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My Country: The New Age: Episode 3

The battlefield is a place of death, but our ill-fated friends-turned-enemies have managed to keep themselves alive until now through their wits and skill. But when it comes time to pay for betrayal, there may be no way for both of them to come out alive.

 
EPISODE 3 RECAP

Hee-jae watches the boat that’s taking Hwi away until she can no longer see him. When she turns around, Sun-ho is there, and she asks if this is his father’s doing. He says that he asked his father to bribe the examiner, but Hee-jae interrupts him with a slap, knowing that’s a lie.

Sun-ho tells her to forget Hwi, but she asks if Sun-ho can do that. He says that he will, because he has to. Hee-jae says with disdain that if their positions were reversed, Hwi would do everything he could to save his friend, “Even if you’d been dragged to Hell.”

Three months later.

Chief Park congratulates a colleague on his promotion to captain of the Liaodong Expeditionary Army, and he asks to be made deputy captain. Later he unpacks a set of heavy armor and touches it reverently.

We’re told that the expeditionary army consists of over fifty thousand soldiers and twenty thousand horses. Lord Nam promises to make sure General Yi Seung-gye’s family is safely hidden, but General Yi says that that will make General Choi Young suspicious of him. Lord Nam is more worried about General Yi’s second wife, sure that General Choi will target her first.

Hee-jae has been looking for Yeon, Hwi’s younger sister, but her gisaeng friend Hwa-wol says gently that Yeon is probably dead. Hee-jae is planning to leave Ihwaru gibang, and Hwa-wol asks why, when she’s so close to seeing her mother again. Hee-jae says that she’s tired of letting Lady Seo run her life.

Sun-ho has come to see her, dressed in his armor as he’s preparing to go to war. Hee-jae advises him to be a bit cowardly in order to survive, then adds, “Although you’re already cowardly enough.” Ouch, but she’s not wrong.

She asks if Goryeo will be overturned, and Sun-ho says that the king comes first, country second. He pours her the last drink, which is traditionally for “the one in your heart.” Hee-jae understands what he’s implying, but she says firmly, “My last already went to Hwi.” Sun-ho says he knows, but he still wanted her to know how he feels.

General Yi’s army sets out for Liaodong, and he tells Lord Nam that the king and General Choi sent advance troops secretly. He scoffs that the advance troops are not trained soldiers, and will probably die before the main troops arrive.

Hwi is one of those advance troops, and we see them on the battlefield. Hwi is injured but he manages to avoid death, though he’s shocked by the horror all around him. At one point he’s nearly killed by an enemy, and he’s only saved at the last second by none other than Chief Park.

Chief Park tosses Hwi a bow and tells him to snap out of it, so Hwi picks up some arrows and follows him. They fight in tandem, watching each other’s backs, with Hwi plucking arrows from the bodies of dead soldiers when he runs out.

Eventually the battle ends, and the captain walks the field marking down which of his soldiers are dead. One young man is badly injured, but the captain orders his man MOON-BOK (In Gyo-jin) to write him down as dead.

Despite his own injury, Hwi insists on doctoring the young man’s wound. The young man pleads for help, crying that he needs to take care of his old, sick grandmother. Hwi says that he also needs to survive for his sister, so they can go home together, but the young man spits up blood and dies.

The captain sneers that Hwi looks like a dead man, too, and offers to go ahead and put him on the list. Hwi retorts, “Just wait. I will be sure to outlive you by at least one day. If you want to kill me, draw a mark for yourself as well.”

Hwi walks away to be alone, his thoughts filled with memories of home. He still carries the cloth that Hee-jae used to bandage his head, and he sits for a long time just holding it and thinking of her.

Eventually, General Yi’s army arrives at the base camp. While surveying the advance troops, Sun-ho thinks he sees Hwi and runs to him, but it’s just another soldier who resembles Hwi.

Sun-ho reports to General Yi that the soldiers are experiencing a dysentery outbreak and many are deserting, and that the archers can’t fight because their bowstrings are coming loose from melted glue. General Yi approves of his candid advice.

At the advance army camp, the captain orders Hwi to infiltrate the enemy and kill their general. Hwi argues that it’s a death sentence, but he has no choice. Chief Park volunteers to go with Hwi, and the captain tells Chief Park to behead Hwi if he tries to defect.

The two head to a lookout point where Chief Park offers Hwi his horn bow, which can shoot farther than Hwi’s. They identify the general’s tent, and Hwi readies his bow. Chief Park advises Hwi to add five steps to his distance since the wind is blowing behind him, and Hwi freezes — it’s the exact same instructions his father gave him when he was a child.

Hwi follows the advice and his arrow strikes the general’s tent, drawing him out into the open. Chief Park steadies Hwi’s shaking hand as he draws his second arrow, then Hwi lets it fly, and his arrow meets its mark in the general’s neck. He and Chief Park run from the soldiers who try to catch them, and Chief Park continues to instruct Hwi as they enter a narrow trail purposely to slow down the enemy’s horses.

When their pursuers are forced to ride in a line, Hwi starts shooting the soldiers off their horses and Chief Park closes in to finish them off. Hwi grapples with one soldier on foot, and when Chief Park sees another galloping towards Hwi, he throws himself in the path of the sword.

Hwi kills his opponent, shoots the last soldier, then turns to see Chief Park on the ground. He tears open Chief Park’s sleeve to check his wound, and he’s stunned to see that Chief Park has the same snake tattoo that Hwi’s father, Seo Geom, wore. Hwi demands to know who Chief Park is, and Chief Park croaks, “The leader of the Black Snake Unit, which belonged to the former Northern Punitive Force. My name is Park Chi-do.”

Hwi carries Chi-do (he saved Hwi’s life… he’s earned his name) back to camp and reports to the captain that he shot the enemy general. The captain sneers that the only witness to corroborate Hwi’s claim is practically dead, and he even accuses Hwi of injuring Chi-do to hide a lie.

Moon-bok snaps at the captain to stop talking nonsense, and his buddy Jung-beom backs him up. Hwi thanks Moon-bok and Jung-beom, but they counter that they should be thanking him. They carry Chi-do to his tent, where Hwi watches over him.

When he wakes, Chi-do points out the set of armor he brought and says it belonged to Hwi’s father, and that Seo Geom asked him to give it to Hwi when he was old enough. He tells Hwi, “He was always so proud of you, and he always missed Yeon.”

Hwi’s breath hitches, then he applies himself to repairing the armor, which is engraved with his and Yeon’s name, just like his bow. Tucked into a small tear in the armor, Hwi finds a piece of paper that’s been stamped, but nothing is written on it so Hwi puts it back where he found it.

The next time the gisaengs gather to pass information to Lady Seo, Hee-jae instead tells Lady Seo that she will no longer be used after Lady Seo used information she brought to kill her friend. She vows to become the one who receives information, not someone who collects it, and that she’ll use that information to punish those who do wrong to her and others.

She says she’ll leave now, and rises her her feet. She tells Lady Seo, “I will die outside these premises, so I hope you live a long, healthy life here at Ihwaru.” Lady Seo suddenly suffers a coughing fit, and she gasps to Hee-jae that everything happened because she wanted it, so she can’t blame anyone or regret anything. Hee-jae whispers that she’ll carry no regrets or blame, then she leaves.

Outside, Hee-jae asks Gyeol, Lady Seo’s bodyguard, how long she’s had that cough. He says it’s been ten years, and that Lady Seo always stifled her cough in front of Hee-jae. He tells Hee-jae that he killed the man who ate her friend’s sister’s liver (supposed to cure leprosy), and that Hwa-wol’s stepfather, who sold her to the gibang, died of lung disease. As for those who killed Hee-jae’s mother, Gyeol promises Hee-jae that he’ll find them no matter what.

Hwa-wol catches up to Hee-jae and gives her some food, then cries that Hee-jae is mean and heartless (for leaving). Hee-jae asks her to tell Hwi where to find her if he ever comes by, then she leaves for good.

After being at the front line for a month, Lord Nam and General Yi realize that illness and deserters are getting worse. General Yi hopes that the advance army will have a competent leader, but Lord Nam says that their captain is the most incompetent leader they have. General Yi growls that it doesn’t have to be him, and Sun-ho looks at him thoughtfully.

