Memorist: Episode 9
One step forward and ten steps back… how do you catch a killer when nobody can remember who they are, what they look like, or where they’ve been? When there are no clues other than someone’s feelings, our detective’s ability to read memories isn’t doing him any good. Thank goodness he has a great profiler helping him, because right now, every trail seems to lead to a dead end.
EPISODE 9: “The Pupil Under One’s Foot”
Twenty-nine years ago.
Jae-gyu sits in his cell in a mental asylum, trying to block out the voices jabbering in his head. Someone on the other side of the wall pushes out a brick into Jae-gyu’s cell, and reaches through to grab his hand. There are four deep, jagged gashes on the back of the person’s hand, and Jae-gyu manages to pull away, but not until after he’s already been touched.
Twenty years ago.
Jae-gyu wakes up from a nightmare to find himself sitting in his living room with little Sang-ah coloring at the table. Sang-ah’s mother makes her say goodnight to Jae-gyu before sending her to bed, then she chastises Jae-gyu to be nicer to the little girl. Jae-gyu seems genuinely sorry, and Sang-ah’s mom bites back more reprisals to kneel and promise to help him get well.
Dong Baek is reading all of this from Jae-gyu’s memories while Jae-gyu lies unconscious in a hospital bed. Dong Baek weakens and slumps over, and he tells Chief Gu that he’s not getting anything useful but that he’s sure Jae-gyu isn’t the murderer (or the “Eraser,” as Jae-gyu calls him). The murderer has the ability to erase memories from people’s minds, and Jae-gyu’s memories of him have all been removed. One thing he’s sure of is that the Eraser chose Jae-gyu for a reason, which means he’s probably close by.
Jae-gyu wakes, and this first thing he asks about is Sang-ah. Dong Baek reads his memories as he sinks back into unconsciousness, and this time Dong Baek sees Jae-gyu lying in bed as Sang-ah’s mother heads out to work. She reminds him to eat and take his medicine, but when Jae-gyu limps out to the dining room, the family dog is eating his porridge.
He picks up an engagement ring he had made at a jewelry shop after discussing his plan to make Sang-ah and her mother the heirs to his significant fortune when he dies (which he believes will be soon, as he’s very ill). On impulse, Jae-gyu also buys a necklace, which he plans to give to Sang-ah as a token from her new father.
But when he gets home, Sang-ah is crying her eyes out because the dog is sick. The vet says that the dog ingested rat poison and may not survive, but seeing how distraught Sang-ah is, Jae-gyu decides to take the dog to a veterinary hospital to try to save the animal.
That night, he starts to have some misgivings when Sang-ah’s mother refuses to eat with him yet again. In the morning, he doesn’t eat any of the food she prepared for him, and instead takes it to his caretaker to feed to his chickens.
The next day he goes back with another bag of discarded food, and he’s horrified to see several of the caretaker’s chickens lying dead in their coop. But worse than that is the person he can see lurking behind the chicken coop, holding a claw hammer in a hand that carries four bad scars.
In the morning when Jae-gyu wakes, he finds Sun-mi by his bed, still skeptical that he’s not the Eraser. She turns on a video camera to question him, then says she wants to hear about the real culprit from him. Jae-gyu is finally willing to tell everything he knows, and he starts where the memories that Dong Baek saw left off.
One night while Sang-ah’s mother was sleeping, Jae-gyu had installed a bug in her pager. The next day he’d followed her to work, and she’d left in the middle of the day saying that she was going home. Instead she met with her lover at a seedy hotel, and Jae-gyu had listened with growing horror to their plans.
Her lover also happened to be Sang-ah’s father, and Sang-ah’s mother had loan sharks chasing her due to huge gambling debts. They had purposely chosen Jae-gyu for her to seduce, then poison and inherit his money. Sang-ah’s mother had also talked about killing her own daughter, and that was what sent Jae-gyu into a true panic.
The dog had unfortunately died, so he’d collected its body and taken it to the woods, where he’d built an alter to a pagan god. He’d performed the bloody ritual that Sang-ah witnessed, but what she hadn’t known was that Jae-gyu’s ritual was borne from his desperate hope to save her life.
Sun-mi asks Jae-gyu who his true self is, a murderer or a stepfather. He says there’s no such thing as a true self, that a person’s actions define who they are. He asks Sun-mi what she would do if she had her father’s murderer in front of her.
In addition to the information about the Eraser’s scarred hand, Dong Baek tells Chief Gu and Se-hoon that the Eraser told Jae-gyu to “take revenge under the moon on the last day of the month.” They head to the location of the old caretaker’s house, which is now an apartment building, and on the way they learn that the caretaker’s home was never registered as a residence. Hmm, strange.
They find the man who was the sheriff at the time, and he recalls the caretaker’s name, Choi Kyung-man. He says that Kyung-man left twenty years ago, taking his son with him.
Sun-mi asks Jae-gyu questions about the Eraser, but Jae-gyu says he can’t tell her anything because the Eraser always erased his memory after the two were together. She still thinks that Jae-gyu is the Eraser because he was able to control what Dong Baek saw when he scanned him, but Jae-gyu says he has no such ability.
