Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 3
Deul-ho is starting to learn the difference between being a prosecutor and a lawyer. Turns out there’s a lot more at stake when you’re sitting on the other side of the courtroom. He may be trying to fix what happened in the past, but his client needs his help in the present.
Team Bad Guys steps it up a notch, and Eun-jo is starting to catch on that things are not all that they seem. She’s still way behind Deul-ho though, as he’s forced to start looking for more evidence in some unexpected places. Better tighten up those converse laces!
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Our newbie lawyer Eun-jo leaves the courthouse deep in thought, remembering her client Mr. Byun’s heartfelt outburst that he was innocent, and that no one would listen to him. She and prosecutor Ji-wook bump into each other, both in low spirits.
They pause to sit for a moment and Eun-jo confesses that from the beginning, she never believed Mr. Byun was innocent. Even though he was her client she still assumed he’d done it. Ji-wook reasons that no one can be forced to trust someone else’s story, but Eun-jo doesn’t care. She now believes wholeheartedly that Mr. Byun isn’t a criminal.
Elsewhere, Deul-ho is also dealing with Mr. Byun’s assertion of innocence, though his method involves an “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” game between alcohol and water. So far, alcohol is winning.
Loan shark buddy Dae-soo joins him and starts drinking the shots that Deul-ho pours for himself, all the while agreeing that Deul-ho should definitely drink plenty today. He listens while the lawyer rants that Mr. Byun is being treated unfairly by being forced to sleep on a prison floor when he never did anything wrong. Deul-ho steals one final drink for himself and swears that he has to win this trial, for Il-gu.
That night, Deul-ho takes out the picture of his daughter Soo-bin he keeps in his wallet, and reminisces on the happy times they spent together. There’s a sweet montage of father-daughter moments, including a time when Soo-bin read to him about penguins. She started crying thinking about how difficult it is for the daddy penguins to take care of their eggs while the mothers are away. Deul-ho wipes her tears, and promises that someday he’ll take her to see the penguins.
Another memory shows Deul-ho arriving at the airport in a giant penguin suit running around frantically until he finds Soo-bin, just as she and her mom are saying goodbye to grandpa Attorney Jang. Soo-bin sees the “penguin” from afar and smiles at the cute waving dance he does for her.
As he keeps dancing, she slowly realizes that it’s her father. She waves sadly and blows a bittersweet kiss his way before mom Hae-kyung pulls her through security, so they can board their flight leaving the country. Deul-ho takes off the penguin head, and we can see that he’s sobbing uncontrollably as his daughter departs.
Eun-jo does some late night thinking of her own as she goes over the arson case from five years ago, where Mr. Byun allegedly set the fire after his family lost the restaurant. She remembers the scar she saw on his son’s wrist and realizes belatedly that it’s a burn scar.
She confronts Mr. Byun’s son Seung-mo at his dorm, asking if he was the one who set the fire, only to let his father take the blame. Seung-mo responds with anger, denying her accusation and blaming his father for the debt that he left behind when he ran away.
Suddenly, Deul-ho pops out from upstairs, yelling at Eun-jo not to waste her time with this punk. Completely unfazed by Seung-mo’s attitude, he tells him to go ahead and live his whole life with his guilt and spite rather than reconcile with his father. He grabs Eun-jo and pulls her away, leaving Seung-mo with some parting words:
Deul-ho: “Do you know why your father is insisting on his innocence? For just one reason. He doesn’t want to make you into a murderer’s son.”
Outside, Eun-jo second guesses whether intimidating Seung-mo was really the best idea, worrying that now he’ll be even more set against coming to court. Deul-ho just asks if she’s changed her mind, and if she no longer wants to argue for diminished capacity. She admits she believes Mr. Byun is innocent now, and Deul-ho remarks that it seems the co-counsel is finally in agreement, though he wonders if that’s a good thing.
A text arrives from Detective Kim telling Deul-ho to meet him at a cafe later that night. He rushes over and waits there as instructed, but Kim doesn’t show. After a long while he gives up and leaves. One he’s outside he gets a phone call, but just as he answers, a man brushes past him and covertly presses an envelope into Deul-ho’s hand.
Turns out the man is Detective Kim, the very same person on the phone with Deul-ho now. He says that he no longer has anything to do with the file that’s now in Deul-ho’s hands.
