Ooh, a strong episode with a lot of payoffs, and several big revelations. Yay to truths being blown open wide, because this changes the trajectory of our relationships, and I’m curious to see where we head from here. I found myself cheering on pretty much our whole cast of characters, to do the right thing or gain the upper hand or just even stop kidding themselves, and by the hour’s end I was pretty much awash in gratification. Now, the wait for next week begins. Blerg!
SONG OF THE DAY
Papercut Project – “사랑이 다시” (Love again) [ Download ]
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Just as Soo-in reaches over to touch Yoon-kang’s hair as he sleeps, he opens his eyes and takes hold of her wrist. When he asks if she still believes him to be Yoon-kang, she stammers an excuse about just thinking he looked sad, and hurries away trying to calm her racing heart. I love that he confronts her directly about the touch rather than pretending it didn’t happen, but sigh! I just want the reunion already.
Sohn Taek-soo’s last words named a particular nobleman, Lord Jung, as the one who’d orchestrated the frame job on Park Jin-han, so that’s our next lead. Yoon-kang waits outside his home as Lord Jung heads out, then intercepts the entourage in the road, charging at them on horseback.
He fires his gun at the ground to scatter the guards, then snares Lord Jung with a rope, dragging him along the road (ouch). He takes him to an isolated shed to interrogate at gunpoint, demanding to know who was giving him orders. He warns that Lord Jung will die at “their” hands if he doesn’t die at Yoon-kang’s, so he may as well talk.
Not an unfounded supposition, given how cold-blooded Lord Kim has been with his underlings. He receives word of Lord Jung’s kidnapping, as well as a message from the kidnapper.
Yoon-kang already suspects Lord Kim as being the mastermind, and Lord Jung confirms that he’s the head of their Suhogye society and ordered the hit on Park Jin-han. But he doesn’t have any information on the identity of the hired gunman; only Lord Kim knows that.
Yoon-kang’s message to Lord Kim orders him to send forth the gunman who killed Park Jin-han. Lord Kim has no problem with that, and he orders Choi Won-shin to kill the guy and rescue Lord Jung while he’s at it. He reminds Choi that this is his last chance, and that he’d better not fail.
Yoon-kang waits at the appointed meeting spot, with Lord Jung tied to a tree and held at gunpoint. A lone gunman walks toward them, and tosses away his rifle when ordered. Yoon-kang approaches cautiously, not yet sure—and neither are we—whether this is Choi or someone else.
A short distance away, Choi Won-shin crouches in the grass and orders his pack of fighters into positions around the perimeter. The decoy grabs for his gun and sends Yoon-kang ducking out of the way, then runs, prompting a chase with Yoon-kang hot on his heels.
The gunman falls prey to a tripwire rigged between some trees (smart hero!), and gets knocked back by the contraption. He takes a shot at Yoon-kang, who returns fire and gets him in the chest. The man goes down.
Yoon-kang checks the man’s left arm, but it’s not scarred—dammit, he’s been tricked. His keen senses save him, picking up on the arrival of another foe just as the real Choi takes aim. Yoon-kang whirls to face the danger, but takes a bullet to the arm.
Yoon-kang writhes in pain. He reaches for his gun but is overpowered by Choi, who pins him to the ground and reaches for his mask… tugs at it… and reveals his face. Omo! I didn’t think they’d actually do it.
Choi Won-shin looks shocked to get this confirmation, then reaches over to bare Yoon-kang’s chest, but doesn’t find anything. Perhaps he was expecting a bullet scar from years ago?
Yoon-kang fights him off, then beats a hasty retreat when Choi’s reinforcements arrive. But they are in turn stopped by the arrival of Officer Moon and his men—and as Yoon-kang goes galloping by on his horse, Officer Moon catches a brief glimpse of him. And his familiar face. Eeee! Yessss. Also, maybe this means Jung-hoon will get out of jail sooner rather than later.
Choi Won-shin frees Lord Jung, but rather than be grateful at the rescue, the nobleman slaps Choi for going after the kidnapper before freeing him, roaring that his life is the priority.
Choi struggles to tamp down his mounting anger as he is abused and insulted, called a hunting dog whose job is to do as his master bids. He’s nearing the brink, and then Lord Jung pushes him over, growling that Choi is done for. Something snaps inside Choi, who grabs his gun and shoots. Gasp!
