Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 5
Aw, the vampire has a heart. I don’t know if it pumps blood or keeps him alive, but today it starts to pang him—at least emotionally, which is the more interesting version anyway. And yes, right now it’s providing more pain than loving satisfaction, but we’re working up our way to that. First the cold cold vampire has to acknowledge that feelings matter, and that they have power over him, and then we can get to the happy fun good times. It might take a while, but I can be patient. *taps fingers impatiently* *waits for kisses*
SONG OF THE DAY
Taru – “이상한 밤” (Strange night) [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Sung-yeol finds Yang-sun asleep at her desk, and reads the notes she’s jotted to herself about the lost prince’s diary and how Sung-yeol is mean for telling her to stay away. Though we know he’s the furthest thing from indifferent, given that he now sports two nasty gashes in his palm from using his blood to heal her.
A new batch of flyers is dispersed, telling the populace of the bloodsucking monster who rules over their king. But a strong gust of wind blows through the city, snatching the papers out of their hands and sweeping them away.
Prince Yoon explains to his confidante Hak-young how he came to be the mysterious Eumlan Seosaeng (at least the newest incarnation, since the forgotten Prince Jeonghyeon was the original). Back when he was a child, his father, Prince Sadong, had shared with him the full story of Gwi and shown him Eumlan Seosaeng’s 120-year-old novel (Vampire Tale).
Sadong had assured his son that he’d found a way to destroy Gwi, and instructed him to get Prince Jeonghyeon’s secret diary from a certain man if anything ever happened to him.
Sure enough, three days later Sadong was accused of treason and executed, along with his faithful teacher and advisor. Young Yoon had snuck in to see the bodies, and confirmed that their corpses bore bite marks, just as the Vampire Tale novel had said.
Yoon had hidden when the king had come by with his Noron advisors, talking of the need to recover the diary Sadong had stolen from Gwi. Yoon had hurried to get it first, but it was nowhere to be found.
Hak-young speculates that Gwi’s searching for that diary now, and that the one-armed merchant may know more than he’s saying. Yoon adds one more possibility: Perhaps his disappeared childhood friend Jin has it—the one whom Yang-sun resembles.
Bad news arrives: One of Yoon’s guards has been killed by royal soldiers. That’s the body Sung-yeol finds, and the tattoos indicate that he was once Prince Sadong’s guard. They were reportedly all killed ten years ago, but Sung-yeol instructs his team to track down any survivors—they could lead them to the current Eumlan Seosaeng. They need to track down One Arm as well before Gwi does.
Yang-sun discovers her foot healed upon waking up, though she’s still miffed at Sung-yeol for telling her not to come looking for him anymore. She’s also puzzled at the disappearance of her flyer—nobody raided her underground library, so where did it go?
Ah, it turns out that Sung-yeol is the one who rounded up all the flyers, which he now burns.
Yang-sun’s father grows increasingly worried about her work, telling her that the book she’s trying to find is extremely dangerous. He saw firsthand how everybody connected to the book or Sadong was rounded up ten years ago, and Dad was forced to hide for years. He feels safe now, since the only people who ever knew he worked for Sadong were Sadong himself and One Arm, but he also wants to make sure Yang-sun stops her hunt. The family’s lives could be at stake.
Seeing how upset he is, Yang-sun doesn’t argue. She wonders where One Arm is these days, and accepts Dad’s reply that he’s probably out on business—though I notice he looks uneasy.
Masquerading as a Chinese merchant, Sung-yeol has drinks with the war minister, bribing him for a list of names—he’s tracking down Sadong’s supporters who’d been stripped of their rank and sold as government slaves.
Yang-sun takes Dad’s appeal to heart and intends to return Sung-yeol’s money and quit the job. At the gibang, Sung-yeol meets her eye but deliberately turns away, refusing to acknowledge her, and gisaeng Su-hyang stays behind to deal with her instead. She looks way too pleased to see Yang-sun snubbed and even gives her a snooty once-over, noting her shabby shoes; sigh, I guess Scholar won’t be passing the Bechdel test anytime soon.
