Who knew angst could play out so sweetly?
I was most concerned about how the drama would handle this next phase of its story development, but as it turns out, I needn’t have, since it handles it (the potential angst and separation) just as it handled the rest: effectively, cutely, and smartly. I love when separations are handled well, since I suppose they so rarely are. Everything in this story feels organic and true to the show, though, and it hasn’t let me down yet. *Knocks on wood.*
As a side note: You guys are killing me with the spoilers. I know it’s hard to contain the squees when others aren’t up to your speed, but consider the reverse where someone jumps in to spoil your fun before you get there—so out of consideration for people who aren’t live with this show, I ask again that y’all keep from spoiling future episodes. I love this show which means I’m going to be a hardass about it, and that includes things like “Omg the end of Episode XYZ is SO SAD!” You think you’ve given nothing away, but you’ve given so much away, and it keels me. Thanks to everyone in advance!
SONG OF THE DAY
Daybreak – “담담하게” (Serenely) [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Aughhhh! Amnesia! Just kill me, why don’t you.
As we saw in the previous episode, Hee-jin wakes up in great spirits the morning after the car kiss. She heads out in her brand-new car, giddy over the memories and how Boong-do called her his girlfriend.
But then, her vision starts to blur, mixed in with strange flashes of Boong-do’s ambush in the forest. I’m not sure if she’s seeing Boong-do, exactly, or whether it’s that she’s feeling what he’s feeling. In any case the headache distracts her, and to avoid rear-ending a car, Hee-jin swerves and hits a tree.
Hee-jin wakes up in a hospital bed and confirms that she was in an accident. Luckily it was minor and she only has a small concussion, but the nurse insists she rest for several days. Hee-jin worries about causing yet more problems for the drama production, as she tells Soo-kyung over the phone.
Soo-kyung guesses that she fell asleep at the wheel, but Hee-jin says no—all of a sudden, her vision turned wavy and dizzying, and she couldn’t see, making her fear that she was about to die.
Soo-kyung figures that the production will be understanding of their actress’s accident, but Hee-jin argues that she’s already on thin ice. She can’t afford to miss more work, since she’s had two hospital incidents already. Only to get the response, “What are you talking about, two accidents?” Eep, more time-ripples affecting the future!
Soo-kyung insists that they can make a few demands, considering how accommodating they’ve been of Na-jung all this while. Hee-jin protests that she might get fired if she causes more trouble, and this leads to a hilarious exchange where Hee-jin and Soo-kyung squawk at each other confusedly, “What?” “What?!” “What?”
There’s a knock at the door, and in comes Dong-min. Hee-jin’s expression reads, Oh brother, not this again, since the last time they interacted he was pissy about her scandal with the new boyfriend. But to her shock, Dong-min grabs her in a bear hug, fretting, “Why do you make me worry so much?!” Dong-min, being protective and unselfish? Clearly something’s not right.
Confused, she shoves him off her and slaps him. Can’t Dong-min take a hint and back off, since she has a boyfriend? But instead of putting him in his place, her comments about the boyfriend make Dong-min shoot his manager a puzzled look and twirl a finger in the universal message for “This one’s crazy.”
Dong-min assumes the accident jogged some mental wires, and his manager asks a nurse whether the diagnosis could be wrong. That concussion doesn’t seem minor…
Dong-min has no idea what Hee-jin’s talking about when she speaks of scandals and love triangles and stalkers. However, since he doesn’t want to upset her or cause more trauma, he eases off and carefully asks for clarification. He takes the role of a concerned friend humoring the mentally unstable patient, assuring her that he just wants to confirm the details.
Hee-jin identifies the boyfriend as Kim Boong-do the graduate student. Dong-min plays along, but takes her doctor aside to consult about her obviously mixed-up mental state.
Hee-jin checks her phone, which is full of calls from “My Man ♥♥.” It’s not a name she input, so she calls the number… and Dong-min steps back inside, holding up his phone and asking, “You called? What is it?”
