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Rookie Historian Gu Hae-ryung: Episodes 25-28 Open Thread

Our characters continue to create and record history, no matter if it’s the good or bad kind. But is the ideal of an impartial historian possible? And is it even right for someone to completely distance themself from everything that’s happening around them? Or are there times when historians should put down the brush, ignore the law, and *gasp* shape the course of the future?

 
EPISODES 25-28 WEECAP

This week’s moral quandary is brought to us by a Westerner caught rowing along the Amrok River. Jin finds it unusual and orders the stranger brought to him in the inner palace for questioning. The man’s “other-ness” like light skin, brown hair, and strange language draws a curious crowd. That curiosity quickly turns into panic when he clumsily escapes in broad daylight. Fear of the unknown coupled with gossip turns him into a monster that leaps buildings and dodges bullets, creating terror among palace inhabitants.

The king, initially annoyed at the chaos, becomes alarmed when he’s informed that the foreigner is a Catholic. (Normally, Catholic beliefs such as “everyone, slave or noble, is born equal” is considered heresy, but rounding them up wasn’t considered a priority since they’re a quiet minority. Until now.) The advisors remind the king that Catholics worked with Western spies in the past, prompting him to order a search and arrest of any Catholics found within the palace.

Woo-won drives the inspectors away when he spots Seong preparing to admit to being a Catholic. He then scolds him in private for risking his whole family’s life. Seong answers that he’s ready to be persecuted for believing that everyone is equal under God. When he asks Woo-won why a nobleman whose only advantage is to be born to a certain family should enjoy an easy life while hardworking farmers starve and slaves are sold like property, Woo-won is rendered speechless (more so than usual).

The queen dowager also scares the guards away from her quarters to cover up the fact that Mo-hwa is currently inside, reporting her failure to rendezvous with the foreigner. Dowager Im coldly tells Mo-hwa that Councilor Min mustn’t lay eyes on their guest, dead or alive.

Rim and his staff catch the foreigner hiding in Nokseodang, leading to an argument with Sam-bo wanting to hand the criminal over and Hae-ryung wanting to listen to the stranger’s story first. Guess who Rim decides to side with?

When the man turns out to speak fluent Korean, they feed him dinner and ask questions. He introduces himself as merchant Jean Baptiste Barthélemy. He came to Joseon because his wife nagged him to get their money back from a scammer named Kim. The sobstory puts everyone except Hae-ryung on the man’s side and they start calling him “Jang,” cutely assuming it’s his last name.

Luckily, Historian Seong is the one assigned to review Hae-ryung’s sachaek that night. His eyes go round to read what’s happening at Nokseodang but promises Hae-ryung that he’ll keep it a secret.

Meanwhile, Jean’s stories has Rim wishing he’s a French prince with an extravagant palace and no whiny advisors… until Jean matter-of-factly tells him they beheaded their own monarchs for letting the people starve. Hah! Jean assures him that they have a new ruling family, but the people no longer fear the king when they realized they can live without one. Jean tentatively asks Rim if he knows “the place where dawn comes to greet you” (a.k.a. Seoraewon) then backpedals upon seeing the prince’s clueless face.

Mo-hwa considers asking Jae-kyung for help finding Jean, which is how Hae-ryung finds her in front of their house and invites her in, assuming it’s an accidental meeting. Jae-kyung and Mo-hwa pretend to meet for the first time until Hae-ryung leaves the room and Mo-hwa points out that Jae-kyung never had a sister. (!!!) She looks around Hae-ryung’s room, spotting the science books and Western novels and realizes that Hae-ryung is the daughter of their teacher from Seoraewon. Mo-hwa is overwhelmed to learn that the little girl she knew survived, but she’s also outraged that Jae-kyung raised the girl after what he did to them. He begs her to keep things quiet until he finishes… whatever he’s doing. (Orabeoni, don’t die taking down Councilor Min or I’ll kill you!)

Councilor Min suspects the dowager queen of harboring Jean and puts his spies to work. Mo-hwa is at her wits’ ends trying to find Jean. The 73 discovered Catholics are set for execution and Prince Jin is devastated to learn that his curiosity has led to this witch-hunt.

While all this is going down, Jean lives a secret but happy life at Nokseodang, helping with chores and entertaining them (except Hae-ryung) with fairy tales. They only realize the gravity of the situation when security is increased inside the palace.

