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Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 10

Courtroom drama takes a backseat in this episode as we get to explore the backstories that led our characters to be who and what they are today. Whether that’s seeing how Deul-ho and his now-estranged wife fell in love only to eventually grow apart, or how exactly Deul-ho meted out justice as a prosecutor (and made some lifelong friends along the way), it’s all about how the past interacts with the present. But when it comes to Deul-ho and Hae-kyung, the past still hurts, the present is complicated, and the future is still too distant.

 
EPISODE 10 RECAP

Deal-ho wakes up, puzzled to find his daughter Soo-bin sleeping soundly next to him, her arms wrapped around the stuffed penguin doll he had given her. He slowly gets up, careful not to wake her, and a flashback reveals how Deul-ho ended up in her room.

The night before, Deul-ho had drunkenly arrived outside ex-wife Hae-kyung’s apartment, repeatedly ringing the doorbell and calling for Soo-bin to let him in. Soo-bin stopped her mother from calling security, and quickly opened the door for her father. Deul-ho stumbled inside, yelling for kimchi stew and making himself at home on the floor. Detecting her mother’s displeasure, Soo-bin said she’d have Deul-ho sleep in her room.

In the present, Deul-ho walks toward the sound of chopping and sees Hae-kyung preparing breakfast in the kitchen. He’s reminded of the past when she’d smile and let him know that she was preparing his favorite kimchi stew. But the present is different, as Hae-kyung stops chopping and glares at him, reprimanding his drunken appearance last night and warning him not to come by again.

Deul-ho sheepishly apologizes, and is on his way out when Soo-bin runs to him to ask if he’s going to leave so soon. Just as he’s about to respond, Hae-kyung interrupts and directs him to stay for breakfast, much to his surprise.

The breakfast spread is comprised of kimchi stew, and Soo-bin wonders why because it’s too spicy for her to eat. Deul-ho explains that this is his favorite food, and Soo-bin lights up at the realization that her mother made it just for her father.

The doorbell rings, and it’s none other than Attorney Jang outside the door. Hae-kyung bolts up from her seat and tells Deul-ho to get up; if her father finds out he’s here, he will not be pleased. Soo-bin grabs her father’s hand and rushes him into her room so he can hide.

Once he’s out of sight, Hae-kyung lets her father in, who came by to pick up some legal documents on his way to work. Soo-bin cheerfully greets him, and as he makes his way to the kitchen, his face darkens as he notices three place settings on the table.p He starts toward Soo-bin’s room at the end of the hallway, but Hae-kyung calls him and hands him the requested papers. He asks point-blank if Deul-ho is here, and she reluctantly admits that he is. Attorney Jang expresses his disappointment in her before leaving.

While remaining hidden in his daughter’s room, Deul-ho opens up an old photo album and flips through the pages. He lands on a photo of him looking chummy with Ji-wook and Hae-kyung, who are both smiling and clutching aluminum bats.

We rewind ten years ago aand see Detective Ae-ra facing her two new Prosecutor recruits: an adorably nerdy Ji-wook (bespectacled a la Harry Potter) and a fresh-faced Hae-kyung, looking hilariously stiff and awkward on their first day of work. She welcomes them to Seocho district’s “Troublemaker Law Office” and has them follow and repeat her mantra, replete with hand motions.

Ae-ra: “Embrace the victims! Look for evidence everywhere! Chin up, always!”

She advises them to be on their A-game at all times or else someone will kill them, haha. That someone bursts into the room and it’s none other than feisty then-prosecutor, Jo Deul-ho. It’s Hae-kyung and Ji-wook’s first time meeting him, and by the looks on their faces, they are simultaneously intrigued and a little terrified by this loud man who was just threatening someone over the phone, aluminum bat in hand.

Deul-ho spots the two newbies and asks Ae-ra who these nervous “lambs” are. He orders them to follow him, refusing to reveal where he’s going. They follow Deul-ho to a dark warehouse where a gang holds a victim hostage. “Let’s go home!” Deul-ho hollers, before charging at the gang and taking on the thugs with his bat. Hae-kyung screams amidst the violent scuffle and hides behind her hands, and Ji-wook surprisingly picks up a piece of plywood and joins in on the fight.

Suddenly, a thug grabs Hae-kyung and holds a broken bottle to her neck. Deul-ho commands him to let her go and take him instead. The thug complies, only to get kicked in the face by Deul-ho and forcibly thrown against the ground.

Following the ruckus, Deul-ho takes Hae-kyung to a restaurant that serves blood sausage stew. She thanks him for saving her and admits that she’s never tried the dish. He replies that the people he hates the most are the ones who can’t eat it. She scoffs, and proceeds to eat one of the sausages. Impressed by her bold move, he grins.

