Something wicked this way comes, and our hero might be the only one with the ability to stop it. I love rooting for the underdog, and enjoy every moment Chae-yoon subverts expectations during his crime-solving adventures. We can’t help but put our faith in him – sure he wants to kill the king, but we have to depend on Chae-yoon to save him first. He’s no fairytale prince charming, but we’ve been there and done that. Bring on the flaws.
EPISODE 6 RECAP
Chaos still reigns supreme as everyone tries to fight the fire in the printing office, but Chae-yoon is a man on a mission. He’s lost in his anger as he shakes So-yi, trying to rouse her from her semi-conscious state so she can tell him who the man in the printing office was. He literally has to be pulled off of her by Park-po and Cho-tak just so So-yi’s fellow court ladies can carry her away.
As Mu-hyul is flashing back to memories of Ddol-bok, So-yi does the same during the night and wakes up with a start. She desperately clutches a bag that’s an exact replica of the one she once made for Ddol-bok as she remembers when he blamed her in the prison for everything. He thought she could read when, really, her memory was just impressive – but if she had then they would have known that the court girl had been lying about the letter all those years ago. I’m sure she also takes Ddol-bok’s death upon herself, since she has no idea he is alive and well.
Sejong is only left deeply troubled from the events of the night before, since Scholar Yoon-pil’s body was found in the printing office. This is the third death in a matter of days, and we can see the toll it’s taking on the weary King.
When he goes to meet the court, his attitude is much changed and far more serious. He wants to be in and out of there as quickly as possible, and only lists the problems – the fire wasn’t extinguished fast enough, and there was an intruder in the palace. However, the printing office can be rebuilt and the intruder can be found, but nothing can bring Yoon-pil back. That’s the note he leaves on, and the rest of the royal court is left slightly taken aback.
Chae-yoon and So-yi, separated for so many years, sit across a table from one another for a question and answer session. He’s already been told by the court ladies outside the door that So-yi can’t speak, and so he takes it in stride when she has to write all of her answers down. We do, however, hear So-yi in voiceover telling us what’s written on the paper – so it’s almost like an actual conversation.
It’s clear neither of them recognize each other from their childhood, but it makes sense when both of them believe the other is dead. This leaves Chae-yoon with the ability to question her freely, making the dialogue nicely paced and intense even though half of the party is having to write everything down. She’s quick, but he’s quicker, and whenever she tries to deflect questions (like why was she in the printing office at night) he doesn’t buy it and presses her for straighter answers.
She’s only telling him things that he already knows. He saw her in the printing office with the masked man – why didn’t he kill her? She finally draws a symbol on a piece of paper, and it’s from the masked man’s bracelet. She can memorize anything by looking at it once (a trait she had even as a child).
Further questioning is stopped by the arrival of Prince Gwangpyeon, who’s been staying behind the scenes the last few episodes but has remained on my Radar Of Suspicion. She went to the printing office on an errand for him, he tells Chae-yoon, and puts a stop to it by escorting So-yi out. This curious exchange is not lost on the sharp Chae-yoon.
Chae-yoon goes to what’s left of the printing office to find Ban Chon’s resident butcher and coroner, Ga Ri-on. The body of Scholar Yoon-pil is among the burned remains, and Ri-on explains that there aren’t any obvious murder wounds. Chae-yoon takes this in, and thinks aloud that so far it’s been earth, water, and fire used to kill the three men.
Ga Ri-on hears this with piqued interest, and gives a Mysterious Glance towards Chae-yoon’s back. He realizes that Chae-yoon knows the secret method which killed Scholar Dahm.
Now we’re seeing the fallout from Mu-hyul’s realization of Chae-yoon’s identity, and he’s reacting as I thought he would – by planning to kill Chae-yoon. He remembers how Ddol-bok was hellbent on killing the King even at such a young age, and the fact that Chae-yoon asked for a drink to be poured by Sejong isn’t lost on Mu-hyul. He wants Chae-yoon brought to him outside of the north gate, in secret, where he’ll kill him.
