Secret Door: Episode 7
The stakes get ramped up in this episode, as the network of bad guys starts to unravel and everybody—good, bad, and mysteriously neutral—makes a play for the secret document. And in his quest for the truth about the death of his only friend in the whole world, the prince gets dangerously close to some answers that just might make him public enemy number one. Is it wrong to ask for his safety’s sake that he stays in the dark just a little bit longer?
SONG OF THE DAY
Ha Dong-kyun – “매듭” (Knot) [ Download ]
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Sun convenes with his crew of secret investigators at the royal painting bureau, where he explains the meaning of the painter Jung-woon’s dying message, hwabutado. It refers to a drawing of a royal procession, and he guesses that Heung-bok left him a message in one.
He finds Heung-bok’s last drawing and scans the page for a clue that one of them is the killer. As he pinpoints the man in the drawing, the painting fades into a cool shot of the procession from overhead.
Sun scans his memory for the person who would’ve been standing right beside him in the procession… and recalls that it was Kang Seo-won, the palace guard who was sent to be his watchdog by Princess Hyegyeong.
They worry that it’s not enough to go on if they want to catch him, so Ji-dam suggests that they find an adequate reason to detain him, and search his home for evidence—they’re still missing the book that Heung-bok borrowed the night of his murder.
Sun agrees that the person with that copy of Ji-dam’s mystery novel is their killer. That triggers a sudden thought, and he remembers Heung-bok’s letter to him that evening. It mentioned how much he enjoyed the book and mentioned a specific story point, and now that Sun considers it, Heung-bok never liked mystery novels before this.
Heung-bok had described the scene as raising the hair on the back of his neck, and Ji-dam counters that it’s really not that kind of scene. That convinces Sun that Heung-bok left him a message in those pages about something that was frightening him, and he says that they have to recover that book.
The king simply tells his head eunuch that he did a good job; whether he was responsible for Sun and Ji-dam’s narrow escape earlier that night or just there to spy on them is still unclear for now.
In the morning, the prince’s eunuch leads a team of guards into Kang Seo-won’s home to arrest him, and Westside boss Pil-jae asks why Kang Seo-won was dismissed from his post only to be sought out again. The eunuch just warns that he’ll get hurt if he keeps asking questions, and orders them to search every corner of the house.
But the search turns up neither Kang nor the book, and the good guys wonder if he made a run for it after he was caught spying on the prince. Pil-jae reports the prince’s new interest in Kang Seo-won to Prime Minister Kim, and guesses that Kang didn’t run… he was removed.
Pil-jae thinks there could be a connection to the swordsmen who attacked his men while they were kidnapping a woman (our missing gisaeng perhaps?); all he knows is that they used official state-trained sword skills.
That gives Prime Minister Kim enough of a hunch to go on, and he goes to the king to ask if he took Kang Seo-won. Yeongjo doesn’t bother denying it, though he adds in mock curiosity that Kang Seo-won has guts the size of a bean, wondering how he could be the culprit behind the murders and the one making deals with the Noron while holding their secret document hostage. Basically, Yeongjo knows that Kang isn’t their man.
He tells Prime Minister Kim about Heung-bok’s drawing and the prince’s belief that Kang Seo-won is the killer; now with Kang’s disappearance, Sun will be convinced all the more that he was right. Yeongjo says that Sun going down the wrong path ought to be good news for Prime Minister Kim, and warns him to recover their document.
Ji-dam’s father pitches a belated fit about her close call at the gibang, and Woon-shim assures him that Ji-dam is fine and that she simply didn’t want to worry Dad with the details. Woon-shim promises that Ji-dam is somewhere safe, though she does wonder a little suspiciously why Ji-dam went so willingly.
It turns out that Ji-dam’s new hideout is with Eastside boss Chul-joo. Yay—I don’t know why she didn’t come here in the first place. I mean, he’s armed for starters!
They seem to have very differing opinions about her stay here, though, because she’s here to pry and get some new leads on her investigation, while he tries to tell her that she’s hiding here in secret and being confined for her own safety. She sends word to Sun that she’s safe and looking into what connection the East and West gangs have to their case.
Chul-joo keeps ignoring her one-sided interrogation about why he was there in Westside territory the night of the forger’s death, so she finally steals the book he’s reading. But when he looks up, his eyes are brimming with tears, and he starts wiping them away in embarrassment.
She looks at the book cover curiously and asks why he’s crying while reading The Story of Chun-hyang, and he says so sincerely that Chun-hyang is crying for her lover right now. Hahaha, the gang boss reads romance novels. I love it.
