Forest of Secrets: Episode 15
After sifting through numerous suspects, clues, and scenarios, we’re finally narrowing down to what initially sparked these horrific murders. It’s been one hell of an emotional ride, with Shi-mok and Yeo-jin having to see the worst parts of this case, and as a result, the worst parts of the people they thought they once knew. But the betrayal and heartache isn’t over yet – oh no, that was all child’s play compared to what lies ahead for them.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
There’s a huge commotion outside the airport as former Section Chief Yoon is handcuffed and taken out by security. Yeo-jin makes sure to cover his face with a jacket before sending him out to the flashing cameras and watches him go, hurt and betrayal still in her eyes.
She joins her team in a separate van, and they head towards Yoon’s home. An officer voices his surprise that the culprit was a prosecutor and that Yeo-jin and Gun had been so close to him. But Yeo-jin seems too lost in thought to be listening.
As Shi-mok watches Yoon get escorted into the prosecutor’s office, he also becomes lost in thought, remembering all the times that Yoon had been cheery and helpful. He can’t help but contrast that version of Yoon against the cold and dark Yoon getting his mugshots taken.
Yoon’s tattoo gets photographed as well, and we see in flashback that Ga-young had first seen it when she’d weakly tugged on his shirt, only for him to strike her unconscious and stuff her in a bag.
After Chief Prosecutor Kang gets the call about Yoon (looking more disappointed than shocked), he heads down to the interrogation room where Yoon is being kept, watching from the other side of the two-way mirror. Moments later, Shi-mok enters the room and sits across from Yoon, the tension thick between them.
Yeo-jin’s team arrives at Yoon’s home, and they search the room until Yeo-jin manages to find a big black bag underneath the bed. She pulls out various items, including the red rope that was used to tie Ga-young up, as well as a black jumpsuit. They set up a black light, and sure enough, they see that the suit is completely spotted with blood.
In the interrogation room, Shi-mok gets straight to the point and asks Yoon, “Why did you kill [CEO Park]?” Yoon blankly answers that CEO Park had to die by his hands — he’d wanted CEO Park to understand the pain of being burned by fire. Shi-mok is confused, so Yoon elaborates that he heard being burned alive is the worst pain of all… and that’s exactly what his six-year-old son had to endure.
Yoon describes how he had sent his son off on a tour bus with the rest of his kindergarten class, promising to pick him up afterwards. Sometime later, Yoon’s heart had dropped when he’d heard the news that the very same bus had crashed and exploded. “It wasn’t an accident,” Yoon tells Shi-mok.
Apparently, the bus company had removed the stabilizer (a device that helps vehicles maintain balance) in order to save money. Furthermore, the driver had once gotten fired for using his phone while driving. But the verdict, Yoon says shakily, was the “faulty” construction of the guardrail the bus had crashed into.
Many people, including fourteen children, had been killed. And yet, Yoon adds brokenly, the driver and bus company owner got off easy. It was all thanks to a broker that had had their backs: CEO Park.
Yoon says that he only wishes that his son had died on impact. He tries to maintain his composure, but the tears start flowing as he continues that he hopes his son’s body only burned after he had passed — that’s all he’s prayed for since the day of the accident.
In the other room, Chief Prosecutor Kang recalls meeting Yoon when he’d returned from his one-year leave. He’d assured Yoon that it was right for him to come back and that he should forget about the accident. Kang hangs his head, now seeing that Yoon has never been able to forget.
Shi-mok asks Yoon who accepted CEO Park’s request to defuse the case, and Yoon responds that it was the chief prosecutor at the time, Bae Sang-wook. Shi-mok sighs and says that Yoon has just admitted to committing murder.
Shi-mok pulls out the photo of the fake CEO Park glancing out the house window, and Yoon flashes back to when he’d put on CEO Park’s clothes and looked out the window for the camera to see. “It was me,” Yoon confirms.
It turns out that Yoon had meticulously planned the murder for a long time, from tampering with CEO Park’s TV and getting Kang Jin-sub there to smearing the blood on the metal bars nearby. Shi-mok asks if he truly planned this all on his own, making him ask if Shi-mok doesn’t believe him. (Hmm, methinks you are lying, sir.)
As for Ga-young, Yoon had hurt her in order to let the people know what their so-called leaders traded for people’s lives. He sees Ga-young as no different from CEO Park, since she’d used her body the same way Park had used money. That may be true, Shi-mok says, but Yoon was mistaken to believe that he had the authority to punish them for it.
Yoon counters that it’s not like those with actual authority were going to do anything anyway. At that, Shi-mok asks why he killed Eun-soo, but to Shi-mok’s surprise, Yoon replies that he didn’t.
