While You Were Sleeping: Episodes 23-24
This episode was surprisingly moving, perhaps because the case of the week was more of a courtroom drama than an investigation drama, and the real fight began in today’s episode when it was time for the prosecutor and lawyer to face off, with nothing but their wits to guide them.
EPISODE 23: “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”
While Jae-chan convinces the chief prosecutor to let him order a simultaneous autopsy and organ transplant surgery for his case, the office managers spread the news around in real time. Hyang-mi wonders what Jae-chan has up his sleeve to be so confident that he can succeed with such a risky move.
Chief Choi chuckles and says that Jae-chan lives like every day is his last, not thinking of tomorrow as he jumps into the fire. He’s positive that Jae-chan is curled up on the ground somewhere, pulling his hair out.
Of course that’s exactly what Jae-chan is doing, as he slaps his lips over and over for flapping and making promises he can’t keep. Hong-joo calls to ask what choice he made, and he says in a weak voice that he made the same choice she would’ve, and ekes out that he’s confident. She doesn’t believe him and asks if he’s not pulling his hair out somewhere, and he cringes and asks if she saw this in a dream too.
But she pops up next to him in person instead. He suddenly yells, “Mouse! Mouse! [jwi]” and she falls on top of him screaming, only to have him point out drily that he meant he has a cramp [jwi] in his leg. Ha.
He explains that it feels like he just learned Hangul and is about to take the college entrance exam, or that he’s a lumbering turtle trying to catch two rabbits. She fixes his tie and tells him that he might be slow and will suffer a little, but in the end he’ll catch both rabbits, and they’ll go on their beach date.
She says she saw it in a dream, and his expression brightens immediately. He asks why she didn’t tell him sooner, and she just says she didn’t want him to be off his guard. He stops to give her a kiss on the cheek and runs back to work excitedly, and Hong-joo sighs to herself that he’s no human lie detector.
Prosecutor Sohn trudges back to her office in a daze, when Prosecutor Lee comes running up to tell her about Jae-chan signing off on the transplant surgery.
At the hospital, Jae-chan and Chief Choi wait outside with the victim’s father as the surgery begins, and Dad cries to Jae-chan that he’ll never be able to forgive the person who stole his son’s dream. Jae-chan takes his hand and promises to get a guilty ruling in court.
In the operating room, the teaching assistant is declared dead and his organs are removed for donation. His kidney goes to Prosecutor Sohn’s child, who is being operated on in the next room, and then afterwards Dad is brought in to say one final heartbreaking goodbye.
Hong-joo snaps a photo of the beach poster at her bus stop, which reads, “Heaven has one theme. The ocean.” Woo-tak swings by and offers to drive her to work, and she asks if he’s had any new dreams about Jae-chan’s case. He hasn’t, but he heard that she had a dream that he won the case.
Hong-joo admits that she lied about that, because Jae-chan was so lacking in confidence that she wanted to cheer him up. She guesses that he’ll be very upset with her when he finds out, but Woo-tak repeats what he said to her once before—that if you can fool people to the very end, it’s not a lie.
That just makes Hong-joo think of the time she saw Hak-young threatening to expose Woo-tak’s secret in her dream. She looks over at him thoughtfully and asks if he has a secret like that, but he says no.
Yoo-bum meets with his client, Professor Moon, who has the nerve to be upset at the victim for making him look like a murderer to the world. Yoo-bum points out that he is a murderer, having learned that the professor intentionally shoved the victim down the elevator shaft.
Professor Moon looks nervous and reminds Yoo-bum that he promised a not-guilty verdict, and Yoo-bum says that a manslaughter charge might’ve made things difficult, but murder is actually easier to disprove. He just wants Professor Moon to remember what sin he committed, so that he knows what he’s paying all this money for.
The sunbae prosecutors all warn Jae-chan that going after the defendant for murder is risky, and that he should consider accidental homicide instead. But Jae-chan argues that you have to charge a murderer with murder, and refuses to lessen the charge just to ensure a win in court. The others wonder what he’s trusting in to act so bold and reckless. Aieee, I hope it’s not Hong-joo’s dream…
Hong-joo worries that Jae-chan is doing just that, but Woo-tak tells her not to worry because Jae-chan is trustworthy and careful. She’s been charging her extra battery on the way to work but can’t find it, and just tells Woo-tak to give it to her later if he finds it in his car, describing it as a little red battery.
