Mr. Sunshine: Episode 20
As the stakes get higher and Joseon grows weaker, Ae-shin’s confidence begins to falter. But the weight of the enemy forces doesn’t just fall on her shoulders, as her confidants fight the invading forces in their own ways, especially in the battle against Bad Guy Takashi. The Righteous Army have some solid support from their frenemies (and viewers) against this guy. A word to the wise: Never make yourself an enemy like Takashi, a ruthless killer and sadist for Joseon blood, unless you’ve got some backup.
EPISODE 20 RECAP
After seeing the innkeeper’s body hanging from the bridge, Eugene storms up to Takashi and punches him across the face. The Japanese soldiers all point their guns at Eugene, and Kyle stands fearlessly in front of their guns, defending Eugene. When Takashi gets back up, Eugene punches him again, and a solider shoots Eugene’s arm. Eugene responds by shooting the soldier in the arm, and Kyle aims a gun at the soldier, threatening to shoot the soldier’s face with his clumsy hand.
Eugene disparages Takashi for being less than a soldier, but Takashi seems satisfied with Eugene’s response. He says that the corpse was his question and Eugene just gave him an answer. Seung-gu arrives at the horrifying scene and hesitates before he can look up at the hanging corpse. He watches a red ribbon fall from the innkeeper’s body, almost as a final warning message. Tearing up in recognition of the innkeeper, he announces that this is his wife and demands that she be brought down.
On the bridge, Eugene instructs the Japanese soldiers to respectfully lower the corpse, now identified as wife to the head of the royal guard. Takashi revels in Seung-gu’s additional answer to his question, and Eugene points his gun at Takashi to shut him up. Takashi smiles and warns Eugene to stay away from places he shouldn’t be. Wiping his bloody face, Takashi vows to return the favor, and Eugene vows to kill him. He made a promise, and now he intends to fulfill that promise.
Dong-mae kneels at the sight of the Musin Society Chief approaching, and the boss greets Dong-mae as his son. He cheerfully asks how much fear he incited in the Joseon people and how much bloodshed he’s caused here.
The innkeeper’s body is lowered, and Seung-gu holds her on the ground. He cries with immense grief with his love in his arms, and Eugene watches sorrowfully from above.
At the Jemulpo temple, Hee-sung looks up to the roof to see Ae-shin in her disguise, and the rest of the Righteous Army cautiously approach him as they check for any remaining enemies. That evening, Eun-san tells Aunt that Grandfather had consistently funded the Righteous Army and assures refuge in Manchuria for her and Ae-soon. Aunt looks to Ae-shin and expects her to join, but Ae-shins says that she has work left to do there. She thanks Aunt for raising her and her servants (the maid lives!) for everything. Aunt begins to cry and promises to wait for her every day, and Ae-shin promises to join them soon.
Ae-shin meets with Hee-sung and thanks him for protecting her family. He says that she must have sunken her 8-ball with this fight and jokes that he worried that she would become a traitor in his outfit. She mentions Hee-sung’s newspaper, and though she doesn’t trust the power of words, she trusts Hee-sung. He assures her that there is power to words and recording history — patriotism, betrayal, and all. He tells her to continue fighting with the gun while he documents this history.
She says that she’ll root for him, and before she leaves forever, Hee-sung tells her to visit the hotel if she happens to pass by. He says that sometimes there’s a ball hidden behind the 8-ball that could put her in danger, and he offers a refuge in case she may need it. She takes his offer and wishes him well, and Hee-sung watches her leave with sad puppy eyes.
As he leads the Japanese army through the streets, Takashi angrily turns to his injured soldier and rebukes him for starting a fight that he couldn’t win, especially in front of Joseon people. He digs his finger into the soldier’s bullet wound and hands him a gun to kill himself. The soldier hesitates (understandably), so Takashi impatiently takes the gun and shoots the soldier dead. Then, he shoots the other two soldiers who were helping this injured soldier. Takashi announces to the rest of his entourage army that there will be no more Japanese soldiers who lose, and he continues on his way with blood splattered on his manic face.
