Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 15
There’s a lot of feigning in this episode, namely feigning ignorance and feigning partnership, but the ruse that actually works is the latter. Playing dumb makes you look bad, but playing your cards right gives you leverage. Defeating Chairman Jung was always Deul-ho’s ultimate goal, but a new foe arises, one that’s been laying low for quite some time now.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
With sirens blaring, an ambulance whizzes to a stop in front of the courthouse and out comes Chairman Jung, sporting a face mask and slowly lowering himself onto a wheelchair as a gaggle of reporters shout questions at him regarding the ledger and his role as witness in today’s Power King energy drink trial.
He’s wheeled inside, and Deul-ho eyes him with amusement. He’s not fooled by the frail old man act, and he sticks out his foot in an attempt to tip him out of the wheelchair he obviously doesn’t need. Hae-kyung observes this, and lets slip a tiny smile.
Chairman Jung sits behind the witness stand and stares daggers at Deul-ho, who’s suddenly reminded of Michael Jung leaving the country scot-free and of Il-gu who died too soon.
We see the events that occurred one week prior to the trial. At Geum San, Attorney Jang lashes out at his daughter for summoning Chairman Jung as witness and at Attorney Kim for not stopping her. Hae-kyung defends herself, insisting that it was the best course of action to save the firm, which doesn’t need Dae Hwa to stay afloat. Her father disagrees, and decides to lead this case from now on.
Chairman Jung is angry to find that no one wants to associate with him because of the Power King scandal. Attorneys Jang and Kim advise him to testify as witness, shift blame to his employees, and highlight the economic boost contributed by Youngwon Food. But the last thing the chairman wants to do is testify, and he makes that abundantly clear. He also wonders irately why Chief Prosecutor Shin has been MIA.
Chief Prosecutor Shin has been ignoring all of Chairman Jung’s calls, still conflicted over his alliance. Ji-wook informs him that he will subpoena the professor who accepted the chairman’s bribe in exchange for touting the health benefits of Power King in a scientific article. Ji-wook wants to restore the image of the prosecutor’s office and will conduct a thorough investigation of the drink manufacturer and ultimately subpoena Chairman Jung. However, Shin barely reacts to his son’s impassioned plans, unsure of how things will unfold.
Deul-ho reminds his team that they must corner Chairman Jung so he’ll appear in court, and that it’s going to take a lot more than simple evidence to get him to show. He’ll deny everything and blame an employee, so they must find a direct correlation linking him to his crime. Eun-jo offers to investigate Power King’s advertising agency and prove the chairman’s involvement in the misleading ads. Ae-ra says she’ll meet with potential witnesses and convince them to testify, and Dae-soo decides to handle the media and make sure it’s constantly abuzz with Power King news. They all stand up at the same time, eager to get started, but end up awkwardly getting in each other’s way, heh.
Deul-ho visits the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and meets with the Director of Food Additives, Kim Jae-cheol. He confronts Kim on accepting $20,000 from Chairman Jung, which is how Power King could be sold sans warning label. The director regretfully reveals that he was concerned about the high caffeine content, but was pressured to approve the drink after the professor’s publication came out. Moreover, a Dae Hwa representative approached his wife and gave her the money she needed to pay for their child’s surgery. When he found out about the bribe, his wife had already used the money and it was too late; he had no choice but to approve the marketing and sale of Power King. Deul-ho tells him that the only way to make up for this is to testify in court because a young female student died after drinking Power King.
Eun-jo speaks to a man at the advertising firm, who confirms that Chairman Jung was behind all the Power King ads, controlling every creative aspect of the production. The man states that he has recordings of all their meetings that Eun-jo can listen to, and adds that Dae Hwa has yet to pay them for the work they’ve done.
Ae-ra, Dae-soo, and the burly loan shark gather a group of reporters and treat them to beer and fried chicken. Dae-soo cheers to a world without Power King, and everyone raises their glass in agreement before chowing down. He and Ae-ra encourage them to feast and write a bunch of Power King articles when they get home.
