Live Up to Your Name: Episode 1
A badass heroine, and a hero with a lot to prove—I’m intrigued! The first hour flies by as we’re introduced to our two leads, who are both fighting to save lives over 400 years apart, though with very different motivations. These two are fated for a meeting, but before the universe (literally) puts them together, we get to know them and the colorful worlds they live in. I just hope you’re not afraid of needles, because our hero has a near paternal fondness for them.
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EPISODE 1 RECAP
April, 1592. In a shallow stream, two burly men sharpen their farming tools, then look contemptuously over at another man, who is furiously rubbing something on a rock. It’s our hero, HEO IM (Kim Nam-gil), and he’s sharpening his acupuncture needles. Im admires his newly sharpened instruments, addressing them directly as he says that they must feel refreshed and ready for a new day of work.
Im’s assistant DONG MAK-GAE (Moon Ga-young) arrives to chide her boss for caring so much for his needles while he cares so little for his own disheveled appearance after a night of drinking. He tells her not to call him “Superintendent,” so she chants it and gently shoves him into the water, telling him not to come out until he’s clean.
At the bustling Haeminseo, a medical school and clinic for commoners, Heo Im and his staff open their doors to an already huge crowd of patients waiting for the famed physician. Im greets them politely and promises to do his best to treat them. A sick young girl watches him steadily from her father’s back, and Im smiles at her.
Patients are separated into categories of urgency (like a triage), and Im treats them throughout the day. The father of the little girl, a hunter, marvels that the famous doctor is so young. Mak-gae promises him that Im is very skilled, and that he can see everything happening inside a person’s body just by feeling their pulse.
We see a montage of him treating various patients with confident precision as Mak-gae swears that even a patient who’s near death will stand upright after being treated by Heo Im. As if on cue, someone loudly thanks Im from inside the clinic, and everyone cheers as the patient walks out on his own feet.
Another doctor calls for Im’s assistance with his patient, and Im rushes over. He determines that the man has an abscess in his lungs, and performs a complicated technique that the other doctor has only seen in books. Im drains the infection by inserting a hollow needle into his chest and sucking on it to create a vacuum (ew), and the man begins to breathe again. The man’s son thanks him profusely, and Im smiles proudly as the assembled crowd cheers again.
At this second display of skill, the hunter promises his daughter YOON-YI (Shin Rin-ah) that her life is as good as saved. While inside, Im tells his big acupuncture needle that it did a good job.
Next thing we know, the needle becomes a scalpel, held by cardiothoracic surgeon CHOI YEON-KYUNG (Kim Ah-joong) in the year 2017. She begins surgery, and it’s going well… until her hand slips and blood splatters all over her.
Colored lights flash on her gown, and suddenly, we see her dancing in a club. A man puts his hands on her waist, but she pushes him away to continue dancing on her own.
Yeon-kyung moves to the stage and loses herself in the music, and from afar, someone records her dancing with their phone. However, a call from her hoobae at the hospital, Kim Min-jae, cuts her night short. As she exits the club, the creep from earlier (who’s been watching her this whole time) approaches her from behind with a whispered innuendo.
Still on the phone, Yeon-kyung turns around. She smiles and says into the phone that they might need to open the chest while trailing a finger down the creep’s shirt, which makes him grin. However, Yeon-kyung suddenly grabs him between the legs, making him grunt with pain, and tells Min-jae to prepare a sharp knife. Then she walks away, all business again.
Yeon-kyung arrives at the hospital and looks over a traffic accident victim whose steering wheel pierced his chest (ouch). She tells Min-jae to prep for emergency surgery and calls her superior, Professor Hwang, who’s done for the day and out golfing.
Yeon-kyung apprises him of the situation and says that since he can’t come, she’s assuming she has his permission to do the surgery. Hwang asks about her immediate superior, but Yeon-kyung says the man is absent without leave.
