Drama Recaps, Taiwanese Dramas

Recap: The Haunted Heart (Ep. 2)

This second episode of The Haunted Heart breaks into the game world a little bit and we get our first taste of cheesy CGI. But it’s also full of some good laughs as Xiao Ling takes advantage of her newfound power over Da Yong and Da Yong realizes that Xiao Ling might be the person he’s been looking for…


Recap

Xiao Ling worries that she may have made things worse with her attempt to trigger Da Yong into remembering something. Shi Yi Shao gently takes Xiao Ling aside and tries to give her some advice, but she doesn’t understand the phrases he’s using. Da Yong has to translate for her: she should look for the answer using the clues that they have.

Shi Yi says that he has a way to help them, but first requests that they help burn his knot if he helps them. Xiao Ling is upset that he would even think of trying to negotiate terms after all the trouble he’s caused and starts chasing him around in circles. Da Yong reminds Shi Yi Shao that if he saves him, he doesn’t need Xiao Ling — he can burn the knot for Shi Yi.

A security guard finally pays attention to the feed showing Da Yong’s elevator and watches, slightly confused, as Xiao Ling enters and hovers over the unconscious Da Yong. Da Yong wakes up and climbs to his feet.

By the time Xiao Ling leaves the office, it’s light outside. Da Yong’s body accompanies her, Shi Yi Shao’s lucky knot around his neck. It turns out part of his solution to help them was to take possession of Da Yong’s body. Xiao Ling quickly takes leave and runs off to go home. Shi Yi chases after her, asking where she’s going, acting very out of character for Da Yong.

Da Yong’s ghost appears in front of them and orders Xiao Ling to help Shi Yi Shao look for his last wish so that he can be resurrected ASAP. Xiao Ling closes her eyes and plugs her ears, saying that she can’t see or hear them and that they don’t exist, then runs through Da Yong. Shi Yi keeps on chasing her.

Xiao Ling finally confronts Shi Yi, calling him a hallucination, and begs him to leave her alone. Da Yong appears and tells her that she needs to face the truth. Even if they are hallucinations, don’t they deserve a resolution?

Xiao Ling ends up taking Shi Yi back to her incredibly messy apartment, where he cheerfully eats cup noodles while smiling around at the chaotic surroundings. Da Yong shakes his head as he watches his body eating cup noodles, then wonders where Xiao Ling went.

He teleports into the elevator, where the elevator ghost is delighted to encounter a handsome man and introduces herself as Apple. She tries to grind up on Da Yong while he tries to dodge away. The elevator doors open and Xiao Ling sees them. Apple quickly acts disinterested in Da Yong while Xiao Ling turns away and takes the stairs instead.

Da Yong appears in the stairwell and asks where Xiao Ling was all day and why she’s holding a recorder in her hand. Xiao Ling says she doesn’t want to talk to him and reminds herself that they’re just hallucinations and not real. Then she bumps into Shi Yi Shao, who is still in Da Yong’s body.

Back in Xiao Ling’s apartment, Shi Yi plants himself right in front of the TV screen, fascinated by commercials, while Da Yong tells Xiao Ling that she needs to focus on solving the problem at hand. They’ve made no progress in the past day. Who should take responsibility? How will she take responsibility?

Xiao Ling remembers Dr. He saying that hallucinations might be a kind of escape from trauma. What is she trying to protect herself from?

Xiao Ling turns off the TV screen and stands up resolutely. She’s decided that she’ll return to the company tomorrow. That’s the best way to figure out what Da Yong’s last wish was. Da Yong agrees. He says that he’ll promote her to being the CEO’s assistant.

Only Shi Yi Shao doesn’t agree. He doesn’t like the vibe of the office building and refuses to go there, but he doesn’t have a choice.

At night, Da Yong counts numbers, wondering why he can’t sleep. He spots a text message on Xiao Ling’s phone from Dr. He, whose contact is listed as “Gentle” (xuxu) Qing Feng, saying, “You are not alone.” He scoffs at how cheesy the text is and wonders who this person is.

He teleports into Xiao Ling’s room and asks who Gentle Qing Feng is. Xiao Ling doesn’t wake up. He tries to tell her it’s time to get up and go to work. She sees that it’s only 2:30 AM and falls back asleep. Da Yong tries to pick up her clock, but he can’t touch physical objects, so he blows on her face instead. She frowns and shifts but doesn’t wake. He ends up watching her sleep, a small smile on his face. The way she sleeps so soundly makes it seem like sleeping is a good thing.

Da Yong wonders again why he doesn’t even feel tired. He starts to try and wake Xiao Ling up again, but then she starts talking and crying in her sleep, saying, “I have friends. I’m not alone. I’m not sick. I will be fine.”

Da Yong frowns and wonders why she’s crying. He gave her her job back and even gave her a promotion. Shouldn’t she be happy?

