This episode is so full of awesome. It’s by far the best one yet, full of tension, humor, and heart. Warning: you might get whiplash, you might bust a gut, your heart might well up with pride, and then burst into a million pieces. But if you survive all that, I’ll see you on the other side.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Jae-ha can’t stand being the only one who knows about Kang-seok’s girl-group affliction, and drags Shi-kyung into the room to demonstrate just how serious it’s gotten—the tv channel fixed to the music station, the list of Girls’ Generation (SNSD) airing times hidden under his keyboard, heh.
He dies laughing and then waits for a response… and Shi-kyung says in all straight-faced seriousness, “We shouldn’t talk about it like that. I’m sure it’s really tough on him right now.” Pffft. Jae-ha deflates, insisting it’s funny and that Shi-kyung is ruining the moment, but goes ignored.
The hilarious thing is that it bothers him so much that he stews over it, like it drives him crazy that he couldn’t get Shi-kyung to laugh about it. Dong-ha comes by to alert him that it’s Kang-seok’s birthday, and they’re gathering presents.
Jae-ha scoffs, but then stops in his tracks, “What did Shi-kyung give him?” Oh no.
Kang-seok and Young-bae return to their room to find birthday presents from the southern team. He’s impressed by the watch from Dong-ha, and throws the bottle of vitamins from Jae-ha away, “They might be drugs.”
He then opens the big box, labeled from Shi-kyung. It has a pink laptop inside, and the guys marvel at it. Young-bae turns it on and finds a letter for Kang-seok on the desktop, so he opens it…
A SNSD video starts to play, with the note: “Friends know what’s in each others’ hearts without having to say it, right? I know this is the present you really want. I saw you watching every night, drooling. There’s no need to be embarrassed. Admiring a more advanced country’s culture is a given.”
Oh. Crap. He goes on, saying that everyone will soon be under the influence of this advanced culture, and ends with birthday congratulations, celebrating his rebirth in leading the charge for the cultural wave. “Congratulations on opening your eyes to a new world. Welcome. From Shi-kyung.” LOL.
Kang-seok fumes and breaks the computer into smithereens, as Young-bae flees the scene. He runs into Shi-kyung in the hallway, and the air is icy. He simply turns back, North Korean flag on the wall right behind him, and says that people shouldn’t be that way.
Confused, Shi-kyung goes to see Kang-seok to wish him happy birthday, but gets told to get out. Unfortunately, he gets called away before he can clear up the misunderstanding. Why do I have the feeling that this practical joke is going to escalate into another Korean war?
Jae-ha waits for the inevitable explosion, but when it doesn’t come, he’s confused. He decides to press his luck, and calls Kang-seok over to his desk in class. “I heard something strange from Shi-kyung… that you like SNSD?”
He starts fake-sympathizing with him, but Kang-seok completely loses it and grabs Jae-ha by the collar, practically carrying him up into a wall. Everyone freezes.
Jae-ha starts to stammer that he’s got the wrong guy, but Kang-seok says no one knew except for Hang-ah and Jae-ha, and he’s the only one depraved enough to do such a thing. Well, points for logic.
But he’s out of his mind with rage, and has Jae-ha pinned to the wall. He screams furiously that someone like him wouldn’t know what kind of national pride has carried him through a lifelong military career, and says point-blank: “I’m going to kill you.”
He begins to lift Jae-ha up by the throat, actually strangling him with one hand. Damn, hulksmash.
Only it escalates even further because security has caught the footage, and sent reinforcements. So right after Hang-ah enters the room, the southern general is right behind her… with a gun.
He points it straight at Kang-seok’s head. He’s joined by his soldiers, one of whom draws his gun on Hang-ah. Only then, of course, the northern troops follow in, their guns pointed at the southern troops.
Shiiiiiiiiiit. It actually IS an international incident over SNSD. Suddenly a bird flies in through the window, and perches on a chair. Everyone’s guns shift. My heart leaps out of my throat. If someone gets shot because of that bird…
Everyone’s eyes dart back and forth, and now no one knows what to do. The smallest movement could trigger a bloodbath. Watching all this from the security room is Shi-kyung, who decides on a plan, because his priority is to protect the prince. He calls Jae-ha to cue him to duck for cover when he triggers the fire alarm.
