It’s not hard to fall for a hero like Joon-jae, who’s in pretty deep now and not even trying that hard to deny it anymore. He’s gone from being reluctant to help her to being reluctant to admit he likes helping her, but it’s plain for us to see, and that’s what I love about these kinds of scenarios: that the character thinks he’s attuned to his feelings, when we know better. Muahaha.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Joseon. Dam-ryung rides furiously back to town, after hearing that Lord Yoon and his gisaeng partner are going after the mermaid.
It’s Dam-ryung’s sidekick who gets to Se-hwa first and ushers her out of the house, thankfully. So when gisaeng Hong-ran charges in with her entourage in tow, the room is empty. Hong-ran vows to show what she can accomplish when she puts her mind to it. Nothing good, I’m sure.
Dam-ryung’s sidekick leads Se-hwa to a cave, then sighs at her willingness to trust a stranger, not having even known who he was. He identifies himself as Dam-ryung’s friend, defining the word as “someone who, even when a person says unbelievable things, believes him. And if that person loves someone, he helps protect her.”
He instructs her to stay while he fetches Dam-ryung. As he leaves, he comments to himself that he can see why Dam-ryung was captivated.
He doesn’t get very far when Lord Yoon’s henchmen spot him, and they chase him through the woods and along a rocky cliff. The friend loses his footing, falling down to certain death.
Dam-ryung arrives home to see the place ransacked. Heading out, he scours the snowy forest searching for Se-hwa, while she waits in the cold cave. Finally, his torch goes dark.
In Seoul, Joon-jae waits at the top of Namsan Tower, not knowing Chung has been hit by a car, or that she’s being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
Joon-jae’s stepbrother Chi-hyun, the driver of that car, follows to the hospital. She was found without ID or a phone, so the hospital hopes she will wake and identify herself.
As Joon-jae drives out of the parking area, something catches his eye—the flyers that scattered when Chung was hit, which he’d seen her passing out. He finds a cell phone on the ground and calls 1 on speed dial. Sure enough, he’s on the receiving end of that call.
He starts calling around to ask about accident victims, but is told that the snow has caused so many accidents that it’ll take time to track down the information. Hit with a wave of panic, he remembers all the times Chung sweetly showed him concern, and starts going from hospital to hospital, asking after a young woman with long hair and white skin who’s very beautiful. No dice, though.
Chairman Heo sends his close subordinate, Manager Nam, home to fetch a black tie for a funeral. His wife (Joon-jae’s stepmother) is expecting him and hands him the tie, saying that her husband just called. But when Manager Nam delivers the tie, the chairman belatedly realizes he forgot to call his wife to cancel dinner. The discrepancy strikes Manager Nam as odd.
The chairman arrives at the same hospital that Joon-jae does, though they don’t see each other. Joon-jae tears into the ER, fixated on finding Chung—and this time he does.
Taking in her scratched-up, unconscious form, he approaches looking stricken. He checks Chung’s temperature and yells at a nurse for not looking after her. The nurse assures him that Chung checked out fine, but when rechecking, it’s clear Chung’s vitals have worsened and doctors are hurriedly called.
Joon-jae stands by helplessly as the doctor begins defibrillation. Scenes of Dam-ryung and the mermaid flash by—in Chung’s mind, it seems.
Chung flatlines, and Joon-jae is overcome with emotion as he takes hold of her hand. More flashes of the past depict Dam-ryung’s meeting with the mermaid, her release into the sea, and their handclasp afterward.
And as Joon-jae clasps Chung’s hand tightly, her eyes flutter open.
She calls his name, and he looks up with red eyes, staring in disbelief. She tells him she dreamt a dream: “You took my hand. You saved me.”
At home, Nam-doo guesses that Joon-jae went clubbing after kicking out poor Chung, sighing that Joon-jae learned bad behavior from him and has become “an even worse guy than me.” When Joon-jae calls, he picks up with a grumpy, “What do you want, Worse Guy?”
He flatly rejects Joon-jae’s request to dummy up a fake identity with health insurance coverage, but the instant he hears it’s for Chung, both guys jump up to comply asap. Aw, Tae-oh’s budding puppy crush on Chung is pretty adorable.
Now that Chung is awake, she’s loving this evidence of Joon-jae’s concern and confirms multiple times that he was worried. Discomfited at his own reaction, Joon-jae tries to act like it’s just because it would be a huge inconvenience if something happened to her, but that doesn’t dim her giddiness at all.
He insists that he’s scolding her for not looking at traffic when crossing the street, only to get slapped upside the head by Nam-doo, who scolds him for scolding. (Tae-oh glares like an angry puppy.)
