Mr. Sunshine: Episode 4
It’s a volatile time in Joseon, and it seems safer for everyone to disguise their true intentions, whether it’s loyalty, jealousy, or admiration. Eugene remains a mystery to Ae-shin, and she treads carefully around him, trying to figure out what side he’s on. Their relationship seems to determine how the allegiances of our other characters will align, and it’s sure to be a complicated web of emotions and unrealized intentions.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Held at gunpoint by American soldiers, noblewoman Ae-shin stares at American naval officer Eugene and wonders if he’s an enemy or an ally. She resists the invasive search for the stolen gun, but Eugene warns her to cooperate.
A familiar voice intervenes and relieves the impasse by offering a compromise. It’s Kudo Hina, the owner of the Glory Hotel, and she offers to change clothes with Ae-shin, since her form-fitting dress has no room to hide anything. Hina coyly introduces herself to the American soldiers and makes this special request to Eugene. He grants her request, which saves Ae-shin from further conflict.
In the changing room, Ae-shin thanks Hina for her help. Hina empathizes with Ae-shin’s dismay over the current state of Joseon, though she admits to benefitting from this chaos. Ae-shin asks how Hina became the owner of the Glory Hotel as a woman, and Hina explains that she received it as inheritance when her Japanese husband died.
Ae-shin expresses her condolences, but Hina doesn’t need them — she was sold into the marriage by her father from Joseon. She makes light of the situation and says that she’s clearly an attractive woman.
Ae-shin asks how she learned English, and Hina answers that she dated an English man in Tokyo. She shares that young widows are popular among western men because they see her as the main character of a sad story with a sad ending, which tends to last longer in memory. Ae-shin asks what “sad endings” are since Hina used the English term, and Hina translates.
Eugene checks on Ae-shin once she’s changed into Hina’s outfit, and Ae-shin asks her maid to leave for a private conversation. She barely holds in her rage against Eugene and admits that she misunderstood him to be a comrade. Eugene challenges the vilification and asks if only the Hwalbindang and the Righteous Army can be comrades. He claims that he was on the same side as Ae-shin as a comrade, even if only for a moment.
Regarding the search for the stolen gun, Eugene says that there’s no way to trace the thief, since they found the opened package upon arriving at the train station. He assures Ae-shin that this situation won’t escalate beyond the search of passengers, since neither Joseon nor the U.S. will benefit from this being publicized.
As she waits for Ae-shin to be cleared, Hina waits outside and notices her reflection in the window. She looks down at her hankbok with a sentimental gaze, and her thoughts are interrupted by Ae-shin’s maid summoning her to change back into her clothes. The maid wonders how much the western clothes cost, and Hina estimates them to be about two bags of rice. The maid gasps in shock and figures that her hotel must have good business for her afford such clothing.
Ae-shin’s servants walk alongside the carriage, and the male servant pulls the maid out of the way of the horse carriage in a seemingly grand romantic gesture. But the maid isn’t appreciative of this gesture at all and says that she could have easily avoided the horse on her own. She steps back to talk to Ae-shin about Hina and her well-off hotel business. She comments on how beautiful the western dress was, and Ae-shin gets jealous at her maid’s admiration.
At Glory Hotel, the American soldiers enjoy their first night in Joseon with drinks and good company. Hina watches Eugene through the glass, and the waitress she saved the other day asks who she’s looking at.
Thinking back to earlier in the day when she changed clothes with Ae-shin, she tells the waitress that she saw how he looked at another woman (Ae-shin). She wanted to interrupt the interaction, but he ended up getting closer to the other woman instead. The waitress doesn’t understand the inscrutable explanation, and Hina simply says that she might end up biting the other woman. She continues to watch Eugene with an enamored look.
Eugene’s superior and good friend Kyle raises a toast and drops the beer bottle in his drunken state, but Eugene catches it just before it breaks. He advises Kyle to tone down his drinking, but Kyle needs to celebrate his first day in Joseon. He makes light of his handicapped right hand, saying that he can’t hold a gun but can write poems with it.
