Hwayugi: Episode 18
At last, changes are afoot! Granted, we’re still waiting for the doomsday train to pull into the station after weeks and weeks (and weeks) of talking about it, but today we finally get some answers about our hero’s fate, and a sprinkling of hope that maybe it’s not all set in stone. This episode is all about the fluid relationship between nobility and idiocy, and where a monkey’s love falls on the spectrum.
EPISODE 18 RECAP
Oh-gong makes an offer to turn political hopeful Kang Dae-sung into a king, and orders him to gather more people like him who will do anything for money and power. Oh-gong says that Kang and those other people will call forth what he really wants, and we cut away to the river where the dragon will be summoned.
Kang Dae-sung suggests that they discuss the details of their deal over drinks, but Oh-gong says he’s too busy because he has to watch his weekend dramas, and points over at CEO Sa to say that he can discuss the details with him.
Kang Dae-sung gets bitter about being treated like he’s insignificant, and asks if Oh-gong thinks he’s some kind of god. If you only knew. Oh-gong replies, “It’s obvious what kind of world you would create, so would a god help you? Think of me as the devil.”
Mawang finds Oh-gong lying around watching TV at home, and starts to nag about him ruining the couch and his general lack of thriftiness as a roommate. But when Oh-gong tells Mawang that he can have the Warhol in the bathroom and everything in his liquor cellar, Mawang gets concerned and asks if he really intends to die.
Oh-gong says he’s found out which demon will possess Sun-mi—it’s the dragon that Priestess will summon. Mawang argues that dragons aren’t demons, but Oh-gong clarifies that this one is a black dragon.
Patriarch tells the General Store owner the same news, and she attributes the existence of the black dragon to human evil in this generation.
Oh-gong intends to let Priestess summon the dragon for Kang Dae-sung, and defeat it before it can wreak havoc or get to Sun-mi. Mawang is skeptical of his plan, noting that dragons are not easy foes to topple.
Oh-gong guesses from the way he’s talking that Mawang has fought a dragon before and lost, and Mawang says he and the dragon merely sized each other up in a gentlemanly fashion before retreating. Ha. Oh-gong immediately calls him out on running scared because he knew he’d lose.
Mawang worries that Oh-gong will end up broken or dead, and says that the easy solution is right in front of him: Let the dragon possess Sun-mi and stab her with the sword. Mawang says it’s the bracelet’s fault that he won’t consider this as an option, and offers to cut off Oh-gong’s hand if he needs to.
Oh-gong surprises him by agreeing right then and there to lose a hand, genuinely curious about what will happen to his feelings once the bracelet is removed. Mawang gets ready to do it and asks if Oh-gong really believes that his love will remain, and he says, “I sincerely hope that it will.”
Mawang’s resolve softens at that, and he can’t do it anymore. He tells Oh-gong to just fight the dragon and be ripped to shreds, and Oh-gong lets him know that he’ll be staying at his penthouse for a little while.
He smiles when he hears Sun-mi calling his name, and finds her drinking alone at a pojangmacha. She’s already drunk, and she puts a star candy in Oh-gong’s hand and asks him to put it in the sky with the other stars. She starts mocking him when he doesn’t do it, so he actually flings the candy into the sky and turns it into a star.
She says that her party tricks aren’t nearly as impressive, and demonstrates by moving the soup ladle in front of her with her mind. She starts asking him to turn her food into a mountain and her soup into an ocean, but then he grows thoughtful when she says that she wants him to build that world so that they can live in it together.
Sun-mi admits that she didn’t hate it even when he was chasing her to eat her because he was so handsome, and that she was so happy when he was following her around to declare his love. She reminisces about how good the ice cream was, and how sweet the cotton candy, and her tears threaten to spill over when she remembers that they won’t be able to see each other anymore after the bracelet disappears.
“What do I do? I like you so much,” she says, clutching her heart and bursting into tears. He just sits beside her quietly as she cries, and later she’s fast asleep in her bed and he sits alone with a heavy heart.
Kang Dae-sung tells Priestess that he has a new ally who will help him go straight to the top, though she’s a little worried about the trail of bodies he’s leaving on his way there. She wonders if he’s really okay with all those murders if he’s being honest with himself, but he simply says he did what he had to. You know you’re evil when the priestess questions your morals, dude.