He gives a final warning that the footage is dangerous and could end up getting Deul-ho killed. As both men head their separate ways, a mysterious man in black emerges from behind a tree, having witnessed the entire exchange.
Deul-ho returns to the office and watches the video. It plainly shows a sports car arriving and a young man and woman dragging a body out of the trunk into the building. Dae-soo arrives, showing photos taken of a young man out clubbing. Dae-soo calls the kid complete trash, partying and drinking every night in different bars with different women. (Though the show hasn’t named him yet, this is Michael Jung, the son of Chairman Jung and the real culprit behind the murder/arson three years ago.)
After some whining, Dae-soo gets Deul-ho to agree to buy dinner for him. Deul-ho locks the USB drive in the desk and both men leave the office arguing over food. Don’t leave important evidence behind! Especially when there’s a sketchy man in black following you around!
Over at Geum San, Eun-jo’s boss Attorney Kim updates head honcho Attorney Jang on Deul-ho’s activities over the last few days, including his meeting with Detective Kim. Attorney Kim has done some digging on the detective, and apparently, three years ago Chairman Jung used some underhanded methods to pay him off for something. I’m betting that something is a certain USB drive currently lying unprotected in a desk drawer.
Meanwhile, little Soo-bin and her mom return from abroad to the airport, where Ji-wook waits for them. In the car, the adults discuss Deul-ho while Soo-bin sleeps in the backseat. Hae-kyung admits that Soo-bin misses her father even though she doesn’t ask about him. Ji-wook brings up the fact that Deul-ho will want to see his daughter when he learns she’s back in Korea, but Hae-kyung firmly says she won’t allow it.
Back at the trial, Eun-jo waits nervously outside the courthouse while trying to call Mr. Byun’s son Seung-mo, who has yet to show up. Deul-ho arrives and tells her to stop worrying about Seung-mo, since he has another solution.
Once in the courtroom, Deul-ho starts off by saying that he has CCTV footage of the crime scene from three years ago. Ji-wook tries to stall, arguing that it wasn’t authenticated, but the judge permits it.
Everyone waits in suspense as the file loads… and then up pops a video and accompanying pictures of Deul-ho meeting Ae-ra in the motel. It gives a raunchy twist on what we know was just a stakeout. Deul-ho frantically checks the computer as he tries to find the right video, while Ae-ra attempts to hide her face with her purse and Eun-jo attempts to block the screen.
Just then he sees a smirking Attorney Kim leaving the courtroom. He yells after him and gives chase, then slams open the doors to reveal Seung-mo waiting just outside. Seeing him, Deul-ho quickly switches tactics and claims he has a new witness to call to the stand, dragging Seung-mo along behind him.
Seung-mo isn’t the most cooperative witness and flat-out ignores Eun-jo, causing Deul-ho to take over. He goes into a story about how he was sent to an orphanage when he was five and too young to even remember his father’s face. He spent his youth angry at his father, but now that he’s older he wishes he could meet the man just once. His story seems to affect Seung-mo.
This time, when Deul-ho asks him what happened five years ago, Seung-mo raises his scarred hand and admits that he was the one to burn down his father’s restaurant. He yells he was furious that his father did nothing when they were thrown out, and did it to punish him.
In the cross-examination, Ji-wook reminds Seung-mo that his testimony will result in jail time. This scares Mr. Byun, who jumps up and yells that his son never set the fire, that he’s just lying to help his father. Mr. Byun apologizes over and over, which just serves to enrage Seung-mo, who leaves the courthouse.
After their failed defense strategy, the lawyers consult with Mr. Byun in jail. Deul-ho tries to reassure him that even if he receives an unfavorable sentence, they can still appeal. Mr. Byun doesn’t want to do that, since he believes that being convicted will protect his son. Refusing to put Seung-mo in danger, he begs Deul-ho to let it go.
Eun-jo tries to give Deul-ho a ride back to the office, but he’s had enough of her following him around. He asks if she really doesn’t know what happened with that USB earlier—after reporting on his activities all this time, did she really not know what her company was planning? Is she naïve, or just stupid?
Back at the office, Ae-ra is having a hissy fit over her good name being publicly slandered by that switched video. Dae-soo calmly asks if she’s sure that nothing happened other than surveillance. She blusters that she of all people would never deign to do anything with a man in a motel. Maybe if it was in a five-star hotel—she has standards, after all.
