Café Minamdang – K-Drama Episode 12 Recap & Review

The Arsonist

Episode 12 of Café Minamdang picks up where the previous epilogue left off. Do-won and Jae-hui reconvene in time for Hye-jun’s call alerting them to the abduction occurring in the rear car park.

Jin-sang and Min-gyeong are already in the car park recording Tae-su’s men loading Han-jun and Su-cheol into a van. The detective team uses their footage to get hold of the van’s licence plate number. Jae-hui puts out a notice for the vehicle as they take off in pursuit.

When Tae-su’s party enters a zone with no CCTV, Hye-jun taps into the camera on Han-jun’s glasses and forwards the feed to the detectives. A tip then points them in the direction of Jaepyeong Industrial Complex. It’s just as well because Tae-su smashes Han-jun’s glasses beneath his shoe.

Deep inside the complex, Han-jun wakes up before Su-cheol. He stalls for time while trying to rouse the team’s muscle, even telling Tae-su that Aunty Im plans to dispose of him. Tae-su pays him little heed, giving his men the kill order as the detectives reach the complex.

Han-jun is fairly useless as the men encroach. He hoists up a stick and waves it around to ward them off before changing tactics and using it to hit Su-cheol on the head twice.  Su-cheol awakens, angry at the assault, to see Han-jun rolling on the floor and assumes that Tae-su’s men are his attackers.

As we’ve come to expect, Su-cheol handles Tae-su’s men without so much as breaking a sweat. Sensing the ball leaving his court, Tae-su makes his escape.

Jae-hui follows the sounds of pain to Han-jun and Su-cheol, finding them as one of Tae-su’s men makes to stab Han-jun. She’s furious at the attempt and proceeds to give the men a second round of beatings. Han-jun watches on in awe.

Retreating to the safety of the police station, the group listens to the audio recording of Myeong-jun describing his murder of Eun-hye. Han-jun advises the detectives not to arrest Tae-su before they have sufficient evidence to take down his superiors without being foiled by Aunty Im.

Jae-hui escorts Han-jun and Su-cheol back to Café Minamdang, where Hye-jun only has eyes for Su-cheol. Leaving Han-jun in shock, she fawns over Su-cheol and carts him off to the hospital.

Jae-hui stays for tea, and Han-jun gives her a free pass to look around. She comes across an old picture of Han-jun and Jae-jeong. Next to it is a figurine that she gifted Han-jun back when he first became a police officer. Both items made their way to Han-jun’s bedside after Jae-hui’s identity revelation prompted him to go looking for them.

Han-jun realises too late that he let Jae-hui explore without putting them away. He tries to snatch the figurine from her grasp, and they fall onto his bed, almost making it to their first kiss before Han-jun’s back spasms. Two more almost-kisses occur as they wait for Hye-jun to come home.

Meanwhile, Hye-jun has gone over to Su-cheol’s apartment, where she confesses that she likes him and coaxes him into admitting he returns her feelings with one intense kiss after the other.

With Hye-jun not in any rush to go home, Jae-hui falls asleep waiting. Han-jun lets her lie on his lap. By the next morning, Hye-jun and Su-cheol return to find Jae-hui spooning Han-jun on the couch.

Jae-hui has to rush off to work as Han-jun realises that Hye-jun and Su-cheol came in together. He drills them, but they’ve already conspired to keep their secret hidden.

Detective Na has found the contact details for the real Gu Tae-su’s adoptive family. He was adopted overseas, and his family haven’t spoken to him since he returned to Korea, their relationship strained. Meanwhile, the fake Tae-su has zero records for them to investigate.

Detective Jang journeys out to an old arson site in the countryside. Inside the abandoned house is a charred photo album containing a portrait of a woman and child.

There’s a restaurant bill that’s been charged to Tae-su’s company card. When Hye-jun mentions the trendy eatery, Han-jun hastily insists on checking it out without the rest of the Minamdang crew. He calls Jae-hui and tells her to meet him there.

Jae-hui is thrilled by what she thinks is going to be a date. Her feelings turn sour with Han-jun’s weak investigation cover excuse. She picks up a call from Do-won, who hears Han-jun’s voice over the line and wastes no time heading over to join them.

Do-won finds the pair at the bar questioning the bartender. According to him, Tae-su is a regular, making an appearance every fourth Thursday at 8pm, though he hasn’t come in for a while. When Han-jun pulls out a photo of Seung-won, Do-won excuses himself.

Finding a stairwell, Do-won calls Seung-won’s secretary to ask if Seung-won follows the same pattern the bartender described. When Seung-won’s secretary refuses to answer, Do-won decides to go ask his brother himself.

Back at the bar, Han-jun and Jae-hui learn that Tae-su likely goes hunting and occupies a camping ground. Hye-jun, who planted a bug and GPS on Han-jun to avoid another abduction, has already begun mapping out camping sites that overlap with Tae-su’s movements.

Do-won marches right into Seung-won’s office and plainly asks if he gave Tae-su the order to murder Gyeong-cheol. He also guesses that Aunty Im is the woman who once made Seung-won’s dirty business disappear under their father’s orders. Do-won is disgusted, saying that that their father ruined Seung-won by cleaning up after him back them.

With a final warning, Do-won leaves. Seung-won starts to lose his equilibrium and rushes to dose himself with the red powder Aunty Im brought to their last meeting.

Hye-jun singles out three camping sites, and Han-jun enlists the detectives to help them search the grounds. Night falls as Jae-hui finally comes across Tae-su’s trailer. Tae-su himself watches her through his phone from a gas station, where he purchases gasoline with his card. The purchase pops up on the other detectives’ radar, and they make their way to the gas station.

Inside Tae-su’s trailer, Jae-hui finds benzene, gopuri knots and Eun-hye’s white heels. After calling Han-jun to let him know, Jae-hui finds portraits like the one Detective Jang saw at the old arson site.

Jae-hui remarks to herself that Tae-su’s mother looked like Eun-hye as Tae-su locks her in the trailer. He douses it in gasoline and sets it ablaze as she bangs at the window.

Han-jun sights the blaze and calls Su-cheol for backup. He finds Tae-su walking away and knocks him to the ground. When Tae-su asks Han-jun who he’ll choose, Han-jun looks up and realises that Jae-hui is in the burning trailer.

The epilogue shows us Eun-hye getting into an elevator with Tae-su. She smiles at him before we flash back to Tae-su’s mother, wearing white heels and beckoning him over to take their portrait pictures. We jump forward again to Detective Jang looking around the blackened house.


The Episode Review

The nosedive continues with a couple of big disappointments, the first being the way we left this episode. I detest female leads being used as damsel-in-distress fodder on a good day. And then Café Minamdang tried to convince me that Jae-hui, supposedly a badass detective with ghost-like fighting skills, did nothing but cry and bang weakly on the window while Tae-su set the trailer alight. Not today, writers, not today.

The second is Do-won and Seung-won’s relationship. I think complex and/or tortured family ties done well can be excellent narrative drivers and add emotional weight to a story. So, I was looking forward to seeing where Do-won’s confrontation with Seung-won would lead, but it was so two dimensional and predictable that all I was left with was disappointment.

Seung-won could have been a calculating and sinister antagonist, but the encounter exposed him as nothing more than a whiny child.

It’s also important to note that, while I have been rooting for Hye-jun and Su-cheol as a couple, their romantic exchange was pretty iffy where consent was concerned.

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  • Episode Rating
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2.5

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