If I could bottle the unicorns and rainbows that power this show, I would. And then I’d be… rich? Powerful? In excess of a lot of whimsy?
An adorable episode filled with cute couply moments, as well as the first major decision our lovebirds make for their futures, both past and present. (And I’m just filling in for an episode; javabeans and HeadsNo2 will be back with your regularly scheduled programming shortly.)
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Hee-jin stirs awake in the middle of the night, and smiles sleepily at Boong-do, who’s standing in the doorway, fully dressed. Wait, you’re not just running off like that, in the middle of the night, are you? ARE YOU?
He does smile at her sweetly, but that does not cancel out a post-sex sneak-out, ya hear me, scholar boy?
Hee-jin wakes up in the morning, still swooning. Aw. Yeah, I’d have that look on my face too. But she quickly discovers that she’s the only one in the bed. She shuffles out in her blanket burrito and grows increasingly annoyed to find that he’s really gone.
But wait, a note! She finds a note on the nightstand by the bed, and recognizes her name written at the top. Only… she can’t read the rest of it. Hahahaha. She gets dressed and sits there, phone in hand, trying to puzzle together the few hanja characters she knows.
I love that it’s like a code-cracking scene, but only for her. After a while, she slams it aside in frustration, “If you’re going to write a note, you should be considerate of the receiver and write it in Hangul!” Right?
She squirms out her frustration, and that’s when she discovers something in her dress pocket… it’s Boong-do’s talisman. Waitaminute, so he’s not gone?
Boong-do’s voice rings out from the yard and she runs out to the balcony. He’s… learning how to ride a bike? Pfft. He tells her that he had to do something, he was so bored waiting for her to wake up.
She tells him she was worried, with the disappearing act and a letter. He looks up, “A letter?” She shows him the note, and he laughs, “That’s your address, so that I wouldn’t forget it. Can you not even read your own address? You’re considerably stupi—”
HA. She cuts him off, “You don’t even know how to ride a bike!” Heh. It’s not even that she’s that dim, but her insistence that she’s very smart that’s always hilarious.
He asks what she wants to eat and offers to go buy breakfast. She figures she has to go anyway, since he has no money, but he takes out another giant wad of bills from his pockets.
He totally re-sold that same sword! Hahaha. This time he knows what he’s doing and gets more money from the shopkeeper. He muses that on the third time, he’ll likely get more. So funny.
I love any scene where he relives the same conversation with someone, like his re-inquisition with Soo-kyung, because he has this awesome smirk of recognition on his face.
He says he was going to get her another car, but she already has one. She quickly squashes that idea, “I can’t drive a car that might disappear on me at any moment.” Aw, when she says stuff like that, it just breaks my heart.
He asks what he should buy, and she starts to tell him, but rethinks it and tells him to wait. She runs inside and writes down a shopping list, grumbling all the while about him insinuating that she’s dumb. She runs the list out to him, and he stares at it blankly. She puffs up proudly, “You wouldn’t be able to read it anyway. It’s in English.” HAHAHA. I love her petty revenge.
He gives the list to the clerk at the store, who asks if a foreigner wrote it, and Boong-do says no, “Just someone whose pride is needlessly strong-willed.”
He gets a good laugh though, when the clerk points out that she spelled “curry” wrong. To her credit, “curry” is phonetically way off in Korean, but she also spells “menu” wrong, which really shouldn’t happen if you’ve eaten at a restaurant, ever.
Meanwhile, Soo-kyung stews over her breakfast, declaring that Hee-jin has three minutes left on the clock to call her before their friendship is over forever. She growls into her phone to ring, right now, right now, right now… and then it rings.
She screams into the phone and Hee-jin asks if everything went okay with Dong-min. Oh! I forgot all about him, locked in there! Hee. In flashback, Soo-kyung frees him from the shower and he fumes.
