Mr. Sunshine: Episode 18
A new antagonist enters our story, and just in time to give the plot a necessary kick as we prepare for the climax. Familiar faces step into new roles, and our cunning new antagonist disturbs the peace in Joseon by planting new seeds of suspicion. We’re finally seeing some movement to instigate the resistance—I’ve never been so ready and impatient for some epic chaos.
EPISODE 18 RECAP
Eugene enters Ae-shin’s house, where he’s met by an unexpected familiar face, his Japanese friend from the U.S. The general of the Japanese colonial forces, who we’ll later know as MORI TAKASHI, greets Eugene and reveals that he’s been learning Korean in preparation of his colonial rule.
Eugene decides to hash out their stories later and tells Ae-shin that the American legation is interrogating all those involved with the language school, as their instructor was accused of conspiring against the Japanese. When the American soldiers approach Ae-shin to take her away, she tells them in perfect English to stop and let her go on her own. The soldiers step back, and Takashi looks bothered that Ae-shin can speak English.
At Glory Hotel, Hina helps Somi with the English greeting for the incoming Japanese forces. Hina encourages Somi to speak with confidence, since none of the Japanese forces will understand what she’s saying anyway. Somi asks why they’re greeting Japanese soldiers in English, and Hina smirks, saying that this is an act of defiance. One of the hotel’s regular ladies arrives late for her gathering, and she tells Hina that she was held up by the ruckus from Dong-mae’s shooting. Hina’s eyes widen in shock at this news.
Yujo and the gang burst into the hospital and demand for a doctor. Hee-sung explains to Dr. Machiyama that Dong-mae has lost a lot of blood, and the doctor demands that they prepare for surgery. Bloody Dong-mae recognizes the doctor as the one that Hina warned to be under Wan-ik’s control, and he refuses to go under anesthesia. He tells Dr. Machiyama to just take out the bullets and he orders his gang to keep watch. If anything goes wrong, he orders his gang to kill the doctor.
On the operating table fully conscious, Dong-mae endures the pain of the bullet extractions with a mere cloth in his mouth. Hee-sung watches from outside the operating room, but this scene is not for the faint of heart, especially if your heart is fond of Dong-mae. Dr. Machiyama picks out the two bullets, and Dong-mae loses consciousness.
At the American embassy, Eugene brings Ae-shin and her maid coffee, and he assures them that they’ll be safe there. Eugene explains that he brought Ae-shin to the embassy to protect her, since her grandfather’s protest would make her a target. Ae-shin worries about Stella, her instructor, who was probably accused because of her affiliation with Ae-shin (and thus indirectly affiliated with her grandfather), but Eugene assures her that Stella’s status as an American will protect her. Ae-shin then asks about the Japanese general, and Eugene says that Takashi was a neighbor during his time in the U.S., but it seems that he didn’t know the man well.
Ae-shin worries about her notebook being discovered in search of her house, but her maid digs out the precious notebook from under her dress. Ae-shin smiles in relief, and her maid overshares that the notebook is full of Eugene’s name. Eugene looks delighted and tries to take a look, but mortified Ae-shin holds onto her notebook tight.
Kyle summons Eugene to discuss Stella’s detainment and updates him on Allen’s formal complaint to Japan about her capture. Kyle asks about why Ae-shin would be captured by the Japanese, and Eugene explains that her grandfather tried to persuade the emperor to turn against Japan. Kyle calls that epic and wonders what his last line would be.
When Hina arrives at the hospital, Hee-sung updates her about Dong-mae, but she heads straight to Dr. Machiyama’s office, where the doctor sends his nurse on an urgent errand to deliver a letter to Wan-ik. Hina intercepts the nurse and asks if he’s sending the letter to Wan-ik, asking whether he should kill Dong-mae. Dr. Machiyama tries to use his leverage with the autopsy report (that supposedly reveals that Hina’s husband was poisoned, likely by her) that he sent to Wan-ik, but Hina hands him the report from her bag.
Dr. Machiyama opens up the report and demands to know how Hina has this in her possession. He smirks that the report is now in his hands, but Hina is one step ahead of him — the report in his hands is fake. She smiles that this forged report passes as a real one, and she threatens him to keep Dong-mae alive if he wants to live another day. With that, Hina leaves for the welcome reception at her hotel.
