Haechi: Episodes 7-8
This episode is much better in some ways (the editing) and much, much worse in others. Our prince-in-waiting is his own worse enemy, letting himself be manipulated from all sides regardless of his instinct to do the right thing. It shows that he does have the makings of a good king, but that he’s got a long, long way to go before he’s even close to ready to take the throne.
EPISODE 7: The night of fate
Minister Min tells Yi Geum to retract his testimony against Yi Tan and blame Jung-seok, and the Norons will back his brother Yi Hwan — but if he doesn’t, Yi Hwan will die. Yeo-ji finds him, and when he sees her worried expression, he bursts into tears.
We see a bit more of Yi Geum’s conversation with Minister Min… Minister Min had expressed surprise that Yi Geum was suddenly supporting Yi Hwan, but he guessed that he got vicarious satisfaction from helping his half-brother. Yi Geum had told Minister Min not to harm Jung-seok, but Minister Min had blamed Yi Geum for putting Jung-seok in this vulnerable position.
He’d called Yi Geum a powerless man, saying that he should have known he couldn’t do anything with a conscience but no power. Now Yi Geum tells Yeo-ji that Minister Min was right, he can’t do anything.
But at the same time, King Sukjong asks Chief Inspector Lee to help him make Yi Geum the next king, because Yi Geum is a prince of royal blood but no political party supports him. Chief Inspector Lee asks what he can do, and King Sukjong tells him that he’s aware Chief Inspector Lee’s standing among the Norons is unstable because he failed to protect Yi Tan. He says that if Chief Inspector Lee makes Yi Geum king, then with that power, he can become head of the Norons.
In the morning, Yeo-ji asks Jung-seok about a letter and box of silver ingots that arrived for him. Jung-seok says it’s a donation to the relief fund for the poor created by the inspectors, sent by a silk trader. He’s been donating for years, though this is the first time he’s sent the money to Jung-seok’s house instead of the Saheonbu.
Yi Geum had told Yeo-ji that, even if she hates him, she has to protect Jung-seok, but she has no idea what he meant by that. Yi Geum thinks about Minister Min’s threat to Yi Hwan’s life, and how Jung-seok told him that it’s easier to fight back than to back down. He picks up his brush with a shaking hand, and begins to write.
Only Moon-soo is in a good mood as he tells Yeo-ji that he and Yi Geum are brothers now, and that she’s part of their newly formed brotherhood. Yeo-ji says she’s not interested, and when Moon-soo asks about her closeness with Jung-seok’s family, she says she thinks of them as her family.
She asks Moon-soo if Yi Geum actually agree to be his hyung, and Moon-soo admits that Yi Geum acted like he was against it but he didn’t believe him. They spot Yi Geum nearby, and Moon-soo tries to drag him off to eat breakfast, but Yi Geum says he doesn’t want to and tries to leave.
Yeo-ji asks him why he told her to protect Jung-seok even if she hates him. Yi Geum just tells her to go to the Saheonbu and not talk to a shameless man like him. He heads to a gibang and pays them a huge sum, saying that he wants to drink with everyone in Hanyang today.
At first, Chief Inspector Lee is incensed at King Sukjong’s idea to make Yi Geum king. But the thought of gaining enough power to lead the Norons (and make Minister Min defer to him) is pretty seductive, so he gives it serious consideration.
Worried about what Yi Geum said last night, Yeo-ji sends Moon-soo to Jung-seok’s house while she goes to the Saheonbu. Byung-joo is leading an investigation into Jung-seok, and he shows Yeo-ji a letter that proves that Jung-seok instigated false testimony, written by Yi Geum. Oh Yi Geum, you didn’t.
Yeo-ji grabs the letter, unwilling to believe the slander against Jung-seok. Byung-joo sneers that he acts superior but he’s just another corrupt official. He also accuses Jung-seok of taking bribes, claiming the silk merchant’s donation was actually a payoff.
The Saheonbu senior inspector is at Jung-seok’s home to arrest him, and Jung-seok isn’t even surprised. The senior inspector says that he wants to trust Jung-seok but he has no choice, and Jung-seok doesn’t fight his arrest. Moon-soo tries to stop them from taking Jung-seok away, screaming that they’re the ones breaking the law.
Jung-seok tells him not to fight the Saheonbu or he’s no better than them, disrespecting the law. He tells Moon-soo that someday he’ll become a proud official of Saheonbu, and when he does, he must be someone who wins by the law, not by power. But Moon-soo is still devastated, after having been so certain they’d won this battle.
Chief Inspector Lee confronts Minister Min, knowing full well that Jung-seok was framed and accusing him of dishonoring the Saheonbu. Minister Min says that they were forced to abandon Yi Tan and support Yi Hwan, and that arresting only Yi Geum for false testimony alone wouldn’t have been effective.
