Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 14
The moon takes on added symbolism today, offering a sliver of hope to cling to in the midst of unease, reminding us that there are things to look forward to, and faith to keep alive. It’s a hope that comes at a welcome time, because things are about to get a whole lotta serious up in this joint. Is everyone bracing themselves?
EPISODE 14: “Foggy road”
With the palace on high alert for an eighteen-year-old female spy named Hong Ra-on, all exits are monitored closely and young women pulled aside for closer inspection. Dressed in men’s clothing, Ra-on nervously approaches the inspecting guard for her turn.
Just then, Yoon-sung announces himself and declares that Ra-on is with him. His status shields them from further inquiry, and they are let through the line.
After receiving the huge shock that the supposed rebel spy is named Hong Ra-on, Yeong goes to Ra-on’s quarters, but only finds her eunuch’s uniform and eternity bracelet left behind.
The next morning, he’s stone-faced as he is dressed by Eunuch Jang, mentally replaying an earlier conversation with Byung-yeon, who had reported that no trace of Ra-on had been found. At Yeong’s question over whether he’d had any inkling before her disappearance, Byung-yeon had answered no.
At court, Yeong takes the younger Minister Kim (the minister of taxation) to task for several systemic abuses of the military taxation system. (Registering the names of babies or dead people, for instance, has forced peasants to pay unfair extra taxes.) He demands that every bit of unfairly collected tax be repaid to the people, but at that, Minister Jo cautions that it would put a strain on the nation’s economy. The elder Minister Kim adds that collecting fewer taxes will thrust the government into a dangerous situation.
Yeong notes sharply that everyone’s quite concerned for the state of the government. Given the pressing dangers, he declares the need for strict measures, and announces that he will cut the salaries of the ranking officials in the Six Ministries and the military administration.
This causes grumbling from the ministers, who ask the prince to reconsider. He snaps that the peasants have been forced to pay unfair taxes due to the corruption of the government. He asks in disgust, “How can you aristocrats, who call yourselves the roots of this nation, whine over this much? And you think you have a right to take a salary from the country?”
He gets no talkback this time.
Eunuch Jang staggers into the eunuch department, where Do Ki and Sung-yeol sympathize with his tiredness, noting that the prince has been quite icy lately. Eunuch Jung sighs that his hurt feelings are fine, but he worries over the prince’s health, given how he’s staying up all night working.
They wonder what happened to Eunuch Hong, but nobody has a clue. Eunuch Jang sighs that he misses Ra-on.
Young Master Jung informs Yeong that investigating the dead assassins has revealed no ties to the rebel group Baekwoonhwe. Yeong suggests that they are merely lying low until the situation quiets, and Young Master Jung concedes that as a possibility. However, he has found one peculiarity: Gold originating from Minister Kim ended up in the hands of one of the assassin’s brothers.
They’re interrupted by a visit from an investigator of the royal tribunal, who explains that a suspect has been caught: She’s not quite twenty years old, and has a possible link to Baekwoonhwe. Yeong tenses.
He heads to the prison immediately, making his way cautiously past the cells, pausing at the sight of a woman’s profile. Ra-on? He approaches with trepidation, breath caught in his throat.
But it’s an unfamiliar woman, and as Yeong sees her face clearly, he relaxes and breathes.
Ra-on is safe for the moment, tucked away in a hut watching her mother embroider an egret flower. She recalls Head Eunuch Han having a handkerchief with the same flower on it, belonging to his old friend, whom she now knows was her father. She also recalls the flower’s meaning: Even in my dreams, I long for you.
Mom takes her hand and asks if she’s having a tough time of it, and Ra-on does her best to smile and say no. She asks how her parents met, and Mom reminisces on growing up in the same village where she had other suitors who gave her flowers and accessories. Ra-on’s father was different; he gave her barley and corn, or sometimes mountain greens. Mom says she figured she wouldn’t starve, and was the one to propose that they marry.
Ra-on sighs that her father lacked romance. Mom just says that he had a field to farm and food to eat and shelter to sleep in: “That was all that your father wanted.”
Head Eunuch Han confirms with Byung-yeon that Ra-on disappeared before he was able to collect her. The eunuch finds the timing suspect, but Byung-yeon says she probably went into hiding in response to the heightened security. Eunuch Han catches on to the discrepancy, because Byung-yeon had previously said that she knew nothing of her connection to the rebellion or Baekwoonhwe. Ack!
