Forest of Secrets: Episode 5
The good news: Our hero is still one of the smartest, if not the smartest cookie in the prosecution pantry. The bad news: There’s only so much he can do with those smarts when he’s being backed into a corner. Shi-mok keeps circling around his theories, always thinking he’s this close to falling in step with the culprit, only to realize he’s been deliberately kept one step behind the entire time by a thread of corruption that runs deeper than even he can comprehend. And there’s only more danger waiting to catch up with him.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
The front of CEO Park’s home is flooded with reporters, with one announcing that the group of high schoolers who’d snuck in had discovered a body in the bathroom. The news of it erupted when the teens uploaded a picture of the body online instead of actually reporting it.
Shi-mok squeezes past the clamoring reporters – ignoring every one of their questions – and joins the police and forensic team inside to get a look at Min-ah’s body. He notes that she was left in her undergarments, yet none of her clothes or belongings are in sight.
Upon closer inspection, he deduces that it would’ve been difficult for the killer to have tied her arms up. He imagines himself as the killer struggling to do just that, and imagines himself slashing her stomach — though, in his scenario, blood would have spattered on the wall. He wonders how the killer must have stabbed her to avoid doing the same.
As a forensic officer takes another picture of Min-ah’s body, she suddenly gasps for air and stirs awake. (HOLY SHIT, SHE’S ALIVE.)
The forensic officer stumbles backward in shock and announces that she’s still alive, which immediately sends everyone to her side as they desperately try to cut her down. Once she’s loose, Officer Jang Gun and Yeo-jin carry her out and past Shi-mok, just as he notices a wound on her neck that must’ve been inflicted by a taser.
Officer Soo-chan jumps right into questioning Min-ah, but Yeo-jin shoves him aside, saying, “She opened her eyes to live, not to catch the culprit for us!” She then orders the other officers to call the paramedics. Shi-mok remains in the bathroom, wondering why the culprit left Min-ah alive instead of finishing her off — and in CEO Park’s home, of all places.
After the officers cover her body and face, Min-ah is taken on a gurney to the ambulance outside so that she can be rushed to the hospital, with Yeo-jin keeping the literal sea of hungry reporters at bay. Shi-mok watches the remaining evidence get packed up as he realizes that the knife used on Min-ah was the same knife he used when he was re-enacting CEO Park’s murder. Uh oh.
When Soo-chan and Gun come back in, Shi-mok gives them the information they don’t know: Min-ah’s name and address.
Shi-mok starts to leave, but Soo-chan chases after him, asking how he knew the victim. Calm as ever, Shi-mok explains that she’d worked at the establishment that his office had busted for prostitution. Soo-chan still doesn’t understand why an escort would be found here, and Shi-mok answers that he has every intention to find out.
He makes his way past the reporters again, though he stops when he sees a familiar face in the crowd: his middle school “friend,” Jung-bon. But the image is so fleeting that when Shi-mok turns back to get a second look, Jung-bon’s disappeared. By the look on his face, Shi-mok isn’t sure just what he’s seen.
As Min-ah is rushed to the operating room, Yeo-jin tells the doctor to make sure she survives since she’s the only witness to a serial killer. The doctor nods, saying that he should do his best whether she’s a witness or not.
Yeo-jin steps back with understanding, sending her thoughts to Min-ah: “Live. Don’t lose to a bastard like that. You were terrified. It was horrible. Don’t let that be your final memory of this world.”
From behind, a menacing figure slowly starts to approach Yeo-jin. However, the man ducks around the corner when Yeo-jin’s team leader and new coworker Soon-chang get to her first.
As they fill her in on what Shi-mok had told Soo-chan, we pan over to see that the man who hid himself is none other than Dong-jae, and he’s clearly alarmed to hear that Shi-mok knows about Min-ah. He seems frustrated when Yeo-jin orders Soon-chang to guard Min-ah, leaving him with no choice but to hurry out.
Deputy Chief Lee looks over the gruesome picture the high school kids had uploaded along with the comments, and thinks back to Min-ah’s smiling face when she’d come up to his hotel room. But he quickly shuts his computer off when his wife, Yeon-jae, comes in.
Soo-chan climbs through the window to Min-ah’s apartment, followed by Shi-mok. As Soo-chan evaluates the messy room and calls in the forensic team, Shi-mok stuns him into silence by revealing the school uniform hanging in the closet.
