Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho 2: episodes 3-4
Tragedy strikes, giving our down-and-out lawyer a reason to pull himself out of his funk, if he can find the courage. He learns early who it is he’ll be up against, which gives the chase an extra layer of fascination as I anticipate the mental chess game that’s about to commence.
Ja-kyung had been eating a piece of candy as she’d entered the abandoned hospital, and she’d dropped the wrapper carelessly onto the floor. She’d taken her time, looking into old exam rooms as if searching for something.
A bit later, as Deul-ho walks those same halls, he finds some filthy, discarded clothing. A cat scares him half to death, and he falls as if something pushed him from behind.
Ja-kyung eventually makes her way to a large open room, where she sits in front of a tiny table with a fancy tea set. A man, bound and blindfolded, sits in a chair across from her. Her minionette removes the bag on his head to reveal Jung-geon, Deul-ho’s old friend, who went missing eleven days ago.
Ja-kyung greets him as if they know each other, saying that it’s been a long time, but Jung-geon doesn’t know who she is. She’s annoyed that he doesn’t remember her, and she fondles an oddly-shaped ring as she pouts at him.
Jung-geon is moved closer so that Minionette can pour the tea, deliberately serving him a cube of brown sugar. While Jung-geon drinks thirstily, Ja-kyung asks why he was snooping around here, and he tells her that he has to finish something before he retires. He asks her why she kidnapped an investigator, but Ja-kyung just asks why he’s interested in this building.
Before he can answer, Jung-geon clutches his stomach, gags, and falls to the floor. I knew that sugar cube was poisoned! As he writhes in pain, Ja-kyung tells him calmly that there was a man who was imprisoned for five days, starved and dehydrated. She gave him water, but after drinking it, he died.
She laughs that she was surprised that her kindness and good intentions caused his death, and asks Jung-geon if an unintentional crime is still a crime. He begs her to spare him, but Ja-kyung says that she already told him she didn’t mean to kill him.
She giggles at his pleas and tells him not to die too soon, because that’s boring. Jung-geon says that he did something as if confessing, and entreats Ja-kyung to save his life. She yells that that’s not what she wants to hear, throwing down the ring she’s been holding.
She shows Jung-geon a white sugar cube — the antidote — and says that he has two minutes to take it. In agony, he pulls himself closer to her and reaches out for the antidote, but he collapses and dies without obtaining it.
Deul-ho finds Ja-kyung’s discarded candy wrapper when it gets stuck to his hand (ew). He continues on, checking doors as he goes, finding nothing of note — but someone moves from one room to another behind him, disappearing before he sees them. He checks another room, imagining the horrific things that were done here.
Later, Ja-kyung attends a fancy event, where Assemblyman Baek thanks her for inviting him. Chairman Kook and his family are also attending, and when Mi-sook, the daughter-in-law, makes a snarky comment about Ja-kyung, her husband Jong-seob tells her that she’ll never win this fight. Their son, Jong-bok, is absent from the event (a common occurrence) because he’s elsewhere drinking and doing drugs with friends.
Meanwhile, Deul-ho makes his way to the large room, which is now empty except for a fresh bloodstain on the floor. Again he senses someone nearby, but his phone goes off, distracting him. The caller notifies him that Jung-geon’s body has been found in a mud flat, and when he arrives at the scene, he forces his way past the police barriers to get to his friend.
The police hold him back, and as Jung-geon’s body is carried away, all Deul-ho can do is scream, “Hyung! HYUNG!!”
Deul-ho is still covered in mud as he sits at Jung-geon’s funeral. He thinks of old times when he and Jung-geon would fight criminals together, then celebrate with cup ramyun and a lot of good-natured teasing.
Ja-kyung tries on a thick red knitted scarf, then leaves it behind as she heads to Jung-geon’s funeral. She looks like a million bucks as she pays her respects to Jung-geon but barely acknowledges So-mi. She stops in front of Deul-ho, gives him a smirk, and leaves. On her way out she gives Minionette a look, and Minionette says she’ll look into it without needing to hear what Ja-kyung wants.
Ja-kyung takes Chairman Kook a gift of a bonsai tree as a thanks from Assemblyman Baek for a gift, which Chairman Kook jokes is really a receipt for the money he sent. He asks if she took care of “those other jerks” in addition to Assemblyman Baek, and Ja-kyung assures him that she did. Chairman Kook says to pay particular attention to prosecutors Yoo and Park, who are jealous of each other.
He sighs that Jong-bok will probably go to prison this time, but Ja-kyung promises him that that won’t happen. It gives him hope, and he tells her affectionately that he adores her.
Still at Jung-geon’s funeral, Man-soo urges Deul-ho and So-mi to eat. A loud woman comes in looking for the chief mourner, and she tells Man-soo that her husband loaned Jung-geon a staggering sum of money (about $50,000 USD), wanting to know how she’s going to get repaid.
