Okay, now this I want more of. Our hero turns into a hilarious bundle of contradictions today, as the romance progresses to the denial phase and he starts doing the very things he once called idiotic. Luckily for us, he doesn’t seem to have the self-awareness to know why he’s doing any of this, which means that hopefully his antics will just go on and on and on.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Joseon. Mermaid Se-hwa has come to land, and in no time Lord Yang sends henchmen to attack and capture her. She’s about to be fileted when mayor Dam-ryung swoops in like an action hero, wielding his sword and backlit by a halo of sunlight.
The henchmen try to get through him to Se-hwa, but he blocks them with swift, high-flying moves. The men go down one by one, and Dam-ryung takes Se-hwa by the hand to run to safety.
More henchmen arrive to give chase, but Dam-ryung hides them in the field, still holding Se-hwa’s hand tightly in his. Once the coast is clear, he asks if she isn’t hurt, and then adds, “I missed you.” *flutter*
Snowflakes shower down on them as they walk through the field, and Se-hwa stops to gaze at a little flower. He picks it for her and says that all flowers mean something, and this one stands for “something you have, and something I don’t—memories.”
They travel a distance on horseback, and then finally arrive at Dam-ryung’s home by nightfall, where a man watches them arrive. Out in the ocean, three mermaids swim to the surface, and Se-hwa seems to sense them and stops in her tracks. Does she hear them singing, or calling to her, all the way out here?
Lord Yang gets the report that Dam-ryung brought the mermaid to the mayor’s residence, and his gisaeng companion Hong-ran (Joon-jae’s stepmother’s doppelganger in Joseon) is pleased to hear that she walked right into their hands.
They’re interrupted when a shipping merchant comes to complain that Lord Yang is holding the crew at his inn against their will so that they can’t work. Lord Yang says he still hasn’t received their promise to deal exclusively with him, and the merchant flips the table in front of Lord Yang, and spits that he already blocks their shipping routes and steals their livelihood, but they won’t work that hard just to fill his belly. He vows to make Lord Yang’s crimes known publicly.
But the very next morning, fishermen arrive at the shore and find the merchant’s dead body on the beach. At the crime scene, officials tell mayor Dam-ryung that there are no clear indicators of how the man died, and rumors abound that the mermaid coming to land is the cause of this curse.
Dam-ryung notes Lord Yang smiling at him from the crowd, and declares that no funeral will be held until they investigate and find out whether this man was really cursed or murdered.
At the same time, gisaeng Hong-ran storms into the mayor’s compound with a shaman in tow, who supposedly saw that the mermaid was here. She demands to search the place, and the threat of Lord Yang’s power is enough to get her past the guards. One of the minion officers runs to alert Dam-ryung (ha, is that Chun Song-yi’s manager?), and Dam-ryung hurries back.
Meanwhile, Se-hwa sits in a room staring at a vase—it’s the one with a painting of a mermaid kissing a man who’s wearing modern-day clothes, which we’ve seen Shi-ah uncover in the future. Dam-ryung had explained to Se-hwa that he has dreams, and in those dreams he’s living in a strange world, and she’s there too. The drawing on the vase is something he saw in one of his dreams.
Dam-ryung doesn’t know if they’re visions, or just dreams, or premonitions of another world, but he does know one thing: “The things that are happening now will undoubtedly happen then… strangely, like fate is repeating itself.”
As he says the words in voiceover, someone busts into the room where Se-hwa is hiding…
And in the future, hit man Dae-young walks up to a door on a rainy night dressed as a cop, and mermaid Chung opens the door to let him in.
In Joseon, Dam-ryung races down the shore on horseback to return to Se-hwa, and in the present, Joon-jae zooms forward in his car to speed past the police checkpoint and get to Chung.
Seoul, present day. Dae-young is seconds away from gaining entry into the house when Joon-jae screeches to a halt outside, sending traffic cones flying everywhere. He rushes to Chung’s side and immediately notes how suspicious Dae-young looks, with no walkie-talkie and no partner.
Joon-jae asks if he’s really a cop, and Dae-young breaks into a creepy smile before running off, just as the real police arrive (one of them is the doppelganger of the mayor’s minion in Joseon).
Joon-jae tells them to go after the suspicious cop, but they’re more concerned with him blazing past their checkpoint and demand to know why he did it. Joon-jae says that he heard about the murder in the neighborhood and ran home to his girlfriend, who was home all alone.
