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Tale of Nokdu: Episodes 19-20

Struck with a startling double-revelation, our hero struggles to unravel the web of secrets and lies woven over the past twenty years while trying to keep the people he loves safe from harm. Hard truths seem to hit all of our main cast this hour and while some revelations threaten to drive people apart, some may serve to bring others closer together.

 
EPISODE 19: “Heo Yun Framed”

The day of the exam award ceremony, Dong-joo stands outside the palace gates. Despite Nokdu’s suggestion she pose as his family to watch, she thinks, “I cannot do that to you, no matter how awful I am.” Inside, Nokdu is horrified to find not only a smirking Yul-moo, but that the king (and his father) is actually the man he’d befriended in town.

The king chuckles at Nokdu’s surprise and regaining his composure, Nokdu gratefully accepts his award. Outside, Dong-joo runs into one of the palace maids, who apologizes for sending Dong-joo to meet Lord Park. She suggests instead Dong-joo try entering the palace as a court lady and Dong-joo perks up to learn the king often leaves the palace in disguise.

Afterwards, Nokdu passes Yul-moo on his way to meet the king. “Are you not curious…” Yul-moo sneers, “What I told His Majesty in there?” Nokdu tries to stalk past, but freezes when Yul-moo rightly guesses that he’d come with Yeon-geun, Master Hwang, and Aeng-du. With a sinister smile, Yul-moo leaves Nokdu to meet his father.

Inside, King Gwanghae attributes Nokdu’s awkwardness to shock and Nokdu stutters that he is unfamiliar with palace rules. King Gwanghae smiles that there’s no need for formality between them… so long as Nokdu keeps his nightly outings their secret. Nokdu readily agrees and the king assigns him to Chief Administrative Officer Baek.

That evening, Master Hwang glares as Yul-moo sits in their courtyard cheerfully feeding Aeng-du meat. Yul-moo tuts at Master Hwang’s treatment of guests and Master Hwang balks, pointing out guests don’t bring swords. He brandishes his broom at Yul-moo and Dan-ho snatches the other end, holding fast when Master Hwang tries to pull back.

Master Hwang swiftly snaps the handle in half and the men square off. Before they can engage, however, Dan-ho finds himself held back by Aeng-du. She chides them for interrupting her meal and Yul-moo orders Dan-ho to stand down. Master Hwang wrenches Aeng-du away from Yul-moo and Yul-moo sighs that he has no intention of harming them… yet.

Nokdu runs in and Master Hwang holds him back a s Yeon-geun apologizes for getting caught and leading Yul-moo to their home. Nokdu assures him Yul-moo would’ve found them anyway and orders Yul-moo to follow him. Alone, Yul-moo questions Nokdu’s entering the palace. Nokdu simply says he wants to earn a living and turns attention back on Yul-moo, wondering what his goal is.

Yul-moo massages the shoulder Nokdu had stabbed and says killing him would be too easy. Nokdu warns him not to involve the others and Yul-moo breezily guesses Nokdu plans to tell the king about his treason. Unconcerned with Nokdu’s threat, Yul-moo informs him that he has Hwang-tae on his side. Nokdu’s eyes widen in horror to learn Hwang-tae returned to Yul-moo willingly. Yul-moo laughs that Hwang-tae is greedy like himself and Nokdu grabs his collar.

Dong-joo returns home then and pulls Nokdu back. Fury burns in Yul-moo’s eyes as he notices Dong-joo holding Nokdu’s hand. Snatching Dan-ho’s sword, he slashes at the pair. Nokdu blocks and Yul-moo spits that Dong-joo should follow him if she wants Nokdu to live. They glare at each other for a moment and then Dong-joo gently removes her hand from Nokdu’s to fetch her belongings.

As they wait outside, Dan-ho questions whether Yul-moo is angry with her. To his surprise, Yul-moo admits that he’s given up. Despite giving Dong-joo space because he’d understood she was struggling, she’d been swayed after Nokdu appeared. Dan-ho asks why he’s insisting on bringing Dong-joo out if he’s given up. “I will have her,” Yul-moo declares, “Even if she does not like me, I’ll keep her beside me forever.”

Yul-moo continues that he will fulfill her wish and that gives him the right. Dan-ho then asks why he’s sparing Nokdu and Yul-moo’s face twists as he says that seeing Nokdu and King Gwanghae not recognize each other was amusing, “A king who kills his son twice. That will be enough to justify our revolt.” Nokdu follows Dong-joo and before he can say anything, she says this is the only way to keep everyone safe. She adds that she doesn’t care about Yul-moo, urging Nokdu to leave it be in order not to get hurt. Dong-joo says it’s only temporary.

