Whisper: Episode 15
They say a person’s true character is found once they’ve reached rock bottom, but in the bottomless pit of corruption that is Taebaek, there are always new secrets to be discovered. Even so, there are some who reach their backstabbing limit, and they’re the ones who must make important decisions that will affect the lives of those around them, for better or for worse.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Dong-joon authorizes the payment to the advisory committee, effectively making him an accomplice in the illegal slush fund. That’s not the only secret fund, however, and Jung-il brings him a “social fund” that needs his approval — one that’s used for bribery in unofficial cases.
Dong-joon refuses to sign, determined that Taebaek will only take on official cases. But Jung-il warns him that this type of bribery and lobbying make up half of Taebaek’s income. If Dong-joon is afraid to commit bribery, then he might as well leave Taebaek.
At the nursing home where Dong-joon has settled into his room, Mom sets up a tray of food and drinks for them to have a late-night snack. Even though he’s been busy, she’s delighted that he’s now around more often. When she happily tells him that she’s planted an apple tree, he gently warns her that he might not be able to stay with her until that tree starts to bear fruit in a few years. Meaning, he’s expecting to go to prison.
All the official ways that Young-joo can track the slush fund are blocked, but Dong-joon calls her, letting her know that he’ll find a way for her, soon. The advisory committee are already perturbed that he didn’t approve the social fund, since it effects their relations with various government officials.
But Dong-joon reassures everyone that he’ll meet with the government officials, and that the advisory committee should approve doubling the social fund since he promises to payback those who’ve helped Taebaek with double the amount they’re used to. He makes good on his promise, handing over briefcases of money to the officials. But as he does so, Ki-yong secretly takes pictures of their transactions.
Soo-yeon finds it suspicious that Dong-joon volunteered to bribe people, and warns Jung-il that he’s the one who’s in a trap, not Dong-joon, but Jung-il just dismisses it. She wonders if Dong-joon would tell her what he’s really up to if she shows him Jung-il’s video, and when Jung-il protests, she reminds him that he once tried to frame her for Sung-shik’s murder because he had no other way out. She’s now in a similar spot.
It’s the 49 days after Chang-ho’s death, and to honor the traditional day when a soul is reborn, Young-joo and Dong-joon visit the lake where she spread her father’s ashes. It’s considered a blessing to reborn into a great family, and she wonders if her father will “overly blessed” and born into a family with a father like Lawyer Choi or Chairman Kang.
Dong-joon gives her the photos Ki-yong took, telling her all about the special fund set up just for bribery. If she starts investigating the bribery, then she’ll be able to officially investigate the slush fund. She worriedly warns him that bribery is a serious crime, but he reassures her that he’s prepared for it. What matters most is having the truth revealed.
He’s willing to pay for his crimes, especially the one where he falsely accused Chang-ho of murder. Bribery is just one more to add to the list. He smiles as he asks Young-joo to go easy on him and look into the extenuating circumstances. Even so, he’s prepared to spend quite a while in prison.
At the station, Young-joo ponders the photos, then sets them aside to try and find another route to tracing the slush fund. But Jung-il has persuaded the chief of police to transfer her to another unit where she won’t be able to investigate any further, so she takes Dong-joon’s photos to the chief of police.
She informs him that it will be incredibly suspicious it’s found out he stopped the investigation just as she was confirming bribery of a high-ranking official. She won’t be transferred, and she’ll continue the investigation.
She warns Dong-joon that her team is on their way to arrest the government official, and he’s prepared all the evidence of their meeting — all she needs to do now is summon him. At least they’ll see each other soon in the interrogation room.
First, however, she interrogates the governmental official. Also there is Secretary Song, who’s happy to help Young-joo since it will lower his prison sentence for embezzlement (and he gets to snack on food that isn’t allowed in prison).
As the official insists that he’s innocent, Secretary Song laughs and threatens to reveal how he helped the man’s son get out of his mandatory military service. Ohhhh, that’s possibly even more scandalous than bribery.
In shock, Jung-il watches the news report about the government official’s bribery case. Dong-joon and Taebaek aren’t named, but it’s only a matter of time. Soo-yeon smiles as she tells him that while Jung-il threw away his father’s company, Dong-joon threw away his life. She calls Dong-joon, letting him know that he’s won, and she’ll give him the thing he wants tomorrow. That “thing,” of course, is Jung-il’s video confession.
