It’s time for our good guys to turn the tables for once, and actually deliver some major blows to the baddies. Young finally starts acting like a general (whooo), though it throws him into a tailspin about his place in the world. If there ever was a reluctant hero, I swear.
EPISODE 18 RECAP
Young storms the almost-a-wedding party and plants a big swoony kiss on Eun-soo. It would be slightly more romantic if Ki Chul wasn’t clutching his pearls behind you, but that’s also the fun.
Eun-soo reels from the kiss (Can you blame the girl?) while Young turns to Deok-heung to make the point of the kiss clear: it makes this engagement null and void. That seems to be skipping a few steps, but basically he’s saying that he’ll get drawn and quartered to save her, yeah?
Deok-heung fumes and orders Young to be locked up, and he just gives Eun-soo a tiny reassuring smile before handing himself over to the guards. Please tell me that’s an I’m-just-gonna-break-out-anyway smile.
Meanwhile, Ki Chul’s army raids Gongmin’s humble makeshift palace, dressed as bandits. I don’t know why they expend a whole bunch of energy to shoot arrows into an empty courtyard, but they do, and then the Wonder Twins lead the way in.
The place is empty, but the tea on the table is still warm, so they give chase. At the same time, the king and queen’s carriage is being led into the mountains by the Woodalchi. Gongmin is a nervous wreck, but he holds Noguk’s hand to try and reassure her. Aw.
Young sits in his jail cell (I’m thinking we should just go ahead and move your bed and clothes in there.) and one of the guards joins him. It’s the guy he’s been trying to convince to jump ship back to Gongmin.
Young tells him that the king is in danger, and tells him to gather up as many men as he can to meet the entourage. He hems and haws about moving without royal orders, but Young points out that he so quickly defied royal orders when he and his men accepted bribes and turned on Gongmin, which the guard agrees with sheepishly.
He tells him to hurry, since the king has a list of their names and crimes – Young will clear them of mutiny, but they have to be on the winning side in order to do that.
I do love how casually Young sits in jail, giving orders and strategizing to protect Gongmin without moving an inch. It’s a nice parallel to Gongmin being the king despite the change of address – Young is still the general, even here.
He sends the guard away, and a few seconds later, the door to his cell opens, and Young just saunters out. Hee.
The king’s carriage gets stuck, and at the same time they get word that Ki Chul’s army is closing in on their location. Choong-seok says that some of them will have to stay behind to hold the line, and says to Joo-seok: “I can only give you ten men.”
I love the moment, because you just know ten men are not enough, but Joo-seok bows and upholds his duty without a word.
Choong-seok and the remaining warriors lead the king and queen deeper into the mountains on foot.
Ki Chul asks Deok-heung for the doctor now, because they’re running out of time and there’s no telling when the door to heaven will open. Deok-heung muses bitterly that Young knew they wouldn’t harm Eun-soo, and so pulled that stunt figuring he’d be the only one to land in jail.
Deok-heung is still nervous about handing over his last card without having secured the throne, but Ki Chul reminds him (in an awesomely exasperated tone) that he’s got 400 men after Gongmin and Young’s locked up in prison: “What more do you want?!”
Ki Chul says through gritted teeth that he’s played along because of the doctor, but his patience is starting to wear thin. Frankly, given your temperament, I’m surprised you lasted this long without killing the man. He gives Deok-heung a day to hand over the doc, and storms out.
Deok-heung goes to see Eun-soo, furious that she ruined their plan to have all of Goryeo. Dude, you’re missing the whole part where she was never in on that plan to begin with.
He pins her against a wall, and so she pulls out the swift moves she learned from Young, and whirls around with a dagger to Deok-heung’s throat. Nice. She holds the knife there and brags that she learned well, “But… I only learned up to here…” HA.
So she pulls back and just tells him not to come any closer, “Because I don’t like you.” He calms down and tells her that Young escaped, to which she smirks, “I knew he would.”
And then he asks… for her to save him. Huh? To the woman wielding a knife at you? He says that if he gives her to Ki Chul, he has no more cards to play, and wasn’t she planning on running away from Ki Chul anyway in the end? She can’t deny that.
He asks her to run, and to Choi Young of all people, because he’ll protect her best. I’m still failing to see how this will benefit you, but so far I like the plan. He asks her to hide just long enough for him to be crowned by Yuan.
It’s a plan she has no problem agreeing to, since it involves her running away with Young and she knows this guy won’t be king anyway, at least according to her history. So she quickly says okay.
At that, he gets up and pricks her wrist – another poison, this one milder, but an insurance policy so that she’ll come to him when called. *headdesk* AGAIN? So. Tired. Of samey sameness.
With his aunt’s help, Young goes to arrest the contingent of the royal guard that isn’t on their side. They fight back, making Young snippy about being on a schedule.
