I love this new chapter of the story—it gives us the best of the legend and all the fun of the character without the mopey, ’cause an imp without oomph is just sad. It finally feels like our Woo-chi has become the Jeon Woo-chi, cocky, righteous bandit with a true purpose, and of course, a flair for the funny. And right along with him our other characters start to take on new life, like one very idealistic young king, who might change his country after all.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Woo-chi sees the new queen practically drooling over her birthday gifts and decides he’s going to have to punish her. Why does that sound like a really, really bad idea? It’s not wrong, of course, given that the king skips one meal a day just to feed his people, but methinks this is gonna go sideways really fast…
Bong-gu flips out about him going after a royal, namely because if he’s caught, it’s people like Bong-gu and Hye-ryung who will suffer. Ha. Woo-chi chides that he won’t get caught, like that’s just a ridiculous thought.
When he goes to see Chul-gyun, he finds another incriminating surprise: Chul-gyun has the very presents that Oh Kyu gave the queen.
Woo-chi demands to know how he stole them, and Chul-gyun insists they were brought here directly by the queen’s people, and ordered to pawn them off for money or rice. Woo-chi realizes she’s even more rotten than he thought.
He checks in with Hye-ryung, who tells him that there are hordes of people pawning goods in the same way. She wonders what it’s about.
He warns her she’ll get hurt if she asks any more questions, and tells her not to wait up. Hye-ryung: “Where are you going? And why would I wait up for you?! I’m going to bed super early!” Omg they’re like an old married couple. So cute.
Mu-yeon worries about Woo-chi going alone tonight, but he argues that it’s too dangerous for her, especially without her powers.
She reminds him that the Butterfly was one notch above Jeon Woo-chi, and she can take care of herself. I love that it’s a competition. He brushes off the idea without a second thought and rushes off alone.
The king is the first to visit the queen that night, after he hears about her lavish gifts. He’s fuming mad, and despite So-chil’s pleas to be a little gentler on his first-ever visit to the queen’s chambers, he goes in determined to give her a lecture.
He asks if she was pleased to receive so many presents, and the young queen innocently says she was delighted, and asks if the king is here to give her another. Oh dear. He shoots up and declares that this will be the last time he ever visits, and storms out without giving her a chance to say a thing.
Woo-chi sneaks into the palace, and Mu-yeon sneaks right up on him… which kinda makes her right about being better than you, no?
But they’re both surprised to find the queen tiptoeing out of the palace late at night, with just two court ladies by her side. Seems fishy. Mu-yeon urges Woo-chi to follow, so they can figure out where she goes.
They find her among a cluster of shacks and Woo-chi announces himself by name, saying that he’s here to punish her. The queen doesn’t flinch, asking what her sins are.
Woo-chi calls her shameless, but before he can get any further, he gets a gourd to the noggin. Suddenly the queen is surrounded by a crowd of people, holding up sticks to defend her.
Woo-chi and Mu-yeon stop in confusion, and then look around. It’s a little village of poor, sick, weak people, and they’re guarding the queen with their lives.
Awwwwww… she’s here to feed the poor, isn’t she? Dude, were you ever wrong about her.
The peasants line up and bow to her gratefully, calling her “miss” and thanking her for coming like always. So she not only does this all the time, but does it anonymously? Woo-chi realizes what a big mistake he was about to make and chides himself.
He then rushes back to work to write about it so that the king knows the truth. Oh Kyu steals the story and takes the credit of course, but Woo-chi smiles knowing the king will get the report either way.
I’m worried for a minute that he won’t be told, but then we see the king and queen taking a walk together in the palace, and he asks if it’s true that she goes out to tend to the poorest of their people, and asks why she didn’t tell him.
She modestly says she was simply doing her job, and shares the things her father taught her before entering the palace—to use her power and position to help the country when it is suffering.
The king looks at her with these starry eyes, and she says shyly that it’s the first time he’s ever smiled at her since she’s arrived. AW. They’re SO CUTE.
Woo-chi watches from afar and chuckles at how well-matched they are. Yay for taking the night off from being an avenging thief to play cupid.
