Live Up to Your Name: Episode 13
These halcyon days may not be meant to last, but Im and Yeon-kyung are determined to enjoy them to the fullest anyway, resulting in an hour full of enough flirting and sweetness to melt even the most hardened cynic into a puddle of goo. Still, all these lovey-dovey moments can’t fully distract our couple from the feeling that trouble may soon intrude upon their blissful idyll.
EPISODE 13 RECAP
We return to Im’s first conversation with his teacher as a boy, when he had asked the man to teach him how to help people like his mother. We see him going through tough training, like bringing buckets of spring water from the mountain every morning and constantly being scolded for his imperfect posture.
His teacher tells him that in order to treat patients’ hearts, he has to become one with his needles—his tools will know if he has less than noble intentions. Summer turns to autumn and then winter as a young Im struggles to learn how to sharpen his needles properly.
Now we see an adult Im, back at Hyeminseo Clinic, furiously sharpening his needles on a whetstone. As he admires the results, he thinks of his teacher’s words that both doctor and needles must act from the heart. Im tells his needles that they’ve had a rough time wandering around, but now they’re (both) home to stay.
We flash back to the previous night, when Grandpa asked him why he had returned. Im said that he was back to the place he should be and is joyful when he heals people regardless of their status, which Grandpa had told him was a doctor’s duty. He had asked to be allowed to solve his assignment here (about the needle case), and Grandpa had nodded.
Now, Im picks up the needle case and wonders why it came to him, and what it wants from him.
A bit later, Yeon-kyung emerges on her way to work, and she stops to observe Im for a moment as he happily waters the garden. She remembers Jae-ha’s warning that Im will have to return to his time, and we see that she looked up his famous accomplishments online the previous night.
When she approaches him, though, she smiles and tells him that she’s leaving early because she has a patient waiting. He holds her hand and swings it as they grin bashfully at each other.
Im runs inside and brings some rice balls that he made for her lunch, telling her that she should eat more regularly. He can’t promise to do it every day, but he says that he’ll make her lunch once a week. “Once a week?” she asks softly, moving closer. He amends that to every four days, but when she asks about that too while smiling coquettishly, he ends up promising to make rice balls every morning.
As he walks her out, he asks if she’s forgetting something, since he worked so hard at dawn for her. She doesn’t understand, so he surprises her with a peck on the lips, saying that people call that a “morning kiss.”
She tells him that a real morning kiss should make her think about him all day and want to come home early. She pulls him close, but Byung-ki and Jae-sook suddenly arrive, and Yeon-kyung flings Im away from her. Yeon-kyung stammers an awkward greeting, and Im quickly ushers her off to work.
Im turns around from waving goodbye to see the two assistants staring at him suspiciously, which startles him into slapping Byung-ki, ha. They stare even harder, arms crossed, and he touches his mouth and swears he didn’t do anything. Smooth, Joseon Man.
Jae-sook and Byung-ki ask him how he can just waltz back in here after the way he left before, and Im says that he was barely gone. Byung-ki chases him with the broom, but Im jumps on his back and asks them to forgive him—Im says that he even brought them a gift, because he loves them!
Cut to Jae-sook relaxing in a giant massage chair while Im frets that Yeon-kyung didn’t even get to sit in it yet. Byung-ki sees with dismay that it’s set to Hangover Removal, and Im scolds him for not taking care of her health or their relationship while he way away. Im looks around the clinic and at the two assistants and reflects that nothing has changed here… and that’s why he likes it.
Yeon-kyung’s patient, the one whose valve replacement surgery she did against the wishes of her supervising professors, has yet to regain consciousness, although the operation went well. Professor Hwang berates her for embarrassing him even though he’d warned her that the patient’s chances of recovery were low.
Once he’s gone, Man-soo tells Yeon-kyung she did great on the surgery, whether the patient wakes up or not. Yeon-kyung and the rest of their colleagues stare at him in surprise, and he plays it off awkwardly before sauntering off. Hahaha.
Director Ma is displeased to find out that Im has returned to Hyeminseo Clinic, and his mood deteriorates further when he glimpses Director Shin seeing off Blue House Secretary Jo after an apparently fruitful meeting. Shin gloats to Ma about this reversal in the two men’s fortunes before hurrying off self-importantly.
