Defendant: Episode 18 (Final)
Victory seems within Jung-woo’s grasp, but as always, Min-ho has more tricks up his sleeve than our righteous prosecutor can anticipate, and he’s always willing to play dirty. Has this villain run out of time and allies, or will he be able to slip through the cracks of a corrupt system once again? Jung-woo and his motley crew are determined to prove that this time, Min-ho won’t get to have the last laugh.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
News breaks about Min-ho’s arrest, and Jung-woo escorts him to the prosecutor’s office. Min-ho mockingly says that if Jung-woo thinks he killed his wife, he must want to kill him. Jung-woo says he constantly wants to kill Min-ho, but Ji-soo wouldn’t want him to, because he’s a prosecutor. Min-ho asks if that’s why Jung-woo lured his wife into exposing his identity, but Jung-woo says he just didn’t want Eun-soo to find out his father is a murderer, which enrages Min-ho.
Jung-woo tells him that soon, he won’t have to put on this act anymore. When they arrive at the prosecutor’s office, reporters swarm them, and Min-ho tells one of them to get lost, shocking her. Once he’s taken inside, the reporters question Jung-woo, who says that the truth will come out soon.
Attorney Lee joins Min-ho in the interrogation room, and his client asks if it’s over for him; Jung-woo enters and remarks that he must be nervous. He hands over a file listing the details of the case and leaves them to read it all and decide if Min-ho is done for or not.
Jung-woo meets Yeon-hee in a different interrogation room and thanks her for calling him about Min-ho’s escape plan. He knows it wasn’t easy for her to testify to Min-ho’s identity, and asks why she changed her mind. Yeon-hee says that Jung-woo’s words about Eun-soo lingered with her; Min-ho has been a good father, and she can’t bear for her son to find out what kind of person he really is.
Min-ho gripes that Deputy General Jung is nowhere to be found despite all the bribes he took, and tells Attorney Lee to get Joon-hyuk for him instead. Joon-hyuk is in his office, agonizing over the pen he took from Min-ho, which contains a recording of Joon-hyuk promising to find and destroy the knife used to kill Ji-soo.
Min-ho tells Joon-hyuk he’ll do anything if he lets him go free, an opportunity the prosecutor can’t afford to miss — can’t he gauge the situation? Joon-hyuk says it’s Min-ho who has misjudged this situation.
Cut to Deputy General Jung getting arrested as he blusters about his seniority. Jung-woo says the night guard who was watching Sung-kyu testified that the deputy general told him to leave his post when Sung-kyu was murdered. Now, he’s being investigated for other connections with Chamyung, and investigators have to drag the indignant man out.
Jung-woo tells Joon-hyuk that the deputy general will be punished thanks to the information he passed on. Joon-hyuk asks why Jung-woo isn’t taking him in when he’s arresting everyone else related to this incident. Jung-woo replies, “Because I know you.”
Joon-hyuk gives him the Nemo plush toy and confesses that he came to the house the night of Ji-soo’s murder, and that the doorbell Jung-woo heard that night was him. He says he never believed Jung-woo was guilty, but once he erased evidence about his presence that night, he couldn’t turn back. He also admits that he’d been greedy for Jung-woo’s UN position, and Jung-woo takes this in, shocked.
“I knew it was wrong, but all I could think of was covering this up. Even when Ha-yeon called, my first thought was hiding it,” Joon-hyuk says tearfully. He says that if he’d come to his senses earlier, Jung-woo could have reunited with Ha-yeon sooner. (Yeah, no kidding, you worm.)
Joon-hyuk apologizes and gives Jung-woo the incriminating pen, promising to testify at the trial if Jung-woo needs him to. Jung-woo says he’ll lose his job if he testifies, but Joon-hyuk says it was that very fear that brought him down this path; he’d forgotten why he became a prosecutor in the first place.
As Joon-hyuk walks away, Jung-woo clenches his fists, inadvertently playing the message recorded by the stuffed Nemo he’s holding. Closing his eyes, Jung-woo squeezes the toy over and over so he can keep hearing Ji-soo’s voice. He finally breaks down in tears. “Thank you Joon-hyuk. For letting me hear Ji-soo’s voice again.” Looking tortured, Joon-hyuk leaves. Ugh. I hope you stew in guilt for the rest of your life.
Jung-woo returns to Min-ho to ask if he admits to the charge of Ji-soo’s murder. When Min-ho pretends not to know who she is, Jung-woo asks again, and Min-ho suddenly “remembers” her, saying that he thought Sung-kyu was already proven to be the culprit.