Takashi joins the dinner meeting with Musin Boss and Dong-mae, and he asks about Dong-mae’s gunshot wounds. Musin Boss wonders who beat Dong-mae’s sword, and Dong-mae assures him not to worry. Takashi continues to diminish Dong-mae by asking him to pour him a shot of alcohol, and Dong-mae does so with incredible restraint.
Their dinner is interrupted by a solider who reports to Takashi about the annihilated forces in Jemulpo. Takashi looks incredibly irate by this untimely news delivered in front of Musin Boss. While Musin Boss looks amused by the Takashi’s completely annihilated army, Dong-mae looks shaken at the possibility of Ae-shin’s appearance in Jemulpo.
As Hina fixes her makeup, she tells Leo (the French ambassador’s secretary) that she’ll think about his offer to join him in France. He gushes that he could give Joseon the Eiffel Tower if Hina came with him, and he gives her a peck on the cheek before heading out. After he leaves, Hina immediately heads to her tub and reveals Leo’s duplicity to Mrs. Kang. Shaken by this betrayal, Mrs. Kang demands to know why Hina is doing this to her, so Hina reveals that Minister Lee requested a covert investigation of Mrs. Kang as the suspected traitor.
Hina offers Mrs. Kang a choice: a bar of gold to buy a ticket to France and spill everything, or a gun to kill her. Mrs. Kang asks why Hina’s giving her an out, and Hina explains that she needs intel as leverage and to spite Minister Lee. Mrs. Kang discloses that at first, she gave Leo information on the dead American missionary as requested by Wan-ik. Then, she was asked for the list of the emperor’s covert agents, per the request of someone coming from Japan.
Hina asks who this Japanese person was, but Mrs. Kang claims that she doesn’t know, since she couldn’t even retrieve the list of covert agents. Mrs. Kang swears that this everything, and Hina walks over to ring the bell for her room. Two men enter her room to drag away Mrs. Kang, and Hina admits that she lied about her offer to save Mrs. Kang. Hina doubts the validity of Mrs. Kang’s desperate confession, so she heads to Wan-ik’s house to confirm the information.
Eugene heads to the medicine shop for his bloody arm, and he sees a red pinwheel perched on the wall. He immediately knows that Ae-shin has stopped by and runs off. At the dojo, Dong-mae finds a pouch of coins and knows it’s from Ae-shin. He wonders why she left a couple months’ worth of her debt and realizes that she would be away for that long because she was going to kill Wan-ik. Not sure I follow the logic, but it makes sense to Dong-mae, and he runs off as well.
As he receives treatment for his limp leg, Wan-ik smugly revels in his defeat over the Go family and says that he’ll sleep with ease that night. The acupuncturist leaves and sees Ae-shin in the shadows of the house, but he doesn’t make her presence known. Ae-shin enters Wan-ik’s room and points her gun at him, and Wan-ik demands to know who dares to trespass into his home. Ae-shin takes off her mask, and though she regrets coming too late, she’s here now. Her words echo in Wan-ik’s mind, eerily similar to the haunting last words of Ae-shin’s mother, who promised that someone would collect him eventually.
In an attempt to fight back, Wan-ik throws a pillow at Ae-shin, which explodes at Ae-shin’s gunshot. Eugene, Dong-mae, and Hina all hear this gunshot on their way towards Wan-ik’s house. Wan-ik limps toward the sword on his wall, and Ae-shin patiently waits before shooting his shoulder. Wan-ik grumbles that he would have made it if it weren’t for his limp leg, which was fittingly shot by Ae-shin’s teacher, Seung-gu. Ae-shin walks toward him and fatally shoots his chest. Wan-ik’s body goes limp, and Ae-shin lowers her gun.
Eugene arrives to find Wan-ik’s dead body but no Ae-shin, who’s already fled the scene. Soon after, Dong-mae runs into Wan-ik’s room and asks Eugene if he’s the culprit. Eugene implies that they both know the real culprit, and Dong-mae suggests that Eugene cover up as the culprit while he plays the witness, since Dong-mae is on protection duty. Hina also arrives, and Dong-mae covers the body to protect Hina from the gruesome sight. But Hina doesn’t seem fazed and orders her servant to call Machiyama to the house, followed by Duk-moon to discover the scene. Hina says that she’ll be framing Machiyama as the culprit, with a valid motive that he was falsely promised a promotion to royal doctor by Wan-ik.
