"Well ... Since I have been searching for you for a long time, I find you in all the criminal cases. It is like falling into a trance. I feel like I disappeared and ... only you exist in this world. Wherever I am you're there. Not a strange feeling. I think I met you without knowing. Really ... Who are you?"Again outside the room, Yeo Ji-hoon sees the one he's been chasing at the end of the corridor. He runs after him anew, agitated and emotional, and finally catches up, in front of a closed door. And the culprit turns around, slowly ... and it is himself. A cold and scary version of himself, looking at him (and us) with these evil, challenging predator eyes.
***Thus start two of the most compelling hours of recent TV history: Episode 8 and 9 of Special Affairs Team TEN, only to leave us hanging BIG TIME at the end. Yeah, I have really suffered from that cliffhanger. But now ... TEN2 is on and the first two episodes are subbed .... but before I delve into them, I want to go back to what I have seen in January 2012 for maximum effect. Care to join?
The latest Tape Murder takes us, Ji-hoon and his team to a hotel. This is not at all good, judging from Ji-hoon's usually stoical face. He looks at the crime scene in utter shock. Nobody knows what's going on with him. But when he is told by his superior to get out there and catch the serial killer, he looses it. His plea is desperate and his pain visible: “I’m not a monster! I just wanted to be a monster because I thought I could catch the suspect then.” This transformation is all the more heart breaking because up to this moment, the show has almost exclusively shown him as a cold, sometimes even brutal man, only offering mere glimpses of something more human (and vulnerable) underneath the hardened shell.
Min-ho "Fridays": Min-ho is a student. When he rides his bike home, he sees detectives in a field near the river; they have found a body (one of the men is Ji-hoon). Min-ho is told to get lost by an officer when he eagerly starts taking pictures - but rather than following the order to leave, Min-ho wants to know whether this is a serial killing. Obviously, there was another similar killing recently, also on a Friday. When Min-ho gets home after nearly being arrested for being a bit too interested in and informed about detective stuff, he gets into an argument with his father for not going to visit his mother's grave. He didn't forget, Min-ho tells his father, but he doesn't see the point: Dead people don't have feelings anymore. And that said, Min-ho would prefer to be told the truth: he knows his mother did not die in an accident but was murdered. When told by his father that he died on that day, too - he reassures him that he will definitely not live a depressed and broken life like his father and bolts out of the house, going back to the crime scene he has witnessed. There, he ruminates about the killing. In the final scene, he gets on a bus ... and Ye-ri gets off.
Ye-ri "Face": Ye-ri is a college student. When she takes a passport picture at a photo studio, the elderly photographer advises the melancholic girl to smile a bit more and to cheer up! On her way back to campus, she passes a woman who is handing out flyers of her missing daughter. Sometime later, we are in her dorm, where Ye-ri has just made love to her boyfriend (it's the actor (Seo Woo-Jin) who plays Jung-woo's younger self in Nine). Lying naked in bed, she tells him that she is a living lie detector: she knows when somebody is lying just by listening to them. People don't like that and that's why they avoid her. And she asks him how long it has been since he started to two-time. He doesn't respond, but gets dressed and leaves. But before he goes out the door, he says: "I am not leaving you because of a new girl. I am leaving you because you are scary". When she goes to pick up her passport pictures a bit later (after smashing a mirror because she lies to herself about being fine in it - creepy!), she looks at the many pictures of smiling people on display. Upon giving her her own (sad looking) pictures, the photographer lectures her on how the face shows a persons life and tells her to learn how to smile. On her way back to university, she hears two girls talking about the missing other girl; and that she has been found, murdered. Shaken by the news, Ye-ri goes to look for one of the flyers, but they're all gone. She realizes she doesn't remember the face on the flyers ... because the picture showed an expressionless, unsmiling face, one that nobody remembers. Then and there, Ye-ri puts a smile on her face, determined to acquire a face that people will remember - even if the smile is just a lie.