In response, Jung-woo plays the recording of Min-ho saying that he stabbed Ji-soo. Min-ho lunges for the pen, but Jung-woo moves it out of his reach, saying that Joon-hyuk gave it to him. Min-ho laughs and curses Joon-hyuk, and Attorney Lee asks for a break.
Attorney Lee warns that he could get a death sentence, so Min-ho orders him to find a way out. Attorney Lee recommends a plea bargain, which Min-ho angrily refuses. Meanwhile, Jung-woo, Prosecutor Choi, and Investigator Go watch from the observation room.
Jung-woo holds a press conference to announce that the prosecution has verified that “Cha Sun-ho” is the real culprit behind the Wolha-dong murder, and that they are charging him with three counts of murder and two counts of contract killing. Reporters ask who the third murder victim is, and chaos erupts when Jung-woo reveals that it’s Sun-ho, whom Min-ho killed and is now impersonating.
Min-ho’s mother watches this news report with shock and confusion, but Yeon-hee turns it off, telling her mother-in-law it was just a dream and that her sons went on a business trip. The old woman nods, though she seems disturbed, and Yeon-hee thinks, I’m sorry, Mother. Because of Eun-soo, I had no choice.
Min-ho waits in the interrogation room as the day wears on. Attorney Lee informs him that he’ll be transferred to a detention center soon, reiterating that his best option now is a plea bargain. Min-ho refuses again, so the lawyer tells him to pretend to be crazy — he can plead for a reduced sentence and eventually be transferred from prison to a hospital. Attorney Lee says he’ll look for a psychiatrist willing to cooperate with them.
When he’s transferred, Min-ho puts on a convincing show, raving that he’s Cha Min-ho and pretending to see the ghost of his father as he grabs a reporter’s leg and begs for forgiveness. Afterward, Min-ho grins secretly as the police van takes him away.
Chul-shik arrives at the prosecutor’s office, looking sharp in a suit. He marches up the the information desk and says that he’s here to see Prosecutor Park Jung-woo in order to turn himself in. He sings, “I love you bay-bee,” as he swaggers across the lobby, until he trips over his own feet. Heh. I love this guy.
Chul-shik goes to Jung-woo’s office, where he meets Investigator Go, who has been expecting him. Chul-shik admires Jung-woo’s nameplate and sits in his chair, pretending to be a prosecutor as he puts his feet up on the desk, much to Investigator Go’s great amusement (and mine). Prosecutor Choi comes in then, and Chul-shik jumps out of Jung-woo’s chair in fright, stiffly announcing to the bewildered man that he’s here to turn himself in.
Jung-woo comes in (Chul-shik gives him a shy wave), and Prosecutor Choi asks if he’s aware of Min-ho’s antics. Jung-woo says he is, and his superior warns him not to let the man get away as he leaves, eyeing Chul-shik doubtfully.
Jung-woo greets his friend and tells Investigator Go to draw up his paperwork, and Chul-shik giggles as he shows his friend his visitor badge. He asks how long he’ll have to be in jail, and Jung-woo says once Min-ho’s case goes to trial, Chul-shik will be released.
Eun-hye visits Mil-yang again, who tells her that he’s decided not to apply for a retrial after all. The woman he went to prison for enters the room with a shy smile, and Eun-hye leaves them to talk. The woman apologizes, crying, but he gently tells her it’s all right. In the hallway, Eun-hye runs into Tae-soo, who has been reinstated, and they greet each other warmly.
A contemplative Mil-yang is back in his cell with Gangster Hyung when the guard announces an “experienced” newbie: it’s Chul-shik! He enters with a salute and a grin, and his friends happily welcome him. He tells them he turned himself in, and that Jung-woo made a deal with the corrupt warden so he could return to their cell.
Gangster Hyung says he’ll be released soon, too — he’s just written to his kids to say he’s sailing home to them. Mil-yang tells them that he’s going to apply for a retrial.
Jung-woo picks up an ecstatic Ha-yeon from kindergarten. He asks her if she’s surprised to see him instead of Grandma, but she says she wishes he would come pick her up every day. He agrees that he’d love that too.
Jung-woo promises her that once he’s finished with this case, he’ll pick her up from school more often. They adorably seal their pinky promise with meows, but Ha-yeon says it’s okay if Grandma comes — she knows he’ll feel bad if he can’t keep his promise. He thanks her for understanding.
Prosecutor Choi calls Jung-woo to tell him that Min-ho has applied for a psychological evaluation. Jung-woo asks the judge who approved the examination how he could do so before the trial has even started, but the judge won’t budge, and he denies Jung-woo’s request to get Min-ho evaluated by other doctors.
