Well, this was actually quite the episode, even if it tread on some not-quite-appreciable old ground.
So, it turns out that Hyerin did not tell Taesu what her plans were in terms of blackmailing Secretary Gang last episode and the episode begins with her and Taesu having some wine as she apologizes for not informing him ahead of time with Taesu himself clearly surprised by Hyerin's about-face on her tactics. She tells him that she'll buy Taesu plane tickets and that he should get out of the country for a while, obviously from backlash on the part of the government, for his unwitting but seemingly accomplice part in Hyerin's plot.
Then we see Taesu at the airport about to leave, but he hesitates, Hyerin-sense going off. He doesn't see her so he continues on and then we spot Hyerin who'd been spying on Taesu all long with a forelorn look in her eyes. (Seriously--why does the show try to remind us of how absurd their romance was?) Then when she starts to leave, her Taesu-sense starts going off (REALLY?) and she looks around, eventually spotting Taesu, who'd returned from the departure terminal to look for Hyerin. They lock eyes and then Taesu gets going, and then so does Hyerin. Meanwhile, Jaehui spots Dosik in a car speaking into a walkie talkie in a car.
Next thing you know, Taesu's cop-sense goes off and he realizes that he's being watched and he makes a break for it in the airport, but he's surrounded by tons of airport police and captured. It turns out that Taesu's been captured for his part in breaking up the opposition party's gathering back in the first episode. Nice play, Sandglass. However, that's a pretty weak reason for picking up Taesu considering that his gangster work was plenty enough to send him to jail before and poking around with this could reveal that the whole assault was in fact government sponsored, so that's kind of stupid. Trumped up charges would make much more sense and be more appropriate to the dictatorship of the time.
Anyway, Taesu pretty much states this bald fact and it's back to jail with him. Seeing how awful his last prison sentence was for the show, I had a bad feeling about this. However as soon as he's in jail, Useok comes up to Seoul to visit him and asks him what Taesu did to get himself locked up and Taesu gets upset at Useok's jumping to conclusions. While Taesu doesn't say much, after he cuts Useok, they have a moment of silence whereupon Taesu asks Useok to look in on Hyerin, which gets Useok's wheels turning that Hyerin is involved.
Useok stops by his former prosecutor boss's office and begs to be put on Taesu's prosecuting team and the boss notes that Useok really wants to unmask the corruption in the government, but that Useok can't do it on his own, not without public support, clearly trying to teach Useok a lesson about the subtleties of effective prosecuting, so he declines Useok's request.
So then Useok visits Hyerin, who is feeling a little ill and tries to get some information out of her, but she declines to divulge much of what's going on aside from the fact that she's trying to run her casinos cleanly, while Useok mentions that he's going after Jongdo and that he might be able to clear her father's name by proving Jongdo's involvement in the murder of President Bak.
After Useok leaves, Hyerin and Jaehui have a moment where Hyerin asks if Jaehui is disappointed in her and will leave her. Jaehui mentions that he has before thought of leaving, but only when she gets married and she no longer needs him to support her to which Hyerin notes that she's grateful that he's still beside her because she's got no one else.
Then the episode gets interesting again as we follow Useok back in Gwangju. First, Jongdo's mooks arrive at Useok's house and try to leave a package with Seonyeong, but she's suspicious of it and calls it a possible bribe and shuts the door on the men threatening to call the police. So the mooks leave. Then Jongdo is at Useok's office clearly brought in and he spills the beans on all the bribing he has to do to run his business, but he's smug about it all because he believes most of the government is under his pay while Useok counters that he knows enough honest government folk that he believes they outnumber the corrupt ones to which Useok laughs and calls him naive.
Then Useok is summoned to the head prosecutor's office and chastised for continuing to go on against Jongdo and notes he got a call from the court that the court wouldn't accept Useok's evidence, to which Useok replies then he'll investigate the judge and the prosecutor looks at Useok like he's crazy. But Useok explains that it's the duty of the prosecutor and speechifies well enough on that he doesn't do the job for the security, money or prestige as he's happy to work on his family farm and that his wife will go with him wherever he might go, that his boss is flabbergasted.