He holds up their clasped hands and says that he was worried because she’s so easily frightened, which Chung immediately contradicts, heh. He laughs and repeats through gritted teeth that she’s afraid, and she chirps, “I am? I am.”
Joon-jae smoothly hands over a fake ID and waits as they call in to check that he isn’t a criminal, but then he notices Detective Hong, the man who’s been after him for years, coming towards them. Detective Hong catches a glimpse of the back of his head and gets this niggling feeling that he’s seen that man before. He starts to come down the steps…
But just before he comes face to face with Joon-jae, another cop comes by saying that there’s been a sighting of the killer, and the detectives rush off. The tipoff came from Joon-jae’s partner Nam-doo, who’s hiding out across the street and cursing himself for breaking all of his rules for Joon-jae.
The check on Joon-jae’s fake ID comes back clean, of course, though the officer gives him a hairy eyeball and settles for giving him a traffic ticket. Joon-jae makes another show of cooing over Chung and her rattled nerves, and she smiles shyly, loving the attention. The officer wonders why Joon-jae looks so familiar, and why he just doesn’t like the look of the guy. A past life of minionhood will do that to you.
Inside, Chung looks happily down at Joon-jae’s hand still holding hers, but sees blood on his hand and asks if it hurts. He looks startled at her concern but then he remembers to yell at her for opening the door to just anyone. She doesn’t see what the big deal is, saying that he was just a person, not even a shark.
Joon-jae doesn’t see why a shark would ring the doorbell, but he goes with it and argues that people are way scarier than sharks—fewer than five sharks kill humans in a year, while humans kill tens of thousands of sharks.
Chung just interrupts to ask if his hand doesn’t hurt, and again he deflects, arguing that she should worry about herself first before anyone else, frustrated that she put herself in danger. He wonders out loud what he’s doing, and deflates on the couch.
Chung shuffles over and says she’s really curious about something, and asks where all the little people living inside the television went, pointing to the screen and looking behind it. She asks if he can’t get the little people to come back out, because earlier one of them ended their conversation on “Your father is really…!” and then told her to meet back here “next time” to find out the answer.
Joon-jae gets a kick out of messing with her, and says that he knows the little people inside the TV very well because they live in his house. He offers to call them up and ask who the father is. So he calls Nam-doo, and Chung runs over and curls around his shoulders like a cat to listen in on the call.
Nam-doo is naturally confused when Joon-jae calls him and addresses him as if he’s talking to the little people in the TV. Joon-jae chides “them” for not finishing the conversation, and asks who the father is. Nam-doo complains that the question hits a nerve, because he’s an orphan, and Joon-jae acts like he’s just heard the juiciest bit of gossip and hangs up.
Chung is practically drooling for the answer, but Joon-jae tells her that in this world everything is give and take, pointing at her for “give” and himself for “take,” and he refuses to tell her about the birth secret until she fesses up about how they met in Spain and why he can’t remember her. But to his frustration, Chung just says she’ll wait here until “next time” to hear the answer for herself then. She says she’s good at waiting.
Joon-jae grumps and gets up close to say something threatening, except that the proximity just makes Chung bashful. He says that she might be good at waiting, but he isn’t, and gives her until tomorrow to tell him the truth or get out of this house.
Meanwhile, Joon-jae’s stepmom calls hit man Dae-young and yells at him to stick to his orders. He insists that the last killing wasn’t his doing, but she doesn’t believe him, and just asks if he’s found Joon-jae yet.
Joon-jae’s stepbrother Chi-hyun overhears his mother’s conversation and purposely interrupts to ask for a sandwich, and then intercepts a text message from Dae-young giving her Joon-jae’s address.
Chi-hyun memorizes the message and brings the phone to his mother, and drops it into a bowl of water while handing it to her. She tries to contain her frustration, while he plays dumb and offers to buy her a new phone.
Joon-jae is startled awake that night when Chung slooooowly sticks her head out of her loft door and lets her hair hang down like a creepy ghost. She tells him not to mind her: “I just want to look at your face,” she says. She’s overjoyed to learn that they’re home alone for the night, and when he tells her to quit hanging up there like that, she starts to climb down the ladder to be next to him instead of hanging over him.
He threatens to throw her out of the house now instead of tomorrow, so she quickly climbs back up. She tries to keep one eyeball peeking out at him, ha, but he orders her to shut the door. Chung lies awake in bed that night, unable to sleep. She looks over at the clock on her nightstand and stops the second hand from ticking away, wishing that tomorrow wouldn’t come.
