Forest of Secrets: Episode 14
The murderer has claimed another victim, and this time the loss is particularly devastating for our disbanded investigative team. For Shi-mok, it’s personal in a way that no case has been before, and he struggles to deal with his newly discovered emotions and the destruction of what he’s been trying to protect and achieve this whole time. But if nothing else, the team is more determined than ever to find the killer once and for all.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Eun-soo’s parents return home from grocery shopping, bags full of ingredients to make their daughter’s favorite food. Her mother says that this must be a good year for their family; her husband had his name cleared, and now all they need is for Eun-soo to meet a nice man. They laugh and joke together. Ah, this hurts to watch.
In Ga-young’s old apartment, the forensics team photographs Eun-soo’s body, Shi-mok frozen at her side. Yeo-jin looks away, tears in her eyes. Section Chief Yoon sits at the table, head bowed and hands covered in blood, with Gun kneeling beside him.
Shi-mok carefully covers Eun-soo back up. Section Chief Yoon says quaveringly that he’d come to see if Ga-young was here, but left because was no one was home. The current tenant came home and screamed upon discovering Eun-soo’s body, which was when Yoon claims that he returned to the apartment.
Paramedics take Eun-soo out on a stretcher. Team Leader Choi says that the murder weapon makes it look like the same culprit has struck again, and Shi-mok asks if they have any of the “victim’s” belongings. The others stare at him in shock, but Team Leader Choi says that they’re gone.
Shi-mok calmly tells them to track down Eun-soo’s transit records and to find out where Ga-young is, and then leaves for the autopsy. Once he’s gone, Gun and Team Leader Choi remark on Shi-mok’s cold reaction with disgust. Yeo-jin just watches Yoon, who is trembling in his chair.
Shi-mok drives behind the ambulance in a daze, unaware that he’s slowly drifting out of his lane until his car beeps in warning. He sighs and grips the steering wheel tightly, eyes shining.
Yeo-jin notes that there’s blood everywhere, even on the stairs leading outside, and Team Leader Choi replies that the criminal must have been in a rush this time. He yells at Section Chief Yoon as he approaches, telling him to stop touching the railings.
Yeo-jin offers to take Section Chief Yoon home, but he refuses, although he still looks shaken. As he leaves, Team Leader Choi points out that a prosecutor should know better than to keep touching the evidence, but Gun tells him that the man is just in shock. Yeo-jin watches Section Chief Yoon as he walks away.
At the hospital, Shi-mok waits while the doctors prepare Eun-soo’s body. The doctor asks if he’ll be okay viewing the autopsy of his own colleague, but Shi-mok just tells him to proceed.
Afterwards, Shi-mok washes his hands and leaves the bathroom looking numb. Suddenly, a high-pitched noise echoes in his ears, and pain pierces through his head.
“No,” he gasps, but the episode continues, doubling his vision and causing him to hunch over, clutching his head. “Not now, please,” he thinks as he collapses to the floor. He lies there, eyes open but unseeing, and doctors race to his aid.
At Yongsan Police Station, Yeo-jin’s team reconstructs the events leading up to the murder: The new tenant found Eun-soo when she was already dead, probably from stab wounds to the stomach and neck. She also had a bump on her head similar to Ga-young’s; blood spatter patterns indicate that she was unconscious when she was killed.
The murder weapon is also identical to the knives used on CEO Park and Ga-young. That and the links between the crime scenes suggest seriality, says Gun. Yeo-jin points out how messy this crime scene was in comparison to the previous two, since Eun-soo’s blood was everywhere. It seems that the murderer washed off most of the blood but ended up dripping it all over the bathroom and staircase as he left. Yeo-jin wonders if it’s too different from the other murders to be the same killer.
Autopsy results show that the cause of death was blood loss from the carotid artery, with time of death estimated between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eun-soo’s transit records show that she went only from home to work and back every day, with the exception of the last two days. Yeo-jin explains that Eun-soo went from to Shi-mok’s place and then to her place the evening before she died.
Yeo-jin shows the rest of her team a picture of Umbrella Man (Secretary Woo?), and suggests him as a suspect. She and Gun tell the rest of the team about the “warning” left at Shi-mok’s apartment, most likely in response to him outing the weapons deal.