Nam-doo takes care of the paperwork with the manufactured documents, and overhears doctors talking about Chung being a goner and how shocked they were that she came back.
Meanwhile, Chi-hyun talks to the police, and since he tested negative for drunk driving and reported the accident immediately, they feel confident he can settle the matter without much fuss. But when he turns, both he and Joon-jae are startled to recognize each other.
Joon-jae stiffens to realize that his stepbrother was the one who hit Chung, while Chi-hyun says she was the one who darted in front of him, calling it an inadvertent accident.
That phrase flashes them back to their adolescent years, when Teenage Chi-hyun had insisted he’d accidentally broken Joon-jae’s framed family photo. Teenage Joon-jae hadn’t believed it, pointing out that the way the glass shattered indicated that he’d thrown it on purpose. But their father had just scolded Joon-jae for keeping the photo (which included his mother) instead of getting rid of it, as Stepmom wanted.
Then after Dad had left, Chi-hyun had smirked tauntingly and Joon-jae punched Chi-hyun, knocking him down on the shattered glass. Dad had rushed to Chi-hyun’s side, knocking Joon-jae down on top of the glass too, then slapped his face hard. He’d ushered Chi-hyun to the hospital, while Joon-jae was left with untended cuts.
So now, Joon-jae faces Chi-hyun with cold eyes, saying that Chi-hyun doesn’t have “inadvertent accidents.” He deduces that Chi-hyun was doing something sneaky and asks if Chi-hyun has been investigating him—and did he hit Chung on purpose? Joon-jae guesses that it was his brother who put a tail on him the other day—either that, or Chi-hyun’s mother.
At that, Chi-hyun’s face freezes, although he feigns skepticism: “Why would she have you followed? Like you’re anybody?”
Joon-jae replies, “I’m my father’s real son.” Score a hit. Joon-jae dismisses Chi-hyun to go back to acting the faithful son to his dad.
It looks like those words sting Chi-hyun, but when he answers a call from his father, it’s Joon-jae’s turn to look bothered.
Joon-jae watches from a distance as his father and stepbrother head home together, stepping away just as Manager Nam gets a glimpse of him.
Chung gets her leg wrapped and is wheeled to her bed. She asks if she’s meant to live here now, and thinks of Shi-ah’s definition of marriage as living in one house with someone you love and taking care of each other. Indicating the other patients, she asks, “Am I marrying these people?” That gets strange looks, and when she asks the old man next to her if they’re married, his wife glares at her.
Chung sighs, “I’m so happy! Today I marry here, and later I’ll have to marry Heo Joon-jae!” The doctor notes that she should be given a brain scan. Tae-oh, meanwhile, steps aside and sighs to himself that she’s cute.
When the meals are wheeled in, Chung watches the trays being distributed and licks her chops, particularly at her neighbor’s jjamppong (seafood noodle soup). But she gets bypassed, and the nurse informs her that she gets no food because of potential surgery. Chung misunderstands “no food” as some sort of dish name and says that it sounds wonderful; she’ll be pleased to have her no food right away. Learning what that actually means, her face crumples.
At home, Joon-jae lights up when Chung calls, although he’s careful to sound indifferent. He has to hold back his laughter at Chung’s melodramatic reaction at being forced to fast.
Chung says in despair: “When I close my eyes, they wander in front of me. The jjamppong. I can’t sleep… because of the jjamppong.”
Joon-jae puts in a call to the hospital, reasoning that there’s no reason to go to such extremes, saying that she’ll go out of her mind if she doesn’t eat.
In the morning, Joon-jae hovers outside Chung’s hospital room, sneaking a look inside to see her reaction when she gets her special jjamppong breakfast. He smiles as she dives into her food, then asks himself why this makes him so pleased.
Chung calls to tell Joon-jae of her special meal, and he curtly says he’s busy and hangs up. He walks off smiling.
That smile fades when he comes face to face with his father’s aide, Manager Nam, in the lobby. The ajusshi chides Joon-jae for cutting off contact and hands him homemade tea that he knows Joon-jae likes.
He fusses over Joon-jae in a fatherly manner, and it makes Joon-jae think back to being a young boy, crying over his mother. It was Manager Nam who had offered him tea (aw, young Nam is Dam-ryung’s faithful Joseon friend) and comforted him.
He’d told Child Joon-jae that he couldn’t bring his mother back, but that he’d protect him. Joon-jae had snapped, “Who are you to do that?” Manager Nam replied, “I’m Joon-jae’s friend.”