Lord Jung goes down with a bullet in the gut, and Choi stands over him and says, “I do not put my life on the line for anybody. The same goes for Lord Kim.” Bang! The second bullet ends his life.
I can’t say I’m sorry to see the end of Lord Jung, but oh no, what about Choi’s souuuuul? It looks like he’s crossed over to the other side. He even breathes easier now, instead of cowering in submission.
Thank god that Yoon-kang was only shot in the arm, because it’s up to him to fish out the bullet on his own. He manages it, but not without a lot of agony.
Choi Won-shin arrives at Hanjo’s door with a determined look on his face, but Soo-in arrives at the same time and suggests they enter together. Choi excuses himself and says he’ll return another time, which buys Yoon-kang a little more time.
Despite being in pain, Yoon-kang forces himself to act normal to receive Soo-in, though she picks up immediately on something being amiss. He dismisses her, but can’t hold on long enough and collapses, his sleeve stained with blood.
Choi Won-shin makes his report to Lord Kim, but curiously, he lies about not confirming the gunman’s identity. Neither does he argue when Lord Kim sneers that he’s good for nothing. Lord Kim decides to appoint someone else to head their merchant organization, but other than a cursory protest, Choi doesn’t quite look torn up about it. Lord Kim is a crafty bastard to notice, thinking, “He has begun to harbor ulterior motives.”
Soo-in redresses Yoon-kang’s bandage and tends to him while he’s unconscious, and tries to hide her emotional response when he wakes. He wonders why she doesn’t ask for an explanation, but she replies that he must have his reasons and adds that she won’t speak of it to anyone.
Choi Won-shin heads into his hidden storeroom of guns—which is where Hye-won finds him unexpectedly. And rather than falling for some lame excuse about how guns are merely a hobby to him, Hye-won’s agile mind makes the connections quickly, landing on the truth: “Father, you are the gunman.”
She doesn’t leave him any room to protest, outlining all the facts that had struck her as puzzling for years, which now align perfectly: how he was specially trained in guns as a soldier, how he suddenly started disappearing for stretches of time, how he ascended through the merchant ranks with startling speed. She asks—though they’re more like statements that go unchallenged—if he was the one who attempted to kill Soo-in’s father, who alos killed Park Jin-han. Furthermore, she understands that her father was out to prove Hanjo to be Yoon-kang, making him the next target.
Choi remains tight-lipped, but Hye-won requests, “Leave Hanjo alone, even if he is Park Yoon-kang. Do not touch him. If Hanjo dies, you will lose your only daughter too.”
He tells her that the day will come when he can tell her everything, and she will understand. She bursts out that he must quit what he’s involved with, but he only says that the sole thing he cares about is Hye-won: “What I have done till now, and what I will do in the future—it is all only for you. Know that.”
Yoon-kang is upset to know the gunman saw his face, then wonders why the man had ripped open his shirt (…is it tacky to crack a joke here?). A thought comes to him—that shooting at the pier three years ago.
He returns to that site to replay the day’s events in his mind. Now he realizes that he hadn’t been shot by the soldiers—he must have been shot by that gunman.
Choi Won-shin broods over his confrontation with his daughter, but when asked what he’ll do with Hanjo, he replies without hesitation, “I’ll kill him—the instant I join hands with Yamamoto. He is Park Yoon-kang, who came back to kill me.”
Thank goodness Yoon-kang’s also making mental connections, now certain that Choi Won-shin is the gunman who shot him both years ago and the other day. The problem is, they have no proof, and gathering evidence will be their priority now.
Hye-won drops by unannounced, and as she pours him a drink, she says point-blank that she knows the truth—that he is Yoon-kang. He feigns confusion, but she says he needn’t worry that she’ll tell anyone. She asks a favor:
Hye-won: “Let Soo-in go now. If you keep her in your heart, she will be endangered too. Forget her now and empty your heart. In return, from now on I will stay at your side. I will guard over and take care of you. It is what I wish. I want to have Hanjo now—no, Park Yoon-kang.”
