Inspector Koo: Episode 3
As the killer zeroes in on her next target, our inspection team officially launches their investigation. But they’re about to learn that her web is far more intricate than they’d anticipated. Loyalty is the name of the game, but is that loyalty earned or bought?
EPISODE 3 RECAP
We open on Kyung-yi’s interrogation of high schooler Kyung after the janitor had passed away in the hospital. Kyung answers all her questions with wide-eyed innocence while carefully folding up a candy wrapper into a tiny rectangle. When Kyung-yi remarks that the students must have been shaken by the incident, Kyung nods, saying some of them cried. Then her voice gets all quivery as she says it made her sad, too, since he was always friendly to them and to the kittens.
Kyung-yi mutters that he must be in a better place now, and adds that she understands why her husband mentioned Kyung to her. Although she doesn’t want to admit it, the two of them are very similar. As she says this, she places her own folded-up candy wrapper, nearly identical to Kyung’s, on the desk in front of her. Kyung giggles as a smokescreen takes us back to the present, where Kyung-yi asks why Kyung is pretending not to recognize her.
Kyung puts on a big, boisterous show of recognition, exclaiming loudly that she’s changed a lot since they last met. Kyung-yi says flatly that she’s gotten a lot louder. While Jung-yeon watches in confusion, Kyung pointedly brings up Kyung-yi’s husband, pouting that she wishes she could have attended the funeral. She uses Kyung-yi’s own expression about him being in a better place, sending Kyung-yi spiraling into a panic attack. Kyung-yi falls to the floor clutching her head, and then crawls to the stairwell to flee. Kyung watches her go with a smirk.
Je-hee prepares to transfer Kyung-soo to a different inspection team, much to his dismay. When she says it’s because she doesn’t know if she can trust him, he rattles of a whole list of trivia facts about her (including that Kyung-yi is one of her role models). He promises to be useful if she keeps him around, and with a chuckle, she agrees – just for now, at least.
While Santa drives, Kyung-yi dozes in the backseat. A vision of her late husband appears in the seat next to her, sweetly worrying about her overworking herself and letting her lean on his shoulder. Slowly sensing something wrong, she mumbles for him to stop, and suddenly the car jerks. Santa looks back in horror to see the back door open – Kyung-yi has jumped out. As she runs down the street, trying to cover herself with her coat, Santa runs after her, and Kyung – who was driving behind them – watches with interest, capturing the spectacle on her phone.
Je-hee comes home to find her father lying flat on the floor, and runs over to him. But as she does, he sings, “Help me, Ocean Warrior,” urging Je-hee to do the same, and a tiny little girl in a cape pops up from behind the couch to raise him back to life. LOL. She’s Je-hee’s daughter, and she insists Je-hee say the magic words (“Thank you” and “I love you”) before they can wash up for dinner. Noticing some bills on the table nearby, Je-hee asks if her father needs any money, and we learn that she’s working hard to pay off some kind of debt.
Sook is posing with a small child for press photos when Je-hee arrives to speak with her. They’ve both done their homework on each other, and Je-hee asks to be the main point of contact between her and the team from now on. Sook is impressed that Je-hee was able to hire Kyung-yi, and agrees to the established chain of command. When Je-hee points out that they haven’t discussed payment, Sook takes her hand and urges her not to chase after money – rather, she should chase power, and money will follow. She also tells Je-hee to humble herself more so she can get what she wants.
Cut to: Je-hee literally begging on her knees not to be fired, prodding Kyung-soo to do the same. Her boss smirks and delegates her to “the basement,” telling her to climb her way back up one step at a time, if she can. As soon as she and Kyung-soo are alone, however, Je-hee raises herself up and muses that this was what Sook meant.
It turns out the basement comment was literal, and Team B moves their belonging down to a dark, dusty, cluttered basement storage space. Just as they arrive, a delivery guy brings them stacks of case files and a note: “Call me if there’s anything you need.” After reading the note out loud, he promptly burns it and leaves, and Kyung-yi claps in admiration.
