The Moon That Embraces the Sun: Episode 9
Wol finds out just how much danger lies inside the palace walls, and the king struggles to keep his curiosity, and his heart, locked away. It’s a crucial episode for Wol’s character, who hits rock bottom in more ways than one.
Ratings hit another high today at 34.5%, which is kind of insane. I thought low thirties would be the ceiling on this thing, but I guess there’s no slowing this train. Captain followed at 7.8% and Wild Romance at 4.4%.
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Hwon stirs awake in the dark room and pins Wol to the ground, demanding to know who she is. Woon stands in the corner but doesn’t interject, because I guess you can’t exactly tell the king to take a chill pill.
He yells for Hyung-sun to have every candle lit in the room. They light the candles… and he’s still got her pinned? While they lit every single candle? Well that’s an excuse to cop a feel if I’ve ever seen one.
He finally recognizes her in the light and his eyes widen. He trembles as he asks what she’s doing here, and whom she works for. He works up to a furor, and the professor who brought her here in the first place comes running in to explain that she’s not a person, but a talisman.
The king screams back that this non-person talisman took a hand to him while he was sleeping. How is anyone to know if she intended to strangle him, or seduce him, or take a knife to his throat?
But Wol boldly speaks up and asks for a chance to explain herself. She quotes passages from texts she’s read, and says that a king who carries the weight of a nation on his shoulders needs to lay down that burden and rest properly.
He doesn’t think that explains why she touched him, and asks how she could possibly know his burdens. She haltingly says that the woman’s name he whispered in his fitful sleep conveyed enough, and that she knows it was wrong, but she wanted to give him comfort in some small way.
It’s enough to fire up his suspicions again that she reminds him of Yeon-woo. As she talks, we switch to his inner thoughts, as he tries to convince himself that this isn’t her. “No, she’s not Yeon-woo. If she were Yeon-woo, she wouldn’t pretend not to know her own name.”
She calls out to him, as he repeats to himself that it’s a mistake, and that he has to let it go. He gets up abruptly, and orders her to be kicked out of the palace at once. He trembles as he does it, as if kicking a drug habit he knows is bad for him. It’s the letting go of the illusion or hope that she might be Yeon-woo that pains him. He ignores her cries as she gets dragged from his room.
Nok-young tries to intervene by saying that Seongsucheong will punish her by supernatural law, but the professor refuses to hand her over, and locks her up in jail with a warning to the guards to keep it a secret.
She panics to be locked in a wooden box all over again, and pounds on the door screaming for help. Hwon sits up, now haunted by the memory of Wol’s hand on his head as he slept. Wol in turn cries as she remembers Hwon’s words that a thing that isn’t even a person dared to touch the king.
Yang-myung heads toward the palace, after doing a little sherlocking to figure out who’s responsible for kidnapping Wol (though he has yet to find out her name or confirm his suspicions that she’s Yeon-woo).
He enters the palace and goes straight for the guilty professor who gulps in fear. Well if you weren’t already the prime suspect, that would have given you away. Yang-myung presents his story of valiant rescue and shows his head wound, all pouty, “It looks like it hurts, doesn’t it?” Pfft. He’s totally enjoying this.
The upshot is, Yang-myung knows he took the girl. So where is she? He sputters and lies that they kicked her to the curb, and he doesn’t know where. Yang-myung heads out, dejected to hit another dead end.
He runs into queens grandmother and… er, stepmother, I guess, (queen dowager and queen mother) and bows respectfully, wondering if something’s amiss. Grandma is especially spiteful and implies that Yang-myung has come to the palace knowing that the king has been threatened.
Queen mother actually defends Yang-myung, saying that surely he’s here to comfort his brother, but Grandma’s having none of that, and warns Yang-myung to heed his orders to stay away from the palace entirely. Assuming he’s just waiting in the wings to take the throne, she pretty much says over my dead body.
They start to walk away but he stops them, musing that what Grandma’s really worried about is the fact that the king has no heir to succeed him. Her jaw hits the floor. He guesses that in order to see that happen, she’ll have to live to be a hundred, so it’s likely that he’ll outlive her. Damn. He says he’ll be praying for her to live a long, long life, and turns to go with a giant self-satisfied smile. Ha. But when his back is turned, the smile fades and his face hardens.
