A pretty action-packed episode, with one of the most surprising alliances yet. My favorite thing about the new Big Bad in town is that he moves swiftly. There’s no I’ll-get-you-but-maybe-tomorrow-ing for this guy; when he sees his opportunity, he strikes. That means a change of address for many of our characters and a faster-moving story for us, which is a welcome thing. The world was getting awfully predictable, so I hope this upset to balance and order is a sign of better things to come.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Young reels at the choice he faces: save the king, or save his girl. Deok-heung dangles the life-and-death dilemma in front of him, calm as you please. At the same time, Eun-soo slumps over from the poison, and Gongmin gets ushered through the palace by the woodalchi.
Young withdraws his sword and calls out to one of his men, to bring a message to the woodalchi: Take the king and run. There is no holding down the fort, no going down with the house. They run.
And then he sits down next to Deok-heung, now with a smile on his face, “I know it now, exactly what you are.” Deok-heung decides that for the next round of antidote he ought to be spoken to like a proper royal.
Young just keeps going in banmal, sneering that all Deok-heung has is his tongue, and no brains to match. He tsk-tsks that to contend with him, Deok-heung really should’ve stuck to Ki Chul’s side.
His decision: “I’m going to the palace.” Deok-heung looks at him with alarm—but the doctor will die! Young just looks right into his eyes, while calling out to another of his men to take the antidote and go save the doctor, because Deok-heung will be handing it over right away.
Deok-heung scoffs—why would he do that? Young smiles and points out that if something happens to Eun-soo, he has no cards left to play, whether he’s fighting Young or Ki Chul. Ha, the look of OH SHIT that passes across his face is delightful.
I love that Deok-heung thinks he’s got this diabolical plan, but it turns out all it does is show Young exactly what he wants and what he’s capable of… and what his limits are. Young leaves with the offhanded comment that Deok-heung doesn’t have the stones to put his life on the line: “If he doesn’t give you the antidote, kill him.” And he saunters out. Badass.
But once he’s outside, he pauses, not quite as confident as he seemed inside. Deok-heung gives up the antidote with a big ol’ chip on his shoulder and storms out. Only when Young hears the I’ve-got-the-antidote whistle does he let out a sigh of relief and head out as planned.
The palace gets stormed and the woodalchi are spread thin, trying to hold the line. As they fight and lose soldiers and ground, Dae-man arrives to blow the whistle. It’s a code from their leader: RUN.
They switch their strategy and gather around the king to usher him to safety. Eeep! Deok-man gets an arrow in the back, but he gets up and keeps fighting. Don’t die, Deok-man!
Choong-seok tells the king they need to leave, but Gongmin refuses to give up the palace and worse, leave the queen behind. Choong-seok says the message from Young is clear: run away and survive.
Gongmin’s steps are heavy, but he lets the woodalchi lead him away.
The queen is led outside by a few of her guards, led by Lady Choi. But soon they’re outnumbered and the path blocked completely. They draw their swords…
And then Young flies into the fray. Woot! Took you long enough. He slices through them and reaches the queen. She asks after the king, and Young couldn’t find him within the palace walls, so he must’ve been led out.
He says he’ll make a path for them, and apologizes for the lack of propriety… before grabbing Noguk by the wrist and dragging her along as he cuts his way through the wall of enemy soldiers. Ha. I should’ve expected as much from Captain Literal.
And yay for some actual badassery from the woodalchi all around.
Advisor Jo is up in arms that the king and queen got away, and the council asks why they’re being held here all night against their will. Deok-heung arrives and explains to everyone that Advisor Jo sought him out, worried that Gongmin was losing his reason, playing with seals and threatening the delicate balance of the country.
With a little nod from Deok-heung, Advisor Jo follows along and agrees with the account, saying that everything he did is for the good of Goryeo. But then suddenly Deok-heung turns the tables on him and announces that Advisor Jo planned a coup to enthrone Deok-heung, and says it was wrong.
He declares Advisor Jo a traitor… and whirls around to stab him clean through the chest with a sword. Damn. I guess that’s one way to clean up loose ends. Yeesh.
He says he’ll offer up Advisor Jo’s corpse to Ki Chul in an attempt to mend the relationship, and sighs that no matter how bad things got or how scared he was, Gongmin shouldn’t have run away like that. Urg! You opportunistic rat!
