Psychopath Diary: Episode 1
Sometimes nice guys do finish last, as depicted by the kind hero of this tale who’s used to being pushed around. As his life seems to only get worse, his entire world flips one fateful evening when he stumbles across something he should haven’t witnessed. Though filled to the brim with familiar tropes, Psychopath Diary adds a unique spin and promises a story like no other.
Note: This is a first episode recap. We will continue coverage with weekly weecaps.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A reporter narrates the arrest of YOOK DONG-SHIK (Yoon Shi-yoon), the prime suspect of seven murders–six of which were written down in a diary. His heinous crimes earned him some infamy as a swarm of reporters throw questions at Dong-shik during his police transfer. When one reporter asks if he’ll request a psychiatric evaluation, Dong-shik takes off his mask and answers, “I’m just a psychopath. A murderer.”
Three months prior to the arrest. In a room filled with books and movies related to murder and crime, Memories of Murder plays in the background while Dong-shik tries to fall asleep. However, the constant racket from above keeps him awake, and he finds himself standing outside his neighbor’s door.
Dong-shik decides against confronting his noisy neighbor, but as soon as he turns his back, his neighbor opens the door and sends Dong-shik sprawling across the ground. The sight of his menacing-looking neighbor frightens Dong-shik, and he ends up apologizing for loitering outside his apartment.
His neighbor asks who he “works” for, and Dong-shik explains that he works as an investment advisor. Realizing that Dong-shik is not a threat, the neighbor warns him to never show his face here again, and Dong-shik submissively nods his head.
Even at work, Dong-shik is a pushover. He gets kicked out of an overcrowded elevator when a colleague cuts in front of him, and another coworker steals his morning coffee like habit. All the while, Dong-shik allows these minor injustices to occur without even a fight.
In a different part of town, Officer SHIM BO-KYUNG (Jung In-sun) and her partner HEO TAEK-SOO (Choi Sung-won) stand guard outside a house where an elderly woman apparently committed suicide months ago but was only recently discovered. A few details of the case don’t add up, so Bo-kyung ignores protocol to take a look inside. Like a good partner, Taek-soo covers for her and pulls aside their junior to look at something while she slips away. (Junior Officer: “I don’t see anything.” Taek-soo: “That’s your future.”)
While Bo-kyung examines the scene, a man suddenly stands besides her and notes the strange circumstances of the elderly woman’s death. He even finds an odd fingerprint on the window where the woman’s body was found, but Bo-kyung argues against the gentleman’s speculations of foul play. Taek-soo calls after Bo-kyung who’s now standing by herself–the gentleman nowhere to be seen.
Back in their patrol car, Taek-soo asks if Bo-kyung can see ghosts since she’s always talking to herself at crime scenes where people died. Though he assures her that it’s fine if she does, he makes the sign of the cross while laughing nervously. Pfft.
Bo-kyung dismisses Taek-soo’s wild theory and explains how she used to talk about cases with her dad as a child. The mood turns somber as Taek-soo also knows about the legendary Detective Shim, but Bo-kyung scoffs at the title. As the conversation winds down, they arrive at a café where her dad waits for her outside, and though he’s clearly the gentleman from Bo-kyung’s imagination, their auras are worlds apart.
At the end of the workday, Dong-shik’s colleague Jae-ho (the coffee-stealing slacker) dumps his report onto Dong-shik and asks him to finish it. Despite Jae-ho’s claims that the report just needs to be sent out, Dong-shik finds some questionable conclusions and seeks out Manager Gong’s advice.
Manager Gong orders Dong-shik to just send the report and gets frustrated when he insists on double-checking the facts. After making sure the office is empty, Manager Gong kicks Dong-shik in the shin and tells him that even domesticated dogs know to fear a tiger. Manager Gong condescendingly warns Dong-shik to crawl if he wants to live and dismisses him.
Bo-kyung and Taek-soo eat sandwiches at the café, and her mom wonders where their new dog walker is. She tells Bo-kyung that a nice man offered to walk their dogs for free, but Bo-kyung is skeptical of such goodwill. As she and Taek-soo return to work, the dog walker arrives, and it’s Dong-shik.
On their walk, Dong-shik and the dogs pass a homeless man who greets them, but when the dogs growl at him, the homeless man angrily yells at them to not look down on him. Feeling pity, Dong-shik approaches the homeless man and takes out a large bill.
The homeless man brightens up at the generous gesture, but instantly deflates when he realizes that it’s a flier for a restaurant and not money. Dong-shik explains that it’s his father’s barbeque place, but his offer of a free meal only irritates the homeless man.
The stocks for the company from Jae-ho’s report plummet after a scandal is revealed, and people are clamoring for the advisory firm to take responsibility for supporting a shady business. Though everyone in the office knows that this was Manager Gong’s pet project, Dong-shik is saddled with all the responsibility since he technically submitted the report.
