Open Thread: Stranger Episodes 3 & 4

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! We’ve got reluctant some-time partners Shi Mok and Yeo Jin headlining our post today, because they’re such a promising duo, when they do get together. 🤩

Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:

1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. If you really need to talk about a spoiler, it is possible to use the new spoiler tags, but please know that spoilers are still visible (ie, not hidden) in the email notification that you receive, of the comment in question.

We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?

Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️

My thoughts

Episode 3

This episode, it’s becoming clearer to me than ever, that nothing and no one is to be taken at face value; nothing is as it seems, and it’s best to trust no one.

I can appreciate better now, the lens adjustment advice that Merij1 offered us in our first Open Thread discussion of this show. It’s true that the more compelling puzzles pieces appear to have to do with the players involved, and what their involvement and motivations are.

I don’t actually have a solid clue as to who the murderer &/or instigator might be, but I’m already starting to feel like the case itself isn’t the main point, but is kinda almost like the set dressing that allows us to delve into the characters themselves, and the catalyst that will spur them to act and therefore show their true colors.

I’m sure that Show is throwing a good number of red herrings at me, because that’s pretty much par for the course, for a show like this, isn’t it – and yet, I’m lapping it all up with gleeful curiosity.

I’m curious about Park Moo Sung’s mother, for a start. Even from our last set of episodes, she’s often shown with what can be described as an uneasy expression on her face.

I’d assumed that her sense of unease had to do with losing her son, but come to think of it, aside from her initial fainting spell, when she’d collapsed at the front door of the house, as the paramedics arrived, she hadn’t been shown to be very distraught over her son’s death.

Given how precious her son had appeared to be, to her, I do find this rather surprising. Is she just the stoic type, who doesn’t show her emotions easily, or is there more to her than meets the eye?

Shi Mok’s theory, that Mom could have been involved in Park Moo Sung’s murder, sounds rather wild, but it isn’t impossible. While it might be implausible for her to have jumped over the fence, in her rather frail state, she might have had an accomplice..?

I do find it hard to believe that Mom would actually be involved in offing her own son, though. However, if she isn’t involved the murder, then what are all these suspicious-looking uneasy looks about?

I’m curious to know more about Yeo Jin’s decision to get Mom to cook for her. That had felt pretty random, and it had happened soon after Shi Mok had made his case that there is a possibility that Mom had been involved in Park Moo Sung’s death.

Could this be Yeo Jin’s way of probing further, by keeping Mom close, so that she can observe her?

While the way Yeo Jin peeps in on Mom through the window, as she’s leaving, might indicate that that’s the case, I also feel like this might be too calculated, for Yeo Jin as a character.

After all, she’d seemed so fundamentally offended at Shi Mok’s line of questioning with Mom earlier. Or perhaps I don’t understand Yeo Jin as much as I think I do. It’s true that I’ve only known her for a few episodes.

I’ve been thinking about Shi Mok and his relationship with emotions, and because we’ve seen hints that he does feel them, to some extent, I now have it in my head, that the way he feels emotions versus the way other people feel emotions might be akin to someone hearing sounds from underwater, vague and rather distorted, versus everyone else hearing those same sounds  clearly, because the sounds they hear, don’t have to first travel through the water.

I could be totally off, of course, but that’s my theory, for now.

It feels like a very bold move, for Shi Mok to go on national TV, to talk about the case and admit that he’s the prosecutor that Kang Jin Seop named in his letter, and that the investigation was flawed.

I like the idea that his matter-of-fact approach to the whole thing, actually earns him the respect of the viewers, with the general sentiment expressed, that of supporting him in his effort to find the true culprit.

That’s quite a remarkable outcome, given that he went up there to admit his wrongs. I like the idea that the public can be forgiving, when someone doesn’t attempt to hide the truth, but apologizes for wrongdoing.

How interesting, that Deputy Chief’s father-in-law, Chairman Lee, seems to think that Deputy Chief should have done exactly what Shi Mok did, in order to reap that goodwill for himself.

Up to this point, Deputy Chief had appeared to be a bit of a Big Bad sort of character, and this episode, I’m rather surprised to see that the person whom I’d assumed was a bit of a Big Bad, is more like a timid mouse, before his father-in-law.

Looks like Chairman Lee is more of the Big Bad that I had in mind. He definitely appears to be a big mover and shaker, judging from the way he talks about the whole thing, with Deputy Chief. It looks like he literally has the power to shut people up for good, if he deems it necessary.

