The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 13
And thus begins the noble sacrifice portion of the drama. At least the dramatic tension is certainly higher when the baddies gain some traction—it’s been a while since we’ve felt some real conflict around here other than broken hearts, and this episode marks a turn in upping the stakes. (At least death and torture are inarguably scary, as opposed to the gasp-he-might-sleep-with-his-wife storyline.) Ratings hit another high at 38.4% today.
EPISODE 13 RECAP
Hwon flips Bo-kyung on her back, ready to bed her angrily out of duty. ‘Cause nothing says romance like royal heir-making on Grandma’s orders.
Bo-kyung cries a tear, saying that she’s a woman too. How long will he keep his heart filled with the memories of a dead woman?
But elsewhere in the palace, two forces are at work. Nok-young and the others in Seongsucheong pray for the consummation to go well, while the other shaman that Nok-young confides in casts a spell to disrupt it.
Suddenly Hwon clutches his heart and gasps for air. Bo-kyung practically rolls her eyes, asking if he’s going to play this ol’ game again and set everything back to zero. But he’s not playing, and loses consciousness, right on top of her.
She screams for help. Looks like you’ll have to wait another supernatural cycle to get your man.
Meanwhile Yang-myung asks Wol if she won’t come with him, and she says that a shaman cannot love because, “We are simply bowls to be filled with the spirit of the gods, and nothing else can fill that bowl.”
But she thanks him sincerely for treating her like a person, for wanting to take her away from all this. Wol: “But I can’t give you a false heart, out of gratitude.” Oof. It hurts, but it’s the truth he needs to hear.
That shaman stuff doesn’t make any sense to Yang-myung, who just sees people as people, and asks, “Is there no one who can move your heart?” Her gaze shifts, but she doesn’t answer.
Jan-shil comes running up to her to say that the king has collapsed and they’re calling for her. She runs off in an instant, leaving Yang-myung to muse that she shouldn’t have given herself away so easily. Man, little bro beats you even when he’s unconscious.
The king’s physician tends to him, everyone in worried fits and Hyung-sun in tears. Wol rushes in and sits by his bedside, and then instantly, his condition changes and he gets better. The doctor gapes at the sudden recovery. Well if they didn’t believe in Wol’s powers before, this pretty much settles it.
She sits by all night, crying and worrying. The gong sounds and it’s time for her to go, but suddenly Hwon grabs her hand and opens his eyes. She smiles in relief and he asks if she was worried, “That I would be with another woman?”
She says she has no right to feel anything about that, and he smiles, asking her to stay till morning.
The Euigeumbu investigates what happened to the king—is the consummation date to blame, or did his physician miss something? But they sensed a new spiritual energy at work last night, and determine that someone was purposely attacking the king.
Queens Mother and Grandmother rest assured now that the king’s condition has stabilized, and go to see Bo-kyung. She apologizes profusely to them, saying that it’s all her fault. They tell her there’s no way she could be at fault for this, but she says there’s something she didn’t tell them…
Trembling, she says that she had a bad dream the night before last—a woman dressed in white came to her in her sleep and said that the king’s bedside would be hers to protect from now on, and that Bo-kyung would never bear his heir.
Oooh, nice move. I find it entertaining that everyone in this world is so superstitious, and that for the smart characters, this is an advantage—they use it to get what they want.
She tells them everything—the rumors that the king has shown affection for this shaman, the fact that he knows of her presence (despite her duty to slip in and out in the night without his knowledge). They reel from the shock, and Bo-kyung smiles to herself.
I like that she’s stepping her game up. Bo-kyung was mostly ineffectual before, but now her sharper instincts are showing, and she’s starting to be a bigger obstacle. Bad for the heroes, good for the story.
Meanwhile the council of evil meets to discuss what they should do with this delightful new development. If the king acknowledges that he kept a shaman by his bedside every night knowingly, he’s admitting to an unapproved union.
And even if he denies it, they’ve decided that Wol will carry the blame for using her mystical powers to keep the king from bedding the queen. Well, it does make for a salacious tale. Basically it’s a win-win for the baddies, who know how to manipulate the power of public opinion. They gleefully debate how to begin their smear campaign.
Wol overhears some of the other shaman discussing theories on why the king always falls ill whenever he’s with the queen. One thinks that he’s faking it because he can’t forget his first love.
The other thinks that’s ridiculous—it’s been eight years. Yeah, I’m not really that sold on it either, but whadduya gonna do? She says the other rumor must be true: that the ghost of the dead princess bride who lives in the Silver Moon Building haunts the palace and keeps the king from being with anyone else.
