Forest of Secrets: Episode 2
We get deeper into the character dynamics this hour, and I’m hooked! As it becomes clear that something went direly wrong with the murder trial, Shi-mok and Yeo-jin both search for answers. They butt heads at first, but quickly realize that it might benefit them both to team up. But enemies are all around, and it’s hard to know who, if anyone, can be trusted.
EPISODE 2 RECAP
Shi-mok weaves through traffic, speeding toward the prison where he’s told guards to check on Kang Jin-sub. When he arrives, a guard leads Shi-mok to the prisoner’s shrouded body, saying that it was already too late when they found him.
Shi-mok examines the body as the guard explains that the man hanged himself from the bars of his window. They hadn’t expected suicide, the guard tells him, and when he asks Shi-mok about the contents of the letter, Shi-mok just brushes him off.
As he walks out, Shi-mok runs into Kang Jin-sub’s widow, who’s sobbing loudly as she carries her baby on her back. He grabs her and asks why she sent him the note. Recognizing Shi-mok, she shakes him and screams that he killed her husband, but Shi-mok calmly asks her why she didn’t stop her husband—she must have seen the contents of the note. She keeps screaming at him to bring her husband back, and Shi-mok suddenly yells, “You knew he would die!” Shocked, she freezes. (So did I, to be honest.)
He asks her if her husband told her that he would die for their sake, so that she and the baby could live comfortably. Did she receive money recently? Did she know it was the price of her husband’s life? Aghast at these rapid-fire accusations, she stares at Shi-mok. He tells her to answer him if she feels wronged: What did Kang Jin-sub say when he told her to send that note?
She says that he’d told her it was just a scare tactic—he’d promised he wouldn’t actually die. She starts to wail again in grief, the child’s cries joining hers. As Shi-mok leaves, he pauses and looks back at her. He considers the possibility that she’s putting on an act, but then wonders why Kang Jin-sub left a plea of innocence behind if he was ordered to kill himself for money. He also wonders why the man was so certain that the prosecutors manipulated the evidence to frame him.
Shi-mok goes to the National Forensics Service next to examine the black box footage from the taxi again. The video analysis tech tells Shi-mok that the closest he can zoom in only shows a blurred, anonymous figure in the window. He sees no evidence of manipulation, and points out that even capturing this image was hugely coincidental—if conditions were even slightly different, they wouldn’t have it.
In the hallway, Shi-mok sees shady Officer Kim Soo-chan coming out of the DNA lab and hears him grumbling about leaving something to “that woman.” Shi-mok eyes Soo-chan and is about to follow him when the deputy chief prosecutor calls him, and Shi-mok is forced to turn away. Soo-chan watches him as he leaves.
Deputy Chief LEE CHANG-JOON waits for Shi-mok in front of his house, and as soon as he arrives, he starts to chide Shi-mok about this murderer who dares to threaten them with suicide. “He died,” says Shi-mok. Deputy Chief Lee asks if the investigation went against protocol, or if evidence was manipulated in any way. Shi-mok says no—he just checked.
Deputy Chief Lee says this is on the police then, not the prosecution, but he still castigates Shi-mok for going to meet CEO Park that day. “You sure find a lot of ways to screw me over,” he says by way of goodbye. Shi-mok bows in apology, but after the man is gone, he thinks, But you knew you’d be screwed over. Why didn’t you stop this?
We flash back to a law seminar, five months earlier: Shi-mok arrives at the hotel where it’s being held and sees CEO Park with a beautiful young woman. She goes in first, and as Shi-mok follows, CEO Park waves at him with a smile, but Shi-mok ignores him.
As he checks in, Shi-mok is told that he and the rest of his colleagues from the Seoul Western Prosecutor’s Office are on the tenth floor. He ends up in the same elevator as the young woman, and both get off on ten. Shi-mok observes her closely on the way up, and watches her pass him and go toward the end of the hallway. She feels his gaze and turns around, but he goes into his room before she catches him watching.
Shi-mok runs into Dong-jae in the lobby a bit later, who asks him if he’s seen the deputy chief—the man is late and he’s not answering his phone. Deputy Chief Lee shows up, and as Dong-jae greets him, another man joins them. Watching from a distance, Shi-mok notices that Deputy Chief Lee’s hair is damp, as if he’s just showered. He recalls the woman’s dolled-up appearance and her suspicious behavior, and wonders if she went into Deputy Chief Lee’s room for a rendezvous.
