One mystery solved, a thousand more to go. Okay, maybe not a thousand, but after so many episodes with so little confirmation, it sure does feel like that much. We get some of the answers we’ve been waiting for – and not a moment too soon – but I didn’t expect the impact to be this hard. As the school’s trial reaches its final stretch, we begin to see that the students didn’t expect the truth to hit them this hard either. Not even Ji-hoon.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
December 24th, Christmas Eve. Are we finally going to see what happened?
Kyung-moon and Ji-hoon spend a pleasant evening at a fancy restaurant, the atmosphere nice and light. Ji-hoon jumps at the sound of his phone, disappointed when he sees that it’s not So-woo. Kyung-moon glances up at So-woo’s name, so Ji-hoon elaborates that he’s worried for his friend, since they haven’t been in contact for a while. Ji-hoon thinks that So-woo’s depression might’ve worsened again.
Kyung-moon waves it off, saying So-woo always gets like this, but Ji-hoon thinks it’s different this time: “He keeps saying things I don’t understand. He doesn’t seem like the So-woo I know.”
Sometime later, Kyung-moon meets with So-woo in his car by the river, telling him to stop ditching school since Ji-hoon is worried for him. His eyes holding a silent intensity, So-woo turns to Kyung-moon and says that he heard about Ji-hoon’s tragic past and how Kyung-moon had taken him in, even quitting his job as a prosecutor, thinking it would bring up painful memories. So-woo admits that when he heard this, he had no idea there could be someone so cool like that.
“But right now,” So-woo starts, making Kyung-moon inhale sharply, “I’m scared that I’ll grow up to be like you.” To Kyung-moon’s horror, So-woo says that he’s going to tell Ji-hoon everything. Kyung-moon warns him not to, especially now that Ji-hoon is in a good place. But So-woo says that as Ji-hoon’s friend, he feels obligated to reveal the truth, because he finds Ji-hoon pitiful for admiring someone as low as Kyung-moon. Oooh, that’s gotta hurt. And by the look on Kyung-moon’s face, I think it does.
With nothing left to say, So-woo exits Kyung-moon’s car. Kyung-moon’s eyes dart from surprise to panic, until they quickly settle on anger. He steps out of the driver’s seat, whirls So-woo around and slaps him across the face.
Kyung-moon calls So-woo out on being the school’s Sentinel: “Don’t be so delusional just because you’re treated as a hero on the internet. In the real world, no one would accept a person like you.” Oh, double ouch. Kyung-moon continues that So-woo is the one spreading unhappiness by needlessly blaming the social system for every little thing.
He orders So-woo to stay away from his innocent Ji-hoon before he slides back into his car and drives off. And So-woo can only watch, Kyung-moon’s harsh words hitting him as he cries.
Present day. Ji-hoon visits the painting So-woo had been so transfixed on, running into the art teacher, who seems to know him well. There are apparently no secrets between these two, because when the teacher asks if Ji-hoon is okay, Ji-hoon honestly replies that he isn’t.
The teacher says that he didn’t understand what Ji-hoon was trying to do with the school’s trial, but he understands now. Which is why he decided to stand in as Seo-yeon’s witness. Ji-hoon tells him that he decided well and that he should reveal everything.
“Everything? Even about you?” the teacher asks. Ji-hoon says yes – he can handle it now, since he won’t be appearing as a defense attorney anymore.
And with that, Ji-hoon takes one last look at the lone magpie in the painting.
Seo-yeon has Min-seok drop by the clubroom so she can inform him of her materials for the last trial, including their old art teacher (introduced as Teacher Lee) and the vice principal as her witnesses. And one extra witness that she’s not willing to disclose yet.
Min-seok points out that Seo-yeon’s witnesses are for challenging the school, while her evidence is for revealing what happened the night of So-woo’s death. Seo-yeon agrees that the prosecution’s main point is unclear, but for now, she just plans to go for it. Min-seok sighs at her newfound recklessness, ha.
The lights suddenly go out – and I instinctively go into panic mode – but it’s just Soo-hee strolling in with a birthday cake, Joon-young and Seung-hyun close behind. Seo-yeon tells them she wanted to skip her birthday with everything going on, but she’s smiling anyway.
