A surprisingly strong episode, which pulls out a nice twist just when I was starting to tire of the current configuration of alliances and intrigues. I’ll give it to this show: It may be plodding at points, but from a character standpoint it does quite a good job drawing out layers and rich conflict. Relationships are always shifting, evolving, and even sometimes regressing, but above all things always move. That’s a good thing, especially when the actual execution of so many of the plot points tend toward the static.
SONG OF THE DAY
Monni – “울지말아요” (Don’t Cry) [ Download ]
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Deok-heung reveals to Lady Choi that he poisoned the papers used by Eun-soo. Naturally, he is the only one who possesses the antidote. She sends Jang Bin straightaway to treat Eun-soo, just as Young is about to tear out of there for help.
Jang Bin starts to examine her, and Young sits by in agitation just dying to help somehow. He pulls out his container of aspirin and offers it up, which is just the sweetest useless gesture ever. He wants to know whether she can be saved, and Jang Bin directs him to meet Deok-heung to find out.
It’s like Jang Bin’s composure under pressure prompts Young to lose his own, and he demands to know how long she has to live. Jang Bin gives her a day at most.
Young takes off running, firing orders at his Suribang mates as he goes. He mentally replays the young king’s death from poison, dead-set against letting history repeat itself. He arrives to confront Deok-heung, and leaves the Suribang swordsman outside to take care of any guards.
That means Eum-ja, who arrives to confront him, flute versus sword. But Dae-man whistles to get Eum-ja’s attention—and dances around on the roof, mocking his flute playing, which is awesome.
Young barges in to find Deok-heung awaiting him with a table of refreshments prepared; he offers him a seat to talk things out. Young is in no mood to play games and overturns the table—he wants the antidote now.
Deok-heung takes offense, reminding Young he’s royalty, and Young replies by punching him in the mouth. He shoves him against a wall with a knife to his neck, telling him that he’s killed countless people in his life, but he always aimed to end it swiftly and with the least amount of pain. That won’t be the goal this time.
Deok-heung grits out that if he doesn’t become king, he’ll die anyway. Young slices the knife across the back of his neck—a shallow cut to warn of the deeper one to come. But Deok-heung tells him, “If I die, so does your woman. She is your woman, isn’t she?” Young releases him.
While Jang Bin works on finding the antidote using his own methods, Eun-soo dreams. Her head is filled with distorted images that look like memories—of her, treating a commoner patient. She has her modern tools but is still in Goryeo, and this is a scene we haven’t seen before. Hm, so is this the other Eun-soo who left her diary behind?
Clearly Deok-heung has orchestrated everything for a reason, so Young gets to the point: What is the condition for the exchange? Deok-heung: “The royal seal. Take it or steal it, but bring it to me and I’ll give you the antidote.” Eun-soo won’t make it past morning, he warns.
Young leaves his sword behind with Dae-man, then slips into the palace. He takes down guards at the gate, but presents himself openly to the king. They’re all pleased to see him, and Gongmin greets him with a lighthearted comments about how he’s technically a lawbreaker and fugitive. But Young’s grave mien has him sobering quickly; he can read the seriousness of his mood.
Young tells him of Eun-soo’s condition, and to save her, he needs something of the king’s. He says it’s the royal seal, as bald as you please, as though he hadn’t just asked for something that would undermine the king’s authority. He understands what he’s requesting, but lays out the reasons why: Eun-soo was dragged here on the king’s order, and saved the Goryeo queen’s life.
Upon hearing that it’s Deok-heung who wants it, Gongmin actually scoffs in incredulity—he’s asking the king to basically just hand his enemy the throne, is he? And for a woman?
Young reminds the king that he’d told him he was his friend and his citizen; now that citizen asks the king to save a life. “Do you still not know why we need a king?” Uh… I’m not sayin’ you’re wrong here… okay, I am. I’m with Gongmin on this one, unless Young has some super-smart secret plan to retrieve the seal right away.
Gongmin calls Young crazed. Young says if the king doesn’t hand it over, he’ll take it himself. Unsurprisingly, Gongmin orders his men to apprehend Young, and the Woodalchi men draw their swords. Choong-seok sees that he’s unarmed, and Young tells him, “Stop me properly, like Woodalchi should.” You’re full of contradictions today, hero boy.
