Secret Door: Episode 9
This episode marks the death of politeness—everyone stops dancing around and playing nice on the surface, and we witness how quickly one false move puts the prince’s life in peril. The political claws get sharpened out in the open, and in a fantastic move, once the prince’s hands are tied, we get to see what the princess is made of. We always knew she’d be strong, but will she use her powers for evil or good? And more importantly, will she ever let anyone know how she really feels?
SONG OF THE DAY
Younha – “내 마음이 뭐가 돼” (What Becomes of My Heart) [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Sun at last makes some headway in Heung-bok’s murder case, and hears the devastating confession from Teacher Park Mun-su himself—that he had Heung-bok’s body thrown in the well. Sun’s heart shatters on the spot.
Teacher Park needs to follow that up with the secondary statement that he wasn’t the one to kill Heung-bok, but he doesn’t get that far because the mayor that’s leading the investigation, walks in to arrest their prime suspect for Shadow’s murder: Sun.
Both Sun and his teacher look back and forth in shock, and Teacher Park is the one to raise his voice that this is an outrage—the prince is not the killer! But even more shocking is the fact that the king has ordered them to proceed with the investigation knowing that this means Sun will have to stand trial.
Teacher Park goes straight to Prime Minister Kim to have it out with him, and grabs him by the collar to shake the truth out of him. But Prime Minister Kim just strokes Teacher Park’s beard like he’s being cute, and says condescendingly that Park is no match for him. The difference in their physical sizes makes the power disparity feel particularly sardonic.
Princess Hyegyeong receives word that her husband has just been arrested for murder, and runs out of her palace to ask her father what’s happening. She pleads with him to stop the trial from happening, but even as she’s talking, the court ministers are filing past them to begin the interrogation. Her father warns her to return to her quarters since it isn’t her place to be here, and falls in line with the other officials.
Sun kneels on a straw mat before his father, who presides over the trial. Yeongjo asks very straightforward questions about who Shadow was and why Sun went to his house the night he discovered the body.
But Sun knows the answer to that question is about to open up a can of worms, and he looks back and forth between Teacher Park and Prime Minister Kim. Yeongjo prods him for an answer, so Sun says truthfully that he went looking for the person who ordered Heung-bok and Jung-woon’s murders.
That makes everyone draw in a sharp breath, no one more so than Yeongjo. He braces himself before asking if Sun discovered the person behind the killings. Without a word, Sun stands up and slowly approaches the line of ministers.
Their heads turn with his every movement, and they all gape in horror as Sun stops… right in front of Prime Minister Kim. Whoa. I mean, he’s right, but now I’m terrified for him. Even Yeongjo looks a little terrified.
Sun accuses him of ordering the deaths of the two royal artists, and then the death of Shadow to tie up loose ends. Yeongjo stands up and asks defensively what possible motive Prime Minister Kim could have for those murders.
At that, Sun turns toward the throne: “If it isn’t the prime minister, then is it you, Father?” Oh shit, you did not just say that out loud. Yeongjo reels at the accusation turned against him and asks why he would do such a thing.
Sun approaches him with the copy of the maengui, the secret document that Heung-bok transcribed into the pages of Ji-dam’s novel. He says that the motive is right here—keeping the conspiracy documented in these pages a secret. This… has to be a daydream sequence, right? This is too horrifying if it’s real.
Yeongjo’s eyes dart left to right searching for a way out, but all he can do is grab the incriminating pages and fall to the ground, as his ministers look on. Father and son lock eyes, and Sun’s eyes well up with tears to see his father so broken.
Whoosh, back to the interrogation, as Yeongjo prods Sun for an answer as to why he sought out Shadow in the first place. Oh phew, it WAS a daydream. I know it’s the truth, but I’m not prepared for that kind of confrontation yet. Sun comes out of his reverie and decides to hold his tongue, and replies that he can’t give an answer.
That angers Yeongjo and he asks if Shadow refused to talk as well: “Is that why you tortured him?” Sun denies that he tortured or killed the man, but Yeongjo asks how he can insist on his innocence when evidence was recovered at the scene.
The murder weapon is brought out, and to Sun’s horror, he recognizes it right away—that’s his knife, the one we saw a court lady steal, which he never even noticed was missing. Yeongjo asks whose knife it is, and Sun can only answer that it belongs to him. He swears he didn’t kill anyone with it though, and Yeongjo shouts, “How long will you attempt to cover the sky with your hand?”
