Team Bulldog: Operation Off-duty Investigation: Episode 1
Stylish and vibrant, Team Bulldog: Off-duty Investigation fulfills its promise of a ragtag group of investigators working to take down criminals that would otherwise evade justice. But with their personalities constantly clashing with each other, there are quite a few kinks stopping them from unlocking their full potential together just yet.
Note: This is a first episode recap only.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
A news broadcast outlines the abduction of several rich women and their expensive cars in Seoul. That same night, PD KANG MOO-YOUNG (Lee Sun-bin) tentatively walks to her own car, and dashes for the door when she senses someone watching her. She’s too slow, however, and a man snatches her up and drags her away.
Later that night, Moo-young awakens surrounded by a group of gangsters. The gangster boss (cameo by Kim Kwang-kyu) laments that Moo-young is much less affluent than their usual victims, meaning they can’t traffic her or her organs. He decides they need to dispose of her instead due to her role in the media.
As they throw Moo-young into a makeshift grave to bury her alive, she starts neighing like a horse, as if to signal for help. Nearby, her colleague, TAK WON (Ji Seung-hyun) records the events on camera, and dials the police for help. Unfortunately for him, he is spotted by another gangster and brought over to the grave himself.
Won secretly hides his phone up his sleeve and tries to get the gangsters to reveal their plot to murder the reporters, but they quickly spot the ruse and disconnect the call.
Won decides to turn to plan B, and produces a taser out of his pocket while charging the gangsters. The boss pulls one of his lackeys into the path to eat the full force of the taser, and Won is quickly subdued and thrown into the pit with Moo-young.
As the gangsters begin the burial, another man strolls toward them, revealing himself to be Detective JIN KANG-HO (Cha Tae-hyun). Boss just seems annoyed at all the intrusions, and tells his men to bury Kang-ho too since they severely outnumber the detective.
Kang-ho charges in and single-handedly dismantles an array of baddies trying to fight him one-on-one. As the fight continues on the ground, someone bursts through a brick wall above and falls to the ground below, and the burly frame of TEDDY JUNG (Yoon Kyung-ho) emerges from behind the wall to survey the damage.
Kang-ho shouts at Teddy for his team always showing up late, and Teddy just casually goes back to manhandling the thugs with absolute ease, rag-dolling them around with impressive power.
Teddy calls in two of his own lackeys, BARE HANDS (Park Tae-san), and TOOLS (Jang Jin-hee), who both join in on the assault on the baddies, easily taking out several men on their own.
Meanwhile, Kang-ho clears out all the gangsters on the lower level and tracks down the boss, who tries to haggle his way out of being arrested. Instead Kang-ho judo throws the boss to the ground right on top of a large rock that throws the old man’s back out.
The next morning, Kang-ho heads back to the precinct where the rest of the force are interviewing all the gangsters. Kang-ho’s boss berates him for dumping all his petty cases on his colleagues so Kang-ho can take on big cases by himself to try to earn praise for himself.
Afterwards, Kang-ho interviews Moo-young and Won about why they were risking their lives to go after the gang. Moo-young bemoans that she was trying to get footage for her show Fact Check, but now Kang-ho is going to sweep in and take all the credit after she did all the work.
Won thinks back to the setup for Moo-young’s abduction and realizes that he saw Kang-ho’s car in their parking lot, and they complain that Kang-ho sat by and watched as she was getting kidnapped.
Moo-young proposes a deal: she’ll let Kang-ho take the credit for everything as long as he waits to announce the arrests until after Fact Check airs. When Kang-ho is reluctant to accept, Moo-young threatens to expose that he put an innocent woman at risk in order to make the arrest, and he finally relents.
At home, Moo-young receives a call from her mother, who angrily shouts at her for not answering her phone all night. Her mother scolds her for always putting her work above everything else, including the time Moo-young reported her brother’s company for selling sub-standard products.
Later, Moo-young and her production team work on the latest episode of Fact Check when her director storms in and turns on a news broadcast. On screen is Kang-ho and his team announcing the arrests of the gangsters despite the deal with Moo-young.
The director scolds Moo-young for losing her exclusive, and announces that Fact Check will be canceled in a month. Moo-young negotiates that if she can get the ratings up to 4.5% by that time then the show can stay, but it’s a tall order.