Manager Gong tells Dong-shik that he’ll probably be fired but promises to put in a good word for him at another company. Dong-shik hangs his head, lamenting his bad luck, and misses the tiny smirk that appears on Manager Gong’s face. The weasel.
That evening, Jae-ho buys Dong-shik drinks, but rather than feel apologetic, he begs Dong-shik to take the fall for the entire thing. After stepping out to use the bathroom, Dong-shik overhears Jae-ho on the phone with Manager Gong, telling him that everything is taken care of since Dong-shik is a pushover. Dong-shik merely stands in shock, unable to confront his twofaced colleague and stand up for himself.
On the bus, Dong-shik sees the construction site for his company’s new headquarters and realizes that his simple dreams of being promoted and starting a family are over. Still tipsy, Dong-shik arrives at his nephew’s first birthday party late, but no one seems to notice his downtrodden expression. During dinner, a guest asks about Dong-shik’s occupation, and his father proudly tells him that he works for Daehan, though he lies about Dong-shik’s title.
The guest’s face falls when he recognizes Dong-shik as the one responsible for the false report, and he accuses Dong-shik for making him lose his retirement funds. Dong-shik apologizes to the guest, but that only riles him further. A fight breaks out in the middle of the party, and as the guests harass Dong-shik, he helplessly looks towards his father for help but is ignored.
With the party ruined, only Dong-shik and his father remain in the empty room when a worker asks them to leave soon for their next guests. Dong-shik apologizes, but his father slams the table and reminds the worker that they have the right to stay until their allotted time. He turns his anger to Dong-shik next, and berates him for always apologizing.
Dong-shik stifles his cries as his father leaves, and narrates that he only wanted a single person to acknowledge his way of life–but it never happened. He trudges back to the office where he writes a suicide note, apologizing again for being so weak.
The homeless man from before goes into a public restroom, and a well-dressed man (Park Sung-hoon) follows behind him. After locking the door, the man checks the stalls and approaches the homeless man, offering a drink. Sensing something off, the homeless man tries to leave, but the man slams him against the wall.
As his fight-or-flight response kicks in, the homeless man pushes the stranger away and runs to the locked door. He screams for help, but no one comes to his rescue as the man repeatedly smashes his head with a toilet tank lid.
Later that night, Taek-soo goes into that same restroom, and while Bo-kyung waits for him outside, she notices the homeless man’s cart when his phone rings. However, when Taek-soo comes out, he tells her that no one else was in the restroom.
They check out the restroom together, and imaginary detective dad appears again. He points out that all the homeless man’s possessions are outside, which makes it unlikely that the homeless man would have just left. Bo-kyung pointedly ignores him, but she senses something wrong with the place, wondering aloud if the public restroom was always so clean. The two patrol officers quickly investigate, and they find a missing toilet tank lid and some suspicious debris on the ground.
Dong-shik stands on the ledge of his company’s future building, but he stumbles backward, too afraid to jump. He spots a car on the ground which wasn’t there before, and worried about being spotted, he convinces himself to live another day.
The car below belongs to the bathroom killer, who currently gets ready to finish what he started. He takes out a diary and adds a new entry detailing today’s event in a mirrored writing style. Still alive, the homeless man begs for his life as the killer takes his thumbprint for his diary.
On his way out, Dong-shik hears the homeless man, and inches his way towards the noise. Right then, the homeless man swipes the diary from the killer’s hand and sends it flying towards Dong-shik’s feet. Hiding behind some building materials, Dong-shik sees the killer and makes eye contact with the homeless man who pleads with him to save his life.
Unaware of their audience, the killer snaps the homeless man’s arm, and gets up to retrieve his diary. As he approaches Dong-shik’s hiding spot, Dong-shik instinctively moves backward, but the uneven ground makes him trip and knock over the pipes. Fortunately, Dong-shik escapes before the killer sees him, but now his presence is known.
Still looking for the homeless man, Bo-kyung drives around the neighborhood and fails to notice Dong-shik run into the street. The car slams into Dong-shik, sending him flying through the air, and his phone slips out of his grasp and falls in the sewers. Dong-shik tumbles on the ground and hits his head on a fire hydrant.
Dong-shik manages to survive the ordeal, and the two flustered officers help him into their car. Down the street, the killer watches them leave, and luckily for the killer (and bad for everyone else), the police are too busy to notice the creepy looking hooded-figure trying to hid behind a thin tree.
With his secret in danger, the killer arrives at an emergency room, but all he finds is an empty bed. Meanwhile, Dong-shik wakes up in the hospital and sees Bo-kyung and Taek-soo staring down at him. They wonder how he’s feeling, but to their shock, Dong-shik doesn’t remember his name.
