Intro time is over now that everyone’s gathered abroad, and with our medic team now set up in Urk, everyone will be forced to make some adjustments to their comfort zones. Mo-yeon, for one, is going to have to let go of some of that rigid self-reliance and let Shi-jin help her out a little, and they’ll both have to realize that neither can afford to stand alone, as they will need each other to survive this literal war zone.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Mo-yeon and her team are finally joined by their military escort, which just so happens to be Shi-jin and his men. Mo-yeon’s scarf flies down the tarmac, so she chases it and finds herself facing Shi-jin as he approaches. But he doesn’t acknowledge her, and just walks past her without a glance.
He introduces himself to the team (as Mo-yeon is left watching his back) and Dae-young issues them duffel bags to transport their belongings. While the men are occupied helping the medical team, Shi-jin picks up the scarf lying at his feet, and finally turns to look at Mo-yeon. Neither of them says a word as he returns the scarf.
So cute — the rest of Shi-jin’s unit greet the medical team with a little song and dance, and the women are each given a wreath of flowers Ha, Mo-yeon’s friend Sang-hyun looks so disappointed not to get flowers, and he and babydaddy doctor Chi-hoon break into a random booty-shaking dance.
Former thief Ki-bum takes a minute to say hello to Mo-yeon, who totally doesn’t recognize him in uniform. She’s thrilled to see him here doing so well, as is nurse Min-ji who helped treat him that day.
Mo-yeon is snubbed by Shi-jin again when she accidentally runs into him, but once Shi-jin is out of sight, he stops to peek at her unseen through a window. Awww, he’s definitely not as unaffected as he’d like her to think.
He brings a package to Dae-young and tells him to open it now, you know, in case it’s cookies. Dae-young deadpans that it might be a bomb, but Shi-jin insists he open it now anyway, “Like a man.” While backing away, hee.
It’s a care package for the officers from Myung-joo, though it’s noticeably missing anything for Dae-young and Shi-jin. There’s a note, and Dae-young’s face goes carefully neutral as he says that his package is coming later — Myung-joo herself is on her way.
We see her back in Korea saying goodbye to her father, Lieutenant General Yoon, and he asks if she really insists on going. She betrays a small smile and she says that yes, she can’t wait to go. He makes it clear that it’s Shi-jin he wants as his son-in-law because he’s general material, not Dae-young, and oooooh, so that’s why they broke up.
But Myung-joo is a tough cookie, and she informs her father that treating Dae-young badly because of his personal feelings is wrong. He chose to stay and serve underneath him, despite their personal issues, and Myung-joo says that he’s a real soldier, which is why she loves him. She tells her father in no uncertain terms that if he stops her pursuit of him again, he will lose her as both a loyal soldier and a daughter.
Mo-yeon calls her friend Dr. Pyo Ji-soo to tell her that both the guy she briefly dated last year and Myung-joo’s ex are here, though she denies being happy to see them. Their call gets dropped and Mo-yeon looks up to see that she’s wandered near some children in a field.
She jumps the fence to trade one girl a tool she’s found (and is licking, ick) for a candy bar, and finds herself swarmed by begging kids. From behind her, Shi-jin chastises that she shouldn’t do that unless she’s got enough for all of them. In their native language, he sends the hungry kids to find one of the officers to ask for food.
When Mo-yeon asks what he said, he tells her dryly, “I said I’d shoot if they didn’t leave.” Ha. She calls him out for lying, and he just calmly says that he calls it a joke. Frustrated, Mo-yeon starts to stalk off, but she stops short when she hears a sharp click under her feet.
Shi-jin tells her carefully not to move — she’s just stepped on a land mine. He’s totally pulling her leg, but she falls for it and starts to freak out, especially when he says that he’s never seen anyone step on a land mine and live to tell the tale. Mo-yeon shrieks at him to disarm it with a Swiss army knife like men with his training are supposed to be able to do, and he says he’s only seen one guy do that: “The guy in the movie you saw.” LOL.
She still hasn’t caught on, even when he starts to saunter off and leave her there. She yells at him to come back and do something, and his answer is to get all up in her personal space and offer to step on the “land mine” instead. Of course he’ll die, he says, but that just makes Mo-yeon even more frantic.
She shoves at Shi-jin hard, and he’s so close that it tips them both off their center of balance, and they fall to the ground. Mo-yeon huddles on Shi-jin’s chest waiting for the boom, while Shi-jin just lies there enjoying it. When she finally peeks and asks why there was no explosion, Shi-jin just says, “How have you been?” Oh, you cheeky bastard.
Angry-crying and embarrassed, Mo-yeon stomps through camp and declines the food everyone is enjoying, with a sheepish Shi-jin trailing behind her. I love that Dae-young’s response to the news that he made Mo-yeon cry is just an unsurprised, “Already?” It’s obvious that Shi-jin genuinely feels bad, though.
