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Tunnel: Episode 4

I’m genuinely amazed at how much emotion Tunnel has been able to condense into one episode. I was going to say that things had slowed down a little this week, and while that’s sort of true, it’s also misleading, because every scene this hour is packed full of subtleties and growth. When characters with a single-episode arc create sympathy and attachment, when your most “normal” character is the guy who popped out of the ’80s, when your aces prove maladroit rather than unfeeling… all I can say is: I’m all in.

 
EPISODE 4 RECAP

Kwang-ho’s heading home when he notices smoke pouring out of the neighboring house. Nobody answers the door so he smashes the window, climbs in, and puts out the fire near the stove. He’s shocked to see Jae-yi emerge nonchalantly from a shower, but she just asks if he wants coffee. But we see her stove is electric… so how the fire?

The next morning, they come out at the same time. Still addressing her as “agasshi,” Kwang-ho says they can’t live in the same house and she should move out, but she points out that their apartments are on different stories. He argues that she must be uncomfortable, too. “Not at all,” she says, before going her way.

Kwang-ho yells in frustration, comparing her taciturn character to Sun-jae’s. Across the road in his car, Sung-shik watches him argue with the landlady. He follows Kwang-ho to a citizen center and asks the official what Kwang-ho wanted. She tells him he’d been looking for someone they have no records for—a woman called Shin Yeon-sook, whom he claimed was his wife.

“He said ‘Shin Yeon-sook?’ Really?” Sung-shik exclaims, eyes wide.

Kwang-ho returns to the site of his old home, still unable to believe it’s gone. He can’t understand why there’s no record of Yeon-sook and wishes that he could ask Sung-shik. And when he turns around, Sung-shik is right there, gazing at him with full eyes.

“Sunbaenim… I’m maknae Sung-shikie!” he cries, throwing his arms around Kwang-ho. But Kwang-ho steps away to stare at the older man a moment… and then engulfs him in a bear-hug of his own. “I thought you were deeeeaaad!” Sung-shik wails.

Over a meal, Kwang-ho tells Sung-shik about what happened to him. He finds out that they never caught the 1986 murderer, and wonders if that’s why he’s here. Sung-shik thinks he might have died since there were no more victims. While they discuss Kwang-ho’s attempts to go back, the waitress gives Kwang-ho a dirty look for speaking in banmal to the older man, although Sung-shik quickly explains that the young man is like a son to him.

Sung-shik asks what happened to the younger Park Kwang-ho, and is shocked to learn that he’s missing. Kwang-ho agrees that it’s too weird that the guy has the same name and same job as him. He thinks the younger man might hold the answers and plans to look for him, and so he asks Sung-shik to find Yeon-sook. When Sung-shik has to leave for a meeting, Kwang-ho laughs that he grew up—or rather, he corrects himself, he got old.

Before he goes, Sung-shik tells him seriously, “Sunbaenim, don’t suddenly disappear like that again.”

Sun-jae plays a game of chess with the medical examiner, Dr. Mok. From the way Sun-jae smiles and talks easily with him, they must be friends, and we find out that Sun-jae had once intended to be a doctor. But their game is cut short when Sun-jae gets called to a new crime scene. At the same time, Jae-yi sends a message telling him to come to the university, while Dr. Mok executes a move that wins him the game.

Kwang-ho wanders a busy street, taking in modern life with the curiosity and enjoyment of a tourist. He growls when Sun-jae screeches up in his car and tells him to get in, but figures that means there’s a new case, although Sun-jae characteristically ignores all of his questions.

They arrive at the scene of a burglary. Kwang-ho mistakes the security company for police and tells them to stick to their own jurisdictions before heading in. Haha. They examine the crime scene, with Kwang-ho perplexed by the booties he has to wear.

Kwang-ho goes to check the escape route (grumbling about Sun-jae giving him orders) while Sun-jae heads upstairs with another officer. They’re surprised to see a school kid leaving, and when Sun-jae calls out to him to stop, he notices the kid wearing outside shoes.

The kid breaks for it, and Sun-jae gives chase, leaping the wall Kwang-ho was just checking out. Kwang-ho joins the pursuit and the two men run him down, although Sun-jae misses the kid by a hair and Kwang-ho grabs him first.

