Tunnel: Episode 9


Tunnel: Episode 9

What’s really satisfying about Tunnel is that it has much more substance to it beyond its mysteries, and this hour draws our quartet much closer together. But real camaraderie is best when it’s seasoned with tough love, and right now, no one needs it more than Kwang-ho—and no one can administer it better than Sun-jae, even if he’ll never admit that there’s any love involved. We see right through you, you grumpy teddybear.


1992. Yeon-sook leaves work for the night and asks her taxi driver to hurry home because her daughter’s waiting, and he replies that that’s all the more reason for him to drive safely. But only moments later, a drunk driver comes straight at them.

A bloodied Yeon-sook drags herself from the overturned car. Kwang-ho, do you see me? I was left alone after you were gone. I don’t want to make our Yeon-ho like that too, she thinks before passing out.

Clutching the photo of her in the present, Kwang-ho shakes with choked sobs as night passes into day. He ignores his ringing phone, and back at the station, Sun-jae sighs in frustration. In private, he asks Sung-shik if it’s to do with “the person called Yeon-sook,” and finds out that she was Kwang-ho’s wife.

Sun-jae thinks on Sung-shik’s words en route to Kwang-ho’s house. He had related Kwang-ho’s desperate search for her, only to discover that she’d died over twenty years ago. Furthermore, she had left a child—his child—but nobody knew what became of her.

He finds Kwang-ho’s door unlocked again, with Kwang-ho slumped on the floor inside. “Get up,” Sun-jae tells him, not unkindly. He says there’s a new Jung Ho-young murder, but Kwang-ho just tells him to go away.

“If you do this, will a dead person come back?” Sun-jae asks. That finally sparks a reaction, and Kwang-ho asks bitterly what it will change if they catch Jung Ho-young. “Yeon-sook is dead, so what good does it do?” he shouts.

“Hey. That’s not something you can say to me right now,” Sun-jae replies. He points out that Jung might even have killed his mother. “When you apologized for not capturing the culprit, was that a lie?” he asks. And, he asks, is Kwang-ho planning to let the culprit get away again like he did thirty years ago?

“What about your child? Aren’t you curious about what happened to your child?” Sun-jae asks. He asks Kwang-ho how he thinks a motherless six-year-old left alone would have lived. Stricken, Kwang-ho shouts at him, asking what he’s meant to do.

“Find your daughter, solve the case, and go back, you fool! Go back and prevent it. Go back… and save Yeon-sook,” Sun-jae yells back. He reminds him that if he was brought to this timeline to solve the case, then wouldn’t he be able to go back once he had? “Let’s catch that bastard together,” he urges.

“If I were there, Yeon-sook wouldn’t have gotten in that taxi,” Kwang-ho says. “I’ll catch the culprit, and I’ll go back,” he vows. In a rundown apartment elsewhere, Jung Ho-young dons a courier uniform and heads out.

Kwang-ho strides into the police station, filled with new resolve. With everyone now here, Sung-shik calls a meeting. They identify that the victim, Lee Seo-yeon, went missing between her home and the bus stop, but once again, the murderer left no trace.

They do have one eyewitness, though: A delivery guy on a motorcycle saw her ahead of an unusually slow car. But since it was dark, all he could tell them was that it was a black sedan. Sun-jae notes that Jung was was in a white sedan the only other time he was caught on camera and surmises that it could be the same car repainted. Sung-shik dispatches the team with orders to track it down.

On their way out, Kwang-ho asks Sun-jae how to go about finding a child. Sun-jae tells him he’s already put someone onto looking for Yeon-ho, guessing that she either went into an orphanage or was adopted. “Since it was a long time ago, it won’t be easy, but let’s wait and see. We’ll hear something,” Sun-jae reassures him.

Though painfully forlorn, Kwang-ho thanks him. “Let’s catch the culprit quickly, since it looks like you and I are looking for the same guy,” Sun-jae replies, his tone gentle. Of course, he then goes and tells him to unfurrow his ugly brow, haha.

