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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.

 
COMMENTS

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.

 
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Omo ?, I'm early today.

I had gone through the comments and found myself nodding my head in agreement at many instances. ?

Thanks Laica ?✏️ for the recap.

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Thank you! I like how you recreated my avatar with E
emojis, that's super cute! ?

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Wish I could use grey cat and red pencil instead. ?

So, I'm super glad that you notice it. ❤️

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The ad nauseam flashbacks and one way phone conversations, which are usually revealed in a future flashback does not build suspense or add to the overall narrative.

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Forrest of Secrets has grabbed me right from the start, unlike other shows that have recently started. I want to see very much what happens next. Shi-mok is playing the long game. He is super smart and has learnt when to be servile to lull those who do not value him into a false sense of security. Yes-jin also has layers dispite her outward persona - she is way smarter and committed than she lets on. I look forward to the bad guys going down...

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I posted my comment then went back to read the others and our first sentences are basically the same! He definitely is playing the long game and I am so excited to see where this drama goes with it.

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Ooooooh shiiiit. Shi Mok is really here to play the long game. I am really enjoying the mental exercise required to watch this show. It makes it that much more exciting and enthralling. This is a world I want to be dragged into.

This episode definitely cemented in my mind that it isn't an issue of Shi Mok not recognizing social cues. Because he clearly does; he simply chooses not to acknowledge them because he just doesn’t feel the emotions required to go along with it. He can obviously adapt to a situation if it's absolutely necessary but otherwise, he doesn't see the point.

Although certain times, and maybe this is just me reading too much into this, it seems as though he's captivated by other people's ability to feel emotions so deeply. Such as when he interacted with the grandmother from the episode and the wife from this one. I found the scene where Shi Mok imagined the brutal murdering of CEO Park over and over again so fascinating. That entire sequence was so well shot and beautiful despite the brutality of it. It gave me some serious S1 Hannibal feels (the American show).

As for Yeo Jin, I knew I was going to like their interactions together and I'm so glad I wasn't wrong on that. Although, her character is not like I originally thought she would be. I did not expect her to be so naive and seems very slow on the uptake. For a detective she isn't as sharp nor as perceptive as I expected. Her immediate defense of the police unit during the courtroom scene seemed particularly naive and childish to me. As if corrupt cops are not a thing that exist, and that her unit would be free of them.

I do like that she has the best of intentions and genuinely wants to be part of a law enforcement unit that takes their oaths/pledges seriously but she should also ground those hopes with a heavy sprinkling of reality or she'll easily fall into traps without realizing it. I also hope she learns really quickly how to not speak her every thought aloud and be more cognizant of the people around her that could possibly hear what she's saying.

We're only two episodes in but the further along we go in this story the more elaborate the cover up seems to be. I don't know if Dong Jae will make it past the next episode, the heavy hinting during this one seemed to point to him taking the fall. But, if he does make it beyond I see his major drawback being that temper of his. He needs to control his anger better and he's not all that great at being subtle.

Clearly, he isn't a mastermind type of character and is more cut out for being a lackey than a strategic thinker. I also feel that this is the reason the Deputy Chief is possibly thinking of getting rid of Dong Jae. Loyal (probably) he may be but he also comes across as a character who could easily make one mistake that ruins everything for Chief Lee. Meanwhile, forming an ‘alliance’ and that’s a super shaky word with Shi Mok would allow him to keep his enemy as close as possible...

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As for Eun Soo, I really felt bad for her this episode. She's gotten her first promotion, her first real case and after what she expected to be a clean victory it all exploded in her face. Out of all the secondary characters, I'm most interested and curious about the direction of her story line. I'm really rooting for this woman.

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I accidentally tried to upvote your comment twice because I loved it so much lol. I absolutely agree with your reading of Shi Mok - he's (mostly?) disengaged from emotion but fundamentally understands it. I love that Jo Seung Woo doesn't portray him as cold or distant. Shi Mok isn't oblivious to anything - he's so judicious and observant. I think he does care about Eun Soo and doesn't want her to become collateral damage. I love him so much already.

