Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 7
With his revenge put on pause for the moment, our intrepid lawyer will have to find a new purpose in life. He may be tempted to give up all together again, but he’s reminded that he has someone who will always believe in him. A long-awaited reunion and new client could be just the push he needs to find something to fight for — it may not be against Dae Hwa group, but there are lots of other bad guys to fight in dramaland.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
The lovely and unemployed Eun-jo is sleeping the day away on her couch when her mom lets herself in to drop off some food. Still not ready to confess that she quit her job at Geum San, Eun-jo pretends that she pulled an all-nighter and was just about to leave for work right now.
Continuing to search for clients, Eun-jo heads over to a hospital and starts handing out free beverages with her card attached to the bottles. No one is spared as she dashes from busy doctors to bleeding patients, offering her legal services in case of lawsuits or insurance settlements. She’s finally dragged out while she protests that she’s a lawyer, not some weirdo!
Loan shark Dae-soo and his enforcer sidekicks seem to have switched from collecting money to collecting clients. They energetically stroll through the market with a megaphone and flyers, doing a little free advertising for their Neighborhood Lawyer.
Unfortunately, said lawyer seems to be less than enthusiastic about saving the neighborhood and more interested in regressing to his previous homeless ennui. The boys return to the office to find Deul-ho passed out on the couch beneath a pile of newspapers.
Ae-ra arrives and explains that since Michael Jung fled the country, Deul-ho has lost his will to fight. The group is joined by Eun-jo who also can’t believe the state that Deul-ho has fallen into, but is at a loss for how to help him.
Outside the office, an unseen person has used a phone map to find Deul-ho’s office. A pair of child-sized feet head up the stairs and tip-toe past the adults to the couch where Deul-ho slumbers. Tiny hands slowly pull back the newspapers and a little girl calls out, “Dad!”
Deul-ho stirs and the voice calls out louder, drawing the attention of the rest of the group. He opens his eyes to see his daughter, Soo-bin, standing above him, smiling. Disbelieving and unable to say words, he just keeps repeating “Oh!” while she grins at him.
Soo-bin charms the whole gang while Deul-ho gets himself cleaned up. When he returns she explains how she did an internet search on his name then followed the map to his address. The others marvel how she takes after her father, but Deul-ho still can’t believe that she’s really here. He asks her for a hug and finally gets to hold her close, almost whimpering with joy.
Soo-bin tells her dad that she’s hungry and he jumps up to take her to get something to eat. Ae-ra actually grabs Dae-soo’s wallet out of his hands and shoves it into Deul-ho’s so he can take his daughter to lunch. Dae-soo is so taken with Soo-bin that he doesn’t even blink and just grins after them.
After the pair leave, Ae-ra spills the beans that attorney Hae-kyung from Geum San is Deul-ho’s ex-wife and Soo-bin’s mother. Eun-jo remembers meeting her outside the office the other night and her reason for visiting becomes clear.
Speaking of, Hae-kyung is in her office when she receives a text from Soo-bin letting her know that she’s with her dad and not to worry. Hae-kyung starts to call her, but changes her mind. For someone who swore she wouldn’t let Deul-ho near her daughter, she doesn’t look too worried that they’re together.
Father and daughter have an adorable ddukbokki date, and Deul-ho can’t stop grinning as Soo-bin tells him all about her life and the things she wants to do with him. She pulls three books out of her bag and hands them over to Deul-ho. They’re her diaries from the last three years — she saved them for him so he’d know what she’d been doing while he was gone. Aw, kid.
Deul-ho has no words and just holds the precious books. Soo-bin starts to cry as says she missed him so much, asking why he never came to find her. Deul-ho can barely hold back his own tears as he tells her he missed her too and apologizes for not coming. He promises that next time, he’ll come find her first. That puts a smile on her face and the two leave the restaurant hand-in-hand.
When they return to the office, the whole gang is gathered around Dae-soo, who is currently consoling their new client while she sobs into his chest. Deul-ho and Soo-bin join them and Dae-Soo explains that this is his little sister, Hyo-jin, who was recently fired without cause from her job as a kindergarten teacher.
Dae-soo asks Deul-ho expectantly if he’s going to take the case. Ae-ra agrees that he should since it’s Dae-soo’s family, but Deul-ho instead suggests they let Eun-jo handle this one. Everyone stares at him and Dae-soo is understandably angry that he won’t help his sister, but Deul-ho just collects Soo-bin and tells her it’s time to go.
As they head out, Soo-bin asks her father to be that teacher’s lawyer. Soo-bin points out that the teacher seemed like a nice woman and that ugly uncle (Dae-soo – hah!) kept asking for his help.
