Live Up to Your Name: Episode 8
Some harsh truths are revealed to both our leads today as we jump back into the unforgiving land of Joseon. Our hero has been running from something, and so far, he has been lucky enough to get away with a little help from his friends and some magic acupuncture needles. But with enemies closing in on all sides, he might need Yeon-kyung’s help now more than ever.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Backed up against the edge of a cliff by a band of Japanese soldiers, Im and Yeon-kyung wait nervously as the soldiers wonder who these strangely dressed people are. Ultimately, the leader of the band decides that it doesn’t matter, since they will have to be killed anyway.
Yeon-kyung quickly brandishes a taser at the encroaching soldiers and shocks the one closest to her. The confused soldiers fall back long enough for Yeon-kyung to hand Im a can of pain relief spray, which he discovers to be very effective at temporarily blinding the soldiers.
The duo are an almost unstoppable team, and Yeon-kyung even seems to take pleasure in taunting the soldiers to come for her before tasing them (and sometimes kicking them where it hurts). Unfortunately, poor Im sprays himself in the face, causing Yeon-kyung to abort the attack and rescue him from the scene before the two take off running into the forest.
At a safe distance, Yeon-kyung gripes that Im should have left her behind, but Im is more concerned about the Japanese soldiers, who must be scouts for the larger army. Yeon-kyung finally pieces together that this must be the 1592 invasion of Korea by Japanese troops (the start of a long and bloody war between the two countries), and falls to the ground in a dead faint.
Back in Seoul, an enraged Jae-ha storms to the police station, where the gangsters who attacked Yeon-kyung are being held. He demands to know where Yeon-kyung is, and even though he refuses to believe their story that she just disappeared, he can’t argue with the CCTV footage that shows exactly that.
Over at Grandpa’s practice, Director Ma shows up looking for Im and furtively asks, “Is he back in Joseon?” Grandpa tries to shoo Ma away, but Grandpa’s expression turns worried when Ma drops the bomb that Yeon-kyung has also disappeared with Im into the past. Grandpa hurries to look through his magic historical book for signs of Yeon-kyung, all while cursing Im for taking her.
Back in the Joseon forest, Im and Yeon-kyung lie on the ground and muse over their first meeting and what it could mean. Im apologizes to Yeon-kyung for pulling her back with him, but Yeon-kyung softly answers, “It’s because you tried to save me each time.”
Im doesn’t know why he has been destined for these things, but he does know one thing: “When I am ready for death, I live. I do not know the exact reason, but I am sure that I move between places when I die. And each time I died, I was hugging you, so you had to come with me.”
As Im contemplates the reason why he can time travel and why his wounds disappear when he does so, he doesn’t immediately notice Yeon-kyung’s more pragmatic reaction… which is to get a huge rock to bash his head in. Ha! Im jumps up in fear to protest that she shouldn’t do this, and a sweetly smiling Yeon-kyung agrees—that’s why Im will have to do it himself, so she offers him a scalpel for him to do the deed.
In a panic, Im blurts out that he can’t, because he has to be holding onto Yeon-kyung for her to travel. Taking this in stride, Yeon-kyung clings onto Im in various ways, and it’s not long before he looks like he has forgotten that Yeon-kyung is doing this is so that he can kill himself while she hangs on for the ride. This is hilarious.
Their sweetly morbid moment is interrupted by an injured Japanese soldier who pleads for their help as he falls to the ground. He needs medical attention and is able to explain so in Korean, but Im resolutely walks away, saying that this is the soldier’s punishment for ruining another country. But Yeon-kyung’s hesitation stops Im in his tracks.
Yeon-kyung tries to persuade Im that no matter what happened before, the man before them is just a patient who needs help. She adds that if fate led them here, then it is also their fate to heal the soldier. Im points out that this may cause more harm if the soldier lives, to which Yeon-kyung states, “It is not a doctor’s duty to decide whether it will be helpful or harmful. Doctors need qualifications. Patients don’t.”
Im stalks away, but the tears in his eyes reveal he isn’t as unaffected as he seems. He states to himself, “Doctors cannot save everyone just because they are dying. That is the way it is here.”
As Yeon-kyung administers modern medicine to the Japanese man, she warns him not to ask too many questions.
The soldier complies as he looks on first in consternation, and then in growing awe while Yeon-kyung stitches together the wound in his leg. Yeon-kyung glances up as she pointedly remarks, “It would be very rewarding for doctors if every life they saved belonged to a good person, and went on to live a happy life.”