Yeon-kyung enters the OR to the surprise of her colleagues, as she’d been banned from surgery after offending one of Professor Hwang’s VIP patients. They warn her that the patient is unstable, but she calmly begins. A nurse (who seems fond of Yeon-kyung) and a doctor watch through the clear door to the OR, the doctor wondering why Yeon-kyung is risking Professor Hwang’s further displeasure. The nurse replies that you have to risk your own life to save someone else’s.
Yeon-kyung neatly sews up the rips in the patient’s heart, but she suddenly notices that it’s vibrating instead of beating, and urgently calls for a defibrillator. The team desperately tries to jump-start the man’s pulse as his blood pressure drops. “Come back,” Yeon-kyung repeatedly pleads as she begins to pump his heart by hand.
Having rushed to the hospital, Professor Hwang anxiously enters the OR, but Yeon-kyung is able to report that the patient is now doing fine. Her colleague praises her efforts in bringing the patient through a tough surgery. Hwang clears his throat and departs, and from the doorway, the nurse gives Yeon-kyung an enthusiastic thumbs up, which she returns. Adorable.
Dr. KANG MAN-SOO, the aforementioned absent physician, runs up to Professor Hwang and assures him he’s all ready now, but Hwang kicks him in the shin and tells him it’s over. He asks contemptuously why Dr. Kang is always losing to a girl (ugh, really?) and snaps at him to shape up, or Yeon-kyung will steal his position.
When Yeon-kyung emerges from the OR, the patient’s parents ask anxiously about him, and she assures them that the surgery was successful. The grateful mother tries to embrace her, but Yeon-kyung nervously leans away before telling them that he’ll be moved out of the ICU the next day.
Once she turns a corner, Yeon-kyung puts her hands on her heart with a smile, whispers “Yes,” with her fists clenched, and then does a cute little happy dance. She immediately straightens and walks away when another doctor approaches. Hahaha.
A bit later, Yeon-kyung arrives outside Haeminseo Traditional Medicine Clinic (interesting) and goes inside, happily greeting her dog as she tells him that she saved a life today. She looks up at the second floor of the old-fashioned building and remembers begging her grandfather to take her sick mother to a hospital when she was a child. He’d told Yeon-kyung not to get in the way, and had continued treating Mom with acupuncture.
Sometime later, Grandpa comes out to find the dog alone in the yard, and the gate unbarred.
In Joseon, famously corrupt minister of war (Ahn Suk-hwan arrives at Haeminseo. His servant pompously announces that the minister has heard that Im is good and has come to be treated. Unfazed, Im calmly tells them to wait at the back of the line, which causes the servant to grab Im’s collar and drag him angrily to his master.
The minister grinds out that he won’t be told to wait behind all of these commoners, wondering if Im doesn’t know who he is. Im replies politely that he does know, and when the minister insults his birth and manners, Im wishes him a safe trip home. The minister departs angrily, spouting threats as he does so.
A bell signals closing time, and Im stops mid-treatment, telling his patient to come back tomorrow. When the man protests, Im tells him and the others waiting that he must attend to those critical patients who cannot make it here. Little Yoon-yi’s father calls out that he’s come from far away and asks Im to make an exception, but Im leaves anyway.
That night, Im arrives at the minister of war’s home, which is bathed in red light. Im bows deeply (though with a calculating smile) and the minister remarks smugly that he must have seen the error of his ways.
Im flatters the minister by diagnosing his liver condition from their brief contact earlier in the day and prescribing a treatment. He tells the minister that his real reason for acting the way he did during the day was that he couldn’t treat such an exalted personage in that lowly place. Im grins, and the minister laughs maniacally.
As he’s leaving, Im is startled by one of the minister’s servants, DOO-CHIL (Oh Dae-hwan), who says he was impressed by Im’s character at Haeminseo earlier. Doo-chil asks if Im can take a look at his ill mother, since servants aren’t allowed to go to Haeminseo. Im says that treating hundreds of patients a day for a pittance is wearying, and when Doo-chil pleads for just one needle, Im asks him irritably if he has money, since he’s aching from doing acupuncture all day.