Minister Heo thinks back on Yoon-jo’s vehement refusal to help him put Nokdu on the throne. He’d bellowed that Minister Heo had no right to dethrone the king and as Minister Heo looks down at the royal command he’d taken from Dong-joo’s father years ago, he finally tosses it into the fire. His right hand, Chil-seong, reports that Yul-moo has gained more support and will likely move soon.

Minister Heo notes that Yul-moo slaughtered a village of innocent women and even Lady Chun, who had agreed to defer to him. He resolves that Yul-moo cannot be allowed to take the throne and clenches a shard of an amulet in his fist. The following day he tells Chil-seong to stay behind and follow his orders should anything happen.

The guards block Minister Heo’s exit and he informs them he must see the king. They offer to relay his message but Minister Heo bellows that he’s trying to protect the king. Meanwhile, Dong-joo sits with Yul-moo for breakfast. She doesn’t eat and instead questions him about the attack on the village, suggesting that he was the perpetrator.

Yul-moo doesn’t deny it and Dong-joo asks if this is his true face. Yul-moo throws back that she was never interested in him before. Dong-joo dismisses it but Yul-moo argues that it was important to him. She asks why he’s treating her this way and Yul-moo replies that neither his wealth nor his actions could win her over in the past. Dong-joo cuts him off to say that while she’s left Nokdu’s house, she has no intention of obeying Yul-moo.”So if that’s what you want,” Dong-joo concludes, “you may as well kill me.”

The guards escort Minister Heo to the palace and he goes to speak with the queen. He comments that she still wears a broken pendant and a flashback to 20 years ago shows her tearfully asking him to bury the other half of the pendant with her son. In the present she asks if he’d safely buried the child and before Minister Heo can confess that her son is alive, King Gwanghae appears and demands why he’s there.

Dong-joo thinks back on what the palace maid had told her about the king’s outings and muses she can kill him without entering the palace… or she might die instead. Lord Park and his cronies are released from jail and he vows to punish the ones that sent him there. He limps away just as Dong-joo walks up to peer inside. Nokdu grins when he sees her and asks if she’s looking for him.

Dong-joo denies it, but Nokdu is pleased nonetheless. Dong-joo assures him she’s alright and tells him to focus on his job. Nokdu brags that he looks quite handsome and she can’t help but smile back at him. At the palace, King Gwanghae confronts Minister Heo for breaking his house arrest. Minister Heo explains he’d come to tell him that Yul-moo is conspiring to usurp the throne and implores him to arrest Yul-moo immediately.

King Gwanghae laughs bitterly that Minister Heo’s performance seems so sincere. They turn as Yul-moo stalks into the room with Hwang-tae in tow. A flashback reveals they’d arrived first and a tearful Yul-moo had confessed to discovering the king’s son was actually alive and that Minister Heo knew about it. He lied that Minister Heo threatened to accuse him of treason if he told the king and dissolved into sobs.

In the present, Minister Heo pleads with the king not to listen to Yul-moo. Fighting back tears of his own, King Gwanghae grips Minister Heo’s collar and demands who he should trust. He shouts that Minister Heo was his closest friend and he’d hoped that his suspicions would be proven wrong. Minister Heo continues to beg him not to trust Yul-moo even as he’s dragged to the dungeon.

The Muweol Corps trio argue over Ssook going to meet Minister Heo. Yeon-boon thinks it pointless as Yul-moo already convincingly pegged Minister Heo as Lady Chun’s killer. Ssook wants both sides of the story, however, and promise to be back by evening. Nokdu reports to Officer Baek and follows him on an urgent arrest mission.

As they near Minister Heo’s estate, Officer Baek tells Nokdu that they must be quick so the man they’re arresting remains a secret. Nokdu realizes in horror they’re here for Yoon-jo. Inside, Chil-seong urges Yoon-jo to run as he confronts the guards. Yoon-jo makes it to the back door only to be caught by Officer Baek. Chil-seong defeats the all the guards but one and is saved just in time by Nokdu knocking the man out from behind.

As more guards run into the courtyard, Chil-seong shoves something into Nokdu’s robes saying Minister Heo asked him to deliver it to Nokdu to prove his identity. He then punches Nokdu and runs away. Yoon-jo is at Officer Baek’s mercy when Ssook jumps in between them. Yoon-jo escapes while the two engage in combat but Officer Baek is momentarily distracted when he feels Ssook’s chest and she manages to get away.

