It’s fantastic that a pre-produced big budget drama like Descendants of the Sun is getting the ratings enough to likely recoup and justify the cost. It’s important so that production companies remain willing to take such risks and continue to produce watchable fare that elevate the quality of K-drama entertainment. DotS is cheesy without being corny, like a best of compilation of K-drama classics packaged in a sleek modern update. The music is calming down heading into the third episode, as is the fast-paced action once everyone reunites in the fictional country of Urk.
Kim Eun Sook doesn’t force the OTP romance in the least, once the coincidences and immediate chemistry is established, now Shi Jin and Mo Yeon take their time to try and figure out how to work in close proximity without getting too close. Shi Jin tries first to keep Mo Yeon at a distance but caves faster while she seemed irked that he wasn’t still as interested in her but once he revives some of their sparkling banter then she shuts him down again. Poor Shi Jin – forever Mo Yeon blocked lol! Her emotions aren’t terribly consistent or intense but feel plausible to me, like a woman trying to figure out her career and love life but willing for some give and take.
Episode 3 recap:
Mo Yeon leads the team of medical professionals from Hae Song hospital and arrive on Urk for their overseas mission. A military helicopter lands on the airport tarmac and who else would be there to escort them then Shi Jin’s squad. Mo Yeon can’t stop staring at Shi Jin as he walks off the helicopter like a conquering slo mo hero, whereas Shi Jin is all business as he walks past her and addresses the waiting medical team.
Shi Jin introduces himself as the commander in charge of keeping watch over the team during their stay in Urk, then Dae Young explains that everyone needs to pack their essentials into an army sack so they can take the army helicopter while the rest of their luggage will arrive via ground transport.
Shi Jin notices Mo Yeon’s fallen scarf and picks it up to hand back to her. They stand there staring at each other without saying a word.
The medical team is welcomed to army base with a cute dance chant by the soldiers. The ladies are offered flower wreaths per the custom and Dr. Song is all ready to receive his but doesn’t get one.
Mo Yeon and her roommate Nurse Choi Min Ji are unpacking when their former patient Kim Ki Bum comes by to greet them, looking all spiffy and cleaned up now that he’s on the proper path and shed his gangster ways.
Dr. Song is chatting with Nurse Ha and it turns out they are a couple as they bicker adorably. Nurse Ha wants Dr. Song to take this medical mission seriously but he thinks they are all being punished along with Mo Yeon for rejected the Managing Director so no need to be so uptight here.
Eager puppy Dr. Lee Chi Hoon is out snapping pictures around the base and a soldier orders him to delete the pictures and explains no pictures are allowed here. He can’t explain why and Mo Yeon interjects that there is a lot here that can’t be explained, remembering how Shi Jin couldn’t give her any explanation for what he does.
Mo Yeon sees Shi Jin getting out of a truck carrying a package but he appears to ignore her completely as he walks inside a building. Mo Yeon wonders if he’s doing it on purpose or really didn’t see her, and once Shi Jin is inside he pauses to look at Mo Yeon through a mirror reflection.
Shi Jin hands the package to Dae Young, clearly sent by Myung Joo, and tells him to be a man and open it. He thinks it might have snacks but Dae Young thinks it’s as likely to contain a package bomb. Shi Jin backs away a few steps and tells Dae Young to stop being a baby and open it. Inside are care package presents for other soldiers but the only present for Dae Young is a note saying that his present is on the way. Dae Young understands that means Myung Joo is being sent to Urk.
Myung Joo reports to her father General Yoon about her posting to Urk. He reiterates that the guy he approves for Myung Joo is Yoo Shi Jin, a soldier he’s pegged as future general material. He warns that Myung Joo’s insistence on Dae Young will only make life harder for him. Myung Joo calls Dae Young a real soldier and the reasons she loves and can’t give up on him. If he keeps blocking her then he will lose both his daughter and subordinate Yoon Myung Joo. You go girl!
Mo Yeon calls her friend Dr. Pyo Ji Soo back in Seoul to relay the news that Shi Jin is the commander in charge of the medical mission in Urk. Dr. Pyo is impressed at the fate that would bring Shi Jin and Mo Yeon together halfway around the world. Not really fate, just K-dramas doing its magic. Mo Yeon doesn’t even have time to be excited and nearly died of awkwardness at the airport reunion. Their conversation is cut short by the wireless reception cutting out and Mo Yeon’s attention is caught by kids playing nearby.
