Drama Recaps
Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 14
by | November 19, 2011 | 81 Comments

How can this show only get more exciting, more intense, and more heartfelt? We’re all wondering, and we’re also probably wondering whether this show can uphold this sheer level of awesome for the remaining episodes or whether it will just run out of energy and fold under the weight of its pitch-perfect story, characters, and pacing. It just can’t keep going at this level, because that would literally make it too good, right?

But if it does keep this up… Drama of the Year? Any takers? Because this show deserves some sort of award, even if its just for… I don’t know, being the best.


Sejong is the one who approaches Chae-yoon, but Mu-hyul is never far away. So when Chae-yoon points his sword at Sejong’s neck, Mu-hyul is there to stop him. It’s a regular Mexican standoff, but Sejong seems to want to tip the scales in Chae-yoon’s favor by ordering Mu-hyul to step down. In a daring move, Mu-hyul flatly refuses that order. He’s someone who was once willing to cut the head off Former King Taejong to protect Sejong, and he won’t step back now.

The King seems unafraid, and even steps forward so that if Chae-yoon so wished, he could kill him. But when he steps forward, Chae-yoon takes an uncertain and tiny step back. He wants to know why Sejong is putting himself in harm’s way… and then Sejong drops the bomb: “You’re not here to kill me, right? You are here to die.”

He’s right. Chae-yoon has now had his opportunity to kill the King (or at least try), and he’s purposefully chosen not to. But then, he turns his own blade around and holds it to his neck as if he’s about to commit suicide. Mu-hyul thinks fast, and knocks his blade out of his hands before he can do it. Chae-yoon ends up on the floor, wondering why the King is sparing his life. He’s only a lowly slave, and now he’s tried to kill the King. So why?

Sejong’s reply is beyond what I expected: it’s because everything he is, everything he’s done, is because of Chae-yoon. That night that Chancellor Shim was killed, and the night of the jailbreak, it was Chae-yoon’s wailing words about how the King should cut the bullshit that stayed with Sejong. If he’d never heard Chae-yoon that night, he’d be much happier. He would not be who he is today. Why?

King Sejong: “That night, we fell into hell together. But now you want out by yourself?”

Good. God. Both of these men have shaped each other’s lives, and now both of them know exactly how. Chae-yoon knows that Sejong is the one who saved him that night, and that he’s responsible for the ‘Lee Do’ we see today – the one who rebelled against his father on Chae-yoon (or Ddol-bok’s) account, and who is now creating an alphabet. So that’s why he needs Chae-yoon to judge his alphabet – everything he’s doing is all because of Chae-yoon. It’s so epic. Epic epic epic.

Chae-yoon laughs, and openly mocks Sejong for acting so serious while spouting such bullshit about writing. He argues with the King over whether the commoners can actually benefit from an alphabet, saying that writing can’t make them nobles and can’t make rice. Sejong fights back, saying that it may not make rice – but it’ll teach the people more ways to make it. It won’t make them nobles, but they’ll have the tools to fight back. Why does Chae-yoon look at it so negatively?

It’s because of his father’s will, Chae-yoon replies. His words bring tears to my eyes as he reveals that his father’s wish wasn’t for him to avenge his death, or to declare his innocence… Instead, it said: “Ddol-bok, since I don’t know how to write, since I am a halfwit, I wronged everyone. You must learn how to write. Serve our master well. And live well.”

So that’s what broke him. He’s lost completely, because both his father and Dam are on Sejong’s side. Chae-yoon did go to the palace to die, but he couldn’t even do that as he wanted. There’s only horrible sadness and desolation on his face as he begins a lifeless walk away.

But in this scene’s real turning point, Sejong calls out to Chae-yoon, telling him that they should fight. When his alphabet is complete, he’ll even pour Chae-yoon a drink, and they can fight then. I can’t even control myself – he knows that Chae-yoon has nothing left to live for and is desperately trying to give him any reason to live, even if it’s for revenge. But all spirit has left Chae-yoon, and he becomes like a zombie as he leaves the palace. Even So-yi can’t stop him.

It’s time for another round of ‘Whose Side is Lee Shin-juk Really On?’. He calls for a meeting with Jung Ki-joon, who’s been a busybody with all the materials left behind by the dead scholars – the Buddhist sutra, the Yuan Dynasty erotica, and the ‘Goon Na Mi Yok’ left by Yoon-pil from the printing press. Lee Shin-juk is the kind of man that follows where the power leads, and Master Hae Gang seems to be fully on board as well. But instead of an oath of allegiance, Lee Shin-juk gives tangible proof – it’s a mold for a printing block, and though we know it’s Hangul, no one else does. Yet.

Jung Ki-joon brings this mold back to Hidden Root Headquarters (aka the Confucian Temple in Ban Chon). Thanks to the mold provided by Lee Shin-juk, which sort of serves as the last piece of the puzzle, Jung Ki-joon now realizes the common thread that all these materials have – alphabets. Sejong’s secret project is an alphabet.

Yikes, the cat is really out of the bag on this one. Jung Ki-joon swiftly declares Jiphyunjeon, Sejong’s pet scholar house, an enemy of the government. Let the games begin.

It’s nice to see our buddy cops Cho-tak and Park-po again, since both of them are worried about Chae-yoon’s well-being. They get distracted, however, to see a familiar face and figure in the crowd… it’s none other than Pyung, our unmasked assassin who likes to try a different hairstyle each episode. I’m not complaining.