Hyeminseo’s first patients of the day are the old ladies, and as they arrive, Im emerges from inside the house in epic slow motion. He announces himself grandly and promises to do his best to treat them, and when they just stare at him, he laughs goofily.
At that moment, Kkot-boon arrives, calling for Bong-tak, and Im joyfully races to meet her—only to fall flat on his face. He asks if she’s better now, and she assures him that she is as she slaps his cheek fondly.
Yeon-kyung sits at her patient’s bedside and tells him that she recently met a child who was hurt, but because she didn’t have her tools, she was no longer a doctor and could do nothing for him. But miraculously, she tells him that she was able to save a child who was shot with a just a scalpel.
She repeats Im’s words about looking into a patient’s heart and mind in order to heal their body, and reflects that perhaps it wasn’t a miracle after all. Now medicine is so much more advanced, she adds, but here she is, unable to do anything for her patient. She takes the man’s hand and tells him that just as Im did, she’s going to trust in her patient’s will and his love for his family.
Meanwhile at Hyeminseo, one of the old ladies complains to Im that she has pains all over, and he wonders where he should apply acupuncture. Overhearing, Grandpa comes over and tells her that as a person lives their life, traces of every injury remain with them; some see these as medals, others as sorrow, but all you can do is soothe the pain and keep going.
However, when he’s about to apply a needle to her knee, his hand shakes, and Im asks if he can be allowed to do it, in honor of his first day here as a doctor.
As they see the ladies off later, Grandpa tells Im that the clinic doesn’t just treat illness, but helps patients like these embrace their hearts and share their sadness. Im asks why Grandpa doesn’t get treated for his own bad heart, and Grandpa grumbles that he’s just slowing down with age, though he forbids Im to say anything to Yeon-kyung unless he wants to get kicked out.
Director Ma catches Im alone outside the clinic and asks why he acted out at Chairman Min’s house. Im replies that if he hadn’t, Ma wouldn’t have let him go. Director Ma asks if Im has forgotten what he did for him, but Im just says that the director showed him his path, and he’ll never forget that.
Director Ma points out that if he reports Im to the police for his fake license he’ll be in trouble, but Im counters that so would Director Ma, since he’s the one that made it. Touché, but don’t poke the bear, Im!
Director Ma says that there’s something he hasn’t taught Im: It’s hard to gain money and power, but it’s easy to be trampled by them. Yikes.
Another professor who declined to operate on the valve patient has heard that the man is still unconscious, and feeling vindicated, he scolds Yeon-kyung for still thinking like an intern. Yeon-kyung vows to do the same in the future, even if she becomes a professor or a department head. Just then, Min-jae informs them that the patient has woken up.
Yeon-kyung rushes to the man’s bedside and is near tears with relief when he’s able to understand her and move his extremities. His wife thanks Yeon-kyung and embraces her, and uncharacteristically, Yeon-kyung hugs her back. She refuses any credit, saying that the patient’s love for his family saved him.
Outside in the hallway, Yeon-kyung does her usual victory dance—until she painfully cracks her neck, ha. She decides to call Im with her good news, but realizes that he no longer has a phone. Nurse Jung, watching, marvels at all the ways Yeon-kyung is surprising her these days—the power of love, perhaps?
Nurse Jung gives Yeon-kyung a form to request sick leave and tells her to fill it out. Yeon-kyung protests that her patient needs her, but Man-soo joins them and says that he’s now that patient’s attending. Yeon-kyung laughs and gives him a playful nudge, and he tells her she’s not the only doctor around here. She smiles at them both fondly.
On her way out of the hospital, Yeon-kyung finds Jae-ha waiting for her and tells him she’s taking a few days off. Understanding that she wants to spend time with Im, he asks if she won’t regret it. She says that she might, but Im is by her side right now, and she wants to follow her heart.
Yeon-kyung arrives home excitedly, but grows panicked when she can’t find Im anywhere in the house. She finally finds him feeding the dog in the yard, and she stops short and just stares at him.