Mo Yeon sees a kid eating something that isn’t safe so scrambles over a fence to hand over a snack but that only brings all the kids swarming around her to ask for the same treat. Shi Jin comes by and chides Mo Yeon for handing out sweets if she didn’t have enough for everyone. He tells the kids to go to the base to eat food and they run off. Mo Yeon wonders what he said to the kids and Shi Jin said he would shoot them if they didn’t leave. Mo Yeon tells him to be serious and Shi Jin says in a straight face that he’s joking.
Mo Yeon walks off but quickly steps on something in the ground and pauses. Shi Jin nervously orders her to not make a single move as she’s stepped on a landmine. Mo Yeon is freaking out while Shi Jin has never seen anyone survive stepping on a landmine in his fifteen years as a soldier. Mo Yeon saw in a movie that a swiss army knife can be used to disarm a landmine but Shi Jin has only seen that once in his twenty five years since he joined the boy scouts, and that’s from the main character in the movie that Mo Yeon watched.
Shi Jin is walking off and Mo Yeon calls him a bad guy and orders him to come back and help her. Shi Jin’s way of helping is to get up close and personal to Mo Yeon and step on the landmine for her. That only freaks her out even more and she tries to push him off to go find help from an expert.
All that pushing sends Shi Jin and Mo Yeon tumbling to the ground and he’s clearly enjoying himself rather than nervous that a landmine might go off. Mo Yeon lifts her head up to find Shi Jin starting contently at her before he asks how she’s been? Mo Yeon realizes that he lied to her and she’s so upset that she actually starts crying. That’s when Shi Jin realizes his little joke wasn’t so funny after all but before he can apologize Mo Yeon storms off and orders him not to talk to or follow her.
Mo Yeon storms past the gathered soldiers and medical team enjoying an al fresco BBQ. Her pissy face is witnessed by Dae Young who asks what happened? Shi Jin sheepishly admits he made Mo Yeon cry and Dae Young’s response of “this quickly” is matched by Shi Jin admitting “I’m surprised myself.” Oh you two!
Shi Jin chases after Mo Yeon and sincerely apologizes which gets her to relent and accept his apology. He suddenly salutes her and turns out he’s saluting the soldiers raising the South Korean flag on the rooftop. Shi Jin turns Mo Yeon around and returns to saluting, but then quietly says “Seeing you again, I’m very happy.” Mo Yeon takes it in but says nothing back.
The soldiers take roll call in the barracks before some are sent to help the medical team settle into their barracks and hang up mosquito nets. Later that night Mo Yeon lies in bed sleepless while outside the soldiers keep watch.
The medical team ladies are outside in the courtyard washing up in the morning but are more into leaning against the fence to drool at the soldiers on their shirtless morning jog. Min Ji wonders if it’s heaven like this every morning here and Mo Yeon thinks if that’s the case then she could consider permanently settling here. Lol.
Mo Yeon’s view is blocked by an arriving Shi Jin who Mo Yeon not only ignores but waves him aside to not block her view. Shi Jin notices the ladies staring at his topless jogging squad and cuts short their run and orders then back to the barracks. Mo Yeon cranes her neck to keep staring while Shi JIn keeps man boob blocking her. I love the angry look Mo Yeon shoots at Shi Jin!
The medical team sets up and all the soldiers convene only in front of pretty Mo Yeon’s station to get their checkup. Shi Jin arrives and Mo Yeon summons him over to be her first patient. She purposes acts clueless while taking his blood in order to prick him a few more time. Shi Jin wonders if she’s holding a grudge from his yesterday joke before pricking himself nonchalantly to help her draw blood.
A delivery company ahjusshi comes by to say hi while delivering the medical team’s luggage. Everyone’s attention is captured by a large bang nearby and Shi Jin hears on the radio that it’s a car accident. The delivery ahjusshi worries that it’s one of his trucks so Shi Jin sents off to quickly head to the site of the accident.
Shi Jin and Dae Young are fully armed when they arrive at the accident site involving an overturned UN truck. One guy is dead and the other guy shows off his UN shirt while trying to act all innocent. Shi Jin grabs the truck keys and then subdues the guy as Dae Young opens the truck. Shi Jin noticed that the dead man has tattoos while the other one has a guy, both of which are prohibited as UN workers.