Also, it looks like Deputy Chief had been involved in the downfall of Prosecutor Young’s father, when he’d been Minister of Justice.

As before, this episode, I do still very much enjoy watching Shi Mok and Yeo Jin work together. I find myself enjoying Yeo Jin very much, even though we get a lot less screen time with her, compared to Shi Mok.

There’s something very empathetic about her, even as she talks with Shi Mok in a such a matter-of-fact manner, when he shows up at the police station.

I really like that quality about her. She doesn’t judge him like everyone else is doing, and she shows empathy for what he’s going through, but she’s a little gruff in the way she goes about it too. It’s like she’s hard and soft at the same time, and I really like that. It seems quite perfect, really.

As before, I love how undaunted she is, by Shi Mok’s aloof manner. Even though he makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t think he needs her help, she invites herself along anyway, and just casually won’t take no for an answer. Ha. I love this about her, too.

I feel bad for Shi Mok, who still experiences the excruciating pain in his ears, from time to time. Is it random, or is it brought on by stress, I wonder?

He is in a very stressful situation right now, after all, especially with his history of violence in school now brought up on national TV. He looks so alone and isolated, as he deals with that pain, all alone, in his apartment. 💔

I do love that in typical Shi Mok fashion, he doesn’t attempt to hide anything, when the Deputy Chief questions him about it, the next day. He just admits to everything, and then when the Deputy Chief asks how he’d dealt with his Mr. Hyde, he answers simply, that he’d had surgery.

I feel like even if Shi Mok had to go on national TV to talk about this, he’d end up winning everyone’s sympathy anyway.

His physical condition had been the thing driving his behavior, and then he’d had a major surgery for it, which has left him unable to feel much emotion, if any at all. Surely that would make a good news story?

Therefore, I’m not too worried about the backlash on Shi Mok, from the reports of past violence.

How interesting, though, that it turns out the Prosecutor Seo overhears the Deputy Chief saying that he needs to cut off his right hand, in order for a new one to grow. That’s definitely going to galvanize Prosecutor Seo into action, whether to protect himself, take down the Deputy Chief, or both.

On a tangent, the thing that the Deputy Chief says, that as long as Seoul Western isn’t completely empty, he’ll have unlimited options for a new right-hand man, reminds me so much, of what we heard Shi Mok say in episode 1, that even thought the rotten parts of the system can be gouged out, the same gouged out spots grow rotten again.

If the Deputy Chief really does get a new right-hand man out of this, he (or she) is sure to be rotten, just like Prosecutor Seo.

Last but not least, I’m curious to know more about Prosecutor Young. She’s been painted in rather contrasting colors, so far.

Sometimes, she seems like she’s innocent and very much wronged, like in how she drinks her troubles away at the pojangmacha, and appears genuinely distressed at the way she’s being pushed into a corner, and how that’s going to affect her family.

Plus, there’s how she reaches out to Shi Mok this episode, and talks to him, despite him being treated like an outcast by everyone else. She even takes it upon herself to help him check CCTV records, because it will help him in his investigations.

But then at other times, she appears to be at least somewhat associated with the darker, dirtier side of things. We’ve seen her take instruction from Prosecutor Seo, in an effort to manipulate her image towards maximum positive impact. And we’ve seen her associate with Prosecutor Seo, and be on friendly terms with him.

Last but not least, at the close of this episode, she’s identified as the person who had last met with Park Moo Sung.

What a twist! I was just getting to the point where I was beginning to accept Shi Mok’s decision to trust her with bits of the investigation, too.

I suppose this is why she’d offered to help him look into the CCTV records? So that she could tell him that she’d found nothing, in order to protect herself? Woah. 🤯

Episode 4

As our drama world expands and we’re introduced to more characters, I feel like I should be suspicious of every single one of them, ha. I guess that’s what happens, when you’re wearing your “don’t trust anyone” lens? 😅

This episode, the more Shi Mok investigates, the more it seems like Prosecutor Young was involved in Park Moo Sung’s murder. At the very least, she seems pretty disturbed by the fact that Shi Mok’s placed her as the last person to have met Park Moo Sung.

Plus, from what we can tell, she has a possible and very believable motive; to get revenge on the people who destroyed her father’s reputation and career, in front of the whole country.

If the people who did that to your father are people who manage to live above the law, then it’s plausible that you might consider taking the law into your own hands, no?