Jae-yi reads the news about the latest murder and thinks back to what she said to Sun-jae about how he might have been the trigger. She’s about to call him, but changes her mind. As she makes her way to class, she passes some girls skipping rope, and it triggers a memory of her own younger self.

Dr. Mok tells our two detectives that Lee Seo-yeon’s cause of death was also asphyxiation (with tights), and her death would have been drawn-out and painful. Kwang-ho berates Sun-jae for losing him two years ago, and Sun-jae has to stop himself mid-retort about catching him thirty years ago.

Turning back to Dr. Mok, Sun-jae asks him about the reason for the increasing frequency of the murders. “Do murderers have reasons?” Kwang-ho asks. He searches the victim’s ankles for dots but finds nothing.

He tells Sun-jae so in private and asks about the Haein River victim, Yoon Da-young (the one out of their jurisdiction). Sun-jae says there’s no mention of dots in the autopsy report, and Kwang-ho thinks it could mean a different killer. But Sun-jae says it’s not uncommon for serial killers to change their methods completely.

Sung-shik orders the pair to the crime scene, where he plans to join them. On his way out, he’s met by the victim’s brother, here to collect her effects. He cries over them, regretting that he hadn’t driven her himself, and Sung-shik tells him that it isn’t his fault. Meanwhile, an officer brings in a special delivery for Sun-jae and leaves the box on his desk.

At the end of Jae-yi’s class, her A-grade student asks if the murderer she mentioned last time was Jung Ho-young, and another student says he heard that the latest victim was a student at their university. Jae-yi asks a student to spatter a bottle of red nail varnish on her and tells them about a case some years ago where a man used to throw red-colored liquid on women before running away.

When asked if she would report such a thing, the student replies that she probably wouldn’t, since it doesn’t seem serious enough for that. But they gasp when Jae-yi tells them that some months later, that same man stabbed a woman—to see the red color. “And that’s how he evolved into a murderer,” she finishes.

Relating it back to Jung Ho-young, she says that he must have had a starting point too. By examining his crimes, they might be able to understand his choice of victims, his method, and so on. As the class files out, she wonders to herself why Jung is fixated on women in skirts.

Kwang-ho and Sun-jae are out near the scene. A sign pointing to a military base catches Kwang-ho’s eye, and he stares at it in shock. They reach a field close to the base, and deeply disturbed, Kwang-ho tells Sun-jae that this is where his mother’s body was found thirty years ago. Wuuuut. Sun-jae is equally shocked.

Spotting a lone camera nearby, they obtain the footage, reasoning that since the victim was found there, Jung Ho-young should be on it. And they do see him on it, tailing the victim. They return to the field and find a truck nearby with a blackbox camera. Its footage shows a man getting into a black sedan and driving past. This time, they get the license number.

The team regroups at the station, and Kwang-ho puzzles over why Jung returned to the same place as thirty years ago. Tae-hee overhears, but his probing is cut short when Sung-shik rushes in and tells them that the car was found.

On the road, a patrol car orders Jung’s car to stop, but he weaves away.

As the detectives prepare to leave, a phone rings… but it doesn’t belong to any of them. Kwang-ho discovers that the sound is coming from the box on Sun-jae’s desk, which the latter then tears open.

“It’s been a while, Detective,” says Jung Ho-young from a pay phone on the other side. “I have something to tell you. Haein River… that wasn’t me. It’s true that I killed Lee Seo-yeon, but that one wasn’t me,” he repeats, before hanging up. Furious, Sun-jae instructs Min-ha to track the number.

Meanwhile, the patrol car finally catches its quarry and drags the driver out… but it’s not Jung Ho-young. When the police check his license plates, they find a fake fastened over the real one.

The news vexes our detective team. Meanwhile, Min-ha pinpoints the location of the call. Sun-jae and Kwang-ho head there and find that it’s a public pay phone, out of range of any CCTV—again, Kwang-ho notes. He tells Sun-jae that young Kwang-ho was also called from a pay phone.

The next day breaks with news reports of the police’s failure to catch Jung Ho-young. The chief superintendent makes an appearance at the police station, but Kwang-ho’s missing from the lineup. Sung-shik grimaces when he marches in late, complaining about higher-ups.

