So much of this story makes so little sense sometimes, leaving me with a sinking feeling that while the bigger plot movements might’ve been charted out, the connections between those dots were mostly left to chance. Thus, we get an episode where some things just happen. Why? If you know, congratulations! You’re either not me, or you’re not the writer of this show.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Nam-saeng overhears Choong listing Mu-young’s crimes as well as Choong’s vow to sweep it all under the rug, an idea which appalls him.
Now that he knows Mu-young is the princess and that Choong is about to let her walk away, he draws his sword to attack. Boo-chi sees his approach from his rooftop perch and shoots an arrow past him in warning, affording Nam-saeng time to retreat before our errant lovebirds even notice him.
Boo-chi and Dal-ki sneak into the palace to carry out their secret plan, bickering briefly over whether they should’ve killed Nam-saeng.
Choong finds the Geumhwadan emblem with the arrow Boo-chi shot, along with a portrait of his mother. (Did she have an identical one?) He turns to Mu-young accusingly: “Did you kidnap my mother?” (I guess she had an identical one.)
Judging by Mu-young’s shocked face, she isn’t guilty. But Choong orders her imprisoned anyway.
Nam-saeng reveals himself to innocently ask what all the fuss is about, and in front of him and all the other agents gathered, Choong just outs Mu-young as a girl. Did he always have this temper?
So it’s Nam-saeng who comes to her aid, using the opportunity to poke fun at Choong, all, You didn’t know already? Boy, did you get fooled! Basically, he treats her gender like it’s no big deal, which I’m honestly a bit grateful for considering that her cover story is that she cross-dressed to get into an agency which already accepted female spies and treated them as equals, so…
He makes sure to rub it in that Mu-young wins points for deceiving the “great” Choong, and wonders if Choong wants to imprison her just because his wittle feelings got hurt.
This gets his brother to back down, and Nam-saeng throws an arm around Mu-young’s shoulders. “I saved you.” Translation: You owe me.
Mu-young tries to clear up the misunderstanding with Choong, swearing that she didn’t order his mother’s kidnapping, but if he lets her go, she’ll get to the bottom of it.
Choong looks devastated as he drops the formalities (as if he’s no longer acknowledging her as the princess) in order to ask, “How can I trust you?”
“If you can’t trust me, keep me captive,” she says. She promises to be his hostage until his mother returns safely, but asks that he at least let her send a letter to Geumhwadan in order to find the truth. Choong: “Get out.”
The portrait wasn’t a bluff—Boo-chi and Dal-ki’s secret plan was to kidnap Choong’s mother, and now that they have her, their grand plan amounts to just asking her if she knows what her son is up to.
Waitaminute, let me get this straight: They plucked his mother from some rural town far removed from her son and honestly expected her to know the ins and outs of his daily life, enough to get angry when she doesn’t? I mean this in the nicest way, but—who are these people?
Boo-chi and Dal-ki bicker outside over whether they should tell Leader So what they’ve done, and the consensus seems to be “no.”
I’m guessing that Boo-chi wants to use Choong’s mother as a bargaining chip for Mu-young’s safety now that she’s been taken hostage—which would be a fine plan if it made any sense. Mu-young wouldn’t have been locked up if they hadn’t kidnapped Choong’s mother, so they’re the reason she’s in trouble now, but they’re acting like that’s just the way of it? I can’t even.
Since Mu-young’s secret is out, Choong asks Mo-seol to get closer to her in order to spy on her. Mo-seol agrees that that’s the best method, since she doesn’t peg Mu-young as being the type who’d fold under torture. “She could be a spy,” Mo-seol says.
“You’re right. I can’t trust her,” Choong admits. He looks downtrodden the whole time, but this makes me think that his is a bad side you don’t want to get on. He turned on Mu-young fast.
Mo-seol wonders if Choong liked Mu-young, and her mannerisms ooze with jealousy. “When I tried to make you love me, you didn’t. I thought that was because you still had feelings for your first love.” Here we go, guys—Second Female Lead pulled the I’ll-make-you-love-me card. Brace for impact.
She makes sure to add that she’ll wait for Choong to move on, “Because the dead cannot come back to life.”
Mu-young’s roomie reams her for getting caught as a woman so easily as she packs her things to move into Mo-seol’s room.
At least he cares about her enough to give her a warning: Mo-seol has been out to get her ever since Choong started showing her favoritism: “So when you share a room with her, don’t sleep too deeply.”
