Tons of great stuff in this episode—it started off great, then just kept rolling. I love when a show is chock-full of reversals that move the story forward, rather than back and forth. That’s a danger you run into with a good-versus-evil conflict, with both sides struggling to claim victory. Often a step forward for one side means a step back for the other, and the plot resembles a tug-of-war more than a linear progression onward. So although this drama necessitates a constant stream of setbacks for Team Good Guys, it feels like a twist each time rather than returning to square one. And that makes it a whole lotta fun. That, and some really fantastic characters.
SONG OF THE DAY
Moon Myung-jin – “뜨거운 안녕” (Warm goodbye) from the Mandate of Heaven OST
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EPISODE 13 RECAP
Won and Da-in are captured and taken to a house in the woods to be killed by Vice Premier Kim. She gets a last-minute reprieve when Merchant Jang barters that incriminating prescription for her life—he keeps Do-saeng’s confession letter—and is taken away, leaving Won to his doom.
Vice Premier Kim gives the order… Gon-oh raises his sword… and nobody charges in to save him. Won frantically searches for a way to save his neck—and blurts, “Peony flower message!” Well, that certainly grabs Kim’s attention.
Vice Premier Kim practically gasps to see the scrap of the note Won carries with him, and that buys Won a little leeway to bluff that he got it from Queen Munjeong. It makes Kim back off, because even though he isn’t completely sold, the idea that the queen may be operating behind his back has him gulping nervously, and he doesn’t dare kill Won now.
They’re interrupted by the arrival of Chun-bong and reinforcements, who swiftly take down Kim’s henchmen. Won is cut free, and Kim leaves his men to make a break for it. Won chases him down and uses his newfound fighting skills to sock him in the face, which is pretty satisfying.
Won wrests the prescription papers out of Kim’s hands and drags him along, intent on taking him to the prince. Kim leaps into slimy negotiation mode, offering to cut him a deal—let him go, and he’ll help Won escape with his daughter to Ming China. It’s the same deal he offered for killing Deok-pal, but today Won deliberates not even a second: He will soon be cleared of his crime, so he has no need to make deals. Booyah.
I’m already feeling pretty good five minutes into this episode, but things get even better because Jung-hwan captures rat fink bastard Mak-bong. With Merchant Jang out at the processional (and in possession of the documents), Jung-hwan takes the criminal to the police station for safekeeping. The officer protests that Jung-hwan doesn’t have the authority anymore, so Jung-hwan makes his day by giving him permission to claim credit for the capture. Ha.
Woo-young jumps into his path, bubbling with excitement over the catch. Jung-hwan confirms it (rather proudly, we might note), and Woo-young is so happy she pats him on the butt like a little boy.
He grabs her hand to stop her, which means now he’s holding her hand, and she just claps the other hand on top of his and heaps on the compliments. I love that he’s totally flustered at the contact and she doesn’t even notice.
Her enthusiasm dims when he says he didn’t get the documents, but he does immediately assure her that he totally knows where they are and will get them back.
Lee Ho had paused the proceedings while his men searched for the missing Prince Gyeongwon, but upon receiving word that the boy is safe, he resumes the rites. This consists of bowing before a ceremonial altar set up in public so the commoners are allowed to observe the prince praying for rain. It’s mostly for show—I doubt anybody really believes that praying for rain will bring it—but as a political and symbolic statement it’s important that that prince make the appearance of addressing the peasants’ woes.
However, as feared, not all peasants are full of reverence for royalty and one angry man hurls a stone at Lee Ho’s back. It’s a bold and desperate move since he’ll be gravely punished for it, but he’s carrying a starving child and rails against the prince for living in privilege while his people starve.
Lee Ho shocks everybody by stopping the guards from dragging off the peasant, and takes the child himself. He causes a wave of murmuring from the crowd when he feeds the girl personally with one of the ceremonial offerings, which has his anxious retainer just about peeing his pants at the sacrilege. But Lee Ho growls that if heaven holds this against him, he will cease to pray to such a heaven.
