The king takes his first step toward reconciliation, but considering the miles and political landmines that stand between them, that first step is long long way to go. Man, the things a monarch’s gotta do to get some face time with his girl.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Jae-shin sees assassin girl through the ambulance window, and it triggers a panic attack. Creepy assassin just takes her sweet time, enjoying a chocolate, and then smearing her gooey chocolate fingers all over the window. Well that’s just unsanitary. Also, can we get fingerprints from that?
Jae-shin gasps for air and then her cute parrot friend calls for Eun Shi-kyung, but his little parrot voice is too tiny to be heard. Unable to scream, she finally struggles to reach for the car horn, now in full-blown panic.
But thank ye gods Shi-kyung senses something and goes to check on her, and finds her on the car floor struggling and panicked. He holds her up and pleads with her to recognize him, and she ekes out the syllables of his name.
He holds her close (awww) as she trembles in terror.
Meanwhile Hang-ah wakes up in the hospital and her eyes widen, “Baby…?” Dad has filled her in on the miscarriage and the fact that it’s not a secret, and tries to downplay the situation, as if that’ll make her feel better. It’s sweet in intent, Dad, but you’re just confusing her.
She asks to be alone and puts a hand on her stomach, sighing, What the hell? Seriously. It does seem like the universe is just not on your side.
Jae-ha gets briefed by Secretary Eun that the palace’s official stance will be “No comment,” and that it’ll all blow over as rumor in about a week. I think that’s optimistic, but okay. But Jae-ha just looks up at him numbly, “I slept with her. I slept with her. I slept with Hang-ah.”
Secretary Eun snaps back, asking if he’s proud, because this is a blight on the entire monarchy, what he’s done. Jae-ha: “I know it’s my fault. So I’m going to take responsibility…”
He cuts him off again, “You are the king!” He asks if he’s going to pass on his misdeeds on to the people, but Jae-ha sees it very differently: “I take responsibility for my own actions. – I am not a king fit for Korea. I’m sorry. Kick me out. — I’ll say that to the people, and I’ll let them throw stones!”
He looks up with pleading eyes, “The baby… Hang-ah… they’re broken.” He admits he hasn’t slept since he sent Hang-ah away. But Secretary Eun pulls out the ace in his pocket: Hang-ah told him that she was the one who asked Jae-ha to stay that night (in effect taking responsibility, like she seduced him).
Jae-ha says no—that’s not what happened. But Secretary Eun threatens to counter any of his statements with her admission. He lays it out plain and simple: Jae-ha needs to abandon Hang-ah to save the monarchy.
Jae-ha: “No, I can’t do that, ever. I’LL die.” Secretary Eun urges him to be stronger. He shouts back, “Is killing the woman you love and living through it becoming stronger?!” His eyes fill with tears, and when he’s alone, they finally fall.
Shi-kyung gets word on Jae-ha’s situation, but he’s still busy tending to the other emergency. Jae-shin throws up (an interesting pattern, since her last panic attack was mild and triggered nausea—a clue?) and asks him not to tell her mother about what happened today.
He innocently asks if she wants to be moved to her bed, only to realize that would mean a whole lot of touching, and he stands there frozen. She calls him out on being all huggy this afternoon, and he stammers a line from the royal guard handbook (you just know Boyscout memorizes those things) about how it’s his job to protect her and stuff. You know, and stuff.
She tells him to go ahead and move her, so he circles her chair like a finicky cat about ten thousand times. (I love the detail in the performance, like he doesn’t know what to do with his hands.)
She finally has to yank him closer and tell him where to put his arms, and he lifts her up. He gets to the bed and then realizes how close they are, and looks away. She asks playfully, “Why can’t you look at me? Are you thinking naughty thoughts?” Rawr.
That’s waaay too much hotness for Shi-kyung to handle, and he literally drops her on the bed like a hot potato. HA.
He tries to bolt from sheer awkwardness, but Jae-shin asks him to stay until she falls asleep. Aw. So then he tucks her in, and then stands at attention by her bedside like a guard dog. It’s adorable.
