A better episode than the previous one, where this one finally gives me the twists and unexpected turns I enjoy from this series. It was a bit of a twisted case at first because I thought it was a case of a love triangle between a man and two women, with the two women in a lesbian-type of relationship. I know – would a K-drama ever dare venture down that path? This drama ends up not being like that (sad face) but it still ended up being quite the compelling case of regrets and old sins. This is episode 10: “15 Years.”
A woman calls 119 begging them to save her as she remains trapped in a car, her breathing shallow and ragged. She dies before she can tell the operator where she’s located.
The news goes in a frenzy, reporting the deaths of two women in a car by the reservoir. That’s extra attention that the police doesn’t need, and Ji Hoon finds that it is his team’s new case to solve. Chief Jung gives Ji Hoon a recording from the woman’s call to the operator, and they hear her address someone, saying “You!…” before finally dying. Who is she addressing? Since the car was locked on the inside and the other woman in the passenger seat died first, the woman in the driver’s seat must have been addressing someone outside. So, who?
Autopsy shows that tetrodotoxin (found in poisonous pufferfish) was found in both women, paralyzing them until the very last breath. For one, passenger Oh Hyun Joo, the tetrodotoxin was found in her stomach, meaning she ingested it. For the other, driver Kim Min Sun, it was found in her blood, meaning she inhaled it. For the poison to be fully digested with the food it would have taken 6 hours, but the woman died 2 hours after eating at a restaurant (where she could have had the pufferfish).
Do Shik visits the scene of the crime and looks through the case file again. Kim Min Sun is an accomplished doctor, while Oh Hyun Joo is a bar mistress. What could possibly bring these two women of different backgrounds together? He notices a plastic black bag floating on the reservoir; the bag is not supposed to be there because there’s a sign for no littering.
Ye Ri notices that the mud surrounding the car matches the mud found on Kim Min Sun’s shoes, which means she left the car at some point. However, instead of staying outdoors and breathing fresh air because she was poisoned, she went back into the car and locked all the doors. Why?
Min Ho then calls with news from the restaurant they visited: the pufferfish in that restaurant were bred to not have any toxins. If the ladies were poisoned by the pufferfish, then the restaurant must have gotten a bad shipment. On top of that, Do Shik shows them what he found in the bag: a syringe and a bottle of tetrodotoxin. Looks like it really was murder.
Back in the office, Min Ho presents their theory on what happened: the suspect first poisoned the coffee with the toxin, which ended up only killing Oh Hyun Joo. As for Kim Min Sun, it’s likely she got stabbed by the syringe and then ran into her car to avoid the killer. She locked the cars, and watched the killer outside as she slowly died. After they died, the suspect then cleaned up the car to make it look like they died from ingesting the pufferfish.
A photo was also found at the crime scene; it had been thrown away by the suspect as well. It shows both ladies in high school, and on the back it’s inscribed “I Am.” Do Shik wonders if these girls were such close friends that they wanted to die together.
Chapter 1: I Am
Ji Hoon visits Kim Min Sun’s husband, chief of surgery Lee Jong Hoon. He’s an accomplished doctor himself who was Min Sun’s professor during her residency. He can’t believe that it could be murder, and knows of no one who could possibly hold a grudge against her for her medical practices. Her skills were so famous that she was invited to speak at seminars and was even called by American hospitals who wanted to recruit her. However, she turned them down because of her one handicap: her fear of flying. Then, around six months ago, Min Sun started suffering from insomnia so her husband prescribed tranquilizers for her.
When asked about Oh Hyun Joo, Jong Hoon becomes slightly uncomfortable, but he says that Hyun Joo and his wife were the best of friends. Ji Hoon shows him the picture of the girls in high school, but he’s never seen it before.
Ye Ri then goes to speak with one of Hyun Joo’s colleagues at the bar. The bar girl admits that five years ago the bar had closed down because of debt. However, thanks to Hyun Joo’s friend (Min Sun), the bar got back on its feet, and Min Sun brought a lot of her colleagues to be customers.
Min Ho discovers that the toxin was found only in one can of coffee, as if the poison was meant for one person only. That adds another color to whom the suspect could be. Meanwhile Do Shik visits Min Sun’s house, a sparse but clean home. He notices an ashtray by the bedside table. Usually, not many women would allow smoking in the bedroom unless she smoked as well. Or… she could be sleeping alone, separate from her husband. That could also mean she married her husband for money, or he has another woman, or both.
He checks out her study, and notices a drawer filled with scratch marks, as if someone tried to pry it open. The drawers are unlocked, but nothing suspicious are in them. He checks underneath it; there’s an envelope wedged below the drawer. Inside are incriminating pictures of Jong Hoon with another woman.
