The King: Eternal Monarch: Episode 12
It feels like we’re in the calm before the storm as we check in with some of our side characters this hour. Our leads get to spend some time together outside of life-threatening situations and enjoy each other’s company while they can. More and more people are getting involved in the happenings between worlds, and it’s clear it won’t be long before everything comes to a head.
In the hospital, a man suddenly drops his food tray, and Eun-seob helps retrieve his burner phone that fell amidst the mess. Elsewhere, Jung-hye struggles while a man tries to stem the bleeding from where she cut her wrists. As she’s injected with a sedative, she sarcastically says into the CCTV that Rim will truly become a deity at this rate, killing some and forcing others to live.
We see that the woman who injected Jung-hye is the mom of the boy who had the worst birthday ever. It turns out she’s the new “manager,” whatever that means.
At the café, Na-ri shares with Yeong that she just experienced déjà vu which she defines as getting a glimpse of yourself in another world. She saw herself with someone in a hospital gown who looked just like Yeong. “A hospital gown?” Yeong asks with concern.
In the kingdom, Eun-seob cries, “Na-ri!” and throws his arms around Seung-ah who rationalizes he must be delirious from fever. But she’s curious why people keep calling her Na-ri. Eun-seob makes up an unconvincing excuse, and she tells him to just ask for her number instead.
Eun-seob realizes she’s the person “with pretty eyes” Yeong mentioned. He’s getting a little better with his Yeong impression and suavely tells her not to go around giving out her number to other guys. Seung-ah breaks into a smile after he leaves. Around the corner, Eun-seob’s suaveness disappears as he whimpers about missing Na-ri.
Na-ri, meanwhile, is wondering what’s up with Eun-seob lately when Eun-ah walks in the café. Yeong walks in behind her and stares in shock before resuming his Eun-seob act. When Eun-ah leaves, Yeong follows her in Na-ri’s fancy car.
In the kingdom, Gon gets the NSA to find Tae-eul using CCTV. As he waits anxiously, Eun-seob calls to tell him that Detective Kang has been calling – something about chasing Luna. Detective Kang sends footage of Tae-eul on the run that helps Gon narrow the search. In the republic, Yeong tails Eun-ah and calls Shin-jae for backup since he couldn’t reach Tae-eul.
Meanwhile, in the kingdom, one of the guards reports to Ok-nam that Park Sook-jin has been visiting a bookshop that was discovered to be a hideout for Rim’s people. She hands Ok-nam a picture Sook-jin tried to burn; it’s of Shin-jae and his mom. “Sook-jin” was hired under a false identity while the real Sook-jin is living under the name Min Sun-young.
Ok-nam marches into the cafeteria and smacks “Sook-jin” (who just laced a bowl of soup with something) across the face. After Ok-nam accuses her, the woman throws up blood and drops to the ground. Whoa, did she just poison herself? Ha, Ok-nam actually rolls her eyes and dismissively gestures as everyone screams. She warns everyone to keep their mouths shut and orders the guard to keep the woman alive for questioning.
Yeong continues his car chase and cuts Eun-ah off. She stomps out of the car, and her hostile attitude resembles Seo-yeong more than Eun-ah. Clearly, Yeong thinks so too and calls her Prime Minister Gu, but she insists he’s mistaken. Before Yeong can react, a car does a drive-by, and he’s shot in the shoulder. Him too?! “Eun-ah” escapes in the commotion.
Shin-jae arrives and assures the crowd it’s a drill. Thankfully, Yeong is in the habit of wearing a bulletproof vest and wasn’t severely hurt. At the hotel, Shin-jae wonders what kind of country Corea is to have shootouts. Yeong promises to explain things once Gon returns.
When Shin-jae refers to Gon disrespectfully, Yeong pitches a bottle at him. Shin-jae claims Gon isn’t his king, but Yeong reminds him he used to be. Shin-jae changes the subject, asking when Yeong became Gon’s guard. He thinks he’s messing with him when Yeong says he was four.
Shin-jae is taken aback by Yeong’s heartfelt story of seeing Gon for the first time and wanting him to be happy. “Are you two dating?” Yeong admits there are rumors about that, but he equates it to Shin-jae and Tae-eul’s dedication to justice and the law. For him, Gon is both.
Shin-jae asks why Gon was crying that day, and Yeong explains he was mourning his father who died at the hands of his own brother. Shin-jae listens thoughtfully as Yeong says Gon witnessed everything and has been falling asleep to thoughts of death every night.