I don't think Yeo Jin's that slow on the uptake, but she's definitely far too naive (I suppose this is one of the biggest contrasts between her and Shi Mok so far). I don't think her disbelief/denial was too exaggerated when Shi Mok told her about the corruption but it was pretty unbelievable and makes me wonder how long she has been a cop. When she was talking about bribery out loud I was like gurl what are you doing?? I know kdrama characters often talk to themselves but as you say her general lack of awareness is going to land her in hot water.

I think Dong Jae is too stupid and easy to read to play the game for too long. The Deputy Chief is already impatient and tired of him - part of the reason to get rid of him I think is because the DC will no longer need him as a lackey and he'd rather bend Shi Mok to do his bidding (while also being wary that Shi Mok could stab him in the back, yikes). As you say, keep your enemies closer! I'm definitely going to enjoy the power games between these two - I was on edge throughout the last scene. Shi Mok is so smart; even when he's backed into a corner, he still has the gall to demand the DC's position in exchange for his silence. I love his guts.

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Why am I seeing this reply so late? But yes! and thank you! And I agree with enjoying how Jo Seung Woo is handling the character of Shi Mok. I think it was mentioned by someone before, but in the hands of a less talented actor, Shi Mok would come across as dry, bland and very one note. In order to play a character like SM who is so tightly written and reigned in, it requires an actor with a great understanding of nuances and the complexity that can be derived from the smallest of glances, shifting of posture, etc. There is a myriad of tiny things that by themselves are insignificant but when they come together they truly allow a character to leap off the screen and become dimensional.

I currently completed episode 3 of the drama (real life is getting in the way) and I still don't see Yeo Jin displaying much when it comes to being perceptive. Maybe it is because a lot of the current case deals with the inner workings of the prosecutors' office. Maybe there's something there that you are seeing but I'm not. I'd like to be proven wrong though so I'll be on the look out while watching episodes 4 and 5.

Dong Jae is definitiely a short-game kind of man. He's impulsive and doesn't know how to plan ahead. This is the type of show where alot of the fish in the water are sharks, and if you can't swim with them you will be eaten.

The last scene was incredible and I loved the execution of it! I did not expect Shi Mok to be that ballsy and make explicit demands to the Deputy Chief. But I'm here for it!

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The way this show is filmed is straight fire. I like how the place that the section chief was eating at is this sketchy af Chinese restaurant and not some slick high-class restaurant. If I were to use one word to describe this show, it would be "assured". This is a show that knows exactly where it's going and lays out the groundwork with steady hands.

Jo Seung-woo is killing it with Shi-mok. He communicates so much on so little dialogue with a twitch of his face, a turn of his head, etc. #Bae is of course also awesome with Yeo-jin. This is a character that actually seems like a cop, unlike many lady cops in other Korean dramas. She's kind, but also smart. Immediately after Shi-mok told her about the corruption she knew to stop trusting the people around her. I personally find it interesting too that both Shi-mok and Yeo-jin seem to trust each other. Shi-mok shared more information with Yeo-jin than he has with anyone else, and not just because of her doggedness. Considering the kind of person Shi-mok is, if he chooses not to talk to someone, it doesn't matter the kind of pressure they lay on him. It's like they're intrinsically drawn to a similar sincerity in each other.

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Bambi.
I so agree. From the very first moments this show hits hard.
It is so assured early. The dialogue is tight, the characters are not searching for their motivations...they have their histories fully-formed and we are going to see how this world plays out for keeps.

Its shot so that every surface feels to pull light out of the room, giving an overbearing and clawing feel to the drama. It is not a noir darkness, instead the normality is just shot so the ooze and haze of seedyness steps out of the shadow and becomes the city milieu. This is one of the rare occasions I feel the screen is sucking light out of my room.

The cinematography is considered, and the show fills its world with detail. Within this it gives every clue subtlety- without fuss.

For me, Shi-mok to date can be understood as a neural observer, always collecting information. Unlike the rest of us, he does not instantly jump at each wrong doing, He's constantly dissecting his world - dispassionately cataloguing it. Biding his time and only acts on information when it will have impact.

