Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 9
Just when you thought the prince couldn’t get any swoonier, there he goes, being more swoony. And who can resist all his heartfelt expressions of care and his unwillingness to let an impossible situation defeat him? Which is a character trait that’ll surely come in handy, what with all the vipers and backstabbers littering the palace. Lucky for him, he’s managed to outsmart them pretty successfully… for now.
EPISODE 9: “The moment the heart’s latch is opened”
Yeong makes his full confession to Ra-on, giving her one of the eternity bracelets and calling her the woman he loves. Stunned, she asks, “You… knew?”
He confirms it, and she asks if he’d known back in the garden, when he kissed her. He nods. Ra-on asks, hurt, “Knowing it all, were you mocking me?” His face falls; that wasn’t what he’d meant at all.
Byung-yeon has just discovered her true identity as well, having heard from her adoptive father that the rebel leader’s lost daughter Ra-on is the Hong Sam-nom who is now at the palace. He rushes back to the palace, full of purpose.
Yeong apologizes, adding, “But I have never thought of you lightly. At first I was shocked, and then I was joyful. And after that, I could not speak.” He smiles down at her, continuing, “When I sat comfortably in a palanquin, you walked, and when I walked, you had to carry an umbrella. While I sat on silk and you sat on a dirt-stained seat, how could I say that I treasured you as a woman?”
Ra-on takes a step backward, face averted, and says that it was all part of her duty as a eunuch. Yeong takes her hand, saying, “But that is not is something a man should do to his beloved.”
At that, she looks up, and he clasps her hand in both of his. He vows to treat her as the most precious lady in the world: “I’ll block the wind, and cover you from the sun, and cherish you. May I do that?”
Overcome with emotion, she cries as he wipes the tears gently from her face. And as they stand there looking at each other ardently, around the corner, Byung-yeon stares in shock, then quietly slips away.
But Ra-on moves slightly away from Yeong’s touch, and his face takes on a look of worry. She looks him in the eye and replies, “Yes, I am a woman. But I have never lived as a woman.”
He tells her she can start now. But she shakes her head, telling him, “In a place I should not be, I did something I must not do. I’m sorry. I will not cause any more harm for you—”
He cuts her off, saying he doesn’t blame her: “I blame myself, for not recognizing you sooner.” But Ra-on doesn’t let him say more, and excuses herself to return to her duties.
She steps outside and stares at the bracelet, thinking of his declaration to treasure her as a woman, while Yeong remains standing inside, replaying her refusal. They turn longingly back in the direction of the other.
Now that he’s the first to discover the rebel’s lost daughter, Byung-yeon is wrought with conflict over what to do with that information. He takes out his frustrations on the training field, mulling over his two allegiances: the prince, who wants to find the daughter before the prime minister’s faction does, and his rebel leader, who needs the daughter as a figurehead who would galvanize their scattered ranks.
And now that he’s befriended Ra-on, Byung-yeon thinks of her too, and how she’d declared him her hyung. It feels like a no-win situation, and he comes to no conclusion.
That night, Ra-on can’t sleep and catches Byung-yeon’s eye as he sits in his spot above. She asks if something is worrying him, and he replies that he has a question for her. He asks what Ra-on did before becoming a eunuch, and she tells him she was part of a traveling performance troupe. He asks what she did before that, and she says she lived with her mother. She heard her father died when she was very young, and never knew his name.
“It must have been difficult for you,” he notes. He asks if she still likes the palace. She thinks for a long moment.
The next day, Ra-on requests to be reassigned, and the queen’s Eunuch Sung passive-aggressively crows that he knew she wouldn’t last. He adds that the prince was headed for trouble the moment he took on the regency and brings up the recent assembly that none of the ministers attended. In light of that, Eunuch Jang warns Ra-on that every little thing could reflect badly on the prince.
Yeong has canceled the regularly scheduled civil service examination after finding its results rigged to favor the Kim clan, but this brings the scholars to court, begging the king to reconsider. They argue that this is the only opportunity for applicants from far-off regions to travel to the capital and take the exam, and Prime Minister Kim pressures the king with that argument.
Yeong replies, “If you open the road, you must also open the gate at the end of the road.” He points out that applicants can’t be given a chance when the winners have already been predetermined.
