Mr. Sunshine: Episode 17
Ae-shin counts her blessings, as she finally realizes that she’s been protected by unsolicited guardians who admire her more than she can imagine. Dong-mae and Hee-sung make some immense sacrifices for Ae-shin, while she remains sheltered by her nobility, their admiration, and the Eugene’s power as an American soldier. But her protective guards are gradually being depleted, and she’ll soon need to utilize her training to fight for herself.
EPISODE 17 RECAP
The solar eclipse commences, and the Righteous Army run through the hills to deliver Grandfather’s letters to his fellow noblemen. At the palace, Ae-shin meets with the royal concubine, Lady Um, to share her knowledge from the language school. Lady Um asks how Ae-shin first found interest in the language school, and Ae-shin admits that she wanted to read a foreigner’s name, which she can now read and even write. She says that she also wanted to learn the opposite phrase to “sad ending,” but she hasn’t found the answer, since all endings are sad in some way.
Ae-shin also shares that her perspective that all written languages seem to carry a consistent spirit and meaning, but the mathematic and scientific rules seem new and exciting to her. Lady Um praises Ae-shin’s intelligence and expresses reassurance in her plans to build a girls’ school. She tells Ae-shin that Hina — who referred her to Lady Um — is waiting for her at their rendezvous location, and Ae-shin respectfully bows before heading to the bakery.
At the bakery, Ae-shin tells Hina that her summoning to the palace felt indiscreet and ostentatious of Hina’s power. Hina says that she’s here to respond to her letter request about Dong-mae in person, since she doesn’t trust written documents. Hina reveals that Dong-mae trespassed Ae-shin’s house with the letter that Grandfather wrote to his fellow noblemen. All the letters had been burned, and Hina presumes that Dong-mae returned the last remaining copy because he wanted to save Grandfather’s life.
Ae-shin thanks her for the information, and before she leaves, Hina asks about her visit to the palace. Thinking back to her brief interaction with Eugene, Ae-shin cryptically responds that she almost cried, but fortunately, she smiled. Meanwhile, Eugene ponders his gift from the emperor, a Joseon flag.
The Royal Military Academy begins training its enlisted young men, and Eugene introduces himself as their drill instructor. The enlisted men mumble curiously about Eugene’s American uniform and unfamiliar name, but Eugene takes no interest in their side conversations. He says he’ll be teaching the newbies how to survive and warns them that his lessons will be short and infrequent, yet difficult. The newbies grumble that they’re already tired, but Joon-young, the young man who was adamant on getting access to guns, looks determined.
Eugene introduces the newbies to the different types of guns, and Joon-young immediately requests to take the Russian sniper gun. But Eugene distributes the weaker gunpowder gun to familiarize themselves with carrying the weapon.
Wan-ik yells at his insider palace guard for the late notification of Eugene’s appointment as the Royal Military Academy instructor, and the guard says that Minister Lee Jung-moon conspired against them to keep this under wraps. Then, Minister Lee enters with a newly hired interpreters to replace the ones that Wan-ik bribed to his side. He insults Wan-ik by calling him indecent, and it seems that Minister Lee was one step ahead this time.
Wan-ik intrudes the training session, where the newbies clumsily aim their guns at the targets. At the sight of Wan-ik, Eugene aims his loaded gun and shoots at the target behind Wan-ik, nearly hitting him. Wan-ik looks at him with shock, but Eugene shoots again, remembering the traitor Kim Yong-joo’s revelation about Wan-ik being the real culprit who murdered Ae-shin’s parents. Eugene covers up his ulterior motives by yelling at the newbies for their poor shooting posture and excuses them for the day.
Wan-ik confronts Eugene about his bewildering welcome to the training, and he asks if Eugene is Minister Lee’s spy. Wan-ik tries to threaten Eugene by name dropping Allen (the American ambassador), but Eugene scoffs at Wan-ik’s false accusations. Their conversation is interrupted by Joon-young, who aims his unloaded gun and pretends to shoot at them. It seems that he’s aiming for Wan-ik, and Eugene orders for Joon-young to be escorted away.