The superintendent orders them to review the entire Jung Ho-young investigation from the start. Sun-jae speaks up to say that there were six victims, not five, adding the Haein River murder to the list. The superintendent recognizes Sun-jae as the one who lost Jung Ho-young last time.

Sun-jae points out that it’s strange for Jung to admit something now when he denied everything back then. The superintendent studies him with interest and tells him to bring him results. He also advises Sung-shik to make sure to consult with the professor he recommended—Jae-yi—which surprises Sun-jae.

Once he’s gone, they all breathe in relief. Sun-jae calls Jae-yi to come in, and then calls Dr. Mok. He tells him how Jung had said the Haein River murder wasn’t him and asks the doc to re-examine the six autopsy reports again. After they hang up, Dr. Mok looks at his chessboard and says, “Will you be able to catch the king?” Creepy and cryptic.

The police station is abuzz with activity when Jae-yi arrives, and Sun-jae lights up to see her. With her arrival, Sun-jae begins the briefing. He says Jung’s first victim is thought to be his wife, Kim Ji-eun, in 2009.

At the time, Jung had said that she had run away with another man, but her body turned up eight months later with tights wrapped around her neck. Jung had been under suspicion, but there was no evidence to tie him to her death.

There were two more similar murders after that, but still nothing connected Jung—until he was caught on CCTV with the fourth woman, a nurse. Sun-jae was in charge of the investigation at the time and had arrested him. Thinking the nurse’s murder was too practiced to be his first time, he combed through cold cases bearing similar traits until he found the others. As for the two recent cases, he blames himself for losing Jung two years ago.

Summing up, Sun-jae says that with the exception of his wife, Jung targeted women in their twenties, asphyxiating them with tights. He lets Jae-yi take over, and she tells them that all the victims were wearing skirts, causing some of the officers to titter. She silences them by asking if it would be okay to murder the women if they weren’t plain. “You must think there are women who deserve to be killed,” Jae-yi says. That shuts them up.

She tells Sung-shik that if they could figure out why Jung Ho-young targets skirt-wearing women, they might discover what motivates him. Finally, she shows them the microfilm articles of the murders from thirty years ago, explaining that they bear the same characteristics as the current cases.

Kwang-ho tells her that there were actually six murders back then, and Jung Ho-young had been brought in only to be released because he produced an alibi. “Though now I think of it, his parents could have been lying,” he adds. Sung-shik is shocked to realize that the high school kid was Jung Ho-young.

Sun-jae tells them that the family then moved to Seoul, and Jung was placed in a mental hospital soon after where he remained for eight years, though he didn’t have any specific diagnosis. After he was discharged, he married his wife, and they all know what followed. Sung-shik also tells them about the dots.

In private afterwards, Sun-jae admits he knew about Jung Ho-young’s multiple murders since the nurse case two years ago, adding that it would have been good if he’d known that Sung-shik had been at Hwayang then. At that, Sung-shik explodes at him for never coming to any after-work dinners: Everybody knew that except him, he yells. Hahaha, yes, tell him!

Kwang-ho and Sun-jae head out together. “In the end, there was a reason for us to meet like this after all,” Sung-shik says, watching them go.

The detectives pay Kim Ji-eun’s family a visit. Her mother is lost in a world of her own, poring over old photos of her dead daughter. They hang their heads when her older sister reproves them for not listening back then, and Sun-jae asks what caused her to suspect Jung.

She tells them a difficult story Ji-eun had told her—that her husband used to strangle her with tights while she was sleeping, and one time she really nearly died. The sister regrets that they were beguiled by his family’s money and that they had counseled Ji-eun to be good to her husband. They later learned that he had been at a mental hospital, but never found out why.

Jae-yi visits his old hospital to answer that question. His psychiatrist remembers him as her first patient and hints that he was forcefully hospitalized by his parents. His mother had pleaded with them never to release him: “He’s not human.”

The doctor understood why she’d said that when she talked to him. In an interview, he had told her that killing dogs became boring: “I became curious about what it would feel like to kill a person. My little sister liked it too. When I strangled her, she wasn’t grimacing, but smiling.” The doctor says he didn’t say much else after that interview, and Jae-yi asks for the recording.

