This hour goes by a little more quietly, and our main players get some important character moments as they encounter self-doubt and uncertainty. Seo-yeon increasingly finds her feet as her team starts to look to her for answers, and she’ll have to step up to the plate in more ways than she might’ve initially bargained for. But what I really like about this show is that it doesn’t skimp on its sense of youthful spirit, despite the darkness unfolding around our heroes.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Seo-yeon rejects Ji-hoon’s involvement in the trial, but thanks him for his help all the same. As she’s leaving, Ji-hoon asks, “Why do you think you’re the only one who’s sincere? I mean it, too.” But he denies knowing So-woo, and says he was moved by the feeling behind her words: “Let’s find out ourselves, why Lee So-woo died.”
Back in the hall, Yoo-jin runs up to Seo-yeon when she emerges, but Seo-yeon is upset with her friends for blocking her. They cajole her, saying they didn’t want to give the secret of the concert away. Seung-hyun asks if Ji-hoon is in or out, and Ji-hoon answers that himself as he also emerges: “In.” He introduces himself and shakes hands with Joon-young. Seo-yeon says nothing.
Joo-ri’s mom films a video in Joo-ri’s defence, showing how pitiful Joo-ri has become. Mom says that her daughter has been victimized by the alleged murderer’s family, harassed by police, and on top of that, she’s been tormented by her classmates while the criminal goes free.
Seo-yeon places a thick stack of petitions in front of the acting principal—525, to be precise—as well as a club registration document to formalize the group. The acting principal is agog with shock.
Meanwhile, in the staff room, the dean tells the other teachers that the trial proposal went through, but reminds them that the club can’t run without a teacher to supervise it. Her call for a volunteer meets discontented grumbling, and she smirks that she’ll let the principal know no one’s up for it. But to her irritation, one teacher, TEACHER KIM (Shin Eun-jung), puts herself forward.
Teacher Kim takes the kids to their new clubroom, which is musty with disuse and filled with garbage. In good spirits, they dive into cleaning up, laughing and enjoying themselves.
Ji-hoon bursts into a room where So-woo sits at a desk, tearing up papers. A flashback? The room is littered with discarded books and papers, and So-woo sweeps everything off his desk. Ji-hoon frantically asks what’s wrong, but So-woo only answers with a wide-eyed stare. Ji-hoon bolts up in bed—it was a dream.
He checks his phone, where he has a message from Seo-yeon telling him that their first meeting is tomorrow. He then goes to find his father, Kyung-moon, in his study. Kyung-moon smiles, reminiscing that Ji-hoon used to knock on his door like that when he used to have nightmares as a child. Remaining grave, Ji-hoon tells his father that he’s going to participate in the school trial.
Kyung-moon grows serious in turn, and says that his son needs to accept that So-woo is gone. But Ji-hoon says that’s not it—he just hates people’s endless gossiping about So-woo. Strangely, Kyung-moon asks him if So-woo told him anything, but then takes the question back, laughing it off.
The next day, Kyung-moon meets the acting principal, who explains that he couldn’t stop the club forming when the kids had both the requisite signatures and the damning video. Kyung-moon drops a book on school policy in front of him and tells him to find a way or make one. He says that the kids mustn’t find out anything more about So-woo, and warns him to handle it before it gets out of control.
In the clubroom, the team are hard at work, with long lists of tasks and a full schedule already drawn up. Ji-hoon arrives in time to hear that they have a deadline to conclude the trial before the start of the new school year in March.
Seo-yeon starts to give Ji-hoon a lowdown on their roles (hers as prosecutor and his as defense lawyer), but he cuts her off to say that it’s too late, and moves the sticky note denoting the trial date up a week to the coming Thursday. He points out that the school didn’t actually approve them at all, and while the club takes time to prepare for the trial, the school will find a way to shut them down.
“Let’s not give them that time, is what I’m saying,” he concludes, adding that the sooner they make the trial happen, the better their chances. He tells them to focus on three things: whether Choi Woo-hyuk had an alibi at the time of the incident, whether he had a motive against Lee So-woo, and lastly, whether the letter of accusation is true or false. With that much, they could succeed, he says.
