Nobody Knows: Episode 16 (Final)
The time has come for us to bid farewell to Young-jin and her ducklings as we gear up for the final showdown between 2 decades-long foes and I’m sad to see them go. Nobody Knows isn’t without flaws, but for a show centered around corruption and murder, it had a surprisingly positive message of hope and love. All of the characters carry their own trauma, but the way they deal with it is what defines them. The boundary between good and evil is as simple as a choice and what you decide can result in justice or salvation.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
July 2018, Eun-ho sits in Young-jin’s apartment filling out a report for his school field trip to the botanical gardens. Seeing the ghost flower on his printout, Young-jin explains her friend shares its name. She’s curious why he no longer questions her about the spare room, and Eun-ho asks if there’s anything inside other than the stigmata serial killer casefiles. “My friend,” Young-jin answers. He asks if she wants to talk about it and when Young-jin nods, Eun-ho sits up to listen.
Young-jin drops Ki-ho off at the safehouse, but he slips out as soon as she’s gone. He’d left behind his tracker and a note for Young-jin that he’s searching for the evidence of Sang-ho’s sins in order to atone for his own. Meanwhile, Sang-ho angrily returns to the hotel and startles Hee-dong on his way out. Hee-dong attempts to hide something behind his back, but hands it over when Sang-ho demands it.
Staring down at Young-jin’s photo and Soo-jung’s cellphone, Sang-ho assumes Sun-ah is responsible, accusing them of abandoning him like Du-seok. Whimpering, Hee-dong recounts how Sang-ho saved him as a child from a vicious dog at the orphanage – after the other kids locked Hee-dong in the room with it – by thrusting his own arm in the dog’s mouth. “Sang-ho,” Hee-dong smiles shakily, “I can’t do anything when I’m not by your side.”
Sang-ho growls for Hee-dong to wait there before confronting Sun-ah in his office. Brandishing his murder trophies, Sang-ho demands if she’d manipulated Du-seok as well. Sun-ah breezily replies Du-seok was wavering and she’d been curious which path he’d choose. “Do you think I can’t see what your mind is doing?” Sang-ho spits, but Sun-ah wonders what her mind looks like in his eyes.
Pulling her into an embrace, Sang-ho admits knowing she worries when he’s not around. Hugging him close, Sun-ah says she’s never heard better words since the ones he’d said when he saved her life. Sang-ho offers to repeat them, but we don’t hear what he says. Afterwards, he sits in his chair and looks at the empty room, previously occupied by his grunts, and thinks back to the murder of Hee-jung.
Just as Sang-ho raised the awl to pierce her hands, Sang-won entered the room. He wanted to hear her speak but Hee-jung immediately began screeching, trying to negotiate for her life. Sang-won was unreceptive to more of Hee-jung’s orders and once Sang-ho gagged her once more, Sang-won took the awl and finished the ritual himself. Now, Sang-ho tsks at Ki-ho’s suggestion Sang-won didn’t kill Hee-jung.
Recalling Ki-ho’s promise to keep Sang-ho’s secret if he leaves Eun-ho alone, Sang-ho sighs, “The choice has become too easy, thanks to you.” He and Hee-dong head out while Eun-ho stashes his sketches – of the ghost flower, the photograph, and the cellphone – when Sun-woo enters his room. At the mention of their connection, Sun-woo guesses Eun-ho is worried about Ji-won not wanting an older brother. He argues it’d be a shame if Eun-ho didn’t take care of her like he’d intended, and Eun-ho smiles.
The door flies open as Sang-ho forces his way inside, threatening to kill them if they act out. He holds up his phone to reveal Hee-dong stalking Mom for further leverage and moves towards Eun-ho, but Sun-woo blocks his path, offering himself instead. Sang-ho doesn’t bite, insisting Eun-ho is his because he saved him. He throws Sun-woo aside and Eun-ho, fearing for his mother, agrees to come.
Sun-woo attempts to hold Sang-ho back and suffers a brutal beating until Eun-ho pleads for him to stop. Unfortunately, Eun-ho’s notebook fell to the floor in the chaos, and seeing the drawings, Sang-ho knows Eun-ho saw everything in the study. He warns Eun-ho to be obedient or else Hee-dong will kill Mom.
Young-jin is returning after dropping the teacup with Sang-ho’s DNA off at the lab when Sun-woo regains consciousness and calls her. She’s barely made it to the end of the hall before her phone rings again, echoing Sang-ho’s call 20 years prior. Sang-ho laughs at the memory while Young-jin simply demands he put Eun-ho on the phone. Sang-ho attempts to toy with her, but Young-jin is positive he wouldn’t end things so quickly.
