Big episode! It’s got my favorite new thing, Drunk Joon-jae, and his cousin Honest Joon-jae, both of whom are kind of inept and adorable. Also gratifying to watch, because sometimes you just need to hear the obvious stated. It’s especially refreshing to have truths come out just when secrets were threatening to dominate and turn the story on its head.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Joon-jae comes face-to-face with the centuries-old portrait of Dam-ryung, and recognizes the words written there—they’re the same words that Dam-ryung told him when they met in a dream: “If you are me in the next life, even when you wake from the dream, remember this: Everything is repeating. The connections made here are continuing there, as are the ill-fated connections. Protect her from the dangerous ones.”
As Joon-jae reads the words, we see Dam-ryung, in Joseon, writing them down. Dam-ryung sends the painting in a chest to his family’s house with the request to bury it there, and to keep it unopened even if something were to happen to him.
Joon-jae addresses the portrait as thought it’s Dam-ryung himself, wondering about the dangerous person and the woman he mentioned. “Who are you?” he asks. “Are you really… me? Not a dream, but really me?”
Shi-ah bangs on the door, and when he steps out of the room, she grabs his arm and whines about being scared of the blackout—right as the lights flick on. Muahaha. Joon-jae pushes her off, then tries to prevent her from going in to take a look at the painting herself, saying that it’s late and they ought to get going.
She’s keen to take a look at this “Joseon man who’s as handsome as an idol,” though, and beelines for the painting. Her jaw drops as she immediately recognizes Joon-jae’s face, though he feigns ignorance when she points out the resemblance (“What, like everyone with big eyes and good looks resembles me?”) Pretending he doesn’t really see it, he just says he’s better-looking.
She can’t let it go of the uncanny resemblance, though, and suggests that maybe Dam-ryung is his ancestor, and that Joon-jae’s interest in the man was unconsciously stirred by his genetics.
Joon-jae changes the topic by asking her to keep this visit a secret, saying that he’s researching something and would like for only her to know about it. Flattered, she agrees.
The weather is stormy, and across town, a loud crash of thunder wakes murderer Dae-young. Looking haggard, he wonders why he’s dreaming these dreams, muttering that they make him feel rotten. Well I should hope so, if you’re dreaming about all the rotten things you’ve done.
Chung waits up for Joon-jae, bothered by how late he’s staying out with Shi-ah. The minute she hears noise below, she practically jumps down the ladder and confronts Joon-jae, reminding him of their house curfew and his own words to not bother coming home if she was going to violate it.
Joon-jae laughs that the curfew only applies to his squatters, not the owner of the house, and that if she feels wronged by it, she can buy a house and make up her own rules. He flops onto bed and relaxes into it… and then turns his head to see Chung shooting eye-daggers at him.
Joon-jae tells her to stop glaring at him like a scary ghost, and Chung retorts that they’re her eyes and she can do whatever she likes with them: “They’re my rules. If I’m mad but have nothing to say, I glare.” He asks why she intends to just keep staring, and she fires back, “Because as much as I couldn’t see you before, I want to see you now!”
Aw. He just tells her to do as she wishes, warning that she’ll make herself dizzy. Chung squints and rolls her eyes experimentally.
A thought strikes him, and Joon-jae asks about the time Chung was hit by a car and had a dream while lying in the emergency room. She’d said then that he took her hand and saved her life, and he asks for details.
Chung’s mind replays that vision—the moment that Se-hwa and Dam-ryung had clasped hands after he’d had her released into the sea. Joon-jae tries to prod her memory, asking about the time period and whether he’d been wearing old-fashioned clothes.
But Chung says that she doesn’t remember anything, likely because she can’t explain the mermaid context. Joon-jae accepts that disappointedly and tells her to go to bed, and Chung leaves in a flash, glad at the reprieve.
She goes so fast that Joon-jae feels put out, grumbling about how she’d just declared that she’d stare at him all night. “She spits out words without any sense of responsibility!” he complains.
Safely in her room, Chung feels her pounding heart, noting, “This is what it feels like to lie.” Still, she’s relieved that he didn’t hear her “real voice,” as in her mermaid thoughts.