In the present, Shi-mok recalls this encounter as he waits to get into Yongsan Police Station. A car exits the gate before Shi-mok can be let in, and as it passes, he recognizes the man sitting in the back: the police chief at Yongsan, whom the deputy chief introduced to Dong-jae as his friend.
On his way in, Shi-mok bumps into Yeo-jin, who recognizes him and introduces herself formally. He ignores her outstretched hand and asks for directions to the evidence room. She follows him upstairs, asking eagerly if he’s reinvestigating the case and why, but Shi-mok just asks if she’s heard back from Soo-chan about the DNA results.
Frowning, Yeo-jin asks him what Soo-chan said, word for word. “I’m going crazy. Why did I leave this to that woman?” Shi-mok repeats dutifully. Confused, she guides him to the evidence room and unlocks it for him, but he goes in first and shuts the door in her face. Ha.
Yeo-jin finds Shi-mok unlocking CEO Park’s phone and asks how he knew the pattern, but he ignores her. They look at the call log together: Before Shi-mok’s call to the cable company, there are missed calls from a CEO Choi in Yeongdeungpo, and an outgoing call to “LCJ.”
Yeo-jin asks if Shi-mok knows who that is, pointing out that CEO Park called them right after talking to Shi-mok. He ignores her question and leaves, but recalls Deputy Chief Lee’s revelation that CEO Park had informed him that he was joining forces with Shi-mok. Yeo-jin dials the number, but it goes to voicemail.
The next morning at Yongsan Police Station, Yeo-jin finds her colleagues watching news coverage of Kang Jin-sub’s suicide. They’re relieved that this time, the prosecutors are taking the fall. Yeo-jin asks Soo-chan about what happened with the DNA test, and he tells her that it just turned out to be dog’s blood.
At the prosecutor’s office, Shi-mok spots a group of young prosecutors, including Eun-soo, taking stacks of files into into Dong-jae’s office. Seeing Shi-mok, Dong-jae tells him that it’s the new Special Regulatory Team. When Eun-soo comes back out, Shi-mok asks her about today’s video briefing, which is soon. Dong-jae teases that everyone will fall for her beauty, and gives her tips on how to do well on camera. She thanks him.
Eun-soo gives her press conference and gives her condolences, but she declares that the investigation was carried out fairly and says that Kang Jin-sub couldn’t handle the pressure of being locked up, citing a previous suicide attempt. Shi-mok’s middle school friend sees this on TV and gives him a call, although we aren’t privy to the conversation. Meanwhile, Yeo-jin goes to the NFS to check the DNA results, and finds out that the blood was actually CEO Park’s. She contemplates calling Soo-chan, but thinks better of it.
Instead, she confronts Shi-mok as he packs up after a trial at the courthouse, accusing him of manipulating the evidence in Kang Jin-sub’s case. Yeo-jin asks why he went to CEO Park’s house that day, what their relationship was, and why Soo-chan is hiding the DNA results. When he doesn’t reply, she starts to walk away.
“Park Moo-sung was a sponsor,” Shi-mok finally reveals, and Yeo-jin comes back. He tells her that CEO Park provided money, women, and other bribes to powerful people, but when he lost his assets, that influence turned to contempt and scorn. And then murder, Yeo-jin infers aloud. Shi-mok tells her that Soo-chan knows about it, because he laughed when Shi-mok told him that CEO Park was a personal acquaintance—Soo-chan knew about the bribes and assumed Shi-mok was involved, too.
Yeo-jin asks if that means that Soo-chan was on the take too, but Shi-mok says he’s small fry; it must be one of his superiors, who then ordered the cover-up. Yeo-jin is offended at the insinuation, but Shi-mok simply mentions a recent corruption case. He tells her that a laptop that disappeared from CEO Park’s home is missing from evidence as well; whoever snatched it was probably ordered by higher-ups to find a possible list of those who accepted bribes.
Her turn to share now, Yeo-jin shows him the DNA results and says that she found the blood at the house behind CEO Park’s, where Kang Jin-sub never went, meaning the real murderer is someone else. At his lack of surprise, Yeo-jin asks if he knew about this already, but he doesn’t answer. Once they’re outside and in his car, away from listening ears, she asks again if he really manipulated that video. He sets off, ignoring her question about where they’re going.