Yang-sun attempts to return the money, but Su-hyang tells her to put it away as payment for possible future work. Yang-sun concedes that she’s in no position to refuse.
Su-hyang tells Sung-yeol that even with the flyers destroyed, the people are talking about a possible vampire in the palace, and that Yang-sun cannot continue helping him in the hunt.
Meanwhile, Yoon makes good on his promise/threat to hold Yang-sun’s vicious loan sharks accountable, putting up Wanted posters in town. The boss feels safe that the war minister will protect them, having received lots of bribes from them in the past. Yes, good luck counting on a corrupt official to be honorable all of a sudden. That’s exactly how the world works.
That’s when Yang-sun shows up to pay off her debt in full, not knowing that Yoon already paid it. The boss warns his henchman not to get rough with her, though, since she’s got the prince’s protection. This, of course, is news to her.
In contrast to Sung-yeol, Yoon is glad to hear the people talking about the flyers—they can only rally the people to rise up against Gwi if they know about Gwi in the first place.
Yoon brightens to run into Yang-sun, who hands him her pouch of money in repayment, still only knowing him as a scholar rather than the prince. Just then, soldiers on horseback come charging down the lane, and Yoon whirls her out of harm’s way. Ah, the classic intervening-in-traffic-spurs-romantic-feelings maneuver.
I love that she’s not much affected, but Yoon is—he stares down at her intently, now realizing she’s a she. It makes him even more playful with her, downright flirty in fact, as he asks her to change how she addresses him. Rather than the proper “scholar-nim,” he’d prefer something friendlier, like hyungnim. She’s ill at ease being that familiar, but he insists.
Then he notices her worn straw shoes and adds that she owes him interest. Okay, how are you going to twist this so buying her shoes is her payment to you?
Yoon takes Yang-sun to the marketplace where he browses the shoes, and notices the scar on her face. She explains getting it in the melee that ensued at the gathering of the fake Eumlan Seosaeng. He asks if she knows where the fake guards took everyone, and she whispers that she’d gone back and found everything wiped clean. But it’s a relief that Eumlan Seosaeng remained safe, she says.
Since she’s talking about him, Yoon is pleased to hear it, though he asks whether she’s really rooting for a traitor. She starts to protest, but admits that it’s true—as a bookseller, she likes that his books have prompted countless people to learn how to read, and that’ll spur them to learn things and improve the world. So really, he’s doing a public service.
Yoon puffs up ever so slightly and says, “That man has done a great thing.” She agrees, though she finds the flyer’s contents difficult to believe.
Yoon catches a glimpse of someone watching them from a distance, and, grabbing Yang-sun’s hand, leads her through the streets. The follower runs after them, but finds himself outnumbered and taken down by Yoon’s guards. Yoon orders the man handed over to the authorities, but he bursts out that he wasn’t after Yoon—he was following Yang-sun.
He was acting on Su-hyang’s orders, and Yang-sun confronts her angrily. But Su-hyang just slaps the man coldly and asks Yang-sun with a sneer, “Happy now?”
Yang-sun insists on an answer, and Su-hyang retorts hotly, “How dare a woman—”
Sung-yeol cuts in before she outs Yang-sun’s secret. “I ordered it,” he says, and dismisses Su-hyang. He explains his reasons for having her tracked: She seemed to know about One Arm but hid it from him, and quit suddenly, which struck him as suspicious. He needed to know what she knows.
She tells him earnestly that she truly wanted to find that book for him, and that she felt bad taking his money and being of no help. That’s why she has to return the money to him—but she fumbles around in her robes and can’t find her pouch.
That’s when Yoon arrives holding the pouch, telling her she’d entrusted him with it. Sung-yeol recognizes him as the prince and eyes him suspiciously, wondering why he’s here and what he’s doing with Yang-sun.
