Haechi: Episodes 9-10
Tragedy can really change people, and our prince and his friends have had more than their fair share of tragedy. The muddle on as best they can, but they’re all determined to get justice somehow, in their own way. Meanwhile the country is in turmoil, and the prince has the ability to enact great change, if he has the courage to take the chance.
EPISODE 9: “Back to the living”
Devastated by the loss of his father, his brother, and his mentor all in one night, Yi Geum sinks to the ground and screams in anguish.
Yeo-ji tries to get into the Saheonbu, but she’s held back as Byung-joo says that there’s nothing suspicious about Jung-seok’s death. He tells her to control herself when the country is in turmoil with the death of King Sukjong, and she spits that she’s sure the Norons are in turmoil now that Crown Prince Yoon is king.
She swears to find the criminal who killed Jung-seok, and Byung-joo flings her to the ground. Moon-soo runs to her side, then lunges at Byung-joo asking how the Saheonbu can claim to be lawful. He makes his own vow — to get into the Saheonbu and get rid of them all. Unimpressed, Byung-joo bans Yeo-ji, Moon-soo, Ah-bong, and Jae-dal from the Saheonbu.
Minister Min worries what will happen to the country, now that King Sukjong is dead and the infertile and incompetent crown prince is king. Yi Geum forces his way in to see Minister Min and tells him that Yi Hwan was murdered by Yi Tan, angry that Minister Min seems to know already but isn’t doing anything.
But Minister Min says that catching Yi Tan won’t change anything, so whether he was murdered or not depends on which will give the Norons the most political advantage. Yi Geum asks what gives them the right to decide that, and Minister Min bellows that they protect the country, and that they do it by taking lives.
He tells Yi Geum that he won’t be killed because he’s royal, but that if he keeps this up, his friends won’t be so safe. Yi Geum tells him not to touch them, but Minister Min says that Jung-seok might be alive now if not for Yi Tan. He tells Yi Geum that he should have wished to be king, because at least as king he’d have gained some power.
Yeo-ji stands outside the Saheonbu, holding a sign declaring that Jung-seok’s death wasn’t an accident. Yi Geum sees her standing in the rain, but instead of going to her himself, he sends a little peasant boy to give her an umbrella.
As he staggers home, Yi Geum recalls Jung-seok telling him that fighting against wrongdoing is easier than backing down, and he thinks about Yi Hwan’s bright smile and how much fun it was to hang out with Jung-seok’s Saheonbu team. He’d been “king” when they played their game, and had assigned them all roles according to their strengths, and he realizes that Minister Min is right — if he becomes king, he’ll have power.
One year later, a group of prisoners breaks out of Jeonok Prison, the city’s central prison, leaving behind several dead guards. King Kyungjong, formerly Crown Prince Yoon, is growing too fat for his kingly robes, distressing the poor maid tasked with dressing him.
He heads out for a lecture, but he gets sidetracked by the news of the prison break. He’s obviously terrified to speak to his ministers, sweating and stammering through his announcement of last night’s events.
Queen Inwon finds Queen Seonui, King Kyungjong’s wife, having the little maid whipped for daring to embarrass the king. She stops the punishment, making Queen Seonui wail that nobody respects her husband, and Queen Inwon seems understanding of her despair.
The ministers yell that the people are blaming King Kyungjong for everything from the prison break to drought and earthquakes, and all King Kyungjong says is that he’ll be more careful. They demand that he do something other than just say he’ll be careful, and he says he’ll be careful about that, too.
Minister Min tells the king that he should replace the chief justice, who’s only recently been appointed, stating that he’s too inexperienced. The Sorons object, but the weak-willed king crumbles to Minister Min’s will.
Unfortunately for the Sorons, the chief justice was the only position occupied by a Soron. The Sorons tell King Kyungjong that he caved too easily, but King Kyungjong just recites the words to a song about inviting Li Zicheng, a rebel leader who overthrew the Ming dynasty, into Korea so that they won’t have to worry about anything anymore.
In the market, a filthy man lies mostly unconscious in the street, until Dal-moon picks him up and carries him home. It’s Yi Geum, and he finally wakes when Dal-moon hits him in the face with a bucket of water.
