Please con me, 38, please tell me this is a con.
Police Unit 38 Episode 12:
SungIl gets a few tangerines on his way back after a late night at work and returns to a quiet and dark house, where everyone’s asleep. Creeping into his mother’s room, he accidentally wakes her, and like all mothers, she worries that something’s happened to him. Like all good sons, he assures her that there’s nothing of the sort.
He gets a call and as he leaves his mother’s home, he thinks back to MinShik’s funeral. The heart-wrenching wails of his wife play in his head and he remembers Mayor Chun and Commissioner Ahn coming to the funeral. When Mayor Ahn had looked like he was about to say some words of comfort, SungIl just requested that he say nothing, his guilt eating at him.
He had stared at his colleagues and must have thought about how they all let down MinShik because he writes out a resignation latter right there on one of the pages of the condolence book. However, just as he was about to hand it in, his wife pulls him back, begging him not to do this because they have to live. Even though MinShik is her brother, he and their young daughter are more important to her. Commissioner Ahn had called him over for a drink, but SungIl had just walked away, unable to betray his family or MinShik.
In the present, Mayor Ahn sits for a drink with SungIl. He notes that it’s been a long time since they’ve done anything like it and he brings up SungIl’s recent escapades with the con gang, asking him how far he’s intending to go or if he’s intending to do what MinShik couldn’t do.
SungIl replies that he’s not done yet, since it’s everyone’s duty to pay their taxes, implying that of course he’s going to go after Choi ChulWoo. That doesn’t impress Mayor Chun, who asks rhetorically what would change even if the two crooks had coughed up their taxes. Nothing. Because what they’re fighting against is money, or the system in which money means power. And money isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
SungIl accuses him of not even trying to fight, but Mayor Chun explains that he’s not interested in fighting a fight that he sees no end to, because he has a bigger dream in creating a city where its people are happy. He tells SungIl that people don’t care about people who don’t pay an amount they can’t fathom but will take up arms if someone took so much as a hundred bucks from them and patronizingly tells him that he’s done a good job so far.
SungIl remarks that people steal a thousand while wearing jackets. When they wear ties, they steal a million. If they wear politician badges, they steal $100 million. Even though they wear different clothes, they’re all just the same – thieves.
Mayor Chun sighs and asks if SungIl wants to end up like his brother-in-law. He doesn’t care what SungIl’s answer is but he himself can’t let SungIl turn out that way. He doesn’t want any more of his people hurt, so he advises SungIl to stop his antics and go back to the way he was before. Tiptoe a bit, if he has to, live carefully and don’t stir up trouble. After all, he has to survive and that’s the way he can.
SungIl just tells him what he’d told Chun SungHee: “I won’t give in just to survive. It’s too tiresome.”
Morning comes and Commissioner Ahn is released after the maximum 48 hours.
DeokBae meets with his Police Commissioner and asks for the file on Choi ChulWoo. The Police Commissioner doesn’t know if he can trust him with that file, since he doesn’t know what DeokBae is planning and DeokBae quips that he doesn’t need to be trusted. All the Police Commissioner needs to trust is his knowledge that pus must be squeezed out, clearly implying that Choi ChulWoo is the pus.
It’s meet everyone day, because MiJoo also sits with SungHee. She reveals that JungDo didn’t con her. He really liked her but told her all those nonsense only because he was going to jail. She’s telling SungHee this only because she knows JungDo will never tell her. She wants SungHee to stop misunderstanding JungDo, as they both really liked each other, a lot. She didn’t do this just for them either, she’s doing it for herself. SungHee understands that MiJoo liked JungDo too, and MiJoo corrects that: She likes him, not liked. But now, she’ll just put an end to everything, because longing from afar is not her style.
Before she leaves, SungHee cautiously asks if SungIl and JungDo are working on something. MiJoo just gives her a small smile.
JungDo visits his dad in prison and updates him on his revenge progress, saying that he’s here to show him his face because after he’s done with Choi ChulWoo, he expects not being able to meet his dad for a while. His dad remains drained of any energy whatsoever as always, and only says, “I’m sorry, son.”
