Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 11-12
No one ever said first love was easy and unfortunately for our hero, wrestling with new feelings is the least of his troubles. Now that his secret has been discovered by his romantic rival, Nokdu will have to tread carefully if he wants to continue living undercover… or living at all.
EPISODE 11: “Yul-moo Knows Nokdu’s Secret”
Having learned Nokdu’s secret, Yul-moo is further enraged to discover him leaning in to kiss Dong-joo (a second time). Dong-joo kicks Nokdu away, quickly telling Yul-moo that it’s a misunderstanding. Yul-moo’s attention is on Nokdu, however, and he orders him to come out. Just then, they hear the Virtuous Women Corps and Nokdu and Dong-joo yank Yul-moo inside.
The women call fro Lady Kim and Yul-moo fumes when Nokdu calls out to them in his feminine voice as he quickly dresses and joins them. Nokdu lies that Dong-joo is sleeping and the women tut that they should make up (after their “fight” over Yul-moo). He promises to do so and ushers them to bed. Afterwards, Dong-joo explains the situation to Yul-moo, adding that what he’d seen when he arrived was a mistake.
Nokdu argues that it wasn’t a mistake, but Dong-joo shushes him. She assures Yul-moo that Nokdu isn’t bad and reminds him that she’ll also be punished for hiding him. Unable to argue, Yul-moo begrudgingly agrees to keep quiet. To avoid another fight, Dong-joo promises to sleep at the gibang and she and Yul-moo depart.
That night, Dong-joo can’t stop thinking about the kiss and Nokdu’s confession. Her tossing and turning annoys her roommates so Dong-joo heads outside. She’s startled from her thoughts by the appearance of Nokdu. They sit together, but every time Nokdu opens his mouth, Dong-joo cuts him off from talking about the kiss ,asking which man she likes, or mentioning coughing. Hee.
Nokdu instead asks why she isn’t curious about his lie or the woman she’d mistaken for his lady in Hanyang. Dong-joo says she doesn’t care to know because she’s not interested in him. Stung, Nokdu tells her not to lie, but Dong-joo says she isn’t. Nokdu thinks she’s mad he kissed her without asking but Dong-joo coolly replies, “One kiss won’t wear down my lips.”
Adamant, Nokdu argues he’s sure he sensed she felt the same way but Dong-joo guesses he’s never dated before. She explains that this is why he was mistaken and chasing the wrong person. Dong-joo tells Nokdu to stop being clingy and sashays off. She stops however, and looks back to see Nokdu wiping tears from his eyes…. and then turns and leaves.
Prince Yeongchang is carried out to the city gate as the ministers look on. He begs to see his mother, knowing he’ll never get the chance again, but his cries fall on deaf ears as he’s loaded into a palanquin and exiled. Afterwards, Minister Heo meets with King Gwanghae, who asks if the prince cried. Minister Heo replies that the boy was brave after leaving the gate.
King Gwanghae remembers there was an uproar when his brother left and wonders bitterly if anyone had done that for him in the past. Minister Heo assures the king that he had and King Gwanghae agrees that Minister Heo is the only one that cared. “Even my father refused to acknowledge me,” the king says, “That’s why he left such a cruel dying wish.”
King Gwanghae continues that he may have never been king had Minister Heo not gotten rid of it. He says that’s why Minister Heo is the only one he trusts. “I am truly grateful, Your Majesty,” Minister Heo bows with teary eyes. However, when he returns home, we see that he didn’t actually destroy the past king’s command.
He flashes back to the night he’d taken the document from another minister — Dong-joo’s father! Minister Heo asks why he hadn’t revealed the document sooner and Dad admits he’d been waiting for the right time because King Gwanghae had taken the throne and Prince Yeongchang was still young. Minister Heo says Dad will be punished and Dad replies that Minister Heo will regret taking the royal order.
As we know, that night Dong-joo’s family was killed and Minister Heo had walked past the corpses as he exited the house. He’d paused next to a fire, but decided against destroying the document. Yoon-jo met him on his way home and proudly reported that King Gwanghae’s son was growing up well and suggested returning him now.
