Forest of Secrets: Episode 7
As always with this show, each episode brings new and stunning twists, and all I can do is ride each loop of this rollercoaster and try not to get whiplash. Shi-mok and Yeo-jin try their best to outsmart a culprit who seems to be ahead of them at every turn—and while they keep discovering new clues, there is always that darker, more secret force under the surface, moving events toward its own obscure purpose.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
As his subordinates bow, newly appointed Chief Prosecutor Lee thanks them and says that nothing will change—they just have to remember to be honest and treat everyone equally before the law.
He shakes their hands, making his way around to Shi-mok, who watches and thinks, “Justice. Ambition. Greed. Sin. What kind of hand would this be? If I could see what this hand has done…”
The man who has been snooping into Shi-mok’s background and reporting back to the chief prosecutor arrives, and Chief Prosecutor Lee immediately lets go of Shi-mok’s hand as Section Chief Kang introduces him as YOON, adding that he went to school with him.
Back in her office, Eun-soo cradles her bruised arm from Dong-jae’s wrist grab, and in his, Dong-jae pulls a panel off the back of his air purifier and takes out Ga-young’s phone. He unwraps it from inside a black handkerchief and briefly turns it on, then off again. The time shows 1:30 p.m.
Re-wrapping it, he bangs it against the corner of a chair until it breaks, and then puts the wrapped bundle in his jacket pocket. He orders his staff to call every golf course in the country and ask if a reservation was made by someone named Kim Nam-jin two days ago.
Dong-jae leaves, passing Shi-mok’s office on his way, and Shi-mok immediately texts Yeo-jin. She’s waiting in her car in the parking garage and ducks down out of view as Dong-jae passes. He drives out, and she follows him.
In his old office, Chief Prosecutor Lee takes out a fancy wallet from his desk drawer and thinks to himself that it all started with that one meal. A flashback shows us a young Lee having lunch with a man who says his friend is stopping by. The friend, a gray-haired man, arrives and pays for their meal as well as their drinks later.
Chief Prosecutor Lee reflects that it wasn’t a bribe; they could naturally have taken turns paying each time, but that first meeting made it impossible to easily refuse another. We see the gray-haired man take note of young Prosecutor Lee eyeing an expensive wallet in a shop window, the one he has now in his hands.
Time moves forward in the flashback, and now we see Section Chief Lee Chang-joon working late. A file on a DUI hit-and-run for Park Moo-sung crosses his desk, and then he receives a call from Dong-jae. He narrates, “A new person becomes a connection and part of your network. When you’re in a low position, those connections give you power. But at a certain point, they turn into weaknesses, and as you climb, you want to hide them.”
Now, Chief Prosecutor Lee rips the wallet in half and tosses it the the garbage. He thinks to himself that you have to pull yourself out from such things from the beginning; if you do it at the end, there’s a price to pay.
He moves into his fancy new office and tells his secretary to bring him a full report on the financial records of everyone who is a section chief or higher, as well as the records of all prosecutors and investigators from the Tax Division—the real ones, not the ones reported to the ethics committee.
Over coffee, Yoon suggests to Section Chief Kang that Chief Prosecutor Lee’s promotion could be a chance for Kang to become deputy chief, but his friend says he’s not interested. He says that Chief Prosecutor Lee is capable and was held back only by his chaebol connections—he hopes that the man won’t be tempted now to toe the party line.
Section Chief Kang asks Yoon what he’s found out about Shi-mok, but he lies and says that he found nothing out of the ordinary.
Yeo-jin follows Dong-jae to CEO Park’s house and waits for him to go inside before sneaking in after him. Rookie Soon-chang is guarding the entrance, but she warns him not to give away her presence as she slips around the side of the house to look in a window.
She reports to Shi-mok that Dong-jae’s searching for something, but since he’s not doing so carefully, she assumes he must be looking for a large item. She sprints back to her car when she sees Dong-jae leaving, and Soon-chang wins my heart by pretending to tie his shoe in the entrance so that she has time to get away.
