Forest of Secrets 2: Episode 13
They may officially be off the case, but that doesn’t mean our prosecutor-cop duo is giving up. Some new bits of information surface which may be relevant to the disappearance, but like everything else about this case, it’s unclear. As our duo quietly investigates, their bosses work behind the scenes to keep their own secrets buried and figure out their next moves.
We pick up where we left off with Tae-ha questioning Yeon-jae about Kwang-soo. Tae-ha observes that Tae-ha was desperate enough to drink that day. Kwang-soo had invited Tae-ha to their meeting at the vacation home. When the Hanjo lawsuit was brought up, Tae-ha left, and Kwang-soo chased after him.
Chief Choi asks if Yeon-jae got an update after the situation. Yeon-jae knew based on the time of his death that Kwang-soo hadn’t accomplished the task. She didn’t want to draw attention, so she let it go. But now Dong-jae is missing.
Yeon-jae smiles derisively when Tae-ha claims putting Shi-mok in charge let him maintain control over the situation and stay in the loop. She’s angry to hear Shi-mok has already talked to Kwang-soo’s wife, but Tae-ha assures her Shi-mok was only in charge of Dong-jae’s case and has since been removed from the investigation.
Cue Shi-mok with Yeo-jin at Yongsan, hoping for an update on Dong-jae’s case. He texts Chief Prosecutor Kang to ask if he can stop by his office. But Chief Prosecutor Kang is preoccupied with examining the evidence of fraud Joo-seon has put in front of him.
Chief Prosecutor Kang astutely asks if Joo-seon’s client Yeon-jae gave this document to him. Does he work for her? Chief Prosecutor Kang finds the timing too coincidental – Yeon-jae’s financial statement is handed to him right when one of Hanjo’s subsidiaries is being audited. “You dislike Sung-jae, don’t you?” Joo-seon asks.
In the meeting with Yeon-jae, Tae-ha claims that Chief Choi was involved after the fact. Chief Choi says Tae-ha called her the day after Kwang-soo’s death to ask how the investigation was going, so she instructed her subordinates to handle the case quietly.
Chief Choi asks how Yeon-jae knew of her. Had Kwang-soo not died, she’d never have even known about his group that was secretly helping with Hanjo’s lawsuit. Why have Joo-seon approach her now?
Yeon-jae heard about her from Dong-jae and assumed Chief Choi was at the vacation home too. We see a flashback of Chief Choi arriving at said vacation home. Yeon-jae continues that Dong-jae didn’t give her any details. Now he’s missing, and she’d much rather be dealing with him than Shi-mok since he’d have “understood” things.
Chief Choi is still thinking about when she arrived at the vacation home. She’d paid special attention to a car’s dashcam. Now she asks Yeon-jae if she sent someone to the vacation home to keep an eye on things that day. Tae-ha points out that Yeon-jae can extricate herself from the situation, but if they were seen, it’d be a problem.
Yeon-jae claims ignorance, stating that meeting was personally set up by Kwang-soo and had nothing to do with Hanjo. In response to Chief Choi’s prodding, she asserts that no one from Hanjo was at the vacation home.
Chief Choi and Tae-ha try to reassure Yeon-jae that Shi-mok’s investigation isn’t a big deal. Besides, Shi-mok won’t keep investigating since he concluded the case isn’t related to Dong-jae’s disappearance. Yeon-jae compliments them on their hard work and dismisses them.
In the elevator, Chief Choi and Tae-ha wonder if Yeon-jae called them there for confirmation or to dig for information. Tae-ha found her wording strange in saying that’d she’d have rather dealt with Dong-jae. Director Park was clearly listening in and reports this back to Yeon-jae.
Yeon-jae finds Tae-ha’s wording suspicious when he claimed she’d be in a difficult position if Dong-jae were around. They turn on the monitors to check on Joo-seon as he tries to convince Chief Prosecutor Kang that Sung-jae’s enemies passed this document to him.
Joo-seon says he’s scared to look into it, but Chief Prosecutor Kang is in the perfect position. He changes tactics and reminds Chief Prosecutor Kang that Chang-joon gave his life to obtain evidence against Sung-jae, yet he still got away with it. Now is their chance.
Chief Prosecutor Kang wants more evidence, but Joo-seon says he’ll have to agree first. Chief Prosecutor Kang looks torn, and he leaves without committing to anything. From the other room, an exhausted Yeon-jae remarks that it’s hard and wonders how her husband handled all this alone.
Meanwhile, as he drives, Tae-ha recalls when he saw Chief Choi at the vacation home. In voiceover, he asks why she called, and she replies that she didn’t want him to be left in the road for a long time.