Joon-jae dreams again that night: of Se-hwa kidnapped and bound, sitting with a basket of pearls, and Dam-ryung apologizing for coming too late. He wakes with a start and heads out to the kitchen, where he finds Nam-doo having a midnight beer or five. Joon-jae joins him and sighs about how he’s been feeling strange lately, and Nam-doo asks, “Do you know what you should think of as the strangest? Chung. Don’t you think she’s strange?”
Joon-jae laughs it off, but Nam-doo tells him not to brush it aside—she may be beautiful and sweet, but she’s definitely strange. Nam-doo confides that he’d had another doctor look at Chung’s leg X-rays, who was sure that the broken bone that should have taken six weeks to heal was perfect in one. Nam-doo points out that Joon-jae would normally find it strange too, if not for the effect Chung has on him.
Then Nam-doo holds up the pearl he’d swiped from Chung’s stash, asking how a girl with no job or skills could amass so many to sell. Joon-jae’s mind flashes to the dream he just had, and Se-hwa’s pearls.
Nam-doo adds that Joon-jae can’t remember meeting Chung in Spain, and Joon-jae’s mind flashes to more scenes he can’t place—him buying Chung shoes, taking the jade bracelet. Nam-doo reminds Joon-jae that he was keeping Chung around to find out what happened, but he seems to have lost interest.
Joon-jae asks why Nam-doo is curious about all that. Nam-doo replies in his half-joking tone, “I’m afraid you’ll become a good guy, when I just barely turned you into a bad one with some use. After meeting Chung, you keep wanting to be a decent guy and it bothers me. If you do, you’ll leave me.”
Joon-jae scoffs at that, while Nam-doo adds that it’s a fun mystery that he’s intent on unraveling. Nam-doo leaves, and Joon-jae says with some determination that he’ll have to be the first to find out who Chung is.
At the police station, Detective Hong presents his boss with a new theory about Dae-young. Looking at his prison record reveals mostly assault charges, springing from anger management problems, but there’s one year (1988) when he engaged in a rash of robberies—and only at one shopping mall. His guess is a woman was the cause.
Convenient cut to Stepmom, who notices Chairman Dad struggling to grasp food in his chopsticks, missing because of his eyesight. He complains of dizziness, and Stepmom hands him his pills (don’t take them!) and urges him to rest today and leave anything important to her (nooooo) and his secretary. Chi-hyun doesn’t voice his concerns, though he clearly has them.
Chung’s young friend Yoo-na finds breakfast pre-made for her, her hard-working mom already out for the day. Yoo-na reads Mom’s note about going to academy today, looking sad.
Chung returns to the claw machine to claim her pink octopus, and fails yet again. Yoo-na finds her here and asks why she is so intent to win that particular toy.
Chung wonders why she’s here, and Yoo-na admits that she played hooky today; she didn’t have anywhere to go, but remembered that Chung said she lived in this neighborhood.
Chung asks how Yoo-na knew she had to get that pink octopus, and Yoo-na replies, “You said it.” Chung is confused, since that wasn’t a voice Yoo-na could hear, but Yoo-na says she heard Chung psyching herself up all the way down the street.
Joon-jae comes up to Chung’s room, but finds it empty. Spotting the jar of pearls by her bed, he wonders where they came from, and also why she intended to sell them to give that money to him—he’d never asked her for any.
Nam-doo makes a phone call to scam target Jin-joo to keep her on the hook, saying that his boss is quite busy and that she shouldn’t get her hopes up, but that he’ll keep trying to get her an opening.
Mid-call, Joon-jae comes tearing out of his room and running from room to room, looking for something (or someone), though when Nam-doo asks if he’s looking for Chung, Joon-jae pretends he’s looking for Tae-oh. Who, by the way, is right there. (Nam-doo: “Are you a real con artist or not? Why are you so bad at lying?”)
Chung arrives with Yoo-na in tow, and Joon-jae runs over to scold her for not keeping her dead phone “fed,” appealing to her love of food to make it sound like her phone gets sad and hungry. Of course, precocious Yoo-na steps up to correct his misuse of words, hee.
Joon-jae asks why Chung has such odd friends, from a beggar to a grade-schooler, and Yoo-na replies, “Ajusshi, you’re unemployed.” Pert little thing.
