You can always count on this show to find the romancey shenanigans in any situation, no matter how many lives and legends and fates are at stake. It’s a relief, since I was bracing myself for some brooding and some idiocy of the noble variety, after yesterday’s revelations. But there’s nothing better than seeing our hero’s fears turn into a shred of hope, all because he wants to believe that a happy ending with the woman he loves is possible. Enough romancey shenanigans will do that to a guy.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Joon-jae hears Chung think to herself that she’ll die on land without him, that her heart will stop beating and harden without his love, and he asks, terrified, “Why would you die?!” She’s more concerned with how he heard her thoughts, and demands to know how long he’s been able to hear her true voice.
He finally admits that he recovered his memories: “The crazy guy who shielded you with an umbrella in the rain, the player who held your hand when you were alone, the wacko who made you ramyun—they’re all me. And the mermaid who saved me in the ocean and erased my memories is you.”
They’re both shell-shocked for different reasons, and he asks again if it’s true that her heart will stop and she’ll die without him. She confirms it: “This isn’t my world. The moment I gave up water and came to land, I had a heart that can’t beat without you.”
She tells him to stop asking her to make promises about living happily after he’s gone, because that’s not a promise she can keep: “If you disappear, I disappear too.”
The truth finally sinks in and Joon-jae recalls his shrink Professor Jin calling theirs a bad fate, where loving each other would lead to their deaths. He mutters, “Ma Dae-young wasn’t the problem… I could be the one to kill you.” She tries to argue and reaches out to touch him, but he backs away from her. Aw, no! Don’t do that! She looks heartbroken as she lowers her hand.
Chung sobs up in her room, the floor littered with pearls around her. The wailing is so loud that Nam-doo comes out to the terrace to ask Joon-jae if they fought very badly, and he suggests that if Joon-jae can’t take responsibility for her till the end, he might as well cut her loose now.
Joon-jae snaps at that and says he hasn’t even done anything for her yet, and everyone wants him to end things, thinking of Professor Jin’s advice to let her go. Joon-jae says that it may have been Chung’s greed that brought her all the way here in search of him, but it’s now his own greed that’s keeping him from sending her away.
He knows he’s being greedy, he says, but he keeps not wanting to hear the reasons why he should send her away, and admits to wanting excuses to keep her around. Nam-doo has no idea what he’s blabbering on about, but says he has a niggling feeling that Chung owes him a debt for some reason, though he can’t remember what it is. Joon-jae thwacks him on the back of the head again just in case, to prevent any sudden memory recovery.
After a good cry, Chung thinks back to the moment Joon-jae began hearing her thoughts, now understanding all the reactions he seemed to be having to her interior monologues.
Then it occurs to her that he knew she was a mermaid when he ran around saving her from water at the jjimjilbang, and that he could hear all her thoughts when he kissed her and quieted her nerves. She wonders now what it could mean, and opens her door to find Joon-jae standing down below just staring up at her closed door.
She comes down and tells him about being found out by Nam-doo earlier today, and the way he became a different person and wanted to sell her out the instant he knew that she was a mermaid. Joon-jae looks like he wants to go punch Nam-doo’s lights out, but Chung asks what he thought when he found out—was he afraid, or does he dislike her?
Joon-jae asks if that’s important right now, but she insists that it’s very important to her, and waits with bated breath for the answer. He tells her that he wasn’t afraid and he didn’t dislike her, and just thought it was par for the course because she was always weird. Ha.
Chung is relieved and admits that she’s happy to have been found out, because she was always dreading it, wondering how he’d react. She says her worst nightmare was seeing a look of hatred on his face, and he says his worst nightmare is having everything repeat.
She wonders what he means, so he takes her to a museum to show her, and leads her to the portrait of Dam-ryung. She gapes, and Joon-jae says, “I know what you’re thinking, but I’m better looking.” Pff.
She asks who it is, and he says, “A man who loved a mermaid.” He tells her about Dam-ryung and Se-hwa’s love story, up until the moment they reunite as adults. But when Chung asks how their story ended, he can’t bring himself to tell her the truth, and instead imagines a happy ending where they had children and grew old together, and had long and happy lives.
We see Dam-ryung and Se-hwa in Joon-jae’s fantasy, looking out their window on a snowy day. Joon-jae gets choked up as he lies that this is how their story ends. Chung smiles happily, though she wonders why it made her cry, and she wipes away a tear.
