A Beautiful World: Episode 14
Our heroes put the pieces of the puzzle together and get closer to the truth concerning their son’s accident. As they uncover more secrets, their opponents work harder to conceal them, and it becomes a game of perseverance. Though the tragic event may have brought despair to one family, the aftermath may have ruined more lives than one.
EPISODE 14 RECAP: Law of the Circle
Moo-jin dumps out the guard’s potted cactus, and out comes a black bag containing Sun-ho’s missing phone. Sensing the imminent danger, Eun-joo packs a suitcase for Joon-suk since his departure was moved up to tomorrow, but Joon-suk angrily questions why he has to run away because of her actions. To her horror, he implies that she killed the guard, and nothing she says can convince him otherwise.
The recording on Sun-ho’s phone plays over Eun-joo and Joon-suk—the conversation from that night reflecting the troubles that plague them now. Memories of Sun-ho’s accusation send Joon-suk into a rage, and he flings his luggage across his room. As for In-ha and Moo-jin, they hear the truth behind the accident for the first time and can barely stand as the sickening thud of Sun-ho’s fall echoes in the room.
Surviving the crash, Sun-ho’s phone continued recording and captured the conversation between Eun-joo and the guard as well. The detectives listen speechless to the incriminating evidence while Moo-jin stands stoically with a single tear streak staining his cheek.
Unable to endure without the help of drugs, Eun-joo resorts to pills and alcohol to numb herself, but Jin-pyo snatches away her bottle. Having spoken with the chief of police, he tells her that everything is taken care of, and looks at her decrepit state with contempt. Despite the clear signs of Eun-joo’s mental breakdown, Jin-pyo only cares about her getting through this ordeal and offers her no comfort.
Armed with Sun-ho’s phone, Detective Park orders a summons for Eun-joo and Joon-suk since there’s enough evidence suggesting a violent crime. While the recording can’t prove whether the fall was caused intentionally or accidentally, it’s enough evidence to charge Eun-joo with concealing a crime.
Moo-jin confesses to Detective Park about his recent meeting with Da-hee’s parents, and explains the mix-up between the two parties concerning the perpetrator behind the sexual assault. At the center of this misunderstanding is Da-hee who sits alone in the dark with Soo-ho’s letter laid open next to her.
In-ha updates Soo-ho and Joon-ha about the new evidence, and after confirming that everything will soon be revealed, Soo-ho runs into In-ha’s arms, overjoyed. The good news gets passed along to Dong-hee, and she muses that maybe God does exist after all. She tells Dong-soo that she wants to become a teacher like Moo-jin and make good memories with students unlike her own experience.
The next morning, Joon-suk gets ready to leave the country, but on their way out, Detective Park calls Eun-joo. When she ignores his call, Jin-pyo receives one next, and to their surprise, Detective Park announces that he’s outside their house at this very moment. With his plans now in disarray, Jin-pyo turns to his usual tactics: using his connections with the higherups.
News spreads fast, and Teacher Lee hurries over to the hospital to ask In-ha and Moo-jin what’s going on. Meanwhile, Eun-joo arrives at the station for her interrogation, and despite the short timeframe, Jin-pyo has already instructed her on what to say. Knowing that Detective Park is probing her to find out the intentionality behind her actions, Eun-joo’s testimony is a mix of half-truths and lies.
Even the truth sounds false at this point, and Detective Park reprimands Eun-joo for blaming nearly everything on the guard. He accuses her of worsening the situation, and his piercing words break her. Between sobs, Eun-joo claims responsibility for it all, but Detective Park continues his questioning and asks about Jin-pyo’s involvement. Her tears stop immediately, and she repeats emotionlessly that Jin-pyo knew nothing.
In another room, Detective Park’s partner interrogates Joon-suk who’s with Jin-pyo. Before coming to the station, Jin-pyo gave orders to Joon-suk—statements that Joon-suk claimed to be true, but the truth didn’t matter to his father.
Joon-suk follows instructions, and the lies peppered throughout his testimony make everything sound deceitful. Despite the partner’s efforts to get an honest response from Joon-suk, Jin-pyo intervenes and calls the detective’s methods coercive. In the end, the interrogations get the detectives little headway.
While walking to their car, Eun-joo and her family cross paths with In-ha and Moo-jin, but both families remain mute. The silence follows Eun-joo and her family to their car ride, and when Eun-joo reaches out to touch Joon-suk, he pulls away.
After the unsuccessful interviews, Detective Park contemplates at his desk while Reporter Choi airs his frustrations about Jin-pyo’s obvious ploys. Their conversation cuts short when In-ha and Moo-jin arrive, and Detective Park breaks the bad news to them: if they can’t prove Eun-joo’s intentionality, then by law, her punishment is lessened.
