A little bit of a good drama goes a long way to lifting my spirits again. Like a parched throat getting precious drops of liquid, the first two episodes of The Girl Who Sees Smells (Sensory Couple) is just what my doctor ordered to recover from the recent drama beat down. This drama continues to be cute and sweetly simple, it doesn’t aim high so consequently everything delivers. The serial killer mystery is revealed a bit more but the character interactions between leads Moo Gak and Cho Rim take giant steps forward. To say the drama understands pacing is an understatement with how nicely this story flows.
The OTP is amazingly perfect already, their connection forged in ways they don’t fully know yet but it doesn’t matter because their current reason to spend time together is equally compelling. Cho Rim needs devoid of humor Moo Gak to be her comedy performance partner, while one-track-minded Moo Gak needs human bloodhound Cho Rim to be his police tracker. They are bound together for positive reasons which makes their growing camaraderie and banter all the more lovely to watch. There aren’t any manufactured complications so far, leaving all the time spent on watching two people sensibly form the first bonds of friendship.
Episode 2 recap:
Moo Gak and Cho Rim part ways but he stops in his tracks when he overhears someone asking if Cho Rim is Choi Eun Seol? Moo Gak flashes back to a memory with his little sister Eun Seol when she came by the aquarium to show off her school academic award.
Moo Gak dotes on her, calling her “my kid” and being so proud of her. Eun Seol chides oppa for referring to her as his kid, worried that he can’t get a girlfriend this way. Moo Gak reminds her that they are all each has in this world so of course she’s his kid. Only after he marries Eun Seol off will Moo Gak even consider whether he wants to get married himself. Eun Seol sighs at his old man tone of voice before they happily head off to grab a bite to eat.
Back in the present, Cho Rim explains hat the person has mistaken her for Choi Eun Seol so the girl apologizes and leaves. She notices Moo Gak staring at her still standing there. He asks “your name….” so she assumes he wants her name to be thorough since he’s a cop. Cho Rim writes down her name Oh Cho Rim but Moo Gak wonders why someone just called her Choi Eun Seol? Cho Rim explains the girl mistook her for her classmate before walking off with Moo Gak staring.
Moo Gak broods at home, reliving the moment he found Eun Seol dead in the hospital. He vows to personally kill the person who hurt his Eun Seol.
Moo Gak arrives at the major crimes squad office and asks to see the team leader who is not amused that Moo Gak ignored his warning and went to catch the beauty salon robber. Moo Gak vows to increase the major crimes case solving rate if team leader takes him in. His determination and persistence finally leaves team leader with no choice but to lay it all on the line. He hands a case file to Moo Gak and gives him 10 days to bring in the perp. If Moo Gak does then he’s in, if he can’t then he’s to never bring this up again.
Cho Rim naturally gets chewed out by her comedy troupe sunbae for wrecking her car. Cho Rim apologizes profusely and promises to take the car in for repair immediately. Troupe leader hears that Cho Rim is heading to the car repair shop rather than preparing her audition routine. He wonders why she’s even here if she doesn’t want to work hard to get onstage and instead spends all her time running errands.
Cho Rim announces she’s got a crosstalk routine planned, explaining that her partner is someone from outside the troupe. Troupe leader orders her to bring the partner in for a demo by tomorrow. If Cho Rim can’t then he’ll assume she’s just wasting her time here and will be kicked out. Cho Rim chides herself for coming up with this excuse because now she has to deliver or else.
Moo Gak is hitting his head at his desk in frustration as hi s fellow uniformed officers suggest he give up as he was handed an impossible case to solve. There was a series of murders at PC bangs a few years ago that remains unsolved and there is still no motive or suspect identified.
Cho Rim gets a car repair estimate and she’s so desperate she asks the car repair guy to partner with her for a crosstalk performance. She’s about to text Moo Gak about the car repair when she remembers how he pretended to be her friend in the jjimjalbang when she looked really shady, adopting a hilarious saturi to get her out of the bind.
Cho Rim thinks Moo Gak would be great at crosstalk so texts him to meet to discuss the car repair. Moo Gak is devouring bowl after bowl of food while vowing to get into the major crimes unit and catch the bastard that killed his sister. Cho Rim doesn’t hear back so texts until she resorts to threatening to report him for hit and run unless he comes to see here.
Moo Gak meets Cho Rim at the same café from last night. He almost slips on spilled coffee on the ground but catches himself with his arms akimbo, which makes Cho Rim smile since even his physicality looks amusing. Cho Rim stares at all the lunch smells emanating from Moo Gak and gasps that he must be a huge eater to have eaten so much, rattling off all the dishes that he ate at lunch.
