Woah momma. If episode 18 of The King 2 Hearts is any indication of how the drama doesn’t intend to slow down and is going to keep tying my guts into knot after knot, then I suggest we all invest in some anti-anxiety medicine before next week’s finale. While my logic tells me Hang Ah and Jae Ha are never going to bite it, everyone else is fair game at this point. Plus what eviscerates my heart each week is watching all the characters we’ve grown to love get emotionally strung out time and again. If Hang Ah wasn’t his strength and bedrock, Jae Ha would be a quivering mess at this point and might need to join Jae Shin in therapy. But because they have each other, I suppose that makes Jae Ha the King who has two hearts (his and Hang Ah’s), thereby making him stronger and more resilient than we ever anticipated. This drama is truly magnificent, equal parts everything entertaining but reduced to its most heart felt core.
Episode 18 recap:
Hang Ah goes to the home of a Chinese couple and asks if their phone can make international calls. By the way, Ha Ji Won speaking Chinese with her saturi in this drama? SO CUTE. The Chinese couple see that she’s all beaten up and bloody and are obviously alarmed, asking if she’s from here? Hang Ah quickly says she’s from the countryside. Dude, that’s some dangerous countryside China has. When the husband steps aside, the wife pours Hang Ah a cup of tea and then alerts her to quickly leave. But it’s too late, and the Chinese authorities have arrived to detain her.
Hang Ah is being questioned by a Chinese officer and she gives her name as Kim Hang Ah. The officer refuses to believe she is THE Kim Hang Ah, North Korean officer and fiancée to the South Korean king, claiming there are many who have impersonated her. She tells them to confirm it but they refuse, pointing a gun to her head and telling her to behave. We see this interview is being watched by another Chinese officer. Hang Ah remains uncowed but she is led away.
The Chinese officer is reporting to Bong Goo that they have found Hang Ah and will detain her. The Chinese officer says they won’t return her to South Korea and will act according to their procedures. Bong Goo says they can keep Hang Ah for at least a month under their policy. He confirms not killing Hang Ah when he had a chance because she’s an ace card that can shake both North and South Korea.
Hang Ah refuses to be quiet in captivity, asking for a doctor because her arm injury hurts. The guard says she will get to see a doctor in a week when she will be transferred. Even the guard doesn’t know where Hang Ah will be moved to. Hang Ah processes this information and realizes she has to save herself.
Hang Ah does what every prisoner in solitary does. She trains to keep fit and stay alert, knowing she might need to rely on herself to get out. When she sits down after a particular bout of training, she suddenly feels a hand slide across her shoulder. She touches the hand and turns around to see Jae Ha sitting next to her. He embraces her and she curls into his embrace. A few moments later, her Jae Ha illusion disappears and she’s left alone in the cell.
Jae Ha is briefed on ICC laws, trying to find any avenue to report Bong Goo.
Shi Kyung goes to the riverbanks to find his father, who is going fishing. They sit down to fish, with Shi Kyung asking when his father changed his hobby to fishing. Secretary Eun says fishing requires patience. Shi Kyung confesses that in the past he feels distant from his father because of his father’s expectations which Shi Kyung never believed he could achieve. He confesses the real reason he blew up at his father because of his own insecurity. But now he’s relieved, he can let it go and just live his life.
Shi Kyung asks his father not to feel guilt should anything happen to Shi Kyung. This is Shi Kyung choice, so he’ll walk his own road while his father walks his. Secretary Eun asks what Shi Kyung is planning but a fish bites at that moment and the conversation is dropped.
Dong Ha finds Jae Ha to brief him on Shi Kyung’s plans to go to China. Shi Kyung tenders his resignation if they refuse to give him vacation, insisting he’s leaving the country to find Bong Goo. Jae Ha continues to prohibit him from leaving the country.
Shi Kyung storms to demand Jae Ha lift his travel prohibitions, but Jae Ha refuses to see him so they converse through the door. Shi Kyung keeps trying to convince Jae Ha to let him go, saying he’s the best choice to go. Shi Kyung tells Jae Ha to let him go because he never once saw Jae Ha as a friend.
