Haechi: Episodes 13-14
You can tell a lot about a person by the people the associate with, and when your goal is to become king, the people around you are more important than anything. No matter how strong a person thinks they are, they can’t do everything alone, and that’s where our wayward prince’s friends come in. Lucky for him, they are done letting him play the loner.
EPISODE 13: “The art of propaganda”
After their father and Yi Hwan were killed, King Kyungjong had told Yi Geum not to feel guilty, and that he blamed himself. Yi Geum had suggested that they punish those who are actually guilty, and change the world. Now, when Yi Geum tells him that the Norons should soon begin to fall apart, King Kyungjong marvels that Yi Geum actually did it and asks when it’s time for him to take action.
Hyuk, Saheonbu inspector and Moon-soo’s new friend (and whose name I previously got wrong, sorry!), bars the Norons from getting in to see the civil service exam answer sheets. Hyuk orders four of them taken to be interrogated, and Minister Min wonders to himself if Yi Geum is trying to start a war.
He and the remaining Noron ministers run into Yi Geum, who notes with amusement that Minister Min seems awfully emotional these days. He says he’s curious to see how much damage the Norons incur from the rumors that they and their children cheated on the civil service exams, and Minister Min asks if Yi Geum planned this.
Yi Geum reminds him that he once said that to win, you have to plant fear in the mind of your opponent, and he asks if Minister Min is starting to feel scared. Minister Min fumes, and Yi Geum says that he’s planning to take some of that power that Minister Min mentioned.
Moon-soo is sentenced to flogging for the scene he made during the king’s procession. He doesn’t object, but Jang-dal and Ah-bong beg to be allowed to take some of his beatings, and when the guard raises his arm to hit them, Yeo-ji stops him with her own strength.
She says that those who plead to the king aren’t supposed to be treated harshly, but the guard says that he can’t let Moon-soo go without the king’s orders. Yi Geum arrives with those orders just in time, and Moon-soo is released after only a few beatings.
Despite being weak and in pain, Moon-soo looks so happy to see Yi Geum, and he even jokes that Yi Geum could have come a bit sooner and saved his cute butt ten lashings. They smile at each other with tears in their eyes… then Yeo-ji whacks Moon-soo in the shoulder for not thanking Yi Geum properly.
She formally apologizes for Moon-soo whining about his butt, and she and Moon-soo get into an argument about whether his butt was the point, until Yi Geum starts laughing about how many times they’ve said “butt.” He says that he feels like he can be himself around them again, awww.
Later, the group convenes at Jung-seok’s house so that Yi Geum can tell them that he’s found evidence of corruption surrounding the civil service exam. Moon-soo is surprised when Yi Geum says he started investigating as a way of helping him, and he’d learned that things like saving spots where it’s easier to cheat, substitution, and cheat sheets are rampant these days.
But that’s just what the poorer test-takers do — the sons of Noron nobles can buy the answers ahead of time, or can pay the people who grade the tests to put their names on top-scoring tests. Moon-soo is furious to realize that he could have passed years ago if not for all the cheating.
Yi Geum says that this is all indicative of how corrupt the country has become, and that it explains how the Norons have taken over. Moon-soo goes all shy at the thought that Yi Geum did all this to help him, and he apologizes for how he’s acted towards Yi Geum. Jang-dal suggests a drink to celebrate that they’re all back together, but Yi Geum says he has work to do.
When Yeo-ji asks, he snaps that she doesn’t need to know, but then he softens and corrects himself that she shouldn’t know. He says they can celebrate their reunion when things are better, leaving his friends to wonder what dangerous thing he’s involved in.
Yi Geum goes home and talks to his servant Ja-dong, who recommends that he get help with his plans and not try to do it all alone. But Yi Geum says that Moon-soo and Yeo-ji shouldn’t be put in danger because of him again, unaware that Yeo-ji followed him and is listening in.
Byung-joo tries to distract Hyuk from his investigation into the civil service exam cheating by telling him darkly that there was another inspector just like Hyuk who was foolish enough to go where he wasn’t welcome, and met a bad end. Hyuk just says he’s too busy to listen to random stories and continues his work.