He eyes the empty throne with a chilling smile.
Eun-soo wakes up feeling better, and gets up to look for Young. She smiles to hear his voice and peers into the room. He’s addressing the woodalchi – most of them have regrouped here, but the king and the few guarding him are still missing and on the run.
He orders them to spread out and search, and asks Deok-man if he can move. He says it hurts a little, and Young slaps him upside the head, “So then why’d you get hit with an arrow?” Hahaha.
Eun-soo interrupts and Young asks what she’s doing out of bed, and she lies that her back hurt from lying down too long and starts tending to the wounded. He tries to argue, but she doesn’t let him get a word in and beelines for Deok-man. Aw.
Ajusshi comes to tell Young that Deok-heung entered the palace early this morning, and that he was definitely the one who moved the king’s soldiers and attacked Ki Chul’s house. Young guesses that the two will have begun their negotiations by now.
On cue, Ki Chul strolls into the palace, where Deok-heung is already making himself at home. He asks, voice dripping with skepticism, if Advisor Jo was the one who attacked him. Deok-heung doesn’t miss a beat and says the man confessed to his crimes.
Ki Chul screams that his brother was killed, and his possessions went missing—meaning the box of Hwata’s artifacts, though he doesn’t specify. Deok-heung continues to play dumb and says he’ll look through the things that were recovered and try to find what he’s looking for.
Ki Chul purrs, “Do you really want me as an enemy?” Deok-heung smiles, “Enemy? Isn’t this what we planned all along?” Oh now you’re playing the we’re-on-the-same-side card? Your alliances are giving me whiplash.
Ki Chul asks where the doctor is then, since that was his end of the bargain. Deok-heung says she’ll be delivered in a few days, and all he asks in return is that Ki Chul keeps Gongmin out of the palace for good. Gauntlet thrown, eyebrows raised.
Eun-soo tries to monitor her own pulse, but just gets flooded with visions of her dream—the one where Young dies in her arms. He comes by to say that he sent the queen ahead of them and they’ll be leaving soon. Can she walk for a day or so?
But Eun-soo can only focus on one thing, and asks if he found out whether the missing pages of the diary exist. He immediately gets up, realizing that he forgot to ask. What, are you gonna just pop by to ask it now?
She decides she can’t do anything until she figures out if her dreams are real, and asks to go see Ki Chul, or Deok-heung. Young shuts down that idea right away, and asks what happens in the dream that she always wakes up in a cold sweat. She doesn’t answer.
He refuses to let her go see them, but she says that up in heaven there are these things called movies, and you can learn an awful lot of tricks from watching them. She has a plan that she hasn’t used yet.
He counters with his plan—the one where he keeps everyone safe. She raises her hands to frame his face and takes a mental snapshot.
The woodalchi left guarding the king hide out, while leaving a coded trail so the others can find them. Gongmin wonders what kind of king he is, that if he stepped out into the street and told a citizen who he was, they wouldn’t recognize or believe him.
He says that an enemy could be holding a sword to his throat, and even if he declared that he was the king, there would be nothing to prove he was telling the truth, and no reason anyone would believe him.
Gongmin: “Now that I have left the palace, there is nothing to prove that I am king. Perhaps it was not I, but the palace, that was king.”
Deok-heung seems to think so as well. The eunuchs bring him the box he requested, full of Hwata’s artifacts. He opens a smaller box inside to find the diary, and the later pages. They look just like they did in Eun-soo’s vision: “To Eun-soo…”
He opens it up to the first page: “Please let this reach you… Sincerity creates connection, and only memory can make that moment happen.” He leaves it sitting open on the table.
The council refuses to budge until they know what’s going on with the king. The palace is safe now, so why does he not return? Deok-heung says the young king must’ve been traumatized and is too scared to return.
Ki Chul enters with word from the king, and presents Deok-heung with a scroll—a royal decree for Deok-heung to act as interim ruler in his absence, stamped with the royal seal. URG.
The councilmen point out that Gongmin declared his intention to never use that seal again, but Ki Chul says he must’ve changed his mind in the chaos. Besides, either way, the king is the only one with access to the seal, right? Double URG. But even as he plays along, Ki Chul’s THIS SUCKS face is on full display.
Deok-heung smiles, hands the scroll over to the council to read for themselves, and sits his ass down in the throne before they can raise a word of protest. The first thing he does is ask Ki Chul what he would like as compensation for the damages done to his estate.
