Catch the Ghost: Episode 14
The truth and the Subway Ghost’s origin story is revealed at last. Both our chief and our newbie face heavy emotions as their family members interweave through the Subway Ghost’s plot. And they may find that they have more in common with the Ghost than they knew, as the fine line between culprit and victim asks they to question everything they’ve assumed.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
The police van arrives and the combined subway and Major Crimes forces flood into the hospital and head to Chul-jin’s room. But Caregiver Choi has beaten them there, along with Ji-seok’s mother who has followed her to the closed ward. Caregiver Choi holds her finger up to quiet Mom and tells her not to follow. They’re gone by the time the police reach the ward, and Ma-ri divides up tasks.
Man-jin and Soo-ho establish a checkpoint at the hospital entrance, Woo-hyuk checks the security footage, and Yoo Ryung goes through visitor records, all while Caregiver Choi sneaks through hallways with Chul-jin in tow.
Ji-seok heads to his mother’s room, but some patients in the hall mention that Caregiver Choi rushed off and Mom followed her. Ji-seok doesn’t understand why the caregiver would leave when he’d told her not to, and all of the other strange behavior she’s exhibited floods back to him, especially regarding her son and interest in the Subway Ghost.
Ma-ri spots and stops Caregiver Choi as she runs down a hall with a wheelchair, but the chair is empty and Ma-ri just asks for directions. Meanwhile, Chul-jin crouches behind a cleaning supplies cart, and Caregiver Choi waits until the coast is clear until she tucks him into the chair. She races to the elevator, her eyes widening as cops mill at the desk across the way until the doors finally close.
Ji-seok’s mom is still missing from her room, and that’s because she’s still wandering the lower levels, where she spots Caregiver Choi and Chul-jin. She follows after them as they enter a restricted basement area. Caregiver Choi guides Chul-jin to a stack of boxes in a corner to hide, and she promises to protect him.
Yoo Ryung finds no visitors recorded for Chul-jin, but the name of his weekly physical therapist gives Yoo Ryung pause. It’s Kim Hee-joon.
In the dark basement, Caregiver Choi scans the area nervously from her hiding spot, and then mutters in dismay when she sees Ji-seok’s mom hiding behind boxes nearby. Mom ducks down when a door opens, and a figure dressed in black slowly stalks through the basement. It doesn’t take them long to guess the caregiver’s hiding spot, and soon the figure stands above her and Chul-jin. They slowly remove their face mask and reveal themselves: it’s Kim Hee-joon (who let this guy out of jail?)
Back to Yoo Ryung, she checks with a Metro detective to see if he pulled Hee-joon’s family record. Yoo Ryung has just one question, if Hee-joon had a daughter who died. With the answer in hand, Yoo Ryung seeks out Ma-ri.
She reports that Metro has managed to recover information from the case, the victim was a girl named Kim Sae-rom — and this girl is Hee-joon’s daughter. They realize now that Hee-joon was the one who gave them the lead to Hee-joon, and his name appears as the physical therapist, who visited right before each time that Chul-jin was transferred.
Ma-ri calls Metro Station to get interrogations started with Hee-joon, but it turns out that Hee-joon has escaped, leaving an unconscious detective behind in his cell. Ma-ri now sees that Hee-joon has been establishing his alibi since the beginning, from recruiting the Grasshoppers and pretending to find the suitcase to planting Chul-jin’s prints on the coins and faking the shoulder twitch.
They can’t help but wonder why someone so thorough would leave their real name in the visitor records, and they realize that he planned to reveal the truth of his daughter’s death to the world after killing Chul-jin. They assume that Hee-joon must have taken Chul-jin, but Woo-hyuk arrives with security footage of Caregiver Choi. Ji-seok shows up too and gasps, recognizing his mother’s caregiver. Both Yoo Ryung and Ma-ri find the name familiar, and that’s because they just saw it in Hee-joon’s family record, listed as his mother.
In the basement, Hee-joon smiles at Chul-jin and mocks him with a shoulder twitch. Caregiver Choi stands to block her son’s path, but he pushes her aside and readies his wire.
Upstairs, Ma-ri briefs the team and tells them to look for restricted areas where Caregiver Choi or Hee-joon could hide. Yoo Ryung consoles Ji-seok, telling him that if they focus on finding the caregiver, they will also locate Ji-seok’s mom.
