Mr. Sunshine: Episode 15
Eugene confronts the duality of his identity and carefully wields that double-edged sword to prove which side he stands on. An American to the Joseon people, and a Joseon person to the Americans, Eugene struggles to define his identity to those who choose to only see one side. But as the paths of being an American and a Joseon person diverge, Eugene implicitly makes a decision by protecting those he’s indebted to in life and in love.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
After their confrontation with Dong-mae’s gang, Eugene and Hee-sung piece together Kim Yong-joo’s whereabouts based on Hee-sung’s sharp nose that caught the whiff of incense on their culprit. Hee-sung says that there are too many shaman houses to find Kim Yong-joo in time, but Eugene has the manpower: Dong-mae’s gang.
Dong-mae’s lackeys embark on this manhunt and successfully find Kim Yong-joo at his shaman house hideout. Attempting to delay his capture, Yong-joo holds the shaman at gunpoint, but the hostage does nothing to stop these assassins. Yujo stabs his sword through the shaman and into Yong-joo without a blink of an eye.
We return to the cliffhanger, in which Eun-san orders Ae-shin to kill Eugene, who’s crossing the frozen river toward them. She asks why he’s enlisting her to carry out this cruel task, and Eun-san says that she fit the two qualifications for the job: a sharp shooter with composure and someone who won’t be harmed if Eugene survives the shooting. He hands her the gun, and Ae-shin asserts her belief that Eugene is coming to Eun-san to protect him — not to harm him. Despite her belief, she takes the gun, ready to fulfill her role.
The innkeeper worries about things going awry, but Seung-gu seems to surrender the outcome to fate. He believes that Ae-shin and Eugene will carry out their respective tasks and that it’s better that they confront their fate sooner than later.
Eugene approaches Eun-san, and Ae-shin aims her gun at him from above. Her confidence falters ever so slightly at the confirmed sight of Eugene, but she quickly regains her composure and follows him with her aim. Eugene confronts Eun-san about the Righteous Army member, Jeon Seung-jae, who tried to kill him, and Eun-san says that he has no choice, with Joseon under attack and the Americans siding with the Japanese. Eun-san warns him that there is a gun pointed at him somewhere and gives Eugene an ultimatum: die here or leave Joseon.
Eugene says that he has no interest in where Joseon’s sovereignty lies; rather, he’s only interested in two other things: that Eun-san lives a long life, and that Ae-shin doesn’t die. From behind, Seung-jae arrives carrying a limp man — Kim Yong-joo. Eun-san recognizes him, and Seung-jae explains that Eugene captured and delivered the traitor to them.
Eugene says that he’s handing over Kim Yong-joo for the Joseon people to determine what to do with him. He says that he’s a Joseon person to the Americans and an American to the Joseon people, and he doesn’t know which path he’ll take. Throwing his gun at Eun-san, Eugene tells him to take this opportunity to kill him because he won’t be fleeing Joseon again. He says that this is how he will repay his debt to Eun-san.
Unable to kill him, Eun-san tells Eugene to leave. Seung-jae refuses to let Eugene go free and points his gun at him, but Eun-san repeats his command and lowers Seung-jae’s gun. Eugene tells Eun-san to live long, since it seems that they won’t meet again.
Eun-san dismisses Ae-shin at the end of their mission, but Ae-shin needs answers about the two men she recognized from the photo of her father. She asks if Kim Yong-joo is the man who killed the missionary Joseph and her parents. Eun-san says that she mustn’t ask questions, and she angrily repeats the mantra of the Righteous Army — if you’re discovered, you run; if you’re caught, you die; if you die, you’re buried. She asks if this is why she can’t ask about her parents even now.
Eun-san confirms that Kim Yong-joo murdered Ae-shin’s parents, and he asks if Ae-shin intends to kill him with her own hands. If that were an option, she wishes that he had informed her earlier, since this man murdered an American missionary and forced another man to risk his life. But she hands over her gun and requests that Eun-san make a better decision than her angry impulses.
Seeking a better compromise, Eun-san meets with Minister Lee Jung-moon and explains that Eugene turned in Kim Yong-joo. He requests that that they rightfully convict Kim Yong-joo for the crimes and clear Joseph’s name, even though it would discredit the Joseon court. Minister Lee asks if this favor will secure Eugene on their side, and Eun-san says that they already had Eugene on their side, only to lose him because of Eun-san’s belated realization of Eugene’s loyalty.