That’s a heart-breaking line and JungDo gets up to escape again. However, he stops, and tells his dad that he should talk more. After all, Mom went to a better place and Dad had done everything he could. Tears well up in his eyes and he turns to go.
Once alone, JungDo’s dad sobs quietly.
JungDo lets out a huge sigh while waiting in his car and DeokBae comes along to pass him the information on Choi ChulWoo. DeokBae reveals that SungIl has found out about him working with JungDo to set him up and asks if JungDo really was about to make SungIl a scapegoat. JungDo doesn’t reply, so he comes to the obvious conclusion and declares that this should be the last time he’ll be meeting him. After all, he’d backstabbed a friend of 30 years; he can’t look at JungDo in good conscience anymore.
SungIl pays Bang PilGyu a visit, just because he feels like he should. Bang PilGyu takes it the other way, assuming that SungIl is here because he pities him for having been given up on by his boss. He remarks that SungIl doesn’t have that right, since he’s experienced the exact same betrayal.
SungIl reminds him of the people he’s hurt and tells him that if he has a conscience, then he should apologise to all of them. Bang PilGyu still doesn’t get what SungIl is trying to say, still stuck in his me-against-them mentality, where justice is of no use. He says that difference is why SungIl will never be able to beat people like them. All they see is money. He doesn’t even resent Choi ChulWoo for giving him up. He knows that by letting them do this to him, the people will see it as justice being served and gain strength to continue working hard and that’s exactly what he needs to them to do, because only then can he make/cheat money off them and live in the lap of luxury again after he gets out.
SungIl sighs and calls him the worst, knowing that he’s just posturing because he feels threatened. In any case, Bang PilGyu’s in jail, when just six years ago, he was untouchable by people like him. Many things change in six years. No one knows what another six years will do. SungIl advises him to keep updated with the outside world through the newspapers so that he won’t become obsolete when he finally gets out.
Before he leaves, he tells Bang PilGyu not to ask the guards for their names, since the guards will just beat him up, ha. Bang PilGyu chuckles, bitterly.
Wearily, SungIl returns to his office and hears that Commissioner Ahn will be fired. His name-twin from Division One has already resigned.
Commissioner Ahn calls for him and in his room, Commissioner Ahn mutters that it had taken him 10 years just to get to where he was, and yet just 1 day for everything to come crumbling down. He admits that he’d done it for the money to raise his growing son and confesses that his wife is expecting their second. He worries what to tell his wife, but he also apologizes to SungIl for his outburst the other day. After all, it wasn’t SungIl working with the conmen that cost him his job – it was Choi ChulWoo who cut him and Baek SungIl from Division One off in order to eliminate them as possible threats.
He asks SungIl to think who the next target would be and answers it for him – the entire Tax Collection Team. Within the year, they’re to be disbanded.
That really gets Commissioner Ahn’s goat, because even though he and SungIl had really butted heads, he’d really worked hard to protect the department, doing all sorts of undesirable things. He eggs SungIl to go after Choi ChulWoo, since that’s the way they can protect the team and then casts a helpless look at the Tax Collection Division staff outside, busily doing their work, without any idea that their team is in dire straits.
JungDo spies a corporate guy from his car and from the papers he holds, he seems to be Choi ChulWoo’s son, Choi SangJoon. There’s a footnote on his papers, indicating that the guy had been summoned for questioning, but the reason’s not stated. He therefore calls DeokBae, asking him to find that out.
Once done, he catches sight of a bankbook on the passenger seat beside him and lets out a sigh, it seemingly bothering him.
He goes to wait for SungHee outside her house and passes it over, all 4.52 million of Bang PilGyu’s local tax and asks her to hand it over to Baek SungIl. She asks him what he’s trying to do and he just mutters that he didn’t know where to wire it. SungHee cuts him off, asking for confirmation that the dumping of the money was his idea. She also confesses that she’d met MiJoo and knows that he wasn’t conning her all those years ago. She knows that he just lied for her sake and demands to know why she’s only knowing that now after he’d backstabbed her own boss.
