Haechi: Episodes 33-34
We have another episode where a lot happens in a short amount of time, and it’s a wonder how any of our players can even keep track. Our crown prince is in dire trouble once again, and this time, the future of the kingdom hinges on the decisions he makes. Thankfully he’s got friends who are able to help gather information, but when it comes down to it, Yi Geum will have to face the consequences of his actions alone.
EPISODE 33: “A Sorrowful Duty”
Yi Geum learns of the bloodstain found in the Royal Infirmary, and he realizes where Yi Tan was on the night he went missing in the palace for two hours. He rushes to the king’s bedroom, where the king is coughing up blood every time Queen Seonui gives him medicine.
Yi Geum knocks the bowl from her hand and tells them not to give the king any medicine from the Royal Infirmary. He runs to King Kyungjong and scandalizes Chief Justice Jo by touching him, yelling that Yi Tan may have done something to the medicine.
Yoon-young asks the chief nurse of the Royal Infirmary if she gave King Kyungjong the medicine as ordered. The nurse refuses to answer questions without getting her payment first, saying that she risked her life and she wants her reward.
Yi Geum summons Moon-soo to the palace and tells him about his suspicion that Yi Tan had the infirmary poison the king’s medicine. He asks Moon-soo to investigate Yi Tan, Byung-joo, and Ji-Kwang again, and Moon-soo adds one more person to the list — Yoon-young.
Speaking of Yoon-young, on her way back she runs into Dal-moon and says she just went for a walk. He warns her that the city is dangerous right now, but she sweetly reminds him that he promised to protect her. She confesses that she resented him at first (for stopping her from going to Yi Tan), but then she realized that it would have been worse if she’s been with Yi Tan. She thanks him, saying that she’s glad to be alive.
King Kyungjong is absent when Yi Geum arrives for court the next day, so he tells the ministers that he’ll he in charge until the king is well again. Minister Min interrupts to ask why he stopped the medicines from the Royal Infirmary from being given to the king, so Yi Geum tells them of his poisoning suspicions.
Chief Justice Jo agrees that it sounds like poison, but he asks Yi Geum what he’ll do if it’s not. Yi Geum says that he’s called all the doctors in the country to consult on King Kyungjong’s illness, and when Chief Justice Jo splutters that they have the Royal Infirmary doctors, Yi Geum says that there’s precedent of other doctors helping the palace.
The ministers mutter nervously when Chief Justice Jo accuses Yi Geum of stopping the king’s medicine in order to cure him himself. Offended, Yi Geum threatens to punish Chief Justice Jo right now, but he accepts that Chief Justice Jo probably said that out of concern for the king, and that saving King Kyungjong is important to him, too.
Later, Minister Min advises Yi Geum to listen to Chief Justice Jo. He says that he’s spoken to the royal physician and it also sounds to him like King Kyungjong was poisoned, but he’s afraid that Yi Geum won’t be able to prove it.
He’s also worried Yi Geum won’t find evidence that Yi Tan is responsible, or that an outside doctor will be able to help the king. Yi Geum says that he’ll be blamed if that happens, but that he’s doing this because someone has to take responsibility. Minister Min argues that sometimes it’s preferable for a ruler to ignore things and avoid responsibility, which is a kind of responsibility in itself.
As they watch over the sick king, Queen Seonui tells Queen Inwon that she disagrees with Yi Geum’s decision not to let the Royal Infirmary treat her husband. Queen Inwon asks her to trust the private doctors, but Queen Seonui argues that Yi Geum will be king if King Kyungjong dies. Queen Inwon orders her not to say such things, causing Queen Seonui to storm out in tears.
She runs into Yi Geum on his way in, who heard everything she said. Queen Inwon urges him not to take what the queen says personally, because she’s upset. He says that it’s okay, and that what’s important is the king’s health. After he goes in to the king, Queen Inwon orders her court lady to bring her the person who’s closest to Yi Geum.