Eun-soo’s last recorded movement is a taxi trip that ended at 4:47 p.m. in Haengdam-dong, her own neighborhood. Yeo-jin says that she must have been kidnapped on her way home. Team Leader Choi tells them to work through the night and try to find something by dawn, since this case will draw a lot of scrutiny.
They go to Eun-soo’s office at Seoul Western to search for evidence. Chief Prosecutor Kang enters, and they all bow somberly to each other. Kang asks them painfully to do their best before taking Yeo-jin aside to tell her that he’s been unable to reach Shi-mok. Yeo-jin has no luck either.
She rushes to the hospital, worried now, and finds Shi-mok unconscious in the emergency ward. “I really don’t want to see things like this anymore,” she says as she looks at Shi-mok’s prone form. A doctor tells her that Shi-mok’s brain scans show evidence of surgery on his insular cortex, the part of the brain that controls emotions, likes, and desires, and in the doctor’s words, the part that makes us seem human. He explains that it looks like a part of it was removed, probably due to pain—those with an overactive insular cortex often can’t handle excess external stimuli.
Yeo-jin asks if Shi-mok’s collapse means that the pain is coming back, but the doctor says it’s one of the the side effects of the surgery, along with personality changes and increased cognitive ability.
The doctor asks if Shi-mok has been under severe stress lately, adding that everyone has emotions, but when a person is unable to express them, those emotions build up and explode like this. Yeo-jin ponders this as she watches Shi-mok sleep, and before she leaves, she asks the nurse to call her when he wakes up.
In the morning, Dong-jae sits in his car at work and recalls his confrontation with Eun-soo, and his panic when he’d thought he had strangled her to death. “Foolish girl,” he mutters.
He remembers Shi-mok asking if he was curious about whether Chief Secretary Lee is really the murderer, as Dong-jae had suspected. “It’s no longer a matter of being curious,” he says to himself, and heads back to his post.
Section Chief Yoon carefully puts his letter of resignation in an envelope, laying it on his desk along with his prosecutor’s badge.
Child Shi-mok is in Adult Shi-mok’s office in a disturbing dreamscape, the cuckoo clock calling creepily on the wall. The room fades into Ga-young’s apartment, covered in Eun-soo’s blood, but in place of Eun-soo’s body is a young woman in a wheelchair. Little Shi-mok pulls the mask from her face and recoils in horror, screaming and sobbing at the sight of blood dripping from Eun-soo’s eyes like tears.
Shi-mok awakens with a sigh in his hospital bed. He dizzily tries to get up, succeeds after a couple of attempts, and walks unsteadily out of the hospital.
Returning home, Shi-mok is about to hang up his jacket in his closet when he sees the sweater he lent Eun-soo. He slowly picks it up and stares at it, remembering Eun-soo: her brightness and her determination, her desperation and her bravery; his often blunt and dismissive attitude toward her, and her sincere gratitude towards him anyway.
He notices how one sleeve is longer than the other, caused by Eun-soo drying the sweater incorrectly, and remembers her smiling face. Shi-mok notices that his fingers have clenched, crushing the sweater, and he forcibly relaxes them. Oh, my heart.
At Eun-soo’s funeral, Yeo-jin and her homicide team silently make their bows. An endless stream of mourners comes and goes, and Eun-soo’s parents guard their daughter’s memorial, frozen in a waking nightmare.
Outside, Gun and Jung-bon wonder when Section Chief Kang will show up. Jung-bon asks Gun if going through things like this often makes you numb to them. Gun replies that he’d thought so, but knowing that they were just drinking with Eun-soo a couple of nights ago has shaken him—especially since she was murdered by the killer that they still haven’t been able to catch.
Chief Prosecutor Kang arrives then with prosecutors lined up behind him as he enters the funeral hall. He lights a stick of incense for Eun-soo, and they all bow together. Chief Prosecutor Kang meets his old mentor’s eyes, but he’s unable to say anything and bows to Young Il-jae again before leaving.
The prosecutors are on their way out when Shi-mok finally arrives, pale and disheveled. His boss asks him where he’s been, but he simply bows and walks into the hall. Chief Prosecutor Kang sighs and turns to leave when Young Il-jae yells, “I told you to protect my daughter!”
Kang runs over to find the old man shaking Shi-mok by the lapel and berating him for failing to protect Eun-soo. He tries to calm the man down, when suddenly, Young Il-jae falls silent—Chief Secretary Lee has arrived.