If you take this lens, it is not about liking or disliking any character. Here each arc makes sense by how Shi-mok needs to move to the next step. It is brutal in its matter-of-factness.

I take it that after the operation, as he has no emotional filter, he would have had to develop a rational mechanism to survive in the world.

The interesting thing may be watching how the typical "baddie" characters handle this. Usually power is exerted via emotional (or variant) manipulation. How will they fair against someone indifferent to them and almost immune to their methods.

Lastly, the sound design is done with the same bravado as the Chinese restaurant is as a location. Moments of funk, sounds are jarring out of the silences (through the subtle manipulation of volume). The only comfortable moments are those when we are briefly in Shi-mok's analytical thoughts. From where we are yanked by the blaring reactions of others or the harshness of the worlds sounds breaking in (think the near miss car accident).

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Agreed! I LOL'd at the secret corrupt official meeting where all the rich higher ups sat around eating jajangmyun. I just don't think I've ever seen that in a kdrama before.

I avoided this so long bc I was afraid the dynamic be ShiMok and YeoJin would be the same as Beautiful Mind. But these two seem much more natural in their characters. It feels like watching a gritty cop movie instead of a drama (except for the lobotomy part. That's very drama, but hopefully it actually ends up working in somehow). Excited to get to the reason everyone's claiming this is the best drama ever in every "What We're Watching"!

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This drama doesn't disappoint, and I hope more Beanies will pay attention to it despite the lack of a pretty and young cast as a lure.

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That reenactment scene remind me of the scene from Mystery Queen when Inspector Woo was reenacting a murder and everyone was so shook

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Thanks for the recap. I have a theory.... that lobotomy, it didn't completely serve its purpose. Opening scene in episode 1 had him fighting the same symptoms as before except for him not having violent outbursts, covering his ears to drown out noise right. So, he may not be completely emotionless. He is clearly affected by the procedure but I think he still has the capacity to feel emotions at extreme situations. As for, social cues, I think he takes advantage of it in purpose to ignore them where he sees fit. That request he made at the end raises stakes while it may protect both him and Eun Soo. But he is planning something. Yeo Jin seems perfectly straight forward yet perfectly capable at the same time. I liked how she basically forced the situation to change by going to the press to reveal the truth.
Eun Soo, I feel bad for her, still. Her family situation clearly controls her actions which led to her following Dong Jae. I don't know in what regard Shi-Mok holds her. He clearly doesn't wish for her to be thrown under the bus but he will probably won't loose sleep over it if he can't fix it for her. He observes her closely and yet keeps her at arm's length. Dong Jae is loyal but not 100% reliable but it's too early to loose him.
This show definitely has me as a returning viewer. Lets see, how the rest unfolds.

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Your recap is more interesting than the series. Although the lead actor- didnt know he could be so attractive. Gosh that guy is hot.
The series is slow and doesnt know what to do with its characters in its scenes. BD doodles for what? It doesnt add a quirky trait to her character. The silences, the stares man, all are like fillers. Dont think Im investing my time on just watching the lead actor although he is good and quite sexy. Its a drab show and the supporting cast just dont gel to give off a certain chemistry that makes the viewer stick to the series no matter what. I'm thinking Mystery Queen, With all its supreme silliness many a times, it was so high on the crackling chemistry between the leads and also amongst all the cast members it made me watch all the episodes even if they were really wacky in terms of common investigative procedurals.

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I didn't actually expected myself to get hooked to this drama (because honestly, just how many legal-action-thriller we're having back-to-back these days?) I was only checking out of curiosity but boooooy this drama knows what suspense mean.
As much as I love Signal and other thrillers, there will always be some scenes that's cringy enough that we subconsciously realize that we're watching a drama. But this show actually gave American TV Series vibe with how simple and realistic those scenes are. And I love it so much for that!

Ps. I was so used to seeing Kim Joonhyuk's upright prosecutor character in City Hunter that whenever he's going shady here I totally went "YOU WERE A GOOD GUUUUYYY WHYYYYYY"

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*it's LEE Junhyuk lol, my bad

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Hahaha, I had the exact same reaction when I realized he was going to be a villain. I always want Righteous Prosecutor Lee Joon-hyuk!

