Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 6
This is a great episode to be the prince—well, he does suffer and struggle for a bit, so in that sense there’s a fair amount of pain too. But inasmuch as the payoff is all sorts of gratifying, it’s a great arc for the prince that displays growth on more than one front, while solidifying relationships—some expected, and some that come as a satisfying surprise.
EPISODE 6: “When I want to say the secret I cannot reveal”
At the festival, Yoon-sung interrupts just as Yeong is explaining that he keeps seeing a woman’s face in Ra-on’s. When Yoon-sung starts to lead her away, citing a prior engagement, the prince refuses to allow it, stating that Ra-on is his person.
Yoon-sung readily agrees that Ra-on is employed at his palace, but asks if his reaction is specifically because it’s Yoon-sung who wants to take her away. The prince scoffs that Yoon-sung is hardly that important, to merit that reaction.
Yoon-sung presses for the reason, but they’re interrupted by gisaengs, who recognize Yoon-sung (from his drawing visits). Yoon-sung uneasily tries to extricate himself from their urging to have fun together, but Ra-on shocks them all by declaring, “Let’s go!”
She grabs a gisaeng and goes with the suggestion, but Yeong opts out. He tells her flatly to have fun by herself and walks off shaking his head in disapproval.
Meanwhile, a masked Byung-yeon searches through a room in a house he’s just raided. He finds a stack of books, then flees with them just as his presence is discovered.
Yoon-sung and Ra-on leave the gisaengs and walk along together, and he tries to set right the bad impression this encounter may have given her. Ra-on assures him that he needn’t worry, then teases him by saying that all the encounter did was confirm that he frequents gibangs regularly. Heh.
Ra-on says that it’s too bad Yoon-sung arrived so late that he missed all the sights, but he replies that he didn’t come to see the festival. Then he halts and says heavily that he can’t walk another step, laying it on thick as he sighs that they feel so wasted. Ra-on asks if he used those kinds of lines at the gibang, puncturing the effect.
Byung-yeon’s escape takes him to the festival, with officers hot on his heels. Yoon-sung notices the oncoming commotion and grabs Ra-on out of the way, shielding her as Byung-yeon goes flying by—literally, as he leaps up into the air. Officers send a barrage of arrows after him, which he manages to avoid by twisting in the air.
His mask falls off as he lands a distance away, and he winces in pain. As he looks over, he sees Ra-on and Yoon-sung. Both Ra-on and Yoon-sung look over, but it’s unclear whether either get a good look before Byung-yeon flies over the wall, disappearing from view.
Ra-on picks up the fallen mask, which the officer takes from her.
Back at the abandoned building he shares with Ra-on, Byung-yeon dresses his wound. At least until Ra-on arrives, at which point he hastily covers up to hide his injury from view. She asks cheerfully when he got home, and pouts at his gruff reply to go to bed.
Byung-yeon’s nighttime raid goes noted by the Ministers Kim, who confer about the three robberies last night. Initially, the prime minister isn’t very alarmed by the news, until he hears that the targeted homes belonged to large merchants with bad reputations and sees the mask that was recovered. At that, he recalls the night a masked intruder had shot an arrow at him at his banquet.
The minister of taxation adds that there’s a rumor swirling that this is the work of Hong Kyung-rae’s faction. Aha! A Hong—could this be Ra-on’s father? (A sageuk surname match is surely not coincidental…) The group has been dormant, but may have recently begun acting again; then, as now, the group shared what they stole and incited the populace.
In the morning, Ra-on dresses the prince, who is chillier than usual as he asks if Ra-on had fun at the gibang last night. She just gives an awkward laugh, and Yeong says testily, “I’d forgotten momentarily that you were a man. No—that a eunuch is also a man who wants to hold a beautiful woman in his arms.”
He instructs her not to think much of his words last night: “I will not confuse you for someone else anymore.”
Yeong calls in Eunuch Jang to finish dressing him and dismisses Ra-on. His coldness seems to both startle and hurt Ra-on’s feelings.
Prime Minister Kim welcomes the arrival of old crony and new minister of rites, Minister Jo, and fawns over his daughter, who used to play (and fight) with the princess in their childhood. Ah, this is Ha-yeon, who last night met Yeong while trying to buy a lantern.
A eunuch comes rushing up to ask Eunuch Jang to spare two eunuchs to send to a different palace. Eunuch Jang balks, saying that the crown prince dislikes the practice of lending out his eunuchs freely, only to have Yeong declare that Ra-on can be sent. Aw.