And then in a move that really drops jaws, Yeongjo orders Sun to be locked up in jail until he decides he wants to start answering questions truthfully. Yeongjo looks pointedly at Teacher Park (ah, is he hurting him by going after Sun?), while Sun glares daggers at Prime Minister Kim.
It’s only when Yeongjo leaves the scene that he betrays any anguish at treating his son that way. The ministers stand frozen in their places, wondering what on earth they’re supposed to do. Prime Minister Kim is the one to say that he’ll entreat the king to reverse the order, but Sun stands up and says he’ll go to jail, because no one should be above the law—not the king, the prince, or the prime minister. Nicely done.
Prime Minister Kim says he just regrets the fact that the prince has to suffer, so then Sun asks him to personally prove his innocence if he really feels that way. Ha, has he just entrusted the murderer to prove that the man he framed for his own crimes is innocent?
The prince’s people focus on the murder weapon that was planted at the crime scene, and Advisor Chae entreats Court Lady Choi to remember any suspicious activity from any of her staff. She remembers the girl who acted strangely while digging through a dresser, and when they go to search her quarters, she’s gone.
Sun gets led into his prison cell, where the guard asks for his royal robes. He takes them off and comes back out to hand them over, and finds Hyegyeong waiting to receive them. She takes his clothes silently and looks like she’s on the verge of tears the whole time, but holds them back.
When Sun turns around to return to his cell, she calls out after him, “You will come out. I will make it so.” He pauses, but continues on ahead without looking back.
Once he’s alone in his cell, Sun takes out Heung-bok’s secret pages that he tucked away into his shirt, and begins to re-read them for hundredth time. We see Prime Minister Kim creating the document thirty years in the past, and getting his Noron co-conspirators to sign it.
And while we all suspected as much given the historical context, we finally get to the meat and potatoes of the secret document—it details the intent to place a new king on the throne, and says that history will forgive the use of swords and poison (King Gyeongjong died of mysterious causes, and it was always suspected that he was poisoned).
Sun looks at the signatures (all nicknames or codenames) and recognizes only one: that of Prime Minister Kim Taek. He wonders who the others are, and if the new king they intended to place on the throne is his father. And the million-dollar question: “Did Father know of these things?”
Yeongjo drinks alone in front of his brother Gyeongjong’s shrine, calling him “hyungnim” and noting how odd it is that he never once got to call him that. He glares up at the portrait of his brother looming down at him: “Are you still looking at me with those eyes?”
He spits defensively that while his brother only wore the royal robes for four years, he’s worn them for thirty, always in service of the people and never once with any selfish desires for power beyond that. “So why are you looking down on me with those eyes? What did I do wrong?!” He turns from anger to laughter to anguish in a matter of seconds, as he stands there looking up at his brother, as if waiting for an answer.
Hyegyeong and Teacher Park each take turns trying to get an audience with the king, but keep getting rejected at every turn. Hyegyeong fumes to hear that Yeongjo went to see his concubine Lady Moon, and worries about what Lady Moon will do to further undermine his relationship with Sun.
That’s exactly what Lady Moon is doing, as she asks Yeongjo what he’ll do if Sun really murdered a man, and he says that he’ll have to strip him of the prince-regency. She asks if that means the crown prince’s position will be left unfilled, and he looks over at her very pregnant belly and says that that won’t do.
Advisor Chae visits Sun in prison and has a fit about him taking the fall and not naming Teacher Park as the killer. But Sun is smart enough to have pieced together what Teacher Park meant by his confession that he put Heung-bok’s body in the well—he didn’t want that death to be covered up as a suicide, and was hoping to draw the Noron conspirators out by forcing the case to become a murder investigation.
Sun says that Teacher Park wants the same thing that they want, and asks Advisor Chae to keep this between them for now. I’m so relieved that Sun’s unwavering faith is actually not misplaced for once. He orders Chae to look into Eastside boss Chul-joo’s whereabouts to figure out exactly what he and Teacher Park were up to.
Ji-dam and her father hear of the prince’s arrest and worry that things have gone massively astray. Ji-dam is antsy to go see Chul-joo herself, but Dad insists she stay put (at Advisor Chae’s house, their latest hideout) while he checks on Chul-joo. But it turns out that their hideout isn’t so secret, and everyone from the king’s eunuch to Prime Minister Kim sends out orders to kill Ji-dam.