Dal-moon asks why Yi Geum started drinking again after he had quit for a while, but Yi Geum just says he wanted to have a little fun. Dal-moon tells him about the prison break, and that about half of the escapees have been caught. Yi Geum leaves for the Office of Royal Genealogy, where he got a job, and Dal-moon says that “that day” is coming soon.
When Yi Geum arrives at the palace, there are several well-dressed young boys being shown around. He’s told that the queen plans to adopt a son and those boys are the candidates, but Yi Geum barely reacts to the idea of an adopted crown prince.
Yeo-ji has a job as a cook, and she offers to help pound the dough for rice cakes. It’s a difficult job, but she’s so strong that she does it one-handed and still nearly breaks the tree-trunk mortar, ha.
Moon-soo is still trying to pass the civil service exam. He drives his roommate crazy by complaining about the racket he’s making doing things like turning pages and breathing. The poor guy can’t even have a snack without Moon-soo grumbling that it must be nice to have enough money for food.
He leaves, saying that it’s an important day for him. His roommate runs inside and sneaks a look at Moon-soo’s notes, and he’s impressed and thinks that Moon-soo might finally pass.
Yeo-ji gets in trouble when all the food she makes turns out inedible. The man in charge overpays her, saying that her food is great and that he’ll call her when he needs her again. LOL, she’s so fired.
Moon-soo, Jae-dal, and Ah-bong wait to surprise Yeo-ji at Jung-seok’s home. Yeo-ji hasn’t seen them in a year, and they greet her warmly, nearly making her cry. She tells them about her job as a cook and how she was told she’s better than the king’s chef, and Ah-bong is all, Maybe nobles have weird taste buds?
She’s the only one of them with a job, and Moon-soo asks if she actually plays cards or steals, unable to imagine her cooking. She ignores him and steps outside of the yard, having heard Joon-jae, Jung-seok’s son, crying.
At the same time, Byung-joo visits Yi Geum at home, and Yi Geum invites him in. He brags that he could tell who planned the prison break just by seeing the list of escapees, then asks about the chief justice’s replacement, which was obviously (to him) a move by the Norons.
He links the two, guessing that the Norons orchestrated the prison break to give themselves an excuse to pressure the king about the terrible state of the country. Byung-joo says he’s drunk, but Yi Geum says that he knows Byung-joo planned it, and in a flashback, we see Byung-joo telling a prisoner that he would set them free in exchange for a favor.
Yi Geum has figured out that only one of the escaped prisoners was someone that Byung-joo put in prison, and that he must not have held up his end of the bargain. Byung-joo is obviously scared that that man will be caught and tell on him, and Yi Geum offers to catch him as a gift to Byung-joo for his recent promotion.
Byung-joo says that he’s always wanted to ask something, but Yi Geum beats him to it: “Why was I friends with Jung-seok?” He says he was friends with him when he knew nothing, then he realized what happens when friends with power turn on him, and he grew up. He says that as a Noron who used to be a Namin, Byung-joo must know what he means.
The guys are at Jung-seok’s home for his memorial ceremony, this being the first anniversary of his death. Sadly, it’s also his wife’s death anniversary, as she wasn’t able to go on without him and soon died herself. Ah-bong gets emotional, but Moon-soo tells him to control himself until he has the power to do something about it.
But Moon-soo also gets emotional, and he runs outside to scream. Yeo-ji follows and he apologizes for making a scene in front of Joon-jae, but he can’t stop his voice from rising again as he yells that he feels like his heart will burst. He’s angry that Jung-seok is dead and the ones who killed him are free, and even Yi Geum seems to have moved on just fine.
Yeo-ji says that Yi Geum’s life has nothing to do with them, but that she hears things too and she thinks Yi Geum is just trying to survive, even if that means befriending Byung-joo. She tells Moon-soo that Yi Geum is living for a different reason than they are.
After Byung-joo leaves, Yi Geum takes some alcohol to the place where Yi Hwan died and pours it out onto the ground. He almost stops at Jung-seok’s house on his way home, seeing the lights flickering inside, but he keeps going.
The day of the civil service exam arrives, and the place is packed. Ah-bong jokes that Moon-soo will have to think of an eleventh excuse when he fails again, and Moon-soo grabs him in a headlock like he always does. When the doors open, Moon-soo loses his damn mind and runs screaming through the crowd to get the best seat.
