It’s the king’s turn to shine, or rather Ryu Deok-hwan’s turn to shine as the king. With his queen’s life in danger and his trusted general gone, the king starts to unravel at the seams, making for a powerful arc for what is still the best character of this series.
EPISODE 20 RECAP
We open on Future Eun-soo, who’s traveled a hundred years back in time. She journeys to the spot she remembers and puts the letter underneath a rock, not knowing if she believes in the kind of miracle that it would take for her (past?) self to read it a hundred years later. My brain, it hurts.
In voiceover she says, “I imagined it hundreds of times – what would have happened if we had turned back to the palace that day? Would our queen have lived? Would our king not have crumbled? And so, would I not have had to sit by and watch as that person carried all this, as his heart was dying?”
It’s interesting that she calls them “our” king and queen by then, because present Eun-soo has pretty much called him “your” king when she talks to Young.
She continues, “If I could just go back to that day. If I could just see that person again, if I could see his laughing eyes. If I could again… for just a day. Don’t run away like me, Eun-soo-ya, even if it becomes your last day.”
We catch up with Present Eun-soo (All other Eun-soos, go sit in a corner!) as she tells Young that they have to go back. He reminds her that they’re currently running away so she doesn’t die, but she asks: “If something happens to our king and queen, would you be okay?”
She starts to walk back the way they came, and he demands an explanation of what she heard and from whom. She shows him the letter in the film canister and tells him only that it’s a letter from heaven, and that it tells them to go save the queen.
She expects him to be skeptical, but he says he believes her, “because you said it.” He decides they’ll go back to the last town to get some intel on what’s going on in the palace, and decide then.
Meanwhile, all hell breaks loose when Gongmin finds out that his queen is missing. He insists he’s going to find her himself, but Choong-seok has to remind him he needs to stay put and give the orders, not the other way around. Poor panicked king.
He can barely think of what orders to give out, trembling and totally lost in his terror. All he can think to ask Choong-seok is: “Is there any word from the General?” Awwww. The answer is no.
Gongmin’s face twists in agony: “I’m being punished. I constantly ignored Choi Young’s heart, so now I am being punished the same way. Every time he asked me to protect the doctor, to save her life – every time he asked me, his heart must’ve felt like this. I finally know it now.”
Lady Choi arrives and kneels before the king, accepting full responsibility for not protecting the queen. She hands him the letter she found in Noguk’s dresser, from the Yuan envoy.
He reads it, and then gives Choong-seok a hundred soldiers to go storm Deok-heung’s place and bring back the Yuan envoy Sohn Yoo. The man declines to come, but Choong-seok doesn’t back down and the Woodalchi bring him (and his seal) to the palace.
Noguk is either asleep or unconscious somewhere unknown.
At the nearest town, Young asks some travelers of news, and they only know that war might break out, but not much else. He decides they should just keep running.
Eun-soo won’t have it, and knows that if she says she’ll go to heaven’s door alone, he won’t go back to the palace. So they have to return together. He refuses, so she asks what she can do to make him go back. “Should I get mad? You want me to get mad?”
And then even with that warning, she still manages to jedi-reverse-psychologize him: “Why do you keep trying to get rid of me?” She accuses him of only ever saying he’ll send her away, like he can’t wait to send her off to heaven.
He starts to stammer in protest but she just keeps going, asking what he’s thinking, saying that he’s a warrior who hesitates now. “Is that because of me? Then what does that make ME?!” She grumbles that he’s never once considered how it makes her feel, if he’s leaving the king because of her.
“You only say with words that you’ll protect me! Don’t just protect my life, but protect my heart!”
She turns away from him and mutters to herself (but loud enough to be heard) that she’s finally found someone she likes, but he keeps getting imprisoned and gave up being warrior, even though he doesn’t really have any other skills in life. Ha.
She says they have to go back, but he tells her to stand still. She starts to argue, but he means it literally, because another crop of bounty hunters are after them. He slices one in the arm and runs off to fight the other, while Eun-soo hilariously tends to her attacker’s wounds, given that he’s just a teenager.
Young tells the other that they should fight here, away from Eun-soo, and then the assassin sent by Sohn Yoo finally shows himself. It’s a more evenly matched battle, and he even slices Young in the shoulder.
Young just bides his time, asking if the man isn’t tired of always cutting others, being cut himself. As they spin and fly around each other, Young finds his moment to gain the upper hand, and stops short of slicing the man’s throat.
He says that someone once asked him if he wouldn’t just lay it all down, and then chooses to let the man go with his life. Well that… was anticlimactic.
He finds Eun-soo, who cringes to see him return with a fresh wound. He asks if she’s going to be mad like this the entire way if they don’t return to the palace, and sighs that he’ll go back then, just to check in on everyone’s safety. But he won’t send Eun-soo away alone.
