While You Were Sleeping: Episodes 17-18
The unfortunate limitation of these future dream visions seems to be that you can only really change one or two crucial details, rather than stop an event from happening completely. So as time inevitably flows towards Hong-joo’s nightmare, like it or not, the question is whether they can change the right detail… Tell me when it’s safe to look!
EPISODE 17: “The Usual Suspects”
Yoo-bum prepares for a press conference regarding the murder of the Olympic archer and asks his assistant if she has fake tears handy. He enters the room crying into his handkerchief and tells the reporters that the archer’s father has late-stage terminal cancer and is in the hospital right now.
He argues that the prosecutor is mishandling the case, and pressures the press with a guilt trip into doing their part so that a murderer doesn’t go free.
Seung-won wakes up in the middle of the night to find Jae-chan passed out on the couch, muttering about the case in his sleep. He tries valiantly to pick up his brother and nearly throws out his back in the process, and settles for tucking him in with a blanket.
Meanwhile, Hong-joo wakes up crying from her horrible dream about Jae-chan getting stabbed on his way to give her a ring, and she races over to Jae-chan’s house in the middle of night.
She’s nearly out of her mind with worry and brushes past Jae-chan at the gate without a word, and barges into his room to start rifling through his closet. Aw, are you trying to throw out the clothes he was wearing in the dream?
The boys stare at her in confusion as she yanks suits out of the closet while sobbing, and Jae-chan stops her to ask what’s wrong. She falls to the ground and ekes out in between sobs that he gets hurt and spills so much blood in her dream. Jae-chan just holds her and says over and over that it’ll be okay.
Once she’s calmed down a little, the boys stand around awkwardly while she gets all her tears out, and she orders Jae-chan to stop wearing suits and not to use crosswalks, and to stop seeing her since that’s the safest.
Jae-chan refuses, arguing that he’s a prosecutor and needs to wear suits, and doesn’t want to give up how good he looks in them. Pfft. He doesn’t think jaywalking from now on is a very reasonable idea either, and absolutely refuses to stay away from her.
She softens at that, and he gets out pen and paper to jot down the details of her dream step by step, so that they can figure this out together and stop it. Good answer!
In the morning, Seung-won steps out of his room and then tiptoes right back inside when he sees Jae-chan and Hong-joo snuggled up together on the couch, having fallen asleep like that.
Hong-joo wakes up first and says to herself, “It’s my turn to protect you now. Will I be able to?” She reaches out to touch him, and he says as if answering her thoughts, “Don’t worry, it will never happen the way it does in your dream.”
He caresses her face as her eyes fill with tears again, and she begs him, “Please don’t get hurt.” He promises, and she holds his hand and says, “I like you,” making him smile.
At the breakfast table, Jae-chan is the only one shoveling food into his mouth, while everyone else stares at him. He tells them to stop looking at him like he’s just received his death sentence, but everyone from Mom to Woo-tak is too concerned about Hong-joo’s dream to eat.
Hong-joo confirms that the dream changed when Jae-chan dropped the charges against Woo-tak’s friend, murder suspect Hak-young. In the initial version of her dream, Jae-chan had made it across the street without incident, but after the change in Hak-young’s case, Jae-chan got stabbed before entering the crosswalk.
But things take a turn for the worse when the morning news covers Hak-young’s release and Yoo-bum’s statement, in which he reveals that Hak-young was convicted of theft and assault and shouldn’t be let free.
Mom asks Woo-tak if that’s true, and Woo-tak says it was over ten years ago, when Hak-young had stolen a g.o.d autograph from a neighborhood restaurant to hang up in his mom’s shop. The ajusshi had turned his mom’s restaurant upside-down in a rage, and though Hak-young was just trying to stop him, the ajusshi pressed charges.
Seung-won finds even more bad news online: Jae-chan has been identified as the prosecutor in the case and netizens have already outed every bit of personal information available, along with nasty comments.
