Legend of the Blue Sea: Episode 18
Yay for twists and turns and character revelations! The episode serves up gratification in multiple forms, and while there are still questions up in the air that we’ll have to wait on, I found this hour thoroughly fun and satisfying. It’s nice to be surprised by a twist every now and again, and even better yet when it comes wrapped in a caper shell, with a sweet center.
EPISODE 18 RECAP
Chi-hyun rushes home to check on Dad, fearing his life is at risk, and hears Dad in the middle of leaving his voicemail message to Joon-jae. It hurts to hear him expressing his regrets for leaving his former family and telling Joon-jae that he loves him.
Then Dad’s hand goes slack, and Chi-hyun rushes to his side, holding a finger to Dad’s nose to check his breath. He recoils when there’s no sign of life, then spots the glass of tainted water on the nightstand and dumps out the liquid, washing the glass compulsively before calling for an ambulance.
When the authorities arrive, a regular glass of water is on the nightstand and Chi-hyun plays the part of grieving son. He answers police officers’ questions about Dad’s medical history and Mom’s whereabouts.
Joon-jae rushes to the house as the body is being carried out and falls to his knees in grief. He spots Chi-hyun stepping out with the officer and launches himself at him, decking him in the face, accusing him and his mother of being the reason for Dad’s death. Joon-jae swears to kill them both, while Chi-hyun puts on his most victimized face as he lets Joon-jae rage away.
The officer shoves him aside, demanding to know who he is. Joon-jae identifies himself as the chairman’s son, but balks when Chi-hyun calls him his brother and punches him again. It takes a whole team of cops to pull Joon-jae off him, but then Detective Hong races in to order them to back off Joon-jae.
Detective Hong gets Joon-jae to calm down, and all that anger turns to self-recrimination as Joon-jae cries that he should have prevented Dad’s death. The detective tells him that it’s all the more reason for him to pull himself together and get to the bottom of this.
At home, Chung paces by the pool, which seems like a terrible idea to me, given how Nam-doo seeks her out here. He asks how she knew Dae-young had lost his memory, venturing a guess: “Did you by any chance do that to him?”
He leans in closer and says that she’s quite a mystery, and that he’s curious to know what skills she possesses. “Who are you?” he asks.
“I’m your friend,” Chung tells him. Nam-doo says that in his line of work, he frequently makes friends with people and then backstabs them. She replies that she dislikes that about him, “But when I make friends with someone, that’s it for me. Whether you backstab or not, that’s your choice. I’ll think about what I’ll do if you do backstab me. Until then, you’re my friend.”
That’s when Tae-oh bursts in with news, and the three of them head to the hospital to join Joon-jae for his father’s funeral. They find him sitting on the ground in the hallway, and the boys step aside to give him and Chung some privacy.
She kneels by him and cradles him to her, and he cries in her arms. He asks Chung to erase his memories of his father, saying, “Good memories hurt because they’re good, and bad memories hurt because they’re bad. All of my memories of my father hurt so much.”
Chung replies, “But I can’t erase them. No matter how much they hurt, you loved your father. Memories of love should be carried with you even if they’re painful.”
Joon-jae blames himself for not arriving quickly enough to save his father, for not hating him a little less, and for not answering that last call to tell Dad he forgave him and loved him. And now he can’t say the words, no matter how badly he wants to.
Chung tells him consolingly, “Some things can be understood without saying the words. He will have known.”
A short while later, Chi-hyun leads his mother toward the mortuary, and Joon-jae stiffens at the sight of them. Stepmom collapses in tears and acts like the classic grief-stricken widow, wailing that she won’t be able to live without her husband. Chung holds Joon-jae’s hand throughout Stepmom’s display, which ends in her fainting in shock.
Joon-jae sits with his mother later, and she sighs that as she ages, the old memories stay with her longer than the newer ones. She adds as an afterthought, “Although it didn’t seem that way for your father,” and Joon-jae asks if she met Dad recently.
She explains that she’d run into him at the hospital and he’d ignored her even after making eye contact, like he’d forgotten her. She chalks it up to him being mean, but Joon-jae tells her of his near-blindness, and then holds his mother as she cries in his arms.
From a hospital bed, Stepmom calls her lawyer to arrange all the inheritance and legal details with cool efficiency. Chi-hyun makes sure nobody’s watching, then asks his mother in a low voice whether she was behind it: “You must tell me. I have to know in order to help you.”
Stepmom confirms it, but adds that if something were to happen, he knows nothing about anything.