Only when he calls, Jae-ha’s ringtone? SNSD. Hahahahaha. I’m dying. Jae-ha stammers, “I’m a fan too…” Kang-seok roars, and Jae-ha quickly adds, “But not Tiffany!” Hee. Yes, best not to start a fanboy war right now.
He gingerly answers the phone, still pinned to the wall. Shi-kyung lays out the escape plan, but thinking quickly, Jae-ha shouts back into the phone, having a one-sided conversation with himself.
“ARE YOU CRAZY? Why should I apologize? What is this? I ask if he likes a singer and get strangled, North and South have guns drawn over SNSD. What am I supposed to say? Besides, the one who drove everyone to this wasn’t me, it was Kim Hang-ah.”
By now Hang-ah is smiling, totally onto his plan. He turns to her, “Hey is it Jang Dong-gun that you like?” She puts her nose in the air, “No, Brad Pitt.”
He turns back to the phone, still rapid-talking, that it’s Brad-Pitt-whatever-her-standards-are-high, and anyway he won’t apologize and take the blame for this, nuh-uh. “But… belittling our differences… I’m sorry for that…”
He pulls the phone down and looks Kang-seok in the eye to finish his apology, “I wasn’t thinking.” Kang-seok finally loosens his grip. One by one the guns come down and everyone begins to breathe.
Whew. I know he’s the idiot who created the mess in the first place, but at least he was smart enough to defuse the potential trigger for another war.
Meanwhile Jae-kang gets a notice from the UN that they’re reexamining Korea’s entry in the WOC, because of Jae-ha’s latest stunt. He sinks with disappointment—this was to be his crowning achievement in diplomacy.
Mom comes in with a picture of another potential match for Jae-ha, not realizing the tense mood, and Jae-kang misdirects his outburst at her, asking why she never sent Jae-ha to be educated in preparation for the throne.
He screams that she should’ve put her foot down, which is easy to say when you didn’t either, buddy. You guys all participated in letting him grow up that way. He catches himself and apologizes, but leaves Mom stunned. He goes about the rest of his work in low spirits, looking especially weary. He turns to the portrait behind him and asks, “Father, what do I do?”
Back at the base, the team preps for their next test, a 60km run in under eight hours. With legs?
The air is tense even as they work out together, with both sides getting into tiffs over who can run faster and farther, and soon enough they’re playing the blame game over the SNSD incident.
It’s then that Hang-ah finds out about the laptop switcheroo in the first place. She finds Jae-ha in the pool and pushes him back in with a kick, chastising him for the present-swap. He reminds her that he already apologized, but she says he has yet to really reflect on his actions, and locks him in the pool for the night. Ha. It’s just a merry-go-round of petty. Love it.
Suddenly an alarm sounds and soldiers run onto the base by the truckload. Shi-kyung gets a panicked call that there’s been a North-South incident, and to get the prince out of there. Oh no.
He makes his way down the hall quietly, but both he and Dong-ha get held at gunpoint. Jae-ha is still locked in the pool, but sees soldier approaching with guns drawn. He goes the only place he can—underwater—and holds his breath.
But they shoot the door down and burst in, finding him right away. He comes up, hands in the air.
Hang-ah gets called by her general, who alerts her that there’s been an attack. Shaking, she asks who shot first. But instead of an answer she’s given a gun, and told to deal with her southern comrades. “It’s war.”
Jae-ha gets led into a room where his teammates are waiting. He asks what happened, and Shi-kyung turns on the tv, where they see footage of a bombed out facility and reports that South Korea has waged war and attacked the North.
Hang-ah and her team enter the room, ordering the guards to leave. Both teams stand on either side of the room, facing each other. Crap crap crap.
The northern general heads to… the security room? He sits down in front of the monitors… joined by the southern general. OH. Is this a test? Gah, way to scare the daylights outta me!
