Equator Man: Episode 17
This is one of the greatest episodes of television I’ve ever seen, hands down. Intensity has always been the name of the game in Equator Man, but this was blow-your-mind, commit-this-to-memory, I-want-my-mommy kind of intense. My heart was in my throat by the opening sequence, and it all but jumped out of my chest in the final minutes. Simply put, this episode was a masterpiece. A deeply disturbing, incredibly thrilling masterpiece.
As for ratings, Equator Man has kept its first place lead so far (no surprise there, we won’t be getting an upset this late in the game) and rose to 15.1% this episode from 14.6% last week.
EPISODE 17 RECAP
A twist from the Sun-woo/Jang-il partnership is revealed, in that Sun-woo never hung up the phone from calling Prosecutor Joon-ho, allowing him to secretly listen in on Jang-il’s “your father was killed by Jin No-sik” speech. Nice.
It’s back to the Law Firm Live show, where Sun-woo almost outed Jang-il. We find the two sitting in the empty audience after the show, with Jang-il asking what sort of game Sun-woo just tried to pull. “Oh that…” Sun-woo says with a smile, “It was just a warning for you, so that you don’t stab me in the back again.” Ha.
The two go back and forth on their shared past, with Sun-woo surmising correctly that Jang-il didn’t try to kill him for his father, but for his own future. Sun-woo shows mercy in that he doesn’t want Jang-il to become a murderer’s son (so he’ll keep their little secret)… But strangely enough, when Jang-il turns back to talk to Sun-woo, he’s gone. Were we in a dream or a flashback? Did Sun-woo turn superhuman?
Chairman Jin finally confronts Yong-bae about Kyung-pil being alive before he hanged him. For the first time Yong-bae fights back – if Chairman Jin is trying to peg this whole thing on him, he won’t go down alone. It turns into a contest of Who’s More Morally Bankrupt, with Yong-bae answering Jin’s taunts by exclaiming: “You’re the devil. Aren’t you even afraid of divine retribution?”
Short answer: Nope. Yong-bae is forced to flee the room once his wife and stepdaughter enter.
Not Dad Tae-joo finds his Not Son Sun-woo practicing kendo, and questions his motives in wanting the statute of limitations to expire so he could take matters into his own hands. Sun-woo plans to keep putting pressure on Jang-il until he loses it, because there will be no forgiveness for him, Chairman Jin, Soo-mi, or her father.
The question of parentage finally comes up, though Tae-joo avoids answering directly on whether he’s Sun-woo’s biological father or not. He admits that he loved Sun-woo’s mother, only she already had a fiancée – Chairman Jin. They don’t really reach a consensus, though Tae-joo offers to take a paternity test if it will ease Sun-woo’s mind. The question remains: Will it?
Soo-mi calls Jang-il in a panic to ask if he took the Wall of Crazy paintings… because they’re gone. At first he thinks she’s trying to trick him, but soon seems just as worried that they might have been taken. Good, you two need to stew a bit.
Joon-ho wonders if the caller for Law Firm Live was the Kim Sun-woo that they know, which prompts Jang-il to lie and say that it was just some crazy person. Chairman Jin is set to come for questioning later, even with the statute expired, and Jang-il tells his colleague that they need to talk about a certain Lee Yong-bae first…
So the betrayal of Chairman Jin begins, since he’s mighty surprised that Jang-il has called him to the prosecutor’s office only to have Joon-ho do the questioning. Things heat up fast as Joon-ho produces paper evidence of Jin’s under-the-table dealings. Starting to sweat, Chairman Jin asks for another prosecutor (I’m sure he means Jang-il, who he thinks he can manipulate).
He insists, much to Joon-ho’s dismay, and Jang-il finally takes over. Chairman Jin thinks that manipulating the law is that easy – that he can leave just because Jang-il has taken over. That couldn’t be much further from the truth as Jang-il produces the picture of Jin, Tae-joo, and Kyung-pil together.
Oh man. Jang-il mentions that Kyung-pil was at Chairman Jin’s house the day before he was found hanging, and asks if Chairman Jin killed him. Just like that? Wow.
With a smile, Chairman Jin asks, “Why would I?” Jang-il presents the evidence: the chief detective’s testimony that Jin tried to get the police chief to drop the case, the picture, and a witness that heard the two of them arguing – Lee Yong-bae. At the mention of the name, Chairman Jin’s self-assured smile swiftly disappears.
No time is wasted and Yong-bae is brought into the same interrogation room for cross-examination while Chairman Jin is still there. Though Chairman Jin is being investigated for fraud and the statute of limitations for Sun-woo’s case has passed, Jang-il is using the murder investigation under the umbrella of it being related to Jin’s corruption in order to make it relevant. He can’t be punished even if he’s convicted, just like Sun-woo said, but the public won’t be as forgiving.
