Running Investigators: Episode 1
Lee Yo-won is back in Running Investigators, OCN’s new procedural drama about a group of people who investigate human rights infringement, yet have no power to prosecute the cases they hear. It’s all about who seems the most truthful, which you know s bound to backfire. Our leading lady has a mysterious past of her own, which must color the way she investigates cases and evaluates the moral compasses of those who invariably claim innocence.
NOTE: This is just a first episode recap.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
On a rainy night, police arrive at an abandoned building and feverishly search for someone. When the person is found, it’s too late — they’re hanging dead from the ceiling.
Later, a man and a woman arrive at the morgue, hesitating for a long moment before going inside. When they do, the condition of the deceased causes the woman to gasp in shock.
She wakes suddenly — it was a dream. She goes for a jog, and she stops to approach a homeless man sleeping on a bridge. He doesn’t turn out to be whoever she expects, so she continues on her way.
Next we see the woman, HAN YOON-SEO (Lee Yo-won) sitting in a courtroom — she’s an inspector for the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and she’s investigating a sexual harassment case against Choi Jong-bok, mayor of Gwangyeok. She states that the plaintiff, Jin Sun-mi, developed depression and a panic disorder after being harassed by the mayor, and eventually filed a complaint.
Mayor Choi argues that there’s no evidence and that the NHRC has only heard the plaintiff’s side. Chairwoman AHN KYUNG-SOOK (Oh Mi-hee) tells him that the situation is still under inspection, and that the NHRC doesn’t determine if a crime was committed, only whether there’s a human rights violation. Mayor Choi argues that they still need evidence, but Chairwoman Ahn just smiles indulgently and asks Yoon-seo to continue.
Two weeks before the hearing.
Mayor Choi holds a press conference claiming that these rumors are simply fake news spread by his political opponents are telling to advance their own careers. We see his former secretary writing out her accusation of verbal, then eventually sexual, harassment by the Mayor. Later he’s shown on the news saying that he believes the NHRC will uncover the truth.
Yoon-seo interviews Mayor Choi’s driver, who asks Yoon-seo to leave him out of this, as he has a wife and young daughter. She offers him an agreement not to use his testimony as evidence for her case without his prior approval, and she even turns off her phone to show she’s not recording.
She says that Jin Sun-mi is also someone’s precious daughter, which convinces Driver Lee to tell Yoon-seo that he’s seen Mayor Choi inappropriately touching Sun-mi while driving them. He’s also been physically abused by the mayor, and once Mayor Choi almost got him in legal trouble by forcing him to drive away from a minor fender-bender.
The other driver claimed he was a hit-and-run, but luckily Driver Lee had proof on his black box that he’d given the other driver his card. Yoon-seo asks if the black box also records audio, and when Director Lee says it does, Yoon-seo knows she’s got him.
The black box footage is played during the hearing, and Mayor Choi can clearly be heard asking Sun-mi how often she and her boyfriend have sex. Mayor Choi demands to know how Yoon-seo got the video, but she calmly reminds him that he’s the one who insisted they show evidence. Mayor Choi threatens to sue Yoon-seo, but she tells him that the police gave her the footage.
Speaking of the police, BAE HONG-TAE (Choi Gwi-hwa), prosecutor of the Seoul Police Force’s crime squad, corners some of his informants, looking for a particular target. He gets into a fistfight with one lead in a restaurant, and he ends up picking up the guy and flinging them both out a window to land on the hood of a car.
The man claims to be an undercover cop, but Hong-tae doesn’t believe him and slams him to the pavement, causing handcuffs and a police ID fall out of the guy’s pocket — oops. They nearly lose the real target while Hong-tae is apologizing (it’s not easy to bow to a guy lying on the ground, HAHA), but Hong-tae leaps over a car to catch him.
Back at his office, Hong-tae endures a lecture by Chief Prosecutor Go, who’s annoyed that Hong-tae was busy when he called him to come out for drinks with a judge. Chief Prosecutor Go lists Hong-tae’s six cases of speeding, four of vandalism, two lawsuits, and reduced salary for refusing a transfer, and now he’s assaulted a police officer.
Hong-tae looks appropriately ashamed and confirms that he wants to be a prosecutor for life. Chief Prosecutor Go receives a text asking if “that idiot” is still there and if he’s told him yet, so he informs Hong-tae that he’s being sent to work for the National Human Rights Commission for a while.