I like that theory. Untrue of course, since she’s standing right there, but it’s more poetic. Er, poetically vengeful, but yunno… she had some stuff to feel revengey over, if you’ll recall. Wol thinks back to Hwon’s reaction to that building, and her own.
Kyu-tae (the Sungkyunkwan-scholar-turned-cop) is on the case that Hwon secretly assigned him, and heads to question the apothecary who gave Minister Heo medicine for his daughter eight years ago (though not the fatal dose he’s looking for).
The old man recalls being called after Yeon-woo’s death to find her parents clutching her for hours, and remembers how odd it was that her body was still so warm after she’d been dead for a while.
Yeon-woo’s mother arrives soon afterwards with Princess Min-hwa in tow, to order some medicine to help her bear a child. Min-hwa adorably whispers to the old man that she’d also like something for her husband as well, wink-wink. She’s so cute.
Mom stops to stare wistfully at some old markings in a pillar, recalling that she used to bring Yeon-woo here when she was little, and they’d mark her height. “I wonder how tall she’d be now, if she were still alive…”
Min-hwa watches uncomfortably, carrying the guilt of Yeon-woo’s death in secret. The old man notes that a man was just here, asking about Yeon-woo. He had claimed he was a distant relative, which surprises Mom.
Wol sits in her room saying the pieces of the puzzle aloud: “Silver Moon Building… princess bride… daughter of Heo… Yeon-woo… Heo Yeon-woo. Heo Yeon-woo. Heo Yeon-woo.” It triggers memories of others calling out her name—Hwon, Yang-myung, Mom and Dad. Her eyes grow wide.
Suddenly there’s a call from outside—the Euigeumbu is here to arrest her. And it’s Kyu-tae who leads the charge. Seol and Jan-shil discover her as she’s led away in red ropes like a criminal.
Nok-young goes to see the shaman who cast the spell, and argues that Wol’s connection to the king was to be severed. He’s firmly in the other camp though—he argues that the place by the king’s side is Wol’s, and that it’s a union that must be protected.
Nok-young says they crossed the point of no return when she first made the deal to save Yeon-woo’s life. But the man argues that it was an act to save her, and that everything must be given a chance to return to its rightful place.
He says it’s not too late to put things back, but Nok-young digs her heels in and recites that age-old nonsense that paves the path to evil: that she’s come too far to turn back now. WHY IS THAT EVER A REASON FOR ANYTHING?
Wol gets interrogated about her whereabouts the evening of the attack, and when asked if there’s someone who can vouch for her alibi, she remembers Yang-myung, but says she was alone, of course, to protect him.
Minister Yoon charges in to question her himself. She insists she didn’t cast the spell, but he says she misunderstands him: “Someone must pay for that crime. Whoever that might be.”
He says that she will undergo unthinkable torture and have every bone in her body broken to pieces. But depending on her answer, he can change that and let her walk out of here on her own two legs.
She asks what it is he wants. He lays out the charge: that she had a secret affair with the king, and that to disrupt his consummation with the queen, she cast that spell to harm him. She denies it fervently.
Yoon: “That’s not the correct answer.”
The deal is basically this: if she acknowledges it as truth, she gets to walk out with her life, and if not, she pays the price in torture and death. She quakes in fear.
Seol paces outside, waiting for a chance to see Wol, and Nok-young joins her. They quickly hide when they see Minister Yoon walk out. He pauses outside, wondering where he’s seen Wol before, because her face feels familiar.
Nok-young finally gets inside to visit Wol in her jail cell, and the first thing she asks is if the king is okay. Nok-young chides her—her life is at stake and THAT’s what she’s worried about? The king’s health?
Nok-young asks if she doesn’t understand the serious charges against her. But Wol knows exactly how serious they are, and also how little it matters whether or not she’s guilty of them. She knows now how convenient and disposable a shaman is, to use as a political scapegoat.
She says there’s no way out for her now, and begs Nok-young to help her figure out how to save the king—what can she do to keep him from falling into their trap? Nok-young calls her crazy for planning to admit to the crime just to save him, and reminds her that her sacrifice will scar him just as well.
Wol cries to think how much he’d suffer and blame himself, for not being able to protect her, because she is one of his people. Yeah, that and he’s in love with you, but whatever, let’s go with a king’s love for his people.
Nok-young shares the same exasperation I feel, because for crying out loud, You’re facing death and torture and many many broken bones! You’re worried about the king’s FEELINGS? Someone knock her upside the head, please.
Soon enough, word spreads and Hwon hears of her capture and scheduled sentencing.