Eugene and Kyle sit outside and enjoy the view of the village at night. Kyle asks if Eugene found those nobles who killed his parents, and Eugene admits that he hasn’t looked for them yet. He figures that they’re doing well and vows to kill them if he ever sees them again. During such an unusual time in Joseon, the killing would not be anything out of the ordinary. But Kyle reminds him of his priorities: Eugene should find the missing gun before he seeks revenge for his parents’ deaths.
At her shooting practice hideout, Ae-shin thinks about Hina’s friendly greeting to Eugene and grumbles about how Eugene must be a playboy. Her teacher Seung-gu passes by and gets defensive when he thinks she’s talking about him, ha. Then, Ae-shin asks Seung-gu if he was on the train the other day, and he jokes that she must have seen someone handsome. She mentions the American guns she saw, and that’s when Seung-gu reveals the stolen gun.
She asks how he dared to steal it, and Seung-gu says that a single gun is nothing relative to all the other countries trying to steal Joseon. She agrees and laments how the Japanese, Russians, and now the Americans have all gathered in Joseon. Seung-gu disapproves because none of these countries are on Joseon’s side, but Ae-shin reminds him that he’s on Joseon’s side. She says that Joseon does not regard women important enough for her to take a stance, so she’s on Seung-gu’s side. She asks Seung-gu what side he’s on, and he tells her that it’s safer for her not to know, just in case.
But Ae-shin isn’t keen on not knowing, and she arrives at the school that her friend attends to learn English. Her maid warns her of the severe consequences if she’s found out, so Ae-shin tells her that they can make sure it remains a secret.
At the school, Ae-shin tells the English teacher via translations from her childhood friend that she knows a few English words: “gun, glory, sad ending.” She seems proud that she knows difficult English words that her friend doesn’t know, but when she’s asked to write them down, she has no idea what this alphabet thing is.
Eugene’s assistant Gwan-soo accompanies Kyle in a tour of the area, and Kyle is utterly fascinated by everything around him. A group of schoolgirls skip by singing the alphabet, and Ae-shin’s friend is in the mix. They make eye contact with Kyle, and when he tips his hat, they bashfully run away. Kyle turns to Gwan-soo and asks how Joseon women distinguish colors with black eyes. Gwan-soo is baffled by this ignorant question and simply responds, “Welcome to Korea.”
Their next stop is the pawnshop owned by Il-shik and Choon-shik, where Kyle asks to exchange a ten-dollar bill. Kyle asks if Il-shik and Gwan-soo are brothers, since they look so alike. Gwan-soo tries to hold in his laughter, and Il-shik looks suspiciously at him for a translation that he doesn’t provide. The pawnshop duo shovels coins into bags for the currency exchange, and Kyle ends up with multiple bags of coins, which he finds incredible.
Ae-shin’s aunt finds that she’s missing jewelry and summons Ae-shin to track down her cousin at that new guesthouse, Glory Hotel. There, we see her cousin, Ae-soon, gambling all her money in a game of go-stop. She confidently reveals her hand and reaches for the pool, but a woman beats her hand to win that round. Ae-soon is devastated and hears Il-shik’s warning ringing in her ear: If she can’t identify the fool in the group, then she’s it.
When Ae-shin arrives at Glory Hotel, she’s greeted by Hina and tells her that she’s looking for Ae-soon. Hina offers to escort her to a table, but Ae-shin isn’t interested and looks slightly uncomfortable by the surrounding foreigners drinking and gambling. Hina explains that men hold all the power in Joseon, but these men are always at Glory Hotel.
As Hina continues to explain that all of Joseon’s boys gather there, they see Eugene enter the hotel. Hina notes that Ae-shin must have been looking for more than just Ae-soon, and she tells her that Ae-soon has already left the hotel. Ae-shin asks what these women do here, and Hina lists the various activities that both men and women enjoy here: food, drinks, smoking, gambling, and anticipation in the bedroom.
