Last: Episode 14
Jong-gu will do anything to protect Mi-joo, even if it means surrendering to Heung-sam. While the promise of a new life together and freedom from the chains that bind them to the corrupt Seoul Station is tempting, will it be enough for Jong-gu to turn his back on all the other men that still suffer at Heung-sam’s hands? Considering there’s still two more episodes left, is it too soon for a battle between Number One and Number Two — or is it too late?
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Heung-sam holds up the lighter, giving Jong-gu one more chance to save Mi-joo (and the office) from being burned down. Without hesitation, Jong-gu drops to his knees, begging Heung-sam to let Mi-joo go. He’ll do anything Heung-sam asks. When he sees Mi-joo crouches next to Jong-gu, Heung-sam sneers and snaps the lighter close.
Just before he walks out, he kicks Jong-gu in the face. Ouch. Mi-joo clutches him in shock, but he reassures her everything is okay as they hug.
On their way back to the penthouse, Praying Mantis asks Heung-sam if the reason he’d been ordered to tell Jong-gu about Mi-joo was because Heung-sam had planned to save them from the start, but Heung-sam just tells him to stop asking so many questions.
Waiting for them at the penthouse is Tae-ho, who’s starting to realize that Heung-sam may not be completely trustworthy. Suspicious, he asks Heung-sam about the original deal with Daedong Bio (you know, the one that had him out on the streets and trying not to be killed by loan sharks).
Since he failed in that deal, losing so much money for Heung-sam, why does Heung-sam trust him to succeed in this new one? Heung-sam just tells him to stop focusing on the past and just focus on the new mission. He believes in Tae-ho.
Mi-joo attends to Jong-gu’s wounds, but she avoids his gaze as she tells him that she’s sorry he’s always getting hurt on her behalf. He tenderly touches the burn scar on her shoulder blade and begs her to run away with him and start a new life together. Her eyes fill with tears as he hugs her, and she agrees: “Let’s go.”
Tae-ho is waiting by Nara’s flower garden when she arrives that evening with her watering can. She tells him he can stay and watch, pointing out which ones are the flowers that he brought her when she was hospitalized. She wonders if they’re too crowded though, and should be moved to an area that will allow them to grow and flourish.
He reminds her that she once said that the flowers might be stressed if they’re moved from their home location, but she points out that situations change and one has to learn to adapt and grow. We’re not just talking about flowers, now, are we?
She admits that she’s heard about his fight with Jong-gu — is that what he meant by becoming a villain? Even so, she knows that he’s well-liked by everyone, and she hopes that everything works out well for him. He slowly walks away, lost in thought, and Nara watches him go.
When he sees a food cart with corn dogs, he buys one, remembering his lowest point when he had stared hungrily at the corndog a kid had dropped, back when Snake Eyes had told him that the homeless merely eat to live, so who cares if it had been dropped on the floor and stepped on.
The next morning, Tae-ho runs into Mi-joo outside the club. She’s got her suitcases packed, ready to meet with Jong-gu and run away from Seoul Station. But Tae-ho has some questions for her first. He wants to know if Heung-sam ever met with the CEO of Daedong Bio. Mi-joo brushes him off, but Tae-ho is fed up with being used and lied to, and demands to know the truth.
She grudgingly sits back down, warning him that this conversation will be her first and last gift to him. She explains that Daedong Bio’s CEO was also caught in Heung-sam’s intricate web. The CEO thought he’d made a deal with Heung-sam that if he cut and ran with the company’s money, then Heung-sam would provide him a place to hide and escape the country. Instead, Heung-sam had him killed and sold his organs on the black market.
Tae-ho realizes that Heung-sam intended the stock to fail from the start, only pretending that he’d lost his 5 million won as an excuse for revenge on the loanshark President Jung. Actually, it was as an excuse to use Tae-ho to get revenge on President Jung. Even before Tae-ho stumbled into Seoul Station, broke and homeless, back when he got the tip about the stock trading in the first place.