“Why, you think I’m going to strangle her while she sleeps?” Mo-seol asks as she barges in. She tells Mu-young that they’ll be inseparable from now on—so if Mu-young has to brush her teeth, Mo-seol will be there to squeeze the toothpaste.
Mo-seol gives a lesson on Hanja characters the next day, combining them in the same way Mu-young and Choong would during their word games. Whether it’s coincidence or not, Mo-seol asks Mu-young to answer the combination that she’d once posed to Choong: “What about the character where the words inside one’s heart are confined by threads?”
Mu-young’s answer was once Choong’s: Yeon, meaning “to love in one’s heart.”
Later, Mu-young kicks the butts of all her fellow recruits in a sparring match. Bear Teacher chides all the men for losing to a woman (welp, guess everyone’s gotten over the news already) and asks a challenger to step forward. No one does… until Choong arrives.
He and Mu-young spar briefly while Nam-saeng and Mo-seol watch. Choong doesn’t even break a sweat before he defeats her. Wasn’t she better at this three years ago?
She makes it a point to track Choong down afterward to try and convince him that she had nothing to do with his mom: “If you think I did it, arrest me and torture me.”
But Choong would rather take the extremely passive aggressive route as he tells her that she’s already being tortured with her every move being watched by her fellow agents.
“Why do you think I’m letting you live?” he asks. She thinks that he wants information from her, but he claims she couldn’t be more wrong: “You’re just a hostage. We don’t need any information from you.”
We know he’s speaking out of Hurt Feelings, but this still seems so very very unlike Choong that I’m having trouble processing all this. (Also, why not just literally lock her up?)
Right after the scene where Choong said Mu-young couldn’t scratch her nose without someone reporting it, we see Mu-young writing a secret letter in complete privacy. However, trying to deliver the letter proves impossible when Mo-seol & Co. are watching. (Seriously though, she’s a hostage under palace arrest and everyone’s lives—except hers—would be easier if they just put her in a room.)
The news of the failed letter pass makes it back to Geumhwadan, with Leader So wondering why Mu-young would be under such harsh surveillance. That’s when Boo-chi drops to his knees to tell everyone how his kelp-for-brains idea to kidnap Choong’s mother miiiight be why.
He explains that he knew the princess’ identity was bound to be revealed, and so he took Choong’s mother hostage to have something to bargain with. Then the umbrella maker agrees that the plan isn’t a failure yet, because they might need his mom now that Choong is using Mu-young as bait in order to trap Geumhwadan. Their new plan is to trade Choong’s mom for Mu-young.
Which, what? Huh? Why is no one in this room thinking to themselves that they’re now having to fix a problem that wouldn’t have existed had Boo-chi gone to the wizard to get a brain? Why on earth would you deliberately provoke Choong when Mu-young was, at that very moment, two whole feet away from him? Considering how removed Choong was from his mom, why not just kidnap her now and reveal that fact when it would actually be beneficial to your cause? It’s like having a winning hand and showing it to the rest of the table before the bets have even been placed. No one does it because it’s a very stupid thing to do!
Fun fact: It’s no longer a secret in the agency that Mu-young is the princess. But for now, it’ll remain a secret from General Yeon because Nam-saeng wants to wait until he can tie Choong together with Geumhwadan to take his brother down, while Choong doesn’t want to endanger his mom by making a move against the princess. For now they’ll run reconnaissance.
Nam-saeng has his sights set high, even past his father’s position, and he promises whoever’s next to him that he’ll reward him well if he sides with him.
…While Choong makes a much more humble promise to Bear Teacher and Mu-young’s roomie, in that he makes no promises—keeping Mu-young’s secret from his dad will put them all in danger.
Extra #27 (you may not remember him from the last episode) draws a map of the Geumhwadan hideout for Choong before he’s sent out to ask if anyone’s seen his mom.
Mu-young sneaks out to visit her cousin while Mo-seol is sleeping in order to give him the letter she otherwise can’t sneak out of the palace. Jang is only mildly curious as to why the palace isn’t in an uproar if she’s been discovered, though she claims that Choong is keeping her secret only because of his conveniently not-dead mom.
Naturally, Mo-seol was awake when Mu-young was sneaking about, and she reports what she knows to Choong. She desperately back-hugs Choong as she asks: “What is her true identity? You can tell me now.” He doesn’t.
A council meeting is called to discuss the election of a new chief minister, preferably one who can deal with the nation’s starvation issue in order to keep the people content.
General Yeon intervenes with an anecdote to back up his claim that the people are just children who can’t see a step ahead—sure, starving is terrible, but being a slave to Tang would be worse.