Yoon insists that he doesn’t care what happens to him now… but Eun-soo’s death wasn’t his doing. If that’s the case, Shi-mok asks, then why did Yoon try to flee? He asks again why he killed her, but Yoon no longer wishes to talk.
So Shi-mok gets up to leave, but he stops and asks if killing CEO Park made Yoon feel any better. Yoon turns to him and says that he’s felt empty since the day his son died. But he does admit that that emptiness was replaced with fear when he’d watched the life drain out of CEO Park.
Shi-mok finds Chief Prosecutor Kang waiting outside. As they watch Yoon being taken away, Kang reveals that Yoon had refused to have an autopsy performed on his son; Yoon had been scared that soot might be found in his son’s lungs (meaning that he was alive when he was burned), and preferred not to find out.
When Yoon’s car is brought to the police station, Yeo-jin takes the chance to search it. She doesn’t find much, but she does take notice of an air freshener in the back. She remembers Ga-young’s mom mentioning that Ga-young had had convulsions when Yoon had brought her over, and it suddenly clicks.
Ga-young had smelled the air freshener when Yoon kidnapped her, so when she was brought over in Yoon’s car again, the familiar smell must’ve triggered her seizure. Yeo-jin mentally kicks herself for not figuring it out sooner.
Chief Prosecutor Kang takes Shi-mok back to his office, where he makes a call to request a search warrant on Bae Sang-wook (who is now an assemblyman). When he hangs up, Shi-mok asks him if he knew that the former chief prosecutor was involved with the bus incident.
Kang says that he didn’t, making Shi-mok wonder how Yoon knew if the other section chiefs didn’t. Kang doesn’t know what to think about that — he doesn’t know what to think about Yoon’s claim of not killing Eun-soo either, but he hopes that it’s true. He sends Shi-mok out, sadly congratulating him on the arrest.
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Lee is deep in thought as he sits in his darkened office. Later, he comes home to find his father-in-law watching the news of Yoon’s arrest. Chairman Lee notes that Yoon must have held a grudge against CEO Park as well, and Chief Secretary Lee noticeably gets shifty eyes as he denies any knowledge of it.
His father-in-law asks about the “rat” that might be in his office, and Chief Secretary Lee says that he gave both of his secretaries false hotel information and that nothing got leaked out. As he heads upstairs, he hears Chairman Lee switch the TV back and mutter that it was a strange coincidence for Yoon to get arrested at the airport.
Chief Secretary Lee enters his office to see Yeon-jae sitting at his desk. She’s here to talk things out, but Lee just hands her a flight itinerary and tells her to visit their daughter in the States.
She starts to argue, but he says that he’ll soon be making a public disclosure of all of their assets and that there’s sure to be an uproar; he doesn’t want her around for that. He teases her not to forget about him while she’s gone, making her expression soften a bit.
Lee turns to leave when Yeon-jae calls out, “I don’t regret it.” She clarifies that she doesn’t regret going to her brother’s trial. While Lee thinks that she shouldn’t have come, she disagrees and says that if she hadn’t have gone, her husband wouldn’t be with her now.
Lee turns back with a faint smile and says that Yeon-jae looked so pretty back then. She asks if she’s still pretty now, so he walks over to where she’s sitting, embraces her, and tells her that she is. Yeon-jae shuts her eyes and smiles, enjoying their tender moment, while Lee’s serious expression melts into one of sadness. Augh, my heart hurts for them.
As Shi-mok heads into a pojangmacha for a drink(!), he calls Yeo-jin and immediately notices that her voice is shaking. She tells him that she’s at home, the place where she nosily butted into Eun-soo’s business and invited her over. But Shi-mok says that he’s the one who unknowingly invited a murderer to their team.
He tells her that Yoon did what he did because CEO Park and Bae Sang-wook covered up his son’s accident. Even so, Yeo-jin sighs, Yoon should’ve thought about what he was doing to other people’s children if he was so upset over his own child — even if he’d chosen to live a certain way.
She reveals that Yoon had gotten a divorce after the accident, which Shi-mok understands. “When something goes wrong with the child, the parents come to hate each other,” he says, as if speaking from experience. Yeo-jin thinks that the parents should stick together at times like that, and Shi-mok figures that there are families like that somewhere.
Yeo-jin asks about his own parents, but he doesn’t respond. She asks why he didn’t tell her about his brain surgery, and he finally answers that it wasn’t important. Yeo-jin: “Your head doesn’t hurt now?” Shi-mok: “No, it doesn’t hurt.” Though she’s genuinely relieved to hear that, she still wants him to tell her the next time it hurts. Awwww.
