Pre-Recap Thoughts: As much as I think the men in this show are awesome, the women prove in this episode that they can match any male character and then some. No wonder Jae Ha is slowly but surely proving his mettle as a capable king; how can he not when he hails from the queen mother, who at the age of 60+ years demonstrates a courage and resolve that many women her age would lack under these extreme circumstances? Her insistence on not being a burden to her son or daughter-in-law elicited admiration and awe from this viewer. As far as she’s concerned, Hang Ah is her daughter-in-law now. She doesn’t need a wedding ceremony to claim her as her own, and she plans on doing everything in her power to protect her family. As for Hang Ah and Jae Shin, their fearlessness before any crippling fear or danger is a sight to behold. Yeah, I’ll say that the women more than give the men a run for the top bravery honors here…They definitely twinkle. 😉
Recap: The episode resumes with Jae Ha informing Shi Kyung of his intent to abdicate the throne.
As Shi Kyung tries to talk him out of that decision, Jae Ha refuses to back down and commands him to connect him with Bong Gu. (*Sigh* I so want to just call him bang gu)
Meanwhile, unaware of all of this, Hang Ah receives last-minute instructions from Bong Gu on what to say and what not to say. He reminds her to get Jae Ha to abdicate, and she and queen mother can be safe. He also tells her to not try anything funny since the video call can’t be traced and their well-being rests with her. Um yeah, the guy bounced it back and forth from 10,000 servers, according to palace intel. 🙁 No way the palace is going to find out Bong Gu’s secret location.
Back at the palace, Jae Ha receives word that Hang Ah is online, and the two simply look at each other for the first 15 seconds or so of the video call. Aw…he asks if she’s all right and tells her not to worry since he’ll take care of everything. She’s soon be safe with him, and they’ll live a peaceful life together.
Realizing what Jae Ha is saying, Hang Ah starts to “cry,” telling him that that’s what she wants, too. At her ready acceptance of his words, Jae Ha seems a bit surprised but quickly realizes that Hang Ah means the opposite, especially when she reminds him of the qualities she said she wanted in her husband back during the WOC.
She reminds him that they won and implies that they can do so again. She also hints at Bong Gu’s secret location by reminding him of the globe present they sent Bong Gu, and firmly tells him to never surrender the throne. Not while she’s alive. If he does, she threatens that she’ll bite her tongue and take her own life. LOL. Dang, this woman really knows how to make sure her man stays his course! Jae Ha figures out that they’re in China because that’s where he sent the gift.
Bong Gu quickly realizes that Hang Ah is somehow speaking to Jae Ha in code and shuts off the feed, a disruption that leaves Jae Ha shaken, especially after Hang Ah threatened to take her own life if he abdicated. But hey, that’s his Hang Ah for you! LOL
Bong Gu threatens her, but Hang Ah calmly and coldly informs him that he wouldn’t dare kill her or the queen mother. That’s why Bon-Bon has only been playing hairdresser…because Bong Gu can’t harm her or the queen mother with the world watching and suspecting. Smart girl! He agrees with her assessment but informs her that this doesn’t mean he can’t hurt her where people can’t see. Uh-Oh….
However, she quickly reminds him–and the viewers–that she is a former member of an elite special forces division of the North Korean army and quickly dispatches the four goons who try to beat her into submission. Then snapping the ear piece of one of the sunglasses (seriously? Did we really need to have the goons wear dark sunglasses?), she threatens to puncture her jugular vein with it and bleed out. After all, she’s be trained to deal with life-and-death situations just like this one. Meeting Bong Gu’s stunned gaze directly, she announces that she is not dead because no one has killed her; she hasn’t died because she hasn’t chosen to die…yet. O-M-G! I love this woman. Talk about taking control neatly out of Bong Gu’s crazed hands!
Maintaining her cool, she tells him that she’ll give him no trouble as long as he allows her to stay with her mother-in-law, something he grants her…
…after having his goons rough her up a bit.