Deep in thought, Shi-mok runs a red light and almost gets into an accident. Yeo-jin asks if he’s okay, and he finally says that there’s no way now that that video can be real—he’s been deceived. She wonders who would go that far, but he wonders why they would.
At CEO Park’s house, they run into the taxi driver, whose car is still parked in the same spot. The man tells them he parks it there whenever he’s off, although on the day of the incident, January 16th, he was on probation. He’d been reported by a customer he refused to pick up at Yeongdeungpo Station on the 13th.
Yeo-jin points out the neighbor’s house where she found the blood, showing him a drawing of the metal bars in her notebook. CEO Park’s carport has a CCTV in the corner, and Yeo-jin wonders if the culprit jumped the fence to avoid it, but Shi-mok points out that it’s off. They wonder at a criminal smart enough to avoid the taxi’s black box, but one who couldn’t tell that the CCTV was broken.
Yeo-jin shows him where she thinks the murderer entered from, climbing up to the roof and over into CEO Park’s house, and regrets aloud that she didn’t investigate all this when the incident occurred. Shi-mok asks her to find out who reported the taxi driver. She’s doubtful that the customer is involved, considering how many things would have to fall into place exactly as they did, but she makes the call anyway.
Meanwhile, Shi-mok retraces what he imagines are the killer’s steps, entering through the window of CEO Park’s son’s room before walking into the living room. He sees CEO Park in his mind’s eye and calculates how long it would take for him to hear the doorbell, go to the window, and open the gate.
He physically reenacts the murder and deduces that it would take thirty-seven seconds altogether if CEO Park was killed after he opened the gate—long enough that Kang Jin-sub would have seen the culprit.
Shi-mok considers various other scenarios, and disturbingly, each time he imagines himself in the role of the murderer. Yeo-jin enters the house through the window as well and creeps into the living room to see him stabbing into the dark with a knife.
Oblivious to her presence, Shi-mok walks to the window and looks out, concluding that CEO Park was already dead when the doorbell rang, and that the person at the window was the murderer. Yeo-jin asks what he’s doing, and tells him that she’s confirmed the identity of the person who reported the taxi driver.
Shi-mok picks up the knife he dropped on the floor earlier, and she points her taser at him, commanding him to put it down. He calmly puts it back where he got it as she demands to know why he looked at CEO Park’s call log. Shi-mok replies, “Because I couldn’t allow myself to be used.”
He says that if he hadn’t come to the scene that day, and if the investigation hadn’t have wrapped up so quickly, they wouldn’t have missed all these clues. It was planned that way, he tells her, by someone who knew he would come here: “LCJ,” or Deputy Chief Prosecutor Lee Chang-joon, whom CEO Park called right after Shi-mok. He explains that now that there’s evidence that the arrest was improperly handled, Deputy Chief Lee can blame everything on him.
Yeo-jin is shocked, but she rallies herself together and tells Shi-mok to strike first and take him down. Shi-mok says he can’t do that yet, because he doesn’t have the evidence to back up his assumptions. They’re about to leave the house when she grabs his arm, stopping him. She points out that if Shi-mok had arrived a few minutes earlier, before Kang Jin-sub, he would have been framed for murder instead. Is that what he meant by not being used?
They don’t know anything yet, he says as he looks around the dark room, just like they can’t see anything right now. “We just have to turn on the light,” replies Yeo-jin.
In the car, Yeo-jin makes another crappy drawing in her notebook, this time of a figure holding a knife. She sees Shi-mok jabbing in the dark in her mind’s eye and scribbles over the picture, glancing at him with a frown. She wonders aloud who she can report the DNA results to—it’s not like she can go directly to the police chief. Shi-mok reveals that her chief and his deputy chief are friends.
He tells her that they won’t be fazed by Kang Jin-sub’s death, and that they’ll just want to move on from this as quickly as possible. Unsolved cases abound, he points out—what’s one more murderer roaming the streets? Yeo-jin says that revealing the innocence of the man they arrested and put away, and whose death has become a national news story, will turn the Violent Crimes Unit upside down.
He asks if she wants to cover the whole thing up, then. She asks him the same thing, since he’s likely to suffer the most if this becomes public. He responds that they’re people who search for facts, and she’s found one that was completely buried. “But the decision to expose it or not isn’t something that depends on the current situation. What kind of person has Han Yeo-jin lived her life as? That’s what it all depends on,” Shi-mok says.