Moon-soo plans to meet with Dal-moon, then go to see Yi Tan where he’s exiled. Dal-moon is unhappy with Moon-soo’s request to help him find Yoon-young because she may be the only one who knows what really happened the night Yi Tan broke into the palace. After he leaves, Geon-tae asks Dal-moon what he wants to do, and all Dal-moon can think of is how Yoon-young thanked him for saving her.
Minister Jo leads an investigation into the Royal Infirmary, unaware that the nurse who brings him the king’s medicine ingredients is the same one who put the poison into the medicine. Later he presents the best of the private doctors to the Saheonbu’s Chief Inspector Lee (formerly Soron ML), who says he’ll choose the best one to treat the king.
His choice is Choi Seong-jo, the same doctor who successfully treated King Sukjong in the past and gained some fame for it. Yi Geum nervously watches Doctor Choi examine King Kyungjong, remembering Minister Min’s words that sometimes a ruler has to avoid responsibility. He had told Minister Min that if that’s what a king does, then he’d rather not be king.
Late at night, Jo-hong visits the village of Gungmal, where former court ladies live after they leave the palace, and where Yeo-ji has been studying to become a court lady. She’s brought Yeo-ji a set of court lady’s clothing, and says that she needs to come to the palace now, even though she hasn’t finished her training.
Yeo-ji is brought before Queen Inwon, and Jo-hong explains her unique skills from her years as a Saheonbu damo. Queen Inwon likes her immediately, saying that she has noble, pure eyes, and that it says a lot about Yi Geum that he has good people like Yeo-ji and Jo-hong by his side. She asks Yeo-ji to be her court maid, but she warns that the palace is a cold place full of enemies, and promises to help Yeo-ji keep Yi Geum safe however she can.
Yeo-ji asks Jo-hong not to tell Yi Geum about this yet, but she watches him later from a distance. She remembers his shock when she told him she wanted to become a court lady so she could protect him, and she quietly apologizes for disobeying him. She cries, telling herself that being able to do this for him is enough for her.
That night, Byung-joo has a nightmare and bursts out of his exile cottage, screaming that he doesn’t want to die. He collapses, sobbing and pleading with nobody not to let him die, until someone approaches and calls him a pathetic man with no passion. He’s Lee In-jwa, a Namin, and he sneers down at the shivering Byung-joo and wonders if he should take him with him.
Byung-joo is slightly more composed when Hyuk arrives in the early hours of the morning. He asks if the king is truly in critical condition, and Hyuk asks how he knows. Jang-dal and Ah-bong question JK, who says that there’s no antidote to the poison he gave Yi Tan, and laughs that if the king dies, it’s surely Yi Tan who killed him.
Meanwhile, Moon-soo confronts Yi Tan at sword point, telling him that nobody will care if he dies here. He knows that Yi Tan poisoned the medicine, and he orders him to confess who helped him and what the poison was mixed with.
Yi Tan just sneers that he’s not afraid of dying, but that he’s going to tell Moon-soo the truth because he’s excited. He says that he couldn’t let Yi Geum take his throne and wanted to punish King Kyungjong, so he left the bloodstain at the Royal Infirmary on purpose so they would know it was him.
His plan was make Yi Geum stop the king’s medicine because of the poison and try to save him, but without an antidote the king will die anyway, and it will be Yi Geum’s fault.
Moon-soo pins Yi Tan to the wall by the throat and says that he can’t frame Yi Geum for poisoning the king, because he’s the one who did it. Yi Tan asks if he has any evidence that the poison came from him, because without evidence, Yi Geum will become the villain who killed the king. He gasps that even if he can’t have the throne, he won’t let Yi Geum have it, either.
With Yi Tan’s throat in one hand and his sword in the other, Moon-soo contemplates ending this whole thing right now. Suddenly he screams, and swings his sword. But he only grazes Yi Tan’s cheek, and Yi Tan is amused that he couldn’t kill him, laughing that he’s just like Yi Geum.
