Inspector Koo: Episode 4
A close encounter with the killer brings new leads, but when all clues point to an unlikely suspect, will our investigator be able to trust her instincts and her comrades? Or will her hesitation and obsession put Team B in harm’s way?
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Kyung enters KT Life Insurance disguised as a janitor and uses her aunt’s ID to get past security. She waits until Santa and Kyung-soo leave the building before taking the elevator down to their basement office, where she cheerfully rifles through their files. She realizes that they’ve formed a separate task force to capture her, and she’s downright proud of them for connecting all her victims and accurately deducing her motive for killing.
While Kyung installs a listening device in Team B’s office, Kyung-soo suggests to Santa that they go get a drink together, but something is clearly bothering Santa and he runs back to the office. Kyung hides when she hears the door open, and a completely oblivious Santa waters the plants he’d neglected before leaving the office. On his way out, he moves the office trash can to the garage with the rest of the company’s garbage.
As Santa walks away, Kyung emerges from the trash can and speed walks past him. Santa takes a huge whiff of her perfume and recalls the women from the janitorial crew complaining about how their perfume wears off by the end of the day, overpowered by the smell of trash. It’s better to not wear any, one woman said, because the mixture of perfume and trash is worse.
Suspicious, he follows her. Kyung tries not to make it obvious that she’s fleeing, but as he gets closer, she ditches him by jumping into oncoming traffic and hastily crossing the street. She almost loses him, but a convenient light change allows Santa to quickly resume his pursuit and catch up to her. She leads him down an alley, where she ditches her janitor’s garb, and through a subway station and gauntlet of pedestrians who all spill their food on Santa as he crashes into them. Santa finally corners her on a rooftop, but she escapes by jumping onto an awning and sliding down it to the sidewalk, where she limps away and catches a nearby bus.
The next day, the remaining members of Team B sift through videos uploaded to the internet by wannabee reporters and detectives trying to solve the mystery behind the billboard confession and the related murder. An IT expert says the billboard message was uploaded by a skilled hacker, and a witness at the scene of the murder recalls seeing the victim staggering around and acting strange prior to the stabbing. Je-hee questions the usefulness of the videos, but Kyung-yi states that she’s looking for leads.
Kyung-soo found the source of the animation used in the billboard confession, and reports that it’s a children’s show that aired locally in Seattle in 2003. The scenes used in the confession came from a specific episode in which the three main characters argued over who dropped pancakes on the floor, but it’s later revealed that the true culprit was a fourth character who had sat back and observed while the others argued among themselves.
Kyung-yi notes that the show’s message was similar to the one K wanted to send to the public, and given the quickness of the upload, K was probably familiar with the show, someone who was a preschooler living in Seattle in 2003. Kyung-soo and Je-hee aren’t convinced that the culprit is someone in their 20s.
Kyung-yi’s brain is slowing down and needs to refuel, but her liquor bottle is nearly empty. With only a few drops of alcohol left at the bottom, she adds some water to the bottle and swishes it around to create some diluted booze.
Santa arrives late for work, covered in gunk and smelling like the bottom of a dumpster. While his coworkers comment on his foul odor, he angrily shakes Kyung’s janitor disguise, causing Hangul characters to float into the air like dog hairs that have been stirred loose from the fabric. The letters rearrange themselves in the air and spell out Santa’s message: “Someone broke in here last night. I’m certain it was K.”
Kyung Yi and Santa look through the security footage, but nothing about the janitor’s on-camera actions seem cagey. Kyung-yi worries that her overly suspicious nature is wearing off on Santa, but Kyung-soo questions why an innocent person would run away. Kyung-yi barrels across the room towards him, and after he instinctively flees, Kyung-soo concedes that most people would probably run away if they were being chased.
Je-hee tells Santa to go home and take a shower because she can’t stand working with two smelly people. As Kyung-yi asks who the second person is, the scene cuts to Kyung, who is listening in on their conversation. But back in the basement, all the members of Team B are staring meaningfully at the bug hidden in the ceiling vent, indicating their previous conversation had been a ruse to put K at ease.
They keep up the charade as Santa grabs some cleaning supplies and spritzes a spray bottle near the vent. Je-hee pretends to scold Santa for cleaning where he shouldn’t as he slowly reaches into the vent and removes the listening device. Je-hee silently mouths instructions, and Santa drops the device into the wash bucket. On the other end of the signal, Kyung winces as the connection is disconnected with a loud screech.
