This is a heartwarming episode. Sometimes this show throws cases at us that don’t matter much in the scheme of things, even if there’s a relevant theme to be gleaned from them. But when our newest victim is Soo-sun’s mom, everyone has an emotional connection to the case of the day, and when the team goes into action to take care of one of their own, there’s always that little extra pep in that episode’s step.

 
SONG OF THE DAY

Coffee Boy – “내가 니편이 되어줄게” (I’ll Be On Your Side) [ Download ] I’ve posted this song before in a recap of I Hear Your Voice, but it’s used in this episode, which I guess means I’m not imagining the overlap in themes.

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EPISODE 13: “I’ll be on your side”

In the wake of Soo-sun’s mom being beaten by the crazy chaebol bag lady, Dae-gu shows up at the offender’s house to question her. No one is more surprised to see him than Assemblyman Yoo, who turns out to be Birkin Bitch’s father.

Assemblyman Yoo takes everyone inside and watches the video that Dae-gu shows him, and Madam Yoo squirms a little. Her son doesn’t seem the least bit surprised at his mother’s insane outburst, and her husband remains silent.

Dae-gu doesn’t get a straight answer out of them about anything, including Soo-sun’s mom’s whereabouts, so he leaves his card and tells them he’ll simply return with an arrest warrant so that she can be charged officially for her crime.

It’s a ballsy thing to challenge Assemblyman Yoo with, and the grandson even acknowledges Dae-gu with a thumbs-up on his way out the door. It’s too early to tell if he’s a psychopath like Mom and Grandpa, but he seems to rather enjoy watching Mom get grilled by the cops.

Once Dae-gu leaves, Assemblyman Yoo blows his lid, and Madam Yoo just breezes that she’s covered legally. Unsurprisingly, her father is most concerned about that video going viral, and what it does to his political career. He orders his son-in-law to act like he gives a damn, but the husband gives a clipped reply that there doesn’t seem to be much he can do to help, and pretty much washes his hands of it.

Back at the station, Soo-sun is still calling Mom repeatedly to no avail. Tae-il fills Pan-seok in on the case, and then finally Soo-sun gets through to Mom who tries to come up with a lie to keep her away. Soo-sun yells back that she knows Mom is injured, and demands to know where she is.

Pan-seok makes sure to go with her, and when they arrive at the dingy nightly motel where Mom is hiding out, Soo-sun asks to go in alone. Mom cautiously lets her in and then hides in the corner of the dark room, and Soo-sun has to force her to turn and look at her.

Ugh, I can feel my heart in my throat. Her face is covered in cuts and bruises, and she’s desperate to hide her shame from Soo-sun. She tries to explain it away like she just fell, not knowing that the entire world has seen the attack on video. Soo-sun struggles to hold back her tears, and asks what happened to make that woman beat her up like this.

Mom is shocked and embarrassed that Soo-sun somehow knows, but still refuses to explain what happened. She tells her not to ask, and assures her that she was hit because she deserved it. Well now I’m raging mad, if Birkin Bitch made her think she deserved that.

Soo-sun just gets angry at that response, and Pan-seok chooses a good time to knock and intervene, since I think Mom isn’t likely to be honest while trying to be strong in front of her daughter. She’s embarrassed all over again to be meeting Soo-sun’s boss like this, but he’s respectful and calm, and explains that the person who should be afraid is Birkin Bitch, not her.

He reinforces the fact that she was the wronged party here, and if he’s this upset about it, how must Soo-sun feel? That gets through to her, and she finally bursts into tears and tells them what happened. We go back to earlier in the day, when Mom was confronted with the ridiculous 50,000,000-won price tag on the bag she mistakenly took for her imitation version and damaged.

When she asks for leniency in coming up with the money, Madam Yoo happily offers her a contract that states that Mom accepts 50,000,000 won as recompense for “the incident that occurred at W mall,” including physical and emotional trauma, which is then forfeited to repay the cost of the bag that she damaged.