The trial begins and Jae-chan goes for the murder charge as planned, and Yoo-bum pleads not guilty, saying that a fight did occur, but the victim was drunk and fell down the elevator shaft himself by accident. Yoo-bum also asks for the child witness to give his testimony in court, arguing that they can’t blindly trust the word of a four-year-old.
Prosecutor Sohn, meanwhile, stays late at the office studying medical texts and diligently making notes.
At Hong-joo’s house, Jae-chan fills them in on the case after breakfast, as they work on a pile of bean sprouts for Mom. Everyone worries about Jae-chan questioning the child witness in court, and he asks Woo-tak how he managed to get the initial testimony at the police station.
Woo-tak says very professionally that he approached the child in a relatable way, and Jae-chan asks for a demonstration. Woo-tak braces himself and then launches into aegyotastic baby-talk, while Jae-chan makes horrified faces and Mom and Seung-won crack up in the background.
Hong-joo asks skeptically if Jae-chan can do that in court, but he says gruffly that there’s no need, since he can just get an expert to do it for him. He brings the tray of bean sprouts over to Mom, calling her “Mother,” and Mom tells him not to call her that. Awkward!
Everyone rushes off for work and school, while Hong-joo stays behind to sew a button back onto her shirt. She roots through Mom’s dresser looking for the sewing kit, but finds her ring instead. She confronts Mom about it, and asks why she would purposely hide it.
Outside, Woo-tak gives Jae-chan another tip that the little boy likes Santa Claus, so saying that he’s Santa’s friend should help. Jae-chan refuses to baby-talk, insisting that he’s incapable of it.
But Seung-won points out that he did it just fine when Robin was staying over, and demonstrates Jae-chan’s cooing at the dog. Hee. Woo-tak grins and Jae-chan just pinches Seung-won’s side to get him to stop, though he totally practices under his breath.
Jae-chan heads back into the house because he forgot his phone, and it’s perfect timing for him to overhear Hong-joo asking Mom why she’s treating Jae-chan so coldly all of a sudden. Mom says that she’s just now starting to forget what happened to Dad, but now seeing Jae-chan brings all of that back to the surface.
Mom knows that Hong-joo feels the same way, reminding her of how broken up she was at the hospital when Jae-chan was shot, and how scared she was that he would die just like Dad. She says that Hong-joo is blaming herself even now that she couldn’t stop it from happening, and she’ll just continue to get hurt and blame herself.
Mom says she’s scared of how hurt Hong-joo will be if she’s with Jae-chan, but Hong-joo says through her tears, “Mom, I’m really okay. I’m happy because of that person,” and asks Mom to like him and treat him well.
Jae-chan takes all this in with a sad expression, and then shuts the door again to pretend that he just came inside to fetch his phone.
He watches Hong-joo thoughtfully as she gazes at the poster of the ocean at their bus stop, and thinks back to when she’d first run away from him, calling him a wound and a scar that resurfaced after 13 years.
She thinks he’s just worried about his trial, but he says he’s confident because he trusts in her dream. She tells him to keep his guard up anyway, and then attempts to imitate Woo-tak’s aegyo at him. To her mortification, he just stares at her like she’s lost her mind.
In court, the child’s witness testimony is conducted via video conference, with his mom and a child psychologist present. Jae-chan attempts to get a testimony out of him, but the boy is too frightened and just hides in his mother’s arms.
Yoo-bum takes a turn and says that the boy can go home soon if he can recall the number of the bus he took this morning, and the boy lies. Yoo-bum shoots down the child’s credibility in one move and smirks at Jae-chan, who hangs his head.
But Jae-chan decides to try again and grabs the microphone with a determined look on his face. He takes a deep breath, forces his mouth into a wide grin, and uncurls his fingers…
And then he suddenly announces in a high-pitched voice, “I’m Santa’s friend!” Hahaha. The sunbae prosecutors gape in embarrassment, but the boy lifts his head and starts answering Jae-chan.
Jae-chan says that his robes are the uniform Santa’s friends wear, which let him fly through the sky on Christmas. The boy confirms that he only tells the truth to Santa and his friends, and then Jae-chan shows him the picture that the boy drew of the crime scene.
He asks the boy to recount what the two ajusshis said that day, and plays back the victim’s phone recording of the same conversation piece by piece, to reestablish the boy’s credibility. It works, and then he asks what happened after that, and the boy says one ajusshi strangled the other until he fell asleep, and then he pushed him down the elevator shaft.
