Awwww yeah! We’re back, baby. Now THIS is the show I know and love. Bring in da stakes, bring in da tears, and let’s get down to business. Betrayal hits like a ton of bricks, but it feels like being dusted with powdered sugar compared to what’s around the bend…

 
EPISODE 16 RECAP

Secretary Eun sneaks away from the engagement to take a call from Bong-gu’s minion. He offers a choice: Jae-ha abdicates the throne peacefully, or he will be removed by force. Otherwise, Shi-kyung gets told about his daddy’s extracurricular misdeeds.

Uh… I’m thinking the asking price is a little low there. Sigh. Minions. Though on the flipside, Eun is the man who sold out the last king’s whereabouts for an LP, so… even stevens?

Secretary Eun tells him to go ahead and tell Shi-kyung whatever he wants to, because he is no longer going to listen to any threats from the likes of them. Well now. Look who graduated from amoeba in the final stretch. Now, would it have killed you to grow this backbone like three fatal mistakes ago?

Minion takes that as Door Number Two, and drops his voice, “There will be blood,” like he’s been waiting his whole minion life to say that line. At the same moment, Jae-ha and Hang-ah toast (With red wine? Really?) and the clink sends her glass shattering. The Wine of Portent splatters on her white dress.

She frets, but he smiles and tells her that it’ll all make for lasting memories. They walk through the crowd and wave, and then some kind soul chants, “Kiss! Kiss!” and soon the whole crowd joins in.

Jae-ha side-eyes Hang-ah, and then spins to face her, and pulls her in for a kiss. Gah, the all-the-way-around-arm-wrapping just does me in.

The parents watch with embarrassed but adorably happy smiles.

That night, Secretary Eun calls Shi-kyung out for a chat. He asks how the Anmyundo investigation is going, and Shi-kyung says he’s going to be back on the case now that the engagement is over.

Dad lets out a long contemplative sigh, and starts to say it… but can’t quite get the words out. He just says that it’ll be over soon. Shi-kyung looks at him, confused.

Dad then goes to his office and writes his resignation. It details all of his nefarious exchanges with Club M, leaving nothing out. He takes one long look at his office of over thirty years, and then walks through the memorial hall of all the kings he’s served. He stops at Jae-kang’s portrait, “Do not forgive me, your majesty.” He bows down to the ground.

Jae-ha and Hang-ah discuss her picking up some of the queen mother’s charity events… while they get a couples massage? Ha. Okay, who’s brilliant idea was it to find some way to make Seung-gi’s cheeks look even more chipmunky? Hee.

Hang-ah suggests that maybe she could go to North Korea to do some of her charity work with a big smile, and Jae-ha tells her to have a good trip to the foreign country then. Heh.

But spa time gets cut short with an email from Club M. He goes to his desk to open it, and Hang-ah urges him to ignore it. He says it’s better to see what’s coming, even if it’s coming to explode all over them, which I’m all for. Let’s see it then.

He opens the email, filled with evidence that Secretary Eun sold out the Anmyundo location. Bollocks. HE’S JUST ABOUT TO TELL YOU HIMSELF! Aaaaaugh.

No matter how much I hate Cruella de Eun, I was all for him owning up to his crimes. He was so close! But I suppose you can’t expect the universe to be on your side if you wait till you’re backed into a corner before confessing.

The email has every bit of damning evidence – call logs between Eun and Bong-gu, Eun’s signature on clearing Bong-gu to enter the country, recordings of their phone calls.

Secretary Eun knocks on Jae-ha’s door and enters the office, prepared to hand in his resignation. But he walks in to hear a recording of the very call where he gave up the Anmyundo location.

Jae-ha just stares at him, blinking in disbelief. He finally asks blankly, “What is this?” Augh it kills me that he still wants ajusshi to say he didn’t do it. He asks if there was ever a time that he purposely conveyed lies between him and Hang-ah.

He says yes. Jae-ha asks, still disbelieving, if he was the one who changed Jae-shin’s entrance music at the conference. “You didn’t, right? You didn’t go that far, Ajusshi. Right?”

Still not raising his head, he says it’s true. Jae-ha looks up at him, stricken. He says that Anmyundo, he understands—it was a mistake, and he didn’t know who he was dealing with. But the rest… the rest…

Isn’t it just a twist of the knife to know that he would’ve been forgiven if he had come clean right away? But that’s the grave you dug for yourself, old man.