Impressed, he concedes Eun-ho is alive and Young-jin suggests they meet. Sang-ho tells her come alone and Young-jin races over to the hotel. “I’ll open all the doors for you,” Sang-ho says, “but you won’t be able to open the last one so easily.” Sure enough, the elevator takes her up to the 10th floor, but her path is blocked by Hee-dong. She asks him where she should go, and Hee-dong sneers they’re over because of her.
Young-jin repeats her question, ignoring Hee-dong’s threat to kill her. He grabs her by the neck and slams her against a wall, but she swiftly maneuvers out of his grip and pulls him to the ground. They grapple until Young-jin grabs the glass ashtray and finally cuffs him. Finding the study locked and Hee-dong unwilling to open it, Young-jin cocks her pistol. From the rooftop, Sang-ho and Eun-ho hear two shots and Sang-ho chuckles Young-jin must be mad. “Young-jin is no different than me,” Sang-ho tells Eun-ho, “She kills if she has a reason.”
Only Young-jin didn’t shoot Hee-dong and there’s a smoking hole in the study keypad. She flings open the door and Hee-dong abruptly stops laughing when she steps aside to reveal Sun-ah bleeding out on the floor from stigmata wounds. Young-jin quickly uncuffs Hee-dong, ordering him to save Sun-ah. Scooping up Sun-ah, Heed-dong tells Young-jin to head for the roof. She takes the stairs, leaving the elevator for Hee-dong and Sun-ah.
Young-jin bursts onto the roof, aiming her gun at Sang-ho, who in turn holds a knife to Eun-ho’s throat. They each demand the other drop their weapon but neither complies. Sang-ho refuses to release Eun-ho, so Young-jin fires two more shots into the air. He finally drops the knife, laughing, and Young-jin re-holsters her gun. Sang-ho concedes he has no intention to harm Eun-ho: “The moment he jumped off here, I fell for this guy.”
Sang-ho tuts they’re only loving Eun-ho in their own ways. Young-jin again asks to release Eun-ho but Sang-ho points out Eun-ho already knows about Soo-jung. He tsks at Young-jin for telling a child such a horrible story, and marvels over Eun-ho keeping his composure after realizing who Sang-ho was and then leaping from the rooftop to save himself. Sang-ho insists Eun-ho should hear the rest of the story.
We once again flash back to the day of Hee-jung’s murder. Seo Sang-won suggested blessing Young-jin with the resurrection but Sang-ho argued she should be the witness to testify as Young-jin had searched for them for 20 years. He’d then offered himself up, emphasizing the honor of leading the resurrected with the final blessing. Sang-won falls for the manipulation, desiring the glory himself.
With Hee-jung barely alive, Sang-ho warned Sang-won to leave her until they find Ki-ho. Soon after, Sang-ho received the report from Du-seok at the hospital and ordered Du-seok to follow Eun-ho. Sang-ho tells them now he’d been amused to discover Eun-ho not only lived downstairs from Young-jin, but they were friends. “I think I was meant to kill Soo-jung instead of Young-jin,” Sang-ho muses, wondering how Eun-ho would’ve turned out had he met Soo-jung instead.
Sang-ho insists at least Eun-ho wouldn’t be in this situation, declaring Young-jin to blame. Young-jin asks if he blamed Sang-won and that’s why he reinvigorated the older man’s madness and pierced his hands. Sang-ho guffaws Seo Sang-won believed only his own hand could administer the stigmata. Young-jin asks if Sang-won did it himself and Sang-ho answers, “That’s why we need a witness. An honest witness.”
Placing Young-jin’s business card on the alter, Sang-ho timed the video message to be sent in the near future. He then watched Seo Sang-won plunge the awl into his own hand, musing how after every whipping, Sang-won said: “Be grateful to receive the sacred pain. And you will be a believer who doesn’t get swayed by any temptation.” He told Sang-won it wasn’t too late to stop but Sang-won smiled and asked Sang-ho to help him finish.
On the rooftop, Sang-ho assured Seo Sang-won he need only wait a little longer. Hearing someone approach the building, Sang-ho peered over the ledge to see Young-jin. He’d gleefully informed Sang-won Young-jin came early and of her own accord (as she didn’t receive the text he’d sent until after discovering the body). Sang-won smiled, “She is indeed appropriate to become the witness of my resurrection.”
Sang-ho doesn’t believe Sang-won’s hand slipped, insisting Young-jin let go. Young-jin knows he watched since there was DNA found in the machine room on the roof that matched the recorder from Eun-ho’s room. Seo Sang-won called out to someone as he fell and Young-jin now realizes it was Sang-ho, who’d slipped into the machine room moments before Young-jin arrived on the roof.
