Haechi: Episodes 15-16
Through no fault of his own, our prince is forced to push his bid to become crown prince, and failure to convince the king could mean his death. His chances are slim with nearly everyone against him, but luckily he’s talented at turning weaknesses into strengths. If, and it’s a big if, he can pull this off, it will only be the start of putting his plans into action.
EPISODE 15: “The beginning of the counterattack”
Dal-moon rescues Yi Geum by killing the assassins who are after him, then aims his sword at Yi Geum’s neck. He tells Yi Geum that Minister Min promised to protect his people, but Yi Geum got in the way of their deal. He says he didn’t want to get involved in politics, he only wanted help feeding his people.
Yi Geum advises him to kill him in one blow, or he’ll become Minister Min’s next target. Dal-moon draws back his sword… then lowers it. He scoffs at Yi Geum’s dream of becoming king and creating a different world, but he admits that he’d like to see Yi Geum make it happen. He clasps hands with Yi Geum, saying that they’ll be walking the same path from now on. Aw, yay!
Dal-moon leads Yi Geum to a secret room filled with maps and records of everything that happens in the city. He shows Yi Geum a document from the palace that says that Chief Inspector Lee and Prime Minister Kim are meeting with the king tonight to discuss him, and he can tell from Yi Geum’s shocked reaction that he knew nothing about it.
King Kyungjong is surprised that a pair of Noron officials are pushing him to make Yi Geum his successor. He asks if Yi Geum knows about this, and Chief Inspector Lee says that he met with Yi Geum’s father-in-law who confirmed that Yi Geum would support the king. But King Kyungjong still suspects that Yi Geum is plotting to take his throne from him.
Yi Geum sends Geon-tae to bring his friends to him, and it weirds Moon-soo out that both Geon-tae and Dal-moon seem to know him when he’s never met them. But things get very serious when Yi Geum tells his friends that the Norons are trying to make him the next crown prince, though he doesn’t know why or what else they may be planning.
The only thing they know for sure is that this goes against Minister Min’s plans, which indicates dissent among the Norons. They worry that if Chief Inspector Lee and Prime Minister Kim fail, they and Yi Geum will be charged with treason. Moon-soo is particularly worried that Yi Geum has no supporters in the palace, but Yi Geum thinks that he could turn his weakness into a strength.
Yi Geum has to leave to go to the palace, and he asks his friends to wait with Dal-moon. He asks where Yeo-ji is, having seen her off to drink with the students hours ago, and he grows worried to hear that she’s not back yet. He leaves, but his worry for Yeo-ji has made Moon-soo worry.
Yeo-ji had tried to defend herself from Minister Min’s sickle-wielding psycho, and she’d managed to wrench the sickle from his hands, only for him to slam her against a wall and knock her unconscious. He’d dragged her away, but when he got a good look at her, he’d realized that she’s not Yi Geum as he thought.
Yoon-young hears what’s happening at the palace and alerts Yi Tan, who demands to be allowed to speak to the king. He’s informed that his violent behavior outside the king’s quarters is a crime, but he objects to a eunuch telling him what to do and tries to barge in forcefully — until the eunuchs draw their swords and gently remind him that they’re highly trained in martial arts.
Yi Tan manages to get in to tell Queen Seonui that Yi Geum is trying to steal the throne, but she says there’s not much she can do about it, and Yoon-young has to beg him to calm down. The Soron ministers urge King Kyungjong to punish Chief Inspector Lee, Prime Minister Kim, and Yi Geum for even suggesting such a thing.
Minister Min is also at the palace, but he’s visiting Queen Inwon, who is decidedly not thrilled about it. He tells her not to forget her Noron roots, but she knows it’s really a warning for her to stay out of this.
He starts to talk about Yi Geum’s low birth, but even when Queen Inwon snaps that he’s the son of the late king, he asks how the nobles can be expected to bow to the son of a maid. Queen Inwon asks in return how a mere official dares to insult a king and his son.
She decides to adopt Yi Geum as her son, daring Minister Min and the Norons to call her a lowlife. But Minister Min says it’s too late, only bowing when she asks nervously what he means.