Jung-woo enters the waiting room where Min-ho sits huddled in his wheelchair. Min-ho motions him close, then whispers, “What can’t I do with money and power in the great Republic of Korea? Please tell me, Prosecutor Park.” Jung-woo glares at him and says he’ll see him in court.
In his opening statement, Jung-woo declares his intent to expose the hidden truth and those who covered it up, while Min-ho sits zoned out and twitching in his chair. Before the trial starts, Attorney Lee asks to submit his psychiatric evaluation, but Jung-woo objects, saying it’s absurd that Min-ho deteriorated this much in the few days since he was appointed chairman of Chamyung. The judge accepts the report anyway.
Jung-woo calls Joon-hyuk to the witness stand and asks him to identify Ji-soo’s murderer. He says it’s Min-ho, who told Joon-hyuk himself about the knife he stabbed Ji-soo with. The knife had Min-ho’s blood on it, and he’d asked Joon-hyuk to find it. Jung-woo plays the recording of that conversation, causing Eun-hye and Tae-soo to look at Joon-hyuk with shocked disgust.
Min-ho’s lawyer protests that they don’t know what state his client was in when the recording was made, and that they can’t trust Joon-hyuk’s testimony, as he’s been friends with Jung-woo for fifteen years. Jung-woo agrees that they’re old friends, but also reveals that he’s charged Joon-hyuk with covering for the defendant and for destroying evidence in this case. Jung-woo asks why Joon-hyuk is testifying when it will cost him his career and land him in jail, and he replies that he now wants to reveal the truth that he’s been hiding.
Seok testifies next, saying that Min-ho ordered him to kill Sung-kyu, which prompts Min-ho to say, “Min-ho? My brother is dead.” When Jung-woo asks him if Seok is telling the truth, Min-ho becomes agitated and starts apologizing to his father again. Attorney Lee objects to his mentally incapable client being questioned, which the judge sustains.
Jung-woo asks Seok to say who stabbed Ji-soo, and the young man pauses before he says, “It was Cha Min-ho.” At this, Min-ho starts to repeat over and over that Min-ho is dead. Ignoring the commotion, Jung-woo asks Seok to explain what happened that night in detail.
Seok says, “On that day, I anesthetized Park Jung-woo, who was already asleep. Then I grabbed Yoon Ji-soo from behind, and Cha Min-ho grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her twice with his left hand.”
Min-ho gets up, yelling and trying to grab Seok, so Attorney Lee requests an adjournment. Once he’s alone with his lawyer, Min-ho drops the act and asks what Attorney Lee thinks of the situation. The lawyer says that now his only hope is the insanity scheme, assuring him that the judge is on their side.
Once court reconvenes, Jung-woo tries to question Min-ho, but the judge tells him to question Attorney Lee instead, as the defendant is unfit to answer. Jung-woo requests a secondary psychiatric evaluation, but Attorney Lee says that Min-ho has been taking drugs which may invalidate it; the judge says he’ll decide later if another evaluation is necessary.
A woman enters the courtroom and takes a seat, and Jung-woo asks to call one final witness.
Yeon-hee takes the stand, and Jung-woo asks her when she found out her husband was dead. She says it was the day of Min-ho’s suicide, when Min-ho came to their house in the guise of Sun-ho. Jung-woo asks her why she pretended not to know all this time, and she replies, “I pitied him.” Min-ho’s face begins to lose its vague look, and he begins to tremble.
Jung-woo asks how she could pity him, considering what he’d done. “Because I loved him,” Yeon-hee replies. “He wasn’t always a bad person. He changed as he endured his father’s abuse over the years. And from the moment I married Sun-ho, he started to become someone else. That’s why I had no choice but to accept Min-ho pretending to be Sun-ho.”
Jung-woo asks why she is revealing this now, after nine months. She says it’s important to her how her son will remember his father; if Min-ho were punished by the law as Sun-ho, Eun-soo would be the son of a criminal. A tear drips down Min-ho’s face.
But as she looks over at a shaking Min-ho, she says that her son’s father is Cha Min-ho, who is sitting here. He meets her eyes, and the crowd stirs in surprise. “Yeon-hee,” he whispers.
She speaks directly to Min-ho, telling him that he’s a good father to Eun-soo. Min-ho chokes out, “I’m not his father. Cha Sun-ho is his father. Cha Sun-ho, who I killed, is his father. I’m not his father.” Yeon-hee tells him to stop now. Tearfully, she pleads, “Let’s pay for our sins. I will tell Eun-soo how much his father loved him.” Min-ho begins to cry in earnest.