Joon-jae shows her the vase where Dam-ryung painted their underwater kiss, and he guesses that Dam-ryung and Se-hwa must’ve had dreams about them too. Chung asks why Joon-jae is afraid of everything repeating if his dreams were happy ones, and he realizes that his stories aren’t adding up. He fumbles for an answer and says that it’s because she could die because of him.
She says that nothing will happen as long as he loves her and stays by her side, and that Dam-ryung and Se-hwa obviously made it work if they lived happily ever after. Joon-jae argues that he’s not Dam-ryung, and that a person’s heart is the most unreliable thing in this world, which is why relationships end all the time.
He lies that the thing he’s afraid of is the pressure of having her life depend on his love, and she narrows her eyes at him and declares it unfair that he can read her thoughts but she can’t read his. He scoffs that she’d have no need to read his mind because he only ever speaks the truth. One of these days you’re going to be struck by lightning, buddy.
Joon-jae’s mom tries to reach her ex-husband’s secretary Manager Nam, but the only contact she has is an old phone number that’s been disconnected. She trudges back inside Jin-joo’s house, and from the street, that shady black car that tried to run her over is there, still following her every move.
Chung tells Joon-jae that she has a great idea: She’ll erase his memory of yesterday, and that way he won’t remember that she could die, and he won’t feel burdened anymore. She thinks she can control her strength enough to just erase the one day, and he starts backing away from her.
She tells him to just close his eyes and that it won’t hurt, and backs him all the way up against a wall and holds his arms up like she’s about to seduce him. His heart totally speeds up at that and he almost gives in just to kiss her, but then he shakes her off and starts running.
She chases him all over the living room, laughing and flailing, until it turns into an adorable wrestling match. Nam-doo and Tae-oh just sit there staring at them from the kitchen with dry expressions, and Tae-oh shuffles into his room with a long sigh while Nam-doo mutters that he needs to find his own place.
Joon-jae wraps himself up like a burrito in bed and warns Chung not to think about trying anything funny, though she still thinks it would be a good idea to erase yesterday’s memories. He argues that it doesn’t change the facts, and besides, what would she do if he stopped loving her?
Chung says he’d never do that, and that she knew the moment she first laid eyes on him that he was a forever kind of guy, and that’s why she followed him all the way here. He scoffs and reminds her of what she thought when she was mad at him the other day, and repeats verbatim what she said about being naïve to fall for the first man she met, only to realize that there are handsome men everywhere.
Chung counters that he’s a little petty for not saying that he could hear her thoughts, and comes down the ladder to erase that day along with yesterday. He returns with a threat of his own, and offers to drop her off at the ocean and visit whenever he goes surfing, heh.
She quickly takes it back and says she won’t try any funny business: “We’ll just sleep holding hands. Don’t you trust me?” LOL.
He doesn’t trust her at all, and points out that he can hear her thinking that he’s not falling for it. He sighs and calls her a player, adding that no other mermaid in any fairytale he’s read is like her.
She gives up and trudges back to her ladder, when he asks if she’s really going to just hold hands and not try anything. She swears, so he pats the bed and opens up the covers for her, and says that he’s just checking to make sure her heart is beating okay. Uh-huh.
He wraps his arms around her like a big snuggle bear, and she happily reports that her heart beats just fine when she’s with him.
Stepmom’s spy reports that Mom works as a housekeeper at Jin-joo’s house, and she seethes to realize that the food Chairman Heo loved so much was his first wife’s cooking. She stops by to see Jin-joo and purposely asks for a cup of coffee so that Mom will serve her, and enjoys making her squirm in front of Jin-joo.
Stepmom pointedly says they enjoyed all the food Mom made for them, and offers her a job at their house. Not cowed, Mom asks in banmal if she means it, and challenges her to give her the kitchen, if not the bedroom.
Jin-joo spits out her coffee, and Mom adds that Stepmom was wrong about her—she lived in hiding because she didn’t want to cause Joon-jae harm, but now she doesn’t care about any of that.
Stepmom tries to get Jin-joo to leave the room, but Mom brings up that story Jin-joo told her about that nasty woman who stole her friend’s husband and chased the first wife out. Mom: “It’s me—I’m the original wife who got chased out, and she’s the nasty bitch.” Dayum.
Jin-joo gasps and then runs into her room to spread this juicy gossip as quickly as humanly possible, and Stepmom leaves the house in a huff.
