Whisper: Episode 17 (Final)
Adding a one-episode extension seems to have worked in SBS’s favor, since this final episode brought in the highest ratings Whisper has seen yet, squeaking them past that coveted 20% mark. Despite this being the end and all signs pointing to the criminals getting their comeuppance, there’s still plenty of time in the last hour for some last-minute backstabbing, plus a few twists and turns that pack a surprising punch.
FINAL EPISODE RECAP
Young-joo goes to Taebaek to arrest Dong-joon: kiss, hug, handcuffs. She cries, he smiles with those dimples. The news plays footage of Dong-joon being escorted to the police station, and both moms watch. Young-joo’s mother watches with perhaps the knowledge that her husband will finally be redeemed, while Dong-joon’s mother cries.
With Dong-joon’s testimony, Jung-il is now considered to the one who really murdered Sung-shik. Except Jung-il claims that Sung-shik was already dead, thanks to Sang-gu’s men, by the time he arrived at the scene. He was just afraid that Sung-shik would wake up again, and that’s why he stabbed the body with the fishing pole. That means he should only be charged with desecration of a corpse, not murder.
Which would be convenient for Jung-il, since the maximum punishment for desecration is two years in prison or a measly fine of approximately $5,000. In comparison, Soo-yeon and Lawyer Choi’s crimes are much greater, due to their attempts to cover up what happened — and that includes Dong-joon’s forgery of Chang-ho’s trial.
He tells Dong-joon that he’ll need to rewrite his testimony, since his assumption of how the entire cover-up started is based on the false belief that Jung-il killed someone.
As he’s escorted back to the holding cell, Jung-il sneers at Soo-yeon, who’s still in the cell next to his. He tells her that she’ll go to prison for a very long time. He promises to visit her often, but only to rub it in her face that he got out of jail and is living a free life.
Young-joo requests a copy of Sung-shik’s autopsy, and unfortunately, it’s inconclusive whether Sung-shik died due to Sang-gu’s knife attack or the broken fishing pole that Jung-il used. Which unfortunately means there could be support for Jung-il’s statement — or at least doubt cast on what was the final killing blow.
Young-joo admits to Dong-joon that Jung-il has been quite cooperative with the investigation, but it’s only to figure out what loopholes he could use from the testimonies of everyone else. Jung-il’s a smart cookie and knows that she can’t exactly find Sang-gu to get his testimony, which would be the only one that could break his statement of whether or not Sung-shik was still alive when Jung-il speared him with the fishing pole.
Dong-joon grimly reminds her that Jung-il has another crime they can pin on him — instigation of murder (referring to when Sang-gu tried to kill him at the docks). But because Sang-gu isn’t there to testify, they’ll have to use Jung-il’s own sneaky methods against him.
Dong-joon’s mother visits Young-joo to have her pass along a meal for her son, but Young-joo also has a favor to ask of her. Mom goes to Doctor Dad, visiting the hospital for the first time since she used to work there as a nurse. This is also the first time she’s asked for something from him, and pleads on the behalf of their son.
Jung-il and Soo-yeon are handcuffed and escorted to the interrogation room, where Young-joo and Dong-joon are waiting for them. Jung-il is confident she’s already checked the inconclusive autopsy and was unable to find Sang-gu, knowing that his case for mere body desecration still stands. Soo-yeon argues that Jung-il definitely killed Sung-shik, but Jung-il smugly tells her that she should keep quiet and realize the days she could use the law for her own devices are now gone.
But Young-joo isn’t there to discuss Sung-shik, she’s there to share the testimony of the witnesses who claim that Jung-il ordered Sang-gu to kill Dong-joon. Not only does she have Dong-joon’s statement as the victim, but she also has the statement from one of Sang-gu’s goons she caught a few episodes ago. Jung-il is taken aback, but he confidently denies it.