Priestess looks out over the river and flashes back to the day Oh-gong had confronted her here, and told her honestly that he intends to help her so that he can defeat the dragon demon. She’d argued that it was impossible for the dragon she summons to be a demon, but he’d told her that the land they were standing on was full of dark energy, which she couldn’t sense because she’s now a demon too.
Oh-gong had told her not to assume that she chose Kang Dae-sung, because in truth, he was the one who dragged her into this. She looks over at Kang Dae-sung now, and realizes that him killing Buja was how she ended up here.
When Sun-mi gets to work, Han-joo presents her with hangover soup made by fancy hotel chefs, and tells her that Oh-gong asked his advice on what kind of hangover food she liked best. It only ends up bringing her to tears though, as she thinks of all the things she ate with Oh-gong and how she can’t eat them again without thinking of him.
Mawang is happy to have the house to himself without the pesky monkey… for all of two minutes before he gets bored. He even starts to miss Oh-gong’s annoying mistreatment of his bull statue, and doesn’t find joy in cleaning it like he used to.
He wonders if Oh-gong’s monkey statue will disappear if Oh-gong dies, and he gives it a half-hearted cleaning and even refrains from spitting on it, ha. He looks back and forth between the two statues and says, “If it’s just the cow, it’ll be a little empty.”
Mawang lights up when he hears the front door, thinking that Oh-gong has come home, and deflates the second he sees Secretary Ma there instead. She also notes that the entryway will look empty without the monkey statue, and Mawang jumps on that, agreeing that it’s better to have Oh-gong around even if he’s a nuisance, for the sake of the interior design. Pfffffft.
Mawang: “Let’s save a monkey, shall we?” Now we’re talkin’.
Operation: Save a Monkey’s Ass begins with a visit to the General Store, where Mawang asks the shopkeeper’s grandson for a second bracelet just like Oh-gong’s. They come back to the office with the “old model,” a circlet worn on the head that inflicts pain if the wearer disobeys, aka the original golden circlet worn by the monkey in Journey to the West.
Mawang figures that they can experiment with this one to find a way to save Oh-gong from his bracelet. But… why can’t they just ask Sun-mi to remove it? I’ll stop asking logical questions now.
Mawang insists on being the guinea pig himself, so Secretary Ma puts the circlet on his head and commands him to do things, and every time he disobeys, he’s zapped with a jolt of pain. He’s a big baby about it and wails for Secretary Ma to remove it, and the pain stops the moment she pulls the circlet off his head.
Secretary Ma takes a turn wearing it, but she’s been trained so well to heed Mawang’s commands that she’s incapable of disobeying, which frustrates him anew. To their surprise, this time the circlet falls right off her head without either of them touching it, and they assume that the shopkeeper’s grandson sold them a defective one.
Priestess tells Oh-gong that she has the power to awaken the dragon, but she’s going to need Sun-mi’s power to bring it into this world. He plans to kill it before that happens, and tells Priestess to leave Sun-mi out of it.
Hilariously, she fixates on the fact that she and Oh-gong are sharing a secret behind his girlfriend’s back like they’re having a tryst, and angles for an invite to his penthouse. He asks if “doing it” is all she thought about for 1200 years while rotting in that coffin, because he doesn’t see any other explanation for the way she throws herself at him.
Priestess grits her teeth and says defensively that she’s looking for someone to stay by her side for eternity, and admits that she was lonely. Oh-gong makes it clear that he has no intention of fulfilling a demon’s wishes, and she cries angry tears to be called something so lowly as a demon.
Han-joo advises Sun-mi to buy land in the town that Kang Dae-sung is developing, because he’s now a sure frontrunner to be president after his rival’s sudden death. Sun-mi is shocked to hear that someone around him has died, and heads to the broadcast station to seek him out.
She watches him from a distance and has another vision of that river valley, making her wonder why she keeps seeing that place. Priestess walks up to her, and Sun-mi asks why she went to Kang Dae-sung’s side, and when Priestess insists that she chose him, Sun-mi gets in her face and commands for Buja to answer her instead.