Minister Heo immediately dismissed the idea and showed him the royal order. The previous king had wanted to dethrone the Crown Prince and put his younger son, Prince Yeongchang on the throne. Minister Heo said he, Yoon-jo, and the child could end up dead. He ordered Yoon-jo to return and warned that if they met again, he wouldn’t show mercy.
Back in the present, Minister Heo’s lackey, Chil-seong, informs him that the Muweol Corps they’d had tailing Yoon-jo were dead and Yoon-jo is missing. Minister Heo asks if he’d retrieved the bodies of the women. Chil-seong shakes his head and says the body they do have is of a woman that was found dead at the village for widows. She’d been tortured and he thinks it was likely by the man that had been reported for sneaking into the village and fleeing to Hanyang (aka Nokdu).
Minister Heo orders Chil-seong to find both men, adding that they should bring Prince Yeongchang back. As Chil-seong rides off, he doesn’t notice Yoon-jo walking past.
Master Hwang meets with Nokdu, who admits he has yet to find the leader. He’d overheard them mention and island and suspects the kind is involved somehow. Nokdu worries whether he should continue digging if it turns out Yoon-jo had done something bad. However, he denies the possibility of Yoon-jo being caught in a conspiracy, recalling his mother blamed him on her deathbed. He resolves to investigate further. Master Hwang notices Nokdu’s been crying but Nokdu just mentions he hasn’t seen Aeng-du in a while.
Turns out Aeng-du has been crying nonstop since she outed Nokdu to Yul-moo. She’s pouting outside when Yul-moo happens upon her . She shouts that Nokdu is her sister, but Yul-moo cuts her off. Aeng-du starts sobbing again, asking if Nokdu is dead and saying she should die too. “Really?” Yul-moo asks, his face impassive, “All right, then. Let’s go.” He flings Aeng-du over his shoulder and she cries out for her father as he carts her away.
Nokdu returns home just as Dong-joo is leaving and Dong-joo says she’ll be working in the gibang kitchen starting today. Meanwhile, Yul-moo has brought Aeng-du to the kitchen. She asks if he’s not going to kill her and Yul-moo replies if she’s dead, who will eat his food. Aeng-du asks where Nokdu is and Yul-moo grumbles that since two ladies want to proctect him, he’s sparing Nokdu for now.
In return, Yul-moo wants Aeng-du to do him a favor — although we don’t hear what it is — and as Yul-moo smiles, the sun shines behind him and Aeng-du’s affections have officially transferred. Nokdu chases after Dong-joo to beg her not to go to the kitchen. Dong-joo already knows Yul-moo intends to keep her away from Nokdu and points out she needs to make money to pay Nokdu back (for buying her out of being a gisaeng).
Nokdu offers to give her a discount and Dong-joo barks at him not to be clingy. With sad puppy eyes, Nokdu says that he’s going to continue being clingy. Vowing to make her like him, Nokdu asks her not to go to Yul-moo. Dong-joo asks how he’s going to do that and walks away when Nokdu doesn’t have an answer. Nokdu scoops her up and starts running home… only for Dong-joo to walk back moments later, Nokdu trailing behind with a pouty mouth and a bloody nose. Hee.
She orders him to leave and Nokdu shuffles home. Dong-joo heads to the kitchen and as they work, Yul-moo promises not to say anything about Nokdu’s secret, but complains about them sharing a room. Dong-joo cuts him off and says Aeng-du lives with them and nothing will happen. Yul-moo drops it and asks instead about her drunken confession.
He wondrs if Nokdu is the person she likes and Dong-joo snaps that she has standards. Unable to hide his grin, Yul-moo tentatively asks if that means she likes him and is sorely disappointed when Dong-joo bites his head off. At the same time, Nokdu sneak up and spies on them from the gate, fuming at Dong-joo and Yul-moo’s close proximity.
Aeng-du pops up next to him and chides him for badmouthing her “dear Yul-moo.” Nokdu balks and Aeng-du says, “One thing led to another, and it just happened.” Nokdu is confused and Aeng-du repeats Dong-joo’s words about marriage and says she decided Yul-moo is better than Nokdu. Offended, Nokdu storms off.