Deul-ho interrupts their banter to demand Dae-soo’s CCTV footage from last night. Sure enough, they see our resident man in black breaking into the office and switching the USB drives. Rather than catch the culprit, Deul-ho resolves to catch the one who paid him, and dashes over to the Geum San office with Dae-soo’s sunglasses.
Now wearing gangster shades, Deul-ho marches into the building and runs into Attorney Kim by the elevator. When Attorney Kim scoffs at his attitude, Deul-ho pulls out a printed picture of the man in black breaking into his office. There’s a tiny flicker of unease on Attorney Kim’s face before his smirk comes back as he asks who’s in the photo.
Fed up, Deul-ho goes for a more direct route to jog his memory and sucker punches him, which knocks him to the floor. He’s then too scared of getting punched again to stop Deul-ho from boarding the elevator. It’s awesome.
Deul-ho proceeds to make his way through the office, knocking back lawyers and judo flipping security guards right and left. The doors slam open as he reaches his ex-father-in-law’s office to demand his USB back. Attorney Jang tells him to stop causing a ruckus and get out, but Deul-ho adamantly refuses, and calls him out for cheating.
Attorney Jang goes for the low blow by bringing Soo-bin into the conversation, asking how Deul-ho expects her to call him “Dad” when he’s living so recklessly. Deul-ho responds that while he didn’t expect them to hand the video over so easily, they should hire better criminals next time. He drops the picture on Attorney Jang’s desk, warning him that from this moment on he’ll stop playing fair as well. Then he walks out like a boss.
Down the hall, a nervous Attorney Kim yells into the phone at his flunky for getting caught on the surveillance camera. He orders him to meet, unaware that Eun-jo’s overheard his conversation.
At dinner with his father, Ji-wook tells him about how Deul-ho embarrassed himself in court, and that he should be able to wrap up the case quickly. He sounds like a little boy who just wants his daddy to tell him he did a good job.
Dad gives a very noncommittal answer, leading Ji-wook to ask if he knows anything about the stolen USB drive. He’s wondering if Geum San stole it, since he’s noticed that they’ve been keeping a close eye on Eun-jo’s co-counsel. Does Deul-ho know something important that Ji-wook doesn’t?
Dad tries to get him to drop it, but Ji-wook is of a different mindset. When he tells his father he’s planning to investigate further, he gets a flat, “Don’t waste your time. Just finish this case.”
In the Geum San parking garage, Eun-jo is heading home for the night when she happens to see the man in black running over to Attorney Kim’s car. She may not know that this guy is bad news, but the envelope that Attorney Kim shoves at him certainly piques her suspicion.
Remembering Deul-ho’s accusations about Geum San’s involvement, Eun-jo runs over to the car to ask if her boss has anything to do with the missing video. He accuses her of watching too many espionage movies and tells her to get back to work.
Ready to start fighting dirty, Deul-ho disguises himself as Michael Jung’s chauffeur and closes the door on the kid’s leg after shoving him into the car, making him howl like a baby. That must have been satisfying.
Deul-ho waits until they get on the highway before he starts swerving around, all while yelling at imaginary drivers for their poor driving. Michael ends up simultaneously screaming bloody murder at Deul-ho and trying not to be sick from getting tossed around in the backseat. He eventually passes out, and Deul-ho drives on.
The next morning, a groggy and hungover Michael awakens to find himself stripped down to his boxers in the middle of a public square, surrounded by women laughing and taking videos. He jumps up, and on his back is written: “The USB knows! -From Geum San.”
He stomps around for a bit in his jungle themed boxers before sprinting off, presumably to go whine to Daddy Dearest. Well played, Deul-ho.
Eun-jo tries to contact her wayward partner, saved in her phone as “Five Portions of Ribs.” She vents her frustrations at the phone after leaving a message, which Hae-kyung overhears, having come for her first day of work. Interest piqued, she asks to have Eun-jo report to her office later.
Attorney Jang calls the trial judge to tell him that this time they’re planning to lose their case as they don’t have sufficient evidence. Hae-kyung stops in to say hello, and the two share father-daughter smirks of evil.