His sidekick sees the two heading off together and comes to the simpler conclusion that Yoon must have agreed to let Yang-sun publish his story, explaining how they met at the gibang when Yang-sun saw Yoon drawing. Sung-yeol takes that information in.
Yoon and Yang-sun end up drinking together at a tavern, and she complains about Sung-yeol and his curt manners while Yoon cutely takes her side. She even pulls off a pretty accurate impersonation of Sung-yeol’s stone-cold expression, all narrowed eyes and sharp glances. Hee.
As she lists Sung-yeol’s bad traits, Yoon plays along and gets up in mock outrage on her behalf, offering to go whoop some scholar ass and teach him a lesson. Yang-sun takes him at his word and leaps up to stop him, grabbing Yoon around the middle in an inadvertent back-hug. Haha, we’re just burning through all the tropes today, aren’t we?
Yang-sun says that Sung-yeol saved her life three times and she owes him a debt of gratitude. Yoon teases, “Having you hug my waist and talk of another man doesn’t feel great.”
At that, she realizes he was joking to cheer her up, and he quips lightly that it makes him jealous to hear of all her encounters with the other scholar. She points out, “You’re staring again.”
Yang-sun asks if she really looks like Yoon’s old friend, and today he answers that upon second glance, no. And when she tries to bring up the debt she owes him, he tells her she’ll have to repay him—but that can happen after she publishes his book and finds it to be a huge success.
Meanwhile, from the shadows Sung-yeol hangs back, watching Yang-sun laugh and drink with the prince, watching with an inscrutable expression. Are you jealous? Please be jealous, ’cause you kind of earned that one with your whole cold-on-the-outside routine.
Many, many drinks later, the two are winding down when Yoon is called away. She bids him good night, intending to finish her drink and head home herself.
In Gwi’s underground lair, doppelganger Hye-ryung alerts Gwi to the existence of that flyer outlining his existence. Since the drama’s already indicated that she’s not Myung-hee, my big question is whether Hye-ryung is human or vamp, although the signs seem to point to human. For instance, Gwi leans close to smell her neck, telling her that she doesn’t know how sweet her blood smells, or how hard he works to protect her.
Yang-sun finishes off the last of her liquor and recognizes that she’s well and drunk. She starts to nod off and thinks of an earlier conversation with Sung-yeol, when he’d asked if she found it difficult masquerading as a man. She sighs that yes, it’s difficult to try her hardest and feel like nothing ever improves, that the burden of caring for her father and sister and the debt that never seemed to go down sometimes made her afraid that she’d just give up on everything.
Sung-yeol approaches and takes the seat across from her, and Yang-sun assumes she’s fantasizing about him again. She says it’s a problem imagining him every day, and how even when he hurts her feelings, she can’t help worrying about him. “Why do I feel this way?” she asks Sung-yeol, assuming he’s a figment of her imagination. “Do I have feelings for you?”
Sung-yeol watches as she sheds a tear and gradually falls asleep, and some time later when Yoon returns, she’s gone. Yoon hopes she made it home safely and looks down at the box in his hands—new shoes.
Su-hyang knows Sung-yeol will be upset with her for interfering with Yang-sun again, and when he arrives home, she launches into an apology. But he cuts her short and just says that Yang-sun isn’t working for him anymore, so she needn’t be followed. Furthermore, he tells Su-hyang to prepare a safe place for Yang-sun to stay where Gwi won’t find her.
Suddenly, Sung-yeol doubles over in pain, clutching his heart, eyes red. Gwi is killing again, and he can feel it coming from the palace.
Gwi feeds off another of the king’s women, resuming his M.O. to get the king to fall in line. He reiterates that the king needs to capture Eumlan Seosang, wanting to know how the writer even knows of his existence in the first place. Gwi instructs the king to leave the Eumlan Seosaeng case in the prime minister’s hands—the prime minister being fully Gwi’s patsy—and throws a pointed look at Sadong’s mummified body as he says he’ll consider what to do with the throne once Yoon finds the writer.
