Why does this show want to kill me dead? Now that we’ve treated one heartache, it’s time for another, and this time Misunderstanding rears its ugly head. It’s actually deployed in a cracktastic fashion, but damn if I’m not hurling things while glued to the screen. Gorrammit, can we shoot them up with truth serum and lock them in a bunker? They’re military-trained. It could work.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Bong-gu greets Jae-ha with an auspicious bow, feigning disappointment at the fact that Jae-ha can’t remember him. He’s like, oh it was twenty-some-odd years ago, no biggie. Well if you refreshed his memory about the pen stabbing, I bet he’d remember.
He looks over at Jae-kang’s portrait, gasping at how such a thing could happen, crying real tears (as in liquid, not genuine emotion), “He liked my magic so.”
They sit down for a meal together, and Bong-gu asks about the ark shell dish on the table, noting that it’s prepared in a rather unorthodox way. Jae-ha says good-naturedly that well, he’s the king, so now it IS tradition. You can tell it’s exactly the king of thing that raises Bong-gu’s hackles, but he laughs it off.
Jae-ha brags that it was made by the future queen (so cute) from a recipe passed down by his mother. Bong-gu asks if he likes that North Korean woman, talking about her very casually, and Jae-ha warns him to choose his words wisely.
He steels, “She is the future queen of this nation.” Ooooh, I kinda like these two in the same room together all of a sudden. Bong-gu just says in turn, “There’s this old saying: If you want to trust someone, suspect them first.”
Shi-kyung tiptoes into Jae-shin’s hospital room so awkwardly it pains me, and she doesn’t notice because she’s listening to music. He sees her leg hanging down off the bed and decides he should sneak up and cover it with a blanket, because apparently he’s never seen a wildlife video before and doesn’t know what happens when you poke a sleeping tiger. Are you new?
She freaks out, of course, refusing his help and screaming in a fit. He tries to help her up when she nearly falls off the bed, only making matters worse. She’s freaking out, he’s panicked and doesn’t know what to do, so that’s when he decides it’s time to unveil the present he brought – a talking parrot.
He launches into this ADORABLE awkward stuttery speech about how he found it at a pet shop and the bird had a broken leg, and well… then the parrot didn’t have a broken leg… and it was because the parrot exercised by himself… and… and… if the princess were to get physical therapy… then she could be like the bird… and… uh… IT SINGS!
The whole while, she’s completely offended that he thinks her such a simpleton that he’d use this obvious metaphor to tell her to buck up, only Shi-kyung really IS that earnest, and he’s in no way mocking her. Can’t you just picture him in the pet shop, all, this is the best idea ever! She screams at him, calling him a crazy bastard, and he’s so panicked by now that he starts entreating the bird to sing and help a brother out.
So then he’s singing at the bird trying to coax it, and the bird just deadpans, “Stupid idiot! Stupid idiot!” Pfffft. It’s finally so funny that Jae-shin cracks up. She says to the bird that he’s better than the ajusshi, and tells Shi-kyung to bring him over.
Aww, new friend. Shi-kyung just watches her make friends with the parrot in relief, sweating more bullets than he ever did during all that WOC training.
Bong-gu says his goodbye to the king, and offers up a parting gift. He takes out a pen…
Oh crap. And then he confesses on the spot that he once stabbed Jae-ha with a pen when they were very young, offering the pen now as a token of reconciliation. Jae-ha just looks down at it and laughs, saying that no such thing ever happened. Er?
He laughs, asking how someone like him could dare to stab the king, and tosses the pen back at him with a flick of the wrist. He adds that he’d never have endured such a thing, no matter how young he was. “You’re mistaken.” He walks out, leaving Bong-gu completely turned around.
It’s the one reaction Bong-gu doesn’t expect – he wants fear, shock, anger, and instead he’s met with a blank wall. He returns to the classroom where it all happened, reminiscing that the moment he wrote, “I am king” on the window, he had already made the decision to usurp the throne.
He flares up at how long he’s spent tending to his horrible father to get where he is today, and that he won’t let that punk ruin it for anything. He declares that he is the real king, and tells his minion to donate 5 billion won to the royal family.
His reasoning is that with Jae-ha’s IQ, things will never happen on their timetable, so they need to change the game. Only he’s acting from the judgment that Jae-ha is a complete idiot—he thinks that with a memory like his, he has to be a fool. Well, you’re not right but you’re not wrong either.