But So-chil worries when the king stays up all night reading a book that his father-in-law wrote, and announces that the way to fix Joseon is to stop each government committee from appointing its own (and therefore controllable) people. It has the ministers up in arms, naturally, because the king is starting to encroach on their turf.
Minister Oh heads home that night and finds a visitor waiting at his doorstep. It’s Ma Sook, with Kang-rim in tow. Eep, they’re aliiiive! But then to everyone’s surprise, including mine, Ma Sook gets down on his knees to beg forgiveness and an audience with the minister.
Huh. I wonder if they lost their powers too, just like Mu-yeon. Or if this is an act, to get something they want. Either way, Kang-rim doesn’t seem too pleased about bowing to the man, but he doesn’t have much of a say.
Ma Sook offers up a book (I think the log of Minister Oh’s extortion funds he used as leverage before, though nobody says what it is.) and adds that his real offering is his hands, and Kang-rim’s—they’ll do whatever he asks, whether it’s steal or kill.
The next day Minister Oh enters the palace with Kang-rim as his new minion, and eagle-eyed Chan-hwi notes the new face.
Kang-rim doesn’t waste any time, and steals in to see an official, and zaps him dead in the heart. So… you definitely still have your powers. I wonder why Mu-yeon doesn’t then.
He replaces the decree on the man’s desk with his own, slumps him over the desk and sticks a brush in his hand, and sneaks away.
Woo-chi goes to see the very same man to check on something, and nearly sees Kang-rim on his way out, but Kang-rim has his back turned and Woo-chi is wearing Lee Chi’s face, so the two don’t actually notice each other, and walk right past.
Woo-chi finds the official dead at his desk. He calls Chan-hwi, who inspects the body and says he died of heart failure, and had sent out for medicine complaining of chest pain earlier in the week. They rule it a natural death.
Minister Oh is pleased at Kang-rim’s usefulness, intending to fill the position with someone in his own camp. Kang-rim returns to Ma Sook in their new modest room, complaining of having to cower in front of Minister Oh.
He asks when they’re going to reclaim what he took from them, and Ma Sook tells him to learn patience, and play the part properly. What he’s after isn’t just the minister’s wealth, but his power.
He orders Kang-rim to do whatever the minister asks, and to help build that power. Ah, I see. You help make him more powerful, then take what’s his. It remains to be seen how, but Kang-rim agrees to do as he’s told.
Woo-chi sits at his desk mulling it over, and thinks it weird that a man would die of a heart attack so peacefully, brush in hand, and not clutching his chest in pain. He asks to see the body again but Chan-hwi tells him the family already claimed it, and rushes off to receive the new man filling the position… Minister Oh’s nephew.
That pings Woo-chi’s radar more than anything, and he shares his suspicions with Mu-yeon. They figure it’s likely that Minister Oh hired an assassin, but there was no trace of murder at the scene.
Woo-chi wonders if it could be Kang-rim, but Mu-yeon argues they never learned that kind of magic, and there’s still no evidence that Kang-rim survived.
They’re hunched over a small desk while they talk, and jump back when Hye-ryung opens the door, making her pout jealously. Aw, her crush just kills me. She announces that Woon-bo is leaving, and Woo-chi runs out to see him off.
He’s headed out on the road to try and become a merchant (also promising to send word of bad guys in other districts), and Woo-chi assures him that he’ll take care of Hye-ryung like she’s his own sister.
She puts on a brave face as she says goodbye, but only barely holds back tears.
The king decides he has to go see the queen’s father right this instant, and So-chil and Chan-hwi both warn him that he can’t leave the palace all willy-nilly. But he won’t budge, so So-chil has the idea that the palace reporters are actually free to come and go as they please, unlike everyone else.
So then Chan-hwi brings Lee Chi to see the king, intending to have them swap clothes. Bong-gu finds them because he’s a good puppy who can’t be without his master, and Lee Chi tells Chan-hwi they might as well take him along because he’s not good at keeping secrets. Ha.
Bong-gu’s jaw drops when he realizes they’re here to see the king, and immediately kneels with his head to the ground. The king worries about the plan, since Lee Chi’s face is recognizable, as is his own.
