Haechi: Episodes 41-42
As the rebels gather momentum, our inexperienced king is forced to think fast to outsmart and outmaneuver them. He has a solid plan to undermine them from the inside out, but it’s a radical one (as his ideas usually are). He’ll have to hope that the relationships he’s built are strong enough to convince his newer allies to trust him enough for what has to be done.
EPISODES 41-42: “Rebellion”
Lee In-jwa moves up the date of his rebellion, sending men to the palace to kill Yi Geum. But Minister Min and Chief Justice Jo get wind of the plot in time to stop it, while Yeo-ji confronts the assassin and saves Yi Geum’s life. Unfortunately, while the palace was distracted, In-jwa led another army and successfully captured the palace in Cheongju.
Soaked in blood, Byung-joo throws the decapitated head of a soldier into a crowd of commoners as an example of what happens to anyone who opposes them. In-jwa says that Yi Geum is not the rightful king, having been born of a peasant and having murdered King Kyungjong. He announces that they will rid the country of the fake king and crown Yi Tan, the legitimate heir to the throne.
He kneels to Yi Tan, already addressing him as the king, and Byung-joo does the same. The terrified commoners all bow to Yi Tan, and Yi Tan tears up at being called “Your Majesty.” He promises the people that he will save them and the entire kingdom from their suffering at the hands of the false king.
Several other provinces come under rebel attack the following day, effectively plunging the entire kingdom into war. Yi Geum realizes that Lee In-jwa is trying to take over his country.
Word reaches the streets that there’s a rebellion happening, and people rush to escape while security is increased at the palace. Yi Geum receives a report that rifles supplied to the national security office in Cheongju were found at the rebel base, and he tells the ministers that more rifles were sent to Gyeongsang Province, which is now under attack, so things will probably get worse.
A messenger was sent there and discovered between ten and thirty thousand rebels. Minister Min says that Gyeongsang Province hasn’t been well-managed and the people are highly distrustful of the government, so someone is instigating them to fight. Yi Geum orders all military officers sent to Gyeongsang, and tells Minister Lee to prepare a defense plan for the capital, since In-jwa will be there within a few days.
In private with Minister Min and Chief Justice Jo, Yi Geum finally shows his fear and exhaustion. He says that this is the largest rebellion the kingdom has ever seen, and the first to target the king. They try to reassure him that this isn’t happening because the people don’t trust him, but because a few malcontents took advantage of momentary confusion in the government.
But Yi Geum says that as the king, the responsibility ultimately belongs to him. Chief Justice Jo says that it’s his fault for being disloyal and not trusting Yi Geum, even encouraging others to distrust him. Minister Min reminds Yi Geum that they captured the spies in the palace last night, and he says that probably did a lot of damage to the rebels’ plans.
He suggests that Yi Geum focus on getting over this crisis right now, and he can hold himself responsible later. He promises that he’ll get past their party differences and do his best to overcome this crisis.
Yeo-ji overhears some court ladies whining about how scared they are that the rebels will come to the palace. She offers to teach them to use a sword, since fighting is better than being frightened and helpless. Queen Inwon joins them and says that Yeo-ji is right that women shouldn’t just hide behind men and worry, and she forbids the ladies to show fear.
Minister Lee is afraid that the rebel forces in Cheongju will attack the capital, and when he mobilizes the army, Moon-soo asks to be sent to battle, too. He vows to stand in front and not allow a single rebel into the city.
Yi Tan plays the benevolent leader, passing out rice to the poor and telling them that in his kingdom, nobody will go hungry, nobody will pay taxes, and everyone will be rich. He hears a voice call his name and turns to see Yoon-young, crying to have found him again.
He tells Yoon-young that the people see him as their king, and she gives him something she’s been carrying with her, calling it their only fortune. She warns Yi Tan not to hand it over to In-jwa, because it’s their last resort.
Nearby, Byung-joo is furious with In-jwa that Yi Geum is still alive. He says that they’ll die unless the palace is crushed, but In-jwa just levels his sword at Byung-joo’s throat for abusing one of his men. Byung-joo says he’d rather die than fail and be disgraced, but In-jwa snaps that Byung-joo already ignored his colleagues and was a dog for those in power, so he has no right to say such things.
Byung-joo retorts that unless they replace the king, they’re nothing but traitors. Yi Tan wanders past, oblivious to the tension, and says casually that the king has already been replaced. He tells them to stop fighting, and when In-jwa doesn’t lower his sword, Yi Tan grasps it and makes it an order as his blood runs down the blade.
The two finally relax, and Yi Tan says he understands how they feel, living their lives being mistreated because they’re Namins. He tells them how he was deserted by the Norons and his throne was stolen by the son of a peasant, so he knows what it’s like to struggle.
But he says that’s all behind them, because now he can take his throne with them by his side. He opens the package Yoon-young gave him, and Yi Tan tells them that the letters inside will clear their way to the palace.
