Rookie Historian Gu Hae-ryung: Episodes 17-20 Open Thread
The historians are back in the spotlight this week as we learn just how important and dangerous it is to record every palace minutiae, and why steadfastness of character matters a lot in a seemingly tiring desk job. There’s also a dizzying amount of progress in the romance front. But if you hate that kind of thing, don’t worry, the show balances it with a lot of pain. (Also, who hurt you?)
EPISODES 17-20 WEECAP
Let’s just say that the Office of Royal Decrees is having a bad week.
First, the crown princess brings two clueless rookie historians to a confrontation with Prince Jin. Despite Jin’s warnings about who’s listening, the crown princess details her desperation as the public blames Joseon’s bad luck on her inability to produce an heir, not knowing that her husband has never even spent the night with her during the auspicious dates. She refuses Jin’s apologies and hands him the next date for making royal babies, asking him to be there.
Eun-im and Ah-ran record the whole conversation, giving Historian Yang a headache. On the surface, it sounds like a personal issue between the couple which shouldn’t be written down, but it is part of the rookies’ duties to write what happens in the Inner Palace now. Then again, it seemed like the crown princess deliberately used the apprentices to pressure the crown prince, setting a bad precedent.
Yang dumps the decision on Woo-won since he’s the crown princess’s brother AND Jin’s childhood friend. Woo-won chooses to keep the record despite a personal visit from Jin appealing for his wife’s sake. (It’d be embarrassing for a crown princess to be on record begging her husband to spend the night with her.) Woo-won Bot’s only concession to his relationship to both parties is to ask for Jin’s understanding towards his sister. Jin’s only concession is to send all the court ladies away before entering the princess’s chambers that night and apologizing to her. Read: still no on the royal babies.
Woo-won’s inflexibility comes to bite him in the behind when the Office of Royal Decrees (thanks to Hae-ryung) discovers that the list of new officers has been doctored. Woo-won confronts Lord Song about the list, forcing him to reverse the corrupt appointments. In retaliation, Song lodges an impeachment complaint against Woo-won, stating a hushed up piece of truth. Woo-won’s father-in-law was executed for plotting a conspiracy and his wife committed suicide because of it, thus, he isn’t qualified to do an unbiased historian’s work.
Woo-won’s perfectly stern facade starts cracking under palace gossip and he eventually submits his resignation to the crown prince. Jin rejects it, knowing that Woo-won has been nothing but exemplary in his job. Jin also reminds Woo-won why he begged to be a historian after the tragedy with his wife: to chronicle all of his father’s sins with his own hand. Woo-won says he can’t bear to hear his wife’s name being gossip fodder again. With that, he walks away.
Hae-ryung who’s been recording this particular event runs after Woo-won and asks him to endure. Didn’t he become a historian exactly to make sure that his wife isn’t forgotten or incorrectly described in history?
Woo-won goes home to drink his problems away. When his father tries to comfort him, Woo-won reminds him in so many words that he hates his guts. Councilor Min tells his son to move on already which sounds like difficult but fatherly advice–except he said the exact same thing right after Woo-won’s wife’s death too. And it turns out that Councilor Min was the guy who accused Woo-won’s father-in-law of the crime he was executed for. WTF, Dad?
Drunk Woo-won visits his old, abandoned home and recalls happier times with Dan-yeong, playing hooky at Sungkyunkwan just to spend an extra hour with her. He also recalls how he and Dan-yeong begged Councilor Min to spare her father. But we know how this story ends. The next thing we see, Woo-won, already in mourning clothes for his father-in-law, discovers that his wife also killed herself.
The bittersweet memories of Dan-yeong and Councilor Min’s crimes reinforces Woo-won’s resolve. He walks in to work the next day stern and frowny as ever. Though he takes Hae-ryung aside to thank her for convincing him to stay. And though Hae-ryung now fully understands Woo-won’s rationale for limiting personal relationships or letting any hint of bias show, she wheedles him into being more friendly with her anyway. Heh.
