Yong-pal: Episode 17
It’s Yong-pal’s penultimate episode, and can be safely considered an exercise in patience as we get an hour full of misinformation, deception, and a staggering lack of inaction from those characters we maybe haven’t come to necessarily depend on, but who should be bringing more to the table this late in the meal. Yeo-jin finds herself to be a crocodile without teeth, Chae-young spins a complicated(?) revenge web for her to get caught up in, and Tae-hyun’s spirit animal continues to be a slightly disinterested koala. Gird your loins, say your prayers, and expect the unexpected—but remember to rein in those expectations a little bit. Then a little more. A little more. There, now you’re ready.
EPISODE 17 RECAP
Six months have passed according to Tae-hyun, who tells us in voiceover that he’s opened a small private clinic in a rural town, free from catering to the privileged class or making house calls for gangsters. He’s content.
His home may be humble, but it’s never empty—So-hyun seems fully recovered from her surgery and is now living with her brother, as is his former bodyguard. He and So-hyun seem to have something going on, too.
Comparatively, Yeo-jin enjoys a cold meal with equally cold business people before Chairman Choi crashes their non-party to ask her for mercy. Her tactics have put Daejung’s finances in a sore spot, and while Chairman Choi acknowledges that he lost the war against them and surrendered, Yeo-jin has no kindness to spare for him.
While being dragged away, Chairman Choi leaves her with some ominous parting words: since his son was killed by her brother and he killed her brother in turn, now that Yeo-jin has killed him, who will kill her? Well, out of the five remaining cast members…
Since Doo-chul’s funds were used to establish Tae-hyun’s clinic, the gangster-turned-shareholder takes it upon himself to sit there and give Tae-hyun doctoring advice while he treats a miniature patient.
Then it’s his turn, but Tae-hyun isn’t as gentle with his old buddy as he advises him to stop drinking so heavily, since that would alleviate most of his problems. Now that Tae-hyun’s considered a community leader in his small town, the nun from the church he and Yeo-jin stayed at helps to keep him on task when it comes to inoculating the local children.
Chae-young visits frequently, and Tae-hyun finds her helping to bathe the children with a huge smile on her face. She seems much more laid back now, with Tae-hyun noting that she wouldn’t have even dreamed of manual labor before. Since he still calls her “madam,” Chae-young tells him to stop with the formalities. He can just call her noona from now on.
She asks if he misses being the chairwoman’s husband, to which Tae-hyun unhesitatingly replies that he doesn’t. “I miss it,” she says on a sigh. She feels responsible for what happened to Do-joon, and refuses to let Tae-hyun blame himself either.
But when she asks if he’s spoken to Yeo-jin lately, he becomes uncomfortable and changes the subject. He has to leave her to attend to the children, and Chae-young’s smile fades as she thinks, “My revenge began a long time ago.” You mean six months ago?
Meanwhile, Secretary Min informs Yeo-jin that Chairman Choi attempted to commit suicide, but was found before he expired by his chief secretary. Yeo-jin misses Min’s almost triumphant smile as she leaves him at the threshold of her home, stumbling only when she’s out of sight, reeling from the news.
Looking up at the portrait of her father in tears, Yeo-jin asks, “How did you get through it, Father?” But then she looks up to the stairwell and sees a vision of Do-joon there, causing her to fall over in a dead faint.
When she wakes, the first thing she asks the head maid is if she fainted again, which means this isn’t an isolated occurrence. Her main concern is that rumors of her fainting spells don’t leak out, so much so that she refuses to even see a doctor about her condition.
The head maid, however, feels like it’s normal for her to be in shock after finding out that someone tried to commit suicide because of her. I’d be inclined to agree that’s so for normal people, but not for someone who already has two dead bodies to their name. Just saying.
Yeo-jin takes some time to reflect on Tae-hyun’s offer for her to leave everything and come to him, since he’d be waiting for her no matter what.
