Forest of Secrets 2: Episode 12
Now that our missing prosecutor case has stalled again, the police and prosecution turn their attention back to the ever-present issue of investigative authority. Both sides prepare for the second Police-Prosecution Council meeting, and the leaders are still just as unwilling to compromise. But not everyone is ready to move on from the kidnapping case, and the stress of the situation may be affecting our righteous prosecutor more than he realizes.
We flashback to Ki-hyuk first learning of the reward money through the video of Dong-jae’s wife pleading for information. Yeo-jin reports to Chief Choi that Ki-hyuk indeed intentionally chose Joong-gi from the lineup since he’s a cop.
They’re upset they have to turn him over to the prosecution, and Chief Choi argues this is why they need investigative authority. Chief Choi: “Tell Prosecutor Hwang thank— good work.” Pfft. Shi-mok, meanwhile, is updating Tae-ha who is clearly not having a good day. Yeo-jin passes along Chief Choi’s message and asks Shi-mok to grab a drink with her.
Elsewhere, Chief Choi and Tae-ha meet for some PPL coffee and a chat. Tae-ha wants her opinion on whether he should talk to Kwang-soo’s wife to see what she told Shi-mok, but Chief Choi isn’t worried about her. If someone came to her claiming her late husband was doing Hanjo’s dirty work, but they covered it up since he was a former prosecutor …
In a flashback, we see Tae-ha telling Kwang-soo’s wife that they may be forced to reinvestigate her husband’s activities prior to his death. The prosecutor in charge (Shi-mok) didn’t even know her husband, so he encourages her not to say anything about Hanjo or drinking “if you care about your husband and the prosecutors who covered for him back then.” She replies that of course she cares.
We fade back to Chief Choi saying that she’d never tell anyone anything in that situation. Tae-ha thinks they’re in good shape with Hanjo and Kwang-soo’s wife staying silent, but he can tell something is bothering Chief Choi. She shocks him by saying there’s someone else who might know: Oh Joo-seon.
Chief Choi relates what Joo-seon said about his dead colleague in Namyangju when he came to her office as Director Kim’s lawyer. She discovered that Joo-seon volunteered for the case and was brought in by the higher ups who want Director Kim’s actions to stay hidden.
Joo-seon has called her twice since they met, making her wonder if he knows something about Kwang-soo. She’s considering meeting up with him to feel him out, but Tae-ha worries he could cause problems.
Tae-ha regrets not taking Shi-mok off the team sooner, but Chief Choi points out he’s the reason they learned the witness was lying. He notes that Shi-mok and Yeo-jin seem to share everything; is she going to leave Yeo-jin alone? She thinks the council meetings will distract them.
As Yeo-jin drinks and Shi-mok munches on cabbage, Yeo-jin wonders if the culprit will send them anything else, but Shi-mok reminds her it’s only been two days since the photo was sent. Shi-mok raises the possibility that the photo wasn’t sent by the real culprit. He suddenly muses about how even deer can hit your car sometimes, leaving Yeo-jin naturally confused.
He says that the wife of someone who got in a fatal car accident (with a low blood alcohol level) says her husband drank regularly while his secretary says the opposite. Yeo-jin thinks it sounds like the wife is getting back at her husband for being a drunk. Why else respond to her husband’s death under the influence by saying he sometimes drank a lot?
Shi-mok gives her the rundown of the Kwang-soo case and explains that Dong-jae was looking into it right before he went missing. She doesn’t see how it’s related but can tell Shi-mok thinks it might be. It suddenly hits Yeo-jin that the case happened under Chief Choi’s jurisdiction, making her wonder if Dong-jae was targeting Chief Choi again.
She starts looking up articles and notes that he was in the 25th class. Shi-mok has a realization and calls Chief Prosecutor Kang. Without even saying hello, he just asks if he was in the 25th class. Pfft. Chief Prosecutor Kang tells Shi-mok he can stop by the office the following day.
Shi-mok gets a text from Tae-ha about the next council meeting, but Yeo-jin hasn’t heard anything. She calls Chief Choi who’s surprised she already knows and guesses Shi-mok must’ve told her. She thinks of Tae-ha’s comment that they seem to tell each other everything.
