Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 5
With a new case on his hands, our neighborhood lawyer learns just how cheap the rich and corrupt can be. And although sometimes the people are reluctant to admit to it, Deul-ho finds that caring about each other is the only chance in standing up to the bad guys. It’s a long road ahead to defeat the baddies, but hey—no one said trusting was easy.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Still chained to Yong-soo’s restaurant, Deul-ho reminisces about how he and Hae-kyung frequented the place all the time—during their dating years, their married years, and even after they had Soo-bin. He and Hae-kyung were adorably close with the friendly grandma, which explains why he’s so loyal to the case.
That night, Deul-ho sleeps outside the restaurant to make sure the subcontractors don’t come back. Yong-soo discovers him the next morning and explains what’s going on—the new landowner, our spoiled friend Michael Jung, is a good-for-nothing trust fund baby who hasn’t worked a day in his life, and grandma has been hospitalized from the stress of dealing with him.
Shocked, Deul-ho goes straight to the hospital to see Grandma, adorably calling her “Mom” and demanding to know why she’s so sick. They shower each other with concern, and although Grandma swears that everything is fine, Deul-ho can see that the stress is affecting her health.
Deul-ho has realized that Yong-soo’s restaurant isn’t a single case—Dae Hwa Housing is driving out all of the small businesses in the area to build a massive shopping mall instead. With Dae Hwa, Chairman Jung, and Michael Jung involved, this really is an awful situation, but this is Jo Deul-ho we’re talking about: “When you can’t avoid bad encounters, you have to enjoy it.”
Eun-jo, meanwhile, is heading to Yong-soo’s restaurant when she’s rudely cut off by a speeding car. Furious, she gets out to chew out the driver (who turns out to be Michael Jung) for his crappy roadside manner, but he only gives her the once-over before brushing her off and heading into the restaurant.
Eun-jo follows him in, stunned at his condescension, but she’s quickly distracted by more pressing matters: Choi Woo-shik, the violent real estate broker from yesterday, is back to harassing Yong-soo about settling the lawsuit. He greets Michael as Chairman Jung’s third son and the president of Dae Hwa Housing.
Michael asks whether they’ve settled the affairs for this “measly little restaurant,” and when Woo-shik admits that they’re still in talks, Michael insults literally every aspect of his business and screams at Yong-soo to leave already. Yong-soo remains resolute, however, refusing to move out as long as they have time remaining on their lease.
The argument gets dangerously heated, however, so Eun-jo jumps in to introduce herself as the representative from Geum San in charge of the case. Michael finally realizes that Eun-jo is one of his lawyers, lewdly compliments Eun-jo’s figure and wonders whether a female attorney can do her job as well as a man, leaving her to deal with Yong-soo. What an asshole.
Deul-ho spends the day trying to get people to sign a petition against Dae Hwa’s construction, but they’re too fed up to even listen to him—most of them see the eviction case as a lost cause, and Deul-ho’s behavior can only stir up more trouble for them.
Meanwhile, Eun-jo waits for hours to speak with Yong-soo so they can settle the eviction deal. When he finally sits down, she makes him an offer: If he goes to court right now, he has a slim-to-none chance of winning the case… but if he settles, the plaintiff has agreed to pay for any interior renovating expenses incurred at his relocated restaurant. It’s more than any of the other business owners have gotten.
Yong-soo is nearly swayed for a moment, but suddenly, Deul-ho storms in and demands to know what she’s doing. When Eun-jo clarifies that she’s here representing Michael, Deul-ho is stunned at how low Geum San’s has stooped—even more so when Yong-soo informs him of the offer she just proposed.
Deul-ho tells her that the outcome isn’t decided until the case is over, and refuses to accept such a condescending proposal: “Do you know how it feels to work hard every single day for thirty years—and get kicked out overnight?”
Unexpectedly, Eun-jo says that she does. Deul-ho doesn’t believe her, however, convinced that she’s only doing this because she’s a slave to Geum San’s orders. She bites her tongue and leaves, telling Yong-soo to contact her if he changes his mind.
A flashback shows us what Eun-jo meant by her cryptic response: As a high school student, Eun-jo and her mother were kicked out of their family restaurant, too.
The next morning, Deul-ho and Ae-ra rush out of their office to find Yong-soo’s restaurant vandalized. Yong-soo breaks down in cries of frustration, but Deul-ho catches sight of two figures watching the whole thing from a nearby rooftop: Michael and his shady henchman Woo-shik, laughing about how this will speed up the result.
Deul-ho runs straight to the roof, flipping Woo-shik over one shoulder and literally pushing Michael over the ledge, dangling him over the street by his collar. Deul-ho looks into his face without remorse—to him, Michael is a pathetic scumbag who killed an innocent man and left Mr. Byun to take the rap.