Shi Jin delivers the suspect to local authorities and sighs about going to the main base to report this incident.
Shi Jin runs into Mo Yeon as he’s headed to the main base. She asks Dae Young for the base wifi password but Dae Young can’t give it for civilian use, instead telling Mo Yeon to go to the nearby town for wifi and Shi Jin can give her a ride. Shi Jin and Mo Yeon awkwardly stare at each other before embarking on this outing.
Mo Yeon calls Korea to confirm her rental and promises to wire the deposit over shortly. Shi Jin thinks she’s moving but Mo Yeon explains that she’s quitting the hospital and setting up her own practice. Shi Jin brings up the scandal with the Managing Director and reveals that it’s all the medical team gossips about when Mo Yeon is not around.
Shi Jin points out that the guy sounds like a douche which Mo Yeon confirms, if he was a good guy then she would be here now. Shi Jin sighs since he didn’t step aside for Mo Yeon to date a guy like that. Mo Yeon clarifies she’s not dating the guy but doesn’t explain all that happened. Her attention is caught by a nearby beach and asks Shi Jin about it but he brushes it aside. Mo Yeon can tell he’s in a crabby mood. The boy is jealous of course!
Shi Jin and Mo Yeon drive into town and he takes her to a shop to get wifi. The store is run by the girl he ran into at the bar who bought a gun. Shi Jin wonders where the owner Daniel went and is told by the girl Ri Ye Hwa that it’s her store as well. She opened it with Daniel who is currently barred from entering the country. Ye Hwa is pissed and says Daniel is barred from coming to this store as well.
Shi Jin explains that Ye Hwa is a nurse with the peace corps and runs this shop on the side. Ye Hwa wonders how Shi Jin knows about her and he explains Daniel mentioned his lover from North Korea. Ye Hwa sputters that she’s just coworkers with Daniel! Shi Jin asks for wifi from Ye Hwa and she runs off to look for it. She Jin leaves Mo Yeon here for an hour and runs off to give his report, but not before warning Mo Yeon not to get into a fight since Ye Hwa has a gun.
Shi Jin reports on the accident this morning and the capture of a suspect. His superior officer Colonel Park tells Shi Jin to not delve any deeper despite knowing Alpha Team’s tendency to be big shots. Colonel Park explains that the smugglers are known as the Merchants of Death and are doing this brazenly. He wants Shi Jin to lie low as both are soon to earn their return slips back to Korea. Colonel Park hands over Dae Young’s transfer letter back to Korea.
The local authorities are in cahoots with the bad guys running the gun smuggling enterprise disguised as UN workers. The head guy wants the bad guy Agus to stop this racket and instead gets shot for not going along with the plan.
Dae Young also gets the same transfer letter and flashes back to the first time Myung Joo’s dad General Yoon sat him down for a warning chat. General Yoon is greatly concerned about his daughter’s future and knows Dae Young is smart enough to figure out what he should do. Dae Young asks if it’s an order and currently it is not an order but General Yoon is willing to make it one if necessary.
Dae Young is packing up and reads Myung Joo’s note about how she’s on her way and misses him every single moment. Awwwww.
Mo Yeon can tell Shi Jin is bothered by something and he reveals that Dae Young’s transfer order came down. He’s upset because the reason for that transfer isn’t proper – it’s not the order of a superior officer but of a father. Mo Yeon understands that Myung Joo’s father is a key player in this makjang drama which is still going on.
Mo Yeon wonders how Myung Joo and Dae Young met so Shi Jin explains that they met on a soldier endurance trek. Myung Joo was the squad doctor and tries to keep Dae Young from overexerting himself to help his fallen comrades. She wonders if he’s trying to win first place to earn time off to go disrupt his ex-girlfiend’s wedding. Dae Young says yes which shocks Myung Joo, and similarly Mo Yeon can’t believe it but Shi Jin says it’s true.
Shi Jin pulls over by the beach and offers to take Mo Yeon to the beach island she was interest in before he gets busier. He continues the story about how Dae Young went to that ex-girlfriend’s wedding but so did Myung Joo. Mo Yeon follows Shi Jin to keep listening to the story.
Dae Young gets in the car to drive to the wedding and Myung Joo gets in the backseat and offers to go along. If she’s there then the ex-girlfriend will clearly regret leaving Dae Young whereas if he went alone then she wouldn’t care. Myung Joo orders Dae Young to turn around and changes in the backseat into a party dress.
