Stranger 2 Review: Episode 12

After a few weeks of turbulence, things seem to have taken on a veneer of calmness. Both Shi-mok (Cho Seung-woo) and Yeo-jin (Bae Doo-na) withdrew from the investigation in Dong-jae’s (Lee Joon-hyuk) kidnapping case. As a result, Choi Bit (Jeon Hye-jin) and Woo Tae-ha (Choi Moo-sung) relax again and resume the police-prosecution meetings for reform. At Hanjo Group, Yeon-jae (Yoon Se-ah) has resolved her immediate troubles as well. Has everything really been brushed under the carpet, or is there still a chance that Shi-mok and Yeo-jin will pursue the truth?

Despite catching the witness lying in Dong-jae’s case, the police and prosecution have no choice but to hand him over to the Central District Prosecutor’s office, who are taking over the case. Even after release, Captain Baek finds himself mired in guilt. After a while of collaborating, relations between police and prosecution go back to how they were—with Choi Bit and Woo Tae-ha fighting over investigative authority, with Shi-mok and Yeo-jin arguing on two opposite sides again.

At this point, I’m struggling to figure out the nature of Chief Choi and Woo Tae-ha’s relationship. Is it purely one born out of colluding on a cover-up, or do their interests overlap? To the world, Choi Bit and Woo Tae-ha are locking horns over the investigative reforms issue, but they secretly meet up to discuss the Park Gwang-su case, which has both of them worried. It turns out that Woo Tae-ha was the one who had instructed Park Gwang-su’s wife to lie to Shi-mok.

Choi Bit is embroiled in a different set of worries—she wonders if Oh Ju-seon (Kim Hak-sun) knows about her involvement with Park Gwang-su and if she should agree to meet him. Together, they decide to resume council meetings and keep Shi-mok and Yeo-jin busy so they don’t go snooping. Woo and Choi are not the nicest people, it warms my heart that even they comment on Shi-mok and Yeo-jin’s teamwork. The duo is so good that almost everyone they know is threatened by it. We love best friends!

In this vein, this episode finally gives us some moments of these two bonding as friends, away from work commitments. First, they go for drinks together, where they discuss their investigations and the Park Gwang-su case. An interesting revelation happens at this point—they realize that the late lawyer was Kang Won-chul’s colleague, bringing him within the ambit of suspicion. Later, when Shi-mok has an attack in the middle of a meeting, Yeo-jin rushes to his side, and they share a light moment. We even get to see Shi-mok smile! I think, even if we get no other reveals, I’m satisfied just seeing Yeo-jin make Shi-mok laugh.

Shi-mok and Yeo-jin’s bond as friends and investigation partners is so heartwarming and fun. People around them chalk it down to them possibly dating, but I hope the show keeps their friendship intact. It’s both soft and not all soft, as is proved by the back slap Yeo-jin hits Shi-mok with, which annoys him. It’s hilarious how she’s the only one who inspires regular emotions in him. They know each other quite well too—she manages to work out that it’s stress and worry over Dong-jae that is causing his crushing headaches, while he wonders when she became the kind of person who postpones things. It’s one of the purest dynamics in K-drama, ever!

As things go back to whatever normal was before Dong-jae’s disappearance. Shi-mok is given piles of paperwork to disseminate the Criminal Procedure Case and the reform bill before the second meeting of the reformation council. Yeo-jin, on the other hand, has years of data and cases to sort through to pick out the cases they can use against the prosecution as examples of abuse of authority. This so-called normalcy feels forced and wrong when Dong-jae is still missing, and what’s worse is that everyone seems to have moved on. 

The second meeting of the reformation council goes much the same way as the first one—with both sides leveling accusations against each other and failing to come to any conclusion. Yeo-jin quotes several cases where suspects were let go because of their connections to prosecutors, while Prosecutor Kim (Kim Young-jae) brings up cases of bribes and cover-ups. Detective Jang Geon (Choi Jae-woong) quips that it’s like watching a session of the National Assembly, and I agree.

At Hanjo, things are finally going the way Yeon-jae wants them to go. She, too, was worried about Park Gwang-su’s case being dug up, but with Dong-jae gone and Shi-mok and Yeo-jin busy, she thinks she can finally relax. She almost asks Oh Ju-seon to stop getting information from Choi Bit, too. However, Choi Bit chooses that particular moment to fix a meeting with Oh. Yeon-jae decides to go ahead with the meeting, instructing Oh to gather intel from her on Park Gwang-su’s case. Curiously, she also asks him to set up a meeting with Kang Won-chul.

Woo invites himself to Choi’s meeting with Oh Ju-seon, which turns out to be a pretty high-profile affair. The meeting is at a hotel owned by Hanjo Group. Choi and Woo go through a thousand security checks before they are allowed to enter—and when they do, we realize that Yeon-jae has conned them into meeting her instead of Oh Ju-seon! That was some plot twist!

Oh Ju-seon, on the other hand, is given very specific instructions by Managing Director Park (Jung Sung-il) for his meeting. Now, it makes sense why Yeon-jae asked him to set up meetings with Choi Bit and Kang Won-chul at the same time—it was so she could meet up with Choi, while Oh met with Kang. He divulges the financial statement of Hanjo Engineering, making a show out of being unable to decide what to do with it. This is most likely trapping him into one of Yeon-jae’s strategies, seeing as Kang was bent on bringing down Hanjo, and I think Kang will rise to the bait.

While the exact nature of Yeon-jae’s meeting with Choi Bit and Woo Tae-ha will only be revealed in the next episode, this episode has already set it up to be a game-changer. For starters, it doesn’t seem like both parties are aware of the extent of each other’s involvement. Yeon-jae asks Choi Bit why Park Gwang-su had to die, and Choi asks her the same question in return. Could it be that the Hanjo that is involved in this case is not the one Yeon-jae is leading, but the one that her father led? I was about to whine that we are ending on yet another cliffhanger without any reveals at all, but this twist is so interesting that I will save any complaints for next week.

Indoor Enthusiast

Indoor Enthusiast (Esha) is usually found going on rants about how Ji Hae-soo from It's Okay That's Love and Sung Bora from Reply 1988 are the best heroines to grace our screens. Thrillers like Secret Forest and rom-coms with sprinklings of feminism à la Because This Life Is My First hold a special place in her heart. She can be reached at [email protected]

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