Part I of our King 2 Hearts marathon is a doozy. Jae-ha gets a rude awakening, and Hang-ah finds out that kissing a prince is NOT like kissing a toad. If only fairytales came with some useful life lessons, like how to turn your prince back into one if he keeps mouthing off.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
The two teenagers get caught making out, and then the father figures decide to divide and conquer. Jae-ha paces nervously and then at the sound of the door, he launches into, “Hyung, back there was…”
Only it’s Hang-ah’s father who enters. Oh crap. Pwaha. Did you guys bait and switch on the kiddos? That’s hilarious. I’m mentally filling in the scene where they give each other silent baseball signals: You deal with that one. I got this.
Jae-kang sits down awkwardly with Hang-ah, who didn’t think she could be more mortified until he asks, “Do you like Jae-ha very much?” Oh, the secondhand embarrassment, so large.
But then he follows up with, “Thank you. And I’m really sorry. You must’ve been through a lot because of Jae-ha.” Her jaw drops. He tells her that things’ll get even harder if she gets engaged to him.
He says, much like he knows very little about her (both personally and in the North-South cultural way), people will assume things of her, misunderstand her, burden her with prejudice and expectation.
“How about if I split it with you? Just until you get used to it. Until Jae-ha gets his head on straight. How about if I hide behind you and keep watch?” Aw, why’s this hyung so cool?
He’s basically like, I’ve got your back, and adds adorably that he may appear like he’s not much, but he’s a king: “I’m perfect to use as a shield.” Her eyes well up with tears of gratitude.
Hang-ah: “Is it okay that it’s me?” Jae-kang: “It’s okay because it’s you.”
Jae-ha’s conversation is going a little differently. He sits upright with his hands folded as Hang-ah’s father sighs over and over, finally asking if he likes Hang-ah. Jae-ha fidgets, stammering that they had too much to drink…
Dad: “So when South Korean royals drink, do they always just grab any girl and do that??” Dad asks again if he likes Hang-ah, and when Jae-ha can’t give an answer, Dad just gets up, “Fine! I’ll just report it thusly: South Korean prince gets drunk, succumbs to his animal instincts, and messes around with peace!”
Hahaha. Are you using your country a metaphor for your daughter? Jae-ha gets down on his knees and grabs his leg. He looks up with his best puppy dog eyes, but he knows when he’s defeated. He hangs his head.
A giant banner unravels: Congratulations on the engagement. HA. The city buzzes with the news, stands selling Jae-ha/Hang-ah t-shirts spring up overnight, and political commentators give their two cents on every network.
Hang-ah’s father watches a broadcast of the prince and princess bride’s marriage fortunes, one saying that they’re perfectly matched, followed by a blurred out shaman who says that in her vision, the bride is covered in flames, and the prince ought to help, but he just pours gasoline on her. HAHAHA. It’s like she knows them.
She does say with an ominous tone that it’s a union that cannot be. Dad buries his head in his hands, and then gets called – it’s time for him to go. Jae-ha greets him, and they bow to each other.
But then Dad suddenly gets down to the ground, in a full bow. Taken aback, Jae-ha tries to get him to stand up, and orders the guards to leave the room. Dad calls him “your majesty” and Jae-ha insists it’s not the Joseon era anymore, and keeps awkwardly trying to make him stop bowing.
Dad says, full of father-of-the-bride emotion, that Hang-ah grew up in harsh circumstances, and stepped up to take care of herself AND him when her mom died. “She’s everything to me.” He gets up to bow again, and this time Jae-ha lets him, understanding what it means.
And then Dad walks out of the palace, and Hang-ah looks out from her window to see him go. He does that Korean dad thing of waving her away brusquely, just to hide his bleeding heart. Mrrmph. Gets me every time.
Hang-ah looks down at her phone, at the text that Dad sent her on his way out: “No matter what, follow South Korean ways. From now on, you are a South Korean.” He’s saying it to her to be a good father, but she reads it and whispers an apology, knowing what it took for him to say that. “I’m sorry, Father. I’m sorry.” She cries as she watches him head home without her.
