So I’ve been pretty lukewarm about Goong S overall, but I did say it was occasionally charming, and it looks like they crammed most of it into Episode 17. There was a lot to enjoy about it, and not just because Hoo and Soon-yi went on their first date. Yes, my cheesy romantic inner girly-girl couldn’t help but enjoy all the Hoo and Soon-yi scenes (lots of screencaps to follow!), but there was more to it.
Norah Jones – “Shoot the Moon,” song played in last scene between Hoo and Soon-yi [ zShare download ]
In addition, there was actually a subplot that was both believable and emotionally resonant. I’ve found a lot of the princely competitions boring and antiquated (who really cares which prospective future leader of the country shoots a bow and arrow better, or can wield a sword on horseback more accurately?). But in 17, Hoo fights to preserve the Pye-ha’s Aide’s honor, and furthermore, he has a deeply personal need to succeed.
Pye-ha, who’s been secretly seeing her Cardboard Cut-out of a Boyfriend, Professor Alex (gahhh, somebody just let him smile and look pretty, because his dialogue is ear-screechingly awful), has been using her Aide to convey messages back and forth on the sly. That’s caught the notice of the eeeevil Dae-gong (Joon’s father), and some of palace servants loyal to Joon.
When something was stolen from the Pye-ha’s chambers (by a palace maid), the loyal Aide is framed for it, and can’t defend herself because she won’t reveal the Pye-ha’s secret relationship. The Pye-ha is upset that the Aide is taking such a harsh fall, but the Aide tells her that she would have gone even further for the queen. She’s the one who gave her a life outside her orphaned existence, and allowed her to come this far.
Despite everyone wanting to throw out the Aide, Hoo comes to her defense, and asks for more time to investigate. The palace officials are reluctant, and in order to persuade them, Hoo surprises everyone by putting himself on the line. If he cannot find more information to clear the aide within one day, he will forfeit the rest of the challenges — meaning Joon will win, and be a shoo-in to be named the queen’s successor as Hwang Taeja. Even Joon is shocked at the level of Hoo’s devotion.
Meanwhile, Sae-ryung is proud of Hoo, saying that’s the kind of person he is. For the first time, we get the sense that Sae-ryung’s feelings for Hoo are genuine. How nice if this had come earlier in the series, instead of all that manipulation nonsense! What a waste of time that was. Sae-ryung’s sincerity comes through, when she tells Joon that she finally understands why Joon couldn’t let go of Soon-yi even though he couldn’t win her heart, and she becomes a vulnerable, real person. Before she was like a cartoon character of ambition.
The Aide asks Hoo why he would put himself on the line for her, and he tells her that he truly believes she is innocent. Furthermore, seeing her in this predicament reminds him of his mother, and how it must feel to be vilified when you’re blameless. It’s a strong motivator for Hoo, and a nice connection between them.
Hoo spends all night researching the matter, poring over palace reports, and the next day, he presents his case to the queen and officials. He calls in Palace maid Kim for questioning, and undermines her report, which was the sole case against the Aide (who couldn’t refute Kim’s lies because of Pye-ha’s secret).
First, he catches Kim’s lie that she saw the Aide carrying out the stolen folder. He holds up a folder and asks, “Is this how far away you were? And you said you could read the words on the side indicating it was the stolen report?” The maid says yes, I can see the words, and Hoo reveals: The folder he’s holding is plain, not one bearing any imprinted words.
Then, he confirms that Kim lost her palace access card sometime that day. According to her records, she must have lost it before her 6-10 pm shift, which she agrees to. However, her card was used to enter the queen’s chambers at 7:20. Caught in her lie, the palace maid can only sit in stunned silence.
Hoo then reveals that Kim was notorious for borrowing money, and somehow recently paid back everyone she owed all at once: an amount nearly $10,000. How did she get that money? He demands to know if she was paid to lie, and if she was the true thief. The nervous maid breaks down and admits she was at fault, and begs for forgiveness.
Now for the interesting part!
Hoo picks up Soon-yi in front of school.
Soon-yi: “But is it okay for us to be out like this?”
Hoo: “I got permission. When the competitions resume, it’ll be hard to see you. There’s so much I wanted to do with you… So all those things I couldn’t do for you before — I’ll do them all for you today.”
Hoo grabs her hand.
Hoo: “Don’t even think about running away. Today, you’re my charge.”
Soon-yi: “According to who?”
Hoo: “To me.”
Hoo: “Do you have to keep up with the private lessons? To be honest, it bothers me.”
Soon-yi: “I’m not the only one doing it.”
Hoo: “I went along with it because of the Queen’s orders. Couldn’t you turn it down?”
Soon-yi: “I was doing it under Queen Mother’s orders too. Plus, the Palace is paying for my Royal Academy enrollment, so how could I refuse? If they tell me to, I have to.”
Hoo: “Still, if you say you want to quit, what can they say? What I mean is, your feelings are important… And, it really bothers me.”
Soon-yi: “Aren’t you being too forward with your jealousy?”
Hoo: “It’s not jealousy, it’s instinct.”
Hoo: “What guy in this world would be okay with his girl being around another guy… and being in his room, on top of that?”
Soon-yi: “‘Your girl’? Ha.”
Hoo: “Acting like you don’t like it when you do.”
Soon-yi: “Wow, they’re so cool. Aren’t they?”
Hoo: “They’re not cool at all.”
Soon-yi: “Why, they’re good at it. Is it fun?”
Hoo: “Do you want to try?”
It’s cute to see how much Hoo takes care of Soon-yi. Very attentive and natural.
They’re recognized by bystanders, and escape…
Hoo: “It’s uncomfortable for you, isn’t it? I’m sorry.”
Soon-yi: “No, it’s okay.”
Hoo: “Just wait a little more. Don’t look elsewhere, and just follow me. Whatever anyone says, promise me you won’t run away.”
Hoo: “Don’t let go of my hand.”
And they dance to Norah Jones…