Do Shik takes the photos back to Jong Hoon in the interrogation room. Why was only one can of coffee poisoned? He posits that perhaps Jong Hoon wanted to kill his wife, and the coffee was meant for her. She had caught him cheating with her best friend Hyun Joo, and so he wanted a divorce, using the pictures as a cause for separation. But if she didn’t allow for one, then the only way to get rid of her was murder.
Jong Hoon interrupts, not wanting to listen to the accusations any further. It wasn’t that his wife had caught him with those pictures, but rather he had taken those pictures himself and showed it to his wife. He wanted to know what she truly felt. Five years ago, Hyun Joo started intruding into his marriage. (There were three of them in the marriage…) It was becoming almost unbearable how Hyun Joo would always be around for dinner, and he disliked the fact that she worked at a bar. But then Hyun Joo would start coming over to his house when Min Sun was away for business trips. It soon became clear that she was seducing him, and he let her.
But then he started noticing something strange: even though Min Sun had a seminar out of town, she would always stay at a Seoul hotel during those days, as evidenced by her receipts. He became suspicious, and asked if Hyun Joo knew anything about it. Hyun Joo was frank with him: he married Min Sun for her money, and she for his reputation. If he’s so curious over Min Sun’s true intentions, then he might as well ask her himself.
So Jong Hoon took those pictures and showed them to her. Hyun Joo was not surprised, and Jong Hoon realized that she didn’t love him. She might even be setting him up by using her friend as bait to lure him into adultery. But when Jong Hoon proposed divorce, she refused. They’ll never get divorced – at least not yet.
After that, they were only married on paper. He would even act close to Hyun Joo but Min Sun paid him no mind. He remains suspicious over his wife’s relationship with Hyun Joo, and what about it would make her value that relationship more than one with her husband. (It’s this part that made me wonder of the possibility of a lesbian relationship between the two girls, even though it did seem to manifest in a bitter frenemy type of way.) Now the team is back to square one – revenge over adultery is not the motive in this case.
Ye Ri heads over to Hyun Joo’s home for some inspecting. It’s mostly cleaned up, with her belongings all packed up in boxes. And then Ye Ri proceeds to unpack them all. She finds nothing of interest, and picks up a dictionary, looking for words that could possibly complete the sentence “I am…” Suddenly, someone approaches from her behind and taps her shoulder.
Both ladies scream like there’s no tomorrow – but it’s just Hyun Joo’s housemaid. Hah – I’ll never forget how much the housemaid screamed in surprise even though she was the one who approached Ye Ri. The housemaid is annoyed that Ye Ri just unpacked all the boxes without permission.
She then notices the high school photo of Hyun Joo and Min Sun, and recognizes it from six months ago. Hyun Joo had received it, and upon sight started screaming and going crazy. For several days Hyun Joo was a different person, and then she had the housemaid throw it away (only to regret it and then demand it back). The housemaid believes she threw the rest of the picture away though, and out they go to find the garbage truck taking away the trash.
Ye Ri chases after the truck and demands to see the trash they’ve collected. With her nose plugged up, she dives into the bags to look for the missing piece. Ew.
She heads back to the office smelling of rotting garbage, and hands the complete evidence to Ji Hoon. Apparently there was more to that high school photo; Hyun Joo had cut off one person out of the photo, and the back of the piece finished the sentence: “I am… back.”
Chapter 2: I Am Back
Now they have to track down the third girl. Min Ho gets her identity: Im Se Jin, 33 years old. Problem is, she’s already dead.
She died six months ago in a fire in Po Chun, where she had moved to after coming back from the States. The fire was set to remove all evidence. There were no signs of robbery or sexual assault, but only a set of footprints and a crumpled piece of calendar paper with June 29th circled in red. Apparently Im Se Jin was leaving behind a sign pointing to her killer, but the police investigating it had not found any person or event with any connection to that date.
But now they do know something: six months ago, when Se Jin was killed, Hyun Joo received the photo and Min Sun started taking tranquilizers to help her sleep. It appears that Hyun Joo and Min Sun knew the killer, and were afraid they would be next. Now they have to find the one suspect who knows all three women and is tied to all of them.
Do Shik and Min Ho review the profiles of all three women on their board. Since Se Jin didn’t keep in touch with them during the time she was in the States, something must have happened 15 years ago in high school. That’s when Do Shik notices something strange on the map — all three girls went to different high schools that were far away from their district. Why? Min Ho discovers then that the girls initially attended the same high school, but then transferred out and hid their records.
Ye Ri tries to figure out what special date June 29th holds for all three women, but can’t find a connection. Instead both Min Sun and Hyun Joo have June 12th and June 26th marked out as special dates (the reason yet unknown).
Chapter 3: 15 Years
Ye Ri and Ji Hoon visit a former classmate of the girls’ at the old high school and show her the picture. The former classmate remembers them clearly as the popular girls. They were rich, smart, and pretty – and got away with anything they wanted at school. However, they transferred away from high school 15 years ago because of one girl, Park Soon Young.
