Inspector Koo: Episode 9
Our inspector hits a literal rock bottom this hour, and may not have the will – let alone the strength – to pull herself out of it. Meanwhile, the baddies forge a tentative alliance to advance both of their agendas. The question is, who’s in control, and who’s in way over their head?
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Kyung taunts Kyung-yi with Je-hee’s scarf until Kyung-yi grabs her by the collar and demands to know if Je-hee is okay. Kyung plays dumb and calls Sook out for discretely trying to call for backup. When Sook plays just as dumb, Kyung steps around Kyung-yi and proposes she and Sook join forces. She’s intrigued by Sook’s power, and outright states that she needs someone to clean up after she kills people. Sook isn’t convinced she can trust Kyung, so Kyung says she isn’t in the process of any murders right now — and that she can carry out a favor for Sook as soon as she asks one.
She throws Kyung-yi a giddy look as she says it and taunts her again with the last words Kyung-yi said to Je-hee (that she wasn’t sure if Je-hee deserved to live or die anymore). That’s the last straw. Kyung-yi throws Kyung down on top of a table and asks again if she killed Je-hee. Kyung claims she didn’t, though she knows Kyung-yi won’t believe it without proof.
Mr. Kim finally arrives with backup, but Sook has him stand down since Kyung is on their side now. Kyung-yi vows to kill Kyung herself if Je-hee’s dead, and takes off to find her. To Kyung’s delight, Sook sends her men to follow Kyung-yi, and they agree they’ll make a great team. Sook matches Kyung’s mixture of charm and menace, and Kyung looks just the teeniest bit unnerved.
Despite her lead, Kyung-yi can’t outrun Mr. Kim’s car and trips on a steep incline. He gets out and waves a gun, ordering her to get in the car. Left with no choice, Kyung-yi climbs into the trunk, though she does ask about Je-hee again. Mr. Kim says she’s dead, but Kyung-yi doesn’t believe him – not that he thought she would.
Santa brings more groceries to Kyung-yi’s place and panics when he doesn’t find her. Meanwhile, Mr. Kim stands next to a large barrel, presumably with Kyung-yi inside it, and apologizes insincerely for what he’s about to do. He uses a golf club to send one of her shoes flying, and kicks the barrel down the rocky hill after it.
That transitions to a video game sequence, where a barrel bounces down a hill. It takes a path to the left of a signpost proclaiming death ahead. At the end of the path, the barrel falls off a cliff, and a skull rises up with the message, “Game Over. Thank you for Watching Inspector Koo. Continue?” The option “YES” is selected, so the barrel sequence starts over. This time, a gigantic hornet appears at the fork and nudges the barrel down the right-hand path instead, which is labeled with a question mark.
A distraught Santa and Kyung-soo search security camera footage at Kyung-yi’s apartment to find out when she left. As they do, Santa receives a text from Kyung-yi’s phone saying she needs some time and space to think. Neither Santa nor Kyung-soo is fooled, and Santa suddenly remembers he can track her through an app.
Kyung-yi wakes up bloodied and sore. She’s fallen inside an enormous cylindrical chamber, and somehow landed smack in the middle of a metal framework that saved her from plunging to her death. She tries calling for help, to no avail.
Santa and Kyung-soo follow Kyung-yi’s signal to a recycling center. Santa spots Kyung-yi’s shoe in the road, and nearly gets himself run over retrieving it. Unfortunately, that’s the shoe with the tracking device.
A bee buzzes around Kyung-yi face until she’s annoyed enough to start yelling again. Je-hee’s voice answers, but only in Kyung-yi’s mind, asking why Kyung-yi is trying so hard to live. The dialogue helps Kyung-yi spot a rusty ladder built into the side of the chamber. “Because I’m a suspicious person,” she says with renewed energy, “and I need to see for myself if you’re alive or dead.”
Hauling herself to her feet, Kyung-yi attempts to cross to the ladder on a metal beam. She makes it three-quarters of the way before she slips, catching herself just in time. With her last burst of energy, she throws herself across the remaining distance and grabs a rung of the ladder… which breaks off, sending her plummeting to the bottom of the chamber.
Kyung is enjoying a pool in Thailand when she receives a passport and a plane ticket back to Seoul, and whines that she just got here. But she takes the flight, and Mr. Kim picks her up from the airport and drops her off at a lavish house. OH – this is the same place they took Jung-yeon. Kyung’s excitement fades when she discovers the windows are all blocked off and most of the doors are locked.