Im walks away, but a now enraged Doo-chil grabs him and says that Im can’t leave until he treats his mother. Im smacks the man a few times with his needle case and is about to get away when another servant attacks him with a broom—but Im neatly deals with him, too. Doo-chil calls after him that if his mother dies, he’ll kill Im, and though this seems to give Im a second of pause, he shakes it off and heads to his next appointment.
Im goes to a succession of noblemen’s homes to secretly treat them, receiving his payment via ropes lowered from windows and other such clandestine means. When he’s done, he frolics with two gisaengs, who giggle with him and ask curiously about the nobles he treats.
Three of those nobles walk into the gisaeng house, and Im waves at them, recognizing them from the royal infirmary. They sneer to each other that the rumors of Im treating the rich must be true if he can afford to drink here. One of them, YOO JIN-OH (Yoo Min-kyu), scoffs that Im is full of hot air—he can’t be that talented at only thirty years old (those sound like sour grapes to me, son).
Im approaches the group, and he and Jin-oh greet each other, their words polite but barbed. Im lets out a loud fart and excuses himself by saying that the liquor he bought with his tiny salary must not agree with his stomach. He pushes out a couple more for good measure, and leaves the three men wincing in his wake.
Im goes to an abandoned building in the woods and unlocks the padlock on the door. Inside, he lowers a shallow coffer from the ceiling and pulls off the cover to reveal a staggering amount of treasure.
He tosses today’s fees on top and says with a smile, “You people have earned coins from being born into noble family; I have earned my fortune from the skills I have mastered. The world is fair. Let us live well together.” He laughs and dances around, almost like a villain in his lair. Or a crazy person.
Im arrives home to find Yoon-yi sitting on his front steps; we don’t see their conversation, but he thinks about the mysterious child once he’s in bed. His conscience pricks a (very tiny) bit, and he mutters that he won’t be able to sleep, but he’s snoring soundly a moment later.
As he sleeps, moonlight shines on one of his needle cases, and the writing on it glows for a moment.
In modern-day Seoul, Professor Hwang’s team checks in on OH HA-RA, a 15-year-old with congenital heart disease who is scheduled to have a pulmonary valve inserted soon. Hwang tells Yeon-kyung that she’s now in charge of the surgery, which comes a surprise to both Yeon-kyung and to Dr. Kang, since Ha-ra was formerly Kang’s patient.
Professor Hwang tells Dr. Kang that Ha-ra specifically requested Yeon-kyung last night, and Dr. Kang protests that he’s been trying hard to please her because she’s close to the hospital director. Professor Hwang says to turn this into an opportunity, since Yeon-kyung isn’t the type to coddle a difficult patient.
Yeon-kyung introduces herself to Ha-ra with an awkward smile and a wave, but the girl ignores her. Yeon-kyung tells the girl’s guardian to have her rest and eat well, and not to let her use her phone too much.
As Yeon-kyung walks away, Ha-ra smirks after her and thinks back to seeing her deal with an angry patient who refused to get more tests done. Yeon-kyung explained that he needed the tests to get diagnosed properly, but the man accused the hospital of trying to make more money, and said he was going to get acupuncture instead.
Yeon-kyung told him that acupuncture could cure many illnesses, but not his. “Do you want to live?” she said, becoming emotional herself. “Then stay here.”
Now, Ha-ra mocks Yeon-kyung and looks at a video she has on her phone of Yeon-kyung dancing at the club that day. “Let’s see how great you are,” scoffs Ha-ra.
Ha-ra’s guardian scurries after Yeon-kyung and says the girl is very irritable and won’t stop playing with her cell phone; it was hard to ask the other doctor because he was a man, but she wonders if Yeon-kyung could talk to her like an unni. Yeon-kyung says politely that she’s not the girl’s unni, but her doctor—and besides, she adds that that’s not her job, but she’d be happy to refer Ha-ra to a psychologist.
After the bell rings to end his day back in Joseon, Im paces in the courtyard, muttering that he was going to keep his promise. “Why is she not coming?” he wonders. (Aw, is he talking about Yoon-yi?) Mak-gae runs into the courtyard worrying about an imminent attack from Japan, but Im pays no mind to her account of the king arguing with his ministers until his royal head began to ache.