Of course, Show could totally be pulling a red herring on us, as far as Prosecutor Young’s involvement goes, but right now, it looks like she’s at least somewhat involved, even if she’s not the actual instigator.

That said, the people who did that to Minister Young really are evil.

They knew that he didn’t take the money, but framed him for it anyway. And last episode, we even hear Chairman Lee speak disparagingly of him, because he didn’t just “get over it” like they’d expected him to. These people are the unfeeling, heartless ones in our story; much more so than Shi Mok, I’d say.

The more I watch Shi Mok in action, the more I feel that he does feel emotion, to some extent. It’s in the tiny shifting micro-expressions; the barely noticeable clenching of his facial muscles; the small shifts in his gaze (kudos to Jo Seung Woo, for delivering those so well!).

Shi Mok does react to his environment and the people around him, even though he’s literally physically hampered from doing so. This detail makes me imagine just how deep Shi Mok’s emotional response might be, if he hadn’t had that partial lobotomy.

I really like how thorough Shi Mok is, when it comes to exploring possible answers, in his investigation. It’s true that a lot of stuff got overlooked in the initial investigation into Park Moo Sung’s murder, but in the aftermath, he’s been unstintingly meticulous in exploring the possibilities.

From getting a tape measure to check what it might look like, if Prosecutor Young had been the one standing at Park Moo Sung’s window, to poring over the dashcam footage, and then tracing his way to the coffeeshop where Park Moo Sung’s coffee cup had come from, he really seems to leave no stone unturned, and goes all in, to examine details and possibilities.

And, through all of this, I feel like his generally more logical nature helps him to remain open-minded, as he considers the possibilities. It’s quite a pleasure, just watching him do his thing.

I also like the way Shi Mok’s matter-of-factly (almost casually, really) running little tests around him, to see how people respond, so that he can continue to fine-tune his hypotheses.

The visit to Minister Young at the hospital is one time he does that, but there’s also the line he casually drops, when Prosecutor Young is within earshot, about how hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, which spurs Yeo Jin to exclaim that the person who’d called Park Moo Sung had been a woman.

It almost feels like Shi Mok’s some kind of social scientist, and all these people, are his unwitting subjects.

I legit love it every time we see Yeo Jin showing her badassery. I hadn’t realized it until her conversation with Team Leader in the car, but she really is very new to being a detective.

I’m stunned to learn that the first and only time she’s put handcuffs on someone, was with Kang Jin Seop. Woah. That definitely drives home how much of a rookie she really is.

And yet, that doesn’t stop her from being a total hero, with the way she tackles that child molester suspect this episode, which leads to his arrest.

I’m impressed that even though Yeo Jin’s so new to the job, she comes across as a total natural. She’d dedicated to the cause of capturing criminals to gain justice for their victims, and clearly actually cares about whether justice is actually served.

It’s also clear that Yeo Jin’s a fast learner. From the questions that she asks Team Leader, when he talks about lifting her probation, it’s clear that she’s taken Shi Mok’s words to heart, that there is corruption within the system, and it’s the higher ups who are involved.

Her questions are clearly meant to test the waters, to glean what she can, about who’s pulling the strings as the puppet master.

That string leads all the way back to the Deputy Chief Prosecutor, as it turns out. Ah, I hope Yeo Jin doesn’t report everything she learns from Shi Mok, if it’s going to make its way back to the Deputy Chief.

I really like the conversation that Shi Mok and Yeo Jin have in his office, where he basically has her act as his emotion barometer. Since he can’t feel emotion the way regular people do, it really is helpful that Yeo Jin’s so tuned into her emotions, and is able to articulate the hows and whys around that.

That’s another positive that I can already see, in them working together.

Plus, Yeo Jin is just as intent on finding the truth, as Shi Mok. The way they combine and explore the new information they’ve each found about the case, is really great as well. They complement each other so well!

The whole thing where Shi Mok tails Prosecutor Seo to the hostess bar, shows how resourceful Shi Mok is.

I love that when that big truck prevents Shi Mok from following Prosecutor Seo’s car, Shi Mok doesn’t give up and bang his steering wheel in frustration like so many lead characters in other dramas have done before him (ha); he simply looks at the map on his GPS, and explores the various streets until he finds a clue.

And then, when he hears Prosecutor Seo getting nowhere with trying to get Min Ah’s address, he gets it from the illegal taxi service that the escorts from the bar use regularly. I love that he thinks so fast on his feet! 🤩

When he gets there and finds no one at home, he climbs in through a window (that’s breaking and entering, you rogue! 😅), and finds that school uniform, which is a key piece of information about Min Ah. It makes sense that this is at least one of the things that Park Moo Sung had, on the Deputy Chief. Nice detective work, Shi Mok!