Byung-yeon covers up the slip by saying that Ra-on didn’t know it then. The eunuch reminds him that even if Ra-on discovered the truth about herself, the safest place for her would be with the rebels in Baekwoonhwe.
Yeong calls for Yoon-sung, who starts by asking how Yeong is doing. Yeong asks, “Are you worrying about me? The woman you love enough to declare war [against me] has disappeared. Why are you not curious about it?” He points out that Yoon-sung could ask whether Ra-on left any messages, or said where she was going.
Yoon-sung replies that even if he knew anything, they aren’t in a position to share information. Thus he is merely refraining from asking, he says.
Yeong looks a little bitter as he says, “Not me. Even if it is useless, I want to ask. If you know anything, whatever it is.”
Yoon-sung apologizes for being unable to help him. Yeong understands that to mean that Yoon-sung wouldn’t tell him whether he knew anything or not, and Yooon-sung confirms it.
Yeong leaves wearing a dark expression, and walks right past Ha-yeon, who bows in greeting. He only stops when she calls out to him, and she says wistfully that she’s envious—it would be nice if she could walk past him and not notice, and even better if she could see him and pretend she didn’t.
She notes his downcast expression, and he points out the same for her, wondering why she’d look sad when she’d said they were only making a deal. Ha-yeon hastens to explain that even so, it’s a deal that may last her whole life, so there’s no harm in trying to be friendly.
“So what I mean to say,” she tells him, “is to not walk so weakly. And do not look as though you have lost everything in the world. The person you love will likely have said this, if she saw your face now.”
That night, Yeong looks up at the full moon, while from her hideout, Ra-on stares up at the same thing. She thinks back to a time when she’d sat with Yeong at the palace, looking up at the night sky together.
Ra-on comments, “Ah, so that’s what the moon looks like from the palace.” He scoffs that the moon is the same, not seeing any difference.
Ra-on explains that when she was young and traveling with her performance troupe, she’d thought that the moon looked different in every region—full in one area, crescent-shaped in another. He asks if she’d moved that often, and she says yes.
Laughing at her childhood foible, she asks if Yeong has ever entertained totally wrong ideas, to which he says no and clucks his tongue over how she could have thought something so dumb. Ra-on makes a face at him, and he pulls her toward him and assures her it was a joke.
Yeong explains that this is the first time he’s sharing this: “I was even more foolish than you. When I was a child, I thought this palace was the whole world. The highest, most valuable, narrowest well in Joseon—that is the palace I grew up in.”
Ra-on teases that she’s better off, because the water she played in may have been lowly and unimportant, but it was big.
Yeong takes her hand and asks, “Ra-on-ah. Whether we’re seeing it from the palace or from Banchon, is not the moon just the moon? I’m the prince, and whoever you are—wherever and whenever, if only our hearts are the same, that is enough. Like that moon.”
He pats his shoulder, and Ra-on rests her head on it.
Now in the present, the memory brings tears to Ra-on’s eyes.
The queen goes into labor, and aw yeah, it is time to get down to business. The king paces anxiously, noting that it’s a month premature. The royal doctors and nurses are not alerted right away, and by the time they arrive to attend to the queen, they’re turned away by her court ladies, who inform them that the queen has already given birth and does not need their care.
The child is born, and as feared, it’s a girl. The queen refuses to look at her baby’s face and orders her taken away, while the hidden court lady’s baby boy is swapped in her place. For what it’s worth, the queen does look torn up about it—just not, you know, torn up enough to not do the evil thing.
The Kims crow to themselves about the birth of a prince, and Dumb and Dumber get ahead of themselves envisioning installing the baby as the new crown prince. Prime Minister Kim warns them to watch their mouths since they’re essentially threatening the current crown prince with that talk. But Minister Dumb is happy to have a reason to rejoice; he’d been worried about Minister Jo’s daughter being married to the crown prince and bolstering the opposition’s position. Now, all they need is to take care of Yeong and their power is secure again.
Prime Minister Kim cautions them not to be hasty, but they look pretty smug.
The baby princess is given to Eunuch Sung, who smuggles her outside in a wheelbarrow and hands her off to another underling. When the baby starts to cry, they frantically try to muffle the noise, and the other man hurries away with her.
