Haechi: Episodes 3-4
With the prospective crown prince on a rampage and the ministers in power unwilling to stop him, someone needs to do something to make his crimes undeniable. Unfortunately, the one person with the ability to do that is too busy sulking to be of help. Something needs to snap him out of his belligerent mood, and someone eventually does, though who it is surprises even our pouty prince.
EPISODE 3: Your name is…
Yi Tan catches Yeo-ji after she steals a locked box from his tent. Yi Geum tells him to let Yeo-ji go and to fight him instead. Yi Tan accuses him of showing off, but Yi Geum says lazily that he’s just doing what any man would do — save the pretty lady.
Yi Tan scoffs at Yi Geum as he readies his bow and arrow, reminding him that he’s surrounded. Yi Geum takes aim at Yi Tan and says, “I only need to beat one person…” He lets his arrow fly, and Yi Tan screams like a little girl and hides behind one of his men.
When he realizes he wasn’t shot, he taunts Yi Geum that he missed, and even Yeo-ji yells at him for starting a fight when he can’t even shoot. Yi Geum just asks if she’s a good runner, and suddenly they hear a noise coming from the woods.
A wild boar comes barreling into the campsite, with Yi Geum’s arrow sticking out of its hide. Yi Geum calls to Yi Tan that he wins the prize for shooting the biggest beast, HA, then grabs Yeo-ji’s hand and they run into the trees. Yi Geum tells Yeo-ji to go on while he distracts the men. She asks if he’s able to handle the men all by himself after she hit him in a sensitive area, but he brushes it off, saying that she went easy on him. She’s all, Well, I saw you limping earlier, hee.
They make arrangements to meet up later, and Yi Geum leads Yi Tan’s men in one direction while Yeo-ji runs in another. Yi Geum fights the men single-handedly armed only with his bow, and when Yi Tan jumps in, Yi Geum hooks Yi Tan by the neck with his bow and shoves him to the ground.
Horrified by his own nosebleed, Yi Tan screams, “How dare you do this to the next king?!” Yi Geum just smirks, but his smile soon fades. King Sukjong rides up to them on his horse, and he quips that he was told he’d see something he’s never seen before on this hunt.
He shushes Yi Tan when he tries to stammer an explanation, then asks Yi Geum if he’s causing trouble again. Yi Geum wilts under his father’s disappointment.
A depressed Moon-soo tells Ah-bong that the guy he caught cheating on the civil service exam got the highest score, while he failed yet again. Ah-bong wonders if the guy is lowborn, since you don’t normally see intelligent nobles taking the test for others. Moon-soo is more interested in the fact that Noh Tae-pyung, who hired the guy to test for him, has suddenly disappeared.
Nearby, a scruffy-looking man eats while the restaurant owner pays what he can of his rent. The man complains that business is bad because the food is bad, and directs the owner to a nearby fish shop for some better anchovies. He leaves most of the paltry rent payment behind, saying that the owner won’t survive if he gives him all of his money.
The man, whose name is DAL-MOON (Park Hoon) overhears Moon-soo and Ah-bong on his way out. He asks a friend to find out more about them.
Magistrate Kim is called to the Saheonbu headquarters by Jung-seok, and he accuses Jung-seok of leading the night inspection at his house. Jung-seok explains that it’s because Magistrate Kim obstructed his murder investigation.
Meanwhile, Yi Geum is at the Department of Justice being questioned about his fight with Yi Tan. He’s asked about the disguised woman who stole from the prince, but Yi Geum advises them not to arrest her or she’ll talk, and what she says will embarrass the royal family.
He goes on and on about how he’s sick of women these days, so he’s “looking elsewhere.” He groans that he thought he would become attracted to that woman if he dressed her as a man, then notes that the ministry official looks awfully good in his uniform, eyeing him up and down lasciviously, PWAHAHA.
Prince Yoon-ryong (Yi Hwan) visits the Ministry of Justice looking for Yi Geum, and by the time Yi Geum is released, there’s a full-blown argument going on because the Minister of Personnel, Minister Min, accused Prince Yoon-ryong of using Yi Geum to harm Yi Tan, his primary rival for the throne. The prince neatly silences the argument and warns Minister Min not to use today’s incident against Yi Geum later.
