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Inspector Koo: Episode 11

Is one killer worse than another? And is it wrong to help one take the other out? Our team finds themselves caught between two enemies, both of whom need their help. The problem is, choosing to save one may mean letting the other die, and bringing one to justice may mean letting the other get away.

 
EPISODE 11 RECAP

After their meeting with Kyung, the team worries they’ve given her license to kill Hyun-tae (along with everyone else in the video). Kyung-yi, however, is hoping Kyung will do exactly that. The others wait for her to elaborate, but instead, she sinks into a daydream. In her mind, she’s sitting with her husband on the train. While he feeds her snacks, he tells her he used to try to figure out what went on in her head – but now he trusts that if he follows what she says, everything will turn out fine. He also says K is just like her, only younger and alone.

Kyung helps Sung-tae up from his fall on the suspension bridge. She showers him with over-the-top praise as he tries to pretend he isn’t scared to death being up so high, and then she confuses him by asking about his brother. She claims Hyun-tae is her ideal type, but her expression goes dark and she cuts straight to it – where is he? She’s already checked his home, so she knows he isn’t there as Sung-tae supposes.

She clarifies that by her ideal type she meant the type of guy she wants to kill – and she isn’t the only one who wants him dead. Now terrified, Sung-tae screams for help, so Kyung reasons with him: if he tragically loses his little brother, his campaign will have a much stronger emotional pull. Sung-tae can’t deny he’d like not having to worry about Hyun-tae causing more trouble.

Hyun-tae, meanwhile, escapes the temple Sook has hidden him in. While both Sook and Kyung fume at his disappearance, he runs right into Je-hee and Kyung-yi, who advise him to come with them if he wants to live. He does, and Je-hee delivers him (tied up in the back of her trunk) to Sook. Just as Sook is forcing a smile and promising to return the favor, Kyung-yi pops up behind her to ask what she plans to do next.

That’s when Mr. Kim, newly released from police custody, finds them. He runs around in a panic, trying to act like he’s been on top of things this whole time. Sook offers Kyung-yi half-hearted thanks and sends Mr. Kim off with Hyun-tae.

When the investigation team reconvenes, Kyung-soo grumbles about letting Sook and Hyun-tae off the hook. Kyung-yi is well aware that the two won’t turn themselves in; instead, they’ll do their best to hide – not that that will stop K. Kyung-soo muses that if he were K, he’d do whatever it took to find the person he wanted to kill the most. That gets Kyung-yi thinking (though she’s momentarily distracted by the fact that “if I were K” sounds an awful lot like the brand of cup noodles Kyung-soo and Santa are eating). Copying Kyung’s hand stretching gesture, she says that if she were K, she wouldn’t bother looking for someone who was hiding – she’d lure them out.

Je-hee’s dad teaches Na-na a similar principle in regard to fishing: you either give the fish something to eat, or scare them out of hiding by dropping big rocks in the water. Two of his friends are there, too, and Na-na is the first to recognize Sung-tae’s picture on the news program they have playing. The video of Joon-hyun’s death has been leaked. While the video initially stirs up chaos, an expert soon comes forward with supposed evidence that the voice in the video is not Hyun-tae’s.

Of course, that was Sook’s doing, and she pays the expert from her hospital room. Sung-tae comes to visit her – or rather, to ask where Hyun-tae is, so he can kill him himself. In response, Sook slaps him. Only after he sinks to his knees and cries does she open her arms to embrace him, promising to do whatever it takes to protect him.

On a bus, Mi-ae (the girl who nearly took the fall for Park Gyu-il’s murder) listens to conflicting reports: official news outlets call the video fabricated, while streamer Samsy attempts to track down Hyun-tae’s whereabouts. Kyung brushes past Mi-ae to exit the bus, waving through the window and motioning for Mi-ae to call her.

Hyun-tae wakes to flickering lights and creepy laughter. He jumps up and swings a bat around until the laughter subsides. He breathes a sigh of relief, only to get all worked up again when he finds a hair in his water. He grabs up the phone to complain, but Kyung’s creepily drawn-out voice answers, “Today… I’m going to… kill you.” But then the voice switches to a simple menu report cut with static, and the receiver grows hot in his hand. He drops it, unnerved. “What did I even do wrong?” he wonders, crawling under the blankets.