Yeong goes out for archery practice, and when he hits a bull’s-eye he hears Ra-on congratulating his shot. He looks over to see her grinning widely at him before then disappearing from sight—she’s just in his imagination. In his surprise, he lets go of the arrow, hits a flagpole that starts to topple over.
It starts to come down over Ha-yeon’s head as she walks by, and she yelps in alarm. Thankfully it misses her, and Yeong jogs over to check on her safety. She brushes herself off and starts to take issue with his familiar speech, only to look up and recognize him from the lantern festival.
She holds out a hand for him to help her up, a little cheeky in her address, not realizing he’s the prince until a eunuch calls out to him. She introduces herself and says that she had wanted to meet him again.
Byung-yeon takes out the books he’d stolen, and flashes back to a conversation he’d had with the prince, who had voiced suspicions about the Chinese envoys’ questionable movements. Yeong had ordered him to investigate further into their black market dealings.
At the last second, Byung-yeon stuffs one book into his cloak before his leader joins him. Aw, yay! I suspect he’s not going to betray his prince, if he’s keeping this secret organization at arm’s length.
Byung-yeon identifies the books as loan-shark and trading records, and when his leader asks if this is the whole lot of them, Byung-yeon lies that it is. The leader hands Byung-yeon a list of children either orphaned or sold as slaves ten years ago, after the uprising. (This must be the peasant rebellion of 1812, incited by the real-life rebellion leader Hong Kyung-rae.)
The leader adds that the list may contain Hong Kyung-rae’s blood kin, and instructs Byung-yeon to locate them—they will be helpful as they mobilize the scattered ranks of their organization.
Ha-yeon visits with Princess Myeongeun, who’s currently on a new diet. The two are old friends, though perhaps with a frenemy vibe mixed in; when Ha-yeon says she’ll be visiting often now (got an eye on the prince, have you?) and offers to bring her a dieting book, the princess is taken aback at her helpfulness.
As Yeong listlessly flips the pages of his book, he sees something for the first time: grumpy faces drawn in the margins, flipbook-style, labeled “Flower” (for Flower Scholar). He imagines Ra-on drawing these in while sitting nearby, flipping through to see the scenes she’s recorded, like when she bit his finger drunkenly. He smiles to himself, but that smile fades as he comes back to the present moment.
The shifty Eunuch Ma visits the Chinese ambassador to tell him he can deliver something the ambassador has been trying hard to find. He doesn’t reveal what (or who) that is, but hints that it will whet his appetite. Shudder.
Yeong is attended to by his physician and asks if he’s been able to pin down what ailment he suffers from: He’s experiencing insomnia, difficulty in breathing, flushing in the face, and hallucinations.
The doctor believes him to be sound of body, but hesitantly offers up a possible explanation for the symptoms. Yeong leans in anxiously to hear the verdict, not ready for the shock it brings: The doctor describes the customary relationship between a couple as “yin and yang,” but posits that the prince’s symptoms may arise when one likes someone who is “unsuitable,” leading to repression and internal suffering.
The word “homosexual” isn’t stated explicitly, but given that yin and yang connote feminine and masculine energy, the implication seems clear, and startles Eunuch Jang into the hiccups. Thunderstruck, Yeong barks at the doctor that he’s wrong and orders him out, then holds his head in his hand, looking despairing.
Ra-on informs Byung-yeon that she’s been assigned to night watch at the ambassador’s quarters, and then follows Eunuch Ma and… oh no, I don’t like where this is going.
She’s shown to the Chinese’s ambassador’s bedroom, and he leers at her to come closer. She nervously tells him she’ll stand her post outside, but he asks if she was that pretty dancer at the party, stopping her in her tracks.
He steps uncomfortably close to examine her features, touching a hand to her check and wondering if she’s a man with a pretty face, or a woman passing herself off as a eunuch. Ra-on pleads with him to stop and shoves his hand aside—and that ignites his ire.
The ambassador slaps her face, then threatens that the prince’s fate lies in his hands. He grabs her closer, and Ra-on pushes him away again, and this time the man falls down. Angered even more, he pulls back for a massive slap—and then the doors slide open and a guard goes flying.
It’s Yeong standing there with murder on his face, and he kicks the ambassador down and draws his sword. He raises his arm high, but throws the sword aside angrily.
He grabs Ra-on and pulls her away, ignoring the ranting of the ambassador behind him, and the calls of his other eunuchs.
News of the incident sends the king into a panicked fit, and his queen tells him not to worry, as she will visit with the prime minister (her father) to fix this. She certainly looks gleeful to have the prince embroiled in trouble.