He has a better idea: he’ll trade clothes with Bong-gu, and go out posing as Lee Chi’s servant. HAHAHAHA. I like where your head’s at, king. Bong-gu blubbers that he couldn’t possibly, but the king insists, and they swap clothes.
Lee Chi can barely hold in his laughter at the sight of King Bong-gu, who worries about what’ll happen if he gets caught. But the king tells him he’s just following orders, and they hurry out, leaving him all alone.
Hilariously, the second they leave, he’s all smiles, giddy at the chance to play king.
Lee Chi leads the king and Chan-hwi out of the palace, and they run into Chul-gyun on the way. He complains that Lee Chi isn’t gambling like he used to, and notices that he’s got a new servant.
He nearly gets his arm yanked off by Chan-hwi when he reaches to touch the king’s face, thinking him Bong-gu’s prettier replacement.
Lee Chi ushers him away in mortification. He adds repeatedly that he only goes to the gambling den to hear of news, while the two of them stare back humorlessly. Hee.
Meanwhile Bong-gu has a grand ol’ time masquerading as the king, and go figure, all of his king role-playing involves royal punishments for Chul-gyun.
The king’s trio takes the back woods to avoid being seen, but runs into a group of bandits on the way. Chan-hwi draws his sword and tells them to run, so they do… only there are more bandits waiting for them.
Lee Chi rushes at them headlong and yells at the king to run. He does, but it only takes a moment for them to surround him, all alone.
He says in his kingly manner that they are committing a grave crime, and the bandits laugh at the servant who talks that way.
He declares that he’s the king of this country, and they laugh even more, while the leader says pointedly that since the real king of Joseon has no power and does nothing, so the little servant may as well be the king; it makes no difference. Aw, the truth, it hurts.
They raise their swords to strike, when Jeon Woo-chi comes flying in and zaps them all down. Woot! It’s adorable how happy the king is to see him.
Woo-chi doesn’t miss the opportunity to make fun of Chan-hwi for doing a less than stellar job, and suggests he’s the better bodyguard to escort the king. Poor Chan-hwi gets stuck on Lee-Chi-finding duty, which… uh… might take him a while.
The king goes to see his father-in-law, and says he read his book more than ten times. He asks him to enter the palace, saying that he needs people like him by his side. The queen’s father declines, not wanting to create more problems for the king, given the political environment.
But the king tells him about the bandits, and asks, “When I am called an idiot out of the mouths of my own people, what am I to do?” He pleads that he needs people like him if he is to heal Joseon of its illnesses.
The queen’s father asks, “Do you really wish to change Joseon?” King: “I do.”
Woo-chi walks him back and wonders why it’s all so complicated, and the king says that’s just how politics works. They come back to Chan-hwi, who has arrested all the bandits, but still can’t find Lee Chi.
That’s Woo-chi’s cue to vanish, and as soon as he flies away, Lee Chi just so happens to wake up in the snow a few feet away. He pretends to have passed out, and Chan-hwi leads them away, exasperated. Hee, the secret identity hijinks never get old.
In the morning, the king tells his ministers that he wants to take on a teacher to expand his studies, and they all agree that it’s a great idea. The others all praise Minister Oh and suggest he’s the best man for the job, while Minister Oh takes the modest approach and says he surely isn’t.
But the king doesn’t give him an inch, and cuts in, “Well, if you insist, I can’t burden you with this.” Ha, it’s pretty awesome. And then he follows it up with, “In fact I have someone in mind…” and in walks the queen’s father. Contentious glares all around.
The ministers meet privately to figure out how to handle this. They argue that the king can’t appoint a royal’s family to an official position, but Minister Oh points out that the entire reason his daughter was chosen as queen was because he’s such a renowned scholar.
They can’t exactly complain he isn’t qualified, or stick their own necks out in protest. He has a better idea, and next thing we know, the courtyard is filled with Sungkyunkwan scholars, chanting in protest to the king.
Their cries ring out in the distance, but the king is resolute, and asks his teacher to begin. Father-in-law begins his first lesson on shifting the rule of noblemen, through meritocracy.