Secretary Eun tells Jae-ha about the donation and though it surprises him, he tells Secretary Eun to accept it freely. Do you maybe think it’s time to tell him that it would be taking money from his brother’s killer? No? Okay then.
Secretary Eun calls to warn the baddies that just because they’re taking the money to build a memorial for Jae-kang, it doesn’t mean they get anything out of it, and Bong-gu’s minion says of course, it’s not like they’d ask, oh, Where’s the king vacationing? It’d be funny if I weren’t still bitter about it.
So construction begins on the villa where the king and queen died, to turn it into a memorial park. The queen mother arrives to look at the place where her son died, which she takes in quietly, subduing her grief.
Shi-kyung keeps watch, and then an agent runs up with something they discovered while digging up the site. He storms back into the palace still holding the box, and bursts into Hang-ah’s room.
He tells her that this is what they found at the scene of the crime (coal dust, of which he’s brought a sample while the rest is being tested)—and she opens it up to find a North Korean cell phone. Ruh-roh. This is bad. Also really obvious, but I don’t trust them not to fall for it. Shi-kyung says they’re putting guards at her door.
Jae-ha is on his way to the palace, and asks Dong-ha where Shi-kyung’s been lately. Dong-ha says he was actually headed to see Hang-ah earlier… and Jae-ha fidgets jealously, announcing a change of plans: they’re going to Hang-ah’s quarters. “And from now on, if there’s a reason to go there, YOU go.” Hee.
Jae-ha bursts in, catching the pair looking awkward, but only because they’re trying to hide the box, and well, Shi-kyung is just awkward at everything. Jae-ha asks what they’re doing, and Shi-kyung just bows and walks out.
Hang-ah is clearly standing right in front of the box she doesn’t want him to see, and he asks what she’s hiding, “What, did you guys share some chocopies while I wasn’t looking?”
She finally steps aside and fills him in, and the way she searches his eyes, waiting for his response, kind of kills me. Shock, anger, and then the realization of what it means for them – it all comes at once, and after a long pause, he says that it still has to be investigated.
I like that this moment is played with more silence than words. They both know what it could mean, but won’t say it aloud. He takes the box and walks out.
Meanwhile, the news breaks. Ack. Investigators have taken apart the phones and the technology, inside and out, is something that North Korea had recently boasted about as an advance in their telecommunications—as one of the first countries to develop phones using embedded passives.
Jae-shin goes straight to Hang-ah, furious and calling her a Red, asking if she wanted to be a queen so badly that she murdered Big Oppa, crying that she let herself be bathed by her brother’s killer.
But Hang-ah doesn’t flinch at her reaction, grabbing her wrist to get her to focus. She presses Jae-shin to remember the events of that night—did she see the king, or anyone else? Her memory is the key.
Hang-ah says that if she’s the one responsible then she’ll pay the price, but if not… then North, South, all of them get swept up because of some unknown, who’s going to swallow them whole. I love that she’s a level-headed soldier.
Jae-shin says, trembling, “I hope that it wasn’t an act. Sincerely.” She sits with Mom in the greenhouse later, mulling it over, and decides that even if the North is responsible, Hang-ah couldn’t have been involved herself. “There’s no way.”
And then she has a flash of memory from that night, triggered by music. She shakes and chokes, as flashes of her attacker come back. Please say you remember something. For now it just seems like trauma but not concrete memories.
Jae-ha sends Secretary Eun to represent the palace in the investigation council, and asks for a report—no frills, just the truth. Dad takes Shi-kyung along, and finds that the congressmen leading the investigation are more interested in arguing with each other, but agreed on one matter: how is Kim Hang-ah involved?
He reports to Jae-ha that they want to summon Hang-ah, and that immediately puts him on the defensive. Hang-ah? They just want someone to blame! Aw, I love when he defends her honor.
Secretary Eun says yes, exactly. They just want someone to blame. He starts to say how unrealistic it is to expect a union with the North, a woman from special forces. Jae-ha argues that it was hyung’s idea, which Secretary Eun now admits he was against from the beginning.