Joon-jae blusters, taking offense to unemployed and ajusshi, saying that she’s wrong on both scores. Yoo-na says plainly that “unemployed slacker” is apt when referring to someone who sits at home doing nothing while normal people are at work, or lying around watching TV (like Nam-doo) or playing games (Tae-oh).
Chung asks, wide-eyed, “Are you an unemployed slacker?” Joon-jae protests, a bit lamely, and avoids her eye as he replies that he’s a freelancer, and it’s entirely possible to work from home.
Chung agrees, and uses Joon-jae’s words to explain to Yoo-na that he’s working “even harder than a civil servant” on behalf of the nation. She tells the girl to grow up and be like Joon-jae.
Joon-jae actually blurts, “You can’t!” To cover the slip, he adds, “Do you think just anyone can be like me?”
Nam-doo wonders if the little girl is on winter vacation already, and Joon-jae says (with way more shock than you’d think is appropriate for a con artist), “You’re playing HOOKY?”
The adults sit Yoo-na down, and Joon-jae insists that she has to keep going to school, even though Nam-doo reminds him that he dropped out (and later got his equivalency). Chung asks if those girls are bullying her again, but Yoo-na explains that her reason for ditching school is because she “gains superpowers” at school, which makes Nam-doo burst out laughing.
Yoo-na explains how she becomes invisible, and nobody sees her or talks to her. That’s why it’s okay if she doesn’t go, and nobody will notice anyway. Joon-jae eyes her sympathetically as she says she’s different from the other kids, based on where she lives and how she only has a mom. “Don’t people dislike people who are different from them?”
Chung thinks to herself, I’m different too. If he finds out I’m different, Heo Joon-jae will hate me, won’t he? Joon-jae looks over at her—omo omo, can he hear? He looks surprised when she thinks, He’ll leave, won’t he?
Yoo-na asks, not realizing that Chung didn’t say it out loud, “Why are you different, unni? And why would the ajusshi Heo Joon-jae hate you if you’re different?” Joon-jae’s mouth drops in shock.
To the others, it sounds like Yoo-na spoke out of nowhere, and neither Nam-doo nor Tae-oh heard Chung say anything. They figure Yoo-na imagined things, and Chung nervously grabs Yoo-na’s hand and takes her to her room.
Bewildered, Joon-jae confirms with the boys that the didn’t hear Chung say those words, then lies that he didn’t hear anything either.
Chung sits Yoo-na down to test whether she can hear her thoughts. Yoo-na parrots back Chung’s thoughts exactly: She came here from a faraway place, and feels lonely because she came for one man and left everything else.
Chung tells her not to tell anyone, because she can’t have Joon-jae disliking her for being different. Yoo-na promises.
Joon-jae hears that Manager Nam has woken up, and rushes to the hospital to see him. He can’t move or speak, but Joon-jae assures the wife that he’ll get better. It seems that Ajusshi can hear and think, though, and his eyes well up with tears, making his wife suppose that he wants to tell Joon-jae something.
Ajusshi’s wife sees Joon-jae out, and asks hesitantly if he’s had news of his mother. It turns out that Joon-jae’s mother has called Ajusshi occasionally in the past, but had asked her to keep it a secret. Ajusshi’s wife doesn’t have much information about Mom’s whereabouts, and says that all Mom did was ask after Joon-jae. The wife had assured her he was fine, leaving out the part where he’d left his family.
Later that night, Joon-jae nurses a beer in his room, and when Chung pokes her head out of her door, he tells her not to come down. “Okay,” she agrees, while climbing down the ladder. Hehe.
She joins him in his room and recognizes alcohol from all her drama-watching, noting that it makes people laugh and cry and sprawl out on sidewalks. Joon-jae says that’s what Nam-doo gets like, pouring on the aegyo and drunk-dialing exes and insisting he’s not drunk, which has earned himself the nickname of Dog Nam-doo. Joon-jae says that Nam-doo never learned how to drink properly, and boasts that he’s not like that—he’s disciplined enough to enjoy drinking while controlling himself. Oh, we’ll see about that.
Chung asks Joon-jae to teach her how to drink, and that doesn’t seem like a bad idea so he sits her down and pours her a beer. She’s chugging it down before he even starts with any tips, and he tells her she’s doing it wrong: Drinking is about the cheers. He clinks her glass with his.