Hwasuin and Eum-ja reach the king’s carriage, but find it empty. If there are really 400 men in this army, could we at least see more than twenty of them?
Joo-seok and the ten Woodalchi attack, but they’re not strong enough to hold the line. Poor Joo-seok goes down, and Hwasuin and Eum-ja walk on through without even lifting a finger.
He darts up at the last moment to go after Hwasuin, but she stabs him clean through the chest, and smiles as he falls dead. Poor heroic Joo-seok. For your sake I’ll imagine that this whole sequence was directed better.
Choong-seok leads the king into a hideout, and Gongmin asks after Joo-seok, remembering him as the Woodalchi who delivered news of Young when he was accused of being traitor, offering up his life to do so.
Gongmin says he remembers Joo-seok, and all the Woodalchi, who have been with him all this time. He frets that Young holds all his men dear, and if anything should happen to them, he couldn’t bear being responsible for losing Young’s men.
Just then, Dae-man scurries in to say the enemy broke through, and Flute Boy and Firestarter are on their way. Damn.
But that’s a sign for Choong-seok to go with Plan Z, as ordered by Young. He tells the king and queen to take off their robes. In walk two warriors, prepared to be their body doubles. Aww yeah.
Gongmin understands what he means, but refuses to comply and let these people die in his place. Choong-seok says his orders are to take the king and queen into the palace, while Young cleans house and prepares for their arrival.
He makes it clear that if Gongmin won’t come willingly, he’ll carry him there. Ha. I’m nursing a major crush on Choong-seok right now. They start to disrobe the king and queen, and Choong-seok orders the remaining warriors to hold this position for as long as they can.
Meanwhile, Young is busy collecting royal guards, which basically consists of: See those traitors over there in the ropes? Wanna join them, or join us and be cleared of your recent bout of mutiny?
It’s rather effective as far as persuasive arguments go. There’s even a handy visual aid of the guys who refused, kneeling in ropes. Mostly he finds the process entirely too slow for his liking, which makes him say everything in this droll tone that I love.
Gongmin gets led through the woods in plain clothes, and he keeps looking back, thinking of all the people who are dying in his place. We see more Woodalchi fall, and then the doubles for the king and queen, cut down soon after.
Choong-seok stops the group when he hears someone approach. They freeze, and then a group of royal guards comes out. The Woodalchi draw their swords… but then the guards kneel, “We have been sent by Choi Young to escort the king to the palace.” Excellent. The boys smile for the first time in days, relieved to hear their leader’s name.
Someone comes by to whisper some news into Young’s ear, and it sends him running. Aw, he’s running to Eun-soo, isn’t he? He bursts into the hospital where she’s waiting to see him, and he runs up to grab her in a bear hug.
He asks why Deok-heung let her go – she didn’t make some other deal, did she? She pouts, “I cried.” Young looks at her incredulously, “You… cried? And so he let you go? Because… you cried?”
She nods and swears it’s true, the lying liar, and tells Young to hurry and get back to work to receive the king. She says she just missed him and wanted to see his face, and he promises to come see her later.
Hwasuin returns to report from her day of king-chasing, and Ki Chul gapes, “It wasn’t the king?” She confirms that she checked the dead bodies and it was definitely not Gongmin and Noguk they killed today.
Ki Chul finds all of this bothersome, and waves away his minion’s concerns. The only thing he cares about is Eun-soo, and he gleefully announces that he gets to take her from the palace tomorrow.
By now Eum-ja and Hwasuin, and even his loyal minion, all start to see Ki Chul as slightly loony. He in turn can’t fathom why everyone isn’t as excited as he is about the chance to go to heaven, like it never occurred to him they wouldn’t want to step into some portal to the unknown.
Deok-heung rushes to hide Hwata’s artifacts under the floorboards, and prepares to make a run for it. But Young meets him for a face-off.
Each of them charges the other with his crimes… but the guys with the pointy swords are on Young’s side. Soon Deok-heung is surrounded, and we can all clap and put on our party hats.
By morning, Gongmin and Noguk arrive safely, where Young is there to greet them. Gongmin just says to him somberly, “I’m sorry,” before walking inside.
It’s only afterwards that Choong-seok tells him why: twenty-four Woodalchi, fallen.
Young takes in the news and swallows back his reaction. The others can’t and start to cry, but the way Choong-seok and Young remain the stoic leaders breaks my heart more. Young flashes back to the day he sent Joo-seok with a message to the king, with a half-joking apology in case he dies.
Jang Bin checks out Eun-soo’s dose of poison in her arm, and says they’ll have to try and make an antidote. He wonders if she’s not going to tell Young, but she says she can’t possibly add to his worries at a time like this.