“You scum,” Young Il-jae grinds out. “How dare you come here? Get out, you scum!” He flies at Lee and strikes hard with his walking stick, but the blow falls on Dong-jae, who moved to shield his boss. Young Il-jae shouts that Lee is the one who killed his daughter.
“Why have you just been watching?” comes a hoarse yell. Everyone turns to look at Shi-mok, who is still facing Eun-soo’s memorial. Shi-mok turns to Young Il-jae and continues, “Why didn’t you fight? Why did you just hide all these years? You taught us to fight using the law. What have you been doing?!”
He points to Eun-soo’s picture. “Did you think you were doing it for your family? Not just because you were scared?” Chief Secretary Kang tells him to shut up, but Eun-soo’s mother suddenly screams for them to stop. As she sobs, Shi-mok turns back toward the bier for a long moment.
Dong-jae whispers to Chief Secretary Lee that they should go, and they quietly retreat. Shi-mok soon leaves too, Yeo-jin and the other special investigation team members watching him in concern.
In the car, Chief Secretary Lee tells Dong-jae not to interfere again—does he think his shoulders are made of steel? Dong-jae looks surprised at this show of concern.
Shi-mok observes the evidence gathered so far at Yongsan Station, turning the picture of Eun-soo’s body face-down. Yeo-jin tells him that Eun-soo took a taxi from Seoul Western at 4:06 p.m. the previous afternoon and arrived home at 4:47 p.m.; they have footage of her entering her apartment building at 4:48 p.m. She left again at 4:55 p.m.
Shi-mok remembers that Eun-soo had called him to talk, and he’d put her off until later because he was looking for Ga-young. He closes his eyes at that memory. Yeo-jin says that Eun-soo’s visit to his office was the last time anyone saw her, since she went straight home afterwards. Shi-mok remembers how coldly he dismissed her.
Yeo-jin says that the Eun-soo’s parents have no idea why Eun-soo came home yesterday afternoon, because she would never come home during working hours. The knife belonged to the killer, and Yeo-jin tells Shi-mok that they’re currently tracking down where it was purchased.
Yeo-jin asks Shi-mok if he thinks it’s the same criminal, but he just shakes his head. She asks about his head, and he walks away without answering. He keeps walking even when Yeo-jin tells him that they found Ga-young, who had been moved by her mother for safety. He looks at his call log with something resembling anguish: Eun-soo called him at 4:53 p.m., two minutes before she disappeared.
Afterward, Shi-mok questions possible witnesses. Clerk Choi tells him that she saw Eun-soo listening outside his office door that day for a moment before knocking. He shares this with Yeo-jin, who’s next up, and Shi-mok recalls that he’d told Yeo-jin that Young Il-jae had something dangerous on Chairman Lee.
Yeo-jin is distressed to realize that Eun-soo heard, and perhaps because of Yeo-jin asking what Young Il-jae had in his possession, went home and met the killer on the way. She tells Shi-mok that she was alone with Eun-soo the night of the get-together, but says that because Eun-soo spilled juice on Section Chief Yoon, they couldn’t talk for long.
Now it’s Yoon’s turn. His earlier testimony has been corroborated by the tenant. His face twitches as he recounts finding Eun-soo, bloodying his hands as he tried to revive her. “Please don’t let her parents see her body. If they do, for the rest of their lives…” he trails off, lips trembling. Shi-mok closes his file and bows his head.
Yeo-jin and her colleagues track down the manufacturer of the flower-patterned knife used to stab Eun-soo, and they check nearby stores to find out if anyone has bought it recently. Team Leader Choi questions possible witnesses in Eun-soo’s neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Yeon-jae barges into her husband’s office and asks if he’s preparing to divorce her. She knows he’s been looking into her assets—is he trying to figure out how much money he can take with him? He puts his hand on her shoulder, but she shrugs it off angrily.
“Are you having a change of heart now that the girl is awake?” she asks. “Tell me. What are you sorry for?” He apologizes again, but promises her that he’s never once cheated on her. She asks again what he’s sorry for, and he says that she never should have come to her brother’s trial, the day they first met. Or else he should have let her brother off as Chairman Lee ordered, and she never would have been interested in him. Innnteresting.
Looking as though she’s holding back tears by force of will, she asks if he means that they were wrong from the beginning. He just says that he’s late to meet her father, and they’ll talk at home. She precedes him out of the office, head held high even with tears in her eyes.