They charge, and Young easily knocks them down and grabs a sword, taking care to hit his men with the flat of the blade. Then it’s one on one, Young against his second-in-command Choong-seok. This fight lasts longer, but ends the same way.
Leaving the king’s party there in the courtyard, Young dashes toward the palace. Next line of defense is a team of archers, but he knocks the arrows right out the air. Woodalchi mobilizes to cut off his next path. Choong-seok vows that they must stop him, and Joo-seok states the obvious: “How can WE stop HIM?”
Next, a wall of men block Young’s path, led by nervous young Deok-man. Aw, you can see his conflict in his eyes; it kills him to stand up to his hero, but I do love the idea that the more his men oppose him, the more proud he would be of them.
Case in point: Young gets Deok-man in a hold, a sword to his neck. Deok-man knows he’s in a bind so he screws his eyes shut and yells at the men to stab him, to get to Young. Damn, if ever there was proof that he learned from the boss. And Young realizes he’s serious, twisting both of them out of harm’s way and getting sliced in the bicep.
Choong-seok stations his men in the room guarding the seal, and reminds them all that the enemy cannot kill them (or rather, he won’t)—so if they find any opportunity, they are to attack, even if that means cutting down the general to protect the seal.
The Woodalchi men nervously bide their time, looking for any sign of Young. None yet.
Then inside, the king’s poor eunuch (who’s already on the verge of a nervous breakdown as it is) nearly has an apoplexy as he spots a foot poking out from underneath the table. There’s an unconscious eunuch lying there. They open the box containing the seal… and find that Young had gotten to it first. It’s empty.
Choong-seok reports to Gongmin that he must have taken the seal before confronting the king. Then he pretending he was heading to that building to get Woodalchi mobilized, and took advantage of their movement to escape.
More poison-wracked dreams for Eun-soo, who pictures herself (the Alternate Eun-soo) writing in that diary. She’s dressed differently from the Eun-soo we know, but clearly the same person. And yet… that name in the end of the diary? It’s actually written “To Eun-soo.” From… Eun-soo?
Young delivers the seal to Deok-heung, gets the antidote, and asks for one good reason why he shouldn’t just kill him right here. Deok-heung replies, “Because one dose is not enough.” Damn. Okay, that’s pretty smart, in an evil way. Now I’m starting to wonder if we shouldn’t just let the guy be king. Not that I’m advocating evilness; just smartness.
To be fully cured, the antidote must be given every three days, seven times total. Deok-heung points out he had to protect his own hide in this deal, and pointedly asks for some proper respect. Young ignores that, continues using banmal, and refuses to stay for a chat, saying that he doesn’t bother conversing “with things that aren’t people.” He stalks out, leaving Deok-heung to fondle his new toy.
The antidote is administered, and Jang Bin wonders how he got his hands on it. Young says dismissively that he traded it for “something useless.”
Young asks impatiently how long it’ll kick in, worrying that Eun-soo is too cold. Jang Bin explains that the poison thankfully didn’t target her blood, but caused a slow paralysis of the heart, which is why her extremities are currently immobile. She’s likely to regain consciousness before the use of her body, so he advises Young to talk her through it.
Deok-heung takes the seal to Ki Chul to confirm that it’s real, and explains that Choi Young brought it to him. A fact that has Ki Chul gaping in shock. Deok-heung tells him to use the seal however he needs to in order to enthrone Deok-heung. In exchange, he offers the doctor to Ki Chul.
Gongmin orders his men to keep this incident under wraps. The Woodalchi men kneel before him and Choong-seok blames their ineptitude for the seal’s theft, asking for punishment. Gongmin is in a dark mood, and makes clear that nothing happened, got it? Because acknowledging it would alert the world to his loss. But if word leaks out, then Woodalchi will have their punishment.
Ki Chul muses with his brother and his advisor that Deok-heung is playing a dangerous game. The others are more worried about the armed men they’ve sent out to track down Eun-soo, and suggest that they call them back; currently their armed forces are halved, and the movement of the royal armies have them nervous. But Ki Chul shoots that down, intent on getting Eun-soo back. He sent people in every direction, and surely they’ll turn up something.
In the privacy of his stateroom, Gongmin fumes to his wife that Choi Young turned his back on him. Of all the people in the world, he’d believed Young would stick with him through the end, and he feels this blow keenly.
