It’s now or never, sink or swim for our con team. With one last tag session Jung Do lays out the plan. Wallet asks if it’s Chairman Wang’s orders but Jung Do tells her that this time, it is his decision. With Burner and Keyboard recuperating from their injuries, it’s down to Wallet, her assistant Ms. Choi, and Mi Joo along with Sung Il and Jung Do. Sung Il cautiously reminds everyone that if something goes bad they’re on their own to find a way out. You never know when a back-up might be needed.
Jung Do has left out some of the final details. Sung Il thinks maybe he should tell them, especially Mi Joo who might feel hurt, but Jung Do says he can’t do that. We are left to ponder what unknown components he has up his sleeve this time.
Sung Il gets a call from Sung Hee who fills him in that the Mayor knows about Chairman Wang and Jung Do’s relationship. Jung Do gets a call from Mr. Kim who, we know from last episode, fakes a call that Chairman Wang is cutting ties with him for Director Ahn to overhear. It is a signal that operation final episode is underway.
Sa Jae Sung has been summoned by Choi Chul Woo who is ready to pay for the promised five million dollar tip. With a satchel of crisp bills in front of him Jae Sung tells CEO Choi that eight years ago, Min Sik didn’t commit suicide. In actuality, Bang Pil Gyu killed him and Mayor Chun covered it up. It’s a tip that gives Mr. Choi an anvil to hang over the Mayor’s head.
A reporter shows up at Wallet’s office. She has promised to give him a big scoop. With the call from Chairman Wang telling her to cut ties with Jung Do – again for Director’s Ahn’s ears – she shifts into action. The stage is being set and the actors are all in place and ready for what is about to go down.
Jung Do speeds over to find Chairman Wang and demands to speak with him. A cool Mr. Kim tells him to go away, the Chairman is done with him. Jung Do makes a ruckus and shouts out, “You shouldn’t do this to me!” as the bodyguards rough him up and bar him from entering. Director Ahn, who is sitting with the Chairman and hears the fuss outside, must think the Chairman’s methods are harsh to dismiss Jung Do like that. Nevertheless it gets Jung Do out of the way and makes Director Ahn the Chairman’s new business partner. Good riddance, Jung Do.
The hardest part is for Sung Il to simply sit and wait. He must wonder if the clock is even moving. Wallet tells the reporter that she has a tip on a con artist. Details to follow.
Sa Jae Sung isn’t satisfied with a mere five million and plays his next card. Choi Chul Woo thinks that Ma Jin Suk, who got taken into custody along with Accountant Cho and Mr. Cha over the loan fraud debacle, will sell out Jung Do and Sung Il for setting up the scam in the first place. But Jin Suk and Jae Sung are in on an extortion plot against CEO Choi. Jin Suk won’t tell the prosecutor anything until he gets word from Jae Sung that Choi will pay five million for him to rat out Jung Do and Sung Il. After all, information is expensive. Cash only, too. CEO Choi agrees and gets the ball rolling and has his secretary, Mr. Jang, call their “loan offices” in Pyeong-dong to send over five million dollars. The money is accumulated, boxed up, and on its way.
CEO Choi calls Prosecutor Park and asks if Jin Suk has spilled any information yet. The Prosecutor says he won’t budge. That’s when CEO Choi hands the phone to Jae Sung who gives Jin Suk the word: tell all. Jin Suk tells Prosecutor Park that the ones who put him up to this are Yang Jung Do and Baek Sung Il. The Prosecutor has agreed to drop charges against Jin Suk in exchange for that information. Sa Jae Sung couldn’t be happier as he strolls out of CEO Choi’s office with bags and boxes of money too heavy for one person to carry. CEO Choi tells Jae Sung to remember that this is only a loan; the money will find its way back to him. It always does. There’s a creepy truth in that.
We understand what Sung Il has been waiting for in the warehouse now. The con was for Jin Suk to tell the Prosecutor that Sung Il and Jung Do suggested the fake loan scam. For that information, Jin Suk is released and soon the Prosecutor shows up at the warehouse to arrest them but he only finds Sung Il. When Prosecutor Park asks where Jung Do is, Sung Il remains quiet. He is cuffed and taken in for questioning.
Now for the deadly call to Mayor Chun. CEO Choi reveals that he’s learned about Min Sik: “I heard he didn’t commit suicide.” A very worried Mayor is at CEO Choi’s office in a blink. Looks like it’s all over for him. With the secret out he can only say, “Tell me what you want.” CEO Choi asks to be back in the Mayor’s life. In other words, Choi wants to run the Mayor for his benefit like he’s always done. The Mayor, who has had a change of heart and hoped he could run a clean office, gets on his knees and begs CEO Choi not to tie his hands. But CEO Choi says no can do. It’s pretty clear that the Mayor knew the second he got that phone call that his political hands would be tied up forevermore.