The others nod in understanding. Seo-yeon clears most of the calendar and moves the remaining notes up. She points out the problem in making Woo-hyuk come in to testify, but Ji-hoon promises he’ll take care of it. “Because I’m his counsel. So as his advocate, I’ll bring him,” he says. Seo-yeon replies that as the prosecution, she’ll make sure to bring Joo-ri in as their primary witness.
Yoo-jin points out that they don’t have a judge, but Soo-hee grins that that’s a no-brainer. The girls push Yoo-jin into their classroom to talk a grumpy Min-seok into it, but Seo-yeon is doubtful that it’ll work when those two don’t even like each other.
Putting an arm around her, Soo-hee explains that that’s how every romcom starts. Seo-yeon’s expression is pretty priceless, ha. A short time later, Min-seok runs out of the room, hands clutching his burning cheeks. Yoo-jin rejoins her friends, looking all pleased with herself.
Meanwhile, the boys—Joon-young, Seung-hyun and Ji-hoon—are on their way to catch Woo-hyuk, but Ji-hoon ditches the other two as they get on the bus.
At his usual poolroom hangout, Woo-hyuk scoffs at the idea of a school trial, although minion Dong-hyun is troubled. While Woo-hyuk takes a bathroom break, second minion Sung-min accuses Dong-hyun of suspecting them, and is certain that he said something to Detective Oh the other day. Neither boy notices Joon-young and Seung-hyun creeping in to eavesdrop.
Raising his voice, Dong-hyun reminds Sung-min that they ditched him that night and vanished without explanation at the very time that So-woo met his end. They’re about to come to blows when Woo-hyuk returns.
Ji-hoon gets a text update of the encounter from Seung-hyun, but is elsewhere meeting Detective Oh. She jokes that it’s an honor that a Jeongguk scion wants to see her. He’s surprised that she knows who he is, and asks her to keep it secret, since he’s here to warn her that since Joo-ri’s been cornered, he’s sure she’ll make a move soon, most likely via the media. He asks the detective to protect her from Woo-hyuk—if Joo-ri provokes him now, he’s sure to retaliate.
Seo-yeon gets ready to visit Joo-ri’s place, and her mom notes sympathetically that it’s been a while since she went there. On the way, her girlfriends catch up with her, and Yoo-jin warns Soo-hee to keep her temper in check when she sees Joo-ri. Aw, I like these girls—they’re uncomplicated in the best way. They yell at each other over Seo-yeon’s head, and she smiles in between as she thinks back to a time when she and Joo-ri used to be close.
When they ring the bell, Joo-ri’s mom doesn’t want to open the door, but Joo-ri says to let them in. The three girls sit in awkward silence with Joo-ri until Seo-yeon asks her friends to give them a moment alone. Behind Seo-yeon’s back, Soo-hee shoots daggers at Joo-ri, hee.
Once they’re gone, Seo-yeon remarks that Joo-ri sent her the letter, knowing that she would take action. Joo-ri keeps up the pretense of mutism and communicates via her tablet. Seo-yeon admits she did come to ask her to be a witness at the trial, but after seeing her, she can’t. “My heart hurts,” she confesses. Nobody knows whether Joo-ri’s assertions are true or not, so Seo-yeon wonders why Joo-ri’s being punished already.
Joo-ri is sure she’ll receive even more censure if she goes to the trial. Seo-yeon doesn’t disagree: “But it won’t be you alone, it’ll be us together.” Joo-ri considers this, and finally writes that she’ll testify only if Seo-yeon drops out. Surprised, Seo-yeon asks if she really will.
At that point, Soo-hee bursts inside and yells at Joo-ri for her horrible personality, and for callously using this as an opportunity to punish Seo-yeon. Yoo-jin bundles her out, but not before she tells Joo-ri that Seo-yeon was only friends with her then because she felt sorry for her. Before leaving herself, Seo-yeon gives Joo-ri a long backwards glance, but the other girl doesn’t look up. As soon as the door closes, however, Joo-ri starts to cry.
Over a meal, Soo-hee still simmers over Joo-ri’s behavior, and asks Seo-yeon if she really will drop out. Seo-yeon says yes, explaining that Joo-ri’s presence is more necessary than hers. Just then, Yoo-jin shows them the video that’s popped up online—the home-video Joo-ri’s mom made indicting everyone for victimizing her daughter.
