The stakes kick it up a notch, what with increasing political agitation and the reemergence of some strong foes. This episode’s plot turn adds some heft to the story, which has mostly been a bit light and feel-good up to this point on the Injustice of the Week front. But the villains are getting smarter, and that means our heroes have to step it up to keep apace. *Bites nails*
The ratings haven’t undergone much change for the Wednesday-Thursday shows, but just to keep you updated: Jeon Woo-chi remains in first place with 12.2%, while I Miss You took in a 10.9% and The Great Seer a 8.8% rating. Looks like it’s a soft battle for this round.
SONG OF THE DAY
Byul – “전화번호” (Phone number) [ Download ]
EPISODE 13 RECAP
Mu-yeon tenses around the corner as Kang-rim approaches. It looks like he didn’t see her, but he definitely senses her presence.
Before he can get a look at her, though, Ma Sook calls him away. Ha! We all knew something like that was coming, didn’t we?
Ma Sook is displeased with Kang-rim’s shoddy failed assassination, because now there’s talk of somebody using magic within the palace. Kang-rim suspects that Woo-chi is there, hidden behind a different face.
Ma Sook tells him that Woo-chi is no match for him now. We’ve seen him kill with a new skill, so he must’ve been working on his bag of tricks in the interim. Kang-rim says he’ll never forget that Woo-chi was the reason everything started in the first place… which either hints at a terrible memory or a mighty martyr complex. (You know, the guy who cries, “You made me hit you!”)
Mu-yeon is stricken to realize that both Kang-rim and Ma Sook made it out alive. Aw. After she sacrificed her life and her powers to do them in, too. Let’s hope her kamikaze move had some effect (other than zapping her powers), so it wasn’t a futile sacrifice.
She returns home in a panicky daze, and Woo-chi asks what she learned at Minister Oh’s house. Yet she doesn’t share what she knows, saying merely that she needs more time to identify Minister Oh’s henchmen. And I howl, Whyyyyyy? I know you’re worried he’ll be hurt against souped-up Kang-rim, but haven’t we established that you two are way more awesome working as a team?
The civil service exam approaches, and Woo-chi hears his co-workers saying that great piles of money are about to fly around, since the test results are just going to be bought by the rich. Woo-chi’s confused, since he took first place his year without paying a thing, but he’s told that that was a fluke—the top honor was all set (er, paid for) to go to his boss, but Woo-chi swept in and outscored him. Hm, no wonder Oh Kyu still holds a grudge.
Sure enough, the backroom dealing has already begun. Minister Oh has tea with the administrator, who gives him the test questions in advance. Since the best scorers will earn government offices, this allows the minister to pick his own people for the job.
The king is aware of this, and shows his queen a question he prepared for the exam. He intends to include it on the exam, but only at the last minute so no cheating can occur. The queen cautions that the ministers won’t allow for this, but he assures her that he has a plan.
Thus Chan-hwi calls Woo-chi to convey the king’s request: Can he slip in to the test proceedings and swap in the last question secretly? Woo-chi can handle that, but points out that the names of the “winning” scholars have already been decided, regardless of the exam results. Chan-hwi says the king is taking care of that.
Among the cheaters is the son of our very own corrupt Minister Jang, the man who previously framed Chan-hwi. He’s got his answer sheet tucked away, having had time to prepare the best reply thanks to Daddy’s payoff.
At the exam site, Lee Chi watches the ministers presenting the official test question and works his magic from afar. One incantation later, and poof! Scrolls swapped, with nobody the wiser.
The question is unveiled: Discuss how to rid Joseon of its problems and institute reforms. You can spot the cheaters from the Durrrr expressions on their faces. Ha!
Minister Jang goes running to Minister Oh in a panic, but Minister Oh has a backup plan: They’ve made arrangements to mark scrolls with a dot on the bottom left corner, so that the administrators can still announce their boys as the winners. Afterward they can swap out answer sheets for some that aren’t terribly nonsensical.
Too bad for them, Lee Chi’s snooping at the door. Muahaha.
Cheating Son sweats bullets, until his father mutters to him to remember the dot. Son’s cheating bro-dudes do the same.
So Woo-chi conjures up a magical black dot and sends it out over the test site, instructing it, “Go forth and stick!” Hahaha. He’s marking them all, isn’t he?
Sure enough, the exam administrator flips nervously through an entire stack of dotted sheets. (LOL, one sheet is entirely empty but for the dot. You dumb, privileged lug.)
The king drops in to check on the scoring, and the administrator asks for a bit more time to sort through the “tricky” tests. The king overrides him, saying that he’d like to take a look himself since he’s curious to see how they answered the question of reforming Joseon.
The ministers fume silently as all of their handpicked scholars fall short, and the top scholars who make the cut come from humble backgrounds. How dare they shake up the social order with their competence and smart answers—the indignity!