With the reassurance that Hang Ah is well and unharmed–relatively speaking–the queen mother tells Hang Ah that she’s ready to try that escape now. The implication? The queen mother’s not going to sit around while the evil villains manhandle one of her family. Aw…I love this mother!
Their plan? Simple…get out of Bong Gu’s compound and find safety. Hang Ah and the mother devise their escape.
While the women actively plot their escape, Jae Ha starts to use his 187 IQ brain again and fully pushes aside his crippling terror. After all, if he abdicates, Hang Ah may just keep her word and kill herself. Heh.
His plan? Since China is refusing to help or even allow the Korean forces to enter its country for a search after receiving a phone call from Bong Gu, he sends his WOC team. Yay!!! Dong Ha, Young Bae, Shi Kyung’s substitute, and a few others pose as tourists and enter China knowing that they may be risking their very lives in their attempt to rescue the queen mother and Hang Ah…So awesome, and man, are they committed to helping out. (Awesome screencap of these two, Jules!)
Meanwhile, the women put their plan into motion as well. The queen mother walks to the center of the room and drops a lamp (she’s so cute here), a crash that brings two guards into the room. Hang Ah quickly dispatches the goons with an efficiency and skill that leaves the queen mother speechless (LOL) and the two women make their way out of the pipe systems and the caves.
The only downside is that Hang Ah takes a shot in the arm and slowly bleeds as they are chased by Bon-Bon and her evil goons plus vicious dog.
Unfortunately, when they exit the cave, the two women find their escape route blocked by a stream/river. Hang Ah offers to cross the river first and get some sort of rope with which to pull the queen mother across because of the deep river, but the mother refuses, especially when she knows Hang Ah is injured. She firmly tells her daughter-in-law that with only one severely strained son left “unharmed,” she doesn’t plan on being a burden to her daughter-in-law. The Northern women aren’t the only ones who are tough; Southern women can be just as tough. And with that, the queen mother bravely enters the water and swims relatively safely across. Overwhelmed by her mother-in-law’s big heart and bravery, Hang Ah follows suit and the two of them begin their climb into the forest.
Nearby, Operation Rescue commences as the good guys scope out the situation.
They overhear the goons say that the women have escaped. Young Bae quickly fires and draws the goons attentions away from giving chase to Hang Ah and the queen mother.
Meanwhile, Hang Ah and the queen mother try to put as much distance between them and their pursuers, but Hang Ah realizes that unless she does something, both of them will be captured.
Hearing the approaching evil minions plus vicious dog, she tells the mother to make a beeline for safety–since she can hear Dong Ha calling out for them–while she distracts their pursuers away from the queen mother…in the opposite direction.
Grimacing in pain, Hang Ah shoots her pistol (Are pistols waterproof?) and manages to lead the baddies away from the mother.
Unfortunately, she eventually succumbs to the loss of blood and fatigue and stumbles down the side of the mountain into a pile of leaves, which fortunately hides her from her pursuers.
With the queen mother safely back at the palace, Jae-ha visits his recovering mother and apologizes to her for all the suffering she’s had to endure. But the mother isn’t interested in apologies or blame and instead asks after Hang Ah. How are they going to find her and bring her back home? Jae Ha promises to bring her home somehow.
He meets with the prime minister and tells him to use whatever methods he has available to bring Hang Ah back. When the prime minister hedges with the excuse of diplomatic difficulties/red tape with China, especially since Korea snuck in to rescue the queen mother against China’s wishes, Jae Ha reaches over the table and physically lifts the prime minister out of his chair. He asks if the prime minister really wants to see what a war with the reigning king is like because if so, he is more than willing to oblige, starting by first airing all of the dirty laundry Jae Ha knows.
When the prime minister agrees to do whatever he can, Jae Ha calms down enough to urge him to help him find his Hang Ah.
In China, Bong Gu puts in a call to the Chinese government and gets Hang Ah labeled as a fugitive from North Korea. The Chinese officials circulate her picture and scour the area for her, asking some of the locals if they’ve seen her. Luckily, one of the locals is also a North Korean spy, and he reports this development to Hang Ah’s father, who is coordinating with Jae Ha to recover his missing daughter.
