I don’t think I’ve ever liked Lee Min-ho this much, which is a surprise because I liked him an awful lot in his Boys Before Flowers and City Hunter days, and so very little in the years following that I wasn’t sure I’d ever come around again. But Joon-jae flailing is my favorite thing right now, and watching him run around trying to make his girl happy (and flubbing it fairly regularly) is just the thing to lift my spirits and make me laugh. This show isn’t very deep, but it can still make me happy.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Back in the Joseon prison, Dam-ryung angrily tells Lord Yang to die and never be reborn, raising his sword to strike. At the last second, more officers enter the building to order Dam-ryung to stop, and instead read him his charges of being bewitched by a strange creature and failing to fulfill his duty. Hearing his punishment of house arrest, Dam-ryung stares in disbelief, while Lord Yang grins.
In present-day Seoul, Joon-jae gets caught by the detective he impersonated previously, and gets cuffed. Joon-jae volunteers to go quietly to avoid a scene, knowing that Chung is nearby, and puts up no fight. The pink octopus stuffed animal he’d won for her drops to the ground, while nearby, Chung wishes for him to come to her quickly.
Joon-jae looks back at her as he’s pulled away, crossing in front of a taxi’s path—a taxi that pulls to a stop, right in front of Chung standing alone. It’s Dae-young, back to his creepy stalking.
Chung notices the pink octopus on the ground and picks it up, wondering where Joon-jae is. He hears her thoughts as he’s being shoved into the detective’s car, then asks to answer his phone when Chung calls. Detective Hong is having none of it, since Joon-jae used a similar line on him three years ago and called his buddies, who helped him escape.
Joon-jae tries another tack, asserting his rights and telling the cop that he’s violating proper protocol. Detective Hong says he’ll take the heat, refusing to budge.
Detective Hong’s partner joins them and wonders why he’s bothering with Joon-jae when they came here hoping to catch the escaped killer, Ma Dae-young. At that name, Joon-jae grows alarmed and says, “The one Ma Dae-young is after is me.” He insists that if Dae-young is truly in the area, he’ll follow Joon-jae, and he’s so certain that the detective considers it.
Chung smiles to see her phone ring from “The Person You Know Best” (heh, Joon-jae’s upgraded himself from Person I Don’t Know That Well) and answers. Joon-jae tells her something has come up and instructs her to go home, and Chung says she’ll take a taxi. Uh-oh.
She steps into the taxi as she’s talking, but trails off to see Dae-young’s eyes in the rearview mirror. Joon-jae senses something strange, just as Chung says, “You’re wearing a hat today, too.” That’s what she’d said about the last time she saw Dae-young, and Joon-jae is suddenly on high alert, asking if she’s with Dae-young and where they’re headed.
All Chung says is that “the place where we were going to meet on the first snow” is getting bigger in her view. The call abruptly ends, and calling back gets no response. The clue is enough to tell Joon-jae that they’re heading toward Namsan Tower, and the detectives speed off, temporarily shelving their reservations about listening to the con man.
Detective Hong threatens to kill Joon-jae if this is another scam, but Joon-jae is deadly serious in his reply that if something happens to Chung, he’ll kill the detective.
Joon-jae does, at least, get the handcuffs removed, then tells the detective to call for backup. He even issues the instructions on tracking down stolen taxis, and while the detective bristles at the order, he complies since it makes good sense.
In the taxi, Chung lies unconscious on the seat, apparently pricked with a syringe that’s been stuck into the seat. Road checkpoints are set up to inspect passing vehicles, but Dae-young veers off on a side street and avoids being stopped.
When Joon-jae hears that no suspects have been caught, he figures that Dae-young took the only possible route that would take him out of Seoul unnoticed, and directs the cops in that direction. As Dae-young’s taxi drives out of the city, Joon-jae wills Chung to call out to him, promising to hear her.
