Alice: Episode 13
Our stoic detective and his reluctant sidekick are stuck in a time where they don’t belong, learning truths they don’t want to know. The past is revealed and endangers the future, and answers only lead to more questions. The action picks up as we careen towards an ending that’s sure to leave us traumatized, but will it all make sense when it’s all over?
EPISODE 13 RECAP
There is nowhere better than here. — Cherie Carter-Scott
It’s 2010, one day before Tae-yi/Sun-young’s murder (we’ll call her Sun-young for clarity, since it’s the name she now goes by). She is surprised to find teenage Jin-gyum home before her, and he says that he already talked to her in the living room, which seems to confuse her. She finds her bedroom door locked… 2020 Tae-yi is in there, having been brought to the past by an explosion, and she’s been shocked to find photos of herself as a child with an adult who looks exactly like her.
Getting the key, Sun-young finds Tae-yi in her room, and she seems dismayed to see this younger version of herself. Tae-yi says warily that she was here as a child and asks why Sun-young pretended to be her mother then took her to the orphanage.
We flash back to 1992 — Sun-young brings Tae-yi to live with her after her father is killed, since she’s decided to stay in that time in order to have her baby. Tae-yi soon begins to show signs of being a genius, and Sun-young tells her she’s smart like her mother (wait, so did Sun-young know who Tae-yi’s — or her own — mother was?). But as she’s flipping through Tae-yi’s workbook, Sun-young finds a drawing that makes her blood run cold.
It’s an exact copy of a page from the Book of Prophecy (which Sun-young still has), the one where Alice opens the door of time. Even more frightening is another drawing that’s not in the book. Sun-young asks Tae-yi where she saw it, so Tae-yi shows her the last page of the Book of Prophecy, which her father had given to her to protect.
The final page depicts Alice being eaten by a monster. Underneath is this sentence: She opened the forbidden door of time and saw a world that was not meant to be seen. Her punishment has now been sentenced. Terrified, Sun-young asks Tae-yi if she read the whole book, and Tae-yi says that she did, but didn’t understand it.
Soon after, Sun-young takes Tae-yi to Hope Orphanage. She tells Tae-yi tearfully that they can’t live together anymore because it’s too dangerous. Tae-yi begs Sun-young not to go, and Sun-young cries as hard as the little girl as she apologizes.
In 2010, Tae-yi tells Sun-young that she’s tried to forgive her because she figured she had a reason for abandoning her. She asks if it was because of the Book of Prophecy that Sun-young pretended to be her mom then left her, but Sun-young says she had no choice. She tells Tae-yi that she burned the missing page, which infuriates Tae-yi, but Sun-young says that it’s what her father would have wanted.
Teen Jin-gyum knocks on the bedroom door to ask who his mother is speaking to. She says she’s on the phone, then asks Tae-yi not to reveal anything to him. She heads to the kitchen, acting like nothing is up, but Jin-gyum looks suspicious and hovers near the door. Just as he opens it, he falls to the floor, blood pouring from his nose.
Meanwhile, adult Jin-gyum also wakes up in 2010, lying in the middle of the road. He’s nearly run over, and he asks the driver what year it is. When he hears he’s in 2010, he starts to run home, but he collapses with a bloody nose.
Sun-young puts teen Jin-gyum to bed and sees the radiation rash on his arms. Tae-yi says he needs a hospital, but Sun-young counters that the hospital can’t help. She somehow knows that adult Jin-gyum is here too, and she says that they have to find him or both Jin-gyums will be in danger.
She gets a call just then from the hospital, saying that Jin-gyum is there. She tells Tae-yi to convince Jin-gyum to return to his own time, and not to worry about her death. Tae-yi is alarmed that Sun-young already knows what will happen, and she guesses that she saw it on the last page of the Book of Prophecy.
Sun-young says that Jin-gyum can’t stop her death. Tae-yi tells her that Jin-gyum became a detective to catch her killer, so he won’t give up. But Sun-young just says that that’s why he needs to stay away from her, or she’ll grow weak.
When Tae-yi arrives at the hospital, she learns that Jin-gyum woke up and ran off. He’s made it all the way home on foot, and he lets himself in and sees his young counterpart asleep in bed. Sun-young calls his name, and he rushes to hug her, but she pulls him off and tells him he can’t be there.
She takes him outside and says that his presence in this time is endangering people, but he argues that there are things he needs to do. Sun-young asks if he’s talking about catching her killer, and she tells Jin-gyum that saving her won’t change anything.
Jin-gyum says pleadingly that it’s all he thinks about, and asks if he can stay until tomorrow — her birthday, and the day she’s killed. Sun-young repeats that it’s too dangerous, and that he needs to return and never come back.