Moo Gak cuts right to the chase and asks about the car repair estimate. Cho Rim says it costs a lot but he has a way to get it repaired without paying a cent. She asks if Moo Gak likes crosstalk and acts out an example for him, which she finds so funny herself she wipes away her own tears. She wants Moo Gak to do a crosstalk with her and he won’t owe her a penny for the car repair. Moo Gak wants to go straight to the car repair shop so Cho Rim keeps making reasons why he needs to do with her.
Moo Gak gets upset and calls crosstalk a laughable waste of time, which naturally rubs Cho Rim the wrong way since she takes it very seriously and it’s important to her. Cho Rim grabs her bag and storms out while Moo Gak sighs that he doesn’t have the time or inclination to be generating laughs right now. Moo Gak texts the major crimes unit team leader asking for another case as the PC bang murders is too difficult for him to crack. He doesn’t realize that he sends the text to Cho Rim instead.
Cho Rim reads the text and quickly returns to café and reads the text out loud to Moo Gak. He wants her to delete the text but Cho Rim wants to know more details about the PC bang murders because she may be able to help. She offers to help Moo Gak solve his cases if he agrees to be her crosstalk partner.
Chef Kwon Jae Hee gets off the plane in Korea and immediately makes a call asking about Mari. He hears that she’s still missing.
Moo Gak hides on the roof and thinks back to grilling Cho Rim about her crime solving talent, how did she know where the suspect was hiding and also what dishes Moo Gak ate at lunch? He leans really close when asking Cho Rim these questions so she blushes a bit and gets him to sit back down. Cho Rim whispers to Moo Gak that she solves crimes using smell, the suspect had a strong perm solution smell on him while Moo Gak smells like the four different dishes he ate at lunch. This time it’s Cho Rim who leans in really close to Moo Gak before moving back to her seat. Cho Rim explains her smell ability is like a bloodhound so Moo Gak tests her, he’ll step outside and she’s to follow 5 minutes later to find him.
Cho Rim notices that Moo Gak stepped on the spilled coffee on the ground so she follows the scent particles he left behind, tracking him all around the building. She notices that he even walks in funny circles to through her off his scent. Moo Gak stares as Cho Rim correctly traces his every step before stopping right by the building and staring up at the roof to call him down.
Moo Gak isn’t ready to work with Cho Rim yet and points out that she doesn’t seem to have the same heightened sense of smell like a dog. Cho Rim explains her ability uses her eyes rather than her nose. She points out the mints in Moo Gak’s pocket and asks to do a test using it.
Moo Gak and Cho Rim play the cup game as he hides the mint under different cups while Cho Rim has her nose plugged up. She correctly finds the mint each and every time, including when he breaks the rules and puts it in his mouth. In the end Moo Gak has no choice but to believe that Cho Rim can see smells.
Moo Gak and Cho Rim wait for the bus and she takes the chance to hand him her notebook of crosstalk sketches. She wants Moo Gak to pick the one he wants to do and memorize it. Moo Gak agrees and speaks with Cho Rim in banmal now, explaining he doesn’t use polite language with people he works with. Cho Rim reminds him to memorize the skit otherwise he’s dead tomorrow!
Moo Gak watches Cho Rim get on the bus before sighing over the skit notebook. He takes out a mint from his pocket and holds it up to try and test his smell. Cho Rim runs back with one last important request that Moo Gak keep her secret that she can see smells.
A beautiful woman is locked inside an all white room with a video camera recording her. She pounds on the door, begging for help and agreeing to do anything if she’s let out.
Moo Gak encounters Detective Yeom Mi as both arrive at the police department. Detective Yeom is here to do a presentation to the major crimes and search units on a major case. Detective Yeom is working a missing persons case, a 25 year old male hotel worker and a 27 year old model named Mari (the girl in the locked white room) has been missing for the last 5 days. Moo Gak sneaks into the conference room to listen in.
Major crimes unit team leader asks why this is even a big deal since there are so many missing persons cases every single day. Detective Yeom explains the connection – over the last few years, people have gone missing only to be discovered dead days later. The victims include Cho Rim’s parents, the dead sea diving couple. There are a total of four cases with none of the victims sharing anything in common. The cases all occur during this time of the year, and each body was discovered within 7 days of the victim going missing. The deaths all happened on the sixth day the victim went missing and all died by asphyxiation.
The most obvious connection that this is a serial killing is the bar code cuts etched into each victim’s forearm. Detective Yeom explains that the serial killer crime unit has been secretly working this case and now decided to make the investigation public. The case is called the Bar Code Killer and based on timeline, it’s been 12 months since the last bar code victim was found so she expects the killer to strike again. With the hotel worker and model Mari both missing for 5 days now, there is a high chance both could be the next bar code victims.