Furious, Minister Oh calls in Kang-rim and Ma Sook to deal with the rogue wizard running amok in the palace. He’s sure this exam trickery is his doing and that he’s helping the king—get rid of him.
That night, Mu-yeon thinks back to Ma Sook and Kang-rim, worried for Woo-chi’s safety. Again Woo-chi senses the heaviness in her mood, but she brushes it aside.
Kang-rim gains entree to the palace as a new royal guard, introduced with a new name. Chan-hwi’s eyes narrow in suspicion, especially considering his affiliation with Minister Oh, but for now he’s given no reason to object.
This gives Kang-rim free license to wander about the palace grounds under the guise of patrol, his eyes peeled for a sign of Woo-chi. He strolls right into the news office and demands that Oh Kyu line up all his employees for his inspection.
Oh Kyu’s dislike of Kang-rim is interesting, when you consider they’re both under the thumb of Minister Oh and therefore on the same side. But instead of banding together, it only raises their hackles more and Oh Kyu watches him suspiciously, as if to say, My Daddy may trust you but you don’t have me fooled.
But Daddy’s still got the power in this group, and Kang-rim refuses to back down by saying he’s only acting on Minister Oh’s orders. Oh Kyu seethes, but he’s outmatched.
Woo-chi is out of the office at the moment, having been called by the king’s father-in-law (now a minister) to write letters at the king’s behest. While Minister Oh has put this man’s assassination on the back-burner for now, it’s just a matter of time before he resumes that plot. Father-in-law looks upon Lee Chi’s literary skills favorably, asking why he’s wasting his talents with his current job. He offers to speak with the king to give Lee Chi a better position.
Woo-chi declines with a rebuke, saying that he’s disappointed in the minister. After all, this kind of promotion-via-favoritism is exactly the kind of problem the king wishes to wipe out. He adds cheerily that he likes his job; he has no desire to move on up.
The minister surprises him by answering that if all civil servants were like Lee Chi, they’d have no worries. He apologizes for testing him, saying that you can’t know who to trust in the palace.
Woo-chi and Bong-gu leave the meeting just early enough to miss crossing paths with Kang-rim. This isn’t going to be a drawn-out Thing, is it? I hope not.
Woo-chi hears about the mysterious newcomer to the royal guard upon his return to the office, and this immediately strikes him as odd.
That night, Woo-chi meets with the king and assures him that he’s keeping guard over his father-in-law. He’s still looking for the hidden wizard in their midst, but hasn’t located the trail yet. The king calls his father-in-law Joseon’s lifeline and entreats Woo-chi to take particular care.
Kang-rim’s shifty behavior also has Chan-hwi on alert, especially when he finds Kang-rim standing outside the king’s chamber at night with the excuse that he was checking on the lighted building. Is the king meeting with somebody? Chan-hwi says the king is reading and dismisses Kang-rim, so Woo-chi can emerge unseen.
Woo-chi asks about the new guard, and hearing that he’s got ties to Minister Oh confirms his suspicions. He advises Chan-hwi to keep a particularly close eye on him.
With both Woo-chi and Kang-rim in close quarters, they pick up each other’s ki despite not being able to actually see each other. Both dart around the grounds in super-speed, and it’s not quite clear who’s the cat and who’s the mouse as they go round in circles tracking each other. Woo-chi has numbers on his side, splitting off a clone to cover more ground—but Kang-rim can sense the splitting spell in the air, which confirms that he’s dealing with Woo-chi.
Woo-chi comes home and tells Mu-yeon of his conviction that the palace culprit is Kang-rim. He could sense the increase in his energy, though, and realizes that he’s too strong for him to take on. Mu-yeon warns him to be careful, especially worried because despite the heightened danger Woo-chi seems determined to track him down.
So she takes matters into her own hands by returning to the house the next day, catching Kang-rim alone and asking to speak with him.
She begs him to stop now, to quit killing and hurting people, reminding him that he was once warm-hearted. He scoffs, saying that he thought she’d come to ask his forgiveness, because he’s delusional. How dare the kidnappee fight back and hurt the kidnapper’s iddle bitty feewings, hm?
Her words have no effect, and he says he’s going to overturn this crazy world. He won’t give up now—not after he spent the past year in excessive anguish working on gaining more strength.
Mu-yeon cries that this is Ma Sook’s doing and begs him not to listen to him anymore. He tells her not to come around for him, because the Mu-yeon he loved died a year ago: “If we meet again, I might even kill you.”
The top scholar from the civil service examination is given his ceremony and appointment as Oh Kyu’s deputy editor. He seems a bit stiff and humorless as he greets the office, but is also an upright man who flatly refuses the appointment gift offered by Lee Chi & company.
