Memories of the Alhambra: Episode 14
Our weary hero is nearing the end of his year-long quest — whether he succeeds or fails, it will all be over soon. He’s risked everything in the attempt to save someone he’s never even met, and he’s suffered significant losses in the process. But the game may still demand one final sacrifice before it gives up its most precious treasure.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
During a break at her modeling shoot, Yu-ra learns that Jin-woo didn’t show up at the police station for his questioning today. Young-joon, her manager/current fling, tells her that Jin-woo met with Professor Cha this morning — but he doesn’t know why, only that something doesn’t feel right.
Yu-ra starts making frantic phone calls, but she’s calling Professor Cha, not Jin-woo as Young-joon assumes. She dials Professor Cha’s number repeatedly for hours, getting progressively drunk on wine, but Professor Cha never answers. Her lawyer advises her not to attend the witness interviews tomorrow, only saying vaguely that Professor Cha told him to tell her not to go.
She screams at Young-joon for not finding out the reason, and he loses his temper. He accuses her of making a deal with Professor Cha when he told her not to trust him, and Yu-ra growls that she’ll kill all of them for manipulating her. Young-joon walks out on her, so Yu-ra get dressed and stumbles to a taxi, directing the starstruck driver to the police station.
The reporters at the station swarm her, but she goes in without answering their questions. She tells the worried detective that she’s been drinking, but only to work up the courage to come give a statement, promising him that what she has to say will help his investigation.
She tells the detective a complete fabrication — that Jin-woo confessed to her that he strangled Hyung-seok with his own two hands out of anger. She says that his fall at the hostel was actually a suicide attempt, and that the only other person who heard Jin-woo’s confession was Secretary Seo, who is now conveniently dead after traveling with Jin-woo.
When she finally gets a call from Professor Cha, Yu-ra asks for a break. She tells Professor Cha that she’s at the station giving the statement he coached her to say, with a few extra details to spice it up. Professor Cha snaps that he instructed her not to say anything, but Yu-ra shrieks that she’s not his dog to boss around.
She accuses him of scheming with Jin-woo and threatens to take them both down by confessing to the police that Professor Cha made her commit perjury. as well as what he did to steal Soo-jin’s assets. Later, Professor Cha’s lawyer tells him that Yu-ra came to the station tonight without her manager’s knowledge, and that she’s even agreed to a few interviews with reporters.
As she leaves the station, Yu-ra puts on a big show in front of the reporters. She says with fake humility that she told the police the entire truth, and that her heart goes out to Hyung-seok, who was a victim of infidelity like she was.
Director Park has a mini panic attack when he learns what’s happening and asks Professor Cha if he should shut down the game servers. Professor Cha tells him to leave it on and to let Jin-woo sort things out in his own way. Director Park wants to cancel the re-investigation into Hyung-seok’s death since it seems Jin-woo’s been telling the truth about the game all along, but Professor Cha whispers that it’s too late — he’s dug his own grave.
Director Park calls Jin-woo, who’s still in the game (judging by his lack of a limp), to ask if he’s heard about what Yu-ra did. He tells Jin-woo that Yu-ra gave a statement that he killed Hyung-seok and confessed to her, and that it’s enough to get Jin-woo arrested without a warrant.
Director Park is in Pyeongchang where Professor Cha is hiding out, and he wants to meet Jin-woo as soon as possible to make a plan. But Jin-woo is standing only a few feet from a crowd of cops, and he says blandly, “They’re already here for me.”
He goes back inside the restaurant to get Hee-joo, but she’s surrounded by the police, who tell her that they located Jin-woo using the pictures the other diners were posting online. Hee-joo is stalling for time, so Jin-woo makes a run for it, but he’s spotted and the police give chase.
Jin-woo manages to lose the police, but he’s still got the in-game soldiers to deal with. Hee-joo calls him to ask why the cops are looking for him, but Jin-woo is shot by an in-game sniper and drops his phone.