Lee Ho then orders every bit of food from the altar to be distributed to the people. His retainers hesitate, but he is infused with serious princely mojo today—it gives me shivers—and says forcefully that if heaven will refuse them rain, he’ll make it rain with his tears. He speaks with gravity and conviction; I’m impressed.
So are the people, who nod and murmur their approval.
And then… a drop of rain falls. And more and more, until soon they are drenched in the shower. Chun-bong raises a rally cry in support of the prince, declaring that his love for his people moved the heavens. Soon the crowd is kneeling before him. It’s quite moving, this wonderfully directed solemn moment.
Da-in, Merchant Jang, and Do-moon are caught in the rain on their way back, and she pleads to be allowed to return to the ceremony. She promises to stop asking for Won’s rescue, promising to obey Merchant Jang from now on, if he’ll let her go now.
The mood is celebratory at the bandits’ hideaway, and Prince Gyeongwon smiles happily to think that the heavens have helped his brother. It’s sweet.
Then he looks over at Rang, crouched glumly nearby, and eeeever so casually sidles over a few steps. Smooth. He asks why she isn’t happy about the rain, and she sighs that rain makes her illness worse. She asks with trembling voice, “You don’t know what it’s like because you’re not sick like me. Feeling scared that I might not live.” Gyeongwon sighs that his mother probably wouldn’t like the rain either.
Chun-bong’s faction smiles that heaven has joined their side, and Chun-bong wonders whether this was mere luck, or something more.
Lee Ho marvels at the rain, but his faithful eunuch says with a wry smile that he knew it was going to rain before heading out today—he had consulted with the royal astrologer beforehand. HA. That cracks me up. Still, it’s a lucky thing his hunch was right, he says.
The prince is alerted to news of a visitor, and is surprised to find Won here with a bound Vice Premier Kim in tow. Won hands over the papers to the prince, who reads them in surprise.
Lee Ho has been informed that Won orchestrated Prince Gyeongwon’s faux kidnapping, thereby allowing the rites to continue without bloodshed. However, the air between the two former friends is still strained because Lee Ho thinks Won is compensating for killing Deok-pal. Won insists that as a doctor, he could not kill Deok-pal and did his best till the end, and his disappearance in the aftermath was in order to save his daughter.
Lee Ho states that Won should have stayed behind to explain. Won returns that doing so would have only made things worse for the prince; Lee Ho wouldn’t have wanted to order Won to kill his daughter to protect himself.
There’s truth in that, which the prince takes in. Won adds that he came here today because in order to clear his name, the prince has to earn the people’s and the king’s trust. Hence the help with the rain ceremony.
Da-in heads back to that house looking for Won, but it’s empty when she arrives. All she finds is Rang’s pouch on the ground, and she looks to Do-moon for assurance that all is well—right? Instead, he gives her the likelier answer, that Won is probably dead.
That answer throws her into a panic, and she cries in despair. Clinging to her last scrap of hope, she runs through the woods begging Won to be alive, and that all she wants is to know that he’s okay. If only he can remain safe, she’ll do as her father bids and cut off contact with him. Poor Do-moon with the sad longing eyes just watches her run away.
Won makes contact with Jung-hwan on the mountain path, and they fill each other in on the latest events. Jung-hwan is on his way to get those papers from Merchant Jang, and hears that Won is also searching for Jang at the prince’s command. This means the man is not currently at the processional, but Jung-hwan has a good hunch where to look.
Merchant Jang is dismayed to hear of Da-in’s reaction, and calls Won “dangerous”—before he came along, Da-in was obedient in everything except calling him father. Then he shocks Do-moon by saying that perhaps asking for that was a stretch, because he had once served her. She was once the daughter of a vice minister, and Jang was the servant. Innnnteresting.
Just then, Jung-hwan and Won burst through the gates and fight down the henchmen. Do-moon argues with Merchant Jang to run to safety, while Jang presses the confession into his hand and orders him to run away. Jang does run first while the men briefly fight, but then Do-moon turns and flees as well.
