Jackpot: Episode 9
This episode finally steps the game up a notch, effectively raising the stakes to kill-the-king levels while miraculously leaving gambling out of the picture. A little focus goes a long way, especially when you’ve got some truly scene-stealing characters to help shoulder the load, and an emphasis on action-related tension certainly doesn’t hurt. I’m sure we’re all for more action and less ridiculousness at this point, so here’s hoping that this hour marks a turn for the better.
SONG OF THE DAY
Royal Pirates – “Run Away” [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
We’re told via chyron that in 1712, Chief State Councilor KIM CHANG-JIP left for Qing as an envoy of Joseon, and returned six years later, in 1717. He’s greeted at the gates of the capital by other high-ranking ministers, who are all introduced via chyron, but it’s way too many names at once to mention here.
What’s important is that Injwa is not happy to see Councilor Kim, who then pays a visit to the king. He’s reestablished back in court, and takes his place among his peers, half of whom look less than pleased.
Crown Prince Yoon can no longer hide his illness from the court, and locks himself away from their prying eyes in the meantime. The only person he’ll see is Injwa, though he doesn’t trust him the way he used to—not after what Prince Yeoning told him.
He decides to confront Injwa over his trustworthiness and motives, and of course, Injwa only claims to want to see Crown Prince Yoon ascend the throne and rule the people with wisdom. Yoon seems to believe him when he says he has no aspirations to take the throne for himself.
While Councilor Kim discusses the advanced warning they’ve received from the assassin intent on taking the king’s life and wonders if there’s a mole in the palace, we return to Chae-gun and Dae-gil, with Dae-gil unable to sway Chae-gun from his mission to kill the king.
Dae-gil searches through Chae-gun’s things, finding a map of the palace detailing how Chae-gun will make his entry. Determined to not lose someone close to him again, Dae-gil runs after Chae-gun, intent on saving his master.
Injwa gives Dam-seo some final words of advice before she sets off on her mission to kill the king, and while Nameless is supportive of her cause, Jin-ki seems to have some doubts about what game Injwa’s playing at. All Injwa says in his defense is that there’s no gain without pain.
Councilor Kim pays an icy visit to Injwa, accusing him of hiding behind the crown prince and controlling the Soron (“New Learning”) political faction. Injwa pretends to have no idea what he’s talking about, which spurs on a conversation full of flowery metaphors that ends with them agreeing to wait and watch each other’s next move.
Chae-gun gains entry to the palace by using his old military uniform and badge, while Prince Yeoning mobilizes the palace guards to block each of the palace gates and imposes a curfew on the people. He speaks like a general to his troops, rallying them to protect the king against the assassin’s threat.
When Yeoning has a hard time understanding why his father is so calm, the king smiles in that predatory way of his and asks, “Do you think I am sitting on this throne because of sheer luck?”
In order to spice things up, King Sukjong offers to make his son a bet: If he catches the assassin, then he’ll give him the royal seal and make him king. Should he fail, then Crown Prince Yoon will become king and he’ll have to leave the palace. He won’t be able to help his son anymore, since in that scenario, he’d already be dead.
Yeoning immediately claims he’ll take part in no such bet, but vows to catch the assassin for his father regardless. Sukjong eyes his son and gives him some essential advice when it comes to finding out who the assassin might be, since he has little doubt it’ll be someone close to him.
He has his suspicions about Dam-seo, but he’s careful not to relay them to his mother when he tells her of the responsibilities the king has placed upon him. They both know that this is a test for Yeoning, and one he’s very determined to pass.
The cloistered ministers, led by Councilor Kim, express their concerns with Prince Yeoning leading the king’s guard rather than the crown prince, who’s been tasked with nothing. Kim wonders if this means the king favors Yeoning over Crown Prince Yoon.
Dae-gil uses Chae-gun’s map to sneak into the palace, and manages to escape from the guards after attracting their notice by stealing into a long-forgotten building. There, he finds Dam-seo in a mask, and she’s just as surprised to see him as he is to see her.
Unwilling to allow herself to be diverted from her task, Dam-seo attempts to slip by him, only for Dae-gil to grab her arm. This cues a music video montage of all their moments together, leading Dam-seo to tell him that she understands his desire to kill her teacher, Injwa, because she also has someone she desperately wants to kill.
“Tonight is my only chance, so please pretend that you don’t know what I’m about to do,” she pleads, only for Dae-gil to reply, “What if I can’t?” She’s able to get him to slacken his grip when she reminds him that she’s no longer the woman he wants to marry, and therefore, he shouldn’t care what she does.
Chae-gun and Prince Yeoning pass each other, but Yeoning pays him no heed in his disguise. Chae-gun changes out of it and into an all-black getup like Dam-seo’s as he gets closer to the king’s quarters.
“Is the king the person you’re going to kill?” Dae-gil asks, stopping Dam-seo just as she’s about to scale a nearby wall. “What if it is?” she challenges, not expecting that Dae-gil would offer to go with her. He even gives her a leg up over the wall, though she doesn’t return the favor, leaving him in plain view of the patrolling guards.
