I love this episode. So much. It’s mobsters and mayhem, full of twists, awesome thug nicknames, and good ol’ fashioned backstabbing and blackmail. Jung-in’s past finally catches up to her, and the outcome is more fun and more gripping than I expected.
EPISODE 9: “Good Friends”
Crime scene, broad daylight. Soon-bum leans in close to get a good look at the victim’s bloodied face, and immediately shrinks back in fear. You’d wonder what could possibly rattle a homicide detective’s chains, but it’s not so much the gore as it is the guy. He recognizes the victim immediately as a mob boss.
Tae-yeon gives him a look like, what’re you, afraid of a bug? But Soon-bum steps back, insisting they wash their hands of this case and toss it onto someone else. Getting metaphor-happy, he says, “We’ll just get our clothes dirty, and not even collect the dry cleaning bill!”
Tae-yeon gives him a hilarious Whatthefuck Face, and sweeps the dust off of Soon-bum’s jacket, “I think you’ve been wearing these clothes for way too long. I think it might be time for you to take them off!” I wish he meant it in the dirty way, but no, he means being stripped of his prosecutor’s coat.
He shouts Soon-bum’s name and title so loudly that everyone at the crime scene can hear it. Well that’s one way to ensure he stays on the case. They snipe at each other through gritted teeth, and then Tae-yeon flashes him the most adorable smile ever. GAH. If I could bottle that and sell it, I would.
Tae-yeon puts on his sunglasses and vamp-eyes Dead Boss to come to the conclusion that he was attacked and then stabbed. You think? I wouldn’t need to go vampy to tell you that. He does determine that there were two separate assaults though, so that’s something. And he discovers the outer lining of the guy’s jacket cut open, and whatever was inside, gone.
Jung-in rushes up to join them, apologizing for her lateness, and then takes one look at Dead Boss and freezes. Ruh-roh. Looks like she knows him. God, I hope your daddy’s not going to end up on the suspect list.
The coroner shows them a piece of plastic that she found wedged in Dead Boss’s mouth. The team stares at it curiously, and Jung-in rattles off in great detail what it means – the first assault involved wedging something in the victim’s mouth, then covering it with duct tape, as they beat him. They all turn to stare at her.
She continues, noting the broken fingernails, that the second step involved suffocating him with a plastic bag, with his hands still tied behind his back. Then the third step was water torture, all designed to get something out of him, and to make him suffer.
Everyone gapes at her, and she finally realizes the awkward tension in the air. She looks up to see Tae-yeon staring at her, and she runs out before he can interrogate her. He chases her down in the hall to ask what her deal is, how she knows such things.
She says she read it in a book. Ha. There’s just something so saucy about her that I love. He calls her on her bullshit, but she reminds him of what he said to her once – that if she has her own past trauma, that she shouldn’t ask him any more questions about his. She asks him to stop asking, and that strikes a chord with him, not just because they were his own words, but because he has his own secrets to keep and understands. He lets her go.
Soon-bum and Dong-man are busy eavesdropping, and then rush up to Tae-yeon’s side. Soon-bum offers to dig up some dirt on Jung-in’s past, and Tae-yeon snarks at him that if he’s got time, he should go ahead and catch a killer first. Heh. And aw, he’s defending her. Even Dong-man gets in a tsk-tsk for Soon-bum’s ill-timed remark. It’s just not his day.
But he fares better when he goes back to his old stomping grounds, to visit an old friend. We’ll call him Candy Cop, since his desk is littered with gum and candy wrappers. Soon-bum even greets him with a pack of gum, and gets a hearty welcome.
Meanwhile Tae-yeon downs a vial of Dead Boss’s blood, and has a vision of the thing he was killed for – a key marked 713.
Candy Cop fills him in on the current mob landscape. Two gangs: Kangnam and Kangbuk, named after the two districts of Seoul north and south of — what else — the Han River (kangnam = south of river, kangbuk = north of river). Though they’re actually proper names of districts, as gang names, I’m assuming they’re more general, like everything south of the river is the Kangnam Gang’s turf.
Northerly Boss is our victim, also famously neck-deep in gambling debts as of late. And who should be the Southie’s mob boss, but Jung-in’s very own daddy dearest, Yoo Won-gook. We also get an introduction to Nightingale, a once low-ranking henchman, now infamous for cutting up his victims and “performing surgery” all with a smile on his face. Oh, creepy. I like. He was once a Northie, but has since switched teams, to join the southside.