The police chief and Lee Duk-moon report the news of Kim Yong-joo’s capture to Wan-ik, and they worry that Yong-joo may reveal Wan-ik as a conspirator. But Wan-ik seems confident that Yong-joo won’t rat him out and decides to abandon their mercenary since they’re done using him. Wan-ik asks how Kim Yong-joo was discovered, and the police chief explains that the Musin Society members captured him and brought him to the American solider. Wan-ik seems dissatisfied that this American soldier can move people without bribing them with copious amounts of money, like he has to do.
Minister Lee tortures and interrogates Kim Yong-joo, asking if Wan-ik is the colluder behind all his crimes, but Yong-joo remains silent. Yong-joo seems resigned to his death sentence, and Minister Lee presumes that Yong-joo must have family to protect with his silence. Minister Lee grants Yong-joo’s wishes by sentencing him to death for his highest crimes, but he also adds that Yong-joo’s dead body will be found before the sentenced death.
When Minister Lee leaves, Seung-jae appears and tells Yong-joo that he’ll soon meet Sang-wan, Ae-shin’s father. Yong-joo knows that this is his end, and Seung-jae stabs Yong-joo multiple times to death. An announcement is posted the next day about Yong-joo’s crimes, clearing Joseph’s name. Eugene sees the Joseon people gather around the bulletin, and he thinks back to his confrontation with Kim Yong-joo.
When Yong-joo was discovered at the shaman house, Eugene beat him and demanded to know why he was loitering around Ae-shin’s house. He claimed that he wanted to reveal the truth about Ae-shin’s parents — that Wan-ik was actually the culprit. He admitted that he was naïve to believe Wan-ik’s deal to spare his comrades’ lives in exchange for Yong-joo’s betrayal, but he claimed that he had no choice in order to protect his family.
But Eugene corrected Yong-joo and blamed him for killing his comrades. Yong-joo had a choice, and his comrades didn’t make the same choice despite having a family like him. Eugene presumed that Yong-joo used the same excuse to justify killing others, like Eugene’s father. Eugene said that Joseph was a father to him, and he punched Yong-joo once more.
Back in the present, Eugene sees Wan-ik pass through the streets toward the palace. Emperor Gojong appoints Wan-ik to the foreign affairs minister position, and when Wan-ik accepts the position, the emperor suddenly sees Japanese troops marching in behind him, infesting the palace. He breathes heavily as he imagines the palace ministers transformed into Japanese soldiers, and the Japanese rising sun flag flying behind Wan-ik and Ito Hirobumi, the prime minister of Japan.
In his quarters, Gojong paces anxiously and trembles in fear of his nightmares becoming reality. He falls to the ground in desperation, and Minister Lee watches the emperor suffer helplessly.
Hina’s former hotel worker, Gui-dan, gets dragged to meet with Hina, who confronts her about framing Dong-mae. Hina intends to ruin Gui-dan’s life and uses her fencing sword to cut Gui-dan’s face. Gui-dan screams in pain, and Hina says that she’s leaving a mark to remind her that she was foolish and unkind. Indignant about this treatment, Gui-dan claims that everyone hated Dong-mae anyway. But Hina corrects her, saying that she doesn’t hate him.
Eugene greets Dong-mae upon his release, and Dong-mae says that he’ll buy a drink in appreciation. Eugene says that many others contributed to his release, including Domi, Hina, his gang, Hee-sung, and Ae-shin. Dong-mae says that he’ll repay them someday, and he walks off to deal with important business.
Dong-mae’s important business turns out to be the proper cremation for his underlings who sacrificed their lives to protect Dong-mae. He tells Yujo to send them off with ample money for their journey. Then, it’s back to work for Dong-mae at Hwawollu, where he’s greeted by an unwelcome guest — Belligerent, who abused the tarot card reader and killed Dong-mae’s underlings during his capture.
Belligerent dropped by to return Dong-mae’s sword upon Hayashi’s command, and Dong-mae says that Hayashi also sent a gift with the sword. Dong-mae reminds Belligerent that he vowed to kill him upon his release, and Dong-mae delivers on that promise by swiftly slicing Belligerent’s neck with the very sword he’s holding out to give him. Blood splatters on Dong-mae’s face, but it blends right into his bloody face from his interrogation. Now that’s the aesthetic of an assassin.