Once they’re gone, Dong-jae goes into Chief Secretary Lee’s office to “clean” and opens a folder the other secretary hid from him earlier, which contains a plane ticket.
Shi-mok rushes to the Eun-soo’s parents’ home, where Eun-soo’s father sits hopelessly in front of his empty dresser drawer. He tells Shi-mok that he had evidence of Chairman Lee’s tax evasion: 200 billion won that he turned into stocks and gave to his children illegally. Young Il-jae says that it was here yesterday, but he checked again today because of what Shi-mok said at the funeral, and it’s been taken.
Shi-mok asks Young Il-jae if the house has been empty since he last saw the evidence, and the old man says it was yesterday afternoon. Shi-mok tells him that only Eun-soo showed up in security footage during that time, and that she must have taken it. Realizing what this means, Young Il-jae gasps. “I’ve killed my daughter,” he says in horror.
Shi-mok calls Yeo-jin, and then sets to searching every nook and cranny of Eun-soo’s room. He finds her notebook and discovers a ripped-out page, so he uses a pencil to shade the page underneath. Yeo-jin arrives as he finishes revealing an image that looks like “07” on the paper.
Yeo-jin notices evidence that the figures were drawn and erased repeatedly, as if Eun-soo was looking for the exact right image. Yeo-jin deduces that Eun-soo purposely used pencil instead of her usual pen because she saw something and was trying to reproduce it accurately. As Yeo-jin leaves for a moment to help Team Leader Choi, Shi-mok wonders what Eun-soo saw, and where she saw it.
He looks at the page again, recalling Yeo-jin wondering if the figures are even numbers, and traces them again in realization. “D… T…” he murmurs. He straightens, remembering Yeo-jin’s story about Eun-soo spilling juice on Section Chief Yoon, and the confusion at the party about whether Yoon was a marine or in the special forces.
Yeo-jin returns, and Shi-mok says, “All this time, [he was] right beside us… I’ve found the killer.”
Police and SWAT deploy in force. Tracking Yoon’s location, they realize he’s headed to the airport. As our team drives, we hear Shi-mok’s explanation to how they came to this conclusion in voiceover.
After hearing about “07,” Eun-soo only had the time to draw at her desk that same night. Ga-young couldn’t have seen the numbers in a place she was kidnapped or held prisoner, because those didn’t overlap with the places that Eun-soo went. Both women had to have seen the numbers on a person—the killer.
Chairman Lee makes a phone call to someone who is taking off soon, and tells them not to call until he contacts them first. Ohmigod.
Our team arrives at the airport. The police split up to search while Shi-mok heads to the security feeds. Shi-mok’s narration continues: The only way to see numbers on a person is a tattoo, and the only people Eun-soo saw during that window of time were those at Yeo-jin’s dinner party. And they’d have to be people she saw when Shi-mok wasn’t there, or he’d have seen them too.
That narrows it down to three people: Yeo-jin, Gun, and Section Chief Yoon. Police aren’t allowed to have tattoos, so that leaves only (former) Section Chief Yoon.
And now we see Yoon, wearing a black cap and carefully avoiding the police that are now all over the airport. He stealthily checks in for his flight and is walking toward his gate when Soon-chang stops him.
Yoon freezes, then turns and throws Soon-chang and the other officers to the ground and takes off at a dead run. The police furiously pursue him, while Shi-mok spots Yoon on a security camera and runs toward his location. Gun catches up to Yoon and grabs his jacket, but Yoon shrugs out of it and dispatches Gun with his signature deadly kick.
Yeo-jin spots Yoon from a distance, and in an amazing action sequence, she runs at top speed up a staircase to intercept him. As she gets close, she pushes a cleaning cart into Yoon’s path, causing him to trip and fall, but he regains his feet. She grabs him, but he twists her arm, and in return, she judo flips him. (Yes!)
But then, he uses his strength and manages to roll them over so that he’s on top of her. (No!)
Yoon lifts his arm and clenches his fist to punch her in the face. However, looking at her face, he hesitates, and they stare at each other for a long, charged moment. It’s just enough time for Yeo-jin’s colleagues to pull him off her and help her up, and the police and SWAT surround them.
Shi-mok walks up purposefully behind Yoon and pulls down his collar, revealing the tattoo on his right shoulder blade: UDT, which refers to Navy Special Forces, with its emblem underneath.