A tear streams down Jae-ha’s face as he continues to plead, “You were like family. Thirty years. Father chose you. Hyung trusted you. I leaned on you more than anyone. How could that Ajusshi…”

Ajusshi hands over his resignation, which just gets a scoff from Jae-ha. Quitting again? He says he’s not asking for forgiveness, and will take every punishment. Jae-ha makes it clear that he’ll be arrested and charged for his crimes.

Secretary Eun warns him to be careful of Club M, especially right now, and Jae-ha asks bitterly why—did he give them something else? He finally lets loose, screaming at the top of his lungs: “YOU ARE A TRAITOR!” Oof.

That’s what stings the most, of course, since he’s done all this while convincing himself that it was for the greater good. Jae-ha continues: “You committed high treason! Allowed foreign invasion! Aided and abetted an enemy of the state! YOU ARE A TRAITOR!”

Secretary Eun doesn’t deny any of it, and says he will accept the punishment for all his crimes. But he asks just one thing… Shi-kyung… Aaaauf. Don’t even get me started on the heartache you’re going to cause, old man.

He bows down to the ground on his hands and knees, and pleads with Jae-ha not to tell Shi-kyung (Well that’s just absurd—how will he be kept from finding out?). He says that Shi-kyung is an honest, upright man. He IS. And idealistic and hopeful too, and you’re about to fuck with that.

He says that he’ll tell Shi-kyung himself. Oh. Okay. At least you’re going to do that. Although I don’t see why you’re going to set yourself up for another circumstance exactly like this one by waiting. But then again, you’re not historically quick on the uptake.

The palace reels from the news in every corner. Shi-kyung comes to see Jae-ha and asks if it’s true that his father was dismissed. And despite his anger, Jae-ha keeps that promise to ajusshi—he pretends that he finally had enough of their personality differences and let him go.

Jae-ha says he’s old now and their paths are different. Shi-kyung argues for his father—that it’s different methods, not different paths, and that he served this monarchy for thirty years.

But Jae-ha cuts him off coldly, “He’s too old. He’s an old fogey. He smells foul and he’s stale.” Harsh words, but it effectively makes him the bad guy, and not Ajusshi.

Shi-kyung can’t believe the words coming out of his mouth. “Are you the king I know?” Jae-ha: “Why? Do you want to hit me?” And without hesitation, Shi-kyung answers, “Yes.” Omg, you two are gonna make me CRY. Stop it!

Jae-ha lets out a tightly-wound sigh, and tells Shi-kyung to take a vacation. He answers right away that he’ll be staying right by Jae-ha’s side (Thank goodness.) until he finds out exactly what happened between him and Dad. (Balls.)

Jae-ha yells after him, “Ya, Eun Shi-kyung!” but he storms out, having made up his mind. Thank goodness for your dogged trust, but I’m scared for you.

Hang-ah reads Secretary Eun’s letter of resignation. She says sympathetically that he must’ve had a hard time, and Jae-ha just agrees absently. She starts to make a case for forgiveness, but Jae-ha counters that Ajusshi used his trust against him, all this time.

Jae-ha: “I’m a person too. I need time.” Right? Hell, I still need time and I’ve known for weeks! She tells him to rest, and he says he’s got a million meetings to prep for, but she yanks the papers out of his hands and pats her lap.

She pulls him toward her and he lies down, head in her lap, and takes her hand. So sweet.

And then he wraps her hand tightly around him, in this gesture that kind of kills me—it’s the way a child tries to envelope himself in a mother’s arms for comfort, like it might be possible to make a monster-shielding blanket out of her embrace.

Hang-ah: “Are you scared?” Jae-ha: “Yes. Everything except you… I’m scared of. I don’t think I can trust people.” He shuts his eyes to stop the tears, and she leans on his shoulder.

Bong-gu sits at home, obsessively watching Jae-ha’s video letter for the millionth time, like the crazy stalker that he is. He even drunkenly answers, as if they’re having a conversation. HA. Anyway, he proceeds with The Plan.

Jae-shin is all gung-ho to scoop out her memories, but her therapist warns that she’s the one who locked them away, and forcing that back out could lead to panic. Yes, we’ve already been through the panic. Now it’s time to push through anyway, so get out your hypno-baubles, lady, and help a sister out!

She tries on her own to listen to “Ride of the Valkyries,” but it sends her reeling and she tears the headphones away. Shi-kyung comes by and she asks him not to resent oppa too much, because there must be a reason they don’t know about. Shi-kyung agrees, still trusting Jae-ha despite it all. Aw.