Shi-mok is gone by the time Yeo-jin arrives on scene, though she does question why he and Soo-chan came through the window – if this was a kidnapping scene as Soo-chan had suspected, then the door should’ve been unlocked, unless the kidnapper was incredibly polite (ha). Flustered, Soo-chan quickly changes the subject, making Yeo-jin roll her eyes.
Yeo-jin walks out of the apartment to find Shi-mok close by, crouching down by a manhole and observing something: the red fingernail that had come off Min-ah’s hand when she struggled to free herself from her abductor. Shi-mok states that he was one step behind once again, and thinking he’s blaming himself, Yeo-jin assures him that it’s not his fault.
But that’s not what he had implied; he says that he finally figured out that everything was planned. He lists off the clues that were purposely left behind: the laptop in CEO Park’s house, the blood on the metal bars, and the buried dog. He stands up, wondering if all of that was a message specifically meant for him.
While Yeo-jin admits that she did have her suspicions about the clues, she doesn’t understand why they would be left for Shi-mok. He tells her that he was late in catching CEO Park’s killer, so she concludes that someone knew he would come. And if that someone keeps hurting the people around him, they must be holding a major grudge against him to try and frame him.
She suddenly turns to Shi-mok and asks if CEO Park had offered him Min-ah as a bribe, thinking that would explain how he knows her and why someone would be after him. (Ha, Shi-mok almost looks disappointed that she would assume this of him.)
He quickly shuts her theory down and shows her the picture of Min-ah’s school uniform. According to her official records, Min-ah was born in 1993, meaning the uniform could’ve been kept as a costume to satisfy men with that kind of fetish.
But if it isn’t a costume and Min-ah isn’t as old as she claimed to be, it would explain why she poses a very serious threat. But Yeo-jin doesn’t think that’s the case – if the culprit wanted to shut her up, they would’ve done it quietly, not announce it to the whole country.
Yeo-jin shakes her head, wanting to stop this talk and just get to looking for the culprit. She says she’ll look into the uniform, letting Shi-mok take his leave. As she wonders why someone would be targeting him, he walks away, leaving her with an ominous, “Who, and why?”
The story is all over the news the next day, and now that there’s a potential serial killer on their hands, there’s a lot of pressure hanging over the police. Their competency starts getting questioned as news reporters question how many lives it will take for Korea to become safe.
Yeo-jin visits Min-ah’s mother to inform her that Min-ah is in the hospital. However, according to her mother, there’s no way she could be in the hospital when she’s supposed to be in Japan. Confused, Yeo-jin pulls out Min-ah’s picture, but her mother takes one look at it and sighs relievedly, “No, this girl isn’t my daughter.”
Shi-mok and Eun-soo are brought into a meeting held by their section chief, where they learn that Dong-jae was put in charge of Min-ah’s case. Both Shi-mok and Eun-soo feel uneasy about this, but Section Chief Kang fumes that they have no right to complain — especially Shi-mok, since Kang Jin-sub’s family is now pressing charges against them. He tells Shi-mok to accept the blame, which he obediently does.
Dong-jae walks in on Yeo-jin’s team leader looking over the evidence board, curious if they’ve gotten any leads. He then overhears her team leader get a call from Yeo-jin confirming that Min-ah was using a fake identity, not looking one bit surprised.
He asks the team leader who’s watching Min-ah at the hospital, confirming that there’s only one officer standing guard. He seems awfully concerned with her guard duty, doesn’t he?
Eun-soo follows Shi-mok out of their meeting, saying that Dong-jae must’ve been assigned to the case since he has much higher standing. Shi-mok stops in his tracks to ask if she’s trying to comfort him or annoy him, and Eun-soo points out that she can’t rub salt into a wound when he’s incapable of having a wound. Ouch. He didn’t feel that, but I sure did.
After Eun-soo leaves, Shi-mok notices Dong-jae heading into Deputy Chief Lee’s office. With a knowing look, he slips into the conference room next door.
Dong-jae informs the deputy chief that Min-ah was using a fake name, but that’s the last thing Deputy Chief Lee is thinking about. He asks why Min-ah just so happened to get hurt on the very same night Dong-jae happened to be looking for her. Dong-jae’s eyes widen and he asks if this is an accusation. In turn, Deputy Chief Lee coldly asks if he’s overreacting because he feels guilty… or because someone followed him that night.
Dong-jae reveals that Shi-mok did follow him, and that he even found Min-ah’s home. He brings up the fact that CEO Park died under Shi-mok’s watch, and that the same happened with this case – certainly that wasn’t a coincidence. Deputy Chief Lee just asks how Shi-mok could find Min-ah’s home when Dong-jae couldn’t, and Dong-jae silently scoffs, frustrated.