The advance army’s camp is ambushed, and for the first time, Hwi dons his father’s armor. He slices through the enemy army like a deadly whirlwind, screaming orders to his fellow soldiers as he goes. The enemy have the advantage with their horses, so Hwi calls for Moon-bok and Jung-beom to cover him as he targets the mounted soldiers.
At one point during the battles, Hwi looks up to see an enemy archer aiming right at him. He readies an arrow, but nearby, a soldier knocks Moon-bok down and raises his sword to kill him. With only an instant to choose, Hwi swivels and kills Moon-bok’s attacker, then is shot in the shoulder by the archer.

Unable to handle his bow, Hwi grabs a sword and charges at the archer, leaping into the air and slashing his throat. Moon-bok starts screaming joyously — that was the enemy’s new general, and the Ming army turns and flees.

Hwi is surrounded by his fellow soldiers, the arrow still sticking out of his shoulder. Their captain orders them to charge, but the soldiers wait for an order from Hwi. He breaks off the arrow in his shoulder, then bellows, “Soldiers… CHARGE!”

After the battle, Moon-bok and Jung-beom find Hwi digging a grave for their dead, and they tease him for acting like a “fake lieutenant.” Hwi says he’s just doing what he can to stay alive and earn his way out of the army so that he can go home to his sister honorably.

Jung-beom takes over digging so that Moon-bok (who used to be a mortician) can look at Hwi’s injury. He stitches up the arrow wound, and Jung-beom brings Hwi some “medicinal” wine to pour on the area. Moon-bok swipes it and takes a slug, then dares Jung-beom to drink, so he does… and falls over, hee.

That evening, Hwi tells Chi-do that they only have seventy-five able fighters left, and the main army is still stuck across the river. Chi-do says that this is the purpose of an advance army — to fight and die first.

Meanwhile, Hee-jae makes her way to the home of Lady Kang, General Yi’s wife in Seoul, who is considered as wise and honorable as any general. Oddly, the gates are open and the home seems deserted. Hee-jae lets herself in to look around, and she’s grabbed from behind and a knife held to her throat.

A female voice asks who she is, and Hee-jae says, “You should light the furnace. Unless there’s smoke, people will think the house is vacant. Keep the gates open, too — if closed they’ll jump the wall.” She offers to sere Lady Kang until the conquest is over, and to protect her life with her own.

LADY KANG (Park Ye-jin) shows her face and asks Hee-jae why. Hee-jae says that she believes Lady Kang can get her to a position that’s too good to be true — beside the queen. Lady Kang warns that protecting her will put Hee-jae in danger, but Hee-jae says that she trusts Bang-won to reach Lady Kang before General Choi’s assassins.

Lady Kang asks why General Yi would send Bang-won out of all six of his sons, and Hee-jae says that Bang-won is the only one who can fight off assassins… and that General Yi has eight sons. The two youngest are hiding behind the screen, and when they come out, Hee-jae introduces herself.

Hwi and Jung-beom sit on an outcropping, looking across the river at General Yi’s camp. Hwi says that they’ll retreat if the king dies, if there’s an assassination attempt, or if someone tries to take the throne.

Hwi writes a note that only seventy-five of the five hundred advance soldiers are still able to fight, then sends it over the river tied to an arrow. The arrow buries itself into a post only inches from Sun-ho’s head, and a short while later, an arrow flies the other way with a note asking how long they can hold out.

Hwi replies that they can only hold out until they’re dead, and Sun-ho answers that he’ll relay the message. His note asks the sender’s name, but Hwi’s response arrives after the officers are summoned to General Yi’s tent for orders.

The officers discuss the fact that Goryeo has become a country of corruption and their plans for rebellion. General Yi warns against assassinating the king, because they need to paint him as a coward in order to turn the people against him. He formally declares his intent to disobey the king’s orders to fight this war, and to retreat.

Hwi and Jung-beom wait in the rain for a response from the main camp. Unfortunately, it’s not Sun-ho who receives his message with his name on it — it’s Lord Nam. When Sun-ho asks who was sending the messages, his father lies that the rain washed away the ink.

Sun-ho reports to General Yi about the advance army’s dire situation. Lord Nam argues that the remaining seventy-five men are lowlifes, and even Sun-ho agrees that sacrifices must be made in a revolution. General Yi argues that they are also citizens of Goryeo, but Sun-ho accuses him of only trying to appear compassionate.

General Yi makes his decision, and tells his lieutenant, Sung-rok, to form a death squad to cross the river and make sure there are no survivors. He orders Sun-ho to go along, saying that if he accomplishes this, he’ll keep Sun-ho at his side. He offers Sun-ho his sword, and this time when Sun-ho appropriately kneels to accept, General Yi tells him to stand.

Concerned that General Choi will go after his family, General Yi entrusts Lord Nam with a note instructing Bang-won to escort his mothers to a safe area. Lord Nam asks why he’s not sending his eldest, Bang-woo, and General Yi says that, regardless of the order of their birth, he considers Bang-won his “first” child.

Bang-won plays drinking games with his men at Ihwaru gibang. Hwa-wol complains to Gyeol that Bang-won is acting immature while his father is at war, but Gyeol notes that Bang-won and his party aren’t actually drunk — their weapons are within reach and they’re spread out to keep an eye on all parts of the property.

The message from General Yi arrives, and sure enough, Bang-won and his men are suddenly quite sober. Bang-won orders Cheonga to escort his mother, while he and Tae-ryong will travel to Pocheon for “the bitch” (Lady Kang) and will meet up with them in Hamhung. He warns CG that General Choi will be after him, and that if his family dies, his father’s revolution will fail.

When Bang-won arrives at Pocheon, Hee-jae knows who his is by his signature red arrows and his “eyes of a dragon.” Bang-won introduces himself in banmal to Lady Kang, who isn’t pleased that it took him this long after news of the rebellion to arrive. She insists he call her “Mother,” refusing to move unless he shows her some respect.

He does, though with obvious disdain. Bang-seok, the youngest of Lady Kang’s sons, says hello to his hyung-nim, but Bang-won smirks, “Who says I’m your hyung?” Lady Kang says that she knows why General Yi sent Bang-won — as an example of how not to raise her sons.

The advance army realize that there’s trouble when they notice General Yi’s army preparing to retreat. The captain dismisses Hwi’s warning, sneering that he’s only a lieutenant because there’s nobody else left. Hwi yells that the captain sees them as dispensable, so the caption grabs a piece of firewood and begins beating Hwi for insubordination.

Hee-jae’s cloth falls from Hwi’s clothing and the captain picks it up, assuming Hwi stole it. He tosses it into the fire, and Hwi immerses his entire arm into the fire to get it back. Furious, he grabs a sword and advances on the captain, who starts stammering promises to recommend Hwi for a real promotion.

He claims that he’s taken an interest in Hwi, giving him credit for their survival. Hwi growls, “Then what’s my name? Do you even know any of our names?” Of course the captain doesn’t, so Hwi raises his sword… but Chi-do stops him.

Back in his tent, Hwi cries as he holds his salvaged cloth and thinks of Hee-jae. He hears her voice telling him, “Don’t let anyone oppress you. Only then will you not collapse. Don’t let anyone intimidate you, even if they’re stronger than you. Only then can you hold out.”

Lord Nam gathers a party and orders them to kill every surviving member of the advance army, and to burn their boat and die honorably if anything goes wrong. He watches his son march away, unaware that he may be about to face Hwi for the first time since betraying him.

Meanwhile, Moon-bok asks Hwi what he plans to do about General Yi’s retreat. Hwi says it’s not like they can kill the captain and flee, but Jung-beom doesn’t see why not, since dying is their only other option.

Chi-do overhears their conversation and decides to take matters into his own hands. He slips into the captain’s tent and stabs the sleeping form on the dais… but the captain has already deserted and is making his way towards the river, having been informed of a small messenger boat.

Unfortunately for him, the captain encounters Sung-rok and his party on the way. He’s relieved to see Sung-rok for about three seconds, until Sung-rok skewers him and his accomplice then continues on to the camp.

The party takes out the advance army’s sentries, then split up to dispatch the sleeping soldiers. They manage to kill a few before they run into Chi-do, and Sung-rok says he’s come to deliver a message. Chi-do asks for the watchword, and Sung-rok snarls, “Slaughter,” as his men attack.

Chi-do fights them off while yelling that they’re under attack. The advance army is only stunned for a moment before they begin fighting in earnest, but Sung-rok and Sun-ho fight heartlessly, taking down many of their own countrymen without hesitation.

Hwi is on the other side of the battle, bravely facing the men who came to kill him and his fellow soldiers. At one point, Hwi watches as Moon-bok is injured, so he rushes over to fight off Moon-bok’s attacker.