Kyung-soo finally has a moment to ask what’s going on, and Je-hee swears him to secrecy before catching him up on their task and Serial Killer K. Kyung-soo dramatically vows to catch the killer, only to trip over the files a split second later. Kyung-yi, a few gulps into a bottle of whiskey, mumbles something unintelligible, and Santa and Je-hee interpret it in unison and give each other a deadpan high-five. (I love this team already!)
Turning back to the files, Kyung-soo notes that none of the dead people have anything in common. Je-hee observes that it can’t have been personal grudges or heat-of-the-moment killings, and Kyung-soo wonders if K might be a professional killer-for-hire. He imagines a few scenarios for how they might choose their victims, which we get to watch him act out in full costume.
While Kyung and Jung-yeon are out for dinner, Jung-yeon sees a news broadcast about a man named PARK GYU-IL (Shin Yoon-seob), who was arrested for filming women without their consent but is being released after a light sentence. Jung-yeon mutters that the punishment wasn’t enough and that people like him ought to be done away with. Kyung stares at the broadcast, and the room gets dark and creepy as she zones out. Then she snaps out of it and tells Jung-yeon that she’ll make her wish come true by making people like Gyu-il pay. Jung-yeon laughs, endeared, and tells her to stay away from horrible people like that. After dinner, they watch a play about Medusa, where Kyung is inspired by the line, “Open your eyes and face your hideous self.”
The next day, Kyung films a milk tea mukbang at a café, but it’s really a cover to let her sit near Gyu-il, who’s waiting to meet a lawyer. Geon-wook comes in dressed as a security officer, claiming he’s here to check the router for security leaks. He clones Gyu-il’s phone and sends the copy to Kyung’s, and then turns off the security cameras. Kyung watches in disgust as messages pour into Gyu-il’s phone, congratulating him on his release and asking for more hidden camera footage.
At home, Kyung cooks up an elaborate chemical mixture of some sort. She carefully places a few drops of her final product on a french fry, which she feeds to a rat. Intercut with these scenes, we see her sneak into Gyu-il’s home and switch out a bottle of nasal spray while he showers. Back in her apartment, a package arrives, and when the delivery guy remarks on the heavenly smell, she happily offers him some of the fries… as we see that the rat has died. Kyung opens her package, which is the next book for her collection: Medusa’s Head.
While shopping for cleaning supplies, Kyung-soo continues throwing out ideas for how K might choose their victims. Santa listens unimpressed while loading their cart with bottle and after bottle of bleach. Kyung-soo tells him to put it back, but at Santa’s pleading look, he sighs that they can just put it on the company card anyway. Kyung-yi – who’s been lounging in the background – jumps up and immediately starts piling the cart high with food. Next thing we know, Santa is stuffing bags of frozen dumplings into MelonMusk’s freezer. Awww, she tells Kyung-yi over headset that living isn’t looking so bad after all.
Geon-wook finds the Medusa book next to a few bottles: water, cooking oil, and hand soap. The items are handed off to different people in a relay, along with the message, “It’s your turn.” Interestingly, all of the people have a mysterious devil keychain. Meanwhile, Kyung sits watching more messages pour into Gyu-il’s phone, making plans for the next hidden camera video. She responds in like kind.
At a college festival, Gyu-il strolls through the crowd, sticking his water bottle with the hidden camera attached under the skirt of each girl he passes. Ugh. Kyung is there too, organizing fans of an idol group set to make an appearance. The oil and soap carriers have also arrived, as well as Geon-wook, dressed again as security. This appears to be his actual job, since he has fingerprint access to the security room and the other officers greet him familiarly. As they settle in for their shift, one of the other officers shyly asks him out for a beer once they get off work.
While Gyu-il is eating at a booth, the oil bottle is dropped off just as that booth’s cooking oil runs out. Gyu-il’s fries are delivered to him freshly cooked in the new oil. Meanwhile, Soap Guy pours out his delivery into a tray being used to make soap bubbles. After eating, Gyu-il saunters off through the bubbles. A sudden water balloon fight catches him in the crossfire, and he suddenly collapses to the ground, struggling to breathe. He pulls himself upright enough to stumble away. The idol group arrives at that same time, and Kyung turns with her camera to watch Gyu-il die in the distance. She whispers at him to open his eyes, and then turns her attention back to the idols.