Later, Kang-ho visits his mother’s home, and she mentions that the anniversary of the death of Kang-ho’s father (a portrait cameo by Ma Dong-seok) is coming up. He coldly claims he won’t be able to come that day, much to his mother’s chagrin.
Kang-ho gets a call from his younger colleague, Detective Min, who tells Kang-ho that the DNA sample from the gangster boss is ready to be planted as evidence, as Kang-ho suggested, but he admonishes the young detective since the boss was caught red-handed, so they don’t need to plant evidence.
Later, Kang-ho heads to Teddy’s bar, where Bare Hands and Tools are his bar staff. As payment for helping with the gangster case, Kang-ho hands over a wad of cash, plus he officially revokes a suspension on the bar’s license so Teddy can reopen it.
Flashback to 2007, a young man is attacked in a park by a masked assailant. The man tries to run but is quickly subdued and the assailant cuts him over and over again with a small ax, then casually strolls away and leaves the man for dead.
Present day, in the same spot, a man is ambushed from behind by a masked attacker, who this time stabs his victim to death. Once finished, the attacker goes to the mans face and starts carving the face up as well before casually sauntering away much like the 2007 murder.
The next morning, Kang-ho arrives on the scene to survey the evidence, and sees that the victim’s mouth was cut similar to how The Joker would cut a smile on his victims in the Batman universe.
Meanwhile, Won tidies up a case at his private detective agency, only for Moo-young to show up and ask for help investigating a new case for the show. Moo-young focuses on the 2007 murder case and outlines her strategy to hit her ratings goal is to catch the criminals the police failed to catch.
Won reveals that he actually profiled the killer for this case previously, and fills Moo-young in on his deductions: the murderer cut the victim over 40 times with the ax, suggesting anger management issues. The ax was covered in fingerprints, but they did not match any fingerprints in the database.
Additionally, the murdered severed the hands off the victim and displayed them next to the body, which suggests he knew the victim personally. However, Won suggests that it doesn’t necessarily mean they were close with the victim, rather that they could simply be aware of each others’ existence.
Elsewhere, Kang-ho digs in to the current case, and finds a suspicious phone number in the victim’s call records, that he called over 100 times on the day of the murder. What’s also strange is the murder weapon is covered in fingerprints, but again they do not match any in the database.
Moo-young visits the 2007 victim’s mother, and finds out that he was always glued to his computer. She searches the computer and finds a list of his online friends, and deduces that they fit the profile of someone who doesn’t necessarily know the victim but is aware of him.
She searches online for news articles about the killing and notices a poster named Bumblebee who excessively commented on the story, and surmises that this is a lead worth chasing.
Meanwhile, Kang-ho interviews the present victim’s colleagues and students which leads nowhere, but Detective Min sends over the details of the person that was called 100 times. The image matches the picture Moo-young finds of Bumblebee on an online forum.
That night, Kang-ho tracks down Bumblebee’s workplace, an underground surgical operation run by gangsters. He barges in to confront Bumblebee, but a barrage of thugs emerge to protect the surgeon’s operation.
Kang-ho stalls long enough for Teddy and his crew to join him, and a full scale fight breaks out as Kang-ho tries to track down Bumblebee. The surgeon flees the scene, but runs right into Moo-young who is just arriving. Bumblebee shoves her inside and she gets caught in the commotion of the fight.
Kang-ho chases past, and Moo-young escapes the fight as well as both pursue the fleeing surgeon through winding back alleys. Eventually, Moo-young crashes into Bumblebee on a bike, taking him down, and Kang-ho follows up to subdue him for questioning.
They take Bumblebee to a nearby rooftop to interrogate him, but when they start asking questions about two separate cases they each get curious about what case the other is investigating. They bicker back and forth so much that Bumblebee complains that he never gets a chance to answer their questions. Ha.
Eventually, they settle on taking turns asking questions, and Bumblebee reveals that he witnessed the original murder in 2007, but didn’t get a good look at the killer.
As for the current victim, Bumblebee claims that the victim sold his students into the surgical practice as a broker, and the reason Bumblebee refused to answer his calls on the date of the murder was because he wanted to avoid getting caught with his illegal practice.
Back at the station, Kang-ho looks into the case Moo-young was asking about, and notices the striking similarity to the current case. Meanwhile, Moo-young laments getting involved with Kang-ho again, but she and Won resolve to persevere and dig further into the connection between the two cases.