He manages to lose them again (how poor is this security?), but is spotted again as he scales another wall. Prince Yeoning wins brownie points for asking why the security is so poor, shocked when he finds only two guards standing watch over one of the gates, with all the others having gone to chase Dae-gil.
Prince Yeoning realizes that all the ruckus is simply a diversion so that the assassin can sneak in without being seen. Remembering the route Dam-seo took when she came to visit the palace, Yeoning is able to find her in the present. “I sincerely hoped that it was not going to be you, Dam-seo,” he admits.
When Nameless questions why Injwa sent Dam-seo into such a dangerous situation, Injwa says it was to shore up her convictions, which she’d tearfully confessed she’d been wavering on.
Specifically, he means her doubt that it could’ve been him and not the king who killed her father, so tonight will be a test to see if Dam-seo has the conviction to run a sword through the king’s heart.
Dae-gil beats up a nearby guard and steals his uniform, which he’ll use to go see this king that everybody wants to kill. Meanwhile, Dam-seo tells Yeoning that if he doesn’t have the courage to kill her now, he should get out of her way.
He does, at first, but then catches up to Dam-seo with his sword drawn. “It’s not too late,” he stresses. “Are you truly unable to stop?” Dam-seo asks if he wants to die before she attacks, prompting him to ask her if she wants to die so badly that she’d try to kill the king.
She manages to slash his robes, but runs off when a contingent of guards draws closer. Yeoning routes the guards the wrong way, still intent on changing Dam-seo’s mind before it’s too late.
It’s Chae-gun who moves like a shadow through the palace, and no guards prove to be a match for him. He uses non-lethal force to get them out of his way as he clears a path toward the king, finally reaching the throne room.
The Spooky Twins draw their swords to stop him, but he makes quick work of them as well. With nothing standing between him and the king, he advances, only for Yeoning to appear out of nowhere to parry his blow.
Chae-gun recognizes the sword in Yeoning’s hand, wondering if he’s truly capable of wielding it. Turns out he’s not, since Chae-gun is able to disarm him rather quickly. Holding his sword to the prince’s neck, he bids him to get out of the way, which will only happen over Yeoning’s dead body.
The prince warns him against taking one more step as archers surround the room, though Chae-gun isn’t swayed. He makes a motion to take that step as Yeoning prepares to strike…
…Only for Dae-gil to push him back at the last moment, having run in behind Chae-gun. (How’d he get past all those archers?) Yeoning now has two swords held at his neck, even as Dae-gil explains that he’s here because he’s Chae-gun’s student, and has come to save him.
King Sukjong watches all these events transpire with a small smile, which only grows when Chae-gun sheathes his sword, reveals his face, and takes a knee before the king in allegiance. Ah ha!
Cut to Injwa, who laughs as he tells Nameless that there was never an assassin. If anything, it was a ploy on the king’s part to see how secure the palace was and to test Prince Yeoning. He even hands over the “Wanted” poster of Chae-gun, having also known he was a part of it, because he always knows everything.
It’s true that the king tasked Chae-gun with testing the palace’s security, as the military officer reveals that he’s been able to sneak into the palace over ten times in the span of a month without being detected. He advises King Sukjong to reinforce and restructure the three branches of the royal guards in order to make the palace more secure.
Though Injwa says the king staged this all as an elaborate test, he also staged it as a trap for him personally, by giving him an opportunity to come get him if he dared. And so, Injwa took him up on that challenge by sending Dam-seo.
Things take a turn with the king when Dae-gil tells him his name, which seems to be the only thing deserving of a reaction from Sukjong, who raises the screen separating them to get a closer look at the boy. He knows exactly who he is.
Urging Dae-gil closer, King Sukjong asks Dae-gil who his parents are. Dae-gil says they’ve both passed away, and lifts his eyes only when the king leans in to study him. He drops his gaze to the ground just as quickly, missing the knowing smile that pulls at the corner of Sukjong’s lips.
Suddenly, the king offers Dae-gil the sword at his side, claiming it’s one he cherishes deeply. Dae-gil has no choice but to accept such a gracious gift, leaving the king to bestow the position of being his right-hand swordsman onto Chae-gun, along with a royal badge/free pass which he claims will one day save Chae-gun’s life.
But no sooner does the king say “It’s not over yet” does the sound of an arrow being drawn tight come from just behind the door. It’s Dam-seo, who lets the two arrows fly through the paper barrier toward their intended target.
It’s Dae-gil, not Chae-gun, who uses his spidey senses (and his newly gifted sword) to cut down the arrows before they can reach the king. Prince Yeoning should be a lot more surprised—if it weren’t for Dae-gil, his inability to stop Dam-seo would’ve cost his father his life.
Nameless is scandalized that Injwa knowingly sent Dam-seo into a trap, but as usual, Injwa’s not concerned. It’s not like Dam-seo will die, not when she’s got Nameless who loves her, Jin-ki who has no affiliation with her, and Prince Yeoning, who also has feelings for her. (One of these things does not belong with the others.)
Dam-seo is chased down by royal guards, ending up grazed by one arrow and shot with another. She draws her sword to make her last stand, only to be saved by Dae-gil, who knocks out the guards and pulls her along with him.
