It’s like the story takes us two steps forward, only for the editing to take us three steps back. Hyuk decides to stick it to history and invent penicillin himself, consequences be damned, only there aren’t any consequences (yet). Despite that, this episode had some good performances while introducing a new case for our doctor to solve, and it ain’t pretty. You can’t accuse Dr. Jin of glorifying illness, that’s for sure.
Ratings were on the rise this week, jumping from the previous episode’s 13.8% to 14.5%, with A Gentleman’s Dignity taking the lead at 17.1%.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
We see how Ha-eung learned of Dae-gyun’s involvement with Kye-hyang – by stringing up the translator who brokered the deal until he spilled his guts. Cut to Dae-gyun receiving a box of gold for selling Kye-hyang to a foreigner, cackling in maniacal glee.
Back to Hyuk’s exchange with Ha-eung, with Ha-eung asking incredulously if Hyuk’s version of history if one where you just watch a sick person remain sick. Ha-eung: “Please save that poor girl.”
Meanwhile, Kyung-tak finds the translator Ha-eung questioned, only to find out that the blubbering translator mentioned Dae-gyun’s name to Ha-eung. Uh oh.
Another quick cut takes us back to Ha-eung and Joo Pal as they discuss the amount of gold Dae-gyun purportedly received. Because he received so much at such low cost, Ha-eung muses that the gold market in Joseon will fluctuate according to Dae-gyun’s will.
But then he comes up with an idea – what if Dae-gyun were to find all that precious gold missing? Joo Pal wants no part of such a dangerous plot and runs away.
Hyuk returns to the shed to check on Kye-hyang, only to find her missing. He runs to find her as Ha-eung contemplates all that Kye-hyang told him about the Westerner she was forced to sleep with, and finds her not too far off, just as she’s doused with water from a woman trying to get her and her disfigured face to leave.
She smiles knowingly at Hyuk, having overheard his talk with Ha-eung about having no cure for her ailment. She doesn’t blame him, and claims that she’s happy to have people care for her like they did. “But, if there was one wish that I could have, I wish I could live like a person, even if it was just for one day,” she says in tears.
Hyuk looks conflicted, and then reaches a moment of decision as he stops her from leaving. “I will… let you live that one day. Not just for one day, but for one month, one year. You can live as long as you want. I will help you.”
So he returns to Heo Gwang and the roomful of doctors, asking for their help in making the medicine. They go through a long and detailed process of culturing the mold and Kye-hyang’s syphilis bacteria until they’re left with multiple batches of the refined drug, and they use separate jars with Kye-hyang’s bacteria to test each batch so that only the strongest concentration can be found and used.
Young-rae comes in time to see the last of the process. Heo Gwang asks what they’ll call the medicine, and Hyuk says, “Penicillin.”
Ha-eung waits on a deserted road to find Young-hwi, who immediately holds a knife to Ha-eung’s throat: “Did you come here to die?” Probably not, as Ha-eung urges him to calm down so he can tell him about the chest of gold brought by a Westerner.
We have a quick cut to Kyung-tak as he arrives for an urgent talk with his father before it’s back to Young-hwi, who asks Ha-eung how much of the gold he wants. Ha-eung’s not in it for the money and only wants a few pieces to give to “a woman who should receive at least that much.”
Young-hwi asks why Ha-eung doesn’t just take this matter up with the royal court, since it’s a crime to trade with Westerners. Ha-eung has a laugh at this, “You of all people are talking about the law of the country and trusting the Court?” Point taken.
But Young-hwi wants to know what Ha-eung is getting out of this deal. (Basically, he wants Anonymous to steal the gold.) Ha-eung: “Powerless and sinless, there was this woman who just wanted to live like a human being. Those people who kicked that poor woman out like used up straw shoes… I’ll make those bastards’ eyes cry tears of blood to make up for mine.”
Minister Kim is in a rage at Kyung-tak’s news, accusing Dae-gyun of bringing possible ruin to the Andong Kim clan by trading with a Westerner, an act currently prohibited by national law. Dae-gyun tries to cover his tracks by claiming that they can make a fortune off selling the gold, and Minister Kim is forced to go into damage control, as it’s too late to undo what’s done.
The only problem is the people who know about the transaction. Kyung-tak has already done his part by locking the translator away in a separate cell to keep him from talking. His father also tasks him with finding Kye-hyang in order to find who questioned the translator, since they have to find a way to keep this quiet.
Young-hwi and a few fellow bandits, disguised in their Anonymous garb, infiltrate the minister’s house under the instruction not to kill anyone. By the time Kyung-tak heads outside they’ve already disappeared from view, though he looks suspicious nonetheless. They eventually find the hidden chest of gold in Dae-gyun’s room.