I don’t know what to make of Jung Bon, Shi Mok’s ex-classmate from middle school.

There are times when he acts all friendly towards Shi Mok, and he says that he’s on Shi Mok’s side, and then, there are other times when we see him wearing a dark expression.

Plus, this episode, we also see that he leaves a comment on a public forum, talking about being a victim of Shi Mok’s violence while in school. That.. seems rather suspect? I don’t know whether to trust him, basically.

Last but not least, is Min Ah dead? She’s definitely in bad shape when we see her at the end of the episode. Who had abducted her? It wasn’t Prosecutor Seo, because he doesn’t know where she lives.

Could it be someone sent by the Deputy Chief himself? After all, he’s the one who would benefit most, if Min Ah disappeared?

I’m finally beginning to understand why this show is also known as Forest of Secrets. This literally is a forest of secrets, and I’m curious to learn more of those secrets, please.

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1 year ago

I haven’t watched ep 4 yet (life!) so no spoilers please! but I just came here to say – when I watched the ending of ep 3, my immediate response was (in Brooklyn 99 Captain Holt style): “Hot damnnnnn!” This show is fantastic at cliffhangers. Reminds me of Money Flower in its twists and turns. Loving it! (I’ll comment more on ep 4 when I am done!)

1 year ago

These episodes definitely ramped my curiosity about where we are going with this but did leave me a bit confused at times too. I loved the interview scene although it felt like a crazy move at the beginning. Looking forward to more reveals about the ex boyfriend, and bit concerned at the hours Si-Mok is working and trying not to get too sidetracked by the multiple red herrings 🙂

1 year ago
Reply to  Hillview

Oh yes he doesn’t seem to sleep! I cannot work in Korea, after watching Misaeng and shows like this. They all work such long hours (and then needing to socialise omg)

1 year ago

Eps 3 and 4 (especially 3) leaned more on crime investigation and were more to my taste than the first ones. I still don’t feel any particular connection to the show though. I wish it focused more on Yeo Jin.

Ele Nash
1 year ago

Ah, good to read your recaps and thoughts, kfangurl! Shi-mok definitely feels all the emotions. I think because he has no outlet for those emotions (as in, he can’t easily smile or laugh, or cry, or bang the steering wheel in frustration!) they build up until he literally becomes overwhelmed. The more he’s upset, the more likely he is to experience the pain. Oh, I do love a micro-expression and I think Cho Seung-woo is very good at them. Maybe not Kang Pilju level good (yee, of course I had to mention Jang Hyuk 😍😆) but still, very compelling. I agree that Yeo jin is cracky. You’ve also reminded me how much I enjoyed not knowing quite who to trust / believe. I think that only gets more complicated…

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
1 year ago

Hmm, the first time I watched through, I thought Shi Mok’s pain attack in his apartment was a regular flare-up (because we had seen him flare up in the opening moments of the first episode with no context). But now reading your recap I wonder if indeed it was brought on by high stress. I think even though he didn’t show it emotionally, the guilt over being wrong and hasty in Kang Jin Seop’s case which led to Kang’s suicide is eating at Shi Mok. Him going on TV helped to clear things up for Prosecutor Young Eun Soo who was getting blamed for Kang’s suicide, but it is also him very matter of factly declaring to the murderer that come what may, Shi Mok will find out the truth and get him.

eda harris
eda harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

i am not sure with his condition he can feel guilt per say, may be it is more a sense of responsibility, which is more like a learned skill. also, i would say he does feel intense pressure, especially that he himself imposed a dead line, and that might be a trigger for his pain. but on the other hand he had such an incident in the car, in the very beginning of the drama, at that time there was still not much crap going on. so i am not really sure what brings it on, or it’s just his chronic condition.

