Police Unit 38: Episode 15
Backs get stabbed and plans backfire when the antagonists of our show prove themselves to be just as clever as our professional conmen. Despite rising uncertainties and a potential win for the other side, our heroic duo finds that when you trust your team to have have your back and refuse to let your faith in your friends be diluted, even a temporary loss can be born with equanimity.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Working late at the Freezer, Sung-il gets up to wash his face and take a call from Ma Jin-seok. He returns to find Chairman Choi sitting at his desk, surrounded by papers detailing their con on his company. The chairman asks if he is Baek Sung-il and introduces himself. Sung-il hides his alarm and calls Jung-do, asking him to hurry over because they have a guest.
Sung-il asks the chairman why he came, but the man smiles benignly and doesn’t answer. It seems he was waiting for Jung-do to arrive, because as soon as he enters their workroom, Chairman Choi says that he thought it would be rude of him not to return the gesture after Jung-do took the trouble of seeking him out to warn him.
Unnerved but calm, Jung-do offers him coffee. Chairman Choi smiles and tells him that he just wanted to see their faces. As he’s leaving, Jung-do stops the chairman and asks him how he knew about this place. The chairman looks at them with disdain and says that this is the reason they can’t beat him — they don’t know what’s important.
After Chairman Choi leaves, Sung-il tells Jung-do that the chairman probably saw the papers on his desk. Jung-do sighs in frustration and asks if Chairman Choi saw the file on the loan fraud. Sung-il reassures him that he’d already put that file away so it’s safe.
Unfortunately, Chairman Choi and Director Ahn seem to already know about the loan fraud. In a quick flashback, we see that the chairman had rifled through the papers on Sung-il’s desk, which held the evidence of President Cha’s embezzlements from Kukjin’s finances. Director Ahn now speculates that President Cha and Director Jo had been skimming from the company, hoping to hide their bigger crime of loan fraud.
The chairman thinks they simply got tired of laundering money and switched their tactics. He orders Director Ahn to contact Prosecutor Park, and have President Cha and Director Jo arrested when they reach the bank to take out the loan. He further directs Ahn to bring the ledger with the duo’s creative accounting to him.
When Director Ahn points out that they should get the ledger before the two fudge the numbers, since it could damage the company’s reputation, Chairman Choi simply tells him to make sure that no one finds out. He explains that they need the ledger as insurance in case Mayor Chun doesn’t get re-elected. In such a case, they could at least get some money through the fake loan, while letting the hapless president and director take the fall for committing fraud.
Director Ahn asks in mild disbelief if Chairman Choi would really go through loan fraud and destroy his own company. The chairman just says that it’s the money that is most important. Director Ahn absorbs that and then asks what the chairman can do for him then.
Chairman Choi looks up and asks whether Ahn wants money or power. When Director Ahn says both, he tells him to stick close to him. In four years’ time, Mayor Chun will no longer be able to stand for re-election, says the chairman, and he’ll need another pawn. They smile at each other in evil understanding.
A contact at the prosecutor’s office gives Secretary Kim some bad news, which he conveys to Chairman Wang. He has Kim call Jung-do and Sung-il over, and informs them that they have been betrayed. Secretary Kim tells them that two years ago, Prosecutor Park had been given enough circumstantial evidence linking Jung-do to the cons to have him convicted.
Secretary Kim points out that that kind of information could have only been leaked by someone on the inside. Sung-il asks who it was, but Secretary Kim has no answers for him, since even Prosecutor Park didn’t know who the source was. He does point out however that if the same person is still working for Chairman Choi, then the chairman already knows about their con.
He tells Jung-do and Sung-il to pull the plug. Jung-do is noticeably shaken but says that he should trust his team, especially after what he did to them two years ago. He wants to keep going. Chairman Wang agrees but warns him not to fail. Secretary Kim asks Jung-do what he’ll do about the spy, and Sung-il suggests that they be open with the crew. Jung-do observes wryly that that is exactly what Sung-il would do.
The crew assembles at the Freezer the next day, and Sung-il and Jung-do watch them laugh and talk with each other. Jung-do starts addressing them, none of his usual magnetic charm in evidence, and Madam Noh has to intervene to shut up the crew and let him speak. He tells them that one of them has betrayed the team, which catches their attention.
He quietly explains what happened two years ago, and that Chairman Choi likely knows their entire plan now. Hak-joo asks who the traitor is. Jung-do tells him that he doesn’t know, but implores whoever it is that while two years ago he was the only one to suffer, this time a lot more people will be hurt if their plan fails. He quotes Sung-hee and says that someone told him — when you play with a person’s heart, you hurt them and then you become lonely.
