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Live Up to Your Name: Episode 15

Im has realized that he won’t be able to keep all of his promises, and the time has come for him to make a decision. Will he stay in the present with Yeon-kyung, living for the personal happiness that he’s been searching for all his life? Or will he return to Joseon, dedicate his life to his calling, and heal the pain of his suffering people? It’s an unenviable choice, and it’s going to take all his resolution to make it.

 
EPISODE 15 RECAP

Im walks the dark streets of Hanyang, wondering where everyone has gone. He gets his answer when he sees Japanese soldiers roaming around, and ducks out of sight to avoid them. He rubs his chest, his heart still paining him after the time jump. Eek.

He finds Heo Jun’s house empty and littered with dead bodies and panics, until he finds a letter left for him in Yeon-kyung’s purse (which stayed behind in Joseon).

In Seoul, a distraught Yeon-kyung rushes her unconscious grandfather to the hospital, where an ultrasound reveals that he has a serious heart condition. When Grandpa wakes up, she asks why he didn’t tell her he was sick, when he could have died at any moment. He tries to make light of it, but when Yeon-kyung tells him that he needs surgery immediately, Grandpa just pleads to be sent home.

Im follows Heo Jun’s directions to an abandoned house where he finds Mak-gae, who greets him with relief, although she’s concerned at his pallor. He worriedly checks her for injuries, but she assures him that she and Heo Jun are both fine and indicates where the doctor sits watching over his patients. She tells Im that Heo Jun has been treating the wounded whenever they’re brought here by the Joseon warriors.

Heo Jun is unsurprised to see Im, and tells him that Yeon-yi is waiting for him inside. Im enters the house to find Yeon-yi very ill, her father anxiously watching over her. Im takes her hand, and she opens her eyes and greets him weakly.

Close to tears, Im apologizes for making Yeon-yi wait so long, and he thanks her for holding on until now. He promises to make her better and takes her pulse, but his face falls when he hears her heartbeat. He wonders silently what on earth happened to the little girl.

Im tells Heo Jun privately that the girl has convulsions, but she seems to be affected by something more than just the illness. Heo Jun reveals that Yeon-yi’s family lived in the mountains, and when her father was away hunting one day, her mother was raped by a group of bandits. Yeon-yi witnessed her mother hanging herself. Oof.

Heo Jun says that he’s done his best, but only Im can save her, seeing as he gave her the will to live that has her holding out until now. (Okay, what the heck, old dude? If Im was the only one who could save her, why didn’t you tell him that the last time he was in Joseon?) Im promises to do his best, although Heo Jun warns that it won’t be easy.

Just then, the Japanese officer who shot little Kang suddenly appears, thrilled to have another opportunity to kill Im. He and his men surround Im and Heo Jun.

In Seoul, Yeon-kyung has admitted Grandpa despite his protests, and she asks why he’s resisting when he can live healthily for many years if he has the surgery. Grandpa grumbles that he’s lived long enough, but Yeon-kyung pushes him for the real reason why he’s refusing.

Grandpa turns his back to her and reluctantly admits that he doesn’t deserve to extend his life after failing to be a good father and for letting his son and daughter-in-law die before him.

“I’m a doctor, and yet I couldn’t even care for my son’s feelings. I couldn’t even save his wife. And I let my precious granddaughter lose her parents at such a young age. How can I dare—…” he trails off, both of them crying by this point.

Grandpa faces her again and asks her to let him go now that she knows, but Yeon-kyung asks him if he doesn’t care about her. If she loses Grandpa, she says, she’ll be completely alone in the world—can he really leave her behind?

Jae-ha comes to see Yeon-kyung, having heard the news about Grandpa. He apologizes for his own grandfather’s actions, but Yeon-kyung tells him that it’s not his fault and thanks him for convincing the homeless man to confess the truth to the police about the con.

Jae-ha asks about Im, guessing that he’s back in Joseon, and Yeon-kyung assures Jae-ha that he’ll come back, as though trying to convince herself. Jae-ha grumbles at the timing, but she says that Im has gone there to save a child that he mustn’t disappoint again. “He stabbed his own chest to go and save her,” she tells Jae-ha, and at this, she finally succumbs to tears, turning her face away from her friend.

Back in Joseon, Im agrees to surrender his life, but asks to go somewhere else. The Japanese officer just tells him to shut up and orders his men to look inside the house for other Joseon people. Im pleads that even during a war, doctors and patients should be left unharmed, but the officer just takes aim at Im with his rifle.

Suddenly, two black-clad warriors appear, saving Im’s life as they fight the soldiers’ attack. They’re outnumbered, however, and are quickly killed. The officer approaches Im and Heo Jun with a sword, but this time, an arrow hits him in the back, and he falls. A group of warriors quickly dispatch the soldiers,
and Im is surprised to find that they’re led by none other than Doo-chil. After the fighting is over, the two men greet each other warmly.