Mom doesn’t really understand the contract, but figures that it means she doesn’t have to pay for the bag, and signs it. As soon as she does, Birkin Bitch beats her repeatedly with the bag, and we see that one of the attendants in the VIP room caught the whole thing on her phone.

Soo-sun just tries to keep her cries silent as Mom tells her story, and then Pan-seok asks for her copy of the contract and takes them to the hospital. Soo-sun only gets as far as the hospital corridor before the tear dam starts to burst, and she makes a quick excuse so she can be alone to have a good cry.

She sits there for a long while just letting herself sob out loud, and the boys arrive behind her. They watch her for a moment with heavy hearts, and turn around to leave her alone.

They can barely look directly at Mom sleeping in her hospital bed, and Soo-sun thanks them for coming by, and sends them home. As soon as they get outside, their anger flares back up as they ask each other what kind of human being does this to another. Dae-gu says that Mom was treated like a bug, not a person, and Gook rallies the boys that they will close this case themselves, no matter what.

Gook wakes up the next morning to find Tae-il making porridge for Soo-sun’s mom, and Dae-gu already gone. He shows up at the hospital with a bouquet of flowers, and Mom lights up at the sight of him, calling him “my son Yong-ah.”

She says that Soo-sun told her last night about who he really is, and declares, “As of today, you’ll be my son, okay? Call me Mom.” I think I’m gonna cry. He gives the tiniest little, “Yes,” in response, and then Mom momentarily forgets that she’s in pain and fawns over her son, wanting to jump out of bed to get him a drink.

He stops her and hands her the flowers he brought, and she acts like it’s the prettiest thing she’s ever received in her whole life. Gook and Tae-il arrive shortly after, and she fawns all over again when her other two sons present her with homemade porridge.

They take Soo-sun out to eat, and Gook promises her that they’ll catch Birkin Bitch. She doesn’t have her hopes set very high since Mom signed that contract, but Dae-gu says it’s illegal to begin with and they’ll fight it. She thanks them sincerely, regardless of what the result will be.

She encourages them to eat up, and scoops a spoonful of chives onto Dae-gu’s stew. He starts to make a noise to stop her but he’s too late, and she asks if he doesn’t eat chives. He hesitates, and then lies that he does, adding another heaping spoonful to his bowl.

Gook and Tae-il’s eyes bug out and they watch slackjawed as Dae-gu scoops a mound of chives and shoves it into his mouth without a word of complaint. It’s written all over his face that he hates it, but he swallows and makes sure that Soo-sun is never the wiser. It kills me that he puts so much effort into something like this, because being less disagreeable is the only thing he can do make it any better for her.

The rest of the team gets to work on Mom’s case back at the precinct, and Dae-gu points out that the contract doesn’t explicitly state that the agreement is in effect only if neither party wants to press charges—this is Mom’s legal right, and the contract doesn’t hold much water.

Pan-seok agrees, but doesn’t discount the fact that this will be a tough battle anyway, because Madam Yoo will have the best attorneys that money can buy. Dae-gu is still a little brat and asks if that’s his way of saying they’re not going to pursue the case, and Pan-seok doesn’t even acknowledge him with an answer, heh. After an annoyed pause, he says that their priority is to secure a reliable witness.

Dae-gu and Pan-seok go back to see Madam Yoo, who arrives a few minutes later chattering away on her phone about the massage she just got. She doesn’t even bother to address Pan-seok directly, choosing instead to passive-aggressively answer her side of the phone call with, “What’s he saying? Some people don’t know their place.”

She brushes past them like they’re invisible, leaving the boys standing on her doorstep flabbergasted. Once inside, she tells her assistant to find out more about the cops, especially the younger one who’s been here twice now and gives her a bad feeling.