Their swords clash… and Hwi and Sun-ho both freeze in horror as they see each other for the first time in months.

 
COMMENTS

Oof, this is what I’ve been dreading… Hwi and Sun-ho coming face-to-face for the first time since Sun-ho sold Hwi off to war. Their reconciliation is going to be anything but happy — Hwi knows what Sun-ho did, and I’m sure he’s got a lot of anger built up, not to mention that he’ll want to know what happened to Yeon. And again, I love that the story is zipping along nicely yet keeping it’s balanced pace, so that we get to really experience what the characters are going through yet still make it to the next important plot point before we get bored.

I was scared of Chief Park/Chi-do when everyone was back home, but I’ve been won over as he acts as Hwi’s teacher and protector. Plus, he’s a great close-in fighter, which makes for a perfect partnership with Hwi’s archery skill. I wasn’t nearly as surprised as Hwi to learn that Chi-do belonged to the same secret organization as Hwi’s father. He asked to be included in the advance army, which is usually considered a death sentence, and he volunteered for the dangerous mission that Hwi was sent on. He constantly guides and teaches Hwi, as if trying to make up for the loss of his father. I believe that Chi-do has probably been keeping an eye on Hwi and Yeon every since Geom died, but that this is just the first time he’s needed to actually step in and make his presence known.

In fact, I’m so happy for Hwi that he’s found a family of sorts, even if it’s under horrific conditions. He’s always been on his own, but now he’s got brothers who back him up and fight for him, and it’s nice to see him learning to trust. It says a lot that Hwi’s instinct was to save Moon-bok even though it meant he himself would be injured or killed. It shows what he’s willing to do for others, so I think that it won’t be long before Hwi becomes a commander in his own right. Heck, the surviving advance army are already calling him “lieutenant” and waiting for his orders over their actual captain… he’s pretty much their leader already.

If Hwi is simple and easy to read, then Sun-ho is the exact opposite… I still can’t tell where his loyalties lie, or how much he regrets what he did to Hwi. I think he does have regrets, and I think that he was hoping that the archer who was sending messages across the river was Hwi, but I’m not sure that, if Sun-ho had known, he would have given General Yi a different answer on whether or not to rescue the advance army. I want to believe that Sun-ho loves Hwi enough to save him, but I think that his love only goes so far, such as when he sent Hwi to the army — he did it to give Hwi a fighting chance to live, but he was also willing to risk Hwi dying in battle to save his own neck and career.

And what’s sad is that Hwi would absolutely give his life for Sun-ho, no questions asked, even now. He’s shown himself capable of choosing to save the life of someone he barely knows in battle, knowing that it could result in his own death, so of course he would do the same for his lifelong friend. It makes me all the more curious to see what changes will occur in Sun-ho and Hwi over the next ten years, having seen the final battle between them. Then it was Sun-ho trying to convince Hwi not to fight, and Hwi who was determined to cut down Sun-ho if that’s what it took.

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The battle scene in the beginning of the episode was pure happiness for me. I love action sequences filmed in one long continuous take. And this episode delivered.

This drama exceeded my expectations from the production value, story, acting, all the way to directing. Granted, ive only seen four episodes., But I thoroughly enjoyed them nonetheless.

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Thanks for the recap @lollypip! That battle scene was epic, and it seems Yang Se-jong did his own stunts! It is great to see him growing into a commander who cares for his men, even if that means putting himself at risk. Have I mentioned I'm a fan of laconic steadfast Chief Park, I mean, Chi-do?

The contrast with the campaign leading to the Wihwado Retreat as shown in SIX FLYING DRAGONS is staggering. In that drama every soldier was muddied, weary, and dying of dysentery, but in MY COUNTRY the main camp looks impeccable and nobody but the advance party is shown fighting. I don't know if historically an advance party did cross the Amrok river, since Yi Seong Gye is so famous for turning back before crossing. It just makes him more ruthless since he knowingly sacrificed the men at the front. Lord Nam is the mastermind behind it though. I guess he figures he's killing two birds with one stone, since that also means Hwi will die.

The drama does take some knowledge of the events for granted, for instance, that Choi Young would have taken Yi Seong Gye's family hostage to force him to continue the Liadong campaign. But there is no Choi Young in this drama. We just hear about him.

And finally, a few minutes of Jang Hyuk!

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Also paging @mary. Could you add MY COUNTRY to the Currently Airing list please?

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The fate of MY COUNTRY is to be invisible on the current airing list. @wishfultoki (former co-leader of the Black Snake Unit) will not accept it!

What if the Dramabean scribes are currently on house arrest at Ihwaru? How are we going to free them from Madame Seo?

Paging chief royal secretary @pakalanapikake. What say you?

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@kiara,
Oops, Subae-nim. I just spotted your message. Sorry for the delay. *bows*

I've sent forth one of my trusty carrier peregrines and just lit a hilltop signal beacon in the hope of alerting DB's intrepid Mistress of All Things IT. If anyone can come to the rescue, it's @mary. I bet the BeanieBox launch is keeping her hopping. ;-)

@mary,
Yoo hoo, IT Goddess. Sorry to be the bearer of not-the-end-of-the-world-but-still-kinda-irritating news.

MY COUNTRY (JTBC/Netflix) is missing from the CURRENTLY AIRING weekend dramas list. It airs on Fri.-Sat. (Is that because it's only available on Netflix in the USA?) It is being recapped, so I think it got overlooked when the latest crop of dramas premiered. Could you please wrangle it onto the list so our sageuk-loving Beanies can find it? Thank you so very much, Unni! You're dda-bong! <3 <3 <3

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The more authentic sageuks of this time period that I've seen so far would be TEARS OF THE DRAGON (KBS1, 1996) and JEONG DO JEON (KBS1, 2014). JEONG was written by Jung Hyun-min who also wrote NOKDU FLOWER so it's a feast for history geeks.
TEARS was only half subbed back in the days but JEONG was fully subbed and thanks heaven it wasn't by Netflix. So if you want to learn more about the history I'd recommend JDJ over SFD. The actors are some of the best in sageuks.
Those two sageuks are the textbook version and I enjoyed it a lot but I'm also open to other interpretations like SFD and MY COUNTRY.

I think PD Kim Jin-won and the writer are doing a good job so far with what they intended for this drama. To be character driven which make them more open and honest unlike the other versions of this time period.

Quoting the PD Kim “I know that there have been many dramas and films about this era,” the director said. “But as I researched what else I could tell viewers, I wanted to put a spotlight on characters other than the usual protagonists in our history..."
http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=3068594

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JEONG DO JEON is definitely on my list!

I like that MY COUNTRY is character-driven; taking some license with history is fine. It's refreshing to see characters being open about their thoughts. For instance, Sun-ho offered Hee-jae a drink, but she said she already gave it to Hwi. No stuttering or beating around the bush. Sun-ho likes her and she said "no thank you".

I also like how Lord Nam wastes no time in saying what must be done, and how Sun-ho has the guts to be direct in front of Yi Seong Gye. And of course Jang Hyuk sneering at his "mother".

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They are open but around people that they trust so no one is going to cry treason.

I love Woo Do-hwan during that scene. Rejection taken like a man.
I thought Hee-jae was also misjudging him because love is blind. All she see is Hwi just like Lord Nam.

I think Sun-ho suffers more internal pain while Hwi have been suffering more physical pain. For right now, I'm invested in both characters equally.

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@wishfultoki

"And of course Jang Hyuk sneering at his "mother".

Jang Hyuk is life. His Yi bang-won is something to behold. Did we expect anything less?

Well, that's history for us. Openly calling his father's 2nd wife a bitch shows his resentments towards her. His father loves Lady Kang the most and he probably spent more time in the capital with her and their two younger boys neglecting his 1st wife Lady Han, Yi Bang-won's mother.
I guess naturally Yi Bang-won would resent her and his own father. Hence the comment about his father being a womanizer.

I also liked it that Lady Kang wasn't going to take crap from Bang-won either by making him address her properly.

When Bang-won asked which of the two boys is Bang-seok my heart skipped a beat. This cute little kid is going to be in the middle of a battle to the throne.

I'm very happy to see Park Ye-jin as Lady Kang. We don't get to see the women behind the man, Yi Seong-gye often enough so I hope we'll get to see more of her.

This is a good link to read about the relationship between Yi Bang-won and Lady Kang (future Queen Sindeok). It's taken from the Annals so it's historically correct.

