Okay, I know Busted! is not *technically* K-pop, but two idols are members of the main cast and several others are guest stars… so I guess I’ll call it “K-pop adjacent.” Plus I love variety shows and I love mystery stories, so this kind of thing is right up my alley. Anyway, the final season of Busted! is dropping on Netflix today! I spent my winter vacation watching the first two seasons as a refresher, and then I had the idea todo recaps for my blog. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to add in a lot of pictures or GIFs because I didn’t plan my time as well as I thought. Apparently, it takes me as much time to write a recap for an episode as it does for me to actually watch it. So I’ve limited the visual elements to what I think is necessary and/or amusing – mostly what I find amusing – but I hope the recap is still informative!
(I apologize in advance, because this will be a VERY LONG post. It’s the first episode, so I wanted to set the scene and get some basic information. The next recaps aren’t quite as lengthy.)
Some Information About Busted!
What is Busted! about?
Busted! is a South Korean variety show and Netflix original. It’s jointly produced by SangSang, a production company that is behind the popular variety show Running Man. (Two members of the main cast of Running Man are also stars of Busted!) In Korean, the title is 범인은 바로 너, which roughly translates to “The criminal is you!” The main cast acts as a team of detectives, and each episode involves them solving a mystery filled with lots of missions and puzzles. Not every episode is the same, but the general format is: find out about the mystery -> gather clues/evidence/suspects -> split into groups and do one or two missions -> reunite and do more missions -> solve the case.
It’s important to note that Busted! is not exactly your typical variety show. It’s actually kind of a mix between a variety show and a drama – although the the cast members use their real names, they’re appearing as fictional versions of themselves and not their real life actor/idol/comedian counterparts. The guest stars (most of whom are actors) are also playing roles: they act as either suspects and/or characters who can help out the detectives. So, it’s kind of like improv – the main cast has a basic grasp of the narrative and the cases they have to solve, but they don’t know what’s actually going to happen. They’re experiencing the story in real time. It’s also worth mentioning that while the team usually catches the culprit, there are times when they don’t. I’m not completely sure how everything works, but I’d be really interested to know if the guest stars are prepped to act out different scenarios depending on how the team does.
Finally, all of the episodes in a season are linked together by a certain theme. In Season 1, it seems like these connections are kind of a coincidence – and you don’t *really* need to remember them to enjoy the show overall. But there are several things that will keep popping out throughout this season, the next one, and probably the third too.
Who are the Busted! cast members?
There are seven main cast members for Season 1 of Busted! All of them were initially given specific detective personas, but there’s not a huge focus on that because they eventually developed their own variety personalities.
- Yoo Jaesuk: Probably the most famous member of the cast, at least to the Korean general public. Yoo Jaeseuk is an extremely well-known and beloved comedian and MC. He has been part of some of the most famous variety shows like Happy Together, Infinite Challenge, and Running Man. He frequently hosts and stars on new shows as well – some K-pop fans might recognize him as a member of SSAK3, a project group he created with older K-pop stars Rain and Lee Hyori. He is considered the leader of the detective team, and possibly the main character (if there is one).
- Ahn Jaewook: One of several actors who are part of the cast. I literally know nothing about Korean dramas, but a quick Wikipedia search says that he acted in an extremely popular one in the 90’s. Most of the cast members abandoned their detective persona by season’s end, but for some reason, Jaewook’s character as a former police detective is the only one that stuck. He also gains a reputation of being easily scared and cowardly, despite being one of the oldest of the group.
- Kim Jongmin: A member of the first generation K-pop group Koyote who has also built a name for himself in the variety world. He is probably best known for the show 2 Days 1 Night – he was an original cast member, and I think he’s the only original member left. In this show, Jongmin is often portrayed as perpetually confused and easily distracted by a pretty face.