Dae-young pulls up to an unoccupied hospital, and some time later, Chung awakens in a room filled with (shudder) a bloody rag, used medical materials, and a large barrel being filled with water by Dae-young. Whatever he’s given her has temporarily paralyzed her legs, but he assures her not to worry, since he has no intention of harming her: “I just can’t stand being curious about something, so I’m going to confirm it.”
He tells her of his recurring dreams lately, which he tried to shrug off as nonsense despite feeling increasingly feel real. He recognizes Chung from his dream (as Se-hwa)—as well as the fact that she was a mermaid in them. He supposes that dunking her in the barrel ought to be confirmation enough.
Detective Hong recognizes the road as leading to the hospital where Dae-young was once treated, which has since been shut down. Pulling up to the building, Joon-jae and the cops split up to search different wings of the hospital.
As Dae-young approaches to splash her in water, Chung asks if the dream version of her issued any warning, because mermaids don’t let people harm them without repercussion.
In a flash, Dae-young recalls the Joseon fisherman’s warning not to touch the mermaid, because she has the ability to steal his memory. He stares at Chung’s face and sees Se-hwa, accompanied by more Joseon memories of Lord Yang vowing to catch the mermaid. Last to flash before his eyes is Dam-ryung raising his sword, ready to cut him down.
Chung warns Dae-young that the moment he raises a hand to her, he’ll lose all his memories. She reaches toward him with a hand, and Dae-young reflexively recoils, backing out of her reach.
As Joon-jae nears the operating room where they currently are, Dae-young loses his nerve and runs away. Chung huddles to herself and thinks, “Heo Joon-jae, I’m scared.”
Joon-jae hears her thoughts and heads to the operating room, where he finds her slumped over. He gently cradles her in his arms and apologizes for being late.
Outside, the detectives hear Dae-young’s taxi screeching away and realize they’ve lost him, to their frustration.
Joon-jae takes Chung home, and Nam-doo leaps up to inform him of the manhunt for Dae-young that’s dominating the news, and that “Mimi” Detective Hong is the one in charge of the case. Annnnnd then Mimi Detective walks in the front door, HA, and asks what the Mimi stands for. Nam-doo mumbles its meaning: crazy misery.
He and Tae-oh watch nervously as the detective and his partner sit down to wait for Joon-jae, who helps Chung to his room. The mood is hilariously awkward as the con artists watch the detectives take in the splendor of Joon-jae’s house, and Nam-doo offers up that he means to donate everything to charity when he dies.
Joon-jae tucks Chung into his bed and tells her to rest after her ordeal. She sighs that it’s nice to be home again, and Joon-jae tells her to stay here rather than leaving again.
“Forever?” she asks. He replies that she can’t stay forever—and then clarifies that he’s only renting the place for two years, hee.
She doesn’t quite understand the concept of rent, so he explains that he owns the furniture and stuff inside, but they’ll have to move when the contract runs out. She asks who’ll do the moving, and he says, “You’ll have to do it. Since you’ll be going with me.” Aw, sweet. Not that I trust Chung to connect those dots appropriately, but it’s sweet of him to say.
He tells her to sleep, then heads out to talk with the detectives. To prove that Dae-young really is targeting him (and that Chung was merely bait), Joon-jae shows them CCTV footage of the night Dae-young impersonated a cop, which was the night their neighbor was murdered. He also shows them the text messages from Manager Nam, stating his theory that Dae-young masked the car accident as a drunk driving case when he was actually behind it.
Detective Hong starts to turn the topic to their crimes, but Joon-jae points out that they’ll have some trouble nailing them for their cons, because none of their victims have reported them. Plus, his impersonation of Detective Hong didn’t net him any bribes or harm anyone—the offense only merits a fine. Heh. I love how the detectives keep trying to control the situation, which keeps getting turned around on them. Joon-jae must get it from his mother.