Noting that Dong-jae is empty-handed, she follows him again, but reverses out of sight immediately when she sees him being stopped by her corrupt colleague, Detective Soo-chan.
Yeo-jin is able to find him again, and tails him until he suddenly pulls over on a bridge. He pulls a black cloth bundle from his jacket pocket and is about to toss it over the railing when Yeo-jin calls out, “Freeze!”
He does, looking dismayed, and she tells him to put it on the ground and step back, reaching for her gun. She counts to three and is about to pull her sidearm when he suddenly complies and hands it over. She opens the bundle… to find only cigarettes and a lighter.
Dong-jae grins triumphantly and claims that he was just trying to quit smoking. He approaches her slowly, asking if she was following him. “Who put you up to this? Do I seem like a joke to you because I don’t have a gun? Answer me!” He punctuates each question with a shove harder than the last, and Yeo-jin nearly falls.
A passerby stops to ask if something is wrong, but Dong-jae sends him off with a flash of his badge. Yeo-jin bows her head and apologizes. He asks her if spending time with Shi-mok has made her reckless, and she raises her eyes at this. Offended that she dares to meet his gaze, he violently pushes her head to the side repeatedly as he yells at her. (What the hell?) Yeo-jin just keeps apologizing calmly.
Dong-jae holds his hand out for the bundle, then throws it hard at her, narrowly missing her face. “Pick it up,” he orders, but when she stoops down, he puts his shoe on the items before she can touch them, and then leaves. I am seriously boiling with rage right now.
Dong-jae drives a little further to a hidden shore of the Han River, and checking his surroundings, he takes out a cellphone. He’s about to pitch it into the water when he hears a man’s voice nearby. But when he sees no one, he throws the phone in.
Soon after, Shi-mok arrives at the riverside to find Yeo-jin and her colleague Gun fishing in the shallow water with nets. Shi-mok tells them it’s useless—he needed them to catch Dong-jae red-handed trying to get rid of evidence. If he’d just wanted the phone, there’d be no need for Gun to tail him as well.
Gun says it’s his fault, muttering that he should have punched that bastard. We see the scene from Gun’s perspective now: He was watching the confrontation between Dong-jae and Yeo-jin from a distance on the bridge, but when Dong-jae drove off, Gun missed the exit to the river and had to double back.
He was hiding in the reeds and called out involuntarily when he saw Dong-jae about to toss the phone in, but then he hid again, allowing the phone to be lost.
Now, he tells Shi-mok what Dong-jae did to Yeo-jin, saying that his blood would have boiled too if he’d seen it. Yeo-jin agrees that she had a hard time keeping her temper. Shi-mok looks worried and seems about to speak, but Yeo-jin tells Gun that Shi-mok doesn’t care about things like that. Shi-mok pouts slightly. (I’m dead, you guys. Revive me with smelling salts.)
Yeo-jin says that Ga-young’s phone was turned on for a few seconds at 1:30 p.m., but they couldn’t trace its location. Shi-mok tells them that was right after Dong-jae found out that they’d searched his office, and Yeo-jin speculates that he was trying to delete something damning.
After a few unsuccessful attempts, they find a cell phone and come out of the cold, smelly water with relief. Shi-mok says that there’s no guarantee that it’s the right phone, and begins to take off his shoes to go into the water. Yeo-jin sighs and grumbles, but she eventually joins him, sending Gun on ahead.
Yeo-jin drops next to Shi-mok as he hunches over to take off his socks, and she smacks him hard on the back, telling him to sit up straight. He rubs his back and glances sideways at her, and she asks in surprise if he’s mad. He denies it, but she crows, “You are! You’re mad, I can see it on your face.”
She keeps insisting and even draws one of her terrible sketches to show his scowling expression, bursting out in laughter as she shows him. (Hahaha!) She rips it out and stuffs this new “gift” in his pocket. This is my new favorite thing.
