Signal episode 11 recap

Side dish: If you’re watching this show, you probably don’t want to spend too much time cooking so you can get to the next episode. Why not try out this quick recipe for everyday meatballs from Smitten Kitchen? I guarantee it’s fast and delicious.

Episode Recap


Police detective, Cha Soo Hyun (Kim Hye Soo) advances slowly into the darkened house of Kim Jin Woo (Lee Sang Yeob), the serial killer who had abducted her in the past. As she draws her gun and feels her way around, a terrified Soo Hyun flashes back to when she was abducted. So, when profiler Park Hae Young (Lee Je Hoon) arrives, Soo Hyun is so startled that she attacks him in a panic.

Unlike Soo Hyun, Hae Young has already called for backup and it’s not long before the rest of the team arrives. The two of them report to chief, Ahn Chi Soo (Jung Hae Kyun), and show him the meticulously labelled souvenirs of the murdered women in the house. Chi Soo assigns everyone their tasks and the team gets to work, tracking down Jin Woo. Detective, Kim Gye Chul (Kim Won Hae) discovers that Jin Woo lived with his mother, and back in the apartment, it’s not long before Hae Young finds a woman’s shoes, and forensics officer, Jung Hun Ki (Lee Yoo Joon) finds a human bone. Hae Young theorizes that the bone must have belonged to Jin Woo’s missing mother, and that Jin Woo is on his way to finally bury her body.


Soo Hyun finds black box camera footage of the night before, with Jin Woo walking towards Dongeui Mountain where he had disposed of the bodies of the victims. As Soo Hyun and the other cops race towards the mountain, Hae Young finds a CD of the favourite song of Jin Woo’s last victim, Yoo Seung Yeon in the apartment. Meanwhile, up on the mountain, Jin Woo puts a bag over his head and gets ready to hang himself. Just as he steps off the log he’s standing on, Soo Hyun shoots the rope and saves his life. When Jin Woo falls down, she takes the bag off his head, and puts a gun to his head. As he stares at her in shock, she tells him that he won’t get off that easy.

Jin Woo sits in an interrogation room, as Chi Soo gives section chief, Kim Bum Joo (Jang Hyun Sung) the rundown of what happened. Jin Woo’s mother’s remains were also recovered and they believed that she died before he killed the first victim. When Soo Hyun explains that Jin Woo suffered through a terrible childhood at the hands of his mother, Bum Joo is dismissive, calling him trash. Later, as he leaves, Bum Joo throws a perfunctory thank you to the cold case squad, much to Gye Chul’s annoyance.


In the interrogation room, Hae Young plays Jin Woo the song that Yoo Seung Yeon liked, and asks Jin Woo if she was different. Jin Woo flashes back to the night he killed her, when he couldn’t bring himself to kill her face to face. As he strangled her from behind (the scene looks disturbingly like a typical Kdrama back hug), Jin Woo started crying, much to his own surprise.

As Jin Woo is led away, Hae Young tells Soo Hyun that Jin Woo probably had no idea that he liked Seung Yeon, since he had never learned the feeling. Having killed her, Jin Woo was unable to kill again and attempted suicide because he had nothing else to live for. When Hae Young asks if Soo Hyun also thinks Jin Woo is just trash, Soo Hyun admits that she has no sympathy for him. Thinking of his own brother, Hae Young points out that if someone had held out a hand to Jin Woo instead of letting him turn into a monster, both Jin Woo and his victims might have been saved.


In his car, Hae Young’s radio goes off, and back in 1997, police detective Lee Jae Han (Jo Jin Woong) answers. He immediately asks Hae Young who the killer is, but Hae Young is wary of interfering in the past again, given the disastrous results. Hae Young tells Jae Han not to give up on the case and the radio stops working.

Jae Han goes back to the station, where he discovers that Bum Joo has closed the Hongwon-dong case. His partner stops him before he can protest, and then he’s distracted by Soo Hyun’s return to work. Jae Han takes Soo Hyun to the morgue to see whether the hand she felt when she was abducted was really that of a corpse, and Soo Hyun confirms that it was.

Back on the trail, Jae Han theorizes that maybe the killer didn’t live alone, but that the corpse in his apartment belonged to the person he lived with. He makes a list of every household with two people in the area, and methodically goes to each one. It’s not long before he finally comes face to face with Jin Woo himself, as Jin Woo comes out of his house and walks straight towards him.


In the present, Hae Young looks at Jae Han’s list of cases they worked on together, and notices that the Hongwon-dong case has disappeared. He runs into the empty interrogation room (Jin Woo left already anyway?), then reads in the case files that Jin Woo was arrested on January 21st, 1998. The final confirmation comes when Hae Young goes to see one of the victims and finds her alive.