Joon-jae tells the cops to focus on capturing Dae-young, offering his help. Detective Hong huffs, “Do you think I’m going to catch him because you told me to? I was already going to catch him!” Joon-jae does offer to deal with his crimes after Dae-young’s case is wrapped up, and when the detective scoffs about trusting him, Joon-jae reminds him that he knows where he lives: “I’ve gained things that I can lose, so I can’t just run away anymore.”
Chung lies awake in bed, in a much happier mood after Joon-jae’s words about moving together, and tries to figure out whether “moving rentals” means getting married. Upstairs in her loft, Joon-jae chuckles at the line of her thinking, particularly when she wonders if he only meant she should help physically move furniture. She worries, Does he mean he’ll marry another woman, and I’m supposed to move his furniture?
Joon-jae sighs that she’s got it wrong, but Chung continues to second-guess herself. She wonders why he touched her hair, sure that it was a tender gesture, and he laughs that she’s cute.
Heo Joon-jae, she thinks, is it that you didn’t only make a plan to like me, but already do… that you’ve fallen for…? Is this the start of romantic love? Chung gets giddy over the idea, then deflates at the thought that he’s been too curt to like her.
Chung gets carried away swinging from one extreme to the other, and now Joon-jae can’t sleep at the furious barrage of questions Chung is asking herself. He tosses and turns, then finally opens the loft door to bark at her to let him sleep. Which, of course, makes no sense because she’s just lying there peacefully in bed.
Joon-jae tells her not to think too much and go to sleep, and she sends him a goodnight wave. He returns to bed, ready to fall asleep… only to have Chung think, He sounded slightly angry. Why is he mad? No, but he smiled and said, “Good night!” What did that smile mean? And on and on it goes.
Meanwhile, Jin-joo is still on edge because she can’t get a hold of Nam-doo regarding investing with CEO Kim. She’s determined to keep trying, while her husband wonders if their efforts were in vain. She tells him firmly that “Just as there is no such thing as black money, there is no such thing as wasted effort. ” Do two bad logics cancel each other out?
Jin-joo decides to put in more work on the Chairman Heo front, and calls Stepmom to arrange a meeting. Stepmom agrees, and then tampers with more of her husband’s pills—and this time, Chi-hyun sees her do it. He waits till she’s gone and takes the pills she’d replaced.
At the breakfast table, Nam-doo notes that both Joon-jae and Chung look tired. Chung says, “It’s because I had a lot of things to think about.” Joon-jae echoes the sentiment: “Yeah, it’s because she had a lot of things to think about.” At their surprise, he clarifies that she was rustling about all night, and Chung worries, Is he mad at me right now? Why? Did he start disliking me overnight? Hahaha, I could watch this go on forever.
Joon-jae bursts out, “That’s not it!” Everyone stares at him blankly, so he covers up his slip, saying that she wasn’t rustling that much after all.
Joon-jae thinks back to Chung enjoying her swim in the pool, and announces that they’ll go shopping for a tree today, and orders Chung to stay home. He means to give her alone time to enjoy the water, but his emphasis on the word “alone” makes her wonder if it’s a punishment of some sort.
So Joon-jae clarifies that there are probably things she can’t do in a house full of men, so she’ll have until 7 o’clock today to do whatever she wants.
Is he telling me to clean the house? she thinks. Joon-jae adds that he doesn’t mean chores, but for her to do something fun. He pinches her cheeks in exasperation, and she thrills a little at the touch, feeling her cheeks.
As the boys get ready to head out, Chung thinks that her cheeks hurt a little, but it makes her feel so good that she wants to share the feeling with Joon-jae. Suddenly alarmed, he jumps to his feet as she lurches for him, hands outstretched. He grabs her wrists and whirls her around safely, pinning her against the wall, and reminds her to do whatever she wants while they’re out.
His behavior triggers another flood of questioning thoughts, and Joon-jae hurries away to get away from them.
Chairman Heo meets with his attorney, who asks about his revised will just as Chi-hyun opens the office door. Chi-hyun hears his father explain that he wants to leave everything to Joon-jae, which hurts. The attorney advises him to leave his wife and Chi-hyun something to avoid potential dispute down the line. The chairman just asks how much that would leave for Joon-jae, which would be more than half.
