Memories of the Alhambra: Episode 3
As our CEO turned gamer discovers new elements of the augmented reality world, he gets a glimpse into a certain hostel owner’s life and aspirations. It seems now-missing genius programmer added some personal touches to the game, and while that elevates the game’s charm, it also distracts our CEO from seeing the game with a critical eye. The deeper he becomes immersed, the more he’s willing to overlook the seemingly small flaws of the game.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
We return to Granada before the time jump, where investment firm CEO Jin-woo continues to navigate the game through the winding streets of Alhambra. From the Seoul office, colleague Yang-joo monitors Jin-woo’s game into the night and asks why Jin-woo is hesitating. Jin-woo sneaks looks around the corner and admits that he’s scared that something will attack him, based on the patterns he’s experienced.
Now on level 4, Jin-woo cautiously climbs up the stairs and wields his sword, which materializes in his hands. Yang-joo orders him to go ahead, but Jin-woo isn’t keen being bossed around by his subordinate.
Plastered against the wall, Jin-woo smiles at innocent passerby and then argues with Yang-joo that this isn’t your average computer game — he’s running on one ramyun and no sleep, and he’s already died 45 times. Yang-joo says that it’s all a part of the game and provokes hangry Jin-woo by mentioning that Cha Hyung-seok probably went through the same process.
Jin-woo scans his surroundings before taking a step forward, and an arrow immediately shoots at the wall next to him. As multiple knights attack from the rooftops, he flees the area and narrowly avoids an arrow that brushes his side.
The relentless shower of arrows continues to threaten Jin-woo, who runs past confused tourists and into a wide open street. Then, an arrow pierces Jin-woo’s shoulder, and he falls to the ground in pain. He loses vitality from the wound and surrenders to his upcoming death. The archers shoot their arrows, and Yang-joo complains that Jin-woo isn’t physically fit enough to play this game.
Then, Jin-woo opens his eyes and finds that he’s still alive with the surrounding arrows frozen mid-flight. SO COOL. The game is buffering because of poor connection to the server, and Yang-joo yells at Jin-woo to use this opportunity to escape. He runs from the frozen scene and successfully fends off the attack.
Jin-woo walks through the streets with a pep in his step, but dark clouds suddenly loom over him. As it starts to rain, Jin-woo runs under an awning but notices that others around him aren’t affected. He reaches out his hand and finds his hand completely dry. Jin-woo logs out of the game, and sure enough, it’s a sunny day.
After taking a moment to admire the game’s simulated weather, Jin-woo logs back into the game and finds that he’s standing in front of Café Alcazaba, one of the game’s locations. He enters the café and puts his sword in his virtual sheath before flipping through the game’s description of the café: a location where game users can share information, make alliances, exchange weapons, and receive quests.
As Jin-woo walks through the café, he notices a table of pirate non-player characters (NPC), who provide missions or items for users. They eat and talk loudly at the table, which is a funny contrast to the real people in the café working on their laptops or meeting friends.
Yang-joo suggests that Jin-woo approach them, so Jin-woo carefully greets them. The jolly pirates suddenly give him a quiet death glare, and one tells him to get out of his face unless he wants to die. Jin-woo seems offended at the rude encounter and the game informs him that he’s been ignored because one must be at a level 5 or above to engage.
A real man at the café looks at Jin-woo strangely, so Jin-woo smiles and sits down for food like a normal person. Yang-joo tells Jin-woo to order churros, which is what the café is famous for. Jin-woo seems irked by Yang-joo treating him like an avatar, but hears out Yang-joo’s full researched explanation of how to order the famous churros before hanging up.
From behind, Jin-woo hears a classical guitar performance and recognizes the lady performer as hostel owner and game programmer’s sister, Hee-joo. He approaches her and calls her name, but the game introduces her as a new character in the game: Emma, the café’s guitarist. He calls out to her as Emma, and she looks up and smiles.