We see the events of the afternoon from Dong-jae’s perspective, and it turns out that he was aware not just of Yeo-jin following him, but of Gun on his tail too. Soo-chan reports to him that Ga-young’s cellphone was turned on for a few seconds earlier, but adds that they weren’t able to trace a location.
Barefoot and waterlogged, Shi-mok arrives home that evening to find Eun-soo ringing his doorbell. She follows him inside, insisting that she has to know something tonight. She thanks him for helping her earlier, and asks why he did it. He dismisses her, but she refuses to go and grabs his arm, which he throws off immediately.
Pointing out his aversion to her touch, she guesses that he protected her in order to let Dong-jae know that they’d searched his room, which he confirms. She asks if the phone was Ga-young’s, and whether Dong-jae tossed it in the river. Eun-soo says that Shi-mok’s hypothesis that the murderer placed Ga-young’s body as a warning for Chief Prosecutor Lee must be right.
She says that Dong-jae’s accomplice must be Chairman Lee, since Chief Prosecutor Lee and Dong-jae didn’t seem to be in that sort of relationship.
Shi-mok says that she’s being very persistent about this—if Dong-jae happened to find Ga-young’s phone by chance, the culprit would do anything to find out if he had witnessed anything. He adds that the culprit might even come to a man’s house alone at this hour, for example.
Eun-soo scoffs at this implied accusation and says that things that would embarrass her in front of other men aren’t a problem with Shi-mok, because he’s completely uninterested in whatever she might do.
“Why do you think that I wouldn’t know anything?” he asks. “Leave now.” Eun-soo asks if it’s selfish for her to be happy that he isn’t clueless, but leaves without waiting for an answer.
Shi-mok takes Yeo-jin’s drawing of him out of his coat pocket and compares it with her drawing of his brain on his desk.
He goes to the mirror with Angry Shi-mok and frowns at his reflection, comparing his expression to that of the picture. Bwahaha. Then he tries a super awkward smile. OMG SO CUTE.
Yongsan Police Station is deserted as Yeo-jin settles into her desk chair with a blanket. Suddenly, the lights turn off, and she gets up to turn them back on, uneasy.
Suddenly, Ga-young appears, advancing creepily fast, as though in a horror movie. Yeo-jin wakes up from her dream with a gasp.
At the ICU where Ga-young is, the night nurse goes on a bathroom break, and a mysterious woman in high heels enters Ga-young’s room. Unsettled by her dream, Yeo-jin calls the ICU, but a gloved hand takes the phone off the hook, and all she gets a busy signal.
The unknown woman, also wearing gloves, disconnects Ga-young’s oxygen tube and removes her mask, then presses a pillow down over her face. Alarms begin to blare and the nurse rushes back to hook her up again, assuming that Ga-young was having a seizure.
The nurse sees the high-heeled woman leaving and calls after her, but at that moment, the nurse’s phone rings and the woman leaves. (We only see her from the back, but she has the haircut and bearing of Yeon-jae, Chief Prosecutor Lee’s wife, though that may just be a red herring.)
Kyung-wan, CEO Park’s son, is walking home when he’s chased and arrested by Yeo-jin’s team, who were waiting for him. Having heard, Yeo-jin is waiting for them when they arrive at Yongsan Station with Kyung-wan. Gun asks her if he should go to inform the kid’s grandmother, but Yeo-jin says that she’ll do it.
Police Chief Kim is having drinks with Chief Prosecutor Lee and Yeon-jae at their home when Dong-jae suddenly calls to say that he’s outside. Yeon-jae coolly gives her husband permission to let him in, and the three men withdraw to the study.
He tells Chief Prosecutor Lee that they have nothing to worry about now, because he’s nailed down a suspect: Kyung-wan. Records showed that he was on base, but Dong-jae says the kid was away that day and overnight, with no alibi between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.
