Criminal Minds: Episode 19
It’s the penultimate episode, and the inevitable clash between the NCI and the Reaper has arrived. While the Reaper never fails to provoke our heroes, he also has some new tricks up his sleeves, keeping the NCI team on their toes. Not to be outdone, the NCI team returns the favor with some surprises of their own as the final cat and mouse chase begins.
EPISODE 19 RECAP
Ki-hyung and Hyun-joon enter a cafe where Kim Yong-chul (the Reaper) sips coffee while waiting for them. Hyun-joon immediately asks Yong-chul where Chief Director Baek is, but Yong-chul ignores him, saying they have lots to discuss. Hyun-joon threatens Yong-chul that he won’t be able to escape, but Yong-chul bets that he’ll walk out of the cafe in ten minutes.
Yong-chul asks if Ki-hyung thinks he’s crazy. Ki-hyung warns Yong-chul to stop playing games with him, but Yong-chul replies, “It’d be nice if you would admit that in the end, you’re just like me.” Ki-hyung rejects his claim, calling Yong-chul a killing machine.
Ki-hyung recounts a story about a boy whose father beat him, and because everyone ignored the boy, he set his home on fire—nearly losing his own life. With a sneer, Yong-chul finishes the rest of the story: The boy was imprisoned in a mental hospital where he was injected with drugs, beaten, and tormented by guilt. Eventually, the boy set the hospital on fire, too, and turned into a real devil.
Ki-hyung accuses Yong-chul of not knowing what pain is anymore because he can’t feel anything. Yong-chul laughs, saying that the chief director understood him better—although he was also the type to shorten his own lifespan. Placing a bag on the table, Yong-chul calls it his ticket out of here.
Hesitantly, Hyun-joon opens the bag, and whatever is inside makes Ki-hyung tremble. The camera zooms out, showing us reinforcements circling the perimeter.
Twenty days prior to the event. Chief Director Baek informs Ki-hyung of Sun-woo’s three-month suspension for killing the rapist. Fortunately, detectives were present and the incident was deemed an act of self-defense. However, the NCI’s reputation has fallen, so the chief director orders Ki-hyung to attend a public lecture to appease some of the negative public sentiment.
During the lecture, Han compares profilers to Samjokgu, a fabled animal told in folktales that could catch the nine-tailed fox, and Hyun-joon says that profilers exist only because crimes committed by psychopaths exist. The team opens the floor to questions, and female student asks if profilers and criminals are like the two sides of the same coin. Ki-hyung says that they are, and tells the student that not crossing the line between good and evil is the eternal dilemma profilers must face.
The next question is by a young man who asks why they haven’t arrested the Reaper yet. Ki-hyung tells him that he can’t answer the question here, but assures the young man that they will arrest the Reaper. Once the lecture ends, the female student approaches Ki-hyung for an autograph, holding up one of his books that’s gone out of print. She’s an aspiring profiler, and Ki-hyung gladly signs her book.
Nana passes by Sun-woo’s empty desk and, missing her presence, decides to take a picture to send to Sun-woo.
The female student from the lecture bumps into a man while walking home, and as the man limps to gather his fallen fruit, the female student offers to help him. As she hands the man his bag, he whips out a taser, and the woman goes limp.
The next morning, the student’s body is found in an empty lot, and once the detective tells Ki-hyung that the victim was a criminal psychology student, he remembers her from the lecture. The book he signed was found in the alley where the kidnapping occurred, and Hyun-joon shares some disturbing news: The criminal sent the victim’s parents a video of her being tortured. This might be a copycat crime of one of their old cases.
Ki-hyung and Hyun-joon meet with the student’s mother, and they learn that the empty lot used to be where their home originally was. In the victim’s room, Hyun-joon flips through her criminal psychology textbook and finds a picture of her with a boy (the young man from the lecture).
The NCI team believes the current case is a copycat crime, and in most cases of this nature, the criminals tend to admire the original murderers as heroes and put themselves at the same level as them. The problem with this copycat case is that the corpse was left in a meaningful place, as in the original crime, a fact never revealed to the public.
At a bookstore, Min-young and Han hope to talk with Reporter Sohn (the man who kept in contact with Yong-chul when he pretended to be a victim) since he’s holding a book signing event, but it’s unexpectedly canceled.