The police and reporters also see the video, and Detective Oh gets chewed out by her boss. Elsewhere, Reporter Park heads out with his cameraman.
The trial club convenes, and Reporter Park joins them with a cheery greeting. The kids are immediately suspicious, but Teacher Kim tells them to hear him out. Unfazed by their hostility, Park first promises not to report on Joo-ri. Frankly speaking, he says it’s not compelling, and wants to report on the trial instead.
Ji-hoon asks what’s in it for them. Perking up, Reporter Park asks what he has in mind, and Ji-hoon asks him to make his coverage public. Park correctly surmises that with the public eye on them, the school won’t be able to back out of the trial.
Sometime later, Reporter Park shows them the report he plans to air, which says that the school fully supports the trial. Even Teacher Kim is featured, and says that the principal is particularly encouraging. Hahaha. The kids are impressed by her subversive behavior and the audacious plan, but Joon-young turns to Seo-yeon to make the final decision.
She asks Reporter Park to confirm his promise and not report on Joo-ri in any way, but looks troubled over his easy agreement. He offers his pinky in assurance, and she cracks a tiny smile. Teacher Kim says she’ll treat them to dinner in celebration, although Ji-hoon excuses himself.
Over the meal, Seo-yeon asks Teacher Kim if she isn’t going to get in trouble. “Do you know something? It’s ordinary people who do extraordinary things,” Teacher Kim replies. She explains that ordinary people who live upholding basic values such as protecting the weak, preventing wrongs, and speaking the truth “are the people who change the world.”
By now, all the kids are listening, and she says that those values are hardest to hold onto as time goes on, but seeing them all together makes her remember. “So don’t worry about me, okay?” she finishes.
Woo-hyuk arrives at his poolroom hangout in a bad mood and finds Ji-hoon waiting for him. He scoffs when Ji-hoon tells him he’s there as his legal counsel. They relocate to talk, but Woo-hyuk asks why the hell he should go to a trial where he’s being accused of murder.
“I believe you,” Ji-hoon says. Woo-hyuk pauses in his tracks. “You didn’t kill Lee So-woo. I believe you,” Ji-hoon repeats. Angry, Woo-hyuk snarls that he must take him for a fool, but Ji-hoon earnestly tells him to use the trial to proclaim his innocence. Woo-hyuk smacks him across the face and says next time he’ll kill him “like Lee So-woo.”
On his way home in his car, Woo-hyuk’s dad, CEO CHOI, rants to someone on the phone about his wife’s lawsuit against Joo-ri. But he’s got other problems waiting, as he arrives home to find his garage door spray-painted with the word “Murderer”, and his own mother scrubbing at it. He yells at his wife for ordering Grandma to do it, and then blasts her for the lawsuit, which he tells her to drop tomorrow.
Woo-hyuk arrives just after his mom goes back in, and Grandma greets him sweetly—unlike Dad, who yells at him and drags him along by the ear. Woo-hyuk argues that he didn’t do anything, which makes Dad even more furious. “Just who do you take after to have such a [bad] nature?” he shouts, kicking and pounding him. Well now, that’s a mystery for the ages, isn’t it?
Though his dad is about half his size, he shakes Woo-hyuk like a puppy, while Grandma tries helplessly to intervene. Dad finally hurls Woo-hyuk to the ground, and Grandma helps him up, but he shakes her off and goes back into the night. He tries to ring Sung-min, but gets no answer.
A truck pulls up to the Choi house, and someone all dressed in black hops from the roof onto the perimeter wall. When the truck leaves… oh no, is that smoke rising from the house?
Meanwhile, a phone call wakes Woo-hyuk up at the PC room where he’s been passing time. It’s from his mom, and he ignores it, until she calls a second time. His face changes when he hears her voice, and he’s out like a shot.
Firefighters attend to the now-blazing house. Woo-hyuk’s parents are safe, but there’s no sign of Grandma. Frantic, Woo-hyuk tries to go in to rescue her, and it takes three firemen to pin him down. But he freezes when there’s a sudden explosion in the midst of the blaze, and Dad, too, stares in wide-eyed horror.