Hong-joo guesses that whoever stabbed him in her dream must have been enraged by this news report. As we see protestors outside the prosecutor’s office (with one man wearing a black bucket hat like the attacker in Hong-joo’s dream), Hak-young being ostracized as a murderer, and the archer’s parents devastated at the news, Hong-joo narrates that it could be a heartbroken fan, or someone angry at the world, or a parent who can’t get justice for losing a daughter.
Hong-joo holds Jae-chan’s hand and continues in voiceover: “The one thing for sure is that in order to stop the horrible moment in my dream, before this rage that grew like bubbles from a misunderstanding grows any bigger, before that rage becomes a knife and stabs, I have to change the flow of time.”
The angry fan, the archer’s father, and Hak-young are presented as our three possible stabbing suspects.
At the city news desk, Hong-joo picks a fight with Bong sunbae over his news report this morning, arguing that stealing a g.o.d autograph 11 years ago has nothing to do with the archer’s murder.
He’s shocked that she’s talking to him like she’s the boss, and Hong-joo claims that he’s lucky he’s her sunbae, because if it were the other way around… and draws her thumb across her throat threateningly. Ha. Bong sunbae is sure she’s lost her mind.
Hong-joo calls Jae-chan to make sure he made it to work okay, and warns him about the protestors at his building. She suggests going the back way, but Jae-chan assures her that he’ll be fine and has the confidence to win any fight, be it with words or fists.
…Is what he says to her as he’s attempting to jump the back wall into work, and failing at it miserably. Prosecutor Lee catches him, much to his embarrassment, but then he sees the protestors and starts putting his glasses on Jae-chan in an attempt to disguise him.
He realizes that won’t be enough, so his big idea is to swap nametags. Pwahahaha. Even better is Jae-chan’s sincere reaction, like he believes this to be an ingenious plan.
The two knuckleheads duck and weave suspiciously right past the crowd, so of course they immediately recognize Jae-chan. The boys make a break for it, but when Jae-chan looks back, Prosecutor Lee is surrounded by the protestors, who actually believe he’s Jae-chan and that he looks exactly like his photograph.
Prosecutor Lee sells Jae-chan out pretty quickly, not that anyone believes him. Jae-chan prepares to face the crowd to go rescue his sunbae, but Chief Choi runs out to stop him: “Throw that sunbae away!” Hee.
Even when Chief Choi attempts to draw the crowd to himself by pretending that he’s Jae-chan, they’re positive that Prosecutor Lee is the real one. Only the angry fan in the black hat fixes his gaze on Jae-chan.
It’s almost worse for Seung-won, whose high school classmates immediately turn him into an outcast and start gossiping about him and his brother behind his back.
Prosecutor Lee makes it into the building, but his shirt is torn to shreds and he’s sporting a nasty hand-shaped welt on his face. Hee-min can’t wrap her head around how anyone could mistake him for Jae-chan, to which he counters, “They heard he’s good-looking and grabbed ME!”
Jae-chan chases after his colleagues, wondering if they’re going to lunch without him, but they purposely leave him behind with instructions not to leave the building. Jae-chan latches onto Chief Choi next, desperate for someone to eat with.
On their way to lunch, Chief Choi asks Jae-chan if he’s scared about the backlash from the murder case, and Jae-chan starts to say that he’s human and scared, but then suddenly changes his tune and shouts that he is NOT afraid and will do everything strictly according to law.
Chief Choi turns around and sees Yoo-bum, who argues that as the prosecutor, Jae-chan should be taking the victim’s side. Jae-chan counters that prosecutors don’t take anyone’s side.
Yoo-bum says he’s here to pick up Chief Choi for an old coworker’s wedding, and Jae-chan pouts that Chief Choi is supposed to have lunch with him today. They end up playing tug-of-war with Chief Choi, one on each arm, and Jae-chan ends up left behind.
On the way to the wedding, Yoo-bum brings up Woo-tak, having learned that he’s friends with both Jae-chan and the murder suspect. Oh noes. Chief Choi says that Jae-chan’s friendship with Woo-tak has nothing to do with the case, but Yoo-bum wonders how the press or the victim’s family would see it if they knew.
