Intense doesn’t even begin to describe this episode 14 of The Girl Who Sees Smells. The drama has actually increased a noticeable bit of ratings this week, reflecting both an uptick in narrative intensity as well as a new competition in town that didn’t hook the audience right off the bat yet. I thought episode 13 was a welcomed improvement but this episode takes the cake and gives me back a freaking perfectly risen soufflé. Jae Hee and Detective Yeom Mi’s one-on-one mind games were the highlight of a tense and nicely plotted nail biter. Even better is their chemistry, so scorching hot it makes me feel guilty even noticing it since he’s the serial killer who has her locked up talking about when he’s going to kill her. After this drama, Namgong Min and Yoon Jin Seo owe me another drama as the OTP with no talk of killing allowed.
At this juncture the drama has showed hand on all its strengths and weaknesses. There really is no point left in bemoaning, episode after episode, the weak writing around the police investigation. That’s a given so if it still bothers folks then best check out now since it feels like a waste of time missing the greater thrill forest for the inept cop trees. Moo Gak and Cho Rim take one critical time out to validate their love, a deep abiding need for each other and to do the right thing. They are on an uphill battle to keep each other safe, and keep others safe, and sometimes doing so means taking big dangerous risks. Cho Rim’s risk in this episode pays off big time, mainly because the cops are quicker on their feet and because Jae Hee is starting to slip up more and more. Before we can all give a sigh of relief, the whole story pivots perfectly just in time for next week’s big finale.
Episode 14 recap:
Moo Gak storms into Jae Hee’s house with his gun blazing, cocking Jae Hee a cold one in the face before pointing his trigger at the killer’s head and demanding “Where is Detective Yeom Mi?” Jae Hee smirks while wondering how a detective has gone missing now. Moo Gak is saved from pulling the trigger when the other detectives come running in with Cho Rim behind them. They pull Moo Gak off Jae Hee and hear that Detective Yeom is missing.
Moo Gak runs off to look around the house for Detective Yeom while the other two detectives point their guns at Jae Hee to keep him there. Jae Hee baits Cho Rim by claiming to be happy to see her. Cho Rim cuts to the chase and asks where he is keeping Detective Yeom? She knows he kidnapped her thinking she was Cho Rim. Even Cho Rim loses her temper while screaming at Jae Hee to tell her where Detective Yeom is! Jae Hee sighs that he feels terrible now because he thought Cho Rim had a good relationship with him. Cho Rim cries that she’ll never forgive him, which is 7 dead people too late for that option.
Moo Gak searches Jae Hee’s library but doesn’t find the secret white room. Detective Yeom can see Moo Gak in the video feed and pounds on the wall while screaming that she’s inside. But the room is soundproofed and Moo Gak can’t heart her screams. He leaves deflated.
The cops return to the precinct to brief team leader Kang on Detective Yeom’s kidnapping. Moo Gak plans to comb the area around the restaurant for clues and wonders how Jae Hee left the house with the other two detectives keeping surveillance outside. Detective Lee brings up the even more pressing worry which is that they only have 6 days to find Detective Yeom if she’s really in Jae Hee’s clutches.
Jae Hee proceeds with his plan despite getting an unintended victim in Detective Yeom. She remains uncowed while pointing out Jae Hee’s big fail in kidnapping the wrong person. Jae Hee finds Detective Yeom a suitable alternate and informs her that there is no way for her to get out of that room. He holds up journals for Detective Yeom to start writing down her entire life, her parents and upbringing, happy and sad moments. He’ll give her six days to write it all down.
Detective Yeom wonders if that’s how Jae Hee gets his kicks, living vicariously the life of others he never experienced himself? Jae Hee is dead serious, warning Detective Yeom that he’ll kill her now if she refuses to do it or even if she dares to begs for mercy.
Moo Gak tracks down the classmate who Jae Hee tricked into getting information about the reunion. He hears from the restaurant owner that the same person reserved the room, and also paid for the meal in cash afterwards. From the CCTV camera the person is an older man and not Jae Hee. Moo Gak finds that old man and brings him to Jae Hee’s restaurant to eat. He summons Jae Hee outside and asks the old man if the person who brought him to the Chinese restaurant yesterday is Jae Hee? The old man says no, that person is not this young.
The two detectives resume their stakeout outside Jae Hee’s house, in it for the long haul with the sole goal of keeping an eye on Jae Hee’s movement at all times.