The soldier’s expression looks thoughtful as he tries to move, but his other injuries are too bad for him to do so. Just at this moment though, Im hurries back to offer his help (yay!). Im uses his acupuncture needles to gently spear behind the soldier’s ear, and into his foot. Trying again, the soldier can move his leg this time. Afterward, Im looks down in confusion at his needle bag, sensing or seeing that something has changed.
Fully dressed, the soldier thanks both Im and Yeon-kyung, but warns them to quickly run away when a shout nearby announces that the rest of the scouting party is near. The soldier grabs Im’s arm to warn him that in fifteen days, the Japanese will invade Hanyang. As the scouting party nears, the soldier hides one of Yeon-kyung’s fallen tools and makes no mention of his saviors to his companions.
The soldier’s warning runs through Im’s head, and he sincerely asks Yeon-kyung for some time before they go back to Seoul—he must save the only woman who believed in him in this time from the invading army.
We find the woman he was talking about, his loyal assistant Mak-gae, being thrown about in the street by the servant Doo-chil and his cohort, who are looking for Im. Mak-gae refuses to break her loyalty with Im, so the gangsters give her an ultimatum—either she brings Im, or they’ll kill her. As they leave, Mak-gae tries to reassure herself that Im hasn’t actually abandoned her.
Back in Joseon garb, Im tells Yeon-kyung that she needs to take care of herself. Unimpressed, Yeon-kyung reminds him that she was the one who got them out of the mess with the soldiers and the gangsters.
Nearby, the little boy from last time falls down and begins to wail over his injury. As Im goes to help, the boy’s grandfather rushes over to plead forgiveness for the bother this has caused Im. Frowning thoughtfully, Im tells the grandfather there is nothing to apologize for. Instead, despite Im’s initial warning, the little boy is treated to some modern disinfectant and a handful of sweets from Yeon-kyung, while Im hides the view from prying eyes.
Something about giving the little boy sweets reminds Yeon-kyung of an encounter from her childhood, when a man in Joseon clothes gave her sweets as well. The man’s face is blurred in the memory, but his kind voice says, “I’m giving you this so you won’t cry, Yeon-kyung.”
Im looks down at the grateful grandfather and asks whether they’ll be moving soon, since the Japanese forces are coming. The grandfather earnestly answers that moving would mean starvation for him and his boy—and anyway, the king will protect his subjects from such a war. Yeon-kyung bows her head in distress at this statement.
Meanwhile, Im’s rival, Jin-oh, is being told by his uncle that the king is not going to protect the citizens—he will be leaving the palace instead. Jin-oh asks what this means for him, but his uncle responds with disgust that no one is thinking of Jin-oh at such a time, and that he should prepare to move south by himself.
Back at Hyeminseo, Im stashes Yeon-kyung away in his old house, using the ever popular “hiding in plain sight” theory. As Im sneaks around, he sighs when he realizes that Hyeminseo is a shadow of its former self—all the herbs have run out, and the doctors are plotting to run away with their families to safety. He doesn’t have the luxury of staying despondent though, as he is forced to sneak away from a troop of soldiers who have been tipped off to his return.
Yeon-kyung marvels at the simplicity of Im’s room for such a rich man, and is in the middle of looking through his things when the elusive Mak-gae stumbles in. At first defensive to find a strange woman in Im’s room, Mak-gae quickly remembers Yeon-kyung’s face from last time, and she lights up as she realizes that Im must have come back for her.
And indeed, Im is just outside, there to hurry Yeon-kyung along so they can escape. Mak-gae runs out to greet her master, alternating between joy and recriminations at his tardiness. Im tries to hush her, but it’s not enough, and they’re soon spotted.
Jin-oh is leading the troops and smirks as Im is restrained by the soldiers. Jin-oh jeers at Im for thinking that he could rise above his station in life—his mother was only a slave, after all. Yeon-kyung looks stricken as Im is dragged away by the soldiers while she is taken in a different direction on Jin-oh’s orders.
Doo-chil, one of the gangsters who threatened Mak-gae, is outside arguing with his brother (who seems to have some form of developmental disability) just as Im is taken away to prison. But when his brother drops the fruit he had meant to give Doo-chil, Doo-chil lovingly wipes his hands even as he gently scolds him for stealing it. Doo-chil commands his brother to go back to the their mistress and to be careful about his actions (so as not to arouse suspicion as to his competency) while he goes to look for Im.
Im is thrown into prison despite his pleas that he has just one job to take care of—and in the cell next to him is none other than famed court physician Heo Jun. Jun tuts at Im as he says, “You are always trying to find ways to run away.”