Soo-kyung asks where she is, gasping, “Did you spend the night with your saseng fan?” Hee-jin corrects her—he’s not some crazy stalker, and besides, Soo-kyung’s the one who said she’d automatically take her side if the man in her dreams turned out to be real.
She leaves Soo-kyung gaping into the phone, “When did I ever say that??” But then she recalls the very conversation where she pleaded with Hee-jin to get her head on straight, promising that very thing. Heh.
Boong-do returns with the groceries and asks if he brought back the right stuff. I love how much he enjoys this. Hee-jin proceeds to make him breakfast, in this awesome showy cooking-show display, of how difficult it is to make instant curry. LOL.
She goes into this long and thorough explanation of the very important steps, such as opening the package along the dotted line, pouring evenly over the rice, covering with saran wrap (not for amateurs), and setting the microwave to exactly three minutes, no more, no less.
He watches it all silently, arms crossed. She presents him with her cooking masterpiece and says that he needn’t thank her, wiping her brow from the effort. He finally lets out a sigh, calling her out for her con.
She feigns offense, “What do you mean, a con?” He says it’s been months since he first came here, and bellows in his Very Important voice, “Where does this woman get off…” She laughs, realizing her cover’s been blown. She sticks out her tongue, and he goes googly-eyed again. Aw.
As they eat, she asks where he went in the middle of the night, remembering him standing in the doorway fully dressed. But he tells her she must’ve dreamt it, and conspicuously changes the subject. Hm.
Dong-min arrives on set still fuming, and throws a fit at the director, insisting that they fusion-up their drama and kill off Queen In-hyun instead. The PD tells him that would make the king a psycho, and Dong-min says he is one anyway.
It’s the same exchange they’ve had before, but this time Dong-min is way more riled up, and understandably so. He throws a massive hissy fit on set.
Boong-do suggests a bike ride to go get coffee, and Hee-jin eyes him warily—didn’t he just learn how to ride that thing? But he tells her that he spent hours learning how to ride it expressly so that he could take her along, and well, how’s a girl to say no to that?
He jokes that if they fall, they’re each to take care of their own bodies, and she calls him an irresponsible driver. He responds by wrapping her arms around his waist and taking off with a huge grin.
WHY SO CUTE?
They ride around and stop for snuggles along the way.
They get stopped at a train crossing and Hee-jin agrees that he really does learn how to do things very quickly, and carefully broaches the subject of jobs he could have if he were to live here, like a teacher or perpetual slacker who lives off the money from selling his swords.
Eeek, I know what she’s doing right now, and I’m so nervous for her—it’s that moment when you start testing the waters in your relationship: Is this guy staying or just passing through? I don’t want her to ask, but I do!
His answer? “Well…” That’s it?! She deflates, and starts to badmouth the Joseon era—you never know when you’ll lose favor in the king’s eyes, and even if you succeed you won’t get to live that long… What’s so great about it anyway?
He gives the same noncommittal, “Perhaps.” She sighs.
And then she remembers that the talisman is in her pocket, and turns his attention to a campfire by the side of the road. “If I just tossed this in there, you’d be stuck here forever.”
She asks if she should, and he doesn’t reply. So she makes a swoosh sound and declares that it’s gone.
He stops in his tracks, the smile fading from his face. He runs over to the fire, “What have you done?”
But of course she hasn’t thrown it in. She waves it in front of his face and sticks her tongue out, and he sighs in relief. But her smiles fades as she realizes… “You were really scared… that you wouldn’t be able to return…” Oof.
She tells him to take the talisman to keep it safe, joking that she’s likely to really burn it, and holds it out to him. He looks at her tenderly, but says nothing to the contrary.
And then he takes it from her hand. Nooo! You can just see that she doesn’t want him to do it, and she holds onto that piece of paper till the last possible moment. But he takes it, and her heart sinks.
Her phone rings with news that she’s due on set after all, since Dong-min’s sudden hospitalization. She calls Soo-kyung, who confirms that Dong-min is in all likelihood faking said illness since he can’t handle being a dumpee, but he threw a fit on set and now they have to clean up the mess.
