Stranger 2 Review: Episode 9

As investigations into Dong-jae’s (Lee Joon-hyuk) case stretch into several days, the worry about finding him alive mounts. Shi-mok (Cho Seung-woo) makes new discoveries while retracing Dong-jae’s steps that lead him to a brand new case. Chief Choi (Jeon Hye-jin) and Woo Tae-ha (Choi Moo-sung) are starting to look more desperate to hold on to their secrets. Suddenly, a lot of people are acting strange all at once. Between two equally pressing cases that Dong-jae was investigating before disappearing, it seems impossible to narrow a suspect down. Will Shi-mok and Yeo-jin manage to untangle the web before them before it’s too late for Dong-jae?

There is a major development in the kidnapping case—Dong-jae’s kidnapper sends a message to the police in the form of a piece of his tie, completely bloodied. Along with it is a note saying “I did the dishes,” referring to the kidnapper beating Dong-jae up. The beating, along with the message, points to this being a case of personal grudge, and the police team agree on this. It also proves that the culprit is probably watching their every move and tracking online comments about the case, which makes sense from the personal vendetta angle—they probably hate the concern everyone’s showing about the missing prosecutor.

Dong-jae’s wife continues to act strange. Detective Jang Geon (Choi Jae-woong) begins suspecting her after he notices that she had the time to get her nails done in the middle of everything that’s going on. He also overhears her calling someone as soon as he leaves. Detective Jang is doing a fine job on the case, but he occasionally makes odd comments about Yeo-jin not being on the Yong-san team’s level anymore, which makes me wonder about the nature of his true feelings. He gets along with Yeo-jin just fine, but it is possible that he’s hiding feelings of resentment about her promotion to the headquarters.

Shi-mok and Yeo-jin get more done with each other than with their respective teams. Together, they work faster and cover more ground,  bouncing theories off of each other and puzzling over the meaning of the message and the motive. They wonder whether it is revenge or anger that led Dong-jae’s kidnapper to send the message. Shi-mok is suspicious of Dong-jae’s wife and asks the police to look into her. Among prosecutors, Dong-jae’s mentee Jung Min-ha also emerges as a suspicious figure, betraying a moment of tension when Shi-mok inquires if Dong-jae was having an affair.

Shi-mok has begun getting along with Prosecutor Kim Sa-hyun (Kim Young-jae), who also seems suspicious of Chief Woo panicking about Dong-jae’s case. Together, Shi-mok and Kim wonder if Chief Woo is simply worried for Dong-jae or about something else. Shi-mok also goes to see Kang Won-chul (Park Sung-geun), who is feeling guilty about cutting Dong-jae off when the latter was trying to set up a meeting. They come to the conclusion that if they give police access to Dong-jae’s past cases, his reputation will take a hit for the worse.

Yeo-jin’s transformation into a team leader is a joy to watch. She leads a team of all-men exceptionally well. She is good at making firm decisions, delegating tasks, motivating her team, praising someone when they do well, while also humiliating the slackers. Despite the investigation not yielding much, however, Yeo-jin has to make an announcement to the press on Choi Bit’s orders.

The plan is to stop people from blaming and suspecting the police, as well as to fool the kidnapper into thinking that they have managed to confuse the police. The results of the press conference are as expected—the comments blaming the police go down, while Dong-jae’s reputation takes a hit. Another strange thing follows—Kim Su-hang reacts strangely to it while watching it on TV at the elderly care home he volunteers at, and his boss notices.

We also get some insight into Dong-jae’s investigation into Park Gwang-su’s death. Dong-jae was looking into the case as recently as the evening he was kidnapped, and naturally, Shi-mok begins looking into it. Some very odd details emerge—that the dash cam in Park Gwang-su’s car is missing footage from the day of his death. One of the GPS locations from Dong-jae’s car also matches the place where Park died. It is clear now that this is the case most directly related to Dong-jae’s kidnapping.

When Woo learns about Shi-mok’s investigations, he freezes even harder than he has so far. It’s to the extent that everyone around him notices. Just how big a secret are you hiding, Assistant Chief Woo? He goes into panic mode and announces that he will look into Seo Dong-jae’s past cases himself. Both Choi and Woo are very on edge the more Shi-mok and Yeo-jin investigate.

We’ve already established how strange Chief Choi Bit has been since Dong-jae’s department. In this episode, she takes it up another notch—after asking Yeo-jin to fetch files from her office, she realizes she can’t let her see the call records she copied without telling Yeo-jin. She sprints to get there before Yeo-jin sees and begins to suspect her. That was an extraordinary reaction, and with every episode I trust her less.

There are suddenly way too many suspects here—from Chief Choi to Woo Tae-ha, Dong-jae’s wife to Hanjo Group, who could have had a hand in Dong-jae’s kidnapping. The man himself was involved in or investigating too many controversial cases for us as viewers to narrow down a suspect. So far, the scales are tipping unfavorably in the direction of Hanjo Group, but not Yeon-jae. It seems more like someone else around her—maybe Managing Director Park, under directions from her brother or father—is keeping Dong-jae hostage. 

But then again, the personal grudge motive goes for a toss if we narrow Hanjo Group down. And from what we have seen of the kidnapper, it does look like a personal grudge case. Usually, when a thriller makes you suspect everyone, the reveal can go two ways: it can blow our mind by being completely surprising, or it can be anti-climatic by making the culprit someone too obvious. Well, whatever the case, I think I’m ready for some answers now. Please bring Dong-jae back, show!

Indoor Enthusiast

Indoor Enthusiast (Esha) is usually found going on rants about how Ji Hae-soo from It's Okay That's Love and Sung Bora from Reply 1988 are the best heroines to grace our screens. Thrillers like Secret Forest and rom-coms with sprinklings of feminism à la Because This Life Is My First hold a special place in her heart. She can be reached at [email protected]

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