Sun-mi growls that it was only the three of them there that night, but Jae-gyu counters that what makes the Eraser so scary is that he has no idea when he’s been there, because all memories of him are gone. He doesn’t even know if the Eraser has to make physical contact like Dong Baek does.
He tells Sun-mi in a haunted voice that twenty years ago, he was the Executioner. He admits that he killed all those people back then, but he asserts that the recent murders weren’t his doing. Sun-mi asks about her father, but his was the last murder and the only one whose statute of limitations hasn’t run out, so he doesn’t say if it was him. Instead he offers a trade — the full truth, if Sun-mi helps Sang-ah and her family move abroad.
Dong Baek and the others find the old caretaker and his son, Tae-gu, are living now. Tae-gu’s father explains that he’s been mentally ill ever since his army days, when a senior officer regularly beat him up. Tae-gu has painted four parallel lines all over the property, just like the scars on the Eraser’s hand, and Kyung-man says they represent the sergeant’s bars of the man who abused him.
Se-hoon notices that Tae-gu also carved four lines into the back of his hand. Dong Baek doesn’t mention it, as Kyung-man continues that Jae-gyu helped them a lot, giving him a job and a place to stay and even paying Tae-gu’s hospital bills, but that Jae-gyu disappeared one day.
Jae-gyu suggests to Sun-mi that Dong Baek might be the Eraser. She says it’s not possible because they were together when Reporter Jo was killed, but she doesn’t look so sure when Jae-gyu asks if she’s confident her memories haven’t been altered. He says that he can’t even be sure that she’s not the Eraser, because with the ability to erase memories, it could literally be anyone.
While they’re talking, Deputy Chief Lee enters the surveillance room where the team is watching the live feed and dismissed everyone, admonishing them not to tell Sun-mi he was here. He watches closely as Jae-gyu warns Sun-mi that to fight the Eraser, she has to be suspicious even of her own memories.
Twenty years ago.
Jae-gyu wakes up in a dark room, gasping and coughing. There’s a person sitting in a chair, their head covered and bound hand and foot. The person struggles violently while Jae-gyu wonders where he is and how he got there.
When Jae-gyu tries to untie the person, they panic and attempt to run. They burst through the door, and on the other side is a scene out of a horror movie. People are screaming and fighting each other, and back in the present, Jae-gyu tells Sun-mi that they weren’t fighting out of rage, but sheer terror. He says the Eraser had taken all their memories and left nothing but fear behind.
Kyung-man asks Dong Baek to heal his son, and Dong Baek stops Se-hoon from saying that he can’t do that. He takes the opportunity to read Tae-gu’s memories, but he finds nothing that might lead them to the Eraser.
Dong Baek decides to start Plan B, which is to find out more about the first time the Eraser showed up in Jae-gyu’s memories — the day he saw the mob battle. But Se-hoon points out that there’s no record of such an event.
Sun-mi calls Dong Baek and tells him that he can’t trust Jae-gyu, still thinking that he’s the Eraser and is just playing games with them. Dong Baek growls that he remembers very well how Jae-gyu manipulated him while he was reading his memories, and he complains that Sun-mi is sometimes more annoying than Jae-gyu, ha.
Sun-mi continues to question Jae-gyu, who says that once he woke up from a nightmare to find Polaroid pictures on his nightstand, all of himself sleeping. He’d decided to kill the Eraser, so he’d installed cameras in his house.
But when he’d woken in the morning, the other side of the bed had been soaked with blood, and he’d found a human leg bone under his pillow. In the living room, there had been dates written in blood all over the floor — the dates on which he’d dispensed “justice” on behalf of the Eraser.
On the wall was written Do not defy me, and Jae-gyu says that’s when he knew it wasn’t the first time he’d tried to kill the Eraser. He claims that every time he would attempt it, the Eraser would win and erase his memories. Sun-mi asks how he knows, and he says that even when the memories are gone, the emotions linger.
He says that foremost was his fear that the Eraser would harm Sang-ah, which is why he left the country for twenty years. But three months ago he’d received a letter with pictures of Sang-ah and her family sleeping, and a message saying simply Come back. So he had, but he’d been unable to warn Sang-ah’s husband because he didn’t know if the Eraser would find him and read his memories.
On the day Jae-gyu had encountered the undercover cop in the parking garage, the Eraser had been there, which is how her memories had been wiped. Jae-gyu had called In-tae, Sang-ah’s husband, and had told him to take his family and escape. Jae-gyu had given In-tae instructions to follow, but instead In-tae had decided to kill the person who was threatening his family. He’d disappeared later that day.
Sun-mi’s team is already in the records room when Dong Baek and his guys show up to look into the violent incident Jae-gyu described. Bong-kook (who is hilariously salty about Dong Baek’s presence) finds a record regarding an asphyxiation incident caused by carbon monoxide poisoning in which all of the deceased were twenty years old. But what catches Dong Baek’s eye is that there was one survivor — Sang-ah.
