Jackpot: Episode 21
Get ready for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rebellion no one was waiting for, which gets introduced, executed, and resolved before you can think too hard about it. It is an action-packed hour in that sense, and there are moments that flirt with the idea that there’s more beneath the surface than what meets the eye—but Jackpot doesn’t seem keen on getting to more than first base with any of the grand concepts it puts forward. Or maybe it’s just pulling the long con on us, and we’ll all have a good laugh about it next week when everything is adequately explained to our satisfaction. Happy thoughts.
EPISODE 21 RECAP
King Gyeongjong, intent on killing his little brother Prince Yeoning, pushes Dae-gil aside in an attempt to do just that. But Dae-gil stops him with words this time, claiming that the late King Sukjong, their father, had a final wish: for him to save Yeoning’s life.
And Dae-gil promised the king before he died that he would protect his little brother, which the current king asks his father’s eunuchs to confirm. When they do, he grudgingly tosses his sword away, unable to go against what their father wanted. But, he makes sure to add that this will be the last time he forgives him—the Norons on his side won’t be so lucky.
Declaring that he’ll have the traitorous Norons executed, the king warns his little brother to stay out of government affairs for the time being. Prince Yeoning is overcome with worry for those Norons who have supported him—how will he save them now? Dae-gil tells his stricken brother to leave the matter to him.
All the Noron ministers, including Chief State Councilor Kim Chang-jip, are tortured in the interrogation yard while Injwa and the Sorons drink and make merry. Dae-gil makes good on his promise to do whatever he could to help by showing King Gyeongjong the blood oath between Injwa and Traitor Jeong, effectively proving Injwa’s treason.
Dae-gil tells the king that all that’s happened to him recently wasn’t actually the fault of the Norons, but of Injwa, who’s the real traitor. The king coolly switches stances and says he’ll execute Injwa if he proves to be a traitor, but he’ll still execute the Norons, who’ve never accepted him as king. And nothing Dae-gil says will convince him otherwise.
Which means Dae-gil has to return to Prince Yeoning to report his failure in saving the Noron ministers, leaving Yeoning to fall to his knees and cry out in frustration.
While Councilor Kim and the other Noron ministers wait on the execution platform in front of a crowd of onlookers, Prince Yeoning kneels in front of the king to beg that their lives be spared in exchange for his own. The king asks if he was the one who convinced the Norons to try and dethrone him, knowing that he wasn’t.
And because Yeoning wasn’t behind all the plots and plans to dethrone and disrespect him as king, then the Norons have no excuse and deserve to die. King Gyeongjong then declares that he won’t tolerate anyone who even thinks of rebelling against him, and that includes his little brother.
Prince Yeoning approaches the execution platform, but the guards won’t let him close. Councilor Kim Chang-jip proclaims that they only did what was best for Joseon, wondering how that could be considered treasonous.
Looking Prince Yeoning in the eyes, Councilor Kim asks him sincerely to stay strong so he can restore the foundation of their great nation one day. All Yeoning can do is cry and yell “Stop! Stop! Stop!!” as the executioners’ swords come down, killing all the ministers on the platform. Oh, now they’re doing their jobs.
The prince has to be physically restrained so he doesn’t go running up there himself, with Dae-gil putting an arm around his shoulder to hold him back. He tells his little brother that he just has to endure it so he won’t get harmed, but Prince Yeoning is beyond consolation. “What have they ever done wrong?” he cries pitifully.
In front of all the dead ministers, Prince Yeoning apologizes with tears running down his face. What he doesn’t say aloud is his promise to avenge their deaths. “I am sorry,” he cries again. “I am sorry.” The chyron tells us that this is the Shinyim Massacre of 1722, in which Noron leaders were executed for plotting to dethrone the king (which the Sorons suspiciously accused them of).
A thoroughly defeated Prince Yeoning asks to be left alone so he can visit his late mother’s chambers, wishing desperately for her guidance. “What do I do?” he wonders to the empty room, receiving no reply. Dae-gil feels defeated as well, since he knows there’s nothing he can do to ease Yeoning’s suffering.
After a night spent poring over the blood oath, King Gyeongjong confronts Injwa over instigating the entire incident with the Norons, which led to their deaths. Injwa denies any untoward involvement, but when the king brandishes the blood oath at him, he instantly falls to his knees.
Prince Yeoning sends Dae-gil away when he comes to visit, wishing to see and speak to no one. But the news Dae-gil has is too important not to share: the king is sending Injwa out of the palace.
