Forest of Secrets 2: Episode 14
If you ever thought the previous episodes were moving too slowly, this one’s for you. It’s an action-packed hour, folks, as everything finally starts coming together, and we get some major breakthroughs in the case. Armed with new information, the search for our missing prosecutor reaches a fever pitch. Our leads are both desperate and emotionally drained, but the end may be in sight.
Yeo-jin searches the small house, but it’s empty. Meanwhile, as Hoo-jung flees, we see a flashback to his “friends” visiting his place, looking decidedly unfriendly. He looked like a prisoner as he drove them to the beach.
He led those very drunk “friends” to the water. Afterwards, he’d quickly changed his clothes and returned to his room to dry off. We see his hand got scratched, presumably from when he’d held them under. He’d then went back to the beach and called to report his “missing” friends.
In the present, Shi-mok and Yeo-jin finally catch and handcuff him. They take him back to the house, and Yeo-jin demands to know where Dong-jae is. Shi-mok marches over to the closet and opens it, making a sound of disgust at the smell. Hoo-jung remains silent as Yeo-jin screams at him.
Shi-mok checks his car, but the dashcam is missing. Forensics is called in, and Shi-mok explains that the entire place smells of bleach. Dong-jae was likely moved recently. They’ll use Hoo-jung’s GPS routes to see if any lead to Dong-jae.
The landlady is horrified as the police check the grounds in case Hoo-jung buried Dong-jae there. She smelt bleach the previous morning, but Hoo-jung had claimed he was cleaning. Back in the house, the police note that the flooring doesn’t match the photo.
At the station, Yeo-jin and Shi-mok interrogate Hoo-jung who still isn’t talking. They found bloodstains in his room and car, and Shi-mok assures him they’ll use his GPS data to find where he took Dong-jae. Hoo-jung thinks of Dong-jae’s second call but stays silent.
Yeo-jin is at the end of her rope, but Hoo-jung won’t even tell them if Dong-jae is alive. Shi-mok scrutinizes him quietly. At the Supreme Office, Tae-ha and Sa-hyun are shocked to learn the identity of the culprit.
Shi-mok interviews one of Hoo-jung’s former neighbors, but she doesn’t recognize the drowning victims. Hoo-jung only lived there for a couple of months tops and moved suddenly after complaining his apartment was too cold. Shi-mok asks if there are any well-known delivery places nearby.
Yeo-jin interviews someone (a classmate?) who tells her Hoo-jung was a good, quiet student from a well-off family, so he was an easy target at school. She didn’t expect him to keep in touch with the victims after graduating.
Suddenly, Hoo-jung’s lawyer father comes bursting in, angry they arrested his son without a warrant. Yeo-jin argues he fled and lists his charges: kidnapping, murder, and abandoning a corpse. He yells that his son is barely 20 and got a full scholarship to Yonsei University, like that precludes murder.
Shi-mok interrupts to ask him to leave. Hoo-jung’s father sees he works for the Supreme Office and brags he worked there too. What year did he graduate? Since he appoints himself his son’s attorney, they have no choice but to let him stay.
Yeo-jin states that he told a teacher that he was being bullied back in junior high, and his brilliant solution was to sit them together so they could be friends. (Who made that man a teacher?!) The bullying naturally continued.
When Hoo-jung’s father shouts that his son was never bullied, Yeo-jin plays the recorded conversation wherein the girl claims the whole school knew of the situation. Hoo-jung, who’s looked nervous and docile since his father entered the room, finally speaks when his father roughly grips his shoulder and coerces him to say those boys were his friends.
His father continues to answer for him, arguing it’s not a crime to break your lease. Yeo-jin remarks that he ordered chicken a lot. Did they bring the girls over? We hear the deliveryman claim that the apartment was always a mess. Hoo-jung’s two “friends” would often bring girls over. We see Hoo-jung sitting outside a nearby convenience store looking miserable.
Hoo-jung testifies that he invited his “friends” and the girls over. He starts to tell Yeo-jin he didn’t tell the guys he’d moved, but his dad squeezes his leg to shut him up. When Shi-mok asks for his alibi the night of the kidnapping, guess who heads him off and starts yelling again.
One of the officers comes in during this tirade and asks about the missing dashcam. Hoo-jung’s infuriating father obstructs them again, so the officer mentions the blood. Hoo-jung says it’s from a dog he hit with his car. The vet said it wouldn’t live, so he took it home.
He first says he buried it, but then “remembers” he tossed it somewhere. Hoo-jung conveniently doesn’t remember which vet clinic he went to either. The officer pulls Yeo-jin and Shi-mok aside to explain that the bleach contaminated the blood, so they probably can’t get anything from it.
Alone with his son in the room, Hoo-jung’s father reiterates that he can’t say a word no matter what. He’ll make sure they can’t get a warrant. An officer comes to collect Hoo-jung. In the hallway, his father yells that he should ignore the cops who are of no consequence.
Elsewhere, Chief Choi makes a call, worried they’ll have to release Hoo-jung due to his father’s influence. Tae-ha’s call doesn’t go as well. He’s told to be cautious; Hoo-jung’s father went to a Supreme Court judge and complained, and the judge in turn called the deputy prosecutor general.