Myung Joo talks about how the guy her dad wants her to date is now the superior officer in Dae Young’s squad, her military academy sunbae Yoo Shi Jin. She wants Dae Young to return this favor by saying that they are dating. Dae Young wonders why Myung Joo doesn’t like Shi Jin and she calls Shi Jin not her type, too pretty boy. They strike a deal to work together. Myung Joo is impressed with her pretty white dress but Dae Young can’t figure out what her concept is – he thinks it’s virginal ghost while Myung Joo is going for the angel look.
Mo Yeon hears that Myung Joo’s dad wants Shi Jin to be his son-in-law. She wants to know if Shi Jin-Myung Joo-Dae Young is in a love triangle? Shi Jin nonchalantly says yes and doesn’t think Mo Yeon has any right to ask since she dumped him already. Mo Yeon tries to act cool about it but Shi Jin can tell she really wants to know.
Shi Jin helps Mo Yeon onto the speedboat and they take off for the island to go explore a landlocked vessel on the beach. Shi Jin offers his hand to help Mo Yeon off the boat but she ignores it and jumps right on the beach.
Mo Yeon thinks this place is so pretty and Shi Jin tells her to come back. He picks up a rock from the island and explains that the local culture believes that taking a rock from here will lead a person back to return the rock. He gives the rock to Mo Yeon and she finds the belief very romantic. Wandering through the shipwreck, Mo Yeon wonders how this ship got stuck here? Shi Jin thinks it was captivated by here, and people get stuck when captivated.
Mo Yeon asks if Shi Jin has ever been captivated and he admits he has before telling Mo Yeon that she knows all about it. Oooof, intensity galore. Mo Yeon and Shi Jin stare at each other silently until he asks what her answer is to his question about how she’s been these days? Does she still look sexy in the OR? Mo Yeon remains cool to Shi Jin, dispelling his belief that she’s here for charitable reasons. She’s here because a powerful person is punishing her and her goal is to go back as soon as she can and regain her position back home. She is also not doing surgeries anymore because it doesn’t help her career. Shi Jin says he understands while Mo Yeon caresses the rock in her hand.
Dr. Song makes a giant pot of bibimbap for the medical team as they dig into their taste of home feast. Chi Hoon wants to scoop up his own bowl rather than eating from the communal bowl. He goes outside to call home and explains that he needs to be sanitary as a doctor and can’t eat out of a communal bowl. He’s calling his honey at home when a little boy grabs his shirt with his dirty hand to ask for candy. Chi Hoon the neat freak is upset until the little boy throws up and faints.
Mo Yeon and Shi Jin arrive back on the base to see Chi Hoon carrying the boy into the infirmary. Mo Yeon checks him out and is trying to figure out what the ailment is, and wonders if the kids around here are ingesting something bad. Mo Yeon remembers the kids out scrounging and eating some stuff. She orders Chi Hoon to administer some treatment for lead poisoning.
Shi Jin offers to help translate when the boy wakes up but Mo Yeon keeps him at a distance saying this is for the medical team to handle. Shi Jin brings up how the Dr. Kang he knew believed that all life was precious so why is she not doing her best. Mo Yeon says this is a rare condition but Shi Jin rebuts that it’s rare in Korea but common here. Mo Yeon thinks not all doctors are working out in the field all the time and Shi Jin agrees, some go on TV shows. Ouch.
Neither are happy after that exchange but Shi Jin has more important matters to tend do as the base is placed under level 2 security emergency. Dr. Song wonders if enemy is attacking while Chi Hoon is willing to treat even the enemy since he is a doctor. The medical team is ordered to convene immediately for an arriving VIP patient.
Turns out an Arab envoy Mubarat who is in Urk to broker peace talks collapsed on his way back and is being rushed to the closest medical facility which is at the base. Both North and South Korea is informed about this development and General Yoon calls in a meeting with the Blue House.
Shi Jin hands Mo Yeon the medical file on the VIP patient and the doctors see that a lot of information has been blacked out. Mo Yeon says VIP patients often lie about their medical history anyway. Shi Jin radios in that the patient has arrived and is being treated now.
