Whisper: Episode 16
All the power and privilege that has been hoarded by the rich and mighty begins to slip through their fingers when the scales of justice seemingly teeter towards those who strive to live by truth and honor. While the war against corruption has been brutal and relentless, the effort to destroy Taebaek may finally start to prove fruitful — but not without some heart-breaking casualties.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Young-joo arrives at Taebaek to arrest Jung-il, but she’s a few minutes too late — he’s already made his escape. Soo-yeon visits her father in jail to update him on the situation, and he surmises that Jung-il will leak the information about the slush fund. Annoyed, he tells Soo-yeon that she should have just married Jung-il like he told her to.
Angry, she asks him if he really wants her to live with the man whose father he killed, and who also promised would divorce her as soon as they had a child. Soo-yeon instead insists that she wants out of Taebaek — and for Taebaek to fall apart as soon as possible.
Jung-il hides out at the temple while Attorney Jo tries to figure out their next move. But Jung-il is desperate to get rid of Young-joo, assuming that she must have been the only one to see the video. Worried about his own future and worried what would happen to him if he’s caught up in Jung-il’s schemes, Attorney Jo tells him that the best thing to do is run away.
When Jung-il grabs him by the collar in protest, Attorney Jo makes a point that Jung-il is only one phone call away from being locked up in prison. The only choice now is to trust Attorney Jo to find a ship headed out of the country as soon as possible.
That’s a step Young-joo has already considered, and Secretary Song (for the cost of a delicious meal) helps her narrow down what shipping companies Jung-il would most likely use. He’s also convinced that, based on what he knows of Jung-il over the years, he won’t try to run away without first trying to get his revenge on Soo-yeon.
Soo-yeon finds Young-joo waiting for her in what used to be her father’s office. She’s annoyed because if she’d known this was a meeting between her and Young-joo, she never would have agreed to it. Dong-joon smirks as he tells her that he couldn’t send “his wife” to the interrogation room, so he thought this would be better way to help Young-joo with her investigation.
Soo-yeon insists the case was closed once she submitted the video, but Young-joo reveals that things aren’t as clear as they seem. She brings up Sang-gu, reminding her that Soo-yeon was the one who ordered him to help take care of any problems with the bulletproof vest case. That means while Jung-il is under investigation for murder, Soo-yeon’s under investigation herself for contracting assault.
Playing dumb, Soo-yeon acts like she doesn’t know who Sang-gu is, although she thinks she heard his name from Jung-il. She adds that Jung-il was the one who solicited Sang-gu to harm Dong-joon that night on the docks, and also drugged him at the club. If Young-joo wants to catch the real criminal, she should find Jung-il.
Young-joo purposefully leaks the recording of Soo-yeon’s statements to the press as a way to get a rise out of Jung-il, who watches the news reports about Soo-yeon’s “trustworthy statements” that he’s a criminal. When Attorney Jo arrives at the temple to tell Jung-il about a boat he’s found that will take Jung-il overseas, Jung-il is more focused on meeting with Soo-yeon.
Attorney Jo reminds him that Jung-il is currently at the top of the “most wanted” list and his face is all over the news, but Jung-il doesn’t care. He can’t stand the thought that he’s stuck here, crying, when she’s out there, smiling. He demands, as his last wish before he leaves, that Attorney Jo arranges a meeting for them.
When Soo-yeon finds Attorney Jo waiting for her in her office, she knows that Jung-il sent him. With a smile, she asks him where Jung-il is. Watching from across the office is Ki-yong, who reports to Dong-joon that Soo-yeon is leaving the building. Dong-joon follows her while Ki-yong follows Attorney Jo, and Dong-joon also updates Young-joo so she can track where they’re going via the GPS on his phone.
Soo-yeon arrives at the temple where Jung-il is in the middle of a private memorial service for his father. As they sit down on the floor, Soo-yeon muses that the Ten Commandments states that you should worship no other gods, but she used to worship something else. Her “other god” wasn’t Taebaek or her father, but actually Jung-il.
She knows that he’s probably already found a ship, so she wonders if he wants her to find a place where he can enjoy relaxing in a country that won’t extradite him back to Korea. Jung-il suddenly starts to cry, much to her surprise, and her confidant façade crumbles as he tearfully pleads with her to come with him.
Forget about everything that happened — forget about how he abandoned her, or that her father killed his father. Can’t they live together like they once used to? He breaks down as he angrily blames himself for getting her involved in the bulletproof vest case, but she starts to cry, too, as she apologizes. It was her fault that he killed Sung-shik — he did it to protect her.
His face crumpled in grief, Jung-il wonders if Sang-gu had managed to make Dong-joon disappear that night on the docks, would they have ended up like this. Tears in her eyes, she tells him that was her fault, too — Jung-il was only following her orders.
