The King Loves: Episodes 25-26
After seven years of silence, Rin must once again decide if he will remain complicit in his brother’s evil deeds. Won becomes virtually inscrutable on the topic, and it seems that no matter how much Rin tries to do the right thing, it never goes his way. Thus, he finds himself trapped between the truth and a lie, as the rock in his heart grows heavier and heavier.
EPISODE 25 RECAP
We open at a temple in the mountains, where Won seeks Teacher Lee’s counsel on what he should do with the power of an acting king. San walks over with a tray of hwajeon (fried rice cakes decorated with edible flowers), but is stopped by Rin.
She grumbles that the rice cakes will grow cold if they aren’t eaten quickly, so Rin takes a bite to appease her. But he immediately looks confused once he chews once or twice, then asks if she’s tasted them.
San guesses that he must mean the rice cakes are delicious, since she’s always received many compliments on her cooking, but Rin just smiles.
Teacher Lee hands Won a book he’s been writing, urging Won to read it. Won contests that he doesn’t have time to read until he’s able to navigate out of his political quagmire, but Teacher Lee just quotes a line from his book where Won should begin.
The line speaks of “Dangun,” the founder of the first Korean kingdom, Gojoseon, and how Goryeo is a “single-race nation.” The phrase stings Won, and so Teacher Lee explains that he believes that everyone carries a “rock” in their hearts.
Won’s rock is his mixed blood, Teacher Lee says. He then looks up at San chatting happily with Rin nearby, and explains that San has a particularly large rock inside her heart.
Her smile conceals her pain, and Teacher Lee describes how in their first meeting, he had seen that the overwhelming weight of her rock had buried young San’s emotions, adding that when she told him that she was responsible for her mother’s death, she did not shed a single tear.
Moreover, she refused to eat and, after offering San some rice cakes, Teacher Lee realized that San felt guilty for enjoying delicious food, and had lost her sense of taste.
Teacher Lee adds wisely, “It is hard to breathe when a rock is lying in your heart, but that was the only way she could breathe.”
Teacher Lee points out that Won too had difficulty “breathing,” which was he why he had sought out Teacher Lee before and told the story of the wolfdog. Teacher Lee then recounts how he managed to get San to eat again, by assigning her to cook for the entire school.
It required some compassionate acting by the other students, but in seeing others eat her food heartily, San was able to come out of her depression. Teacher Lee explains, “There are two types of people: those who wish to be happy and those who are happy when others are.”
Teacher Lee hopes that Won can be like San and become a king that is happy only when his people are happy. He encourages Won to read the book and learn from the mistakes and virtues of his royal predecessors.
Teacher Lee corrects himself and says that there is one thing San is able to taste…
Won grows pensive, then confesses to Teacher Lee that San wasn’t the one responsible for her mother’s death. Won thinks back to seven years ago when he had ignored Rin’s suggestion to alert the authorities about the planned bandit attack.
We cut to San eagerly taking a whiff of a special wine with Won and Rin at a table. She impatiently adheres to the new hierarchy (letting Won drink first) before downing her cup. Won tells his friends that Teacher Lee has chosen not to return with them to the palace, and so, San must come with them in his place.
San is preoccupied with the wine, but manages to refuse Won between gulps. She tells Won that she plans to travel to another land with her father and find a doctor to help with his illness.
Won tries to override San’s plans by dispatching some men to retrieve a renowned doctor from the area she plans to travel to, but San begs him to let her go because she wishes to spend time with her father, since they lived so many years apart.
Won still forbids it since he fears he may never see her again, so San breezily threatens to leave secretly. Without other options, Won uses his final card, and tells San what he has hidden from her for seven years. He describes another warrior group working alongside with the bandits, who massacred everyone there.
San isn’t surprised, and instead asks if Won was also the crown prince at the time (which Won confirms), and if so, she wonders why he stood by and did nothing. She adds that had he acted then, those behind the atrocity would have been caught and already brought to justice.
Won stills, then explains that back then, he was selfish and did not want to get involved, but now he does and wants to help her seek vengeance.
Minister Eun appears and tells Won that he and San have given up on revenge, since he imagines that Madam Eun would not have wanted it. Therefore, he hopes that Won can let them both go freely. But Won can’t bring himself to grant the request, and begs San not to go.