As Young-jin struggled to keep hold of Seo Sang-won, Sang-ho quietly urged her to let go, wishing her to stay alive until they meet. Sang-won screamed, “My lamb that’s been lost in the world. My apostle and my child! I give you the blessing of faith with my resurrection!” Sang-ho tutted that he’s an adult now and can take care of himself just as Sang-won plummeted to the ground.
Afterwards, he’d snickered as Young-jin cuffed Sang-won’s body: “I like you. It was wise of me to kill Soo-jung instead of you.” Young-jin questions the kind of life he’s lead and Sang-won muses that while the mother who abandoned him cried while beating him, Sang-won saved him and smiled while beating him. Young-jin points out it was his choice to become a monster and he must’ve found comfort in making others like him.
Sang-ho shrugs and sits on the railing. Young-jin asks if she can release Eun-ho and with Sang-ho’s permission, unties the boy. He immediately asks after Mom and Sun-woo, who Young-jin assures him are fine. Taking her hand, Eun-ho begs to go home but Young-ji apologizes, insisting she needs to know how Soo-jung died. Eun-ho explains this is why he wished she’d never know if something happened to him and Young-jin smiles he’s all grown up.
Standing on the ledge, Sang-ho warns her life will be harder knowing but Young-jin demands why he chose Soo-jung over her. Sang-ho can’t understand her so Young-jin explains she’d taken Soo-jung for granted, taking strength from the comfort of always having her friend beside her. “I want to remember her and feel sad for her,” Young-jin answers, “Because that’s all I can do now.” Sang-ho refuses so Young-jin will instead remember him every day. She asks why he’d deemed it a wise choice to let her live, knowing he must’ve planned to kill her the day before Soo-jung because her picture went missing.
Young-jin says he must’ve been waiting for her but suddenly changed his mind and only took her picture. That had been July 31, 2000 and he’d murdered Soo-jung to following day, August 1, 2000 at midnight… Young-jin asks if it was still wise when killing her as intended would’ve fallen outside of Tae Wan’s Law (the abolishment of the statute of limitations) thereby disappearing once the time limit was up.
Alas, he’d chosen to kill Soo-jung the following day and her murder has no statute. Young-jin confesses if she’d caught him after the statute of limitations expired, her only option would’ve been to kill him: “Fortunately, I was given another choice.” Sang-ho says he changed his mind because Soo-jung had other friends while she was Young-jin’s only friend. Between the two of them, Young-jin was sure to suffer longer, and he told Soo-jung as much before killing her.
She realizes the third call that night was from him and Sang-ho admits he’d told Soo-jung he’d spare her if Young-jin answered. Young-jin asks if he would’ve kept his word but Sang-ho laughs she knew his face and name so there was no way he’d let her go. He recites teenage Young-jin’s vow to find him and kill him and spreads his arms wide, smirking it’s time to execute her promise. Young-jin says she’s not the same person and Sang-ho produces Soo-jung’s phone.
Soo-jung’s last words are recorded on it and Young-jin asks to hear them. Sang-ho wonders if she’ll be okay and Young-jin says she’ll know after she listens. He hits play and Soo-jung’s voice asks to speak to her parents, begging them not to be sad. Addressing Young-jin, she confirms Young-jin’s assumption the victims felt angry and frustrated to end their lives like this: “So… I decided to think about happy and fun memories only. You’re also part of them.”
Young-jin cries out in anguish before leveling a glare at Sang-ho. To Eun-ho’s horror, she joins him on the ledge. She reaches for Soo-jung’s phone and Sang-ho drops it to the ground below. Grabbing him by the collar, Young-jin cries that she’ll kill him as he wanted. Sang-ho smiles that revenge is what she wanted. “Fine. I’ll let you go…” Young-jin says and Sang-ho closes his eyes, leaning back serenely, “to hell.”
She swings him back over the railing and Sang-ho looks up to see Eun-ho desperately gripping Young-jin’s ankle. She suggests they go home and as Sang-ho watches them he flashes through his past with Seo Sang-won. Imagining Young-jin opening the door instead, Sang-ho wonders: “If it’d been you, would my life have changed?” Young-jin throws him fully onto the roof and officially arrests him, reading his rights.
Sun-woo wakes up in the hospital, relieved to hear Eun-ho is okay. Young-jin’s team joins them on the roof as Sang-ho spits she’ll regret this choice the rest of her life. Expressionless, Young-jin asks about Sun-ah and Ja-young reports she’s stable and Hee-dong has been arrested. Sang-ho is stunned they’re alive and laughs maniacally as he’s lead away. Jae-hong vows to never be late again.
