Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 17
Hey, girlfriday here, back for another hit of Joseon Crack. What can I say? You take a free sample, and next thing you know, you’re pawning your mom’s tv for another hit.
In this episode, the mystery and political intrigue takes center stage, as the past comes back to start ripping our foursome apart. Love is in the air, but so is death and darkness, and it looks like the final battle is going to be: Noron and Soron, power and truth, and head vs. heart.
LESSON 17 RECAP
Our foursome gets un-blindfolded, to discover that they’ve been assembled there in the dead of night…by the king. Professor Jung outs himself as the King’s partner in crime and confidant, and the king gives the quartet a job to do. He shows them a map of Joseon and tells them of his dream to someday make this a country where there are no ruling classes, where people can freely do business and farm and where everyone lives as equals. Aw, I love you, Anachronistic King that Defies Time and Space! I do, I truly do.
He charges them with the task of finding a box—one that houses very important royal documents, that was last in the possession of Yoon-hee’s father and Jae-shin’s brother. It was the thing they were killed for. Jae-shin looks sidelong at Yoon-hee, knowing that this is the first she’s hearing about it.
Yoon-hee is the first to speak up, once they’re left alone to think it over. She declares that she must do this, because it’s her only chance to know a father whose face she can barely remember. She thinks if she retraces his last steps, that perhaps she’ll learn of the man that he was. She asks for their help.
Yong-ha asks Guh-ro what he wants to do. He sighs that he wants to see if the world that those people had dreamed of could be a reality…because one them was his brother. Yoon-hee’s eyes widen to learn the connection between their families.
They take out her father’s will, and discover that it’s a code, a word-puzzle of the kind that they know the professor favored. They crack it piece by piece, as Jae-shin watches silently, and when they decipher geum…deung… he finishes the rest of it for them: geum-deung-jisa. I love this code-cracking scene. We all know what’s coming, and yet it’s suspenseful and riveting, and visually engaging.
Yoon-hee: “Geum-deung-jisa? The thing that the Red Messenger always…” Pause. Pause. Lightbulb! Haha. I love this moment of…waaaiiit, oh that’s right…YOU’re the Red Messenger!
She looks up at him: “Did you know these things…all this time?” They ask if he knows where the geum-deung-jisa is.
Jae-shin says he plans to start looking today, because as Yoon-hee said, perhaps by retracing their last steps they’ll be able to figure it out. He tasks the two brains with cracking the rest of the code, since he hates stuff that makes his head hurt. Oh, you’re just trying to look cool. You’ve read all the books in Sungkyunkwan, you inner nerd!
He starts to leave, and Yong-ha calls out, “What about me?” He looks back, pretending to be annoyed, “What do you think?” as he grabs him by the neck and drags him along. Aw. You two.
Once outside, Yong-ha asks what on earth this geum-deung-jisa is about, and why they’re looking so hard for it. Jae-shin fills him in on the details of what he knows: that the Norons are behind killing his brother and Yoon-hee’s father, for fear that the geum-deung-jisa would unearth their involvement in the death of Crown Prince Sado. (This is, of course, all operating under the assumption that it was a conspiracy, since this is in essence a task given by the king to clear his own father’s name. While the conspiracy theory is merely that—one of many conspiracy theories—it is historical fact that King Jeong-jo spent most of his life trying to clear his father’s name.)
Yong-ha balks that Jae-shin knows so much, when he pretended not to know anything more, earlier. He gives a knowing look, and we can surmise that it has something to do with Sun-joon being a Noron.
Meanwhile, In-soo has been busy outing the Red Messenger the night before, presenting Jae-shin’s bracelet to his father as proof of his identity. He insists they march into Sungkyunkwan with soldiers, and when his father resists, he mounts a plan on his own.
He catches up to Yong-ha and Jae-shin, surrounding them with soldiers and taunting them with the bracelet, declaring that he has the evidence to put away the Red Messenger for good. He bares Jae-shin’s wrist, sans bracelet, as proof.
Only Jae-shin presents his other arm—with the exact same bracelet. And then Yong-ha shows his wrist, with another of the same. That shuts In-soo up in a hurry, and they scamper off, even managing to retrieve the original bracelet from In-soo’s grasp. Genius, Gu Yong-ha. Only you would clear your best friend’s name through the use of accessories.
Yoon-hee starts to doubt herself, wondering if someone like her can undertake such a monumental task. Sun-joon kneels in front of her as he takes her hands, and gently tells her that he’ll always be by her side, when things get difficult, when she doubts herself, even if they come up empty-handed. It’s as sweet and perfect a declaration as she needs—not for someone to save her, but to promise he’ll be by her side.
Jae-shin has a nice moment with Professor Jung, who warns him of the risks of acting as the Red Messenger right now. Jae-shin is surprised that he knows, and is touched when the professor notes that he knew the identity of the Red Messenger because of his writing, as it resembled his older brother’s. Jae-shin in turn quotes a text he particularly respects—written by a Sungkyunkwan student long ago—Professor Jung in his youth. Aw. So nerdy, but I love this little exchange.