Princess Hyegyeong, meanwhile, is busy ordering the prince’s eunuch to stab himself in the neck with a knife, for failing in his duties to protect Sun. Eunuch Jang begs for mercy, so Hyegyeong tells him he can live if he tells her everything that’s been going on and how Sun ended up in prison.
Eunuch Jang buckles under pressure, and says it all started with Seo Ji-dam. Ruh-roh, I really don’t think this is the way you want to be framing the story for the princess. In any case, this is how Hyegyeong finally learns Ji-dam’s name.
Advisor Chae rushes over to the Eastside gang’s compound and finds Ji-dam’s dad there ahead of him. They’re both looking for Chul-joo, but his men say that their boss has been missing for days, and they’re worried sick that something terrible must’ve happened.
Chae suggests they head back to his home because he has things to ask Ji-dam, but when they get there, they find the house overturned and his servant crying that men in black stormed in here and took Ji-dam away. Chae runs off in alarm, and Dad clutches his sleeve to beg that he find his daughter: “I can’t live without Ji-dam!”
Sun gets another visitor in jail, and smiles broadly to see Teacher Park. Park’s face is stricken with guilt and worry to see the prince suffering in this way while he’s the one who committed a crime. But Sun assures him that what Park did was in service of uncovering the truth, and that if his teacher can work to make sure that innocent lives were not lost in vain, then he can stand to spend some time in jail to do his part.
Teacher Park promises to free Sun and receive his just punishment when all is said and done, and asks the prince to trust him and wait. Sun smiles and nods reassuringly, already having chosen to do so.
Teacher Park seeks out the mayor to go over the particulars of the case, but is informed that everything’s already been handed over to the state tribunal. His Soron cohorts corner him to ask why he’s so sure of the prince’s innocence, and accuse him of either being blinded by his trust, or knowing the true culprit himself. The mayor says he didn’t hand over the evidence that would be bad for Park, and takes out the piece of cloth that was found at the crime scene.
It belongs to Chul-joo, who’s currently wearing the same clothes from that night because he’s been tied up in assassin (and Prime Minister Kim’s illegitimate son) Kim Mu’s shack. Mu is slowly bleeding Chul-joo out with shallow cuts, and asks why he sensed humaneness in Chul-joo’s hand as they fought one another.
Chul-joo: “Because you’re my friend.” He asks Mu if he still doesn’t have any other friends, and Mu kicks him in the chest in response. Chul-joo winces from the pain, but it does get Mu out of the room for a while, and it gives him a chance to try and get to the tools that are just out of reach.
The Soron ministers are convinced that Teacher Park is the culprit behind Shadow’s murder and that he’s in possession of the secret document that they attempted to buy. He denies it but it’s no use, and they threaten that if he doesn’t hand over the document to them, they’ll make sure he’s indicted for Shadow’s murder.
Park swears that the real killer is someone else, but they don’t give a damn about that. And when he argues that the prince has been unfairly imprisoned, the Soron simply say that he’s there ahead of schedule, since neither Yeongjo nor Sun have the right to the throne, the way they see it.
That’s awfully dangerous talk, and Teacher Park follows the Soron leader to ask if he really intends to use the document to overthrow Yeongjo and place someone else in power. Teacher Park pleads with him not to repeat the bloodshed that they faced in the past, and asks him to keep a lid on his hasty colleagues.
Teacher Park finally manages to catch Yeongjo as he’s leaving Lady Moon, and Yeongjo doesn’t waste the opportunity to twist the knife further—he tells Lady Moon that he’ll have her moved to the palace that’s reserved for queens and princesses to give birth. Teacher Park’s face goes white to hear Yeongjo already treating this unborn child as his future heir apparent, and Hyegyeong panics when she hears the same news.
Yeongjo lays it all out rather simply for Teacher Park: Park is the one who put Sun on trial, put him in prison, and put his prince-regency in jeopardy… and he’s the one who can get him out. Ugh, how can he use his own son as a pawn like that? The genius part, of course, is that it’s totally effective because Teacher Park loves the prince.
Park sighs to see Yeongjo’s motives so plainly, and asks if he likes power that much, to risk his own son. Yeongjo just does what he does best and plays mind-games with him, countering that Park is the one who made him do this: “Why did you force my hand? Why are you making me such a bad father?” AUGH. OR MAYBE YOU’RE JUST A BAD FATHER.