“You were never late. It’s just I never waited for you,” Young-jin confesses, promising to try and wait from now on. She apologizes to Eun-ho and he says it’s unavoidable when you have a superhero neighbor. “You’re my hero,” Eun-ho reiterates and Young-jin says it’s cringey. He’s relieved she’s smiling and Young-jin bursts into tears.
Young-jin visits Sun-woo in the hospital, admitting she’d thought he was bluffing when he said he’d rather get hurt than someone else. Sun-woo jokes he didn’t know it would hurt so much. She says she’s heading home, smiling when Sun-woo thanks her. Mom watches Eun-ho sleep as Young-jin climbs up to her apartment and crashes on the couch.
Young-jin wakes up in bed and smiles out the window as Eun-ho walks to school. She curls up on the couch as Eun-ho’s classmates greet him. The bullies ask about his book, this time sincerely and ask to borrow it when he’s done. Hee-seob tells Sun-woo they’ll be separating the foundation from the church, lamenting that means they won’t fulfill Sun-woo’s father’s wish to build a college.
Sun-woo wonders why he cares so much when Sun-woo doesn’t and Hee-seob says it’s because they’re family. Hee-seob promises to run the foundation clean and hand it over but Sun-woo says he feels being a teacher suits him perfectly. He heads to class and notices Dong-myeong’s empty desk. He wonders aloud if they should start without him, smiling proudly when the students refuse. Dong-myeong slips in and Eun-ho and Min-sung smile as Sun-woo starts class.
On break, Eun-ho calls Young-jin, who’s still snoozing on the couch. He tells her to be more active and she sleepily mumbles tomorrow. Hee. Eun-ho tells her to pick him up and feed him. At the gate, she calls out to Dong-myeong and Min-sung, inviting them to join her and Eun-ho for food. She tells the boys to order as much as they want and eyes the boys suspiciously, asking whether they hang out or eat together at school.
They don’t and Eun-ho laughs they’re a bit eccentric. Min-sung calls him a kid and Eun-ho retorts he talks to Hwang every day on the phone. Min-sung balks but Dong-myeong confirms he’d told Eun-ho after Min-sung was on the phone all day instead of working at the farm. Smiling, Young-jin calls Hwang to join them. Min-sung makes a call (to his mother’s lawyer) that he won’t be attending cram school. Hwang joins them and they all chatter happily.
Tae-hyung pulls up in front of a house to find Sun-woo waiting, realizing Young-jin must’ve told him. Sun-woo says he was worried Tae-hyung wouldn’t trust anyone because of people like him and Sang-ho and apologizes for not trusting Tae-hyung when he was younger. Tae-hyung argues it’s too late – he became someone worthy of suspicion after hitting Sun-woo. Shrugging, Sun-woo says he should apologize and Tae-hyung bows deeply. Sun-woo apologizes again and then helps Tae-hyung move into his new house.
Young-sik finally speaks to the detectives, comforted by their assurance that keeping him safe is their duty and while he’s responsible for his own life, they can help. Officer Hong drops off records of Seo Sang-won’s movements to the office at Superintendent Han’s request. Byung-hee grumbles prosecution had pestered them for all the records but Han points out they won’t investigate, so the team happily volunteers. In prison, Du-seok gets dialysis while Hee-dong stares at his blistered hands and Sun-ah reads.
Returning home, Young-jin finds Jae-hong and Ja-young waiting outside. They report the progress of the case, saying everyone confessed to their crimes and the statements match. Young-jin wonders why they didn’t just call, but the pair say they wanted to deliver a message in person: “All of us are waiting for you.”
In the park, Young-jin and Sun-woo watch Eun-ho play with Ji-won. She muses Eun-ho looks happy, thinking he was lonely than she’d realized. Sun-woo smiles Eun-ho’s affection for Ji-won is the polar opposite of lonely and asks if she’ll attend Sang-ho’s trial. She’s saved from answering by a phone call from Mom asking her to dinner. She hangs up and reiterates it to Sun-woo with a wary expression.
They leave and Ji-won runs up to take Young-jin’s hand, asking if she’ll hang out again. Young-jin thinks she isn’t much fun, but Ji-won likes her anyway and with a smile, Young-jin says she likes Ji-won too. Eun-ho joins Sun-woo who teases by calling him nephew and asking if he wants to hold hands too. At home, Mom unpacks food for dinner with Eun-ho and Young-jin while Ki-ho mails a package addressed to Young-jin.