In his closing, Jung-woo lists all of Min-ho’s crimes, ending with his attempt to escape punishment by faking mental incapacity, and declares that he must be isolated from society permanently. He cites various criminal codes, then pauses to look over at Tae-soo and Eun-hye, who both nod. Glancing at Yeon-hee briefly, Jung-woo takes a deep breath and requests a death sentence.
Some time later, Eun-hye’s aunt wishes her luck as she dresses for court. She petitions a judge for Mil-yang’s retrial as the woman (his wife?) watches from the audience. Min-ho returns to Woljung Penitentiary, this time wearing the red tags of a death row prisoner. The warden greets him with his real name, and Min-ho shortly asks if his room is ready.
Min-ho is put in a punishment cell, and the guards ignore his enraged shouts. Through the door, a voice welcomes him; it’s Tae-soo, who says he’s been waiting. “Think of this as your home now. Though it won’t be comfortable,” says Tae-soo.
Left alone, Min-ho suddenly hallucinates his father’s hand around his ankle, and he huddles in a corner and begs his father for forgiveness.
Jung-woo visits Joon-hyuk, who is also in prison. Joon-hyuk tells Jung-woo not to forgive him, and Jung-woo asks if Joon-hyuk remembers what he said when they first took their oath: It was okay for them to be incompetent prosecutors, so long as they didn’t become shameful prosecutors. Jung-woo says he’ll wait for him.
He visits Min-ho next. “I told you you could never become Cha Sun-ho,” says Jung-woo. Min-ho agrees that he couldn’t, because of Jung-woo. But, he points out with a snide laugh, Jung-woo’s wife died because of him.
“Was your son’s name Eun-soo?” asks Jung-woo, and Min-ho loses his cool immediately. Jung-woo tells him that Eun-soo and Yeon-hee are leaving Korea today. “You won’t see them again. You won’t see me again either. Just live your whole life in there, reflecting on what you’ve done.” He leaves, ignoring Min-ho’s demands to borrow his phone. Min-ho sobs, repeating Eun-soo and Yeon-hee’s names.
Jung-woo and Eun-hye go to visit Mong-chi and Rockfish at their clothing store. Mong-chi comments that it’s almost time for the arrival of the “fated one” that Woljung brought to him. The prison doctor walks in then, calling Mong-chi “Honey” in a sugary voice. They proceed to talk to each other in baby voices as Jung-woo and Eun-hye look on in astonishment.
The three former cellmates (and Eun-hye) join Mil-yang and Gangster Hyung at a restaurant, and they catch up as they wait for the last member of their group. Outside, Chul-shik parks his white truck and gets out, patting it as he says, “I am Optimus.”
Chul-shik joins his friends and jokes that they’ve got to live by the law now, or Prosecutor Park will arrest them. Jung-woo laughs and says that they should all promise never to go back to jail. Everyone agrees, and Eun-hye reminds them to call her if they ever have any trouble.
Sometime later, Eun-hye finally files an application for a retrial on behalf of her father.
Jung-woo takes Ha-yeon to see Ji-soo. He reminisces about Ha-yeon’s birthday and their last day as a family as Ha-yeon cries, “I miss you, Mommy.” Jung-woo says he misses her too, and suggests that Ha-yeon sing for Mommy so she can rest well. Father and daughter tearfully sing a lullaby.
Ji-soo’s family plants a tree for her (did they move her ashes?). Mother Oh says that she knows it’s been suffocating, but now, Ji-soo can see the sky she loves, and Tae-soo promises that they’ll visit often. Ha-yeon tells Ji-soo that she misses her very much, and Jung-woo hugs her.
Jung-woo takes Ha-yeon for a walk in the forest, reminding her of when he told her that the world wouldn’t abandon them. He promises to do his best to make her world a more beautiful and happier place and asks her to trust him. He tells her that Mommy is watching over them, so they should always smile and live with courage. She agrees, and they walk on, holding hands.
Jung-woo and his team arrive at a large office building, where he gets a call from Prosecutor Choi. Jung-woo insists that he is most definitely not going after Chairman Park, since Prosecutor Choi strictly forbade it. Once he hangs up, Jung-woo tells a grinning Investigator Go that they should only go after the ones their superiors tell them not to touch, and his friend gives him a thumbs up.
They march inside, and Jung-woo presents his badge, declaring, “I’m Seoul Special Unit Prosecutor Park Jung-woo.” He adds a wink for good measure.