Sun-jae’s phone from Jung Ho-young starts to ring, and he quickly tells Kwang-ho to get the number tracked. Jung asks him how he’s doing with his homework, and laughing, he gives them to the count of three to find him.

The detectives arrive at the location, another pay phone, and the Murder Phone rings again. Jung tells Sun-jae not to mess with him and to do his homework properly. Kwang-ho growls in frustration.

The next day, Jae-yi listens to the tape. Young Jung Ho-young sings a few lines: When I see your smiling face, it warms my heart. “She really was smiling,” he said. Jae-yi stops the tape. It looks like she’s onto something.

Sung-shik maps the locations of the victims’ bodies against Jung’s calls. Eyes twinkling, Kwang-ho says that one more point would make it the Big Dipper, and Sung-shik snorts, remembering how he had said that to Kwang-ho thirty years ago. The joke is, of course, lost on everyone else. Aww.

They all jump at the sound of a phone ringing, but it’s just Dr. Mok on Sun-jae’s normal phone. He and Kwang-ho head over, and Dr. Mok tells them that unlike Lee Seo-yeon, who had died extremely slowly, the Haein River victim, Yoon Da-young, was killed at once. He thinks that it’s either because she was killed in in a fit of fury, or it’s two different killers.

Sun-jae shows him the 1986 reports, but Dr. Mok says that using tights doesn’t mean it’s the same killer. Kwang-ho mutters that the 1986 murderer he killed without reason too. “How would you know that?” the doc asks with an unsettling smile.

Kwang-ho tells Sun-jae later that one of the 1986 victims was also found at Haein River. They question Yoon Da-young’s roomie, but she’s never heard Jung Ho-young’s name. Sun-jae gets a call just then from Kim Ji-eun’s sister, who gives him the address of a place Ji-eun wanted to move to.

They find the area ramshackle and deserted due to redevelopment. Sun-jae doesn’t think he’s there, but Kwang-ho begins a search anyway. In one house, they come across a box identical to the one Jung Ho-young used to send Sun-jae the Murder Phone as well as a copy of today’s paper, meaning that it’s his current hideout.

They call in the cavalry, and the detectives lie in wait for Jung’s return. While they wait, Sun-jae hears from his missing persons contact, who says that without even a photo to go on for Yeon-ho, he could only narrow down the list to seventy people.

Sun-jae asks Kwang-ho what he plans to say to his daughter first. “I have to apologize first,” Kwang-ho replies. Just then, Jung appears, and the men crouch out of sight. But Jung sees their reflection in a shard of mirror and flees. The detectives give chase but ultimately lose him, and Kwang-ho roars in frustration.

Jung calls Sun-jae on the Murder Phone. Angry that they came after him, he threatens to go after “the woman you cherish.” Sun-jae immediately dials Jae-yi, but he can’t reach her. He tears off, leaving Kwang-ho behind.

He gets Jae-yi’s address from Dean Hong, but is confused when he pulls up in front of Kwang-ho’s house. Oh, this should be fun! Kwang-ho arrives home himself by then, and is in the middle of denying Jae-yi lives there when she pops out.

Sun-jae yells at her for not answering her phone, “Do you know how worried I was?” She explains that she was busy listening to the tapes so she didn’t hear, and invites them in for coffee.

Sun-jae shuffles awkwardly around her apartment and asks if they’re living together. Echoing Jae-yi’s words to him before, Kwang-ho reels off that it’s not together: He’s upstairs, she’s downstairs.

Jae-yi asks Sun-jae what the urgent thing he had to say was. Caught, he steals a glance at Kwang-ho (whose expression is just priceless) and stiltingly asks why Jung Ho-young said the Haein River case wasn’t him. She says he’s playing a game with the phone calls, but what he said is odd. At least one part of his confession is true, but which part?

Kwang-ho finds their reasoning confusing and decides to leave them to it. HA, Sun-jae clutches at his trouser leg to stop him, but in the end, he’s left alone with Jae-yi, and so he takes a nervous swig of coffee. But he smiles to see his handkerchief in her bag, and asks her to be careful.