Doo-chil prowls around the prison outside as he notes that Im must have done something really bad to get locked up in the palace. Just as it looks like he’s going to try and break in, another gangster runs up and breathlessly tells Doo-chil that he needs to get home. Now.
Jun and Im stare at each other through the bars as they exchange barbs, though Jun curiously mentions that Im must not have “returned” voluntarily, judging by his short hair. Im seems ever so slightly amused to see Jun behind bars, though he seems shocked to learn that Jun is in jail for introducing an “inexperienced quack” (Im) to the king. Im maintains that he made a mistake, but Jun warns him that the life of a palace doctor is to be thrown out for making just one mistake.
Jun asks Im if he still can’t get over his poor background, or whether treating officials and hoarding money ever made him feel better. Jun knowingly asks if Im thought he could have everything he wanted in “that classless world,” but warns a shaken Im that he is going down the wrong path for a doctor.
The tense moment is broken by the arrival of Jin-oh’s uncle, who commands Jun to leave the prison and prepare for the journey ahead with the king. Jun has a few last words for Im though as he says, “Your needles don’t make you a good doctor. You’re pathetic for not realizing your skill.”
Meanwhile, Yeon-kyung frantically searches for a way out of her luxurious new prison, but is interrupted by the slimy Jin-oh, who studiously ignores Yeon-kyung’s hints that she’d like to leave.
Jin-oh plops down, smitten with Yeon-kyung, and eager to share the salacious details of Im’s sins while Yeon-kyung smiles to pump him for information. Jin-oh is oblivious to Yeon-kyung’s distress as he laughs that Im will be lucky if he gets out alive, and that this time, he may really give his life for his country.
Jin-oh gives an ingratiating smile as he pulls out a “present” for Yeon-kyung, which turns out to be her lost shoe. Jin-oh asks what the shoe made from, and what is it for. A calculating expression crosses Yeon-kyung’s face as she looks up at Jin-oh and swings the shoe into his face while she cries out, “It’s for this use, you punk!”
Yeon-kyung runs away, pausing only to throw away Jin-oh’s shoes, and heads towards the palace with guards in hot pursuit. Fortunately, Mak-gae was there to witness the whole thing, and she ushers Yeon-kyung into hiding. Mak-gae agrees to take Yeon-kyung to the palace with her to rescue Im, but the two are halted by Jun’s intimidating bodyguard.
Yeon-kyung is escorted to Jun instead, who greets her warmly, “Welcome, Doctor Choi Yeon-kyung.” Perplexed, Yeon-kyung asks if Jun knows her, and in (non-)answer, Jun presents Yeon-kyung with the handbag she left in Joseon from last time. Jun surprises Yeon-kyung even more when he refers to “your world” and thanks her for the sweets she left behind as he says, “It felt so good to taste something I missed.”
Despite Yeon-kyung’s questions, Jun cryptically states that their connection will be revealed in time and gently reminds Yeon-kyung that she must hurry to save Im. Yeon-kyung wants to know how Jun knows Im as well, and Jun thinks a moment before he says, “That ‘friend.’ come to think of it, I have not used that word for a long time either.”
Back at the prison, Im reminisces on his graduation as a doctor, when he was given the role of Superintendent of Hyeminseo. In flashback, we see Im’s hopeful face as he waited every year to be appointed palace healer, despite so many others telling him he was too lowly for the role. Im narrates, “Is it so wrong that I am twisted now? What about the incident from two years ago?”
Jun’s demeanor is kindly as he warns Yeon-kyung that Im is a good doctor, and the world needs him, but he has been hurt very badly by the world. When Yeon-kyung asks why Jun is telling her all this, he answers that her fate is intertwined with Im’s already, and that with Yeon-kyung’s help, Jun hopes that Im may be returned to the right path.
Alone in jail, Im’s thoughts turn again to Jun’s cryptic words about the needle bag. The lightbulb goes off in Im’s head as realizes the needle bag was there the whole time. As Im pulls the bag out, it briefly glows with its new cracks as if in confirmation, and he grinds out, “It was you.”
A guard halts any further revelations with the announcement that Im should get ready to travel in the morning—he will be transferred to the dangerous Chungchung Province, which is recovering from a Japanese attack. The guard unlocks the door to step aside and reveal Doo-chil, who is warned that Im must be returned by the morning.
Im tremulously follows Doo-chil as Jun’s bodyguard lurks out of sight, both trying to prepare for the fight they can see coming. Doo-chil whirls violently around… only to fall to his knees and beg for Im’s help.