Caregiver Choi begs her son to stop, but he orders her out of the way. He notes that Chul-jin seems scared to die, and mockingly asks if it’s only fun if others die. Cut to a flashback to the day three years ago, when Hee-joon was just a carefree pickpocket. He grabs a wallet and smiles widely when he spots his daughter on the other side of the platform.
But the girl is alone, and Chul-jin, looking dirty and menacing, approaches the platform and knocks the lollipop from Sae-rom’s hands. Just ahead of Sae-rom, Yoo Jin stands as well, and she turns back when the lollipop shatters. It’s not just Yoo Jin here either; all of the other Subway Ghost victims stand nearby, but none of them do anything to protect Sae-rom.
Hee-joon moves forward in alarm, but a pair of handcuffs land on his wrists from behind. It’s Mi-ra, who has caught his latest theft in action. Hee-joon struggles against her, trying to keep his sight on his daughter across the platform. Mi-ra throws Hee-joon to the ground, and all he can do is watch as Chul-jin steps forward, and then his daughter falls backwards onto the tracks. His view of his daughter is replaced by the oncoming train, which barrels ahead without stopping.
Back in the present, Hee-joon asks why his mother is there, and whether Sae-rom’s murderers are working together. Because it seems that he blames his mother as well for his daughter’s death. He says that she was supposed to stay at home and care for Sae-rom, but she kept leaving her alone to work. He says that what he hated most in his own childhood was being left alone, and his daughter died because she was forced to go out on her own.
Hee-joon’s face contorts with sobs as he demands to know why his mother is protecting Chul-jin, and she says it’s because she wants to save Hee-joon. She says that she knows that he’ll take his own life as soon as he’s done punishing everyone else. Caregiver Choi reaches out to her son while Chul-jin makes a break for it, but Hee-joon follows after him and corners him. And all the while, Ji-seok’s mom watches from her own hiding spot, undiscovered.
Ji-seok and Yoo Ryung run into Nurse Park as they check restricted areas of the hospital. They ask her for other areas to check, and she mentions the warehouse in the basement. Nurse Park tries to ask if Chul-jin is somehow related to the Subway Ghost murders, and Yoo Ryung promises they’ll talk later as she heads to the basement with Ji-seok.
In that basement, Hee-joon recites the judge’s decision at Chul-jin’s trial: that he was suffering from a schizophrenic episode and therefore not responsible for his actions. Hee-joon says that he’ll sentence Chul-jin again, and says that for killing his only daughter brutally, he sentences the man to death. Hee-joon picks up a nearby pole, and swings it at Chul-jin’s head. Caregiver Choi tries to hold her son back, but her efforts go unnoticed as Hee-joon uses his metal wire to strangle Chul-jin.
Chul-jin’s body goes limp, and Hee-joon seems nearly as startled as his mother to see what he’s done. Caregiver Choi recovers first and crawls over to the body, taking the wire in her own hands. She says that she’ll confess to all of the murders, and let her son get away. But Hee-joon tells her no, because he still has things left to resolve before he dies.
When Yoo Ryung and Ji-seok make their way to the basement, all that’s left is a puddle of blood. Ji-seok calls for his mother, and finally spots a trembling stack of boxes, where his mother still hides. Ji-seok is distraught and forgets entirely about his mother’s delusions as he tries to hold her and make sure she’s not hurt.
He calls her “Mom” over and over again, and Mom begins to see flashes of him, both as Ji-seok and as his father. But this dissonance confuses her, and she begins to panic. Ji-seok’s tears and shouts only frighten her further, and Yoo Ryung pulls him back and reminds him that she’s not his mother right now.
She addresses his mother as a student, and calmly asks her if she is hurt and whether she saw anyone else in the basement. Mom lies and says no. And at that moment, her eyes light up. “I remember,” she says, looking at Ji-seok. His eyes widen, hopeful, but then Mom calls him, “ajusshi.” His face falls and he drops it into his hands, before reaching out to guide his mother back to her room. Yoo Ryung calls Ma-ri and asks her to set up a police line outside.
It seems that not only did Hee-joon orchestrate his own escape, he also made sure that the other Grasshoppers made it out of jail as well. He also set them up with a van and even Hyung-soo’s meds. And now they drive to the hospital and make it past the checkpoint without issue. In the parking lot, Hee-joon waits for them, wheeling out a large box.
Still in the basement, Yoo Ryung discovers a laptop set up in a dark corner. Underneath the laptop, a slip of paper reads, “I’m the victim.”
The Grasshoppers almost make it through the checkpoint, but at the last minute the cop asks to check the back of the van, and Man-jin recognizes them. The Grasshoppers drive away, so Man-jin grabs a car and follows in pursuit.