Tae-hyun’s world certainly looks like it’s much more fun, as he shares drinks with Nurse Oh, Nurse Ahjumma, Doo-chul, and his ever faithful and perpetually unnamed lackey. “I’ve never been so happy,” Tae-hyun muses aloud.
“I’m happy when So-hyun is mean to me, I’m happy when I don’t get paid for a consultation. I’m even happy when [Doo-chul] brings me gangsters,” he continues. It’s only when he mentions the happiness the breeze brings to him that he thinks of Yeo-jin, who said the same thing on the hospital rooftop.
In silence and to himself, Tae-hyun thinks, “Yeo-jin, you should come find me soon.” As if she heard his thoughts (despite the fact that she can see him from her car), Yeo-jin thinks, “Tae-hyun-ah, I want to join you.” She almost does, but is stopped in her tracks when she sees Chae-young join Tae-hyun’s party.
While Tae-hyun remains unaware that Yeo-jin was even near, Chae-young’s bright smile fades as she watches Yeo-jin’s car drive away. As for Yeo-jin, she looks heartbroken as she thinks to herself, “I’m glad you’re happy.”
Yeo-jin makes a speech to commemorate the opening of a new Hanshin factory, but while at the podium, she sees the smiling face of President Go amongst the crowd. She tries hard to recover, but finds the task impossible when her brother also pops up at her side asking her what’s wrong.
She promptly faints in front of all the assembled press, while Secretary Min looks on impassively. Tae-hyun sees the event unfold on the news with his former bodyguard, who gets up knowing that Tae-hyun is going to see her.
Tests are performed on an unconscious Yeo-jin, who wakes with a start when a nurse attempts to put an IV in her arm. She adamantly refuses, having been justly traumatized by IVs before, only for the doctor to tell her that it’s nothing serious—she’s got slight anemia, and is mostly suffering from fatigue and stress.
While it’s shocking to hear a diagnosis this late in a show’s run that’s not some sort of life-threatening illness, Yeo-jin dismisses Secretary Min to ask the doctor if stress can also cause hallucinations, specifically hallucinations of dead people. Her doctor says yes, but when he recommends hospitalization, Yeo-jin scoffs that she’d rather die than be hospitalized at Hanshin.
But as it turns out about the diagnosis: psych! The truth is being kept from Yeo-jin, while her shareholders learn and laugh about her stage two liver cancer. On top of that, she’s even hallucinating! Ho ho ho.
They congratulate Chae-young on a job well done (doing what?) and offer her more shares for her part. She’s less interested in those than she is in getting revenge for Do-joon.
Tae-hyun greets Yeo-jin in the lobby as she walks out with her entourage, but at first, Yeo-jin wonders if he’s just another hallucination. They make awkward and stilted small talk for a moment before Tae-hyun asks if she’s sure she’s not sick, but before she can answer, all the shareholders who’d delighted in her diagnosis grovel at her feet like they’re all just so worried.
Before Tae-hyun leaves, Yeo-jin calls out his name. He turns, and she congratulates him on his clinic. It’s clear they both have more to say, but neither of them are ready to say it. Way to be useful as always, Tae-hyun.
Tae-hyun next pays a visit to Chief Lee, who’s unbelievably still employed as a surgeon (Hanshin Hospital: Where you go to end it all), to ask him about Yeo-jin’s checkup.
Meanwhile, one of Yeo-jin’s maids drugs her drink on Chae-young’s orders, because that’s how you get cancer these days. Or just hallucinations. Either way, Yeo-jin drinks it, hallucinates immediately, and never suspects with her keen crocodile mind that something might be in the water.
At least Tae-hyun’s suspicious, considering that Chief Lee couldn’t get access to Yeo-jin’s medical scans even with his clearance level. But again, he’s not doing a whole lot about it, while Yeo-jin refuses her head maid’s offer to call in Tae-hyun—a doctor they can actually trust—to see her.