Moo-young and Won visit mortician LEE BAN-SEOK (Jung Sang-hoon) to get his notes on the original case. They barter for Ban-seok’s help in investigating the tie to the new case and he agrees to assist them.
Ban-seok arranges for Moo-young and Won to interview the mortician who conducted the autopsy on the current victim, and as they talk, Ban-seok sneaks out to the mortuary to take pictures of the victim’s corpse.
The three of them regroup later to compare notes and realize that both cases are extremely similar, and were likely committed by the same killer.
At the same time, Kang-ho analyzes the fingerprints on both weapons and finds that they match each other, essentially confirming the suspicion that they were both killed by the same person.
Kang-ho runs into Moo-young and Won in the parking lot, and he thanks them for tipping him off on the cases being related. He warns them that they should hurry up and solve the case if they don’t want him to beat them to the punch again.
Won realizes that Kang-ho must have found definitive evidence linking the two crimes, and notes that Kang-ho was actually tipping them off that their suspicion is correct.
Kang-ho returns to the station to get more information out of Bumblebee. After threatening to lock him up for the rest of his life, Kang-ho gets Bumblebee to reveal that he ran into the victim at a club, and that the victim got into a fight with a VIP client the day before the murder.
Kang-ho heads to the club and bullies the manager into handing over the VIP list from that night by planting expired food and trashing the place to trump up a reason to suspend the business license.
At the same time, Moo-young tracks down another member of the online group the first victim associated with. The reclusive hacker reveals a darkweb site run by a group member called Dr. Caligari, which shows videos of various violent crimes, including a graphic video of the original murder in 2007.
Kang-ho finds the name of the man who booked the VIP room that day, Director Kim, who runs a pharmaceutical company. Just then, Detective Min sends CCTV footage near the murder scene, and the club manager confirms that the man in the footage is Director Kim.
At the same time, Moo-young gets the hacker to track the IP of Dr. Caligari, and she too learns the man’s identity is the same Director Kim. She and Kang-ho both smile to themselves after securing their prime suspect.
Well this turned out to be a lot more fun than I was expecting it to be. Too often these detective shows take themselves incredibly seriously and run almost solely off the tension of the criminal activity and the drive to bring justice. So it’s nice to see a show that is taking a more light-hearted and entertaining approach to ease the tension. Sure, we still have baddies doing terrible things like dismembering their victims, or trafficking women and selling their expensive cars off, but it’s undercut by the team members, who at least for now are split into two separate teams, getting up to all kinds of zany hi-jinks that you wouldn’t normally expect.
Even when Moo-young and Kang-ho come together, they can’t stop bickering back and forth with each other. They have already established a great odd couple dynamic even though they aren’t officially working together yet, both sort of stumbling over each other while they try to investigate in their own way, but also pointing each other in the right direction in what is basically an informal competition between themselves to catch the killer first. It’s an amusing relationship which is only likely to get more catty as they start interacting more.
It will be interesting to see how they do end up formally partnering, as Kang-ho is very clearly established as a lone wolf type of detective, and even hires his own muscle to help him rather than rely on his colleagues for help. He seems like the type who would have a hard time accepting help with investigating cases, although he certainly knows that Moo-young is relatively competent investigating on her own given that they manage to keep breaking cases at an almost identical pace. Similarly, Moo-young seems unlikely to partner with an actual cop given her goal is to go after criminals that the police fail to catch, and that she’s already been burned once by bargaining with Kang-ho. I’m curious how their relationship will evolve to the point where they can partner up.
Meanwhile, everyone else on the team has their own weird quirks that will surely add to the wackiness going forward. Won is caught up in his multi-level marketing scheme and hilariously tries to shill those products while also solving crimes. Ban-seok’s personality is super weird, almost creepy, I’d say, in his exuberance for being a mortician. I imagine morticians would generally develop a strange sense of humor about death given the nature of their job, but there’s almost something unsettling about him hiding in a mortuary and laughing to himself about it. It’s just weird. And then there’s the bar crew, with Teddy at the helm who could pretty much pass as a caricature of a gangster boss in his own right. This is a great setup for more chicanery going forward, and I’m looking forward to see what they’ll get themselves into.