I love a drama that deepens the conflict as we go. So many shows will spin their wheels in the final stretch to just prolong the inevitable, but here we launch into a whole new conflict, as the final battle begins to unfold. And I swear, it feels like a reward just for me, but bromance takes center stage, and it is awesome.

SONG OF THE DAY

King 2 Hearts OST – Taeyeon – “미치게 보고싶은” (Miss You Like Crazy) [Download]

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EPISODE 18 RECAP

Hang-ah stumbles into a building to ask the couple inside if she can make one international phone call. The man inside eyes her warily, noting her accent and her bloody arm, and tells her to wait. He goes in the back, while his wife pours her a cup of tea.

Grateful, Hang-ah takes off her watch and puts it on the table. The woman gives it back, and then warns, “Run away, now! Hurry!” But it’s too late – as soon as she stands up to go, police officers march in to arrest her. Damnit.

She gets hauled off to be investigated as a North Korean fugitive, and when she gives her name, the guy just laughs, “The Kim Hang-ah who’s engaged to the king of South Korea? Yeah right.” HA. There is a certain irony to fame working against you.

The guy in charge gets a call from Bong-gu, who assures them that they should by all means follow their protocol… but there’s nothing to stop them from, say, detaining her a little longer, is there?

He reminds them that he didn’t not kill Hang-ah because he was afraid of them, but because she’s such a good pawn in the North-South game. Oh, ’cause I thought you couldn’t kill her because she escaped from your cookie fortress.

Hang-ah rattles the cage in her jail cell, asking when she’ll get to see a doctor for her arm. The guard tells her she’ll be transferred in a week, and the doctor will treat her then. A week? For a bullet wound? Though she’s more concerned about where she’ll be transferred to than anything.

Despite the injured arm, she spends her time working out like the badass soldier that she is, always preparing for her escape.

She finally sits down to rest, a wave of despair about to hit her, but suddenly Jae-ha’s hand appears on her shoulder. With her bruised and battered hand, she reaches out to touch it.

She looks up and suddenly he’s there, sitting right beside her, his arm around her shoulders. He smiles and she looks up at him with tear-filled eyes.

He wraps both arms around her tightly, and she closes her eyes. They sit like that for just a moment, and then he fades, leaving her sitting there with her hand on her own shoulder.

Man, it’s that moment he fades that really stabs you in the heart. Beautifully played. I like this vision even more than his a few episodes back, because it’s wordless but delivers a stronger impact.

She opens her eyes to find him gone. A tear falls, and she holds her hand to her heart as she sinks back.

Meanwhile, Jae-ha pursues his plan of attack: prosecuting Bong-gu in the International Criminal Court.

Secretary Eun heads out to his fishing spot and stops in his tracks to see Shi-kyung waiting there for him. He stands there with a smile on his face. It’s enough for Dad to know how he feels.

I’m glad Shi-kyung isn’t totally broken, but the reconciliation does come too fast for me—you were just sobbing in the pouring rain, remember? These are all things I want for them, but paced waaay way slower.

They sit down and Shi-kyung says that he always found Dad difficult. He knew what Dad wanted of him, but also that he could never deliver on those expectations. So he was always scared of him.

He says that’s probably why he screamed at him—to make up for all the complexes Dad gave him. “But I’m happy now. I think I can finally be independent of you.” Good for you.

He tells Dad not to think that anything he does is because of him. He repeats Jae-ha’s words: “You’re you, and I’m me.” So no matter what he does, it’s his choice. Hm, that sounds like dangerous martyr talk to me. Don’t you go doing anything stupid, ya hear me?

They have a nice father-son bonding moment over fish, or lack thereof, and laugh and smile together.

But then Dong-ha bursts into Jae-ha’s meeting to warn him that Shi-kyung is trying to go to China anyway. Drat. I KNEW you were being too smiley for a regular day! He gets yelled at by his commanding officer, and just replies, “I haven’t once taken vacation days, so I’m just going to use them.” Ha. Did you really think that would work??

It doesn’t, so then he takes out his resignation letter. What? You’re quitting to go be a hero? Dong-ha tries to stop him as he packs up his things, but his mind’s made up. Dong-ha sighs, “You can’t leave the country anyway.”