Yeong drags Ra-on by the hand a fair distance away, then whirls on her furiously to ask how she could walk right into such a dangerous situation, and not leave at the first sign of trouble. She protests that she’s not in any place to disobey orders, especially to an ambassador, and adds that she worried that retribution might fall to the prince.
He asks why she’d think of those concerns, bursting out, “Who are you—who are you to make me so angry?”
That’s when a group of royal soldiers rushes up to apprehend Ra-on, ignoring the prince’s orders. He declares that he will take it up with the king himself, but finds that they won’t let him get to Ra-on; he’s warned that they must bring her in, even if dead. Frustrated, Yeong looks over at Ra-on, who looks at him with huge, scared eyes.
In the morning, Yeong prostrates himself in the king’s courtyard, begging him to take back his order and pointing out that he was at fault, not an innocent eunuch. The king orders the prince removed to his palace and shut in.
And so, Ra-on is left to huddle fearfully in prison, while Yeong is locked in his room.
The eunuchs gossip it out, and Eunuch Sung pokes at Eunuch Jang’s pride about having bragged about being assigned to the prince, suggesting that the prince may be on the path to dethronement. It’s so much fuss over one eunuch that he wonders if the rumors are true—that the prince is gay.
Eunuch Jang bristles and denies it loudly. Listening nearby, Eunuch Ma offers, “I know that the prince isn’t gay. The other person may not be a man.”
That’s all he gets out before he’s cut off by the arrival of Yoon-sung, who calls him aside. He confirms that it was Eunuch Ma who called Ra-on out that night to the ambassador’s quarters, but doesn’t outright challenge his story.
Instead, Yoon-sung opens a box and shows Eunuch Ma the pistol inside, explaining its efficiency as he loads a bullet. Yoon-sung levels the pistol at Eunuch Ma, who flinches and asks what he means by it.
Yoon-sung warns him not to mess with Ra-on, which causes the eunuch to wonder at his interest in her (him). His gaze sharpens and he asks, “The secret I know… do you also—”
Bang! Yoon-sung fires the gun. Eunuch Ma drops to the ground screaming, unscathed but terrified. Yoon-sung orders him not to be curious or say anything. And from this moment onward, if anybody finds out Ra-on’s secret, Yoon-sung intends to kill Eunuch Ma.
Holding up his last bullet, Yoon-sung says he’ll save it for him.
Ra-on’s buddies Do Ki and Sung-yeol sneak over to the prison and peer in through the bars, feeling sorry for her plight. Her first question is to ask after the prince, and Sung-yeol tsk-tsks that she’s not in a position to worry about him first.
Sung-yeol does inform her of the furor engulfing the prince, though, and the threat of his dethronement. That rattles her badly.
Byung-yeon reports to Yeong on the Chinese envoys’ plans for departure in two days. Yeong declares that they must find conclusive evidence to take down the ambassador. That makes Byung-yeon consider that one ledger he held back, but he hesitates because his leader had warned him not to let anybody in the palace know of their activities.
He doesn’t say anything about it now, though, and the prince asks how many guards are stationed outside, and whether Byung-yeon can make his way through them. The next thing we know, the prince flies through a window and runs toward the nearby wall, managing to get over it before his staff can catch up. Eunuch Jang directs everyone to chase after him.
Some time later, a dark-clad figure walks right up to Ra-on’s cell, and she’s floored to find Yeong there. He unlocks the door and joins her inside, then tosses the ring of keys outside. He tells her he’ll just sit like this for a moment, and they sit together quietly.
Outside, Byung-yeon stands watch, prison guards unconscious at his feet. Ra-on urges Yeong to leave, and says he shouldn’t abuse his power just over one eunuch. He counters that he can, as the crown prince, and ekes a smile out of her.
“Now you smile,” he says, looking at her for a long moment. Then he looks away, and she asks if he’s still angry with her.
“It’s not because of you,” he replies. “When I look at you, it angers me so much I can’t endure it, and it’s because of that me.”
He asks her to promise one thing: that whatever happens, don’t suffer for someone else’s sake—and that goes extra if it’s for his. She reluctantly promises, and he smiles at her.
The ambassador is fit to be tied, and in a meeting with the Kims, he demands the eunuch handed over to him, bloodthirsty to exact punishment personally. Yoon-sung protests strenuously, but his uncle hisses at him to shush; the minister seems all too willing to oblige that request.
Yoon-sung drops by the prince’s building, and while Byung-yeon initially blocks his path, he backs down when Yoon-sung states that he’s here as a friend. He first offers his help, then corrects himself, saying that he’s the one who needs help.