The townspeople gather below as Michael begs for his life. “You want to die, don’t you?!” Deul-ho growls, and ignores his protests before dropping him straight from the roof, where he slams into the street.
…But not really, because that was all a daydream. Phew! Still holding Michael over the ledge, Deul-ho mentions that he hasn’t had any breakfast today, so he doesn’t have much energy in his arm—if Michael drops from this height, he will surely die. Having intimidated him long enough, Deul-ho pulls him to safety.
Michael still hasn’t learned his lesson, however, so Deul-ho chases him to the ledge again—but this time, he’s the one in danger of falling off. Deul-ho grabs Michael’s hands and uses them to hit his own face, swaying crazily near the roof’s edge—and while he’s in control the whole time, to bystanders it appears that Michael is threatening and beating up a sobbing, terrified Deul-ho. Ae-ra and the townspeople below film the whole thing on their phones, and when Michael leaves, they congratulate each other about how well the video came out.
Back in Dae-soo’s office, rookie loan shark Yoo-shin treats Deul-ho’s injuries while Ae-ra tries to figure out what is so suspicious about this case. Deul-ho spells it out: Dae Hwa claims that it wants to construct a shopping mall in the neighborhood, but in reality, it’s all a ploy for a different purpose. Without evidence, however, they don’t have a case.
They do have the next best thing, however: blackmail. Deul-ho texts Michael the video of Michael “beating” him up, casually mentioning that he might just send it off to Chairman Jung next. Knowing that the chairman is already upset at Michael’s recent USB scandal, Deul-ho’s request is simple: Leave Yong-soo’s restaurant alone.
Michael heads to Geum San to show Deul-ho’s video to his team of lawyers: Hae-kyung, Eun-jo, and Attorney Kim. He blames Eun-jo, certain that her incompetence is the cause for this whole mess. When he demands that Eun-jo be replaced by a more capable attorney, however, Hae-kyung coldly tells him to find a new law firm.
Eun-jo follows Hae-kyung into her office to thank her for taking her side, but Hae-kyung says she had other reasons: It would be better for Geum San not to go to court, especially against Deul-ho. Eun-jo is hesitant to rush things, wanting to give the business owners the time they need to think, but orders are orders.
So Eun-jo returns to Yong-soo’s restaurant to try and talk it out for the umpteenth time. He starts to refuse again, of course, but his phone rings with a sudden call from the hospital—Grandma has disappeared. Sensing Yong-soo’s panic, Eun-jo offers to watch the restaurant for him—her family once owned a restaurant, so she’s more than capable.
Gratefully, Yong-soo takes her up on the offer and rushes to the hospital, calling Deul-ho to ask him to watch the restaurant with Eun-jo. Eun-jo gets to work doing the dishes, but suddenly the water and lights shut off. Henchman Woo-shik has hired subcontractors to shut down the restaurant, nailing planks to the door so that no one can get in or out.
In her panic, Eun-jo slips on a puddle of water and lands on her back, injuring herself. Deul-ho finally arrives to save her, knocking the wooden planks away with a crowbar, but Eun-jo’s back is too hurt to move. Deul-ho helps her out of the kitchen and buys her medicated patches, then leaves to find Grandma and Yong-soo.
It turns out Grandma has gone to Woo-shik’s office to beg to be saved. After Yong-soo finally manages to get her to leave, a furious Deul-ho starts chasing Woo-shik around the office—if he sees Grandma kneel one more time, he really will kill him. Deul-ho and Yong-soo bring Grandma back to the hospital, and Deul-ho promises her that everything will be fine.
Michael dines at a fancy restaurant, yelling as usual at someone to figure out the eviction deal within the month or else. Eun-jo tracks him down and cuts right to the chase: Threatening a tenant’s business by using a subcontractor is illegal, and Michael’s actions last night might endanger the lawsuit.
Michael is entirely uninterested in her legal mechanics—he just wants it done, dammit. But as long as she’s here, why not sit down for some foie gras and expensive wine? Checking her out again, he offers to double her salary to accompany him on a vacation to Europe. Eun-jo indulges in a satisfying fantasy where she throws the wine in his face, but just rejects his offer through gritted teeth and advises him not to resort to illegal tactics in the future.
Meanwhile, Chairman Jung meets Chief Prosecutor Shin for dinner. The chairman is not happy: He’s heard rumors that the prosecutor’s office is investigating his son, and warns Chief Prosecutor Shin that if he dares betray him and get Michael in legal trouble, he’ll sever their relationship.
So Chief Prosecutor Shin orders Ji-wook to stop his investigation of Michael. Ji-wook is adamant—he’s already found loads of evidence of Michael’s crimes, and besides, he’s not afraid of Dae Hwa or Chairman Jung.