Ae-shin is flustered by Hina’s honesty, and when she turns to make her exit, she’s met by Eugene. He awkwardly tries to justify his stay at the hotel as a convenient and comfortable dorm with meals. Ae-shin tells him to enjoy his stay and quickly exits.
Hina hands Eugene his keys, and as he heads up the stairs, she comments on the interesting sight outside: Ae-shin and Dong-mae. Eugene asks if she knows Dong-mae, and she explains that he helps on the backend of the hotel. She asks if he wants a more detailed explanation, and he declines the offer for now.
Outside, Dong-mae greets Ae-shin, and her maid starts to write him off as a butcher but quickly retreats when Dong-mae reminds her that he cuts things other than meat. Ae-shin says that she heard of his return and witnessed his deeds. He calls out her disapproving gaze and accuses her of still seeing him as a butcher’s son, but Ae-shin clarifies that she never disparaged him for being a butcher. Her disapproval lies in the fact that he’s a traitor. Ae-shin leaves in her carriage, and Dong-mae stands frozen at her piercing criticism.
Dong-mae enters the hotel and notices Eugene heading upstairs. Hina hands him a payment, and he asks about Eugene. She offers to set up a meeting between them, since they seem mutually interested in each other. Then, she second guesses herself and wonders if Eugene is actually interested in Ae-shin. She notices that both options bother Dong-mae, and she casually requests that he spare Eugene’s life because she wishes for Eugene to ask about her one day.
When Eugene enters his hotel room, he finds his belongings rummaged through. He remembers Gwan-soo’s intel about Dong-mae’s lackeys searching Logan’s house, so he finds Dong-mae in the hotel to confront him about this matter.
Dong-mae claims that the search through Eugene’s room is not his doing — in fact, he was just talking to his gang about conducting said search because Logan’s widow has been unreachable. Dong-mae suggests that others may be interested in this Joseon-American soldier, like the Hwalbindang or the Righteous Army.
Eugene confirms that Dong-mae is looking for more than just collecting money, and he proposes that they work together. But Dong-mae refuses and says that he’ll find it on his own. He warns that whoever has what he’s looking for will end up dead.
Dong-mae picks out hard candies at a shop, and the owner refuses to take his money, fearing for his life. The shop owner flinches when Dong-mae tosses the money and looks surprised that Dong-mae really just wanted candies. Dong-mae sucks on the candies as he walks and thinks about Ae-shin happily enjoying these very same candies the other day.
In a flashback, we see young Ae-shin’s carriage stopped before a large commotion along the road. The commotion was caused by the beating of Dong-mae’s parents — punishment for his mother killing a man. Young Dong-mae watched the beating, hiding behind a wall, and Ae-shin had noticed him.
She saved him by bringing him into the carriage to ride with her, and he asked why she saved him. She answered that Confucius spoke of all lives being precious, but that answer didn’t sit well with Dong-mae. He wiped the blood on his lips with her dress and belittled her luxurious noble upbringing. Young Ae-shin stared at him in shock, tears welling in her eyes, and Dong-mae stared back, also on the verge of tears, hands still gripping the fabric of her skirt.
Back in the present, Dong-mae sits in his hiding place at the tarot reader’s shop, and he hands the rest of his candies to her. She remains silent and her expression is unreadable, but there seems to be a slight sense of admiration for Dong-mae.
Eugene returns to the embassy to find Kyle with his spoils from a Joseon shopping spree. Kyle sports a gat and mentions that all the noblemen seem to be wearing this hat. He asks Eugene what it’s called, and he hears the term as “God” and jokes that Joseon people must always be with God.
Eugene updates Kyle that they’re in the midst of interviews with train passengers to identify the gun thief. He also shares that he’s looking into the companions of a certain woman (Ae-shin), who are probably all aristocrats.
In Eugene’s office, Gwan-soo asks the crowd of train passengers to think about who was on the train at its departure but went missing by the time they arrived. One of the passengers remembers the man who stopped Ae-shin from shooting the Japanese solider, and correctly accuses this person as the missing gun thief.
