Hyuk battles cancer with his bloodiest surgery yet, and gets revisited by an old, tiny little friend we haven’t seen for a while in the process. There’s plenty of heartbreak to go with this cancer-curing operation, with some of our characters passing the point of no return while others are just getting warmed up, or shot up, for that matter. The political machinations prove to be the more reliable aspect of the show and get a kick in the pants this episode, and we’re starting to maybe almost sort of possibly get answers to the big questions, but not the one at the top of my list, which is: Will Young-rae ever run out of tears?
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Hyuk and Kyung-tak are on a ticking clock to find Young-rae for emergency cancer surgery, while Kyung-tak tries to absorb the fact that his fiancée was going through with the wedding with her mind made up to die. He grabs Hyuk by the collar and sobs for a hot second before ordering Hyuk to find her.
Now inside the gibang, Young-rae cries as she explains her dream/not-dream of Mina to Chun-hong, claiming that even in the dream she didn’t want to let go of Hyuk’s hand. Even though Young-rae knows he’s from the future Chun-hong has to spell it out again, bringing up the fact that they’re both from different worlds and how their Love Cannot Be. Nothing new.
However, Chun-hong also adds that she tried to ‘protect’ both of them, since “Truth is only valuable to those who can bear it.” I’m still trying to figure out what this big secret is that they’re so intent on keeping from Hyuk, but Chun-hong is absolutely adamant about it and orders Young-rae to pretend she doesn’t know. Pretend she doesn’t know what? That she had a dream where she was Mina? I’m confused.
The moment Young-rae leaves, Chun-hong orders someone to follow her. Curiouser and curiouser.
Hyuk is the only one expending energy to look for Young-rae, since Kyung-tak is too busy giving tearful eyes to the jade ring he was going to give Young-rae for their wedding. Young-rae hides the moment she sees Hyuk looking for her, and Kyung-tak finally orders his men to make a sweep of the city.
However, Young-rae finds a place to hide by visiting the Catholic Priest who held the late-night masses she’d go to, just as Kyung-tak deals with his very angry Daddy intent on finding Young-rae and her mother to turn them into slaves. Dad’s even unhappier to find that she ran away because of a disease, even though Kyung-tak assures him that surgery will cure her, because surgery cures everything.
And sure enough, Minister Kim is not happy about Ha-eung taking over the Royal Family’s genealogy records, especially considering that the Queen Dowager will be adopting his son. Only now does Minister Kim realize that this all points toward loftier goals (aka Myeong-bok becoming King), and resolves to do something about Ha-eung.
Ha-eung gathers all the royal relatives to sign their names in the royal genealogy book, Seon Won Rok. This is significant because he’s gathering power against the Andong Kim clan along with prepping the book that houses the name of the heir to the throne, which he obviously has a stake in with regards to Myeong-bok.
He rallies the rest of the royal relatives against Minister Kim, citing him as the reason Joseon has become rife with corrupt officials and disloyal subjects. He’s confident because he has the backing of the King himself and the Queen Dowager. Ha-eung: “Finally, it is time for the Royal Family and us to gather our power and drive out this corrupt clan.”
Ha-eung is followed out by a shadowy figure, and ducks away only to have a knife held at his throat. Except it’s Young-hwi casually wielding the blade as he tests Ha-eung on what he would have done if he was an assassin sent by Minister Kim. Well, by the looks of it, he’d probably be dead.
They go to the gibang to confer, and Chun-hong makes sure that Joo Pal won’t breathe a word about seeing Young-hwi. Inside, Ha-eung doesn’t seem all that shocked, because he adhered to the rules of dramas: Dead Body, Or It Didn’t Happen.
Young-hwi seems different though, even though he explains that he was saved from the water by a band of thieves. It seems a little suspicious that he’s so changed now, as he tells Ha-eung, “When I fell off the cliff, the Joseon I dreamed of disappeared under the water.” So now he won’t have ideological problems with Ha-eung’s way of doing things like before, and offers up his services.
Even more suspicious is that he is adamant about never letting his mother or Young-rae know he’s alive in order to ‘protect’ them. Hmm. Sounds awfully similar to Chun-hong’s usual spiel.
