Hwayugi: Episode 16
Is it too much to ask for just one hour of romance without any mention of apocalypses, deadly fates, or eternal suffering to ruin the moment? I know the answer to that question, but I feel the need to ask it anyway, the same way that Show feels the need to fill me with dread every time we get too secure in our happiness. C’mon, give a monkey a break, will you?
EPISODE 16 RECAP
As Sun-mi watches Oh-gong sleep, she thinks back to all of his declarations of love, sincere, sarcastic, or otherwise, and says in her thoughts that if their fate is death, he should run far away from her. She moves to remove the bracelet from his wrist…
Unaware of what’s going on, Oh-gong finds himself in a very vivid dream world, in which he walks down a long corridor of an old hospital. It’s lined with screaming triage patients and harried nurses, and at the end of the corridor, a doctor holds a crying baby.
She says to him, “The blood of this child will save the people. What you are seeing now is the birth of Sam-jang. You must be the guardian who protects her this time.”
The doctor tells Oh-gong that she wanted to show him the new Sam-jang’s beginnings, in the hopes that he protects her until the end. “Don’t ever let her go,” she pleads. And with that, he wakes up… to find Sun-mi trying to remove his bracelet.
He jerks away from her, reminding her that he chooses to wear it now, but she tells him tearfully that this is his chance to let go and run away from her. He fights her on it, so she ends up pinning him to the bed by his wrists.
CEO Sa brings breakfast on a tray, wondering to himself if it’s okay to drop in, and is surprised to see an egret in Oh-gong’s garden. Is it a monster? Or an omen?
Oh-gong pins Sun-mi on her back in turn, and asks if she’s doing this because she might kill him. She shouts that this is the only way she can protect him, and he asks if that’s why she locked herself in that coffin like an idiot.
She shouts back, “That’s right, I am an idiot, you jerk!” and a bottle of liquor on Oh-gong’s shelf bursts in perfect time with her outburst. They’re both so startled that they stop fighting to go check it out, and Oh-gong insists that he wasn’t the one to do it.
Sun-mi is shocked that she caused this somehow, and Oh-gong wonders if maybe the priestess’s possession left behind some residual powers. She agrees that it’s likely, since she retains all of her memories from when Priestess was driving her body around… including what Oh-gong did to drug her to sleep. Oh, whoops.
Oh-gong is suddenly very contrite and tries to say that it wasn’t what she thinks, and Sun-mi stews in anger until she breaks a wine glass with her mind. This time they’re both impressed at her display of powers, and Sun-mi smiles to herself, pleased.
Priestess, on the other hand, wakes up next to her coffin looking weak and drained, and whispers sadly to herself that she’s lost her strength.
Sun-mi brings up the death bell and admits how scared she was to face Oh-gong again. She says that she wanted to protect him in her own way because she’s powerless. But he argues that she’s plenty special and powerful, because she’s Sam-jang.
He says he’s going to figure out all the ways she could possibly kill him so that he can avoid death, and tells her not to be afraid anymore. He jokes that she’s killing him right now though, pointing out that the bed wasn’t meant for sleeping.
He acts pained when she smiles and laughs, like she’s too pretty for him to bear, and says he’ll take her home. Sun-mi lingers behind to look at the glass she shattered, wondering how she did it. It’s then that she notices that her engagement ring is missing.
When Oh-gong returns to the garden, CEO Sa tells him about seeing an egret there, and Oh-gong wonders if maybe it was the bird that showed him the dream about Sam-jang’s birth. Now that he thinks about it, he finds it odd to learn of Sam-jang’s origin when he was originally told that Sun-mi became Sam-jang as punishment for freeing him from prison.
They’re even more startled when they hear a baby crying, and they discover a baby just lying there on the bridge, all alone. The egret must’ve left it behind, and Oh-gong stares at the child warily.