Chief Prosecutor Shin is taken by surprise when Chairman Jung pulls up to him outside a restaurant. Inside the car, the chairman asks why he’s been avoiding him and warns him not to be a traitor, or else. He’s also adamant on not testifying and orders Shin to resolve the mess. Prosecutor Shin says he can clean this up, but he can’t change public opinion. Everyday, news articles emerge about Dae Hwa’s shady practices, and the chairman’s reluctance to testify only underscores this. Shin recommends that he stop dodging it, because Deul-ho will just become more dogged in his pursuit.
Deul-ho returns to his office to find Hae-kyung waiting for him, wanting to talk. They converse by the Han River, and she asks him how trial prep is coming along. He finds her inquiry suspicious since she’s the opposing counsel, but she admits that she’s not here as his adversary and believes he’s in the right this time.
Deul-ho encourages her to do everything in her power for this case, but to keep in mind that her efforts won’t work in stopping him. She’s already resigned to this since Chairman Jung is in the picture, and divulges some helpful information that Deul-ho wasn’t privy to, like how thirty percent of Youngwon Food’s net profits are donated to a scholarship fund, of which the director is Chairman Jung’s brother-in-law.
Deul-ho wonders about her father, knowing that he probably disapproved of her recent behavior. Hae-kyung declares that if she were someone who listened to her father, she wouldn’t have married Deul-ho in the first place; she will continue to do as she pleases.
Deul-ho is surprised by this new side of Hae-kyung, who goes on to explain that Geum San must change, and she’ll take it upon herself to make it happen. Although she can’t go to the same extremes as Deul-ho, she no longer wants to be a spectator while Geum San sinks.
Deul-ho marches up the steps to the courthouse for the second day of the Power King trial. News outlets report that the biggest draw is whether or not Chairman Jung will testify as a witness in a case that will have massive societal repercussions. Jung watches the news play out in front of him from the comfort of his home, and he certainly feels the pressure.
The trial is in session, and Deul-ho brings the director of food additives to the stand to ask him why Power King does not have a warning label like other drinks that may be harmful if consumed in excess. The director replies that the higher-ups approved Power King without the warning label, and although he disagreed with the move, he ended up accepting a bribe of $20,000 that rendered him powerless. He faces the mother who lost her daughter and apologizes repeatedly.
It’s Hae-kyung’s turn to cross-examine the director, and she starts off by asking who he received the money from. He responds that the money was from Dae Hwa, but is unable to name the briber. Hae-kyung questions the veracity of his statement because he doesn’t know the name of the person who gave him the money, which doesn’t necessarily confirm that Dae Hwa was involved.
We’re now back where we started, with Chairman Jung’s arrival via ambulance before he’s wheeled inside the courtroom. Deul-ho begins by asking why a wheelchair is necessary and requests that Jung be honest and sincere for once in the court of law. Jung introduces himself as the Chairman of Dae Hwa, and throws in some forced coughs to demonstrate his “frailty.” Deul-ho demands to know how Power King, which contains three times the amount of caffeine than other energy drinks, could be sold without a warning label. Jung thinks back to Attorney Kim’s advice, which is to answer with an, “I don’t know” or some variation of that when asked difficult questions, and proceeds to solemnly play dumb and state, “I don’t know.”
Every question Deul-ho hurls at him is hilariously answered with the same, “I don’t know.” Chairman Jung denies visiting the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and doesn’t know the professor who wrote the misleading scientific article on the drink. Even when Deul-ho showcases the photographs of him with the professor in the background, the chairman still maintains that he doesn’t know and states verbatim what Attorney Kim taught him to say: “Since I meet a lot of people in my line of work, I can’t remember every single person I meet.”
Deul-ho, unfazed, follows up with a copy of the credit card receipt from the day of the golf trip, which shows that Jung gifted the professor with a $2,500 golf club and his wife with department store gift cards.
When asked if he forced the advertising agency to falsely publicize that Power King can aid in weight loss, Chairman Jung states that he did no such thing. Deul-ho plays an audio recording of Jung yelling at the copywriters to nix the caffeine warning because it’ll hurt sales and berating them for worrying about what the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety will think. Deul-ho asks Jung if his voice in the recording is indeed his, and as expected, he utters that he doesn’t know. By this point, his umpteenth I-don’t-know is fodder for amusement and everyone is snickering. Deul-ho finds it hilarious that the man doesn’t even recognize his own voice after hearing it and even his lawyers are laughing. Well, really it’s just Hae-kyung who’s low-key laughing because Attorney Kim tries to hide his embarrassment behind his hand.
