Memories of Alhambra: Episode 11

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Memories of Alhambra: Episode 11

Allies and enemies don’t only exist in the AR world, and our protagonist is due for some rude awakenings as he takes a step back from the game. Jin-woo finally faces the consequences of his game obsession, which have come to a head in the real world — unfortunately, not in his favor. With the loss of former friends and family, Jin-woo desperately searches for validation and someone who will trust his nightmare of a reality.

  
EPISODE 11 RECAP

At the news of Secretary Seo’s death in Granada, Hee-joo speeds home and tries to contact Jin-woo, but he doesn’t pick up. Hee-joo digs through her things to find the number for Alhambra Palace, where she previously worked, and urgently requests for her friend Diego to find someone who’s wandered into the dungeon prison.

In the dungeon, outnumbered Jin-woo struggles to fight off the NPC zombies and closes his eyes in defeat, as the zombies prepare to take his life. Then, a bright light shines in the dungeon, and the quest stops due to the interference. The zombies disappear, as do Jin-woo’s injuries and sword.

Hee-joo receives a call back from Diego, who reports that Jin-woo is alive. Grandma finds her crying in relief and tries to comfort her as Jin-woo narrates: “With one phone call, Hee-joo saved my life. But she lost her chance to meet her brother.” Jin-woo refuses the security guards’ help and numbly walks out of the dungeon to the hospital.

Director Park waits anxiously as Jin-woo’s will rings in his ears. He finally receives a call from Hee-joo with good news and proceeds to the operations room, where he orders that all the game servers be shut down.

The game developers and users experience the halt as the servers shut down, and even Jin-woo — fighting off warriors in the hospital — also sees the NPC characters and his sword disappear. Once all the servers are shut down, Director Park orders that they remain closed until they can troubleshoot the error.

At the hospital, Jin-woo realizes that the game has been shut down and notices that his limp has returned. He braces himself with the wall and needs a crutch to help him reach the morgue. Jin-woo chokes up at the sight of dead Secretary Seo and grieves the loss of his friend.

Hee-joo and Director Park also arrive in Granada in mourning, and they hear Secretary Seo’s sobbing mother blame Jin-woo for killing her son. He was supposed to get married in a month (oof), and her mother had nagged him to quit his crazy job.

Director Park approaches the family and expresses his condolences for their sudden loss. Secretary Seo’s mother demands to see Jin-woo, and her family carries her away as she continues to wail. Director Park asks how Jin-woo is doing, but he’s told that Jin-woo disappeared from his hospital room that morning. They’re currently searching for him.

Hee-joo looks alarmed at that news, and while Director Park goes inside the morgue to check Secretary Seo’s body, she starts her search for Jin-woo. She runs to the game user café and Hyung-seok’s death park to find him but with no luck. He doesn’t pick up her calls, so she drafts a worried text asking him to call her. Before she sends it, she adds that she misses him.

She waits on the park bench and immediately receives a call from Jin-woo. He tells her that she shouldn’t have come all the way to Granada and admits that he couldn’t find Se-joo. He finds himself despicable, but Hee-joo doesn’t seem concerned about her brother in that moment. She reveals that she called Alhambra Palace to find him because she was scared that he would die.

Hee-joo pleads that Jin-woo stop his dangerous search for Se-joo and says that she’ll search for her brother herself. But Jin-woo won’t give up and tells her that his search isn’t over. He hangs up, and we see that he’s returned to Seoul.

Once Director Park collects his emotions from seeing Secretary Seo, he tells his team to find Jin-woo as soon as they can. His assistant reports to Director Park that Secretary Seo likely died of cerebral hemorrhage from the impact of a fall and wasn’t wearing the contacts when the police discovered his dead body. More curiously, the location of Secretary Seo’s last log-out didn’t match where his body was discovered.

Director Park receives a call from the Seoul office about Jin-woo’s conflicting order to reopen the servers, but he demands that they remain closed. Then, Jin-woo enters the operations room and asserts his authority as the company’s representative.