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I assumed that Bang Won's mother was already dead in 1388, but she did not die until 1391. This explains BW's resentment of Lady Kang and her sons. General Yi seems to have been deeply devoted to Lady Kang, likely neglecting his first wife, and that did not sit well with BW.

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Sadly Lady Han died before Yi Seong-gye ascended the throne.
She should've been the queen if she was still alive but we never know because Lady Kang came from one of Goryeo's most well known and powerful families. Her connections made Yi Seong-gye's transition from general to king possible.

She is quite similar to Yi Bang-won if we are going by merits and most contributions.
She was the 2nd wife but she contributed the most and Bang-won was the 5th son but he contributed the most.

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@kiara October 17, 2019 at 7:13 AM

You've done it again, Sunbae! Thanks for that link to Yang Sung-jin's dandy blog replete with fascinating extracts of the Annals of Joseon translated into English and accompanied by interpretive background. What a treat!

Beanies, this article is one installment of the weekly series “Click into the Hermit Kingdom” that ran for just over 2 years in the Korea Times, in collaboration with the Seoul Systems, the publisher of the CD-ROM edition of the Annals. Here's the index to the series:

https://www.sungjinyang.com/click-list-english/

Here's an overview of the series and what went into it:
https://www.sungjinyang.com/times-travel-to-choson-wraps-up/

I found myself browsing the blog. It's addictive. Interestingly, there's an article on a petition for female historiographers (which was quashed by the reigning monarch).

Now where was I??? ;-)

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Click into the Hermit Kingdom website looks very interesting! I suspect that it will be like a rabbit hole for me. Once I am in, there is no coming back!

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@pakalanapikake

I thought it would keep you busy :). You are welcome! I have his book and I need to finish reading it.

I posted the link earlier on episode 2 for Peridot . She was asking for historical sources on this time period.

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@ally-le I think @pakalanspikake just asked your long-standing question if there ever were female historians in Goryeo! 😅 Which article was it Pakalana?

I didn’t know there was actually a petition for it, which is fascinating!

Thank you for this gold mine of information @kiara!

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@wishfultoki

You are welcome!

I didn't look for it before because I have his book so I'm glad he kept it all in his blog.

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@wishfultoki October 17, 2019 at 8:59 PM, cc: @ally-le, @kiara

This is what leaped out at me:

On April 22, 1519, a dispute erupted upon the introduction of female historiographers, in an effort to write down what happens in the innermost areas of the court.

“Female historiographers can record words and acts of the king in detail at court places where male historiographers are not allowed to enter.

If female historiographers were introduced, they would contribute to give our descendants correct views on historical facts,” Kim An-kuk filed an appeal to King Chungjong.
https://www.sungjinyang.com/women-in-royal-court-mired-in-power-politics/

Considering all he went through in SEVEN DAY QUEEN, I cannot blame Yi Yeok aka King Jungjong for wanting to be able to escape the prying eyes that surrounded him at court, especially after his beloved wife was deposed as queen.

I have to admit that this revelation in the Annals of Joseon makes me a tad more sympathetic to ROOKIE HISTORIAN GOO HAE RYUNG as an alternate-history sageuk. I'm not about to run out and watch it immediately as I'm up to my eyeballs in MY COUNTRY and FLOWER CREW: JOSEON MARRIAGE AGENCY, which also features intel gathering and court politics. WHEN THE CAMELLIA BLOOMS has me glued to my screen, too. ;-)

Thanks again for that pointer, @kiara. Having the entries set in context by professional historians is simply terrific. Merely reading historical documents without the necessary cultural and historical background would be futile. Yay for historians and historiographers! Manseh!

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Thanks for the read! This comment thread is fascinating & informative.

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Thanks for that link, @kiara. I like the character-driven aspect of MY COUNTRY. With fictional characters, there can be more freedom to explore everyday aspects of life than would have been the case with historical personages.

I like what I've seen so far.

One of these days I'll get to JEONG DO JEON. Learning that it was written by Jung Hyun-min, the screenwriter of NOKDU FLOWER, gives me great incentive. ;-)

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@pakalanapikake

You are welcome :).

That's why I had high expectation for NOKDU FLOWER. Jung knows his politics inside out since he was a political aide for a decade before becoming a writer.

JEONG DO JEON is partly responsible for SFD's low ratings. SFD came out only a year after JDJ.
SFD had the bigger budget 25 million usd and JDJ 12 million usd.

I think if SFD had waited for another year it's ratings would have been better.

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@wishfultoki You've echoed my thoughts regarding the contrast between Six Flying Dragons and this drama. Historically, who knows what really happened and I'm so curious about all of this.

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@korfan I only watched SFD recently so it's very fresh in my mind. I can't help but compare it with MY COUNRY! It's interesting to see another interpretation of what might have happened.

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This version of Liaodong Expedition maybe tweaked a little or maybe a lot but it does make sense to me.
Choi Yeong sent an advance troop to cross the Amok aka Yalu river before General Yi and the main troops get there. He sent the worst and new recruits to do a job of an elite troop because he probably smell a revolt coming and he needs his best troops with him for protection and for rebelling the annoying Japanese pirates south of Goryeo.
Maybe he was also hoping that Yi Seong-gye wouldn't figure it out since they are already separated from the main army and Yi won't meet them unless he cross the river to Liaodong and by then it'll be too late to turn back.

Unfortunately for Choi, Yi knew that he was being tricked into pursuing the expedition so he didn't make much of an effort to cross the Amok river and kill more of his men.
It makes sense to me if he went there with the intention of revolting in the first place.

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@kiara Aha, this is why I would have appreciated a Choi Young cameo at least, or a quick overview of the geopolitical situation. Yes, since the troops were headed north, Japanese pirates attacked Goryeo, which is precisely what Yi Seong Gye had warned would happen.

"It makes sense to me if he went there with the intention of revolting in the first place." Whoa, I never thought of that, but indeed, pretending to go on the expedition to Liaodong was a great way to gather a large army legitimately and rebel.

It does mean that Hwi was always intended to die, which makes me really sad. I'm starting to see why he will join Bang Won.

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Writernim, don't you dare kill Seo Hwi off! I will never forgive you.

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I meant that he was considered disposable as part of the advance army... but don't worry, he's the lead. He won't die easily.

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I think Hwi has a better chance of surviving in the end than Sun-ho and even Hee-jae.
I personally don't want any of them to die.

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Most sageuks killed my faves. However, I will still be hopeful that the 4 main leads will survive til the end.

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I love how this fictional story is inter-woven perfectly with the historical story. Something's gotta give and I'm fine with them tweaking what was written in the history books. It kind of force us to look at it from a different perspective. Like what if this is how it happened?

I think Yi Seong-gye was open enough about revolting even before the deployment. He told Lord Nam that he can't evacuate his wives because it'll definitely make Choi Yeong more suspicious.

I also like the fact that Lady Seo and Hee-jae predicted that revolt before it happened in episode 1, which means all our main characters were involved and knew it was coming.
It's not an accident that Hee-jae ended up at Lady Kang's home. She figured out with Lady Seo that the dumb king is going to make Choi Yeong stay with him and die in the capital.
When Hee-jae told Lady Kang that she wants to serve the queen she wasn't talking about the current queen but Lady Kang, the future queen.
I thought that it was a good move by Hee-jae but I also feel like something will be taken from her for leaving Ihwaru.

As for our simple minded Hwi, I think being thrown into the chaos of war woke him up. He is more than just a blacksmith.
I keep waiting for him to rage or something because I was done feeling sorry for the abuse he was going through.

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Hee Jae is a worthy disciple of Lady Seo. Her ability to put two and two together is excellent. She does not have the manipulative finesse of Lady Seo, but she is learning fast.

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@Snow Flower
I was impressed with how Hee-jae collected her information from the very beginning of episode 1.
She wasn't after the juicy affair between the stable guy's wife and the salt merchant. She wanted to know if Choi Yeong's horses were being prepared for war.
knowing that turns into their speculation that Choi Yeong will remained in the capital and Gegeral Yi will lead the expedition to Liaodong but will return and revolt.

It's their job to know everything that goes on in and outside Goryeo, then sells the information to keep the gibang running.

I think Lady Seo has been protecting Hee-jae all her life but Hee-jae doesn't get it yet. All she see is how she is being used.
Hee-jae is the only one in the gibang who is not a gisaeng by choice so I feel like that she is still naive.

