This was a most surreal episode of Descendants of the Sun, even on top of it being the penultimate episode that needed to set things in motion for the final swan song hurrah. This was an episode of things happening that for the life of me I can’t join together coherently beyond – shit happens and then everyone reacts to it. If I turned off my cognitive functions then this episode was really moving, I felt the emotions radiating from the screen from both Song Hye Kyo and Kim Ji Won, nicely done ladies!
But as a slow wrap to what has been an entertaining albeit implausible story, episode 15 jumped the shark big time (I call it jumping the megalodon), but in this case landed softly because it’s just a stuffed animal shark. No one watching at this point even expects a modicum of realism, but even narrative connectivity got junked to wallow in emotional exploitation. I don’t dig that, even as I still dig Shi Jin and Mo Yeon, so it’s a matter of whether I can overlook the big fat blip to move on. I can, but if tomorrow’s finale craps even harder than today’s episode then it’s going to be a long hard DotS fall to swallow.
Episode 15 recap:
Shi Jin sits in a wheelchair, smiling contently while listening to something on his headphones. I love Shi Jin but if he was out shooting stuff off mere hours after getting admitted to the hospital with a gunshot wound, it seems wholly necessary that he would be in a wheelchair now when he’s getting discharged, whatever standard hospital policy requires.
Mo Yeon bounds up with his discharge papers and confirms his teasing that he looked just like a pretty painting sitting there. Mo Yeon is excited because today she’s not his doctor and is taking him out of the hospital as his girlfriend.
She asks what he’s listening to and he puts the headphones on her to share his favorite listening selection. Mo Yeon smile disappears when she realizes he is listening to her cliffside confession and angrily lets go of his wheelchair. Shi Jin goes rolling down the incline in his wheelchair before hitting a curb and falling off. He’s fine of course but berates his girlfriend for nursing him back to health only to almost kill him afterwards. He suggests they don’t communicate via public transportation in the future.
Myung Joo and Dae Young are having lunch, her shoveling food while he sits ramrod straight across from her. I love a girl who can eat. She tells him to say what he wants to say before she finishes soon, and if he has nothing to say then why ask her out to eat. Myung Joo asks what their relationship is? Are they fighting while still together or have they broken up now?
Dae Young wants Myung Joo to convince him to take off his army uniform and go work for her uncle and become a businessman, he can do that because he’ll have her by his side. Myung Joo doesn’t want his life to be stifled like that, and brings up how she can cut off her dad going forward. That’s not an option for Dae Young because it ruins Myung Joo’s future promotion in the army. If he were Myung Joo’s dad he would also disapprove of Dae Young. He gets up to leave and tells her to finish up, he really did call her out just to feed her. Myung Joo asks if he wants to break up for real but Dae Young says nothing.
General Yoo stares at Dae Young’s army discharge papers sitting on his desk.
Mo Yeon is home and Shi Jin video calls her, teasing why she’s still dressed. She hangs up to open the door for him and is surprised he’s dropped by. He claims his injury still hurts and is here to get a follow up care. Shi Jin takes out cans of beer and tells Mo Yeon to go take a bath.
Mo Yeon finishes her bath and comes out to see Shi Jin has lit candles everywhere. She’s surprised he knows that she loves candles. He takes her beer from her and warns her not to drink with other guys. Mo Yeon asks what he will do if she does, will he drop down in a helicopter to stop her? She suddenly asks how he got a helicopter to rescue her and doesn’t buy Shi Jin’s attempts to feign injury pain to avoid answering the question.
Mo Yeon angrily asks how he could have used the second card to get the helicopter but he points out that using it helped save her life. Mo Yeon is upset and grills Shi Jin on whether there is anything of value in the helicopter, like gold or cases full of cash or barrels of oil. She can’t believe he used the second card on yet another mode of transportation! Shi Jin lovingly pinches the cheek of his very materialistic money grubbing girlfriend.
Ki Bum arrives at the test taking site for his college entrance exams and finds the hyungs of Alpha Team waiting there to cheer him on. They hand him PPL food and treats along with advice to select his answers wisely, or always pick 3 if he doesn’t know the answer as Dae Young suggests. Ki Bum heads inside and the guys try to act incognito before they all get calls on their cell for Alpha Team to gather, all except Dae Young.