Professor Cha consults his team about Director Park’s decision to shut down the servers. They report that their test users have logged into the game every day for the past three months and haven’t reported any malfunctions, so they find this precaution puzzling. The meeting is interrupted by the news that Jin-woo has arrived at the company.

Director Park can’t believe that Jin-woo just flew back to Seoul and asks to speak with him on the phone. He’s worried about Jin-woo’s health, but Jin-woo only cares for the game and leveling up. Director Park reminds Jin-woo that he wrote in his will to shut down the servers once the quest is complete. Jin-woo argues that he’s still completing the quest.

Jin-woo says that while he couldn’t find Se-joo in this quest, he did reach the end of the dungeon, where he found a special key from ‘master’ Se-joo. Aha, so he was probably discovered by the guard on his way out. Unfortunately, the key can only be accessed by level 100 and above, so he’s returned to Seoul to level up.

Director Park concludes that Jin-woo has really gone mad. He was loyal to Jin-woo, but he can’t accept that Jin-woo is only worried about playing the game when his friend just died. Jin-woo yells that he needs to play this game even more because of Secretary Seo, so that his death wasn’t in vain.

Frustrated beyond belief, Director Park argues that Jin-woo has failed to prove that his hallucinations are real. He tries to reason with Jin-woo that Secretary Seo died of a cerebral hemorrhage, which could have happened while playing the game but wasn’t a result of an attack by NPCs. He decides that he can’t be on Jin-woo’s side anymore because he’s realized that the real problem is Jin-woo’s insanity.

In the midst of this falling out, Jin-woo still orders for the server to reopen, but Director Park yells in disagreement. Stuck between conflicting demands, the operator doesn’t do anything, so Jin-woo takes matters into his own hands.

When Professor Cha marches into the room, he finds the operator on the ground and Jin-woo unconscious in a chair. The employees explain that Jin-woo tried to forcibly reopen the server and resorted to violence when the operator pushed back. After punching the operator, Jin-woo fainted, and the employees worry that he’s unwell.

Professor Cha orders everyone out of the room so that he can have a word with Jin-woo. He approaches unconscious Jin-woo and gently calls his name to wake him. When Jin-woo regains consciousness, Professor Cha angrily slaps his across the face. Twice.

Seething in anger, Professor Cha deprecates Jin-woo for betraying him and only proving that he’s really gone insane. He chose Jin-woo over his son and daughter-in-law, and he blames them all for trashing his life. Professor Cha warns him not to make orders anymore, since nobody will listen to a soon-to-be unseated representative.

Then, Professor Cha uses the same words that he used on Hyung-seok to push the guilt on Jin-woo: “Remember this — you betrayed our trust. You are the traitor.” The same words directed at Hyung-seok echo in Jin-woo’s mind as Professor Cha walks out.

Director Park calls Professor Cha and silently agrees to Jin-woo being ousted from the company. Professor Cha tells Director Park to stay put in Granada while he takes care of the power shift. Soon enough, the news covers all the noisiness of Secretary Seo’s death and Jin-woo’s absence due to his medical conditions.

Professor Cha briefs the board on the series of events and Jin-woo’s refusal of medical treatment that make him unfit to lead the company. The board votes to unseat Jin-woo and promote Director Park as J.One’s new representative.

Jin-woo remembers Secretary Seo’s loyalty during his darkest times in the hospital. He would wake up to crying Secretary Seo, and when Jin-woo suggested that he resign from his position, Secretary Seo stubbornly refused to. He trusted that Jin-woo would recover and that they would go back home together.

After Secretary Seo’s funeral, Jin-woo wakes up, surrounded by empty bottles of alcohol, and immediately reaches for more alcohol. Yang-joo brings Hee-joo to Jin-woo’s apartment, and he checks in on Jin-woo at Director (now Representative) Park’s request.

When Hee-joo steps inside, she finds beer bottles all over the living room. Jin-woo comes out of his room and asks if she’s gathered any more information on Se-joo during her trip to Spain. Hee-joo says that she’s contacted Se-joo’s friends and that Director Park helped contact the embassy there. Jin-woo says that Director Park will be more help that him, since Director Park is sane.