Detective Hong and his partner come to Joon-jae’s house to discuss the case, and Nam-doo gives them the rundown on his background check on Kang Ji-hyun (aka Stepmom, though they don’t know it).
Nam-doo says her alibis and insurance claims are airtight for both husbands’ deaths, but the thing that really sent a chill down his spine is the fact that she was an orphan whose adoptive family members all died mysterious deaths too.
Nam-doo figures that she’s living under a different alias now, but one thing that popped up in his search is that Kang Ji-hyun is from the same hometown and the same high school as Joon-jae’s mother.
Meanwhile, Stepmom goes to pick up Chairman Dad at the hospital, and introduces him to his new secretary in the car. And from the driver’s seat, Ma Dae-young smiles and greets him pleasantly. Well, crap.
Mom starts to set the table intending to leave after dinner, but Jin-joo takes the plate from her hands and insists that she doesn’t have to work like this. She suddenly calls her “unni” and tells Mom to think of this as her sister’s house and just stay, even if she’s going to quit her job.
Jin-joo says gleefully that she thought she was watching a sageuk earlier, and calls Mom Queen Inhyun and Stepmom Jang Hee-bin, lol. Jin-joo tells her that the important point is that Inhyun returns to her rightful place, and she swears that she’s going to help Mom get everything back. Mom isn’t all that interested in getting her old life back, but Jin-joo is dead set on it, for her own sake.
Jin-joo guesses that Shi-ah knows the truth, which would explain her sudden behavior change towards the housekeeper. But Shi-ah is shocked to learn that Mom is Chairman Heo’s first wife, and doubly shocked to realize that this makes Joon-jae a runaway chaebol heir.
Shi-ah works out her angst at a club and then calls Tae-oh to come pick her up. He accidentally answers on the first ring while he’s playing a game, which she misinterprets as him sitting by his phone waiting for her call, and he reluctantly heads out to go get her.
Nam-doo hears that he’s going to a club and asks if the water’s good there (wanting to know how pretty the girls are), which Chung takes literally, of course. She chirps that she wants to go there if the water is good, so they get decked out in party clothes and head to the club, where Chung turns heads everywhere she goes.
Shi-ah scowls to see that Tae-oh brought them along, and Chung tells Shi-ah not to drink, because drinking made Joon-jae cute, and she doesn’t want to see Shi-ah being cute too, heh.
Nam-doo heads to the dance floor and has a blast, and takes a call from Joon-jae wondering where they all went. Joon-jae gets mad about Nam-doo taking Chung to a club, thinking that she’d hate it there, only to hear that she’s having the time of her life.
Naturally that makes him madder, and he storms off to the club in a panic. By the time he gets there, Chung and Shi-ah are having a dance-off with a huge crowd around them, and Chung is dancing her heart out like it’s the best thing ever.
Shi-ah is the first to spot Joon-jae as he makes his way through the crowd, and she jumps at the chance to hang out with him. But Joon-jae tells her to have lots of fun with Nam-doo and Tae-oh, and beelines for Chung.
He acts very differently with his girlfriend, barking at her angrily for coming to a place like this. Chung has no intention of leaving, but Joon-jae isn’t having it and just hugs her and drags her off the dance floor, much to the others’ dismay.
They don’t get very far though, because it’s pouring rain outside and Chung can’t walk out into the rain. She sighs that it’s yet another thing she can’t do, but Joon-jae goes out and returns with an umbrella and a pair of rain boots.
He tells her not to say things like “I can’t” anymore, and promises to make it so that she can do everything other people can do. He bends down to help her out of her shoes, and once she’s bundled up, they step out into the rain together.
The next day, Chung has a convenience store date with her friend Yoo-na, and says that she’s happy about Joon-jae hearing her thoughts since it means she doesn’t have to lie anymore. She’s determined to live a normal life like other people, though Yoo-na says in her experience, that’s the hardest thing of all.
Homeless Fashionista joins them, and as they people-watch from the window, Fashionista points out that you can tell the difference between real designer bags and fake ones by the way their owners treat them in the rain: The fake bags get used as umbrellas to shield their owners, while real bags are stuffed inside coats to shield them from the rain while their owners get drenched.
Chung asks if they aren’t the same if they appear the same on the outside, but Fashionista argues that the one person you can’t fool is the owner of the bag—the owner knows whether it’s fake or real, and thus treats it differently.