Grandpa disappears from the hospital, and Yeon-kyung finds him at the columbarium where her parents’ ashes rest. She listens, unseen, as Grandpa tells his son that he was wrong to pressure him into inheriting the clinic, and he swears that he was never once a useless child to him. (If you recall, Grandpa’s last words to Yeon-kyung’s father were that he was useless.)

Grandpa: “I’ve lived as a doctor all this time to pay back that karma, so that I can be a little bit less sorry when I finally meet you. Our Kyung-ie… for our Kyung-ie, can I be a bit more greedy? If I go to you a bit late, can you understand me?”

Yeon-kyung joins him and apologizes to her dad for taking away his time with Grandpa, and promises to work hard on the homework he left for her. She says tearfully that she’s done too much wrong to Grandpa and has too much to pay pack, so she asks to keep Grandpa for a while longer.

She turns to Grandpa with a smile and takes his hand, and he clasps her hand with both of his… and then staggers in pain.

Meanwhile, Im and Heo Jun use the first aid items left behind in Yeon-kyung’s bag to patch up the injured warriors. Doo-chil questions Im about his strange disappearance last time, but Im simply asks how he came to lead the warriors. Doo-chil explains to Im that he’d decided not to travel north alone, and instead chose to stay and fight to protect the people that were so cruelly abandoned by the king and ministers.

Doo-chil says that since Im saved his life, he wants to save a few lives before he goes to the next world, so that Ddak-sae and their mother will be proud of him. “If I hadn’t been born a slave, I would have learned medicine. Then I could saved lives like you, Doctor Heo.” He gives Im a thumbs up, saying he’s amazing.

The time soon comes for Doo-chil and his men to leave, and he says that he’s glad he was able to repay his debt to Im before he died. Im thanks him, and Doo-chil says, “You keep saving many lives, and I’ll keep protecting many lives, and if we meet again, let’s get along well like brothers. I think I’m the dongsaeng.” Im laughs that he’s clearly not (lol). Doo-chil and his men bow goodbye, and Im bows respectfully in return.

Yeon-kyung tells Grandpa not to worry as he heads into surgery. She holds his hand and tells him that the professor working on him is one of the best, but Grandpa asks Yeon-kyung to operate on him. Everyone looks at Yeon-kyung in worry, and when she hesitates, Grandpa wonders if she lacks confidence, and at this, she relents and agrees to do it.

“You haven’t done anything wrong to me. Don’t think such a thing,” he tells her. “I was able to live because I had you, my precious granddaughter.” Her face crumples at this, and he tells her with a grin to let him know later what his heart looks like. She promises that she will. Hang on a sec, I have something in my eye. *sniff*

Im sits at Yeon-yi’s bedside and tells her that Yeon-kyung has sent him here to keep his promise to save her, but he’s going to need Yeon-yi’s help. “Can you help this ajusshi, with your heart?” he asks her. Yeon-yi nods.

Yeon-kyung looks at her hands as she prepares to operate, remembering Im telling her that these hands that have saved so many lives are a gift left for her by her father. Im stares at his needle case as he recalls Yeon-kyung telling him to be sure to save Yeon-yi. Each of them mentally tells the other to watch them, as they get to work.

We see both of them working carefully on their patients. Im asks Yeon-yi to be patient as he puts a particularly painful needle in, and Yeon-kyung carefully replaces her grandfather’s heart valve. Both smile in relief at their successful procedures.

Director Ma arrives at the hospital to a crowd of reporters interrogating him about his involvement in the scam against grandpa. He escapes to his office and calls his powerful friends to no avail; Chairman Min merely tells him that he will be dismissed from his position.

Losing his temper, Director Ma swears that he’s going to kill Im, but Jae-ha enters and tells him that’s impossible—Im has returned to Joseon to help someone, even stabbing himself in the heart to do so. Jae-ha asks if Director Ma has ever endured pain in order to save a patient’s life. “When all the people you believed in turn their backs on you, when you’re all alone, call me. I only have you now too, grandfather.” Jae-ha says, and leaves him alone in his office.

Morning comes, and Im is happy to find that Yeon-yi is feeling much better. Yeon-yi’s father thanks Im profusely, and Im says on the contrary that he’s sorry for coming so late and bows in apology. But Yeon-yi’s father simply states that Im has saved both of their lives; if Yeon-yi had died, he would have followed her.

Im joins Heo Jun outside and asks why he didn’t follow the king where it would be safe, but Heo Jun asks Im the same question–isn’t the future safer? Im asks why Yeon-yi was staying with Heo Jun, and the older man says that he’d found out what had happened and had looked for her. He’d known that if Yeon-yi had died when Im returned, Im would longer be able to practice medicine.

