EPISODE 23 RECAP
The episode opens with a flashback to the moments after Chang-min and In-young helped Park Tae-soo escape. They’re still in the big rig traveling down the highway as dozens of police cars give chase. The police eventually surround their truck on all four sides, forcing it to come to a stop, and calls for them to come out with their hands up. With no other choice but to surrender, Chang-min pulls out a bottle of liquor and they each take a drink before complying. As soon as they step out of the truck, the officers rush forward to handcuff them and demand to know where Tae-soo is. In-young smiles instead of answering and calls out to Chang-min that their hyungnim must still be on the run.
Three days later, there’s a story in the newspaper about Tae-soo’s escape, which Kang Woo-suk reads in his office in Kwangju. He’s mulling over the article when his supervisor calls and asks to see him in his office. The head District Attorney has traveled all the way from the Seoul Prosecutor’s Office to see him and is with Woo-suk’s supervisor when he gets there. They want him to join the special investigation unit in Seoul formed to track down Tae-soo and Oh Jong-do, who has disappeared as well.
Woo-suk agrees to go to Seoul, but he makes Chung Sun-young go to the countryside to stay with his mother and brother while he’s away. He takes her to the train station to see her off, and there’s finally some joking and tender moments between the two as Sun-young teases him about having to send her away because he failed to do his job and let the bad guys escape. He playfully tells the baby not to listen to mommy, and they’re smiling and laughing as Detective Baik and Sergeant Cho Myung-woo arrive to see her off as well.
When Woo-suk gets to Seoul, he wastes no time briefing the team on the background information he has on Tae-soo and Jong-do. He explains that the crux of the case is a political, financial and physical battle for control of the late Chairman Yoon Jae-young’s casino holdings. Then he highlights the history between the men, including Jong-do’s contract murder of President Park Seung-chol and his relocation to Kwangju afterwards.
When he starts talking about Tae-soo, his voice changes a bit. He’s not only reluctant to speak about Tae-soo, but he seems sad as well. He tells the team that Tae-soo, just like Jong-do, is a long-time member of the underworld. He explains that Tae-soo had been heavily supported by his backers to replace Chairman Yoon, but Chairman Yoon’s daughter ultimately succeeded her father. He ends his lesson with the news that Tae-soo is currently on the run after the Prosecutor’s Office charged him with political terrorism stemming from his actions in 1976.
He asks if there are any questions and one of the investigators asks exactly who are the people acting as Tae-soo’s backers? Woo-suk doesn’t know, but he says that has to be the first question they answer in their investigation. If they can’t identify his backers, they can make all the arrests they want but the crimes will just continue, he says.
Then we get a glimpse at Yoon Hye-rin and see she’s back to running the hotel and casino. She has a meeting with Lawyer Min, head dealer Mr. Chae, and a few other department heads to ensure things are running smoothly, then she goes back to her office to finish up some work. When it’s time for her to head home, she stands up, puts on her shawl and starts walking toward the door. As she’s walking, she calls out to Baek Jae-hee, telling him she’ll need to stop by the casino before going home for the night. But she catches herself and stops walking as she remembers something. She ends up just standing there as she lets whatever she’s thinking sink in. Then she takes off her shawl and walks over to a chair and sits down, deep in thought. (And I suppose that’s the show’s way of telling us for sure that Jae-hee is dead. *sob*)
Chang To-shik goes to see Kang Tong-hwan to apologize for Jong-do’s failure to silence Hye-rin and get the ledger back. Mr. Kang is not happy Hye-rin still has leverage over him and he blames Chang’s decision to use Jong-do to carry out his order as the reason for the failure. “I told you not to mix these punks in with politics,” he says.
Chang looks up at him, suddenly serious instead of contrite, and reminds Mr. Kang that his orders were for him not to use their boys to solve their problems. In fact, Mr. Kang told him to use someone they could easily silence because “strong arms are a dime a dozen” and are proud to risk their lives for their country, he says. Mr. Kang ignores the admonition. “I’ll say this one more time,” he spits out, “Get that ledger back from Yoon Hye-rin. Now. Don’t send any more amateurs this time. You go get it yourself. If you can’t get this fixed, you’ll go down before I do. I assure you of that. Remember that.” Then he walks away.