King Kyungjong learns that the Saheonbu investigation of the exam is going well, and just as he asks if the Norons have made any moves, Minister Min shows up with his cronies. Minister Min and the king sit down to talk, and King Kyungjong admits that he may be scared to meet with Minister Min, as he still feels uncomfortable on the throne.
Minister Min says there’s nowhere in the country free from Noron influence, but King Kyungjong snaps that that’s the whole problem. Chuckling, Minister Min asks when King Kyungjong began to trust Yi Geum so much, pointing out that King Kyungjong’s mother was killed because Yi Geum’s mother told on her. He says that Yi Geum has dark motives, and King Kyungjong starts to look unsure.
In the queen’s palace, Queen Seonui tells Yoon-young that they can’t discuss the successor right now, and Yoon-young asks angrily what that has to do with Yi Tan’s potential adoption. But she reins in her temper and says sweetly that this is the perfect time to choose the successor they want.
She urges Queen Seonui to stop sitting around in the background and get involved in politics. Queen Inwon hears of this through a court lady, and she orders her lady to find out who this woman is who’s influencing the queen.
The king tells Yi Geum what Minister Min said about there being nowhere free of Noron influence, which Yi Geum reads as a declaration that the Norons won’t back down. He promises to find out what they’re up to, but he’s interrupted by Yi Tan, who barges in to demand to know why the king is with Yi Geum. King Kyungjong just says he’s too busy to talk and for Yi Tan to come back another time.
Minister Min talks to the Chief Censor (head of the Saganwon, one of the three government offices along with the Saheonbu and the Office of Special Advisors/Hongmungwon), who agrees that the investigation targets Norons. Minister Min tells him to carry out the duties of his office and protest the unfair investigation to the king.
The Chief Censor argues to the king that this investigation is abuse of power, but King Kyungjong says that it’s too much of a coincidence how many sons of powerful Norons have passed the exam. The Saganwon officials protest that the Saheonbu has too much power, and that they’re singling out the Norons just because of who their fathers are.
Yeo-ji takes Moon-soo to hear the storyteller, who’s ranting that there’s always been cheating at the civil service exams, so clearly the king is only making a big deal of it now to persecute the Norons. They’re upset that the crowd agrees with him, so they go looking for Yi Geum.
It turns out that Dal-moon paid the storyteller (on Minister Min’s behalf) to sway the crowd. Yi Geum catches him manipulating public opinion and says that he’s truly Minister Min’s dog, and Dal-moon actually looks upset. Yi Geum tells Dal-moon that he may see this as a high-class issue that’s none of his business, but he believes that soon, the nobles who gain power by cheating on the test will start tyrannizing the lower class.
Dal-moon asks if Yi Geum is threatening him, and Yi Geum says he won’t ask Dal-moon to be on his side when he’s powerless. But he says that Dal-moon should be on the people’s side and stop betraying those who are no different than him. Dal-moon listens quietly, then asks, “Are you trying to become the king? That will be impossible.”
He says that even if Yi Geum got lucky and became a candidate, he’s more likely to be assassinated than be the king. And even if he does become king, none of the offices that supposedly belong to the king are actually controlled by him.
He tells Yi Geum to just keep himself safe, but Yi Geum asks what Dal-moon would do if he did become king… “Everyone, including you, keep saying that I won’t be able to do it. But what if I become the most respected king of Joseon?”
Yeo-ji and Moon-soo report to Yi Geum about the storyteller, and he muses that the Norons have had the upper hand for a hundred years. They worry that the case will get buried if the people think it’s unfair, but Yeo-ji thinks they might be able to turn this around with the help of the people who’ve been disadvantaged by the cheating.
She’s thinking about the Sorons, the Namins, and even Norons who don’t come from powerful families. She thinks they could organize a protest among all those in Hanyang preparing for the exam, because they’re probably as upset as Moon-soo.
Yi Geum says it’s a great idea, but he tells the others to stay out of it and he’ll take care of it himself. Yeo-ji tells him to stop beating around the bush and admit that it’s because of her, and the guys don’t give Yi Geum a choice — they’re in this together.
