This episode deals with what happens after all our characters’ secrets are out and it’s a sweet reversal of expectations that it’s Sim Chung who has a harder time dealing with Joon Jae’s true identity, instead of Joon Jae dealing with her being a mermaid.
Upon realising Joon Jae is a conman, Sim Chung returns all that he has bought for her to the stores and leaves his home, checking herself into a sauna. Even when he finds her and tries to entice her back with beef short ribs, she’s adamant in turning him down even though she would love to eat the short ribs. Sim Chung may be naive and simple-minded, but she stays true to her principles and trust and truthfulness are important to her. After realising that he’s the person that Sim Chung loved previously, Joon Jae has newfound determination and moves into the sauna with her, doing all he can to protect her. Yet Sim Chung is unmoved, till a woman in the sauna tells her that Joon Jae’s presence is disturbing them. It’s only when Joon Jae joins her to bring joy to Yoona and also promises her that he’ll never tell lies to harm someone, much to Nam Doo and Tae-O’s surprise, that she’s won over by him. It was fun to see the roles being reversed and Joon Jae requiring to go into Sim Chung’s “space”, where all his pretensions are stripped away, just to win her back.
On the other hand, Joon Jae’s realisation that Sim Chung is a mermaid brings out the best in him. He realises he’s becoming that boy in the myth, who can hear the mermaid’s voice because he loves her. Unlike Joon Jae’s life as a conman where he entered people’s consciousness for his own gain, this time, he uses what he hears of her thoughts to become a better man by caring for her, fulfilling her wishes and ultimately becoming a person who can keep his word to her. Learning about her mermaid identity and how sensitive she is to water makes him even more protective of her and he goes all out to protect her in the sauna. Most significant is his decision to turn away from being a conman, warning a group of girls about how they’d end up being like him and ultimately promising Sim Chung that he’ll not tell lies to harm others. He puts on his “conman” attire in this episode not with the aim of deceiving others, but to bring joy to Yoona by supporting her in her concert. When he gets arrested, he turns himself in without struggling, displaying a true desire to turn away from his criminal ways. Lee Min Ho puts in a good performance here and I really enjoyed the scene of him realising that he’s the person Sim Chung spoke about.
There was certainly a light-hearted and magical fairy-tale feel to this episode, with wishes being made and fulfilled, Joon Jae and Sim Chung going all out to fulfil Yoona’s wish and all the references to stars and the moon. We also have our evil stepmother as we realise that Seo-hee has “blinded” two previous husbands and Joon Jae steps up to truly becoming Sim Chung’s prince charming. While protecting the mermaid in the Joseon era involved sword fights, bloodshed and racing on horses, protecting her in this episode is a more unassuming, down to earth affair of simply protecting her identity, which means keeping her away from water. This leads to many funny scenes of Joon Jae getting kids to play their water guns elsewhere, moving the water dispenser and asking the staff for long pants. It’s really heroism in its plainest, most unadorned form.
The other plotlines surrounding the fairy-tale don’t fare too badly as well. Shi-ah, who I’ve always felt was bland, is getting slightly more development and I found her scene with Tae-oh very funny as she offers him her friendship, even though she can’t love him back. We realise that Dae Young has been having similar dreams as Joon Jae, which leads him to realise too that Sim Chung has an important role to play in Joon Jae’s life. Jin Joo’s continues to be a delight to watch and I find her mannerisms so entertaining.
I’ve been thinking about how all the publicity of the show prior to it may have done more harm to it than good, as there were expectations of an epic, grand story with comparisons to Descendants of the Sun. However, from what we’ve seen so far, this show remains content with being simple, light-hearted and fun. As the show moves towards its final half though, I do hope we get into more serious, intense storytelling with the tightening of the links between past and present, our villains taking more concrete action and a greater sense of danger and threat for Sim Chung.