Minister Min says it’s disappointing the way Yi Hwan always defends Yi Geum, but Yi Hwan fires back that he doesn’t care what Minister Min thinks of him. Minister Min just darkly warns Yi Hwan that a king can’t work alone.
Yi Hwan and Yi Geum go for a walk alone, and Yi Geum apologizes that Yi Hwan got blamed for his bad behavior. He tells Yi Hwan that he’s too nice and should blame others sometimes, and should probably get Minister Min on his side, because politics is about how many supporters you have.
Yi Hwan retorts that there’s already a crown prince, but Yi Geum says sadly that they both know he’ll be replaced, and that Yi Hwan will die if he doesn’t become the next crown prince. Yi Hwan says that he still can’t consent to the Norons ignoring the throne and pursuing one-party tyranny. Yi Geum mentions Yi Tan’s death ledger, saying that he may be able to get at Yi Tan’s weak spot with it.
At Saheonbu, Yeo-ji breaks into Yi Tan’s box, and she’s upset and confused when all it contains is dried flowers. She apologizes to Jung-seok, who sent her to the hunting camp for Yi Tan’s death ledger, but he says that if she couldn’t find it, it wasn’t there.
Ah-bong asks Yeo-ji to help him find the civil service exam cheater for Moon-soo. She recognizes Yi Geum from Moon-soo’s drawing, and upset, she demands to know where Moon-soo is right now.
She meets with Yi Geum at the place and time they arranged, and she shows him the dried flowers in Yi Tan’s box. He’s not as disappointed as she is, calling Yi Tan an unpredictable madman. Yeo-ji asks him his name and occupation, but he refuses to tell her, and says that he won’t ask who she is, either.
She says she’s a Saheonbu inspector, and correctly guesses that he’s Prince Yeoning. Yi Geum abruptly ends their meeting and leaves without another word. As soon as he steps outside, Moon-soo leaps at him, thanking Yeo-ji for helping him catch the exam cheater.
Yi Tan is currently having a screaming fit over Yi Geum being set free, threatening to kill Yi Geum himself as he destroys Magistrate Kim’s house. Minister Min says that it’s the royal court’s business, but Yi Tan growls that once he’s king, Yi Geum won’t be the only one to die, implying that he means Minister Min and his followers.
But Minister Min slaps Yi Tan so hard he hits the ground, and he tells Yi Tan that King Sukjong used the pretext of restoring order to excuse purging all opposition, replacing his servants often and wiping out the nobles. He says that such a king mustn’t come to power again.
Moon-soo is physically pushing around Yi Geum, who says this just makes him look dumb (Moon-soo: “Everyone already knows I’m dumb!” HA). A much calmer Yeo-ji asks Yi Geum who Noh Tae-pyung is and why he substituted for him, but Yi Geum pretends to have no idea what she’s talking about.
Moon-soo offers to beat a confession out of Yi Geum, but Yeo-ji explains that Noh Tae-pyung is the uncle of the widow who died after being raped by Yi Tan. Moon-soo hears how she addresses Yi Geum and asks why, and Yi Geum snaps, “That’s right, I’m a prince!” Poor Moon-soo looks ready to have a heart attack, and Yi Geum leaves angrily.
Moon-soo yells at Yeo-ji for not warning him that Yi Geum is a prince before he manhandled him, and she says absently that that’s why she told him to go easy. She’s more concerned with the fact that Yi Geum is trying to dig up Yi Tan’s secret than Moon-soo’s conviction that his life is over, ha.
Having learned about Noh Tae-pyung’s connection to Yi Tan’s victim, Yi Geum figures out that Yi Tan hired him to take the exam as payment for Noh Tae-pyung’s niece’s life. But even though he passed the exam for him, the man disappeared soon afterward.
As Yi Geum ponders over whether the answer is in Yi Tan’s death ledger, Dal-moon watches him from a nearby doorway.
Minister Min comments that King Sukjong takes his medicine more often lately, and King Sukjong notes that Minister Min is gloating that he’ll die soon. He asks if Minister Min really believes that Yi Tan will make a good king despite his uncontrollable temper, but Minister Min says that everyone has flaws.