Outside Jun’s house, Yeon-kyung is shocked to learn from Mak-gae that the mysterious man she met is the famous physician Heo Jun. The two exchange idle talk as they make their way to Im, at least until Yeon-kyung gets more personal and admits that she always wondered why Mak-gae wears man’s clothes (because Mak-gae is quite clearly a girl).
Mak-gae defensively answers that of course it’s because she is a man, but deflates at Yeon-kyung’s skeptical look. Mak-gae admits that Im is the only person in the world who knows that she is a woman, and he has kept the secret for her. Secrets revealed, the two walk away in companionable silence.
In Doo-chil’s room, his brother Ddak-sae lies bloody and half-dead on the bed, beaten because the master was angry with him for stealing a piece of fruit. Im refuses Doo-chil’s pleas of help as he says that Ddak-sae will be killed if he is treated without his master’s permission. Angered, Doo-chil grabs a sword from the wall and spits that he really will kill Im this time if Ddak-sae dies. Despite the threat to his life, Im is staunch in his refusal.
Doo-chil breaks down in sobs as he admits that he sent Ddak-sae alone to run errands, and it’s really his fault his brother was punished because he left him to pursue Im. Doo-chil cries that everyone treated Ddak-sae as less than human because his brain didn’t work the same way, adding that he can’t let his brother die that way.
Where threats were ineffective, Im is moved by Doo-chil’s heartfelt confession, and he remembers Yeon-kyung saying that patients don’t require qualifications. Decision made, Im informs a grateful Doo-chil he will use insert a needle into Ddak-sae’s head, which will release the qi to help the wounds heal faster, and will draw the pus out of Ddak-sae’s bloated stomach.
Outside the walls, Mak-gae realizes what is happening and begins to fret about what will happen if Im is caught, just like the “incident” two years ago. Confused, Yeon-kyung presses Mak-gae to tell her what happened two years ago.
As we see Im treat Ddak-sae’s wounds, Mak-gae narrates that Im used to be a doctor who refused to treat lords and officials if he could, but he never turned away a slave and would treat them in secret at night.
In flashback, we see Im treating an old woman who had fallen sick (accompanied by Mak-gae dressed in woman’s clothing). Mak-gae narrates that this slave’s master didn’t want her to be treated, and upon finding out that Im had treated her, the master had Im and the old woman savagely beaten. Im survived, but the old woman did not.
Mak-gae’s narration continues as she says that the slave’s daughter wanted revenge on the master—and in flashback, we see Mak-gae (the slave’s daughter) walking resolutely towards the master’s house with a knife in hand. But Im had stopped her, and saved her life in the process.
Back inside the room, Im finishes treating Ddak-sae. Doo-chil tells Im that even though he saved Ddak-sae, Doo-chil won’t forget what happened to his mother, and one day he will definitely, definitely… repay Im’s kindness somehow. Ddak-sae wakes up to an overjoyed Doo-chil, who promises his brother he is going to live, and Im tearfully smiles at the reunion.
The happy moment is destroyed by the door being ripped open to reveal the brothers’ incensed master, the minister of war. The three men are dragged into the middle of the courtyard, and the minister sneers that Im has some nerve to treat Ddak-sae without permission, when Im is just a common criminal. The Minister cuttingly asks if Im thought he was better than that because of his skill as a doctor—didn’t he ever realize he was just a dog who ate the scraps his masters gave him?
The minister orders Ddak-sae killed for the arrogance of Im’s belief in his own skill as a doctor. Ddak-sae is rolled into a rug and cruelly beaten, his feeble cries for Doo-chil to save him fading as the beating goes on longer. Doo-chil frantically offers to take Ddak-sae’s place and begs for his brother’s life, but the cold-blooded minister refuses to spare Ddak-sae.
Im watches in silence, but with growing bleakness as Ddak-sae gets weaker and eventually dies before their eyes. And then, he begins to cry as Yeon-kyung watches in horror.
Blinded by rage, Doo-chil rushes to attack the minister with a bellow of fury. The guards beat him down before he can reach his target, but the minister proclaims that if Doo-chil wishes to die, that wish will be granted. The guards start to kick Doo-chil as he lies defenseless on the ground.
Distraught, Im finally speaks, begging the Minister to stop. Im cries that he is not worthy of mercy and agrees that he really is just a dog eating the master’s scraps, but he asks for forgiveness. Prostrate, Im grovels that he is less than a dog or a pig, and he will die many times over to satisfy the minister’s anger. But, Im pleads, “It would only dirty your hands to kill the lowly like us. Please spare our lives.”
