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Mr. Sunshine: Episode 11

Ae-shin attempts to reconcile her desires as a fighter for Joseon with the reality of her identity as a noblewoman, but her brave step forward isn’t accompanied by Eugene. While Eugene takes a step back, Dong-mae and Hee-sung take a step forward to protect Ae-shin from her own stubborn flame and those who try to extinguish it. All this attention for Ae-shin leaves Hina alone in facing her biggest demon: She can sense his looming threats, but she’s learned to how to defy his ominous desires and protect herself.

 
EPISODE 11 RECAP

Walking through the snowy night from her English lesson, Ae-shin reviews the words she learned: “moonlight, stranger, music, sunshine.” She associates each word with a memory of Eugene, and she remembers his rhetorical question about who can live in the Joseon she’s fighting to save.

As the trolley passes by her, Eugene watches Ae-shin longingly from the other side of the tracks. Ae-shin repeats words in her head: “Sunshine… mister, sunshine.” Once the trolley passes, Ae-shin sees Eugene and tears up at the sight of him. On the train, Hina watches the two with a sad look.

Keeping their distance, Eugene tells Ae-shin to be careful of walking in the snow, and Ae-shin asks that they talk somewhere out of plain sight.

Hina reaches her hand out to admire the snow and wonders if it’s the last snow of the season. A hand suddenly pulls her off the trolley, pulling Hina into an unexpected embrace. It’s Dong-mae, and he flirts saying that her hand looked cold. Then, he notices that Hina is holding a gun against his torso and slowly raises his hands in surrender.

Hina warns him that he should be careful when taking a woman’s hand, since she may not always be holding delicate things. Dong-mae wonders why there are so many dangerous women around him, and Hina explains that like attracts like. He asks why she was out, and Hina says that she spontaneously wanted to escape the bustling hotel to enjoy the snow in her new coat. He offers to escort her back to the hotel, but Hina suggests that they walk in the opposite direction because the other side has a poor view (in reference to Eugene and Ae-shin).

On a quieter street, Eugene notices Ae-shin’s cold hands and offers his gloves to her. She takes them and remembers when Eugene last held her hand, on the frozen river after he explained his backstory. Ae-shin apologizes for her unintentionally hurtful reaction to Eugene’s personal story.

She admits that she committed to be a fighter because she believed she was doing the right thing, despite the worry she burdened her family with. But the justifications for her world were invalidated by the end of Eugene’s story. She realizes that she never questioned Eugene’s identity because she assumed that he was also a noble.

Overwhelmed with guilt, Ae-shin cries as she admits that she thought herself as different from other nobles, but she realized that she was just a privileged noblewoman spoiled in luxuries. With this confession, she pleads that Eugene not be hurt by her reaction to his backstory.

Eugene steps forward and puts the gloves on Ae-shin’s hands. He holds her hand for a little longer, and he assures her that she’s improving and that this was just a bump in the road. Eugene tells her to continue improving while he literally and figuratively takes a step back.

He admires Ae-shin’s tearful response since she could have easily chosen silence or ignorance. But he says that clear disparities exist in this world — of heart, of opinion, and of social status. He says neither of them are to blame and that they’ve merely met in this world of disparities.

Eugene reminds Ae-shin that the lower class — like her servants, the innkeeper, and errand boys — live in her Joseon. He insists that she continue to live as a fighter while also living as a noblewoman, since that’s the smart and safe thing to do. He wishes that she lives a long life to protect her Joseon. He tells her to keep the gloves and not fall again like she did on the ice. With that, he walks away with a sense of finality.

Walking beside each other, Hina asks why Dong-mae got slapped. He cryptically says that he shot a black bird (Ae-shin) so that it won’t fly again, and he offers to get slapped by Hina for using her fired worker to spy on Eugene. He expresses sympathy for her worker, who betrayed Hina’s trust out of desperation to save her mother’s life, but Hina sternly warns him not manipulate her workers again. Dong-mae says that he can’t even if he wanted to, since the boys suck at their job and the new hotel worker seems to be loyal to another noble.