Ah Wu and Ya Zi aren’t used to having Xiao Ling gone and complain about their increased workload. Ah Wu calls Xiao Ling to see if she’ll come back. They hear her ringtone in the office and turn to see her walking by with Da Yong, then beam at each other that they finally don’t have to work overtime anymore.

Xiao Ling goes to the security office with Shi Yi Shao and Da Yong, where they watch security footage from the night Da Yong died. They try to guess what Da Yong was trying to do with his arm motions, then watch as he starts coughing and choking. Da Yong still doesn’t remember anything, and they’re about to replay the video again when Jerry shows up, relieved to have finally found Da Yong.

Da Yong is supposed to hold a meeting, but Shi Yi Shao has no clue what to do. Xiao Ling ends up making an excuse for him and asks Jerry to hold the meeting instead. Jerry makes some unpopular announcements about overtime — employees won’t get paid for overtime and they shouldn’t turn the A/C on full blast — and tries to boost morale for the brainwave-controlled game development.

The employees gossip unhappily and everyone sneaks glances at “Da Yong,” who doesn’t react. Xiao Ling decides to take over the microphone and announce her new position as Da Yong’s assistant. She also uses her newfound power to declare new policies that the real Da Yong doesn’t approve of, like paying employees five times base salary for overtime. Jerry is stunned, especially when Shi Yi Shao as Da Yong claps happily and says that whatever Xiao Ling says goes. Da Yong is appalled that no one can tell Shi Yi is clearly not him.

Afterward, Da Yong finds Shi Yi checking out his abs in a mirror. Then he checks out his hair and pulls out a pair of scissors, alarming Da Yong who thinks he might chop off a chunk of hair. Shi Yi can’t see or hear Da Yong anymore now that he’s in a human body, but thankfully does not ruin Da Yong’s hair. Da Yong shakes his head, realizing that he placed his hopes on two complete idiots.

Da Yong decides to hover over Xiao Ling’s shoulder instead. She claims that the policies she implemented will ultimately help him gain favor with his employees, but Da Yong doesn’t care about those things. He tells her that every loss she incurs for the company, he’ll take out of her paycheck.

Jerry is suspicious of Shi Yi’s version of Da Yong and Xiao Ling, especially after Shi Yi/Da Yong is perfectly okay with not putting in extra brainwave training after work. It’s not possible that Da Yong would give up the most important thing in his life: brainwave games.

This jogs the real Da Yong’s memory. He remembers now: the most important thing in his life is brainwave games. He tells Xiao Ling to come with him to the “cosmic deck”.

Xiao Ling repeats the phrase out loud, confused. Jerry is surprised that she knows about it. The cosmic deck is one of Da Yong’s closely-guarded secrets — only he and Da Yong know about it. He suddenly looks from Xiao Ling to Shi Yi/Da Yong with a knowing smile and makes his own assumptions about their relationship, then laughs and says that from now on, he’ll leave the brainwave practice to her. He doesn’t want to be a third wheel.

After Jerry leaves, Xiao Ling asks Da Yong if Jerry may have misunderstood something. He tells her to ignore Jerry, then takes her and Shi Yi to the cosmic deck on the eighth floor. It’s a blank wall, but after Da Yong says the password — the first however-many digits of pi — the wall opens up to reveal an extremely-white room.

Da Yong tells Xiao Ling that the company’s biggest secret R&D project is this — a brainwave-controlled game that allows the player to be fully immersed in a virtual environment. Da Yong thinks that maybe the answer is in the game, so he wants to go into the game and see. Xiao Ling volunteers herself and Shi Yi Shao to go into the game with him. He warns them that they have to follow his instructions once they get in, because the game is still incomplete.

Xiao Ling puts on a headset and her avatar shows up on-screen. Da Yong manages to jump in the game himself. Shi Yi Shao puts on the headset and shows up as himself in the game as well.

After they customize their avatars, the three land in the game. Da Yong seems surprisingly awkward in the game and Xiao Ling teases him for picking a boring soldier’s outfit. Shi Yi Shao trips over an egg on his way to join the others. Da Yong warns him that eggs are dangerous in this world. An array of weapons appear at their feet. Xiao Ling browses through her own with wide eyes, then frowns sympathetically at Da Yong, who seems to have a lack of powerful weapons.

The egg hatches into a demon monster, but then Xiao Ling laughs at it for wearing granny underwear. Da Yong is upset that this bug still hasn’t been fixed. The monster runs away, upset. Da Yong tells Shi Yi Shao and Xiao Ling to chase after it, but then Xiao Ling notices that Da Yong isn’t following. He doesn’t seem to have control over his body, but instead of admitting it, he says that they should go on without him and he’ll just stay here.

Xiao Ling guesses that Da Yong’s brainwaves aren’t strong enough because he no longer has a body and laughs at him. Da Yong claims it’s because the brainwave technology isn’t developed enough yet.