Waiting for Machiyama, Hina stares at her dead father and tells him to fulfill his role as her father one last time. When Machiyama arrives, Hina baits him into the room and points a gun at his head. She instructs him to pick up an envelope and proceeds to kill him once she finds out that he’s right-handed. She leaves the gun in Machiyama’s right hand and places the envelope — Machiyama’s will — on the table.
As Eugene walks through the village with his injured arm, he hears someone whistling the melody of the music box. It’s Takashi, and he taunts Eugene, asking if that woman with the music box knew he was a slave. Then, Takashi shares that his forces in Jemulpo were obliterated, and he suspects an affiliation with Eugene. They’re interrupted by a Joseon police man notifying them of curfew, and Takashi warns Eugene that he’s getting confused on whether Eugene is a Joseon person or an American. That night, Takashi looks at the hit list of Righteous Army members and adds Eugene’s name to the list.
The pawnshop duo admire Wan-ik’s obituary and discuss the content framing Machiyama as the culprit, which Hina requested from Hee-sung’s newspaper. Il-shik presumes that Hina and Hee-sung both know the real culprit. Hee-sung smokes a cigarette outside and wonders if Ae-shin will visit the hotel.
The Japanese interpreter informs Takashi of Wan-ik’s death, and Takashi orders for the body of the Joseon man to be left with the Joseon people. The police chief notifies Minister Lee about Wan-ik, and Minister Lee also surrenders responsibility of the body because Wan-ik doesn’t deserve to be treated like a Joseon person. The ministers discuss the rejection of Wan-ik from both nations, and we learn that they’re Minister Lee Geun-taek (later one of the five traitors on the Eulsa Treaty) and Minister Kwon Joon-hyun (another Eulsa Treaty traitor). These ministers ironically scorn the traitor and assert that they must live honestly.
Seung-gu and Eugene bury the innkeeper, and Seung-gu weeps in sorrow. He tells the innkeeper that she did well and that they’ll take it from there. As they leave the mountain, Seung-gu ties the innkeeper’s red ribbon to his gun and tells Eugene that they should go their separate ways. Eugene stops him, knowing that he’ll be acting on his impulses to kill Takashi, and says that a Joseon person can’t kill Takashi. He says that they must first find out the traitor in their midst who gave Takashi the list of Righteous Army members.
Hina and Minister Lee collect Wan-ik’s body, and Minister Lee offers condolences for the loss of her father. Knowing that her father’s death is a victory for Joseon, Hina doesn’t seem to take the condolences to heart. She tells Minister Lee that she’s captured Mrs. Kang and will send the details once she discovers who solicited the information, at which point she demands Minister Lee reveal her mother’s whereabouts. Minister Lee doesn’t wait and discloses her mother’s location — a secluded Catholic village in Gangwondo.
Hina asks if her mother is alive, and Minister Lee regrettably informs her that she had already been buried when he discovered her whereabouts. In denial, Hina tears up and says that Minister Lee will need to pay for his life if that’s true. He argues this hope kept her alive, but she corrects him that this hope merely allowed her to endure. She accuses him of cruelly manipulating her with the hope that her mother was alive, but Minister Lee firmly justifies his lie. As tears of anger and sorrow fall down her face, Hina says that she lost both parents today and vows to kill Minister Lee.
Eugene meets with Dong-mae in front of the post office and requests his help in searching records, since they’re working against the same enemy. The post office manager complies as a willing hostage now, and the two frenemies go to work searching the telegram records for any suspicious messages exchanged between the U.S., Joseon, and Japan. Dong-mae finds a suspicious record of a large money exchange between a Japanese shoemaker and Leo, and Eugene says that they’ve found their culprit.
Eugene delivers Leo to Minister Lee and says that Leo is likely just one of Takashi’s many agents in Joseon. Minister Lee asks why Eugene brought Leo to him, and Eugene explains that Minister Lee is the best at blackmail and threats. Minister Lee says that Joseon is once again indebted to Eugene and asks how he can repay him. Eugene says that you can take back something that’s stolen, but you can’t take back something you give. Seeing that Joseon eroding away, Eugene rejects any repayment that won’t belong to Joseon anyway. Eugene leaves Minister Lee to ponder on that thought while Leo is dragged away my Minister Lee’s soldiers.
