Forest of Secrets: Episode 9
After spending all this time having to walk on eggshells around the prosecutor’s office, Shi-mok is suddenly handed more than enough power to push his investigation forward. And with what seems to be a solid team forming behind him, things are truly starting to look up. But even in his new position, Shi-mok can’t intimidate those he needs to bring down — he’s still got quite a long way before he can reach the top of the pack.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
To everyone’s surprise, Chief Prosecutor Lee announces that the investigation for corruption within the prosecutor’s office will be led by Shi-mok. Lee continues that he holds much regret for leading an organization constantly getting involved with scandals and that in order to take responsibility, he’ll be resigning.
Amongst the shocked whispers, a voice notes that Chief Prosecutor Lee hasn’t even been inaugurated yet. Section Chief Kang rises and asks if Lee takes his position that lightly – if he wants to take responsibility, he should do so as the chief prosecutor. Behind the section chief, Shi-mok stands up with a question of his own: “Does my authority as the prosecutor in charge begin as of now?”
Section Chief Kang storms out with a huff, sending the rest of the room the signal to start piling out as well. Shi-mok is the only one left standing, still waiting for his answer. While it’s not official on paper yet, Chief Prosecutor Lee says that his job does begin now and that he’ll need to assemble a team for the investigation.
Before he can leave, Shi-mok asks to be granted access to Dong-jae’s possessions, as well as a warrant in case Dong-jae were to destroy any evidence. Lee accusingly asks if there’s anyone else Shi-mok is just dying to look into, to which Shi-mok just answers, “Not yet.”
Shi-mok finds Eun-soo waiting for him outside, eager to start helping him out right now. But he just walks past her and tells her to do nothing.
As soon as a panicked Dong-jae reaches his office, he grabs any incriminating evidence hidden within the room. It isn’t long before Shi-mok arrives at the door with staff ready to confiscate Dong-jae’s belongings. When his knocks go unanswered, Shi-mok orders Dong-jae’s clerk to unlock the door.
Dong-jae opens the door first, having regained his composure. He asks if Shi-mok has some kind of death wish to be challenging him, and Shi-mok merely gestures his staff inside.
Shi-mok returns to his office to fill out a request form for an investigation team, contemplating the words “Chief Prosecutor.” With Lee’s resignation in mind, Shi-mok deletes the name.
Dong-jae sneaks off to the bathroom and, after making sure it’s empty, he enters a stall and dumps his bag of evidence into the toilet tank. He quickly stumbles into the next stall when he hears someone come in, and then nonchalantly comes out.
Dong-jae smirks as he watches Shi-mok’s staff futilely search the wrong stall. (Oh, you think you’re so slick.)
Shi-mok’s male clerk comes running into the office, frantically calling for his boss. We don’t see the exchange, but the two later exit with all of their belongings. Shi-mok and his clerks head outside, ready to move into their new office.
As he gets everything into his car, Shi-mok glances back at the prosecutor’s office up above.
Yeo-jin’s team leader reports to Chief Kim that Shi-mok requested two of their own for his team. Team Leader asks if he should find out the reason, but Chief Kim merely tells him to go ahead and send them over.
It turns out that the two people requested from Yongsan were Yeo-jin (of course) and Gun. The two arrive at the new office just as Jung-bon does, and Gun seems taken aback to see him there. Yeo-jin glances at Jung-bon as well, and we see in flashback that Shi-mok had asked her to look into his peculiar old friend.
Once everyone is gathered, we’re introduced to the rest of the team and the reasons why Shi-mok chose them: the female clerk, Clerk Choi (the least sketchy from his office); the male clerk, Clerk Kim (Shi-mok had seen him take money from Dong-jae); Section Chief Yoon (Shi-mok had heard from his mother that Yoon now knew about his surgery). As for the sketchier members of the team, Shi-mok is of the “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” mind.
Shi-mok reminds his team of a similar case of corruption within the prosecutor’s office. This case had one major difference: The person handing out bribes survived, while in their case, the person handing out bribes (CEO Park) died.