Annnnd around the corner, Yoon-sung watches the whole exchange. Muahaha.
Now it’s Princess Myeongeun’s turn to go skulking around the palace looking for her sweetheart, and she times her walk to bring her into Young Master Jung’s path. She keeps up an air of hauteur to his face, but smiles giddily to herself when he calls out to her. She invites him to accompany her on her walk, and he happily follows.
Sitting in a pavilion together, Myeongeun says that she liked Young Master Jung’s rudeness, which she found refreshing, and suggests that they speak familiarly when alone. “Deok-ho-ya,” she tries out.
But he says he can’t do the same, which makes her smile fade. Then he stretches out an arm around her shoulders like the most comfortable player in the world and says, “Because I don’t know your name.” She tells him her name, and he pulls her close as he tests it out.
Myeongeun closes her eyes, and Young Master Jung puckers up and goes in for the kiss… only to have the princess slap him at the last second. She exclaims nervously that it’s too fast, and he stammers an apology.
The king informs Yeong of the new prince’s birth, and understands that in his position, the news cannot be wholly welcome. Yeong replies that the prince is his brother and assures his father not to worry.
When Minister Kim drops by the queen’s palace, he comments to Eunuch Sung about how Yeong must be feeling upset in light of the birth. Eunuch Sung adds that he must feel especially sad because his close eunuch recently disappeared.
That’s news to the minister, and Eunuch Sung fills him in on how Eunuch Hong disappeared the day the palace was searched for the spy. The eunuch shakes his head over Ra-on’s troublemaking ways, and how (s)he even had woman’s clothing found in his (her) things; it almost caused trouble with the queen until the prince intervened.
Minister Kim files this away, finding it all very interesting. So when he crosses paths with Yeong later, he makes it a point to express his sympathy for Yeong’s troubles, and how it must feel to lose a valued eunuch.
But he won’t get the better of Yeong today, who comments on an interesting fact he’s discovered, too: that in the course of investigating the recently captured assassin, he found that Minister Kim’s own gold had made its way to the assassin’s family.
Minister Kim gets a little nervous, and Yeong demands to know what reason he would have to pay such a large sum to an assassin who attacked the crown prince.
Dumb and Dumber sweat as they discuss this complication, only now aware of the numbers engraved on each piece of gold that point to them. Now they need to come up with an explanation for the money exchange in a way that doesn’t implicate them for treason.
Nervously, Minister Dumb pre-emptively apologizes to the prime minister when he enters, but the prime minister cuts him off with the simple warning not to start anything if he’s going to end up sorry about it. If only they ever listened.
Yoon-sung drops by Ra-on’s hideaway, and the two sit underneath the stars looking up at the full moon. Yoon-sung pulls out a pair of binoculars and offers it to her, to see the moon up close.
Ra-on takes the binoculars and looks up at the moon, which reminds her of Yeong’s words about the moon being the same wherever you look at it—and that regardless of who they are, all they need to have is a constant heart.
The memory makes her emotional, and Yoon-sung moves away the binoculars to see her tearful expression. She recovers her composure, and Yoon-sung says that she must miss somebody far away. Ra-on says no, that she was just staring because it was so strange to see the moon appear so large.
That night, a mysterious man wearing a black bamboo hat is let in to see the prime minister. Hmm.
Trust that it takes the prime minister to put the pieces together and deduce that the runaway Eunuch Hong is the very same lost daughter they’ve been searching for. Minister Dumb now remembers Yeong’s ashen face when he’d heard the spy’s name, though he supposes that Ra-on is long gone and out of reach by now. The prime minister, on the other hand, merely says that if she’s run away, they’ll have to catch her.
Yeong warns the prime minister that Minister Dumb will have to answer for his gold. In response, the prime minister says that the gold was reward for information—that the hidden spy, Hong Ra-on, was involved in the attack on the prince.
Caught by surprise, Yeong asks what proof he has, and the prime minister replies that the girl is proof enough. “Do not worry,” the prime minister says. “Even if I have to cut off that girl’s arms and legs, I will bring her before you.”
At Yeong’s silence, he asks, “Can it be that you already knew?”