Yoon-young sees this and confronts Yi Tan, upset that he gave over his only advantage so easily. He counters that his only options are to become the king or die, and reminds her that she came back to him because she wants to become the queen.
Moon-soo prepares for battle, and he runs into Jang-dal and Ah-bong on the way to the palace. They’ve also joined the army, and they promise to guard him faithfully. Moon-soo worries about Jang-dal fighting at his age, but Jang-dal replies that Moon-soo isn’t the king’s only sworn brother.
They come across Yeo-ji at the palace, who fusses at Ah-bong for doing this when he’s a notorious coward and asks Moon-soo and Jang-dal to take care of the little guy. Moon-soo promises to keep Ah-bong right behind him at all times, and Jang-dal promises to keep track of Moon-soo. Jang-dal tells Yeo-ji and Ah-bong to quit acting like they’ll never see each other again, and all of you stop it, you’re scaring me!
Moon-soo hangs back, and Yeo-ji apologizes for not being able to fight beside them. Moon-soo says that for the first time, he’s glad that she’s a court lady so he knows she’ll be safe, pretending like being with her on the battlefield would be annoying. He pats her on the head and tells her that he’ll come back alive, and asks her to look after Yi Geum. Okay seriously, staaahp.
The soldiers gather at the palace, where Yi Geum addresses them. He says that they are all his friends, his soldiers, and his people, and that as king, he should be protecting them. He expresses his confidence that they’ll defeat the rebellion, and forbids them to let the traitors take their lives.
The soldiers march out of the city, and back at the palace, Chief Justice Jo tells Minister Min that he feels like it’s them, the ones with power, who have been ruining the country for a very long time. Minister Min agrees, placing particular blame on himself and the Norons.
Yi Geum talks to Jang-dal, feeling guilty for sending his people to battle while he stays behind. Jang-dal tells him that his people chose to risk their lives for him, so as their king, it’s his job to think of a way to protect the country. He says that Yi Geum is well aware of the cause of the rebellion, so he must do his job as king.
Yi Geum speaks privately with Chief Justice Jo and tells him that he wants to meet with the descendants of the Namin who still live in the capital. He says that In-jwa and his men are rebelling because as Namins, they were barred from taking office.
He wants to offer government appointments to the Namins, and let the news reach the rebels. Since Chief Justice Jo is acquainted with the Namins, Yi Geum asks him to arrange a meeting. He says that he’s interested in recruiting people according to their talent and not their politics, and says that this uprising may work in their favor over the long run.
Minister Lee leads the soldiers to their base near Mokcheon, where the rebels are expected to arrive that night. Moon-soo offers to take some elite soldiers and spy on the rebels, and Dal-moon has already gone with GT and Storyteller in disguise to gather information.
Chief Justice Jo’s main concern regarding Yi Geum’s plan is whether the Norons, who have monopolized most of the government positions for years, will relinquish some of their positions so that Namins can be given the jobs.
While Moon-soo and his men take a break to come up with a plan to approach Mokcheon, Ah-bong spots torches nearby, so they sneak closer to see what’s going on. They realize that it’s the rebels, who are somehow much closer than expected.
Yi Geum meets with Minister Min, confident that he’ll see the wisdom in his plan to appoint people based on skill rather than political affiliation. But Minister Min objects, so Yi Geum reminds him that the old way is the reason political parties fight each other and why the country is in the state it’s in now.
Minister Min asks why Yi Geum seems to only be blaming the Norons, claiming that Norons suffer the most from political conflict. Yi Geum says that’s exactly why he’s trying to do away with the current system. But Minister Min grows angry, yelling that people will never unite when power is at stake.
He calls Yi Geum naïve, and refuses to relinquish Noron positions to Sorons and Namins. Yi Geum says that he understands that Minister Min wants to protect the Norons’ power, but he reminds him that he also hated to send the people into battle because he feels responsible for them.
He says that the two of them don’t shed blood in battle, but they can do this for the people who die in their place, to prevent it from ever happening again. Minister Min simply bows, silently giving in, and leaves.
When Dal-moon and Moon-soo reconnect, Dal-moon tells Moon-soo that the rebels already took over Mokcheon earlier that day. He says they conquered it so easily because they handed out money and food to the people, convincing them and the local soldiers to their side.
The news reaches the palace that the rebels are almost at the capital. Jo-hong tells Yi Geum that Yeo-ji is planning to fight, and he catches her preparing to leave the city. He tells her that she can’t leave the palace and hugs her tightly, whispering, “Please stay here, Yeo-ji-ah. At least you should stay by my side. I cannot put you in danger as well. If I fail to protect you… if that happens… ”
Hyuk is shocked and angry to find that the Saheonbu officials have fled the capital. As he’s discussing what to do with the inspectors who remained in the city, Young-han crashes through the wall (literally), and Hyuk expresses surprise and pride that Young-han didn’t flee.
He claps Young-han on the arm, making him drop the small chest of money he’s holding, and Young-han confesses that he came to get it before leaving the city. Hyuk stops him and says angrily that Young-han is going on an inspection with him today, and drags him out screaming.
