Our good doctor runs into some trouble as he’s more or less forced into Ha-eung’s political machinations, with his clinic and reputation as a doctor becoming collateral damage in the struggle between officials, obscenely terrible royal physicians, and secret spies. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Dr. Jin, it’s that conveniently-timed surgeries change minds and the course of politics all day, every day. What did Joseon ever do without Hyuk?
EPISODE 9 RECAP
In the time we’ve been away, Hyuk has explained everything to Young-rae – you know, about him being from the future. She’s not surprised, and asks if the girl named ‘Mina’, who resembles her, is the reason he wanted to go back.
That’s an affirmative, only it’s sort of funny when she asks Hyuk if he had a method for his grand return to the future and he’s honestly all, I didn’t think that far ahead. But he didn’t want to harm her or anyone else, which puts tears in Young-rae’s eyes – has he forgotten how many lives he’s saved?
She explains how her burn put her in the people’s shoes so she now understands their pain, which would be fine if she weren’t already displaying understanding for the people’s suffering already. It’s the same epiphany that happened to Hyuk when he contracted cholera, but since he also had a track record of care and understanding beforehand, it made his epiphany moot. This one, too, doesn’t seem to be any huge revelation.
She ends it with, “This world needs you, Doctor Jin. So please… don’t go.” Young-rae, we haven’t seen that jar fetus since episode one; he’s not going anywhere.
Ha-eung gets his meeting with the Queen Dowager, a tough old broad who’s keen on Ha-eung’s aims and pre-empts him by claiming she has no power to help him. However, her ailing health is something that Doctor Yoo has been unable to alleviate, so she asks Ha-eung to bring the great Doctor Jin with him next time.
News of the meeting reaches Minister Kim and Dae-gyun, though Daddy seems unaware that his son planned an assassination attempt against Hyuk and Ha-eung. They’re worried that the discussion veered toward the heir of the king, since Cheoljong had no sons, and want to make sure Ha-eung has no part of the process.
Doctor Yoo finds Dae-gyun outside and scolds him over the failed assassination. If I had an ounce of pity for Dae-gyun I’d feel bad that he literally doesn’t have a brain and gets pushed around all the time… but I don’t.
Hyuk thinks back to Young-rae’s plea for him not to leave as he finds Heo Gwang in the midst of rebuilding the burned-down penicillin laboratory, while Young-rae thinks back to his future-talk and looks at her wedding silks with a mixture of sadness and resolve.
So she picks the saddest place ever to break up with Kyung-tak – the boulder where he’d engraved her name every day for years. When she first brings it up he thinks it’s just cold feet, which, aww. Breakin’ my heart, Kyung-tak. Breakin’ my heart.
He demands to know the reason – is it because she can’t forgive his family for ruining hers? (Sounds like a pretty decent reason, though.) Young-rae: “It’s not like that.” Then is it because she doesn’t want to marry the son of a concubine? Nope, not that either. Kyung-tak: “If it is not that… is it because of Doctor Jin?” No again, but we know better.
She reasons that her heart simply doesn’t go in his direction, and that she doesn’t have enough confidence in her ability to be happy to marry him. Kyung-tak looks at her tearfully and says, “It would have been better if you just said you hated me because I’m a concubine’s son. Then, I could have hated you.”
Young-rae sinks to her knees, tears of remorse falling down her face: “I’ve committed a sin worthy of death.” Kyung-tak: “You killed me first. That tongue, with those words…” And then he uses his sword to cut through her name in the stone before he stumbles away, heart broken.
Kyung-tak’s hand bleeds as he clutches a broken cup in the gibang, and he only bleeds more as he holds the ceramic shards tighter, unable to feel the pain. He’s literally brokenhearted (and cries for about three seconds) to hear from Chun-hong that love is what keeps a woman to a man’s side when wealth and power have left him, wondering if the twenty years he’s watched over Young-rae amount to nothing without her love.
So then he asks her, “If I sleep with you tonight, will it make you love me?” (Really, Kyung-tak?) And she has to sit him down and explain that giving one’s body does not equal giving one’s heart. Kyung-tak: “How stubborn and cold a woman’s heart is.” Aww, I kind of feel bad for him, because he seriously doesn’t seem to have mentally progressed past the age of twelve in matters of the heart.
He then takes out his frustration by becoming a blur who practices martial arts, while Mom grows hysterical as Young-rae breaks the broken engagement news to her. Young-hwi tries his best to be the man of the house, but just ends up being passive as Mom orders Young-rae out.