It’s time to check the penicillin samples to see if they’ve succeeded, and Hyuk explains that they’ll know if one of the jars is absent of germs in the area the medicine was used. All of the jars are failures, except of course the very last one, which is a success. All the doctors cheer. Hyuk looks at the jar as he thinks, “Sixty-eight years before Fleming*, in 1860, during the Joseon Dynasty, I succeeded in making penicillin.” (*Sir Alexander Fleming is credited for the discovery of penicillin in 1928.)
Young-rae is also present to celebrate, though Hyuk tells them they have no time – they must make as much of this batch as they can so they can treat Kye-hyang.
Young-hwi and his bandits get caught on their way out with the gold by Kyung-tak, which causes the chest of gold and its contents to spill. While the others pick up the gold Young-hwi and Kyung-tak engage in a sword fight, though he’s not out to hurt Kyung-tak since he passes up an opportunity to kill him when he’s distracted with another bandit.
However, Minister Kim comes outside to find out what’s going on, just as Kyung-tak holds a sword to one of the bandits’ necks. Young-hwi has no choice but to hold a sword to Minister Kim’s neck, a move which has Kyung-tak aiming his gun at his enemy. Dae-gyun comes outside weaponless, and at the sight of his father held hostage, goes to call for help.
Luckily the household slaves were just waiting for their cue with torches at the ready, since they flood the courtyard in no time at all. Minister Kim tells Kyung-tak not to give in to their demands so that they won’t lose the gold, but Young-hwi’s sword has already drawn blood on his father’s neck, leaving Kyung-tak choosing between doing his father’s bidding or saving his father’s life.
He lets the bandits go with the gold to save his father, and gives chase once they’re over the fence. He gets a clear shot at Young-hwi and for whatever reason doesn’t take it, and Anonymous escapes.
Hyuk and Young-rae ready to give an injection to the ailing Kye-hyang, only to be discovered in the shed by Heo Gwang and a fellow doctor, who thus far had no idea Kye-hyang was on their property.
Dae-gyun turns to his usual punching bag – Kyung-tak – to blame him for losing the gold. Only this time little brother fights back, asking whose fault it is that all this happened in the first place. Kyung-tak: “After what you have done, can you still say you are the legitimate son of the family?” Huzzah, he’s finally standing up for himself.
Minister Kim breaks up the fight in the making, and sends Kyung-tak to find Kye-hyang so they can find the thieves. In the meantime he tells Dae-gyun to warn all the local goldsmiths against melting any gold – if Anonymous can’t remove the Westerners’ seal from the bars, they won’t be able to sell them. Dae-gyun cackles in glee.
Now back for another super quick cut with Heo Gwang and Hyuk, with the doctor admonishing him for keeping Kye-hyang a secret. That’s literally all that happens before we cut to the gibang, where Kyung-tak’s troops are tearing the place apart in search of Kye-hyang.
Luckily, Chun-hong is able to turn on the waterworks and convince Kyung-tak that she has no idea where Kye-hyang has gone. He calls off the search.
Ha-eung arrives near the gibang in time to see Kyung-tak leaving, and overhears him telling his troops that he’s onto Chun-hong’s trickery and knows that she’s lying. He’ll post troops nearby to keep an eye on who comes in and out.
So he goes straight to Hyuk, who’s already administered the penicillin IV to Kye-hyang, and the sores on her face are already healing. He’s ecstatic that she’s getting better but warns Hyuk that their time is running out, and when we cut to them outside Hyuk is already asking: “Gold? So are you saying you robbed them?”
They argue back and forth, with Ha-eung claiming he did it for Kye-hyang. Hyuk: “For her? You put her in more danger!” But they’re interrupted by the arrival of Doctor Yoo, who’s arrived because of news that Hyuk has created a new medicine. But really he’s there to find Kye-hyang, because as he says, “Where there is medicine, there is a patient.”
The doctors try to protect the shed, but Doctor Yoo barrels through anyway only to find the shed empty. We find Ha-eung and Young-rae tending to Kye-hyang as one of Joo Pal’s minions carries her to safety in a cart. However, Ha-eung is curious to know how Doctor Yoo got the information about Kye-hyang.
Joo Pal’s minion tells Hyuk of Kye-hyang’s whereabouts, as Young-rae prepares the IV with said gisaeng. Kye-hyang asks if Young-rae is a doctor as well, extolling her admirable virtues for practicing medicine as a noblewoman.