Eum-ja and Hwasuin start to close in on the king’s location, but thankfully so does Dae-man. He spies Eum-ja trying to use his super-hearing to locate the woodalchi, and so Dae-man runs interference by banging on some drums. HA.
He does this mocking drum dance until Eum-ja can’t take it anymore, and runs after him. I think I love this pairing the most.
The woodalchi sigh in relief, but then the doors slam open… and Young strolls in. Oh phew. They greet their leader with smiles, and Gongmin makes this adorable attempt not to beam at the sight of him.
He asks after the queen, and Young says she’s actually happy about being out of the palace because she doesn’t have to wear that heavy hairpiece, and smiles when Gongmin asks after the doctor’s health.
He says the plan is to have the king’s entourage catch up to the queen’s, while Young hangs back to take care of a few things. He apologizes for causing some trouble with the seal, and Gongmin corrects him that it was a whole LOT of trouble, thankyouverymuch, all with a smirk.
But he adds that there’s no hurry to return to the palace, since being on the outside means he can converse freely with criminals like Young. Heh.
Jang Bin manages to reverse-engineer the poison. He needs more time to figure out the antidote, but at least he knows what it is that’s killing the doctor.
Young takes the bottle of poison with him, with a warning from Jang Bin that it’s a mega-dose. Hm, whatchoo gonna do with that? Something revengey?
At nightfall, he and Eun-soo are the last to head out. He tells her the same—that he’ll remain behind to take care of a few things, but she argues that he’s always doing everything by himself, refusing to trust anyone else.
She’s the one they’re after, but he argues that it’s because of him. I love that Eun-soo doesn’t let that argument fly, and tells him to stop blocking her at every turn. He sends Dae-man and Deok-man ahead so they can argue alone.
Eun-soo says she has to do something, but then collapses. Well now I’m siding with Young. If you can’t even stand, what exactly do you think you’ll do to help? She tries to make light of her situation, even while clutching her aching head.
Young asks how she can speak so cavalierly about dying. Uh… how quickly we forget, Death Wish Boy. Eun-soo just looks up at him and tells him to stop getting mad at her all the time—it’ll become habit, and then once she’s gone, what’ll he do when he has no one to yell at? Aw.
He picks a spot for them to rest a while, and she shivers from the cold. Young scootches closer and puts an arm around her, and she leans on his shoulder with a smile. They have another short argument about going to see Ki Chul, and Eun-soo points out that Young answers every question she asks now. Ha, he really does.
She remembers how he used to ignore almost everything she said when they first met. She sighs as she leans on him, wondering how many times she’s done this that it’s already become habit, and feels comfortable now.
She closes her eyes and tells him to piggyback her if she falls asleep. He just answers her matter-of-factly: “If I piggyback you, I can’t carry my sword, so no.” HA. Take that, dramaland! Clearly she finds his humorlessness adorable, because she just smiles to herself in his arms.
Deok-heung reinforces his guards, lying in wait for Young to attack. But it’s Ki Chul they go to see, Eun-soo having convinced him after all. Ki Chul lights up to see her, and she says she’s here to deal.
She admits to figuring out when the door to heaven opens, and offers to take him. She asks if there were more pages to the diary, and he confirms it. She lies and says the front pages told her when the door opens, but the back pages will tell her how she gets to heaven, and offers to take Ki Chul with her if he gets her the book.
I actually think she should take Ki Chul with her. He beams and practically pants at her like a puppy, asking what she needs him to do. She tells him to retrieve the diary, and asks what the third artifact of Hwata’s is.
Ki Chul: “It cannot be explained in words…” Try! She tells him she needs that too, whatever it is. He agrees, but then stops in his tracks, wondering why they’ve chosen to come to him. For a suspicious evil mastermind, you sure did take your time to ask.
Young tells him the truth—that Eun-soo’s life hangs on by a thread. Ki Chul sees her hands start to cramp up, and panics.
Gongmin finally catches up to Noguk, and finds her carefree and smiling, her hair adorned with flowers like a little girl. It’s so cute how happy he is to see her smiling that way.
He joins her and then calls Choong-seok in to ask about their security here. He says they have fifty woodalchi and have secured this house, and Gongmin tells his eunuch to announce to the public that the king is staying here.