Chung says that an owner could love and cherish a bag even if it’s fake, suddenly identifying with the fake bag and feeling like a phony in this world. Still, she hopes that she has a right to be loved and cherished, even if she’s a fake. But! You were there just last night when he bundled you up and protected you from the rain!
Yoo-na gets it and pats Chung on the shoulder, saying that you can’t tell fake from real just by judging the outside. Chung smiles at her gratefully, while Fashionista wonders why they’re being so earnest about her joke.
Chung says brightly that she’s going to live just like other people from now on, and to that end, she’s planning to throw herself a birthday party tomorrow. She doesn’t really know when her birthday is, so she just picked a day. The girls promise to come, and Chung asks for mackerel as a birthday present.
A man waits in the hospital hallway until Manager Nam’s wife steps out to take a phone call, and steps into the room quietly. He comes into focus slowly, and it’s Chi-hyun, looking a little unhinged as he asks if Manager Nam thinks that Ma Dae-young is connected to his mother.
Manager Nam’s shocked expression gives him away, and Chi-hyun says that his mom is resting easy because Manager Nam can’t speak, but he knows that the true danger isn’t the mouth, but the heart. He leans over Manager Nam with a menacing look, and whispers that he doesn’t know when Manager Nam will betray them… and he pulls out all the tubes connecting him to the oxygen machine.
Joon-jae’s mom tries Manager Nam’s wife on the phone and is relieved when she gets through. The wife confirms that Joon-jae ran away from home but says that he’s been visiting her husband in the hospital lately, and heads back upstairs to get her glasses so that she can give Mom his phone number.
Up in the hospital room, Chi-hyun is struck with a sudden wave of panic and starts fumbling with the machines like he might want to save Manager Nam. But someone else shows up behind him and yanks him out of the room… Ack, it’s Dae-young.
The doctors rush in to try and resuscitate Manager Nam, and he has visions of himself with Dam-ryung in Joseon, and then with young Joon-jae here in this lifetime, along with Dam-ryung’s promise that they would meet again as good friends.
He also gets a glimpse of a moment in Joseon, as his doppelgagnger searches for something after Dam-ryung asked him for a favor. Someone approaches and he hides out of sight, just as a man wearing a ring enters.
Manager Nam flatlines and his wife collapses in shock, her phone call with Mom forgotten.
Dae-young drives Chi-hyun away from the hospital and tells him that he was lucky the doctors were in between shifts, otherwise someone would’ve found him in the room right away.
Chi-hyun wonders who the hell Dae-young is, and then recognizes him as the fugitive who’s all over the TV, and demands to know why he’s driving his father’s car. Dae-young just snaps at him not to do anything himself anymore, and that there’s a good reason why his mother is waiting and watching.
Chi-hyun wants to know what Dae-young has to do with his family, but Dae-young just warns him not to overturn the table he’s carefully set. All Chi-hyun has to do is pick up his spoon and eat when the time comes, Dae-young says, which unnerves Chi-hyun most of all.
Mom waits anxiously for Manager Nam’s wife to call her back, and is disappointed when it’s Chung who calls instead. Mom initially turns down the invitation to her birthday party, but when she hears that Chung just decided that tomorrow is her birthday because she doesn’t have a birthday and doesn’t have parents, she changes her mind and agrees to come.
Birthday party festivities begin with multiple food deliveries to the house, and Chung runs around donning party hats on everyone while Nam-doo complains over the phone to Joon-jae that Chung just woke up and decided it was her birthday, and they should maybe get rid of the TV so she stops learning things. Joon-jae picks up flowers and promises to head straight home.
Nam-doo jumps back when Homeless Fashionista arrives with mackerel, as ordered, and proceeds to complain about the lack of guest slippers and steamed hand towels before touching her feet and then eating with her hands.
Nam-doo holds his breath while serving Fashionista food, and she finds fault with every dish, but adds that she’ll eat it out of courtesy, since she doesn’t want to ruin the party mood.
Mom is surprised when someone snatches the grocery bag out of her hand, but she looks up to see Chung, who’s come to meet her at the bus stop. Mom is planning to make her the same birthday soup that she used to make for her son, and Chung says that ever since deciding that it was her birthday, she feels reborn, like she’s been given permission to live a new life here.
Mom says that she’s planning on a new start as well, to look for the person she wants to find, and say the things she wants to say form now on. They smile and enjoy the walk together, and from across the street, Joon-jae lights up to see Chung, calling her “our Mung-Chungie” (meaning “dummy”).