Hang-ah is the first to step forward and offer to get them out. Aw, thatta girl. But Jae-ha laughs, asking if she really expects them to believe that a North Korean soldier is going to rescue them out of North Korea, in the middle of a war. Well, when you put it like that…
He challenges her to put down her gun then, if she’s really serious. Her hand moves to her holster. She hesitates, saying that they have to be armed to ensure the entire team’s safety. Don’t they trust them?
But even Shi-kyung says no—how can they? He offers the same, that if they hand over their guns, he’ll believe them. Hang-ah moves to take her gun out… and then points it at Shi-kyung’s head. Eeep!
Kang-seok and Young-bae follow her lead. Guns are drawn. The generals watch on pins and needles, figuring that maybe it’s gone far enough, that maybe this is an unreasonable expectation.
Suddenly secret service busts into the room, and the generals are joined by the king. He watches the monitors intently.
Back in the room, Hang-ah orders them at gunpoint to go. Flashback to her orders from the general. She had asked hesitantly if he means that they should shoot and kill their comrades. But no, his orders were to get them out. Sigh of relief. He adds that her window is twenty minutes.
She orders Young-bae to escort Dong-ha out. But Jae-ha refuses to budge, guessing that he’s of no value as a bargaining chip if he’s dead, so his life isn’t in danger. He plops down in a chair and puts his feet up.
Hang-ah’s eyes dart back and forth from her watch, as she starts to panic. She goes over to Jae-ha and says her orders were to transport him, but it doesn’t make any difference to her whether her cargo is dead or alive. She points her gun at his forehead.
He gulps, and then suddenly asks casually, “Hey, what’d we have for lunch today?” Is food always your go-to diversion? He slumps over with a tummy ache, insisting that he’s gotta make a pit stop at the bathroom.
Hang-ah starts to protest, but he just snaps back, “Are hostages not allowed to poop?” He ignores her and walks out of the room, and Shi-kyung follows.
They lock the bathroom door behind them, and Jae-ha’s hands start to tremble as he attempts to work the sink. He asks with genuine fear, “What do we do now?”
Hang-ah and Kang-seok wait outside the bathroom, guns at the ready. They take a while, and when there’s a loud noise, Kang-seok bursts through the door. But Shi-kyung is ready for him, and fights the gun away.
Jae-ha tries to do the same with Hang-ah, but lands on a door hinge, bleeding. She has him at gunpoint. So now they’re stuck in the bathroom, one-for-one.
Jae-ha stands up and asks what the price on his head is. She pleads with him to believe her—she’s not going to take him to Pyongyang. She’s going to help him escape. But he says it’s inevitable that her government will use him to get what they want.
Jae-ha: I won’t. I can’t live that way. You want a South Korean prince to fail to even shoot a weapon in the middle of a war, and be taken as a hostage? After being a public laughingstock, you want me to trade my life for my country? No matter how frivolous I am, how could I do that? How could I look my hyung in the eye? And my people? I can’t go. I won’t step one foot out this door, so do what you want. Kill me or not.
Aw, I’m actually welling up with pride. Looks like princey’s not a total wastrel after all.
The speech moves Hang-ah, and she finally turns her gun around and hands it over, “Will you believe me now?” His jaw drops, “Y-you were serious?” She tells him that they have to be careful not to be detected, and the foursome head down the hall.
Suddenly they’re back to bickering mode, all why-didn’t-you-just-say-so, and I-was-considering-selling-you-to-the-highest-bidder, totally ignoring Shi-kyung and Kang-seok behind them.
She scoffs that no one would buy his useless body anyway, and he stops in his tracks, “It’s just ’cause I’m covered up, but if I flexed, these clothes would rip off!” Big tease. She just peers down, “It looks more like your stomach will pop.” Ha.
They continue down the hall and he sighs that she’d change her tune if she saw for herself, and she counters, “Sure, if you brought Jang Dong-gun along.” Jae-ha: “He’s married! With children.”