Hina returns to Glory Hotel after her outing, and at the sound of the door, she turns around to welcome a new guest. But her face turns cold when she recognizes the man, Dr. Machiyama, who greets Hina as Kudo’s wife.

Dr. Machiyama says that Wan-ik summoned him to work at the Hanseong Hospital, but Hina knows that there’s more to Wan-ik’s scheme. Dr. Machiyama reveals that Wan-ik is seeking the truth behind Kudo’s death, and Dr. Machiyama has the autopsy report for Hina’s husband. Hina looks a little shaken and says that this is distressing news.

At the hospital Dr. Machiyama checks on the young girl who was accidentally shot by the late Minister Lee Se-hoon, who was killed for treason. By her bedside, Il-shik and Choon-shik celebrate the girl’s quick recovery, but the girl looks frightened by these strangers looking over her. The pawnshop duo assures her that a noble paid for her treatment, but the girl expresses concern about any ulterior motives for saving her life.

Il-shik looks heartbroken by this young girl’s understanding of the world, and he says that adults are supposed to care for children without expecting anything in return. The girl asks who her savior is, and we jump to Il-shik and Choon-shik assuring Eugene that they kept everything a secret to preserve his humility.

As he buys yeot, Eugene asks why they had to keep this a secret and deadpans that he saved the girl so that he could show off his generosity. The duo watch Eugene walk away, and Il-shik presumes that Eugene’s deadpan is an American “joke.”

At the embassy, Eugene hands Domi the yeot and thanks him for teaching him Korean. Their lessons continue in his office, and instructor Domi strictly refuses to teach student Eugene more advanced writing until Eugene solidifies his basics. When Gwan-soo enters the office, Domi quickly adopts the role of the student to hide Eugene’s secret, and Eugene looks at the kid with a grateful smile.

Gwan-soo scolds Domi for still being stuck in the basics and says that he’s too old to be at this level. He rambles that Domi needs to know learn quickly to write letters to his lover and understand phrases like “I miss you” and “Let’s meet.” Eugene realizes that Gwan-soo knows his secret and must be indirectly dissing him. Eugene says that he’s offended, and Gwan-soo scampers away before he’s scolded any further.

Domi apologizes to Eugene for his poor cover-up, and Eugene childishly blames Domi for his disclosed secret. But he softens up and warmly says that he’ll probably miss Domi a lot.

Lee Se-hoon’s mistress meets with Wan-ik and begs him to take her in, since she was sold to him anyway before the minister was killed. Wan-ik doesn’t trust the mistress because she ran away with Lee Se-hoon’s gold before he passed, and she claims that she’s learned from her mistakes. She shares that the wretched hotel owner took all her gold anyway, and Wan-ik ears perk up at her curses at Hina. He reveals that Hina is his daughter, and he calls the police to take her away.

The police drag the mistress to an enclosed room, where Hina is waiting. She pays the police a bar of gold each for their services, and the mistress looks annoyed at her quickly depleting wealth. Hina reminds her that the gold is the cost of the mistress’ life and tells her to report everything she saw at Wan-ik’s house. Aha, so this was a scheme by Hina all along.

When Hina returns to the hotel, she finds her worker girl burning a cloth. The girl says that she realized that she wasn’t being smart, so she’s belatedly burning the cloth now. Hina lights her cigarette with the fire and admits that she should have done the same, but she wasn’t smart and now she’s facing a complicated situation.

Eugene visits Seung-gu at the shooting practice hideout to deliver the broken bowls and thank him. Seung-gu infers that Eugene is here for Ae-shin and says that she’s not here, which is a relief to Eugene. Seung-gu says that Ae-shin has been exceptionally accurate with her shooting recently, as if she’s determined to stand by Eugene. But Seung-gu tells him that their relationship is not possible in Joseon.

Eugene acknowledges this and expresses his wishes that Ae-shin will smile without his presence instead of crying in his presence. He asks to practice with the gun that Ae-shin uses, and he goes to the river to shoot. He thinks about Ae-shin’s delight in meeting him as a comrade on their first boat ride together, and looking at her gun, he says that he was pleased to have met her as well. He shoots the gun into the distance and holds the gun by his side.