He says that the investigation has already moved out of their grasp, into the purview of Congress, and now they need a sacrificial lamb. Just like that? You’re not even gonna TRY to clear her name before tossing her to the wolves? You make it so easy to hate you.
Jae-ha: “So what you’re saying is, you want to sacrifice Hang-ah? Just because we’re not engaged… SHE’S GOING TO BE MY WIFE! She’s a member of the royal family!”
Secretary Eun: “She’s a North Korean!” He says that she’s on the same side as those who killed the former king. This scene is tearing me in two directions, because I’m so moved by Jae-ha’s reaction, but I’m cursing at Eun Kyu-tae’s bald-faced move to turn Hang-ah into the scapegoat to save himself.
Jae-ha tries to reason that it’s too obvious for North Korea to actually be involved—why would they leave evidence that points directly back at them? THANK YOU. Is anyone on the investigation team asking these questions?
But Eun Kyu-tae knows how to play on Jae-ha’s weaknesses, noting that it’s clear he wants to believe that the North isn’t responsible because of his feelings for Hang-ah. He accuses him of letting that cloud his judgment, which Jae-ha can’t ignore, of course, since it’s true.
He goes to see Hang-ah and suggests they have a drink, reminiscing about the first time they got sloshed and her dad caught them red-handed. He thought for sure he’d get hit, and she says that he was so forward that she wanted to dig a hole in the ground and hide.
He says she should’ve then, blaming her for being too easy, and she in turn blames him for feeding her love shots on purpose, to get her drunk. He stops to ask how she knows they’re called love shots anyway, and realizes she totally played innocent with him.
She says she let him think he won, “You should be grateful.” He laughs.
But then the conversation takes a turn when he asks why she hid the box of evidence when he walked in and found her. Oh crap. Are you really asking her that? In that suspicious tone? She gulps. (Note: here they start to say “our” and “your” in reference to North and South.)
She says she did it without thinking, and when he asks why, she says because the cell’s outside (the casing) was theirs. Jae-ha: “Just the outside?” Oh damn. They sit there, frozen like that for a long tense moment.
Finally she speaks, brining up the official investigation. She says that she’ll go in for questioning. “To clear your doubts.”
He looks her in the eye, “I trust you. I trust you as much as I’d want to kill you with my own hands, if there was a one-in-ten-million shot that you’re involved.” It sounds more threatening than what he means—basically that he trusts her, enough to let himself be a fool if in fact she is actually a cold-blooded killer. As in: I trust you, even if that means I’ll have to kill you when they tell me I’m wrong.
She calls him “your highness,” and asks if she can address him freely because it’s just the two of them. She smiles, “That’ll never happen, Comrade Lee Jae-ha.” He smiles back. How much do I love that their term of endearment is comrade?
The next morning she prepares to go meet her summons, and the queen mother asks to see her first. Hang-ah enters nervously. Mom: “I think it’s possible that North Korea is responsible for what happened. Because they don’t like us. But… I won’t abandon you.”
Aw, I love her. Hang-ah’s eyes fill with tears, as Mom smoothes her hair, saying that she needs to make a good first impression. A tear falls, and Mom tells her, “No, don’t cry. A member of the royal family must be strong.” She nods as more tears fall.
Jae-ha spends his day watching Hang-ah on the news, mindlessly playing minesweeper in an attempt to keep himself distracted. I like that they have the same denial activity.
Hang-ah appears before the committee, confident and strong, and speaks honestly about her training, even joking that one thing is the same in North and South—they oughtn’t believe everything they read in the papers.
They ask about her communication with the North, and she hands over the last text message sent by her father, to follow South Korean ways because she is one of them now. She says that’s why she’s here today—to follow the South Korean laws, as a South Korean person.
Meanwhile her father calls Jae-ha with an urgent request, saying that they have evidence that clears the North, but can’t disclose it yet. He starts to hang up, but Dad says they found out who was behind that treadmill bomb during their training days: Club M.
Jae-ha’s still slow on the uptake when it comes to them, only having the recent donation for hyung’s memorial to go on, but Hang-ah’s father urges him to look into the king’s records, where he’ll find that Club M was more of a problem for his administration than Jae-ha knows.
Hang-ah returns to the palace to find Jae-shin waiting for her, this time with a much calmer attitude and a smile. She asks if Hang-ah got to curse the royal family freely, and she says she was going to, but they never gave her the chance.