Yang-joo suggests that they all go out for a meal, but Jin-woo refuses. Hee-joo turns back before they leave the apartment and tries to persuade Jin-woo to come outside to eat with them. She tells him that it’s her birthday today, so he could at least buy her a meal.

At that, Jin-woo asks if their relationship warrants him to buy her a birthday meal. He unkindly accuses Hee-joo of believing her younger sister’s fantasies of Jin-woo proposing to her, but Hee-joo doesn’t take his prickly response personally. She says that they don’t need to be in any special relationship for him to wish her a happy birthday, but he still refuses her attempts to pull him out of his own despair.

Hee-joo accuses Jin-woo of ruining her birthday last year, when he suddenly left without saying goodbye. She says that she ran to the train station to try to catch him, but she just missed him. Jin-woo pretends that he had no idea and dismisses her to celebrate her birthday before he ruins it again.

Jin-woo wakes up after a long nap and finds multiple missed calls from Director Park. As he gets out of bed, he hears the TV on in his living room, and he finds Hee-joo still waiting for him. She says that she regretted leaving for her birthday party last year, so she waited until he woke up this time.

Hee-joo suggests that they go out for food now and lightly jokes that that they can just be lovers if they need to be in a special relationship to celebrate her birthday together. She adds that she’s probably too good for him.

At the restaurant, Hee-joo complains that most places were closed because they came out so late. She blames him for ruining her birthday again and says that he should feel sorry. Hee-joo notices that she’s the only one talking and asks him to say something, but Jin-woo just continues to eat. Even with the uncomfortable silence, Hee-joo looks relieved to see Jin-woo eat.

After their meal, Hee-joo answers a call from worried Grandma and assures her that she’s heading home soon. Jin-woo offers to drive her home, but Hee-joo insists that she can take a taxi because it’s out of his way. He reminds her that they’re lovers, so he should drive her home. He opens the passenger door, and she obliges.

As Jin-woo drives her home, Hee-joo once again asks him to say something because the silence is making her feel guilty for dragging him out against his will. She clarifies that she only suggested that they be lovers because she wanted him to eat something and takes back that offer.

Jin-woo accuses her for making one-sided decisions and asks if he’s been dumped an hour into their relationship. He says it’s unfair of her, after making his heart flutter. His cheeky confession is interrupted by a call from Director Park to Hee-joo. Director Park asks to speak with Jin-woo on an urgent matter, and Jin-woo reluctantly calls him back.

Director Park suggests that Jin-woo leave the country as soon as possible because Professor Cha is reopening the investigation on Hyung-seok’s death. After hearing this news, Soo-jin arrives in Professor Cha’s office and asks why he’s reopening this investigation after urging her to cover it up last year. Professor Cha says that he needed to protect Jin-woo then, but not anymore.

Director Park knows that Professor Cha is deliberately reopening the investigation to target Jin-woo as the suspect, and he worries that this news will completely ruin Jin-woo. Unfazed by the impending investigation, Jin-woo claims that there’s nothing more to ruin and accuses Director Park of believing that Jin-woo murdered Hyung-seok.

Frustrated by Jin-woo’s nonchalance, Director Park also reveals his suspicions that Professor Cha will target Soo-jin to reclaim Hyung-seok’s inheritance. We see disconcerted Soo-jin insisting that this investigation will not benefit their family, and her father-in-law responds with suspicion that she’s against the investigation because she’s worried about Jin-woo. Oh, that malicious man.

Director Park also shares that Professor Cha recently met with Yu-ra. We see a brief part of their conversation, in which Yu-ra told Professor Cha that Hyung-seok met with her a few times. Director Park would hate to see the news of his friend murdering another friend and begs that Jin-woo avoid this mess.

Jin-woo realizes that he’s facing the immense consequences of failing the quest. He thinks back to Soo-jin’s warning back Professor Cha targeting them next, and he recognizes he hasn’t hit his lowest point yet. He’s still falling and doesn’t know how much lower he’ll go.

