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Currently Watching: The Truth – MyDramaList

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Warning: May contain minimal spoilers from episode 0 to 9, 

but absolutely NO spoilers on the murder cases.

Scared Zhou Shen screams bloody murder that shakes the entire building. 

(Note: For anyone who does not know, he is an OST singer with a powerful voice).

Following MangoTV’s success in their Who’s The Murderer series, Tencent attempts to compete with their new murder mystery role-playing-game (RPG) TV show called The Truth. They found an odd looking 20,000 square meter building by the sea in Yantai, Shandong, and in about 100 days they built the set of the game called Apartment 11. Six participants, who are all Chinese entertainers, moved in as new tenants for 11 weeks. They encounter strange incidents, and try to solve challenging crime cases with various secrets behind each case. These six new tenants will interact with about 100 non-player-characters (NPCs) who play as the current tenants, apartment staff, and guests. They have their own story lines in this apartment that are intertwined with each other, allowing the audience to follow the plot up to the 11th week in Apartment 11. 

Note: Due to the recent pandemic outbreak in China, the production team could no longer use the original building in Yantai, and moved the filming to Changsha, Hunan, after the second case.

For full enjoyment of the show, you also need to watch The Truth – Pilot, a 27-minute pilot episode (episode 0), that introduces the new tenants and sets up the background of the plot. Below are the details of the main show:

Country: China

  Other Titles: 开始推理吧, Apartment 11, Start Reasoning    

Genres: Mystery, Comedy

Airing dates: 3 Jun, 2022 – 6 Aug, 2022  

Airs On: Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Episodes: 30

Duration: 1 hr. 20 min.

Where to watch:


If you are a Chinese drama watcher, you should already know the six entertainers from their dramas/variety shows/OSTs. In The Truth they role play with their surnames but different given names, their dates of birth but different ages, and different ‘occupations’. The artists were also involved in creating their characters and apartments based on their hobbies, likes, and ideals. Let’s find out who just moved into Apartment 11!

29-year-old Bai San Wan moves into Apartment 602. He is a noodle restaurant owner. In fact, San Wan (三碗) means three bowls (of noodles).

Bai San Wan loves to ride his motorcycle and do outdoor activities. His apartment reflects his interests.

Bai Yu/Johnny Bai

as Bai San Wan

 Guo Qi Lin as Guo Bao You

26-year-old Guo Bao You, or You You, moves into Apartment 608. Bai You (包佑) means Protector Bao, his name is taken after the famous politician from Song Dynasty: Justice Bao.

You You is a mystery novel writer, although he has never published any novel. He moves into a modern and savvy apartment to get inspiration to write. 

25-year-old Liu Xia Lai moves into Apartment 401. He is a pet caretaker. Xia Lai (下來) means ‘come down’, an obedience command given to a dog by its owner.

His apartment is fluffy, full of animal pictures, gadgets, toys, and a kennel for his dog Barley.

 Liu Yu Ning as Liu Xia Lai

Song Zu Er/Lareina Song 

as Song Piao Liang

28-year-old Song Piao Liang moves into Apartment 605. Piao Liang (漂亮) means ‘beautiful’. She is an artisan.

Her apartment is adorned with colorful threads and yarns, and beautiful potteries and baskets for her craft work. 

23-year-old Zhou Wu Ku, or K-u-k-u, moves into Apartment 406. He is unemployed. His hobby is cosplay and role-play. The first time we see him, he dressed like Tang San, the hero from the Chinese epic fantasy series Douluo Dalu.

Being unemployed, he has all the time in the world to play, as shown by all the fun stuff for entertainment at his apartment.

Zhou Ke Yu/Daniel Zhou 

as Zhou Wu Ku

Zhou Shen/Charlie Zhou 

as Zhou Ke Ke

25-year-old Zhou Ke Ke, moves into Apartment 702 with a sea view. As a successful chocolatier, he is indeed a VIP tenant. Ke Ke (可可) means ‘cacao’.

His apartment is the cutest of all, adorned with chocolate, candy, and cookie decoration.

Shen Teng as the 38-year-old Apartment Agent Teng. Although there are creepy incidents happening in Apartment 11, Agent Teng is able to convince the new tenants to stay… with a 50 % rent discount!
He Yun Chen as the 22-year-old Apartment Manager Xiao He. He is a law graduate who is studying for his judicial review, but he claimed he didn’t see a dead body!

The One Who Steals the Show: Zhou Ke Ke

Despite who your favorite artist you want to watch for is, the chocolate maker, Zhou Ke Ke, steals the show with:

His first appearance: teddy bear hoodie and overall full of chocolate and cookie pins.
His yummy home: Since Ke Ke mentioned in the show about “the chocolate factory”, Zhou Shen must have been inspired by the movie  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie is his western name, gotten when he lived in Ukraine. 
Zhou Hao, his alter ego talking pan: with two fried eggs and two sausages. Originally designed by Zhou Shen.
And the fact that the show almost lost the tiny Ke Ke, blown away by the high wind on the first day of moving-in!