Yeon-geun drinks with Master Hwang, exitedly calling him father-in-law. Yeon-geun asks Master Hwang to give him advice on winning Lady Kim’s heart and Master Hwang giggles that he’s a master of winning hearts… but only women. Heh. As Master Hwang starts to impart his wisdom, Nokdu bursts in to listen as well.
Dong-joo takes a basket of dishes to wash in the river and Nokdu watches her, thinking back to Master Hwang’s advice to be indifferent and kind, simultaneously. Nokdu chases after Dong-joo and snatches the basket away, following Master Hwang’s instruction to the letter as he scoffs at her, “Just go kill yourself. You’re so bad at this.”
Dong-joo is baffled and Nokdu pushes her down, explaining that he’s only helping because he has to. Annoyed, Dong-joo cracks him on the head with the basket and Nokdu whines that he’s being indifferent, yet kind. Hee. Pouting, he asks, “Why are you looking at me like that if you don’t like me.”
Looking away, Dong-joo asks what he’s talking about. Nokdu gently tilts her head back to him saying, “Like this.” Flustered, Dong-joo leaves and Nokdu shouts after her to be home for dinner. She doesn’t reply and he sighs that she never listens to her mother.
Minister Im tells King Gwanghae his plan to use the assistant captain of Ganghwa Island for some nefarious plot. The king worries that many people like Prince Yeongchang but Minister Im waves away his concern and King Gwanghae agrees that this will be a chance to discover who is willing to betray him.
The Muweol Corps trio discuss their next mission to assassinate the local functionary who planned the exile. His father is celebrating his birthday and security will be tight, but the women will be employed to cook. Sook says that afterwards, she’ll see if anyone has heard from their missing assassin before heading over to Ganghwa Island with the rest of the team.
Nokdu returns to the village, grumbling about Yul-moo, and runs into the women leaving. They tell him they’re going to cause trouble in Hanyang, but deny his offer to join them. Jeong-sook lets slip about the king and the island, but the others cut her off and shut down any questions as they depart. Meanwhile, Yoon-jo finally appears before Minister Heo, holding him at sword-point.
EPISODE 12: “Yul-moo’s True Colors”
Chil-seong meets the king on his way out and is forced to bring him to Minister Heo for a surprise visit. Meanwhile, Yoon-jo demands to know why Minister Heo sent assassins after his family when he’d kept his promise to disappear. Minister Heo sneers that he should’ve hidden himself better. They’re interrupted by the sound of the king approaching but when the king flings open the door, Minister Heo is alone.
The king eyes a partition where Yoon-jo is hiding suspiciously, but when he pulls it back, Yoon-jo is gone. Turning back to a shaken Minister Heo, the king suggests they play a game. Outside, Yoon-jo’s escape is blocked by the king’s guards outside the gate so Chil-seong leads him out the back way. At the same time, Muweol Corps spy on the house where Prince Yeongchang has been exiled.
At her hideout, Dong-joo has completed her bow and knows that the time has come to leave. Back home, Nokdu notes that Dong-joo is late for dinner. Aeng-du quips that his meal is nothing compared to what Yul-moo makes and Nokdu almost goes out to find her but stumbles back when Dong-joo comes through the door. She doesn’t even look at him as she grabs a pillow and lies down.
Nokdu asks if she’s going to eat and when Dong-joo replies she already has, Aeng-du nods, knowingly. Hurt, Nokdu loudly eats Dong-joo’s portion as she sighs heavily. The next day, Yul-moo eats with the king who asks what he thinks about when he cooks. Yul-moo says normally nothing, but he was happy this time because he was cooking with a girl he likes. King Gwanghae guesses a gisaeng and Yul-moo is forced to agree.
The Muweol Corps are busy working undercover, preparing for the birthday celebration, while Nokdu examines horse tails, trying to find the one he’d seen a few nights ago. When he returns to the gibang, he sees the arrival of the assistant captain of Ganghwa Island. Recognizing the name, Nokdu follows and listens in as the man drunkenly brags that the young prince was exiled to his island, resulting in his promotion.
Dong-joo’s gisaeng friend asks how the two things are related, but the man catches himself before he can do more than mention the feast in Hanyang and waves it off. When he gets up to use the bathroom, Nokdu tails him. Nearby, Dong-joo is selling her possessions to a merchant when she sees Nokdu pass by. When they’re in a secluded area, Nokdu pulls a knife and demands the assistant captain explain about the feast.