As he returns to the hotel, Eugene notices the blood on Hee-sung’s clothes, and Hee-sung explains that Dong-mae was shot but recovering at the hospital. Hee-sung addresses Eugene’s recent visit to his house and uses this opportunity to formally apologize for his family’s sins against him. Eugene tells Hee-sung that he heard about the broken engagement and says that he won’t apologize. Hee-sung says that he has nothing to apologize for, since Eugene isn’t the reason for their broken engagement. Hee-sung says that Ae-shin chose for her own life, and Eugene also wishes for this.
Remembering Ae-shin’s willingness to risk everything for Eugene, Hee-sung asks Eugene how much he would give up for Ae-shin. Eugene says that he won’t bear to lose anything because he needs to maintain his status as an American and an American soldier to protect Ae-shin. Their conversation is interrupted by the cheers of the Japanese forces inside the hotel in their welcome reception.
Inside, Hina overhears the Japanese soldiers complain about Joseon women not doing enough to excite them, and she stops Somi from entering the reception hall. Hina instructs Somi to collect all the women workers into the kitchen and to send all the male waiters to serve the soldiers. Hina enters the hall with a bottle of alcohol, and a Japanese soldier repugnantly invites her to sit on his lap. Hina refuses, so the Japanese soldier pulls her into his lap and invites her to his room.
Hina calmly turns to him and says that she doesn’t drink with bad men, who only know how to abuse women and not know how to wield a sword. The other soldiers at the table laugh at her diss, and he threatens to kill Hina. Before he can hurt her, Hina gets up and swiftly points a sword at him. She challenges him to a match — if he wins, then she’ll gladly join him in his room.
The Japanese soldier falls for the challenge and grabs a sword. The sword fight commences, and Hina expertly slices a button off the soldier’s uniform. Eugene and Hee-sung enter the hotel to this tense commotion, and we see the soldier overpower Hina and push her against a table. Not one to be defeated, Hina grabs a bottle of alcohol and spills it on the floor before striking the soldier and making him slip onto the ground. Hina approaches him with her sword, and his fellow soldiers raise a sword to her neck. Hina smirks that these men are ganging up on her, but they retreat when Takashi, Eugene’s acquaintance and Japanese general, intervenes.
Takashi tells his soldier that he’s an embarrassment and apologizes to Hina for the trouble. In Japanese, Hina tells him that it was an exciting win for her, and Takashi notices the slight Joseon accent in her Japanese. Takashi switches to Korean, and they introduce themselves to each other. Takashi walks in front of the line of soldiers and tells them to never lose, since a soldier’s defeat will lead to the defeat of the Japanese empire. The Japanese soldiers cheer for the Japanese empire in unison, and Eugene and Hee-sung warily watch these invading soldiers.
Ae-shin’s servant confronts the mole in the Go household and accuses him of leaking family information in exchange for money. There’s no way they could afford four pigs on their own, and the Servant knows that the mole betrayed Ae-shin’s family by selling information. He warns the mole to stay away from the Go household, threatening to beat him up severely if he gets near.
Grandfather continues with his protest and pleads to the emperor to consider their appeal. With an ax in hand, Grandfather tells Gojong to kill them if he finds their appeal unacceptable. The Japanese ambassador Hayashi passes by the protest, and Grandfather scornfully demands that Hayashi get out of the way between him and the emperor.
At the royal court, the Japanese-siding ministers urge Emperor Gojong to punish the protesters, including Nobleman Go (Grandfather), who was the emperor’s longtime teacher. Hayashi pressures Gojong even further by saying that this situation would be unfavorable to report back to Japan. Minister Lee argues against this, but Gojong orders the protesters to be imprisoned. The Japanese soldiers drag the protesters away, and Grandfather weakly repeats the mantra honoring the emperor’s great power.
After witnessing this wrongful imprisonment of the scholars, Hee-sung urgently returns to his newspaper office aka the pawnshop and begins to work on a newspaper extra since he hasn’t established a name yet. He enlists the help of the pawnshop duo and immediately begins to write his piece: “Friday, March 21, 1903. At the emperor’s command, Go Sa-hong and his scholars have been arrested for protesting the currency exchange.”