Ji-dam knows how to get him right where it hurts, and holds his book hostage until he answers her questions. My favorite part is that he’s terrified she’ll lose his place, so she threatens to take her finger out from the last page he was on, and he sings like a canary.
He doesn’t tell her the whole truth though, and lies that he was there that night to get some payback for planting his gang’s knife at Jung-woon’s murder scene. He asks defensively if she’s accusing him of murdering their forger, and she says no—she knows Chul-joo well enough to know that he doesn’t kill people without looking them in the eye and giving them a fair fight.
Ji-dam asks if he knows anything about the Westside boss, and Chul-joo says he’s known only as Shadow. She asks him to keep her informed as he learns anything new, and is surprised when he readily agrees. He says that knowing now won’t make any difference because she won’t be able to do anything with that information; she won’t be leaving here until this case is closed.
She pouts, and he just passes her his book with the suggestion that she switch genres to romance and stop writing crime thrillers and getting herself involved in murder investigations. But the second he leaves, Ji-dam is peering around the corner and spying, and she overhears Chul-joo warning his minions to make sure she doesn’t get out, and that they don’t get caught. Get caught doing what?
Meanwhile in the palace, Sun barely pays attention while Advisor Chae details his schedule, and asks if Kang Seo-won is likely dead by now. And if so, who killed him? Advisor Chae guesses that the mastermind behind everything got rid of him, and his instincts tell him that the Noron are behind it. What they need to do is shrink their suspect pool somehow.
Advisor Chae says that they need bait, and suggests using Officer Min Woo-sub, the principled policeman who took Ji-dam’s statement and argued with (then) Police Captain Hong about doing the right thing. He’s also the son of Noron Minister Min, who basically told his son to bury the truth or kill his father before confessing. Advisor Chae says that if his suspicion is right, then they can exploit the tension between a father who wants to hide the truth and a son who wants to uncover it.
Sun agrees that it’s a good idea, and summons Minister Min in the presence of War Minister Hong, and says that he’s going to dismiss Minister Min from his post unless he can explain why his son suddenly resigned from the police force. Sun says that unless he’s suffering from a terminal illness, the only other explanation is that the two ministers conspired to get rid of him for some reason.
Their hands are tied when Sun says that the only way to prove their innocence would be to reinstate Officer Min, and to reinforce the sense of urgency, he offers up his own bodyguards as interim police officers until Min Woo-sub is back on duty.
Advisor Chae’s plan works like a charm, and he has Minister Min and Minister Hong followed as they go straight to confer with Prime Minister Kim about how dangerously close the prince is getting to the truth. Sun concludes that the four Noron officials at this meeting are very likely the masterminds behind Heung-bok’s death, while Prime Minister Kim tells his colleagues that Sun has already learned a good deal of the truth from Ji-dam, and they look at each other in alarm.
Sun spends the evening sitting alone in front of his unfinished portrait, running his hands along Heung-bok’s paintbrushes and wistfully remembering their last conversation about how he wished he’d been born a painter and not a prince.
He envisions Heung-bok kneeling there painting, and he even looks up to smile at Sun, who smiles back at him. Heung-bok paints what looks like wet tears on Sun’s portrait, and when the vision fades, Sun is startled when he thinks he sees traces of Heung-bok’s brushstrokes, and his eyes fill with tears.
Yeongjo pores over the royal processional drawings with a microscope, and can’t for the life of him figure out the difference between the paintings or the figures within them. His eunuch confirms that Sun knew just by looking, which of them was drawn by Heung-bok and what the hidden message was.
Yeongjo pauses to note how pitiful his son is, and sighs that Sun had no one to give his heart to but a lowly painter. Gee, do you suppose you might have had something to do with that, Dad? Yeongjo gives up the futile search and orders his eunuch to put the paintings back because he’s sure that someone of interest will come looking for them.
At the same time, Westside boss Pil-jae is hearing about the drawings from Prime Minister Kim, who wonders why Heung-bok (wrongly) indicated Kang Seo-won as the killer. Pil-jae, on the other hand, is convinced that they correctly point to him, and grows alarmed at how close Sun is to discovering the truth. He adds ominously that if Prime Minister Kim doesn’t do something to stop Sun, he’ll face an even greater enemy than he realizes.
The king’s spies are lying in wait at the royal painting bureau that night, and Pil-jae stealthily makes his way inside… But he doesn’t go for the drawings, and heads for the records room instead, where he rifles through the books until the finds the one with the roll call that corresponds to Heung-bok’s drawing.