At the police station, the kid points out that he didn’t have any stolen goods on him, and Sung-shik identifies him as the lookout for the actual burglars. But since he won’t spill, they lock him up. They figure that the perps knew what they were doing since it was a carefully timed operation, and they avoided all the CCTVs, too.

Kwang-ho wants to investigate the kid further, but Sun-jae shuts him down, rudely telling him to use his head. Sung-shik tries to mediate and Tae-hee notices him speaking to Kwang-ho in jondae, which is totally weird. Sung-shik styles it out, although he still trips over his tongue trying not to call Kwang-ho “sunbaenim.” Hehehe.

Elsewhere, Dean Hong asks Jae-yi how it felt to be involved in a case. Unusually animated, she says it wasn’t bad. The dean reminisces about their first meeting and how Jae-yi didn’t respond to her then. A quick flashback takes us back fifteen years, to a young Jae-yi in a police station in England, where Hong learned that she was adopted at the age of six. “Jae-yi-ya. You grew up well,” Hong says in the present, smiling.

Sun-jae catches Jae-yi on her way out and asks why she wanted to meet. He’s surprised when she asks what he meant about her being only half-right on the last case. Amused, he tells her that the victim and murderer had never been in a relationship, so she was wrong on that count.

Smiling a little herself, she says that the murderer was in a relationship in his head. She suggests that Sun-jae try stalking sometime: “It will help you understand the culprit.” Nodding, he agrees before asking her if she’s ever been stalked. Hah.

Back at the station, the kid, whose name is DONG-WOO, pleads urgently with Kwang-ho to let him out, because he really needs to get home. “What if I know who’s going to be hit next?” he blurts out desperately. That gets Kwang-ho’s attention.

Tae-hee and Min-ha (we need a name for this pair—ideas?) get back after a fruitless search for leads. Sung-shik is hilariously horrified to see Min-ha dressed up in a retro ’80s TV detective outfit, which he tells them was inspired by Kwang-ho.

The three of them catch up to Kwang-ho in the office, where they’re dismayed to find out that he released the kid, Dong-woo. Kwang-ho tells them that Dong-woo had to get back to his younger sister, and so he gave up the location of the burglars’ next target.

The detectives groan at him for being so simple as to believe him, but Kwang-ho insists on checking it out. Sun-jae again tells him to use his head. “You’ll regret this later,” Kwang-ho warns, and he calls Sung-shik aside for a word. His hangdog compliance astonishes Tae-hee and Min-ha. It really looks like Kwang-ho’s about to chew him out.

In the privacy of the meeting room, he reminds Sung-shik that he taught him to keep going even if he’d been deceived a hundred times. Sung-shik tries to explain that it’s not the same these days, but Kwang-ho’s done listening.

He heads to the location with Driver Oh, who he keeps accidentally calling Reporter Oh (“kija” instead of “kisa”). Kwang-ho wants to check the place out, but Oh balks until he hears that they might catch burglars.

Unknown to them, the burglars are inside already, filling their bags with jewelry while counting down how long they’ve got until the security company turns up. But just then, Kwang-ho rings the doorbell, and they run for it. Kwang-ho catches sight of them over the perimeter wall and leaps over, giving furious chase. He wrestles a bag off one, but they ultimately get away.

News of the incident reaches the team at the station to everyone’s shock, and they immediately head to the scene. Sun-jae notices that it’s the same security company, “Safe,” as the previous hit. Kwang-ho curls his lip at their arrival, especially when they exclaim that the tip turned out to be true.

Looking extra hard at Sung-shik, he repeats what he said before about always investigating no matter what. “Whether it’s the past or the present, that’s still the same,” he barks before telling Sun-jae to use his head, mirroring Sun-jae’s earlier gesture back at him.

The security company connection hits Sun-jae. He and Kwang-ho both head to Dong-woo’s place, but no one answers the door. Finding it unlocked, they go in, and Sun-jae detects the smell of blood. Kwang-ho shouts when he finds Dong-woo lying in the bathroom, dead.

A sound makes them look back toward a wardrobe, where they find an unconscious girl inside. She’s rushed to hospital, and the forensic team take over the scene. Simmering with anger, Kwang-ho summarizes for his team: The girl in hospital is Dong-woo’s little sister and the two of them lived alone. She appears uninjured, but they’re still running tests, he reports.

