Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 11
Contrary to the popular saying, dead men in this show tell nothing but tales. Testing alliances, helping secret projects, and making court ladies cry for mommy are just some of the jobs that are performed by cold and lifeless bodies this episode. But our warm, life-filled bodies have enough problems with each of their respective pet projects gaining momentum – whether that’s revenge, an alphabet, or the burning desire to clip the King off the tree that is Joseon. Ouch.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Ga Ri-on’s humble act is back in full force when he finds none other than Mu-hyul waiting in the butchery. He’s to bring meat and follow the master swordsman up to a hill near Sungkyunkwan University. It’s with shock that the butcher/coroner/surgeon/LIAR finds who he’s bringing meat to… it’s none other than his mortal enemy, King Sejong.
It’s really hard to see Ga Ri-on as Jung Ki-joon when the revelation is still so fresh, and especially when he’s still so good at playing the part of a constantly shocked simple man. But my shock matches his when the King sits down, and offers to pour him a drink. Not only would this be a big deal if Ga Ri-on were really just a butcher, since they were pretty much the lowest members of society, but it’s all the more engaging for us as the audience since we know Ga Ri-on’s big secret.
But, in an even stranger move, Sejong reveals to Ga Ri-on (granted, this is something that he probably already knew, but Sejong doesn’t know that) that where they’re sitting is the very same place where the traitor, Jung Do-jun, discussed learning in the early days of Sungkyunkwan. Students still come here to honor his soul. There’s a very small change in Ga Ri-on’s features, and he maintains a poker face as Sejong goes to the edge of the cliff, offering a drink up into the sky. This drink is, presumably, to honor the soul of Jung Do-jun, Jung Ki-joon’s dead uncle. Whoa, we’ve got one progressive King on our hands… So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Jung Ki-joon. Sejong’s not so bad, just give him a chance.
Ga Ri-on is wondering how the command the King gave him (we still don’t know what its exact contents are) relates to him, or Jung Do-jun. Sejong informs the butcher/coroner/surgeon/antagonist to get ready for… an autopsy that will take place in the palace.
What kind of animal, Ga Ri-on asks? “It’s not an animal,” Sejong replies. Whaaat?
Chae-yoon finds So-yi outside, and they have a Moment. I like this exchange better than their Romantic Music Montage from episode eight, because this feels more real. She seems a bit flustered and nervous to communicate with him (it’s adorable), and Chae-yoon seems a lot softer with his words than usual. She thanks him for what he did (saving Ga Ri-on without exposing her and the whole bit), and he tells her that she should get away from here if she really wants to be able to sleep and truly live. Forget whatever great cause she’s working on.
She wonders silently how that’s working out for him, since she knows he used to eat the same speed/downer herbs, and he reads her thoughts and responds that he’s not doing so great. But, she’s still young – she should give it a go while she still can. When he turns to leave, she stops him with a hand on his arm. She writes that she trusts the King more than herself, and trusts whatever he’s doing. That great cause Chae-yoon wants her to abandon? That’s what she claims will save her.
Ga Ri-on/Jung Ki-joon is alone on the hill, wondering if the King is in his right mind about this autopsy idea. Body dissection is against Neo-Confucian beliefs, and Sejong knows that – but it isn’t stopping him, which seems to be the running complaint about him by his officials.
He meets with Pyung, sporting some slick new hair, and both the Leader and Shim Jong-soo (neither of which, unfortunately, have a new hairdo). It’s a bit awkward on this end since it seems like the Leader wasn’t really too excited about bringing Shim Jong-soo along, but that’s just the way it happened. He gives a formal bow to the First Root, Jung Ki-joon, who he’s been following without ever seeing his face. Jung Ki-joon is not just a figurehead, it seems – he’s nearly worshipped by his followers.
Park-po had been given the assignment to keep a sharp eye on the Leader, but to no one’s surprise he lost her trail. He tries to defend himself by saying there are way more exits than there are entrances in Ban Chon, and that the roads are like a maze… but then says that, oh yeah, some guy came looking for Chae-yoon. He left a message: “Ddol-bok.”
Chae-yoon’s eyes widen. Someone knows the slave name he used to go by? Uh oh.
