Seven Day Queen: Episode 3
This show is amazing to look at, but what I’m really captivated by is the epic conflict between two royal brothers who have to fight a daily struggle in order not to become enemies. I love this kind of story, built for tragic misunderstanding but backed by real stakes, making the romance that’s just starting to blossom at the center of it all seem all the more fragile and precious.
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EPISODE 3 RECAP
Yeonsangun receives word that his father’s secret will (naming his younger brother Yeok as his successor) was taken out of the palace by a historian who’s been living in secret all these years.
Royal Secretary Im fans the flames of paranoia, asking what happens if Yeok and the queen dowager are already aware of the will and after it themselves—he’s heard that they left the palace together on a secret errand. Yeonsangun says through gritted teeth that that’s why they have to get their hands on it first.
Officers are sent to the historian’s house, which happens to be where Prince Yeok and Chae-kyung are right now, visiting their new pickpocket-turned-friend Seo-no. Chae-kyung catches Yeok innocently reaching to remove a twig in her hair, and declares right then and there that she will have to marry him after all. Gee, what’ll you do when he tries to hold your hand?
Yeok looks flabbergasted, but Chae-kyung grabs his hand and says with the biggest smile that rather than marry someone she’s never even met, she’d prefer to marry her new friend Yeok. He squirms awkwardly, and is saved when Seo-no calls out for them.
Yeok hurries to go back inside, so Chae-kyung yanks him back by the belt (hee) and demands an answer to her proposal. Yeok just stammers, “Am I crazy?” leaving her crushed. He turns back to look at her, thinking of his brother’s offer to let him live if he married Minister Shin’s daughter.
It only takes that one response from Yeok to make Chae-kyung say petulantly to herself, “I didn’t want to either!” She thinks it’s his fault for not being terrible enough to hate or good enough to be above her, making it hard for her not to want to marry him. Lol, she’s adorable.
The king holds a prayer ceremony for rain, and Deputy Commander Park finds issue with the king always acting alone rather than with his government officials, while Chae-kyung’s father, Minister Shin, thinks that there’s nothing wrong with the king taking action on behalf of his people.
Minister Shin calls it sincere, while Deputy Commander Park thinks it egocentric because Yeonsangun always needs things done his way. So Minister Shin is Team Yeonsangun, Deputy Commander Park is not. Check, check.
The entire assembly is shocked when Yeonsangun kneels in prayer, and they hurry to kneel in accord. In prayer, Yeonsangun looks up at the sky and speaks to his father, saying that he doesn’t really know about the gods, but he asks his father to please send rain down, sincere in his request.
At Seo-no’s house, Yeok puts another salamander in a water jug and explains that salamanders are thought to be the dragons of wind and rain. That just reminds Chae-kyung of the salamander statue that she and Yeok fought over, and Yeok points out that she was going to give it to the king anyway, so it’ll find its way to the rightful owner. She scowls.
Seo-no asks why they bought a salamander statue, and in unison Yeok and Chae-kyung say that salamanders are dragons, referring to a pun on the word for dragon, and because dragons symbolize the king, it’s an appropriate gift. Seo-no laughs at the pun and calls them both childish, and then they’re offended in unison.
Yeok finishes explaining his rain ritual and grabs a branch to start the chant, but he’s shocked when Seo-no finishes his sentence and recites it to the letter. Yeok asks how he could possibly know a palace ritual like that, but then they’re interrupted by the arrival of Seo-no’s father and grandmother.
His father takes one look at the rain ritual and snaps at Seo-no, and then says tersely to Yeok and Chae-kyung that this isn’t the kind of place for them. They leave quietly, and from the woods beyond the house, the king’s officers watch them go. In a flashback, we see Secretary Im tell the lead officer to watch that house, and if anyone connected to the palace is seen there, he is to kill them regardless of who they are.
Seo-no’s father tells him never to see those two people again, and when Seo-no says they saved his life and are his friends, his father kicks the salamander jug over in anger.
On the walk back, Yeok seems to sense that they’re being followed, while Chae-kyung is still stuck on his rejection. She asks him why he doesn’t like her, and he stops in his tracks… and then suddenly grabs her wrist and starts running. They run for their lives, with the officers hot on their heels.