It starts to rain heavily, and Jin-woo seems numb to the weather. Hee-joo runs out with an umbrella, and as she approaches him, he remembers her running after him in the train a year ago. He narrates: “Despite my efforts, nothing has changed in the past year.”

Hee-joo asks what’s going on, and Jin-woo says that he’s been ordered to leave. Hee-joo looks concerned, and Jin-woo proceeds to share about his family. His parents passed away early, and he doesn’t have any siblings or children. His best friend who was family to him became his enemy and died. His secretary who was like a younger brother also died.

The man he followed like his father turned his back on him, and his company also abandoned him. He realizes that he has no one beside him, and everyone who used to follow him now mistrusts him. Jin-woo says that he won’t accept that accusations that he’s a madman or a murderer because he’s neither.

He also refuses to leave because that would validate these accusations. Tears brimming his eyes, he says, “If there is only one person that trusts me, then I won’t leave.”

He turns to Hee-joo and asks if she still trusts him. She affirms that she does and says that she’ll continue to trust him. He tells her to prove it, but she doesn’t know how. Jin-woo shows her how, dropping his cane and wrapping his arms around her waist to swoop in for a kiss.

As he pulls away, he narrates: “Nothing has changed in the past year. I’m still miserable and defeated, and I’m falling faster. But if there’s something that has changed, it’s that I didn’t leave and that Hee-joo is beside me.” Jin-woo goes in for another kiss, and Hee-joo drops the umbrella as she kisses him back.

  
COMMENTS

I’m still not feeling the romance, but that’s fine because the romance is rarely intended to be the highlight of any episode. While I do believe the special bond between Jin-woo and Hee-joo, I’m not super invested and just consider it a nice change of pace. Though Hee-joo seems to be carrying a lot of the emotional support in the relationship, it’s really Hyun Bin carrying this romance in the acting department. Park Shin-hye does pull her weight, but she has less to work with. It’s not her fault that Hee-joo lacks the screen time and character dimension that Jin-woo gets, but that imbalance becomes more apparent when I see these two together as a couple.

This episode felt slower, but I appreciated the opportunity to touch base with reality and catch my breath. Being immersed in the AR world and Jin-woo’s reality is stressful and terrifying, so it’s nice to not deal with endless bloodshed for once. And while the AR world is far more riveting that company politics, the heated dialogue between Jin-woo and his company folks was illuminating and important for Jin-woo to discern who’s got his back, which is essentially nobody from his company. I was sad to see Director Park losing his trust in Jin-woo, but he doesn’t seem to have lost all faith, as we saw with that last phone conversation. I find their contentious relationship more compelling than their friendship because they both have strong justifications for their opinions, and I understand both sides. The trust in their relationship is like a tug-of-war based on which world — the AR or reality — has more pressing matters to address, and I like that there’s never a right answer.

The server shut-down was a curious choice by the writers, as it opened up more questions about the nature of the AR game. I agree with the decision to ground Jin-woo back into reality to make him realize what he’s been missing during his AR game obsession, and maybe shutting down the server was the only way to do that. But that throws off my understanding of this seemingly uncontrollable game because in my mind, the AR game had become this cancerous entity that morphed and grew to usurp its own mastermind. Shutting down the server seemed to be the simple solutions to switch off the insanity, undermining the premise that this game was wild and had a life of its own. I wish the option of shutting down the server remained as a hypothetical and not something that was actually manifested in the story because it makes the game feel significantly less powerful.

It’s interesting that Professor Cha is the antagonist outside the AR world, but he functions similarly to the AR world antagonist — the game. He wasn’t the mastermind behind the company creation, but he somehow has usurped control from those who built the company. He’s malicious, capricious, and mercilessly haunts people with their past. He’s basically the AR game in human form, and I’m intrigued by that mirroring in both realities. Professor Cha’s suspicions and Director Park’s frustrations about Jin-woo planted a tiny seed of doubt that Jin-woo is an unreliable narrator, but I am denying that as a possibility for my own sanity. Let’s not go down that rabbit hole — this rabbit hole alone will suffice for now.

Editor’s Note: Please don’t discuss spoilers because we’d hate to delete your comment! This includes anything shown in previews.

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