Back at his palace, Yeong notes that Ra-on isn’t around. Eunuch Jang thinks it’s because the prince was mean to her, and that’s why she she’s taken on other tasks outside.
Ra-on is currently delivering writing supplies to young (mute) Princess Yeongeun, who is playing hide and seek with her companions. Ra-on offers to wait while she plays her game, and sits by herself on the lawn.
Princess Yeongeun hides successfully from her playmates, but her face freezes in fear when she spies Prime Minister Kim walking across the courtyard. She ducks into a storeroom, only to have a court lady lock the door, imprisoning her inside.
Yeong finds Ra-on sitting alone and asks if she’s running away from him. He asks why, and she replies that she has committed a crime in deceiving everyone with her identity, and doesn’t think she can face him.
“Don’t you know?” he asks. “I’m hoping that you, not as a eunuch, but as yourself, will take one step closer to me.”
Ra-on returns, “Do you not know, either? I have flouted palace law in impersonating a man—other than as a eunuch, how could I stay at your side?”
That’s when the princess’s companions run by looking for the princess, a little frantic at her prolonged absence. A search party is convened to scour the palace grounds, and Ra-on spies a lone brush dropped on the ground. She looks around and tries the nearby door, and hears the sounds of sniffling inside.
Inside the storeroom, Princess Yeongeun looks up in hope as the doors start to open… but it’s Prime Minister Kim’s ominous face that appears in the doorway. She gasps in fright and falls over unconscious.
But it’s really Ra-on standing there—the princess had imagined it in her fear—and she rushes to the girl’s side. She’s taken back to her mother, Royal Consort Park, and Yeong sits by her bedside as she sleeps fitfully.
He recalls how bright and bubbly she used to be, while her mother sighs that her inability to speak must be frustrating for her. She thanks him for teaching her to read and write, allowing her to be as happy as she has been.
Yeong thinks back three years, to when Yeongeun had been a scared, withdrawn little girl. He had told her he would write down the name of her favorite season, and she had watched closely as he traced the lines in her palm.
Now Yeong asks Consort Park if the princess is still unable to recall anything about “that day.” Her mother confirms it, supposing that the illness was too much for her body, and that after suffering fever for several days, it had been erased from her memory.
Yoon-sung is stopped from going to the palace by his uncle, Minister Kim, who argues that the politicians are mid-plan to tame the prince. His grandfather, the prime minister, calls him aside to ask if he’s feeling sorry for his childhood friend. Yoon-sung replies that he believes the prince was right in his decision to cancel the examination.
The prime minister says that only doing the right thing doesn’t help the people prosper. But Yoon-sung informs his grandfather that he cannot agree with their side—what does strengthening their clan’s power have to do with the people’s happiness?
Prime Minister Kim warns that politics is not about making friends with the people; those with power rule over and lead the people. Yoon-sung asks if the plan to marry him to Ha-yeon is another way of maintaining their power, and his grandfather readily confirms it.
Yoon-sung asks him to find another way, because he objects to that kind of marriage. If he is to marry, he wants it to be with a woman he can talk to and share his feelings with. He’s quietly emphatic, and the prime minister looks distinctly displeased.
Ra-on sits with Ha-yeon on one of her visits to the palace, and Ha-yeon admits that she has another reason for coming by, other than seeing the princess and borrowing books. She confides that the man she has feelings for is the crown prince, and Ra-on can’t speak for a moment. She does her best to cover up her reaction, and Ha-yeon says ruefully that she’s tiring of finding excuses to talk to him, especially when he’s so curt.
She accidentally knocks her books off the table, and both ladies reach down at the same time, which gives Ha-yeon a glimpse of the pink eternity bracelet Ra-on wears. She recognizes it but doesn’t make the connection, and just explains that it means that even if the couple wearing the bracelets are separated, they are destined to reunite.
Ra-on hadn’t known that, and Ha-yeon laughs that if Ra-on received a gift without being told the meaning, her gift-giver must be as hopeless as Ha-yeon. Ra-on smiles and thinks again of Yeong’s declaration.
That night she thinks back to being a young child, dressed as a boy as she longingly watched neighborhood girls playing games. Her mother had pulled her away quickly, and Ra-on had asked how long she had to live this way. Her mother had asked her to wait just a bit longer, but Ra-on had asked angrily if she was to be kept in the dark till she died.