So-mi hasn’t looked well since this whole thing started, but the woman’s arrival seems to sink her even deeper into herself. Man-soo tells her that it will be okay, but it’s obviously just empty words.
Inside, Deul-ho looks at the loan agreement. He asks the husband Dong-chul if he has a license to issue loans, accusing him of illegal loansharking and forging a fake document. The wife, Jung-ja, says that Jung-geon killed himself, and when Deul-ho asks angrily who made such a horrible accusation, she tells him that the police told her so.
Deul-ho goes back to the station, bellowing for Captain Seo to come out and explain why he’s calling Jung-geon’s death a suicide. CS hides in his office while Deul-ho is dragged out, then he calls someone and tells them that Deul-ho is saying it’s not suicide, but he reassures them that it’s all taken care of. Ugh, he’s a dirty cop.
Jung-geon is laid out for his loved ones to say their final goodbyes. Afterward, Deul-ho takes So-mi home to pack some of her things, and Man-soo panics as he realizes that Deul-ho means for her to move in with them. He asks if Deul-ho really believes that Jung-geon was murdered.
Deul-ho points out that CS is hiding from him, and that the police ruled Jung-geon’s death a suicide without notifying So-mi. Man-soo agrees that the whole thing is fishy, and Deul-ho argues that with the debt now on So-mi to repay, creditors will eat her alive if they leave her on her own.
Man-soo says they should just give So-mi the consolation money and send her to live with relatives. The money is news to Deul-ho, so Man-soo explains that he found a bank check for ten million won (about $10,000 USD) that someone left at the funeral. He wants to reimburse himself for Jung-geon’s funeral out of it, but Deul-ho makes him hand it over.
Deul-ho visits a prosecutor friend to ask if there’s anything he can do about the situation. Prosecutor Kang tells him to just follow proper procedure, but Deul-ho says he doesn’t want him to do anything illegal, just reopen the case. PL tells Deul-ho that he can’t risk it since he’s already working on a case against Chairman Kook, which pits him against Lee Ja-kyung.
Deul-ho seems to recognize the name, and PK reminds them that they all went to school together. He explains that she’s the head of Chairman Kook’s planning and coordination department, and that Chairman Kook loves her so much that there’s a chance he’ll make her his heir instead of his own son. Deul-ho realizes that Ja-kyung must be the mysterious woman who came to Jung-geon’s funeral.
Still covered in mud (does this man ever shower?), Deul-ho makes his way to Chairman Kook’s building and asks to see Ja-kyung. He immediately gets security called on him, and as they’re shoving him around, he takes the money that was left at the funeral and throws it towards a CCTV camera, yelling for Ja-kyung to take her money back.
A woman outside the building is being even more viciously treated as she screams that her child did nothing wrong. Deul-ho runs over to stop the security guards from dragging her through the streets by smacking them with his shoe, ha.
He helps the woman up, and she tells him that her daughter Ji-yoon worked in the accounting department at Kookil Produce, Chairman Kook’s company. Out of nowhere, Ji-yoon was accused of embezzlement and sent to a detention center. She’s refusing to say a word, even to her lawyer, so her trial was delayed. The woman belatedly recognizes Deul-ho, and she begs him to help her daughter.
Ja-kyung walks into the house where Chairman Kook’s grandson Jong-bok spent last night partying and finds him passed out. She has her men drag him into the bathroom and turns the water on him, then smacks him until he’s fully awake. She shows him a plane ticket and informs him that he’s leaving the country until the situation he caused has been resolved.
Jong-bok calls Ja-kyung nothing but an orphan who doesn’t share his family’s blood. Instead of getting angry, she smirks that it’s true, then beats him while saying that the family has been going easy on him because he’s blood. She terrifies Jong-bok, who changes his tune and promises to get his act together.
Deul-ho returns to his office space to find Dong-chul and Jung-ja, the loan sharks, ransacking the place. He promises to pay them back what Jung-geon borrowed, but Jung-ja asks how he intends to do that when his law license was suspended after he defended AG’s son and the defendant ended up dead.
That night, So-mi wakes Deul-ho as he sleeps on the couch. She says that she’ll go home, worried that taking care of her is too hard on him, but he tells her not to be silly and go back to bed. She does, but in the morning, she sneaks out with her suitcase while the men are still asleep.
Deul-ho follows her to the bus stop, where he sits beside her and says that she’s small and doesn’t eat much, reassuring her that she’s not a burden. He gives her some money and tells her to take a lap on the bus, stop at a PC cafe and then to a convenience store for some ramyun, just to have a little time to herself. Then he kidnaps her suitcase and heads back home. Awww.
After a while, So-mi returns, but she still has the money Deul-ho gave her. He doesn’t take it and just tells her to sit and eat, and Man-soo is all Did he give you a PC cafe points card? That’s mine…
At the office, Man-soo finds the information for the woman whose daughter is in jail and celebrates at the prospect of a real client. Deul-ho wonders if he can handle taking the case, but Man-soo says that this is his chance out of his slump.