Only, his plans are subverted when Chae-yoon gets called to personally explain the events of last night to Sejong. We see the wheels turning in Chae-yoon’s head as he sizes up the guards present and his distance to the King – and thus weighing his chances if he were to try and assassinate Sejong now.
We get to see what happened inside the printing office through Chae-yoon’s eyes as he tells it to the King. Inside, he found the masked man and So-yi standing apart but looking quite calm, considering the circumstances. Just as the masked man made a break for it, So-yi fainted. He had to choose between chasing the assassin or saving So-yi. As we know, he chose So-yi.
Sejong asks how Chae-yoon happened to be outside when it happened, and he’s reluctant to say… but then he asks if he can demonstrate in order to explain it better. We don’t know if he really is or is not planning to try the leaping method on the King, since we know it can take him twenty steps in one jump. Either way, Mu-hyul comes bursting in to stop him and Chae-yoon leaves empty-handed – but not before assuring himself that he made the right choice. His chances were too low to kill Sejong this time. He’ll wait until the King pours his drink – he can’t fail then.
Mu-hyul tells King Sejong about his revelation – that Chae-yoon is none other than Ddol-bok. When Sejong remembers, his entire demeanor changes – and we see that familiar tortured sadness that was so part of his younger self shine through. He remembers what Ddol-bok said, and feels the weight of having killed that boy’s father and everyone else he knew. There’s even a throwback to his younger self when he says “wait a minute”, which used to be his coping method for his problems.
He’s not reacting the way Mu-hyul would like about the fact that Chae-yoon has come here to kill him, and so Mu-hyul reminds him that Ddol-bok is the very person that So-yi misses so much. She thinks he’s dead, and Sejong grows fierce with resolve. She must never find out that Ddol-bok is alive. Ahh. So even though the news of Ddol-bok/Chae-yoon being alive would soothe her soul, Sejong is not going for the noble path on this one. All’s fair.
King Sejong has a flashback to his younger years, and comes across Dam (young So-yi) as she throws a rock at his back. She’s now a young court lady in training, having been saved by Queen Soheon, who also makes a reappearance. The Queen tells him that Dam lost her ability to speak the night all her family was killed. Lee Do’s guilt for Queen Soheon’s dead father and all his household shows on his face and, in a beautiful moment, he apologizes to young So-yi. How I’ve missed you, Song Joong-ki.
Sejong has come to meet with So-yi, who delivers what she memorized and wrote about Yoon-pil before he died. It’s clear he didn’t come for this news, as he begins to list all the dead: Yoon-pil, Scholar Dahm, Go In-sul. His father-in-law, all his uncles, all So-yi’s family and friends. Everyone is dead. He’s filled with emotion as he says that since that night, he took an oath not to let anyone die, but now dead bodies are piling on his doorstep and he’s lost.
She’s been writing her responses during the conversation, but when she writes that all of that wasn’t his fault, his demeanor completely changes.
In the blink of an eye he goes from sadness to anger, managing to be frightening and menacing all at once. It is his responsibility, he yells. Everything that happens in Joseon is his responsibility. He killed all those people.
So-yi writes that it isn’t his fault. He rips the paper from her hands. She writes it again. He rips it away. Over and over and over and over, until he starts to rip them away slower, his resolve fading. When she goes to write it yet again, he stops her with a hand on her own and breaks down. It’s a deeply powerful and moving scene, and one where we can see that So-yi has moved past the idea that he is responsible for her family’s death and cares for his well-being.
As he’s leaving, he orders her not to cry. He doesn’t want her to shed one tear for him, though we hear him in voiceover say that the person she’s missed so much, Ddol-bok, is here to kill him.
King Sejong: “If you are shaken, then I will collapse too. Don’t be shaken.”
In the butcher shop, Ga Ri-on is removing typeset letter blocks from the recently-dead scholar’s throat as Chae-yoon and his team look on. I love that each death so far has led us to the butcher shop in Ban Chon, because it’s like Joseon CSI – if the crime lab was forced to be in someone’s basement. They’re the underdogs, even if it’s by official mandate, so these scenes are somehow just more fun.