Meanwhile, Sun-woo sits at a cafe, flipping through a book where all the first-person pronouns are circled, and Hyun-joon joins her.
He advises Sun-woo to rest, but she’s preoccupied with the recent copycat case as well as the Reaper. After going through Reporter Sohn’s email records, Sun-woo reasons that he’s disappeared for good, and Hyun-joon asks if she thinks the Reaper is involved. As she lists all the strange coincidences, Hyun-joon calls out her name as if to tell her something, but decides against it.
As a woman drives down a road, a van swerves into her lane, and she angrily yells at the other driver. The van follows the woman down an empty road, and pulling up next to her window, the driver suddenly pulls out a shotgun and shoots her in the shoulder. The impact causes the woman to swerve to the side, but before she can call for help, the copycat killer appears at her door and shoots point-blank at the woman.
The NCI team looks over the second copycat case when the chief director interrupts their meeting. He shares a private word with Ki-hyung, who expresses his suspicions that someone might be behind all of this. Chief Director Baek agrees to support Ki-hyung, and tells him to resolve this case as if it’ll be his last.
The killer logs into a website, “Phantom Club,” and casually munches on snacks as he looks at images of Yong-chul and the last two victims.
At the crime scene of the recent murder, the team realizes that the culprit reenacted the drive-by shooter’s last crime, though the copycat seems to exhibit more anger than the original.
Peering into the car, Han notices the female student’s ring wrapped around the victim’s wrist like a bracelet, and the team recognizes this as the Reaper’s signature.
Hyun-joon looks over the evidence regarding the murder of his friend (another victim of the Reaper), and learns that a button from his pants was missing. Frantically, Han digs through the female student’s items, and finds the lost button. The Reaper is back.
Min-young and Nana investigate the female student’s ring, and wonder what the initials “JH” mean. They guess that it might be the victim’s initials, but the real question on their minds is why the Reaper is doing all of this.
Alone in his office, Ki-hyung studies the Reaper’s case file, but stops when he sees the image of his wife’s earring. Memories of a happier time with his family flood Ki-hyung’s mind, which turn into memories of his wife’s death. Ki-hyung reaches for his medicine, but only turns the bottle in his hand without taking a pill.
While the copycat killer looks through the Phantom Club website, the camera pans over to a criminal psychology research club. Meanwhile, at the NCI office, Nana rushes out, apologizing to Ki-hyung when he starts to ask for a favor.
Nana heads out to meet Sun-woo, who thinks back to her meeting with a linguist who told her that Reporter Sohn’s book was written by two people. Once Nana joins Sun-woo at a cafe, she tells her that there’s been an increase in secret fan clubs after Reporter Sohn’s book was published, and after looking through all the websites, she found one secret club that requires an invitation, codes, and the administrator’s approval to enter.
She was able to break through their protection programs, but got stuck at the very last stage that asks for a password. To their surprise, Han sits down at their table, and tells them that he can crack the code. He says that if Reporter’s Sohn’s book was really written by the Reaper, then the password is probably hidden inside the book.
Using the first four IP numbers as clues, Han narrows in on a specific sentence within the book, and Nana inputs the words from the sentence that could be used as items for the Reaper’s signature (button, ring, and glasses). That lets them enter the Phantom Club website, but they grimly note that only the glasses haven’t been used in a murder yet.
The remaining team members discuss the copycat case and how the killer is either taking direct orders from Yong-chul or somehow related to him because of the button. The meeting is interrupted when Han and Nana sheepishly enter the room, and behind them is Sun-woo.
She tells the group that the culprit planned the dates of the murders beforehand, but Ki-hyung reminds her that she’s suspended. Hyun-joon comes to her defense, arguing that catching Yong-chul takes top priority, and Ki-hyung relents.
Sun-woo informs the team about the website and how someone announces the murders in advance. However, this means that any of the members could be the copycat killer. Though Nana checks the website users, it’s impossible to track anyone through the site. Suddenly, a new fanfiction is posted, indicating the next murder.
As written in the post, a young man stalks an older gentleman and follows him inside a church. However, before the copycat killer can slit the man’s throat, the older gentleman fights back and manages to escape with only few cuts. Running outside, the older gentleman asks a stranger for help, but the stranger grabs the man, holding him in place as the copycat killer comes to finish his task. After killing the man, the criminal stabs the victim in the ear and covers his eyes, reenacting another NCI case.