In the surveillance room, they don’t have a feed into the bathroom, so based on the last report—that they were at a standstill, guns drawn—the king sighs and calls the test to a close. But the team doesn’t know any of this, of course, and they walk out the door…
They’re met with lights and a wall of soldiers, guns aimed right at them. Jae-ha turns back to Hang-ah, the cold sting of betrayal ringing in his voice, “Till the very end…”
She starts to say no, but he just pulls the trigger, right at her heart. Damn, I did not see that coming. She falls back into Kang-seok’s arms, not hit, of course, since it’s a blank, but I don’t think any of them can register that at this point. A tear falls.
Jae-ha whirls around and raises the gun to his own head. Shi-kyung screams “No!” and jumps in front of him, gun drawn out at the enemy. My heart can’t handle all this zero to sixty!
Finally, the alarm sounds, and the two generals march forward. The sea of soldiers parts and the king walks up. Jae-ha trembles in shock. Jae-kang’s heart sinks: “Did you shoot? You shot.”
Still shaking, Hang-ah raises a hand to her heart, where the bullet would’ve been. Another tear.
The soldiers line up in uniform as the king addresses them. He says this was their final test, and not a difficult one. But there was gunfire, and by his own brother’s hand. He confesses that it was his mistake to place his brother here, and blames himself. Ouch.
He’s not wrong, but to have your hyung tell you he’s disappointed in you so publicly, just ow. Jae-kang apologizes, and then bows deeply, humbling himself. The whole room rushes to bow, while Jae-ha stands there frozen, holding back his tears.
Hang-ah sits numbly, pressing her hand to her heart. Gah, after all that progress! Heartbreaking.
Jae-kang sits, coldly detached, while Jae-ha asks why he took the blame. He matter-of-factly says that he can’t very well bad-mouth his own kid brother. Heh, backhanded way of saying that Jae-ha’s to blame but what can he do?
Jae-ha argues that it was war, so what would he have done? Still calm, Jae-kang says sure, and he was a big ol’ hero, mimicking the gunfire. Jae-ha doesn’t see how anyone wouldn’t go crazy in that situation. But that’s his hyung’s point—that he lost his head, without thinking, “like an animal.”
The generals call to get the final word, and the king says without emotion that it’s all over. The team is finished. Aw, sad. Jae-ha asks if it’s really the end, all because of him. “They’re the enemy! For sixty years, they’re the enemy, they’re the Reds, don’t trust them—who’s the one who taught me all that?!”
It finally makes Jae-kang break his icy calm, “YOU should have risen above it!” He’s a royal—it means he should set an example. He knows that Jae-ha has a lot to learn, but he thought that at the end of the day, he’d be made of something more.
Jae-ha counters that he is, referring to his willingness to sacrifice himself, but that just angers Jae-kang even more, “So you put a gun to your head? Why didn’t you just shoot that one too?”
Dayum. Jae-ha’s eyes go red with tears. He gives a little laugh to cover up his hurt. “The royal family? An example? Fine, I’ll show you.” He says the original test was that 60km race—so he’ll run it by himself and be back in eight hours, to overturn the decision.
He doesn’t even let hyung get a word in, and says he’s starting right now. “Someone needs to take responsibility, right? I will.” He storms out.
The northern team hears about his crazy stunt, and even Kang-seok worries about him. But Hang-ah says coldly that Jae-ha needs to feel a bullet’s wound to get his head on straight.
Jae-ha runs with full gear, followed by a small team to record time and distance. Suddenly Hang-ah rides up on a motorcycle and stops in his path. He immediately breaks out into a smile at the sight of her, but catches himself, and tells her gruffly to get out of the way.
She just points to each surrounding village and area, purposely spooking him out with stories about how they’re filled with people who like to beat and kidnap passersby without rhyme or reason.
He gulps and tells her to lead the way. Ha. I love how both of them need to save face so desperately. He smiles again when her back is turned. Aw.
They run for a while and she asks how he thinks this will reverse the decision, and says that 60km is no joke. He figures, since 2km is the furthest he’s ever run in his life. Pwahahaha. This is gonna be a loooong night.