Mom tortures herself by watching a North Korean news broadcast. These things get hilariously more over-the-top each time, and in this one the anchor wails as the voice of the baby, “Daddy! Daddy! I’m dying!” Jeepers. What the hell, lady?
As expected, both Hang-ah and Jae-ha get ripped apart in the press, along with North-South relations. It’s worse than anything that came before, because now it’s attacks on their character, and Jae-ha just sits there, unable to stop them from calling Hang-ah a promiscuous opportunist. It’s bad.
Finally he gets up and calls for Shi-kyung. I really want him to get a separate phone for calling Shi-kyung, like a batphone.
Over drinks, Shi-kyung looks up at him, You want me to do WHAT? Jae-ha says this is the only way, and asks if he’ll help. Shi-kyung smiles back, and he actually looks a little proud of his king. I hope your mission is what I think it is.
Hang-ah gets back to her regular life, ever the resilient girl. She even attends a friend’s child’s birthday party, which is crazy brave of her. She almost makes it out alive, but for her friend’s mother, who tells her that she’ll get pregnant again in no time. Cringe, cringe.
She walks down the street and gets stopped by two officers, and then a general arrives to greet her. She salutes him immediately. He takes her down to his office where he shows her the South Korean news—interviews of people on the street saying that they don’t believe Hang-ah’s lies.
She asks why he’s showing her this, and then he orders the camera crew inside. Oh no. He says that the people need to know the truth, so she’s going to tell them. Hang-ah nods resolutely.
The cameras roll, and Hang-ah addresses the South Korean people warmly, telling them not to worry about her, and that she was in some pain, but that she’s exercising and living her daily life.
The general tells her this isn’t a social call, and to tell them the truth, which finally makes her snap. She says into the camera that they keep showing her the news and forcing her to say something, asking what they’re doing to a sick person.
She snaps at the general, but calms down, saying through tears that she’s already worn out, and pleads with him not to sap her faith in her country on top of it all. Augh, so heartbreaking. She walks out with a bow.
Dad catches up with her in the hall, and to his dismay all she does is ask if there’s no word from the palace.
There isn’t because Jae-ha is busy… mixing cosmetics? I used to do that with all my mom’s stuff when I was little. It was not amusing for her. Secretary Eun tries to brief him on the situation but Jae-ha just rambles on about what he made, without a care in the world.
Workers come into the office, and Jae-ha explains that he’s decided to do some redecorating with all the free time on his hands, and Secretary Eun buys it and leaves. Nice. I love that he knows how to play the frivolous angle to his advantage.
As soon as they’re alone, Jae-ha tells them to get started. He sits down at his desk, and out come lights and cameras. I love Stealth Action King!
Later he sits with Mom and proposes something that makes her say no—not that, anything but that. She brings out bundles of food she’s prepared for Hang-ah, and says that she’s made arrangements to send them secretly, and at least they can show their hearts this way.
But Jae-ha tells her that’s not enough to move Hang-ah’s heart. She lays into him for being so stupid and immature, and that starts her on a yelling rampage, about how stupid they both were, and why Hang-ah didn’t take care of herself up there and lost the baby…
Jae-ha hugs Mom as she cries, heartbroken over losing the baby, worrying about how hard it must be for Hang-ah. He just hugs her tight. It’s the sweetest thing ever.
He kneels down next to her, holding her hand, as he says this isn’t out of duty or responsibility—she should know that he’s not that kind of person. Ha. Well, no argument there.
But he does say that neither of them could live with themselves if they turned their backs on Hang-ah now. Dude, are you playing your Mom right now? It’s totally working too, because her resolve is already breaking, even as she insists that no—she can do it—she just has to close her eyes just once.
He takes both her hands and tells her that it’s tomorrow at 10 o’clock. She shakes her head and insists she won’t help.
The next morning he gets dressed for a public appearance, and then makes one last phone call to ask someone on staff for a favor at 10…
Mom checks the time, and then calls Secretary Eun into her office. She feigns ignorance on an issue that she has to speak about later that day, and asks him to personally sit down and explain it to her. So. Awesome. I love that Mom is participating in The Plan.