HAHAHA. Oh, this is great.
Hee-jin’s first reaction is that this is some kind of joke, but in the middle of her grumbled rant, a scene flashes into her memory. It’s the two of them in a spare moment on the drama set, when Dong-min changed her phone ID to its current nickname, and they’d joked around like giddy lovers. It’s a new memory, one that doesn’t belong in her old life… but there’s no denying it exists in her head.
When Dong-min rejoins her, Hee-jin is well on her way to a panic attack. She flinches when he reaches for her hand, and jerks back when he starts to cup her face in concern. Needing space to think, she shuts herself in the bathroom and tries to calm herself, asking everyone for just five minutes alone to gather her thoughts.
Hee-jin scrolls through her phone, telling herself it makes no sense that she would call Dong-min so much. But another new, contradictory memory floats to her brain, showing Hee-jin on the phone with Dong-min late at night, working on line readings.
She does an internet search for her name and gapes at the results: tons of articles about her romance with Dong-min. An accompanying photograph jogs her memory: she was spotted in public with him, trying to hide her face while Dong-min had shouted proudly to the crowd, “This is my girlfriend!” Okay, that’s sweet.
Hee-jin starts to cry, as though she’s betrayed her own self with these memories. A second internet search for Boong-do’s name yields nothing—no scandal with Hee-jin, no photos of their Jeju trip—and makes her cry harder.
Soo-kyung tries to talk to her through the door, and asks the men to step aside for a moment. Dong-min leaves grumbling over this Boong-do guy, whose name Soo-kyung doesn’t recognize.
Soo-kyung enters the bathroom and finds Hee-jin crying like a lost child, wondering how this mess came to be. She asks if Dong-min is really her boyfriend, and if the internet photos are real, and just the fact that she’s asking is enough to worry Soo-kyung. Hee-jin asks if Soo-kyung also has no idea who Kim Boong-do is—she met him in Jeju, and at the library, and went with him to buy her a car…
Soo-kyung reminds her that the car was bought with Hee-jin’s own CF earnings. Doesn’t she remember? Hee-jin cries that it’s impossible, then adds plaintively, “I… do remember.”
Soo-kyung sighs in relief, thinking all is settled. But Hee-jin can’t reconcile her two realities, listing all the things everyone else should remember about Boong-do but somehow can’t. Soo-kyung suggests that she dreamed it, but Hee-jin says she remembers everything in minute detail, spanning the entire past month.
Soo-kyung insists it must be a dream, and Hee-jin repeats confusedly, “It was… a dream?”
1694. Minister Min sits in prison for his crimes, but he’s still got a loyal vassal on the outside. Assassin Ja-soo slips into the jailhouse dressed as an officer and reports findings about Boong-do’s movements, like how he escaped exile in Jeju before he confronted Minister Min in Hanyang. But how could he possibly have made that journey in mere days?
Ja-soo also reports that Boong-do lost his memory a few days ago. A flashback shows us a scene he witnessed, of a healthy (but amnesiac) Boong-do traveling with an entourage, being filled in on the past month’s events by his manservant.
Frustrated Han-dong beats his chest in aggravation because Boong-do laughs at his stories as though he’s making them up. Avoiding arrows shot straight at him? Physically disappearing at will? Ha!
The thing is, Han-dong has that dimwitted fool’s vibe about him, so this just sounds like tall tales. He tells Boong-do to ask Yoon-wol, who knows all about the talisman. To which Boong-do wonders, “Talisman?”
He actually does recall the talisman, but only that first time when Yoon-wol gave it to him. Anything involving an actual leap appears to be a blank. Boong-do wonders where it went, since he doesn’t have it now.
Ja-soo witnessed the exchange from a distance, which has made him reconsider the meaning of the torn talisman. He tells Minister Min that he’s working on getting confirmation; he hasn’t been able to get close enough to Boong-do yet. Once Boong-do’s back in Hanyang, though, it should be easier. Minister Min is feeling antsy and tells him to hurry, because time is ticking; he won’t be kept alive much longer.