Jung Do has been keeping tabs on Sa Jae Sung. Now that the money is in Jae Sung’s trunk Jung Do follows him. But first, he makes a quick stop at Keyboard’s storage room and rummages around for something. He can’t find what he is looking for and calls Keyboard in his hospital room. He tells him where to find what he’s looking for. With box in hand, Jung Do hurries out.
Prosecutor Park will cut Sung Il a deal if he tells him where he can find Jung Do. It is here where everything that Sung Il has worked for comes to a fork in the road. He has nothing to lose at this point and turns the tables on the Prosecutor asking, “Why are you so loyal to Choi Chul Woo?” Sung Il goes back to the beginning and poses the basic question that has long been forgotten – aren’t public officers there to serve the public and not only a few rich individuals? People pay taxes to pay their salaries to do their job, he continues. Prosecutor Park is flabbergasted. He reminds Sung Il that he is being questioned for brokering fraudulent loans and is in no position to lecture him. Sung Il only asks that the Prosecutor hear him out.
Posing as the new partner with Mayor Chun and Mr. Ahn, Chairman Wang arranges to show his support with a substantial donation. He tells Mr. Kim to see how much is available and not to embarrass him. The Chairman asks Mr. Ahn how he will get him the development rights to Maseok-dong. Mr. Ahn tells him not to worry, he will take care of it. Mr. Kim announces that the money is ready. The Chairman asks for Mr. Ahn’s car keys – he will load up his trunk with the loot. A campaign donation with the promise of redevelopment rights is a great way to start their new political/business partnership. Mr. Ahn seems particularly pleased.
Jin Suk waits at a table for Jae Sung. It’s time to split the ten million fifty-fifty. But Jae Sung has already decided he isn’t splitting the cash with anyone and tells Jin Suk that he can send him back to prison just like that. With a brush-off he tells Jin Suk to take care and leaves.
Sung Hee gets an unusual call from Dad Mayor who asks her, “What kind of mayor am I?” He is having trouble living with himself and realizes he has been caught in his own trap. There is nowhere to go but down for selling his soul. He confesses that he didn’t mean to go this far and become so corrupt. “But you know, in this world, convenience becomes a privilege, consideration becomes a bribe, and friendship becomes a crime.” He knows the answer to his question himself and tells Sung Hee that if he were a good mayor she wouldn’t have helped that con artist. She just listens.
Mr. Ahn reports to the Mayor that everything is going as planned. But the Mayor tells him that CEO Choi found out about Mik Sik. Mr. Ahn says what he always says, “I’ll take care of it.” He doesn’t realize, however, that the Mayor is weary and tired of it all and wonders if the payoffs and favors will ever end. That’s not what Mr. Ahn wants to hear from him. With so much money in his hands, Mr. Ahn doesn’t want the Mayor to jam up what they have going. He turns as he leaves and tells the Mayor to hang in there and not to rock the boat.
There’s a special news report, compliments of Wallet’s tip to the reporter. She sits comfortably in her office with Chairman Wang as they watch. Mi Joo catches the broadcast at a diner while Prosecutor Park watches from his office. Even Burner and Keyboard who are still in the hospital, catch the headline: “Mayor Chun Gab Soo has reportedly received 10 million dollars in illegal campaign funds and will likely be disqualified.”
The Mayor watches, shocked to the core. Choi Chul Woo is equally as shocked as the live broadcast announces that he owes 100 million dollars in back taxes. And so the illegal money is traced from dirty hand to dirty hand to catch the crooks.
What took place that day was a plan to record on camera all the parties who participated in illegal money changing in order to take them down. It is brilliant.
Ma Jin Suk was in on the Jung Do/Sung Il scam all along. Jin Suk let Jae Sung think they were working together to split the 10 million. When he met Jae Sung at the cafe to split the money, it was really so that Jung Do could take the money out of his trunk. (Recorded.) That’s what Jung Do stopped to pick up at Keyboard’s storage room – a car key decoder. Jung Do loads the money into his car for purpose number two. (Recorded.)
Chairman Wang has only made it look like he has switched sides in order to make Mr. Ahn think he is with the Mayor. Chairman Wang has arranged for Mr. Kim to load up Mr. Ahn’s trunk with the campaign donation for Mayor Chun. As planned and with perfect timing, Jung Do delivers the money out of Jae Sung’s trunk to Mr. Ahn’s trunk. When Jae Sung greedily opens his trunk to run all those crisp bills through his fingers, he gets the surprise of a lifetime – it’s gone! Well, maybe that’s the second surprise of his lifetime as he gets arrested on the spot. Surprise!