Jang-il interrogates his father on why he’s only choosing to tell the truth now, which he claims is a result of Chairman Jin trying to peg the murder on him. Chairman Jin: “Why are you lying? You said that you would kill that person for your son’s scholarship. You watched me argue with him, and you killed him for that.”
But he’s very aware of what’s going on – that both father and son have turned against him, and says as much when he gets home. He tells Secretary Cha that there will be a “change of plans.” Uh oh.
As Sun-woo gets ready for the gallery opening (of the Wall of Crazy paintings), Ji-won looks more and more ill at ease. She knows better than anyone what Sun-woo had to go through when he was blind, but she doesn’t want him to go any further than this. She doesn’t want him to get blood on his hands, or for him to get hurt.
Sun-woo: “You’re the one who broke Jin’s windshield. What made you so weak now?” Thank you. It’s nice that someone noticed.
So she comes clean with him on why she wants him to let it go: “I may become the bigger devil than you if I were to take matters into my own hands.” I hear much thunder but I see no rain, Ji-won.
Meanwhile, Chairman Jin calls Sun-woo to ask about the person who sent the letter (Kwang-choon). Sun-woo claims he hasn’t heard from him in days, but will call when he does.
As for Soo-mi, she finds out where her paintings are when the gallery opens, introduced by Chairman Jin’s wife and stepdaughter, Yoon-joo. Soo-mi comes storming in, causing a scene when she grabs Yoon-joo by the arm.
The two girls have it out with Yoon-joo refusing to take down the paintings and Soo-mi in near-hysterics. But it’s Sun-woo who intervenes by saying that he wants to buy the paintings, and Soo-mi immediately quiets down. You can see the thought running through her head: Does he know?
Sun-woo’s blasé attitude has Soo-mi on edge as he tells her that even if she sues him, the paintings must stay up. “If you take the paintings down, I will tell the reporters what the paintings truly mean,” he threatens. She tries to grab him and plead for him to listen, but he takes her wrist and pushes her against the wall. “What’s your excuse?” he asks, as she ineffectually tries to stutter out that it was all for his own good. He uses the hold on her wrist to pull her, hard. Whoa. This is getting intense.
Sun-woo: “If you say one more word, I will snap this wrist. You won’t ever hold a brush again. I will dig out your eyes too, so that you can’t paint ever. All you have is painting. You watched me getting beaten like that, and you didn’t do anything? Your father watched my father die, and didn’t do anything. You watched me dying and didn’t do anything. Why? Was it for Jang-il? But does he even look at you now?”
Whoa. Sun-woo has turned the Intense-o-Meter up about ten notches, because he is genuinely frightening. His whole body exudes menace as he throws her to the floor the second she tries to free herself from his grasp. Yikes.
He kneels in front of her, at eye level now. He wants to know what made her come take care of him every day that he was blind. Was it a sense of guilt? Was it fun?
“I don’t care about anything other than you destroying Jang-il,” Soo-mi manages to eke out. He sneers, “You think you can have him if he’s destroyed? Even if Jang-il gets to the bottom, he won’t see you. You kept Jang-il’s secret. Was it fun for the last thirteen years? Were you happy to see me come back alive? ‘Should I sell the secret to you, or to Jang-il?’”
She tells him it’s true, that’s what she thought. “Choi Soo-mi,” Sun-woo tells her. “You’re out of your mind.”
And from that violent scene Sun-woo emerges smiling into the cameras of the press swarming the gallery, explaining that he was one of the models in the paintings. Chairman Jin’s wife fills in that the other model is none other than Seoul’s favorite prosecutor, Lee Jang-il.
He tells the press that he, Jang-il, and Soo-mi made an oath then the paintings were created that they’d all achieve their dreams and see each other fifteen years later to paint the same thing again… Only with the story changed to where Sun-woo is hitting Jang-il. He says all of this with a smile, like it’s all pretend, but it sends shivers down my spine. He even invites the press to see the scene this weekend. Good gracious.
We cut to a tense dinner between Kwang-choon and Sun-woo, with the older man apologizing for his inability to keep his word. He volunteers to go to the prosecution again, but Sun-woo tells him it’s of no use – the statute of limitations has expired. Kwang-choon seems faintly relieved.
He gets a very unwelcome surprise in the form of Chairman Jin, who’s shown up at Sun-woo’s behest to hear what Kwang-choon saw on that night. Oh. Damn. I see what Sun-woo is doing here – but by outing Kwang-choon to Chairman Jin, isn’t that as good as leaving him for dead?