Moo Gak watches Cho Rim sleeping on his couch, tenderly stroking her face while thinking of how much pain everyone is in as it’s now the second day of Detective Yeom’s disappearance and there is nothing they can do to save her yet.
It’s day three of the kidnapping and Jae Hee sits inside the white cell reading what Detective Yeom has written so far. He chides her sloppy writing with not enough specifics, such as why she wanted to become a detective when she was in high school. He orders her to fill in the details by the time he comes back.
Detective Yeom purposely drops her pen when Jae Hee walks by to leave, giving her the chance to bend down and spray some of her perfume on him. She asks Jae Hee for a watch to help her keep track of time and write better. He refuses because he gets to decide everything and be in control.
The two detectives have made their stakeout more comfortable with seat cushions and socks. Jae Hee knocks on their window to offer them a chance to rest from working so hard. He’s off to a fan signing for four hours so they can take a break until he gets back.
Cho Rim attends Jae Hee’s fan signing and gives her real name Choi Eun Seol. Jae Hee barely pauses before signing one of his books for her. He writes “Ms. Choi Eun Seol, let’s meet again soon.” Cho Rim asks him not to hurt Detective Yeom and offers herself in exchange. When Jae Hee hands her the signed book, Cho Rim sees Detective Yeom’s unique perfume on him.
Moo Gak storms into the fan signing and tosses a trash can at Jae Hee. He warns Jae Hee to be ready for him to jerk him out of his fortress of a home and destroy him. Moo Gak drags Cho Rim out of the fan signing and away from Jae Hee’s presence.
Moo Gak chews out Cho Rim for being so reckless and going to see Jae Hee like this. Cho Rim confirms that Jae Hee has Detective Yeom because she just saw her distinctive scent on him at the fan signing. It must be a sign from Detective Yeom to alert others that she is still alive now. Moo Gak is also certain Jae Hee has Detective Yeom locked up somewhere in his home and doesn’t want Cho Rim near Jae Hee.
Cho Rim tries to go back and get Jae Hee to swap for her. She can’t deal with another person getting hurt or dying because of her. She starts crying, unable to live if Detective Yeom doesn’t make it out alive. Moo Gak looks Cho Rim straight in the eye and asks “What about me then? How can I live if you’re not living?” Moo Gak repeats again that he can’t live without Cho Rim.
Cho Rim doesn’t know what to do because she’s still dealing with the guilt of Moo Gak’s little sister dying because of her, and now there is this new guilt. Moo Gak can only pull Cho Rim in tightly for a hug while crying along with her. Cho Rim makes Moo Gak promise that he’ll rescue Detective Yeom and he tearfully vows to do that.
Jae Hee returns to the white cell and sits on the bed watching Detective Yeom calmly drinking his coffee. He wonders why she would drink it without fear of being poisoned? Detective Yeom isn’t scared because her life story isn’t done yet and Jae Hee is still curious about her. He’s impressed with her rational logic and hopes to bring more interesting people into this room, first being Choi Moo Gak. Detective Yeom wonders why he wants Moo Gak more than getting Choi Eun Seol. Jae Hee claims there doesn’t need to be a reason.
Cho Rim pays Jae Hee a visit at the restaurant, sitting down across from him to ask again that he release Detective Yeom. She warns him not to underestimate her as a clueless girl who was grateful to him in the past. They are tied by an ill-fate, because of her Moo Gak’s little sister is dead and now Detective Yeom is danger.
All of this is Jae Hee’s handiwork and because of this Cho Rim wants to die. She feels so guilty towards Detective Yeom she wants to die, but she can’t because she needs to save Detective Yeom. She offers again to trade herself for Detective Yeom. Jae Hee just stares at her for a long time before ordering her to go home claiming he doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about.
Jae Hee gloats to Detective Yeom that he’s about to bring Cho Rim in here and wonders if the room is spacious enough for two. But it won’t be a problem because Detective Yeom is slated to die in 52 hours. Detective Yeom is certain Jae Hee can’t catch Cho Rim until she hears that Cho Rim offered herself in exchange for Detective Yeom being released. Jae Hee was so touched by Cho Rim’s selflessness for a friend and wonders what that feels like. Detective Yeom knows Jae Hee will never experience it. Jae Hee now has even more questions for Cho Rim.
The cops reconvene to discuss next steps. Cho Rim is certain that Jae Hee will agree to the exchange if she offers herself again, and that’s the only way to lure him out. The cops are aware of her plan and will be monitoring the exchange to catch Jae Hee in the act.
