Ooh, a nice (and speedy) step up from yesterday. We’ve got some cuteness, some reversals, some more plotting (sigh, if we must), some squee (eeee), and even a surprise or two. It’s definitely feeling like we’re heading into the grand finale, and with that come some expected beats, but I think our good guys have a few tricks up their sleeves yet. It’s a good thing, too, since the baddies have plenty of sleeves of their own. Granted, they tend to be the same old sleeves all the time, but there are just so damn many of them. But hey, quality over quantity, right?
SONG OF THE DAY
Jung In – “그 뻔한 말” (Those obvious words) [ Download ]
EPISODE 18 RECAP
At banditville, Won knocks So-baek out of harm’s way, landing them on the ground below. Do-moon catches up to them and takes over the fight with assassin Mu-myung.
So-baek is worried about going back for Keok-jung, who’s injured and stuck above, but Won warns her that the royal soldiers will soon be arriving to arrest all the bandits. They’ve got to evacuate everyone.
Greedy No. 2 Bandit is off in a flash with as much loot as he can carry, while Won heads back to help Keok-jung free his badly torn-up leg. So-baek finds Bandit Granny still inside and begs her to leave, only to have Grandma insist on staying. She’s going to be buried here in her home, and insists that So-baek save herself.
So-baek spreads the word and ushers everyone out of the village. Won stays at the battleground to treat the wounded, which includes Chun-bong, who laughs at the idea of running away. Won urges him to escape and remain alive, though, saying that he put his own life on the line so the prince would trade for Chun-bong’s—he can’t just die now.
That’s enough to convince him, but before they can flee, more armed men arrive. These are the royal officers led by Jung-hwan and Gon-oh, and now it’s Geo-chil’s turn to order Won to run to save himself. Won first checks on Granny, who begs him to do something to stop all her people from dying. He promises to do his best.
There are three warring parties present, but now the queen’s assassins retreat to let the officers face off against the bandits. Do-moon is still sparring with Mu-myung, and now Jung-hwan joins the fight. I’m thinking this battle had better end differently than all the other times, because while the fighting is cool, these always end the same.
Do-moon lands a kick, and then Jung-hwan manages to slash him across the chest. Well, at least they’re slowly increasing the severity of injuries inflicted. At this rate they might kill him in about twenty more fights.
They do land another set of injuries and Mu-myung goes down, but Jung-hwan stops Do-moon from killing him. He’s more valuable alive than dead.
Geo-chil is vastly outnumbered, wielding only his hammer against about twenty swords. Won emerges with Grandma—it looks like he’s got something up his sleeve—and the focus shifts to him, the wanted fugitive. But before the officers can rush him, Jung-hwan orders them to stop.
He comes out with the injured Mu-myung in his custody, and Gon-oh freezes in shock to see the assassin beaten. Jung-hwan declares that Won is an innocent man who has been pardoned by the king.
Geo-chil jerks toward Mu-myung, ready to kill him for bringing so much death to his people, but Won blocks him. He only barely hangs on to his control at the argument that killing him personally does no good (and earns himself a death sentence), and Jung-hwan states that he will be put to death by dismemberment anyway.
Jung-hwan orders Geo-chil arrested, and Won urges him to comply if only for the sake of So-baek and Keok-jung. I’m not sure if Geo-chil is too defeated or whether he’s trusting Won to have a plan, but he allows himself to be apprehended without fighting.
Won speaks privately to Jung-hwan to plead for some understanding on behalf of the bandits. Despite Jung-hwan’s cold hard view that they are robbers and criminals, Won argues that they are simple and grateful folks who were unable to survive without stealing. They also saved his life so that he could last long enough to clear his name.
Won requests that he be allowed to see to their proper burials, calling them family.
So the remaining bandits are rounded up (including Keok-jung), while the corpses are laid out for burial. Then it’s time to turn attention toward the badly injured Mu-myung, whose condition Won deems critical. Jung-hwan says that he’s an important person and must be kept alive.
Granny starts crying again about her family members not even getting to eat before dying. She says that the survivors should eat before making the long trek to the city, which must be part of The Plan. Jung-hwan allows it, so the prisoners chow down while the guards look on enviously, hungry too.
Won offers the remainder to them, which makes me really, really hope he slipped some massive sleeping powder into them. I notice that he picks one in particular to hand to Jung-hwan—to keep him awake, perhaps?