With that said, Shi-mok states that it’s understandable if anyone wants to quit now. When no one makes a move to leave, Shi-mok pulls out Dong-jae’s photo. He explains that Dong-jae helped clear CEO Park’s charges for a DUI hit-and-run in 2013.
He places the picture on the blank suspect board and calls Dong-jae their official starting point.
Dong-jae has his clerk lie to a reporter on the phone that Kyung-wan had put up a fight when he’d gotten arrested and that the bruises definitely weren’t a result of torture. When Dong-jae learns that his arrest warrant has been dismissed, he shoos his clerk away and takes over the phone.
Back at Yongsan Police Station, the team leader is panicking over Dong-jae’s tip to the reporters. Chief Kim knows that this is a result of Dong-jae’s fear of going down with them and that either way, Dong-jae will be the first arrested when Shi-mok’s investigation begins. Since the police can’t refute the claim, Chief Kim sighs that it’d be better for them if Dong-jae didn’t get caught.
While Dong-jae confirms that the evidence he’d hidden in the bathroom is still there and fully intact, Shi-mok’s special investigation is in full swing. As Yeo-jin and the others go out to obtain more information, someone snaps photos of them from afar.
As Shi-mok appoints Jung-bon as the spokesperson, the team takes a major hit when they discover that Dong-jae’s arrest was dismissed. Shi-mok merely hands out more assignments and urges them to keep moving forward. However, they’re interrupted by the arrival of Chief Prosecutor Lee.
Lee takes this chance to greet Shi-mok’s new team. Yeo-jin eyes the chief prosecutor warily but bows and shakes his hand politely. When Lee reaches Jung-bon, Jung-bon accidentally says something in banmal to Shi-mok, catching everyone’s attention. (It has to be revealed that they were old middle school friends, since otherwise, it would be considered disrespectful for Jung-bon to talk to his superior that way.)
Chief Prosecutor Lee is really here to escort Shi-mok to the prosecutor general. He tells Shi-mok to roll down his sleeves to look presentable before walking over to help. The room is fraught with tension as Lee straightens Shi-mok’s tie.
When the two leave, the team immediately gets back to work. As Gun leaves with Yeo-jin, he asks how they can work with Jung-bon when he screwed them over. He shuts his mouth when Jung-bon appears behind them with news: The police are accusing Kyung-wan of lying.
On the car ride to the prosecutor general, Shi-mok brings up Dong-jae’s dismissal from arrest. Lee replies that if Shi-mok’s team shows some decent results, they’ll surely get Dong-jae arrested.
Shi-mok greets the prosecutor general and thanks him for the promotion. The prosecutor general asks if Shi-mok knows why he was given this position, and he replies, “I don’t know why it had to be me, but I know what I must do.”
The prosecutor general nods with approval and says that the character in the word “prosecutor” means “work.” Because of this, prosecutors could be thought to be inhumane, but the prosecutor general believes that the character embodies a person holding a flag high, guiding the way forward.
He tells Shi-mok to prove to everyone else that that is the true image of a prosecutor. Turning to Chief Prosecutor Lee, the prosecutor general chides him for thinking that resigning was his only solution.
Afterward, Lee invites Shi-mok over dinner, informing him that his team members have already gathered at the house. He tells Shi-mok to relax, since it’s only a dinner, after all.
Dinner is incredibly awkward as Lee’s wife tries to keep up the small talk. Yeon-jae asks the team if anyone is married or has children, and Section Chief Yoon suddenly gets this strange look on his face. Yeon-jae turns to Shi-mok and, assuming he’s single, she insists on introducing him to some pretty ladies.
Yeo-jin says that she likes pretty ladies too, making Yeon-jae laugh before saying that women are usually their own enemies.
“Don’t people who say that women are other women’s enemies consider the other women they’ve dealt with in their lives as enemies?” Yeo-jin points out. Oh snap.
Yeon-jae’s million dollar smile immediately drops, and for a second, it looks like she’s about to spit fire. Yeo-jin just keeps staring at her as if she said nothing wrong, and Yeon-jae forces the smile back on her face.