The queen mother watches the tv with distate (where Yoon Yoo-sun, aka Woong-ah’s aunt, along with the rest of the High Kick cast, cameos to give a celebrity congratulations to the royal couple, hee). She then joins the family for the first of what I’m sure will be many an awkward family dinner.
Jae-kang mentions that one of the dishes was made with something that Hang-ah’s family sent from the North, and Mom absentmindedly says they needn’t, since they’re so poor. Eep. Now we know where Jae-ha gets his foot-in-mouth from. It’s genetic.
Jae-shin tries to stop her, but true to form, Jae-ha just fans the flames, “Did you guys get the HUNDRED refrigerators we sent?” Going on and on about how they’re probably too shiny, until Jae-kang kicks him about twenty times.
To their credit, both Hang-ah and Mom try to find common ground, but there’s not a lot to find. At least Hang-ah is used to Jae-ha’s teasing, enough to evil-eye him comfortably at the table. But he notices that Mom sees it, and asks teasingly if she’s afraid of Hang-ah. “If you get to know her, she’s actually a huh-dang.”
Hang-ah tries to compliment Mom on her beauty and her personality, only to muck it up when she accidentally calls her “petty,” because the same word means bright and cheery in the North. The dinner comes to a screeching halt. Jae-ha smoothes it over, and everyone ends up laughing but Mom. Oh dear.
Even the waitstaff bursts into laughter, which does not please the queen mother. Later she calls the head of the staff to her office, and you think she’s complaining about Hang-ah’s mistake, but it turns out that she’s complaining about the laugh.
Mom: “Just because she made a mistake doesn’t mean we should laugh. Think about how lonely she must feel, here all alone. We have to be that much better to her.” Awwwww. Why is this family so awesome? I love it—just when we think we’re heading into the age-old mother-in-law conflict, we take another turn.
Hang-ah begins some basic lessons about being a southerner, and there’s some rather funny fish-out-of-water stuff that hadn’t occurred to me, like she’s confused by the concept of putting your money in a bank rather than stuffing it under a mattress, only to be further confused by the motivation behind it, “Interest? What’s that?”
Mom interrupts the lesson and notes that Hang-ah’s studying like a high school senior, praising her. But as much as intentions are good, these two aren’t exactly peas in a pod, and Mom’s suggestion that maybe not speaking (as a preventative measure to keep from making mistakes in front of others) gets interpreted by Hang-ah as a request to just stay silent at all times.
Mom gets upset that she’s acting defensively, Hang-ah doesn’t even know what’s right and wrong so she asks how she’s supposed to know when to keep silent and when not to… You can see where it’s going, because Hang-ah is confused and being told to just keep her trap shut, while Mom’s thinking she’s being a smartass, and walks out.
Jae-shin goes out drinking with some friends, who start to order another round, only to shrink back when Shi-kyung gives him the stinkeye from the next table. Heh. She sighs and heads out, and then announces that they’re going to race on the count of three.
She takes off at two, and Shi-kyung runs after her, beating her to the top of a hill overlooking the city. She climbs up to the ledge to look at falling stars and makes him sit with her, and tells him to make a wish at a shooting star.
He starts to explain that it has no bearing on wishes, but she’s like, make a friggin’ wish and don’t ruin my moment. They close their eyes and clasp their hands, and Shi-kyung sneaks a little peek at her.
She asks what he wished for: “World peace?” Earnest Bot turns to her in surprise. Jae-shin: “Really? Really? That’s what you wished for?” She dies laughing. But he doesn’t think it’s very funny, and asks what she wished then. She says for her next secret album to do well.
He says sure, since she’s a singer. But he’s a soldier. So what’s so wrong about a soldier wishing for the safety of his country? Aw, I just want to bottle your earnestness and save it for a rainy day. Why so cute?
He adds that she must think people like him are dumb, naïve, laughable. “Yes, soldiers simple-mindedly and innocently guard this country. But that’s why it’s possible for you to drink with your friends and sing at clubs. It’s because of us! So then why… do you laugh at us?”