Chun-bong escapes and holds another meeting of his secret council. They’re relieved that he escaped capture and convinced that the queen is up to a plot to prevent the prince’s ascension. They’ve only got two days left, but it’s bound to be an eventful two days: Chun-bong declares that they’ll have to make sure to keep tabs on Vice Premier Kim and keep him from acting. How? “If we cannot take care of him through the law, we must use another method.”
Haha, so the royal officers totally all fall asleep on the job. I was wrong about one thing: Jung-hwan is out dozing too. I suppose that’s probably a good thing, so he’s not complicit in the crime.
The survivors hasten away from the village until it’s time to part ways. Won and Do-moon will escort Keok-jung into the city (the latter insists), while Geo-chil will lead his group away and make his way to the city later. Granny thanks Won for his clever idea that saved all their lives; we see in flashback that he had provided the medicine and she’d doctored up half of the food with it.
Slowly, the officers stir awake. Unfortunately, it’s Gon-oh who rouses first, and after checking that his boss is soundly asleep, he carries Mu-myung off. Can’t have the queen’s assassin tracing back to them.
But as soon as he heads off, Jung-hwan bolts up, awake after all. Ah, and then we see in flashback that Won had warned him of his plan ahead of time. Won was confident that Jung-hwan warned him because he didn’t want the bandits to die, and this means he was faking the sleep all along. Hee.
Gon-oh reports the bad news to the queen and the ministers, including the somewhat conflicting tidbit where their assassin was brought back from the brink thanks to Won’s medical skill. Time’s ticking and they’ve got to figure out their next move in preventing the coronation.
Vice Premier Kim takes the reins on this operation and assembles yet more secret co-conspirators. They’re falling back on an old standby, using the same plan that was used against Jo Gwang-jo (deceased leader of Chun-bong’s reformist group).
Won treats Keok-jung’s cut-up leg, which frustratingly slows down Keok-jung’s revenge mission. He also offers medicine to Do-moon, who understands that he’s dying to check up on his family and offers to go in his stead.
Geo-chil and So-baek join them, both intent on going after Vice Premier Kim instead. So-baek actually orders her father to stay out of it now that she knows Kim killed her mother, but Keok-jung overrides them all. He fumes, “If I can’t kill him, then I’ll die.”
Jung-hwan gets reamed by his corrupt boss for falling prey to sleepy rice, and he agrees that he hasn’t been living up to his reputation lately. He even offers, “Would you like me to take off these [officer's] clothes right now?” I would like!
But no, he just says he’ll accept his punishment, sigh. Then he asks if his boss knows anything about the assassins who were at the bandit village first, because Gon-oh had let one of them go. Corrupt boss stutters and gulps nervously.
As he leaves, Woo-young grabs his arm and pulls him aside to a room in the library, where she has prepared a meal table. Omg, that’s so cute. He says that she has good timing because he felt like a drink today, but his delivery comes out all wrong—he says he was intending to get his liquor from the gisaengs. She gets upset, taking back the table. “Then go to the gisaengs,” she huffs.
He takes it back and pours himself a drink, declining her offer to pour by saying he only lets gisaengs do that. So she holds out a cup and asks for a drink from him, and when he says no, she asks if that’s also only reserved for gisaengs.
“No,” he answers, “I’ll only pour liquor for the woman who will become my wife. Will you still accept a drink?” Omo. Did you just make a (world’s most unromantic) proposal? Flustered, Woo-young puts down her cup. Jung-hwan pours her a drink anyway, rendering her speechless and bashful.
Our evil ministers attempt to banish Jang-geum from the palace for her crime of failing to save the king. They don’t get very far, as the move must be approved by the crown prince, who firmly refuses. Lee Ho alludes to their plans to undermine the coronation, of which they feign ignorance. Still, they’re a little unnerved at how assured he is in referring to their schemes. Vice Premier Kim decides that he was just bluffing, but this has them on their guard to be extra-careful.
Lee Ho has a cute conversation with Rang, who thanks him for giving her father the book that made her better. She calls him “prince ajusshi,” which he doesn’t mind in the least but has Da-in and Jang-geum correcting her for its impropriety. She promises to call him king properly once he’s coronated, rather thang “king ajusshi,” and then calls him by his proper title, only backward. (It’s sorta like saying prince crown rather than crown prince, and makes everyone laugh.)
And then as Rang leaves, Gyeongwan walks by on his way to see his brother and seems to recognize her. Da-in spots the evil ministers heading their way and quickly tucks Rang out of sight before confronting them.
The air is openly hostile without her father around as buffer, and she makes no effort to hide her disdain. Minister Yoon even draws back to slap her, though his blow is stopped by Kim, who says that they’re sorry about her father, but he will tolerate no sass from her.
