Circle: Episode 4
Hurtling along at breakneck speed, Circle keeps us riveted to the two timelines as Woo-jin and Joon-hyuk each find an answer to a crucial question. Woo-jin battles distrust and confusion about the girl who could be an alien, while Joon-hyuk seeks to understand why a perceived enemy might be helping them.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Ten years ago. Little Bum-gyun sits in his room, timing himself as he solves the Rubik’s cube. Outside, Woo-jin is working on his homework on the living room floor. When their strange guest walks through the room and almost steps on his project, he shows her his chart of the planets and asks where she’s from: “Jupiter? Mars?”
Bum-gyun calls Woo-jin into his room to challenge him to a race to solve the cube’s puzzle. As the timer ticks the seconds by, Bum-gyun looks worriedly at Woo-jin’s progress, until Woo-jin wins. He tells his older brother gleefully that no matter his high marks in school, Bum-gyun will always lose to him. Then, blowing a raspberry, the little imp runs out of the room.
Bum-gyun chases him into the living room, where the sight of something stops them in their tracks. Then, Woo-jin’s face breaks into a grin as he tells his brother: “See? I told you she’s from outer space.” We don’t see what surprised them, but their eerie guest turns her head to look at the brothers.
Part 1: Beta Project
Woo-jin discovers the blue worm in a pot in Jung-yeon’s room, while the mysterious Jung-yeon stands outside a decrepit building called Eunsung Psychiatric Hospital. She gets a call from Woo-jin, and tells him exactly where she is. He tells her that he’ll come to her.
Woo-jin scoops up the blue worm into a plastic bag (is that secure enough?) and heads out. Jung-yeon tries the locked gate of the premises and thinks back to the text she got from an unknown number that simply said, “2 p.m. at Eunsung Psychiatric Hospital.” She gets another text that makes her look towards the building, then finds a way inside.
As she walks down the deserted corridor of the hospital, she looks around nervously, until suddenly, a hooded figure appears before her. The figure tackles her to the ground and tries to shock her with a taser. In the struggle, Jung-yeon manages to push the assailant off of her, and hears a distinctly female grunt of pain.
As she turns to run, the woman grabs her again, and this time manages to bring the taser right up to her neck. Just in time, Woo-jin arrives and pushes her off of Jung-yeon. The hooded woman gets up and runs, while Jung-yeon shouts at Woo-jin to go after her.
Woo-jin chases the woman through the narrow streets outside, until he loses sight of her. There’s no one in the next alley, except a woman in a black tracksuit, who walks past him while putting on earphones. Woo-jin gets to the end of the alley and finds a dead end. To the side is a discarded brown jacket, like the one the assailant wore over her black clothes. He looks sharply behind him, but the woman in a tracksuit has already disappeared.
When he gets back to the hospital, Jung-yeon shows him the text the hooded woman had sent her. She suggests that they go to the police with all they know now, but Woo-jin wants some answers first. He shows her the bug and asks why she has it. Jung-yeon tells him that it came out of her dead friend’s body, and that she’d held on to it without knowing what it was until now.
Woo-jin asks if she hadn’t trusted him even when they were working together, and Jung-yeon admits that because of Bum-gyun she hadn’t trusted him completely back then, but she does now.
Woo-jin asks her if she trusts Bum-gyun’s innocence too, and stresses that he’s not the criminal. Jung-yeon agrees to believe that since Woo-jin does.
They take the worms to Chief Hong at the police station and tell him everything. As Woo-jin tries to describe the assailant’s face, he comes up with unhelpful gems like “She has round eyes” and “She looks like a nice person,” which understandably frustrates Jung-yeon.
But it seems Chief Hong may be the Korean Sherlock after all, ’cause those vague descriptors are enough for him to come up with a sketch that matches Woo-jin’s memory of the woman. They are very impressed and ask how he got such details out of what Woo-jin said, and he tells them that it’s his sixth sense.