The dead woman’s body is snuck back into the palace, and Sung-yeol sees, understanding that Gwi will be continuing the killings until he’s found Eumlan Seosaeng.
Yang-sun wakes up in her front yard, not sure how she made it home. She’s surprised to find new shoes on her feet—but they’re not the ones Yoon bought. They spur a hazy memory, of Sung-yeol kneeling before her to slip the shoes on her feet, though she tells herself that’s impossible. In the flashback, tipsy Yang-sun grins widely at Sung-yeol, having decided this is just another happy dream featuring her crush, and tells Not-a-Dream Sung-yeol that she likes things in her dreams much better because he smiles at her, buys her shoes, and doesn’t get angry.
She adds that they’ve even kissed in a dream, “Like this.” He stiffens in shock when she plants a peck on the lips, too startled to react.
Yang-sun sighs that even though it’s only a dream, she’s trembling and her heart is pounding. She places one hand over her heart, then reaches out to touch his with the other hand, smiling to hear their matching thump-thump-thump heartbeats. “We’re both trembling equally,” she says happily, and marvels at how her dream feels so vivid.
Sung-yeol stares intently at her, fighting with his own feelings, and says aloud more to himself than anything, “This is a dream. When you wake, you’ll forget it all.”
And then he grabs her for a real kiss. Rewind. Replay.
When Sung-yeol returns home, he’s still reeling from the kiss, his heart still thudding loudly… and then his eyes flash.
In the morning, Sung-yeol forces himself into a bedroom, instinctively reeling away from the sunshine pouring into it. But he’s full of scorn and self-loathing, asking himself what he dares to want, like he has no right to want anything. He steps toward the sunlight, and even through clothing his skin starts to sizzle.
Still, he steps farther into the sunlight, withstanding the agony as the direct light causes his skin to smoke. It looks excruciating, and he forces himself to stay there for long moments before wrenching himself back.
Slumped and defeated, he tells himself harshly, “Take a good look. You’re nothing more than a bloodsucker who looks like a person. You cannot ever be human, or ever face the sun—this is you.”
It’s an entirely different kind of morning for Yang-sun, who’s trying to make sense of the last night and the brand-new shoes on her feet. She examines her lips from every possible angle, looking for signs of puffiness, which makes her sister look at her oddly—understandable, given that she asks things like whether her shoes look like shoes.
Sung-yeol finds a lead in his book hunt—in going after the one-armed merchant, they came across mention of a man named Choi Do-gab. Choi was Sadong’s former book procurer who betrayed him… and he looks exactly like One Arm. They must be the same man.
Sung-yeol also thinks back on past conversations with Yang-sun and deduces that she must have known this too.
Yoon has found Choi Do-gab first, and assures the man that he didn’t come here looking to kill him for betraying his father. He merely asks for information about the diary, and adds a gentle compliment about the man’s cooking. But all the while, Choi just sits in silent shame, unable to look him in the eye.
Yang-sun decides she has to find out how much of her recollection was real, and goes to ask Sung-yeol directly. Did he see her last night? Did he give her shoes? Did he k… She can’t actually imagine asking him about the kiss, and is so embarrassed when he steps out of his front gate that she whirls around and hurries away silently. Haha.
Sung-yeol doesn’t go after her, and Yang-sun notes that he barely spared her a second glance. His coldness makes her call herself crazy for even thinking her dream might have been real.
Arrangements are made for Yang-sun to be sent away to Tamra (modern-day Jeju Island), where a doctor has been found who can treat Yang-sun’s sister. Sung-yeol intends to pay for the medical bills and take care of the family, thinking that while Gwi is afoot, it’s best to keep Yang-sun far away.
He’s alerted to fresh trouble in the city, with royal officers going around and rounding up anyone and everyone involved with the sale of books, both buyer and seller.