Sung-tae gives a speech thanking his supporters for standing by him despite the slander, only momentarily fazed by a man who pelts him with raw eggs, shouting, “Remember Lee Joon-hyun!” Meanwhile, Sook gets stood up by an assemblyman she was supposed to have dinner with.

Deciding it’s time to swallow her pride, she meets with Kyung-yi, though she’s uncertain of what to offer, since Kyung-yi’s desires are hard to read. Kyung-yi hems and haws, both of them knowing she holds all the bargaining power now. At last, Sook says, “I won’t ask for anything else – just don’t let him die.” Kyung-yi does have a plan, but she can’t guarantee anything – she doesn’t have the power, for starters, and the plan definitely won’t work unless Sook places complete confidence in her. Sook actually kneels and promises to do as she says.

Kyung is disguised as a cleaner and laughing to herself about Sook when someone bumps into her – it’s Geon-wook, wearing an awful wig and mustache. She’s both overjoyed to see him and impressed that he seems so eager to help again. She giggles when he says he was inspired by her brazenly releasing Hyun-tae’s video, because that wasn’t her – it was Kyung-yi. Putting Hyun-tae in the media spotlight makes him harder to kill.

Kyung and Geon-wook relocate to a hotel room, where she notices he’s started drinking again. But he’s more interested in the video, because he can tell it once contained a lot more than just Joon-hyun’s death. He’s ready to confront Kyung-yi and get the rest of the footage, but Kyung has someone else in mind…

The investigation team (minus Je-hee and plus Samsy, MelonMusk, and the tabloid journalist) go out for pizza. Kyung-soo observes that Kyung-yi got everything she wanted – Sook deferred to her, Sung-tae’s campaign is failing, and Hyun-tae is still alive – but he still feels icky about helping the bad guys. He leaves before anyone else and returns to his office, where he finds an unfamiliar startup disc plugged into his laptop. He hastily looks through the files, the most recent of which bears the designation “K” and directs him to a particular bathroom stall in the NT Life Insurance building.

Of course, he goes straight there, insisting to himself that he’s only working with K one time to help take Sook down. He has to endure gross noises and condescending comments from Won-shik before Kyung finally reveals herself in the air duct above his stall. He snarls up at her that he’s not on her side, but she’s not concerned about that. She promises to take care of killing the bad guys for him if he just hands over the files she needs. He hesitates, but does, and she makes sure to get in a dig about how betrayed Kyung-yi will feel if she finds out.

Mi-ae delivers a drink to someone. Hidden inside the drink is one of K’s dolls and a square of undeveloped film. Other dolls are similarly delivered, along with embarrassing or incriminating videos for blackmail. Meanwhile, Kyung-yi finds Kyung and pulls her aside for a chat.

Sook makes a tearful apology on Hyun-tae’s behalf, since he’s “out of the country on business.” When someone throws acid in her eyes, Je-hee and Mr. Kim rush to shield her from the cameras. Kyung-yi, however, snaps a bunch of pictures herself in the hospital, where Sook’s face is now almost entirely covered in bandages. Mr. Kim pull out his gun, but Sook waves him off. Kyung-yi tells them to schedule a press conference for “Rabbit,” and Sook agrees.

Hyun-tae’s stylist arrives at his hiding spot to fix his hair and makeup while he rehearses his speech. The stylist laughs at a spam text that reads, “Your family is trying to kill you” and asks for money in exchange for protection. But Hyun-tae senses something and grabs the phone. A voice message comes through next: Sung-tae directly asking K to kill Hyun-tae. The stylist still tries to laugh it off, but Hyun-tae, seething, orders her out of the room.

He calls Kyung back, and they negotiate (while Gun-wook holds up cue cards urging her to watch her tone). Hyun-tae promises half of the cash upfront and the rest once he’s perfectly safe, which Kyung understands to mean she’ll get rid of everyone who wants him dead. He promises to do everything she says, but threatens to kill her if she fails to get the job done. That makes both her and Gun-wook laugh. Kyung giddily imagines moving to Spain once they’re done, but assures Gun-wook she has no intention of letting Hyun-tae off the hook, either.