In flashback, though, we see him going through the CCTV footage from the day of Kim Nan-hee’s death. He zooms in on the face of the woman who had visited the student before Woo-jin and Jung-yeon. He gets a clear shot of her face, and his sketch today matches it exactly. Ha.
Chief Hong wraps up their interview and gets up, but Woo-jin stops him to add one last detail. He tells the detective about his last conversation with Bum-gyun, and how he’d said that the criminal was “Bluebird.” Jung-yeon frowns at Woo-jin, but stays silent.
Outside the police station, she smacks him hard on the head, observing that he’d doubted her as well. Guessing that the “bluebird” in her email address was what had caused him to search her room, she points out that his brother knows her name and wouldn’t use an alias when referring to “the criminal.”
Woo-jin still thinks it’s an odd coincidence, but Jung-yeon is focused on unraveling the mystery of that name now. Woo-jin notices a bloody tear on Jung-yeon’s jeans and suggests they go to the hospital. Jung-yeon coolly dismisses the cut and says she’ll be fine, but when the doctor puts some antiseptic on it, she starts whimpering like a child with a boo-boo.
While she’s being treated, Woo-jin leaves the outpatient ward and runs into Professor Han, who’s walking out of the elevator. They exchange greetings, and the professor says that he’s here to see his child, who got into an accident. When Woo-jin gets back with two cans of coffee, he sees Professor Han sitting with Jung-yeon.
His eyes widen as Jung-yeon introduces him to her dad, the professor. They explain that they’re classmates, and Woo-jin quickly takes his leave. He lingers close enough to listen to the professor teasing his daughter about Woo-jin, and asking if he’s the reason she’s been skipping her treatments. She denies it, but Woo-jin smiles to himself before leaving.
As he walks past the bakery near his college, he remembers Bum-gyun working inside and his face falls.
Inside the Psychiatric Hospital, Bum-gyun sits in silence inside a locked room. When he hears footsteps, he gets up and looks around wildly. As the steps come closer, he jumps up on the nearby stretcher and pretends to be unconscious.
Somewhere on a different floor of the hospital, Chief Hong and his partner look through the rooms. The partner clearly thinks this is a wild goose chase and says that Woo-jin — with his blue bugs and blue birds — is as weird as Hong is.
A man in scrubs walks into Bum-gyun’s room with a syringe. He prepares to inject something into Bum-gyun’s neck, when Bum-gyun grabs his hand and bites his arm. This makes the mysterious man scream in pain, but he manages to overpower Bum-gyun and inject the suspicious drug.
Chief Hong hears the sound and says they’ll search the place one more time. Meanwhile, the man in scrubs takes out a blue worm and positions it under the nostril of a now-unconscious Bum-gyun. Oh no!
The next day, Jung-yeon arrives at Woo-jin’s place and calls to tell him that she’s coming up. Just out of the shower, Woo-jin is thrown into a panic as he speed-cleans his room and puts on a shirt backwards and inside-out over his towel in his hurry.
Jung-yeon notices the backwards shirt, but suppresses her smile as she walks inside. Woo-jin belatedly realizes this and quickly turns it inside-out, as she settles down on the floor. She notices a pile of discarded clothes shoved hurriedly under a table, and sweetly puts a pillow against it to make it look like she didn’t see it.
He asks why she hadn’t told him about her father, and she retorts that she never asked about his dad either. He can’t argue with that, so he tells her to level with him, so he isn’t confused about her.
She asks what could be so confusing, then suddenly gets a coy look on her face. She gives him a flirtatious shove as if he’d said something forward, and Woo-jin falls over himself to make it clear that he wasn’t talking about that kind of confusion! She laughs at his seriousness and tells him to focus on organizing their findings.
Woo-jin’s sunbae speaks to Professor Park about convincing Professor Han not to take Woo-jin onto their team. When Professor Han arrives, he immediately mentions Woo-jin and how close he seemed to Jung-yeon. Professor Park exchanges glances with the sunbae and tells Professor Han that having Woo-jin on the team would make them uncomfortable.