Minister Lee joins Emperor Gojong for a drink that night, and the emperor expresses fear of the lies and schemes against him. Minister Lee says that he fears something greater — that Joseon will be relinquished to Japan without a fight. He repeats Eugene’s perspective on Joseon’s struggle, and Minister Lee gets on his knees with a plea that the emperor join his people in this fight. Emperor Gojong sees the dirt on Minister Lee’s shoulder and notes that he must have been fighting even today.
Takashi recovers Leo’s dead body from the river and wonders who’s responsible: Eugene, Ae-shin, or someone else? Takashi looks delighted by the beating of the captured Righteous Army members, and he loads his gun to investigate the whereabouts of Seung-gu, Eun-san, and Ae-shin. The first two down the line yell that they don’t know, and Takashi immediately shoots them dead. Realizing that these captives prefer to die, Takashi orders his men to beat these guys until they’re unrecognizable but to keep them alive.
Takashi visits Dr. Machiyama’s office to investigate his belongings and instructs the nurse to stay out until summoned. He opens the autopsy report of Hina’s husband, and he yells irately at the nurse at the sound of footsteps. Before he can turn around, a cloth covers his head, and he’s knocked unconscious by Seung-gu. He’s accompanied by Eugene, who takes the autopsy report. The nurse walks in on them, and Eugene points his gun at her and threatens her in Japanese. But the nurse responds in Korean and willingly leads them to a back exit.
Takashi squirms as he’s hung by a rope at the same bridge that the innkeeper’s corpse was displayed. The Japanese soldiers all gather around and lower him, and at Takashi’s demand, a solider translates the message written on him: “Let it be known that a Joseon Righteous Army member saved a Japanese colonel.” Takashi recognizes the red ribbon that was used to blindfold him as the one that fell from the innkeeper’s body and he realizes that he’s been hung from a rope just like her. He yells in mortification, but the sound of a gunshot brings him to his senses. Takashi realizes that his idiot soldiers have been effectively distracted by his humiliation.
The Righteous Army, led by Eun-san and Seung-gu, invade the Japanese prison and rescue their surviving comrades. Ae-shin shoots at the Japanese soldiers from above, and they clear the area before Takashi arrives.
Takashi visits the emperor the next morning and angrily accuses Seung-gu of taking part in the attack on the Japanese forces. The emperor interrupts Takashi’s rude interjection and instructs him that in Joseon, only the emperor makes the first remark, asks questions, and yells. Emperor Gojong then rejects Takashi’s accusation and claims Seung-gu was protecting him all night. When Takashi tries to argue, the emperor warns him that he could be punished for entering the royal court with his weapon and advises him not the trigger this.
In the courtyard, Seung-gu admits that he wasn’t at his post protecting the emperor, but Emperor Gojong already knows this. He says that if Seung-gu was involved in the attack, then he considers that as keeping his post. Emperor Gojong knows Seung-gu’s history in the battle against the Americans, and he says that Seung-gu had protected his post then as well. But the emperor admits that he didn’t protect his people and endured the shame for all these years because he, as the emperor, could not apologize. He despises that his power to confront a Japanese colonel comes from the robe he hides in.
Eugene eats at the bakery and remembers that one of the envelopes with a piece of the map was sent to the baker. He notices the cuts on the baker’s face and comments that the bakery was closed on the ritual 49th day since Grandfather’s passing. The baker anxiously covers up that he was receiving the baking ingredients that day, but Eugene already knows that he’s a part of the Righteous Army. He asks the baker to send Ae-shin his regards.
As Eugene walks down a road, he thinks about Seung-gu’s request that Eugene stand at the end of whatever journey Ae-shin embarks on. Ae-shin reveals herself from the shadows, and Eugene looks relieved to see her after so long. As they walk together, Eugene says that he was starting to hate her because he missed her so much. Ae-shin stops and tells him that he can forget her, that he doesn’t need to wait for her anymore. After her family’s ruin, Ae-shin admits that she no longer has any futile hope or romance. She says that they should go their separate ways.