The captain refuses and before Nokdu can press him, Dong-joo calls out to Nokdu and he quickly hides the knife, allowing the assistant captain to escape. Nokdu yells that he’s a pervert and tells Dong-joo to get help as he gives chase. He corners the man again only to be interrupted once more, this time by Lady Cheon.
The assistant captain tells her Nokdu attacked him and LAdy Cheon wrenches the knife from Nokdu… and turns it on the assistant captain, repeating Nokdu’s questions. They discover he was hired to kill Prince Yeongchang and Lady Cheon slits the assistant captain’s neck. Nokdu guesses she’s the boss but she says she’ll explain later and orders him to find Ssook and warn her of the trap. Nokdu runs off and when Lady Cheon turns around, her eyes widen as a man steps out from behind a tree, though we don’t see his face.
The Muweol Corps ladies grow restless at the eerie quiet and suspect something is wrong. A man bumps into one of the women and her sword clatters to the ground, setting off a battle. Nokdu arrives in the middle of the fracas just in time to help SSsook out of a tough spot. He explains he was sent to warn them and she orders him to go ahead to the temple and buy them time.
As he rushes off, Nokdu smirks that just buying time isn’t any fun. The guards at the temple block him from entering and Nokdu simpers that if the place is off-limits, they shouldn’t have let their guards down… before knocking them out. The Muweol women finish slaughtering the men that attacked them and head off to the temple , unaware that one man had survived.
They rush inside to find Nokdu calmly waiting next to an already subdued local functionary. As they walk home, Nokdu asks why Ssook took on the role of the Muweol Corps. She says because they’re the only ones who live in freedom. She reveals she’d also escaped horrible in-laws after her husband died and says many of the other women suffered worse. Their boss allowed them to live better lives, but the situation outside the village is unchanged.
She explains that they help widows, because no one else will. Nokdu asks if killing the local functionary was because he harmed widows and Ssook admits that’s not the case, but remains firm that they’re striving to make the world a better place for those without power. Back home, they report to Lady Cheon and she agrees to induct Lady Kim into the Muweol Corps. She then sends Nokdu out to discuss something private with Ssook.
The next day, Dong-joo recalls some men discussing the assistant captain. They say he wasn’t a pervert and has mysteriously vanished. Elsewhere, Yul-moo eats with Aeng-du and we discover their deal was for Aeng-du to spy on Dong-joo and Nokdu and report back any developments in their relationship. Unfortunately, Nokdu didn’t come home last night so she doesn’t have gossip.
Instead, Aeng-du whines that Dong-joo kept her up all night, sighing and waiting for Nokdu to return home. Yul-moo’s face hardens.
That night, Ssook sends Nokdu home after his orientation, shooting down the suggestion that he stand watch tonight. At home, Dong-joo waits for Nokdu and perks up when someone enters the house only for Yul-moo to step forward. She warns him he can’t be there, but he replies ominously that he’s allowed.
Minister Heo meets with his other conspirators. With the trap, they know the king is aware people are trying to protect Prince Yeongchang. Minister Heo says he’d sent someone to bring him back and that they’ll carry out their plan the following day. Meanwhile, a figure approaches the village and Yul-moo exits Dong-joo’s room. Nokdu sees him leaving.
The conspirators argue whether now is a good time to put Prince Yeongchang on the throne while others point out waiting too long isn’t good either. They freeze when Yul-moo enters, a wicked smirk spread across his face. He tells them not to bother, as he’s already taken care of it and tosses Prince Yeongchang’s bloody robe onto the table.
A flashback reveals he was the man that approached Lady Cheon in the forest. She’d shakily asked if he’d keep his promise and he’d told her her job begins now. Then we see the previous night that the Muweol Corps at Prince Yeongchang’s exiled home were blocked by Yul-moo’s lackey, who pulled out a note written by Lady Cheon. The women had stepped down and he’d gone in to kill Prince Yeongchang.
