Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 7
You know that feeling you get when you’re part of a secret society and then you realize that other members of that society are getting killed and you might be next? Our characters do. There’s a line in the sand, and Chae-yoon is figuring out who’s on what side and who isn’t on any side – yet. Our hero is clearly going above and beyond the call of duty for our entertainment, and one can only hope he’s getting some overtime with that side of revenge. Is that promise of revenge tasty, Chae-yoon? Because it better be, for all the grief you’re giving me over your future well-being.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
King Sejong fills in the missing character from the ‘puzzle’ left by Scholar Yoon-pil, and ‘Mil Bon’ (Hidden Root) is created. No one else has been able to solve it because it’s a language that they don’t know, and one that Sejong has been working to create with painstaking care and the utmost secrecy. He’s more than dismayed to know the truth to Yoon-pil’s dying message, and it’s only made worse when Mu-hyul arrives to tell him that the dead bodies of the scholars have gone missing.
It looks like my theory of Shim Jong-soo secretly being Jung Ki-joon was incorrect – Jong-soo talks about the ‘group leader’ of Hidden Root and how he has yet to make a move. The female leader of Ban Chon disagrees, and hands him an order from the leader himself… whose identity we don’t know. We do find out the identity of the masked man, PYUNG, who informs the Leader that scholars Sung Sam-moon and Park Paeng-nyeon are the ones who’ve stolen the bodies.
As if reading our thoughts, Chae-yoon sits his teammates down to discuss who’s on what side. He’s written down all the players – the living (and dead) scholars, So-yi, the masked man, the cloth-covered package, the corpse stealers. He separates them to the right and left – basically, who’s on the side of the King and who is against him. It’s a great moment to get a general feel for how Chae-yoon is breaking down the case, and he’s come to his own good conclusions. The most pressing matter is where the corpses are, and he knows that the corpse-stealers must be Jiphyunjeon scholars (after that stunt he pulled by asking the head scholar if he could body-check each scholar for tattoos).
The only wild card, at least in Chae-yoon’s opinion, is So-yi. They don’t know why the masked man didn’t kill her, and there are enough suspicions to place her right in the middle.
Chae-yoon wants to find out who stole the bodies, and knows that the scholars have enough ethics to return the bodies to their families – so that’s where they’ll go to wait.
In an interesting turn, Jo Mal-saeng proves his loyalty to the monarchy (he may be a political schemer, but he’s not as nefarious as Hidden Root) by leading King Sejong to the very cave that his father once saw – complete with the carving in the wall by Jung Do-jun. He’s done this to prove to Sejong that Hidden Root exists, because Former King Taejong had charged him with a last order to help his son, future King Sejong, should bizarre happenings begin to occur in the palace. Bizarre things are indeed occurring, and Jo Mal-saeng has stepped up to the plate.
Juxtaposing this dark and eerie scene is a dark an eerie plot set in broad daylight, as Shim Jong-soo follows the Hidden Root group leader’s mission to find Master Hae-gang. If they can bring him over to Hidden Root, then half of Joseon’s scholars will follow him. The older man asks the same question Sejong asks – who’s left alive to lead Hidden Root? They both pretty much find out the same answer at the same time – Jung Do-jun and his brother Jung Do-gwang may be dead, but Jung Do-gwang’s son, Jung Ki-joon, survived. And that’s exactly who’s leading Hidden Root. Dun dun dun!
Chae-yoon is going step by step in his investigation, and ends up at the house of Heo Dahm to give his consolations for the fact that they don’t have a body to mourn. He asks about the package he delivered to Heo Dahm when he first arrived – the one wrapped in green cloth. It was a book – what they’re referring to as the Bi Ba Sa Ron – but the most curious thing is that it was written in Sanskrit.
He wants to know who he can ask about it, which leads him to the bookstore in Ban Chon. The woman at Heo Dahm’s house said he had discussed the book with the owner of the store, only Chae-yoon doesn’t find the owner when he pays a visit – instead he finds PYUNG, our resident man-in-a-mask.