Priestess scoffs, but at Sun-mi’s earnest request for Buja to answer, the priestess’s mark on her body suddenly glows red. Sun-mi grabs her hand, and in that moment she can see Buja’s memory of the night Kang Dae-sung hit her with his car and left her to die.
Priestess is unnerved by Sun-mi’s growing abilities, especially when she asks where the river valley is. When Kang Dae-sung asks Priestess if Sun-mi is more powerful than she is, Priestess growls that they don’t need her, because she can do everything herself. He doesn’t seem so convinced anymore.
Sun-mi gets a headache after running into Kang Dae-sung, and she’s surprised when the General Store grandma shows up beside her in the street to ask if she’s okay. Grandma says that the headaches are caused by her discovering things she ought to know, and Sun-mi asks what she’s supposed to do.
Grandma tells her that she must empty herself of the thing most precious to her, which isn’t something anybody can do. She pats Sun-mi on the back and says that she can do it because she’s Sam-jang.
Mawang takes the circlet to Oh-gong and tells him about their test, and Oh-gong thanks Mawang for having bought him the newer model, shuddering at the thought of wearing that thing around on his head, LOL.
Mawang says that this one is defective because it came right off, and Oh-gong confirms that his doesn’t budge no matter how much soap, water, and stone you attack it with. He still doesn’t want to remove his bracelet, but Mawang argues that he should take it off to know how he truly feels—what if Sun-mi isn’t even his type and he’s about to risk his life for her?
Oh-gong notes that Mawang seems eager for him to live: “Do you love me?” Hahaha. Mawang says he just doesn’t feel right about Oh-gong dying for love because of him, and tosses him some medicine that Secretary Ma procured for him.
Mawang takes the circlet back to the General Store, where the grandson says he can’t give a refund because he already spent the money. With no choice but to demonstrate that the circlet still works, he puts it on his head, and every time Mawang catches him in a lie, the circlet gives him a jolt of pain.
Mawang removes it for him and agrees to keep it now that it’s working again. He thinks the kid was overreacting at the pain, having conveniently forgotten how he whined on his knees for Secretary Ma to save him.
The grandson calls out to Mawang not to leave his umbrella behind, calling him “Ajusshi,” which makes Mawang stop in his tracks. He says that no monster calls him ajusshi, clearly thinking it impudent, but when the boy asks if it’s not allowed, Mawang tells him it’s okay.
After Mawang leaves, the grandson grumbles that he was told he wasn’t just a monster, but half-immortal. You don’t say.
Priestess walks into Summer Fairy’s bar, where Frosty greets her stoically. She was called here by Oh-gong, but is disappointed to learn that she’s only meeting with Frosty as his messenger.
He says he’s keeping the bar open because his sister cherished it, and pours Priestess some water in a paper cup. She points out all the clean glasses to choose from, but Frosty says those were all cherished by his sister too, and he doesn’t want Priestess touching them. Burn.
Afterwards, Frosty tells Oh-gong and CEO Sa that there are three items needed for Priestess’s dragon-summoning ritual—a rock to light the world, a bell to ring throughout the world, and a sword to govern the world. CEO Sa interprets those in present-day terms as a scholar, a reporter, and a person of law. Oh-gong wonders what all of Kang Dae-sung’s supporters would do if they were to find out what kind of person he really is.
Kang Dae-sung makes plans with Priestess to hold his foundation’s big 100-year anniversary event at the river so that she can summon the dragon that night, but they’re interrupted by his secretary when news breaks of his family’s secret history as Japanese sympathizers.
That’s quickly followed by suspicions surrounding the death of his political rival, and Kang Dae-sung begins to worry that he has an enemy who knows the truth about him.
CEO Sa wonders if the black dragon will remain dormant if humans take Kang Dae-sung down themselves, but Oh-gong knows better and expects for Kang’s supporters to show their true colors, calling them a rock to bring the world into darkness, a bell to spread lies throughout the world, and a sword that swings in the wrong direction.
This is the kind of warfare we’re all too familiar with: Kang Dae-sung’s supporters wield their power from the top of every foundation, news organization, and courthouse, until the charges against his family are suddenly dropped, and a celebrity scandal breaks in perfect time to divert everyone’s attention.