Jung-in marches into Daddy’s lair, not even flinching at the guards trying to keep her out while Dad finishes his business meeting… with a hooker. Dude, this girl must’ve had one messed up childhood. Dad remarks that a young lady shouldn’t be running about so late at night, and she snarks that she’s never really slept well at night, ever since then. Flashback to a young Jung-in, witnessing her father kill a man, using the very methods she recounted in the coroner’s office earlier that day.
She proceeds to question him like a suspect, calling him “Yoo Won-gook-sshi.” Ha. He balks at that, but you also get the sense that he gives her a certain amount of respect as a prosecutor. Perhaps this was her rebellion, to become the one thing potentially more powerful than her father. He says she shouldn’t call her father by name, and she growls back, “Sleeping with my mother does not make you my father.” OH DAYUM.
She asks him point-blank if he killed Northie Boss. Daddy gets up, musing that it sounds like she wants it to be true, and asks if she’s asking him as his daughter, or as a prosecutor. She grits, “As a prosecutor, of course.” He switches to jondae and calls her Prosecutor, and asks if she knows how many prosecutors have come up against him in the past.
Eight, he says, and a good lot of them are now dead. “Accidents… but do you suppose they were really accidents?” He tells her in no uncertain terms to step away from the case. “I’m saying this to you as your father.” Jung-in: “As a father? I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, Yoo Won-gook-sshi.” She walks out.
The next day Tae-yeon returns to the crime scene to follow up on what he saw in his vision. He finds the victim’s wallet stuffed into a hole in the wall. The key’s gone, of course, but he does find a card for Kwangjin personal safe, as in security deposit boxes and the like.
Back at the lab, Dong-man stares at the plastic pieces retrieved from the victim’s body. It’s three letters: O, I, and A. He can’t figure it out, and Soon-bum snatches away the magnifying glass, announcing that he’s an idiot for not knowing. “It’s Korea! K-O-R-I-A!” Hahahahahaha.
Dong-man wonders how he could’ve passed the police entrance exam not knowing how to spell Korea, and Soon-bum’s reply? “When did the “I” change to an “E”?” Pffft. He finally just smacks Dong-man upside the head and says that when he took the test, there was no English on it. “And besides, a Korean prosecutor needs to know hangul! The Joseon language! What’re you gonna do with English? Join Interpol?!”
Behind them, Jung-in calmly tells them that the word they’re looking for is CASINO. She tells them to hit up the mob-owned casinos for a lead. Hee. Dumb and Dumber just stare.
Soon-bum goes back to Candy Cop to compare gambling chips from all the mob-owned casinos about town. He finally lands on a winner with matching letters. The owner? Southie Boss, our very own Daddy Dearest.
Tae-yeon goes straight to the safety deposit box company, and passes a man in the stairwell that gives him pause. But he continues up anyway, and finds the manager tied up on the ground. He runs back down, but the man is gone.
The manager explains that the guy had the appropriate key, but couldn’t pass the security scan as its legitimate owner, hence the force. Tae-yeon asks what was inside, and the manager recalls seeing the man walk out with a tape recorder in his hand. The one usable thing from all this is a fingerprint left behind on the key.
Soon-bum shakes down the lowest man on Southside’s payroll, what he calls “The Ashtray” of Kangnam Gang. God, I love gangster names. They’re so evocative. Ashtray confirms that Northie Boss was in Southie’s casino almost every night, racking up a mountain of house debt.
But strangely enough, Southie Boss continued to let him do it, giving more and more credit, never saying no. Soon-bum figures that North must’ve had something on South, otherwise why the endless credit? Ashtray says it went that way, until last Friday night, when the boss hauled him away, and… that’s the last he ever saw of him.
Jung-in walks into a warehouse where mobsters are busy with some kind of chemical process. I love how she just strolls in all casual and unflinchy. But it’s because they’re Dad’s underlings, who greet her happily. The leader, Nightingale, congratulates her on becoming a civil servant and asks if she came by to say hi. Um, you’re not so bright, are you?