Knowing that the traitor likely holds a grudge against him for what he had done, he tells them that he can deal with loneliness but not the idea that people will be hurt because of him. He begs the unknown traitor to hold back just this once. Sung-il tells everyone that despite the leak, they intend to go forward with the loan con. He asks if anyone has anything to say, but when no one speaks up, Sung-il ends the meeting to begin work.
Director Ahn waits at a café for the team’s traitor to meet with him, and it’s Hak-joo who slides into the seat across from him. He tells Director Ahn that the team knows that there is a leak, although they don’t yet know who. Director Ahn is surprised to hear that they don’t plan on changing their con. He asks Hak-joo if he’s telling the truth and Hak-joo is livid at the accusation, but Ahn laughs it off and asks when the crew intends to move.
Director Jo waits impatiently for his assistant to come back with the ledger holding Kukjin’s falsified profits. He calls President Cha as soon as he gets it and heads out to meet him, while Director Ahn informs Chairman Choi, who is sitting in Prosecutor Park’s office. The chairman and the prosecutor smile in a similar reptilian fashion as they put their plan in motion.
As Ma Jin-seok heads out to meet Director Jo to visit the first bank together, Sung-il asks Jung-do if the plan will work. Jung-do tells him that they have to make it work. On his way, Jin-seok calls Detective Jae-sung and updates him on the plan. Jae-sung tells him that the chairman hasn’t called him to find out about the tip yet. Their plan seems to be to get $5 million each from Chairman Choi, by tipping him off to Jung-do’s con. Jin-seok points out that while he’s doing his part, Jae-sung doesn’t seem to be doing enough to get his share. Jae-sung hangs up in irritation.
Mayor Chun calls Sung-hee to his office. He asks her to quit her job and help him with his re-election campaign instead. Sung-hee thinks for a moment and asks if he really has to run again. She explains that in his eight years as a mayor, he’s seen many possibilities but also many limitations. She suggests giving it up and making way for a new person. Mayor Chun asks if the “limitation” she mentioned was Chairman Choi. He says defensively that the no one has seen a Mayor Chun without the backing of Chairman Choi, but he promises to show her now.
Director Ahn waits with Hak-joo outside the café where President Cha and Director Jo meet. Director Ahn tells Hak-joo to take the ledger and to go straight to Chairman Choi, while he goes through Director Jo’s office. Jin-seok meets the men at the café and they move to start visiting banks with their documents.
As they head out, Prosecutor Park arrives with the police and has all of them — Jin-seok, Director Jo, President Cha — arrested. He hands the ledger over to Director Ahn, who in turn gives them to Hak-joo. Director Ahn calls someone to start the search of Director Jo’s office.
Sung-il, Jung-do, and Mi-joo wait at the Freezer, tensed for any news. As Hak-joo drives to Chairman Choi with the ledger, we flash back to the meeting before, when Sung-il asks if anyone wants to speak up. After a long pause, Hak-joo admits that it’s him. He draws a slow breath and looks up at Jung-do with anger. He confesses to handing evidence to Director Ahn two years ago and tells Jung-do that he rejoined the team to get back at him.
He rages at Jung-do for betraying him, and Jung-do listens to him, silent as a stone. When Mi-joo asks how he could have done this, he shouts in disbelief that they’re looking down on him when Jung-do was the one to turn on them first. He barks that he quits and they should all give up and leave.
Softly, Jung-do apologizes to Hak-joo and thanks him for telling the truth. Jung-do promises to do whatever Hak-joo wants, making Hak-joo scream in frustration and anger. He stomps away to wash his face, and when he comes back, he stands in the middle of the room thinking back to the old grandpa’s restaurant, and the team’s effort to clean it up.
Hak-joo had just said that he hadn’t rejoined for little Da-mi or her grandfather, but perhaps he did feel some sympathy for them, because he glares at Jung-do and tells him that while he doesn’t forgive him, he’ll postpone revenge until after their con. Jung-do smiles in acceptance, and Hak-joo tells them they’ll need to modify the plan.
The team asks how and he suggests switching from loan fraud to accounting fraud. He says that they can’t give the file to the police since Chairman Choi has a prosecutor in his pocket, then looks at Ja-wang who understands instantly that he wants the faked ledgers to be exposed online.
In the present, Hak-joo reaches Ja-wang’s hidey-hole, and finds him crumpled and bleeding on the ground. Director Ahn smiles at him from Ja-wang’s chair and explains that he had someone follow Hak-joo. Hak-joo looks at the goons by Ahn and slowly backs away while calling Jung-do.