- Lee Kwangsoo: A movie and drama actor who also stars on Running Man with Yoo Jaesuk. He is extremely famous for both his acting and variety ventures, and he has earned the nickname “Prince of Asia” for his massive popularity. On Running Man, he is known to be a “betrayer” and easily influenced by money – qualities that he carries over to his persona on Busted!
- Park Minyoung: A successful actress who has starred in several recent well-known dramas. (Again, I don’t know dramas, but this is what my drama-watching friends tell me.) She is originally pushed as the “pretty young woman” of the team, but quickly becomes better known for her intelligence and her ability to quickly and efficiently solve puzzles. She also speaks the best English out of the cast, which is important because many of the puzzles involve a fairly high level of English.
- Oh Sehun: A K-pop idol and youngest member of EXO, one of the biggest K-pop groups in South Korea (and probably the biggest when Busted! started filming in late 2017). This show was one of his first major solo activities. In recent years, he has done a lot of modeling and has started acting as well. Sehun is pretty low-key in the first few episodes, but becomes known for his fierce competitive streak by season’s end.
- Kim Sejeong: A rising K-pop idol. When Busted! started filming, Sejeong was best known for placing second on the first season of Produce 101 and becoming a member of I.O.I. (This was years before the voting manipulation scandal.) At the time of filming, she was also one of the main vocalists of the girl group Gugudan – which sadly disbanded at the end of 2020. In recent years, Sejeong has also been building a reputation for herself as a soloist and an actress. As the youngest of the cast, she is often portrayed as the fresh-faced and eager ingenue.
The Cast of Busted! (from L-R): Sehun, Jongmin, Minyoung, Jaesuk, Kwangsoo, Jaewook, and Sejeong
Episode 1 Guest Stars
(I apologize for the not-necessarily-flattering quality of these photos – I mostly work with GIFs, so it’s a little harder to screenshot good images than I thought. But the aim is really just to give names to faces here.)
(comedian, variety show personality)
(former K-pop idol, variety show personality)
An Important Note
I’ve tried my best to summarize everything in these recaps, but sometimes there are parts of an episode or the overall story that aren’t clear to me. I’m in Korea, so I have Korean Netflix – they have English subtitles for all the dialogue, but not necessarily all of the captions and titles they put in the show. I’m sure that sometimes I miss things, and sometimes I may arrive at the wrong conclusion. But I’ll make sure to highlight the parts where I’m confused or not certain about certain details.
***WARNING!*** THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE EPISODE/SERIES AHEAD. These recaps are written summary style – I’m writing as if I’ve watched these episodes for the first time, but this is primarily aimed towards people who have seen the series before and want to refresh their memory or find answers to certain questions. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE SERIES AND ARE PLANNING TO, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!
Most of the episodes of the first season feature a short intro for a different main cast member. The first person to get this treatment is Yoo Jaesuk, who is introduced as a small-town detective. Walking along the Han River one day, he helps fortuneteller Ye Jiwon by rescuing her cat. She does a tarot card reading for him as thanks, and notes several important things: he seems to have lost an important memory, he will find himself surrounded by a bunch of people soon, and something else that will be revealed a little later.
Jaesuk has also received an invitation to a mysterious dinner party with six other detectives: Ahn Jaewook, Kim Jongmin, Lee Kwangsoo, Park Minyoung, Oh Sehun, and Yoo Yeonseok. (Yoo Yeonseok is replacing Kim Sejeong for this episode.) The host is an enigmatic man named M (Lee Jaeyong) – he notes that “M” stands for “memory,” “murder,” and “mystery.” He implies that this group was brought together for certain reasons, and that they don’t recognize each other because they’ve lost a memory… just like what the fortune teller said. He goes on a brief tangent about his charismatic boss K. M is K’s assistant, along with a man named C. M was in charge of a project, and made a mistake; C made fun of him and belittled him. He also mentions that C is a “genius” but also a “lunatic.”