Choi Won-shin visits one the head of Gojong’s new bureau, one of the men who has been working in concert with Interpreter Jung and Ho-kyung—this is Min Yeong-ik, nephew to the queen. Choi hands him a gift, and Min Yeong-ik’s eyes widen to see the stacks of gold. His initial impulse is to refuse, but Choi says very prettily that he wants to the funds to be used for Kaehwa’s progress and would like to help the Min clan grow and lead Joseon.
Then he adds a request: that the exiled ex-Minister Kim be allowed to return to his position. You know Choi is good when something that could appear to be an outright bribe actually sounds persuasive the way he puts it—because in restoring the minister, it’ll quiet the dissidents and smooth the way for Kaehwa. And if Min Yeong-ik can settle some of the public disquietude, well, that would be a great help to his aunt, the queen.
Ho-kyung is recovered enough to resume his work, and Soo-in sees him off at the gate. Jan-yi chimes in that they look just like husband and wife, and Ho-kyung can’t hide his pleasure at that, while Soo-in awkwardly tries to protest. She tells her maid to cut it out, but Jan-yi is all, Sure, pretend you don’t like it, you don’t want to act too eager anyway. She’s a crack-up. Although Ho-kyung’s absurdly happy reaction does achy things to my heart.
Soo-in comes across a posted Wanted sign in the city, bearing Yoon-kang’s masked (but still a bit recognizable) face. Aw, and Je-mi brings a whole bunch of them home, having ripped them from their posts to keep Sang-chu safe. She promises to protect him, which I swear Sang-chu would be able to enjoy more if he weren’t living a lie about being the gunman. All the more reason to come clean!
Soo-in mentions the posters when dressing Yoon-kang’s wound, saying indirectly that she hopes that he’ll be careful and stay safe. Yoon-kang asks why she would care about a wanted gunman, and she says that he didn’t seem like a bad person.
Yoon-kang excuses Soo-in from tending to him or working at the mine any longer, and the sudden announcement has Soo-in flailing a bit to find an excuse to stay near him. She insists that she just wants to help, but he turns her away resolutely.
On their way out, they encounter Hye-won, here on a friendly visit. She suggests a chat with Soo-in, and as they walk out together, Soo-in explains that she’s just here to treat Hanjo’s minor injury from an accident.
It was Hye-won who suggested replacing Soo-in for the mining project, and while it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to want, knowing Hye-won’s motivation rather skews this exchange for me. She’s not… mean, nor is she being hurtful. But I can’t say her demeanor isn’t a touch off-putting, as she tells Soo-in to “return to your place” and resume with her books and playthings—”and with Ho-kyung.”
Hye-won says that she can’t think of Soo-in apart from Ho-kyung now, pointing out how he spent the past three years faithfully at her side. Soo-in insists that gratitude is where her feelings for Ho-kyung end, but Hye-won counters that gratitude is how it begins—and that’s how it started with her and Hanjo. “I have come to like him,” she says, “enough that I would do anything to have him.”
Hye-won says she wishes that for Soo-in and Ho-kyung, adding pointedly, “That is what the dead Yoon-kang would wish as well.”
Min Yeong-ik ends up putting the request to reinstate Minister Kim to the king, swayed by Choi’s request, arguing that they don’t want to meet the same fate as the murdered scholars. Gojong is fiercely opposed to the idea, calling Min Yeong-ik’s suggestion a compromise with the enemy. But the queen supports her nephew and tells the king that he must join the politics game in order to beat his opponents.
Gojong puts his foot down and barks at Min Yeong-ik not to bring up this topic again. But even Interpreter Jung prods Gojong to reconsider, going so far as to reveal that Ho-kyung is Minister Kim’s son. For Ho-kyung’s sake, he entreats the king to give the minister a second chance, and even to win Kim over to his side.
Soo-in and her mother are horrified to hear it, particularly since it was Minister Kim who oversaw that whole torture bit. Interpreter Jung is firm, while Ho-kyung can have nothing to say, looking pained as he listens to Soo-in rage against his father.
Jung-hoon looks like he’s making the best of his jail time since his favorite gisaeng is there, full of indignation for his plight. Officer Moon arrives with a letter he’d intercepted—it was sent to Jung-hoon from his secret correspondent, asking him to come meet him. Jung-hoon is worried that he left Yoon-kang hanging in a time of need, but Officer Moon barks that he went instead, and found a dead nobleman at the site.