He takes the baby to Mawang, who takes a long moment to process what he’s seeing and asks, “You made a baby in one night?” LOL. Oh-gong says that’s absurd, though saying that the stork left him a baby is no less absurd, come to think of it. Mawang says with suspicion that the baby looks an awful lot like Oh-gong, heh.
When Oh-gong asks after the priestess, Mawang lies that he was too weak to fight her and she got away, and Oh-gong feels so bad for him that he offers to go out and catch her. He very casually strolls out of the office sans baby, and Mawang belatedly realizes he’s been stuck babysitting.
Secretary Ma worries about Oh-gong discovering that he let Priestess go, but Mawang says he intends to keep her alive until he figures out whether she was telling the truth about his wife and child.
Mawang says that he’ll trust no one until he learns the truth, and eyes the baby suspiciously, accusing it of coming here to put him under a spell. But that lasts about two seconds until the baby grabs his finger, and Mawang turns into a puddle of goo.
Politician Kang Dae-sung is anxious to learn more about the priestess and what she’s capable of, but Priestess is too tired to go into all that. Instead she points out the demon standing next to him, and says she can help out with that. It’s his grandmother—the same little girl in a kimono who was trying to keep her family’s Japanese sympathizer roots a secret. Priestess conveys his grandmother’s message that whoever knows about her needs to be eliminated.
So Kang Dae-sung visits the historian who’d discovered the truth about his grandmother and blackmailed him into supporting the museum, and he brings him back to the house to show him the priestess’s coffin.
He steps out while the priestess goes inside to deal with the historian, and when he returns to the room, there’s no trace of him except a giant pool of blood at her feet. She smiles and asks if this answers his question about what she’s capable of, and leaves him to do the cleanup. He looks positively euphoric, which is actually creepier than all the blood.
CEO Sa tells Oh-gong that the priestess may be with Kang Dae-sung, since he’s in possession of her coffin. When Oh-gong hears of Kang Dae-sung’s political aspirations, he says that it fits the profile, remembering the priestess’s plan to summon a dragon and make a new king.
CEO Sa gets a notification for the group chatroom (ha, does Oh-gong still not have an invite to that room?), and they’re startled to see a message there from Priestess, in Buja’s name. Everyone is shocked at her ballsy move to call Oh-gong out to her location, and PK looks especially saddened.
Sun-mi gets so angry about the text that a gust of wind blows through the office, and when Han-joo comments on it, she gets angry all over again at the mention of “wind,” which is also a metaphor for having an affair.
Han-joo can’t contain his curiosity any longer and asks if Oh-gong has ties to the conglomerate that makes cell phones (still under the impression that CEO Sa is Oh-gong’s father), and when she confirms it, he insists that he always knew Oh-gong seemed rich, pfft.
He thinks she’s got it made now that she’s about to marry into a chaebol family, but then he notices that her ring is gone, and jumps to the conclusion that CEO Sa came by her place to pass her an envelope of money and throw water in her face. She agrees that there’s a lot of opposition from the top, though she’s pointing up at the sky in reference to heaven, rather than the C-suite.
Oh-gong goes to meet Priestess at a fancy hotel bar, which she’s chosen because it’s a nice date spot. He scoffs and tells her she should be picking out a place to die, and she warns him not to mess with her because Sun-mi is in danger. She claims to have eaten something dangerous while possessing her body, but Oh-gong quickly rattles off a list of everything she ate, thanks to his spy Yook-gong.
Priestess deflates and promises not to touch Sun-mi again, and Oh-gong says he’ll make sure of that by putting her back in her coffin. He’s about to drag her out when she blurts that Mawang let her go on purpose, and then Mawang himself shows up to confirm it.
Oh-gong isn’t amused, reminding Mawang of his plans to rip the priestess to shreds. Mawang says that she’s helping him with something, and vows to catch her himself if she turns out to be useless. Oh-gong agrees to hear Mawang out and lets the priestess go for now, though he adds with a petty smirk that she won’t be able to use her magic to “pay” for her check, and Mawang leaves her hanging too.