When he leaves, he reassures the other Norons that Yi Geum will never be crown prince. But seconds later, Yi Geum saunters over to marvel that they’re all losing sleep over little old him. He notices that Minister Min looks pale and can’t look him in the eye, which reinforces his idea that Minister Min sent the assassins after him.
He asks if Minister Min is surprised to see him here for some reason, but Minister Min is saved from answering when King Kyungjong’s eunuch tells Yi Geum that the king wants to see him. Unable to understand how Yi Geum is still alive, Minister Min summons the Minister of Taxation, a Soron named Minister Lee.
At the Saheonbu, Byung-joo nods off and dreams of the day he accidentally killed Jung-seok. Moon-soo bursts in, and Byung-joo recognizes him as the man who made a scene when Jung-seok died. Moon-soo objects to him referring to Jung-seok as his close friend, calling Byung-joo a traitor.
But he informs Byung-joo that right now in the palace, Minister Min is probably meeting with the Sorons to form a plan to get rid of Yi Geum. He’s right — Minister Min asks ML if the Sorons intend to let Yi Geum become crown prince. He offers the Sorons two positions at court if they’ll back up the Norons when they accuse Yi Geum of treason.
King Kyungjong asks Yi Geum if he’s been planning to steal the throne all along, and Yi Geum honestly answers yes. But he swears that he never intended to collude with the Norons — in fact, the entire reason he wants to become king is to stop the Norons.
King Kyungjong asks how he can trust Yi Geum, and Yi Geum says that if he truly believes that he’ll betray him then he should arrest him for treason, like Minister Min and the Sorons want. He says that most Norons and Sorons can’t stand him, so tonight they’re making an alliance to get rid of him. He says that he doesn’t care about the Norons or the Sorons, which lets him prioritize Joseon’s safety over politics.
The Saheonbu executive inspector gets two orders at the same time, one from Minister Min telling him to indict Yi Geum for treason, and one from Chief Inspector Lee ordering him to protect Yi Geum. He goes into a panic, unsure which order to follow, scared of siding with one then having the other come out victorious.
He tells Byung-joo about the letters and asks which order he should follow. Moon-soo had told Byung-joo that this decision could mean his survival, or not, and warned him that he should choose the path he knows best. So Byung-joo says that if the Saheonbu wants to survive, they can’t take either side, so they need to think of an excuse for why they can’t follow either command.
Young-han, Hyuk’s sidekick, tells Hyuk what’s going on, so Hyuk confronts the executive inspector about the ministers trying to fabricate a treason case. He says that the Saheonbu inspectors won’t tolerate being used in politics, and demands the truth.
In the morning, Queen Inwon takes King Kyungjong a letter stating that she will abide by whatever decision he makes. Yi Geum is still at the palace, and he runs into Yi Tan, who looks like he hasn’t slept a wink. He tells Yi Tan to get some sleep while the decision is made of which of them will die.
Yi Tan growls that he should have killed Yi Geum last night, wondering how a dozen assassins couldn’t get the job done. Yi Geum asks if Yi Tan sent the assassins, and Yi Tan just laughs maniacally, but it’s answer enough. Yi Geum wonders, if Minister Min didn’t send the assassins to kill him, then why was he acting so strange last night… and he remembers that Yeo-ji is still missing.
He goes straight to Minister Min and tells him that if the girl who was wearing his clothes last night has been harmed, he will personally kill him. Meanwhile, the nobles she was drinking with are found dead, sending Moon-soo to ask Dal-moon where she is, but all Dal-moon knows is that her body wasn’t found. He thinks he may know where she is, and Moon-soo bellows for Dal-moon to tell him.
Yeo-ji wakes up in the hut where her attacker left her, injured and with her hands tied. She tries to sit up and sees her attacker outside, guarding the building.
Yi Geum hurries to find Yeo-ji, but she’s doing a pretty good job of rescuing herself already. She knocks over a shelf of vases and uses a shard to cut the ropes tying her feet, but her attacker arrives before she frees her hands. She’s able to position her hands so that one of his wild sickle slashes frees her, but he’s stronger than her and quickly forces her to her knees.