She explores the grounds, which are surrounded by a high wall. The gate has cameras and electrified wiring at the top, so she heads to the backyard where the wall towers higher than she can throw a stone. Kyung parkours it up to the top, only to get electrocuted anyway and fall back down onto a rooftop. She laughs wryly, wondering what she’s gotten herself into.
Turns out, Kyung-yi’s fall was broken by a net, just a few feet off the ground. She slowly comes to and rolls off the net, landing on a pile of trash next to a tattered, life-size teddy bear. Spotting a water bottle nearby, she gratefully gulps down the last few drops, briefly noticing oil on the outside of the bottle before getting distracted by fireworks overhead. She screams for help, but no one can hear her over the fireworks.
As hope dies away again, Kyung-yi remembers Je-hee’s words: “I understand that you don’t trust anyone, but I bet no one in this world cares about you more than I do. I won’t be there when you regret this.” Tearing up, Kyung-yi admits Je-hee was right. A solitary ember drifts down toward her, and she scrambles for the oily bottle. But the ember lands in her mouth instead, making her cough. Defeated, she lies down and cuddles the teddy bear, whispering, “I’m sorry.”
Still searching, Santa pulls Kyung-yi’s jacket out of a giant brick of compressed plastics. He breaks down in tears and prays – out loud – for help finding her, because he can’t lose her this time.
Sook and her sons make kimchi as a photo op in front of a children’s home. Sung-tae offers a bite to a woman who’s working with them, but she shyly requests one from Hyun-tae instead. After Hyun-tae happily obliges, Sook asks him to help her fetch more ingredients from inside. There, she yells at him for his relationship with the woman, which she suspects has resulted in a pregnancy. He insists it hasn’t, though he admits someone is blackmailing them on threat of revealing their relationship to the public. Sook promises to help him – and then shoves his face in a vat of kimchi marinade, warning him not to wreck his brother’s campaign. As her men drag him out of the room, she asks Mr. Kim if he’s found what Ko Dam was hiding. He hasn’t, but he’s almost there.
Sook visits Kyung, who serves her suspicious-looking tea and pointedly pours herself a glass of cola instead. Sook drinks the tea down anyway. Hearing that Kyung-yi won’t be a concern anymore, Kyung eagerly asks if she’s in “a better place,” to which Sook retorts that Kyung is the one in a better place. Kyung rubs her bandages and sarcastically agrees.
Sook gives Kyung a name and address, and asks if that’s all she needs to get the job done. Kyung laughs that it isn’t that simple, wanting to know whether the man did something to deserve death. Sook gets up close and personal, caressing Kyung’s face as she says he sells girls like her who have nowhere to go. Yeesh.
The man, Park Doo-mok, enters an elevator while laughing over the phone about blackmail. Ahh, this must be the guy Hyun-tae was talking about. Kyung follows him onto the elevator, wearing a gas mask and carrying a bunch of balloons. She lets a few balloons float up to block the security camera, then starts popping them. Doo-mok chokes and sputters, and when he touches the elevator button, it electrocutes him. At the bottom floor, Kyung is met by one of Sook’s men. They leave Doo-mok’s body lying in the elevator.
When Kyung-yi wakes up, it’s daylight. She asks the teddy bear for a reason to try and get out of here, and then imagines (hallucinates?) meaningful objects falling into the chamber: her flask and computer monitor, snacks, a cough drop like her husband used to give her (which reminds her that he won’t be there even if she does make it out), Kyung’s doll, and finally Je-hee’s scarf. She throws the imaginary scarf, which flies up and catches on the ladder she’d tried to reach before. With a wry smile, she asks, “Why is it always you that ends up saving me?”
Inspired, Kyung-yi uses a tin can lid to cut the net down and fashion it into a rope. She ties a board to one end and tosses it at the ladder, and surprises herself by hooking it on the first try. As she climbs, she sees (and hears) Santa at the top, calling for her, but chalks it up to more imagination.
It’s dark by the time she reaches the upper rim, and her strength is all but gone again. She desperately reaches for the last rung, misses – and Je-hee grabs her hand. She’s real, and alive, and Santa and Kyung-soo are with her. Together, they haul Kyung-yi out. She sits to catch her breath, and when Je-hee crouches next to her, Kyung-yi pokes her face to make sure she’s real. Tugging at Je-hee’s scarf, she says she should have given her one that was more unique (Kyung must have gotten a matching one to taunt her with). They end up hugging and crying together.