He starts running while he tells Jung-do that they’ve been caught, but the goons catch up to him. Jung-do hears him screaming on the phone, and he runs out with Sung-il and Mi-joo behind him. Director Ahn has Hak-joo’s prone body piled on Ja-wang’s and calls Chairman Choi to tell them that the job is done. As Chairman Choi puts away the phone with a satisfied smile, his assistant tells him that Mayor Chun had come to visit.
They find Ja-wang and Hak-joo bleeding and unconscious on the floor and Mi-joo quickly calls emergency. They take the two to the hospital and inform Madam Noh about the accident.
Back at Chairman Choi’s office, Mayor Chun tells him that he’s here to cut ties with the chairman. The old man laughs but Mayor Chun tells him with a sneer that he knows how the chairman has handled him all this time — by pretending to respect him while looking down on him. Director Ahn walks in and Chairman Choi smiles as his new favorite takes a seat beside them.
But Mayor Chun kills that smile when he tells the chairman that two years ago when he had carelessly tossed Director Ahn away to save his own skin, he had created some potent bitterness. Director Ahn hands the file over to the mayor instead, making his allegiance to Mayor Chun clear, and Chairman Choi asks in disbelief if the mayor planted Ahn to betray him.
After Director Ahn leaves, the mayor makes his position clear: If the file gets leaked, Kukjin Construction will be ruined, and Chairman Choi will lose his source of income. The chairman asks what he wants and the mayor tells him to disappear from his life and the city of Seowon. Mayor Chun declares that without the chairman’s influence, he could become a mayor who can stand with the people.
Chairman Choi agrees to leave, but points out that if Mayor Chun were the kind of individual he imagined himself to be, then he would have never gone to Chairman Choi for money. “Money doesn’t entice clean people. Why don’t you know yourself?” He points out that without the mayor’s help, he would never have been able to touch Maseokdong, and promises that the mayor will realize this about himself soon.
Madam Noh and Ji-yeon arrive at the hospital to see Ja-wang and Hak-joo laid up and unconscious while Mi-joo stands by their beds. Madam Noh asks if they will live, and Mi-joo looks blankly at her for a moment before realizing she meant the boys and points to the empty junk food wrappers on the floor. After eating an enormous dinner, they’ve fallen asleep, Mi-joo says. That’s when they hear the snores. Hee.
Chairman Wang’s secretary dresses Jung-do down for being more arrogant than skilled. He dismisses Jung-do’s excuses for failing and asks what he intends to do next. Seeing Jung-do bow his head in tiredness and defeat, Sung-il says that there was something he told himself everyday for the past two years: “Don’t get tired. Hang in there, and when Jung-do gets out, let’s fight. Don’t fight to win but fight until you win.”
Sung-il points out that they barely made one jab and need to hit a few more times to defeat the enemy. Secretary Kim and Chairman Wang discuss the matter, and the chairman looks uncertain about what he wants to do next.
Mayor Chun watches the news that analyzes how close the battle is between him and his election rival, when Director Ahn comes into his office. He informs the mayor that he has quit his position at Kukjin. The mayor doesn’t look pleased and asks what he wants to do now. Director Ahn tells him he wants to be the vice mayor. Mayor Chun asks him why a smart man like him would want to do something so foolish. Director Ahn smiles and says that he’s not smart, or he wouldn’t have been doing the mayor’s dirty work all these years.
He reminds Mayor Chun that no one knows better than him all that the mayor has done over the years. Having him beside him could help the mayor win this election, he says. He threatens the mayor by bringing up something he did eight years ago, and that vague mention gets a reaction out of Mayor Chun. Director Ahn changes the subject and brings up Chairman Wang.
He guesses that Mayor Chun is banking on Chairman Wang to help fund him after cutting loose from Chairman Choi, but says that’s friendship, not politics. He suggests that the mayor use the Maseokdong project to play a different game. There’s something the mayor doesn’t know about Chairman Wang, and this is exactly why he needs him, points out Ahn.
Detective Jae-sung gets the call he was waiting for and collects $5 million from Chairman Choi. In return, he tells the chairman the secret to controlling the mayor, which we don’t get to hear. Mayor Chun calls up Sung-hee and asks if she knew about Chairman Wang working with the conmen. Before she can answer, he says that it isn’t important and that Director Ahn is meeting the man right now.
Director Ahn tells Chairman Wang to work with them instead of protecting a bunch of conmen. He explains that he looked into Madam Noh and the bread crumbs led him to Chairman Wang. The chairman asks if Director Ahn is asking him to betray Jung-do, and Ahn admits that he is, indeed.
He coaxes Chairman Wang by telling him that maintaining a friendship formed behind bars doesn’t suit his status. And if he refuses, adds Ahn, then the rights to the Maseokdong redevelopment project will go to someone else. He promises to give the rights to the chairman if he cuts the conmen loose.
