Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho 2: Episodes 5-6
With his enemy identified and a compelling reason to seek justice, our former neighborhood lawyer goes to work pulling himself up and getting things done. He’s going up against a foe that’s stronger than any he’s ever faced, and more unpredictable than he can imagine. He’s got the brains and the heart to do what needs to be done, but when it really counts, will he have the courage?
Deul-ho confronts Ja-kyung in her office, wisely turning down her offer of tea. He asks if she killed his friend Jung-geon, and she innocently denies it while idly unwrapping a piece of candy. Deul-ho takes an identical candy wrapper from his pocket, one he found at the murder scene, then sticks it to Ja-kyung’s nameplate and walks out like a badass. Gauntlet, thrown.
Ja-kyung watches him go, then laughs wildly. With a dreamy smile, she says that this is going to be fun.
Deul-ho goes to the boxing gym to work off his frustration and grief, imagining his opponent as Ja-kyung. Ja-kyung is thinking of him, too, as she sings “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and fondles a silver ring shaped like a penguin. What’s her deal with rings?
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So what if I did it?
Minionette drives Ja-kyung to see a homeless man — Corporal Shim, a former cop. She explains that twenty years ago he arrested a man, and his family set fire to his home. Corporal Shim lost his legs and his entire family in the fire, and as far as the government is concerned, he’s also deceased.
We flash back to 1982, at Incheon Station Plaza, where a very young Ja-kyung brings her little sister, Hae-kyung, some bread to eat. The two little girls are clearly homeless, and a policeman comes by and asks where their parents are.
It’s Jung-geon, and although he seems kind, Ja-kyung eyes him with suspicion. He leads them to a truck that’s supposed to take them to safety, and the driver insists on giving Jung-geon money despite his protests. A senior officer (Corporal Shim?) makes Jung-geon give him the money, and little Ja-kyung witnesses everything.
In the present, Ja-kyung approaches the homeless Corporal Shim, who huddles pitifully on the ground at her feet. Minionette asks what she wants to do, but she just says they should go because Chairman Kook is waiting.
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Ja-kyung’s naughty list
When they arrive at the chairman’s home, they see someone being led to a cop car and driven away. Ja-kyung rushes inside to check on Chairman Kook, but he says that was just the former head of a welfare facility who went to jail for multiple crimes. When he got out and learned that Chairman Kook sent his family some money, he came to demand that Chairman Kook tell him where they are and caused a scene.
Chairman Kook mentions his youngest son, Jong-bok, who didn’t follow Ja-kyung’s instructions to leave the country to avoid legal trouble and ran off on his own, again. He tells Ja-kyung to confiscate Jong-bok’s company shares, hoping that finding he has no money will bring Jong-bok to his senses.
A maid calls Jong-hee (Chairman Kook’s daughter) to tell her what she overheard, and Jong-hee squeals with joy at the prospect that she might get some of Jong-bok’s shares. The maid didn’t hear that part, and Jong-hee switches to fury on a dime, screaming that that’s the most important part.
Man-soo does a little presentation on Chairman Kook’s family for Deul-ho — Jong-hee, the middle child, is the best at kissing up to her father, but she’s extremely stupid and spends an astronomical amount of money on herself. Jong-seob, the eldest, is in charge of the company’s dirty work like fraud and backdoor deals. He has self-esteem issues, which worsened when he married then divorced a powerful chaebol daughter, so that now Chairman Kook hates him.
Jong-bok is the youngest, and the family troublemaker. He drinks thousands of dollars’ worth of champagne daily and physically abuses the employees, among other things. But the most interesting member of the family is Ja-kyung, who isn’t actually related to them but lives in the house and is Chairman Kook’s favorite. As a result, Chairman Kook’s biological children despise her.
Man-soo thinks she’s a whacko, especially with the way she was dressed at Jung-geon’s funeral and how she gave ten million won to So-mi. Dong-chul and Jung-ja (the loan sharks who are still hanging around trying to get their money) ask if Ja-kyung knew Jung-geon, but So-mi doesn’t know.
Deul-ho admits that he knows her — she was his hoobae at the Training Institute. Jung-ja asks if he dated Ja-kyung, but Deul-ho doesn’t dignify that with an answer.
He asks if she wants to get her money back, and next thing Jung-ja knows, she’s in Jong-hee’s hotel bathroom dressed in a maid’s outfit and getting the wits scared out of her by an automatic toilet, ha.
She takes Jong-hee her breakfast, nearly whacking her in the face with the tray and spilling the coffee in her nervousness. Jong-hee tells her to get lost, then demands to know who hired her, but she’s distracted by her phone.
Jung-ja putters around the room pretending to clean, and as soon as she gets a chance, she attempts to plant a bug in a vase. Deul-ho and Dong-chul are outside waiting for the audio to come in when they see a pair of security guards frog-marching Jung-ja off the property. Luckily they’re only walking behind her, but it’s got her freaked out and she looks like she’s trying to decide whether to cry or throw up as she jumps in the van.