In the morning, Chung is reluctant to open the door for Shi-ah, and says that Joon-jae instructed her not to let strangers in. Chung physically holds the gate shut, finally releasing it so that Shi-ah falls to the ground on her way in. Shi-ah fumes, while Chung tells her to stop sitting there and invites her in.
Shi-ah’s blood pressure rises even more when she learns that Chung and Joon-jae were here alone all night, and Shi-ah declares that she and Joon-jae are going to be married. Chung asks what marriage is, and Shi-ah says it’s living together and loving and caring for each other. Chung: “Ah, you mean what Joon-jae and I are doing right now?”
Shi-ah corrects her and says that Chung is mooching off of Joon-jae, sticking onto him like a bedbug and sucking his blood. Chung takes that literally, of course, and cries, “I never sucked his blood!” Shi-ah cuts to the chase and tells her to get out, so Chung starts to growl angrily like an attack dog and chomps down on Shi-ah’s finger.
There’s screaming and flailing and biting, and then we cut to Shi-ah with a bandaged finger and Chung with her head down, as Joon-jae chastises her for biting someone like a dog. Joon-jae tells Chung to get ready to talk or get out, and walks Shi-ah out to the street to catch a cab.
He ignores Shi-ah’s questions about Chung and her chitchat about work, and doesn’t even stop to say goodbye as he catches her a cab and then crosses the street. In her hand is a picture of the vase with a man kissing a mermaid, which Joon-jae never got to see.
Chung watches TV and learns from a drama character that if you confess your love on the first day of snow, your love will come true. She watches the kiss scene gleefully, but her fun is cut short when she hears Joon-jae come home.
She scuttles upstairs to her loft to avoid being thrown out. He scoffs to see that she’s been watching romantic dramas and shuts the TV off, only to have her turn it back on from upstairs repeatedly.
Joon-jae eventually lures her out with the smell of food, and tells her to eat up. But once she’s fed, he hands her a cell phone and a transit card and tells her to get out. He shows her that she can dial “1” on her phone and hear his voice (he’s programmed his number into her phone as “Guy I don’t know that well”), but tells her only to call him when she’s ready to tell him the truth.
Chung asks if now is their “next time,” and he says yes, because he made a promise yesterday. He asks why promises are made, and she remembers from when he taught her the first time and answers, “Promises are made to be kept.”
She agrees to leave if he makes her a promise too, citing his give-and-take rule, and asks for their “next time” to be on the first day of snow. She points up to Namsan Tower and asks to meet there that day, because she has something important to tell him. He wants to hear it now, but she says it has to be that day.
He agrees and steps out of the way for her to go, and she reluctantly heads out. From the terrace, Joon-jae watches her linger outside the gate before walking away, and then he scrambles to his phone to open his tracking app and see where she’s going. Lol, she only just walked out of sight!
He’s determined to watch her every move to find out for himself what her deal is. He expects her to go somewhere revealing, but her first stop is a seafood restaurant, where she pauses to talk to the fish in the tank outside.
She doesn’t have much sympathy for them, saying that she came all this way for one man, and it’s not like she wants something huge. “I just want to live together in a house and love and care for each other,” she says, using Shi-ah’s words to describe marriage.
Back at the house, Nam-doo calls Joon-jae cold-hearted for kicking Chung out in this freezing weather, confused as to why he ran to her like a crazy person one day and then kicked her to the curb the next. Tae-oh just silently holds up articles about how it’s going to be the coldest, snowiest winter and how violent crime is up this holiday season. HA.
Joon-jae smacks Tae-oh on the head for giving him a death-glare, and though he tells the boys that he’s not Chung’s guardian, he goes straight back to his phone to watch where she goes. He sees her heading to Gangnam, and decides to track her down.
Joon-jae walks out in the middle of Nam-doo’s introduction to their new target, which happens to be Shi-ah’s wealthy sister-in-law Jin-joo. Nam-doo says that she’s looking to invest her husband’s slush fund money at the moment, which means that even if she were to get conned out of the entire amount, she couldn’t report it stolen.
As Nam-doo lays this out, we see Jin-joo arrive at the vet with her dog and her housekeeper (Joon-jae’s mom). Twice, the attendants greet the housekeeper as the madam instead of Jin-joo, making her huffy. (I love that Jin-joo swaps dog for purse after it happens the first time, only to have it happen again anyway.)