eda harris
eda harris
1 year ago

i am still sort of on the fence with this drama, i mean – no emotions really. so far the drive is curiosity (i am still this cat looking for the mouse). the acting is good, don’t get me wrong, but there are no you ah ins, or chen kuns, or ninis or lee byung-hus… and i miss the brain of mei changsu… o, well.
episode 3: the chess game starts, winner gets all. deputy chief lcj meets si mok, they seem to evaluate each other – one is afraid to be pushed out, one is afraid to be exposed, the scene is interesting. everybody suspects everybody else, it’s almost funny how it seems like they are also playing the cat and mouse game, and the roles periodically interchange. and all depends who will be a better fox. si mok seems to win the first round, goes on tv, mea culpa, promises to get the prey within 2 months – by that he puts all on the line. it’s all or nothing, either he’ll catch the killer or he’ll resign. brilliant move (but brutal if he fails), at least now he will not be discarded and he has secured 2 months to work on the investigation, he admits to yeo jin he did this to stay on the case. time is valuable, si mok plays confidence but i am not sure how he really feels, is he that confident?
it also seems that si mok is starting to except yeo jin as a “partner in crime”, they are becoming buddies and he’s trusting her, the shared interest is the fight for justice. i am not sure si mok had any partners like this in the past, he’s pretty much a loner and works alone. i felt a little sorry for si mok, when he asks yeo jin about love and what would a man who is not allowed to marry the woman he loves do. she says, surely “you have been in love” and know about such things. he looks at her, and we see in his eyes, he never loved and has no hopes to experience anything of this sort. sad, sad, sad.
the most interesting segment in those two episodes and most telling, is where lcj and his best friend the chief of police discuss this issue with some drinks in a restaurant. lcj is pondering how he can get si mok, and his friend suggests to get a pile of dust by shaking the cushion si mok is sitting on. and lcj responds: “the jerk isn’t even sitting on a cushion”. that’s right, tough life for lcj.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
1 year ago
Reply to  eda harris

Hang in there! I think this drama is turning out to be quite rewarding (I am almost finished, heh). I agree there are periods where it seems to lull or slow down in pace and feel almost boring. But then it gets intriguing again.

eda harris
eda harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

elaine, not to worry, i never give up (well, almost never). but as a cat hunting a mouse, at this point i do not even know who the mouse is. what a conundrum for the unfortunate cat, and lucky mouse, whoever this is.

1 year ago

So I know that a lot of the screen time here was focused on Shi-mok, as you said, and no complaints, I enjoy watching him and think Cho Seung-woo is doing a great job…but I really enjoy seeing what Yeo-jin is doing. Like, what is she thinking, not only taking Jin-sub’s mother home to cook, but befriending her enough to basically have a sleep-over with her? Is she just being super friendly, or does she have some ulterior motive? Yeo-jin doesn’t really strike me as sneaky or manipulative enough to be doing it just as some sort of ploy.

As a character, so far she seems like just an earnest, emotionally intelligent (great insight, KFG, that she supplies the emotional insight that Shi-mok lacks) go-getter who wants to do the right thing. She seems to have decided for the both of them that she and Shi-mok are going to be de facto partners and then acts as if it’s a fait accompli. I love it!

Also, I feel at least a wee bit chuffed that the escort that I flagged in opening episodes does turn up again and does appear to have a part to play in proceedings going forward (I know, I’m annoying when I pat myself on the back…mianhae!).

Onward, curiosity and interest has been engaged!

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
1 year ago
Reply to  Trent

I think Yeo Jin realised that Park’s mother has been living in the sauna since the murder, as her house is still taped off as a crime scene! So Yeo Jin just impulsively offered the granny a friendly place to live for a while. It shows how bighearted and warm she is. As for persuading the granny to cook for her, I think that’s just an Asian excuse of getting granny somewhere homey and nice and cooking her own food again so she can be more at ease in a homey setting, rather than insisting on paying for a meal which would make her uncomfortable.

1 year ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

Good points, Elaine. I do think it shows Yeo-jin and her kind nature in a good light. Curious what (if anything) comes of it further on…

1 year ago

The show is a fairly easy watch.
Ep 3 The TV interview, a nice scene. The music and this scene reminds me very much of Misty, which I loved (mostly). 
Ep 4 Does anybody else think handsome prostitute-obsessed prosecutor Seo Dong Jae is Young Eun Soo’s ex-boyfriend?
Ugh I hate it when they use a woman’s murder as a plot point.

1 year ago
Reply to  manukajoe

I think the mom referred to the ex boyfriend as Chul something.I didn’t really get the part about the ex boyfriend though and unfortunately neither K nor our friends here commented on him, so no idea if the audience is supposed to know who this bf is.

1 year ago
Reply to  Natalia

If I didn’t miss anything, prosecutor Seo is not her ex bf. The guy was some Chul something… and I don’t recall seeing any guy with the same name on the show. Could be wrong though! Memory ain’t that great anymore.