Later, one of Gyu-il’s victims approaches his lifeless form, which is propped up in such a way that he appears to be sitting. She begs him to delete her video, brandishing a knife and threatening to stab him… and then actually does when he doesn’t answer her. That draws attention, and Kyung’s eyes widen in shock as she realizes what’s happening. The girl is taken away in handcuffs, and Kyung stares at her photo for a long time that night.
The next morning, Geon-wook and the other security guard go out for a run and see a billboard flashing cuts of Gyu-il’s dying moments, before he was stabbed, with the caption, “I did it!” Kyung-yi, on her way to work, sees the same message, and determines to examine the body. Je-hee doesn’t get why she thinks this was K, until Kyung-soo points to their white board, where they’ve found three major things in common with all of K’s victim’s: 1) the deaths are all disguised as accidents or suicides, 2) the victims all did something wrong, and 3) none of the people who wanted them dead end up as suspects.
At their hideout, Geon-wook rails at Kyung for making it clear the girl arrested wasn’t the killer. He pulls her books off the shelf, threatening to stop helping her if she does this again. She laughs at the claim that he’s helping her, and sticks a needle in his neck – or so he thinks. But it’s actually a hair pin, and she howls with laughter at his terror and orders him to put the books back.
At the morgue, Santa distracts a worker so Kyung-yi can get inside. She bluffs that she’s a cop and terrifies the poor medical examiner by acting out the stabbing with a scalpel. Kyung-yi muses that Gyu-il could have easily overpowered the stabber. Just then, Santa runs in with the other worker in tow, and promptly faints at the sight of the corpse. Kyung-yi ignores him and brushes off the medical examiner’s questions with questions of her own. She finds the extra camera hidden in Gyu-il’s hat, and puts it on her own head as she imagines what he would have seen that day.
She and Santa relocate to the site of the festival, where she makes a phone call and learns that the water balloon fight wasn’t part of the scheduled program. Kyung-soo joins them, and although he wasn’t able to steal the autopsy results, he did memorize the list of substances that were found in Gyu-il’s body. None of the substances are toxic on their own, so it must have been the combination that did the trick. That’s enough for Kyung-yi to figure out exactly which chemicals were mixed into each component – oil, soap, and water balloons, plus Gyu-il’s nasal spray.
In the security room, Geon-wook watches nervously as Je-hee goes over the footage from the festival. Although a bunch of key footage is missing, she manages to catch a glimpse of one accomplice’s escape. The team head over to confront him, but he claims he only did as he was told. That reminds Kyung-yi of what Jae-young had said about the killer asking for a favor in return. Santa, meanwhile, recognizes the guy’s devil keychain, because Jae-young had had one, too.
While Kyung-soo distracts the guy, Kyung-yi dives into his apartment, discretely snatching up the devil keychain and stuffing it into her pocket. The landlord comes in to break up the commotion, and they all agree to leave. As they exit the building, the guy hastily snaps photos of them through the window. Kyung-yi muses that he likely doesn’t know who K is – but he can lead them to K all the same.
She and Santa tail the guy into a subway station, where he meets a woman to sell his camera. Santa follows him, but he goes straight back home. Kyung-yi is stumped until she spots the devil keychain dangling from the woman’s cell phone. She follows the woman onto the subway, but the woman notices and steps off just before the door closes. Then, after the train leaves with Kyung-yi on it, the woman uses her own phone to take pictures of the photos of Santa and Kyung-yi and text them to Kyung.
While Kyung is wondering what Kyung-yi is up to, Jung-yeon notices the picture of Santa and asks who he is. Kyung makes up a story about him having a crush on her, and slips away to steal Jung-yeon’s ID tag.