He walks himself straight into the police bureau, tosses a package down, and declares that he’s the culprit who murdered the Jiphyunjeon scholars. Seems like Jung Ki-joon was pretty serious about starting trouble. But what does Hidden Root have to gain from Pyung’s sacrifice?

Sejong is stressing the necessary secrecy of their project to his allies, some of whom we haven’t seen in a while. He knows that if the project were to be made public, they’d be faced with so much opposition that they’d have to give up the alphabet. He plans to release it all at once, wide-spread, so that even if there’s opposition it will come too late. He’s also aware that the Hidden Root Scroll has made it back to Hidden Root, so their chances of finding out its contents have dwindled down. When it comes to his attention that Pyung has not been arrested but in fact turned himself in, he knows that Hidden Root is behind it. But, like us, he doesn’t know how.

Yoon Pyung is being held at the investigation bureau, and freely admits that he’s the son of Jung Do-gwang’s guard (I knew someone had to be) and the murderer. But he’s brought all of the dead scholars’ projects – like the Phags-pa script, the Sanskrit sutra, the printing block mold for Hangul. So, why would he do such a thing? Pyung: “Now, everyone in the country will find out the reason.”

They’re interrupted by someone bringing a posting that’s been littered everywhere. That same posting makes it to everyone – including all the officials, the King, and the scholars. It details that the King has been doing a secret project, and that he even keeps a secret society, and that he’s been breaking the law by not having officers in attendance at all times (like all those times he’s in his Hangul Room). The anonymous writer even outs one member of the secret society – our resident scholar, Sung Sam-moon. The reader is challenged to find a tattoo on Sung Sam-moon’s body. If they do, they’ll know the author was correct.

The shit hits the fan, as that posting makes its way to everyone – officials and scholars alike. Now everyone knows that the King has been trying to make an alphabet. Having their own sovereign alphabet separate from the Chinese alphabet? How positively barbaric! Everyone’s in an uproar, because no one reading that posting stands to gain from Sejong’s user-friendly alphabet.

Our poor scholar Sung Sam-moon is probably the only person who hasn’t read the posting, and he walks into the library of scholars completely unaware. They turn on him and search him, finding the Chun Ji (Heaven and Earth) tattoo on his arm, just like the posting said. Crap.

The Deputy Chief Scholar, while being outraged at this whole mess, has a heart inside him and he pulls Sung Sam-moon for a private meeting… that’s unfortunately also attended by Shim Jong-soo, who has been stirring the pot as a secret double-agent for Hidden Root this whole time. He tells Sung Sam-moon to leave the court and hide at a temple, and to take Scholar Park Paeng-nyeon with him. Park Paeng-nyeon hasn’t been publicly outed like he has, but it might only be a matter of time.

Jung Ki-joon’s evil genius is showing, as he’s the mastermind behind the postings and now only has to sit back and watch as the palace rips itself apart. He knows exactly which offices the chaos will start with, one right after the other, and is right on the money when the Office of Inspector General (and I mean the whole office) ends up knocking at Jiphyunjeon’s door. They demand to body-check Sung Sam-moon to test out that tattoo theory.

The Deputy Chief Scholar meets with Sejong’s right-hand man, Jung In-ji, and personally asks him about the alphabet. He is not a fan, seeing as every country with their own alphabet is a barbarian country. That’s not what he wants Joseon to become – so Jung In-ji better relate that to the King.

Jung Ki-joon also put Master Hae Gang into place, and the old man comes to kneel before the Gwanghwamun, the biggest and baddest gate of the palace. He’s come to stage a protest (with such a public display, all his scholars will soon join him) about the barbarian alphabet – demanding to hear the truth from the King.

The Prime Minister meets with Sejong, and it turns out he wasn’t totally unaware of the Hangul project… but the last time he’d heard about it was ten years ago. He’s curious to know if Sejong has finished it or not, but he also gives a warning. In order to placate the palace, Sejong must open his Hangul Room to the public and stop his project. He can’t disregard Confucian scholars as he pleases, it’ll only end badly for him.

Sejong says he plans on opening the Hangul Room to official scrutiny… tomorrow. I sense a plan.

Chae-yoon is taking time for some sad introspection, and finds himself at the same stream he’d once come to with his father… only his father appears right in the same spot as a vision. Chae-yoon is instantly a young boy again, lost and alone, but his father is there to tell him that sometimes life just doesn’t go the way you want it to. He’s basically being a dad to the Chae-yoon who could have sorely used one, and the greatest part is that his father is in possession of all his wits. In the afterlife, he’s happy.

What a beautiful, beautiful scene. Dam/So-yi’s father is even there, and he teases Ddol-bok/Chae-yoon about his daughter, who always used to take Ddol-bok’s side against her father when they were young. Their happiness seems infectious, and though Chae-yoon tries to join them soon he’s only left with their lingering voices. This is a good thing, because we don’t want him to join his father quite yet. There’s still too much for him to do.

Poor Chae-yoon. I normally feel so confident in his ability to take care of himself, but the moment the vision fades, he suddenly just seems so alone. Who’s there to help him? But at least he’s come to an important decision: he’s wasted his life until now, and it’s time to move on. He says goodbye to Ddol-bok – his childhood self, and everything he was before. Aww.