Yeong works late into the night, mind preoccupied with doubts and worries. He thinks of the assassin’s claims that a spy inside the palace helped them, and pictures Ra-on being part of the plot all along. He shakes off the thought, telling himself it’s impossible, but lacks conviction.
The bride selection is held, and Ha-yeon is among the finalists brought before the king and queen for interviews. Asked what kind of princess she would be, Ha-yeon replies, “I will love, and love, and love some more.” She explains that her heart of love will enable patience and sacrifice as well, and hilariously, the queen nearly rolls her eyes at the earnest answer.
But the king approves, and before we know it, Ha-yeon is brought to the palace to be trained for her position leading up to the wedding.
Ra-on’s mother collects clothing to wash and assures Ra-on that it’s good to earn money while there’s work to be had. Then she hesitantly broaches the topic of the princess selection, gently letting Ra-on know that the bride has been chosen and the wedding is on the horizon.
Ra-on struggles to contain her reaction, then hurries off with an excuse while holding back tears.
Yeong reads in his private garden, and looks up at someone’s approach. He imagines it’s Ra-on there, looking as she did that first time she came to him in woman’s clothing, and jumps to his feet anxiously… and then deflates to realize it’s Ha-yeon.
Ha-yeon tells him of her selection, which he’s already been informed of, and promises to do her best to help him. His face stony, he tells her, “It’s only a deal. There is no need for that.”
She’s disappointed by the response but says that him taking the throne will be good for her family. Yeong says that he will do his best in his duty and in upholding the deal, but asks for a promise: “Do not enter this place again.”
He leaves abruptly, and Ha-yeon is crushed.
Yoon-sung finds Ra-on looking heartbroken, but she turns him away, saying that it’s too painful for her to see him, because it makes her want to ask after Yeong: “I must forget, I must not know, but I keep wanting to know. Whether he’s eating, whether he sleeps well, whether he’s healthy. You are so good to me that I hate myself for wanting to ask you these things. So please do not come.”
Yoon-sung tells her that it’s okay, that he thinks mean things to himself, and holds onto the thought that when all this is over, she might come to him. He encourages her to cry, telling her he won’t expect anything of her or mistake the situation.
At that, Ra-on breaks down into the sobs she’s been repressing all this while. She chokes out, “I meant not to cry… my heart hurts so much.” Yoon-sung reaches out a hand to console her, but ends up keeping it to himself.
As Yeong sits at his desk, he takes out Ra-on’s eternity bracelet, thinking back to the promise he asked of her—to not let go of him, even in the toughest of times. He also remembers her last day, when she’d kissed him in his sleep.
He sets down her bracelet and starts to remove his own, but he breaks down in tears before he can manage it.
Ra-on receives a visit from a messenger carrying a letter from Head Eunuch Han, which she takes with some trepidation. It says that he hadn’t told her everything about her father, and requests a meeting.
That night, Ra-on waits in an appointed spot. But when she turns at the sound of an arrival, her face freezes. Uh-oh. It’s not who she’s expecting.
At the same time, the prime minister explains to Minister Dumb that although he knows where Ra-on is, his goal isn’t to merely capture her, but to use her in a bigger game. Namely, to bring down the crown prince: “If it becomes known that the prince secretly communicated with the traitor’s daughter outside of the palace, what do you suppose will happen?”
We return to Ra-on—and it’s Yeong standing there before her, looking thunderous. Yesss. Or no? Yessss.
What they don’t know is that a small army has made its way to their meeting point, presumably directed by the prime minister. Oh no. This looks bad. This looks very, very bad.
The soldiers gather outside their building, and start to charge in…
Inside, Yeong regards Ra-on with the coldest eyes and vows firmly, “I will never forgive you.” Stricken, Ra-on can only stare as he advances toward her, his face grim with determination…
But he just swoops in and envelops her in an embrace.
Ra-on’s eyes overflow with tears as Yeong holds her close, his hand still wearing his bracelet, and his face softens a bit.
Ra-on reaches her hand up tentatively, and grabs a handful of his clothing tightly. He registers that touch, and holds her even more tightly.
Yay, he didn’t give up faith, but also, oh my god runnnnnnn! It’s a trap! This is all about to come down on your heads in a very bad way!