We see Hae-kyung admiring Deul-ho working his prosecutor magic in the courtroom, and see her working late into the evenings with him. One night, when she thought her birthday would be forgotten, he surprises her with a cake at the same blood sausage restaurant. Ae-ra takes a snapshot of the two together, beaming and looking positively cute.

Back in the present, Hae-kyung catches him lingering on that photo. She coldly informs him that she had forgotten to throw it out.

Deul-ho walks out of Soo-bin’s home and laments that throwing out pictures doesn’t get rid of the memories. A car pulls up in front of him, and it’s Attorney Jang, who warns him not to taint his granddaughter with his foul presence, like he’s already done with Hae-kyung.

Deul-ho returns to his office, and Eun-jo treats him to a PPL breakfast and brewed coffee to prevent him from eating his usual instant noodles and coffee. Her gesture reminds him of the time Hae-kyung dropped by his apartment and invited herself in to stock his fridge with homemade side dishes and fresh fruit since his diet was so unhealthy. He had asked her if she liked him, and recommended that she stop if he was merely a passing interest to her. To that, she’d confidently declared that she was in it for the long run.

The early stages of their relationship were comprised of surprise breakfast deliveries, kisses over coffee, and warm embraces whenever Deul-ho got into scuffles. We see the simple marriage proposal that took place at Granny’s Potato Stew restaurant, followed by Hae-kyung cuffing Deul-ho and stating her version of the Miranda Rights to let him know that she was pregnant. His eyes had filled with tears as he warmly embraced her, elated to become a father.

Hae-kyung: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be held against the baby. You have the right to become… the father of my child.”

However, their marriage wasn’t without hardship. Deul-ho’s erratic work schedule made birthday celebrations and date nights difficult to keep. Following the birth of their daughter, Hae-kyung would take care of baby Soo-bin by herself while Deul-ho was off chasing bad guys.

One night, Deul-ho came home from work early and gifted Soo-bin a huge teddy bear and a bouquet of flowers to his wife, to apologize for being so MIA. Hae-kyung lit up at his idea of a family trip, but shoved her bouquet back at him when his idea of a family trip was to visit the orphanage he grew up in and meet the priest who raised him like a son. She expressed that she didn’t want to expose Soo-bin to his atypical upbringing, in which a priest was his stand-in father. Deal-ho couldn’t understand what was so distasteful about showing his daughter where he grew up.

Back in the present, Deul-ho takes a walk outside, his mind overflowing with thoughts and memories. In voiceover, he states that he gave his all to his work because he thought that was the right thing to do, but in doing so, he was unable to protect his loved ones.

He’s reminded of his strained friendship with fellow orphan Il-gu and the bribery investigation that surrounded Supreme Court Justice Choi Young-no at the time. Both of them were victims of Chairman Jung’s malevolence, falsely accused of a crime they did not commit. Over drinks, Justice Choi had warned Deul-ho to watch his back, because Chairman Jung will throw anyone under the bus for his own gain.

Deul-ho refused to heed Chief Prosecutor Shin’s orders to leave Chairman Jung alone, and as a result, Shin and Attorney Jang had plotted to remove Deul-ho from his post in order to protect their financial ties with the chairman. Geum San had been involved with the chairman’s hefty slush fund from the very beginning and profited greatly from it. If Deul-ho decided to strike Chairman Jung then, Geum San would be next. Prosecutor Shin thus advised Attorney Jang to cut off his son-in-law immediately.

At home, Hae-kyung tried to convince Deul-ho to refrain from blowing the whistle on Chairman Jung and Geum San in order to protect herself, her father and Soo-bin, but to no avail. So in the courtroom, when Hae-kyung asked Chairman Jung to identify the prosecutor he bribed, he pointed an accusatory finger at Deul-ho, and that false accusation ended Deul-ho’s career as a prosecutor and ultimately drove his family apart.

We return to the present in the Neighborhood Lawyer office where Dae-soo eyes Ae-ra making instant noodles in the kitchen. He beats around the bush before asking her if anything happened between the two of them last night (when they woke up hungover on the same couch, surrounded by empty soju bottles). Ae-ra fervently rejects his notion, saying she’s not such an easy woman and wouldn’t do such a thing. She loses her appetite and storms off in a huff.

Eun-jo enters the office with coffee and mentions to Dae-soo that it seemed like he was having a lovers’ quarrel. He flatly denies her observation and states that even though he’s known Ae-ra for seven years, they are certainly not a good match. Sure, just keep telling yourself that.

Eun-jo’s shocked to find that they’ve known each other for so long, and we go back in time to seven years ago, when Dae-soo had straight brown hair and a much more colorful wardrobe. He’d always end up in the interrogation room with Prosecutor Deul-ho on various charges—fraudulent text messages, marriage fraud, selling counterfeits—and every single time, Deul-ho let him off the hook after he honestly confessed and performed a song; that’s how their odd friendship came to be.