Chief Prosecutor Lee is doubtful that the army would alter records for a regular soldier, but Dong-jae says that the division commander ordered it. He reminds the two men that CEO Park used to brag that his son got into a good university for golf, and says that his official job of being a truck driver was a cover—Kyung-wan spent his time teaching golf.
Dong-jae says that he found no golf clubs in the family home, meaning that Kyung-wan took them to the army with him. On the afternoon of Ga-young’s attack, Division Commander Kim Nam-jin played golf and went for dinner at 9:00 p.m. and drank at the restaurant until 1:00 a.m.
Kyung-wan had dinner with them, but then went to wait in the car, and although a witness saw him around 10:00 p.m., he was alone until the party left. (In flashback, we see Kyung-wan exiting that night, getting in the car and then reclining the seat completely so that he’s invisible from outside.)
Chief Prosecutor Lee says that Kyung-wan should have been discharged earlier because of his financial situation, and that the commander only kept him on for golf. He says that the commander must have deleted his black box footage once the investigation started, and Dong-jae smiles to himself.
Chief Prosecutor Lee says that it’s all circumstantial evidence though, and they can’t go after a two-star commander on that alone. Chief Kim says that a story will emerge—the girl was pretty, after all.
Chief Prosecutor Lee warns that this could turn into all-out war with the military; they need a powerful spear. Dong-jae pulls out a cellphone from his apparently bottomless jacket pocket, calling it “a spear that will pierce any shield.”
Dong-jae holds a press conference and plays a recording into the microphone of the commander saying that he went to play golf that afternoon with Kyung-wan as their instructor, and that he didn’t see Kyung-wan during dinner. Dong-jae strongly condemns the military for taking advantage of the sacrifice of the country’s youth for personal gain.
Chief Kim reprimands Yeo-jin’s team leader for once again allowing the prosecution to show the police up and take credit for their work. The team leader promises to do what it takes to get a confession and close the case.
Shi-mok asks his chief clerk if it’s possible to unlock a phone remotely, and the clerk tells him that prosecutors have the authority to do it through a service center. Shi-mok wonders why Dong-jae would take the risk of turning Ga-young’s phone on.
Dong-jae enters the interrogation room where Kyung-wan is being held, sends his clerk out, and stops the cameras. He asks Kyung-wan if he had a crush on Ga-young, but the young man says that he never even spoke to her and asks Dong-jae to call a lawyer. Dong-jae drops his smile and snaps at him to call one himself, now that he’s a murder suspect.
Dong-jae sets the scene: Kyung-wan’s dad abandoned their family when Kyung-wan was a teenager; all CEO Park had was money, but he lost that and couldn’t support Kyung-wan’s expensive schooling anymore, and Kyung-wan had to join the army. If CEO Park was alive, Dong-jae continues, then Kyung-wan would be hounded by creditors for the rest of his life.
Furthermore, Dong-jae adds that Kyung-wan knew of the taxi parked across the street and the broken CCTV, and the murder weapon was a familiar item. Kyung-wan asks in disbelief if Dong-jae is accusing him of killing his father.
“In anger and resentment, you stabbed him brutally,” says Dong-jae dramatically, and declares that after that, Kyung-wan had to punish those who betrayed him. Kyung-wan loses his temper and says that it’s a lie—he was at the barracks then.
Dong-jae says that even his commander has been summoned, so no one will believe Kyung-wan. The young man protests that times have changed, since they can’t just threaten him and lock him up. But when Dong-jae asks him why he deleted Ga-young’s pictures from his phone, Kyung-wan can’t answer.
Chief Prosecutor Lee questions Commander Kim Nam-jin, saying that he’d better be careful because his testimony will determine a young man’s future. He asks the commander if he saw Kyung-wan during those hours, but the commander says that he has nothing to hide and that he’s already confessed to everything. Chief Prosecutor Lee asks him why he threw away his black box camera if that’s true.
