Punch: Episode 14
It’s never been more difficult to be one of the good guys in a show where the bad guys always find a way to win, since there’s no low people like them won’t stoop to in order to get their way. Sometimes it feels like Jung-hwan and Ha-kyung are fighting a losing battle, and that it would be easier to just give up than it would be to keep fighting so hard. For every inch gained, the enemy takes a retaliatory mile, and the future has never looked more grim—but as long as Jung-hwan doesn’t despair, we can’t either. It ain’t over till it’s over.
SONG OF THE DAY
CNBLUE – “Can’t Stop” [ Download ]
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Jung-hwan eases Ha-kyung’s concern over whether he’ll be able to take all the blame the media and public are going to foist on him, citing how he was eventually able to withstand the way she looked at him after their divorce. This, comparatively, is nothing.
He asks her, and not another prosecutor, to come arrest him in ten minutes. He’s got a meeting with the prosecutor general first.
Tae-joon is gleefully combative when Jung-hwan first walks in, sorry-but-not-sorry for the scandal with Ye-rin as he offers to pay for her future wedding in recompense. “Oh, and should I walk her down the aisle too?” he asks, rubbing salt into the wound.
But Jung-hwan’s demeanor is much more demure than normal, as he quietly places his prosecutor’s badge on the table along with a white envelope—normally given with resignation letters inside, this one has proof of the billions and billions of won he laundered on Tae-joon’s behalf.
However, he’s not showing it as a threat, since he promises to hide where the money came form and where it was spent. Tae-joon, a bit incredulously, asks if this means Jung-hwan is willing to accept ‘Park Jung-hwan Gate’ without resisting.
In a historic move, Jung-hwan slowly gets down on his knees in front of Tae-joon: “Ha-kyung and Ye-rin… please save them.” Tae-joon again clarifies that Jung-hwan is asking this favor in return for taking on allllll of his sins to the grave, to which Jung-hwan says yes.
“You told me this once,” Tae-joon starts. “‘If you’re scared of the tiger but want the skin, then catch the tiger’s cub.’” It’s an obvious reference to what he did with Ye-rin, and Jung-hwan defeatedly wishes he’d never told him that.
But they share a moment reminiscent of old when Tae-joon and Jung-hwan agree that he would’ve become prosecutor general and helped Tae-joon on his way to the Blue House if not for the tumor in his head.
It’s with a certain ruefulness and sadness that Tae-joon wonders how the two of them could’ve changed the world together, before he ushers Jung-hwan back to his feet. He’ll save his family, but on one condition…
Prosecutor Jung reacts with alarm when Ha-kyung tells him what the plan is: they’ll allow ‘Park Jung-hwan Gate’ to go forward, and by exposing Jung-hwan through the media, they’ll expose Tae-joon as well.
Since Jung-hwan has proof of the billions laundered from Ocean Capital, Ha-kyung wants to push for an independent counsel to review the case so that Tae-joon can’t control it from within the prosecutor’s office.
Of course, since that wouldn’t be exactly legal, the upright Prosecutor Jung is scandalized. Ha-kyung should stick to the principles and the law as a prosecutor.
“Do I still have to stick to the principles even when I always lose? Must I stick to the principles even as I’m being ridiculed?” Ha-kyung asks. “Prosecutor General Lee Tae-joon stands above the law, so how can I catch him using the law? Please teach me if you know how. Then I’ll follow your orders.”
His silence proves he doesn’t know how to use the law to handle this one, leaving Ha-kyung to direct Detective Oh and his crew to arrest Jung-hwan when he emerges from the prosecutor general’s office.
In order to ensure Jung-hwan won’t be a future threat in the month he has left, Tae-joon wants him to spend it in the hospital—with his guards posted outside, of course.
Somewhat brokenly, Jung-hwan says that he wants to spend his remaining time with his family, to which Tae-joon’s only concession is that he’ll let his family visit him. “Since I released the tiger cub, I should keep the tiger locked up,” Tae-joon adds, before offering Jung-hwan an ink pad to make his mark on the statement he brought.