The queens meet with Hwon to make sure he’s okay, but Grandma’s still worked up over Yang-myung’s visit and tells Hwon that he needs to hurry up and make an heir, and secure his line of power, and keep his distance from Yang-myung. Yeesh. She says with foreboding, “His very existence is a threat to you…”
Yang-myung heads to a temple where a woman dressed in a monk’s clothing is praying. She greets him by name, and he smiles, “Mother.” Oh thank goodness. I swear, if anyone else was going to be mean to him today, I might’ve cried.
He sweetly tells her that even without all those fancy jewels and headdresses, her hair is still the fairest. Aw. She sweeps her hand over her hair shyly, and tells him that she hasn’t been able to take that final step yet as a priestess/monk, and says she’ll shave it all soon.
He tells her not to, because you never know – something might happen to Hwon and then she might end up the queen dowager, after all. She looks up at him worriedly, asking how he could say such a dangerous thing. He assures her that he’s taken her words to heart his entire life.
She repeats the metaphor we heard him use as a teen – that a tree might want to stay still, but the winds will eventually move and sway it. (Though he used it differently, to motivate his wanderer’s life by moving where the wind takes him.) She tells him not to be swayed, because that’s the only way he’ll survive. Basically: don’t rock the boat or you’ll die.
He asks if she believes in the transmigration of souls (reincarnation). He says he’s emptied his mind, and has no ambition for anything, not even the throne, “But… for one person…”
“If there’s such a thing, then there’s just one person I want to meet again.” With tears in his eyes, he continues, “That she might not recognize me… that she might choose another over me yet again… that I may have already met her, and will lose her again… that’s my only worry.”
He wanders back to the place where he lost her, and wonders to himself where he can go to find her again.
That night Hwon asks what Woon thinks about Yang-myung, since he should know his hyung better than anyone. Woon asks if he suspects Yang-myung’s motives, but Hwon says no, he’s just worried that before he bends, he’ll snap. Has everyone in the universe conferred and agreed that Yang-myung = tree? Because what’s with the over-extended metaphor, people?
Hwon: “Don’t you think it’s funny, the seat of the king? I have to treat my brother who shares my blood as an enemy. I find this seat especially tiresome today.”
It reminds him of Wol’s explanation the night before, about wanting to ease a little of his tiredness, and suddenly asks Woon to check on her.
Wol sleeps slumped over in her cell and stirs from a nightmare, or a vision, as someone calls out “Yeon-woo-ya!” over and over. It turns out to be real – her mother wakes up from another nightmare where she tries to save her daughter.
Only when she wakes up, young Yeon-woo is there by her bedside. Mom hugs her tight, breathing a sigh of relief that she’s alive after all. She asks heartbreakingly if dying wasn’t painful, or cold, or frightening.
Yeon-woo just wipes the tears from her eyes, and tells her to be strong. She wakes up to an empty room. Wol stirs in her sleep, crying, “Mother, mother.”
Meanwhile Seol is chomping at the bit to break Wol out, and rails at Nok-young for not doing anything to save her. She screams that it’s because of her that Wol can’t breathe in confined spaces.
She suggests they just tell the king everything – that Wol is Yeon-woo, so that he can save her. Nok-young shuts her up angrily, warning her not to speak those words ever again. She’s gathering her thoughts for a plan, and insists on quiet.
Yeom finds himself wandering back to his old house, flooded with memories of Yeon-woo. He’s surprised to hear sounds coming from inside, and finds his mother hunched over Yeon-woo’s things and crying.
He asks why she came back here when she was doing so well by staying away, and she cries that Yeon-woo came to see her tonight, and it felt like she had something to say. He cries to see her still so distraught, and brings her back home. He leaves Mom in Princess Min-hwa’s care and heads back to lock up their old house for good.
Apparently Wol’s making the rounds to visit everyone’s dreams tonight, because next she shows up in Bo-kyung’s dreams, making her wake with a start. She panics, wondering why that dead girl is showing up in her thoughts.
Hwon tosses and turns, unable to shake Wol’s presence from his mind. He passes by the cooks the next morning and they bow expectantly, having prepared the same meal he praised them for when he was in a good mood.
This time he snarks that they must plan to feed him the exact same thing until the day he dies, totally back to the cold and bitter Hwon. They sigh to themselves and swoon over the memory of once seeing his smile. Heh.
Bo-kyung catches them swooning over her husband and they prepare for her wrath, but she slaps on a fake smile and pretends to be fine with it. She goes to see the queen mother and cries that there are rumors circulating about the king keeping a woman close.
