Mr. Sunshine: Episode 14
Oh, Dong-mae, trust you to retain that cynical smile of yours even as you’re being tortured. Additionally, it feels like everyone and their mother are out to put Eugene in a coffin this episode, but at least we learn a couple of things about this Righteous Army and their plans to save Joseon (finally). I’m happy to report that a lot of plotlines got some forward movement today, though I do wish this king would stop making secret documents that requires the attention of our key players, since I care much more about their growing roles in Joseon’s fate than I do about some piece of paper, royal seal notwithstanding.
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Ae-shin comes across Eugene mourning Joseph, though she’s prevented from leaving her carriage by her maid, who firmly reminds her that she shouldn’t be seen here. Eugene is in tearful disbelief and recalls Joseph’s last words to him in his letter: “My son. I shall pray for you, wherever you may be. And even when I do not, I hope that God is always with you.” Kyle arrives and instructs his troops to move the body to a hospital.
Meanwhile, Ae-shin and her maid wait in the apothecary and receive news about the missionary, who we learn was shot in Jemulpo. Ae-shin puts two and two together to figure out that the man that Eugene talked about on the beach, the one who helped Eugene survive in America as a boy, is the same man who’s ended up dead.
Word spreads quickly about Joseph’s death, and Dong-mae hears from his right-hand man that the murder happened in his territory. Ah, is this how Wan-ik intends to get back at Dong-mae? Sneaky bastard. For now, Dong-mae orders his subordinate to look into the situation and see whether one of his underlings committed the crime.
Back at the embassy, Kyle and Gwan-soo go through Joseph’s things while a pale Eugene blankly stares at his desk. Kyle figures the murderer was looking for something specifically judging by the ripped bag, while Gwan-soo notices that Joseph had a ferry ticket to Shanghai dated three days ago. Coincidentally (or is it?), that was the same day Eugene was at Jemulpo to oversee the arrival of supplies from the U.S.
Gwan-soo muses out loud how strange it is that letters from Hamgyeong were found in Kim Yong-joo’s room and that Eugene’s letters were found elsewhere. That makes Eugene recall his run-in with Wan-ik outside the hotel, when the latter mentioned a thief who broke into his home, and Ae-shin’s subsequent visit to the embassy with a busted lip and his letter. Gwan-soo figures that all of these events are connected, though he isn’t quite certain as to whether Eugene was being used to get to the missionary, or the other way around. A soldier reports just then that Kim Yong-joo had been released by the police four days ago, which means he became a free man one day before the murder.
And lo and behold, we see Duk-moon hand a blood-stained letter to Wan-ik, who isn’t at all worried that Kim Yong-joo will link them to Joseph’s murder, since they’re keeping tabs on his family back in Japan and “there are no better shackles than family.” You would say that, creep.
Now that they have a secret letter written by the king, Duk-moon seems to think that Wan-ik is all but officially the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, though Wan-ik chides him, saying they should be careful not to give away that they’re the ones behind Joseph’s death.
Eugene’s caught on already, though, and he arrives at Wan-ik’s residence with a contingent of American troops to conduct a search of the house, giving orders above Duk-moon’s indignant protests. Wan-ik asks Eugene if he has a deathwish, and the latter explains that he suspects Kim Yong-joo is Joseph’s murderer, and that Wan-ik is the real mastermind behind it all.
Wan-ik doesn’t back down, though, and tells Eugene that he can act with impunity in Joseon, mainly because after a failed assassination attempt years ago (the one involving Ae-shin’s parents), Wan-ik had everyone and anyone remotely related to the incident killed, giving him a reputation for ruthlessness. Or, you know, barbarity. Whatever floats your boat.
But, just as Wan-ik isn’t subject to the consequences of his actions, neither is Eugene bound by the restrictions he might have felt as a Joseon person, since he is an American, as he reminds Wan-ik. Eugene assures him that whatever orders Wan-ik gives will incur consequences going forward, which leaves Wan-ik sputtering insults and asking whether Eugene wants to make an enemy of Japan. Eugene says that’s not within his power, but what he can do is make Japan turn against Wan-ik. The minister doesn’t back down though, and is confident that the “real culprit” will have been caught by now.