When Dong-mae arrives at the hotel, the tarot card reader runs into his arms in relief, and Dong-mae comforts her silently. He sees Hina looking out from inside the hotel, and they blink in acknowledgement of each other.
Hina finds Hee-sung playing the piano and asks about his search for an office. He says that he’s found a place, but it already has an owner. He realizes this work situation is reflective of his personal situation, and Hina encourages him to reclaim his spot. She offers a room change, as it’s the least she can do, but Hee-sung politely declines, saying that his third-floor room has the best view of the moon.
Eugene passes through the lobby and quietly nods at them before heading out. Hina informs Hee-sung that Joseph’s funeral is today, and Hee-sung says that he’ll need to play a sad song in honor of Joseph’s passing. The somber melody transitions into the funeral, where Eugene remembers Joseph — the great and noble one, his home, his hero, his father. Minister Lee and the congregation from the U.S. embassy gather to honor Joseph, and Eugene bids Joseph farewell. His tombstone reads: “The Jesus Helper, Son of Dreams, Rest In Peace.”
After the funeral, Eugene pours some of Joseph’s homemade alcohol over his grave and takes a swig of it himself. He tearfully smiles at the thought of Joseph and lingers at his grave in sorrow. Meanwhile, Ae-shin visits the temple and asks the monk to light a candle for Joseph. She mentions that Joseph believed in God, and the monk assures her that the higher powers all get along and will escort Joseph to his place.
Hoping to find a letter, Ae-shin checks the cabinet at the medicine shop, but she’s met with Eugene himself. He asks if she was anticipating bad news, since she had almost shot him. He says that he’s used to being alienated, since he’s doesn’t belong on the Joseon nor the American side. Ae-shin reaches out her hand and invites him to her side, but Eugene expresses hesitance in holding the hand of the person who intended to shoot him.
Ae-shin approaches Eugene and says that she’s holding the hand of the man who knowingly walked in front of the muzzle of her gun. Eugene takes her hand and then pulls her into a tight embrace. He holds onto her as he cries, and Ae-shin gently comforts him.
As it rains outside, Dong-mae sits in his dojo, holding the coin that Ae-shin paid him, and Hina holds the handkerchief that Eugene gave her. Hina wonders who’s crying so much to make it rain when she’s the one who received the handkerchief.
Duk-moon worries that Dong-mae’s release will result in unfavorable consequences for Wan-ik, but Wan-ik thinks back to Dong-mae carrying drunk Hina on piggyback and wonders if there’s something to trust in Dong-mae. Speaking of the devil, Dong-mae arrives at Wan-ik’s house and regrets to inform Wan-ik that his scheme failed — in framing Nobleman Go (Ae-shin’s grandfather) and using Dong-mae as his pawn.
Dong-mae says that he tipped Hayashi on some false information that Wan-ik and the late Minister Lee Se-hoon schemed behind Hayashi’s back with the banknote, and that Wan-ik used Minister Lee as his scapegoat. Wan-ik doubts that Hayashi believed such baseless information, but Dong-mae says that he merely planted a seed of suspicion. Then, he steps closer to relay Hayashi’s message and seethes, “Those who are neither Joseon nor Japanese eventually become Japan’s weakness.” With that, Dong-mae congratulates Wan-ik on his appointment to foreign minister and tells him to beware.
Il-shik from the pawnshop loiters around the U.S. embassy trying to enter to meet with Eugene, and he’s easily granted entry by an American soldier who mistakes him for Gwan-soo (ha). Il-shik offers Joseph’s belongings to Eugene, and Eugene recognizes the ointment that Joseph used to tend to his wounds as a child. Il-shik finds relief in Eugene’s tears, that he found the right items, and Eugene notices a box inscribed with the name Song Yeong. Eugene asks Il-shik to keep all these items and information on Song Yeong from the telegram a secret, and of course Il-shik offers to keep this secret. At a pricey cost.