To his credit, Jung-hoon remains tight-lipped when Officer Moon demands a name. But once Officer Moon voices his suspicion and asks if Yoon-kang is alive, Jung-hoon does confirm it. He lies that he knows nothing of where he is or how to find him, and begs to be let out of jail. Officer Moon decides he can rot in jail until he’s ready to spill everything.
Yoon-kang finally has a bit of evidence regarding Choi Won-shin when it turns out the records he’d tried to get rid of are documents naming him as part of a regiment that specialized in guns; he’d fought in the 1866 war against the French and played a huge role, earning commendations for his actions.
It doesn’t escape Choi’s notice that someone is digging into his past, and Hanjo is the likeliest possibility. He decides, “I will have to send him a warning.”
The next day, Hanjo’s home is raided by police, who received a tip that the masked gunman is hiding here. Comparing Yoon-kang to the posted drawing, they drag him off just as Choi Won-shin arrives and not only vouches for Hanjo not being the criminal, he also provides an alibi. It gets the officers to back off, but that’s no cause for relaxation since we know Choi’s playing at something.
Choi Won-shin supposes that somebody sent in a faulty tip, and says it’s understandable given the enormity of the crime—if caught, the gunman would be facing capital charges. Yoon-kang says that reminds him of that young man, Park Yoon-kang. Didn’t he seek out Choi for killing his father, then die immediately after meeting him?
It’s a not-quite-veiled accusation, and Yoon-kang says he’d merely been wondering how Choi would have felt: “If it were me, I would have wanted to kill him.”
He laughs it off as mere imagination, but adds another hypothetical to the lot: “What if I were Park Yoon-kang? What would I have felt upon meeting you? I might have thought this—”
He turns to face Choi and speaks as himself (well, as his real self): “I will reveal the whole truth. And I will make you pay for your crimes.”
Choi tells Hanjo to focus on business, since Yamamoto will be arriving soon. “That is your path to survival,” he says, patting Yoon-kang’s shoulder in a patronizing manner… and then feeling down to his upper arm and giving it a hard squeeze while looking for any sign of reaction.
Yoon-kang keeps a stone face and even manages a smirk. He asks about Choi’s interest in Yamamoto (“I only wish to meet him,” Choi says), then drops the news that Yamamoto’s visit will be delayed. He’d sent him a letter advising him to wait due to the unstable conditions in the city.
Now it’s Yoon-kang’s turn for the patronizing arm-pat, and Choi notes, “You keep complicating matters.”
Yoon-kang returns, “Is that so? For me, it’s all working out.”
When Ho-kyung visits his father upon his return, Minister Kim all but gloats in his face, as though Ho-kyung had wanted to see him in exile forever. Ho-kyung asks him not to go after Interpreter Jung, at which his father blows up and accuses him of losing his head over a woman—and one who wouldn’t marry an illegitimate son, at that.
“You’ll find out soon where your end lies,” Minister Kim says. “You will come to my side. You’ll realize soon that your place is under my shadow.”
Ho-kyung states that that won’t happen, and his father challenges him to try.
Yoon-kang visits his sister at the temple, assuring her that the end is in sight and that they’ll be able to live together soon. (A surefire way to thwart your hopes!) As they walk hand in hand, Soo-in enters the temple grounds and sees them together, and now it’s too late to pretend she doesn’t know. Uh-oh, but also, yay!
Now their cards are on the table and she’s addressing him as the young master, without the feigned ignorance he’d been hiding behind. Yoon-kang’s first reaction is to be angry that she’d endure all that torture for his sake, and it doesn’t help when she says that it made her happy to be able to protect him. So he tells her harshly that he’s already a dead person—she should forget him and move on, since he’s long forgotten her. “So don’t come looking for me,” he orders, “or for Yeon-ha. Don’t put us in danger.”
He tells her to meet someone else and live happily. Soo-in doesn’t believe him despite how the words hurt, and she asks whether he really means it: “Do you want me to become someone else’s woman?” She presses him to say the words.
Yoon-kang clenches his fist, then musters his resolve and says, “Yes. I mean it.”