On their way out of the bookstore, Sun-joon and Yoon-hee get stuck in the hand-crank elevator (which Sun-joon can’t figure out how to work on his own because of his rich-and-spoiledness). They land in each other’s arms, so close to a kiss, but get interrupted by the nosy book clerk. Drat!
They get out of the steamy elevator and Sun-joon awkwards his way into the topic of kissing, trying to joke that perhaps Yoon-hee faked the elevator stalling to kiss him again, but fails miserably. Leave the jokes to the professionals, boy. Yoon-hee gets huffy at him out of embarrassment, declaring that he needn’t worry—she’ll never do “that” again. Ha. He’s left speechless and dumbfounded. Yeah, girls are complicated like that.
Jae-shin sees them flirting together, and though he’s known their feelings for some time now, it’s a further nail in the coffin to see them together. He sighs and smiles in his Guh-ro-esque way. Poor puppy.
In the library, Yoon-hee continues her research, but finds that Sun-joon is one step ahead of her. In each of the texts she picks up, he’s placed a series of little love notes. That is freaking adorable. They’re composed like little edicts—that she should forgive and smile, that a scholar should continue what he started. Do you mean the kissing? Oh, you cheeky squirrel.
She gets to the last note, but then another student grabs the book before her, sending Sun-joon into a tizzy. Heh. Love-note-panicked Sun-joon is hilarious. He barely manages to trade the love-note book for another copy without offending his classmate, and sighs in relief as he delivers his final note: I love you.
Yong-ha plies the local police with liquor, enough to distract them while he rifles through their old records. He discovers that on the night in question when Professor Kim and Jae-shin’s brother were killed, they would have been checked into the palace by guards. If the assassin were positioned there, and on the Noron payroll so that money was exchanged, he surmises that there will be a record. He starts asking around to find out whose luck had changed that day—if someone’s fortune had shot up overnight, people would know. Ever the smart one, this kid.
Yong-ha tracks the guy down, and finds that he had gambled away his fortune in no time. He’s about to dig a little deeper, when he gets discovered in the gambling hall by his irate father, who drags him out by the scruff like a little dog. He tries to reason with Dad, who doesn’t believe that he isn’t gambling, and gets further chewed out for pretending to live as a nobleman. His father is clearly a businessman, and a very wealthy one at that, but not a yangban, or a man of noble birth, which means that Yong-ha uses his father’s wealth to pretend that he’s a nobleman’s son.
As if on cue, In-soo’s lackeys discover this about Yong-ha just as we do, and report back, as In-soo mounts his case against our heroes.
Yong-ha drinks away his angst with his best friend, declaring that all this fancy following the king’s orders isn’t really for him, but what he believes in is Guh-ro. He relays what he’s found out thus far, and tells Guh-ro to find a record of the Noron payout to the assassin. Always follow the money. It’s the first rule of every cop procedural.
Guh-ro steals into his father’s study, and finds that his father’s got the exact record that he’s looking for. The money trail leads right to Sun-joon’s father and In-soo’s too, which is no surprise since they are the Number 1 and Number 2 of the Noron faction, respectively.
Dad interrupts him, and Jae-shin asks accusingly why these documents are in his father’s possession. Dad, displaying honesty for the first time, asks if he’s supposed to forgive the people who killed his son. Jae-shin’s world is rocked to find out that his father is not just a Noron puppet—he’s essentially a double agent, mounting a case against them to avenge his son’s murder. Well, this is clearly a case where it would’ve been nice if you had communicated a little better, Dad, because you’re both going all vigilante for the same cause, and you could’ve bonded over it instead of having your son disown you for most of his adolescence. Just sayin’.
Yong-ha and Jae-shin’s one-two daddy angst is breaking my heart, but it’s a nice parallel for their characters.
Meanwhile, the lovebirds are busy researching where to find the geum-deung-jisa, but Sun-joon can’t focus because he’s trying his darnedest to get handsy with his girl. Only she’s not cooperating. Keh. She finally lets him hold her hand, and requests that he focus on his work, and so he takes the opportunity to hold on for dear life. I don’t think he’s ever going to let go of that hand.
Jae-shin returns but can’t bring himself to enter that room, where he’ll have to face them being all cutesy with each other. He does what any third-wheel second lead would do. He grabs his liquor and perches in his tree for a bout of angst. Aw, baby bird, your heartache is tragic, but lovely.
The guard-turned-assassin has run out of money and decides to pay Sun-joon’s father a friendly visit. He alerts them that people from Sungkyunkwan are inquiring into the events of ten years past, and that he’ll need a little payoff money if he is to keep his mouth shut and disappear. In-soo’s father wants to kill him off, but Sun-joon’s father calmly agrees to pay, and later chastises his colleague for letting things unravel this far.