And Kwang-choon has the nerve to ask Sun-woo why he’s doing this to him. (Really, Kwang-choon? Really.) Sun-woo makes up an excuse to leave the two of them alone, which is just like leaving the fox to guard the henhouse. Sun-woo smiles to himself once he’s outside – he knows what he’s doing.
Kwang-choon, to his credit, tells Chairman Jin everything he saw on the night of the murder. But when Jin asks him if he blackmailed Yong-bae (which means he’s the one who blackmailed him), Kwang-choon goes quiet. Caught.
In another corner of the restaurant, Sun-woo sits with Yong-bae and asks for the truth about that fateful night. “Was my father alive back then? Did you kill someone that could have been saved?”
Yong-bae’s eyes go wide as he stutters out that it’s all a lie. In his version of the story, Chairman Jin killed Kyung-pil and he just hung him on the mountain at Jin’s request. He denies to the end that Kyung-pil was alive when he did it, and when Sun-woo brings up Jang-il’s scholarship as a result, Yong-bae jumps to his son’s defense.
But Sun-woo reminds him that, just like Jang-il is to him, he was once a precious son to Kim Kyung-pil. Yong-bae lowers his head: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Sun-woo.”
So Sun-woo acts like he believes Yong-bae and is taking his side – he’s a victim too, after all. Only that means they’ll have to find a way to shut Chairman Jin up… Ahh, and there’s our angle. Sun-woo is planting the seed to pit Yong-bae up against Chairman Jin, using Yong-bae’s cockroach-like tendency to do anything to survive.
And Sun-woo, the smart avenger that he is, has recorded the entire conversation.
While Chairman Jin reads headlines connecting his name with murder, Jang-il finds his dad staring at a TV screen with Jin’s face on it… Oh jeez, did Sun-woo send him the recording of Kwang-choon telling the story with Kyung-pil being alive?
Turns out he also gave him the poster for the Wall of Crazy art exhibit, and it’s the first time Yong-bae has seen the paintings. Jang-il fills him in that Kwang-choon is Soo-mi’s father, which sets Yong-bae into a panic, saying that he should have killed Sun-woo when he could.
Jang-il can’t think his way out of this one, and urges his father to be quiet. “How far are you going to take me down? Why are you doing this to me?!”
But Yong-bae seems to be on the edge of his sanity as he explains that he only wanted to raise Jang-il well – he had a smart son, but no money. Anyone who has raised a child would understand. Jang-il tells his father that they could have done without the money.
Jang-il: “Father, you destroyed my life.”
Yong-bae tearily asks his son if he wants him to kill himself in repentance and leave a will that absolves Jang-il of any involvement. Jang-il: “Go ahead.” Christ.
Jang-il goes to the gallery to get to the bottom of the paintings. He asks Soo-mi if she’s happy now that he’s cornered, though she wants him to acknowledge her efforts in evading the statute of limitations.
Jang-il: “If you want me that badly, I guess I can force myself to spend a night with you.” Okay, Jang-il. I know she’s terrible and you’re terrible, but you are one cruel bastard. He reminds Soo-mi that his father knows everything now – and that they’ll never work together. Ever.
Meanwhile, Sun-woo & Co. Discuss a mining opportunity they know Jin won’t pass up, while Joon-ho confronts Jang-il about his number showing up in Chairman Jin’s phone record. He’s alerted their superior, and the jig seems to be up. Jang-il knows it too, since he takes his nameplate and looks at it with tears in his eyes.
Chairman Jin arranges a meeting with Ji-won to dangle her father’s company in front of her if she’ll only stop Sun-woo. She’s nonplussed – she won’t be victim to the same trickery he used on her father. She gets up to leave, which prompts Chairman Jin to ask derisively whether a man is more important to her than honoring her family.
And Ji-won throws a glass of water in his face. She warns him, “Don’t you ever talk down on my family or my man, Jin No-sik.” (Dayum! Respect.) It sends her spinning down memory lane, and to the school for the visually impaired that Sun-woo is also at.
Sun-woo laments what’s happened to him and Jang-il. To him, Jang-il “had a friend’s eyes. He hit me because he was cold and lonely.” Ji-won: “Not everyone does that to his friend just because he’s cold and lonely.” True story.
She thinks to herself that she wants Sun-woo to achieve all that he wants, because she loves him. But she wonders if she should go down that same dark path and fight for him.
Sun-woo listens to all the recordings he has of those around him (Jang-il, Soo-mi, Kwang-choon, Yong-bae, etc.) simultaneously lying and listing their crimes. It’s overwhelming.
It’s time for the shoot Sun-woo all but planned for Soo-mi, where he and Jang-il are to act as models for the Murder 2.0 scene. This time they’ve attracted a small crowd of press and Soo-mi directs them while holding the camera… Is this really happening? This is a frickin’ circus.