After court, Jae-chan is still reeling from embarrassment when Yoo-bum chases him down in the street, calling him Santa’s friend. Yoo-bum can’t believe he did that in court, knowing Jae-chan’s personality, but Jae-chan says he can do much worse to stop a murderer from slipping away.
Yoo-bum still seems confident that he can win, but Jae-chan says he’s prepared and tells him to look forward to it.
Seung-won stops by the local convenience store and is surprised to see his classmate Dae-gu working there. Dae-gu asks if his mom sent him on an errand, and Seung-won explains that his parents passed away, and he does all the housework.
Dae-gu asks if his brother stops by here often too, and Seung-won says if he sees a tall guy who looks good but acts like a grade-schooler, that’s him.
Dae-gu hesitates and then asks if maybe Seung-won’s brother could meet his father, and Seung-won thinks back to their classmates ragging on Dae-gu to go make friends with Seung-won so that his brother can get his dad out of prison. He makes an excuse that his brother is busy because of a big trial right now, and Dae-gu hurriedly tells him to forget it, feeling bad that he asked.
Mom stores away the extra seating they had at the dining table and tells Hong-joo to have the boys eat breakfast on their own from now on. Aw, Mom! Not family breakfast!
At the hospital, Brainy Smurf comes running up to his mom to announce that he was able to go to the bathroom all on his own. She hugs him and says that they have a lot of people to be grateful to, and he tells her that they should hurry and thank those people because he’s all better now.
Hong-joo calls Woo-tak on her way out that morning and cancels breakfast, saying that Mom is busy because of the restaurant for the time being. He mentions that he found her extra battery in his car—the red one—and Hong-joo grows quiet.
He says he’ll give it to her next time, and then puts it in his pocket… but it’s green, not red. Wait, don’t tell me his big secret is that he’s color-blind!
Jae-chan and Seung-won come out, and Hong-joo says she wants to go out for brunch today, and Jae-chan has to drag Seung-won along when he protests that he’d rather have Mom’s food.
The prosecutor team preps before the final day of Jae-chan’s trial, and they know going in that Yoo-bum plans to attack the autopsy evidence as insufficient because of the unusual organ transplant situation.
Prosecutor Sohn offers to go in with Jae-chan to court, saying only that she won’t stand for Yoo-bum’s underhanded tricks. He thanks her for the extra help, and she says she’s the one who’s grateful. Jae-chan doesn’t see why, and then Prosecutor Lee suddenly declares him lovable and kisses his hands and clasps Jae-chan’s cheeks, to everyone’s horror.
Everyone’s packed their umbrellas today because it’s raining, and Yoo-bum is no exception—he arrives at the courthouse with Chekov’s umbrella.
Prosecutor Sohn takes the lead to question the medical examiner, and expertly plays devil’s advocate before the defense has a chance to poke holes in the autopsy process or results. This must be what she was studying all those medical texts for.
Yoo-bum begins to shred tiny bits of paper, and Jae-chan flashes her a thumbs-up for her impressive showing. Prosecutor Sohn stops to make eye contact with the victim’s father and gives him a little bow, and he bows back, not really knowing why.
When Yoo-bum stands up to question the witness, we see that Seung-won’s friend Dae-gu is sitting in the back of the courtroom, and his face blanches at the sight of Yoo-bum.
It surprises everyone in the room when the only thing Yoo-bum cares to ask the witness is the exact time that the victim was declared dead, confirming that the cause of death was heart arrest, induced before beginning the organ transplant surgery.
Hong-joo arrives just as Jae-chan gives his closing statement, and then it’s Yoo-bum’s turn. He argues that a patient is not considered legally dead until the heart stops, and that if the victim’s heart had stopped on its own, they could claim the defendant responsible for murder. But because he was only brain-dead, not legally dead, and arrest was induced by the doctor for the organ transplants, he argues that his client can’t be held accountable. Ugh, I knew he’d nitpick a technicality like this.
The whole room stirs, and the victim’s father gets up in outrage, just like in Woo-tak’s dream. But this time Hong-joo is next to him and offers to lead him outside to calm down. She ignores the request to stay quiet and walks very slowly while shouting into the courtroom that the prosecutors won’t stand for such bullshit, when the victim would still be alive if it weren’t for the professor attacking him.
Jae-chan can’t help but smile at her fiery outburst, and Prosecutor Lee is impressed with her as well, and doesn’t seem to notice that he’s leaning on Hee-min’s shoulder the whole time.