Chi-hyun runs into Nam-doo in the hallway and calls out to him. Not far away in his hospital bed, comatose Manager Nam continues dreaming of his Joseon past:
Joseon Nam-doo trains as one of Lord Yang’s many henchmen, the newest arrival who’s known for his fighting skills. Lord Yang assigns him to attend to his son—Joseon Chi-hyun. The two men size each other up…
…just like they do in the present, in the corridor. Chi-hyun asks to talk, and starts by explaining that he knows about Nam-doo because he’d looked into Joon-jae’s activities out of concern. Chi-hyun notes that Joon-jae only goes after ill-gotten gains like slush funds, but Nam-doo has not been so discriminating. Nam-doo readily agrees, and wonders at Chi-hyun’s interest.
Chi-hyun drops to banmal and says coldly, “It means I can put you behind bars tomorrow, or even today. What do you wanna do—do as I say, or rot?”
Nam-doo just smiles and tells Chi-hyun that he’s always on the side of the ones with money. If Chi-hyun stands to inherit everything from his stepfather, Nam-doo has plenty of reason to stand with him, even without blackmail.
Chi-hyun says he intends to get rid of Joon-jae. Nam-doo doesn’t bat an eyelash, and says that there’s something he really wants, and having Joon-jae out of the picture would make it easier for him to take it. He admits to feeling some attachment to Joon-jae, but is perfectly willing to make a deal with Chi-hyun.
Everyone gathers around to hear Dad’s cause of death, which the doctor announces as a sudden but natural death as a result of acute renal failure—not the result of poisoning, which would have caused signs that Dad’s body didn’t have. Joon-jae argues that the use of naturally occurring poisons (say, those in toxic flowers) wouldn’t have produced those signs, and demands an autopsy.
Stepmom protests that he’d be “killing your father twice” by dragging this out, as though he’s a petulant teenager who can’t get over the past. But Joon-jae vows to uncover the true cause of death, and her role in it. Mom acts outraged, suggesting that he’s only interested in his father after years of ignoring him because of the money. She sobs that she’ll give him all the money if he’ll just let his father rest in peace—but Joon-jae is unmoved, warning that her acting won’t work anymore.
Chi-hyun steps in and asserts himself as the only son Chairman Dad acknowledged, stating that Joon-jae only popped up recently when inheritance issues surfaced. He says that neither he nor Stepmom want the autopsy, and the chairman wouldn’t have wanted it, either.
But the next thing we know, a team of police officers and forensic specialists descend upon Dad’s house, led by Detective Hong with his search and seizure warrant. Stepmom seems quite unworried that the search will turn up any evidence (and force an autopsy), until Detective Hong brings up the name Kang Ji-hyun.
She keeps her calm, telling him to talk to her lawyer about anything further, and Detective Hong tells her pointedly that she’ll have a lot to say to the lawyer, since that’s her twin. Then he produces an old photo of Stepmom as a child, standing with her twin sister.
Stepmom doesn’t betray her nervousness and pretends she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Detective Hong asks where younger sister Kang Ji-hyun is, then guesses, “Or is that you?”
Alas, the search doesn’t turn up any evidence, and a forensic expert asks if Detective Hong jumped the gun. But Detective Hong is certain that whatever evidence they’re looking for is still in the house—Stepmom couldn’t have removed it without their noticing. He looks around the basement, and the camera lingers on a wooden panel. Too bad the detective doesn’t notice.
Jin-joo hears about the chairman’s death, and it introduces a new wave of worries for her and her husband. They’d assumed that the chairman’s will would eventually get revised to include his biological son, but now that he’s dead, the current will stands—and that means they’ve made an enemy of the winner and stood with the loser.
Even so, Jin-joo ends up accompanying Mom to the mortuary. Stepmom hisses that her presence is unseemly, but Mom says that she’s here to draw attention and make things uncomfortable for her. Mom then pays her respects to Dad, asking if he can see her as she makes her last goodbye.
Stepmom confronts Mom in the bathroom, sneering at her for showing up out of the blue, just like her son did. She insinuates that Mom is sniffing around for money, and Mom delivers a satisfying slap.
She tells Stepmom in a steely voice that she’s the one who came sniffing at the scent of money, and that she should have been satisfied with mooching off of others: “Is the thief trying to act like the owner now? You’re being greedy.”
Stepmom raises a hand to slap Mom back, but finds her hand suddenly caught in a firm grasp. It’s Chung, who asks, “So you’re going to hit her? You’re not in a position to be hitting anybody.”