Because, barring a last-minute miracle (which I won’t give up on; it’s unlikely, but still something to console me through the week), it looks like these two have fallen prey to the prime minister’s machinations. Just as Ra-on’s flight cast her in a guilty light (in addition to the false testimony that nobody is in a position to contradict), being caught together here not only bodes ill for Ra-on, it casts doubt onto the prince, too. If he’s consorting with the enemy, then he needs to come up with a really convincing explanation in order to escape being painted as in cahoots with traitors. Of course it’s absurd for him to have planned his own assassination attempt, but I suppose nothing’s out of the realm of possibility if you ascribe a persuasive logic to it, however false. As we’ve seen in many a sageuk, all that’s needed is a clever twisting of the facts to fashion a narrative that’s far from true but highly credible: It’s never the truth itself that matters, but the appearance of it, and whoever is better at crafting that illusion ends up the winner.
I’m encouraged by past displays of Yeong’s quick wit and ability to outsmart his foes, but on this score I worry that he’s at a clear disadvantage. Even if they were able to clear Ra-on of being a spy for Baekwoonhwe, she’s still got multiple black marks against her that leave her in danger: She’s the daughter of a traitor, and as such would either face death or possibly slavehood; she impersonated a man and used a false identity; and she dishonored the eunuch status by infiltrating it fraudulently. Knowing how dire the situation is for Ra-on was part of why I found yesterday’s goodbye moving and necessary, because I was hard-pressed to come up with reasons for her to stay, despite hating that she had to leave.
And so, yesterday’s sadness felt poignant but still sweet, like a soft pang in the heart, while today felt like a sharper, colder type of pain. Yeong’s heartbreak signifies more than just a love that could not be; it came hand in hand with a breach of trust and a fear that the world may never be right again. *tears* I didn’t necessarily want him to be blind to doubt—his overwhelming love for Ra-on hasn’t always made him act in the smartest of ways—but it hurt to see him totally disillusioned, wrestling with the fear that Ra-on could have betrayed him. My heart dropped when he started to take off his bracelet and then broke down at the gesture.
It was a huge relief to see that he hadn’t, ultimately, given up his faith in Ra-on, as the show made it a point to show us the bracelet he was still wearing; he’s entitled to feel angry, but he can be hurt and love her at the same time. It’s why, despite feeling bad for Ha-yeon, I actually found it really satisfying when he kicked her out of his private garden, because it felt like he was fighting to protect that love. And speaking of Ha-yeon, it was a bit unexpected to have the selection come and go so quickly, but it wasn’t unwelcome; we already knew she would be the one, so no need to linger on foregone conclusions. Glossing it over also kept us emotionally in line with Yeong; he was dealing with his broken heart all episode, and I could feel how disengaged he was from the selection, which made it fitting to move past it swiftly.
I just really hope that our couple gets a chance to talk out some of their questions now, even if just for a moment, before the soldiers come charging in to accuse them of treasonous activities. I suppose they could also talk it out in long conversations in prison, but I’d much rather that a clever twist, or a helpful hand by one BFF or the other, will save the day and keep them safe for just a while longer.
The ending scene also reminded me how grateful I am to this show for never dragging things out for too long, because it felt like this was about as much angst and separation as I could handle before it would have dulled my enjoyment of the show. I can handle a drama that deepens its emotional line and heightens the melodrama, but I don’t want it to come at the expense of gratifying relationships and plot that I actually want to see unfold. That’s the thing a lot of dramas miss in their last third or quarter; the story may necessitate angst, but I’ve sat through so many dramas where that angst resulted in episodes that were just no fun to watch. If nothing else, I’m glad we could end on a note that was uplifting amidst the dread, to keep my hope alive for the rest of the week.
I did love the use of the moon as a motif to tie together our couple; it sort of took over where the bracelets left off and continued the same message: that the moon remains constant despite location and time and even its variations on shape, and as long as Ra-on and Yeong feel the same way, their love will remain constant. I like its symbolism better than the bracelets, which always had that contingency of being worn—at least, the initial superstition did, stating that the two people who wore them would be destined to meet again, which is why Ra-on’s return of the bracelet felt like such a blow. The moon, on the other hand? It just is.
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 13
- Dramabeans Podcast #34
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 12
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 11
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds from the original author’s point of view
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds rejects extension, to end with 18 episodes
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 10
- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 9
- 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