Just then, Chairman Lee makes an entrance, and Yeon-jae jumps up to introduce her father to the team. Chairman Lee saunters straight over to Shi-mok, noting that he’s much better looking than he was on TV.
Shi-mok accepts the chairman’s outstretched hand, and they just stay there like that, staring at each other for an overlong, heated moment. Chairman Lee then leaves them alone, not wanting to join them for dinner. Either way, Shi-mok says, the team should be leaving as well. Yeon-jae: “But we’re not done yet.” Shi-mok: “I think we are.”
Chief Prosecutor Lee begins to argue, but Yeon-jae flashes another one of her smiles and lets them all go. Once they’re all gone, Lee grabs his wife’s arm and tells her not to let Shi-mok get to her. She shakes him off and condescendingly says that “chief prosecutor” is only one character away from “prosecutor.”
Shi-mok turns in for the night, but the rest of the team decide to have dinner together (since they didn’t get to eat much at the Lee household).
Yeo-jin turns to Jung-bon and asks about Kyung-wan’s situation, though apparently there’s no way to refute it. He wonders if there’s anyone who can prove what Kyung-wan went through and Yeo-jin quickly changes the subject, asking how long he’s known Shi-mok.
Jung-bon looks at his hands and thinks back to an incident in middle school – he had been playing the piano and a pre-surgery Shi-mok, unable to bear the noise, had slammed the fallboard onto Jung-bon’s fingers.
Clerk Kim joins them, and Jung-bon asks him about Section Chief Yoon’s reaction to the subject of children. Clerk Kim reveals that Yoon had lost a child to a car accident two years ago.
Shi-mok returns to the office and prints out another picture for the suspect board: Yeon-jae. He looks over the complicated web of people listed on the board, all the way from Kyung-wan to Yeon-jae and her father.
Shi-mok stays at the office rather late and ends up dozing off at his desk. Eun-soo comes in with a bag, and after seeing that he’s asleep, she takes out the sweater she’d borrowed from him and drapes it over his shoulders. She tries to quietly look over the team’s case files – only to drop them on the ground and wake Shi-mok, ha.
Eun-soo clumsily cleans up her mess, but Shi-mok merely tells her to get out. Instead, she approaches his desk, wondering why she can’t be a part of his team. Shi-mok knows that she’d work harder than anyone else, but only because she’s desperate to take down Chief Prosecutor Lee.
He tells her that this isn’t a place to be seeking revenge and orders her out – just as Yeo-jin walks in. Yeo-jin sees Shi-mok talking to a woman and immediately tries to backtrack as if she forgot something. But Clerk Kim and the rest of the gang waltz in with food, ushering her back inside. Clerk Kim calls Eun-soo’s name, but she just whirls around and walks past them, looking genuinely embarrassed.
Clerk Choi points out the sweater Shi-mok had dropped on the floor and he checks it out, earning stares from Yeo-jin. He also notices the bag left by Eun-soo, finding a brand new sweater inside.
As the team reports their findings to Shi-mok over dinner, Clerk Choi finds Jung-bon writing out his draft for his statement to the reporters. He starts to read it out loud for practice, but Shi-mok cuts him off short, telling him not to include too many details on their investigation.
The next day, Jung-bon reads his statement to the press, keeping it short and sweet like Shi-mok had asked and merely stating that the team are making preparations.
Eun-soo’s mom meets with Shi-mok to explain that during the holidays, they’d received a gift and she’d left it out, thinking it was fruit. Later, she was shocked to discover that it was cash. She insists that they called the person on the business card and returned the money, and that was that.
Section Chief Yoon interrogates Dong-jae, who’s still acting as smug as ever. Yoon goes over the facts, stating that in 2013, the company Dong-jae’s brother-in-law worked at made a contract with CEO Park for a reduced price – right after they’d met at a hit-and-run case. As a result, Dong-jae took the difference of 400 million won.
Dong-jae is ready to call it all ridiculous when Yoon whips out photos of the evidence Dong-jae had hidden in the bathroom. Dong-jae’s eyes widen. In flashback, we see that Clerk Kim had found the evidence, amazed that Shi-mok’s assumption had been right.
