So much cuteness today, I don’t even know how they crammed it in to one episode, all while moving along the plot and giving us a glimpse of the darkness ahead. I find myself in the weird conflict of wanting to linger in these teenage moments (adorable and heart-warming — I could watch a whole drama about these years) and wanting to hurry to the adult portions, because I feel like the adult cast will be just as strong. Stay! Go! Stay! Go!
Holy moly, and the ratings keep jumping. Episode 3 drew a 23.2% rating. (Take Care of Us, Captain had a 9.4%, Wild Romance a 6.4%.)
SONG OF THE DAY
The Moon That Embraces the Sun OST – “달빛이 지고” [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Yeon-woo and Bo-kyung are brought to the palace to be Princess Min-hwa’s new companions and lessonmates, and Nok-young recognizes the two girls for their true natures: Yeon-woo is the moon she must protect — the one whose proximity to the sun will ruin her family, but who is also fated to stay by the sun’s side, a paradox the dead shaman Ahri was trying to prevent. Bo-kyung is a second moon with dark, malevolent energy, which we could’ve figured on our own without mystical eyes. Seriously? Evil is written all over that petulant face.
The girls confirm that they’re both here for the same purpose, and the realization brings identical looks of Aw, HELL no to their faces.
The queen dowager asks Nok-young to look into the girls’ fortunes — to see if either one is fit to be a queen.
The girls await Princess Min-hwa, edging away from each other uneasily. Yeon-woo makes the first overture, suggesting that they let bygones be bygones. Bo-kyung has been coached by her sly father, Minister Yoon, and recalls his warning not to make enemies in the palace — or at least, to not betray her true feelings outwardly. So she slaps on a smile and agrees, saying she’s sorry for that day, too.
Relieved, Yeon-woo takes her hand to seal the “Let’s be friends” deal. Bo-kyung tamps down her well of inner evil at seeing their hands touching (does the presence of goodness cause that blackened soul to sizzle in pain?).
Prince Hwon peers at his potted plant, which is growing way too slowly for his impatient mind, and decides he’ll just have to seek out the gift-giver to ask what’s been planted. Uh-huh. Because it’s just that important to know what kind of flower she planted, yup.
His dutiful and somewhat hapless attendant, Hyung-sun, reports on the identities of the princess’s new companions. Hwon had guessed Yeon-woo might be one of them, but the confirmation brings a smile to his face and he sighs over how pretty her name is. Then he grabs Hyung-sun’s hands and asks in a tone of desperation for his help. Hyung-sun’s response? An anguished, “Prince, noooooooo!”
Hyung-sun outlines all the reasons why it would be improper, nay, impossible, for the crown prince to meet in secret with an unmarried lady inside the palace. Hwon cuts through the babble with one reminder: “Performance evaluation.” Hwon feigns a bad memory while pointedly asking who it was that helped Hyung-sun when he failed his review. And who was it who helped him study? And who does he have to thank for his promotion? Hmm? Hyung-sun crumbles. I’m pretty sure I adore this relationship.
Hwon writes a note telling Yeon-woo that he was excited to hear of her coming to the palace, and that he’ll send someone to her soon. Hyung-sun bribes the princess’s attendant to pass along his message-pouch to Yeon-woo. It’s slipped inside Yeon-woo’s bag.
The queen, Hwon’s mother, sits with Yeon-woo and Bo-kyung to welcome them to the palace. She’s demure and regal, which is why it’s doubly hilarious when Princess Min-hwa bursts into the room, plops down in front of the girls, and asks eagerly, “Which one of you is Scholar Heo’s sister? Huh? Huh?” She wastes no time, this one.
Upon confirmation that it’s Yeon-woo, Min-hwa declares her to be as pretty as her brother, and gives her a gift right off the bat. While I love that these two are hitting it off, this excess show of favor is sure to breed discontent in Bo-kyung, who is basically Discontent Central already. She glares jealously.
Then the two girls make their bows to Grandma, aka the queen dowager. At least in this scenario Bo-kyung has the upper hand, although the queen dowager hides her deviousness well. Hidden behind a screen is Nok-young, who watches the scene to get a read on the girls, per the queen dowager’s instructions.