Chae-yoon acts like he wants to buy a book, and sees Pyung’s iron bracelet in the process – recognizing the symbol as the one So-yi drew for him. He couldn’t be less obvious about knowing, and soon finds a sword held to his neck. Pyung asks Chae-yoon how he was recognized, but Cho-tak comes bursting in and the fight begins. Pyung has no choice but to make a break for it – and he flees out the window and uses the rooftops of Ban Chon to make his escape.
It isn’t the first time Pyung has used the leaping martial arts technique, but when Chae-yoon tries to do the same to follow him he’s stopped by Cho-tak – too many people are around as witnesses. They try to chase down the man-without-a-mask using traditional methods (meaning: only their feet) and are met with failure. In a moment of frustration, Cho-tak calls Chae-yoon out on his Teacher’s possible involvement. Pyung knows the same leaping method that Chae-yoon’s always bragged about, after all. Chae-yoon says that can’t be possible, though, since his Teacher disappeared two years ago… and it’s a strange thing for him to say, because disappearing for two years makes it seem exactly possible.
The King finds himself alone in the assembly room (only he isn’t, as So-yi proves to be a silent bystander). It’s there he vents, as loudly as he pleases, about all of his many troubles. Not only is he figuring out that Hidden Root is alive and well, but that means Jung Ki-joon is alive and well. And on top of all that, Chae-yoon is alive and well, and that other small detail – that he’s there to kill him.
The female leader of Ban Chon gets wind that the palace guards have infiltrated the bookstore, and calls the whole slave village to arms. It’s expressly forbidden that royal troops enter Ban Chon, and both the villagers and the palace guards have a charged standoff outside.
Chae-yoon diffuses the situation head-to-head with the Leader, although she doesn’t seem to recognize him from his younger days. He points out that they came unarmed, and asks her about Pyung. She may be chief of the town, she says, but she doesn’t know everyone. So-yi is among the crowd, however, as she’s on a mission from the King and has a wordless exchange (ha – I swear I’m not doing this on purpose) with a scholar, JANG SEONG-SOO, in disguise.
Her presence isn’t missed by Chae-yoon, who wonders what a court lady is doing in the middle of Ban Chon. Once she’s able to meet with the scholar in private, she hands him a letter. He’s to deliver all the data he has so far (presumably on the super-secret Hangul project) and hand it to her, and then burn all the books related to it in Jiphyunjeon. It’s the King’s command, and he can’t help but oblige. He tells her he’ll met her later tonight at a temple to hand her the information she needs.
Jo Mal-saeng is giving us some nice surprises this episode. I’d originally written him off as just another official bent on subverting the King’s power, but really his objectives are the exact opposite of Hidden Root. He might gripe about the monarchy, but he doesn’t want it demolished. Thus, he goes again to King Sejong – repeating news that Sejong just heard from Mu-hyul about Chae-yoon and other palace guards storming the Ban Chon bookstore.
But he’s there for another reason – to warn the King against trusting anyone. Hidden Root is everywhere, he can trust no one. Not Sungkyunkwan University, not even his beloved Jiphyunjeon scholars. There’s no telling who’s part of Hidden Root, and Sejong must come to terms with the fact that he must suspect those who are hardest to suspect… and then says that he should entrust the investigation to him, and not the palace guards.
Sejong has a waitaminute moment… if he’s not supposed to trust anyone, why should he trust Jo Mal-saeng? In a little bit of a ‘good, let the hate flow through you’ moment, Jo Mal-saeng says he’s done his job and leaves.
Official Lee Shin-juk has been doing some shadowy things through the past few episodes, and it’s been unclear which side he’s on. But now that Jo Mal-saeng has revealed himself to be trustworthy (for now) the following exchange between him and Lee Shin-juk is worth noting. The palace is full of eyes and ears, and Lee Shin-juk knows all about Jo Mal-saeng’s secret comings and goings. What has he been discussing with the King?
In a bit of a witty moment that only makes me like Jo Mal-saeng more, he simply replies that if Lee Shin-juk knows about all these secret meetings then they aren’t much of a secret, are they? He effectively cuts off further questioning by asking Shin-juk about Hidden Root – and we can see, after Mal-saeng leaves, how rattled this question leaves his fellow official.