They worry for his safety, but Gongmin says it’s just the opposite: staying in secret leaves him open to attack, while announcing his presence makes it harder to sneak up covertly. He adds that people should know that they can come here if they need something from their king.
Lady Choi pulls Choong-seok aside to ask after Young. He says that Young stayed behind with the doctor and practically winks and nudges: “I’m sure they’re doing well. The two of them… together… um… yeah…”
Deok-heung darts up from his chair: “Who’s coming here? With whom?!”
Enter Ki Chul, Eun-soo, and Young. Eun-soo attacks first, screaming at the bastard who poisoned her, and Young sits her down, asking Ki Chul if he’s got this. Are they buddy cops now? ‘Cause that’s awesome.
Ki Chul asks if Deok-heung dared to poison his doctor, and Deok-heung says she came here on schedule like he said she would, so what’s the problem? Ki Chul sneers and demands the antidote and his chest of artifacts this instant.
Deok-heung asks why he would be so stupid as to hand over all his cards. Then Young can kill him on the spot. Young seems to think that’s the better idea, and just starts attacking the guards, and Ki Chul helps too.
These two fighting on the same side is cracking me up. Young knocks down the guards in no time, and then SLAMS Deok-heung down on the desk by his throat. That’s so satisfying. Do it again!
He says they figured out what the poison is, but not the antidote, and then takes out the little bottle from Jang Bin…
And then he pours the entire bottle down Deok-heung’s throat. Best. Plan. Ever.
Ki Chul arches an eyebrow: “Ehhhhh… are you sure you didn’t you feed him too much?” HAHAHA. I’m dying. Did everybody have their frenemy flakes for breakfast today?
Deok-heung says if he can be alone with Eun-soo, he’ll hand over the antidote. Young just grabs him by the collar again, but Eun-soo leads Deok-heung away with a reassuring nod. Ki Chul blocks Young’s path—they both know he’ll never comply if they’re in the room.
Eun-soo asks for the antidote, and Deok-heung says a healer from heaven should’ve found a cure by now, and calls her a phony just like him. Takes one to know one? But what’s important to him is that Ki Chul believes that the door to heaven is real: “You and I could play with all of Goryeo.”
He asks if she won’t join his side. She says that the last pages to her diary come first. If he hands those over, she’ll join Team Uncle.
With that, he hands over the antidote. She asks why it’s different from the other doses, and he says those were fakes. The poison actually comes and goes in waves, which makes the false doses seem like they’re working. Guh. Can we kill him now?
Eun-soo comes out and tells Young she’s all better now, and leads him away. Ki Chul and Deok-heung watch them leave, and commiserate that to have the doctor, Choi Young must die. Aw, are we back to this alliance again? Boo.
Even worse is Eun-soo’s idea to remain in the palace. Young argues that he went through the trouble of helping her escape, and she wants back in? She says it’s all part of her big plan to Mata-Hari the bastard. Gee, how many ways could this plan go awry?
As Young heads back out, Dae-man wonders why the doctor isn’t going with them, and what she’s thinking. Young sighs that she has no thoughts, and no feelings.
Councilman Lee Saek wanders through town and comes across a bustling house. He stops a man in the street to ask what’s going on in there, and he says there’s a king inside who’ll listen to your problems.
He says it can’t possibly be a real king, but it’s entertaining anyway, and heads out with a laugh. Lee Saek tells himself it couldn’t possibly be… when a woodalchi sidles up next to him and leads him inside.
There, Gongmin and Noguk sit at a table, and people come by to share their problems, like he’s more of a fortuneteller than a king. One such problem—their daughter is too pretty.
Gongmin wonders why that’s a bad thing, but learns that it’s an actual worry for commoners, who fear that their pretty daughters will be taken to Yuan. They actually ask him to make a talisman or something so that her nose grows crooked.
Instead he offers to draw the girl’s portrait, and tells her to look at it when others tell her that her nose is crooked. Lee Saek smiles to watch the king interact with his people.
He and his teacher Lee Je-hyun meet with Young, who asks with a bitter edge in his voice if they’re okay conversing with a fugitive. They admit that they know he was framed, better than anyone. Then why didn’t you stop it, beardo?
He says they know where the king is, noting that he’s created a palace outside the palace. They plan to go see the king and present him with a new royal seal, made by his people. Young smiles and says he’ll like that, and gets up to leave.