The group cheerfully sings her “Happy Birthday,” and as soon as Seo-yeon blows the candles out, Seung-hyun smears some cake on her face. This starts an all-out frosting war, and it’s just about the sweetest thing ever. Though I am a little sad that Ji-hoon’s missing out on all the fun.
Instead, Ji-hoon is out brooding by the school yard, gazing at the spot where So-woo’s body was found.
The next day, the club prepares for the fourth and final trial. Since the room the defense team has been using is now closed off, Ji-hoon joins Seo-yeon in the clubroom. Finding the atmosphere a bit tense, Ji-hoon asks that she speak her mind instead of avoiding it. Seo-yeon insists that she isn’t avoiding anything – if he feels this way, then it’s because Ji-hoon’s the one with something to hide. Touché.
Detective Oh walks into the auditorium to find it nearly empty. Reporter Park waves her over and explains the threat of expulsion that the school pulled on the trial club, as well as the threat of losing points for anyone who attends.
Despite all the empty seats, the trial goes on the same as before, and Seo-yeon calls Teacher Lee in as her first witness. She asks what kind of relation Teacher Lee had with So-woo, and he responds that they were rather close, especially since they both considered themselves outsiders.
Seo-yeon then asks if So-woo felt that no one cared about him. Teacher Lee reveals that either way, So-woo never felt alone because he thrived with his friends on the internet. Seo-yeon: “Lee So-woo actively participated online?” Teacher Lee: “Yes. As the Jeongguk High Sentinel.”
Seo-yeon’s eyes grow wide. Teacher Lee goes on to say that So-woo was the operator of the Sentinel page, shocking everyone but Detective Oh and Reporter Park. But it’s Seo-yeon who is completely speechless – she looks around, forgetting all of her questions.
In the classroom, Soo-hee freaks out as she watches the trial on her phone and accidentally blurts out that So-woo was the Sentinel. The dean hushes her and turns around, only for everyone else to whip out their phones in sudden interest too.
After regaining her composure, Seo-yeon asks Teacher Lee how So-woo could be the Sentinel when the page is still active. He tells her that So-woo passed it on to a friend, pausing to subtly glance at Ji-hoon… only to say he doesn’t know who.
What Teacher Lee does know is that So-woo started the page to create a safe environment for his fellow students. In flashback, we see certain instances where the students would ask the Sentinel for details on crushes or to ask for help locating lost items, among many other things. To the students, the Sentinel was the coolest person in the school.
Teacher Lee explains that So-woo also took on more serious school matters. He has Seo-yeon pull up the page, identifying the main photo as artist Pieter Bruegel’s “The Magpie on the Gallows.” So-woo had told his teacher that the painting carried the same feeling as the school. Upon noticing that the painting depicted the witch hunts of that era with a person being dragged to the gallows, So-woo felt that the students were being oppressed in similar ways.
In fact, So-woo had faced a problem with a student snitching and managed to calm all the rumors, but it had still bothered him deep inside. And later, Teacher Lee had found him staring at the painting, noting that people never change – there’s a system, the people are oppressed, and in the end, there’s some sort of unfair sacrifice.
Teacher Lee puts the final nail in the coffin by revealing that So-woo’s online identity had been discovered by the school, and because of certain posts, he was threatened to be transferred. Seo-yeon assumes that this is why So-woo skipped out on school after the fight, only to be surprised when she hears that this threat happened months before the fight.
Yoo-jin gets this latest discovery out online, and soon, the students reply, asking for the trial to quickly adjourn. So Yoo-jin requests for a short recess to show everyone the crazy flow of responses from their classmates.
At the sound of Seung-hyun’s voice, the group looks up to see him and Soo-hee headed their way, as well as other students eager to watch the trial again.
While everyone starts filing into the auditorium, Min-seok pulls Seo-yeon aside to see if she’s decided what the prosecution is fighting for. She assures him that she’s confident she’ll come to this decision once she questions her next witness.