Adamant on finishing his argument, Dong-jae thinks the real question is why someone would target Min-ah. “It’s almost as if an invisible hand appears to help whenever you might get in trouble,” he says. Seeing that he’s now gaining the upper hand, Dong-jae continues that the culprit probably didn’t finish her off because they didn’t expect the high school kids to sneak in and find her.
Deputy Chief Lee agrees, though he thinks the culprit would’ve known the kids frequented the house as a hangout if that culprit was truly familiar with the scene.
Dong-jae stares him down and states – as if they’re still casually discussing theories – that the culprit is someone else. Or the culprit could’ve wanted a heavier punishment by making Min-ah unable to function even if she woke up. Dong-jae smiles at Deputy Chief Lee’s glare before making his exit.
In the meeting room next door, Shi-mok thinks over everything he just heard, ending with Deputy Chief Lee’s question of whether or not someone followed Dong-jae. “Did they follow me?” Shi-mok thinks. “Or did I lead them there?”
Shi-mok places himself back to last night, back to when he’d forced Min-ah’s address out of the taxi driver. Now in the culprit’s shoes, he walks past himself (in the past) and gets in a separate car, thinking that the culprit could’ve heard the driver say the address and left first. He imagines himself tasing Min-ah as she runs out of her apartment, but stops.
Sensing that something’s not right, he starts again. Since it took him forty-six minutes to reach the apartment, the culprit had to have arrived at least forty minutes after Min-ah did. But Min-ah obviously wouldn’t have wasted forty minutes at home, so Shi-mok deduces that the culprit must’ve take a different route, meaning it could’ve been someone she knew.
But then he thinks that if Min-ah had known she was going to meet this person, they would’ve had no need for a taser. Satisfied with this theory, Shi-mok believes the culprit had truly been waiting for her all along — but, the culprit must have also known that Shi-mok would’ve been able to track her down.
Shi-mok concludes that the culprit must’ve been waiting to get Min-ah on the right stage for them, which is why the culprit picked CEO Park’s house. Still, he can’t help but wonder how the culprit knew that he tracked her down. Convinced it must be someone within or related to the prosecutor’s office, he checks the CCTV footage to see who left the building that day.
One by one, he sees Dong-jae, Dong-jae’s investigator, Deputy Chief Lee, and himself leave the building. But his eyes narrow as he notices a fifth person emerge on camera. It’s hard to tell, but I could almost swear that it’s Eun-soo.
Back at Yongsan Police Station, some interesting fingerprints were found on the weapon. Soo-chan seems pretty darn confused, though we don’t get to see why. Moments later, he receives a phone call from a timid caller who hesitantly admits that he might’ve seen the culprit.
Deputy Chief Lee then gets a phone call and storms over to Shi-mok’s office to speak in private. Shi-mok’s clerk quietly slinks out while Eun-soo sneaks back inside for a listen. Deputy Chief Lee directly asks Shi-mok if he was the one who wielded the knife and stabbed Min-ah. Uh-oh.
Shi-mok denies this, though he does admit that he touched the knife. Overcome with rage, Deputy Chief Lee demands to know if Shi-mok joined forces with someone to prevent his promotion – how else could he explain his fingerprints all over the weapon and all over the victim’s home? And, he adds, how could he explain the new witness who just claimed that Shi-mok was the culprit?
“All the evidence is perfectly pointing to me,” Shi-mok notes blankly. “So, why aren’t you suspecting me? I used to be called a psycho, and all of the evidence is perfect. Is the reason you don’t suspect me… perhaps because you know who the culprit is?”
Shi-mok asks Deputy Chief Lee if he’s the one who hurt Min-ah, making Eun-soo gasp from her hiding spot outside. Deputy Chief Lee fumes that those who feel cornered should still know their boundaries, but sensing that the deputy chief is the one who feels cornered, Shi-mok lays out his theory:
CEO Park sent Deputy Chief Lee an underaged girl. CEO Park then blackmailed him for it when he refused a favor. As a result, CEO Park was silenced forever, and the girl Deputy Chief Lee had so desperately searched for almost met the same fate.
Now looking completely cornered, Deputy Chief Lee insists over and over that nothing happened. According to him, he’d thought an already ruined CEO Park had followed him to his hotel to cause a scene, so he’d opened the door. Instead, he’d found Min-ah standing there.
