Heart to Heart : The Psycho and The Thief (3100 words)
I’ve recently learnt that stabbing someone in the neck with a pen is considered criminal in South Korea… and by “considered” I mean, it is criminal.
Soooo… all this time I rooted for a criminal ? And I’m talking about Yi Seok here. Heart to Heart starts with him stabbing a patient in the neck with a pen doesn’t it ?
Yes, I know, when he wakes up the man confesses that he hurt himself and on first viewing we’re so relieved that Yi Soek no more has a reason to commit suicide that questioning the patient’s declaration is the last thing on our mind.
But when later on it becomes the first thing on our minds, it’s easy to realize that many things point at Yi Seok truly being the aggressor.
First, we are given the opportunity to witness his downward spiral step by step. He is nervous, he is shaky and impatient. His female patients wear him out to the point that he refuses to take any more of them and cancels a rendez-vous. He drinks a bottle of alcohol in one go in order to be able to carry on. As he listens to his last patient his vision becomes more and more blurred until Hong Do hears the cries of pain of the victim.
Everything leads to this loss of control and aggression.
“A person got stabbed by a pencil in the neck. I think I avoided the artery.” That’s what Yi Seok tells the emergency team on the phone. “Got stabbed” “I avoided ?” no reference to any suicide. Although I suppose he’s already lost his memory at the time he speaks these words.
And it’s not as if Yi Seok’s behaviour afterwards indicated anything but is guilt. He blanks. He cannot remember what happened (why would he forget that he is innocent?). He threatens Doo Soo instead of answering his questions. When Hong Do explains him why she is convinced that he is the culprit, he looks at her stunned. He goes back to his clinic convinced that he did stab the man and attempts to commit suicide.
Hong Do’s argument too is a strong indicator of Yi Seok’s guilt. As she witnesses the tragic event she takes a second to check the orientation of the pen-holder on the desk to see whether it could have been grabbed by the patient… but it’s turned toward Yi Seok’s seat. It isn’t a flawless reasoning but it convinces her and Yi Seok’s of the latter’s guilt, so I believe that this element represents more in the universe of the show than it does in ours.
The thing that made me tick “Yi Seok did it” in a corner of my head when I first watched the show is the fact that the man never actually confirms Yi Seok that he tried to kill himself nor does he explain why. Morever, when Yi Seok wonders: “Why did you do that ? Most people commit suicide secretly in a place that is empty” the man has a laugh of contempt. Of course, we’re told that he certainly did it in front of Yi Seok as a call for help because the psychiatrist wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying, and that’s also what the guy reproaches him. So he could be chuckling with contempt because, as he says, Yi Seok is paying attention to him now that he’s seen his daughter… the thing is, Yi Seok asked the exact same question just before when the daughter wasn’t there.
So, I believe it is easy to accept the fact that Yi Seok truly attacked this man. Then, the patient shouts “kill me” but it’s an entirely ambiguous sentence that could have followed an attack of Yi Seok or the psychiatrist jumping on him in order to prevent him from stabbing himself to death.
But why protecting Yi Soek ? Why helping a man who, instead of curing him, nearly killed him? That’s where my reflections stopped the first time I saw the show.
Then I realized that the patient’s attitude is exactly the one of a man who’s been paid to shut his mouth. I know, it transforms the show into a thriller and it feels awkward. But once you’ve accepted that Yi Seok stabbed the guy, there’s a need for a reason why the latter would shut his mouth and it really doesn’t look like it is out of sympathy that he did it.
So we have a guy who cannot explain why he tried to kill himself, who react badly when he hears the phrases “commit suicide” and who eventually finds a reason to tell Yi Seok “I never want to see you again.” To me it’s the exact pattern of a situation where the man has been paid to say that Yi Seok didn’t attack him and to put an end to his relationship with him.
However, such a theory isn’t acceptable without several other elements: an amount of money has to be alluded to at some point. For example, if the patient had had a crown with diamond on his head when Yi Seok entered the room we would have directly thought of the “he’s been bought scenario.” WAIT !