Jin-joo is so mad about it that she makes snide comments about the housekeeper’s clothes and the way she looks at her, and ends up yelling at her to get out in a fit of anger. Mom trudges to the clothing donation bin to throw out Jin-joo’s clothes as ordered, and huddles there for a while trying not to cry over being fired.
What she doesn’t notice is that Joon-jae’s stepmom drives right past her. Stepmom stops by to thank Jin-joo for the food she sent over the other day, which the chairman particularly liked. Stepmom says that the chairman hasn’t been eating very well lately, but loved the food, and none of them realize that this is because it was made by his first wife. Jin-joo promises to send more any time.
But since it was the housekeeper who cooked all that food, Jin-joo eats her words and puts on a sugary act the minute the housekeeper returns to say dejectedly that she’ll pack her things. Jin-joo insists that when she said “Get out,” she meant for Mom to go outside to throw out the trash, not leave for good.
Gangnam’s homeless fashionista is first on the scene to go through Jin-joo’s clothes, and Chung is right there with her, changing up her look. (I love the show’s excuses for putting the mermaid in new clothes all the time.)
Chung watches all the regular people going home after work and wishes she had a home too, but her friend points out that the bank owns all those houses and they’re technically richer than those people because they have no debt. Chung guesses that this is why Joon-jae is always after money.
Chung asks how you make money, so her friend introduces her to a job handing out flyers in the street. She shows Chung how it’s done and warns her that the manager is watching, and Chung happily begins work, excited to make money and give it all to Joon-jae.
Joon-jae, meanwhile, has been tracking her and is surprised to arrive and see Chung passing out flyers in the street. He sighs and calls her dumb, but then when he hears the manager yell at her for doing a bad job and threaten not to pay her, he gets mad and reports the manager’s illegally parked car to get it towed.
Suddenly Chung hits the jackpot when a group of schoolboys walk up and ask her for some of her flyers. Around the corner, the boys hand the flyers to Joon-jae, who pays them 1,000 won per sheet. That’s so adorable!
After a few hours in the cold, Chung starts to shiver and looks longingly at the people who eat pastries (fish-shaped, natch) as they pass by. All of a sudden, a nice ajumma comes up to her and hands her a bag of pastries and puts a scarf around her neck, and Chung waves at her gratefully.
Around the corner, the ajumma waits for Joon-jae to pay her, and she asks if he’s going to marry that girl, and finds his one-sided love cute. He scoffs and says it’s not like that, not that the ajumma believes him.
Next, a man walks up to Chung and asks for her number, saying that she’s just his type. She starts to take out her cell phone, when Joon-jae calls and tells her never to give out her phone number to anyone. LOL. She asks innocently why, and he says that anyone who asks for her number is a bad man: “You’re good at biting, right? If anyone like that comes on to you, just bite him!”
On cue, Chung goes into attack-dog mode and growls at the man, who scampers away. Chung asks where Joon-jae is, and he answers, “Faaaaaar away from you!”…just as the cart he was crouching behind rolls away, revealing him. Pwahaha, smooooth.
She spots him instantly and bounds over to him, and Joon-jae swears that he was just passing by, and that Seoul is small enough that you can run into anyone coincidentally. Well, you can in this drama. Chung asks if they can run into each other by chance again.
He starts to go and tells her not to call out his name so loudly in the street, so Chung whispers his name into his ear, and adds that she’s working hard to earn money so she can give it all to him. She skips back to work, and he pauses to watch her.
Joon-jae’s stepbrother Chi-hyun seems to have a good relationship with Chairman Dad, who trusts him with work and dotes on him as a son. Chi-hyun asks if Dad doesn’t miss Joon-jae, and offers to look for him.
Dad is grateful for the gesture and says he’s already got people looking for Joon-jae, and Chi-hyun suggests that they keep the search for Joon-jae a secret from his mother. Chairman Dad looks surprised and asks why, and Chi-hyun only answers, “Just because.”
Chung is still handing out flyers as it gets dark, and she stops short when a man in black approaches her and holds out a hand for a flyer. It’s hit man Dae-young, and she seems to recognize him. “You’re wearing a hat again,” she says, and his smile fades. But before he can answer, it starts to rain and Chung runs for cover. Dae-young wonders if she recognized his face.
Meanwhile Chi-hyun is parked outside Joon-jae’s house, contemplating what to do as the rain falls.
Inside, Joon-jae looks out his window at the rain, and sees it turn to snow. The radio announces the first snowfall of the year, and out in the street Chung sticks her hand out as the snow comes down.