He’s shoved to the ground, and one kind soul stops to help him up and drags him to a good seat down front. But then he tells Moon-soo that he hired someone to reserve the seats early, so Moon-soo, paragon of virtue, turns him down saying that it’s illegal.
Yi Geum pays Dal-moon after he catches the runaway criminal for him. Dal-moon says that Yi Geum has a good eye for recognizing that the prison break was related to the Norons’ takeover. Yi Geum says that he’s always been able to figure that stuff out, he just never said anything because he didn’t need to care.
Dal-moon asks if he cares now, but Yi Geum says he doesn’t want to say in case they get too comfortable with each other, and he mustn’t forget that Dal-moon is Minister Min’s dog. Dal-moon tells Yi Geum that he should reveal himself to Yeo-ji and Moon-soo who must be very mistaken about him, but Yi Geum says it’s true that he betrayed them.
Dal-moon tells Yi Geum that whatever he’s planning, he needs to hurry before things get messier. Yi Geum asks what he means by messier, but Dal-moon just grins.
A man protests in front of the palace, yelling for the king to restore his mother’s maligned honor and thereby strengthen his own. Yi Geum hears the man’s cries and thinks about Jang Hee-bin, King Kyungjong’s mother, a Soron who was blamed for causing the then-queen’s death and made to drink poison as punishment. He wonders if the Sorons are trying to start a political war with the Norons, and what they’ll do next.
The ministers plead with the king to do something, but he no longer even says he’ll be careful. Minister Min wonders if he’s decided to fight them, knowing he’ll die if he gives up the throne, and says it’s time to choose the king’s heir. Yi Geum has, of course, predicted this, and he decides that the only way to protect King Kyungjong is for the Sorons to choose the next crown prince.
While Queen Seonui looks over the adoption candidates, an adviser tells King Kyungjong that the song about letting Li Zicheng into the Korean palace was meant to make the people welcome a coup, but in the end, Li Zicheng lacked the personal skills to succeed.
King Kyungjong says that he was in the same position he’s in now, where neither he nor the Sorons have the right skills. He decides that he needs someone who can help him using their power.
Yi Geum looks for a reason to enter the palace and remembers that Queen Seonui is looking for a son to adopt. He’s told that he’s supposed to be elsewhere to greet the Qing envoy, and he’s confused when he learns that they specifically asked for him.
When he arrives, he’s horrified to see Yi Tan waving at him, back after having run away to Qing a year ago. Yi Tan acts like everything is just fine, complimenting Yi Geum on how he’s pulled himself together, and says that he’s looked forward to seeing Yi Geum the most.
He reminds Yi Geum that his fights aren’t over until he wins, then leans in to whisper, “I’ll become a king, Prince Yeoning. That’s why I returned.” Yi Geum grabs Yi Tan’s sword from its sheath and points it at Yi Tan, bellowing that Yi Tan will die at his hands before that happens, but Yi Tan just repeats that he’ll be king.
Queen Seonui is so desperate to have a child that she resorts to eating live silkworms, having heard from Yoon-young that a woman ate them and gave birth to sons. Yoon-young, Yi Tan’s concubine whom he’s promised to make queen, has worked her way into Queen Seonui’s good graces, but she complains to Yi Tan that she had to eat a silkworm too, to convince the queen.
Yi Geum goes to Byung-joo at the Saheonbu to request an investigation on corruption in the royal family. Byung-joo says that the Norons won’t allow it, but Yi Geum thinks that Yi Tan may be planning something that could give them no choice. He orders Byung-joo to tell Minister Min that he should find Yi Geum before he finds himself in trouble.
Yeo-ji sneaks into the Saheonbu after dark and begins looking for something, but Yi Geum catches her. He doesn’t recognize her with her face covered, so she tries to run. Yi Geum catches her and they briefly grapple, their fighting skills pretty evenly matched, until Yi Geum manages to pin Yeo-ji to the table.
He pulls down her mask, and as soon as he recognizes her, he knows she’s looking for evidence on Jung-seok’s death. But he doesn’t get a chance to question her, because the sounds of their fight have attracted a pair of guards. Yi Geum tells Yeo-ji to hide and talks to the guards, pretending not to know that he needs permission to be there. As Yeo-ji walks home, she wonders why Yi Geum helped her.