They make it into town and barely escape by hiding in a moving cart, and then when they get a moment to catch their breath, Chae-kyung asks why they’re running away when they did nothing wrong.
Yeok says that even if they didn’t do anything wrong, they could still die—it’s what he was taught since he was born, because he’s a prince. Chae-kyung doesn’t understand, but then she remembers him saying earlier that he has to pretend not to see or hear anything in order to stay alive, and it sinks in that life is actually quite complicated for Yeok.
She looks at him with sympathy and reaches over to hold his hand gently. He looks at her, and she quickly lies that it’s because she’s scared he’ll leave her behind. He seems more affected by the handhold than she is, and when they hear someone approach, he interlocks their fingers and holds tightly.
The officers get dangerously close to their hiding spot, and that’s when Chae-kyung and Yeok both notice that they’ve left a trail of muddy footprints leading right to them. Gack.
Chae-kyung squeezes her eyes shut and prays to the heavens that they won’t discover those footprints, and Yeok sees how terrified she is. He covers her ears and turns her to face him, and tells her that everything is going to be okay, and that she needn’t be afraid.
It works like a charm, and she gazes into his eyes and nods, a doofy smile breaking out across her face. And in that moment, a drop of water falls on Yeok’s forehead. It’s rain!
They look up at the sky and marvel at the rainfall, as people take to the streets in celebration of the end of the long drought. In no time the streets are muddy and filled with people, covering their footprints completely.
At the same time, Yeonsangun looks up at the sky with a genuine smile as the rain comes down. It’s timed perfectly to his prayer ceremony as if the gods are smiling down on him, and the people bow and cry in gratitude to the king.
As he turns around to his people bowing before him, Yeonsangun addresses his father again in his thoughts: “Father, do you see? Do you still find me lacking as this nation’s king? I am not going to doubt. I am the king of Joseon, both in deed and in name!”
Safely out of harm’s way, Yeok and Chae-kyung run through a field and look for cover to wait out the rainfall.
In the palace, the queen dowager comes to see the queen and congratulate her on the rainfall. She tells the queen that Yeok has no ambition for the throne and asks her to convince her brother, Minister Shin, to agree to the marriage proposal between Yeok and Chae-kyung. At the same time, Yeonsangun puts pressure on Minister Shin regarding the very same matter.
The officer who lost Yeok reports to Secretary Im, who seems pleased as punch to hear that the prince was found at the house of the historian suspected of hiding the late king’s will.
Yeonsangun tells Minister Shin that he spoke harshly to Yeok, but his mind is made up. He says that here, before Yeok is his brother, he is a prince in line for the throne and a political rival: “It’s not because he is a brother I cherish, but because he is a brother I must be wary of that I am giving him to you. Because I cannot trust anyone but you.”
Secretary Im finally gets to report what he’s found out, and Yeonsangun is enraged, wondering why Yeok would be at that house. Secretary Im says it’s obvious that Yeok and the queen dowager know of the late king’s will, and are conspiring against them. Yeonsangun demands that the historian be brought here and questioned immediately.
As they wait for the rain to stop, Yeok admits to Chae-kyung that he was planning to tell everyone that he would never marry her. He had considered it a hit to his pride to marry into the family of the king’s closest ally, because it would prove that Yeok was afraid and distrustful of his own brother.
Chae-kyung thinks their marriage would only bring their families closer together, and he calls her naïve. She argues that when they were being chased earlier, she asked for help and took the rain as a sign that they shouldn’t be afraid and that heaven was on their side. He calls it silly superstition, but she says it still gave her courage, and tells him not to be preemptively afraid just because adults have made the world however they please.
Her words seem to have an effect on him, and he stares at her thoughtfully. When she catches him staring though, he quickly covers it up by pointing out that she must like him, and enjoys her embarrassed reaction.
They sit there for a while watching the wind make waves in the grass, as Chae-kyung whistles her favorite tune.
In the palace, Yeonsangun practices his sword fighting, and Secretary Im confers with consort Jang Nok-soo as they watch him. Secretary Im says that the king is now hypersensitive, to the point that throwing one small rock will create waves of great magnitutde. Nok-soo says that the king has carried the same scars for a long time, and she no longer wants to see him suffering.