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@kiara October 16, 2019 at 11:12 PM

Yes! It seems to me that Madam Seo has been putting on an act while actually protecting Hee-jae. Hee-jae has struck me as too big for her britches at times, as if she knows a lot less than she thinks she knows. I still haven't forgiven her for entangling Hwi and Sun-ho in her stupid rabble-rousing campaign. She has been endangering the gibang, too.

After hearing Madam Seo cough in this episode, can a bloody white handkerchief be far behind? -- I also can't help but wonder if she's related to Seo Geom, which might be why she is trying to keep Hee-jae away from Hwi. But if she were his auntie, I think he'd know that. Maybe she just wants to spare an innocent bystander from getting entangled in Hee-jae's bull-in-the-china-shop fiascos.

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@pakalanapikake

Yes Hee-jae is very smart but she is a bit reckless. I'd give her a few more episodes to learn and grow.

Madam Seo is probably dealing with the devil behind the scene to keep the girls and her business safe.

It would be interesting if Madam would end up being Hwi's aunt and that Seo Geom entrusted Hee-jae to her care because of their relationship?

My mind is all over the place lol. This show is either drugs or poison. I'm totally addicted.

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Hear hear @pakalanapikake! I’m still miffed that Hee-Jae got the guys into trouble in the first place. She is impulsive and doesn’t plan ahead, though we know she has brains. Madame Seo could have trained her better but maybe didn’t in order to protect her. And what happened to her “most wanted” status? Did Chief Park let the case die after killing his subordinate, to protect Hwi?

I’m already dreading the day that Hee-Jae, who swore to protect Lady Kang and her boys, meets Hwi again after he becomes Bang Won’s man. I’m already crying inside.

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@wishfultoki

Luckily for Hee-jae Park Chi-do is the only one who knows about it so her secret is safe.

I doubt anyone would care now since the revolt is happening and the change of power and leadership would not punish those who went against the king and Choi Yeong.

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@kiara, @WishfulToki
October 17, 2019 at 9:12 PM

I have been under the impression that Hee-jae's mother was a gisaeng at Ihwaru because she had a room there, which Madam Seo has bequeathed to the dead woman's daughter for a decade. It makes me think that Hee-jae's mother made a major contribution to the operation. (It also makes me wonder again about the identity of Hee-jae's father. Is he a bigwig, and if so, who?)

Perhaps Madam Seo is running the place precisely because she is Seo Geom's sister or even cousin, and it's just a fluke that Hee-jae's mother worked there. It could be that Seo Geom and/or his trusted associates watched out for Ihwaru's intel agents and messengers.

Or here's another possibility: Madam Seo, who happens to be related to Hwi's father, is the intel ring's mastermind, and Seo Geom has nothing to do with it. He stumbles across the attack on Hee-jae and her mother and intervenes because that's what good guys do when women and children are in danger. He runs afoul of Lord Nam in the process. (Or maybe there's already a history between them, and this just adds fuel to the fire.)

@Toki, those are great points about the hunt for the "most wanted" poster paster fizzling out. The Deputy Chief of the Capital Patrol bumped off the only other investigator (Colonel Choi) who knew her identity and that of the two guys she falsely implicated. Then Park Chi-do resigned to join the advance force dispatched to Liaodong so he could keep an eye on Hwi, and deliver his father's armor now that he's big enough to wear it. I don't think anyone back at Capital Patrol has a lead on the culprit, who has ceased her seditious activities and no longer runs around in drag. Add to that the fact that Gaegyeong is in an uproar over the impending deployment of the Liaodong Expeditionary Force, while Choi Young & Co. are on the lookout for suspicious activity by Yi Seung-gye's faction.

After you pointed out the impending angst of a reunion between Hee-jae and Hwi, I have to agree that MY COUNTRY is shaping up to be a three-way Greek tragedy since Hee-jae has decided to align herself with Lady Kang. That blows the love triangle clean out of the water. Hee-jae is ambitious, and is putting her money on the future Queen Shindeok. But after reading @kiara's link on the bad blood between Yi Bang-won and his stepmother recorded in the Annals of Joseon, it looks as if she ultimately bet on the wrong horse.

What’s crazy is the fact that Hee-jae has known all along that Hwi is the son of Seo Geom, whom she swore to repay with interest, while Hwi has no idea of her childhood relationship with his father. She purposely kept him in the dark, and now she’ll have to deal with the consequences of her duplicity. Serves her right – but not Hwi, who has always been forthright with her and Sun-ho.

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That is very true about Hee Jae . When she was talking about being near to the Queen - she meant Lady Kang herself. Historical records prove that Lady Kangs family connections made it easier for Yi Seong Gye to become the King and we all know our character in My Country is all about merit . He would definitely make her Queen. As for Hee Jae - that’s an ambitious women over there . She actually has parallels to Sun Ho without the cowardice .

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Those battle scenes ..... you're in the action with them. Really liking how this drama is filmed.

Thanks for the recap, LollyPip!

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I agree, @korfan. These are some of the best battle scenes I've watched in a long spell. Very impressive, with nice panoramic sweeps of the battlefield interspersed with closeups.

Just wait until Yi Bang-won throws down the gauntlet and unleashes the Strife of Princes. The foreshadowing with #5 meeting #7 & #8 had me jumping out of my skin.

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Oh goodness, what will we see when Yi Bang-won is completely unleashed, as they say? Well, we do know what we'll see, but I think the way it'll be played by Jang Hyuk will certainly be intense.

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I found the battle scenes a little too artistic & clean.... While I felt the emotions, the scenery & pure mayhem didn't quite translate.

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The battle scenes were expertly directed.
The paper Hwi found in his father's armor had 2 symbols on it. One was a plum blossom. In Mr. Sunshine it was mentioned that the plum blossom was the symbol of the royal family, Yi.

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Which basically means that Hwi's father was serving under Yi Seong-gye. Lord Nam too since he had that symbol on the book that he was reading.

The other symbol (snake) was probably for the troop that he was leading which Chief Park Chi-do was a part of.

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@kiara,
Park Chi-do told Hwi he had been the leader of the Black Snake Unit of the former Northern Punitive Force, of which Seo Geom had been head. Given that plum blossom crest on the paper hidden in the lining of Seo Geom's armor, he would have been one of Yi Seung-gye's commanders who chased out the units of the anti-Mongol Red Turban rebels who had invaded Goryeo from Yuan and had made the Liaodong Peninsula their base (1359-1360). Back in China, the Red Turbans eventuallyoverthrew the Mongol Dynasty and ushered in the Great Ming.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Turban_invasions_of_Goryeo

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Thank you for this. I have a theory that Lord Nam is the one who framed Seo Geom for stealing the army rations. Lord Nam being the jealous, sniveling man he is knew that Seo Geom was more talented than him and therefore would ascend much quicker up the social ladder with the merit based Yi Seong Gye .

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Lord Nam definitely climbed the rank by eliminating Seo Geom and stealing his position as Yi Seong-gye's right hand man.

I'm disappointed that Yi didn't investigate the accusation further. Maybe Seo Geom took the fall to save his men from being executed in Lord Nam's scheme and Yi believed the accusation to be true.

I kind of like how human the historical figures are in this drama. They are kind of heroic and invincible on the history books but here, they make mistakes and are easily swayed.

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You are right about the humanity of the historical figures. The character portraits of this drama are absolutely stunning and realistic.

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@Snow Flower,
Thank you for the reminder of the Yi family's plum blossom crest from MR. SUNSHINE. ;-)

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Oooof!! Our 2 guys continue to hurt my fragile heart so much and all I really want is for them to kiss and make up, but what fun is that—and where would the drama be— if that were to really happen?? Lol I guess I’ll just have to continue to be a masochist when it come to this drama 😅😅

In terms of the acting and characters—which are all superb atm (with a bit of reservation for Seolhyun still and whether or not she really can carry the sageuk as the main female lead til the end 🤞🏻🤞🏻🤞🏻)— the gentlemen are all knocking my socks off 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻 And as painful as it is to see Woo Do Hwan as the internally struggling, brooding, and suffer-in-silence type, HE DOES IT SO WELL OMG 😥😥😥😥😭😭😭😭
One thing I am confused about and wondering if I just missed the cues about it in the premiere episodes is when the heck did Sun Ho have the time of day to develop romantic feelings for Hee Jae???? 🤔🤔🤔🤨🤨🤨🤨🤨 Did I ACTUALLY miss something, was it something that the writers just decided to plug in (which 🙄🙄🙄 because no Kdrama is a Kdrama without a love triangle), or was it something that might’ve happened off screen during the three-month time skip?? 🤷🏻‍♀️

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I think it was more admiration than deep romantic feelings, but there were a few hints: when both guys saw Hee-jae during the kites festival and looked gobsmacked, and when she bought him the pretty kite. I'm glad the "love triangle" is hardly a triangle and that we don't spend much time on it, for now at least. It'll become interesting when they come face to face again but are loyal to different members of the Yi family.