No one knows what the four blocks mean, especially a man Chae-yoon brings in just for his big mouth (in the hopes that he’ll spread the news all over town). We don’t know why he wants everyone to know yet, only that he does. And he’s proven himself more than capable so far, so we can only trust that this is a brilliant idea.
While Ga Ri-on has gone to deliver the four symbols to King Sejong on four different pieces of paper, Chae-yoon and Cho-tak find something curious. On the dead scholar’s body, hidden right at the ankle, is a tiny tattoo of a square within a circle.
Chae-yoon’s plan has worked, and in no time at all Sung Sam-moon goes bursting into the scholars’ study hall (they are in mourning, Park Paeng-nyeon tries to say – and Sam-moon adorably shuts him down by saying he doesn’t have to listen). Scholar Yoon-pil has left a dying message, and none of them know what it means, but they give it a good try.
I love how Chae-yoon knows he can just sit back on this one. He may be smart, but he doesn’t know everything – after all, Scholar Yoon-pil made being smart a profession. He isn’t going to waste one minute of his time solving an unsolvable puzzle. Why? Because he can’t. But he knows that someone who recognizes the secret code will, and all he has to do is wait. In the meantime, he wants to head to Jiphyunjeon to follow up on the tattoo lead they now have.
When they arrive at Jiphyunjeon, they recognize the second head scholar SHIM JONG-SOO – they just saw him wearing plainclothes in the market while soundly defeating havoc-wreaking men from Ming. He had displayed superior martial arts skill while wielding only his identity tag, and he’s already on my Radar of Suspicion for the way he studies Chae-yoon through his conversation with the head scholar.
Needless to say, Chae-yoon’s request to body-check every scholar is quickly denied and he is all but thrown out. Every scholar has heard the conversation, and he shares a look with all of them. They all know his face, but he knows theirs.
Everyone is trying their hand at solving the puzzle. In the other room, all the head scholars could come up with was that it could be pointing to the Ming Embassy, abstractly. All the other scholars are gathered, but all their minds combined can’t seem to solve it. Sung Sam-moon’s mood is light as he jokes with them, clearly not taking it too seriously… until he goes quiet and we see that he is taking it seriously. He invites Park Paeng-nyeon out just because he wants to get him away – right now isn’t the time to solve the puzzle, as he tries to communicate to his friend telepathically. Nice – we’ve just gotten new players in our intrigue game.
Chae-yoon and fellow palace guard Park-po have taken to people watching outside the Jiphyunjeon. The fact that Park-po is munching on something excitedly makes it seem like he’s watching a red carpet gala, and he happily points out every person coming and going along with every detail short of who they’re wearing. Sung Sam-moon and Park Paeng-nyeon are in good spirits as they leave the library, and Park-po says that Sam-moon is the most human of the scholars because he has no thoughts. Ha.
There to spoil Park-po’s good time is Cho-tak, who runs all the way across the courtyard to tell the two of them that the corpses have disappeared from the butcher’s shop. This is bad news to Jo Mal-saeng, who already had to strong-arm his way into finding out where the corpses were being hidden, only to find that they’ve now been stolen.
Our resident corpse-stealers turn out to be none other than the scholars Paeng-nyeon and Sam-moon. They don’t have any nefarious purpose in mind other than a little amateur sleuthing. My intrigue-o-meter just went up ten points – I knew the scholars were involved somehow, but the two of them seem to be acting separately from the sub-group we don’t really know of yet that might exist within Jiphyunjeon.
The ‘man with a fan’ mystery is solved, as the camera pans up to reveal Assistant Chief Scholar Shim Jong-soo. Clearly he’s part of the Hidden Root group, since he joins the woman leader of Ban Chon with the four symbols of a puzzle they can’t figure out. It’s also a bit reassuring to know that our two favorite young scholars don’t seem to be part of this nefarious group, since the woman has been trying to find out where the bodies have disappeared to with little luck.