Deputy Chief Lee believes that no one would’ve been able to guess she was a minor. And, sure, he admits that he was tempted by her, but he swears that he sent her away because he knew it was a trap. But this only strengthens Shi-mok’s suspicions toward him; he asks if Min-ah then blackmailed Deputy Chief Lee for money, knowing everyone would believe her over him when it came to what happened in that hotel room.
Instead of answering, Deputy Chief Lee reveals that CEO Park’s nickname for Min-ah was “Bell,” because she always responded when someone rang for her. He asks Shi-mok if he really believes CEO Park only used that bell against him.
Deputy Chief Lee: “We’re prosecutors. Sometimes we accept bribes, and sometimes it becomes a problem. Sometimes we give people special treatment and overlook certain cases. That’s what happens when people who did nothing but study suddenly gain power and honor and overconfidence. But we’re prosecutors. We became prosecutors to protect the law, to protect justice. I believe that there are two different types of people in this building – guardians and criminals. A prosecutor’s robe, and a prisoner’s uniform.”
So despite what Shi-mok might think, Deputy Chief Lee insists that he firmly believes that they are different from the people they need to punish. He’s offended that Shi-mok would even accuse him of going so low, but Shi-mok merely sighs and says that that wasn’t an answer to his question.
Having had enough, Deputy Chief Lee flings a pile of papers at Shi-mok and states that he didn’t kill anyone. Finally expressing some surprise (while giving a brief look toward the window, where Eun-soo is hiding outside — does he know?), Shi-mok immediately bows and apologizes for crossing the line.
Soo-chan comes knocking at the door just then – it’s his turn to start questioning Shi-mok. Shi-mok gets to the point and admits that he touched the knife used on Min-ah a while back to re-enact the CEO Park’s murder. But with no evidence to prove this, Soo-chan won’t be convinced.
Soo-chan presses further, bringing up the witness, and Shi-mok correctly guesses that it was the taxi driver who’d called, since he must have assumed the worst when Shi-mok had violently confronted him. He explains everything he can to Soo-chan, but with everything pointing ever-so-neatly at him, he’s already a suspect.
Deputy Chief Lee strides out, telling Soo-chan to bring firmer evidence if he wants to take Shi-mok away. Soo-chan then follows him out, staring at Shi-mok as he wonders what could be firmer evidence than fingerprints.
As Soo-chan gets into the elevator, Dong-jae slides through with a devious smile on his face as he tells Soo-chan that what he needs is evidence that is truly definitive.
After finally discovering the origins of the school uniform, Yeo-jin visits Yanggang High School to talk to Min-ah’s teacher. The teacher does recognize Min-ah’s photo, but she tells Yeo-jin that her real name is Kim Ga-young and that she was born in 1998.
The teacher is horrified to learn what happened to Min-ah, especially since it happened in the same place as “Kyung-wan’s incident.” Yeo-jin starts to ask who Kyung-wan is when she suddenly remembers CEO Park’s son.
Meanwhile, Soo-chan interrogates the hostess from Min-ah’s workplace, though he doesn’t get much out of her.
At the hospital, newbie Soon-chang learns that Min-ah could wake up with brain damage due to her injuries. He heads over to Min-ah’s hospital bed, only to get a strange feeling. He yanks the curtain back, surprising the nurse taking care of Min-ah.
Soon-chang stutters an apology, but he doesn’t notice that the tube to Min-ah’s oxygen supply has been undone. The nurse quickly reattaches it before he notices. Though that makes her look suspicious, she leaves wondering why the tube had been disconnected in the first place, which means that she wasn’t the one to do it.
After discovering Min-ah’s true identity, Yeo-jin was able to track down her real mother and escort her to the hospital. Her mother breaks down in tears to see Min-ah lying unconscious.
Shi-mok ponders over Deputy Chief Lee’s last words to him about them being prosecutors, until he springs up and calls the hotel they’d stayed at. He asks about their CCTV footage, hoping to obtain certain footage from the tenth floor hallway.
At the Lee household, Yeon-jae prepares dinner as her father and husband discuss Shi-mok’s latest demise. Her father finds it interesting that Shi-mok willingly walked over to the stage they laid out for him – in fact, it all fits almost too perfectly. Upon hearing this, Yeon-jae’s ears perk up in the kitchen.
Still, Deputy Chief Lee thinks that if the same person went after CEO Park and Min-ah, then that person has a goal and could strike again. He worries that if Shi-mok is arrested as a scapegoat only to have more murders occur, they could be in even deeper water.