She asks him to let her out, and he pulls over. She gets out and gives him a parting bow and a slight smile—her first since they met. She watches him drive away, pondering his words, and then makes a phone call.
The next morning, Kang Jin-sub’s wrongful conviction is all over the news. The Violent Crimes team leader chews out both Yeo-jin and Soo-chan, her for leaking information about an ongoing investigation, and him for sitting on the DNA evidence. Soo-chan claims he was just waiting to reveal it until he found the real murderer, but Yeo-jin accuses him of trying to bury their mistake with Kang Jin-sub. Exasperated, the team leader tells them both to get lost.
Yeo-jin demands that Soo-chan hand over the laptop that she knows he took from the crime scene. He makes excuses as he pulls it out of his desk, but she just grabs it and walks away. She boots it up and calls Shi-mok to tell him that she has the laptop and will get the cyber team to check it, but he tells her that there’s probably nothing useful on it if the culprit left it behind, and hangs up. She grumbles that he could have at least asked if she’s okay.
Reporters swarm Eun-soo as she tries to enter the prosecutor’s office. Shi-mok sees this when he arrives, but he goes inside without helping her. Dong-jae makes a cutting remark to him about it, but Shi-mok is focused on the group of young women (prostitutes?) exiting Dong-jae’s office. Among them is the girl from the hotel five months ago.
Shi-mok goes into Dong-jae’s office on the pretense of retrieving some documents he accidentally gave Dong-jae. He searches the cabinet until he finds one file stuffed underneath the others, and pulls it out.
He’s just opened it when an enraged Dong-jae bursts into the office and slaps the file out of his hands. Shi-mok sticks to his excuse, but Dong-jae tells him to go out and take responsibility for what happened to Eun-soo instead of spinning these lies. Once Shi-mok leaves, Dong-jae opens the file, which is in fact about that young woman.
Dong-jae storms out and grabs Shi-mok by the collar, yelling at him for spying on him. Deputy Chief Lee suddenly appears and barks at them to stop. Shi-mok escapes to his office, and Dong-jae joins Deputy Chief Lee, assuring him that Shi-mok didn’t see anything (probably).
Deputy Chief Lee says that they’re about to be audited, and the two of them are done for if Shi-mok talks. The chief prosecutor isn’t going to help them this time, either. Deputy Chief Lee says he’ll put the blame on Eun-soo, since she’s become the public face of this case, although this plan doesn’t sit well with Dong-jae. The deputy chief also berates Dong-jae about his lack of progress in finding the network of female escorts CEO Park used.
Eun-soo watches a clip of herself being accosted by reporters, clearly overwrought. The comments under the video harshly criticize her and her family, and she soon receives an upsetting call from her mother and runs out.
Shi-mok’s section chief calls him to a nearby restaurant where he’s having lunch with friends. He tells Shi-mok that he will soon be audited, which is most likely a prelude to being fired. (Why am I suddenly getting Punch flashbacks?)
Shi-mok takes this in calmer than the men expect and has barely touched his food before he’s called away to see the deputy chief, leaving behind a strange atmosphere between the remaining men.
Deputy Chief Lee tells Shi-mok that at least one person will lose their job in the upcoming internal audit and never be able to work in law again, implying that person will be Shi-mok. The deputy chief is expecting to replace the chief prosecutor once he leaves for politics, and in a sudden reversal, he promises to make Shi-mok the section chief for Prosecutor Unit 3. Surprised, Shi-mok asks if it will be Eun-soo who gets fired.
“How about Seo Dong-jae?” asks Deputy Chief Lee. He says that eight years ago, Dong-jae caused trouble with his trick of hiding important evidence until the end of the trial; he’d blamed his crazy junior prosecutor, and the deputy chief believed him.
But, says Deputy Chief Lee, pointing at Shi-mok, that so-called crazy hoobae ended up being the most brilliant among them. He says that he noticed when he looked at the court records for this case that Dong-jae brought in the black box footage at the last moment, which means that he’s up to his old habits again.
Deputy Chief Lee stares at Shi-mok, an anticipatory gleam in his eye. They both stand up, and the older man says that Shi-mok, at least, should protect his hoobae. For Eun-soo, who is being dragged through the mud right now, he says that Shi-mok should sacrifice himself along with her.