Only this time, she directs Jang-il to show his back to Sun-woo, with the tree branch put between them. Sun-woo grins darkly – he looks as though he really wants to hit Jang-il.
Chairman Jin’s wife asks Ji-won why she didn’t go see the show, and Ji-won plants the seed of doubt in her that what’s in the paintings may not just be Soo-mi’s imagination.
Back to the photoshoot/show/circus. Sun-woo acts the part of Jang-il, even kneeling down to plead the same way Jang-il once did. Then he takes the branch and stalks up behind Jang-il and raises it as if to truly hit him…
And Soo-mi’s voice cuts in right in time to stop them. Yoon-joo arrives on scene to tell Soo-mi that the rooftop is over capacity and they’ll have to call it a wrap here. (How much do you want to bet that this was Sun-woo’s doing?) When everyone but Sun-woo and Jang-il leaves the rooftop, Sun-woo locks the door to keep anyone else from coming.
He reenacts the scene again, kneeling and parroting what Jang-il once said, pleading with him not to go to the police. “What was after that?” he wonders, and Jang-il seems too bored to care and turns his back.
Then Sun-woo remembers what came after, and stalks up behind Jang-il with the club…and hits him on the back, hard. Whoooaaa okay.
The blow is enough to send Jang-il to his knees. But we know, just as Sun-woo knows, that one hit wasn’t all it took. Breathing heavily, Sun-woo goes through the same motions Jang-il did so many years ago. “And the next was…” he practically says it like an announcement, before he hits Jang-il again.
And then he grabs Jang-il by the collar and runs with him to the edge of the rooftop in a mirror of the cliff scene, with Sun-woo holding Jang-il over the edge. What happened next, he asks his old friend. He’ll drop him from here, and then Jang-il will have to go blind and come to him. Sun-woo: “You want me to push you? Or are you going to jump?”
Jang-il is trembling and frightened. His eyes are wide. “Sun-woo…” he starts. Is he finally going to apologize? Is this it?! “I should have hit you harder, and killed you back then.”
Oh. My. God.
Sun-woo, enraged, hauls Jang-il up to hold him over the railing so that his grasp is the only thing keeping Jang-il from falling to his death below. Jang-il’s face breaks into a strained smile as Sun-woo grapples with his conscience, trying to let Jang-il go… But is seemingly unable to.
I’ve said it in the opening but it’s worth repeating: This is one of the greatest episodes of television I’ve ever seen. I’ve never cried because something was just so intense before, and I’m admitting it because I’m still floored. I’m in complete awe of what was accomplished here. (I’m in a glass case of emotion!)
It’s interesting because this is the Sun-woo I always hoped for – the dark, vengeful Sun-woo – and I was beginning to think we’d never get it. The show just wasn’t building him that way, and his vengeance seemed like it would be a quieter, more legal affair. Do I think there’s a slight disconnect with the Sun-woo of previous episodes and the Sun-woo of this one? Yes. Do I care? Not really. His change into this darker version of himself wasn’t mapped out as well as it could have been, but it’s not like it doesn’t make sense. And it was executed so well that I can’t bring myself to dislike it.
Equator Man hasn’t always been the most even of shows, and suffered its own lulls and lags in storytelling (I wonder what harm the four episode extension would have done), but it’s always been very assured. And when it wanted to be, suspenseful and nail-biting. I’ve been loving that undercurrent all throughout the series, where conversations could have such weight and leave me on the edge of my seat because of the million other things not being said. But an episode like this is a masterpiece, a culmination of all that came before it, with a director who knows how to compose shots for maximum effect. He created the first iconic scene of Jang-il and Sun-woo at the cliff, and because it was so iconic he could recreate it here and flip it so that the power was in Sun-woo’s hands. I was watching the whole rooftop scene through my fingers, it was THAT good.
I also find it a bit of a cosmic joke that what I once said was the worst thing about this series – the music – became one of the best. I don’t know what happened, or who was fired or hired since that first episode blunder, but the orchestral score here managed to elevate scenes that were already teeming with such dark and violent energy into something poetic and amazing.
With such a fantastic climactic scene, I’m concerned as to whether the show can top it as we head into the final stretch. If it does, I’ll try to keep my raving to a minimum. No promises, though.
- Equator Man: Episode 16
- Equator Man: Episode 15
- Equator Man: Episode 14
- Equator Man: Episode 13
- Equator Man: Episode 12
- Equator Man: Episode 11
- Equator Man: Episode 10
- Equator Man: Episode 9
- Equator Man: Episode 8
- Equator Man: Episode 7
- Equator Man: Episode 6
- Equator Man: Episode 5
- Equator Man: Episode 4
- Equator Man: Episode 3
- Equator Man: Episode 2
- Equator Man: Episode 1