But they stop him, and ask that he protect them until they can deliver this seal to the king. Dude. Seriously? You put the man on trial for a crime he didn’t commit, knowing he was being framed, and now you’re asking him for a freaking favor?! He literally facepalms with a long sigh.
Meanwhile, Eun-soo waits with Jang Bin for Deok-heung to hold up his end of the bargain. A eunuch arrives with the message that this is half of what she’s looking for.
She opens it up and finds the letter to herself, just like in her poison-dream-vision. She thinks it’s her writing, but has no memory of writing it.
Her hand trembles as she reads the first page, and then the next, which hopes that this letter has reached her in time, and that she’s reading it together with “that person.”
At the same time, Young prepares Suribang and a dozen woodalchi to guard the councilmen the following morning. He wants to remain under the radar, and says he’ll guard them on the first leg of the journey alone.
Eun-soo freaks out as she reads the pages over and over, not understanding what it means or who they’re from. She ends up sharing a drink with Jang Bin, as she tells him that she’s never really had a “that person” in her life.
No matter how many times she tried to open her heart, it would always get close to someone and then stop, and cool, and stop again. She says it was the same with Young—and not because she knew she’d leave, but because that’s how her heart is.
But she says that sometimes being with him is strangely familiar, and she misses him. “But this person can’t be that person… But when I turn around he’s always there. And he looks at me. And even when I can’t see him, if I ask where he is, he always answers that he’s here…”
She starts to cry and decides she’s drunk. She grabs the pages to talk to whoever wrote them, arguing that she doesn’t know who “that person” is, and stalks off to bed. Jang Bin just quietly puts them back in the box.
And then, as Eun-soo sleeps, some of the passages start to jog memories of actual events, like the night Lady Choi came to her with a request. The diary-writer begs her to listen to the request and go back, so that “that person” can live.
She gets up with a start. And now the passages seem to be referring to today, because it notes that “that child” will break a pot, and she runs over to find Deoki cleaning up a broken pot.
Another clue: the flowers in the window. The words ring in her ears, begging her not to send “that person” away today… because the thing that awaits him is a trap.
Young arrives at the river, and turns at a noise… someone behind him…
It’s looking pretty certain that Future Eun-soo is Hwata, which is where my brain starts to fry when it comes to time travel. So Future Eun-soo presumably has to travel back in time to leave said artifacts for Present Eun-soo. Does that mean the door to heaven opens to the past rather than the future? And if she goes through it in the present, will she just be caught in an endless loop?
Regardless of the past-present-future conundrums, it’s nice to get a twist with Future Eun-soo leaving cryptic messages, and trying to change the course of fate. Perhaps Future Eun-soo already lived through the version where she screws up the way history is supposed to go, and can be a guide for our present-day Eun-soo to get it right. It would be nice if she could hurry a little on the uptake, if that’s the case.
This week’s episodes were a pretty fun reprieve from the usual Good vs. Bad camps, and I especially loved the odd couple combo when Young and Ki Chul found themselves on the same side, if even for a day. I wish the shifting allegiances would’ve stayed murky for a little longer, because the second they got the antidote, everything went right back to zero so quickly I was rather disappointed. But I trust Deok-heung to be a wily bastard at every turn, and I’m sure he’ll find some new way to screw with Ki Chul and Eun-soo. Who knew? The devil you know turns out to be a safe haven.
While Deok-heung is a fantastic villain (and a great foil for Ki Chul), the wishy-washy council drives me up the wall. I suppose they’re better than Advisor Jo who was long-winded AND evil, but mostly they annoy me with their pretenses of looking out for the people, when they seem to be void of common sense. I half-hope they turn out to be evil and behind this latest trap, because then at least they’ve picked a side.
Overall this is a stretch of the story I really like, with the king outside the palace and the enemy sitting on the throne. It gives Gongmin a chance to ask himself the kinds of questions he does in this episode—is the palace what makes a king, or does the king make any place he stays a palace? The fact that he’s forced to ask these questions and figure out how to be a king in the most literal, practical way is great. When you take away all the trappings, all that’s left is the character of a man—so is he a king or was he just a placeholder who already lost his throne? I hope it’ll be a slow journey back, and that when it comes time for him to return, he’ll have earned that seat in a symbolic way, and not just won it back by force.