Hae-ryung hatches a plan to smuggle Jean out so he can take a boat back to China. She spreads fake news (by telling Seol-geum not to tell anyone, LOL) that Jean was spotted with bloody hands in the capital. The story gets fed into the rumor mill and comes out the other end with all sorts of ridiculous embellishments and “sightings” of this bloodthirsty Westerner.

The guards are distracted responding to every citizen’s gossip report, allowing Jean to escape. But he gives Hae-ryung the slip on the way to the ship and leaves a letter for the Nokseodang gang. He thanks them and admits that he’s not really a merchant. He can’t explain why he’s looking for “the place where dawn comes to greet you” since it’s an immediate death sentence for those who know it.

Eventually, Jean meets up with Mo-hwa to visit his older brother’s resting place. It’s the reason he came to Joseon. His brother is Doctor Dominique, Jae-kyung and Mo-hwa’s teacher in Western medicine at Seoraewon. Jean cries to learn that his brother has no actual tomb because he died a criminal. And it’s so sad when he asked if his brother suffered before death, because you know the good man did. :'(

The king, with nudging by Councilor Min, issues an ultimatum. Whoever helped the Westerner escape must come out or the 73 Catholics in custody will be executed on the morrow.

Rim wants to save the Catholics and disagrees with Sam-bo that one prince’s life matters more than 73 of his people. Then he dons his royal robe and for the first time in his life, Rim requests an audience with the king. With Hae-ryung to record the meeting, Rim admits to being the one who helped the Westerner and asks for leniency for the Catholics. The king throws a tantrum and seems angrier at the fact that Rim did a dangerous thing. He orders the Catholics killed anyway and threatens Rim to keep quiet or everyone who knows his involvement will die. Including his loyal retinue and Hae-ryung.

The king’s eunuch informs him that it’s too late because Jin just pardoned the Catholics. Everyone is surprised that not only were the Catholics freed, but the signs ordering the capture of Jean or his helpers have all been taken down. It doesn’t make sense that the case is being wrapped up when the whole capital is terrified and no one was punished for it. Sa-hee, Jin’s regular historian, also doesn’t know what happened since Historian Seong took over the first hour of her duty.

Woo-won confronts Seong for doing something, and even I am shocked when the timid Seong admits to blackmailing Jin with the contents of Hae-ryung’s sachaek. Basically: release the prisoners or I’ll reveal that Prince Dowon was the one who helped the Westerner escape.

Woo-won-Bot malfunctions. He’s aghast that Seong would use the sachaek for a personal agenda. But when Seong says that he knows he no longer deserves to be a historian and will accept all punishment, Woo-won can only ask again and again if being a historian meant so little to Seong. (It doesn’t! His beliefs just matter more!)

The king lets it go but it seems he’s tired of covering up for Rim, because he orders the palace to start marriage preparations for Dowon. Or, in Sam-bo’s words, “big trouble.”

Raise your hand if you didn’t see Hae-ryung’s birth secret coming.

We’ve all been speculating about Rim’s secret and Orabeoni’s “betrayal” that it didn’t occur to me that our heroine would have her own twisty past. Jae-kyung seemed like the most doting brother, I thought the secret was he ratted out Seoraewon so he can save his little sis.

Hae-ryung grew up to be such a brave, principled, and fair person, it must’ve killed Jae-kyung inside to be reminded of his awesome mentor every day. It also explains his desperation to keep her out of the palace. He’s not worried about the potential danger of her being caught up in court affairs, she’s already in danger by virtue of her parentage.

Hae-ryung’s father sounded like a wonderful, reasonable man… for our time. But back then, I can see why he’s considered a radical. He ordered his students (boys of noble birth) to respect the servant Mo-hwa. He created a school where girls and boys of all classes can exchange ideas. He was basically saying piffle~ to the whole social hierarchy that’s the basis of Confucian order. We’ve yet to know if Seoraewon (of which Woo-won’s father-in-law was a member too) actually plotted treason or if they’re just a bunch of optimistic philosophers who got on the wrong side of Councilor Min.

Rim’s secret is no small matter too. After the king’s funny character redemption last week, I’m inclined to think that he’s keeping Rim quiet and out of sight to keep him alive. He doesn’t want Rim drawing attention to himself (like when Rim made wise decisions during the smallpox outbreak or when he risked his life to save the Catholics). The king in his anger even said “roots will show,” as if Rim showing hints of being a great ruler is a bad thing.