As Gon rides into battle to extract Tae-eul, Yeong narrates that the palace is both his home and his battlefield. He muses that Gon is entering a different battlefield of late, one that Yeong plans to follow him into.
Gon and Tae-eul hug each other fiercely, and Tae-eul says over and over through her tears that she missed him. Tae-eul tells him there’s still two bullets left in the gun. Without hesitation, Gon takes the gun, fires twice and throws it into the street…for someone else to pick up, I guess.
Tae-eul faints, and Gon slo-mo carries her through the smoky streets. He returns to the palace and lays her on his bed. Ok-nam runs in with the doctor and almost has a heart attack when she sees Gon covered in blood, until he assures her it isn’t his.
Ok-nam kicks him out while Tae-eul is treated, so Gon sits outside, waiting through the night for news. Finally, the doctor informs him her wounds have been treated, and she’s dehydrated but okay. When she wakes, Gon is seated by her bedside.
He tells her to sleep, but she wants to stay awake now that they’re together again. Tae-eul recalls drinking water before she passed out and jokes that she gets the importance of having someone test your food now. She whispers that she thought that moment in the bamboo forest was going to be their last together.
Gon says heavy-heartedly that much happened, so he couldn’t return to her. “That’s a relief,” Tae-eul says, “I thought that door had closed.” He promises that even if it were to close, he’d open every door until he found her again.
Tae-eul asks after Eun-seob. When she hears he’s in the hospital, she decides to visit him first thing once she’s better. She misses him. Tae-eul offers that Yeong is doing well and calls Gon a liar for saying he likes her better than Yeong. Ha. Tae-eul soon falls back asleep. Gon kisses her forehead and remains by her side.
The Cabinet meets to discuss Gon’s bold, unexpected move of not only personally leading the charge against Rim’s followers but announcing Tae-eul as the future queen amidst the chaos. Seo-ryung is noticeably absent, still supposedly taking sick leave. The Cabinet thinks it has more to do with her approval rating falling, but they’re mostly concerned with finding out everything they can about Tae-eul.
In the republic, Luna – looking strangely healthy – retrieves Tae-eul’s phone from a locker and begins examining its contents, particularly focusing on the photos. Jangmi is disappointed when Tae-eul doesn’t respond to his text, but Moon-shik informs him she’s on leave which is news to Shin-jae. He calls and texts, but she won’t answer.
Tae-eul, meanwhile, goes to the kitchen to find Gon causing a stir by washing rice in his navy uniform. Pfft. She peeks into the room and ducks back out while Gon yells after her that he’s doing this for her to see.
Tae-eul stands outside the door, awkwardly glancing at the gathered palace maids before steeling herself and going inside. Ok-nam watches the gossiping palace workers with concern. Inside, Tae-eul chides Gon for being so dramatic and reminds him she gets testy before eating.
She brings up the possibility of him mixing her up with her alternate. What would he do then? Gon details her idiosyncrasies, like how she puts her hair up when she means business and how she likes her beer. He describes her as “someone who becomes a warrior when courage is needed.”
Tae-eul gives a slight smile as she eats and pipes up that she wants to see Eun-seob when she’s finished. She ignores his dramatics at the fact that she doesn’t appreciate his romantic gestures enough and asks where her clothes from the previous day are.
Gon takes her to see her new wardrobe that he based on what she typically wears. She jokingly asks what if she wants to wear a dress? Two racks of dresses are wheeled in, to her astonishment.
An outfit in the corner catches her eye – it’s the one Gon was wearing that time he disappeared. Tae-eul hesitantly asks Gon about it, and he claims it’s reserved for the “glorious” occasions. “For example, when I’m holding flowers in my hand.”
When he asks what flowers she likes, Tae-eul grows serious and responds she doesn’t like flowers. Gon clocks her odd reaction but doesn’t say anything. Once she leaves to get changed, he stares at the outfit.
Tae-eul finds a necklace from Gon in her coat pocket. She tries it on, but puts it back in its box. When Gon asks about it, Tae-eul explains that the necklace is so pretty she doesn’t want to wear it while she’s covered in wounds. She’s impressed he knew which outfit she’d pick. “I know everything,” he responds as we watch the palace workers pulling out a box from each coat.
At the hospital, a guard announces Gon’s imminent arrival to Eun-seob who does a “security check” which just consists of him haphazardly flipping things over and looking underneath desks. Ha. The music swells as Eun-seob hears Tae-eul’s voice and jumps in her arms screaming, “Noona!”