After that brief trip down memory lane, Eun-jo turns to Dae-soo for financial advice by recounting a story about her lawyer friend who’s in desperate need of $3,000. Eun-jo fails to keep her story straight, and Dae-soo realizes that she’s the one who needs the money, not some imaginary lawyer friend.

Rather than lending her that sum at a ridiculously high interest rate, Dae-soo comes up with an idea to bring all the clients Deul-ho refused to work with to clients Eun-jo instead. Eun-jo loves it, and the next day a slew of people line up for legal advice. They air their grievances to her while Dae-soo and Ae-ra collect consultation fees. Finally, the office is stuffed with clients and business is booming. Deul-ho is surprised by all the bustle when he returns to the office.

The two catch up outside, and Eun-jo divulges that she’s been struggling financially after resigning from Geum San, making Deul-ho doubt whether asking her to work with him was such a good idea. She quickly assures him that she didn’t join him to make money anyway.

Deul-ho explains that he’s not some kind-hearted lawyer who represents the poor pro bono; he simply hates watching innocent people get taken advantage of while convicts go around with their heads held high.

Eun-jo thinks about his statement before suggesting that perhaps his seemingly disparate sentiments actually mean the same thing. She conveys that the poor are often bullied and treated unfairly while the rich, who have everything at their disposal, are able to commit crimes and live just fine; such is the world they live in. She points out that Deul-ho is in fact working for people who are in need.

Deul-ho confesses that he’s never thought of it that way, and asks her if she wants to become a lawyer who helps people that are treated unfairly. Eun-jo replies that she does, but she also wants to work a lot and make lots of money while she’s at it. She asks him if that’s very superficial of her, and he disagrees, defining superficial behavior as doing bad deeds while acting like they’re kind and good on the outside. He tells her to do what she wants, and Eun-jo seems comforted by his words.

Back at Geum San, Hae-kyung looks through the list of candidates up for the role of prosecutor general. The top two candidates are Prosecutor Ko and Chief Prosecutor Shin, and Attorney Kim slyly posits that it’d be best for them if Shin becomes the next prosecutor general, because Ko goes by the book too much and is therefore unfit for Geum San.

Hae-kyung mentions that his statement makes it seem like Geum San doesn’t go by the books, and Kim responds that he just meant to imply that Prosecutor Ko is inflexible. Hae-kyung warns him not to be so obvious, and remarks that Ko should resign if he doesn’t become Prosecutor General since he’s at a higher level than Shin. Before leaving her office, Attorney Kim brings up Deul-ho and comments that he’s been rather quiet lately. Hae-kyung, offended by his casual mention, retorts that he is still her ex-husband and Kim’s senior and should nonetheless be respectfully addressed.

Deul-ho joins Justice Choi and Prosecutor Ko for a fancy sushi dinner. Ko is very familiar with Deul-ho’s prowess and recognizes all the good work he’s done for the people. He asks if Deul-ho is still at odds with Chairman Jung, and Deul-ho discloses that both he and Justice Choi are victims of the chairman’s crimes. Ko knows there’s been a lot of talk about him and Chief Prosecutor Shin because of the prosecutor general role that needs to be filled. Justice Choi maintains that Ko is the best candidate because of his integrity, but Ko brings up the government’s confidence in Shin and says the outcome can’t be predicted at this point.

Deul-ho counters that it’s not the government that has faith in Prosecutor Shin, but Chairman Jung. Prosecutor Ko warns him not to bare his teeth too much because Jung has the means to do whatever he wants.

At the end of their meal, the three run into Chief Prosecutor Shin and his son Ji-wook at the restaurant. They exchange pleasantries with each other before leaving. Ji-wook wonders why Deul-ho dined at such a fancy restaurant when he can’t even afford to pay his employees, and wonders what his connection is to Justice Choi and Prosecutor Ko.

At the office the next day, Eun-jo receives a frantic call from her mother. She and Deul-ho race to the scene and look up to see her stepfather standing at the edge of a Dae Hwa Housing building. Police are guarding the area and an air mattress is being inflated in case he jumps. Eun-jo tries to comfort her terrified mother, and Deul-ho steps over the yellow tape to get to the top of the building.

A crisis team fails to convince Eun-jo’s stepfather, HONG JOON-KI, to move to safety and talk it out. Meanwhile, Deul-ho hops onto the edge and joins him. He introduces himself and informs Mr. Hong that he works with his daughter, Eun-jo. When asked why he’s doing this, Mr. Hong shouts that he wants an explanation as to why he’s not getting compensated for the tireless work he’s done as a subcontractor for Dae Hwa Housing. Upon hearing the name, “Dae Hwa,” Deul-ho’s ears perk up and he repeats the name several times to make sure he heard correctly.

Deul-ho reassures Mr. Hong that he’s a whack-job lawyer who simply forges ahead and is an expert in all things Dae Hwa. He extends his hand and urges the man to take it and not look down.