He opens up the page and finds his name, as expected. Ah, so if Sun had looked up the official roster, he would’ve seen that Heung-bok was pointing to Pil-jae the whole time. Perhaps his own memory was off on the date, or something happened to make the two guards swap places that day. Pil-jae swipes the book.
The Soron minister takes Pil-jae up on the offer to buy the secret document that would incriminate Yeongjo and the Noron, and gets a note saying to prepare 10,000 nyang as payment. Pil-jae burns the official roster from the painting bureau and smiles at the document, called the Great Reunification.
The other Soron ministers demand to know what this Great Reunification document is, but the prince’s teacher Park Mun-su refuses to speak up. It doesn’t take much for them to guess that it’s probably a conspiratorial agreement to poison Yeongjo’s brother, King Gyeongjong (he died of mysterious causes, and Yeongjo was suspected of poisoning his brother for the throne).
The Sorons say that they’ll know soon enough when they make the deal with Shadow, and Teacher Park is shocked to hear that they’re going through with it. He asks what they’ll do with it once they get the document—get their revenge in blood? Their leader says that they’re simply correcting history, and that if Park doesn’t join them, they won’t consider him Soron anymore.
Prime Minister Kim has ears everywhere, and gets the report about Pil-jae’s pending deal to hand over the document to the Soron. And at the same time, Yeongjo hears that no one came for the drawings at the painting bureau last night, and wonders curiously why Prime Minister Kim isn’t coming for his bait. He figures they’ll just have to switch up the bait then, and orders Kang Seo-won to be released.
A scary-looking black-hooded horseman gallops down the street and drops Kang Seo-won in a sack like he’s a laundry delivery, and when Kang sees the public notice offering a reward for his whereabouts, he walks into the palace on his own two feet.
He kneels before Sun and swears that he was kidnapped and that he didn’t kill Heung-bok, and that he couldn’t have because he was in the palace that night. They let him go for now, and Kang hilariously asks for the reward money since he turned himself in. The prince’s eunuch tells him to get lost, but Princess Hyegyeong and her father have been lying in wait, and offer him the money to find out what Sun is up to.
When they find out that he’s investigating Heung-bok’s murder, Hyegyeong guesses that he’s essentially building a case against the Noron, and advises her father to distance himself from the Noron as soon as possible.
He says politics isn’t that easy, but she’s sneakier and smarter than he is, and says he should just act like he’s separating himself from them, in order to gain favor with Sun. She plans to ride out the factional struggle by playing to both sides and being loyal to neither, and her father is impressed at her prowess. He regrets that she wasn’t a son, but Hyegyeong rightly points out that they’re currently enjoying this position because she’s a daughter.
Sun checks on Kang Seo-won’s alibi for the night of Heung-bok’s murder, and he was in the palace like he said. They’re back to square one now, and Sun wonders why Heung-bok pointed out the wrong man in his painting.
Teacher Park contemplates the king’s pleading requests to save him just one more time, for the sake of the people. He seems to make a decision, and looks into land and tax records to write down a list of specific estates. He then passes them off to a contact, and asks them to find out who owns these properties.
He reports to the king and says he’s awaiting news, and Yeongjo looks immensely grateful that Teacher Park has come around. Yeongjo says that even Hyegyeong and her father are acting suspicious lately on top of everything else, while Teacher Park is most worried for Sun, because he’s getting himself deeper and deeper into the crossfire. Yeongjo assures him that they needn’t worry—he’ll take care of Sun.
To that end, Yeongjo calls his son to afternoon tea and gives him a warm fatherly speech on how his health will deteriorate if he keeps trying to run the investigation while maintaining his royal duties, and tells him to stop overextending himself.
Sun protests, and Yeongjo says he isn’t telling him to quit the investigation, but just to entrust it to someone else—someone like Teacher Park. Yeongjo: “If I am the father who had you in body, Park Mun-su is the father who raised you in heart.”
Still, Sun won’t comply and begs for just a little bit more time, and Yeongjo laughs it off and makes light of his son’s stubbornness. He asks if Sun has discovered anything new in the case, and Sun hesitates, saying that he’ll report things when he’s sure of them. Yeongjo says reassuringly, “I am always on your side,” but betrays a wary look.
Chul-joo climbs a giant rock wall, which he apparently does just for kicks. Teacher Park finds him there and says wistfully that Chul-joo was always such a talented child, and laments the fact that he wasn’t born a nobleman’s son.