Looking from the body to the wardrobe, Sun-jae suddenly climbs into it. Through a large peephole, Dong-woo’s body is clearly visible. “Could the child have seen it?” he wonders to himself.

At the autopsy the next day, they establish the time of death, and Sun-jae is certain that the little sister, SOO-JUNG, witnessed her brother’s murder. He ignores Kwang-ho (again) to take a call, and Kwang-ho mutters about him always acting so superior. “He is superior, you know,” Dr. Mok tells him, laughing.

Both detectives go to the hospital, where Soo-jung is now awake but won’t talk due to shock. Sun-jae calls Jae-yi in and tells her how Soo-jung was left with her brother’s dead body for a whole day. “Please find out what she saw,” he asks.

Kwang-ho objects to her involvement, but as ever, Sun-jae ignores him with a dirty look. Kwang-ho follows him out and smacks him upside the head, telling him to hit him back if he feels wronged.

“If you had listened to me, Dong-woo wouldn’t have died and Soo-jung wouldn’t have ended up like that,” Kwang-ho criticizes. Sun-jae swings back at him even before he finishes talking, and it turns into a furious brawl of kicking and punching, until some passing officers run in to break it up.

They’re back at their desks a little later, both sporting nose plugs. Sung-shik is rendered speechless at the sight of them, and gestures to Kwang-ho to come to the meeting room. Kwang-ho blames him for pairing him up with that emotionless punk, but Sung-shik says apologetically that he’s really good at catching the bad guys. If this were the old days, Kwang-ho growls, he’d have given him a good beating already.

Sun-jae examines Dong-woo’s transaction records which highlight an internet café while Kwang-ho flips through the security company’s personnel records. Thanks to some distinctive eyebrows, he recognizes a photo as one of the burglars—listed as dismissed for, yup, burglary.

Sun-jae heads out for the internet café Dong-woo frequented and Kwang-ho follows after an entertainingly schoolboy-ish exchange of growls. Sounds like a truce to me!

Soo-jung wakes up to see Jae-yi at her bedside, and she turns away. Jae-yi talks to her, telling her her name. “Now that I’ve told you my name, I don’t have anything else to say,” she says.

Kwang-ho shoulders Sun-jae out of the way to enter the café first, but he finds the place totally bizarre. Cutting in on Sun-jae again, he shows the boss the photo of Eyebrows, which the man immediately recognizes.

The remaining team collate information on Dong-woo, who they learned had devoted himself to the care of his sister, always making sure to get home by 6 p.m. for her. Sun-jae and Kwang-ho return and tell them about Eyebrows, an ex-Safe employee who was close to Dong-woo, and another guy who also gamed with them. Sun-jae also confirmed that the footprints at the scene of the burglary match the ones at the murder scene.

Sun-jae and Kwang-ho question a current Safe employee, who tells them that Eyebrows contacted him the day before with questions about his schedule. Sun-jae compares a map of the area covered by the guard to the location of the burglaries and finds that they overlap.

Kwang-ho silently puzzles over the tablet Sun-jae is using. It looks like a computer, but why is it so small? he thinks, fiddling around on the touchscreen (to Sun-jae’s annoyance). Armed with the new information, they predict the burglars’ next hit as one of two locations. That night, Sung-shik stakes out one location with Tae-hee and Min-ha, while Kwang-ho and Sun-jae take the other.

Jae-yi visits Soo-jung in the hospital again and offers her chocolates, but the girl turns her face away. She returns the next day. The chocolates are untouched, and Soo-jung is still refusing food.

Morning arrives, and Kwang-ho is amazed that Sun-jae didn’t say a word all night. The burglars suddenly appear from over the wall, and Sun-jae knocks one out while Kwang-ho takes the other.

Sun-jae calls Jae-yi from the station to tell her that they’ve caught the burglars, but without Soo-jung’s testimony, they’ll deny the murder charge. In the interrogation room, he shows Eyebrows a photo of Dong-woo. “It’s the first time I’ve seen this face,” Eyebrows says. “Then who killed him?” Sun-jae asks.

Meanwhile, Kwang-ho questions the other accomplice in a different room. He denies murdering Dong-woo but won’t point the finger at Eyebrows either. Kwang-ho seizes the terrified guy by the collar and warns him that Eyebrows will lay the blame on him. “Let’s see if you sing the same tune then,” Kwang-ho finishes, throwing him back in his seat.