She asks after Jae-ha, clearly looking around for him, and Jae-shin says he turned in early and that he’s always been kinda lazy. That’s not news to Hang-ah, but she can’t hide her disappointment.
He’s actually busy trying to crack hyung’s password for his diary, which is confusing since you’d think the next king would just be given access to that, but it makes for an amusing scene anyway.
He remembers Secretary Eun’s suggestion that he set his password as the thing he wants the most, and tries: North-South reunification. Nope. Baby. Nope. Shim Eun-ha. (HA) Nope. He sighs that this is hard.
Meanwhile North Korea asks for a meeting at the DMZ, and they show their hand—the technology that they bragged about? Yeah, not so much. The North admits that they’re on their way to developing EP technology, so what’s the harm in leaking it to the press a year or two in advance?
But now the truth serves them more, because there’s no way they could have made the devices involved in the assassination. Oh nice. I like this development.
Bong-gu sighs at the hiccup to his evil plan, but says to leave it alone, since the prideful North isn’t about to admit the truth, and when all is said and done, things’ll roll along like they’re supposed to.
And he’s not wrong, because while the North did share the secret, they aren’t willing to cop to it publicly. They threaten war if the truth gets out. The committee battles it out—how do they say North Korea isn’t responsible without that key factor?
Secretary Eun returns from the meeting, and Shi-kyung smiles at his side, saying that the king will be pleased to hear that the North isn’t responsible. But when they reach Jae-ha who asks if there were any new developments, Dear ol’ Dad says nothing.
Oh shit. No, don’t break Earnest Bot’s little bot heart! He stands there with his mouth hanging open, confused as Dad tells the king not to get his expectations up. Thankfully, he’s not built like his father, and he speaks up right away.
“Father…” Dad tells him to stay quiet, and Shi-kyung just blurts to Jae-ha that North Korea isn’t responsible. Dad kicks him out of the room. Jae-ha is so happy at the news and what it means for Hang-ah that he doesn’t even register the weirdness between father and son, and then finally asks later why he didn’t say so in the first place.
Secretary Eun says it’s because they can’t announce the truth anyway—the North threatened war if they reveal the failed EP technology, but without solid evidence, the South can’t just say the North didn’t do it, end of story.
Jae-ha doesn’t see the problem with just revealing the truth anyway, since a threat is simply a threat, and well, it’s not a new one. But Secretary Eun says that’s not an option (at least here he’s conveying the congressional committee’s take, and not just his own).
Jae-ha asks what they’re supposed to do then—just keep letting the world believe it was the North? “Then what about Hang-ah?”
That’s when Secretary Eun tells him that they’ve found a solution that saves everyone involved… Oh you’re about to say something evil aren’t you? He says that if they put Hang-ah officially on trial, before the people…
He argues that the monarchy is in danger, and the public is up in arms. What, you’re not going to add the part where it saves your guilty ass from taking responsibility for your actions if she takes the fall?
Jae-ha interrupts him: “No.” Secretary Eun says she did a good job at the congressional hearing, and Jae-ha screams, “How can I make her do that twice?! NO! Just the once made me go crazy. But twice? And in front of the people, so she can be turned into a public mockery? It’s never going to happen.” Nice.
Meanwhile Shi-kyung waits nervously in Dad’s office, and immediately apologizes when he storms in. “He’s the king. I thought he should know the truth.” But Dad shouts back that this monarchy is not a real monarchy (as in, it’s so messed up that it doesn’t even count). “I told you to learn about the real world! Are reality and truth the same thing?!”
Aw, for Shi-kyung they are! They are! Stop ruining it for him! He looks up with hurt in his eyes, and bows before walking out.
Hang-ah gets a video call from her father, which she turns away at first, but the aide tells her that the queen mother gave her permission, so she takes the call. Dad asks if she’s okay, and she starts to break down almost immediately, though comically her words are, “I’m fine!”
Once he makes sure she’s okay, Dad starts to grumble about her having to appear publicly before Congress, which is news to Hang-ah. She hangs up the call (flattening poor Dad’s face) and asks to speak to the king.
But damnit, it’s Secretary Eun who comes, and tells her that yes, she will be required to be questioned again by the committee in an official capacity, and this time on public record in front of cameras. She tells him that she’s scared—she barely got through the last time, and her legs were shaking, and she admits that the public scares her. She knows what they’re saying—calling her a Red, telling her to get out, to go die.