Choon-shik, the smarter of the pawnshop duo, arrives in the office, and Gwan-soo introduces him as a former government worker who worked as a skilled sketch artist but lost his position after being caught in an affair with one of the court maids. He draws the sketch of the supposed culprit, and Eugene comments on how this person is not handsome. Lol.
Gwan-soo informs Eugene that he called Ae-shin back to the embassy, since the passengers’ testimonies confirmed her presence there. Eugene shakes his head at Gwan-soo’s overzealous commitment to this investigation, since he was trying not to get Ae-shin involved.
Ae-shin claims her authoritative spot at Eugene’s desk once again, and he tries to explain that this was not his doing. He asks if Ae-shin saw anyone suspicious on the train, and this time she confirms that she did. She claims that she saw a suspicious person and couldn’t identify if the person was American or Joseon, enemy or ally, clearly talking about Eugene. She makes this pointed comment and asks if Eugene needs the culprit this time, and he senses that she knows who the culprit is.
Ae-shin insists that she doesn’t know who the gun thief is, and Eugene thinks that she’s an accomplice. She can’t tell if he’s trying to be of help or ruin this investigation, since his questions are somewhere along the spectrum of reproach and concern. She didn’t get an answer the first time so she asks again why Eugene didn’t just accuse her as the culprit to resolve the investigation.
Once again, Eugene doesn’t give her an answer, but he uses this opportunity to put aside his investigator act and ask with his true intentions. Regarding his rummaged room, he asks if Ae-shin is on the side of those who searched his things. She asks if he’ll believe her if she says she doesn’t know, but he already assumes she does know and asks who ordered the search. Ae-shin is offended by his presumptuous investigation, but Eugene claims that he’s only trying to protect her. She asks why, and he responds, “Because I can.”
As a last part of his intentional interrogation, he shows her the sketch of the man that the passengers described and admits that his true intentions are probably rooted in jealousy. He asks if she’s familiar with the man and if he’s a noble. She acknowledges that he’s familiar, but she has no idea if he’s a noble. Eugene assumes that she’s taking sides, but she clarifies that this sketched man was the Japanese soldier who was harassing the Joseon people on the train.
Cut to: the train passengers sharing a meal and applauding themselves for framing the wretched Japanese soldier. They discuss the rumors of Japanese and Russians engaging in war, and the woman passenger throws down her food in indignation that the poor people will likely suffer again.
In Japan, a man limps towards the prime minister and offers a gift. It’s Wan-ik, the infamous Joseon traitor who first sided with the Americans to ruin Joseon, and he offers a precious porcelain piece as a parting gift. He’s been summoned by the Joseon king, and he delivers this porcelain vase in anticipation of their reunion in Joseon.
The prime minister tells Wan-ik about the fifth devil in the road to Nirvana that invokes the feeling that everything in the world is sad and useless. He picks up the porcelain and says that it reminds him of this devil. Then, he tells Wan-ik to become this sorrowful devil for Emperor Gojong by reminding him of Queen Min’s death (she was killed in a Japanese attack) and the screams of that night. He demands that Wan-ik make the emperor anxious and ever fearful of another attack. He promises to land in Joseon in three years and expects Wan-ik to hand him Joseon then. Wan-ik promises to do so.
The young servant girl who was carrying Logan’s baby walks down the village streets hand in hand with her younger brother. The girl has bought her brother a sweet snack, yeot, and she’s happy to work and make money to treat her brother. She accidentally bumps into a bald Japanese soldier — the same one who harassed the people on the train — and she apologizes profusely. Her younger brother doesn’t understand why she needs to be so sorry, but she tells him to be quiet and bows her head in fear.
Kyle roams the streets with Eugene and greets Japanese ladies as they walk by. He’s just about to share his newfound knowledge of Japanese women and their black eyes, but he suddenly realizes that Eugene also has dark eyes. He gets uncomfortably close to Eugene to peer at his eyes, but their intimate moment is interrupted by the young boy crying for help. He runs straight to Eugene, begging him to help his older sister. Kyle sees the situation and reports that a young girl is being harassed by two armed Japanese soldiers. We see that the young girl fights to keep a valuable item, while the soldiers try to wring it out of her grip.