At the clubroom the next day, the team is shocked to read news reports of arson. Seung-hyun points out that Woo-hyuk’s personal information was all over the internet, and figures Joo-ri’s video was the reason. Even firebrand Soo-hee is subdued, and seems especially upset about Grandma’s death. Seo-yeon says little but appears just as upset. She excuses herself for the day, much to everyone’s worry.
Seo-yeon’s mom catches her on her way home, and they walk together, hand in hand. Mom heard the news, and tells Seo-yeon not to blame herself—she’s not responsible for other people’s wrongdoings. Mom smoothes Seo-yeon’s hair, and tells her to treat herself nicely, since she’s her precious daughter. Seo-yeon smiles, her face lighter.
At the police station, Detective Oh tells Seo-yeon’s dad that all the evidence points to the arson being a professional job. She quietly suggests looking into CEO Choi’s insurance records, which he approves. They find out that Woo-hyuk’s vanished from the police station just as Detective Oh gets a phone call.
Ji-hoon scrolls through the comments on the school site indicting Woo-hyuk as murderous scum who deserved what happened, and goes through deleting them. (Why does it not surprise me he’s the admin of this site?) He gets a call from Detective Oh, while elsewhere, Seo-yeon runs out of her house, too.
At the epicenter: Woo-hyuk attacks Joo-ri’s front gate, screaming at her to come out. Seo-yeon rushes in to block him and calls him a coward for blaming everything on Joo-ri. Enraged, he nearly smashes a pot over Seo-yeon when a figure barrels in and knocks him to the ground—Ji-hoon.
While the boys fight, Joo-ri’s mom comes out with a bucket of water and hurls it over Seo-yeon. From her window, Joo-ri gasps. Mom screams at them, begging them to leave her daughter alone. Soo-hee rushes to Seo-yeon’s side and tells Mom she went too far. Mom breaks down sobbing, and Seo-yeon, herself near tears, bows her head. “I’m sorry,” she says, again and again.
Detective Oh finally arrives and grabs Woo-hyuk, who’s still got Ji-hoon pinned to the ground.
Sometime later, Ji-hoon and Joon-young search the school for Seo-yeon. Ji-hoon spots her in a stairwell, head bowed. He looks like he wants to go to her, but Seo-yeon’s phone pings with a message from the Sentinel (Ji-hoon’s alter-ego) instead.
In it, he tells the story of a Buddha statue brought from afar, which fell to floor and shattered. But he glued them back together, and that’s when he felt Buddha stroke his head and say that even if everything’s in pieces, you can gather them all and go on living.
Joon-young finds her at that moment with a tear rolling down her face, though she seems heartened. She admits that she was hiding, but now picks herself up. “I’m okay. I’m really okay,” she smiles. From around a corner, Ji-hoon listens, and he smiles too. When Ji-hoon leaves himself, he finds Woo-hyuk waiting for him at the gates.
In the Jeongguk Foundation offices, Kyung-moon asks the fired school janitor (from the first episode) why he sent the accusation letter to the press and lied about the principal. The janitor replies angrily how unfair it was for him to have had to shoulder the blame for So-woo’s death, when he had warned the principal often that the lock on the roof needed replacing.
He says he begged on his knees for clemency, but the principal gave him no quarter, so no, he’ll never apologize to that man, come jail or lawsuit. To his shock, Kyung-moon offers a formal apology on the foundation’s behalf, explaining that both of them were at fault, and lets him go. Kyung-moon then gets an update that the trial is due to begin in two days.
In the clubroom, Ji-hoon casually informs everyone that Woo-hyuk will attend the trial as the defendant. They’re mystified by the 180, but Ji-hoon just says they talked, and that Woo-hyuk has no intention of causing trouble.
Seo-yeon asks just what his intention is, explaining that she realized that there’s no actual reason for Woo-hyuk—guilty or innocent—to turn up in the first place, especially when the trial has no legal standing anyway. Ji-hoon makes no answer. “You keep too many secrets,” Seo-yeon says.
Seo-yeon is summoned to the staffroom, where Teacher Kim introduces her to So-woo’s older brother, LEE TAE-WOO, and leaves them to talk.