She tells Boong-do that she has to go, and he argues that Dong-min is clearly faking it (ha) and she brightens a bit at his jealousy.
Meanwhile back in Hanyang, Ja-soo gets a report from one of his spies that Boong-do is away, and he smiles.
Flashback to a plan by Minister Min, who tells Ja-soo to wait until Queen In-hyun is away (visiting her mother), and to make sure that Boong-do does not enter the palace at the same time. He sends a few men to Boong-do’s hometown, and takes the rest to see the queen.
Hee-jin goes to see Dong-min bearing flowers, and he greets her with a water sprayer at the ready. You are so childish. He gets his revenge by spraying her, and she takes the water attack in Boong-do’s place, though she does call him out on his childishness.
He remembers that he was also hit with a pillow, and launches one at her too. Guh. I really want to hit you right now. He grabs her wrist to go lock her in the shower too for good measure, but she pulls away to try and talk things out.
He screams that the evidence of her cheating is clear as day, and then they get interrupted by the arrival of the PD. Dong-min declares that he cannot act like he’s in love with a cheating Queen In-hyun, and tells the director to cut all her scenes.
Thankfully the PD is levelheaded enough to roll with the punches despite his diva star actor, and tells Hee-jin that they’ll have to shoot separately for now. Thank heavens for the marvels of editing, eh?
She calls the pension but the owner tells her that Boong-do left. She wonders if he stepped out or if he’s gone, and then thinks back to the middle of the night—that was no dream, and she’s sure that he went somewhere then too.
Her eyes widen, “What if he has a woman in the Joseon era too, and is going back and forth?” She thinks about his reaction to her taking away the talisman.
“And he acknowledged that he was a player!” Haha. I think he only did that to kiss you, hon. She starts to envision Player Boong-do back in Joseon, each arm around a half-naked gisaeng.
Omg, Imaginary Boong-do is hilariously raunchy. He chases the girls, sticking his head under their skirts, and Hee-jin snaps herself out of it, “No! That isn’t like him. But… who’s to tell, really, what he’s like there?” Ha.
Back in Hanyang, Yoon-wol goes to see the monk at the temple, and he tells her that Boong-do came to see him in the middle of the night. Ah, so that’s where he was sneaking off to.
He had come seeking advice because he couldn’t sleep. Back in the present, the monk tells Yoon-wol that Boong-do’s concerns have grown ever since he came to have the talisman.
“It seemed he wanted to go to a new world.”
Aw, sad for Yoon-wol, but it makes ME happy! (And we all know that’s what’s important.)
Hee-jin drives, still struggling to fight off her nagging fears, when Boong-do finally calls. He’s at their phone booth, after spending the day touring Seoul. Oooh, because you want to live here now? Yes? Yes?
He asks if she’s okay, worried that she might’ve been attacked. She assures him no such thing happened—doesn’t he know who she is? Boong-do: “You’re the most-oft attacked person I know.” Aw.
She arrives at the park, but they continue to talk on the phone while she looks out at him from her car. She asks why he didn’t go with her then, if he was so worried, and he counters that Dong-min would’ve ended up more wounded. Pfft.
She asks what he’s going to do, all big talk with the taking responsibility and zero follow-through. He says there’s nothing to be done, “except relinquishing control and waiting for you to stop being mad at me.”
Such a smooth-talker. She complains that that’s not an answer, and then he tells her to open her glove compartment. She opens it to find his cash stash, just sitting there. I love that people instinctively dart their eyes to check for onlookers whenever they’re presented with that much cash.