She comments that people shouldn’t con each other using their feelings, because it just hurts the one getting conned and makes the one who cons lonely. JungDo doesn’t have anything to say to that, so SungHee tells him to give that bank book to SungIl himself.
SungHee leaves and JungDo gets a call from DeokBae, informing him that the details on Choi SangJoon are in. DeokBae reviews the information, and thinks back to the time when SungIl had chastised him for betraying his old friend.
SungIl himself sits in his office, troubled by Commissioner Ahn’s words and thinking back to the times spent with ChangHo and all the other Tax Collection members. Ha, ChangHo had bravely joked that when it comes to naivety and gullibility, Baek SungIl is the guy they want.
He walks around his office and is reminded of NohSeung and Park SangHo and in the present, he watches his ignorant colleagues go about their work like busy bees. Above them all, the Tax Collection Division motto reads, “Chase them to the end and collect it all.”
He takes off for the day and gets a call from DeokBae, telling him to get to the playground at SangHee Unit 1, since JungDo will be there.
He meets his old friend there and in his car, he asks why DeokBae is doing this. DeokBae just sighs that he and JungDo should sort their problems out themselves. When SungIl questions if he’s doing this because he’s feeling guilty, DeokBae asks him if he knows when he looks the happiest. It’s recently.
It’s only recently, when he’s conning bad guys out of their taxes, that he really looks good. He knows that SungIl is disappointed in JungDo and him, but wants him not to be disappointed in himself, since in his opinion, he hasn’t done anything wrong. SungIl doesn’t accept that reasoning, commenting that he’s conned millions out of people and that itself is wrong.
DeokBae doesn’t deny, but replies that there aren’t just good guys and bad guys in the world. There are less good and less bad people like them too. SungIl just retorts that DeokBae’s not a less bad person; he’s a very, very bad person, haha!
DeokBae tries to defend himself but is interrupted by JungDo’s arrival. That’s SungIl’s cue to get off and DeokBae requests that SungIl not be too hard on JungDo. After all, they’re both hurting.
JungDo’s eyes widen when he sees SungIl striding towards him and there’s good reason for that because SungIl socks him in the face, twice and then once in the ear. Heh, JungDo calls for a time out, because his ear’s really hurting but SungIl doesn’t look like he’s about to let go any time soon.
Therefore, JungDo grabs a handful of sand and throws it in SungIl’s face when he rushes over. Pffft, then they go into a full out brawl, where SungIl relies on his brute strength and JungDo does all sorts of sneaky attacks. HAHAHAHA, SungIl even splits his pants and they’ve attracted quite the crowd. Someone calls the police.
There’s a short break in their fight and JungDo calls for a truce. SungIl agrees to that, but the moment JungDo takes his hand, he grabs him in a headlock that JungDo really wants to get out of so he chomps down on SungIl’s nipple.
PPFFFFTTBWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Waitwaitwait, lemme replay that again. *chortles*
The police lock them up in the holding cell where SungIl takes issue with JungDo’s casual way of apologising and JungDo returns that he’d been apologising since they met. Pfft, SungIl complains about his insolence towards an elder and JungDo is totally not happy with him punching his ear, claiming that he can’t hear him because of the ringing. And then he goes, “what did you say? I can’t hear you~ I can’t hear you!” to everything SungIl says until the big guy moves to punch him again.
Hur, they spend time in the holding cell just like that, quietly sitting separately until they get hungry. Heh, JungDo shares that the cops will buy them food and SungIl request for GanJjajang, so JungDo really asks for that, along with some Jjamppong.
The two guys slurp on their noodles like that, exchanging the dishes over and over so that they each get to taste the different them both.
They get tired and so settle in for the night, side by side, sharing one blanket. SungIl steals JungDo’s entire share, so JungDo just asks the guard for another one. It’s bright blue and soft and smells nice, unlike SungIl’s smelly one.
HA, SungIl makes JungDo smell his old pee-stained blanket and JungDo relents, letting him share the new blanket. He settles down again, completely happy with the soft new blanket, pffft.