He marvels at Heung-sam’s meticulous and perfect plans, but then remembers that his partner, who had been worried about the transaction in the first place, was killed because of him. Slamming his fist on the bar, he storms out, eventually staggering to a bus stop where he collapses under the emotional weight of this revelation.
Heung-sam doesn’t seem to be all that happy recalling how easily Jong-gu kneeled before him, or that Mi-joo tenderly kneeled at Jong-gu’s side to comfort him. But he’s ready to get business back to normal at Seoul Station, reassuring Poison Snake and Crocodile that Jong-gu won’t be interfering any more.
Tae-ho arrives unannounced at the penthouse, ready to get the ball rolling on taking down Han Joong Group. He proposes a way for Heung-sam to open up some accounts that will essentially launder Heung-sam’s stash of cash and also make it untraceable. Heung-sam sorta-teasingly asks if Tae-ho is just planning to take the money and run, ruining him in the process.
But Tae-ho reminds him that he’s still wanted by the authorities — plus he doesn’t have a passport, so it’s not like he’d be able to get very far. Not to mention Heung-sam would follow him to hell to get the money back, anyway.
As Praying Mantis escorts him out, he apologizes to Tae-ho. It will take some effort and time before the smell of gasoline leaves his office. Tae-ho has no idea what he’s talking about, and Praying Mantis practically rolls his eyes as he tells him to go ask Jong-gu.
Tae-ho finds Jong-gu getting dressed in his suit, his belongings all packed up. He pretends that he’s disappointed that Jong-gu was going to leave without saying good-bye, and Jong-gu is surprised that Tae-ho knows that he’s leaving with Mi-joo. Tae-ho wonders if Heung-sam gave up on them, and Jong-gu sighs, admitting that he was the one who surrendered to Heung-sam.
Tae-ho apologizes, feeling responsible. Instead, Jong-gu is thankful. He finally gets to break free from Seoul Station and spend his life with a woman who loves him. Jong-gu offers to give his bus to Tae-ho, telling him it’s a great place to escape the world, but Tae-ho has his sights on stealing Heung-sam’s penthouse from him.
The men share one last drink together as a way to say good-bye, but Tae-ho is the one who seems to need it the most as he still bitterly realizes how much Heung-sam has destroyed his life. He reassures Jong-gu that he won’t go down without a fight: fist to fist, mind to mind. A worried Jong-gu asks if something happened between them, but Tae-ho slurs out that it comes down who’s the more evil of the two. He’s confident that he can destroy Heung-sam by becoming worse than him.
As he leans back on the sofa, he drunkly tells Jong-go to not worry about anything — he should just enjoy the rest of his life with Mi-joo. Tae-ho promises to sweep out Heung-sam’s Seoul Station web. And then he falls asleep, passed out.
Heung-sam is busy showing investors his plans for Mi Rae City, and they stop in at Grandma’s restaurant for some lunch. She eyes them suspiciously. She remembers Heung-sam from his early days on the streets, marveling that he must be doing well now that he’s dressed in a fancy suit.
When Nara arrives, she greets Heung-sam with surprise. She tries to contain her grandmother’s caustic remarks, reminding her that this is the man who donated enough to keep the free clinic up and running. Grandma’s not having it, though, and orders them out since they’re done eating. Poison Snake leaves a wad of cash on the table to pay for the meal, but Grandma only takes what she needs, throwing the excess in his face. She’s no beggar.
Poison Snake points out that she might soon be, since Heung-sam’s plans for Mi Rae City mean that her restaurant will be destroyed to make way for a large shopping mall and high-rise apartments. Furious, she grabs him, yelling that she won’t give up her place without a fight. But the men easily toss her aside, and as they leave, they knock over all the tables and chairs.
Tae-ho wakes up, finding himself alone. He smiles when he sees that Heung-sam left behind all his boxing accoutrements, and he neatly arranges them in the empty bus as a respectful shrine to his mentor.