Pan-seok gets called back to the station by Chief Toad, who makes a big production of letting him know that the Birkin Bitch is actually Assemblyman Yoo’s daughter. Pan-seok plays dumb: “So?” To Chief Toad’s frustration, Pan-seok simply tells him that he can tell the family that the fastest way to make this case go away quietly is to show up for questioning and comply with the investigation.

Toad fumes as he relays all this to Chief Kang, and gets all worked up as he cries that the things that happen to Pan-seok’s team couldn’t happen unless this were a drama. “Next thing you’ll know, there’s a birth secret, and then it’ll be a perfect makjang!” Pfft, listen, you get points for hanging a lantern on it, but that doesn’t make the pending birth secret less lame.

Assemblyman Yoo predictably calls Chief Kang, furious about “that child” standing on his doorstep. She promises to take care of it, but wonders to herself how, after just barely putting Combat Boots’ capture behind them.

Pan-seok drives over to the prison to visit Boots, and says that things just don’t add up—the boat to China, him going after Dae-gu, a second killer coming after him, this elusive Detective Seo he’s protecting. All of it means that whoever wanted Dae-gu dead is alive and well, and still wants him dead.

Boots tells him that Dae-gu came here yesterday but he refused the visitation, and will refuse to see Pan-seok from now on. He tells him not to dig any further, “If you don’t want the kid to be in any more danger. That’s all that I can give you.”

He gets up to go, and Pan-seok stops him with one last thing: “There’s something I never said to you, because it’s shameless… Thank you, and I’m sorry.” He promises to return.

Pan-seok joins Dae-gu on his stakeout outside of Madam Yoo’s house, and it begins in their usual petulant way. Pan-seok suggests they turn on the air conditioning and Dae-gu says no; he offers a snack and a drink and Dae-gu turns them both down flatly. This is going to be a very long day.

But then hours of suffering together in the heat melts the ice, and soon they’re sharing snacks and agreeing about turning on the air conditioner. Pan-seok even asks why Dae-gu went to see Boots, though he just responds by asking why Pan-seok went.

Pan-seok: “I asked you first!” Dae-gu refuses to speak first, but then he’s curious enough about it to immediately ask again why Pan-seok went. It looks like he’s about to answer, when Madam Yoo’s lawyer interrupts them with a knock on the window.

He and Dae-gu get into a debate over the specifics of the contract and why it’s null and void, but the lawyer insists that it doesn’t matter since Soo-sun’s mom signed the thing after the beating. This is the story they’re going with, and Dae-gu and Pan-seok just sit there amazed at the flagrant lie that they plan to back up with eyewitnesses.

They realize it’s a battle of securing witnesses then, and the team splits up to interview every employee in that mall from the VIP room down to the janitorial staff. Gook and Dae-gu track down the attendant who caught the attack on camera in the first place, and manage to catch her just as she’s trying to sneak out of her apartment with a suitcase in tow.

They try to convince her to just tell them what she saw that day, but she’s freaked out and says she only filmed it because that lady is so horrible, not because of some sense of duty or justice. She doesn’t want to be involved in the case in any way, and refuses to answer their questions.

Dae-gu gets especially worked up, and actually goes from pleading with her to blowing up in anger. He asks why she can’t consider the victim’s pain in all this. My, my, how the tables have turned, Detective Eun, when it’s someone YOU care about on the other side. Gook stops him from going overboard, but it effectively makes their key witness even less inclined to help them than ever. She kicks them out.

Chief Kang comes by the hospital to speak to Soo-sun, and prefaces her speech by saying that she’s about to make a difficult request, and that it won’t make much sense to Soo-sun. She tells her about Assemblyman Yoo’s connection to her mother’s case, and asks her to drop the charges for the good of the precinct.

She adds that it’s also to protect the people Soo-sun cares about who are close to her, though she remains frustratingly vague about what she means. Naturally Soo-sun doesn’t understand her in the least. She confesses that she couldn’t even look her mother in the eye for two days because her injuries were so severe; is such a horrible act excusable because this woman is the daughter of someone important?