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Ooooh, now that you mention it, yea, the kite scene 😅
In a sense, I agree, I’m glad it’s hardly a thing, because Hee Jae’s heart is already set and is with Hwi all the way. It will go one of 3 ways:
- Sun Ho will relent because he already feels guilty for all that he’s put Hwi through
2. It’s going to add to the growing list of reasons the fight between the 2 men intensifies
3. She dies and the 2 guys will be the cause/reason for it

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Hee Jae and Seon Ho are similar. Both are secretive and conflicted. Hwi is like an open book, innocent and warm-hearted.

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I don't think romance will be the main focus here. But I do wish that they make it a little more complicated. Like Hee Jae being more torn between the two and a little more conflicted whether her feeling for Hwi is real or it is because she felt indebted to his father.

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Oh that would be great. I feel like they just met (3 months now) and haven't known each other well enough and she is judging the two guys based mostly on their father's reputation instead of who they really are.

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It will be very interesting to see how they handle this love triangle. The could go good old trope fest on us ! Or maybe do a Pearl Harbour take and have Hee Jae marry Sun Ho because of political circumstances and ambitions.

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For ambitions, I can see, because Hee Jae is very calculating in that sense, but I’m not so sure just yet if it will be for political reasons, unless Sun Ho goes higher up the latter, which his dad actually might push him to do now that I think about it lol 🤨🤨🤔🤔🤔

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@bebeswtz,

Sun-ho did a low-key double-take when the group met up to fly their kites. He looked smitten with Hee-jae, perhaps because she cleaned up so well after the way she dressed the first time they met. I may be confusing romantic interest with shock at the transformation. LOL. I thought he was a sweetie to play along with Yeon's kid-sister crush.

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Yea, kudos to Woo Do Hwan and his acting skills 👌🏻👌🏻

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He did the same double take at the gibang when he realized that Goryeo's most wanted was actually a woman giving orders at the head of the table.
His face <3.

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The gibang scene in the first episode was great at showing how each of the main characters acted in a dangerous situation. Seo Hwi was planning to use the chopsticks as a weapon. Hee Jae used her feminine charm while remaining calm under pressure. Seon Ho pulled rank and talked his way out of very dangerous situation. I have no doubt that he would have resorted to using a sword if the situation escalated.

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Chopsticks, humble eating utensil representative of warmth and the home — just like Hwi, despite not actually being able to provide a definitive meal for his family—Yeon— every day (seriously, the empty rice bucket scene 😭😭😭😭)

A woman’s charm, as expected in those times— as is expected of Hee Jae because of the environment that she’s in, yet, she’s unyielding and unwilling to give into her fate

The sword, representative of power and status— ironically, it’s the one thing Sun Ho doesn’t have, because a child’s societal status is determined by the mother, and his was a mistress (not even concubine, which miiiiiight have made things a tad bit better for him) 😥

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“His face...” 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

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It's just so beautiful. I like the strong characters of our leads and this episode once again showed me how amazing the actors are. Whoever thought about casting them deserves a big round of applause from me.

Episode 3 is such a revelation for me. It laid out what I should be looking forward to with regard to Hwi and Sunho's relationship.
I get that they really still care for each other but they cannot be too obvious about it. It's frustrating as a viewer but it also adds beauty to this drama. I've already watched episode 4 and I cried so much I don't know why I was so emotional (I actually blame Yang Sejong) lol

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@lollypip
Thank you so so much for taking the time to recap this show <3. I can feel your excitement which makes me read and reread it to make sure I didn't miss anything.
I usually comment without reading but this show is the opposite. I want to read everything related to it.

I'm supposed to be in bed 2 hrs ago but I just couldn't stop commenting lol. I'll be back to squee some more tomorrow.

Just a thought. Is it possible that the advance troop were fighting the Jurchens who were settling at the Liaodong border instead of the Ming army? it's historically correct if that's the case.

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I really liked the war scene! In a drama, it's pretty rare to have convincing scenes like that. All the actors are really great to do their fights.

But as a person who don't know very well Korea History and who is really really bad with names, it's kinda hard to follow the politics when they show only one side.

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The BTS scene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5yyKoRcBhA

The little boy is so cute :p

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@kurama,
Thanks for the BTS link. It looks as if everyone is relaxed and having a good time on set.

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Thank you for your recap, @lollypip.

I had suspected that Park Chi-do was keeping an eye on Hwi, and now we know that it's because Dad had been his commanding officer. A nice touch was that Hwi recognized Dad's rules of thumb when Park told him how much to compensate for the wind as he prepared to assassinate the enemy commander. It was touching that Park was able to tell Hwi how proud Dad was of him when he was a kid, and that he always thought of him and his sister. As with his bow, Dad's armor had their names embroidered on the inside so that he would be reminded of them every time he donned it. Come to think of it, their names were over his heart, as seen from behind.

I can't help but wonder if there's anyone else besides Park Chi-do who has been watching out for Hwi and Yeon since their father's death. I would not be surprised.

When Hwi inspected Dad's armor, that folded-up piece of paper poking out from inside the lining was mighty suspicious.

I was curious as to why Yi Bang-won happened to be hanging out at Ihwaru as he awaited orders from his father. Perhaps Madam Seo is in cahoots with him? If that is indeed the case, it lends credence to my suspicion that Seo Geom may have been tailing the gisaeng (Hee-jae's mom) to protect her as she carried a message from Yi Bang-won or one of his operatives.

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@pakalanapikake

This episode was so exciting especially with the battle scenes and Yi Bang-won laying low at the gibang but came out roaring when when his father's revolution is at stake.

That was my fave moment when Park Chi-do was directing Hwi with the assassination attempt. His father's very own words *sniff*. Now I'm ok with his bangs being long. It helps identify the wind in a critical shot according to daddy.

You might be into something Paka. It might be all in the family and Madam might have been updating Bang-won with recent turn of events.
Ihwaru has the best spies ever. They do play a part in this war too and it sounds like Choi Yeong is the only one who is still loyal to Goryeo.

I think Yi Bang-won was trying to fool Choi Yeong into thinking that he doesn't care about his father going off to war. You'd think he would be with his mother while his father is away on a high risk conquest but he is drinking and being his troublesome self at the gibang. (pretending of course)

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For me, it’s both the grandiose presentation and the little details that impress me about this drama. I never thought I would appreciate epic battle scenes as much as I did from this show. We get characters in the battle that we can’t help but cheer for when they succeed. As for Chief Park’s character, even though we get obvious hints as to who he might be, I still appreciate the details that went with the reveal. Such as when he gave arrow instructions to Hwi that echoed his father’s words. And when he gave Hwi the armor from his father. I thought it was emotionally well done.

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I totally agree with your comment about how Chief Park's character was revealed. The tiny details that connects each character to the story specially to our leads really impresses me.

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I was actually happy knowing that he was part of the squad of his Father as mentioned in ep 2,Yeon talked about their father as a man who gave their food to his men and cared for the sick...It would have been too sad if no one would still remember or be by his side for a man who was for them like a hero in those times and clearly died un unjust death...

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I would’ve been disappointed too if no one remembered Hwi’s father. I’ve no doubt his father’s death was devastating enough. And to add to their grief, Hwi and Yeon have to deal with the unjust rumors and their social outcast as a consequence. I’m glad Chief Park can rectify that and maybe heal some of their wounds from the past.

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Now it makes sense why Park Chi-do didn’t arrest Hwi and pretended not to see him when they were under suspicion for putting up posters. Also, when he killed his own subordinate to save Sun-Ho he stated “I’m not doing it for you.” Was he doing it for Hwi? So that he wouldn’t be incriminated with his friend?

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He recognized Hwi at the giseang house.

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@kurama

That's exactly why Park Chi-do backed off. It wasn't because Sun-ho was throwing the rank card at him. He finally recognized Hwi when he looked up.