He ducks into a restaurant, where the patrons begin snapping photos as he spots a soldier outside and aims his guns. Several more soldiers spawn inside the restaurant just as Jin-woo gets a notification that he’s out of bullets. Craaaap.
Fortunately Jin-woo had Yang-joo make those special items for him, and the tiny lighter-sized flamethrower does an excellent job getting rid of the NPCs (and gains him another level). Unfortunately he looks like a loony to the restaurant patrons, waving his arm around in the air, and they get plenty of incriminating pictures.
When the NPCs are gone, Jin-woo apologizes to the restaurant owner and looks for his phone. A cop outside sees him, but Jin-woo manages to give them the slip again. They decide to call for backup, and one cop notes that Jin-woo’s awfully fast for a guy who’s supposed to have a bum leg.
When he can’t reach Jin-woo by phone, Director Park calls Yang-joo, who tells him that Jin-woo is still in Myeongdong with Hee-joo. So Director Park calls Hee-joo, and she asks him why the police are after Jin-woo since not showing up for his questioning isn’t a crime. Director Park wails that the situation has gotten much, much worse.
Hee-joo logs back in and follows the game to Jin-woo, whom she spots bursting out of an alley, shooting at more soldiers. He doesn’t see her, though, and runs off down again. He goes into a clothing store to avoid the sniper that’s still taking shots at him, and hides in a changing room.
Just inches outside the door, an NPC soldier freezes as the “your duel is being delayed” message transmits to Jin-woo. There’s still thirteen minutes before his weapons reload, and as he waits, he’s notified that Yang-joo has sent him a few more new items. One is a watch, which he equips, then sits back to read the instructions.
He realizes that Hee-joo is looking for him, so he pops out of the dressing room just long enough to yank her inside. He snaps at her for logging in again, but she just hugs him, relieved that he’s okay. She ignores his request that she remove the smart lens and gives him her phone, saying that Director Park is trying to reach him.
Jin-woo calls Director Park and tells him that he ran from the police because, if they handcuff him and he can’t use his hands, the game will succeed in killing him. He says that he needs to do something to prove he’s innocent, and warns Director Park not to close down the server unless he wants to see them and the company go down.
After hanging up, Jin-woo does something with his game watch that causes the NPC soldiers to freeze in place for five minutes. Handy item! He and Hee-joo walk out right past them, and he calls her a taxi, saying that he needs to stay and level up as fast as possible.
Hee-joo refuses to go, but Jin-woo says that he needs her to do something for him at home. She can’t resist his dimpled smile and gets in the taxi. Jin-woo says that this will be finished by tomorrow morning, and promises to come see her as soon as it’s all done. His words sound reassuring, but he watches Hee-joo ride away as if he’ll never see her again.
When the five minutes is up, Jin-woo’s watch automatically returns to his in-game inventory and the NPC soldiers begin to move again. He takes out another special item, a lighter this time, fires it up, and tosses it into the store when a customer opens the door. There’s a huge explosion, and though obviously no real damage is done, the soldiers are eliminated.
Hee-joo arrives home and runs up to her room to frantically look through her box of flyers again. Min-joo comes in and says that Jin-woo called to tell her to stop looking — he only asked her to help him in order to make her go home.
Feeling stupid, Hee-joo checks on Grandma then goes to the kitchen to make porridge and wait for Jin-woo to show up in the morning like he promised. The doorbell rings at dawn, but it’s Director Park, who asks nervously if she’s heard from Jin-woo. He tells Hee-joo that Yang-joo told him she and Jin-woo are dating, and he jokes that he can’t approve of her relationship with a guy like Jin-woo.
She doesn’t laugh, and she confesses that Jin-woo lied to her last night to make her go home, so now she’s just waiting and feeling helpless. Director Park expresses regret for not believing in Jin-woo and sighs that he might lose his friend as well as the company as a result.