“Look at me. I’m a monster,” Yeo-jin grits out. “I don’t want to hurt him anymore.” The head maid tries to convince her that he’d never see her that way, and ends up being the only one who knows where Yeo-jin’s going when she leaves the house, since Chae-young’s spy isn’t told anything.
Despite that, Chae-young is still able to track Yeo-jin down outside Tae-hyun’s clinic, having known that’s where she would go. Their conversation is awkward, even more so when Chae-young lets slip that she and Director Kim (aka Tae-hyun) have a noona/dongsaeng relationship now.
“Tae-hyun is happy,” Chae-young tells her. “He says that he’s never been happy like this before, so I hope you leave him alone. Let him be happy.” Yeo-jin nods, before admitting shakily that she’s been seeing Do-joon. Chae-young breaks down into tears and does the “I see him in every flower, in the smile on every child’s face” routine, all to make Yeo-jin feel guilty.
And it works, since Yeo-jin also breaks down, though more because Chae-young finds subtle ways to bring up how good a person Tae-hyun is in order to make Yeo-jin feel bad enough to keep her distance from him. That way, she won’t find out she has cancer till it’s too late, or something.
“Tae-hyun-ah, wait just a little longer for me,” Yeo-jin thinks in the direction of his clinic. “I will come down from the thirteenth floor soon.” But she almost runs him over with her car while hallucinating, and faints behind the wheel the second Tae-hyun worriedly recognizes her.
She wakes in his home and smiles when she sees him. He takes her up to the rooftop, where she comments on how fitting “First Floor Clinic” is as his clinic’s name. When he asks if she’s well, she replies that she’s suffering from stress—an illness she sees as almost karmic—but when he asks if she’s having a hard time, she goes silent.
In her mind however, she thinks the words she wants so desperately to say: “Yes, I am having a hard time.” Tae-hyun wants her to get a full checkup, though she says she already got checked out. Never does it cross her mind that she once wanted to be diagnosed at any hospital but Hanshin—apparently their diagnoses are now foolproof to her. Because script.
She also adds that it’s a disease of the mind, causing Tae-hyun to gather her in his arms and gently say: “Whether it’s a disease of the mind or body, I’ll treat it for you. Don’t worry.” That’s reassuring from the doctor who has to make phone calls to more experienced doctors in order to diagnose people.
Yeo-jin nestles into his arms and tells him she’ll be coming down from the thirteenth floor soon enough, which catches Tae-hyun by happy surprise. “I’ve already made up my mind,” she adds. “If I come back, will you take me?”
By way of answer, Tae-hyun pulls her closer and kisses her forehead. “You’re already back.” He calls her an idiot for good measure, and they both lean in for a slow kiss. She pulls away with tears streaking her face before he pulls her in for another, longer kiss.
Secretary Min has come to collect Yeo-jin, and while Tae-hyun would rather send him away, Yeo-jin plans to go with him so she can get some of her things and sort out her baggage—the emotional kind, which he can’t help her with.
His eyes glisten as he tells her not to go, his attempts at making more logical plans falling on deaf ears. But Yeo-jin tells him not to worry, reminding him that she never changes her mind once she’s made it up.
Tae-hyun tries again to stop her from leaving, this time wrapping his arms around her from behind. She relishes in the embrace a moment before turning back to him with a soft and reassuring smile. “I’ll be back soon,” said no character who ever comes back soon.
She sets of Secretary Min’s warning bells when she tells him to assemble an emergency board meeting for tomorrow morning while refusing to tell him why. Her maid seems to catch onto his interest in the water Yeo-jin’s drinking, considering his maniacal smirking habit.
The head maid doesn’t mention it to Yeo-jin, who reminisces about her long tenure in the house. A bit humorously, Yeo-jin remembers that the maid always liked Do-joon better, which she awkwardly covers for by saying that Yeo-jin had confidence and needed nothing, while Do-joon was always in need of sympathy.