He plans to make Jung-seok an example, to warn others that they can be cut down for “standing with a rotten tree.” Chief Inspector Lee says that he should have been notified ahead of time, but Minister Min asks why, since he wouldn’t have been able to do anything anyway.
Chief Inspector Lee returns to King Sukjong, who gives him some information to deliver to Yi Geum. After he leaves, King Sukjong instructs his eunuch to bring Yi Geum to him at dawn, and whispers to himself, “Geum-ah… please…”
Yi Geum drinks so much at the gibang that even the gisaeng tries to cut him off. He can barely walk, but when the gisaengs try to help him, he yells that they’re not the person he needs, then in the same breath swears that that’s not why he’s drinking so much.
Dal-moon learns through his grapevine that Yi Geum paid the gibang to serve anyone who wants to drink, and he’s glad to hear that none of his people are there. His man tells him that Yi Geum testified then retracted his testimony and blamed an innocent inspector, and that even the silk trader was made to send Jung-seok a bribe by the officials.
On his way home, Yi Geum falls off his horse and is found in the road by his servant. The servant wants to call the doctor to treat Yi Geum’s injuries, but Yi Geum says there’s no point because he’s so useless.
Moon-soo and Yeo-ji are at Yi Geum’s house asking to see him, but Jo-hong tells them that he hasn’t come home. Yeo-ji leaves a message that Yi Geum and Jung-seok will be questioned at the Saheonbu tomorrow, and that he needs to tell the truth. Moon-soo adds that they believe that Yi Geum had a valid reason to lie, and they trust him to do the right thing.
Jo-hong goes inside, where Yi Geum is sleeping off his wild night. She tells his sleeping form that it’s okay not to see or hear difficult things if it’s the only way he can live.
Yi Tan is released, and he thanks Prime Minister Kim and Yoon-young, his concubine, for their help. Yoon-young wants to feed Yi Tan, but Prime Minister Kim snaps that they already ate and to tell Yi Tan to leave. Minister Min joins them, having heard that Yi Tan stopped at his home first, and he says that if he’d been this courteous before there wouldn’t have been trouble in the first place.
He tells Yi Tan that the Norons are going to make Yi Hwan king, and Yi Tan rages that the kingdom rightfully belongs to him through his grandfather, Prince Sohyun. Minister Min makes it clear that the Norons run the kingdom, and that if he wanted to become king, Yi Tan should have taken care of his supporters.
He tells Yi Tan to leave with an envoy to the Qing Dynasty tomorrow, and that maybe he can save his life if he asks the next king for mercy. Yi Tan pitifully begs Minister Min not to abandon him, but Minister Min just says that people like him prove that status is only a construct, and most humans are just talking animals.
Yoon-young finds Yi Tan still on his knees and tells him to get up, but he whines that it’s all over. She angrily reminds him of his promise to make her queen, which is why she became Prime Minister Kim’s concubine. She asks if he’s going to let them take his kingdom from him, and urges him to show them what happens when someone takes what’s his.
His voice hardens as he growls, “Prince Yeoning. All of this is his fault. He ruined me.”
Yi Geum finds a document when he wakes and demands to know who left it in his room. Jo-hong says that a maid gave it to her to pass to him. It’s secret information about Yi Tan, including information on his death ledger, which we know the king had delivered to Yi Geum.
King Sukjong tells Yi Hwan that he wants to make Yi Geum the next king, but he wants Yi Hwan’s opinion first. Yi Hwan asks for a few days to think, since the Sorons who have supported him will resist, and he wants to persuade them to help Yi Geum instead.
Moon-soo catches Yi Geum on his way to the Saheonbu and asks if retracting his testimony was someone else’s idea, unwilling to believe that Yi Geum would betray Jung-seok. Yeo-ji says that Jung-seok still trusts Yi Geum, so Yi Geum says that there may still be something they can do.
Inside, Jung-seok ignores Byung-joo’s opening question and asks Yi Geum if Minister Min made him retract his testimony. Yi Geum mentions the day Jung-seok approached him about arresting Yi Tan, but he had no evidence on the murders. He claims that Jung-seok said he wanted to find Yi Tan’s death ledger.
Shocked, Jung-seok stammers that he never said that. But Yi Geum continues, looking directly into Jung-seok’s eyes and asking if he still believes the death ledger exists. He’s counting on Jung-seok trusting him enough to follow his lead, and it works — Jung-seok says that he still believes it.
Meanwhile, Yi Geum’s servant takes Moon-soo, Yeo-ji, Ah-bong, and Jang-dal to Yi Geum’s summer house, only one of about a dozen homes Yi Geum owns in Hanyang, and the guys’ jaws drop. Moon-soo asks how many houses Yi Geum owns total, and the servant says that Yi Geum doesn’t know exactly, since he’s not that interested in his wealth. Daaamn.