We return to the palace and see Won and Rin greet Princess Wonsung on her way to the king’s chambers, but Won is taken aback when she ignores him. Rin hands Furatai a large pile of scrolls, which he takes inside.
Princess Wonsung urges the king to give Won a title in order to learn how to govern in an official capacity. She’s prepared several documents (the scrolls from Rin) with some titles for the king to approve.
The king is astonished but is forced to authorize the title transfers given the deadlock between his men and Won’s armies. However, since he cannot exercise any power against his political foes (and family), the king pulls the pettiest move ever and names Boo-yong his queen. Dang, you cold.
The king provokingly baits Princess Wonsung for a reaction, which she does not give beyond the hurt look on her face.
Outside, Won and Rin wait for Princess Wonsung to emerge, and Won tells Rin about his plan to start giving provisions to his armies. But Rin is distracted, so Won offers a penny for his thoughts, which leads Rin to ask if he truly means to find the mastermind behind Madam Eun’s murder.
Won confesses that he made that pledge to get San to stay, but he’ll proceed with the investigation to make good on his word, since he should have acted once he found out So-hwa and San were one in the same. (But not for justice, Won?)
Their conversation is cut short when Princess Wonsung exits, but again, she ignores Won.
Rin goes home to try and convince his father of Jeon’s treasonous acts again, but his father still doesn’t want to believe it. His father also dismisses the testimony of the witnesses Rin had brought as untrustworthy due to their lowly statuses.
Rin tells his father that he intends to reveal everything to Won because it is the right thing to do, adding that he has been complicit with Jeon’s crimes with his silence for far too long.
Suddenly Dan speaks up (after eavesdropping from the doorway) and asks what will happen to her if Jeon’s crimes are revealed—will she still be able to marry Won or punished for Jeon’s treason? She says with a resolute and somewhat worrying look on her face that for her, it’s Won or no one else.
At the temple, San packs for her journey with Bi-yeon, who gushes about the crown prince gallantly investigating Madam Eun’s murder (not-so-)mystery.
San packs a knife in her bag, and Bi-yeon gasps, snatching it from her. She’s urges San to act like a lady now and perhaps even pursue that man she keeps talking about.
San leaves Bi-yeon to discuss their journey with her father. The plan is to travel by boat, and San points out that it will take a while to prepare everything, so she requests ten days before their departure to taste all the great wines in the capital.
Minister Eun’s heart starts acting up, and after it calms, he asks San seriously why she decided to give up on her revenge. He knows that she’s been relentlessly searching for Moo-suk, but now that she’s discovered who is behind everything (Song In), he wonders if she stopped because Rin’s older brother is involved and doesn’t want to hurt their family.
Caught, San admits that both Rin and Dan are good people (she adds that Jeon is horrible, but doesn’t seem to think he would be behind her mother’s murder), and so she will give up her revenge and leave Goryeo, but her eyes are shifty when she answers.
Her father also knows that San has been practicing martial arts in secret, specifically how to ambush someone and kill them on the spot, and he demands to know what she’s up to.
She doesn’t answer, but later we see her practicing with her dagger in the forest. Teacher Lee approaches from behind and tells her that she will need to make a choice. Either she lives the life of a murderer, or “draw your love while staring at the sky.” (Not following this logic, Teach.)
She tells him that the man with the snake tattoo is loyal to Song In, and so Teacher Lee asks if she intends to kill them. He adds that her mother died long ago and asks if it’s impossible for her to give up on her revenge.
San asks Teacher Lee what would happen if her mother and all those who died weren’t at peace yet. She says she sees them in her dreams, wandering around in the afterlife.
He seems to understand her, and gives his consent under the condition that she acts as his proxy and serves as Won’s counsel during the day, and pursue her revenge at night.
The next morning, Rin waits for Won outside of his quarters. He tries to tell Won the truth about Jeon, but Won brushes him off and insists that he cannot be late to his first meeting with his generals.
At the meeting, Won praises the generals for their performance in overtaking the king’s men, but the air is strained after Won learns that the warehouses he planned to use to feed his men have been cleared in the night.