King Sukjong chuckles that Minister Min doesn’t care who is king so long as he’s a Noron. Minister Min mentions all the people the king has killed, calling it simple retaliation and not “order.” He says that Yi Tan will be a wise ruler with the right encouragement, and when King Sukjong asks about Yi Tan’s death ledger, Minister Min says that nothing has been confirmed.
Maybe not, but Yi Tan is in the process of beating the horse trader who hired Yi Geum half to death at that very moment. He seems to be angry that the horse trader didn’t magically know ahead of time that he would kill Noh Tae-pyung . He orders the horse trader to kill the man who took the test and bring him his body by tonight.
Yi Geum learns that Noh Tae-pyung hasn’t been seen since the test, but before he can decide what to do, Moon-soo shows up at his house acting like they’re suddenly besties. LOL, I love this guy.
Yeo-ji takes what she’s learned to Jung-seok — that Yi Geum took the test for Noh Tae-pyung, and that Noh Tae-pyung was the uncle of the deceased widow. It’s not enough to give Jung-seok a reason to investigate Yi Geum, but he says that Moon-soo is out there hopefully gathering evidence.
Moon-soo tries his best to butter up Yi Geum, though he refuses to apologize since Yi Geum is still a big ol’ cheater. He says that a citizen would have been arrested while Yi Geum is free, and that if it were up to him, Yi Geum would be arrested regardless of who he is. Yi Geum disagrees before taking off on his horse, daring Moon-soo to follow.
He visits his horse trader friend, who wails that he’s supposed to kill Yi Geum. Yi Geum asks if Yi Tan killed Noh Tae-pyung, but the horse trader says he doesn’t want to know. He tells Yi Geum to hide until things quiet down and he’ll just give Yi Tan a dead beggar, but Yi Geum wonders if things will ever quiet down.
Yi Geum’s friend from the boat, Jo-hong, passes a story to a storyteller, then meets up with Yi Geum. She says that her story scared the storyteller, but he still takes it to Dal-moon, who instructs him to tell it everywhere that he can.
It’s about a woman who was raped and impregnated by a prince, who then killed her and made it look like a suicide. The story spreads among the peasants that the woman had an uncle who got the highest score in the civil service exam, and that the prince killed him, too.
Word gets back to Minister Min about the rumors, and he orders Yi Tan brought to him. The king also orders a full investigation, and summons Yi Geum to the palace that evening.
Yi Geum taunts Yi Tan again, asking him if he’s heard the rumors. He tells Yi Tan to make sure he properly disposed of Noh Tae-pyung’s body, because if it’s found, he’ll have no chance at the throne and may even be executed.
Yi Tan pulls a dagger on Yi Geum, angry that he’s not afraid of him like everyone else, but Yi Geum says he has nothing to lose. Yi Tan threatens to rip Yi Geum apart as soon as he’s king, but Yi Geum just laughs and twists the arm that’s holding the dagger, bringing Yi Tan to his knees.
Jung-seok and his people discuss the rumors — Yeo-ji believes that it’s about Yi Tan, and that he killed Noh Tae-pyung, and Jung-seok says that the only way to prove it is to find the body. His wife joins them and says that’s enough work on their day off.
She makes Yeo-ji help Jung-seok’s little son water the plants, and he reminds her that he’s just a kid when she wonders in gory detail how Yi Tan might have disposed of the body. She accidentally overwaters a very rare plant, but it gives her an idea.
Yeo-ji goes back to the box of dried flowers, and she recognizes some leaves as being from the same rare maple tree that the pregnant widow was hung from. She realizes that this isn’t just a box of dried flowers… it’s a box of trophies. She finds one leaf that’s not fully dried yet and guesses that it’s a trophy from Noh Tae-pyung’s murder.
That evening, Yi Geum takes his bow and follows Yi Tan’s men out to the woods. He gives himself away when he carelessly drops his bow and has to duck behind a rock, his bow still in plain sight. But the cry of a wild animal worries Yi Tan’s men so they leave, and just as Yi Geum grabs his bow, Moon-soo pops up out of nowhere.