As the news report continues, we begin to realize what this is going to cost Jung Do. Sa Jae Sung is marked as the first broker in the illegal transaction, but Jung Do is marked as the second one. This is what Sung Il meant at the beginning of the episode when he said that Jung Do should have told the others that in taking the big guns down, he, too, would end up taking the fall.
A look back at the opening scene reveals that after discussing the plan, it is clear that the money switcheroo scam will take down Choi Chul Woo, Mayor Chun, Mr. Ahn, Sa Jae Sung, and the second broker. When Mi Joo asks who the second broker is, Jung Do says that he bought someone who will go to jail for them. But he and Sung Il know the truth: the second broker is Jung Do. He alone can testify against the others because he is involved in every step of the way. Unfortunately, that means he must go down with them.
Once the second broker is identified as Jung Do on the news report, Mi Joo, Wallet, and even Burner and Keyboard, realize that he will go to jail for his part in the scam. As Sung Hee and the tax team watch the news she also realizes Jung Do planned to get arrested. It was the only way to get Prosecutor Park on board – having an insider testify against the long list of corrupt people was the only way to move the case through the courts.
Sung Il got arrested so that he could beg Prosecutor Park to show the people whose side the law is on. As he watches the broadcast, and with the background information from Sung Il, Prosecutor Park has made his decision. He tells the police to release Sung Il in exchange for Jung Do’s testimony.
Sung Il and Jung Do meet in the halls of the police station. Jung Do asks if Sung Il convinced the Prosecutor. “That’s why I’m out,” Sung Il replies. It is a bittersweet bromance moment as these two who have been through so much together come to the end of a long, drawn out fight for justice. It didn’t start out that way, but somehow an ex-convict and a tax collector found a common cause great enough to team up. Sung Il apologizes that, in the end, there was no other way but for Jung Do to be the one to go to jail. “It’s only natural that I should go,” he tells Sung Il. Jung Do says he is sorry he can’t keep the promise he made. That time they were in the holding cell for disturbing the peace Jung Do said he promised not to get caught if Sung Il promised not to get fired. Aw.
Sung Il’s heart is heavy for his friend. In his usual style, Jung Do brushes it off as the life of a con artist. It’s time to part ways. “Let’s get those rats. You in your way. I in mine,” are Sung Il’s parting words to his buddy. Jung Do has one last favor. He asks Sung Il if he will meet his father when he gets out in a year. “Would you go?” “Of course. Don’t worry,” Sung Il tells Jung Do and wipes away a tear.
Jung Do cuts to the quick and willingly gives his testimony to Prosecutor Park: he got the money from Sa Jae Sung who got it from Choi Chul and he put it in Mr. Ahn’s car trunk for Mayor Chun Gab Soo. That’s all the prosecutor needs to indict them all.
Sung Il walks into the Mayor’s office. “So this is how it ends,” he says. Mayor Chun wants to tell him one more thing about Min Sik but Sung Il says he already know what happened; he found out while investigating Choi Chul Woo. When the Mayor asks why he didn’t come after him for that Sung Il says he wanted to tear him limb from limb but there was a bigger picture to consider. Ending the corruption that Min Sik tried to take on eight years ago was Sung Il’s way of commemorating his co-worker/brother-in-law’s efforts. Doing what is right trumped taking revenge. The Mayor’s spirit is broken at Sung Il’s integrity and his own foul corruption.
Sung Hee has given some thought to her father’s question. She calls him and gives an honest answer: he was a mayor whose actions were consistent with what her mother said about him as a husband and father. While he may have tried he wasn’t there for his wife and daughter. Her mother had no choice but to leave. Likewise, he wasn’t there for the people of Seowon City and was lacking. She asks him to change that and do what is right.
Mayor Chun calls a press conference to respond to the accusation of illegal campaign money and backing from Choi Chul Woo. It’s all true he confesses. He admits to taking illegal contributions and violated the law. He took money from people working for CEO Choi and his subsidiaries in exchange for favors of looking the other way for owed taxes and other dealings. The Mayor takes full responsibility for breaking the law and cheating the people of Seowon City. “I will withdraw from my candidacy for mayor of Seowon City. I will also cooperate with the Prosecutor,” he says and steps down.
During his speech, Sung Hee and the tax team are on their way to CEO Choi’s house. Dad Mayor asked her to get him for all the back taxes he owed. It was the final order as Mayor of Seowon City and the most important thing he could say to his daughter to let her know that he was finally going to do the right thing. Sung Hee leads the team into CEO Choi’s office and informs him they will seize his possessions in conjunction with the investigation of all his illegal holdings and activities.
After the dust settles, Sung Il finds Choi Chul Woo sitting on a bench playing Baduk. He has something to tell him. Mr. Choi says he paid his taxes (unwillingly and fighting all the way, but in the end he had to pay up); what could he have to say? But Sung Il wants to make an official statement and like a town crier announces: “Local tax of 9.27 million dollars and national tax of 91.72 million dollars, for a total of 100.98 million dollars. Your total of 100.98 million dollars has been paid in full.” There had to be a great deal of satisfaction in that for Sung Il. I cheered for Sung Il for being able to finally say that out loud.