Yeongjo is practically dancing rhetorical circles around Park, and asks for the secret document so they can free the prince and put him back in his rightful place. You say it like you’re not the one who threw him in there.
Park argues that even if he were to comply, the murder case would have to be solved in order to clear Sun completely—that means they’d have to catch Shadow’s killer first. Yeongjo just says they can make a culprit, and suggests Chul-joo to take the fall.
Horrified, Park says that he can’t let an innocent man die, but Yeongjo says he’s just a street thug who would’ve died in some gang fight anyway, and he should consider it an honor to die for the prince. Wow. Park cries that even a gangster is one of the king’s people, and Yeongjo agrees but says small sacrifices are needed in order to do big things.
It’s clear now that Yeongjo is too far gone, and Park refuses to hand over the document. Yeongjo says as if it’s just an inevitable result now: “Then you will lose a student… and I will lose a child.”
Teacher Park leaves the room barely managing to stay on his feet, and Prime Minister Kim stops him in the hallway to add casually that he shouldn’t be so quick to give the document to the king—after all, the deaths won’t stop at just Sun when there’s Chul-joo to consider as well. Holy moly, is no one safe?
Just when you think Teacher Park’s day couldn’t possibly get any worse, Advisor Chae tells him that Ji-dam has now been kidnapped too. Chae demands some answers about what Park knows, worried that if Ji-dam dies, Sun will never forgive himself and just break.
Park storms into Prime Minister Kim’s home and demands that Chul-joo and Ji-dam be returned to their rightful places by tomorrow. Kim tells him that nothing in life is free, but Park threatens to make the contents of the document public to the entire nation if he doesn’t comply. He doesn’t look like he’s bluffing either, and Prime Minister Kim grimaces.
Sun slams his fist into the wall when Advisor Chae tells him that Ji-dam and Chul-joo are missing. He says it’s time to clear his path out of here, and hands Advisor Chae the page of the maengui that contains all the signatures. Without revealing the contents of the first page or what it’s about, Sun asks him to figure out who signed the document: “The culprit will be one of them.”
Advisor Chae is startled because he recognizes the name for Prime Minister Kim, and identifies a few other key Noron members, Min Baek-sang and Kim Sang-ro, members of the prime minister’s inner circle. Sun tells him to use whatever means necessary to search these men and their surroundings—one of them will have Ji-dam.
Advisor Chae gives Eunuch Jang instructions to begin the search, but the eunuch hems and haws awkwardly. At the same time, the Noron inner circle contemplates the seriousness of Teacher Park’s threats, and they ask how they’re supposed to produce a girl out of thin air when they don’t have her. Wait, you don’t?
Elsewhere in the palace, Hyegyeong opens up a suspiciously large sack… and there inside is a hog-tied and gagged Ji-dam. Well that’s a twist. Hyegyeong points out that this isn’t their first meeting, and Ji-dam says rather impertinently that kidnapping people like this is against the law, but last time she was in the wrong, and this time the princess is in the wrong, so they’ll call it even.
Hyegyeong tamps down her anger to say that she isn’t kidnapping her—she needs her testimony. Oh. Ji-dam tells her about Heung-bok’s murder, and when Hyegyeong asks if she can testify to those facts in court, Ji-dam agrees without hesitation. Hyegyeong declares that from now on, she’ll ensure Ji-dam’s safety. Okay wait, now THAT’s a twist.
Advisor Chae loses his temper when he hears that Hyegyeong has Ji-dam, and that Eunuch Jang basically spilled all his beans under pressure. Court Lady Choi thinks that maybe this isn’t a terrible development, since Ji-dam might be the only way to get Sun out of jail.
Hyegyeong has Ji-dam safely moved to her palace, and asks her father to have Officer Min brought here. Her father protests that Minister Min is a powerful man and bringing his son here to testify might bring calamity upon all of them, but she’s determined to see this through.
Sun is pacing in his cell when Advisor Chae returns, and is shocked to hear that Ji-dam is safe in Hyegyeong’s care, of all people. Hyegyeong then kneels in the king’s courtyard to plead for a retrial, accompanied by their tiny son who wails appropriately just as his father was taught to do.
Finally, Show has decided that their son Lee San (future Jeongjo) exists! I was seriously wondering if they were going to sweep an entire child under the rug. (He’s three years old at this point in the story.)
As San wails, Hyegyeong cries out over and over for the king to reopen the trial. Yeongjo covers his ears to drown out their cries, annoyed that his grandson and daughter-in-law are adding to his troubles, but Hyegyeong continues, prepared to do this all night.
