The King 2 Hearts continues to throw me for a loop even as we’re nearing the end of the drama. I doubt anyone suspected what Jae Shin was locking away in her memory, which only confirms further that Bong Goo is one sick mofo. At times ludicrous, when necessary diabolical, he has it out for the South Korean royal family in a way that feels so utterly personal. Now I’m wondering if indeed there is something connecting him to them that has yet to be revealed. I never doubted that Hang Ah will get the Queen Mother to safety, and I trust she’ll endure and survive any situation. I’m so thankful her character acts like a trained North Korean soldier in action.
It hurts to watch Jae Ha unable to do anything in person to save Hang Ah and his mom, except plan and execute his strategy for taking down Bong Goo, because I’m sure he feels so helpless at times. It’s even worse when he’s faced with losing Shi Kyung as a support. Shi Kyung finally discovers the truth about dear old daddy, and combined with watching Jae Shin suffer, that boy finally gets pulled through the ringer. Considering all the pain the main characters have been feeling thus far, it’s high time he joined the angst party.
Episode 17 recap:
Jae Ha tells Shi Kyung to find a way to contact Club M. He wants to tell Bong Goo that he will abdicate. Shi Kyung says this decision needs to be discussed with the government first, but Jae Ha points out that Bong Goo is the king at this time with all the power he wields. Suddenly Dong Ha comes in and tells Jae Ha is told that Club M is calling for him and that Hang Ah is on the other line. Before answering the call, Jae Ha is told that they will do their best to trace the call.
Bong Goo warns Hang Ah before the call starts that the call can’t be traced and he’ll shoot her if she makes even one wrong move. There are many guards surrounding her with guns pointed at her head. He wants her to act all scared and convince Jae Ha to abdicate.
Jae Ha and Hang Ah video chat with each other. He asks if she’s fine, and how his mother is doing? She says both of them are fine. He tells her not to worry and do anything, he’ll handle it. He’s decided that they will live a carefree life from now on. Hang Ah cries, saying she wants to live. Jae Ha looks slightly taken aback at how quickly Hang Ah got onboard, and she theatrically cries and wipes her tears, saying that she wants to live a happy life with Jae Ha
She asks him if he remembers what she said about her ideal man during WOC training. She wants to marry a man she can respect. Doesn’t he remember what he did in the end so they succeeded? Hang Ah also asks if he remembers where he sent the present? Jae Ha gets Hang Ah’s hint that she’s being kept in the location where Jae Ha mailed his video present to Bong Goo.
Bong Goo calls out when he realizes Hang Ah is playing him. Jae Ha hears it and worriedly asks if there is anyone next to her but she says everything is fine. She tells Jae Ha not to abdicate, if she hears that he abdicated, she’ll commit suicide. Bong Goo pulls the plug on the call. Jae Ha tells Shi Kyung that Bong Goo has Hang Ah and the Queen Mother in China, at the location where he mailed the video present.
Bong Goo walks over and asks Hang Ah what that was about? Hang Ah awesomely wipes her tears and leans back in her chair all relaxed and confident. Hang Ah taunts Bong Goo about Jae Ha mailing the video to Bong Goo, which makes it clear she was aware of what Jae Ha had done with Tara. Hang Ah points out that Bong Goo wouldn’t dare kill her, not unless he wants to risk ruining his connections with the US and China. That explains why they only used a scissors to scare the Queen Mother and not actually harm her. She asks him if he’s happy with what he’s done, deliberately calling him Kim Bong Goo. Bong Goo slaps Hang Ah for her insolence.
Bong Goo threatens to hurt Hang Ah even if he doesn’t kill her, hurt her in ways that isn’t obvious. Hang Ah tells him that she’ll kill herself first and wrestles with one of the guards and breaks a pair of sunglasses to use as a weapon which she points at her own neck. She was trained in specials ops and she is equipped with guts to commit suicide when necessary. She tells him not to misunderstand – she’s not dead yet not because she’s scared, but because she has decided she needs to still be alive for now. Hang Ah demands to be brought back to the Queen Mother and she’ll behave.
The Queen Mother is so worried when Hang Ah is brought to her, but Hang Ah assures her that she is fine, laughing that she was just rusty from not working out for so long. The Queen Mother tells Hang Ah that they need to escape, they need to try and run away.
Hang Ah’s dad has joined Jae Ha and Shi Kyung in analyzing Bong Goo’s secret hideout in China. Bong Goo built his lair underground while from above it looks like a normal apartment building.