Cut to: Dong-mae and his men being held at gunpoint by officers, led by none other than Mr. Belligerent who we first saw harassing the tarot card reader a couple episodes ago. One of Dong-mae’s men gets shot while trying to take the blame for the missionary’s murder, and quickly realizing he could lose a lot of his men, Dong-mae agrees to go with Belligerent.
As he’s being escorted through town in ropes, Dong-mae, Belligerent, and Co. come across Hee-sung, who stops them all to ask what’s going on and request that the officers to treat Dong-mae fairly. He promises to visit Dong-mae in prison, and Dong-mae quietly mutters to Hee-sung’s servant for him to prevent him from doing any such thing.
Eugene also gets word of Dong-mae’s arrest, and Gwan-soo just finds it odd that anyone cares about Dong-mae committing this specific murder, since he’s killed so many before with no punishment. Eugene is convinced Dong-mae isn’t the culprit, though, because that was the day they had run into each other in Jemulpo harbor, and Dong-mae was genuinely happy to see him. Gwan-soo doesn’t follow his logic, and neither do I.
Regardless, Eugene intends to focus on Kim Yong-joo, and sets out to arrest him within the next five days, before the next ferries leave for Shanghai and Tokyo. To that end, American soldiers start combing through Hanseong for Kim Yong-joo, with instructions to take in for questioning anyone suspicious.
Meanwhile, Dong-mae is subjected to torture, since the authorities won’t believe he went to Jemulpo twice on business (the second time was when he visited the temple where Ae-shin’s parents’ mortuary tablets are housed). He briefly unnerves his interrogator when he says he should be allowed to kill someone to prove Joseph’s death wasn’t his doing, since his victims are mutilated beyond recognition. How pleasant.
The interrogator brings in a witness that can place Dong-mae at the scene of the crime, and it turns out to be Gui-dan, the former maid at the Glory Hotel who wanted to sell information for money to buy her mother’s medicine.
Hina hears about all of this from her own informant within the police bureau, just as the tarot card reader comes to her looking for information about Dong-mae’s whereabouts. Hina doesn’t have an answer for her and though she offers her a bed to stay in for the night, she rather coldly tells the fortuneteller to not be a burden on Dong-mae.
Wan-ik and Hayashi both agree to let Dong-mae take the fall, and use this opportunity to restructure the Hanseong branch of the Musin Society. There is an undercurrent of animosity between the two though, as Hayashi says those who are not quite Japanese nor Korean will end up a weakness to Japan, which Wan-ik interprets as a barb towards himself. Hayashi is curious as to why Wan-ik is so eager to get rid of Dong-mae… and it turns out that he witnessed Dong-mae piggybacking Hina the other night. So, he’s getting rid of Dong-mae for flirting with his daughter? What a psycho.
Back in the torture room, the police bring another witness in, Dong-mae’s Japanese-speaking client who complained about the “Joseon mob” stalling railroad construction. We see in flashback that Dong-mae had taken issue with his derisive tone, which is probably what prompts the client to lie about the timing of their meeting, which was on the same day as the murder and could have acted as an alibi.
Wan-ik hands over the secret letter to Hayashi, which turns out to be a request from the king to the American government for a loan, in order to circumvent the need of a loan from Japan. According to Hayashi, this letter will guarantee control over Gu Dong-mae, the American ambassador Allen, and the Joseon king. Why and how, you ask? Who knows.
Turns out, Wan-ik has another target in mind, and Dong-mae is explicitly told by the police that he is to pin the murder on Go Sa-hong, Ae-shin’s grandfather. The police chief in charge of Dong-mae’s interrogation has already been bribed by Wan-ik with an appointment to the head of the royal guard within the palace.
His bravado falters at that, and Dong-mae is faced with a terrible choice, as all of his men are taken hostage, and he is told that every day that goes by without his fake confession, one of his men will be killed.