He catches up to apologize, explaining that he’s used to joking with guys, and Mo-yeon reluctantly accepts his apology. He snaps to sudden attention at the sound of the national anthem, then breaks salute to gently turn Mo-yeon around to face the flag. As they both pay their respects, Shi-jin softly says in her ear, “It’s good to see you again.”
The ladies admire the soldiers on their shirtless morning run the next day, and Mo-yeon quips that if they do this at night too, she’s moving here permanently. Ha, she even shamelessly waves Shi-jin out of the way when he stands in her line of sight (deliberately, no doubt). Annoyed, he sends the men away, but the rear view is just as nice and he has to work to keep blocking Mo-yeon’s craning neck.
The men have noticed the pretty doctors too, and jostle to be first in line to give their blood samples. Mo-yeon gets a little payback by insisting that Shi-jin go first, being their leader and all, and he’s hilariously wimpy and flinchy about it. But then he grabs her hand and confidently shoves the needle in himself when she can’t find a vein.
Everyone jumps at a loud boom, which turns out to be a UN truck which has gone off the road and flipped. The driver didn’t survive, but there’s a passenger who seems suspiciously okay. Shi-jin takes the truck keys so that Dae-young can inspect the cargo, and while they’re distracted, the passenger pulls a gun.
But Shi-jin is ready and quickly disarms him, having noticed the men’s foreign legion tattoos and badly-fitting UN shirts and realized they’re smugglers. Dae-young finds a shipment of guns in the trucks cargo hold, and the surviving smuggler is turned over to authorities.
Back at camp, Dae-young informs Mo-yeon that the wi-fi isn’t for civilian use, but there’s an internet cafe in town. And hey, the Captain is on his way there now and can give her a lift, how convenient! I just love how he casually throws Shi-jin under the bus with a straight face.
During the drive, Shi-jin overhears Mo-yeon’s call with a landlord, and she tells him that she’s arranging to open her own clinic when she gets home. He asks if it’s because of “that scandal,” and she’s surprised to hear that he knows of it, but apparently her team are blabbermouths, ha. Shi-jin sighs that he didn’t give up so she could date guys like that, and Mo-yeon snaps that it’s not like that.
Instead of an internet cafe, he takes her to a little store where he says the internet is faster. But even he’s surprised to see the girl who bought the gun in the bar, who claims to be half-owner. She’s not any more friendly than before, though she does seem happy to see a doctor here.
Shi-jin introduces her as RI YE-HWA, a nurse with Peacemaker Emergency Aid. Ye-hwa defensively barks that she just runs this store for fun — she doesn’t need the money. HA, I love Mo-yeon’s Okay sweetie, whatever you say face.
Shi-jin makes his report regarding the black market gun smugglers, and his commanding officer warns him not to take these guys lightly. They’re well-connected, and those are no BB guns they’re toting around. They go by the name “Merchants of Death,” and his advice is to lay low until their service term is over, and get back home alive.
Sure enough, the survivor is taken straight back to his smuggler boss, and the police who took them in warns them that they need to find a new way to move their cargo. The big boss doesn’t seem too concerned, and tosses the lead cop a wad of bills, then shoots him. Damn.
Meanwhile Dae-young gets some bad news — he’s being transferred. Seems Myung-joo’s father is doing an end run around her and trying to get him out of the way before she arrives in Urk.
We see in flashback that back when Dae-young and Myung-joo were dating, Lieutenant General Yoon had joined the enlisted men for lunch and sat right across from Dae-young. Dae-young had refused to eat, and the two men sat there long after the rest of the men were gone. Yoon had finally spoken, and told Dae-young that he was worried about his daughter’s future — he says he’s not ordering them to break up, but he will if Dae-young doesn’t do it himself.
Mo-yeon notices Shi-jin’s subdued mood on the ride back to the base, and he tells her about Dae-young’s transfer. She asks if he’s sad or jealous, and he clarifies — he thinks the transfer is unfair, because it came not from a commander, but from a father. Mo-yeon knows exactly what he’s talking about, and asks how Myung-joo and Dae-young met.
Another flashback — Dae-young’s unit were on a thousand-mile march, and Myung-joo was the supporting army surgeon. She’d witnessed Dae-young taking on a fellow soldier’s pack so that the soldier wouldn’t give up, and had ordered him to stop.
She’d made the point that helping his comrades was great, but would ultimately do no good if he were discharged due to injury himself. He’d refused, determined to come in first, because the reward was a day off, and he planned to use it to crash an ex’s wedding. That’s… delightfully human, for our stoic Dae-young.