At the office, Shi-mok runs into Sa-hyun and asks if he knows what’s happening with Ki-hyuk. Sa-hyun can’t believe he did that for the money, but they can’t arrest him. What about tracking the culprit’s phone? Shi-mok explains it was a burner, and the text was sent near the subway.
Sa-hyun remarks that the police watch in the photo means the culprit could still be a cop. As Sa-hyun leaves, Shi-mok remembers that Sa-hyun was at Seongnam when Ki-hyuk was charged in 2017. He sneaks into Sa-hyun’s office and sees a photo of him sitting on the floor with an elderly woman. The flooring matches the culprit’s photo. Whaaat.
Shi-mok hears someone outside and sees a shadow under the door. He and Sa-hyun open the door at the same time. Sa-hyun tells him off for snooping in his office and asks if he’s on some power trip. Shi-mok just goes with it and apologizes.
Sa-hyun tells him to get out and checks his office for anything out of place. He remembers Shi-mok looking at something on his desk earlier, and his eyes land on the photo. He storms out and asks Shi-mok why he was in his and not Tae-ha’s office. Unfazed, Shi-mok asks if he was in the criminal division at Seongnam, and an angry (and confused) Sa-hyun replies he was.
At the National Police Agency, Yeo-jin shares with Chief Choi that she heard from Shi-mok that Ki-hyuk was released. And Ki-hyun’s suicide note is authentic. Chief Choi mentions Tae-ha calling her, which shocks Yeo-jin. Chief Choi testily asks why she can’t have a prosecutor friend too. “It’s illicit for me but romantic for you?” Heh.
Yeo-jin is speechless when Chief Choi speculates that she has a one-sided crush on Shi-mok. Why else would she give a grown man a ride after he gets a stomachache? Ha. Yeo-jin plans to date an artist, thank you very much. Pfft.
Chief Choi cautions that Shi-mok is still a prosecutor. Yeo-jin asks if this all seems too orchestrated, and Chief Choi warns her that they’ll be in trouble if they suspect the prosecution and dig into the witness. Their best strategy is to pretend nothing is wrong but prepare to bring the witness in when it’s advantageous.
After a moment of hesitation, Yeo-jin says she wants to continue working on Dong-jae’s case. Chief Choi shoots her down, asking if this is a means to prove herself so she can return to field work. Yeo-jin swears she only wants to catch the culprit. Outside, Yeo-jin pouts which I’m guessing means the answer was still no.
Meanwhile, Chief Prosecutor Kang shares what he knows with his deputy chief who remarks that Hanjo can be indicted for breaking multiple laws, embezzlement, and destruction of evidence. Chief Prosecutor Kang sighs that they’ll hand over more evidence if he reaches out to Yeon-jae.
His colleague excitedly notes that they can take Sung-jae down with this. Chief Prosecutor Kang is worried about what they’ll want in exchange – they’re not just going to hand everything over. His colleague believes Yeon-jae could use this to gain more power and oust her brother. One of them will be ousted either way, so it won’t make much difference if Chief Prosecutor Kang gets involved.
Apparently, he’s been convinced because Chief Prosecutor Kang calls Joo-seon to say he’s in. At the office, Tae-ha and Sa-hyun watch a news report on the investigation into Hanjo Engineering. When Tae-ha indicates he’s sent Shi-mok to check into it, he notes Sa-hyun’s stark change in attitude toward Shi-mok.
Outside the Eastern Office, Shi-mok spots Joo-seon looking on with a smug grin as the deputy chief gives a statement to the press. Inside, Chief Prosecutor Kang hastily stashes a file when Shi-mok walks in. Shi-mok guesses that they’re able to really take Sung-jae down this time.
Chief Prosecutor Kang asks what Shi-mok wanted to talk to him about before and seems disturbed to hear that Dong-jae was looking into Kwang-soo’s case. He gets up and paces around, failing to sound casual when he asks what that case has to do with anything.
Shi-mok remarks on the oddities of the case, and when he brings up the drinking discrepancy, Chief Prosecutor Kang notes that whoever said Kwang-soo drank didn’t know him well. Hmm. He’s shocked Shi-mok is aware of Kwang-soo’s financial troubles since those who knew agreed to keep quiet about Kwang-soo’s brother’s business failing.
After Shi-mok pushes him, Chief Prosecutor Kang admits he miiight’ve said some things to a lawyer (Joo-seon) about it. But he claims not to know who Kwang-soo’s VIP client was. Shi-mok asks for the lawyer’s number.