Yang-myung finally makes his appearance at the palace, to Hwon’s utter delight. He grabs his brother in a bear hug and is pleasantly surprised to hear that Yang-myung is good friends with Yeom, whom he is on his way to meet.
Hwon is disappointed that his busy schedule means he doesn’t have time to sit down and chat with Yang-myung, so he comes up with an alternative plan: Big Bro will just have to join them, then, in a match of football/soccer between two palace groups. The game pits Blue versus Red: scholars Yeom and Yang-myung join the prince on Blue, while third buddy Woon plays for Red.
Woon is introduced as the first place winner in the recent state exams in martial arts, where Yeom placed first for literature. When Hwon and Yeon-woo had first met, she’d said her brother took first place on one exam, and Hwon had lied that his brother took the other first place. So now Hwon laughs and tells Woon, “You’re the guy who almost became my brother.” Cute how they’re all connected somehow, even if just by coincidence.
During embroidery time, Yeon-woo finds Hwon’s message in her bag and reads it. Hilariously, though, she hears the words in an angry tone — she still thinks he’s upset that she was impudent, totally oblivious to his crush on her. So when he’d written that he was unable to sleep upon hearing of her palace appointment (’cause he was excited, aw), she imagines him growling through clenched teeth, “I’ll send somebody soon, so I’ll see you then.” *Ominous glare*
Min-hwa has no interest in embroidery so she drags Yeon-woo outside to play instead, and a miffed Bo-kyung trails after them. But Bo-kyung recalls the note Yeon-woo had stuffed out of sight, and she heads back to read it. It’s signed with the name Lee Hwon, which doesn’t seem to immediately ring a bell. I’m not sure she realizes it’s the prince, but she does understand that her rival’s getting chummy with royalty.
Min-hwa leads Bo-kyung and her court ladies in a game of Marco Polo. Hyung-sun takes advantage of the moment to approach Yeon-woo, acting as messenger, and asks if she’s Yeom’s sister. Thinking she’s about to be in trouble, Yeon-woo lies and answers no.
Min-hwa sees Hyung-sun lurking and grabs him before he can hasten away, asking where Yeom is. He blurts out that a football game is in progress before catching himself, and that, naturally, Gives Her Ideas.
The three girls make their way to the game, and Min-hwa immediately picks out Yeom in the crowd. She moons after him, by Yeon-woo’s eyes are drawn to Hwon, who has a moment of glory in scoring the first point of the game. Bo-kyung notices the prince as well, her ambitions about to grow bigger.
The queen dowager asks Nok-young for her evaluation on the girls, pleased at the reply that her wishes will come to fruition. The queen dowager is satisfied, but Nok-young leaves wondering, “What joke of Fate is this?” The one who is suited to be queen cannot occupy the queen’s quarters, while the one who is not suited to be queen is fated to do just that.
Nok-young thinks, “Two moons and two suns… and the smell of Death.”
While playing, Hwon trips over a player and sprawls hard on the ground, leading all to gasp in shock. A guard orders the terrified offender apprehended, but Hwon steps in and declares that they should be playing a fair game, and no one is to clear his path or purposely let him have the ball. Yeon-woo is impressed.
A court lady arrives and urges the princess to head back to her quarters (Min-hwa replies idly, “That’s all right, the king’s on my side,” spoken like a true daddy’s girl) and the three girls turn to go. Yeon-woo takes one last look at the field, and Yang-myung cheerfully smiles up at her — only to realize she doesn’t see him, because she’s staring at the prince behind him.
Disappointed, Yang-myung thinks to himself, “I don’t care if everybody else becomes the prince’s people — as long as you would become mine.”
The princess’s entourage crosses paths with King Seongjo’s, and Min-hwa happily chirps to Daddy that she’s made friends and likes Yeon-woo especially. Cringe. I love how candid and sunny Min-hwa is, but girl could use a few lessons in tactful politicking. Everybody is tense at the implication, especially the fathers of both girls — Minister Yoon sees that his daughter has been sidelined, and Minister Heo sees the dangers of too much outward favor.