Eugene approaches Hina for all the other unopened letters that were found in Kim Yong-joo’s hotel room, and she says she’ll collect her payment for the letters from Dong-mae, since Eugene’s investigation will help save his skin.
Eugene notes that some of the letters were intercepted from the Kyungheung post office, and they turn out to be pieces of an annotated map of Shanghai, all posted under Biblical aliases. At the pawnshop, he commissions a trip to look into Joseph’s activities in Hamgyeong province, and the duo immediately agrees to do it once he offers a blank check for their services.
On his walk back from the pawnshop, the sight of several students from the English school prompts him to leave a letter at the apothecary for Ae-shin, urging her not to worry about him. As Ae-shin passes by the Glory Hotel and sees her red pinwheel on his balcony, Eugene reads in voiceover that the next stage of their “love” must be longing: “I used to wait on my balcony in the hopes of glimpsing you on your way to the market.”
Ae-shin arrives at the apothecary after Eugene has left and leaves his gloves in the medicine cabinet as a reply to his letter.
The king is told that his secret letter is in Wan-ik’s possession and is despondent at the futility of his efforts. I mean, I’m getting despondent at how useless he is. Wan-ik comes to court with the letter, and declares that this letter couldn’t possibly be real, since the Japanese would use this as an excuse to demand something, and the letter would hurt relations with America since the king was trying to go over Ambassador Allen’s head. We see that the king had secretly met with Joseph, who was acting on his belief that no nation should use force to persecute another.
The king has no choice but to acquiesce to Wan-ik’s version of events, which paints Joseph as a con artist trying to defraud the American government by forging the king’s seal on the loan request. Wan-ik also indirectly lays claim to the Minister of Foreign Affairs position, and assures them that they can send his appointment to him later, since there are more urgent matters to be taken care of.
Hina visits Dong-mae at the police bureau, and while she tries to assure him that Eugene is determined to find the real culprit, she warns that his interrogation might get worse tomorrow because the autopsy report will be released and the medical examiner is in Wan-ik’s pocket. Said medical examiner is detailing his findings to Eugene, and tells him that the shooter was tall and likely inexperienced with a gun due to the positioning of the bullet holes. Thankfully, Eugene calls bullshit on the medical examiner, and threatens him into revising his report.
Hee-sung thinks back to Ae-shin’s grandfather’s words during his visit at the hotel, and near his home, he notices Kim Yong-joo lurking in the shadows. Hee-sung recognizes him as a fellow customer at the Glory Hotel and gives chase out of curiosity when Kim Yong-joo runs away, only to lose him when he’s stopped on the street by a woman asking after his absence at the card table.
When Eugene returns to the American embassy, Gwan-soo reports that the case has been closed by the police and that the missionary was found to have been attempting to steal money in the king’s name. Additionally, Gu Dong-mae, as accomplice and murderer, has been ordered executed. Furious, Eugene barges into Minister Lee’s house and asks why the investigation has concluded with these lies. Minister Lee tells him to butt out, but Eugene’s figured out that Joseph died while trying to protect Joseon and the king, and he won’t let his father-figure die as a convict.
Eugene enlists Kyle to help him, and the latter successfully cows Ambassador Allen into allowing the American military to continue with the investigation. Meanwhile, Eugene and several of his men enter the police torture chamber, and just in time, since the police chief was about to force Dong-mae into signing the fake confession. But Eugene isn’t exactly here to save his butt, and Dong-mae drily notes that he’s gone from one prison to another.
Eugene questions why Dong-mae had gone through Kim Yong-joo’s room, to which Dong-mae answers that the slimy traitor (my words, not his) had been lurking around Ae-shin and been asking around about her home. Eugene wants to know if Dong-mae’s been getting reports on Ae-shin, which goes unanswered as Dong-mae offers tips on how to rat out Kim Yong-joo instead. He adds a cryptic warning that his men might turn on Eugene, since that’s what Wan-ik would want.