He asks if she’s not going to sing anymore, reminding her that she used to, all the time. She takes that as a cue to sing now, and he stammers awkwardly that he didn’t mean now. Ha. She tries to remember the song she first sang to him, but can’t recall it, so he helps her out.

He sings the first line, and his voice startles her, so she pretends not to know how the rest of it goes, and he ends up singing the first verse for her, as she plays along. She takes him downstairs where the acoustics are better and hands him a microphone, wanting to record him.

She says that if he does well she’ll debut him as a singer, and when he balks, she promises not as an idol. Heh. She asks if he wants to sing it as a duet then (Yes please!), but he refuses, and starts to walk out.

She asks if he hates her that much—she confessed her feelings, and she’s working so hard, but he won’t give her the time of day. He tells her that what she feels is curiosity and nothing more, because they’re so different.

He says that she’s right about him being no fun, and when she gets to know him, the shininess of the new toy will wear off, and she’ll be sick of him. She swears that’s not it, but he tells her to stop messing with him: “I don’t want to become a plaything.”

She says she’ll ask him one thing then: Is it because she’s disabled? He answers right away that it’s not that, he swears. She starts to cry as she supposes that even if it were, she couldn’t do anything about it.

She asks one final thing: She sang that song to him just once, so how did he remember it? Is he a genius? He says, voice trembling, that it’s because the princess sang it (aww), and walks out before she can ask any more questions.

Hang-ah heads to Somalia with the queen mother to do charity work, and Mom gives her a purse as a gift on the way. They get relocated to a different hotel because the place they had originally booked just got blown up in a terrorist attack. UM. Red flag, anyone?

Thankfully it’s enough of a red flag to send them back home in the morning, but they’re here for the night. The staffer heads down in the elevator, where she sees a woman with a strange tattoo…

Mom sighs that she really wanted to see one of the children who had barely made it last time, who lost his mother to tuberculosis.

Hang-ah says that her mother died of the same, because a penicillin shot cost as much as a kilogram of rice, and she could never afford it. She doesn’t say this with any heaviness—just matter-of-factly—adding that she and Dad moved to Pyongyang soon after, and there were plenty of vaccines.

Mom takes her hand and asks what kind of person her mother was. Hang-ah says she was so young so her memories are faded, but her mother was a translator, and would read her stories at night, like Gulliver’s Travels.

Mom says that Hyun-joo (Jae-kang’s wife) called her “mother,” and that here when a mother and daughter-in-law are close, they just become mom/daughter. She tells her to call her “mother” instead of “her majesty.” Aw.

Hang-ah lights up, and tries it out awkwardly. Mom laughs, “Minus the accent.” They hold hands and laugh.

But this is no time for laughter, because Mia and her band of assassins are already here, shooting their way down the hall. They take out the guards and knock on Mom’s door posing as room service.

But Mom’s no dummy—she would be escorted by secret service if everything was on the up and up, and she scrambles for the phone. But the lines have been cut. She runs to her cell phone, but before she can make a call, Mia’s standing right behind her with a smile.

One of the secret service manages with his last breath to pull the fire alarm, which sends a stampede through the lobby. It’s enough to make Hang-ah pause, and she comes out of the bathroom cautiously.

She comes out to find Mom sitting on the couch at gunpoint. Her eyes widen. But then I love how her look changes when another gun gets trained on her—she looks over at it like it’s a fly challenging her patience.

But clearly she can’t risk getting the queen mother killed in a hostage stand-off.

Shi-kyung wakes Jae-ha up in the middle of the night to deliver the bad news—both Hang-ah and Mom are missing. He tries calling her, to no avail. (I love that he’s saved her number as Hang-ahr-ie, turning her name into a homophone for “vase” but meaning “lovesick-for-Hang-ah.”)

Bon Bon pays her hired help, and then promptly shoots them in the back, for her hostages to see. Damn. Then they get loaded onto a plane.

Jae-ha gets briefed that there are no ransom demands, and the two accomplices have been killed. Shi-kyung says that another kidnapper was caught on film, but only from the back—she had a barcode tattoo.

He immediately remembers that detail from Shi-kyung’s investigation into Mia. Shi-kyung confirms that Club M is the likeliest suspect. Jae-ha realizes that Bong-gu is going after his people, one by one. And Bong-gu purposely ignores all his calls, wanting Jae-ha to fry a little longer.

Meanwhile Hang-ah and Mom get moved to one of Bong-gu’s lairs. Hang-ah eats diligently, and assures Mom that the food isn’t poisoned—if they wanted them dead, they’d be dead—and tells her that she has to do the same to keep up her strength if they’re going to escape. Nice.