As Alpha Team is packing up Dae Young is called in to see General Yoon who asks him to join this three month deployment because he can’t find a replacement yet, or he can sign the transfer papers now if Dae Young doesn’t want to go. Dae Young wants to go so General Yoon tells him to go and come back safely, and come see him with Myung Joo as he will drink two cups of tea with them as tacit acceptance of their relationship even without his earlier demand. General Yoon tears up Dae Young’s transfer papers while staring at the picture of his daughter.
Dae Young leaves his dog tag on Myung Joo’s apartment door before leaving for deployment.
The medical team at Hae Sung hospital are sitting around a coffee break when Chi Hoon is so upset after learning from Daniel the translation of what the little boy said to him. Chi Hoon realizes the little boy was asking for a goat and that word was not his name, lol.
Mo Yeon gets a call and excitedly heads outside the hospital to see Shi Jin waiting for her in his army fatigues. He apologizes right off for bat as he’s leaving for longer than usual. Mo Yeon wonders if it’s a few weeks and hears that it’ll be three months. He came by now when he had the time to see her before leaving. Mo Yeon asks if he’s going overseas so Shi Jin asks her to just think of him as enlisting in the military and his first day off is 100 days later.
Mo Yeon tries to be nonchalant and used to this but she can’t really and almost cries. Shi Jin hugs her and apologizes for having her endure this. She asks him to stay safe and he promises that he will come back alive. Mo Yeon wants to know if he can be reached and Shi Jin promises to call her when he has access. He asks Mo Yeon to live this season well and he’ll be back at the change of the season. Mo Yeon runs into Shi Jin’s arms and they embrace warmly before Shi Jin reluctantly leaves.
Shi Jin drives off while looking at Mo Yeon in his rearview mirror. Mo Yeon reluctantly heads inside when Shi Jin’s car disappears from view. She remembers Angus telling her that Big Boss is a great guy but has many secrets, and one of these days he won’t come back. Shi Jin deploys once again.
Mo Yeon is in a daze at the hospital cafeteria line and snaps out of it once she receives a confirmation text from Shi Jin that he’s safely arrived and missing her. Mo Yeon goes about her day-to-day life and lives on occasional texts from Shi Jin updating on his life tidbits where he’s at. Mo Yeon texts back that she misses him a lot and it’s hard not to be able to contact him.
Mo Yeon sits on the roof and watches a helicopter fly by, wishing Shi Jin would be taking one right now to come back to her.
Shi Jin and his Alpha Team are on a mission and ten minutes from finishing their entire deployment to go home. Shi Jin is suddenly shot from a distance and falls into Dae Young’s arms as he pulls Shi Jin to safety.
Mo Yeon happily goes about her day at the hospital as Dae Young tries to triage Shi Jin who is losing consciousness. Shi Jin remembers when his comrade died in trying to rescue him and how they promised to go drinking. Shi Jin says he’s coming and Dae Young begs Shi Jin to stay awake. Dae Young is suddenly shot at and watches Shi Jin’s eyes close. The Alpha Team members in the helicopter radio call and get no response. They suddenly see the area below explode in a fiery inferno and everyone screams.
Mo Yeon is texting Shi Jin and getting no response. Myung Joo joins her for drinks and assures Mo Yeon that the men are somewhere without communication so she needs to not upset herself by sending texts that won’t be returned. Myung Joo explains how her battle with Dae Young to be together is even harder but she won’t lose.
The ladies discuss what to do when the men return – Mo Yeon will take a week off no matter how much pay she loses just to stick beside Shi Jin, whereas Myung Joo will confiscate Dae Young’s phone and take him on vacation with her. They toast to that and then Mo Yeon gets a text update from joining an army wives board hearing that the men have gotten their shore leave.
Mo Yeon notices that it’s raining outside and wishes their men are back already. Myung Joo knows they are almost home and the ladies exchange assuring glances.
The Alpha Team members are welcomed off the arriving army transport and only three deplane without Shi Jin or Dae Young. Sargent Choi reports that the search and rescue is over and the men’s bodies have not been recovered.
General Yoon sits in his office brooding when Shi Jin’s father arrives. He walks numbly forward staring at Shi Jin’s dog tag on the desk. General Yoon hands over the dog tag with Shi Jin’s letter addressed to his dad. Shi Jin’s dad sobs uncontrollably.
Myung Joo is looking for hotels on her cell phone when her subordinate arrives to greet her. Myung Joo figures Dae Young is back and excitedly wants to run off to look for him. The subordinate walks up to give a report that Dae Young died honorably in battle. Myung Joo starts crying while screaming at the subordinate to give her a happy report!