Jung-hwan hesitates before stamping the statement that single-handedly places all the blame on him rather than Tae-joon. “I’ll miss you a lot, Jung-hwan,” Tae-joon says. “I mean it.”
“I’ll miss you a lot as well, Prosecutor General,” Jung-hwan replies. “I mean it.” And weirdly… I think he does.
After Jung-hwan is taken away, Ho-sung cautions Tae-joon against helping Jung-hwan now, only to create problems for himself later. Even Tae-joon has more of a heart than he does as he replies that granting Jung-hwan’s request is the least he can do for someone who served him for seven years.
So Jung-hwan is taken out by police on Tae-joon’s side, leaving Ha-kyung and her team to watch numbly. With just a shake of his head, Jung-hwan motions for her not to take any action.
Ho-sung heads the press conference detailing the charges being files against Jung-hwan, which the man in question watches from his new prison/hospital room.
As per his agreement with Tae-joon, all the blame for the expensive Gangnam apartment and Ye-rin’s unfair admission goes on him, while Ha-kyung is painted as a saint who refused these would-be gifts from her ex-husband and thus, has earned the respect of the prosecutor’s office.
Though Ho-sung has been playing chummy with Tae-joon, at the end of the day he still reports to Minister Yoon. This time, he gives her pictures proving that Dr. Mechanic, son of the doctor who saved her son from enlistment, and Jung-hwan’s sister are in a relationship.
This gives Minister Yoon the perfect opportunity to save herself, because if they make it seem like she ordered the investigation on Jung-hwan, then they can make the whole enlistment fraud case look like an act of revenge on Jung-hwan’s part. And that he made Dr. Mechanic fabricate the evidence against her.
“Let’s apologize to Jung-hwan when we go to his funeral,” Minister Yoon says, like the consummate debtor she is. Ho-sung promises to gain Tae-joon’s trust, and somehow still buys Minister Yoon’s bullshit about working together to stop Tae-joon from world domination.
Minister Yoon assembles an Avengers-caliber legal team by calling on friends in very, very high places for her interrogation at the prosecutor’s office. In her meeting with Tae-joon, she explains how it’s not an enlistment fraud case, but instead a case of Jung-hwan using his sister’s boyfriend to fabricate evidence against her because she dared to investigate him for money laundering.
You can see Tae-joon figuring her act out belatedly, while also realizing how unequipped he is to go against her all-star team of representatives. Yeon-jin is present for the meeting and immediately reports what happened to Ha-kyung.
Ha-kyung doesn’t quite trust her, and the two share a look when Yeon-jin confesses that she tried making moves on Jung-hwan. “Don’t worry, I was rejected,” she adds coolly.
Yeon-jin knows about what Ha-kyung and Jung-hwan planned to do, and how Tae-joon upset that plan by locking Jung-hwan in a hospital room. She wants them to work together to get him out, and is pleased to hear that Ha-kyung has a plan involving the loan shark used for the money laundering case.
In order to get the news out, Yeon-jin entertains male members of the press by pouring them cocktail bombs before handing them what she calls a real bomb.
The next day, in response to the public’s growing concern over where Jung-hwan spent all this money, Ho-sung holds a press conference to update them on the investigation.
He lies to the press that Jung-hwan used it for gambling and stock investments, only for the men Yeon-jin drank with to hold up evidence directly countering Ho-sung’s story on multiple counts—stocks Jung-hwan supposedly invested in were suspended at the time, he was away on business the day he allegedly gambled, etc.
It’s in Tae-joon’s best interest to let the case die with Jung-hwan without any more questions being raised (since his ties to that money could easily be found), and so he presents his case to the Chief of Staff being all, What human being would make Jung-hwan sit in an interrogation room?
Prosecutor Jung: “I’ll do it.” Hah. He intends to get the truth out of Jung-hwan before his inevitable passing. Tae-joon knows enough to be worried.
Little Ye-rin scans the newest news article about her father’s crimes, and tearfully refuses to go with her grandmother to visit him: “I feel bad for Dad, but I hate him. I want to see him… but I’m not going.”