Moon-soo remembers how much fun they had a year ago when Yi Geum was the king in their game, and he says that now, Yi Geum might be a king for real. But Yeo-ji says he can’t do it on his own, so they’ll be beside him until the end. They refuse to let Yi Geum decline their offer, and at their show of loyalty, Yi Geum looks so touched he could cry.
Soon the entire crew are in Yi Geum’s rooms dressed in his old clothing, and he’s trying to teach Yeo-ji, Jang-dal, and Ah-bong how to act like nobles. They decide there are too many rules involved in being a noble, and Moon-soo says haughtily that now they understand his plight, ha.
Moon-soo takes them to Banchon, the village near Sungkyunkwan where most of the city’s scholars live. They split up and get to work riling up the scholars about the unfair exam practices, and soon the scholars are staging a protest. Even the Noron students protest, which enrages Minister Min.
The fathers of the unfairly-failed students gather at the Saheonbu to complain, and Hyuk cheerfully (well, for him) offers to continue doing his best at his investigation into the cheating (LOL, Byung-joo’s face). Yi Geum finds Minister Min where he’s watching the angry mob, and he tells him that there are even a lot of Norons who are upset.
Minister Min admits that he took Yi Geum too lightly, but he says this won’t make Yi Geum king, and he’ll come to regret it. Yi Geum says confidently that that may be true, but he’ll regret it as a king, and he’ll enjoy looking down at Minister Min from the throne.
All this time, Chief Inspector Lee has been watching Yi Geum, as King Sukjong had told him before he died that he wanted to make Yi Geum king. He’s also unhappy about the way Minister Min has been dismissing him, so he sets about convincing the Noron leader that if they back Yi Geum as the next king, they can also loosen Minister Min’s iron control of the Noron party.
Yoon-young finds Yi Tan standing over the dead body of the prisoner he kidnapped from Byung-joo. He says that the Norons aren’t interested in the prisoner now that they’re busy with the exam investigation, so he killed him. She starts to fuss at him for killing someone in his own house, but he frightens her when he yells at her while gripping his still-bloody sword in a shaking fist.
She tries to calm him down by saying soothingly that he’s doing a great job supporting the king, but he screams at her to stop patronizing him. He sobs that Yi Geum will be king now, then suddenly calms down and tells Yoon-young to bring his death ledger, and that he’ll do things his way from now on.
Jo-hong surprises Yeo-ji with a set of nobleman’s clothing that she’s altered on Yi Geum’s request, after he noticed that his clothes were way too big for her. She makes fun of herself for being happy to make clothes for the woman that the man she likes, likes, and she’s surprised when Yeo-ji is so dense that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Yi Geum walks into the room while Yeo-ji has her top off, and both of them freeze, staring at each other. Finally Yeo-ji tosses a shirt over Yi Geum’s eyes and tells him to get out, and when she finally emerges in her new outfit, he apologizes. He’s incredulous when Yeo-ji says that although he’s a womanizer, he didn’t do it on purpose, and anyway they agreed to be brothers.
She’s heading off to drink with some Sungkyunkwan students and find out their plans, but Yi Geum stops her because her gat is on crooked. He steps close to show her how to wear it properly, but he loses his train of thought and ends up just gazing into her eyes.
He somehow manages to look away and tells her to tie it herself, then scurries away as fast as he can. When he’s far enough away, he rants to himself that he was only tying her gat, not undressing her, and that it’s only Yeo-ji. He nearly walks into a wall wondering if he’s lost his mind.
One of Minister Min’s servants, a creepy guy who seems to be mute, follows Yeo-ji as she leaves the house.
Lady Seo, Yi Geum’s wife, runs in while he’s giving Ja-dong a letter for King Kyungjong to ask excitedly if he’s really planning on becoming the next king. He’s alarmed that she found out, so he decides to see the king himself and sends Ja-dong to check on the Norons.