She gets out and asks why he’s always trying to act like a chaebol out of some manhwa, but he tells her to use the money… “For me.” *gasp*
“I think I need to stop using payphones, and wearing other people’s clothes…”
Eeeeee! He asks her to get him a house, near hers, and a phone, and some clothes. Will it be enough money? She answers blankly that it’s enough…
Boong-do: I said that I’d take responsibility for you. But it occurred to me that to take responsibility for inserting myself into your life and throwing it into chaos… being your boyfriend for a short while, or buying you an expensive car, or spraying water on that man… isn’t enough. Truly taking responsibility… is being near you at all times. What do you think? That’s the only conclusion I could come to.
She’s walking towards the phone booth the entire time, and looks up at him now, stunned speechless.
He waits nervously in the silence, and then finally feels her gaze and turns to her. He starts to lower the phone when she finally speaks. “It is a very admirable conclusion.”
And then that music cue that I love So. Much. floats in, and he smiles, “Is that so?” She beams, bragging, “I do have a good eye for people.”
They just stand that way, phones to their ears, him in the phone booth and her outside, not wanting to break the moment.
But it suddenly starts to rain (Oh bless the friggin’ rain) and he swoops her inside the booth and closes the door. (Why am I so taken by the fact that he swings the door from the top?)
His arm stays wrapped around her and they look out at the rain, back at each other, and then back out at the rain.
Flashback to Boong-do’s temple visit in the wee hours of the night. The monk asks what’s on his mind, and Boong-do says that he’s been so focused on Queen In-hyun and his own survival that he sort of raced ahead thoughtlessly.
But now that all that is behind him, “This place has become the past to me. Will I be able to continue living here?” We see him visit present-day Seoul, and marvel at how much the world has changed.
He stops at the timeline river, placing his hand over his little piece of history, marking the reinstatement of Queen In-hyun in 1694. He continues to the monk:
Boong-do: I’m afraid to put words to lips, the things that I know will come to pass. And now I must live every day as it is already written. Is that a humane way to live? Can someone who knows fate live a happy life?
We see him go to the bookstore and run his hands over all the Joseon history books—marking his and future kings. And then he stops short at the sight of an Italian travel guide and suddenly he’s taken with pictures of a whole new world.
“Strangely enough, the future has become the present to me. So I have come to question whether the time I should be walking in is in that place.”
Back to Yoon-wol, hearing this told to her by the monk. She gasps wondering how he could actually think to leave. But the monk says that he thinks Boong-do has perhaps made a connection in that world.
(He says specifically, “Found fate” or a connection, and here’s where the fate/connection/Queen In-hyun pun fits so nicely—He’s saying Boong-do found his fate/in-nyun, but it sounds only slightly off from saying that he’s found an In-hyun in that time as well.)
Now back to the monk with Boong-do (we’re doing a lot of skipping for a sequence that wasn’t initially very time-warpy). The monk asks if he can really live in a place where no one will remember him. Will he be happy in solitude?
But Boong-do then flashes back to the moment when Hee-jin came running to the phone booth to find him. “Yes, but if by chance, there were one person who remembered me, then wouldn’t life be a little different?”
Aw, I love it, because it’s the moment when he realizes that even though no one else remembers him (post-rewriting of events), she still does.
The monk tells Yoon-wol that the decision would be difficult for anyone, but he sees that Boong-do’s heart is already in that other world. Yoon-wol’s heart sinks. Listen, if you were already planning to spend your life loving him from afar, what’s a few hundred years’ difference? Just sayin’.
Ja-soo races to report to Minister Min about Boong-do’s magical life-saving talisman that’s useless to them because it only listens to its master. Useful, that. He suggests giving the order to get rid of the talisman and kill Boong-do at once.
But Minister Min raises a hand to stop him. Twisting the words on the talisman, he says, “If it’s true that if you are about to die you live, then it must also be true that when you are about to live, you die.” Damnit.
Ja-soo doesn’t get the poetry, so Minister Min adds with an evil grin that if Boong-do has turned the tables with a talisman, there’s nothing to say that he can’t come to ruin by that same talisman. Evil cackle of glee.