Won goes after the old man and tackles him to the ground. But of course he doesn’t have the confession, as Jung-hwan finds when he joins them, having lost Do-moon. They decide that the best way to draw him out is to take Merchant Jang to the prince; if he’s held prisoner, Do-moon will come to rescue him.
Won asks after Da-in, and Merchant Jang warns him that involving her will just put her in danger. So Won merely asks that Jang tell her that he’s safe, as she will be blaming herself thinking him dead.
At Banditville, Gyeongwon finds himself regretting turning his nose up at the peasant food and starts in alarm to hear his stomach growl, a sound so alien to him that he immediately thinks he’s ill. Even so he turns down Rang’s offer to share, and she tells him to suit himself and digs in, sending him the sauciest look while he tries not to drool. Finally he can’t take it and asks for a bowl, saying that he’s not taking it because he’s hungry but because he’s curious to know what his people eat.
And then he recoils at the food. “Is this what my people are eating?” I think his concern is both a little thoughtful and a little insulting.
Da-in arrives, weak from the trek here, and first checks on Rang. She holds it together long enough to ask about Won, and when Rang says he hasn’t come back, Da-in collapses.
Won arrives shortly afterward to bring the prince back, and hears that Da-in is very sick. He rushes in and sees her lying in a fever (with flu-like symptoms), and Rang is sharp enough to drag off So-baek to give Dad some alone time with Pretty Lady.
So-baek pouts, reminding Rang that she was supposed to be on her side. When Rang says she’s on the side of the sick person, So-baek adds that she’s sick too, with her heart in palpitations because of Won. Rang says that’s not sickness, it’s her feelings, and I swear So-baek takes that in like it’s the first time she ever considered such a possibility. Poor sweet dim bulb. I guess not everyone in dramaland can be a genius.
Da-in wakes up to see Won at her side and is overcome with relief to see that he’s alive after all. There’s an air of goodbye to the way they assure each other that they’re both fine, and then when she shivers painfully he gathers her close, entreating her not to be in pain: “Do not hurt any longer because of me.”
With those damning prescriptions in hand, Lee Ho questions Vice Premier Kim and Merchant Jang about their plot to poison him. The medicine he was fed contain a suspicious mix of ingredients, though it’s the confession letter that explicitly spells out the poison. Both guilty men decide to play the innocent card, arguing that Won has forged the papers and that they would never do what they are accused of doing.
Jung-hwan is able to recite the confession from memory, and states that there’s one other man who read it who can testify to its contents: Mak-bong.
However, before they can bring for the witness, Queen Munjeong storms into the proceedings furious. She has a good excuse, since she accuses him of being so cavalier as to continue on with his life while his brother is missing, and I suppose it is a bit tricky given that nobody is supposed to know where he went.
She accuses him of kidnapping the boy, but Lee Ho counters that he had his hands way too full dealing with the men who tried to poison him. Touché.
She literally says, “Are you on about that whole poison thing again?” Okay, maybe her delivery is a bit more regal than that, but it’s like she thinks he just made it all up. She declares that she will not move one foot until her son is recovered, and demands that they find him immediately.
Won tends to Da-in tenderly that night, feeding her medicine and bringing a smile to her face. It’s one way to ease in to the bad news he has to deliver: that Merchant Jang is being held as a suspect, and that he was the one to turn him in. He doesn’t regret his actions, but he worries for how it will affect her.
They do the nobly heroic thing of assuring each other that they’ve done nothing wrong, which I guess we would expect of noble heroes. Da-in frets, though, torn over what she should do.
And there’s So-baek at the door, worrying over the growing bond between the two and clutching at her own squeezing heart. What’ll happen if those two “keep meeting eyes” (her euphemism for romantic attraction)?
Enter Keok-jung—awwwww, yeah—who pulls her outside, stares at her intensely, and tells her that it’s time they “met eyes” as well. And you cut away NOW? WHY? *stamps feet*
It’s also time for the young prince to make his return, and Won and Keok-jung take him back to the palace. Gyeongwon enters just as his mother is ordering Minister Yoon to slit his own throat. Yikes. I suppose it’s not too surprising since his crime is allowing peril to befall the prince, but still, he does also happen to be the queen’s own little brother.