OH. SNAP. Did Jae-ha put you on a no-fly list? HAHAHA.

He storms into Jae-ha’s office yelling, but the secretary tells him no one’s allowed inside. He can only talk from outside the door. Hee.

Shi-kyung says that they have to do this to make sure Bong-gu appears in the International Criminal Court, otherwise mounting a case against him does no good. Jae-ha counters that he has plenty of super secret spies he can send in to do that job.

But Shi-kyung asks what happens when Bong-gu kills all those agents. Bong-gu knows that Shi-kyung is Jae-ha’s right-hand man. That means that for the sake of driving Jae-ha crazy, he’ll keep Shi-kyung by his side. Damnit, stop making sense!

He yells, “Why can’t I go? Because I’m your friend? If it’s that then don’t worry. I have never once thought of you as a friend!”

W-wu-wuh? Nooooooo! We survived this long without noble idiots in this drama, and now you’re telling me the bromance is going there? Take it back! You ARE FRIENDS! You are! You… are… *whimper.*

He pleads with Jae-ha to be stronger than this. He turns to go, but then suddenly he swivels back, grim with determination. He yells, “Lee Jae-ha!” OMG. Did you just call the king by name? In banmal?

“Go ahead and spend the rest of your life in there, looking for friends! Because Kim Hang-ah is gone, you’re scared of losing me too, aren’t you? I’ve long let go of my guilt. So GET IT TOGETHER!”

That was so awesome. That gets Jae-ha out of the room right quick. He fumes, “Lee? Jae? Ha?

Shi-kyung: “You said we were friends.” HEE. I love Quippy Comeback Bot best of all. Jae-ha roars, calling him a bastard.

But then Shi-kyung just stares with his super earnest puppy eyes, and Jae-ha caves with a sigh. Perhaps this is why you weren’t allowed in the room in the first place. I love that this part of the exchange needs no words.

Shi-kyung promises (now back to formal speech), “I will return.” Jae-ha lets out a shaky sigh. I’m not even going to warn you that you’d better return, because there’s no option to do otherwise. You WILL return, gorramit.

Bromantic study montage time. They plan their mission, down to the letter, complete with A SECRET CODE. Is there a secret handshake to go with? Sometimes I really love this drama.

Jae-ha asks Shi-kyung to do one last thing before leaving—go see Jae-shin. “You know the condition she’s in. And you know her heart. No matter how frustrating you are, if you don’t know that…”

Shi-kyung: “Can I do whatever I want?” Rawr?

Jae-ha: “You mean you haven’t, till now?” Dude, you don’t even know the half of it. Shi-kyung asks if he really can, just once, treat her not as the princess but meet her person-to-person. Jae-ha corrects him: “It’s man-to-woman.”

Shi-kyung: “Can I, just this once, follow my heart, and see her?” Jae-ha doesn’t answer, and instead turns around and picks up the phone. He orders that Jae-shin be brought out to the garden, and no one allowed within two kilometers of her, “…except Eun Shi-kyung.”

Wingman for the win. He turns around, “Will that do?” Shi-kyung starts hyperventilating now that he has no excuses left.

Jae-shin gets brought outside and then they take her wheelchair away, leaving her with nothing but a picnic basket. She wonders what’s going on, and then Shi-kyung comes up the road to meet her.

She asks if he knows about the memory she recovered, “It’s like a monster, isn’t it?” She starts to cry. But he tells her that the person who gave away the Anmyundo location was his father, and he’s decided that he’s not going to let himself feel guilty about that. “Because my father is my father, and I’m me.”

He kneels down in front of her. “It’s the same for you. It was because of them. It wasn’t your fault.” He takes her hand and tells her that recovering the memory alone makes her impressive.

He says it again, “It’s not your fault.” He holds her hand as she sobs.

Then a little while later, he piggybacks her through the garden, as he tells her that he’s taking a short vacation. He says that he’ll give her some homework, and once she completes it, he’ll have returned.

“Say It’s not my fault a hundred times a day.” Aw. She tells him that he has to do the same then. They both agree. “Laugh three times a day, even if you have to force it.” He adds going to therapy diligently and practicing being in front of people, and she agrees.