Noguk can’t believe Young would do that, but she’s shocked when Gongmin informs her that he’d ordered him to give up his kinghood. But then he says that that is what Young meant—it’s not precisely what he said, since Young spoke of the seal, and the seal represents the throne. Hm, interesting. Gongmin is thinking about this symbolically, which is the obvious way to consider it, but now I wonder if Young was being his usual uber-literal self. You know, considering the seal a trinket entirely apart from symbolism.
Noguk may be thinking along the same lines, because she asks the king to tell her exactly what Young said.
Gongmin spits out the words bitterly—about how the doctor was dragged here on Gongmin’s order, how Young was making the request to save her, as one of his people. He can’t believe how brazen Young was in demanding he give up his throne, and when Gongmin asked whether he understood what the seal meant, Young had replied, “And who gave you that seal?”
But… wait. A look crosses Gongmin’s face. An idea has struck him, one that wipes the anger from his face as he turns to a scroll to confirm the seal’s imprint. He reads it, and falls into his seat, stunned.
There’s that sense of shame Young spoke of, coloring his voice as he tells Noguk what the seal actually states—it’s a symbol of authority given to Goryeo as a son-in-law state from the parental Yuan. In other words, it is a Yuan seal.
Now he remembers Young’s words about serving his own citizens. Gongmin’s voice wavers as he explains how every day he talks big to his statesmen about doing things for his people—but now he realizes he knows nothing about his people. He doesn’t know what they look like, having never met any. “The only citizen I know is Choi Young, and I spoke to him like this: ‘That bastard is crazed. Grab him.'”
Noguk slowly approaches his seat, and puts a comforting arm around him. He clasps her hand and fights tears.
Young doesn’t move an inch from Eun-soo’s bedside. He holds her hand and tells her of the things he’ll teach her, like fishing.
Meanwhile, Eun-soo remains in her dream-state. Now she runs along a path and into a building where Young sleeps. She cradles him, crying, and kisses his forehead.
She seems to hear his voice in her sleep, and starts whimpering aloud. She cries in her sleep, to his alarm, and he grabs her close. She manages to say in her sleep, “Don’t die!” Ah, so maybe Dream Young isn’t actually sleeping.
Jang Bin checks her pulse and says with relief that she’s back on the mend.
Lady Choi arrives that evening to talk to Young, who asks after Woodalchi, sighing that he taught them to fight better than that. (Read the enemy’s thoughts, not their moves.) She asks what he plans to do, and he answers that he’ll save the doc, and send her back. Half-jokingly, he asks, “Should I follow her there?” YES, why yes you should. You said it first! No take-backs!
He also warns that Deok-heung is bound to start messing around with his newly acquired seal, and that means his uptight new ministers will be giving the king trouble.
He’s unsurprised to hear that the king has puzzled out Young’s meaning, and that Ki Chul will be moving quickly to call a meeting. Advisor Jo is meeting with Deok-heung, and the king is currently alone. That last bit has Young looking chagrined, but he has no immediate plans to return: the doctor’s life comes first.
Eun-soo’s awake now, and he tells her it’s his fault that she nearly died. He was the one who sent Deok-heung to her with the diary. She beckons him near and asks for a hand up, and for him to sit behind her. She wants to lean on him.
He complies, and she sits back against him, telling him of the dream she had. She’s unsure whether it was a memory, not recognizing her surroundings, and he was there as well.
She tells him she’d worked out the date in the book before losing consciousness: She knows when heaven’s door reopens. Aw, that’s hard news for him to hear, and she says it’s in a month. If she misses that day, it’ll be 67 years till the next opportunity: “If I want to go home before I die, I have to go on that day.”
In the morning, Gongmin steels his nerves before joining his council in the emergency meeting called by Ki Chul.
Ki Chul affects a demeanor of concern, saying that he has heard the king does not use the state seal. Could he perchance have lost it? Deok-heung arrives and sits right at the king’s elbow as Ki Chul asks Gongmin to show the seal, so he can get to work dispelling the rumors.
The councillors urge the king to comply. Gongmin declares, “That seal—I got rid of it.” Confused looks abound, including on Ki Chul’s face, as Gongmin explains the words on the seal. He intends to have a new seal made, one that declares his position as king of Goryeo rather than as son-in-law to a different dynasty.