Nokdu runs outside just in time to knock out a guard aiming an arrow at the the backs of Yoon-jo, Ssook, and Chil-seong and they get away. The other guards arrive and Nokdu sends them in the opposite direction. He asks Officer Baek what happened and is told that the person that saved Yoon-jo was a woman.

They return to the palace and Officer Baek orders Nokdu to wait while he reports to the king. Thinking fast, Nokdu stashes his conspicuous hat behind a bush and sneaks inside to eavesdrop. The king is furious and Officer Baek hands him a pouch containing the charred remains of the previous king’s dying order that they’d found in Minister Heo’s room. Nokdu can’t see what the pouch contains but hears King Gwanghae order Officer Baek to find Yoon-jo and kill him if necessary.

EPISODE 20: “The Queen’s Jewel”

King Gwanghae visits Minister Heo in prison and confronts him with the burned document. He’d told Minister Heo to bring him the document if he’d found it all those years ago and been told it was destroyed. King Gwanghae surmises that Minister Heo must’ve been plotting to overthrow him with it, thinking him not fit to rule just like everyone else. “That’s why you decided to abandon me…” King Gwanghae cries, “to serve under a new king.”

Minster Heo is also crying as he says he deserves to die. Minster Heo repeats his pleas that King Gwanghae not trust Yul-moo, regardless of what happens to him. King Gwanghae demands that if Minister Heo insists on him not trusting Yul-moo, he reveal Yul-moo’s treason plot. Minster Heo falls silent as he flashes back to Yul-moo approaching him after his arrest. Yul-moo had informed Minister Heo he’d rescued his family and that so long as he remained silent, his family would be spared.

“If you end this mess by taking full responsibility,” Yul-moo had added, “your family might have a chance to live their lives comfortably.”

Chil-seong informs Ssook on Yul-moo’s plotting and murdering and she says Yul-moo had told her the same about Minister Heo. She asks who she should believe and Chil-seong urges her to think of how Yul-moo inserted himself into he chaos. That night, Dong-joo stands outside a gibang cradling a box in her arms as she recalls this is where the palace maid told her the king went on his outings. She sneaks inside and freezes when she hears a gisaeng address someone as, “your majesty.”

Dong-joo pulls out an arrow from under her skirt and grips the box, but suddenly Nokdu flashes in her mind, declaring that he’d make her like him. She fumbles with the box and the arrow clatters to the floor. Luckily, no one seems to have heard and she sinks to the floor, images of the night her parents died intermingling with memories of Nokdu. She steels herself and stands just as a patron rolls out into the hall. A gisaeng calls him “your majesty” once more and Dong-joo realizes it’s nothing more than a drunken game.

Nokdu numbly walks back for his hat, thinking of his two fathers. He’s alarmed to find it missing and the queen appears, holding it in front of her. Nokdu stares at her in awe and apologizes for losing it. She gently replies that he’s the one that seems lost. Nokdu admits he’s unfamiliar with the grounds and she hands him a lantern. Nokdu bows to thank her and his eyes fall on her broken pendant.

With a smile, she walks away and Nokdu pulls out the item Chil-seong had thrust upon him to prove his identity — the other half of the broken pendant. He returns to the swing to think and that’s where Dong-joo finds him. She calls out to him and he says he was waiting for her. She asks if someone is tormenting him at the police bureau and Nokdu mumbles that he’s the one tormenting others.

Nokdu says he made the wrong decision and should’ve lived a quiet life. He tells Dong-joo he’s lost but doesn’t know who to turn to in order for no one to get hurt. Shaking it off, he tells her to forget it and Dong-joo replies she didn’t understand anyway. He wants to walk her home but Dong-joo argues no one will welcome him there. Nokdu pouts that she does whatever she wants so he’ll do the same and takes her by the arm.

As they walk, Dong-joo asks if he still likes her despite her being mean. “You look beautiful in my eyes,” Nokdu answers. He wonders why she’s so complicated — afraid, yet fearless — and says that because tomorrow is unknown, he plans to do as he please. He says they should hold hands and takes hers in his. Dong-joo says she’ll let go at the end of the road and Nokdu smiles that they’ll walk slow, then.

The following day Yul-moo tells Dan-ho they must find Yoon-jo before the king. He’s planning to visit the Muweol ladies and orders Dan-ho to tail Nokdu, thinking he’ll surely seek out his father. Nokdu has also been tasked with locating Yoon-jo. He notices Dan-ho following and turns a corner. Dan-ho rushes after him, only to find Nokdu has disappeared, not noticing a woman scurry past.