Team B temporarily moves their operation to a restaurant, where an overly paranoid Kyung-soo searches for additional bugs. Je-hee suggests finding a new permanent location now that the basement has been compromised, but Kyung-yi doesn’t want to alert K to the fact that they are aware that she was listening. Instead, she suggests that they stay put and tighten security.
As Kyung-soo waves his device over their meal to inspect it for bugs, he worries that K now knows their identities. Kyung-yi assures him that he’s safe so long as he hasn’t done anything bad, but he still hesitates to eat the food. Santa spoon feeds him a bite, and Kyung-yi waits to see if Kyung-soo dies before digging in. As they eat, Santa reveals that the person he chased from their office was a woman.
Jung-yeon’s coworker tries to play matchmaker, but Jung-yeon isn’t interested, claiming she’s a romantic who’d prefer to meet someone naturally. Her other coworker notices that Jung-yeon’s ID was used to enter the building the night before, but she assumes the timestamp is a computer error when Jung-yeon denies being in the office. As Jung-yeon checks the log herself, Kyung calls to report that she will be at rehearsal all day. Jung-yeon hesitates, but instead of asking about her ID, she tells Kyung to not skip her meals.
At her rehearsal, Kyung’s acting is so bad that the director calls for a break. Her castmates ditch her, but kyung-yi is in the audience, brazenly filming Kyung with her cell phone. Kyung-yi suspects that Kyung injured her leg, but when she tries to wave Kyung over to confirm the injury, Kyung claims her foot has fallen asleep.
Kyung asks if Kyung-yi is there to see her, but Kyung-yi deadpans that Kyung’s acting is horrible. Kyung appreciates Kyung-yi’s cander because she doesn’t have any friends to be honest with her. Kyung-yi suspects that it was hard for Kyung to make friends while living in the US and transitions into asking Kyung a series of questions related to the case. Kyung deflects each of the questions without providing any real answers, and Kyung-yi points it out.
Kyung stands and her expression turns serious. She walks purposefully towards Kyung-yi and flawlessly delivers lines from the play, revealing her true acting skills. Kyung-yi stares at Kyung’s feet as she strides towards her, looking for any sign of a limp, but Kyung’s steps don’t falter, not even when she jumps down from the stage to stand next to Kyung-yi.
Finally, she answers Kyung-yi’s questions, claiming she didn’t watch the children’s show when she lived in the US and that she was at rehearsal the night before. Once again, Kyung-yi admits to not having any friends, and she wishes she had someone like Sung-woo, her former teacher, around to listen to her.
Kyung-yi points out that Kyung likes to cross boundaries, but Kyung claims she’s doing it because she wants to establish a friendship with Kyung-yi. To prove it, she grabs Kyung-yi’s wrist and drags her to her favorite spot to watch the sunset. They both tilt their heads towards the light, and Kyung-yi gives the smallest hint of a smile. The moment is fleeting, and Kyung-yi abruptly leaves.
After Kyung-yi departs, Kyung collapses against the wall and winces in pain. As she inspects the homemade splint around her ankle, she realizes that she needs to do something about Kyung-yi.
Santa and Kyung-soo seek help from a professional stuffed animal doctor (Is that a thing?) to learn more about the doll they stole from K’s accomplice. Unfortunately they don’t discover much, just that its materials are common and that it’s handmade. Back at the office, they report their findings, but Je-hee is distracted by a phone call and abandons them after hanging up. Kyung-soo gripes that he’s the only one working, but an equally unappreciated Santa holds up a bottle bleach to show that he’s been cleaning.
Outside a café, with her head dangling over the edge of a chair, Kyung-yi berates herself for being overly suspicious. Nearby, a young girl is pacing back and forth, clearly in distress. She asks to borrow Kyung-yi’s phone so she can call her missing sister, but Kyung-yi hesitates to lend her the phone, finding it fishy that a young girl — or anyone born after the invention of cell phones — would have her sister’s number memorized. The sister appears, proving with comedic timing that Kyung-yi might be a bit too distrusting of others.
Jae-young calls Kyung-yi and reports that she received a request from her husband’s killer, who told her to go to Incheon Station the day after tomorrow. She’s afraid K will harm her daughter, and Kyung-yi was the only person she could think of who could possibly help her.
