Yong-pal: Episode 9
The relationship between our two friends turned lovers takes a huge leap in an episode filled with heartwarming moments interspersed with ominously murderous ones, which is about as good a blend as you get in my book. Tae-hyun and Yeo-jin have no idea what’s in store for them, but if it were up to Do-joon (or whoever’s on a killing spree), the future’s looking pretty bleak. This is an hour dedicated to the idea of enjoying the good while it lasts, because if dramaland is any indicator, nothing this cute lasts forever.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
After the kiss, Yeo-jin sits in her wheelchair on church grounds and stretches her hand out to feel the sun on her skin. “It’s really morning,” she thinks to herself. “I became free this morning. But I’m afraid… afraid I might lose this man.”
The man himself appears behind her with breakfast, but Yeo-jin acts like she’s not strong enough to lift the utensils in a bid to get Tae-hyun to feed her. It doesn’t work, since he wants her to get her strength back. Pouting doesn’t work on him either.
It’s cute how they bicker back and forth over how she should cut and eat her omelet, but when that first bit of solid food in three years hits her tastebuds, she lights up like a Christmas tree. Tae-hyun makes sure she doesn’t skimp on her physical therapy by cutting the food into tiny pieces that she’ll have to spear herself if she wants to eat.
He helps her take her first few shuffling steps by supporting her, eventually letting go when she claims she can do it herself. She ambles forward, but when she takes her first faltering step Tae-hyun’s there to catch her.
Holding her like that for a little while, Tae-hyun makes sure to ask if she’s okay. Even Yeo-jin notes that they might be holding that pose a little too long, but Tae-hyun’s perfectly fine with the close proximity. And, for that matter, so is she.
At least until the priest spots them and starts crossing himself, utterly scandalized. He gently chastises the two for not attending mass before guilting Yeo-jin, who he only knows as “Sophia,” into confessing for the first time in three years.
Once they’re alone, Yeo-jin confesses to the priest that she prayed to be able to kill all her enemies. “Do you still pray for that to happen?” the priest asks. “Yes,” she answers without hesitation. “For the past three years, I prayed for death if I couldn’t have revenge. But God did not answer any of my prayers.”
The priest tells her that God works in mysterious ways, and answered her prayers of hatred with love instead. When he asks if she loves Tae-hyun, Yeo-jin’s eyes begin to glisten with tears as she admits that she thinks she does. In that case, the priest claims, her prayers were answered.
“But I’m afraid that I may lose him because of my love for him,” she adds, carefully holding back her tears. The priest advises her to ask God for mercy and love Tae-hyun more, even though she’s scared that he’ll suffer more because of her. The last bit of advice the priest has for her? “Love your enemies.”
This is hard for Yeo-jin to swallow, and the music swells as the gears in her head turn over such an unfathomable request. And just when you think she’s going to answer that she can’t, she looks up with determination and promises, “I will.”
Nurse Oh gets nervous when Chief Lee comes down to see the factory worker, considering that they’ve switched out the patients not once but twice now—and whoever’s lying on that bed isn’t Yeo-jin.
But Chief Lee still thinks it’s the factory worker under all those bandages, although he’s none too happy to hear that the patient’s mother might know of her daughter’s whereabouts, since they’ve tried to keep the case hush-hush.
As soon as he leaves, Nurse Oh ushers the nurse who was standing in for Yeo-jin (who was standing in for the now deceased factory worker) out of bed. The stand-in nurse is disappointed to be woken from such a good nap.
Chief Lee finds out from the other nurses that Nurse Hwang died in a hit-and-run accident, and runs to the hospital director’s room to ask if it really was just an accident.
He suspects Do-joon was behind it and worries that he’ll want to get rid of everyone who took care of Yeo-jin, though the hospital director sees them as too essential to Do-joon to be done away with so easily. For now, Chief Lee has to try and believe him.
At the church, Tae-hyun massages (and pokes a bit of fun at) Yeo-jin’s feet, which are swollen from walking. She learns to say “Thank you” in the process, before blinking at Tae-hyun’s suggestion that they’ll have to leave the church sometime.
“Where are we going to go?” she asks, genuinely befuddled. “Anywhere,” Tae-hyun replies. “I’m okay as long as I’m with you. How about you?” After a pause, she answers: “Me too.” Cue some product placement as they try to find a new place to stay.
President Go is doing some serious company reorganization, and advises Do-joon to sell Hanshin Electric. Do-joon’s secretary strongly opposes this move since Hanshin Electric makes so much money, but President Go thinks they’ll get more benefit from selling it since Do-joon can’t become its legal owner.