He lifts up his head and wipes away his tears. With glee, he points out the hidden camera. He’s played her at her own game by using his tears to get a confession out of her.
He calls Attorney Jo, asking him to send a copy of the video to Soo-yeon’s phone. A copy will also be sent to the police, and since he’s leaving the country tonight, she’ll be the only one left to prosecute. He taunts her to run away, too. But she’d to throw everything away — including Taebaek, including her father — to save herself.
But she holds up her phone to reveal a video message from Attorney Jo: he didn’t record the confession. He pleads with Jung-il to understand his predicament. Jung-il may be escaping the country tonight, but Attorney Jo has to think about his future at Taebaek. Ohhhhh, turns out Soo-yeon anticipated Jung-il would make this kind of move, and only agreed to meet with Jung-il so she could make sure she could get him to finally give up and leave the country as soon as possible.
After all, having him caught by the police would mean a headache for her, too. They’ve been through too much together. He angrily advances towards her, but she points to the camera which is now actually recording. If harms her, his boat will be cancelled.
She also warns him that any connection that she might have to Sang-gu or Sang-shik’s murder will be sent away on the boat with him. With a smile, she thanks him and leaves. The tear the rolls down his cheek is now a real one, and he clutches his head in frustration.
From his car, Dong-joon watches Soo-yeon drive away from the temple. Jung-il follows soon after, and when Young-joo tells him her team is about five minutes away, he decides to help stall for time.
Jung-il, already having a terrible night, is even more frustrated when Dong-joon suddenly appears in his path. He yells at him to stop getting in his way, and when Dong-joon calmly tells him that it’s all over and he’ll be going to prison soon, Jung-il punches him in the face.
The men tussle, but Jung-il has pure rage on his side and with a few well placed kicks, sends Dong-joon to the ground. In a move reminiscent of the way Lawyer Choi killed his father, Jung-il lifts up a flower pot, ready to smash it on Dong-joon’s head.
But the pot suddenly shatters in his hands. Young-joo’s arrived on the scene and saved Dong-joon by disarming Jung-il of his “weapon” with one well-placed bullet. She officially arrests Jung-il for the murder of Sung-shik, and as she handcuffs him, he screams in agonized frustration.
The news stations are buzzing with the reports of Jung-il being apprehended. Neither Attorney Jo or Soo-yeon seem pleased by his capture, since it potentially endangers them, too.
Jung-il, in the interrogation room, remains silent, having “plead the fifth.” Young-joo tells him that he can’t avoid being prosecuted for murder, but he can at least hand over the information he has on the slush fund.
He agrees, but only on the condition that he see Soo-yeon arrested. It’s the only way he can be sure that Lawyer Choi suffers after what he did to his father. Young-joo reminds him that she can’t make agreements with murder suspects, but Jung-il points out that if he keeps the slush fund information, then Taebaek will remain untouched and the only person that will be hurt is Dong-joon.
The catch now is to find proof that Soo-yeon is connected to Sang-gu, since she keeps denying any involvement. Her assistant has already deleted any evidence that Sang-gu existed from the Taebaek server, and bribed anyone who might have been involved in his cases to keep their mouths shut. The only person she couldn’t reach was former Chief Justice Jang, but she’s confident they won’t get to him since he’s already in prison.
Except Dong-joon meets with him, and the ex-Chief Justice is amused that Dong-joon will likely end up in prison with him. Dong-joon gently tells him that he thought he could be of use, since his daughter divorced her husband — the one that ex-Chief Justice Jang had been so determined to protect. If he confesses that Soo-yeon was the one who tipped him off about the way Dong-joon supposedly coerced the NHS for his mother’s nursing home, then it will also be revealed that Dong-joon was forced to rule in Chang-ho’s trial as ordered by Lawyer Choi.
He pleads with ex-Chief Justice Jang not to say anything to the detective that will visit him, but ex-Chief Justice Jang proudly raises himself up and declares that since he is a former Chief Justice, he will only answer questions truthfully. Dong-joon continues to desperately plead with him as he leaves the room, but once he’s gone, Dong-joon smiles in satisfaction.
Later, when Young-joo meets with ex-Chief Justice Jang, he tells her everything — including how Dong-joon came to see him earlier, begging him to lie. He’s willing to testify in court, too, if it means destroying Dong-joon. Exactly as Dong-joon had planned.
It’s enough to give Young-joo an excuse to visit Soo-yeon, who assumes she’s there to continue the investigation. But Young-joo reveals that she’s there to summon Soo-yeon to the station due to intel they’ve received about her involvement in Sung-shik’s case. Soo-yeon has the option of coming willfully, or Young-joo will be happy to arrest her.
