Live Up to Your Name: Episode 9
After his latest ordeal in Joseon, Im has gone to a place where Yeon-kyung has a hard time reaching him. Now that she knows about his past and the reasons he lived his life the way he did, can she convince him that opening his heart again is worth the risk, or will the repeated trauma Im has been forced to endure permanently set them on separate paths from each other?
EPISODE 9 RECAP
In Joseon, Yeon-kyung watches in tears as Im is dragged away by the minister of war’s men while Doo-chil wails over Ddak-sae’s lifeless body. She meets Im’s eyes, and they share an anguished look.
The men lock Im and Doo-chil in the storage shed as promised, and Doo-chil sobs that he’d wanted to die with his brother as he asks why Im stopped him. He shakes Im for an answer, but he’s in too much of a stupor to respond.
As the night wears on, Mak-gae approaches a guard outside the minister of war’s house and smacks his head with a bat, but the blow is too light, and he grabs her. Luckily, Yeon-kyung comes up behind him and downs him with a kick between the legs and a hard whack to the head with her purse. They procure the guard’s keys and unlock the shed.
Now free, Doo-chil piles rocks on Ddak-sae’s body as the others look on. Doo-chil tells his brother not to let people treat him like a fool in the afterlife, and to take care of their mother, promising that he’ll join them soon. He sobs that he’s sorry he couldn’t keep his promise to protect Ddak-sae. (*sniff*)
Im watches this scene with a broken look on his face, reminded of Mak-kae crying at her mother’s grave two years ago. Mak-gae cries silently, as does Yeon-kyung, although her gaze is on Im.
Im remembers Heo Jun telling him that his twisted conception of the world is leading him down the wrong path as a doctor, but Im wonders if his twisted heart is really the problem, or if the twisted world is at fault.
When the time comes to part ways with Doo-chil, he warns Im that Japanese soldiers are coming and they’d better head north. He promises to pay back his remaining debt to Im if they live to meet again, but Im just asks him to take Mak-gae with him.
Mak-gae protests, but Im says that his path lies elsewhere. He thanks Mag-kae for her hard work until now, and tells her to keep studying medicine. Then, Im takes Yeon-kyung’s hand and asks Doo-chil to repay that debt now—by killing him.
Moonlight changes to city lights, and we’re back in Seoul. Im and Yeon-kyung find themselves on a bridge, and even with the blood from the wound Doo-chil inflicted on his chest, he just evenly tells her to take care. She asks him to wait a moment, but he only says, “You won’t have to experience strange things because of me again.” She watches him sadly as he walks away.
Jae-ha waits outside Yeon-kyung’s home, and learns from police that the phone and apartment used by “Bong-tak” are registered under his grandfather’s (Director Ma’s) name. The man says that they’ve detected Yeon-kyung’s cell signal again, which is when Jae-ha spots her approaching. He asks her worriedly what happened, but she collapses into his arms.
Inside Grandpa’s clinic, Jae-sook is chewing out the police over the phone for failing to find Yeon-kyung (with Byung-ki trying and failing to calm her down, haha). Jae-ha arrives supporting Yeon-kyung, and Grandpa remarks worriedly on how frail Yeon-kyung looks.
Yeon-kyung says she just needs to rest, and when Jae-sook presses for answers about where she’s been, Grandpa forestalls her and sends Yeon-kyung off to lie down. Once she’s gone, Grandpa’s legs give out in relief.
Jae-ha tucks Yeon-kyung in, asking her again what happened, but she just says she’s tired, and he lets it go. When he’s back in his car, Jae-ha remembers the detective who’d arrested Im showing him the CCTV footage of Im and Yeon-kyung disappearing during their fight with the gangsters. The detective also told him about Im’s other oddities: the wooden identity tag, his cluelessness about modern technology, his lack of fingerprints… as well as the fact that he’d shared all this information with Yeon-kyung when she’d bailed Im out.
Yeon-kyung sits up in bed, unable to escape her memories of Im debasing himself before the minister of war as he begged the man to spare his and Doo-chil’s lives. She remembers Heo Jun telling her that Im has been hurt deeply in the past, and how he’d asked her to become Im’s friend.
Meanwhile, Im staggers dazedly along the bridge where he parted with Yeon-kyung. He runs into a group of homeless people, among whom is the curly-haired man that he met at Seoul Station. The man greets Im with happy relief and asks him to treat his sick friend—they can’t afford the hospital, and they’d be looked down if they were to go anyway.