With Mr. Kang determined to get the ledger back, Chang wastes no time sending his cronies after Hye-rin. When she leaves her office with Lawyer Min one day, a black car cuts her off before she can drive away and a man approaches her car, shows her a badge and demands that she come with him. Lawyer Min tries to intervene. He says he’s her attorney and will file a complaint against them, but the men hold him back and force Hye-rin into their car. As they drive off, we see that Tae-soo is nearby!
Tae-soo must have been watching her all this time to ensure she’s safe. When he sees the men leading her away, he puts on his motorcycle helmet and prepares to follow the car. It’s not long before he sees his chance to force the car to pull to the side of the road. He pulls along the side of the car and hits the windshield to get the car to stop. Then he easily takes down the men inside to rescue Hye-rin.
Woo-suk learns about Hye-rin’s kidnapping from his clerk, Mr. Oh, who assures him that he’ll look into it for him.
Meanwhile, Hye-rin and Tae-soo arrive at one of her family’s cabins in a remote wooded area. Hye-rin gives him the key to the house and tells him to spend the night there. She tells him it won’t be safe to stay longer than one night, but she can offer him the little cash she has to help him avoid being captured. As she’s talking, she looks nervous and stares at the floor instead of making eye contact witph him. He tries to interrupt, but she talks over him and tells him she’ll be back. She’s going to go get some more cash for him, she says.
Tae-soo finally gets a word in and tells her to look at him when she’s talking to him. She slowly raises her head, looks him in the eye and tells him that Jae-hee died. She says Jae-hee gave his life for her and tears well up in her eyes. Tae-soo tells her he knows about Jae-hee’s death, and she says she got Jae-hee killed in order to save him. Tae-soo tells her Lawyer Min said they’re a couple who were never meant to be, and Hye-rin thinks he was right. She turns to leave, but Tae-soo stops her and says he doesn’t care what price they have to pay because all that matters is her. She smiles and a tear falls from her eye as she leans her head on his shoulder.
Back at the Prosecutor’s Office, Mr. Oh returns to the office to tell Woo-suk what he found out about Hye-rin’s kidnapping. He tells Woo-suk some of the government’s men took her, but a motorcyclist showed up out of nowhere, kicked their butts and took off with Hye-rin. Woo-suk, realizing it was Tae-soo who saved Hye-rin, tells Mr. Oh to have the team search every property Hye-rin owns. When one of the men protests, telling him they don’t have the manpower to search everywhere, Woo-suk cuts him off, telling him that Tae-soo is with Hye-rin right now.
Sure enough, Tae-soo and Hye-rin are still at the cabin. It’s dark by now and they share a toast as they sit in front of a fire. Hye-rin starts reminiscing about the short period when they were engaged, but Tae-soo tells her to forget about their times together. In fact, she should wipe her memories of him from her mind and forget he ever existed, he says. They’ll probably never see each other again and he doesn’t want her to feel as though he abandoned her. She refuses to heed his advice though. Instead, she calls him stupid and asks what would they be without their memories. Then she hugs him and he leans in for a kiss (finally a kiss (on the mouth) in this show—it just took 23 episodes, but who’s counting).
Hours later, the fire in the fireplace has died down and they’re both asleep. Tae-soo wakes up first and builds the fire back up. Then he sits up and stares at Hye-rin as she sleeps for a few moments before he gets up to leave. The cold draft from the door wakes her up though. Realizing he’s leaving, she goes to the door and watches as he climbs on his bike. He turns back to look at the house one more time before he drives off and sees her in the doorway. Their eyes meet and for a moment they just stare at each other, tears falling from Hye-rin’s eyes as she looks at him. Finally, he starts the engine and drives away.
By morning, Detectives Chang and Baik arrive at the cabin and take Hye-rin into custody. They escort her to Prosecutor’s Office, where a gang of reporters clamor around her asking questions about Tae-soo.
