’s time the victims’ families found out why they had to die.”
Hyun-joon and Min-young visit Ahn’s mother, and she asks them why they’re here. Hyun-joon tells her that Ahn agreed to tell them why she killed those women, and asks for her time. The mother agrees to talk, and explains how her daughter had a normal life until she met that scumbag husband. She describes Ahn as gentle, smart, and artistic; and stares at Ahn’s paintings framed on her walls.
Hyun-joon asks if Ahn’s father abused her, and the mother admits her husband was rather strict. She asks them what’s the point of digging up the past, and Hyun-joon explains how learning Ahn’s history and relationships will help them understand why she was involved.
The mother confesses that her husband did beat Ahn, but not as much as he abused her. When asked why she didn’t run, she tells them that she had no place to go and was afraid of getting caught. Hyun-joon asks if she’s the one who reported Jo’s crime 15 years ago, but she shakes her head. However, she does know who did, and hands them a letter she received today.
While Ahn is escorted to the interrogation room, she praises Han for receiving a doctorate at such a young age, mentioning how proud his mom must be. In the hall, she crosses paths with Jo, who’s being interrogated elsewhere, and he excitedly yells at her to remember what he said. He screams about fate and how people will remember them forever, but Ahn gives Ki-hyung a steely gaze, accusing him for setting up this encounter. With a laugh, she asks if he figured anything out, and looks away in disgust.
Sun-woo interrogates Jo and tells him that he’s been diagnosed with severe antisocial personality disorder. He jokingly corrects her, saying that he has a sexual disorder, but Sun-woo stares blankly at him. He continues to try to get a rise out of her, mentioning how Sun-woo probably has a beautiful smile, but she ignores his remarks and asks if there are more victims.
Jo asks what he gets in return if he answers, and Sun-woo tells him that he’ll get a chance to ease the pain of the victims’ families. Jo laughs in disbelief.
In Ahn’s interrogation, Ki-hyung has her handcuffs removed, and asks what’s best about drawing. “Freedom,” she answers.
Min-young calls Ki-hyung to tell him about the letter Ahn wrote to her mother, and as she reads the contents, Ki-hyung decides to repeat the letter aloud for Ahn to hear. As he does, Ahn’s attitude suddenly shifts, and she demands that he stop reading her personal letter.
The letter talks about how she finally understood her mother—calling it her second greatest blessing—and then mentions that her first greatest blessing is far away. Ahn lunges at Ki-hyung, but Ki-hyung continues, “As a mother and as a woman, I didn’t fulfill my duty, so many children died.”
She attempts to grab Ki-hyung, but the guards pull her away as she screams at him to stop. Ki-hyung stops the guards from cuffing her back in her seat, and tells her that he doesn’t think she didn’t kill any of the victims. She says that she brought them to Jo, which makes her culpable.
Han defends her, saying she may not have known Jo’s true intentions, but she firmly believes that she should have known. Han begins to object, but Ki-hyung silences him. Addressing Ahn, he says that she appears to want the death penalty for a crime she didn’t commit.
The interrogations are put on hold, and Ki-hyung tells the group that they must approach the two criminals as mentally ill patients to understand them. Han explains Jo’s history with his abusive mother which caused him to create his own virtual reality on love, and Sun-woo mentions that he must be alone with his victims to activate this reality—thus implying that Ahn couldn’t have been with him during the murders.
Hyun-joon and Min-young join the team at the prison, informing everyone that Ahn was the anonymous informant from the past. Brandishing the letter, Hyun-joon believes Ahn couldn’t have killed all those people, but the warden doesn’t understand why she would lie. Han reasons that Ahn could be in a failed cognitive state that forces her to choose death when in danger, and Sun-woo says that culprits often make false confessions when being controlled.
However, they need more solid evidence to warrant a stay for Ahn, which means they must prove Jo as the killer of his and Ahn’s son. Watching Ahn through the monitor, Ki-hyung notes how she’s protecting her paintings like they’re her children, and says that they must find the meaning behind them.
The revival of capital punishment continues to be a hot topic, as people from both sides of the debate protest outside the prison. One reporter promises to stay until the last second for the victims’ sake, and Min-young turns off the television in frustration. They return their attention to Sun-woo’s interrogation, but she remains emptyhanded. Hyun-joon offers to switch places, and Min-young asks to join him.
Jo immediately expresses his disapproval of Hyun-joon as his new interrogator, but brightens when Min-young enters. She introduces herself, and Jo creepily comments on her beauty and voice. Hyun-joon orders him to sit, but Jo only takes a seat when Min-young tells him to.
Ki-hyung returns to interrogate Ahn alone, and she apologizes for her earlier behavior. He accepts her apology with a smile, and she compliments him on it, guessing correctly that he doesn’t smile often. He supposes the same of her.