Doctor Dad arrives at the interrogation room, and Young-joo formally questions him about the operation he performed when Dong-joon was brought to the hospital with stab wounds. Young-joo points out that it’s standard protocol for the hospital to report any stab wounds to the police, and Doctor Dad says the he was going to, but Jung-il visited him, threatening to make things difficult for Dong-joon and the hospital if Doctor Dad reported the stab wounds.
Jung-il springs up, adamant that he’s never seen Doctor Dad before or ever visited the hospital, but Doctor Dad simply says that’s exactly what Jung-il told him when they first met. Soo-yeon is also happy to reveal that she still has the document that shows Jung-il gave Sang-gu a hefty loan right after the incident with Dong-joon. She originally obtained it to protect Jung-il by destroying it, but she smirks when she says that she’s glad she kept it.
All the evidence points to Jung-il inciting an attempt at murder. He frantically tells them that he only told Sang-gu to send Dong-joon overseas, but in order to prove it, he’d have to find and bring in Sang-gu. But if he does that, then Sang-gu will testify that Sung-shik was still alive at the time Jung-il stabbed him with the fishing pole. Looks like that trifling fine for desecration of a body will turn into a much more serious jail sentence.
Jung-il and Soo-yeon are escorted back to their holding cells, but before she steps into hers, Soo-yeon quotes Jung-il’s words back at him: “You will end up spending a long time in prison, but I’ll visit you often. I really want to show you how I got out and how I live on.”
Alone in the interrogation room, just the two of them, Doctor Dad confesses that Mom visited him and asked him to lie — something he’s been doing all his life — just this once to save his son. So his testimony was false, just as Jung-il insisted. He adds that he’ll use his connections with the president to get Dong-joon’s sentence reduced, but Dong-joon tells him not to bother. He has no desire to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Doctor Dad sighs and says he understands. As he pats Dong-joon’s hands, still in their cuffs, he tells his son that he hopes he won’t regret the path he’s taking.
Young-joo goes to the chief of police and points out that there’s an investigation into the officers who were bribed by Taebaek, but finds it suspicious it’s only the low-ranking officers that are being investigated. She hands over a list of the high-ranking officers that were in the briefing she originally gave, revealing Taebaek’s corruption back in the beginning. Since none of those officers bothered to follow up on the evidence she provided, she requests that they be investigated, too.
Young-joo and Dong-joon share the lunch his mother made for them. Aw, she’s apparently a terrible cook, but they still eat her food. No wonder they like Subway so much.
Young-joo mentions that a lot of Dong-joon’s lawyer friends have stopped by, offering to represent him free-of-charge, but Dong-joon insists that he’ll go without a lawyer. After all, Chang-ho and Sung-shik also had to endure similar “unfortunate circumstances,” so Dong-joon will accept whatever punishment is due to him.
Hesitantly, Young-joo says she thinks she can wait five years. Dong-joon blusters that she should watch her health and will make sure his mother sends her tonics each month. He just asks that, on the day he’s released, that he gets to eat a meal that Young-joo has made. Aw.
Secretary Song is in jail, respectfully giving a back massage to a fellow inmate. Wait, that’s Jo Jae-hyun, and is he really reprising his role from Punch? OMG, yes, that’s (former) Prosecutor General LEE TAE-JOON as Secretary Song’s cellmate. Ahhh, he even has his earmuffs!
Tae-joon explains that someone once told him not to listen to the corrupt world around him, but to only listen to the truths that resonate within the heart. He tells Secretary Song that it’s fortunate to have a second chance at life — since they lived their first life in the sewer, they should make sure their second life is spent in a crystal clear pond.
He encourages Secretary Song in his trial tomorrow — and then asks if Secretary Song, when he’s helping out the police, can also take him along so he can enjoy jjajangmyeon, promising that he won’t slurp and will eat them quietly. Pffft, is that a reference to Jo Jae-hyun’s role in Master–God of Noodle?