In prison, Ra-on can’t stop thinking of the prince’s angry reaction after saving her from the ambassador’s clutches, as well as the rumors that he may be dethroned over it.
On the day of the ambassador’s departure, Ra-on is led out to be handed over. The king’s head eunuch pulls her aside to express his regret at sending her off to this fate, knowing she’s innocent, and tells her that the prince spent the full night supplicating the king on her behalf.
The head eunuch asks if she has family that he can meet afterward. Ra-on explains that there’s one person who raised her after plucking her out of war-torn straits, but she doesn’t know where he is right now.
Those words strike the eunuch, and he asks if she was orphaned in the peasant rebellion ten years ago. Ra-on confirms it, and also her age: eighteen. The information makes the eunuch’s head swim.
The Chinese entourage sets out, with Ra-on forced along on foot, but barely step a foot before an arrow flies in. Thwack! It lands on the ambassador’s carriage.
“Halt!” a voice calls out. It’s Yeong, and he holds a sword up the ambassador, telling him to leave behind his eunuch.
But then, another voice rings out—Prime Minister Kim. He berates the prince for his rude behavior, asking if he unsheathed his sword for one measly eunuch.
“That’s correct,” Yeong answers. “I’ve never had anything stolen from me. It’s makes me extremely angry, so release him this instant!”
The prime minister tells him not to be so reckless as to disregard countless citizens for the sake of one. Yeong counters that those countless scared citizens are Kim’s weapon of choice; he refers to them whenever he wants something for himself, or whenever he’s at a disadvantage and needs something to hide behind.
The prime minster rages at his childishness and orders him to lower his sword. Yeong doesn’t look inclined to obliged, but suddenly, Ra-on speaks up: “I will go.”
Yeong asks if she’s already forgotten her promise. She reminds him that he told her not to hold back and suffer for his sake. Thus, she will not hold back her words: “You must hold back. Not for me, but because you are the prince of this nation’s people.”
Soldiers rush in to block Yeong in, citing the king’s orders. Byung-yeon arrives in the distance. Yeong drops the sword, and the entourage resumes its march.
Prime Minister Kim and Minister Jo chuckle over the prince’s rash actions, reminiscing on when the current king used to be fired up with ideas of change. But change required risk, and we see where he’s ended up on that exchange.
Then Prime Minister Kim gets to his main point and requests that Jo add his power to his. That is to say, he’d like to marry their youngsters and join forces.
After traveling for a bit, the ambassador calls for a break and quietly orders a few men to follow, leaving Ra-on with the rest of his entourage.
The ambassador then meets with a merchant regarding his merchandise—he’s selling some of the tribute offerings illegally. But in the middle of the deal, a man in black flies in and knocks down a guardsman. It’s Byung-yeon, and he’s followed by the prince, who announces, “I prepared a gift, but I forgot it.”
When Yeong draws his sword, Byung-yeon says he’ll take this alone, warning him to stand back. Yeong just smirks: “You should have said that before I drew my sword.”
The ambassador’s men charge, and the fight is on. Daggers, axes, and swords fly at them, but Yeong is adept with the sword, easily taking on the opponents who come at him.
Byung-yeon is easily at home in the fight, and after they take down all of their attackers, they spy the ambassador trying to sneak away. Byung-yeon stops him with a flying dagger, which embeds itself into a post just inches from his head.
Meanwhile, Yoon-sung confronts the rest of the ambassador’s party, and he’s brought Chinese undercover inspectors with him. Aha! The ambassador’s henchmen are forced to drop their weapons.
Yeong explains to the ambassador that this is his parting gift, and informs him that he’s facing exile for his crimes. Byung-yeon corrects him: He’s looking at execution. The ambassador blusters that the emperor wouldn’t believe Yeong over himself, and Yeong agrees. That’s why he invited someone else.
Enter the Chinese inspectors. From afar, Byung-yeon and Yoon-sung trade nods. A flashback confirms that Yoon-sung had given him a map outlining the return route. Byung-yeon had asked if Yoon-sung would be safe giving this information, and Yoon-sung had replied that he’s satisfied with Ra-on being rescued.
And then, Byung-yeon had given Yeong that map and the ledger he’d stolen, containing the ambassador’s black-market contacts. Moreover, Yeong had planned to stall the ambassador’s departure to buy Byung-yeon time—so his display in the courtyard wasn’t just reckless ranting.
The ambassador grovels before the inspector, insisting that there’s a misunderstanding. But the inspector charges him for abusing his post and bringing dishonor, and declares that his punishment will be his life.