Young sits by his soldiers’ memorial altar numbly, not even realizing that Gongmin has walked in. They launch into an argument right away, each claiming responsibility for the lost Woodalchi.
Gongmin says they died defending him, but Young argues that he should’ve been there, and they died because he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Dude, you can’t be everywhere at once, saving everybody all the time!
He blames himself for being locked up and not being at his post, “And that’s why your majesty had to leave the palace, and that’s why my children died.” He obviously means children figuratively meaning his boys, but I love that he calls them that.
Young adds that Gongmin asked him once, who mattered to him most. “She was always first.” Whoa. Should you be saying that?
He continues that he doesn’t really know his true heart for the nation of Goryeo, and that the king shouldn’t keep such a person who’s thinking such thoughts by his side.
If you’re warning the king about the threat that you might pose, then aren’t you still protecting him? He really doesn’t know how to be any other way, does he?
Gongmin eyes fill with hurt and disappointment, and he asks what he should do about it then. Young asks for him to let him go. Noooo!
Gongmin tells him to show up tomorrow when they’ll charge Deok-heung and Ki Chul with their crimes, and postpones the rest for later. I like that Gongmin’s strategy with Young wanting to leave is always to say he’ll decide later. I wonder if he’ll get a lifetime of service from him by saying, “Later.”
Eun-soo makes herself a calendar and starts crossing days off. She smiles when Young comes to see her, and wishes she could offer him a beer, but tea will have to do. She shares what Deok-heung told her – that something would come from Yuan in ten days’ time, which would make him king.
He asked her to hide for that time and not get caught by Ki Chul. Young asks if this is her idea of hiding, and she just cutely answers that if she’s discovered, “someone” can protect her.
She knows he must be having a hard time with the loss of his men, and she holds up sheets of papers, saying that this is from a movie. Is she going to Love Actually the Woodalchi? Who can’t read hangul?
She starts to read the pages aloud as she holds them up, but then we see that there’s a twist – she’s written him a message but isn’t reading aloud what she wrote.
Message: It’s okay / Eun-soo: It’s okay
Message: I’ll be by your side / Eun-soo: Don’t worry
Message: Until that day / Eun-soo: Everything will go well
Message: Can I do that? / Eun-soo: Right?
He smiles and answers yes. He gets up to go, promising to keep her safe here while he figures out a way to keep Ki Chul at bay, “And then I’ll take you there myself, to heaven’s door.”
Ki Chul storms into the prison, furious at the turn of events. He demands his doctor, insisting that the envoy from Yuan will be here in a few days to give Deok-heung what he wants.
Deok-heung wonders if maybe he can’t spring him from jail in the meantime: “There are no books here, and no badook.” Pffft. Are you really that simple, or are you just pretending to be a simpleton in front of Ki Chul?
What’s even funnier is the way Ki Chul finally blows a gasket, with a comical Oooooft! He very nearly swears too. I hope you’re regretting the choice to join forces with this guy, ’cause I don’t even like you and I wished better things for you.
The queen sighs that Gongmin hasn’t slept a wink since they’ve returned, and she decides she doesn’t like this palace. She finds him lost in thought and urges him to rest.
He tells her that the things he has to do tomorrow are weighing on him: He’s going to take a bold step, but the cost will be the lives of his people, just like the Woodalchi who died to protect him.
Noguk guesses right away that he means to wage war with Yuan, and he asks if she’s okay with that—it’s her country. She says that it was her country, and he asks if she means that Goryeo is now her nation.
Noguk: “Forgive me, but it doesn’t much matter to me what the name of my country is. If it is the place where my husband can rest peacefully, that is enough for me.”
He smiles and says that Young said the same thing to him once—that he’d go where his heart led him.
Gongmin gathers his advisors the next day, and presents records of Ki Chul siphoning off the state’s money for personal use. Well that’s not even a surprising accusation for anyone, is it?
And then he says that he was attacked on his way back to the palace, and calls in a member of the royal guard who reports that twenty assassins have been captured, and they have confessed to being Ki Chul’s men.
Ki Chul still isn’t deterred, and feigns surprise that members of his private army would do something like that. He promises to capture and punish those responsible. Young speaks up to say they’re already on it, so he needn’t help.
Gongmin delivers the true blow: while they investigate, Ki Chul is sentenced to house arrest. Okay, that’s perfect. It’s the thing that puts him over the edge, because all he really cares about is taking the doctor to the portal. He whines, “But! I have someplace I have to be!”
Eun-soo tries to look for any secret messages in her diary pages, holding them up to sunlight and candlelight, but no dice. She’s clearly been at it for hours, because her hair-o-meter is at Deep Thought.
