Forest of Secrets: Episode 8
The twists keep on coming. Every episode shocks and delights me in new ways, and each moment takes us in a new and unexpected direction. Shi-mok once again finds himself questioning things he once believed were proven facts as he continues to poke and prod at those around him to get the answers he seeks. Is the culprit who he thinks it is? Or could the truth be even uglier than he had imagined?
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Cornered in Park Kyung-wan’s dark bedroom trying to plant evidence, Dong-jae swears to Yeo-jin and Shi-mok that Chief Prosector Lee is the murderer. Shi-mok asks if Dong-jae’s saying that the chief prosecutor told him to throw a fake phone in the water and plant the real one here—does he have evidence to back up his claims?
Dong-jae acts offended and starts to yell, saying it they shouldn’t need evidence in a relationship like theirs (ha) and that they should be honest like men, instead of ignoring their instincts because of reasons and evidence. Yeo-jin rolls her eyes and says he’s being ridiculous.
Dong-jae turns to her and says none of this would have happened if she hadn’t mentioned Kyung-wan knowing Ga-young. Yeo-jin says she’s embarrassed for him before telling him to be a real man and come along to the police station.
When he still resists, she snaps, “That’s enough! Was Kang Jin-sub not enough for you? What would’ve happened if we didn’t catch you here? Kyung-wan would have gone to jail as a psycho who killed his father and stabbed a girl, blinded by jealousy. Do you have to stab someone to murder them? If we hadn’t caught you, you’d have killed Kyung-wan’s future.”
Soo-chan and the team leader arrive for the rendezvous with Dong-jae, and are stunned to see him being handcuffed. At Shi-mok’s nod, Yeo-jin puts the cuffs away, and they lead him out together.
Shi-mok is in charge of Dong-jae, while Yeo-jin takes Ga-young’s phone for analysis. As they drive, Dong-jae tries various appeals to Shi-mok’s reason and/or mercy: Dong-jae will be next on the murder list if all this comes out; he was just trying to prevent Chief Prosecutor Lee from committing more murders; his mother lives alone in the countryside and this will break her heart.
Shi-mok doesn’t react in the slightest, so Dong-jae changes tactics as he says that they can team up and catch the culprit together. He’ll accept his punishment afterward, but he begs Shi-mok not to tell Chief Prosecutor Lee.
Shi-mok remarks calmly that if Chief Prosecutor Lee harms Dong-jae once he finds out about all this, it will be proof that he’s the murderer. He says to Dong-jae, “Become the sacrificial lamb. Give up your life so we can catch the real culprit. Just as Park Kyung-wan was your sacrificial lamb, you will be mine.”
Dong-jae makes his excuses to Chief Prosecutor Lee at full speed, saying that it was all a misunderstanding and that he lost the chance to report in. Shi-mok cuts in and says that Dong-jae had told Soo-chan to meet him there to look for Ga-young’s phone, but Shi-mok and Yeo-jin witnessed Dong-jae wiping off his fingerprints and hiding the phone under the mattress.
Chief Prosecutor Lee points out that Dong-jae promised to take care of things and even exposed corruption in the military—but now, the police witnessed him trying to frame someone for murder. Lee asks angrily if he has to announce that prosecutors have fabricated evidence again as soon as he’s appointed. Throwing a flowerpot at Dong-jae’s head, Lee demands to know who else knows about this.
Yeo-jin’s team leader and Soo-chan receive a dressing-down from Police Chief Kim for beating Kyung-wan. Legally, they have to let him go in another day unless they charge him, but the team leader asks hopefully if they can get another two weeks so the bruises can heal. Chief Kim angrily dismisses them, and calls his friend to update him on the situation.
Chief Prosecutor Lee dismisses Dong-jae, then tells Shi-mok that Kyung-wan will be indicted for faking his alibi—but since he was following orders, they’ll delay it for two weeks (allowing the police to detain him until then, as Chief Kim asked). Shi-mok tries to explain that Kyung-wan has an alibi for Ga-young’s kidnapping, but Chief Prosecutor Lee repeats his order to suspend the indictment.
He tells Shi-mok that Dong-jae will be disciplined and taken off all of his cases, but he’s still to show up for work on time. He adds that Shi-mok should have told him that Dong-jae had Ga-young’s phone, and when Shi-mok says he hadn’t been certain about it, Chief Prosecutor Lee counters bluntly that it’s more like Shi-mok didn’t trust him.