Mawang tells Oh-gong about the possibility that his son is still alive and hidden away somewhere, and Oh-gong shakes his head and declares that he’s seen too many makjang dramas. He thinks Mawang is just being manipulated by Priestess, but Mawang counters that he’d be the same if it were his child.
Oh-gong looks at the crying baby in front of them and asks what the big freaking deal is about babies. Curiously, the baby stops crying when Oh-gong makes a baby noise, and Mawang tries to get him to do it again, to no avail.
PK shows up to see Priestess, who has no choice but to get into his car when the waiter from the bar chases her down to pay her check. He takes her to see Buja’s mother in the hospital, insisting that she fulfill Buja’s last wishes to reunite with her family.
Priestess asks what happens if she goes in there and doesn’t shed a single tear, thinking that Buja’s mother will be hurt by that, but PK tells her that she won’t wake up. Priestess looks affected by that for a split second, but she insists that she’s too busy maintaining this body to do anything else.
She tells PK that he ought to know exactly what she’s doing to stay alive, knowing that he tried to feed Sun-mi to Buja once, and tells him to bring her more humans to feed on if he wants to help. He watches her go sadly and wonders if Buja has become a monster.
Oh-gong asks Mawang if he knows anything about Sun-mi’s origins and why he chose her to free him from prison. Mawang says he was just wandering around looking for special humans, and came across her because she was a famous child.
He points out that Jonathan is making a movie based on Sun-mi’s story, so Oh-gong seeks him out to hear the full version. Jonathan says that an epidemic wiped out an entire village once, and a woman gave birth to a healthy baby just before dying—Sun-mi.
That fits with the vision Oh-gong saw in his dream, and Jonathan says that despite being ostracized as a cursed child, he believes that Sun-mi saved all those people. He says that a doctor from the village told him that the epidemic disappeared with her birth, and Oh-gong decides to seek out that doctor himself.
Mawang is so enchanted by the baby that Secretary Ma says he would’ve been an amazing father to his child. He knows that the priestess is likely tricking him, but says that the moment he was told that his child might be alive, he began to hope and long for it to be true.
She says that there’s very little chance that the priestess is right, and Mawang agrees. But he says that even if everyone has been fooling him for a thousand years, if his child is alive, he will forgive anything.
Oh-gong storms into the office and rifles through the baby’s blankets to find one embroidered with the name “Lotus Village Health Center,” and realizes that the baby was sent to him as bait.
He declares that he’s taking the baby back and orders Mawang to hurry up and say goodbye, and Mawang gets all blubbery at the sudden parting, already having grown attached in half a day. That just makes him think of his child who might’ve been on his own all this time, and he says he’ll never forgive heaven if they did this.
Mawang goes to see Patriarch, who’s happy to be given a box of macarons and says that Mawang used to be scary back in the day, but is so sweet now. Patriarch gives him a gift in return, and tells him that the murderer who killed Iron Fan’s child in her last life will receive a divine punishment, and Iron Fan will no longer lose her child over and over again.
But when Mawang asks how his child died all those years ago, Patriarch suddenly gets very cagey and avoids answering. Mawang leans in menacingly and asks if his son really died, and Patriarch says yes and rushes off to a meeting.
His important meeting turns out to be a visit to the General Store, where he checks in on the shopkeeper’s grandson. The grandson asks after the sword that Grandma left in search of, and Patriarch just nags him to stay out of trouble, wondering whom he takes after. A bull-headed father, perhaps? Just sayin’. He also makes sure to share Mawang’s macarons with the kid, which has me doubly suspicious.
Sun-mi is at the bank when a woman walks past her, and she suddenly has a vision of that woman crying at the police station after getting conned. Sun-mi tells the banker that she thinks the woman might be a victim of voice phishing, and they’re able to prevent the scam thanks to her.