Hang Ah peeks out the door and notes the guards outside. She thinks back to Bon Bon taking her and the Queen Mother under a tunnel to reach their location. The Queen Mother looks worried. Bong Goo’s right hand man warns him that Korea will surely attempt a rescue operation now. Bong Goo tells him to contact the Chinese government.
Jae Ha tells Shi Kyung and Hang Ah’s dad that the Chinese government has refused them access. They claim Bong Goo is a foreigner and Korea cannot act rashly in apprehending him. The Chinese government has refused to allow the South Korean military entry into the country. Hang Ah’s dad makes a call to North Korea, but Jae Ha says it won’t help since the North Korean government won’t want to ruin relations with China.
Next thing we see is Dong Ha, Young Bae, the other WOC member that is not Shi Kyung, and other Korean military forces in plain clothes and arriving at an airport in China. Jae Ha decides that going the direct route isn’t going to work, then they’ll do it unofficially. He has his rescue team enter China on a tourist visa. This will be a genuine covert rescue operation.
The Queen Mother is holding a lamp and drops it on the floor, shattering it. A guard walks in and Hang Ah expertly disarms him and snaps his neck as the Queen Mother stares in shock. Hang Ah shots some guards in the hallway but she also takes a bullet on the arm. The guards are all alerted to the escape attempt and start chasing after them under the tunnels.
Hang Ah and the Queen Mother hide in the tunnels and barely miss being spotted by Bon Bon. The guards canvass the area and cannot find the hostages. Hang Ah and the Queen Mother escape through the caves. Bon Bon orders them shot if they are found.
The rescue team arrives outside the caves and see the guards frantically searching for something, leading them to surmise that Hang Ah and the Queen Mother must’ve escaped. Hang Ah continues to bleed from her arm wound but she manages to get them out of the caves. Before them is a small river crossing and behind them the guards are catching up to them. Hang Ah says she’ll go find a rope but the Queen Mother says Hang Ah can’t do it with her arm wounded.
Hang Ah says she’s a North Korean officer and she’s strong, but the Queen Mother responds that South Korean women are strong, too. Her oldest child is dead, her youngest is crippled, and her only remaining son is in danger. She’s not going to sit around and wait for her daughter-in-law to save her.
The Queen Mother wades into the river and starts swimming across. You go, granny! Hang Ah watches as the Queen Mother safely reaches the other side. Suddenly Hang Ah hears the guards almost reaching them. Dong Ha and Young Bae discuss their rescue strategy. Young Bae fires a shot into the air to lure some guards towards them.
Hang Ah dives into the water and swims towards the Queen Mother. The rescue team exchanges gunfire with the guards. Hang Ah reaches the other side and begins to run away with the Queen Mother. They can hear the guards gaining on them, so Hang Ah tells the Queen Mother to be strong and start running downhill. The Queen Mother refuses to leave Hang Ah behind but she forces her to go.
Hang Ah then runs in a different direction and fires the gun she took from the dead guard to lure the people pursuing her in another direction. Dong Ha finds the Queen Mother (oh thank god!) and is told that Hang Ah is still back there.
Hang Ah runs deeper into the woods when she loses her footing and falls down a hill. She ends up buried under lots of leaves and appears to have passed out.
Jae Ha walks through the Palace and goes to see his mother, who is recovering in bed with Jae Shin besides her. The Queen Mother beckons Jae Ha over. When he sits down and grabs her hand, he apologizes for what happened to her. The Queen Mother only wants to know if Hang Ah is alright. Jae Ha promises that they will find Hang Ah.
Bong Goo’s right hand man tells him that they found Hang Ah’s gun in the back woods but no sign of Hang Ah. He orders that she be found no matter what.
The Prime Minister isn’t happy that the rescue team went into China covertly, but Jae Ha says they managed to save the Queen Mother. What did the politicians do? Nothing. Jae Ha pulls the Prime Minister close by the man’s suit lapel and demands that they need to do something to save Hang Ah. Does he want Jae Ha to tell the people what they’ve done? Jae Ha sits back down and asks with tears in his eyes for them to please find Hang Ah.
Chinese authorities are canvassing for Hang Ah, calling her a defector from the North. Hang Ah’s dad has someone there who reports back that the Chinese appear to be working with Bong Goo and calling Hang Ah a defector.