With this evidence, the special investigation team now has enough to arrest Dong-jae – and to reveal every other crime he committed. Suddenly realizing his predicament, Dong-jae opens his mouth again, but Yoon cuts in that according to Shi-mok’s orders, they’re to make no negotiations. He suggests Dong-jae just stay home and await his arrest.
Clerk Kim escorts Dong-jae out, and Dong-jae insists that they take the stairs to avoid the reporters. He then overhears Eun-soo meet up with her mom and turns back to the stairs ominously. He takes a few careful steps with Clerk Kim close behind, and then feigns dizziness before tumbling down the stairs.
Shi-mok and Yoon watch the ruckus as reporters capture an unconscious Dong-jae getting wheeled into an ambulance.
Meanwhile, Chief Prosecutor Lee bolts up when he sees that Eun-soo’s father, Il-jae, has come to his office. He immediately bows in respect, but Il-jae coldly tells him not to mess with his family. Il-jae says that he’s going to keep his mouth shut, so he suggests that Lee and his people keep their end of the bargain.
Lee isn’t sure what he means, so Il-jae fumes that Shi-mok summoned his wife as a tactic to make him reveal what he knows. However, Il-jae has no intentions of opening his mouth, so he tells Lee not to do anything either.
“Be sure to tell your father-in-law that,” he finishes.
Il-jae takes one look at Lee’s packed-up office and sighs with disappointment that Lee was foolish to have given up on himself – he didn’t know how to use his strengths. Lee insists that they’ve been used enough here and that he’ll be using them for other purposes now.
In his own office, Chairman Lee looks over the photos his secretary had taken of Shi-mok’s team, noting that they’re heading in the right direction. He picks up a photo of Shi-mok, intrigued that this man hadn’t acted surprised when he gripped his hand for so long during their handshake.
Yeo-jin and Gun find the taxi driver that had driven Kim Ga-young around to ask where he would take her. After learning that Ga-young had made a call in a hotel lobby, they visit the hotel to obtain her records.
Shi-mok and Section Chief Yoon head over to their office to join the others. Yoon pulls them aside for a moment and reveals that he’d investigated Shi-mok and relayed his findings to Chief Prosecutor Lee. Shi-mok accepts his apology, though in turn, he reveals that he already knew.
The team reassembles, and Gun reports that Ga-young had stayed at the hotel two to three times a month, always on a Monday. But since it was so long ago, the hotel no longer has footage of her or her men.
The topic changes as the group contemplates who the informant that reported to Sungmoon Daily could be. Shi-mok watches them with intrigue as they note that Sungmoon Daily and Hanjo Group (Chairman Lee’s company) are both big corporations and possible rivals. The team doesn’t notice Yeo-jin sneak off.
Moments later, Shi-mok gets a text from her telling him to follow. He joins her in a separate room, where she asks about Eun-soo’s mother. He explains that he had to keep that meeting confidential to hide it from Chief Prosecutor Lee and Hanjo Group.
CEO Parks’s total shares in Hanjo Group were worth billions of won, Shi-mok continues. And all of that was distributed between Chairman Lee, Chief Prosecutor Lee, and Young Il-jae. Yeo-jin wonders if Shi-mok plans to uproot them all by himself. “Someone will have to do it sooner or later,” he answers.
Yeo-jin suggests they put up a good fight, then. She says she looked into Jung-bon with no problem and asks if they can trust the others. Shi-mok says that Clerk Kim found the hidden evidence and that Section Chief Yoon confessed about his investigation, so they’re clear as well.
“What about me?” she asks. “Can you trust me?” Shi-mok says that there’s no need to look into her, which she accepts with a faint smile. And I swear that he almost smiles too as he watches her head out.
Clerk Kim is still looking after Dong-jae at the hospital, and dozes off as he waits for the results. When he comes to, Clerk Kim freaks out to find Dong-jae’s bed empty.
Dong-jae has run over to Chairman Lee’s side, getting on his knees and desperately begging to be saved. As he’s being dragged out, Dong-jae shouts that there’s something Chief Prosecutor Lee hasn’t told him, making Chairman Lee turn to face him.