Teacher Park admits that he dislikes that Chul-joo lives as a gang leader, and adds with an even heavier sigh that he’s the one who warned Chul-joo to never get involved in politics… and yet he was the one who led him right into the eye of a political storm.
Chul-joo says that he’s just repaying a favor, not getting involved in politics. He was a fifteen-year-old boy framed for murder when they first met, and Teacher Park was the only one who trusted him enough to prove his innocence.
Chul-joo admits that he’s long since forgotten about the important man Park Mun-su who cleared his name, but he’ll never forget the taste of the bowl of soup that he fed him when he was hungry. “I’m simply repaying the cost of that meal.”
Elsewhere, an unknown man cuts up raw meat to serve to his pet falcon. Prime Minister Kim walks in on him complaining that he was hard to find, and the young man swears that he’s living quietly as a hunter.
Prime Minister Kim takes him to a grave, and tells him to pour wine for his mother. Ah, the young man, Kim Mu, is Prime Minister Kim’s secret illegitimate son. He asks if Mu is surprised that he buried a gisaeng in such a respectable grave, and says that he truly loved her and even plans to be buried right next to her.
Prime Minister Kim says that once he finishes this present task, he plans to fulfill his mother’s wish, and take him in as a son. “Don’t you wish to call me father?”
Teacher Park’s contact looks into the owners of the large estates that he listed, and one name sticks out as being odd: Kang Pil-jae. The man counters that a palace guard wouldn’t make nearly enough salary to own a house so large.
Teacher Park takes note and finds Pil-jae at the tobacco vendor. He doesn’t get anything out of Pil-jae in conversation, but he does find out from the vendor that Pil-jae isn’t a smoker, but he ordered a very long smoking pipe.
Sun’s head court lady comes in to tell him that he’s supposed to sleep with his wife tonight (the fact that other people make calendars to decide this for you always weirds me out, but such is palace life).
He totally forgot and asks if they can’t push the date, but Court Lady Choi wisely tells him that Hyegyeong is acting out because she wants Sun’s attention any way that she can get it. She urges him to take care of her, because palace life is cruel and difficult, even with someone to lean on.
He seems to take that to heart, and goes to lie with Hyegyeong that night like he’s supposed to. The court ladies tell him from outside the door to begin (no pressure!) and he begins to untie his robe.
But then he suddenly has an epiphany (RIGHT NOW? Do you have to have one right now?) and it dawns on him that the processional drawings are painted in advance of an important event. Well yes, they’d have to be, considering that Heung-bok couldn’t have drawn the procession for the day after he died from the grave.
The important point is that they’re painted according to the advance roster—Sun realizes that Kang Seo-won reentered the palace the night of Heung-bok’s murder, which means he took someone’s place in the procession. Suddenly he apologizes to Hyegyeong and then he literally gets up and runs out of there. Augh, you can’t just leave her like that!
His eunuch pretty much says exactly that as they trek over to the royal painting bureau, but Sun is too amped up on his latest discovery to listen to anything else. He explains that Heung-bok’s drawing points to the man who was supposed to be in the procession, but the real killer couldn’t have returned to the palace in time because he was on the outside killing Heung-bok the night before. If they check the original roster, they’ll find their assassin.
But of course they’re already a step too late—an artist informs them that they had a break-in just last night, and that’s the very thing that was stolen.
Prime Minister Kim calls in the Westside gang’s second in command, a man called Blacklist, and gives him a small chest filled with silver. Blacklist reminds him that he isn’t the Westside boss, but Prime Minister Kim calls Shadow a thing of the past; Blacklist is the future. And with that, Blacklist becomes the prime minister’s new hunting dog, and gets sent out to kill Kang Seo-won before he talks.
Ji-dam sneaks around the Eastside compound looking for whatever it is that they’re trying to keep hidden. She hears sounds of a woman crying from inside a shed, and overhears her gisaeng friend—Jung-woon’s girlfriend—sobbing for her captors to let her go.
They swear they’ll let her go once this is all over, but she doesn’t trust them and screams, “Do you think I don’t know that Park Mun-su and your boss got together and killed [Jung-woon]?!” Oh no. Ji-dam’s face pales.
Sun and his eunuch ride as fast as they can to Kang Seo-won’s house, knowing that without the official record, he’s the last loose thread. They arrive just as Blacklist and his men are chasing Kang out of his home, and Sun reaches for his bow and arrow to fend off a few of the hitmen.