Secretary Im flashes back to the days of King Seongjong, when he was made to crawl around on his hands and knees while little Yeok rode him like a horse. Minister Shin, who was important enough to whisper secrets with the king, saw this, making Secretary Im’s inferiority complex and resentment grow.
In the present, Secretary Im vows that because he was treated like a dog, he had no choice but to become a dog, and will take the life of King Seongjong’s precious son Yeok as his revenge, allowing Yeonsangun and himself to control the country.
Yeok sees Chae-kyung limping as they walk back home, and he crouches to offer her a piggyback ride. She refuses at first, so he asks if she’ll let him if he marries her. Chae-kyung beams and asks if he likes her now, and Yeok teasingly calls her Bird Poop and refuses to answer.
When they get to a stream, Yeok holds his hand out like a gentleman to help her climb down some rocks, and then points out that he has to carry her piggyback anyway, indicating the water they have to cross. She insists that she’s agreeing only because it’s rude to keep turning him down, not because she wants to, heh.
She climbs on and he teases her for being heavy, scaring her by wobbling around in the water. When he laughs at her, she smacks him upside the head and they both freeze, but instead of being haughty, he laughs sweetly and says, “When we get married, let’s live like this for the rest of our lives, having fun like friends.”
She huffs that she’s not falling for it again, expecting him to tease her. But he says this time he means it: “But it’s not an arranged marriage. I’m marrying you because I like you.” Awwww.
She hugs him tighter and he smiles, having gotten his answer, and they laugh and tease each other as he carries her home.
Seo-no asks his father why he can’t be friends with Yeok and Chae-kyung, and his father says that there is always a price to pay for being friends with people who are not in your station in life. Just then, the officers from the high tribunal, the Euigeumbu, arrive at the house, and Seo-no’s father pushes his way in front of his son.
It’s nightfall when Yeok drops Chae-kyung off outside her house, and she hems and haws before blurting out that if they’re betrothed, they should have a token of some sort to seal the deal. She nervously takes off her ring and asks for his finger, and slides it on his pinky. She insists that it fits perfectly, ignoring the failed attempt to get it on his index finger.
He says, “My token is…” and takes a step forward. Omo. He leans in to kiss her, and she closes her eyes in anticipation…
Seo-no’s voice suddenly cuts in at that very moment, and they split apart awkwardly.
Seo-no falls to his knees and begs for Yeok to save his father, who’s been arrested by the Euigeumbu. Seo-no thinks it’s because he stole rice that his father was arrested in his place, but Yeok says that wouldn’t be the case, and vows to save him.
Chae-kyung wants to help, but Yeok tells her to take care of Seo-no and his grandmother, worried that acting rashly could get her hurt too. She wants to take responsibility if this is about the rice, but Yeok says emphatically that she did nothing wrong. He gives her hand a squeeze and then runs off.
At the Euigeumbu, Yeonsangun personally oversees Seo-no’s father being tortured and questioned. Yeonsangun demands that the man admit he was a royal historian, and asks why Yeok was at his house. Seo-no’s father insists that he is just a peasant, but in his rush to defend Yeok, he blurts out that Yeok knows nothing.
Yeonsangun’s eyes flash with frightening malice as he catches the slip and he asks, “Knows nothing about what?”
After the torture session, Yeonsangun thinks back to Chae-kyung asking him why family couldn’t just live and die together, and he thinks to himself that it can’t be that way for him. He looks down and sees bloodstains on his shoes and clothes, and that sends him into another panicked rage as he strips off the bloody layers and screams for them to be thrown out.The queen comes by intending to speak with him, but when she sees his outburst, she just quietly collects his royal robes and decides to come back another day.
When Chae-kyung comes to finally give her father the letter she hand-carried all the way to Hanyang, she’s shocked to find the queen (her aunt) there for a visit. Chae-kyung almost starts to ask about Seo-no’s father but decides against it.
Once she leaves the room, Chae-kyung’s father reads the letter, which is from the priestess who once gave him the prophecy that there would be blood spilled if Chae-kyung were to meet a member of the royal family. In the letter, she tells him not to forget her prophecy, and not to trust the late king.