Woo-chi watches the demonstration with annoyance, and shoots something up into the sky… and down comes a rainstorm, right on top of the scholars. Awesome.
He sits at his desk in the newsroom, scowling as Oh Kyu dictates a biased account of the events, skewed to his father’s favor. Once he gets the report in his hands, Woo-chi wiggles his fingers to put a desk and its inkwell in his path…
And splat goes Oh Kyu and his story. Hee. I love it when Woo-chi uses his powers for petty evil.
But a little while later, Bong-gu runs in, panicked at the news that the king’s new teacher had all his guards taken away for some special training. Sure enough, as soon as he’s alone, Kang-rim creeps up behind him.
He’s prepared with a sword, but Kang-rim is faster, and kills him…
Only when he falls, he poofs into a decoy. HA, literally—a straw man.
Kang-rim makes a break for it, and Woo-chi comes in. He’s too late to catch him, but now he knows that someone is using magic to kill inside the palace. They thank him, and he warns Chan-hwi to watch out because this killer has powers like him.
Woo-chi goes home to share notes with Mu-yeon, and guesses that Minister Oh has found himself a wizard to do his bidding, and wonders if it could be Kang-rim. Mu-yeon counters that even if Ma Sook and Kang-rim survived, they’d want Minister Oh dead for betraying them.
Woo-chi says his next move is to check out Minister Oh’s house to see who he’s got stashed there, and Mu-yeon says she’s got a better idea. The next day she enters the compound posing as a peddler, and starts poking around.
Kang-rim is in his room, gathering his energy. His body is covered in cuts and bruises from the cave explosion, and it seems like his powers aren’t actually at full steam, given the lack of lightning and his strain to gather even a little strength.
Can she sense the energy? She comes closer and closer…
He feels someone coming and gets dressed and opens the door, but no one’s there. He starts walking closer to where Mu-yeon is hiding, just around the corner… and then she peeks to see who it is.
Her jaw drops when she recognizes Kang-rim. He stops. Did he see her too?
Augh, I hate it when we don’t know if he knows, even when it looks like he’s staring right at her. Because on this show, it’s pretty much a given that he doesn’t and it’s a fakeout. Either way, it’ll change the game because she knows that Kang-rim is alive. I have a feeling his cuts and bruises have something to do with her still being alive too, knowing his puppy love for her. Not that it negates the time he spent letting Ma Sook mind-control her into a killer, naturally, but Kang-rim always has this way of being a sympathetically sad kind of evil despite it all.
I really can’t get enough of this new dynamic—what a difference a time jump makes when it’s used for a much-needed jolt in the story. I was previously bummed out that the drama version of Woo-chi was both too good and too purposeless, caring only about his own revenge and lacking that characteristic naughty streak. I had just come to accept that the drama version must be a different character.
But after suffering that huge loss and thinking Mu-yeon dead, I love that the time jump is used to fast-forward us, and he becomes much more the iconic Jeon Woo-chi that we know. He’s a little cockier, a little more mischievous, and also more focused on a mission and cares about right and wrong. In that sense I guess Episodes 1-10 are really supposed to be his origin story, though they really should’ve framed it better as such.
In any case, now there’s a whole new set of episodic narratives that can be woven into the story because Woo-chi the wizard who cares about right and wrong is very different from Woo-chi the guy chasing after his first love. We wanted him to save her, of course, but I like his character much better now that she’s his partner in crime, rather than the damsel in distress.
It’s only now that the scale of this world (and the sheer number of characters) fits with our hero’s story—he can move in and out of any number of conflicts because he has something he wants to accomplish, and now something like the king’s desire to make a better Joseon matters to Woo-chi, when it didn’t before. I’m really liking this drama’s portrayal of a young and scared puppet king whose growth and maturity parallels Woo-chi’s own. He’s actually far more principled than our hero, but limited by the slow politicking he has to do, while Woo-chi has had all sorts of power all this time, but lacked a purpose. Now that they’re starting to work together, it’s exciting for both characters’ stories. Not to mention that I could pretty much watch stick-in-the-mud Chan-hwi and Woo-chi being buddy cops all day and be happy at that. And yeah, Bong-gu playing prince and pauper, but that’s just a given.