Haechi: Episodes 11-12
Our formerly-timid prince has spent the last year building up his confidence and coming up with a plan, and it’s time for him to put those plans into action. The problem is that he has these friends who won’t leave him alone to enact his dangerous scheme, and insist on putting themselves in harm’s way. Confidence alone won’t get him what he wants — he’s going to need to let his friends help him if he wants his plans to be successful, now and in the future.
EPISODE 11: “Wavering alliance”
Queen Inwon is furious when she learns that Queen Seonui is considering adopting Yi Tan as King Kyungjong’s adopted son and heir. She vows that she’ll do whatever it takes to prevent it, even if it kills her, and Yoon-young, Yi Tan’s concubine, barely hides her sneer.
Meanwhile, Yi Geum offers himself to Minister Min as the Norons’ crown prince candidate. He says that despite his mother’s low birth, he’s still a prince, and that he decided to take Minister Min’s advice to dream of being king and gain power for himself.
Yi Tan is still enjoying the banquet set out by King Kyungjong for the Qing envoy, and he gets drunk and performs a fan dance while King Kyungjong struggles to keep smiling. When Yi Geum joins the banquet, King Kyungjong looks even more disappointed.
Moon-soo finds the man who was paid to save him a seat at the civil service exam, and Yeo-ji handles his two big bodyguards while Moon-soo demands to know who hired him. The man says he doesn’t know who paid him, only that they paid four times the normal rate to save Moon-soo a seat and do a background check on him.
Ah-bong runs over yelling that the list of people who passed is about to be posted. Moon-soo abandons his questioning, sure that this time he finally passed (and LOL, he poses dramatically, declaring that this test is the results of his “blood, sweat, and tears.” BRB DYING).
He runs to plaster himself in front of the test results as his friends fight back everyone else, determined to see the results first. He takes a deep breath, turns around… but he didn’t get the highest score. He says that’s fine, it’s fine, his name will be next… but nope.
They keep looking, but Moon-soo’s name isn’t on the list. He’s devastated to realize that he failed again.
The inspector who’s been watching Moon-soo recently, Yoon-hyuk, reports the cheating at the civil service test to his superior. His boss says that everyone cheats, but Yoon-hyuk says that this time there’s evidence that a government official was involved. But he has no evidence, so his boss tells him to close the case.
At the Saheonbu, Byung-joo finds the corruption case that Yi Geum requested and demands to know who closed it. It’s the same idiot who just closed the cheating case, and Byung-joo grabs him by the collar, furious that he closed the corruption case without approval.
Next Byung-joo goes to Yi Geum, angry because Yi Geum led him to believe the corruption case wasn’t important. But it turns out that there’s another prince, Prince Ahn-gye, whom Minister Min wanted as his next candidate for crown prince. Prince Ahn-gye is young, only a teenager, but he apparently did something that made him scared enough to try to leave town.
Yi Geum smirks that there are perks to working in the boring Office of Royal Genealogy, and Byung-joo says that Minister Min will be furious when he finds out Yi Geum was involved in the investigation. Yi Geum just says that of course Byung-joo will protect him, because he knows that Byung-joo helped the prisoner who escaped.
Dal-moon kicks all of the customers out of a gibang except the Norons, who he gathers in the courtyard. The Norons complain about Yi Tan coming back and causing problems, at the same time as Prince Ahn-gye is about to be eliminated, and they worry that they can’t trust Minister Min to lead them.
Minister Min unexpectedly joins them, and when Prime Minister Kim makes a fuss about his good time being interrupted, Minister Min tells him to go home. Prime Minister Kim accuses Minister Min of trying to exclude him, and Minister Min says that he should go ask his concubine, Yoon-young, what she’s really planning with Yi Tan.
At the palace, the Soron ministers remind King Kyungjong how Yi Tan tried to take the throne while he was crown prince. He says he’ll never forget, but since he has no power on his own, he’ll adopt anyone who has the power to fight against the Norons on King Kyungjong’s behalf.
Predictably, Minister Min is angry when he realizes that his new candidate for crown prince is about to be stripped of his rank. One of his followers wonders who they can back that’s strong enough to stand against Yi Tan, and Minister Min sighs that there’s still Yi Geum. But the other ministers don’t believe that the nobles will be willing to bow to a peasant’s son.