A short time has passed, and Hee-jin is making regular visits with a psychiatrist regarding her memories. Soo-kyung informs Dong-min that Hee-jin has almost accepted everything (in this reality); it’s just that she gets confused occasionally.
Dong-min is both concerned about Hee-jin and put out at this really strange love triangle; he asks his manager, “Why do I have to fight for Hee-jin with a man in her dreams?” I’d call it man OF her dreams, but maybe I’m just projecting.
It does suck for Dong-min, though, when you put it that way. He can’t even get angry, since this stems from the aftereffects of her car accident, no matter how absurd the circumstances. Even his manager says that despite always feeling unable to take his side in his romance problems, this is one time when he’s 100% behind Dong-min.
Dong-min complains, “I don’t even know what the bastard looks like, and it’s not like I can enter her head to see. And he’d have to exist for me to beat him!”
Hee-jin sits with her therapist, who has asked her to write down all of her dream-memories. Hee-jin has essentially accepted that Boong-do was a figment of her imagination, but that idea has made her sad and resigned.
She explains that she can generally distinguish what’s real and what’s her dream, tracing the start of the trouble to the day of her drama press conference. She’d been sure that she met Boong-do there, fainted, and missed the press conference—but as it turns out, she was present at the conference after all, which proceeded smoothly.
Then, Dong-min pestered her daily on the drama set to get back together, even kneeling in apology for his past wrongs and begging for another chance. She’d rejected him flat, but Dong-min had turned the full force of his aegyo charms on her, and she’d grumped, “You sure are persistent!” But gradually, and contrary to her expectations, she’d ended up forgiving him.
The drama had proceeded without a hitch, and Hee-jin had scored a CF. That payday got her the car, earned on her own and not a gift from Boong-do. And now Dong-min is the attentive, thoughtful boyfriend that has everyone envious of Hee-jin’s good fortune.
Hee-jin tells her doctor that she still feels awkward, but these (new) memories are slowly coming back to her. Still, she wonders, “If this is reality, why is my dream more vivid?” Every single exchange she had with Boong-do is alive in her memory, and the emotions she felt are still with her.
The doctor explains that this is probably because she got so immersed in the dream. It’s common for actors to find themselves so engrossed in their roles to feel close to the people they portray, or to think they’ve grown close with people from that era.
This is Hee-jin’s last session with the doctor, who feels she’s at a stable place now that she sees the separation between dreams and reality. Doc urges Hee-jin to make sure to put some space between her work and her personal life.
Hee-jin turns back for one last question, because today is the day that she and dream man planned for their date. She adds hastily that this happened in her dream, not in real life, making sure to say that of course it’s not real. But even though it was all in her head, she still feels the desire to go to the rendezvous anyway. “But if I did that, I’d have to keep going to therapy, wouldn’t I?” she asks glumly.
The doctor tells her to go ahead, however, saying that it will help set things straight. Adorably, Hee-jin cheers up at the doctor’s permission, then deflates when she registers that the doctor means it as confirmation that Boong-do isn’t real. Hee-jin asks, “But why do I feel like he’ll show up?” Dejected again, she sighs that she won’t go to the meeting after all, since he’s not real.
Boong-do and his entourage of guards arrive in Hanyang, where Han-dong warns him again not to tell a single soul that he wears a fake topknot. The topknot is an emblem of his noble status, so it would be pretty shocking for others to learn he cut it off. He’d better keep it a secret, Han-dong warns.
Boong-do laughs it off, but Han-dong launches into a hilarious lecture, insisting that nobody must find out.
Boong-do arrives home and takes in the familiar sights… but his smile fades when he sees his father’s sword missing from its holder. That’s the family heirloom he sold to buy Hee-jin’s car, but curiously, his servant assures him that it’s been tucked away for safekeeping. One day it had gone missing, everybody had scoured the home, to no avail. Then, with no warning it suddenly reappeared days later.