As the man goes on about how lucky they are that Im showed up, Im flashes back to treating Mak-gae’s mother and Ddak-sae, and how that led to both patients’ deaths. He shakes his head and backs away from the homeless man, and then flees.
Im runs until he’s out of breath and collapses in the middle of a street, where he pulls off his outer robes and kicks them away in disgust. He eventually ends up on a bridge over the Han River and stares out over the edge, remembering again how he slaved for a year to earn a cow bezoar to save his mother, only to be beaten for stealing and have it snatched away.
Im thinks of Jin-oh telling him disdainfully that he should have known his place instead of trying to enter the palace, and of the minister of war calling him a dog wagging his tail for scraps. He recalls Heo Jun asking him if the world without class was any better than Joseon, and if he was able to gain what he wanted there.
Im gazes at the magical needle case and clenches his hand around it, silently answering Heo Jun: “I will show you just what I can have in this new world. I will never be insulted or humiliated like that again.” He extends his arm over the side of the bridge and drops the needle case into the dark water, where it sinks to the bottom.
Im returns to his apartment, where Director Ma berates him for being unreachable all day when they had an important patient to see. Im asks what he will gain by treating that patient, and Ma, pleased to hear Im finally speaking his language, tells Im that he will gain that person’s money and power.
Im asks if that’s how things work in this world, and Director Ma points out that it’s the same in Im’s world—doctors change status based on who they treat. He describes medicine as skills sold for a profit, and asks Im if he wants to do business together.
The next morning, Im orders a latte at a coffee shop. Yeon-kyung follows him in and orders cake, telling Im that it’s the best when you’re feeling down, but he just grabs his coffee and excuses himself.
Yeon-kyung runs after him, catching up to him on the street. She asks him how he is, about his morning, whether he wants to have lunch together, but he ignores all her questions. She says sweetly that she wants to eat together, but he replies flatly that he has an appointment. She even offers him the cake to eat with his colleagues, but he coldly refuses it and walks away.
A subdued Yeon-kyung returns to work to the relief of her coworkers, who ask where on earth she’s been. She says she’s fine and that she’ll explain later, when Man-soo shows up looking like hell, saying that he’s been run into the ground looking after her patients on top of his own. But his emergency rations of cup ramyun and tuna give Yeon-kyung an idea.
She takes ramyun and tuna to Im’s office, lifting the soup packet and shaking it like they both did during their late-night snack session. Im rebuffs her, and her smile falls. “Can’t you see what I’m doing?” asks Yeon-kyung. “I have lots of people to take care of me, but you have no one except me. That’s why I’m going to take care of you.” Im looks moved, but he says brusquely that he’s not hungry and leaves the office. Yeon-kyung remarks to herself that this tactic isn’t working.
Im pauses outside the closed door, and Jae-ha, who was eavesdropping on Im and Yeon-kyung, pulls him aside to talk. Jae-ha censures Im for disappearing and asks where Im and Yeon-kyung went yesterday, but Im just tells him to mind his own business. Jae-ha tells Im that what happens to Yeon-kyung is his business, and he won’t forgive anyone who hurts her. Im replies that he won’t be getting involved with Yeon-kyung anymore.
As he leaves the building, Im sees Yeon-kyung on her way back to her own hospital and says to himself, “Anyway, we’re taking separate paths now.”
Jae-ha brings Yeon-kyung some porridge, and she teases that he’s a real Eastern doctor now. He grows serious and confesses that he became one because of her—orphaned when he was young, he was timid and afraid of his grandfather, but meeting Yeon-kyung inspired a true interest in traditional Korean medicine. She should let him pay her back now, he says, by leaning on him when she needs support.
Meanwhile, Director Ma takes Im to a chaebol’s mansion, where they meet the man who collapsed in the Eastern medicine hospital (we’ve been calling him Chairman Jo, but Director Ma explains that he’s the chief secretary at the Blue House).
Chief Secretary Jo introduces Im to the homeowner, Chairman Park, who expresses doubts about the efficacy of acupuncture. Im is ready to leave, but at Director Ma’s prodding, he coolly diagnoses the chairman’s headaches without even touching him.
Impressed, Chairman Park asks him to fix his son before next month’s company anniversary. They move to a guarded bedroom—Im and Director Ma have to give up their phones before entering—to meet the young man, who is shivering and sweating. Im takes his pulse and observes his symptoms, deducing that he’s addicted to opium (heroin).