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@mei123db Mei Geu-Rae, @joycb, @miky88, @wishfultoki, @kurama, @kiara, @bebeswtz,

Part 1 of 2

I loved how the revelation of Park Chi-do's identity unfolded over time ever since his path first crossed Hwi's when he was implicated in the seditious postings by Hee-jae. Park's reluctance to arrest the trio of "ne'er-do-wells" was puzzling. But once he killed his subordinate Choi and informed Sun-ho that saving his life had had nothing to do with him personally, I strongly suspected that Park might be acting under orders from a higher-up. (More on that in a later recap.)

I hadn't suspected that it could have been one of Seo Geom's brothers-in-arms who came to Hwi's rescue. It makes perfect sense, however. He was a general, and would have served with many men over the years. If he were such a good commander who fed his men from his own family's rice store, there has to have been at least some of them who remembered him. Unless they were sent into battle to be killed in a bid by whoever framed Seo Geom to get rid of material witnesses to his character and exemplary care for his troops. That would be completely in keeping with the assassination of the 75 surviving secret vanguard troops who had been fighting in Liaodong.

I still have a sneaking suspicion that there is someone else watching out for Seo Geom's kin who is very much alive, and higher up in the food chain.

In a related vein, I would like to point out that when Yi Seung-gye confronted Lord Nam about bribing the military exam official, he also informed Sun-ho that he knew about his running around posting seditious handbills, which came as a shock to Lord Nam as well as Sun-ho, IIRC. As far as Park Chi-do knew, he and Choi were the only ones who knew Hwi and Sun-ho were involved in the affair – until Sun-ho pulled rank at Ihwaru. This says to me that General Yi and probably Bang-won and Choi Young have spies all over the place. General Yi could have been tipped off anonymously by the same party who outed Lord Nam's exam bribery. Sun-ho hadn't even attempted to contest the false charge with the Capital Patrolmen who were pursuing him because he knew they would just torture him, or punish some poor low-class innocent bystander if he played the "my father is a high-ranking yangban" card.

- Continued -

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Part 2 of 2

I would also like to go out on a limb and state that I do not think that Sun-ho is as much of a coward as some, such as Hee-jae, have made him out to be. He has been walking a knife's edge because of his brutal, ambitious father since he was a young boy. I think he is very cautious, and looks at the big picture and future implications. He knows that if he wants to save Hwi and Yeon, he can't go getting himself killed, or they will all die for naught. If anything, Sun-ho has more to lose than Hwi because of the isolating, suffocating box that the hierarchical Goryeo society has imprisoned him in as a low-born yangban bastard.

Hee-jae dissed Sun-ho for cowardice when he dropped by Ihwaru gibang for one last drink, but she herself has gone off half-cocked and taken stupid risks. (No, I haven't forgiven her for embroiling Hwi and Sun-ho in her mischigas.) She doesn't know either of her new friends very well yet, and really does base her opinion of them on their fathers. She fails to see that Sun-ho, dominated by his ruthless father, is nearly as powerless as she is, and every bit as frustrated.

Hee-jae has a lust for power that could cause her to make judgments that turn out to be short-sighted. She rebels against Madam Seo, but I suspect that she is in the dark about many things that may be on a “need to know” basis. The fact that she has had a deal to report 100 items of high-quality intelligence makes it sound as if she is actually an apprentice information gatherer/broker. For all we know, Hee-jae could even be Madam Seo’s de facto designated successor-in-training. But she is still too impetuous and undisciplined to be entrusted with the operation. Maybe we’ll find out in a later episode that her mother had been a celebrated Goryeo Mata Hari.

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Hwi and Hee-jae have guardian angels watching over them but Sun-ho is all alone and that's probably why I feel for him the most.

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@kiara,
Very good point about Sun-ho's having no one in his corner. He doesn't even have the memory of an honorable dad the way the Seo kids do because Lord Nam is such a rat.

In NOKDU FLOWER, Baek Yi-kang's mom, Yoo-wol, provided a loving, stabilizing presence in his miserable existence. Sun-ho doesn't even seem to have a stepmother, wicked or otherwise.

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Sunho reminds me of Prince Yangmyung (on Moon-Sun) and I'm not sure if my heart is ready for it.

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@joycb October 20, 2019 at 3:35 AM

I can see what you mean about the parallel with Prince Yangmyung of THE MOON EMBRACING THE SUN. Egads, that ending. *sniff* I join you in steeling myself against the potential outcomes.

I'm getting something of a Baek Yi-hyun 2.0 vibe myself. Either way, Sun-ho comes across as more emotionally vulnerable than Hwi owing to the corrosive effects of proximity to his horridly abusive father.

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@pakalanapikake
I think Ihwaru controls the flow of information between our main parties. Madame Seo is totally Amazing! I think Hee-jae is far from ready to take over. She lacks discipline especially with her emotion.
Since this story is about our young leads' growth, I'm looking forward to the future when Hee-jae is ready to step it up.

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I’m surprised how many battle scenes there are here. All choreographed and convincing. And we were all waiting for Hwi and Sun-Ho to clash swords, weren’t we? Huh-hmm, that may have come out wrong. (Oof, that may have too!) Actually, The notes passed back and forth through arrow-messenger were really affecting for me. I was on the edge of my seat to see if Sun-Ho would find out who was sending them. Of course, Lord Nam would intercept that last one! Curse you Lord Nam!

I do love the rag tag family Hwi has found. Chi-Do is certainly a good ally to have and serves as a great mentor as it looks like he’s spent some time with Hwi’s father. Him protecting Hwi from a distance all this time is quite heart-warming.

And Jang Hyuk. Just wow. He had so few lines but all of them are flipping amazing. Bang-won goes from obnoxious cad to cunning and severe leader of a private army is a millisecond. Geez, this is the first I’ve seen this actor, and though I’ve heard the accolades, I’ve not seen the source in action. Color me impressed.

Not to negate the women in this episode, Lady Kang is already formidable and regal. She’ll make a great Queen Dowanger (does she be one queen or is that reserved for the first wife?) butting heads with Bang-Won the entire way. Hee-Jae also has some metal and Seolhyun is holding her own in terms of her intensity across these veteran actors. I’m just glad this isn’t another Jackpot in terms of the FL’s acting. Phew, dodged a bullet there. She’s even better in episode 4.

I’m still enjoying this one immensely!!! Thanks, @lollypip, for the recap!

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I have falling for Lady Kang as well. I think she is the bees knees.
:)

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Joining you in cursing Lord Nam! But deep down I wonder if Sun-Ho would have advised against killing the advance party if he knew his friend was part of it...

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@wishfultoki,
I'd like to give Sun-ho the benefit of the doubt, but his father saw to it that he never learned the identity of the advance force informant. Sun-ho impartially calls it like he sees it, as in the case of troops afflicted with dysentery. Quarantine is a public health measure, and the only practical response to a widespread epidemic in those days. It's basically a death sentence for the individual, but a fighting chance for the survival of as-yet-uninfected troops.

I thought it was interesting that Yi Seung-gye is the one who pointed out that the 75 survivors of the 500-man advance force are also citizens of Goryeo, only to allow himself to be sweet-talked into renouncing them by silver-tongued devil Lord Nam. (Ahn Nae-sang has me hating his character's guts with a passion.) This is interesting to me as other contributors to his successful coup were later rewarded. Keeping the enemy force at Liaodong tied up -- and killing several of their generals -- ultimately didn't mean squat to General Yi. This is the same mindset that will come back to haunt him when he discounts Bang-won's contributions once too often. However, it is in keeping with that comment he made to Nam in an earlier episode about fathers feeling as jealously threatened by their sons' achievements as they are proud of them.

Lord Nam is so jealous of Sun-ho that he sends him on a one-way mission to liquidate Choi Young's secret vanguard. Does he have another son hiding somewhere? What about his family line dying out? I don't understand Nam. Is he thinking of double-crossing Yi and taking the crown himself?

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@pakalanapikake Yi Seong Gye did say that he considers Bang Won his “first” son and trusts him (when required). I could see the wheels of hate turning in Nam’s face when he heard that.

The hate of a father towards his illegitimate son (and son of a slave woman) baffles me but reminds me of Master Baek In NOKDU FLOWER. I can only imagine how much worse he would have treated Yi-Kang if Yi-Hyun had died as a child. Thank goodness he never went as far as killing Yi-kang’s mother, but he never accepted him as part of the family either (his wife was a better person). I guess for Lord Nam Sun-ho doesn’t count as someone who will keep the family line going? So that allows Nam to be a lot more drastic than nobles who fear their family might suffer repercussions for his decisions (including Yi Seong Gye).

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@wishfultoki,

"Wheels of hate" -- what a great and apropos turn of phrase.