I love that Jang acts all ironically agreeable just so he can point out that not everyone agrees with Yeon. Ergo, a chief minister is needed to bridge the gap between these two bosom buddies and the rest of the council.
Jang and General Yeon go back and forth on who to elect and tentatively pencil in General Yang, even though he was once a political enemy of Yeon’s.
Before Yeon leaves, he mentions that he’s begun a search for the princess. Jang scoffs in disbelief: “It’s impossible for the princess to still be alive. If she was, she would have already showed up to cut off my head.”
General Yeon just bows his head as a reply, but there’s an almost imperceptible change that comes over his features—as though he’s resisting the urge to grin.
In a mildly interesting twist, it’s revealed that Jang and General Yang were working together in order to trick General Yeon into electing him as chief minister. They discuss how they must act in front of everyone to avoid suspicion, while in secret, Yang will gather his private army while Jang contacts Tang.
Anything that doesn’t involve annihilating Tang will end his relationship with General Yeon forever, but Jang defends his choice, since he’s putting the royal family above all else.
Choong shoots Nam-saeng down when he suggests that they use the agency to keep track of General Yang, but Nam-saeng only becomes enraged when Daddy Dearest sides with Choong.
Nam-saeng: “Why is he always right in your eyes? He’s the one who once raised a sword against you. Have you forgotten?” Were you there?
Dad ignores him and turns to Choong in order to tentatively broach the topic of a marriage between him and Mo-seol. Nam-saeng latches onto this in order to wheedle Choong about his mom—surely she’d have to come to the wedding. Does he even know where she is? Does Dad?
He’s being a nuisance on purpose, seeing as how Yeon has no idea that the slave girl he abandoned has now been captured by Geumhwadan. Who knows how he’ll react when he does find out.
An agent reports to Nam-saeng that they not only found the Geumhwadan hideout, but they also saw Leader So locking up some old woman. Nam-saeng grins—he knows exactly who she is.
Mu-young’s letter makes it to Geumhwadan, and Leader So sighs when he reads her disappointment in them for taking Choong’s mother, and because they can’t justify such dishonorable means to their ultimate end.
He’s ready to be good from now on, but is easily convinced that war is a special circumstance—so if they have the dishonorable means to capture Choong and save the princess, they’re going to do it.
Choong receives a letter from Leader So instructing him to come alone to exchange Mu-young for his mom. He knows it’s a trap set to capture him, but he also knows that Geumhwadan’s forces will be diverted because of it, giving the intelligence agency the perfect opportunity to ambush their hideout.
Mu-young’s roomie worries over Choong going when he knows his mother won’t be there, only for Bear Teacher to reply that if Choong goes, Geumhwadan is bound to release his mother. Because that’s how these things work.
While Choong takes Mu-young to the exchange, Leader So leaves with the rest of Geumhwadan along with a baaad feeling—especially when he considers how disappointed Mu-young will be when they use her to capture Choong.
Intelligence agents storm Geumhwadan’s hideout the second they leave.
Choong faces Geumhwadan from across a bridge, and dutifully sends Mu-young over when they ask (even though his mother is nowhere to be seen). “Go,” Choong tells her. “This is all I can do.” Awwww, he did this for her!
Mu-young makes it to the other side and asks where Choong’s mother is as the realization that Geumhwadan has betrayed her sets in. Leader So apologizes to her and assures her that killing Choong is what’s best for their cause.
In shock, Mu-young turns back to Choong: “You knew? You knew that this would happen?” His resignation is her answer. Boo-chi has to physically drag her away as Choong is surrounded by Geumhwadan soldiers.
She fights tooth and nail to break free even as Choong fights a losing battle. He’s cut down by one sword, then two, and then it doesn’t matter. Same with Mu-young’s ability to best Boo-chi in combat apparently.
It’s only after the agency captures the umbrella maker and kills the remaining Geumhwadan soldiers in the hideout that Bear Teacher decides to mobilize their forces to save Choong, who’s currently hanging by his hands in a shed. (But alive! Phew.)
Mu-young refuses to eat what Leader So gives her as a form of protest. Her demands that Choong’s mother be set free fall on deaf ears, since Leader So is convinced that what he’s doing serves a greater cause.
She’s not so convinced, and uses Dal-ki to find Choong’s mom and free her. She introduces herself as Choong’s subordinate once she meets Mom face to face, and Mom fills with pride to hear Mu-young call her son “chief,” since it means that Choong moved up in the world like she wanted.