Ssook greets Yul-moo is dragged away before she can follow. She’s surprised to see Nokdu once again as a woman and he guesses that she was the one at Minster Heo’s . He asks after Yoon-jo and learns he’d left with Chil-seong, but didn’t trust Ssook enough to say where. Nokdu tells her Yoon-jo is his father and then asks if Ssook is there seeking revenge on Yul-moo.

The king continues to suffer from insomnia while Dong-joo buys something at the market for Nokdu. Unfortunately, Nokdu isn’t home yet so she asks Master Hwang to deliver it. He grins knowingly and suggests she wait, but Dong-joo insists she has somewhere to go and her face falls when he says she can come again later. She hands him the parcel and returns to the gibang.

Taking a deep breath, she steps forward only to stop when King Gwanghae walks up. He smiles and the pair head to the inn to chat. She notes he doesn’t look well and asks if he failed to catch the man he was chasing. King Gwanghae sighs that he always seems to fail. He asks why Dong-joo was outside the gibang, doubting she aims to be a gisaeng.

Dong-joo agrees and says she’s actually trying to get hired at the palace. King Gwanghae is surprised and Dong-joo explains that she’d heard it provided a stable income. Changing the subject, she asks if he hasn’t followed her advice for falling asleep. King Gwanghae admits to feeling guilty asking his wife to soothe him when it’s been years since he’d left her alone. Dong-joo insists that it’s fine and thinks it’s likely his wife is waiting for him to reach out.

The king leaves and Dong-joo returns to the gibang only to get caught by Lord Park and his cronies. She kicks him and runs, ducking under a sign warning that the area has been quarantined for plague. Lord Park follows and corners Dong-joo. She backs away and to both of their horror, falls down a well. One of Lord Park’s minions notices the sign and brings it to his master. Panicked, they peer down at Dong-joo’s limp body and declare her dead before running away.

Nokdu returns home and Master Hwang hands him Dong-joo’s gift — the candies he likes. Meanwhile, Dong-joo awakens at the bottom of the well and calls for help. She tries to climb out, but she can’t. The next day, Master Hwang finds a worried Nokdu and suggests Dong-joo is with Yul-moo. Nokdu says Yul-moo is also searching for her and Master Hwng wonders if she ran away again.

Nokdu doesn’t think so and Master Hwang points out he’s already searched the whole city. Nokdu decides to look again and Master Hwang thrusts an umbrella in his hands because it’s pouring. Dong-joo continues to call for help, but she’s shivering and the water is rising from the rain. Nokdu checks the swing and finds it empty so he checks the gambling den.

Dong-joo isn’t there, but he’s spotted by Lord Park’s minion and they confront him outside. Nokdu isn’t in the mood, but stops short when Lord Park brags that he’s already killed Dong-joo. The water in the well is up to Dong-joo’s chin by nightfall and she thinks of Nokdu as her head dips below the water. Nokdu screams her name and jumps down to pull her out, cradling her unconscious body in his arms.

At the palace, the queen steps out to greet the king. He tells her he can’t sleep and apologizes for his bad manners. “It’s not your fault,” King Gwanghae tells her, “Everything is… Everything is my fault.” He asks if she’d be willing to stay the night with him like old times.

The next morning, Dong-joo opens her eyes and Nokdu frantically asks how she feels. She pushes him away and snaps at him for worrying. She yells at him for looking for he rand jumping into the well and storms out. Nokdu chases after her and finds her crying. She says she had a task to fulfill and that once she had completed it, she would go to meet her mother and be happy.

She shouts that she’d lived for that and yet when she thought she was going to die before completing it, all she could think of was Nokdu. “Why did I only think of you at that moment?” she sobs, hitting his chest, “You keep making me want to live.” Nokdu admits he doesn’t know what Dong-joo is trying to accomplish or what she’s afraid of, but says that they’re alive and together now.

“So… can you not follow your heart and just like me?” he asks. Dong-joo finally breaks and screams that she does like him. Nokdu pulls her in for a kiss and when he finally pulls back to look at her, Dong-joo pulls him back for another.