It’s clear that Do-joon’s secretary and President Go don’t align on a lot of things regarding the company, but for now, Do-joon supports President Go’s restructuring. President Go makes sure to rub that in the secretary’s face.
Chae-young forces her way into their meeting by slapping the security guard, and soon the unhappily married couple is left to have a private chat. This time, she drops the clueless act with her husband before she asks who he’ll kill next. She knows he was behind Nurse Hwang’s untimely demise.
Do-joon takes offense to this question, not because she accused him of killing someone, but because he knows she’s worried about Tae-hyun. Does she really love him? Chae-young says yes, but acts like it’s more infatuation than anything—but regardless, no one can touch Tae-hyun until she tires of him.
It’s when she says she’s also worried about him that Do-joon scoffs, bitter that he’s just an afterthought for her. “I can smell the blood on you now,” Chae-young adds, her voice grave. At least she could say the old version of him, the one who threw tantrums so his father would get hers to force her to marry him, was naive.
Now, however, she wonders if he’s become too emboldened by killing his half-sister. He half-heartedly threatens that she’ll end up just like Yeo-jin if she doesn’t stay quiet, but Chae-young isn’t cowed. “If you had that kind of courage, perhaps I could have loved you.”
She adds that he can kill anyone he likes, but Tae-hyun is off limits—because if he kills Tae-hyun, he’ll have to kill her next. And if that happens, she’ll make sure Daejung Group finds out that he killed Yeo-jin’s fiancé and their heir.
President Go overhears her calling her father to find Tae-hyun for her, and laughs maniacally that she’ll do all the work for him. What, is he out to kill Tae-hyun now too?
Tae-hyun and Yeo-jin play dodgeball with the church kids, but with a twist—it’s “Princess Dodgeball,” like they do in Running Man, where Tae-hyun can get hit as long as he protects a wheelchair-bound Yeo-jin from the ball.
Afterwards, she tells Tae-hyun that she’s never played dodgeball before, which surprises him when it’s such a common children’s game. But she explains that she was never allowed to play because she wasn’t allowed to get hurt. She played tennis instead.
She flashes back to one childhood game where she played on the same team as Do-joon, since they’d been like two peas in a pod back then. But when he failed to stop a ball from hitting her in the eye, he’d gotten an unreasonably harsh scolding from their father for it.
A little injured Yeo-jin had cried to see her brother take such a verbal lashing, and her brother found her crying in her room. At the sight of his sister crying, Do-joon had cried too and apologized for not protecting her.
In the present, Yeo-jin sighs that she and Do-joon were once that close, and that she quit tennis after that incident. Tae-hyun says that’s a good thing since so many people end up in the hospital with tennis injuries, to which Yeo-jin replies somewhat hilariously, “That’s not comforting.”
While Chief Lee grows very concerned over the new nurse Do-joon appointed to take Nurse Hwang’s place (thinking he’ll be the next one to be “replaced”), Yeo-jin gets another new experience when she joins Tae-hyun and the other kids for a playdate at a nearby stream.
Tae-hyun helps her when she wants to walk in the shallow water, and she giggles like a schoolgirl at the sensation of the cool rocks under her feet. He takes her into the forest when one of the kids mentions that their lovey-dovey-ness is spoiling everyone else’s good time. Hah.
She’s excited to be able to walk on a path between the trees, and Tae-hyun helps her for a while before he stops and kneels so she can hop on his back. He’ll carry her for the rest of the walk since he doesn’t want her overdoing it, no matter how badly she wants to keep walking.
As he walks, he reassures her that it’s nothing to carry her, since he carried So-hyun on his back from a young age. Yeo-jin asks if So-hyun was born with her illness only to be surprised by Tae-hyun’s answer: “No. I made her that way.”
Tae-hyun narrates the story as we see it play in flashback: since both their parents worked so much, he ended up as his little sister’s caretaker. But one night when she’d been sick, Tae-hyun thought he’d play doctor, since he fished out what he thought were the fever-reducing pills their mother would give them when they were ill.
Even though she didn’t want to take them, Tae-hyun made her do it anyway, convinced the pills would make her feel better. What he didn’t know was that it was his father’s medicine, which causes acute liver failure if taken by children.
That’s what happened to So-hyun, landing her unconscious and in a hospital while her oppa looked on helplessly. “That’s why you became a doctor,” Yeo-jin muses in the present. “Because you wanted to save So-hyun.”