They rush to ask Sang-ah about the incident, and she agrees if it will help find In-tae. He finds nothing, but he says that Sang-ah’s memories weren’t erased… she was carried unconscious to the site of the incident. Sang-ah does remember being hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning, but she recalls nothing of the people who died.
In private, Sun-mi asks Dong Baek what exactly he’s looking for. He says that Jae-gyu’s alibis check out, but as he’s complaining that she doesn’t trust his ability, Sun-mi’s attention is drawn by a picture on the wall. Little Hyun-soo had drawn two men and a woman standing on some kind of grid, and under one man’s feet is a black face with red eyes.
It reminds Sun-mi and Dong Baek of that night at Jae-gyu’s house, and Hyun-soo tells them that it’s a drawing of the “underground monster.” Dong Baek reads the boy’s memories and sees that when he and Sun-mi were confronting Jae-gyu, a hand had reached up through the grate he was standing on to touch his foot.
Aside from being terrifying, this confirms that the Eraser needs to make physical contact in order to alter someone’s memories. Dong Baek and Sun-mi hurry to Jae-gyu’s home and pull up the grate, which leads into the underground passage. They follow the passage to the dressing room under Jae-gyu’s greenhouse.
Dong Baek enters the dressing room, but Sun-mi hears a strange noise and follows it to another room off the passage. In the corner is a huddled figure, so Sun-mi draws her gun and orders the person to put their hands over their head. The person stands, and they’re wearing a black hood and mask.
The person steps towards Sun-mi, and she fires.
Dong Baek visits Kyung-man and Tae-gu again, alone this time. He gives Kyung-man a bag and says that it’s for people whose memory he’s read. It’s full of cash, and Dong Baek swears that it’s from a research foundation, not him, nope, not him at all. He hurries away before Kyung-man can return the money.
So, Jae-gyu isn’t innocent — he did commit the Eraser’s murders twenty years ago — but he’s not the Eraser. Plus, he’s always been mentally ill, so it’s no wonder he’s been acting so strange with Dong Baek and Sun-mi. This is all probably very triggering and terrifying for him, especially since he wants so badly to save Sang-ah and HS, who are the only family he has in the world. It was both sweet and sad to see Jae-gyu so heartbroken at the betrayal of Sang-ah’s mother, someone he cared for so much. Of course, that bloody ritual was disturbing, and Jae-gyu definitely killed Sang-ah’s mother and biological father, but I can kind of see how, in the mind of someone with severe mental illness, he thought he was doing the right thing to save the life of a little girl.
I flip-flop back and forth between suspecting Deputy Chief Lee as the Eraser, and thinking that maybe he’s just an accomplice. He’s definitely up to something — it’s strange how he helps and urges Sun-mi to find the culprit, but then sometimes he purposely hinders her investigation. The way he watched Sun-mi interrogate Jae-gyu but told everyone not to mention that he was there was really suspicious… but then he might have been doing something completely innocent like evaluating her for a promotion. He’s difficult to read and impossible to predict (and my hat’s off to Jo Sung-ha for his portrayal of the enigmatic detective), and I’m very curious as to how he fits into all this.
I’m actually starting to seriously consider that the Eraser might be a woman. For one thing, this show loves its twists and misdirections, and it would be a helluva twist if the Eraser turns out to be a woman hiding in plain site, when everyone is looking for a man. Plus, every time we’ve seen the Eraser, even though they are completely covered, I’ve noticed that they have a slight build. I’ve seen that the Eraser has slim ankles and narrow shoulders, and I just can’t help but think that he might be a she. The only evidence otherwise is the hand with the scar that we saw in Jae-gyu’s memory, which looked very male. But Jae-gyu is not exactly a reliable witness, especially since the Eraser has taken care to remove every memory of them that he’s ever had.
I want to know more — a lot more — about Dong Baek himself. We still know very little about him personally, and why he’s been told that his mother’s death was all his fault. It seems too easy to assume that Dong Baek’s ability drew the Eraser to him, and even if that were true (didn’t he say that his abilities didn’t manifest until his teens?), why would that prompt the Eraser to kill his mother and erase his entire memory? Unless Dong Baek’s mother was responsible for the unfair death of someone else, her murder would be completely out of character for the Eraser. I just don’t think it can be that simple, though. And I don’t understand why people keep suggesting that he might be the Eraser, because he was only a child at the time of the first murders and it was before his own powers even emerged.
And one last thing — it occurs to me that, if the Eraser was using Jae-gyu to commit their “justice” murders twenty years ago, then won’t they be doing the same thing now? Jae-gyu says that he’s not committing the recent murders, but there’s no reason why the Eraser would change their method and suddenly start doing the murders themselves. I think that, if they used a proxy then, then they’re almost certainly using a proxy now (and my suspicions are on Sang-ah’s husband, because a) why would the Eraser stray far from the family they’re already stalking, and b) Sang-ah’s husband has mysteriously disappeared). So Dong Baek and Sun-mi don’t just have to find the Eraser, but the person who’s being forced to enact the murders, and save them from this nightmare.
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