Ah-bong and Jae-dal tell Moon-soo that the guy who offered him a saved seat at the exam was actually bribed to do that for him specifically. Yeo-ji joins them as they’re trying to figure out who would want to help Moon-soo with the test.
Byung-joo tells Chief Inspector Lee that Yi Tan is back, and that according to Yi Geum, he has something the Norons won’t be able to turn down. Chief Inspector Lee seems more interested in the fact that Byung-joo is spending time with Yi Geum, so Byung-joo explains that he’s keeping an eye on Yi Geum because he’s good at analyzing situations.
Chief Inspector Lee tells Byung-joo that he should be focusing on the missing escaped prisoner, then heads to an event to greet the Qing envoy. On the way, he spots Yoon-young with Queen Seonui. Prime Minister Lee says that he introduced Yoon-young to the queen in an attempt to further his own career, completely unaware that she’s Yi Tan’s concubine.
The Qing envoy meets King Kyungjong and says that it was a long journey, but he was accompanied by a good friend. That’s Yi Tan’s cue to enter, greet the king, and startle the entire room full of officials.
After seeing Yoon-young with Queen Seonui, Minister Min figures out that Yi Tan must be planning to use the queen and the Qing dynasty to become the queen’s adopted son, and make himself the crown prince. Yi Geum catches Minister Min talking to himself and says he must be frustrated, having once offered Yi Tan the throne then rescinded the offer.
He says that this is why he wanted to see Minister Min, and Minister Min asks what he wants. Yi Geum says, “Don’t you need a prince? Someone who can play king for you like a chess piece… that kind of prince.”
Our prince is so smart! He’s able to take a few pieces of a picture and puzzle them together to see the whole picture, and he understands people and their motivations extremely well. He’s able to figure out that Yi Tan is back to try for the throne again, and to offer himself to the Norons as a pawn to keep that from happening. Despite having offered Yi Tan the throne once before, Minister Min probably realizes now that Yi Tan is uncontrollable at best and would be a complete nightmare as king, so Yi Geum is offering himself instead. To Minister Min, Yi Geum must look like a much better option — he appears harmless and malleable, but in reality he’s got his own agenda and he needs the power of the throne for his own plans.
I think the hardest thing about this episode was seeing the joy gone from Moon-soo. What happened to Jung-seok was a horrible tragedy and a grave injustice, but I don’t like how it’s changed Moon-soo for the worse. He used to be so bouncy and positive, and never let anything get him down. Now he’s bitter and angry, and although he’s still determined to pass the civil service exam, now he wants to do it to get into the Saheonbu and get his revenge. He’s not entirely beaten down, not yet, but a lot of what made him so adorable has been snuffed out, and I also really miss his budding bromance with Yi Geum.
Okay, I know I said I wanted Yi Geum to get more confidence, but this is not what I meant! He got confidence, but he also got a lot more cynical, and now he’s just a jerk. But I agree with Yeo-ji, that he’s just doing what he has to in order to survive, especially now that he hasn’t go the buffer of his father the king to protect him. I’m heartened to see that Yi Geum is at least trying to be a better person, getting a decent job and giving up drinking (mostly), and I love how smart he is when he pays attention to what’s happening around him. He’s a genuine political genius, but I want more — I want him to be a good person.
I guess I’m just anxious because the character I want Yi Geum to be is so close, but he’s not there quite yet. We’ve seen the cheeky, fun-loving Yi Geum, but he was also crippled by his own lack of self-worth and let himself believe that he was worthless. Now we get a stronger, more confident Yi Geum, but he’s let his morals slip because he’s trying to forget the horrors that happened a year ago. I want strong, smart, confident, but most of all happy Yi Geum, who fights for the right things and for the right reasons. So as much as I can’t stand Yi Tan’s stupid face, I’m glad he’s back, if only because he’ll be the kick in the pants that Yi Geum needs to really become the man he’s meant to be.
- Premiere Watch: Haechi, Item, The Light in Your Eyes, The Fiery Priest
- Jung Il-woo defies all odds to become king in SBS’s Haechi
- Haechi stars Jung Il-woo as a problematic Prince Yeongjo on quest for justice
- Haechi as the judge of good and evil in SBS fusion sageuk
- Jung Il-woo confirms comeback in drama Haechi with Go Ara and Kwon Yul