I thoroughly enjoyed this episode – I do think that after three episodes of establishing the “ground work” with the characters, episode 4 picks up the pace and lets us plunge right into the main storyline. I’ve also heard that each character gets their moment to shine in terms of fleshing out their backstories – so I can’t wait to watch that part!
Sorry if it’s long – I will try to keep all episode recaps as succinct as possible! So, without further ado…
After dropping Hong off to the other agents (and to his death), Hyun Joon, Sa Woo, and Seung Hee all lunch together at an outdoor café. They stare with curiosity and perhaps a little disgust at what Seung Hee is eating: goulash. But they refuse to try – leaving Seung Hee to lament how unsophisticated they are.
Sa Woo pokes fun at Hyun Joon, saying, “Shouldn’t you get used to eating things like that?” Hyun Joon says, “If she protests about my eating habits, then I might as well give up on her.”
Seung Hee’s revenge: she orders another goulash for Hyun Joon. This entire exchange, while cute, also shows off their amazing mastery of English. (Now, Jung Joon Ho just needs to speak English too…)
Hyun Joon receives a call: he has a new mission, but all he knows is the meeting location. And suddenly, we are back to the beginning of episode 1. Baek San informs Hyun Joon of Hong’s death, and that it might be an act of retaliation by the North Koreans. He gives Hyun Joon his independent mission.
Back at the café, Sa Woo asks how Seung Hee and Hyun Joon got close. She replies, “I just…think I had a thing for him from the start.” She tells him it was after the dinner at the Vice Director’s house, because…
And Hyun Joon appears out of nowhere to say, “Because we had our first kiss that day.”
Sa Woo’s heartbroken face is priceless.
Hyun Joon tells them that he’s been given a mission, and that Sa Woo and Seung Hee are allowed to enjoy the rest of their vacation. He then hints that he does not have much time left with Seung Hee, and that Sa Woo should basically shoo. Sa Woo is too good-natured so he leaves as though he’s cool with everything. But he spends the rest of his day brooding in a bar.
Hyun Joon and Seung Hee have their mini date by walking through a Hungarian bazaar, and while Seung Hee is enthusiastically looking at things, Hyun Joon is just a mite tense. They pass a fortune teller, who asks them to pick a tarot card, and while Seung Hee doesn’t want to, Hyun Joon thinks it might be fun. He picks two cards.
The Wheel of Fortune card comes up – the fortune teller informs him that he cannot avoid his destiny. Hyun Joon jokes that him and Seung Hee were destined to meet. Before the fortune teller can reveal the second card, Hyun Joon stops her, saying, “I’ve already heard what I wanted to hear.” They pay and leave.
The fortune teller cannot resist the temptation to see what is the second card, and immediately her expression darkens. Of course, we don’t see what it is, but she stares forebodingly after the happy couple. Seung Hee turns back and manages to get a glimpse of the fortune teller’s ominous expression. Her bag falls from her shoulder. (Nice touch.)
The couple returns to the hotel. Seung Hee notes that he was nervous all day, but he reassures her, that he’ll be back safe and sound.
As he turns to leave, Seung Hee stops him, and kisses him passionately…while across the hotel floor, Sa Woo overhears and oversees from behind a pillar.
The next morning, Sa Woo wakes up to find an already awake Hyun Joon. He asks Hyun Joon what his mission is, and Hyun Joon says, “EX” – an assassination. The target? “The Vice Director is here in Hungary. Go ask him if you’re curious,” says Hyun Joon.
After a thoughtful moment, Hyun Joon begins, “Sa Woo, if something goes wrong…” But Sa Woo cuts him off immediately, and tells him not to speak of such nonsense. He too notes Hyun Joon’s nervousness, but Hyun Joon shrugs it off.
Turns out, the target is Yoon Sung Chul – party leader of the Supreme People’s Assembly in North Korea. Yoon is in Hungary for a secret meeting with former Soviets because North Korea is just a step away from completing a nuclear warhead capable of attacking the U.S. directly. Therefore, NSS needs to stop North Korea from developing nuclear capabilities.