But Mom is scared witless, and says that Hang-ah might be able to because she’s a soldier, but she’s too frightened to try. Hang-ah tells her they have to try something, anything, to help the king.

Bong-gu interrupts to make his grand entrance, and Hang-ah recognizes him right away. She puts out her hand, “Kim Bong-gu-shi.” Ha. I love it. He pretends not to be bothered by it and squarely ignores her, and she totally smirks.

He goes straight for Mom, asking her to join him for tea, and when Hang-ah objects, Mia hauls her away at gunpoint.

Hang-ah’s father has come down to help Jae-ha, and confirms the Club M suspicion. I’m so glad he’s here, if only so he can witness this next scene:

Jae-ha asks Shi-kyung if he’s still getting the runaround from Bong-gu. “Whatever it takes. You know, right? Tell them I’ll do everything. I can go there myself, or lie down and beg. I can do it.”

Dad looks up at him. Shi-kyung whispers a protest. Jae-ha: “It’s Hang-ah. Hang-ah and Mom. You know my mom. She won’t last.”

Mom is currently cowering in fear over tea with Bong-gu. He sits watching her for a while, and then calls her “mother,” like he really does think he and Jae-ha are friends.

He comes closer and says that she reminds him of his mom, though his mom abandoned him to run her bar, tossing him in boarding schools and expecting he’d grow up okay. But even Bong-gu knows that what he really craved was his mother’s love.

He says he really was a good kid, so she should feel sorry for him. Aw, Poor Widdle Psycho. There, there.

He gets to the heart of the matter: Mom should tell Jae-ha to give up the throne already. He oozes with compliments for how dignified she is, noting that his own mother was so different, so crude.

Finally Mom opens her mouth, “Crude? How can a child call his own mother crude?” Hahahaha. Are you in trouble now? Daebak. And it just gets better.

She totally chastises him like a child, for blaming his parents for his own flaws, for claming a rough childhood when most people who endure hardship are better for it. “I am Jae-kang-ie’s mom! The mother of the man you killed. Even if you paid for your crime and then knelt to beg for forgiveness, it would be lacking!”

But instead he’s holding her here, and for what—to use her as bait against Jae-ha? “Do I, does the royal family, seem that easy?” She stands up. Oooh nice. He stands up and sneers that he was trying to be nice, but she just blows up at him.

“Fine. Kill me. Go ahead and kill me. Kill me! Do you think my children will flinch at the likes of you?! I’M going to take revenge on you! For our Jae-kang, our Hyun-joo, our Jae-shin’s legs, our Hang-ah’s baby. Even if I fall into hell itself, I’m going to take you with me as I go!”

So. Badass. And then she HITS HIM, with her tiny mom fists. I LOVE IT.

She goes to town, letting loose a barrage of swears and insults, asking how his mother gave birth to such rotten trash like him and still ate seaweed soup, as she hits him over and over. See, Mom, you’re plenty strong. You just had to get in touch with your inner rage.

Jae-ha finally snaps that he can’t take it anymore, and decides to just storm over there himself. Shi-kyung pleads with him to stop—this is exactly what they want, for him to go crazy and out of control. He calms down and gives Shi-kyung ten more minutes to get him through to Bong-gu.

Secretary Eun has locked himself away at home, and hasn’t answered any of his son’s thousand calls. But he does see the text that Hang-ah and the queen mother have been kidnapped, and takes Jae-ha’s call.

Jae-ha says nothing—all he does is dial and then listen. But Secretary Eun humbly offers his advice: to use Bong-gu’s international influence against him. Basically if he alerts the U.S. and China of Bong-gu going off the deep end, it’ll cut him off from major powers, and he’ll have to back down. He advises that Jae-ha stay calm, cold, and rational, and act decisively.

Exposition Minion tells Bong-gu that Jae-ha’s gone through diplomatic channels and for some reason, the U.S. and China frown upon the kidnapping of royals. Who knew? Bong-gu sighs that Jae-ha’s gotten smart, and agrees to a meeting.

Jae-ha goes to see Bong-gu, who plays dumb about the whole kidnapping, even as Jae-ha offers to do whatever he asks if he just lets them go. He says he’ll postpone the wedding, and Bong-gu finally says that IF he had kidnapped them—purely hypothetically, of course—then a measly broken engagement wouldn’t be the right price, would it?