Unwilling to let Ae-shin go, Eugene offers to walk alongside her instead of waiting at the end of her journey. Ae-shin says that she wishes for him to live, to which Eugene responds that he misses her so much that he may die. He reminds her that she’s still indebted to him and vows to find her, wherever she is, to collect his debt. She agrees to this and heads off to meet her comrades.
When Eugene returns to the hotel, the receptionist advises him to check his room, since a robber stole items from the guests. Takashi says that the music box was stole and assumes that nothing was stolen from Eugene’s room. Eugene corrects him and says that he lost the greatest thing. At the medicine shop, Ae-shin packs the music box and her disguise before heading off to her next mission.
Hina asks Soomi if she helped the robber, and she reads right through Soomi’s lies. Soomi admits that she helped the robber by taking items from different guests’ rooms, but she won’t reveal who this robber is. Hina already knows the robber’s identity and asks Soomi for the stolen items to burn before she’s caught.
As Hina burns the stolen items, Eugene joins her and hands her the autopsy report to burn as well. He expresses his condolences for her father, and she accepts that his sad ending was inevitable. Hina asks if he met his friend (Ae-shin), who seems to have paid them a visit. Eugene simply says that she left again, and Hina notes that he doesn’t have a happy ending either. Then, she throws the autopsy report into the fire.
Joon-young and his comrades approach Eugene at the military academy and ask that he accept them back as trainees. After seeing Wan-ik’s obituary, they’ve realized that there are more enemies against Joseon and wish to fight the greater powers. Eugene accepts their courage to step into a bigger world and orders them to start running. We see a montage of Joon-young and his buddies practicing with empty guns, then fully loaded guns. After repeated practice, Joon-young finally shoots his gun without dropping the stone at the end, and Eugene smiles at them in satisfaction.
At the tea shop, Dong-mae counts the coins that Ae-shin left him. He counts up to six months and realizes that Ae-shin paid for three more months after a whole half year. It’s January 1904, and it seems like Dong-mae must wait three more months before Ae-shin delivers her next payment. Eugene also waits and reminisces about Ae-shin on his balcony. He holds coins in his hands, remembering when he threw the coins at a passerby to help Ae-shin escape, and longingly looks out into the night.
Takashi greets Hayashi, the Japanese ambassador, at Jemulpo when he returns to Joseon, and Hayashi announces the launch of the Russo-Japanese war. Hayashi prematurely congratulates Takashi on his promotion to commander of the Japanese Korean Army, and they shake hands in anticipation of the war to come.
The locals in Hanseong complain about the rising costs of goods and notice that the ambassadors’ families have been moving out of Joseon recently. A man tells them the rumor of the Japanese forces sinking a Russian naval vessel and predicts that they’ll be at war soon. Boys line up at the pawnshop for stacks of newspaper extras and run through the streets distributing the issue. Joon-young and his friends read the news, which confirms that Japan ambushed two Russian naval vessels at Jemulpo.
Hina picks up one of the newspaper extras that night, and Hee-sung finds her reading his paper. She says that Joseon needs to choose to bite (mulgi) instead of cry (ulgi). Hee-sung says that Joseon will suffer regardless and predicts that the outcome of the war will be determined by who the U.S. sides with.
Eugene informs Kyle that the Russian ambassador just left Joseon, and Kyle notifies him of his return order. With the official declaration of the Russo-Japanese war, Kyle has been transferred to Japan, and he requested to Eugene be ordered back to the U.S. He couldn’t leave Eugene in Joseon because he knew what Eugene would do. Picnic’s over, he says.
Dong-mae notices Musin Boss’ minions wandering the streets and asks them if Musin Boss is still in Joseon. They claim that he’s already left and say that they’ve remained as Boss’ eyes and ears to watch Dong-mae. But Musin Boss is still in Joseon, and joined by Takashi and Hayashi, he orders his forces to kill Lee Jung-moon that night.
Minister Lee tracks down the interim foreign affairs minister and accuses him of selling Joseon by signing the Japan-Korean treaty. We see that the foreign affairs minister was forced to sign the treaty with a sword at his neck, but that doesn’t make him any less of a traitor. He holds sword to the traitor’s neck, but Minister Lee is then surrounded by Japanese forces.