Gyeongwon finds Rang in her hiding spot and pulls her away. So Da-in panics to find the room empty, although Rang is perfectly fine; the prince pulls her into a room to speak freely and ask why she’s here.
Rang scolds him for his rude way of speaking (which, again, is perfectly appropriate given his princely status) and asks if he wants So-baek to punish him, and Gyeongwon makes the cutest involuntary flinch. Rang confides that she’s only going to be here a few days, but swears him to secrecy before continuing. He pinky-swears.
Now that they’re on secret-sharing terms, Rang tells him that the prince crown is helping her father. Gyeongwon says he’s the prince’s little brother and his father was the last king. Rang only now realizes he’s a prince, but just then they hear grumpy voices outside and they hide under the table.
It’s pretty damning stuff to be privy to—they wonders if they ought to kill Da-in like they did her father, and also Jung-hwan. Gyeongwan claps his hands over Rang’s ears to try to keep her from listening, which is futile but really sweet.
Vice Premier Kim cautions them against shedding blood just yet, and Minister Yoon figures that Lee Ho is set to die tomorrow anyway, at which point Won is also a dead man. Rang is so shocked she falls over, and the sound alerts the men to their eavesdroppers.
Gyeongwon shields Rang from view, calling her a palace lady in training, but I don’t like the look on Kim’s face as he tries to place her. He sends her out of the room quickly, and then puts on his imperious voice to ask what he just overheard.
Kim belatedly recognizes Won’s daughter, then has Gyeongwon ushered away. He can’t do anything to him, but he can lock him up to keep him out of the way temporarily.
Thankfully Da-in finds Rang, and Rang tells her what she heard. But before they can escape, they’re caught by Gon-oh, who drags them off. Rang kicks and screams, and her shoe falls off on the way.
Do-moon arrives at the palace and is alarmed to hear that Da-in and Rang are nowhere to be seen. He’s the one who finds the shoe, and starts running.
In their temporary safehouse, Keok-jung tells Won that he won’t survive his revenge mission tomorrow, and asks him to take care of So-baek. Awwww. He blames himself for being the reason So-baek is stifling her own tears, and knows that she’s struggling with all sorts of grief right now.
Keok-jung says that it’s enough to know that although So-baek doesn’t return his feelings, she cares for him enough to have given up on her own. That thought alone will be enough to keep him from a lonely death, he says.
Won urges him not to only think of dying, but Keok-jung answers (as So-baek arrives to hear from the door) that So-baek was the one thing to give his life some meaning when he’d been living a dead existence. So now he’s preparing to die as he goes off to avenge her mother and his family.
The queen sits her son down for some ‘splainin’ now that he has heard of the plot. She wonders how it is that Gyeongwon keeps finding himself with rebels—is it mere pity, or is he aligning with rebels? That’s dangerous talk, and he protests.
The queen smiles, saying that of course the future king ought not be entertaining such thoughts. Gyeongwon tells his mother firmly that Lee Ho is the next king, and that she frightens him with her murderous ways. Trembling in fear, he claps his hands over his ears and says she’s not trying to make him king—she’s using him to take that power for herself.
The queen just laughs and confirms it—and orders him coldly to shut up and play along.
Do-moon races back to the safehouse and reports to Won and the bandits on the abduction. It’s likely they’re going to be killed, and Do-moon has a hunch on where they may have been taken.
Our team races through the forest, led by Do-moon. Along the way Won berates himself for sending them to the palace, while the prince orders his people to keep looking.
Gon-oh has been given the kill order, but the bandits arrive just in time to prevent the execution. The intervention is almost anticlimactic for how quickly it’s over, but I’m just glad we’re moving on quickly to the next thing.
Won is so spooked by the near-miss that he argues against Da-in returning to the palace to warn Lee Ho. Do-moon again offers himself and makes the trip, thankfully successfully. He informs Lee Ho that the ladies are safe, and also warns him of what Rang overheard—tomorrow night, the north gate. That’s when he will be attacked.
Chun-bong has concocted countermeasures and presents the plan to the prince: A double will lie in the prince’s bed while they sneak him out of the palace, and the official excuse will be that the prince is unwell. Lee Ho rejects the prospect of fleeing, but Chun-bong argues that this is the way to avoid bloodshed. Lee Ho asks for time to think.
Keok-jung and Geo-chil lurk outside Vice Premier Kim’s house that night, intent on killing him tonight. There’s a curious stream of visitors through the front gate, so they decide to try the back. So-baek has been tricked into staying away with the lie that Won wants to speak with her, but she realizes belatedly that something’s wrong.