He’s about to kill her when a voice screams her name — Moon-soo! He runs at the attacker and pulls him off Yeo-ji, but even though he punches the man in the face several times, the guy doesn’t even react. Does he not feel pain?
The attacker nearly kills Moon-soo, but at the last second, a knife flies through the air and buries itself in his arm. This time it’s Dal-moon, and although the attacker still doesn’t seem to register any pain, when Dal-moon takes a tiny dart out of his hair and aims it at him, he lets go of Moon-soo.
He raises his sickle as if to go after Dal-moon, but Yeo-ji slams the backs of his knees with a board, breaking his leg and knocking him to the ground. Moon-soo and Yeo-ji bicker over who’s more injured until Yeo-ji passes out, so Moon-soo piggybacks her home and calls the doctor.
When she wakes, the first thing she does is ask about Yi Geum. He’s learned where she is from Dal-moon and arrives seconds later, and when he sees her injuries, his eyes well up with tears. She tries to downplay her condition, but Yi Geum is so upset and relieved that he can barely speak.
Finally he apologizes, saying that this happened to her because of him. But Yeo-ji says that she’s glad that she’s the one who’s hurt and not him.
Rumor gets out that the king has made his decision, and Moon-soo fears that they’re going to indict Yi Geum for treason. Dal-moon thinks Yi Geum should hide, but he refuses. Palace guards arrive at Jung-seok’s house for Yi Geum, and his friends watch fearfully as he turns himself over to them.
The captain holds his sword out in front of him, then he and his guards salute Yi Geum as he says, “I, the leader of the king’s guards, am following the orders from His Majesty to greet the crown prince. And by His Majesty’s orders, the safety of the crown prince will be secured by us.” They drop to their knees, and Yi Geum stands stunned… he did it!
It hits Moon-soo first that Yi Geum is now the crown prince, and he yells it as loud as he can. Yeo-ji looks relieved, Dal-moon looks proud, and Yi Geum starts to cry. Moon-soo is the first to call him “my prince,” which makes Yi Geum cry even harder, and he sends thankful nods to Dal-moon and Yeo-ji.
Of course, Minister Min yells at the king when he hears the news, but King Kyungjong quips that Minister Min’s extreme reaction just proves he made the right decision. Yi Tan goes on a rampage and murders the assassins who failed to kill Yi Geum.
Yi Geum dresses according to his new status and prepares to take a palanquin to the palace. Moon-soo gets teased by Jang-dal and Ah-bong for crying, even though they’re crying too, ha. They bow when Yi Geum approaches, but he crouches down and helps them to stand, because they’re his friends.
Only Dal-moon keeps his distance, but he watches every moment as Yi Geum enters the palanquin and leaves for the palace. Interestingly, Yi Geum looks sad as the palanquin leaves, as if he’s mourning that nothing will ever be the same again.
Lady Seo makes sure to pack all of her fanciest clothing and hair ornaments, excited to be meeting the queen and queen dowager. Jo-hong is a bit disappointed now that Yi Geum won’t be around to spoil, so Ja-dong tells her to go with him as his concubine, but she’s not keen on the idea.
Yi Geum stops by Dal-moon’s place to thank him for his help, and to reinforce his promise to become a king fit to lead the nation. Dal-moon mentions Yi Geum’s feelings for Yeo-ji, which Yi Geum does a terrible job of denying and fools exactly nobody.
Yi Geum shows back up at Jung-seok’s place a few days later in full crown prince regalia, and he snaps at Yeo-ji for removing her bandages. He tries to make her go back in and rest, but she insists that she’s fine and shows him her healed arm to prove it.
He makes her sit anyway so that he can give her the medicine he got from Dal-moon, and when she says she’ll use it later, Yi Geum says that Ah-bong tattled that she won’t take medicine because it makes her feel weak. He applies the medicine, grumbling that there’s nothing wrong with being weak. As he fusses, he accidentally makes eye contact with Yeo-ji and stops mid-sentence, then grows very aware that he’s holding her hand.
He gives her the medicine and tells her to apply it herself, and she says he was like this when he adjusted her gat, too. Confused, she asks why he always stops in the middle of doing things. He just gets more twitchy thinking about the night he fixed her gat, and he starts looking for Moon-soo to cover his nervous energy.