It’s Attorney Kim’s turn, and he attempts to paint Chairman Jung as a righteous and respected man by holding up a book written about the “real” human being that he is. Jung’s so used to replying, “I don’t know” that he nearly bungles his testimony, but catches himself and maintains that the content of the book is factual and was written to inspire hope in poor young people.
Kim also points out that Chairman Jung was voted “Best Mentor” by college students, and directs everyone’s attention to pictures of the chairman volunteering his time and partaking in community service work. Jung proudly states that he created a scholarship fund and donates his own money to it every year.
Deul-ho gets up and tries to spook him out of his wheelchair with a fake spider, but it doesn’t work this time. He’s not too concerned though, because he assures him he’ll get him out of his seat soon enough.
Deul-ho turns the conversation back to the scholarship fund, and reminds Chairman Jung that he can’t get away with saying, “I don’t remember” to everything. But the chairman continues to do just that, even when Deul-ho asks who’s in charge of the scholarship fund. Deul-ho answers for him, and states that his mistress’s brother is in charge, which makes it awfully convenient to give him thirty percent of the profit in order to funnel it back into the slush fund.
Deul-ho then asks Chairman Jung to identify certain people in photographs, but without even looking, he mutters that he doesn’t know any of them until he finally looks up and sees a photo of his son, Michael.
He acknowledges that the photo is of Michael, but denies that he’s hiding abroad. Deul-ho goes on with his line of questioning, including specific dates, locations, and the names of the people Jung bribed, along with the amount of money that was exchanged for favors.
Chairman Jung denies knowledge of such actions, and Deul-ho closes in on him by asking if he believes he’s seen the slush fund ledger, since he’s able to recite specific details of all his instances of bribery. Deul-ho pressures him to answer the question, because only then will he show Jung the ledger.
The chairman takes the bait and discloses that he does think Deul-ho has seen the ledger. Deul-ho makes it clear that Jung’s admission corroborates all his accusations of bribery and confirms his guilt. He taunts Jung for thinking that he’d actually reveal the ledger with a simple admission, and makes fun of his stupidity. Jung, enraged by the trickery, bolts up from his wheelchair. Deul-ho playfully announces that Jung has miraculously risen and jokes that he still doesn’t understand his need for a wheelchair.
After being humiliated in court, Chairman Jung throws a huge fit and orders his secretary to immediately break off all contracts with Geum San. The judge delivers the official verdict: the court orders Youngwon Food to pay $300,000 in compensatory damages to the deceased’s family and put warning labels on all its products, along with the recommended intake.
It’s another victory for Team Deul-ho, and it’s a major one. Hae-kyung walks out of the courtroom looking pleased by the outcome. We see Power King cans rapidly getting removed from the shelves of convenience stores and customers no longer drinking them.
Attorney Jang processes the ramifications of the verdict and tells Hae-kyung that all of Geum San’s dealings with Dae Hwa will be annulled. Hae-kyung tries to comfort her father by reminding him that they can always find new clients; this is a chance for Geum San to start anew. He agrees that the pride of Geum San can be restored, but indicates that the firm will be at stake if the slush fund list of names is revealed to the public. Hae-kyung wonders how much her father was involved in the slush fund, but he merely answers with a sigh.
Chief Prosecutor Shin orders his son to arrest everyone who accepted bribes from Chairman Jung, including the witnesses Deul-ho summoned. Ji-wook readily complies and interrogates the professor and the blogger who wrote a positive article about Power King.
Deul-ho hits up his down-on-his-luck reporter friend who’s been struggling to get by after Deul-ho caught him accepting petty cash gifts. He chomps on a leaf plucked from a shrub to show Deul-ho the scale of his misery, but Deul-ho throws him a bone: the list of names from Chairman Jung’s ledger. The names have been redacted, but their titles and the amounts they received remain. Deul-ho wants him to write an article about it and make it spread like wildfire.
The article circulates quickly, and everyone’s talking about the infamous list. The people that know they’re on it are shaking in their boots.
Chairman Jung gets wind of the article and angrily calls Chief Prosecutor Shin for an explanation, but this time Shin coolly ignores the call and goes about his business.