She claims that Yoon-pil found out about their group before he died, so the four symbols must point to them… but they can’t figure out in what way they do.
It’s bad news for our scholars, as it seems they stole the bodies so they could see what Chae-yoon saw – the small square-within-a-circle tattoos. It’s with a kind of growing horror that they find the tattoos on both bodies… and then roll up their sleeves to reveal that they’re branded with the same tattoos. Oh dear, this can’t be good.
Neither scholar apparently had any idea that they were not the only members of an organization they call Chun Ji. Their organization chief must be on a secret mission, but neither of them know what it is. Both are aptly shocked, and I would be too. Does this mean they’re next on the murder list? Noooo!
There has been a lot of scene intercutting between the scholars, King Sejong, and Shim Jong-soo with the woman of Ban Chon. While the scholars are trying to solve their own piece of the puzzle, Sejong and Shim Jong-soo have the pieces of the actual puzzle Yoon-pil left behind. It gives us a good idea of who’s where in the power struggle, as it seems like Yoon-pil did have a leg up on the frustrated Shim Jong-soo, who can’t seem to solve the puzzle no matter how hard he tries.
King Sejong, however, has only been quietly contemplating the pieces. In contrast to Shim Jong-soo growing so angry he rips the paper, Sejong puts the pieces together in a formation that shouldn’t seem too unfamiliar to a modern audience:
The first three characters add up to ‘mil’. Yoon-pil knew he was going to die, and swallowed letters from an alphabet that only eight people in the world know – and in fact, not even all the members of the Chun Ji group know (as demonstrated by our two scholars). But Yoon-pil knew Sejong would be able to read it, and as the King completes the second word with a few brush strokes, darkness falls over his face. He knows what Yoon-pil was trying to tell him: Hidden Root.
Things with the scholars just got a whole lot more interesting. This show has been brilliantly setting up its mystery all along, and somehow it keeps adding new layers every time I think I’ve solved one. But my favorite development has been our two scholars finding out they weren’t the only ones in this secret group, because if the Hidden Root group is going after everyone with one of those tattoos, then our boys are in trouble. There’s already been a murder-of-the-day, but now one of those future murders might be someone I like? That’s a whole new level of good.
So many different groups are coming into the fore that seem to have so many different goals. This list includes but is not limited to: King Sejong and his Scholars, Hidden Root, Chae-yoon and his Mission to Kill the King, So-yi, Court Officials like Jo Mal-saeng, Prince Gwangpyeon (they’ve given him too many Meaningful One-Shots for him not to count in this game), and the two young scholars Park Paeng-nyeon and Sung Sam-moon.
There are more wild cards like Chae-yoon’s teacher, the butcher Ga Ri-on, the man in the mask (although technically he falls under Hidden Root), and more. Some of these groups have clear-cut goals, but some are like the court officials and Prince Gwangpyeon, whose motives are more ambiguous.
We haven’t heard a thing about Jung Ki-joon in a while, and my curiosity only goes up since this show has been playing actor merry-go-round with each character since episode one. Now that everyone is grown up we can’t judge who people are based on what they looked like in the past, since that no longer applies. That being said… I may be completely wrong, but I found myself wondering if Shim Jong-soo is Jung Ki-joon, running a very elaborate deception. He seems to be the one running Hidden Root, when that seemed like a job that would go to Jung Ki-joon, so where is that guy?
It’s nice that we’re getting to see more So-yi, especially in that beautiful scene with King Sejong. I knew that Ddol-bok and Dam were close as children, but was a little surprised that she still holds the memory of him so close after so long. It does makes sense though, considering that he blamed her for everything. What is going to be interesting is the fact that So-yi seems to have moved on from the idea that Lee Do’s order killed her whole family and Ddol-bok, which is completely different from how Chae-yoon sees the events. He has no intention of forgiving or forgetting, but we don’t know how she feels for Sejong, and how Chae-yoon might eventually feel for her. I haven’t felt like this show is missing romance, inasmuch as the cherry can be missing from the top of your cake. You still get to eat cake, but if you get that extra treat? Delicious.