Shi Yi Shao returns holding a sword, which Da Yong explains is a lightsaber. Once the brainwave technology is developed enough, it’ll allow its bearer to do essentially do whatever they want, which Shi Yi Shao soon figures out as he lets out a blast of light then tries to start summoning the five heavenly beasts. He summons a couple, but struggles on the third, which Da Yong attributes to the brainwave technology not being sensitive enough yet. But Xiao Ling grabs the lightsaber and easily summons all the heavenly beasts, then turns the lightsaber into whatever she wants.

Shi Yi is highly entertained and applauds her, calling her a modern Mulan, while Da Yong stares, surprised.

Shi Yi Shao and Xiao Ling wake up back in the real world and beam at each other over how much fun they had in the game. Da Yong continues to look thoughtfully at Xiao Ling and suddenly asks if she wants to make a lot of money.

He takes her into a space full of swirling golden stars and explains that this room can detect her brainwaves. When left undisturbed, it detects changes in the cosmic universe. But when a person enters, their brainwaves interact with the room, which creates changes. They tap on floating orbs around them. When Xiao Ling taps on an orb, it lets out multiple golden ripples. Da Yong tells her that this means her brainwaves are especially strong. That’s why she’s able to control his game. Her ability is so rare that only one in a billion people have it.

Xiao Ling smiles at the thought that she has talent, then asks if this has something to do with her mental deficit. Da Yong doesn’t know if she has a deficit or a surplus, but all he knows is that she’ll be a big help to him and the company when pitching to investors. He wants to give her a lucrative job — they can sign a contract now.

Xiao Ling can’t believe that she’s being promoted. Is this real? She asks him to pinch her cheek. He starts to, then lets his hand drop, remembering he’s just a ghost, and says that he’ll do it once he’s resurrected.

Xiao Ling spots a new star orb that formed and asks Da Yong about it. He explains that whenever the brain receives a new stimulus, it’ll send out a brainwave. When multiple brainwaves converge, they can create something new. He demonstrates by combining two orbs and handing it to her. It represents the two of them creating a new memory together. She beams in wonder as she sees an image of the two of them inside the bubble.

He tells her that their brainwaves are connected now. He stares at her while she stares at the orb. She separates them back out into two bubbles, which he joins back together again. They watch as their joint memory floats away.

Xiao Ling is in a cheery mood as she walks home, singing to herself and reaching out to the starry night sky like she can touch these stars, too. Shi Yi/Da Yong follows her, smiling at her good mood, and Da Yong appears in front of her. Xiao Ling asks him if he wants to know who she wants to see the most. He asks who, but she says, “I’m not telling you!” then keeps going on her way. He turns to watch her.

Xiao Ling visits Dr. He and tells him how she discovered that apparently her ability to control her brainwaves is better than the average person. He smiles to see her so cheerful and asks if she’s happy because she’s one of the rare one in a billion, or because her pay is higher. She says both.

But then she frowns again. If killing someone was a hallucination, then is her raise also a hallucination? He asks why she thinks that. She feels like her boss has turned into a completely different person, like he’s possessed.

Dr. He suddenly asks Xiao Ling if she’s heard of the “brain in a vat” thought experiment. He draws it out on a board for her and explains the premise. If someone were to carve out a human brain, plop it in a vat, and hook it up to the computer, the brain would be perfectly happy. Xiao Ling shivers at how frightening a thought that is — isn’t that the plot of The Matrix?

Dr. He explains that one school of thought says that there’s no way to prove that life isn’t just a hallucination. Just like people can’t prove that they’re not just brains in vats, hooked up to computers.

Xiao Ling seems to kind of get it. “I think therefore I am?” she asks.

Dr. He smiles and says that the important thing is that Xiao Ling believe in and focus on the good things that happen to her. Then they’ll exist for her and shine for her. Xiao Ling smiles. She knows what’s shining for her right now and stands up to draw on the board. Her marker doesn’t work. Dr. He tosses it out and hands her a new one, but Xiao Ling is distracted by the sight of her research notebook from her last appointment in the trash.

Her good mood suddenly disappears as she claims she doesn’t remember what she was talking about and returns to her seat. She asks Dr. He if he only cares about her because it’s his job. Does he believe everything that she’s told him?

Dr. He reminds her that it’s not important whether or not he believes her, but she interrupts. It is important.

Dr. He gently tells Xiao Ling that believes the hallucinations she’s describing, but he’s never seen them. He can’t prove that what she’s saying is true.

“That’s because you didn’t grow up in that kind of environment,” Xiao Ling mutters. He asks what she said, but she instead claims that she’s tired and wants to go home.

Later, he watches a video recording of their appointment and tries to lip-read what Xiao Ling was saying. His assistant brings him a notebook — Xiao Ling had called and asked her to look for it. She found it in the trash. Dr. He takes it, surprised, then asks his assistant to look into Xiao Ling’s hometown.