 
COMMENTS

And now they’re both going to get the plague… or at least a very bad cold. But finally! I really appreciate that while Dong-joo did push Nokdu away to protect him, it never felt like classic noble idiocy. Rather than external issues like Yul-moo’s homicidal jealousy, it was her own need for vengeance and the unlikelihood that she’d survive it that made Dong-joo reluctant to indulge in her own feelings. Her struggles were valid and even as she broke our sweet boy’s heart, I couldn’t really be mad at her for it. I am so thrilled that she’s finally letting it go, however. While her desire for revenge was necessary in giving her a reason to push on after the slaughter of her family, now it’s holding her back from living the life she deserves.

Additionally, I can’t imagine she’d be able to go through with it if she knew that the kindly gentlemen she and Nokdu befriended is actually the king. Recent episodes have painted him in such a sympathetic light that I’m struggling to understand how he’s the same man that tried to murder his own child two decades ago. I’m interested to find out why it was so vital he do away with his son. Even now he seems remorseful, yet firm that his decision was correct.

Which then brings me to Minister Heo. I was hoping by now we’d understand why he’s so hellbent on dethroning the king when they seemed to be such close friends. I wasn’t at all surprised that Yul-moo was smart enough to get in the king’s ear first. It was only a matter of time before Minister Heo attempted to expose him and while his tears were fake, his story wasn’t untrue. Minister Heo did know that the king’s son had survived and then to discover the ashy remains of the royal decree in his house was just icing on the cake for Yul-moo’s story.

If nothing else, I feel bad that King Gwanghae is kept so much in the dark. Rather than being incompetent, he just seems severely misinformed. I worry what will happen when Nokdu’s identity is revealed because that’s just one more lie from a trusted friend and King Gwanghae is already at his breaking point. We already know that one way or another Yul-moo will get his way and claim the throne, but is it too much to hope he does so without harming our hero and his loved ones? This drama started off so fluffy and fun and now I’m worried that we’re going to end with everyone dead. If it’s any consolation, we should at least get some good kisses along the way.

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Words cannot express how much I love this show! There is tragedy and romance and the leads are so cute together! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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Hear, hear!

I came expecting fluff and Kim So-hyun and got so much more!

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Kim So Hyun never disappoints! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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Now that it's been two weeks since the twist I am finally able to get over the change. The King might feel a little remorse but since he still thinks he's right I can't forget what he had tried to do and don't feel too sympathetic. Also Aeng Du is just too much, haha. Yul Mu is extremely possessive about Dong Joo ugh. It was nice to see Nokdu finally meet the Queen. When and how they find out he's alive, plus how will Dong Joo react to the truth, I can't wait to find out.

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Yul-moo... I actually liked that twist. Kdrama Second Male Lead trope, effectively subverted! Plus his true colours came out re: possessiveness towards Dong-joo.

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I adore this show!

Is it too much to wish that Dong Joo do a little bit of basic recon to find out who the king actually is before getting ready to be all stabby-stabby with her arrows? She's nearly killed 2/3 wrong people just because someone else called them king! 😅😂

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um, also I think maybe Nokdu should clue her in that their friend the officer was actually the king! But I get it, he's in shock himself.

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Usually this frustrates me as well but I think Nokdu not telling her is making sense here because the day he found out, Dong Joo left his home so they barely talked and the next time their meeting was too short (morning when Dong joo is waiting for him). These are the two situations immediately after the event where telling her could make sense but they barely had time, the next time they met, Nok du was too despondent and then the mood turned romantic. Also keep in mind both of them are not sharing secrets at this point and also maybe Nokdu wanted to respect the kings request to keep it from his "lady love". Though.its going to stretch if Nokdu still doesn't share the info with her in the next epsiode!

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well, at least they were frank with each other about there being stuff they had to keep secret. That's a change from kdrama couple SOP of pretending there's nothing.

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He'd need to know she's trying to kill him for him to realise it'd be important for her to know!

Also...our Nokdu has other things on his mind when he's with Dong Joo....

*goes back to rewatch end of this episode/beginning of next episode again*

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lol yeah, Dong-joo herself tells the incognito king he's a third wheel. And the king did ask for it to be kept a secret, but it's clearly not going to stay one forever!

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Wouldn't it be some breach of duty or protocol to clue Dong Joo in that their wandering officer friend is the king? The king wants to be incognito and he is more Nokdu's friend than Dong-joo's friend. The girl who wanted to be set up with Cute-Guy-In-Pink-Robe also didn't end up telling Dong Joo.

But yeah, Dong Joo should make sure to kill the actual king. Then again, she's never assassinated before and it's not like she's been mentored in it, so I can see how she can make mistakes.

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I'm not sympathetic towards the king. He still tried to kill his infant son.