Crocodile is busy taking back control of Seoul Station. He’s got all the men lined up, and is threatening them with a baseball bat as he orders them to tell him how much they plan to bring in today. The men’s faces light up in excitement when they see Jong-gu confidently stride towards them. Crocodile cowers a bit when Jong-gu asks him what’s going on.
He stutters out that he was told Jong-gu wouldn’t be interfering in Seoul Station business anymore. With a glance at the hopeful men, Jong-gu agrees that it’s true. This is no longer his business. He continues walking, hesitating only slightly when he hears Crocodile beating the backs of the men.
He arrives at Grandma’s restaurant, ready to pay off his years-long tab, only to find Hae-jin and Foreman Oh attempting to put the restaurant back to rights. When he hears what happened, Jong-gu hurries to Nara, making sure Grandma is okay.
When Nara remarks on his suit, asking if he’s going anywhere, he’s reminded of his original purpose. He hands over a thick envelope of cash as payment for all the meals she’s served him, adding that it will come in handy for Grandma’s relocation costs.
But Nara refuses to give up her home without a fight. Even if she and Grandma end up on the streets and have to seek refuge in Seoul Station, she refuses to give up. She points out that if a group of people are going somewhere together, and one person falls, then everyone helps that person get back up on their feet. If someone is sick, you give them medicine first without judging why they’re sick or saying they’re wrong for being sick.
So, too, the homeless men were once fathers, husbands and business men who have fallen and been abandoned. She’s not scared of falling down — now matter how hard she’s pushed, she’ll fight back until she has no strength.
Jong-gu admits that she’s better than he is and a thousand times more courageous. He apologizes that he won’t be there to help her. As he leaves, Nara asks if Tae-ho knows about the restaurant being destroyed, but Jong-gu says he likely doesn’t — because if he did, he’d do everything in his power to protect them.
Tae-ho’s power is his brain, though. As he soaks alone at the bath house, he thinks of ways to steal Heung-sam’s 10 billion won. No more, no less.
Jong-gu walks back through Seoul Station where the men ease their beaten bodies. One of the men calls out to him, saying he’s sorry for being so easily wooed by the promise of alcohol and meat. Another apologizes for skipping out on work at the construction site.
Sighing, Jong-gu returns to his bus and sees his championship belt and gloves that Tae-ho left out. He picks up Straw Cutter’s Bible, remembering the admonition to stay and do anything to help the men. As he takes off his suit, Jong-gu reminds himself that the fight isn’t over until the final countdown.
Mi-joo waits expectantly for Jong-gu, but her face falls when she sees that he’s dressed in his usual sweats and doesn’t carry a bag. He apologizes for needing to stay a little longer, but she should go ahead and wait for him at the train station. He explains that he needs to check on Grandma who’s sick, reassuring Mi-joo that there’s nothing to worry about.
She tells him that the reason she goes to a secluded train stop to catch the train is because she can’t escape the feeling that Heung-sam is always watching her. There’s no freedom for her in Seoul Station. She gently places her hand on Jong-gu’s cheek — she’s waited for years for them to finally be free to be together. She tells him to not take too long and to hurry to her.
Jong-gu hails a taxi to take her to the train station, and as it pulls away, she watches him out the back window until she can no longer see him. He stands in the road, watching her drive away.
Heung-sam looks over his plans for Mi Rae City, smiling as he envisions the elaborate skyline of sleek high-rises made of glass and steel. But soon enough, Jong-gu and his men, and Heung-sam and his men, meet in the middle of an abandoned courtyard. It looks an awful lot like the place Tae-ho thought he was going to meet Straw Cutter for a duel. This can’t be good.
Heung-sam taunts Jong-gu, telling him he thought he’d already left. But Jong-gu says he’s got some unfinished business to take care of first. He firmly tells Heung-sam that Seoul Station is not his and that the homeless men are not farm animals cultivated to keep his stomach full. Hasn’t he squeezed enough out of them already? It’s time to leave them alone.
