Today is packed with revelations, confessions, and bends in the road, which makes it fitting for being the first episode to finally break that 20% ratings barrier (20.8% was the number). Of course, I’m sure the lack of competition had a part in it (its MBC and KBS rivals aired their finales yesterday), but hey, let’s not look a gift ratings horse in the mouth.
EPISODE 17 RECAP
Chung grabs Dae-young’s hand in preparation to wipe his memory, and is flooded with memories from his life, both past and present. She sees how Dam-ryung died in the sea to save Se-hwa, and realizes that Joon-jae lied about their happy ending.
Devastated, she lets go of Dae-young’s hand, and he looks around in surprise, asking who she is and where they are. He looks genuinely confused when she calls him a killer and says that she heard the screams of his victims. He asks who he supposedly killed, while images of his victims flit through his mind.
Chung thinks, Born with blessings and raised as somebody’s family, they fell in love and dreamed of a future growing old with that person. Aloud, she adds, “You took those people’s futures and destroyed them in one moment.”
Dae-young says he doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but Chung says she’ll do the same to him, and turn his life into a blank slate, “So that you can’t remember anything, or receive forgiveness.”
Nervously, he backs away from her as steps toward him, until he reaches the railing of the roof. He suddenly pulls out a knife and holds it up at her, but Chung grabs his arm and easily overpowers him, and the knife clatters to the ground.
She closes her eyes to finish the memory job, and this time, the vision from the past continues where it left off: As Dam-ryung dies in the water, Se-hwa drives the harpoon through herself to die with him.
In the present, Chung clutches her chest as though feeling the same jab, and Dae-young seizes the moment to run. She falls to her knees, doubled over in pain.
Dae-young collides with a pedestrian in his haste to get away, and the man recognizes his face as the fugitive killer. He hurries away, while the man calls the authorities to report the sighting.
Joon-jae faces his resistant father and pleads with him one last time to trust him and leave together. Dad refuses again, and Joon-jae has no choice but to leave him there, turning away with tears falling from his eyes. Joon-jae rejoins his teammates, and they leave the house together.
Stepmom arrives to crash Jin-joo’s gathering, and Jin-joo pretends to be surprised to see her here. She says that she didn’t invite her because she didn’t want Stepmom feeling uncomfortable, and when Stepmom asks why that would be, that’s Jin-joo’s cue to call out for “unni” to join them.
In steps Mom, looking supremely elegant as she joins the table. Ooh, this should be good.
Chung arrives to an empty house and looks around wistfully, thinking how happy she was here: No matter how cold it was outside, it was a warm place I could come back to. A place to talk with you, and laugh, and eat, and play. A place where I could see you anytime, where I could love you whole-heartedly. But I don’t think I can be here, next to you.
At the gathering, Jin-joo tells Stepmom that she may as well stay, since she’s already here. Then she explains why she called them together, introducing Mom as Chairman Heo’s first wife and telling the story of her dramatic reunion with her long-lost son. The ladies are appropriately thrilled by the story, while Stepmom looks sour.
Mom tells Stepmom in a tone of steely calm, “I told you I would find our Joon-jae and restore him to his rightful place. Look forward to it.”
But Stepmom replies that it won’t be easy restoring him to his original place, “Because that place has disappeared.” She announces to the group that her husband recently notarized a will leaving everything to her and Chi-hyun, which startles everyone.
Stepmom tells everyone pointedly that she’ll remember their faces, and that they ought to pray they’ll never need her help in the future. The ladies fidget uncomfortably, and after Stepmom leaves, Jin-joo erupts into incredulous exclamations at how the chairman must be crazy. Mom sits there silently, holding her upset reaction in.
Stepmom calls Dae-young on her drive home, and he answers the call from “J” cautiously, not knowing who she is. He says he’s being chased but doesn’t understand why, and Stepmom thinks he’s losing it because he’s skipped taking his meds. But Dae-young looks around and says, “I don’t even know who I am.”
Chi-hyun returns home and checks on Dad, and asks if anybody dropped by. Dad lies that he was sleeping and didn’t notice anything, which makes Chi-hyun’s gaze sharpen, since the housekeeper confirmed hearing voices coming from the room. Then when he checks the security footage, he hears that there was a two-hour outage in the video and screams in rage.
Tae-oh hands over the files he copied from the chairman’s computer, and confirms to his team and the detectives that the chairman did leave his inheritance to Stepmom and Chi-hyun. Nam-doo marvels at the chairman’s coldness in cutting Joon-jae off entirely, and looks more shocked than Joon-jae does.
