Criminal Minds: Episode 13
The NCI team is put to the test as they get thrown into another case that challenges their loyalty to one another. The past meets the present as old and new cases collide, and our heroes must search for answers hidden in the memories of reluctant suspects to find the culprit and save one of their own before it’s too late.
EPISODE 13 RECAP
In the last hours before her execution, death row convict Ahn Yeo-jin takes down her painting of her son Shi-on and hugs it. She reaches toward the back of the canvas, where she’d hidden a news clipping showing a recent photo of Shi-on, but the picture is gone. The NCI team has the photo—courtesy of Ki-hyung’s snooping—but without knowing which article the picture was printed with, they fail to trace Shi-on’s present location.
Nana informs the group about Ahn’s father, who was frequently incarcerated, and Ki-hyung realizes that Ahn will never willingly confess. Thus, he returns the photo of Shi-on to Ahn, and tells her that her husband Jo is dead. He asks her where Shi-on is, demanding that she stop this insanity.
Ignoring his question, she says that it’s a great gift to become a parent, but even now, there are people who trample on this gift. She’d made up her mind fifteen years ago for Shi-on’s sake, but Ki-hyung won’t let her die for crimes she didn’t commit.
Ahn tells him that he doesn’t understand, but Ki-hyung knows why she made the decision to hide Shi-on. He brings up the question she posed during their interrogation— “Why should little children suffer because of the sins we’ve committed?”—and correctly guesses that she was talking about herself. Since her father was a convict, Ahn is fully aware of how difficult it is to live in this world with that label, which is why she sent Shi-on to a safer place.
Ki-hyung tells Ahn that Shi-on’s greatest gift is his mother, and he won’t let Shi-on lose that. Unconvinced, Ahn turns the question back to Ki-hyung, asking what he would do if Han-byul had to live as the son of a gruesome serial killer. No matter what Ki-hyung says, Ahn won’t budge.
The NCI team regroups, and Ki-hyung informs the team that Ahn’s only chance to escape Jo’s prying eyes was during her private art lessons. While Nana checks Ahn’s past students for any adoption records, Hyun-joon brings up Ahn’s love for astronomy, which is present in her paintings.
Nana discovers that one of the families Ahn taught in her hometown did adopt a child in 2004, and Hyun-joon remembers an observatory near Ahn’s mother’s house. Sun-woo says that Ahn probably thought the safest place was near her mother, and the two quickly head out to investigate. Right as they leave, Nana finds out more information about the family, and uncovers something strange: The adopted child has a different last name from the mother and a different address.
Ki-hyung rushes over to Ahn’s cell, and tells the warden to stop Ahn’s execution since they found her son. The warden reminds Ki-hyung that they can’t delay the execution without proper orders, so Ki-hyung begs the warden to give them just a bit of time. With only thirteen minutes left, Sun-woo and Hyun-joon race towards the address where, hopefully, Shi-on lives.
Ahn is escorted to the execution room, and while they wait outside the door, she says that Ki-hyung would have done the same if he were in her place. Ki-hyung asks if Shi-on would understand this situation after learning about her, but Ahn plans on keeping her existence a secret to Shi-on forever. She refuses Ki-hyung’s help: “My life ended the day I met Jo Young-hoon.”
Hyun-joon and Sun-woo arrive at the house, but they get no answer and the warden tells Ki-hyung that time is up. With no other option, Ki-hyung orders Hyun-joon to break down the door. Right then, the family pulls up to the driveway, and the father steps out of the car.
After introducing themselves, they ask if about a boy named Shi-on. The father feigns ignorance, but his acting doesn’t fool Sun-woo, who tells Ki-hyung that they have likely found the child. Ki-hyung tells Ahn that they found her son, but Ahn sighs, pleading with Ki-hyung to respect her decision and not make her son Jo’s last victim.