Section Chief Kang is called in for interrogation, much to his coworker’s anger. His coworker wonders why he would be called in while Kang starts to look mighty suspicious.
Shi-mok gets the call that Dong-jae fled and immediately heads out. He runs into Yeo-jin, who happens to have other news from the hospital.
Shi-mok and Yeo-jin rush to the hospital and head straight to Ga-young’s hospital bed. They reach her side and see that her eyes are now open.
So much in those last few minutes! (So much in the whole episode, really.) Where do I even begin? Each episode always feels better than the last, but this was definitely one of my favorites. It was so great to see Shi-mok reach a position where he could gain so much more freedom. While Chief Prosecutor Lee’s announcement of his promotion seemed more like a trap than an offering, it was the perfect Big Moment to segue into the second half of the drama.
And now that we’ve settled into our bright and shiny new setting for the second half, Shi-mok and Yeo-jin are finally able to investigate with an official team. While the team is filled with members we should remain wary of, I have to agree that Shi-mok chose all the right people. Clerk Kim and Section Chief Yoon really proved themselves to be loyal, but at the same time, there’s still a bit of suspicion there. As Shi-mok said, it’s always best to keep his enemies closer. I’d rather not get too attached to this team since there’s only so much trust you can give, but I think I’m already doomed – they’re such a great little Scooby gang!
It was especially satisfying to see everyone working together to bring Dong-jae to his knees. Out of all the baddies we’ve dealt with so far, Dong-jae was always the most unstable, so it’s no surprise that after Shi-mok climbed up, Dong-jae was the first to get kicked down. He had too much piling up against him and he, frankly, just wasn’t smart enough to weasel his way out of it. But to his credit, I think anyone would have trouble trying to outsmart Shi-mok. After last week, I was worried that Dong-jae might’ve been smarter than we thought – perhaps acting all crazy and spazzy on Eun-soo to get her off track – but his true colors came out in this episode, and they weren’t too different from what we initially expected.
I am curious as to what dirt he may have on Chief Prosecutor Lee that he believes could “save” him. Dong-jae may be at rock bottom now, but that look that Chairman Lee gave him at the end made me nervous. Would Chairman Lee really help Dong-jae get back up again?
It’s always interesting to see how Forest of Secrets plays with the idea of power, because it gives us certain character dynamics we would’ve never expected in our average drama. Despite their ranking, one character can gain the upper hand depending on the situation. Sometimes Eun-soo may surprise Shi-mok with her abrasiveness, and other times, Shi-mok may surprise her with his. Last week, we were nervous to have Section Chief Yoon know all about Shi-mok’s past, and this week, he softened up a bit when he apologized.
And then there was Chief Prosecutor Lee with Eun-soo’s father. Wow, was that an intense scene. Here we have the man that had betrayed Il-jae, the man that Eun-soo is so dying to seek revenge on, and yet, he seems to shrink in size when in the presence of Il-jae himself. There’s obviously a lot of history between the two and the two actors portrayed that amazingly – Il-jae’s utter disappointment in Lee was palpable. Lee looked so adamant on shattering that disappointment that I wonder if it’s Il-jae who’s been keeping whatever morals Lee has left intact. Lee has made it clear that he knows what a good prosecutor is and that he wants to be that kind of prosecutor. Now I see that he may be trying so hard because he disappointed the one man he wanted approval from. Only now, he’s trying in all the wrong ways.
I think we’re actually getting somewhat of a love triangle on our hands. It’s a very subtle one but I’ll take what I can get. I honestly like that the romance here (if we can call it that at this point) isn’t very prominent. We’re given little hints of it every now and then, which is just the perfect amount to leave us craving more. It’s definitely a welcome light in the 99.9% of darkness that this show is. However, it’s far from the main point of the show and I kind of like the idea that we’re getting glimpses of it when an actual romance (with either Yeo-jin or Eun-soo) might not be possible. It keeps that tragic thought of Shi-mok’s loneliness alive and it hurts in all the right ways. I want him to feel love, but I’m also happy with the smaller steps we get with his character development, such as his increase in smiles. Or his increase in annoyance.
- 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