Later that night, Young-rae pulls a cloth from her bosom to reveal yellowish nipple discharge. Never thought I’d write that sentence.
In Court, King Cheoljong reads a mountain of petitions calling for Minister Kim to be ousted due to his corruption. Most of them are from the Royal Relatives, who have gathered outside the palace gate to formally request Minister Kim’s resignation.
Ha-eung, Joo Pal, and Young-hwi (mostly disguised by a hat) watch the proceedings, with Joo Pal shocked to hear that this protest won’t change anything. Ha-eung equates it to a game of chess, and is simply moving all his pieces into play. He charges Joo Pal with gathering intel on Minister Kim’s bribes, and Young-hwi suggests that they get their own spy. Is everyone thinking Chun-hong?
Young-hwi spots Kyung-tak heading his way, but isn’t recognized because of his lucky hat, while Ha-eung tracks down Kim Byung-ok, who’s happy to declare that Ha-eung can’t blackmail him anymore. That may be true, but Ha-eung plants a seed of doubt in his mind by asking how long he expects Minister Kim to stay in power. If he’s smart, he’ll change allegiances.
Hyuk goes to Chun-hong in order to level her with his most disapproving look, and she rightly surmises that he blames her for Young-rae’s disappearance. He tries pressing the fact that It’s! Cancer! to which Chun-hong replies, “What if that is her fate?”
She clarifies, and asks him if he’s going to save someone who’s not meant to be saved, again, and even presses upon him that saving Young-rae might damn another person to die. Hyuk isn’t having it so she latches onto his arm, tears springing to her eyes as she asks, “How can you not understand the significance of what I am doing? Do you truly still not know my heart?”
So now her earlier words to Young-rae about loving someone in secret make more sense, as she tells him that everything she’s doing is for him and that the time for him to return to his world isn’t far away. He won’t be swayed from finding Young-rae and performing surgery, fate or returning home be damned. Okay Hyuk, you have fun doing what you want even if it costs others. If you don’t care about going back, I guess we don’t have to either, right?
Young-rae’s maidservant tells Hyuk about the church Young-rae used to go to, just as Kyung-tak’s men rip the place apart looking for her. She hides away with the priest, but wouldn’t you know it, a young boy from the family sheltering them gets hit on the head by one of the officers and needs a doctor.
There’s no way to get a doctor, but it’s okay, because Young-rae remembers what Hyuk taught her about disinfecting and stitching wounds, and stitches the boy’s forehead up. Hyuk arrives in time to commend her on a job well done, much to her surprise.
She tries to turn him away, claiming that dying could be her fate. He fires back that her meeting him, a doctor, could also be fate, and seems really fed up with everyone telling him that he has to go back. He vows to save her first. So… is Hyuk going to cure cancer now?
And they’re watched over by Chun-hong’s spy, who probably couldn’t be any more conspicuous. She’s lucky our leads aren’t quick on the uptake. The spy reports back to Chun-hong who’s more than upset to hear that he’s found Young-rae.
Meanwhile, the protest continues outside the palace and the Council of Evil convenes to decide what’s to be done about it. Minister Kim decides to send soldiers to break the protest, news which shocks Ha-eung. However, Young-hwi has a plan, one that seems to revolve around Joo Pal’s involvement.
Kyung-tak leads the group of soldiers to threaten the protesters to disband or be beaten, though the serious tone is interrupted once Joo Pal arrives on scene with his minions dressed as the finest noblemen. He claims he’s from the Andong Kim clan and baits the protesters, resulting in a fight between the two groups. Kyung-tak just looks blitzed, like he has no idea what’s going on.
It’s time to play the blame game with the ministers on who gave the order to send soldiers when the protest would have broken up on its own. Doctor Yoo brings some bad news by saying that all the royal relatives are on their way to the palace, along with a group of scholars, ready to protest. Minister Kim is called in to see the King right after.
Hundreds of people have now gathered to call for Minister Kim’s resignation, and the Queen Dowager points out that it would be easier to remove one person than try to arrest hundreds, like Minister Kim would ideally want. Cheoljong is all, How could I do such a thing? Now if he were to resign… and effectively puts the ball in Minister Kim’s court.