The moment is interrupted by Hae-kyung who’s arrived to pick up Soo-bin. Father and daughter are too cute as they insist at the same time, “Don’t be mad at [Soo-bin/Dad], it’s all my fault!”
Hae-kyung tells Deul-ho that from now on he can’t see Soo-bin without an appointment, and she warns her daughter that if she goes to see her dad without permission again she’ll be in trouble. Her words sound more sadly resigned than threatening, though.
She and Soo-bin turn to leave, but Soo-bin dashes back to invite her dad to her birthday celebration on Monday. He promises to come and tells her he loves her so much. One final hug and then mother and daughter depart.
That night, Hae-kyung finds Soo-bin in her room texting her dad. In a soft voice, she asks Soo-bin if she knows why Mom and Dad don’t live together. Soo-bin admits she doesn’t, but thinks it’s because Mom is mad at Dad.
Hae-kyung explains that when grown-ups who live together fight, it’s because it’s better for them to be apart than together. She won’t tell Soo-bin to stop seeing her dad anymore, but reminds her that the more time she spends with him, the more they’ll want to live together, and then Mom will be left alone if she goes to live with Dad. Both are crying as Soo-bin says she feels bad for Dad, who is all alone.
By himself, Deul-ho wanders down a street when he gets a goodnight text from Soo-bin. He sits down and opens the diaries his daughter gave him. In them, Soo-bin writes about seeing her dad on TV and calls him Superman because he helps people in need. Tears stream down his face and he hugs the books to his chest.
Deul-ho returns to the office just as Ae-ra and Eun-jo are being thrown out (or in Ae-ra’s case, squeezed out) of the office by an irate Dae-soo. He yells through the gate that he won’t house people that refuse to help his sister. Deul-ho calmly agrees to leave, since Dae-soo obviously doesn’t want a meeting.
Dae-soo: “What meeting?”
Deul-ho: “You don’t want a meeting about [your sister’s] wrongful termination lawsuit, right?”
Dae-soo: “Hey! Wait! Open these gates!”
All of a sudden Dae-soo is nothing but accommodating. As he’s pulled back into the office, Deul-ho asks if he isn’t like Superman and Dae-soo agrees, saying he’ll even buy tights for him. Pfft.
Everyone is just settling back in when Dae-soo gets a call from his sister Hyo-jin, saying that she’s been taken to the police station on charges of child assault and battery.
They all rush to the station where Ae-ra’s detective friend doesn’t look thrilled to see them again. He informs them that Hyo-jin has already been transferred to the prosecutor’s office. The group can’t believe it but the detective says there was enough evidence to support the charge and child abuse is taken very seriously these days.
The next morning Deul-ho marches into the prosecutor’s office to find Dae-soo’s sister, learning along the way that Ji-wook is the prosecutor in charge of the case. Ji-wook is currently questioning Hyo-jin, accusing her of beating one of the children in her class.
Deul-ho barges in like the lawyer-in-shining-armor that he is, demanding that he accompany her during the questioning. After the boys finish glaring at each other, Ji-wook gets down to the facts and they’re not good.
The bruising on the child’s body confirms the child’s testimony and the doctor’s opinion that she was assaulted. Furthermore, they have CCTV footage from the day of the incident, of Hyo-jin chasing after the girl while she ran away. Hyo-jin insists that they were just playing hide-and-seek, but Deul-ho warns her to stay silent.
Deul-ho brings Hyo-jin to a separate room to hear her side of the story, promising that he’s her lawyer and he’s here to help her. Hyo-jin recounts that the little girl, Seo-yeon, had a mild form of autism so Hyo-jin paid extra attention to her.
With no father and a working mom, the girl often had to wait at the school for a long time until her mom could pick her up. Hyo-jin would always play with her while she waited, forming a bond with the child. But this doesn’t make sense to Deul-ho — if she was such an attentive teacher, why did the school report her?
Hyo-jin starts to tell him about the kindergarten’s principal, a total hypocrite of a woman. To the public eye she’s infamous for being a caring woman who runs five schools because she loves children, when in reality she has a fiery temper, and regularly screams and hits the teachers.
The worst part was that she only used a third of the food budget to pay for the children’s lunches, leading many of them to go hungry or become sick from the poor quality of the meals. One time, Hyo-jin snuck into the kitchen and found that all the food was past the expiration dates, most of it rotting or covered with mold. It’s truly disgusting.
Deul-ho asks why Hyo-jin didn’t do anything. She answers that at first she told the principal thinking she didn’t know, but nothing changed. City health inspectors came by, but someone must have paid them, since they never issued any warnings. With no other option, she reported it to the Board of Education.