What a ride! Defendant was truly enjoyable from start to finish, and with its engaging, suspenseful, intense story, its stellar cast, and its skillful directing, it’s no surprise that it was a ratings hit, ending its run on an impressive 28.3% that broke its own record. Everyone in the cast had wonderful chemistry and there were no weak links, but the standouts were Ji Sung and Eom Ki-joon, who upped their game every week with performances that blew me away, broke my heart, and made me crazy. Ji Sung has always been good, but he tapped into some raw reservoir of emotion for this role that I’ve never seen from him before, and it was hard to watch him sometimes as he expressed his character’s grief and anguish. Eom Ki-joon, on the other hand, brought a multifaceted performance that was so much more than what we’d expect from a classic villain, with shades of vulnerability and even insanity at times that made his character the most complex and interesting of the show.
I was pleased with every aspect of the way this final hour unfolded, with the exception of Joon-hyuk’s redemption. I didn’t find it surprising that he regretted his actions and decided to confess to his crimes, because we’ve seen signs that he was heading that way for a few episodes. But I did find it hard to believe that Jung-woo would forgive him so easily, even if he did say sorry (once). I don’t care how long and cherished their friendship was, there are some things relationships don’t recover from, and one of those things is keeping your friend from reuniting with his kidnapped daughter. Even if what he did to Jung-woo could be somehow explained away as self-preservation, I can’t get over how Joon-hyuk purposely left poor Ha-yeon to the mercies of a ruthless murderer. I appreciate that Jung-woo made sure that Joon-hyuk was punished according to the law, but it just doesn’t sit right with me that he was able to forgive him so quickly, and with so little groveling.
Other than that small gripe, however, I absolutely loved this episode. We got the perfect amount of scheming from Min-ho, who we knew would never go down without a fight, without the show dragging out a single plot point or making our hero and his team seem incompetent in the least. Jung-woo was at the top of his game as a prosecutor, in total control and fully returned to his former sharpness, bolstered by an underlying steel that was forged in the past nine months. By the time he finally won his long fight against Min-ho, he’d found peace and a measure of happiness, but it was clear that a deep sadness will always be with him, even in his most lighthearted moments.
My favorite scene in this episode surprised me, because I’ve spent this entire drama hating Min-ho’s guts and finding Yeon-hee an enigma — and yet it was their moment during the trial that hit me the hardest. That whole courtroom scene was brilliant, but I found it so smart and so fitting that in the end, it wasn’t Jung-woo’s ability to outsmart Min-ho that won him his victory, but his recognition of Min-ho’s vulnerability. Min-ho’s plan to plead insanity would have worked if Yeon-hee hadn’t appealed to his love for her and Eun-soo, laying her heart out sincerely in front of him. I’ve found it fascinating how Min-ho never once blamed Yeon-hee for abandoning or betraying him, given how he lashes out at most people over the slightest insult. Yet he didn’t get angry at her for marrying Sun-ho, for betraying Chamyung and his father, or even for giving him up to his most hated enemy and ruining his plan to run away and have a happy life together. In the end, he even confessed his guilt for her sake and for Eun-soo’s, dooming himself to punishment for his crimes. Yeon-hee, in turn, was able to separate her love for him from her recognition that he had to pay for the things he did; in fact, maybe forcing him to do so was her way of loving him.
Despite how much of this drama depicted corruption, violence, trauma, and injustice, ultimately it was a story about love. It was about Jung-woo’s love for his wife and child, which gave him endless strength to fight for their sake. It was about Min-ho’s love for his father, which was never returned, turning him into the twisted man he became, and his love for Yeon-hee, which ended up being his Achilles heel. It was about Eun-hye’s love for her wrongly accused father, which allowed her to believe in Jung-woo when everyone else gave up on him. And, above all, it was about the love of friends banding together and risking it all to help each other. Maybe at first it seemed strange that a story about a fugitive death row inmate would have “I Love You Baby” as its main theme, but it actually ended up being exactly the right song, and I think from now on, it’ll always remind me of Jung-woo, Chul-shik, and their ragtag prison break crew. Oh, and Transformers too.
- Defendant: Episode 17
- Defendant: Episode 16
- Defendant: Episode 15
- Defendant: Episode 14
- Defendant: Episode 13
- Defendant: Episode 12
- Defendant: Episode 11
- Defendant: Episode 10
- Defendant: Episode 9
- SBS’s Defendant gets 2-episode extension
- Defendant: Episode 8
- Defendant: Episode 7
- Defendant: Episode 6
- Defendant: Episode 5
- Defendant: Episode 4
- Defendant: Episode 3
- Defendant: Episode 2
- Defendant: Episode 1