A prison officer brings in several of Ahn’s paintings, and Ki-hyung starts to analyze them. She calls painting a personal hobby, but looks unsettled when Ki-hyung holds up a painting of roses and deduces that she drew twelve roses to represent the victims.
He tells her that she’s wrong, however, since another victim was discovered yesterday, which would be the thirteenth. In fact, he reasons that she doesn’t know anything about the victims because she was too busy working, and that even her confession about leading them to Jo’s workroom was false. Despite this clear alibi, Ahn was still convicted of the crimes because of her confession. Ki-hyung asks for an explanation, promising that Jo can’t hurt her.
Jo, meanwhile, stares at Min-young and says that he wanted to hug someone with a face like hers before dying. He proposes a bargain: He’ll tell them everything about the women he buried if he can smell Min-young’s hair. Hyun-joon tells him to stop fooling around, but Min-young agrees to the terms.
Ki-hyung asks why Ahn lied about killing her son Shi-on, but she says that she never did. He asks where she buried him, then, but she avoids his questions, asking about his children instead. Ki-hyung tells her to stop changing the subject and answer him.
The guards hold back Jo as he inches closer to Min-young to sniff her hair. After his allotted time is up, the guards throw him back to his seat—now it’s Jo’s turn to uphold his side of their agreement.
Ki-hyung mentions how Shi-on should be around 16 if he were alive, but Jo eliminated the chance for him to grow. Ahn refuses to play along and asks about Ki-hyung’s wife. He tells her that he doesn’t have one, but she points out the wedding ring on his finger.
Ignoring her observation, Ki-hyung shares his beliefs about her innocence, but she says that everyone is guilty but children. She asks again about his own kids, and Ki-hyung tells her about Han-byul. Shifting his questions, Ki-hyung asks if she murdered Shi-on to protect him from Jo, but Ahn only tells Ki-hyung that he’s in a better place.
Jo announces that there aren’t any more victims, and laughs while banging his head on the table. Hyun-joon ends the interrogation, but as he gets up, he lies to Jo that Ahn’s execution was postponed. They don’t have enough evidence to prove that she killed her son, but Jo doesn’t believe the lies, stating firmly that she did. He offers to show them where their son is buried.
Sun-woo and Han oversee the excavation at the site Jo mentioned, and they notice an arched gate similar to the one in Jo’s workroom. Han deduces the symbolic meaning of the gate as the mother’s womb, indicating Jo’s simultaneous abhorrence and desire for his mother.
A skull is uncovered at the site, but it belongs to a 19-year-old high school student, not Shi-on. With only eight hours left until the executions, the NCI team wonders why Jo would have told them the location of another victim. Ki-hyung assumes that Jo did it to make sure Ahn is his last victim. Nana tells the group that Ahn used to tutor the student, and Ki-hyung leaves the room.
He informs Ahn about the murdered high school student, and Ahn drops her pencil in shock. Meanwhile, Hyun-joon confronts Jo about his lie, and asks if there are more victims. Jo tells him to pray for him instead of asking such questions, and orders his guard to take Hyun-joon away. Before he leaves, Hyun-joon tells Jo that it isn’t over yet, but Jo throws his words right back at him.
Ki-hyung admires Ahn’s paintings, commenting on the basket in her river picture and the age of the boy in the other. He pointedly asks if the painting is from her imagination, or whether she painted it while looking at Shi-on in real life. Ahn just asks to be alone in her remaining hours, and calls the guards when Ki-hyung presses her for answers about where her son is now.
Returning to their temporary office, Ki-hyung asks Nana to replay his interrogation of Ahn, and he finally realizes something: “Exodus 2:3.” Ahn didn’t bury her son, because like Moses, Shi-on survived. Sun-woo notes how Shi-on’s name is also biblical (“Zion”), suggesting that Ahn instinctively knew her son was in danger the moment he was born. With only a few hours left, the team needs to find evidence of Shi-on’s existence if they wish to delay Ahn’s execution.
As the sun sets, Ahn looks out through her barred window with a solemn expression. In the execution room, the guards take their place around a noose and chair set in the middle of the room.
Nana looks through all the police and hospital records for any reports on an abandoned child, but can’t find any that match Shi-on’s circumstances. Hyun-joon guesses that Ahn is lying about her son since Jo is still alive. Han wonders if Ahn may not know Shi-on’s whereabouts, but Ki-hyung firmly believing that she knows.
The time has come, and Jo haughtily announces the start of the “grand show” when the guards come to his door. Ki-hyung pulls aside the warden, asking him for five minutes in Ahn’s room, and after some pleading, the warden agrees to bend the rules one last time.
