This week’s episode has a message — be nice to service staff. It doesn’t have much twist as a story goes, unlike ep2.

Synopsis (Ep3: Mask*)
*the literal title reads “Instruction Manual of a Mask”, but I find it clumsy. Thus, have taken the liberty to amend it ever-so-slightly.

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2 tramps enter a dilapidated warehouse, with the intent to share some food/drinks together. One of them commented that there’s a strange smell coming from the warehouse, but the other laughs it off. Until he sees a figure lying on the floor a way off. The tramps get agitated at some trespasser claiming their hideaway, and proceed to wake the figure up…only to find a dead body with its face badly smashed in. While one of them runs out of the warehouse, the other tramp accidentally bumps into a second body hanging from the rafter.

Detective Nam is called in to investigate the double murders. The first victim is identified as Park Du-cheol. He was a govt official at the Ministry of Education, reputed to have a violent temper. On Sunday (5 days ago), his wife reported him missing, after he left the house following an urgent phone call. The second victim is Gu Ji-Sung. A departmental store (Noblesse) manager. He was also last seen on Sunday evening, dead drunk after a dinner gathering with his colleagues. The last person to see him alive is his subordinate, Bak Ki-chul, who drove him home and dropped him nearby his house. The two were good friends (in a sunbae-hoobae relationship) since school days.

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We switch setting momentarily to the university, where Prof Song is upset when she sees a notice on Frost’s door — informing on urgent basis, that Frost is on a 3-week leave. Meanwhile, Frost is out having lunch with Sung-ah, who is jotting down his behaviours — she explains that she is doing a thesis on him. (??!) During lunch, Sung-ah receives a call, only to pass the phone to Frost. Turns out that Frost refuses to get a mobile phone for himself. So poor Sung-ah has become his call-forwarding machine. The person on the line is Detective Nam, who asks Frost to drop by the station wrt the double murders case.

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While discussing the case at the police station, a lady enters, looking visibly nervous. When she sees the pics of the bodies on the discussion board, she breaks down. The lady in question is Mrs Park, who reported her husband’s MIA status a while back. During the interview, she says that a week or so before her husband’s disappearance, a young, pretty lady looked for him at their house. The lady’s name is Jin Shan-mi, who worked at Noblesse Departmental Store as a sales rep. After Mrs Park leaves, Detective Nam comments that Shan-mi may have been a mistress. Frost disagrees. Based on his observation, he agrees that Mrs Park knows something and is not telling…but when insinuations about Park having an extramarital affair comes up, Mrs Park’s behaviour is clearly a confident “No”.

At the morgue, Frost and Detective Nam annoy the he*l out of the pathologist by piecing together their findings based on their observation of the corpses — the pathologist can’t even complete a sentence. (Sung-ah has dashed out within 3s after entering the morgue) The 2 victims are in a dehydrated state, which means they had been kidnapped and locked up for a few days before their death. Park was strangled to death, probably with a man’s belt. Gu, was beaten to death — he had several fractures in the ribs on top of the bashed-in facial bones. Juz as the pathologist is about to leave in a huff, Frost stops him and asks him what else is there. Miffed, the pathologist explains that bits of DNA and skin tissue have been found on both men’s hands/fingernails. It appears as if they had fought each other before death.

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The trio decides to check out Noblesse Departmental Store next. On the way there, Sung-ah comments on how well Detective Nam and Frost work together. Detective Nam explains that their relationship goes a long way back. Sung-ah then casually asks if there’s any case(s) that they are unable to solve. Both men stop in their tracks, causing Sung-ah to spill water on her new coat. (hmm, methinks that case has to do with Prof Song’s unhappiness with Frost)

Sung-ah gets separated from the guys in Noblesse (cos she’s fussing over her damaged coat) and happens to overhear 2 sales reps gossiping about the double murders. One of them, Ji-hye, appears visibly upset. Sung-ah talks to her and manages to draw out the story. A few months back, Park looked for Ji-hye on the pretext of getting a coat for his wife. When Ji-hye is busy looking for a size, he molested her. Shan-mi, who witnessed the incident, spoke up for her colleague. However, Park refused to apologise, and claimed Ji-hye should thank him instead for his little “appreciation” and “encouragement”. (since when is fondling someone’s butt an “encouragement”?) Shan-mi refused to back down, but her floor manager, Gu Ji-sung, scolded both of them for creating a ruckus. He sided with Park and told the girls the customer didn’t do anything wrong, so the girls should apologise. (a*shole!!!!) Shan-mi and Ji-hye’s supervisor, Kang Shiu-jin, rushed over and said sorry on behalf of her teammates. Much to Shan-mi’s disgust.

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However, the story didn’t end here. Shan-mi threatened Park and said she has filmed the entire molestation episode on her camera. If he didn’t apologise, she will broadcast it on the internet and ruin his reputation as a civil servant. Unfortunately, Shan-mi got suspended for 3 months for being such a “troublemaker”. Faced with dire financial difficulties (she was paying for her dad’s hospitalisation bills), she committed suicide by jumping off her apartment’s rooftop.