She asks if the king signed off on this, and he totally lies that Jae-ha said nothing to stop it.
YOU BASTARD. Okay, now you’re fucking with their feelings. Auuuuugh.
He tells her that Jae-ha wants to “be sure of her true heart.” Omg, are you making her think that he wants her to prove her love this way? I’m reaching for a stabby object.
She looks at him, pained, “My true heart? Then what is everything that I’ve done up until now?” A tear falls as she says with resolve, “I’ll show him then, until he’s satisfied.”
He then calls Jae-ha, who’s busy running around in a hanbok for a public appearance, and lies to him that Hang-ah was resolute in her decision to appear at the public hearing, and that it was her idea. GRAR.
The deed is done. He stops to bow at Jae-kang’s portrait hanging in the memorial hall, apologizing to the king that this was the best option.
Hang-ah goes back to testify before the congressional committee, this time with rows of cameras broadcasting live. (Shi-kyung is there on protective detail.) Everyone watches nervously from the palace, Mom wanting to change the channel because she can’t stand to watch. But this time it’s Jae-shin who reminds her that she said she wouldn’t abandon her, that she’s family. Aw.
They start by asking her to introduce herself, and she just gives her name. They ask for a longer introduction as the princess-bride-to-be, but she says that since the engagement isn’t official yet, all she’s got is her name. Okay, it’s a relief that she seems more at ease than expected. Yay for smart and witty Hang-ah.
They ask how she feels about South Korea. She thinks for a moment, and then says that girl groups are all the rage, citing their popularity while she trained for the WOC. Shi-kyung smiles to himself.
From his office, Jae-ha finally breaks into a smile, after watching on pins and needles. She continues, “South Korea is… warm.” She begins to describe how it’s full of passion and there might be misunderstandings and it hides its true affection, and you realize she’s not talking about Korea, but about Jae-ha.
She says that underneath the surface, there is a deep affection, and has concluded that citizens from both countries are in many ways alike.
But they catch her calling North Koreans “us” in the way that she and Jae-ha still very much speak of “us” and “them.” She explains that she has yet to become a full citizen, or grow accustomed, but it launches them on the offensive.
We start to see the proceedings from Jae-ha’s point of view, and he gets fired up at the line of questioning. He calls someone, shouting into the phone as he’s watching it live, speaking at the members of the inquisition through the tv, which is hilarious.
One of them asks what she thinks of all the attacks from North Korea. “What did SHE do them all? Is Kim Hang-ah the Terminator?” Another asks her to rattle off South Korean monarchs’ birthdates. “Even I don’t know my father’s birthday!”
Another asks if war broke out right now, which side she’d fight on. “You didn’t even GO to the army!” He screams into the phone for the prime minister to get his ass over there.
He asks what the hell they’re doing to Kim Hang-ah up on the stand, and tells him to announce that North Korea isn’t responsible this instant. He hems and haws, so Jae-ha cuts to the chase—threat of war? They’re always threatening war.
It’s turns out he’s got threats of his own too, and asks about that 8% raise that everyone in Congress took on the sly. The prime minister gulps. He starts to argue that it’s not the king’s place to mess with elected officials of the people, but Jae-ha just coos that he’s not going to bring it to light; no, he’ll just reallocate the funds… to himself. HA.
Hang-ah arrives back at the palace, eager to see Jae-ha, but Secretary Eun tells her that he’s out. Her face falls. Yeah, but he’s out kicking the prime minister’s ass! For you!
Jae-ha returns, eager to see Hang-ah, but Secretary Eun intercepts him again, reminding him of how tired she is after a day like today. He’s disappointed, but agrees to let her rest.
Aaaaaaargh. Just go see her! This misunderstanding is killing me! Romeo and Juliet ain’t got nuthin’ on you, you wire-crossing, secretary-trusting fools! Grrrrraaaaar.
He eagerly tells Secretary Eun about getting the prime minister to announce North Korea’s non-involvement, which he says he already knows, and seems displeased about.
Hang-ah speaks to her father, who’s up in arms about how they treated her at the hearing, and in particular how Jae-ha isn’t there for her, declaring that she’s going to suffer in a one-sided love. Aw, Dad, I know you’re upset for her, but you’re making it worse. She hangs up on him again. Ha.