Yang-sun encounters this firsthand as she’s out distributing books to children, and at the sound of approaching officers, she tells the children to scatter. One boy trips, so she stops to help him up, and in their haste they drop a book and—what else?—her hawthorn pendant. Seriously, learn to tie a knot!
Yang-sun hides in a shed with the boy as the officer makes his patrol. He finds her dropped items, but so far she’s able to avoid being detected…
The question is: What is the raid even about? Customers are released, but the booksellers are rounded up and taken to the royal tribunal, where it looks like a massive punishment awaits them. The sellers are mostly confused, not scared, even when Gwi steps out to confront the crowd, scanning their faces for one to spark recognition. None does.
The booksellers look blankly at Gwi when he asks if any of them are the owners of the bag in his hand. It’s Yang-sun’s bag, retrieved from the forest chase, and nobody recognizes it. Gwi inhales the scent and calls it sweet, then grabs a bookseller at random and bites down on his neck.
Now they’re properly horrified, as Gwi drinks his blood and Sung-yeol watches from a distance.
Halfway through the episode I was ready to call it a decided win for the secondary pairing of Yoon and Yang-sun, and then that drunken forest scene happened and shoved all thoughts of sweet princes out of mind. Probably the marker of a successful episode, then, when it had me rooting for both men and feeling squealy at both of their moments with the heroine.
The romantic developments continue to be somewhat obvious, in the way that they play upon very familiar setups and payoffs—the whisking out of danger at oncoming traffic, the accidental back-hug, the drunken not-a-dream confusion, the pushing away of the heroine for her own good. I do wish they were a tiny bit more clever, served up with a refreshing twist somehow, because then it would get right in that center of the rom-com sweet spot. (I think we’re hovering in the central area, but missing the delicious gooey center.)
But even so, I still enjoy the way the romance is unfolding, and am surprisingly really digging the secondary loveline with the prince. Maybe it would’ve been nice for some of the main characters to remain in the dark a bit longer about Yang-sun’s gender (I’m recalling how wonderfully angsty Coffee Prince did it, and how many hilarious misunderstandings arose in Sungkyunkwan Scandal), but if both boys must know, I love that at least they’re both the ones who are more affected by Yang-sun than she is by them. It’s in cases like this where it’s fun to have a dense heroine, totally unaware that she’s working a guy in knots because she’s so simple, and she doesn’t get any of his complicated, shaded meanings.
I love how flirty Yoon gets with Yang-sun (and how playful he is in general—he was amusingly cheeky when he thought she was a man, too), and I can see him enjoying himself immensely while playing with this knowledge, getting in lots of sideways jokes and double entendres. Of course, in the end it’ll be him who hurts the most, but until we must break his heart, I’ll enjoy watching him develop that friendship.
And while she’s pretty much head-over-heels for Sung-yeol already, I’d say he’s by far more rocked by the feelings. A lot of times when a character kisses someone on impulse, I don’t really feel that impulse—I know what the narrative is telling me intellectually and generally just accept that. But when Sung-yeol was trying to convince himself that it’s all a dream that doesn’t exist in real life before kissing her, I loved that frisson of emotion in the air.
That made it particularly effective to follow that up with his moment of self-loathing when he walked into the sunlight to remind himself of his beastly nature—I mean, yeesh. I’m pretty sure it’s not something he ever forgets about, but that he forces that kind of agony upon himself as penance is a great way to evoke the whole tortured hero theme. This isn’t a guy who just broods a lot; that inner conflict cuts deep, and it’s the beauty of vampire stories that we can make literal what in other stories can only be metaphorical.
But it’s the intensity of his denial that makes me sit up in anticipation, because imagine all that passion directed the other way—into acceptance, love, and hope. Will we even be able to handle that?
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 4
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 3
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 2
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 1
- From the press conference for Scholar Who Walks the Night
- Lee Jun-ki the scholar walks nights, breaks hearts
- Character stills for Scholar Who Walks the Night
- Red-eyed and book-hunting Scholar Who Walks the Night
- The bloodlust is awakened in Scholar Who Walks the Night