Kyung-yi sends Santa to deliver the devil keychain to Je-hee while she heads to the police station. Posing as the lawyer of the girl who stabbed Gyu-il, she’s able to speak privately with her. Kyung-yi asks if someone offered to help her in exchange for a favor, but she says no, so Kyung-yi surmises K hasn’t gotten to her yet. She reveals that Gyu-il had already been dead when the girl had stabbed him, and that someone is trying to clear her name. The girl breaks down in sobs as Kyung-yi advises her to hire a good lawyer. She’ll have to live with the knowledge that she tried to kill Gyu-il, but the fact remains that she didn’t. The girl asks who did it, then, to which Kyung-yi says it was a murderer who only kills people who deserve it. The girl asks if that makes them a bad or good person, and when Kyung-yi tells her to contact her if they reach out, she says that she can’t do that – they’re the only person who has helped her, so she can’t betray them.
That gives Kyung-yi another flashback to her interrogation with Kyung, when Kyung had asked what she would do if she could kill someone without getting caught. Kyung-yi had said she would frame it as an accident, with the help of people who would never betray her. Kyung had asked if such people existed, and with a small smile Kyung-yi had said they don’t, and that’s why she hasn’t killed anyone.
As Santa walks through the empty car lot, the sound of an alarm draws his attention. He goes to investigate, and Kyung, masked, follows him around the corner. The security camera goes dark.
Nooo, leave Santa alone! I don’t really think Kyung will kill him – at least, not right now – since we don’t know of anything he’s done to deserve it in her eyes. But I do worry that she might offer him “help” he can’t refuse. Or otherwise try to put him out of commission.
If there’s one thing this episode hammered home, it’s that connections and trust are vital, whether you’re a serial killer or an investigator. Without help, it’s very difficult to accomplish what you need to, especially if your opponent is getting all the help they want. But alliances can be fragile, and can break as quickly as they’re formed. So while we’re watching our team(s) come together this episode, there’s an underlying danger that they could be splintered apart at any moment, from any side, and that creates riveting tension.
While the chief dynamic at play is, of course, Kyung-yi vs. Kyung, the two pairings that I found most striking this episode were Je-hee/Sook and Kyung/Geon-wook. Je-hee and Sook seem to understand each other on the same kind of level that Kyung-yi and Kyung do, and also seemed rather evenly matched in verbal sparring. They both like to be in control of the situation, and they can both mask their hostility under the sweetest of mannerisms. I’m really looking forward to watching the two of them face off in future episodes, and I just hope Je-hee will be able to avoid being dragged down to nefarious levels.
As for Geon-wook, at first glance, I thought the power dynamic between him and Kyung was more equal than it actually is. But, as he also discovered, she’s got plenty of power to manipulate him into doing whatever she wants. Of course, that’s not to say he isn’t willingly in on the killings, because it’s clear that he is. But I don’t think he enjoys it like she does, or that he would necessarily keep going without her (whereas she’d certainly find someone else to use in his absence). Unless he’s putting on an act, he appears to genuinely like that other security guard, and I wonder if he isn’t starting to look for an out – especially now that he realizes he’s not at all in control.
On a different note, I’m in love with the way things that happen inside people’s minds (Kyung-yi’s memories, Kyung-soo’s imagination, etc.) are set up like scenes from a stage play. It’s so much fun to watch, and it makes for an interesting visual nod to Kyung’s affinity for the theatrical.
I also love how the show goes from zany to heartwarming to chilling at the drop of a hat. It’s so much fun to watch, and there’s always something a little unexpected – like watching as the delivery guy chows down on fries we know are poisoned, only for us to learn that Kyung specially engineered it so that only Gyu-il could die under very precise conditions. She’s a fascinating villain, because my goodness is she adorable, but she’s also terrifying, and you can’t quite disagree with her that someone like Gyu-il deserved to suffer horribly. Or that murdering kittens is an unforgiveable offense.
By highlighting the similarities between Kyung-yi and Kyung, we’re set up to examine what makes them different – why one kills and the other catches killers. It’ll be interesting to see if they veer closer to the other’s side as their chase goes on – and, if so, exactly how far. And if people who will absolutely never betray really are impossible to find, who will experience betrayal first, and what will that do to them?