“It wasn’t suicide,” Tae-woo tells her. Laying an envelope on the table, he says, “This is the evidence.” Ji-hoon appears at the door, and the two boys’ eyes meet.
What I really like about this show is how detailed its characterizations are. It’s a really fascinating study of their social structures and rituals, and the power dynamics that underlie them. Every bit as sophisticated as the adult world, the kids’ world is less a microcosm of the wider world and more a full world in itself. It’s a very different iteration of the traditional “kids vs. adults” conflict, with the kids deliberately setting out to mirror an adult-world structure, both as a test of their own qualifications and also as a possibly damning indictment of adult competence. If they succeed, it actually has meaning in the real world, even if the trial itself has no legal standing. I find that a really interesting position for upending the norms that govern the adult-teen interaction, both in terms of power and moral high ground.
I think the biggest thing this episode establishes is Seo-yeon’s evolution towards becoming a capable leader. Although she’s still very much an internalizer, her decision to spearhead the trial campaign forces her to assert herself and practice active leadership. Until now, her participation in school life has been largely passive, even as class president. As she found during her petition campaign, she had very little currency for influencing people, which is why gaining those signatures was so hard. She may not be a natural leader, but she’s determined and principled, and for her, that can amount to the same thing. The thing that stands out to me most about her character is that she has no ego. With her measured personality, she doesn’t say much, but she’s constantly taking things in, listening, and adapting. Look how fast she reacted to Ji-hoon’s suggestion to move the trial up. This lack of ego makes her really, really effective, and it could well prove to be one of her most powerful assets.
Ji-hoon’s secrets make him the most intriguing to me, and he remains an interesting foil to Seo-yeon’s character. He’s much more the politician and playmaker, a long-view strategist with an understanding of the inner workings of the adult world—most likely due to being a Jeongguk scion, and perhaps because he seems clued into the dark side of the adult world in a way the others aren’t.
It’s nice that Solomon’s Perjury balances its corrupt adults with a not-insignificant number of good ones: both of Seo-yeon’s parents, Teacher Kim, Detective Oh, and even Reporter Park. They’re all holding out a hand to the kids to help them into adulthood, which I find quite a striking image. I think it means they ultimately reject that “kids vs. adults” conflict as a false dichotomy, and actually respect the kids’ ability to be morally competent, regardless of their youth. At the same time, they don’t handicap them with false realities: As much as they support the kids in being firm in their principles, they’re also going to make sure they know all the tricks, and I love the honesty of that.
The character I have the hardest time pinning down is glass-half-empty Joo-ri, and I think Soo-hee is spot-on about her being callous and opportunistic. But that’s just one side of a very complicated girl. She seems like the kind of person you try to like because you sense there’s a lot of pain inside her, but at the same time, it’s hard to find a redeemable quality in her personality. She’s evidently vicious and bitter, without much loyalty or affection to spare even for someone as arguably angelic as Cho-rong, who has to be the most sincere friend anyone could ever have. I don’t know how true it is that Seo-yeon makes friends out of pity (like Soo-hee said), but if we can take her friendship with Joon-young as any indication, then I believe she was sincere, even if she was moved by sympathy. I wonder what happened to end the friendship between her and Joo-ri.
Speaking of Joon-young, he’s been less prominent this episode, but I like how he just watches over Seo-yeon quietly. He doesn’t say much, but he has a presence that makes you feel safe. The development of this core group is another thing this episode solidifies, and I enjoy how varied and distinct the personalities are, whether they’re straightforward types like Soo-hee, Yoo-jin or Seung-hyun, or the ambiguous, complex and not necessarily likable ones such as Ji-hoon, Joo-ri, or Woo-hyuk. On a different note, I really enjoy the visual contrast of how huge Woo-hyuk is and how small everyone else is in comparison—there was something really sad about how he tried not to cry out while his dad beat him. Woo-hyuk’s not a nice person or even a good person by any account, but I don’t think he’s a murderer, even if he is a bully. While Joo-ri makes it hard to feel anything but antipathy for her, there’s something much more pitiable in this cowering giant who loves his grandma and would run into a burning house for her.