They reach her wheelchair and he puts her back in it. Still kneeling, he adds one last thing: “Sing again.” She kisses him on the cheek, startling him, and asks what else.

He stands up to give his answer, and plants a kiss on her.

But his own impulsive move sends him reeling, and he steps away from her, more in shock than she is. Heh. He quickly apologizes, and she asks what for, but he feels so awkward that he just gets behind her and speed-wheels her back to the palace. Pfft. What happened to the gutsy guy who told her oppa that he was gonna do whatever he wanted? Cracks me up.

And then he berates himself in his office for losing control. That was you, losing control? Whoa there, wild child. He thinks of something and decides to write a letter. I will admit, I hope it’s to Jae-ha, but it’s probably for Jae-shin.

Secretary Eun sits at his fishing spot and this time an entire royal entourage arrives. It’s Jae-ha. He tells ajusshi about what Shi-kyung did, and starts to say that he tried to stop him, but corrects himself: “No, I sent him.”

He says he pretended to put up a fight because sending him freely made him such a bad person. But Secretary Eun sees right through the guilt parade. Jae-ha says that there’s so much to prepare for the case, and asks him to return to the palace: “Like you did for hyung, come be by my side.”

Secretary Eun looks over at him, moved and startled. Jae-ha warns that the pay will be downgraded though—times are tough. Heh. They smile, and then ajusshi says he has to seek forgiveness from one person first.

He goes to see the queen mother, to confess his wrongdoing. She already knows, but I think it’s important that he says it and seeks forgiveness. She just asks with tears in her eyes about how Jae-kang was that day, since Secretary Eun is the last person to see him alive.

He tells her that the king was happy and smiling, and she says that’s enough for her.

The good guys get a break and finally recover the video player from Jae-ha’s hostage standoff in North Korea, but it’s too damaged to recover any data. Drat.

Jae-ha sighs and turns to hyung’s portrait, “You happy?” He’s just talking, but that phrase is the one that opens up his diary recorder, which he ignores. But then suddenly, something dawns on him. Aww, yeah.

He looks up at the portrait, and then over to the table and chairs sitting across the room, and then back at the recorder. Nice. I KNEW it would come in handy that his keyword was so conversational.

The music swells. He calls Shi-kyung. Mission is on. He walks down the memorial hall and into the pressroom to make his live public announcement. The world tunes in, and so does Bong-gu.

Jae-ha announces that the late king’s death was murder, and he has the proof. He plays the video. Hell yeah. It’s a top-angle view (because it’s aimed at the desk, if you remember Jae-kang’s footage from before) but it captures both Jae-ha and Bong-gu sitting across from each other that day that he confessed to the murder.

Backtrack to that day, when Bong-gu himself had said the phrase, “You happy?” which started the recording that neither of them noticed. The reporters and the public watch, horrified, as Bong-gu lays it all out on the video—that the real reason he killed Jae-kang was because he kept him out of the country, and sent him peacefully like a drunk idiot.

He makes that shudder-inducing quueck noise, and everyone who’s watching jumps out of their skin. Man, this is so awesome. And strangely even more horrifying out of context—he just seems like a pure monster. One of the reporters asks the man’s identity, and Jae-ah confirms it. Bong-gu sits frozen in his chair.

Jae-ha: “A king is not just a king. He is South Korea itself, and its 50 million people. Club M’s John Mayer murdered those 50 million people.” And with his game face on, he declares that he’ll be prosecuting him according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. (Specifically used to prosecute crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, etc.)

Cut to Secretary Eun delivering their case to the court. Jae-ha continues: “We will fight. And we will capture him. We will uphold justice, and make him face the strict judgment of the law.”

Gah, goosebumps. I love a hero who fights within the system. Renegades are cool, but a king IS the system, and if he doesn’t have faith in that, his position is meaningless.

Needless to say, Bong-gu starts to panic, though he does his best not to show it. He tells his minion that it’s time to lay low, and orders him to call the prison and have Hang-ah moved.

But instead of doing that, Minion calls someone else in Club M to say that Bong-gu is now a liability. He orders a hit on Bong-gu… which Bong-gu overhears. I wish I could say that I’m surprised and shocked that you’d be betrayed by your own people, but who’re we kidding. Most of us were wondering how he lasted that long. Mia walks into the room, and minion starts crying instantly. Ha.