Dong-mae deduces that Musin Boss passed through Joseon for a reason, and he figures that Boss doubted him enough to handle matters directly instead of delegating the task to him. The police chief runs in and informs Dong-mae that the Musin warriors captured Minister Lee, and he seems confused that Dong-mae didn’t know about his own gang’s movements. Yujo tries to stop Dong-mae from getting involved, but Dong-mae says that even if he dies, he’ll save those who need to be saved.
By those who need to be saved, Dong-mae was referring to Hina, and he barges into her room as she pours herself a glass of wine. He informs her that Minister Lee has been captured by the Musin warriors, and he came to protect her. Hina hesitates for a moment and remembers her vow to kill Minister Lee. She wonders if he’ll die, and Dong-mae figures that they wouldn’t just capture him if they wanted him dead. Hina finishes her glass of wine and decides to inform her comrades. Dong-mae tries to stop her, but Hina defends her honor and immediately calls the emperor. Nice — emperor on speed dial!
Emperor Gojong summons Seung-gu and asks him to rescue Minister Lee from the Japanese forces. Seung-gu comments that the emperor is only now rescuing his people, but he receives the royal order and embarks on the rescue mission.
Eun-san tells the Righteous Army about their new mission to rescue Minister Lee. He shows them the banknote that was intended to fund the Righteous Army, and he says that it’s imperative that Minister Lee escape to Shanghai with this banknote. He warns his comrades that whoever joins this mission may not return, and Ae-shin volunteers. Eun-san initially rejects her offer and says that she may be disadvantaged and unable to enter Japan because she’s a woman, but Ae-shin disagrees. She repeats Eugene’s encouraging resolve that there’s always a way. She says she knows a way to enter Japan.
Ae-shin visits Eugene in his hotel room, but she notes that he doesn’t seem happy to see her. Eugene says that she lied about sending him news and now she shows up after six months. She heard that Eugene will be returning to the U.S., and she requests that he take her with him. He remains silent and ponders to himself about her sudden and harsh request: “Between her passion and cruelty, where do I lie? I thought we were almost there, but it seems like we must continue further… into the flame. One step further.”
Ae-shin is turning out to be one heartless resistance fighter. She’s channeling all her burning passion and anger into the Righteous Army missions, and I love seeing her be a complete badass. But I’m a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see her process these emotions that are so pivotal to her contribution to the Righteous Army. It seems that the three men are carrying all the heart and longing, while Ae-shin disappears and somehow transforms into who she was meant to be in the movement. I feel robbed of the anguish and emotional capacity of Kim Tae-ri, but I guess when duty calls, you just have to deliver (your lines). I agreed with how the show had Ae-shin kill Wan-ik, since it comes full circle with her mother’s promise that he would be bit in the ass someday. But it kind of just… happened. Besides Hina’s realization that she lost both her parents, the impact of his death was a bit underwhelming. It was almost like he was stirring the pot, and then he fell into the pot and died.
I feel more satisfied with the fight against our other main villain, Takashi. I thought the red ribbon from the innkeeper was utilized well in this episode, as a simple symbol of the resistance and its power to carry on with the spirit of those who’ve sacrificed their lives for the cause. For the innkeeper, these ribbons were warning flags for Eun-san, and I loved how this symbol of warning transformed into grief and then into revenge. The transition of emotions felt seamless, and it was so gratifying to see Takashi recognize the red ribbon and realize the unbearable humiliation he just experienced. It was Seung-gu and the Righteous Army’s cheeky way of accomplishing their revenge against Takashi. Since they couldn’t kill him, they delivered the next best thing.
As I watch the limited scenes of Joon-young and Eugene together, I’m realizing how much potential they would have had throughout this whole series. I am simultaneously angry and grateful that he’s been added this late in the game. The show couldn’t have both Dong-mae and Eugene twiddling their thumbs waiting for Ae-shin, and so they gave Eugene a slide plot to work with, but that side plot is so promising that I’m sad we won’t be getting more of it. I can only hope that Joon-young gets more screen time in these last few episodes as this show continues to bulldoze toward the finish line.
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