Sun-joon wakes up the next morning to find that he and Yoon-hee have fallen asleep at their desks, still holding hands. Oy, I’m glad Jae-shin didn’t come in last night, because he might have vomited all over his broken heart.
Sun-joon finds him in the library, to ask if the geum-deung-jisa has to do with Prince Sado’s death. Jae-shin just answers curtly that they ought to stick to their separate tasks, and walks away.
Yoon-hee catches up to him, and he softens immediately at the sight of her. (How could he not, when she’s so particularly cute with him?) He doesn’t say anything, but pats her on the shoulder and sighs as he tries to distance himself knowing what’s to come.
Yoon-hee and Sun-joon head to the bookstore, and he sends her ahead of him, stopping to pick up a present for her. But when Yoon-hee enters the bookstore, Hyo-eun is there, making for quite the awkward meeting, especially when she asks for Yoon-hee’s help in getting Sun-joon back. She reminds Yoon-hee that theirs is an engagement between families, and therefore one that can’t be broken lightly, because of minor things like feelings.
Then Sun-joon comes bounding up, tilting the awkward into full-on tense. Yoon-hee tries to exit, leaving them to talk alone, but Sun-joon stops her (by the wrist, argh). He tells Hyo-eun that he’s sorry, but his heart belongs to another and his feelings (or lack thereof) won’t change. He drags Yoon-hee out, leaving Hyo-eun floored.
He drags her into an alley, where he demands to know what she meant by leaving him to talk with Hyo-eun. She replies that she simply thought they might have things to discuss, as he is bound to marry her someday…
She adds that she doesn’t hope or dream of any more than what she has at the present, and has never even let herself dream of a real future with him. Sun-joon practically jumps down her throat (Not literally—pull yourself together!), telling her to start thinking about it now, sincerely, and seriously. He thinks about it day and night, and has changed his views on everything he thought was impossible because of her. But she’s still refusing to step outside of her prescribed social box. What a nice bookend that now it’s Sun-joon who is pulling Yoon-hee into a gray area, challenging her ideas of the world as she did for him in the beginning.
Yoon-hee: “Then what am I supposed to do? I’m so scared. I’m so happy every day. I’m not used to these things.” He pulls her in for a hug, and then starts to lean in for a kiss…
…only to be thwarted by their hats. Drats again! Goddamn wide-brimmed hats of non-kissery!
It’s a great way to undercut the earnestness of the moment, with some much-needed levity and brightness. I love these two most when they’re competitive and petty, but second when they’re awkward and smiling. This time she reaches for his hand as they run off to meet their friends.
Yong-ha presents Jae-shin with the payoff documents he found, announcing that all they have to do now is find out who the real source of the money is. Jae-shin tells him that they should fold; their task was to find the geum-deung-jisa, not the murder culprit. But Yong-ha catches on right away: “You know, don’t you? Who is it?”
Sun-joon and Yoon-hee enter the elevator, and he remembers the present he got for her. He takes out a ring (he’s already wearing the matching one) and places it on her finger. Sun-joon: “Did you say that after we leave Sungkyunkwan, it’ll be the end of us? There’s no such thing as the end. Because I’ll start it again, every day.”
They head down in the elevator, and when it lurches again, she jumps into his arms. That’s enough for Sun-joon to finally decide that he will make the kiss happen, hats be damned, and he starts to untie her hat. Omo. Why do I feel like he’s undressing her?
He takes off his hat too, and kisses her.
They bask in the moment for about two seconds, before they overhear Yong-ha’s rising voice:
“You’re telling me that the person behind all of this is…Sun-joon’s father?”
Well finding out your honey’s father killed your own will put a damper in any budding romance, THAT’s for sure.
While none of the revelations plot-wise were of any surprise, I do enjoy very much how they were delivered throughout the course of the episode. Yong-ha is the investigator, Sun-joon and Yoon-hee are the code-crackers. Jae-shin is on a slightly different trajectory because he knows the things that the other three are finding out, but he’s playing a different role—he wants to protect Yoon-hee and Sun-joon from finding out the tragic twist about their fathers. And his continual heartbreak kills me.
I was frankly a little deflated after Sun-joon found out that Yoon-hee was a girl (his lack of a pulse in that matter was wasted potential, dramatically speaking). It let a lot of air out of the tires, because the middle-episode span of his growing romantic angst was so good. But the execution of the political storyline is better than I expected. What used to bore me before is much more interesting in the final stretch, mostly because our foursome become active detectives in solving the mystery and finding the treasure, metaphorically speaking.
I hope that they do this last dramatic hurdle due diligence in the story, because I want to feel that their work in bringing about this better tomorrow is earned, and that the couple can actually have a realistic happily ever after in this world.
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 16
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 15
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 14
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 13
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 12
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 11
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 10
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 9
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 8
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 7
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 6
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 5
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 4
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 3
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 2
- Sungkyunkwan Scandal: Episode 1