Mom lies to Jung-hwan that she’s the one who stopped Ye-rin from visiting his guarded hospital room because of a cold, and for now, it seems like he’s buying it.
Jung-hwan’s summons is set for tomorrow, where he’ll be questioned by Ha-kyung. Tae-joon discusses the problems he might cause with Kang-jae, now regretting his decision to ease up on his enemy’s wife and daughter when he could just as easily leak damning information to the media during his interrogations.
Kang-jae wants to solve this by meeting with Jung-hwan personally, and devises a way to do so by getting Mom to agree to have him legally represent and defend her son. She doesn’t know what a snake Kang-jae really is, but Ye-rin seems to, since she refuses to even say hello to the sneering ajusshi.
Tae-joon runs into Jung-hwan on his way to the interrogation room, and this time, there’s no kneeling or begging involved. They’re back to challenging each other, with Jung-hwan promising to see him in prison while Tae-joon falls back on the old, Yeah, well you’re still going to die.
To the ex-couple’s surprise, they find Kang-jae waiting for them in the interrogation room, having been appointed by Mom as Jung-hwan’s attorney. Jung-hwan wants to exercise his power to dismiss him, but Kang-jae catches his attention when he says that tearing their contract would be as good as letting Minister Yoon win.
Even though she wasn’t appointed as prime minister because of the enlistment fraud scandal, she got her team of defenders from the Supreme Court, and would benefit greatly if Jung-hwan took Tae-joon down for her.
So with such little time left, Kang-jae asks Jung-hwan to make a decision on who he hates more: Minister Yoon, or Tae-joon? He won’t have time now to get them both, so he may as well choose one.
Just then, Jung-hwan gets a call from Yeon-jin from a meeting with Tae-joon, allowing him to overhear what’s said. Tae-joon isn’t so worried about Minister Yoon overtaking him when he has the chip… wait, the NIS chip you dropped in acid? (Or in this case, didn’t?)
He threatens to expose the chip if he falls, so that he’ll take Minister Yoon down with him. Which is perfect for Jung-hwan to hear, since he doesn’t have to choose anymore—he can focus on Tae-joon and kill two birds with one incriminating stone.
So he tells Ha-kyung about Tae-joon’s ties to the money he laundered, causing Kang-jae’s eyes to all but pop from his skull. For added effect, he rips the contract between them and tells Kang-jae he’s fired.
The news of Jung-hwan’s allegations against Tae-joon breaks, leaving Tae-joon in some hot water. Even if Jung-hwan’s allegations are proven to be false, the News Lady claims, it’s still the first time in history for a prosecutor general to be embroiled in a corruption scandal.
Tae-joon tasks Kang-jae with finding out who’s leaking Jung-hwan’s statements to the media on an hourly basis, both of them unaware that the culprit, Yeon-jin, is right under their noses.
Tae-joon and Prosecutor Jung are brought before the Chief of Staff, and I love, love, love how patronizing Jung is when it comes to Tae-joon trying to clear himself of the allegations Jung-hwan has thrown his way, all, “Don’t you worry, we’ll investigate this case thoroughly to clear your name.”
A thorough investigation is exactly what Tae-joon doesn’t want, but he loses ground in convincing the Chief of Staff to leave things to him when a new article breaks claiming Tae-joon used three billion of that initial twenty-seven billion for lobbying when he was nominated as prosecutor general.
Tae-joon wants to get Jung-hwan out of the interrogation room so he can stop feeding truths to the media, but masquerades it as him caring too much to let Jung-hwan rot away in there. Prosecutor Jung is all-too-happy to chirp back that Jung-hwan can legally be questioned well into the night.
When the order comes through for them to stop the questioning, Jung-hwan commends Ha-kyung on her quick typing skills. She reminds him that he’s the one who taught her how to type properly, how to drive, how to drink: “You’ve left many traces of yourself with me.”
Jung-hwan wonders if she’s embarrassed of them, only for her to shake her head and say that he still doesn’t know how she feels—just like when they got the divorce. But his face lights up when Tae-joon calls, which tells Ha-kyung that he’s fallen for their trap.
