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Kang Woo-suk walks along the side of a railroad track after getting off a train. His younger brother, Kang Young-suk, is there to greet him. He’s returned home to see his father, who is sick.  His father doesn’t act happy to see him when he arrives though.  He sits up from his pallet on the floor and remarks that the military sure has changed if they gave him leave just because his father has a cold.  Then he waves Woo-suk away and tells him to go have his mother make him dinner.

Woo-suk goes to greet his mom, who is already at work on dinner in the kitchen.  He asks her to tell him the truth about his father’s prognosis, but she doesn’t answer.  Instead, she assures him his father is doing better already merely being at home again.  He hugs her, but she pushes him away and shoos him out of the kitchen.

After dinner, Woo-suk tries to get some answers from his brother.  He suggests they take their dad to a hospital in Seoul, but Young-suk gets offended that Woo-suk thinks he’s not smart enough to make the proper medical decisions for the family.  Woo-suk apologizes and lets the subject drop.

Young-suk then brings up a subject Woo-suk would rather not talk about: their father’s dream for him to pass the bar.  When dad was hospitalized, he’d told Young-suk he wanted to see Woo-suk become a judge before he died.  The next day, the family gets a visitor and he encourages Woo-suk to take the exam as soon as he’s discharged to help the family out.  Woo-suk shocks him when he admits he’s thinking about staying home and helping on the farm instead of taking the bar.

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When his father gets the news, he’s shocked and upset.  He struggles to sit up and tells his wife to leave the room so he can beat some sense into Woo-suk.  However, he’s too weak to do anything except grab Woo-suk and cry.

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Young-suk is angry too.  He yells at Woo-suk for not discussing his plans with him first and tells Woo-suk he no longer consider him his brother.  Woo-suk asks Young-suk if he has any idea what he’s done in the army. He says he’s beaten people, taken bribes and even killed people. He no longer feels he’s qualified to be a judge or a prosecutor telling someone else they’re guilty of a crime.  Young-suk grabs his collar and asks if he thinks it’s that simple—that because he’s comfortable and happy coming back home everyone else will be too?  He drops to his knees and starts sobbing.  He tells Woo-suk their dad has liver cancer and the doctors say they can’t help him.

Now that he knows his father is dying, Woo-suk stays by his side.  Even though he’s weak, his dad whispers to him that he should take the bar exam.  He tells Woo-suk he knows he can do it, and Woo-suk agrees to try.  A tear falls from the corner of dad’s eye when he hears this and he closes his eyes and goes to sleep.  Woo-suk falls asleep too, and by the time he wakes up, his father is dead.

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It looks like Chairman Yoon’s slot machine businesses are up and running.  He goes to the casino and meets with Oh Jong-do and Lawyer Min who update him on the progress of the currently open operations as well as their plans for future locations.  Jong-do uses the meeting to ingratiate himself with the Chairman.  Every time the Chairman asks a question, he quickly speaks up before Lawyer Min can get a word in edgewise.  Chairman Yoon pretty much ignores him until he’s about to leave.  Then, he compliments Jong-do on a job well done and tells him he’ll have the opportunity to put some of the operations in his name too.  He warns Jong-do that rule number one is to keep the whole thing quiet and keep minors out so there’s no trouble. Jong-do assures him he’ll do just that and Jong-do turns to leave.

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On his way out, Jong-do sees Jae-hee, and Jae-hee asks him if he’s heard from Park Tae-soo.  He hasn’t, but he tells Jae-hee he’ll do what he can to find out where he is.  He asks if Chairman Yoon asked Jae-hee to find Tae-soo, but Jae-hee doesn’t respond.  Instead, he tells Jong-do he’d like an answer as soon as possible and Jong-do says he’ll get right on it.

Chang To-shik is waiting outside the casino, and he and Jong-do go to a bar and have a few drinks.  Jong-do apologizes for not stopping by to see him since he started working for Chairman Yoon.  Mr. Chang tells him now that he’s graduated from the back alleys and has seen the light, he has to seek higher ground.  He may make money, but Chairman Yoon’s management style will always keep him beneath the Chairman, Chang says.  Money isn’t the number one thing that counts, he advise Jong-do.  He says it’s people and Jong-do needs to start networking now.  He gets a phone call and has to leave.  He pats Jong-do on the shoulder as he goes.

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The scene shifts to the government’s labor camp where the prisoners are working on laying a railroad track.  Tae-soo and Jung In-jae are discussing the possibility of escaping.  One of the things they have to contend with is the fact that the soldiers have guns.  In-jae thinks that may work to their advantage because the guns give the soldiers a false sense of security, and he asks Tae-soo to take Joo-myung with him whenever he makes a run for it.

Jong-do has come through and told Jae-hee where Tae-soo is being held.  Unfortunately, the guards won’t let Hye-rin into the prison when they get there.  She dejectedly gets back in the car with Jae-hee, and he starts driving her away. 

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However, she’s so desperate that she jumps out and tries to climb a fence on an unguarded part of the premises.  Jae-hee stops her and tries to get her to come to her senses.  She struggles for him to let go, saying she just wants to see Tae-soo’s face one time and she has something to say to him.  Jae-hee grabs her and holds her until she calms down, and he shields her when a military vehicle drives by.

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He stops along the route home and lets her stand by a bridge and think.  He patiently sits in the car well into the night watching over her as she cries and keeps staring at Tae-soo’s mother’s ring on her finger.

When she returns home that night, her father tells her Yoon Young-jae will be leaving for Paris the next month.  He asks her what she plans to do, and she tells him she’ll start working for him to repay the loan he gave her.  With Young-jae gone, she knows he’ll need someone he can trust by his side. She says she’ll stay with him, but in return he has to have Tae-soo released.  She gives him her word that she won’t meet him anymore and tells him when he gives her proof that Tae-soo has been released, she’ll start working for him.