Hyuk is hesitant about going to treat the Queen Dowager, especially because he senses that Ha-eung’s got a political stake in the matter. Ha-eung tells Hyuk that his business is now Hyuk’s business, especially since it was the Andong Kim clan that tried to get them killed. They need power to go against power, and Ha-eung claims that the Queen Dowager is the only one who can keep the Andong Kim clan in check, so they need her on their side.
Still, Hyuk isn’t going for it, and wants to just stick to being a doctor. Let’s see how long that lasts.
They’re interrupted when Heo Gwang announces a guest, and Hyuk finds Young-rae standing outside, bags in hand. They find a dusty shed for her to stay in, though Hyuk urges her to return and go through with the marriage. Young-rae: “I don’t want to. I don’t want to be a normal Joseon girl… I want to be a doctor. I want to live my life helping those who are sick, and making them feel better. Please help me do that.”
She adds the caveat: If Hwalinseo won’t take her in, then she’ll find a clinic that will. She’s chosen her path.
Meanwhile, Kyung-tak meets with Dad and tells him he’s decided to call off the wedding, under the excuse that him marrying a Soron could bring harm to his father, and he doesn’t want to do that. Minister Kim chides him only a little, but is otherwise fine.
Kyung-tak does as he told his father, and throws himself into his work. He watches a man get arrested on grounds of being a member of Anonymous, a sight which Hyuk watches disapprovingly(?) before telling him that Young-rae is staying at the clinic, in case Kyung-tak was worried. Kyung-tak makes it seem like he couldn’t care less, but Hyuk wins brownie points for trying.
Is that a stethoscope made of bamboo? That’s a stethoscope made of bamboo. I don’t know whether to be impressed or not… does it work? Apparently so, since Hyuk demonstrates it to Young-rae, so she gets to literally listen to his heart. She wonders at the marvels of modern medicine – everyone must be healthy in the future, right?
Hyuk flashes back to Mina’s surgery, and tells Young-rae medical skills can’t save everyone, even in the future. Young-rae reads his mind and asks what kind of person Mina was, and gets awkward silence in return.
There’s a commotion outside Hwalinseo of people accusing Hyuk of peddling poison – the supposed ‘penicillin’ he prescribed has been killing their family members who’ve taken it. Kyung-tak arrives on scene and arrests Hyuk and the other doctors, instantly (and suspiciously) believing the enraged citizens.
Young-rae tries to convince Kyung-tak that it must be a setup, but then wonders if this is happening because of her. Kyung-tak is dismissive, and warns her against embarrassing him with such talk in the future.
Hyuk and Co. are brought to the bureau, where Doctor Yoo, Dae-gyun, and that Very Loud Minister preside. Ah, Doctor Yoo’s involvement explains everything. The doctors proclaim their innocence while the same enraged citizens from earlier are brought forward as witnesses against them, and though Hyuk and Heo Gwang have never even seen them before, fellow Doctor Ik-joo claims he has. Well, now we know who our Hwalinseo fire-setter is.
For the crime of making poison and calling it medicine, all the doctors are sentenced to receive ten blows apiece, and Doctor Yoo makes sure that shutting down Hwalinseo is also one of the punishments.
Hyuk’s last words before his turn on the cross are “This is a setup”, and he lasts about five blows before losing consciousness. Young-rae watches nearby.
Ha-eung laments his luck over some drinks with the usually-enigmatic Young-hwi, who doesn’t seem too troubled that they might not receive the Queen Dowager’s helping hand – he’ll use the sword to solve their problems. Ha-eung has a laugh at this, basically calling Young-hwi out on being a flower boy who speaks like he’s a toughened warrior.
Speaking of, though, Ha-eung wants to know how Young-hwi knew assassins were coming for him that night: “You must have quite useful spies.” Chun-hong lets herself into the room only to stay even when Ha-eung dismisses her… and then it dawns on him. “Perhaps… Anonymous’ spy was…?” He looks at her in disbelief, as she smiles cooly and introduces herself truly for the first time. Ooh, I like this development.
Young-hwi leaves them to hash it out, and notices Joo Pal making a suspicious delivery in the gibang. Inside, Ha-eung wonders at the path Chun-hong has chosen, since helping Anonymous puts her life at risk. So why? “Have you forgotten?” she asks him, and he stares off into the distance…
Flashback to a very young Chun-hong refusing to play the gayageum even as other young gisaeng-in-training are doing so around her, resulting in punishment. Young Ha-eung is the same as his older self, a drunken regular, and happens upon her hiding in the pantry, half-amused as he surmises that the gayageum is why she’s hiding out.
“What’s the point of learning the gayageum?” Chun-hong Lite replies. “I’m not going to become a gisaeng.” The two end up having a frank conversation about life outside the gibang not being much better than life inside, with Ha-eung giving her advice to just grit her teeth, deal with the hand she’s been given, and become Joseon’s best gisaeng, so that she’d have the world at her fingertips.