Shi-jin makes a stop, and invites Mo-yeon to walk with him to a beach some distance away. When she argues that it’s a long way, he flat-out admits that he wants to spend the time with her. He baits her with the information that Dae-young did make it to his ex’s wedding, and that Myung-joo went with him — he’ll tell her the rest of the story at the beach. And ha, it works.
We get to see the rest of the story as well, which is that Myung-joo totally crashed Dae-young’s wedding crashing, hee. She’d argued that interrupting the wedding would only make his ex glad she got rid of him, but showing up with another woman would make her regret it. Okay, I like her spunk.
As she changes in the back seat, she explains that the man her father has his eye on for her husband will be his new company commander. She doesn’t know Shi-jin well at this point, but Dae-young met him two days prior. She enlists Dae-young’s help, asking him to pretend to be her boyfriend to keep Shi-jin away — she finds him entirely too pretty. Is that even possible?
Mo-yeon is surprised to hear that Shi-jin, Dae-young, and Myung-joo are actually in a love triangle, and asks how Shi-jin feels about it. He deadpans that he thought she wasn’t interested that way, but when he pulls her onto the boat he’s rented and they end up standing close, the chemistry between them fairly crackles.
Mo-yeon insists she’s not curious, not even a little, nope not her, but Shi-jin calls her out on that. She sure seemed curious.
They take the boat out to a gorgeous secluded beach, where an ancient ship sits abandoned in the sand. Determined to show how very much she’s not interested, Mo-yeon refuses Shi-jin’s helping hand off the boat, but she can’t hide her enchantment at the location.
Shi-jin tells her the local legend, that you can return to this beach if you take a stone when you leave. He hands her a stone and says they can come back, and Mo-yeon goes to explore the shipwreck. She asks how it came to be here, and Shi-jin says it’s bewitched. “It’s the end of something, when it’s been bewitched by something beautiful.”
Mo-yeon asks if Shi-jin has ever been bewitched — he says that he has, and that he thought she’d know. Swoon.
He asks again how she’s been, recalling her words and asking if she’s still sexiest in the operating room. She makes it clear that she’s not here out of the goodness of her heart, but because someone in power is punishing her. She doesn’t even do surgery anymore, and when she gets home, she’ll have to climb back to where she was.
Sang-hyun makes a giant bowl of bibimbap for the medical team, and Chi-hoon is hilariously prissy about sharing the bowl. He goes outside to call his girl, and gets ten years scared off his life by a tiny local boy. He’s upset about the fingerprints on his white shirt, until the little boy begs for food, then throws up — he’s obviously sick.
Chi-hoon forgets about his clothes and switches to doctor mode, carrying the boy inside just as Shi-jin and Mo-yeon arrive back at the base. They have trouble determining what’s wrong until Shi-jin suggests lead poisoning, and Mo-yeon remembers the child she saw licking the dirty tool.
Shi-hoon confirms that the boy was licking his fingers earlier, and Mo-yeon deduces that his malnutrition would have caused his body to try to absorb anything he put in his mouth quickly, leading to sudden lead poisoning.
Shi-jin offers to come translate when the boy wakes, and when Mo-yeon tries to draw a line between the medical team and the soldiers, he tells her that it’s okay to just be grateful. She said once that nothing is more precious than life, but he notes that she seems like a different person now.
Mo-yeon argues that malnutrition and lead poisoning aren’t common in Korea, and Shi-jin agrees, frustrated with her — it would have been better for a doctor who was familiar with these things to come here. Mo-yeon says that they can’t all be Albert Schweitzer ( a famous Nobel Peace Prize-winning doctor who established a hospital in Africa), and Shi-jin snaps back that yeah, some doctors go on television. Oh snap.
As Shi-jin leaves an alarm sounds, and Dae-young reports that a Force Protection Condition has been issued to all medical areas. The soldiers and medical team all prepare for a VIP patient arriving at their clinic — President Mubarat, the chairman of the Arab League. He’s third in line in the Abu Dhabi royal family, and is known for his peaceful works in the surrounding countries. He’s a good man — and a terrorist target.
Mubarat’s medical records are delivered to Mo-yeon, but the team are dismayed to see much of his information blacked out or changed. Chi-hoon wonders what kind of doctor would lie on a patient chart, and Mo-yeon says pointedly, “Doctors like me. The poor need doctors like Albert Schweitzer, and VIPs need doctors of their own.” Well played.
So they’re working blind, and when the patient arrives with high blood pressure and pulse, they have to start from scratch. Mubarat’s attendant gives them a vial of medicine from his doctor, nitroglycerine, which is used to treat heart conditions.
But the man’s heart rate drops too quickly when given the medicine, and an examination of his torso has Mo-yeon startled. There’s blood accumulating in his abdomen, and Mo-yeon orders immediate surgery.