It only further fuels his fear that the prophecy is true, and Chae-kyung’s father asks his sister to do what she can to stop this marriage from happening.
First thing in the morning, Yeok storms into the Euigeumbu to defend Seo-no’s father, who has been arrested under the pretense that he stole the rice that Seo-no was nearly caught for stealing. Secretary Im says that stealing a royal tribute is a serious crime, and so is the lie Yeok told to protect him, and that Seo-no’s father will be beheaded as punishment.
Yeok attempts to reach his brother, but Yeonsangun ignores his cries and has him held back by his guards.
Meanwhile, the king’s head eunuch whispers something to consort Nok-soo, who gives him the king’s royal badge and tells him that just seeing this will make “someone” go against royal orders to try and free a prisoner, not knowing that he’s digging his own grave.
Yeok waits until the assembly is over, and Yeonsangun finally stops to speak to him. Yeok accepts that contempt for the king is the gravest sin there is, but he counters that there’s something more important than that—human life. He begs for a fair trial for Seo-no’s father, in case he’s been mistakenly charged.
Yeonsangun scoffs and says that Yeok is the same as always, believing his own judgment to be above the king’s. He steps close to Yeok and whispers, “Listen closely, brother. What you need right now is not a trial, but the king’s forgiveness, understanding, and magnanimity.”
He tells Yeok to learn to obey royal commands, and then turns to go. Yeok reaches for his arm to try and stop him, and Yeonsangun whips around in fury… and Yeok accidentally swipes Yeonsangun’s face, drawing blood. Eeek.
The ministers panic and Yeonsangun is livid, but he holds it together long enough to walk away. As they walk by, the king’s eunuch makes sure to drop the king’s royal badge at Yeok’s feet.
Chae-kyung goes to check on Seo-no, but finds his home in disarray and his grandmother already dead. Seo-no is crouched in a dark corner crying that it’s all his fault.
Of course that just makes Chae-kyung think it’s her fault for interfering in the first place, and she runs to the palace while crying for someone, anyone, to help her.
The queen dowager scolds Yeok for being foolish, but Deputy Commander Park says that it was refreshing to see someone ask for a fair trial before the assembly—words he hasn’t heard in a very long time. He points out that no one but Yeok would have the gall to challenge Yeonsangun like that, but he adds that no one would dare risk his neck for a thief, making Yeok’s face fall.
Yeonsangun unleashes his wrath through swordfighting, speaking to his sparring partners as though they’re Yeok. He says that he can forgive Yeok for challenging him publicly in front of the assembly.
But then he adds that if he discovers that Yeok is protecting the historian because of the secret will, and mocking and deceiving him while waiting to become an adult, then he will never forgive him for that.
Yeok is blocked from leaving the palace that night, but when he flashes the king’s badge, indicating that he is acting under royal authority, the gate is opened instantly. He finds Chae-kyung running there to meet him, anxious to know what’s happening. She cries that Seo-no’s grandmother has passed away from the shock of her son’s arrest, and then Yeok tells her that Seo-no’s father will be beheaded.
They stand outside the Euigeumbu and Yeok prepares to barge inside to rescue Seo-no’s father, but Chae-kyung worries that he’ll take the fall for trying to intervene. She suggests asking her father for help, but Yeok argues that her father is loyal to the king. She says she’ll ask the king herself if she has to, and Yeok asks if she’s bragging about her connections.
He shouts in frustration that he told her to stay out things, but she got them in this mess, and Chae-kyung cries that she knows and regrets it too. He says that they don’t have time to waste, and marches toward the door. She tries to stop him again, but he warns her that if she tries one more time, he’ll never see her again. She drops her hand and lets him go.
Yeok flashes the king’s badge and is let inside immediately, where he lies to the guards that the king has ordered Seo-no’s father’s release. Seo-no’s father is barely alive, and whispers for Yeok to stay out of this and leave him be.
Yeok ignores him and carries him out on his back, and is surprised when Chae-kyung and Seo-no arrive with a cart, ready to help with the getaway. Yeok looks so grateful that his friends didn’t leave him.
Meanwhile, the Euigeumbu guards discover that Yeok wasn’t acting under the king’s orders, and Jang Nok-soo arrives as well, having anticipated that Yeok would take the bait she set out.