Minister Kim decides to take his anger out on Kyung-tak, and seems ready to cut his own son down in his rage at Ha-eung if not for Doctor Yoo and Kim Byung-ok holding him back. There’s not much they can do with several hundred protesters waiting, so he orders his son to mobilize private soldiers to guard their house.
Things get awkward as Hyuk and Heo Gwang prepare for Young-rae’s surgery, since Heo Gwang leaves to give her privacy to undress. She asks Hyuk if he’ll regret this surgery, and he tells her he’ll only regret it if he can’t save her life.
She almost tells him about her Mina Dream, but remembers Chun-hong’s warning and shuts her mouth, but makes sure to leave the tear gates open. Both of them get to brood separately while Young-rae undresses and cries, and Hyuk thinks back to Chun-hong’s words about him saving someone meant to die.
Speaking of, Chun-hong seeks Kyung-tak out to tell him where Young-rae is so he can put a stop to the surgery. Again with the Love That Cannot Be/They Can Never Be Together? I like you, Chun-hong, but it’s time to shit or get off the chamber pot. Fifteen episodes is long enough for you tell us why not already.
Everyone snaps their gloves on in the surgery room, and Hyuk is reminded of the time he’d operated on Mina. Aah, so this is Redemption Surgery. Just as he’s flashing back to Mina’s accident Young-rae seems to be experiencing the same memory because she’s been inadequately anesthetized, which is everyone’s worst nightmare going into surgery. And we’re supposed to have faith that he can cure cancer?
While he goes to get more, Young-rae whispers the same words Mina did before she fell unconscious: “Again… we will meet again.” Oh dear.
Kyung-tak arrives just in time for Hyuk to very calmly inform him that his fiancée is already under for life-saving surgery. Phew, that’s a mouthful. Hyuk is certain it’s breast cancer and that he can cure her if it hasn’t spread, and Kyung-tak begs him to save her. Hyuk: “I’m going to save her. This time, I’m going to save her for sure.”
Heo Gwang heard what she said, but is unable to relate anything more than the word “again” to Hyuk because he forgot the rest. They begin the surgery.
Hyuk makes curing cancer look easy, as he removes the tumor and surrounding tissue from Young-rae’s breast. Things are looking good until he gets a weird memory flash like he did during the first episode, with the same disembodied voice saying, “I must go back.” Then an image flashes of the Jar Fetus. Is it finally back? Does it not like Hyuk removing tumors?
He clutches his head and tries to continue with the surgery, but the flashes of Jar Fetus render him unable to do anything but hold his head in pain. Cut to Young-rae, with blood literally squirting out of her chest. I know, I know, it’s a serious moment. Except that it isn’t.
This isn’t the first time Jar Fetus has ruined a surgery, since we’re reminded of the time Hyuk’s inattention caused Mina to start bleeding out. There is blood everywhere, squirting on Heo Gwang and the rest of the room while Hyuk grapples with his headache.
Okay, now this is a circus. Young-rae’s squirting blood everywhere, Heo Gwang’s trying to stop it and just gets blood squirted on him in the process, and Hyuk is practically seizing with his headache while trying to dig forceps into her chest at the same time, only his hand won’t stop shaking. Chun-hong’s words asking him if he’s going to save someone destined to die come back in a bad way, and he tries to get Heo Gwang to hold his hand steady to try and stop Young-rae’s bleeding, because that’s just a great idea when you’re shaking like a blood-covered leaf.
Luckily Heo Gwang calls him out and says that he can do it, because they just don’t have time! Except for all the time Heo Gwang spends convincing Hyuk to let him take over. Then he just starts stabbing into Young-rae’s chest with the forceps until he finds the artery and cinches it to prevent more bleeding.
Meanwhile, Joo Pal has come through and produces a signed list of bribes Minister Kim has received, which is enough evidence to get him executed. Ha-eung readies to use it to bring Minister Kim to justice.