Shi Kyung finally drops the formality from calling him Your majesty and instead calls him Lee Jae Ha. Shi Kyung tells Jae Ha to keep hiding in his office and trying to keep his friends by his side. Shi Kyung knows that because Jae Ha has lost Hang Ah, he’s also afraid of losing Shi Kyung. Jae Ha storms outside and asks how Shi Kyung dares call him by his name. They both stop and stare at each other, until finally Shi Kyung promises that he will come back.
Shi Kyung and Jae Ha go through more documents, collecting evidence of various Club M wrongdoings over the years to give Shi Kyung as much intel on Club M before he leaves. They set their code as “now is a good time to talk on the phone.”
Jae Ha reluctantly sends Shi Kyung off, but tells Shi Kyung to see Jae Shin one more time before leaving. Shi Kyung is hesitant, asking what will people think of the captain of the royal guards dating the Princess? I dunno, but it can’t be more far-fetched than the King of South Korea marrying a North Korean military officer. Jae Ha tells him to stop referring to their positions and just see it as a man and a woman. Jae Ha orders Jae Shi brought to the courtyard and every one needs to leave the near vicinity except for Eun Shi Kyung. Jae Ha playing cupid? Precious.
Shi Kyung finds Jae Shin sitting in the garden without her wheelchair, which has been taken away. She asks if he heard that she got her memories back. He must see her as a monster. Shi Kyung counters that it was his father who revealed the Anmyungdo location. But Shi Kyung has decided not to feel bad and take responsibility for something his father did. He kneels down and says it’s not Jae Shin’s fault for what happened.
Jae Shin cries as Shi Kyung commends her for the courage to retrieve her memories. He says again that its not her fault. Oh babies, I love you two! Jae Shin cries some more as Shi Kyung holds her hand.
Shi Kyung piggybacks Jae Shin back to her wheelchair, telling her he’s taking a brief vacation. He’ll be back after he finishes what he needs to do. He tells her to repeat one hundred times a day “It’s not my fault”, which leads Jae Shin to tell him to do the same. He asks her to smile as least three times a day, do her physical therapy, and practice appearing in public. Jae Shin agrees to all that.
Shi Kyung places Jae Shin back in her wheelchair, also asking if she’s started singing again? Jae Shin leans in and kisses him on the cheek, then sitting back and asking if he has anything more to say to her? Shi Kyung lurches forward and kisses Jae Shin, then pulls back and apologizes, looking so flustered. Haha, the boy has loving feelings for the pretty princess, yay! Shi Kyung berates himself in his office for kissing Jae Shin, and then sits down and writes a letter.
Jae Ha goes to find Secretary Eun by the river where he is fishing, asking him to return to his job. He also reveals that Shi Kyung went undercover to Bong Goo. There is so much that needs to be done before they report Club M to the ICC. He asks Secretary Eun to assist him like he assisted Jae Kang. Jae Ha teases Secretary Eun that his salary will be lower since the economy is so bad. Secretary Eun agrees only after he seeks forgiveness from one person.
Secretary Eun returns to the Palace and goes to see the Queen Mother and tells her in person what he did. He says telling her is the hardest thing he has ever done. She asks if Jae Kang was happy before he died since Secretary Eun was the last person who saw him. He says Jae Kang was happy, because he was looking forward to this long awaited vacation. This appears to comfort the Queen Mother.
Jae Ha is standing before his video diary and activates it to begin recording. He suddenly realizes that he had set the password to commence recording as “you happy?” since he was so upset right after Jae Kang died. On the day Bong Goo came to see him in the Palace and gloated about killing Jae Kang, Bong Goo had said the same phrase.
Jae Ha places a call to Shi Kyung to reveal he has the evidence now to report Bong Goo to the ICC. Shi Kyung is ready to go, so Jae Ha tells him to be careful. Jae ha walks through the hall of portraits on his way to the press conference. Jae Ha stands before the media as this press conference is broadcast live in South Korea. Bong Goo is also watching on TV after being told Jae Ha is holding a press conference about Club M.
Jae Ha cuts to the chase and reveals that it has been confirmed that the last King Lee Jae Kang was murdered. The culprit is the leader of an international entity. Everyone gasps. Jae Ha shows the video as evidence.