Later, Hae Young goes to the Gyeonggi Psychiatric Facility, to find Jin Woo himself, who was transferred there from prison. Jin Woo does nothing but stare out the window, but as Hae Young leaves, a group of volunteers comes in to the facility. Jin Woo looks up as volunteer Yoo Seung Yeon looks curiously into his room.


Meanwhile, Soo Hyun’s mother interrupts her TV watching (it looks like “Three Meals a Day: Fishing Village”. Ha!) to make Soo Hyun over for her marriage matchup date. But, before Soo Hyun can go, she gets called in to view another set of newly discovered remains. Hae Young, meanwhile, gets an email to the same effect at the office, and the two of them run into each other in the medical examiner’s lab. The medical examiner confirms that the remains could belong to Jae Han, depending on a DNA test.

Back in 1998, Soo Hyun gives a hard time to a man accused of seducing and abandoning three women (was this a crime in Korea?). When she leads the suspect out of the room, the other detectives start gossiping about her unrequited crush on Jae Han, and whether she’ll confess to him with the box of chocolates that fell out of her bag. They’re all flabbergasted that Soo Hyun can have feelings for the clueless Jae Han, especially when Jae Han comes in looking like a wreck. When Jae Han’s partner asks if he has anyone who will give him chocolates on Valentine’s Day, Jae Han disparages the whole idea, much to Soo Hyun’s distress.


When Soo Hyun goes home, her sister can’t believe that she still hasn’t confessed to Jae Han, and asks what’s so great about him. In response, Soo Hyun flashes back to a time when she was asked to serve coffee to a visiting congressman. Unimpressed that Soo Hyun was still being trotted out to do menial tasks for the higher-ups, Jae Han stepped in and did the job himself. Hearts pop up in Soo Hyun’s eyes, as Jae Han berates her for acting too sweet to be a detective.

The Soo Hyun of 1998 grins at the memory, while the Soo Hyun of the present silently awaits the results of the DNA test on the remains. When the medical examiner announces that the DNA is not a match, Hae Young and Soo Hyun both head out. Hae Young jokes about Soo Hyun’s outfit, but Soo Hyun would rather know why Hae Young is so interested in Jae Han. When Hae Young tries to fluff it off again, Soo Hyun hits him and asks again. Hae Young cryptically wonders if she’ll believe him even if he explains, then aims a low blow at Soo Hyun, telling her that the man she’s meeting today will run away if she tries to interrogate him, too.


Back at his apartment, Hae Young’s radio goes off. Hae Young reassures Jae Han that nothing has gone wrong following the arrest of Jin Woo, then tells him about the Injoo high school student rape case in 1999, asking him to find out the truth of what happened back then. Jae Han protests that Injoo is not in his jurisdiction, but the radio clicks off.

It’s February 1999 in Injoo, and a student posts a cryptic note on Injoo high school’s website about a classmate being raped by one, then seven, and then another ten people in a place called the willow tree house. The news spreads around the students like wildfire.


The ten-year-old Hae Young of 1999 is learning angles when his older brother, Sun Woo (Hwang Chan Hee) gets a phone call and rushes out. The next day at the high school, even the teachers are buzzing about the note as a female student, Kang Hae Seung (Shin Yi Joon), rushes up the stairs to the roof, then jumps off.

Meanwhile, Bum Joo goes to a meeting in a high class restaurant with a congressman (who looks like the same congressman who Jae Han confronted in episode 7 over the Han Se Kyu case… hmmm). Bum Joo is almost reverential when he talks to him, but the congressman only wants him to clean something up, with no mistakes.


Back at the police station, Bum Joo announces that they’re taking a special task force to help out the overwhelmed Injoo police station, and picks four detectives to go with him, but excludes Jae Han. Jae Han takes one of the detectives aside, and switches with him.

They’re greeted by a media scrum when they arrive in Injoo, and also by the Chi Soo of 1999, who takes them inside the station. As Chi Soo brings everyone coffee, the Seoul detectives are treated to a show by the parents of the accused boys, who are screaming and shouting in the office. Jae Han is more interested about the questions the reporters outside were asking about the investigation being scaled back, but Chi Soo fluffs him off.


Meanwhile, Bum Joo meets with the Injoo station chief, and intimidates him into going along with his plans of using the opportunity to remove 18 troublemakers from the streets of Injoo. He tells the reluctant chief to get on the case of finding out who put up the original note that started the whole mess.

Later, in a meeting, Bum Joo assigns Jae Han to talk to the victim about the note, Jae Han’s partner to find the location of the assault, and everyone else to find out who posted the note. As the meeting ends, Chi Soo introduces himself to Jae Han for the first time.