Question about Yul Mu: we know he had the king's half-brother killed. But where does the king think happened to him? Or is he okay with it since the half-brother posed a threat to him?

Nokdu and Dong Joo: ❤️ I'm just afraid at this point that Dong Joo will die trying to assassinate the king...

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I don't think there's any chance that this drama is going to end in tragedy for Nokdu or Dong-joo, no matter where the plot seems to be headed now.

I'm not sympathetic to the king's decision to kill his baby son, but I do think he's the most interesting character in this show. I can't like him, but I can't hate him, either. He seems like a once-good person, corrupted by power, but not entirely without a conscience, and very much alone.

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He's a complex character who is very human but I don't want things to end well for him. Having a conscious doesn't excuse all the things he did in the past or in the present. I'm mad at his reason for trying to kill his own child.

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The real Gwanghae was exiled, not killed, I believe. But for our fictional Gwanghae, the best ending I could imagine would be redemption -- that in Yul-mu's attempted coup, Gwanghae would risk -- and possibly lose -- his life to save Nokdu.

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Yes, in real life Gwanghae was exiled and lived quite a few more years. I do like your altered history idea. Reality is just too harsh and how sweet it would be if Gwanghae would sacrifice himself to save our sweet hero and heroine.

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Redemption would be good moral lesson for story telling but I'm not in the mood forgive him. After all he did I would not mind if they followed history and exiled him.

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Yeah I don't see any way for things to end well for Nokdu if they stayed with historical Gwanghae's storyline - I mean, Neungnyang/Yul-moo becoming the next king? Nope.

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They can stray away from history but at the same time I don't want ND to be king. It's not the kind of life that would suit him.

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yeah I don't want Nokdu to be king either, just let the kids go and live happily together.

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@latebloomer well there have been a few parts that stay from history unless the historical records I have read are incorrect. For instance, Gwanghae's son was born on December 31, 1598. NokDu is said to be born on November 19 or November 9th from a different translation of subtitles. I "think" NokDu said he was the sign of the snake but the sign for 1598 seems to be the sign of the dog. So these are different months and different years... SO these differences could signal other, more major difference in separation from history. Let's hope so.

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"stray" not stay

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I actually like how the king, Minister Heo etc aren't just scheming plotters who plot like in most sageuks - the politics storyline in Nokdu is quite character-driven, and I appreciate that about it, including the king's capacity for kindness and his genial demeanour when he's out and about incognito. But he's still a paranoid maniac who tried to kill his baby, even if he seems more human now.

That said, I feel bad for the Queen. He nearly killed her child, then neglected her for the next 20 years? There's clearly affection and trust between them, but it's severely eroded and I don't know if they can come back from the whole 'attempted murder of your own child' thing, once that comes out.

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I find it hard to be sympathetic too. For a moment, I thought maybe the son wasn't his, and that's why he felt so threatened by the baby. But the drama seems to really point to Nokdu being his son - with their similarities in taste for clothing. And it doesn't look like the queen is scheming nor does it look like she has a scheming dad or minister to use the infant son for political purposes.

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yeah, the Queen really does look like a heartbroken mother who's never got over the loss of her child. I think she's probably the most wronged person in the drama, besides Nokdu himself - and it's sad because it was all so avoidable.

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Definitely my favorite episode!

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Of all the recapped ones so far, definitely. That ending gives it a huge advantage <3

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One of my favourite scenes in this episode was Nokdu finally meeting his mother.
My heart broke for him when later on the swing he blamed himself for others' pain. But then my heart patched up again seeing Nokdu and Dong Joo walking home hand in hand and being cute together.
And finally after so many episodes of push and pull, Dong Joo openly declared her feelings. I felt for her when she said that Nokdu keeps making her want to live. It was hard seeing her struggle between her urge to take revenge and her longing to be with Nokdu.
The kiss though!! *Fans self*
Loved that it was Dong Joo who took the initiative to kiss Nokdu the second time around. It shows that this time her heart is fully prepared to accept his feelings unlike the last when he attempted to kiss her.

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Dong-joo's spent so long forming her entire life around planning to assassinate the king and eventually be killed herself, that I imagine it's a real shock to her to discover that Nokdu actually makes her want to deviate from that plan. If she's been a tsundere, it's with good reason - she doesn't want people around her to get hurt, or incriminated if she goes through with her plan. Plus the poor girl has several years' worth of untreated PTSD from her near-death and her family's murder.

