Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 9
Self-sacrifice is the currency of the day, with everyone and their mother (er, father) throwing themselves in the line of fire to save a loved one. It’s not a currency that necessarily buys much, since Big Evil still has them outpaced and outmatched, but there’s nothing like putting our main crew in such dire straits does to bring people together in purpose.
SONG OF THE DAY
Taru – “희생양” (Scapegoat) [ Download ]
EPISODE 9 RECAP
Yang-sun and her father are tortured under Advisor Noh’s command (which is really the king’s command, since he’s making Yang-sun the scapegoat in order to spare Prince Yoon). Battered, she comes to in a prison cell and worries over her unconscious father, just as Advisor Noh steps in to offer a deal: Confess to being Eumlan Seosaeng, and her family will be rescued.
Yang-sun starts to protest her innocence and say that the prince is the true author, but Advisor Noh cuts her off to warn that she wouldn’t be allowed to live if she told the world the truth. Not only would Gwi kill her family and the prince, he’d go after any and every citizen who spoke of it. He confirms to Yang-sun that vampires do exist, and says that with her one death, everybody else’s lives would be spared. Gah, I hate that it sounds even the tiniest bit persuasive, and that she even considers it.
Sung-yeol confers with his team about getting Prince Jeonghyeon’s diary from Dad, aware that Dad is likely to lump all vampires into the same evil category and refuse to hand over the book. Su-hyang points out that he’d do it to save Yang-sun’s life, though.
Ho-jin worries that if Eumlan Seosaeng is brought before Gwi, he may recall Yang-sun’s scent. Su-hyang asks if Sung-yeol could really stand by to watch Yang-sun being hurt, but he clenches his jaw and replies, “I am hurting too. However, if one Yang-sun dying can save all the people, I will do it. If that is what it takes to be rid of Gwi, I would do even more than that.”
Gwi’s loyal toady, the prime minister, reports that the king is producing a fake Eumlan Seosaeng, and decides to see for himself whether it’s the real one. He practically salivates at the idea of drinking that sweet blood.
In her cell, Yang-sun huddles to herself and, addressing Sung-yeol, admits her fear and wonders if her death would truly save lives: “If only I die…”
Sung-yeol is startled when crippled Dam drags herself to his door to plead with him to save her sister, reminding him that he’d saved her before and could do it again. She gives him the Night Scholar novel Yang-sun had been working on as proof of how much she cared for him, and begs him to do something.
Sung-yeol recognizes the scenes depicted, and flips through the novel, looking contemplative.
The next day, he’s apprised of the latest developments, with the prisoners taken to the royal tribunal for formal interrogation (which means more torture). They’ve beefed up security there, but it must not be much since he waltzes right into Yang-sun’s prison cell. She’s bloody and battered, and her father’s no better off.
Dad stirs first, and he rears back in terror at the sight of him, though thankfully today he’s not screaming his head off. Sung-yeol asks if he was there ten years ago at Scholar Seo’s, and Dad confirms that he saw Sung-yeol feeding. Sung-yeol explains that he’s out to destroy Gwi with that diary and warns him for the king’s plan to throw Yang-sun to the wolves to save the prince. But if Dad tells him where the diary is, he’ll save the family and send them to Tamra. He urges Dad to trust him, and then in the blink of an eye, he’s gone.
Yoon sits alone with his guilty conscience, replaying his conversation with his grandfather about letting Yang-sun die. The king says he lost a son and won’t lose his grandson too, and Yoon feels powerless to do anything. Then his father’s voice calls out to him, and suddenly he imagines Crown Prince Sadong in the room, gently rebuking him for doing nothing while his loyal followers suffer instead.
Yoon doesn’t know how he can save them asks his father to tell him what to do. Sadong just steps forward to place an encouraging hand on his shoulder, but when Yoon reaches up to touch his father’s hand, he’s gone, leaving him lost and alone.
Advisor Noh pulls Hak-young aside before the interrogation begins, and echoes the king’s words by saying that he can’t lose his grandson on top of his son. He instructs Hak-young not to speak up and take the fall as Eumlan Seosaeng, threatening to go after the prince as the real Eumlan Seosaeng if he does.
As the prisoners are brought out for their torture session, the king warns Yoon to remain put, or the girl will die. Funny, I’m pretty sure staying put will end with the girl dying anyway, but Yoon does as ordered, though he has difficulty watching everyone’s agony as they are beaten and burned. But I’ll spare him my sympathy, since watching is nothing compared to enduring it. I mean, I know you’re in a tough spot and all, but I’m still mad at you.