Meanwhile, a prosecutor that's clearly under Jongdo's pay delivers a message along with dinner, the food being a ruse to deliver the message, and Jongdo hears that his boys have found the weak link in the construction companies that started all this. The prosecutor then leaves and Chief Clerk O spots him going and then goes on with his teammates about how nice people are in Gwangju, but the cops freak out realizing that messages have been passed by Jongdo's paid men and worry that Seonyeong might be in danger, so they try to reach her, but the line is busy.
It's busy because President Gim (?), who had previously cooperated with Useok to nail Jongdo's immediate subordinates explains that he has something he needs to tell Useok in person, but can't risk being caught at the prosecutor's office so he wants to wait at Useok's house. Seonyeong decides to go pick up President Gim in person and when she arrives at his phone booth, he's being kidnapped by Jongdo's men, so she tries to stop them, but as soon as she mention's Jongdo's name, they kidnap her too.
Officer Jo arrives just as she's being kidnapped and the show actually gets exciting for once as Jo chases the mooks by car. I think this is actually exciting because, unlike Jaehui's chase of Hyerin's kidnappers as we know that neither of those characters would perish, we really have no assurance that Seonyeong will live through the kidnapping, so the chase is actually quite thrilling. Eventually they lose Jo when he's pulled over by cops, but he uses his badge and gets the cops in pursuit, losing the mooks at a factory building somewhere.
The mooks note that Seonyeong recognizes their faces, but just cover her mouth with masking tape and take President Gim away. Eventually Officer Jo finds and rescues the terrified Seonyeong as well as the unconscious President Gim and is shortly joined by Useok and the rest of his team. President Gim wakes and exclaims to Detective Jang that they thugs just left him with a picture of his family, clearly a threat. Meanwhile, Seonyeong, so relieved to see Useok mentions that the mooks got away with President Gim but she remembers how they look and Useok ignores all that and just takes her into a hug. Good man.
Again, I think the suspense here was good, the chase was good, and I really was enjoying how Useok's investigation of Jongdo was going with the push on Useok's part, the reply, even by proxy, from Jongdo and the clear attempts from Jongdo to set up Useok by sending the bribe (obviously in order to catch Useok accepting a bribe). This segment alone makes this one of the best episode of Sandglass since the powerful Gwangju segment.
The next day at the prosecutor's office, the head prosecutor visits Jongdo and tells him that Jongdo is toast for kidnapping a prosecutor's wife. Jongdo protests that he ordered no such thing (and I believe him on the part of not ordering that since his mooks seemed to decide to do it last minute). Jongdo clearly can't believe what's going on, which makes me wonder if there aren't some other strings being pulled behind the scenes that we're not aware of yet.
Back at Hyerin's casino, she's visited by Taesu's mooks who ask what she's going to do to spring him from prison and she plays like she just used Taesu, which upsets them greatly since Taesu sold everything he owned to help her--implying that the money she got from the stockholder might have actually been Taesu's, leaving her shocked.
So that explains why Taesu did what he did in episode twenty and I'd buy that he'd do as much for Hyerin since his attraction to her was genuine from the start and it's a kind of quiet way of realizing what he's done to Hyerin and trying to actually do something for her instead of just trying to claim her. Granted, I'm still not fully sold on Taesu's change of heart, but we've simply had much less of Taesu in general so there wasn't much room to develop him as a character (even if I thought he was a bit of lost cause). But at least this is much better than his previous logic and not-quite-clear route of how becoming Hyerin's father's worst enemy would somehow endear him to Hyerin.
As for Hyerin, I think this puts her in an interesting place and Taesu actually really does something for her for the first time and gets crushed for it. I still don't buy her initial desperation marriage plea and subsequent feelings for him, but I do think that this particular action should be enough to twist her up.
All said, there are only three episodes left, so I'm curious how they will wrap things up. I personally suspect that Hyerin and Useok will team up to take down Secretary Gang, Hyerin moved by Taesu's sacrifice, and, effectively take on the corrupt government of Korea by currying public support (as foreshadowed by Useok's former boss). And all that sounds pretty good to me if the show can fix its pacing problem and not skip story but really dig into that war.
But I'm mostly really glad that the show managed to put in some real genuine tension and thrills into an episode instead of just dropping a surprise death like it tended to do, but one that really didn't hold much dramatic weight because it wasn't properly developed. The kidnapping and the fight between Useok and Jongdo is probably the most engaging part of Sandglass and I'm looking forward to see how it resolves. Sandglass finally recovers with an actually good episode. 8/10