Power plays, intrigue, conspiracies, mysteries, mass murders, storytelling assassins, awkward tea parties, and drug-induced confessions are just some of the delicacies we’re being offered as we head toward that final and much-dreaded stretch. Who will remain rooted, and who will inevitably be rooted out by King Sejong’s ultimatum? And, more importantly, will our hero save the girl from an enemy he can’t even find?
We’ll have to tune in next week for all of our answers… But is it so bad that I want to tune in next week for the next one hundred weeks?
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Bum-soo – “말하지 않아도” (Even Without Speaking) from the Tree With Deep Roots soundtrack. [ Download ]
EPISODE 22 RECAP
Shim Jong-soo, Jeok-hee, and Pyung are all headed straight for So-yi. But where the other pursuers pass up the roving band of singing beggars, Pyung stops them in order to ask about the location of the missing court maidens. The song they’re singing is the one So-yi taught to them in order to circulate Hangul, and Pyung has a brief flashback to the moment when he received the order that anyone and everyone who knows the alphabet must be killed.
With that in mind, he waits until So-yi’s location is divulged before he sets to slaughtering the whole band. He’s merciless, and doesn’t even spare the woman in the group. Fortunately the leader of the roving band is saved from a horrible death due to being away at just the right time, but that also means that he’s left to witness the murder of all his friends and comrades.
Court maiden Geun-ji, who was previously drugged into revealing So-yi’s whereabouts to Jeok-hee, has made it back to the palace. She’s an emotional wreck, hardly able to even begin to tell her story – and the moment Sejong walks into the Hangul Room, it’s over. She breaks down into pitiful sobs, blaming herself for the fact that So-yi and Deok-geum might now be in danger.
Sejong wants to know how much she told them, and in a shaking voice, she says she told everything. They were looking for the Haerye, and she told them where So-yi was. No one doubts her story, and Sejong looks deeply affected as he considers all the implications this might have. Namely, So-yi. Ahh!
So-yi and Deok-geum have been preparing taffy as incentive to get children to sing the Hangul Song, both of them completely unaware that any danger is headed their way. And though it seemed like Shim Jong-soo and Jeok-hee had a head start over Pyung, he’s the one who makes it to So-yi’s house first. When she goes outside expecting to see her orabeoni, it’s Pyung that’s waiting there instead. Uh oh. Oh no.
Shim Jong-soo and Jeok-hee arrive at So-yi’s house after having found their own ways separately. There’s signs of a scuffle, but no court maidens. A woman passing by is swiftly interrogated by both of them for anything she knows, and the unlikely duo comes to the conclusion that Pyung is the one who spirited away So-yi and Deok-geum before they arrived. Both Shim Jong-soo and Jeok-hee decide that, for the moment at least, they might as well work together since they’re after the same thing (the Haerye).
We find Pyung back in the town, alone. He comes across the group of children commissioned by So-yi to sing the Hangul Song and… oh no. They cut away from this scene, but does that mean Pyung is so ruthless that he’d kill all those kids?!
Both Sejong and Jung Ki-joon are trying to figure out exactly what has gone on in their respective camps. Jung Ki-joon is having to deal with betrayal, as news comes from Pyung that Shim Jong-soo has turned on them and that he even attempted to steal their court ladies (hey, they captured them first).
I kind of love that Sejong has made the Joseon approximation of a graph in order to make sense of the story Geun-ji told him. What Team Sejong has come away with is that Pyung showed up, then Shim Jong-soo showed up and fought with Pyung, and in the middle of all of that, a woman from Ming came and captured Geun-ji, acting under orders from Lee Shin-juk. At least Sejong is able to tell that all three of those parties must be working separately from each other, but even he’s wondering why everything is getting so tangled.
Chae-yoon has come too late to rescue So-yi, and sees the bloodied bodies of the singing band strewn in the street. This propels him straight to So-yi’s house, but there’s no sign of the one he loves. We can see this weighing on him as he yells in anguish, knowing that for the moment, at least, he can’t do anything.
In the street he runs into some of the singing children (looking very much like they haven’t been murdered – phew!) to ask them about So-yi. They say that they were supposed to meet her to receive taffy, but she never came. Instead, a tall man with a ghostly voice showed up.
I don’t know why this flashback is funny, but it is. It’s Story Time With Pyung, as he gathers all the children around and asks them to read Hangul to him. If anyone can, he has a biiiig prize to give them (I assume this big prize is certain death). Fortunately for all of those children, none of them can read the letters – they’d just been taught the song. This spares them from being murdered, and the nice assassin ajusshi tells them that they must never sing that Hangul Song again, because it only calls for death.