Kwang-ho’s pretty pleased with himself outside. “These are the good times,” he says, grinning. But the grin soon gives way to a sigh.

At the NFS, Dr. Mok tells the officer that the police suspect Jung Ho-young for murders committed thirty years ago, but he learns that they don’t have autopsy reports from that far back. Looking over the current cases, the officer thinks that they’re all Jung’s work. “You think so, too?” Dr. Mok asks.

In a children’s playground, a woman struggles as a dark figure strangles her with a pair of tights. “I… am not a person who kills someone without a reason. I’m different than that bastard Jung Ho-young!” he rasps. As her struggles cease, her killer raises his face. It’s Dr. Mok.


Nope, not surprised—pretty much all of us called it way back. But even with Dr. Mok finally unveiled as the original 1986 killer (and therefore also the guy in the church confessional in Episode 4), there’s still a lot we don’t know. What provoked him to start killing again? Was it the appearance of Kwang-ho? Did he recognize him? From the way he looks at him and his cryptic comments, I’m certain he does. What are his oh-so-hallowed reasons for his murders? I’m also pretty certain he killed young Kwang-ho (who still remains nearly a total mystery).

Age-wise, I’d put Mok at fifty or so, so thirty years ago, he’d have been around the same age as Jung Ho-young. Both kids are in Hwayang, one killing dogs and the other killing women… how are they connected to each other? It’s clear that Jung witnessed at least one of Mok’s murders, since he killed Lee Seo-yeon at exactly the place Sun-jae’s mom was murdered and experienced a flashback to it. It would be interesting to see where and how his path crossed with Mok’s. His seeming inability to distinguish the rictus of pain from a smile of pleasure is as fascinating as it is disturbing. Both killers are sick, but in different ways. Were they friends? Are they in communication in the present? Does Jung know who Mok is in the present?

But the reveal raises the potentially more important question of who Mok was in 1986. If Kwang-ho’s sojourn to the future is an act of fate, we have to assume (for the time being) that the endgame for the show is to return him to his original timeline so he can catch the killer there. It doesn’t seem likely that Mok would be living under his real name in the present, so it can’t be as simple as looking up “Mok Jin-woo,” can it?

Reveals aside, I really like how the character interplays are building up. The team came together in a really cohesive way this episode, and I’m enjoying all the partnerships so much. What’s growing between Kwang-ho and Sun-jae is better than friendship, and it feels so earned. Jae-yi is delightfully straitlaced with no sense of subtext. All of them are changing in small but important ways, and it feels really rewarding to watch. Even Sung-shik’s little explosion at Sun-jae showed growing closeness—though they’d been working together for some time, it’s clear that Sun-jae was very closed off. On that note, did Mok attach himself to Sun-jae on purpose, knowing who he was?

I really like how our central quartet all borrow each other’s words, passing them around between them and repeating them back to each other. It’s not a new device, but between these characters, it’s a charmingly organic way of showing how they affect each other, how much they listen, what their opinions of each other are, and it gives them a note of unity—that for all their thorns, reticence, and brusque demeanors, they’re on the same page. But more than that, they care about each other.

Between the four of them, only the Kwang-ho/Sung-shik connection is old (and rock solid, bless them), but every other combination between them is a new relationship finding its ground. I like how Kwang-ho’s direct, uncomplicated nature makes him such a good catalyst for all this, especially when that candor reverses and comes back to him. I found it so touching when Sun-jae dragged him out of his grief-stricken stupor, all harsh words and saying what needed to be said, but there was never any doubt that it came from a place of real concern.

I actually have a vision for how I want the show to play out: A full arc for the present, where both killers are caught and our main characters live awkwardly ever after, followed by a handful of episodes where Kwang-ho goes back to catch Mok in his own timeline, which would reset the entire trajectory of the future. And then a flash-forward to the new 2016 timeline, where a happier, less broken Jae-yi meets a happier, less broken Sun-jae, who has to win the approval of her stern (verrrry stern!) father. So basically yes, I want to have my cake and eat it too. Happy endings for everyone!



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