We also need a culprit and a motive.
But actually, it’s not the patient’s behaviour that made me think of the "bribing" scenario but one mysterious sentence uttered by Doo Soo Jang’s colleague, detective Yang. Jang and Yang are eating in a small shop, just before the first apparition of the running naked woman. Earlier, Doo Soo called Hong Do and because Yi Seok answered, Yang concluded that Yi Seok and Hong Do had begun to like each other at the police station and were now a couple. So both detectives talks about this while eating Hond Do’s porridge.
Yang: Oh, this porridge is from another world. Where is it from ?
Jang: Somewhere, kid. Why do you always want to know ?
Yang: Hong Do’s ?!? Do you like her ?
Jang: Why are you talking nonsense ? You don’t have a clue. (He takes his phone out.) I wonder if she got home ok.
Yang: Aigoo, you’re so dull-witted. You really don’t know anything, Hyung.
Jang: She was attacked at the police station yesterday. If you were me, wouldn’t you feel concerned ?
Yang: I don’t feel concerned. I don’t feel concerned, not one bit.
I was shocked at Yang’s very dismissive comment. How could he insult his partner like that ? And then I realised that as he thinks that Hong Do and Yi Seok’s slept together, she certainly is far from being afraid of being attacked by the man. At this point, I took the time to put myself in Yang’s shoes and what I saw was pretty funny. From the start he is absolutely convinced that Yi Seok is guilty but the sole witness won’t open her mouth. In 99% of any thriller, it means the witness is on the side of the murderer. Then, Yi Seok finds a way to be on his own with Hong Do for several minutes. Eventually, the guy at the hospital wakes up and tells everybody that Yi Seok is innocent. To Yang, Yi Seok and Hong Do schemed something together so that the victim wouldn't open his mouth and when Doo Soo calls Hong Do and it is Yi Seok who answers, Yang gets his last piece of evidence.
It made me laugh to imagine this guy constructing Hong Do and Yi Seok as some kind of Bonny and Clyde couple, but then I realised that the guy at the hospital truly behaved as if someone had bought him. Simply, it’s Hong Do on her own who did it, Yi Seok isn’t part of the plot.
Her motive is very easy to spot: At the police station Yi Seok manages to make her speak. It’s very simple but isn’t it obviously sufficient? She lives a miserable life because of her anthrophobia and the psychiatrist whose book gave her hope, actually manages to make her speak in two minutes and this not even during a consultation. As soon as he realises that she suffers from anthrophobia, he insults her (“You don’t have any friends, right ?”) so that she loses her inhibition and it simply works: it opens her mouth.
Adding to the fact that she has a strong motive to get Yi Seok out of this mess, she is one of the only persons who know that Yi he attacked his patient and thus one of the only persons who know that the truth needs to be covered if one doesn’t want to see Yi Seok go to jail.
I also considered that it could be Doo Soo or even Yi Seok’s female colleague who appears in the second episode, but both don’t fit.
Now, the question is, with which money could she possibly bribe Park Man Dong when she states at the beginning of the episode that she either has to beg or move out of her house because her landlord has increased the rent ?
She stole Yi Seok’s gold hearts and bribed Park Man Dong disguised as a grand-mother.
It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well, it is. But I’m convinced that it’s what happened even though I still miss several pieces of the puzzle.
One sentence grabbed my attention at some point because it was so “out-of-nowhere” a bit like Yang insulting Jang. When Yi Seok discovers that his clinic has been robbed, Hong Do appears and he asks her if she is the thief. There’s no reason for him to establish such a random connection. It would be very different if he was the one to see her first, but she calls him. So, this made me wonder if the screenwriters didn’t want us to associate Hong Do with the idea of a thief.
This happens at other moments. In the same episode (2) she indirectly steals money from a cab driver by running away when cops ask him to pull over. When she chooses how she should dress to meet Doo Soo, she qualifies her first outfit as the one of thief: “Are you going somewhere to steal something ?” This could actually means that she regularly goes out to steal stuff and it wouldn’t be illogical one bit. She has anthrophobia, she spends her whole life trying to be as discreet as possible and she has no way of earning a living. Being a thief looks like the right professional path to follow.