Yoo Ryung finds a video queued up on the laptop, and she recognizes the Subway Ghost victims first. And then she gasps, and she realizes Yoo Jin stands on the platform as well.
Back to the car chase, Man-jin calls Soo-ho for backup. Hee-joon sits in the back of the van with his box, giggling. But Hyung-soo begins to experience a dissociative episode as he drives, and soon the van weaves in the traffic as his child persona takes over. “I used to be tough back when I worked Major Crimes,” Man-jin says to himself, a determined look on his face. And then he speeds up and spins his car in front of the oncoming Grasshopper van. He jumps out at the last second, but the Grasshoppers also manage to stop and flee on foot.
This is where Man-jin falters, and he stops to catch his breath as the two surge ahead of them. But they stop in their tracks as Soo-ho arrives, stun gun in hand. Soo-ho gives his “dad” a wink as the two men take the Grasshoppers into custody. They seem elated, until they suss out what reason the Grasshoppers might have for being at the hospital. They return to the van, but Hee-joon and Chul-jin’s body in the box are gone.
Alone in the dark basement, Yoo Ryung watches the video of her sister. She sees Sae-rom move towards the track to escape, and Chul-jin turn to Yoo Jin with his whole body convulsing. He pushes at Yoo Jin, not Sae-rom, and as Yoo Jin falls forward, she falls into the young girl. The collar of Sae-rom’s dress tears off in Yoo Jin’s hands, and Sae-rom falls backwards onto the tracks.
Yoo Ryung clutches the note in her hands, and then turns at a noise: Nurse Park stands behind her. Yoo Ryung rises, and asks Nurse Park to tell her that nothing happened that day, three years ago when Yoo Ryung asked her to watch Yoo Jin while she went to an interview.
Nurse Park can’t tell her that though, as we flashback to Nurse Park asking Yoo Jin to wait for her at the subway benches. Chul-jin prowls in the background, and when she returns to the scene, Yoo Jin is kneeling on the platform from her fall, the train passing by.
In the present, Nurse Park cries as she tells Yoo Ryung she was too afraid to tell her what had happened. Then Ji-seok is there, and Ma-ri and Woo-hyuk too; Ji-seok asks Yoo Ryung what’s wrong. Yoo Ryung can’t find the words at first, and then she tells him that it was Yoo Jin’s fault that Sae-rom fell.
And where has Caregiver Choi gone? She’s fled on foot, her thoughts on the past as well. In one final flashback, we see what happened after Sae-rom’s death. A year later, the day arrives when Hee-joon will be released from jail for his pickpocket charges. Caregiver Choi hides at the platform where Sae-rom died, knowing that her son will go there first. She watches him from behind a vending machine, a small bouquet of flowers set out at the platform for his daughter.
But then a foot lands on those flowers, and Yoo Jin steps off the train by herself and sits down beside him. It’s the day Yoo Ryung abandoned her sister, and some weird twist of fate has brought her to Hee-joon. He spots a subway official passing by, and he uses his master pickpocket skills to grab the man’s keys. Caregiver Choi says nothing as Hee-joon drags Yoo Jin away to a restricted office nearby, and she hesitates at the door, not going in to stop her son.
Inside the office, Hee-joon finds the wire and begins to strangle Yoo Jin as she struggles against the filing cabinet. On the other side of the door, Caregiver Choi spots Yoo Ryung running towards her. Yoo Ryung asks if the caregiver has seen her sister, and Caregiver Choi says no.
Hee-joon sits with Yoo Jin’s body for a moment before he finds the suitcase in the office and loads her inside. He uses the stolen keys to enter the tunnel with it, his mother not far behind him. He drags the suitcase down the tracks, until a gasp from inside stops him. He unzips it and notes that Yoo Jin is still breathing inside. He reaches forward, as if he might strangle her again, but a clanging noise from behind him the tunnel stops him. Instead he grabs her necklace, which he promises to return to her, and flees.
The clanging noise was thanks to Caregiver Choi, who follows behind him. She finds the abandoned suitcase, and Yoo Jin inside.
Back in the present, Hee-joon’s promise that he still has something left to resolve has sent Caregiver Choi fleeing back to her home. A pair of red shoes sits on the threshold, but they’re adult shoes, not those of a child. Caregiver Choi calls out for Sae-rom, passing from room to room. It’s not her dead granddaughter, but Yoo Jin who emerges from another room.