Knowing that Pyung has captured So-yi but not knowing where he might be, Chae-yoon goes to Sejong. He blames himself for leaving So-yi and Deok-geum for even a moment, and Sejong is brought up to speed on the status of his court maidens. This doesn’t stop us from launching into a blame-a-thon, though, as the King then takes blame onto himself for not anticipating Jung Ki-joon’s moves sooner. But now, along with their missing court ladies, they’re also hit with the fact that their circulation plan has failed.
So-yi finds herself bound in a room with the two other captured court ladies, Mok-yi and Deok-geum. They’re soon faced with a triumphant Jung Ki-joon, who’s positively reveling in the belief that he’s won over their silly little Hangul circulation plan. I love that So-yi’s got spirit, and she shoots him the most defiant look she can muster. What becomes of this conversation is a mystery to us, as we cut to the outside of the shed where Pyung is grimly standing guard. If Jung Ki-joon has any plans against So-yi, I hope Pyung steps up his game so his crush isn’t all for naught.
Clearly Jung Ki-joon’s single-mindedness and obsession with blocking the letters is taking a toll on even the most loyal members of Hidden Root, as the Leader wonders aloud to Pyung as to what is to become of them. Something must have happened in the palace to cause all of this ruckus, but what could it have been? Hmm, seems like no one’s told them about Sejong’s proposition yet.
It’s time for some cute, as little Yeon-doo has gone alone into the forest to cry over her missing ajusshi friend, Gae Pa-yi. It’s a nice little moment when she writes his name in Hangul on a stone (Jung Ki-joon has seen her use the new alphabet before, but I wonder if he hasn’t had her killed because of her relationship with Gae Pa-yi), and suddenly he appears. She immediately hugs him, which is adorable, and despite all the bad things Gae Pa-yi has done it’s so hard to not like him when he’s just so sweet with her.
She doesn’t know if he’s eaten or not since Ban Chon has been in chaos due to the whole Hidden Root With Hunt, and offers to go and bring him some food. Double aww.
Promulgation Day is approaching, and you can all but feel it in the air. Team Sejong is working hard to sway their dissenters – first by Park Paeng-nyeon and Sung Sam-moon persuading other Jiphyunjeon scholars, and then by Jung In-ji trying to persuade his old friend and schoolmate, Choi Man-ri.
Our two young scholars seem to have more luck, as they’re able to win the debate on whether or not Hangul will be a detriment to learning Chinese characters. Their answer is simple but brilliant (in a way that I’m upset I didn’t think of before), in that Chinese characters can’t be currently learned just by self-study alone. But with an alphabet like Hangul that can be mastered in ten days, manuals and other helpful material can be made in Hangul in order to teach traditional Chinese characters to those who wish to self-study. Therefore, how can the scholars say that Hangul is working against Chinese characters when more people could learn them?
As far as Choi Man-ri is concerned, it’s nice to see that he is rational and logical (as he should be, with his position), but that he’s also human. His rational side acknowledges that Sejong only has good intentions, but it’s his human side that simply won’t allow him to consent to these letters. The Jiphyunjeon scholars may be able to be persuaded, but Choi Man-ri is already too set in his ways. It’s a lost cause, but at least there aren’t any bitter feelings.
Like Sejong, Jung Ki-joon is having his time of wavering and indecision. But unlike Sejong, Jung Ki-joon doesn’t have a Chae-yoon to bring him back from the brink, and so he just seems to be slipping deeper and deeper into himself and his obsession with the alphabet. In many ways he’s become the polar opposite of Sejong – they’re both obsessed with the same thing, but in two completely different ways.
The other Hidden Root members have become aware of this, and it’s Han Ga who specifically pleads for Jung Ki-joon to come to his senses and make some decisions. The offer Sejong made for all Hidden Root members to safely out themselves can effectively make their Hidden Root Scroll (and thus their allegiance roster) moot, thus ending the blackmail-like hold they have over their veterans. At this rate, Hidden Root will collapse. Even the Leader interrupts, knowing that Jung Ki-joon has changed upon seeing the letters. But he can’t forget the mandate fated onto him. He can’t forget how Jung Do-jun died so terribly, and how his father, Jung Do-gwang, also died.
Through all this, Jung Ki-joon remains eerily silent.
Sejong and Chae-yoon are both lost souls, since both of them are helpless to save the woman they cherish. After uselessly obsessing over a map (he doesn’t even know where to start, so it can’t do him any good), Chae-yoon goes straight to Sejong, who doesn’t seem all that happy to see him. Maybe he reminds him of So-yi.
Chae-yoon: “Were you wavering again? Don’t. Due to my error, Dam has fallen into great danger. So I will find her no matter what. As of now, I don’t know how or where to find her. However, remaining like this inside the palace, I cannot forgive myself, Your Majesty. Hence, your humble subject, at this moment, will be leaving to find Dam. Hence, Your Majesty should also go on Your Majesty’s path. May you press forward without faltering, Your Majesty. If Dam were here now, she would have said that to you.”