At Team B headquarters, Kyung-yi relays the details of her phone conversation with Jae-young to Santa and Kyung-soo. She speculates that Jae-young will get additional instructions once she arrives at the designated location. Je-hee arrives, and Kyung-yi suspiciously eyes Je-hee’s frazzled appearance before continuing: K has likely recruited Jae-young to be a part of K’s latest murder, and this is the opportunity they need to either catch K or observe how her operation works.
Kyung-yi takes Santa and Kyung-soo’s cell phones as a part of her increased security, but Je-hee hesitates to relinquish her phone, which starts ringing in her hand. Kyung-yi suspects that it is Sook calling, but it’s Je-hee’s father providing an update on her sick daughter.
After ending the call, Je-hee admits that she would like to contact Sook and have some of her men as part of their sting operation, but Kyung-yi doesn’t want the backup. K is too intelligent — smarter than Je-hee — and if K realizes it’s a trap, she may harm Jae-young and her daughter. Je-hee’s frustration grows, and she accuses Kyung-yi of not trusting her teammates and recklessly putting others in danger just to solve a puzzle. “Just like back then,” Je-hee adds.
Flashback to the day Kyung-yi questioned her husband about his rumored involvement with the student’s death. They met at the school because neither their home nor the police station seemed appropriate, and while Je-hee waits outside the classroom door, Kyung-yi hands Sung-woo a photograph of a smiling teenage girl. The scene shifts to Sung-woo’s funeral, where Je-hee comforts Kyung-yi.
Back in the present, Je-hee reminds Kyung-yi that she said she wouldn’t hurt anyone else again with her unfounded speculation. Kyung-yi may be willing to repeat her past mistakes, but Je-hee is not. Softly, Kyung-yi admits that she thinks she killed her husband, but why did he die? Because she started looking at him in contempt or because he didn’t want her to find out all the dirty things he had done?
Je-hee says she feels sorry for Sung-woo, and Kyung-yi is immediately accusatory, wanting to know just how close Je-hee was to her husband. Just who is her daughter’s father? It’s a low blow, and Je-hee warns Kyung-yi that she won’t be there when Kyung-yi regrets her words. After Je-hee leaves, Santa and Kyung-soo, who witnessed the whole argument, awkwardly exchange glances. The tension in the room is so stifling that Kyung-soo is caught off guard when Kyung-yi calmly tells him to contact Jae-young and let her know that they will help her.
Geon-wook sends a call from Kyung straight to voicemail, causing DAE-HO (Park Kang-sub), his coworker boyfriend, to accuse him of having a secret lover. Geon-wook claims it was spam and teases Dae-ho for being so jealous. Dae-ho comments on Geon-wook’s dialect, and Geon-wook admits that he was born in Gyeongsang, and his father was a school janitor until he died. Dae-ho offers his condolences, but Geon-wook coolly dismisses them. His father was an abusive alcoholic who deserved to die, and he admits that his father’s death is the reason he doesn’t drink.
Kyung calls Geon-wook again. Just as he silences his phone, a runaway wheelchair plows into Geon-wook and Dae-ho, knocking them over. Kyung, the wheelchair’s occupant, also falls to the ground. Geon-wook is the first to his feet, but he ignores Kyung and tends to Dae-ho, who is more worried about Kyung. Kyung rudely rejects Dae-ho’s offer to assist her back into the wheelchair, and Geon-wook does his best to run interference between the two. He drags Dae-ho away, but they are only a few feet from Kyung when she calls and warns Geon-wook not to ignore her and make her feel lonely again.
Je-hee is taking a breather in her car when Kyung-soo insists on joining her. Because he wasn’t sure what Je-hee liked to drink, he brought a variety of coffees for her to choose from. She selects the milk tea, claiming she doesn’t really have a favorite. Kyung-soo points out how odd it is that she knows Kyung-yi’s preferences better than her own.
Kyung-soo doesn’t understand Je-hee’s friendship with Kyung-yi, and he suspects that Kyung-yi was responsible for her husband’s death. He tells Je-hee to not feel guilty for being unable to stop Kyung-yi this time. Je-hee tells him to get out of her car, but to soften the command, she admits she liked the milk tea and that he should get it for her from now on.
Another flashback to the day Kyung-yi confronted her husband. Before Kyung-yi enters the classroom, Je-hee reminds her that someone saw her husband with the dead student the day she died. Objectively, that makes him a suspect, and Je-hee offers to question him instead. Kyung-yi insists on being the one who speaks with him, and Je-hee waits outside the classroom.