Assemblyman Kim asks Deul-ho if he was behind the article that set the internet ablaze, but Deul-ho doesn’t answer directly and merely comments that a lot of people are probably on pins and needles because of it. The assemblyman conveys that even if the tabloids are true, in order to foment change, the prosecution must carry out their investigation first. Deul-ho agrees and says the prosecution will soon summon and investigate Chairman Jung. He then asks the assemblyman if he’s willing to make some moves as well, and he grins.
Ae-ra and Dae-soo tail a car that stops outside a fancy restaurant. Several officials emerge, and they all gather inside to air their grievances regarding the slush fund list. Dae-soo stays in the car and sets up his surveillance gear while Ae-ra poses as a waitress and plants a recording device underneath the dining table of the officials.
Dae-soo eavesdrops on the conversation happening inside and compliments Ae-ra on her undercover prowess. She then wraps her fingers around his headphone wires and pulls him closer. She asks him if she really is so covert. Their romantic moment is interrupted, however, when Deul-ho arrives and slides into the backseat. He senses the heated atmosphere and wonders if he should come back later, but the two quickly dispel that notion and blame the weather, heh.
Back in the restaurant, the officials complain about reporters badgering them and the scrutiny they’re under because of that list. They wonder if there’s anything they can do to fix this fiasco, and just then, Deul-ho bursts into their private dining room with a wide grin. He greets the assemblyman, the vice minister, and the deputy director, all gathered here because they were bribed by Chairman Jung.
He sits down at their table and indulges on their expensive dinner spread. In between bites, he advises them not to even consider helping out Chairman Jung, or else he’ll release their closed-doors conversation that was recorded under the table.
Deul-ho orders them to think as if they have a bomb tied to their rear end, meaning that they’ll need to watch their actions or else KABOOM! the bombs will go off. He slams his teacup against the table to illustrate the explosion, and with that, he leaves.
Prosecutor Ko meets with Chief Prosecutor Shin and suggests that investigations of the slush fund must begin soon. Shin shares that they have already begun, and Ko is surprised by his swiftness. The chief prosecutor admits that he’ll have to work diligently to catch up to Ko’s level.
At Geum San, Attorney Jang discusses possible next steps with his daughter and Attorney Kim after learning that the slush fund investigations conducted by the prosecution are underway. Hae-kyung recommends that they stop all interactions with Dae Hwa now that their contracts with Chairman Jung have been broken off, and adds that Chief Prosecutor Shin will most likely do the same.
Attorney Kim doubts that Chief Prosecutor Shin will turn his back on Chairman Jung because of their close relationship, but Hae-kyung asserts that their strong bond is what will compel Shin to end his alliance with Jung. Her father agrees and orders them to expunge all documents related to Dae Hwa and close all overseas accounts. He recognizes that if and when Chief Prosecutor Shin switches sides, Geum San may be caught in the crossfire and bear the brunt of the chaos that will ensue.
Chief Prosecutor Shin wants the ledger from Deul-ho, saying he’ll catch Chairman Jung with it. But Deul-ho states that the chairman’s fall is imminent. Shin wonders if Deul-ho intends on ensnaring him instead of Chairman Jung, and Deul-ho responds that he shall soon find out. He knows that Shin probably accepted bribes from Jung using fake names, and says he’ll work to uncover them. He’ll consider handing over the ledger after seeing how he handles the chairman.
Chairman Jung’s secretary informs him that Chief Prosecutor Shin will conduct the investigation into his slush fund. The television is turned on, and Shin is in the news, holding a press conference and announcing that the prosecution will thoroughly investigate Chairman Jung in light of the Power King scandal. Jung is livid by what appears to be Shin’s betrayal of him.
Another press conference is also held, and this time it’s Assemblyman Baek who apologizes for negligence in the citizens’ dietary health and promises to create a special committee to compensate the victims. Ae-ra and Dae-soo call out to him from the back to let him know that they’ll be watching him to make sure he keeps his promises.
Chairman Jung calls Chief Prosecutor Shin and furiously demands what he’s trying to pull with the investigation. Shin calmly responds that he’s merely going through the necessary motions, and will happily discuss what his plans are over tea. The chairman grants him one last chance to make up for what he did, and agrees to trust him.