Chief Choi can’t hide his irritation at that threat, but Yoo-bum just presses for him to convince Jae-chan to prosecute, even if it requires inventing evidence that doesn’t exist. What?! Yoo-bum tells Chief Choi to do what it takes, or else he’s going to tell the press that Jae-chan let a murderer go free because of a personal connection.
Woo-tak goes to check on Hak-young, and finds him cleaning off the fresh graffiti on his mom’s restaurant… wearing all black and a black bucket hat, which is exactly what Hong-joo told him the attacker would be wearing. Woo-tak says it’s a relief he’s been freed, but Hak-young is seething with rage and says that it doesn’t matter, since he’s still a murderer to the world.
Hong-joo waits on her stoop the next morning and glares when she sees Jae-chan come out in a suit, as usual. She nags him for putting on another suit after what he went through yesterday, and even yells at Seung-won for letting him walk out like that.
When she pitches a fit, Jae-chan immediately turns tail and Seung-won scurries after him to offer his clothes, afraid of Hong-joo’s wrath.
So that’s how Jae-chan ends up at the bus stop looking like a college student, in a hoodie and glasses. He’s pretty sure he’ll get in trouble for showing up to work like this, but Hong-joo says that’s better than being terrorized by a mob. She has a point.
She asks when he’ll finalize Hak-young’s case, and he says that today is the last of the witness investigations, so he’ll close the case today instead of dragging it out. She looks across the street to see workmen hanging colorful lanterns, like the ones from her dream, and asks if he can’t just indict Hak-young.
She takes it back, having said it because she was scared, and Jae-chan just quietly takes her hand and gives her a little smile to reassure her.
Jae-chan’s student disguise works like a charm, and he skips his way past the protestors with no one noticing, except for Black Bucket Hat. A minute later, Prosecutor Lee walks past the crowd in full hiking gear and a giant visor covering his face, but the protestors recognize him instantly as “Jae-chan” and mob him again.
Hyang-mi and the other office managers worry about Jae-chan’s growing army of anti-fans, but when they catch a glimpse of him arriving in his casual outfit, they get distracted with how young and cute he looks, and Hyang-mi suddenly goes back to being a fan.
Hong-joo shoots laser beams from her eyes at Bong sunbae when she sees that his article has over 9,000 comments. She starts arguing with commenters in the thread who are calling Jae-chan trash, which only serves to raise her blood pressure.
One comment catches her eye though—it’s a note about how the blood pattern at the crime scene reminded him of a picture he saw once. She clicks the link, which shows a little dog atop a robot vacuum, which has drawn a bunch of zigzag lines around the room in the dog’s poop.
Hong-joo gasps and calls Bong sunbae over.
Jae-chan interviews the archer’s housekeeper as the final witness in his investigation, and the housekeeper describes her work as mostly cooking and laundry. She says she didn’t do much cleaning, since her employer kept a very clean house and ran her robot vacuum daily.
Jae-chan pauses at the mention of the robot vacuum, and at the same time, Hong-joo shows Bong sunbae the dog poop photo and then the crime scene video, and his eyes turn to saucers as he sees the connection.
Jae-chan has made the same connection, and asks Chief Choi if it’s possible that the robot vacuum made the blood streaks, since that would solve the one riddle they’ve been unable to crack.
We see it play out as Jae-chan suspects—the archer fainted and fell to her death, and the robot vacuum coasted through the pool of blood, making the pattern across the floor. But Chief Choi says that he didn’t see a vacuum in that house, having gone through it with a fine-toothed comb.
Hyang-mi suggests checking outside, saying that she has one of those vacuums and if you leave your door open for a second, it’ll run away from home frequently.
So Jae-chan and Chief Choi go question the security guard at the archer’s apartment and learn that some kids picked up a red robot vacuum that matches the housekeeper’s description, but they deflate when he says it was thrown away and should be at the city dump by now.
It’s nighttime when they arrive at the landfill, and Chief Choi scoffs that no one could find a vacuum cleaner in all this trash. Jae-chan says it ought to be easier than finding drugs in a flour factory, and even gets excited when Chief Choi says sarcastically that he’ll call him hyungnim if he finds it.