The newspaper boys deliver the extra all throughout the streets, and the villagers comment on the unfair treatment by the emperor. Joon-young and his fellow military academy friends express uncertainty with their plans, especially in a climate in which Nobleman Go was imprisoned. One of the friends says that he made eye contact with Wan-ik and fears that he’s been discovered, but the other friends insist that they continue training.
Thinking back to Eugene’s disclosure that he’s the guarantor on their forged documents, Joon-young tells his friends that they need to rush their plan. He delegates the task of trailing Wan-ik to one friend while the remaining three work to get the key to the gun storage.
As the new head of palace security, Seung-gu enters the jail and greets Grandfather with a bow. Grandfather looks surprised to see Seung-gu in his uniform, but Seung-gu says that he’s not sure he’ll be executing the duties embedded in this uniform, especially now that Grandfather is imprisoned. Seung-gu updates Grandfather that the Japanese soldiers trespassed his home but assures him that Ae-shin is in the safest place away from the reach of the Japanese forces.
At the U.S. embassy, Ae-shin turns the globe and comments on how Joseon is small compared to the rest of the world. Eugene enters the room and sits Ae-shin down before telling her the news of Grandfather’s imprisonment. Ae-shin looks upset and tries to head to Grandfather, but Eugene advises her that inaction may prove best in this moment. He assures her by sharing that Seung-gu went to Grandfather under protected circumstances.
New head of palace security Seung-gu stands before the emperor with a deathly glare, and Emperor Gojong says that he recognizes his look as one of an enemy. Minister Lee explains that Seung-gu was close with Nobleman Go, and Seung-gu asserts that Nobleman Go is innocent. Gojong knows this and explains that he imprisoned his own teacher because he believed Nobleman Go would be safer in the Joseon prison. Upon their arrival in Joseon, the first place the Japanese forces targeted was the home of the emperor’s teacher, and Gojong responded to this warning from Japan by protecting his teacher.
Emperor Gojong says that the people’s rage will spread like wildfire, but it will have more power than the emperor’s rage. He asserts his trust in the power of the people, who have been provoked by Gojong imprisoning his own teacher. Woah, I just got chills.
The businessowners throughout Hanseong put up posters to refuse Japanese currency, and without Dong-mae, there is no one to enforce the rules of the streets. The Japanese people gather at the embassy with complaints, and Takashi decides that he’ll be interrogating the American instructor further.
Takashi interrogates the American instructor, Stella, at the hotel, and invites Eugene to join them. Takashi accuses Stella of demonstrating anti-Japanese sentiments to her students, but Stella clarifies to Eugene that she only taught that Japan is no better than any other country for their faster modernization. She claims that she taught that Joseon is in control of their own sovereignty, and Eugene finds nothing wrong with her instruction.
Takashi disagrees and says that Stella is overstepping her role as an American missionary. He says that she has no place antagonizing another country and insults her religion by saying that Moses parted the Red Sea but merely watched the war unfold. Eugene tells Takashi that he just made a grave mistake and says that he can’t go to heaven anymore. Takashi laughs and releases Stella so that he can claim that promised drink from Eugene. But Eugene says he has plans and escorts Stella out.
Eugene brings food for Ae-shin and her maid to the embassy, and he tells her that Grandfather is safe at the palace prison. He figures that the emperor imprisoned Grandfather to protect him, and Ae-shin notes that both her and Grandfather need to be locked up for protection. Despite being trapped in the embassy all day, Ae-shin says that she enjoyed playing with all the interesting trinkets in the room, including the globe and the matryoshka toy left in Joseph’s belongings. Eugene happily watches Ae-shin marvel at the matryoshka and tells her that she’s free to leave by the next day.
When Eugene arrives at the military academy the next day, he notices baduk stones on the ground. He asks a soldier if anyone was practicing last night, and the soldier proudly reports that a group of trainees asked to practice, so he gave them the key to the storage room. Eugene asks to check the key, and he realizes that these trainees might be up to no good.
As Hotaru reads the tarot cards by Dong-mae’s bedside, he wakes up and weakly hold her hand. Hatoru rings the bell, and the gang rushes in as Dong-mae opens his eyes. He tells Yujo that the culprit was that merchant, who we know as Sang-mok of the Righteous Army. Dong-mae’s gang run through the streets searching for Sang-mok, and as the curfew bell rings, we see Sang-mok escape, disguised as a Joseon policeman.