Then, years later, after his father fussed over his brother and left Teenage Joon-jae with a bloody arm, it was the ajusshi who came to tend to his cut. Joon-jae had declared then his intent to move out and find his mother, living with her in a grand house of their own: “So you look after Father, Ajusshi.”
Thinking of that declaration, Joon-jae muses that ajusshi kept his promise, while Joon-jae has yet to fulfill his. Manager Nam explains that the chairman is looking for Joon-jae, and that he’s started to put his affairs in order. Joon-jae requests to be left out of those affairs.
Manager Nam says that this is how family is—that it’s difficult to say you miss them, or that you’re sorry, but that his father does want to see him. Joon-jae just excuses himself. In the distance, keeping close tabs is hit man Dae-young, disguised as a patient.
Chung tunes into her drama with her neighbor ajumma, just in time to find out who the secret father is. The ajumma shocks Chung by guessing correctly before the revelation, and explains that it’s obvious that it’s the chairman, just because that’s how it always is.
Then ajumma accurately predicts everything in a typical scene of a rich mother trying to buy off her son’s girlfriend and flinging water in her face. Chung is astonished, and the ajumma’s explanation makes her conclude, “If you don’t take the money envelope, will you get hit with water? I can’t get hit with water. I’d get into big trouble.”
That leads to a discussion of the rich mom not being able to accept the girl as family, and the meaning of family. The ajumma points out that everybody in this room is family, taking care of each other when they’re sick. Chung says family is like those pastries shaped like fish: They look alike, and they’re warm and sweet.
Nam-doo fills Shi-ah in on Chung’s accident and marvels over how un-ordinary she is, and how she revived immediately when she could have died. Shi-ah wonders if she’s a zombie, recalling how Chung bit her, and Nam-doo advises her to get vaccinated just in case.
Shi-ah complains about Joon-jae continuing to act the guardian after he’d kicked Chung out, and Nam-doo explains that Joon-jae thinks she has something to do with his lost memories from Spain. Nam-doo’s guess is that Chung’s a chaebol with amnesia, and the explanation for her hardy health is because she spent a lifetime eating expensive herbal medicines. Shi-ah guesses beggar.
Chung wheels herself outside for fresh air, where she spots a woman holding a sign accusing the hospital of malpractice, demanding the truth of her daughter’s death. The hospital’s deputy director chews out security for not getting rid of the woman and orders his lawyer to go after her for every possible offense.
The kind-hearted security guard gets berated and slapped around when he tries to stand up for the lady. The deputy director reminds him who signs his paychecks and threatens to cut off his food supply—and, well, that sparks Chung’s temper.
With an ungodly scream, she launches herself at the deputy director with a foot to the face, and sends him flyyyyying to the ground. She’s horrified that he’d make a man starve, saying that an empty stomach is a fearsome thing.
That gets her in trouble with the hospital, of course, and the deputy director is all ready to sue. A doctor asks for an explanation, and Chung tells him it was “give and take”—the deputy director kicked the other man, so she returned the deputy director’s kick.
The deputy director accuses her of trying to scam the hospital for money and calls for his legal team, threatening to “feed her bean rice” (a euphemism for sending someone to prison). Chung whispers to the doctor: Is bean rice tasty?
As Chung leaves the meeting, she finds the protesting mother waiting for her, who’s sorry that Chung got into trouble on her account. The mom tells her about losing her sweet daughter in a simple surgery, crying that if she’d known she’d be gone so soon, she’d have done more for her daughter while she was here. Her guilt keeps her up at night, thinking of everything she couldn’t do for her child.
Chung listens sympathetically, then offers to share a secret with her. “I can erase people’s memories,” she says. “If you want, I will erase them for you—the memories making you sad. If you don’t think of your daughter, it won’t give you sadness or pain.”
The woman thinks of all those happy times she spent with her daughter, all the way up to the surgery that killed her, and surprises Chung by declining, saying that she’ll keep her memories until she dies.
Chung asks why, and the mother replies that it allows her to love: “Rather than being unable to love my daughter because I can’t remember her, it’s better to live remembering her, even if it’s painful.”
The boys watch footage of Chung’s flying kick with amazement, and wonder what to do about the deputy director’s threat to sue. As usual, Joon-jae disavows intent to help, and this time Nam-doo bluffs that he won’t help, either.
That wasn’t what Joon-jae was expecting, and you can see him thinking up a way around this as he reminds Nam-doo of how important manners are to him. So while he’s totally fine to ignore Chung’s predicament, it’s the rudeness that sticks in his craw. Ergo, “Let’s swindle this rude jerk.”
The team gets to work setting up the con, which centers around the hospital director’s son, who is arriving from the States to assume a management position. With the director out of the country, it’s crucial for the deputy director to get in good with the son.