She agrees to go back with him then, so he finally tells her the truth – that Yuan doesn’t want to take her at all. They want her dead. It finally clicks for her now what Future Eun-soo meant in the letter: “…even if that day is your last…”
She smiles and says she’ll still go anyway.
Gongmin shows Sohn Yoo the letter with his seal on it, used to lure Noguk out with a supposed message from her mother. He demands to see her, and fumes at Sohn Yoo’s calm demeanor as he simply explains that it’s his seal, but not his writing, and he would have no reason to kidnap the Yuan princess.
Gongmin orders the man imprisoned and interrogated until he gives up Noguk’s location, and his people have to stop him – he’s a Yuan envoy, and that would be war.
Sohn Yoo in turn goes to see Deok-heung and asks if he used his seal to kidnap Noguk. They talk round and round in circles, neither admitting to anything on the surface, though it seems clear that Deok-heung is behind it.
Sohn Yoo says his job is to take back control of Goryeo without inciting a war, and warns that if something were to happen to the Yuan princess, it would not go unpunished. Deok-heung says – in hypothetical terms – that no harm should come to the princess.
Noguk wakes up in a locked room, weak and barely able to crawl around on the floor.
Gongmin grows more and more paranoid by the minute, ordering his people to start searching every single home, which is just crazy. He trails off, “But what if we still can’t find her? What if we’re too late?”
He tells them to bring Deok-heung here. They protest, but he admits they all knew from the start, that he’s the only one who would stoop to something like this… “and what he’d ask for in return.”
Ki Chul’s people finally call him out on his obsession, admitting to the fact that none of them believes that the heavenly healer is for real. Hwasuin offers up a way to know for sure – they’ll go to heaven’s door.
If Young and Eun-soo are there, then Ki Chul was right. If they aren’t… then they’ve all been duped from the start.
Young and Eun-soo arrive at Suribang, and to Young’s surprise, Ajumma confirms Eun-soo’s fears: the queen has been kidnapped.
Deok-heung is brought to the palace late that night, and Gongmin tells everyone else to leave the room. Choong-seok protests because he likes to use poison (yeah, don’t we know it), but Gongmin is adamant.
Once alone, he asks with pleading eyes for Deok-heung to return his queen, asking what he wants in return. Deok-heung doesn’t even bat an eyelash at the accusation and says it wasn’t him… but IF it were, he wouldn’t need to make a deal at all.
He’d simply have to wait until word reached Yuan, that the king was so incompetent that he couldn’t protect their princess. Damn, he’s right. Gongmin turns to him, barely containing his tears, “Does that mean you do not intend to keep her alive?”
He says he’ll give up the throne, but asks that Deok-heung not let their country disappear. Deok-heung says it’s just a name – Goryeo, Yuan – what’s the difference? Gongmin: “Is that what a nation is to you?”
It makes his heart sink to know that he’s about to hand over his country to such a man, but he also can’t stop himself, and asks what he can do to keep his queen alive.
Lady Choi goes to Suribang that night and finds Young and Eun-soo there. She’s surprised to hear that Eun-soo insisted they turn back just in time, and wonders if she really is from heaven.
Eun-soo joins them to say that she know Deok-heung pretty well, so she’s got an idea. It’s another plan they use a lot in movies, and says that they have to find out where the queen is, while she meets Deok-heung.
Young immediately argues, and they bicker back and forth like an old married couple. He refuses to let her see Deok-heung, and she swears she’s got him figured out, shouting, “I minored in psychology!” Hahaha.
Aunt shouts to interrupt them, and says that the queen is also pregnant. That shocks Eun-soo, who says that’s not right… it’s too soon. Ruh-roh. She tells Young to go see the king, because he’s bound to be a mess without his queen, and asks him to trust her to try things her way.
So Young returns to the palace, where Choong-seok and Dae-man greet him happily. It turns out Eun-soo’s assessment of the king was an understatement – he sits in the queen’s chambers, giving the thousand-yard stare, refusing to even look up when Young enters.
He asks what Deok-heung said, but Gongmin just says in his hollow voice, “You shouldn’t have returned. You should have left when I sent you, instead of returning to see me in this pathetic state.”
Young asks over and over what Deok-heung said, and knocks the table aside just to try and snap Gongmin out of it. But he just falls to his knees to pick up the scarf, like it’s the last thing he can cling to.
Young picks him up off the floor and sits him down in the chair, and kneels down in front of him, finally managing to get some eye contact. He asks again and again what Deok-heung said to him.