Park Soon Young was a little strange, but always kind, and she was an easy target for bullying by the girls. One of the things they’d make her do was drown her head in a tub of water to see how long she could “hold her breath.” They had only one male teacher, and because he was so good looking he was everyone’s favorite. He’d ask for volunteers at the end of the day to help him, and when the three girls volunteered, no one else dared to defy them. Except Soon Young. And the teacher chose Soon Young for help (probably because it was almost always the other three).
For that, the three popular girls disliked Soon Young. Several days later after gym class, Soon Young fell to her death from outside the classroom window. While it was ruled as a misstep (since she was reaching for the white scarf her mother had given her that had flown out the window), the three popular girls were actually there with her in the classroom. They testified that there was an argument, where Min Sun stole Soon Young’s scarf and toyed with it. Suddenly Soon Young pinned Min Sun against the wall, and Min Sun threw it out the window out of anger. Soon Young climbed out, and the three girls claimed that they were going to try and pull her back in, but Soon Young fell instead. It was their words against a dead girl’s, and so the case was left unsolved.
The former classmate still believes that the three girls killed Soon Young, but because there was no one else to say otherwise, the girls got off free. She still remembers the date of the death as June 12 – the day before her birthday.
That’s also the day when Kim Min Sun and Oh Hyun Joo were murdered. That means, they were killed the day the statute of limitations ended for their case.
Do Shik does some more digging and finds that Soon Young had a younger brother, Park Joon Young. They were raised by their grandmother, who then passed away shortly after Soon Young’s death. Joon Young grew up in a foster home, and became a fisherman. Suddenly, he’s now the number one suspect in this case.
Chapter 4: Two Weeks
(The next drama I’ll be watching!)
Yoo Rim has a new find for Ji Hoon; no matter how much and how hard she looked, she could not find any needle marks on any of their bodies. The only other way for Min Sun to have gotten affected by the poison was if she breathed it in.
Min Ho and Ye Ri are tasked with finding out between the two circled dates, June 12 and June 26. He posits that June 26th could have been another end date for the statute of limitations; when one leaves the country, the statute of limitations date extends even longer. Ye Ri realizes that five years ago, something happened, and she goes to Jong Hoon to find out.
He reveals that five years ago, she was invited to an important conference, but it required her to fly out. Min Sun insists that she can’t miss this conference, but asks that he keep the trip a secret from Hyun Joo. It was a trip that lasted two weeks, and because of this trip, Min Sun’s case was extended until June 26. When Hyun Joo found out, she used it against Min Sun for the past 5 years, blackmailing her with that.
Ji Hoon checks in with the NFS to see what clues they’ve gleaned from the car. There were traces of tetrodotoxin on the floor and seat, which suggests the criminal spraying the car with the poison. On top of that, the air conditioner was broken. Ji Hoon gives pause when he hears this, but thinks that the method and the objective of the criminal doesn’t match up; if the suspect used poison, that means he wanted to kill. He wouldn’t just spray it on the floor in the hopes that it would possibly kill someone.
Do Shik goes to the pier to see if anyone has seen Joon Young. One drunk fisherman has; he used to work with him until Joon Young disappeared six months ago, leaving his stuff behind. Joon Young was a depressed kid, even cutting himself at times. The fisherman gives Do Shik the address he had sent all of Joon Young’s belongings to. Do Shik grabs the entire team, and they head down the alley ways of slum until they find Joon Young’s door.
The police knock. No one answers. They force their way inside. Lying in the middle of the room is the rotting corpse of Park Joon Young.
The coroner on the scene guesses that he died six months ago, and a pharmacy prescription indicates that he had kidney failure. Couple that with all the empty soju bottles, and the fact that alcohol does not mix well with the medicine or his condition, and we have the recipe for death. Ye Ri finds his last diary entry around Christmas. Joon Young had remembered that in six months the statute of limitations on his sister’s death would end; he never forgot how unfair her death was. He only wished he could have been stronger to find justice for her.
Joon Young is no longer a suspect; he died 10 days before Im Se Jin died, and six months before Min Sun and Hyun Joo. So the team is back to square one: who could have possibly killed those women? Ye Ri finds that Joon Young circled June 29 as the day the statute of limitations ended, just like Se Jin had when she died. Was he wrong? Or were there three days unaccounted for?
Chapter 5: Three Days
Ye Ri ponders over why Se Jin and Joon Young thought that the end date was the 29th. Handwriting analysis returns on the message behind the photo, and it matches that of Im Se Jin’s handwriting.
Meanwhile Ji Hoon heads back to the reservoir where Min Sun and Hyun Joo’s bodies were found, and he listens to the 119 call again. He realizes that on the day they died, there was a red banner on the side of the hill near the car as well; it was limp, but would have been upright if blown by a breeze.