Yang-joo calls Director Park with good news — Jin-woo finally hit level 100! It didn’t come without a cost, though… we see him slumped in an alley, exhausted and surrounded by dead NPCs. The game congratulates him and says that he can now use Master’s special item, the Key to Heaven.
He calls Yang-joo and tells him to move Emma to a Catholic church across the street from his location. But in his distraction, Jin-woo forgets to stay alert, and a terrorist creeps close enough to shoot the phone out of his hands. He takes several more bullets, and just as the soldier lines up a killing head shot, he’s shot down himself… it’s NPC Secretary Seo!
He looks exactly the same as the last time Jin-woo saw him, riddled with arrows and covered in blood, but he defeats the terrorist and makes sure that the area is clear. He looks at Jin-woo for a long moment, his expression heartbreakingly blank, then he disappears. Dammit, I’m crying again.
Gulping back tears, Jin-woo gets back on the phone and tells Yang-joo to move Emma to the church.
Heartened by Jin-woo’s success in reaching level 100, Director Park heads back to the office. He tells Hee-joo that this time, he’s choosing to trust Jin-woo. After he leaves, Hee-joo grabs her coat and borrows Sang-bum’s car, not stopping to explain to him what’s going on.
Jin-woo rests for a few minutes, then drags himself to his feet and slowly makes his way towards the church. As he sits in a pew and crosses himself, he thinks: “I have never believed in God, but I would like to rely on him now. Please let this be the end.”
While he waits for Emma, he gets a text from Soo-jin that says simply, “I’m sorry.” He’s about to call her when he hears the guitar, and he looks up to see Emma sitting near the pulpit. He approaches and tells her that he has something for her, and she asks if it’s the Key to Heaven.
She holds out her hand, and Jin-woo gives her the Key. With the Key to Heaven safely in the Hand of Fatima, the game notifies Jin-woo that he’s completed Master’s quest.
Nearby, a man tells some policemen that he saw Yoo Jin-woo going towards the church, and they call for backup. The cops swarm the church, while at the same time, Hee-joo drives around the area looking for Jin-woo. She sees the speeding cop cars and follows them, but when she arrives at the church, the only people there are some praying nuns. She logs into the game and looks around, and after a moment, Emma appears again.
Director Park is almost frantic for news about Jin-woo, but Yang-joo hasn’t heard anything since he moved Emma for him. He has heard from Hee-joo, but she says that Jin-woo isn’t at the church. Yang-joo can’t track him because he logged out, but he wasn’t arrested since the police are still searching for him.
Young-joon walks right into Yu-ra’s bedroom to wake her up, furious about her little stunt at the police station last night. He yells that she’s going to kill her career, but she says sleepily that she’ll kill Jin-woo, Professor Cha, and even Soo-jin. Young-joon says that she got her wish, because Soo-jin might actually die.
Soo-jin had seen Yu-ra on the news this morning, stating that it was infidelity that killed Hyung-seok. She’d texted Jin-woo the message, “I’m sorry,” then had taken a bunch of pills from her office’s sample closet. One of the nurses found her in her office, and now she’s in the hospital in critical condition.
The cop in charge of catching Jin-woo denies to the press that they are trying to arrest Jin-woo without a warrant, despite multiple online posts from witnesses to last night’s chase.
Hee-joo goes looking for Jin-woo in the area where she left him last night, resolutely logging herself back in every time the game logs her out automatically for being attacked in a high-level area. She retraces her steps all the way to the clothing store, but Jin-woo isn’t there.
It reminds her of last night when Jin-woo had started to lead her from the dressing room, but he’d stopped and closed the door again. He’d given her a kiss, taking his time, then he’d looked at her for a long moment before taking her hand and leading her out.
As the day goes on and Jin-woo fails to show up or log back into the game, Director Park and Yang-joo start to lose their faith. Director Park tells Yang-joo that it’s time to shut down the server, knowing that this decision means bankruptcy for J.One, and it’s done.