We cut to the king, as Song In reports the relocation of the supplies. He reasons that the armies will turn on Won after they realize he cannot feed them, since that was the reason they joined Won’s cause.
The king nervously looks at the soldiers stationed at his door and asks Song In if they can be trusted. Song In assures the king that they can, but the king cannot be persuaded and fidgets in fear. Boo-yong tries to soothe him, and suggests that they go hunting to relax.
He’s elated by the idea, then remembers to follow-up on making her his royal concubine, but to do that he needs a special hairpin, which can only be given by Princess Wonsung. The king orders Minister Song to retrieve it, then proudly calls Boo-yong “Queen Mu,” but she looks uncomfortable and her eyes drift to Song In.
Elsewhere, Won orders his men to search for the missing supplies, but Rin points out that they won’t be able to search the Royal Treasury without the king permission, so Won decides to go to his mother for help.
Rin tries to broach the topic of Jeon’s treason again, but Won keeps cutting him off, so Rin shouts at Won to stop avoiding him. Won finally stops, and Rin discloses that he thinks Jeon was involved in Madam Eun’s incident, and had suspected him seven years ago but hid it in order to protect his family.
…Which makes him an accomplice in Jeon’s crimes.
EPISODE 26 RECAP
In Princess Wonsung’s residence, Won and his mother sip tea as Eunuch Choi reports the king’s departure on his hunt. Princess Wonsung asks for the key to the royal treasury, but is informed that the king took the key with him (but it’s actually in Minister Song’s possession).
Won assures his mother that he will find another way to secure provisions for his men, so Princess Wonsung hands Won a folded up paper she found on San when she had imprisoned her after the tea party.
It’s an itemized list of Minister Eun’s finances, and she supposes San hoped to bargain with the wealth as a last resort.
Won intends to borrow some supplies, when suddenly Princess Wonsung tells him that his bride will need final approval from her and above all, must be someone whom can provide Won with the most support as king.
Won looks confused as his mother says that she will not ruin his reputation, but they will need to find a tiny flaw. Oh no!
Outside, Won looks as if he wants to tell Rin something, but he changes his mind at the last minute and walks ahead. At the same time, San arrives at the palace and so the boys hurry to greet her. She smiles when she sees them, and Won’s eyes widen in wonder.
Inside his residence, San hands Won a scroll containing names of Teacher Lee’s students who, despite their intelligence, were unable to advance in their careers because they lacked connections. She also relays Teacher Lee’s advice for Won to station men outside his warehouses, but Won replies that it’s too late for that.
San is prepared for that outcome, and hands Won an envelope which will give him a large quantity of rice and silver. Won refuses, until Rin urges Won to accept the generous donation, because they need to.
In exchange, San wishes that Won will drop the investigation into her mother’s murder.
Won is surprised, but not more than Rin, who can’t seem to believe his ears. He presses San for a reason, and so San explains that it is her father’s wish (but doesn’t look at him). Won agrees to it (watching Rin curiously), even as Rin continues to look on incredulous.
At night, San follows Jeon as he leaves his house. He heads to Song In’s teahouse, where he waits for Moo-suk before going inside. San starts after them, but is pulled out of Moo-suk’s sight just in time by Rin.
She’s shocked to see that he’s followed her, but he tells her that he has someone he wants her to meet. They leave, and we see that they have not escaped Moo-suk’s notice.
He takes her to Geumgajeong to meet with the cart pullers Gae-won Yeom Bok, then orders them to tell San what they witnessed during Madam Eun’s murder.
Yeom Bok refuses to talk about it since he claims to be afflicted with bad dreams (where he sees those who were murdered) whenever he does. Thus, San questions Gae-won, and he describes how they were part of the bandit group.
He says the man in black killed many people, and hurt one of the two girls. Then Jeon arrived and was alarmed to see that the girl was injured and ran over. Gae-won realizes that San was one of the girls, but no one corrects him on the specifics.
Rin points out that Gae-won’s retelling left something crucial out, namely that Jeon and Moo-suk exchanged glances of recognition. Gae-won plays dumb, even as Rin angrily insists that he’s lying.
Gae-won reasons that he probably lied under duress, since Rin was acting so crazy that day and blurted it out without thinking.