We flashback to young Hee-joo winning an excellence award for guitar at a music competition, and Jin-woo narrates that she initially came to Spain for classic guitar. In the flashback, we learn that Hee-joo’s overzealous father was a guitarist in a band and suggested that the family move to Spain to allow Hee-joo to foster her talent.
Despite their hesitations, the family sold everything and moved to Spain, where they established Hostel Bonita. But upon entering school for guitar, Hee-joo realized that she wasn’t a classical guitar prodigy. Within a year, her mother passed away and her father drank away his sorrows for a few years before passing away as well.
Since then, Hee-joo had dropped out of school to take care of her younger siblings and run the hostel. She ran multiple jobs and worked diligently without skipping a single day, but her debt continued to grow.
Jin-woo narrates that Hee-joo’s dream became further out of reach and that her life didn’t show signs of improvement, unless some magic were to happen. That’s when Jin-woo entered her life as the abrupt late-night guest at the hostel.
We return to Jin-woo’s offer to buy the hostel from Hee-joo. Apparently, she’s been trying to sell the hostel for the past two years, and Jin-woo decided that morning that he wanted to buy the hostel. Jin-woo signs the contract and hands Hee-joo a ridiculous offer. He’s left the price line blank and offers her 10 billion Won (~10 million USD) in cash straight to her bank account if she signs the contract now.
Of course, a ridiculous offer comes with a ridiculous condition: Starting at 9am, the offer drops by 1 billion Won for every 10-minute delay. Essentially, she has an hour and half to read and sign the contract before the offer becomes void. Utterly confused, Hee-joo asks why Jin-woo would want to buy the wretched hostel for so much money. Jin-woo explains that timing is more important that money right now, but he won’t share why.
Hee-joo dives right into the contract, and Jin-woo tries to cover up his anxiety by bluffing that he could easily find another building to buy. Before Hee-joo puts pen to paper, she suspiciously asks if he’s really CEO Yoo Jin-woo because her father had been scammed in a similar situation before. Jin-woo offers his passport for identification and brags that there are also videos of him online.
After checking the passport photo, she picks up the pen but hesitates again. She gets up from the table, and Jin-woo desperately grabs her. She explains that she’s going to the bathroom and needs to call her family to discuss the offer, since this hostel is both their home and everything they own. He lets her leave and finally breathes out his nerves.
Secretary Seo runs to Jin-woo table and asks why Jin-woo would want to buy a good-for-nothing hostel. Jin-woo looks annoyed by his secretary’s dim-witted pondering, and we jump back to 30 minutes prior. In the car, Jin-woo received a call from his private eye “A” and learned that genius programmer Se-joo filed patents for his game under Hostel Bonita.
Detective A confirms that Jin-woo wouldn’t need Se-joo’s consent because the game’s license, key component, and technology are all filed under the hostel’s name, and the legal owner of the hostel is Hee-joo. Jin-woo smiles at this good news because it makes their business deal much easier.
Jin-woo calls Director Park to discuss their plan of action, and they decide to push forward to acquire the hotel without mentioning Se-joo in their contract terms because Hee-joo will want to wait for her M.I.A. brother to return. They can supplement their contract with Se-joo’s requests when he returns. Since the offer becomes suspicious the more one thinks on it, Jin-woo’s strategy is to pressure Hee-joo with time and money so that she has no room to think. Sneaky!
Back to the time/money pressured contract, Hee-joo runs into a bathroom stall and tries to call her family, but no one answers — Grandma is busy haggling at the market, Se-joo’s phone is supposedly broken, and Min-joo is busy playing soccer at school. She receives a text from Jin-woo notifying her that she’s 1 billion won down, and she freaks out at how fast 10 minutes passed.
Hee-joo calls real estate agent Elena and asks about the prospects of neighborhood increasing in property value. Elena says that won’t happen for the next 10 years and then shares the news of her engagement. She leisurely shares her proposal story, but Hee-joo doesn’t have time for that. She receives a notification from Jin-woo that 20 minutes have passed and hangs up.