They’re knee-deep in broken appliances but nowhere closer to finding the vacuum, but then Jae-chan hears a familiar voice talking about a robot vacuum. He follows the voices and comes upon Hong-joo, Woo-tak, and his partner, all wearing ajumma flower pants and covered in dirt. Aw.
They’re all surprised to see each other there, and Hong-joo tells him about the dog poop vacuum picture and rambles on about how smart netizens are. But Jae-chan isn’t even listening, so moved that she’s doing all this for him, and just grabs her in a hug in front of everybody. Woo-tak’s smile falters at that, which his partner notices.
Woo-tak’s partner interrupts the touching moment to demand a hug for doing his part to help, and picks Jae-chan up like he’s tiny. Jae-chan thanks Woo-tak with a handshake, and Woo-tak says he’s the one who’s grateful on Hak-young’s behalf.
A voice calls out to them saying they should all be grateful to him, and Bong sunbae appears dramatically at the peak of a mountain of trash like he’s Indiana Jones, armed with three red robot vacuums.
He makes Jae-chan promise to give them the exclusive story once they confirm the evidence, and Hong-joo proudly gives Bong sunbae a thumbs-up. Chief Choi does as promised and calls the cops and reporters “hyungnim” and “noonim,” not that they understand why.
Jae-chan and his staff wait on pins and needles for the DNA results, and Chief Choi flips out when Jae-chan says they’ll have to go back to the dump if those weren’t the right vacuums.
Chief Choi answers the phone a nanosecond after it rings, and then reports that one of the vacuums had the archer’s blood on it. They whoop and cheer, and Hyang-mi holds onto Jae-chan’s hands a little longer than she should, making it awkward.
Jae-chan tells Hong-joo the good news while she’s at Woo-tak’s station, and she rushes off to go write the story. Woo-tak follows her out to say that he thinks Hak-young is the one who stabs Jae-chan in her dream, because he saw him wearing a black bucket hat the other day.
He hopes that the future already changed since they solved the case, but asks Hong-joo to interview Hak-young for her story just in case, hoping that it’ll counter some of the resentment he feels about being labeled a murderer. She sees his point and agrees to listen to everything Hak-young has to say, and he thanks her.
Jae-chan is on his way to formally close the case when Hee-min stops him for a chat, and advises him to prosecute anyway, despite the evidence. She knows that reporters won’t deliver the full story because they’d have to admit that they were wrong, which they won’t do.
Sure enough, Hong-joo and Bong sunbae are appalled when their boss shuts down her in-depth story revealing the facts of the case, instead ordering them to just say that Hak-young isn’t being prosecuted.
They argue that Hak-young will still be considered a murderer by the public, but the boss cares more about not contradicting their previous stories, and says that ignoring the truth is better than embarrassment, because no one will trust a news channel that keeps changing the story.
Jae-chan can’t believe what Hee-min is telling him, but she says that the press isn’t on their side and never will be, and no broadcaster is going to stick their necks out for this.
At school, Seung-won continues to be ostracized and has to eat lunch alone. The bullies comment loudly that the two outcasts in their class should become friends, and the other outcast, Dae-gu, just eats silently while they snigger behind his back and say that Jae-chan’s brother could get his father out of prison since he sets criminals free.
Dae-gu suddenly snaps, and without warning he attacks the bullies in a fury, causing mayhem in the cafeteria. Seung-won leaps into the fray to stop the fight, but ends up tangled in a messy brawl.
Hee-min tells Jae-chan to just indict, because a lawyer will win Hak-young’s case in court anyway, and they’ll get to say that they did everything they could. Jae-chan arrives outside the chief prosecutor’s door feeling more confused and burdened than ever, and ends up sitting out in the hallway alone with his thoughts.
He flashes back to the day of his father’s funeral, when he’d been sitting at the hospital with Hong-joo after nearly drowning. He’d noticed her bruised lip and apologized for hitting her, and she smiled.