As Min-seok leaves, Seo-yeon can’t help but remember So-woo’s face during the fight, So-woo’s face in the teachers’ office when he’d called her the same as everyone else. And finally, she remembers a much happier time when she’d messaged the Sentinel, thanking him for a movie recommendation. Unbeknownst to her, So-woo had received the message as he was sitting behind her and smiled faintly as he watched her laugh with her friends.
The trial continues (now with every seat filled), and Seo-yeon faces her next witness: the ex-vice principal. Still bitter over his forced resignation, the vice principal doesn’t hesitate to admit that everything Teacher Lee said about So-woo was true. However, it does take him a second before he can admit the specific posts that got So-woo in trouble: the documents listing illicit student admissions.
Though the post had been deleted shortly after it was uploaded, Min-seok recalls seeing the “VIP” documents. The vice principal nods, saying that it wasn’t the school, but the school’s foundation that caught So-woo. And when the fight with Woo-hyuk came up, the foundation saw it as the perfect opportunity to finally get rid of So-woo.
Ji-hoon jumps up, demanding to know who delivered the orders that eventually got So-woo expelled. The vice principal throws out Kyung-moon’s name as if it’s obvious. Min-seok begins to chide Ji-hoon for speaking out of turn, but Seo-yeon stops him and says that she’s finished her questioning. She gives one last look at Ji-hoon before giving him the floor.
A new fire in his eyes, Ji-hoon faces the vice principal and brings up the fact that in his first testimony, the vice principal said the school followed all rules and regulations. Now that he’s told the truth, it’s clear that he’d committed perjury. The vice principal tries to defend himself by saying he was just following orders, but Ji-hoon calls him out on his lies again. Ji-hoon tells the vice principal he’s a coward for suddenly claiming no responsibility.
Tired of being belittled, the vice principal bolts up, scolding Ji-hoon for speaking this way. Seo-yeon and Min-seok try to cut in, but Ji-hoon has decided he’s had enough – he turns away from the court and stalks out of the room without another word.
Everyone regroups in the clubroom, trying to come to terms with what just happened. They’re confused about Ji-hoon, but even more worked up to learn about the VIP list. Min-seok figures they should have those special students expelled since he can’t allow studying in the same place as them. And Yoo-jin noticeably fidgets with a nervous look on her face.
Ji-hoon stand in the hallway alone, thinking back to when So-woo initially left the school. He’d found So-woo sulking in bed and asked if didn’t go to school again. “It’s not that I’m not going,” So-woo had said, turning away from his friend. “It’s that the school isn’t accepting me.” Crack. Well, there goes my heart.
Ji-hoon heads back to the auditorium, only to freeze when he notices the stationary store grandpa wandering around as he looks for the courtroom. Uh-oh. Grandpa recognizes Ji-hoon almost immediately, so there’s no hiding now.
The trial is back in order, but not for long – Seo-yeon calls in her surprise witness, and to Ji-hoon’s surprise, it’s Kyung-moon who walks through the door and makes the slow walk to the stand. Ji-hoon starts to stand, so Seo-yeon quickly intervenes and asks if she can have a moment alone with him.
Before Ji-hoon can even muster up an excuse, Seo-yeon blurts out that she knows Kyung-moon is his father. She met with him and inevitably asked him to participate in the trial. Ji-hoon asks what kind of questions she’s going to ask. “Why?” Seo-yeon says, genuinely curious. “Is there something I shouldn’t ask? Is there something else you’re hiding from us?”
No matter what, Seo-yeon plans to uncover the truth about the VIP list and whoever expelled So-woo for it. His eyes brimming with tears, Ji-hoon pleads her to let him do the questioning. But Seo-yeon denies him of this request. “I can’t trust you,” she declares, her voice hard.
So Ji-hoon has no choice but to return to his seat and watch his father take the oath.
Seo-yeon has Kyung-moon confirm his position at the Jeongguk Foundation, as well as his knowledge on So-woo and his online identity. Though Seo-yeon fires question after question, Kyung-moon skillfully answers every single one without revealing too much. All the while, Ji-hoon watches, growing more and more agitated.
When Seo-yeon gets to the documents, Kyung-moon lies that this is the first time he’s heard of it. And just like that, it’s as if all the admiration Ji-hoon held towards his father has crumbled, leaving nothing but disappointment.