But Tae-hyun adds that he wanted to be rich and powerful, because poverty is the reason why his sister couldn’t get treated. Poverty was the reason his father became a drunk. Ironically, of course, he himself became loaded down with debt.
He sighs that the more he tries to become powerful, the weaker he becomes. “Perhaps I don’t know my place.” Yeo-jin tries to cheer him up by commiserating with him, but also by reminding him that he did end up becoming a doctor and he was able to save his sister after all.
“If only I had an oppa like you,” Yeo-jin wonders sadly. Now that it’s Tae-hyun’s turn to shake her out of a funk, he gently puts her down on the beautiful grassy hilltop he’s somehow trekked the two of them to.
Yeo-jin is overwhelmed by the view, and Tae-hyun doesn’t even get to finish telling her the legend that if two lovers kiss on the hill…
…Because she turns around and kisses him without a moment’s hesitation. They wrap their arms around each other and stay that way for a long moment, until they finally pull just inches apart.
A bit breathlessly, Tae-hyun continues the thought he’d started earlier, that if two lovers kiss on the hill and return to share another kiss, they’ll be together forever. Yeo-jin smiles, keeping her arms firmly around Tae-hyun’s neck: “Let’s come back here tomorrow.”
Tae-hyun cracks a happy smile at the idea before leaning in for another kiss.
Meanwhile, Yeo-jin’s warning that Do-joon would kill him too keeps running through Chief Lee’s mind, making him paranoid about everyone and everything around him.
He’s not exactly crazy for thinking that way though, since he sees a nurse he doesn’t recognize leaving the hospital director’s office and goes inside only to find the director dead. He runs to his office to grab his passport, and though his nervousness doesn’t escape Not Nurse Hwang’s notice, he manages to get to his car and flee.
Tae-hyun treats all the kids to a meal when he and Yeo-jin return from the hilltop, and wonders at Yeo-jin’s love of common foods that chaebols like her wouldn’t normally enjoy.
Later that night, one of the church kids comes banging at the rectory door, calling for Tae-hyun. He knows Tae-hyun’s a doctor and begs him to save his ailing mother, an offer that Tae-hyun can’t refuse, since it reminds him of how he’d gone banging on the neighborhood doctor’s door the night his sister fell ill.
Tae-hyun leaves Yeo-jin in the car while he goes into the humble house, along with the church’s priest and nun. The boy’s very pregnant mother is lying inside, and though her husband says she’s one month away from her due date, her water’s already broken.
Using his Yong-pal supplies, Tae-hyun’s able to deduce that she’s suffering from a serious pregnancy complication called preeclampsia, which puts both the mother and baby at risk. She needs to go to a hospital, but she refuses.
The priest explains that they’re illegal immigrants, so they face deportation if they go to a hospital, and the boy’s mother would forever be separated from her family. Tae-hyun has a choice to make, even as the mother begs him to save her child even if he can’t save her.
Remembering how helpless he felt when he couldn’t save his own mother, Tae-hyun assures the boy that his mother will be okay. He gives Yeo-jin a brief rundown of the situation when he goes out to the car to get his Yong-pal Backpack, telling her that he has no choice but to perform an emergency C-section on the mother, or else she and her unborn child could die.
Tae-hyun orders everyone but the priest, nun, and husband out of the small living space so he can convert it into a makeshift operating room. There’s some serious MacGyvering going on as he rips off a closet panel to create an operating table and uses a clothesline and hangers to string up hanging IV bags.
Luckily he has a good ally in the nurse, who knows a thing or two about nursing, and it’s a nice touch that she performs the sign of the cross before she commences in helping Tae-hyun.
In another bit of ingenuity, he uses his fingernails to make a cross-shaped indentation on the woman’s spine so that he can insert the needle straight through the center for a spinal block, in order to lessen the pain.
Only then does the nun wonder if Tae-hyun’s ever performed a C-section, and judging by his silence, it’d be safe to say he hasn’t. But the baby’s getting quiet in the mother’s belly, and Tae-hyun’s faced with a more terrible choice: operate before the anesthesia finishes taking effect and risk the mother going into shock, or possibly lose the baby by waiting.
The mother begs him to save her child, so Tae-hyun grits his teeth and decides to make the incision. Yeo-jin, meanwhile, gathers the strength to hobble from the car to the house, where she watches the frankly horrifying surgery from the doorway.