He fights tears as he says this, and it’s clear that leaving the King, and thus breaking his promise to follow wherever Sejong would lead, is a gut-wrenchingly difficult decision for him to make. He doesn’t ask for permission to leave, nor does Sejong stop him. They just have a tacit understanding of each other.
Chae-yoon is left to wander Ban Chon in misery until he sees a ray of hope… the little girl, Yeon-doo. You can just see the thought processses in Chae-yoon’s mind and how he immediately latches onto her because she’s the only tie he has to Hidden Root now, and the only tie he has to finding So-yi. He treads so carefully that it feels like even his words are treading on eggshells as he asks her if she’s going to her friend, Gae Pa-yi.
He appeals to her both as a child and as an adult, using a soft voice and words she can understand. His eyes glassy, he all but pleads with her to tell him where Gae Pa-yi is, because the court lady he loves is at the place where Gae Pa-yi is at, and So-yi is all Chae-yoon has left. Just when it seems that Yeon-doo is going to acquiesce, her mother interrupts for her to hurry up and tell the kind palace guard so he can catch that horrible Gae Pa-yi. With Yeon-doo’s trust in Chae-yoon effectively broken, she chooses to side with her ajusshi friend and heartbreakingly lies to Chae-yoon that she hasn’t heard from Gae Pa-yi. Aww.
Fortunately Chae-yoon gets the bright idea to follow Yeon-doo anyway to see if she leads him to Gae Pa-yi. He’s saved from a killing blow by her inhumanly strong just in the nick of time, but he’s thrown a good ways away just by blocking the blow. By the time he gets up, which is mere seconds later, all traces of Gae Pa-yi and Yeon-doo have disappeared. Believing Yeon-doo is the one in danger, Gae Pa-yi has set to running away with her on his back.
With his only lead gone, our hero is left alone to wander the forest, crying Dam’s name in the saddest, loneliest voice ever. My heart is breaking for him.
We’re soon back to Lee Shin-juk, whose house of cards is falling down all around him since Shim Jong-soo’s betrayal and Sejong’s proposition. The ticking clock of Promulgation Day can be felt by everyone, and thus the span of time in which Lee Shin-juk can choose to reveal himself or not is slowly disappearing. Through a message from the Ming woman, Jeok-hee, he’s made aware that Sejong most likely knows about his movements. So now, he must debate on whether or not to trust Sejong and reveal himself as a member of Hidden Root – or forever stay silent and suffer the inevitable consequences.
Jung Ki-joon finally breaks his long silence as he tells Han Ga that every grievance that’s been brought against him from the rest of Hidden Root is true. A genuine parliament system would make for a better Joseon, and it would be in keeping with Jung Do-jun’s ideals. Instead of trusting one man (the King) with a nation, it’s better to trust many. However…
Jung Ki-joon: “These letters, you see. Lee Do and myself… It’s a fight between us, with us laying down our thoughts. As for me, this extremely dangerous mischief of Lee Do’s – casting aside history – I cannot just wait and watch. One who understands politics… casting the citizenry aside, without even knowing the end result for which he himself can’t even be responsible… he tries to experiment? This from the likes of a mere King who, at best, can govern for just fifty years?!”
Whichever way anyone puts it, Jung Ki-joon simply can’t accept these letters, and can’t accept King Sejong. At least he recognizes that he’s being single-minded, and says he’s come up with a plan. What is it? Of course we don’t hear it, because that would ruin the surprise.
As Chae-yoon is on his way out of the city to do anything he can to find So-yi, he passes by the only man that survived Pyung’s massacre. He’s trying to get justice for all his people that have been killed, and just when it seems like Chae-yoon is about to pass him up, he hears the man sing the Hangul Song. This instantly warrants our hero’s attention as Chae-yoon instantly takes the singing man aside, desperate to be told every single thing that he saw. He has to find So-yi, and is clinging to what might now be his last remaining lead.
Sejong’s done a little maneuvering himself, and through the use of Sung Sam-moon and his father’s palanquin, he’s able to arrange a secret and sudden meeting with Lee Shin-juk. It’s The Most Awkward Tea Party Ever, as Sejong switches between being jokey and serious as he prods the minister about his involvement with Hidden Root. Lee Shin-juk couldn’t be less obvious, and we know that the King knows about his involvement in Hidden Root… but for the course of most of their conversation, they speak as if they’re roleplaying, with Lee Shin-juk answering questions as if he were a member of Hidden Root. Which of course he’s not. Right? Right. Cue strained laughter all around.