Minister Min wonders who could have made the complaint that led to the corruption investigation,then it hits him — Yi Geum. He finds Dal-moon and tells him to get any information he can on Yi Tan and Yi Geum. Dal-moon understands why he wants to know about Yi Tan, but he asks why Yi Geum, who has no power. Minister Min just says that Yi Geum may turn out to be even more dangerous than Yi Tan.
Yi Geum meets secretly with his old servant Ja-dong, who brings him an answer sheet from the civil service exam and says that he also found a witness. Yi Geum tells him that Yi Tan is back and after the throne with the king and queen’s support, but that he’ll actually be helping Yi Geum with his plans by shaking up the Norons.
Moon-soo and Yeo-ji are in seriously bad moods, Moon-soo banging his head on the house and Yeo-ji tapping a poker in rhythm. Suddenly they stop and run off in opposite directions. Yeo-ji goes to her boss at the kitchen and says she has something to tell him, but we don’t hear what it is.
Yoon-hyuk talks to a bookstore owner who gives him a book that he was told to sell. The books have hidden messages inside for Yoon-hyuk regarding the civil service exam, but the messages aren’t much use as evidence without knowing their source.
Some guards run past, and Yoon-hyuk stops someone who says that someone is throwing a fit outside the office where they keep the civil service answer sheets. It’s Moon-soo, of course, who’s demanding to see the answer sheets of those who passed. He argues that he studied thoroughly and did well, so if he failed, then someone cheated.
He parks his butt in the dirt, refusing to move until he’s allowed to see the tests. When the guards try to move him, he growls that if they try, they’ll really see him angry. Yoon-hyuk introduces himself to Moon-soo, and Ja-dong sees them talking and reports to Yi Geum that Yoon-hyuk seemed to know Moon-soo.
He thinks that Yi Geum should talk to Moon-soo and Yeo-ji and maybe they can help him, but Yi Geum refuses, saying that his plans are very dangerous. He tells Ja-dong that Moon-soo wasn’t able to pass the exam yet again, but that he’ll get another chance, just like Yi Geum himself got another chance “thanks to her.” But until then, he says he needs to work on his own.
Yeo-ji quits her job, having figured out that she was being paid well (even though she’s a terrible cook) because Yi Geum has been giving her boss the money to keep her employed. It’s confirmed when she catches Jo-hong talking to her boss about it, and the two women sit to have a drink.
Yeo-ji isn’t shocked when Jo-hong says that she used to be an alcohol seller. Jo-hong starts to say that now she gets why Yi Geum likes Yeo-ji, but she stops mid-sentence and just has another drink. Yeo-ji asks if Yi Geum is also helping Moon-soo, and Jo-hong says she doesn’t know, but it would be just like him.
Yeo-ji asks if Yi Geum is trying to assuage his guilt for betraying them. Jo-hong says that she could see it that way, or she could try to understand his sincerity, and tells her to use her inspector skills to figure it out herself.
Before she goes, Jo-hong tells Yeo-ji that she thinks Yi Geum is planning something so dangerous, it might cost him his life. She says there’s not much she can do, but Yeo-ji and Moon-soo might be able to help.
Later, Jo-hong tells Yi Geum that he should talk to Yeo-ji and clear up their misunderstanding, but he says that seeing each other would only hurt them more. Jo-hong says that he should forget Yeo-ji, but Yi Geum says softly that as much as he wants to, he can’t stop thinking about her.
Yi Tan takes the Qing envoy hunting, buttering him up to his face that he could get a tiger but laughing at him behind his back. He gives the envoy a gun, which the envoy isn’t familiar with, so when he hesitates to shoot at a deer, Yi Tan tries to grab the gun back and they end up firing into the air.
The envoy’s horse rears, and he falls to the ground under its hooves. Yi Geum comes from nowhere to grab the horse’s reins just before it tramples the envoy. He jumps down and helps up the envoy, then sends for a doctor.
The envoy asks who he is, and Yi Tan tries to insert himself into their conversation (HA, the look on his face). Yi Geum introduces himself as Prince Yeoning, King Sukjong’s second son, impressing the envoy by speaking fluently in his language.
As Yi Geum is leaving, Yi Tan runs over to ask what he’s up to and when he learned Chinese. He demands to know what Yi Geum said to the envoy, and Yi Geum says that Yi Tan must be really dumb to have lived in Qing for a year and still not know the language, since he only learned it last night, ha.