And also, where does she get Yi Seok’s book ? Yeah, under her pan, I know. But how did it get there ? The book was released recently, she lives on her own and suffers from anthrophobia. How did this book get in her house ? She stole it from the Go’s house
I won’t dwell any longer on Hong Do’s thief career but I’ll dig more into this "on my own" just to check whether she wouldn’t be some kind of Pink Panther. It would be very funny to discover that she is the chief of a gang of thieves because she wants to attract Doo Soo’s attention. I mean, it sounds like a perfect scenario for a romantic comedy, the female thief who is in love with the detective, all shy in front of him but bold and skilled when it comes to stealing.
I mean, she’s got a good memory but she is actually able to tell Yi Seok the number of gold hearts there were in his office when she passed by. There’s a difference between having a good memory and knowing something that you shouldn’t know in the first place. It is very possible that when he asks her this question in front of Doo Soo, Yi Seok is actually tricking her into trying to impress the detective and clumsily reveal that she is the thief. But she whispers the number to him and suddenly, there’s no CCTV inside the office to help the cops.
So, Yi Seok truly attacked Park Man Dong. The guy was bribed most certainly by Hong Do who stole the gold hearts. Now, when did she steal them ? And when did she find the time to visit and bribe the victim at the hospital disguised as a grand-mother ?
Well, that’s where things get complicated. I know it sounds like I’m simply wrong about all this. But I’m not, or at least if I’m not spot on, the truth cannot be that far from what I’m saying.Still, I’m quite unsettled by the unravelling of the events. If Hong Do had found the time to go to the hospital after her interrogation at the police station, something would have indicated it. For example, I looked for a detail like an unexplained change in the horrible sweater she is wearing. But she is precisely wearing a horrible sweater that one cannot miss. Also, if she steals the gold hearts, how come the police line isn’t broken when Yi Seok comes back to his office ?
If the show wanted to suggest the theft, Yi Seok would have noticed something weird and said “Tsss, these cops don’t know how to do their job” or something like that. But the directing only underlines the presence of the police lines. They are here, perfectly in place, nobody came in the office since the aggression. The elements which should be common place indicators that there is something iffy going on are actually used to underline that nothing is going on. Along the same lines, Yi Seok lying on his sofa and closing his eyes looks like the “longer-than-we-think-nap” trick commonly used to manipulate the timeline. We think he falls asleep for one minute, but he actually sleeps for eight hours and many things happen while he is unconscious. But NO ! It doesn’t work ! And you know why ? Because there’s this journalist who calls him before and just after and who tells him “Hey ! I’m the guy who’s just called you.” So, I am very unsettled that the elements that should usually be used to support my theory are here actively used to contradict it.
I know, I know, it simply means that I am wrong. The thing is, when Doo Soo calls to warn Yi Seok that Park Man Dong woke up and said he hurt himself, he says this: “Park Man Dong regained consciousness this morning. He confessed that he hurt himself.”
This morning ? Which morning ? This morning Man Dong was getting stabbed by Yi Seok. Let me remind you the events of the day :
Yi Seok wakes up at his clinic because he left Wu Yeon on her own in his apartment in the middle of the night. He gives consultations to three female patients who drive him nuts. He cancels a rendez-vous and then sees Park Man Dong whom he stabs. He ends up at the police station with Hong Do. Detective Yang interrogates them for two hours before Doo Soo arrives. Hong Do accuses Yi Seok of being the murderer. Yi Seok leaves the police station and goes straight to Wu Yeon whom he finds with another man. Hong Do realises that Yi Seok has her phone. The man comes back to the clinic, walks around in the office for several minutes and eventually hangs himself.
We’re late in the evening of the same day Yi Seok stabbed Park Man Dong. Which morning is Doo Soo talking about ? Where did the night go by ?