She breathes a sigh of relief, but this earns Gyeongwon a mighty whipping, because his explanation is that he wandered off to look around during the ceremony. Poor boy; he’s literally crying in pain while he sticks to the story (since the truth would call for hyungnim’s head) that he was transfixed by the outside world.
But then, she makes a shocking decree: Remove his royal robes, “Because from now on, you are not my son.” Daaaayum. She can’t cast him out entirely, but she declares that he will henceforth be considered her foster child, some distant part of the royal clan.
Gyeongwan begs for her to beat him instead, and she takes up the stick to continue.
Lee Ho steps in and argues that she’ll kill him. She retorts that she intends to, since he’s useless. He tells her to hit him instead, since he will take his brother’s beating for him, only to have the queen fire back, “And die for him?”
And now she plays her hand: She tells Gyeongwon to ask his brother to let Vice Premier Kim free. If not, Gyeongwon will no longer be her son. She gives the choice to Lee Ho: “What will you do? Will you throw away your brother?” Well played, evil madam, well played.
Lee Ho turns to Gyeongwon and says, “I am sorry. I cannot throw you away, so you must throw me away.” He sends him out to tend to his wounds, then firmly tells the queen that he has no intention of falling prey to her tactics, not even for Gyeongwon. He will take this up with his father, presenting him with the plot on his life; he leaves warning the queen to heed caution herself.
Won hurries back to Bandit Town and finds Da-in’s room empty. Chun-bong praises him for his smarts in accomplishing everything so cleverly and bloodlessly, but Won sticks to his line that he did it for himself, to clear his name. Chun-bong doesn’t buy that, but says that if he doesn’t understand himself what he has done, then he has a long way to go before becoming his grandfather. Won perks up—did he know his grandfather?
As a result of Lee Ho’s swift actions, Vice Premier Kim and Merchant Jang are imprisoned for their attempt to assassinate him, and Jung-hwan is reinstated to his former position. Yay!
And just in time, too, because Gon-oh is in a foul mood and drags Woo-young off insisting that she entertain him by playing bar hostess. Gon-oh gapes to see his boss back, and then doubles over at the punch to the gut.
Jung-hwan knocks off his hat, then shoves Gon-oh’s head at Woo-young. He offers her the chance to return all the unfair treatment she’d received at his hands. Aww. I say this without sarcasm: That’s so romantic.
Woo-young stammers, “If you d-do anything to m-me…” Jung-hwan finishes her sentence with a smile: “Tell him you’ll tell me all about it.” Dude! Did you just name yourself as her protector?
Jung-hwan lets Gon-oh go and advises him to get a gisaeng to pour him liquor: “Don’t lay a finger on her.” Eeee! This is so satisfying.
He has more good news to share, informing her about the latest events and saying that her slave days will be over soon. He gives her a pat on the shoulder, and she turns her shining eyes on him.
Woo-young tells him, “Did you know this? You look best in that investigator’s uniform.” To which he scoffs, “I already knew that.” But he does stop to grin when she adds her earnest thanks for his return.
Da-in visits Merchant Jang in prison, who refuses to look at her and orders her to go. She begs him to admit to his wrongs and beg for forgiveness, which he interprets as her siding with Won. She says no: “I will not see him anymore. I will stay at your side from now on.”
The prince presides over the interrogation of the two criminals, which Jung-hwan conducts. Vice Premier Kim is incriminated by the prescriptions bearing his signature, so the question is how to prove that Merchant Jang ordered the poison specially for the plot. To that end, Mak-bong is presented to offer his testimony.
And yet, we get an ominous cut to the queen in her chambers, looking calm. She did something, didn’t she? Ack.
Mak-bong begins his testimony: “I am seeing this man for the first time today.” Furthermore, Gon-oh presents a different man to offer testimony… and has the man produce an exact replica of Kim’s signature. Damn fuck and damn again!
The man states that he wrote that forged prescription several months ago, at Do-saeng’s request. There goes our good guys’ case, flying right out the window.