Maybe, like Orabeoni to Hae-ryung, the king wants Rim to live a long, quiet happy life out of sight. But these danged youngsters keep doing heroic, principled, noteworthy things! It’s getting harder and harder to keep them out of Councilor Min’s suspicious eyes.

Of course I want them alive too but it’s frustrating that everyone around them keeps telling them to stay sheltered. Even the dowager queen who (allegedly) is plotting to put Rim on the throne doesn’t care if he grows up to be a good ruler. She just wants Rim to stay in the palace, alive, long enough for whatever she’s plotting with Mo-hwa. No wonder our sparrow and wild goose took to each other. They give each other opportunities for growth and a sense of purpose.

Don’t let the Joseon background fool you. This show keeps tackling issues that are relevant even to this day. Equal rights, bureaucratic corruption, health scares made worse by lack of information, abuse of power, and this week’s treatment of “others.”

I love how, in between the cute courtings and sageuk plotting, the show is using stories to remind us that abuse of power is bad. Persecuting harmless people for being different is bad. And so on. It’s set in a fictional Joseon, but these issues did happen in history. So the fact that you can transpose them to our present society means that we still need to work on a lot of things to make the world a better place for everyone.

And I just love the meta on meta of a show about historians set two centuries in the past, with characters worrying that if they don’t record this or that, history will repeat itself. At the same time, the show is telling these stories and saying that history is in fact repeating itself right now. So did the historians fail? Does humanity just need regular history lessons? How can we make people see?

Maybe this is why fairy tales exist and K-dramas should be required viewing. What? Don’t knock the power of stories. Especially when you might be living inside one.

 
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ugh i just love this drama so much. i totally did not see hae ryung's birth twist!

hae ryung and dowon make me giggle every episode. every. episode. i'm like a little girl squealing whenever i see them together lol

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GHR’s reaction to the Rapunzel fairy tale was exactly mine! I was young, learning English, and born an engineer...I remember wondering what the heck was going on with my translation because it wasn’t making sense! LOL now...

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Heh. If it comes to that hardly any fairy tale stands to scrutiny. Think of Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother rescued from the wolf's stomach! But, I am getting a kick out of Hae Ryung's rational approach to things (it is so like me!!!!) deflating everyone else's fun. LOL.

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Yes, being the automatically practical person tends to result in accusations of not having a sense of humor!

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thanks for this awesome recap @mary! much appreciated, much enjoyed. <3 I especially love your comments on the meta-ness of this show. SO much yes to this. And to the fine line between "history" and "stories." When does one become the other? And (when) do the two need to be kept separate?

I'm struggling a little to express the other thing I love about these episodes, but I'll give it a try. I appreciated seeing the various things our characters see as ultimately sacred (even worth dying for, in some cases). For Seong, it's his faith. For Officer Min, it's the sanctity of the sachaek and the recording of history. For Rim, it's people and maybe Hae-ryung? (am I reading that right?). For Jin, it's...Rim? I like the way the show invites us to consider the interplay between the "causes" of all the players in a story, and history and the recording of it.

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For a drama that looked like a light hearted romp, it’s actually touching a lot of sensitive topics, and doing it well, I think.

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right? for me it's doing a great job of keeping a balance between not getting too intense, but also not letting the audience completely off the hook. it's like--you are going to consider some legit issues as you watch, but also Rim is smiling again and the court ladies are being cheeky and the historians are picking on each other...so you can breathe while you do <3

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I've been pleasantly surprised by this as well. The religious aspect was handled very seriously even though the show still remained light. Also, the issue of the necessity of a monarchy and hierarchy in general.

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Thanks for the recap! Yes to EVERYTHING you said.

"It’s set in a fictional Joseon, but these issues did happen in history. So the fact that you can transpose them to our present society means that we still need to work on a lot of things to make the world a better place for everyone."
And I love how these characters are taking history in their own hands, through the small choices they make to be honest with each other (and themselves!) and sidestepping most drama tropes and modern-day prejudices in the process.