Everyone watches in stunned silence and horror at the conversation between Bong Goo and Jae Ha that day, which was all recorded once Bong Goo asked Jae Ha if he was happy. Bong Goo says it wasn’t the North-South wedding but Jae Kang preventing him from entering the country that led to him killing Jae Kang. You can feel the shock turning into rage of the citizens of South Korea who process this stunning revelation. It’s so satisfying to see Bong Goo hoisted by his own petard.
The video concludes and Jae Ha announces that he will going through the ICC to bring this murderer to justice. Their King was not just a King, but a representative of all of South Korea. Killing Jae Kang was stepping on every citizen in South Korea. We see Secretary Eun walking into the ICC to give his testimony. Bong Goo calmly says he needs to hide now. He tells his right hand man to call the Chinese official and have Hang Ah moved tomorrow.
Bong Goo’s right hand man finally has enough of serving a madman and places a covert call to an unknown person, saying that Bong Goo is dangerously uncontrollable and a risk to Club M. Uh, that’s an understatement. He orders that someone be sent to take out Bong Goo. Obviously that doesn’t go over so well with Bong Goo who is listening in on the conversation. Bong Goo summons Bon Bon, and let’s say a fare the well to right hand man who shant be missed other than for his hilarious line readings in English.
Right hand man ends up dead over the pool, which is when Shi Kyung arrives outside of Bong Goo’s compound for his Operation Turncoat. Bong Goo’s guards go and apprehend Shi Kyung, with Bon Bon relishing the opportunity to fight him. Shi Kyung is subdued and brought before Bong Goo. Bon Bon wants to pump a bullet in his brain. Shi Kyung tells Bong Goo to kill him right now, but Bong Goo orders him be dealt with and not allowed to escape.
Dong Ha is outside watching all this, his eyes all red and teary. He reports back to Jae Ha that Shi Kyung has entered the compound. Aww, the bromance, it kills me. Shi Kyung is taken to Bon Bon’s lair and she starts torturing him. The first thing is to break a finger, and we hear Shi Kyung screaming in pain.
A prison doctor is tending to Hang Ah’s wound when she accosts him and grabs his cell phone to place a call to Jae Ha. She’s such a fearless AND smart cookie. I can’t believe I continue to love Hang Ah more and more. She tells Jae Ha that she is in the Chinese detention center for North Korean defectors. She is forced to end the call but now Jae Ha knows where she is. Jae Ha orders Secretary Eun to cancel all his engagements, he’s rushing to China. Both North and South Korea jointly demand that no one be allowed in or out of the detention facility immediately.
Within a few hours, Jae Ha as flown to the facility with his royal guards and some North Korean soldiers in tow, including resident cutie Young Bae. He arrives and is told that no one has been allowed in or out in the last few hours. Hang Ah is being held at gunpoint and the prison warden quickly arranges for her to be smuggled out.
Jae Ha walks into the prison and the prison warden comes out and acts all “I don’t know” about Hang Ah being held there. Jae Ha dispenses with pleasantries and just sends his guards in to search the place. He got a call from his fiancée that she was being kept here. All the guards run through the prison calling her name and looking for her in every cell.
Hang Ah is being secretly moved by the prison guards. When she calls out for Jae Ha, they gag her to prevent her from calling out. But Jae Ha hears her voice and runs into the prison himself to look for her. Jae Ha is running through the prison calling her name, and Hang Ah can hear him. During the secret move, Hang Ah breaks free from her guards and makes a run for it.
A guard shoots Hang Ah and she falls on the metal grated floor, where Jae Ha is right below her running up the stairs. He stares in shock and horror as she falls down with her eyes wide open. Blood starts to drip down through the metal slats.
Jae Ha’s guards subdue the Chinese prison guards and Jae Ha walks up to Hang Ah. He turns her around, which is when Hang Ah blinks and we see that she was shot in the ankle.
Jae Ha embraces Hang Ah, who smiles to see Comrade Lee Jae Ha, telling him that she’s fine. He pulls her in for a tight tearful hug. Bong Goo is told that Lee Jae Ha has found Kim Hang Ah and China is of no help to them anymore. Bong Goo mutters that he needs to use Shi Kyung now.