As the prime minister tries whatever options he has, Jae Ha sits with Shi Kyung and reviews their options. The only one that he decides is viable is to prosecute Bong Gu in the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, they don’t have enough compelling evidence to convict Bong Gu, and the crafty weasel could just as easily remove him to a country that is not part of the ICC league. Knowing that he lacks the experience to advise Jae Ha, Shi Kyung urges Jae Ha to contact his father for advice on how to deal with Club M. When Jae Ha refuses, Shi Kyung asks exactly what happened between them that Jae Ha won’t disclose. Unwilling to break his promise to Secretary Eun as well as to save Shi Kyung from a world of hurt, Jae Ha orders him out of the room.
Unfortunately, Shi Kyung isn’t so easily dissuaded from the truth now that the stakes are so high. As he recalls snippets of conversation with father, he uses his high security clearance pass to request Secretary Eun’s resignation letter from the royal archives, and what he discovers in that letter shakes his core foundation.
In horror replaced by more horror, he reads the letter in which his father chronicles all of his interactions–unknowing and knowing–with Club M.
Meanwhile, Jae Ha fields a phone call from Secretary Eun, who suggests that King Jae Ha report Bong Gu to the ICC. When Jae Ha rebuffs the suggestion for lack of solid evidence, Secretary Eun recalls Shi Kyung’s previous comment about how Jae Ha is smarter and a better monarch than his father gives him credit for. In the middle of the conversation, however, Jae Ha sees a document recording Shi Kyung’s visit to the archives, and he warns Secretary Eun that Shi Kyung has learned the truth.
Burdened with this truth, Shi Kyung races over to his father’s summer home to get confirmation from him directly.
Standing drenched in the pouring rain, he asked if this letter in his hand is true. When his father acknowledges it and tells the son to see him clearly for who he is and learn from him and his shame, Shi Kyung bitterly replies that even now, his father is lecturing him. Yes, he retorts that he sharply feels the shame and thanks his father with that burden before leaving. He then reflects back on Jae Ha’s kind words to him despite knowing his father’s treachery.
At Jae Shin’s concern over why Jae Ha is looking for Shi Kyung, Jae-ha tells Jae-shin about Secretary Eun’s role in some of the recent tragedies. She resolves to do something herself instead of simply stand by while the people around her continue to get hurt.
Jae Ha learns that Shi Kyung is headed for the airport and marshalls his secret service to intercept him on his way to “join” Bong Gu so that Shi Kyung can act as a spy and gather evidence against Bong Gu. (Seriously, the scene of Jae Ha striding into the airport…HUGE Seung Gi’s noona love moment. LOL)
Once he has Shi Kyung back at his office, Jae Ha asks why Shi Kyung isn’t looking him in the eye. He reminds Shi Kyung that he is an individual apart from his father: “You are you, and your father is your father!” (Um…not according to Shakespeare. As an aside, the traditional community-based Korean society typically associates the sins of the father with the son…sad.)
Shi Kyung finally meets his eyes and relates to Jae Ha his plan to join Bong Gu–because Bong Gu is interested in Shi Kyung–and gather all the evidence he can to help Jae Ha prosecute Bong Gu before the ICC. Jae Ha refuses and buzzes Dong Ah to have Shi Kyung under 24-hour surveillance. Heh.
At Shi Kyung’s unceasing guilt and shame, Jae Ha blasts into him: “Hang Ah is missing! I’m on the verge of losing my mind, but as king, I’m trying my best to stay calm and find the best way to capture Bong Gu. But what about you?”
Brought face-to-face with how “small” his problem looks compared to Jae Ha’s, Shi Kyung is further silenced when Dong Ha reports to Jae Ha that he’s been getting phone calls from the palace about Princess Jae Shin…
…who is about to go against her doctor’s orders and force her memories to the surface, regardless of the consequences. Jae Ha walks into Jae Shin’s bedroom and sees his sister, only remaining sibling, strapped down to her bed and her head secured as well. But knowing how determined Jae Shin is to be “useful,” he allows her to continue, despite objections from Shi Kyung and his mother, both of whom are barred from entering her bedroom by Jae Shin. Why? She suspects that her memories are monstrous, and she doesn’t want Shi Kyung there to witness it.