Batman readies his team and his gun, only to be called away by Jae-shin at the last minute. Aaaargh. Princess, if you screw up this plan, I will stuff that bird where the sun don’t shine.
She tells him that she wants to go to the hospital quietly this time, and he says he’ll alert the staff. She demands that he come along, but he tells her that he will be accompanying the king today.
She throws a hissyfit, wondering if he’s grown tired of her, and Shi-kyung has no time to worry after her feelings: “Think whatever you want.” She lashes out at him, and I just want him to scream It’s not always about you!
But he doesn’t, and just stoically tells her to do as she pleases. She says she won’t go to the hospital because of him, and so he just says fine, he’s not going to raise her up when she has no intention of standing up on her own. Oh snap.
He runs to the car where Jae-ha is waiting, and they almost get away when Secretary Eun’s lackey comes running up to ride along. Thinking quickly, Jae-ha pushes him out and tells him to ride in a different car, and they depart.
Secretary Eun gets word that the king has escaped, but Mom calmly checks the time—two minutes till 10:00, so they’re right on schedule. The recording gets passed along and gets broadcast on the palace’s network, where it quickly gets picked up by the local stations.
Jae-ha address the public and confirms the truth—that Hang-ah was pregnant with his child and lost the baby. “And that pain cannot be fixed with flowery words.” And as we watch his entourage cross the border, he says in the broadcast that he’s going to see her.
He says that this isn’t a king going to North Korea in a political capacity, “But a man, going to see the woman who suffered a miscarriage with his child.”
Both North and South scramble, and the Northern leaders have an emergency meeting to figure out how to respond. General Asshat throws a fit, Hang-ah’s father tries to reason with them, while the prime minister just takes it all in.
Jae-ha reaches the border and waits for official sanction to gain access to the North, but isn’t granted any. Secretary Eun texts Shi-kyung to bring the king back at once, but he slams his phone shut and ignores him.
Finally Jae-ha prepares to cross into the DMZ without permission, before the opportunity disappears. The American soldiers warn him of the danger, but he tells them that this is his destiny. Apparently Americans are just a bunch of romantics in this world, because they’re all, awwww, okay. Ha.
As he walks along the dirt road that connects North and South, we hear the rest of his broadcast, where he says that they have every right to oust him from the palace. “But I want to take responsibility for the woman I love.” Swoon.
He reaches the line. The Northern general declares that they have to respond in kind. Guns are drawn. Oh crap. Hang-ah’s father tries to reason that shooting the king is an act of war. Yeah, you think?
Jae-ha sees the guns and proceeds anyway. The soldier at the border warns him that they might shoot. Jae-ha just tells him and his secret service agents to flee if they do.
He turns to Shi-kyung: “If you even try to protect me, just to get a medal of honor…” Hahaha. He threatens a demotion. Shi-kyung just grins to himself.
And then… they just barrel on through. Damn, balls of steel when it counts.
The Northern soldiers freeze in shock, asking the prime minister what they’re supposed to do. They run down to meet him, asking if he’s got a death wish, but Jae-ha just greets them with a smile, and asks to be shown the way.
The prime minister hangs up and tells the council that the king has come on his own two feet—it’ll be of use to them somehow, and he heads out to meet him. Whew. At least the immediate danger has passed.
Hang-ah finds out that Jae-ha is here to see her, and Dad tells her not to give in so easily. But she quickly says she’ll see him. Dad sighs. She assures him that she’s not an idiot—after everything she’s endured, she is not the Kim Hang-ah of yore.
Jae-ha arrives and Dad is outside waiting. He walks up and puts out his hand, but Dad squarely ignores him. Did you really think he was going to shake your friggin’ hand? You should really be on your knees, buddy.
He walks into the room timidly, and Hang-ah reacts coolly as if it’s no big deal, as she tells him to sit and makes him coffee. He just sits there staring at her like a five-year old in trouble. Where’d those border-crossing balls-of-steel disappear to?