They’re being told not to issue the warrant on the grounds that Shi-mok’s objectivity is compromised since he knows the victim. Tae-ha is having a fit, but Sa-hyun thinks he’s overreacting. It’s not like they’ll have to release the suspect. Except they might. Sa-hyun calls a judge he knows who’d have seniority over this other judge. (This is ridiculous and infuriating.)
At Yongsan, Yeo-jin and Shi-mok look over maps and try to figure out where he could’ve hidden Dong-jae. They run out when she gets a call about the GPS log and head to the place Hoo-jung visited at 3 A.M. When they get to the spot, it’s on a street without many places to hide a body.
Shi-mok notices a clothes donation box and tries to break the lock off with a rock. The cops help cut the padlock off, and inside they find a bag of bloodied clothes that stink of bleach. He must’ve dumped the body before coming here.
Later, Shi-mok meets with Hoo-jung alone and asks if Dong-jae said when and why he suspected him. Hoo-jung recalls agreeing to meet Dong-jae in Itaewon, but he says nothing. Shi-mok remarks that most victims of bullying harm themselves, not others, as they wait for the time when they’ll be free of their tormenters.
In a flashback, the bullies show up at Hoo-jung’s new place to his horror. Hoo-jung guesses Shi-mok only knows about bullying from books, but Shi-mok says he remembers the experience even if he can’t remember how it felt.
Shi-mok observes that Hoo-jung is now a successful adult, yet he’s still living as that teenage boy who was bullied. Another flashback shows those bullies insincerely apologizing for selling his computer (with all his work on it) and equipment because he didn’t lend them money when they’d asked. They then “borrow” his car. That’s when he orchestrated the beach trip.
Hoo-jung looks close to breaking as Shi-mok asks him how it felt. Is Dong-jae alive? What’d he do to him? Shi-mok looks calm as he lists the ways he could’ve killed Dong-jae, but he grips the photo in his hand tighter and tighter.
They can still charge him without the body based on the bloodstains, the fact that he fled, and now the clothes he tossed. He throws down pictures of the clothes they found in the donation bin.
When Hoo-jung still won’t talk, Shi-mok finally loses his cool and bangs the table. “What did you do to him, you jerk?!” he yells. Whoa. Hoo-jung trembles and begins to cry as Shi-mok says he’ll be charged either way. Is there a chance Dong-jae is still alive or did he kill him?
Hoo-jung ekes out that he doesn’t know anything, making Shi-mok stand in anger. Yeo-jin bursts in and marches Hoo-jung out: his internet history shows he commented under Ki-hyuk’s comment on the video of Dong-jae’s wife.
Hoo-jung’s father sees them in the parking lot, and Shi-mok holds him back while Yeo-jin pushes Hoo-jung against the hood of the car, handcuffs him, and stuffs him in the car. Shi-mok shoves the photos of his son’s clothes into Hoo-jung’s father’s hands and hops in the car. Hoo-jung’s father follows them in his car.
Shi-mok records as Hoo-jung starts talking about how he’s always wanted to make music, so he studied hard with the promise from his father that he could do whatever he wanted if he got into a good university. But those bullies wouldn’t let him go. He starts sobbing but pulls himself together. He finally got his own studio, but they even found him there. Hoo-jung just wanted a future.
Yeo-jin brings it back around to Dong-jae. River or mountains? “Mountains,” he says quietly (!). He’d been keeping him in his closet, too scared to do anything. But then he heard about the supposed culprit’s note and the witness and had to do something, so he touched him and found he was already dead.
When they get close, Yeo-jin asks where he dropped the body, but Hoo-jung isn’t sure. It was dark, and he just drove until it was remote enough. In a flashback, he pulls over and dumps the body right off the roadside.
They pull over when he thinks he recognizes the spot, and Yeo-jin calls for a search party. It’s densely wooded, so the search drags on through the night. There’s a crazy amount of activity happening with the massive search party and a swarm of reporters. Even Chief Choi personally comes to the scene to check their progress.
While Shi-mok takes care of things back at the office, Yeo-jin tells Chief Choi she should’ve caught on sooner. Why didn’t she realize that it made no sense for a kid without a job whose father was poor to have those expensive shoes? Chief Choi looks abashed as she thinks of her own conversation with the victim’s father about him not being able to buy his son those shoes.
Suddenly, there are cries and whistles blowing. Did they find him?! A flare shoots into the sky, and everyone goes running. Dong-jae’s wife is watching it unfold on the news and shakily tells someone over the phone not to let her son see the news. She breaks down sobbing as they announce that a body has been found.
At the scene, they load a body covered by a blanket into an ambulance. Meanwhile, Hoo-jung sits in a cell. When Gun walks over and stands silently in front of him, Hoo-jung begins sobbing.
In the ambulance, they uncover Dong-jae. After removing his gag, they put an oxygen mask on him – so he’s still alive?! Right as they go to cut the tie biding his wrists, Yeo-jin stops them. Wrapped around his wrists is what looks like the tie from the photo, but this one is whole and unblemished.