And then she delves into her memories…
…and remembers being forced at gunpoint to drop the black powder (carbon monoxide) into the fireplace and kill her brother and sister-in-law with her own hands. She recalls Bong Gu telling her that if she doesn’t do it, he’ll have to order his minions to shoot her brother in the head and then the death will be a messy one. Instead, he consoles her in his creepy voice to help her brother and sister-in-law have a peaceful death. Immersed in tears and horror, Jae Shin flashes back on her precious moments with her dear older brother as the evil minions force her to grasp the carbon monoxide and sprinkle it into the furnace. *Heavy sigh* Poor Jae Shin…to know that her hand was involved in their deaths, but what a brave soul to insist on continuing with the hypnosis despite the visible trauma she has to endure.
Memories fully restored, Jae Shin wakes up in hysteria and reveals her part in their brother’s death. Jae Ha tries to console her, but Jae Shin is inconsolable, her screams of horror echoing through the palace hallways for her mother and Shi Kyung to hear.
When she is sedated to prevent any further harm, Jae Ha tells Shi Kyung to go to her. In silent torment and anguish, Shi Kyung notes her bruises and cuts and sits at her bedside and gives way to his grief. Only in Jae Shin’s unconscious state does Shi Kyung feel free to comfort her with a brief touch to her cut arm and stroke her resting face.
Seated with his mother, Jae Ha announces his determination to fight Bong Gu, who is nothing. But he now knows he has to fight this nothing if he wants to save the monarchy, this country, and his family. It’s the only way he can live and be able to see Hang Ah again. He tells his mother that Bong Gu planned everything from the very beginning and used Jae Shin when she unexpectedly stumbled into his plans so that they would lose Jae Shin even if she recovered her memories. Aw…she’s stronger than that, Jae Ha! Give her time.
Meanwhile, as Jae Ha voices his determination to beat Bong Gu for country, family, and self and see Hang Ah again, Hang Ah emerges out of the woods, still bleeding and stumbling yet very much alive.
Post-Recap Thoughts: Thank goodness our heroine is a former special forces member who knows how to take care of herself! The incredible calm and poise she demonstrated while verbally tangling with Bong Gu–and winning, I might add–speaks volumes of her bravery and potential as a queen. And we mustn’t forget the equally brave show by the queen mother and Jae Shin, both of whom are rallying to fight the good fight.
There were definitely a number of memorable scenes, one of which is Jae Shin’s heart-wrenching realization that she killed her brother and sister-in-law with her own two hands. To have to experience that once is horrifying enough but to have to relive that moment again through the hypnosis is the equivalent of killing her two beloved family members twice. It’s a wonder that she was able to survive much less have enough courage and wits about her to jump off the cliff…so that Bon-Bon’s plan to make her death look like an accident would be foiled.
As for the two big revelations that Shi Kyung (with his dad) and Jae Shin (with her brother and sister-in-law) learn, I’m oddly relieved that they now have a shared hurt/shame and that perhaps this shared hurt will be enough for Shi Kyung to finally get over his fears of rejection/distrust of Jae Shin’s sincerity and accept Jae Shin’s heart. It’ll be interesting to see how Shi Kyung responds to Jae Shin now that he knows her shame. Hopefully, he’ll realize that she’s not the princess in the tower looking for a plaything that he assumed.
With Jae Ha, all I can say is that the sleeping lion cub has now transformed into the figurative lion/king and is ready to take on this “nothing” of a man (bang gu), who reminds viewers with his every word that money without a conscience is a frightening horrible thing in a human being.
So as I anticipate watching episode 18 tomorrow, I look forward to seeing and hearing the roar of the now-awakened lion/king. I just hope the show doesn’t disappoint me. 🙂