Rim spots the two being amicable and orders Hae-ryung to come to Nokseodang, where he asks her if she likes this or that guy. It’s a running theme this week where our couple take one tentative step towards each other and back because Sam-bo keeps putting strange dating ideas in Rim’s head. LOL. But Hae-ryung cuts through the games and asks him to be honest. When Rim admits to being jealous that he’s trapped in Nokseodang while Hae-ryung is surrounded by people who get to know her all day, Hae-ryung starts listing a couple of facts about herself. She then stops and tells Rim that she doesn’t want to finish it all in one day, else he won’t be curious and miss her anymore. (Yieee~) She also admits to lying about mountain tigers in an earlier excursion with Rim as an excuse to hold his hand. Welllll, look who “hates” romance novels. Move over, Maehwa, Hae-ryung is the swooniest.
Meanwhile, Yang and the other historians successfully distract the newly-returned Woo-won from discovering that Councilor Min is once again conferring with the king with no historian present. But their bad week is about to get worse. Because Hae-ryung happens to be outside the king’s chambers at that moment, eavesdropping on their conversation about a possible secret around Prince Dowon. Oh, and a palace guard catches her. Dun-dun-dun.
Now I know why this show is called Rookie Historian. Our girl isn’t a genius (goodbye, my Jewel in the Palace dreams!) She’s currently too passionate and outspoken–the worst qualities for a historian. Woo-won even ordered her to rewrite her work thrice because her feelings for Rim keep appearing between the lines. It’s frustrating to be mentored by the stodgiest historian in history, but knowing Woo-won’s story suddenly puts all that sternness in a different light. Only in keeping such a distance from the subject of your writing can you truly claim your work as fact. And his work does speak for itself. He’s been called all sort of things. Frowny, stodgy… but never incompetent. He’s always asked to make the hard decisions because you know he’ll be unbiased even if it kills him. (Don’t, Show!)
But on the lighter side of things, our main couple have progressed at a dizzying pace this week. And I love that it’s always Hae-ryung who pulls them away from misunderstandings by not falling for Rim’s hot-and-cold dating techniques courtesy of Sam-bo. Her unusual reaction forces Rim to be honest, which cuts through the confusion and allows them to be themselves around each other. She won’t even let him take back his compliment. “I know I’m pretty, I have a mirror at home.” Heh~ Go, girl! This is a sageuk and we don’t have lots of time for wishy-washy wooing. Executions are always around the corner! *remembers Woo-won♥Dan-yeong* *starts crying again*
We also got to know more about the other rookies this week. That scene where they sneak away from work (stealing Yang’s secret alcohol stash to boot) to whine about their seniors and pile of work is heartwarming, especially because Sa-hee takes part in it. I’m glad that they’re not setting her up to be part of a love triangle. She has a LOT of baggage to deal with with her money-grubbing father. Despite refusing help and possibly putting Mo-hwa in danger, everything Sa-hee does interests me. I hope to see more of her shaking things up and angering her father with her upright, noble-like conduct. (Oh, and please stop spying for Councilor Min.)
I also like that the show didn’t paint our girls as trying to escape marriage because love sucks etc., only to “cure” them with a love story. Rookie Historian takes pains to remind us how difficult Joseon life is unless you’re a well-connected nobleman with no shady past OR enough power to stomp on your enemies. Imagine being a woman. I’d choose a crazy workload and shouty sunbaes for a bit of autonomy too.
I especially love our girls’ admissions that they may have jumped at the chance to be historians to escape being sent away in marriage, but they’re still holding out hope to experience a whirlwind romance with a handsome, crazy guy. I luff them so much in that moment and wanted them to get everything they wish in the future. Be senior historians, laugh at the new batch of rookies’ shoddy writing, and have all the crazy dates or earnest love they want. Minus the constant threat of beheading. And that beheading-immunity goes for doting family members who may or may not be doing double-spy work for the good side. You hear me, Show? *sends prayers for Hae-ryung’s Orabeoni*
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