Jae Hee reads Detective Yeom’s journal while she thinks about his methodology. Jae Hee forces his victims to write down their life story so that after he kills them he can own their happy memories. He excuses his action of killing by believing that he is merely owning their lives afterwards.
Jae Hee returns to torment Detective Yeom by counting down her remaining time alive to 48 hours. She’s not scared and would rather talk about his interest in learning the lives of others. Jae Hee knows Detective Yeom is trying to profile him so she goes ahead and tells him what she thinks. She believes Jae Hee wasn’t born with face blindness. He was abused and saw people as frightening so developed this affliction. Jae Hee can’t help but be impressed that Detective Yeom’s assessment is spot on.
Detective Yeom knows that Jae Hee’s mind is actively refusing to recognize faces. When he developed the urge to kill, he would not understand people by recognizing their faces but instead learns about their lives to get to know them. But Detective Yeom points out that Jae Hee never truly owns those lives so he made a huge mistake. Jae Hee refuses to agree with that point. Detective Yeom smirks that Jae Hee has gotten bored with this all and find it ordinary now.
Jae Hee decides to quiz Detective Yeom, if she gets it correct then she will get another three hours and if she answers incorrectly then he decreases three hours. Does he want to kill or not kill Cho Rim? Detective Yeom says Jae Hee doesn’t want to kill Cho Rim. Jae Hee’s eyes narrow and calls wrong on her answer, he very much wants to kill Cho Rim. He feels sad Detective Yeom lost three hours left in her life just like that. Detective Yeom holds her composure until Jae Hee leaves the room before she sags from holding the tension in.
The cops are discussing how to find the secret passageway that Jae Hee has been taking to get in and out of his house. They know not much time is left for Detective Yeom as it’s now the 5th day she’s been kidnapped. Too bad Jae Hee has been leaving the house these past few days through the front door.
Cho Rim types out an email to Yeom Mi, calling her unni from now on. She wants to have intestine soup with unni so they have to meet again. She gets a text on her cell with instructions on exchanging herself for Detective Yeom. She’s ordered to the subway station tomorrow at 10 am. Cho Rim meets with the cops to go through their game plan. They want to lure Jae Hee out so they can tag him with a special scent that Cho Rim can follow afterwards to his secret passageway entrance. The team knows this is their last chance since there is only 24 hours left for Detective Yeom. Cho Rim is ready and willing to take this risk to save Detective Yeom.
Jae Hee brings Detective Yeom her meal and can’t help but mention her losing three hours so easily. Detective Yeom offers up another three hours of her life if Jae Hee will answer 3 questions. She wants to know why he killed Doctor Chun and hears that Doctor Chun knew Jae Hee was the serial killer. She asks about Mari’s diary and hears it was left upstairs in the living room and no one found it. He asked Doctor Chun to hold onto it and because of it Doctor Chun ended up dead.
Her final question is why he carves bar codes on the victim’s arms? Jae Hee explains that the victims are just empty shells after he extracts their entire life in story form, so he sees them as merely tree bark. Detective Yeom thinks he does that because he can’t recognize people’s faces so he tags him. Jae Hee doesn’t answer this because her three questions are up and she’s also three hours down on her life. In 17 hours he will kill her.
It’s morning of the next day and another group of cops are keeping surveillance outside Jae Hee’s house and call to report in that Jae Hee didn’t leave the house. It’s 6 hours until Jae Hee plans to kill Detective Yeom. Cho Rim is at the subway station and starts to follow a series of orders relayed by Jae Hee. Moo Gak is following behind her the entire time. Jae Hee tells her that Detective Yeom will die in 6 hours, earlier because she played around with her life. Jae Hee orders Cho Rim to do everything he says because there is no time left.
Moo Gak heard Jae Hee’s conversation with Cho Rim since she’s wearing a wire. He runs to the bathroom to relay the details to the other detectives and sends them off to the track field where Cho Rim has been ordered to head to. Moo Gak changes his outfit and dons a pair of glasses before heading out after Cho Rim.
Cho Rim arrives at the track field and is out of breath after sprinting there. Moo Gak and the other detectives arrive and keep Cho Rim in their sights. A van pulls up and they worry about losing Cho Rim but she’s standing on the street. She gets a call to keep running and meet at a nearby park. Cho Rim takes off and the cops head there after Moo Gak hears the location on the wire.
Cho Rim arrives at the park and is sent to a park bench. Jae Hee is already at the park and watching from his car. He tells Cho Rim to take the box under the bench and put the handkerchief over her nose. If she doesn’t then the deal is off. Cho Rim sees the handkerchief is covered in chloroform, the same scent that was on Doctor Chun.