Eun-jo gets called into Hae-kyung’s office, only to see her boss there as well. He introduces Hae-kyung as a law partner who just returned from their New York offices. Hae-kyung gets to the point and tells Eun-jo that when they lose in court tomorrow, the firm will be dropping the case. Eun-jo tries to argue that the client is innocent, but Hae-kyung states that there’s more evidence pointing towards his guilt.
She coolly explains that Geum San has the highest success rate and is the most powerful firm because they only take cases that they can win, and that will bring in money. She orders Eun-jo not to waste her time on pro bono cases. When Eun-jo tries to defend herself, Hae-kyung chastises her by reminding her that when the firm tells you to do something, you do it.
Deul-ho treks to a small neighborhood that had been the scene of a car accident three years ago, which he’d discovered while investigating the case as a prosecutor. According to his findings, this was where Michael hit the victim before hauling his body off to set on fire.
Deol-ho wanders around the road where the accident took place, reliving the scene. At one point he’s actually lying down in the middle of the street, then the camera pans up and we see Dae-soo in the background imitating his pose across the hood of his car. Hee.
Deul-ho instructs Dae-soo to pretend he’s a sports car and run into him, mock-knocking him to the ground again. From this angle he can see an old grandma nearby sitting outside of her store. He heads over to talk to her, Dae-soo following close behind.
The woman isn’t the friendliest of folk, but she warms up to Deul-ho when he asks if she sees everything outside her store. She claims she sees all, and remembers everything. The boys are intrigued, but when Deul-ho starts to ask her a question about the accident, she interrupts to ask if they’ve heard the news: Korea is thinking of hosting the World Cup… in 2002. Ummm.
Deul-ho and Dae-soo trade questioning glances as the granny continues talking about how she wishes Korea would host the Olympics instead, before she switches tones and goes on a tirade about soccer in general. Dae-soo barely gives a “she’s crazy” signal before she flips out and starts chasing the boys off, whacking at them with her bright yellow umbrella.
Deul-ho joins Seung-mo for lunch despite the cold reception he’s given. He reminds him that his father’s sentencing is tomorrow morning. Seung-mo asks if he expects him to go listen to his father get sent to prison, and Deul-ho answers yes, he wants Seung-mo to it and spend the rest of his life suffering from the guilt. He’s seen lots of people try to live with getting away with their crimes throughout his career, and it won’t be as easy as Seung-mo thinks.
Mr. Byun tosses and turns in his jail cell. Happier memories with his family flash through his mind, overplayed by Seung-mo’s angry words that his father did nothing to protect them from being cast out.
At the sentencing trial the next morning, the judge rules that even though there is no direct evidence tying him to the case, the corroborating evidence and Mr. Byun’s past criminal history are enough to find him guilty. He’s sentenced to eight years in prison, which sends Mr. Byun dissolving into gasping sobs. Deul-ho can only watch as the poor man breaks down.
Seung-mo stands by the door outside, listening to his father cry. Deul-ho finds him as he’s leaving, and asks why he didn’t come inside. Seung-mo just hands over a bag and asks him to deliver it to his father.
In the prison visiting station, Mr. Byun opens the bag and finds his favorite dumplings inside. Eun-jo apologizes for not clearing his name and Deul-ho urges him to file an appeal as he’s in the middle of finding new evidence that won’t implicate his son in any way.
But when Deul-ho reveals that Seung-mo was the one who brought the dumplings, Mr. Byun starts to cry again, slowly eating them while saying they really are his favorite. He agrees to file an appeal.
Ae-ra is waiting for Deul-ho back at the office. She’s looked into the car accident and there was a witness: the store grandma who chased them off with her umbrella. She wasn’t taken seriously at the time because the police assumed it was just a prank call due to her suffering from dementia.
Deul-ho returns to the store and finds the grandma playing Go outside her shop. He purchases a bottle of rice wine which she claims at first is fifty dollars instead of five, though she admits her mind comes and goes sometimes.
The grandma recognizes Deul-ho, saying she remembers that he came here with another man asking about an accident from three years ago. Excited, he sits down to ask her more questions, just as Eun-jo shows up at the same store.
Deul-ho takes the wine and starts pouring it out over the road where the car accident happened. The grandma comes running, waving her deadly parasol and yelling at him for wasting expensive goods. He dodges yet another attack from her umbrella and edges in that he’s not wasting it, he’s consoling someone’s spirit (in the fashion of pouring alcohol over a deceased person’s grave).