The team mull over K’s motivation for helping Hyun-tae, knowing she wants to kill him, too. Je-hee reminds them of what Kyung said about making her life a living hell instead of killing her off, and Santa adds, “To kill or not to kill, that is the question.” (While staring at a store display of kitchen knives, no less.) Kyung-yi concludes that once Hyun-tae shows his face, K will put him through hell on earth.

Before the press conference, Hyun-tae meets privately with Sook, but in separate cars. He tosses her his phone with the voice file playing. “To help Sung-tae’s political career, you made me act like the perfect son,” he says. “Now you want me to die?” He figures it’s a good thing the video was released, because he was sick of putting on an act. After today, he’ll leave the country and do whatever he wants. He drives away, and suddenly a tire on Sook’s car goes flat. When Mr. Kim gets out to investigate, Kyung sticks a gun in his face.

The press conference is delayed, allegedly due to Hyun-tae’s plane arriving late. While everyone waits, a crowd of his fans flood into the room.

Kyung shoots a tranquilizer dart straight into Mr. Kim’s forehead. Gun-wook arrives in their car, and Kyung promises not to kill Sook – yet – if she comes with them. Sook slowly and quietly obeys.

Hyun-tae arrives at the press conference, to cheers of support from his fans – one of whom is the woman he was romantically involved with. He launches into his speech, but the woman shouts that he should apologize for how he treated her. She kicks up such a fuss that security rush to keep all the fans at bay – until one guard lets them through and they all mob Hyun-tae.

Kyung sets Sook up in a wheelchair on a theater stage, and chirps that someone as bad as her shouldn’t just be killed like anyone else. After double-checking that Sook can still see, she starts showing her the blackmail videos, detailing just how awful each of those people are as we see them all arrive at the same abandoned building. They’re all shocked to see each other carrying similar bags of cash, and each one tries to deflect their own shame onto everyone else.

Kyung has a camera set up inside a giant stuffed bear at the abandoned building, and orders Sook to choose who deserves to die more – Hyun-tae, or the 20 people she’s lured into her trap. She has a bomb ready at each location, and it’s just up to Sook to decide if she’ll sacrifice her son to save 20 people. But, unbeknownst to Sook, there’s a 21st person at the scene – Sung-tae, who’s tied to the teddy bear (and the bomb).

Kyung holds the trigger buttons close to Sook’s head, warning that if Sook doesn’t pick one in ten seconds, she’ll set off both bombs. She counts down, and at the last second, Sook pushes the button to kill Hyun-tae, whimpering as she does. Kyung looks disappointed, and asks if Sook knew Sung-tae was there. Then she smiles brightly and tells the camera that Sook killed her good-for-nothing second son and saved her firstborn who has a bright future ahead of him. She assures Sook that her choice to save 20 strangers paid off and reveals that Hyun-tae had asked her to kill Sook and Sung-tae.

Kyung walks to the end of the stage and dramatically recites, “The love of tens of thousands of people is less than my love for Ophelia.” Gun-wook sets a third trigger button on the stage, this one marked with Sook’s name. “How far would you go for Ophelia?” Kyung asks her, and makes her choose again – press this button, and she’ll instantly explode, or the other and kill the 20 people (plus Sung-tae).

As Kyung counts down, Sook throws herself at the self-destruct button, but Kyung pulls it out of the way and tells her to stop pretending to be selfless. She bends down to look in Sook’s eyes, but something strikes her as odd, and she hastily unwraps the bandages around Sook’s face.

It’s not Sook. It’s Kyung-yi. Kyung throws a screaming fit, and Kyung-yi smiles triumphantly.

 
COMMENTS

I’ll admit, I fell for it. Mostly, anyway. I figured something was up with Sook, but I really only suspected she was pretending to be hurt, not that she and Kyung-yi had actually switched places. However, I don’t believe for a moment that Hyun-tae is actually dead. We’ve seen Kyung set up plenty of fake bombs for the fun of watching people react, after all. Not to mention we didn’t see what happened after Kyung-yi pressed the button. No body, no death, you know. But I am curious to see exactly who survives and who ends up in a living hell of their own making.