The doctors take the patient’s vitals and is about to treat him when the head bodyguard hands over a prescribed medicine from the envoy’s personal doctor. They inject it when the vitals start to drop precipitously and the patient’s abdomen swells up. Mo Yeon says the patient has hemoperi, his abdomen is bleeding, and needs surgery immediately.
The envoy’s bodyguards refuse to let him be operated on by non-Arab doctors and draw their guns to stop the surgery. Shi Jin demands to know from Mo Yeon whether she can save him? Mo Yeon pauses before saying that surgery will save the patient’s life. Shi Jin and his squad pull their guns and face off with the envoy’s bodyguards as he orders Mo Yeon to do the surgery.
Thoughts of Mine:
DotS remains a pleasure to watch even with the expectations risen thanks to a fantastic and entertaining first two episodes. The action moves from Seoul to Urk fully by episode 3 and looks to stay there for the foreseeable future. I actually loved all the Seoul scenes but know that this drama is billed as a disaster war zone medical romance so Seoul is certainly lacking for that geographic. Happily the story doesn’t run viewers over with the location shoot porn or shoving too many buildups all at once onscreen. The stage is set for the gun smuggling bad guys, with the usual suspects of terribly Western actors that are there just to serve a purpose and hopefully do so with minimal cringe factor. So far it’s not annoying me so that’s a relief, or maybe I’m so inured to it now that my standards are forever low with that element. I’m more curious about what is potentially harming the local kids health, and find the medical aspect more compelling than the military for the time being.
Mo Yeon and Shi Jin reunite on Urk in the most low key way possible, which is funny considering how quickly they almost got together the first time around. It’s mostly due to both keeping a distance from that line, first Shi Jin and then Mo Yeon, but by the time the end of the episode rolled around I was ready to shake Mo Yeon a bit. She’s veering into inconsistent territory and really for no good reason. But I’ll cut her some slack because she’s not a bitch about it, she can’t help but still be intrigued and attracted to Shi Jin, at the same time not wanting to pick up where they left off. Looking at Shi Jin’s behavior, he was clearly respecting Mo Yeon’s decision back in Seoul when he let her walk away so coolly, not that he actually agreed with her about their perspective differences being a deal breaker. I like how he teases her and she can get upset at him and he can apologize, like two people continuing to learn each other’s quirks and limits. Their conversation at the shipwreck was as laid bare as it can get, poor Shi Jin barely got one flirty quip in before Mo Yeon shut him down flat. I’m glad late he got to make a dig at her doctorly aspirations on saving lives contrasted with her current lifestyle of being a VIP doctor on TV. These two, please keep on giving as good as each can take.
Myung Joo hasn’t shown up on Urk yet but her presence was pretty keenly felt thanks to that clever flashback storytelling by Shi Jin. Kim Eun Sook’s writing in DotS is back to her earlier standards as far as threading narrative hooks together, it’s not groundbreaking but has her own unique cadence and flow. She doesn’t waste scenes and does exposition well as character interaction filler. Poor Dae Young really is stuck between such a big rock and even bigger hard place. It’s clear he and Myung Joo are crazy about each other, as much as a stoic guy like him could be feeling, except the authority of his highest superior officer is not something he could ever disobey. Nor should he, a soldier’s honor is tantamount and he will never be happy with Myung Joo unless he could do so without giving up what he stands for. Their romance setup is as engaging as I hoped for, the type of juicy thwarted push and pull that K-dramas can deliver so well in terms of satisfaction.
The drama as a whole continues to feel tightly written, smoothly directly, and nicely acted. The male leads continue to shine way above all others, with Song Joong Ki‘s cheeky arrogance a nice contrast to Jin Goo‘s stoic masculinity. Song Hye Kyo has stepped up completely for me, perhaps not a future favorite type of performance but at least she’s vibrant and engaged with this role as well as chemistry-wise with other characters. Kim Ji Won is poised to elevate her career after this big exposure and doing a decent job to merit getting a nice boost to future leading lady soon. The background music never bothered me too much when it was being overused since I wanted to feel immersed into this slightly cheesy work and the music was a perfect conduit into buying into this story part and parcel. But having it pull back some suits the slower pace on Urk, as well as the more rustic environs of a foreign army base. It’s still amazing how perfectly pretty every character looks onscreen rather than ratty, or how such specimens of visual perfection ended up being stationed all together. I foresee more than just OTP and secondary romance to come, let the other hookup games begin before the bullets and disaster goes full force.
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