He asks how Shi-mok knew that the phone Dong-jae threw in the water was fake, and Shi-mok says that someone with one extra phone might have others. He realized this during the press conference; the phone Dong-jae had recorded Commander Kim Nam-jin’s confession on was white, whereas his personal one was black (which he saw when he dialed Dong-jae to hear his ringtone). Besides, after knowing that Shi-mok searched his office, Dong-jae wouldn’t have disposed of Ga-young’s phone so openly.
Chief Prosecutor Lee wonders whether the fact that Dong-jae suspects him means he’s not the culprit, or if it’s simply a trick Dong-jae is using to divert suspicion from himself. Shi-mok says that in the same way the chief prosecutor is confused about whether Dong-jae is guilty, he’s telling himself that he’s not the culprit.
Chief Prosecutor Lee says that Shi-mok causes trouble for himself every time he opens his mouth, and the younger man apologizes. Chief Prosecutor Lee asks, “Are you really sorry? From the heart?” Shi-mok wonders at this unusual wording and asks why Lee used that specific phrasing. But Chief Prosecutor Lee just stares at him, thinking of what Yoon said about Shi-mok’s surgery.
Chief Prosecutor Lee tells Shi-mok to find out if Dong-jae is the culprit in either the murder or the stabbing. Shi-mok assents and adds (warns?) that he’ll be watching to see if any mishap befalls Dong-jae.
Yeo-jin searches for Kyung-wan all over the police station and eventually finds him with the team leader and Soo-chan, finally allowed to eat a hot meal. The two men lay it on thick, saying that they always knew Kyung-wan was innocent as they blame Dong-jae for everything. They even blame Kyung-wan for the extension of his detainment, saying it’s all because Kyung-wan set off Dong-jae’s temper by asking for a lawyer. Ugh.
Yeo-jin informs them that police will be able to retrieve everything from Kyung-wan’s phone, including deleted files. The team leader takes Yeo-jin aside and says that they’re to ignore what happened earlier today (Dong-jae’s arrest?), and reminds her that she was supposed to share whatever Shi-mok tells her.
Yeo-jin says that she didn’t know anything about Ga-young’s phone either; Shi-mok had simply asked her to meet him there. She promises to report whatever she finds out from now on before taking her leave.
She waits outside the door, and when Kyung-wan comes out with a uniformed officer, Yeo-jin takes over escort duty. She asks Kyung-wan why he deleted the picture of Ga-young, and why he lied. He says he was afraid he would become a suspect if the police saw the pictures, especially because he’d taken the pictures secretly, and apologizes.
Just then, Yeo-jin sees the bruises on the back of Kyung-wan’s neck and pulls back his collar to reveal more.
Yeo-jin races upstairs to where the chief’s office is, but she runs into Shi-mok on the way, who grabs her arm and says he needs to talk to her urgently. The go into an empty room, and Shi-mok says that Kyung-wan will be released in two weeks, so she should lie low until then. If she causes trouble again, he says, she’ll be excluded from the investigation.
Yeo-jin asks if she’s only allowed to make a scene when it will help their case but not on account of a kid who’s a nobody, because that would mean that Shi-mok would have to find someone new to investigate for him. “What I’m trying to say is that no one can replace you,” says Shi-mok. (Swooooon.)
Yeo-jin shows him the pictures she took of Kyung-wan’s bruised back and says almost disbelievingly that the kid only asked that she not tell his grandmother.
Yeo-jin: “I can’t understand why he let them do this to him. But my coworkers — completely normal people that I see every day — did something like this, and that’s what I’m struggling with more. I can’t accept it. Do you think they did such a thing because they were born evil? They’ve become like this because they can get away with it. They know people will turn a blind eye. If one person keeps his or her eyes wide open and speaks up, this can change.”
Shi-mok just says that whether Kyung-wan will be locked up for a little while or a long time is up to her; if she speaks up about what the police did, they’ll lock him up for longer in order to hide the fact that they detained an innocent man.
Yeo-jin asks how often people are told to make a “decision” like this, when in reality, they’re being forced into silence. When she refuses to compromise, Shi-mok suggests that in that case, they’ll leave the human rights investigation to an expert.