Chae-yoon returns to his friends, and not a moment too soon. They don’t know what’s gone on with him (and to explain fully would take a lifetime), but are just happy to have him back. Chae-yoon, for his part, seems carefree. Even when they tell him that Pyung has turned himself in over at the bureau, he’s disinterested and has no care to go.

It’s interesting when they go to their local inn, and discuss the alphabet rumors with the innkeepers and the Sound Man (that man who can make any sound in the world). Chae-yoon wants to know why everyone thinks what they think about the alphabet, presumably beginning to open his mind a little bit to the possibility that this alphabet can actually be useful to the common people.

Later, Chae-yoon innocuously asks Park-po about the going rate of rice paddies these days. Park-po is wondering what I’m wondering – is he asking about these things for a woman? We know that his ideal life is also a simple one from the visions he’s had. Chae-yoon deflects, and then as he sees So-yi coming from the road he adorably runs and hides.

So-yi has come to see Chae-yoon, but Park-po turns her away (I get the feeling she’s very sure he’s lying and that Chae-yoon is inside). She gives him a letter instead, and as she’s leaving Chae-yoon pokes his head out to think that this is all for the best. There’s no Ddol-bok anymore, and Dam should live as So-yi. Nooo!

It’s no secret that the Hangul Room is going to be opened tomorrow, and everyone is preparing to either enter it (everyone not in on the project) or to get information out of it (everyone in on the project). Sejong displays some teamwork by helping his court ladies shuffle out old papers from storage. So-yi, meanwhile, is committing everything to memory.

That is a handy tool to have, when you think about it. Considering that they’re very aware of their paper trail, So-yi is like a portable Joseon hard drive and is perfect for times like these.

Prince Gwangpyeong, Sejong’s fifth son, has been stepping up to the plate recently (considering that he seems to be the only son in on his father’s project). He’s going to help his father with this elaborate bait-and-switch…

…Using the Queen’s palanquin? Queen Soheon?! Where have you been? We don’t see her, and haven’t seen her since Sejong’s early days, but it seems like she’s still alive. Historically, Queen Soheon died the same year that Sejong published the document containing Hangul – so it’s nice to know she’s still around.

Chae-yoon reads So-yi’s letter as he’s all dressed up for a long journey. She wants him to meet her at five in the morning at the paper-making office, but he seems to have no plans to go. He says there’s no Ddol-bok anymore, and that if he sees Dam, he won’t be able to leave. In a bit of meta, he wonders why he’s talking aloud to himself. Ha! He’s left letters for Park-po and Cho-tak, and it seems like he’s preparing to leave for good. Something tells me that won’t be as easy as you hope, Chae-yoon.

Sejong’s sent out two palanquins, each to a prince’s house, and at each house they’re overtaken by Hidden Root’s secret soldiers. Shim Jong-soo has severely underestimated Sejong, as he finds that both palanquins were completely empty. He decides to reroute his forces to the paper-making office, since Sejong has ordered double the amount of paper for tomorrow (probably for So-yi to transcribe everything that she memorized).

So-yi is working closely with Prince Gwangpyeong on this pseudo-heist (okay, they’re not stealing anything, but it’s so orchestrated it seems like a heist), and reports Hidden Root’s movements to him. He’s pleased that they’ve fallen into his trap.

It’s five in the morning, and So-yi is outside of the paper-making office with Prince Gwangpyeong and the real cart of data spirited away from the Hangul Room. This is exactly where she told Chae-yoon to meet her, and she seems to be looking for him in earnest while he stays hiding around a corner, watching her.

As he leaves without saying a word, he sees some slaves pulling a cart. He finds it a little curious, but is determined to go on his merry way.

Those slaves were secretly Hidden Root’s soldiers, and easily overtake Prince Gwangpyeong and So-yi. The two find themselves being pulled along in the same cart that they used to ferret information in, and they’re both bound and gagged. Prince Gwangpyeong looks wounded, too.

Chae-yoon, however, is not able to shake the suspicion of hearing iron in that cart the slaves were pulling. He gives them the mental benefit of the doubt before he realizes the obvious – and that So-yi’s in danger. And then he’s off to the rescue! Hooray!

So-yi can hear that Chae-yoon has arrived to challenge her captors. I can’t help but wonder if she knew something like this would happen, and wanted Chae-yoon to meet her there at five a.m. specifically for the purpose of getting her out of a tough spot. Either way, he’s there. And he at least gives the men a chance to run away – but if they stay, they won’t be so lucky. See the black/white parallels from his outfit at the end of the last episode?

What matters, Chae-yoon says, is who he is…

Chae-yoon: “I’m Ddol-bok of Hanjigol village, got it?”


Boom! Our boy is back! And not a moment too soon.

While I understood why Chae-yoon wanted to rid himself of all things Ddol-bok, I also didn’t think it was the best idea. Sure, we can try to forget our pasts and move on, but they’re still our pasts, and we can’t ever undo them. So while I feel like it’s good for Chae-yoon to want to live in the now instead of being consumed by his past, I was also sure that he had to find a happy medium in there somewhere… surely it couldn’t all boil down to: “I accept my past and want to live for revenge” or “I’m going to shed my past and become a completely new person.” And judging by the end of this episode, he’s merged both the past and the present at last. He can be Ddol-bok without having to live only for revenge. He can be Chae-yoon without feeling like he’s dishonoring his father’s memory.