She looks at her watch and says she has to meet a friend at three, so he’s got half an hour. Nice. She side-eyes him and says to go ahead with whatever speech he’s prepared. I love that she’s giving him a hard time.
He says he did prepare something, and Shi-kyung enters with the present. He smiles at Hang-ah but the air is icy, and he looks back and forth between them worriedly before exiting. Jae-ha tells her to open it and she finds it full of skincare products, and he hilariously swears they’re all full this time.
He starts to say that there’s a lot more waiting for her in the South and that there’s something underneath in the box… but she sarcastically coos that he must’ve gone to so much trouble. Did he think that the poor girl from the North would swoon at expensive face cream?
He says that she has every right to hate him, but she corrects him: “I don’t hate you. You have to have feelings for someone to hate.” Ouch. She continues, “The person I hate… is me. Why did I wring my heart over a person like this? Why did I keep trusting him even as I was fooled twice, three times?”
He listens to her with tears in his eyes, as she starts to well up as she asks why she so foolishly went through all of that for someone like him—how she didn’t even know that she was pregnant, spoke at that hearing, waited and waited for him to call.
She says that at one month, a fetus is about a centimeter. She sticks out her finger. “It’s about this big, right?” She starts to shake with tears. “But… they say it has a heart. It beats, koong-kang, koong-kang. That tiny heart… I made it burst.”
With tears streaming down her face, she says she was so stupid and oblivious that she thought the pain was nothing, that it would go away, “I killed it.” Oof. Jae-ha doesn’t know what to do, and inches closer to put his hand on hers.
But she snaps his hand away and tamps down her tears. “Leave.” She tells him she only dated him because who else would step in his dirty personality (talking about it like it’s a pile of crap you step in). She adds firmly, “My heart will never change.”
She asks if he has to be dragged out by security to understand and tells him to go back, as one last tear falls. She trembles as she forces the tears to stop and raises her head high. Wow, so lovely and strong.
Jae-ha walks out and Shi-kyung’s phone rings with a call from Dad. Jae-ha knows the call is for him and takes it. Secretary Eun tells him to return this instant, now that he’s embarrassed his country enough.
Jae-ha says calmly, “Ajusshi, these words are not from a king to his secretary, but from a young boy to an uncle who watched him grow since he was a baby: Can’t you trust me, just once?”
He shows his vulnerability, saying that he’s putting up a brave front, but it shakes his confidence, so can’t ajusshi help him out and have a little faith? “I know I’m trash, but can’t you trust me this once? I’ll do well.” Aw. Say you trust him! Even if you’re evil!
Bong-gu’s lackeys warn him that his next plan to scare the king is too dangerous right now, but he won’t be derailed—Jae-ha is his original target, and he’s going to strike now. And then he guillotines a carrot for effect. It mostly makes him look like a deranged Elmer Fudd. I do enjoy his megalomania though – it’s a weakness that Jae-ha has learned to play on.
Jae-ha meets with the North Korean prime minister and the air is tense. He asks the North to admit they don’t have EP technology, while the prime minister counters that he sure is confident for a guy who might return home to find that he’s been dethroned.
Jae-ha leans in to ask if that’s a threat, and the prime minister postures that it’s just a friendly concern. Jae-ha makes it clear that he’s sorry to Hang-ah, but not to her country, and makes his position on North Korea abundantly clear with an evil little grin—that he thinks of them like a neighbor you inherit and would do anything to get rid of, like a scab.
And then he turns on a dime, going back to his friendly demeanor. He apologizes for speaking so harshly, explaining that he’s just that kind of person, famous in his own country for flying off the handle and going so crazy that no one can stop him.
“Will you be okay? With me as an enemy?” Badass.
Next thing you know, the story comes out in a North Korean newspaper… albeit a tiny blurb buried under other news. Secretary Eun chuckles to see it, and then tells the (South Korean) prime minister that they can lead with the story in their news.
The prime minister doesn’t like losing face since the North hardly made the announcement known at all, but Secretary Eun is quick to offer an alternative—the palace could write up a little blurb, about how the South Korean prime minister knew about this all along but did nothing. How ’bout that? Okay, fine, in this one instance, I kind of like you.