Jo Mal-saeng’s words have affected Sejong deeply, and Mu-hyul finds him just lying down without his official Kingly robe while he soaks it all in. It’s clear Mu-hyul is his closest and most trusted confidante, and Sejong asks him a simple question.
King Sejong: “Do you believe in people?”
Mu-hyul replies that he believes in Sejong, who says that if that’s so, why does Mu-hyul want to kill Ddol-bok so bad if he knows him so well? Basically, Mu-hyul kills people because he believes them, other people kill people because they don’t believe them, and Sejong feels like killing people the most when he can’t believe himself. Aww, these moral crises bring back fond memories of the young Sejong.
The Leader of Ban Chon meets with her loyal assassin, Pyung, and asks him how he was figured out by Chae-yoon. He doesn’t know, and she simply tells him that he can’t make a mistake again – because Sung Sam-moon is next. Nooooo. Damn you, Show! I knew you were going to do this to me.
Meanwhile, the scholar that So-yi met with in Ban Chon, Jang Seong-soo, is called before the rest of the scholars for some illicit drawings he’s been keeping. It’s clear that Scholar Jang knows he’s been let off easy (the drawings are better than his colleagues finding out about his secret mission) and he hams it up, falling to his knees to say that he’s done wrong. He’s to be kicked out immediately.
Scholar Sung Sam-moon was present when Scholar Jang was brought to task for the naughty drawings, but saw something that the other scholars seemed to have missed. He waits to catch Jang Seong-soo alone, and asks him up front about all the things that have piqued his curiosity – Scholar Heo Dahm was studying Sanskrit, Yoon-pil was studying printing blocks, and now Scholar Jang was caught studying Phags-Pa Script (Phags-pa script was an alphabet designed for Kublai Khan, the emperor of Yuan. The alphabet was used for only a century before the Yuan Dynasty gave rise to the Ming Dynasty, and the alphabet became extinct).
Scholar Jang denies everything, until Sam-moon grabs his clothing to reveal the same square-within-a-circle tattoo that he has – and the same tattoo that’s on the dead scholars. Jang says it’s just a mole, and that there wasn’t anything special about the drawings – he just wanted to look at some pornography. Sam-moon knows better, displaying the curiosity that Hidden Root wants him killed for, and gets into a physical scuffle with Jang to try and wrestle answers out of him.
There’s more to Sam-moon than just curiosity. He knows that members of the Chun Ji (Heaven and Earth) organization are being killed, and he probably fears for his own safety. More than that, though, he wants to know the truth that’s being hidden from him by other members of the same organization, like Jang. He pleads with his fellow scholar to tell him what the King is working on – because only then can he find out who’s killing off the scholars, and why. More importantly, who’s next?
Jang finally seems to give in, and tells Sam-moon to go back and wait – he’ll give him the answer. Something tells me that this won’t happen, since they’re watched in the shadows by Pyung, in his Killing Mask.
Chae-yoon and Sam-moon have, as the truism goes, taken different paths to get to the same point on the mountain (literally). Our investigator has been going step by step, painstakingly working to find out who stole the bodies of the scholars – and after an interrogation with the old man who housed the bodies after Sung Sam-moon and Park Paeng-nyeon took them, he’s made it to the mountain to try and find our curious scholar.
Only, they see another person coming up the same mountain path heading towards the temple – it’s the mysterious court lady, So-yi. She’s come to meet with Jang Seong-soo to get the information he promised her earlier.
Pyung confronts Scholar Jang at the temple, but curiously doesn’t cut him down with his sword – which gives the scholar enough time to yell from the mountain that whoever is coming should run away. It’s clear that he’s probably addressing So-yi, who seems intent to still head up the mountain and toward the screams that end abruptly. Chae-yoon knows that this means the man is dead, and reveals himself to So-yi in order to physically stop her from going any further. He tells her to run back down and inform the King that Scholar Jang is dead.