Finally, her pleas land with Ki-hyung, who tells Sun-woo that they found the wrong child—he was wrong. Following orders, Hyun-joon and Sun-woo apologize to the father, saying that they were mistaken, and as they turn to leave, the father thanks them.
Ki-hyung reaches out and holds Ahn’s hand before she’s taken into the execution room, and as her final request, Ahn asks Ki-hyung to be the last face she sees. As Ahn sits before the noose, Ki-hyung sits in her line of view and watches with tears pooling in his eyes. The bag is placed over her head, and Ki-hyung closes his eyes as the button is pushed. A single tear streams down his face—Ahn is dead.
Ki-hyung goes to Shi-on’s cello recital with Han-byul, the very same scene from the beginning of the previous episode. He narrates a quote from Helen Keller: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched—they must be felt with the heart.”
Hyun-joon visits Ji-eun’s grave—his childhood friend and first love—and remembers the moment she first gave him the matching bracelet. Afterwards, Hyun-joon attends the scholarship award ceremony at his old youth center, and a disheveled man, Sang-ho, timidly calls out to him. Though Hyun-joon greets him with a smile, another childhood acquaintance comments on Sang-ho’s fall from grace.
Outside, the police arrive, and they enter the youth center looking for Hyun-joon. An officer arrests him for murdering Kang Ho-young— the old friend Hyun-joon planned to meet at the youth center several episodes ago. As the police lead him away, a reporter takes a picture of Hyun-joon.
Ki-hyung labels several books and items (gifts?) with the names of his NCI team members, then packs them in a box. Chief Director Baek walks into Ki-hyung’s office, and comments on how lonely it’ll be for a while. He tells Ki-hyung that this is what’s best for the him and the team, and Ki-hyung assures him that he also thought long and hard about this decision. Ki-hyung plans to spend some time with his son and mother, and Chief Director Baek suggests a dinner with the whole team.
Nana wonders why the chief director told them to stay, guessing that he might give them a bonus or a congratulatory dinner. When Ki-hyung and the chief director come downstairs, Chief Director Baek tells the group that he’s buying them dinner since Ki-hyung has something to tell them. Before the group celebrates, Min-young rushes in to tell them about an emergency. She plays the news, which shows Hyun-joon’s arrest and calls him a prime murder suspect.
As the NCI team travel in their bus, Min-young goes over the evidence against Hyun-joon. The police found his fingerprints at the crime scene, as well as surveillance records of Hyun-joon at the site during the murder. Han points out that Hyun-joon lacks a motive, but Ki-hyung asks Sun-woo for her opinion.
She informs the group that Hyun-joon was investigating the old Nadeul River murder case, and both the deceased Kang Ho-young as well as Hyun-joon were suspects fourteen years ago. She tells the team that the recent murder and the old case must be related somehow.
The officer who arrested Hyun-joon also happens to be one of the officers assigned to the Nadeul River murder case in the past. Hyun-joon says that the officer thought he was the culprit back then—and still does today—and due to his guilt for not solving the case, his obsession only grew.
He warns the officer to find the true culprit rather than make things up, but the officer yells at Hyun-joon to stop fooling around with him. The head detective (the one who oversaw the Nadeul River murder case and is friendly with Hyun-joon) barges in, and berates the officer for acting without permission. He orders everyone out, and once alone with Hyun-joon, he asks what’s going on.
As Min-young hands Sun-woo a drink, Sun-woo suddenly admits that she used to go down to Cheonju (Hyun-joon’s hometown) to visit her grandma. Min-young asks if she also investigated the Nadeul River murder case, and Sun-woo reveals that she was the person who discovered the body.
In flashback, a young Sun-woo enters a store and notices the shopkeeper accusing Ji-eun of stealing a credit card. Realizing that Ji-eun was tricked by some boys, Sun-woo stands up for her. Later, during a rainy afternoon, Ji-eun sees Sun-woo drenched from the rain and offers her umbrella, returning the favor from before.