Yeo-jin’s eyes go wide when Chief Choi tells her the investigation is over – their office only got involved since cops were suspects. While Chief Choi speculates that they won’t find Dong-jae alive, we cut to a bound, unmoving Dong-jae. Someone shakes him and removes his blindfold and gag, but he looks pale and remains unresponsive. Oh, no. Chief Choi continues they should hand over the case before they get blamed.
The following day, Tae-ha refuses to let Shi-mok continue investigating, saying it’s not their case anymore. When he berates Shi-mok for not doing a better job, Sa-hyun steps in to tell Shi-mok that a new minister might be appointed, which spells bad news for the prosecution. (Aw, look at him being all sensitive.)
Tae-ha orders Shi-mok to prepare the reformation proposal. He wants to prove they’re able to conduct their own internal investigations without needing the police. Tae-ha is back in council mode and reiterates that they have to ensure nothing changes with investigative authority. Later, Sa-hyun dumps an ungodly number of documents related to the proposal on Shi-mok’s desk, telling him the rest is in the cloud.
Elsewhere, a blank-faced Joong-gi is released from custody. As he walks outside, he wishes he’d never allowed his officers to take bribes.
At the National Police Agency, Chief Choi directs Yeo-jin to pull data from the past nine years that demonstrates the prosecution’s screening system is ineffective. She wants her to find abuse of authority cases as well. Yeo-jin doesn’t look thrilled at the prospect but dutifully begins combing through data.
And we finally catch up with Yeon-jae and her shadow Director Park who is giving her a status report. It seems things are looking up for the moment. Yeon-jae wonders whether she should call Joo-seon off – if things stay this quiet, it’s not necessary to dig into Chief Choi.
Director Park agrees they shouldn’t draw attention to themselves and carefully notes, “Most importantly, the person who brought up Choi Bit is now gone.” He leaves looking suspiciously happy that Yeon-jae agreed to go home early. But returns immediately to report that Joo-seon set up a meeting with Chief Choi.
She sends Director Park to meet with Joo-seon since she’s sure the police are up to something; there’s no way Chief Choi would just agree to meet. Yeo-jin instructs him to prepare cash, and if Chief Choi doesn’t have ulterior motives for meeting, give Joo-seon enough info to help him get intel. Don’t mention the vacation home or Dong-jae.
Director Park goes in some vault containing mountains of cash and casually drops what looks to be enough cash to pay my student loan in a bag. He then meets Joo-seon and hands the money over to pay his “expenses.” When Director Park questions Chief Choi’s decision to meet, Joo-seon asserts it’s only because he asked for info on Director Kim.
Joo-seon gets visibly nervous when Director Park checks that he hasn’t told anyone that he’s working with them. Director Park stares at him unsettlingly and asks menacingly if he should pay Joo-seon’s wife a visit, but Joo-seon assures Director Park he didn’t tell her anything. It’s just that he needed to get info on Kwang-soo, so he got drinks with Chief Prosecutor Kang who knew Kwang-soo.
Yeon-jae is aghast that he went to Chief Prosecutor Kang, especially because she knows that Shi-mok will go to him too. Now two people will be asking about Kwang-soo, which is bound to arouse suspicion. On top of that, Chief Prosecutor Kang said he didn’t even keep in touch with Kwang-soo after they graduated. She orders Director Park to have Joo-seon arrange meetings with both Chief Choi and Chief Prosecutor Kang.
At the Supreme Office, Tae-ha is not happy when he sees that Shi-mok’s proposal includes suggesting law changes. Tae-ha throws a fit at his mention of political bias and the Constitution and demands Shi-mok redo almost all of it. Shi-mok’s attempt at explanation just makes it worse, so Sa-hyun sends him out.
Sa-hyun appeals to Tae-ha, saying Shi-mok is allowed his own opinion. Tae-ha is not in the mood to be contradicted and throws him out too. Sa-hyun pulls Shi-mok aside to ensure he understands the situation. He acknowledges that Shi-mok did his job well, but in proving the culprit wasn’t a cop, he threw a wrench in the proceedings.
Shi-mok asks if he’s supposed to apologize, but Sa-hyun just doesn’t want him to take Tae-ha’s anger personally. Aw. Something on Sa-hyun’s shelf catches Shi-mok’s eye on his way out but we don’t see what.