Sung Il is back in the tax department dressed in a stuffy white shirt and loose necktie. The team slowly gathers around the announcement on the TV that the K University has received 20 million dollars from an anonymous donor. Many recall the 50 million that fell from the rooftops of Seowon City and compare this incident to that, cautiously crediting it as the work of the same people. Sung Il, Sung Hee and co-workers, Wallet and Ms. Choi, Mi Joo, Burner, Keyboard all watch and are pleased they had a little something to do with that.
Jung Do eats dinner in the jail’s dining hall. Sa Jae Sung eyes him from the other end. His dislike for Jung Do has festered and with an ugly gleam in his eye, he reaches for a knife in his pocket and approaches him. Just as he is about to jab Jung Do, a hand grabs him and twists his arm back.
An outraged Jae Sung cries out, “Sung Il, you punk…” and struggles but gets punched in the face. “I’m Park Woong Chul, you punk,” the Sung-Il look-alike says gruffly. Jung Do can barely get out a little squeak at his shock, and walking towards him says, “Sung Il.” Park Woong Chul gives him the once-over and says, “Who? Sung Il? Do you know me?”
The guard barks out and everyone sits down.
“Darn it, I’m getting out soon,” Park Woong Chul murmurs. That look, so cool. Sung Il, is that you?
- I didn’t think they could do it, but wow, what a satisfying ending even if every little thing didn’t fall into place. I’m okay, I liked it. I liked it a lot.
Sung Il’s evil twin brother? A second cousin once removed? Sung Il incognito ready to rumble again once they are out? It’s a spoof that works and doesn’t let us down whatever the theories and conclusions are. (*Update below.) Writers, you can say “gotcha good” because you did! Who thinks of this stuff, anyway? Thank you for a very entertaining kdrama. What a fantastic twist in the end to discover that Jung Do and Sung Il, in considering their pact, had to let Jung Do take the fall, breaking his promise not to get caught. We can thank Prosecutor Park for lining up as well after he heard the evidence. His role was pivotal.
- As I mentioned in last week’s comments, the twists and turns were getting a little out of hand. Looking back, however, it made for suspense wondering who might be the rat, who was on whose side, who would remain corrupt, and who would help out Sung Il until the end. Wallet turned out to be pretty cool. Burner turned out to be the one whose sense of betrayal played out. Jung Do was at fault and Burner did what everyone else was thinking and Jung Do deserved. His actions were understandable and Jung Do was lucky that the others were as forgiving as they were, not so much for his sake, but for Sung Il’s. Chairman Wang’s character was sketchy but he remained consistent and loyal to Jung Do. Which reminds me, how did Jung Do save his life twice? Sung Hee’s character faded out too, although it probably couldn’t be helped. She remained true to herself and still managed to help Jung Do when the odds fell that way while keeping an emotional distance. He was pretty cute around her acting all bashful and tongue-tied. I want to give Mi Joo a high five for being a cool female con artist and knowing how to fend for herself.
- Like dominoes in a slow motion game, those connected to Woohyung Group finally fell – every last one of them. Giving up would have been easier but the wheels of justice turn slowly. This we got to see over the sixteen episodes.
- Seo In Guk and Ma Dong Seok are amazing and doubly amazing together in this. Their bromance was squee-worthy to the end. I wiped away a little tear when Jung Do asked Sung Il to meet his father when he got released. How hard that must have been for Jung Do to know he wouldn’t be the one to meet his father.
- As much as I made fun of the office motto, it turned out to be the springboard for the show’s relentless pursuit of justice. “Chase until the end and collect it all.”
- Season 2 anyone? Did I leave anything out? Please leave comments on your reaction to the final episode of 38 Task Force!
- Now I have another good kdrama to watch with my brother! Thanks for stopping by 38 Task Force recaps at cimiart!
*38 Task Force ep 17 special answers the question:
Highlight: If you’ve been wondering, like me, what the scene at the end of the drama with Sung Il in prison blue was all about, we now get to find out! Park Woong Cheol showed up. He stopped Sa Jae Sung from stabbing Jung Do. But the character wasn’t Sung Il as we might have supposed, it was an appearance of Park Woong Cheol from Bad Guys – the two meet again. (Ma Dong Seok played Park Woong Cheol.) Clever, nice move by the director Kim Jung Min and writer Han Jung Hoon. Those who were sharp enough to catch that crossover got it – the rest of us are thankful for being filled in on the inside connection!
read the entire recap of ep 17 at https://cimiart.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/38-task-force-episode-17-recap-special/