Holy smokes, the last ten minutes of this episode of The Girl Who Sees Smells may call for having smelling salts on hand. I was genuinely quaking with dread and awe at how masterfully the story turned the corner and reveals the big bad with such sinister perfection. We learn who the bar code killer is this early in the game, but once again it doesn’t herald a grinding halt to the proceedings.
Keeping the identity of baddies hidden is an artful trick that can grow old fast, harder is to play coy just long enough to impart some doubt before showing hand to leave the audience scrambling to figure out why. And in this case, the why is going to be meaty indeed to peel back the layers on the scariest K-drama villain around. Somebody hold me, I’m genuinely scared to pieces for my beloved Cho Rim and Moo Gak.
Episode 6 recap:
It’s Moo Gak’s turn to get drunk and pass out while Cho Rim gets a chance to take care of him. She picks a spot right under the picturesque cherry blossom trees in season so the falling petals beautifully blanket her and sleeping Moo Gak. She tries to pick and then blow an errant petal off his cheek when Moo Gak wakes up.
Cho Rim tries to act nonchalant so she’s shocked when Moo Gak wordlessly pulls her into his arms for an embrace. Cho Rim smiles and hugs him back while saying “I like you, too.” I love you both so kiss now!
Sadly this is just the overactive imagination of wuri Cho Rim, so overactive she’s actually hugging the empty space in front of her. This time Moo Gak wakes up for real and is confused where is this place? He hears about falling asleep during dinner and Cho Rim brought him here after the restaurant closed down. Moo Gak apologizes for pulling a sleeping beauty on Cho Rim and is curious how she moved him here and what exactly happens to him when he does pass out abruptly like that. Cho Rim describes it as akin to a zombie LOL. Cho Rim quickly gets up to run off but can’t walk properly since her legs are numb from Moo Gak sleeping on it. He notices but she chalks it up to recent poor circulation in her legs.
Moo Gak watches as Cho Rim gets on the bus but she remembers something so gestures to his hoodie from inside the bus. Moo Gak reaches into his hoodie and finds the little teddy bear there. Moo Gak rushes on the bus before it drives off, sitting down next to Cho Rim to ask why she returned it. He’s peeved she returned it, especially when she makes the excuse that she doesn’t like receiving a buy-one-get-one-free gift like she’s an afterthought. He thinks she’s being difficult, it’s not like she can tell which bear was the bought one and which one was the free one.
Cho Rim argues that it’s obvious which bear is which so Moo Gak wonders why she accepted it in the first place. Cho Rim claims she’s too nice to say no when he first gave it to her. He puts the bear in her hands, asking her to throw it away then since he already gave it away. Cho Rim quickly puts the bear back in Moo Gak’s hand and tells him to keep it before she runs off the bus. Moo Gak squeezes the bear and hears his recording for Eun Seol, which explains why Cho Rim returned the bear to him. Awwwww.
Doctor Chun is packing up his office to move to Senegal as an overseas medical doctor. He finds Cho Rim’s hospital files during the packing and looks torn. He suddenly says the name “Eun Seol, Choi Eun Seol” out loud and remembers Moo Gak confronting him about his little sister Choi Eun Seol being wrongly killed as the eyewitness. Doctor Chun makes the connection that the real eyewitness is alive, the daughter of the sea diving couple is now living as Oh Cho Rim.
Jae Hee heads to work at his restaurant but goes upstairs to Doctor Chun’s medical office first. He finds Doctor Chun on the phone asking for the wine box to be brought to him from storage. Doctor Chun apologizes to Jae Hee for having the wine box accidentally taken to storage with all his belongings. He’ll have it brought to Jae Hee, who seems really anxious to get it back and offers to pick it up at the storage. Jae Hee claims he’ll be sad not seeing Doctor Chun for two years and the two agree to grab a meal before leaves the day after.
Cho Rim pays a visit to her comedy troupe leader, explaining that Moo Gak won’t be her partner anymore. Cho Rim wants to get on stage by her own ability and lies that Moo Gak can’t do it for personal reasons. Troupe leader honestly points out that her ability alone at most gets her a backup spot with low pay only enough to cover transportation. Cho Rim doesn’t mind and wants to come back even to run errands and help. Troupe leader agrees and afterwards privately asks the sunbae to help Cho Rim get on stage. Awwww, he’s such a softie inside.