Hee-joo calls the guitar shop owner next, but the owner is busy handling a guitar. Just as she panics that another 5 minutes have passed, Hee-joo receives a call from her younger sister Min-joo. She quickly shares the offer, and Min-joo yells at her to hurry and sign the deal. Finally receiving some validation, Hee-joo agrees and decides to head out to sign the contract.
But when she tries to open the bathroom stall door, it’s locked. She knocks on the door and yells for help, but there’s nobody there. She steps onto the toilet seat and waves for help with phone in hand, and when she slips off the toilet seat, the phone plops into the toilet. RIP.
Unaware that Hee-joo has locked herself inside a bathroom stall, Jin-woo continues to wait past 10 a.m. and tells Secretary Seo that Hee-joo must be crazy. Secretary Seo wonders if she’s talking to Cha Hyung-seok over the phone, and when Hee-joo doesn’t answer her phone, Jin-woo heads to the bathroom.
Jin-woo knocks on the women’s restroom door and slowly enters. As he walks in, he hears thumping against the door to the last bathroom stall, and suddenly, the door collapses to the ground, along with Hee-joo. Secretary Seo looks alarmed by the sight, and Jin-woo orders him to call for help.
Jin-woo approaches an unmoving Hee-joo and holds her in his arms, trying to shake her awake. When she opens her eyes, Jin-woo asks if she’s okay but she immediately asks for the time. Jin-woo tells her that it’s 10:23 and worries about the scratch on her forehead, but Hee-joo can’t believe that she lost 7 billion won.
She asks Jin-woo to forgive the three minutes because she was locked in and requests his benevolence because he’s a chaebol. Smiling in amusement, he agrees to forgive just those three minutes, and Hee-joo thanks him before fainting in his arms.
When Hee-joo wakes up, Secretary Seo hands her the contract as proxy for Jin-woo, who was busy with work (playing the game). Hee-joo reviews the contract and can’t believe her eyes when she sees that Jin-woo agreed to the full 10 billion won. Secretary Seo explains that Jin-woo got rid of the time/money condition because she was locked in the bathroom, and Hee-joo readily signs the contract.
Secretary Seo congratulates Hee-joo on her new wealth and informs her that she still has six months to figure out a new place to live before handing over full ownership. He also fixed her phone and left it by her bedside.
Hee-joo’s hands shake at this unreal situation, and she receives a call from Grandma. She won’t tell Grandma about the contract until she gets confirmation, which arrives in a text notification just as she mentions it. The bank notification of a 10 billion won deposit sends Hee-joo running out of the hospital, and she tells Grandma that they’re not just rich — they’re super rich.
As Hee-joo happily runs through the streets of Granada, Jin-woo narrates: “After coming to Granada, nothing good happened to Hee-joo for 12 years. For that Hee-joo, magic happened today.”
Hee-joo passes by Café Alcazaba and sees Jin-woo inside. He’s just discovered Emma (Hee-joo’s classical guitarist alter ego in the game) and looks captivated. Unfortunately, the game tells him that he needs to be at a level 5 to engage.
Emma fades into the air just as Hee-joo arrives in front of Jin-woo to thank him. He congratulates her for accepting the offer and claims that he bought the hostel for the full offer because it had that much value. Hee-joo doesn’t believe him and says that he was unbelievably benevolent.
Jin-woo changes topics and asks if Hee-joo played classic guitar. She seems surprised that he knows this and shares that she gave up guitar a while ago. He says that her performance sounded nice, and that throws her off even more. Jin-woo spots a glitching game warrior passing by the café outside and reminds Hee-joo that Granada will become a magical city.
Jin-woo excuses himself to tend to “work,” and Hee-joo offers to buy him dinner in gratitude. He says that it’ll depend on how early he finishes work, as he needs to obliterate a few people. Jin-woo draws his sword as he follows the warrior, and Hee-joo smiles in relief as she watches him walk away carrying an invisible item on his shoulder.
But Jin-woo’s narration implies that her happiness may be short-lived: “That day, the magic that started in Hee-joo’s life wasn’t just money.”