So, I’ll tell you the sole trick I can find to explain all this. I’ll call it the “it happened before” trick, it is used in Ex Machina. Hong Do stole the hearts before the clinic was robbed and before she needed them to bribe Park Man Dong. She stole them on the first time she came, no need for the police lines to be removed. Hence the increasing rent story to retro-actively justify this behaviour of hers. Yi Seok didn’t fall asleep on his couch, he remained unconscious after his car crash in the parking lot.
Hong Do slept, woke up, thought of getting her phone back, realised that her relationship with Doo Soo had evolved dramatically thanks to her interactions with Yi Seok and thought that if the man went to jail, everything would be lost. She dressed as a grand-ma, took the gold hearts and went to the hospital where the ambulance had brought Park Man Dong to wait for him to wake up. When he did, she gave him several gold hearts and asked him to pretend that he truly had attempted at killing himself. Then she rushed back home, changed and rushed to the clinic. I’m saying “rush” because she is not pushed by the desire to get her phone back. She is the sole witness of Yi Seok’s attack on Park Man Dong, the man is a potential killer, why would she visit him on her own, at night, on the day she has given a testimony against him ? We are supposed to believe that she wants her phone back because there’s Doo Soo’s phone number in it and she is in love with Doo Soo, yeah right but we see her recite this exact phone number five minutes before. She doesn’t need her phone and even if she needed it she wouldn’t try to find Yi Seok for that reason on that exact night.
The truth is, I believe, she knows Yi Seok to be in danger and she truly is doing everything she can to avoid the worst, which she eventually does. She saw his face when she tells him he is the one who stabbed Park Man Dong.
One thing that always amused me was her superhero entrance at the end of the first episode. But if she did everything that I think she did, it seems appropriate to picture her as Yi Seok’s superhero.
Ah and finally, when they visit Park Man Dong at the hospital Hong Do very specifically tries to hide her eyes (If she was disguised as a grand-ma, her eyes could betray her more than her face) and turns her back to the man. In the corridor she isn’t that scared of people, but Park Man Dong seems to strangely terrify her.
Anyway, that’s it with this incredible theory that I had a lot of fun unearthing. I love Heat to Heart and I’m really admirative of Lee Yun Jeong and Lee Jeong Ha’s work, I really hope they’ll work together again in the future because their collaboration has already paid off.
There’s one last think that I’d like to talk about. It isn’t an important element but to me it shows how subtle Lee Jeong Ah’s writing is. After she’s cut the tie to prevent Yi Seok from suffocating, the man scolds her for her accusation, as he thinks he wasn’t the culprit in the end. “Because of you I nearly died. Live alone in your helmet.”
Hong Do doesn’t answer, until he’s left the room: “That rotten bastard, I saved him.” If truly he was innocent she would have apologized, overwhelmed with shame. Yi Seok’s anger would be very understandable and Hong Do wouldn’t qualify him of “rotten bastard” or of “psycho” later on. But he is guilty, when she says “That rotten bastard” she still considers him so and the “I saved him” doesn’t refer to cutting the tie but to Park Man Dong pretending that he made a suicide attempt.
If truly she meant that he should be more respectful because she’s just saved his life, she would have told him straight to his face. That’s exactly the kind of things she is able to say. But instead, she keeps it to herself and whispers: “That rotten bastard, I saved him” she could have added “but he cannot know.”
Then she drops the pair of scissors, that’s the detail I’m interested in. Why would the director film this with so much emphasis (variation of focus)? And why having Hong Do drop the scissors like that instead of just ending the scene on her previous line ? Because dropping the scissors is a meaningful act as opposed to a practical one. At some point she’s taken the decision to do everything she could to get Yi Seok out of his miserable situation. Once he’s left the room, she can breathe for the first time since she’s started running to help him. And she does take a deep breath, and then drops the scissors because “it’s done.” If she had only come to the clinic for her phone and saved his life by coincidence, the scissors would have remained a tool to put back in a drawer. Here, they’re the last element of a long serie of initiatives aiming at saving Yi Seok. That’s how subtle Lee Jeong Ha’s writing is. I’m not saying that I’m necessarily right but that I’m convinced that there is a meaning of the kind attached to this shot.