Cho Rim reports to work at Jae Hee’s restaurant and greets him in the dining room though he seems preoccupied and walks right past her. When he does see her, he’s warm and friendly as usual and she promises to work hard.
Cho Rim bumps into Doctor Chun outside the restaurant as she’s taking out the trash and invites him to come eat at the restaurant. Doctor Chun watches her run inside and voiceovers that he’s been wanting to apologize to her since the moment he saw her. We see Doctor Chun sitting down to write a letter to Cho Rim explaining why he seems strangely preoccupied with her.
When she was brought to the hospital after the car accident, she was declared near death with no hope of regaining consciousness, while Doctor Chun’s wife was in dire straits waiting for a heart transplant. Doctor Chun was so desperate when Cho Rim didn’t die as time went on that he almost tried to kill her by injecting a solution to stop her heart. Doctor Chun stopped himself at the last minute but he feels immense guilt for even harboring thoughts of killing Cho Rim so he could save his wife.
Doctor Chun wants to sincerely apologize to Cho Rim now, especially when he sees how happy she is to be alive. He hopes to get her forgiveness one day even using such a cowardly means as writing her this letter. Doctor Chun puts the letter in an envelope to send but when his nurse comes in with books he asked for she puts the letter into the box with the books.
Moo Gak pays Cho Rim a visit at the restaurant and purposely orders a buy-one-get-one free item to needle her. Ahahahahaha, he’s so petty. He avoids looking at her until she walks away and then he sneaks glances at her. Cho Rim brings him the buy-one-get-one free wines, two glasses that he immediately picks up and asks which one is the buy one and which one is the free one. She can tell he’s being unreasonable and calls him a rude customer.
Jae Hee walks up and asks what is going on? Cho Rim says nothing and runs back into the kitchen while Moo Gak offers a glass of wine to Jae Hee to apologize for the way he was treated as a suspect. Jae Hee accepts and sits down with Moo Gak who explains that he came specifically to apologize to Jae Hee.
Jae Hee drinks his wine but his eyes stray to Moo Gak’s ringing cell phone and makes note of the caller as Doctor Chun. Moo Gak steps aside to answer the call while Jae Hee hears that Doctor Chun wants to talk to Moo Gak about something. Moo Gak makes an appointment with Doctor Chun, tonight at 8 pm at a specific Catholic church.
Doctor Chun takes the wine box back from the movers outside of Jae Hee’s house. The mover wants Doctor Chun to check the inside to confirm everything is there. Doctor Chun cuts his thumb opening the box.
Jae Hee comes home and sees Doctor Chun waiting outside for him holding the wine box. He warmly invites Doctor Chun inside but the good doctor claims he is in a rush and heads off. Jae Hee notices Doctor Chun’s cut on his thumb is bleeding.
Jae Hee takes the wine box inside and opens it up. Inside are all of Mari’s diaries wrapped in her scarf. Jae Hee opens one diary and a picture of Mari falls out. Jae Hee stares at it impassively and HOMG he’s such a sociopath. He flips the diary to the last page and pauses. The last page is a polaroid picture of an arm with a bar code cut it in and labeled “Joo Mari: 1989.11.17 – 2014.2.11). Jae Hee notices still fresh blood on that picture, which confirms that Doctor Chun saw it as his thumb was bleeding. Jae Hee gives a small sinister smile before flipping into complete serial killer face. Oh mommy, I’m scared of this bad man.
Doctor Chun gets into his car and drives off, seemingly normal but he grows more and more agitated as he drives further away from Jae Hee’s house. Flashback to Doctor Chun opening the box outside Jae Hee’s house and looking alarmed when he sees the books inside are not crooked accounting books but instead are Mari’s diaries. He picks up one diary and flips to the end and sees the bar code arm picture with Mari’s name on it.
Doctor Chun manages to compose himself just as Jae Hee returns home. Can you please call Moo Gak RIGHT NOW. Doctor Chun talks to himself in the car that “Kwon Chef is a serial killer, eyewitness Oh Cho Rim must be protected!” No shit Sherlock!
Doctor Chun arrives at the empty Catholic church to wait for Moo Gak, sitting down in a pew and looking supremely scared. We see Moo Gak driving there. Doctor Chun hears someone enter and turns around to see Jae Hee walking towards him. ACK! Run, run, ruuuuuuuuuun.