Kyung-yi watches her accomplice burn her gas mask, curious if that’s how they got rid of Kyung-yi, too. After wandering the gardens some more, she dramatically recites a few lines about a ritual to bring parents back from the dead, and then falls backward onto the grass and cries, “You’re back. I’ve missed you. I knew you’d come back.”
The team relocates to Je-hee’s home, where Kyung-yi rests on the couch and Santa feeds her pizza. She decides it’s best if Sook and Kyung keep thinking she’s dead, brushing off Je-hee’s suggestion that she go to the hospital. When she asks if Je-hee plans to tell Sook she survived, Je-hee hangs her head, her voice trembling as she says she would never have joined Sook if she’d known they would harm Kyung-yi.
Next, Kyung-yi asks why Kyung let Je-hee live. Je-hee tries to deny Sook came here, but Kyung-yi knows that’s how Kyung found Sook – and anyway, Je-hee’s daughter Na-na told her a “pretty unni” stopped by. That sends Je-hee into a flashback.
While choking Je-hee, Kyung had dragged her into the apartment, but Je-hee had gone limp faster than Kyung had expected. Annoyed, she’d resuscitated Je-hee so they could talk. Je-hee had spilled everything about Sook, though she didn’t know why Sook wanted to catch Kyung. To her terror, Kyung had gone into Na-na’s bedroom, where she had assured Je-hee that she wasn’t going to kill her right now. Kyung-yi always said people go to a better place when they die, and Kyung would much rather make Je-hee’s life a living hell. Kyung had added that if Je-hee didn’t find out more information about Sook – and fast – she’d take Na-na to a certain man named Na Jong-joon. Finally, Kyung had asked Je-hee to keep their meeting a secret, then winked down at Na-na, whose eyes had just fluttered open.
In the present, Je-hee whispers tearfully that Kyung knows Na-na saw her face. Kyung-soo tries to reassure her that Kyung only kills people who do bad things – so Na-na’s safe – but Kyung-yi snaps that Kyung is a murderer, plain and simple. She points out Je-hee is only alive now because she promised to do what Kyung said. Je-hee cries that she was out of options – the team got disbanded because of her, and she had to support her family somehow. She asks what Kyung-yi would have done in her position. Kyung-yi wouldn’t have worked for Sook in the first place, but after Na-na interrupts them and has to be taken back to bed by Santa, she softens a bit. Je-hee admits she shouldn’t have done what she did, and Kyung-yi concedes that Je-hee has more to protect than she does.
Kyung-yi decides to find out what K wants, and announces that anyone not on board should leave now. The team nod in support, and Je-hee even cracks a smile and says, “This is my house, though.” As they start brainstorming, Kyung-soo remembers an important detail he’s been dying to share: K’s assistant has the same tattoo as Lee Jun-hyun (the guy whose killers K systematically murdered). More notably, it links the two of them to the same juvenile detention facility. Kyung-yi jumps up to give Kyung-soo the sincerest, most enthusiastic compliment he’s ever gotten from her. He bites back a huge grin and pulls out a list of suspects. Among them is Gun-wook.
Kyung-soo questions Gun-wook’s colleagues, who reveal that Gun-wook quit without notice and call Dae-ho over to confirm which days Gun-wook wasn’t on duty. Dae-ho seems nervous, but complies until Kyung-soo asks about the tattoo. “I don’t know what he did, but I want nothing to do with him,” Dae-ho says, and stalks away.
Gun-wook is in a state of post-breakup despair, and leaves his front door ajar. When Kyung-yi and Santa sneak inside, he’s ingested a bunch of protein powder (a gift from Dae-ho) and is too delirious to fight back as they throw a net over him.
Je-hee and Na-na film the endorsement ad for Sung-tae, which involves a song and dance about how mothers and children adore him, and Sook convinces Je-hee’s dad to join in as well. Afterward, Sook and Sung-tae praise Je-hee’s performance, but Sung-tae leaves after Je-hee innocently mentions Hyun-tae.
Then Sook asks when Je-hee last contacted Kyung-yi. Je-hee plays it cool, pretending she’s relieved Kyung-yi hasn’t been making any disturbances. She adds that she’s sure both Kyung-yi and Kyung are doing fine despite their silence, and Sook lets it go with a reminder that Je-hee should tell her if she has any concerns.
Kyung-yi and Santa restrain Gun-wook with zip ties and a pool float. Kyung-yi warns him about letting his guard down, though he doesn’t think Kyung would have any reason to kill him. Kyung-yi promises to let him go if he answers her questions honestly (Santa ominously brandishes a pair of scissors in support), and reveals that Kyung has made a new, more powerful friend.