And in the present, she pretty much points at herself as if to say, See? I did it. She’s made up her mind to become a woman who moves Joseon, and has fixed her ambition on Ha-eung to become the most powerful in Joseon, and promises to help him get there.
But first, they’ll need the Queen Dowager’s backing, and they’ll need Hyuk… which is, of course, right when they hear the news that Hwalinseo has been shut down.
Hyuk finds the clinic in shambles, and goes straight to Minister Kim to plead for his intervention to reopen it. No dice. Once outside. Kyung-tak warns him against bothering his father again – next time, he won’t just get flogged, he’ll be beheaded.
He limps back to Hwalinseo, still feeling the blows, only to find Ha-eung waiting for him. Now Hyuk has to get involved with the Queen Dowager, she’s the only one who can save his clinic now.
They make it to the palace gates, only to be firmly denied – the order has just come in that no royal relatives may enter. Ha-eung knows that this is Minister Kim’s doing, and the game is on.
Young-hwi spies Young-rae loitering around their home, but she runs off before they can speak. Ha-eung tries to bargain his way into the palace with the Queen Dowager’s Nephew-in-law, but even he can’t help with so many alert eyes and ears in the palace.
However, Ha-eung finds a loophole in the rule. No royal relatives can enter, but who’s to say a doctor can’t? Hyuk blanches, all, You want me to go in there… by myself?
And into the palace he goes, with Nephew-in-law’s help, and luckily Hyuk is a walking historical Wiki – he tells us some necessary facts about the Grand Royal Queen Dowager Sinjeong of the Pungyang Jo clan, the only clan with enough power to rival the Andong Kim clan at the time, and how she brought about the collapse of the Andong Kim clan’s stronghold over the court along with Ha-eung. So he knows how this all plays out.
He gains an audience with her along with Nephew-in-law, though it’s not long before Doctor Yoo is on the scene – she’s called him in because his story, and her Nephew-in-law’s story, are contradictory on whether Hyuk is a reputable doctor.
They both get to plead their case, and though it looks like her favor is turning toward Hyuk when she reminds Doctor Yoo that he’d proclaimed her niece’s neck lump hopeless, in the end she sides with Doctor Yoo and the police verdict. Dismissed.
But wouldn’t you know it, one of the performers the Queen Dowager favored has suddenly come down with debilitating abdominal pain right outside her doors. Doctor Yoo does his usual trick of curing nothing, immediately dismissing the man’s agonizing screams as due to indigestion. Dude, seriously. Have you done anything useful as a person? Ever?
Hyuk taps on the man’s stomach and comes up with another, much more grim diagnosis – a perforated gastric ulcer, which will result in death without surgery. The mention of the last bit has the Queen Dowager’s eyes wide in shock.
A messenger heads to Hwalinseo to order Heo Gwang to bring surgical supplies to the palace… are they joking? As is the usual, one can never quite tell, and we next find Hyuk, Heo Gwang, and Young-rae preparing the performer for surgery.
Doctor Yoo tries to dissuade the Queen Dowager from allowing the surgery (there are strict rules regarding death within the palace walls), and it’s worth noting that while they talk all you can hear is the performer choking in the background from getting a rubber tube shoved down his nose and into his stomach.
It’s kind of funny, I’ve had the same condition as this man and that nose-tube thing is no cakewalk, but hearing him choke through a scene he’s not being shown in is hilarious. I’m actually interested to see Hyuk perform a MacGyver procedure of something I’ve experienced firsthand.
And this surgery carries extra importance, because not only is the future of Hwalinseo depending on Hyuk’s ability to save this man’s life, so is his own – if he fails, he’ll be charged with killing people using witchcraft. Needless to say, I’m sure Doctor Yoo hopes that the performer will die.
Hyuk performs the surgery, finds the ulcer, sutures it up, and then sutures the man’s stomach back together. It’s a success, and the Queen Dowager immediately calls for Ha-eung to enter the palace, despite Doctor Yoo’s protests. Heo Gwang nods to Hyuk like, We did it!
Ha-eung gets his audience with the Queen Dowager, who praises him for his recommendation of Hyuk – without him, she would have lost her favorite performer. Doctor Yoo sputters a rebuttal, bringing up the police bureau’s ruling, and she hilariously cuts him off: “Are you the captain of the police bureau? Why are you bringing up the police bureau at the end of every sentence?” Ha! I like her.
So she passes down the order to reopen Hwalinseo, but Ha-eung has one more thing to add – he’d like to plan a grand banquet for her upcoming birthday to show the glory of the royal family to the world and to celebrate her health. Doctor Yoo fumes impotently.