Over at villain headquarters, Wan-ik’s in a state at how things have turned out, and nearly has an apoplexy when he hears Allen refuses to meet with him. Flashbacks of Ae-shin’s mother’s dying words overlaps with Eugene’s warnings, and he tells underling Duk-moon that he might’ve messed with someone he shouldn’t have. Not one to back down on a threat, he orders Duk-moon to find any of Eugene or Dong-mae’s weaknesses, and that Dong-mae’s men should be released with instructions on how to save their leader.
Affected by Dong-mae’s words about Kim Yong-joo and Ae-shin, Eugene offers to provide protection to Ae-shin’s grandfather, but the latter refuses. Instead, Go Sa-hong says he must accept why Joseon refuses to protect him, instead of accepting protection from a foreign country. Uhh, noble idiocy at its most patriotic? In any case, Eugene respects the elder’s wishes, and leaves with his troops.
Ae-shin hears about Eugene’s presence in her home after the fact, but he’s long gone by the time she rushes out to see him. Or so she thinks, since Eugene turns back on his horse to see her. He raises his hand to show he received his gloves, and the two make sad-eyes at each other over the stone wall.
Back at the American embassy, Domi recognizes a face in Kim Yong-joo’s photo, and says that he’s someone who comes to the embassy every so often to help out, and was just here that very day to check on the plants. Eugene opens his desk drawer to find that the letters he had gotten from Hina are missing. Those letters are presented to the Righteous Army leadership, who are now worried that Eugene will catch on to them. We get glimpses of the Righteous Army undercover soldiers (including the baker, who knew?) placed all over Hanseong.
Minister Lee warns that Eugene’s investigation is threatening their carefully laid plans, and might even reveal the whereabouts of a person named Song Yeong in Shanghai. Even though Eun-san tries to paint Eugene as an ally, Minister Lee is convinced of Eugene’s hatred of Joseon and warns that the Joseon-American officer is a threat to their plans to acquire weapons through this Song Yeong. And so, their only choice is to kill Eugene. Ah yes, let’s just have all of Hanseong paint a target on Eugene’s back. Also, is that what you’ve been doing all series, Righteous Army?
Speaking of which, Eugene gets cornered by Dong-mae’s men, and fires his pistol into the air to summon help. Hilariously, what it actually does is attract Hee-sung’s attention, much to Eugene’s dismay. Though Eugene wants to hold the standoff until reinforcements arrive, Hee-sung just seems to invite trouble and instigates a sword fight. With his wooden stick.
Thankfully, Dong-mae’s right-hand man stops the brawl and begs forgiveness on behalf of his underlings, saying they were desperate enough to play into Wan-ik’s hands. Their loyalty to Dong-mae is almost touching, if it weren’t so misguided.
Eugene and Hee-sung clean up their wounds at the embassy, leading to an uncomfortably intimate moment as Eugene tends to Hee-sung’s cuts on his face. On the upside, it sounds like Hee-sung’s aimless wandering, plus his innate curiosity, can prove useful as he relays that he ran into Kim Yong-joo, who smelled of incense.
That would be because the little rat is hiding out with a shaman, as Eugene correctly guesses, and when the shaman asks Kim Yong-joo why he remains in Hanseong despite all the men looking for him, he rather ominously replies that he wants to tell Ae-shin who her parents’ murderers are. Ae-shin is pretty much bound to her house thanks to Kim Yong-joo, and requests that Seung-gu sneak her out.
He’s wary, and asks whether she wants to go to Eugene. In response, Ae-shin tells her teacher that the farthest she’s ever been is to the East Sea, and that the next time, she wanted to venture even further. She considers that next time to be now, and that going to Eugene is farther away for her than the eastern coast. And just as she’s carried out her missions with unquestioning loyalty, she asks that Seung-gu similarly refrain from inquiring further, to which he agrees.
When Eugene arrives back in his room at the Glory Hotel, he senses a presence in the room and attacks Ae-shin before getting a good look at her face. Lol, don’t go sneaking up on a man with a city-wide target on his back! After she recovers from getting the wind knocked out of her, Ae-shin confirms that she recovered Joseph’s letters addressed to him from Wan-ik’s house, and that she too missed him in response to the letter he left at the apothecary.