He gets on his horse to pursue them, and when he catches up, he swings Kang Seo-won up onto his horse for a getaway. Once they’re out of sight, Sun stops to ask whose place he took in the procession that day. I swear, I’m just waiting for the stray arrow to come flying out of nowhere, but he actually gets to say it: “Kang Pil-jae.”
And then we see Pil-jae roll up the secret document in his new extra-long pipe, while the Soron ministers prepare the money for the exchange tonight. Ji-dam spies on Chul-joo as he parts ways with Teacher Park, who orders him to take care of Shadow and recover the pipe.
As Sun races off to another location on horseback, his eunuch returns to the palace to convey the message that the prince requests the king’s help. Yeongjo says of course they’ll send help—he’s finally about to get his hands on that preciousssss document. He starts to shake in anticipation.
Sun arrives in front of a house and runs inside, and then a second later, a woman screams and our local corrupt policeman Officer Byun happens to hear it and run inside.
ACK. Sun ambles out in a daze, his hands and sleeves covered in blood.
It’s only when Officer Byun asks what happened that Sun looks down at his bloodstained hands with a dark expression on his face. And inside the palace, Yeongjo raises his hands up in the same way but with a totally different expression on his face, practically foaming at the mouth in anticipation.
Okay, that bloody walk seriously freaked me out, only because that’s the exact way I pictured Sado before this drama began. I have every faith that our fictional character Sun will have been framed (…right?), but it’s effectively haunting since they’re playing with the expectations that he’ll snap and turn into a killer any day now. Though the drama is clearly spinning its own story about Sun as a noble prince who was caught up in a political battle, it is taking pains to paint a plausible version of events that could be misconstrued as his rampant misbehavior in the twisted version—you could see how in the wrong hands, this story gets rewritten and Sun goes down in history as a killer.
And here I thought he was having a good day, with an actual lead on Shadow that panned out. I should’ve known better that the cost for learning Pil-jae’s name would be high, but I was too busy being happy for them. The good guys did have more victories than normal today, with Officer Min’s reinstatement and Teacher Park’s detective skills put to use to track Pil-jae down; the problem is that Sun and Teacher Park seem to be on the same side, but are working separately and often at cross-purposes. I really need them to team up, but I have a feeling that Yeongjo won’t ever let it happen.
I enjoyed the detour into Chul-joo’s story today, and found it too short—he’s such an interesting character that I wouldn’t mind taking longer story tangents where he’s concerned, whether it’s backstory or more of his everyday banter with Ji-dam, which was really cute. I’m glad that there’s a personal reason for his involvement in this mess, because he doesn’t strike me as politically minded or easily swayed. It also adds to Teacher Park’s credibility that he actually cares about the common people too, not just the royals he serves, and that his teachings to both king and prince aren’t just lip-service.
I don’t know where we’re going with Prime Minister Kim’s illegitimate son, but he seems perfect to become another of the prime minister’s disposable hunting dogs, especially with Pil-jae getting too big for his britches. Who knows, maybe that speech about the gisaeng wasn’t an act and he really has a heart? Not that I’d put any money on that. I mean, why does the son only get the offer to be part of the family now that he’s found a use for him and his raw-flesh-eating bird?
Sun’s scenes with Hyegyeong are fast becoming my favorite moments in this series, because they’re fraught with so much unspoken angst, and even peppered with unexpected humor. I mean, what on earth—I know you’re not madly in love with your wife or anything, but this is your idea of trying to be nice to her? Could you maybe not be so mentally checked out for the ONE night you’re sharing a bed? I laughed out loud when he ran out of there, and then my heart broke for her, because she has no idea why he’s so preoccupied and just feels utterly rejected all the time. Is it any wonder that her pride is so fierce?
In light of her private acknowledgement of her unrequited feelings for Sun, I find Hyegyeong’s duality so interesting—she’s so politically savvy and actively engaging in her father’s affairs, but around Sun she seems so young and vulnerable. It’s already tragic enough to think of Sun as a truly capable future king; Hyegyeong seems more and more like she would be equally brilliant as a future queen (and hell, perhaps even smarter politically). But if he keeps being like this, he’s going to make an enemy of her, and that’s not only sad because she loves him; it’s frightening because of what lengths she might go to survive in the palace.
I guess it says something that even still, the love story that breaks my heart more is Sun’s bromance with Heung-bok. It’s great to watch Sun make headway in the case because of the tiny details and secret codes that only two lifelong best friends could know—I loved the moment when Yeongjo tried to decipher the same drawings and couldn’t figure it out, which is an advantage that Sun has because he gave his heart to a friend despite all of his father’s warnings to the contrary.