The chairman says angrily that his son started doing drugs when he went abroad to study; they’ve tried rehab, but he goes back on the drugs as soon as he gets out. Im says that the young man’s heart is empty, which causes Park to sputter that his son has everything he could want. Im applies a few needles, and the young man relaxes and seems to come back to reality somewhat.
Chairman Park is pleased and privately compliments Director Ma on finding Im. He says that he’s heard from Chief Secretary Jo that Ma needs money for a large project, and Ma nods.
Once the patient is alone with Im, he begs Im to help him escape, saying that he must meet someone (a loved one, judging from the silver ring he’s been fidgeting with). Im says that his job is treating illnesses. Desperate, the young man offers money, but Im just laughs.
At lunch with Nurse Jung in the hospital cafeteria, Yeon-kyung can’t help looking around for Im. She asks Nurse Jung what she does when a friend is having a hard time, and Nurse Jung replies that she stays beside them, waits for them, and trusts them. Yeon-kyung sighs that those things are easier said than done.
On their way back to their wing, they see Im arriving with Director Ma, and Nurse Jung tactfully makes herself scarce. Yeon-kyung asks Im where he went, and is surprised to learn that he was treating a patient outside the hospital. Before he can explain further, Director Shin and Professor Hwang approach them, both of them giving Im backhanded compliments on his new position.
Yeon-kyung politely interjects that they’re being a bit rude to to Im when he doesn’t even work at their hospital, and they stalk off, offended. Im frowns at her and walks away, but she follows, telling him to stop.
Im asks if she pities him, now that she knows all about him. “Do I look like a child to you, ecstatic at the gift of a few candies? Please, stop playing the noblewoman already,” he tells her.
She says that he’s right, she does know all about him—his status in Joseon, and how he had to debase himself in front that damned minister of war. “I saw it all,” she says. “Are you ashamed of it? Does my finding out about it hurt your pride so much?” She tells him that none of that matters to her, because she finally understands him now.
He looks down, and she continues, “I know what a great doctor you are. I know why you suffered so much. And I know why you had to live that way.” He sighs and says that it would have been better if she hadn’t found out anything about him. “Then I—…” he breaks off. “No. I don’t care anymore what you think of me. So don’t interfere or concern yourself about my affairs.”
Yeon-kyung says that she can’t do that—whether it was coincidence or fate, they met, and she’s already a part of his strange destiny. She takes Im’s hand and tells him not to avoid or run from her, no matter what he’s doing. He pulls his hand out of hers and strides away, leaving her looking after him sadly.
When he’s alone, Im presses his hands against a wall to stop them from shaking. He stares at his hand and caresses where she touched him.
Yeon-kyung returns to her rounds in a mood as she crossly re-dresses the stab wound of the gangster whose underlings attacked her, then goes for a walk outside, joining Man-soo, who is watching the victim of the gangster boss practice walking on crutches.
Man-soo says that the man is recovering well from surgery, but he’s been a bear to his wife since he found out that he won’t be able to use his leg. True to Man-soo’s words, the man lashes out at his wife when she tries to help him. Yeon-kyung bursts out that she can’t understand why men are so stupidly prideful, and why they can’t understand how women feel.
The man’s daughter drops her doll, and she calls for her dad’s help. Yeon-kyung has a sudden flashback of dropping her own stuffed bunny, and of her dad retrieving it on his motorcycle. In the present, the man tries to grab the doll, but he loses his balance and crashes to the ground.
Yeon-kyung’s vision goes blurry and she clutches her chest, a memory of being on the back of her dad’s bike surfacing. A high-pitched ringing starts in her ears, and she gags.
She turns away from the scene to see Im watching her. She runs inside the hospital, and Im takes a step as though to follow, but stops himself, looking worried.
That night, Yeon-kyung returns home to find Jae-sook and Byung-ki placating Kkot-boon (Bong-tak’s mother), who wants her son to treat her aching back and knees. Byung-ki says that Grandpa will treat her, but she only wants Bong-tak, refusing to believe that he isn’t here anymore. Jae-sook notes sadly that Kkot-boon has been showing up every day looking for Im.
Inside, Yeon-kyung finds Grandpa waiting for her with dinner. She asks him if she was there when her dad had his accident, but Grandpa turns away from her and blusters that she was sleeping at home, with her mom. Yeon-kyung scoffs at the obvious lie and says that if he won’t tell her, she’ll find out the truth herself. She goes to her room, and Grandpa wonders in dismay if her memories are coming back.