She looks over with alarm, and he says it’s fine—he’s a prince, so how far could they possibly let him run? He’s sure that they’ll be here to stop them in no time. He needs to set an example, so he’ll run, and then his hyung will see that he’s serious, and then come to stop him.
Er? Drat! I fell for it again!
A car pulls up in their path. “Look, here they come! I must be a genius. Quick, look like you’re running hard. Be dire.” HA.
The officer steps out of the car and alerts them to their 60km destination, and their deadline. He hands over a remote tracking device and orders the men behind them to leave. They’re on their own now. The dumbfounded look on Jae-ha’s face is just priceless. I… have… to do it for real?
They run for a while, and Jae-ha’s already asking if they’re there yet. An emergency vehicle pulls up behind them and he rushes to catch a ride, deflating to find that it’s the rest of their team.
They’re here to run with them, and Shi-kyung apologizes for not coming sooner. Hang-ah welcomes them, happy to get some relief from Jae-ha’s whining. She’s especially happy to see Shi-kyung, which she makes clear, and immediately Jae-ha starts scowling.
Shi-kyung asks if she’s okay after the shooting, and Jae-ha yells at him for bringing up a sore subject on purpose, accusing him of resting up and then announcing that he’d join the race in front of the king to score points. “Did you tell him you’d piggyback me too?” Yes, please!
I love that Shi-kyung is so humorless that he hangs his head in apology at all his ridiculous accusations, not realizing that Jae-ha’s trying to guilt him into piggybacking him for real. “I’m sorry. I did not know your highness’ deeper thoughts. I don’t want to be a burden. I’ll leave you to go it alone.”
Pfffft. I’m. Dying. Hang-ah can barely contain a laugh while Jae-ha grits his teeth, “Alone?” Shi-kyung: “But do not forget—that we are always behind you.” I love this character. So much. Jae-ha grabs his head, muttering, “Stress…”
Meanwhile Jae-kang sits stoically in his office, refusing to sleep. He looks at his watch every few minutes tensely. Aw, look who has hope in kid bro after all.
Jae-ha and Hang-ah run for miles and miles, as the rest of the team follows behind them in the truck. It still makes me laugh that Shi-kyung took him seriously. Jae-ha starts to struggle from his leg wound and Hang-ah stops.
She takes her box of atomic poison needles out, and Jae-ha starts freaking out. She can’t be bothered with his whining so she knocks him to the ground to look at his wound, now bleeding through his pants.
She rips them open (rawr) and then takes out her needles. Jae-ha flips out, asking what she’s going to do, and she just ignores him and uses the needles for acupuncture, of course.
He’s a giant baby about the pain, but soon realizes that she’s taking the other pain away. He looks up at her silently, and their eyes meet. After a long moment, she asks what he sees her as, as in, whadduya take me for?
Jae-ha: “A Red.” She smiles, and he breaks into a little laugh. The snow really starts to come down, and they march on. After a while he’s limping pretty harshly, and she gives him an out, but he says that’d be quitting, and soldiers on.
It gets progressively worse, and late into the night, the guys in the truck start wondering if he’ll make it. They start honking to get them to stop, but Jae-ha tunes it out. All of Hang-ah’s challenges—about his fears, what kind of man he really is—come flooding back, along with his hyung’s hurt and disappointment.
He grits his teeth through the pain and fights back his tears, finally turning back to yell at the guys to stop honking. He marches on.
Daylight. By now Jae-ha can barely stand, as he struggles to make it up a hill using a walking stick. He obstinately tries to keep going even as he bleeds, and Hang-ah stops to get some water in the river.
But just when she steps away, he trips and takes a tumble down to the river bank, landing on some rocks. She runs and tries to help him up, but finds him at his wit’s end, literally at rock bottom.
He screams, “I can’t. I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!” He screams like a little kid, asking what more do they want from him, letting loose his inner tantrum. Aw, he really is such a kid sometimes. But this time we really feel his pain.
Hang-ah just stands by without a word. Later they sit side by side on the riverbank without saying anything, and Hang-ah takes out her handkerchief and places it on the ground between them.