This is the first time Yang-sun has seen Yoon in prince’s garb, and she’s surprised at the revelation. As the king asks her one more time to confess to being the traitor, she thinks back to Yoon’s question about whether she hates Eumlan Seosaeng even as she admires him, since he’s causing the people pain. The threats ring in her ears as she tries to decide how to reply, and finally, she speaks up.
“I am Eumlan Seosaeng,” she declares, to her father’s horror. She takes responsibility for everything, and Yoon looks crushed… though I notice you’re not saying anything, buddy. Hmph.
Sung-yeol prepares massive amounts of hawthorn powder, determined to get rid of Yang-sun’s scent. He releases a handful of dust into the wind, and his eyes flare red.
Then Dad speaks up and says Yang-sun’s lying to spare her father, because he’s really Eumlan Seosaeng. Good grief. Don’t y’all know that if you all take the fall, you’ll all die, and then what good will your sacrifice do?
Dad is determined to win this sacrifice game and outs himself as having formerly worked for Crown Prince Sadong, and that he masterminded this whole thing out of a grudge. He begs for Yang-sun’s life to be spared, but the king says they all deserve death for conspiring against the nation and declares their public execution.
When night falls, Sung-yeol swoops into action and breaks into the prison where Yang-sun sleeps. He takes out a vial and pours its contents over her neck and arms—blood. He removes the hawthorn pendant from her neck just as Gwi makes his approach, arriving outside the prison to see the prisoner.
He’s taken to Dad first, and right away knows it’s not the right one. Next he takes a look at Yang-sun and notices that she has no scent, but one taste of the blood on her neck is enough to confirm that this isn’t who he wants, either. But her lack of scent is peculiar enough to give him pause, and he feels around and finds powder scattered around. This doesn’t prove she’s Eumlan Seosaeng, but he’s intrigued anyway; at the least, it suggests Sung-yeol will be somewhere in her vicinity, for him to go out of his way to protect her like this.
Sung-yeol returns to check on Yang-sun after Gwi’s departure, looking pained to see her in such a sad state. She stirs half-awake and takes hold of his arm, struggling to say, “I… I hurt so much…”
Yoon broods over the well his father had died in, torn with guilt and shame while not knowing how to change anything. Gwi watches from a distance and recognizes a face among the prince’s guards—he knows that man to work for the king. So is the king having his grandson monitored, or protected?
The king’s faithful advisor urges him to share his plan with Yoon—the one where he’s actually planning to fight against Gwi, which will ease the tensions between them. But the king resists, saying that it’s not yet time.
They hear that their bodyguard has been dragged off by Gwi and worry that he might talk too much, since he’s privy to the knowledge that Yoon is the real Eumlan Seosaeng. And sure enough, the man spills the beans readily, divulging that the king has been watching Yoon closely for the past year and therefore also knows of Eumlan Seosaeng’s true identity.
The guard begs for his life and promises to serve Gwi, but Gwi has no use for a faithless follower who would turn on his master to save his own skin. He slashes the guard with his sword, and directs that comment at the prime minister, who gulps. Message received.
In the prison cell, Sung-yeol cradles an unconscious Yang-sun to his chest and lets his tears fall to see her in such pain. She briefly wakes and asks how he came to be here, but falls asleep again, and he holds her even closer. He thinks of his sneering words to her on the bridge, and urges her now, “Yang-sun-ah, just hold on a little longer.”
Dad awakens in the next cell over and is puzzled to see the vampire holding Yang-sun so tenderly. He thinks back to that night ten years ago, when he’d witnessed Sung-yeol killing (not having seen that the man had been turned into a vamp). Injured, Jin had crawled over to his (her) father, and Sung-yeol had turned back to slice his hand on his dagger and let his blood drip onto her injuries, healing her.
In the palace, the prime minister is denied access to the king even though his message comes from “The Elder,” aka Gwi. The king’s servant instructs him to return in the morning, and inside, the king and Yoon sit to discuss the latest developments—namely, Gwi now knows who the true Eumlan Seosaeng is, and now the prince’s life, which the king worked so hard to protect, is in danger.
Since everybody is determined to be noble today, Yoon decides that he will face Gwi and die, but wants to protect the king, and asks that Yang-sun and the other prisoners be saved. The king cuts him off angrily for tossing his life away so readily, but finally decides it’s time to share the full story. He explains that he has been preparing for many years to fight Gwi, and that it’s imperative that Yoon of all people survive. If the king is killed while fighting, it falls to Yoon to take over, for the sake of their people.
