Haechi: Episodes 17-18
If you thought that the prince’s problems were over now that he’s achieved his political goal, you’d be wrong – in fact, things are only getting more tense. Thankfully he still has his friends, but when those friends get themselves involved in investigating a new crime, our prince may find it difficult to sit back in the palace and let them have all the fun.
EPISODE 17: “The strike of man”
On a snowy night, Qing bandits round up young girls from a village to take as concubines. One girl escapes and runs until she finds a palanquin, and she begs the person inside for help. Through the window we see Yoon-young, who says that it was also snowing the night she was sold to an old man to be his concubine, but she hit him on the head and ran away.
She says she was even the same age as the girl, about fourteen, and she’d run until she was trapped at the edge of a cliff. A young boy had saved her from falling at the last second, but she says she betrayed him by becoming a concubine for a much older man. She tells the young girl coldly that she’ll end up the same way, because she’s not going to help her.
Dal-moon watches as the palanquin leaves the young girl alone to fend for herself, and she collapses unconscious. Later, a distraught father who was given money for his daughter takes it to the house of the lord who sold the girls, to throw the money in his face. But he finds the lord dead, blood everywhere, with a note on the body that says he died to atone for his sins.
In the morning, Geon-tae finds several Saheonbu inspectors in a gibang after a wild night, including Moon-soo, who’s hanging upside-down from the ceiling. Luckily they’re fine, just victims of hazing, and Geon-tae and Dal-moon laugh at Moon-soo as he rushes to get to work on time. After Moon-soo leaves, Dal-moon asks Geon-tae if the girl he brought is okay. Thank goodness, she’s safe.
Yeo-ji looks for Moon-soo at the Saheonbu, but Ah-bong and Jang-dal (who have also been reinstated, yay!) tell her that the new inspectors are missing after being taken out to drink last night. Yeo-ji issues a call to action, and they head out to rescue their friend.
A disheveled Moon-soo runs through the streets, picking up more newbie Saheonbu inspectors on the way. He refuses to leave anyone behind, no matter how sick they are (One croaks weakly, “Save yourselves!” LOL), and they drag each other along in various states of disarray.
Byung-joo and the Saheonbu officials are well aware of the hazing tradition and anticipate that several of the newcomers will no doubt be late. But oddly, the new chief inspector is also late, having been delayed by Yeo-ji regarding a very serious concern about loose roof tiles (reinforced by conveniently falling tiles thrown by Ah-bong). PWAHAHA.
She keeps the chief inspector outside, buying Moon-soo and his cohorts time to sneak in through the back gate. The team leader starts to yell at them, but Moon-soo points out that since the chief inspector isn’t there yet, technically they’re not late.
When the chief inspector arrives, the inspectors all bow to him, but Byung-joo notices that Moon-soo is struggling valiantly not to vomit. He goes to the chief inspector in private and demands that Moon-soo be kicked out, saying that he’ll ruin their good reputation. The chief inspector agrees, but says they had no choice since Moon-soo passed the exam, so Byung-joo says they need to find a reason to get rid of him.
He runs into Moon-soo, who notes gleefully that Byung-joo seems more uncomfortable than he does. He says it’s too bad because he’s not going anywhere, so Byung-joo may as well get used to him. Byung-joo tells Moon-soo to remember that this is the Saheonbu and he’s his boss, but Moon-soo says casually that he’ll reveal the truth about Jung-seok’s death.
Predictably, the nobles hold official protests outside the palace stating that Yi Geum isn’t fit to be crown prince. Former Chief Inspector Lee is now Minister Lee, having assumed Minister Min’s position as Minister of Personnel, and he’s dismayed when only a few Norons show up to support Yi Geum.
Nobody in the palace knows where Yi Geum is, but Jo-hong eventually finds him in a remote courtyard making pebble towers, lol. He admires her new court lady uniform, and says he’s aware that today is his first morning lecture as crown prince. He says he’s playing because probably nobody came, and he’s right — neither the Norons nor the Sorons arrived to attend Yi Geum’s first lecture.
Queen Inwon rants to Queen Seonui that she understands why the Norons are boycotting the morning lecture, since Minister Min was leading them at the time, but the Sorons should at least support the king’s decision. Queen Seonui suggests that they are showing support, since the king only appointed a crown prince because everyone was pressuring him.
She says that the Sorons work closely with the king so they would know how he feels about appointing a crown prince that isn’t his son. Queen Inwon accuses Queen Seonui of disloyalty and blasphemy, leaving them at a standoff.