Eugene tries to tell Kyle to ignore the situation, since there are plenty of other Joseon people to help, but the boy holds on desperately for help. The boy’s cries remind Eugene of his own desperate plea to save his parents, and he can’t seem to ignore the parallels. He gets down to the boy’s level and tells him that this is his fight. Eugene offers to help, but the boy must own his fight.
The boy stops crying and nods in understanding. He grabs a rock and runs toward the Japanese soldiers, who have pried the envelope out of the girl’s hand and enjoy their new wealth in American dollars. But the celebration is short-lived, as the boy slams the rock against the bald soldier’s head. The boy runs immediately to Eugene, and the Japanese soldier grabs his bleeding head, cursing the Joseon people.
Eugene tells the boy to stay aside with his sister and takes on the fight from there. He recognizes the bald Japanese soldier from the train culprit sketch, and he swiftly beats up both soldiers without any weapons. Kyle watches from the sidelines and scares the young boy with his unfamiliar English, but luckily his sister understands and thanks Kyle for his help. Eugene returns to the spectating bunch and reminds the boy to fight for himself from now on.
As the two American soldiers continue through the area, Eugene suddenly fixates on a man passing in front of them. He recognizes him as the son of Ignobleman, the cruel noble who killed his parents. He’s shocked that he immediately recognized him, and Kyle looks confused by Eugene’s sudden focus on this mysterious person.
Meanwhile, Ignobleman’s grandson Hee-sung finally arrives at the Joseon port, and he sighs at the scent of his home country. He checks in at the Glory Hotel, where he’s first greeted by Hina in Japanese. When he speaks to her in Korean, her tone of voice changes and she notes that he’s a Joseon person. He says that Joseon has changed a lot in the past ten years, including one of his family’s homes, which is now the Glory Hotel. Hina finally recognizes Hee-sung as the son of the wealthiest family in Joseon and gladly introduces herself more graciously.
On his hotel room balcony, Eugene is deep in thought about the nobleman he recognized earlier that day. His thoughts are interrupted by Hee-sung, who’s out on his own balcony right around the corner and tries to introduce himself to Eugene. He reaches over to offer a handshake, but Eugene isn’t interested, unaware that the nobleman’s son is standing right in front of him.
That night, Eugene sits on his bed, replaying the tragic moments of his childhood while Hee-sung gambles the night away.
The next morning, Hee-sung walks out of the pawnshop and runs into Eugene, who ignores him as he walks into the shop. Gwan-soo waits for Eugene outside, and friendly Hee-sung explains that he visited the pawnshop because he gambled all his money away last night and needs to buy flowers to meet his future wife.
Looks like Hee-sung sold his watch, which Il-shik admires as Eugene walks into the shop. Eugene knows that the two were former slave hunters and asks them to find someone for them. He names the people and puts down a twenty-dollar bill upfront, offering double the amount if they find who he’s looking for. Il-shik wonders if Eugene plans on killing these people, and Eugene responds that he wouldn’t mind if these people were brought to him dead.
This comes as no surprise to Il-shik, as the people he’s looking for are infamous for being the richest family after the emperor. He says that nine out of ten people know who they are, and Eugene claims that he’s the one of ten who doesn’t know. Il-shik tries to grab the money, but Eugene holds onto it to gather more information.
Il-shik continues that there was only one time that he lost a slave, and that one slave belonged to this family. The slave was a young boy around nine years old, and Choon-shik interrupts the story to disclose that they didn’t actually lose the boy. Turns out, they had seen the boy’s clothes poking out of a crate, but Il-shik insisted that they ignore it.