Chief Prosecutor Kang hesitates, but since it’s possibly linked to Dong-jae’s disappearance, he gives up Joo-seon. Shi-mok immediately pieces things together and surmises Joo-seon is the source for the current Hanjo case and that Yeon-jae is behind the leak.
Shi-mok next meets with Kwang-soo’s former secretary who confirms that Joo-seon told her about Kwang-soo’s financial troubles and pretended to be close to him. When Shi-mok suggests Joo-seon stole one of their clients, she confidently asserts they’ve never lost a client. She denies that Hanjo is a client, although they’d love to have them.
She surprises Shi-mok by divulging she met with Joo-seon only a few days before she met with Shi-mok previously; he’d assumed it was shortly after her boss’s death. Once she leaves, Shi-mok wonders if Joo-seon is Kwang-soo’s replacement at Hanjo. Is he looking into Kwang-soo’s death because he’s afraid for himself?
He wonders why Hanjo chose Kwang-soo and arranged to meet in Namyangju when they certainly have covert meeting spots in Seoul? Shi-mok muses that the reason companies like Hanjo seek out former judges and the like is due to their connections and influence.
Could Dong-jae’s kidnapping be related to something he found out, like that a murder was disguised as a heart attack, for instance? What if Kwang-soo introduced Hanjo to a lawyer to help with their lawsuit and that person is behind all this?
Suddenly, Shi-mok thinks of Chief Prosecutor Kang and his vendetta against Hanjo, picturing him as the legal aid introduced to Hanjo by Kwang-soo. He calls Min-ha and learns that there aren’t many secret places to meet in Namyangju except vacation homes.
Min-ha wants to meet – she has something to say about Dong-jae’s case – so she comes to Shi-mok’s office that night once everyone has gone home. She explains that Dong-jae was working on a junior high school assault case, and the kids that were involved just assaulted a noraebang owner. They hit him on the head with a fire extinguisher and locked him in a storage closet. Jeez.
They did the same with their classmate: hit him on the head and locked him in a bathroom. She shows him some photos of the injuries and group photos of the kids. Min-ha knows Dong-jae was hit from behind and locked up somewhere, so she checked the kids’ locations that day. They were at Itaewon Station which is a ten-minute walk from the scene. The times roughly add up.
Shi-mok wonders how they would’ve met that day, although Dong-jae’s GPS did show he was in Itaewon three hours prior to going missing. He has Min-ha look through Dong-jae’s call list for the kids’ numbers, but they’re not there.
He guesses that the current prosecutor in charge of Dong-jae’s case was dismissive of her suspicions about the kids. Why else would she come to see him? Shi-mok says he must not have taken that philosophy of law class with the professor who quoted Dostoevsky.
After Min-ha comments that the professor must’ve been using the same quotes for years, seeing as Shi-mok knew them too, Shi-mok asks her age. She says she’s 28. Before she goes, he asks for copies of the kids’ group photos and asks if Dong-jae talked about the Tongyeong drowning case. He didn’t, but she’ll ask around.
The following day, Shi-mok has lunch with Yeo-jin at the National Police Agency and shows her the photo of the kids. The bullies are smiling with their arms around their victim like they’re all friends. Shi-mok notes that there’s sometimes a hierarchy between male students, so Yeo-jin asks if he sees that in the photo of the college students from the Tongyeong case.
He didn’t at first, but this photo puts it in a new light. They look at the photos side by side, and it does seem feasible. Although Hoo-jung (the survivor) claims Dong-jae called twice to ask him about Chief Choi, Shi-mok points out that it doesn’t make sense for Dong-jae to call back days later to ask the same thing.
Shi-mok isn’t pegging Hoo-jung as a suspect just yet, but he chides himself for not noticing the anomaly sooner. What if Dong-jae, who’d been dealing with school violence cases, noticed something off in the Tongyeong students’ picture?
Yeo-jin speculates that, if that were the reason for Dong-jae’s second phone call, Hoo-jung would’ve been startled. She doesn’t find it odd that Dong-jae didn’t mention this case to his office since he didn’t usually share things with them, but Shi-mok remarks he wouldn’t thought he’d tell Min-ha since they seem close.
Yeo-jin notices his expression and asks if he finds Min-ha suspicious. Shi-mok comments that she’s only a year apart in age from Eun-soo. Oooh. He can’t help thinking of her when he sees Min-ha, about how she’d be living were she alive. It makes him think living and dying are both simple things.
They go back to the issue at hand and discuss the Tongyeong students. They went to the same middle school but were separated after that. Hoo-jung lives far from the scene of Dong-jae’s disappearance. Yeo-jin wonders if he could’ve taken his former bullies to the beach and drowned them.