Detective Oh takes one for the team in order to allow Jung-hwan to sneak out without being mobbed by the media, leaving Yeon-jin in charge of notifying the press members she’s close to about where Jung-hwan will be meeting Tae-joon.
Tae-joon tries to keep things cordial at dinner, but Jung-hwan isn’t in the mood to mince words with him. He refuses to be thankful that Tae-joon saved his wife and daughter when he’s the one who put them in peril in the first place.
He reminds Tae-joon about the sacrifices he made for his family by getting his wife and daughter out of trouble when they’d actually committed wrongs. “I’m sorry for touching your family,” Tae-joon finally confesses.
But he’s not that sorry for doing what he felt needed to be done for his career, leading Jung-hwan to give him a piece of advice from a dying man’s perspective: give up.
Even if he spends ten years in prison, Jung-hwan argues, he’ll still have twenty more to live. That’s not such a raw deal compared to his. Jung-hwan gets up to leave, and holds out his hand as he says he’ll see him off to prison.
Tae-joon mutters how he can’t wait for Jung-hwan to die, but shakes his hand anyway. But Jung-hwan made sure they were right in front of the window so they could be captured by a reporter’s camera, making Tae-joon look that much more guilty in the next day’s headlines.
The Chief of Staff calls Tae-joon in to order his resignation, and wants Prosecutor Jung to prepare to take his place. Tae-joon shuts Jung up before he can speak as he reminds the Chief of Staff that his term is mandated by law to last two years.
That’s not up for dispute, but Tae-joon’s ability to lead the prosecutor’s office with all the suspicion swirling around him is. Tae-joon barks back that the Blue House would be empty of politicians if everyone was ousted based on suspicion, and builds up into a yell as he asserts himself as protector of the law.
So the Chief of Staff throws back that—according to the law he loves so much—an independent counsel has to be appointed to his case. Tae-joon can’t argue, but boy is he pissed.
Yeon-jin lends Jung-hwan an apartment she had been saving for the upcoming election as his new interim office, and agrees to report Tae-joon’s movements to them. Ha-kyung and Prosecutor Jung will handle the independent counsel candidates he’s likely to contact to bribe and/or blackmail.
Jung-hwan takes Ye-rin, who’s still giving him the silent treatment, on a trip to the beach. There, she finally opens up and tells her father how Hyun-sun said everything about him on TV was a lie, only for Jung-hwan to admit that it’s all true.
“I did bad things because I wanted to make a lot of money,” he says in a way she can easily understand. “I did bad things because I wanted to send you to a good school.” Ye-rin doesn’t understand—how could he do those things when he’s a prosecutor?
Jung-hwan can only tell her he did wrong, and he’s sorry for it. His eyes fill with unshed tears as he asks for her to stop hating him so she won’t regret it later, because that’s what happened to him when his father died. “I was a fool, Ye-rin,” he all but chokes. “Don’t hate me, don’t take after me. And after I’m gone, live like your mom, Ye-rin.”
Ye-rin collapses into a crying heap against her father’s chest, all sins forgiven. Jung-hwan looks out to the setting sun over the sea and comments that they should’ve come more often. So sad.
Tae-joon knows when he’s been cornered and reaches out to Minister Yoon with an offer: he’ll make her enlistment fraud case disappear by charing Dr. Mechanic with manipulating the evidence. “I’ll save you first, so please save me.”
His request? For Minister Yoon to appoint herself as the independent prosecutor in his money laundering case. She agrees to team up with him one more time.
The task of incriminating Dr. Mechanic as having forced his dying father to belatedly write down the name of Minister Yoon’s son falls on Ho-sung, who blackmails his way to an arrest warrant with ease.
Ha-kyung bursts into his office when she finds out she’s been transferred to work under him, in order for him to legally halt her investigation into the independent counsel candidates.
To add insult to injury, he’s put her at a desk right outside his office so he can watch her every move. When Ha-kyung grits how much he’s changed (for the worse), Ho-sung defends himself by asking, “So what you believe is a conviction, but what I believe is wrong? Our goal is the same. Only the means are different.” Only an idiot would think that doesn’t make all the difference.