With a few well-placed hacks, the team is able to substitute Joon-jae in as the son—an irritated son who had to wait at the airport because the deputy director didn’t send anybody. He’s dressed like a pop diva with major attitude, and the deputy director bows and scrapes in apology.
Joon-jae borrows the director’s phone to call “Dad” and complain about his poor reception, making the deputy director sweat even more. In reality, Joon-jae swaps devices before making the call and hands off the deputy director’s phone to Tae-oh.
At the airport, Nam-doo picks up the real director’s son and takes him on a roundabout drive around Seoul with a bunch of wrong turns. Tae-oh hacks his way into the deputy director’s locked office, then into his devices to find his private files. He finds the surgery records of that protestor’s daughter, which have been modified to cover up a mistake.
Meanwhile, Joon-jae lets the deputy director take him on a tour, at which point he starts sniffing in distaste. He pinpoints the source of the disgusting odor as the deputy director himself, and suggests that there’s something foul about him.
He means figuratively, and soon sits him down in front of a pile of evidence about his corrupt activities: malpractice, bribery, embezzlement. He threatens to send this evidence to the press, and Tae-oh readies to do so with one press of a computer button. “He has a hand tremor,” Joon-jae warns.
The deputy director offers to pay him off, but Joon-jae decides he’d rather have the man pay it off in good deeds, starting with letting go of Chung’s kicking incident.
Next, he has him apologize to the security guard he kicked. Lastly, he makes the deputy director approach the protesting mother and hand over her daughter’s surgery records. The deputy director admits to the mistake and the cover-up and informs her that legal will contact her regarding compensation.
Joon-jae waves at him from a distance, confirming that he’s complied… and then Tae-oh hits Enter anyway. “Oops,” he says. “A mistake.”
Chung chows down on dinner and tells her roommates that she likes the hospital and the food. When the doctor comes by to check on her condition, she confirms that she’s fine.
He informs her that she’s ready to go home, and Chung looks at him in dismay, thinking she’s being kicked out again. “Is it because I eat a lot?” she asks. “It must be. Can I not eat and not go home?” She laments to herself that she has no home to return to.
Just then, Joon-jae’s voice calls out, “Let’s go home!” He stands there all back-lit like a romantic hero, and Chung cheers up instantly, running over with no sign of pain to her broken foot.
Joon-jae asks the doctor if she’s really okay, and the doctor has to figure that since Chung is completely healed, there must have been a mix-up in the test results when she was first examined in the ER.
As they drive off, Chung asks Joon-jae when the next first snow will fall. He laughs that she’ll have to wait till next year, since it only comes once a year, and Chung says disappointedly, “Then I won’t get to see a first snow.”
He looks over in surprise, asking if she plans on being elsewhere next year. Clearly he must have assumed she’d still be around, and this thought dampens his mood.
Chung asks what kind of love would make people still want to remember it, despite it bringing pain. Joon-jae looks at her intently and once more hears the whispered words from the beach, “I love you.” He shakes it off.
Then he gets an idea, and tells her although that the first snow is over in Seoul, it’s not over in other places. He asks if she wants to go there, and she readily agrees.
Nam-doo requests copies of medical records and presents the requisite agreement forms. Am I supposed to find this suspicious? Because I’m a little suspicious.
Manager Nam informs Chairman Heo that he met Joon-jae—and once again, the conversation in the car is being eavesdropped on by Stepmom. Manager Nam says that Joon-jae isn’t ready yet, and promises to try again. Stepmom doesn’t look worried, and in fact almost smiles.
The chairman thanks the manager for always being there for him, and asks him to be sure to get Joon-jae to see him—he has a lot to say to him. After dropping off the chairman, Manager Nam catches a glimpse of his black box and discovers a small device attached to it. Immediately, he suspects Stepmom.
A tap sounds at the window, and he finds hit man Dae-young grinning down at him. He holds a screwdriver in his hand. Gulp.
Joon-jae takes Chung to the ski slopes and tells her he worked really hard finding a place that had the most snow. She gawks in wonder.
He takes her to get fitted for snow gear, and gets a little starry-eyed when she emerges looking like a model in a ski catalog. He even gets a little jealous when she attracts stares.
He kneels down to help get her boots on, and suddenly has a flashback of slipping a shoe onto her foot while in Spain. He can’t quite place it but notes the familiar sense of deja vu.
On the slopes, Joon-jae starts to teach Chung the proper basic snowplow, only to have her speed down the hill ahead of him before he can tell her how to stop. She doesn’t understand his shouted instructions, and while it’s only a bunny slope, she’s well out of control and in screaming in panic.