But Joon-jae says that there’s no proof that his father reviewed the terms of the will, noting that his father seemed nearly blind. Which certainly fits Stepmom’s M.O. with her previous husbands. Detective Hong barks at Joon-jae for leaving without his father, but Joon-jae replies that his father told him he didn’t trust him because he was a con artist.
Then Joon-jae asks Detective Hong to look into the pieces of evidence he took from the house: the vial from Stepmom’s drawer, which contains a needle; the prescription pills; and the photo of the purple flowers overflowing in her room. Nam-doo recognizes them as wolfsbane, or “stepmother’s poison,” which was said to be used by stepmothers in Roman times to kill princes who threatened the succession. There have been reported cases of people being poisoned with water in which the flower was boiled.
Joon-jae presses for the cops to get a search warrant with this evidence, and while the partner starts to protest that it’s not that easy, Detective Hong shocks him by agreeing.
With nowhere to go, Dae-young huddles to himself in a corner of an alley, and Stepmom comes to pick him up. He looks blankly at her when she tells him her current name, so she switches to her old one, Kang Ji-hyun—and that has a stronger pull on his memory, which flashes back to a childhood scene from the orphanage:
In it, a young Ji-hyun introduces herself to a young Dae-young, who’d just been un-adopted by the same family that will be soon taking her in; he’d been rejected by the family because he’d had nightmares every night and cried in his sleep. Ji-hyun asks if she can be penpals with him, and he agrees. She asks what he’s drawing on the ground, and we see that it’s a mermaid.
Joon-jae comes home to the sounds of loud music from Chung’s room, and finds her lying in bed looking ill. He checks on her in concern, but she pushes him away and says with irritation that she wants him to leave her alone to her thoughts. She’s been struggling to get her thoughts in order, but the idea of him being able to hear them has made her unable to work through anything, and she snaps that she hates the idea that he can hear what she’s thinking.
She says she’ll leave so she can think, and Joon-jae hastily replies that he’ll leave instead, so she can think as much as she wants. But first he pulls her in an embrace, asking if she’s truly okay. Joon-jae says he’ll sleep on the sofa, assuring her that he won’t be able to listen in from there. He even offers to tell her if he can hear anything, to ease her mind.
Joon-jae heads out to the couch where Nam-doo is resting, and says that Chung wanted him to leave so she could think. Nam-doo guesses that Chung’s found out something undesirable about Joon-jae, and although Joon-jae says that there’s nothing left that he’s hiding, Nam-doo contradicts him: When a woman needs space to think, it means the guy has done something wrong, and she’s thinking about how to react. Joon-jae tries to figure out what that might be.
Stepmom urges Dae-young to tell her what he can remember, so he lists them off: the orphanage, Kang Ji-hyun, and various people he doesn’t recognize, all dead with various wounds. “I can hear the screams of dead people,” he says, “but I don’t know why they’re doing that to me.”
Stepmom tells him that even without his memories, “Ma Dae-young is Ma Dae-young,” and describes him as someone who took his revenge, no matter what. That doesn’t ring any bells for Dae-young, who shrugs it off.
So Stepmom reminds him that the world threw him away, and that he always felt like he was being stepped on and therefore took his revenge on that world. She chalks up his memory loss to his anger management problems, saying that it must be a side effect of losing control. The she smiles at him, telling him not to worry, since he has her: “I’ll tell you who your revenge is on.” Sure you will, lady.
In the morning, Joon-jae wakes Chung for breakfast and makes a show of the huge headphones he’s wearing, assuring her that he can’t hear anything. Aw, I love you. You’re sweet.
He keeps the headphones blaring music as he cooks, and proceeds to shout at his roommates. Tae-oh snatches the headphones away, since they’re his, and Joon-jae wonders why his throat is so hoarse. Then Chung shows up and Joon-jae hurriedly shoves the headset back over his ears.
Detective Hong gets pushback from his boss about the evidence against Stepmom being obtained illegally, and argues that Joon-jae is family and was let inside the house without breaking or entering. The boss points out that he was wearing exterminator’s clothing, and Detective Hong argues, “He just likes that kind of clothing. That’s his personal preference!”
He presses his boss, saying that the pills are a powerful paralytic, and that she used them on the chairman before using the needle on his cornea. Still, the boss refuses to proceed with a warrant.