Hye-rin won’t agree to talk to anyone but Woo-suk. When he arrives, she tells him to go ahead and start the interrogation, but he tells her to relax. He walks up to the double-sided mirror and tells his colleagues in the observation room that he and Hye-rin have been friends since college and they’re going to speak to each other as friends during the questioning. Then he sits down and starts by asking her whether she was with Tae-soo the night before.
She admits she and Tae-soo were together until sometime early that morning when he slipped away while she was asleep. Woo-suk asks if she knew he’d escaped from jail and she says that she did. He tells her she should have reported him, but she says she couldn’t do that to him. She didn’t want to report him either, she adds.
Woo-suk then moves on to asking about the ledger her father kept. She doesn’t have the whole ledger anymore, the first part is missing, she says. But she gives him the part she still has and tells him it contains the amounts and manner of payments made to specific high level government officials since 1980.
Inside the observation room, Chief Prosecutor Seo (Woo-suk’s former supervisor in the Seoul office) is watching. He stands up and walks toward the window to have a closer look at them. He looks nervous as Hye-rin tells Woo-suk that neither her father nor the officials who received the bribes paid taxes on any of the amounts recorded in the ledger. If you check the numbers, you’ll know just how much taxes the casino avoided paying, she tells him. Woo-suk warns her that giving him the ledger will impact her casino. She tells him she’s prepared for that. She might lose her shirt, but not her life, she says.
Meanwhile, Tae-soo has begun tracking down Jong-do. He corners one of Jong-do’s gang members as the guy is trying to get into his car and demands to know where his boss is hiding. The next thing we know, Tae-soo is at a horse race track. Jong-do’s subordinate must have told him Jong-do was at the track.
Tae-soo finds some of Jong-do’s men in one of the restrooms and starts attacking without warning. Sideburns Guy is there and he looks on as Tae-soo easily takes down the men in his path. Sideburns Guy starts inching away, but Tae-soo is too fast for him, so he changes his mind and tries to fight back. Tae-soo takes him down in a matter of seconds and then pushes his head inside a toilet as he demands to know where Jong-do is hiding.
Back at the Prosecutor’s Office, Woo-suk discovers Jong-do’s passport hasn’t been revoked and goes to Chief Prosecutor Seo (who looked shifty during Hye-rin’s interrogation) to ask why Jong-do still has a valid passport. Prosecutor Seo claims it must be an oversight and assures Woo-suk he’ll take care of it. Then he changes the subject and tells Woo-suk he has more important things to take care of—like the reports they received earlier in the day about an incident at the race track.
Woo-suk doesn’t look convinced, but he leaves Prosecutor Seo’s office to get back to work. In the hallway, he runs into the head DA who asks if he will come to his office to have a talk with him.
The head DA serves him tea, telling Woo-suk the tea is from his friend, who is a monk and grew the tea himself. Woo-suk apologizes and says if he called him into his office to tell him to slow down his investigation, then he’ll be leaving. He doesn’t have time for any more advice to be patient or wait for the right opportunity, he says. The head DA chuckles and tells Woo-suk he called him to tell him to go for all or nothing and to do it quickly. He’ll need to go all the way and wrap the case up in a reasonable amount of time because it just gets more dangerous the longer he drags it out. “Attack is the best defense now,” he says.
Back in his office, Mr. Oh tells Woo-suk that Jong-do’s passport still hasn’t been revoked. He contacted the airport and the officials there told him they never received a request to suspend Jong-do’s traveling privileges. Woo-suk goes to Chief Prosecutor Seo’s office, but it’s empty. The receptionist comes in behind him and tells Woo-suk that Prosecutor Seo has already left for the day.
As Woo-suk broods in the office, Jong-do arrives at the Busan port to try to board a boat to leave the country. Good old Tae-soo is one step ahead of him though. As soon as his car stops and one of his men get out to get his bag from the trunk, a kick comes out of nowhere and the guy falls over. Tae-soo follows up with a vicious attack, which spooks Jong-do. Jong-do gets into the driver’s seat of the car and tries to run Tae-soo over, but Tae-soo jumps onto the hood, dodging the attack. Jong-do’s man has recovered enough to start to fight back and while he fights Tae-soo, Jong-do runs away.
