It just gets better and better. With Episodes 3 and 4, this show has shot to the top of my current and recent dramas—it’s got ambiance, whimsy, intrigue, and humor. It’s expertly woven together by a director who understands how to use style to enhance a story, rather than using it as an excuse to show off. Or worse, ignoring it entirely.
I said earlier that the Joseon scenes—so taut, suspenseful—make me want to stay in the past, but now I’m loving the modern storyline equally. The show knows just when to mix it up, alternating between intensity and buoyancy, and making the transitions smooth between the two.
SONG OF THE DAY
Queen In-hyun’s Man OST – “같은 하늘 다른 시간에” (Same Sky, Different Time)
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EPISODE 4 RECAP
Boong-do disappears from Hee-jin’s hospital bathroom and reappears in his own time, in the woods. And looky there, his horse also made the jump with him; the animal that had been on a tear through the Seoul streets now trots over to him.
I wonder about the rules of accompanied time-jumping, since Boong-do was also followed to 2012 by his assassin. The horse can be explained because Boong-do had been seated on it when making the initial jump, but the assassin wasn’t in physical contact. Hm, something for the show to sort out for us.
Minister Min Am is summoned by King Sukjong, and arrives at the palace. The eunuch spy ushers him in and informs him in a hushed voice that Kim Boong-do is with the king. This can only mean bad news for the plotters, and they snipe at each other on the way in about whose fault this is. But that pettiness stops with the news that Boong-do came bearing a letter, which halts the minister in his tracks as he realizes, “Then this may be my last.”
Minister Min enters the room and sees the king reading a letter, and reels. Surely with that incriminating evidence in the king’s hands, he’s bound for a death penalty. Boong-do watches his reactions closely while the king invites him in, and Minister Min warily sits.
But the tone is odd, and the king isn’t furious. Instead, his tone is pleasant and unconcerned, and he shares a lovely poem Boong-do brought him upon his long-awaited return. Hm, so Boong-do is playing this one close to the vest. I don’t see why he wouldn’t tell the king what he knows immediately, but he’s proven himself thoughtful and intelligent so I’m sure there’s a reason.
With shaking hands, Minister Min accepts the poem from the king, relief making his voice stutter as he praises it. He forces a smile, while Boong-do keeps his steady gaze fixed on him, watching closely.
In the woods, a servant, Han-dong, waits anxiously and wonders whether he’s come to the right spot to find the gisaeng Yoon-wol. Sure enough, riders come by carrying her unconscious body and leave her there, still tied up, tired but unharmed.
Neither knows what has happened, but Han-dong explains that his master (Boong-do) told him to await her release here.
Ah, so Minister Min’s gambit must have worked—the gisaeng hostage was ransom for that damning letter. Boong-do hands over the letter and Minister Min chuckles as he burns it, crowing that Boong-do actually chose a slave over the former queen. He laughs that he feels sorry for Queen In-hyun, losing her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to defeat her enemies, all because of Boong-do’s silly love.
He’s expecting devastation from Boong-do, or at least chagrin, so he looks on in disbelief when Boong-do smiles. What could that mean? Boong-do draws a card-game analogy: When someone throws out a good card, it can only mean he’s drawn an even better one.
Ooh. Nice move, and Minister Min goes from crowing to near-cowering. Boong-do tells him, “You should be afraid of what else I have gained.” He advises Minister Min to think hard about what it could be, although he adds that the truth will be difficult for him to even imagine. A reference to his time-travel talisman, surely.
Modern day. In the aftermath of Hee-jin’s tussle with the bitchy Na-jung, Soo-kyung goes into manager mode. First she checks with the director—Hee-jin wasn’t cast because of a favor, right? The director balks at the idea that Dong-min pressured him into it. “What am I, a puppet?” he sniffs.
Then Soo-kyung heads over to hash things out with Na-jung’s manager, ready to give ’em a piece of her mind for the attack and leaving a mark on her actress’s face. She asks Hee-jin about the man who stopped the fight, and Hee-jin says vaguely that a male nurse stepped in to help her.
Hee-jin looks over Boong-do’s message—the one he’d written in lipstick at her request, since she collects quotes and she liked what he said—and muses that she can’t exactly tell the truth, since she can hardly believe it herself. She’s only half-sure she’s not crazy, and starts checking around the bathroom for possible secret exits. She’s suspicious enough that as she starts taking off her hospital clothing, she sends paranoid looks around the space, wondering if he’ll reappear at any moment.
Soo-kyung handles the incident by telling Na-jung’s manager that they won’t pursue the assault, and that they’re willing to cover it up. Na-jung reacts with suspicion, since it’s certainly not in her nature to let go of a wrongdoing.