On their way to treat a rich patient, Im asks Director Ma why, in this modern world with its advanced treatments, he’s taking Im on personal visits. Ma replies that people with money and power want to hide their secrets from the outside world, and Im mutters to himself that nothing has changed.
In the next few days, Im treats various rich people for their embarrassing and inconvenient health problems, silent in the face of their hypocrisy and politely receiving their promises to repay him in the future (and collecting a stack of business cards). Chairman Park even provides him with a new car. Im takes it for a spin, giddy with glee at the smooth way it drives, until he meets his own eyes in the rearview mirror and instantly sobers.
Jae-sook brings Kkot-boon to Shinhye hospital, where Yeon-kyung meets them, promising Kkot-boon that Bong-tak will treat her at his new workplace. Oh no, I have a bad feeling about this.
They take Kkot-boon to Im’s floor, and she excitedly rushes over to him, reaching to caress his face. Im shrinks away and glances around nervously. Kkot-boon asks why he hasn’t been to see her—she waited every day, and she even says that little Bong-shik has missed him so much.
Im looks at his colleagues, who are watching intently. He looks embarrassed at Kkot-boon’s touch, and when she gives him another wad of coupons to buy a treat, he pulls his hand away, scattering the coupons to the floor. Jae-sook rushes over to help gather them up, and Yeon-kyung stares at Im in shock. He stammers that they shouldn’t show up without notice like this.
Yeon-kyung explains why she brought Kkot-boon here, saying that she thought he’d be glad to see her. Breathing hard, Im tells Kkot-boon to get treated by one of the other doctors and leaves. Jae-sook stares after him, wondering if he’s the same person as before; Yeon-kyung apologizes to Kkot-boon, but the old lady only worries that Bong-tak looks worn out.
As he departs, Im sees the three women on the sidewalk from his car window and looks at them with longing. But then he turns away from them, and his face hardens.
Im pays a house call to the heroin addict, but the young man stabs Im in the arm with a fountain pen and runs away, making it to the street before he collapses, unable to breathe. He ends up being taken to the ER in an ambulance.
At the hospital, Yeon-kyung checks him over, noticing the needle marks on his arms. Meanwhile, Im rushes to the ER, Chairman Park having threatened him with dire consequences if word of his son’s drug use were to get out. Im asks Yeon-kyung about the patient’s condition, but refuses to answer her questions about how Im knows him, or if he’s on drugs.
She tells him that the young man has an infection in his heart tissues, a condition often caused by illegal drug use, and might need surgery. She asks who the patient is, and why Im is injured, but Im ducks out to answer a call from Director Ma.
Im meets Director Ma in front of the hospital, the older man warning him that Chairman Park is a dangerous enemy—Im had better bring the young man back if he wants to save both their necks.
On his way back inside, Im sees Yeon-kyung hiding behind a pillar. She’s heard everything and asks if he’s looking after the rich and powerful these days. Im tells her again to mind her own business, but she refuses. She says she understands that he’s struggling after what happened in Joseon, and that’s why he’s pushing her away, but she can’t watch him cross the line as a doctor.
Im scoffs at this, and points out that she saw in Joseon what can result from the duty and good will of a doctor. “You said that it’s not the doctor’s place to decide whether saving someone will be beneficial or harmful. But I will determine what is beneficial or harmful to me. If that’s what I need to do to not live like a dog again, I will cross that line as a doctor.”
Yeon-kyung counters that this isn’t Joseon, but he says that it isn’t much different.
A car full of Chairman Park’s security guards arrives, and as they run into the ER, Im tells Yeon-kyung that he’s taking the patient. Yeon-kyung protests that he can’t—the young man’s condition is dangerous, and if he’s moved and treated elsewhere, he might die.
She goes inside and blocks the security guards from rolling the young man’s gurney away. They claim that the patient wants to be discharged, but he tells Yeon-kyung that’s not true, and begs not to be sent away. Yeon-kyung tells the guards they can’t take her patient anywhere without her permission.
Min-jae, Nurse Jung, and Man-soo arrive with another of their colleagues, and all four join Yeon-kyung, physically resisting the guards. Im arrives and tells Yeon-kyung to move, but she refuses.
Im says that Yeon-kyung needs to be treated first: “How can you treat anyone when you’re always trembling in front of patients? Do you have any right to call yourself a doctor?” OH NO YOU DIDN’T, HEO IM.