She regrets not having stopped to comfort him at the beginning of the episode, but Eugene says she’s already comforted him. With a hand over his face, she recites Joseph’s last words to Eugene while he struggles to contain his tears.
Their moment is interrupted by a gunshot, and Eugene quickly assesses that the shooter is in the building across the street. Drawn by the noise, Hina appears at Eugene’s door and Ae-shin requests her help in escaping the building without blowing her cover to all the hotel occupants.
After Hina guides her customers to safety, she finds herself staring down the barrel of a gun wielded by Belligerent, here to take care of unfinished business with the tarot card reader (or Hotaru). Leading him downstairs, Hina manages to disarm him with her fencing sword, and Ae-shin picks up the dropped pistol.
Hina requests that the man not be killed, and Ae-shin knocks him out with a cheap vase to the head instead. Yay, go team!
Outside, Eugene takes down the shooter, who turns out to be a Righteous Army member, and one of the four men in Kim Yong-joo’s old photograph. In his own interrogation room, Eugene questions why the Righteous Army are targeting him only now, when they’ve had plenty of chances before. The man has no interest in answering his questions, but wants to know what Eugene’s relationship with Ae-shin is.
Eugene pulls out the old photograph and informs him that he received a telegram from one of the pawnshop duo that Song Yeong is thought to be in Shanghai. Listing each of the men in the photo, Eugene asks if the man in front of him is Jeon Seung-jae, and in lieu of an answer, Seung-jae says that Eugene shouldn’t know those names, and that his knowledge about their activities is what made him dangerous to their organization.
Meanwhile, Ae-shin goes to the apothecary still in her disguise and is met by the tavern lady, who says she will be guiding Ae-shin to their leader. Eugene confirms that the Righteous Army have chosen to eliminate him, and hurt, he asks whether Eun-san really gave the order for his death. Seung-jae responds that it’s for a greater cause, and also asks that Eugene distance himself from Ae-shin, since she might be the one who has to kill him. Eugene assures Seung-jae that Ae-shin won’t fail, since he won’t try to dodge her bullets.
Ae-shin finally meets with the leader of their organization, Eun-san, as Eugene makes his way across the river towards Eun-san’s house. The tavern lady flies an arrow tied with a black ribbon to announce his arrival, and Eun-san orders Ae-shin to kill whomever is crossing the frozen river.
Ae-shin guesses it must be Eugene, and Eun-san tells her that the American soldier might be acting on good intentions, but those good intentions will lead to Joseon’s downfall. Eun-san gives the order to kill whoever is crossing that river as Eugene walks towards them, eyes full of purpose and rifle in hand.
Oh, I like this development, and not just because I’m sadistic and want our main couple to suffer. Well, maybe a little. But, I felt like they got off easy with that terrible, tepid conclusion to the very real social divide between a noblewoman and a former slave, so I’m hoping this conflict yields better dramatic consequences. It may feel slightly contrived, since I think the Righteous Army has no one to blame but themselves for being such terrible secret-keepers, but Eugene’s love-hate relationship with Joseon has been a source of tension all series long, so it seems appropriate that it comes to a head in this way.
Generally, the narrative choices in this show confuse me sometimes, because it somehow suffers from both too little exposition and too much. For example, people here seem to love explaining all of the motivations behind their actions, even if discretion might be the better choice. Like, why are you laying out all of your suspicions to the suspected mastermind, Eugene? And then, at the same time, we’re told about some secret letter only after someone gets killed for it, and then, we’re not even aware of its importance until the latter half of the episode. I spent nearly 40 minutes confused as to why this letter is worth all of this bloodshed, and no, the fact that it pisses off the Japanese isn’t reason enough to make me care.
To be fair, there was some much needed movement in terms of plot, so I’m happy that the pace is picking up, especially with regards to the Righteous Army, who have been criminally absent for the past 13 hours. I mean, they, and Ae-shin as a member of it, are the real reason why I was so excited about this show, and here’s to hoping that they get some more screen time in the remaining episodes. In the meantime, can they enlist Hee-sung please, the man desperately needs a job. Other than aimlessly wandering around the marketplace.