The two girls grow close over time, listening to music and becoming friends, but as Sun-woo waits for Ji-eun one day, she overhears two ladies talking about a missing girl. Unkempt and frantic, Sun-woo trudges through the tall grass and sees Ji-eun’s dead body by the riverbank.
Hyun-joon tells the head detective that his friend Ho-young contacted him before his death, and thinks that Ho-young might have possessed some evidence about the past case. Looking through the one-way mirror, the officer, who thinks Hyun-joon is the culprit, thinks back to the past.
He’d seen teenage Hyun-joon at the scene of the crime looking anxious, and contested the head detective’s decision to let Hyun-joon go since he didn’t have a clear alibi. However, the head detective thought Hyun-joon was too young, and decided to question other suspects.
The NCI team arrives at the station, and when the head detective greets them, Ki-hyung warns him sternly to be ready for the consequences of arresting their officer without any prior notification. Sun-woo tells the officers that they believe Hyun-joon was framed, but the officer from before steps up and brandishes a profile on the culprit of the Nadeul River murder case.
The officer asks if Ki-hyung doesn’t remember, and flashing back, we see that the officer once attended a conference held by Ki-hyung about profiling. Afterwards, the officer asked Ki-hyung for advice concerning the profile he created, and in the present, Ki-hyung recalls their past encounter.
The officer presents a profile to the group, saying that the criminal must be familiar with the region and smart enough to hide the crime. In addition, the culprit must be familiar with the police investigation process, having either committed crimes before or worked in the law enforcement sector.
The officer explains that culprits of unsolved cases tend to show interest in the investigation, and points out Hyun-joon’s continued involvement in the case. In addition, Hyun-joon was the last person both victims contacted before their deaths, and he asks the group if all of this is a mere coincidence.
Han points out a critical mistake in his profiling—Hyun-joon had nothing to with the law before the incident—but the officer informs him that Hyun-joon frequented the police station for fighting incidents, making him aware of the legal procedures. Min-young brings up Hyun-joon’s young age, but the officer repeats Ki-hyung’s old advice: “Just because the age doesn’t match, we shouldn’t ignore a suspect so easily.”
The NCI team is unconvinced, firmly believing that Hyun-joon fell into a trap, and Min-young says that the timing of the discovery of the body is also suspicious. Nana calls to inform them that no one seemed suspicious among Ho-young’s acquaintances, leaving them with no clues. With an arrest warrant issued for Hyun-joon, the team only has two days to clear his name.
Ki-hyung meets with Hyun-joon, and asks him if there’s anything about the Nadeul River murder case that he should know about. Hyun-joon wonders if Ki-hyung is profiling him right now, but Ki-hyung reassures him that they’re here to help. Everyone on the team will do their best to free Hyun-joon, but that means Hyun-joon must cooperate with them, too.
Sun-woo thinks back to Go Young-min’s death (another suspect of the Nadeul River murder case) and his last words about the killer chasing after someone else. She also recalls Hyun-joon’s words about the Reaper targeting the entire team. Meanwhile, Ki-hyung asks Nana to look into the youth center as well as Hyun-joon’s past.
Sun-woo tells Ki-hyungthat the culprit must know them very well, and Ki-hyung guesses that she’s connecting this case to the Reaper. He’s less willing to make that conclusion and says their first priority is to clear Hyun-joon’s murder charges and keep all possibilities open.
She asks if he has someone in mind, but Ki-hyung says that he doesn’t—he only knows that they have to find out what Hyun-joon knows about the Nadeul River murder case if they want to find out who’s behind all this.
As they talk, someone watches them from the stairwell.
Min-young and Han investigate the site where the body was found, and Han guesses that the body was abandoned recently. He thinks the culprit deliberately placed the body in this area, avoiding the dates when the water level is high, so that someone would find the body. Han abruptly brings up the bird migration festival that takes place by the Nadeul River, and explains that people probably took pictures of the area.