1. It's okay for women to say what they want, kiss the guy first, and want a career AND a really hot prince.
2. It's okay for a king to admit he doesn't know everything, and that flaws and mistakes doesn't make you a villain -- if you're willing to listen, while the rest of us hope you listen to the RIGHT people.
3. It's okay for women to work together and not actively drag each other down, enter a fight to defend each other's honor, and then squeeeee together ("Tell us EVERYTHING!")
4. It's okay to tell someone you like exactly what you want and where you think you stand in a relationship, and then suggest to lock the door. #relationshipgoals
5. It's okay to embrace a different religion, a new technology or medical breakthrough, a new job that no one's ever done before. Fight for your rights and beliefs and opportunities. But as our own rookie historian says, "Don't put principles before people."

And the most important thing:
6. It's okay for me totally addicted to this show, and want to put these characters in my pocket and pet them when I am SO SICK of the news and work stress. As you said, "Maybe this is why fairy tales exist and K-dramas should be required viewing."

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oh man, i love everything you said here and also how you've said it. so spot on. all the yesses!

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Yes, you have to appreciate that this show is a hot mess of pop psychology and simplistic empowerment messages...and it so works on that level. Just don't interrogate them or it instantly all falls apart in self-serving contradictions.

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@mary, your weecaps are so funny and insightful, and your commentary makes me feel like I'm not just idling my time away watching this drama, but helping to save the world through stories. Perfect!

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*Raises hand* I didn’t see Hae Ryung’s birth secret coming too! Jae Kyung is such a doting brother to her and now it makes more sense why he wants to keep her away of the palace.

I want to believe that the king is protecting Rim from Councilor Min too, but then the king has been physically & emotionally abusive to Rim so far.. He has done & said a lot of unnecessary hurtful things, and don’t forget that he sent Rim to the smallpox-infested village where there’s a high risk of him getting infected and die there. So I’m still not sure what to think of him now, but it would be a nice surprise if he does actually care for Rim.

Like Mary said, I love the show even more for tackling these issues that are still relevant today. Thanks for the recap, Mary!

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I have to agree with this -- I'd like to think the king was protecting Rim for noble reasons, but he's been pretty awful to him so far. If he is protecting him, I think it's for self-interested reasons. It would not surprise me if Rim's existence poses some kind of threat to the king. I'm more inclined to to think there's some third party out there that we don't know about yet that Rim is being hidden from (his real dad?).

That being said, I've been slightly mystified by the casting choice for the king since the show started. Kim Min-sang is such a likeable actor to me, and as other beanies have said, it's sometimes hard to take him seriously in this role... so maybe we ARE supposed to sort of like the king in spite of what we see...because what we see isn't really the whole story? and what we're being told so far isn't everything there is to tell? (wouldn't that be a nice twist in a story about history ;)

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I haven’t seen the latest eps but we’re assuming Rim isn’t his son, right?

I think the king is acting like a conflicted evil stepfather... Rim poses a threat to his whole reign and even his children, but he can’t bear to straight up kill him or hand him over to the more ruthless Councilor Min. So he keeps him around like a pebble in his shoe.

Orrrrrrrr like Harry Potter and Aunt Petunia.

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Or Annie and Miss Hannegan...
"WE LOVE YOU MISS HANNEGAN!"😂

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Yeah, I've been assuming that Rim isn't the king's biological son based on that conversation between the Dowager Queen and the king in ep 7, regarding sending Rim to the smallpox region.

that's also where the Dowager Queen says something like, "you can't let anything happen to Prince Dowon." it seems like there is some sort of pull he has over the king. it would make more sense for the king to have him killed, if Rim is really a threat to him...but there seems to be some sort of power Rim has (that he doesn't know of). so like, he can be hidden away, but he can't be disposed of. that's why i'm thinking it's not the king's goodwill keeping Rim alive. it's something related to that threat the DQ makes...maybe a third party somewhere.

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"don’t forget that he sent Rim to the smallpox-infested village where there’s a high risk of him getting infected and die there" I got a different impression. The King sent him there HOPING he would die. I think Queen Dowager has something on the king and the only reason the King is keeping Rim alive is because Queen Dowager wouldn't allow it otherwise.

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Now this episode is where Mommy Officer Min's principle can be discussed properly!

I totally did not expect Hae-ryung's birth secret. I usually hate birth secrets but the slow reveal of this one was really great! Now it makes sense how Hae-ryung was vaccinated when she was young and how she lived out of the country at a young age (I think this was mentioned on the previous episodes). I want to know more about it ASAP!