Dong-jae pushes Kyung-wan’s head down and hisses into his ear:
“Your dad took Kim Ga-young to one of those bars. You were head over heels in for her. Then you found out what your father did to your first love, and you became gravely resentful. ‘Either all of you die, or I’ll go insane.’ You chose the former. You got rid of both of them.”
“No!” says Kyung-wan, but Dong-jae yells that everything fits perfectly in this heinous crime. He tells him not to believe that times have changed—Kyung-wan should think of his grandmother. At this, tears appear in Kyung-wan’s eyes.
Commander Kim Nam-jin tells Chief Prosecutor Lee that he’s not proud of his actions, but that Dong-jae cornered him about falsifying the logs for the day of the incident. Dong-jae asked for information about Kyung-wan’s movements that day, promising to keep it off the record, even though he secretly recorded him.
The commander warns Chief Prosecutor Lee to be wary of Dong-jae, who could stab him in the back at any time. Chief Prosecutor Lee ends the meeting, saying that the National Defense Minister called him, adding that this falls under the minister’s jurisdiction, after all. The commander smiles bitterly, understanding that he’s been had again.
Yeo-jin stands at the intercom of the commander’s home, asking his wife where she was the day before the incident, but she receives no answer. Yeo-jin goes to her car and asks the same question on her loudspeaker, promising to continue all night. The gate unlocks. Heh.
Later, she tells Shi-mok what she’s learned: The day of Ga-young’s abduction, Kyung-wan took the commander’s wife to a driving range for private lessons. They got done after 9:00 p.m., which wouldn’t have left enough time for him to get to Ga-young’s neighborhood. Yeo-jin says that if news gets out that his wife used Kyung-wan for lessons, things will look even worse for the commander.
She also tells him, when he asks, that Kyung-wan’s interview with the police ended at 1:00 p.m. the previous day. But that’s when Eun-soo arrives in Shi-mok’s office at his summons, clearly nervous.
Chief Prosecutor Lee calls Dong-jae into his office and tells him to let the commander go, but Dong-jae says he needs the man to prove Kyung-wan’s guilt. As he explains his plan, Chief Prosecutor Lee thinks of the risks and wonders why Dong-jae is so anxious to close the case.
Eun-soo hesitates to enter the elevator when she sees Dong-jae inside, but he pulls her roughly inside. He asks mockingly if she’s waiting to be rescued, adding that he hasn’t forgiven her. As they exit, she tells him to stop bothering her and ask Shi-mok what he wants to know—like why Shi-mok searched Dong-jae’s office, or why Shi-mok went into the water to get the phone.
Dong-jae stills: “He went into the water?” Eun-soo instantly looks contrite and says hesitantly, “Didn’t you know?” Once Dong-jae leaves, Eun-soo texts someone, looking satisfied. Ah, good, it was a setup.
Dong-jae calls Soo-chan and suggests that Kyung-wan must have turned on Ga-young’s phone right after his police interview before hiding it at his house. Soo-chan reluctantly agrees to meet Dong-jae there, which prompts a creepy smile.
Next, we see Soo-chan entering a room where Kyung-wan is being mercilessly beaten, all while being overseen by the team leader. Oh no.
Dong-jae sneaks into CEO Park’s house and takes Ga-young’s phone out of that same jacket pocket, wiping it carefully. He’s about to hide it under Kyung-wan’s mattress when he hears a door creak. He freezes and then turns to see Yeo-jin watching him from the closet, where she was hiding. Shi-mok enters from the hallway, recording everything on his phone.
Dong-jae stares at them in horror as they approach. Yeo-jin snatches the phone from his hands, reads him his rights, and cuffs him. “It’s not me!” screams Dong-jae. “It was the chief prosecutor! The chief prosecutor killed him. It was all his doing. I know.”
At his desk, Chief Prosecutor Lee systematically deletes files from his computer, including those about Ga-young and CEO Park.