Ha-kyung notifies Jung-hwan of Dr. Mechanic’s arrest, but frustratingly adds that’s all she can do from her current position. Yeon-jin updates him on who was bought off in order for Tae-joon to control the case, leaving Jung-hwan wondering why Tae-joon would help Minister Yoon.
He belatedly realizes that Tae-joon is trying to maneuver her to become the independent prosecutor on ‘Park Jung-hwan Gate,’ and calls the Chief of Staff for an emergency meeting…
…Only for Kang-jae to walk through the door instead. (Boooooo, hiss.)
Kang-jae tells him about Dr. Mechanic in a way that’s meant to illicit pity, since Jung-hwan can end the innocent man’s suffering by relenting. Kang-jae would volunteer as his attorney in that case and clear his charges.
When Jung-hwan gets into bed that night, little Ye-rin turns to him and says with conviction, “I won’t hate you, Dad. I won’t take after you. Even if you’re not around, I’ll think of you every day, and I’ll live like Mom.” Aww.
Now that her son has been cleared of committing enlistment fraud, the media hounds Minister Yoon now that she’s a candidate to become the independent prosecutor for the ‘Park Jung-hwan Gate’ scandal. Needless to say, she’s back to being adored in the public eye.
After watching the broadcast, Ha-kyung advises her ex-husband to just check into the hospital and call it a day. If he continues, Minister Yoon is sure to make him the only culprit in the money laundering case.
But he knows that refusing to participate in the investigation will be just as incriminating, and looks on the bright side for once—Minister Yoon won’t be the only person deciding the case, she’ll have a team they can fight with.
“I live my life once, but those people live their lives twice or three times. Covering up the enlistment fraud case with power, and covering up bigger issues with money.” Jung-hwan says, as he flashes back to Ha-kyung saying something similar back when she wore a prison uniform. No thanks to him.
Jung-hwan: “Ha-kyung-ah, I’m only going to take one step forward. For the world Ye-rin will live in.”
It’s so nice to see both Ha-kyung and Jung-hwan making changes based on their experiences, even if they’re both coming from radically different ends of the spectrum only to end up nearer to the midpoint than where they started.
Ha-kyung began her journey by being almost too principled, if that can even be called a thing, and was so rigid in her thinking that the human element of her job was all but removed. Contrast that with Jung-hwan, who started out so jaded and cynical that the very idea of changing the world into a better place for their daughter to grow up in was laughable. But that was when he was part of the problem, so we’re seeing a shift now that he’s struggling to become part of the solution. And what a struggle it is.
For a show so packed to the brim with servings and counter-servings, there’s so much heart in Punch that I’m reduced to a sniffling mess every time it reminds us of that. What I love even more is that the moments come organically as opposed to feeling manipulatively there to collect our tears, and always have something to say about the characters involved. The beach scene with Ye-rin was perfect for showing how much Jung-hwan has changed in his thinking, because while he might have never deluded himself into thinking that the wrongs he was doing were right (yes you, Ho-sung), he always considered himself the product of a flawed system.
Though he’d probably realized this for some time now, actually admitting out loud that he’s been wrong this whole time was such a huge step for him, but again, that’s just another reminder that he won’t be able to live life as this new and improved version of himself. Another reminder, like when he watched the sunset with his daughter, that he should’ve done all this much sooner. And we can see all that in his face and hear it in his voice every single time he’s faced with thoughts of the future, which is pretty much always the case now.
I know no miracle can save him now, and that to expect one would be doing this show a disservice. Instead, I’m keeping my goals as realistic as Jung-hwan’s, in that I just want him to have peace before he dies. If the man can do nothing else with the crappy hand fate has dealt him, let him at least win this battle against Tae-joon and Minister Yoon so he can go knowing he did something good. Unrealistically, though? I want him to take everyone down. I want him to wipe that smirk off Kang-jae’s face permanently and put Ho-sung in a home for the idiotically deranged. There should be enough time for that, right?