Shin hangs up, and tells his son that the whole prosecution team will be on standby should he need reinforcements, but Ji-wook assures his father that he can do it alone. After all, they’ve already got Jung in the palm of their hand. Closing in on him shouldn’t be an issue.
Back at the office, Ae-ra informs Deul-ho that Chairman Jung has been subpoenaed by the prosecution, but he doesn’t seem pleased by the news. He thinks the arrest happened too quickly, and suspects that there’s something else going on. He wonders why Chief Prosecutor Shin ordered the investigation so soon, and is certain that something’s not right.
Chairman Jung arrives outside the Seoul District Prosecutor’s office per his summons and is pelted with eggs as he walks up the steps. Deul-ho’s also there, watching from afar, and joins in on chucking eggs at him. But he stops when Jung suddenly collapses into his secretary’s arms. Just as soon as he arrived, he’s taken back to his car and driven to the hospital.
Team Deul-ho tunes in to the news, which reports that Chairman Jung suffered a heart attack outside the prosecutor’s office and is still unconscious after his heart surgery. There are rumors that his ailment was induced by the stress from recent events.
Given Chairman Jung’s penchant for faking illness, Deul-ho visits the hospital he’s at to see what’s up. Jung lies motionless with an oxygen mask over his face as he’s wheeled into his room. Deul-ho walks past it and takes note of the police and bodyguards standing outside before slipping inside an office.
A mysterious figure enters Jung’s room that evening, turns off the oxygen, and removes the mask from his face.
It’s Chief Prosecutor Shin, and Chairman Jung’s lips curl into a mischievous grin as he states that he’s happy to see him. Shin responds with a smile of his own.
Meanwhile, Deul-ho walks out of the office sporting a white doctor’s coat, flipping through documents on a clipboard. He looks up from the papers with an expression of determination.
Oh, Chief Prosecutor Shin. You’re tricky, aren’t you? He went from being a pretty standard villain to a much more interesting one in the span of a couple episodes. This is a man who holds his cards close to the vest, is discreet with his intentions, and has an unbeatable poker face. I have to admit that when he explained to Ji-wook in a prior episode that he was the one pulling the strings and not Chairman Jung, I sort of chalked up that statement to a poor and hasty defense of his shady behavior. Well, it turns out that he was speaking the truth, and we finally saw proof of that in this episode.
Now that we know his alliances can shift, he’s become the second most anticipated character after Deul-ho. I’m not certain what his grand scheme or end goal is, but I’m curious to find out. I’m also interested in learning how much Ji-wook knows about his father’s plans, but I get the sense that they’re both on the same page for once. But does that mean Ji-wook’s crossed over to the dark side with his father? So many questions!
As with all the trials we’ve seen thus far, there were no surprises, but this Power King trial was particularly entertaining because Chairman Jung was such a lazy and just all-around bad witness. I enjoyed watching him dig himself into a hole with his repeated I-don’t-know’s and found it amusing that he didn’t attempt to craft a more detailed response, but I guess when you’re guilty of everything, there’s no point in trying. I don’t know. (Sorry, had to slip one in there!)
Chairman Jung is such a caricature, and there are pros and cons to his characterization. It’s fun to see him bellow, throw fits, and wonder why Deul-ho is always picking on him. We’ve got him all figured out because he’s simple and predictable. However, it’s hard to take him seriously as the ultimate villain, because apart from sending people to do his dirty work for him, the most he does is delve into theatrics. Chief Prosecutor Shin is much more complex, and it’s interesting to see him replace Jung as the real threat so late in the series because there are only five more episodes left. Or maybe not.
The character of Hae-kyung grows on me more and more, and I love that she’s a calm, cool, and intelligent woman inside and out of the courtroom. I don’t think she understood what Deul-ho was fighting for while they were married, but I think she does now. It’s as if she understands him better as an ex-wife and after some years apart. She’s like a distant cheerleader, silently cheering for him from afar.
Although the writing has consistently been weak—but elevated considerably thanks to strong performances!—I want to thank the writers for including a funny albeit brief romantic scene between Ae-ra and Dae-soo. They’ve become my OTP in this series, and it’s about time I saw some actual sparks fly. There’s not much romance in this show, and I’m not bothered by it, but I’ve loved every scene featuring the two and I certainly wouldn’t mind more. They’re already comedic gold, so why not sprinkle some romance for added effect?
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