Chung proceeds to request cheers after cheers until she’s resting her head in her hand and asking her octopus jerky plaintively why it’s so dried. “People are so cruel,” she wails. “How could they grill you, tear you apart, and dry you out? It’s so pitiful!”
Joon-jae points out that she’s crazy about sashimi, but Chung counters, “They’re different! To me, octopus are like dogs are to you humans!” Joon-jae asks, “You humans? Aren’t you a human too?”
Chung replies, “Nope. I’m a mer…” And then she stops, blinks, and is perfectly sober again. Joon-jae’s amazed at her sudden recovery, while Chung is eager to clink glasses again.
A few drinks later, it’s Joon-jae who’s tipsy—he sounds totally normal, but doesn’t realize he’s repeating the same speech about how he’s able to control his drinking perfectly, and how she’s lucky he’s the one teaching her, because he’s able to control his drinking perfectly, which is why she’s lucky he’s teaching her. And on and on.
Pretty soon, his head is tilting and he’s laughing for no reason. He points his finger all around the room like they’re at a bar and declares that nobody’s going home tonight. Chung points out that they’re already at home, but he just points at her and sing-songs, “Especially you. You can’t go. Don’t go.”
He addresses Chung as he picks up his phone and complains, “I told her clearly, if she’s not at home, she has to stay by my side. But she doesn’t listen.”
He calls, and Chung’s phone rings across the room. But when she gets up to answer it, he orders her to stay put—and then complains when Chung doesn’t answer her phone. Omg, he’s adorable. Dork Joon-jae, move aside, Drunk Joon-jae is my new favorite!
Joon-jae calls again, and Chung tries to sneak away to answer it, only to have him order her to freeze. He gives up on the call and moves to take the seat next to her—and then he pulls her close in a big hug, exclaiming, “You can’t go!” She assures him that she won’t, and decides that alcohol is the best thing on land.
Still holding her close, Joon-jae mumbles sleepily, “Don’t go. Even if we’re different—no matter how different we are, I won’t leave you.” He falls asleep on her shoulder, and Chung says, “I hope that’s not a lie. I want that to be the truth.”
In the morning, he’s massively hungover. Chung explains to Nam-doo that he was teaching her how to drink for the first time. Nam-doo says he could have taught her, and when Chung reminds him of his Dog Nam-doo drunk habits, he says that Joon-jae learned to drink from him. Hee.
Chung asks if words spoken while drunk are lies or truth, and Nam-doo says it could be either—but in Joon-jae’s case, it’s all lies, and she should just think of that conversation as “talking to a puppy—all nonsense.” Aw. She takes that in disappointedly.
Time for the next step in the Jin-joo con, as she takes in her dog 500 to fix his wagging tail, which Jin-joo swears is a sign of some problem because the dog is too “chic” (“Like me”) to wag it out of sheer happiness. Ridiculous lady is ridiculous.
Jin-joo perks up when Nam-doo drops by with 900 and asks if he’s made any headway into getting her a meeting with his CEO Kim. Nam-doo acts apologetic in his rebuff, saying that CEO Kim is booked solid for every meal. Jin-joo pouts and wheedles, and hands Nam-doo a gift of handmade doggie kibble, asking for good news next time.
Hearing the update, Shi-ah repeats her belief that it’s a scam, though Jin-joo argues that no scam artist would play this hard to get. Joon-jae’s mother interrupts the conversation to make a request that Shi-ah separate her laundry to make her job a bit easier, and Shi-ah flies off the handle, pointing out that she’s higher-ranked in this household. “Are you my mother-in-law?” she exclaims.
Joon-jae’s mother just says in her placid way that she agrees with that sentiment—she doesn’t want to be Shi-ah’s mother-in-law. Heh. I love her retorts. Shi-ah whines at Jin-joo to fire her, but Jin-joo can’t until after she’s hosted the wealthy CEO to dinner.
Then Nam-doo calls with the good news she’s been dying to hear, and schedules that dinner. The next day, Jin-joo’s all aflutter with excitement as she decides what to wear, and Joon-jae’s mother hilariously gives her backhanded advice (“Don’t you think that looks shabby? But wear it if you like it”).
Jin-joo grouses about how she ends up doing what the housekeeper says, but has to admit she’s never wrong, which makes it extra annoying. Nam-doo calls Jin-joo to give her “tips” on how to act around the CEO, feeding her nervousness to impress.