Eugene looks at the photo of the comrades and thinks back to Seung-jae’s warning that as Eugene approaches the truth, he exposes the Righteous Army to greater peril. He also remembers Kim Yong-joo’s last wish to destroy the photo because he had lied about his comrades’ names to Wan-ik. As Eugene burns the photo and the box belonging to Song Yeong, he repeats the message written on the back: “On the day the plum flowers bloomed — Song Yeong, Go Sang-wan, Kim Yong-joo, Jeon Seung-jae, together. Spring 1874, Tokyo.”
When Il-shik returns to the pawnshop, Hee-sung proposes a contract to use some of the pawnshop space as his office. He offers to pay rent and tend to customers when the duo is gone, and he assures them that no customer would be bothered by someone as handsome as him. To prove his point, two ladies enter the pawnshop and ask if Hee-sung has set up his office in the pawnshop yet. Il-shik stares at these two ladies in admiration and quickly agrees to Hee-sung’s terms.
At the bar, Hee-sung enthusiastically explains his discovery of his passion to Eugene and Dong-mae, who both look annoyed by Hee-sung’s aimless babbling. They complain that he’s told them everything but what he’s actually setting up his office for, and Hee-sung finally reveals that he’s setting up a newspaper. Dong-mae immediately hopes that he only prints obituaries, and Eugene comments that the newspaper will likely fail because Hee-sung can’t seem to get to the point with a decent headline. HA!
Hee-sung says that he’ll emphasize the truth and facts over sensationalized headlines, and he plans on writing the newspaper in Korean only — an anomaly among most newspapers which are mixed with Korean and Chinese. Eugene asks Dong-mae if he’s hunting anyone nowadays, and Dong-mae says that he’s looking for someone with a cough. Hee-sung immediately coughs out his drink and excuses himself early before they plan to kill him again.
Eugene stops him and says that Hee-sung has never paid for drinks, and Hee-sung shamelessly thanks them for buying drinks again. Taking a page from Hee-sung’s book, Eugene prematurely thanks Dong-mae for buying drinks, but Dong-mae leaves saying that he has important business to tend to. This trio!!
As the trio walks alongside each other down the street, Hee-sung admires the moon but assures his pals that they’re definitely not walking together. Dong-mae confirms this and says that all people walk through life separately. Then, Hee-sung notices flower petals falling and stops to admire spring in full bloom. He says that everything he likes is here today, and Dong-mae asks to be excluded from that list. Hee-sung ignores him and continues to gleefully admire the useless things he likes: spring, flowers, the moon.
Hee-sung asks Dong-mae if he can cut a flower petal exactly in half, and Dong-mae responds that he can cut Hee-sung exactly in half. He asks Hee-sung if he’d prefer to be cut horizontally or vertically, and Hee-sung turns to ask Eugene if he can shoot a flower petal. Eugene asks if this would be before or after Dong-mae cuts it in half. Hee-sung sarcastically comments on this wonderful metaphor of dying every day between an American and a Japanese man. He says that his cause of death today is beauty. Our frenemy trio admires the beauty of spring as we transition into a new season.
Ae-shin writes an advertisement for the language school as her friend dictates the message, and her school friend offers a backhanded compliment on her writing, saying that she writes like a man. Her friend runs away before Ae-shin can punish her, and Ae-shin practices her penmanship to write to Eugene. They exchange letters about spring, and Eugene asks about plum flowers, in reference to the message written behind the photo of Ae-shin’s father.
Ae-shin and Eugene go to see the blooming plum flowers, and Ae-shin explains that these flowers represent the crest of the Joseon royals. Eugene says that he was curious about what Ae-shin’s father and his comrades were commemorating at the mention of plum flowers, and he apologizes for destroying the photo to protect the mentioned names. Ae-shin says that she remembers the photo with her heart and thanks Eugene.
Ae-shin asks what’s next — after introductions, handshake, hug, longing, and flower-watching. Eugene suggests fishing, and he brags that he’s a naval officer skilled with most things on a boat. Ae-shin proposes a bet on who can catch the most fish, and they head out on the water for this next step in “love.”
Ae-shin and Eugene fish in the middle of the lake, and Ae-shin excitedly grabs Eugene’s fishing pole when she notices the movement of a baited fish. They lose the fish, and Eugene asks if Ae-shin intends to continue holding his hand, which she accidentally grabbed in her excitement. She lets go, but Eugene takes her hand again, saying that he’s using fishing as an excuse to hold her hand. Ae-shin smiles giddily, and she narrates her written poem: “On an autumn day, the long clean lake flows like green jade. We docked our boat where the lotus flowers bloom. I threw bait over the wall to meet you, but I got caught from someone afar and spent half the day embarrassed.”