Silence comes over them and JungDo chooses that time to pull out the bank book. He admits that he just couldn’t throw Bang PilGyu’s local tax along with all the other money and tells SungIl to do the transfer himself.
SungIl sits up, then wonders if JungDo really intended to pick off Bang PilGyu, Choi ChulWoo and then link him and Mayor Chun together and send them off just like he’d threatened to do when SungIl had confronted him after falling for JaeSeong’s words.
He asks if that’s why JungDo went through DeokBae to get to him and then admits that JungDo could have carried that plan out. JungDo tells him not to blame DeokBae, since he was really out of the loop and didn’t know anything about his plans. That still doesn’t answer the question of why he didn’t carry out that plan.
JungDo just replies that he just couldn’t do that. He just couldn’t, but not because he felt bad for SungIl.
SungIl understands that it’s just JungDo’s ego talking, muttering under his breath if it would kill JungDo to just apologise to him.
SungIl questions how JungDo would know that he’d approach him and ask to bring Bang PilGyu down. JungDo admits that he didn’t know and replies that if SungIl hadn’t done that, he’d nag him and egg him on to do just that. After all, cons are not about extreme calculation but how you choose to take advantage of the situation.
SungIl laments all the thrown money, sighing that JungDo should have just paid the taxes with that. JungDo doesn’t think so, and repeats Mayor Chun’s words: “what would have changed?” After all, if the money did go into paying taxes, Bang PilGyu would just get it all back because he’s close to the mayor. What’s the use of spending all that energy to collect the money when the corrupt who spend the money don’t change?
JungDo tells SungIl to just wait and see what he does with the money that he cons out of Choi ChulWoo’s son’s money.
SungIl finally understands JungDo and shares that his department is in danger of closing down, because of Choi ChulWoo and their mayor. Therefore, he proposes that they really trust each other this time and asks to be in on the Choi ChulWoo con, since he believes that if he can bring Choi ChulWoo down by getting his $100 million taxes, that’ll effectively break the link between him and the mayor. Their department will then be safe from closing.
JungDo doesn’t understand how he’s going to pull that off, since the people at City Hall are bound to realise what he’s up to. SungIl’s solution is just to pull the con off quickly – best is if they do it within two weeks. Wot. JungDo has his crazy-pants on as well, because he agrees to it, saying that it’s more exciting this way. First thing to do – get out of there. They clasp hands in a show of unity and tells the officer on duty that they’ve made up, ha.
They head off to JungDo’s apartment, where he updates SungIl on what he’s found out about the Chois so far. Choi SangJoon is the head of SamJin Enterprise, a defence contractor with the largest market share in the industry and the company is therefore basically Choi ChulWoo’s money line.
SamJin Industries is in a contractual deal with an American weapons manufacturer General Martin and the project SamJin is working on right now focuses on Electronic Warfare. However, General Martin has very recently hired a new General Manager, Martin Kim, whose Korean is conveniently ridiculously good and the contract between them is now under scrutiny again, its continuation subject to the new General Manager’s judgement.
JungDo goes on to explain his con-plan, which basically operates the same way he’d conned SungIl. There’s SamJin Enterprise who wants something from General Martin and there’s General Martin who wants to something from SamJin Enterprise. Their job is to just get in between them and do whatever meddling they need in order to get their money.
Heh, first order of the day is a Cinderella-style makeover for SungIl and JungDo helps out with comments like “you look like a leaf” and “are you crazy?” Ha ha ha!
He then coaches SungIl into becoming Martin Kim, instructing to have that air, that alternating English and Korean way of speaking and poise of a confident Harvard graduate.
SungIl meets with Choi SangJoon as Martin Kim and, according to the plan, explains that General Martin’s a little skeptical about their contract. They expect that to keep Choi SangJin on his toes, since hundreds of millions are at stake. If Choi SangJin asks for a reason, SungIl is to disclose that the directors would like some kind of incentive… a total amount that ranges in the 90 millions.
They know that Choi SangJoon wouldn’t bite, so they decide to send him on a trip to the local police station’s holding cell, using his past drug investigation as an excuse.