Jin-joo’s husband Dong-shik admits to misgivings about Shi-ah’s comment that it’s a scam, but Jin-joo insists that Shi-ah knows nothing of the real world. She warns him not to ask too many questions or appear old-fashioned, and Dong-shik assures her that he won’t pry for information to the man’s face; he’ll do it behind his back.
Joon-jae and Chung get dressed to the nines and head over, and Joon-jae reminds Chung for the umpteenth time that she can’t use his real name. Nam-doo glosses it over as just a part of doing business.
Jin-joo, Dong-shik, and daughter Elizabeth greet the guests at the gate, on their best behavior. Jin-joo pours on the pleasantries in an effort to appeal to Chung, given how they clashed last time over Elizabeth fighting with Yoo-na. Chung tells the little girl to be good to Yoo-na, while Jin-joo falls all over herself kissing up to Chung.
And then, Shi-ah arrives home. Aieeee!
But at the last second, Jin-joo sends Shi-ah to the store to pick up a last-minute item. Oh you’re going to drag this out until I’m a nervous wreck, are you? Fine then. Challenge accepted.
The men exchange business cards, and Dong-shik sneaks off to check that it’s legit, calling the Tokyo-based office. He’s greatly relieved to hear that the CEO is in Korea, though not too bright not to consider that the number is fake to begin with—it’s just Tae-oh on the other line, after all.
Jin-joo fusses over the food made by the housekeeper, confident that sincere home-cooking will appeal to the CEO. The group makes small talk, such as CEO Kim’s marriage plans, and Joon-jae says they’ll tie the knot abroad next year. While Chung doesn’t reply, she does look at Joon-jae uncertainly, maybe even dubiously.
When Joon-jae bites into one dish, he’s hit with recognition and compliments it, saying that it’s similar to a dish his mother used to make. Jin-joo’s thrilled to hear it and calls for more, which brings Joon-jae’s mother out. She doesn’t see Joon-jae’s face, though, and he doesn’t see hers either. But he does pause at the sound of her voice, turning to catch a glimpse of her back.
Shi-ah pulls up in front of the house, and Tae-oh recognizes her with alarm. I can’t believe you worked on this con for so long and didn’t realize this was her family, you dolts. He jumps out and intercepts Shi-ah at the gate, and thinks fast to explain why he’s here and why he needs to talk to her.
She says she has important guests over and starts to head inside, so Tae-oh grabs her by the shoulder and blurts, “I love you, noona!” LOL.
That, at least, calls for a more serious talk, so they relocate to a cafe, where Tae-oh keeps his head hanging waaaaay down in mortification. She totally buys the story, and sighs at the dilemma because Tae-oh knows how she feels about Joon-jae. She tells him that there’s no crime in loving, and clucks over how thin his face has become due to his supposed lovesickness.
She asks if she can leave now, and he shakes his head frantically. She sighs at how awful this is, when she only has eyes for Joon-jae, feeling all sorts of gratified pity for Tae-oh’s crush on her. Meanwhile, Tae-oh sneaks off a text to Nam-doo, telling him to leave quickly because it’s Shi-ah’s house.
Thankfully the VIP dinner is in the dessert-and-coffee stage, and Nam-doo whispers the warning into Joon-jae’s ear. They get up immediately, citing a last-minute emergency, sending Jin-joo into a flurry of panicky questions about whether they did anything wrong.
Joon-jae manages to get out of the house moments before Shi-ah pulls up, thankfully. Tempers are high when they get home, and Joon-jae yells at Nam-doo for not doing his research properly.
All the while, Chung has been quietly taking everything in, and when Nam-doo says they almost got caught, she picks up on that and asks what they almost got caught for, and why it would have been trouble. Joon-jae won’t meet her eye.
She thinks, Heo Joon-jae, are you a con artist? Are you a bad guy?
Joon-jae hears it, and his head swivels in her direction. He thinks of her earlier thought that he would hate her if he knew how she was different. Chung asks, Was it all a lie?
“Yes,” Joon-jae declares aloud. “I’m someone who lies. I deceive others and earn money. Yes, I’m that kind of person. That’s my secret. What’s yours?”