Now Dad is confused about Sung-yeol’s motives and asks him what he’s about—as a vampire, he should want to eat Yang-sun, but instead he’s holding her gently and worrying over her. “Do you… love my daughter?” he asks.
It’s hard for him to believe that a kind vampire could exist, but Dad informs Sung-yeol that he also saved Yang-sun ten years ago. This is news to Sung-yeol, who hadn’t connected the child he saved to Yang-sun, and Dad informs him that Yang-sun is actually Scholar Seo’s child.
Sung-yeol again asks for the diary and promises to protect the family, but at the sound of guards outside, he has to leave before Dad is ready to agree.
Hye-ryung does some background tracing to find out that Sung-yeol can be found at a gibang. What are you planning, lady?
Treacherous Advisor Noh offers Dad poison to take the blame in exchange for saving his daughter’s life. Are we still playing this game? Dad shoves the powder into his mouth, graghhhh, and asks Treacherous Advisor Noh to honor that promise. FINE, if everyone wants to die so much, then you all just deserve to die already. GAH!
The first thing Yang-sun does upon waking is to look around for her father, who isn’t in any of the cells. She’s relieved when he’s brought back to the prison, and he tells her they’re being allowed to go home because it’s been revealed that they aren’t the culprit. The other prisoners (including Hak-young) look askance at each other since that sounds too unlikely, but Yang-sun is just relieved at the good news.
Sung-yeol hears that Yang-sun and Dad are being taken to the palace (presumably Gwi’s lair there) and springs into motion. He orders his team to prepare the consort’s corpse to be revived to lure Gwi, giving him time to go in and rescue Yang-sun. They both urge him to reconsider, since facing Gwi without any plan or powers could lead to a similar outcome as the last time, or worse. But Sung-yeol orders them aside, determined to save them.
Despite her father’s assurances that they’re being released, Yang-sun is uneasy about being taken to the palace first. As they arrive, Dad tells her to tell the scholar that what he’s searching for can be found at the Buddhist temple he frequently visits.
Dad tells her to go home first, overriding her wishes to accompany him inside. He looks back one last time at her and thinks to himself that he’s sorry for causing her suffering and being an inadequate father. He heads inside just as the poison starts to kick in, and as the gate closes behind him he begs the guards to let her go now. He can’t abide the thought of her seeing what’ll happen to him, and his piteous cries move them to comply. The guards take her away, and now it dawns on her that Dad may be in more danger than he let on.
The king and Yoon are brought before Gwi in his underground lair, where the cowardly guard lies dead and the body of Crown Prince Sadong stares out from the wall. Gwi confronts the prince about being the Eumlan Seosaeng who is working to get rid of him.
Yoon stands firm, saying that there’s no proof and only the word of one dead guard. “If proof comes out that I am Eumlan Seosaeng,” he says to Gwi, “then you can kill me right here, can’t you?” Gwi smirks, telling grandfather and grandson to bring him Eumlan Seosaeng, then, and he’ll confirm whether he’s real or fake.
The king surprises everyone by declaring, “Knowing this, I have already called him here.”
Yang-sun’s father is brought forward before Gwi, who tells him that he’ll be spared—and Yang-sun too—if he admits that he’s not Eumlan Seosaeng. Dad glares up at Gwi and sneers that he isn’t going to beg for his life from a bloodsucking monster, and that he’s just upset he couldn’t kill Gwi or avenge Sadong’s death before dying.
Gwi asks if Dad has the secret diary, and Dad readily confirms it—Crown Prince Sadong himself had given it to him. “But you’ll never get your hands on it,” he vows. “Why? Because I already gave it to somebody else.”
Provoked, Gwi grabs Dad and demands to know who has it. Dad taunts him, “Just eat me!” He turns to the king and tells him to watch as he dies—as the bloodsucker the king serves takes one of his citizens.
Gwi swoops in for the kill, but before he bites, Yoon blurts, “Stop!”
He asks if Gwi means to announce his existence to the world—if he kills the man this way, how will he explain it away to the people? The king suggests they continue as planned, to punish the traitor before the public.
Aboveground by the dead consort’s coffin, Sung-yeol slices his hand with the hawthorn dagger. He drips his blood into the corpse’s mouth, and she immediately stirs.
Down below, Gwi’s attention is diverted as he senses a presence, narrowing his eyes and wondering, “Kim Sung-yeol… is it you again?” Yoon starts at the name, and they receive word that the dead consort has been revived. Gwi heads off to see for himself, and Yoon remembers that Sung-yeol had told him of the plan to revive the consort.
And then, Dad starts to choke and writhe on the ground, in his final death throes.