Do-shik "Female" (or Woman): It's my favorite ahjussi! Just loooooooove him. Do-shik's at the library and is getting out a book ... one that he has gotten out before. He is in love with the librarian ... so sweet. Outside, his colleagues are waiting; one of them is Dog Nose, the cop that was killed in episode 3. They get called to a crime scene. An old shopkeeper was murdered, it seems over very little money. Later, we are in Do-shik's office, there's a cork board behind his desk. The missing person flyer that the mother distributed in front of Ye-ri's school is hanging there; the girl's name was “Choi Hyeon Jeong”. Do-shik gets a call about a suspect, and he and Dog Nose go to a PC-bang to arrest someone. In the fight that follows, Do-shik's hand gets slashed. He bandanges it in the office and looks at a murder case - it's the case of the woman who was found near the river, the one Min-ho was so interested in. Dog Nose lets him know that the case is being transferred to a special search unit. Do-shik is very annoyed by that news. Sometime later, Do-shik heads to the library to return the books; or rather to see the librarian. But, oh no - he sees her holding hands with another man. They are very familiar with each other and clearly in love. Do-shik laughs this very sad and defeated laugh - and when he returns the books, he also returns the library card. He tells her that he will not be coming back.
Ji-hoon "F": A very cocky and smiley Ji-hoon (constantly chewing gum) arrives at the riverside murder site. He notices the lack of surveillance, the clothes the victim is wearing (too light for the current season, which is winter), and a burning piece of paper next to the body. Just about then, he spots Min-ho who is taking pictures and tells a police officer to stop him. Back at the station, cocky Ji-hoon looks at other cases in which the women had their faces mutilated - he senses a connection. His colleague throws a file onto his desk; the dead woman has been identified. It is nobody else than Choi Hyeon Jeong – the young woman on the flyer that Ye-ri saw, and whose case originally belonged to Do-shik’s team. She was murdered several months ago, which makes Ji-hoon speculate that more murders will occur or already have ocurred. The camera zooms in on the picture he has on his desks - a woman. And we see him next with that woman, his wife. He tells her not to laugh - she is three words to him: "I'm hungry (begopah 배고파), I miss you (pogopah 보고파), I want to hug you (angopa 안고파)". (Oh my god, that's so sweet and cheesy, I'm dying!!) Of course she is laughing and he teasingly gets angry, cause she promised not to laugh. On the TV, news comes on about the Tape Murder case and Ji-hoon gets an intense look on his face as he listens.
Back in the present, Ji-hoon's team realizes that their current case, the latest Tape Murder, is part of Ji-hoon's past and his current obsession. He was collecting cases he labelled "F" that had the three elements "Friday", "Face" and "Female" for seven years. And they have a lead: there is a survivor. The only survivor in all the cases that Ji-hoon has filed away in his cabinet.
***In the final episode, the team gets closer and closer to the truth. We hear the story of the one survivor (it is truly horrifying and it scares the living shit out of me), we have several people talking about Ji-hoon (I love the bit where one detective calls him an "arrogant ass") and we also see the cocky-version of Ji-hoon, as he takes on the latest murder case, clearly admiring the killer's handywork and how his skills are evolving. "He has really become a monster now", he says, and nods. And: “You asked me if I was the ace detective in the Seoul Investigation squad, right? I’m not. But at some point, people started calling me a monster. A monster chasing a monster!” And he confidently declares that he will finish this. When the chief questions his confidence he declares he has a hidden weapon: the surviving victim. Oh no ....
We now know why Ji-hoon is so obsessed with the "F"-cases and we also know a lot of gruesome details about how horrible his wife's death was. His team also knows. And they puzzle over the fact that the killer is making a re-appearance now, staging the exact same scene again - and really, really want to find their boss. But, alas, team: you are no longer a team! They are told that their Special Affairs Team has been dispanded.
But of course, this is not the end. In Ji-hoon's office, they find at a crumpled piece of paper with the word “second wind” and its definition printed on it. It is a marathon term, and it means the phase after the "dead point" is conquered, the pain decreases, and the will to keep going gets strong again. To them, it clearly is a message from Ji-hoon to them, to keep going no matter what; even without the bureau's permission. Nice. They get all smiley and happy that their boss has not abandoned them, but is asking for their help, and their strength to keep going.