Moon-soo has learned that a new list is about to be posted with the true results from the most recent civil service exam. He’s positive that he got the highest score, and Ah-bong and Jang-dal try to manage his expectations, but he refuses to listen.
The results are posted, and Moon-soo acts all cool like it’s no big deal as he shoves his way to the front of the crowd. Ah-bong and Jang-dal find his name… and again he’s not first. But suddenly he’s too ecstatic to care that he actually came in last place, because he passed!
The day arrives for Yi Geum to be officially made crown prince, and HA, both Minister Min and Yi Tan look like they’d rather chew rocks than attend the ceremony. On his way into the courtyard, Yi Geum stops to thank Minister Min for the advice to gain power of his own, crediting Minister Min for where he is now and saying that he hopes he will continue to advise him.
King Kyungjong makes the official announcement, then tells Yi Geum that he hopes they will continue to pursue the same goal. Yi Geum sincerely vows to always follow the king’s orders. He turns to face the officials, who bow to him four times, though it looks like it’s killing Yi Tan.
In voiceover, Moon-soo says: “Haechi. A legendary animal that judges good and evil and protects justice. However, that’s no longer a legend.” He suits up in his sparkly new uniform and enters the Saheonbu grounds. The inspectors stare to see Moon-soo looking like one of them as he announces himself to the Saheonbu officials. Under his breath, he murmurs, “And now, you’re all dead.”
At the same time, Yeo-ji again dons her damo garb, standing determinedly in front of the palace gates. Inside the palace, Yi Geum looks out over the officials bowing to him and thinks, “And from now on…”
YES!! I’m literally sitting here cheering for Yi Geum and his friends, that ending was so awesome. This episode gave me goosebumps and made me cry several times, but seeing Yi Geum declared crown prince, Moon-soo passing the test and finally realizing his dream of being in the Saheonbu, and Yeo-ji restored to her damo status just made me so proud. They’ve been powerless for so long, and they’ve suffered so badly, but they never gave up and now they’re taking their power for themselves. I can’t wait to see them kicking ass and taking names.
Speaking of emotional scenes, I was the one crying during the scene when Yi Geum didn’t allow his friends to bow to them, but made them stand as his equals. I knew he’d be that sort of prince, but it was so sweet to see the kind, grateful look on his face as he regarded them, and their pride to be friends of the new crown prince. I can’t wait to see the day when he appoints them to the positions they held in their game, and he proves to them that status truly doesn’t matter — what counts is a person’s skill, and what’s in their hearts.
I think that it’s an interesting choice to make Yi Geum such an emotional character, and it’s a choice that works very well for him. We know that the real-life King Yeonjo was a thoughtful, humble man, so it makes sense that he would be quite emotional as well. But mostly, as a viewer I love seeing how much he’s affected whenever something important happens, rather than the typical stoic, strong-hearted expression we tend to see with male sageuk characters. Yi Geum is a bit of a crybaby, but I love it, because it shows that he feels things deeply and meaningfully. For me, his willingness to show weakness is actually a strength, because it gives him an interesting vulnerability that no doubt makes his friends that much more protective of him. Even though he’s intelligent and strong, Yi Geum is also a bit of a cinnamon roll, and that quality only strengthens his ties with those who care about him.
Everything seems rosy for Yi Geum now that he’s achieved his goal, but I have never been so scared of Yi Tan as I am now. He’s lost his chance at ruling the country, a position he wants for selfish reasons but also to restore his family line, which he believes was wrongly cheated out of the throne. He’s more dangerous now that he’s ever been, because he’s not just willing to kill his enemies, which wasn’t so strange at this time in history, but he’s an actual serial murderer who now has nothing to lose. My worry is that Minister Min is going to team up with Yi Tan and escalate their attempts to assassinate Yi Geum — Yi Tan to try to get the throne again, and Minister Min for who only knows why, because his motives seem to change every five minutes. Regardless of the reason, I’m glad that Yi Geum has his allies and that they now have power, because I think they’re about to need it.
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