The question of the night is why Hidden Root would have denied themselves that deal to realize a genuine parliament, when that seems to be their highest goal. Through Lee Shin-juk, Sejong is able to discern that there has been a fissure within Hidden Root over Jung Ki-joon choosing to block the promulgation over making the deal for a parliament. Sejong is a master at this psychological warfare stuff, because he keeps laughing to calm Lee Shin-juk down when the minister seems to get worried, in a tone that’s like: Oh, we’re still joking, right? This is so fun, isn’t it? Look at us, just a couple of good buddies having a good time. I love this scene.
While they’re roleplaying, Sejong goes ahead and asks why Lee Shin-juk hasn’t stepped forward as a pretend-member of Hidden Root. The minister boils it down to trust (mainly, that he doesn’t trust in Sejong), even though the King already said that he would acknowledge Hidden Root as a separate political faction, and one that could be debated with, at that. So how much more trust can Sejong offer?
Shim Jong-soo knows that if the court lady Geun-ji made it back to the palace, then she’s surely told everyone that he’s a member of Hidden Root. What he’s also deduced on his own? That So-yi is the Haerye. That’s yet another strike against our favorite girl, and one that Shim Jong-soo seems to be holding up his sleeve when he goes to meet with Jung Ki-joon in Hidden Root’s secret camp.
When Jung Ki-joon accuses him of betrayal, Shim Jong-soo throws it right back at him. It wasn’t he who betrayed Hidden Root, it was Jung Ki-joon, when he chose the letters over a genuine parliament. He claims that Jung Ki-joon was everything to him, but he’s changed too much. Regardless of how frightening the letters can be, he accuses Jung Ki-joon of not looking to the future (which is interesting, since this is exactly what Jung Ki-joon is accusing the King of) since he’s wagered his life on blocking these letters. What’s to become of Hidden Root once he’s dead?
Jung Ki-joon finally asks what Shim Jong-soo wants, and the formerly loyal member responds that he knows where the Haerye is. Well, this can’t be good.
Sejong and Lee Shin-juk carry out their pretend party all the way till the end, neither of them saying what they actually mean yet somehow managing to convey exactly what they mean at the same time. It’s only when Lee Shin-juk is leaving that Sejong drops all pretenses and lays it out straight. Lee Shin-juk is to hand Jung Ki-joon over in exchange for becoming the head of the political faction called Hidden Root, and he can use that power in the court to insist on a parliament system. Win-win, right?
Shim Jong-soo, in the same breath, offers a deal of his own to Jung Ki-joon. In exchange for the Haerye he wants so dearly, he’s to step down from his position as First Root and give it over to Shim Jong-soo. As the new leader of Hidden Root, he’ll be the one to realize Jung Do-jun’s will.
While this wasn’t my favorite episode ending, I understood its necessity. We’ve been flirting with the power play within Hidden Root for a while, so we needed to see payoff in some form. Still, I’m getting the sinking feeling that Jung Ki-joon is becoming more and more impotent – and I don’t think a change in leadership is necessarily going to make Hidden Root menacing again. Especially with Shim Jong-soo, who I’ve honestly never taken very seriously. His scenes aren’t anything to throw away, but I admit that my attention tends to waver when he’s usually on as so far he hasn’t carried all that much weight. Now that it seems like he might be carrying a great deal of weight, I’m not sure if my perception of him can really change this late in the game. But who knows, this show has surprised me many times before.
I’m beginning to question Jung Ki-joon more and more, and not in the way I used to. One wonders if he ever received Sejong’s message throwing his youthful words back at him: “Only violence?” Of course, it’s dramatically fun for him to be at one end of the extreme (in that he feels charged by heaven to block those letters), but goodness, sometimes I wish he’d just move a little more. It does baffle me a little as to how he can get so angry – like when Shim Jong-soo walked in – and still have no desire to even stand. It’s as if he’s been told that he can only act with his face and that he’s not allowed to move his body. This might just be a result of ‘what happens when you’re evil’, though, since he’s pretty limited in the places he can go and the things he can do while occupying the top spot on Joseon’s Most Wanted list.
Of course I still loved the episode as I’ve loved every episode, and perhaps Jung Ki-joon is bearing the brunt of my impatience to see what becomes of Chae-yoon and So-yi. Honestly, whatever happens within Hidden Root is fine – I just want to have a good showdown as we head into the last two episodes. Tree has been so good to us thus far, I’m hoping the final week will really cement this as, you know, the best drama ever.
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 21
- Behind the scenes of Tree With Deep Roots with Sam-moon
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 20
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 19
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 18
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 17
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 16
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 15
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 14
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 13
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 12
- Tree With Deep Roots: Episode 11
- 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