Yeong meets with Teacher Dasan in town, noting that rumors of the government’s turmoil are running rampant. Teacher Dasan mentions another rumor that all the scholars in the nation now start and end their days by cursing the crown prince. Ha, is he needling him on purpose?
But Yeong says that the fight has already begun, and intends to continue with his plan to hold a special examination in place of the standard one. Teacher Dasan leaves him with a bit of wisdom from his own grandfather: that a marital spat that is fought with the intention of winning leads to the ruin of the household.
Yeong asks what he’s getting at, and Teacher Dasan notes that the prince naturally began fighting with the intention of setting right wrongs, but suggests that he may have lost sight of that: Is he fighting to win, or is he fighting for change? Yeong doesn’t have a ready answer for that, and it makes him think.
After her accidental shut-in, Ra-on finds Princess Yeongeun huddled in a corner of her room. Ra-on suggests communicating with hand gestures and starts to demonstrate a thumbs-up, but pauses when she sees that the little girl is near tears.
So Ra-on corrects herself and says that it’s fine for the princess not to make any response and shares, “There are many things I’m hiding.”
The girl looks up curiously at that, and Ra-on says, “I don’t know what it is about, but I think I understand a little how you’re feeling. Because I am still trapped too. I’m hiding against my will, and, thinking that someone may open the door and find me out, I shake in fear. When do you think will we be able to open the door with our own hands and walk out?”
Yeong informs Prime Minister that he intends to carry out the civil service examination according to the original plan. He explains that his intentions were always to ensure that the best talents were chosen, not to shake up the government.
Prime Minister Kim looks wary, but says that if Yeong will make the wise decision to return everything to normal, the politicians will all return to court and assist the prince. Yeong assures him that he will abide by their principles, according to their wishes, but he looks so confident that I have to think he’s got something up his sleeve.
And so, the civil service examination is administered. The essay question is hung on a scroll: “Whose nation is Joseon?” Some test-takers look smug and pull out cheat sheets, while others—like the princess’s penpal lover, Young Master Jung—look appalled but can’t do anything about the cheating.
And then, Yeong’s arrival is announced. Everyone jumps to their feet and Eunuch Jang presents a new exam scroll, to the shock of everybody present. The new question asks about “an opposition for opposition’s sake” and how they would persuade someone in that scenario.
Yeong announces that there is no predetermined answer: “Simply persuade with your own thoughts.” He encourages them to put forth fresh new ideas for the future of Joseon.
That night in the library, Ra-on looks at her eternity bracelet, and is surprised with the prince arrives to find her here. He notes that she’s avoiding him well, only going to places where he won’t be. And because she knows him so well, if she hides, there’s nothing he can do.
She says that there are so many eyes and ears on the prince that if she’s with him, she would be unable to be comfortable for even a minute.
“But what about me, without you?” Yeong asks. “Do you think I would be comfortable?” Ra-on says that as a eunuch, she felt her usefulness. But not now, when she worries constantly that she would bring harm to him, and it scares her from being able to take that step toward him.
It looks like he’s about to step toward her, but she tenses and he pauses. She looks away, then places her bracelet down on the table.
“I know it is shameless of me,” she says, “but if you will allow me to leave the palace, I will not forget that kindness and will live well.”
Stung, Yeong’s face hardens, and he asks if that’s what she truly wants. She says yes.
He says insistently, “There are hundreds, thousands of things I can do for you, that I want to do for you. Is that the only you want from me? You would hide and run away and not see me—is that the first and last thing you would ask of me?”
She blinks back tears, and replies, “It is.” Angry and hurting, he says he understands. He dismisses her, and takes the bracelet she left behind.
Little Princess Yeongeun musters her pint-sized courage, then enters a room and approaches an armoire with trepidation. She opens it, and looks inside.
A flashback takes us back three years; she’d been able to speak then, and had hidden here during a game. Hearing sounds approaching, Yeongeun keeps quiet as a court lady runs into the room and tries to keep pursuers out.
Prime Minister Kim and two of his henchmen corner her here, and he demands to know what she had been trying to tell the prince, growing angry when she stands up to him despite her obvious fear. The court lady challenges him to kill her and cover up the truth, and he complies without even batting an eyelash: His man stabs her in the gut, just feet in front of the princess’s hiding spot.
