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My Perfect Stranger: Episodes 3-4 » Dramabeans

by Amber Simmons

My Perfect Stranger: Episodes 3-4

Our leads each embark on their secret agendas as they settle into 1987 for the time being. But if there’s one thing we all know about time travel, it’s that adding new variables to the past has ripple effects that can change the future. While it’s certain that our time travelers’ presence is causing changes to the timeline, whether those changes are positive or negative remains to be seen.


Kim Dong-wook and Jin Ki-joo in My Perfect Stranger: Episodes 3-4

Since the car is still on the fritz – Hae-joon’s mechanics skills are questionable – Yoon-young and Hae-joon are stuck in 1987 for a while yet. They form a temporary alliance, agreeing to stay out of each other’s business and keep to themselves, but that’s easier said than done.

Hae-joon is baffled by how Yoon-young keeps inadvertently integrating herself into his plans. Not only does she have that matchbox, but now she’s insisting on going to the local high school. Based on the intel Hae-joon got from the convicted suspect, that’s the one place the victims and suspects all have in common.

Thanks to the rampant communist and spy fears of the ‘80s, Yoon-young gets her wish. Her strange behavior and futuristic tech get her reported to the police, and Hae-joon has no choice but to claim she’s a new transfer student to account for her sudden appearance and lack of ID. She’s a smidge older than the other students, but they just claim she’s been held back a few times. (Not that she looks much older than your average drama “teenager.”)

Kim Dong-wook and Jin Ki-joo in My Perfect Stranger: Episodes 3-4 Kim Dong-wook and Jin Ki-joo in My Perfect Stranger: Episodes 3-4

So it’s back to high school for Yoon-young where she poses as a distant relative of Hae-joon’s. And who does Yoon-young meet in the principal’s office first thing but Hee-seob, the other new transfer. While she and Hee-seob glare daggers at each other, Hae-joon has his own glaring match with Hee-seob’s uncle BAEK DONG-SHIK (Choi Young-woo), the local cop Hae-joon blames for fumbling the serial killer investigation.

I love the running bit where everyone keeps commenting on how much Yoon-young and Hae-joon look like their estranged relatives. Principle Yoon is always trying to get people to agree that Hae-joon (who he loves) looks just like him, while Yoon-young is ready to fight whenever someone remarks she and Hee-seob resemble each other. She does fight Hee-seob after he muses she must not have a dad and then agrees her dad sounds terrible when she says he never shows up for her.

Despite how hard Yoon-young is trying to hate this version of her dad, I think his prediction that he’ll win her over might come true. They’re a lot more alike than Yoon-young wants to admit; she certainly gets her hotheadedness and intensity from him. At school, they have a surprisingly sweet moment that catches Yoon-young off guard. Hee-seob takes her to the rooftop to teach her a self-defense trick his father taught him for if the kids try to bully her. Although Yoon-young scoffs that it’s stupid, she uses it minutes later on the head bully who tries to provoke her. Heh.

But nothing can keep Yoon-young down for long because she gets to be desk mates with her beloved mom Soon-ae. Yoon-young is determined to learn everything about her mom and starts seeing her through new eyes. When Soon-ae shares that her mom punishes her for reading all the time rather than doing housework, Yoon-young realizes that’s why Soon-ae always encouraged her to read and wouldn’t let her help around the house.

Yoon-young isn’t about to let anything get in the way of her mom’s happiness now, so she keeps a close eye on Mi-sook. She’s a model student and never utters a mean word, but there’s something creepy about her smile and demeanor that suggests something sinister under the surface. And sure enough, she has Soon-ae edit (more like rewrite) all her writing homework just like Yoon-young does for her in the future. Yoon-young is irate, but Soon-ae claims she wants to do it and refuses to turn Mi-sook in.

Mi-sook’s whole family is off, though, so it’s little wonder she’s so awful. Her older brother KO MIN-SOO (Kim Yeon-woo) offers Yoon-young a ride home from school and shares intel on his sister’s scheming ways. It’s all rather creepy and odd, but it escalates quickly when Min-soo slams Yoon-young’s head against the dashboard. She wakes up in his home, keenly aware of the danger. This isn’t the first time Min-soo has kidnapped (and likely assaulted) a girl. Yoon-young fights him off until Hae-joon bursts in and beats him up before calling the cops.