Scoffing, Heung-sam says that Jong-gu is crazy and should be hurrying to Mi-joo. It’s not too late, but Heung-sam’s patience and generosity will soon run out. Besides, this isn’t a matter for Jong-gu to take care of, since Seoul Station and those “farm animals” are, indeed, his — unless someone takes them from him. And he refuses to let anyone take them away from him without a fight.
Fine, then. Jong-gu challenges him to a duel.
Word spreads fast, and soon all the Seoul Station men are scurrying to the site. Tae-ho sees them and finds out that Number One and Number Two are about to fight.
As Heung-sam hands Praying Mantis his jacket to hold, he warns Heung-sam that Jong-gu’s right hook is dangerous. But Heung-sam knows that all too well — Jong-gu was once his idol.
Hae-jin takes Jong-gu’s jacket, telling him it’s not too late to stop — he doesn’t need to fight on their behalf. Yeah, but this is Jong-gu we’re talking about. Heung-sam says he’s met a few idiots in his day, but right now Jong-gu tops that list. Jong-gu may be an idiot, but he’s got a good memory, and he knows that once upon a time, Heung-sam actually used to be a decent human being.
The men prepare their fighting stances, and soon it’s a flurry of fists as they punch and block each other’s punches. Heung-sam must do more than just listen to music in his penthouse, because he’s able to not only keep up with Jong-gu, but also get in quite a few expert hits of his own.
Tae-ho runs up, pushing his way through the ring of men around Jong-gu and Heung-sam. Meanwhile, at the serene rural train station, Mi-joo waits.
Jong-gu is getting in a few punches, but Heung-sam manages to block them, twisting Jong-gu’s arm and knocking him over, causing him to fall — and as he falls, his head hits a concrete block on the ground. He blinks a few times to get his bearings, but he’s unsteady on his feet as he stands back up. Heung-sam easily punches him a few more times while Jong-gu stands there, dazed.
Blood begins to trickle down his nose. On no. Oh no no no no no. Heung-sam gets in one more punch, and Jong-gu collapses to the ground, knocked out.
Tae-ho rushes forward and picks him up, carrying him piggy-back as he and the rest of Jong-gu’s men rush to the free clinic. As they wait to hear word from the doctors in the clinic’s operating room, Heung-sam gets his wounds attended to in his penthouse by his private doctor. The scowl on his face makes it clear he doesn’t want any company.
A nurse rushes out of the operating room, saying Jong-gu has regained consciousness and is asking for Tae-ho. That’s a good sign, right? Nope. She quietly tells Nara that it’s a brain hemorrhage — there’s nothing they can do.
Jong-gu, in his oxygen mask and hooked up to the monitoring systems, feebly waves Tae-ho over. Tae-ho fights back tears as he strains to listen to Jong-gu’s gasping words: “Don’t become weak or evil. You’re a good kid.”
Jong-gu’s breath starts to catch and his eyes grow wide. He sees himself smiling as he walks along with Mi-joo, and then his eyes close and he flat-lines. Frantically, Tae-ho calls out, but it’s too late. He’s dead.
Poison Snake — who actually looks shaken — reports the news of Jong-gu’s death to Heung-sam. He doesn’t take it well, gulping down some whiskey and punching Praying Mantis in the face when he tries to take away the bottle.
The homeless men sit grieving in the waiting room of the clinic as Mi-joo arrives. She slowly walks through to the operation room where Jong-gu’s body lies covered in a sheet. Gingerly, she pulls it back to reveal his face.
Her own face is emotionless as she says that she told him to come to her — so where did he go? She tells him that she’s sorry, but she’s not going to cry. Even one tear is too much for such an impossible and difficult man as him. So he shouldn’t be disappointed, but should instead rest well.
She might not be crying, but I totally am. The world is, too, as it pours down buckets of rain on a stone-faced Tae-ho. Grandma is sad as well, and tears fill her eyes as Nara silently pours her a glass of soju in memory of Jong-gu.