I almost expected Kyung to go full Joker and switch the bombs – so whichever one “Sook” chose, the other would go off. But clearly, she wanted to torture Sook with very specific choices, outcomes, and thoughts.

While I trust that Kyung-yi has a plan that involves taking down both Sook/Hyun-tae and K, I definitely sympathize more with Kyung-soo’s viewpoint. Sook and her empire are going to be trickier to take down than one serial killer, even with K’s supporter network. So it makes sense to combine resources with Kyung momentarily, just until Sook is out of the way. I can only hope he did it after consulting the rest of the team, and Kyung won’t be able to use it against him later.

Overall, this was an interesting episode for me, because it was a pretty mixed bag of satisfying and lackluster.

Let’s start with the satisfying: Number one was seeing Je-hee have the upper hand over Sook for once (and Kyung-yi, too, but it’s more satisfying when it’s Je-hee). It was also kind of satisfying in a twisted way to have Gun-wook and Kyung back together. They’re both toxic, but they also make a pretty decent team. And while I feel some sympathy for Gun-wook and his broken heart, he’s still a killer. He chose this, and Dae-ho deserves so much better.

But, oddly enough, while I’ve been itching to see Sook get her comeuppance, and to see her and Kyung really go at each other’s throats, I just wasn’t all that invested in whether Hyun-tae lived or died, or what choices Kyung forced Sook to make. That’s kind of the problem when you pit terrible people against each other – I wouldn’t have cared much if Kyung had outright killed Hyun-tae, or if she’d set off that bomb and killed those people that were so thoroughly painted as awful. It’s a pretty stark contrast to last episode, when Mr. Kim was chasing Gun-wook down and I did find myself on edge hoping he’d get away alive. At this point, I’m curious to see what Kyung-yi has up her sleeve, but the emotional pull has waned, which makes me a little sad.

But I’m hoping for the finale to bring that emotional pull back in, because there’s so much that could be done with Kyung-yi’s husband (are we going to get to see what really happened, or do we – like Kyung-yi – have to live with never truly knowing?), Kyung’s loneliness, Santa’s backstory, and where everyone chooses to go from here. (And I’m always game for more Kyung-yi/Je-hee backstory, but I feel like we’ve pretty much played out their arc with Je-hee’s full return to the team.)

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed this show. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has been fun and memorable, with lots of interesting characters – some of whom I completely adored – and that’s enough for me to be happy I watched it. (As long as the finale doesn’t ruin the fun. Knocking on ALL the wood!)

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Thanks for the recap @mistyisles as the show gets kookier and darker as time goes on. First off, in the general Kdrama world of gorgeous people, the fact the Lee Young-ae is willing to look terrible and behave beyond weird is a tribute to her bravery as an actor. Turning in a heartbeat from spacey burnout to brilliant strategist deserves praise, as well, for acting chops alone.
Show is not one that I highly anticipate every week but I am always happy to realize that I have another episode to enjoy (not for long). Somehow the rivalry between K and Kyung-yi has morphed into a competition where neither can claim the high ground (yes, K thinks she's morally justified in killing). When the plot turned to foiling a gangsterish empire it became less compelling. I do want to see Madame Sook taken out, though. How much fun actor Kim Hae-sook must be having portraying a baddie instead of a granny.
Agree that Inspector Koo is a strange mix of exciting and borderline dull. However, it is such a great departure from tropey Kdramas that I'm glad I stayed on for the ride!

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+1, especially your praise for Lee Young-ae.

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I’m going to voice an unpopular opinion but Lee Young-as is not convincing when she’s down and out and drunk. She looks sleepy with messy hair, but does not pull off the devil-may-care badassery of Kim Hye Soo, or even Kim Sun Ah (Woman of Dignity). Perhaps it’s her voice - too soft and pretty.

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Show was more fun (for me at least) than the description makes it sound. You kinda have to watch it.

After their week off show seems to have transformed from a serial-killer detective show with some light-heartedness into a full-on over-the-top comedy. But it's a good over-the-top comedy.

And it makes me wonder how far in advance the change in tone was planned. Did they spend the extra week re-writing the script and arranging for some quick animations?? Was the week off because of an emergency decision to change course???

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned Lee Young-ae just gave the performance of the year

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