Stepmom and Jin-joo have dinner together, and Jin-joo is in her most obsequious mode, but just as she starts to broach the topic of potential investments, Stepmom is distracted by a call from her attorney. Jin-joo starts drinking peevishly, and that soon gets out of hand until Jin-joo is slurring her words and calling Stepmom “unni” (“Because you’re older than me—you’re old!”).
Drunkenness makes Jin-joo cringingly honest, and she reminds Stepmom of how much homemade food she’s sent over and accuses her of taking without giving back. Stepmom keeps her cool until Jin-joo tells her to shut up and asks if she’ll include her in their investments.
Stepmom starts to leave, and Jin-joo mutters that Stepmom is terrible for stealing the husband away from her high school classmate. It’s not common knowledge, but Jin-joo is up on all the tabloid gossip about Stepmom’s homewrecking exploits, and knows that the first wife disappeared afterward and her son left the house. Stepmom fumes and storms out.
At con artist central, the boys set up a Christmas tree and decorations and invite Shi-ah over for a party. Joon-jae hums as he cooks, smiling at Chung’s inner monologue as she tries to pick out what to wear, wanting to outshine Shi-ah.
Her floor-length gown is a showstopper (I love Shi-ah’s sour reaction, which Chung returns), and Tae-oh sneaks a photo. Joon-jae hears the shutter click, and this time Tae-oh’s prepared to run before getting his photo deleted from him (while Shi-ah preens, thinking it was of her.)
When Joon-jae tosses a cracker into his mouth, Chung gives it a try and is excited when she picks it up right away. Shi-ah fails, but uses it as a chance to get Joon-jae to teach her, while Chung blames herself for requesting the snacks in the first place.
Because I’m already good at this, Heo Joon-jae can’t teach me, she laments to herself. Why am I so good at things like this?! But I can’t stop. The crackers are too delicious!
Joon-jae bursts out laughing, while Chung glumly continues flipping crackers into her mouth like a pro.
The ladies run into each other outside the bathroom, where Shi-ah makes a pointed comment about Chung being back in the house, and Chung replying that she can come and go as she pleases. She repeats Joon-jae’s line about moving rentals together, and Shi-ah sounds a little worried when she hears about Joon-jae declaring his plan to like Chung.
Then she laughs it off, telling Chung smugly that Joon-jae’s good at making a girl wonder if he really likes her, keeping her on the hook while feeding her hope. Chung recognizes that feeling and looks worried at Shi-ah’s description of “tending your goldfish pond,” which refers to someone keeping someone dangling after him, not wanting to reject or commit.
Shi-ah says Chung can’t handle being a trapped goldfish in the pond, and advises her to return to whatever river or sea she came from. She’s just extending the pond metaphor, of course, but the words seem to have a particular effect on Chung.
That night, Dae-young ignores repeated phone calls from “J,” which turns out to be Stepmom. It puts her on edge, just as Chi-hyun joins her with a serious face to ask who his biological father is.
She takes his hand to say that his birth father loves him “in his own way,” which is never a description of anything good. She says that he knows that Chi-hyun is better off not knowing him, which is why he has stayed away. She tells him that all he needs to know is that they are the only ones who can trust each other, and he replies sadly that it seems that way.
Later that night, Shi-ah calls Tae-oh out to a pojangmacha for drinks, and presents him with a photo of herself, telling him not to resort to sneaking photos of her. Pwahaha. I love this misunderstanding. He insists that his heart isn’t hurting at all, but she launches into a forced heart-to-heart talk by recalling the start of her feelings for Joon-jae, seven years ago.
She says that she’s been able to maintain this relationship with Joon-jae by never letting her feelings show (uhhh) and always maintaining enough of a distance (double uhhh), practically patting herself on the back for knowing how to express love maturely.