Although In-ha and Moo-jin want Joon-suk’s parents to bear the brunt of the punishment rather than Joon-suk, as of now, the justice system would most likely fine Eun-joo for her crimes. Detective Park explains that the best route is convicting them for the murder of the guard, but Jin-pyo knows this, too, which is why he commands his spy to lay low for a while. Feeling abandoned by the law, In-ha takes matters into her own hands and tells Moo-jin to contact Reporter Choi.
Joon-ha closes the bakery and runs into Young-chul’s mother who received a call from the police requesting another interview with her son. The police also contacted the other parents, and they gather at a café to discuss strategies. Unsurprisingly, their meeting quickly dissolves into petty arguments, and Sung-jae’s mother has the audacity to claim that her son is a victim, too. However, with their sons’ lives on the line, they act civil enough to talk about how to spin the story in their favor.
After learning from the detectives that Da-hee’s parents continued to deny the charges, In-ha stops by the restaurant, and tells them that Da-hee accused someone else to Sun-ho. Da-hee’s father sees no reason as to why their daughter would lie, but Da-hee’s mother shows some doubts. Remembering In-ha’s claims about the librarian, she heads to the library to verify Sun-ho’s alibi.
With one mystery still left unresolved, Eun-joo confronts Joon-suk about Da-hee, and he tells her again that she’s lying. Frustrated by the lack of trust, Joon-suk gives up on convincing her since neither she nor Jin-pyo will believe him anyways. Instead, he realizes that the truth doesn’t matter since his parents will cover up his mistakes for him.
Eun-joo refuses to shield him unconditionally like before, and begs Joon-suk to not ruin himself. She would rather have him blame her if he can find happiness that way, but Joon-suk asks how he could be happy when he feels so distressed. Rejecting the idea of a happy life, Joon-suk says that all he needs is success so that no one can touch him.
Moo-jin hands Reporter Choi a copy of the recording from Sun-ho’s phone and gives him permission to write an article—but with two caveats. First, he must not mention Da-hee, and second, the article should focus on Joon-suk’s parents. Reporter Choi can oblige them with the former, but the latter may be difficult since Joon-suk is directly involved. Moo-jin recognizes his concerns, but he doesn’t want Joon-suk to be targeted since he’s still young.
Reporter Choi seems to disagree with Moo-jin’s approach and shares his connection with Jin-pyo. Back in high school, Jin-pyo continuously beat Reporter Choi, and fueled by hate after years of bullying, he investigated Jin-pyo’s foundation which led him into a trap. Hence, the false sexual assault charge. He believes that assailants will never learn to repent by themselves, thus Joon-suk also needs to suffer more.
Reporter Choi writes the article as Moo-jin asked for, and though Jin-pyo expected as much, Eun-joo trembles at the sight of her crimes printed in the paper. Soo-ho also reads the article and is shocked—though for an entirely different reason. Upset over the fact that Eun-joo is living as if nothing happened, Soo-ho tells Moo-jin that she wants to kill them since they’re not humans but devils.
Dropping Soo-ho off at school, Moo-jin shares with her what Sun-ho told Dong-hee: “Don’t lose.” He says that there isn’t winning or losing in this fight, but rather, it’s about persevering or giving up. Joon-suk also receives a life-lesson from his father before school, but in typical Jin-pyo fashion, he tells Joon-suk to act confidently since he’s the heir to their foundation. Thus, despite the murmurs and stares he receives, Joon-suk walks to school with his head held high.
Spotting Joon-suk a few paces ahead, Soo-ho runs up to him and slams his head with a rock. She vows to never forgive him and raises her rock to strike again…but it’s all her imagination. With clenched fists, Soo-ho praises herself for holding back.
In the faculty office, the vice principal calls Teacher Lee to his desk and suggests that they place Joon-suk in a private room for the time being. The vice principal reminds him that it was an accident which means Joon-suk isn’t a criminal, and with a conflicted expression, Teacher Lee agrees.
While the vice principal may be able to sway the teachers, he has little power over the students who have already pegged Joon-suk as a criminal. They vandalize his desk with sticky notes calling him terrible names, but when Joon-suk glares at his classmates, only Dong-hee can meet his eyes.
Teacher Lee takes Joon-suk out of the classroom, but Joon-suk refuses to leave since the fall was an accident. Frustrated by his implied declaration of innocence, Teacher Lee points out all his faults—the worst being his unrepentant attitude. Although Joon-suk remains silent throughout Teacher Lee’s reprimand, he ends up rebelling, and walks away from him.