He says that Deok-heung didn’t ask for anything. “He just laughed. I offered up my crown, my country, and pleaded with him. I begged.” The tears fill his eyes as he says the words out loud to Young, “Did you hear me? I threw out my country.”
But Young doesn’t once pass a look of judgment and says, “The doctor said that what Deok-heung wants is for your heart to fall apart. Has your heart already fallen? Then there is no reason for me to be here.”
It’s enough to break Gongmin out of his pity party, at least long enough for him to ask what Young needs. He asks for a royal order, and so Gongmin gives him the order to bring back his queen.
Young gets up to go, and Gongmin starts to thank him for returning. But Young says he hasn’t come back (officially) yet. You’re never back officially, but you never really go either. Just sayin’.
Eun-soo meets with Deok-heung, and bluffs that they’ve already found the queen’s location. He laughs that she’s as impolite as ever, and she just quips that she’s from heaven, so beggars and kings down here are all the same to her. I like that she runs with the heaven idea whenever it suits her.
She shows him the letter from heaven and says this time, the pages are about him. She pretends to read a passage from it that says Deok-heung kidnapped the queen, and that she’s pregnant.
She offers up a trade—antidote for the letter. Otherwise she goes to the palace and lets them know where the queen is. He reminds her that she’s due to be executed tomorrow, and Eun-soo just breezes that she knows.
But she decided this morning that it didn’t matter if she died or not, and well, if she saves the queen, wouldn’t they give her some credit for that? She figures that’s bad for him, if he showed his face while kidnapping her.
He asks for her to promise to stay by his side if he gives her the antidote, and she turns him down flatly. He warns that the symptoms will flare up soon, and she just walks out, “I know.”
She returns to the palace, where Young worriedly inspects her just to be sure she’s okay. It’s not as sexy as it sounds, but it’s still very cute. She holds up a victory sign with a smile, not that he knows what it means.
Gongmin calls a meeting with his advisors and Sohn Yoo, prepared to give his answer. Ki Chul crashes because he feels left out. How is it that now I just feel bad for you all the time?
Gongmin goes over the terms from Sohn Yoo (and Yuan): if he uses the Yuan seal and executes the wicked thing that has him under a spell, Yuan will deem him a useful king and let him continue to rule. Sohn Yoo confirms it.
Gongmin addresses the first by handing his Yuan seal over. “I’ve used it well, so I’ll return it now. I don’t think we need this anymore in this country.” Niiiiice.
He then addressed the second term, and calls for the wicked one to come forward. Eun-soo enters, to Ki Chul’s utter shock. Gongmin says that she is a doctor of this nation, who saved the Yuan princess, his general, “and yesterday she saved my heart.” Aw.
Noguk struggles to regain her senses, now realizing that the water she drank was laced with something to keep her subdued. Deok-heung’s man comes to deliver a larger dose, this one meant to kill her now that she’s served her purpose.
She uses all her strength to pull a dagger on the man, but he quickly overtakes her and raises the cup of poison to her lips…
But thankfully Young bursts into the room with the Suribang boys, who followed the servant from Deok-heung’s place. Young just knocks the man aside and carries the queen away.
The Woodalchi rush to capture the man, but he knifes himself before they can stop him. Damn, that’s some dedication.
Back at the council, Sohn Yoo asks Eun-soo if she is a healer from heaven. She starts to answer, but Gongmin cuts in to say that she’s just a doctor, and not from heaven at all. She’s just so good that it’s a rumor.
Ki Chul’s jaw drops and he insists that it can’t be. But Gongmin scoffs that anyone would believe such a thing. He asks Eun-soo if she’s from heaven, and she’s like, well… technically, no.
And then she mouths the most adorable I’m sorry at Ki Chul. Ha. It’s hysterical; his world is crumbling and she’s like, oops. He runs over to ask if all of it was really a lie, but they’re interrupted with news that the queen has returned.
Gongmin rushes to her room, but Lady Choi stops him, asking for the doctor first. Eun-soo goes in and Gongmin paces outside nervously.
She comes back out after a while, and says that the queen is conscious and she’s doing okay… but they lost the baby. It was the sedatives they fed her while in captivity. Gongmin’s face crumples, and he heads inside.
Aw, it’s so cute how his eunuch Dochi cries and cries. The Woodalchi all hang their heads in silence. Young steps in front of Eun-soo and holds her hand discreetly behind his back, and she leans on him and lets out a sigh.
Gongmin slowly walks toward the bed, and I love that the relief of having her back passes across his face, but he doesn’t show it to her. Without a word, he climbs into the bed and wraps his arms around her, as she weeps.
They both cry for their loss in a loving embrace.
Young goes to see Eun-soo and alerts her to an official request from Ki Chul to see her. He offers her a few choices for how to survive until heaven’s door opens. Option 1: spend the whole time on the run. She vetoes.