She starts to hang up when Shi-mok mentions Yoon’s claim about Eun-soo. He tells her that he’ll be sure to look into it, but he says that if Yoon’s claim is true, then Yeo-jin inviting Eun-soo over had nothing to do with her death. They end their conversation there, and Yeo-jin gazes at the view from her rooftop. “It’s been such a long day,” she says, her eyes still shining with tears.
The next day, Chief Secretary Lee drives Yeon-jae to the airport himself, the mood rather light. He hands her some paperwork so she can sign her assets over to her scholarship foundation and recover them later. They then arrive at the airport and he sweetly asks for her hand as they go inside. Okay, he’s making me nervous… all these gestures feel like a very permanent goodbye.
Just as I’d feared, Lee sends his wife off with one last goodbye and then turns away with determination in his stride. As he exits the airport, he calls someone named CEO Song and asks him to come over to his office.
At Yongsan Police Station, the officers are perplexed to find none of Eun-soo’s blood on Yoon’s clothes. Frustrated, Team Leader Choi spits out that Yoon could’ve worn something different when he murdered her.
However, it looks like Yeo-jin is starting to have her doubts; she suggests they start looking for the person who’d bought the floral-pattern knife again. Before her team can respond, they turn to see Jung-bon. He’s here to see Yeo-jin and Gun, and is understandably saddened by Yoon’s surprising arrest.
Jung-bon looks at the group photo of the special unit, amazed that it was only taken a few days ago. They all wonder how they were completely clueless about Yoon, and Jung-bon voices his wishes for people to have clear warnings on their foreheads, stating things like “kind person” or “bad person.”
Yeo-jin agrees, saying that there are plenty of questionable people here in the station. When Jung-bon leaves, Gun pulls Yeo-jin aside and asks what her comment meant. She tells him that she suspects Team Leader Choi in particular, especially since he’d apologized to Kyung-wan the day before he posted the truth online.
Gun sighs that no one is truly good or evil and that they all just go with where their lives take them. If they just passively take that path, Yeo-jin asks, what would happen if they ended up somewhere unexpected? Touché.
Dong-jae visits Shi-mok with news: After snooping around the chief secretary’s office, he’s concluded that Lee and Yeon-jae are getting a divorce and that Lee is leaving the country. (It cracks me up that he never has the correct information.) Dong-jae is sure that Lee can’t be the killer.
Shi-mok brings up Yoon’s claim, but Dong-jae immediately waves it off. So Shi-mok reminds him that Young Il-jae was framed because he knew something. He tells Dong-jae that Eun-soo might’ve taken the files containing those secrets, and if she died because she had them, then the culprit could’ve been Chairman Lee. Or Chief Secretary Lee, Dong-jae realizes with disappointment.
Just then, Shi-mok gets a call that Young Il-jae is waiting downstairs, so he and Dong-jae hurry out to meet him. Young Il-jae is upset that Yoon is refusing any visitors, but Shi-mok guesses that that’s not the only reason why he came. He asks that Young Il-jae reveal the contents of the files.
So Young Il-jae finally tells all: Chairman Lee has been distributing his assets to his children since they were young and buying his subsidiaries’ shares. In doing so, he’d managed to evade hundreds of millions of won in taxes. Young knew that the children were involved and that if the investigation had been pushed forward, Yeon-jae would’ve been arrested for tax evasion.
Dong-jae figures out that in that case, Chief Prosecutor Lee would’ve had to choose between betraying Young or sending his wife to jail. Young Il-jae nods, saying that Lee even came to his house and got down on his knees, crying.
Young begs to see Yoon so he can find out what happened to his daughter. Young starts getting choked up, so Dong-jae places a hand over his and reassures him that all he has to do is trust that Shi-mok will bring the truth to light.
Dong-jae escorts Young Il-jae out and Young quietly apologizes for hitting Dong-jae during Eun-soo’s funeral, though Dong-jae finds that unimportant. He asks what the files look like, and Young answers that since he’d gathered them while at the prosecutor’s academy, they have the academy’s seal on them.
When Dong-jae returns to work, he sneaks into Lee’s office and tries to find anything with the seal on it. But Lee suddenly bursts in, making Dong-jae bolt up.
Dong-jae immediately reorganizes the desk, but Lee doesn’t even appear angry – he just comments on the fact that Dong-jae is here on his day off.
Dong-jae is still feeling uneasy, but Lee just hands him a letter to deliver (addressed to a scholarship foundation) and lets him go. Moments later, Lee is visited by the man named CEO Song.