Kang’s political clout only grows, and Mawang is so disgusted that he refuses to attend the 100-year anniversary party. Sun-mi storms in to ask what Oh-gong is planning to do, but Mawang just tells her to find out for herself and gives her his invitation to the party.
Sun-mi tells them what a horrible person Kang Dae-sung is, and they all go slack-jawed when she tells them that he killed Buja. Dragon Prince Alice wonders if they need to tell PK, but Mawang knows he’d try to kill Kang Dae-sung and ruin Oh-gong’s plans, so he thinks they should hold off on telling him.
Meanwhile, Priestess goes to visit Buja’s mother in the hospital but the bed is empty, and a nurse tells her that she passed away this afternoon. She’s rattled when tears roll down her cheeks uncontrollably, and she turns around to find PK standing behind her.
He stops her from leaving and asks why she’s crying, and Priestess says she’s not the one crying right now. PK wraps his arms around her in a warm embrace, and she lets herself be consoled.
CEO Sa watches Kang Dae-sung schmoozing his supporters at the anniversary party, and he realizes that humans would just make another leader in the same exact way if they got rid of this one. Oh-gong can’t stomach any more and decides to leave, but then he senses Sun-mi’s arrival and bites out a curse.
Sun-mi barely manages to be civil as she greets Kang Dae-sung, and Secretary Ma gets called away by Oh-gong, who asks angrily why she’d bring Sun-mi here. She relays a message from Mawang that Sun-mi is running her own investigation, so there’s no hiding this from her any longer.
Oh-gong interrupts Sun-mi’s conversation with Kang Dae-sung and sends him away quite easily, and once they’re alone, she tells him that she’s trying to find the river she keeps seeing in her visions. She adds that Kang Dae-sung killed Buja, and Oh-gong is stunned.
He finally tells her the truth—that Kang Dae-sung will bring forth a demon that’ll come out of the river she’s been seeing, and he’s waiting to fight it.
PK takes Priestess out to a fancy wine bar, where she’s quick to remind him that she was once an all-powerful priestess far above him in stature, only to watch enviously as PK gets treated like royalty by the server. He appeases her ego and asks the great priestess to clink glasses, and she beams.
Afterwards, she takes him to Kang Dae-sung’s house to show him her coffin, which PK says he was always curious about. He wants to know where she came from to understand her better, and admits that he wants her to continue growing nicer so that she’ll stay in Buja’s body and protect her.
PK begs her to stop doing bad things, because Oh-gong and Mawang are bound to kill her if she continues down this path, and he doesn’t want that. She seems affected by that, and then she looks genuinely moved when PK muses that she must’ve been so sad, all alone in that coffin for 1200 years.
He sympathizes with how betrayed she must’ve felt, and even says he understands why she’s acting out. Priestess agrees that she’s just angry, not a demon, and PK pets her hair sweetly and reminds her that she can be good from now on because she’s a priestess. She smiles back lovingly and says that she likes him because he doesn’t make her feel pathetic.
Back at the party, Sun-mi asks if this dragon is going to be really strong, and Oh-gong says Mawang ran away from one back in the day. That scares her since she knows Mawang is quite strong, and Oh-gong sputters loudly that he is WAY stronger than Mawang, annoyed that she was told otherwise.
The whole room turns to look at them, and she notes that he’s become famous now. He finds it annoying and much preferred lying about watching TV and following her around. He says he’s doing a good job blending in with humans though, only to bark at an elderly man in banmal for bumping into Sun-mi two seconds later.
She tells him to maintain polite decorum when interacting with humans, but that goes out the window when a snooty lady butts in to introduce her daughter to Oh-gong. He looks over at Sun-mi and asks if he still has to be polite, and she’s so quick to answer, “As you were,” so that he’ll chase them away. Hee.
Oh-gong says that all the humans at this party smell foul, which is why he was extra shocked when she arrived. He says that the lotus scent in her blood is getting stronger by the day, which Mawang also noticed, and Sun-mi says that she’s going to continue getting stronger.
He’s alarmed when she mentions meeting the General Store owner, who told her she’d have to empty what’s important to her when the time comes. He argues that she’s not a dish to be emptied, but Sun-mi says it must be her heart that needs emptying, because right now it’s full of love for him.