That night, Jin-woo’s ex-wife Soo-jin approaches her current husband Hyung-seok as he waits for a late-night call. He tells her to rest up, since she’s been traveling all day, and he asks about her encounter with Jin-woo. She says that they ran into each other at the train station by coincidence, and when he presses on about anything else he mentioned, Soo-jin defensively erupts in anger that there’s nothing other than pleasantries to discuss between them.
Hyung-seok approaches his wife and assures her that he wasn’t implying any suspicions. He merely asked because Jin-woo’s company is his competitor. He continues to inquire about Jin-woo and why he was at the train station, but Soo-jin doesn’t know. Their tense conversation is interrupted by the awaited call, and Hyung-seok steps aside the answer.
Over the phone, Hyung-seok’s assistant reports that the room in Barcelona seems to have been empty for a few days. It seems like they’ve been working with Se-joo through an acquaintance named Marco to figure out a deal for the game, but they have no information on Se-joo. Hyung-seok angrily orders his assistant to report back with more useful information and misses an incoming call from Jin-woo.
Hyung-seok calls back Jin-woo, who says that he’s ready to fight, now that he’s on the same level. As Hyung-seok heads out, Soo-jin calls him worriedly, but he says that he’s just heading out to meet someone. He waves to Soo-jin on the balcony in assurance, but that doesn’t ease her concern.
Drawing his sword, Hyung-seok walks through the streets of Granada and approaches Jin-woo, who massages his sore calf on a bench. He admits that he’s exhausted from upgrading two levels in one day and wields his fancy new sword as he approaches Hyung-seok. It seems that he stole the sword from the warrior he followed from the café.
Jin-woo says that he’s headed back to Seoul the next morning, which indicates that he’s been successful with the business deal that they were both after. Hyung-seok’s face hardens at this news, and Jin-woo goads that he’s giving Hyung-seok a chance to beat him in the game, even though he lost in real life. He prods, “That’s the charm of games, right? Escapism and denying reality — a world where losers can become heroes.”
Jin-woo continues to jab at him by saying that Hyung-seok should have just taken his advice and spent time with his wife. That’s the last straw, and Hyung-seok attacks. The two rivals engage in an intense sword fight, and they both manage to slice each other’s arms.
Hyung-seok paces as he catches his breath and says that he always wanted to tell Jin-woo something when they met one-on-one. He clarifies that he didn’t steal Soo-jin from Jin-woo and claims that he saved her from him because she seemed so miserable. He says that he was worried that Soo-jin would deteriorate next to Jin-woo.
Hyung-seok warns Jin-woo not to reject reality and points to him as the problem, since he’s failed in his second marriage. He advises Jin-woo to reflect on his failures unless he wants to continue to fail in his future marriages. Jin-woo smirks and calls Hyung-seok a bastard. He notes that all traitors justify their deeds with the same excuse — that it was for the people. Jin-woo points out that Hyung-seok’s justification is evidence that he’s a true traitor.
Jin-woo knows that behind all the excuses lies a truly inept person and reminds him of their company break-up. Hyung-seok split to create a company with greater vision and blamed Jin-woo as the problem, but Jin-woo sees the new company as an imitation of J1, Jin-woo’s company.
Jin-woo provokes the bastard to attack and successfully slices more points away from Hyung-seok’s game vitality. He also accuses Hyung-seok of unfairly venting his grudges against his own father by playing Jin-woo dirty and fooling everyone of his great love story. Jin-woo says that he could have understood if Hyung-seok came clean about his grudges.
Hyung-seok punches Jin-woo, and they grab each other by the collar. The game notifies them that physical contact is prohibited and warns them that they will level down. At the warning, the two enemies release each other and both drop to level 3 in punishment. There’s nobody to stop this fight, as even nagging Yang-joo is sleeping instead of monitoring in Seoul.
The two rivals continue their sword fight, and Hyung-seok manages to fling the sword out of Jin-woo’s hands. Jin-woo just barely avoids Hyung-seok’s swings and runs to grab his sword stuck in the ground. He sees the shadow of Hyung-seok approaching behind him and times his attack to stick his sword right into Hyung-seok’s abdomen.