At this, Deul-ho finally understands: She became a whistleblower. As punishment, she was wrongfully fired and accused of child abuse.
Back at Neighborhood Lawyer headquarters, a small hoard of school children has been unleashed upon the office. The gang is trying to contain their antics, but someone must have given these kids sugar because they’re doing a better job of beating up Dae-soo and his minions than the subcontractor thugs from the restaurant fight.
Deul-ho, having returned from meeting with Hyo-jin, enters the mayhem asking just what on earth is going on?!? Ae-ra tries to explain that these are the children from Hyo-jin’s class, but then has to run off after one of the mini-hoodlums.
Wide-eyed and dodging tiny humans, Deul-ho greets the man who brought the children, who clarifies that he’s the school’s bus driver and the children wanted to see their teacher.
Things finally calm down when the kids get some food. Dae-soo and the boys try to pick up the remnants of the office while the lawyers consult with the driver. According to him, the children all loved Hyo-jin, so this abuse charge makes no sense.
He doesn’t know much else, but warns that the principal is a bad woman. She fires teachers and staff simply because she doesn’t like them. Even he, the driver, was just fired without cause as well. This is his last day and he wanted to bring the kids to see the teacher they missed.
Deul-ho speaks with the children, who all tell him that they love Teacher Hyo-jin. They ask that he help her and he assures them that he will, just like Superman!
The driver returns the kids to the school where the principal is waiting. After the children leave, her smiling mask comes off and she yells at the driver for taking the bus without permission, then tells him to get lost. Well, isn’t she lovely?
Deul-ho and his cohorts make plans to infiltrate the kindergarten to gather information. Eun-jo will try to talk to Seo-yeon’s mother while Ae-ra will apply for a cooking position in the kitchen. Dae-soo is eager to play his part, until he learns he has to interview for the open bus driver position. Interviews aren’t exactly his strong point…
Cut to both Dae-soo and Deul-ho standing in front of the evil principal, donning different names and personas. To Dae-soo’s dismay, the principal wants to see a road test, so both boys head outside to take turns driving the bus.
Dae-soo does absolutely horribly, stalling the vehicle while yelling through the window, “Don’t [you] have an automatic bus?” In contrast, Deul-ho does an impressive job, executing difficult maneuvers and charming the pants off the principal.
Ae-ra creates a new persona as well, passing her own interview and gaining access to the kitchen. She wastes no time and snoops everywhere, but strangely, the whole place is spotless and she can’t find any evidence of spoiled food.
Deul-ho arrives for his first day of “work” and finds Seo-yeon playing by herself in the playground and tries to get her to talk to him.
He asks if Teacher Hyo-jin ever hurt her. The little girl just says, “Teacher is bad. She hit me,” over and over. When he starts to ask her more questions, she runs away and hides.
Eun-jo isn’t having much luck either. She tracks down Seo-yeon’s mother at her job, but once she introduces herself as Hyo-jin’s lawyer, the mother yells at her to leave, accusing her of protecting a dirty child abuser.
Ji-wook gets some alarming news from a friend who works in the Ministry of Justice: The audit and inspection office is investigating his father, Chief Prosecutor Shin, and his connections to the Dae Hwa Group.
He immediately informs his father, but the chief prosecutor isn’t worried. He thinks it’s probably just a routine inspection and besides, even if they dig, they won’t find anything.
Ji-wook is concerned that the investigation is being ordered due to the Michael Jung case and argues that his father should have let him charge Michael properly. Chief Prosecutor Shin calls him naïve and warns him again not to follow in Deul-ho’s footsteps.
After leaving his father’s office, Ji-wook runs into Eun-jo, who says she’s representing Teacher Hyo-jin in the child abuse case. She asks if he would let her view the CCTV footage they have of Hyo-jin chasing the child.
They sit down together to view the video and Ji-wook is quick to conclude that it shows without question that Hyo-jin was chasing Seo-yeon maliciously. Eun-jo isn’t as sure. She has him rewind the video and points out that the child looks happy, until she runs out of frame. It isn’t until she’s running from the other direction that she appears upset.
Ji-wook starts to look like he has doubt, and Eun-jo presses that she doesn’t think this evidence will hold up in court.
At the school, the kids are all loading up onto the bus, but little Seo-yeon watches from the side, waiting for her mom by herself now that Hyo-jin isn’t there. Deul-ho promises that after he drops the other kids off, he’ll come back and play with her.
