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“TELL ME WHAT YOU SAW” RECAP: THE THRILLER YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU NEEDED

Photo: Luis Villasmil

It’s so thrilling that it’s worth talking about.

If you are human then at one point in your life, when you learned about what photographic memory was, you reached into the deepest parts of yourself to emulate that talent but failed. You probably did it for something small like a test you didn’t study for (like the rest of us) or to recall back to where you left an item, but for a small population of people in the world, it’s actually real. In the Korean thriller “Tell Me What You Saw” this gift is put into frame through a skillful cop with a powerful memory as she tries to solve a serial murder case. And the stakes are high.

Cha Soo-Young ( Choi Soo-Young), a rookie rural police officer developed photographic memory at a very young age. Her parents are both deaf and mute but they recognized the signs of something special in her early, so they visited specialists to determine what was making her memory long lasting. They learned that when Soo-Young is nervous, anxious, or in a new environment, it is easier for her to recall details that others would forget. This memory came in handy when her mother was killed in a hit-and-run. She was able to confidently repeat the license plate numbers on the car to police but since the car was a rental, somehow the driver got away with the crime. But Soo-Young was unrelenting. She became a police officer in hopes of finding the killer and to do that, she tried and failed many time to become a detective in the Regional Investigation Unit (RIU) until her luck changed.


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Things took a turn when a local man called her to the scene of a crime one evening when it was raining heavily. In the countryside, the police officers had simple cases, the height of the problems they dealt with involved retrieving a run-away goat so, this case was a shocking one. On that night, she went out to meet the local man in need, and she came across an abandoned suitcase on the hillside of a bridge with something weird sticking out. Soo-Young decided to take initiative to preserve the crime scene before the rain washed away all the evidence so, she called for backup then proceeded to take as many pictures as she could. However, she tripped and the containments of the suitcase spilled and she yelled in horror when she saw body parts from the opening of the suitcase and a severed head rolling on the ground. As traumatic as the moment was, she’d made a mistake. She’d accidentally ruined the crime scene and had to rely on her memory to get out of trouble and help solve the case. Fortunately, when the lead detective Hwang Hwa-Young (Jin Seo-Yeon), learned about her special ability, she introduced her to the reclusive profiler Oh Hyun-Jae (Jang Hyuk) so that they could use her memory to finally resolve a lingering serial killing case that left many confounded. This provided Soo-Young with the key to enter the RIU to find her mother’s killer.

So far, there are only four episodes of “Tell Me What You Saw” but it’s so thrilling that it’s worth talking about. The title and TV poster actully tell you what to expect. The series literally hinges on Soo-Young explaining what she saw to a blind Oh Hyun-Jae.

Five years ago, Hyun-Jae and Hwang Hwa-Young were part of the team of investigators on a serial killer case in which the killer’s Modus operandi was to leave a white peppermint candy in the mouths of his victims after brutally torturing and murdering them. Back then when Hyun-Jae was close to solving the case, his fiance was killed in a huge car explosion caused by the serial killer. It left Hyun-Jae blind and binded to a wheelchair. At the time though, everyone believed that the serial killer was also killed in the blaze. Things changed when new murder cases with similar patterns kept cropping up. Yet only Hyun-Jae and Hwang Hwa-Young steadily suspected the killer. But now with the recruitment of Soo-Young into the RIU, they can gain the advantage needed to finally find the serial killer.

On first impressions, “Tell Me What You Saw” is enticing. Soo-Young is the perfect underdog because even though she lacks confidence in her skills as an officer she is actually quite clever and her natural instincts are always on point. Her kindness adds to her likability because she’s personable and emotionally intelligent which helps her to immediately identify when someone is acting strange. The only thing Soo-Young lacks is experience but Oh Hyun-Jae’s coaching fills the gap. (Still, Soo-Young is resourceful so I suspect that as the series continues, she will outwit Oh Hyun-Jae.)

However, for some reason, she is always the one finding the hiding spots of the murderers who are in pursuit, which is terrible since it means she often gets hurt. It’s actually kind of funny how predictable it is that she will be hurt because every time her team splits up to find a killer, you know that Soo-Young will find them first, she will get hurt badly, and then either Hyufn-Jae or her team will need to save her. Despite all this, she keeps volunteering to do the most dangerous things (probably to prove herself since she’s a novice detective), and as usual every time, I feel like I have to scream, don’t do it! But she does it.

Besides that “Tell Me What You Saw” is great. The scenes and plot are tight which is a great nod to the effective writing of Ko Young-Jae and Han Ki-Hyun and directing of Lee Joon-Hyeong. It’s hard to figure out who the serial killer is which is exciting. All we know is that he’s smart because he’s able to anticipate what the police officers will do to counter his actions. He’s also well-built, energetic, strong, and from what we’re able to see of his appearance (his mouth) he’s young. He’s also average looking, not too attractive or displeasing because he doesn’t grab anyone’s attention in crowds. This is why profiler Na Joon-Seok (Song Young-Kyu) couldn’t tell that he was the killer that he was looking for when he was standing right in front of him. (It could also be that Joon-Seok is just a terrible profiler with no natural instincts). I propose though that this killer is good at maintaining anonymity so Joon-Seok never stood a chance. I also think he’s likely working with the police in some capacity or very close to them since he seems to have insider knowledge. Maybe he’s a janitor or he works very close to the police station. After all, some one who works in a restaurant that is often frequented by cops would learn a lot about cases just by listening carefully to conversations of loose lip officers.

Now just a theory, but if the killer is really obsessed with Hyun-Jae, wouldn’t he form a relationship with Soo-Young (since she’s friendly), so that he could get ahead of clues and get closer to Hyun-Jae? So, perhaps the people we need to focus on moving forward are the ones that are newly introduced to Soo-Young, the ones who are trying to get close to her. They might hold the key to the truth.

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