Joon-jae takes off down the hill after her while she screams his name, and manages to overtake her. Skidding to a stop at the base of the hill, he throws aside his poles and faces her with arms outstretched. He catches her head-on, and they fly backward and tumble on the snow.
They roll to a stop and sprawl on the snow, and Joon-jae starts to laugh, telling her he just saved her life. She agrees, and he takes that as his cue to ask her to do one thing for him.
Chung asks what it is, and he leans up to look her in the eye. Saying that he needs to check something with her, he asks her to say something.
“What words?” she asks. He answers, “I love you.”
And then, snow starts to fall.
In the hospital, when Chung says family is like warm sweet pastries, the drama-watching ajumma adds that family isn’t only about good things. She’s in the hospital after overworking to help repay her son’s debts, for instance.
That’s when Chi-hyun requests to speak with her, and as they sit down in the hospital cafe, Chung warily eyes the glasses of water that are set before them.
Chi-hyun apologizes for the accident and checks that she’s okay, explaining that it was a surprise to realize she knew his brother. Chung’s eyes widen, and when he reaches for his water, she snatches it away and gulps it down. A waitress refills the glass.
As an expression of apology, Chi-hyun takes out an envelope, and Chung looks panicked as she snatches it out of his grasp and tucks it away. She steals his water again and shoots him a glare, making him wonder what’s wrong.
“I don’t want to get hit with water,” she says, “so I took your money envelope. But I can’t break up with Heo Joon-jae. Heo Joon-jae’s Family, I love Heo Joon-jae!”
Aw, what a sweet, satisfying episode. Heo Joon-jae, you big ol’ teddy bear! It was endlessly entertaining to watch him take care of Chung from afar yesterday, but today took things up a notch; he may not be entirely self-aware yet regarding his feelings, but he’s definitely working his way there.
Putting Chung in danger was a quick way to bring out his protective side, and I like that the fantasy aspect of the show lets us mess with medicine in narratively convenient ways, like flatlining Chung and bringing her back. I suppose a non-mermaid could have flatlined too, but there’s a pretty poetry in how it happeend, where she can believe that it was Joon-jae who brought her back and not something so unromantic as science. Also, it contributes to the mystique of the mermaid, since we’re still learning rules about their existence and how they function.
I really liked that flash of raw emotion we saw when Joon-jae thought she’d died, and that look in his eyes when she came back. I like that it scared him enough that he didn’t lie when she asked him to say he was worried about her, and I suspect it will play a large part in his reaction to what sounded like her plans for departure. It was only the barest mention, but he was definitely rattled at the thought that she might not see the next first snow with him, and he didn’t even try to feign disinterest. I like when emotions are prodded into this uneasy territory, where characters are dropped in uncharted waters rather than clinging to warm, safe denial. Keeping a character off-balance keeps his reactions honest, and I love peeling back those protective layers to get to what’s real at the center.
I’m also appreciating the multiple threads that are coming into play, revealing deeper connections between characters and timelines. Dam-ryung’s friend (and Joon-jae’s ajusshi friend) is a good example of this, and presents something of a tragic figure; it feels like he’s the one who quietly helps in the background, his love for the hero going overlooked or underestimated, possibly even bringing him suffering. Dam-ryung’s friend fell off a cliff trying to help him and is very possibly dead; in the future, the ajusshi has been a fond protector figure for years, and may fall victim to a scheme whose ultimate target is Joon-jae. (I wasn’t actually that worried about ajusshi until I remembered the cliff fall at the beginning, and it’s the parallelism that bolstered the moment with extra peril.)
Most of all, I think what I responded to the most in this week’s episodes was seeing Joon-jae taking big steps forward and showing more of himself, because he’s the one with all the walls, the self-defenses, the fake identities and cover stories and escape routes that keep everybody at arm’s length, ready to bolt anytime it seems they might hurt him again. No doubt it’s all rooted in his heavy parental issues, and understandably so. It was cute watching the mermaid fall for Joon-jae, but not necessarily emotional or moving, because it just seemed obvious that she would. Maybe even inevitable. She’s something of a “pure” character in that she’ll love once and only and sees the world in black and white with little nuance. She loves or she doesn’t. She was going to love Joon-jae no matter what, so she did right away.
So it’s more interesting to see him be the one being changed by her, because it means something significant when he breaks a long-held rule for her. He’s the one who has issues with love, so it’s just that extra pinch of poignant when he’s the one who experiences its effects.
Not that she isn’t important, of course, seeing as how she’s quite necessary to the whole process. Never tear them apart! (Can one make a rom-com without an angsty separation? Surely it would be worth a try.)