The mayor tells his daughter that while he will work with Chairman Wang, it won’t be how she and her friends had imagined. “Look at the world with naïve eyes, but don’t be naïve in life,” he advises Sung-hee before hanging up. Sung-hee calls up Sung-il and tells him that the mayor knows about Jung-do and the chairman’s relationship.
Director Ahn asks Chairman Wang to make a decision, and the chairman calls his secretary. He orders the secretary to tell Jung-do to put the plan on the backburner. Secretary Kim seems surprised but doesn’t question his boss. Then Madam Noh gets a call from Chairman Wang, who tells her that he’s cutting ties with Jung-do, and advises her to do the same. Jung-do gets a call too, and looks at Sung-il in surprised dismay as he hears what the caller has to say.
Chairman Choi calls the mayor with a question. When the mayor tries to be dismissive, he promises that it’ll be a shock. Reminding him of Kim Min-sik’s death eight years ago, the chairman says: “I heard he didn’t commit suicide.” The mayor’s eyes widen in fear at those words.
This may sound uncharitable, but I was not completely down with the team coming together over Grandpa and little Da-mi. It made no sense to me. While Sung-il and Jung-do had their moments of connection with the old man and his granddaughter, the rest of the gang barely had any contact other than being grumpily served food by him. I’m sorry, but no way do they come together to work with Jung-do — the guy who betrayed them — because an old man they hardly know lost his restaurant. Especially when this time Jung-do doesn’t even bother to promise them a cut of the scam money (which never materializes). So, Hak-joo’s real motivation was a huge relief to me. This made him human, instead of just the caricature of a goon who forgave Jung-do because the guy smoothly complimented him on his haircut. Mi-joo likely rejoins because of her affection for Jung-do, while Ja-wang likes having friends and a greater purpose. Madam Noh and Ji-yeon are the only ones truly motivated to help Grandpa and bring down the corrupt rich. It suits Madam Noh’s character. She’s tough as nails but fair. Which is why I’m dying to know how she reacts to Chairman Wang’s change of heart. Something tells me that if Madam Noh had truly not wanted to help Jung-do initially, no amount of pressure from Chairman Wang would have made her. So, I really hope that she shrugs off Chairman Wang’s order and does her own thing.
There is something about intelligent, complex villains that truly raises the quality of storytelling in a show. Each of the antagonists whom our con team brought down was a memorable character. Ma Jin-seok’s return to the screen easily stole the scene he walked into. President Bang and his peculiar family were as unique in their characterization, as Director Ahn, Chairman Choi, or Mayor Chun. Each of them has different levels of understanding their own evil. While President Bang and Chairman Choi never apologized for being corrupt, Director Ahn seems to view himself as a hardworking, clever man who deserves all the power and money he can get. Mayor Chun on the other hand is deliberately obtuse about his own motivations. He uses the chairman as an excuse to profit from abusing his position. He clearly believes that he is a good man, oppressed by the greed of his old sponsor. He has successfully shut off his ability to reflect on his own actions, and his self delusion makes him both pathetic and dangerous. On a personal level, a man like him could engender a lot of sympathy from someone like Sung-hee, until experience teaches her to doubt her father’s words because his actions don’t match them. Her expression when he declares that he will show her what kind of mayor he can be says it all.
As Saya pointed out, despite knowing that good shall prevail over evil, the audience has been kept enthralled by the twists of the narrative through fifteen episodes now. The penultimate twist seems to be that Jung-do is not after all the omnipotent chess-master we thought he was. He can be alone, vulnerable, tired, and betrayed. The Jung-do who apologized to Hak-joo today for betraying his trust is not the same one who swindled Sung-il’s savings just to entrap him into a complex revenge plot against their common enemy. The previous Jung-do cared for his vengeance above all else, while this one values the people in his life the most. It’s not that his softer emotions are blunting the edge of his cunning, but that his priorities have changed. This new Jung-do refuses to be ruthless at the cost of the people he cares about. It’s the line in the sand that he’s drawn for himself, separating his old desperate need for justice from his new, more patient self.
- Police Unit 38: Episode 14
- Police Unit 38: Episode 13
- Police Unit 38: Episode 12
- Police Unit 38: Episode 11
- Police Unit 38: Episode 10
- Police Unit 38: Episode 9
- Police Unit 38: Episode 8
- Police Unit 38: Episode 7
- Police Unit 38: Episode 6
- Police Unit 38: Episode 5
- Police Unit 38: Episode 4
- Police Unit 38: Episode 3
- Police Unit 38: Episode 2
- Police Unit 38: Episode 1