She beats up Dong-chul for lending Jung-geon money, then lunges at Deul-ho for making her go in that house. Deul-ho stops her attack by clamping his headphones onto her head and flashing that million-dollar smile, which puts her in a bit of a trance.
Minionette is given a tour of a facility that helps low-income people learn a skill, and ex-convicts transition back into society. She takes particular interest in a man named Ahn Chang-hoon and asks to speak with him privately, and she presents herself to him as Ja-kyung.
Deul-ho goes back to the hospital to speak to the ajumma whose daughter is being accused by Kookil Produce, Chairman Kook’s company, of embezzlement. She tells him tearfully that she was attacked in an alley by several men who beat her severely, but Deul-ho has to interrupt her to take a call from Jung-ja and Dong-chul.
Through the bug, they can hear Jong-hee complaining to Jong-seob that Ja-kyung is running rampant. She whines about Ja-kyung taking away Jong-bok’s shares and how she wants them, and Jong-seob deadpans that maybe she should show up to work once in a while. Meanwhile, Jong-bok is at home, snorting cocaine and slapping his staff for letting Ja-kyung into his house to threaten him.
After the hospital, Deul-ho goes to the prison to talk with the ajumma’s daughter, Ji-yoon. She says she doesn’t need a lawyer, but Deul-ho heard that she partially confessed on Kookil’s promise to hire her an expensive lawyer, but she hasn’t heard from them since.
JY didn’t know that her mother was attacked, will be in the hospital for two months, and is probably psychologically traumatized for life. Deul-ho tells her that her mother believes she was framed and insists that JY is innocent, and JY bursts into tears.
Man-soo goes to see an old friend, a prosecutor named Hyung-tak, saying that he has a big case for him. He reports back to Deul-ho that the entire detective’s office already knows that Jong-bok embezzled the money, not JY, and that Jong-bok is a drug addict but they can’t arrest him because Ja-kyung covers up his crimes.
Since Ja-kyung can just forge documents to “prove” that Jong-bok didn’t take any money, Deul-ho says that they need to prove that he’s using the money to buy drugs. He asks Man-soo about something he asked for, but Man-soo says that it won’t be easy.
They go to a nightclub that evening, Deul-ho dressed in a turban like a foreign drug dealer (~cringe~). He’s even gone so far as to get tattoos on his lower arms, allegedly to hide track marks, to make him look like a legitimate drug addict.
He and Deul-ho meet with a drug dealer to discuss a business deal. The dealer is thrown by Deul-ho’s odd behavior, but he doesn’t want to lose the potential income, so he asks what Deul-ho needs. As soon as he hands over the drugs, Man-soo attempts to handcuff him, but the guy shoves him and runs. Deul-ho trips him, allowing Man-soo to complete his arrest.
They take the dealer to the pier to put a little fear into him. They force him to walk the plank blindfolded while Dong-chul and Jung-ja taunt him about how deep and cold the water looks, when in reality he’s about 18 inches off the ground and not over the water at all, ha.
Once the dealer is thoroughly terrified, Deul-ho mentions Jong-bok, and the dealer is so eager to save his own life that he offers to give Deul-ho Jong-bok’s dealer’s name, phone number, and address. When they’re done with him, they drop him off at the police station in his underwear, bound hand and foot and more than willing to turn himself in.
While So-mi takes care of JY’s mother in the hospital, Deul-ho visits JY again to talk about her case. She’s still reluctant to talk, so he reminds her of the stiff punishment for embezzlement and how her mother was beaten for trying to save her.
Finally she speaks, telling him that she started as a housekeeping supervisor at Kookil Resort, and after three years she was transferred to Kookil Produce’s accounting department. It was a strange transfer considering her experience, and rumors flew around that it was preferential treatment, though JY insists that Jong-bok was just her work superior.
She asks tearfully if speaking the truth will make any difference, and Deul-ho kindly promises to make sure that it does.
Ja-kyung finds Jong-hee and Jong-seob making themselves comfortable in her office. They accuse her of being blinding Chairman Kook to all three of his children, and of planning to kick them out. Ja-kyung says meekly that Kookil Group isn’t something she can have just because she wants it.
Jong-hee takes this as proof that she does want the company and tells her to be honest, so Ja-kyung croons that the rumors of Chairman Kook’s children being kicked out may come true after all. She reveals that Chairman Kook is deciding who his successor will be, and that her reports will have a huge influence on his decision.
Jong-seob silently seethes as Jong-hee jumps to her feet, snarling that Ja-kyung stole Jong-bok’s company shares. She says that Ja-kyung has a complex from growing up poor, and Ja-kyung suddenly remembers that she has plans with the chairman and politely excuses herself.
Over tea, Ja-kyung and Chairman Kook discuss JY’s trial, which is today. Chairman Kook gleefully anticipates what Ja-kyung plans to pull off this time.