Stepmom curls her lip to realize that Chung is on Mom’s side, and tries to break her grasp. But Chung easily keeps hold, and says she’s curious to know something. She shoves Stepom back against the wall, still holding her hand, then closes her eyes to concentrate.
Memories flash through their connected minds: Stepmom swapping out the chairman’s pills, boiling water with poisonous wolfsbane, serving that to the chairman. She then steps into the basement and opens a hidden door, revealing the room where she’s keeping the flowers, evidence, and Dae-young.
Stepmom seems dazed when Chung lets go of her, and asks what she just did. Chung replies, “I could have done anything, but I didn’t do anything. I don’t think you should forget all the bad things you’ve done. You should remember them through the end. You’ll have to remember all those things you felt greedy about, for you to feel more pain at not having them.”
Outside, Jin-joo spots the other society moms who’d once been on her side, who are now busy sucking up to Stepmom to weasel their way back into her graces. It only makes her feel worse about her own position, and she simultaneously scoffs at them while looking a bit envious.
Nam-doo joins Joon-jae and asks if he really has to pursue the autopsy, arguing that an autopsy won’t bring back his father. He suggests that it may be best to not stir the pot further and just focus on getting his share of the inheritance. Joon-jae gets angry at the suggestion, while Nam-doo just tells him to consider it.
Chung joins Joon-jae next, telling him of her vision. As they drive over to Dad’s house, Joon-jae says it makes him sad to know that through him, she’s seen a lot of bad things that have become her memories. Chung counters that she’s happy to have something with which to protect him.
The idea of her protecting him surprises him a little, but Chung boasts that as a mermaid, she was really quite adept, evading notice from humans and not getting eaten by sharks. She even adds confidently, “Even if I fought with a shark, I’d win.”
Joon-jae praises her and pats her head, and she’s happy to have made him smile. “I’ll make you smile from now on,” she promises.
Joon-jae replies that such words (protecting someone, promising to make them smile) are the kind of thing men say, and Chung just replies, “I’ll protect you. I’ll make you smile.” Joon-jae takes her hand in his, and she kisses his.
Arriving at Dad’s house, the hear from Detective Hong that nothing’s been found. Recalling Stepmom’s memory, Chung follows those visions to the basement, even though Detective Hong says that they already searched the room.
Chung, however, knows which panel to push to reveal the hidden room inside. Inside is a wealth of evidence, including the bins of wolfsbane and a drawing of a mermaid on the wall, which Chung says is Dae-young’s work—he’s been here.
Armed with this info, Joon-jae leads his team to the funeral hall, where he confronts Stepmom and Chi-hyun. Stepmom tells him to join the family in receiving mourners, and Joon-jae states that he will: “After I see you going to prison.”
With a crowd milling around curiously, Detective Hong announces that Dad’s death is now being investigated as a murder and his body sent for an autopsy. Addressing her as Kang Ji-hyun, he tells Stepmom her rights and announces her arrest.
Chi-hyun challenges the claim, asking if they have evidence or an arrest warrant, and Detective Hong is happy to inform him of the mountains of evidence they found. Stepmom insists that this is a shabby frame job, and that her husband would hate to hear it—and at that, Joon-jae roars at her to shut up and not speak of his father.
Detective Hong cuffs her and drags her away, and on her way out, Stepmom pauses to lock eyes with Chung. Then she yells at Chi-hyun to call the lawyer.
After the ruckus dies down, Chung steps forward to join Joon-jae at his father’s altar, taking his hand quietly and standing with him.
Shi-ah arrives at the funeral, only to cringe when Tae-oh finds her—she’s embarrassed at her drunken display when she’d sobbed over Joon-jae. She forces a casual attitude when asking about the strange vibe in the hall, and startles at the touch when Tae-oh slings his arm around her to guide her out of the crowd.
He fills her in on the details, then offers to see her home. Shi-ah warns him not to get “other thoughts” and accepts, and they end up on a noisy bus together. When she complains about the loud chatter, Tae-oh places his headphones on her ears, and judging from the look on her face, she’s not entirely indifferent to him after all.
During the ride, Tae-oh falls asleep, resting his head on her shoulder. She comments that it’s a good thing he’s asleep since being awake would be too exciting for him (pfft), though she’s the one who notices how pretty his lips are are.
When Joon-jae and Chung arrive home that night, he pulls her toward his bed and tells her to sleep here tonight. She lies down next to him, and as they settle back, she comments on Dae-young remembering the mermaid despite his memory loss—then adds teasingly that he’s better than Dam-ryung on that score. To which Joon-jae replies that Se-hwa was refined and dignified, unlike the girl who shares her face. Chung pinches his side playfully in retaliation.