We switch over to Won and Jang Eui, as the bodyguard tells Won that the cart pullers have successfully fooled Rin as he instructed.
They’ve also handled the the salt merchant, since Won guesses that Rin will go to him next because he knows that Rin will do his due diligence. Jang Eui asks why Won is trying to obscure the truth from Rin, but Won doesn’t have an answer for him because he hasn’t quite worked out the reason yet.
For what it’s worth, Won is right about Rin, because he takes San to the salt merchant after failing to get the truth from Gae-won. Rin explains to San that the salt merchant is now working as their double agent.
Now that Rin has decided to reveal the truth, he gets caught up in all the adrenaline, and then is confused when San asks what he’s doing.
She explains that she’s investigating her mother’s death, and refused Won’s help because she doesn’t want Rin to be implicated through his connection to Jeon.
Rin is stunned that San is concerned for him, and San answers that their enemies are cunning enough to fool the king. Rin worries that San intends to take her foes on alone, but she promises that she has a plan.
He asks to know her plan, but she’s cagey about the details and intent on working alone. She begins to leave, but he grabs her arm to stop her. She says that she needs to “end it” because only then can she free herself from the guilt she feels, and enjoy good food at last.
After following Rin and San around all night, Moo-suk reports back to Song In and you can practically see the gears turning in Song In’s head as he seems to finally understand what is occurring between our main trio.
He tells Moo-suk that he’s discovered Won’s weakness, then zeroes in on Rin, and contemplates driving a wedge between the boys, remarking how fun it will be.
He says that he’s never considered driving them apart since they’re so loyal to one another, but now, he may have found a way through San.
Moo-suk asks what Song In intends to do about Jeon, who spends his days getting drunk and pestering Song In for a new plan for his enthronement. Song In wonders aloud if he should abandon the older brother for the younger one, deciding that he must make a situation where Rin has no choice but to seek him out for help.
Speaking of the devil, Jeon drinks himself into oblivion, and doesn’t even notice as a gisaeng steals the golden butterfly norigae hanging from his belt.
Under Princess Wonsung’s orders to find a “small flaw” in Wang Young’s family in order to disqualify Dan as Won’s wife, Eunuch Choi reports back with some damning evidence. But we don’t hear what he’s discovered just yet.
In his chambers, Won and San are hard at work organizing their finances, and San is impressed with Won’s great memory. But he doesn’t indulge in the flattery, and warns her of the ink dripping from her quill and onto their important documents.
She jumps up suddenly, making a mess. She swears that she’s usually more composed, and Won allows her to maintain her fiction with a smile. Since night has fallen, she heads toward the door, but doesn’t tell Won where she’s going when he asks.
Rin enters and offers to escort her, but she refuses him as well, and they bicker back and forth, until Won interrupts, calling Rin over. Instead, Rin decides to squeal on San about what she did last night, but Won backs her up and allows her to leave unescorted.
Rin isn’t done nagging though, and continues complaining to Won once San is gone as he tells him about her visit to Song In’s and her near-miss with Moo-suk. He’s frantic over the possibility of San confronting him, especially given her temper.
Won remains calm as he observes Rin’s outburst, then tells Rin firmly that he sent a bodyguard to trail her as he declares, “I will protect her.” Rin catches himself, replying that he overstepped his boundaries.
Then, Court Lady Jo enters to retrieve Rin—alone.
San sees Court Lady Jo leading Rin out, and asks a member of her entourage where they are headed. The answer she receives is alarming: the interrogation hall.
Rin arrives and is immediately surrounded by guards as Princess Wonsung enters the area. A man is brought out, and we see in a flashback that he was the head of the bandits from the first episode.
He tells the group how someone hired them to rob Minister Eun, but they were tricked, and all his men were killed instead. On top of that, the incident was blamed on him.
Princess Wonsung asks if the man saw the person who ordered the job, and the bandit confirms it, so Princess Wonsung holds up Jeon’s golden butterfly norigae and asks if it belongs to that person. The bandit says that Jeon promised to pay them for the job afterward, and gave him the norigae as a deposit.