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Still gripped and wanting to know what happens next, but a few jarring plot points stuck out for me.

How did Shi Mok know that the suicide note was a ploy? And how was he so sure the wife was involved? Why was he so quick to trust Yeo Jin? He didn't know her from Adam and she could easily be on the take like the other police officer. And maybe it was just me, but what was the point of the restaurant scene? How did that fit with the rest of the developments?

On a more positive note, the acting from Cho Seung Woo remains top notch. And the overriding murder mystery continues to get unpeeled layer by layer. I had to close my eyes during the reenactment scene; the editing was slick and assured.

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I think it makes sense that he thought the wife had sent the note - it seems unlikely it could have been anyone else. He wasn't sure (how deeply) the wife was involved, the interrogation was him testing her. I also don't think he trusts Yeo Jin entirely yet - but he has inferred through their brief interactions that she is dogged in her pursuit of the truth. And why would she come to him with those accusations if she was in on it? I suppose she could have been ordered to find out how much he knows. But I think he could intuitively tell that she was largely ignorant of the intricacies of the cover up but genuinely wanted to find out what really happened.

The restaurant scene told us a few things: Shi Mok isn't really liked by anybody (especially the higher ups). They're well aware of his character and aren't sure how to deal with him (he's always been a thorn in their side). By telling him about the audit, they were trying to scare him and gauge his reaction. I also think the shady businessman who looked uncomfortable will reappear later (the camera seemed to linger on him a little too much lol).

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"How did Shi Mok know that the suicide note was a ploy?"

Just my take on this:
Recalling what happened in episode 2, SM raises a few doubts about what has transpired so far:

SM: Is she putting on an act? There's a chance that she is. But the murder and Kang Jin Seop's suicide... Why didn't he just leave quietly if he'd been ordered to do this? Why did he complain about how wronged he felt?
Wife: The prosecutors manipulated the evidence, and...
SM: How was he so sure about that?

If KJS was ordered to do this, chances are that he knows what the consequences of doing so will be, and since he agreed to do it, we can infer that he has accepted whatever that'll happen to him afterwards, so it doesn't make sense for KJS to make a fuss/"complain about being wronged".

So was KSJ really ordered to do this? If he was, why would he complain about feeling wronged? And how does his wife come into play in this? There's more to the suicide note that meets the eye.

The suicide letter claimed that the prosecutors manipulated evidence, but based on everything that has happened so far in episode 1 & 2, how was it possible for KJS/his wife/whoever who wrote the note, to know so much of what we can consider as insider's knowledge? After all, they highlighted something so specific: the manipulation of evidence. How can they be so sure that the manipulation of evidence is exactly what that caused this to happen, and not something else? It was a rather bold claim to make; to pinpoint exactly who is responsible and what exactly caused this, and it'll require a person to have sufficient confidence/evidence to justify such a bold claim.

One way to make sense to all these: It was as if somebody has told them what to do and what to include exactly in the note. Unless of course, for some magical reason the person who sent the note knew exactly what has occurred during the incident, and therefore can conclude that what the prosecutors presented in court was false, and that KJS was wronged. But does that really make sense, and how is that possible, and if this was true how does the writer of the note come into play in all these? There are so many contradictions to what a normal person will do under such circumstances.
That's why the note is suspicious. It was not explicitly stated in the show, but I'm guessing that this is why SM thinks that the suicide note was a ploy. However, without sufficient evidence, these remain as mere suspicions.

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There are many similarities between Forest of Secrets and Circle; both have corrupt cops that act as a spy from the inside and detectives who like to doodle. And because I'm watching them one after the other, I just get confused which one is in which (Now I understand when beanies who watch more than one sageuk at a time get confused with the Kings and the evil ministers).