Next, Eugene meets with Ae-shin’s right- and left-hand servants and buys them delicious jjajangmyun. The servants can’t take their eyes off the food but vow not to share anything about Ae-shin to Eugene. But the maid accidently lets slip that Ae-shin can barely sleep and wets her pillows every night from her tears. That’s so sad.

Overcome by the temptation, the servants decide that it would be wasteful to not eat the food, and they happily dig into their meals. Eugene hands them a box wrapped in a cloth and tells the two to stay healthy.

Afterward, the servants discuss Eugene’s farewell and figure that they should give the box to Ae-shin after Eugene leaves, since she’s already having a rough time. They wonder if it’s something that will rot, and they worry about where to store this mysterious item.

Ae-shin sits on the terrace and stares at the message she wrote to Eugene: “I missed you.” She remembers Eugene’s farewell and strokes the letters on the page. She covers up one character, and the message reads: “I miss you.”

The lights turn off for the night, and Eugene looks out at a dark Joseon from the hotel as he prepares to leave the land.

At the English school, Ae-shin stares blankly in the distance with Eugene’s gloves in her hands. Her thoughts are interrupted by a familiar voice asking to meet his fiancée, and Ae-shin rushes to the door to find Hee-sung waiting for her.

Ae-shin scans Hee-sung’s familiar outfit, the one he fitted with the tailor to match Ae-shin’s coat. Ae-shin says that it’s nice to see him wear the outfit that she sent him, but Hee-sung says that he knows her plan. He tells her to meet him at the trolley if she’s curious about how much more he knows, and Ae-shin grabs his arm to warn him not to wear this dangerous outfit.

Hee-sung reacts nervously to Ae-shin grabbing his arm and says that he must wear this outfit. He says that she’ll find out what he means when she comes to the ride the trolley, and he runs off.

On her way to ride the trolley, Ae-shin notices all the men on the streets wearing the Hee-sung’s same outfit. She’s astonished and wonders if her fiancé is sending her a gift or a warning.

Walking down the street, Dong-mae overhears a ticket vendor explaining to an angry customer that Hee-sung had bought out the trolley. Dong-mae’s eyes sharpen at this news, and he stands with his arms crossed right in the middle of the tracks to stop the trolley. He jumps on board after just nearly getting hit, and Hee-sung scolds him for dangerously standing in the tracks.

In the trolley, Dong-mae warns Hee-sung that he could get shot if he wears this outfit around, and Hee-sung reminds him that the trio decided to approach this matter separately. He proudly states that everyone is wearing the same outfit and boasts of his usefulness. Hee-sung tells Dong-mae to leave or pay for the trolley, and Dong-mae comments that he’s usually the one saying those words.

They’re interrupted by the arrival of Ae-shin, and Hee-sung lends his hand, which she doesn’t take. Hee-sung tells Ae-shin’s servants to wait as they take a ride around, and her servants are offended by his refusal to invite them for a ride. The maid compares Hee-sung to Eugene, who so generously bought them jjajangmyun, and she’s clearly bitter about not being invited to ride on the fun trolley.

Hee-sung explains to Ae-shin that it’s just them on the trolley — in addition to Dong-mae — because he bought out all the seats. Dong-mae interrupts to ask Ae-shin if she’s prepared the money (for their deal about the banknote that the girl hid from him), and she assures him that she’ll keep her promise. Hee-sung reminds Dong-mae that he comes from the wealthiest family in Joseon, so Dong-mae need not worry about Ae-shin paying back her debt.

Dong-mae stands up to leave and asks the trolley driver to stop. Hee-sung flies forward at the abrupt stop and ends up tightly hugging Dong-mae at their impact. They both freeze at their uncomfortable proximity, and Ae-shin struggles to hold in her laughter. Dong-mae considers killing Hee-sung again and hops off the trolley before they embarrass themselves any further.

Hee-sung asks how much she owes Dong-mae, and Ae-shin says that she’ll take care of it herself. Ae-shin asks why he bought out the whole trolley, and Hee-sung responds that he wanted to exclusively hear her explanation for her injured leg and where all his tailored clothes are.