She feels terrible, and even worse when she sees his eyes brimming with tears, and offers to sing him a song. I love that she has to explain that it’s not in mockery, but because she’s sorry and words seem like they’re not enough. He nods.
She sings him a song about first love, and you can just see him fall in love with her right there on the spot.
Eun Kyu-tae meets with someone who regularly donates to the royal family’s estate, and he compares Korean culture to the Beatles, which makes no sense, but whatever. The point is, the man wants to know where the king is vacationing, and Secretary Eun refuses to answer.
But when he comes back to the palace, he finds a gift from the man on his desk – an original Quarrymen album (pre-Beatles beatles), and over the phone, he accepts the gift and suggests that if he’s looking for a vacation spot, to try Anmyundo.
Wait, did you just sell out the king for a Beatles album? I’m just gonna go ahead and assume you were evil from the beginning, which I always suspected anyway. No good guy would have two-tone hair like that. But aaack—what will Shi-kyung do when he finds out you’re a traitor? His little Earnest Bot heart will break!
Hearing the news, Bong-gu plots the king’s assassination in Anmyundo.
Secretary Eun leads the security sweep of the mountain villa before the king and queen are left alone for their vacation. Shi-kyung leads the guard rotation down below, and he salutes as Dad passes on his way out. Get your spidey sense tingling! Sense something’s wrong! Sense something’s wrong! But no, Dad just leaves with a smile.
Meanwhile the palace staff is ablaze with rumors because someone leaked Hang-ah’s recent missteps over interoffice mail (though thankfully not on the interwebs), and Mom has to call her in to warn her to be more careful.
Mom says that she was a commoner when she married into the royal family, and she basically had to lie down on the ground. “But you’re from the North, so don’t you have to lie lower?” Oof.
I know you mean well, Mom, but your prejudice is ghastly. Hang-ah asks, “Is being a North Korean that much worse than being a commoner?” She says that she knows she’s being mocked in the South, but she’s still representing the North. Mom asks if she really plans to be both, clearly thinking it an impossibility.
Jae-ha interrupts, reading the tension in the air, but Mom dismisses Hang-ah and says it’s no big deal. She warns him not to ask Hang-ah either, “She’s having a really tough time right now, do you understand?” Why is everyone only nice to Hang-ah behind her back?
Jae-ha tries to see her, but the head staffer says she’s in the middle of lessons and will be free in two hours. He smiles, all, You do know my resentment infamously knows no bounds? But she just bows, “Yes, I do.” Ha. Foiled again.
Jae-shin calls Little Oppa to suggest a trip to go surprise Big Oppa while he’s on his vacation, and Jae-ha asks why they would go interrupt them when they’re trying to make a baby. Oh is that what they’re doing up there?
She’s like, I’m not gonna climb into their bed—I just want to have dinner! She tells him to bring Hang-ah, and he complains that he can’t even SEE Hang-ah, let alone take her anywhere, and hangs up on her. Oh, you miss her.
But Jae-shin won’t be derailed, and calls Shi-kyung (pretending to be in trouble which he doesn’t buy, ha) to invite him as well, and tells him she’ll call at seven. Meanwhile Bong-gu’s team of assassins arrives at the base of the mountain and sneak up on foot.
The assassins spy the king and queen out for a walk on the beach, and set their trap in the house, putting something in the fireplace. Drat, I was hoping for a fakeout, but it looks like Eun Kyu-tae is straight-up Dr. Evil.
Jae-shin arrives at the house, right in the middle of their stealth mission… just in time to be taken as a hostage. Oh. Crap.
The king and queen arrive, and discover the bags of groceries left behind. Jae-kang takes one look at the wine and guesses it was little sis, but she’s nowhere to be found. He just laughs, assuming she dropped off the stuff and left.
Shi-kyung waits at the watch station down below, realizing that it’s past seven and Jae-shin still hasn’t called…
Hang-ah finally arrives in her room, dressed in half princess bridal garb, which is just funny—it’s like seeing the behind-the-scenes back end of every sageuk. Jae-ha is there waiting for her, and he asks what happened with Mom as she plops down on the bed from exhaustion.