I love love love the romance in this show but I also love how this show doesn't completely revolve around it! We got some good palace politics plot and some nice slice-of-life workplace drama with the fun and awesome family of the Office of the Royal Decrees. Also, Daddy Yang and Mommy Min. HAHAHA

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I think the fact that the whole show doesn’t revolve around the romance is what’s pulled me into the show.

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I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels the same way. Life itself isn't full of romance because it also revolves around other things and Rookie Historian shows us that Hae-ryung's life is like that too. The subplots were also done really well in this show so a minute is not wasted in watching this one! Hehe

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Don't you think Prince Dowon is Rapunzel? He is the royalty stuck in a castle with nothing to do and no way out when Hae-Ryung came along and showed him the outside world.

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Oooh, you're right! And that was the fairytale the French guy told them, right? Writer-nim was planting metaphors, haha. (It was so funny when Hae-Ryung shot holes into the Rapunzel story, and hurt Prince Dowon's feelings. Poor little puppy!)

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I love fairytales, but that scene had me rolling! I loved Hae-Ryung from her first scene with the enthusiastic bloodthirsty storytelling, and this felt almost like a continuation of that. Poor puppy indeed!

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Aha! That's why he loved the story so much! He identified with Rapunzel. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

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Thanks for the wonderful recap! Loved everything that you said.

And yes I am totally sold with this drama. Can't express how much I love it. It seems all comedic and fluffy but damn, all the issues that this drama touch is really relevant. I can't believe how much life lessons I'm learning with this show.

The writer did such a fine job with all the characters and gosh just how well does he keep us hanging with all the cliffhangers hahaha.

I sort of expected HR's birth secret from her convo with orabeoni on the prev episode. I just wanna know how much/what it is that she knows.

On another note, I totally don't get why this show isn't getting higher ratings. Like seriously?! This is a gem. This is the best show for me so far, for 2019. Dropped some ongoing dramas for RHGHR because I've been so attached with the characters.

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Orabeoni, I hope you can hear @mary’s threat!
If you dare die taking down councilor Min, she’s gonna kill you again! So let’s use some wisdom/senses, okay?😆
I think hae ryeong’s birth secret was hinted earlier on but I never knew it’ll be this surprising.

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I was expecting Prince Dowon's secret and not GHR. We know where her curiosity is from.

Poor Office Min, he likes so much his job and his colleagues (even if he hides it), the treason had to hurt him a lot.

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Didn't anyone see Prince Dowon touching his hair while listening to the story? He seems to think he is Rapunzel too. Lol

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Soo.. while I'm enjoying the drama, the kinda overt proselytising thread in the last couple of episodes left me a little ????

And then I looked up the history of Christianity in Korea. It turns out the spread of Catholicism (which happened around the period this drama is set in) is credited to Yi Seung Hun, who was the first member of the noble class to be converted to Christianity. His father was a high-ranking deputy state minister. Yi Seung Hun also apparently studied the texts a lot before he got convinced of the religion. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yi_Seung-hun)
I guess I'm reading too much into it without knowing enough Korean history but going off a couple of things we've seen so far, I wonder if maaaaaaaaybe Min Woo Won's character is based off this person? But Yi Seung Hun was beheaded (and later declared a martyr) which doesn't bode too well for Min WW..... :|

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Min Woo Won's character may indeed see a sad end :( His father has too much to atone for.

I just wanna say I really agree that the glorification (for lack of a better word) of Christianity in the last few episodes left me going ???? as well. I mean, everything from western medicine to western religion and way of thought has been presented as being superior in this show. I get what the show is trying to say, but its being so one-sided in its treatment of this particular subject that I go ... errr....what???

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I get what you mean, it is a bit in-your-face. But maybe they were going for dramatising what actually happened in history? Like with the story of the historians themselves, those in the Joseon dynasty Court were pretty obsessive about record-keeping. If I remember correctly there was one King who actually read what was written in the Sachaek and beheaded the historians.

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I didn't see it as a literal "be Catholics" message but more of: here is a group with beliefs that speaks of equality and acceptance, but the ruling class who are benefiting from the status quo don't want to relinquish their perks, so they're persecuting this group. (Which is like, every major problem happening in the world right now.)

They're framing it in the context of Joseon, so they're using the persecution of Catholics. But of course, in history in other parts of the world, it's Catholics doing the persecutin' :|

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This drama is less a saeguk than a commentary on our world. As you said, Joseon is just the setting; if they were going for any historical accuracy at all, our lady historians wouldn’t exist. To me the really interesting part of this drama is that while it has the look and feel of a light hearted piece of fluff, it actually touches on some serious topics, and does it well.