The doctor tells them that he has retrograde amnesia, which means he can’t remember his past, including the accident. Bo-kyung jumps at the chance to spin the story in her favor, and old habits die hard as Dong-shik apologizes for causing the officers trouble.
Since none of his family members could pick up Dong-shik, Bo-kyung hires a locksmith and brings him home. Afterwards, Taek-soo worries over their lie since Dong-shik could get back his memory and the dashcam probably caught everything anyways. Imaginary Dad pops up to scold her for thinking about destroying evidence, but Bo-kyung shouts at him to stop and asks how she’ll support their family if she doesn’t get promoted.
Imaginary Dad hides his face sheepishly, and Taek-soo hangs his head, thinking that she’s yelling at him. Taek-soo takes out the diary that he found in the backseat, and hands it over to Bo-kyung to do with it as she pleases. Bo-kyung debates over handing in the diary or reading it to get some dirt on Dong-shik, but Imaginary Dad knows she’ll do the right thing…and she does.
She returns the diary to Dong-shik, though it clearly pains her to do so, and she reminds him to remember her kind act if his memories do return. He opens the diary, and seeing the strange writing style, Dong-shik remembers something.
He goes inside before Bo-kyung can read, and takes out a book to explain how Leonardo da Vinci wrote like this, too. The thought of unlocking his memories excites him, but as Dong-shik reads the diary, his smile disappears: according to this, he’s a psychopathic serial killer.
Dong-shik hides the diary from Bo-kyung who doesn’t catch his change in attitude, and she notes his interests much to his nervousness. To his relief, she merely comments on their similar tastes, and leaves without questioning him further.
With the diary as his only clue into his past-self, Dong-shik reads through the horrifying accounts of six murders. He looks online in hopes that his entries are fictitious, but he finds accurate descriptions of the deceased in different news reports–including the earlier case of the elderly lady who committed suicide. The latest murder recorded in the diary is about the homeless man, and images of himself as the killer cause Dong-shik to retch.
His sister stops by to check on him, but Dong-shik refuses to let her in since he doesn’t recognize her. Realizing that his condition is serious, she calls the entire family together at their father’s restaurant where Dong-shik learns that he has a stepmother and that his mother died years ago.
He recalls some things written in the diary about his family, and the descriptions fit for the most part: an older sister who interferes with his life but only pretends to care, a cunning brother-in-law who only looks for his own self-interest, and a half-brother who has noodles in his head instead of a brain.
The only puzzling thing is his father who’s described as the chairman, but that, too, gets resolved when his stepmother calls his father “chairman” as an old nickname from when he was the chairman of the neighborhood alpine club. Dong-shik reasons with himself that it could all be a coincidence, and unconvinced that the diary is his, he decides to look for clues about his past in another setting: his workplace.
At the office, Jae-ho finds Dong-shik’s suicide note, but instead of reporting it, he rips it apart. Right then, Dong-shik arrives, scaring the living daylights out of Jae-ho. Relocating to the stairwell to have a private conversation, Jae-ho learns of Dong-shik’s amnesia, and much like everyone else, he uses this to his advantage.
He calls himself Dong-shik’s best friend and tells him to keep his condition a secret. At work, Jae-ho brings Dong-shik coffee and does everything for him, which makes Dong-shik think that his past-self must have taken advantage of Jae-ho. Assuming that he really is a psychopathic killer, Dong-shik interprets his coworkers’ and boss’s aversion towards him as fear and decides to take the rest of the day off to investigate his past.
With Bo-kyung’s help, Dong-shik arrives at the place of the accident, and looks around the construction site to see if he remembers anything. He recalls stumbling down the stairs, and when he reaches the floor where the killer was, he hears the homeless man’s voice calling for help. However, the rest of the scene plays out like the diary entry, and Dong-shik takes on the role of the killer.
As Dong-shik imagines his past-self murdering the man, he screams in disbelief. Bo-kyung hears him and finds him crying on the floor. Dong-shik flees the site without any explanation and flails around in the street while wiping away his tears. Bo-kyung slowly drives next to him and tries to coax him back into the car, but distraught Dong-shik runs away.
Dong-shik sits in the office breakroom curled up into a ball, and asks Jae-ho what kind of person he was. Jae-ho lies that Dong-shik was a nice guy who was so loyal to the team that he was going to take the fall for the recent mistake. Dong-shik reads up on the case and determines that a psychopath wouldn’t sacrifice himself for others.
Thus, when the audit team comes to interview Dong-shik, he takes responsibility for the report. However, Manager Jo Yoo-jin of the Audit Team already knows that Dong-shik isn’t the one in charge, and she realizes that the rumors about Dong-shik are true: he’s a cowardly pushover who can’t say no.