Professor Han turns from genial to glacial, as he points out that he’s the head researcher and he needs Woo-jin on the team. Professor Park backs down and leaves, and Professor Han sighs to himself.
Our amateur sleuths set up Bum-gyun’s murder conspiracy chart on Woo-jin’s wall and look through all the pictures in his camera. Jung-yeon notices Woo-jin’s sober expression as he studies his brother’s notes, and she suddenly exclaims and points at a picture of herself. Woo-jin looks up to see what she found, and snorts when Jung-yeon waxes lyrical over how good she looks in the shot and asks him to send it to her.
Seeing him laugh, she tells him to smile more, and says that it’s not easy to smile in his situation. She promises that they’ll find Bum-gyun, telling him to “trust this noona.” He scoffs at her claim of being older and asks when she was born. She reveals it was April, which makes him tight-lipped about his own birth month.
Just then, Woo-jin gets a call from Bum-gyun’s number. The caller on the other side tells him to come to a certain park at 2 p.m., alone. Woo-jin tells Jung-yeon that it’s “that woman,” and they go to the park together. Jung-yeon hides, while Woo-jin waits out in the open.
Half an hour passes with no sight of the woman, until she comes up behind Jung-yeon with her taser. Jung-yeon’s yell brings Woo-jin running, and he manages to catch the hooded woman this time. Grabbing her by the hand holding the taser, he asks who she is and how she had his brother’s phone.
In a near manic state, the woman yells that he was supposed to come alone, and she won’t say a word in front of Jung-yeon. Woo-jin asks Jung-yeon to leave for a bit, and Jung-yeon begrudgingly agrees but tells him not to lose the woman.
After she walks away, the woman asks him why he’s hanging out with an alien. The conversation is frustratingly circular for Woo-jin, as the woman keeps saying that Jung-yeon is an alien and knows where Bum-gyun is. Finally, when Woo-jin yells that there are no such things as aliens, she shows him a picture of Jung-yeon standing on the road with a suitcase.
He asks what’s so strange about the picture, and the woman zooms the image in to focus on a star-shaped accessory on the suitcase. Woo-jin’s eyes widen, and the woman asks if he still thinks the girl is Han Jung-yeon. As he slowly looks up at her, she asks if he really even wants to find his brother.
Jung-yeon is waiting at a bench, some distance away, and just as she gets to the end of her patience, she sees Woo-jin walking towards her alone. She asks if he lost the woman again, but he doesn’t answer. Instead, as he looks at her, he remembers the yellow star attached to the suitcase that his dad carried out of their house, when he left with the alien woman.
Jung-yeon asks what’s wrong, and Woo-jin remembers running out into the living room with his brother after solving the Rubik’s cube, and finding the alien drawing a complicated chart of the star system on their window. The little Woo-jin in his memory smiles and tells his brother that he was right about her being from outer space.
Frustrated with his silence, Jung-yeon starts to walk past him, when he reaches out and stops her by the arm. He sighs and takes out his phone. Showing her the star, he asks how she got it. She says that she always had it, but Woo-jin wants to know how it came into her possession.
Looking defensive, she says, “Why do I have to tell you that?” And Woo-jin answers, “Because I gave it to you.”
In flashback, we see Little Woo-jin holding out the star to his alien. “From today your name is Byul [which means star].”
“Byul,” says Woo-jin, tears falling from his eyes. “You’re Byul.” Then taking out the old Polaroid picture from his pocket, he hands it to her. Jung-yeon pales as she looks at the alien woman with the two kids beside her. “That’s you, and that’s me, beside you,” Woo-jin tells her.
Grabbing her by the shoulder, he yells that she’s Byul. Looking truly shaken, Jung-yeon says that she doesn’t know who who she is either. “I…” she says, her voice trembling, “have no memories.”
Back at Professor Han’s office, he treats a bite wound on his arm. He gets a call from someone who says that Jung-yeon skipped her session again and that it would be hard to get her memories back at this rate. He promises to speak to her, and his eyes fall on his monitor, which shows a live feed of Bum-gyun in the old hospital.