He notices her presence and rushes over, but he trips in his excitement, and she reaches out to grab him. They both end up falling down, with Im landing on top of Yeon-kyung and aggravating her sore back. He reprimands her for trying to catch him when she’s hurt, and she pushes him crossly, asking if he’s crazy.
“What if you’d hit your head on the ground? Careful, careful, always be careful!” Yeon-kyung all but cries. Eyes welling, she tells him that everything is dangerous here, so he needs to be careful in every situation. He pulls her close and reminds her of his promise to never leave her alone again. He says that he’ll be careful, but even if he does end up back in Joseon, he’ll return immediately, so she mustn’t worry. She cries and holds him tight.
To Im’s delight, Grandpa serves up meat for dinner, and when the old man asks Yeon-kyung to join them, Im begs her with his eyes. She gives in and sits down, and the lovebirds play footsie under the table, which is adorable. Grandpa still refuses to let Im have any meat, so Yeon-kyung piles a huge amount in Im’s bowl.
Unable to sleep that night, Im knocks on Yeon-kyung’s door, and she happily joins him in the living room and presents him with a gift. It’s a cell phone, and he thanks her, glad to be able to reach her again. He asks for her number, and she programs it in as “My Gum ❤︎” (a reference to how he was stuck to her after her surgery). Pleased, he rubs the phone against his heart.
She asks if he regrets giving everything up, including the money, which she knows he loves. He says that he doesn’t—it was just a manifestation of his anger and his empty heart, and a way to withstand the hardships of living as a doctor in Joseon.
“But no matter how much I saved up, I could not fill my empty heart,” he says with a self-deprecating laugh. “Though I have nothing now, I am more satisfied than ever before. I find happiness in the small things. It’s all thanks to you.” He takes her hand.
She looks moved, but then slips her hand away and takes him to task for leaving her behind to go get his riches that one time. He exclaims that it was all a misunderstanding, and she laughs and says she’ll take his word for it.
The next morning, Yeon-kyung and Im brush their teeth together, then she sets him to washing the breakfast dishes. Afterward, Im teaches her exercises to help her circulation, and Byung-ki and Jae-sook join them (also purely for health reasons, of course).
Im decides that the next move will be a hug, and he tells them to embrace each other. Byung-ki hugs him, and Im slaps him away, calling him an idiot. The two couples hug, and then Byung-ki adorably runs around the yard in giddiness over what he’s just done.
Meanwhile, Director Shin becomes the new chairman of the board for Shinhye Foundation, and Director Ma has a vase-throwing tantrum in his office over it.
A foreign man arrives at Hyeminseo Clinic with acute asthma, and Yeon-kyung gives him emergency treatment, but says he needs an ambulance. The man’s friend explains in awkward Korean that they can’t go to the hospital—they’ll be caught and deported. At Im’s confusion, Byung-ki tells him that they don’t have legal status.
Im reminds Yeon-kyung of her statement that a patient doesn’t require qualifications, and since she’s at a loss to explain the current situation, Im asks if he can treat the man instead.
Everyone watches in silence as Im checks the man’s pulse, then carefully applies acupuncture to various points. Then he pulls out his biggest needle, making the patient nervous. Im reassures the man, but warns him not to move, and inserts the long needle deep into the man’s chest. Grandpa tells Yeon-kyung that this is the most dangerous acupuncture point, and only someone as skilled as Im can do it properly.
The man finally breathes easier, and the entire group smiles in relief. As he leaves, the two friends express their gratitude. The patient takes out a crumpled photo of his family from his jacket, thanking Im for letting him continue to send them money. As they all watch the two men go, Im tells Grandpa that it’s time for him to go somewhere.
Im and Yeon-kyung are on their way out when Jae-ha arrives. He says he’s following his heart now too, and when Im asks snippily why his heart led him here, Jae-ha just tells him to go back to Joseon. Yeon-kyung tells him that they’re going to do some medical volunteering, and Jae-ha says he’ll come too.
At this, Im pouts, especially when Jae-ha shows him up by saying he’ll drive them, since Yeon-kyung is still injured. (I’m enjoying this petty jealousy.)