But Soo-kyung is pretty shrewd herself, because she insinuates that the unknown helper was a reporter. She assures them that the reporter won’t leak anything in the news, but this effectively keeps Na-jung in her palm, since it’s prime blackmail material.
Boong-do returns to the forest with his servant Han-dong, retracing his steps to the moment he made his second time-jump. Han-dong is in complainy mode, telling him to check on Yoon-wol first, since she went through so much for him. It’s common knowledge that Han-dong loves Yoon-wol, who loves Boong-do, who doesn’t love her back. Aw. Love triangles are hard enough when they’re private.
Boong-do points out that it’s strange for lovelorn Han-dong to urge him closer to the woman he loves. Han-dong retorts that Boong-do should have married Yoon-wol off to Han-dong instead of making her a gisaeng: “I really hate you, sir!” Boong-do just laughs, “She didn’t want you, so what could I do about it?”
Boong-do turns his attention to his talisman, thinking to his time-jumps. The first time was in the library, just a second before he was about to get stabbed by a sword. The second time in the woods, he had fought off several attackers and found himself cornered on a ledge with an arrow flying straight at him.
Thinking to the words written on the talisman, he supposes that he can only make the jump in a moment of mortal peril. It’s a good theory, but not strong enough to keep me from thinking he’s totally crazy for directing Han-dong to shoot him with an arrow. And what if your theory is wrong, smartypants? They don’t have time-turners in heaven, being that you’re dead and all.
Han-dong has a similar reaction (“WHAAAA?”) but Boong-do tells him calmly that there’s a reason behind it, and that it has to be a real, life-threatening shot, “So don’t worry, and shoot me.” Uh…
But Han-dong can’t do it, thinking Boong-do has gone crazy from recent stress, and refuses. So Boong-do draws his sword, hurls it at his man’s feet, and scares the wits out of him with the threat to kill him if he doesn’t comply.
Han-dong only barely manages to do as he’s ordered, and lets the arrow fly. It heads straight for Boong-do’s heart, and sure enough, just a split-second before it would have killed him, Boong-do disappears. Poof. Smoke and ashes.
When he opens his eyes, he’s in a familiar space, with his lipstick writing still on the mirror. He’s glad to have confirmed his hunch; the first part of the incantation does in fact mean, “When you’re about to die, you live.”
Just as Boong-do starts to exit, someone else steps inside the room, forcing him back into the bathroom. It’s Dong-min, looking for Hee-jin. Hearing that she stepped out briefly, he settles down to wait… but he seems to have picked up on the extra presence. He pretends he’s going to leave the room, then storms the bathroom unexpectedly, swinging an umbrella at the intruder.
The two men tussle in the cramped quarters, and while it’s not a very fierce fight, Dong-min manages to shove Boong-do into the shower, then “locks” the doors shut with the umbrella and a washcloth. He flicks on the lights, and finds Boong-do standing calmly as you please in the glass shower, wearing his sageuk garb. Ha.
Dong-min demands to know who he is, calling him a psycho and a stalker, then runs out to get reinforcements. Boong-do is amused, and muses to himself that this time-travel is trickier than it looks, since it requires good timing on both ends. He’s unworried, though, since he’s got his escape portal… which has fallen out of his robes in the scuffle. Alarmed, he looks around and sees it lying on the bathroom floor, outside the shower. Siiiiigh.
Dong-min demands security called, berating the nurses for their poor monitoring of a VIP room. When Hee-jin comes back a short while later, she sees a team of hospital staff in front of her room and wonders what’s going on. The nurses breathe a sigh of relief at her safe return, telling Hee-jin she’s lucky she wasn’t around for the psycho stalker to do any damage.
She enters the room curiously and gapes at the sight: a team of medical professionals, examining Boong-do in his glass box like a scientific specimen. I love how he just maintains his dignified pose, not speaking, since he knows that anything he says will just be taken for crazy. So he’s just gonna ride this one out.
Boong-do smiles in relief at Hee-jin’s entrance, and while Dong-min rattles on about how lucky she is that he was around, Boong-do sends her telling glances as if to say, Hey, a hand here?
Everyone files back into the main room while Dong-min is patched up. He has a tiny scrape on his arm and pouts to Hee-jin, “I got hurt fighting that guy.” Aw, did baby get a booboo?
Hee-jin sidles up to the bathroom door, making the excuse that she’s just gotta grab something from inside. Closing the door, she asks what Boong-do’s doing here. He takes her aback by asking about “that violent woman” (Na-jung) and saying that he’d worried about her, expressing relief to hear it was resolved.