Out in the hallway, the victim’s father asks if the law is really like this, blaming himself for allowing the organ donation. Hong-joo tells him that this isn’t his fault, and promises that the law is not that weak.
Jae-chan is allowed one final statement, and he says that the victim’s father is probably blaming himself right now, thinking that his choice to do a good deed has led to not getting justice for his son’s murder. “He’s thinking that he did a good thing but it ended up as poison in the end. That the law is on the bad guy’s side. But the law shouldn’t be that way,” Jae-chan says.
It’s a powerful moment, and of all the people in the room, it’s Dae-gu who is affected most by that statement.
Jae-chan continues that the defense already pointed out that if left alone, the victim’s heart would have stopped on its own. Having chosen to donate his organs sooner than that day doesn’t change that fact, nor does it change the crimes committed by the defendant.
Hong-joo explains the same thing out in the hallway to the victim’s father, using the same hand gestures that Jae-chan is using in the courtroom. Did she see this in a dream after all?
Jae-chan says that with or without the organ donation, the victim would have died, but if the attack by the defendant hadn’t happened, would he still have died? He says that you can remove any other person or part of the timeline—from the doctor to the surgery—and still end up with the same result, but if you removed the defendant, that young man would still be alive today, chasing his dream.
“The law cannot be confused about that. It must judge clearly and fairly who is most responsible for that death. If the defendant is found not guilty simply because the time of death, then there is no justice in that verdict,” he says, full of passion.
Hong-joo and the victim’s father return to the courtroom during his speech, and Jae-chan turns to look at the father as he says that they can’t call it justice if the victim’s choice to save seven lives lets his killer go free.
His words bring Prosecutor Sohn to tears, and Jae-chan turns to the judge and says with a bow, “Please, I ask that justice, like a flowing river, will come to pass in this courtroom.” Nicely played, Jae-chan.
Afterwards, Prosecutor Sohn thanks Jae-chan sincerely, saying that thanks to him, she can finally sleep with her feet stretched out. She bear-hugs him, spilling emotional tears, while he just flails awkwardly at the sudden display of affection.
Yoo-bum furiously scrubs his hands at the bathroom sink and then slams a fist into the paper towel dispenser when he finds it empty. Dae-gu is there too and offers his handkerchief, but Yoo-bum just storms out, and Dae-gu picks up the green umbrella that he left behind. Ruh-roh.
Hong-joo comes home to find Mom preparing to launder every blanket in the house, and asks if she should cancel tomorrow’s breakfast too, and Mom says yes. Hong-joo tells her that she went to Jae-chan’s trial today, and realized that she’d been confused about things up until now.
She says that she thought Dad had died because of her, and that Jae-chan had been shot because of her too, but through the trial she realized that she’d been wrong about that, and those events would have happened whether or not she’d been there. Mom smiles to hear that she’s finally stopped blaming herself.
Jae-chan happens to come to the laundromat while Mom is there, and stumbles over his words not to call her Mother. He decides to be direct and tells her that it’s not Hong-joo’s fault that he was shot, and she knows that and won’t be blaming herself anymore.
Mom finishes his sentence with him, having already heard it from Hong-joo, and accuses them of planning this accidental run-in. He swears that he’s just here by chance to do laundry, and Mom says chicly, “I’m sorry for going back and forth, but you can call me Mother.” Aw.
She apologizes sincerely for giving him a hard time, and says that she knew in her head that it was wrong to hurt someone else’s child just to protect her own, but couldn’t stop her feelings. She asks for his forgiveness and thanks him for loving Hong-joo, and he thanks her back, only to overstep and call her Mother as in mother-in-law, hee. But he earns a hug, which makes him adorably happy.
Jae-chan’s eyes bug out of his head when he sees his dream car parked outside the office, and he poses for more embarrassing selfies when Prosecutor Lee comes out and asks what he’s doing on his car.
Jae-chan drools over the car, and Prosecutor Lee offers to let him borrow it any time, because the verdict just came out and Professor Moon was found guilty. They high-five and Prosecutor Lee thanks him sincerely, and Jae-chan wonders why everyone’s thanking him lately.
Jae-chan decides to borrow the car right this instant, and Prosecutor Lee’s hand shakes as he reluctantly hands the key over.
Hong-joo is surprised when Jae-chan picks her up for a beach date, and she marvels to see that he found the exact beach pictured in that poster. He asks if it’s the same as her dream, and then calls her out on the lie, which he’d known from the start.