I've been seeing the parallel between Sun-ho and NOKDU FLOWER's Baek Yi-kang, too. Master Baek was especially evil because he forced himself upon his wife's adolescent maid. The flashbacks to the earlier, happier times enjoyed by Madam Chae and Yoo-wol underscored the closeness between the two that was shattered by his assault. Madam Chae couldn't even take her lousy rapist of a husband to task because of the male chauvinist version of Confucianism that held sway. So she dumped her anger and resentment on the victim of her husband's unwanted attentions. And her obnoxious daughter, a chip off her horrid father's block, was even more abusive to Yoo-wol -- even though she was the one who taught them how to make straw sandals to support themselves, just as she had earlier enabled the family to survive because of her handiwork. What a bunch of ingrate trash.

Lord Nam and Master Baek infuriate me because there wouldn't be any bastards to hate and mistreat if their fathers hadn't sown their wild oats while knowing full well that any children born of such unions would be doomed to crappy lives. A pox upon them all!

I truly do not understand Lord Nam. I think he's the first yangban I've ever seen who wasn't gung-ho on having descendants. Or maybe he has a second family stashed somewhere like Yi Seung-gye, and is just using Sun-ho as an expendable tool to help him achieve his political ends.

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@pakalanapikake
Sun-ho is one of the more interesting character to me. I don't know why I'm so drawn to him. Maybe because I feel bad for him. Maybe Woo Do-hwan is pretty convincing. Idk.

I believe Sun-ho would do anything for Hwi and his sister. They are all that he has.
I think he has been trying to protect them so he won't end up losing them like his mother.

He lives with an immensely ambitious and cruel father so sometimes he will do things that are questionable just so his father won't be suspicious.

I think Lord Nam had no choice in the mater with the death squad selection. That was Yi Seong-gye's call to test Lord Nam's loyalty to him.

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Part 1 of 2

@kiara,

Thanks for pointing out that General Yi sent Lt. Sun-ho on the mission to liquidate all members / witnesses of the Liaodong vanguard force. Lord Nam had to shut up or instantly fail the loyalty test. I wonder if this is something General Yi constantly did with all his subordinates (and Bang-won), or whether he might have had a special reason for singling out Sun-ho. Is he still suspect because of his father's bribery of the military examiner? Or because of the erroneous charge that he was colluding with the seditious poster paster? Has Lord Nam permanently messed up his son's future in the incoming regime's military?

Even the assassination squad was being sent on a one-way mission. Was this General Yi's way of telling his subordinate Hwang Sung-rok, and anyone else with ears to hear, to do the job correctly and then re-infiltrate across the Amnok to get back to Goryeo? *wink, wink*

As for Sun-ho, I find him an interesting character, too, because he is neither fish nor fowl. As the illegitimate son of a ruthlessly ambitious yangban who is a skilled soldier and military leader, he has not been allowed to live in low-class anonymity since the death of his high-born brother. I'm sure he would have been a lot happier if that had been the case.

Sun-ho is conflicted and has to assume protective coloration to minimize his father's unwanted domination of his life. I agree that he desperately wants to protect his childhood friends, and the PITA gibang spy whose meddling got him in trouble with the law. He stood up to his father to take care of the unconscious Seo Yeon after Hwi was dragged off by the press gang. Sun-ho managed to find a way to protect her, but at great cost to himself, as Lord Nam now has a hostage to hold over his head. The fact that he was willing to put himself in that position says a lot about how much he cared for his friends.

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@kiara,

Part 2 of 2

Like head-over-heels-in-love cop Yong-shik (brilliantly and delightfully portrayed by Kang Ha-neul) in WHEN THE CAMELLIA BLOOMS, Sun-ho carries a torch for Hee-jae even as she professes her love for Hwi. He expresses how he feels, regardless of her reception of his sentiments. I respect him immensely for owning his feelings and being a true gentleman about it. Very gallant, if totally unrequited.

Because Sun-ho resorts to doing awful deeds at the behest of his devious father, I'm sure this is going to cause all sorts of misunderstandings with his friends as time goes by. He has already tried to pass off his actions as his own, but those who know him best know that he is dissembling. I suspect that he'd rather be seen as an agent of his own fortune than his domineering father's puppet.

I don't think that it's just a matter of how the character is written. Woo Do-hwan has been turning in a nicely nuanced portrayal of a character who could well end up as an antihero by the finale. I really hope that that is not the case, and that the lifelong friends can see their way through the minefields created by their fathers' and bosses' conflicts. We still don't know what led to Seo Geom's gruesome fate. I have a feeling that Lord Nam is to blame, and that his son might just feel the same way. Here's hoping Sun-ho isn't punished for his father's crimes, an all-too-likely possibility given the prevalence of collective punishment in those days.

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@ally-le,

So glad you're finally getting to see why so many of us are Jang Hyuk fangirls. He doesn't even have to speak. Just watch his eyes and body language. His posture in Ep. 4 & 5 is very interesting, and speaks volumes. I admire him to bits for the way he goes into his characters whole-hog, and for doing his own stunts. Ditto for Lee Joon-gi, whom I'd dearly love to see in a good sageuk.

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Did you see how JH uses the fan? His gestures add so much to every scene.

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Did you see my “fan” wall??? (Pun very much intended.). http://www.dramabeans.com/members/ally-le/activity/906456/

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@Snow Flower,
I've been enjoying watching that fan of Bang-won's. It says something about his inner state, the same way a cat's tail speaks volumes about what's on kitty's mind. It makes perfect sense, as Bang-won is a tiger perfectly portrayed by Jang Hyuk. ;-)

It's also reminding me of Lee Joon-gi's Eun-oh and his fan in the fight scenes in ARANG AND THE MAGISTRATE. ;-)

@ally-le, thanks for that pointer to your fan wall post. One can never have too much Jang Hyuk or Woo Do-hwan. ;-)

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The battle scenes were sooo great along with the musci,it totally delivered for me...All throughout them i was cherring for Hwi as well as saying"U are amazing"!!!He looked really baddass when he put his father's armor and went to the battlefild with that amazing BGM...

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Ok, you made up muy mind! Instead of Empress Ki, which I was considering watching in part due to Ji Chang Wook reasons, I'll give this one a try... LOVE a good sageuk, but was kind of weary of the love triangle angle...

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Doubt that love will take a big amount in the story as it's not the main arc here so doubt u will have great issues as i see it...More like the romance is a side plot for Hwi's journey and shaping him but clearly is not a main and doubt they will dwell much on it..Guess the writer wanted to add romance bits here and there to cather to the romance addicted viewers but clearly those who watch the show don't come in their majority for that...

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Watched It last night! I started out a bit crabby about the long running time (1h28m, really?) and... Ended up gobbling down the first two episodes available on Netflix and wishing for more! Great action, interesting characters, beautiful locations, amazing outfits. Would have liked the show to have spent more time on character development before starting to punish them... But I was cringing during all the unjust things done to Hwi and just hoping "please, Sun Ho, don't turn into a baddie", so I guess that the show is really fast in making me care about them!

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thanks for the recap...this show has exceeded my expectations so far, and i can't wait to watch newer eps :-)

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I personally believe that Lord Nam killed Hee Jae’s Mom and also framed Seo Geom ( Hwi’s father) for stealing the army rations. He knew Seo Geom was more talented and more noble and stood no chance with him and his family ascending up the social ladder so he sabotaged them for him and his sons future . What do you all think?

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I agree with you (comment above).

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I think Sun Ho is the true low life trapped in nobility and Seo Hwi is the true noble man trapped in a low caste system. There really is no noble bone in Sun Ho’s body to be honest. All his decisions are rooted in cowardice and misplaced loyalty to self . The tragectory I see is him making these awful choices to cover up his past sins . A total snowball .

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I do appreciate our different views on Sun-ho. I might be wrong here but I think he is trapped between wanting to protect his friend, revenge for his mother and his ambition for power to destroy his father.

Unfortunately in this time period the powerless gets trodden and trampled on. The way to the top is bloody hell, even the innocent like Hwi will have to pick up a sword at some point and shed blood to protect the people that he loves.

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Comment on accuracy of subtitles -- and Ha Ji-won demonstrates the use of a tongah (split bamboo arrow guide) and pyeonjeon ("baby arrow") in a scene from EMPRESS KI.

http://www.dramabeans.com/2019/10/team-dramabeans-what-were-watching-178/#comment-3538821
October 19, 2019 at 10:08 AM

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