Chief Secretary Lee tells CEO Song to get ready to sell the bank. However, he is worried that if the payment is directly deposited into his father-in-law’s account, it might get traced. CEO Song looks at him with confusion – the major shareholder is no longer Chairman Lee — it’s Lee Sung-min, Chief Secretary Lee’s brother-in-law.
Chief Secretary Lee’s smile instantly fades, realizing that this means his brother-in-law will receive all of the profit. He sends CEO Song out and then calls someone to take care of the documents that Yeon-jae had signed.
Lee then calls Bae Sang-wook, saying it’s been a long time. He tells the assemblyman that it’s only a matter of time before he gets into trouble, and they decide to make a deal to help each other out. Once Lee hangs up, he uncharacteristically props his feet on his coffee table and sits back as he listens to some music.
Meanwhile, Chairman Lee gets a call from CEO Song, who tells him about the chief secretary and how he hadn’t even known the major shareholder had changed. Chairman Lee wonders what his son-in-law is up to.
Shi-mok has Clerk Kim gather all the footage from the airport so they can get a better look at Yoon’s behavior. As they watch the footage, Clerk Kim notices that Yoon had acted pretty casual considering he was trying to flee – he’d gone from place to place, looking all around him. “He’s looking for someone,” Shi-mok says. Clerk Kim gasps, thinking it might’ve been an accomplice.
Shi-mok remembers asking Yoon why he’d been in a rush at the airport if he didn’t care about what happened to him, as well as Yoon’s refusal to answer. Bolting up, Shi-mok orders Clerk Kim to send Yoon to the interrogation room.
Once he’s in the room with Yoon, Shi-mok starts firing off questions about the girl he’d sent to Sungmoon Daily. Yoon answers each question correctly (and a little too fast). Next, Shi-mok asks why Yoon went to Sungmoon in the first place — how did he know the CEO would print the story?
Again, Yoon knows the answers a little too well. Shi-mok mentions this, but Yoon merely says that it was his job to collect intel. In that case, Shi-mok says, Yoon should relay the details of what he did over his one-year leave. How did he find out his information? Was it from someone else?
Yoon is practically sweating now, but he still won’t crack. Shi-mok leans on the table, switching to banmal as he says that Yoon must’ve gone to the airport to meet his accomplice.
And perhaps, Shi-mok continues, the accomplice killed Eun-soo and that’s why Yoon is insisting that he didn’t kill her. Shi-mok wonders if the accomplice betrayed him and ran off. “Or is he still here?” he asks.
Shi-mok knows from the airport footage that Yoon was trying to catch this accomplice – he’d gone from the ticketing booth to departures, scared that his accomplice had taken off without him. Shi-mok asks Yoon who it was. Yoon calmly states that he has nothing to say, making Shi-mok slam his fist on the table and shout, “Who is that bastard?!”
Shi-mok then slides out of his chair, walking around Yoon as he asks how he must’ve felt to see his special floral-pattern knife lying by Eun-soo’s side. Yoon must have known then that someone set him up to blame all of the murders on him.
Shi-mok: “You must’ve tried your damnedest to catch that bastard. Why? Because you consider yourself different from the psychos who kill without reason. You had the idea that it’d be okay to kill any criminal. And that’s why you’re even worse than those psychos.”
Shi-mok takes out the photo of the man with the umbrella and calls that man the real culprit before asking why Yoon is trying so hard to protect him. Yoon turns to him and firmly says that he will exercise his right to remain silent. Shi-mok shuts his case file, seemingly shutting away his frustration as well. He switches back to formal speech, saying that he knows Yoon has a reason for staying quiet — and he intends to find out why.
Chairman Lee calls Dong-jae into his office to ask if he was the rat who leaked the Matsuyama deal to Sungmoon. But Dong-jae manages to play it off, saying that he knew nothing about it.
But he does tell the chairman that he delivered a letter for Chief Secretary Lee – a letter to Yeon-jae’s scholarship foundation. Chairman Lee remains calm as Dong-jae leaves, but he’s furious to hear that his son-in-law is moving money without his permission.
Dong-jae gets Shi-mok on the phone, and Shi-mok quickly asks if the man with the umbrella might’ve been someone who worked with the chairman or chief secretary. Maybe even Secretary Woo?
Dong-jae doesn’t see why it would be Woo, but when he looks back at the photos, he does recognize the back of his head. His eyes widen as he asks if this is a coincidence, since Woo is no longer at the chairman’s office.
Knowing it can’t possibly be a coincidence, Shi-mok runs to his office and tells his clerk to check if Woo left Korea. He then grabs all the photos of his suspects and tries to narrow them down. “Someone who knew Secretary Woo,” he thinks. He places Chairman Lee and Yeon-jae on the board.