M explains that this is supposed to be a “murder party.” There will be a blackout, someone will get “murdered,” and the team has to work together to figure out which guest is the culprit. He assures everyone that this is all fake… but it’s not. An extra gunshot rings out in the dark – when the lights come up, M is most certainly dead. In the confusion, they notice a blonde man fleeing the scene in a catering van. They start exploring their surroundings, and deduce that the shot came from the second floor – the party was happening on the first floor, so they’re looking at an outside suspect.
They also discover a gun outside, which is presumably the murder weapon. Next to the gun is a tarot card of a dead man, which unsettles Jaesuk. It’s revealed that the third card he received in his tarot reading also showed a dead man, and the fortune teller warned him to watch out for someone. That card had “No. 1” on it, and seems to be indicate M’s murder. This new card has “No. 2,” so a second murder will be coming.
The team works together to find clues around the house. Kwangsoo notices that all of the pet dogs running around outside have keys on their collars; one of those keys unlocks a room on the second floor of the house. Sehun finds the catering company’s business card. Minyoung unlocks M’s computer by solving a “find the hidden differences” puzzle. She discovers emails from a woman named Rena talking about M’s crazy friend Kim Jeongtae – who they surmise is probably C. Minyoung also unlocks M’s phone by reciting a phrase he said earlier when he introduced himself. (“There is no mystery in this world that cannot be solved.”) They find a picture of M with C at a car wash, and another car wash is scheduled in his phone calendar for that day.
The team splits up into separate groups and follows these three leads. Kwangsoo and Yeonseok go to the catering company to track down the blonde man. When they arrive, they see another worker unraveling a bunch of wire from the truck that came back from M’s house. They spot the blonde man and chase him for a few minutes before finally catching him. He introduces himself as Kangbuk (Kangnam), and he says that he was running away because he stole a fancy pocket watch from the house and he thought they had caught him. He wasn’t actually fleeing the party after M’s murder – apparently a young man called him and told him to leave and drive away once he heard two gunshots; he assumed it was the host. Also, he heard someone installing something when he was stealing the watch.
Jaesuk and Jaewook head out to Ilsan to see Rena (Park Narae), because her emails indicated that she’s not just M’s friend but also C’s ex-girlfriend. They hope to learn more about C and find out where he is. They’re also initially excited because her messages indicated that she worked at a pole dancing bar, but they’re much less enthused when she makes them pole dance in order to get answers out of her. Rena tells them that C is a scientist, he works with computers, and he was bragging about being in charge of a big project. (This is conjecture on my part, but I think maybe this is the project that M made a mistake on – perhaps C took over from him.) Plus he is *very* secretive. And also possibly a megalomaniac. And he’s convinced that someone is trying to kill him. Rena gives them directions to his house, but they’re not particularly helpful because she’s only been there when she was drunk.
Pole dancing is hard, guys!
Jongmin, Minyoung, and Sehun go to the car wash they found about from M’s phone. C isn’t there, but his car is. The three of them must wash a bunch of extremely dirty cars until they find it, and their only clue is that it has a sticker on the windshield. (And all of the cars look alike, because nothing can be easy.) When they discover it, they notice that the sticker is the same mysterious symbol that each of them has on the back of their necks. When they check the car’s GPS, they find C’s address and decide to meet Jaesuk and Jaewook there. They also find a key ring with 25 keys, and a couple pictures of Rena.
These symbols are really important, so we should remember them for later.
Meanwhile, Kwangsoo and Yeonseok return to M’s house and look more closely at the scene at the crime. They deduce that the culprit set up the gun on the second floor and created a type of pulley system. He or she then pulled on it and killed M while on the first floor. The wires of the pulley were attached to the catering van; so when the van drove away, it dismantled the system and pulled the gun outside to the spot where the detectives discovered it. They realize that the killer is someone on the team.