Sargent Choi goes to see Mo Yeon at the hospital to give her the bad news. He starts off apologizing before telling Mo Yeon the terrible news that Shi Jin died in battle. Mo Yeon takes the letter addressed to her from Shi Jin.
Mo Yeon reads the letter from Shi Jin explaining that they write final letters each time they go into battle. He hopes she never reads it but if she is then he hasn’t kept his promise to come back safely. Wherever she is at is a happy place, and he is so lucky to meet her and fall in love. He’s so sorry to always have to leave her. Mo Yeon runs out of the hospital and drives off.
Myung Joo runs to her dad’s office and General Yoon can only apologize. Myung Joo wants him to tell her that this isn’t true but he only hands off Dae Young’s letter addressed to her. Myung Joo doesn’t want the letter because accepting and reading it means that he’s really dead. She blames her dad for doing this, when they could have been happy he sent Dae Young on a mission. General Yoon tells Myung Joo that she can still have a happy life but she wants none of that.
Mo Yeon arrives on the army base and sees Myung Joo sitting on the steps crying. She asks why Myung Joo is crying, if she’s crying then what about Mo Yeon? How’s Mo Yeon going to handle this? Has it been confirmed yet, what if it’s a mistake! Mo Yeon sees a similar letter in Myung Joo’s hand and asks if she will never see him again, he’s never ever coming back.
Myung Joo nods her head and Mo Yeon sinks to the ground beside her. Mo Yeon starts to sob in earnest as Myung Joo continues to cry.
MO Yeon lays in her apartment as Shi Jin’s letter continues – he knows this is a shameless request but he doesn’t want her sad and crying for long. He wants her to live a happy life and to forget about him quickly. Colonel Park pays Mo Yeon a visit and explains that in a week the army will release an official report that Shi Jin and Dae Young died during a training exercise. He wants Mo Yeon to sign a non-disclosure agreement keeping the truth of Shi Jin’s death a secret.
Mo Yeon asks if Shi Jin died saving lives and Colonel Park says he did. She wants to know if he helped maintain peace somewhere when he died and Colonel Park says yes. He also says yes when she asks if Shi Jin died serving his country. Mo Yeon wants to know why his country wants her to sign this NDA now, when the country wants to keep what he did a secret to the end. But she still tearfully signs it because it’s what he would have wanted.
Mo Yeon returns to work at the hospital and everything is back to business, taking patients from the medi-copter into the OR and rushing around to grab a quick bite. Dr. Kim walks up to talk about how Mo Yeon shaved another 8 minutes in her ER patient intake, congratulating her on becoming Gangnam’s fastest ER doctor.
Dr. Kim sits down and asks Mo Yeon why she’s objecting changing a medicine? Mo Yeon says the current one is fine and cheap and the new one comes from a company Dr. Kim’s relative owns. She tells Mo Yeon to go be a doctor in Africa if she’s all about saving lives but Mo Yeon points out that three out of four patients Dr. Kim sees are misdiagnosed thanks to her incompetence so she best look out for herself.
Mo Yeon drinks wine in coffee mugs with bestie Ji Soo in her radiology lab. Ji Soo wants Mo Yeon to go home tonight rather than stay and give the residents a hard time. Mo Yeon grows quiet and Ji Soo wonders what she’s thinking? Mo Yeon is thinking of so many scattered memories – bottled water, red wine, candles, c-rays, recordings – as her eyes mist up and she starts to cry. She thought she was all better but clearly she’s not.
Ji Soo asks if Mo Yeon needs a hug but she promises to be fine. Mo Yeon takes another drink of wine before wiping her tears with a smile.
Myung Joo deploys yet again to Urk and thanks him for allowing her this mission. General Yoon asks her to stay healthy this time and admits his only failed mission was opposing Dae Young. It was a completely wrong thing to do and made his daughter so unhappy. He asks Myung Joo to know that he is always thinking of her and if she has time to remember that, and he will wait for her to forgive him when she is ready.
Myung Joo and Mo Yeon go back for drinks and this time their dates are the same two stuffed animals that Dae Young and Shi Jin won at the arcade. Myung Joo explains that she’s going back to Urk in three days and asks Mo Yeon to drink with her for three days and three nights like the guys did. Mo Yeon is up for that as the ladies toast.
Mo Yeon admits it’s been weird lately as she keeps remembering all the happy memories. She wants to know how Myung Joo and Dae Young met and hears it was because of a woman.