Il-shik admits that he was sitting on the crate that the boy was hiding in, and he could feel the box trembling. He pitied the boy who must have been so scared to make the box tremble that much. Eugene realizes that he was saved by these two men and thanks them belatedly, though to them it sounds like he’s just thanking them for the information. He asks for the location of this family and rides off to seek his revenge.
When Eugene arrives at the home, Ignobleman’s son (and Hee-sung’s father) looks at his curiously. His wife joins him, and they wonder who he is. He informs Eugene that Ignobleman passed away a decade ago due to illness, and Eugene notices the scar on the woman’s neck, which confirms their identities as his revenge targets.
Meanwhile, Hee-sung walks happily with flowers in his hand and peers over the wall to sneak a look at Ae-shin. She’s hanging laundry with her maids, and she stops to think about her interrogation with Eugene.
Stroking the ornament hanging from her garment, she wonders what he meant about his jealousy fueling his investigation. Her thoughts are interrupted by her servant yelling at the stranger peering over the ledge, and it seems that Hee-sung is still trying to catch a glimpse of Ae-shin from afar.
At the ignoble residence, Eugene is also asked for his identity, but he remains silent. The wife notices his military uniform but notes that it’s not a Joseon uniform. Eugene silently walks up and offers his ornament to the wife as his form of identification. The wife takes the ornament, and after a brief moment, she recognizes it and collapses in fear. Trembling, she tells her husband that this is that runaway slave boy.
The noble’s eyes widen, realizing the fate of their reunion. Eugene asks if they ever recovered his parents’ bodies, and he points his gun at the noble, who then falls to the ground alongside his wife. Eugene demands to know if his parents have been buried and stands above the nobles, threatening their lives.
At Ae-shin’s home, the servant recognizes the man peering over the ledge as Ae-shin’s fiance and warmly welcomes Hee-sung. When Hee-sung arrives to see Ae-shin up close, he admires her beauty and expresses his regret in not returning sooner.
I like the juxtaposition of Eugene and Hee-sung at the end, which is indicative of how they’re treated differently because of their social status. There is a carefree nature to Hee-sung’s outward persona that makes him more socially likable, but his acceptance is mostly rooted in his social status. Hee-sung is immediately accepted because of his wealth and reputation in Joseon society while Eugene continues to be treated as an outsider. Despite the fact the Eugene has shot up the social ladder, his status as an American soldier still alienates him from the Joseon people.
More and more, I’m seeing how Eugene’s actions and words don’t exactly align, as if he’s trying to convince himself through aspirational claims of being an American and not caring about Joseon. But I think he’ll soon realize that the Joseon people, the commoners who are the backbone of the nation, are not to blame. He’d been saved by multiple kind souls during his childhood escape, and I think he’s realizing that he couldn’t have become an American without the help of key Joseon people in his life.
While the formal love triangle seems to involve Hee-sung, Eugene, and Ae-shin, I’m definitely more invested in the simmering love triangle that involves Hina and Dong-mae. I find the latter two to be the most intriguing characters so far, as their outward appearance is so vastly different from what they really feel. Their disguises are polished and tragic (of course), and they aren’t given much opportunity to unveil their true intentions. That makes their rare moments of clarity and emotional honesty more poignant, and I’m sure we’ll have more of those compelling moments to come.
I’m cringing so hard at Kyle’s discovery of Korea, which was a perfect portrayal of an ignorant foreigner stepping foot in a new culture. But Kyle’s fascination is benign, and I’m not against some lighthearted jokes about eye color and God. The eye color line finally resolved my curiosity about David McInnis wearing colored contacts, and I’m super amused that he probably needed to wear those contacts just for that joke or the joke was written in because he was wearing colored contacts. Either way, it’s a bizarre detail that I was not expecting further developments on, but here we are.
I feel like we’re finally (read: hopefully) wrapping up the exposition, with our characters’ backstories and motivations established. I’m antsy to get the action going, and the return of Wan-ik is promising to provoke a sense of urgency and force some reluctant partnerships among our characters. Nothing like the Bad Guy to come get our plot moving forward. I welcome you with open arms, you filthy traitor.
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