Boong-do says that this time he’s here to ask a favor of her, since she’s the only face he knows in this world: “And you are a good person, are you not? I thought you might help me.”
Hee-jin’s flattered at his assessment, though she pretends she’s not affected. At her comment that he’s good with words, he says, “I’ve read a lot.” Haha.
Boong-do is in search of a book—the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty. She figures that it would probably be at a library, and he asks if it’ll be difficult to do. She hesitates, so he clocks the reaction and lets her off the hook. Instead, he asks for his dropped envelope, identifying it as the thing that allows him to travel back and forth. Even if coming to the future requires a threat to his life.
Hee-jin starts to slide the paper between the doors, then pauses. Looking up a map on her phone, she tells him of a park to the north of the hospital. If he can find her there, she’ll help him. She hands him his talisman, leaving the choice to him.
Joseon. Han-dong sleeps in the woods, right where Boong-do left him, which is where Boong-do now warps back. Han-dong is both overwhelmed with relief and angry at Boong-do for doing that to him—he even peed his pants, he was so scared. Oh, just wait till he makes you shoot him again; Boong-do urges him to hurry and asks which direction is north. Hehe.
They ride on, having been directed by Hee-jin as to how far to go (converted into Joseon units, thanks to the internet). Meanwhile, Hee-jin slips out of the hospital unnoticed, heading in the same direction.
Left in the room to guard the stalker are Dong-min’s manager and a couple of nurses. When the security guard arrives, however, the shower is empty.
Hee-jin arrives at the rendezvous point first and waits, and now she starts to second-guess herself, wondering what she’s doing. But then comes the tap at her window, and there he is, dressed in modern clothing again. (“I’ve resorted to thievery in this world,” he admits sheepishly.)
He joins her in the car, and it’s evident now that Hee-jin is softening to him; she seems moved by his presence, a little flustered. He tells her he’s catching on; he knows how to open car doors and fasten his seatbelt now. But he requests that she keep the speed down, admitting that it scared him the last time.
She giggles (and why not—he’s pretty damn adorable), then sends the car jerking forward, then backward, then forward again a few times just for good measure, sticking out her tongue at him. A gesture that goes totally over his head.
She takes him to the city library and asks for directions to the appropriate section while he gapes at the size of the building. He’s amazed to hear that this whole place is filled with books that anybody is allowed to read, and sighs that he could stay here forever and not feel the time pass. Hee. Once a nerd, always a nerd.
They take the elevator to the third floor, and Boong-do surprises her by pressing the correct floor number. Note that in his time, he wouldn’t have knowledge of arabic numbers, so it’s not as simple as it seems. But not only does Boong-do catch on quickly—you show him something once and he’s learned it—he’s also intelligent enough to deduce things logically. He saw the number 13 in the hospital before and recognizes them on the buttons, and since the “3” is in the third position, it follows that he picked correctly.
Boong-do reminds her of something that he said before—that his “sole asset” is being quick on the uptake. She concedes that he is indeed smart, and wonders if he passed the state civil service exam. He replies, “I took first place.” Hee.
But Hee-jin grimaces, saying she doesn’t like brainy people. He asks what she does, and she reminds him, “I’m an actor.” That means she’s kinda famous, and has plans to become even more famous in the future. Not that the word actor has much meaning for him, though, and he puzzles over why she’d be famous. She says saucily, “Because I’m pretty. You have to be pretty to be an actress.”
However, that comment just elicits a blank look from Boong-do, and he asks, “You mean to say you’re considered beautiful here?” HAHA. She huffs that he can’t mean she isn’t pretty, and informs him that she even won a beauty contest. He says noncommittally, “Is that so,” and drops the subject. I’d wager that it’s his diffidence that irks even more than an outright argument, like it’s so silly that it’s not worth discussing. Oh, I love him.
Boong-do finds the Annals and marvels at this incredible situation, of being able to read about the future. He plays it wisely, choosing not to look at anything that dates after his own lifetime; all he wants is to read the records that pertain to his goal. Hee-jin wonders what that is, and he replies that it is to return the queen to the throne and restore his family’s honor.
Hee-jin knows about this famous slice of history, and chirps, “Oh, are you talking about Lady Jang?” Everyone knows about her, which leads to his shocked reply, “You mean to say she has made such a lasting mark on history?”
But Hee-jin explains that her fame is more like notoriety; she rose from court lady to queen and then was executed through poison.
Well, that’s news to him. Boong-do gets to reading about his time period (the caption is a typo; it should be 1694, not 1964, and marks Sukjong’s 20th year). In the near future (for Boong-do’s time), Queen In-hyun will be restored, and Minister Min executed. Then the next year, Lady Jang will follow with her own execution.