She says that she’s been hesitating because of that love, but if she empties her heart, she’ll be able to do her job and save people, so that’s what she’s going to do. Oh-gong struggles to hide his emotions, but says that’s fair—his heart will disappear, and hers will empty.
He can’t help but get angry that she came all the way here to tell him that she’s going to empty her heart of him, and asks her to do him a favor: “Don’t do it in front of me. I’m the one who poured all that love into you until you were full. I’ll be too pitiful. Empty it where I can’t see.”
She tamps down her tears and goes out alone to look at the stars, which also remind her of Oh-gong, like everything else. She tells herself that she has to empty out her heart if she’s ever going to look at the stars again.
Oh-gong storms into the General Store and lights into Grandma for telling Sun-mi she had to empty herself like she’s some vessel, but Grandma points out that she IS a vessel—that’s her purpose, to be a pure vessel that can overcome evil.
Grandma says that Sun-mi is special enough to take on such a sacrifice, which just angers Oh-gong more. With balled up fists at his side, he begs everyone to just let Sun-mi live: “I’ll fulfill that sacrifice.”
Grandma just calmly notes that the prideful Sohn Oh-gong has come to choose self-sacrifice, and Oh-gong stills, realizing that she was the one who led him to wear this bracelet in the first place. “Who are you…?” he asks, but all she says in response is that he no longer needs the yoke of the bracelet to constrain him… which means that it is powerless now. OH. OH.
At the same time, Mawang is still trying to crack Secretary Ma’s strange immunity to the circlet, but no matter how many times they try, it doesn’t work on her. She wonders if it’s because the circlet’s purpose is to bind someone to obey blindly, but she’s already completely obedient to him. Ding ding ding!
You can practically see the light bulb go on over Mawang’s head. He jumps out of his seat and says that’s it—the circlet has no power over someone who has no intention of going against it. He wonders if that means that Oh-gong can take off his own bracelet.
Oh-gong asks that very question to Grandma, who asks what need there is to shackle him if he no longer considers his love an imprisonment. He looks down at his wrist in shock, and then she drops another bomb: He has overcome the power of the bracelet on his own, which means that the fate of the death bell and the plans of heaven could all flow in a different direction from here on out.
Oh-gong goes straight to Sun-mi, who’s still gazing at the stars, and he watches her quietly from a distance for a long beat, and then slowly tries pulling the bracelet off. Omo! Omo! He’s doing it!
It slides right off his wrist without a fight, and then he tentatively begins to walk toward her.
He stops to gaze at her, and says with tears in his eyes, “What am I going to do? Looking at you like this… you’re even more beautiful to me.”
He doesn’t go to her though, and all he allows himself to do is drop that star candy back down from the sky. It lands in her lap, but by the time she looks around, he’s gone. Aaaaaaaugh, why?
Mawang is waiting for Oh-gong when he gets home and gleefully announces that he’s cracked the puzzle… only to have Oh-gong show him the bracelet in his hand. LOL, Mawang’s face when his thunder gets stolen is priceless.
He asks how it felt when he saw Sun-mi, and Oh-gong says that he defeated the bracelet because his love didn’t disappear. Mawang is sad for him that he’s still in love, which still means death, while Oh-gong wonders how long he’s been able to take the bracelet off. Mawang says he’s been weird ever since he threw the Sam-jang seasoning away.
To his horror, Oh-gong slides the bracelet back on, which he says he’s doing for Sun-mi’s sake. Mawang argues that she was always worried that he wouldn’t love her without the bracelet and would be happy at this news. IS WHAT I’M SAYING. Oh-gong says that he saw how the last Sam-jang’s protector chose to die, and if Sun-mi is the one left behind after he’s gone, he doesn’t want to leave his love behind.
He says that if he survives after it’s all over, he’ll go to her then and take off the bracelet in front of her. Mawang scoffs that he’s trying to act cool and switches gears to ask where he hid the sword, but Oh-gong just deflects by asking if Mawang loves him that much. He assures Mawang that if he can defeat the bracelet, he can defeat a dragon.
PK tells Frosty and Dragon Prince Alice that he thinks he can rehabilitate Priestess to live as Buja. They warn him to be careful, but PK can’t see reason where Buja is concerned, so Alice blurts angrily that Priestess is knowingly aligning herself with Kang Dae-sung, who murdered Buja. Agh, of course you told him.