Scholar Jang isn’t quite dead yet, but suffering greatly. It looks like the effects of poison as he’s bleeding from the ears, and Pyung effectively steals the cloth-covered package that Scholar Jang was carrying. I’m having a little trouble keeping up on my cloth-covered packages – the Bi Ba Sa Ron, a Buddhist scroll written in Sanskrit, was what Chae-yoon originally delivered to Heo Dahm, but that package was stolen – presumably by the bad guys. So is that package the Bi Ba Sa Ron, or something else having to do with Phags-Pa?
Pyung makes his escape, but not before finding Cho-tak in the forest and landing a hit on the palace guard’s shoulder. I love that Cho-tak seems nearly as capable as Chae-yoon, and isn’t relegated to being the bumbly sidekick. When Chae-yoon finds him moments later, Cho-tak tells his friend that no one is around – use the leaping method to his heart’s content and catch that masked bastard.
Chae-yoon catches up to Pyung, who arrogantly asks if Chae-yoon is on the hunt for the coral-cloth-covered-package. Chae-yoon is still upset that he got a slight knick on the neck from Pyung in the bookstore earlier, and quips back – what package? He just wants Pyung to take his mask off. He’s seen his face anyway, so what’s there to hide?
So-yi has run all the way from the mountain to the King without stopping, and uses the ground as a writing pad as she’s without paper. It’s with growing anger that Sejong reads that Scholar Jang Seung-soo is dead. She’s just the messenger, but Sejong directs his cursing and yelling at her – he can’t stop these killings, and now news of another one has literally arrived on his doorstep. Saying that he’s upset is an understatement.
While Pyung is of the mind that Chae-yoon is inconsequential and therefore useless to kill, Chae-yoon proves him wrong when he uses the leaping method against him to cut his mask (and a bit of his forehead) off. Now Pyung’s interest is piqued – so far he’s been the only one able to use the leaping method that Chae-yoon knows, which somehow ties back to Chae-yoon’s teacher – in a way that has yet to be revealed.
Pyung wants to know who he is (oh, now you care) and Chae-yoon isn’t about to tell him. Instead, he’s more than happy to bait the mysterious man into a fight.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
This episode had its good, intriguing moments, but was a little bit slower overall. We still got plenty of good information about our characters as we delved deeper into what makes them tick. It was especially fun, for me at least, to see Chae-yoon go through the case-solving steps to unravel the mystery. There’s some comfort to be had in knowing that he’s capable, and in fact, he might be the only one capable enough to save the King. Sejong has his brilliant mind, but he doesn’t know who to trust and it’s clearly taking an emotional and moral toll on him. Chae-yoon only has to trust in himself, so he’s less burdened by the things that are weighing Sejong down.
Even though Chae-yoon is working toward eventual revenge on the King (which I hope he changes his mind about – we know from drama experience that characters who live on one side of the extreme normally end up dead), it’s interesting that he’s working so hard for his enemy in the process. Maybe Sejong knows this too, because he’s pretty much choosing to do nothing with the knowledge that there’s an assassin in the palace.
I’m really pleased with the way this show is carefully revealing what everyone’s real goals are, and enjoyed all of Jo Mal-saeng’s moments in this episode. His aims, while not the stuff heroes are made of, still differentiate him from the real bad guys in Hidden Root.
I say that with a grain of salt, because Hidden Root is just an idealistic group whose ideals aren’t too bad (in theory) – restrict the power that one man has, and give more to the people. It’s more in line with Sejong’s ideas about being King that were so different from his father’s, which makes it interesting that these two groups are so at odds. There’s the whole matter of revenge for Jung Do-jun, though.
The butcher’s assistant has been silent background material since early on, but the amount of time the camera spends on him is curious. He got plenty of Meaningful One-Shots during the Ban Chon scene, and against my better judgment I’m beginning to wonder if he’s Jung Ki-joon. But maybe that’s what the writers want me to believe and they’re still secretly hiding him somewhere… Damn it! Just tell me already!
I’m just kidding. You take all the time you need, Tree. I trust you.
- 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
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- Song Joong-ki gets his face on currency
- Tree With Deep Roots’ posters, teasers, stills