In a coffee shop, profiler Park Hae Young (Lee Je Hoon) is on high alert as detective Cha Soo Hyun (Kim Hye Soo) asks rape survivor Kang Hae Seung (Jeon Su Ji) who the real rapist was.
Meanwhile, back in February 2000, detective Lee Jae Han (Jo Jin Woong) already knows that it’s Jang Tae Jin, the son of Injoo Chemicals CEO, Jang Sung Chul (who is the brother of Congressman Jang Young Chul, the guy who asked section chief, Kim Bum Joo to fix this case in the first place). We flash back to the day Hae Seung was raped, when she was waiting for her friend (and Hae Young’s brother), Park Sun Woo (Kang Chan Hee) to tutor her at the house of student council member, Lee Dong Jin. When Sun Woo doesn’t show up, Dong Jin nervously asks Hae Seung to leave, because Tae Jin has come over.
Before Hae Seung can make it out the door, Tae Jin takes a cheap shot at her, and then Sun Woo. Hae Seung can’t resist defending Sun Woo, but it costs her; Tae Jin drags her into the other room, while Dong Jin frets outside at the sound of her screams.
In the present, Hae Young can’t contain his emotions, and asks Hae Seung why she didn’t tell the truth. Soo Hyun tries to calm him down, but he’s too wound up at the way his brother died to listen. Hae Seung is surprised to hear that Sun Woo had committed suicide 15 years ago, because she went to visit him in the detention centre when things had calmed down. During that visit, Sun Woo tells her that she did nothing wrong, that she should go on and forget about what happened. As a weeping Hae Seung apologizes to Sun Woo, Sun Woo tells her that he hasn’t given up on his own life. The present Hae Seung adds that she held on because of his words.
Hae Young is too angry to have much sympathy, and reminds her that Sun Woo slit his wrists the minute he got out of detention. Hae Seung is overcome with tears, but Hae Young won’t stop pressing. He asks her to clear Sun Woo’s name, and she refuses, believing that it would destroy her hard-won family. As Hae Seung hurriedly leaves, Soo Hyun holds Hae Young back, telling him that the statute of limitations has run out. Hae Young is well past the point of listening and runs out of the café and into a cab.
It’s February 2000, and as Jae Han drives up to his police station, his former section chief Kim Bum Joo (Jang Hyun Sung) practically runs him over. The two men lay into each other right away, with Jae Han promising to take the newly promoted Bum Joo down, and Bum Joo threatening Jae Han. When Jae Han goes into the station, Soo Hyun tells him they have to go on stakeout. Jae Han is surprised, since it’s not his case, but his new chief orders him to go. It’s only when they’re gone that the chief tells his colleague that Soo Hyun is worried about Jae Han, and thinks that extra work will help.
In the car, Jae Han promptly goes to sleep, and when Soo Hyun tries to make him more comfortable, she suddenly realizes how close they are and withdraws (thank you for not kissing him in his sleep). As she lets him go, the radio goes off from somewhere in the car.
In the present, Soo Hyun has come to Hae Young’s apartment, but before she can knock on his door, she hears the same radio go off, and Hae Young’s frantic voice calling out for Jae Han. As the present Soo Hyun listens at the door, the Soo Hyun of the past hears Hae Young’s voice coming from the radio. Before she can pick it up to respond to him, Jae Han wakes up and spots the burglar they’re chasing climbing over a wall. Jae Han and Soo Hyun jump out of the car and go running after him, the radio forgotten. Somehow the burglar eludes them, and at a pause in the chase, Soo Hyun tells Jae Han that his radio had suddenly started working. Jae Han avoids responding by sending Soo Hyun after the burglar again.
In the present, Hae Young is still calling out Jae Han’s name as the radio clicks off. Frustrated, Hae Young tosses the radio on the desk and runs out the door. As he disappears down the stairs, Soo Hyun comes in to his apartment and finds the radio. She picks it up to find the happy face sticker that she put on Jae Han’s radio.