While Detective Hong stakes out the Heo mansion with Joon-jae, he fills him in on his meeting with Dad’s doctor. The doctor confirmed that the needle damage could have been the source of the chairman’s deteriorating eyesight, and said he’d need his cornea transplant soon. Tae-oh
hacks into the system to get info on the lawyers involved in the chairman’s will, and Detective Hong sighs at the ease of the hack and closes his eyes (literally and figuratively) to it, saying that he didn’t see anything.
Stepmom checks her pill stash, then calls in the housekeeper to ask if anybody has been in the room. Tae-oh’s hack into the security system allows the stakeout team to hear her conversation, and now that they know she’s suspicious, it puts the pressure on them to act quickly. Joon-jae decides that tomorrow will be their D-Day, with or without that warrant.
When Stepmom brings Dad his medicine, he doesn’t take it right away—Joon-jae’s words have triggered suspicions, and he tucks the pills into a crumpled tissue and tosses it into the trash.
But just around the corner is Stepmom, having seen the whole thing. Ack! Just when I was getting excited that he was onto something! His hesitation to take the pills have made her wary, and now she knows he mistrusts her.
Joon-jae’s mother visits Manager Nam in the hospital, and his wife is happy to hear of her reunion with Joon-jae. She’s afraid to be too hopeful about Ajusshi recovering from his coma miraculously, saying that they’ve never been blessed with much luck. Mom tells her reassuringly that there’s a balance to fortunes, and that they’ve simply used up their bad luck, and have good luck ahead of them.
In his coma, Ajusshi continues to dream of his Joseon counterpart, fleeing with Dam-ryung’s hidden scroll. He trembles as he hides, only to be found by one of his pursuers: Joseon Nam-doo. Ajusshi’s fingers move more as he dreams.
Nam-doo meets with a manager at the aquarium posing as an investor for a new aquarium project, saying that he’s in research mode. He feigns interest in the amounts of money that a whale, for instance, might be worth, and then asks about a real, live mermaid. The manager says that the closest anyone’s ever gotten to one is finding a potential mermaid corpse that was never confirmed to be genuine, but speculates that a real mermaid would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. You can practically see the dollar signs light up in Nam-doo’s eyes.
A brief flashback shows us that Nam-doo had followed his hunch to Chung’s room, where he’d found her jar full of pearls. Then, he’d overheard the late-night poolside conversation between Joon-jae and Chung, when Joon-jae had teasingly called her a flighty mermaid.
Chung calls over her fashionista friend and Yoo-na, and thinks to herself that she wanted to see them one last time before leaving. She knows Yoo-na can hear her thoughts and motions for her not to say anything, then thanks the girl for being her first friend, saying that she occasionally felt like Chung’s unni. She calls Fashionista her teacher, telling her how smart she is: “It was a stroke of good luck that I met you.” Chung pulls them in for a three-way hug.
Shi-ah calls Joon-jae to request a talk, so he meets her at a cafe and opens with the news of his mother. Shi-ah tries to make it sound like she’d felt close to her housekeeper all along and thinks maybe it’s fate that she turned out to be his mother. He asks how that would be fate, and she nervously makes her confession: that she likes him as a man.
She admits that she’s looked more at his back than at his eyes over the years, and that she knows there’s someone else in his heart, but says she can wait. She knows how interesting and appealing Chung is, but thinks she’ll be leaving at some point anyway.
Joon-jae cuts her off to tell her not to wait, and that Chung isn’t going anywhere: “And if she were to go anywhere, I would follow here there.” He urges Shi-ah not to wait for him, and to find someone who will look her in the eye rather than show her his back. He apologizes for not saying this sooner, and Shi-ah blinks away her tears.
Joon-jae finds Chi-hyun waiting outside his house, and the two face off contentiously. Chi-hyun accuses Joon-jae of sneaking into his house, while Joon-jae, angry about his father’s condition, decks him in the face. Chi-hyun tries and fails to punch him back, and Joon-jae socks him a second time.
Chi-hyun sneers that Dad doesn’t want a con artist for a son, and that he’d said having Chi-hyun was enough. Joon-jae grabs him by the lapels, asking why Chi-hyun hadn’t told him of Dad’s eyesight. Chi-hyun replies, “I did tell you. You ignored it.”
“And that it was your mother’s doing?” Joon-jae asks. Chi-hyun stiffens, and Joon-jae guesses that he’d known what she was doing and just (hur?) turned a blind eye. “Why, you crazy bastard?” Joon-jae yells. He tells Chi-hyun to stop Stepmom, warning that he’ll act if he doesn’t: “If you keep going, you and your mother will both die. I’ll see to it.”