Shi-kyung and Dong-ha are hiding outside the compound, and Dong-ha worries about the plan, but Shi-kyung tells him to just do as he said, and pets him on the head before going in. Aw.

By the time we get back to Bong-gu, his minion’s already a dead fish. Shots ring out and they scramble, and Shi-kyung sneaks his way in. He gets into a fight with Mia, and I want him to kick her ass, but sigh, that’s not the plan, and he lets himself be captured.

She hauls onto his knees in front of Bong-gu and trains a gun to his head. Shi-kyung just tells him to kill him and get it over with. But Bong-gu thinks back to Shi-kyung’s initial rejection of rotten cookies, looks over at dead fish backstabber, and orders them to treat him well.

Shi-kyung hides his reaction, and Dong-ha watches him get hauled away from afar, crying. Aw. He calls Jae-ha to tell him that phase one is complete. Jae-ha hangs his head with a heavy sigh.

And then begins the horrible torture. They knew this going in—Jae-ha told him that he’d have to endure for an unbearably long time, otherwise giving in too quickly would seem false. I know they’re right, but aaauuuugh. They lay him on the ground and she threads a stick through his fingers, and then GRINDS his hand till his fingers break under her heel. Oof.

Hang-ah finally gets treated by a doctor in the prison. She winces from the pain, but he says it’s already healed over, so she’s overreacting. But of course it’s just a diversion…

While he turns his head to speak to the guards, she grabs him in a headlock and screams at the guards to step back. They panic and she orders the doctor to hand over his cell phone.

Jae-ha sits with Secretary Eun discussing the trial and IF YOU IGNORE THIS CALL I WILL KICK YOU IN THE NUTS. Thankfully, he answers. Hang-ah yells frantically into the phone, “Comrade Lee Jae-ha!”

She barely has time to tell him that she’s in a Chinese prison before an armed guard comes running in. He fires a shot into the air, and she drops the phone. He’s left screaming her name, not knowing if she’s dead or alive.

He tells Secretary Eun that he’s going to China right now. They rush to try and move her before the king arrives. He comes with troops both North and South (Dong-ha and Young-bae are both present).

He tells the prison’s commanding officer that a call from his fiancée originated here, and sends his men in to look for her. They search frantically, Young-bae especially falling all over the place, desperate to find Hang-ah in time.

They call out her name over and over, and then she finally hears it faintly. The guards have her somewhere removed, held at gunpoint, but she fights them off long enough to scream for Jae-ha.

He hears her, and takes off running toward the building off to the side. The agents follow. At the same time, the guards gag her and start to move her out, on the upper level.

They nearly miss each other, but then Hang-ah sees Jae-ha from behind, below her. She screams through her gag, and he hears her and comes running, and they finally lock eyes.

But they’re still moving her, and he races to catch up. She fights them off and manages to free herself long enough to run, but one of them grabs his gun and fires. Oh. Fuck.

She goes down. Jae-ha freezes just below her.

Blood drips down through the metal-grate floor to the lower level, at his feet.

He runs up the stairs as his agents secure the guards. She isn’t moving. He stumbles over to her with his head in his hands, not sure what to do, not ready to face it. He crouches down, hands shaking, and turns her over.

She looks up at him. He calls out her name like a wave of relief, and she screams from the pain. He looks down. It’s her leg. She was shot in the leg. Ohthankgoodness.

He cradles her in his arms, and she looks up and smiles, “Comrade Lee Jae-ha, it’s no big deal.” He clutches her to his chest for dear life, crying uncontrollably.

Wow, I was so wrapped up in that, I thought for sure it was the end of the episode. Man alive.

Bong-gu’s associate gives him the update and suggests they use Shi-kyung. He’s bloodied and currently enduring Chinese water torture. (Is that like a when in Rome thing?)

Bong-gu finds him being treated thusly and slaps Mia across the face. This is why you have no friends. He sits Shi-kyung down to make the offer: join his side. He seems to be playing right into their plan.

But Bong-gu is as shrewd as he is crazy, and needles Shi-kyung to take the offer as planned—after all, isn’t this a double agent mission? He points out Shi-kyung’s lack of a poker face, saying that someone with his personality isn’t cut out for mole work. I’m starting to agree. And worry.