Over at the NHRC building, Yoon-seo fails to sneak past a man in the lobby who’s complaining that they aren’t doing their jobs right. He sneers sarcastically that Yoon-seo is the NHRC’s “ace,” and he asks to speak to her privately, but Yoon-seo tells him (for what sounds like the hundredth time) to file a formal appeal.
Hong-tae indulges in a short toddler-tantrum before entering the NHRC building for his first day. Inside, he wrestles a fire extinguisher from the disgruntled man, who launches into a complaint about saunas only giving a few towels to women while offering the men as many as they want, as if the women are thieves.
After an unsuccessful false claim that he was having a consensual affair with Jin Sun-mi, Mayor Choi resigns his position. Seeing this on the news, Chairwoman Ahn sighs at the tendency of people in high positions to make poor life choices.
One of Yoon-seo’s colleagues, inspector LEE DAL-SOOK (Lee Joo-woo), argues with the deputy director of the policy division, BOO JI-HOON (Kim Joo-young), over who gets to pay for their coffees at the lobby coffee bar. Awww, they’re adorably shy and flirty with each other. Ji-hoon worries that the new inspector might be the crazy prosecutor he’s heard about.
Hong-tae waits in an interrogation room for a meeting regarding his new job. Yoon-seo mistakes him for the subject of a sexual assault case, and when poor Hong-tae insists he never even met the woman, Yoon-seo is all, “Suuure, that’s what they all say.” Soon she realizes she’s got the wrong guy, so Yoon-seo slinks out of the room when Hong-tae is distracted by a phone call, hee.
The deputy chief of the NHRC, KIM HYUN-SEOK (Jang Hyun-sung) finally locates Hong-tae and shows him around the building, explaining how their investigations work and what is expected from him. Dal-sook runs in to warn Deputy Chief Kim that the new inspector is a lunatic, so Deputy Chief Kim introduces the new lunatic… um, inspector, to her.
To make things even more awkward, Dal-sook and Hong-tae are to share a double-wide desk. Hong-tae assumes that one of the two coffees Dal-sook put on the desk is for him and says benevolently that she doesn’t have to bring him coffee just because she’s a woman, but she tells him that they’re both for her, hee.
Yoon-seo enters the office, and while Deputy Chief Kim discusses one of her cases with her, Hong-tae gets a text that says I can’t believe the inhumane prosecutor joined the HRC… lol. Yoon-seo watches him furiously texting something and rolls her eyes when Deputy Chief Kim assigns Hong-tae to her team. They head out to start their questioning, Yoon-seo snapping at Hong-tae to pay attention to her and not his phone.
The case involves Taewon Union, who’s in the middle of negotiations for higher wages for the employees at Taewon Group and is threatening a strike if negotiation fails. Meanwhile, there’s a sexual assault complaint within the union, which the company is using as leverage to demand the union leader’s resignation. Also of note is the fact that Deputy Chief Kim’s brother is a board member at Taewon Group.
In their investigations, they talk to Lee Eun-yul, director of the policy division of Taewon Union, and an employee of Director Lee’s, Seo Ji-hye, who’s filed a sexual assault complaint against him. Director Lee’s story is that during a funeral for one of their colleagues, Kang Yoon-ho, Ji-hye asked him to get her out of there, so he drove her around while she cried.
He says she asked him to pull over so that she could be sick, and that when she left the restroom, he followed her as she headed for the building’s emergency stairwell, worried about her state of mind.
Ji-hye says that she came to the NHRC because she doesn’t trust the police, and she’s even reluctant to tell Yoon-seo the details of her assault. Yoon-seo says that without eyewitnesses, her testimony is all they have to go on, so Ji-hye hesitantly tells her side of the story.
She claims that Director Lee tried to put his hand inside her pantyhose, and that when she rejected his advances, he grabbed her hair and asked her why she’d let Yoon-ho, their deceased colleague, touch her but not him.
Director Lee grows agitated when he hears this, and he accuses Yoon-seo of believing Ji-hye’s side without hearing him out first. He tells Yoon-seo that Ji-hye previously told him she loved him, but he didn’t have feelings for her and turned her down, so she began dating Yoon-ho.