It turns out that Joo Pal is a nicer guy than he lets on, since it’s in his hideout that Kye-hyang is being hidden. Ha-eung asks for his help in arranging for her travel back to her hometown and some money so she can buy land, which is where Joo Pal draws the line – why would he lend money to a gisaeng he’s not even acquainted with? A bar of gold clears up his insecurities right away, and he agrees to do everything he can to help.
Chun-hong and Yeon-shim sneak out of the gibang to see Kye-hyang, and they’re spotted by a policeman keeping guard. He reports to Kyung-tak, who readies the troops to catch the criminal.
They dress Kye-hyang up and put makeup on her, commenting on her beauty. She thinks they’re talking nonsense but they hand her a mirror to check for herself, and after working up the courage she looks at her reflection in awe. Aside from a few remnants, the sores on her face have all but healed up. Chun-hong wells up with pride, “You should go see Prince Heungseon like this.”
However, an unwanted visitor bursts through the door – it’s Kyung-tak, accompanied by fellow policemen. They drag Kye-hyang outside just as Ha-eung and Joo Pal are returning with supplies for her journey, and Joo Pal has to hold Ha-eung back before he’s discovered, claiming it’s too late to help now.
Chun-hong clings to Kye-hyang in an effort to save her, crying out to Kyung-tak for mercy. He tells her that hiding a criminal is also a severe crime, but he’ll look over it considering the friendship between gisaengs. Kye-hyang is taken away alone.
We next find her bloody from torture under Dae-gyun’s orders. He demands to know who she told about what happened with the Westerner, though she still claims she told no one. He doesn’t believe her since even Anonymous found out, and his methods have Kyung-tak cringing in dismay – he doesn’t seem to revel in this kind of behavior like his brother, and perhaps still has a conscience somewhere.
One of the officials tries to promise her that if she only reveals who she told, she’ll be treated and even given money to go to her hometown. She replies defiantly, “The reason why I got this horrible disease is because I trusted such a promise that nobles like you gave me.” The officials ordered her to be tortured by burning, and Kyung-tak looks just bothered enough to where you almost think he’ll intervene… but in the end he only looks away as Kye-hyang screams in agony.
Joo Pal’s minion updates Hyuk and Company on Kye-hyang’s grim state, and Young-rae resolves that they must save her. She goes straight to Kyung-tak, not to beg for Kye-hyang’s release, but for him to at least allow her to receive medicine as she’s still fighting the disease.
He’s not having it, and so Young-rae drops to her knees to beg. “Please let us use some medicine on the patient. If you fulfill my wish just this once, I won’t return to Hwalinseo again.” Kyung-tak never liked her going there anyway, so he kneels in front of her and takes her hand to help her to her feet. He tells her to send a doctor when it’s dark, and that he hopes she’ll keep her promise.
So later that night, Kyung-tak uses his authority to allow Hyuk to tend to Kye-hyang in prison. Hyuk sees the scope of her injuries and sends a “How could you?” look to Kyung-tak, who at least has enough shame not to hold his glance. He knows he’s done wrong. I’m liking this facet of his character – he may not be making the right decisions, but it counts for something that he feels bad about them.
Hyuk prepares to give her an injection, reminding her that he promised her he’d help her to live. “Don’t worry,” he adds. “All of us out there are trying hard to do everything we can. You will be released soon.” Only she’s more concerned that the torture will eventually break her and cause her to put Ha-eung in danger.
Just then an enraged Dae-gyun barges on scene, demanding to know who let Hyuk in, and Kyung-tak gets a hard slap on the face for owning up to it. It’s all over once Minister Kim arrives and has a protesting Hyuk dragged out of the cell for a private meeting.
He can’t figure out why Hyuk would put so much effort into saving one gisaeng, and explains that people’s lives have different worths – for instance, rather than saving one hundred beggars, it would be more valuable to save a high-ranking minister like himself. Hyuk: “I don’t think that way. Whether they are a nobleman or a gisaeng, everyone has only one life. Protecting that is my job.”
However, a minion rushes in with some bad news – Kye-hyang has bitten her tongue and committed suicide.
At the gibang, Chun-hong tries in vain to stop Ha-eung from going to the bureau to confess his crimes in order to free Kye-hyang of guilt. Only that’s when Kye-hyang’s body is carried in. All the girls are struck with horrible grief, with Ha-eung only able to murmur Kye-hyang’s name through his tears.
A mourning song rings out as all the gisaeng, dressed in white, make their way through the streets in a funeral procession. Even Kyung-tak watches, and Ha-eung, perched on a nearby rooftop, pours some of his wine out as an offering.