In the morning, Park-po is happy to find the same man who had been looking for Chae-yoon the night before. He runs off to bring Chae-yoon, but we see Pyung in the crowd, looking especially shifty now that we know he’s been gathering intel on our hero. The Message Man is on to the fact that he’s being followed, and is beaten and captured by Pyung before he can get away. Curiously, though, he leaves white powder behind purposefully before he can be dragged off.
With the Message Man tied up in a storeroom (the Joseon equivalent of abandoned warehouses), Pyung asks him directly if he came to meet Chae-yoon. And on that note, what is the relationship between Chae-yoon and his Teacher?
The Message Man grows angry as he replies: “He isn’t your teacher! He never thought of you as a disciple.” Ooo, this is interesting. I was wondering how the whole Lee Bang-ji matter was going to be brought up again.
Chae-yoon and Friends have been following the trail left by Pyung using the leaping martial arts method, but it goes cold. They know they’re close, as Pyung spies on them from around a corner, but it isn’t until Park-po finds the white powder that they’re back in the game. Both Chae-yoon and Cho-tak recognize the powder as being something that scouts use to mark their locations, and they remember that the man spoke in a Northern dialect – which means they might know him, after all their years they lived and fought up there.
Pyung’s lackey is left in the storeroom with the Message Man, wondering what the big deal is – all the Message Man has to do is divulge information on how Chae-yoon knows the Teacher, Lee Bang-ji. But the Message Man performs a daring escape by biting his captor’s ear off, and ends up running straight into our boys outside.
While Park-po and Cho-tak go after Pyung’s man who has fled, Chae-yoon pulls the Message Man aside. Who is he, Chae-yoon asks, and how does he know the name Ddol-bok? The man is able to eke out only the name ‘Lee Bang-ji’, before he’s shot in the heart with an arrow. The shooter, Pyung, has taken up position on one of the nearby rooftops with a bow and arrow. He’s preparing to shoot at Chae-yoon, who readies to defend himself with only a knife.
All isn’t well just because Pyung is busy, as we only see the shot of a man’s hand breaking a flimsy branch off a tree while he’s stalking Park-po and Cho-tak. He’s holding it like a weapon as he approaches the backs of the two guards (doesn’t the way this is shot look like the Jackass Shave Prank?).
When Chae-yoon is once again faced with the option of pursuing Pyung or saving his friends, he chooses to save his friends. They’ve been knocked unconscious nearby but not killed, which is more than can be said of their captive. The man with the Killing Branch (there’s some tree symbolism for you) turns out to be none other than our long-haired butcher’s assistant, who’s back to being sweet as pie with a cute little girl after the murder.
It’s been a pretty bad day for our boys so far, who have two dead bodies and little to show for it. Neither Park-po or Cho-tak can remember who attacked them, but everyone marvels at the fact that such a tiny tree branch was stabbed through a man’s back with enough force to break through his ribs, pierce straight through his heart, and come out through his chest. Who has these kinds of killing skills? Cho-tak wonders if it’s Pyung, but it can’t be when he was fighting Chae-yoon at the same time.
The member of Hidden Root who has never passed a government exam meets with Shim Jong-soo. It’s all friendly smiles (well, if you forget that Shim Jong-soo never smiles) as they discuss the upcoming meeting with the elders who were originally loyal to Jung Do-jun. Shim Jong-soo is sure that any problems can be fixed by Master Hae Gang (they really are making his return sound like a god is coming to earth), and doesn’t seem too concerned.
The loud-mouthed member doesn’t agree, because he claims that the elders will want to see “that” item. And by “that”, of course, he means the Hidden Root Scroll. They don’t have it, but they know it was exchanged for a pouch from a slave named Ddol-bok before he went to the north. Yikes – I didn’t think they even knew that much!
It’s so nice to see that Chae-yoon and Jo Mal-saeng are actually working together, after the fake-out that was Sung Sam-moon (I really wanted that to happen). He shares the belief he has that Hidden Root has a secret army, and Jo Mal-saeng casually shares that it’s old news, but Joseon’s best swordsman was in Hidden Root. Does he mean Mu-hyul?
No, thank goodness. He’s referring to a better swordsman before Mu-hyul’s time, who was a personal guard to Jung Do-jun…
And is none other than Chae-yoon’s Teacher, Lee Bang-ji. Jo Mal-saeng still doesn’t know why the head guard to Jung Do-jun disappeared the night he was killed by Taejong’s forces, but does know that the Hidden Root Scroll disappeared with him.