Cut to: Shi-ah blubbering into her phone at Joon-jae about having a “plan” of her own, which involves a small wedding and donating money instead of throwing their baby a first birthday party, “because those are on trend.” She asks what he’s been doing with her all this while, and wails at him not to hang up.
On the other end of the line, Joon-jae winces at her loud sobbing and tells her to go home. Apparently this is a pattern with Shi-ah, to be fine all year and then have a big outburst at the end of the year.
Joon-jae finds Chung lying glumly on his bed and chastises her to go up to her room, which sets off another round of thoughts in her head about whether he’s keeping her in his goldfish pond, and whether he’s sick of her. Joon-jae hastily backtracks and offers to take her room again, and urges her to sleep well without thinking too much tonight.
As he heads up the ladder, her heartbeat thuds louder, and she thinks that her heart is pounding again: Will I be able to get free of this fish pond? Joon-jae heads upstairs, exhausted at the idea of another sleepless night.
Jin-joo wakes up in the morning after her drinking binge, and the memories come back to her in little horrific bursts. She wails that it has to be a dream and flops over in mortification.
Also suffering from post-drinking humiliation is Shi-ah, who checks her phone log and screams in embarrassment.
Jin-joo finds Stepmom as she’s having a pedicure and kneels at her feet, all apologies for everything “the beast living inside me” said last night, swearing that it wasn’t really her. Stepmom receives her coolly.
Chung asks Tae-oh to teach her how to use computers, since she wants to search for more information than the television provides. Tae-oh tries not to act flustered (Chung asks, “Is your face color usually red? It’s always red when I see you”), and asks what she wants to know.
Chung leans in to whisper into his ear, “Maintaining a golfish pond.” Specifically, how to avoid that fate.
Joon-jae sees her being all cozy with Tae-oh and barks at her not to whisper in his ear (“Just think instead!”), then orders Tae-oh to stop his ears from reddening. He offers to teach her how to use the computer instead, but Chung declines the offer, thinking to herself that she has to find out whether he likes her for real or is just maintaining his pond.
Exasperated, Joon-jae blurts, “Does that stuff have to be said out loud?” Chung asks what that means, and he tries to act like he meant she could learn how to use a computer just by watching. He does, at least, concede this point to Tae-oh, who starts with teaching her how to run an internet search.
Chairman Heo returns to his doctor, this time with Stepmom, and hears the doctor’s puzzlement over his worsening condition. Stepmom pushes for surgery, since the doctor warns that doing nothing could lead to blindness. The doctor asks again if the chairman truly has never poked or injured his eyes, and is perplexed at his denial.
After the appointment, Stepmom steps aside for a moment, and the chairman’s vision blurs as a woman walks down the hall in his direction—it’s Joon-jae’s mother, who stops in her tracks to see her ex-husband. He can’t quite focus on her face, so he registers no recognition while Mom is deeply shaken. She overhears Stepmom suggesting lunch with Chi-hyun, and watches them with hurt eyes.
It flashes her back to her younger days, when Stepmom had visited her for the first time after their school days to sell insurance. She’d changed her name in the intervening years, too—from Ji-hyun to Seo-hee. Mom had told her cheerfully that her husband’s business was doing well, while Stepmom had admitted to the hardship of raising a child alone.
Mom had agreed to buy a pair of policies and told Stepmom to visit her husband’s office too. The memory makes Mom burn with resentment now, knowing how that all shook out.
That evening, Joon-jae gets a call from Chi-hyun and, after momentary hesitation, answers it. Chi-hyun slurs, “Wow, it’s the real son—it’s me, the fake son,” clearly well into his cups. Joon-jae asks if Chi-hyun thinks they’re friends now, and Chi-hyun laughs bitterly, “No, the fake can’t be friends with the real.”
Then Chi-hyun starts to break down, saying, “I don’t think I’ll be able to protect your father. You protect your father, and I’ll protect my mother.” Joon-jae asks what this is about, and Chi-hyun calls it “the last warning and gift from the fake to the real.”