Cut to: Jung-bon arriving at the detention center where Kyung-wan is being sent early the next morning on Shi-mok’s request. He waits while the young man goes through the humiliating process of becoming an inmate, and when they do meet, Kyung-wan tells Jung-bon that he doesn’t want a lawyer. Jung-bon just smiles and assures him that he isn’t one.
Dong-jae watches from his private office as his case files are gathered up and confiscated. Shi-mok sets his phone to record and starts asking his questions, and Dong-jae tells him that he beat Shi-mok to Ga-young’s place by about twenty minutes, claiming that he saw her phone on the ground and picked it up. Shi-mok remarks that Dong-jae must pick up stuff from the ground a lot—or maybe he was close enough to the girl to recognize her phone immediately? Heh.
Dong-jae’s story is that she was gone when he got to her place, but he waited, figuring she’s come back, which was when he spotted the phone. He thought she’d call her phone to find it, so he decided not to wait around. Shi-mok asks why Dong-jae was so bent on meeting Ga-young, and he says he wanted to protect her, which was why he never told Chief Prosecutor Lee her address.
Dong-jae says that using a minor and then blackmailing those he bribed after the fact was CEO Park’s usual tactic, so he didn’t find it strange that Chief Prosecutor Lee wanted to track Ga-young down—until CEO Park died. He claims he was trying to warn Ga-young to hide before Chief Prosecutor Lee had her killed as well. When he didn’t hear from her all night, he’d assumed the man must have gotten to her after all.
Shi-mok asks flat-out if he kidnapped and stabbed Ga-young. Dong-jae scoffs before saying that lots of people accepted bribes from CEO Park, but there was only one person that Dong-jae reported to that night about finding Ga-young: Chief Prosecutor Lee. He tells Shi-mok to be careful about challenging the chief prosecutor, or he’ll end up the same way.
Eun-soo arrives with a seizure order just signed by the chief prosecutor himself and declares them both suspects before she asks for Dong-jae’s car keys. She retrieves the chip from his black box camera and shows it to Shi-mok—it matches Dong-jae’s story. His call record shows a call made to Chief Prosecutor Lee at 7:47 p.m., before the incident happened, which Eun-soo says would allow him time to contact an accomplice.
Shi-mok asks why she’s sharing information with a suspect, and Eun-soo replies that she doesn’t care what the chief prosecutor wants. He asks if he can trust her and make her his right hand woman, and she agrees eagerly. He immediately takes back the offer, saying he’d cut off a right arm like her.
Eun-soo grows upset, and he points out that if she feels so betrayed after just a minute, how does she think Dong-jae would feel after being loyal for ten years? He’s certain now that Dong-jae is the culprit.
At her unhappy reaction, he wonders whether she knows something else or saw something the day she followed him. She denies following him past the lobby, and he says it’s a shame that she didn’t, since she could’ve witnessed something important. She nervously leaves, and Shi-mok asks his clerks if they have a weapon. They give him a gun, but warn him not to use it.
Eun-soo texts Dong-jae that she knows that he was trying to kill Ga-young, telling him to check the CCTV for that day. He calls her angrily, and Eun-soo says that he must have been notified by his accomplice to come here and pick up Ga-young’s phone. Realizing where she is, he goes to that street to confront her.
Dong-jae finds Eun-soo there waiting, and she tells him to dump everything on Chief Prosecutor Lee. He’s surprised, but she says that she’s been waiting a long time for this chance, and threatens to tell Shi-mok that Dong-jae is the culprit if he doesn’t do as she says.
Panicking, Dong-jae covers her mouth, but she throws him off. He stares at her and asks, “Was it you?” She just tells him to frame Chief Prosecutor Lee and his father-in-law, by any means necessary.
Dong-jae says that Lee and his father-in-law are rich and powerful enough to escape punishment, and in the end, he and Eun-soo will just get killed. Eun-soo is unmoved by the thought of her own death, and coldly says that Dong-jae’s giving her no choice but to report that she saw him with his accomplice.
He grabs her so hard that he rips her shirt before dragging her into an alley. She struggles, hitting him with her briefcase, but he’s much stronger and overpowers her. In the heat of the moment, he wraps his hands around her throat and squeezes until she stops struggling and falls to the ground.
Appearing shocked by his own actions, Dong-jae nervously shakes her and asks if she’s okay. She coughs, and he sags in relief. “You really didn’t do it, right? You didn’t kill him,” Eun-soo rasps. Dong-jae says that he didn’t, and she says that she knew it before rising to her feet. He asks if she’s colluding with Shi-mok, but she denies it.
