Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 4
Aaahhh, it’s getting so good! This show has such a lovely way with emotion, and setting, and tone. It’s a simple narrative that’s smartly directed, so that we’re made to feel every nervous pitter-patter of budding attraction, or heartache filled with yearning, and I just get swept away in what the characters are feeling in every moment. I just didn’t expect to be crying while watching a youth sageuk, but hey, if you can take me there, you’re welcome to have all of my tears! And laughter. And high-pitched girly squeals.
It turns out that yesterday’s ratings boost wasn’t a fluke: Moonlight Drawn By Clouds stayed on top in its timeslot with 16.4% ratings today, after doubling its numbers from premiere week. I’m actually surprised at the jump, but I’m glad for the show’s success. Monster came in at 10.8%, and Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo brought in 7.0%.
EPISODE 4: “After the play ends”
The king’s eyes well up with proud tears as Crown Prince Yeong accepts the order to become the prince regent. The king begins to declare that he will give the prince full regency to govern in his place, but wily Prime Minister Kim cuts him off to warn that this is a matter of diplomacy that will involve China, because they are a sovereign state, and acting rashly could lead to war.
The king balls up his fists angrily and looks to his son, not knowing what to do. Yeong smoothly responds by praising Prime Minister Kim for thinking ahead, when Yeong was simply looking to help ease his father’s burdens.
Yeong points out that an ambassador is due to attend the king’s birthday celebration soon, and he asks for the king to delay the order until he’s able to gain approval from the ambassador. Smart boy. The ministers can do nothing but agree.
Afterwards, Yeong reads in his private library when Ra-on gets reassigned to the prince’s palace and arrives with books. She chides Flower Scholar for hanging out in here and urges him to come out with her before they both get caught by the prince, and Yeong finally makes the decision to reveal himself to her.
He steps out from behind the bookshelves and mentions that she asked him his name once. “It’s Yi Yeong,” he says with a smile, “my name.” Ra-on looks him up and down and her eyes bug out… and then she breaks into a giant guffaw. Ha, she’s totally laughing in his face!
She touches his dragon robes wondering what he’s thinking playing a prank like this, especially in a place where only the crown prince can enter… As soon as she says the words, the light bulb fiiiinally clicks on in her head, and he just waits patiently for her to catch up.
At last, Ra-on seems to understand that Flower Scholar and the crown prince are one and the same, and she drops to her knees, begging for him to kill her. He asks if she means it, so then she changes her plea to, “Save me!”
She doesn’t dare lift her head to meet his eyes, so he stoops down to put her hat back on and lifts her head up to look at him in the process. He asks, “Kill you, or save you—are those my only two options… even though we’re friends?”
Ra-on lifts her head in surprise, and Yeong points out that she’s the one who said they were friends. “So what would we be, if not friends?” he asks with a knowing grin.
But apparently Ra-on only hears that as a threat, because later that night she tells the story to Byung-yeon, repeating the prince’s friendly words with a completely different inflection. She recalls all the terrible things she said about the crown prince in Yeong’s presence, and rams her head into a post repeatedly.
Byung-yeon tells her to stop or she’ll hurt the pillar (aw). Suddenly Ra-on becomes suspicious of everyone and asks if Byung-yeon isn’t hiding his identity too, and though he says no, something about his reaction makes her wonder.
The next morning, Ra-on practices her morning greeting to the prince over and over, as her funny sunbae Eunuch Jang coaches her on how to deal with the prince’s crabbiness in the mornings.
Eunuch Jang is ever so pleased to get a rookie eunuch who seems suited for this palace, which is why his face falls when Ra-on asks to be transferred anywhere else. He takes it personally, thinking this is about him not being a likable boss, but Ra-on swears that it’s not that. “Then is it me?” the prince asks, popping his head out of the room.
Ra-on cringes, and next thing she knows, she’s dressing the prince all by herself. Yeong keeps glaring at her and demands to know why she asked to be transferred anywhere but here, and she deflects.
I can hardly pay attention to what they’re saying because she’s basically manhandling him to get all his clothes on. I love that he sticks his arms out like he’s waiting for a hug, even though he’s just waiting for his belt.
Ra-on says it wouldn’t be proper behavior to ask to be transferred, and Yeong asks if getting drunk and biting him is proper behavior then. Chastised, she says that he has every right to punish her for all her actions. He asks if she regrets getting close to him, and Ra-on says yes, she does.