Jae-ha asks what would be. “Your resignation.” His eyes widen. Bong-gu blathers on about who would take his place then, ruling Jae-shin out in her condition, and mentioning a sixth cousin. “Isn’t politics not your kind of thing anyway? It’s dirty.”

He suggests with a smile that he should gather up his loved ones and go live on an island in comfort, and leave the politics to others. He walks off, leaving Jae-ha reeling.

Bong-gu walks out, smiling as he passes by Shi-kyung. Aw, it’s Cookies and his unrequited love. Shi-kyung runs in to check on Jae-ha, who spends the entire journey back in silence.

He washes his face and comes out of the bathroom to find Hang-ah just sitting there, waiting for him. The lighting changes as he comes upon her, so this has to be a dream. She comes closer, and they look at each other with such loving eyes, and he asks, “This is a dream, right?”

She cups his face in her hands, and he clasps onto her hands with tears in his eyes, hugging her in desperate relief.

But then he notices a strange expression on her face, and asks why. Hang-ah: “Take care to eat well. And don’t forget to exercise.” He starts to cry and asks what’s happening.

She just keeps going, “Every sadness is just for a time. Because it’ll all pass someday.” And then she takes his hand.

Suddenly Mom calls out for Hang-ah, and she goes to join her. He tries to hold on, but she pulls away from his grasp. And then he looks up and they’re gone.

He’s left screaming, “Mom! Hang-ah-ya! Mom! Hang-ah-ya!” it startles him awake in a cold sweat.

Bong-gu’s minion shows Hang-ah a video of Bon Bon playing bloodthirsty hairdresser with Mom, and tells her to persuade the king to comply with their demands.

Meanwhile Shi-kyung is trying to do the very opposite with a scared and desperate Jae-ha. He can’t abdicate the throne and play right into their hands! But Jae-ha’s last nerve has cracked, and he asks why not.

He breaks down, “What if they really kill Hang-ah and Mom? I’m not that strong a person.”

*whimper*

He says that he’s lasted this long on obstinate pride, but he can’t do it anymore. They’re going to die. “I didn’t even want to be king! Why do I have to hold onto this seat while Mom and Hang-ah die??”

Shi-kyung has no words to make it right. Jae-ha tells him he’s sorry, but he’s going to live comfortably now, intending to give it all up.

Hang-ah watches as Mia threatens Mom with all manner of torture, and finally caves. “I’ll convince the king… to resign.” Minion tells her he’ll set up the video, but Hang-ah turns to him with a scheming glint in her eye.

“I’ll do it in person. Don’t you think it’ll be more convincing face-to-face?”

 
COMMENTS

Yay for the return of life and death stakes and heroic moments for everyone. I just about lost it when Mom talked down to Bong-gu like a misbehaving child and then wailed on him with all her momness. It was So. Awesome.

Bong-gu really stepped it up as a villain in a big, big way, and I’m ecstatic about that, for the sake of the story. There’s been enough messing about and pulling hair and getting in little jabs on both sides. Time for the real fight.

And as much as Bong-gu has his fatal flaws, he really is brilliant as an adversary, because he’s managed to take away the one thing that gave Jae-ha his confidence—his trust in his people. Jae-ha taunts him with that one thing Bong-gu will never have, so he deals that blow to Secretary Eun. Which is really just aimed at Jae-ha, because it levels his sense of trust in his people. And then just when he clutches onto Hang-ah for dear life as the only person he can trust, Bong-gu yanks her away from his side.

I love that this episode is filled with shots of Jae-ha in the foreground with Shi-kyung standing behind him in the background. There’s no fanfare about it, but he’s just always there. It’s telling that of all people, it’s Shi-kyung he apologizes to, when he’s at the end of his rope and about to give up the throne. It’s like Shi-kyung’s trust is what gives that position any meaning. This episode had great moments for both couples—Shi-kyung’s accidental confession that he memorized every note of that song, and Jae-ha and Hang-ah getting to such a supportive, honest place—but it was the bromance that really did me in. When they had words over Dad and Jae-ha was trying to protect Shi-kyung by being the bad guy and Shi-kyung continued to trust him anyway? I kind of swooned. I can’t help it! They’re just so perfect for each other!

Jae-ha’s emotional progression just in this episode alone, ripped me up good and proper. When his betrayal turned to fear, and that fear multiplied turned to desperation and despair? It kills me that he’s ready to give it all up, but I know that his people won’t let him. Hang-ah will kick ass, and Shi-kyung will find the words. Right? RIGHT?

 
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