Yang-myung does what he always does after a broken heart, and packs for another trip. He takes one step out the door when Jan-shil comes running up to ask for his help. She pleads with him to help just this once, but he turns away, saying that Wol doesn’t concern him anymore. Well you sure picked a fine time to get over it, didn’t you?
Wol gets dragged out and tied to the chair for her sentencing, and Minister Yoon keeps wondering to himself where he’s seen her before. His associate remembers her from the street the other day, and that jogs his memory—he saw her run past him with the king. He smiles.
But before they can begin, Hwon bursts in, demanding to know what they’re doing without his orders. Wol turns away and hides her face from him, and he trembles with anger to see her bound like that, feet cut up and bruised.
But of course he finds that they’re just salivating in wait for him to do something about it. Minister Yoon practically taunts him to his face. Back in his chamber he roars in rage, and then gets up to go back there and save her anyway…
Hyung-sun stops him with a reminder of who he is. He is the king of the people, and if he tries to save her, then the people lose a king. He says that Wol is a sacrifice he has to make—”You must lose one to save the rest.”
Hyung-sun reminds him that Wol is smart (yeah I’m not sold on that either, judging from her recent actions), and that he should trust her to save herself.
Wol screams in pain as they torture her, and everyone winces except for Minister Yoon, who presides as if he’s watching a soccer match. He finally raises his hand for them to stop and asks why she did it.
She grits her teeth and declares that no matter how many times he asks, the answer will always be the same: she did not commit this crime.
He approaches her and mutters under his breath that he gave her a way out, but she’s not taking it. Oh well, then he’ll just have to torture her until she complies. And they begin again.
Nok-young begs the queen dowager to let Wol go, since she doesn’t even possess the kind of power it takes to cast a spell of that magnitude. But Grandma’s more than suspicious of Nok-young now, since she’s heard that Hwon has known of Wol’s presence for some time.
She accuses Nok-young of trying to use Wol to seduce the king and gain political favor. That just gets Nok-young fired up, asking if she has such little faith in her, how she trusted her to kill the princess bride eight years ago.
The veiled threat isn’t lost on Grandma. Nok-young spells it out for her, since she points out that she has nothing to lose—what if she just wanted to kill the king? How about that? Or better yet, what if she felt like telling the king about what really happened eight years ago? Grandma’s face goes white.
Hwon comes to see her, cutting the conversation short. He surprises Grandma by bowing to her, and asking for her help. She asks if it’s true then that he’s fallen in love with a shaman, and he smiles and says he’s man, is he not?
He admits that he was attracted to her, but that it was nothing serious. He’s mindful enough of his position to throw it away for a lowly shaman. He smiles and appeals to Grandma’s vanity, saying that she’s the only one who has the freedom and the power to intervene.
He thinks to himself that if one is to be sacrificed to save the rest, then he’ll give up himself to save her. Of course you are. Le sigh. Although your current tactic (if it works) is sly enough not to throw yourself completely to the wolves.
Minister Yoon continues relentlessly with the torture, and asks Wol for the millionth time what she was doing the night in question. Suddenly Yang-myung bursts through the gate to declare that she was with him.
That throws a wrench in Yoon’s plan, and he asks Yang-myung quietly why he’s throwing himself into suspicion. (Admitting that he was at Seongsucheong that night means he’s a suspect, and of course, next in line to the throne is the highest motive there is in threatening the king’s life.)
Yang-myung doesn’t budge, and says, duh, what other reason is there for a man and a woman to meet secretly in the night? See, I think this plan could work… but then Wol cuts in to say that she asked him there, to beg him to take her away.
Okay, what now? Let’s everybody jump on the freaking merry-go-round of noble idiocy. Can’t we at least let one person go at a time without piling up on top of each other? You’re getting in each other’s idiot paths!
So to try and keep Yang-myung out of the crosshairs, Wol says that he’s just someone who’s saved her life before, and that she called him there and pleaded with him to take her away from this life. She’s essentially taking the fall for seducing him.
Yang-myung says in any case, they were together that night, so doesn’t that prove what he wants to know? Just then, Minister Yoon gets a message from the queen dowager to halt the interrogation.
He goes to see her and asks what she’s doing, but she says that they’ve gotten what they wanted from this—to show the king who’s boss. Besides which, Wol’s sudden new alibi provides them with something even better—a way to get rid of Yang-myung once and for all. They chuckle in evil glee.
Yang-myung comes to see Wol in jail, and tells her reverse her statement—that he seduced her and not the other way around. That clears her of everything and he says he’ll deal with the fallout. I’m not quite sure how this works out as a solution, because basically they’re just splitting hairs at this point.