Joon-jae starts to walk away, but Chi-hyun stops him with the accusation that he’d used Chung as a distraction to lure Chi-hyun out of the house. This is news to Joon-jae, but he doesn’t betray it to Chi-hyun.
Back in the house, Joon-jae hears more music blaring from Chung’s room and finds her lying in bed again, brooding. He takes a seat next to her and asks her to share all those thoughts she wants to keep him from hearing.
Chung tells him of that jade bracelet she’d found in the sea, which she’d thought a chance discovery. But she realizes it wasn’t coincidence, and that the moment she found it is when their fate began repeating.
“I’d always wanted to know why I crossed that wide ocean to come here,” she tells him. “But that was fate too. One that shouldn’t have started again.” She reminds him of his story about Dam-ryung and Se-hwa living happily ever after, and knows that it’s a lie. In the end, they both died because of each other, she says, in the cold water.
He’s stunned that she knows that, and she explains her encounter with Dae-young, and how she saw his memories as she erased them. She realized then what Joon-jae had meant by his bad dreams, and says, “I was your most feared dream. Right?” And even knowing how their fate ended up, he would have repeated them.
He denies it, saying that they won’t repeat. She says she should never have come, and he asks, “Do you regret it? Meeting me, coming here, and being together?”
A montage reminds us of their time together, from their meeting in Spain to their reunion in Seoul, and all the sweet moments as they grew closer. Chung answers, “No. I don’t regret it. How could I regret it?”
Joon-jae tells her he felt the same when he found out; he couldn’t regret any of it, either. “No matter how I thought of it, meeting you wasn’t something I could feel regret about.”
She says she’s scared he’ll die because of her, but he replies that even if that were to happen, her heart must go on beating: “You should know by now, that even if I’m not next to you, I’ll still continue loving you.”
Tae-oh answers a call from Shi-ah, who wails at him tearfully that this is all his fault. He finds her at the noraebang where she’s working out her heartbreak by sobbing out sad love songs, and watches with some exasperation at first, then amusement. Oh, we’re doing this then? Consolation romance?
She asks if he was this sad too (when she rejected him, ha), and cries that it feels like her heart is ripping apart. Tae-oh takes a seat by her and lets her cry on his shoulder.
Chairman Heo wakes in bed that night and cautiously makes his way outside, stopping when he hears Stepmom telling somebody to stay in the empty basement. She’s in her parlor with Dae-young, and gives him instructions on avoiding being seen.
Detective Hong, still staking out the house from the street, hears this via the hacked security system, and wonders how this person got into the house without their notice. The only way is if someone had been in her car when she came home.
Chairman Heo quietly works his way down the staircase as Stepmom tells Dae-young that the chairman will recognize his voice as his new secretary’s, and instructs him to act like he’s helping him while ensuring that he doesn’t go anywhere, and to prevent him from making any calls. All through this lecture, Dae-young registers no recognition of any of these people or details, and Stepmom exclaims in frustration that they’re so close to their goal.
Dad seems to realize what this means, and hurries to go back upstairs without being seen. Unfortunately, his foot misses a step and makes a loud thump, which draws Stepmom’s attention.
She comes out of the parlor to look around, and shakes aside her suspicion when she doesn’t see anybody—and then catches a glimpse of Chairman Heo crouching in the shadows. Dammit, can’t the man ever catch a break?
Detective Hong replays the audio of that conversation to Joon-jae’s team, but because Dae-young never said a word, they’re left to guess at the other person’s identity. But when Stepmom mentions him not being able to remember anything, Chung speaks up, naming Dae-young, knowing that he has no memory. The detective asks why he would have forgotten everything, but Joon-jae steps in to tell him to ask the man himself.
Chairman Heo turns off his phone and slides it under his bed. Stepmom brings him his medicine and says she’ll be leaving for the evening, then asks where his cell phone is. He says he doesn’t know, so she gives it a call, and smiles in satisfaction at the automated voice telling her that it’s off.
He calls her back with one last question, asking if she’s ever loved him in all the time they’ve been together. She replies that she’s never not loved him, and leaves.
Once he hears the door close, the chairman throws out the pills and takes a drink of water—and pauses at the strange taste, since he can’t see that the water is dark brown. Nor does he see Stepmom, standing inside the room, watching like a creepo.
The detective on stakeout spots Stepmom leaving the house and follows, while she makes a call to Chi-hyun to suggest meeting for drinks “in a place with lots of people.” Is she making an alibi? Chi-hyun registers the statement with alarm and declines, saying that he’ll be busy, and then orders his driver home.