Jaesuk, Jaewook, Jongmin, Minyoung, and Sehun arrive at C’s house and discover that it’s actually more like a lab or some kind of headquarters. They then have to work together to make it through four separate rooms. The first room has a letter board that looks like a compass. Two letters are already on it: N and E. The team has to choose other two letters that will unlock the last door… while the room shrinks and threatens to crush them. They initially think they have to spell out the cardinal directions (NESW), but they soon realize that it’s actually a word. They notice that part of the keyring they took from C’s car can be added to help make a letter, and Rena’s picture on the keyring leads them to deduce that they have to spell out her name. (The rose on the board is another hint, because Rena had roses at the studio.)
The second room has a giant contraption in the middle – it kind of looks like something that kids would climb around on at the playground. There’s a trough of water on one side of the room, and a container with the key on the other. There are small bowls spread out throughout the room, but they’re anchored to elastic bands that seem to have very little give (so they can’t move them around). The team has 30 minutes to fill the container with enough water that the key rises up for them to grab – the idea is that they’re supposed to each take a bowl and pass the water to each other. BUT… the giant structure starts spinning uncontrollably every other minute. Predictably, this is a disaster.
Total and complete chaos.
The third room is filled with colored doors on the walls and the floor. The keys the team found in C’s car open the doors to reveal different numbers and mathematic symbols. One of the doors opens to a basement, where the team finds a board that says “=7.” So, they have to find the doors that will create an equation where the answer is 7. (I’m horrible at math, so I didn’t understand what the answer was and thus didn’t write it down… sorry!) They have to leave those doors open and close all the others, and then they can gain access to the next room. The final room looks like a game board with giant animal statues. One of them is emitting a laser light. Using the other statues and the mirrors on the walls, they have to redirect that light all the way around the room to a statue with a monitor. When they solve it, they get two numbers.
Kwangsoo and Yeonseok arrive in the middle of all these tasks, and they get a separate mission – but it’s difficult. One of them must wear a pair of yellow rain boots, and the other a pair of blue ones. They then have to cross a hallway and make sure that they step on all of the yellow and blue footprints, which are arranged in very difficult spots to reach. If they make a mistake or miss a step, they’ll get pelted with water balloons… which happens a LOT. When they succeed, they can crawl through a hallway to a locked door. On the way, they receive two numbers from a lantern that literally falls on Kwangsoo’s head (LOL). When the two groups put their numbers together, it unlocks the door to the final room and allows them to reunite.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
Everyone finally goes outside to meet C (Kim Jeongtae). He proves to be as eccentric as they have heard, waving a flyswatter around and wearing a Cookie Monster doll in his lab coat pocket. C says that they succeeded all the tests that he prepared. I’m guessing that both M and C were asked to prepare tests for the team, and M would have sent them to find C after the murder party anyway. He calls the team “K’s detectives,” and says that they were part of “Project D.” Created by K, Project D was an experiment that extracted the DNA of famous detectives and implanted it into the team via microchip – which is why they all have the marks on the back of their necks. (The mysterious symbol is Project D’s logo). But there was some kind of malfunction, and K ordered C to completely scrap the project.
C notes that he doesn’t remember which chip he planted in one of them – pointing out Yeonseok as someone different from the rest of the group. Yeonseok quickly pulls a gun (the same one used to kill M), shoots C, and flees the scene. It’s revealed through flashbacks that he was behind everything, even the fortuneteller’s reading at the beginning of the episode. In a voiceover, he says he can’t tell the team everything because he doesn’t trust them yet. Just as the the detectives are recovering from shock, they get a call from a man introducing himself as K. And just like that, the wheels are set in motion.
Next episode: The team learns more about Project D from K, and meets their final member Kim Sejeong. They then travel to Jeju Island to track down some hidden treasure.
NOTE: Most photos and all GIFs are screenshots or screen captures from Busted! Episode 1 on Netflix. The cast photo is from the Season 1 poster, and also belongs to Netflix. Nothing belongs to me, and all images are used here for illustrative purposes only.