As Hee-sung’s father enters Glory Hotel, he spots Eugene walking inside and immediately cowers behind the gate in fear. He runs home and urgently informs his wife that Eugene is residing in the same hotel as Hee-sung, and they assume the worst. In response to this startling news, Hee-sung’s mother visits Eugene at the embassy and returns his mother’s ornament. She claims that she’s not asking for forgiveness, but she begs that he leave Hee-sung alone, since he’s not to blame — he was just born into this family.
Eugene reciprocates her plea and claims that he also had no sin in being born into his family as a slave. He asks why he must live through hell while her son lives comfortably. She says that she’ll repent for the rest of her life and even in death, and then she begs on her knees for Eugene to let Hee-sung be.
In his hotel room, Eugene stares at the ornament and gets interrupted by a knock on his door. It’s drunk Hee-sung, and he stumbles into Eugene’s room asking for his help in tending to his wound. When Hee-sung sits down, he recognizes the ornament on the table from when he ran into his mother at the pawnshop, and asks Eugene why he has his mother’s ornament. Eugene clarifies that it used to belong to Hee-sung’s mother and asks when his birthday is, since it’s the day that his parents died. He says that he forgot the exact day because he was fleeing from the slave hunters that Hee-sung’s grandfather sent after him.
Hee-sung shares his birthday — April 17, 1871 — and asks if Eugene is curious about anything else. Without revealing more of his story, Eugene says that he probably knows more than Hee-sung at this point, and Hee-sung silently acknowledges this.
Later that night, Hee-sung meets with the old slave from his household, the same person that Eugene sought to trace his parents’ grave. Hee-sung asks to hear the full story, and Dong-mae watches them converse from afar. After the conversation, Dong-mae approaches the servant, who immediately begins to beg for his life. Dong-mae doesn’t intend to harm the man, and out of curiosity, he asks what he was discussing with Hee-sung.
In their conversation, Hee-sung had requested that the servant fill in the gaps of his story, which he had been avoiding for some time. He claims that he’s ready to endure the truth, but Hee-sung still reacts with shock to Eugene’s true backstory — his father being beaten so that his mother could be sold off, his mother holding Hee-sung’s mother hostage, and his mother drowning herself in a well after ordering Eugene to run away. Hee-sung thanks the servant for telling him the truth, though he looks overwhelmed by the weight of guilt he’s now privy to.
Dong-mae listens to this full backstory and looks amused by this tragic relationship between Eugene and Hee-sung. He offers the servant ample compensation for sharing this unexpected revelation.
As summoned, Hina secretly meets with Minister Lee to discuss the leaked secret letter between the emperor and the missionary. Minister Lee says that there were three individuals involved in this letter exchange, and one of them — the missionary — returned dead. Minister Lee requests for Hina to keep an eye on one of their suspected traitors, who was asked to trail the missionary from Hanseong to Jemulpo in case something went awry. He’s referring to Lady Kang, who frequents Hina’s hotel as a gambler.
Minister Lee also asks Hina to bring Eugene to meet with him since he knows that Eugene doesn’t want to see him. Hina asks what she’ll receive as compensation, and Minister Lee offers to disclose the residence where Hina’s mother dwells. Hina pauses and suspects that she misheard him, but Minister Lee confirms that he knows where Hina’s mother is living. Hina realizes that Minister Lee had already known about her mother’s whereabouts and was saving this information to exchange with a sizable request.
Hina escorts Eugene to the meeting with Minister Lee and requests that he comply, since she also has a stake in this meeting. Minister Lee asks Eugene to accept the instructor role for the Joseon Royal Guard, which Eugene previously declined. Eugene declines once again, but Minister Lee explains that Eugene is the only one fit for the position because he needs someone who’s immune to Wan-ik’s manipulation. Minister Lee says that by accepting this position, he could allow for Eun-san and the Righteous army to live longer, even if it’s the slightest bit.