Yeoungeun sees the woman fall, who vows with her dying breath to never leave this place and to reveal the truth of the queen’s wrongful death. Princess Youngeun tries her best to remain quiet, but something catches the prime minister’s attention, and he looks curiously in her direction, approaching the armoire and sloooowly creaking open the door.
But then, the princess’s companions come running by, and the men quietly leave the room. It leaves her undiscovered, but also terribly traumatized.
So now, Princess Yeongeun faces the empty armoire bravely, holding back her tears. It must have been quite upsetting, because a short while later, Yeong hears something about her condition and heads out immediately in concern.
Ra-on is with the princess and asks why she’d gone to that place, because she had disappeared suddenly to go there. Yeongeun looks conflicted, clearly wanting to say something but unable to speak the words. Ra-on tells her she doesn’t have to reply, but the princess reaches for her writing materials and writes down her thoughts for Ra-on.
The princess reminds Ra-on of her words about opening their own doors and walking out on their own. Ra-on smiles down at her, and from the doorway, Yeong watches the exchange.
Afterward as they leave, Ra-on trails behind Yeong as he leads them away. He stops to tell her that he regretted letting on that he knew of her secret.
If he’d known she would run away at the first sign of the truth, “I would not have deliberated over whether you were a eunuch or a woman, but over how to keep you with me just a little longer. That I could not more deeply understand you—I am sorry.”
She can only bid him goodbye, and she starts to walk away. Yeong grabs her arm to stop her, and entreats, “But even despite all that, can you not endure it? Not anywhere else, but here. At my side.”
Aw, Young Master Jung passed the civil service exam. He arrives at the palace in court dress, having been granted a government position, and is amazed and nervous at his future here. His manservant cautions him to out himself to the princess, but at least she doesn’t know what he looks like.
That’s handy, since she happens by just then, arriving at the palace newly slim from her temple stay. The first thing she does after exiting her palanquin is trip on her own skirt, and she sprawls in the dirt.
Young Master Jung hurries to offer a hand, and for a second she looks a bit moony-eyed before she recalls herself and continues on. His servant thinks she looks awfully familiar, but Young Master Jung sniffs that her sharp, skinny features lack affection, and that women should be plump like his beloved princess. HEH.
Yeong meets with Prime Minister Kim about the results of the examination, noting that even with the change, seven Kims were able to pass properly. He says that he will be sure to uphold the politicians’ principles in rewarding talent based on true merit—heh, he’s sly, using their own words as his rationale for enforcing what he wants. The prime minister can hardly argue the point.
The anxious king is relieved to hear that the government is back to normal operations, and that the politicians are back at work. Imagine that. It reinforces for the king why he’s been such a failed leader, and he asks his eunuch, “Do you know the reason I have become such an incapable king? I do not have people, people who are mine.” He adds that there is not one person who is truly his in the entire palace—everyone belongs to the prime minister.
It also makes him resolve, “I cannot let the crown prince become like me. No, I must make them—people who are wholly the prince’s.” The king tells his head eunuch to prepare for the prince’s marriage.
That evening, Princess Yeongeun drags Ra-on along by the hand, smiling impishly, then stops at a particular spot and runs off. Ra-on turns to see Yeong in the pavilion, meeting with a group of politicians, just as he turns to see her standing there.
Ra-on bows politely and starts to leave, but Yeong steps toward her, holding a hand out to her. Then he clasps the hands together, as though sending a message.
In a flashback, we see that Princess Yeongeun had told (er, written notes for) her brother of the hand messages that Ra-on had taught her. He’d been pleased at the thought that with those messages, she could communicate without carrying around her notebook, and had asked her to teach him the gestures.
So now, he stands there with a group of ministers watching curiously, and motions with his hands. She reads the words as he motions them: “I… like… you. No—love you.”
His voice takes over the narration: “So please…” He clasps his hands together entreatingly.
In flashback, the princess asks Ra-on for the gesture meaning “don’t leave.” Ra-on thinks a moment, then comes up with the motion, which Yeong performs now: a hand outstretched, brought close, then clasped with the other, and eyes closed as in prayer.
“Don’t leave, and stay by my side,” Yeong asks. He looks down at Ra-on with a smile, and she looks back at him with tear-filled eyes.