They end up with the homeless at Seoul Station, and Jae-ha tries to hide his reaction to the smell. Im goes up to the curly-haired man, whose name is Yoo Chan-sung, and apologizes for running away the other night. He asks after the man who was sick then, and Chan-sung points down to wall to his friend Park, who is lying down clutching his stomach. Im checks him over and eases his pain, giving him medicine to take daily.
Im asks curiously why they all stay here and don’t go home to their families, and Chan-sung says that they just can’t. Jae-ha then notices a man taking pictures of them from behind a pillar, but he runs away before Jae-ha can catch him.
At the same time, Director Ma begs Chairman Min for another chance. The chairman agrees, but says that he’d like for Heo Bong-tak to apply acupuncture to one of his family members. Uh-oh.
Im and Yeon-kyung look at other patients, and Jae-ha finally screws up his courage to check one of the men’s pulse. Chan-sung grabs him by the collar angrily, and when Jae-ha gasps at Im to help him, Im assures Chan-sung of Jae-ha’s credentials and encourages him to take a look at the patient. Im and Yeon-kyung watch like proud parents as Jae-ha helps the man. Aww.
At the sound of a police whistle, everyone flees the subway, and Im and Yeon-kyung run ahead of Jae-ha. Yeon-kyung waves goodbye, and he watches wistfully as they outpace him, hand in hand.
Im and Yeon-kyung have a leisurely date that involves eating ice cream, taking selfies, and cuddling. She introduces him to the wonder of sunglasses and puts some of her lipstick on him, and they both laugh.
They go to the beach, which Im is happy to visit for the first time in a decade, and as they walk, she shows him a couple’s declaration of love written in the sand.
Im remembers Ha-ra telling him that a heart can mean love, and at Yeon-kyung’s request, he grabs a stick to write their own names in gigantic letters. He explains that what looks like an arrow in the heart is actually an acupuncture needle, placed in his heart by Yeon-kyung.
Touched, she kisses him, and then coyly tells him to catch her and runs off, acting girlier than we’ve ever seen her. Im doesn’t understand this modern lovers’ game, but obliges anyway. Later, as they eat at a restaurant, Im sees a little boy feeding his younger sister, and it makes him think of Kang and Dam from Joseon.
That night, unable to sleep, Im thinks of the undocumented immigrants and homeless he treated that day, as well as the poor back in Joseon in the midst of war with no medicine, the doctors having fled along with the nobility.
He peeks in at a sleeping Yeon-kyung, and then lies down on the floor next to her bed. Unsatisfied with this view of her, he brings some chairs and lies down on those instead, watching her as she sleeps. Some time later, Yeon-kyung wakes up to find him asleep, and she covers him with her comforter, now her turn to watch him.
She remembers Heo Jun saying that Im used to be a good doctor that Joseon needed, and that he believed she had the ability to bring the old Im back. She reaches out to touch his face, and a tear falls down her own as she pulls her hand back, unable to make contact.
The homeless men, Chan-sung and Park, arrive at Hyeminseo Clinic the next day, cleaned up and dressed in suits. Park asks worriedly if they can really do this, and Chan-sung just says to let him do the talking. Im and Grandpa greet them gladly, and Chan-sung claims to have indigestion and asks for acupuncture.
Im checks his symptoms and says that he seems fine, but Chan-sung acts offended, so Im assures him that he’ll do it. Strangely, Chan-sung asks for Grandpa instead.
Once Grandpa is done, the two doctors leave him to rest. Chan-sung ushers his friend out of the room too, and he takes a small string out of his pocket. When he comes into the courtyard, he’s pale and twitching, and he suddenly collapses on his way out. Grandpa and Im rush over to him, perplexed to find a needle stuck deep into his chest.
A siren wails and paramedics enter along with two detectives, one of whom is Im’s acquaintance from his own arrest. Park tells the detectives that Chan-sung collapsed after receiving acupuncture here, pointing an accusing finger at Grandpa. The detective arrests Grandpa on the spot, despite Im’s horrified protests.