Yi Geum has his meeting with the Namins, where he offers them political positions in return for their support. Chief Justice Jo has already told them that Yi Geum sincerely wants to enact change and that this isn’t just a political move. But the Namin spokesman says that he knows how the Norons work, so he doesn’t trust that Yi Geum could keep his promise.
Minister Min walks through a deserted capital city, and he encounters one farmer who hasn’t fled. He asks why, and the farmer says that he would rather die while farming than leave his home. He’s just as surprised to see a noble who hasn’t run away, since the nobles were the first to abandon the city.
Humbled, Minister Min returns to the palace and approaches Yi Geum. Later, Yi Geum asks the palace guards about defense of the capital, and he’s told that troops are positioned at the gates. He also learns that royal troops have formed a final defense line just outside the city in Jiksan.
Chief Justice Jo and Moon-soo discuss their strategy, which is tricky because it places all of their troops at one location. They risks missing the rebels if they go in a different direction, but they only have enough troops to uphold one city.
Byung-joo suggests to In-jwa that they march through Jiksan on their way to the capital, since it’s the route with the least risk of ambush. A message arrives from a spy they planted in the royal troops telling them that the soldiers are waiting for them in Jiksan, so In-jwa changes the plans, deciding to march through Anseong instead.
Yoon-young warns Yi Tan that he shouldn’t fight in battle and risk his life, but he bellows at her to address him as “Your Majesty.” He says that he should be out front as he reclaims his kingdom, so that he can enter the palace gates first and be the one who kills Yi Geum. Byung-joo goes on a power trip of his own, basking in the knowledge that he’ll be a founding father of the new nation and that his descendants will be high-ranking officials.
Moon-soo, Dal-moon, and the others gather just before the fight to renew their promises to come out the other side victorious and, more importantly, alive. In the capital, Yi Geum paces the throne room, wringing his hands and repeating nervously, “Please… please…”
Moon-soo leads his men into position to wait for the rebels’ approach, and prays that they come this way as they anticipate. Meanwhile, the rebels approach Anseong Palace, which appears completely deserted. They move to capture the palace, planning to move on to the capital next.
The soldiers start to get nervous when the rebels don’t show up as expected. They turn to Moon-soo, who says confidently that they will come this way.
As he waits alone for news, Yi Geum is also sure. He tells himself, “This battle — we will surely win.”
What a great cliffhanger! I have a feeling that we’ll learn that Moon-soo and the soldiers are actually in Anseong waiting for the rebels, having tricked them into going there. But it was still a great way to end the episode, with the rebels confidently attacking what looks like a deserted palace as the good guys wait, supposedly in the entirely wrong place.
Is anyone else very, very concerned about Ah-bong? He’s such a great character, fiercely loyal and extremely lovable, and he must have brains and skills or he wouldn’t have been able to pass the civil service exam and get into the Saheonbu. But he’s also little and seems most likely to panic or freeze under pressure. That whole conversation about protecting him, and he and Yeo-ji acting like they’ll never see each other again, has me very worried because it just felt like a heavy foreshadowing. I’m not naïve enough to think that everyone will survive this rebellion, but can we just please not lose the sweet little guy who loves everyone and wouldn’t hurt a fly?
Yet again, Yi Geum spent this episode fighting aggression with understanding and inclusion, and I just love it. Most people, when faced with the things he’s had to deal with, would instinctively push back or lash out, but not Yi Geum. His first thought is how to make his enemy into his friend, and make them feel valued. The greatest part, as I’ve said before, is that it’s not even tactics or tricks to get his way — Yi Geum genuinely wants everyone to feel respected, because he genuinely respects them. That’s why it works, because when he visits an infirmary or offers his political opponents government positions, of course he’s doing it to calm whatever chaos is happening, but he truly feels that the actions he takes are the right ones.
I said last week that I love Yi Geum’s unconscious ability to influence people, especially the positive effect he’s had on Minister Min and Chief Justice Jo. I’m not surprised that Chief Justice Jo finally cracked — he’s on Yi Geum’s side now, but he’s looked unsettled and even guilty for a while, so I think it was a matter of time before he gave in. He’s right that he was responsible for a lot of the distrust of Yi Geum among the Sorons, so it’s accurate to say that at least some of the fracturing of the party is his fault for not trusting Yi Geum sooner and unifying them instead of letting their uncertainty in their king fester.
Although, now Minister Min is balking and refusing to cooperate, but in a lot of ways I can’t blame him. He’s been at the pinnacle of political power for a very long time, and Yi Geum is asking him to voluntarily relinquish some of his power to a political group that’s been on the outs for decades. I imagine he feels offended and insulted, as well as afraid of losing the advantage that he’s spent his entire career gaining and holding. Hopefully Yi Geum’s influence has sunk in deep enough that Minister Min will be able to see that giving up his power will benefit the kingdom as a whole.
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