That’s when “Martin Kim” pays him a visit and worry over his past misconduct. “Martin Kim” understands that giving out a rebate is a little hard, so he suggests that Choi SangJoon play with the numbers on the contract. While Choi SungJoon hesitates, we see JungDo laughing to SungIl in his apartment that the offer of much more money in return for some money makes rich people fall over and commenting that it’s really easy to scam people. No, it’s not. You’re making me nervous.
Choi SangJoon falls for it as expected.
While all those go on, JungDo runs out to go meet the real Martin Kim at the airport, acting as Office Chief Jeon YoHan from SamJin Enterprise. He gives the complete lie that Choi SangJoon is out of the country and takes the real Martin Kim off somewhere to talk about the contract. The thing is, the contracts will be signed. It’s just that neither the real Choi SangJoon nor Martin Kim will meet each other.
“This is a con,” JungDo smirks.
The two play their roles well, that one contract going between Martin Kim, to JungDo, to SungIl, to Choi SangJin, and then to back to JungDo and to Martin Kim for final confirmations. After that, it’s sent to Choi SangJoon for signing and then back to Martin Kim for signing. That one contract finally ends up in Choi SangJoon’s hands and the deal done, he agrees to send in the bribe “Martin Kim” had requested. Whew. If this were a con, I would have gotten conned.
Sometime later, Choi SangJoon sits with Choi ChulWoo, who just grumps and gives him a pat on the back. Choi SangJin bows, like a subordinate would to a superior.
SungIl gets to work and is called up urgently to his office.
Choi SangJoon sends the money over and tells SungIl that much. SungIl informs JungDo of that and he gets out of bed to go check it out.
SungIl gets to Mayor Chun’s office and the first thing he says is, “was it fun?”
At the same time, DeokBae returns to his office to find the investigators going through his papers.
Mayor Chun refers to SungIl conning Choi ChulWoo and DeokBae’s Police Commissioner accuses him of giving information to a conman. Choi ChulWoo himself is working towards becoming a better baduk player, and he comments that people fail because of their kids.
Mayor Chun comes clean to SungIl that Choi ChulWoo doesn’t have any son. WHOT?!? It was all a con to get them, and they got caught because SungIl didn’t stop like Mayor Chun told him to. Mayor Chun laments at his refusal to do so, just like MinShik refused to.
JungDo walks out of his apartment to find policemen waiting just for him. He bolts out of there, using his belt to lock the door to keep them back, but it’s no use because there’re more waiting just for him downstairs.
SungIl makes to go inform JungDo of that but Mayor Chun tells him that there’s no need to. He’s too late. He uses the incident as evidence that money wins all, that they can’t do anything to change the way things happen, just as we’re shown the Police Commissioner eating out of Choi ChulWoo’s hand.
Mayor Chun tells SungIl to testify against JungDo, since that’s the way they can survive.
SungIl hesitates, addressing Mayor Chun as Hyung-nim. Because of that, Mayor Chun tries to make it easier for him by telling him that he’d made it so that the police and JungDo would think that it was SungIl who turned JungDo in.
SungIl stalks out and into the police station, where JungDo stares at him, looking completely betrayed. He rushes at SungIl and flips him over some desks, holding him by the collar and screaming that he’d told him to believe each other.
SungIl takes a calming drink and calls Mayor Chun.
He goes to confirm with Mayor Chun once more, asking him if he’d told Commissioner Ahn to egg him to catch Choi ChulWoo. Mayor Chun agrees, since they needed him to move in order to catch him. Also, he’s saving him after stepping on him, only because he believes that SungIl won’t ever fight back anymore, after being pushed down once.
SungIl sighs and makes his decision, agreeing to do as Mayor Chun wants, in return for the safety of the tax division team.
The day of JungDo’s hearing arrives and solemnly, SungIl wears his suit. JungDo rides the prison bus and stares out at the world outside. Everyone, from Mayor Chun to Chun SungHee are serious. Choi ChulWoo is the only one with a smile on his face.