Min Ho gets a match on the footprints found in Se Jin’s house — it’s Hyun Joo’s. When Im Se Jin returned from the States, she sent Hyun Joo the photo, threatening her because she knew that’s what Hyun Joo was doing to Min Sun. Se Jin had returned from the States bankrupt, so even though her statute of limitations date was lengthened by 15 years for the time she had been abroad (and thus meant she had 15 extra years’ worth of chances of getting prosecuted), she felt that she had less to lose than her other friends. Getting rid of her would mean no risk to Min Sun or Hyun Joo.
Do Shik returns with even more evidence – he found a photo of Hyun Joo and Se Jin in the States (possibly from Joon Young’s apartment). Hyun Joo had hid her departure records very well, but she was in the States for 17 days. That meant the real date when her statute of limitations ended was on June 29th, as Joon Young and Se Jin had pointed out on their calendars. Se Jin tried to point at Hyun Joo as her killer by leaving the marked calendar for the 29th.
But Hyun Joo did not kill Min Sun. Instead, Min Sun killed Hyun Joo on the 12th, when she thought that Hyun Joo’s statute of limitations ended. She was the only one who didn’t know of any extended deadlines other than her own, and she wanted to get rid of Hyun Joo before her “friend” tortured her any longer.
Now the question is, who killed Min Sun? Ji Hoon once again looks at a photo of the limp banner on the hillside near the reservoir, and suddenly he has the answer.
He takes the entire team out to the reservoir. That fateful day, Min Sun and Hyun Joo had gone out to eat at the restaurant, and Min Sun congratulated Hyun Joo on her “freedom”. When Hyun Joo left the car for a moment, Min Sun took the opportunity to inject tetrodotoxin in her coffee. But because of fear and the constant doses of sleeping pills and tranquilizers, she spilled some of the remaining poison in her car.
They went to the reservoir, where Hyun Joo drank the coffee. Min Sun watched as Hyun Joo suffocated to death, becoming paralyzed from the poison and unable to escape because Min Sun locked the doors and closed the windows. As the car grew warmer and became more difficult for Hyun Joo to breathe, the spilt poison also evaporated and Min Sun breathed it in.
After Hyun Joo died, Min Sun weakly exited the car and threw away the syringe and evidence into the reservoir. She didn’t realize she was getting woozy from the effects of the poison at first, but when she finally did, she called for help too late. She was beginning to hallucinate as well, and when a breeze came by, it made the red banner fly. Min Sun thought that red banner was the white scarf Soon Young had tried to get outside the window, stained with Soon Young’s blood. She grew fearful as the effects of the poison grew stronger, and thought that Soon Young was coming to get her. That’s why she locked the car doors, and watched fearfully until she died.
The case is now closed.
Back at the office, the team now has some downtime with no case. Ji Hoon spots Do Shik and Ye Ri sneaking off again for their private chat. Ye Ri heard that during Song Kyung Tae’s trial, the court did not recognize one of the charges as valid – the charge of Song Mi Joo’s murder. (Song Mi Joo was one of the F Killer’s victims, and also Song Kyung Tae’s sister.)
Just then, Ji Hoon appears behind them, asking how much longer they’re going to avoid him. Do Shik and Ye Ri look frightened at first, but finally Do Shik thinks it’s time to talk. They take him to a conference room and sit down, explaining what they’ve known all along about Song Kyung Tae.
And Min Ho just stands by his desk, watching them, not having a clue as to what’s going on.
I feel like every other episode varies from sick and twisted to boring and predictable. I liked this particular case because each lead came up with a dead end, until the team was forced to look at the very victims as suspects. At first I thought it was a crime of passion, but their history showed that there was a deep-rooted fear in these women that made them more crazed and murderous than they were fifteen years ago. Bullying gave them a greater karmic consequence than they could have ever hoped for.
Through the actress’s portrayal of Min Sun and Hyun Joo’s comments that Min Sun was the more cruel one, Min Sun might have appeared to be the scary one. But in reality it was the charming Hyun Joo. Because Min Sun never wanted her true secret to come out, she allowed her friend to sleep with her husband, and helped Hyun Joo’s bar make money. Knowing how cruel Hyun Joo was made me understand why Min Sun didn’t want to get a divorce yet; she wasn’t going to let him divorce her unless he knew her darkest secret. Him committing adultery pained her, but was done out of necessity (in her view).
I’m personally quite glad that this case had no real tie-in to the F killer case. The previous few episodes did because they would make either Ye Ri or Do Shik question whether it was right to keep the truth from Ji Hoon. The last episode was a straight up allegory to whether it was healthy for Ji Hoon to not know the truth. So I’m glad that we got some distance from that before they finally decided to tell him.
And from what I saw in the previews for the next couple of episodes, it’s going to be a sick, sick, sick ride to the finish.