We see Shi Kyung, all bruised and battered, tied down to a chair while Bon Bon looks at him from above, crooning that he’s about to be driven insane soon. Before she can hurt him anymore, Bong Goo barges in and looks pissed at Bon Bon, slapping her across the face. Dude, I already hate you, but your persistence in beating up women makes you even more pitiful. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care if he bitch slaps Bon Bon all he wants since she deserves that more, I only sneer at his continued exertion of his puny strength to prey on anyone in his vicinity. He orders Shi Kyung released from the restraints.
Bong Goo sits down with Shi Kyung, saying his advisor suggests recruiting Shi Kyung to his side and have Shi Kyung kill Jae Ha personally. He knows this is likely too much. Bong Goo tells Shi Kyung that he worked hard to accumulate what he owns and the world is governed by money. He needs someone like Shi Kyung beside him.
He knows Shi Kyung was sent here to pretend to be a turncoat, but he wants to tempt Shi Kyung to really join him. He says Shi Kyung isn’t cut out to be a spy. Doesn’t that make Jae Ha even more cruel, sending his friend to be a spy. Shi Kyung insults Bong Goo as low rent, thinking he knows everything. Bong Goo tells Shi Kyung to come to his side and improve Bong Goo. Bong Goo tells his new advisor that Shi Kyung has refused, but he doesn’t intend to kill him yet. He wants to continue to keep Shi Kyung captive.
Hang Ah wakes up in bed with her dad sitting next to her. She is so worried. She asks if they have a way to capture Bong Goo yet? Bong Goo must be captured because he is ruthless and vicious. They can’t let Bong Goo be, otherwise they will all be harmed.
Jae Ha comes in and tries to calm Hang Ah down, while her dad leaves the room to give them some privacy. He tells her not to think too much and just rest. Hang Ah says she can’t, he doesn’t know how terrible Bong Goo is. Jae Ha hugs Hang Ah and apologizes for what she went through. He knows how terrifying the experience must be for her. Hang Ah cries in his arms and he tells her everything will be fine.
The Chinese official who was in cahoots goes to see Hang Ah’s dad and Jae Ha, apologizing for the “misunderstanding” with Hang Ah. Her dad is still pissed but Jae Ha lets it go, asking the Chinese to instead do something concrete to prove their sincerity. He asks the Chinese to help them capture John Mayer, or at least let their military into the country to search.
Hang Ah’s dad suggests the North Korean government will cancel the upcoming joint military exercises with China and do it with Russia instead. The Chinese official conferences Bong Goo, pissed that he got into all this trouble helping him. He orders Bong Goo out of China within 3 hours. He tells Bong Goo to stop threatening China, if there is a war, does he expect to go up against an entire country? He hangs up on Bong Goo.
Bong Goo goes to meet with Shi Kyung. Bong Goo calls himself Shi Kyung’s hyung (ewwww, icky), and asks Shi Kyung to lure Jae Ha out. He tells Shi Kyung to do it since he doesn’t want to destroy Shi Kyung with even more torture. Shi Kyung looks stricken as he flashes back to all the torture he’s endured so far. He gives Shi Kyung until midnight to make up his mind. Shi Kyung is brought back to Bon Bon’s lair of torture.
Jae Ha and Hang Ah are sitting on her bed. She’s got an IV in one arm, and Jae Ha on the other. Nice. He tells her that Shi Kyung has gone undercover to find out Bong Goo’s location. Hang Ah worries if something will go wrong, and Jae Ha confirms that he’ll feel guilt for the rest of his life if anything goes wrong. Tomorrow their military will be allowed into China and they will have to trust Shi Kyung to pull it off. Shi Kyung is placed in the torture chair as Bon Bon prepares to torture him some more, saying she won’t kill him, she’ll just keep torturing him.
As Jae Ha and Hang Ah are preparing to leave China, Jae Ha gets a call from Shi Kyung. This call is on speaker phone from Shi Kyung’s side, and Bong Goo and Bon Bon are in the room listening in. Shi Kyung says he’s gotten Bong Goo’s trust and knows his location. He provides the location and tells Jae Ha to come personally to witness the capture since it’s what they worked so hard for.