Yeon-kyung watches the shocking scene with tears running down her face as Im even presses his forehead to the ground over and over, completely abandoning his dignity to please the minister and save Doo-chil.
The minister scoffs that he thought Im was too smart to do all this to save a lowly life, and orders Im to be taken back to prison. It’s mixed news for Doo-chil though—the minister decides that he should be locked up for a few days with no water, and if Doo-chil is still alive after that, his life might be spared.
Im is dragged back to jail, his expression completely blank, leaving a tearful Yeon-kyung alone.
Oof, what a heartbreaking end.
More specifically, poor Heo Im, getting punished like that again just when he was making tentative steps back to being the great doctor he was before the “incident” two years ago. I think we could always see the glimmers who Im really was, so it makes complete sense to me that he would be the type of Robin Hood figure who ducks out of treating officials and never refuses slaves or servants. Im’s current motivations are more complex and more texpertly thought out than I was expecting, and I certainly can’t fault his reaction to the situation. He wasn’t always a mercenary doctor, he was forced to become that way through circumstance, and even then, he did a pretty bad job at it.
In fact, given the context of Joseon society, I’m more impressed that Im ever wanted to be a selfless doctor in the first place. A small part of me even wants Im’s unrepentant greed to be rewarded, which will allow him to treat whichever patients he wishes to without fear of reprisal. Nevertheless, I know that Im’s greed is a reaction to the trauma he sustained, and it certainly didn’t seem to make him happy in the two years that he relentlessly pursued it in Joseon—and it’s actively putting him in danger in Seoul. So it was really beautiful to see Im take the courage that was beaten out of him to treat Ddak-sae and to believe in himself as a doctor again, especially because it was inspired by Yeon-kyung’s powerful speech about only doctors needing qualifications, not patients.
That ending, though. It was absolutely vicious, and even though I knew something awful was coming, I still couldn’t believe it when Ddak-sae was actually killed. The only way for Im to truly save anyone in that scenario was to sacrifice his dignity, which was difficult to watch, but I’m more scared of the expression on his face as he was being dragged away from Ddak-sae’s lifeless body. It felt like we were watching Im’s spirit being broken. It really struck me that Im’s sad words about Joseon not allowing doctors to treat everyone as patients were more prescient than I wanted them to be.
Which is why I’m so glad the Yeon-kyung is there with him, and has finally seen how brutal Joseon really is. I’m sure she understood it intellectually, but seeing Ddak-sae beaten to death for daring to be treated and Im grovelling for Doo-chil’s life will give her a much more visceral reaction. Hopefully this gives her a different perspective on Im’s desire to protect himself with status and wealth, and it can’t come a moment too soon, because I’m fairly sure that Im is never going to want to try being a good doctor again. It will take all of Yeon-kyung’s encouragement to get him back on that right path again, if she even can. Preferably at a safe distance in Seoul.
Speaking of the time travel, I actually really love that both of our leads are jumping back and forth. It’s an unusual twist for time travel stories, which typically focus on only one traveler, and adds just enough freshness to the genre to keep me on my toes. The show has a slightly looser approach to how often they travel as well, which gives both leads a nice amount of time to really understand how the other half lives. We’ve only just started to play around with the consequences of time travel, but between Heo Jun’s cryptic hints and Grandpa’s obvious experience, I’m looking forward to how the story unfolds. Particularly with Yeon-kyung, I’m not sure if she will be able to hold her tongue and not protect all these innocent people from the invading Japanese army, which could cause some serious time shenanigans.
One thing I really loved about Im and Yeon-kyung’s interactions this episode is that it showed them working as a team, and that they are now on equal footing. Even in the small moments—like when Im hid Yeon-kyung from view as she was treating the little boy’s knee even as he disapproved of the risk she was taking—Im and Yeon-kyung turn to each other for support. I tend to be wary of stories that involve a character being “saved” by the power of love, but that isn’t what is happening here at all. Im’s respect for Yeon-kyung’s work is separate from his attraction to her, and should be, because she is both very good at her job and has the right priorities for a doctor. Let’s hope it’s enough.
- Live Up to Your Name: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Manhole, Live Up to Your Name
- Acupuncturist versus surgeon for Live Up to Your Name
- Jaw-dropping, club-hopping Kim Ah-joong in Live Up to Your Name
- Kim Nam-gil flaps his wings to travel back to the past in Live Up to Your Name
- The needle vs. the knife for Live Up to Your Name
- Time-slip drama Live Up to Your Name gets a time slot on tvN
- Kim Nam-gil, Kim Ah-joong offered new tvN time-slip drama