Da Yong spends time in his game, trying to control the lightsaber the way Xiao Ling was able to, but he’s unable to get it to do anything.

Meanwhile Shi Yi Shao/Da Yong sings in Xiao Ling’s apartment while she tries her best to block him out. She finally manages to distract him by giving him a manga to read.

Da Yong appears and asks Xiao Ling where she was all day. She sighs — doesn’t she at least get weekends off? But Da Yong reminds her that there’s no time to rest when she’s about to become a murderer. He tells her that he’s been working all day. She asks if he ever goes home, which reminds her that he hasn’t gone home in a few days. Won’t his parents be suspicious? Da Yong responds that he sees them about once every 800 years — there’s nothing for them to be suspicious about.

Da Yong’s phone suddenly rings with a call from Shi Guang Yi, Da Yong’s father. Shi Yi Shao picks up; Da Yong tries to stop him, but it’s not like Shi Yi could hear him anyway. Shi Yi starts to respond, but Xiao Ling quickly stops him before he can say anything. Guang Yi tells Da Yong to come home for dinner the day after next. His grandfather has a gift for him. Da Yong says that this dinner is actually important — his grandfather’s gift is probably an investment agreement. Xiao Ling abruptly hangs up the phone.

Da Yong explains that the day Xiao Ling dented his car, he’d been on his way to meet with his grandfather to pitch him on investing in the company. His grandfather had been the mysterious angel investor Da Yong had been confident he could secure. This dinner with his grandfather is definitely related to the investment. How could he have forgotten?

Shi Yi starts singing again. Xiao Ling asks Da Yong if he means to have Shi Yi Shao pretend to be him in front of his grandfather. They both stare at Shi Yi/Da Yong apprehensively.

Da Yong makes Xiao Ling and Shi Yi Shao go up a mountain to where his parents live. They pass by fields of tea plants — Shi Yi Shao freaks out when a bug lands on his foot. Da Yong tells him that he can’t be afraid of bugs if he’s going to pretend to be him, and Xiao Ling relays the message. Da Yong’s family has grown tea on this mountain for generations.

Da Yong’s house is a smart home, but a next-level one where almost everything is controlled using brainwaves. Xiao Ling and Shi Yi Shao gape at the interior, which is full of huge screens and modern tech. Shi Yi Shao tries turning on a treadmill with his brainwaves, but doesn’t expect it to move and falls off. Da Yong sighs impatiently and turns everything off. It’s time to get down to business.

Shi Yi Shao is easily distracted by everything in Da Yong’s house, and Xiao Ling doesn’t do a great job of transmitting everything Da Yong says. She does ask Shi Yi Shao if he understands modern speech. Shi Yi Shao easily switches to a more modern speaking style and boasts that he even knows how to say OK. Da Yong and Xiao Ling both stare at him incredulously. So why did he insist on speaking in an old-fashioned way? (He claims it’s for style.)

Shi Yi Shao gets distracted as he suddenly thinks of a move to play on a nearby Go board. Da Yong also gets distracted, impressed with Shi Yi Shao’s choice of move. But then he senses someone at the door and urges for the other two to hide. Shi Yi Shao scatters the Go board in the rush. They manage to remain undetected.

He Qing Feng goes to Xiao Ling’s hometown in an attempt to understand her a bit more. He asks a stranger if she knows where Xiao Ling lives. The woman shakes her head disapprovingly when she finds out Qing Feng is a friend — how could Xiao Ling send only a friend here after what happened? But she points Qing Feng in the right direction.

Qing Feng passes an old couple praying to a roadside shrine and looks at them curiously. Then he happens upon a temple. In front of the temple, several people watch a woman do some sort of demonstration. One of the spectators stops Qing Feng before he can get in the way. When he asks what’s happening, she shushes him. The woman at the front finally speaks and mentions a name, Wei Bi Zhi. Qing Feng recognizes the name as Xiao Ling’s grandmother. He sends Xiao Ling a text, telling her to come home — her grandmother has passed away.


Commentary

The acting is a bit painful to watch at times. I can only handle so much wide-eyed wonder and Xiao Ling somehow manages to always sound whiny and petulant, though I am highly entertained by how Bryan Chang portrays both the old-timey Shi Yi Shao version of Da Yong as well as the arrogant CEO “original” version of him.

But I am loving the story and the concept. I don’t even mind the weird hyper-sexualized monster character or the cheesy CGI — the starry universe brainwave room is actually kind of pretty and reminds me of teamLab Borderless.

I still find Xiao Ling as a character to be so interesting even though I find her portrayal kind of annoying. She believes in her hallucinations, because they feel real to her, yet she also tries to be realistic and believes that they’re just hallucinations and not actually real.

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