Yi Geum takes a hot bath, chirping to Minister Lee and Prime Minister Kim that living in the palace is great because you can do whatever you want. Minister Lee snaps that his position is very unstable after what happened today, but Yi Geum just says he didn’t ask for Minister Lee’s input. He chases Minister Lee and Prime Minister Kim out by threatening to take his shirt off (that’s a threat??), but Minister Lee says that he’s just inexperienced in politics so they need to teach him.
News reaches the palace that several nobles from different areas have been murdered, and the ministers gather to discuss the problem. Minister Jo says he’s feeling conflicted about boycotting Yi Geum’s morning lecture, but the other Sorons insist that, even if he didn’t say it, the king must be very upset at having to name a peasant’s son as crown prince.
Yi Geum wanders in asking if they’re talking about him, oops. He says that since they didn’t come to morning lecture, he’s bringing morning lecture to them. Afterward, the Soron leader, also named Minister Lee, explains to Yi Geum, rather respectfully, that the reason he can’t accept him isn’t because of his birth, but because he doesn’t believe Yi Geum is capable of running the country.
Yi Geum asks if Soron Minister Lee will acknowledge him if he can prove he’s king material. Soron Minister Lee recites that the crown prince cannot be involved in politics, nor should he even discuss it, as those matters are the king’s to handle. He says this is why he can’t trust Yi Geum… because he might reach for the throne.
Yi Geum interprets this to mean that he’s an enemy of the Sorons who’s not allowed to do anything, but at the same time he’s supposed to prove he’s capable of being king. He calls it an impossible task, but he tells Soron Minister Lee that he shouldn’t consider him an enemy, as he’s quite dangerous.
Ja-dong, Yi Geum’s former servant, now works for the Office of Maintenance, but he says he doesn’t care as long as he gets to keep working for Yi Geum. He reports that former Minister Min has retreated to Hanseongbu, and Yi Tan is just laying low. Yi Geum doubts that they’ve given up so easily, but Ja-dong thinks there’s not much they can do now.
Yi Geum says he has nothing to do, so he wants to leave the palace and check up on a friend who’s probably also having a hard time. Cut to: Moon-soo, being forced with the other Saheonbu newcomers to do squats while carrying a huge tree trunk. Next they have to catch fish from the pond with their hats, but the worse the hazing gets, the more determined Moon-soo is to persevere.
Jang-dal and Ah-bong are proud of Moon-soo, but Yeo-ji grumbles that this whole thing is unseemly. Hyuk approaches her and says he agrees with her about the hazing, and HA, he’s even upset about the mistreatment of the fish. He asks if she’s really fluent in Chinese, and when she says she is, he tells her that someone is buying up young girls and slaves and selling them to the Qing Dynasty, and assigns her, Ah-bong, and Jang-dal to the case.
Moon-soo is horrified when he hears about this, and he goes to Hyuk to demand he be allowed on the case. Technically he’s his friends’ superior (because he’s a noble), so he says he won’t allow them on the case if he’s not on it, too. Hyuk warns that it could affect his promotions if he skips out on the rest of the hazing, only for Moon-soo to sneeze all over him.
Yi Geum and Ja-dong dress down and head to Jung-seok’s house, but the place looks empty so they let themselves inside. Yi Geum finds himself face-to-face with Yeo-ji, who’s dressed like a Qing lady in a form-fitting outfit, and he nearly drools on himself.
He flinches when she steps closer, but he somehow recalls enough sentence structure to ask why she’s wearing that outfit. Before she can explain, Moon-soo, Ah-bong, and Jang-dal join them, and Moon-soo attack-hugs Yi Geum and cries after not having seen him for over a month.
Once Moon-soo calms down, they tell Yi Geum about the illegal human trafficking — people are destitute after the recent war, so they’re being forced to sell their children to the Qing Dynasty. Yi Geum side-eyes Yeo-ji’s revealing clothing and asks if this is their only option.
The other guys don’t see the problem, and Moon-soo points out that Yeo-ji is the only one who can speak Chinese. Yeo-ji says she’s plenty comfortable, but Yi Geum whines that that’s not the point. Ah-bong thinks he might know why Yi Geum seems upset, but he waves it off as impossible.
Yi Geum argues that Yeo-ji should wear Japaneseclothing instead, to fool the Chinese people she’s spying on that she can’t understand them. It even makes logical sense, but when Yeo-ji emerges in a green kimono, Yi Geum goes cross-eyed because she looks even prettier.