Hyuk pours a drink for Chun-hong, which is an honor to her. She laments the life of a gisaeng – even if they’re sick, they must serve wine, and even if there is a funeral, they must dance. It’s sad that she realizes there is no one to console her even in her sadness, which leads to an awkward moment with Hyuk as he gets up to leave, but something Chun-hong says makes him pause: “If there is a world other than this one, then I would like to live as a normal woman, not a gisaeng.”
This brings back memories of Mina’s talk of parallel universes, and Hyuk asks Chun-hong to explain the meaning behind her words. She thinks he’s telling her that her wishes are absurd, and it’s doubly sad when we see her switch back into gisaeng mode, even in her tears, to smile and ask him if he’d like a drink.
Minister Kim invites Kyung-tak for a drink, and even pours a glass for him. He wants to reward his son for his hard work, and asks if there’s anything he’d like. Kyung-tak hesitates before making a request about his marriage…
Hyuk comes home to find Young-rae still up and unable to sleep. He thinks back to his conversation with Chun-hong, and tells Young-rae, “I’ve told you this before. Someone I knew in another world said I will live as a completely different person. Perhaps, you and I, in the other world… The fact that we might meet again as different people, have you ever thought about that?” No, Hyuk. People don’t normally sit and ponder existential circumstances like parallel universes, and this comes off as a weird pick-up line anyway.
Looks like we’ve had another cure-all time skip, as the demand for penicillin is high and Ha-eung has just returned from a journey to conveniently calm his body and spirit. He tells Hyuk of a new patient he wants him to see, a high-ranking noblewoman who can only be seen in private. Of course.
Only, once again, it’s like time hasn’t passed for some story threads as Kyung-tak pays Mom and Young-hwi a visit with a grand bow to just now deliver the news that Minister Kim has given him permission to prepare for the marriage – the quicker, the better.
Young-rae’s face falls at the news – she thinks it’s too sudden. Mom clucks that it isn’t sudden, it’s late.
Heo Gwang, Hyuk, and Ha-eung pay a visit to the noblewoman in need of care. Heo Gwang reads her pulse via a string through the door and declares her healthy, but Hyuk is asked to go inside. The noblewoman inside (Jang Young-nam) takes off her neck scarf to reveal a huge boil/growth on her neck.
Outside, Heo Gwang asks whose house this is. Ha-eung: “Knowing is a disease, and not knowing is the medicine.”
Hyuk examines the lump and tells the frightened noblewoman that a simple surgery will take care of it. She wants it gone as soon as possible.
This time, Mom is waiting up for Hyuk when he gets home. She asks him to move out as soon as possible because of Young-rae and Kyung-tak’s impending marriage, and Young-rae rushes outside all, Mo~om!
The clunky editing in this show is killing me. The scenes are cohesive only by virtue of being written in the same script, and otherwise it’s a crapshoot as far as subtlety goes. This episode made that clear more than others, because it was almost there. It was almost something good. There were some good moments, and there was a decent flow, even with all the shoehorned intercutting scenes that would last one or two seconds at best. There are good things happening, but they either aren’t allowed to happen long enough or are sacrificed at the altar of this pseudo-episodic Sickness of the Week format emerging.
It’s a shame really, because Hyuk shines most when he’s at the tail end of his cases, but this is the second time we’re going to have to see him start from square one (emotionally, anyway). The first time skip was already aggravating, but another one? I’m beginning to worry that we’ll get a small time skip after every case, just long enough for Hyuk to have his factory reset, before moving onto the next one – which isn’t abnormal for an episodic format, but it’s like getting the rug pulled out from under me each time I find myself getting invested.
Granted, while we don’t know how much time passed this go-round, it’s just bizarre that the time skip device is so obviously used to get characters over emotional hurdles the show may not feel like it has the time or energy to tackle, like Ha-eung’s grief (or everyone’s grief, for that matter), but then it acts as if the other story threads have just been in a cryogenic sleep in the meantime, which is what’s bothersome. I can understand needing to move things along if you’ve got a lot of ground to cover, but then you can’t just pick and choose which threads to advance. Kyung-tak visiting Young-rae’s house about the wedding should have happened right after his talk with Dad, not after this unknown time skip, which makes it seem like the talk happened only yesterday. We can reason that it took him so much time to convince Dad, but then we’re filling in an awful lot of unnecessary blanks.
It’s also a case where meaningful conflict is introduced only to be dropped two seconds later, like Hyuk worrying over what’s fated to be, and then him worrying over the historical impact his actions could have. It’s like the show has a laundry list of issues it needs to cover and thinks that giving them only a passing mention is good enough, which leaves me wary about emotionally investing in any of the conflict (except for the Love Triangle conflict, which has more or less stayed the predictable course) because it’s hard to tell if that conflict will be sticking around, or whether it’ll be gone when the next patient arrives.