Back to their tense conversation, Wan-ik warns Eugene to simmer down, since he could easily get kill of a Joseon man with an American name. Eugene reciprocates the threat, claiming that he could also easily kill a Joseon man with a Japanese name. Eugene adds another warning about the foreign minister position, reminding him that the previous ministers before him were murdered.
Gwan-soo meets with Duk-moon, Wan-ik’s assistant, and reports useless information about Eugene’s cold demeanor and terrible Virginia accent when he speaks English. Duk-moon asks if there are any women in Eugene’s life, and Gwan-soo feigns innocence, lying that he only knows about Eugene’s work life. Duk-moon erupts in anger that Gwan-soo failed to report anything useful after enjoying such an expensive meal, and he demands that Gwan-soo report noteworthy information next time.
After Duk-moon leaves, the side door opens to reveal Dong-mae, who then opens another side door to reveal Eugene. Gwan-soo looks relieved at the sight of Eugene, but only briefly because Eugene asks Gwan-soo about his insults. Gwan-soo insists that they were only fake insults and quickly excuses himself before he digs himself a bigger hole.
Dong-mae suggests that they enjoy the remaining food, and Eugene seems surprised by Dong-mae’s uncharacteristic friendliness. Dong-mae reveals that he knows Eugene’s backstory and expresses sympathy as a fellow low-class slave. Eugene says that he didn’t openly acknowledge Dong-mae’s background despite knowing that he was a butcher’s son, and Dong-mae praises him by calling Eugene the most dignified slave he knows. Eugene accepts the compliment and jokingly consoles Dong-mae not to be disappointed that he’s a better person than Dong-mae.
Dong-mae admits that he killed everyone who derided his parents upon his return to Joseon, and he asks Eugene why he didn’t do so. Eugene confesses that he’s imagined killing his parents’ murderers multiple times, and Dong-mae wonders: “Did you forgive them or did you lack to courage? Unlike our parents, we have the ability to kill anyone.”
Eugene responds, “I chose to not kill because unlike our parents, we have the ability to choose.” Dong-mae acknowledges and jokes that he’s right — they have the ability to choose between a sword or a gun. Eugene laughs and says that he’s realized that he has business to take care of, thanks to Dong-mae, and he heads off to meet with Hee-sung’s mother.
Hee-sung’s mother looks distraught that her son knows of their tragic relationship with Eugene, and she accuses Eugene for burdening her precious son with this information. Eugene clarifies that Hee-sung had already found out this information on his own, and he says that he’ll keep the ornament, since it represents the cost of his mother’s life.
Eugene vows to never forgive them for their sins against his parents; however, he won’t be burdening Hee-sung with his parents’ sins, since those sins don’t belong to him. Having experienced long journeys to and from Joseon, Eugene sympathizes with Hee-sung’s own journey ahead and tells his mother to support him. Hee-sung’s mother looks at Eugene with disbelief as he leaves.
Hee-sung visits the tailor and asks for a new suit with the measurements used for the garments sent to Tokyo. He claims that he’s trying to lose weight, but we know that he’ll be giving this new suit to Ae-shin. Back in his hotel room, Hee-sung opens up the official marriage request letter from his family and reads it as he reminisces about Ae-shin. He cries in acknowledgement of this impossible fate, and the ink on the letter bleeds from his fallen tears.
Hina practices fencing with Leo, the French ambassador’s secretary, and he stops her to check on her knee. He slides his hands up her leg, and he tries to seduce Hina to return to France with him. Hina realizes that he’s her prime suspect for seducing the traitor lady, Mrs. Kang, and she points her fencing sword at Leo’s chin, telling him to get out.
Hina’s spy watches Leo and Mrs. Kang meet from afar, and we hear Hina’s voiceover instructing the spy to report to her if he observes the two meeting for the third time, since it wouldn’t be a coincidence then. As suspected, Leo seduces Mrs. Kang with the promise to move to France together and requests the list of the emperor’s secret reporters. She whines that he promised to move to France after the American missionary deal, and she asks to know who’s behind all of this. Leo shushes her and promises to reveal the conspirator upon his arrival to Joseon from Japan.