Hwalinseo is in a state of celebration, and Hyuk thanks Ha-eung for his help. He’s more inclined to thank Hyuk for persuading the Queen Dowager, and now looks forward to the banquet to gain even more of her trust.
Hyuk stops Ha-eung as he’s leaving, and hesitates before saying, “From now on, everything will go well with you. Just like now, please don’t forget about your heart concerning the people of Joseon.” Eek, Hyuk, you can’t go from not wanting to mess with history to messing with history by telling him it’s smooth sailing from here!
The Council of Evil meet to worry over this planned banquet, and laugh over the fact that Ha-eung said he’d foot the bill for the whole thing when he can’t even pay for his next meal.
Looks like Joo Pal has successfully opened a gambling den in the gibang, which is overseen by Ha-eung and Chun-hong. They’re making a hefty profit, and are in the middle of checking the account books when Young-hwi makes a forceful entrance with a bone to pick with Ha-eung – the money he’s planning to use for the banquet could be used to feed thousands of starving people, yet he’s using it to buy the favor of one old woman?
Young-hwi asks if this is all Ha-eung’s Joseon amounts to, which puts the two at an ideological stalemate. Is everyone in the room now aware Young-hwi is the leader of Anonymous?
Young-rae’s maidservant comes running to Hwalinseo in tears, and is barely able to eke out that her mother has collapsed, and it seems pretty serious.
Back with Ha-eung, he has fire in his eyes as he replies to Young-hwi: “The Joseon that I am dreaming of is only this? Is that what you asked? Even if we have money, if there is no power, it is a house built upon sand. If we have power, but no money, it is like being a toothless tiger. I will obtain both.”
Young-hwi asks what he’ll do after he’s obtained both power and money.
Ha-eung: “Myeong-bok. I will make my son, Myeong-bok, into the king.”
Nothing puts tension in a room quite like announcing a plan to make your son king, huh? I think the political ascendancy aspect is what’s saving this show, but it also puts Hyuk in a bit of a dilemma character-wise, and brings back that whole existential crisis about what effect he’s having on history, whether anything he does matters, etc.
There’s a line Young-rae has at the beginning of the episode where she says, “Maybe you came here to save the people that are meant to be saved.” I’m having issue with this show’s stance on what’s fated to be, because each time we get hints at the fact that this all might be some grand master plan and everything is preordained, it begs the question as to why Hyuk’s actions are necessary, especially when he’s helping Ha-eung achieve something he knows and we know already gets achieved on its own.
Plus, her theory contradicts Hyuk’s fleeting theory that maybe him saving people doesn’t actually save them from their fate, and that they’ll die anyway if they’re meant to, like the mother from the sick village who took a horse hoof to the head. I suppose this could be an overarching issue the show plans to address, and that both theories are valid, but I can’t quite understand the mechanics of saving those who are “meant” to be saved. If they were meant to be saved, then is Hyuk needed at all? Or did Fate set them aside in a preordained order so that, like the performer with the ulcer, everyone who’s meant to fall ill falls ill within feet of Hyuk’s general vicinity, and usually at a pivotal point in someone else’s decision-making?
I’m not the biggest fan of the idea that everything goes according to a master plan in dramas, because that tends to clear characters of responsibility and consequence. I am a fan of characters who may realize this truth and try to fight the inevitable, because trying counts for something and at least allows a character to assume a measure of control over their own lives. Other than Hyuk announcing that he wants to save people he’s a very reactive character, just meandering his way through life looking for the next person to fall over. I can’t get a strong grip on his sense of purpose, because each time he makes a decision he’ll just contradict it, like his idea not to get involved in politics that lasted all of three seconds. If we’re moving the scope of the show over to the political maneuvering, Hyuk’s future role in the grand scheme of things seems all the more uncertain.
Young-rae, too, has seemingly made a monumental decision in choosing to become a doctor, and she unfortunately became less relevant the second she did. This is probably due to a writing flaw, because she’s been the same since moment one – never once have I doubted she’s a personality-clone of Mina, with an inclination toward progressiveness that is beyond her generation. So it seemed like absolutely nothing had changed when she made her announcement that she suddenly understood what people in pain were going through, because she’s acting no different than she did before. If core beliefs have changed, it certainly isn’t showing.
Hyuk too, for that matter, keeps making “decisions” that don’t make a blip on his behavioral radar screen. He had one scene in episode one where he was dismissive toward a patient, but since then has shown no inclination that he’s anything but a flawless, kind-hearted doctor who only wants to do good. Which is all fine and well, but where do we go from here?