Eun-joo sits at home, tormented by the fact that she destroyed her son’s happiness, and grabs her phone to make a call. At the bakery, Joon-ha vents her frustration over the justice system, but to her confusion, In-ha tells her that they received a life sentence. However, In-ha doesn’t get a chance to explain since Eun-joo calls her.
In-ha finds Eun-joo waiting outside her apartment, and they barely get past the entryway before In-ha asks what she wants. Eun-joo takes the blame for everything, explaining how she stopped Joon-suk from confessing, but to In-ha, her words sound desperate rather than sincere. Making matters worse, Eun-joo says that she thought Sun-ho was dead, which earns her a slap from In-ha.
Eun-joo kneels, barely able to let out her apology through her tears, and In-ha screams at her for selfishly thinking of her son in that moment. If Sun-ho doesn’t wake up, she blames Eun-joo for killing her entire family, and Eun-joo apologizes again. After their confrontation, In-ha sits lifelessly on the floor.
Detective Park tells Moo-jin their recent findings which include the messages sent between Joon-suk and Da-hee. Contrary to their beliefs, it appears that Joon-suk may not have met Da-hee on her birthday, and though it’s rare, Detective Park posits the possibility of Da-hee lying about the sexual assault. They need to investigate it further to uncover the truth, but since the victim’s family refuses to cooperate, their hands are tied.
Joon-suk sits alone in the cafeteria and shovels rice into his face as if willing himself to ignore all the whispers and stares around him. Meanwhile, Detective Park interrogates the other three students, and Sung-jae follows the script his parents made for him. Unlike Sung-jae, Ki-chan answers Detective Park truthfully, even admitting his own guilt in the bullying. As memories of their Avengers game resurface, Ki-chan cries, overcome with guilt, and Detective Park pats the young boy’s shoulder.
Last is Young-chul, and his mother urges him to be honest this time if he wants to right his wrongs against Sun-ho even by a little. During the interrogation, Young-chul’s mother holds his hand reassuringly, and he musters up the courage to admit the truth. He describes the conversation he overheard between Joon-suk and Sun-ho about meeting at “Laputa,” but he doesn’t know what they meant by it.
Joon-suk sits alone in the classroom and stares at Sun-ho’s empty seat which sends him down memory lane. Hanging out on the rooftop, Sun-ho named their hideout “Laputa,” based off the fabled castle in the sky. After recounting the tale to Joon-suk, he invited him to lay next to him, and Joon-suk happily joined him on the ground. Both boys smiled, taking in the afternoon sun without a care in the world. Back in the present, Joon-suk sobs for those bygone days.
Jin-pyo gathers the school officials as well as related teachers in a meeting to discuss the article and how to move forward. In order to quell complaints from parents, Jin-pyo says that they need a sacrifice and sends a pointed look towards the principal. Looking Jin-pyo in the eye, the principal offers to resign, but Teacher Lee objects.
He argues that the person who should be taking responsibility is Jin-pyo, but Jin-pyo says that he can’t abandon the school even if he wanted to since he’s the owner. Before Teacher Lee can call him out for his backwards reasoning, the principal interjects and firmly states his decision to resign. He feels ashamed of allowing this tragedy to occur at the school he’s in charge of, and takes out a letter of resignation he prepared a long time ago.
Keeping Moo-jin updated about the case, Detective Park notifies him about the recent interviews, but hangs up early when his partner rushes in with urgent news. Investigating the car that passed the guard’s hit-and-run scene, his partner found out that the owner of the vehicle was caught gambling at the den managed by their main culprit, Ki Deuk-chul. Just as Detective Park predicted days ago, Sun-ho’s case seems to have led them to their bigger fish.
Jin-pyo comes home tired and irritated, so when Eun-joo ignores his questions, he warns her not to irk him further. As he goes to their room, she asks for a divorce and tells him that all she wants is full-custody of Joon-suk. Jin-pyo laughs at her request and gives her a scathing look.
Soo-ho looks through the telescope in Sun-ho’s hospital room and comments on how Sun-ho matches better with Dong-hee than Da-hee. Though Soo-ho can see the stars, she doesn’t know what any of them are, unlike Sun-ho who probably knows everything. She sighs while looking at him, but when she turns to leave, she stops in her tracks at the sight of his twitching fingers.
She runs out of the room, calling for In-ha and Moo-jin who are talking with the doctor, and all three of them rush back in to check on him. The muscles around Sun-ho’s eyes seem to move ever so slightly, and everyone watches with bated breathes, hoping for a miracle. Then, to their utter surprise and exaltation, Sun-ho opens his eyes.