He rejoins the team and tells them that it’s definitely one of them. But the problem, Sung-shik says, is that they haven’t turned up a murder weapon yet either.

Night has fallen with Jae-yi still at Soo-jung’s bedside, the girl still turned away. She tells her that she’s never spoken to someone like Soo-jung before—usually she talks to murderers, and they tend to do the talking. “But this time, it seems like it’s my turn to talk,” she says. Hesitatingly, she continues: “Soo-jung-ah. I saw my parents die.”

We flash back to the fire that killed them, and Jae-yi tells her how she was too scared to go closer. Because she just watched her house burn, people had whispered that she set the fire herself, “And for a long time, the rumor went around that I was a murderer.”

She doesn’t notice Sun-jae at the door, and continues: “Though fifteen years have passed, I still regret that moment. Why couldn’t I do anything?” A tear rolls down Soo-jung’s cheek, and Jae-yi tells her that she can do something. Outside the room, Sun-jae listens, affected by her story.

Soo-jung finally speaks and tells Jae-yi how her brother made her hide in the wardrobe, and she watched through the peephole. A flashback takes us to the two men cornering Dong-woo. Eyebrows didn’t believe that Dong-woo didn’t sell them out and sent him flying all the way to the bathroom with a vicious kick.

He then stabbed him with a switchblade and forced his weak-willed accomplice to do the same… in Soo-jung’s direct line of vision, while she sobbed in horror in the wardrobe. After the men left, Dong-woo tried desperately to close the door so she wouldn’t see him, but couldn’t manage it.

In the present, Soo-jung sobs, and Jae-yi reaches out to comfort her with a tentative hand.

The next day, the burglars cross paths as they’re escorted away and scream insults at each other. Kwang-ho tells them to shut it, calling them murdering scum. Afterward, he and Sun-jae exchange a measured look. Is that a glimmer of grudging respect there?

Soo-jung prepares to leave the hospital and runs back at the last minute to collect the chocolates Jae-yi left her. Waiting outside, Jae-yi raises a hand as Soo-jung passes. Soo-jung waves back, smiling, and Jae-yi smiles back. For a moment, we see an image of a young Jae-yi in her place. A little distance away, Sun-jae takes in the scene, some gentler emotion in his expression.

In the night, a man abandons a woman’s body on the riverbank, and a close-up shows seven dots tattooed on her ankle. Oh no. It’s found in the morning, but it’s in a different jurisdiction than our team’s. The chief there is familiar with Sun-jae’s fixation and warns his colleague to expect him.

As predicted, Sun-jae (ignoring a phone call from his dad) attempts to see the body, but he’s blocked by the chief and his men. Sun-jae accuses them of merely wanting the credit and points out that they’re already miserable failures. That riles them up, and the whole team bodily throws him out.

Back at the Hwayang precinct, our team watch the report on TV, and Min-ha remarks that that must be the work of the guy that Sun-jae lost. Tae-hee grouses that that’s why he tears off anytime a murder of a young woman occurs, because he can’t stand that he made a mistake. The report names the serial killer as one JUNG HO-YOUNG, which rings a bell for Kwang-ho, although he can’t put a finger on it.

Kwang-ho drags Sung-shik outside to ask about his progress on finding Yeon-sook. Sung-shik tells him he’s close to finding her, though he doesn’t reveal that he actually came up totally blank on his search. The records official had told him that she either she hadn’t renewed her citizen ID for a long time… or she had gone missing. She added that there might be paper records of her somewhere.

Kwang-ho heads off to the other Kwang-ho’s old police station, where he introduces himself as a hometown friend. The officers hand over some mail to him, one of which is a speeding ticket. He recognizes the registration number as the car that nearly ran into him the night he arrived, and realizes that panicked young man must have been the other Kwang-ho.

Elsewhere, a hooded man attends confession in a church. “‘Spare me, I have a child,’ that’s what that woman said,” he tells the priest, “But how is that relevant?” He replays the memory of choking her to death with a pair of tights. On the other side of the screen, the priest crosses himself.

“Although it was a long time ago, I keep remembering it. I wasn’t going to do it again, but I can’t stop,” the hooded man finishes. With that, he sweeps out, hood pulled low.