Oh-gong waits in Sun-mi’s office with baby in tow, and Han-joo hems and haws before asking what the baby is about. He sighs in relief to hear that the baby’s not his, having thought that Oh-gong came here to show Sun-mi that he’s married with kids. Looks like Mawang isn’t the only one who watches too many makjangs.
Han-joo asks why he took the ring back then, and Oh-gong finally remembers that he forgot to retrieve it. He leaves the baby with Han-joo and stops by the General Store to fish the ring out of the incense burner, and the grandson tries to collect a fee because he has to replenish all the cash he stole before Grandma returns.
Oh-gong wonders why she’s been gone for so long, and his curiosity is piqued when the grandson mentions that she’s been out looking for a sword ever since Sun-mi broke the bad omen jar.
That reminds Oh-gong of the night Sun-mi told him that she saw the destruction of the world, and he realizes that every object tied to their fates, including the bracelet, has come from this place. He tells the grandson to call him the moment Grandma returns, which of course costs him a fee.
Priestess visits Mawang, who warns her that she’ll have to prove that she’s telling him the truth if she wants his protection. She says she’ll find proof about his child and asks for a little time.
Sun-mi gapes to see Oh-gong with a baby, and he has to say for the millionth time that it’s not his baby, ha. He asks her to come with him to the place where she was born, but Sun-mi is reluctant to go hear about her origins, firmly believing that she was a cursed child. He says that there’s a chance she was always meant to be Sam-jang before they ever met, and that they should find out if she was really cursed, or if there’s something else to the story.
They go to the village clinic with the baby, and Sun-mi says this is the place where her parents died, along with many villagers. Oh-gong remembers it from his dream, and by the time they walk down the corridor, the same doctor from his vision is standing at the other end.
She thanks them for returning the baby safely and tells Sun-mi that she was here for her birth, and Sun-mi realizes that the doctor isn’t human. Doc mentions that she knew Sun-mi’s grandmother, and that she wanted to make sure Sun-mi knew she wasn’t a cursed child.
The doctor explains that the village was overtaken with a sudden epidemic, and Sun-mi’s blood saved people’s lives, and the epidemic even vanished completely after her birth. She says that Sun-mi was born saving people from the very start, and that this was always her fate. She adds that the lotus scent in her blood came after she met her guardian, looking at Oh-gong.
Sun-mi asks how the doctor knows all this, and all she says in response is that she had been waiting for Sam-jang to be born for a very long time. Sun-mi thanks her for countering the fear she had that anyone close to her would die, and the doctor says that anything she does will be in service of saving people, not killing them.
As Sun-mi and Oh-gong walk through her hometown, she says this is the first time she’s ever walked down this road happily. She’s less afraid now that she knows she has some strength, and is happy to know that her fate isn’t his fault.
She plans to grow even stronger so that she can take his bracelet off, and then he’ll be free to run away from her if she’s not pretty in his eyes. She adds that if he chooses to stay, she’ll grab hold of him tightly. He smiles and takes her hand, and Sun-mi muses that her grandmother must’ve known that he’d come back to her eventually, because she always said her fairy would return.
As they walk away, the doctor looks out her window and says that there’s surely something else Oh-gong is curious to know.
When Sun-mi returns to the office, Han-joo notices straightaway that she’s wearing her ring again, which is news to her. She realizes that Oh-gong must’ve sneaked it back onto her finger when he held her hand.
Meanwhile, Oh-gong returns to the clinic, where the doctor has been waiting for him. He asks what she is, and she says, “Like you, I was Sam-jang’s guardian once.” Ooh. He understands that to mean that she protected a previous Sam-jang before Sun-mi.
She says that soon a sword will appear, “And you will stab Sam-jang with it… just as I did long ago.” Nooooooooo.