The trial in the cover-up of Sung-shik’s murder begins, and the prosecutor is none other than CHOI YEON-JIN (Seo Ji-hye). The Punch reunion is real.
She questions Soo-yeon, who declares that she was simply following her father’s orders. She never meant to commit any crimes. Lawyer Choi confirms his daughter’s statements, explaining he was greedy to have Dong-joon as his son-in-law. But he didn’t write the ruling — that was Secretary Song. Wait, what?
Lawyer Choi also points out Secretary Song received money from Chairman Kang, which is true enough, except we know that he returned it. But Lawyer Choi uses it as an excuse to explain that Secretary Song and Chairman Kang were really behind the forged trial because he wanted to cover up his son’s crime of murdering Sung-shik.
Dong-joon, Young-joo, and Secretary Song regroup to figure out how to prove that Lawyer Choi is lying to protect Soo-yeon. After all, he can’t escape the charge of murder, but he can at least make sure his daughter goes free. They’ll need to find proof that Soo-yeon acted of her own accord and that Lawyer Choi wrote the original verdict in Chang-ho’s trial.
Young-joo returns to Taebaek to meet with Attorney Jo and Soo-yeon’s assistant. They’re also under investigation, although they haven’t been officially arrested. Attorney Jo agrees to testify, since he can at least fulfill Jung-il’s wish to destroy Lawyer Choi. As for Soo-yeon’s assistant, she agrees to give a statement if it means her own sentence will be reduced.
In the courtroom, Soo-yeon’s assistant testifies that Soo-yeon frequently visited with Chief Justice Jang, including when she gave him a copy of the still frame from the sex video. This belies Soo-yeon’s claim that she was only following her father’s orders, because the assistant points out that no woman would reveal her husband’s affair just because her father told her to.
Attorney Jo also testifies that he had previously looked on Taebaek’s server for the original ruling in Chang-ho’s trial, and saw that it had originally been written by Lawyer Choi. When Lawyer Choi protests that Attorney Jo’s testimony can’t be trusted due to his loyalty to Jung-il, Dong-joon shows that the writing style is identical to other rulings Lawyer Choi made when he used to be a judge and nothing like Secretary Song’s style of writing back when he was a prosecutor.
Young-joo meets with Yeon-jin privately, showing her all the evidence that Dong-joon helped gather throughout the investigation. But Yeon-jin hands over the sentencing guidelines for ruling against crimes of perjury and evidence obstruction. The prosecutor points out that if she goes easy on Dong-joon, then she’ll have to go easy on the rest of them, too, and she knows that’s not what Dong-joon would want.
When court is back in session, Yeon-jin officially reveals that she requests the following punishments: for Jung-il’s crimes of corpse desecration and solicitation of attempted murder — fifteen years in prison; for Lawyer Choi’s crimes of bribery, obstruction of justice, and the murder of Chairman Kang — life in prison; for Soo-yeon’s bribery and obstruction of justice — twelve years in prison; for Secretary Song’s obstruction of justice — five years in prison; and finally, for Dong-joon, as someone who abused his judgeship for personal advancement — ten years in prison.
Dong-joon has a chance to give his final statement, and with one last lingering look at Young-joo, he confesses that he didn’t live as an upright judge should. He has no excuse, and asks that the court punish him harshly so that no one will think themselves above the law. He asks that his punishment give hope to the civilians watching the trial, that they may know the era of justice has begun.
The news is full of how high-ranking police officials cracked the scandal of Taebaek’s slush fund, including investigating other officials who were caught up in Taebaek’s bribes, and are congratulating themselves for resisting such temptation. Ki-yong is furious that Dong-joon’s name isn’t mentioned, since he’s the reason the police were able to find out about the slush fund in the first place.
Young-joo takes matters into her own hands and holds an informal press conference, revealing that Dong-joon was actually a whistleblower who worked with the police to expose Taebaek’s corruption. Things are not looking good for those high-ranking police officials, since they can’t even claim the glory of the investigation.