Yeong sticks his face in hers and pinpoints the problem—she’s mad at him. Ra-on stammers that if he’d just told her the truth from the start, she’d never have dared to become his friend. He counters that that was his reason for not telling her, because he knew she’d react that way if she knew he were the crown prince, and he even apologizes for not telling her sooner. Awww.
She asks if he’s not intending to punish her, and he says, “When it’s just the two of us, you can treat me as a friend.” And then on second thought, he revises it into an order and commands it. Well that’s just cute.
She’s so stunned that she just stares at him, and he has to remind her to keep doing her job. She goes for the hat next, and has to stand on her tippy toes to put it on his head, and he hilariously stands up as tall as he possibly can, and then stands in HIS tippy toes, just to make it harder for her. Pwahaha, I luff him.
She barely manages to place the hat on his head at a jaunty angle, and then falls into his chest on the way down. She pulls away hurriedly, but then she breaks into a little grin when she notices how funny he looks, and he smiles back at her.
Prime Minister Kim asks his grandson Yoon-sung what he knows about this Chinese ambassador who’s on his way, and Yoon-sung relays the rumors that the ambassador is interested in lining his own pockets.
Prime Minister Kim devises a plan to make Yeong dig his own grave, and his crony Minister Kim agrees that starting a fight between the hotheaded crown prince and a corrupt ambassador ought to be easy. Yoon-sung overhears their plans on his way out.
Yeong asks Ra-on if she misses life outside the palace, and she sighs that she misses the activity of the bustling marketplace, and the steam of freshly made rice cakes in the street. Yeong eagerly offers to grant her wishes and take her outside the palace, and she lights up with excitement.
But then in the same breath, her smile turns into a scowl and she says that Eunuch Jang already warned her not to fall for this. Hee. She tells him that she was told repeatedly not to ever follow him outside the palace or let him out of her sight. Yeong pouts and then immediately fakes a stomachache, but Ra-on doesn’t fall for that either.
Yeong stomps off to the library in a snit and tasks Ra-on with finding a book for him. She scours every shelf but can’t find it, and asks him to remember the title to help her out. But when he turns around to face her, it’s her wisecracking classmate Park Sung-yeol, wearing the prince’s robes.
Sung-yeol says, “When it’s just the two of us, you can treat me as a friend,” not even knowing what it means. Apparently Yeong told him to say that (lol), and Sung-yeol continues cracking jokes, which just makes Ra-on tackle him in retaliation.
Eunuch Sung complains about being short-staffed with all of the preparations for the king’s birthday celebration, but he’s only too happy to be accommodating to Yoon-sung when he comes by, and offers to give him a helper for the day. Yoon-sung declines at first, but smiles when he sees that it’s Ra-on.
Yeong and Byung-yeon head into town and seek out a man staying at an inn, which has reportedly been this man’s home since returning from exile. The innkeeper guesses right away that they’re here to see TEACHER DASAN (Ahn Nae-sang). Oh, as in, Dasan Jeong Yak-yong? (Jeong Yak-yong was one of Joseon’s great philosophers who was an advisor to King Jeongjo, aka Yeong’s grandfather, and he went by the penname Dasan.)
The innkeeper says that he’s out back having a dogfight, so they go around to the back, where the great modern thinker of their time… is on his hands and knees barking drunkenly at a dog, like they’re having a fight. Oh no.
Meanwhile, Ra-on has come out to the marketplace after all, to help Yoon-sung with his errand at the dressmaker’s shop. She walks past the rows of colorful fabrics with wonder, and stops in front of a beautiful young lady’s hanbok hanging on the wall.
She touches it with a wistful look, and the memory of her mother scolding her for dressing like a girl fills her eyes with tears. Yoon-sung catches her in the moment and even notices the tears, but as always, he pretends not to notice and changes the subject. They head out, but Yoon-sung turns back to ask the dressmaker about the hanbok that caught Ra-on’s eye. Aw, are you going to do something swoony?
Teacher Dasan finally sleeps off the alcohol and wakes up in his right mind, and he greets Yeong indifferently, until he gets a good long look at his face. Recognition seems to dawn.
There’s a sudden rain shower as Yoon-sung and Ra-on head back, and he takes her by the hand as they run through the rain and reach shelter. He sees that she’s drenched and offers her the hanbok he just bought—the one Ra-on was so taken with in the shop.