It’s the kind of hyperrealistic surgical procedure we haven’t seen yet in this show, as Tae-hyun opens the mother’s abdomen and cuts past all the muscle and tissue layers (if I’m getting this wrong, it’s because I didn’t go to medical school) before reaching his hand in and pulling the baby out.
The baby is premature and in need of an incubator, but that’s not the most pressing concern—Tae-hyun uses a stethoscope on the mother and diagnoses her with an embolism. She has to go to a hospital, but when the same complaints are voiced, Tae-hyun looks at Yeo-jin and says there is one hospital they could go to…
At said hospital, Nurse Oh talks to Nurse Ahjumma about her conspiracy theories regarding the hospital director’s sudden and unexpected death by cardiac arrest.
It’s all suspicious with Nurse Hwang’s death and Chief Lee’s disappearance, she thinks, but Nurse Ahjumma is quick to shush her. She must harbor the same suspicions, but knows how dangerous they could be.
It isn’t until the car is loaded up with the mother and priest that Tae-hyun tells Yeo-jin she can’t go with them, no matter how much she wants to. She hasn’t put two and two together, and reacts with disbelief when Tae-hyun tells her he intends to send the mother and baby to the VIP floor at Hanshin Hospital.
She thinks he’s crazy, but Tae-hyun reassures her that he’ll come right back as long as she goes back to the church with the nun. “Promise me that you’ll hurry back,” she pleads, and Tae-hyun promises that he’ll return to her after seeing his sister off at the airport tomorrow.
Yeo-jin holds his stare as he gets into the car, but Tae-hyun sends her a small smile as if to tell her that everything’s going to be okay. She gives just the slightest of nods, and he puts the pedal to the metal.
“Don’t worry,” the nun tells Yeo-jin comfortingly. “I’m sure God will watch over them. That person must be an angel sent by God.” The angel in question watches Yeo-jin’s figure dwindle in his side mirror as he drives away.
Phew. I never thought I’d be happy to see a conveniently timed emergency surgery in a medical drama, but this episode needed something to spice things up, and we got it. Ideally, emergency surgeries shouldn’t be used with the frequency they are in some dramas just to add tension where there isn’t any, but used sparingly, they can be a handy device.
It was a bit jarring to see a surgery with full medical prostheses like we did with the C-section, and while we’ve seen blood and gore in this show before, the reason the scene still strikes as a tad odd is because the focus shifted in a way it hasn’t before. So far, we’d actually gotten away without seeing this kind of nitty-gritty detail that’s commonplace within the medical genre, and I actually liked that the focus was more on the patients’ stories and Tae-hyun’s skill in treating them rather than on how realistic the procedures were.
That being said, I’m not the ideal audience for medical dramas, so I’m totally willing to accept that such a scene caters to the people who are—even though part of me wonders who’s been watching this drama wishing that there were more detailed surgical scenes. It seemed pretty clear before we got to this episode that doctoring wasn’t the real focus, so I hope no one behind the scenes thought they owed something to a hardcore viewership I somehow don’t believe exists for this show by showing the minutiae of a caesarean section. With any luck, the surgery was just a nice(?) add-on and not a precursor for the formula of episodes to come.
So far, Yong-pal has excelled at giving us quiet, contemplative moments with Tae-hyun and Yeo-jin, which does the rare thing of showing rather than telling when it comes to their growing relationship. But with all the beautifully shot and beautifully staged scenes between the two of them this hour, I did start to wonder where there is such a thing as too much showing—or, to put it another way, if their love was on a scale of one to ten and if they were maybe at a four as of last episode, they seemed to have made the jump to a full-blown eleven in this one.
There’s nothing wrong with so much love and happiness between two characters, and while it’s practically guaranteed that this is just the calm before the storm, the problem with jumping the spectrum this early in the game is that it puts something of a cap on their feelings. Sure, they can come to love each other even more and act on that love in different ways, but we’re definitely seeing a deviation from the more common will-they-or-won’t-they formula since we know that they not only will but are.
Then again, it’s an interesting point to be at before reaching the halfway mark, strictly because we’re not taking the familiar path. There’ll undoubtedly be forces that will try to rip them apart, but try as I might to squint into the future, I have no idea what we’re in for. Yeo-jin may not have the traditional chaebol family to oppose her union, so we’re treading what feels like fun and uncharted waters with her having a love-starved, murderous brother and a devious(ly engaging) sister-in-law who isn’t on anyone’s side but her own. And maybe Tae-hyun’s. But that’s just good taste.