Tae-eul commends his bravery, so he launches into his heroic tale. He stops when he notices Tae-eul’s bruises and bandages, but she brushes over it. Eun-seob spots the cake Gon specially bought for him. Gon won’t personally cut him a slice, although he claims he could buy him the bakery. Tae-eul advises him to ask Gon to open his car door next time.
Eun-seob immediately thinks of how much the twins would love the delicious cake. Tae-eul assures him they’re doing well, but Eun-bi did figure out Yeong isn’t him. Eun-seob tries to play it cool when Tae-eul brings up Na-ri, claiming he hasn’t thought about her one bit.
But his face brightens when Tae-eul shares that Na-ri hasn’t been getting along well with Yeong, and he almost giggles when she says Na-ri thinks Yeong is less handsome. Not that he’s surprised, of course. Pfft. Eun-seob then has fun playing up his injury to get Gon to do stuff for him.
Gon and Tae-eul visit the warehouse where she was held. Tae-eul assumes Rim brought her there, even though she doesn’t understand why. Gon wonders if she saw Rim holding an umbrella, but she explains she didn’t see him personally.
Gon tells Tae-eul that Rim is hiding something in his umbrella and has likely deduced that Gon is hiding the other half in his riding crop. Tae-eul puts together that he wanted to use her to make a trade, and whoever loses the item won’t have access to the door.
Tae-eul surmises that Gon is at a disadvantage since he’s carrying that item around frequently as he travels to meet her. Gon quips that she should be nicer to him, but when he sees how upset she is, he promises not to lose his item. He suggests they go pray if she’s still worried, and she smiles in agreement.
Gon takes Tae-eul to the church where his parents got married and relates the story of his father falling in love at first sight with his mother as she gave a seminar. His mom was a scientist, Gon proudly explains. Since she was Catholic, his father studied Catholicism for months before they got married. Three years after he was born, his mom died; she’d always been sickly. It’s the first time Gon has talked about it.
Tae-eul again tells him he grew up well. “We’ve skipped a lot of things,” she rightly observes. Her mom used to run the Taekwondo studio with her dad and was an instructor, but she died of cancer when Tae-eul was five. She still wears her mom’s black belt. Gon returns her compliment, saying she grew up well.
They’re interrupted by the priest who notices their intertwined hands. After ensuring the priest’s discretion, Gon asks him to take a picture of him and Tae-eul in front of the church. The priest counts down, and time pauses before he reaches “one.”
Gon stares at Tae-eul’s frozen, smiling face and begins to cry as Ok-nam narrates a Kim Sowol poem:
What is your reason for doing that?
You were sitting alone by the stream
The green grass was sprouting
And the water was splashing from the spring breeze.
You promised that even if you go, you won’t be gone forever.
That is what you promised.
I sit by the stream each day and think about something endlessly.
When you promised that even if you go, you won’t be gone forever,
Were you asking me not to forget you?
Gon pulls himself together and smiles for the photo.
Back at the palace, Tae-eul tries to kick Gon out after she’s checked by the doctor so she can sleep. Gon reminds her this is his bedroom, which leads her to question where he’s been sleeping of late. “Here,” Gon informs her. It’s a big bed.
Shocked, Tae-eul slaps him on the shoulder, finally understanding the odd looks people have been giving her. Thunder booms, and Gon grabs his shoulder in pain. Tae-eul thinks he’s messing around but is horrified when she looks at his shoulder and sees the mark.
We watch as all the swappers experience the same pain with similar markings but on different parts of their bodies. Ooh, so it’s not just the flute holders. Gon theorizes that it’s the result of passing through the between place (of thunder and lightning).
Strangely, Tae-eul feels completely fine. She pulls her shirt down off her shoulder to have Gon check for markings, making Gon clutch his pearls at the impropriety. Tae-eul doesn’t have time for his scandalized reaction and gets him to check her shoulder. Since she doesn’t have the marking, Gon presumes the “rules” are breaking down.
Tae-eul points out the similarity to the common curse of wishing someone will get struck by lightning. Gon brings up beheading again, so Tae-eul jokingly exposes her neck. Gon kisses it instead, and then kisses her on the lips.
On a street in the republic, Shin-jae bumps into Rim (literally) during a storm. He stares after Rim as he walks away but doesn’t see the burning mark on his face. At home, Rim finds a cigarette butt on the floor and checks the security footage. His lip twitches in anger as he watches Luna blatantly steal cash and wave at the camera.