The queen smirks to herself. She figures that her minions could stand to suffer a bit more, but she needs them so shrug. Better save their necks.
This leaves Lee Ho fuming, as well as Jung-hwan. Won receives the update—if they can’t find that confession by tomorrow, the men go free.
Do-moon slips into the prison that night to see Merchant Jang, and it really is touching to see that this surrogate family has a lot of genuine love for each other. He asks what to do about the confession, and Merchant Jang muses that while burning it is the safe thing, they need it to safeguard Da-in’s future. Thus he is to hide it “in that place.”
Jung-hwan arrives at the prison and sees guards knocked out, which tips him off that Do-moon is the likely culprit. He catches him on his way out and engages him in a swordfight. Do-moon escapes over the wall, and Jung-hwan stops to pick up the paper he drops—which turns out to be an empty sheet. A decoy.
Won waits outside Merchant Jang’s house and watches as Da-in arrives that night. Moments later, two masked men charge the gate and force their way inside.
It’s Gon-oh and a minion, and he shoves Da-in to the ground, demanding that confession. She says she doesn’t know, and he replies that this makes her useless and therefore she must die.
His minion draws his sword and prepares to strike… only to get knocked down by Won, who grabs the sword and brandishes it against Gon-oh.
And then, we fade out, resuming the next morning.
Jung-hwan clenches his jaw as the two prisoners are let out of prison, and Vice Premier Kim stops to mock him. Jung-hwan calls him back, and up steps Won.
He’s clutching a letter, which he holds out to the criminals. He presents this proof of his innocence, and declares, “These crimes you have foisted upon me—now take them.”
Okay, I’ll say it: The main couple is sort of dull, aren’t they? I never felt the chemistry click with them although I liked when they were bickering doctors at the outset, though I like both characters in theory and have no problem with where they’re headed. Then the murder and framing plot overtook the story and probably actually helped in that regard, because their romantic development took a backseat to all that life-and-death stuff; the mortal peril kept Won and Da-in busy enough that I didn’t really mind that I wasn’t feeling anything for their loveline.
Now that the tide is turning in Won’s favor, we have a little more narrative real estate to spend on his emotions and Da-in’s sacrifices for him and their guilt complexes and bouts of noble fortitude. It makes sense and I don’t think the plot would allow for them to behave otherwise so I totally accept the rounds of “I feel bad” and “No, I feel bad” and “Now I feel bad for making you feel bad,” etc.
So it’s kind of remarkable that the show makes me squee so much, but it totally does and I’m not looking that gift horse in the mouth. Woo-young and Jung-hwan are just the most adorable couple ever, which is saying something when you consider how they started out. They make me giggle and smile like a loon, and I especially love that he seems more flustered by her than vice versa. She’s definitely had her moments of bashfulness, but despite the power imbalance intrinsic in their relationship, they feel like they’re on equal footing. I was a little uneasy about making her his palace slave, because, um, I’m sure there’s a lot of fanfic for that. Yet instead he’s treated her like anything but his slave/possession/plaything, and she’s never bent to his will either. It’s a really gratifying storyline, and I’m lapping it up.
The other character who makes my day is Lee Ho, who is seriously stepping it up and in an admirable way. I love that the queen plays him in a clever way designed to make him cave, and we wouldn’t even blame him for caving to her dirty trade (at least I wouldn’t, because I didn’t see it coming), but that he surprises her by defying her anyway. It’s similar to Won’s growing confidence in himself when he rejects Vice Premier Kim’s deal, though the prince’s is the bigger sacrifice because he has more to lose.
I also enjoyed his rain prayer maneuver, which gives us some room to enjoy the fact that he was playing up the situation, even though he couldn’t have guaranteed rain. It’s just that he couldn’t have played that situation any better, and in proving himself worthy to the people he has earned himself tremendous goodwill, and with that, power. His transition from weak loneliness to quiet forcefulness is a lovely throughline for his character, and I look forward to seeing him grow even stronger.
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 12
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 11
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 10
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 9
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 8
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 7
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 6
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 5
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 4
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 3
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 2
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 1