Flashback as it’s raining and Dae Young heads out under an umbrella after he’s attended his ex-girlfriend’s wedding with Myung Joo. Shi Jin runs under and puts his arms around Dae Young. He introduces himself as the Captain and Dae Young blurts out that he’s dating. Shi Jin is confused until Dae Young says he’s dating Yoon Myung Joo.
Shi Jin and Dae Young sit down for drinks and Dae Young sucks at keeping his story straight, saying he’s dated Myung Joo for one year but then revealing that he met her last month during endurance training. Dae Young just keeps repeating that he’s dating Yoon Myung Joo. Shi Jin asks if Dae Young knows that Myung Joo’s dad is a three star general. He pauses before repeating again that he’s dating Myung Joo which makes Shi Jin smile and he tells Dae Young to keep dating her. He’s happy that he won’t have reason to fight Dae Young other than on the same side in combat.
Mo Yeon walks through Seoul holding her Shi Jin bear and passes by the coffee shop where she used to go with Shi Jin.
Shi Jin and Mo Yeon tease each other in the coffee shop on one of their dates about how they have not said “I love you” to each other. She thinks they’ve said it via physical skinship which makes Shi Jin nearly choke on his coffee, but she meant the hand holding and kissing before they even confessed. He wants to hear it now and in alphabetical order she should do it, or ladies first, or by age. But before Mo Yeon can complain Shi Jin just says “I love you”. Mo Yeon takes her chocolate heart stirrer and says I love you back. They clink hearts before dropping it into their coffees.
Mo Yeon lights a candle at home and stares dejectedly at her Shi Jin teddy. She suddenly sees Shi Jin sitting on her sofa holding the bear. They both say I miss you before Mo Yeon demands to know why he didn’t come back as promised, asking if it was all worth it? Shi Jin wanted so much to rush back to her. Mo Yeon cries that he hasn’t come back before the camera pulls back showing her alone.
Myung Joo arrives back at the Urk base and settles into her bunker. She takes out Dae Young’s letter and holy has she not read it yet? She puts it into her locker folded and says that she will never read it until she dies, she’ll piss him off like he’s upset her.
Mo Yeon is at the airport flying off and finishes talking to Ji Soo before taking a call from Daniel. He’s stuck in quarantine since he’s on various no-entry list and is in Korea to protect a Big Pharma conference so the two meet up at the airport. He hears that she’s headed back to Urk to volunteer and she’s doing this for her own selfish reasons because tomorrow is Shi Jin’s death anniversary.
Mo Yeon arrives in her overseas stint and settles into treating the local patients.
Daniel is protesting on how vaccines originally created to save lives are being weaponized to do harm. He decries the multinational pharmaceutical companies for their greedy ways.
Myung Joo is bandaging the hand of a soldier when Ki Bum walks in revealing that he’s also been stationed her. He offers to cook ramyun for Myung Joo and the two sit down to eat, reminiscing about how Dae Young loved ramyun too. Ki Bum looks up in shock to see that it’s snowing outside. Snow flurries fall in Urk softly as Myung Joo stares.
Mo Yeon ties her hair back in the wind and remembers Shi Jin doing it for her in the past. She goes to play flowers on his rock grave site and talks to him about why he takes such risks and thinks he can survive. He’s a liar when he told her that he wouldn’t get hurt or die.
Mo Yeon cries and cries until she gets a call over the walke talkie. She answers back that she’s coming back before leaving the white rock on the grave. The rock keeps falling and Mo Yeon tries to put it back. She suddenly hears “Big Boss” over her walkie talkie and she drops it in shock. She looks around and then grabs her phone to see that her text messages to Shi Jin have all been read. Wow, magical cell phone survival as well.
Mo Yeon looks around and then hears a voice on the walkie talkie telling the pretty girl to turn back and talk a look. Mo Yeon stares at Shi Jin slowly walks towards her. Mo Yeon runs towards Shi Jin and trips to fall to the ground. Shi Jin drops his bag and runs towards Mo Yeon to help her up.
The two stare at each other before Shi Jin says no long no see. Mo Yeon keeps repeating that he’s alive and Shi Jin says something this difficult he’s always able to do it.
Shi Jin pulls Mo Yeon in for a tight embrace as she keeps repeating that he’s alive while he keeps apologizing to her. If he didn’t intentionally fake his death and then stay away then he has nothing to apologize for.