Doctor Chun tries to act nonchalant and greets Jae Hee, wondering why he’s here? Jae Hee walks up to Doctor Chun and sits down in the same pew, asking why Doctor Chun is here when he claimed to be busy preparing for his overseas move. Jae Hee suggests Doctor Chun is here to pray and asks if he can pray with him. Can this fucker get any scarier? Doctor Chun is barely able to hold it in as he watches Jae Hee pray, until finally he tries to bolt but Jae Hee grabs him. Cut to the cross hanging on the wall.
Moo Gak arrives at the Catholic church and finds it empty. He sits down to wait for the Doctor Chun who will never come.
Major crimes team leader Kang is getting a commendation for breaking the marijuana growing case after Moo Gak attributed the hard work to him. Afterwards team leader Kang and his whole team is given the day off and money to go out and celebrate.
Cho Rim is at the police station to get some police uniforms and accessories for her to use in a sketch. Moo Gak wonders why they aren’t practicing lately and Cho Rim makes an excuse that he doesn’t need to worry about that for now.
They run into a beaming team leader Kang after the commendation and he’s in a super good mood. The other detectives asks if team leader got a bonus with the commendation and he claims not to since the nation is in a financial pinch. Moo Gak and Cho Rim run back to the office to grab a police hat for her sketch but then she bumps into team leader Kang. They exchange hats and Cho Rim finds the envelope of cash in team leader’s hat.
The junior detectives are ready to go out and celebrate with a big feast and team leader Kang invites Cho Rim along. She’s about to decline when Moo Gak whispers that she found the bonus cash so she should come. The team arrive at a chicken farm to have fresh chicken soup. Cho Rim points out something smells weird here, this place has a strong ramyun smell. Moo Gak thinks nothing is weird since chicken farmers can’t eat chicken soup all day long. The team head into the restaurant and decide not to refer to the cops as detectives here so everyone agrees to call other brother and sister.
The group settle into a game of Go-Stop with hwatu (flower cards), breaking into teams with team leader Kang dealing. Team leader Kang keeps winning and gets to hit his subordinates on the forehead. Hilariously Moo Gak is expressionless no matter how hard he gets hit, ha! Play continues and it’s business as usual, with team leader Kang continuing his winning streak and beating everyone up until he complains that his finger hurts from flicking everyone.
Team leader Kang offers to change up the punishment to punches instead and Cho Rim agrees, also suggesting that they change the playing so she becomes the dealer. Cho Rim cheats up watching the scent trail from the other cops whenever they are lying about what cards is being held. Cho Rim wins by a landslide and Moo Gak is ready to punch out his team members and asks them to get ready to accept their punishment.
Team leader Kang says he’s ready so Moo Gak pulls back and punches him in the face, the first punch with 27 more punches to come. The detectives are all rocking bruised foreheads when their meal arrives and everyone digs in. Detective Ye wishes Detective Yeom could join them but Detective Ki thinks she’s too much of a workaholic and won’t get along with them. Team leader Kang explains why Yeom Mi is so hard on herself, because her dad was a cop who committed suicide after a botched case. We see Yeom Mi laying flowers at her dad’s grave.
The team has finished their meal and is hanging out in the courtyard. Detective Ki paces the length of the building and explains that this residence seems big on the outside but it’s weird that the rooms inside are small. He suspects there is a hidden room inside. Detective Ye calls him on reading too many detective novels. The restaurant halmoni walks by with a basket under her arm, nervously declining Detective Ye’s offer to help her.
Cho Rim notices a thick scent trail of money coming from the halmoni, finding it weird there is a strong scent of money at this place where there aren’t a lot of customers. Moo Gak asks team leader Kang to order a search warrant, he suspects this place is running an underground gambling den. The team bust back into the restaurant and finds a hidden room behind a closet. Inside really are tons of people gambling and everyone runs out when the cops bust in.
Cho Rim gets knocked down in the fracas outside as the cops try to arrest all the gamblers. Moo Gak notices immediately and goes to help Cho rim up. The gamblers are all taken away on a bus while the proprietors are taken to interrogation. The gambling den owners wonder how the cops knew to bust them? Moo Gak explains the smell of ramyun cooked for the gamblers, all the cash being dealt on the premises, and the residence seeming small on the inside when it is big from the outside. Moo Gak once again gives the credit for breaking this case to team leader Kang.