Sun-ho is awake, and with only two episodes left, there seems to be hope for a happy end. While I never entertained the thought of a sad ending, the show was always realistic, so a part of me worried about a bittersweet ending without a conscious Sun-ho. Even if it’s a miracle, I’ll gladly take it, and since the creators went this route, I’m happy with their choice to have this happen before the final week. With the different story threads coming together and winding down, it’s clear that this tale is reaching its finale. While the pacing continues to be fine, this isn’t a show you stick around for the amazing plot. From the beginning, this was a story about people from different walks of life, all connected to each other through one tragic event. It’s a message about society and the problems that plague it from bullying to indifference.
My favorite aspect of this show is how it looks at issues from multiple angles, indirectly acknowledging the complexity of situations and humans. Not all bullies are the same just as not all victims are either. Characters are often used as foils and comparisons which allow this point to come across in subtle ways. For example, take Dong-hee and Reporter Choi in this episode. We saw Dong-hee find a new purpose in life after being bullied, and because she was surrounded by good people who supported her during this difficult period, she wants to emulate them, particularly Moo-jin. On the other hand, Reporter Choi is another bullying victim who, unlike Dong-hee, continues to harbor hate towards the person who bullied him. Jin-pyo has influenced his life to the point that his goal is to exact vengeance on him, and due to this personal experience, Reporter Choi is much more cynical and sees assailants as unrepentant monsters who will never understand the pain they inflict on others. Although Dong-hee had less time to heal, she seems to have moved on much more than Reporter Choi, which reveals that the scars left behind by bullying isn’t mended at the same rate for everyone. Also, I don’t think the show is trying to say one response is better or worse, but simply different because the circumstances are not the same. While Dong-hee’s route seems healthier for the victim, I can’t blame Reporter Choi for being angry after all these years because Jin-pyo has only gotten worse over time. Just as Moo-jin and Reporter Choi’s conversation didn’t really come to a conclusion, the show leaves this question open for the audience to ponder as well.
Ki-chan and Joon-suk are two interesting characters on the assailant side of the story involving the students. Both tugged at my heart this episode because at the end of the day, they’re still young teenagers who could have done better if guided properly by the adults in their life. Also, it’s surprising that the two students who I hated the most in the beginning are the ones who I sympathize the most with among the bullies. Ki-chan is violent and brash, but the show slowly revealed that he is also lonely and afraid. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, but watching him cry during the interrogation made me think that there was still hope for him to change. Out of all the bullies, he seems to regret his actions the most and is actually repenting. The amazing thing about Ki-chan’s development, though, is that he made these decisions by himself and against the wishes of his parents. His parents actively advised him to lie, and though he may have admitted the truth at first out of spite, during this last interview, he takes responsibilities for his actions because he realizes the pain he caused Sun-ho. As for Joon-suk, the flashback of him and Sun-ho on the roof was heartbreaking to watch because that precious relationship is shattered in the present. I finally understand why Sun-ho was friends with Joon-suk because the way Joon-suk looked at Sun-ho was filled with absolute joy and love. He doesn’t expect anything in return from his friend and merely enjoys basking in that moment with him. They were just two innocent students lying on the school’s rooftop without a care in the world, but now those days are gone. Not only did Joon-suk lose his best friend, but also his innocence and happiness. Just as he cried for his friend, I think he was also crying for the part of himself that he lost forever. He truly believes that he can’t be happy anymore, and that’s a heart-wrenching thought no middle schooler should have.
While the characters are written with layers, the complexity and depth wouldn’t have come across without the efforts of the actors in this show. From the leads to supporting actors, this show has an amazing cast, and while I have my clear bias, I want to take a moment to praise Jo Yeo-jung. Eun-joo is a terrible human who probably shouldn’t be redeemed, but Jo Yeo-jung portrays the fragility of Eun-joo so well that it’s hard not to feel her pain and suffering. When she cried at In-ha’s feet, I believed her tears and apology. You can see the range of emotions flashing across Eun-joo’s face which makes every moment feel raw. Whether it be the look of guilt and abandonment as she realizes what she’s done to Joon-suk or the precarious moments when you see her stand on the ledge, just a small push away from a mental breakdown, Jo does an amazing job making all these aspects of Eun-joo feel real and cohesive. The whole cast is putting out stellar performances, especially by the younger actors. Kim Hwan-hee is a delight, and Lee Jae-in is a wonderful discovery. With just two episodes left, I hope the show sticks its landing.