She walks over to the table and tastes the clear liquid. Well that’s brave of you. It’s soju, and she guesses what they’re doing right away – coloring it blue to look like household cleaner, and then shipping it to Japan without having to pay on the alcohol tax. It’s the same scam the Russians used to skip taxes on importing/exporting vodka, from I forget when. Do they still do that?
Anyway, Nightingale asks what department she works for now, joking that she didn’t become a cop, did she, wink wink, nudge nudge? Jung-in: “No, not a cop. A prosecutor.” Their reaction is priceless. He still refuses to believe it fully, and asks what she investigates, (What, do you expect her to say fluffy bunnies?) and as an answer, she slaps a pair of cuffs on him. Heh.
Soon-bum works out his theory with Candy Cop, that South killed North. But one thing bugs him – why would the guy who’s got it all kill the guy who’s got nothing? He says that killing him over gambling debt is amateurish, and not mob-boss behavior. Candy Cop brings up another link between North and South, from the past, when they were once the left and right arm of another boss, who went to jail. Ooh, the plot thickens.
Meanwhile Jung-in’s getting the same backstory from the mob side. Basically the original hyungnim, leader of the Seoul Gang, was put away back in the day by Candy Cop himself. It was his crowning achievement as a young cop. After the fact, the left and right arms broke the gang in half, split into what is now North/South. And as it happens, Seoul Boss is due out of prison shortly.
The thing is, back twenty years ago, the reason Candy Cop was able to get Seoul Boss in jail was because there was a rat on the inside. And Seoul Boss, gearing up for his big return, had recently announced that to the man who caught his rat, he’d bequeath his entire mob family.
Oh interesting. So the Northie/Southie divide is a temporary one, because Seoul Boss entrusted his family to his right and left arms, for the duration of his prison term. When he comes back out, it all goes back to him. This is all news to Jung-in.
Soon-bum gathers that what’s important is that Seoul Boss announced this before Northie Boss was killed. That’s a big motive for murder. And it implies that Northie is the original Rat. The thing is, the only one who would know for sure is Candy Cop, since Rat was his informant, but when Soon-bum pushes him for an answer, he hedges and says he doesn’t know. Hm. He follows it up with a flat refusal to give up his source.
Jung-in comes to the same conclusion – that Northie was the Rat, and Daddy killed him to get his half of the mob family, making him the man who now holds all of Seoul in the palm of his hand. “Ajusshi, don’t trust Yoo Won-gook-sshi too much. You’ll get burned too, just like my mother.”
Soon-bum reports his findings to Tae-yeon, who listens with a hilariously blasé face on, like it’s all great in theory, but this ain’t The Departed. That is, until Dong-man tells him he’s got a hit on the key fingerprint: Southie Boss Yoo Won-gook.
Time to go pay the man a visit. Tae-yeon and Soon-bum approach the row of henchmen lined up at the door, and the first one pulls out a giant knife. Tae-yeon asks Soon-bum if he doesn’t want to turn around and go back, clearly belittling him a teensy bit for being just a human. But Soon-bum says no, he came all prepared and everything, and lifts up his shirt to reveal… a belt lined with handcuffs. Ha.
In an awesome sequence, Tae-yeon beats the henchmen down, one by one, and Soon-bum follows behind, cuffing them to the rails as they go down. It’s both badass and adorable.
He gets to the last one, and inadvertently sheds some bad guy blood, which smells of a tasty snack. It turns him blue-eyed in a flash, and he lunges at the guy’s neck, ready to chomp down.
Soon-bum sees and grabs the guy out of the way, just in time. Putting himself in between vamp and tasty treat, he gets Tae-yeon to snap out of it. Damn, close call.
They make their way inside, where they find pictures of a young Dad with young Jung-in, not that they recognize that it’s her, and a cassette tape in the trash, ribbon yanked out and half burned. They get a call from Dong-man with some curious news…
Cut to the office, where Jung-in is staring at someone with a very annoyed face. And there he is, dear ol’ Dad, just standing there, asking why she’s not offering him tea. Tae-yeon and Soon-bum arrive, and he introduces himself as Jung-in’s father. Jaws hit the ground.
Turns out Dad’s here to turn over the killer – his right-hand man. Oh, that’s not an obvious fall guy or anything. Geez. Right Hand confesses to the crime, even producing the bloody knife as evidence.
Jung-in accuses her father of the crime, with the entire team watching awkwardly. At one point Soon-bum and Dong-man try to get up and sneak away, but she snaps at them to sit back down, all mom-like.