Despite her many years of service, the head maid reports Yeo-jin’s actions to Secretary Min and his cronies. They tell her Yeo-jin has cancer like they’re commenting on the wall color, and her reaction reflects that. However, since Yeo-jin is now dying, they need the head maid’s help to ensure that Yeo-jin stays away from Tae-hyun until they can revise her will so that he’s no longer her heir.
The head maid agrees to their schemes, though whether she’s got a plan of her own is up for grabs (or it’s just my fervent hope that there’s more going on). Apparently they have the power to issue a restraining order against Tae-hyun without Yeo-jin knowing or interfering, which, whatever.
Secretary Min goes to the War Room to disband everyone on Yeo-jin’s behalf, utterly baffling her staff. As for the legitimate questions they ask about the work she’d assigned them, Secretary Min gives illegitimate and roundabout answers that do nothing but leave everyone confused. At least the quiet staff member finds it strange that he’s suddenly been locked out of the Hanshin system.
Yeo-jin wakes up that morning to find Do-joon sitting at the foot of her bed, asking her if she slept well. She screams.
Huh? What? Okay, let me see if I’ve got this right: In order to take revenge on Yeo-jin for Do-joon’s murder, Chae-young has been drugging Yeo-jin’s drink. Either her one and only goal was to induce hallucinations to weaken Yeo-jin, in which case, mission accomplished—or, if the initial scene with her and the board members was any indication (and I desperately hope it wasn’t), then they were congratulating Chae-young for Yeo-jin’s cancer diagnosis and, to a lesser extent, her hallucinations.
I honestly feel silly for even writing that down, but I’m actually baffled by this cancer revelation in a way that cancer revelations don’t normally baffle me. We don’t know what Chae-young’s revenge actually entails, and as unbelievable as the idea of inducing cancer actually is, the way everyone handled that would-be bombshell was beyond bizarre. The board members were as excited as schoolboys over the diagnosis and quick to commend Chae-young for her efforts, so if I’m the one hallucinating, then it’d still mean that Chae-young’s revenge was just to induce hallucinations, and that Yeo-jin just happened to contract a very convenient case of Finale Week Cancer.
So if I’m not as crazy as this show is, then Chae-young somehow managed to induce full blown cancer in Yeo-jin in a span of six months, which I simply refuse to believe is a real thing. That can’t at all have been the intention of those scenes, however vague they left things, even if sussing out the order of events leaves me with more of a headache than anything. For instance, let’s say the doctor examined Yeo-jin, discovered her cancer, but took it straight to Chae-young first—Chae-young would’ve had to make the conscious decision that not telling Yeo-jin and allowing her to go untreated would eventually lead to her death and the culmination of her revenge, even if that would make the whole drugging subplot kind of moot.
Or, her plan revolved around just drugging Yeo-jin, and the fact that she’s now dying from a random and unforeseen cancer ultimately means little to Chae-young because something. I’m going to be completely transparent here and admit that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, or even what’s supposed to be going on now that Yeo-jin has Cancer. Because it couldn’t have been anything even remotely related to her three-year coma, but instead had to be sudden and advanced Cancer. Why, Yong-pal? Why?
After episodes spent building Yeo-jin up as this tough, cunning, and ultimately ruthless businesswoman, it’s more than a little confusing to see all that competence fail her when it matters most. The current (as of last episode) iteration of Yeo-jin this show tried desperately to sell to us wouldn’t be so unsuspecting when it came to those around her, especially with the track record people like Secretary Min have. That iteration of Yeo-jin wouldn’t have bought a single word coming out of a Hanshin doctor’s mouth, and yet we now have a fragile and mentally unraveling version of Yeo-jin going into the finale, one that believes she’s just fainting from stress despite what should be a very vivid and recent trauma of being drugged by her enemies.
Only now she’s in a waking coma, with about as much agency as she had when she was locked away. With her death potentially looming, and with Tae-hyun just continuing to be a scoop of vanilla ice cream, I have no idea what the finale has in store for us. But at this rate it definitely can’t be uninteresting, so, there’s always that.