As new tenants, these six players face 11 mysterious cases for 11 weeks. They explore different floors and meet the other tenants with colorful backgrounds. The first six weeks reveal the background of the six new tenants, with their intricate relationships with the older tenants. After solving six independent murder cases, the show raises the stakes by combining and interweaving the next four cases. The disclosure of the four cases affects the direction of the main plot development and the final outcome.

For each case, the tenants, who formed a reasoning team, have to figure out the identity of the victims, list the suspects based on the clues, figure out the cause of the death, the modus operandi, the motives, and determine who the real murderer is. The suspects may include the old tenants, guests, staff, even within the six new tenants themselves! The reasoning team then interrogates the suspects, checks their bodies, belongings, their apartments, and other places in the building. Only the killer can lie. The suspects also have secrets they may not want to reveal. Based on the testimonies and evidence, each participant will vote for who he or she thinks the culprit is. The player who votes correctly gets a golden key in each case. If the player is the killer and the majority fails to guess, the killer gets a golden key.


I have never watched any murder mystery TV shows and rarely watch any type of variety show, therefore, my opinions below are only based on the cases I have watched so far.

  LIKES  

MYSTERY: The Complex Cases

Surprisingly, despite it’s a comedy genre, the cases are quite serious and complex. The murder plots are well written, with plenty of intriguing secrets. If you love solving murder mysteries, you may love this show. For this project, Tencent hired He Chen (left image) to lead the production. She is the well known and award-winning producer and director of MangoTV’s Who’s The Murderer and Great Escape series. 

Besides murder cases, the show also covers other criminal and civil cases worthy of lawsuits, such as manslaughter, fraud, identity theft, privacy violation, labor violation, defamation, etc.

The complexity of each case is eminent as players encounter countless secrets to be revealed with passwords and riddles, while exploring places, interviewing people and inspecting objects. The suspicious NPCs are sometimes creepy, hostile, or uncooperative. They usually hide secrets of their own backgrounds they are reluctant to reveal to the reasoning team. To find the clues, players sometimes have to discover hidden places or step into dark rooms, do physical works, such as pushing a heavy object (I can’t spoil you what it is), crawling in the attic or underground, or doing odd requirements such as the example below.

In a case, the players have to perform certain positions according to illustrated instructions to get a clue. Poor Ke Ke has to perform an upside down position, ‘broken bones’ and all, supported by Piao Liang and Xia Lai.

At the end of every case, besides the voting and the revelation of the murderer, there are also the disclosure of missing clue and the professional explanation. In the missing clue section, the show reveals the evidence crucial to their investigation that they overlooked. During the professional explanation, the show invites crime psychology professor Ma Yuan from the China University of Political Science and Law. Mr. Ma explains briefly about the legal aspect of the case, and the players ask questions on legal topics they came across in each case. This section, although short, is informative for the audiences. Besides explaining the Chinese law that may differ from our country’s law, Mr. Ma also implies the psychological, ethical, and philosophical logic behind every case. 

You’re probably wondering about the image on the right. This is one of the many murder cases. The depiction is quite funny in a morbid way. Still, don’t be afraid to watch this show! It’s more amusing than scary, but in my opinion, tho! As Ke Ke, a scaredy-cat, declares:


COMEDY: The Players Interactions

Some players have collaborated before: Bai Yu and Song Zu Er in The Bond (2021), Liu Yu Ning and Zhou Shen in Our Song (2019), and Zhou Shen and Daniel Zhou in Produce Camp 2021. In The Truth, they have to work closely together as a unit. The team’s success or failure depends on the most votes. They can come up with an unanimous theory if they work on revealing the secrets together. For the sake of the unity, they managed to create a name for their reasoning team, taken from their names: Bai Song 1, Guo Zhou Liu 1 Ku (白宋1郭周 劉1酷 ), which homonym is translated as “a pot of porridge for free, a pair of trousers”. 

The second case is my favorite, since the case starts with everyone hanging out together on a lazy morning before strange things happen. With their casual house wear (pajamas and bathrobes), they climb the attic and crawl through hidden passages. In another case, there are also group lunches while discussing the case. The players actually ate their meals, unlike in dramas where the actors pretend to eat the food!

Pajama party at Liu Xia Lai’s home

Their interaction is not only seriously racking their brains to solve the cases, though. There are plenty of funny scenes, either directed or not. Since the show is partially scripted for the case flow, there are unscripted scenes with the players joking around or saying silly words, looking obviously confused, or walking around lost, lol. Below are three examples:

Group is partially directed and scripted. While they are walking in the pitch dark hallway, Ke Ke is a scaredy-cat who holds down Piao Liang and Xia Lai, both practically unable to move forward. Xia Lai suspects that there will be someone behind him who will scare them. But someone in front of them is directed to scare the group. It’s possible the group is not told what would happen, only directed to walk through the dark hallway. Ke Ke and Xia Lai almost got crushed by the others, who jumped back upon hearing a frightening laugh.