She’s so frustrated she falls backward in her chair, but of course Young shows up to tilt her back into place, and just nonchalantly tells her to carry on. He puts his feet up to read (Eun-soo: “You can read?” heh) and she freaks out that he might mess up her antidote experiments.
He nags her about her hair again, but that’s when he notices the bandage on her arm. She tries to hide it but he unwraps it and freaks out. The tiny pin prick is now the size of an egg. Ruh-roh.
He demands to know what this is, now realizing that she’s doing antidote experiments for herself. Young: “Why didn’t you tell me?! Am I still that far away?! That you don’t feel the need to tell me these things? Am I still that far from you?”
She of course says the same logical things we’d all say: that last time was the king’s seal, so what would Deok-heung demand this time? And how many times is he going to be captured to save her? She says with tears in her eyes that he’s too important a person to be doing things like that.
Young: “Is that why… you’re so far away?” Aw.
He turns to walk out, and she calls out after him to wait. She runs up behind him in a backhug, and asks him not to turn around.
Eun-soo: I’ll ask just ask one thing. Should I… not go? Can I stay? Can’t I?
Young: Even after being poisoned, how can you say such words?
Eun-soo: Then I’ll ask it this way: The remaining days, I’m going to like you the way I want, day by day. Can you forget once I’m gone? Not living aimlessly, sleeping aimlessly, but forget it all?
Eun-soo: Promise me you will.
She cries into his back, as he stands there sighing, not knowing how to answer.
The Suribang boys do some recon for the mysterious person’s arrival from Yuan that Deok-heung is waiting for, but get attacked and scamper.
Ki Chul breaks some pottery to calm his raging anger and orders Eum-ja to break Deok-heung out of jail and bring him here alive… so that Ki Chul can kill him with his own hands.
Meanwhile, Gongmin has Deok-heung brought up to see him, and asks him a question: Is there anything more important to him than the nation of Goryeo? Deok-heung wonders if Gongmin likes his answer, he might let him be king.
Gongmin agrees sportingly to do so. Deok-heung thinks about it, and answers, “There is. Myself.” He asks if Gongmin likes his answer. Gongmin: “I do. Because it means I make a better king than you.” Ha.
He lets Deok-heung go, when Young storms in to tell Gongmin about him poisoning Eun-soo, and asks him not to release the bastard. But Gongmin insists he has his reasons, and lets him go. Drat.
Young asks why, and Gongmin explains that a royal attaché is headed here, bearing the Yuan emperor’s nomination for Deok-heung to be king. Any act against him now would amount to waging war against Yuan.
He knows the explanation is disappointing to Young even as he gives it, and Young just bows and says he gets it, and walks out. Flute Boy and Firestarter arrive to fetch Deok-heung, but he sees them and flees the other way.
A mysterious letter arrives for Eun-soo, and Young takes it inside. She jokes that if it’s a love letter he’ll have to write her reply for her, and asks him to read it. He does, and then looks up at her with a look that worries me…
Young: “We have to run away. The envoy from Yuan wants… you.”
Get in line, mister! Who doesn’t want her? And does this mean that we’re just going to do another round of Everybody Wants Doc, with yet another player in the game? I hope it points to an escalation of conflict, say between the two countries, rather than a just another spin on the same ride. When Gongmin said that killing Deok-heung would lead to war, I actually thought: That’d be awesome! Some excitement around here!
I thought that Gongmin had the most interesting story in this episode, and really wished for a little (okay a lot) more grandeur for the king, both in the attack on his warriors and in his return to his rightful place. Thankfully the character is played with depth, so I feel the sense of growth from him. The parallel between Young and Noguk putting love before country was a nice moment for him, because he seemed mad that Young chose Eun-soo over him (aw, bad day for bromance), but then when Noguk chooses him over Yuan, we get the sense that he finally understands.
I actually wondered at Young’s request for Gongmin to let him go, because he finally seemed like a general to me in this episode, doing the smart thing by staying put and giving orders. I feel like every other time, he’s done the stupid and rash thing by having to run off by himself and save the day all alone, for no apparent reason other than it’s the only thing he could think of at the time. So then is he reverting back to that? And is it because of the deaths of his men and his guilt that he wasn’t there to save them?
Eun-soo’s outburst in this episode was a nice reciprocal gesture to Young’s kiss, because so far, she hadn’t shown him that she felt the same way. They always talk with this pretext of saving each other or protecting each other, but rarely do they actually speak of romantic feelings. So it was great to have Young push a little, by asking why she’s always so out of reach. And though she says it in a roundabout way, I thought the sentiment was really lovely—that she’s afraid of loving him freely because then leaving him might make him revert to the way he was when she met him, and he’s too important to history to be left that way. The problem is that the feelings are already there, so there’s really no undoing that. There’s just preparing for the other thing, and bracing for impact.