Cho Rim finds Moo Gak waiting for her as she walks home so she quickly stops to spray perfume on herself before going to ask him why he’s here? Moo Gak is here to deliver red bean buns from team leader Kang and she offers to have some with him right now. Moo Gak asks to sit down to talk, telling Cho Rim not to help in any police investigations anymore.
Cho Rim cuts him off and explains that she’s been living like a freak with her one colored eye that can see smells. She’s finally putting her special ability to good use rather than hiding it away and this makes her so happy. Moo Gak doesn’t want Cho Rim in danger so she tells Moo Gak to just protect her then. Awwwwww. Moo Gak has nothing to say to that so Cho Rim takes her leave. Poor Moo Gak is left there looking stunned.
Moo Gak goes to Doctor Chun’s office and finds it empty and hears that he’s supposed to leave for Senegal today for overseas medical work. He asks for a no fly hold placed on Doctor Chun but it’s not needed as Doctor Chun is not on the flight that he booked.
Jae Hee cooks a meal in his kitchen and plates two dishes. He sits down to eat one dish in the dining room when the doorbell rings.
Moo Gak pays Jae Hee a visit and apologizes for popping in unannounced. He notices Jae Hee’s breakfast on the table and declines Jae Hee’s offer to whip him up a quick meal. He sits down with Jae Hee to ask when he last saw Doctor Chun. Jae Hee claims it was the night before last, one quick meeting before Doctor Chun left for Senegal. Jae Hee acts surprised that Doctor Chun did not get on the scheduled flight and appears is still in Korea. Jae Hee claims the last time he saw Doctor Chun he said nothing strange. Jae Hee shows Moo Gak the box he received from Doctor Chun returning books to him.
Moo Gak reports to Detective Yeom that Doctor Chun is missing and didn’t get on the flight to Senegal. Detective Yeom heads off to get a search warrant for Doctor Chun. Moo Gak gets a package delivered to him.
Cho Rim is outside a café where a popular idol star is holding a fan signing. She happily gets his signature, a handshake, and a picture with him. The entire time Moo Gak is glaring from inside the café while trying to act nonchalant. I love how he eyes all men who get close to Cho Rim.
Cho Rim runs inside with her autograph while Moo Gak casually asks who the guy is outside. Cho Rim explains that he’s a popular idol to which Moo Gak retorts that he has no clue who this so-called idol is. Cho Rim tries to show Moo Gak the signature, explaining that it reads the idol’s name flipped either way but Moo Gak keeps darting his head around refusing to look at it.
Moo Gak tosses the box he just got from delivery and explains this one isn’t a buy-one-get-one-free deal. He doesn’t know what she likes so picked what he liked. Cho Rim opens the box and incredulously asks if the contents are Moo Gak’s preferences? She takes out a set of red lingerie and red fur lined handcuffs, unable to believe these items are Moo Gak’s taste.
He quickly puts the items back into the box and assures Cho Rim this was a mistaken delivery, he didn’t order these items. Cho Rim calls the delivery company and hears they did deliver the wrong thing because of the incorrect bar code. She reads the bar code back to the dispatch while Moo Gak looks at the idol’s autograph forwards and backwards and gets an idea.
Jae Hee cooks another meal, once again making two plates. He stares at an odd clock on the counter that seems to be counting down.
Moo Gak looks at the case files of the five bar code victims again and assembles a meeting with the whole team. Detective Yeom explains that the bar code cuts are not precise but do follow enough of a pattern. So far the police have scanned the victims bar codes but not found any corresponding data or readable information. Moo Gak takes over the talk and explains that by flipping the bar codes around then it becomes actual bar codes with information.
Moo Gak lines up the bar codes and describes the numbers as corresponding to book classification numbers, namely the ISBN International Standard Book Numbers, that are used in library systems. The 987 is the genre of books, 89 means Korea, 86755 refers to the publishing company. This means all the bar codes are referencing books published by a publisher in Korea.
A door opens and Jae Hee walks into what appears to be a sprawling immaculate library. He walks past shelves of books and sits down at the desk. He takes out a book and flips open his computer where we see the same bar code serial number series on a program. He then prints out two bar codes and sticks it on the spine of the book.