He’s on the other side of a very wide street and can’t see his mother on Chung’s other side, and walks along noting how brightly Chung is smiling.
They finally reach the same intersection and Chung waves at him, and Mom and Joon-jae are still far enough away that they don’t recognize each other from that distance. Chung tells Mom that it’s her boyfriend before shouting across the street, “Heo Joon-jae!”
Mom’s face freezes, and meanwhile Joon-jae waves back at Chung with a big goofy grin. Mom asks hesitantly if her boyfriend’s name is Heo Joon-jae, and then looks back across the street to try and get a good look at him.
Chung says that her boyfriend is very handsome, and recounts that his mother used to say that she couldn’t go ten steps with him as a child without someone stopping her to touch him. That brings tears to Mom’s eyes, and when Chung asks what’s wrong, Mom says, “My son’s name is Heo Joon-jae too.”
Mom says that they parted when he was young, and Chung realizes who she must be and asks, “Tower of Hercules?” Mom gasps, and Chung recalls the story of Hercules and his mother who separated and longed to reunite, and the legend that people who parted ways at that tower were destined to meet again.
Chung has to hold Mom up so that she doesn’t fall over from the shock. As she looks across the street, Chung thinks: Heo Joon-jae, the legend of the tower was right—that people who parted there would always reunite, that they would reunite and love again. Congratulations, you’re about to meet your mother.
He hears her, of course, and looks over at Mom with a shocked look on his face, and finally… Mom looks back at him at the same time. Chung watches the reunion with tears in her eyes.
The crosswalk light turns green, and at first neither side makes a move. Joon-jae takes one hesitant step and so does Mom, and they walk towards each other to meet in the middle.
Augh, you would stop there. What about my Mom-hug?! All in all, I’m glad that Joon-jae’s reunion with Mom was straightforward and sweet, because I was expecting all sorts of plot complications, or worse—for Shi-ah to take credit for the discovery, which would’ve really annoyed the crap out of me. Everyone else finding out around them turned out not to matter in the end, and I liked how Mom’s random friendship with Chung ended up being the only thing to bring her straight to Joon-jae. It’s especially sweet that Mom’s desire to be a mom to an orphaned Chung on her birthday was what brought her there, like a satisfying act of karma.
I do think that Mom was pretty stupid to believe her husband-stealing friend would raise her son properly, enough to cut off contact entirely—I find that behavior really odd for someone who didn’t leave him for selfish reasons—but I guess I don’t care as much about that as long as Mom continues to put Stepmom in her place and put things back the way they’re supposed to be. Clearly no one else is in a rush to help poor blind Chairman Dad, so someone needs to save him. Plus, with Jin-joo helping her, there’s just enough humor and sass going around to keep me interested.
I knew Joon-jae wouldn’t tell Chung the whole truth about Dam-ryung and Se-hwa’s tragic end, and despite not liking that he keeps keeping secrets from her, I thought his imagined ending for them was done so well. It spoke of his hope for their own happy ending, but felt so bittersweet because we knew it wasn’t real. I’ll admit that I’m really disappointed in Joon-jae and Dam-ryung’s connection only going this far, because I feel like the show lost a really cool opportunity to have them change each other’s fates—what good is having two concurrent timelines and a shared consciousness if he couldn’t even prevent them from the fate recorded in history books? Maybe I’m just not over their deaths, but I also wanted more from this intertwined past-present deal than what we got.
As for the present relationship, it was nice to see it progress once secrets were finally out in the open, because even though outwardly it didn’t change their everyday relationship dynamic too much, Chung stopped obsessing over her mermaidness—what Joon-jae would think about it, what would happen if he hated her—which was always a weak conflict to begin with because Joon-jae has never once cared that she’s a mermaid. Though it was all worth it for Chung to finally realize that Joon-jae did all those things for her knowing who she was all this time (the jjimjilbang scenes seem especially cute once she’s looking back on them with this new perspective), because his actions speak louder than any “I love you.”
The most important development is that Joon-jae didn’t immediately freak out and send Chung back to the ocean upon hearing that she could die on land without his love. I thought for sure he’d start hatching a plan to send her back for her own good, but when he admitted to selfishly wanting her by his side and looking for excuses to believe his ending would be different, it gave me hope that he’d really make it happen by sheer force of will. You can do eeeeet, Heo Joon-jae!