The two couples face-off in the interrogation room, and, assuming that it was Jung-il who told Young-joo about her involvement in Sung-shik’s death, Soo-yeon smirks that any statement made by a murder suspect won’t be taken as seriously as a civilian who’s upheld the law. But Young-joo reveals the statement is from the ex-Chief Justice — and his words will hold weight in the courtroom. Dong-joon also has a copy of Chang-ho’s sentence, proving that it originally came from Lawyer Choi.
He made the statement under coercion, thanks largely to her tip-off to Chief Justice Jang. Lawyer Choi may have created the plan to cover up Sang-shik’s death, but she was the one who took the lead.
Young-joo officially arrests Soo-yeon for contracted assault and attempt to conceal a murder. With a satisfied smile, Jung-il scribbles down the account information for the slush fund. Soo-yeon insists on proper questioning with her attorney present, but Jung-il tells her that she should just give up. There’s no one left to save her.
Both she and Jung-il are escorted to their respective holding cells.
Young-joo warns Dong-joon that, due to his involvement with the slush fund and his purchased ruling at Sung-shik’s trial, there will also be a warrant for his arrest. He asks her to try and hold off for a couple of days since he wants to set a trap to make sure Taebaek is destroyed after he’s gone.
It’ll also make it easier for her to investigate, since he promises to send her a list of those who have been bribed by Taebaek. He’ll stay on as the CEO for now and give her as much information as he can, but knows they’ll soon be forced to meet in the interrogation room.
Picking up the photo of her and her parents at her graduation from the police academy, he smiles and says her father was right — she really was pretty back then.
Young-joo is appointed to lead a special task force to look into Taebaek’s slush fund. Ha, the scandal is filling the news stations as they update everyone on “Taebaek-gate.” True to his word, Dong-joon gathers as much information against Taebaek as he can and sends it to Young-joo.
The advisory committee wants to know who leaked the information about the slush fund, but Dong-joon’s more interested in revealing the corruption, pointing out that Taebaek has been abusing taxpayer’s money for their own gain. If they want any hope of surviving the punishment that shall be meted out by the proper application of the law, then they better start cooperating with the police investigation.
He visits Lawyer Choi in prison, who’s annoyed that Dong-joon would have so willingly given up the power of ruling Taebaek. But Dong-joon is determined to take the path of righteousness, refusing to take the easy corrupt road. He’ll endure his punishment and then start anew.
Lawyer Choi is confident that the slush fund investigation will peter out, since it involves so many influential people in the country. Dong-joon hands over a newspaper, where the front page states in scandalous glory that Lawyer Choi is the one behind Taebaek-gate.
Dong-joon warns him that he’ll continue to add fuel to the fire, making sure this investigation won’t end. He advises Lawyer Choi to give up any hope of protecting Taebaek.
Young-joo marvels that her list of people who aren’t allowed to leave the country (so they can’t escape prosecution or investigation) continues to grow as Dong-joon hands over his new findings. She hesitantly adds that she’s looked into his case, and he’ll likely get at least five years in prison for his involvement. If she were in his shoes, she’d be scared.
With a smile, he tells her that if he were alone, it would indeed be scary. He then asks if she was afraid to fight against Taebaek after she was reinstated, and she echoes his statement — it wasn’t scary because she wasn’t alone. Because, y’know, they had each other. Aw.
Dong-joon calls in Attorney Jo and Soo-yeon’s assistant to his office, regaling then with a tale of how, when he first passed the bar, he was so excited to uphold the law and make the world a better place. He urges them to remember how they felt back then, too, and then asks that they lead the internal investigation of Taebaek’s files since they should know where everything is hidden.
Attorney Jo wonders if that means they’ll get special consideration, but Dong-joon dashes any hopes as he confirms they’ll be punished under the full letter of the law, same as everyone. He then sends out a broadcast to everyone at Taebaek, apologizing for what has happened and blaming himself, as the person in charge. He then declares that there will be an internal investigation, and everyone is to comply or be considered a criminal.
Young-joo goes over what happened the night Sung-shik was killed, getting updated statements from Jung-il, Soo-yeon, and Lawyer Choi. She pieces together that Jung-il was the one killed Sung-shik, and afterwards he and Soo-yeon went to Lawyer Choi to beg him to help cover it up. Lawyer Choi controlled the police investigation and press coverage, and Soo-yeon used Chief Justice Jang to get to Dong-joon, who then was forced to acquiesce to Lawyer Choi’s request to rule against Chang-ho.
But that still makes Dong-joon culpable in his part of the cover-up, and Young-joo steels herself as she requests a warrant for arrest. When the warrant comes in, she realizes it’s the same day as his mother’s birthday, and decides to wait one more day.
Mom is delighted to share a birthday dinner with her son, and he hands over an envelope thick with cash. It’s the money he saved when he was a judge, and Mom promises to put it in account under his name. Is two years enough? She hesitates, and then starts to tear up as she asks about an even longer period of time, realizing that he’ll be soon going away to jail for many years.