Ae-shin responds that she sent his clothes to Japan, and Hee-sung says that he wore them well, though he both seem to be reading through each other’s lies. Hee-sung suggests that they go for a boat ride next time, and Ae-shin suggests that they go hunting instead. Hee-sung wonders if she’ll benefit from them going to the mountains and if she’ll kill him.

Ae-shin remains silent, and Hee-sung proposes a deal — that he’ll remain as her fiancé and her shadow. He doesn’t care if she fights for or against this nation wearing his clothes, and he tells her to hide in his shadow if she finds herself in danger. If this is the reason for his return to Joseon, he considers it an honor.

Realizing that her fiancé was sending her a gift, Ae-shin says that this is better than going to the mountains, where she’ll have a large advantage over him. Hee-sung smiles and considers it an honor that she doesn’t plan to kill him.

The American ambassador, Allen, returns from Shanghai, and Wan-ik’s assistant, Lee Duk-moon, reports to Wan-ik that the king has solicited Allen multiple times to borrow money, so Allen escaped to Shanghai. Wan-ik finds it amusing that the king thinks America is such a righteous country that they’re turning on Japan.

Duk-moon hands him the reports by all the interpreters who they’ve won onto their side, and Wan-ik says that their support will make the king waver. He puts the reports into his drawer, which also holds the Kudo’s autopsy report, and asks who’s been helping the king connect with the American ambassador. Duk-moon reports that he’s heard of a few consulates, and Wan-ik scolds him for not knowing any names.

At Glory Hotel, Hina thinks back to the mistress’ report that Wan-ik seemed to have a guest that he was looking to house. She looks through her register book and notices the name listed for room 205: Lee Duk-moon, Wan-ik’s assistant. Then, a man throws his key at her desk and walks out. It’s the key for room 205, but the man isn’t Lee Duk-moon — it’s the traitor that Wan-ik summoned from Manchuria.

The new foreign affairs minister Park Shi-deok rudely rebukes his rickshaw runner for moving so slowly, and another rickshaw catches up to them. A gun points at him from the covered rickshaw and shoots him dead. The shocked rickshaw runner stops and abandons the cart, yelling for help.

The ministers discuss the death of the newly-appointed foreign affairs minister and realize that this position is a grave. They wonder who will need to risk their life next, but they strategize that they could appoint their prime suspect to the position and see if this person gets killed.

King Gojong announces to his ministers that Wan-ik has struck with a cruel response to his appointment. The ministers lay prostrate and plead that the king appoint Wan-ik to the foreign affairs minister position. Minister Lee Jung-moon bravely offers to take the position, but King Gojong doesn’t allow it because he couldn’t fathom losing Minister Lee and enduring his role alone.

While Dong-mae spars in the dojo, one of his scouts shares information about a strange man asking about Ae-shin’s house. He’s eager to earn money for his intel and shares that this man is also staying at Glory Hotel. Dong-mae flips his sparring partner and tells his scout that he’ll earn his money if he can identify the man.

Camped outside Glory Hotel, the scout points out man, the traitor from Manchuria, as he passes by, and Dong-mae signals his lackies to follow him. He pays the scout for the intel and heads inside Glory Hotel to investigate further through Hina.

Dong-mae asks for the hotel register book, but Hina refuses to share information about her guests. He aggressively takes the book from her, and Hina notes that his aggression indicates that this is associated with Ae-shin. She warns him not to make this girl his weakness, and Dong-mae puts his arms on her shoulders and softens his gaze. He thanks her for her concern but admits that it’s too late.

Wan-ik’s assistant, Duk-moon, interrupts Wan-ik’s breakfast to report that he’s found evidence that the king is seeking correspondence with the Americans. He delivers an intercepted letter addressed to Eugene from Joseph, and Wan-ik curses the missionary for getting involved in Joseon politics. Wan-ik orders his Duk-moon to search Eugene’s room and break a few limbs while he’s at it. He wonders if God is on Joseon’s side or not.

The hotel worker girl provides room service for the guests and hesitates to knock on Eugene’s door. She remembers her promise with Ae-shin to keep their interaction with Dong-mae a secret, and she steps away from the door. She sees the shadow of footsteps shining through the bottom of the door and heads downstairs.