Yoo-na, the little girl who bought her a meal the other day, sees Chung standing outside her tutoring academy, and Chung proudly reports that she’s making money now. Chung asks if this is the first snow, and says she has to get to Namsan. Yoo-na somehow reads her thoughts, and asks if she’s going there to meet Joon-jae.
That startles Chung, and she asks, “You heard that? Most people can’t hear my real voice.” The little girl doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but tells her to take a taxi if she has money, or the bus if she doesn’t. Chung thanks her and takes off running.
Joon-jae grumbles at the snow that there are so many things to be annoyed about ever since Chung showed up. He sees on his tracking app that Chung is headed to Namsan as promised, and he whines as he gets dressed, complaining out loud but grinning from ear to ear the whole time. As he drives out, Chi-hyun follows behind him.
Chung gets off the bus just as Joon-jae’s car passes her, and she runs excitedly toward the entrance at the thought of seeing him. Chung stops to look up at the tower, heart filled with excitement, when suddenly a car comes to a screeching halt and she goes down, her flyers fluttering down around her. Ack.
Up ahead, Joon-jae misses the accident entirely and drives in. Chung lies in the road in a heap, and the driver gets out of his car—it’s Chi-hyun, and he looks shaken up.
Joon-jae waits up at Namsan Tower and checks his phone again, wondering where Chung is. He smiles in anticipation and holds out his hand to catch the snow.
Down in the street, Chung’s vision of the tower starts to blur and a tear falls down her face as her eyes close.
Epilogue. Joseon. While initially held captive by Lord Yang, mermaid Se-hwa becomes a target for neighborhood children who throw rocks at her. Se-hwa calls out desperately in her mind, “Help me,” and one little girl—Yoo-na’s doppelganger—stops at the sound of the mermaid’s voice.
The little girl says she heard the mermaid ask for help, but her brother insists that he heard nothing, and drags her away.
Seoul. Little Yoo-na looks out her window at Namsan Tower, far off in the distance. She tells her mom, “Unni asked for help,” and points to the tower, but Mom thinks she’s making things up not to study, and pulls her inside.
Well, I guess that answers the question about how far mermaid telepathy travels. I wonder what makes that little girl so special. The existence of all these doppelgangers and the fact that history is repeating itself so closely in the two timelines is becoming an increasingly interesting part of this world’s mythology. This is especially true now that we’ve learned that the vase is Dam-ryung’s and he’s seeing visions of things that Joon-jae is experiencing centuries in the future—they seem to be visions of his own reincarnated life to come. And if so, why is the past version having visions of the future one, and not the reverse? It’s the backwards time that’s tripping me up, but I’m starting to wonder if they’ll all be stuck in an endless loop until the mermaid changes her fate somehow.
I like this idea that a person’s true nature remains consistent over various incarnations, because it can be played for comedy like in the case of Mom and Jin-joo or the mayor’s minion officer, or used to drive our curiosity like with our villain duo or the little girl who can magically hear mermaids. What we’re starting to see from all of these repeated appearances is that history repeats itself because the souls are fundamentally the same, and they’re drawn to the same people and will make the same choices over and over again. Now I’m waiting to discover more of our present-day cast in Joseon—people like Shi-ah and Nam-doo—because it will ultimately reveal what kind of person we’re dealing with in the future.
I don’t necessarily want to chalk the whole romance up to fate—agency is important and I like that clearly, Joon-jae can choose to walk away at any time—but I don’t mind the notion that it’s in his nature to always choose to go back for the mermaid. Dam-ryung returned to Se-hwa when he didn’t remember her, and it’s the same way that Joon-jae is returning to Chung now—consistent within one character before and after amnesia, and consistent across both characters. I do wish that Chung’s love for Joon-jae carried the same weight as Se-hwa’s, who received the love she wanted and sacrificed it for Dam-ryung’s happiness, but I expect that to develop slowly over the course of the show, because we have history to back us up.
I find Joon-jae’s growing care for Chung to be really heartwarming at this stage, because he’s in denial about it but unable to actually let her go. It makes for some endearing rom-com antics with him trying to look cool and uncaring while being a daddy long legs in the background, and it cracks me up how many times he’s seen her ON THE DAY that he kicked her out. I don’t think this stage with them apart will last very long, especially with that car accident, but if we can get more of Joon-jae coming up with schemes to help Chung without her knowing and the boys giving him a hard time about her, I wouldn’t mind it one bit.