Moo Gak interrupts to ask a question on whether the bar codes carved into victims arms can actually be scanned and reveal something? His question is clearly something Detective Yeom didn’t think of before but Moo Gak gets pushed out of the room since he’s not supposed to be here. The search unit takes the missing hotel worker case while handing off model Mari to the major crimes unit.
Moo Gak begs the team leader to let him look for missing model Mari since her case is more pressing than the 10 year old PC bang murders. Another member of the unit is nice enough to take Moo Gak along to the hospital where Mari’s last call records came from. Moo Gak recognizes the hospital as the one that he went to with Cho Rim after the car accident.
The cops hears that Mari met with the hospital’s pain specialist. Dr. Cheon, who just happens to be taking the next four days off. They confirm with the nurse that Mari was Dr. Cheon’s patient. Moo Gak asks for Dr. Cheon’s cell phone and hears that he doesn’t use it. Dr. Cheon (the creepy doctor from the hospital) is sitting in a café keeping tabs on Cho Rim as she hands out coupons on the street to bring people to watch the comedy show.
Cho Rim meets up with Moo Gak to help in his investigation to look for Mari. They enter Mari’s apartment, with Moo Gak asking questions of Mari’s friends while Cho Rim asks for some of Mari’s clothes. Cho Rim notices that the clothes are letting off specific scent particles and hears that Mari uses a very specific perfume. Cho Rim sprays it into the air and lists the ingredients of this special blend that only Mari uses.
Next stop is Mari’s modeling agency where she was last seen in the parking garage. Cho Rim asks if Moo Gak has picked the crosstalk skit and approves of his selection. Moo Gak points out the skit he picked was the shortest one. On their way into the agency, chef Kwon Jae Hee walks past them and Cho Rim stops when she sees Mari’s specific perfume scent coming from him. She tells Moo Gak who leaps into action and pushes Jae Hee on the ground, demanding to know where he is holding Mari.
The other two major crimes detectives happen to walk out and rescue Jae Hee from Moo Gak’s clutches, explaining that Jae Hee is Mari’s boyfriend and was in the US for the last week, so he’s got an alibi and an explanation for why he is connected to Mari. Moo Gak apologizes to Jae Hee who isn’t upset and just asks Moo Gak to help find Mari. He wonders why Moo Gak would know his connection with Mari? Moo Gak looks around and doesn’t find Cho Rim anywhere.
Mari is still locked up in that all white room and screaming her head off.
Moo Gak finds Cho Rim outside the comedy troupe and hears from Cho Rim that Kwon Jae Hee is a famous chef that is quite popular. Moo Gak is focused on the case so Cho Rim claims she won’t help anymore unless he gets ready. Moo Gak takes out the skit pages he ripped from the notebook and the two get down to practicing.
Cho Rim passes by all the comedy troupe members, dragging Moo Gak behind her to perform for the troupe leader. They do a series of green light sketches that make the troupe leader laugh over Moo Gak’s performance but he warns Cho Rim to write better material otherwise she’ll land in last place in the upcoming auditions. Moo Gak suddenly has another realization – why would Mari hide from others that she has a boyfriend?
It’s been 7 days since Mari’s disappearance. A couple driving in the countryside hit a car parked at the edge of a drop off and send it into the ravine.
Detective Yeom meets with the other officers to explain that today is the 8th day of Mari’s disappearance. Normally the Bar Code killer would leave the victim in a very prominent place that can’t be missed but Mari hasn’t been found yet. Detective Yeom concludes that Mari isn’t the next victim of the Bar Code killer so she’s exiting this case. The major crimes team leader thinks Mari is having problems with her agency so ran off for a few days is all. A recent transaction on Mari’s credit card shows it was used at a motel.
The major crimes detectives rush off to investigate and Moo Gak silently climbs into the backseat like a ghoul. LOL. They detectives have no choice but to take Moo Gak along where they arrest a guy at the motel. Moo Gak cuffs and drags the guy into the backseat before taking his wallet out. The detectives find Mari’s credit card inside the guy’s wallet and he claims to have found it.
The guy leads the cops to where he found Mari’s credit card. The cops search a planter and find a wallet tossed there. Moo Gak is sent back to Seoul with Mari’s wallet to get it examined. He takes it to Cho Rim who stares and concludes that the wallet was in water before. There is also the smell of dog on it. Moo Gak remembers the dog at the place where Mari’s wallet was found.
Moo Gak runs to the major crimes meeting and hears that the team is reopening the case as a missing persons case. Leader wants to search in the mountains but Moo Gak speaks up and asks the search to be moved to near the water. He explains that the water was in the river and picked up by the dog before being brought to the place it was found. All the detectives laugh at Moo Gak’s seemingly baseless conclusion. Team leader is so angry that he orders Moo Gak to scram and never come back!