Nana reports to Ki-hyung about the youth center, but didn’t find anything suspicious. However, a fire in 2004 destroyed a lot of the records, so she couldn’t uncover a lot of information. Ki-hyung asks her to look into the fire and report back.
Sun-woo checks out the youth center, taking a picture of a framed photo of Ji-eun in a group, and Ki-hyung investigates the back of the center where Hyun-joon planned to meet Ho-young. While Ki-hyung walks down the hall, the screen changes to the scene of that night as Ho-young and Hyun-joon both arrived at the center separately.
Ki-hyung enters the storage room where Ho-young was murdered, and guesses that this was where he hid the evidence. Stepping back out, Ki-hyung follows the killer’s train of thought, reasoning that he used the shortest hidden path to make his escape.
Elsewhere, an old man furtively scolds someone for coming back, though we can’t see who he’s talking to. He asks if the unseen person killed Ho-young, and from a distance, a mysterious third person watches their exchange. Around the corner, a car drives past Sun-woo, and she sees the old man talking with the head detective.
The old man is the head of the center, and he mentions how Sun-woo’s parents helped relocate the youth center. Sun-woo says that they have some questions for him about the past incident, but the center head angrily rebukes them for bringing up the past. He claims that the center has nothing to with the case, and doesn’t even believe that Ho-young was murdered in the center despite the forensic evidence.
As Ki-hyung and Sun-woo leave, they both agree that the center head was overly defensive and probably hiding something. Ki-hyung says that something might have happened at the center Ji-eun’s death.
With the NCI team gathered, Nana explains about the fire that broke out at the center six months after the murder. The prime suspect was an 18-year-old boy, Choi Sang-ho (the disheveled man from the award ceremony), whose sister committed suicide. Sun-woo guesses the fire was more likely caused by rage than pleasure, and if Choi did cause the fire, he could be related to the Nadeul River murder case.
Sun-woo asks to see a photo of Choi’s sister, and recognizes her from the picture she took earlier. Sun-woo suddenly remembers back to her teenage days when she’d overheard Ji-eun talk with the sister about a rumor of a boy and girl alone in the center, though she doesn’t share the memory with the group. Nana wonders if the girls were molested in the center, but Min-young says that they’d looked into that theory in the past and no evidence was found.
Ki-hyung says that they shouldn’t rule out the possibility that the investigation was hushed, and Han wonders if there might actually be more victims if that’s the case. Sun-woo interrupts the meeting, asking to go somewhere, and the group disperses to find more evidence.
Sun-woo recalls more of the memory of Ji-eun with Choi’s sister, and though Ji-eun greeted her with a smile, the sister gave Sun-woo the cold shoulder. Han’s words about there being more victims continue to bother Sun-woo as she drives.
Ki-hyung and Min-young leave to interview Choi about the fire incident, and find Choi fidgety and nervous, as he was at the award ceremony. Ki-hyung asks if he set the fire, and Min-young explains that their investigating the recent murder and looking into past cases for any connections. Choi says nothing happened.
Min-young probes Choi, asking him why his sister committed suicide, and Choi grows dangerously angry as he yells at them to leave. Ki-hyung presses him for answers, curious about what he’s trying to hide, but Choi wields a pair of pliers and threatens them.
Outside, Ki-hyung notes all the typical signs of borderline personality disorder—from the evidence of self-harm to his compulsive consumption pattern—and notes how most BPD patients have a fear of abandonment. Thus, he doesn’t fit the profile of someone who started the fire due to his sister’s death.
Right then, Nana calls Ki-hyung and tells him the reason behind the sister’s suicide: She was a victim of school violence.
Sun-woo arrives at a secluded building, and investigates the area with her flashlight. She feels something behind her and turns around in fright, but is only confronted with her past self. Sitting on a bench, high school Sun-woo talked with Ji-eun about the upcoming festival, but as they saw Choi’s sister enter the building with a man, Ji-eun anxiously said that they should leave.