SungIl takes the oath of honesty and when asked by the prosecutor in charge if JungDo approached him to carry out a con, SungIl replies, “Yes”.
The gravel comes down and JungDo is sentenced to 10 years of jail.
Hurt, disappointed, disbelieving and totally, completely betrayed, JungDo just stares at SungIl, not turning away even as the guards guide him out
I can’t say with full confidence that I didn’t see this coming while watching the episode if only because it was so out of JungDo’s character to be so haphazard in dealing with such big risks. $50 million is not an amount that the ordinary person can cheat and keep and we just saw how much it took to bring down Bang PilGyu. It took 3 freaking episodes and I’m guessing quite a number of months in JungDo’s universe.
To think that he believes that he can con $100 million within 2 weeks out of a guy who has successfully kept it for years and years is frankly, unbelievable and every time he says, “This is a con”, I get so nervous because it’s a sure sign that something’s about to blow. Because of that, I’m not sure that JungDo never expected to enter jail himself so soon. Perhaps what he never expected was SungIl “betraying” him but even when he was talking to his dad, saying that he was here to show his face because he won’t be able to in a long time, I got the idea that he knows that he’s going to jail soon after the con. Actually, I’m not even sure if he actually believes that SungIl turned him in, if only because he’s sure to know that he was being haphazard himself and not checking his information. Maybe this is all a scheme just so that he can visit Chairman Wang himself.
This episode confirmed by belief that Mayor Chun was in on the corruption only because he thinks it’s a necessary evil in order to exact the change he wants. In this unfair world, there are lots of people who are pathetic – people who give into the system just to survive, people who stand aside just so they don’t come to harm and sometimes, people turn pathetic because they have something to protect. That’s wrong, but one can’t actually blame them for it because life is that unfair and it’s basically the survival of the fittest. Morals and ethics don’t mean anything if they don’t feed you or bring about the change you want to bring and even SungIl’s wife gave in, not allowing her husband to resign in retaliation for her brother’s death, just because they need to survive. So, maybe this time it was SungIl’s turn to become pathetic in order to protect the people he cares for. (Assuming this is not a con in a con because if there’s anything established in this series, it’s that it plays with you.)
However, while what SungIl said – that it was too much cowardice on Mayor Chun’s part for not even trying to fight back – was right, we don’t actually know just how much Mayor Chun has endured and what he’s tried to do. Maybe he really just gave in, maybe he did try to do something different or maybe he was beaten down by the capitalistic system too much that he became putty. I don’t actually know because while he did make up the tax collection team (which is a good thing!), he also basically betrayed SungIl. But life is even more unfair, because even if Mayor Chun does succeed in creating the city that he wants, does that end justify the means and how different can the city be as compared to now when it’s still run under the same corrupt system?
The reason that SungIl has always come off as timid is clear in this episode, when his own wife forced him to keep his resignation letter just so they could survive. Even Mayor Chun tells him to just live quietly simply because he has to survive. In other words, until the recent cons, he’s been just surviving, and enduring, ignoring his inner conscience. He probably didn’t let himself really live or be alive, forcing himself to live with his uncomfortableness, living like an empty shell. But then JungDo comes along and breaks all sorts of barriers and helps him nourish his inner soul, through, of all things, illegally conning others and it brings to question whether everything lawful is right and everything unlawful wrong. What is right and wrong? Still, I believe that SungIl subverting the laws will not go unpunished, even though he did it with good intentions, because allowing people to go rouge poses a danger to the system that humans as a society have been building and living with for years and years. And society basically likes status quo, because it’s predictable and safe.
This show has the tendency to alternate between pure Ocean’s-Eleven-like adrenalin fuelled episodes and slower set up episodes and while those episodes where the cons are pulled off are just pure ecstasy, I also really like the slower episodes, because it’s the time where our characters are shown to be just that much more human therefore made more relatable. Like, a conman is still human at the end of the day and they’re not just robots who work mechanically and efficiently. They still do have feelings like us, and are also swayed by those feelings, like us.
Less good people are also people, and less bad people are also people – people who get conflicted and people who can become pathetic.