In the park, Jung-yeon confesses that she has no memories of her life before she turned eighteen. Woo-jin looks shocked as this sinks in.
Part 2: Brave New World
Ho-soon yells at Joon-hyuk to stop looking into Human B, and asks him who he is. Joon-hyuk looks tormented as he admits that he doesn’t know who he is: Kim Joon-hyuk or someone else entirely.
In flashback, Chief Hong shows the detective a clip of the little Kim boys solving the Rubik’s cube and tells him that from this day, he’s Kim Joon-hyuk. Later, outside his hospital room, Chief Hong argues to the lady doctor, IN-YOUNG, that Joon-hyuk has the right to know.
Joon-hyuk overhears them and asks what he doesn’t know. “You told me that child died! Is he alive?” Seeing his distress at being unable to remember, Chief Hong hands him a suitcase and says: “This is the memory footage your twin left behind.”
In-young warns him against watching it, arguing that it could keep him stuck in the past, but Joon-hyuk needs to know. Alone, he watches the moment on the road when Woo-jin begged Bum-gyun to give up his quest to find the alien and stay by his side. We don’t see whose perspective this memory is from.
In the present, Joon-hyuk tells Ho-soon that bad memories are also part of life. “No matter how upsetting, cruel, or horrible they may be, they are still part of who you are. That’s why you have to accept it. That’s what I did.”
Conflicted but stubborn, Ho-soon says that the choice Joon-hyuk made isn’t necessarily the right one. He stumbles away and heads back to Smart Earth. Reaching home, Ho-soon begins to weep and starts to pull off his tie. Suddenly, he looks at it and realizes that it’s the same one his girlfriend had given him five years ago. He’d been wearing it all this time, without knowing why.
In Ordinary Earth, Joon-hyuk sits with his eyes closed for hours, making Detective Oh and Dong-soo wonder if he’s sleeping sitting up. Just to check, they tip-toe close and wave their hands before his face. But when Dong-soo puts a finger under Joon-hyuk’s nose to check his breathing, he gets his answer as Joon-hyuk chomps down on the digit.
Joon-hyuk berates Dong-soo for being unable to locate Bluebird, and they wonder how good Bluebird must be to be working for Human B. Joon-hyuk points out that they must find the hacker: “That’s the only way it’ll end for you… and me,” he tells Chief Hong and Doctor In-young.
Ho-soon visits the Human B building and asks to meet Deputy Chief Lee. He confronts the man about Human B blocking the citizens’ memories. When the deputy chief denies it, Ho-soon brings up Bluebird, and asks if he should go to the reporters to test how “technically impossible” his resurfacing memories are.
When Deputy Chief Lee asks why he came to him instead of going to the press, Ho-soon says it’s because there’s something he wants: “Please, block my memories again.” Lee’s cool smile drops away in surprise.
Secretary Shin walks in just then and whispers something in his ears. Deputy Chief Lee invites Ho-soon to come with him, since there is something he should see.
Back in Dong-soo’s lair, Min-ji’s uncle wakes up and looks wildly about. As his memories come back, he cries, “Why did I? Why did I?” He remembers what he did again and asks why he did “that” to Min-ji. Chief Hong grabs him by the collar and yells at him to confirm that he was an accomplice in the kidnapping.
Dong-soo points out how odd it is that all these memories are coming back now. Joon-hyuk thinks back to Ho-soon saying that he’s afraid of his memories returning, and frowns. He wants to reconnect the cable to Min-ji’s uncle’s chip to find out more. In-young refuses, since it could be dangerous to his health, but Uncle asks for it to be done. He says that he needs to know.
When Dong-soo looks up the memories of the day of the kidnapping, he finds the file miraculously unblocked this time. They watch as Little Min-ji is put into the car trunk by her kidnapper. She looks towards her uncle and asks him to save her. As the trunk lid closes, the video blacks out and Bluebird’s logo flashes on the screen.