And just as Mawang had predicted, PK sees red the moment he learns the truth, and declares that he’s going to kill Priestess and Kang Dae-sung both.
Sun-mi storms into Oh-gong’s penthouse to pick a fight over the star candy, asking why he threw it at her and ghosted. He says he told her to empty her heart where he couldn’t see, but she was crying on the roof right in front of him. Says the stalker who followed her there?
She blows up at him for demanding that in the first place, arguing that he might be cavalier about his feelings, but she can’t just empty out her heart like he can because there’s so much that she stacked inside of it, one by one. “Do you know how much there is to throw away, you jerk?” she shouts, pelting the star candy at his chest.
She cries that she’s going to throw her heart away right in front of him, right where he can see, and he tries his damnedest to keep his composure as he tells her to do her worst. But then she says, “I love you,” and it’s like his willpower just cracks.
“I love you. I love you so much. I love you! I love you!” she shouts, before running into his arms. She says it again and then kisses him, and when she pulls away, he finally says to her, “If you pour it out like this, I won’t stop.”
All she says in response is, “I love you,” which is all the encouragement he needs to pull her into a passionate kiss.
Soon they’re in his bed, and he stops to gaze into her eyes before kissing her again.
Well, that’s one way to break up. I was SO excited when Oh-gong finally took the goddamn bracelet off, and so disappointed when he didn’t show it to her right away that I was all ready to pitch a fit about it in the comments, but then Sun-mi managed to bring it back around when she refused to empty her heart quietly and went over there to pick a fight. Thank goodness for that. I really needed something to change in their relationship today, because the plot has otherwise stalled while we wait for this dragon to show itself, and I was prepared to be angry if we’d left that massive bomb about the bracelet sandwiched in between Oh-gong’s acts of noble idiocy and just ended on tears.
The thing is, I find his actions mostly noble and mostly not idiotic, especially when taken individually. He’s doing what he can to protect a human and the love of his life, while he’s prepared to sacrifice his life in her place to save the world. No argument from me that he isn’t just plain noble. It’s just that the sum of his choices has shown a pattern of keeping Sun-mi in the dark over and over again when she’s best served just knowing the truth and making decisions for herself, especially when she’s the one fated to save the freaking world. It did break my heart that he was too afraid that his real, not-under-the-influence-of-bracelet love would be a burden on her if she were left behind to mourn him, but it’s not like she’d somehow mourn any less if he died right now. I felt like that was a prime us-against-the-world moment that was left on the table when he didn’t run over to her to show off his bracelet-free wrist, because like he said, he defeated that thing with the power of love, for crying out loud. If that really does change the flow of fate and heaven’s plans for them and blow all the bad omens out of the water, then she needs to be given that hope now, not after the dragon is slayed.
I rather like the conceit that the bracelet only holds power over you when you resist it, and that Oh-gong may have been free of its influence for a good long while now. How poetic that a shackle is no longer a shackle the moment you actively choose to wear it. It’s a clean solution to the concern we had over whether Oh-gong’s love was real, because it serves as its own test of proof—he can only remove it when the love is real, so it’s not based on something intangible like whether he still finds her pretty (even though we all knew he would, duh). I thought his emotion in that moment came across perfectly, where he seemed scared to take it off in case Grandma was wrong, and then completely shaken when it proved her right. I’m grateful for that development, because I was getting really tired of the tease every time they almost took it off and then backtracked in pretty much every other episode.
And even though it was futile, I loved that Mawang spent the entire episode trying to save Oh-gong and looking for excuses not to let him die. I wish they were more consistent on the status of their bromance from episode to episode (because didn’t Mawang want to eat Sun-mi yesterday?), but when it’s like today, I can’t complain. I just need everyone to stop being a lone hero and get on the same page, because if I have to watch our good guys sabotaging each other instead of forming a group plan one more time, I will throw something. I’m all for leaving PK hogtied in the closet for an episode just in case too. We don’t have time for your well-meaning shenanigans, Pig! There’s a dragon that needs slaying so that the stupid monkey will tell his girl that his love is real, for some god-forsaken reason!
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