Yi Tan asks again why Yi Geum is interfering, and Yi Geum says calmly, “For the throne. What if I want to be king, like you?” Yi Tan scoffs that Yi Geum has no supporters, but Yi Geum says he’ll attract the real owners of the country. Yi Tan asks how he intends to do that, but Yi Geum just thinks to himself, “First, I’ll get rid of you.”
At that exact moment, Minister Min is sending orders to the Saheonbu to focus on investigating Yi Tan, and to unearth everything he’s done down to the smallest infraction. Even Yoon-young’s room at Chief Inspector Lee’s home is searched, and Yoon-young is the one who alerts Yi Tan to Minister Min’s investigation once he returns home. She says they need to pressure the king to adopt him quickly, but Yi Tan can hardly control his fury.
Yi Geum tells his servant Ja-dong that he provoked Yi Tan, but that they’ll have to take more risks to make Yi Tan do as they want. To that end, he sends send a message to Byung-joo that he’ll hand over his escaped prisoner tonight.
Dal-moon delivers the prisoner to Yi Geum and asks what’s going on. Yi Geum guesses that Minister Min told Dal-moon to collect information on him, and says that he hopes one day they’re working on the same side. He takes the prisoner to Byung-joo, who is surprised the man is still alive, so Yi Geum is all I can kill him if you want…
He takes Byung-joo’s sword and raises it to do exactly that, but an arrow strikes him in the arm. Yi Geum stays to distract the attackers while Byung-joo runs with the prisoner. In the middle of the fight, Yi Geum asks the attackers where Yi Tan is, but Yi Tan has followed Byung-joo and takes the prisoner from him.
Yi Geum keeps fighting, and before long, Yeo-ji appears from the darkness. She tells Yi Geum to fight first, talk later, and they proceed to take on the attackers together. Eventually the attackers run off, and Yi Geum stops Yeo-ji from going after them, unwilling to let her put herself in danger for him.
He asks Yeo-ji why she’s here, and she admits that she followed him because she wanted to stop hating him and learn the truth. She says this was the best way she could think to learn more about him, and Yi Geum just gapes at her, stunned.
He clams up wen she asks his plans, but she says that she could tell he knew he was being followed by Yi Tan’s men. She asks why Yi Geum let Byung-joo take the prisoner knowing that Yi Tan was going to try to kidnap him.
She wants to know if Yi Geum is planning something to make right what happened a year ago. She says she needs to know if she was wrong about him, and if they’re actually on the same side.
In the morning, Dal-moon hears through the grapevine that Yi Geum was overpowered by Yi Tan’s men, but Dal-moon knows Yi Geum enough to know that if he lost the prisoner, he did it on purpose. His friend Geon-tae asks why he’d do something that benefits Yi Tan, and Dal-moon says that anything that helps Yi Tan, hurts the Norons and Minister Min.
Moon-soo confronts inspector Yoon-hyuk about the fact that his investigation into the civil service exam was blocked by his superiors. At their first meeting, Yoon-hyuk had told Moon-soo that he’d been trying to reveal irregularities in the exam, and had apologized for not being able to do that.
His genuine regret that the Saheonbu wasn’t as honest as it should be had reminded Moon-soo of Jung-seok, so he asks Yoon-hyuk if he’s willing to pursue justice like Jung-seok was. He wants to know if Yoon-hyuk can be a true Haechi and reveal the truth if Moon-soo risks his life to make this go public, forcing the Saheonbu to step in.
Yeo-ji arrives home to find Ah-bong and Jang-dal upset, as Moon-soo has decided to protest the corruption of the exams to the king. He could be killed if something goes wrong, but he tells Yeo-ji that if this works and the king approves it, even those in charge of the Saheonbu can’t oppose it.
He promises to come back alive, and turns to go. Yeo-ji asks if the Saheonbu inspector who’s helping him is named Yoon-hyuk, because there’s something he needs to know before he goes — what he’s doing, how it began, and who’s behind it.
Minister Min learns that Yi Tan has the prisoner who helped the others escape and guesses that he’ll visit the Norons soon. He calls together the Noron ministers, who complain while they’re waiting that Minister Min keeps switching princes and isn’t the boss of them. They’re stunned when Yi Tan joins them, and when Minister Min comes out to invite the Norons in, Yi Tan gloats that he has something on them.