Sun-woo gets a call from Ki-hyung, who tells her that Choi wouldn’t have set the fire because of his sister. They need to find out what Choi went through at the center in his past, and Sun-woo recalls another memory—but this time it’s one of Choi inside a car.
In his interrogation room, Hyun-joon paces back and forth as memories of the police arresting his brother swirl inside his head. Sitting down, Hyun-joon looks up with a determined expression.
There were two main cases this time around, which isn’t too surprising since the show has started and ended cases mid-episode before, too. The conclusion of Ahn’s case wasn’t surprising, though I was slightly caught off-guard by Ki-hyung’s sudden submission. After all his persistence to save Ahn, even calling her actions insane, he ultimately agreed to her decision right when he had the evidence in his hands. Maybe in his pursuit of justice, he didn’t see how Shi-on was the last victim of Jo, not Ahn, and her final, desperate plea to be let go pushed Ki-hyung to realize his “mistake.” While the scene was well-acted and convincing, I still thought the pacing and editing was too fast, which didn’t allow for the full range of emotions to come through. I feel like pacing is an issue with this show, on the whole, with emotional scenes often coming too quickly without proper development, and in fact, it’s only the acting that saves a scene sometimes.
I thought the bookended scenes of the Jo and Ahn case were a nice touch, though, and applaud the show for surprising me in a good way. I thought that the cellist from the previous episode might have been Shi-on, but was confused as to why Ki-hyung hadn’t made the connection if that was true. Thus, when it was revealed this episode that the recital was actually a foreshadowing rather than a past event, it made me appreciate the scene in a new light. Instead of just a simple date with Han-byul, it can also be seen as Ki-hyung’s way of atonement as he watches Ahn’s son play on the stage in lieu of his biological mother with his own son, as well as a chance for Ki-hyung to appreciate the gift of parenting that others trample upon (e.g., Jo) or can’t enjoy (e.g., Ahn).
As for the second case that started, there was clearly a lot of circumstantial evidence that pointed towards Hyun-joon as the murderer, but it was clear that the officer’s tunnel vision blinded him to other possibilities. However, the NCI team also seems to be completely forgoing the possibility of Hyun-joon being the murderer without much basis (besides his character), but if the show has taught us anything, a psychopathic killer can be anyone’s neighbor or colleague. That being said, I don’t have even the slightest doubt that Hyun-joon is innocent, so I don’t mind the NCI team’s decision to help Hyun-joon even if realistically it opens up a whole can of worms concerning in-group bias. However, I do think the NCI team’s interrogation skills need some polishing. I cringed when Min-young and Ki-hyung questioned Choi, who clearly seemed to be suffering from some mental disorder, and how they were rather callous in the way they pressed him for answers. It seems like Ki-hyung might have pushed him to the edge to see his reaction, but I did wonder if another tactic wouldn’t have been more effective. Otherwise, they should really contact some medical professionals, especially if nearly every criminal or suspect they encounter suffers from some sort of mental disorder. It seems irresponsible to let the suspect be in pain when they can intervene and help.
I know that Hyun-joon hasn’t been getting the spotlight as much recently, but this episode took it to new heights. As the prime suspect, it makes sense to have Hyun-joon immobilized, but instead of delving deeper into his character, the show treated him as an object. Indirectly, the show is pigeonholing Hyun-joon as a character who needs actions to tell his story. Thus, they wasted their chance to use this moment of captivity to reveal more about his nature. In some part, the case is about Hyun-joon and Sun-woo’s past, but while the show revealed more about Sun-woo, no progress was made for Hyun-joon. Though the case wasn’t bad—revealing hints of a larger conspiracy behind Ji-eun’s death and the present murder—the show sacrifices character development for plot. Hopefully, the next episode will have more Hyun-joon, since it would be a crying shame to keep Lee Jun-ki on the backburner for two episodes.
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