Junior Cop’s screams had sent them running into the emergency room, where they found him wailing in protest that someone saved him when he just wanted to die. No one could calm him down, until Hong-joo came in and asked him to live.
She’d balled up her fist and said that she didn’t resent him, and that she was relieved he survived. “So live, ajusshi,” she said again, and then bowed before leaving.
When Jae-chan came out, she was already gone, with just a post-it left behind. She wrote, “My father once told me that rage makes natural things difficult. Even though saving a life is the natural thing to do, I was so angry earlier that it was difficult for me. So thank you. If it weren’t for you, I would’ve regretted it for the rest of my life,” and signed it as “Chestnut.”
Back in the present, Hee-min finds Jae-chan on the floor and asks if he’s still deliberating what to do, but he says it’s all cleared up now—he’s not going to prosecute, because Hak-young didn’t commit a crime.
She calls him stubborn, but he says that you never know—there could be a reporter out there who’s just as stubborn as he is.
On cue, Hong-joo and Bong sunbae raise their hands in unison to put up a fight with their boss over Hak-young’s story. Hong-joo says that when you drive off course, your navigation app redirects you, asking who would trust a navigator that refused to course-correct and kept telling you the wrong way was right.
She says that if they were wrong the first time, they have to fix it now, arguing that no one would trust news that said wrong was right. The boss caves and says sarcastically that she thinks she’s the sunbae around here, and Bong sunbae mimics her response from earlier, saying that if he were the hoobae, he’d already be dead.
Hong-joo preps to interview Hak-young at his mother’s restaurant, and his mother gives her a big bag of kimbap to thank her, and Woo-tak trades jackets with Hak-young, wanting him to look more polished on camera.
Hak-young notes that he was swarmed by reporters when everyone thought he was guilty, but now there’s only one, and Woo-tak looks over at Hong-joo with a smile. Hak-young asks nervously what he’s supposed to say, and Hong-joo just tells him to say what he wants. He begins to cry as he says into the camera that he didn’t kill anybody.
Hong-joo’s news report gets broadcast, and the protestors begin dispersing. Among them is Prosecutor Lee, dressed as… a gigolo? Black Bucket Hat throws away his sign and leaves, but his expression is unreadable.
The archer’s parents watch the news story solemnly, and on the wall we see pictures of the father with his hunting rifle.
Jae-chan and Chief Choi watch Hong-joo’s story as they eat lunch at her mom’s restaurant, and they note that hers was the only station that bothered to give details about why the charges against Hak-young were dropped.
As Hong-joo closes her segment, she signs off with the statement, “Rage made a natural thing difficult,” making Jae-chan freeze in recognition. He rewinds his memory to the post-it note with that phrase, and then back to the waterfront where he’d hit her… and then remembers Hong-joo saying that he reminded her of a boy who hit her once.
He shoots up from his seat and asks if Hong-joo’s mom is around, and then starts running down the street with a giant grin on his face, putting together all the clues like Woo-tak’s guess that saving each other’s lives was how they were connected through dreams, and little details like that “boy” and grown-up Hong-joo wearing the exact same baseball cap.
He runs up to Mom so fast they nearly collide, and he asks if Hong-joo’s nickname when she was young was “Chestnut.” Mom wonders how he knew, and says that she wanted to be a baseball player and always cut her hair super short, which made her look like a chestnut.
Jae-chan just grabs her in a hug and makes a big heart with his arms as he runs off, making Mom wonder what’s gotten into him.
Yoo-bum gets a call from the archer’s father, and he says not to worry about the news because he’s got another bomb ready to drop. He shares what he knows about Woo-tak being friends with both the prosecutor and the suspect, and that he must’ve dropped the charges as a personal favor. Ugh, are you serious?
Uh-oh, Jae-chan goes ring shopping, which is how Hong-joo’s dream began. He picks out a ruby ring and remembers Hong-joo making him a twisty-tie for her ring size, and finally gets why she did that. The clerk asks if he’s confessing, and he says he’s reuniting with a longtime friend.