Deputy Chief Lee and his entourage walk out of Human B, as the memory footage suddenly becomes accessible again in Ordinary Earth. They watch Uncle walk towards Little Min-ji in a warehouse, and every time the video blacks out, Bluebird’s logo appears and the footage resumes.
As they watch the uncle tie Min-ji up and gag her, Chief Hong shuts his eyes at her muffled sobs. Dong-soo observes that Bluebird wasn’t the one blocking the citizens’ memories, and Joon-hyuk agrees: “He was bringing them back.”
“But why?” asks Dong-soo, as the officials at Human B’s control room scramble to fight Bluebird hacking into their system. The logo flashes bright on the screen as Deputy Chief Lee arrives and thunders at his subordinate for not being able to stop the hacker from getting into their system again. His chips turns red, then green, calming Lee down.
The deputy chief tells Ho-soon in private that Bluebird is the one causing misery by bringing back blocked memories. He offers to block Ho-soon’s memories again, but asks for something in return.
Back at Ordinary Earth, Dong-soo wonders who the hacker really is. Detective Oh asks if he’s after justice, or if he has a grudge against Human B too. Joon-hyuk gets up and says he’s leaving to meet Bluebird. When Chief Hong asks how, he just says, “Smart Earth. That’s where we lost him.”
In a dark room full of complex computers, a woman sits at a console, a cap hiding her face. As she works, her eyes land on one screen and she plays the footage. It’s from Ho-soon’s perspective, and shows Joon-hyuk shouting, “Bluebird is Human B. Human B is blocking their memories!” As Joon-hyuk turns to look at Ho-soon, she stops the footage on his face.
Joon-hyuk is walking into Smart Earth’s terminal, when he gets a call from Ho-soon. He asks if he’s all right and guesses that Ho-soon’s care chip is making him feel better. As Ho-soon hangs up, he thinks of Deputy Chief Lee’s request. All he has to do is find out who Joon-hyuk was before he took on his current identity, and Lee promised to block Ho-soon’s bad memories again.
As Joon-hyuk walks through the terminal, a woman in a cap bumps into him, before walking away. He doesn’t catch her face, but as he keeps walking, he hears his phone ring. He takes it out, only to realize that the ringing is coming from another pocket. He finds an unfamiliar phone there, with a call from an unknown number flashing on the screen.
We see that the woman in the cap slipped the phone into his pocket as she walked past him earlier. He takes the call and hears a distorted voice ask, “Detective Kim, are you looking for me?” “Bluebird?” he asks. “Why are you unblocking people’s memories?” “Do you want to know?” she answers, “Then come out.”
A map pops up on the phone and Joon-hyuk runs back out to Ordinary Earth, following the blinking dot on it. Ho-soon, who was watching him from a distance, follows. Bluebird has him running through a maze of roads and tunnels, until he finally arrives at the imposing gates of Woo-jin’s old university.
Memories of walking through the gate flash in his mind, and he hears Chief Hong say that this is the footage that his twin left behind. He answers Bluebird’s call by asking, “What are you trying to do?” He gets another location on the map, and when he reaches it, it’s Woo-jin’s old apartment building.
He remembers Bum-gyun sitting in that apartment and promising never to go back to jail and never to leave Woo-jin’s side. In flashback, we see Joon-hyuk watching this footage on screen from Woo-jin’s perspective. Ah, noooo!
He gets another call and this time asks: “You know me, don’t you?” Bluebird answers: “I think you know me too.” Joon-hyuk begs to know where Bluebird is, and gets yet another location on the map.
He stops before the bakery this time, recalling Bum-gyun’s claims to Woo-jin that it was the alien’s hideout. The final location is the motel where Bum-gyun stayed after getting out of jail. He walks up the steps and recalls Little Bum-gyun telling his brother, “I’ll always find you wherever you are.” He also remembers Woo-jin swearing never to talk to Bum-gyun if he leaves now. Finally, he remembers Bum-gyun’s promise never to leave Woo-jin’s side.