Budapest, Hungary: Hyun Joon moves into his new apartment. He unpacks all of his equipment and sets up all of his tracking equipment.
Meanwhile, Kim Sun Hwa and Park Chul Young arrive at the Budapest History Museum, where the politician Yoon is to arrive. Sun Hwa reports that they have 20 security guards, plus assistance from the local Hungarian National Security Office and police. Everything looks like it’s under control, but Chul Young decides to raise the security level to rank 1 – he has heard of a possible assassination attempt.
Sa Woo and Seung Hee wait at the hotel, not knowing what to do. Sa Woo suggests they meet with the Vice Director because he’s in Hungary. Seung Hee grows suspicious that Hyun Joon received his mission orders directly from the Vice Director.
Meanwhile, as Hyun Joon scouts out other high points around the museum plaza from the top of a domed building, he sees Chul Young and Sun Hwa in the courtyard. Chul Young wants reports about the square every two hours and checks his surroundings.
Hyun Joon sees Chul Young turn around to get a second look at him, and immediately runs off. Too late – Chul Young spotted him. Sun Hwa says they are going to close off that building when Yoon arrives, but Chul Young heads right on over.
Sun Hwa has been keeping tabs over all employees of the building and who has been going in and out in the last month, but Chul Young tells her to check up on what the South Korean intelligence agencies are doing, and to see if they can disrupt U.S./South Korean communications by satellite. He also wants a sniper in the location that Hyun Joon was just at.
They unsuspectingly pass Hyun Joon leaving the building.
The weight of the mission hangs over Hyun Joon, and Chul Young’s face haunts him. He calls up Baek San over a secure line… who is also having lunch with Sa Woo and Seung Hee at that moment. Baek San leaves the table for the conversation.
Hyun Joon reports that security has gotten tighter, with more North Korean agents and local security police in place. Baek San says he will contact Hyun Joon later and rejoins his guests. Sa Woo asks if there is anything wrong – but Baek San merely replies, “It’s nothing.” The terse answer unsettles Sa Woo and Seung Hee, and so she asks upfront what Hyun Joon’s mission is. Are they to provide assistance? Baek San deflects, asking them to wait a little and try to enjoy their vacation.
Seung Hee and Sa Woo take a walk in the park – and she continues fretting about Hyun Joon. They encounter the fortune teller. She tells Seung Hee that the second card is a tower that indicates something bad is happening. That’s just what Seung Hee needs right now…
Hyun Joon sits at a sidewalk café and sees (another) little girl watching him. He smiles at her, and she shyly hides behind her mother. Finding it amusing, he begins making funny faces at her, and she playfully peeks out from behind her mother. (First Yuki in Japan…now Blondie in Hungary…)
At that moment, Chul Young strolls up to the café, sitting a few tables away. Hyun Joon spots him and immediately covers his face. Chul Young sees Hyun Joon and wonders if he’s seen Hyun Joon before, but does nothing. Sun Hwa joins Chul Young, no longer in her black suit.
Chul Young drops his professional demeanor and engages Sun Hwa in small talk, telling her how he had to survive some months during his study abroad in Moscow eating hard black bread, still hopeful at the prospect of North and South reunification.
Just then, Hyun Joon sees the little girl crossing the street in front of an oncoming van. He runs over.
Sun Hwa and Chul Young react to the sound of the van’s honking.
The van drives away, and the girl is safe, but Hyun Joon nowhere to be found. The girl points in the direction of Hyun Joon to her mother, to show who saved her. And Chul Young’s interest in Hyun Joon has officially peaked.
The rest of the team in Hungary is uneasy, awaiting the results of Hyun Joon’s mission. The North Korean agents are equally anxious, awaiting Yoon’s arrival.