Rim and Jung-hye sit for an awkward and silent dinner. Abruptly, Jung-hye grabs a vase and breaks it over his head. Whoa. She makes a break for his umbrella, but he pulls her back by the hair and tosses her to the floor. He raises the umbrella until the metal tip is poised above her eye. Jung-hye desperately screams for him to kill her, but Rim has other plans. Having the face of his nephew’s mother makes her perfect bait.
The pregnant swapper and frenemy of Seo-ryung joins her uninvited for a meal. They trade barbs, as usual. Seo-ryung calls her irrelevant, and pregnant lady calls her the not-queen. That brings Seo-ryung up short. Pregnant lady is astonished she doesn’t know that Gon announced some woman as the future queen.
Seo-ryung forcefully borrows her phone to check the news and then gets up. She tells pregnant lady to “make sure you give birth in Corea” and leaves. Huh.
At the palace, Ho-pil reports that Lee Sang-do is complaining of a burning pain when it rains. Before Gon can react, Secretary Mo informs him that Seo-ryung has entered the palace. He deals with Seo-ryung first, asking why she “tied him down” by releasing news of his disappearances.
Seo-ryung acerbically asks if he’d have gone to offer a marriage proposal had he not been “tied down.” Gon unequivocally states that all the news is true. “She’s the woman I love.” While Seo-ryung takes a beat to respond, a crash of thunder sounds, causing her gasp in pain. Gon sees the burning mark on her neck.
Meanwhile, Ok-nam has tea with Tae-eul. She hopes Tae-eul understands her harsh treatment of her was only because she wanted to protect Gon. She’s going to ask Tae-eul something, but she doesn’t want her to ask further questions or tell anyone. She trusts her as a government official.
Ok-nam gives her full name, as well as her parents’ and sibling’s. She shares her birth year and hometown, explaining that she left at age 17 and hasn’t heard news of it since. “What happened with that war? The war that broke out in June of 1950?” Whaaat? Tae-eul stares at her in stunned silence.
What a reveal! I thought she might know more than she was letting on, but I didn’t expect she crossed over so long ago. If that’s the case, she crossed long before Rim got ahold of the flute. How did she even cross from Tae-eul’s side when the flute was whole and unbroken, I thought, on Corea’s side? Ok-nam may know more about the history of all this than anyone and could well be instrumental (heh) in this fight.
The drama has felt more focused and plot-driven in recent episodes, which gives me hope for getting a decent ending. I feel like, particularly in the earlier episodes, the drama was just doing too much and pulling itself in too many directions. Having less going on but a stronger sense of focus would have made things feel more balanced and developed. I still find it strange that characters like Shin-jae have gotten more character development than our leads. It’s two weeks from the finale, and we’re just hearing about Gon and Tae-eul’s moms. Tae-eul even addressed how much they’ve skipped over the getting-to-know-each-other stuff. It’s better late than never, so I’m glad we see them sharing their pasts and opening up to each other. Especially now that Gon has declared Tae-eul the future queen. That didn’t sit well with me. She just rejected his proposal not long ago, and now he’s telling the whole country she’ll marry him. Does Tae-eul even know he said that? I doubt she has a way of getting outside news at the palace.
Last episode ended on such an intense note that the change in tone this hour was a bit jarring. I am happy we got our weekly dose of Eun-seob and Yeong, although I was hoping we’d get to see Yeong with the twins some more. With all the threads we still have to untangle and only four episodes to do it, I doubt we’ll be focusing on the side fun as much going forward. I’m guessing this episode was a light break before we get into the final stretch where I’m expecting it’ll go more serious again.
The information is doled out bit by bit in this drama, and there’s a lot to cover in the final two weeks. One possibly important detail we got this hour is that everyone who’s passed through the between place experiences that burning pain and the corresponding mark. Everyone but Tae-eul and Shin-jae, it seems. Oh, and maybe Ok-nam, too. Gon’s speculation that the rules of the realm are breaking down seems too simplistic. From what we know, it’s more like certain people are exempt from the rules rather than that the rules are breaking down for everyone. There’s got to be something differentiating those who experience symptoms and those who don’t.
I’d like to know what Seo-ryung’s role in Rim’s grand plan is. There’s no way she’d swap with Eun-ah since she’s not the type to ever give up the position of power she clawed her way to achieve. Yet Rim took her to the republic. I’m guessing she’s allying with him somehow, using her position to assist with…something. I still don’t know what Rim ultimately wants besides youth, power and Gon’s misery. Maybe that is all he wants, and I’m giving him too much credit for being deeper. Just one of many questions – let’s hope we have enough time left to get them all answered.
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