Chae-yoon goes to the secret hiding place where he’s been keeping the Hidden Root Scroll all these years – which, of course, is buried at the root of a giant tree. He’s still digesting the new information about his Teacher, and even with the Hidden Root Scroll in his hands he doesn’t quite know what it is… Which seems to be the question of the hour with all our various groups.
He decides that whatever it is, it doesn’t matter to him. Wait, who are you and what have you done with Chae-yoon?
Both Prince Gwangpyeong and Official Jung In-ji are fretting over what Sejong is doing while they wait outside. Sejong’s most trusted court ladies, the same helping him with the Hangul project, are tasked with preparing a room for the autopsy of a human body. Mu-hyul brings Ga Ri-on into the palace by disguising him as a grunt.
Ga Ri-on is shocked just to be in a room of the palace with a dead body, and is more shocked to see Sejong in his Autopsy Clothes. Sejong wants to watch the autopsy to learn, while Ga Ri-on can only wonder why he’s been tasked to do this. Where does the King even want to start?
Sejong instructs him to start the autopsy at the mouth and throat, and I think I understand what Sejong is getting at. He’s been so obsessed with sound and how the human body makes it for his alphabet project – that’s probably why he called for the autopsy, and why he instructs one of his loyal court ladies to draw the anatomy of the human mouth and throat.
We get an Autopsy Montage instead of the actual full autopsy, which is a nice relief. The poor court lady tasked with drawing keeps looking like she wants to faint, cry, or vomit – but in the end, she only ends up fainting with a side of crying. At least she got the job done.
Earlier, Lee Shin-juk was made aware of an order by Hidden Root to meet that night, and finally see Jung Ki-joon. It seems pretty clear by now that he doesn’t want a part of Hidden Root, and after stewing for the day over what he should do he hurries over to the palace to speak with Sejong immediately.
Sejong is surprised to see the official, and clearly nervous that his activities have been found out – but covers it with an adorably awkward smile. That would be funny on its own, except it looks like Lee Shin-juk is about to confess to him about that Hidden Root meeting tonight…
Only he’s stopped in his tracks by a face that appears from Mu-hyul’s back – it’s the disguised Ga Ri-on (ironically disguising Jung Ki-joon), who shoots him a death glare. Lee Shin-juk is scared into immediate silence, and I’m right there with him – how can Ga Ri-on be so smiley one moment, only to deliver a look like that?
Ga Ri-on attempts to explain the different parts of mouth and throat anatomy to the King, speculating on where sound actually comes from. The part of Sejong’s alphabet that’s been missing is a sort of “ho” sound, which Sejong is trying to figure out how to solve by studying how sounds are first made.
The butcher/coroner/surgeon/liar wonders if the King would tell him what he actually needs this information for – that way, he might be able to help. Oh, sure. Sejong seems to consider telling him, and calls in So-yi to demonstrate her muteness. He tells Ga Ri-on that because of him, her father and her ability to speak have been lost. He’s doing all of these sound studies to help her speak again.
Later, So-yi asks if the King thinks he fooled Ga Ri-on. He admits his words weren’t the full truth (and thank goodness for that!) but they were no less sincere. He does want her to speak once more, and tries to get her to pronounce another simple syllable. Like earlier, she can only open her mouth and try. No sound comes out, so she gives up.
For his part, at least, Ga Ri-on/Jung Ki-joon isn’t buying what Sejong is selling, and knows that there must be more to what the King is doing than just trying to get So-yi to talk again.
Two major meetings are going on, and the scenes are juxtaposed with each other for maximum effect. At the same time that dozens of scholars are sneaking out of Sungkyunkwan University to attend the secret Hidden Root meeting, Sejong enters the Hangul Room to find he has to do some damage control. Master Hae Gang demands to see Hidden Root, Sung Sam-moon demands that the King explain the reason for the autopsy.
The poor court lady that made the detailed anatomy drawings is still traumatized, and she’s the one who spilled the details to the other court ladies and the scholars. Sung Sam-moon and Park Paeng-nyeon are outraged at Sejong. How could he spit in the face of Neo-Confucianism by dissecting a body? Sam-moon even seems to go over the line as he accuses the King of having an obsession to know everything about sound, which must have led him to do this unthinkable act. Everyone demands to know his reasoning.