Then Chung wonders if it’s true that everything from the past will repeat in the present, because in her vision of the past, she saw somebody else in the scene. It wasn’t Lord Yang who threw the harpoon that killed them, but someone else—someone they both know.
Stepmom meets with her lawyer, who assures her that all the evidence is circumstantial, and that there’s no proof linking her to poisoning the chairman. He instructs her to give short replies or none at all when interrogated, to say she doesn’t remember when presented with something incriminating, or take the Fifth to avoid answering. The evidence allows the authorities to hold her for 48 hours, but no longer if nothing else turns up.
Stepmom does exactly that during her interrogation, answering “I don’t know” to everything, sticking to this strategy until they’re forced to let her go. Meanwhile, Nam-doo watches Joon-jae’s movements and reports to Chi-hyun, and makes plans to act tonight. Whatever it is they’re arranging, his idea is to strike first before the other side has a chance catch wind of it.
Chi-hyun escorts his mother away from the station, exchanging hard looks with Detective Hong on his way out. A short distance behind, Nam-doo follows Chi-hyun’s car—hm, does Detective Hong notice? Please tell me he notices.
Joon-jae heads toward his car in a parking garage—and doesn’t sense the person sneaking up on him with a steel pipe. Whack! A swift blow to the head takes him down, and then we see the culprit: Nam-doo.
But thank god that Tae-oh’s on alert, and he hacks into the CCTV system to see Joon-jae being attacked. Chung and Tae-oh head out immediately, and when he suggests that it would be too dangerous for her to come along, she tells him that she’s way stronger than he is. He has no idea.
Nam-doo drags a half-conscious Joon-jae into an abandoned warehouse, where Chi-hyun and Stepmom await them. As Nam-doo ties him to a chair, Joon-jae accuses him of betraying him, to which Nam-doo replies that Joon-jae betrayed him first by quitting their work because of a girl. He says he’s gotta keep earning a living, and pulls out a letter, telling Joon-jae that it’ll be the suicide note found in his room tomorrow. In it, he’ll admit to killing his father and then himself out of guilt.
Nam-doo pulls out a syringe and sticks Joon-jae in the leg—the same stuff that killed his father—and Joon-jae can’t do anything to defend himself. He’s only got up to thirty minutes left to live, and the painful effects start kicking in right away.
Chi-hyun says it won’t be difficult to pin everything on him, and then his mother asks for a moment with Joon-jae alone. She’s feeling mighty confident now about getting away with everything, assuring him that dead people can’t talk.
Joon-jae asks how she could do that to his father, who was so good to her. She retorts that she treated him well for seventeen years, only to have him prioritize his biological child in the inheritance. “Is that why you killed him?” Joon-jae asks.
“Yeah,” she replies. “I killed him. Your father was dying anyway. You see, it wasn’t just a day or two that he was taking that drug.” We see flashbacks of Stepmom lacing everything Dad ate with splashes of poisonous water, and he never knew it. He would have died within a year anyway, she says, but the inheritance matter just made her speed up her process.
Joon-jae guess that she killed her previous husbands in the same way, using her name Kang Ji-hyun, and Stepmom admits it readily. She says that nobody caught on in twenty years, and that nobody’s likely to find out in the next twenty either. She cackles to herself, though it cuts out abruptly when Joon-jae joins her in the laughter.
“Do you think that’ll really happen?” he asks meaningfully.
Just then, a loud ringtone sounds, and Stepmom looks around the warehouse in confusion. Suddenly, Detective Hong pops up (aha!) from behind a pile of boxes, as do a whole team of cops with their guns out. Stepmom is handcuffed once again, while Joon-jae is untied from his chair, perfectly healthy all of a sudden.
He pulls out a hidden recorder, then points out how many live witnesses just heard her confession. She’s dragged off screaming, completely taken by surprise.
And then, we flash back to the moment after Nam-doo had been propositioned by Chi-hyun: He rejoins his team and tells them about the deal, and even wonders if he looks like a traitor to be treated like one. Joon-jae mutters at his untrustworthiness, to which Nam-doo points out that logically, Chi-hyun’s offer makes sense since the pursuit of money is his primary rule. Joon-jae gripes that he should just go and follow the money trail, then.
But Nam-doo adds that he has another rule: manners. And Chi-hyun rubbed him the wrong way by talking down to him in banmal. “I use banmal,” Joon-jae reminds him. “Well, you’re the landlord and I have respect for that,” Nam-doo answers. Haha. Just tell him you love him already!