One of the conspirators rushes Yul-moo in a rage and he mercilessly cuts the man down. At home, Dong-joo hugs herself tightly. Nokdu arrives and she smiles in relief, but he orders her to follow him. He takes her to the gibang and Dong-joo asks why he won’t look at her. Nokdu tells her to stay in a bright room and she asks about the missing assistant captain and the real reason Nokdu came to the village of widows. He promises to explain later and walks away.
Back at the meeting, Yul-moo tuts that he hates noise. “Grand Prince Neungyang!” Minister Heo bellows at Yul-moo — it’s his real name and he’ll later become King Injo. Yul-moo tsks that they shouldn’t bicker and that their plan can continue… only with him succeeding the throne instead of Prince Yeongchang. Nokdu, who’d followed, peaks into the door but slinks away when the mysterious figure that had entered the widows village walks up.
Minister Heo says he’s not threatened by Yul-moo and Yul-moo says he’s not issuing a threat (yet), he only came by to say hello today. “So you want to be king?” Minister Heo asks, “”Do you think you have what it takes?” Nokdu steps out to meet the figure and is stunned to come face-to-face with the king.
Ooooooooh, y’all I love a good twist. Yul-moo was a sweet second lead, but his character was really nothing we haven’t seen a million times over and I’ve been growing more irritated with his intrusion into Dong-joo’s life as the drama goes on. She’s explicitly stated that she doesn’t want a relationship with him and has asked multiple times for him to leave her alone, and yet he persists. He says he respects her choice and yet his actions would disagree. It was fair for him to be upset upon learning Nokdu’s secret, but enlisting Aeng-du as a spy was a bit much.
So I’m thrilled to find out that his gentle demeanor was simply a mask for a sick and twisted lunatic. Grand Prince Neungyang is waaaaaaaay more fun and now his toxic behaviors fit better into his character, because he is controlling and crazy and I love it! He makes for such an interesting villain which is great because the king and the ministers just weren’t doing it for me. Yul-moo has a solid agenda and has no qualms straight up murdering a child to do it. King Gwanghae didn’t have much of a soft spot for his younger brother either, but he still hesitated for fear of backlash by the people.
Yul-moo gives zero rat patooties and that ups the stakes going forward. I do like this setup of multiple people/groups all opposing each other because apart from Nokdu, who just wants to uncover the truth, everyone else’s motives are murky and the king and Minister Heo in particular are hard to pin down because they often appear conflicted and unsure of their choices. It’s a fun study of good and evil because most of the opposing forces are floating around in a gray area. Yul-moo, on the other hand, has pretty much solidified his “badguy” role with the whole child murder thing.
But as they didn’t show Prince Yeongchang’s death, there’s still a teensy bit of wiggle room where he could turn out to not be a psycho… but I’m kinda hoping he is. He’s just more fun this way and a far more compelling opponent for Nokdu when he has more on his agenda than just convince a girl to love him… because frankly that was a losing battle. Fun as it is to watch Nokdu get jealous, there’s real conflict to be had. Like two men vying for the throne.
I’m still not convinced Nokdu is the king’s son. It seems too easy and I still like @lollypip’s theory that it could actually be his brother. Either way, Nokdu is in the middle of it and he’s caused enough trouble on his own to make himself a target regardless of his lineage. I’m dying to know what’s going to happen now that he’s come face-to-face to his maybe-biological father.
This is the first episode where I really got on board with the political intrigue. The king vs ministers battle is one I’ve seen time and again so it’s hard to hold my attention but it amps up exponentially when you have another contender in the ring. And if Nokdu gets in there, it’ll be a free-for-all. The throne finally feels connected to the central plot whereas before, we knew it was going to be important because of birth secrets, but as long as Nokdu remained ignorant, it didn’t seem urgent. Yul-moo, however, is a loose cannon and although I think Nokdu is very close to learning some of his past, I think that’s enough to make this battle royale (hehe, puns) relevant to everyone.
As fascinating as all this is, though, I haven’t forgotten about the romance! It’s taken a bit of a backseat as Nokdu tries and fails to get Dong-joo to admit to the one thing she’s trying her darndest to deny. The girl is stomping so hard on her own feelings that she’s beating up Nokdu’s as well, so hopefully she’ll give in soon because seeing him cry just broke my heart. I just hope he doesn’t take any more dating advice from Master Hwang.
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