Yeon-kyung stares at him, tears in her eyes, and he orders the men to take the patient outside. Stunned, she lets go of the gurney.
Im walks past her, his eyes cold.
Come back to the light, Heo Im! This episode was heartbreaking for different reasons than the previous one—if seeing Ddak-sae die and Im grovel for his life made me rage against the injustice of Joseon’s class system, watching Im sell his soul made me despair for him. It was clear that Yeon-kyung felt the same way watching Im repeatedly turn his back on her. Now that she knows why he’s behaving this way she can no longer be angry at him, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t worry about him, and she’s certainly not going to give up on him. I saw a new kind of steel in Yeon-kyung this hour, one rooted not just in stubborn pride, but in the desire to truly be there for Im in a way that no one else in the modern world can.
In fact, in recognizing that Im’s pride is useless and even dangerous, she gives up her own, although I don’t know if she’s realized it. She was so stiff and unbending in her demeanor when we met her, and yet she faces Im’s repeated rejections with a smile. Instead of getting upset when he rebuffs her, she simply tries to think of another way to reach him. Now that she knows that his actions come from trauma, she’s thinking like a doctor and trying to figure out the optimal way of treating his illness—and as always, saving the patient is her number one priority.
Of course, judging by that final scene, Im may be beyond even Yeon-kyung’s help at this point, and I wouldn’t blame her if this latest betrayal pushed her beyond forgiveness. For Im to expose her deepest insecurity that way—and thus risk her career as a doctor, which he knows is the most important thing in her life—is a repudiation of everything they’ve been to each other since they met. (I do think that she needs to seek psychiatric help, but she definitely doesn’t deserve to have it publicly exposed in such a cruel way!)
Im has never before treated Yeon-kyung with anything less than respect and affection, even when he would have been justified in being angry at her. For him to do this now is an extreme measure that shows just how desperate he is to sever his ties to her. What breaks my heart is that his very desperation indicates how much her mere presence affects him, how tempted he is to listen to her, and how afraid he is of returning to who he was before. He was also clearly miserable and ashamed when Kkot-boon came to visit him at work, so his heart and conscience still exist—but the more often he pushes them down and buries them, the easier it will get, until he fully becomes the cold mercenary Dr. Heo Bong-tak.
Interestingly, although I haven’t liked Jae-ha much so far, he seems to be less of an outright villain than his ancestor, Jin-oh. He has a puppy-like devotion for Yeon-kyung, and although he takes care of her like a typical second lead, I like that he respects her requests for space. He also seems to disapprove of his grandfather’s power plays with chaebols—I got the sense that Jae-ha’s dismay at these excursions is not solely due to his jealousy of Im.
If that’s true, then I’m excited for him to continue to dig into Im’s background and find out who he really is, because that might change the two men’s dynamic from simple adversaries to something far more compelling. If Jae-ha were to find out that Im is the legendary figure he so idolizes, how might his perception of the man change, especially if he also comes to know the brutal degradations Im was forced to endure? Would Jae-ha become Im’s ally, or give in to his already evident insecurities and turn to the dark side? The quality of this show’s writing so far gives me confidence that it will explore these themes in a satisfactory way, and I’m looking forward to it.
As for Im, he’s made it clear to Yeon-kyung that he can’t follow her rules about a doctor’s duty to treat every patient regardless of the consequences it might bring. We know, although Yeon-kyung doesn’t, that he tried to be like her, and the attempt broke him so terribly that he’s decided to leave his conscience behind entirely. I hope for both their sakes that something stops his descent into darkness, although I’m starting to wonder who or what can move him, if both Kkot-boon and Yeon-kyung failed. (Bong-shik, you up?) Im has withdrawn into himself completely, like a hedgehog curling into a prickly ball when faced with a threat. Perhaps the only thing that can bring back the Im we love is discovering something that he wants to protect more than himself. I only hope that doesn’t mean putting someone he loves in danger, because the poor man has had quite enough of that.
- Live Up to Your Name: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: Manhole, Live Up to Your Name
- Acupuncturist versus surgeon for Live Up to Your Name
- Jaw-dropping, club-hopping Kim Ah-joong in Live Up to Your Name
- Kim Nam-gil flaps his wings to travel back to the past in Live Up to Your Name
- The needle vs. the knife for Live Up to Your Name
- Time-slip drama Live Up to Your Name gets a time slot on tvN
- Kim Nam-gil, Kim Ah-joong offered new tvN time-slip drama