But Prosecutor Shin is just as firm: “I’m not asking you to befriend Chairman Jung, or even to accept them. I’m only telling you to not make them your enemy.” That night, Ji-wook reluctantly packs up his evidence against Michael.
Ae-ra, meanwhile, has done some digging of her own and has discovered that Dae Hwa’s true purpose is to negotiate with foreign franchisors to remodel the commercial buildings and charge higher rents to richer tenants. Dae-soo sighs, saying that there are too many corrupt scammers in the world these days. Deul-ho: “Hey, Dae-soo—why don’t we try scamming, too?” LOL.
Cut to: a dapperly dressed Dae-soo and Ae-ra arriving at Dae Hwa’s building. Ha, I love it. Dae-soo and Ae-ra are here for a business meeting with Michael using the personas of “Alain Marceau” and his fiancée, Patricia, chief executives of Piaf Corporation, a famous franchisor in France.
Deul-ho has anticipated that Dae Hwa would look up Piaf online, and sets up a fake webpage with Dae-soo’s picture as Alain, the executive of Asian business affairs. Michael welcomes our two scammers, surprised that they’re so fluent in Korean. Dae-soo tearily explains that he was adopted by a French family when he was ten, but now that he’s back in his home country, he couldn’t be happier.
Michael explains the plans for redevelopment to Dae-soo and Ae-ra, explaining that they are targeting youths and Hallyu in order to make it a landmark of Asian tourism—if Piaf joins, they can both benefit.
Alain, however, expresses a nagging concern that the fabulous landmarks of France—the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Moulin Rouge—are steeped in tradition. The small town displays unique traits of Korean culture—surely, Michael can’t mean to demolish all of that history to build a high-rise shopping mall.
Michael assures him that rebuilding was just an excuse to remove those pesky business owners. In reality, a shopping mall isn’t even in the works. All Dae Hwa wants is to modernize and expand, and they can’t do that with the old tenants in the way.
Unfortunately, someone at Dae Hwa is doing their job, because Michael’s secretary walks in to inform him that something is fishy about Alain and Patricia. Michael’s secretary has discovered that the real Piaf executive in charge of Asia is a French-Algerian man in his 70s. Michael tries asking a few questions in fluent French, and Dae-soo and Ae-ra are helpless to respond.
Michael’s secretary digs through Ae-ra’s bag and confiscates the voice recorder, while Dae-soo and Ae-ra hightail it out of there, the Dae Hwa employees hot on their trail. With Yoo-shin’s expert driving, they’re able to escape—but they’ve lost the recording.
Deul-ho, however, doesn’t seem too stressed about it. He moves to Plan B: announcing to the townspeople that a meeting will be held that night at Yong-soo’s restaurant, with spectacular rewards for the attendees. First come, first served.
His baiting works like a charm. That night, the restaurant is packed with townspeople. Dae-soo introduces Deul-ho as the town’s “eternal neighborhood lawyer,” and Deul-ho cuts right to the chase: He gathered everyone here to enlist their help in winning the lawsuit.
The people are annoyed—they’ve already settled their negotiations and don’t want any more trouble. But Deul-ho insists that they are being defrauded: Dae Hwa isn’t building a shopping mall, they only want to kick out the current tenants so they can rent to richer tenants.
He says that they only need to attend the eviction trial and testify that they are being wrongly evicted. The townspeople counter that working-class people can’t afford to give up a day of business of lost wages. Everyone gets up to leave.
But Deul-ho stops them, calling out everyone who ever borrowed money from Grandma or got a favor from Yong-soo: This is about a social responsibility to their own neighbors. “When you needed help, Grandma was there—but when she needs you, you turn your backs on her!”
It’s an effective tactic, but it’s not enough. When Yong-soo brings Grandma home, everyone makes up an excuse and shuffles out, not wanting to face their guilt.
At home, Eun-jo vents to her mom about how hard it is to defend scumbags who make money at the expense of good people. Still, Eun-jo’s mom makes her promise not to quit her prestigious job at Geum San—“Doesn’t a lawyer’s job include defending bad guys?” she asks.
But Eun-jo thinks back to the reason she became a lawyer in the first place. She wanted to become a lawyer to defend the vulnerable and needy—but she realizes now that those people can’t go to expensive Geum San for help. She thinks she’ll end up siding with the defendant at tomorrow’s trial, and Mom supports her to do what she believes is right.
Meanwhile, Hae-kyung stands outside Yong-soo’s restaurant, watching him work. She has memories there too, of course—and she smiles as she thinks back to the day Deul-ho proposed to her here. He’d put a ring in a rice cooker and sung a cheesy song, with Grandma washing dishes in the background.