In the office, Hyun-joon figures out the location described in the post, and the team deduces the case the copycat killer has chosen to replicate. However, it’s too late as Min-young barges into the room, informing them that another victim has been found.
Reporters swarm Ki-hyung as he arrives at the crime scene, but he ignores all their questions concerning the copycat and the Reaper. Examining the body, Ki-hyung and Hyun-joon notice multiple wounds on the body, suggesting that the criminal was hasty this time, unlike the previous murders which were more meticulous.
Given the short period between the crimes, they guess the culprits’ intentions are to undermine their authority and prove to the world how strong they are. Hyun-joon wonders why an item from the previous victim wasn’t left behind, but an officer comes up to them, handing them a pair of glasses found nearby. Hyun-joon recognizes them as Reporter Sohn’s glasses.
Sun-woo and Nana search the Phantom Club website and find a repeated comment containing “MW99” on all the posts. Assuming it’s some sort of code, Nana looks up the initials and discovers a tabloid newspaper called Mystery World.
Sun-woo takes Han to the tabloid’s headquarters, and Han points out the advertisements for Phantom Club, which contain the location and time for the previous murders. Unfortunately, the payments were made anonymously, so the newspaper has no useful information about the culprits.
Ki-hyung gets updated about the tabloid. On a hunch, he contacts Nana to tell her to compare the CCTV footage of their lecture and the recent murder. Right as he hangs up, an unidentified number calls Ki-hyung, and it’s Yong-chul, asking if he enjoyed his presents. Yong-chul calls from a car, and as he talks, he keeps his gaze fixed on a woman in the distance stopping to look at a dress in a shop window.
Ki-hyung warns Yong-chul to give it up and tells him to not hurt other people since it’s Ki-hyung he’s after. Yong-chul slyly says that age has made him greedier and asks if Ki-hyung likes surprises. Ki-hyung shouts at Yong-chul in anger, but Yong-chul tells him to look forward to his next surprise before hanging up. Rattled, Ki-hyung walks to the car in a daze.
The woman Yong-chul was watching walks to her car while talking to her mom on the phone. Yong-chul grabs her from behind, and shushes her as he puts a knife to her neck.
After checking the footage, Nana finds three possible suspects, and Ki-hyung asks her to look into their backgrounds to see if there might be any connections with the victims. Turning to Hyun-joon, Ki-hyung tells him to gather the team.
Meanwhile, Yong-chul places a plastic bag into a freezer, and in the other room, the woman from before is taped to a chair with her mouth covered.
The NCI team narrows down their past cases to those with unique signatures, which leaves only a few that the culprit can copy. Nana informs the group about a new post on the website, and it resembles their old case where the killer lured victims using online postings for secondhand sales. Checking the advertisement for the time, the team sees that there are only three hours to stop the murder.
They only know that the crime will happen in front of a department store, but that’s too vague to help. Han reads aloud a passage from the fanfiction, and tells the group that it’s referring to anagrams. Using “reaper” as the base, Han rearranges the letters and figures out the clue: “parère.” Min-young points out that parère is used a lot in restaurant names, and with a quick search, Nana locates three probable places.
Since they need to catch the culprit by surprise, the NCI team and few site support teams are dispatched to the area. Unbeknownst to Sun-woo and Hyun-joon, the victim stands right in their line of sight as they wait for the criminal to show up.
Han can’t believe there isn’t even one person around the victims that has a motive, but his eyes widen as he discovers something. Calling over Min-young, he shows her a closed website, “Journal Holmes,” and tells her that this was the original website before the Phantom Club. He guesses that the “JH” initials on the female student’s ring stand for the website, and they go to Nana for help.
Cross-checking the members of the two sites, Nana finds a young man named Kang Chi-hwan who was a classmate of the female student, and photos of them online seem to indicate that they were in a relationship. Ki-hyung recognizes Kang from the lecture, and Nana informs him that Kang was discharged early from the army due to a mental illness.
The announced time arrives, and Kang watches the victim from his car when he gets a call warning him that someone broke into the website. Kang decides to change tactics, and gets out of his car to approach the victim on foot. Nearby, Hyun-joon and Sun-woo also decide to look around on the streets.