Minister Min had gotten the Saheonbu to end the investigation into Yi Tan just that morning, but King Kyungjong can’t muster up enough energy to care. The Sorons are worried about what’s going on with his strange behavior lately, as they head out on a procession through the city.
Moon-soo plants himself in the middle of the road, banging a pot and yelling that he has something to say to the king. He struggles when the king’s guards try to move him, and keeps screaming that he needs to talk to the king as they beat him.
He’s pretty badly hurt by the time Yi Geum sees what’s happening and stops the guards. When he sees Yi Geum, Moon-soo gasps that Yeo-ji was right. Yi Geum forbids anyone to harm Moon-soo, but a guard says that Yi Geum has no authority to protect a protester.
A voice calls out, “But!” and everyone bows to see King Kyungjong watching the proceedings. King Kyungjong continues, “What if I decide to get involved? What if I decide to listen to what that man has to say? What if I want him to tell me about the long-time irregularities of this country?” Moon-soo looks up at his king, tears of gratitude streaming down his face.
Yi Tan speaks with Minister Min in private and says that if Minister Min makes him king, he’ll kill the prisoner and make sure nothing he knows ever gets out. Minister Min growls that the Norons won’t fall apart over something so small. Yi Tan chuckles that they can just get rid of anyone who’s a threat, but he says that Minister Min will end up making a fool of himself.
He tells Minister Min that he heard the Norons talking about him behind his back. He says that if Minister Min doesn’t want to end up a powerless old man, he’ll convince the Norons to make him king. “If you do,” he snarls, “I’ll at least let you live.”
Chief Inspector Lee interrupts Yi Tan’s maniacal laughter to tell Minister Min that there’s a situation at the Saheonbu. The Norons are there, upset that the king has ordered an investigation into Moon-soo’s allegations that the Norons cheated on the civil service exam. Yoon-hyuk is preventing them from going inside, insisting that they’ll handle this by the law.
King Kyungjong talks privately to Yi Geum, who says he kept his promise — the Norons will soon begin to fall apart.
I’m happy that this is a drama where a lot happens, because that always drives the plot forward nicely and keeps me from being bored. But it would be really excellent if events were explained better. I still have no earthly idea what “corruption in the royal family” Yi Geum reported, or why Minister Min apparently told the Saheonbu to drop everything and concentrate on that case, only to almost immediately order them to close the case. I know that he did those things because someone said he did, but I don’t understand why. I don’t know why the prisoner is so dangerous. I don’t know who this Prince Ahn-gye kid is, why Minister Min decided to make him crown prince, or what he was caught doing. So I thank the show for giving us a lot of action and plot movement, but I wouldn’t mind if it slowed down every now and then and explained the reasons behind some of the events, especially the political stuff.
While I feel like this drama would be just fine without a loveline, I don’t hate the growing romance between Yi Geum and Yeo-ji. That may have something to do with the fact that I think Go Ara is doing a great job with this role, but I think that mostly, I just like the idea that, even though they didn’t spend much time together before and they barely know each other, something about Yeo-ji just got under Yi Geum’s skin and he can’t forget her. Sometimes there’s no reason for a person to have feelings for another person, it just is, and that’s what I like about their connection.
I also like that it sort of imperfectly mirrors Yi Geum’s father and mother — a man of royal blood falling in love with a peasant woman. That may also be one reason Yi Geum is holding himself back from Yeo-ji, because he’s trying to make himself crown prince so that he can do some of the things that need doing, but also because he wouldn’t want to bring a child in the world who would face the social challenges he’s faced. At this point I don’t see Yi Geum making Yeo-ji his queen or even his concubine, much less her accepting that sort of role, so I don’t expect their love story to have a happy ending. But I wouldn’t mind seeing them just love each other for a while, and help each other through a difficult time, before they have to part.
Despite my complaints (seriously, hire a better lighting director!), I do think that the characters are the best part of the show. I love how they keep coming into each other’s lives then parting, only to meet up again later. I’m looking forward to Yi Geum getting to redeem himself to his old friends, even though he doesn’t really want them involved in his dangerous plans, because they’ve all just had a miserable year and they need to reconcile and be friends again. And I think I’m going to like this guy Yoon-hyuk, whose dedication to justice aligns very well with what the group was trying to do last year, and he could be a very strong ally on the inside. Let’s get the group back together soon!
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