It actually makes sense that last time around, she was still processing the fact that she had feelings for Nok-du and wasn't quite ready to give in to the idea of then, but this time she's had to confront the fact of her own mortality again and find that things have changed.

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Also agreed on Nokdu meeting his mother. Poor puppy, and poor Queen T_T what the king did to her was not the kind of thing marriages can come back from, usually.

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If the King thought the last 20 years was hard...the next 20? Yikes.

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Nokdu meeting his mother had me internally screaming for them to reunite! Nokdu grew up with a mother who resented him, and I really want this nice queen to show him a mother's love.

Dong Joo spent half her life planning to kill the king and then die. It was really sad to see her struggle with her urge to just live and be with Nokdu. I'm usually all about vengeance, but from those flashbacks - she was so loved when her family was alive. If their spirits can see her so consumed by vengeance, they would be so sad. They would have loved to see leave the past behind and live happily with Nokdu.

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Especially since every time someone mentions her son, the queen's motherly grief nearly kills me.

Those two, in the nicest, most genuine way, really deserve each other,

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Same, and she's so gentle and contained about it but you can hear the heartbreak in her voice every time she mentions her lost child.

And she and Nokdu really do deserve each other - I thought it was incredibly endearing that, of all the ways to meet for the first time, it was through her finding the hat he tried to hide. There are things you can't sneak past a mother, even if she doesn't know she's yours!

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Seeing Nokdu dressed as Lady Kim again made me miss Lady Kim more.
Though how did he change his clothes so fast while trying to escape?
Thanks Sunny for the recap!

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I know! I missed Lady Kim Nok-soon too (plus JDY is really ridiculously pretty in any style of hanbok - male or female - and I missed the widow styling).

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Just when I was worried that we would never see Nokdu dressed as a woman again, Lady Kim makes a brief return! I enjoyed Ssook reaction, like Nokdu has been going around dressed as a lady even after the widow's village was destroyed.

I've got to say, Nokdu has access to a lot more clothes than I would expect for some dude from a rural island.

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True..where does he even get those clothes from? But I guess he just steals or borrows them from anywhere he can just Iike he did when he was escaping from the King's guards, when he disguised as one of Minister Heo's men to get to Hwangtae and there's also that time when he declared himself as Dong Joo's mother, he borrowed a set of men's clothes from a cabinet and so on..

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THAT KISS!!!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!!!!!!

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My feelings exactly.

Nokdu is pure old-school swoon but with a thankfully modern approach to romance, and it shows in that kiss.

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The kiss we ALL deserved, including our two leads 😍

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Keep'em kissing! :*

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Yes please!!

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I'm late to the Nokdu commenting train, but better late than never! (But seriously, I love this show and its OTP so, so much I actually just started rewatching earlier eps while waiting for Monday). And ooof, that kiss! The rain certainly enhances the romance of it all but it's November in Korea, I hope the actors got properly dried off afterwards and didn't freeze!

Dong-joo isn't being a noble idiot and has good reason to want to keep certain things a secret, considering what she's concealed from Nokdu is no less than a plan to assassinate the king! They've both been frank about there being things they can't tell each other, and Nokdu's birth secret/Dong-joo's real identity are part of that. Plus telling him could =severe repercussions for him, if she refuses to even use his name to get herself into the palace to get a look at the king, she knows that. I'm not terribly surprised she's so brittle about it, she clearly has PTSD from watching her family be murdered in front of her and then buried alive.

I love that Nok-du isn't too proud to actually admit his feelings, and that they actually talk to each other and it's not just squabbling. I always appreciate that in a drama couple!

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The secrets here remind me of the narrative in the recap and there is a big question that emerges. The recap (or maybe it was the previous recap) says that Dong-joo's parents were killed because the father was carrying the document of the previous king that listed the grandchild as the future king rather than Gwanghae. Did I get that wrong? Was it more like her parents were guilty of treason, but nothing to do with the letter designating who the new king would be. It just doesn't add up if the parents of Dong Joo died around the same time as the baby because that would make Dong Joo too much older than NokDu. What exactly was up with Dong Joo's parents?

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I thought the document listed Prince Yeongchang, King Gwanghae's younger brother as the future King. Nokdu was born way before Dong Joo's family was killed. King Gwanghae was wearing blue robes when he attempted to kill his son which suggests that he was still a crown prince back then. Dong Joo's family was attacked after King Gwanghae had already become King.

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Thank you. That makes way more sense!