The team goes out to celebrate, believing that Dong-shik took the blame, but though they say the party is for him, they leave Dong-shik out of their cheers. Manager Gong sings a song for Dong-shik (“Go Go”), and Yoo-jin’s words echo in his head. He finally realizes that the others never feared him, and drops the diary in the trashcan. He concludes that it never belonged to him since he’s neither a predator nor a psychopathic killer.
As Dong-shik leaves, Manager Gong receives a call from the higher-ups that the auditors are reinvestigating the case. He confronts Dong-shik about it and calls him a pushover who’s less than a dog. He calls Dong-shik a self-centered jerk and blames him for putting the entire team at risk. Dong-shik starts shaking with anger at his manager’s audacious claims, and from the corner of his eye, he spots the discarded diary.
Elsewhere, a car pulls up to Dong-shik’s company, and the killer gets out.
Manager Gong stumbles into the restroom, and Dong-shik follows him inside. He proceeds to recount the murder of the homeless man, and just like the killer, Dong-shik locks the bathroom door and checks the stalls one by one. He grabs the lid of a toilet tank, and Manager Gong finally realizes the danger.
He runs to the door, screaming for help, while Dong-shik calmly watches him. He continues his story, explaining how the man couldn’t even open the door which was locked from the inside and slowly realized his death as the killer knocked the lid against the wall. Manager Gong falls to the ground and begs Dong-shik to talk it through.
Staring down at the cowering manager, Dong-shik thinks to himself that he was never a loser; he only pretended to be one to hide his true identity. He succumbs to the idea that he’s actually a psychopath and raises the lid to strike Manager Gong.
The show has an interesting premise that shows some promise, but it’s hard to say definitively if this will turn out to be a surprising gem or a train wreck (both entertaining, but for vastly different reasons). The concept of mistaken identity with a serial killer opens a whole can of worms, and just from the first episode, a lot of questions were hinted at that could lead to some interesting storytelling and character analysis. However, a lot of shows have shown promise in the beginning and failed to deliver, so only time will tell where Psychopath Diary will fall on that scale. One worry I do have is with the tone of the show. There are clearly some comedic moments sprinkled throughout the episode, and while some made me chuckle, others were a miss. Comedy and thriller can be difficult genres to mix, and if not balanced carefully, it could lead to disastrous results. Part of my concern is that the show might be too hammy unintentionally, but since it’s only the first outing, I’ll give the show the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s still finding its stride.
Overall, the first episode does its jobs of setting up the main story and introducing the audience to its cast of characters. Of the two leads, I did enjoy Bo-kyung’s side of the story more, particularly Taek-soo. Choi Sung-won has great comedic timing, and the little details in his portrayal, like how Taek-soo hides his face in shame or gives side glances of disapproval at Bo-kyung, make him feel fleshed out and added another dimension to their relationship. The two of them feel like a bumbling duo, just skilled enough to solve this case but still incompetent enough to not catch the killer’s attention too quickly. I also liked Bo-kyung, and think she holds a mix of traits that won’t make her a boring character. She has a bit of romanticism as displayed by imaginary detective dad, but she’s also rational enough to not get too caught up in her own musings. She’s self-interested but not completely cold-hearted to ignore someone else’s plight. She’s clearly on the good side, but she isn’t an insufferable saint. It’s these characterizations that make Bo-kyung feel layered, and I hope the show delves deeper into her.
As for Dong-shik, I’m not quite invested in his story, but hopefully that changes once he turns “evil.” I don’t want to blame him for his circumstances even though his personality can be frustrating because it’s really the people around him that are at fault. From his family to his coworkers (and even his neighbor), Dong-shik is surrounded by people who see his kindness as a weakness, and their callous attitude towards him has only made him meeker. The show takes it time building Dong-shik’s world, and while it’s an aggravating watch, it fulfills its purpose: giving reason for Dong-shik’s change. I don’t expect Dong-shik to turn into a villain, but I do hope that his mistaken identity does some “good” for his life. Though I thought the first episode did feel slow at times (which wasn’t helped by the bloated episode length), the setup in this episode may have been necessary for the story that’s to come. With any luck, the introductions are now over, so the rest of the show can zip by more quickly. I can already see the writers having fun with Dong-shik’s mistaken identity and the havoc it will wreak to those who know him, so with the right payoff, the wait might be worth it.
Premiere Watch: Psychopath Diary
- Comic thriller Psychopath Diary releases new Yoon Shi-yoon, Jung In-sun stills
- Yoon Shi-yoon has identity crisis in new teaser for Psychopath Diary
- Murderer, mobster, and cop cross paths in tvN drama Psychopath Diary
- Yoon Shi-yoon goes from lily-livered fool to cold murderer in Psychopath Diary
- Psychopath Diary casts Yoon Shi-yoon, Jung In-sun