At the pawnshop, Hee-sung shows off his newspaper sign, a white flower which Hee-sung poetically claims was the only flower that bloomed along his path. Eugene asks Hee-sung if he’s heard of Takashi Mori from Japan, and Hee-sung shares that the Mori family is most influential family after the emperor. Hee-sung says that the Mori family is reputed as a conservative lineage that dangerously argues that the colonial invasion of Joseon will restore order in Japan. Considering Takashi’s first move in Joseon, Eugene believes that he belongs to this family.
At the Jemulpo harbor, Hayashi leaves for Japan and promises Takashi to return with an expensive document: the Japan-Korea Treaty (which gets signed in 1904). Takashi vows to sign the document with the blood of the Joseon people.
Takashi meets with Wan-ik, who admits his falling out with Hayashi. He proposes that they work together in a more compatible manner and assures Takashi that the Joseon people are easy to handle: Give them enough food and a candy, and they’ll kneel and crawl on their own. Takashi surprises Wan-ik by speaking in Korean and tells Wan-ik that he lacks the sincerity to sell his country. He tells Wan-ik that Joseon survived all this turmoil because a few people risked their lives to save it. He’s referring to the Righteous Army, who have continued their lineage of Righteous Army members for generations.
Wan-ik dismisses the power of the Righteous Army, claiming that he would be dead already if they had any legitimate presence. But Takashi considers Wan-ik’s survival the key reason for the Righteous Army’s success. Instead of relieving their anger by immediately killing Wan-ik, the Righteous Army forsee the resulting losses of their actions and strategize accordingly. Takashi does not intend on suffering the same losses as his ancestors and knows that the Righteous Army will once again cause trouble by risking their lives when Hayashi returns with the Japan-Korea treaty.
Threatened by the Righteous Army, Takashi informs Wan-ik on his next step to destroy the spirit of Joseon. Takashi tells Wan-ik to stay out of his way and not use banmal because he hates people who lack manners, especially if they’re from Joseon.
As Wan-ik leaves this meeting, he realizes that Nobleman Go is the spirit of Joseon that he needs to destroy and heads to the palace to meet with the emperor. Wan-ik requests that Emperor Gojong release Nobleman Go, considering his old age and the brewing rage of the Joseon people that could overwhelm them. Emperor Gojong welcomes this request and orders Seung-gu to release their prisoner.
Wan-ik’s royal guard informant worries that they’re prematurely releasing Nobleman Go, but Wan-ik asserts that Nobleman Go cannot die inside the palace walls. Wan-ik says that Nobleman Go must die in his hands — not in the hands of Japan — to make him the subject of fear to the Joseon people. He watches Seung-gu head toward the jail to release Nobleman Go and wonders who that new head of palace security is. The informant says that he’s another appointment by Minister Lee and sneers that he was a lowly gunner. Wan-ik says that he’s never seen this man, but we know that Seung-gu was responsible for Wan-ik’s limp.
Seung-gu escorts Grandfather home, where Ae-shin holds in her tears after seeing her grandfather’s weak state. Her maids tearfully prepare medicine for Grandfather while Ae-shin meets with Seung-gu. She comments on his short hair and new uniform, and Seung-gu says that his head feels heavy despite cutting off all his hair. He tells Ae-shin that he cleared their hideout before entering the palace and tells her not to visit the hideout anymore. Ae-shin says that she’ll still visit, but he says that he has nothing left to teach her.
Speaking formally to Ae-shin, Seung-gu tell her not to let him stop her anymore and to do as she wishes. He thanks her for enduring such a blunt teacher and releases her from his instruction. He says that he’s found another path and asks for her blessing. Ae-shin thanks Seung-gu and bows to him, wishing him a safe road ahead. Seung-gu bows to Ae-shin, in a final parting gesture between teacher and student.
At the hotel, Hina reads the newspaper over Takashi’s shoulder as she pours his coffee. The headlines warn about the deployment of Japanese soldiers leading to the invasion of Joseon. Takashi asks how many newspapers there are in Joseon, and Hina responds that there are two main ones and one small one without a name. Takashi knows that this small newspaper is run by Hee-sung, and he comments on how it must be difficult for Hina to run this hotel on her own. Hina plays the role of a distressed widow overwhelmed by the hotel business, but Takashi sees right through her act.