Every week I think that this drama can’t possibly impress me any more, and every week it does. Much of this episode was painful to watch, but I couldn’t look away, because every heartbreaking, uncomfortable moment felt earned. We’ve spent many hours getting to know these characters, and this hour felt like watching friends and acquaintances struggle in the aftermath of a tragedy. That’s just how real these people have become to me.
Firstly, Eun-soo. Oh, Eun-soo. I noted in a previous recap that she seemed to be in a different drama that the rest of the characters, and I meant that not as a criticism, but an observation. She saw reality through the lens of her quest to right the injustice done to her family by whatever means necessary, whereas Shi-mok and his team worked to solve the case from within the system, though often in unconventional ways. At first it was amusing to see Eun-soo constantly at a crossroads with Shi-mok, and how she provoked him and he kept shooting her down, but in the last two weeks, the danger of excluding her from the investigation became increasingly clear.
Eun-soo’s loneliness and desperation, and her desire to prove to Shi-mok that she could be both trustworthy and helpful, were clear to see for anyone but Shi-mok. Yeo-jin certainly noticed, as evidenced by her gentle admonition to him to treat Eun-soo better. Tragically, however, it was Yeo-jin’s generous impulse to include Eun-soo that led to Eun-soo discovering Yoon’s tattoo, as well as the clue that helped her piece together his secret—and turned her into both his target and the key to finally catching him once and for all.
My heart broke for Eun-soo and her parents, but it tore to pieces for Shi-mok as well. He obviously cared about Eun-soo to a degree that he never understood until she was gone, and the discovery was doubly devastating because he feels so much guilt for her death. Shi-mok takes his responsibilities very seriously, and Eun-soo was not only his hoobae, but she was the daughter of his mentor, killed by the murderer he’s been fruitlessly chasing for months. It must have been even more crushing to realize that she’d reached out to him before she died and he’d ignored her; and even more so, to know that Eun-soo might never have met Yoon if not for Shi-mok choosing him for the investigative team.
That scene with the sweater made me cry so much. We’ll never know whether Shi-mok’s feelings for Eun-soo were romantic, or if he saw her as someone under his protection; but either way, it was so hard to watch him break down, when all we’ve seen from him until now is stoicism, fearlessness, and the occasional hint of a smile. His emotions were finally clear on his face in this hour, and I felt much like Yeo-jin who could only watch him with constant and helpless worry. The scene at Eun-soo’s funeral was especially raw—Eun-soo’s parents’ grief was heart-rending, as was Shi-mok’s explosive confrontation with Young Il-jae, and all of it was masterfully executed on every level.
Now that Yoon has been captured in that epic ending sequence, the question remains of whether he committed all these crimes, or if Ga-young was his first victim, and CEO Park is the work of another villain. If it’s not a red herring, Chairman Lee’s phone call at the end was to Yoon, which makes me wonder what their connection is: If Yoon was truly taking revenge for his child’s death, why would he join hands with the chairman? Was CEO Park their common enemy? Or am I completely off, and that call was to Secretary Woo, leaving for his (suspicious) business trip? In some ways, Chairman Lee is the most terrifying character in this drama, because he’s cold like a snake, ruthlessly efficient at eliminating any obstacles in his path to power, and he can do it all with a pleasant smile.
On the other hand, Chief Secretary Lee and Yeon-jae grow more sympathetic by the week. I’d assumed it was a political marriage for her, but now I can see her love and care for him, even if their relationship is fraught with the tensions of their social position, and her father’s demands. Chief Secretary Lee’s affection for Yeon-jae has been clear from the beginning; though he’s willingly sunk deeper into his father-in-law’s corrupt schemes, in a twisted way, it’s sweet that he did it all for Yeon-jae.
It seems that he’s decided that he can no longer ignore the dictates of his conscience, however, and is preparing to cut ties with both the chairman and Yeon-jae, even though it will mean leaving the wife he sacrificed his youth, his profession, and his morals for. It’s tragic in a way, but Chief Secretary Lee seems weary, and somehow softer than he did at the beginning of the show—he’s even being kind to Dong-jae now. I’d love to see a redemption arc for him, but it would have to include an accounting for all the crimes he’s committed throughout the years, and not a simple escape. If part of that atonement is giving Shi-mok the ammunition he needs to take down Chairman Lee, so much the better. One more week (sob!) and we’ll know all the answers.
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