She accepts his answer and leaves in tears. Yoon-kang watches her retreating back and reels, clutching his heart, and finally can’t take it anymore. He runs after her (run Yoon-kang runnnn) and grabs her in a tight embrace.
Woohoo! Finally! Yessss.
It’s not just that we finally get some (intentional) skinship up in this hizzy, although that’s always a bonus, but that the lie is blown wide open and the two leads have to now figure this out—but they get to do that together. I liked when he knew and she didn’t, and then I liked when she knew but he wasn’t aware, and then I liked when he grew suspicious that she might know. So I don’t in any way have quibbles with the steps we went through to get here—it’s just that they’ve served their narrative purposes and now it’s time for some
kisses truth and openness.
Aside from putting our two main characters on the same freakin’ page for the first time in ages, it also finally aligns their purposes, and it is about time! It’s one thing for him to watch over her under shield of another identity, or for her to protect him with lies, but y’know, everything’s better when you’re working together toward the same goal. Don’t get me wrong, I did quite love the way Soo-in gave Yoon-kang his space, and kept her worrying to herself so as not to add to his burdens. It’s a case where doing nothing was actually the most helpful thing, so witnessing her exercising restraint was more moving than her inserting herself into the process. But when that restraint no longer becomes necessary, you open up a door to new possibilities, and I want to go to there.
Even if he tries to push her away at this point (and hey, he’s just the kind of noble hero—I can’t call him an idiot, not yet at least—who would do everything under the sun to keep her safe, plot logic be damned), now that they’re both acknowledging the truth to each other, I have a feeling he won’t find those tactics quite so effective. And the “I hurt you now to protect you later” method only really works when the other party is left in the dark.
It’s also such a relief to finally give Yoon-kang a safe haven, which may be one of the biggest reasons that lying to Soo-in was so counterproductive. I hadn’t even realized how much of a source of tension it was for Yoon-kang to deny himself what his heart was aching for in the service of her supposed safety (I won’t even say that it was in service of his revenge—though that would have been a nice way to color his character with a little complexity—because of that whole aforementioned nobility thing), until he finally let go and just gave his honey a hug already. There’s a visceral reaction of relief, of letting down a burden, and it feels frankly great.
Also, let’s be honest, Soo-in wasn’t gonna be any safer with him pushing her aside all the time. So if your primary motivation turns out moot, shouldn’t you just go ahead and embrace the inevitable and be happy in the interim?
It’s nicely timed with Hye-won’s confession to him—as nicely timed as the coinciding of her realization of her feelings for him and her discovery of her father’s extracurricular activities. In fact, I will say that the drama on the whole has a nice sense for timing its story developments, so that they overlap and dovetail at effective points. It speaks to a carefully planned-out plot, which I appreciate, though I suspect that all that planning might be one reason why the plot sometimes feels like it moves too mechanically. It’s not a serious complaint, because I’m still a big fan of this drama, but its pacing wants to be a touch faster, I think, and the writing is holding it back. It’s not slow so much as I think it’s too deliberate, and a little bit of wild energy wouldn’t be a bad thing. (Just a little!)
But to look at the glass half-full, the drama does also manage to send in the twist just before I’m ready to tire of the situation, so at least I have the assurance that conditions do change with comforting regularity. Hopefully for the better.
But back to Hye-won, who is taking some interesting strikes. I loved her confrontation with her father, and then also her dignified confession to Yoon-kang. No dithering, no desperation, just honesty. It’s a lovely couple scenes for her… which is why I find her scene with Soo-in interesting. It isn’t like she’s never lied before, but her style is to see things head-on (which Soo-in pointed out to her before), so the fact that she’s using deception to manipulate Soo-in concerns me. Is she going to take a turn over love? Or will she be doomed to tragic one-sided love, a la Ho-kyung?
And if Hye-won is flirting with the dark side, does it mean that Choi Won-shin has already taken up his position there? We’ve seen him killing before so I don’t know why I was surprised that he killed that nobleman today, but perhaps it’s because the show has done such a solid job of humanizing his situation that I was hoping he’d find a way out. Though I guess he has, and that was the point of the scene—he’s done being a dog, and is taking command over his fate. (Maybe tragically?)