She tells him that she’s proud of him, and thankful that he’ll get to have a new start. Trying to smile through her tears, she says that they should be happy that they still have so much time left to spend together. He promises to stay with her at the nursing home once he gets out of prison, which she appreciates, but it’s still one of the saddest birthdays ever.
In the morning, the detectives arrive at Taebaek to seize all of the documents. As they gather files, Young-joo heads to Dong-joon’s office with her arrest warrant. She readies herself with a deep breath before she enters, and Dong-joon greets her with a smile.
She reads him his rights, but he tells her that he won’t bother with an attorney and will accept the punishment that he deserves. Then he thanks her, because if it wasn’t for her, he would have spent his life attempting to become the head of CEO. If it weren’t for her father, he’d still be married to Soo-yeon.
Young-joo tries to hide her tears, but Dong-joon gently tells her to look at him. He then leans in and kisses her. A real kiss this time — not born from coercion or an attempt to shut her up. He hugs her as she silently cries, then with a smile (ah, those dimples!), he holds out his wrists so she can handcuff him. Which she does, as tears continue to stream down her face.
While I’m still pretty iffy about the romance, I did appreciate that Young-joo and Dong-joon managed to actually have some real moments — and a real kiss — this episode. I feel like we got a sense of a healthy dynamic, and not just one where Young-joo is ordering him around and Dong-joon obeys because he feels like he has no other choice. Honestly, I will never tire of Young-joo saving his life as she arrives at the nick of time, ready to knock a few heads together or shoot out a flower pot if need be. But I also love that he’s the steady one who keeps her focused. I just wish that this dynamic was made clearer in earlier episodes so I didn’t feel so uncomfortable with them suddenly coming together in the end. Even if I’m slowly coming around to it — maybe because I know they’ll have at least five years to work on improving their lives and communication skills — there’s something about this romance that just doesn’t feel earned.
The romance I loved most, however, was the crazy roller coaster that was Soo-yeon and Jung-il. There is definitely no hope whatsoever for them, they have destroyed every bridge that was ever built between them, and yet I totally got snookered into believing that they really would just run away together and become the fun-loving Subway-sandwich-consuming couple they once used to be. (Who knew that Subway was so critical to relationships?)
I mean, it did seem totally out-of-character for him to suddenly break-down and wish they could start all over somewhere when he’d spent so long vowing vengeance on her, but somewhere deep down in my heart I had a glimmer of hope they’d manage to escape — if only to live again to destroy a few more lives. Wait, that’s a terrible thing to wish, but what can I say? They’re such a beautiful, hot mess. Their chemistry and all-or-nothing passion was one of my favorite things to watch, and I guess I’m just not ready to let that go. Maybe they can live out their punishment together, in a beautiful tortuous way that will delight only me — although I’m pretty sure Secretary Song would kick out of it, too.
At least Soo-yeon gets to stay by her father’s side. Maybe not in the way she originally planned — or imagined — but I can’t forget the way Young-joo watched as a handcuffed Soo-yeon comforted her father, also in handcuffs. They may all be going to jail, but at least they’re still alive. At least they’re still together. In that way, Soo-yeon seems like she’s actually getting the better end of the deal. Maybe it’s not the most ideal situation, but at least she still has a father she can comfort.
Now that there’s only one more episode left, I have to assume that this is, finally, for realsies, when Taebaek will be destroyed. I’ve been waiting weeks to say “good riddance” to those terra cotta soldiers standing guard in front of Lawyer Choi’s office. I don’t think the use of those “soldiers” was a fluke. All along there’s been something in this show that keeps reminding me of a historical drama, where the wealthy corrupt ruler is taken down by his servant who has managed to become an important advisor. The illicit romance between a servant’s daughter and a nobleman. The scholar who is forced to give up everything he believes in to save his life and the commoner who refuses to allow the corrupt ruler continue to destroy the lives of the people. Not that Young-joo would necessarily be a commoner — more like a secret warrior, perhaps, with skills passed down from her father, the leader of the rebellion. Maybe she would be disguised as a boy. (Secretary Song would be, of course, the comedic sidekick eunuch.)
These stories of corruption, blackmail, and backstabbing as everyone scrabbles to get their piece of the power-pie all seem like they could be lifted from a standard sageuk. Yet so many of the situations — the business and political corruption — could have also been taken from front page news stories that have happened in just the past few years. Which is why it’s a relief to see that the law is finally working as it’s supposed to, that those who believe in justice are actually able to destroy this tower of corruption. Young-joo and Dong-joon are able to ruin Taebaek through legal means, and not through endless blackmail and backstabbing. Through persistence and faith in truth and justice, the common man (or woman) is able to uproot pervasive corruption and power, hopefully ridding it for good. Or at least make it harder to return. That’s the hope the show is promising, and what so many of us long to experience right now, in this day and age.
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