After she leaves, he angrily shoves everything off his desk. The walls are closing in on him, and in his desperation, he calls Attorney Jo to book him a flight to America. He doesn’t care where it goes, just get one ASAP.
He then meets with the managing director of his father’s company to figure out how the inheritance is being handled. He explains that he needs to go abroad tonight, and orders him to put the real estate holdings into a foundation that the government can’t touch, offering the golf courses as payment for his services.
But the managing director also knows about a secret account, one that was created thirty years ago and only shows deposits, no withdrawals. Jung-il gets confirmation of the deposits and details of the sender — the name is the same as the office building where Taebaek was first born.
The next morning, Jung-il — who’s still in Korea — goes to the prison to meet with Lawyer Choi. The secret fund he’s found must also be the source of Taebaek’s slush fund. If he goes public with this information, Taebaek will be ruined.
Soo-yeon promises Dong-joon that if he leaves Taebaek and makes Young-joo stop her investigation into the slush fund, then she’ll email him the video confession. Just then, Jung-il calls her — but it’s only because he let her father use his phone. Thanks to Jung-il’ blackmail over the slush fund, Lawyer Choi orders Soo-yeon to save Jung-il.
That means everything comes to a temporary stand-still, since both sides essentially have their weapons pointed at each other but can’t attack without getting hurt themselves. The four of them meet, and Jung-il reveals that he has the information about the slush fund, Soo-yeon has the video of his confession, and Dong-joon and Young-joo are investigating both of them.
Jung-il is awfully cocky as he tells everyone to “put down their swords,” and when Dong-joon defiantly tells Young-joo to keep investigating, Soo-yeon confesses that she can’t give him the video since her father ordered her to protect Jung-il. She doesn’t look particularly happy about it, though.
Unlike Jung-il, who’s already anticipating that Dong-joon will soon be arrested for bribery. Young-joo glares at him, unable to forget that he forced her dying father to confess to murdering Sung-shik. The decision to stop or keep going in the investigation will be entirely up to her. Everyone looks angry as Jung-il lords over them, confident that he has the most powerful position.
After the meeting, Dong-joon insists she should continue the investigation, using him as her lynchpin to help destroy Taebaek and then find a way to catch Jung-il. But she can’t bring herself to put handcuffs on Dong-joon before she arrests Jung-il. She begs him to find a way to stay in control of Taebaek until she can get her hands on Jung-il’s video confession.
Attorney Jo is impressed that Jung-il’s figured out where the slush fund is, but Jung-il is more focused on getting rid of Dong-joon. Since he also controls Soo-yeon now, Jung-il is confident he will get rid of Dong-joon, and asks Attorney Jo who he will side with — his new boss or his old friend? Of course Attorney Jo is on Jung-il’s side.
Jung-il visits Soo-yeon at home, amused that there’s a giant photo he took of her in the bedroom she once shared with Dong-joon. He reiterates his case that he should be the head of Taebaek, but this time, he’ll have complete autonomy.
He leans in to kiss her, and then muses that even though he’s no longer attracted to her, they should get married and have a kid. That way they both get what they want, as well as assurance that neither of them will destroy each other to protect the child.
Soo-yeon doesn’t seem as convinced by this “win-win” situation as he is, even when he cooly promises they don’t have to share a bed. He arrogantly tells her he’ll see her at the advisory committee meeting tomorrow.
Dong-joon also has a meeting set-up with all the team managers to purposefully exclude Jung-il. When he gets to office and sees that no one is waiting for him, and Attorney Jo smirks to himself.
Instead, all the managers are meeting with Jung-il, who’s essentially holding his own coup as he takes charge of all the internal affairs of Taebaek. Soo-yeon shoots him an angry glance as she tells everyone that Dong-joon is to just be considered a figurehead of the company.
Young-joo is still trying to figure out how Lawyer Choi laundered money for the slush fund, and Secretary Song confesses that even he doesn’t know. It’s too much money for standard money laundering procedures, and he only ever saw the money leave the account. He has no idea where it comes from. But he’s willing to stick around all day and help her figure it out, if it means he gets to stay for dinner. Ha!
She eventually realizes that it’s odd that Lawyer Choi’s father-in-law’s church has recently only been bringing half the amount of donations, despite attendance remaining the same. Since the church is exempt from normal tax rules, it’s a perfect way for Lawyer Choi to launder money by treating it as an offering to the church.