Thoughts of Mine:
Where do I even start? Getting angry at Kim Eun Sook for this level of narrative wankery just to put Mo Yeon and Myung Joo through the ringer feels so pointless. Of course she was going to try and kill Shi Jin off, all the hints from episode 1 pointed towards the men going through a life and death experience while the ladies who love them suffer and cry back home. But expecting it doesn’t mean accepting a very lame way of bringing it about, and this was as poorly constructed as any. Starting off with it following just an episode behind Shi Jin getting shot and having his heart stop, ergo he’s just had a brush with death. If he died for reals this time then so be it, narratively it would be a better payoff then yet another feint that relied on his superhuman healing abilities. This time he got shot and survived an explosion, woo hoo! Much as I love Dae Young, if he also survived then the headdesking is through the roof. Only way I’ll buy it is if their deaths were orchestrated by the SK government to send both even deeper undercover, but then why have Shi Jin’s near death memory of his dead comrade. I couldn’t swallow a single moment of the sadness to come because this whole set up stunk to high level with lazy writing.
With that said, Mo Yeon and Myung Joo’s sorrowful displays did feel sincerely heartbroken, and makes me want to introduce them to non-special forces awesome guys out there so they can stop loving men perched at the edge of danger. At Shi Jin and Dae Young’s danger hit rate, these two ladies are going to be going through this cycle like a bad case of Groundhog Day. It also feels like that as a viewer, and with each instance the impact is decreased exponentially. The next time Shi Jin gets shot and/or maybe blown up I might look up from filing my nails, or maybe not. He’s no longer the Korean Captain America, he’s now the Korean Wolverine with regeneration powers. I know the story will have some explanation for how Shi Jin came back alive but there is so little I can postulate to make it work, on top of the general exhaustion with this recycled plot device. Even admiring how beautiful Song Hye Kyo looked in the entire episode, from beaming happiness to gutwrenching despair, I still couldn’t help but mentally check out by the end. And then mentally checking back in the moment desert windswept and dirty Shi Jin, wearing matching scarf natch, showed up again walking over the desert horizon crest. What can I say, I’m a glutton for Song Joong Ki visual perfection.
Aside from the rinse-and-repeat death feint, everything else in this episode also felt perfunctory. The medical team members are all on the backburner with one scene hanging out with Mo Yeon. The mission that “killed” Shi Jin and Dae Young had zero context so I didn’t even know enough to care why they went there or who they may have given their lives for. Unlike Urk where each new danger developed nicely, this mission was just there and felt manufactured for the tearful fallout. If it was to put Shi Jin and Dae Young in so much danger that they would quit their military careers once they got home then so be it. But even then it’s not realistic since being soldiers is the only thing they are excellent at, as far as we know, and if they don’t become civilians after this bout with near death then I’m going to want Myung Joo and Mo Yeon to find new boyfriends because this will clearly keep happening time and again. They aren’t just normal soldiers, they are elite special forces at the front line of danger. I think Kim Eun Sook bit off more than she can chew in trying to hammer home this point, this episode would have better spent with the two couples just being lovey dovey while safely advancing their careers. There was no need for one more life-and-death struggle, we get the risk and I don’t appreciated being treated like a mentally slow viewer while dangling pretty Song-Song cuteness in my face.
It’s disappointing that Kim Eun Sook couldn’t have saved this huge event just for this ending episode, or thrown in other dangers like maybe Mo Yeon or Shi Jin’s parent getting in harm’s way thanks to Shi Jin’s job or in a medical emergency that needs Mo Yeon to step out. I’ve cut this dramas glaring lack of realistic plausibility a lot of slack and agree that those who enjoy it aren’t getting hung up on eyeball rolling displays of heroism and regenerative ability. But stretching realism to make for good dramatic flair is not what lapsed here, what happened with Shi Jin, and likely Dae Young’s fake death, is to make me stop connecting with the emotional core of the love stories. I feel tired with both couples issues that are non-issues because it no longer feels like Shi Jin could ever really die. Not to mention Dae Young and Myung Joo at an impasse over his military career when it’s not like he’s a piano prodigy giving up the ivories for the girl he loves, being a soldier is just a job and he can get a different one without anyone crying a river. If he doesn’t like desk jobs then get one where he gets to use his skills. Now that all that venting is done, I am still enjoying the drama and looking forward to the final episode. It can’t be stupider than this one, right? And after so many times of making Mo Yeon, and us, worried about Shi Jin’s fate there can’t possibly be a fourth bite at the same rotten narrative apple. Right?
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