Mother assures her that’s not the case, but Bo-kyung pleads with her, to allow her to be by the king’s side freely, insisting it’s the only way to calm the rumors. But the queen mother says that Seongsucheong has declared they must remain apart until the day of their consummation, and forbids it. She adds that the queen dowager has brought a human talisman to aid in the king’s recovery, and it’s working well.
The king meets with his assembly, who wait on pins and needles for him to blow the lid on their palace construction project, aka their front to launder money for their nefarious private militia.
He totally toys with them, purposely giving a few false starts and putting them at ease before launching the real question, about the progress on the building’s construction. Minister Yoon offers up that if he’s concerned he ought to take a look for himself. The king responds that it seems a little late for that.
The council of evil gathers to gripe about the king messing with them, because he clearly knows something, but isn’t striking. Why? One of them guesses the meaning behind his statement that it’s too late – he knows that even if he were to overturn the construction project, it’s too late to stop their plan.
They figure that he’s waiting for the right moment, and Minister Yoon muses that the king is waiting for the chance to do a clean sweep all at once – to clear up the corruption from the roots, and not just injure one arm of the plan. Well that’s what a smart person would do.
Bo-kyung tells her father about the human talisman and worries that despite being considered an object, it is still a woman that they’re keeping close to the king, and she can’t abide it. She asks him to request the queen dowager to remove her at once. He chastises her for being so childish as to be threatened by a shaman, a nobody, and leaves her fuming.
He goes to see the queen dowager, who greets him snidely that he must be coming up in the world since he’s been by so infrequently. They laugh and smile but they each gripe to themselves that he’s gotten cocky and forgotten who gave him that position, and that she still thinks herself a powerful player. It’s great when the villains turn on each other. Makes the hero’s job easy.
He takes issue with her bringing Nok-young back as the head of Seongsucheong, because of course the interim shaman in charge was loyal to him. But the queen dowager won’t budge on this matter, trusting in Nok-young’s power even if it frightens them. Above all, she says, “The dead no longer speak,” meaning she’s proven her worth in the clearest way.
The day has come for Wol’s punishment, as guards come to drag her out of her cell. She gets strapped to a torture chair as Nok-young, Seol and Jan-shil watch in horror, but they can’t do anything to save her. A guard takes a branding iron out of the fire and raises it to her face…
Meanwhile Hwon is outside, getting in some archery practice? Dude, someone’s face is about to be marred for touching you, and you’re playing with arrows? Woon comes up and actually takes Wol’s side, which Hwon notes with surprise.
He sighs, “I know, she’s not the dangerous one. The dangerous one is me.”
Nok-young watches the branding iron get closer and closer to Wol. She asks Ah-ri what to do – if she reveals Wol’s identity it’ll save her from this, but then she’ll surely be killed anyway. She begs Ah-ri for an answer.
The iron gets inches from her face and Jan-shil screams… as someone calls out for them to stop. Ohthankgod.
It’s Hyung-sun, here with orders from the king, that Wol be pardoned to return to Seongsucheong and fulfill her duty. Tears of relief come like a wave, as she trembles.
Hwon turns to Woon and says that he knows he should push her away. “But I can’t.”
Wol sits stone-faced in her bed, not having touched her food. She asks Nok-young to be allowed to go outside the palace just once. Nok-young begins to refuse her, but she says tearfully that she has something she needs to do.
She says with a painfully broken spirit that she knows now fully what she is, and what lines she cannot cross. Oof, the way she says that she learned her lesson kills me, when you think of how bold and idealistic she was as a child.
But she says that she at least wants to break the prejudice against her for being an orphan, and asks for permission just this once: “It is my first and last request.”
So she heads out of the palace walls and walks through town, just mere feet away from her mother and Princess Min-hwa. She heads to the paper store and rifles through the colorful parchment. The shopkeeper asks what she’s choosing the paper for, and she says it’s for an apology, the same kind of admission of fault she wrote to Prince Hwon when she was young. Oh, is she going to write the king the same way? I’m already excited.
Something about being there triggers her memory, and she hears voices as if they’re in the room – young Seol and Yeon-woo talking about what sort of parchment is appropriate for this sort of thing.
She runs out, flooded with these thoughts, and realizes that she never saw that man that saved her, and never thanked him. She heads back to the last place she saw Yang-myung that day and sighs, thinking there’s no reason he’d still be here, days and days later.
But when she turns around, there he is, staring right back at her. Eeee! They meet again! He looks at her full of shock and emotion, while she smiles at him, only seeing him as the nice man who helped her that day.
They go back to the parchment store and she thanks him for helping her that day, and apologizes for not keeping her promise to return there. He laughs it off and says it’s no big deal, since it’s not like he successfully saved her anyway.