But Minister Kim, who seems to be suffering a headache in the exact spot where Hyuk once chiseled a hole in his skull, has other plans. Doctor Yoo makes the suggestion to bring Ha-eung down using Hyuk, and that they’ll use Young-rae against Hyuk to do it. “Sometimes they say that affection is scarier than a sword,” Doctor Yoo cackles.
Young-rae wakes up, to Hyuk’s relief. He explains that Mina couldn’t be saved (he never saw her wake up), and that he wouldn’t know what to do if Young-rae hadn’t opened her eyes. Young-rae tries to comfort him while holding back that she experienced life as Mina for a while, and assures him that it wasn’t his fault – Mina wouldn’t want him to blame himself.
Hyuk: “You said there must be a reason why I came here. I had this thought throughout the surgery: Why did I come here? Why here out of all places? Why meet someone that resembles her? Perhaps… instead of saving that person, I was made to come here to save you.”
Sure, why not.
Hyuk goes to inform Mom of the good news, only to see Mom being dragged away on Minister Kim’s orders for being a traitor’s mother, which sends Hyuk running to Ha-eung. He begs for his help because Minister Kim has ordered Young-rae and her mother to become slaves, and Young-hwi secretly overhears everything.
Kyung-tak is relieved to see Young-rae up and about, claiming that all is forgiven now that she’s well. He claims Dad’ll understand if they go get married right now, but Young-rae doesn’t seem keen on the idea. She can’t go through with the wedding, and Kyung-tak lashes out, “I’m not asking for your love. Nothing will change. The wedding will proceed as planned.”
He has her dragged out after him, though she appeals to his humanity and reminds him that he knows there’s someone else in his heart. Well, he may know, but he doesn’t care, and yells at her that she can do as she likes. Hyuk arrives to stop him, and Kyung-tak draws his sword against him.
Young-rae immediately jumps between him and Hyuk, asking through tears for Kyung-tak to kill her instead since she’s the one who’s sinned. Kyung-tak looks about as dangerously broken-hearted as one can get and claims that he’ll grant her wish, only for Hyuk to grab the business end of his sword with his bare hand to stop him.
Hyuk tells him that he has to save her no matter what, and “If you want to kill her, go ahead. I will just save her again. Because she is the reason I’m here. And because… you were the one that wanted her to be saved.” I guess that’s kind of romantic if it made any sense, but Hyuk’s probably confident in his ability to raise the dead because he hasn’t met a problem he couldn’t cure through surgery.
Kyung-tak has this heart-wrenching moment where he laughs and cries all at once, because how else do you react to this kind of absurdity? “Crazy… You two and me, all. We are all crazy,” he says, and you can believe it looking at him. Are we actually watching his sanity give way? This is kind of cool.
He levels her his best brokenhearted, edge-of-sanity stare. “I have been waiting for you. I thought you would come to me. This worthless waiting… Let’s end this. Forever.” He walks away like a zombie, and why is Hyuk crying too? Did I miss the part where this became your moment?
Ha-eung knows that in order to save Young-rae and her mother, he’ll have to let Minister Kim off the hook. Young-hwi knows what this means to Ha-eung and has a nice moment where he kneels in front of him, offering his life if Ha-eung will save his family. Aww. Who can say no to that face?
Not Ha-eung, since he goes to Minister Kim, who was clearly expecting this to happen. Ha-eung shows him the paper listing his bribes, claiming that it would strip him of his position by tomorrow if he were to show anyone. It’s nice to have these two face to face, because they’re pretty well-matched.
However, Ha-eung says that he’ll tell the protesting Royal Relatives to go home, protect Minister Kim’s position, and even rescind the order for Dae-gyun’s exile (noooooooooooo). In return, Minister Kim pledges to free Young-rae’s mom and have it known that she can’t ever be turned into a slave in the future.
I like that Ha-eung doesn’t even flinch, and burns the paper right in front of Minister Kim. Well, I like it as a character moment, but not for what it means. Hopefully he has another card up his sleeve.
On a deserted street, Kyung-tak angrily throws away the jade ring he was to give to Young-rae and sinks to the ground. Instead of crying he gets a strange gleam in his eye, the kind of look that normally happens before he kills someone. Eek.