He tells her to just use it to shield herself from the rain, but she points out that he bought it for someone important. He says he did, but he doesn’t think it’s the right time to give it to her, and he plans to hold onto the hanbok until this person is ready to accept his gift happily.
When Ra-on still refuses to borrow it, Yoon-sung places it over her head, and even he seems a little taken aback when she turns to face him, looking like a beautiful young lady. He offers to go out in search of an umbrella, leaving Ra-on alone.
A moment later, Yeong runs up right next to her, also seeking shelter from the rain. For a while they stand side by side not even knowing that anyone else is there, both lost in their own thoughts.
Yeong sticks his hand out to feel the raindrops, which brings him back to a memory of his mother, who had done the same when he was a child. She took off her socks and shoes and stepped out into the pouring rain, and Little Yeong was shocked, asking how a queen could just walk in the rain without any preparation.
But his mother asked if it was written anywhere that a queen and a prince couldn’t walk barefoot in the rain, and had encouraged him to be spontaneous and seize this opportunity. So he took off his socks and shoes and joined his mother, who taught him to dance barefoot in the rain. Okay seriously, why does this show keep making me cry?
In the present, Yeong’s eyes fill with tears at the memory, and he finally notices that someone is beside him when Ra-on sticks her hand out to feel the rain, just like his mother once did. He can’t see her face, but a moment later, Ra-on turns and sees him, and her jaw drops.
She tries to sneak away before he notices her, but he thinks she’s just a random young lady and suggests waiting it out, since it’ll be a short rain shower. Yeong says that being rained on is brief, but the aftereffects can be long, clearly still thinking about his mother.
He asks it as a question and Ra-on answers in agreement, but the second she says something, Yeong turns sharp eyes on her. Eep! Did he recognize her voice? He starts to approach her… but Yoon-sung returns and steps right in between them.
When Yoon-sung makes it clear that the lady is with him, Yeong asks if she’s from the palace and asks her to lift her head. But Yoon-sung blocks his view and says, “She’s my woman,” and Yeong stops probing immediately, and even offers to leave them alone. He adds that the lady needn’t be so frightened of him, like she’s seen a goblin.
When the coast is clear, Yoon-sung gives Ra-on a little smile, and she looks relieved.
That night, Yeong stays up late mulling over his meeting earlier that day with Teacher Dasan, who had pointed out incisively that Yeong was looking to be seen as a diplomatic equal to China, when in reality he and the king couldn’t even control their own prime minister.
Teacher Dasan’s solution was simple: cut off the prime minister’s head. Yeong was disappointed, and said that he would’ve sought out an assassin rather than wasting his time with Teacher Dasan if he thought that murdering his political opponent were the solution.
But when he turned to go, Teacher Dasan had called out after him that they needn’t always shed blood: “Why would you need poison when you could kill with sweet honey?”
In the present, Yeong ponders those words and suddenly gets an idea. He heads to the room where all the musical instruments are kept, and thinks to himself that if he can bring them to their knees with song and dance, he needn’t use his sword at all.
Goodness knows what he’s thinking, because the next day, lines of gisaengs enter the palace, throwing everyone from guards to ministers into a tizzy. Yeong tells the gisaengs that they’ll be performing a dance, and hands out sheets of choreography. He orders Ra-on to stick to his side ’round the clock as they prepare for the king’s celebration.
Ra-on literally clips at his heels like a puppy in tow, bumping into him as she records all the dancers’ steps. Yeong steals little glances at her, smiling whenever she isn’t looking at him.
Yeong is a bit of a dance tyrant, and he nearly runs the gisaengs into the ground with his militant rehearsals. He’s about to lose his temper when he catches Ra-on shaking her head at him as a signal to stop being a meanie, and he even helps a gisaeng up and comforts her at Ra-on’s prodding. Look who’s the puppy now.
From the distance though, it just looks like Yeong is making time with gisaengs, and the queen smirks in disapproval. She tells Minister Kim that her father can rest assured that the Chinese ambassador will witness something special.
Ra-on asks Yeong what happens after the dance, when he told everyone to stand still and count to fifty. He says she’ll find out then, because that’s when the real show starts. He doesn’t believe Ra-on at first when she says she’s recording the dance choreography like he asked, because she’s not copying the original text and she’s only seen it performed once.