Where do I even begin? My head is spinning. Let’s start with Dong-jae. I knew he was scum from the way he manhandles women and talks down to them, but his habitual sexual harassment is apparently not the only type of the violence he inflicts on women. What he did to Eun-soo was bad enough, but I was burning with fury at his treatment of Yeo-jin on the bridge.
I wanted so badly for her to punch him in his smug face, though of course she kept her cool like the badass she is. His abuse of women is hard to watch, but it’s completely consistent with what we’ve seen of his character so far, since he seems to be without moral limits and uses whatever means are available to him to take advantage of people’s weaknesses, whether that’s power, money, or physical force.
On the other hand, I was shocked by the revelation of Dong-jae as an Iago figure who has masterfully ensnared everyone in his vicinity into his plot, with all his secret smiles and skillful arguments. It’s been clear since the beginning that subterfuge and manipulation are his preferred methods, but I underestimated him, maybe because of the statement by one of our characters that he’s just an average prosecutor buoyed by his powerful connections.
So I didn’t expect him to be crafty enough to create all these little pieces of “evidence” in advance, like timing his booting up of Ga-young’s phone to coincide with the end of Kyung-wan’s interview, or preparing a decoy “phone” in case he was followed. Nor did he fail to catch onto Shi-mok and Yeo-jin’s tricks until the very end of the episode, when they enlisted Eun-soo’s help as well, and finally got one up on him. (But really, all they needed was a way to access that magical breast pocket—it was starting to remind me of Hermione’s purse!)
Dong-jae also has a gift for finding people’s insecurities and poking them in exactly the most painful way, like the way he mocks Eun-soo for being a damsel, when it’s clear how desperate she is to prove her worth. Or his frankly brilliant (and chilling) psychological attack on poor Kyung-wan. Someone very powerful is clearly backing him (there’s no way he could have gotten that information about the golf-playing commander on his own), but he’s no slouch himself, and I love how it was revealed. (The writing in this show just kills me, it’s so good.) My money was on Yeon-jae as his shadowy accomplice, but then we got that last scene, and now I don’t know what to think.
On a lighter note, the interactions between Shi-mok and the two ladies in his life just keep getting more and more interesting. Yeo-jin is definitely his unofficial partner now, and it’s wonderful to see their complete trust in each other and the way their investigative styles are perfectly complementary. She catches him off guard with unexpected displays of affection, and while there’s nothing really romantic about it, it makes my heart so happy to see how much even her careless gestures and words affect him.
I delight in the way she completely ignores his “KEEP AWAY” signs and treats him like an old friend. And those drawings! It cracks me up and makes me squee that he not only saves these drawings, but that he’s using them to try to find his way around his newly discovered emotions. I think on some level, he recognizes that in this area, her intuitive way of moving through the world is more helpful than his analytic logic. (And it’s probably obvious by now, but I’m shipping these two to a ridiculous degree, considering that this is a thriller.)
Eun-soo’s dynamic with Shi-mok is completely different, but no less fascinating. She clearly admires and is attracted to him, and it’s brave of her to continue to challenge him the way she does in the face of his constant rejections. Still, I get the vibe of that impossible crush I know I’ve had on the brilliant older man who makes us want to impress him and make him notice us (which usually leads to some kind of bruising embarrassment—or disaster).
Shi-mok clearly sees at least some of this, and I think it makes him wary, on top of the fact that she’s lied to him in the past and that he doesn’t really trust her, even if they’re allies now. I do think he cares about her, but I can’t tell if it’s because of his relationship with her father, or on her own account. And it remains to be seen whether she’s also caught up in this web of lies and murder, if at all.
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- Premiere Watch: Forest of Secrets
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- Guns loaded in Forest of Secrets teasers
- A tape-recorded warning teases thriller Forest of Secrets
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- tvN thriller Forest of Secrets confirms leads, adds Lee Jun-hyuk