When she comes downstairs, she sees Eugene’s room keys still at the check-in desk and informs Hina that someone seemed to be in Eugene’s room. Suspecting that the culprit may be man from room 205, she sends the worker to deliver a free drink to 205. Then, Eugene enters the hotel, and Hina hands him the wrong key. He turns around to ask if she deliberately gave him the wrong key again, and she nods.

Eugene enters through Hee-sung’s room and jumps over to his balcony with his gun ready. He silently approaches the intruder from behind and cocks his gun. The man raises his hands and immediately grabs for his gun. Their guns fire as they fight, and the man runs down the hall, where the hotel guests have gathered at the sound of their gunshots.

With the crowd of guests in his way, Eugene can’t shoot at the escaping intruder, but the intruder reappears holding the young hotel worker hostage. Eugene slowly approaches them and orders in English to move left. As soon as she moves, Eugene shoots the man’s left shoulder, and the girl runs to hide behind Eugene.

Eugene brings the intruder in for questioning and orders his soldiers to empty all the man’s pockets. He finds a picture of the intruder with his former comrades (Ae-shin’s parents), and Eugene demands to know who those people are. But the intruder shakes in pain from his wound and yells for drugs, so Eugene decides to revisit the interrogation once the man comes to his senses.

Investigating this incident, Eugene meets with Hina, who tells him that this intruder was listed as guest Lee Duk-moon, who happens to be Wan-ik’s assistant and Minister Lee Jung-moon’s younger cousin. Hina adds that Lee Duk-moon’s in-laws are Ae-shin’s family, which means that he’s Ae-soon’s husband. Eugene asks if there’s anything else he should know, and Hina thinks to Dong-mae’s aggressive suspicions about the guest in room 205. But she doesn’t share this information.

Eugene meets with the real Lee Duk-moon and asks why he put the room under his name. Duk-moon vaguely answers that he owed the intruder a favor from Manchuria and requests medical care for the intruder. Eugene tries to pry further details about this favor, but Duk-moon doesn’t cooperate with the investigation. Eugene offers a strict deal for only Dr. Machiyama to interact with the intruder without any other form of communication.

In the hotel courtyard, Hina fences with the German guest and think about her menacing interactions with Wan-ik and Dr. Machiyama. She aggressively wins the match, and the German guests seems surprised by her aggression. She explains that she enjoys fencing because it requires a quick attack and allows her to defeat her opponent with brevity and accuracy. The guest reminds her that her opponent also holds the same blade, and being too wild can reveal her weaknesses. He suggests that she try to maintain her elegance, but Hina says that the world doesn’t seem to allow it.

Hina slips her gun under her pillow before she sleeps and thinks about Eugene announcing that he’ll be leaving Joseon soon.

Minister Lee Jung-moon eats at the inn and asks the innkeeper to inform Eun-san across the river that he wishes to meet with the missionary sooner. He also requests to see the interpreters’ reports that Wan-ik has within the next few days. The innkeeper nods and shoots an arrow with a yellow cloth at Eun-san’s home. Eun-san seems to understand this arrow message, though we don’t know what it means yet.

Seung-gu reports to Eun-san that he went to check up on a comrade after not hearing from him, and he found the comrade’s home abandoned with a shoe hanging from the roof. That seems to indicate that he’s been discovered, and Seung-gu wonders if they’re being targeted by the Musin Society, since that was the last mission that their comrade worked in Jemulpo.

Eun-san disagrees and says that the Righteous Army hasn’t been targeted by the Musin Society thus far, and antagonizing them based on speculation is too risky. He suggests that they focus on their work and shows Seung-gu the yellow cloth, which seems to indicate a summoning from the royal court. Eun-san worries how they’ll fill the empty spot of their discovered comrade, and Seung-gu thinks back to Grandfather’s request that Ae-shin be used infrequently for their missions.

Thinking about Grandfather’s request, Seung-gu offers to take their comrade’s place, but Eun-san refuses to allow this because of Seung-gu’s history with Wan-ik. He says that he trusts Seung-gu’s shooting skills, but not Seung-gu himself.