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It was DJ's grandfather who held back the secret document of the previous king that endorses Grand Prince Yeongchang as his successor, instead of Gwanghae, the current king. Yeongchang is a much younger half brother of Gwanghae's.

DJ's parents and siblings didn't do anything. They were murdered because they are the members of the Yu family, who posed a great threat to Gwanghae. .In Joeson era, if someone is accused of treason, his entire family was wiped out. 'Annihilating three families' means not only killing and enslaving the traitor's own family but his father's side, mother's side, and wife's side as well.

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Thank you! That makes sense and clears up my confusion.

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If you look at the scene of the murder of Dong-joo's family, there are two men being killed - the one in the pink robes who had the old king's letter, who looks to be her grandfather, and another, younger man in grey robes - likely her father.

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Also, a word of appreciation for the music - I love all the background scores and nearly all the songs, especially the one that plays at the end of ep 7/during Nokdu's rescue of Dong-Joo from the well. Pure swoon!

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I couldn't agree more. I sometimes find myself repeating a scene just to listen to the music, they are so beautiful.

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I've done that myself.

Background scores tend to be such an overlooked part of dramas, but Nokdu's are sheer perfection.

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I'm always listening to the ost!! Every song is good!!

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Make it right my cuties! :*

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Thank you for the recap!! I think this drama is the first one where I really felt Kim So Hyun has finally aged into an adult role. I'm so glad she picked it and that Jang Dong Yoon is her costar. They make such a great pair!

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Agreed. I noticed it especially when she delivered her lines prior to the kiss scene. When DJ was explaining that she had a task to fulfill, asking ND why it's him she keeps thinking of when she's on the brink of death and how he keeps making her want to live. I truly believed that she's been battling her feelings for ND (not that I didn't believe it before) but I just loved her facial expressions and line delivery during this confession scene.

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This is the first time I've actually fully bought the romance angle in any of her dramas as lead, and I think it has a lot to do with, as you said, her finally aging into it.

She's been a very skilled actress since before she was even a teenager, but this is the first drama of hers where she's been able to pull off that charge that makes romances great.

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Also, Jang Dong-yoon is an absolute natural at romances - between If We Were A Season, Just Dance, small parts of School 2017 and now Nokdu, that boy makes a fantastic romantic lead. I've never yet seen him NOT have great chemistry with a female lead, but the writing in Nokdu takes full advantage of it and pushes it off the charts!

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Dong-Joo for me is the worst character in this show. I get that she has a tragic past, but her character development is so slow and she always just ends up being a liability and getting rescued. You’re going to kill the king with how weak and dumb you are?

Like dude, I am so annoyed. And her “I am not in love you” narrative for several episodes have gotten so annoying because the writers had to stretch it out for several episodes and it’s getting old fast!

Finally, they kissed. Now let’s get over with and get to the more interesting storylines because it ain’t hers. Bring on the widows!!! They have superior storylines than her.

She has the worst character development in the show. She’s also the most annoying (more than the antagonist). At this point, Aeng-du has more spark of a character than her.

Wtf are the writers doing with her? She’s a lead character and she has the relevance of a supporting one. If it isn’t for the romance aspect of the show, her character is truly UNNEEDED.

I am sorry. I blame the writers for this. I skip all her scenes because she’s just banal. And all the highlights of this show so far EXCLUDES her.

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I respect your right to your opinion, but I find it odd that you complain Dong-joo's character development is "too slow" while also saying you skip all her scenes. Contradiction or what?

Also opinion is one thing but fact is another, and far from only being around to need rescue or for the romance storyline, she's saved Nokdu's life at least three times by now. I hope you find another drama to enjoy, since clearly a significant part of this one frustrates you.

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I’be been skipping her parts on the most recent episodes. That’s the thing, I skip them and I did not even miss anything significant.

She saved him 3 times, yes I get it. But with the actual storyline? She has been “attempting” to visit her house since episode what again? And she’s still doing that now. She has a tragic past, but the show hasn’t given her spotlight to do so.

Like I said, it’s the distribution of plotlines. Everyone has something going on for them that’s interesting. All she has was that past and that’s it. She just shows up to either bitch, cry or get rescued. She needs more exploration, and it frustrates me that there’s no good attempt yet.

I hope her character gets explored soon. She’s more than being a love interest.

Not giving up on the show because I fell in love with a lot of characters. I’m just frustrated by hers because she’s a lead character and her development is the worst.

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You're just hating for the sake of hating. Stop pretending to watch this drama when you actually just hate the lead actress.

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So happy they finally kissed!!

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