“Someone who knows about the CEO of Sungmoon’s jealousy.” He places Chief Secretary Lee and Young Il-jae on the board. “Someone who knew that Bae Sang-wook pressured the Incheon Prosecutor’s Office when the car accident occurred.” Yeon-jae’s photo is taken off…
“Someone who knew that Secretary Woo was leaving the country yesterday afternoon.” Young Il-jae’s photo is taken off, leaving only Chairman Lee and Chief Secretary Lee.
And finally, Shi-mok thinks, “Someone who would use Section Chief Yoon to chase after Secretary Woo.” He takes Chairman Lee’s photo… and crumples it up. Chief Secretary Lee is the only one left.
Still sitting in his office, Chief Secretary Lee thinks back to meeting Yoon late at night. Yoon had been shaking with anger (maybe even fear?), clutching something inside his jacket. Lee had grabbed Yoon’s arm and made him drop something covered in newspaper – a knife.
“Killing just that one dog,” Lee had said, “will make you nothing more than a butcher.” He’d told Yoon that if he was determined to see CEO Park bleed, he needed to hear him out first.
Lee then gets a call from his father-in-law, and he hits the record button before answering.
Back in Shi-mok’s office, Clerk Kim bursts in to announce that Secretary Woo did, in fact, leave Korea yesterday.
Goddammit, Lee Chang-joon! I wanted to believe in you! I didn’t think anything could top Yoon’s betrayal, but this really takes the cake. Shi-mok has always had Lee on his radar and made sure to make him know that, but as I’m sure we all did, there was this tiny part of Shi-mok that was hoping his superior wasn’t the one responsible for all of this. The man was the one who made Shi-mok decide what kind of prosecutor he wanted to be. So while their relationship has been hostile all series long, there was still this sense of a mentor/student relationship between them.
When they had that confrontation in the courtroom (when Lee had declared that he would never present himself as a defendant in front of Shi-mok), I wanted to believe that Lee was being so defensive because he really was innocent – because he was plotting something against the real Big Bad and he still wanted Shi-mok to trust him. But no, it turns out Lee is the Big Bad. That just hurts. But then again, I’m… not too sure. When have we ever been 100% sure of anything in this show? I still think that we’re dealing with at least one more person. Forest of Secrets has proved again and again that it’s an extremely smart show.
It’s made us suspect literally everyone – even our two heroes – and even when those we suspected were revealed to be a villain, it still came as a big hit. The fact that Lee has been a suspect from Episode 1 doesn’t make the reveal any less impactful. The shock and betrayal all came from built-up interest and admiration of his character. As we got a deeper look at his home life and his (twisted yet sweet) love life, the part of me that wanted to like him grew inch by inch. He’s definitely one of my favorite drama villains, and while I think his father-in-law is an actual villain – a man so deep in his corruption that he’s incapable of remorse – Lee was just a man who found himself going down the wrong path.
But once Lee was on that path, he seemed to think that it was too late to turn back. Even when he shows regret, you still see that he feels the need to move forward, like he needs to finish what he started. And that snap decision to keep moving forward in their terrible deeds is what separates the average person from the corrupt. And unfortunately, whether it’s in dramaland or real life, there’s far too many of the corrupt in law enforcement. We’ve seen that temptation is a powerful thing, and it takes a lot of strength to overcome it. But for some, the strength is already there. And it’s always nice to see that there are plenty people like that in the force too. For people like Shi-mok and Yeo-jin, there was no logical reason for them to take the darker path _ they care too much about serving justice for the people around them to take the “easy route” for themselves.
I was impressed with the acting before, but I think everyone truly shined in this episode. From Yoon’s retelling of his son’s story to Yeo-jin blaming herself for Eun-soo’s death, my emotions were flying everywhere. But it was Yoo Jae-myung as Lee Chang-joon that completely took me by surprise. He’s been absolutely stellar throughout the entire drama, but he was scary good in this episode. He had me hurting for him when he said goodbye to his wife, and then – in the blink of an eye – he had me fearing him as he immediately went back into cold business mode. I guess if he really has to be our big villain, there is no one better.
If there’s any complaint with this show, it’s that we didn’t get to spend as much time with Shi-mok and Yeo-jin as I wanted. We didn’t get to see too much of their pasts, and I just wanted to know a little more about them. Yeo-jin, in particular, was such a great heroine and I would’ve loved to see what shaped her into the woman she is today. But I’d say that’s more of a nitpick. If anything, I’m just upset that we don’t get any more episodes. Is it too much to ask for a Season 2? Everyone else is doing it at the moment! *cries*
- 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