Im asks if Heo Jun still thinks that he’s going to return here permanently, but Heo Jun replies that Im has to figure that out for himself. Im says that he’s heard the needle case was originally Heo Jun’s, but the older doctor says that it only stayed with him for a while. He doesn’t know the secrets of the case, but he too was able to regain his life as a doctor thanks to it. He can only guess that it was because he had something to protect.

Heo Jun says that doctors are rare at this time, especially talented doctors, and there must be a reason the case chose Im—and during a war, at that. Heo Jun points out that Im knows the value of his own abilities, and Im remembers telling Heo Jun how acupuncture is perfect for treating the poor.

“You said you wouldn’t take any memories from here, and yet you came back to save the life of a single child. That choice was not wrong.” He tells Im that the design on the needle case signifies Im’s enlightenment and progress as a doctor. Im notices a new facet of the design on the case that he has not seen before. “It must be time,” says Heo Jun.

Grandpa has awoken after his surgery, and Yeon-kyung tells him to stay healthy and live by her side for a long time. Grandpa smiles at her and says that she’s not just good at healing bodies, but also minds. He tells her that he’s not sad in the least that she became a surgeon instead of a traditional doctor—she’s still helping to save those that need her. He adds that this was the place she belonged all along, the place where she shines.

Im looks at the needle case, contemplating what Heo Jun has told him: Whether he stays or goes, he has to make a decision soon. Yeon-yi joins him, and he asks her why she waited so long for him. She replies that she trusted his promise, and he smiles at the realization that someone believed in him after all. Yeon-yi says that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up so that she can treat other children like her, and sighs that it would be great if she could be one now, during this war.

Yeon-kyung arrives home that night and thinks of Im’s promise to return by the time she counts to 200. She starts counting, then stops herself and starts again, much slower this time.

In Joseon, Im thinks of how much his people need him right now, and of his friends’ efforts to do whatever they can to help. He remembers Yeon-kyung saying warmly that she knows who he really is, after witnessing him helping the common people in Joseon. He sighs and bows his head. (Oh God, he’s going to stay, isn’t he?)

Each of them lie back and stare at the sky in their own times, comparing the amount of stars in each sky. They stare at each other in split screen, as if they can see each other across time.

Yeon-kyung wakes up the next morning to sounds from the kitchen. She finds Im making rice balls, staring at him in disbelief. He turns around and greets her cheerfully, and says he’s making extra rice balls for all the days he missed.

Dropping her bag, she runs and hugs him from behind. He teasingly scolds her for being so impatient, when he was only gone a few days. She asks if he was able to save Yeon-yi, wanting to know all about his trip. He tells her about Mak-gae, Doo-chil, and Heo Jun. She smiles as she listens to all of this, tears falling down her face. “And?” she asks, her voice trembling.

Im finally turns to face her, taking her hands in his. He smoothes back her hair and says, “I missed you.” They hug for a long time.

Im visits Grandpa in the hospital and laments that this happened while he was away—Yeon-kyung must have gone through so much. Grandpa acts offended at being second in Im’s affections, and they bicker, with Grandpa holding out a hand for the money Im still owes him until both men break into laughter. Aww.

Growing serious, Im takes Grandpa’s hand and tells that him it takes a weight off his mind to know that he went through with the surgery. Grandpa says he can see that Im suffered a lot during his trip to Joseon, and that he’s worked out his so-called assignment.

The old man puts his hand over Im’s and says, “My Kyung-ie is strong. You just take care of your own heart.” Im smiles sadly at him, and unbeknownst to the two men, Yeon-kyung stands outside the door to the room, having heard everything.

Im and Yeon-kyung eat the rice balls together in the courtyard, both of them trying to act cheerful despite the melancholy mood. She asks him how things are in Joseon, and he tells her that the Japanese have conquered Hanyang, killing the citizens mercilessly, and that he could only watch like a fool.

“And yet during that time, a doctor took the dangerous road rather than the comfortable one; a slave picked up a sword to protect others, and a child worried more about other sick children than herself.” We see Heo Jun, Doo-chil, and Yeon-yi bravely doing their best in their horrible circumstances.

Im remarks that Seoul is just as it was, busy and polluted—completely different from that world. He says he has something to tell her, but her phone rings, and she reluctantly goes back to work.

Once she’s gone, Im stares at his needle case, and we see his last conversation with Heo Jun: Im had said that he had someone he needed to see in Seoul, and Heo Jun had warned that if he returned again to Joseon this time, he wouldn’t be able to go back.