Deputy Chief Lee places his hands on Shi-mok’s shoulders and pushes him backwards and down into his own desk chair. “I. Do not. Know CEO Park. Understand?” Shi-mok stares up at him and mentions the hotel suite number. “Should I say you know nothing about that too?” Deputy Chief Lee lets him go, taking this as an agreement.
Shi-mok says that the position of section chief isn’t enough for him, though—he wants the deputy chief’s position. His superior looks at him in surprise, asking if Shi-mok was just greedy for a promotion after all. Shi-mok tells him to lead the way.
“And after that?” asks Deputy Chief Lee. “Drag me along,” replies Shi-mok.
Well, that certainly took a turn. I was not expecting Shi-mok to suddenly form an alliance with the man who’s clearly been an enemy to him for years. He’s our hero, so I’m sure that he hasn’t suddenly turned to the dark side, but I’m curious to see how he’ll use this situation to serve his goals. I’m at a loss as to why Deputy Chief Lee would suddenly decide to get rid of Dong-jae and keep Shi-mok by his side though, especially since until now, he’s seen him as irritatingly incorruptible.
Despite all the clues in the promotional materials, I was kind of bummed that rather than just being a cold man who doesn’t access his emotions much, Shi-mok has literally been lobotomized out of having feelings. Jo Seung-woo does a wonderful job of playing him as outwardly cool, but with deep currents of thought and feeling running under the surface. I wonder if we’ve been led to believe that he feels less emotion than he actually does; I definitely wasn’t expecting him to yell at Kang Jin-sub’s widow, although it’s hard to tell whether that was real anger, or a tactic to get answers to his questions.
At first I thought Shi-mok was oblivious to social cues, as one of his colleagues remarked at the Chinese restaurant, but after this episode, I’ve concluded that he simply doesn’t care about them. He’s extremely observant, so he usually understands what is expected and/or required in a given social situation, but he doesn’t act on that cue unless he’s going to benefit in some way from that action. Take Eun-soo’s ordeal with the reporters—he paused and noticed that she was having a hard time, but visibly decided not to interfere. I’m dying to know what he thinks of Eun-soo, because he treats her with cool matter-of-factness, but he notices everything she does, gives her good advice, and is clearly interested in what’s going to happen to her. And yet those gorgeous black eyes are so inscrutable!
The dynamic between Shi-mok and Yeo-jin is just as interesting. She’s as frank with her opinions as he is, but far less brutally so, and it’s entertaining to see how she deals with his uncommunicative ways. Whereas she’s like a dog with a bone, asking until she gets her answers, he waits to speak until he has something vital to say. Yeo-jin processes things aloud, talking to herself when no one else is around, but Shi-mok works through his theories in his own imagination, and he gets so deeply immersed that I don’t think he even realizes that he’s acting these scenarios out with his body.
For instance, when he’s in the throes of the murder reenactment, he doesn’t even hear or see Yeo-jin. (It’s also interesting that he seems to lack the instinctive disgust people normally have for putting themselves in the figurative shoes of a murderer, whether from long exposure to criminals or because of his unique psychological condition.) The contrasts between their personalities are obvious but not obnoxiously so, and it’s evident that Yeo-jin will provide the show—and maybe our hero—with heart.
The teasers for this show were insistent that its main theme was to be “Trust no one,” and in light of that, I’m intrigued by the fact that whereas Shi-mok has clearly taken that as his life motto, Yeo-jin seems to have decided to trust Shi-mok. In fact, now that she knows that both the police station and prosecutor’s office are corrupt at the highest levels, she may trust no one but him—and yet, despite Shi-mok’s challenge to her about what kind of person she is, he’s playing a deep game, and he’s a difficult one to pull secrets out of. She’s done well so far, though, and seems tough and tenacious enough to handle the job, so I’m looking forward to seeing her in action.
- Forest of Secrets: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Forest of Secrets
- Jo Seung-woo and Bae Doo-na search for truth in the Forest of Secrets
- It’s a concrete jungle of intrigue in new Forest of Secrets poster
- Everyone is a suspect in Forest of Secrets
- Corruption and dark mystery in new Forest of Secrets teaser
- Guns loaded in Forest of Secrets teasers
- A tape-recorded warning teases thriller Forest of Secrets
- From behind the scenes and the script reading of tvN’s Forest of Secrets
- tvN thriller Forest of Secrets confirms leads, adds Lee Jun-hyuk