This is all welcome news to Boong-do, since it means justice will be meted out. He says that from his vantage point these events seem nigh impossible, but to know that things work out as he hopes puts him into cheerful spirits. He starts to confess that for the past five years, his mind has not been at ease…
He cuts himself off, and asks what people do in times like this, when they want to share their elation with someone. Hee-jin says they might hug, and he wonders, “In a place like this?” Hee-jin: “Sure.” Boong-do: “Even if they’re a man and a woman?” Hee-jin: “What does that matter?” Boong-do: “What a good world this is.” I’ll say, mister.
And without further ado, he hugs her. To Hee-jin, it’s no casual touch, but he complies with the attitude of When in Rome… He thanks her for being here with him, because if he’d been by himself in a moment like this, he would have felt terribly lonely.
Now he registers Hee-jin’s reaction, and reminds her that she said a hug was no big deal. She points a finger at him and asks, “You’re a player in your world too, aren’t you?” He just asks, “What’s a player?”
Boong-do happens upon a passage in the Annals referencing him—it’s from his meeting with the king earlier that day, with Minister Min. He shows Hee-jin the passage, just as a couple of students recognize her and point in their direction. Hee-jin hears the whispers and ducks her head, urging him to get up immediately, worried about getting her picture taken.
The boys catch up to them before they can leave, though, and ask for an autograph. She complies with the autographs, but the attention attracts more and more bystanders, until Hee-jin is standing there mobbed by strangers, trying to hide her face, asking meekly that they not take her photo.
Boong-do gets into the elevator first, but she’s stuck in the crowd. He sees her growing distress and grabs her arm, pulling her into the elevator and shielding her from sight. Naturally everyone is curious about the man, but for now they only get his back.
Safely in the elevator, he smiles at her, saying that he’s gotten used to this role (of intervening on her behalf), but she’s too stunned to say anything. Not from the mob, but from the fact that he’s still holding her hand, which he belatedly releases, and she mutters again about him being a player.
He apologizes for being a complication in her life, ready to remedy that by leaving. He takes out his talisman to make the leap, assuring her that he can manage on his own, now that he knows about the library. But the suddenness of his departure makes the moment seem fraught with meaning, and Hee-jin battles disappointment. With only a few seconds left till their elevator arrives, Boong-do starts his incantation—and Hee-jin grabs his arm, stopping him.
He’s surprised, wondering what she’s all about. The elevator doors open on the ground floor, so Hee-jin jabs the button to close them, fumbling for an explanation: “What kind of aristocrat has such poor manners? You ought to say goodbye properly before leaving.”
He’s unaware that he missed anything in this modern goodbye business. She tells him there’s more, and grabs him in a kiss.
The doors open and she breaks away, telling him, “Got it? I’ve taught you manners.” Confused, he asks, “This… is how you say goodbye here?” She sticks to her answer, nodding yes, of course. Then walks off trying to hold onto her composure.
But Boong-do’s no dummy, is he? He smiles after her, seemingly catching on…
One of my favorite things about this show is the way the leads are paired—they have a very sweet budding chemistry. It’s not sizzling in the turbulent-passion sort of way, nor is it bickery, which I SUPER love. (I am a big fan of the way drama leads often bicker cutely, but I know I can’t be the only one who’s also pretty sick of it as the only dynamic we ever seem to see in rom-coms. Bickering-to-love isn’t the only mating ritual out there, dramas!)
It makes sense that this couple has a bigger obstacle out there than, say, one being free-spirited and the other being an uptight perfectionist. Who needs to struggle with opposites-attract when you’re living three centuries apart, even if the hero does sort of get to maneuver himself between the two? The building awareness and attraction between the two in this episode was a pleasure to watch, because you get the sense that they like each other as people, and given a “normal” circumstance, they might have an unturbulent, regular courtship without all this high drama and intrigue. Hey, sometimes you just know you like each other, without having to go through hate first. It’s refreshing.
One thing unique to Queen In-hyun’s Man is that this is the first show that truly utilizes its commercial breaks well (albeit out of a very small pool of Korean dramas that have breaks in the first place—it’s a fairly recent adoption by cable shows). It actually uses them as narrative act breaks, rather than finding any old place to pause, shoehorning in a commercial, and then resuming. This is a skill cable shows have yet to learn, mostly because I feel like they picked it up commercial interventions from watching American shows without being given an actual explanation for the act-break structure; they just mimic them blindly. The breaks in this show, however, are thoughtfully inserted at dramatically appropriate moments, and often even work in the time-skip device. Smart.