And then it gets really messed up.
First, our team sets up a new, spacious office (which used to belong to Min-ho's father. But hello there, chaebol heir)
Second, Do-shik once again looks more closely at the survivor. There are interviews with her and Do-shik finds out that her kidnapper (most likely the Tape Case murderer) is a cop.
Third, we find out that Ji-hoon also knows this; and has in fact known it for quite some time.
Fourth, Ye-ri goes to Ji-hoon's place as if he were the victim, to "feel" him. There are three paintings on the wall: One for "Friday" (the goddess Freyja); one for "Face" (tribal masks); and one for "Female" (a painting of the moon, the symbol of women). And Ye-ri wonders aloud, whether Ji-hoon wanted to be a killer because of the Tape Murderer; or whether he is really becoming one.
Fifth, Ye-ri finds an address on the back of a post-it note in Ji-hoon's house. A post-it note she gave to him, by the way, with a gift (a cactus)
Sixth, in an (imagined) flash back to the scene where the policeman-killer talks to the survivor, the policeman has Ji-hoon's voice. Or something very close to it. But for Do-shik, it makes sense now: Ji-hoon has gone into hiding because he knew that "F" was a policeman, likely watching his every move. The recent killing was a warning: if you get any closer, people will die.
Seven, Ye-ri goes to the address alone. Yes, very smart move. It's an abandond warehouse. She texts her colleagues the address. She walks around the warehouse and calls out for Ji-hoon. No, this is not creepy at all!
Eight, Ji-hoon sits all alone in a concert hall. He hides his face underneath a baseball cap. On stage, his dead wife rehearses “Death and the Maiden” with a group of musicians. Ji-hoon voice over:
"Whenever I see a corpse at a crime scene, I am immediately brought back to my memories. The memories that are stopped with death. How I lived, who I loved - and who killed her."Nine, Ji-hoon listening to his dead wife is inter-cut with the warehouse scenes ... and we see that Ye-ri is not alone.
"How dare someone make it like that? He should never have done that. Even if it were done by God. But a dead person can no longer remember. How beautiful her smile was ... If only I could turn back time, I would do everything I could. But I can't. Instead, I can do something else. To meet you again, I will do anything."Ten, Ye-ri is attacked.
"Even if I have to sell my soul - I would gladly do it. I have to meet you again" (and there is the sound of a large audience clapping, as Ji-hoon walks out of the empty theater) "to kill you with my own hands"Eleven, Ye-ri on a chair, bound - with green duct tape wrapped around her head! At first, it appears as if someone were coming up to her to save her and unwrap the tape --- but alas, the scene was only shown backwards!
"If only I could turn back time, I'd do whatever I could. Even if I had to sell my own soul. I will gladly do it"And the duct tape scene plays again, only this time, in the right direction, as the killer wraps Ye-ri's face up tight.
Do-shik: "Ji-hoon ... did you really have to go that far?"
Min-ho: "Why did things turn out like this? Why did we run into that? Why do I see my Dad's face in the director's face? Locking himself in hell. That face"
Ye-ri, back in Ji-hoon's apartment (before the warehouse / after the warehouse??): "I saw the monster. Who wrapped the tape around my head with no facial expression. That monster. And when unwrapping that tape from my face - your sad face" - and she half smiles, half cries. "You are becoming a monster as well?"
Seriously, this drama is so incredibly good, you can watch it several time and still get the creeps. And obviously, you can watch it a hundred times and still not understand what the freeeeegin hell is going on in the last scene. And the meanest thing this drama did - apart from this massive cliffhanger before the epilogue - was the last few seconds it gave us; with Ye-ri in Ji-hoon's apartment, talking about the duct tape that was wrapped around her head, without any clue whether this epilogue is in the past or in the future.
Mission accomplished, I am definitely ready now!
Give me that next episode!!!!