While Sung-ah hears about Shan-mi’s sad story, Detective Nam and Frost go up to the office to interview Ki-chul (the guy who drove Gu home). He more or less repeats the same story, that he has driven Gu home that night and left to go home. The CCTVs around his house can verify that he did go home that night. Frost notices that Ki-chul wears a rather tight pinky ring, and when he identifies Ji-hye, Shan-mi and Shiu-jin in a photo, his fingers gently caressed Shan-mi’s figure.

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When Frost and Sung-ah return to the uni, they find Prof Song in Frost’s room. Prof Song tears into Frost and tells him to leave the project (what project??!!) if he is so uninterested in it (remember that Frost took 3-weeks urgent leave?). Frost assures that he will do his part — but Prof Song is still angry, and leaves in a huff. Alone, Frost looks at the case’s photos and falls asleep. He dreams about his accident (which had left him with the frontal lobe damage) when he was a child…but beside him, there was an unidentified lady. When Frost wakes up, he finds Prof Cheon looking down at him with concern. Prof Cheon advises him to take it easy, but gently berates him and tells him to inform the admin office earlier if he needs to take leave in future.

Having some niggling doubts about the case, Frost goes alone to the crime scene to take a look. He manages to pick up a lady’s earring and a bullet (from a rifle) on the ground. (hang on…what is the forensics doing? how can they leave such evidence behind?) Frost then goes back to Noblesse, and purchases a coat from Ji-hye’s section. He suddenly starts shouting at Ji-hye and scolds her for her hiding her feelings. Shocked, Ji-hye bows in apology. Shiu-jin rushes over and also starts bowing and apologising on behalf of her “rude” staff. Frost notices that Shiu-jin has a bandaged earlobe.

He drops the earring and bullet with Detective Nam, who immediately gets to work. Nam tells his staff to expand the CCTV footage around Ki-chul’s house to an hour or two after he returned home. Another staff is sent to bug the forensics to test for DNA on the lady’s earring.

Detective Nam manages to spot another car at the area where Ki-chul dropped off Gu. And that car drove off shortly after Ki-chul returned home. Ki-chul too, is spotted exiting his house a few hours later. As for the earring, the DNA is identified to belong to Shiu-jin. Both are called in as suspects for questioning. The two don’t put up a fight, and admit to murdering the 2 men.

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So here’s what happened: It all started when Shan-mi threatened Park about the molestation footage. She went to Park’s house to confront him and Park followed her back to her house. While in Shan-mi’s house, Park tried to take the phone by force and in the process, pushed Shan-mi off the rooftop. Gu, whom Park called (to help deal with Shan-mi), arrived moments later. When he saw Shan-mi’s body (Park had left by then), he pieced two-and-two together and guessed that Park murdered Shan-mi. A few days later, Gu used this to blackmail Park into giving him some of the bribes he received from his civil service position. Shiu-jin and Ki-chul happened to overhear the entire thing and devised a plan to exact revenge.

That night, during the dinner gathering, Ki-chul spiked Gu’s drink and volunteered to drive a “drunk” Gu home. On the way back, he transferred Gu to Shiu-jin’s car and drove home. Shiu-jin drove Gu to the warehouse and used his mobile phone to lure Park there. When Park arrived, Ki-chul (who had arrived at the warehouse earlier) knocked him unconscious. Shiu-jin and Ki-chul locked the 2 men up, and waited for them to ‘fess up to their crimes. Ki-chul fired a warning shot using his rifle to scare the 2 men inside.

On the 4th day, Gu started yelling to be freed, and blamed Park for murdering Shan-mi. Park was enraged, and started to beat Gu — and killed him. Ki-chul and Shiu-jin opened the warehouse doors then, having extracted evidence of Park’s evil-doings. Park, in anger, slapped Shiu-jin and one of her earrings was ripped off from her ear lobes. Ki-chul strangled Park and strung him from the rafter.

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During the interview with Shiu-jin, Frost comments that it is hard to read Shiu-jin’s emotions, since she is used to wearing a perpetual mask. Shiu-jin bitterly replies that thanks to that “mask”, she has lost her sense of self and becomes a puppet that can only smile without meaning. If it hasn’t been for Shan-mi, who sees through the mask to the person behind, she’d probably have continued (or died) an empty vessel. Thus, when she found out that Shan-mi was murdered, the rage that she has suppressed over the years dealing with ridiculous customers and bullying bosses bubbles up. Together with Ki-chul (who is Shan-mi’s boyfriend, the pinky ring he wears belonged to Shan-mi), she wants Park to pay for robbing her of her only friend.

Review

I repeat: be nice to service staff. Working in a service industry myself, it is daily fare to deal with annoying customers who think you are paid to be slaves to them. Of course there are nice customers too, but those who ignore you/ take you for granted outweigh those who appreciate you. It isn’t pure fiction for a person to lose his/her sense of self and worth if s/he has to plaster a smiling mask throughout the day and suppress their normal emotions such as anger and frustration. (we have service officers who break down daily cos of stress) Of cos, the case today is one of those extremes, where the victim of a crime (outrage of modesty) has to actually apologise for being bullied.

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As a story, ep3 is fairly straightforward. There are sufficient clues to point out the murderers. Doesn’t take much effort to guess that Ki-chul/ Shiu-jin are the suspects. I am however, more interested in the (unsolved) case that Frost is involved in with Detective Nam 5 years ago, which led to Prof Song’s hatred and Frost’s hallucinations (remember he keeps seeing this girl everywhere?)

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