I’m not usually a fan of afterlife scenes, but I really love how the scene with his father (and Dam/So-yi’s father) was done. As an audience, we need to see Chae-yoon move on into what I like to think is the ‘second act’ of twenty-four episode dramas. Unlike his second act in Chuno, where his crushed dreams slowly ate him alive, he seems to be going good places. He’s growing, but in a good way. His deus angst machina has come and gone, and we won’t be seeing that pity party last another ten episodes – which is such a huge relief. That means he can just be badass.

Also, he’s the only one I trust to save Sejong. There are plenty of people on Sejong’s side, but Chae-yoon really is the other half of our King. Now he’s not in this fight just for the promise of revenge – he’s in it for a higher purpose. And that’s what makes him a hero.


81 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Arhazivory

    I…….Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t read the whole recap but I had to read about the first scene and that was beautiful. *sniffles* “We fell into hell together….”

    Thanks HeadsNo2.

  2. Bamsa

    Thank you for recaps. It’s so nice to see everything tied together so perfectly in terms of literacy.

  3. supah

    Waoww! You’re on a roll, HeadsNo2!
    Loved the confrontation between Ddol-Bokie and Sejong.
    And Loved Ddol-bokie by the stream — such a beautiful scene.

  4. K

    Beautiful, beautiful episode. It’s amazing how each episode just ups the bar of the quality of this series.

    For the next episodes I’m sincerely afraid of what would happen to So-Yi once the Hidden Root finds out she’s the “portable Joseon hard drive” (excellent way to put it, by the way!) of Sejong’s Hangul project. While the Hangul project can go on without her, it’s been shown how much of an important figure she is to the group–so if the Hidden Root really wants to destroy Sejong’s alphabet, they need to destroy (oh no) So-Yi.

    I LOVED that last scene where Chae-Yoon acknowledges and accepts his past when he says his trademark line–it shows that he’s able to move past the painful memories yet still keep intact the essence of Ddol-Bok: fierce, brave, and yep, totally badass.

  5. KDR

    I love this show!Thanks for recapping it HeadsNo2!!!

  6. mellowyel

    “deus angst machina” LOL I love it

    thanks for the recaps! wonderfully written

  7. Birdie

    Wah… I did not expect to read recaps after recaps. Once again your recaps are a joy to read. Thank you, HeadsNo2. I agree with you. If this drama continues the way it is , definitely the Best Drama of the year! The acting is just EPIC. Such a PROFOUND drama.

  8. Jane

    man! your recaps are super fast. SOMEBODYS ON A ROLLLL~

    Thanks mucho! =)

  9. Stephanie

    Definitely agree. Best drama of year (so far). Great actors, great unique historic storytelling, nice cinematography & great recaps!

  10. 10 atriniriggie

    I agree with you …..
    This is by far the best drama I have seen in a long long long time, I fear what it will do to me if it gets any better than this….
    The acting are all on point….
    I love Love love this drama….!!!!

  11. 11 atriniriggie

    I always read your recaps before I watch the episode because you put pen to paper so well when you describe the characters and scenes and their emotions…. Thank you for the great recaps

  12. 12 aya

    thanks for the recap.

    i literally gave this episode a STANDING OVATION!!!!!!!!!!

    it had everything, i laugh, scream ,cried, had an amazing adrenaline rush.

    did i mention the acting was SUPERB from EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    the King and Chae-yoon acting in the first 10 min killed me. it was beautiful.

  13. 13 Ani

    Booyah! So awesome I swear. I love how throughout this whole thing I’ve been rooting for Sejong and Chaeyeon separately. I’m glad at this point I can root for them as a team. Go Team Hangul GO!

    • 13.1 Linda165

      Ha! Team Hangul… LOVE it!!

      Team Hangul Fighting!!!

  14. 14 kristi

    That sound you heard was my inner fangirl (for the drama AND your writing) letting out a shriek over the latest recap. Three eps. in three days! It’s a testimony of both your talents as a recapper and the quality of the series.

    But if it does keep this up… Drama of the Year? Any takers? Because this show deserves some sort of award, even if its just for… I don’t know, being the best.

    I’d shape an award out of all our tears and hand it to them. This was the hardest I cried over a tv series this year, and I love them for it. They raised the bar so high, it’s getting scary, but at this point, little to do but to place our faith in their hands.

    • 14.1 dramabliss

      Wow, so fast! Thanks HeadsNo2 for yet another daebak recap. Best Drama of the Year? My vote is definitely in!

  15. 15 kristi

    PS. According to AGB Nielsen, this episode drew the highest ratings to-date for the series (20.5% nationwide, 22% in Seoul & the suburbs), and reached a peak at 25.1% by the end, when Chae-Yoon showed up to rescue Soyi and the Prince.

    • 15.1 Birdie

      This drama deserves higher ratings. Do the Koreans not watching know what a jewel they are missing?

      • 15.1.1 kristi

        It’s actually doing quite well in the ratings. It’s consistently over 20% in the metropolitan area (Seoul+suburbs), and that’s the numbers the advertisers care about. Only some of the weekend dramas do better than TwDR, but they’ve been on air for much longer.