An army of Japanese soldiers march through Joseon waving the rising sun flag. Their infestation is overseen by this suspected conspirator, but we only get a slight peek at his face.
Ae-shin’s servant twists hay into rope with his fellow servants as he thinks about Eugene’s warning about an informant in the household leaking information to outside sources. The servant has his suspicions about this informant, and he wonders how he’ll handle this disclosure.
Eugene trains the newbies at the military academy on breathing when shooting. He places a baduk stone on the muzzle of the guns, and he instructs them not to make any gun noises when they practice pulling the trigger. At Eugene’s command to shoot, one of the trainees loudly mimics the gunfire sound, causing the rest of the newbies to drop the stone on their gun. Eugene instructs all the newbies to repeat after him: “I am an idiot.”
Joon-young looks at Eugene angrily and doubts Eugene’s qualifications to teach them, since he missed the targets when aiming for Wan-ik the other day. Eugene confidently takes Joon-young’s gun and tells him to place the stone on the muzzle. He expertly shoots the gun at the target without dropping the stone, impressing the rest of the newbies. He instructs the newbies to practice on their own and summons Joon-young to his office.
Eugene asks Joon-young about his documents to enlist in the academy, specifically on how he knows the consulate at the American legation. Joon-young asks if Eugene is close with this consulate, and Eugene claims that he knows the consulate well. Eugene accuses Joon-young of these forged documents and claims that the consulate knew that he was signing off on forged documents. Joon-young wonders how Eugene knows this, and Eugene finally reveal that he’s that consulate, pointing at the name on his uniform and the signature on the documents.
Joon-young asks if he’ll be kicked out of the academy, but Eugene offers two options: kill him or trust him. It’s actually just one option, since Joon-young isn’t skilled enough to kill him, and Joon-young asks why Eugene would propose this offer. Eugene explains that he’s offering to be Joon-young’s real guarantor — not just a fake one on forged documents — because he can.
At his house, Grandfather looks at the sky and wonders if he’s the black bird in Eugene’s sky, or if Eugene is the black bird in his sky. Somi, the worker at Glory Hotel, arrives with a carriage from Hee-sung, and Grandfather grants this exception for Ae-shin to escape house arrest to visit Hee-sung at the hotel.
Hee-sung waits at the pool table in the hotel and sinks the 8 ball. Hina enters the room to announce Ae-shin’s arrival and tells him that he’ll lose if he pockets 8 ball first. Hee-sung knows this and responds with optimism, telling Hina that he’ll lose but consequently begin a new game.
When Ae-shin arrives, Hee-sung proposes a round of pool with a bet — winner is granted a wish. Hee-sung goes first, claiming that he needs to win, and he sinks all of balls in one go. He finally sinks the 8 ball and reveals his wish to break up with Ae-shin and officially end their engagement. Ae-shin looks at him tearfully, and Hee-sung gently holds her. He asks that she remain strong as she endures the difficulties of this broken marriage, and Ae-shin sincerely thanks him for everything. He believes the sincerity in her gratitude because he had been genuine in his feelings towards her.
Afterwards, Hee-sung burns the marriage letter as a final gesture to end their engagement. Ae-shin finds the pressed flowers from Hee-sung’s bouquet in her book, and she lets the delicate petals fly away from her hand. In response to their broken engagement, Hee-sung’s mother meets with Aunt and apologizes for this flaw that will follow Ae-shin for the rest of her life. Aunt trusts that Ae-shin will endure the difficulties, and she tells Hee-sung’s mother to take care of her health, since she always sees her in a scarf.
Hee-sung’s mother takes off the scarf to reveal the scar on her neck, and she tells Aunt that this scar is a flaw that will forever follow her. She doesn’t reveal the details, but she explains that this scar is the reason why they couldn’t become in-laws. They wish each other the best and bow as a final gesture to end their families’ promise.
Dong-mae overhears the news of Ae-shin’s broken engagement on the streets, and he laments that Ae-shin has become one step further from him. Eugene also hears of this news while eating with Gwan-soo, who presumes that Hee-sung had another lover in Japan. But Eugene disagrees and says that Hee-sung loved and will love only one woman.