Hee-joo spends the whole next day in her room, preferring to lie in bed and cry. Min-joo goes out after dark, but when she gets to the street, she sees something that makes her yell for Hee-joo to come out. Hee-joo comes running, and all Min-joo can do is point at a dark figure standing nearby and stammer, “There…”
Hee-joo steps closer to the person until she recognizes his face – Se-joo is home.
Okay, don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that Se-joo is back safe! Everything that Jin-woo has gone through for the past year, the literal and figurative sacrifices he’s made, haven’t been in vain. He dedicated his entire life to rescuing a boy he never even met, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do, never giving up even when he suffered permanent physical injury and devastating personal loss, and that makes him nothing less than a hero. But I can’t help but be terribly afraid that the game wouldn’t just hand over Se-joo without exacting a price — such as Jin-woo himself. He logged out of the game and seems to have disappeared, but what if he’s still in the game, trapped in the same place Se-joo was trapped for the past year? And if he is, who will rescue him?
One of the thing this show’s writer has been criticized for in her past shows is the tendency for the rules of the universe she sets up to fall apart in the last few episodes. But we only have two episodes left and everything is holding up very, very well, and I believe that the answer lies in the way the writer has approached the AR game. While in real life I would want an AR game to be much more complex than “fight whoever the game throws at you,” I’m satisfied with this game being much more straightforward, because I think it’s shown this way for a reason: that Jin-woo isn’t playing the game the way Se-joo made it to be played. He’s only trying to get to level 100 so he can use the Key of Heaven and rescue Se-joo. For you non-gamers, most video games that require the player to level up offer different ways to do that: Advancing through the story (or “campaign”) and completing quests (in-game tasks that offer extra experience points on completion) are the most popular because they are the most interesting – questing is fun and interesting and makes a game’s story richer. And we can tell that those things are there outside of Jin-woo’s experience playing the game, because we’ve seen the clues, like player-hub cafes, pirates, and NPCs who viciously defend their own safe zone.
But Jin-woo isn’t playing the game as it’s meant to be played. What Jin-woo has been doing is called “grinding” — just killing mobs (game-generated enemies) for no reason other than to gain experience and level up. Grinding is boring and repetitive and inefficient, but Jin-woo didn’t have a choice, since he couldn’t go out into the city and play through a storyline, but had to fight mobs in an abandoned school. So I can overlook that the show’s writer didn’t bother too much about giving the game a complex story when nobody important is playing it, anyway. This is one of the few times that I actually approve of a writer taking a shortcut, because by keeping Jin-woo’s gameplay to simple grinding, it’s allowed the writer to focus on making the part of the game that’s important to Jin-woo’s struggle extremely interesting and consistent (though the gamer in me wants to bang my head on concrete at the prospect of grinding 96 levels, gaaaah).
What I still don’t fully understand is why the game continues to be a threat (we’ll forget the how, because frankly, it just seems like actual magic) to Jin-woo and Se-joo, long after the people who tried to harm them are dead. I understand that Emma witnessed Marco stabbing Se-joo, so (I think) she created a glitch that allowed Se-joo to fight back in a tangible way, ending in Marco’s death by an in-game weapon. Similarly, Hyung-seok threatened to kill Se-joo and Marco within Emma’s hearing, so that’s most likely why she allowed Hyung-seok and Jin-woo’s duel to turn deadly and get rid of the second threat to Se-joo. If it stopped there, it would make total sense — both players who wanted to kill Se-joo got eliminated indirectly by the NPC that Se-joo created specifically as a protector. But then game created NPCs of Marco and Hyung-seok, putting Se-joo and Jin-woo in danger when Emma’s intent was to save them. In addition, the game can harm Jin-woo and those allied with him while they’re logged in, and has even killed one of his allies in what seemed like a random encounter (and Secretary Seo will forever be a sore place in my heart, right next to Byung-hee). So I hope that the writer has some good explanations for this, because otherwise she’s done a fantastic job keeping the lore of the drama consistent, and I’d like to think there’s a reason for this, too.
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