We see the rest of Injwa’s scene with the king play out, as Injwa defends the blood oath as being necessary for him to help King Gyeongjong take the throne. Injwa claims he wrote it out of loyalty to the king, which the king acknowledges by tearing up the blood oath in front of him.
In exchange for sparing his life, King Gyeongjong says, Injwa must never again step foot in the palace or interfere with government affairs. He coughs up blood and leaves after announcing that Traitor Jeong will be executed tomorrow, and Injwa is pissed.
The Sorons are ready to cast Injwa off after hearing about the blood oath, and react even less favorably when Injwa not-so-subtly threatens them that they’ll come to regret it.
Meanwhile, Prince Yeoning isn’t revived by the news that Injwa is getting a pass out of the palace. It’s not enough for him, not when so many people died because of Injwa—he wants to see him punished more severely, and will carry it out himself if he has to.
Though Injwa had his palace license revoked, he’s still somehow able to wander freely in and out of the prison where Traitor Jeong awaits his execution. Injwa drops a mysterious herb into his porridge, which sounds like it might be a faux death scenario to help him escape a real death.
Since Injwa actually poisoned Traitor Jeong’s cohorts in order to make it seem more believable that they all poisoned themselves, Dae-gil has no reason to suspect that there’s something amiss as Jeong’s body is carted out of the prison.
Dae-gil appeals to the king for help, as Injwa explains to his minions that Hong Mae burned a fake copy of the blood oath and gave the real one to Dae-gil. But it doesn’t interrupt their plans—he’d never planned to keep King Gyeongjong around long anyway.
The chief of police, officials from the regional office, and a minister from the Office of Inspector General come to seize Injwa’s assets, and give him a chance to turn himself in before a warrant is issued. Knowing that this is the king’s doing, Injwa decides to turn to plan B, which he’d had in place for just such a scenario.
That plan includes Traitor Jeong, who of corpse is alive, and Park Pil-hyun, Injwa’s right-hand man who we’ve heard about but never formally met before. Jeong goes to him, claiming to have made a blood oath with Injwa, leading Park Pil-hyun to spread the word out to their comrades that he’ll be storming the capital tomorrow at noon.
Dae-gil has a feeling Injwa will make a move tomorrow, knowing that the alternative would be defeat, while Prince Yeoning continues to be listless, uninterested in speaking or even eating.
Park Pil-hyun tells Traitor Jeong of his intentions to kill the king and start a new nation, and the next morning, Injwa thinks the same to himself—feeling more betrayed than not by the king turning against him. Sleeper cells loyal to their cause activate at the sound of the great bell Injwa tolls, from maids, to soldiers, to eunuchs, and even ministers.
The sound is heard throughout the capital and the palace, leading to confusion amongst those who don’t understand why it’s tolling. Dae-gil notes the number of times the bell rang, and somehow manages to understand that the bell tolls are code for Musin, which is soon to be the name of the Musin Rebellion of 1728.
King Gyeongjong and Prince Yeoning realize the same to be true almost simultaneously, as Injwa calls out to no one who can hear him that now is their time to rise up and fight for what they believe in—it’s time for all of them to start a new world together.
The sleeper cells infiltrate the palace, but fail to find Prince Yeoning, while others in higher positions give orders for the immediate arrest of the leading officials in the Six Ministries as well as the Three Offices (basically all the current branches of government).
Dae-gil approaches Injwa to ask if this was all his great plan amounted to, which Injwa is surprised he knew about. But because Dae-gil was able to decipher the bell’s code, along with the king and Prince Yeoning, all those sleeper cells we saw activated are stopped in their tracks.
“It’s over now, Yi Injwa,” Dae-gil says. Injwa replies that he only ever wanted Dae-gil to be king, causing Dae-gil to mock his fortune telling abilities—how on earth did Injwa think he was fit to be king from his physiognomy?
Injwa tries to strike him down with his sword, but they’re surrounded by the king’s guard before he can. King Gyeongjong himself arrives, knowing now without a doubt of Injwa’s treachery. Unsurprisingly, Injwa has the huevos rancheros to claim that this was all a biiiiig misunderstanding, adding that there’s no evidence.
“Evidence?” the king scoffs, before producing all the sleeper cells, now bound and arrested. He dares Injwa to try and deny his involvement now, while Injwa only thinks to himself that this isn’t over yet.