Ha, he brags about his realistic animal noises, and that he won this round because he was able to follow Yi Geum. He asks what’s happening, but Yi Geum just says to keep following him and he’ll see what he’s been looking for.
Yi Tan’s men finally reach their destination and start digging. Yi Geum tells Moon-soo that he thinks they’re moving a corpse, and as they watch (and bicker loudly over whether Moon-soo is being too loud), Yeo-ji approaches the clearing carrying a torch. The men scatter and, oblivious, Yeo-ji inspects a tree whose leaves match the one she found in Yi Tan’s box.
She tries to dig the hole in the clearing deeper with her hands. One of the men sneaks up behind her, sword raised, but he takes an arrow in his sword arm. Yeo-ji tries to hold off the rest of the men with her torch, but it’s knocked from her hands.
Moon-soo runs in unarmed and screaming her name, and Yeo-ji fights the men with her iron flail while Moon-soo just bites anyone that gets close enough. Yi Geum wounds the men from a distance with his bow until they finally give up and retreat.
Once they’re gone, Yeo-ji goes back to digging in the dirt. She uncovers Noh Tae-pyung’s body, and Yi Geum rushes home excitedly, only to find the Chief Royal Secretary waiting to take him to his father.
King Sukjong assumes that Yi Geum is late answering his summons because he was out drinking again, and Yi Geum doesn’t correct him. They’re at the house where Yi Geum’s mother lived, and King Sukjong recalls that on the day he was born, Yi Geum didn’t cry. It had scared both of his parents, and King Sukjong admits that he thought he’d have felt better if Yi Geum died, because he worried Yi Geum would never live as a prince because of his peasant-class mother.
He asks angrily if Yi Geum is happy that he’s lived down to his father’s expectations with his reckless living, growling that he still could have lived a decent life despite his mother’s status. Yi Geum says furiously that he’s overqualified, and that he has too much confidence, but he’s not allowed to do anything.
King Sukjong agrees that Yi Geum is intelligent, and that it hurts him to know how qualified Yi Geum is to be king. He tells Yi Geum that he’ll die soon, and he begs him, before that happens, to show the world the good traits his father sees in him.
Byung-joo tells Jung-seok that he’s being appointed the new team leader, and Jung-seok thinks it’s great news. Byung-joo asks if Jung-seok has found a connection between Yi Tan and Noh Tae-pyung, but we don’t hear Jung-seok’s answer.
Still shaken by the news that his father is dying, Yi Geum rejoins Yeo-ji and Moon-soo. Jung-seok arrives to ask to Yi Geum if he’ll testify that Yi Tan hired him to substitute for Noh Tae-pyung, which would give them a reason to arrest Yi Tan and investigate him.
Yi Geum asks what Jung-seok will do if he refuses, sneering that Yi Tan’s crimes and his intent to become king have nothing to do with him. He argues that trying to prove Yi Tan guilty could backfire on him, but Jung-seok asks why he got involved, then. Yi Geum says he did it for fun and to get Yi Tan in trouble, nothing more.
Jung-seok, Yeo-ji, and Moon-soo are unceremoniously ushered from Yi Geum’s house, but Moon-soo yells at Yi Geum over the walls for treating them this way. He actually has tears in his eyes as he bellows that he thought Yi Geum was a decent man.
Inside, Yi Geum’s man, Ja-dong, tells Yi Geum that Jung-seok is an inspector with a strong sense of justice, who opposes the officials despite being a Noron. Yi Geum sighs that the Norons have taken over the Saheonbu, so there’s not much a lowly inspector could do there anyway. Ja-dong says pointedly that there’s someone who could do something, but Yi Geum, knowing he means him, says that’s a pipe dream.
In the morning, the Saheonbu chief inspector lets the old team leader go and appoints Byung-joo. He tells Byung-joo that Minister Min probably wants him to persuade Jung-seok since they’re close, but Byung-joo says it wouldn’t work. He suggests they use standard tactics and open the supreme court to judge Yi Tan’s crimes, in order to crush Jung-seok’s investigation for lack of evidence.
Yi Geum looks like he’s been up all night, and Jo-hong pours him a drink to relax him. He almost downs the drink, but he pauses when he remembers his father’s request that he show the world that he’s a decent man.