Hang Ahs’ dad tells Jae Ha that China won’t even show North Korea a list of all defectors they have in detention. Looks like China is trying to sweep Hang Ah under the rug.
Jae Ha discusses what to do with Shi Kyung, suggesting that Bong Goo be revealed to be an international criminal to the ICC (International Criminal Court) so that Chinese can’t assist him anymore. Shi Kyung asks if Jae Ha has evidence, and Jae Ha doesn’t, but even if he does, there are so many considerations before going this route. It would be tantamount to declaring war with Bong Goo.
Shi Kyung asks Jae Ha to contact Secretary Eun, who can advise them on what to do next. Jae Ha refuses and won’t tell Shi Kyung what happened between them. Shi Kyung starts to suspect and does some digging of his own. He goes to the document repository and finds his father’s resignation letter detailing his wrongdoings. Poor Shi Kyung is stunned as he reads it.
Jae Ha gets a call from Secretary Eun and he reluctantly answers it. Secretary Eun heard Hang Ah is missing, and wants Jae Ha to report Bong Goo to the international authorities. He will be a witness. Jae Ha says he thought about it but there is no definitive proof since there was no recording of any of the conversations. Even if Secretary Eun testifies, Bong Goo can easily claim he’s an unreliable witness. Jae Ha asks if he’s considerations are off the mark. Secretary Eun remembers Shi Kyung saying that Jae Ha appears unreliable but he steps when when needed. Secretary Eun concedes Jae Ha is correct.
Jae Ha tell Secretary Eun that Shi Kyung has likely figured out the truth about what Secretary Eun did. Shi Kyung arrives to see his father and walks through the rain to confront him with a copy of the letter. Shi Kyung asks if what the letter said is true? Didn’t his father tell him to never do anything he would be ashamed of? Wasn’t his father extra strict with Shi Kyung his entire life?
Secretary Eun says that this is the true face of Shi Kyung’s father, a man who cannot own up to his own mistakes and wrongdoings to avoid leaving a blemish on his record, and instead committed more wrongdoings. He wants Shi Kyung to be a man who understands shame by looking at how shameful his father is now.
Jae Ha can’t find Shi Kyung, who refuses to answer his phone. He orders Shi Kyung found even if Seoul has to be turned upside down. Jae Shin overhears and learns that Shi Kyung is missing. Jae Ha tells Jae Shin that Shi Kyung learned something about his father. Jae Shin asks what is going on with Secretary Eun? Jae Ha tells Jae Shin that it involves Secretary Eun and Bong Goo.
Shi Kyung sits in his car and broods. He remembers Jae Ha taking responsibility for firing Secretary Eun without revealing any wrongdoing. Shi Kyung goes to the airport but is prevented from leaving by Jae Ha, who marches there to personally bring Shi Kyung back. Shi Kyung reveals that he was planning to go join Bong Goo’s side. He was going to get deliberately captured and find a way to reveal Bong Goo’s location.
Jae Ha scoffs at Shi Kyung for thinking he can do something like this. He tells Shi Kyung to look him in the eye. Shi Kyung didn’t do anything wrong, that was his father. Shi Kyung says he’s not doing this to atone or because he’s ashamed. It’s something only he can do because Bong Goo expressed interest in recruiting him before. He plans to join Bong Goo and reveal the location to Jae Ha. All Jae Ha needs to do is find evidence to incriminate Bong Goo, and then he can have Bong Goo arrested once Shi Kyung reveals where he’s hiding.
Jae Shin tells her therapist that she needs her memory back now. She can no longer continue to stand by and watch her family suffer. She wants to confront Bong Goo as well.
Jae Ha refuses to let Shi Kyung do this, not to atone for any wrongdoing, or as his duty serving the country. He tells Dong Ha to keep watch on Shi Kyung 24/7 so the doofy earnest boy doesn’t run off to play sacrificial mole.
Dong Ha arrives and reveals that Jae Shin is undergoing hypnosis, which if not done right, can cause her to sink into abject terror. Shi Kyung is worried and asks Jae Ha to stop Jae Shin from doing this.
Jae Ha barges into Jae Shin’s room, where she is being tied down and about to undergo hypnosis. He tells her to stop this nonsense, doing this won’t help them. Jae Shin refuses to remain a useless person. She makes Shi Kyung stay outside, her memories are like a horrible creature inside of her and she doesn’t want him to see it.