        If it was tough to break the 30% barrier last year, it’s tougher to reach 20% this year, and I suspect landing in double digits (ie. past 10%) may become the ultimate objective in the near future (if it isn’t the case already). Under these circumstances (of changing viewing habits, production models, job markets for the cast & crew, etc), TwDR could have become one of those dramas well-received by critics and fans but not necessarily popular in the ratings. That’s not the case, even though it’s not a conventional sageuk. (The demographics do show the viewers tend to lean younger–TwDR is most popular with male & female viewers in their 30s and 40s, whereas Man of Honor draws much of its audience from women 40+ and over. That’s rather unusual, in that sageuks tend to perform better with the seniors.) It’s performing well, despite some unusual elements for a sageuk and while facing competition from some very experienced and seasoned writers on KBS and MBC (previously writers of Baker King and My Name is Kim Sam Soon respectively). It’s in better shape than Thousand Day Promise on Mon-Tues, which is a much more straightforward k-drama, penned by the veteran writer Kim Soo-Hyun.

        So I think they’ve entered the stage where the cast and crew can just focus on producing quality eps. and not worry about the ratings. They have an established audience behind them now, it’s all about not failing their expectations from here on.

        • mskololia

          Thanks kristi. I enjoy reading your posts….:)

        • Birdie

          Kristi, thank you for enlightening me about the ratings. Your input from the korean perspective has been great.

  16. 16 Rachel O.

    Tree With Deep Roots is truly the best drama I have seen all year – maybe longer. The fact that episode 12 left me crawling out of my skin just waiting to see ep 13 is pretty telling.

    Thanks so much for all of the recaps! I love hearing all of the commentary and explanations that I wouldn’t have a clue about. You’re all pretty freakin’ amazing!

  17. 17 Jomo

    Thank you for the recap! Love love love love it!

    The call backs they keep delivering are deftly done.
    We don’t get flashy-backitees with an overwrought musical theme hitting us on the head: REMEMBER this part? It was meaningful and DEEP.

    He’s someone who was once willing to cut the head off Former King Taejong to protect Sejong, and he won’t step back now. Aw, man! Mu-hyul rocks and rocks!
    The “I call bull shit!” line – also amazing! The look of admiration on CY face at how well the King can swear was cute! Then surprise that Lee Do learned it from Ddol-bok.
    The conversation by the water with the father…oh my goodness! So sweeeeeeeet! Beautiful. Made me smile for poor DB/CY. Loved how SY’s father reminded DB, “That wench didn’t take my side once either; she took YOURS!”

    I liked how they showed the target demographic, so to speak, discussing the usefulness of this newfangled writing.
    Old people = truly the laggards; while the little girl = early adopter. She immediately has an application for the new technology. Her friend’s name cannot be written in their language! How many other Joseon words have the same fate? Prolly LOTS!

    The tight plotting and pacing of this show makes me think the script was finished waaaaaaaaaay before filming. It is based on a novel, right? That is why we are seeing a quality result. They have a story they want to tell and are not straying from it. I am sure they will be able to keep it going for the run of the series.
    If anyone asks for an extension, let’s just kill them, ok? I know this really cool technique of assassination by a drop of water…

    • 17.1 kristi

      Haven’t read the book, but according to those who have, the adaptation takes an enormous amount of liberty with the novel. Like 80% or so of departure.

      All the backstory in eps. 1-4 doesn’t exist in the novel– the tensions btw Yi Do and his father (the big events are taken from real-life, such as Taejong eliminating Yi Do’s in-laws, but they play no role in the novel, and Taejong doesn’t appear at all), Yi Do and the Queen Consort saving Ddolbok and Dami’s lives respectively, etc. Kang Chae-Yoon in the novel doesn’t have a past as Ddolbok, basically (nor Soyi for that matter as Dami), and just shows up as an investigator to solve the murders. Sejong looms large, but in the background, and isn’t as prominent as in the drama. There’s no secret society, no Milbon, no Jeong Ki-Joon in the novel. Garion isn’t the mastermind in the novel.

      So whatever the drama’s accomplishing with its storytelling and characterizations, we owe much to the creativity and imagination of the scriptwriters, not the novel per se.

      • 17.1.1 Jomo

        Wow! It sounds like a completely different story just in the same era!

        Whatever they write next, I am in!

      • 17.1.2 bishbash

        im reading the book now, and basically it feels like same characters but in a totally different story.

        • Linda165

          Are you reading it in Korean or has it been translated to English?

      • 17.1.3 Kiara

        Kim Young Hyun is a great writer. I’ve enjoyed her previous sageuks Dae Jang Geum, Ballad Of Suh Dong and Queen Seon Deok. This drama is her best work so far imo.
        She is a fan pleaser so we might get a happy ending with Chae-Yoon and Soyi.

        • Jomo

          Didn’t you mean happy ending with the King and Soyi? 😉

          • Kiara

            :). If it was up to me I’d pair up So-yi and Prince Gwanpyeong but it’s too fairytale-ish for this type of sageuk. I also have a bad feeling that he may not live to see his father’s great work completed :(. That injury in the last eps doesnt look good.

          • anais

            Historically, Gwangpyeong dies a couple years before the promulgation of hangeul. So, my bet is he’s a goner.

  18. 18 Phyllis

    I love how Ddol-Bok’s father eventually saves and protects his son! I had to rewatch the scene by the creek when Ddol-Bok scolds his father for not protecting him and tries to teach him how to be tougher.

    I think that the father-son relationships are juxtaposed beautifully (Ddol-Bok and father/Jesong and father). The half-witted father is more helpful to Ddol-Bok than the once stately king is to Sejong.

    I wonder if more will be disclosed about how Ddlo-Bok’s father became cognitively impaired, There is a comment of how the father saved his son on a mountain in the scene by the creek (first episode).