The Noron ministers realize that it’s possible that the princess has Ji-dam, and that actually fills them with dread. Sun is more alarmed than anyone that Hyegyeong intends to put Ji-dam before the court as a witness, and has dragged their tiny son out there to plead his case before the king.
Sun says that they can’t let Ji-dam testify because if it’s determined that there’s insufficient evidence to support her claims, she’ll be punished as a criminal. Advisor Chae refuses to back down this time, because it’s the only way to get the prince out of jail. He says that they’re going to put Officer Min on trial too, to back up Ji-dam’s statement. Guys, there are so many ways this could go awry! Hyegyeong’s father sends his officers out to capture Officer Min, and the Noron camp panics.
Little San is exhausted, but Hyegyeong refuses to let her court lady comfort him, and puts the child right back by her side to do his duty as the royal heir. Yeongjo finally comes outside to ask what Hyegyeong is doing when the baby is crying, but she counters that he’s not a baby—he’s here as the crown prince’s heir. She points out that Sun himself was not much older when he began to lie prostrate before the king, which… is true, but that was totally messed up.
Yeongjo flares up in anger and asks if she means to keep this up, and Hyegyeong steels herself to declare: “The king’s grandson and I will make this place our grave!”
Oh man, I love Hyegyeong more and more with each episode. She’s such a great character, and I find that I’m far more invested in Sun’s future with her (and their son, who actually gets to exist in the drama world now). I really want to see Sun being a father too, whether good or bad, because it just adds another layer of depth to his sad and twisted dynamic with his father. I can see their parenting being a source of strife with his wife too, since Hyegyeong is all about the tough love and scary discipline. I’m partly appalled that she’s making her child kneel before the king all night, but partly impressed because she clearly knows how to use this situation to her benefit—something Yeongjo always understood, but Sun didn’t. It’s a battle of wills, and she gets to call Yeongjo’s bluff this way, if he doesn’t actually intend to let his sole bloodline die in one fell swoop.
At this point, I do believe that Yeongjo doesn’t intend to let Sun die, even though technically, we already know that someday he’ll be capable of that very thing. So I can’t honestly say he’s not willing to go that far. But at this stage he’s clearly holding his son hostage because he needs leverage to make Teacher Park give up the document, never mind the absurdity of the fact that it’s his son. Yeongjo is the one who said to Sun that he might be his father by blood but Teacher Park was his father in heart, and it’s frightening how easily he uses that truth to his advantage when it serves his purposes. But the truly maddening thing is that he shows bits of remorse, and it feels like deep down, he wants nothing more than for Sun to survive this so that he can get rid of the goddamned maengui and rule peacefully as a just and fair king, and pass that kingdom down to his only son. It’s admittedly way, waaaay down there under his thirst for power and his layer upon layer of insecurity, but that’s the sad thing about Yeongjo’s story, because his intentions as a ruler were good at the start.
It’s probably saddest for Teacher Park, who put his faith in those good intentions one too many times. I’m glad for his sake that Sun is still such a hopeful idealist, because you get the sense that his teacher might break otherwise. I’m so relieved that they’re finally on the same page, because they were both facing a pretty bleak future with no one to trust, and it finally feels like Sun might not be all alone in the world. Of course, that just makes me terrified for Teacher Park’s safety, now that everybody knows about the maengui and knows that he has it; it’s just a matter of time before the people he loves start getting knocked down one by one, and that amounts to our entire group of good guys.
I like that things are out in the open too, because the last two episodes have been a big step up, with heavier consequences, bigger stakes, and a nice funneling of all the disparate story elements into one central conflict that drives each episode. This show has a tendency to bombard us with far too many players and a constellation of related conflicts, rather than one focused problem that hurtles everyone towards the same narrative cliff; the latest episodes have done a much better job of pulling all the loose strands tightly into one new problem that drives everyone each hour, and it feels like the pace is picking up a result. It probably has a lot to do with putting our hero in mortal danger and threatening to take away his crown, but thankfully there’s no shortage of that conflict where royals are concerned. I know, I can’t believe I’m asking to put the prince in peril all the time, but it makes for better conflict. I really hope we get some development between Sun and Hyegyeong in the wake of this episode too, because he’s a fool if he lets her brain and her guts of steel go wasted, especially when she already loves him. Argh.