Yi Geum learns that the poison has no antidote from Jang-dal and Ah-bong, and he rushes to the king’s side. King Kyungjong is convulsing and unresponsive, and Yi Geum stares down at the dying king in horror. He goes to the Royal Infirmary, but Doctor Choi says that there’s nothing they can do.
Yi Geum doesn’t want to accept that all of the doctors, books, and medicines can’t save King Kyungjong, and Chief Inspector Lee says that there’s one more, very dangerous option. He suggests wolfsbane, the same toxic plant used for executions, explaining that the same toxicity that kills can also purge toxins from the body when mixed with ginseng to lower its potency.
Doctor Choi warns Yi Geum that the plants in the poison might neutralize the ginseng, so that it doesn’t work, but nobody has any other ideas, so Yi Geum decides to try. The medicine is made, and Chief Inspector Lee offers to take responsibility if it doesn’t work. But Yi Geum says that this is his decision, and he won’t avoid his responsibilities.
He watches as the concoction is fed to the king, nervously waiting to see if it will work.
Yoon-young brings the Royal Infirmary chief nurse half of her payment, which totals half of Yi Tan’s entire fortune, and the chief nurse says greedily that it’s nothing compared to what she’s done. She tells Yoon-young that Yi Geum is trying to save the king’s life, but that it won’t work because there’s no antidote. Yoon-young offers the chief nurse some tea, saying that she feels relieved now that everything is done.
Moon-soo takes Yi Tan’s plans to Yi Geum, explaining that Yi Geum is doing exactly as Yi Tan wants. He asks Yi Geum to stop and get himself out of this and to accept that there’s nothing he can do to save King Kyungjong, but Yi Geum says that even if Yi Tan planned everything, he still has to try. Moon-soo says regretfully that he doesn’t want to, but it’s his responsibility to do what he can to protect him.
Dal-moon intercepts Yoon-young as she’s leaving the chief nurse’s house, and he knows from her guilty expression that she hasn’t changed at all. She tries to stop him from going inside, but he shoves her away and asks if Yi Tan told her to poison the king.
He yells that this is pointless because Yi Tan is finished, but Yoon-young says that it’s not over yet. She tells Dal-moon that the king will die and Yi Geum will take the blame, and that she just made sure nobody will ever know the truth. He stares at her in horror, and when he goes inside, he finds the chief nurse dead.
Yi Geum is summoned urgently to the king’s side. King Kyungjong is weak but conscious, and he recognizes Yi Geum, who calls for the doctor and Chief Inspector Lee. King Kyungjong whispers to Yi Geum to stop trying so hard, because he’s probably not going to live, but Yi Geum sobs that he’s better because he opened his eyes.
Taking Yi Geum’s hands, King Kyungjong asks his forgiveness for taking the throne that was meant to be his. Yi Geum begs him not to say that, but King Kyungjong continues that he hopes Yi Geum will become a great king. He tells Yi Geum to be the king that he failed to become, the king that Yi Geum dreams of being… and then he’s gone.
In his grief, Yi Geum slices open his hand and feeds the blood to King Kyungjong, desperate to do anything he can to save him and ignoring Chief Inspector Lee’s warnings that he’ll only make himself sick. Yi Geum weeps like a child, begging his brother to live, but it’s too late.
Queen Inwon and Queen Seonui hear the sounds, and soon the entire palace is crying for the loss of their king. Moon-soo sees the court’s grief and realizes what’s happened, but both his and Yeo-ji’s first thoughts are for Yi Geum. Yi Geum looks dazed when he eventually leaves the king’s bedchamber, but seeing the ministers crying makes him cry all over again.
That night, the court dresses in mourning white and grieves officially outside the king’s palace. Afterward, Chief Justice Jo gathers his Soron ministers, and they come to an agreement.