Tae-soo goes after Jong-do and there’s a tense chase scene until Tae-soo reaches a dead end at the end of a hallway where it looks like Jong-do got away. Jong-do is only hiding though, and he tries to attack Tae-soo when his back is turned. He gets a few shots in and runs away again until Tae-soo finally corners him at the top of a ship.
With nowhere to run, Jong-do begs Tae-soo not to make him use the knife he has. He tells Tae-soo he had no choice but to go after Hye-rin. If he didn’t do as they told him to do, they would have killed him. He only attacked Hye-rin to stay alive, he claims. He pulls the knife from the sheath and holds it for a long moment, then he drops it to the ground. He tells Tae-soo he didn’t intend to mess with Hye-rin because he knew how Tae-soo felt about her all this time.
Tae-soo viciously punches him in the face and grabs him by the throat. Then Tae-soo starts choking him as he holds him over the railing. He tells Jong-do this is a fitting place for him to die, but when Jong-do begs Tae-soo to let him live, Tae-soo stares at him for a long time and then slowly lets go of his neck and walks away.
Jong-do is shocked at Tae-soo’s change of heart, but being the lowlife that he is, he can’t just walk away. After he catches his breath, he sits up and sees the knife lying in front of him. He looks around, then he picks up the knife and follows Tae-soo. He calls Tae-soo’s name and when Tae-soo turns around, he plunges the knife into Tae-soo’s stomach. Tae-soo stares at Jong-do, shocked Jong-do would stab him after he let him live. (And this is why he’s the dumbest smart gangster I know.)
Jong-do stands there staring at Tae-soo for a moment. He seems shocked that he stabbed Tae-soo as well, but he comes to his senses when Tae-soo tries to stand up, and he runs away. Tae-soo is hurt badly, and he has a hard time getting to his feet, but eventually he pulls himself up and goes after Jong-do.
Jong-do sees a big rig truck driving along the dock, and he jumps from the top of the ship onto the top of the truck. Tae-soo jumps down too, and the men have a final showdown onboard the truck. Tae-soo has to hold his stomach wound and can barely stay on his feet as he fights, but he musters up the strength to fight back. He finally lands a hard punch and knocks Jong-do down, then he walks toward Jong-do and lands a savage kick to his head which sends him flying into the sea below.
Jong-do lands face down in the water and Tae-soo watches as his lifeless body floats away. Moments later, police cars surround the truck and Tae-soo looks on stoically as he realizes he’s been caught.
In the next scene, the Sandglass OST plays as we see Detectives Chang and Baik and Sergeant Cho leading Tae-soo through a mob of reporters who have surrounded the prosecutor’s office. Once they get into the hallway, the group stops and Tae-soo looks down the hallway where Woo-suk has stepped out of his office to watch them approach. Tae-soo and Woo-suk stare at each other for a moment and then Woo-suk walks forward, puts his arm around Tae-soo’s shoulder and leads him to his office.
So we’ve finally reach the showdown between Woo-suk and Tae-soo that the series has been building up to all along. Woo-suk warned Tae-soo all the way back in Episode 2 that he’d be a judge or prosecutor one day and they could end up on opposite sides of the courtroom. With the generous foreshadowing of that very event, it’s no surprise it ultimately happened. Woo-suk is so conscientious, I’m sure he’ll do his job to the best of his ability, but it was nice to see their moment of friendship peeking through when Woo-suk put his arm around Tae-soo’s shoulder and walked him the rest of the way down the hall.
It just annoys me that Tae-soo has to be the self-sacrificing one all the time. I can just guess that because Woo-suk is at the helm of the investigation, Tae-soo will cooperate out of his (misguided) loyalty for him. The same way he decided to risk his life just to save Hye-rin’s casino.
If one thing good came out of this episode, it looks like Hye-rin has learned a valuable life lesson on the value of life over material things. Too bad it took her losing Jae-hee (*sob*) and Tae-soo too (because he’s doomed as well) for her to realize it.
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