The king asks the girls to be good friends to the princess, then adds a word of advice using a figure of speech about a palace tree. He asks whether they understand the meaning, addressing Bo-kyung first. She apologizes for not knowing, saying that her father taught her that scholarly learning was the province of men, and the king finds her response acceptable.
Then he asks Yeon-woo, who answers correctly; it’s a saying about not revealing even what kind of trees grow near the palace. Ergo: Keep your mouth shut about court matters.
Yang-myung makes his greeting to the indifferent king, and frankly Seongjo’s cold harshness toward his son makes me unable to find him the least bit likable.
He’s here to make a request of the king — his first, only, and last request. He confesses that there is a young woman he cares for, and if the king has any thought to arranging Yang-myung’s marriage, he would like to make his choice known. Yang-myung screws his eyes shut and awaits his father’s cold rejection, only to have the king ask for her name. He stutters and gives Yeon-woo’s name, incredulous but hopeful, and the king says he will take it into consideration.
Yang-myung’s excitement is adorable and — because we know which way the wind is blowing on this match — heartbreaking.
That evening, the Heo family gathers and asks Yeon-woo what she thought of her first day in the palace. She answers, “It was good.” Mom: “That’s all?” Yeon-woo: “Yes.” She declines to explain any more, throwing back the saying about palace trees. Haha. Dad gives a hearty laugh at her cheek.
There’s some adorable family repartee as Dad and daughter have their tight-knit moment of praising each other, and Mom jokes that she’s sad to be left out. So she turns to Yeom and they have their own mama-son moment. Cute.
Yeon-woo finds Seol outside, who’s practicing her sword skills with a wooden stick. She asks for advice about “somebody” who was sent a letter from “somebody else” and doesn’t understand its meaning. She relays Hwon’s words about sending a person for her, and martial-minded Seol answers that it sounds like a threat. HA.
Yeon-woo confesses that she lied when the messenger came for her, and Seol exclaims that that’s the worst thing she could have done — she’s proven herself to be a coward AND a liar. HAHA.
As Yeon-woo mulls this over, she imagines Hwon in her courtyard again. He addresses her with a smile, asking if she really thinks he means to threaten her. He asks if she’d agree to meet with him, and she says shyly that she does want to see him.
She asks if he’ll send his messenger to her again, but that’s when Dream Hwon disappears, leaving her hanging.
Minister Yoon is not happy with the way things are rolling at the palace, and he asks Bo-kyung if she did anything wrong, ready to blame her for not being able to get the princess to like her. Bo-kyung says indignantly that everybody’s on Yeon-woo’s side, and that the princess automatically likes her because she likes Yeon-woo’s brother. Even a royal relative sent her a letter.
Minister Yoon asks for the name, and she tells him it was Lee Hwon. I still don’t think she realizes it’s the prince, although his last name indicates he’s of the royal family.
Minister Yoon takes this news to the queen dowager, who is amused at the evidence of puppy love but also sees that Minister Heo is increasingly becoming an obstacle to their purposes. She’s dismissive of the prince’s crush, but Minister Yoon sees the threat now that the king has also shown his favor toward Yeon-woo. He urges the queen dowager to hurry their plans to marry off the prince.
Bo-kyung arrives at the palace the next day with new resolve, determined to find a way to stick this time. Her entrance is intercepted by Hyung-sun, who has determined that she must be the Heo girl, since Yeon-woo said she wasn’t. Oh noes! He’s here to take her to the prince secretly, and of course Bo-kyung is willing to comply.
Hwon awaits his visitor in the secret meeting place, and goes through a practice run of turning and smiling to best impress the girl. Omg, this is cracking me up, it’s so cute. He even giggles to himself in anticipation, then hastily takes his opening pose at the sound of footsteps.
Hwon keeps his back turned (nooooo!) as he addresses Bo-kyung, thinking she’s Yeon-woo. He confirms that he is the prince, then turns… but her head is bowed and he’s nervous so he continues, “I don’t know why, but after that day I couldn’t forget your face. After hearing you would be the princess’s companion, I wanted to see you again.”