Group is directed, unscripted. Ke Ke, Xia Lai, and Wu Ku have to check the live stream posts for evidence. The netizens ask them to form a boy band before they release a clue. Being singers, they have to sing the Into1 boy band song following the Produce Camp 2021 clip. Daniel Zhou was the Into1 trainee. Zhou Shen was also in that show as a vocal mentor, so Ke Ke directed the performance. The entire scene includes the original performance clip. You need to watch the cute Zhou Shen dancing!

Group is not directed, unscripted. This is a behind-the-scenes clip. Piao Liang, who wears a short and tight skirt, cannot pick up her pen from the floor. You You teaches Piao Liang how to pick up the pen gracefully. Guo Qi Lin, besides being an actor, is also a cross-talk comedian (xiang sheng). Xiang sheng (相声) is a traditional performing art in Chinese comedy, and the performers wear changsan, the traditional male long shirt/robe. The group then shows Wu Ku, who later comes in, how to pick up a pen while Ke Ke serenades them with a classic Chinese song!


ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Full of Colors

Besides the compelling legal cases and fun group interaction, this show is highly entertaining in other ways. 

You have seen the player’s beautiful apartments. Not only the players, the resident NPCs who live in Apartment 11 also have homes decorated to their characteristics and occupations. Besides living places, there are other entertainment areas for the residents, such as a theater, shopping area, and service facilities. We get into cases in the apartment operational areas as well. 

The six entertainers wear certain themed costumes in every case. In the first case, when the new tenants show up, everyone wears clothes fit to their personalities, likes, and interests. For example, Bai San Wan, who shows up riding a bike, wears a professional biker outfit. In the second case, when the new have an informal gathering I called a pajama party, everyone wears pajamas, bathrobes, and home clothes. This is the case when they have to climb and crawl. In the third case, everyone is invited to a lavish dinner party, so everyone looks fashionable with party clothes. We’ll also see their outfits in different themes in the next cases. Each player still maintains their own personal style. For example, Bai San Wan, You You, and Wu Ku prefer a more casual and classic look, while Piao Liang, Xia Lai, and Ke Ke opt for showy outfits adorned with accessories.

Below are my favorite outfits for each character. It’s quite a hard pick, because I like a lot more than six!


  DISLIKES  

PRODUCT PLACEMENT

There is a commercial brand that is the main sponsor of this show, and the players have to promote it directly. When it comes to the promotion, I skipped the scenes. But sometimes the item is also used for clues. This part you can’t skip if you are really into solving the mystery.

SUBBING

Tencent provides English subbed episodes quite fast. If you have a WeTV membership, you can watch one new case from Thursdays to Saturdays (3 episodes for a case). If you don’t have the membership, you still can watch a new case only one week late on Tencent’s YouTube channel. However, the subbing can be problematic. I’m not sure if it’s a machine-translation or a human subber without solid script to translate, sometimes I can’t understand their conversation. Not all dialogues are subbed, since the players can speak without a script. They also have to edit the scenes to follow the case plot in the provided episode’s duration, thus some information may get lost. 

The reason I also think that it may be machine-translated here and there (not all), is because of the way they subbed the character’s names. For example, there is a NPC character called Ju Wen Yi. Wen Yi (文藝) means ‘literature [and] art’. The drama translates the character’s name as Literature and Art instead of Wen Yi, which will confuse the audiences. That’s the reason I provided the name meaning of the six players above, as in some dialogues their names are translated literally. Fortunately, the dialogues are simple, so we can still grasp the big picture.

The show actually provides summaries of each important information and diagrams of relationships and rooms, but since the written screens are not subbed, it’s not helpful for viewers who don’t read Chinese characters (hanzi/汉字). So if you watch this show for the murder cases and want to have your own guesses, pay attention to the scenes and dialogues to make your own assumptions and theories. But if you watch just for the entertainment, you can just follow along with the players making the discoveries.


To conclude this article, I recommend you to watch this show if you’re a fan of the actors or love murder-mystery solving games. As the crime cases are quite complex, I advise you not to marathon-watch it, but one case at a time. With each case comprising of 3 episodes and a total duration of 4 hours long, one case is enough to fry your brain!

Thank you for reading, and ready to be scared?


AcknowledgementsThank you to the editors who edited this article and Enigma05 for the show’s info. Credits: The images are taken from the show’s screenshots. Self-made GIFs are taken from the scenes. Feature image is a collage of screenshots. The producer/director image is from MDL.

bai yu
liu yu ning
zhou shen
charlie zhou
song zu er
lareina song
the truth
murder mystery show
role playing game
johnny bai
guo qi lin
zhou ke yu
daniel zhou

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