Ae-shin climbs up the mountain, thinking about Eugene. She wanders to the hideout, where she hears the familiar tune of the music box. Ae-shin runs into the hut, where her maid struggles to turn off the noise, and she asks how her maid got the music box. Her maid admits that she met Eugene a few days ago, and he asked that they deliver this box to her as payment for allowing him to ride on the boat. She also adds that Eugene seemed like he was about to leave, and Ae-shin looks devastated.

On the verge of tears, Ae-shin grabs the music box and barges out of the hut. She’s overwhelmed with emotion but stops when she sees Seung-gu, who reluctantly asks her to sub in for their next mission. She tearfully agrees to take on the mission, and Seung-gu instructs her to finish shooting the bowls before she leaves.

Eugene looks at the picture of the comrades found from the intruder’s belongings and notices the writing on the back. As he walks through the town, he sees a red pinwheel, which was a secret sign that he and Ae-shin agreed on to indicate that she was out on a mission.

That night, Ae-shin jumps over walls to reach her destination, and Hina also seems to be on a mission to the same destination: Wan-ik’s house. She picks the lock with her hairpiece and enters the house to search for the autopsy report. Both Hina and Ae-shin search different parts of the house, but Ae-shin finds something first. It’s the letter from Joseph to Eugene, and she recognizes Eugene’s name written in English.

Ae-shin’s gun falls to the ground, alarming Hina that someone else is in the house. She grabs a mask and a sword and slowly descends the stairs to meet her match. She waits behind the wall, and on the other side, Ae-shin waits for her opponent to make a move. They simultaneously come out of hiding and attack each other with their weapons, expertly wielding the sword and the gun.

Hina aggressively attacks Ae-shin, who narrowly avoids the blade directed at her face. They continue to attack and block each other’s blows, until Hina pins the mask off of Ae-shin’s face and Ae-shin knocks the mask off of Hina’s face. They end up in a stand-off, staring at each other with their faces revealed.

 
COMMENTS

I like this development between Hina and Ae-shin, since it finally brings Hina into the loop and complicates her relationship with Ae-shin. Hina is so done with all the guys pouring everything into Ae-shin, and I’m curious to see how Hina’s attitude about Ae-shin will change with this new revelation. When talking to Dong-mae, she described Ae-shin as a mere girl dressed in fine clothing, and her disdain for Ae-shin was never clearer. Now that she knows that Ae-shin is more than a simple noblewoman, I hope they develop a relationship that reaches beyond formalities.

Hina and Dong-mae are such a tease, and I love watching their dynamic. Hina always lowers her guard around Dong-mae, and that’s when we get to see the less elegant and glamorous side of Hina. She’s full of flaws and scars, but Dong-mae embraces everything about Hina even though he may not fully understand her. It’s funny that Hina can totally read Dong-mae and understand what he’s feeling without him explicitly admitting anything, but that’s not fully reciprocated. Dong-mae can’t always grasp Hina’s inner turmoil, but her vulnerability around him indicates that she’s trusts him regardless. They’re definitely kindred souls, though I’m sure they would kill each other if they ever ended up together.

Kim Tae-ri’s acting feels really full in this show, and even though Ae-shin was mostly miserable and heartbroken through the whole episode, her sadness didn’t feel repetitive. Maybe it’s because this is the first time I’m watching her on screen, but I think she’s amazing and brings this fresh emotional sincerity to her scenes. Her heartbreak and despair feel palpable, and it always seems like she’s trying so hard to hold back all her brimming emotions.

I’m glad the show explored the conflict of Ae-shin’s social class in the movement for the people, and I hope that they continue to develop this conflict through the rest of the show. While she has all the right motivations, she’ll never need to face the consequences to the full extent as long as she holds onto her identity as a noblewoman. And so far, it doesn’t look like Ae-shin is willing to sacrifice that privilege. I think it’s an ambitious feat to address this alongside the love pentagon, but I think this conflict has developed as an intrinsic part of Ae-shin’s relationship with Eugene. It’s been weaved together nicely, and I’m looking forward to how Ae-shin navigates her double identity.

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