Bo-kyung smiles happily and raises her eyes… and he’s floored. He demands to know who she is, which naturally confuses her, and he cuts her off to apologize and say he was mistaken. I think there’s a palace official who’s about to get his butt royally kicked.
Hwon glares at Hyung-sun and storms off, leaving Bo-kyung to puzzle this over. She’s seen by the court lady who delivered the letter previously…which hints at future complications.
Min-hwa and Yeon-woo make good-fortune bracelets, and the princess confides that she’s going to give hers to Yeom. Yeon-woo says she was going to give hers to him, too, and Min-hwa gasps, “No! I’ll give this one to your brother, so you give yours to mine. That’s fair, is it not?” Or… you could both give them to your own brothers. But I guess there’s no fun in that. Min-hwa offers to play gift-messenger, and Yeon-woo insists on making hers over, since this one’s too shabby for the prince.
Bo-kyung joins her companions, and deduces that the prince must have been trying to see Yeon-woo. But outside, the court ladies busily gossip that the prince and Bo-kyung were seen together, and this conversation is overheard by the queen, who demands an explanation.
Hwon berates Hyung-sun for the mix-up, while Hyung-sun defends himself since the girl lied about her identity. Hwon asks why she’d do that, since there’s absolutely no reason for her to avoid him. Is there?
To make sense of it, then? A brain diagram to analyze Yeon-woo’s thoughts:
HAHAHA. (Korean media/fandom loves brain diagrams, which always pop up online for various actors and characters. Here’s one example.)
According to Hyung-sun’s calculations, Yeom occupies seventy percent of Yeon-woo’s boy-related thoughts. Growing up with such an outstanding brother, most other boys don’t even land on her radar. Hwon bows his head in dismay.
Furthermore, she will have been exposed to the substantial charms of her brother’s study buddies. Cheery Yang-myung therefore occupies twenty percent, and Woon the remaining ten percent. The latter he calls a cha-gwol-nam (cold palace man), which is hysterical: it’s the Joseon equivalent to the slang term cha-do-nam, or cold city man. Oh man, pop culture cheekiness in a sageuk? It’s gold.
Hwon is discouraged, but he asks after the last dot in Yeon-woo’s headspace, only to hear, “It is you, prince.” Hahahaha. Hwon protests the tininess of his presence in her brain, and Hyung-sun hurriedly explains that it’s just because of their crossed wires and misunderstandings.
Hwon is so irritated that he tells him to face the other way: “I can’t stand to look at you!”
But bad news: Hwon is brought before the irate king, who demands an explanation of the rumors that he was off meeting the Yoon girl in secret. Hwon says that the meeting happened, but was a mistake. Or, rather, he has feelings for the princess’s companion and tried to meet her, but it’s not Minister Yoon’s daughter — it’s Minister Heo’s. The king recalls Yang-myung’s wife request with an Ohhh, crap look on his face.
The king cuts off Hwon’s explanation and says he’ll pretend that confession of affection didn’t happen. He scolds Hwon, pointing out that his thoughtless behavior could put that girl in the middle of political conflict. Thus he’ll let this incident slide, but the prince had better watch himself.
As the girls ready their departures, Bo-kyung is feeling thoroughly disgruntled and almost snaps at Yeon-woo’s innocent comment. Recalling herself at the last moment, Bo-kyung decides to twist things around and shares a “secret” — that she met the prince earlier, who admitted to admiring her from afar. Oh no, poor crushed teenage heart.
The queen dowager has started pushing for the selection of Hwon’s bride, and the king presents the issue to his council. It is decided that all unmarried girls between the ages of 12 and 16 are to be temporarily forbidden from marriage, so they can be presented as candidates for the prince’s spouse.
Tonight is host to an end-of-year ceremony at the palace, and the prince dawdles while looking over his flowerpot and asks Hyung-sun what flower is sprouting from it. Hyung-sun declares that it’s not a flower, but a type of lettuce. Hwon mulls this over, wondering what that means — another puzzle between them — but sighs, “Now I won’t be able to hear that answer, ever.” He orders the plant removed.