Detective Hong and Joon-jae are taken aback that Nam-doo took the deal, but Nam-doo points out that this way, they get to backstab Chi-hyun.
Later, when Nam-doo had told Joon-jae to consider dropping the autopsy, we see that the two buddies had actually been texting a conversation to each other, and Nam-doo had directed Joon-jae to act angry at his words.
Then when Stepmom had been released from police custody and Nam-doo had followed the car, he’d waved to the cops to let them know he was on it.
Most importantly, Nam-doo had texted Joon-jae the warning that he was going to attack him by his car, and tapped him lightly on the head with the pipe. Joon-jae had made a show of slumping over, and then dabbed on fake blood while being driven to the warehouse. I presume the syringe was a fake as well, because Joon-jae is perfectly fine now, as he watches Stepmom being apprehended.
Waiting outside, Chi-hyun and Nam-doo are taken by surprise (well, Nam-doo fakes his) at the arrival of police cars, and once Chi-hyun sees his mother in custody, he lunges for Nam-doo, guessing where the betrayal happened. He’s held back, though, and looks up aghast when Joon-jae emerges safe and sound. Tae-oh and Chung screech up to the warehouse just as Nam-doo shoots Joon-jae a wink.
But then, Chi-hyun flings aside the cop restraining him, and grabs the handgun from his holster. He knocks the cop down with the butt of the gun, and screams Joon-jae’s name.
Joon-jae turns back, and Chung sees the gun pointed straight for him. Her mind flashes straight to the scene from Joseon, when Dam-ryung blocked the path of the harpoon—and how it had been Chi-hyun who’d thrown it.
Chi-hyun’s face contorts as he points his gun at Joon-jae, and Chung reacts in a flash, racing straight for Joon-jae. She throws herself in his arms, just as Chi-hyun fires. Bang!
Yessss, I knew my illogical faith in Nam-doo would prove itself in the end! (…If we mean by “I knew” to be “I was hoping against all indications that hope was futile,” of course.) It was a real highlight of the episode, for a lot of different reasons: First off, it gave Chung a chance to express her own faith in him as a person, which I found a lovely moment for her. She has every reason to withdraw that faith in him, backed not only by speculation but actual proof, given how ready he was to sell her out before she erased his memory about her being a mermaid. But instead she didn’t condemn him before he did something worth the condemnation, effectively giving him the chance to live up to his best potential.
(Part of me would have liked to see that exchange with Chung play an active role in Nam-doo deciding against betrayal, but part of me is satisfied with the very easy, matter-of-fact way in which he decided to stick to his loyalty. It speaks well of him that he barely considered the alternative, and was so close to figure out a way to use this to Joon-jae’s advantage, rather than the opposite.)
His reaction also gave us a nice twist to the episode in a classic caper setup, painting our team into a corner before revealing the real game in play underneath the setup. I suspect it didn’t come as a complete surprise to some viewers, but it’s enough for me that it blindsided Stepmom and Chi-hyun, who have been the masters of the double play all along; it was satisfying to see them one-upped on this score.
Last but not least, I like that the Nam-doo twist gives us hope in the present not following the past down to the letter; his Joseon self was Chi-hyun’s underling, but that doesn’t mean he was bound to that fate here. (That’s in the event that we’re not thrown another twist in Joseon, which I suppose is still a possibility. But I’m working with what we’ve been shown so far.) The parallel lives seem to be drawn along by something—call it a force, or fate, or what have you—that pulls them along in similar patterns, but they’re in no way fixed events. As far as I can tell, Dam-ryung never knew Nam-doo, so I like to think that it’s Nam-doo’s affection for Joon-jae that won out in the end.
As for Chung’s sacrifice, it was a sweet way to mirror the themes of the past life without re-creating them exactly, and to be honest I think the setup works a lot better in the present than it did in the past. (I just find it more believable to go with the throwing-oneself-in-the-path-of-a-bullet scenario than the underwater-spear one, for logistical reasons.) We know that Joon-jae would do as Dam-ryung did and risk himself to save Chung, but it was a nice reversal to see it in action the other way, too. I don’t actually fear for Chung’s life at this point, but I like where this sets us up going into the last couple episodes, now that the evildoers have been caught and the direct threat of the past confronted. Where do we go from here? How will they keep Chung alive and fill out two episodes’ worth of time, now that the only loose ends left are fairly small? Well, I’ve got two words for the show: dirty love.
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- Legend of the Blue Sea: Episode 2
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