The palace is in an uproar as the vampire consort staggers around, looking frightful but rather weak—she topples over and falls to the ground, limp. Gwi sees the body there and guesses that Sung-yeol was drawing him out again, and starts to track him through the palace grounds. Sung-yeol remains a step ahead of him, but the pursuit is uncomfortably close.
Yoon heads aboveground as well and comes face to face with Sung-yeol in the courtyard, both of them startled to see each other. Yoon recognizes him from past encounters with Yang-sun, but Sung-yeol has no time to pause and continues moving, with Gwi still tailing him.
He returns to the lair’s entrance and is dismayed to see Dad’s dead body being carried out. Gwi gets there a moment later to see the same thing, and returns into his cave.
Gwi’s upset to have lost his victim, because he hadn’t gotten the diary’s whereabouts before Dad died. He orders his underlings to bring all the people connected to him in order to track down the diary, and is incensed to hear that Eumlan Seosaeng’s people have all killed themselves.
Yang-sun is escorted by officers just as her father’s corpse is carried away, though she doesn’t see that it’s him. Sung-yeol flies in to take down her guards, then hurries to make sure she’s fine. She insists on taking her father with them before heading to safety, so he tells her to go ahead and prepare to flee while he goes back to check.
Yang-sun relays her father’s words about the diary’s whereabouts, and he takes this in… just as his gaze lands on something nearby. When Yang-sun turns to look, he throws up an arm to block her view, and she tries to move it aside. He tells her not to look, but she asks that he let her, and he lowers his arm.
Yoon is likewise heavy-hearted when he returns to the prison and sees his men lying there, having killed themselves in their cells. Oh no, please tell me Hak-young isn’t one of them? I don’t see his body (phew), but it’s no less a blow to Yoon, who fights back his tears and kneels down to close their eyes.
Yang-sun is stricken at the sight of her father’s corpse, calling out to him in tears. Sung-yeol hangs back while she begs Dad to wake up so they can go home to their family and sobs over his body.
Was that a lot of sacrifice, or was that a lot sacrifice? It’s enough to make you tear your hair out; who could’ve guessed that all that nobility and love would produce a reaction that was mostly Blech?
Okay, fine, so on paper the jockeying to take blame (and die to save everybody else) is admirable and honorable and befitting a character on our good-guy team. I’m sure I’d want them all on my team in real life. But all the self-sacrifice in this episode amounted to about two parts heartwarming and a zillionty parts frustrating—for a group of people who want to live, they sure keep offering to die a lot. And when the person you sacrifice yourself to save then sacrifices themselves to save you, and you’re both copping to a crime, do you really think either of you is making this out alive? Why would you negate their sacrifice like that?
Still, we did get a few lovely moments out of it, and while I was annoyed at Yoon for letting everyone take the fall for him (even though logically I totally understand why—big picture, the greater good, blah blah blah), I found it poignant to watch him completely lost and alone, with only a dead father to turn to for advice. It was his rock-bottom moment, ignoring his scruples and gut feelings and going with the tactical move—he is probably more crucial to the fight against Gwi than, say, Yang-sun’s father—but it came at a cost, and set the stage for his grandfather to reveal the greater plan.
Fine, so we don’t get to see the greater plan just yet (the people in this drama! Always saying you have these schemes and never actually telling anybody what they are!), but the king had a point about the struggle strengthening Yoon for the war. And now that our fragmented good guys are on the cusp of coming together—we’re just a few steps away from getting them on the same page and working together—it will do to have a prince with a firmer backbone, ready to take over should the king fall.
I found this episode on the slow side and pretty repetitive, so I’m hoping the next one kicks things into higher gear and picks up the pace. The plot itself didn’t move very many steps forward, so I am at least relieved that the character moments were there to keep us drawn in. At least, that’s how it felt to me, with Yoon struggling to find direction and Sung-yeol battling out the heart-versus-brain dilemma.
There were a few moments when I thought the acting really saved the moment, particularly with Lee Yubi and Lee Jun-ki, because while it felt like they were treading well-worn narrative paths, the emotion they put into the moment sold it for me. Now, if only the story could give us more of what moves us (hint: It’s not treacherous government ministers or crazy-eyed vampire lords) and capitalize on those emotional beats, I’d be much happier.
- Dramabeans Podcast #29
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 8
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 7
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 6
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 5
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 4
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 3
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 2
- Scholar Who Walks the Night: Episode 1
- From the press conference for Scholar Who Walks the Night
- Lee Jun-ki the scholar walks nights, breaks hearts
- Character stills for Scholar Who Walks the Night