Nearby, Ra-on remains tied to a tree with guards watching her, when suddenly one goes down, and then the other. She panics at the danger, until she looks up to see a figure walking towards her, half-hidden by a flag.
As he approaches, his face becomes visible—it’s Yeong, of course, in his glorious backlit hero moment—and she stares up in shock. Yeong cuts her free, then kneels before her and sees her bleeding bare feet with a pained expression.
Yeong pulls the ropes from her wrists and finds them raw and bleeding, too. “Let’s go back,” he says. “We can go now.”
She asks if it’s really true, and when he promises that nothing more will happen, she breaks down in relief. She says she was afraid she’d be dragged off, and Yeong admits the same: “I was scared too. That I would be late.”
Byung-yeon arrives with two horses, mounting one himself while Yeong sets Ra-on on the other one before joining her in the saddle. He says with mock-severity that for breaking her promise to him, she’ll be punished once they get back to the palace.
Ra-on asks if it’s okay for her to return to his service, and he replies, “Of course.” She reminds him that he said seeing her made him unbearably angry, and he says that it’s true right now too: “Looking at you, I get angry.” She hangs her head at that.
“But it won’t do,” he adds. “Not seeing you—that makes me angrier, like I’ll go crazy.”
Ra-on looks him in the eye, stunned. He meets her eyes and says, “So stay by my side.”
Then they set out to make the trip home, riding off into the sunset.
What a satisfying resolution to this mess, with just the right dose of hero glory—not overly gratuitous (which would be cheesy), but earned over the course of the episode, paid in angst, frustration, fear, and danger. One thing this show is doing particularly well is calibrating the right amount of pain versus payoff, frustration versus relief, struggle versus triumph. We all hate when there’s a glut of pain with no satisfaction, because who wants to sit through that misery? You’ve got to supply us with steady doses of hope to keep us going, even if it’s just the teeniest morsel. And on the other hand, a drama that lacks conflict or tension becomes too easy, and deflates amidst its lack of excitement.
So what makes me happy about Moonlight is that every episode has felt well balanced, delivering a hefty dose of setback and struggle, but only enough to make the victory really, really worth it. In a show like this I’m never going to entertain honest-to-goodness fears that the ultimate happiness won’t happen, but it takes some skill in maintaining enough suspense to get us buying into the conflict at hand.
Today, Yeong seemed completely backed into a corner with no weapons in his disposal, and I bought in to the uphill climb he faced—which then made it doubly rewarding when we saw in retrospect how he’d figured out a rescue path anyway, like digging himself a nice loophole. I admit to thinking, as did most of the courtiers, that Yeong was flailing unreasonably in the courtyard, and that his display of rage wasn’t going to do him any good at all. I fully believed he had something else planned, but didn’t see the purpose of showing his hand so blatantly when he had no shot of winning.
But just like his plan with the choreographed dance, the trick up his sleeve was something different entirely, and he was diverting attention by playing into their expectations. I love that about him, because it shows he’s got a shrewd brain and offers hope that he’ll survive intact in a way that his father’s tattered idealism did not.
I also really loved that his rescue mission dovetailed with the political threads as well as his personal one, just as he was struggling to identify what he was feeling and lashing out with anger. He hasn’t gotten to the point where he can quite accept his feelings or even identify them outright, but that doesn’t preclude him from caring about Ra-on, and in the midst of this mess, his feelings were brought into more clarity. Okay, maybe I didn’t love that Ra-on always seems to be getting into trouble that requires intervention or rescue, but at least the setups seem reasonable within the context of this story. And she made the salient point about not being in a position to just offend a foreign diplomat or leave on her own accord.
Last but not least, I was really thrilled to see the three old friends come together in the name of the same cause, because they all seem like decent people who are caught in awkward places because of their positions in life. If Yoon-sung hadn’t been born a Kim, he would probably have remained the faithful friend Yeong has needed—but then again, it does feel especially poignant when Yoon-sung comes through despite that rift. And while Byung-yeon’s ideals aren’t in conflict in the same way, he faces a similar crossroads, if not then soon, because of the path he’s taking with that rebel organization. Does that pit him against the prince, because the royal family is the establishment? Or will he find a way to be loyal to both?
I dearly hope he can find that answer, because now with Ra-on’s identity also thrown into the mix (because she’s almost certainly the daughter of the old rebel leader), we’re heading into some tricky situations, and I have to believe that friendship and brotherly love will find a way to prevail.
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 5
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 4
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 3
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 2
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 1
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