As the news announces Kang Dae-sung’s official entry in the presidential race, the doctor continues that a great demon is on the way, and it will overtake Sam-jang’s body—that is Sam-jang’s divine calling. She says that his fate is to take the sword and kill the demon, and Sam-jang with it, and save the world.
He takes this in grimly and asks why she’s telling him all this, and the doctor asks for a favor in return—for him to help her die when he gets his hands on the sword. “Living this life alone without [him] is too painful,” she says. Damn, that is not a happy reflection of his future, is it?
Kang Dae-sung is pleased that the priestess removed an obstacle in his path, and he asks if she has the power to call forth a dragon to make a king. She smiles to see that he wants to be king, and says that there’s a woman he needs to meet, because possessing her will be a crucial step in the process.
She asks why he’s taking care of Buja’s mother, which he considers to be part of cleaning up his little “mistake” in killing Buja, and the priestess notes that he’s going to be a very bad king.
Priestess finally goes to see Buja’s mother and then seeks out PK, but he’s fed up with being manipulated by her and doesn’t want to see her anymore. She says she went to see Buja’s mother and thanks him for helping her fulfill one of Buja’s final wishes, and he asks angrily if she’s really trying to use him again.
She admits it freely and asks for his help to meet Sun-mi, which the pig stupidly agrees to. He calls Sun-mi to the TV station and warns the priestess that Oh-gong will kill her if she puts Sun-mi in danger. She just smiles and tells him not to worry because she’s not the one meeting Sun-mi.
It’s Kang Dae-sung, of course, who stands up and smiles as Sun-mi approaches him. They make eye contact and Sun-mi just continues to walk past, but as soon as she does, she’s overcome with that vision of the apocalypse that had shattered the bad omen jar.
In that moment, the sky above Oh-gong fills with dark clouds and thunder. Well that’s not ominous or anything.
She begins to chase after Kang Dae-sung, but Oh-gong appears behind her and grabs her hand, and as soon as they make contact, the sky brightens again. They agree that something strange is happening. Yeah, strange and not good.
At the General Store, the shopkeeper finally returns from her journey with a large box and tells her grandson that it’s just something for an important day.
Mawang feels the strange energy from the sky as well, and Secretary Ma worries about him starting a fight with the heavens when he’s still so weak. He says there’s a way for him to regain his strength: “I can eat Sam-jang.”
Even Secretary Ma looks aghast at that idea, asking what he’ll do about Oh-gong. He says all he has to do is remove the bracelet, and Oh-gong won’t pose a problem anymore. Did Mawang eat his crazy flakes today?
Sun-mi tells Oh-gong that she just had a flashback to her apocalyptic vision, and that she’s been having small visions of the future lately. He in turn tells her about the doctor having been a guardian to a previous Sam-jang, but then he lies and says that they did such a good job fulfilling their mission that they became immortals and are living happily ever after.
He takes her hand and says they’ll end up like that too. She beams and says they will, but adds that if they don’t, it’s going to be sadder for the one left behind—time will feel painfully slow for the rest of that person’s lifetime. She recalls now how sad the doctor looked as she watched them leave.
Oh-gong says he has something he needs to do, and that he needs a little strength from her. He leans his head against her hand and says, “If I’m scared or struggling or in danger, I’ll call you.”
The shopkeeper presents the sword to Patriarch and a gathering of other heavenly beings, and Patriarch announces that they now have Sam-jang’s sword.
As soon as he says it, Oh-gong appears behind him and snatches it right out of his hands. Patriarch is shocked and says it’s not time yet, but Oh-gong surprises him by saying that he knows he’s meant to have it.
Patriarch says he won’t be able to get rid of it, and that Sam-jang will be sacrificed to fulfill her divine calling. He tells Oh-gong in a booming voice that in the moment that he needs to use the sword, the bracelet will vanish, allowing him to stab Sam-jang without suffering. And with that act, Oh-gong’s punishment will come to an end, he says.