She insists that she only needs to see a dance once to know it, which must be because of her time spent in the performance troupe. Yeong is amazed to see that she really does recall every step, but by the time he’s done checking it, she’s fallen asleep at her desk. He just smiles at her.
Ra-on stirs awake the next morning, and is beyond horrified when she wakes up in the prince’s bed. Worse yet, Yeong is slumped over his desk in front of her. Aw, you let her sleep in your bed and you took the desk?
She scrambles to get out of there and stoops down to pick up her hat, but when she gets close to Yeong’s face, she can’t help but stare, captivated by his features. She smiles, taking her sweet time to stare, but the moment is interrupted when Eunuch Jang arrives outside to wake the prince.
Ra-on is so startled that she hiccups, and Eunuch Jang wonders if that’s some kind of new signal from the prince. She’s got nowhere to hide and possibly the slowest reaction time in all of history, and just ducks down as Eunuch Jang opens the doors…
But just in time, Yeong calls out for Eunuch Jang to come back later because he’s going to sleep some more. Crisis averted!
Yeong slowly opens his eyes and smiles the most adorable languid smile ever. He musses Ra-on’s hair, muttering that a man shouldn’t scare so easily. That just starts her hiccups all over again.
Ra-on gets awkward and shifty when she runs into Byung-yeon in the morning, and rattles off a string of excuses about how Flower Prince tooootally worked her all night, uh-huh, which is why she didn’t come home. She swears that it’s true, and Byung-yeon points out drily that he never asked, heh.
Byung-yeon tells her to be as helpful as she can to the prince, because there are many who are looking to tear him down if anything goes wrong at the king’s birthday celebration. This is news to Ra-on, but she takes it seriously when Byung-yeon says that people are just circling to attack and rip him to pieces.
The Chinese ambassador arrives, and the king’s massive celebration begins that night. Yeong’s dance performance is coming up next, but the lead gisaeng looks troubled in the dressing room, and she flashes back to being threatened by the queen to disappear just before showtime, or have her family killed. Really? This is your Big Plan?
Ra-on discovers that the lead dancer has gone missing, and Eunuch Jang and Yoon-sung help search for her. The other gisaengs squeal when Ra-on bursts into the dressing room, and tease her for wanting a peek. They note that the lead dancer was here earlier, but she’s gone, and her costume has been left behind.
Ra-on grabs the hanbok and goes into the back room, thinking about how much preparation Yeong has put into this performance, and Byung-yeon’s warning that people were waiting for their chance to tear him down. She looks in the mirror and makes a decision.
She puts on the dress and lets her hair down, and even puts makeup on. But what she doesn’t notice is that someone is watching her from the shadows. Eep! It’s Eunuch Ma, and he runs off in a hurry after witnessing Ra-on’s transformation.
Yeong is belatedly told about the missing dancer and starts to panic, and at the same time, Prime Minister Kim enjoys telling the ambassador that the prince seems to have run into some trouble with his birthday gift for the king. I still fail to see how this is a measure of his ability to govern a nation, but whatever, we’re going with it.
Just when it seems that the performance won’t happen, a dancer appears on the stage below. It’s Ra-on, wearing a mask over her face, and she dances beautifully, not a step out of place. Both Yeong and Yoon-sung stare closely, but only Yoon-sung seems to know for certain that it’s Ra-on. Yeong is utterly mesmerized by her, and can’t seem to look away.
The routine turns out to be inspired by his mother’s rain dance, and Ra-on kicks the water in the little moat that encircles her on the stage, which transports Yeong back to that field in his mind.
Only this time, it’s the dancer standing there with him instead of his mother, and she reaches out a hand to him, with the saddest look in her eyes. His own eyes fill with tears as he reaches out to take her hand, but they never make contact, and she remains just out of reach.
The vision fades into the stage as Yeong watches the dance, filled with emotion. He cranes his neck to keep his eyes on Ra-on as she’s surrounded by the other dancers, but then he’s brought back to attention because it’s time for the grand finale. Yeong takes a scroll and steps forward to read a congratulatory message to the king.
Everyone stands, and Yeong says that he can’t help but be pleased that everything went well for the celebration. He announces that there will be a reading, representative of the people’s devotion to the king, and then calls forth Prime Minister Kim to do the honors. OH. Ohhhhhhhhh.