Yi Geum joins them later, and they study the secret information on Yi Tan to figure out where his death ledger could be hidden. Yi Geum says that as a Buddhist, Yi Tan would be scared and want to be forgiven of his crimes, so he probably hides the death ledger in Yongwonsa Temple.
After the guys leave, Yi Geum gives his servant a letter to take to Yi Hwan and asks him to tell Yi Hwan to be very careful until Yi Tan leaves for Qing, as he’s extremely dangerous. He goes inside where Yeo-ji is still working and says that if she’s afraid to walk home in the dark, he’ll escort her. But she says she’s not scared of the dark, and ha, Yi Geum looks disappointed.
She says she’s studying the terrain around the temple in case she needs to fight, since Yi Tan will have left some of his men to guard it. Yi Geum asks what she can do, and she says casually that she’s the best in the Saheonbu in martial arts and investigative skills.
Yi Geum accuses her of bragging and asks if she’s aware she’s a woman. She just mentions his new brotherly relationship with Moon-soo, and asks what her job is as maknae. She even offers to call him “hyung-nim,” since he probably doesn’t want to treat her as a little sister because that makes people uncomfortable. Yi Geum asks why, but she doesn’t know, and Yi Geum is all Really? You REALLY don’t know?? LOL
Yi Geum’s servant delivers the message to Yi Hwan, and Yi Hwan says that he wants to tell Yi Geum something face-to-face.
But it’s Yi Tan who stops by Yi Geum’s house on his way out of the country, smirking that he came to say goodbye since it’s Yi Geum’s fault he’s leaving. He asks if Yi Geum thinks he’s won, but Yi Geum says that he wasn’t competing in the first place. Yi Tan says it’s not a competition but a dirty fight, because dirty fights have no rules. He snarls, “My fights only end when I win, so you’d better wait for me.”
Yeo-ji gets a friend to let her visit Jung-seok in jail. She tells him that as he suspected, Yi Geum was implying that he knows where Yi Tan’s death ledger is hidden, and that they’re going to the temple to retrieve it tonight.
Jo-hong tells Yi Geum that she saw the storyteller talking to the leader of the homeless gang. Yi Geum realizes that none of the homeless gang were at the gibang the night he invited the whole town, which is strange, as he was offering free drinks and food.
He finds Dal-moon and asks why there weren’t any homeless people at his party, then answers his own question — their leader forbade it. He asks Dal-moon if he’s the one who spread the rumors about him, guessing that Dal-moon is backed by someone very powerful and very dirty, and Dal-moon says he doesn’t care so long as his family is fed.
Yi Geum asks if it’s Minister Min, saying that an innocent man could get hurt, but Dal-moon doesn’t care about anyone but his own people. Yi Geum offers Dal-moon everything he owns for his help, but Dal-moon says that what he needs is power, the kind of power that Yi Geum will never have, to keep his people safe.
Yi Geum is incredulous, then he wonders why he expects a homeless man to have a conscience. He gives up, but Dal-moon tells him that he doesn’t have much time, and should hurry to the Anguk area, where Yi Hwan lives. He offers Yi Geum one piece of information — that Yi Tan is still in Hanyang, and that he may be about to harm Yi Hwan.
Yi Hwan leaves his home to visit Yi Geum, deciding to give his servants a break and just walk. Yi Geum rides as fast as he can to Yi Hwan’s house, leaving the team waiting for him at the temple. Yeo-ji decides to wait for another half hour, then go in without him.
A guard at the jail lets Jung-seok out to stretch his legs, and while he’s walking around, he accidentally overhears someone tell Byung-joo that there’s a letter from Minister Min on his desk. Jung-seok makes it there first, and when Byung-joo arrives, Jung-seok holds up the letter and asks, “This is what you were planning?”
The letter is proof that Byung-joo helped Minister Min frame him for bribery. Byung-joo tries to deny it, but Jung-seok says it’s over for him and for Minister Min, shoving him aside and leaving with the letter. But Byung-joo manages to grab a weapon and knock Jung-seok out, then grows terrified when he realized that he hit Jung-seok too hard.
Yi Tan intercepts Yi Hwan, claiming that he forgot to say goodbye. He quickly grabs Yi Hwan and stabs him in the neck, and whispers that he’s dying because of Yi Geum. Yi Tan walks away singing Buddhist chants, leaving Yi Hwan bleeding in the road.
Yeo-ji ransacks the temple but she can’t find the death ledger. She and Moon-soo see a light in another building and decide to look there. They ignore the monks and search the room, and when Yeo-ji finds a familiar-looking box, she opens it gingerly… but it’s empty.