Joon-jae finds Chung in his bed again, and she says she was waiting to ask him something. A barrage of questions runs through her mind: Why did you say you’d make a plan to like me? Why did you come to save me? Why did you hug me? Why did you touch my hair? Do you like me? Or are you maintaining your goldfish pond like Cha Shi-ah said?
She thinks of how she searched all day on the internet, but couldn’t find the answer to his feelings. But out loud, she just says, “Never mind. I haven’t figured it out yet.” She says she’ll ask after spending the night to think about it.
At those words, Joon-jae sighs and asks just exactly how much she intends to think about it.
Chung figures it’ll be all night long. Joon-jae tells her he doesn’t know what she’s thinking (heh), but asks her if she could not think it. She asks herself what that means and whether he’s angry again, about to send herself into another tizzy of questions.
Joon-jae just places his hand on hers, and leans in to kiss her forehead.
“Now it’s nice and quiet,” he says. “From now, don’t think of anything, and don’t do anything.” And then he kisses her.
No epilogue again?! Come on, throw me a bone here!
I loved this week’s set of episodes, because they’re so light-heartedly funny in face of the murderous threat looming in the background. Granted, I don’t find the villainous Stepmom or murderous Dae-young or conflicted Chi-hyun to be compelling in anything above the most baseline way of driving forward the plot—I appreciate that they keep conflict in the mix, but could care less about the actual mechanism of that conflict, which feels surface-level at best. But when the episodes leave those elements in the background and focus more on the relationship’s developments, and with a wry sense of humor at that, I’m satisfied.
It is too bad that the villains aren’t more interesting, because if anything, You From Another Star showed us that a one-dimensional villain could still be wildly entertaining when given the right treatment. A little humor or tongue-in-cheek treatment may have done wonders for both Stepmom and Dae-young, who are humorless and therefore boring to me. I do like Chi-hyun better as a character, and he’s acted more interestingly, so I can manage to dredge up some semblance of empathy for his character while also finding him unsurprising and inessential. I’d like for the show to actually work more with the brotherly tension, because I think that’s where there’s still hope for these characters and relationships; Stepmom is a cartoon character, but Chi-hyun still feels human. I won’t hold my breath since it looks like the show is going to pursue the father-son redemption more than the stepbrothers, but maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get a minor reconciliation for them.
As for this whole hearing-her-true-thoughts business, it had me cracking up all episode and eating it all up. I can feel where it may start to wear long if they drag it out too much, but this week took a nice, entertaining approach that had plot value as well, pushing Joon-jae to deal with how to handle his newfound realizations. I thought it was lovely to have him treat the mermaid aspect of her character as almost an afterthought, like it’s not nearly as important that she’s some otherspecies being as it is that she not be so worried that he doesn’t like her back.
It makes sense when you think about it, because Dam-ryung never really had much of an issue—or reaction, even—to the mermaid aspect of Se-hwa, either. That’s probably because they met so young and he’d known her since childhood, but I think that’s only part of it; it feels more like they’re just two souls recognizing each other, and the only problems posed by her mermaid origins are external—what other people think of mermaids, and how they aim to exploit her.
I love how, as a result of Joon-jae gaining the ability to hear Chung’s thoughts, it puts him in the position of adjusting to her feelings, rather than forcing her to adapt to human life one-sidedly, which often seems the situation in mermaid stories. The fish-out-of-water gags are great fodder for comedy, but on the relationship-building front, it seems more meaningful that Joon-jae is learning to adapt to make her happy. (Plus, I did find it both funny and terribly real how her thoughts demonstrated pretty perfectly all those soul-crushingly insecure, volatile thoughts every girl has felt in her life over whether a boy likes her or not. The pain is real!)
One could argue that he could just go ahead and tell her already, if he’s so concerned about her hurt feelings, but hey, some people need to learn in stages. Long, slow, duncelike stages. As Joon-jae is often at his most lovable when in his dunce mode, I have no problems with this.