Seeing that he has Seo-yeon stumped, Kyung-moon states that she needs the evidence, and Min-seok claiming he’s seen the evidence briefly online isn’t good enough.
Ji-hoon interrupts, saying that he can provide the proper evidence. He snatches Joon-young’s laptop and quickly logs into the Sentinel’s page, showing the entire courtroom the documents in full. Seo-yeon is taken aback by Ji-hoon’s sudden outburst, but she allows him to take the floor.
Now that the documents are blown out for everyone to see, Ji-hoon asks his father if he can still deny ever seeing them. Kyung-moon sees the hurt in Ji-hoon’s eyes, but he sticks to his story, lying that he never saw these papers and that he never expelled So-woo.
Finally, Ji-hoon drops his attorney façade and looks at his father as if they’re the only two in the room. He reminds Kyung-moon that he took an oath and asks again if what he’s saying is the truth. Ji-hoon’s eyes are practically begging Kyung-moon to end it all now and fess up. But—…
“It’s the truth,” Kyung-moon says, his voice final.
Those words seem to be the breaking point for Ji-hoon. He just glares at his father in silence, so Min-seok calls the cross-examination over and announces another recess. Ji-hoon is frozen as Kyung-moon gets up and leaves first under Seo-yeon’s watchful gaze, her expression sad.
Seo-yeon wanders around during the break, eventually finding herself face to face with the stationary store grandpa. She apologizes to Grandpa for having him come just to see her fail, but Grandpa’s concerned with something else – he asks why the student who’d cried at the payphone is here. “Pardon?” Seo-yeon can barely get the word out.
Grandpa takes her into the courtroom to show her exactly who he’s talking about. He finds who he’s looking for across the room and lifts a finger to point at:
Aha! I mean, I know we all figured it was Ji-hoon from the beginning, but it’s still nice to get the confirmation.
Stunned, Seo-yeon assumes that Grandpa is mistaken. But Grandpa insists that it really was Ji-hoon. He even met with Ji-hoon earlier, who thanked him for worrying that night. Ji-hoon feels someone staring and meets Seo-yeon’s gaze, putting two and two together when he sees her with Grandpa. He gets up and walks away.
Seo-yeon follows him to the clubroom where their gazes meet again, but they’re unable to say anything with the rest of the group in there with them. Everyone wonders if they should just end the trial here since their expulsion is imminent, but Seo-yeon disagrees.
She announces that she’s found the boy from the phone booth and she has every intention to make this boy the trial’s last witness. Knowing very well that she’s addressing him, Ji-hoon asks her to give him one day, smoothly adding that he needs the time to prepare.
With the trial over for today, everyone heads out. Joon-young says goodbye to his friends, but his smile drops when he finds his dad waiting for him outside. Dad treats him to dinner, asking when he’ll come home. Joon-young starts to say that he’s not ready yet, so Dad confesses that Mom isn’t there. His parents have agreed to take a break from each other.
Dad sincerely apologizes for everything Joon-young’s gone through: “I really didn’t know you harbored those kind of thoughts. I’m sorry. Even so, I want our family to start over.” When Joon-young starts to cry, Dad lovingly grasps his hand. While he’s not promising a new beginning, he is promising that they’ll try.
Meanwhile, Yoo-jin calls her girlfriends together to admit to knowing that the VIP list is real… because she’s in it. She cries that her dad had good relations with the principal and she got accepted with money rather than taking an entrance exam. Though Seo-yeon and Soo-hee start to oppose, Yoo-jin swears that she’ll stand in as a witness.
Afterwards, Seo-yeon visits the school, taking a moment to see her classroom as she envisions So-woo sitting in the back like he always did. She then makes her way to the auditorium, where Ji-hoon is waiting. Seo-yeon: “Sorry I’m late. I was thinking.” Ji-hoon: “I was later.”
We cut to the next day, the final day of the trial. Min-seok tells the crowd that they’ll cover one more witness and then the two sides will make their closing statements. But before he can introduce the witness, Seo-yeon stops him. She gets up to address everyone in the room – the person she’ll be introducing won’t be a witness. It’ll be a new defendant.