But Deputy Chief Lee’s father-in-law doesn’t care so long as they distance themselves from CEO Park. He merely suggests that Deputy Chief Lee make his move before everyone finds out how CEO Park truly died.
The officers at Yongsan – along with Dong-jae – listen to the recording of the taxi driver’s phone call, finding the taxi driver awful for not even contacting Min-ah when he knew some man had forced her address out of him.
Yeo-jin walks into the station, demanding to know who “the man” in question is. But when her team leader utters Shi-mok’s name, she can hardly believe it. Before she can defend Shi-mok, her eyes land on something on the evidence board.
Back at the prosecutor’s office, Shi-mok gets a surprise visit from Eun-soo. She approaches his desk and, finally deciding to come clean, reveals that she was the one who met with CEO Park the night before he died. “I did this on my own,” she says.
Yeo-jin takes the picture of Min-ah’s uniform off the evidence board – the very same picture that Shi-mok presented to her. It’s only now that she questions how Shi-mok was able to take these photos, realizing he must have had them before the incident occurred.
She thinks back to what Shi-mok had said about Min-ah’s high school uniform and how dangerous it made her to certain men, and now, she can’t help but wonder if Shi-mok had been referring to himself.
How does this show manage to cram so much information into every episode, yet still make us viewers feel as if we’ve learned almost nothing at all? Nevertheless, this show truly is jam-packed with so much goodness – If I look away for one second, I have the terrible urge to rewatch the entire scene just to see if I missed something important. It’s definitely the type of crime show that requires all of your attention, while at the same time, I want to give it my full attention. And now that we’re well into the story, I’m finding myself most invested when Shi-mok tries to put himself in the mindset of the criminal he’s pursuing.
At first, I was just as surprised and disturbed as Yeo-jin was when she witnessed Shi-mok re-enacting CEO Park’s murder. From her point of view, it’s a scary sight, and to be quite honest, a highly suspicious one, which is why I can understand her wavering trust with him. But when we get to experience Shi-mok’s re-enactments with him, it changes everything. Those scenes are directed and acted so well that it almost starts to feel like a trippy VR experience. Shi-mok has always been all logic and no nonsense, so when we get a peek at that brilliant mind of his, it allows us to get somewhat of a bird’s-eye view of this dark forest and piece together its mystery without the influence of our other characters.
Because, let’s face it, every word that comes out of these characters’ mouths just adds another thread to this already complicated
web forest of secrets. And with so many secrets piling on top of each other, it’s starting to become even harder to see anything clearly. I believe Deputy Chief Lee’s story regarding Min-ah’s visit to his hotel room, and I think I even believe his claim that he didn’t kill anyone. His speech about prosecutors seemed much too personal and passionate to be a tactic to keep Shi-mok’s mouth shut. If it was a tactic, then he’s one good liar. But for now, I’d like to believe that we finally got our first big confession out of him.
There were some big revelations, such as the unraveling of Min-ah (or should I say Ga-young?) and her past with CEO Park. Now that we know that she was classmates, and maybe even friends, with CEO Park’s son, it puts her in a different light. I’m beginning to wonder if we started with CEO Park’s death for good reason. He seems to be in the very middle of this web – the source of all the tragedy that’s happened and all the tragedy that’s bound to happen in the future. And just as Shi-mok suspected, the culprit has strategically planned every step of the way, with CEO Park right at the starting line. It’s like a twisted game to this person, leaving behind obvious clues for Shi-mok to pick up on and leading him to the next stop on the board, whether that be Min-ah or whoever the next victim is.
Let’s just hope that Shi-mok finds a quick shortcut out of this game before there is a next victim. He’s already got himself in a tight place now that he’s a prime suspect, but I have no doubt in my mind that Yeo-jin will do whatever she can to help get him out. She may suspect him just the same as her coworkers now, but much like Shi-mok, she’ll always find a way to let her own logic win over the lies.
- Forest of Secrets: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Forest of Secrets
- Jo Seung-woo and Bae Doo-na search for truth in the Forest of Secrets
- It’s a concrete jungle of intrigue in new Forest of Secrets poster
- Everyone is a suspect in Forest of Secrets
- Corruption and dark mystery in new Forest of Secrets teaser
- Guns loaded in Forest of Secrets teasers
- A tape-recorded warning teases thriller Forest of Secrets
- From behind the scenes and the script reading of tvN’s Forest of Secrets
- tvN thriller Forest of Secrets confirms leads, adds Lee Jun-hyuk