In the present, Je-hee arrives at the hospital and discovers that Sook has moved her daughter to a private room. Je-hee isn’t pleased to see Sook, but her father reminds her to be polite because, in addition to the upgraded room, Sook has gifted them with a box full of money. Aware that Je-hee’s father and daughter are present, Sook’s words are layered with double meanings, but the message — and warning — is clear: She hasn’t heard from Je-hee in a while, and she wants to see some results.
Je-hee escorts Sook to where Mr. Kim is holding an elevator. Sook’s parting words are that she’s looking forward to Je-hee’s phone call. After the doors to Sook’s elevator close, the remaining elevators all open at the same time, and a flood of patients and doctors enter the hallway, all of them complaining about having been trapped on the elevators.
Back at the office, Kyung-yi researches the Incheon train station and the surrounding buildings. Santa is acting as her personal Roomba, sweeping up her crumbs as she drops them. He suggests that she go home to shower and rest before tomorrow, but she tells him she still has work to do and advises him to go home instead. He ignores her suggestion and wraps a blanket around her shoulders, choosing to crouch next to her as she works.
Je-hee calls Kyung-yi from her daughter’s hospital room. Kyung-yi is still working at her computer, but Santa is passed out on the sofa. Kyung-yi was waiting for Je-hee’s phone call, and there seems to be an unspoken truce between the two women as Kyung-yi confirms the plan for tomorrow and both women agree that they need to execute it without anyone dying.
The next day, Jae-young meets Kyung-yi and Je-hee in a bathroom stall, and they give her a wire to wear. Santa and Kyung-yi follow Jae-young on foot, but they do not get on the train with her to avoid blowing their cover. They join Je-hee and Kyung-soo in the car, where they overhear an old woman on the train pass along a cryptic verbal message to Jae-young. When Jae-young reaches her destination, Kyung-yi follows her, and Santa splits off to follow the old woman. Je-hee and Kyung-soo remain parked nearby.
Jae-young finds a bag containing a bottle of water and a cell phone. She reads a message on the phone and removes the wire from around her neck, placing it inside the bag. Team B worries that K has caught on to their plan, but Kyung-yi continues to follow Jae-young, more concerned that the water bottle contains something dangerous.
Meanwhile, the old woman leads Santa to the giant Ferris wheel. His hands are visibly shaking as he gets into one of the gondolas. While Kyung-yi and Je-hee argue over whether they should stop Jae-young or follow her to identify K’s target, the Ferris wheel comes to an unexpected stop. From his position, Santa watches the old woman innocently take a bite from a chocolate bar.
Jae-young’s destination is a small wading pool full of playing children. Jae-young starts pouring the contents from the bottle into the pool, and Kyung-yi yells for the children to get out of the water. When Kyung-yi turns back to Jae-young, she’s drinking from the bottle, and Kyung-yi realizes that they’ve been duped. Kyung-yi snatches the phone from Jae-young’s hands and reads the text: “No one is going to die.” Jae-young explains that she was just doing as she was told.
Kyung-yi wonders why K would do something so pointless. Je-hee and Kyung-soo offer their own speculations, but their voices sound like they’ve inhaled helium. They try to get out of the car, but the doors have been sealed shut from the outside. They lose consciousness, and the car is nowhere to be seen when Kyung-yi and Santa arrive at the parking lot. Kyung-yi realizes that Jae-young was just a diversion, and K’s real plan was to capture Je-hee and Kyung-soo as a warning.
When Je-hee and Kyung-soo wake up, they’re trapped inside a crate with their hands tied behind their backs. Je-hee is able to free her hands, and Kyung-soo finds Je-hee’s cell phone to use as a flashlight. Unfortunately, after they escape the crate, they discover that they’re still locked inside a shipping container that has been abandoned on a secluded beach. As the tide rises, so does the water level in the container.
Kyung-yi calls Je-hee, who tries her best to describe their location. Santa speeds up on a moped, and Kyung watches through a pair of observation deck binoculars as they ride off in search of their friends.
She’s interrupted by a quirky birdwatcher who commandeers her binoculars and distracts her with bird calls. He then hands her a package of tissues and invites her to his next birdwatching gathering. After the birdwatcher leaves, Kyung searches for Kyung-yi and Santa, but before she can locate them again, two police officers ask to see the package of tissues in her hand. Claiming to have received a tip, they search the tissues, and Kyung is shocked when they find drugs.