Dad swears he’s never heard of Seoul Boss’s kill-a-rat-have-it-all deal. But he does indulge Jung-in’s question about what he’d stop at to beat his friend to the top. To win, to beat your friend, you don’t work harder than him. No, you simply get rid of him. That’s how you win. He addresses her very properly as Prosecutor Yoo and takes his leave.
Tae-yeon follows him out to ask about the key with his fingerprint. He denies knowing anything about it, and notes that Tae-yeon roughed up his men today. He’ll let it go just this once, but threatens that he won’t stand for it a second time.
Southie Boss then returns to beat Nightingale to a pulp for opening his mouth to Jung-in. He says that it’s a delicate time for all of them, and if they’re not careful, they’ll all end up in the slammer.
Tae-yeon reports to Chief Prosecutor Jang, who sighs at the old cut-off-your-arm-to-save-the-body tactic. He tells Tae-yeon to capture the body, no matter what it takes. Tae-yeon says it sounds like he’s telling him to use unlawful tactics, and Prosecutor Jang replies that he’ll take care of the clean-up.
Tae-yeon replies that he won’t be needing clean-up help because he’ll get his man, and by the letter of the law at that. Ooh. I love that he’s both the stick-in-the-mud law-is-law kind of guy, but also that he’s the cheeky talk-back-to-your-superior guy. He basically just told his boss that he’s not a cheater like him. Snap.
He asks Dong-man if he managed to recover any of the tape. Only twenty percent, but as it turns out, it’s the crucial twenty percent. The team sits down to listen and we see the original conversation in flashback.
There are four men gathered in a meeting – the two bosses, North and South, Nightingale, and Candy Cop. The upshot: the Rat is South, not North, and all four were in on it, to take Seoul Gang and divide it in half. The cop gets a cut for putting Seoul Boss away, and for letting them split the mob family and continue with business.
I knew Southie was the Rat! Soon-bum’s all mixed-up now, wondering why anyone killed Northie then. Jung-in nabs it – Dad didn’t kill the rat, he killed the one guy who knew HE was the rat, and could take the fall. That doesn’t bode well for Nightingale or Candy Cop, does it?
But it’s further complicated by the fact that Candy Cop knew about the tape, because Southie told him about it as soon as he found out. We see Southie telling Nightingale that the cop must’ve killed Northie to try and claim all of Seoul for himself. Nightingale wonders what a cop wants with a mob family, and Southie muses that he’s been a dirty cop for so long that he thinks he’s gangster. And THAT sends Nightingale into a murderous rage.
I love that Jung-in stands up and shouts orders at Tae-yeon and Soon-bum like she’s suddenly the boss, but Tae-yeon just takes it in stride and doesn’t say anything. Jung-in storms into Dad’s office and plays the tape. “Is it you? Are you the Rat Bastard?” Dad trembles for the first time. He turns around and admits it. “Yes, it’s me.”
And then he tells her yet another version of the story: that Seoul Boss sent down the Rat Catcher order, and that Nightingale came to him to confess that Northie had ordered him to record that meeting twenty years ago.
So Nightingale killed Northie, got the tape back, and gave it to Southie to keep their involvement safe and under wraps. At least that’s how this version goes. It’s like freaking Rashomon up in here. Basically the other guys (including Right Hand) were the ones who committed the crimes, but he’s the one who whispered into their ears, to get them to turn on one another.
Dad says that Nightingale and Candy Cop went crazy with ambition and lost sight of the big picture, calling them no different from the gambling addict that Northie became. He muses that if he’s right, they’re busy trying to kill each other right about now…
Which is of course exactly what they’re doing. Jung-in asks if he didn’t want to step down from that position so much that he was willing to kill his friends of thirty years. Dad: “A strong man’s words become truth, while a weak man’s words become excuses. That is the world.”
Meanwhile Nightingale and Candy Cop have an all-out war, and by the time Tae-yeon and Soon-bum find them, they’re lying there bloody, one shot and the other one stabbed. They remain in critical condition for now.
Soon-bum recovers the tape that’s playing – the original one intact – and turns it over to Jung-in. She asks why he’s not dealing with it himself, and he says that he was told to pass it to her. She looks at Tae-yeon curiously, sitting in his office, and listens to the rest of the conversation.