In the main office, Shi-mok asks the assistant which prosecution branches charged Ki-hyuk, and one of them (Seongnam) seems to stand out to him. Meanwhile, Yeo-jin details her report to Chief Choi, arguing that the reason the police indict at a higher rate is that they take on far more cases, not that they indict indiscriminately.
At the next council meeting, Yeo-jin presents an abuse of authority case wherein a tax official who took bribes was let go by the prosecution after the police spent a year tracking him abroad. His brother was a deputy chief prosecutor, and he palled around with other prosecutors on the golf course who made reservations using fake names. If there were no corruption, the police would’ve been able to get a warrant – it was denied.
Sa-hyun counters with a case in which a tax official was accused of taking bribes only for it to be discovered that the true culprit was a police officer. Director Shin argues that they suspended him. Sa-hyun then mentions a chief who pressured that same precinct to leave a law-breaking demolition company alone since it’s CEO was his old classmate. That demolition company was left out of the materials given to the prosecution. Were the police to have the power to close cases, the company would’ve gone free.
Chief Choi says they’re here to try to better the system and make sure citizens aren’t wronged. This argument has spanned decades, but for the first time, the public is disappointed in the prosecution and supporting the police in this fight. Tae-ha admits the prosecution needs to change but doesn’t think turning the country into a “police state” is the way.
They go back and forth over who’s better suited, insulting each other and getting nowhere. Director Shin recites that prosecutors only lead investigations 4% of the time, but Shi-mok jumps in to correct his skewed statistic. That number refers to when a prosecutor directly intervenes from the start because of coerced investigations and the like.
Chief Choi accuses them of only trying to protect their privileges while pretending this is about human rights. Shi-mok argues that it’s not about privileges but maintaining the rights to investigate and indict given by the citizens. Chief Choi thinks those rights should be separated to prevent over-indicting.
Yeo-jin brings up that the police have no ability to investigate the prosecution – the police were able to summon a prosecutor (not counting DUIs and accidents) only once in their history. Tae-ha snaps that they can point fingers too, and Chief Choi blurts out that they could talk about corrupt prosecutors all day.
Gun speaks up, “It’s like watching a National Assembly meeting. You’re taking sides and fighting each other no matter what the issue is.” Thank you, sir! That effectively chastens everyone, and they decide to take a break.
Right then, Shi-mok gets one of his attacks. He tries to hide his pain, but Yeo-jin notices from across the table. He manages to slowly get up and walk out, leaving everyone confused by his abrupt exit. They’re even more confused when Yeo-jin runs out after him.
She catches up to Shi-mok while he stumbles down the hall and helps him sit in the stairwell. It seems they’ve decided to end for the day. While they all file out, Sa-hyun and Tae-ha wonder what’s going on with Shi-mok and Yeo-jin.
In the stairwell, Yeo-jin breathes a sigh of relief when Shi-mok nods that he’s okay. Yeo-jin notes he’s gotten stronger and pats his back comfortingly as she praises him for enduring the pain well. She then runs to get him a cold drink.
As they’re leaving, Chief Choi calls Tae-ha to tell him about her meeting with Joo-seon. She’s suspicious when he says he wants to go too, but she sends him the address after he says he’s concerned about her bearing it alone.
Yeo-jin tells Shi-mok that she sent a text to everyone saying that he wasn’t feeling well, so they all left. They probably think he has bad diarrhea. When he looks up at her, she defensively says she wasn’t about to them that she had it. Aw, he smiles! His first smile of the season.
Yeo-jin takes a swig of his drink and sighs that she was worried. When he apologizes, she gives him a hard thwack on the back like old times. Ha! He gets irritated but denies it, which Yeo-jin finds hilarious. Shi-mok complains he’s having trouble breathing now. Pfft.
Yeo-jin gives him a ride, and Shi-mok wants to accompany Yeo-jin to Yongsan, but she thinks he should rest. Even if there’s nothing new, he wants to check. Yeo-jin concernedly says that people can turn up fine after being missing, so he shouldn’t stress too much.
She guesses that he planned to visit Yongsan after the meeting to work on Dong-jae’s case, but the meeting kept dragging on with all their fighting. That’s probably why he got so stressed. It’s only when she correctly suspects that his head was fine in Tongyeong that he seems to consider she’s right.