Hae Young’s destination turns out to be Injoo, where he tracks down the guy who testified that he saw Sun Woo on a bus with Hae Seung. When Hae Young confronts him again, the guy is not only surprised that he’s come back, but that he’s also the second police officer to hunt him down about Sun Woo. Hae Young is surprised to learn that murdered section chief, Ahn Chi Soo had come to see the guy about Sun Woo, not about the rape case, but about Sun Woo’s death. Chi Soo wanted the guy to testify that Sun Woo had Hae Seung’s red scarf, the item that would conclusively prove that Tae Jin was guilty of the Injoo case.
Hae Young follows Chi Soo’s trail to the Injoo police station, where he discovers that Chi Soo had requested the files for Sun Woo’s death, and not the rape case. Back at the police station, Bum Joo gets the same information from the detectives investigating Chi Soo’s murder.
Meanwhile, Soo Hyun still has the radio back at the office. She thinks back to 2000, when she ran into one of Jae Han’s colleagues from Yongsan, who explained that the radio was connected to Jae Han’s murdered first love. Devastated, Soo Hyun couldn’t concentrate at work, and even dropped a water cooler bottle on her foot. When Jae Han berates her for being so distracted, Soo Hyun asks him if he can’t forget his first love. Jae Han doesn’t answer the question and leaves instead.
In the present, Hae Young goes to see the detective in charge of the investigation into Sun Woo’s death, but the man has nothing to add to the report. Instead, Hae Young flashes back to finding Sun Woo with his wrist slashed and going to the hospital, only to watch Sun Woo die. In the end, the same detective tells Hae Young and his mother that it was suicide, and she refuses an autopsy. Hae Young’s father arrives in time to drag him away before he hears any more.
In the present, Hae Young goes through the case file trying to figure out what Chi Soo was trying to tell him about Sun Woo’s death, but he comes up blank. On the file, we see that Sun Woo died at 4:30 on February 18th.
It’s February 17th, when Sun Woo is released from the detention centre, and greeted only by his dour mother. She takes him home and feeds him, but when he asks for Hae Young, she tells him he won’t see Hae Young again, then leaves for work. Sun Woo opens a drawer and looks at a small knife in it, but closes it again. Instead, he goes to see Dong Jin and asks him where he can find Hae Seung’s red scarf.
Jae Han goes to his father’s shop to find Bum Joo sitting with him. When Jae Han calls him out and asks if he’s having trouble with the Internal Affairs case, Bum Joo points out that his father’s shop is struggling, and that Jae Han is still young, that he could live a better life. Jae Han looks tempted, but he tells Bum Joo that it’s better to have a difficult life than to become a dog that gets thrown away when he becomes useless.
And, in fact, it does look like Bum Joo is being thrown away by Congressman Jang Young Chul (brother of Jang Sung Chul, see above), as the congressman stops returning his calls. Instead, Bum Joo fights his way into where the Congressman is eating grilled wagyu, and asks him to help with the Internal Affairs case, the congressman lectures him on what happens to dogs that become useless, and tells him to get lost.
Back at the police station, as Jae Han comes into the office, he notices that Soo Hyun is still limping. Jae Han gets a call from Sun Woo, saying that he has evidence in Hae Seung’s case, the red scarf that Hae Seung was wearing that day. Jae Han promises to come and get it, but just then, the burglar from before makes a move and the detectives move out to chase him. Seeing Soo Hyun’s limp, Jae Han can’t help but go along to make sure she doesn’t get hurt.
In the course of catching the burglar, Jae Han jumps in when Soo Hyun is attacked and ends up getting stabbed. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Soo Hyun begs Jae Han not to die, then confesses that she likes him. An uncomfortable Jae Han spends the rest of the ride listening to Soo Hyun cry her eyes out.