Hyung-seok freezes in shock as the sword pierces him, and he seems convincingly in pain. Jin-woo pulls out the sword and slices at Hyung-seok a few more times before the final blow that sends bloody Hyung-seok limp onto the bench. He looks at Hyung-seok, and the game congratulates him on winning and earning his enemy’s experience.
Also covered in blood, Jin-woo smiles in victory and leaves defeated Hyun-seok on the bench. He receives a call from Secretary Seo about their approaching boarding time and heads on his way. While walking through the park, Jin-woo calls Yang-joo to brag about his victory. Unfortunately, Yang-joo slept through the whole thing and can’t quite believe that Jin-woo won.
As Jin-woo passes through the end of the park, we get a glance of a dark statue with a supposedly dark aura. Jin-woo doesn’t seem to notice and happily boards a taxi for the airport.
At the airport, he’s greeted by Secretary Seo and Hee-joo, who’s there to see him off. Jin-woo apologizes for missing their dinner, and Hee-joo asks if he completed his job. He smiles and confirms that he completely obliterated his enemy. Jin-woo whispers to Secretary Seo to call him as soon as Se-joo shows up, and as he runs to catch his flight, he tells Hee-joo to continue playing guitar.
Hee-joo asks Secretary Seo if Jin-woo will return to Granada, and he responds that it’s unlikely that Jin-woo would need to visit again. Jin-woo finally returns to his luxury hotel room in Barcelona and texts Secretary Seo to call tomorrow since he’s beat.
The next morning, Jin-woo wakes up to his phone ringing and sees that he’s missed 16 calls from Secretary Seo. He leisurely calls him back and complains that the wake-up call was too early for their flight time. Secretary Seo urgently explains that it’s an issue with Cha Hyung-seok. He was found dead on a park bench in the morning — dead with his eyes wide open.
Jin-woo freezes at this news, and we see a runner try to wake Hyung-seok, only to watch him fall over on the bench, dead as a doornail. Jin-woo looks shocked as he finally realizes there may be a defect in this genius game.
Ahhhh what the?! I did have an inkling about the defects when we started seeing the glitchy game warriors, and I had my suspicions when Yang-joo called the buffering game a blessing. But I didn’t think we would go so far so early in this series. At this point, “defects” and “glitches” are understatements for the fatal consequences of this game, and I’m thrilled and chilled by how we’re already seeing the blending of reality and fiction.
While I enjoy Jin-woo’s character as a game player — he’s obsessively committed to the game and it’s quite entertaining — I have my reservations about him as a person. I don’t agree with his shady business tactics to buy the rights to the game. The time/money pressure for the contract was amusing to watch, and I thoroughly enjoyed the bathroom antics (bravo to Park Shin-hye’s semi-fluent Spanish). But it wasn’t the right way to approach business, and the lack of transparency makes Hee-joo’s happiness feel incomplete. I’m glad that she’s finally escaping the depths of despair and debt, but I’m sure it will come at a greater cost — for her and Jin-woo.
The shady business to acquire the game is bound to return as karma for Jin-woo soon, with the death of Cha Hyung-seok giving us a sense of foreboding. I don’t think Hyung-seok is actually dead, though he may be physically dead in the real world. I suspect that his existence crossed over to the AR world, just like Se-joo, and I think the quick cliffhanger scene from the previous episode serves as a dark omen for that transition. While it’s dark and insane, I’m so on board for the twisted realities of this game and how the fantasies are already bursting out of their realm.
- Premiere Watch: Clean With Passion for Now, Boyfriend, Memories of the Alhambra
- More teasers for Memories of the Alhambra
- Promos for suspense romance drama Memories of the Alhambra
- Reminiscing about Spain at sunset in tvN’s Memories of the Alhambra
- Park Shin-hye up to join Hyun Bin in Memories of the Alhambra
- Hyun Bin offered new sci-fi drama from W–Two Worlds writer