Further investigation reveals that Soo-yeon’s mother was the one who actually responsible for moving the money. Soo-yeon is on the way to visit her mother, who’s since been hospitalized due to the stress of dealing with the fallout of her husband’s crime. But Young-joo arrives there first, and Soo-yeon watches in distress as her mother is taken away to the police station.
Even though the internal audit on Taebaek will take a month, Jung-il is determined to kick Dong-joon out in a few days. He knows Dong-joon is on a suicide mission to destroy Taebaek and Jung-il. In order to prevent that, Jung-il must first find everyone who’s helping Dong-joon and take them down first.
At the police station, Soo-yeon holds her mother’s hand as her assistant counsels her on what to say to the police. Mom starts to get a panic attack and Soo-yeon hurries to give her medication, then gently reassures her that everything will be fine. But she’s concerned for her mother’s severe claustrophobia, knowing she won’t be able to last in this tiny interrogation room (or prison, for that matter).
Soo-yeon confronts Young-joo, pointing out that she’s been a negative force in her life. First as her husband’s lover, then as the one who arrested her father, and now her mother. Young-joo points out that Soo-yeon’s family started it first by arresting her own father.
Soo-yeon warns her that the chief of police is one of the members at her grandfather’s church, but Young-joo is worried about any outside influence, and snarks that all the police chief can do now is pray. The only way her mother will be freed is if Soo-yeon hands over Jung-il’s confession.
Jung-il and Attorney Jo start their attack on the people loyal to Dong-joon, and the first on the chopping block is Ki-yong. Nooooooooo! He’s immediately apprehended by Taebaek’s security team, who search through Dong-joon’s car. Ki-yong tries to fight them off, but they find the camera that was used to take the photos of Dong-joon and the government officials.
Soo-yeon visits her father in jail, worried about what will happen to her mother. Apparently Mom first experienced claustrophobia when her father locked her up in a prayer closet due to his disapproval of her engagement to Lawyer Choi, who was a poor attorney then. Gee, what a family.
She pleads with him to help her save her mother, reiterating that if she hands over the video of Jung-il, she won’t have to visit both of her parents in prison. But Lawyer Choi is single-mindedly determined to save Taebaek, the only important thing in his life. When he tells her that he wants to protect it so her child will inherit it, she blurts out that Jung-il asked her to marry him.
To her surprise, Lawyer Choi tells her to do it. Jung-il’s already visited him, and he’s convinced it will be the best way to not only stabilize his beloved Taebaek, but also free him from jail even earlier. Then, he’ll deal with Jung-il on his own terms. He begs her to listen to him, but with tears in her eyes, she wonders why he’s not concerned about his wife.
Jung-il shows the photos to Dong-joon, informing him the internal audit has been stopped, demanding that Dong-joon officially resign by tomorrow’s advisory meeting. Jung-il will take over all of Dong-joon’s duties, and sends his men in to remove all of Dong-joon’s files so that they will be transferred to his office.
Young-joo finds Dong-joon sitting on a park bench. He sadly apologizes that he’s gone as far as he could, but he’ll have to leave Taebaek by tomorrow. She also apologizes for not being able to rush the investigation. Even though Soo-yeon’s mother confessed she transferred the funds, she insists that it was only donations, nothing to do with the slush fund. If that’s so, then this case doesn’t have any victim.
Dong-joon suddenly realizes there might be at least one. Secretary Song reveals that there’s strife in the church, since the elders were divided about the pastor wanting to hand down the church to a son that was accused of illegally gambling with church funds.
That means the elders won’t be pleased to hear about the donations being used as money laundering. Secretary Song offers his help, since he’s already dealt with the elders previously in persuading them — provided he can stay a little longer at the station and watch some dramas. Hahaha!
Soo-yeon enters what used to be her father’s office, and is momentarily surprised to see Jung-il sitting at the desk instead of Dong-joon. Jung-il is already preparing their wedding — it’ll be a massive affair. When Soo-yeon retorts that she only recently got divorced, Jung-il casually says that they’ll wait a little longer after the wedding to register the marriage.
He forces her to look at him as he reveals that he’s been waiting so long to take over Taebaek. He wonders why he originally tried to win her over when he could have just exploited her weaknesses from the start. He vows that he’ll change Taebaek’s name to Bogook, the name of his father’s company.
Soo-yeon gets a call from Young-joo, informing her that her mother has been officially sued by the church elders due to misuse of church funds. She hurries to the police station, and worriedly sits with her mother as she fights off another panic attack. Young-joo tells Soo-yeon that she has the choice to save Taebaek or her mother. For Young-joo, it would be an easy decision.