At the station, Grandpa is locked up in the holding cell, and he wonders how this could happen again as he grips his chest, his heart paining him again. Park swears that he saw Grandpa place that needle, and the detective tells Im that the old man might be jailed for five years, or pay a heavy fine. Im tells the detective that Grandpa would never make such a mistake, but Park says that he’s seen the old man’s hands shake while applying acupuncture.
Chan-sung is taken to Yeon-kyung’s hospital, and she discovers that the needle’s end pierced Chan-sung’s heart, causing internal bleeding. That’s when Jae-sook calls Yeon-kyung to tell her the bad news, and just then, Chan-sung suddenly loses consciousness, and Yeon-kyung looks over at him worriedly.
This episode felt like the calm before the storm, a little oasis of happiness that we knew couldn’t last. We got a bit of everything that this show does best: great character moments from everyone in the ensemble cast, funny shenanigans with Im, Yeon-kyung and their friends, touching medical cases that had something thematically relevant to say—and last but not least, the incredibly warm, natural chemistry of our lead couple.
I don’t know when I’ve last seen an OTP so genuinely joyful to be in each other’s presence, and who express the giddy early stages of a new relationship with such realism. Kim Nam-gil especially can go from besotted, to bashful, to giddy, to serious in the space of thirty seconds, and you don’t even see him in the performance. He’s just Im, completely in love with the most beautiful woman he has ever met. And yet despite these two’s physical attractiveness, that’s the least of the reasons they fell for each other. Both simply find that the other makes them grow and learn things about themselves that they couldn’t on their own, and they’re more whole as individuals now that they’re together.
That’s why it was so hard to watch them slowly begin to acknowledge to themselves, if not to each other, that it’s very unlikely that they’ll be able to stay together in the long run. Life in 2017 is rife with hidden traps that Im is unprepared to deal with, and Yeon-kyung can’t always be there to protect him, no matter how much she wants to (and I suspect that in the long run, such an arrangement would feel oppressive to a man like Im). There’s also the basic fact that Im can’t keep all of his promises. He’s sworn to stay by Yeon-kyung’s side, but there’s also his pre-existing vow to save Yeon-yi, and now he’s also given his word to Grandpa to be the right kind of doctor and figure out what the needle case wants from him. I highly doubt that whatever mystical force controls the time travel wants Im to stay in the present. More likely, as with Heo Jun, it came to Im to remind him of the doctor he used to be, and what is truly important for one who is called to medicine. After all, we’ve been told repeatedly that the needles know if the one who uses them has corrupt intentions.
There’s also the guilt that has begun to eat away at Im for leaving his people behind in one of the worst wars in Korean history, without any doctors or medicine. Now that the immediate danger to Yeon-kyung has passed, and he has decided to follow his heart and conscience, he can no longer truly justify to himself staying in the relatively safe and luxurious present when the poor and disenfranchised—people much more his own class than the Hyeminseo Clinic—are suffering such terrible depredations.
The undocumented immigrants’ storyline was also a poignant illustration that in every world, there are those who aren’t given the basic human right to be able to seek treatment when they’re sick. Ironically, Im had imagined that this wasn’t the case in the present day, but now he sees that in some senses, little has changed in 400 years. It’s clear that Yeon-kyung sees and understands all this without Im having to verbalize it, which made that scene where they took turns watching each other sleep heartbreaking and bittersweet, and my favorite in the episode.
I did find the ending plot turn to be strange and out of nowhere. Why on earth would two men who seem to love Grandpa suddenly betray him in such a terrible way? Are they being paid off by Director Ma, and if so, is this the bad blood between him and Grandpa that was indirectly referenced before? I’ve grown so attached to this little family at the clinic that it enrages me that anyone would dare try to hurt them, but part of me is also underwhelmed by the fact that of all places and of all doctors, Kim landed in Yeon-kyung’s lap as a patient. It’s a little too on the nose that she’ll now have to literally fight for the man’s life in order to protect her Grandpa from serious charges, but hey, I’ll roll with it for now. I’d love to see Yeon-kyung, Im, Byung-ki, and Jae-sook coming together to defend Grandpa from these opportunists, so if that’s where we’re headed, I can forgive the show the convenience of this twist.