Back in the present, Soo Hyun’s failed attempts to call Hae Young are interrupted by the other two members of the cold case squad, Kim Gye Chul (Kim Won Hae) and Jung Hun Ki (Lee Yoo Joon). They take Soo Hyun aside to update her on their investigation into the Injoo case. Hun Ki tells her that all the physical evidence was deemed unusable, so they relied on witness testimony. Gye Chul adds that all of the witness statements were consistent, except for one detail: the red scarf that Hae Seung was wearing when she was assaulted disappeared after her first statement. Both Gye Chul and Hun Ki are now convinced that something was off with the case.
Hae Young, meanwhile, is at Injoo Hospital, trying to reconstruct Chi Soo’s last phone call to him, wondering why Chi Soo would have called him to Injoo Hospital. He follows the path laid out by the background noise of the phone call (i.e. the sound of the elevator meant that Chi Soo was passing the elevator), and finds himself at the emergency stairwell, just moments ahead of the detectives who are in the hospital investigating Chi Soo’s murder.
He goes down into the basement to the patient records, and asks if they’ve seen Chi Soo. The clerk there tells him that Chi Soo came a few days before to ask about the results of a blood test run on Sun Woo back in 2000. Hae Young discovers for the first time that Sun Woo’s blood had enough sedatives in it to knock him out. Dumbstruck, Hae Young walks out into the hospital hallway and straight into Soo Hyun. Hae Young is frantic as he tells her that Chi Soo was trying to expose the fact that Sun Woo was murdered, likely because he had the scarf that proved Jang Tae Jin’s guilt. Back in the year 2000, we see the guy who Chi Soo asked about the red scarf, deliver the same scarf from Dong Jin to Sun Woo.
Hae Young is ready to run home to get the radio, but Soo Hyun stops him. She pulls the radio out of her bag, and asks him why he has it.
Back in 2000, Jae Han wakes up in the hospital, to find Soo Hyun asleep on top of his arm. She’s out cold, and as he looks at her sleeping face, Jae Han remembers her tearful confession in the ambulance. Before he can get emotional, his stomach starts rumbling, and he awkwardly maneouvres himself out of bed to get to the washroom without waking her up (well, we were about due for an unnecessary poo joke, I guess).
In the present, Hae Young confesses to Soo Hyun about the transmissions, and tells her that regardless of the consequences, he wants to save Sun Woo. She doesn’t believe him, but when the radio goes off, and Jae Han answers, a shocked Soo Hyun listens as Hae Young tells Jae Han to save Sun Woo, who is due to die that very day.
As the radio clicks off, Soo Hyun shakily asks Hae Young who was on the radio, unable to believe that she just heard the voice of Jae Han. Hae Young tells her that she knows who it is, but she replies that Jae Han is dead. Hae Young replies that Jae Han is still alive, in the radio.
Back in 2000, Jae Han runs out of the hospital to save Sun Woo.
ARRRRRGGGGGHH. This show and its cliffhangers are killing me. While I’m sorry to see “Signal” coming to an end, I’m glad we’re nearing the resolution, because I can’t take it anymore.
I think I’m as upset as Hae Young to discover that a conspiracy that destroyed so many lives and turned a whole town full of people into accomplices led back to Jang Tae Jin, an arrogant and entitled chaebol son. Even worse is his uncle, Jang Young Chul, who used Bum Joo to do the dirty work of covering for him, but then left Bum Joo out in the cold when things went south.
The conversation between Jae Han and Bum Joo outside Jae Han’s father’s shop is telling; Bum Joo knows the difference between right and wrong, but was swayed to the wrong path by Young Chul’s money and influence. The icky part of it is that Young Chul turned Bum Joo into a mirror of himself: the way that Young Chul controlled Bum Joo with a combination of money and intimidation, is the same way Bum Joo acted with Chi Soo and the other detectives he influenced. Jae Han, at least, is smart enough to know where the path of easy money leads, because he has the loathsome example of Bum Joo before him. If we can’t save Sun Woo and Jae Han, I hope we at least get the satisfaction of seeing Bum Joo and Young Chul go down.
Till next week!