Moon-soo says that she looks even more feminine in this outfit, and she asks Yi Geum if it’s true. Poor Yi Geum actually looks angry at how pretty Yeo-ji is, and he snaps that obviously she looks like a woman. He stomps off, but he’s scared to go back to the palace and leave them to deal with this alone.
Geon-tae tells Dal-moon that the girl he brought last night will be fine, and that she’s being tended by Bom, the servant that Yoon-young beat for looking happy that Yi Tan was being punished. Geon-tae and Ja-dong are all dressed up to visit a new gibang and see what information they can find, since visitors from Japan and Qing spend time there.
Dal-moon goes to check on the girl, who’s still unconscious, and although Bom seems happy, Dal-moon notes that she has a bad limp from being beaten. She stills when he growls Yoon-young’s name, and asks how he knows her former mistress.
King Kyungjong expresses his disappointment that Soron Minister Lee wasn’t more welcoming to Yi Geum, and he apologizes, but says that the crown prince knows his place now. The king accuses him of isolating Yi Geum, but Minister Lee says they can’t trust him. King Kyungjong asks if Soron Minister Lee thinks Yi Geum will try to kill him and take the throne, and Soron Minister Lee backs down.
The king admits that he doesn’t fully trust Yi Geum either, because even dead ambitions can be revived in the palace. But he also believes that Yi Geum deserves a chance to prove him wrong.
Byung-joo learns about the murders, and that the Saheonbu has been asked to help investigate. The officials invite him to tonight’s hazing, but he declines, saying that he’s got work to do. In actuality, he’s been summoned by former-Minister Min to bring him some Saheonbu documents.
Although he does it, he tells Minister Min that he can no longer order him around. Minister Min chuckles that things always change, and that he believes this murder case will get him back into government office. He says that he used to be chief inspector and knows that this isn’t a simple crime, but an organized murder.
This new gibang is clearly the place to be — Yeo-ji is there looking for information, and the Saheonbu show up for another night of hazing. The suspicious owner, Ji-kwang, approaches Yeo-ji, so she tells him in Japanese that her name is Asako and that she just arrived yesterday.
She keeps smiling, but she clocks Ji-kwang’s bodyguard readying her weapon. She’s rescued by another Japanese employee yelling at her to help some customers, and the arrival of the former horse merchant Gae-dol, who co-owns the gibang with Ji-kwang.
Gae-dol is all excited over how much money their new venture is bringing in, but Ji-kwang calls him an idiot, and his bodyguard tells Gae-dol that Ji-kwang is in a bad mood because he lost something yesterday. Gae-dol says that’s no reason to be so cranky, but Ji-kwang tells him to know danger when it’s sneaking up on him, or he’ll die with a dagger in his back.
He notices Geon-tae and Ja-dong, and not long after, Dal-moon hears that they got caught spying. He doesn’t even have time to warn his people that someone might be coming for them before the gate is smashed open, a cart pushed through, and two bodies slump to the dirt. Oh no…
Dal-moon only has a second to register Geon-tae’s and Ja-dong’s faces before Ji-kwang saunters in and orders his people to attack. While Dal-moon is fighting, the little rescued girl tries to sneak out, but Ji-kwang spots her and raises his sword. Dal-moon runs over and smacks Ji-kwang’s sword away, and gets his arm sliced open as he wraps his body protectively around the girl.
Ji-kwang raises his sword, but he stops cold when he realizes that Yi Geum has his sword at his own throat. Ji-kwang asks who Yi Geum is, but Yi Geum asks who he is, and Dal-moon whispers to Yi Geum not to cause trouble.
Yi Geum allows Ji-kwang to back away, and Ji-kwang asks Dal-moon if he likes his “gift.” He warns that he’ll only send the heads back of any more of Dal-moon’s people he sees in his gibang, then he and his people leave.
Ohthankgoodness, Geon-tae and Ja-dong aren’t dead. As soon as he sees Yi Geum, Ja-dong croaks that Gae-dol is working with Ji-kwang. Yi Geum asks Dal-moon what’s happening, and when he hears that Ji-kwang is the owner of the new gibang, Yi Geum panics, knowing that Yeo-ji and Moon-soo are there right now.
Dal-moon warns that barging in there could blow the case, but Yi Geum can only think about rescuing his friends. Bom tells Dal-moon that the girl he rescued says that Ji-kwang is the man who was selling the girls to Qing, and that’s all Yi Geum needs to hear — he grabs a sword and he’s gone.