Chief Kang doesn’t argue, but presses her to make the sacrifice for the greater good, not because it’s just, but because their precinct depends on it. I’m going to be so pissed if Chief Kang gets her way.

When Soo-sun comes back to Mom’s room she hears laughter inside, and finds Dae-gu sitting next to Mom’s bedside doing magic tricks (badly) to amuse her. He finally gets the trick right and makes a necklace for Mom to wear, and it’s adorable how she encourages him and acts SO impressed, just to make him feel better.

It puts a big smile on Soo-sun’s face, and she just hangs back to watch them from the hallway.

Later they go for a walk outside, and Dae-gu admits that he might’ve ruined their case when he yelled at their witness today. He apologizes for losing his head and blowing their best lead, but she thanks him because it means he was that desperate to make things right.

She asks how he endured it for so long when his mom suffered such injustice—it’s only been two days for her and she can’t stand it. She says every time her heart fills with anger, she asks herself how he endured for all those years.

Dae-gu: “I never endured. I just experienced it. Because the things you have to experience, you have to experience eventually. So you just stop making a fuss, and you experience it.” They’re wise words, way beyond his years, and Soo-sun marvels: “At times like this you seem like an oppa.”

He hands her an MP3 player and says it’s something that helped him. She promises to listen, and they say goodnight. Once he’s gone, Soo-sun pops the earbuds in and gives it a listen. It’s Coffee Boy’s “I’ll Be On Your Side” (posted above):

Who will comfort me?
Who will understand my heart?
It feels like the world is laughing at me
I have nowhere to lean
I said I was okay
I thought I had gotten used to it
But in the face of the despair that finds me
I fall again
I’m left alone

I’ll be on your side
I’ll tell you that everything’s okay
That everything will go well
That you’ll shine
That you’re precious to me

On a day when it seems like everything will end
Remember my voice
It’s okay
It’ll all go well
You’re the most precious person to me

It’s the exact thing she needed to hear, and she sobs as she listens to the song. Dae-gu hasn’t left, and lingers there to watch from a distance as she cries. He stretches out a hand as if to reach out and touch her, and wipe her tears from where he stands.

At the precinct, Eung-do and Tae-il speculate that Assemblyman Yoo went through great lengths to keep his name out of the press—not one of the stories about the bag lady mentions her family connection to the politician.

Gook sighs that what he really ought to be doing right now is comforting Soo-sun, and decides to send her a text reminding her to eat. He wonders if the emoticon with heart eyes is a bit much, and asks Tae-il’s advice.

Tae-il tells him it’s best to play it cool, and so he chooses the nonchalant emoticon, only to accidentally select the one that looks like a sweaty nervous wreck. Ha. He freaks out, and Tae-il laughs that the one he sent actually resembles him best.

Tae-il gets a call that makes him sigh, I’m guessing from his parents. He doesn’t say much, but then later that night he waits outside Sa-kyung’s apartment building with beers. She’s surprised to see him there, and joins him for a drink.

He tells her that his father called him trash, and admits that she’s the only person he’s ever told about his hyung. She points out that he told her those things because he thought they’d never see each other again, and he agrees—you meet a stranger on a trip, and expect to never cross paths again.

But he says that it healed him to tell her those things, and she’s glad to hear it. She asks how he is, and he confesses that he’s not okay. He asks for a hug and she laughs at him like he’s a little kid, but agrees to one sympathy hug.

She throws her arms around him and pats him on the back to comfort him. It’s sweet, and I don’t think even Tae-il misunderstands that she’s just being kind… except of course that’s the exact moment when Pan-seok walks up, unannounced. Cripes.

At first he just sees Tae-il and makes a keep-doin’-what-you’re-doin’ face, trying not to ruin his romantic moment with a girl. But Tae-il pulls away when he sees Pan-seok, and then Sa-kyung turns around.