Then Eunuch Jang asks curiously what the gesture means, and Yeong improvises with a waving motion, “It means to stay far away.” Haha.
Later that night, Ra-on regards her hanbok and cosmetics and recalls the question she’d asked the princess: “When will we be able to open the door with our own hands and walk out?”
She flashes back to that encounter with her mother, when she’d asked if how long she would have to live as a boy. Her mother had grabbed her sternly and said, “Until you can protect yourself. When you’ve grown old enough that you are not daunted by me being gone. Then, live as a girl.”
Ra-on thinks of the prince’s request to endure the pain to stay with him. She thinks, “Mom, I’m fine now, aren’t I? In the ten years without you, I’ve been brave and grown on my own, so I can protect myself.”
The next day, as Yeong reads by himself in the garden, a figure approaches, dressed in hanbok. As Ra-on stands there before him, he looks up and takes in the sight with surprise and amazement.
Getting to his feet, Yeong steps closer and asks, “What would you like me to call you?”
“I am Hong Ra-on,” she says, giving him her name for the first time. “Hong. Ra. On,” he tries.
Then he smiles, and calls to her, “Ra-on-ah.”
Gah, is this show great with the episode endings or what? I thought we’d hit the peak last week with those heartfelt confessions that somehow were swoony without being embarrassing or cheesy, but then we had this hour of heartache capped off with another poignant revelation. One of the things I like best about this show is its ability to walk that line between sappy and sincere, dramatic and corny. It’s partially due to great delivery, but the moments are given their impact by the subtle handling of the tone, edits, music, and overall cohesion. I wish all romances were given such fine-tuning of emotional calibration, so that you feel every pause and flicker in the eyes; it makes me react with the character in the moment, and it’s not as common an effect in dramaland as I wish were the case.
Princess Yeongeun’s storyline was a sweet way to act as a bridge between the characters; I like that we were teased of her situation and trauma well beforehand so that her place in today’s story feels a bit more organic than a Plot of the Day device. It also makes sense that she would become a potentially crucial key in Yeong’s standoff against the prime minister, because right now the old crony isn’t even aware he’s got a massive loose end, and I’m always bloodthirsty for ways that Yeong can one-up him.
The civil service examination itself seemed rather simple as a problem, because if he could just stroll into the proceedings and change the answer, was it really necessary to do a whole replacement exam that would serve the same purpose? But it was a minor point, and I like that the solution was simple, because it drives home Teacher Dasan’s point about Yeong losing his focus and getting waylaid by other intentions. Really, he proved that it was the simplest solution that netted him what he wanted, plus he got to evade that political war he’d nearly instigated with literally every single minister in the court. (Speaking of that lone duck point, I’m getting nervous for the whole marriage subplot that’s surely coming our way, because historically speaking, let’s just say that it doesn’t entail the crown prince marrying anyone named Hong. But I suppose we’ll have to cross that unpleasant bridge when we get there.)
I particularly liked the sign language as the thing to finally convince Ra-on, because there’s something so sweet and visceral about that kind of communication. It’s also a lovely way to tie in Princess Yeongeun as a sort of messenger and bridge between them, both in the literal sense (that she delivered Ra-on to that spot) and the figurative one, where they both found themselves worrying about her in the same way, and then comforting her in the same way by finding language outside of the one she’d lost. In that way, both Ra-on and the princess were able to step outside of their locked doors by finding ways to speak their hearts that didn’t involve standard words, which weren’t working. And Park Bo-gum just gave his sign language such a perfectly beseeching feeling, which really made the moment land.
Most of all, I’m beyond relieved that Ra-on is finally onboard this romance, because even though I found her reasoning credible and never thought she was out of line or being stupid or even nobly idiotic, I did wish for her to find a way out of her closet of fear and indecision, so to speak. I have no idea where their relationship could feasibly go from here, even if she’s able to reclaim her life as a woman, but that’s part of the curiosity propelling me into the next step of our story; I liked how they’ve dealt with the eunuch plotline, both comically and seriously, but I’m ready for us to move on to whatever’s next. Especially if that involves more cuddles and smiles. I mean, come on, it’s been forever since we’ve seen her smile freely, isn’t it? And now she’s got a billion and one reasons to keep it up.
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 8
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 7
- KBS in talks to extend Moonlight Drawn By Clouds
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 6
- 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