She wonders why he’s dressed as a nobleman today, and he hurriedly clears up the misunderstanding that he’s not a monk, no-siree. He says that he’s a free bird, and offers to take her away to anyplace that she wants.
She says that she’s in a safe place now and that she’s fine, but it triggers another memory – of young Yang-myung offering to throw away his identity to run away with her. Aw, even just the flashback to that moment breaks my heart all over again.
She asks if maybe he’s related to the king. Yang-myung smiles, wondering how she knew, maybe hoping that it means something more. But she says that it’s her shaman powers – she saw a glimpse of his past. No, it’s your past! Ack!
He deflates. She asks if she can give him a word of advice: “It’s time that you let go of the one you keep in your heart.” He stops cold. She tells him to empty that space in his heart for someone new.
“Don’t struggle to cover the truth with laughter anymore. Isn’t it too painful a thing to live your life in disguise while lying to your heart?” It stirs him, but then he smiles to cover it up, as if on reflex.
He asks her name, and she starts to say that she doesn’t have one, but remembers the name the king gave her. She tells him that it’s Wol. She thanks him again for his help and says that she’ll pray for him to meet someone new. He’s so lost in thought that he doesn’t realize she’s walked out.
Mom and Princess Min-hwa are headed to the same store, and Wol bumps right into her mother on her way out. But her face remains covered as she bows an apology, and Mom tells her it’s okay.
Yang-myung comes running out belatedly, and his sister grabs him in surprise, wondering what he’s doing here. He barely registers them, scanning the crowd for Wol. Min-hwa guesses that he’s got a new girlfriend, and he just agrees with her to get her off his back, and runs into the street, but she’s gone.
Back in the palace, she uses her new parchment to write her admission of fault.
Nightfall. Wol gets led to the king’s chambers, back on talisman duty. She enters the inner chamber alone and finds the king standing there, waiting for her. He says in his cold and bitter tone that he skipped the sleepytime tea tonight, and will do so each night from here on out.
He repeats her words that he needs to lay down his burdens and treat his weariness, and approaches her, saying he’s extremely tired. Whoa, is this going where I think it’s going?
He tells her that she’ll have to make him forget his troubles and lay his burdens to rest, and asks if that’s something she can do, as if challenging her. But she surprises him by saying that if he’ll let her, she’ll do whatever she can to fulfill her duty to the king. She’s basically now fully been stripped of the illusion that she’s a person. Augh that just breaks my heart.
Meanwhile Bo-kyung stews in her room, unable to shake the thought that something else is going on. She storms over to the king’s chambers against everyone’s pleas, and gets past Hyung-sun to the inner room.
She hears the king’s voice asking Wol to lift her face. Bo-kyung braces herself and cracks open the door…
She gets a glimpse of Wol from the side and scrunches her face in surprise. She looks up to see the king standing just a few feet away from her, looking into her eyes.
So far I actually like the arc that we’re getting for Yeon-woo/Wol because we meet her as a headstrong idealistic girl and find that she’s maintained the same spunk as an adult, so that when she goes through this transformation, her spirit broken and her worth reduced to nothing, it’s certainly more heartbreaking to know who she really is on the inside.
It’s not so much the loss of status – going from princess bride to object – that gets me in the heart, but the loss of her personal self-worth that resonates with me. When she finally gives in to what the world is telling her, it’s the first time I feel that pang of true sympathy for the character.
So far she’s had some lovely moments with both Hwon and Yang-myung, and the tragic love triangle seems to be as strong as ever. There’s obviously a hefty amount of suspension of disbelief that has to go on with both brothers just believing that she’s someone else who has Yeon-woo’s face (or perhaps that she’s been reincarnated in this way), but then on the other hand, them holding out hope that she’s not dead would be just as weird.
I do like that her flashbacks are explained away by her delusion of shaman powers – she thinks she’s seeing into other people’s pasts, without realizing that the link is her, which I actually like. It feels logical to me, whereas I would have liked to see Yang-myung be a little more dogged in his disbelief, because he seemed to immediately recognize her as Yeon-woo when he saw her last week. But methinks it’s not a bone he’s about to let go so easily, and I’m sure Hwon will do his share of interrogating in due time. Hwon’s got his share of darkness so he’s set up for a good arc, but Yang-myung feels like the same person from beginning till now, just more heartbroken. It works of course because he’s an obviously sympathetic character, but I hope there’s a bigger journey in store for him.
- 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
- 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