The supreme court proceeds, and Jung-seok presents his theory that Yi Tan killed Noh Tae-pyung because he was threatening Yi Tan with what he did to Noh Tae-pyung’s niece. The ministers ask for proof, and Jung-seok says that the man who was hired to substitute the civil service exam told him so. The chief inspector asks who it is, but Jung-seok recites the unwritten law that the Saheonbu do not reveal their source.
We see Moon-soo screaming and pounding on Yi Geum’s door to no avail, as Jung-seok tells the court, “The world used to call Saheonbu officials ‘haechi,’ because they believed the Saheonbu will judge good from evil and preserve justice. But what are we doing now? Everyone ignores the truth for his own safety. In times like these, people still look up to Saheonbu. They’re hoping that we’d still stand on their side. They’re hoping the Saheonbu will do their job as a judicial system.”
The chief inspector accuses Jung-seok of cobbling together information to make Yi Tan look guilty. He tells Jung-seok to prove otherwise by bringing the source he mentioned, but Jung-seok just stands in shock, looking betrayed. The ministers call for Jung-seok to be punished for lying, but behind Jung-seok, the doors fly open.
Yi Geum walks in, saying lazily, “Oh no, what a pity… that source is right here.”
I’m not a huge fan of mysteries, but I do love a good smart whodunit story, especially when the killer is known and the investigators are just trying to make the evidence fit what they already know. Jung-seok and Yeo-ji are sure that Yi Tan is a killer, and all they need is the evidence to prove it before he’s declared crown prince and taken out of their reach. I thought that the box of dried leaves as trophies was clever, because it looked so innocent yet can probably lead Yeo-ji to multiple murder scenes. This is going to be a long drama, so I hope that it keeps up with the smart, unique clues.
One thing I really like about Haechi so far is how the characters are portrayed as complex and layered — there are no straight heroes or straight villains here. Yi Tan is a murderer, but he’s also a coward and a spoiled child, and more than once he’s been made to look ridiculous. Yeo-ji is smart and determined, but she also tends to charge into dangerous situations without fully thinking them through. Jung-seok is a good, morally upstanding man, but he’s so rigid that he risks being a danger to himself and probably those who follow him. King Sukjong is a harsh king but a loving father, even when he can’t show it to his son. Even Yi Geum, who comes as close to a hero as this show will allow, has a lot of faults, like his tendency to be flippant at the wrong times and get himself into even worse trouble. I love that there are no clear good or bad guys (well except Yi Tan, but as I mentioned, he’s also a joke), because it makes the show that much more interesting when you can see that these characters are just regular people who mostly think they’re doing the right thing.
The king especially surprised me in this episode, because until that scene with Yi Geum, he hasn’t really shown himself to be a man of softer emotions. But he really opened up to Yi Geum by telling him that he’s always knows he’s smart and a decent person, and worthy of being king, and that he wants the world to see it, too (and I do so love Kim Gap-soo in these kinds of roles). Yi Geum was really shaken up by his father’s words, and the realization that he’s dying, but I think that it was what he needed to wake up and stop living like a loser. Just because he’s stifled by his mother’s status doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything to offer his country and his people, and even if we didn’t know that he goes on to become a great king, he could still use his intelligence and his sense of right and wrong to do a lot of good in the world.
I’m so happy that we already got to see Yi Geum, Yeo-ji, and Moon-soo working together, and it was every bit as hilariously magical as I’d hoped. Yi Geum deftly picking off attackers and Yeo-ji wading in with her iron flail and her badass attitude, while Moon-soo just bites and fights dirty and creates confusion and mayhem — I can definitely watch twenty-two more hours of that. Their personalities fit together really well too, or they will once they stop annoying the crap out of each other… though I hope that’s not for a long while. Yeo-ji is fiercely focused, whip-smart, and brave to a fault. Yi Geum is just as intelligent as Yeo-ji but knows when to hide it behind his slacker persona to throw off his enemies. And Moon-soo… well Moon-soo is cute and has a lot of enthusiasm! I can see how these three will make a formidable team once they get their shit together and learn to work as a team, and it’s going to be incredibly fun to watch.
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