Yeo-jin finds it funny that they were arguing just a short while ago. Shi-mok clarifies that he wasn’t saying the police can’t be trusted. For her part, Yeo-jin admits that getting investigative rights won’t solve everything either. When she explains that she didn’t say that at the meeting because it’s better to wait, Shi-mok observes that she was never the type to postpone things.
Elsewhere, Chief Choi and Tae-ha arrive for the meeting at Hanjo Hotel. The location tells them that Joo-seon must be working for Hanjo. They’re instructed to turn off their phones, but they’re thrown when Yeon-jae is the one waiting for them.
In another room, Joo-seon meets with Chief Prosecutor Kang. Joo-seon claims he’s torn about what to do and appeals to Chief Prosecutor Kang. He shows him a financial statement (given to him by Director Park) and whispers conspiratorially that it’s for Hanjo Engineering.
Meanwhile, Yeon-jae greets her guests. She’s never met Chief Choi, but she met Tae-ha at her husband’s funeral. Yeon-jae claims Kwang-soo mentioned Tae-ha and asks how they met. It was at the Incheon office. In a flashback, Tae-ha receives a text from Kwang-soo with an address.
Yeon-jae knows Tae-ha’s role, but she’s unsure how Chief Choi got involved. “Why did Lawyer Park die?” she asks them. While Director Park watches and listens from yet another room, Tae-ha throws Yeon-jae’s question back at her. “What did you do to Lawyer Park?”
I had assumed that everyone involved in the Kwang-soo case was more aware of each other’s roles, but it doesn’t seem that way. I can’t tell who knows the truth of Kwang-soo’s death at this point. We know that Tae-ha and Chief Choi had a role in hiding Kwang-soo’s shady dealings with Hanjo, but it’s anyone’s guess whether either of them is involved deeper than that. And how is that vacation home Yeon-jae mentioned relevant? I remember Tae-ha nervously asking Shi-mok about a vacation home a couple episodes ago, so I’m guessing it’s that same one Yeon-jae was talking about.
Tae-ha is getting more unglued as the stress ratchets up. He’s even starting to alienate Sa-hyun, his staunch ally in the beginning. It’s kind of adorable how Sa-hyun is all Team Shi-mok now, taking him under his wing. In the beginning, Tae-ha was the one telling Sa-hyun to give Shi-mok a break, but now it’s flipped. I think he realizes Shi-mok isn’t being willfully disrespectful but instead just doesn’t fully get the social protocol. I’m genuinely surprised at how much nicer Sa-hyun is coming off lately. He was super annoying early on, but he’s grown on me. I think he might just be insecure and try too hard.
It’s interesting that Shi-mok didn’t even connect his attacks with stress. He’s usually so good at putting pieces together, but I guess if he doesn’t process stress psychologically, it would be hard to link the two. At least he’s got Yeo-jin who knows his condition and can help him connect the dots. I loved seeing them interact like old times. Everything this season has been so serious and grim that watching Shi-mok smile and Yeo-jin laugh was really refreshing. With everyone exhausted and jaded, some levity is sorely needed.
Round two of the council went about as well as round one. I’m not sure what they expect this council to solve or if it’s really expected to solve anything. There’s no plan – it’s just people talking at each other. I feel like it’s more for show than anything, a way for the organizations to show good faith and say, “See? We’re doing something.” But it’s so haphazard and vague that I don’t see how they’ll manage to agree on a proposal. Gun was like the audience mouthpiece, wondering what the point of it all is if they’re just fighting for the sake of fighting. They need to find some way to work together or it’s all just a waste of time.
We finally got a glimpse of Dong-jae, and it is not looking good. He really looked dead there, but with a show like this, I need to see confirmation that he’s dead to fully believe it. Even if he’s barely hanging on right now, the fact that his case has been punted to another office and all but pushed to a backburner is disheartening. If the public pressure eases, I fear there will be no incentive to work so hard to find him, especially since everyone already thinks he’s dead. Shi-mok’s idea that the note may not have been sent by the true culprit is intriguing. If it was a ruse just to set the police up or for some other reason, then they really have nothing to go on for this case. I still want to know why they kidnapped Dong-jae and have held him for about a week without making any demands. If they want revenge or want him gone, you’d think they’d kill him. If they want to use him for some goal, why aren’t they making a move? When even the motivation is so hard to ascertain, it’s no wonder little progress has been made despite a lot of hard work.
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