Instead of putting Injwa through the usual rigmarole of being arrested and interrogated, he instead has him tied to a post in a public square so he can be identified and ridiculed by the people. He’s set to be executed that night, but in the meantime, Hong Mae and her lead crony rile the crowd against Injwa, who’s pelted with eggs as a result.
Dae-gil checks in on him then, but Injwa still can’t get over the indignity of it all—how can Dae-gil let him be humiliated like this? (Yes, why would the person you’ve repeatedly tortured and tried to kill leave you to face the consequences of your actions?)
But there’s more—Dae-gil even knows about Park Pil-hyun. As for how he knows, Dae-gil asks Injwa what else he thinks his father has been doing for the past twenty years. He knew Traitor Jeong was alive from the beginning, and had him followed when he rose from the dead to visit Park Pil-hyun, so Injwa won’t be able to count on his or Traitor Jeong’s help.
We see Park Pil-hyun receive a mysterious letter from Nameless, while Traitor Jeong decides against sneaking into the city with Chae-gun manning the main gate. With the rebellion essentially done for, King Gyeongjong thanks Dae-gil for helping to make that happen.
But he knows that his time on this earth is growing short, as evidenced by his fits of bloody coughs, and asks the royal doctor to give him an exact estimate of the time he has left. The Sorons know this, and guess that he’ll end up embracing Prince Yeoning as his successor after all, since he has no heir to pass the throne onto.
Minister Kim is firmly against this idea, since he sees Prince Yeoning as being too lowborn to ever take the throne of Joseon. We find Prince Yeoning for the first time since the rebellion, since everything has returned to normal, but he hides in time to escape the assassin sent by the Sorons.
Injwa has a real, live, telepathic conversation with Nameless as he finds out that Park Pil-hyun and Traitor Jeong were able to escape just by reading Nameless’s expression. He then thinks, “Find a horse and bring it here!” and Nameless goes to do just that. Yes, really.
At least the assassin served as a wake-up call for Prince Yeoning, who eats with renewed vigor to make up for his extended bout of ennui. He tells Dae-gil that he won’t lie down and just take it from the Norons, moments before he chokes and falls over. (I can’t make this stuff up!)
After an examination, the doctor explains that it wasn’t poison. Rather, there was too much of a very dangerous plant in his food that could kill someone if eaten incorrectly, which sounds a lot like poison. Either way, Prince Yeoning declares his intention to meet with the king immediately.
Chae-gun reports that Traitor Jeong and Park Pil-hyun escaped before his troops even got there, and we find the two planning methods to flee the capital. Dae-gil, for his part, wants nothing more than to see Injwa’s execution carried through.
Prince Yeoning begs the king to save him, fearful now that the Sorons made such a blatant attempt on his life. King Gyeongjong knows how it is—it wasn’t so long ago that the Norons tried to kill him, so a crown prince would be nothing to them.
Since the king is the only one who can put a stop to the Sorons, Yeoning pleads for him to do so. King Gyeongjong simply says no, leaving Yeoning to clench his fists as he thinks to himself, “I can’t die like this.”
King Gyeongjong looks out onto a beautiful sunset, and remarks to his wife, QUEEN SEONUI, that it’s sad to watch the sunset, since the sun inevitably disappears over the horizon without a trace.
He worries about how the queen will be able to protect herself without an heir, already thinking of his death. Taking her hand, he can only apologize to her.
Cut to a conversation between Chae-gun and Dae-gil about their plans for the future (Chae-gun: “What do you plan to do once Yi Injwa is dead?” Dae-gil: “I will decide when he’s dead.”), moments before Nameless comes galloping through with an extra horse in tow.
The warrior Jin-ki takes that as his cue to spring into action and fight off the guards surrounding Injwa, who he then cuts free. Dae-gil and Chae-gun only arrive after Nameless has scooped Injwa up on his spare horse, which he brought thanks to their telepathic link.
Dae-gil and Chae-gun pursue Injwa through the forest, and with their troops trailing close behind, Jin-ki volunteers to stay back and buy some time. Chae-gun stays to fight his old hoobae and nemesis while Dae-gil advances with the troops.
Of course, they only reach the shore once Injwa’s boat is well in the water. Archers shoot at him and somehow keep missing, until Dae-gil takes a bow and aims straight for him. “Yi Injwa, I cannot allow you to live,” he thinks.
Chae-gun chases Jin-ki to the edge of a cliff, which the warrior jumps off of. Since no one ever dies from falling off a cliff in Joseon, we know how this’ll end.