Eugene warns Minister Lee that he wouldn’t be taking the role with good intentions, but Minister Lee says that he only wishes that Eugene doesn’t hold any bad intentions. Minister Lee offers any compensation for taking this position, and Eugene asks for the land on a mountain, where his parents were buried. He thinks back to his mother telling his young self that she would become a flower in his yard, and as he walks through the flowers on the mountain, he wonders if he should build a house there to fulfill his promise.
Grandfather looks at a photo of Ae-shin’s parents before he’s interrupted by his daughter-in-law offering medicine for his lack of appetite and sleep. Grandfather asks if they’ve received any word from Nobleman Kim and asks that they proceed with Ae-shin’s wedding plans.
Aunt summons Ae-shin to share that her marriage is moving forward with the official letter from Hee-sung’s family (a tradition in the marriage process), and of course, Ae-shin resists. But Aunt says that she’s done overlooking Ae-shin’s meetings with Seung-gu and the bruises all over her body, and she firmly orders Ae-shin to follow her family’s wishes.
Hee-sung’s servant runs into him on the street and delivers the happy news of their official letter of marriage to Ae-shin’s family. Hee-sung intercepts this letter delivery and offers to deliver the letter directly, which the servant finds curious. Meanwhile, Ae-shin meets with Grandfather and asserts that she will not get married. She says that she’s gone too far since meeting Seung-gu to submit to the demure ways of a housewife.
Grandfather won’t accept Ae-shin’s vow to live alone, since it goes against tradition, but Ae-shin remains resolute. She then admits that she’s in love with someone else and says that she’s willing to give up everything so that she can walk alongside this person. Grandfather scolds Ae-shin for her irreverent excuse and blames her servants for not sheltering Ae-shin enough. He orders her servants to be locked up, and her servants realize that this will be a long fight of obstinance between Ae-shin and Grandfather.
When Hee-sung arrives at Ae-shin’s house, he finds Ae-shin sitting on her knees in front of Grandfather’s room. He joins her and offers to share the punishment. Hee-sung tries to lighten the mood with his regular joking manner, but Ae-shin tells him to leave, as this isn’t a punishment to share. She admits that she rejected their marriage because she’s in love with someone else, and Hee-sung’s face hardens at this confession.
Ae-shin claims that she’s irreversibly risking everything for this person and won’t regret her decision. She apologizes to Hee-sung and hopes that he meets a better woman. Hee-sung responds as a side note that he’s met plenty of other women. Then, he says that he already knew that Ae-shin was in love with someone else, but that did nothing to change his mind. Taking out the official letter for their marriage, Hee-sung looks at her with a sharper gaze and confesses that he just harbored some bad intentions.
I’m glad that Hee-sung is finally making some moves personally and professionally after wandering in this show for so long. I welcomed his loitering since his charm brightened up any scene, but he needed more action and purpose to make him more useful in this story. Since the Ae-shin and Eugene pairing seems to be solidified at this point, I’m more interested in Hee-sung’s newspaper business than his involvement in this arranged marriage. Though the newspaper business came from way left field, I think it would add an interesting dimension to the story, especially if Hee-sung’s commitment to the truth is fully realized. Since Hee-sung enjoys immense privilege as a noble, he could potentially disclose important truths and facts while remaining somewhat immune to the consequences. It feels pretty late to introduce such a crucial storyline, but one can hope.
I appreciated the theme of Eugene’s dual identity in this episode because it’s meaningful and more central to Eugene’s character. There have been so many distractions in Eugene’s life — with all his unknown enemies trying to kill him — that his character lost a bit of focus along the way. I think this episode did a great job of re-centering Eugene as this complex hyphenated identity straddling two worlds, simultaneously an insider and outsider. It’s the fluidity of his cultural identity that makes him such a flexible ally/enemy, and I enjoyed the discussion and exploration of what that means for Eugene.
I’m smitten for Dong-mae’s strong sense of loyalty and protectiveness for his people, which is such a stark contrast to his job as a heartless killer. He’s fiercely loyal to his people, and those people in turn are fiercely loyal to him. I think that’s a point of contrast between him and Eugene, who also balances two identities but doesn’t have a loyal tribe. If this episode proved anything, it’s that Dong-mae isn’t such a lone wolf. He may have the cruelest and most vicious enemies, but he has people who care enough to save him, including Hee-sung and Eugene who gratefully also risk their lives every day as his loyal frenemies.
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