Jae Ha tells Hang Ah that he has to meet Shi Kyung. She doesn’t want him to go but he says its fine since he’s going to see Shi Kyung. He leans down and kisses her quickly before leaving, promising he’ll be back soon. Hang Ah looks concerned.
Jae Ha, with his guads in tow, pull up to an industrial dock area. Shi Kyung is alone there waiting for Jae Ha. Jae Ha is so worried about Shi Kyung, but we see Shi Kyung looks very odd and subdued. We see Bong Goo’s guards are hiding off to the side. Shi Kyung asks Jae Ha to come with him alone.
Hang Ah is in a car with her dad being driven to the airport to head back to South Korea. She orders the car turned around. She needs to go back because she’s worried.
Shi Kyung drives Jae Ha to an estate by the cliff. When they walk out to the cliff, Bong Goo is there with all his guards, and a dozen guns are trained on Jae Ha immediately. Bong Goo respectfully welcomes the King.
Jae Ha turns to Shi Kyung, who raises a gun and points it at Jae Ha’s head. Bong Goo laughs in glee.
Thoughts of Mine:
Wow. Um, excuse me for a moment while I go pick my jaw off the floor, and maybe curl up under a blanket. What an exhilarating episode, equal parts pain and pleasure. Watching Hang Ah suffer in the hands of the Chinese authorities was painful, watching Shi Kyung suffering in the hands of Bong Goo and Bon Bon was excruciating, watching Jae Shin wrestle with her memory demons was debilitating, and watching Jae Ha endure the emotional trauma of potentially losing Hang Ah was gutwrenching. But all of that pales to the final scene of this episode, when Shi Kyung may turned to the dark side (whether willingly or brainwashed) and pointed the gun at Jae Ha’s head. I hope this is an elaborate plot Jae Ha and Shi Kyung concocted, because my heart can’t take much more of this.
One thing I really appreciate is that TK2H tries to hew to the truth that the world exists in shades of grey (heh, though not fifty shades of grey, of course) rather than black and white. Even the very stickler for black and white, Shi Kyung, is forced to accept that reality and he comes to terms with it through his own father’s actions. Jae Kang was not above manipulating the system and pushing the limits when it came to achieving the greater purpose. I’ll always believe his war game tactic at the end of WOC training was brilliant. It wasn’t fair, but nothing is fair in war. He put Jae Ha in the line of fire and asked Jae Ha to rise above it, and Jae Ha was right in raging that it was asking too much of him. But then Jae Kang said “we are royalty”, and with great privilege and power comes even greater responsibility to hold themselves up to a higher standard, even if its an unreasonable request.
When I look at how much the royal family has suffered in the hands of Bong Goo and their stoicism in pressing forward, I am in awe of how the writers really captured that noblesse oblige and sense of sacrifice those who are born into great power ought to demonstrate. When Jae Ha laughs at Bong Goo for being an unworthy opponent, he means it in every way. Bong Goo is nouveau riche, he’s crass, he’s self-aggrandizing, he’s all the things that scream “I want to be noticed and respected.” But he’ll never be that, because he doesn’t understand that the first step in being revered is sacrificing one’s own personal well-being for the greater good. Jae Kang, Jae Ha, Jae Shin, the Queen Mother, and even Hang Ah, all understand that. Jae Ha is worthy of being King not because he’s capable, but because part of his heart belongs to his people. A King is only as powerful as the people who support him, and this drama shows how how hard a ruler needs to work to earn that support while facing ever constant threats from the mundane to the life-changing.
This drama has truly risen above its premise, hewing closely to its overarching story while taking us into the details of the narrative. I still wish Secretary Eun’s transgression was prompted by more than a Beatles album, but I suppose the devil isn’t in what prompted him to be tempted, but how he chose to cover it up for his own legacy. Same with Bong Goo, who is still insanely ridiculous and overwrought, but he represents “evil” moreso that we’re asked to understand and appreciate his motivations or nuances. He really has none other than satisfying his own id screaming for validation, and I hope his final outcome is to be thoroughly put in his place. Which is that of a pathetic man who has nothing that matters.