In the present, Chi Soo is in the hospital, where he gets the bad news that his daughter doesn’t have long to live. A devastated Chi Soo doesn’t have long to grieve as he gets a call from Bum Joo, summoning him to his office. Bum Joo doesn’t mince his words, and asks Chi Soo if his daughter’s impending death (and the fact that he no longer needs money for hospital fees) motivated him to hide the fact that Hae Young was Sun Woo’s brother. Bum Joo back Chi Soo up against the wall, enraged by his betrayal, but Chi Soo throws his resignation on Bum Joo’s desk and leaves, telling him that it’s over.

Chi Soo’s next move is to call Hae Young and ask him if he wants to know what happened in the Injoo case, even if it will put him in the same danger as his brother. A surprised Hae Young agrees, and Chi Soo tells him to meet in two hours in front of the Injoo Hospital.

Back in 1999, Chi Soo leads Jae Han to the hospital where Hae Seung is recuperating, but Jae Han can’t get past her father to actually talk to her. Instead, the drunken father, obviously orchestrated by Chi Soo, hands over a list of 18 culprits signed by Hae Seung. Jae Han rushes into the room and leaves his business card with Hae Seung, only to have the father throw it into the hallway. This exchange is witnessed by Sun Woo, who tries to ask Hae Seung’s father if she’s okay. The father tells him to get lost, then goes back into Hae Seung’s room. Sun Woo spots Jae Han’s card on the floor.

On their way out, Jae Han gets a call that they found the crime scene. Jae Han and Chi Soo head over to an abandoned meat restaurant, known as the willow tree house. There are no CCTV’s around, but a local farming couple was able to give them the information that the neighbourhood bad boys were using the building to hang out in, and that Hae Seung was hanging around with them. The couple pick out both the boys and Hae Seung out of a lineup of photos.


Next up are Hae Seung’s classmates, who tell them that Hae Seung skipped school a lot and hung out with party types. They pick out the same boys from a photo lineup. Jae Han isn’t convinced by this evidence, but his partner tells him to go to sleep first. Jae Han reluctantly agrees and back at the hotel, the manager gives him an envelope left by a high school student. Inside the envelope is a photo of the seven members of the Injoo High School Student Council. Jae Han thinks back to the original note, that said seven people also came, and notices that the syllables that make up “person” in Korean (인 and 간 to make up 인간, if you’re interested) can be found in the title of the photo.

Back in the present, Hae Young gets to Injoo Hospital, but Chi Soo doesn’t answer his call. Hae Young hears Chi Soo’s phone ringing in a stand of trees near the parking lot, and finds Chi Soo propped up against a tree, blood streaming from his stomach.


Well, it’s obvious the fix is in, and Hae Young’s brother is being set up to take the fall for this case, along with a group of boys who may or may not be guilty. It’s impossible to tell why, because the obvious reasons don’t seem to apply. It’s unlikely that congressman had kids in that school, so he’s probably not covering up for his own sons.

But, let’s get back to the Hongwon-dong case. Ugh, Jin Woo. It’s not often that a serial killer is set up as a sympathetic character, and I’m not going to lie, it didn’t totally work on me here. Yes, Jin Woo is obviously a very damaged person and I do have some sympathy for how he became the way he did, but it’s hard to avoid the fact that he killed at least 11 people. I do wonder how sympathetic his “love” story with Yoo Seung Yeon would have looked if they’d cast someone who wasn’t a flower boy as Jin Woo. Either way, well played, director.

In the meantime, these cliffhangers are going to drive me nuts. What happened to Chi Soo? What happened in Injoo in 1999? Why is the congressman even interested in this case? Will Jae Han ever notice how Soo Hyun’s head explodes into hearts and flowers every time she looks at him? Tune in to the next episode to find out!

Signal (시그널)


 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 || series review


  1. It is the kdrama backhug. And I loved that the PD used it in this case. It is my favorite scene of the episode. I will never look at backhug the same way again. And I’m hoping that’s the first and last time I’ll see that kind of backhug. It was both disturbing and poignant.


  2. I never thought the hongwon dong case would end up being so tragic and sad when it was initially very terrifying.
    I feel so so sad for both JW and SY. The backhug and her desperatley clinging on his clothes made me cry , I just imagined the ultimate terror and heartbreak that hit her as she died at the hands of the man she liked.
    What a story this has been , the cold serial killer fell for his last victim , he could not handle the heartbreak ;could not kill anymore so tried to finish his life <3.
    Also I love how despite the change in their lives and future , they still crossed path . The scene where they made eye contact and we're equally curious proves that they are destined to meet even if certain events change .


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