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Tae-soo has no intention of waiting for anyone to help him though.  He moves forward with his escape plans.  As the prisoners wash their clothes by a riverbank one day, In-jae encourages Joo-myung to go with Tae-soo when he runs away.  In-jae knows Joo-myung doesn’t want to die in prison, and even though he’s older now, In-jae tells him to go for it.  Joo-myung is reluctant, but finally he tells Tae-soo he’s always though of In-jae as his little brother so he’ll listen to him.  He doesn’t want to burden Tae-soo though, but Tae-soo says it’d be impossible for him to escape on his own and welcomes Joo-myung to join him.

That night they make their move when all the other prisoners are asleep.  Tae-soo gets up first, then he rouses In-jae and Joo-myung (and my heart is racing—I’m so nervous. This is too much for me and they haven’t even done anything yet!).  The three of them get dressed and wait for the guards to move away so they can sneak outside.

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Tae-soo and Joo-myung scale a barbed wire fence with In-jae’s help and crawl through a hole in another fence, then Tae-soo signals for In-jae to come too.  They used a blanket to protect them from the barbed wire along the fence, but when In-jae tries to climb over, he gets caught in the wire.  He makes too much noise trying to get untangled and the alarm sounds that there’s an escape attempt.  Tae-soo runs back to help him, but In-jae won’t let him.  He pushes him away and Tae-soo and Joo-myung are forced to start running when they hear soldiers approaching.  In-jae manages to hide until the guards pass by, then he stands up and bows in the direction that Joo-myung ran.

Deeper into the woods, Tae-soo and Joo-myung hear a shot ring out and they both pause as they realize In-jae has been shot and is dead now.  Joo-myung’s head drops in resignation and sadness, but they can’t spend any time mourning now.  They use a home-made rope to climb down a ravine and make it to a train station.  Tae-soo has to half drag/half carry Joo-myung the last part of the way.  He’s somehow broken his leg.

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When they make it inside the railway car, Tae-soo tears Joo-myung’s pants leg and splints the leg to relieve his pain.  Tae-soo says he’ll take him to a hospital as soon as they’re clear of the prison, but Joo-myung isn’t hearing him.  He asks Tae-soo not to tell his children that the prison guards had him crawling around like a pig when he sees them.  Tae-soo stares at him for a long moment, then nods and promises he won’t.  Then he goes back to tying the splint.

As the train travels down the track, Joo-myung gets more and more fatalistic.  He tells Tae-soo to visit his son and be sure to let his son know he paid for his crimes.  He says, “I’ve done wrong all my life. I’ve been the cause of a lot of tears. And I’ve crippled many people. Now it’s time to pay. My son must never grow up to be like me.” Tae-soo asks him what he’s thinking, but Joo-myung doesn’t respond. 

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When Tae-soo wakes up the next morning, the railway car door is open and Joo-myung is gone. Tae-soo goes to the door and looks around, then he falls to his knees in anguish.

Tae-soo gets off the train later in the day.  He even steals clothes and changes out of his prison garb, but it’s not enough to disguise him.  He’s walking down a rural road and a military vehicle drives by.  He turns around and walks in the opposite direction, but the guards chase him anyway.  He runs as fast as he can, but soon he’s surrounded and captured.

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Well that was short-lived.  It seems Tae-soo didn’t even make it a full twenty-four hours before he was captured and taken back to prison.  Yet, In-jae and Joo-myung had to die.  Their deaths seem pointless if Tae-soo wasn’t going to actually be successful in his escape attempt.  But I suppose the show needed a way to kill them off, and if that’s the case, they certainly accomplished it.

I’ve been disappointed here and there with the writing in this show, which I’d heard praised to no end before I watched this series.  I do think it’s well-scripted and I believe that overall it’s an objectively very good drama, but it’s not without its flaws. One of those flaws is that things feel contrived at times.  It’s obvious the writer wanted certain things to happen at certain times and used certain characters to convey certain messages throughout the progression of the show.  One of the primary tools used to do this is a revolving cast of supporting characters.  The problem is sometimes I just don’t buy it.

Hong Jin-soo’s story line (in Episodes 7 & 8) is one such example of what I’m talking about.  The writer needed a way to get Tae-soo to Kwangju during the protests and Jin-soo was a good vehicle.  I was fine with using Jin-soo that way.  I was even fine that Jin-soo was an example of a Kwangju resident who initially opposed the student protests but joined the movement when he saw the military’s brutality.  But I was not okay with the way he died because it was totally nonsensical.

Instead of letting him die from a gun shot during a legitimate exchange of fire between the protesters and the soldiers, the show wanted him to make a political statement first.  So he didn’t bother to stay low and out of the line of fire.  Instead, he stood up (marginally hiding behind a tree) and shouted for the government to stop the killing (giving away his location and inviting bullets his way).  So he essentially committed suicide to get the writer’s point across and diminished (for me at least) the impact of his death.  

I got the same vibe from In-jae and Joo-myung’s deaths in this episode.  It wasn’t so much that the writer was trying to make a statement this time, but that In-jae and Joo-myung served their purpose and it was time for them to go so the main cast could move on to the next phase of the drama.  I wasn’t cool with it, but I can live with it.  Frankly, as long as Jae-hee is okay I don’t particularly care who dies, but it’d be nice if the drama flowed a tad bit smoother.

Sandglass: Episode 11 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 10 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 9 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 8 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 7 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 6 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 5 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 4 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 3 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 2 Recap
Sandglass: Episode 1 Recap

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