Sejong doesn’t want to explain, and wonders why everyone can’t believe him and just follow his way. No one relents, and he gives in when even So-yi tells him (in writing) that he must explain.
The First Root, Jung Ki-joon, arrives at the secret meeting-place where he had shared a drink with the King only hours ago. This is the country of scholars, he says, and they must gather all their resources to protect their country. They are going to start by closing down Jiphyunjeon, since those are Sejong’s personal scholars and are embraced more than the officials themselves. If Sejong has a hand in it, they don’t want it. They call for parliament instead.
A voice calls out from the crowd – it’s Lee Shin-juk, who’s becoming more and more interesting lately – asking Jung Ki-joon to see the dying testament of Jung Do-jun… The Hidden Root Scroll. Ohh! Lee Shin-juk is officially playing hardball, and it’s pretty amazing. His words have the desired effect, as all the gathered scholars start asking to be shown the scroll.
Jung Ki-joon doesn’t have it, and covers by reciting the motto of Hidden Root – about the King being nothing but a flower on the tree called Joseon. The scholars buy it, all of them happy that they’ve been told they’re the true roots of Joseon, but Lee Shin-juk is not sold.
Sejong laments that his alphabet lacks the commonality of the Chinese alphabet because of its artificial creation. He starts going into why he made an alphabet based on sound, growing more emotional, before he gives up on that argument and explains the real reason – sovereignty.
Instead of copying another country’s letters, these letters are like his tongue, his vocal chords, and his teeth. He wants these letters to become the alphabet for the people of this country, not foreign characters. He wants to believe that if he makes an alphabet this way, the people will use them. Is that so wrong?
Everyone in the room is moved by his passionate display. Sejong sinks down into his chair, exhausted. What a King. What a scene!
The pressure is on for Ga Ri-on/Jung Ki-joon, since Master Hae Gang warned him that he has four days to produce the Hidden Root Scroll or he and all his scholars are a no-go. The next morning, both he and So-yi simultaneously see a message literally written on the walls…
It’s a message left purposefully by Chae-yoon for Hidden Root to see. It’s a call for a late-night meeting for whoever can recognize that bag – which, as luck would have it, Jung Ki-joon still has in his possession.
Chae-yoon surprises and delights me constantly, and I was missing his presence in the latter half of this episode as much as I was enjoying all the new developments between King Sejong and Jung Ki-joon. Chae-yoon’s message is the perfect bait, since we can already see that Jung Ki-joon is probably going to bite. I just don’t think Chae-yoon counted on Dam/So-yi still being alive and able to recognize a bag that she herself made.
This episode was filled to the brim with important plot moments. Besides all of the scholars looking like beekeepers at the secret meeting, Jung Ki-joon’s real beliefs are extra interesting. We’ve heard the song and dance from Hidden Root about how useless the King is before, but his discussion with Master Hae Gang about his ideology only made it more confusing.
So, he’s for scholars – but against the particular brand of scholars Jiphyunjeon possesses because those are the King’s scholars. He’s for the people, but the scholars he wants to empower aren’t the people, they’re a very small percentage. Mostly I was intrigued at his admission that Sejong can be an amazing king, and that’s what makes everything worse. I get the feeling it’s not a personal vendetta against Sejong so much as it’s a vendetta against the very idea of a monarchy. I may have it all wrong though, but that’s part of the fun. I’m enjoying everyone’s discussions, since it’s an aspect I love about this show – nothing is black and white. Especially political ideologies.
So much now hinges on the written words of two dead men – Jung Do-jun’s dying testament, and Chae-yoon’s father’s dying testament. We still don’t know what either of these documents really say, and I wouldn’t put it past the show to deliver us a shock when Suk-sam’s will is finally revealed.
I don’t know what I should call Ga Ri-on/Jung Ki-joon from here on out. He’s been called ‘Ga Ri-on’ for so many episodes, I don’t know about making the official switch to ‘Jung Ki-joon’ when everyone in the show is still going to be referring to him as Ga Ri-on until the secret is out. Jung Ri-on? Ga Ki-joon? I’m sort of just kidding with those. Maybe.
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 10
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 9
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 8
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 7
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 6
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 5
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 4
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 3
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 2
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 1
- Tree wallops Man in the ratings game