Public opinion is now swayed to Dong-joon’s side as more evidence is revealed about the sacrifices he made to expose Taebaek’s corruption. Mom is thankful to Young-joo for helping to clear her son’s reputation, even though the final verdict has yet to be heard.
The verdict is in, and the judge reads his sentencing, which are all (mostly) lower than Yeon-jil’s original requests: Jung-il gets ten years in prison; Lawyer Choi still gets life in prison; Soo-yeon gets seven years; Secretary Song gets two years; and Dong-joon gets four years — and his license to practice law is revoked. At least it’s better than ten years, though.
Young-joo visits Dong-joon in jail, requesting his assistance in filling out an application to get reparation for her father’s false indictment as a murderer. She considers this to be her father’s epitaph that she and Dong-joon will leave behind. She eventually gets the reparation money, approximately $250,000, and uses it to go quit the police force and go to law school.
Four years later, she visits Dong-joon in jail, telling him how nervous she is about taking the bar exam next week. She mentions that she had to study his rulings from when he was a judge, jokingly adding that he must have been pretty impressive. Dong-joon gently takes her hands in his, reassuring her that since she used the reparation money to pay for law school, to think of it like her father is helping her to become a lawyer.
After the bar exam, she nervously checks the results, then hides her excitement that she passed when her mother excitedly bursts into her room, having checked the results herself. Her daughter is going to be a lawyer!
Young-joo sells her mother’s shop and sets up a small law firm under her own name, so now she can provide for her mother and allow her to rest. Mom’s too excited, though, and eagerly takes over cleaning the office. As she does so, she sees the family photo of the three of them, and quietly reassures her husband that Young-joo became a lawyer to follow in his footsteps. She asks him to watch over her. Aw.
It’s the day of Dong-joon’s release from jail, and Young-joon nervously prepares herself. Aw, she’s still wearing the necklace he gave her.
Dong-joon retrieves his personal items from the prison guard, and he finds the tiepin that Young-joon gave him in return, remembering his promise that he would wear it for ten years.
When they meet outside the prison, they both notice each other wearing their respective gifts. Double awwww.
As Young-joo drives him to his mother’s nursing home, she explains that there’s been a journalism award set up in Chang-ho’s name to honor truth in reporting, so now Chang-ho’s name is remembered in a joyful way, instead of that as a supposed murderer.
When he arrives at the nursing home, his mother greets him with tears of joy. But he’s distracted by the sight of his father in one of the beds.
Mom explains that Doctor Dad has rapidly deteriorating dementia, so he came here last year since his other family couldn’t care for him and he didn’t want to stay in his own hospital. All the money and power in the world couldn’t save him from a disease that afflicts even the most common man, but Mom looks on the bright side, pointing out that they’re finally together as a family.
Soo-yeon is still in jail, but it looks like she’s made friends and has settled into a new life away from Taebaek and the greedy, manipulative ways of her father. Jung-il is also in prison, and as he does his push-ups, the hard look in his eye when he studies his father’s photo implies that his thirst for revenge has not yet been sated.
Secretary Song is out of jail and working in a lawyer’s office, even though he still can’t practice law himself. Please tell me he works for Young-joo. He visits Tae-joon in jail and they happily slurp noodles together.
It’s Young-joo’s first real trial as a lawyer, and she’s adorably anxious. Dong-joon reassures her that it will all go well. If she gets too nervous, she should imagine that he’s the judge and think of what he would say.
She defends a poor, elderly woman who was swindled out of the cost of an expensive medical device, demanding a $1000 refund from the company. But the lawyer for the medical company insists that a refund is impossible — if they refunded everyone who asked for it, then they would go bankrupt.
Young-joo remembers one of Dong-joon’s previous rulings, where he stated that a ruined company can be fixed, but a ruined person still has to live tomorrow. She repeats those words to the judge, adding that her client isn’t the only one who has been swindled.