The air is filled with tension, and everyone—even the king himself—is shocked that anyone would dare order Prime Minister Kim to do something like this. But literally all eyes are on him, and Prime Minister Kim has no choice but to step forward, or look willfully traitorous.
In voiceover, we hear Yeong tell Ra-on that after the dance is when the real show would begin. She asked who would star in that performance, and he told her, “Someone… a clown who doesn’t know in his wildest dreams that he’s about to make an appearance.”
Prime Minister Kim opens the scroll and glowers, but he’s forced to press on and read the flowery message, which honors the birth of their king, and declares his people’s devoted allegiance and gratitude to their almighty ruler, asking him to live a long life. Then he raises a toast and leads everyone in a reverent bow down on his knees, as Yeong looks down at him with a satisfied smirk.
It’s awesome, and the ministers know they’ve been outsmarted, because the Chinese ambassador has just witnessed firsthand the extent of the king’s power over his people, and will get approval for whatever he wants.
Ra-on uses that moment to slip away before she gets caught, but as soon as the celebration is over, Yeong is hot on her heels in search of the mysterious dancer, wondering who she could be.
She’s still barefoot and cuts her foot while running away, and she pauses for a moment, thinking that she’s in the clear. But Yeong spots her from behind and begins to approach, and she doesn’t realize that he’s getting closer and closer… Eeeee!
He’s seconds away from spotting her, when suddenly a hand yanks her around a corner. It’s Yoon-sung, of course, and he pulls her into the bushes. Ra-on’s eyes turn to saucers, but Yoon-sung shushes her just as Yeong rounds the corner and looks in their direction.
Omo, things got really exciting today. I really like this little dance we’re doing with the prince alllmost finding out that Ra-on is a woman but pulling back at every turn, because it satisfies both of my cravings—for him to know, and for him not to know. Because despite wanting to see his reaction, I love their current dynamic as friends too much to rush this, and I don’t want to ruin all the confusing feelings and the slow build towards romance. In a story like this, the tease is exactly what I want, which is why I’m so happy that it’s out in full force today, and that the romance ship has officially set sail. And here I thought it was fun when Yeong was teasing her with his secret identity.
Today’s story had an interesting reversal, because initially, I thought the whole dance performance was kind of silly as a secret weapon, and that it was juvenile for the prince to pour so much effort into something so seemingly frivolous. But he pulled one over on us, just like the ministers, because I only looked at the obvious trappings—gisaeng dancers, the ambassador, and even Ra-on’s the-show-must-go-on moment. The dance in and of itself turned out to be a beautiful connection between the two leads, but I felt like it was clunky writing just to get her there in the first place, by telegraphing it with all the big clues that she was the perfect understudy. But THEN, when Yeong brought the prime minister to his knees, I was so proud of him for outsmarting them yet again, and I totally had an AHA-moment when I realized that I had underestimated him too. The dance was always a diversion, meant to make everyone focus on the trappings and miss the big picture. It was such a clever way for him to stay true to his word, and literally bring them to their knees without ever reaching for his sword. I love a smartypants hero!
I’m worried for Ra-on being discovered so quickly by the others, and though we know that Yoon-sung will keep her secret, we don’t know yet whose side Eunuch Ma is on. He seems the straight and narrow type, so I don’t know that he’ll keep quiet about this, though I wonder if he’d do it to save his department, since I assume the head eunuchs would pay for their lives for letting a woman pass their exams? I just don’t want anything to separate the prince-eunuch duo and their adorable antics, because that friendship is the heart of the show and I just want all of their scenes in the palace to go on forever.
The thing that really touched me in this episode was Yeong’s memory of his mother, who is clearly the person he got all of his strength from (’cause he certainly didn’t get it from daddy dearest). The initial memories we’d seen of her were just warm and caring, but this time we saw that she was bold and spontaneous, and lived outside of all the decorum that rules palace life. It was her influence that led to Yeong’s rebellious streak and his blatant disregard for rules, but it also gave him the ability to think in ways that his political opponents could never dream of, and it almost certainly led to him being open-minded enough to befriend a eunuch. Yeong’s emotional reaction when watching Ra-on dance made me think that all he wants in life is to recreate that moment on the hill, when he felt loved, and carefree, and not a prince of a nation, but just a boy.
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- Moonlight Drawn By Clouds: Episode 2
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