Princess Wonsung hands the norigae to Rin and asks if Rin recognizes it as his family crest. Rin verifies it, his voice shaking, knowing fully what the admission means. He looks across the hall and sees San watching him, horrified.
He tries to go to her, but is restrained by guards, and can do nothing but watch her run away.
Jin Gwan tells Won that Rin was taken to the interrogation hall, and that Princess Wonsung is sending soldiers to Wang Young’s house because of the incident seven years ago. Won’s mind goes straight to San, and he’s troubled to hear that she followed after Rin.
San goes right to Wang Young’s and locks her eyes on Jeon lounging around his house. She unsheathes her dagger, steels herself, and approaches Jeon as her eyes fill with tears. She raises her dagger right before she charges, but a hand suddenly reaches out and pulls her back.
Won drags her away and restrains her as she struggles against him. He tries to calm her, but her eyes are unwavering. Her voice becomes pleading as she fights Won until he finally pulls her into his arms and begs her not to go through with her vengeance, since it will hurt her as well.
She relents, and tears follow as the truth reverberates through her.
I consistently find myself having an issue with understanding who knows what whenever I watch this show. It felt particularly glaring in these episodes since the entire climax was based on San not knowing that Jeon was involved in her mother’s murder. I know the issue on the table right now for San is Rin’s betrayal, and the fact that he hid everything from her, but for some reason I thought she knew or made the connection already, because realistically, it isn’t much of a stretch since Jeon is the worst. I’m hoping we get some more color on San’s strong reaction to Rin, because right now it feels to me like something was off.
Her reaction does seem like an indication of her strong feelings for Rin, because she certainly wasn’t that mad when Won admitted his role in her mother’s murder. But also, his brother didn’t conspire to kill her mother, so there’s that.
I had a similar problem during the whole (not so) mysterious identity arc, since I couldn’t always sort out who knew what immediately. I had to really think about it, or was told after the fact during a really emotional moment, which makes me feel out of step with the characters and what they’re feeling. I want to be sad and happy with them instead of retroactively! I’ve frequently thought to myself: “Ah, I see what you did there,” when I should be more emotionally invested in a scene. I think it’s important to feel the conflict building as the stakes rise and our characters grow closer to the truth, but I didn’t feel that so much in these episodes, and that’s disappointing.
Moving on to Won, you can really see that Won got his mother’s single-mindedness. He’s pretty preoccupied with San, and it’s sad to see him only care about justice when it’s relevant to him, but it’s also very telling. It’s just like his mother, who is only incidentally on the main trio’s side if it serves her ultimate aim of making Won into the perfect king. They really are becoming more and more alike, and I’m not sure what it means. I think it’s tragic that Princess Wonsung desperately doesn’t want Won to end up in a marriage like hers, so she’s pushing for a marriage where Won becomes her in the relationship (Won and San), rather than his father (Won and Dan), and there doesn’t seem to be a winning solution here.
I think it’s really interesting that Won thinks his inaction before was because of selfishness, and his actions now are less so. He may be a bit more considerate, but he relentlessly pursues his desires and it really weirds me out to see how Won manipulates San, or maybe it’s just that Won is so honest and open with Rin that he’s willing to admit even his least noble thoughts. I’m not really sure how to feel when Won confesses that he didn’t really care to find the people behind the murder until it mattered to San/So-hwa.
Overall, Won is being all weird again about the topic of Jeon’s treason, which makes me think that he probably has something in the works, but can’t risk letting Rin in on the plan because maybe the matter is too personal. That scene at the end of episode twenty-five had no real follow-up, so I hope we haven’t seen everything yet. I truly think Won is doing everything he can to protect Rin as well, so I really hope he comes through for us, because things aren’t looking good for Rin right now.
- The King Loves: Episodes 1-2
- Premiere Watch: School 2017, The King Loves, Man Who Dies to Live, Reunited Worlds
- A house and friendship divided in The King Loves
- Tension in a garden of flowers for The King Loves
- Assassin-filled forests and masked dances in The King Loves
- Main writer behind The King Loves revealed to be Song Ji-nah
- The King Loves to play in azalea-filled forests
- Yoon-ah steals the hearts of two best friends in The King Loves
- Im Shi-wan as a young prince for MBC’s The King Loves