It’s dark by the time he makes it back to the school and Seo-yeon is inside coloring. He plays with her for a while, but after looking at the clock, he remembers that it’s Monday — the night of Soo-bin’s birthday party.
He tells Seo-yeon that he has to be somewhere and asks if she’d mind waiting by herself, but her crestfallen expression has him stalling.
Seo-yeon asks when Teacher Hyo-jin is coming back. Seo-yeon admits that she misses her and Deul-ho asks again if Hyo-jin really did hurt her. Instead of answering, she asks to play hide-and-seek and promises that if he finds her, she’ll tell him the truth.
They start the game, but across town Soo-bin sits with her mom and grandpa Attorney Jang, casting little glances at the empty seat where her father should sit.
Apparently, little Seo-yeon is REALLY good at hiding because Deul-ho runs all over the building and can’t find her. He has to call Eun-jo to come look for the girl as he needs to get to his daughter’s party. Eun-jo comes right over and lends him her car.
Eun-jo is having trouble finding Seo-yeon as well, until she recognizes a hallway from the CCTV footage Ji-wook showed her. She opens a tiny closet and finds Seo-yeon curled up inside, sleeping. She offers to make the girl something yummy to eat and we finally get a real smile out of the girl as Eun-jo whips up some stir-fry using the kitchen’s fresh ingredients.
Deul-ho makes it in time for Soo-bin’s birthday, and sees her through the window. He pulls a present out of the car and starts walking to the restaurant when he gets a call from Eun-jo, who’s in a panic. Seo-yeon ate the food she made for her but something happened, and Eun-jo is now carrying the unconscious girl on her back. She tells Deul-ho that he needs to get back there.
Deul-ho turns to look back at his daughter as she stares out the window, searching for him. He gazes longingly at her for a moment, then slowly steps back and turns away.
No! Stop! Don’t goooo!
I know this makes me a terrible person, as a little girl’s life is in danger… but it’s Soo-binnie! Then again, I guess missed birthdays are just something you have to expect when your dad is Superman.
I’m relieved that Neighborhood Lawyer has introduced a new set of clients and bad guys. Chairman Jung had just about used up all his angry faces and I never had much patience for the spoiled and psychopathic Michael to being with. If Deul-ho spent the whole show just focused on fighting those two, then he would’ve been truly lost when he was done. The new cases (and Soo-bin’s encouragement) are opening his eyes to the world beyond Dae Hwa and he’s finding that there are a lot more people who need a lawyer like him.
Deul-ho’s character development really seems spot-on. It makes sense that after losing to Chairman Jung again he would lose the will to fight, just like last time. When he was framed and abandoned by his loved ones, Deul-ho had retreated into a state of general apathy. Now that Michael Jung has fled beyond his reach, he’s once again lost his purpose and thus his desire to do anything. He needs a new project, and a perfectly timed reunion with his beloved daughter is the only thing that could have spurred him to rise from his newspaper nest.
I love that little Soo-bin found her father all on her own. Just like her daddy, she knew what she wanted and went out to get it all by herself. Most importantly though, I GOT MY FATHER-DAUGHTER HUG!! It was everything I was hoping for and more. The relief and love on Deul-ho’s face as he held his little girl was so raw and real, I was nearly whimpering right along with him. Their relationship is so precious and I really hope that Deul-ho missing her birthday doesn’t ruin the joy they both felt at finding each other again.
Strangely, I find myself being drawn in by Hae-kyung. I admit that in the beginning I wrote her character off as being the evil ex-wife who’s determined to make everyone, including herself, miserable just to save her pride. I was fully invested in hating her, but these last few episodes it’s been hard to maintain my conviction. There have been so many little things: her standing up for Eun-jo when Michael was insulting her (even though she denied it afterwards), the nostalgia she felt watching Deul-ho, her lack of anger when Soo-bin visited her father.
In general, she seems very analytical and I bet her head usually wins over her heart. She obviously misses and cares about him still, so why did she cut ties? She threw away her husband, whom she seems to love, but for what? What did she gain? Obviously it’s all just conjecture and a bunch of questions with no answers, but I still think there’s much more to her than we’ve seen.
I’m also starting to root for her and Deul-ho since thus far there’s a lot more chemistry between the two of them. Eun-jo’s bumbling attempts to understand Deul-ho have nowhere near as many feels as just one of those intense stares between the ex-spouses.
But the real show-stealers this episode were the children. Between Soo-bin’s happy grins and the kindergarten students’ frivolity, the adults didn’t stand a chance. Even if Deul-ho doesn’t win against the evil principal, maybe we can still get those kids to come back for lunch one more time — if only to watch them all gang up on Dae-soo again.