Option 2: he gives up his Woodalchi position for good and gets rid of anyone who might want to harm her, before they can harm her. Eun-soo: “You mean kill?” He nods. She vetoes. What, why? I like that plan! Okay, except for the giving up his ties to the king part.
She says they’ll go with Option 3, and he asks what that is. “I’ll hide in the safest place there is.” He asks where and she says she’ll have to ask for permission first. Please say it’s Young’s room.
The leader of the royal guard welcomes Young back, and says he’s got all his boys worried with his talk of quitting forever. He asks if it’s for a woman, or because his sword has gotten heavy.
Young asks what that means, and he says that when he was young, he overheard Young’s Jeokwoldae leader talking to his father one night. He said that his sword had grown heavy, and that it was time to end it.
And the next day, he entered the palace, and died. Whoa, I wonder how much it changes Young’s view of his leader’s heroic death, knowing that now.
He asks Young how long he’s been a warrior, and how many lives he’s taken. “That’s why I asked, if your sword had grown heavy too.” He looks down at the sword in his hand — his leader’s sword — and contemplates the question.
Ki Chul stews for a while, and then storms into Deok-heung’s place… to get the band back together and pick up where they left off. What? Seriously? Why do people keep wanting to work with this guy? Is it his shiny rockstar hair?
Young returns to Woodalchi headquarters, where his boys mill about, asking what they should do about new recruits. He gives his characteristic ask-Choong-seok answer, but they keep pestering him about some new recruit sent down from the king himself.
They warn him that the new recruit is waiting in his room…
He opens the door, and finds Eun-soo standing there in full Woodalchi armor. HA. I didn’t actually think you were going to stay in Young’s room! Though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the 21st-century girl thinks like I do.
He just stands there staring, while she salutes her new leader and says she got permission from the king to stay in the safest place in the world: here. She sees that he’s not exactly jumping for joy, so she nervously rattles off all the advantages, like having her on hand to tend to the wounded and whatnot.
She says that Woodalchi doesn’t exactly have a women’s dorm or anything, so she’ll just have to stay here. With him. I love this plan.
Young finally stops being a statue, and turns around to slam his doors open, flying into the boys’ faces and sending them scurrying away. Hee. And then he closes them again. Rawr?
He comes closer, “So I’m staying here too?” Eun-soo: “Well it’s the general’s room and you’re the general…”
He inches closer and closer, until he’s practically on top of her: “Because I’m the general… here…” Eun-soo: “Here. And don’t run away.” He stops inches from her face, and smiles. So cute.
Aw man, that’s the end of the episode? Why would you cut there?! *pout*
I do thankfully get the better episodes (Mehrong~) but in general this week is loads better than the last few because stuff actually happens. Go figure. I feel like Eun-soo and Young are pretty much stuck in the same plot loop, so it was nice to put some focus on Gongmin, whose insecure young king makes for such a fantastic character. I don’t know how he does it, but even when he’s falling apart or making the wrong choices, I’m totally with him. Because the vulnerability is just there in his eyes.
My favorite relationship—Gongmin and Young—got some quality screen time today, so that alone makes me a happy camper. (Though of course I always want more.) It strikes me that Young didn’t actually DO anything that Choong-seok or anyone else couldn’t have done, when it comes to rescuing the queen. The true rescue is in saving the king from his pit of despair, because without the king to lead, the army of soldiers is rather useless.
Choong-seok tells him the same words—that he needs to give them orders—but it’s only when Young says them that he remembers his duty to be a king worthy of his general. It’s ass-backwards, but that’s why it’s so compelling. He so quickly lets his fear of being pathetic… make him pathetic. But Young shows up to say that there’s no point in serving a king who’s given up, in the way you’d tell a crying child that you were thinking of giving him ice cream if he were being a good boy, but he’s being a crybaby… so you might just take it back.
I love that while others worry and fret and tiptoe around him, Young sits him up in a chair and basically asks: Are you gonna wallow like a baby, or are you gonna be a king? His breakdown in front of Young and his reunion with Noguk were stellar performances, and they were perhaps the first times that this show got me on an emotional level.
I’m all for roommate hijinks for the main couple, at least until we finally make it to the crucial question of what Eun-soo will choose: heaven’s door (and possibly getting stuck in a time loop) or remain in Goryeo (and possibly cause a horrendous rift in time and space, no pressure). I feel like we’re sort of in limbo until we get to that point, because Ki Chul and Deok-heung and the poison-go-round aren’t really doin’ anything new. So let’s just go with bunkmate and Eun-soo-as-Woodalchi shenanigans while we’ve got the chance. I can’t wait to see her hang out with the boys and teach them all to high-five.
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