Aw, for him to wipe his tears? He turns to look at her, and she smiles. He asks what time it is, and sighs to realize they won’t make it in 25 minutes. And then he asks if she was scared earlier—he means the shooting.
He says he felt the shot too—right through his chest. She looks over at him curiously, and then smiles, as if she’s seeing him for the first time.
She lets out a happy sigh and plops down to the ground, “Today is a really nice day.” She takes in the warm weather and pats the ground next to her, saying he should lie down. “Orders, tests, what’s it all matter in the end anyway? You have to experience stuff like this, to be truly alive.”
He joins her and they take turns looking up at the sky and taking peeks at each other. It’s adorable.
At headquarters, the general asks what on earth they’re doing there—it’s been over five minutes and the radio blip hasn’t moved. The finally get a call from the team with the report that they’re sleeping…together. Ha.
They lie there for a while and then Jae-ha gets up. She says the test is already over, but he says he’s the royal family, and keeps going. Guh, I’m such a sucker for the runner who finishes the race despite losing.
Jae-kang hasn’t moved an inch all night, and he finally gets word that Jae-ha is within view. He sighs, blinking back tears.
Jae-ha and Hang-ah hobble down the road, now with their whole team walking behind them. Jae-ha trips and falls, and Shi-kyung runs to help him up. But Jae-ha refuses to take his hand, asking if he’s laughing at him for failing the test.
But Shi-kyung is like, uh… the test isn’t over. Jae-ha looks over at Hang-ah, confused. She admits that earlier when she said 25 minutes, it was really more like 40, but she thought it’d be better if he just gave up and rested.
He pretends to be mad, calling her a Red, which has by now become a term of endearment for her. But he’s genuinely moved. She reaches out her hand, and this time, he takes it, and lets her help him stand.
They walk toward the finish line together, and the waiting officers clap as they approach.
Jae-ha slings his arm around Hang-ah’s shoulders and they smile.
So. Good. After everything that’s happened in just four short episodes, that last gesture is so touching, it’s surprising. It helps that they have the strength of North-South tension and prejudice upon which to build the stakes—not just for the shoot ’em up war scenes, but for the simple gesture of him taking her hand as a comrade in arms. It’s just not something that would mean as much in a different universe, but here it signifies everything—that trust and friendship is what finally broke past that barrier. I wouldn’t have been as moved if it were a romantic gesture, because though I think there’s growing love there, it’s more gratifying to see the birth of a friendship between two soldiers.
I love the range in Jae-ha’s character that we got to see in this episode, somehow spanning everything from his petulant, vicious, cowardly side, to the complete opposite, where he showed immense depth and strength and honor. It was hilariously conveyed as pockets of goodness couched in lots and lots of his usual self, but the moments of maturity did surprise me. Jae-kang’s arrival at the base was a huge instigator for that turn, but it’s the talking-to that he needed to make him grow up. They don’t call it tough love for nothin’.
This show moves along pretty swiftly anyway, but this episode had some great plotting—one strong central emotional throughline with a mile-a-minute twist at every turn. A scene will start out humorously, take a sudden sharp turn and become serious, a joke will undercut that tension and settle us back, only to then floor us with an even bigger twist, ratcheting up the tension even higher. And then when your heart is all twisted and you’re sure someone’s going to be a big hero, suddenly there’s another joke and you’re back to laughing. I seriously don’t know which way is up, but I love it. This show is off-the-charts crazy, but in the best way.
The marathon metaphor is nothing new, but I really like the way it’s used here, because the entirety of it is a gesture. It doesn’t really mean anything until Jae-ha uses it to prove something to his brother—that he’s worth something, and that he’s made of more than what people think. It’s funny because he never seemed to care much that people thought so little of him, but it does matter what Hang-ah and Jae-kang think of him. What’s great is that there are so many things he learns in just that last leg of the journey. He comes up against the harsh truth that perhaps he’ll fail, no matter how hard he tries. But it speaks volumes that he wants to finish anyway, and then the thing he learns from Hang-ah is the heartwrencher—that perhaps your comrades are more important than finishing the mission on time.