Moo Gak arrives and whispers to Cho Rim to keep Jae Hee on the hook because the cops haven’t found his location yet. Cho Rim goes through with the order and chloroforms herself. She passes out on the park bench. The detectives can see her passed out but need to wait until Jae Hee shows himself. Finally Jae Hee walks towards Cho Rim and Moo Gak calls the detectives to start their plan.
The two detectives break into Jae Hee’s parked car, installing a tracking device under his dash and also splashing a jar of water on his driver’s side floor mat. They quickly exit the car.
Before Jae Hee can grab Cho Rim, the other detective from the missing person’s squad dressed as a jogger runs over screaming to help this passed out girl. It’s freaking random but hilarious, and gets the job done as Jae Hee is thwarted from taking a passed out Cho Rim away. Jae Hee returns to his car and drives off.
Jae Hee drives into a remote lot and pulls off the tarp covering an underground bunker entrance. He goes inside and walks through a long passageway which arrives at the entrance to the white cell. His walks inside and grabs the journal from the desk while Detective Yeom looks on worriedly. Jae Hee reveals Cho Rim willingly chloroformed herself to save Detective Yeom but he made the mistake in picking the location. He then casually mentions how there is only 2 and a half hours left.
Moo Gak is accompanying Cho Rim to the hospital in an ambulance. She wakes up midway and assures a worried Moo Gak that she’s fine. They get off the ambulance and rejoin the other detectives as they follow the route Jae Hee drove using information from the tracker placed in his car. Moo Gak has Cho Rim sniff the deodorant liquid splashed on Jae Hee’s floor mat.
The cops arrive at the location of the secret passageway and find Jae Hee’s car parked there. Cho Rim can see the scent trail left by Jae Hee as he exited the car and walked towards the entrance. They follow the trail until it suddenly starts to rain and Cho Rim can’t see the scent anymore. Cho Rim looks stricken and insists on continuing to look for the scent trail despite Moo Gak knowing she can’t see it anymore.
Cho Rim loses the scent trail and starts to cry that she has to save Detective Yeom. Moo Gak tries to comfort Cho Rim but she’s frantic knowing Jae Hee plans to kill her at 4 pm today.
Jae Hee finishes reading Detective Yeom’s life story and sighs that hers is the least sincere of all the ones so far. She also wrote the least amount. Detective Yeom claims not to be a storyteller and had a hard enough time writing this much already. Jae Hee is willing to give her more time if she wrote with more sincerity. Detective Yeom claims she’s exhausted trying to remember stories and movies to make it into her own life.
Jae Hee is upset that she wrote down all lies. Detective Yeom laughs at Jae Hee thinking she would write down her deepest secrets and shame to be read. He thinks people would all write down the truth when faced with death but she laughs at that presumption. She brings up the fortune teller lady Jae Hee killed, asking if she wrote down cheating on her husband and leaving her kids? Of course not, she must have wrote down getting a divorce because the fates decreed it.
Detective Yeom mocks Jae Hee as pathetic for not knowing the truth that even the cops could find out. Jae Hee looks shaken but insists people always tell the truth before they die. He refuses to back down in the belief that he owns the lives of those he killed. He ended the lives of those people and then read their lives to make it his own. He owns Detective Yeom’s life now and he’ll end her life in less than two hours. Detective Yeom looks down her nose at Jae Hee and calls him a failure because he’s been proven wrong.
Jae Hee goes out to print out Detective Yeom’s bar code number and places it on her labeled book. Detective Yeom watches Jae Hee working and asks if that book is her life story and will he carve the same bar code on her arm after she’s dead? She laughs at his pathetic behavior and asks if he knows how lame he is? Jae Hee refuses to be goaded but Detective Yeom claims she wants to tell him how low-class he is as her final word before she dies. Jae Hee smiles and tells her there is one hour left.
The cops stand around watching the rain continue to fall but unable to do anything. They find shelter in a nearby café but no one can relax after checking the time. A little girl in the café is drawing using invisible ink which shows up after she puts dark water on the paper. Moo Gak gets the same idea to draw out the scent trail for Cho Rim even in the rain.
Jae Hee takes out his carving implements to select the knife to use. He’s impressed Detective Yeom is quietly watching and points out she’s the first person to do this. Detective Yeom is contemplating what she ought to feel knowing she’s going to die. She won’t forgive Jae Hee for what he did to all his victims and warms that he will never be absolved of his crimes.