Chief Inspector Lee and Prime Minister Kim approach Queen Inwon to help them support Yi Geum, but she’s torn, unsure that Yi Geum is qualified to be king. They argue that King Kyungjong will never produce an heir, and the only other alternative is Yi Tan. Queen Inwon asks if it’s true that King Sukjong wished Yi Geum to become king, and Chief Inspector Lee swears it on his life.
It takes Queen Inwon’s presence for Chief Inspector Lee and Prime Minister Kim to be allowed into the king’s quarters so late at night, and the Chief Royal Secretary hurries to tell Minister Min that something is happening. King Kyungjong is startled by the suggestion that he make Yi Geum his successor, especially as it comes from Norons.
Yi Geum gallops to the palace, but an arrow knocks him from his horse and he finds himself facing several assassins. He’s able to make one of them drop his sword, which he picks up and uses to defend himself.
Meanwhile, Minister Min’s servant attacks Yeo-ji with a sickle right in the middle of the village, but after a few moments of grappling, she manages to grab the sickle from him and stab him in the back. But doesn’t seem to faze him as he stands and wrenches the weapon from his back.
Yeo-ji’s attacker slashes her arm badly, then he raises the sickle again, croaking at her to die. She can’t fight him off without the use of her arm, and he gets her back against a wall, the knife inches from her neck.
Yi Geum can only hold off his many attackers for so long, and eventually they knock the sword from his hand. But as they’re closing in to kill him, a figure in black leaps at the assassins and lands between them and Yi Geum.
He whirls and slashes, dispatching each of the assassins one by one until they’re all dead. Then he turns and levels his sword at Yi Geum’s throat, and Yi Geum peers up at him, almost as if he recognizes him. The man removes his mask, revealing that he’s Dal-moon.
I almost cheered out loud when Dal-moon came to Yi Geum’s rescue! I knew he was a good guy deep down, and that he’d come around eventually. And he must have some pretty intense secrets, because no regular homeless guy can fight like that. Yi Geum’s tentative friendship with Dal-moon is fascinating to me, because Dal-moon believes that he doesn’t need anyone and can survive on his own, until Yi Geum shows up and treats him with respect just for who he is and not what he can do for them. You can see Dal-moon fighting his growing admiration for Yi Geum, and Yi Geum isn’t even really trying to impress him, but he does anyway just by being himself. I can’t wait to see Dal-moon go from not caring about anything or anyone to being a loyal friend and strong supporter of Yi Geum, simply because Yi Geum treats him as an equal.
Have I mentioned how much I really like this new Hyuk guy? If we can’t have Jung-seok, then at least we have Hyuk, who has the same strong convictions and willingness to stand up for what’s right. But where Jung-seok would sometimes back down in order to keep the peace, I think that Hyuk will be more of a warrior who makes his opponents listen. Hopefully he distinguishes himself to Yi Geum and is able to help the team make Yi Geum king, and I’d love to see him get Byung-joo’s job as a reward.
This show relies heavily on politics, which isn’t usually my favorite thing (or second favorite, or third favorite…) but I’m really into it anyway because of the relationships between the characters. I love the little group of ex-Saheonbu inspectors and how they’ve basically adopted Moon-soo despite the fact that he’s annoying, and I love Yi Geum’s relationship with just about everyone. It made me so happy when he and Moon-soo reunited and smiled at each other, you could really see how much they care about each other. Thankfully they finally let him know that they won’t accept his “I’m doing this alone to protect you” excuse, and made it clear that, like it or not, they’re with him all the way.
Speaking of Yi Geum, I’m loving how much he’s changing and gaining confidence in himself. When we first met him, he truly believed that he was worthless and had nothing to offer the world. But then he went out on a limb to help Moon-soo, and discovered something that he may be able to do something about, and it’s given him the beginnings of a sense of self-worth. And in the process, he’s realizing that there’s not one person out there who has the drive and strength to change a broken system, so I can see him thinking, “Well fine, if nobody else is going to do it, I’ll just have to do it myself.” It’s an interesting case of “fake it ’til you make it,” where he’s gaining confidence in his abilities by trying to prove to others that he’s capable, even before he believes it himself.
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