They stand there with eyes locked, ignoring a confused Nam-doo in the background, and Chung thinks, My secret is… that I’m different from you. That I’m a mermaid.
The shock hits Joon-jae, who thinks of the drawing on the vase of the mermaid kissing a man, and of seeing mermaid Chung in the aquarium tank. If you know who I am, you’ll be shocked and hurt and scared of me, Chung continues. You’ll leave me. So I want to do my best and not be found out. Wait, does she not realize he heard her?
Chung heads into her room, and Joon-jae tries to get all his whirling thoughts in order. He checks with Nam-doo about what he just said, but Nam-doo says they were just staring at each other silently. Wait, was his confession in his head?
Chung stares at her jar of pearls—it’s fuller now—and clutches at her heart. Joon-jae stares at the picture on Dam-ryung’s vase, hearing Chung’s confession repeat in his head, and recalling how he felt like he was the man in the picture.
Suddenly he’s hit with another memory fragment: sinking in the sea, someone swimming toward him, that kiss.
Joon-jae goes up to Chung’s loft, worried when he finds it empty. He hurries out of the house, remembering Dam-ryung’s warning of danger and the threat of Dae-young on the loose. As he sets out to looking for her, he sees visions from Dam-ryung’s life, with his encounters with Se-hwa mingling with his own with Chung.
He breaks into a run as his head floods with more visions—Dam-ryung and Se-hwa’s handclasp, and the story of how a young boy fell in love with a mermaid and heard her voice. And how mermaids have a special ability to erase themselves from a human’s memory with a kiss.
Memories from Spain come back, filling in more blanks of how they met and grew close and fell into the ocean together.
Suddenly, his revised memories change—where Chung had erased herself, now his mind puts her back and his memories return to their original versions. The last one to come to him is the underwater kiss, and Chung saying, “I love you.”
Out of breath and reeling in shock, Joon-jae stands in the middle of the road, grappling with the truth.
What, no epilogue? Aw, come on! For a show I liked less, I might not care, but I often want more at the end of these episodes, and the epilogues feel like I get to steal a little extra story for myself.
I’m pleasantly surprised that we have the truth out already—I know Joon-jae’s been having niggling feelings and memory flashes all along, but I thought they’d draw it out longer and am happy to have the realization made now. Now that he knows, our story can’t help but take a turn, and as much fun as it is to watch Joon-jae dancing around his feelings, it’s more exciting to have him see the full picture now.
In the version of this story that ends at “mermaid falls in love with human,” I’d worry that we don’t have enough story to take us through the remaining episode count, because the question of whether the human will accept the mermaid’s love is always that last phase of the conflict. This isn’t that story, though, and because we’re also in a mystery where a whole other timeline is running concurrently with this one, and where multiple lives are at stake, it feels like we’re advancing to the next phase. Learning of her mermaid nature isn’t the ending here; Joon-jae still has to figure out what his alternate-life self is trying to tell him, while that alternate self has to figure out how to save his life using this portal to Joon-jae.
I absolutely loved Joon-jae getting drunk and showing Chung how he really felt. It may be partly denial that keeps him from being able to be more forthcoming when he’s sober, but I think the denial is ebbing away, and his reluctance is more a general discomfort with expressing himself, rooted in his childhood abandonment. In flashbacks it’s never seemed he had much trouble showing his love openly, but after moving in with his father and stepfamily, he retreated into himself and has been afraid to put himself out there, because what came back was usually hurtful. So Drunk Joon-jae, aside from being just plain hilarious, was a relief to see because it’s a relief to see him being honest and just saying what he feels, in a way that recalls his happier self.
I find it interesting that Chung, who’s never had trouble making her feelings known, is the one who’s closing off now out of fear of rejection, just as Joon-jae’s coming to acknowledge his. I can’t deny that I miss the boisterous, no-filter version of Chung, but I can’t blame her for being protective, either. If only she knew it wasn’t necessary; I was excited when he started to hear her inner voice—while we still don’t know why Yoo-na can hear mermaid voices, she’s always been able to hear them, so I count that as something native to her being. With Joon-jae, it can only mean that he’s fully in love with Chung now, mirroring the boy of the legends, and as such I thought it was a really lovely way to get him to learn the truth: Just as she worries that he’d never be able to accept her, he comes to love her enough to enable himself to discover the truth on his own.