Moo Gak brings in smelly manure to sprinkle all over the ground so that the areas with the deodorant water is contrasted to show up. Cho Rim can see the scent trail now and follows it to the entrance under the tarp. Moo Gak opens the door and gets ready to go inside. He orders Detective Ki to go to the front door of Jae Hee’s house to block his exit that way and then goes inside with the younger Detective Lee.
Jae Hee informs Detective Yeom that he doesn’t like to use force on people so soon the room will fill with anesthesia so strong she will pass out and be unable to breathe. Then he will carve the bar code in her arm. Jae Hee casually checks and declares the time is now, pressing a button as gas fills the white cell. Moo Gak and Detective Lee walk through the underground passage and find themselves at the entrance to the white cell.
The cops break down the door to the white cell and cover the faces to the gas as Jae Hee watches on in shock. Moo Gak goes to check on Detective Yeom first before getting up to point his gun at Jae Hee through the glass. Jae Hee glares at Moo Gak and leans his forehead forward right to where his gun is pointing. Game over or still game on?
Thoughts of Mine:
All signs from a strong last two episodes point to a thrilling conclusion awaiting viewers of Smelly Girl next week. At a tight 16-episodes, the story has delivered solid and sweet romance, interesting dastardly danger, and now stands poised to wrap it all up with a satisfying good guys win validation. I’m so happy Detective Yeom was saved in the nick of time, I liked since the beginning but these last two episodes turned the switch to love. She’s such an awesome second female lead, a cop captain who acts in charge without any issues to play up her gender. She’s kickass for a cop whatever the sex, but being a woman only makes her poise and strength standing up to Jae Hee even more impressive. The drama did a great job of showing her cracks of fear and anxiety, all normal, when Jae Hee wasn’t around, making it even more courageous that she held herself together whenever he was there to toy with her. She’s not a profiler for nothing, and all her knowledge of his serial killing MO really came in handy to get under his skin even a little bit. Jae Hee is clearly going to slither out of this one but now he’ll be hiding rather than operating out in the open. With his self-absorbed sociopathic personality, he’ll be unable to just lay low and when he aims to show his dominance will be his eventual downfall.
The scenes in the white room were some of the best in this drama, tense and fascinating with each side holding their own. Detective Yeom is every bit as in control as Jae Hee, she may be gambling with her life but it’s a risk she’s willing to take to catch this prey. Same goes with Cho Rim, offering to exchange herself for Detective Yeom is the height of sticking her neck out but under the circumstances it’s totally understandable. She can’t have someone else die in her stead again, it would destroy her no matter how much Moo Gak tries to convince her it’s not her fault. At some point just being who she is makes living with such guilt unbearable, especially now when the potential victim is her friend in Detective Yeom. Learning years later that Moo Gak’s little sister died because of her is a different level of gnawing dread of counting down the time left for Detective Yeom. Jae Hee is diabolical and when he’s taken down I hope he suffers greatly in the process. He kills to satisfy his own emptiness, taking away life and love from others because he has none. He’s a parasite and must be snuffed out before he sucks out the life of people more worthy to live than himself. It will be fitting that he spends the rest of his life in an all black prison cell without any information to leech off on, to contemplate how he has nothing to hold onto in the void of nothingness, when the mind and heart ought to be his final harbor of solace.
I’m so excited now for the last two episodes of Smelly Girl, goes to show what a great finale build up can do to rouse the spirit again even if there was some dampening in the middle stretch. This drama remains imperfect but so darn endearing even in its failures. The cops are a joke when asked to do their jobs, but the writing helped flesh out their interactions enough that I care about them. So they have become characters that interest me beyond just watching them do police business. It’s a big of hole plugging but enough to keep the ship from sinking under the weight of one inexpertly rendered element of the entire story. Jae Hee’s larger than life charisma and persona is also the standout success that buoys a lot of weak links. He’s so sinister and amoral, so slithery and hard to read. Even hearing his reasoning for all the killings, you can tell there is more under the surface, a lot that even Detective Yeom doesn’t have the tools to flesh out yet. He would make a great Hannibal Lector like serial killer to keep alive in prison and use as a tool to catch other serial killers. These last two episodes were way more Jae Hee and Yeom Mi than leads Moo Gak and Cho Rim, but I hope no one has issues with that when the four leads have seamlessly created a fascinating tableau of professional and personal interconnected struggle and breakthrough. Let’s see what the writing has in store next week, hopefully it’s got all the ingredients for a whizbang final dish to rock my socks off.
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