She then imagines Dong-joon in the judge’s seat, ordering her to gather the statements from the others and file a class action suit. Dong-joon: “I will never disregard concrete evidence ever again!”
I wasn’t sure how an extension would help a show that already spent a lot of time floundering in a plot that seemed to endlessly revolve around how everyone would backstab each other in new (or sometimes familiar) ways, but I’m pleased at how everything turned out in the end. I love that Young-joo decided to take the law into her own hands and be the voice of those that are so often forgotten, ignored, or easily pushed aside. I doubt she’ll ever make a lot of money, but hopefully she makes enough to keep Dong-joon on retainer as an advisor (and Secretary Song! Please, I need him to work with her forever, if only so she can continue to feed him).
The ending was satisfactory to me, although I wish there could have been at least one extra news report squeezed in somewhere that confirmed Taebaek, as a whole, is utterly destroyed. That’s been the real villain of this entire show, so it’s kind of a letdown to be left wondering if, somehow, with the hundreds of people that were still left working there, it managed to survive and be reborn. I’m trusting the investigation managed to root out all the corruption and make Taebaek’s name a disgrace, but I just want confirmation, y’know? I want to see what new office is filling those shiny granite halls. I want to know where those terra cotta soldiers are now!
Then again, maybe they’ll pop up again in another of Park Kyung-soo’s dramas. I admit I squeed when I saw Jo Jae-hyun and Seo Ji-hye reprising their roles (and maybe teared up a little, too). Talk about some welcome cameos! But as fun as they were, it make me feel conflicted, because it only reminded me how much more polished and thrilling Punch was compared to Whisper. Not that this show has been terrible, far from it — but there was just something lacking to push it over the edge of nail-biting crackdom. Perhaps it was the fact that, in general, our characters seemed to get so little growth — even though circumstances changed, they seemed to remain true to themselves until the end, be they corrupt or honorable. Even though part of the fun of the show was seeing how someone was going to wriggle out of whatever trap was laid for them, it did seem a little one-note that much of the drama was set up in endless “spy vs. spy” shenanigans.
That said, I’m happy to accept that Whisper exists in the same universe as Punch, and I’d like to think that there are definitely fewer corrupt officials on the streets thanks to the heroes of both shows. I can’t help but wonder if Dong-joon ever met Yeon-jin or Ha-kyung in court before he was forced to resign, and if he respected them as prosecutors. It makes me wonder what they would say about his scandals as they followed along with the news reports. Basically I want a Whisper/Punch crossover, maybe even a sequel, where everyone gets together to fight whatever new corruption has wormed its way into the political world. I’ve still got my eye on Jung-il, who will probably be up to no good when he finally gets out of jail.
Considering this is a Park Kyung-soo drama, though, I should just be happy that the ended gave us hope and nobody else died. With the passage of four years, I can start to believe that Young-joo and Dong-joon might finally have the chance for a healthy relationship. I’m sure they were able to talk through the issues that got them entangled in this mess in the first place (no, I’m still haven’t forgotten that sex video). I can see them becoming each other’s pillar as they navigate their new roles in this world: Young-joo as the fierce yet bleeding-heart attorney, ready to take on any big-name company, and Dong-joon as the ex-con who humbly takes care of his mother’s nursing home and provides support and legal advice whenever Young-joo needs it. I could totally see him reveling in being a stay-at-home dad, being carful to make sure their children are fully aware of right-from-wrong and the consequences of their actions, constantly encouraging them to make wise decisions, no matter how big or small. There should be at least one healthy family from this show who won’t ruin their kids lives, right?
At any rate, however it happens, I want my idealistic heroes to live happily ever after as they continue to battle corruption and save the day — even if it’s only to feed my own idealistic hopes that there are people in this world, right now, fighting to do the same against the real life corruption that surrounds us.
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