No surprise that the deputy editor doesn’t exactly rub along with Oh Kyu. The principled new hire points out that they’re supposed to report the news and not pick and choose what they want to pass along. Oh Kyu rages that HE’S the boss.
Deputy Editor wins this argument, though, since he has been appointed here on king’s orders. The editor wouldn’t dare defy royal order, would he?
The other reporters marvel at this turn, feeling optimistic that a much-needed wind of change is blowing.
In another session with the king’s father-in-law, Lee Chi asks how the minister feels about that man named Jeon Woo-chi. If such a man is there to punish the corrupt, wouldn’t the world get a little cleaner, bit by bit? Father-in-law says no, despite liking Jeon Woo-chi himself; those methods don’t change the world and have limitations.
Father-in-law explains that even so, there will never be an end to the parade of corrupt men. To effect change for a better world, they must make good laws and enforce them: “That is the work that the king and I mean to do.”
I guess this wave of reform is sweeping through the rest of the palace as well, however reluctantly for some, who miss their little perks. Like the normally weak-willed chief of the royal guard, who’s used to coming to the tavern and ordering meat on Chul-gyun’s tab and drinking alcohol while on duty. Today he refuses the liquor with a longing look, and the tavern lady is impressed at the sign that the world is taking an upswing.
So is the king, who credits his father-in-law for the improvements. And that’s only the beginning, since Dad’s got bigger, more contentious reforms on the docket… like drastically cutting the number of vassals of the state, as well as the special favors they enjoy.
This does not go over well with our council of corruption. The ministers rage about their puppet king daring to attack them, and Minister Oh pins all the blame on Father-in-law. Making things worse, now they have the recently appointed scholars fanning the flames and following in his ideological footsteps. The cronies urge Minister Oh to act fast, before things get out of control.
Father-in-law looks around his office for some missing papers, which Lee Chi hasn’t seen. He isn’t too worried, saying that they’re not important documents, but why do I have a sinking feeling about this?
Ah, because Kang-rim’s behind it. He takes the stolen document and waves his hand over it, absorbing the text. Oh no, is he using that as a handwriting sample? Eek!
He then “deposits” those characters onto a fresh scroll, producing what is probably a very incriminating document. Uh-oh…
A message is delivered to the deputy editor, whose eyes widen in alarm—it’s a ransom note. His fiancée has been taken, and when he arrives to confront the blackmailer, he finds Kang-rim there with orders at the ready: If the deputy editor wants to see his sweetheart again, he’ll do as he’s told.
At least Woo-chi has a different info stream, because he hears about his deputy editor’s fiancée disappearing from Hye-ryung. Her errand service had been approached by the woman’s servant, who begged for help in finding the young lady. What’s curious is how quiet the whole matter has been—the couple is reportedly wildly in love, and yet he’s made no mention of such a huge issue.
Woo-chi keeps a close eye on his deputy editor, wondering why he’s here at work acting normal instead of out searching for his fiancée. He follows him out of the office, while a certain letter is passed along furtively among various courtiers. Among the recipients is Father-in-law.
The letter must be a summons of some sort, because the recipients make their way to an out-of-the-way cottage—all while watched by the deputy editor, who hides at a distance. Uh-oh. You’re framing them in a plot, aren’t you?
Lee Chi’s on the scene as well, wondering why Father-in-law is part of the gathering… and then he spots Kang-rim in his officer disguise, lurking outside the building.
The men inside look at each other in confusion, each asking the others why they called him here. They’re all aware that this looks terribly fishy, to be meeting in secret, but they came as bidden because of mention of a royal order.
With the trap in place, Kang-rim leads a squad of officers inside. Arrest the rebels!
And just their luck, Kang-rim has planted incriminating evidence in the hut, like the dragon-crested robes reserved exclusively for a king’s use. Ohhh, crap.
Kang-rim wastes no time torturing the men and demanding to know their plot, which of course they can’t explain. Chan-hwi asks Kang-rim to take more time to investigate, since it makes no sense that the king’s father-in-law would incite rebellion against him.
But Kang-rim calls forth their witness: the deputy director. Ack! He looks miserable, but recites the story he’s been fed: That Father-in-law told him to gather supporters in secret.
Father-in-law insists that this is untrue, but the deputy director has written “proof” of Father-in-law’s intentions to sit upon the throne himself, and takes out the doctored letter.
The king doesn’t believe the uprising story for a minute, but his council says they’ve confirmed the veracity of the letter and push for immediate execution, lest the rebellion pick up momentum.
The king visits his father-in-law in prison and orders everybody out. Father-in-law actually apologizes, but the king says that he would not have made it this far without him. It sounds like his father-in-law has already resigned himself to his fate, and he urges the king not to lose his way or his determination. Tearfully, the king takes hold of his hand and repeats, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I could not protect you.”