Shi-mok recalls Hoo-jung crying and looking shaken that night and states they could be wrong. Yeo-jin says they need to investigate anyway and scarfs down the rest of her lunch after noting the time. (Shi-mok is finally getting to eat! Ha.) Later, Yeo-jin calls Shi-mok from City Hall with a discovery: Hoo-jung used to live in the neighborhood where Dong-jae was abducted.
Yeo-jin pays the kid a visit, catching him as he pulls his car into the garage. He looks around nervously after she shows her badge and seeing she doesn’t have backup, invites her in. Don’t follow the sketchy kid alone!
He pulls down the garage door, but at the last moment, a foot prevents him from shutting it. Phew! Hoo-jung backs up as Shi-mok enters. He recognizes Shi-mok from the beach. In a flashback to that night, we see scratches on Hoo-jung’s hand, similar to the ones on Joong-gi’s.
In the present, the second Yeo-jin asks if he knows Dong-jae, Hoo-jung takes off. Shi-mok chases after him while Yeo-jin uses the keys Hoo-jung dropped to go inside and look for Dong-jae. She brings her arm up to her face, seemingly to ward off a bad smell. Meanwhile, Shi-mok pursues Hoo-jung through the streets.
And now we’ve come full circle back to the Tongyeong case. We keep ping-ponging between cases, but I hadn’t even considered Hoo-jung as a suspect. Although it can feel like the investigation is moving at a glacial pace, I like how things are revealed in realistic, non-flashy ways. Layers are slowly peeled back, and the details unfold piece by piece. It’s a painstaking process of following breadcrumbs, but it seems more realistic than the constant epiphanies and convenient clues we get in most dramatized investigations.
Small details always come back in this drama. I’d forgotten about the school violence case and didn’t expect it to have any bearing going forward. But if Hoo-jung truly is involved in Dong-jae’s disappearance like he appears to be, that case could turn out to be the missing link. Kudos to the writer for being so detailed and reminding us that nothing in this drama is irrelevant.
So it’s also looking like Sa-hyun could’ve sent that photo as a means to take out the police. I don’t believe he had anything to do with Dong-jae’s disappearance – what would his motive be? – but between the way he’s still pushing for the culprit to be a cop and the flooring in the photo, I think it’s entirely possible he sent the photo. It would make more sense than the culprit sending it and not making any moves since. And his anger at finding Shi-mok in his office was a bit extreme. Sure, it’s fair to be upset your colleague was snooping, but he seemed like he was afraid Shi-mok was onto something. I’m guessing this is the end of his mentoring of Shi-mok.
I had a feeling Chief Prosecutor Kang was going to take the deal. He has such a vendetta against Hanjo, which is understandable, but it compromises him. He clearly wanted to take the deal from the start, but he had to convince himself it wasn’t ethically that bad to get involved in their power struggle. I’m sure it’s difficult to hold onto all of your principles when you’re surrounded by people who encourage you to do otherwise, but I hope he doesn’t let himself get dragged into the seedy side. Of course, that’s assuming he isn’t there already. I really hope Shi-mok’s possible scenario of Chief Prosecutor Kang being involved in the Kwang-soo case isn’t true.
We got some nice moments of bonding this episode. I was glad and kind of surprised to hear Shi-mok bring up Eun-soo to Yeo-jin. Seeing Min-ha working so hard, eagerly trying to help and prove herself did make me think of Eun-soo, and I’d wondered if that played any role in Dong-jae’s close mentorship of her. It hadn’t clicked that Shi-mok’s odd looks toward her might be because she reminded him of Eun-soo, although it probably should’ve. Min-ha attached herself to Dong-jae the way Eun-soo attached herself to Shi-mok, so it probably brought back memories.
Even though Chief Choi is sketchy, I also enjoyed the bonding between her and Yeo-jin. I love that Yeo-jin said she wants to date an artist; it’s just so fitting with all her doodling. That scene made me realize there hasn’t been much female bonding in this show. The higher echelons of both organizations are almost exclusively male, although we do have Chief Choi this season. I’m guessing it wasn’t easy for Chief Choi to get to her position. Not that it excuses her questionable sense of ethics, but the more we see of her, the more she seems to think what she’s doing is for the best. She’s ambitious for sure, but I don’t see her as someone acting entirely out of greed or selfishness. And we also have Yeon-jae in a position of power this season. I’m not sure if she’s more concerned with amassing power for herself or stripping it from her undeserving father and brother, but I don’t think her motive is entirely greed either. With all the scheming and maneuvering, no wonder everyone looks exhausted all the time.
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