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Definitely. As @anothernicole pointed out, I think the commentary on "otherness" is what the show is getting at, I just found it a bit heavy-handed and in-your-face, so much so that it almost gave a different impression (to use Avakai's & Nicole's words).

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@greenfields agree. which is a pity in a way. that the messaging is so heavy-handed that the real message about otherness (assuming, as i always do, that i am right ;) almost gets lost in the delivery.

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Also really like your way of putting it @mary! That is def what the show is getting at, the unwillingness of those in power to give it up, and/or the rejection and fear of anything that's different.

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@greenfields. My take on the heavy handed presentation of the Frenchman and Catholicism is that it masks a more subtle commentary on society and history where every difference is used to define someone or some group as “other”, as something (not someone) to be looked down on, to be trod upon, to be persecuted. You can still see the behavior today...economic class, social standing, job, school, even your ranking in your class in your school...all of which were (still are?) once regarded as right and proper.

There are so many modern themes that are being touched on that I wonder how much was intended vs just me reading too much into a light drama. A favorite is if you change historian to reporter, you’ll see the debate between Min and HR reflects current debate on the proper role of reporters - “just the facts” vs activism.

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same @greenfields, thanks for the insightful responses @Mary and @hebang!

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I also found the way Catholicism was treated to be superior in the drama strange. I don't know much about Korean society, Asian history etc. My knowledge is limited to what I see in Korean dramas and while I think I learned a lot from them about a culture I knew almost nothing of before, I know better than to rely on dramas for accurate information. I have no idea about the current religious make up of Korea. I don't know how much of its population is Buddhist vs. Christian (in dramas it looks mostly Catholic but in college I had a Korean roommate who was Baptist). I see a lot of Catholic motives in dramas but I also see drama crews praying in Buddhist ceremonies before dramas or drama characters observing death anniversaries in Buddhist tradition (I assume?). So what this story made me think was "I wonder what Buddhist Koreans think of this".

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@moonbean. I think there is a lot of social commentary in the Catholicism scenes. A trivial example might be the attitude that Whatever is imported is always and automatically better than whatever is home grown. This drama has a subversive heart.

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I get what you mean, too, although I saw it as more of a commentary on "otherness" overall--a way of showing that, from the perspective of history, everyone is "other" at some point, in some place. (That being said, I did feel like the delivery was a bit heavy-handed; I attributed that to weakness in the writing, not necessarily an abundance of burden, though.) As Mary noted, Catholics have been on both sides of the issue of "other"; sometimes they've been persecuted, but they've also doled out some pretty awful stuff throughout history. Given the show's emphasis on history and historians, I thought it was reminding us to see ourselves through the lens of history, reminding us that what is reviled at one time is often accepted later--and vice versa. Thus, any "status" we have ("mainstream," "other," etc) is temporary in the face of time; it's our status as humans that remains steadfast, and that status belongs to us all.

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Ooh, yes this is a good (and like you wanted, probably right ;)) interpretation of the stuff portrayed here. "the real message about otherness almost gets lost in the delivery." It's such a pity indeed, especially since reading the comments to this, there's so much to unpack from what they're doing in the show.

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right? i love DB for that reason. such a good place to unpack <3

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I too did maaaajor side-eye when I saw the promo for these episodes because I thought it was going to be preachy. And it was -- in fact it was literally like Pope Francis wrote this storyline -- but I made my peace with it. Asian elites around the world struggled with the promotion of liberal western ideas about reason and human rights, which were liberatory for themselves and their people even though it was spread through Asia by the sword of colonialism and war. And in South Korea, where the history of western oppression is so complicated and layered with its attempts to protect itself from Asian imperialism, I imagine the conflict is deeper than most.

I think these were essentially set-up for Officer Min to experience some kind of radical transformation. But even if not, by the end of these episodes I made peace with the proselytisation: the ultimate aim seemed to be a plea for rational liberal practice, rather than the vehicles of religion and (racialised) medical science that westerners tried to impose on the colonised peoples of Asia.

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*claps* I want to give your comment more than just a thumbs up.

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I don't know if words can properly express how impressed I was with the show's handling of the topics of xenophobia and religious persecution. If it is able to keep up this quality through to the end, it will probably become my favorite historical drama - it just keeps giving me more and more reasons to like it.