Deul-ho has had his suit cleaned and gotten a spiffy haircut, but as soon as he arrives at the courthouse, he gets nervous and hides in the men’s room. Man-soo finds him crouched in a stall and reminds him that he’s amazing and that he’s totally got this, giving Deul-ho just enough courage to enter the courtroom.
The judge starts the proceedings, and Deul-ho is momentarily distracted when Ja-kyung walks in and sits down. As this is the second attempt to hold this trial, the prosecution has already presented their evidence, so Judge Shin asks Deul-ho if he accepts it.
He says he doesn’t and stands to give a statement. Someone else walks into the room and sits next to Ja-kyung… Baek Seung-hoon, Assemblyman Baek’s son and the guy Deul-ho defended on rape charges a year ago. He shoots Deul-ho a smug smirk, and Deul-ho freezes.
He sees a hand creep over Seung-hoon’s shoulder, and the specter of Seung-hoon’s victim Soo-jin, whom Deul-ho accidentally killed with his car, stands up behind him. In Deul-ho’s imagination, Soo-jin walks towards him and lifts him over her head by his collar, then flings him to the ground.
Suddenly he’s lying in the street in Soo-jin’s place, surrounded by rivers of blood. He jumps to his feet and sees Soo-jin walking towards him, repeating the last words she ever said, “What do you know? You don’t know anything. You didn’t see anything!”
She runs at him… and he’s back in the courtroom. He’s pale and sweating, imagining Ja-kyung and Seung-hoon laughing derisively as the rest of the people in the room mock him. Deul-ho tries to make his statement, but he passes out.
Looking satisfied, Ja-kyung leaves the courtroom with Seung-hoon on her heels. He says that she was right about Deul-ho losing his cool if he saw him, chuckling at the image of Deul-ho passed out on the floor. But Ja-kyung tells him not to laugh, and to stick to his act while in the courthouse and elsewhere.
Judge Shin comes to check on Deul-ho at the hospital, so she’s the first thing Deul-ho sees when he wakes up. He sits up in a panic and starts giving his reason why JY is innocent, but Judge Shin just sighs that he’s a pain and tells him that the trial was rescheduled again.
But she advises Deul-ho to have JY find a new lawyer, because this can’t be allowed to happen again. He argues, but she tells him to do it in the best interest of his client, or she’ll use her power as a judge to do it for him.
Deul-ho leaves the hospital and marches straight to Ja-kyung, who’s just been on a call to Chairman Kook telling him about her success in the courtroom and asking what to do with Jong-bok’s company shares. Deul-ho asks Ja-kyung if she was involved in Seung-hoon’s case last year, and she congratulates him on finally figuring it out.
She pretends not to know why he’s so upset about today, calling it a joke, and saying that he should be more careful about who he takes as a client. Deul-ho says that he won’t make any more mistakes, but will prove that she killed Jung-geon.
Ja-kyung says that he’ll regret it, warning him to stop now or he’ll regret it. But Deul-ho just empties her glass of wine onto the floor then smashes the glass against the wall, and he walks out without another word.
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Who are you to warn me?
Epilogue — one year ago.
After Soo-jin dies right in front of him, Deul-ho goes to the Baek home, where he pounds on the door and demands that Seung-hoon come out and talk to him. He’s never acknowledged, and he sits crying in an alley later, homeless again
I feel like that final scene would have had more impact if the last scene of the previous episode hadn’t ended exactly the same way. I’ll never complain about Deul-ho and Ja-kyung facing off, because their antagonistic energy just crackles when they’re together and I want to see them playing verbal chess a lot more. But the scene was set up almost exactly the same, even down to Ja-kyung sucking on a piece of candy, so I felt a bit distracted because I just kept thinking that it was basically the same scene with different insults.
I’m glad we got to learn more about Ja-kyung, because her whole manner is so strange, not to mention her involvement in Chairman Kook’s shady business dealings, that even knowing a little bit about her history helps me understand her better. She had a rough beginning, plus she had to take care of her younger sister while living on the streets, and she witnessed what looked to her like Jung-geon selling her and her sister to a very bad man. It’s no wonder that she’s more than a bit twisted in general, and that she wanted revenge against Jung-geon and the others involved specifically — what she’s done is obviously wrong, but at least now there’s some explanation. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it, but even having this little bit of information helps.
But seriously, this show is so weird. I spend half the episode trying to figure out what’s going on, and the other half wondering if I’ve interpreted the events correctly. I can’t tell if it’s sloppy writing, which wasn’t a problem in the first season, or if the show is deliberately trying to be mysterious, but if that’s the case then it’s not quite working for me. I don’t mind some mystery, and when used properly it can be a very entertaining storytelling tool, but in this case it’s just confusing and not in a fun way. Which is a shame, because I actually find the characters and general plot more interesting than the first season’s, and I want to know what happens next, but thinking about getting through it just feels like a chore. Not a horrible chore — more like cooking, where you know the effort will be worth it but it’s still work. I’m still willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because I can see the structure of a very complex, twisty-dark story in there, but I just want the storytelling to be a bit more cohesive as a whole.
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