Woo-chi confronts the deputy editor before he can skip town in disguise and tells him to march right back to the palace and rescind his perjured testimony. The man begs to be let go to rescue his beloved, which is not a convincing argument for Woo-chi—he’d exchange the life of many men to save his fiancée? There’s a glint of extra frustration here as Woo-chi actually looks disillusioned in the man, having had such hopes for him.
Execution day. It’s a good day for the corrupt council, who are glad to be rid of a pesky troublemaker getting in the way of all their wicked ways, and also for Kang-rim who expects Woo-chi to make a heroic appearance at any minute.
The king is strong-armed into attending the execution despite wanting to do nothing of the kind, and further outraged to hear that the ministers bade his queen to be present to watch her father die. They remind him pointedly that this man is a convicted traitor and that the king has a duty to be present. Minister Oh thinks smugly that the king is getting what he deserves for messing with him.
Myung-gi tells Mu-yeon of the crowds gathering to watch the execution, which she thinks is rather morbid. But he corrects her, saying that they’re all hoping for a glimpse of Jeon Woo-chi, who seems likely to come to stop this unfair execution. Mu-yeon hurries along to join him.
Woo-chi is in fact making his way toward the palace with the deputy editor in tow, having convinced him to tell the truth. However, he spots Kang-rim and his guards prowling the streets for a sign of him, and ducks for cover. He says he’ll stall as long as possible, and orders the deputy editor to hurry to the execution to reveal the true story.
With that, Woo-chi steps outside, right in Kang-rim’s path. Then he turns tail and makes a break for it, ensuring that they chase, and that allows the deputy editor to escape unseen.
He makes it to the palace and pushes his way through the crowds, yelling for a stay to the execution. Only, that gets him a pricked in the neck, as one of our baddies knocks him out with some sort of drugged needle. Urg!
Kang-rim chases Woo-chi through the streets, but is stopped by Mu-yeon, who begs for him to stop now and return to his former ways. He doesn’t listen.
The executioner prepares his sword, and the king and queen sit there helplessly. In his last moments, Father-in-law calls out to the king, entreating him to always remember the larger plan and to protect his many subjects.
Lee Chi pushes his way to the front of the crowd, looking on grimly to see that the messenger didn’t make it.
I like the more serious twist of the story, though I reserve the right to rescind that if they actually kill off Dad tomorrow. ‘Cause they’re not really going to go through with it…. right?
Since these traitor plotlines are pretty much a staple of sageuks everywhere, I do find the fun meter taking a slight dip because while it adds drama to the drama, it’s familiar turf we’re treading. Then again, you can’t have a plot taking place largely at court and then just ignore the court aspect, so these kinds of political machinations are part and parcel of the story.
What does work in favor of it, then, is the way it’s used for this story and in the context of our hero Jeon Woo-chi. I could see how it would propel the story if Woo-chi were to face a situation where he couldn’t actually save the day—it shakes the faith people have in him and makes him confront the question of whether he really is a hero. As Dad said, Jeon Woo-chi’s minor exploits don’t ultimately change a country, and for all that he’s acting in the name of justice, he’s sort of a low-commitment hero. He may have to face some hard existential truths. I think. I’m guessing. Who knows?
An execution also forces the king to rise to the occasion and become even tougher. Right now he’s playing the son and student role (which is why their rapport is so heart-tugging and all the sadder when they’re saying their goodbyes), but he may have to lose that mentor in order to step out from behind his shadow. Isn’t that the origin story of every other superhero, losing the mentor? The ministers can cut off the people under the king’s ranks, but it’ll be much more difficult to fight the king himself. Till now, they’ve been lucky that he’s so young and inexperienced that he doesn’t know how to fight back. Losing this crucial figure may be the catalyst the king needs to become a king they can’t push around so easily.
On the other hand, it could just break him. There’s also that.
If I have a disappointment, it’s in this new turn for Mu-yeon. I was SO excited last week when they had her wake up, take charge and shoulder responsibility for her misdeeds, even turning her into a masked superhero to boot. Fantastic, right? It was too bad she lost her powers but she was truckin’ along anyway, and that (1) made her courage all the more impressive, and (2) could serve as an argument for the power of everyday heroes.
But now she’s scared for Woo-chi and begging for Kang-rim to change his ways and keeping secrets and basically just playing the part of pleading wife. Even though I have no problems with the loss of her powers as a plot point, it also feels a bit… off… to strip the girl of her powers and continue to have the men jostling for power around her, making her even more of an object than she ever was. Granted Kang-rim doesn’t seem to want her anymore so thank goodness they’re no longer fighting to possess the pretty toy, but the fact remains that she has become a powerless shell whose purpose in today’s episode was to worry about the hero. C’mon, at least Hye-ryung passed along crucial intel! I’m crossing my fingers that there’s some way to pull Mu-yeon back into relevance. She’s only been out of relevance for one episode. It could happen.