Oh-gong calls bullshit and vanishes with the sword, and Patriarch continues with his false bravado, announcing to his colleagues that the sword has officially been transferred to Sohn Oh-gong. Under his breath, he wonders what the hell Oh-gong is planning to do with that thing.
Oh-gong examines the sword in his garden, and the doctor arrives and asks to borrow the sword so she can die. She sees that he’s wearing a bracelet and says that he’ll be free of suffering even if he’s left behind, unlike her, but Oh-gong says he’s more afraid of not knowing what kind of suffering awaits when he’s no longer wearing it.
“Don’t end up like me,” she says, and Oh-gong answers with determination, “I will never end up like you.”
She asks for the sword, ready to end her suffering, and he leaves her alone on the bridge with it. She flings it up into the air, where it glows with a white light, and then pierces her on the way down.
She looks pained at first, but then she smiles like she’s at peace. She disintegrates, leaving just the sword behind, which now has a hole in the hilt (or was it always there?).
The shopkeeper asks Patriarch if Sam-jang will live if the sword is destroyed, and he says yes, but it’ll never disappear. She asks what if Oh-gong doesn’t use it, and Patriarch says that in order to protect Sam-jang without the sword, he’ll have to put his life on the line.
Oh-gong picks up the sword and contemplates it for a moment, and then he slams it into a rock in his garden and makes foliage grow around it. He says to it, “Don’t ever come out into the world again.”
I liked the reversal of fates in this episode, even though it doesn’t change that much in the overall scheme of things—one of them still has to die to save the world, and the other will live in guilt and suffering for the rest of their lives. Perhaps it’s just more poignant if the suffering party is the one living millennia, not decades, which was portrayed nicely through the doctor’s story. I appreciated gaining some perspective on Oh-gong and Sun-mi’s plight through the lens of another couple who lived it before them, and more importantly, it gives Oh-gong the determination not to end up the same way.
That’s really the main reason to use this device, as a cautionary tale so that our couple can avoid repeating history. To that end, I wish we’d spent a little longer with the doc and learned more of her history with the last Sam-jang, partly because I think it would’ve made for a really nice, bittersweet side narrative to get invested in. I didn’t approve of Oh-gong lying to Sun-mi about it (remember what happened when you kept the truth about the death bell a secret?), but I did like how he empathized with the doc, and then ultimately decided that he was different because he wasn’t going to just accept heaven’s stupid fate. I mean, someone needs to put a stop to heaven using monks as sacrificial lambs, right? It feels extra exploitive that they require a human sacrifice in every generation (because then what makes Patriarch any different from Iron Fan?), and extra cruel that they made Oh-gong fall in love with her knowing he’d have to kill her.
But it’s high time for the drama to show us some actionable steps toward rejecting that fate, because I feel like we keep getting declarations but no real change. Hiding the sword is a nice symbolic gesture, but Monkey ought to know that destroying it will require black magic and a low to medium hellfire, in the very least. Patriarch seems pretty confident that the sword can’t be destroyed, but if Oh-gong has the option not to use it and put himself in harm’s way to protect Sun-mi, why on earth wouldn’t he do that? That seems like a stupid and obvious loophole. Granted, in the moment that he chooses to sacrifice his life to protect her, I will be deeply moved. I just don’t like being told about it episodes in advance through the exposition fairy.
The mechanism for Sam-jang’s sacrifice is interesting though, because if she’s meant to be a vessel for the Big Bad, I can see how easily they’d cross the point of no return. The moment she’s possessed, they have to kill her to save the world. I feel like they’re underestimating how selfish and reckless Oh-gong is though, because I half expect him to let the world go to hell if it means protecting his love. Even Mawang is like this, and he’s considered the good one. All I know is, I’m starting to get really testy with heaven’s minions, and wouldn’t be opposed to threatening them with an apocalypse of their very own. Sometimes you need to fight fire with bigger, more destructive fire.
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