He enters the room and his mind fills up the empty room with how it used to look when Bum-gyun stayed there. He looks around, when suddenly he hears Woo-jin ask if Bum-gyun killed those students. He turns around to see that scene replay before him, with the two brothers standing there. Then, the perspective shifts and Woo-jin is speaking directly to him: “Why do you keep living in a different world by yourself? Why?”
Joon-hyuk remembers all times Bum-gyun hurt Woo-jin because of his need to find the alien, and softly apologizes to Woo-jin now. Tearing up, he says, “I should have told you everything. No, I should have stopped.” The specter of Woo-jin vanishes but leaves Joon-hyuk steeped in memories of Woo-jin telling him that he’d had a hard time without him, that he needed him.
Joon-hyuk calls out: “Woo-jin. I’m here. It’s me, Bum-gyun.” He breaks down crying, and in a distant dark room, a Rubik’s cube falls from Bluebird’s hand. The camera pans up to her face, and we see an unchanged Jung-yeon staring at the screen in shock. Hoarsely, she breathes: “Kim Bum-gyun.”
Is that disappointment I see in her eyes? If it is — I feel you, ageless alien lady. I wanted him to be Woo-jin too. And I’m still skeptical of this twist, since the reveal came a bit too early in the story. Joon-hyuk’s desperation to find the missing parts of himself make him a lot more interesting than the keen-eyed but one-dimensional detective of the first week. We now understand what drives him, yet, that in itself undermines today’s reveal. If he already knew he was Bum-gyun, then why did he need Bluebird’s running quest down memory lane to come to terms with it? Was it this easy to get his memories back?
The way I see it, Joon-hyuk calling himself Bum-gyun could simply be confirmation bias. He already believed that he’s Bum-gyun and his apology may simply be a reaction to the guilt and grief that both twins felt in that room during that argument. Also, note the way Chief Hong said that the memory footage was what his twin “left behind.” Did he really mean that the memories belonged to Joon-hyuk’s twin or did he mean that the footage was a file his twin left behind. We don’t know how Chief Hong came into possession of it or when.
There are other intriguing little questions cropping up now. Like, how does the footage of the little twins playing with their Rubik’s cube exist? Does Bum-gyun’s timer double as a nanny cam? Who was recording them? My theories about the twins’ dad is that he was involved in some kind of research as well, and when he discovered something dangerous about “Byul’s” existence, he took her away from his children to protect them. The interesting question is, how Professor Han came to have her, and what his intentions are. They don’t seem particularly noble, given that his worms have been killing campus students, but does he know what or who she is?
The show has done a good job in selling Woo-jin’s connection to Jung-yeon to me. Without going overboard, they hinted at growing feelings in the current timeline, while giving us a glimpse into the warmth Little Woo-jin brought into Byul’s emotionless world. Just as they did with Bum-gyun last week, they got me attached to yet another relationship in Woo-jin’s life. And while I sink in disappointment at the thought of Joon-hyuk being Bum-gyun, there is an epic poignancy to Jung-yeon teaming up with Woo-jin’s brother in the future to look for him.
I don’t think they would kill off Woo-jin in the 2017 timeline, but there is only one shadowy character he could be in the future. Many have theorized that Woo-jin is the Chairman, and he’d turned into this man after a loss that convinced him of the need for memory removal to cope with trauma. Perhaps he believes that Bum-gyun is dead. Perhaps he had his own memories removed. Whichever the case, must Future Woo-jin be irredeemable? The brothers have had enough distance and grief in their lives, so I’m rooting hard for them to find each other in the Brave New World and not die or disappear again.
This show is ridiculously good at sucking me in and leaving me with nail marks in my palms by the end of it. There are so many questions, so many possibilities to mull over! Is “Byul” really an alien, or the result of some kind of experimentation? How far will Ho-soon go to have his bad memories removed? How many other characters are hiding in the wings, ready to come onscreen and change the game again? Why is next week a whole week away? Some of those questions may remain mysteries forever.