In his bedroom, the chairman is hit with massive chest pain and clutches his heart. He fumbles under the bed for his phone, and manages to turn it on and hit Number 1 on speed dial… which, aw, is Joon-jae’s number.
But Joon-jae is out in the living room with his team, while his phone rings in vain on his nightstand. Noooooooo! Why are phones always on vibrate in crucial situations?
Dad gets voicemail, and starts to leave a message. Meanwhile, Dae-young gets to work clearing out all the wolfsbane from Stepmom’s parlor.
Chi-hyun arrives to see Dae-young with the flowers, and hurries inside the house.
Soon afterward, Joon-jae checks the message on his phone, bolting to his feet when his father says in a pained voice, “Joon-jae-ya, I was wrong…” He leaves the house in a hurry, telling Nam-doo that he might not come home tonight… and then Nam-doo eyes Chung with an unnerving look. Uh-oh.
As Joon-jae speeds to his father’s house, we hear the rest of that phone message: “Your father’s choices were wrong from the very beginning through the end. Why was that so hard to acknowledge? Why did it take me so long? I missed you. I wanted to return to when it was us, with you and your mother. Why did I ignore those feelings? What was so hard about saying the words I was wrong? I regret it so much, Joon-jae-ya.”
Joon-jae drives faster, and pulls up in front of an ambulance. He races inside the gate, then freezes to see the medics carrying out a body on a stretcher, face covered by a sheet. Joon-jae looks at the body with trepidation as his father’s message continues, “If I could do it over, I want to go back to being my wife’s husband, and my son’s father. That’s probably me being greedy. I’m sorry, Joon-jae-ya.”
Slowly, Joon-jae works up the nerve to approach the body, and pulls back the sheet. Crap, it’s his father.
“I love you, my son,” the message concludes. Joon-jae flinches back from the stretcher, saying in disbelief that it’s not time yet. He falls to his knees as the medics load the body into the ambulance and breaks down into big, gasping sobs.
“It’s not time yet,” Joon-jae cries. “Dad!”
Poor Joon-jae. Even through the last scene, I was half-expecting the show to twist the scenario and save Dad, for multiple reasons: First, it would give Joon-jae a chance to have a face-to-face reconciliation (that phone message was acceptable, I suppose, but not fully satisfying), and for the chairman to actively denounce his wife rather than merely realize her perfidy quietly before dying, and would also give Chi-hyun the chance to be the better man. (The show has kept him on that verge all this while, and when he denied his mother’s invitation and raced home, I really thought he might have a shot at saving his father.)
But the chairman died, and I suppose it allows the story to head in a different direction and provide Joon-jae with fresh motivation. It’s one thing to fight your step-family for a chunk of an inheritance you don’t really want, but it’s another to be driven to avenge a father’s murder. I feel moved by the death inasmuch as it affects Joon-jae, but to be honest I wish the show had been sharper with this plot point, because I didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy left for the poor chairman after he turned Joon-jae away and gave his poisoner more opportunities to do him in. I did appreciate the chairman’s turnaround at the end, because it was so unequivocally repentant, and there’s satisfaction in hearing him concede to everything Joon-jae had charged him with. But the satisfaction is dimmed in knowing that it came too late, and that he was the foolish one for walking into his own demise. I mean, it’s not his fault that somebody was trying to kill him, and nobody deserves to be murdered, no matter how stupid they are—it’s just that at a certain point, you have a hand in keeping yourself safe, and wearing those blinders sealed his doom.
I was relieved that Chung didn’t run away, as the previous episode seemed to hint, although that doesn’t guarantee that she no longer plans to. Perhaps she still will make the attempt, but I was glad that Joon-jae got the chance to draw it out of her and make all the assurances he could, like telling her that he would continue to love her no matter what happened to him. He also swore to follow Chung even if she did leave (even if he didn’t say that bit to her), so I think we’ve established pretty clearly that it does no good for Chung to run away in order to protect him. Ahem. I hope she’s listening to this.
This does leave me wondering what’s left ahead of us, because the story seems to be winding to a close, and we know who all the baddies are and the path seems rather clear to making a case for capturing them. Dae-young is probably a threat as long as he’s alive, as is Chi-hyun, but the former has been neutralized and the latter is still more reactive than proactive. I suppose that does leave Nam-doo… and sometimes the dormant threats are the ones with the most power to blow things up.