    • 18.1 Phyllis

      Correction: (Sejong and father)

      • 18.1.1 kristi

        re: Ddolbok and his father, and Yi Do with his:

        I think it’s a different kind of love, in part from the differences in their circumstances, and not just the differences in the personalities of their fathers. I don’t think Taejong loved his son any less or was any less helpful in the way he steered his son towards becoming a ruler, even if it’s the kind of tough love which is hard to wrap our minds about. One of the most stirring quotes from the episode is when Ddolbok taunts the king with ‘isn’t your reign supposed to be a time of peace’ (something akin to Pax Coreana) so why should you be in such torment, and Sejong retorts ‘Have you ever seen a king at peace in time of peace? It’s because I’m in such torment/hell that the nation’s enjoying some peace.’ Leading a country is tough work, and Taejong wanted to prepare his son as he saw fit.

        And he spared no effort in supporting him, in his own way. We saw that when Cho Mal-Saeng confessed to the Prime Minister (coming out of his meeting with the king) that Taejong told him on his deathbed never to oppose any of his son’s initiatives and all he (Cho) had to do was to stop Milbon. It got overshadowed in the major developments of the episode, but I absolutely loved these moments with the elder statesmen (the Prime Minister, Cho, the Deputy Chief Scholar Choi Man-Ri who helped the two young scholars get away). When the Prime Minister calmly asked the king if he had finished his project (which is how we find out he knew all along), I couldn’t help but think, you sly old fox you… 🙂 All three are actual historical figures, so it was nice that the writing allowed them to rise to the occasion.

        • anais

          Kristi, super helpful! Thanks for both the clarification about the adaptation from the novel and this. I too liked the scene between Jo Mal Seng and the PM, and it was evident (even back at the scene of his death) that Taejong perhaps had intended to be as brutal as he was in order to allow his son Sejong to have a productive reign, for which he needed absolute stability.

          • Phyllis

            I do not believe there is any excuse for brutality. I will venture to say that the tree with deep roots will not only be the king, but Chae-yoon first and foremost.

            Like I have stated before Monarchism is not an ideal form of government. Chae-yoon’s father, at least, understood that and encouraged his son to accept the way things are in the world.

            I think everything Chae-yoon says to the king is correct. He nails it. He is the central character here!

          • anais

            The truth of the matter is that all regimes are founded with violence. Perhaps there may be some regime that came about peacefully; I don’t know of any.

            Whether or not that violence is justified? That’s not my concern. My concern is that per TWDR, Taejong thought foundational violence was necessary and inevitable.

            As for the actual root, I believe only the people can ever be the root.

          • kristi

            It (also) got overshadowed in the episode (a case of too many riches) but I really liked that they showed some of the institutions in place to check and balance the king’s power, what Jeong Ki-Joon described as Jeong Do-Jeon’s legacy for Joseon:

            – the historiographers, who must always be present to record the king’s affairs (the basis of the Joseon Dynasty Annals/Sillok);
            – the office of inspector general, in charge of monitoring the executive and government officials for transparency;
            – and the Confucian scholars across the nation, whose support was essential for the legitimacy of the dynasty (as the Prime Minister pointed out).

            Those who opposed Sejong’s initiatives may have been on the wrong side of history (even some of the ‘good guys’ such as Choi Man-Ri, the head of the Hall of Worthies, whose famous opposition to hangul drew Sejong’s ire), and yes, in the drama, these institutions are being manipulated by a secret society for their own gains. But you’d want these institutions to work as they did in this episode and effectively at that, if you had an anti-Sejong on the throne trying to impose a terrible law or policy.

            And while Sejong’s such a compelling figure that many viewers struggle with anyone who opposes him, I appreciate the writers’ efforts to illustrate the competing ruling philosophies, whether it’s Taejong’s or Jeong Do-Jeon’s. We’re shown that when resistance is greatest is when Sejong’s tempted to rule like his father, with an iron fist and his power unchecked. And as Jeong Ki-Joon pointed out (in ep. 11), it’s when you have a great ruler in place that you’re tempted to do away with the institutional checks and balances. (So much relevance even today.) Admittedly, these ‘debates’ are rather one-sided on TwDR, despite the writers’ efforts, because for one thing they’re up against the Great Sejong and doesn’t help that Milbon is such a shady, amoral, power-hungry group. So they don’t resonate as much with the viewers, and there’s been some debate on whether the writers should have done more to balance the opposing views. But it’s a very difficult challenge, and I appreciate that they are making efforts, that it’s not entirely black and white, good vs evil, Sejong vs everyone else.

          • anais

            Way to enrich the convo, Kristi.

            I’m a historical drama junkie. Especially political ones. Whether they be Korea sageuks or Western/BBC dramatizations of some king or pope, what becomes evident is that even kings did not enjoy absolute power. Those who attempted to exercise such power risked being overthrown. I’m always struck by kdrama’s depiction of Joseon kings as so often constrained and subject to manipulation.

            As for TWDR, it should be noted that Taejong chose to keep in place the checks on royal power, checks that Jeong Do Jeon instituted. And that Taejong retained such infrastructure is what made Yi Do regard Taejong’s actions as being motivated by lust for power rather than substantive ideological disagreement. Ironic.