Bong-gu says that really, Jae-ha is the bad guy for sending his friend into the enemy’s lair. I mean, he probably even pretended to put up a fight to appear less callous, but “he’s actually more ruthless [than me].”

He muses that if Jae-ha were born in a different time, he’d have slapped the faces of Yeonsangun and Nero. Ha. Shi-kyung counters that that’s all people like Bong-gu can see—what’s in front of his face.

He appeals to Shi-kyung’s vanity, asking him to set him straight then. He offers to let him get rid of anyone on his staff with a foul stench. Shi-kyung: “Aren’t you the cause of that stench?” Damn.

I love that knowing their plan doesn’t stop Bong-gu from trying to make Shi-kyung go darkside anyway. That’s HIS vanity, and they know it. Attempt #1 is a failure, but Bong-gu is determined to win Shi-kyung over. The fish is on the hook.

Hang-ah wakes up in bed (they’re still in China) and Dad scampers around to make sure she’s okay and getting rest, but she will have none of that—she asks for Jae-ha right this instant, freaking out about not wasting another minute in finding Bong-gu.

Jae-ha rushes in and she asks him, eyes wide with panic, if he has a plan for catching Bong-gu because they can’t let another minute pass with him out there. Jae-ha and Dad exchange worried looks and Dad leaves the room.

She asks again and again, and he tells her not to think about anything, and just rest. But she shakes her head no, getting more and more frantic. Tears start to fall, as she gasps, “How can I rest? Do you know what a scary person Kim Bong-gu is?”

She’s never once shown fear before this. Now I get why he and Dad were looking at each other so strangely.

He hugs her tight. “I’m sorry, Hang-ah-ya, for not protecting you. I know. I get it now, seeing you like this… how scared you were, how difficult it was for you. I know it now. I’m sorry Hang-ah-ya. I said I’d make you happy. But I’m a powerless bastard. I’m so sorry.”

She cries into his shoulder, her panic subsiding. Gah, the sight of her blue and purple hand clutching onto him just breaks my heart.

Jae-ha and Dad meet with a Chinese official who apologizes for the “incident” and Dad freaks out, but Jae-ha holds him back. He says that if they’re sorry, they can show it, by letting South Korean troops in country to catch Bong-gu.

The Chinese official in turn tells Bong-gu they’re no longer in cahoots, and orders him out of China in three hours. How perfect is it that Bong-gu’s bedroom is decorated like a child’s, full of oversized stuffed animals? It’s exactly as I pictured.

He’s short on time and moves, so he calls Shi-kyung over to make threats—what he got a taste of was Torture Lite, so if he doesn’t want to be begging to die, he should sign up for Team Blackhats.

His plan: have Shi-kyung pretend he’s succeeded in Mission Double Agent and then be a double-double agent, and feed Jae-ha false information about his whereabouts. He gives Shi-kyung time to think it over, or else he’ll end in bloody torture. And then he screams, “Why do you MAKE ME be this way?!” Yunno, I always found that to be the creepiest thing serial killers say.

Jae-ha sits with Hang-ah in bed and fills her in on everything. She freaks out at the news that he sent Shi-kyung. “That’s like entrusting a piece of meat to a tiger!” Aw, you think he’s a beefcake too?

Hang-ah: “If something goes wrong…” Jae-ha: “Then I’ll spend the rest of my life blaming myself…” He’s worried because there hasn’t been any contact, but says all they can do is wait. “We have to trust him.”

Shi-kyung’s torture just gets worse and worse, and Mia goes to town, threatening Dad and the princess like it’s Torture Christmas. Shi-kyung trembles, screaming out in pain. Did they finally do it? Did they break him?

Jae-ha gets a call. It’s Shi-kyung. He says that the plan worked and gives him the coordinates where Bong-gu will be… as Bong-gu listens. Jae-ha says their troops are arriving soon in country, so they’ll meet him there.

Shi-kyung asks if Jae-ha will come himself, but he says no—he’s found Hang-ah and she needs medical care. But Shi-kyung tells him he should come and witness Bong-gu’s capture with his own eyes, since this is what he’s been working towards. Bong-gu practically licks his chops at the king headed straight for his trap.