As they drag her off to the police station, a nearby Geon-wook hands a wad of cash to a noticeably less eccentric looking birdwatcher.
With the water level continuously rising, Je-hee searches the shipping container for more clues and tastes the water to confirm it’s salty like the sea. Kyung-yi deduces that K wouldn’t have had enough time to take them far, but with only two hours until high tide, Kyung-yi begins to worry.
At the police station, Kyung tries to explain that the drugs weren’t hers, but they lock her up in a jail cell. She’s sad she’s going to miss watching all the fun.
The water is now deep enough that Je-hee and Kyung-soo have to cling to floating objects. Je-hee dives under the surface, and thanks to her daughter’s interest in marine biology, Je-hee identifies a trident goby, which is native to the estuary. She calls Kyung-yi, but before she can explain that they’re not in the sea, her battery dies. Je-hee does her best to assure Kyung-soo that they aren’t going to die in the container, while Kyung-yi howls frantically for Je-hee from the back of Santa’s moped.
That was quite the cliffhanger, and I’m legitimately concerned that someone innocent will die next week. The preview seems to suggest that Je-hee may not escape safely from the flooding container and that Kyung will be going after Geon-wook for his betrayal, but I suspect Geon-wook’s new boyfriend is the one that’s really in danger.
Hear me out: I think it’s safe to say that Kyung and Geon-wook met and bonded over the murder of his father, with Geon-wook finishing off where Kyung’s poison failed. However, their partnership since then has never been equal. Geon-wook is, at best, a sidekick that’s kept in check out of fear of Kyung’s scary unpredictableness, but Kyung isn’t going to want to get rid of her sidekick. Geon-wook is too useful and the closest thing she has to a friend, and Kyung can’t have her only “friend” ignoring her for someone else. While harming Geon-wook a little to scare him straight is certainly within her wheelhouse, the more fitting punishment for his betrayal would be for her to isolate him in order to keep him by her side. Thus, Dae-ho must die. I don’t know about you, but that possibility certainly makes me wonder how Lee Joon-hyun (presumably Geon-wook’s previous boyfriend) ended up drowning in the ocean in the first place.
Although this would seemingly go against her established ethics of killing only those who have done bad things, we don’t know for sure that she wouldn’t kill out of necessity or in order to get what she wanted. By kidnapping Je-hee and Kyung-soo, she’s already deviating and evolving from her past murders. Is it because she feels backed into a corner or is it because her ethics were always grayer than we — and Team B — previously thought?
Either way, Kyung-yi is definitely onto Kyung. Unfortunately, Kyung-yi’s confidence, which was shaken after her husband’s death, has her second guessing her intuition. She has a lot of grief to unpack, and she can’t find peace until she has all of the answers. Or maybe she does have the answer, but in an effort to avoid the truth, she needs to find another theory to latch onto, even if that theory is that Je-hee had an affair with her husband.
Much like Kyung-soo, I do wonder how Je-hee has remained Kyung-yi’s friend all this time. Kyung-yi’s self-destructive behavior can’t be easy to manage, and given how quickly she recovered from Kyung-yi’s hurtful accusation, it feels like an established routine. Je-hee is definitely Kyung-yi’s anchor, so if she does drown in the container, it would rock Kyung-yi’s world. But what would Kyung-yi’s response be? Would it sober Kyung-yi into a vengeful pursuit of K, or would she spiral back into her depression, which she slowly seems to be creeping out of, as indicated by a decrease in drinking? The visual story-telling of this show is very intentional and allegorical, so I suspect the decrease in Kyung-yi’s onscreen drinking and gaming in this episode was to show how her pursuit of K is providing her with a distraction from her self-destructive behaviors.
As Kyung-yi slowly climbs out of the depths of her depression, she gets closer to Kyung, which is also alluded to through the cinematography and staging. Kyung, who is smarter and always one step ahead, is consistently depicted as having the high ground when she’s with Kyung-yi, whether she’s looking down at her through a pair of binoculars or standing on stage while Kyung-yi is down in the audience. The one exception this episode was when Kyung jumped from the stage to be at Kyung-yi’s level and they had a shared moment as they watched the sunset together. The jump down from the stage wasn’t very far, and it was also the moment Kyung realized just how close Kyung-yi was to catching her. The next time they are together on screen, Kyung has reclaimed the high ground and outsmarted Kyung-yi. I’m very curious to see if this visual representation of their relationship continues to evolve with them in future episodes.