Yi Geum finds Yi Hwan, still alive but only barely. He cradles Yi Hwan in his arms, and Yi Hwan gasps, “Hyung-nim, it’s you. The kingdom’s…” He dies, and Yi Geum howls in grief and denial.
Word gets back to the king about Yi Hwan’s murder, and he roars a demand for answers, then suffers a collapse. Minister Min is also told the news, but for some reason, the doctor has ruled that there’s no explanation for Yi Hwan’s death.
At the Saheonbu, Byung-joo tells the other inspectors that Jung-seok tried to escape, attempted to climb the wall, and fell to his death. He says he sent Jung-seok’s body to his family, and when Yeo-ji and the guys arrive back at Jung-seok’s home, they find Jung-seok’s wife and son sobbing over a shrouded figure.
Moon-soo pulls the covering aside, and sure enough, it’s Jung-seok. What on earth is happening right now?? Ah-bong insists that Jung-seok wouldn’t have tried to escape, not when he was waiting for them to find the death ledger, and Jang-dal says that someone must have killed him.
A flashback shows that Yi Tan told Yoon-young that he was planning to kill Yi Hwan, for trying to take his throne and to punish Yi Geum, so he got his death ledger back from the temple monks in order to add Yi Hwan to it. He’d given it to Yoon-young for safekeeping, and she waits for him the following morning, crooning to Yi Hwan’s spirit not to become a vengeful ghost.
At the palace, Queen Inwon asks Crown Prince Yoon about the king’s condition and learns that he can’t speak. Suddenly, loud cries of, “Your Majesty! Your Majesty!!” ring out, heralding King Sukjong’s death. Queen Inwon rushes to her husband’s side, but Crown Prince Yoon freezes, unable to move.
Alone and grieving, Yi Geum wanders the streets, and he thinks about how his father asked him to show the world who he can be before he died. He sinks to his knees in the driving rain, then screams.
That was… a lot of death to process. Three characters in one night. Show, was that really necessary?? Obviously the show is taking some dramatic license — the real Yi Hwan did die at a very young age, but in reality he died about nine months before King Sukjong himself passed away. Still, I approve of this slight historical alteration, as it gives Yi Geum a pretty massive reason to want to go after Yi Tan, when before he was only sort of interested in the political maneuverings, and while he didn’t condone murder, he also wasn’t ready to stick his own neck out to make sure Yi Tan was punished. But now he’s going to be a force, and I wouldn’t want to be Yi Tan when Yi Geum decides to make catching and punishing him his life goal. I haven’t quite processed that Jung-seok is truly dead, even though we saw the body (and the credits thank him for his cameo). But I can also see the necessity of removing his character so that Yi Geum will be obligated to step up, because with Jung-seok around, Yi Geum could have just sit back and let him do the hard work.
I’m so sad that King Sukjong died so early, because even though he admitted making terrible mistakes as king, he wasn’t a bad man. It’s obvious he loved his sons and saw them for the people they are, and judged them on their merit and not their mothers’ birth statuses. And he wanted to make Yi Geum king because, regardless of his status, he’s the smartest of the three, and King Sukjong knew that Yi Geum would make different, and hopefully better, choices as king. He wanted what’s best for his kingdom and his people, even if it means elevating his lowliest son and causes a rift in the government, and he regretted that he was going to die and leave his children with this mess. Sadly, he left then in an even worse situation since he didn’t get the chance to appoint a new crown prince, and now Crown Prince Yoon will have to deal with everyone trying to depose him.
Yi Geum’s biggest obstacle, as I mentioned before, is his own low self-esteem. It’s just as dangerous as Yi Tan’s unrealistically high self-esteem, because it can get Yi Geum into a lot of trouble if he sees himself as so useless that all he’s good for is doing what he’s told (even if it’s wrong), or taking himself out of the picture altogether. His former cheeky bravado now seems like nothing more than a cover for his complete lack of self-worth, and I want to see something happen where he’s forced to get a damn spine, stand up for himself, and realize that not only does he have a lot to offer, but he’s exactly what the country needs to get out from under the iron control of the Norons.
Of course, as soon as I complained about the editing in this drama, this episode got much better. I even thought the scene where three events were spliced together (Yi Tan stabbing Yi Hwan, Jung-seok confronting Byung-joo, and Yeo-ji and Moon-soo at the temple) was edited really well — the rapid-fire switching from scene to scene created a lot of really cool tension, but wasn’t confusing at all. And this episode didn’t contain any unnecessary foreshadowing of only slightly dramatic reveals, which was my main complaint, so the whole thing felt much more cohesive and coherent. Now if we can just get them to turn the lights up a bit, I can sit back and enjoy the actual story without getting a headache from all the squinting I’m doing!
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