It names the real Rat… as her. Whoa. Nice twist. When she was a little girl, she had witnessed Seoul Boss kill a guy. Oh so what she remembers as Dad killing a guy isn’t Dad? (Not that I doubt he’s killed before.)
She’s the eyewitness, and the one who ratted him out to Candy Cop. The guys in the meeting ask her father what he’ll do when Seoul Boss gets out of jail and comes after her.
Jung-in runs out in a panic. What’s great is that Tae-yeon just watches silently, giving her the space to work this out herself.
She runs back to Dad’s office, demanding to know who the real Rat is. “Is it me?!” Dad whirls around and screams, “It was me! I’m the Rat! I did this!” She calls out to him, calling him “Daddy,” and he tells her he’s never had a daughter like her. Aw, he’s taking the fall for her, AND distancing himself for her benefit? *TEAR* Big Daddy Gangster’s just a big ol’ softie.
He is still a gangster though, and has her escorted away by henchmen, kicking and screaming. She meets Tae-yeon somewhere outside, and walks up hands folded and head hanging. She wonders why he doesn’t say anything, why he doesn’t ask if her father is a mobster, what he’s got to do with this case.
Tae-yeon reminds her that he promised not to ask. “The most painful thing is the hurt you can’t share with anyone. I know what that’s like.”
Jung-in: He’s a bad person. If it’s for himself, he uses people without remorse, throws them away, kills them. That’s the kind of person he is. He’s the bad guy. He’s someone I have to put away. But when the reason he did those bad things is because of me… I can’t call him the bad guy. I can’t even hate him.
Tears fall as she hangs her head. Tae-yeon reaches out his hand to comfort her… and then stops short, just behind her shoulder. He pulls back and heartbreakingly watches her cry, wanting to comfort her, but unable to get close to her.
Seoul Boss gets released from prison, and Dad picks him up. They sit by the river (No, not the river!) and he reports that Northie and Nightingale were the rats, that Candy Cop was on their payroll, and he took care of it.
Seoul Boss just turns to him and asks, “How’s your daughter?” Oh no. Dad panics, and in a flash, he grabs the old man’s cane… and beats him to death with it, just right there, in broad daylight. Yeesh. Gangsters by the river. You KNOW someone’s gotta die.
Guess he’ll have all of Seoul after all.
Tae-yeon and Soon-bum follow up on Bread Lawyer Ji-hee’s disappearance. They find the phone booth where she called him, and her blood trail, going from the booth down the street.
Tae-yeon stops at the end of the trail and takes a taste. “I see nothing.” What? Did something happen to her eyes like that other victim?
“She’s still alive.”
What a fan-friggin’-tastic episode. The last few have really hit the money on integrating our main characters into the murder of the week, and this one takes the cake with Jung-in’s backstory and her intensely complicated relationship with Dad. Also I love the mobster world that the murder takes place in, so it was even a fun murder plot alone, just made better by Dad’s evil genius.
I love the complexity of Jung-in’s past, which clearly informed her choices to be a civil servant and eventually a prosecutor. She begins the episode treating Dad like a petty thug with a big ego, and posturing behind the safety of her title. But when the twist comes, and it’s evident that Dad puts her above all else and that protecting her is the motivation behind these crimes, she finds herself at a complete loss.
In the total opposite of where the episode begins, she ends up in the moral gray, while Dad’s world is clearly black and white. For him the choices are clear and simple. He protects his daughter, at any cost. But that knowledge is the thing that sends Jung-in’s world into a tailspin, and she goes from black-and-white-letter-of-the-law to confused and muddy gray. It’s such a nice reversal, and a great place to take her character.
I love that Tae-yeon doesn’t try to solve her problems for her. He doesn’t pry, he doesn’t try to protect her, and he doesn’t even so much as give her one moment’s doubt about where her loyalties lie. Any other boss would’ve questioned her, asked her if she became a prosecutor to protect Daddy’s interests. But he takes a backseat and he trusts her, which is just plain awesome. I don’t think it would’ve killed him to comfort her when she was facing her moral crisis, but I love the tension of that moment. If he felt nothing, if it meant nothing, he wouldn’t have stopped short. And though it’s not exactly a confession of love, it’s enough of a conflict that it totally makes me swoon.