The grandma nods slowly, agreeing that he should. Deul-ho jumps on that, saying that they should do that for the person who died here—she remembers that, right? That accident from three years ago? She goes still and asks if he saw it too. Going back in her memory, she recounts how a strange car without a roof hit someone where they stand now. A young man and woman got out of the car and put the bleeding man in the trunk before driving away.
The grandma starts hyperventilating, lost in the memory and recalling all the blood left on the street. Deul-ho keeps pushing, asking if she saw it clearly. Eventually it’s too much and she gets scared, using her opened umbrella against them like a shield. She yells for them not to come closer, but both lawyers are too busy staring at the umbrella.
Right there, clearly outlined against the vibrant yellow, are black tire tracks. Immediately below them is the name of the shelter that the victim frequented. Deul-ho reels as he realizes that the victim must have dropped the umbrella when he was hit. Then, after Michael ran over it with his sports car, this little old grandma picked it up and has held onto it ever since.
Wow. I thought that the grandma was going to work herself into a fit and pass out. I wasn’t expecting her to actually move the plot forward! I really admire how the show is using small props to help define the characters: Grandma’s umbrella, Duel-ho’s converses, Dae-soo’s sunglasses, Michael’s jungle boxers. Then to take a prop that we’d gotten used to and turn it into evidence… I’m still grinning.
Though, on the other side of the spectrum, what the heck was going on with the espionage tactics? I was so excited at that USB handoff between Deul-ho and Detective Kim, but then the two of them just stood there ten feet apart from each other while talking on the phone! They did such a smooth exchange, and then practically stared at one another for five more minutes. I thought the purpose of spy tricks was to avoid being seen together, not to advertise that something sneaky just happened. I know neither of them are back alley drug-dealers used to such interactions, but basics, people! I’m close to saying Deul-ho deserved to get the drive stolen after that.
I’m glad to see that Deul-ho is becoming more invested in Mr. Byun. When he first made the decision to come back, his only goal was to set right the wrongs of the past. He was so focused on the victims from three years ago that I don’t think he even paused to consider Mr. Byun and what he was going through in the present. Up until this point he was merely an opportunity to fix what had been broken before.
Deul-ho had known from the start that Mr. Byun hadn’t committed the crime, but that was because he had previous information from his prosecutor days, not because he really believed in him. You could see it when he was forcing him to “remember” what happened that night. He fed him the story of what the facts gave him, not Mr. Byun’s testimony.
After Mr. Byun’s heartfelt thanks in the courtroom, Deul-ho started thinking about him as a person, not just a client. His drunken antics with Dae-soo reflect the guilt he feels for never pausing to see Mr. Byun as someone who needed help. He still wants to win the trial for Il-gu, but he can’t help thinking about how Mr. Byun is being treated unfairly. He’d been so determined to stop the guilty that he forgot a lawyer has to defend their client.
It’s the main difference between a prosecutor and a lawyer: one is trying to reveal the guilty and the other protects the innocent. Two sides of the same coin. I’m glad that Deul-ho is starting to recognize that he’s on the other side of the courtroom now, and this means that Mr. Byun’s life is at stake should he lose.
I wish Eun-jo would show some similar character growth as I’m still waiting for her to contribute to team Good Guys. I understand that she’s still a rookie lawyer and Deul-ho has much more experience, but so far I haven’t seen her do much of anything to help. Whether it’s in the courtroom or out, Deul-ho always seems to be three steps ahead, reducing her to constantly chasing after him.
I’m not saying she’s entirely at fault, since Deul-ho and her own company are doing a thorough job of keeping her out of the loop. It’s just I would expect a lawyer who was smart enough to get hired by the biggest law firm in the country to be able to notice that things are more complicated than they appear.
She made some baby steps forward this episode by overhearing Attorney Kim’s exchange with the mystery man, but I think if she could raise her cleverness to the same level as her morals, then her storyline would get a lot more interesting. I AM looking forward to when she figures a few things out and she and Deul-ho can be firmly on the same side. Maybe Ae-ra can lend her some swagger…
What I’m looking forward to most though, is some more father-daughter time between Deul-ho and Soo-bin. He clearly loves her more than anyone else in the world and I truly hope they can have a reunion soon. No doubt Hae-kyung will do something to ruin it, but hopefully we can get a couple happy hugs in before that. Pretty please?
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