Ack, Pan-seok looks like someone knocked the wind out of him, and he just drops the bag of food he was carrying and turns around to escape. Sa-kyung runs after him, and he says they’ll talk about it later.

She holds him back and insists they talk now, and he nearly loses his temper. But she argues that when he says they’ll talk about it later, what he really means is that they’ll never talk about it: “I still don’t know the answer to why you signed the divorce papers.”

All he can do is stare in bewilderment (since, as I understood the flashback, she’s the one who handed him the divorce papers to begin with).

We’re left hanging on the rest of that conversation; meanwhile, by morning, Dae-gu has taken it upon himself to become Madam Yoo’s pesky stalker, and he follows her around the gym to very loudly request her cooperation with the investigation. She tries everything to kick him out, but he just waits outside, clearly prepared to do this all day for as long as it takes.

She calls her assistant to bring those background checks on the detectives that she asked for, and as Dae-gu watches from outside the door, she flips through the files. There’s nothing of interest in Pan-seok’s file, but then when she gets to Dae-gu’s, she sees his childhood picture and his family record as Kim Ji-yong, and realizes, horrified, why he looked vaguely familiar and extra annoying.

Panicked, she calls Dad and cries, “Did you know? That that woman’s child is alive?!”

 
COMMENTS

Seriously, I hope you’re complicit in the original murder, lady, because one criminal conviction isn’t really going to do it for me. I’m still going to be thoroughly annoyed if Dae-gu ends up being some secret love child of this horrible disgusting family, but at least in this drama there’s only one trajectory for the bad guys: prison, and lots of it. Maybe if the daughter was the one who murdered Mom, or was at least party to the crime, we can lock up both daddy and daughter in one fell swoop. At this point I’m actually more interested how Boots and Chief Kang fit into this, because their agenda seems counter to both the good guys AND the bad guys, and I want to know what their stake in all this is.

I love the slow emotional development between Dae-gu and Soo-sun, and the way their relationship is about friendship and partnership, and a shared understanding of each other’s pain. Dae-gu is almost always a child, except when it comes to something like this—he’s the sunbae in learning to live with anger and injustice, and in not letting it turn him into a monster. He understands more than anyone how it feels to be helpless when someone hurts the person you love most, and that moment of connection with Soo-sun in this episode strikes the first real chord for me. Before this, I just thought it was cute that he liked her, since he needs to connect with other people and she and the boys have made a family for him. But now it gets me in the heart, the way they look out for each other, how he knows what she feels before she can explain it, and the way he offers her comfort but respects her distance.

It might be that it took this long for the romance to strike because Soo-sun ends up being the emotional center for the show, which maybe turned out that way because Dae-gu is such a taciturn character. I don’t mind the characterization overall, but he’s so reserved that it’s hard to get anywhere on a deeper emotional level when other people are trying to connect to him. So even when she was comforting him through his rough patch, it was sweet but felt guarded, like that was just the first step to cracking his icy exterior. But this time when she’s hurting and he comes out of his shell to comfort her, it lands with much more resonance. He’s actively searching for ways to make her feel better, looking up magic tricks to entertain Mom, eating vegetables voluntarily like a big boy, and fighting for her cause as if it were his own. I like that it’s both a natural progression and a monumental shift for him, to look beyond himself and see her pain.

Of course my absolute favorite thing is whenever Dae-gu and Pan-seok make any progress bromantically, and their stakeout today felt like a reward for sticking it out through their bitter angry phase. Now they’re like a cute bickering couple, made even funnier by the fact that they’re so similar. I enjoy that Dae-gu is consistent and not suddenly nice or forgiving, but that he begrudgingly starts to accept the little things. It’s pretty funny that being stuck in the trenches with someone does start to chip away at your resolve to hate someone for the rest of your life, because as it turns out, suffering really does build character. Granted, they’d probably never make any headway if Pan-seok didn’t put in all the effort despite the constant rejections from Dae-gu, but hey, progress is progress, be it ever so sullen.

 
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