Their conversation is interrupted by royal guards who point their guns at them. Gwan-soo raises his hands in fear until they announce that they’re only here for Eugene. He lowers his hands and motions them to take Eugene, in petty revenge of Eugene’s previous abandonment of Gwan-soo to Dong-mae’s gang.
Eun-san drinks with Seung-gu, who vaguely describes his long journey in delivering the letters for Grandfather. Eun-san warns a confused Seung-gu that something will cover his head soon, and royal guards immediately drag Seung-gu away with a cloth to cover his head. Eun-san continues to drink nonchalantly and thinks back to Seung-gu’s vow to become a rebel. He’s opened the path for Seung-gu and leaves the rest to him.
Seung-gu is dragged through the woods to meet with Minister Lee, who recruits him to be the new head of palace security. With Wan-ik taking control of the royal court, Minister Lee needs Seung-gu on their side to protect the emperor. Seung-gu vehemently refuses, but Minister Lee came prepared with hostages: Eugene and the mechanic. Minister Lee threatens to reveal the true culprits — Seung-gu as the thief, the mechanic who disassembled the gun, and Eugene who covered it up — behind the stolen American gun case to Allen, the American ambassador.
Eugene urges Seung-gu to accept the position and reminds him of the promise they made about Eugene being at the end of the road for Ae-shin. He’s toast if the American legation finds out and motions him to quickly accept. Seung-gu turns to Minister Lee and says that he has no reason to decline because he’ll be closer to two enemies in the palace. Minister Lee doesn’t know of another enemy besides Wan-ik, and Seung-gu makes it three by adding Minister Lee to his list.
Eugene thinks back to their mission to frame Minister Lee Se-hoon and how Seung-gu aimed his gun at Emperor Gojong. Realizing that Gojong is Seung-gu’s other enemy, Eugene asks Minister Lee Jung-moon what this head of security would do. Minister Lee explains that the Seung-gu would closely guard the emperor, and Eugene warns Seung-gu to guard the emperor from afar for the sake of their lives.
The innkeeper pours Eun-san a glass of alcohol to celebrate correspondence from Righteous Army member Seung-jae regarding his safe arrival in Shanghai. Eun-san looks lost in thought and informs the innkeeper that they won’t be seeing Seung-gu for a while. He then asks about Sang-mok, the Righteous Army member who was caught by Dong-mae, but they haven’t heard anything from him since his disappearance. We see Sang-mok running through the woods at night with Dong-mae’s threatening proposal about joining the Righteous Army if he can make good money.
In the morning, Dong-mae asks Hotaru for his fortune that day, and she quickly clears her table when she realizes Dong-mae’s fatal misfortune. He turns over the cards that she cleared and asks for the meaning of these unfortunate-looking cards. She writes in her notebook and reveals that his cards mean death. Dong-mae says that she could be wrong, but Hotaru holds his arm, begging him to stay. Dong-mae leaves anyway because it’s mid-month — time for the long-awaited meeting with Ae-shin.
Dong-mae paces at his dojo waiting for Ae-shin, and he freezes when she arrives. He tells her that she’s the talk of the town with her recent broken engagement, but she doesn’t seem bothered. She’s come to fulfill her promise of payment, and she also wished to express her gratitude for delivering the letter to her grandfather. She promises to meet again after the next half month, and Dong-mae watches her leave, telling himself that his fortune was wrong because Ae-shin keeps saving him. He tightly holds the coin that Ae-shin gave him and looks at her with the most forlorn eyes.
Hina showcases the peddler’s palace jewelry to her frequent lady guests, including Mrs. Kang, and the peddler highlights a bracelet that supposedly grants the wish of its owner. As the ladies tease Mrs. Kang about her wish being a handsome man, Hina looks out the window and makes eye contact with her spy, who nods at her. Mrs. Kang assures the ladies that her only wish would be a royal straight flush in poker, and Hina takes the peddler’s word and buys the bracelet. She hopes that she can find what she’s looking for and looks right at Mrs. Kang.