Inside, teen Jin-gyum wakes up and answers his mother’s ringing phone. It’s Tae-yi calling from the hospital, and she can tell it’s not her Jin-gyum on the line. She asks if he’s okay, pretending to be Sun-young, and she asks if anyone strange has come to the house. Jin-gyum tells her not to worry, that the police think Sung-eun killed herself (the girl who fell from the school roof).
Tae-yi doesn’t know the name Sung-eun, so teen Jin-gyum looks suspicious and asks who she is. Then he says he already knows: “I thought you just looked like her, but you sound exactly like her, too. We met earlier, didn’t we?” Tae-yi hangs up, suddenly afraid (and I don’t blame her, something is wrong with that kid).
Sun-young returns and examines teen Jin-gyum’s arms, and his radiation rash is gone. She checks her phone, which has received a funeral notice, and teen Jin-gyum asks if it’s bad news with an ominous smirk.
Tae-yi catches up with adult Jin-gyum outside the house, and he’s surprised to see her in this time, too. He confirms that he’s seen his mother, but that he’s confused because she’s avoiding him. Tae-yi asked if Jin-gyum ever passed out with a bloody nose when he was in school, or if his alexithymia ever caused trouble, but Jin-gyum says no.
She says that she just talked to his younger self on the phone, and that even considering the age difference, he didn’t sound like Jin-gyum at all. She’s afraid that their presence has changed something, or that they’re in a strange dimension. But with his usual laser focus, Jin-gyum says that he only wants to catch Oh-won before his mother is killed.
They go to a coffee shop, where Tae-yi poses the theory that they’re in a different past than the one Jin-gyum remembers. She wonders if his mother even knows the Oh-won here, so Jin-gyum tells her that there are two of Oh-won here, too (how does he know that?), and that the time-traveling Oh-won was there when his mother was killed. He’s not sure Oh-won is her killer, but he needs to catch him.
At home, teen Jin-gyum hears a voice whispering his name. He hears other voices laughing, then a loud ringing sound, and when the sounds fade, he says, “I understand…” and leaves the house. What is up with this kid??
He goes to the school roof, where a teenage Do-yeon is leaving flowers at a makeshift memorial for Sung-eun, the girl who died. Do-yeon says that she would have helped Sung-eun if she’d known what she was going through, and she asks Jin-gyum if Sung-eun told him her problems before she jumped.
Jin-gyum says cryptically, “She asked me to save her,” and he turns that creepy gaze on Do-yeon as he remembers tossing Sung-eun over the edge. He advances on Do-yeon and asks if she’s going to beg him to save her, too. He turns and walks away, not seeing Tae-yi, who’s watching them from the stairwell.
She stops Do-yeon later as she’s walking home, posing as Jin-gyum’s aunt, to ask if she’s noticed anything strange about Jin-gyum lately. Do-yeon says that he’s always strange (ha), but she doesn’t want to talk about their confrontation on the roof and excuses herself. She continues on her way, but moments later, Tae-yi hears her scream and finds her unconscious in the road.
Jin-gyum heads to the Kuiper building to see Oh-won regarding his research, but the guard at the door informs him that Oh-won was killed last night. Sun-young is there, paying her respects, as Tae-yi calls Jin-gyum to tell him that she’s at the hospital with Do-yeon.
He rushes to the emergency room, but Tae-yi warns him that he can’t let Do-yeon see him. She says that Do-yeon didn’t see her attacker’s face, but she did find a cell phone on the ground beside the girl. Tae-yi thinks it belongs to Do-yeon’s attacker, but it’s locked.
Jin-gyum guesses that it belongs to his alternate self, and confirms it later when Sun-young calls and he answers (wait, isn’t the phone locked?). He listens to Sun-young’s voice then hangs up, and when she calls back, the phone is off. Teen Jin-gyum returns home a while later and steps on his phone, which Jin-gyum left in the street then hid to watch.
Sun-young asks if teen Jin-gyum’s phone is broken when he goes inside, which he denies. He goes to his room and hears the disembodied voices saying his name again, and the screams and ringing, and this time they yell at him to wake up. The radiation rash appears on his arms again, and he flashes that evil smirk.
Jin-gyum reports back to Tae-yi, who says that he needs to tell Sun-young, because she seemed to know something. Jin-gyum can’t believe that his younger self would hurt Do-yeon, but he tells Tae-yi not to bother talking to Sun-young about it because he needs her help investigating Oh-won’s case.
This is the first Tae-yi is hearing of Oh-won’s death, which is a shock to them both because Oh-won should have lived another ten years. They know that Sun-young gave Oh-won the Book of Prophecy, so Jin-gyum guesses that’s why he was killed. He wants to search Oh-won’s office for clues that time-traveler Oh-won was there looking for the book, and their best chance is for Tae-yi to pose as Sun-young to get inside.