Soo-yeon thinks over all the ways people want her to behave so they can save themselves — her father, Jung-il, and her mother. In the end, she decides to save her mother. She orders her assistant to send the video to Young-joo. She, along with the rest of her team, watches Jung-il confess to killing Sung-shik. Finally her father’s name can be cleared.
Jung-il presides over the advisory committee meeting for Dong-joon’s resignation. But as Dong-joon stands and studies the speech Attorney Jo prepared for him, Young-joo calls. She has the video and will be arriving soon to arrest Jung-il. Tossing aside the prepared speech, Dong-joon tells the men that he did indeed hand over photographic evidence of his bribes.
But he only did it to save Taebaek. With the head of the company in prison and another prominent member being investigated for murder, he wanted to work with the police to make sure Taebaek wasn’t ruined by another scandal. However, it’s too late. The police have already found proof that this prominent Taebaek member has killed someone and are on their way to arrest him.
When one of the committee members asks who it is, Dong-joon points at Jung-il, who leaps up in outrage. But all the committee members are staring at him, and Dong-joon informs him that Taebaek will have no involvement in the case — they will neither defend or protect him. Dong-joon once again promises to leave Taebaek as soon as this case is resolved.
Young-joo and her men arrive at Taebaek, and Attorney Jo panics as he informs Jung-il, who simply waits as Young-joo makes her determined way to his office.
Poor Soo-yeon. She’s finally discovered the hard way that the men she loved and trusted aren’t worthy of her love and trust. Even though she’s spent so much of her career protecting Taebaek for her father, I’m not sure if she realized that her father has always cared more about the company than he has his family. His constant refrain that “Taebaek is the only thing that matters” as he ignores the pain and struggles of his own daughter isn’t exactly new, but I suppose if you’re the dutiful daughter doing all she can to support Taebaek, it may have been easy to tell herself that his love for Taebaek is also his love for her, since she’s the one who does all sorts of secret things to make sure Taebaek retains its power. That’s not to say Lawyer Choi was necessarily always a terrible father who’s been obsessed with his company over everything else — perhaps he truly does believe that this is the legacy he will leave his family, all for their benefit. But when their welfare is tossed aside for his pride, then something has definitely gone off the rails.
Which is why I’m relieved she at least made the humane choice. Her life, and her family, hasn’t been perfect. But she doesn’t deserve to be treated as chattel, hired out to preserve the company and her father’s reputation. He doesn’t care that Jung-il will only marry her as insurance, he doesn’t care that any child they would have would not be born of love, but likely coercion. He wants his legacy to live on, a towering physical document of power and strength that he’s built from scratch. Soo-yeon may be leaving behind a comfortable life, since I’m not sure what she’ll be able to fall back on (maybe her excellent PR skills could be put to use). But at least she can finally be assured she’s doing the right thing for once. I don’t have much hope for her redemption, but she doesn’t deserve to be forced into a life where she’ll continually be controlled by the people around her. She’s done that long enough — perhaps a little freedom and genuine responsibility will do her good.
As for Jung-il, I can’t wait for the final showdown between him and Young-joo. I’ve wanted this for episodes, and while I doubt I’ll get the action scene I’ve concocted in my mind (why show me the characters spending so much time on the roof if I won’t get an epic battle between him and Young-joo as she tries to prevent him fleeing in a helicopter?), I think I’ll at least be satisfied that justice and truth will, for once, hopefully, maybe, finally win out. I feel like I ought to make a drinking game out of every time someone says that Taebaek will be ruined, but considering there’s only one week left, this time I’m actually confident these threats have some weight.
At least for Young-joo and Dong-joon’s sake, because their never-ending fight to give justice for Chang-ho must finally come to an end. As much as I’ve enjoyed the constant cat-and-mouse games, I want the “good guys” to win and the “bad guys” to spend a lifetime in jail. Preferably together, because I can only imagine it will be a special hell for Jung-il being in the same jail as Lawyer Choi.
I also love that Secretary Song has become essentially Young-joo and Dong-joon’s pet. He’s happy to do tell them whatever they want provided they feed him well and give him a little freedom. This is probably a lesson to any would-be corrupt CEOs — make sure your right-hand man who is intimately aware of all your corrupt business dealings doesn’t hold a grudge against you. I hope he gets to have all the watermelon he could ever want once he’s finally out of jail.
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