Ki Chul warns that this may be viewed as an act of rebellion. Gongmin: “That would be too bad.” Ha.
Councilman Lee Saek urges the king not to decide this unilaterally, and to take his council’s advice in mind. Gongmin replies that yes, they should offer up their counsel—on what the new seal is to read. Advisor Jo argues that he endangers them all. Gongmin retorts that Advisor Jo was always suggesting that they cast off the confines of Yuan and declare their independence; was he just spouting empty words?
Advisor Jo asks him to consider what the people want. Gongmin: “Have you ever once asked the people directly what it is they want? Or are you just afraid?” Gongmin orders his ministers of war brought to him. They are to fortify the border and prepare for movement from Yuan.
The councillors discuss this among themselves as they leave, with elder statesman Lee Je-hyun expressing concern about possible war. His student Lee Saek actually sides with the king, arguing that nothing he said was out of line about the seal or their relationship to Yuan.
The king leaves the meeting confirming that the seal’s theft is still a secret. If word leaks, then Young can never come back. Which, aw. Still looking out for his best buddy. Even if you are losing faith in him every other episode.
Advisor Jo finds Deok-heung waiting for him. Having secretly jumped ship to his side, he’s noticeably nervous about this, but sits down to discuss the matter. Deok-heung is pretty calm about the matter despite the setback, since he’s well on his way to putting another plan into effect: a revolt, supposedly in the spirit of protecting the country.
They must act quickly, before news leaks out and more importantly, before Ki Chul’s soldiers are called back to the capital. He instructs Advisor Jo to seek out a certain lord who recently lost his government position and has aligned with Deok-heung.
Advisor Jo asks whether he can be guaranteed Ki Chul’s position (and holdings) if he can successfully attack him. Deok-heung says not quite—he must become king in order to make that guarantee.
Deok-heung’s contact is Chan Sung-sa, and his increased movements have already been noticed by Suribang, who have been put to the task by Young. This is the man who framed Young, and now his flurry of secret meetings have pinged Young’s radar.
Young prepares medicine for Eun-soo, who balks that it looks bitter and asks him to feed it for her. The Suribang ajumma and ajusshi lean forward curiously to watch as Young coaxes her to drink.
He’s off to get the second dose today, and Eun-soo asks him for a favor while he’s meeting Deok-heung. Well, two; the first one is “I wish you’d beat him up” and he replies that he did. The other request is to find out about the back of the diary, because it was in her dream; essentially, she’s trying to figure out whether the dream was real, or a figment of her fevered imagination.
They send moony smiles at each other, but the minute he’s out the door Eun-soo slumps over in pain. She’s lost mobility in her hands again as the poison gains hold over her again.
Young arrives at Deok-heung’s quarters again and demands to know today’s rules. Deok-heung motions for him to take a seat and says, “Spend all night talking with me about the world. That’s my condition.” Aw man. That’s probably the easiest thing ever in terms of physicality, but asking a lot of a guy who’s hanging on to his last shred of patience to not, you know, kill you in slow, agonizing fashion.
Young will have to stay till sunrise, which cuts the timing awfully close. Deok-heung taunts him with it, saying that one time he delivered the antidote just a little late, and the guy died.
Young sits there silently while Deok-heung plays a game of badook with himself and chats. Something grabs his attention, though, and Young takes up his sword. Seconds later, Ki Chul enters.
Ha, I do appreciate that there’s mistrust and tension going three ways here, instead of a straight-up Good vs. Bad scenario. Ki Chul reminds Deok-heung warily that he’d promised to send word when meeting with Young, only to be told that since Ki Chul is monitoring his movements, he’d assumed he’d find out soon enough.
Deok-heung invites them all to sit together, calling them on the same team now. Cue Whachoo talkin’ bout, Willis? looks from the other two, who most decidedly don’t agree.
Deok-heung says Young is as good as his person now, and Ki Chul asks suspiciously, “Since when?” Is he jealous? I totally want him to be jealous, in the pettiest way possible.
But there’s a larger plot in the works, because this is the time for his men to storm Ki Chul’s estate, while they’re caught off-guard and understaffed. Or rather, he makes use of the royal army, without Gongmin’s authorization—Advisor Jo explains to an outraged king that he sent them, since Gongmin couldn’t.