Seeing her standing there, Deul-ho runs out to talk to her for the first time in three years. Hae-kyung congratulates him for winning the last trial, telling him she’s glad that he’s picking himself up. But still, since the outcome of tomorrow’s trial is obvious, wouldn’t it be better for him to take the compensation and settle the lawsuit?
When he calls her out for destroying a place that is precious to both of them, Hae-kyung looks him straight in the eye: “It’s a place I don’t want to remember.”
She turns to leave, and Deul-ho stops her to ask about Soo-bin, asking hesitantly to see her just once. Hae-kyung tells him coolly to request visitation rights through the law. “But,” she adds, “ask yourself whether seeing Soo-bin is right for her—because she’s doing just fine right now.” Ouch.
The next morning in court, Deul-ho begins by cross-examining Michael’s henchman Woo-shik, asking why he thinks these tenants would leave before the end of their contract. Woo-shik’s response is apathetic: “I don’t know. Maybe their business hasn’t been doing well.”
Deul-ho argues that the reason for that is that their utilities were shut off and subcontractors were brought in to interrupt business, but he doesn’t have evidence to prove it. “Did any of the defense’s witnesses show up?” the judge demands.
Deul-ho looks over at the empty seats, and anxiousness mounts with his team. They start to deflate, and it’s not looking good—until suddenly, the door opens. It’s the townspeople, and they trickle in, announcing their support one by one. Yes!
What a great moment at the end. Although we all knew that the townspeople would probably come back to support Grandma and Yong-soo, Neighborhood Lawyer is full of heart, making those predictable moments heartwarming anyway. One of this show’s greatest strengths is its warm and genuine emphasis on family, and although I’m always a sucker for makeshift families, Neighborhood Lawyer is particularly good at it: the growing bond within Deul-ho’s team (Ae-ra, Dae-soo, and his employees), the gratifying relationships between the townspeople, and increasingly—as she discovers what values are truly important to her—between Deul-ho and Eun-jo as well.
I particularly appreciate how the show contrasts these trusting, loving relationships against Hae-kyung, who is always surrounded by a cold practicality—a world of only rationality and little heart. We haven’t seen her do much yet, but I was fascinated by the flashbacks that showed her and Deul-ho’s relationship in their sweetest times. There is much evidence to show that they really were precious to each other in the past—so what drove them apart so dramatically, and is there hope for her yet? Based on her moment of weakness at the end of this episode, I don’t believe that she really has given up all fondness for Deul-ho—even if the love is gone, and even if she resents him, she doesn’t really seem to hate him.
Still, I felt like this was a mixed episode in that it highlighted the show’s strengths but certainly emphasized its faults as well. The show has been repeating some pretty consistent flaws, such as plot choices that are awkward and sometimes unnecessary. This episode in particular seemed to drag out certain uninteresting aspects: Eun-jo’s injuring her back at Yong-soo’s restaurant, for example, had little consequence, resulting in several scenes that felt more awkward than tense. The show also lets the characters do things that are daring and refreshing, only to show that is was their imagination all along, such as Deul-ho holding Michael Jung over the ledge of the roof, and Eun-jo imagining throwing wine in Michael’s face. I found that a huge disappointment because Michael really did have that coming, and acting like it was all a daydream made me feel cheated.
In fact, this feeds into the fact that the show is criminally underusing Kang Sora as an actress and Eun-jo as a character. Part of it is to do with her own performance—she’s definitely delivered better roles than this one, although she’s doing a more than decent job—but it also feels as if the writers are really holding something back from her character, perhaps for later indulgence. The result is that Eun-jo is becoming a rather disappointing character. It’s not from Eun-jo’s lack of trying, of course, but her motive and moral code are rather straightforward and uninteresting; her biggest purpose seems to be to show how brilliant Deul-ho is, and how he can solve all of their difficult situations. I wish Eun-jo would use her smarts, since we know she is capable. Hopefully, this means a higher return when her potential really does break through, but I’m certain that it’s not necessary to hold back the entirety of her character development for later.
It’s obvious that Geum San is using her for these important cases because she’s a rookie and they think she’ll always do as she’s told, but as she starts to think about what the law means for both herself and for the people, I’m excited to see that she’s not the automaton that Geum San hoped for. Although I found her patience for Michael’s misogyny and condescension particularly infuriating in this episode, her relationship with her mom really exhibits her reasons for it. It’s clear that Mom is proud of her for getting into a prestigious law firm like Geum San, and risking that position is risking Mom’s happiness. Eun-jo may lack the confidence and the experience, but she’s smart and capable. As she and Deul-ho find their footing and start working as a team again, I’m certain they’ll realize that they both care about the same thing: the people.
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