She tries to explain what happened, but Jae-ha insists that his mom wouldn’t hurt a fly, so she must’ve done something. Ugh, don’t you know anything about moms and daughters-in-law? In case you were wondering, this is what pouring gasoline on a fire looks like.
He makes it worse by accusing her of acting prideful and defensive with Mom, “You guys don’t live well! You’re poor! So what’s the point of having pride?” Aaaack. Damn, really? She looks up at him like he just shot her all over again, and this time, even he knows he was wrong.
He starts to stammer that he’s sorry, but she cuts him off, “Well then we ought to at least have pride. Since we live so poorly.” He knows he was wrong so he tries to apologize, even sweetly sitting at her feet, but she’s too angry for that, and pulls her hand away.
That’s just enough to send him storming off in anger, because the man has like two grams of patience. GRAR. He slams the door behind him, but then immediately turns around…
…and then can’t bring himself to open the door. What? He sighs, wondering aloud why he’s such an arse. Do you want that in alphabetical order, or should I be creative?
Inside, Hang-ah calls Dad and screams that she can’t take it anymore. All they care about is money money money, and demands that he send a car right now for her to go back home.
And then we hear an operator’s recording on the other end. Oof, that breaks my heart. She has no one to talk to, and can’t actually say those things to Dad… awwwwww, somebody give her a hug!
Just then, Jae-kang calls her, just to check in and be his awesome self. She bows (so cute) and clutches the phone as she talks to him, asking when he’ll return. He asks if Jae-ha is treating her well now, and she lies through her teeth that he is.
A little later he calls Jae-ha, who’s dressed in a tux for a night out. He slurs, “Jae-ha, I really really like you.” Pfft. “Have you been drinking?” He giggles. So cute.
Jae-ha says he doesn’t know what he’s talking about because it’s war down here, and hyung tells him it’s just a lover’s spat. Jae-ha: “Must be nice for you. How can you see everything through rose-colored glasses?”
Jae-kang: “Try to have some latitude, and an open heart. Then paradise will open. For everything in the world.”
Jae-ha sighs, barking into the phone that it was a rhetorical question. Hyung just texts back: “Kekeke.” I love that he has hyung saved into his phone as ” king-frustrating,” which is funnier in Korean, because it’s basically the way a child would call someone king of buttheads.
But what’s even cuter is Jae-kang on the other end, staring at his phone like a sad little puppy, “There’s no reply.” He lies with his head in wifey’s lap, sighing that he’s come pretty far, since it feels like yesterday that he watched the Berlin wall come down with his father.
He asks like a little kid if he’s done a good job, and she laughs wondering if the people knew their king was so cutesy. He says they can’t, like it’s their little secret. He says in a few months Jae-ha will be engaged, and the WOC will happen. He wonders if placing in the top three is too big a dream.
“Just seeing North and South Korean soldiers with their arms around each other, running together… that’ll make me happy enough.”
She says that’s all fine and good, but what about some baby-makin’? He promises her that once he’s got Jae-ha engaged and the WOC done with, he’ll live more simply, and they’ll take vacations like this all the time, and they’ll have kids.
She says she wants a son like Song Joong-ki, but he says he wants a daughter first, and they imagine going on family outings with Jae-ha’s family. He chuckles, “Their kid will win over ours, ’cause they’re both so strong-willed.” Then it’s a good thing pride isn’t a cumulative gene.
They get drowsier and drowsier, which they assume is because of the wine, but the fireplace crackles with an ominous tone. As they lose consciousness, the glass in his hand falls to the ground. Nooooooo!
Jae-shin and her car get taken to a cliff, where the assassins prepare to stage an unfortunate car accident. She’s ordered to get in, but she looks up defiantly, “How about a fall to the death instead?” And she runs off the cliff fearlessly. What?
She drops to the sand at the bottom of the massive cliff with a thud. Holy crap.