Hyun Joon overtakes a guard inside the building, and shoots down Sniper 5 after the sniper reports in with Chul Young in roll call. Chul Young, ever so cautious, asks for a second round of final reports. All the snipers check in, saying, “Standing by.” But Hyun Joon checks in with, “On standby.”
Knowing something is up, Chul Young tells Sun Hwa to keep a close eye on Yoon and on Sniper 5/Hyun Joon. He and several other agents then race up the building where Hyun Joon is.
Hyun Joon can’t manage to get a clear shot of Yoon. But when he does get a chance, he can’t take it – because Yoon has just lifted up the young girl from the café into an embrace.
Chul Young sees one of his agents down in the building and immediately tells Sun Hwa to protect Minister Yoon. But Hyun Joon takes his shot – and Yoon goes down.
Sun Hwa and other agents give chase towards the building while Chul Young calmly searches for Hyun Joon. Hyun Joon manages to get out of the building unstopped by guards. But Chul Young comes out on an overlooking balcony and shoots him right through the side of his torso.
Injured but unable to stop, Hyun Joon walks along the balcony around the plaza, unaware that Chul Young is creeping up to him from the front. They are about to meet at a corner but Chul Young says, “Yes. Continue the pursuit,” keying Hyun Joon in to Chul Young’s position. Hyun Joon looks behind him and sees Sun Hwa and her team marching towards him. He’s trapped.
Agents join Chul Young and inform him that Hyun Joon is just around the corner. Sun Hwa’s instincts tell her someone is also around the corner. They ready and aim their guns…but at each other.
Turns out – Hyun Joon has rappelled off the balcony with a long cord – silently making his way down. But the cord is too short, and he lets go, jumping down from a tree’s height.
Hyun Joon walks far, calm but slightly weak from loss of blood. Sun Hwa and Chul Young are in a car in pursuit. They search for Hyun Joon’s figure through the streets, continually just missing him as he weaves through people and behind trees and buses. But as Hyun Joon goes down a subway, Chul Young spots him. He and Sun Hwa get out and pursue him, but it’s too late – Hyun Joon has gotten on and the train pulls away before Chul Young can do anything. (Much like how Hyun Joon just missed Chul Young in South Korea’s subway with the murder of Takashi.)
Chul Young orders for all stations within 3km to be blocked and notifies the local police to look for an Asian male in his 30s.
Hyun Joon stumbles into his apartment and calls up Baek San and reports mission accomplished. He asks for help. Baek San refuses – if he sends in more agents, it will merely compromise their cover and all will know that NSS/South Korea was involved. Hyun Joon pleads – he really cannot escape in his current condition. But Baek San is firm.
Hyun Joon, faced with abandonment, has to treat his wound himself. They graphically display him extracting the bullet from his side, and then stab himself with more medicine to keep him from going into shock (or maybe it’s anesthesia?).
Baek San informs Sa Woo that Hyun Joon’s been injured, and that it would be bad if he were caught.
Hyun Joon waits with his gun drawn, looking almost resigned to his fate. He fades in and out of consciousness, and remembers a story Seung Hee told him while in Akita about a female statue. The woman had drunk from a magical spring that put her under a spell and turned her into a dragon that protects Lake Tazawako. Her love became a dragon as well that protects the other lake, Lake Towada. Despite their separation, they meet each other through the lake. Their unchanging love for each other is the reason why the lakes never freeze over in the winter.
Hyun Joon: So what you’re saying is that, these two people just wanted to love one another but they’ve turned into monsters in different places.
Seung Hee: Monsters? That’s right. Monsters. That makes it even sadder.
Hyun Joon: What?
Seung Hee: The work we do. Because if we keep going like this it feels like you and I will also become monsters.
Hyun Joon: Should we just give up?
Seung Hee: Now we can’t do that even if we wanted to.
But in the present, it does not look like they can be reunited anytime soon.
Seung Hee confronts Baek San, who is fishing. (Wow – what a way to reinforce Baek San’s cold-heartedness). She asks where Sa Woo and Hyun Joon are, for Sa Woo immediately left after his meeting with the Vice Director. Baek San doesn’t answer, but orders that she return to Korea on the first flight available tomorrow.