She heads over to Kim’s estate, but thanks to some incredibly bad timing, that’s when Gon-oh returns after being roused in the woods from his failed murder attempt. He apprehends So-baek.
Jung-hwan has been keeping an eye on Kim’s household as well, and hears of the unusual visitor numbers. It’s Team Evil’s secret meeting, and he prepares to move out. Just before he does, Woo-young drops by all jittery with fear, asking him to be careful because she dreamt of him and her brother being in danger. He teases that she’s inventing excuses to see him now, but she pleads with him not to take this lightly, since she had a similar dream before her father dies.
Jung-hwan pauses at that, but still assures her that he’ll be fine and leaves smiling. Ack! I really, really don’t like the feeling this gives me.
Vice Premier Kim prepares to greet his guests, only to be assailed by Geo-chil and Keok-jung, who burst in and corner him alone. Keok-jung is all set to kill him then and there, but Geo-chil has something to ask first: What exactly did Kim do to his wife?
Kim actually laughs, saying that it was the wife who offered herself to save her husband, and Geo-chil starts strangling him in rage, yelling, “Die!”
Before he can snuff out the life in him, So-baek’s voice calls out, “Father?” She’s brought in with a sword held to her neck, and then a stand-off ensues when Keok-jung holds a knife to Kim’s neck.
Kim’s the wily bastard who calls their bluff by saying, “Kill her, and kill me too.” Geo-chil breaks first and kneels to beg for her life. Kim stomps on his back, cackling all the while. Gack.
Upon hearing that Rang and Da-in weren’t killed, the baddies decide they must revise their plans even at this late date. One of their shadow
puppets loyalists listening from behind the screen offers up a way to keep their plans intact and still kill the prince (though I say, that voice sounds awfully familiar…).
The queen wants to hear what he has to say, so the man says, “This is how to do it.” Then he steps from behind the screen and reveals his face: It’s Won. Muahaha.
He calls out for his partner, and who should step into the room but… Lee Ho? Omo. Now that I didn’t expect.
Lee Ho states that since they want so badly to kill him, well, he’s here. “Go on and kill me.”
Ooh, good one, prince. Okay, so offering yourself up for killing doesn’t make a gesture badass, but the awesomeness is in Lee Ho’s delivery, which is much more along the lines of Just TRY and kill me, assholes and not Here’s my neck, cut along the dotted line. And while Team Evil was more than willing to plot and backstab (literally) and kill the prince secretly, they’re thrown off their guard to have him sauntering into their midst and challenging them to go ahead and do it face to face. Not that they’d be stricken with moral qualms, but it does bespeak a bigger plan and undermines their confidence in their own.
I was glad to have the king finally kick the bucket in the last episode, not just because he seemed like a weak, useless king but also because we needed more than just both sides fearing him Finding Out the Truth. Oh dear. He found out? How scary and dire.
The ascension is much meatier stuff, and much higher-stakes, and in fact I think the story might’ve been better if they’d have moved it up one or two episodes. It would have tightened up some of the repetitive moments, especially since the king’s death dispenses with both the queen and the prince’s need to be faux-polite around each other. It’s more fun watching them fling barbs openly. As an added bonus, it shows Gyeongwon the terror of his mother’s true face, because she is no longer motivated to play the sweet martyr. Well, it would’ve been a bonus for us, not him. Poor traumatized little puppet boy.
I like how many things moved forward in this episode, even if it did make me rather bloodthirsty. Is anybody tired of characters intending to kill in a murderous rage, then pulling back at the last minute? I get that the bandits have that one line they refuse to cross—till now they’ve drawn the line at murder—and that killing is a big deal to them, symbolically. But c’mon, it’s hard to buy your spitting fury when you’re always like, Imma kill you… no really… I’m gonna do it… just you wait… The baddies have a similar inability to kill, though theirs is less about morality and more about incompetence, which is funny in its own way.
I think we’re supposed to think highly of our heroes for thwarting such scary killers, only I’d argue that the drama sort of waters itself down that way. Not every drama has to have Gaksital levels of darkness, but a little would be nice. Some dimension to add a bit of complexity to each character. But I get that this is Mandate of Heaven, a Good Guys Prevail story of cuteness and happy endings. On the upside, it’s why I’m not that worried for Jung-hwan’s future, foreboding dream notwithstanding. They can’t kill him after he proposed, right? And piss off all twelve of us fans still watching the show?
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 17
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 16
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 15
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 14
- Mandate of Heaven: Episode 13
- 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