Yeo-ji fends off unwanted attention from customers, and Moon-soo chases way one particularly amorous admirer, claiming that he was saving the poor guy from getting beaten up by Yeo-ji, ha. Nearby, the Saheonbu inspectors are having a big time, and the new chief inspector gets up to find a restroom. Someone follows him, but we don’t see their face.
Dal-moon insists on going with Yi Geum to the gibang, so Yi Geum has him watch the back gate while he goes inside to look for Yeo-ji. He runs into someone dressed as a scholar, who drops something and picks it up with a dirty hand, keeping their face hidden. Yi Geum looks over when Moon-soo calls to him, and when he looks back, the person is gone.
Yeo-ji overhears a conversation in Chinese arranging the delivery of twenty young girls. She peeks into the room and sees that it’s Ji-kwang, the Korean gibang owner, and she realizes that he’s the one selling the girls. Unfortunately, she’s caught by Ji-kwang’s bodyguard, who alerts Ji-kwang to the eavesdropper.
Yi Geum tells Moon-soo that they’re not looking for someone from Qing in regards to the human trafficking. They split up to look for Yeo-ji, and Yi Geum tells Moon-soo to run if he finds her.
Ji-kwang grabs Yeo-ji’s face and orders her to tell him who sent her to spy on him. Instead, she stabs his arm with a knife she’d hidden up her sleeve, and as she’s fending off Ji-kwang’s men, Moon-soo arrives and jumps in bare-handed to help.
Moon-soo and Yeo-ji fend off Ji-kwang’s men just fine, but when his bodyguard attacks, Moon-soo throws himself in front of Yeo-ji to take the knife meant for her in the arm. Yeo-ji squares off with the bodyguard, ready to take her on for hurting her friend.
Elsewhere, Yi Geum witnesses the person he bumped into earlier appearing to attack the new Saheonbu chief inspector. He’s too late to stop the attack, but the assassin — who turns out to be a young girl — runs at him with her weapon. He stops her, but she struggles, and as he grabs her collar he sees “murdered the master” tattoo’d on the back of her neck.
It means she killed her master, and Yi Geum asks why. But she wrenches away and runs before he gets an answer, so he goes to the chief inspector, who’s badly injured. He calls for help and tries to stop the bleeding, but nobody comes until the chief inspector is taking his final breath. It’s Byung-joo, who recognizes Yi Geum, sitting there next to the murder weapon and covered in blood.
Well, this is just awful. I’m predicting that Yi Geum will be caught up in his own previous argument, that just because someone is royal that it doesn’t mean they can get away with murder. It certainly looks like he killed the chief inspector, and I can’t say I’ll blame Byung-joo if that’s the conclusion he comes to, but I have faith that Yi Geum can prove his innocent and get himself out of this like he always does.
I’m happy that the show has introduced a new case to solve and a new villain to bring to justice, because as fond as I am of our resident sociopath Yi Tan (for certain values of “fond”), there’s only so much batcrap crazy you can watch before it gets old. Yi Tan is an entertaining baddie, but he’s not very versatile, so the human trafficking case, I feel, gives the show a little boost of something fresh while still set against the background of Yi Geum struggling to gain power and avenge his friend’s death.
It also made me glad to see Yi Geum leaving the palace to help his friends, and it makes sense, because he’s not the kind of guy who would forget those who supported him when nobody else would. Besides, he’s been given an impossible challenge — to prove he’s competent enough to run the country, while simultaneously doing nothing to make anyone suspect that he covets the throne enough to harm his brother for it. What better way to do that than to become a Joseon Clark Kent… mild-mannered crown prince by day, crime-fighting superhero by night. Bringing criminals to justice will prove that he’s capable of protecting his people, yet it’s so far from a king’s duties that it won’t appear as though he’s plotting to kill his brother for his crown.
I know it looks like Dal-moon and his people are the ones killing the nobles, in retaliation for selling people to Qing, but for Dal-moon’s sake I really hope it’s not true. I love that he’s a champion of the weak and powerless, which says good things about him as a person, but he’s also shown a distressing willingness to do whatever he thinks is necessary in the moment, even kill. If he’s targeting nobles, no matter how justified he may be or how much they need killing, he’s going to find himself in big, big trouble. And we need him around to help Yi Geum when this whole political stalemate blows wide open.
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