But the attendant stops her, saying that Mubarat’s personal doctor will be here in an hour. Mo-yeon argues that he won’t last twenty minutes without surgery, and her insistence has the man pulling a gun on her. The entire room of soldiers goes on alert, and even Shi-jin has his hand on his own gun, but Mo-yeon tells them all to put the weapons down.
She stays calm, telling the attendant that she’s only trying to save this man’s life. Shi-jin (who’s been in constant contact with his superior officer) gets a message that the important thing isn’t to save the President’s life, but to determine who is at fault when he does die. He’s ordered to let the men have their way, and they can place the blame on the doctor who didn’t operate. He’s given a clear order not to interfere.
Shi-jin sends a small nod to Dae-young (who also heard the order), then asks Mo-yeon in Korean if she can save the President. As his commander demands an answer, he waits for Mo-yeon’s response, and she says confidently that she can save him.
At that, Shi-jin removes his communication equipment, quickly barks, “Save him,” and pulls his gun. Everyone in the room raises their weapons at the same time, and Shi-jin carefully stands right in front of Mo-yeon, protecting her.
Now that we’ve been thrown right into the thick of the conflict, we’re already seeing some of the ways that Shi-jin and Mo-yeon are starting to affect one another, and I’m guessing this standoff is only the first of many situations where they’ll find themselves debating whether a life for a life is a moral stand they’re willing to take. All Mo-yeon wants is to save her patient, but now she’s seeing firsthand what Shi-jin argued all those months ago — sometimes you have to decide if it’s necessary to use deadly force in order to save that life. But her words apply here too, and we could practically see Shi-jin weighing her determination to save the man — not the President, but just this sick man — against following orders unthinkingly. In the past I have no doubt that he would have done as he was told and let the man die, but Mo-yeon’s words have clearly made him think about whether that’s always the right decision to make. I do like that their convictions, which have always been so black and white because they could afford to think that way, have now been challenged, and I expect them both to learn and grow as they realize that life isn’t always that simple.
I wasn’t sure what to think of Myung-joo last week, since we got to see so little of her, but I have to say that I’m impressed with her spine of steel. Standing up to a parent isn’t easy under any circumstances, much less when they also happen to be your commanding officer. But she was able to do so in such a way that she outlined her boundaries clearly, yet respectfully, and let him know that she would be going to get her man, no matter what he thought. Now that we’ve seen more of her, I really like her spunky personality and her calm, logical way of getting exactly what she wants. I know Dae-young is determined to be a good soldier and stay away from her, but I almost feel bad for the guy — he doesn’t stand a chance. That is, if they can keep Lieutenant General Daddy from throwing his weight around at every turn.
The “love triangle” between Dae-young, Myung-joo, and Shi-jin is an interesting one, being entirely constructed by Myung-joo’s father. None of the three legs care for his plans, and I love that the men are good friends despite this problem between them. It says a lot about the kind of men they are, that they like and respect each other outside of the personal conflict, and don’t let it affect their friendship. It’s a tricky situation, because Myung-joo’s father is clearly using his authority to push his agenda, and can literally ruin the lives of any one of them with just a word. I have no doubt that his transferring Dae-young just as Myung-joo will be arriving in Urk is just the first push we’ll see from Lieutenant General Daddy, and that he’s got a lot worse up his sleeve.
I do find the balance between humor and seriousness mostly well-done, because it keeps us from betting bogged down in any one emotion and gives a little lightness to some pretty dark subjects. From what I understand from my own family members in service, that brand of dark humor is par for the course, especially with deployed soldiers. So things like Shi-jin’s land mine joke aren’t anything unusual — though for certain it’s not something a civilian would find funny right out of the gate. The show does take itself a tad seriously in places, and I find myself laughing in moments where I’m sure I’m not supposed to laugh (“Merchants of Death,” really?). I agree that it can be a bit emotionally overwrought at times, but overall I think the tonal balance is struck quite well. I did think this episode was much less pushy about trying to force us to feel things we as an audience may not be ready to feel. I’m hoping that once the central romance transitions from initial attraction to real love, the intensity we’re being given prematurely at this point, will match up with the emotional moments more appropriately.
I make no secret that I can overlook flaws in a show if the characters are well-written and compelling, and I do think that Descended from the Sun is giving us some pretty rich characters to follow. Aside from the main four, I find even the smaller stories, like Ki-bum and his journey into manhood, and Chi-hoon and his impending daddyhood, just as interesting. They all seem layered and human, and I like that we are being allowed to learn about them naturally, as the story progresses, instead of just giving us their character profiles in one lump sum. It feels like there’s so much to learn about Shi-jin, Mo-yeon, Dae-young and Myung-joo, and I at least am very much looking forward to getting to know them all better.