He says that on the day of the funeral, she led him to the emergency stairwell and started kissing him. Neither of them remember what building they were in, and Ji-hye objects to being asked for every single detail. She says that as a woman, Yoon-seo should be on her side, and that as the victim she shouldn’t be responsible for providing all the evidence.
When they finish their questioning, Director Lee recognizes Yoon-seo as the inspector in charge of Mayor Choi’s sexual harassment case. He says that he believes she’ll be fair, and that she won’t turn something that never happened into reality.
When the work day is over, Deputy Chief Kim wants to go out for drinks to welcome Hong-tae. Dal-sook makes an (obviously fake) excuse to weasels out of it — until they mention inviting Ji-hoon, and she’s suddenly free and very excited to go out.
Over drinks, Hong-tae objects to a comment Dal-sook makes that he finds disrespectful to high-ranking officials. She goes into a long drunken rant about how rules trickle down from high- to low-ranking officials, getting twisted and misunderstood until the low-ranking officials get in trouble just because the president once said the air conditioning was too strong. LOL.
Deputy Chief Kim leaves first, then the others make excuses to go home, leaving Dal-sook and Hong-tae conked out on the table.
Once she’s home, Yoon-seo keeps thinking about how Ji-hye asked her if she trusts the police. She contorts her limbs, trying to re-enact the sequence of events of the assault according to Ji-hye, feeling as though something doesn’t quite add up.
She’s distracted by a photo of herself with the man from her dream, and a younger woman who looks like the woman found hanging in that warehouse.
Yoon-seo is intercepted on her way to work by a reporter who wants to ask questions about the Taewon Union case. He prods her by saying that she supposedly accused Director Lee of being mentally ill and claiming that Deputy Chief Kim’s brother works for Taewon Group and is pressuring the company. Yoon-seo says there’s no pressure and gets the reporter’s card.
Deputy Chief Kim gets a call from his brother, but instead of answering, he declines the call. When he spots Yoon-seo coming in to work, he invites her to have a coffee with him. He tells her that a broadcasting company wants to cover the Taewon Union case, but that he refused since it’s still under investigation.
Yoon-seo assures him that the investigation is going as expected, and that she asked the usual questions, though Seo Ji-hye was frustrated regarding the evidence. Deputy Chief Kim sighs that the reporters are making up stories, while in the office, Dal-sook frowns over the many news articles accusing the NHRC of biased investigating in regards to the Taewon Union case.
Later she asks Yoon-seo if there’s a way to stop the press’s exaggerations, but Yoon-seo just says they won’t play the press’s game. Yoon-seo fusses at Hong-tae for showing up late, and he whines that he has an upset stomach. Deputy Chief Kim gets another call from his brother, and he declines this one, too.
While the news reports that Seo Ji-hye feels violated by the NHRC insisting on her giving the details of her assault, Chairwoman Ahn calmly cleans the leaves of a plant, muttering, “Humans and orchids, both need to be cleaned.” She looks out the window and chuckles that the weather reminds her of Mayor Choi.
Deputy Chief Kim goes to speak with her and says that he wants to be taken off the Taewon Union case because his brother works there, and he wants to stave off any worries of corruption. She gently refuses his request and tells him to work as he normally does, and to make sure nobody feels victimized.
Seo Ji-hye is now posting on social media about her alleged assault and how she feels victimized by the union, as well. Hong-tae tells Yoon-seo that in sexual assault cases, the credibility of the victim is important, since often the victim’s testimony is enough to convict even without evidence. Yoon-seo argues that people have died from the repercussions of false testimonies.
They head to the Taewon Union office to talk to some of Director Lee and Ji-hye’s coworkers. One man tells Hong-tae that Director Lee is anti-social, gets upset easily, and starts a lot of fights, which Hong-tae certainly witnessed while he was being questioned. He says that Director Lee and Ji-hye were close until Ji-hye started dating Yoon-ho, and that in his opinion, Director Lee had feelings for Ji-hye.
But another employee says that Director Lee is pleasant, and he denies that Ji-hye ever made a formal complaint about Director Lee sexually assaulting her, which he would have investigated immediately. He says she did mention problems with Director Lee, so he suggested they discuss it seriously after the wage negotiations, but then she suddenly filed her complaint with the NHRC.
He tells Yoon-seo that Ji-hye had a secret meeting with one of the executives just before filing her complaint, which sparked a rumor that she was being transferred to headquarters. He thinks it’s pretty obvious that Ji-hye made some kind of deal with the company.