When they get there, Tae-yi recalls that she met Oh-won ten years ago, but she never heard of Jin-gyum’s mother or saw her office, which she must have had. Tae-yi sets fire to a rolled-up piece of paper, and she follows the smoke to discover the entrance to a secret room. Moving a book unlocks the secret room… Sun-young’s research lab.
Inside is a safe with the door left carelessly open, and inside the safe is the Book of Prophecy. They read about the child who was born through the door of time, and how he will take control of time, but that having that power means he will experience immeasurable loss. Tae-yi notices the missing final page and remembers seeing it as a child.
She puts the book down and writes the words she remembers: “… she will die by her son’s hands.” She tells Jin-gyum that the woman who opened the door of time must be his mother.
Back at the house, teen Jin-gyum goes into Sun-young’s room while she’s sleeping to hover over her. He reaches for her throat, but something makes him back off, and Sun-young opens her eyes and gasps in fear. OMG, Jin-gyum is still there, and he startles her by asking if she was feigning sleep.
Jin-gyum asks if Tae-yi is misremembering the last page, but Tae-yi just says that Sun-young probably burned it because of what it said about her child. She makes it clear that it’s the Park Jin-gyum of this world that she suspects, but Jin-gyum screams that that’s still him. He says that he wasn’t even home when his mother was killed ten years ago, so there’s no way he killed her.
Suddenly, Jin-gyum hears screaming and voices. He sinks to his knees, holding his head and screaming in pain, and as Tae-yi watches in horror, a radiation rash spreads across his skin.
The next morning, Sun-young gets a call and runs to the hotel to be by adult Jin-gyum’s side, whose rash has thankfully cleared up. Tae-yi tells her that Jin-gyum hallucinates noises all night, but Sun-young says that what he was hearing was voices from another dimension, and that it will happen every time he time travels.
Tae-yi asks if the same thing happens to teen Jin-gyum, and repeats the words from the Book of Prophecy about dying by her son’s hands. She asks if Jin-gyum is the son mentioned on the final page, and though Sun-young says it’s not him, Tae-yi thinks that it’s true. She believes that’s why Sun-young told Jin-gyum to return to his own time and wants to stop time travel — because she believes Jin-gyum is here to kill her.
She gives Sun-young back the Book of Prophecy and asks how to stop time travel. But Sun-young says that if it were possible, she’d have stopped it already. She takes the blame for discovering time travel, and says that she’s sure Tae-yi’s mother probably didn’t know it would end up this way, either.
At this, Tae-yi changes tacks and asks what Sun-young knows about her mother. Tae-yi says that she was the first person to discover the Book of Prophecy, and that she was also a time traveler.
Sun-young explains to Tae-yi that when she was a young time traveler when word of the Book of Prophecy started getting around. She thought it was just a rumor, because the world of time travel was just opening up, so it made no sense that people were already talking about its end.
But then Tae-yi’s mother found the Book of Prophecy and fled with it to 1986. She married Tae-yi’s father, Dr. Jang, and died while giving birth to Tae-yi. Dr. Jang found the Book of Prophecy, and in 1992, Sun-young traveled to get the book from him. She was too late to save him, and she was going to raise Tae-yi because she also grew up as an orphan.
Sun-young admits that she grew up obsessed with time travel because she wanted to find her parents. The only thing she recalled was her father’s face, and she finally found him in 1992. She realized then that the woman who found the Book of Prophecy was her mother, and Dr. Jang was her father, because the little girl was herself.
She’d changed her mind about keeping Tae-yi when she saw the last page of the Book of Prophecy, and gave her up because the woman the book refers to isn’t just Sun-young, but Tae-yi, and she was hoping to free Tae-yi from such a terrible fate. She begs Tae-yi to go back to her time and forget all this, and not to see Jin-gyum anymore.
Sun-young tells Tae-yi where her parents are buried, and Tae-yi finds their tombstone with this epitaph: Dr. Jang Dong-shik and Ahn Shi-yoon surpassed time and sleep together.
When Jin-gyum wakes up, Sun-young is sitting at his bedside. She takes him home and makes a huge meal for him, and he says softly that it’s been ten years since he ate her cooking. The taste of the food makes him cry, and he sniffles that it’s delicious. Awww, sweet boy.
Jin-gyum says that he thinks the book is wrong because there’s no way he would kill her. He promises to find out if his counterpart in this world is the culprit, without meeting him in person. Sun-young tells him not to worry about her, but he says that he’ll protect her and then return to his own time. He feels he owes it to her after she lived nineteen lonely years because of him, but she says she was never lonely because she had him.