When he texts Hong-joo to meet, she starts to worry and asks Woo-tak where Hak-young is. Woo-tak is keeping a close eye on him as they share drinks, though he’s wearing that black bucket hat again, and he says that for a moment there, he nearly lost it and thought about killing everyone, from the prosecutor to the cops.
A flash of worry crosses over Woo-tak’s eyes, but he says it’s good that he’s pulled himself together now. Hak-young says that he’ll keep Woo-tak’s secret, so he shouldn’t quit being a cop: “That was just luck—luck that was made from a misunderstanding.”
Woo-tak tells Hong-joo that he’s with Hak-young and not to worry about her dream anymore, so she happily arranges to meet with Jae-chan. And just like in the dream, he practices presenting the ring and then they wave at each other from across the street.
But at the same time, the archer’s father is on his way somewhere, his giant hunting rifle in the passenger seat. Hong-joo and Jae-chan’s conversation repeats in voiceover, where he’d asked what happens if they changed the future, and she’d said that time would start to flow differently, whether in a good direction, or bad.
It’s only then that Hong-joo notices the colorful lanterns behind Jae-chan, and gets a sinking feeling…
As they wait for the light to change, a car suddenly screeches to a halt in front of Jae-chan, and time slows for Hong-joo as a shot rings out and then the car peels off.
Jae-chan looks down, stunned, and blood starts to leak through his shirt. Gack, it’s the same place he was stabbed in the dream, except now he’s been shot.
He looks up at her as he falls to his knees, and Hong-joo races over to him and gathers him in her arms, crying for someone to call an ambulance.
The world goes blurry and Jae-chan’s eyes fall closed, as his bloody hand drops with a thud.
That’s so mean! They did all that work to change the future, and he was shot instead of stabbed? I was kind of upset at first that they didn’t take more precautions against meeting on this street on this day and time, but then I realized that Hong-joo arguably did all the right things and then some, by telling Jae-chan about her dream right away, by fighting to report the truth, and even trying to change little things like Jae-chan’s clothes. She really did everything right and I was proud of her, so maybe there was nothing they could have done short of letting Hak-young stand trial for a crime he didn’t commit? I still would have liked it if they’d changed their date location anyway, just to be safe.
In this universe, it seems nearly impossible to stop an event from happening wholesale, and the most they can do is alter little things. For the most part, that’s worked out well enough for them, since they’ve managed to change enough of the details to save lives, despite risking other lives in the process. But this time they seem to have made things worse, which is interesting just as a variation. Our characters are good people struggling to always do the right thing even if everyone is advising them to do the opposite, so it makes for a decent twist (though not a surprising one in the least) that their actions this time only exacerbated the villain’s rage. What that man wanted wasn’t justice—he wanted someone to suffer the same pain he suffered, never mind that nobody actually murdered his daughter. But the worst was Yoo-bum, who didn’t have grief and blind rage to fall back on as a reason for his actions, and seemed simply to care more about beating Jae-chan than seeing the facts of the case.
This show tends to pose very obvious ethical predicaments, but that doesn’t make our characters’ choices in those situations any less impactful, because as we’ve seen time and again, they’re in the minority for sticking to their principles, and Jae-chan especially struggles with these dilemmas at every turn. Most of the people around them are suggesting the path of least resistance, and Hee-min was probably right that if they’d let Hak-young stand trial for murder, he’d ultimately clear his name and Jae-chan would stop being the scapegoat. But that doesn’t make it right, and I appreciate that Jae-chan and Hong-joo have grown into stubborn, immovable rocks in their respective fields who refuse to compromise.
I was surprised by how excited I was when Jae-chan put the clues together about Hong-joo being Chestnut, maybe because his reaction was so shocked and then so elated. It was pretty darn adorable. Their relationship is progressing very naturally and comfortably, and I was so grateful that Hong-joo ran over to Jae-chan as soon as she had that dream, and that she really took the active role in saving him this time around. I know she couldn’t prevent the carnage, but it mattered more that she saved his honor and his career in the long run, and gave him the courage to make the right choice too. Well, as long as he survives… But come on, he’s the hero and this is a drama about seeing the future, not seeing dead people.
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