To everyone’s surprise, she turns to Ji-hoon and asks him to sit in the defendant’s seat. But what really confuses the room is that Ji-hoon willingly obeys. He sits down as a defendant and finally reveals that he was the one with So-woo on the roof that night. And according to him, “So-woo was murdered.”
Nooooo! You can’t end it like that! Not when we were just about to get the story from Ji-hoon! Argh, that’s cruel, Solomon. So cruel. But it’s exactly why I think this drama is so good. It took the entire show to finally reveal what in God’s name happened that night, and yet, I’m not mad at it. The show kept us guessing with So-woo’s death the whole way through, but I never felt that the writer was trying to manipulate me. I never felt that the writer was simply stringing us along for eleven episodes, only to give us one big exposition dump in the finale. Instead, it felt as if the pieces to this puzzle were already out there in the open, and we had to slowly find them and put them back together along with the trial club. The only problem was that Ji-hoon was getting to these puzzle pieces first and hiding them from everyone else.
But it’s clear that hoarding all those pieces has taken its toll on Ji-hoon, and it’s about time he get the truth off his chest and let everyone see what the big picture is. It seems that with each episode so far, we’ve been given confirmation to one secret, and with this episode, we confirmed that Ji-hoon really was the boy in the tan coat. Thinking it is one thing, but it’s completely different actually seeing Ji-hoon in the coat and sitting by the payphone, crying his heart out. Because after spending so much time getting to know Ji-hoon and sympathizing with him, I don’t want him to be the boy in the tan coat. Because I don’t want that kind of pain for him.
It makes me wonder if this is why Ji-hoon withheld information for so long – because he didn’t want to be that boy either. While I’ve been hoping that Ji-hoon didn’t kill his best friend, it’s possible that Ji-hoon could’ve been going through similar denial. Since we know he’s really a good person at heart who’s overcome much tragedy and heartache, it’s easy to believe that he did, in fact, initiate this entire trial to bring justice for So-woo. And to bring his side of the story into the limelight. But we’ve been noticing the tiny cracks he’s been developing as the trial went on, as if he was just starting to grasp the truth along with everyone else. So what does this mean? Did he unintentionally kill So-woo? Did he intentionally kill So-woo? Or is Kyung-moon still a possibility?
Even now, when we’re this close to the finale, I still can’t figure it out. It’s been one of the most agonizing drama experiences I’ve had in a long time, but I’ve gotta say that it’s also been one of the most fun. Rather than focus on just one student’s death, we got to spend time with multiple students that were all charming and interesting in their own ways. We got to meet a plucky heroine, a fascinating hero, and so many more characters that I’ve come to love (Joon-young, you better get your happy ending!).
What I loved most of all was that all the smaller stories on the sidelines only made me care about the main story with Ji-hoon and So-woo more. For instance, when we saw Joon-young reconcile with his dad, it only made my heart bleed for what Ji-hoon lost with Kyung-moon. When Seo-yeon got fiercer as a prosecutor, it only made me more nervous for Ji-hoon. He pretty much deserved it after all the secrets he’s been hiding, but it still hurt to have Seo-yeon act so coldly towards him. I know she’s just trying to get to the bottom of the case – and she’s doing a hell of a good job – but it still hurt to see how Ji-hoon’s secrecy has damaged their friendship. Just as Seo-yeon mentioned a few episodes ago, Ji-hoon has felt distant from the rest of the group, and it’s only gotten worse as the trial reaches its end. I was perfectly happy watching the kids step away from all the stress of the trial and just goof off on Seo-yeon’s birthday, and then I immediately felt guilty when I realized only one member was missing.
I think that Ji-hoon does love his trial club mates, but he came in knowing that he could never truly be a part of that friendship. He understands what he’s done wrong (though we still don’t know exactly what he did wrong), and he understands that it could cost him the strong bonds he’d already formed with the people around him. Despite all that, he’s still willing to accept the consequences and walk away alone. It’s a sad fate to accept, but it’s also a fate that someone really close to him ended up having to endure. Whatever it is that Ji-hoon saw or did, it’s enough for me that he was able to fulfill So-woo’s legacy.