Figuring out Episode 6: an Uncap
Long ago in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant’s character describes marriage as “just a way of getting out of an embarrassing pause in conversation.” The K-drama version of this axiom is that a kiss can be a way for a scriptwriter to get out of an episode when they run out of time. This was a good episode, but I’m not sure if that kiss at the end advances the plot. Or at least I don’t think it moves the two leads towards understanding each other better.
The dramatic events in this episode distract Yeol-Moo from brooding about her brother, making for a less emotional episode, one more focused on police procedure. As I watched the characters react to Panda’s death, I realized that living in the U.S. makes me a little too casual about the police killing people. Justifiable homicide by law enforcement barely makes the local news where I live. By contrast, in South Korea it seems law enforcement isn’t expected to cause collateral damage. The public will ask awkward questions when the news of the death gets out.
But first things first. Chief Moon gets chewed out by his superior, and as usual, it hurts his ego that she’s a woman and younger than him. She’s a great character, especially when she attacks Chief Moon with her charm offensive. The more annoyed she gets at his insubordination, the more she smiles.
She’s ready to defend the team against journalists and public opinion, though. It’s Chief Moon who makes the seemingly odd decision to arrest Kang-Soo. He insists to his boss that they’ll handle the case with strict protocol. But protocol isn’t usually his thing, so what is he up to?
First, Moon does have a reputation for corruption, so perhaps he’s trying to keep his nose clean. His goal in his current job is to rehabilitate his image, even if that means prosecuting a team member. But a conversation he has with Dong-Chi later that night suggests a second reason Moon feels okay about arresting Kang-Soo. Based on the surveillance video, he and Dong-Chi believe the victim was already ill from poison or an overdose. If that’s the case, then Kang-Soo didn’t commit accidental homicide. Our sweet Kang-Soo was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If Chief Moon thought the evidence would convict Kang-Soo, would he have acted differently? He claims that the reputation of the team affects his own reputation. Is that why he gets annoyed at Dong-Chi and the older prosecutor for writing testimonials on Kang-Soo’s behalf? Does he think everyone should distance themselves from the bad apple to keep their own reputations? Does he simply think that whether Kang-Soo is nice or not doesn’t count as evidence? Whatever he’s thinking, he continues to reliably act like a total jerk. He yells at Dong-Chi for going into action without preparation, even though it was Dong-Chi who opposed the operation and Chief Moon who insisted on it. Saying, I believe, some variation on, “What could possibly go wrong?”
Or is Chief Moon throwing Kang-Soo under the bus because of Chang-Gi? In one of those revelations that made me shout at the TV screen in several languages at once, we learn that Jung Chang-Gi was once close to Moon. In fact, in the short flashback to 15 years ago—what’s up with 15 years ago?—we see them driving in a car late at night looking like work partners. Chang-Gi falls asleep at the wheel and accidentally hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Moon is clearly alluding to this when he talks about facing the consequences and not covering up the truth. Did Chief Moon and Jung Chang-Gi cover up their involvement in the accident? Did the incident end Chang-Gi’s career as an attorney?
It’s a surprise to learn that Chang-Gi was once a lawyer, although it does explain why he was dispensing legal advice in prison in the first episode. What’s more surprising is that Kang-Soo is so important to him that he comes to see Chief Moon. Moon treats him with contempt, gesturing him to come closer as if he’s calling a dog, and Chang-Gi doesn’t deck him for it. Instead he offers to help Moon with whatever scheme he’s got going, in exchange for helping Kang-Soo.
At moments like this, I’m 100% convinced that Chang-Gi is Kang-Soo’s father. At other times, I’m convinced he’s not. What’s the truth? “Grandmother” really appears to be Kang-Soo’s grandmother, because she can recall him as a little child. And she says his parents are dead and Chang-Gi’s a bum. Kang-Soo used to follow him around, like he follows Dong-Chi around now, simply because he misses his parents. But then Chang-Gi acts so much like a wayward father in this episode: when he’s angry at himself for not having a first-aid kit; when he’s saying goodbye to Kang-Soo at the police station; when he’s talking to Moon; and especially when he shows up at the prison gates with a block of tofu cut into the shape of a heart. What’s up with this new side of Chang-Gi?
The unraveling of the mystery around Panda’s death happens quickly in this episode and I had to race to keep up. Many answers will have to wait for next week. At first, the coincidences seemed bizarre. This case connects to Panda, and Yeol-Moo’s suicide case, and the drug case from two weeks ago. How is all that possible? But in fact, the common thread in all those cases is Dong-Chi’s drug informer, Oh Man Shik. Was he just using the prosecutors to take care of Panda because it was an opportunity? Who is the larger gang he works for?
Part of me wants this case to tie back to the gang from fifteen years ago who killed Yeol-Moo’s little brother. But another part of me thinks that would be way too obvious. Yeol-Moo should have to work to find the culprits. But perhaps she and Dong-Chi have already paid their dues in the Dead Brother Guilt department. Wouldn’t it be great if they could work together to get the bad guys?
And on the topic of working together, as a smart woman once said (I think it was Angie Dickinson in “Rio Bravo,” 1959), “It’s better when two people do it.” Do you really think now’s the time to kiss the girl, Dong-Chi? I know she’s driving you nuts and you really want to. But she’s not going to get into it when she still suspects you of heinous crimes.
Sure, she showed signs of wavering this episode. She finally realized that her feelings don’t make sense. She can’t trust you as a prosecutor and at the same time fear you as an irrational child killer. But give her some time to let go of those four years of hating you. You’re just going to get slapped. That’s going to make Choi Jin-Hyuk fans everywhere sad.
Really. I didn’t expect them to kiss in this episode. They’ve hurt each other’s feelings so much lately. Baek Jin-Hee has done a good job convincing me she really hates Prosecutor Koo, even though he’s still a pushover for her. Is this one of those examples of a K-drama hero using a kiss to get out of an awkward pause in conversation? Is this a scriptwriter who badly needs to turn in an episode on deadline?
I’m looking forward to next week. Meanwhile, to celebrate Kang-Soo’s release, maybe I’ll cook up this Korean-American tofu recipe. Koreans give a few explanations for why it’s traditional to give tofu to a person leaving jail. One is that in the old days, prisoners didn’t eat much, especially protein, and tofu was the healthiest food on hand for post-prison recovery. Others say the white color of tofu symbolizes purity, which I’m not sure about, because I believe white is also the color of mourning and grief in China and Korea. My favorite explanation is that you give tofu to ex-cons because tofu starts out as beans, but is transformed by fermentation. It can never return to bean form. Similarly, you hope your beloved is a new person after stewing for awhile in prison. Like tofu, the released prisoner should be a new substance now, and shouldn’t go back to the old life. But that doesn’t apply to Kang-Soo, who we hope will find his way back to sunny idealism.