Choong-seok roars, “You sent all two thousand? And what of the palace defense?!” Gongmin orders Woodalchi to apprehend Advisor Jo for using the king’s name to move the king’s army. Woodalchi darts forth to comply… but royal officers step forward to guard Advisor Jo.
Advisor Jo gives this righteous martyr speech about watching the king for fifteen years loyally, and having his loyalty unappreciated.
As Deok-heung informs his guests that this is a friendly gathering, there’s movement stirring outside. Young’s Suribang informants run up to the building and find the gate blocked by Flute Boy and Fire Hand. At the same time, Ki Chul’s advisor comes running too, having narrowly escaped.
The advisor informs him of the ambush and says they were overpowered. Ki Chul bolts for the door, but stops himself: “No, the king doesn’t have that kind of nerve. Especially without you [Young] by him.” Then he looks to Deok-heung, sitting there smiling smugly, as he starts putting pieces together. His hand starts to smoke with icy ki and he growls that there was someone else who called him out for a reason.
Young sees him reaching for Deok-heung and draws his sword, saying that he can’t die yet. Boy’s still got an antidote to collect. Haha, I actually enjoy the look of incredulity on Ki Chul’s face, as though taking this as proof of Young’s loyalty switch to Deok-heung. Oh, let him stew in that for a bit.
Ki Won runs through his dungeons, trying to escape from the royal soldiers, and makes it as far as Ki Chul’s room of artifacts before getting stabbed. The officers find a chest and take it out with them. Hm, is that the box of Hwata’s artifacts?
Young just tells him to stop spouting nonsense and advises him to think about his own problem. Ki Chul has 800 to 900 men currently outside of the capital, and he orders his advisor to rally them immediately: “Attack the palace.” He intends to take the king hostage and use him as a bargaining chip. After all, with all the palace guards at his house, the palace should be unguarded. Young’s eyes widen—that’s true.
Deok-heung just smirks to himself. When Ki Chul leaves to enact his plan, Young turns his sword to Deok-heung’s neck: “What the hell are you up to?”
Deok-heung merely says that they have hours to go till morning. “Or will you give up the antidote and go running to the king?”
In the palace, Gongmin is ushered to safety by his core group of Woodalchi.
Meanwhile, Deoki is left tending to Eun-soo… who is by now slumped over, unconscious.
Young grapples with his dilemma. Did I say rock and hard place last time? I take it back, because now I really mean it.
Well, that’s a pretty sticky conundrum. We’ve had shades of this conflict crop up before, since the question of loyalty and faith is pretty much the backbone of the show. But this time, the stakes are on par on both sides, which puts it on a whole new plane of Oh, fuck. We’ve seen uneven stakes multiple times before—disobey the king, or rescue the girl who’s not in mortal peril (yet). Lose one person’s trust, but perform the greater good.
This time, though, it’s life for life. Save the girl and your king might die. Save your king and the girl definitely dies. It’s not even a matter of head versus heart, because Young values both people, and is beholden to them both. Deok-heung’s got him good, and this choice will say a lot about Young—some of which he may not much like himself for.
Plus, I’m tickled to find Ki Chul finally rattled. It’s a bit of a “What have I created?” scenario, only we’re not quite sure Ki Chul had everything to do with it; it’s quite possible Deok-heung was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, surviving by allowing himself to be underestimated. But now he’s revealed himself, and Ki Chul’s gotta be kicking himself for letting his guard down. Nothing like an evilly clever free radical to join the party late and wreak some havoc with his own agenda.
And finally, more bursts of emotion from Young! I’ve been waiting all series for this. I totally get why this character has been responding with composure and indifference thus far, but that’s just made me want to see him get worked up and agitated even more. Ruffle those feathers. Break through the calm.
Eun-soo’s dreams must point at some kind of memory, or perhaps it’s more like a glimpse of the future? It’s clear she hasn’t lived out these scenarios, but Future Self is always on the table. Now that we know that the portal opens regularly throughout time, it’s possible that she finds a way to travel back and forth at will… although that’s cold comfort to Young, who only gets her once in his lifetime, thanks to the whole 67-year gap. Can she just come back to the same time every trip, save the princess a bunch of times, and have Young fall in love with her over and over again for all eternity? I’m sure that’ll be such a trial.