Yeo-ji overhears them and takes what she heard back to Queen Inwon, warning her that the Sorons will be at the queen’s palace soon. Minister Jo runs to tell Chief Inspector Lee that the Sorons are on their way to the queen’s palace, but Chief Justice Jo arrives before Chief Inspector Lee can get there.
Chief Justice Jo rants to Queen Inwon that the king died because of Yi Geum’s stubbornness and greed, but Queen Inwon disagrees, pointing out that Yi Geum even tried to save the king by giving him his very own blood. Chief Justice Jo says that the king wouldn’t have died if they’d been allowed to give the king proper treatment, which Yi Geum disallowed.
Their petition is interrupted by Yi Geum himself, and Chief Justice Jo gets in his face and accuses him of being responsible for King Kyungjong’s death. He says that Yi Geum doesn’t deserve to be king, but Yi Geum just stares at him with tears in his eyes.
I have a feeling that Yi Geum’s greatest challenge is still ahead of him, because although anyone who saw him at the king’s deathbed would know that he tried everything to save King Kyungjong, the fact that he gave King Kyungjong wolfsbane will certainly be used against him. And knowing what we do about Yi Geum, he’s blaming himself more than anyone, and wont’ shy away from saying so. He’s likely about to be accused of murdering the king to gain the throne, and this time, he’s going to have a much harder time convincing everyone that he stopped the king’s medicine and even gave the king poison in an attempt to save him.
I can’t even blame Chief Justice Jo for his accusations, because it does look bad — if this hadn’t happened, King Kyungjong might have lived a very long time, and Yi Geum might not ever have gained the throne since they’re so close in age. It wouldn’t be the first time an heir killed their predecessor to gain the throne, and Yi Geum was open about giving King Kyungjong the controversial medicine. I’m confident that he’ll take responsibility as he said he would, and still find a way to convince his enemies that he didn’t commit murder, but it’s not going to be easy.
I feel so bad for Dal-moon after this episode, because he finally saw what Yoon-young is truly capable of — I think he knew, but he needed to see it to really understand the extent of her obsession. I don’t think that Dal-moon is actually still in love with Yoon-young, it’s more that they only had each other to count on as children, so when he found her again, he wanted to believe that she was still a good person. But now he knows that she’s the one who hired the chief nurse to poison the king, then she killed the chief nurse to hide her crime. It’s proof of how delusional Yoon-young is, that she thinks that framing Yi Geum for the king’s murder will result in Yi Tan’s being restored and made king, even though he’s already been sentenced with death for his crimes.
Sometimes I feel as if recapping this show is like doing homework all over again, because I keep going back to look up what really happened during this time in history. A lot of events have been dramatized or embellished, and the timeline is tweaked a little, but the raw bones of the story follow history quite well. We know that King Kyungjong was about to be deposed as crown prince by King Sukjong in favor of Yi Geum, but that King Sukjong died before that could happen, and that Yi Geum was made crown prince because King Kyungjong was unable to father an heir (probably due to an injury). It’s even true that the Norons tried to suggest that Yi Geum rule as regent, but their plan was foiled, only for the king himself to order it himself a few days later.
In reality, King Kyungjong was even thought to have been poisoned by Yi Geum in order to make himself king, though that rumor didn’t last long, because, a) Yi Geum was known to be a moral and ethical person, which was supported by his subsequent reign in which he did a lot of good for the country, and b) King Kyungjong had recently eaten seafood in the middle of summer, which was likely spoiled because there was no refrigeration. Anyway, I say all that because I’m just so impressed how Haechi has kept relatively accurate, if a little dramatic, in terms of how Yi Geum became crown prince, and I’m sure it will stay that way as he ascends to the throne. Even Moon-soo is a wonderful character who seems a lot like his real-life counterpart — a man who didn’t pass the civil service until he was in his thirties, but went on to become the most famous secret royal inspector in history, exposing and punishing corrupt government officials. Who needs to come up with wild plot twists, when history was chock-full of exciting and dangerous people and events that need no embellishment?
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