Teen Jin-gyum is in the middle of class when he hears a ringing, then leaves the room. He goes outside, where someone greets him respectfully as “Teacher” — it’s Oh-won. (So wait, is teen Jin-gyum actually Teacher?) After school, adult Jin-gyum watches from a distance as teen Jin-gyum buys a birthday cake for his mother. He notices someone else watching him, and recognizes Oh-won, who takes off running.
At the same time, Tae-yi hurries back to the house and hides as teen Jin-gyum arrives home. Sun-young comes home and finds the cake and card, and she asks Jin-gyum to light the candles as usual, then she goes to her room. Tae-yi asks if she’s lying about it being impossible to stop time travel, and if it’s coincidence that Oh-won found her ten years ago to continue Sun-young’s research, so Sun-young pulls her into the storage room to talk more privately.
Sun-young admits that she did find a way to stop time travel, but she overlooked something important so it was put on hold. She says that if time travel stops, everything will be reset, including the time travelers themselves. Tae-yi doesn’t see the problem, but instead of explaining, Sun-young runs out of the room and locks Tae-yi inside.
Adult Jin-gyum is still chasing Oh-won, but Oh-won gets behind him and levels a gun at his head. Jin-gyum whips around, knocks the gun from Oh-won’s hand, and slams him against a fence, but Oh-won just chuckles that it will be hilarious when Jin-gyum realizes the whole truth.
Jin-gyum accuses Oh-won of killing his mother, but Oh-won insists that he didn’t, though he adds that her death is inevitable. He won’t say who the killer is, only smirking that Jin-gyum can probably guess, and gets punched for it.
Looking for a way to escape, Tae-yi knocks over some books. She sees a photo among them of herself, with a very young Jin-gyum, at an amusement park. Behind the photo in the broken frame, she finds the last page of the Book of Prophecy, which depicts Alice being eaten by a monster. The corner is burned — Sun-young did try to burn it, but she panicked and blew out the flame.
Meanwhile, adult Jin-gyum leaves Oh-won and runs home, but he’s too late… Sun-young is lying on the floor, stabbed in the stomach. He gathers her into his arms, crying, but she’s already gone. Suddenly he realizes he’s not alone, and he looks up to see his younger self standing over them.
Teen Jin-gyum has bloody hands, a radiation rash, and that empty smirk on his face. Jin-gyum gently lays Sun-young down and gets to his feet, and he breathes, “It was really you.” With a roar, he grabs teen Jin-gyum by the throat and throttles him, ordering teen Jin-gyum to say it’s not true… “Tell me you didn’t kill her, you bastard!”
So many answers, finally, and yet I find myself more confused than ever. Is Teacher Jin-gyum just an evil version of himself in this time, or is he another traveler who took the place of his original self in this timeline, like Oh-won did in 2020? How is he Teacher when Teacher has been operating for over a decade and he’s just a teenager? If he killed Sun-young, is he just traveling around to all the 2010s and killing her over and over? Why, when he can’t possibly kill every version of her in every dimension?
Mainly I’m confused by the juxtaposition of time travel and alternate realities/selves. It just seems unnecessarily complex, and I keep wondering, why even bother with time travel when you’re not even visiting the same version of the people you miss? Jin-gyum’s mother is dead, nothing will change that, and this version of her isn’t the same person, so I understand why he wants to catch her killer and punish them. But saving this Sun-young won’t save his mother — she’s long gone. I just wish the show had stuck with time travel and left out the alternate realities part, because it complicates things for no discernable reason and I feel that Jin-gyum’s quest to catch the killer would be more meaningful if it meant his mother could be saved.
I do have to admit that the show is going in some pretty exciting directions and has thrown out some satisfying twists, such as another version of Jin-gyum being Teacher. The broad story is interesting and I like the characters, and I love the premise of using time travel to right a serious wrong. I just wish it all made more sense, because right now I feel like I’m just expected to accept things that don’t follow any sense of time continuity or logic. The writer never did lay down any firm rules for this story universe, which is one of the main things I look for in a supernatural drama. I’ve noticed bits here and there that didn’t quite add up, and I was willing to be patient, figuring that the explanation might come later. But now there are only a few episodes left and I’m growing more frustrated, not less, and I think it could have been easily avoided by setting clear rules and streamlining the time travel so as not to include alternate dimensions. As it is, it looks like the writer had some good ideas and just threw them all in without considering whether everything fit into this particular story.
And I’m worried it’s going to get worse before it gets better, based on some clues in this episode. For example, is the “world that is not meant to be seen” another reality? Maybe some reality that’s so wildly different from ours that it’s taboo to go there? I’m afraid that, once the logic is abandoned, we could end up anywhere, and my brain is already tired from trying to figure any of this out (and my deepest apologies to @stroopwafel for making her listen to my complaining! She’s a saint!). I’m just upset because the cast is so good and the basic plot was so compelling, but it feels like the writer has just lost all control.