Hina notes that Takashi must have investigated her, and he reveals that he couldn’t find any information on her family in Joseon. He calls her shameless for running this extravagant hotel thanks to her Japanese husband and erasing her Joseon past, but Hina isn’t fazed by his criticisms. She comments that his investigation must have reached a dead end there, and she wonders if she’s that skilled or Takashi is just incompetent. Later in her room, Hina paces anxiously at the prospect of a new enemy on her tail. She digs through her jewelry box to fish out a folded piece of paper that holds a white powder, supposedly poison.
Ae-shin and her maid climb to their hideout to clean up the space, but they find an army of Joseon soldiers there with Duk-moon and Wan-ik. Ae-shin greets her brother-in-law but turns away when she’s introduced to Wan-ik. She speaks to Wan-ik through her maid, and Wan-ik takes offense that she’s belittling him because he was born into a low social class. Ae-shin sticks to her act and explains that she doesn’t mean to be rude and that she’s just following the law. Her rude and haughty behavior compels Wan-ik to leave, but we know that the true reason for her behavior is because Wan-ik is a traitor.
As Wan-ik leaves, he looks back at Ae-shin and remembers Takashi’s claims about the Righteous Army lineage. He asks Duk-moon how old Ae-shin is (around 27), and he later ponders that Ae-shin’s age would align with the age of a child of the Righteous Army members he killed in Japan. He jumps up from his seat and wonders if the traitor Kim Yong-joo lied about the names of the Righteous Army members. He summons the police chief and orders him to compile a list of all the Joseon people who lived in Tokyo, dead and alive.
Yujo updates Dong-mae on their search for Sang-mok, who has yet to be found. Dong-mae weakly walks around in his hospital room and orders Yujo to spread word about Dong-mae’s survival, which would likely bring Sang-mok out of hiding. He also orders Yujo to take Hotaru out to eat. As Yujo leaves, Hee-sung enters to check in on Dong-mae on his way to a meeting. He expresses relief to see Dong-mae recovering, but Dong-mae doesn’t believe him. He says that he’s still pondering if he should slice Hee-sung horizontally or vertically. It’s nice to see that Dong-mae is strong enough to want to kill jolly Hee-sung again.
Hee-sung heads to his meeting with none other than Takashi, who’s looking for a newspaper that will write favorably about Japan. He knows that Hee-sung doesn’t even have a sign for his newspaper and offers to invest in his newspaper. Hee-sung laughs and says that Takashi hasn’t done his research. First off, he claims to have the most beautiful sign in Joseon (not wrong), and next, he informs Takashi that he comes from the richest family in Hanseong after the emperor.
Irritated by Hee-sung’s boasting, Takashi takes out his gun and resorts to threatening Hee-sung, but that doesn’t work either. Hee-sung says that Takashi has nothing to gain from killing him and continues to drink with ease. Hee-sung suggests that they call in the ladies, and Takashi looks annoyed by Hee-sung’s distracting frivolity.
Ae-shin searches her closet for the music box, but it’s nowhere to be found. The Japanese interpreter visits Ae-shin to inform her that Takashi wishes to meet with her to return an item that a Japanese soldier stole from her room. Ae-shin claims that she didn’t lose anything, and if she did, she wants Takashi to send the thief directly to her to return this item instead of summoning her. When the interpreter leaves, Ae-shin tells her maid that she’s headed to the medicine shop.
The police chief receives the telegram from the Tokyo police station with information on Joseon natives who lived in Tokyo, and he delivers this information to Dong-mae instead of Wan-ik. Dong-mae reads through the list and recognizes the names of Ae-shin’s parents. Dong-mae smiles at the trembling police chief and the post office manager, and he reminds them to continue to come to him instead of Wan-ik.
At the military academy, Eugene asks if anyone didn’t drop their stone during practice, and Joon-young raises his hand. Eguene commends his hard work during late night practice, but he doesn’t grant Joon-young any privileges in practicing with a loaded gun. One of the trainees asks how Eugene, a Joseon person, became an American, and Eugene honestly responds that it was because he was from a low class. Laughing, Eugene says that military is divided by rank and not social status, and he tells the trainees that they’re free to leave if they can’t accept him as their instructor.