The next day, Young-jin meets Hwang and Soo-jung’s mother. She asks why Young-jin didn’t attend the trial and Young-jin confesses she was worried she’d regret not leaving him to die. Taking her hand, Soo-jung’s mom praises Young-jin for making the right choice, noting it looked like Sang-ho’s world was full of hell. Speak of the devil, Sang-ho is deposited back in solitary and he curls into a blanket, mentally transporting back to the room his mother had abandoned him in.
Hwang says he heard Young-jin hasn’t asked to be reinstated, wondering if she’s maintaining Soo-jung’s case will be her last. Young-jin asks if he meant what he said about their duty to find hope and Hwang congratulates her in advance for her reinstatement. Meanwhile, the boys leave school and seeing something, Eun-ho tells Dong-myeong and Min-sung to go ahead. He sits down with Ki-ho, who apologizes.
Eun-ho hopes Ki-ho won’t consider his actions a gift from God, as it was his choice. Ki-ho says he broke many kids’ hearts in the past and Eun-ho points out he used to be a heartbroken kid too. Eun-ho says he used to be anxious every night until Young-jin moved in and Ki-ho wishes he would’ve been that kind of grownup, thinking it too late. “Aren’t you going to be a grownup until the day you die?” Eun-ho asks and Ki-ho agrees.
The package arrives and Young-jin stares at the recorder until night falls and she finally gathers the courage to hit play. Sometime later, Eun-ho plucks a book from her shelves and walks into the spare room, which is now just a regular study. He places the book (“The Life Before Us”) on the shelf and walks out, deciding to leave the door open. A bird flies out the open window, soaring over the road Young-jin is driving. Eun-ho calls and she promises she’ll be home on time.
Young-jin stands in the forest clearing – looping back to the opening scene of the show – and sees Soo-jung smiling up at her. It fades into the past as teenage Young-jin and Soo-jung walk home together, laughing and gossiping. Later, Young-jin sits on her couch reading while Eun-ho waters the plants. She goes to stand beside him and then they leave the apartment.
What a bittersweet ending. If I had any complaints about this show, they’re super nitpicky and minor. The whole book thing got a tad frustrating and turned out not to be all that important in the end as Young-jin managed to throw Sang-ho in jail even without the damning videotape. The ending, although perfectly fitting, was a little anticlimactic for me. Perhaps my issue is I wish they’d wrapped up the resolution in half the time and spent even more of the episode on Young-jin and her ducklings. Maybe I’m just greedy.
I appreciate things weren’t knotted into perfect bows and certain things were left somewhat open. It’s unclear whether Hee-seob came clean to Sun-kyung as he’d planned or if Ji-won is aware Eun-ho is her brother yet, but it was sweet to see the kids together, especially under that caring guidance of Sun-woo and Young-jin. I’m thrilled they’re still hanging out and although this drama was never meant to be a romance and part of me is thankful it didn’t try, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fully on board with this ship and wouldn’t have loved seeing any progress. Even just a little more of Sun-woo’s adorable crushing on Young-jin. They’re such a great pair, I hope they continue to guide kids and solve crimes.
As I said at the top, despite the dark content, this show had a strong positive message. It was about hope and how you can rise from trauma and pain if you have someone supporting you. Sang-ho realized that too late, and it was heartbreaking to imagine how he could’ve turned out if he’d been found by someone like Young-jin rather than Seo Sang-won… What Young-jin said was true – he made a choice – but given a chance, he might’ve made a different one. Unfortunately, he wasn’t given just one choice, but many. And he continued to go down the wrong path. Sun-woo, Tae-hyung, Eun-ho, Min-sung, Dong-myeong…. They all made some poor choices, but they all took steps to course correct.
No one is “good” or “bad” inherently, it’s a choice we make and must continue to make all our lives. Sometimes it’s big choices – like whether or not to throw a murderous sociopath off the roof of his blackmail-acquired hotel and be done with it – or everyday choices, like admitting when you’re wrong. I didn’t know how much I needed a “good adult” drama until watching Nobody Knows and seeing adults not behave like children. Every time a character apologized to another, especially someone “below” them, either in status or age, it just made me cry happy tears, like Young-jin admitting to Jae-hong that he’s never been late, she’s always been the one running in without waiting for him.
All in all, I really enjoyed this drama. The cast was phenomenal, and I am full-on in love with Kim Seo-Hyung and her portrayal of Young-jin. With the exception of the book and perhaps a hair too many flashbacks, the writing was solid throughout and delivered a story that resonated. While I am generally not a fan of extended finales, I would be perfectly happy watching an extra half hour of these characters just having fun together and I’m excited to see how these young actors grow in future projects. Thanks so much for watching with me! See y’all in the next one.