Kang greets the victim to make the supposed sale and lures her toward his car. Though Hyun-joon sees Kang lead the victim away, he doesn’t pay much heed to them until Nana sends a picture revealing Kang as the suspect. They immediately call for backup, and Hyun-joon races after them.
Kang sees Hyun-joon just around the corner, and quickly drives away. However, he gets stuck in traffic, and the police arrive in time to prevent him from backing out. Cornered, Kang turns the car toward a restaurant and takes out a knife. He waves it around wildly, and drags the victim out of the passenger’s seat.
Hyun-joon is the first to arrive at the scene and draws his gun as Kang uses the victim as a hostage. Kang slowly walks into the restaurant, and standing in the crowd, Yong-chul watches with a grim expression. By the time Sun-woo arrives, Yong-chul is gone, and Sun-woo instinctively stares at the place he once stood.
Inside the restaurant, Kang yells at Hyun-joon to drop his gun, so Hyun-joon complies, telling him to calm down. He suggests to Kang that he should let the girl go and talk with him, but Kang sneers, shouting at Hyun-joon to cut the crap. He raises his knife to the victim’s throat, and Hyun-joon screams as he leaps forward.
Conceptually, I think the copycat killer who idealizes the Reaper is a great way for the show to introduce the Reaper back into the main plot while also adding a fresh dimension to him. It places the Reaper in a slightly different role as he now manipulates others to commit his crimes while also wreaking havoc on his own. Now, the NCI have to catch the Reaper, and deal with the criminals the Reaper is creating in his wake. Ultimately, this conflict can be seen as a clash of ideologies as the NCI upholds law and justice while the criminals believe they’re merely revealing humanity’s true nature. In some ways, the Reaper and Ki-hyung represent the two sides of the same coin (the eternal struggle Ki-hyung mentions in the episode), especially now that both have followers and are “leaders” in their respective groups. From the introduction of the Reaper, he’s been constantly portrayed as Ki-hyung’s archnemesis, and now that the show is ending, the inevitable battle between these two characters has come—and it seems that Chief Director Baek was right about one thing, that this might really be Ki-hyung’s last case.
Despite the fact that I can appreciate what the show is trying to accomplish with this arc—and on paper, it sounds like an excellent idea—I don’t think the show has executed the story well enough for me to get me emotionally attached. While the criminal of this hour copied previous cases, the episode as a whole felt like a cut-and-paste job. The show never really developed an emotional core, which made the case feel hollow. Part of the problem is that the show seems to misunderstand episodic as separate. An episode might display possible character developments, but the creators never follow through and continue with those moments. Too often the show will drop a potentially interesting spin on a character, and as a consequence, the finale suffers greatly from it. Without the gradual build-up in terms of team dynamics and individual characters, I feel detached from our heroes, which is a shame because some of the acting is terrific.
I said this before, but my major complaint is that Criminal Minds refuses to use its full potential. In this episode, the audience was reminded of the foreshadowing and arcs sprinkled in other episodes that never get developed, such as the small scene where Ki-hyung remembers his old mentor’s warning. But without exploring their relationship further, the haunting words of Ki-hyung’s psychopathic teacher lack the emotional punch it should have. I’m sad about the side stories the show could have incorporated into the main arcs, but I guess we’ll never know why Sun-woo doesn’t visit her parents or why Nana treats her dolls like her babies.
I don’t hate the show; I mostly feel indifferent, though I think indifference is one of the worse emotions a drama can evoke in its audience. Since this is my last recap of Criminal Minds, I want to end on a happy note and remember some of the good things from the show: Lee Jun-ki is beautiful, and he had some amazing interrogation scenes where he really showcased his acting chops. Yoo Sun made me laugh with her quirky portrayal of Nana, and I loved how she added a breather in between dark moments. Sohn Hyun-joo is amazing, and I don’t regret watching this show because I got to see him twice a week on my screen. Overall, the cast was great, though some of the actors got the shorter end of the stick (Moon Chae-won), and hopefully, everyone’s next projects will be filled with solid directing, tight plots, and wonderful character developments. Also, Lee Jun-ki and Moon Chae-won need to collaborate on another drama again because like the many things this show had failed to capitalize on, their chemistry was one of them.
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