When Takashi enters the academy, Eugene dismisses the confused class to address this unwanted guest. Takashi invites Eugene out for coffee at the hotel, and Eugene maintains his cold and insulting demeanor. Eugene pointedly comments that he instructs the trainees to be fearless against their enemy, who could be more foolish than they think. He heads up to his hotel room, but he stops when he hears a familiar tune.
Takashi plays the music box and approaches Eugene with this item. He says that his Japanese soldier stole this from Ae-shin’s room, but he knows that this item originally belonged to Eugene. Ohhh yikes.
Dong-mae and his gang stand in front of Ae-shin’s carriage, and he orders his lackeys to drag her servants away. Dong-mae opens the carriage and holds out his hand, but Ae-shin exits the carriage on her own. He asks to know where she’s going and says that he’s giving her one last chance. Dong-mae asks why she always makes dangerous choices, like breaking her engagement and holding a gun. He tells her to do nothing — don’t go to school, don’t learn English, don’t go to the palace, don’t ask any questions.
Ae-shin accuses him of overstepping his boundaries and claims that she doesn’t regret of her choices, including saving Dong-mae and getting shot by Dong-mae. She asks if he feels entitled because he knows her secret, and Dong-mae responds that he plans on using that entitlement going forward He doesn’t care if the world or even if Ae-shin becomes his enemy. He walks up to Ae-shin and uses his sword to slice off her braid in public. She looks shocked, and Dong-mae looks at her with tears brimming his eyes.
That’s an interesting place to leave us, without further explanation and only context to contemplate the meaning of Dong-mae’s act. While I don’t fully comprehend the significance of Ae-shin’s hair being cut, I know that Ae-shin’s hair symbolizes tradition and status. I can only presume that cutting one’s hair represents indecency and a breach in tradition. Knowing Dong-mae, this was an act to protect Ae-shin, and from the context of the conversation, it seems that he committed to this impudent act to prevent Ae-shin from making any more dangerous choices. Not sure how the consequences will manifest, but I’m a fan of this change for Ae-shin. She’s been hiding behind her nobility long enough, and I hope brings about the necessary change to spur her into action.
Speaking of Dong-mae, thank goodness he’s alive! I probably won’t be ready to let him go when his time comes, but it was definitely not time for him to bid farewell in the previous episode. I’m glad he survived the attack, and it was once again heartwarming to see how many characters rallied for him to keep him alive. His relationship with Ae-shin will definitely be redefined after cutting her hair, but I think it would be nice to see a different relationship between the two. But honestly, whether we get more of adorable crushing Dong-mae or merciless assassin Dong-mae, I’m just glad he lives to see another day. Not today, Satan!
Takashi is truly The Bad Guy, but I welcome his assertive antagonism to the story because Wan-ik was not bringing it. Turns out, Wan-ik is more of a selfish dude, and I’m not entirely sure he’s the villain we need to spark this resistance. Takashi is that spark, and I’m ready for him to pierce through all the bullshit and push all the Righteous Army’s buttons. I found Takashi’s use of language in his episode quite interesting, as an intentional tool to establish a power dynamic. I noticed that Takashi mainly used Korean to assert his dominance as a Japanese colonizer who could speak in the tongue of the Joseon people. He also spoke to Wan-ik in Korean, with a similar intention to dominate the conversation in Wan-ik’s native tongue. But when he spoke to Hee-sung, he chose to speak in Japanese because he wanted to establish a sense of equality between the two. He rarely chose to speak in English, so when he saw that Ae-shin spoke to the American soldiers in English, I presume that he felt threatened. (As a sidenote, Takashi’s English is truly indecipherable, and it’s a good thing we have captions.)
Along with Takashi’s necessary spark, I’m finding assurance in Gojong’s strategic movements. Gojong’s trust in the power of the people was the first time I really got chills in this series, and I was relieved by his sensibility and innate goodness. I feel like we’re reaping the fruits of our patience, as we’re seeing all the political movement of pawns slowly culminate into the perfect set up for the resistance. This is the taste of the resistance I was waiting for, and I’m celebrating this as a miraculous feat for a show that felt so meandering. Better late than never, eh?
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