Later on the terrace, Hina looks at the bracelet and hopes that its magic will work. The pawnshop duo deliver the painted posters, and they assure her that they’re almost done with her other request (the doctor’s forged seal for the autopsy report). Hina tells the duo that she won’t be needing the painted posters anymore and gives them enough payment to burn the posters. She walks away, and Il-shik correctly guesses that the woman in the posters is Hina’s mother.
Ae-shin and her maid struggle up the hill to her hideout, and they’re surprised to find Eugene there. He says that he’s just visiting to check on her shooting practice, and Ae-shin says that it’s a shame because she was looking for Seung-gu to ask about his errand for Grandfather. They try to keep their conversation neutral in front of the maid, but she already knows that these two are overjoyed to see each other.
Ae-shin practices shooting and purposefully misses two of the clay pots so that Eugene will stick around. He expresses disappointment in Ae-shin saying that it was a shame to see Eugene at the hideout, and Ae-shin explains that she was trying to filter their conversation in front of her maid. Eugene admits that he wandered to the medicine shop and the dock the other day, hoping to run into Ae-shin at locations she frequents.
Ae-shin takes delight in his efforts, and she mentions the long conversation he had with another woman at the palace. He says that he wanted Ae-shin to hear what he was saying, and she asks who’s more beautiful: Ae-shin or the flowers. Eugene jokingly says that the flowers were more beautiful. Triggered by his joke, Ae-shin takes the remaining two bullets and shoots the two clay pots so that she won’t need his help anymore. Eugene applauds her skills and cheerfully tells her about training her future comrades at the military academy as she storms off.
The recipients of Grandfather’s letter meet at his house, and Grandfather asks them to add their name to his appeal to the emperor. The young scholars offer to stand in the front lines, but Grandfather insists that he lead this protest because he doesn’t have much life left. He urges them for support, as this is the way to educate the commoners who lack knowledge on the Japanese invasion. One by one, the young scholars sign their names to the appeal, determined to protest the weak emperor.
The next day, Eugene rides his horse past the ongoing protest led by Grandfather. The scholars kneel in their white garments with their untied hair as a sign of resistance, and Grandfather announces their grievances about the exploitation of Joseon goods leading to a full Japanese invasion. He urges Gojong to preserve the 500 years of Joseon history and warns the emperor that siding with Japan will lead the country to ruin.
The Japanese ambassador, Hayashi, meets with Wan-ik to address this protest in front of the palace. Hayashi orders Wan-ik to arrest the instigator immediately, but Wan-ik tells him to be patient because persecuting the scholars could ignite an uprising among the Joseon people. Hayashi fears that the emperor will withdraw their currency deal and threatens Wan-ik that the Japanese will come for him first if their plans go awry.
Ae-shin paces in her room, and her maid bursts in with an update on Grandfather’s protest. Then, another servant enters the room and notifies Ae-shin that her relatives have arrived to response to the protest.
Dong-mae picks out candies at the bakery and barks at the owner for avoiding him. He smiles at how the candy reminds him of Ae-shin, but his happiness is abruptly interrupted by a gun shot. Dong-mae flinches, and we see a pained look spread on his face. No, this can’t be. The villagers run away in fear, and Dong-mae holds his bleeding side in pain. He turns to the direction of the gunshot, and another bullet strikes him. NOOOO!
Dong-mae falls to the ground in agony, and he sees the shooter running away on the roof — it’s Sang-mok, the Righteous Army member that Dong-mae released. Hee-sung spots an injured Dong-mae and runs to help. Clenching his teeth in pain, Dong-mae says that it’s a relief that the shooter wasn’t Ae-shin. Hee-sung yells for help, and Dong-mae thinks to Ae-shin’s sincere expression of gratitude. He says that he’s confirming Ae-shin’s sincere gratitude like this. Then, Dong-mae falls unconscious, and Hee-sung yells at him to wake up.
At the language school, the instructor is taken away by Japanese soldiers under the accusation that she worked as a spy for the Americans. Ae-shin’s school friend tries to stop the Japanese soldiers, and when the soldiers threaten to kill her, the instructor intervenes and tells her student to inform the American legation.