Hang-ah watches the announcement on the South Korean news at her desk. She sees a picture of Jae-ha at a North Korean chicken farm in the newspaper (the picture is hilarious), surprised to see that he’s still there.
Well besides the fact that he hasn’t won you over yet, he has to fulfill his cultural itinerary to save both countries’ faces, in light of his border-crossing stunt.
Jae-shin catches two palace aides swooning over Jae-ha and Shi-kyung in the picture, and she snatches it away, thinking they’re making fun of her. It’s then that she realizes where Shi-kyung went.
She calls him, yelling into her phone that he could have just told her he was going with oppa, and here I am screaming HE DID, but she sort of does that half-apology, half-yelling thing where she was the idiot, but it’s all his fault. Ha.
She calls him stiff, frustrating and no fun, and Shi-kyung’s voice shakes on the other end of the phone, “You don’t have to say it like that. I already know I’m no fun.” Hee. So cute.
She tells him to do whatever it takes to bring Hang-ah back with them, “Or else… I’m not going to the hospital!” Pfft. She hangs up. He grins like a fool.
The North Korean war room is clearly divided, with most of the generals blaming the prime minister for being too accommodating to the king, and siding with the outspoken general who argued against this the whole time.
Hang-ah’s father sits through the whole council with his head in his hands, and then makes a mysterious call once he’s outside, to have an agent at the ready, target to be confirmed later.
Bong-gu sets up a camera crew and begins to record a message directed at Jae-ha… for after his terrifying kidnapping and torture while in North Korea. Oh noes. He smiles at the camera as he guesses he must be terrified, laughing in fake concern.
At lunch, one of the Northern agents on Jae-ha’s security detail finds out that his daughter got into college, and the whole room cheers. Jae-ha guesses it must have the same importance here as it does at home, and buys everyone a drink.
On a train, the Northern general who’s leading the dissenters meets with a member of Club M—the “friend” who gave Secretary Eun the Beatles album. He asks if preparations are in place, and the man asks who the target is. “The king of South Korea. Lee. Jae. Ha.”
Thankfully Hang-ah’s father has an agent tracking the general, because he calls with the news that the general is going after Jae-ha.
Bong-gu says right into the camera that he’s the one responsible for orchestrating the whole thing. He breezes that he said not to kill him, but you never know with North Koreans. “What’ll you do if you die like this? Huh? Jae-ha-ya…”
Hang-ah comes to the door and overhears her father in the next room, and her eyes widen when she hears the target’s name.
Woot woot, Comrade Hang-ah to the rescue?
Is it wrong if I can’t wait till Jae-ha’s in danger so Hang-ah can swoop in and save him? You know, just a little kidnapping and torture. That’s not wrong, is it? I miss that dynamic from their days in training, though she’s saved his political ass on more than one occasion already. But you know me—I like my life and death stuff.
Although Jae-ha’s DMZ stunt is way too ridiculously easy (they just step aside?) I’d rather sacrifice some suspension of disbelief for the fact that he goes to see her himself. I expected he’d send Shi-kyung on his behalf or something like that, which just would not have satisfied my need for him to go apologize and win her back in person, no matter what the cost. I don’t think I would’ve bought the gesture any other way. And it’s certainly his turn to put it all on the line to prove his love.
It sort of drove me crazy when he finally went through all that to get to the north and then just sat there, saying nothing. But I loved Hang-ah’s reception of him—distant, attempting to prove that she feels nothing, breaking down despite herself, but not willing to let him in. I appreciate that their reconciliation is not earned easily. I could’ve done with more groveling on his end (or any words for that matter) but there’s still a whole lot of ground to cover if they’re actually going to meet halfway.
I do love how well the North-South divide gives the romance such massive stakes—not just as a metaphor, but taken literally as a narrative device to keep everything at DEFCON 1. Here love really is war. It’s a good thing our heroine’s a fighter, and that our king’s got Batman on his side. It looks like he’s gonna need ’em…