A bedraggled Eun-soo goes to Shi-mok’s place and tells him that she’s sure now that Dong-jae isn’t a killer, or she wouldn’t be standing in front of him now. She says that she’ll explain the rest tomorrow and leaves, but is soon back to ask for clothing to change into so that her mother won’t ask questions. In true Shi-mok fashion, he just tells her to make up an excuse, but in the end, he gives her a sweater, glimpsing the marks on her neck.
She soon rings the bell again—this time to ask for a place to change. Once she’s done, he suggests that Dong-jae might have realized it was a trap and stopped halfway, but Eun-soo is adamant that he didn’t know, and that even if he did, he would have killed her anyway if he thought he was about to be caught. Shi-mok says that Dong-jae might be much more calculating than they thought; what if he thought that he (Shi-mok) was there?
Eun-soo says that she wishes Shi-mok had been there, since he would believe her if he saw it. When he doesn’t answer, she assumes that Shi-mok is having doubts now because of her, and smiles happily.
Shi-mok goes for a run once she’s gone, and we see the scene in the alley from his perspective. He was there after all, watching from behind a corner, gun at the ready. He’d arrived just as Eun-soo started coughing. Now, he observes that she’s revealed how much she wants the chief prosecutor’s family to be guilty with her actions. If she’s willing to use her own life as bait, he wonders, what value would she have for the lives of others?
Eun-soo texts with a song in exchange for lending her the sweater (since she’d made a comment about how he always sits in silence). It’s a song about breaking up with a lover, and we see that she too is listening to it at home as she hangs up the washed sweater. Shi-mok frowns and turns off the music.
Gun tells Yeo-jin that the NFS recovered only selfies from Ga-young’s phone. Then, rookie Soon-chang calls her to the Park house, where Mom is cleaning up, and she tells Yeo-jin that she’ll live here with Kyung-wan once he gets out. As Yeo-jin leaves, she mutters that Mom would die if she knew what happened to the kid, and Soon-chang asks Yeo-jin if she’s talking about how Kyung-wan was beaten.
He apologizes for not stopping it, although he says he wasn’t actually there. She tells him that the author of a famous comic (she calls him the main character’s dad, haha) said that you can draw anything, except what violates basic human rights. Thus, she cautions that even their pride as members of the police shouldn’t allow them to commit acts even cartoon characters are protected from.
The next day, all the phones at the prosecutor’s office start to go crazy at once. Chief Prosecutor Lee is at a public event with his wife, but they go home separately, and she texts him to agree to everything her father says and to let her take care of things.
It turns out that news has broken about CEO Park bribing many prosecutors before his death, although their names were not mentioned by the anonymous informant. Chief Prosecutor Lee calls the section chiefs into his office and tells them to keep security tight and everyone quiet.
He meets the prosecutor general and Chairman Lee at the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, apologizing profusely to both. But, he says that the reports are false, and denies ever meeting CEO Park.
Afterward, the two Lee family members wonder why the anonymous letter lacked details and was sent to the Sungmoon Daily newspaper in particular. Chairman Lee tells his son-in-law to pause their plan to frame Shi-mok for the whole thing, since it would look strange at this point for the culprit to commit suicide. (Eek!)
Chief Prosecutor Lee says that Shi-mok suspects him, and Chairman Lee says he shouldn’t have picked someone so smart, although there’s one even smarter: He tells the younger man to make sure to tell Yeon-jae what he did for him. Huh, seems both men live in fear of displeasing her.
Yeo-jin meets Shi-mok at a pojangmacha, eager to hear his theory about the culprit. He tells her to get ramyun, frowning at his udon. She tastes his soup and casually pours a bit of water in it, and he nods at the improvement in taste.
Shi-mok says that the culprit must have been waiting for this moment, guessing that his anger that CEO Park’s crimes weren’t exposed after his death must have prompted the attack on Ga-young, as well as her conspicuously dropped phone at the scene, and now this tip to the news.
Yeo-jin says she was unable to tell Mom what happened to Kyung-wan, and Shi-mok says she’ll see it on the news. She looks narrowly at him (and he adorably imitates her) and asks if he leaked the information. He reminds her that the informant is the culprit, but she says to tell her now if it’s him. When he says he isn’t the culprit, she raises her glass to him.