Dae-gil shoots his arrow straight into Injwa’s back, causing the shamanistic Madam Jeong to go into fits from wherever she is. While the soldiers go to fetch Injwa’s body, Prince Yeoning has food brought to the ailing king, who’s been refusing to eat as of late.
King Gyeongjong looks dubiously at the spread, wondering if Yeoning has decided to poison him. Refusing to have the food officially tasted for him, he sends Yeoning out with one last thought: “I am sorry.”
Prince Yeoning thinks instead that he’s sorry, and that he’ll beg his brother’s forgiveness. Wait, he didn’t actually poison the food, did he? A meaningful shot of him standing stoically outside the king’s chambers says otherwise.
Injwa’s body is brought to shore, only it’s not Injwa at all—it’s Nameless. He wore Injwa’s clothes to throw off their pursuers, giving Injwa time to escape into the nearby forest.
And as Prince Yeoning walks away from the king’s chambers, a cry is heard from inside. He doesn’t even blink as guards rush to check on the king behind him, already seeming to know what they’ll find.
I’m hesitant to draw any conclusions about whether Prince Yeoning actually did the unthinkable in poisoning his brother’s food—not because it’s so unthinkable to get rid of a political rival through poison, but because it’s unthinkable for Prince Yeoning the character to do something so horrible. It’s already hard to buy that all the running and hiding he’s been doing lately, much less that he’d poison a brother he already knew to be dying, no matter how desperate he is to live.
Even most historians are reluctant to put any credence in the rumor that Prince Yeoning may have poisoned King Gyeongjong, believing it to be too uncharacteristic for him. But there may be a silver lining in the shot we got of the seafood on the table—spoiled seafood is the more widely suspected cause of King Gyeongjong’s death, which Jackpot seems to have been paying a brief homage to. Still, it’s unlikely that there’d be so many lingering shots on Prince Yeoning after the fact if he didn’t poison his brother, plus the whole “I’ll beg your forgiveness” thing is pretty suspect. Oh Yeoning, what did this show do to you?
For a while there, it sounded like Dae-gil was going to explain why Man-geum had been absent these last twenty years in a way that made sense, but even that was too much. It was just another unconnected thought that sounded like an answer, when in reality, I’m more confused than ever as to what role Man-geum had to play in this whole revolt, and what logic Dae-gil’s operating on when it comes to him. When Man-geum was first brought back from the dead, they made it seem like he had come over to Injwa’s side and Injwa’s cause—but then he turned against Injwa (maybe?) but still believed in the cause (kind of?), when he was really just acting as an undercover agent for the past twenty years to undermine Injwa’s cause, or something. I really have no idea, and have a sneaking suspicion that the show doesn’t either.
It seemed a strange choice to have a rushed and anticlimactic mini-rebellion at this stage of the game when we know there’s a bigger one to come, and I’m hoping there’ll be some payoff from it that we haven’t yet seen. There wasn’t even any intrigue in seeing how Dae-gil found out about it, much less how he was able to stop it, which I’d blame mostly on Jackpot’s terrible habit of making everything way too easy for everyone involved. It was too easy for Injwa to start the shortest revolt ever, and easier still for Dae-gil to stop it in its tracks. It was too easy for Injwa’s closest people to be warned ahead of time, and too easy for him to use telepathy to plan his escape. It was too easy for Dae-gil to track him down, and too easy for Injwa to distract him so that he could make his escape while Nameless was shot instead.
The stakes themselves couldn’t be higher, but when the action was handled with all the subtlety of a drive-by, and with life returning to normal directly afterward, the not-a-rebellion kinda just ended up being another bizarre blip on the radar, didn’t it? As for Injwa implausibly escaping death for the 293857839th time, I have only one piece of advice: KILL IT. KILL IT WITH FIRE.
- Jackpot: Episode 20
- Jackpot: Episode 19
- Jackpot: Episode 18
- Jackpot: Episode 17
- Jackpot: Episode 16
- Jackpot: Episode 15
- Jackpot: Episode 14
- Jackpot: Episode 13
- Jackpot: Episode 12
- Jackpot: Episode 11
- Jackpot: Episode 10
- Jackpot: Episode 9
- Jackpot: Episode 8
- Jackpot: Episode 7
- Jackpot: Episode 6
- Jackpot: Episode 5
- Jackpot: Episode 4
- Jackpot: Episode 3
- Jackpot: Episode 2
- Jackpot: Episode 1
- Yeo Jin-gu as a young future king in Jackpot