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I might be remembering details wrong, but didn't the king kill his brother to take the throne? Did they say how long ago that was? I feel like they said 20 years (but I may be confusing it with another sageuk lol).
My theory (providing I got the details right), is that Rim is a secret illegitimate son of the murdered brother who was unborn at the time of his death, and that the Dowager Queen agreed to keep the current king's murderous deeds secret as long as the child remained unharmed. But if the king's brother was the rightful king, that would explain why the king fears Rim and is paranoid about him plotting against him, because he would have a claim to the throne. That's just my theory.

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I'm thinking Councilor Min did most of the killing... he might've even installed the current king as his puppet, judging by how he always listens to Min's counsel.

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Ooooh, that would make a lot of sense! And why Min is also spying on the king - he's afraid he might be losing his hold on his puppet. I like that theory!

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I like your theory. I had similar thoughts about Rim not being the king's biological son and being the rightful heir to the throne. After Rim told the king the edicts he'd violated, the king made a point of saying how much Rim was like him. I think he might have said 'so much like his father' -- the king's brother?? Also, the king's comment about Rim's filthy blood has me wondering about Rim's mom. Maybe she was a writer too?

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I’m half wondering if Rim’s filthy roots might have something to do with him being born via caesarean? The whole thing about Western medicine and the school being destroyed, suggests something major happened. 🤔🤷‍♀️

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Superb recap! Adore your witty,sharp,perceptive comments.

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Thanks for the recap!

It was always clear that Hae Ryung and Orabeoni had a secret, but I thought their parents were involved in something, not that they weren't really siblings.

What I'm really curious about is what Councillor Min has on Orabeoni. In an earlier episode, Min threatened him with 'I know you at your worst' or something to that effect. I'm thinking that he can't know about Hae Ryung though, because why would he allow her to live? I all our curiosities are appeased by the end.

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My theory is that Orabeoni had a hand to play in the downfall of Seoraewon, and Councillor Min knows this. But he may have done that accidentally and taken Hae Ryung in because of guilt over that?

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I think it's common knowledge that he helped, even Mo Wha knows that. And the fact that he was a student there yet ended up being so close to Min after the downfall of Soraewon. I feel like that can't be all. There must be something else, because like you say, Orabeoni does not seem like a bad person, so I don't think he did it for malicious reasons.

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Thanks so much for the recap Mary. I don't know how we're going to survive the festive break but I'm really glad Dramabeans and these threads exist to help us through.

I am fearing for Officer Min like never before. These weirdly light-hearted episodes have not allayed these fears. What is going to happen to this most repressed and most honourable of men?????

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I came to raise my hand @mary! I was so curious as to what Rim’s birth secret is that I really didn’t see Hae Ryung’s coming but I was wondering how she would marry the prince if her birth wasn’t high enough. I also thought the king’s comment about Rim’s “roots” was a dig at his father (i.e. “You take after your father.”) And regarding the meta on history, I think we never learned to learn from history and that is extremely frustrating. 😕

I did ask questions about the role of historians in the court before and @lordcobol and @kiara kindly answered. However, either I grossly misunderstood it or history writing is getting more and more ridiculous in the last two weeks. I thought the whole purpose was to ensure state decisions are made properly so the conversations of the royal family were recorded. Last week among the King’s tortures to Hae Ryung she was made to rewrite all the documents read to the King. Why bother? Can’t they just keep the documents themselves? Considering their scrupulous record keeping they surely must have. But also this week Hae Ryung was recording conversations of Rim with his eunuch. I just doesn’t make sense!!! They can't have been recording every conversation they have.

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I think, before, the historians only recorded official meetings, so Councilor Min proposed to have female historians to enter royal quarters and record those convos too (to spy on dowager queen). But Jin turned it into a good thing by requiring an exam set by him, making sure that they'll get female historians of decent character and not just random spies planted by Min. (Ignore Sa-hee's existence for now.)

In Hae-ryung's case the previous week, it's important she record whatever is being "said". Because it's possible that the person/official reading it out loud and waiting for the king's decision is saying something different from what's written. (Not happening in that particular case, but just a possibility. Similar to why we have court stenographers.)

Female historians didn't actually exist (I think?) but inside the drama, their role is to record verbal+visual events. Rim's convo with Sam-bo is part of that.

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