The warden fulfills Ahn’s last wish to see the full moon—breaking protocol—and the sight of the moon makes Ahn yearn for life. While Ahn is outside, Ki-hyung quickly ransacks her room but can’t find any clues inside her furniture or possessions.
Ahn recalls how her mother used to tell her tales about the rabbit who lived on the moon, and the warden jovially reminisces with her. Like her mother, Ahn also told her son about the rabbit, but wonders if he still remembers her or the tale she told. “But no matter where we are, we’re looking at the same moon. That’s what I told him,” she comments wistfully.
Remembering how Ahn held onto the painting of the boy, Ki-hyung takes it down from the wall and discovers the paper peeling in the back. He pulls back the sheet, revealing a photo of a young man. The five minutes is up, and Ahn thanks the warden for this unforgettable gift before heading back to her room.
Ki-hyung brings the photo to the team, and Nana asks if it’s really Shi-on. Pressed for time, Min-young offers to ask the media to help find him.
Jo is taken out of his cell for his execution, and the priest asks if want to find peace in the lord. Jo yells for Ahn, telling her that he’ll wait for her there, and then staring at Hyun-joon, he brags about finding peace nineteen times already. As he walks away, Jo shouts into the prison for Ahn not be afraid since they’ll last forever. Hyun-joon tells the warden that Jo just confessed to killing six more people.
In her last moments, Ahn brushes her hair and hugs the painting of Shi-on. She turns the canvas around, but to her surprise, she finds the picture of Shi-on missing.
The guards take Jo to the execution room and place him on the chair underneath the noose. The warden asks if he has any last words, but Jo simply laughs.
Hyun-joon barges in right at the last moment, and Jo brags that he won. Hyun-joon holds up the picture of Shi-on and tells him this is the son he believes he killed: “Your delusion is over. You have lost completely.”
Jo doesn’t believe him, insisting that he won and that it’s impossible because he killed him. He babbles that they’ll never find out where the body is, and screams as his head is covered and the button is pushed—the deed is done.
What an interesting concept for a case. The normal procedure and motivations are flipped on their heads this time around as the NCI team interrogates captured criminals and vows to save a culprit from a wrongful end. I found Ahn to be an interesting character who clearly feels guilt for something she didn’t commit. In fact, she’s also a victim of Jo, but she chose to accept the charges ultimately to save her child. As the NCI team mentioned, she’s kept this secret for fifteen years, and I doubt she’ll reveal anything, choosing death to protect her son. Part of the problem the show hasn’t addressed yet are the implications of Shi-on being alive and probably not knowing his real parents.
If they force Ahn to admit her innocence, that means Shi-on’s identity will also be revealed, intentionally or unintentionally, to the world. They may touch on this in the next episode since the case isn’t over, but it seems like this could be one of the major motivating factors keeping Ahn from admitting the truth. While it’s true that Jo is still alive and could hurt her son, it’s not the physical aspect of Jo—because in all honesty, there’s really little Jo can do on that front—but the consequences of being labeled and associated with him that could damage Shi-on and his future. Because of that, a happy ending seems unlikely, and our team might face another failure.
I’m also curious about what the show will do about Jo’s last confession about killing more people. It seems like the police can’t actually find the victims without the confession from the criminal, and in a sense, Hyun-joon’s worry has flourished. Maybe Jo will win in the end, though that’s a grim thought to have. If it’s true that more people are dead, those victims will never get the justice they deserve. However, these grand concepts of “justice” and “freedom” become murky in this scenario, making the audience question what these things truly mean. While Jo is clearly a despicable human being, it’s a bit more complicated with Ahn. She seems innocent, and as for now, it does appear that she isn’t culpable for her husband’s horrid crimes. But is the “freedom” she longs for truly outside the prison bars? While the episode has a lack of action in terms of chases and physical movements, I actually didn’t miss it that much. I appreciated the questions the show raised, and don’t mind not getting answers if the show chooses to leave it up for debate.
I mentioned this in the previous episode, but Hyun-joon hasn’t really been shining as a character as he did before. His interactions with Jo weren’t nearly as interesting as the interactions between Ahn and Ki-hyung. Part of the reason seems to be that I’m starting to lose focus on his character and his ideals. I don’t quite know what motivates Hyun-joon or his life outside of the NCI team. Whereas for Ki-hyung, I know his traumatic history and what haunts him at night. I understand his worries and doubts, so when he talks with Ahn, the inner conflict and hidden meanings behind their words and unspoken connection between the two characters doesn’t need to be explicitly displayed because the show has already developed different aspects of Ki-hyung as a character. Granted, I’m a huge fan of Sohn Hyun-joo, so I really enjoy Ki-hyung as a character. However, I want to know the rest of the team, too, and I think the clock is ticking against the show to hurry on that front.
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