On to the actors:
1. Jo Seung-woo continues to slay and demand attention; every scene with him is full of weight and intensity that I just can't look away. And gosh I just love his voice.
2. Lee Joon-hyuk is overacting a bit in these first 2 episodes, but he's such an eye candy, and I know he can do better (I love his prosecutor character in City Hunter more than City Hunter himself) so I hope he'll tone it down in future episodes.
3. I've only ever seen Yoo Jae-myung played comic characters (R1988, SWDBS) so his character here is a welcome change and so far he's doing a great job. It looks like he and Lee Kyung-young (who's always so good at being bad) will play shifty and shiftier upper level prosecutors here.
4. Bae Doo-na hasn't been given much to do but she's a natural.

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I do think Lee Joon Hyuk could tone it down slightly but I also think the sort of manic, smarmy portrayal he's going for works for his character so far. Jo Seung Woo is so subtle and intense I think it makes LJH's acting a bit more jarring in comparison.

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Where Shi-mok lacks in the emotional department he compensates in having tons of curiosity. He's very observant too. I love Jo Seung-woo's straight face whenever he does something. Like when he do a deep bow of apology but when he rises again, we see that he's not apologetic at all. The truth is important for him that's why i think, he had to raise his voice in front of the wife, because he only cared about finding out whether the wife is involved.

I'm getting impatient about finding out where the show is going to bring us in regards of Eun-soo, Dong-jae and Yeo-jin. I appreciate Jo Seung-woo on my screen but so far we've already known a lot about his personality and motivations (except the last shocking part where he wants to form an alliance with the deputy chief).

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He reminds me of Jang hyuk in beautiful mind- no emotion but very brilliant. Love the lead actor

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Can't help comparing the two of them too. Both actors did/are doing a great job.

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Could it have been the son who killed his father? There is this whole big conspiracy thing going on so probably not but somehow I thought.....oh well, never mind.
This show is really intriguing so far! :D I love the dynamic between the two main characters, e.g. when she was just getting into his car without permission and takes his things out of his hands and throws them on the back seat and he just goes along with it. ^^ There is something real about these characters, even if the premise with the lobotomy is anything but that, the show still manages to give me the feeling of authenticity. It's tonality is different from the usual crime/thriller/corruption kind of drama like e.g. Whisper. Forest of secrets is more subdued in a way, yet still ascends to staggering heights of pathos and drama in it's narrative, e.g. the scene with the voice over of the wrongly accused reading his suicide note full of condemnation for the prosecution.

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I definitely think the son is somehow involved (he was definitely suspicious at the funeral which Yeo Jin picked up on, and the laptop), we just don't now how he fits into the larger conspiracy (yet).

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Wow this show is super good. Highly recommended. Very happy to find another good drama

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Jo Seung Woo ❤❤❤

Thank you @laica for the recap. Really appreciate it . I was so busy looking at Jo Seung Woo's face that I kinda missed some points. LOL.

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Wow. This is a phenomenal show. They even do flashbacks right, keeping it all within the POV of Shi-mok...I can't say enough about how much I appreciate how confident this show is in itself. It trusts its story, its actors and its audience. I think the best part of the show is that it has completely drawn me into the fundamental characteristic of Shi-mok and Yeo-jin: curiosity. Despite this being a political/crime thriller the one emotion that I am overwhelmingly experiencing is not fear or angst but that same curiosity. By keeping the POV of the show tightly centered around our two leads, the audience is being let into the narrative at the same speed as the two leads and it is a delightful watch. I really look forward to seeing where they will take us next.

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In cop shows, I usually like the casework and investigations more than any political shenanigans, so I'm a little disappointed the show is so heavy on the internal politics of the prosecutors office. Maybe I just don't get it? Whatever. I'm really liking this show so far and am looking forward to next week's episodes! Thanks for the recap!

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Oh man, what an ending of episode. Never in my mind that Shi Mok will asked for deputy chief positions. The moment he said it, I immediately decided that this will be my drama fix followed by Circle. What a twist...

What i love most about this drama, it assured by its own production. Writing is tight, sometimes with minimum or no dialog at all. Cinematography also do not over stylized, instead the director focus more on the actors and let them do their work. But with those capable actors, even with standard medium shots, its captivating enough.

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Intrigued, and definitely in for the ride. Bring it on, Show!

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I'm so late to this drama and I regret it. Even though I'm only on the second episode of the drama but its just so good!

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