 
COMMENTS

That profile really looks like Dr. Mok to me, what do you guys think? I’m not attached to the idea that it’s him, but it’s where the clues seem to be pointing for now. The last ten minutes threw me with all that new information—are we actually after two serial killers? Or are they one and the same? I originally thought Sun-jae’s fixation was because of the way his mother had been murdered, but he seems to have no knowledge of that at all. This Jung Ho-young is his own personal failure, and that’s a backstory we haven’t had yet.

The Sung-shik/Kwang-ho reunion was unexpectedly low-key, but also just right. I enjoyed how easily they fell back into the sunbae-maknae relationship despite the facts of the present, and the incongruity of how others see them versus how they see each other will never not be funny (or adorable). Surprisingly, Sung-shik and Kwang-ho have turned out to be the lighter half of the show so far, while Sun-jae and Jae-yi offer a perspective into a less examined, less relatable side of human nature in a way that’s both percipient and off-putting (in a really good way).

This episode was so rich in character studies that I don’t even know where to start. I had the hardest time connecting with Jae-yi in the first week because I found her a bit disturbing (and also because I wasn’t sure if she was a murderer or not), but after this week, I’m pretty sure that she’s my favorite character. Although her scenes were shorter and fewer, they were effective and affecting, especially her interactions with Soo-jung. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that she and Soo-jung healed each other: Jae-yi needed the right person to listen to her, and Soo-jung needed the right person to talk to. Maybe it always takes broken people to fix broken people? I don’t know, but it’s interesting to think about.

My impression of Jae-yi is that she’s always been a little strange, hyper-focused, and interested in weird things, and that makes it hard for her to relate to “normal” people (and for them to relate to her). Soo-jung simultaneously wakes up something hopeful in her, but also strips something away, leaving a childlike, vulnerable, and disarmingly animated Jae-yi in her place. It’s clear that something in her wants to connect (and I think she surprised herself when she didn’t give up with Soo-jung), but I also think it’s equally clear that she doesn’t know quite how. What people mistake for creepy or aloof is, I think, her “neutral” setting, which is not the same as other people’s. She’s certainly not neurotypical, and that makes her an even more exciting character. Dramaland is full of neurodiverse men, but far less so for women, so I hope very much that the show will continue to do her justice.

It’s also quite fascinating how much and how fast Sun-jae has become personally invested in her, to the point where he’s gone out of his way so many times to seek out her help or opinion. They seem outwardly to share similar personalities (and enjoy some quite darkly entertaining repartee) but they actually aren’t alike at all. Though he says little, Sun-jae is always full of repressed, angry energy, whereas I think Jae-yi has a flowing inner life which keeps her much more grounded, if still helplessly alien. If anything, I see them as closer to opposites—Jae-yi dealing in emotions where Sun-jae deals in facts. That said, however, it’s also clear that he has some kind of faith in her abilities, and I, in turn, have faith in his. With Jae-yi, he’s proven that he’s able to change his opinions, grow respect, and finally experience compassion towards her, and that’s a long way to come in just four episodes.

On the other hand, Sun-jae is a character who needs more than one foil because he’s got so much going on, and he’s doing far less well with Kwang-ho. I’m certain that his violent reaction to Kwang-ho’s censure is because he knew it was true: His mistake left one kid dead and another traumatized. That is regret on his face during the fight, just like Kwang-ho had warned. An explosive mixture of self-aware and obstinate, Sun-jae is well aware of the part he played and clearly can’t forgive himself (or anyone else). Contrary to what Kwang-ho thinks, he’s not an emotionless robot, but rather, his emotions are under such a tight lid that every single one of them just ends up coming out as anger. I’m sure he believes he deserved the beating, and his driving emotion for fighting back is that same anger—at himself for being wrong with such serious consequences, and at Kwang-ho for being right.

But the fight has cleared the air between them the tiniest (really, the tiniest) bit, and there was even a noticeable lack of bite in their last few barks. Sun-jae is very much the guy who only believes in evidence-based practice, and although there’s been ample evidence already that Kwang-ho’s method is equally effective, I think a natural personality clash makes him automatically balk at acknowledging it. But let’s hope the worst of the hostility has passed, and maybe next week we’ll get to see them actually put their chalk-and-cheese smarts together and give us some answers. Or not, but I’ll take some bromance with that, please.

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