At that moment, a car pulls in and Chairman Jung emerges. He looks up and scowls at the sight of Deul-ho grinning at the top of the building. Deul-ho turns to Mr. Hong and states that he knows the quickest and fastest way to talk to Dae Hwa.

Suddenly, he grabs Mr. Hong’s hand and they jump off the building together, all limbs flailing as they head straight for the air mattress.

 
COMMENTS

Much of this episode comprised of flashbacks, and I didn’t mind at all because we finally got a deeper look into who Hae-kyung is as a woman and how she fell in and out of love with Deul-ho.

I was pleasantly surprised by her assertiveness in courting Deul-ho, because she pretty much always made the first move. Her genuine love for him was loud and clear, and she expressed it in countless ways. Interestingly enough, I think what made her fall in love with him also caused their discord.

It doesn’t take a genius to determine that Deul-ho is different from the rest. He’s not a buttoned-up enforcer of the law like Ji-wook or anyone employed by Geum San. He gets his hands dirty, couldn’t care less about ticking off the wrong people, and has a solid moral compass. It was love at first sight for Hae-kyung, and Deul-ho’s outlandish behavior and fierce demeanor in the courtroom had her smitten.

But after the birth of Soo-bin, it seems Hae-kyung no longer appreciated his devotion to his work and his sporadic presence as a father. Nothing about Deul-ho is stable, and when you have a child in the picture, all a mother really wants is stability, consistency, and perhaps an adherence to tradition especially in family matters. Family comes first, right?

I was a little taken aback when she was repulsed by the idea of taking a family trip to visit Deul-ho’s orphanage, and especially when she denigrated the priest who raised him because he wasn’t Deul-ho’s actual father. I know that lineage and bloodlines are very important in Korean culture, but clearly she loved Deul-ho enough to not care that he was an orphan because she married him. So why belittle his upbringing and keep it a secret from Soo-bin? Her outburst was shockingly elitist.

It could be that Hae-kyung was so fed up with Deul-ho that she put her foot in her mouth in that moment, but that scene distinctly revealed the cracks in their marriage. Moreover, it also showed us that the erratic lifestyle Deul-ho led, while good for the safety of society, was a detriment to his family life; he even admitted this in hindsight.

I do think Deul-ho and Hae-kyung still have a chance at getting back together, but her ties to Geum San and her father’s affiliation with Dae Hwa stand in the way of reconciliation. She’ll have to choose between her father and her ex-husband, safety or justice, and she’s just not ready or willing to do that yet.

The best comedic moments came from Ji-wook—Newbie Ji-wook, that is. He didn’t have too many scenes, but everything from pushing up his wire-rimmed glasses, repeating Ae-ra’s mantra with stilted conviction, sniffling before failing to introduce himself to Deul-ho, and even fending off baddies with a piece of plywood made me laugh. I found the contrast between the Ji-wook then and the Ji-wook now to be very amusing.

I’m still not pleased with Kang So-ra’s lack of screen time, but I did appreciate her short (albeit heartfelt) conversation with Deul-ho because it showed that the both of them actually do share something in common. They’re both lawyers who want to defend the people who suffered from injustice. They want to do good for good people, and they want the bad guys to receive their just deserts.

This episode ended with what is the first inciting incident of a brand new case, and because it involves Eun-jo’s stepfather, this could mean Eun-jo’s storyline will be fleshed out more, which would be great.

Our trusty neighborhood lawyer sure does find himself atop one too many high buildings doesn’t he? He’s like a roof magnet. At this point, he’s probably more at ease on top as he is inside of buildings. Now that Dae Hwa is back in the picture, along with Chairman Jung (and his rainbow of scowls and grimaces), Deul-ho’s got a second chance to defeat his public enemy number one. And it does seem like he’s all fired up and raring to go. Perhaps Deul-ho can’t stay away from tall buildings because that’s where his adrenaline and determination get refueled? Just a thought.

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I fall more in love with this show with every episode. This is just plain fun to watch.

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I absolutely LOVED how we got a backstory on Deul Ho and Hae Kyung. I actually fell in love with her after this episode. She isn't without faults, obviously, but I'm glad that we got a more clear picture about these two. I'm secretly rooting for them to get back together!

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Hmm. I started wondering if Hae-kyung's dismissal of the priest as a father figure was due to Deul-ho's failings as a father. I mean, since family is important for Hae-kyung at this moment in her life but Deul-ho does not show understanding of this, she could attribute his cluelessness to his upbringing because he grew up without a "proper family". And so meeting his father figure could seem insulting to her, because look what Deul-ho became.

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This episode felt different from all other episodes (because of all backstory and less court scene) and I loved it.
Thanks for the recap -lol 'He’s like a roof magnet' -so true.

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