She wonders why he didn’t say anything and why he brought her here then, and he says that it just seemed like she wanted to see it—the ocean and him winning the trial—and that he worked really hard to make it happen.
He coaxes her to come closer to the water’s edge and then picks her up and carries her in, as they laugh and play.
Jae-chan narrates in voiceover: “There was a time when I thought it a blessing to know the future. But that blessing starved the anticipation of a gift, and broke the spirit to face a challenge, and turned off the signal of hope. A future that can’t be changed. Predetermined days. Those are other names for despair, and the loss of everything when you give up.”
As he narrates, Mom puts the ring back on Hong-joo’s desk and looks up at her wall of dream notes with a worried face, and the camera pauses on the post-it describing the night of her death.
Bong sunbae reports the suicide of a prison inmate who left a note saying that he was framed, and Dae-gu collapses in tears when he sees the news. Oh no, it was his father. Behind him sits Yoo-bum’s green umbrella.
At the police station, one of the officers asks Woo-tak if the radios have been charged yet, and he hesitates, looking down at the row of green lights. He asks when they were put down for charging, but he’s saved by the bell when his partner happens by and notes that the lights are all green.
As Jae-chan and Hong-joo enjoy the ocean view, he continues in voiceover that he hopes for this moment to become a rest stop before the futile cycle begins.
Another ominous voiceover. Will the dreams begin to lead them astray? I have to admit, I really want to see that happen at this point, because thus far, the dreams have had less to do in this story than I wanted, which is a shame given the promises of fantasy. They’re handy and pretty crucial for our characters to keep saving each other, but as a plot mechanism the dreams are so straightforward that they’re leaving a lot to be desired. I want to see more twists—dreams that contradict in impossible ways, or lead them down the wrong path, or cause costly consequences—which were hinted at early on but have yet to be delivered on. But as we go into the final quarter of the drama, I do expect some heavier consequences, if only to match up to all of the ominous past-tense voiceovers we’ve been getting throughout the series, and at this point I welcome a little more danger and suspense.
Speaking of suspense, after all that buildup, is Woo-tak’s entire secret really just that he’s color-blind? I suppose it makes sense given his character, because I did think it wouldn’t be anything horrible, but I’m hoping there’s more to it, like a key piece of evidence in a case that may have been affected by his inability to distinguish colors. I can see how it could be a devastating secret for him, since it would prevent him from being a cop, but as far as dramatic reveals and plot turns go, this was not one of them. I can’t imagine Woo-tak not being a police officer though, so is it wrong to hope that he can just keep his secret to the end? That seems wrong, but I don’t know what he’d do if he had to give up his dream.
The one turn that did surprise me was Yoo-bum’s umbrella getting picked up by Dae-gu, which certainly changes the game and makes me sit up and pay attention to his father’s case. It was so sad to think that he’d found his first glimmer of hope in Jae-chan, but never even got to approach him on his father’s behalf before everything fell apart for him. I’m definitely looking forward to this new case, because it’s sure to involve Yoo-bum’s past as a prosecutor. There’s got to be a way to disbar him for the kinds of shady things he does, especially if he really did what Dae-gu is suggesting and made an innocent man into a serial killer. And then there’s the problem of Dae-gu’s building rage, which could explode sideways given the wrong trigger, plus that damned hot potato of a green umbrella. Somebody needs to burn that thing.
I did find today’s courtroom drama to be compelling because it came down to a legal technicality, and it was won or lost based on the quality of the argument, rather than some crucial bit of evidence found at the last minute. It was a great matchup, with Yoo-bum manipulating every nook and cranny that the law offers, and Jae-chan appealing to the law’s humanity. I don’t know how credible the case is, but the sentiment works because the law is all of those things—cold, exacting logic, but also passionate, moral, and changeable. There is human judgment and ethical choice involved, and just when I thought that our hero would be outsmarted by someone who knew the law better than he did, he reminded everyone that the law has a moral duty too. It’s a simple but powerful statement—that the law shouldn’t be a certain way—and when it becomes normalized for people to abuse the loopholes in the system to get away with murder, we could probably stand to be reminded more often than not.
- Premiere Watch: While You Were Sleeping
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- Lee Jong-seok’s awkward social skills in While You Were Sleeping
- Lee Jong-seok moves in next door in While You Were Sleeping
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- Dreamy first teaser for SBS’s While You Were Sleeping
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- Star cameos continue for While You Were Sleeping with Yoon Kyun-sang and Lee Sung-kyung
- While You Were Sleeping gets a September premiere date on SBS