Back in the President’s household, a midnight call wakes him from his slumber and he orders for all his advisors to be called in immediately. They review classified files about Yoon’s assassination, and figure that the assassination may have been by conservative South Korean parties wanting to keep up tension between the North and South. The President orders them to find out the entire context of the situation before they make an appropriate response, and before the press releases the information and makes its own assumptions.
Meanwhile, Sa Woo drives by Hyun Joon’s apartment building, where there is a flurry of police activity. He observes from his car as Chul Young arrives at the location. Chul Young confirms Hyun Joon’s location and sends a team up.
Back in the apartment, a knock on the door wakes Hyun Joon. He readies his gun, and slowly unlocks the door.
It’s Sa Woo.
Hyun Joon is relieved. He tells Sa Woo that they need to get out right away, and grabs his jacket. But as he turns around, he faces Sa Woo pointing a gun at him.
Sa Woo: I’m sorry. It’s an order.
GAH! That was my first reaction at the ending: gah – cliffhanger!!!
While not all questions are answered just yet, this episode raised more in regards to Baek San and his mysterious motives. For what purpose did he send Hyun Joon on a suicide mission to assassinate Yoon? I felt it wasn’t just as simple as wanting reunification and stopping North Korea from developing nuclear capabilities. Could it possibly have something to do with the President wanting nuclear weapon information (maybe Baek San does not want the President to get any)? Or, maybe there was a more personal agenda against Hyun Joon. I don’t know – but these are just my crazy theories. And I’m glad I’m theorizing – for me, that means the series is engaging enough to want to figure out what the hell is going on before I see the next episode. I may be wrong, or not have a good understanding of the entire situation, but I am definitely curious.
(For example, I could be wrong about the rosary being the key to the IRIS list or something, but they put so much importance to that rosary whenever the list is mentioned!)
Sa Woo/Jung Joon Ho was immensely fierce in the last scene. I was shocked in a very good way – I definitely like that there is more tension between the two friends aside from just wanting the same girl. But the switch in personality was also so sudden that I hope the next episode addresses why Sa Woo agreed to the task of killing Hyun Joon. Either way – I like “mean” Sa Woo. He was also amazing at being the friend who is cool with Hyun Joon taking the love of his life, and then subtly expressing heartbreak. What a nuanced and awesome performance.
It was interesting to see that the mission was actually one of Hyun Joon’s earlier assignments. From the first episode, I thought he was already a seasoned agent and placed in Hungary as an “on-site agent” of sorts. But to see that this was his first solo mission makes the stakes higher: he is not just a newbie to the whole assassination mission, but he had just fallen in love.
And then there was more Kim Seung Woo and Kim So Yun! Woohoo! They were amazing – and Kim So Yun gave such an interesting performance. While she is a very capable agent, she adds a subtle layer of humanity, in the sense that when Yoon was shot she was screaming and frantically calling for an ambulance. It’s not just a job – it’s personal, and it was sad because she seemed to take it personally that she failed. And when Chul Young was telling her about his experience in Russia, Sun Hwa had this expression that seemed to say, “What am I doing here…?” As though this was not a regular lunch date between superior and subordinate. I am especially curious to see how their relationship plays out, especially when she falls for Hyun Joon later on (as I have heard.)
It’s so hard to avoid spoilers for the series because 16+ episodes are already out and so much has happened. I’m only catching up now! Thank God school is ending soon and I can do a major marathon…
- Lee Byung-heon targeted for blackmail
- IRIS served with plagiarism suit
- IRIS: Episode 3
- Lee Byung-heon won’t star in IRIS sequel
- Kim Tae-hee attempts new challenges with IRIS
- IRIS’s popularity still falls short of expectations
- IRIS: Episode 2
- Iris bed scene too hot for broadcast television
- IRIS: Episode 1
- Iris’s strong start endangers Heading’s ending