Drenched from the rain, Mi-joo slowly steps into Jong-gu’s bus, looking around at the few items left behind, such as his suit hanging up and the bag he had packed to run away with her. Zipping open the bag, she sees the teddy bear he’d added instead of his boxing gloves. Clutching it to her chest, the tears finally flow as she violently begins to weep.
How do you expect me to make any kind of coherent commentary after that ending? Not fair, show. Not fair. Give me a second to compose myself or I’ll just end up with keyboard smashing nonsense because I’m crying too hard to see what I’m typing.
*takes deep, shaky breath*
*thinks of Jong-gu — his love for Mi-joo, his loyalty and his drive to make the Seoul Station men’s lives better, and his amazing hair and fabulous cheekbones*
*breaks down weeping again*
Okay. I think I’ve finally got the tears under control. At least for now. Maybe.
It’s not that I didn’t expect someone would pay the ultimate sacrifice, and it’s not that I didn’t half-anticipate that it would end up being our beloved Number Two — I just wasn’t ready to say good-bye. Not yet.
Jong-gu has been the heart of this show, a show that’s been predominately based on our varied and interesting characters, so it feels like someone’s kicked me in the gut now that he’ll no longer be in the middle of everything. He was a reluctant hero, no doubt about that. But he was a hero. His life wasn’t perfect, but he believed in these men and was willing to risk his life to make sure they were treated with dignity as people and not as mere chattel.
I still don’t see Heung-sam as a villain, even after all this. An antagonist? Most definitely. (Then again, nearly everyone on this show has filled the role of antagonist at one point or another.) This is certainly a turning point, though — the point where the men will have to decide if they want to stand up for themselves and honor the memory of Jong-gu (a man who died demanding that they be treated with basic human decency), or if they’ll still continue to follow Heung-sam (a man who looks down on them, believing them to have no more worth than the very meat he bribes them with).
Considering how badly Heung-sam took the news of Jong-gu’s death, I don’t think he actually thought he’d end up killing him. The fatal blow was more of an accident (that concrete block was in a most inconvenient place), but now Jong-gu’s blood is on his hands and he’s not going to be able to wash that off so easily. He could spin it that he’s clearly Number One since he easily defeated Number Two, and therefore Seoul Station should proceed with business as usual, or else.
Still, there’s the past history and the vague threads of friendship, and deep down I’m sure he knows that Jong-gu’s death and Mi-joo’s breakdown are completely his fault. I can’t imagine Mi-joo willingly returning to Heung-sam, the man who killed the man she loved, especially since the only thing keeping her with Heung-sam was the promise that he’d free Jong-gu. Now that that bargaining chip is gone (*sob*), there’s nothing left for her to even pretend to be on Heung-sam’s side.
Jong-gu’s death is — or it ought to be — the spark of a revolution, a catalyst for the men to fight back and for Tae-ho to ultimately decide who’s side he’s truly on. He’s been realizing these past few episodes that Heung-sam’s web is wider and stickier than he ever dreamed, and while it may be easier to stay within that web so that he can save his own skin, it may not be the best choice. Remember that Tae-ho is the kind of man who will fight injustice, even when it’s just someone cutting in line at the soup kitchen. How will he deny the last words of his mentor, who told him that he’s a good kid, and that the answer is not to become more evil than Heung-sam?
More importantly, it will be crucial for Tae-ho to realize that he’s not alone in Heung-sam’s web. He may feel responsible for all the actions that have caused deaths of his partner, President Jung, Sergeant Bae, and countless other men — and now Jong-gu (*sniffle*) — but there are also so many others who will fight along side him — even though they might not have had the reason or courage to fight just a few months ago.
Yes, Heung-sam has the money and the power to crush these homeless men and destroy a neighborhood in the pursuit of profit and revenge, but he may discover the loyalty that he so carefully and brutally purchased over the years is much more expensive than he originally thought. He thinks he knows all and sees everything that happens in Seoul Station, but does he know where Tae-ho’s loyalties lie, and whether or not he’ll choose good over evil? For that matter, does Tae-ho know himself?