Cho Rim’s sunbae Oh Ya asks where she found her crosstalk partner, the guy who calls himself Detective Choi. She takes out her wallet which is the same as Mari’s recovered wallet. Sunbae explains that the wallet isn’t leather even if it looks just like it. Cho Rim confirms that her sunbae’s same wallet doesn’t smell like leather, which means the smell of leather on Mari’s wallet must have come from somewhere else.
Cho Rim calls Moo Gak to explain that the wallet isn’t made out of leather so shouldn’t smell like leather. Except Mari’s wallet smelled like leather which means it acquired the scent later on. Moo Gak and Cho Rim go to a leather factory in the countryside to investigate. Cho Rim confirms the leather scent here is the same as on Mari’s wallet. Moo Gak asks the factory owner and learns that there was a malfunction two nights ago and the factory waste water flowed into the river for an hour before it was stopped. If Mari’s wallet was in the water then it could have soaked up the leather scent.
Cho Rim and Moo Galk walk by the river as the other cops are searching the mountains. Cho rim gets tired from all the walking and asks to rest for a bit but Moo Gak wants to keep going. He suddenly stops when he sees broken taillight fragments on the ground but no car. Based on the direction of the road, Moo Gak deduces that a car could have hit another one parked here.
Moo Gak calls Cho Rim over to ask for her scent tracking but she’s already on top of it. Cho Rim can sees a trail of Mari’s special perfume from right behind Moo Gak and leading into the ravine.
Thoughts of Mine:
Smelly Girl has no qualms about going real dark, witness the murder of Cho Rim’s parents and little sister Eun Seol. That dark danger became real again in this episode as the Bar Code Killer struck again on poor pretty and likely now dead Mari. There is a bona fide serial killer on the loose, or killers since that is also a possibility. Whatever danger Cho Rim avoided in her past is catching up to her fast, I thought we would have a few episodes of happy go lucky breather before the creepy interjected but that’s not happening. Dr. Cheon from the hospital is clearly involved somehow, whether he is the serial killer will clearly be fleshed out through later episodes so it works to just have him be briefly seen in his skulking ways. I don’t feel this pressing urge to get all the hows and whys, which is a sign that drama is doing a good job selling the non-crime element interactions so that it’s not just about Moo Gak and Cho Rim solving the murders of their loved ones. It’s also about how they are living in a world without many precious things. He doesn’t have love or sensation, she doesn’t have memory or normalcy. Their eccentricities work to make their bond so much more interesting.
The drama is all about Moo Gak and Cho Rim so it’s not a big deal that the second leads or supporting cast serve solely as the filler. If chef Kwon Jae Hee or Detective Yeom become more interesting or prominent later on that will be fine, for now their limited screen time isn’t being wasted in setting up the bigger picture. I’m hoping there isn’t any love triangles or rectangles or any such inclination on the parts of the second leads, in this particular story it just feels so unnecessary. Moo Gak and Cho Rim already fit so well in rounding out each other’s lackings while adding to complimenting each other’s strengths. The drama doesn’t need to tell me Moo Gak can be a good major crimes detective, he has the deductive ability and desire, he just needs training, experience, and polish. It feels like Cho Rim is wasting her scent seeing ability by not being in law enforcement, except she doesn’t really have a reason to dedicate her life to solving crime. Her comedy aspirations are cute and likely stem from seeing her own outlier status and wanting to make laughter out of it. She’s not particular good or bad at what she does, kinda like Moo Gak at being a cop, so these two average ability folks with extraordinary bad luck in the past finally have a bit of luck in running, literally, into each other.
If I have minor quibbles about Smelly Girl, it’s probably wishing the drama had more intensity. There is a languid pace that doesn’t quite get my adrenaline flowing, the way some dramas just grab the viewer by the neck. A lack of intensity isn’t a flaw but this story will need it once the serial killer danger ramps up. I adore the easygoing interactions between the two leads, none of the “I can’t stand you!” forced dislike just to make falling in love later so much more shocking. They already get along even if it’s for mutual backscratching reasons, but two leads that can converse nicely with each other from the get go is always a welcomed arrangement. The police aspect is a weak point, which is really a consistent sore spot with so many SBS dramas of late from You’re All Surrounded to Hyde, Jekyll, Me. The former had no excuse since it was a cop drama while the latter was just a bunch of cops acting like circus performers while the circus performers did nothing. I don’t think the cops here are all that incompetent but they certainly will win no professional awards. All in all, the blips don’t amount to anything big enough to ruin what works overall. Two episodes in, this one might actually turn me into loving both Yoochun and Shin Se Kyung when all is said and done if they keep on being so adorable together.
Click here to watch The Girl Who Sees Smells.