Deul-ho isn’t convinced, so Man-soo throws a hissy fit, yelling that all the needy people cam just go die and he’ll retire to the country and live on a farm, ha. Wordlessly, So-mi hands Deul-ho a book, which has a chocopie wrapped up inside. He eats it while Man-soo calls the client.
Ja-kyung calls the prosecutors that Chairman Kook mentioned, Prosecutor Yoo and Prosecutor Park, to discuss Jong-bok. Prosecutor Yoo tells her he’s working on it and there shouldn’t be a problem, barring any variables, but Ja-kyung croons sweetly that she hates variables more than anything. The prosecutors read the implied threat loud and clear.
Deul-ho has to go to Jung-geon’s office to clean out his personal things, remembering that Jung-geon was always particularly interested in cases involving female victims. Minionette drives away with boxes full of trial notes that she stole before Deul-ho got to Jung-geon’s office.
Deul-ho gets a call from Man-soo, who’s frantic after learning that their new client was beaten black and blue by the Kookil security guards. At the hospital, Deul-ho tries to calm him down despite his own rage, while So-mi looks on and picks at her hands nervously.
Deul-ho goes back to the Kookil Produce building (it cracks me up how he throws himself over the metal barriers like a floppy scarecrow instead of just walking around them, LOL), and as soon as he steps inside, he opens up a can of whoop-ass on the guards.
That finally gets him an audience with Ja-kyung. He remembers her from fifteen years ago, and she pours them some tea, but Deul-ho refuses it. He asks if she did it, and she thinks he means having the mother beaten, but he asks point-blank, “Investigator Yoo Jung-geon, did you kill him?”
Coyly, she retorts, “What if I did?” Deul-ho says calmly that he’ll have to kill her, and Ja-kyung smiles like she’s finally found a worthy opponent. She pulls out a bowl of candy and slowly unwraps a piece as she claims innocently that she couldn’t possibly have killed Jung-geon.
Deul-ho pulls something out of his pocket — the candy wrapper he found at the murder scene. It’s an exact match to the wrapper of the candy Ja-kyung is holding in her hands, and Deul-ho sticks it to her name plate, gives her a look, then walks out.
Ja-kyung bursts into loud peals of laughter, then smiles almost fondly as she says to herself, “This is going to be fun, Deul-ho.”
Now we’re talking. That final scene between Deul-ho and Ja-kyung gave this show the punch it needed to catch my attention, which was starting to flag as Deul-ho moped around doing nothing and Ja-kyung repeatedly displayed her dominance over pretty much everyone in the city. But when they stood face-to-face and Deul-ho issued his clear challenge, I felt like this is what I’m here for, a showdown between two brilliant minds, one devoted to good and the other evil and depraved. And I like that Deul-ho knows who the killer is (even though, again, it’s basically the same set-up as Season One, though more personal this time around), because instead of watching him try to discover the culprit, I prefer to see him know who it is and dedicate himself to making her pay.
I’m not quite as happy with this second episode as I was with the premiere, which had a lot of story to tell but it all seemed relatively cohesive. This episode also had a lot of information to convey, but nothing seems connected and the hints we were given were way too vague to be of much use. We have a corrupt assemblyman who kisses up to a more corrupt chairman for money, and both of them have younger family members who are troublemakers. There’s a dead investigator, a dirty police captain, an employee wrongfully incarcerated, and a murder cover-up, but no clear idea as to what any of it has to do with anything. That last scene gives me a reason to hang in there, though, because I want to see more of Deul-ho and Ja-kyung facing off and dueling with words.
Ja-kyung seems to be the rope that ties all of the seemingly random events together, but we know nearly nothing about her. Is she just a facilitator, someone who does the dirty work for the people who need to keep their hands clean? Is she the one orchestrating it all? Or is she something even more sinister? I find Ja-kyung fascinating and Go Hyun-jung is playing her extremely well, but I was getting concerned that we weren’t being given anything about her goals or her motivations to keep me coming back. Giving a character some mystery is great, but if you make them too mysterious, there’s nothing for your audience to relate to and you’ll lose them, and I’d hate to see that happen here. So I’m glad that we learned a bit more about her past — it seems as though she and Deul-ho went to school together, and since they were both orphans, they may have known each other even longer than that.
Is anyone else extremely worried about So-mi? I hate to speculate about this sort of thing but since she’s a character and not a real person… she comes across to me as non-neurotypical, possibly even on the autism spectrum. The way she reacts to unexpected events by shutting down and “stimming” (repetitive movement in response to overstimulation — in her case, the way she rocks and picks at her fingers), her habitual silence, and her lack of willingness to look people in the eye are all indicative of some sort of condition. She doesn’t seem to have a job and still lived with her father, and she doesn’t strike me as being capable of taking care of herself. I’m sure we’ll learn more about her, but for now I’m glad she has Deul-ho to care for her because I fear what would happen to her without someone watching over her.