Regardless, she refuses. He says she did a good job of lying earlier, so what’s another? If she’s trying to protect him… but she cuts in to say harshly that she didn’t do that to protect him; she did it to save herself. Well that’s just a load of crap.
They both lie through their teeth at each other, all I’m totally not doing this for you! even though it’s absurd because there’s no one else in the equation.
Alone, she says to herself that she’s sorry for the heartache she might’ve caused, but this is the only way to sever ties to both Hwon and Yang-myung and keep them from harm. She asks them not to forgive her.
Hwon hears of his brother’s intervention, which is the first time he finds out that Wol and Yang-myung even know each other. He sees from Woon’s expression that it’s not news to him.
Yang-myung comes to see him and the air is tense between the brothers. Hwon says he heard about the witness testimony he gave today, and muses that it’s unlike him, to stick his neck out for some shaman.
Yang-myung: “Then you don’t know me very well. Unlike Your Highness, to gain one that’s precious, I am willing to give up the rest.” Hwon: “Are you saying that because of my greed to protect all, I don’t know how precious the one is?”
Yang-myung asks him point-blank for Wol, declaring that he’s willing to give up everything to protect her. But Hwon fights back, refusing the request: “When I was a prince, you said that you would’ve protected her… that you would’ve staked everything, your life, to protect her.”
Hwon asks if this is really the way to protect Wol—would she truly be safe by his side? Well listen, she’s safest away from both y’all, but I’m not sure you’re one to argue that she’s safer by YOUR side. Just sayin’.
Yang-myung storms out of the palace, burning up with anger. He thinks to himself: “You who grasps so easily in your hand everything I’ve tried to have, everyone I’ve ever wanted… If you won’t grant me this one request…” The screen goes white before we hear the rest of his thought.
Hwon sighs to Woon, wondering if he was cruel to his hyung. “Woon-ah, I no longer want to lose the people precious to me.”
He says with a heavy heart that now Yang-myung isn’t safe anymore—just as they tried to use Wol to attack him, now they’ll use his illicit love affair with her to kill him. And he says the worst part is, the one who will suffer the most is Wol.
Okay, so we knew it was coming, and yeah, noble idiocy is the name of the game in a drama like this. But it was far from the smoothest execution around, because I couldn’t help but feel that it came a little too soon. The minute-by-minute is certainly better now that the stakes are raised and everything has big dramatic consequence. I do like that we’re going somewhere with the plot in that department.
But the thing that I find a little hard to reconcile is the fact that the political stakes are now up at 10, but the love affair has yet to become an actual love affair. It’s true that to keep Wol in noble sacrifice territory, you want to keep her free and clear of the crime, sure. But it’d be more of a dramatic push-and-pull if she actually DID have a love affair with the king. And I don’t mean just sex, but they’re barely in the flirting/denial stage with each other, except now it’s suddenly life or death. It feels a little like we skipped the crucial steps, yunno, like when two lovers realize their feelings and declare them to each other?
If their relationship had come to a point where they were declaring their undying secret love, this merry-go-round of noble sacrifice would have a little more weight. In some ways Yang-myung actually has the upper hand in this scenario, because not only has he declared his feelings for Wol and not ghost-of-Yeon-woo, but he acts on them.
The problem right now is that Wol doesn’t think she’s allowed to love either man, but is willing to die for them both. That’s tragic and all, but it doesn’t get me in the heart. Because if she’s not going to save herself, and fight for love, then why am I rooting for her? I’d feel differently if she were madly in love with Hwon and willing to sacrifice that love due to the impossibility of their positions. That I get. But right now she’s acting out of a sense of duty to what the king is, not who Hwon is.
I don’t think it’s a leap to say that they love each other. I don’t need to be told that in words to know. But the way the drama has unfolded makes us rely on the love of teenagers to carry the dramatic consequence of their actions as adults… and that’s starting to buckle under the weight of all the noble sacrifice. I feel like it just needs a push to anchor the love in something real and in the present, to make me feel like it’s the kind of love I’d go to the gallows for. I’m not opposed to all noble sacrifice, because if it’s done right, I’m right there with you, bleeding heart and all. Make me want it, Show, or else you risk taking your characters to the brink but leaving us behind.
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 12
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 11
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 10
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 9
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 8
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 7
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 6
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 5
- Interviews with Moon/Sun’s child actors
- Jung Il-woo and the adults of Moon/Sun to appear this week
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 4
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 3
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 2
- The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 1