Shi-mok frowns and asks why she believes he’s telling the truth. She says that she doesn’t, and makes an “I’m watching you” gesture with her fingers. He smiles—a real smile. Eeeeee! She notices and tells him that he has a pretty smile. She takes out her notebook to draw another terrible sketch, but he stops her: “Don’t give me any more gifts.” LOL.
Yeo-jin says that the more they find out, the more it seems like the culprit suffered because of the bribes, rather than receiving them.
The next morning, Jung-bon texts Shi-mok: I’m starting. You might be affected. He goes to meet Kyung-wan, who has been released. News breaks of the torture Kyung-wan faced at the hands of the police, including pictures provided by Jung-bon.
Chief Prosecutor Lee calls a meeting with all the higher-level prosecutors and announces a special investigation into corruption at the prosecutor’s office. He announces that the prosecutor in charge will be be someone who will be fair and unbiased, and will report directly to the prosecutor general to root out the corruption that now seems to be rampant in the prosecutor’s office.
He announces the name of the prosecutor in charge: Hwang Shi-mok.
Wow. First of all, Eun-soo. I’ve been suspicious of her ever since it was revealed that she was the last person seen with CEO Park before his death, but she continues to reveal new layers, and for the first time, I believe her capable of murder. Her manipulation of Dong-jae revealed a cold, sharp Eun-soo that we’ve barely glimpsed before this, and she was so ruthless in provoking Dong-jae in order to prove her point that I now think that every time we saw her acting flustered or weak has been a cover.
I said in the previous recap that Dong-jae’s ease with violence is a sign that he lacks moral limits, but maybe he does have just one — according to Eun-soo, at least. I’m inclined to believe that Dong-jae is telling the truth in that one instance, although it’s also true that if he was unable to murder, it would conveniently fit into Eun-soo’s narrative about the Lee family. It’s hard to tell whether she’s the real killer, is working with them, or simply doesn’t care who it is as long as the the Lee family goes down for it.
I was also puzzled by the song she sent Shi-mok—was it a declaration of her feelings? A farewell to her one-sided love? That was so weird, and nothing Eun-soo does is innocent, so I wonder what her objective was. Maybe all these innuendos and late-night invasions into Shi-mok’s privacy have no real feelings behind them, and are simply a tactic to confuse and seduce him out of his mistrust of her.
Yeo-jin, on the other hand, had her own conflict with Shi-mok over means and methods, and I was proud of her impassioned speech about the slow creep of evil and how easily one can be convinced to ignore it. As she said, it’s a slippery slope down to hell, and one that’s often first approached with good intentions.
I love her unwillingness to compromise on human rights even if everything else is negotiable, and although Shi-mok didn’t agree with her, I’m glad that he respected her decision to pursue justice, and even provided her with Jung-bon’s help (I really hope that dude is legit). One of the many things I enjoy about Yeo-jin is how she stands in for the audience and speaks truths to other characters that are so refreshing to hear, breaking the otherwise constant tension of suspicion, unease, and double meanings. She has such a great mix of passion and practicality, toughness and compassion, and it makes her both an excellent policewoman and the perfect friend.
That scene at the pojangmacha is my favorite to date. As the drama progresses, Shi-mok and Yeo-jin have gone from strangers to two people who can communicate without words; there are so many scenes in this episode alone where they speak to each other with a single glance, and their conversation over noodles perfectly exemplified that. They’ve always been honest with each other, but now they’ve learned to read each other’s body language in the way of old friends, and I love it. Also, THAT SMILE. Not only do I agree with Yeo-jin that it was very pretty, the fact that it was prompted by the implication that she trusts him completely just warms my heart. It’s also a nice echo of his confession earlier in the episode that she’s irreplaceable to him.
I’m choosing to ignore the disturbing hints that Shi-mok may not be as trustworthy as we want him to be, because I can’t handle even the thought of what that might mean. I want him to be the hero! I know some people have posited the theory that either he or Yeo-jin are lying to us or to each other. Everything is possible in this show, so I’m not ruling anything out even if it would tear me up, but right now Eun-soo makes my spidey senses tingle the most, as does Yeon-jae, especially considering the revelation that not only does her husband live under her thumb, her father is equally weak to her whims. And how great is it that I spent the last few paragraphs discussing not one, but three interesting, smart, complex female characters? So much love for this show.
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