Im stands outside the ER, watching Yeon-kyung through the window as she works. He turns his gaze to the other doctors and patients as if memorizing the scene, and she sees him, watching him watch the others.

After work that night, Yeon-kyung walks around and around the same roundabout that Im circumambulated when he first came to the hospital, remembering the many times she’s watched Im help people with his talents. Grandpa’s words about people needing to be in the place where they shine most ring in her ears, and she cries.

Yeon-kyung arrives home to find Im asleep in the massage chair, his needle case on the table beside him. She picks it up and sees a long crack on one of its barrels, and understands that time is running out. When Im wakes up, she puts it down and smiles brightly, asking him if he wants to go out.

She takes him to Namsan Tower, where they ride the cable car, laugh, and hold on to each other tightly. They try on matching heart headbands and pop balloons with darts (Yeon-kyung gets every one, while Im is terrible at it, ha.) They stand at the famous wall of locks, and Im embraces her as Yeon-kyung writes their names on it with a heart in between, just as he did at the beach.

Afterward, as they look out over the city, Im says that he has something to tell her before he loses his courage. Yeon-kyung doesn’t reply or look at him, obviously knowing what he’s going to say, and Im struggles not to cry.

Finally composing himself, he turns to her and says, “I’m sorry.” Yeon-kyung closes her eyes miserably for a moment, and then turns to him with a smile.

“Thank you for coming back,” she tells him. “For letting me say goodbye to you. Now, you should go back to the place you need to be. I’ll protect Seoul, so you go and protect Joseon.” At this, Im just stares at her.

Yeon-kyung lets go of his hand and steps back from him. “Now, let’s go our separate ways. For real.” She smiles bravely, blinking back tears. Im can only look at her, his heart in his eyes.

 
COMMENTS

Nooooooo. Why do I feel like the one who’s been stabbed in the heart with an acupuncture needle? It was clear almost from the beginning of this episode that Im was going to make this decision, but that didn’t make it any easier to watch him and Yeon-kyung slowly find the resolve to do what they needed to do. And yet I can’t even be mad, because unlike many dramas that introduce a nonsensical last-minute conflict to the plot, this is a dilemma these two were always going to face. As soon as they began to fall for each other, we knew as well as they did that there was going to be some element of sacrifice involved.

For Im, who had decided to live his life with Yeon-kyung, that sacrifice was going to be his life in Joseon, but the war changed everything. Ironically, it was Yeon-kyung’s own strong ethics as a doctor and her unwavering belief in Im’s goodness that ultimately inspired him to make the only choice that they could both be proud of. And I loved that she understood exactly how hard it was for him to break his promise to her, and spoke up first to release him from it by telling him that she’d be okay. I just love her so much.

This leads me to my favorite thing about this episode, and why this couple is one of the best I’ve seen in a drama: I love how honestly these two communicate. I’ve mentioned it before, but as sad as this hour was, it showed clearly how wonderfully they support each other, like intelligent adults in a healthy relationship. Im went back to save Yeon-yi with Yeon-kyung’s blessing; he’s never once disappeared without saying goodbye (not of his own free will, at least). We haven’t seen a single iota of noble idiocy from either of our leads; whenever they have a problem, they ponder it on their own, consider it from every angle, and discuss it with each other. Even this time, when the couple faced their most difficult challenge yet, they had an unspoken understanding of the heartbreak to come, and that made their last date so bittersweet and heartrending.

That final date at Namsan Tower brilliantly overturned the trope we’ve seen so often, where one person decides to break up with the other person for their own good and figures that it’s the noble thing to do to spend one last, amazing day together before they crush the other person’s heart into little pieces. I always resent that trope, because we’re meant to feel sympathy for the person making the “noble” sacrifice, but all I can think of is how they’re lying to the person they love, and depriving them of the chance to be involved in the decision (and have a proper goodbye). Major props to the writer for doing it this way instead.

I didn’t understand why Heo Jun would hide Yeon-yi from Im and make her wait so long for treatment, but I was glad to see him be able to finally cure her. It was lovely to see Im echo Yeon-kyung’s words to Ha-ra when she arrived late for the girl’s surgery when he finally met Yeon-yi. Even separated by four hundred years, these two have completely become each other’s world, and they were constantly thinking about each other, trying to act in a way that would make the other proud. It was lovely, and it makes me even sadder that they’re saying goodbye to each other at the end of this episode. We had a record amount of hand-holding this hour, and I totally needed it—I felt like the writer was comforting us so that we could brace for the coming heartbreak. Let’s hope that a miracle brings our lovebirds back together, and that this drama ends with as much heart, beauty, and goofiness as it’s had from the beginning. If Live Up to Your Name can manage that feat, I’ll be putting this down as my number one favorite time-travel drama ever.

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