Back in the phone booth. It’s been raining for hours and they haven’t budged. He’s got his arms around her as they flip through the travel book and he shows her the picture of the cathedral in Italy. “The moment I saw it I felt a strange sensation, and now I want to go there.”
She teases that he doesn’t even know English and he wants to go abroad, and he counters that given a month, he’d speak English better than her. So… neither of you knows they speak Italian in Italy?
He tells her they can even make a bet, and asks her again how to spell “curry.” Hee. They tease and laugh and he threads his fingers through hers as they look through the book, stopping to gaze and snuggle. And in voiceover…
Hee-jin: It was an encounter that started by chance. A strange encounter that started by chance, in a rift in time. The end of that chance encounter’s inevitable cause and effect… was coming near.
She’s narrating that last bit from sometime in the future, which is a bit unnerving (things tend to sound sadder in the past tense) but it’s entirely open-ended what that cause-and-effect will turn out to be. What I love about this relationship is that despite the fact that it defies space and time in an epic way, it’s really a very everyday romance in many ways. That moment when she tests the waters to see if he has any intention of sticking around? I just felt every bit of her nervous anticipation in my veins. He did fulfill his promise — to think about how he’d “take responsibility” — but damn if I wasn’t sweating it when he kept silent again and again throughout the episode.
I know Boong-do gets all the love (and rightfully so, swooooon), but I really adore Hee-jin. She’s such a great character. She’s bubbly but not annoyingly so, she’s not book-smart but so quick on the uptake, and she’s so delightfully imaginative. Even smartypants Boong-do can never guess her next move. (Though I suppose her overactive imagination does cause her some grief when she’s imagining Joseon Boong-do. Poor girl. It’s worse than a long-distance relationship times twelve.) And what I like most is that she wears her heart on her sleeve—you just can’t help but love her back.
I love that the question of whether or not to live in the future is a philosophical one for Boong-do. I never expected anything less, but it’s so befitting his character to ask the existential questions rather than just make big declarations for love. It’s not that he’s incapable of leading with his heart, since we’ve seen him act on his feelings on numerous occasions, but this feels more like a solid decision to me. He’s not being rash, but asking himself if this is right, and if a future can even exist for him in a past where he knows the outcome.
There’s this constant visual motif on this show to have our couple in separate spaces, even when they’re together—he’s upstairs in her apartment when she’s downstairs, he’s in the yard while she’s on the balcony, he’s in the phone booth and she’s in the car. I love it because it quietly reinforces their separteness—they are in the same space, and yet still not of the same space. The show has taken pains (in a great way) to show that they are always distant, but always longing for the other, whether it’s a distance of 300 years or two feet.
All the characters in this world speak of time and space as interchangeable things—you walk in a time, as much as you walk in a space. They are naturally bound. Boong-do is defying that natural order by stepping into a space he doesn’t belong to, and now he knows things he has no business knowing. (I knew letting him into that library would be bad news! That’s like giving a heroin addict a free taste!)
Because knowledge isn’t bound by the same rules, he can go to new worlds and learn what happens, and then change the course of history, which we’ve seen. And yet, daily life still progresses in a linear fashion—you still have to live your life somehow, one day after the other. And that’s the crux of Boong-do’s problem. Does he now, knowing the future, continue to live out his days as they are written? It’s a great way to come at the problem and give us reason to root for Boong-do to live in the future (outside of doing so for love, of course), because we want him to live a life with endless possibilities in a world where his future is still unwritten.
So happy to have a time-travel drama actually BE about time travel, and the strange cause-and-effect chain that can alter the course of history, and more importantly, two people’s hearts. And though the hand of Fate will always throw a wrench when it wants to, I love that it’s a decision he makes about his own future with Hee-jin. I just hope he gets to live by his choice. Ya hear me, Fate? *fistshake*
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 11
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 10
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 9
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 8
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 7
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 6
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 5
- Thing vs. Thing: Time-traveling Heroes
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 4
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 3
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 2
- Queen In-hyun’s Man: Episode 1