At the same time, Injwa is heard in voiceover saying that Dam-seo also has Dae-gil. Prince Yeoning does his part to divert the guards in order to help Dam-seo escape, leaving Dae-gil to shoulder her weight to safety.
Dam-seo, badly wounded, remembers that Injwa told her to seek out Lady Choi should she find herself unable to escape the palace, and has Dae-gil take her there. Falling to her knees before her, Dam-seo begs to be saved.
Lady Choi tsks at Dam-seo’s life choices, only to be taken completely aback when Dae-gil gives her his name. She knows instantly that he’s her son.
By the time Prince Yeoning comes to check on his mother, she’s sitting calmly in her quarters like she isn’t harboring the assassin who just tried to kill his father. He spots telltale bloodstains on the floor that say differently, but leaves as though he didn’t.
After watching how carefully Dae-gil binds Dam-seo’s wounds, Lady Choi asks him what their relationship is. He claims to just know her, which any mother can tell is a lie, but she doesn’t press him.
Instead, she asks him about how he was raised, curious to know more about her son. But when Dae-gil asks why she wants to know, she switches topics back to Dam-seo, who she claims to be hiding to repay a debt she owes her. But she can’t hide her for long.
Prince Yeoning knows this, and confronts Dae-gil about how he plans to get Dam-seo out of the palace without being detected. Yeoning proposes a plan, which requires Dae-gil to incapacitate the guards at the gate and open it so that Yeoning and Dam-seo can escape on horseback.
Lady Choi’s relieved to hear that the escape was a success, if only for her son’s sake. But neither her or Dae-gil expect to run into Jin-ki, who sees the royal sword Dae-gil’s carrying and calls him out on it. Of more interest than that, however, is Dae-gil’s teacher, Chae-gun.
He tosses Dae-gil a Buddha statue he carved, claiming that he’ll exchange it for one life. Only when he’s knocked Dae-gil flat on his rear end does he ask if Chae-gun ever mentioned him before, prompting Dae-gil to remember that he did.
Jin-ki unsheathes his sword and prepares to attack the prone Dae-gil, only to be blocked by Chae-gun’s sword. The two of them face each other, leaving Dae-gil wide-eyed from his spot on the ground.
What a relief to see a solid episode after all this madness. It’s like Jackpot remembered that restraint exists, and that there’s plenty to be mined from the relationships of its central characters. Could that success be attributed to the fact that there were no instances of shoehorned-in gambling, or that there was markedly less Injwa? Definitely.
Mostly, I was relieved that Chae-gun wasn’t destined to just be another name on the seemingly endless list of people who want to kill the king, since he’s much more useful standing in solidarity with the good guys. While the security test in and of itself was a little outlandish, it was worth it if only to see the development of Prince Yeoning’s character, his changing relationship with his father, and the development in Dae-gil, who risked everything to stop his master from making a fatal mistake. (Never mind the fact that, had he stopped Chae-gun from an actual assassination attempt, neither of them would have left that palace alive.)
The more I see of characters like Injwa, who are fazed by nothing because they know everything that will ever happen in the history of ever, the more appreciative I am for someone like Dae-gil, who thankfully hasn’t changed on a fundamental level despite his training and seclusion. He still acts according to his gut, and still reacts believably to the strange goings-on around him. It sounds like a small thing to be thankful for, but when the show had every opportunity to turn him into a cold, stoic warrior who lives only for revenge, it’s a nice and unexpected change that they kept him true to himself.
Prince Yeoning also had some great moments this episode, and really stepped up to the plate his father set for him. He took charge with all the gravitas a responsible royal son would be expected to have and more, and he likely would’ve made Chae-gun step over his corpse before he would’ve let him get to his father.
Where he lost me, however, was in his insistence to shield and protect Dam-seo. I get that love (if that’s what it is) can be funny like that, and boys can do really stupid things when it comes to girls, and vice versa. I get that Yeoning is an idealist who would rather help than harm, so he wouldn’t want to see Dam-seo throw her life away.
But at the point where she clearly could give less of a crap about Yeoning’s feelings or the very real question of whether the king truly did kill her father, enough to make an actual attempt on the king’s life, what was he even thinking? What is he trying to accomplish by letting her go? How does he go from risking his own life to protect his father to doing nothing about the person who literally tried to kill him? It was a stroke of luck that her arrows didn’t land, and one that had absolutely nothing to do with him. In other words: Get it together, Yeoning. There are other, less brainwashed fish in the sea.
- Jackpot: Episode 8
- Jackpot: Episode 7
- Jackpot: Episode 6
- Jackpot: Episode 5
- Jackpot: Episode 4
- Jackpot: Episode 3
- Jackpot: Episode 2
- Jackpot: Episode 1
- Yeo Jin-gu as a young future king in Jackpot
- Jang Geun-seok as Joseon’s top gambler in Jackpot
- Flipping tables against fate in SBS’s Jackpot
- Hyun-woo added to Jackpot as King Gyeongjong
- Choi Min-soo offered role of King Sukjong in Jackpot