The Euigeumbu officers chase after Yeok, who’s wheeling the cart by himself, but then we discover that he’s just the diversion—Chae-kyung and Seo-no carry his father on a stretcher, while Yeok leads the officers in the opposite direction.
Yeok gets to a cliff and sends the cart over the edge, and the officers realize they’ve been had. Chae-kyung is losing her strength so they stop to rest, and she comes up with a plan when she remembers that one of her father’s tenants is packing up to head south early this morning.
She sends Seo-no and his father with him, saying that his father is ill and needs to rest in the countryside, and she hands Seo-no a small pouch of food for him to eat on the journey. He worries about what will happen to her and Yeok, but she says it’s not like they’d be killed. Uh, are we sure about that?
Seo-no thanks her in tears and vows to return this favor someday, but she tells him that there’s no need among friends.
Yeok races through the woods, but it doesn’t take long before he’s surrounded by officers who all draw their swords.
Meanwhile, Yeonsangun dreams of walking up to the throne and seeing his father sitting there… except when he gets closer, he sees that it’s not his father at all, but Yeok. He wakes up in a cold sweat, and Nok-soo guesses that he had another nightmare.
At that moment, Secretary Im comes running with the news of Yeok’s jailbreak. Yeonsangun storms into the room where Yeok is kneeling and puts a sword to his throat to ask why he did this.
Yeok answers, “For the throne.” What. Don’t say that! Anything but that!
I’m sure that Yeok is planning to say that he did this for his brother because he didn’t want Yeonsangun killing an innocent man, but I don’t expect Yeonsangun to believe anything at this point. Yeok looks so guilty based on his rash actions, even though the only logical thing he could’ve been thinking the whole time was that his brother would have faith in him and just forgive him for everything. Otherwise, faking the king’s authority and freeing a prisoner like that seems utterly crazy. I mean, you left a trail of witnesses that you’re running around playing king.
But even though the plan was rash, it was a very important moment for Yeok, who has lived a life of inaction, always keeping his head down as a matter of his own personal survival. It’s a turning point for him to step up and act, and use what power he has to challenge the king or even fake his authority, and do what he thinks is right. It may have started with Chae-kyung prodding him to intervene for Seo-no, but this time the decision is all his, and he’s discovering his line in the sand. It shows promise for his future as a leader, which the court officials clearly saw as well; the bad news, of course, is that the more he asserts himself, the more he becomes an actual threat to Yeonsangun. This is the conundrum, since we want him to grow and be a good prince, but every step he takes puts every single person around him in mortal danger. What makes it really layered and interesting is Yeonsangun’s desire to trust his brother and protect him, which runs entirely counter to his growing paranoia that Yeok is running some long con and will use his love and trust against him someday. It’s so twisted and complicated. I love it.
The teenage love story is surprisingly really engaging, and I feel like it’s because we’re not zooming through it at warp speed—the show is taking the time to build on every interaction and make their scenes flirty and sweet, and it feels like a natural progression of friendship. Chae-kyung is delightfully assertive and cheeky, and it was nice to see Yeok match her advances this time with fluttery feelings of his own. And the fact that he admitted to being prejudiced against her because of her family makes his new feelings for her all the more genuine. His proposal was perfect, and I just want them to have a long and lovely life together as friends and lovers. You almost want to jump in there and warn Romeo and Juliet to go find other safer people to love, but isn’t it funny how knowing what lies ahead for them doesn’t make us any less excited about the romance in the present? This drama just likes to make me feel conflicted about everything.
I’m really happy with the directing in this show—it’s just nice to watch a drama that’s romantic and sweeping and then tense and thrilling, and executing both ends of the spectrum well. Lee Dong-gun has everything to do with the simmering tension, of course, because he’s essentially carrying the conflict as Yeonsangun. But man alive, is he making a fascinating character out of him—brilliant, paranoid, insecure. Watching his descent into madness and tyranny is going to be so great. That came out a little sadistic, but you know what I mean!
- Seven Day Queen: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: My Sassy Girl, Seven Day Queen, Best Hit, Duel
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- Queen for a week, heartbreak to last a lifetime
- Seven Day Queen’s young lovers realize their tragic fates
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