She sends a photo of it to Shi-mok. He thinks of when he asked Ki-hyuk why’d he taken things so far, and he’d replied, “What do you mean why?”
Yeo-jin then calls to let Chief Choi know about the tie. Chief Choi orders her to bring in Ki-hyuk – it can’t be a coincidence that there was a fake note and a fake witness. Yeo-jin doesn’t want to delay the ambulance, so she has Team Leader Choi go after Ki-hyuk.
Chief Prosecutor Kang calls Shi-mok to ask if Dong-jae is alive. He is but there’s likely to be damage even if he wakes up. Meanwhile, Team Leader Choi and his team arrive at Ki-hyuk’s place. They get him to open the door, and two of them slip inside. Ki-hyuk tries to flee, but Soon-chang catches him.
At the station, Gun gets Hoo-jung to copy the message from the “culprit,” but the handwriting doesn’t match. Hoo-jung testifies that right when he decided not to go through with it, Dong-jae had arrived at their meeting place.
Team Leader Choi questions Ki-hyuk at the station. He knew he’d lied, but he didn’t expect he’d done this. He puts down pictures of Ki-hyuk’s room with a floor and table that perfectly match those present in the photo from the “culprit.” Oooh.
He won’t admit to it. That flooring is common, he claims. All the apartments in his building have it – maybe one of his neighbors did it. Team Leader Choi asks who put him up to it, but he insists he had nothing to do with it.
Ki-hyuk is as smug as ever, almost as if he’s protected. Shi-mok enters abruptly and asks Team Leader Choi and Gun to leave. Once they’re alone, Shi-mok turns off the cameras. Shi-mok bluffs that he’s been with the Supreme Office for 10 years and says he got a strange call after he pulled the license plate stunt.
He has connections in the prosecution, doesn’t he? Will Shi-mok get in trouble for digging into this? Ki-hyuk plays it cool and denies it, but his hands are shaking. Shi-mok threatens to pay him back if he gets in trouble for indicting him. As he goes to leave, Ki-hyuk blurts out, “They told you over the phone?” Well played, Shi-mok.
Whew, that was a ride. It’s like they packed all the action into this one episode. Going from the slow pace of this season to the sudden explosion of action was almost jarring. But it felt true to life; sometimes things turn upside down in a second. I still can’t believe Dong-jae is alive. I’d really thought he was a goner after all he’d been through. Of course, we don’t know what state he’ll be in if and when he wakes up. After that whole rescue mission, he’d better not die now.
Like Shi-mok and Yeo-jin, I felt so frustrated watching Hoo-jung sit silently, knowing he was the culprit. Even Shi-mok lost his cool! Seeing him so visibly angry shows how stressful and upsetting this all has been for him. It was strange watching him actually emote throughout the episode. Being so close but unable to get answers must be maddening. I wanted to reach through my screen and slap Hoo-jung’s elitist father. Even if he is a lawyer, it seems problematic to let a family member sit in on the interrogation like that. Are there no rules about not representing family? And then he had to go and pull strings. Once again we got to see the terrifying level of influence powerful people have over investigations. They were this close to having to let the murdering kid go just because some judge knew his father.
At first, I couldn’t tell if Hoo-jung’s father was denying the bullying to save face or if he truly didn’t know about it. I think it’s the latter, which is sad if it went on for that many years and he had no clue. Because that was some serious and scary bullying. It’s crazy that they followed him and continued their despicable behavior even until college – they went out of their way to find him and toy with his life, using him like their personal ATM. Not to trivialize the fact that he murdered them, but it’s no wonder the kid finally snapped. People can be so disturbing.
Then, we have the issue of the photo and witness. It’s looking like Sa-hyun did indeed orchestrate the whole thing. Since he was in the criminal division that indicted Ki-hyuk, it probably wasn’t too hard to enlist his help with the promise of protection and reward money. It was a smart plan, getting a scammer to send that photo and “witness” a cop committing the crime, and it probably would’ve worked were Shi-mok not so freakishly observant. The prosecution is going to be livid about the optics of this, and I imagine they’ll try to block it from getting out. If it’s revealed that Sa-hyun was responsible for planting fake information to frame a cop, the investigative authority fight is going to get even uglier. This will majorly swing things in the police’s favor, and I fear the prosecution will entirely blame Shi-mok. Solving the case and saving Dong-jae should give him enough public support to prevent them from firing him outright, but I’m sure his work life will get much more difficult. Poor Shi-mok will yet again get on everyone’s bad side and likely be punished for doing his job properly. Story of this man’s life. Chief Prosecutor Kang did try to warn Sa-hyun that Shi-mok wasn’t to be taken lightly, and it looks like he and Tae-ha are learning that the hard way.
Shi-mok and Yeo-jin are the actual embodiment of how the two organizations should be cooperating. They had so little to go on and so many possible links to sift through, but they got it done. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when both sides work together using their unique positions and resources. But everyone’s too busy grappling for power for that. I shudder to think what the next Council meeting will look like, if it even happens. With only one week to go, we’ve got multiple cases to wrap up and an ongoing investigatory authority fight to resolve. There’s a lot to cover, but I have faith in this writer to bring it all together and give us a narratively satisfying conclusion.
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