Someone comes in and whispers something to him, so he quickly signs a release and leaves. Yoon-seo jumps up to stop him, knocking her phone to the floor and breaking it. She uses the office phone to make a call and ask to speak to her next lined-up interview, but she’s told that he’s out of town.
When she reconnects with Hong-tae, he says there’s no point looking for the crime scene since there won’t be evidence anyway. Yoon-seo says there rarely is in sexual assault cases, and that her job is to discover who is more reasonable and specific. Hong-tae asks what Yoon-seo would do if she were Ji-hye, if she’d go this far if she were lying, which gives Yoon-seo pause.
After dark, a woman knocks on a hotel room door door. There’s no answer, so she lets herself in, revealing a man sitting on the bed. We see the woman’s face — it’s Seo Ji-hye.
The following day, Deputy Chief Kim asks Yoon-seo her opinion on the case. She says there’s a lot that doesn’t add up, such as the fact that unlike most victims, Seo Ji-hye didn’t tell anyone or ask for help, not even from the police, before filing a formal complaint.
She continues that when a victim is a union member, they’re even more likely to file an appeal with the union first, but Seo Ji-hye didn’t do that. Hong-tae says that in most sexual assault cases, the people involved want to resolve the case quietly, but in this case, both plaintiff and defendant are using the media to make the case very public.
Yoon-seo muses, “Maybe this isn’t about the sexual assault. Maybe they have ulterior motives?” Dal-sook points out that they can’t investigate anything that’s unrelated to the appeal. Deputy Chief Kim declares the investigation over since there’s no evidence.
But Seo Ji-hye walks into the office and states, “I have evidence.”
Innnnteresting. Running Investigators is definitely not my preferred genre, but I found the characters interesting and the assault case fascinating, so I may keep watching just to see what story the show intends to tell. I saw a lot in this premiere that would appeal to those who enjoy episodic crime-type shows, little details that make it stand out as unusual when compared to courtroom-style dramas. The cast is top-notch, of course, with some of the best talent to be found in Dramaland, and the show is quite a bit funnier than I expected. There were moments I laughed out loud, but the humor was kept to the appropriate moments, which I appreciated.
I found the editing quite quirky, especially at the beginning of the episode, to the point that it was almost a character in and of itself. That can be good if it’s done without causing confusion or taking focus from the story or the characters, and so far it manages to stay just on this side of both potential problems, though I could see it tipping the other way if the production crew isn’t careful.So far it’s balanced quite nicely.
I also noticed that in several very dramatic scenes, there was no music at all. This is something I was actually just recently discussing — the use of silence in a show. Usually, music is used by dramas and movies to tell the audience how to feel about a certain scene, and this is fine as long as it’s done subtly. But it can also feel manipulative if used in too heavy-handed a way (Almost Paaaaradise!), as if the audience can’t be trusted to know how to feel and must be told. Silence can be a great way to enhance a scene and allow the actors and events to shine, or even to give the scene a sense of looming dread, and let the audience form their own reactions naturally. I liked how Running Investigators used silence in several scenes to let the suspense build, without music to take away from the moment.
I don’t have much to say about the plot, which seems very thin at this point, and the promos don’t say much other than it’s a show about investigators who work for the National Human Rights Commission. But there are a lot of mysteries going on, primarily the mysteries that Yoon-seo has to solve on a daily basis. It must be a lot of pressure to have to listen to so many sides of one story and decide who has the most believable case. You’d want to believe the victim, but as Yoon-seo pointed out, sometimes the victim is lying and it can ruin, or even end, lives.
And this case is particularly frustrating, with a lot of inconsistencies on both sides. Why is Ji-hye so reluctant to tell her story? How are they supposed to determine the truth if she doesn’t say what happened? Why are both sides deliberately blowing up the situation by getting eh media involved? And how does the dead boyfriend tie into things? There’s also the larger mystery from the top of the episode regarding the death of the girl who (I assume at this point) must be Yoon-seo’s sister. And the man in the picture — is that Yoon-seo’s father? He doesn’t seem to be around now, and I suspect that Yoon-seo was checking that homeless man because she was hoping it was him, which means that he’s gone missing at best. Who is he, and where is he? Mysteries aren’t generally my cup of tea either (I’m too impatient!) but I like the characters enough that I may stick around to get the answers to these questions.
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