Ae-shin watches her Aunt face her relatives, who blame her and the lack of a man in the household for this disaster. They’re interrupted by the intrusion of Japanese soldiers, and their leader announces that they’re investigating all of the students at the language school because their instructor was accused of conspiring against the Japanese. Ae-shin steps up to reveal that she’s one involved at the school and demands that the soldiers exit the house. She offers to comply with the interrogation but only with the Joseon police, but the leader of the Japanese soldiers ignores her request. He orders the soldiers to search the house, and Ae-shin glares at this disrespectful man.
Infuriated by the swarming Japanese presence, Ae-shin stares at a gun and tightly holds onto her dress. Her maid holds her hand to calm her down, and the leader of the Japanese forces scoffs at her. One of the soldiers reports that an American soldier is approaching, and we see Eugene enter the house. The Japanese leader greets Eugene familiarly in English, and Eugene recognizes him as his Japanese friend from the U.S.
Eugene tells his “friend” that his English hasn’t improved, and his Japanese friend responds in Korean. He reveals that his English didn’t improve because he had been learning Korean, eagerly waiting for his Joseon colony. The Japanese colonist smiles at his friend, saying that it’s nice to see him again.
Hmm, that’s an interesting turn of events. I wasn’t expecting to have to remember the Japanese friend, but at this point, I should just assume that any Japanese character is an enemy. We could use more Dong-maes in this show to make the enemies more dimensional, but it looks like the show is committed to painting the Japanese as the ultimate enemy and wants to get rid of any grays like Dong-mae (more on that later). Though I would enjoy more layers to the enemies, I appreciate the sparked resistance. I really admire Grandfather for his commitment to Joseon and fearless resistance of the Japanese occupation of his country. His nobility doesn’t only come from wealth but from his wisdom and bravery, and I can see where Ae-shin gets her admirable qualities from.
Hee-sung really stood out for me in this episode, especially in his sacrifice of the engagement. Though his relationship with Ae-shin was almost nonexistent and short-lived, I believed Hee-sung with his sad puppy eyes when he finally let Ae-shin go. His sacrifice transcends his admiration for Ae-shin and encompasses the guilt he feels for his parents’ sins against Eugene. Despite Eugene’s separation of Hee-sung from his parents, Hee-sung continues to carry the burden of that guilt, and I’m sure that he’ll continue to carry that guilt throughout his life. Because that’s just who Hee-sung is. The pool analogy felt fitting for his relationship with Ae-shin and his commitment to a new game, and I hope that this fresh start will give Hee-sung the opportunity he deserves in this show.
Now, to address Dong-mae’s shooting: I am DISTRAUGHT. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I don’t watch the previews, so there was no way to soften the impact of Dong-mae’s supposed death. I’m hoping Hotaru’s reading was wrong for once, but I fear that this is not a drill. His last interaction with Ae-shin and his pure happiness at the bakery felt cruel and tragic, but I need his death to be more glorious and even more tragic. Surely, he was fated to die soon, given how many enemies he’s made as the notorious assassin. But getting misunderstood as a prime enemy by a Righteous Army member seems so lukewarm. I was a firm believer that Dong-mae wouldn’t come out alive, but this is not the way I imagined his exit.
I was hoping the next few episodes would offer an opportunity for Dong-mae to reach a turning point in his relationship with Joseon, but after his conversation with Eugene, I could see that Dong-mae held a different philosophy that made it impossible for him to redeem himself as a Joseon person. For him, getting revenge for his parents was the only logical decision, which led him down an irreversible path of destruction and inevitable death. At this point, I wonder about Dong-mae’s original character before the edits that resulted from the public criticism of his character’s pro-Japanese stance. I wonder if a more radical character would have been more interesting to watch, and I’m sure that Yoo Yeon-seok could have pulled it off with poignant brilliance. One can only imagine, and one can only hope that this isn’t the end for Dong-mae, who was truly my favorite character. A moment of silence to honor the sad ending that we were not prepared for.
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