Mu-young gives her directions to safety, but she can’t help from trying to hold onto Mom for a little longer. She mentions Choong’s portrait of her and how he treasured it, how he proved himself to his father to get promoted, and how he missed his mother. Aww.
When she finally sends Mom off, Nam-saeng’s minion watches her leave… which means that Mom doesn’t make it to her destination. Nam-saeng kidnapped her.
Mu-young visits Choong in his shed later that night in order to tell him that his mother is safe. She hands over the address of where Mom should be staying, but neither of them know any different.
When Choong asks her why she’s risking so much just to save him, Mu-young carefully replies, “You would have done the same for me.” At least she knows it. (And yay, it’s their first heart-to-heart since their reunion!)
Choong tries to send her away, but Mu-young can’t leave him in the state he’s in. She hands him a bandage to help stem some of the bleeding, and when he still won’t relax, she coaxes him to lie down by pressing on his wound. I don’t know how it works, but it does.
She spends the night keeping vigil at his side—but in the morning, (eeevil) Leader So finds Mom missing from her shed…
…While Nam-saeng tells his father all about Mu-young being the princess. General Yeon blinks: “Where is she now?”
Choong wakes up to find Mu-young curled up near his legs, and reaches out a hand to her face. His brother uses the time to tell General Yeon that Choong betrayed him for the princess before. Now he’s doing it again.
He’s probably very right, since we see Choong struggling with his desire to touch her, but it’s like he adores her too much to even hold her hand.
And while his dad thinks back to the times Choong has drawn a sword against him, Mu-young sits up to find Choong staring at her. She stares right back.
Darn those two. I’m not going to sugarcoat the fact that this show took a steep decline after the time skip—and that I was justifiably worried, especially after last episode and about 98% of this one—that we’d most likely just keep coasting downhill until the show just ceases to be, and that we’d have to make peace with the fact that whatever initially drew us in or kept us watching was gone. But it’s not all negative, because anyone who’s ever stuck with a show that’s begun to disappoint them knows that there are two possible reasons one keeps tuning in: (1) You’re a masochist, and (2) Hope.
It’s a healthy mixture of both on my end, though I do think I’d lowered my hopeful expectations so much after a consecutive string of bad episodes that I was legitimately taken aback by how fast Choong and Mu-young’s scenes sucked me back in. Finally, they had a chance to speak without pretenses or vague motivations or any of the fifty million other superfluous things engendered to keep them apart. And even if only for that one small moment, things were great. They lit up the screen and reminded me how much I liked them when they weren’t such miserable story patsies.
So in one sense, the episode ended on a positive note, with some interesting dramatic possibilities for the immediate future. (I know! Who would’ve put immediate and Sword and Flower together?) But at the same time, getting one scene that was finally Not As Bad only hammers home the fact that the potential was there this whole time. And for whatever reason, the drama powers that be decided that it was better for us to drag our feet through narrative hell—really, I cannot stress just how weak this script is—just for a few scenes that didn’t require mental gymnastics to enjoy.
Since I’m worried that this all sounds like Sword knowingly manipulated me by dangling one measly reunion scene at the end of two bad hours of television, don’t worry—it did. I ate Choong and Mu-young’s scenes up, however small the meal was, so I can’t objectively say that those scenes were necessarily better than the others, or that I had possibly lowered my expectations to such a level that any simple scene without foolishness would seem like the best scene ever. It could be all of those things or none of those things.
And in the end, I’m sure discerning those feelings matters a lot. I’m sure that there’s something to be said about the brainless zombie that must, at this very moment, be plugging random words into a computer for next week’s finale script. I’m sure I cared about all the nonsensical plot twists that brought us to this utterly nonsensical end, and that I enumerated my grievances in detail somewhere up there.
But for right now, I’ll let myself be manipulated into feeling just a little bit hopeful. Why not? (Seriously, please don’t answer that.)
- Sword and Flower: Episode 15
- Sword and Flower: Episode 14
- Sword and Flower: Episode 13
- Sword and Flower: Episode 12
- Sword and Flower: Episode 11
- Sword and Flower: Episode 10
- Sword and Flower: Episode 9
- Sword and Flower: Episode 8
- Sword and Flower: Episode 7
- Sword and Flower: Episode 6
- Sword and Flower: Episode 5
- Sword and Flower: Episode 4
- Sword and Flower: Episode 3
- Sword and Flower: Episode 2
- Sword and Flower: Episode 1