Caregiver Choi embraces her, and tells her that “Grandmother” will take care of her. But Caregiver Choi needs to go get some money first before they run, and she tells Yoo Jin to stay inside and not open the door to anyone.
Moments after Caregiver Choi leaves, Ji-seok and Yoo Ryung arrive at her home. Ji-seok bangs on the door, and his shouts distress Yoo Jin, who holds the door tightly shut. But then Yoo Ryung also calls out, and Yoo Jin recognizes her sister’s voice. Her hand hovers at the lock on the door.
It took a lot of far-fetched stretching to get Hee-joon and the Grasshoppers in place for this final reveal, didn’t it? It reflects pretty poorly on the police, that they let not one, but three suspects escape, and also managed to not notice Caregiver Choi as she fled the hospital. Commissioner Kim might want to consider yelling at someone other than Ma-ri for once to whip this department into shape.
But I’ve forgiven all of that. Not only do we at last have Hee-joon revealed as the Subway Ghost, but the situation that led to the creation of the Ghost is more complex than I anticipated for this story. Hee-joon isn’t a psychopath or someone with a mental illness, as all the misleads have tried to point us to earlier. He’s someone in pain, someone with a lot of anger. Someone a lot like Yoo Ryung.
A few episodes ago, I discussed the idea that Yoo Ryung’s behavior was like a vigilante, and in Hee-joon, we see true vigilante justice, grief taken to its extreme conclusion. Kim Hee-joon is the dark side of what Yoo Ryung could have become. They’re both ghosts, in name and in the way that they haunt the subway with little left in them except their grief. They both have felt helpless while a family member was hurt, saw bystanders offer no help and the police focus more on their assigned role than caring for the victims and those they leave behind. It’s the perfect choice, to make our hero and our villain two faces of the same coin.
I don’t condone Hee-joon’s actions; I’m not an eye for an eye kind of gal. He’s a smarmy jerk and a pickpocket. But he didn’t deserve to see his daughter killed. His frustration with the justice system is understandable, though misguided. I felt his pain as he was held against the ground, unable to do anything but watch. I can understand how he might be bitter, stuck in jail for a petty crime while also mourning his daughter.
I feel all the same feelings for Yoo Ryung as well. I understand how her past has driven her to take actions that are reckless and put others in danger. I understand her frustration with the police, even as I understand why the bureaucracy is in place.
In the end the only real difference may be in what these two people believe to be real justice, and how they approached serving that justice. The show has taken time in each crime-of-the-week to shine a little light on the grey areas. Subway Police can forgive a guy selling bootleg cds when they know he has to support his family. Bread Dad may be frustrated with his autistic son at times, but he never actually gave up on him. So often, the criminals were driven to act because of some way that capitalism screwed them over (and that includes even Ji-seok). In this show there’s a spectrum of grey, where anyone may have chosen a dark path.
Yoo Ryung has done her share of endangering others in her single-minded efforts to find her sister. But she’s also spent this entire show sympathizing with those she’s helped and taking time to care for them even as she wants to focus on the Ghost case. Hee-joon, on the other hand, chose a selfish path that considered only his own anguish. And thus, we arrive at our villain. I won’t be surprised if Yoo Ryung has to consider whether she can sympathize with him too once they catch him. As she held his note in her hand, I felt like she could certainly see him as a victim too.
Why do we have to hurt Ji-seok so much? Is it just because Kim Sun-ho is such a great crier? Seeing the truth of the Subway Ghost’s past hurt me, but Ji-seok still harboring hope that his mother might realize who he really is, only to have it dashed with a chipper “ajusshi…” That tried to break me. I don’t expect a miracle cure for his mother’s condition, but I wouldn’t mind it if they found a middle ground, where she may not recognize him as her son but can still include him in her life as Ji-seok, and not as his father.
And speaking of mothers… That is quite some mother’s love Caregiver Choi demonstrated. Grief took hold of Caregiver Choi as well when Sae-rom died, and she made a series of bad decisions, becoming a bystander who doesn’t help even when it means someone’s life is at stake (sounds familiar, right?) I couldn’t believe that she sent Yoo Ryung away while standing guard at the door where Hee-joon was trying to kill Yoo Jin. And now that she’s covered for her son until the very end, she may find that he’s willing to exact his justice on her as everything draws to a close.
Now we just need Yoo Jin to open that door. But while she’s probably happy to hear her sister’s voice, I’m worried that she might fear that her sister is still upset with her. It’s okay Yoo Jin, open the door!
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