So when he heads out for the ceremony and finally sees Yeon-woo, face to face, he looks at her with a cold, blank face. His father’s words of warning — that his actions could end up hurting her — ring clear in his head, and Hwon walks on without a word.
At Seongsucheong, the shamans’ building, Nok-young prepares her team for the ceremony. This is a yearly occurrence enacted to drive out the ghost that reportedly resides in the former quarters of Prince Uiseong (the king’s half-brother who was killed in Episode 1, on the queen dowager’s orders).
It’s a ritual, but also a party, and palace officials enjoy food and drink while the shamans do their work. All of our main characters are present at court, and Yang-myung smiles at the sight of Yeon-woo… who looks wistfully off in the prince’s direction. Oof, this hurts already and we’ve only just begun.
Hwon steals a glance at Yeon-woo but keeps his stern face on, and Yang-myung can read the situation well enough to feel the blow.
Nok-young takes her place at the center of the ritual dance, which somehow transports her to a gravesite. Ahri’s?
As Yeon-woo watches the dance, she hears a voice warning her that this is is “not a Fate you can handle.” It’s Nok-young, telling her to cut ties now, because this is her only chance to escape.
Yeon-woo looks around curiously, wandering into the crowd, trying to find the source of these words. Time slows almost to a crawl as she sees Nok-young standing ominously before her, talk-thinking these warnings directly into her head: “You must flee while you can.”
Then time resumes and Nok-young is gone. A huge masked figure steps into her line of sight, scaring Yeon-woo into dropping the bracelet she’d made for Hwon. The masked figure takes her hand and leads her away, and the two are spotted by Yang-myung, who follows.
Once they’re in private, he takes off the mask, revealing Hwon’s sad face. He tells her, “Do you recognize me?” She nods. He asks, “Tell me who I am.”
She answers, “This country’s…” He finishes the thought, “…prince, Lee Hwon.”
There’s surprise in her reaction, but also youthful hope and thrill. The moment is marked by fireworks being set off in celebration, and Hwon repeats her words from their first meeting, asking if she truly wants him to forget her: “I’m sorry. I tried to, but I couldn’t forget you.”
Then flower blossoms flutter down around them, just like that first time.
And watching from a distance is Yang-myung, crushed.
I make jokes about Bo-kyung being the font of all evil, but I do almost feel sorry for her. Almost. There was enough that happened in Episode 3 to justify her bitterness, because it’s hard enough to be a teenager and make friends in any time and age, but to be burdened with your father’s grand expectations? Cut out of the friendship loop before you were even given a chance? Those setbacks are understandably hard to bear. Yeon-woo seems like the golden child who gets everything she wants without trying, and Bo-kyung is the girl who schemes and plans and never gets what she wants. She is not entirely undeserving of sympathy.
In fact, I wish this was the way we first met Bo-kyung, rather than watching her being so snide and sly in the Seol-beating incident. I get why we were meant to see that side of her first, because then we get to see firsthand the dark energy Nok-young senses in her. But from a character standpoint, I would’ve liked to have seen Bo-kyung entering the palace on a level playing field, and then turning dark.
In that case — if we saw Bo-kyung driven to malicious acts through a progression of hurt feelings, jealousy, and ambition — the drama would be more about showing us that you create your own dark fate by making bad choices (like, say, Myun in The Princess’s Man). Characters in that mold retain their humanity and make for interestingly conflicted personalities. Instead, the drama opts for the Fate line about being good or bad on an intrinsic level, so much so that a shaman can tell at first sight what your nature is. I get how that symbology comes into play in a fantasy drama like this, but I personally tire of the Fate Made Me Do It line of reasoning, which always strikes me as an excuse to be a bad person.
In any case, I adore Min-hwa. In a drama that I suspect is going to drag out the Fated Moon/Sun dichotomy for a while to come, the assertive, forthright princess is a breath of fresh air. Because I fear I’ll need that fresh air to help recover from heartbreak once the brotherly love is put to the test. No, not the bromance!
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