But that’s when Im sees court physician (and in modern times, famous historical figure) Heo Jun waiting for him. Heo Jun remarks on Im’s growing reputation, and asks if he thinks that acupuncture can treat migraines. Im realizes that he’s talking about the king, and says that it’s more effective than medicine and less expensive, which makes it perfect to treat the poor.
As they speak, two of Im’s colleagues discuss how Im passed his medical exam with top scores, but failed every attempt to enter the royal infirmary in the last ten years because of Heo Jun. They guess that Im surely carries a grudge against the man.
While Im lauds acupuncture as the cheapest and most effective remedy to treat the poor, Heo Jun’s voiceover tells us that he’s well aware that Im goes to treat the rich every night. In reply, Im thinks to himself, “What can you do even if you know that?”
Out loud, Heo Jun asks what Im thinks of the king’s illness, and promises to give Im whatever position he desires if he cures the king’s migraines—but if he makes a mistake, he will be killed. Im dresses nicely for his visit with the king and promises to himself that Heo Jun will have to apologize to him.
Im gleefully asks which of his needles wants to take a historical journey with him, when he notices a set he doesn’t recognize. (Oh, is it the one that was glowing?) He opens the case and finds the needles so shiny that he takes them along.
As he’s leaving for the palace, Yoon-yi’s father runs toward Im, the girl limp on his back. The hunter pleads for Im to treat her, saying that no other doctor has hope for her. Im hesitates, then silently turns away, but freezes when Yoon-yi speaks, telling her father that she wants to go home. She ignores her dad’s tearful pleas and weakly waves a hand for Im to go, causing Im to remember the previous night.
He had asked how she made it to his house in her condition and promised to treat her first thing the next morning, but she told him not to. Since she was going to die anyway, she said, she wanted to go quickly, for her father’s sake. Now, Im goes to her and whispers something in her ear before leaving for the palace.
Im arrives before the king, visualizing the exact way he’ll treat him. He pulls out his new set of needles, and Heo Jun’s eyes widen in recognition. But when Im’s needle nears the king’s temple, his hand shakes uncontrollably. He withdraws it, steadies his hand, and tries again, with the same result. The king glares at him, and Im swallows nervously.
Elsewhere, Yoon-yi slowly loses consciousness while being cradled in her father’s arms.
Im escapes imprisonment and flees from the royal guards, who chase him through the city. He finds his way to a quiet bridge and stares at his shaking hands, in disbelief and rage at the opportunity his hands have cost him. The guards catch up to him, and surrounded, Im puts his hands up.
Suddenly an arrow pierces his chest, then another. Im falls over the side of the bridge, watching the needle case as it follows him into the water.
In 2017, Ha-ra has disappeared, and her mother, a very angry, very rich lady, storms into the hospital to demand answers. She asks if Yeon-kyung is Ha-ra’s new doctor before slapping her hard across the face. Ha-ra’s mother tells Yeon-kyung to find Ha-ra immediately, or her career is finished.
Im regains consciousness in shallow water and sits up, gasping and choking. He checks his chest to find that his arrow wounds have mysteriously disappeared, and when someone asks if he’s all right, Im finally looks up to see… foreigners and modernity.
In shock, Im wonders where he is as he takes in the sights and sounds of present-day Seoul. Overwhelmed, he staggers his way to a bridge over the stream he awoke in, and is aghast to see a stone sign, identical to the one naming his own bridge back in Joseon.
Hours pass, and night falls. Im leans against the stone signpost, coughing and hungry. He wonders at this strange Joseon where the people and the writing are recognizable, but everything else is so alien. Gripping his needle case, he tells himself to keep his wits about him in order to survive.
Im wanders through the streets and takes in the sights and sounds of a nighttime street in Seoul. Using a mental map of the bridge in relation to Haeminseo, he calculates where he is and maps his way to where his clinic should be.
Instead, he finds a plaque marking Haeminseo’s location during the Joseon Dynasty. He hears voices saying, “Haeminseo? Seoul… 2017.” Im puts a hand to his aching head. Nearby, he finds the stone he used to sharpen his needles on, and nearly sobs over it.