Jae-ha agrees and Shi-kyung gives him a place to meet. He sends Hang-ah home first, and she worries but he says it’ll be fine—it’s Eun Shi-kyung after all. He gives her a kiss and heads out.

Shi-kyung waits at an industrial plant and Jae-ha arrives, happy to see him. But Shi-kyung seems different, detached. Jae-ha asks why he’s lost so much weight, but he says nothing. We see snipers on the roof, and a bug behind Shi-kyung’s ear.

He takes Jae-ha in his own car without a security escort, and Jae-ha tries to make conversation on the way but Shi-kyung remains cryptically aloof. Hang-ah and Dad are on their way out, but she asks them to turn the car around—something doesn’t feel right.

Jae-ha and Shi-kyung arrive at a rocky cliff overlooking the ocean, and Jae-ha looks out, confused. Bong-gu is here? Shi-kyung says yes, so he follows. They climb through some rocks and come out onto the cliff, where Bong-gu is waiting with a team of gunmen.

Sitting across from each other are two thrones. One is empty, while Bong-gu sits in the other. He greets him with a smile and a bow, “Welcome, your majesty.”

Jae-ha turns slowly toward Shi-kyung…

Shi-kyung raises his gun in Jae-ha’s face.

Oh. Holy. Hell.

 
COMMENTS

AAAAUUUUUUUUUUGH. Damn is that a good ending. You finally learn how to do a cliffhanger right, just when it counts. The thing is, I still hold out faith that Shi-kyung is being a quadruple agent (or something, the math is confusing) – in that I think he and Jae-ha were banking on Bong-gu’s counter moves. This is chess, after all. Just with live pieces.

The thing that’s selling the other side though (that he really put on a black hat) is Shi-kyung’s performance, because he really did endure an insane amount of torture, and afterwards he seems hollowed out and lifeless. Even though I firmly believe he’s still got it together on the inside, seeing him that way puts everything into question. Nicely played.

No matter if this is Shi-kyung being a triple agent or not, that last image just kills me—him holding his gun out at Jae-ha like their first meeting. Before it meant nothing, but now it’s betrayal because of the friendship they’ve formed. Their relationship might honestly be my favorite thing about this drama, and if you kill that bromance, Show, I will break up with you.

I’m so glad that Jae-ha has finally made his move against Bong-gu and proud of the kind of king he’s become. He once laughed at Jae-kang for saying that the king was the people and that the throne belonged to them. He was the guy who called the royal family puppets and empty scarecrows, but in the end he puts his faith in the system and the people.

And I like the question of morality that Bong-gu raises, because after all, a king is often as ruthless and tyrannical as any mass murderer. But again that difference is people. At the end of the day, a king still answers to his people. A murderer does not. Though the system Jae-ha operates in is flawed and can be abused, it has a balance in place that keeps any one person from having too much power. Bong-gu just consumes endless power and wealth thinking that it’s enough, and is left asking why he doesn’t have what Jae-ha has. I love that it’s so simple – he has too much power to ever have what he really wants.

And Shi-kyung is the embodiment of that. He is in the purest sense the faith of the people in their king, and Bong-gu sees it. He wants it for himself like a shiny toy, thinking that possessing Shi-kyung will be the same as having his faith. The fact that Bong-gu and Jae-ha stand there on the cliff, waging war over one soldier – (besides the fact that the bromance tickles me pink) is the perfect distillation of that conflict. I didn’t think his capturing Hang-ah or Mom was anything more than a plot device, but the war over Shi-kyung feels vastly different—it’s their ideological war, and it’ll get at the heart of the central hero/villain conflict, which is exactly where I want to be before the finale.

Warning: I’ve been pretty lax about the spoiler posts in this thread, but if you post spoilers about next week’s finale (and I mean both episodes), you will get a pair of VERY CRANKY recaps from me. [Note: Proper spoiler etiquette is to mark anything even remotely spoilery in CLEAR, no uncertain terms, short of neon lights, so that anyone who doesn’t want to read it (namely ME) could see it from a mile away and swerve around your comment.] You have been warned. I hold a mean grudge, Lee-Jae-ha-style, and not the kind with revengey kisses either.

 
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