          • kristi

            I think that in reality, reigns of absolute power tend to be short-lived, perhaps not while they last but in the greater scheme of things, because while power may be hereditary or passed on, the fear or authority it instills is not, so those who succeed must prove themselves on their own terms they’re fit to assume and exercise that power. My knowledge of political dynasties is limited, but I think if I were to take a close look at any institution that appears to be very much in control, with powerful leaders at the top, the story will always be of a balance of power or the result of power struggles between those who have it and those who want to curb it (and have the means to curb it). Wouldn’t be surprised if rulers/kings often constrained and subject to manipulation were the norm, rather than the exception, with most political systems.

        • dramabliss

          Kristi, appreciate the additional commentary and the info on the novel vis-a-vis the drama adaptation.

          I love the drama; I love the discussion. Thanks to HeadsNo2 and all the bloggers here.

  19. 19 Kiara

    My #1 drama of 2011 <3<3<3. My goodness its hard to pick a favorite actor/char cause they are all so damn good. Thank you much for the speedy recap.

  20. 20 ruthie

    i wont say that this drama will be the best drama of the year until i see the very last episode. but so far, this drama exceeded my expectations, blew my brain away and never got me bored (neither a single episode).

    • 20.1 cv

      Agree with you. The drama hasn’t let me down either on all the episode so far. Let’s see how the second half of the drama goes. If it keeps going at this pace throughout the drama with anticipation at every turn and thrill us until the very last episode then it could potentionally be one of the great drama of 2011.

      • 20.1.1 bd

        I’d say potentionally one of the great dramas of all-time and not just for 2011.

  21. 21 MojoJojo

    There are no words for how much I love this drama. I don’t know what i’m gonna do when the time comes to pick a drama of the year. I just can’t.

    So good, so so so good.

  22. 22 Del

    Thanks for the recaps ! What a treat !
    Although I can’t help but wonder ; so much has happened in the last 14 episodes, will the show be able to keep up the rythm for another 10 episodes ?

  23. 23 melonhead

    Chaeyoon is my newest drama hero crush. <3 When he said his trademark “I’m Ddol-bok of Hanjigol village, got it?” I confess I jumped up and down while squealing.

    This whole episode was so poetically perfect. I'm so glad this drama got out all the angst first, making it both surprising for us as well as reassuring us they're going good places for the next act of the drama. Too often dramas use the BIG SECRET as the main plot point, which just leaves us in plot circle land.

    And how beautifully heartbreaking was the first scene, where Chaeyoon relayed his father's will? Kick us all in the gut, why don't you.

    Last fickle point: Chaeyoon looks so adorable in his farmer clothes 🙂

  24. 24 laya


    Thank you for the recap!

  25. 25 Lemon

    You’re amazing!! Thank you for 4 recaps in a row, whoot whoot! 😀

    I’m loving how TWDR is progressing so fast, so there’s not “come on, just move on/do something/REVEAL SOMETHING” moments that I usually feel when I’m watching sageuks. The relationships between the characters are so compelling, especially the King and Soyi’s, and now Soyi and Chae Yoon.

    I used to love Ga Ri On in the beginning, but now he can just go to hell. Kudos to the actor who can play the 2 sides so effectively though. But if you’re going against my favourite Joseon King and making him miserable, there’s no way I’m gonna like you.

    • 25.1 Jomo

      Let’s talk about JKJ for a moment…
      The only complaint I have for this story is how reverently Milbon is to him.

      OK I understand the idea that ONE leader gathers power to himself in order to get others to effect change. I understand that these folks are used to having a monarch lead them, or a general. But I don’t understand WHY the are so afraid of him.
      So afraid to go against him. As charismatic as he is, if they all disagree, they could refuse to do his bidding; his power would disappear. He’s not supernatural. He’s just the son of a smart guy who wrote down ideas about government. He is NOT more powerful than the King. He has yet to prove to be smarter than this King.

      • 25.1.1 mskololia

        Hi Jomo,

        I think Garion holds the key to their (ministers) downfall if played correctly since these guys adhere to the rule of law and are a Confucian society. They all signed their death sentence by inking their names in allegiance to Milbon. At least, this is what I understood, but my take could be wrong. 🙂

        Garion could cause a rift in society between the haves of the nobles with the have-nots of the commoners by publically displaying their names on that little piece of paper. The king would lose half of his government officials throwing the country into chaos, and they themselves could lose their heads and/or their status becoming impoverished.

        • Jomo

          Makes more sense now!

      • 25.1.2 bd

        A bit ironic since JKJ is against Sejong (despite being a benevolent ruler) for having that power; guess it’s not an issue when HE’S the one w/ the power.

  26. 26 Ming

    I officially hate Jung Ki Joon.

    • 26.1 Linda165

      OMG me too! So so so very much!

  27. 27 anais

    Ditto Lemon & Ming.

    It’s especially easy to dislike Jung Ki Joon because he’s so clearly on the wrong side of history.

  28. 28 anais

    Headsno2, thank you so much. Love the writing. Totally grateful that you’re so prolific.

  29. 29 neener

    thanks for the fast recap!!!!!!!!! I think I’ve been reading a lot these few days!!hehehe!!

    I just love Mu-hyul!!!!!!!!how can he be so loyal to that extent??!?!? I just sooo love his character!! can’t wait to watch this episode!!!!!

    • 29.1 queencircles

      I know. It is so epic when he shouts his own name and what his duty is, just like last time! Love his character.