She asks about footage of what happened to Lee Jun-hyun, and Gun-wook doesn’t think there is any, since he couldn’t find it. That’s not very convincing, though, considering he didn’t notice his protein powder was laced with sleeping pills. Kyung-yi warns of terrible ways he could die if he’s not more careful, then releases him. (Santa has fun threatening him with the scissors again before puncturing the pool float so Gun-wook can get through the door.)
Kyung looks through a pile of party decorations and costumes. Promising a good show, she puts together a makeshift bomb and takes Mr. Kim outside to test it. He scoffs that it won’t kill anyone, only to jump when it explodes. She sighs that it’s a shame – clearly implying it’s a shame it didn’t kill him – and skips back inside.
Gun-wook arrives home to find both Kyung-soo and a huge package outside his door. Kyung-soo wonders if it could be a bomb, and when the package moves, he and Gun-wook jump into each other’s arms in fear. Kyung-yi and Santa come around the corner at that moment, and Kyung-yi rolls her eyes and pulls out a box cutter to open the package with. (Santa runs over to join the cowering cuddle fest.) But it’s not a bomb inside the package – it’s a man’s body, all dressed up with ribbons and bows.
Ahh, the Pit of Despair. (Sorry, I had to.)
I was so invested in whether Je-hee was alive or not that I was caught completely off-guard by how hard Kyung-yi’s despair hit me. While I had no doubt she’d make it out of there, the real suspense was all about what was going on in her head – not even how but why would she eventually find a way out? It was the cough drop that did me in, and more specifically the fact that her response to it was that getting out wouldn’t reunite her with her husband – and, in fact, not getting out might. She’s buried her grief over him so deeply that there are precious few moments when the love she had for him comes out, but it’s still there.
Even though it was a little confusing (I definitely thought Santa was throwing her things), that moment revealed a lot about Kyung-yi. When everything was stripped away, only a few things mattered at all. Alcohol and gaming were methods she used to escape her pain, not reasons to keep pushing through it. Food was tempting, but only momentarily. Guilt and longing for her husband were reasons to let go of this painful life, not to hold onto it. Kyung’s doll (and thus the thrill of the chase?) didn’t even catch her attention. But Je-hee – a real, potentially still-living person she cares about – was worth staying alive for. Regardless of how often she’s suspected Je-hee, and how close Je-hee came to proving those suspicions justified, at the end of the day their bond is one of the few things Kyung-yi can be confident isn’t just in her head. Which is why it was so moving that Je-hee both figuratively and literally pulled her out of that pit.
Once again, we also had interesting parallels in that both Kyung-yi and Kyung took hard falls this episode and found themselves in way over their heads. Much as Kyung is doing what she can to maintain some semblance of control, Kyung can see that she’s not pulling the strings anymore, and she definitely doesn’t like it. Though, of course, she’ll use the situation to her advantage as best as she can. Unlike Gun-wook, who always played right into her manipulations and gave her lots of openings to laugh at him, Sook calls her bluffs and then intimidates her right back. It won’t be easy for her to get out from under Sook’s thumb, but I have no doubt she’ll rise to the challenge. It would be interesting to see her attempt to enlist Kyung-yi’s team to make it happen.
On that note, it also seems as though she might be a little disappointed that Kyung-yi is “gone.” I couldn’t help wondering when she was reciting the bit about raising parents from the dead if she was thinking of her own parents, Jung-yeon, or Kyung-yi. She may have just gained a new ally with seemingly unlimited resources, but she’s more alone than ever before, and I imagine that’s going to continue eating at her. Especially when said ally is really only using her to further her own agenda.
As for our other teammates, I’m glad Kyung-soo is finally getting the recognition he deserves. And Santa… I still love him. I can’t not love him, especially when he’s so distraught that he’s praying to a goblin to help them find Kyung-yi. (Which reminds me, do you think Kyung-soo heard him calling out for her?) He still acts like a stalker, but at least his concern for her appears genuine? And what did he mean when he said he couldn’t lose her this time? Was he referring to when she kicked him off the team, or something else?
With only a few episodes left, this hour felt like the deep breath before the plunge. The team completely fell apart, found their footing together again, and are ready to bounce back stronger than ever. Meanwhile, the baddies are combining forces, but their bonds are shaky at best. When final lines are drawn, where will each person’s loyalties lie?