She starts to cry, as she flashes back to Jae-ha’s meanest moments – when he told her she wasn’t a woman to him, when he said that his feelings were all an act, and then earlier, when he asked why she hid the box of evidence from him.
But this time we see the B-side of that conversation. He immediately follows it with a laugh, “I’m just kidding,” and takes her by the hand to go get dinner. He opens the door, and then suddenly there’s a glaring light.
He turns around, and there’s a gun in his hand. He pulls the trigger…
The shot rings out, and she wakes up gasping and clutching her heart. Augh. What a horrible dream.
She checks her phone to see if he called, but nothing. She hates that she’s crying, but can’t stop the tears from coming.
Jae-ha arrives the next morning with breakfast in bed for her, only she’s not in bed. He calls out to her, and finds her sitting stoically at her desk. He’s breezing along on top of the world, while she’s clearly been stewing all night, which is just a recipe for disaster. He reaches for her hand but she pulls away.
She asks where he was yesterday, and he teases that it’s a secret. But he realizes that she’s angry, and asks if things were really that bad yesterday. She takes that to mean he didn’t even bother to watch her hearing, which couldn’t be further from the truth, but she’s beyond hearing an explanation at this point.
He starts to tell her, but she asks if he was too busy boozing it up with women like the playboy that he is, and then corrects herself, “Oh no, not playboy. Trash.” *gasp*
His face hardens at that word. But she keeps going, cooing that she forgot that his highness was so sensitive to being called trash. She suggests he stop keeping it to himself, and announce it to the people: “that South Korea’s king is trash.”
She asks him to tell her just one thing: “Do you like me or not?”
Jae-ha: “I like you.” But then he steps closer and adds, “You’re easy and a pushover, since you’re from the North. Trash? I told you that in trust. Because I trusted you, I showed you my weakness. But you’re… playing with that? A North Korean bitch, to the king of South Korea? Go back. Right now. To the North.”
Oh. Shit. No no no no no!
She can barely get out, “Comrade Lee Jae-ha…”
But he turns his back and walks away.
Nooooo! It’s not like he didn’t have it coming to him, but I swear, they have the worst timing ever. Plotwise, it was a nice progression throughout the episode of missed connections, things left unspoken, and then misunderstanding piling on top of misunderstanding. It was well-played, even though it left me screaming at the torture of it all. It also makes complete sense that she’d react this way, since frankly, I would’ve given the same speech a handful of episodes ago. Her feelings kept that anger at bay, but now that dam has broken.
In some ways, I don’t mind that there’s an active agent fueling that misunderstanding, because for one, it gives me a place to focus my anger, and two, I no longer have to deal with Secretary Eun’s possible wishy-washyness with one foot in Good and the other in Evil (or Stupid, take your pick), because the man is now dead to me.
My heart breaks for Shi-kyung, who’s starting to see behind the curtain a little, but at least now we get to see a little more motivation behind Evil Daddy—he’s starting to show his true colors when he gets backed into a corner, though it would’ve been nice to have this coloring earlier on. I’ll take what I can get though. Clearly the man’s got more of an agenda now that his feelings about what the monarchy should and shouldn’t be are starting to surface, which is a clearer ideological line than just I’m-trying-to-save-my-hide. Along with Bong-gu’s latest moves, the villain angle is starting to shape up a little better. Jae-ha’s memory loss is an interesting wrench to throw at the villain, which so far I like because it at least throws him off his game.
As far as the final dust-up, it kills me that Hang-ah doesn’t know how much he really cares about her and how high he jumped to try and protect her in this episode. But on the other hand, he’s also an idiot for not going to see her that night. Even if he believed it was her idea to appear at the hearing, he saw what it was like for her, enough to make threats and be all proud of himself for the outcome. So then why would you leave her hanging? Gah.
I especially like the way her dream rearranged history—picking up the most hurtful moments, which if you watch in a string like that, culminating in the shooting, you wonder how she ever deals with it at all. But clearly, there’s a lot that’s unresolved between them. It’s one of the most tenuous relationships, even for a drama-filled dramaland, which is a helluva lot like the very unstable relationship between North and South. Apparently love needs a DMZ too.