Kim Dong-wook and Jin Ki-joo in My Perfect Stranger: Episodes 3-4 Kim Dong-wook and Jin Ki-joo in My Perfect Stranger: Episodes 3-4

Ah, Min-soo is the “falsely” accused serial killer in prison in 2021! Hae-joon now isn’t sure what to believe, realizing that Min-soo is indeed a predator who could be capable of kidnapping and killing women. This incident introduces a new variable into the equation since the first murder is only days away and now the primary suspect will be behind bars when it happens in this timeline.

We get to see Hae-joon’s more caring, gentler side as he protects Yoon-young and takes care of her after the attack. When he notices she hasn’t eaten, he even asks a café to stay open late and buys her a snack, eating it with her although he hates it. Yoon-young feels bad for following Min-soo into a dangerous situation, but Hae-joon assures her it is in no way her fault – regardless of her behavior, this should never have happened to her. Neither he nor Yoon-young are the trusting type, but they’re slowly starting to warm up to each other.

Hae-joon continues his surveillance of the other two primary suspects: Hee-seob and fellow student YOO BUM-RYONG (Joo Yeon-woo). Hae-joon learns from Bum-ryong that all the kids use those matchboxes to pass love letters to each other, which means those things are everywhere. So much for that clue.

He’s running out of time because the first victim, a student teacher named Ju-young, arrives in town and goes missing earlier than she’s supposed to. Hae-joon realizes his and Yoon-young’s presence is changing things, which complicates his plans. But then Yoon-young has a realization that could be pivotal to the case.

On the day the new teacher shows up, Yoon-young keeps feeling a sense of déjà vu. It hits her that night – she’s read this exact story. The field day event where the kids all met Ju-young was described perfectly in Mi-sook’s most recent manuscript suspiciously titled “The People I Killed” about a female serial killer. Armed with the manuscript, Yoon-young rushes to find Hae-joon. The episode ends with Yoon-young deciding their meeting is no coincidence and announcing it’s time for some honesty.

Kim Dong-wook and Jin Ki-joo in My Perfect Stranger: Episodes 3-4

While it seems too obvious to make Mi-sook the killer – she could just be taking inspiration from what she witnessed at the time – I do like the twist that everyone might be barking up the wrong tree, and it could be a woman doing the killings. Even so, it’s too early to rule anyone out yet, which means basically everyone is a suspect in this shifty town.

In an epilogue, we see that Min-soo passed Yoon-young on the street in Woojung-ri the night her mom died. And now we know he’s a predator whether he killed anyone or not. That whole family is messed up, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the killings turn out to be a family effort.

Of the possible suspects, I can’t imagine Hee-seob being the culprit, but who knows? Even if he has nothing to do with the murders, I do wonder if that limp Yoon-young mentioned and his future alcoholism traces back to these events. It’s a small village, so I imagine everyone was impacted by the murders in some way or another.

One thing I appreciate that I didn’t expect is the strong thematic element. The drama has been dropping hints, but this episode really drove it home with the direct reference to Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist essay A Room of One’s Own about women needing financial independence and their own space in the world to reach their potential. With Soon-ae, we have a talented woman who has had her voice systematically repressed by everyone around her as she was put into the role of homemaker, wife, and mother without having the opportunity to carve out her own identity. Like the imaginary woman in Woolf’s essay, Soon-ae’s talent is never recognized, and she (supposedly) dies by her own hand.

Given the killer’s note about the dangers of women reading, I’m expecting the murders to directly tie into this theme. If the drama follows through, we could be in for an interesting exploration of the relationship between women, power, and access to knowledge and resources. Or maybe it won’t go that deep and we’ll just get a solid mystery-thriller. Either way, things are getting interesting.

Kim Dong-wook and Jin Ki-joo in My Perfect Stranger: Episodes 3-4


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