Meanwhile, Doctor Yoo and Minister Kim celebrate, even though it’s short lived. Minister Kim knows it’s not over, and won’t be satisfied with only this deal, and wants Ha-eung brought low for the humiliation he suffered.
Hyuk brings Young-rae home where Mom is waiting, and she already knows about Young-hwi’s death. She’s even proud of him because she always thought he was weak, and hugs Young-rae as they both cry. Young-hwi passes by the house unnoticed, and holds back his tears.
Kyung-tak finds himself barred from entering his own house and stripped of his position by his father, and uses his gun to forcibly gain entry. Minister Kim cooly tends to his plants while he orders that they be left alone, and Kyung-tak drops to his knees, crying.
Dad explains it in simple terms that he’d placed Kyung-tak on too high a pedestal and expected too much, only to be dishonored by Kyung-tak’s marriage debacle. It seems like this is all a ploy to get Kyung-tak to agree to do anything, since Kyung-tak refuses to leave and asks only to be told what he can do to regain Daddy’s favor.
And that something is assassinating Ha-eung, only Kyung-tak loses the opportunity when Hyuk arrives on scene, asking Ha-eung how he convinced Minister Kim. Ha-eung does have another card up his sleeve, though we don’t know what it is.
Kyung-tak levels the gun at them and shoots Ha-eung in the chest. Hyuk catches him as he falls, and Chun-hong’s words come back to haunt him: “Are you saving a person meant to die? Because of that, a person who should live can die.”
…This BETTER be a job for Dr. Jin. Or else.
Most of the time, this episode included, I find myself fighting the urge to hit Hyuk with a blunt object, just so I can watch him operate on himself using a complicated set of mirrors, no anesthetic included. I’m not talking serious damage – just a good thwack or two, because he has this amazing talent of getting on my last good nerve. Here is someone who not only digests someone’s advice but thinks it over in very loud voiceovers fifty times per episode, and then doesn’t follow it. He just doesn’t. Doesn’t even try. It’s not in his programming. Who knows, maybe he’s incapable of it.
It’s not even the first time he’s heard it, since he should still be operating under the belief that Young-hwi is dead. And while you can’t ask him to not save his girlfriend’s doppelgänger, it just kind of blows my mind that Hyuk runs around with this god complex and is honest-to-goodness shocked every time it backfires on him. It’s not like he forgets that there are consequences, because he’ll have a voiceover reminding him every five minutes that there will be huge consequences – unless he really is just a pretty, medicinally talented goldfish. He’s been this way all along and I shouldn’t expect change anymore, but Ha-eung was the last straw. Dead to me.
Speaking of the dead, R.I.P., Kyung-tak’s Soul. I’m pretty sure he tossed it along with that ring. His trajectory’s been pretty even so no surprise there that he’s gone for the angst-filled Daddy’s Boy role, since he has no one left to love him and knows no other way to earn love. Life gave him lemons and he decided to shoot them, so even if Ha-eung lives (which he probably will unless this show really wants to flip history the bird), that was a pretty calculated, premeditated murder attempt. Now he’ll have to subsist on his own as a character without falling back on unrequited love or wedding planning, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the show takes him into full-on villain territory or not.
I don’t know a whole lot about cancer, so maybe my preconceived notions that cancer is an uphill battle for those who have it is coloring the serious side-eye I’m giving for how cancer seemed kind of trivialized here, the pains of surgery notwithstanding. I wonder if the cancer issue is going to even be brought up again, judging by the way everyone forgot about it after the operation. I know Hyuk has the magical ability to cure people with only one surgery, but really?
We’ve yet to find out what the big secret is between Young-rae, Mina, and Chun-hong, though the show continues to stress to us that it’s Very. Important. Chun-hong is one of my favorite characters so I wasn’t all that pleased that she’s been relegated to parroting the same lines over and over again, as well as skirting the line between her cool self and meddling second lead territory. If they want us to back her on her goal of keeping these two star-crossed lovers apart, they need to tell us why first. It’s been fifteen episodes, Dr. Jin. Throw me a bone here.