Moo Gak explains that the additional numbers correspond to the sequence of the books being published, which match when the murders sequentially took place. The first victim of the professor was 01, the sea diving couple was 02, the mountain climber was 03, the shaman was 04, and the latest victim Mari was 05. It’s clear the killer is intimately familiar with books and is collecting as a book each of his victims.
Moo Gak reads out the bar code for the next victim which will end in 06. We see the bar code that Jae Hee is sticking on the new book does end in 06. The book is engraved with Chun Baek Gyun: 1980.12.23 – 2015.03.07. Noooooo, poor Doctor Chun!
Jae Hee smiles before getting up to put the book in the shelve next to his collection of the same books all with increasing ISBN serial numbers.
Thoughts of Mine:
Okay, raise your hand if you screeched out loud at some point during this episode? Does Jae Hee scare the bejesus out of viewers or what? It doesn’t even matter that the drama chose to place too obvious Doctor Chun as the suspect in the beginning, the execution makes me forgive the red herring because the ultimate impact of pulling back the curtain on Jae Hee was perfectly done. By giving audiences, and the cops, a plausible suspect in Doctor Chun, even if we started to doubt his culpability even a few episodes back, it delayed the reveal of Jae Hee as the bar code serial killer to the point that the audience has seen more of him than just the villain of the tale. He was initially the grief-stricken boyfriend, the wrong accused boss, the nice guy who cooked for Cho Rim and gave her a job. Sure he always seemed just a tad too good to be true, with a underlying veneer of sinister that is Namgong Min’s acting forte, but it could have gone both ways initially so the audience took him in character without the full weight of the suspicion on him. Seeing how utterly sociopathic he is underneath it all is the spine tingling dramatic payoff that continues to underscore why Smelly Girl is hands down so good.
Let’s all say a RIP for poor Doctor Chun. Clearly he’s not going to survive now that he’s in Jae Hee’s clutches. I do wonder how Jae Hee has been picking his victims prior to this latest since Doctor Chun is to shut him up. Did he have any connection with the first four victims the way he was Mari’s boyfriend? And did he end up choosing Mari as a victim to shut her up because she discovered too much, just like his reason to add Doctor Chun to his depraved collection of kill books? Seeing Jae Hee do his creepy thing makes me appreciate this drama craft such a calculating and depraved villain. Compared to serial kidnapper Tae Joo in Hyde, Jekyll, Me, from his MO to cute Sung Joon trying his darndest to be scary, it shows that writing motivations and executing crime sprees matters greatly.
While the villain in Hyde came across ridiculous and absurd, the villain in Smelly Girl is like the boogey man who lurks in everyone’s darkest recesses waiting to pounce. I do have to call out the drama for making it pretty noticeable that Jae Hee is the killer based on the size, shape, and movements of the hooded killer in episode 1. I’ve watched enough Namgong Min performances to recognize him right away but didn’t see the need to discuss that in the recap. It could be a feint on the part of the production to have him do that scene and later just claim to be someone else. Now that it is clear the killer is Jae Hee, doing so wasn’t that obvious either since it’s not such an obvious spot for most viewers.
Moo Gak and Cho Rim continue to move forward at the cutest pace ever, slow and steady but always converging closer and closer. He makes one move, she returns it, and on and on they pitter patter back and forth. The teddy bear return was sweetly executed with no misunderstandings, yet petty Moo Gak still needs to get her back anyways for making him think she rejected the gift because it was a freebie. Cho Rim excuses Moo Gak from being her comedy partner for reasons I’m not quite certain, either she’s not comfortably spending more time with him since she likes him, or she doesn’t want him to do her this favor when he doesn’t want her involved with investigations.
When I watched this episode, I actually had to toggle between moods since the schism was so vast between scary and tense Jae Hee scenes versus funny lighthearted OTP romantic hanging out. I think the drama is doing as good a job as it can with the two disparate plot genres but one does need to readjust the viewing lens when going from “holy shit, go away scary man!” to “awwwwww, I just want to smush you two together, you’re so cute!” I’m glad the police have figured out the bar code meaning, and that they actually tried to scan it before but couldn’t make it work because it was carved backwards. Jae Hee appears to be the collector sort of serial killer rather than motivated by personal emotion, making the job of protecting the sole eyewitness Cho Rim all the more difficult even for pain-free Moo Gak. He can take a billion punches but what to do when he’s face with a killer armed with something more dangerous than brute strength, namely cold calculation.
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