Hee-jin leaves her session thinking of something Boong-do once said, citing an adage about how people are the ones to carry out actions, but it’s Heaven that decides what to allow to happen. She puzzles over the illogic of it all: How can she have dreamed up phrases she’d never even heard before? How can her dream-invented person be more educated than she is?
Remembering Boong-do’s promise to return in one month, Hee-jin changes her mind at the last minute. She asks herself, “Then what’ll I do if he shows up?” U-turn it is!
Hee-jin arrives at the meeting spot in the park and waits, fidgeting nervously. Tapping foot.
Boong-do speaks with Yoon-wol, who has shed her gisaeng’s elaborate garb and dressed plainly, as she used to when she was a maidservant. He tells her to make her choice for her future. Since she’s only ever known the gayageum, she may prefer to return to her gisaeng identity. However, since she became one in the absence of other options, if she wants to retire, she can remain here in his household. But after she’s lived as the top gisaeng in the land, he can hardly make her do menial work like a servant.
“Do you mean to make me your concubine?” she asks. Despite the fact that she’s in love with him, and despite my expectation that this would thrill her, his suggestion is met with dismay. She declines the offer.
Boong-do replies that it’s just one possibility. He doesn’t see a perfect solution, but he wants to repay her kindness and protect her.
Does Yoon-wol feel a sense of inferiority, in that she can’t bind herself to him in that way? Or is it the opposite, that she wants more for herself? I don’t mean in a social-climbing way, because becoming a nobleman’s concubine is pretty much the highest leap she could aspire to as a former slave. It’s not a bad life at all—but perhaps it wouldn’t satisfy her. Yoon-wol reminds him that he’d once told her that a world is coming where someone like her can be treated as an important person, and that he wanted to take her there. “If such a place exists, send me there.”
She adds that she knows he sees her as practically a member of his family. So to become his concubine but spend the rest of her life just looking at him—”That is not a position that suits me.”
Boong-do asks if he has hurt her pride, and despite her denial, he apologizes. And then he lightens the mood by saying that it’s too bad he has lost his memory, because if he only knew where that world was, he’d send her straightaway. Yoon-wol asks, “Then… did you not meet that woman?”
That makes him furrow his brow. A woman? Yoon-wol says that there was a woman he wanted to thank, and was going to go “to that place” to meet her.
Speaking of whom: Hee-jin waits at the park, and by degrees, her spirits flag. A sudden downpour sends her running for her car, but she turns back around—she isn’t ready to leave yet, and wants to stick it out a bit longer. So she ducks into the phone booth instead, and keeps waiting.
It’s raining in Joseon too, and Boong-do sits at his desk, thinking over Yoon-wol’s words. He still doesn’t understand exactly what occupies the hole in his memory, but he decides he has to find that talisman, and calls Han-dong. In the event he lost it at home, he sends Han-dong to scour the household.
He asks Han-dong if he ever mentioned a woman who helped him secretly, and Han-dong scoffs a no, then bursts out, “You have a hidden woman?!” Haha. He wonders if that’s why Yoon-wol is crying, which he witnessed on his way in.
Boong-do says no; that happened because “I pulled a dumb move.” The phrase he uses is a modernism that Han-dong doesn’t understand, and when Boong-do stops to think where it came from, he doesn’t know how it entered his lexicon. Heck, he doesn’t even know what it means.
Hee-jin waits in the phone booth, and sees an umbrella approaching in the distance. She perks up—could it be…? She can’t see the face of the tall man carrying it, but she smiles in excitement as the phone booth opens, greeting him with a smile.
And then the umbrella tilts up: It’s Dong-min. He’s disappointed and hurt to be pushed aside by his own girlfriend, and she apologizes, wondering, “Why am I pulling such dumb moves lately?” She recognizes that he’s right, but when he holds out a hand to her, she hesitates to take it, still feeling awkward with him.
Boong-do repeats that strange phrase and figures that he really must have traveled somewhere, like Han-dong has been insisting all along. He gets ready to return to the palace to resume his position—after all, he’s got affairs to get in order, and must visit Queen In-hyun.