The psychiatrist starts the hypnosis and places Jae Shin into a trance state. Jae Shin unlocks her memories of that day, starting from her arriving at the vacation home. When she remembers seeing Bon Bon, she starts to be frightened and her heart rate spikes. The doctor wants to stop, but Jae Shin is alert enough to insist they continue. Jae Ha has no choice but to keep watching.
Back to the day Jae Kang died, Bon Bon calls Bong Goo and informs him the Princess is there. She hands Jae Shin the phone and Bong Goo speaks with her. Bong Goo orders Jae Shin to place the coal in the fireplace, he wants her to send her own eldest brother off. A gun is pointed at Jae Shin’s head and she has no choice but to comply, knowing she’s sending Jae Kang to his death.
The guards drag her over and force her to grab handfuls of coal and place it in the fireplace, all the while Bong Goo plays his song over the phone. Jae Shin screams and cries as she’s forced to kill her own brother. Jae Shin thinks back to her moments with Jae Kang, and OMG this is so hard to watch.
Jae Shin wakes up and screams that she killed him, she was the one who killed Jae Kang. Jae Ha goes to comfort Jae Shin but she is despondent. Shi Kyung and the Queen Mother can hear Jae Shin screaming in pain. Jae Ha stands there and watches his sister completely devastated.
Shi Kyung goes to Jae Shin’s room where she has been sedated and is resting. He sits down next to her and sees her hand in restraints, all red and bruised. He cries as he holds her hand and just looks at her. He reaches out to touch her cheek but pulls back before he makes contact.
Jae Ha tells his mom that Bong Goo planned this, he planned all of this from the very beginning. When Jae Shin accidentally arrived at the vacation home, they forced her to participate so if she remembered the incident, it was only going to destroy the entire family even more. Initially Jae Ha discounted Bong Goo as an adversary, but now he cannot do so anymore. They are going to have to battle Bong Goo directly. For the sake of the royal family and the Korean government, and that is the only way he can survive. It is also the only way he can see Hang Ah again.
Hang Ah, who is not dead, is wandering in the woods, having hastily bandaged her arm wound. She sees Chinese police officers and hides from them.
Thoughts of Mine:
So this is what a well-thought out drama looks like. Yes, there are spotty links here and there, but the narrative feels progressive from what the story wants to accomplish, as opposed to wedging scenes for the sake of filling time. We’ve gotten to know all the characters through seventeen episodes not by exposition, but by watching them behave in situations and grow through adversity. TK2H moves me as good entertainment does, making me care about what happens to the good guys and anticipate the bad guys getting their comeuppance. I’ve been immersed in lives of a fictional royal family facing a deranged enemy plus all the realities of international politics. Prior to the premiere I pegged TK2H to be the biggest failure of the March dramas, and I’m so happy to be proven wrong.
I can’t say enough good things about Lee Yoon Ji’s devastating performance in this episode, as Jae Shin regains her memories that will forever be a scar on her soul. How can she ever get past the fact that she placed those coals in the fireplace, the very coals that would lead Jae Kang to his death? Yes, she was forced, and that was painful to watch, but it’s never going to erase the truth from her mind now that she remembers. I only hope she can learn to live with it, and use it to make her stronger so that she can honor Jae Kang in a positive way. At this point Bong Goo and his minions need to die a thousand fiery deaths for everything they’ve done, and even that might be too good for them.
Shi Kyung finally learning the truth about Secretary Eun was a bit anticlimactic for me, but Jo Jung Seok was riveting as he broke down from the pain of seeing his father as flawed and human. I love how he chose to move forward in taking down Bong Goo as opposed to wallowing in man pain and tears, but honestly, I hope he’s thought through his plan. Jae Ha needs Shi Kyung alive and by his side, not dead atoning for a crime by proxy. If Secretary Eun plays a big part in bringing down Bong Goo, I’ll be satisfied with his being sent out to pasture as opposed to locked up for the rest of his life.
Hang Ah and the Queen Mother busting out of captivity was awesome, not that we expected any less considering our future Queen was a trained North Korean soldier in special ops. It was still pretty awesome she managed to get her elderly mother-in-law to safety as well, but in truth the Queen Mother has so much guts and backbone she’s truly an incredible woman in her own right. For once a drama doesn’t just rise and fall on the OTP, it’s crafted stakes that hit all the main characters and beyond. In the end when Bong Goo is vanquished and the King with his two hearts finds his long awaited peace, I’ll be clapping loudly from the roof like a satisfied fangirl.