After that, Im wanders forlornly through the streets until he bumps into Yeon-kyung, accidentally catching hold of her purse strap. He lets go right away, but they exchange a long look before she walks off. He stares after her, and she looks back at him for a second too.
He follows, seemingly entranced, and sees her entering a club. In front of the club, a young man rubs his chest and suddenly collapses, and his girlfriend screams for help. Torn, Im hesitates, then decides to help, crawling through the assembled crowd to tell the young woman that he’s a doctor.
Checking the man’s pulse, Im advises the girlfriend that he’s going to perform acupuncture, and takes out a needle. When she doesn’t protest, he pulls back his arm, readying to insert it.
Suddenly, a hand grabs his wrist. “Are you crazy?” Yeon-kyung asks, her hand stopping him from going any farther.
I wasn’t sure what to expect given this show’s premise, but I quite enjoyed the first episode. I like that we were given almost the whole hour to get to know our lead characters and their worlds before jumping into the time-travel aspect. I love fish-out-of-water hijinks as much as the next girl, but you need the fish to be in water first, to see how that fish grows and changes once it’s flopping around in its new environment. (Okay, so that metaphor got away from me, but you know what I mean.)
Im and Yeon-kyung mirror each other, but are different in important ways that are sure to cause sparks to fly between them. Both are highly intelligent and very good at their jobs, and it’s so nice to see leads in a drama who make such a balanced pair—it gives me hope that the usual rom-com bickering will include spirited intellectual debates. (Please?) It’s clear that they’ve both developed strategies to deal with what they perceive as their weaknesses: Im secretly amasses wealth to overcome his humble beginnings as the son of servants, and Yeon-kyung grits her teeth under her smile and works her butt off at the hospital, then releases her stress at the club when she’s off duty. Neither have the family or professional connections to further them in their careers, and they’ve committed themselves to working longer and harder than anyone else. Interestingly, they both also seem to hide their real emotions under layers of protective armor.
And yet, they’re different in the most fundamental way. Yeon-kyung’s driving mission in life is to save people, and the painful memory of losing her mother will never allow her to betray that vocation. Im, on the other hand, seems entirely motivated by self-interest and the desire to better his lot in life.
I wouldn’t quite call him an antihero, because he showed some flashes of conscience (or at least sympathy) in this episode. And though he does spend all his time healing people, he has a long way to go to be worthy of hero status. I liked that the thumbs ups each received told us about their characters: Yeon-kyung from her nurse friend who clearly believes in her and is proud to see her success, versus Im getting one from Doo-chil, who was impressed with Im’s public persona, but was soon disappointed by his true colors.
I also really enjoyed the small details in the show, especially with the creative transitions between times periods, like Im’s needle turning into Yeon-kyung’s scalpel, or Yeon-kyung’s grandfather’s gate opening into Im’s Haeminseo. Or the way Im awakened in what at first seemed to be a random stream in Joseon, only to find himself in 2017. The use of doors and water reminds me of how the two are often used in literature to signify the crossing of borders between worlds, whether it’s a movement from one physical space to another, or a more metaphysical journey, as from life to death. Here, Im uses water to jump (or be thrown) across time, although we don’t know what the instrument of time travel is yet. And I wonder what Heo Jun knows—is he a time traveler too?
Another detail I loved was the projection of Roman Holiday that Im was watching when he stumbled into Yeon-kyung—it’s another story of a man and woman from different worlds who meet and change each other’s lives forever. I got a kick out of the fact that as our leads shared that long, heavy look, Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn were doing the same behind them. I can’t wait to see these two actually interact, because although they each seem to respect each other’s disciplines, both clearly believe their own to be superior. Yeon-kyung certainly isn’t about to let Im stick an unsterilized needle into an unconscious stranger, and I’m sure he will be bowled over by modern medicine. I’m excited by the reference to a classic rom-com, which seems to promise both humor and heart. Let’s just hope that for these two, the holiday will turn out to be more than just a Hollywood idyll.
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