Only to get Han-dong’s blank response, “Who’s Queen In-hyun?”
Boong-do knows there’s no person called that (it’s what she would have been called posthumously)—it’s just that the name rolled right off the tongue. He asks Han-dong who Queen In-hyun is, only to get the confused retort, “Why are you asking ME?”
Boong-do laughs, conceding, “You’re right. I must’ve gone off in the head.” Another Hee-jin-ism. (It’s what she said of him when they first met, that he seemed crazy.) Han-dong just asks, “What does ‘off in the head’ mean?”
Boong-do can only laugh at the oddity, assuring Han-dong that he’s not actually crazy. He reminds Han-dong to keep searching for the talisman, deducing, “In any case, I must have lost something very important.”
No kidding. At the park, Hee-jin eventually takes Dong-min’s hand, though it’s something of a forced gesture. She lets him escort her away, looking crushed all the while.
Boong-do dresses for court, puzzling over the strange name: “Queen In-hyun. ”
I liked how this episode handled the concept of shifting realities, as our two characters continue their time-crossed association, thereby changing their own futures and everyone’s pasts. The one main speculative leap we have to make is in why Hee-jin is allowed to retain her memories, although that could be a simple matter of her being the only one in the modern age who knows about Boong-do’s identity and time-leaping activities. I wonder if Soo-kyung would also be able to keep her memory if she actually believed Hee-jin, but since she’s so convinced that the crazy story is, well, crazy, that’s a moot issue.
There are genrerally two narrative threads at play in time-travel dramas, or at least the ones I’ve seen recently. Operation Proposal took one extreme, where small actions effected big changes later down the line, in the way most of us are familiar with the concept of a butterfly effect. The other is that Fate rules in all lives, reincarnations, and timezones, so history will repeat itself no matter what the individuals do in any given lifetime. This drama takes a middle ground between the two extremes, and I like seeing bits of both, rather than going all or nothing.
For instance, Hee-jin believes in the reality she lived out, but the more Boong-do changes in the past, the more her circumstances shift in the present. So while he’s not going to drastically alter her life (in life-threatening or -changing ways), his actions give rise to an alternate version of her life, and it’s an interesting twist to have her slowly “remembering” bits of that other life—the one she didn’t actually live out, but which becomes her new life story as the past changes the future.
Another nice side effect of exploring this alterna-reality is that we get to see more of Dong-min’s charm, without the rascally side (though the rascally part is plenty entertaining). I don’t think he’s suddenly reformed, but while he’s still in the honeymoon phase of the romance, it’s nice to see him show his better side. I like being able to take him seriously, rather than writing him off as a cad and a cheater, no matter how amusing he is.
Amnesia is one of those storylines we tend to groan at, mostly because it’s usually a cheap trick brought in to force conflict in an unrealistic way. I generally consider amnesia a tired trope that needs to be taken to pasture, or maybe sent upstate to live on a farm where old tropes frolic. On the other hand, I actually do love amnesia when it’s not the easy cliché or an eleventh-hour twist. For instance, dramas where amnesia forms the premise, because then that’s the whole point of the story and you get to build and play with it in other ways. (An example: Fantasy Couple.)
A show like this is another example where where amnesia makes sense, and it’s not an excuse for filler conflict or makjang twists. (Ahem, Boys Before Flowers.) Here, it’s a mystical side effect related to a mystical object; it works with the way the drama has established its rules.
Furthermore, the show plays with the amnesia by screwing with Hee-jin’s perception of reality, which I thought was a fabulous mirroring/interweaving of the two characters’ plights, where their own brains betray them. It makes so much sense that she’d be told everything was a result of her car accident that the drama almost has ME thinking she might have dreamed the whole thing up. If it WERE a case of “It was really just a dream,” I’d want to scream and throw things at my computer (or, okay, the writer). But knowing it’s not but seeing why it would be so believable is what makes it a great conflict.