The one stroke of luck – Shi-kyung is the first to find her, on his way up to the house. He tears up to her, screaming, and then takes off running again. Ohgodohgodohgod.
The secret service knocks at the house to alert the king about the princess… only there’s no answer. They’re lying there on the couch in each other’s arms. Ohgodohgodohgod.
Jae-ha arrives at his banquet and gets up to give a speech, all jokey and smiling for the cameras. But Eun Kyu-tae arrives abruptly with a small army of guards. He announces (IN PUBLIC? Like that??)… that the king is dead.
Jae-ha can barely register what he’s saying before Secretary Eun kneels, “Your royal highness!” The whole room follows suit.
OH NO. I was seriously so fixated on hyung dying that I forgot about the other part—that this makes Jae-ha king, like RIGHT NOW. Shit. How could anyone deal with all this at once?
On the car ride out, Secretary Eun rattles off the situation and list of things to do (Jae-shin is in surgery, meetings with leaders of the free world are lining up, he has to address the public), as Jae-ha just stares off like a zombie. He finally screams, “Stop the car!”
The whole entourage pulls over on a bridge, and he gets out. His hands shake as he grips the railing, and just stands there, on the ledge. The tears come, but he pulls every last ounce of strength together to hold them in.
Secretary Eun waits, and ignores a call from the M Society.
After a long moment, Jae-ha turns around, seeming very different from moments ago. He rattles off the to-do list again, this time adjusting for what has priority. Aw, look at him stepping up to be king. I’m not crying right now. I’m not.
Mom waits at the hospital, and gets word that Jae-shin got through surgery okay. But her legs… Oh no (they don’t say, but we can tell it’s bad). Mom just says she understands and waits. But she’s surprised to see the king’s entourage arrive down below.
Jae-ha walks down the hall and then stops short before entering the room. He gathers himself again, and the door opens.
Mom yells at him for coming here—he needs to act as the king, and there are more important things he needs to do. The door gets shut behind him and she finally lets herself crumble a little behind closed doors.
He holds her up, and addressing him formally now as his majesty, she tells him that he has to get it together. “If we crumble, everything crumbles. The two of us have to get through this.” She tells him that she’ll take care of everything inside the palace walls, and he needs to deal with everything on the outside.
“That way our royal family… Jae-kang…” she catches herself, like she shouldn’t be calling him by name. But by now she’s trembling in tears, “so that he’ll shine… Please… please…” And she hugs him for dear life.
And that’s why having someone like Yoon Yeo-jung playing the queen mother is important. Her role wasn’t large until now, but man, does she ground that heartbreak. You can just feel her terror and her pain, and her struggle to be tough, knowing what Jae-ha has to become. I love that scene—her words are stern, but her eyes are a mother’s, full of loss, needing as much comfort as she’s giving.
We knew the king’s death was coming—Jae-kang was never the king of the title of this series—but I’m really surprised at how much I feel that loss. *TEARS* The show did such a good job of building Jae-ha’s character always in relation to hyung, from the very beginning. (And Jae-kang is actually the first character that we meet in the series, if you’ll remember.)
It’s important because everything about this character is what will inform Jae-ha’s future as a leader. I thought it a lovely change of pace from the usual father-son monarch torch-passing relationship, which is usually so burdened with harshness and expectation. But theirs was such a sweet fatherly hyung-dongseng relationship characterized by warmth and love. I really loved everything about Jae-kang’s character, from his idealistic sense of duty and honor to his playful sense of humor, played so naturally by Lee Sung-min.
And in most ways, Jae-ha has miles and miles to go before he’ll ever be like hyung. But he’s also shown a different kind of sharpness that his hyung never possessed. Where Jae-kang would stand down, Jae-ha will dig his heels in and weather the storm. I think he will someday be a better king, which will be Jae-kang’s true legacy in the end—to have raised him to be one. It’s just going to be a while before we get there, because there’s still a whole lot of maturing left to do. But the journey’s the interesting part, and the little glimpse we see of him stepping up to the task instead of pitching a fit or running away—I think that says a lot already.