    • 29.2 anais

      After King Sejong, Muhyul is my favorite character. Prior to this role, the actor had never played such a sexy schmexy character. The actor must be quite psyched to show this side of himself, and I hope this role allows him to receive offers for a wider range of roles.

  30. 30 queencircles

    Man. I love this show. Great solid ending of this episode. You’re reaction of “Boom! Our boy is back!” is exactly what I was feeling inside.

    I can’t wait to see what happens next.

    And it’s gotta be said … the prince is such a cutie. I noticed before, but he’s just got the cutest worried face, which he had on like, this entire episode.

  31. 31 Momma

    I have never hooked any historical drama before. This show is extremly gorgious. The plot is like a rollercoaster. This totally makes me want to read the novel but cannot find any.. So just wait and watch the next eps.

  32. 32 Suzi Q

    Didn’t like the character Chae-yoon much,but yeah! Ddol- bok is back!Can’t wait for Ddok-bok tokick ass.

    Did they remove Yoon Pyung’s guy eyeliner and makeup?Seems different (more paler)from earlier episodes.

  33. 33 cv

    Thanks for the recap! So far, so good.

  34. 34 Kiara

    Awww is our prince going to make it?. Think positive ..think positive….

  35. 35 soomp

    woooo – thanks for catching us up on the recaps. loved reliving the last 2 eps – can’t believe how totally awesome this drama is.

  36. 36 Admiralphlox

    Awesome, marvelous, fabulous series and recap.

  37. 37 So3

    Contrary to most other dramas that I like, I never had the urge to watch the next episode, simply because this drama has been TOO GOOD that I find myself feeling the satisfaction after watching each episode that I can actually just try to recall previous episodes without yearning too badly for the next couple to come. Weird huh?

    There’s no way I can guess where the plot is going yet I never find the change in directions done in a forced and absurd way. Things are revealed at lightning speed compared to most other dramas and that’s why I couldn’t guess where the writers are heading to, and the only thing I know is that the journey that we’ll travel along will simply be AWESOME.

    I can’t even write about Sejong. The depth and layers of this character? The delivery done by Han Seok Kyu? Simply floored me. I feel that the character of Chae Yoon will actually be developed with much more layers after this episode (since during previous episodes he pretty much lived on the only goal of his whole life – to take revenge). Now I’ll wait patiently to see how the writers and actors will continue to impress me next week.

    BIG THANK YOU to HeadsNo2 for the recap!! 3 recaps in 3 days! You’re just as amazing as the team of TwDR!! Love the discussion here! Daebak, everyone!

  38. 38 dany

    Thank you, you are so fast and this is such a good series.

  39. 39 Linda165

    Wow Headsno2 you’re on a roll! And you’re awesome!

    During the first part of the episode I was: “Aw shucks! Here come the court machinations that tend to drag out saeguks”. But then came the amazing second half and I breathed a sigh of relieve.

    Chae Yoon is officially my favorite character. Yeah, I know yesterday I said Sejong was my favorite, but a fangirl can change her mind, like in every episode, can’t she? That scene between Chae Yoon and the King at the beginning was just incredible. Sejong has some balls!!

    Jo Mal Seng keeps surprising me and I’m glad he’s in uri King’s side.

    Those seconds that passed after Chae Yoon said:
    “Nega…” I was literally jumping up and down screaming: Say Ddol Bok! Say Ddol Bok! Say Ddol Bok!

    • 39.1 Jomo

      You can love both!!

      We all wondered how just HOW could DB/CY’s heart change enough to go to the King’s side? How could this man so hell bent on revenge for this beloved father’s death rein in his hatred and turn around? The idea that the reason for his revenge becomes the reason for his change of heart is AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!

      PS LOVE the king. Love Soyi. Kinda love DB/CY – he is rather awesome but he needs to re-prove himself to me now that he is no longer on the dark side.

    • 39.2 mskololia

      Yeah, I love all of the characters. They make the storytelling that much richer for me.

  40. 40 mskololia

    Hi Headsno2….Thanks a million for the lightning speed recap!

    This is truly a love child of a sageuk. One can tell that it was created and birthed with love by all involved.

  41. 41 delta777

    Thanks for the awesome recap. A BRILLIANT and EMOTIONALLY MESMERIZING SAGUEK.

  42. 42 donits

    this is the best sageuk drama after jewel in the palace! i don’t know which is no.1 for me..maybe both are no.1..:D

  43. 43 MsB

    I really should cut the crap!! LOVE THIS!! He’s BAAACK!

  44. 44 Weelai

    this was by far, my favorite episode! very emotional and touching. I cried non stop!

  45. 45 Lilian

    I was just wondering what Dol Bok’s father’s message was! Amazing…..he isn’t an idiot at all , for him to understand the importance of education. Yes, in the past, education was not so much of an equaliser for status/wealth but now in this century it is definitely one of the factors!

  46. 46 Rachel

    Totally agree about Chae-yoon’s scene with his dad and Dam’s dad. Damn that was so moving and so powerful! To see his father finally so happy, fully aware of his circumstances and there to give Chae-yoon the worldly wisdom only a father could give.

  47. 47 Shinubi Wang

    If I were transported back to that era, I would set up a CIA type organization complete with its Black Ops. So far we have seen Mil Bon with its excellent intelligence gathering while the King is bumbling along like Magoo.

    The petty officials are running rings around him and is a King to be bullied this way? Silly asshole.

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