Seven Day Queen: Episode 17
I know we all came into this show with eyes wide open, sure of the inevitable pain to come. But it turns out that being mentally prepared in no way alleviates the actual pain of living through it. Go figure. Our brothers only grow deeper in their love for Chae-kyung and their determination to be the last man standing, which of course spells disaster for an entire kingdom. Yunno, just that little old thing.
EPISODE 17 RECAP
Chae-kyung waits anxiously to speak with her father, traumatized after seeing him preside over her friend Seo-no’s execution. Minister Shin reminds her that they were never to return to the capital, but Chae-kyung asks if this is why.
She argues that all the Snail Brides have done is share rice with the people in times of famine, and use the information they learned to report corrupt officials. Whatever future plans they did have, they haven’t been enacted yet, she argues.
Her father says that if he hadn’t stepped in, the king’s suspicion would’ve grown deeper, and Chae-kyung counters that the king has already crossed the line, but her father is protecting him simply because he’s king. Then her face falls and she asks if this is because of her, to lure her and Yeok back here.
He doesn’t have a chance to answer before Chae-kyung runs to the palace to find out for herself, and she arrives in the courtyard just in time to see Yeok being dragged out like a criminal.
Secretary Im has Chae-kyung arrested on the spot for being the wife of a traitor, and then Yeok goes mad with rage and screams at the officers, “Take your hands off of her!”
They’re ordered to be separated, and as Yeok gets forcibly led away, he screams back to Chae-kyung not to trust a single thing anyone else says. “I didn’t do anything!” he cries.
Chae-kyung demands to know what Secretary Im is plotting, and that’s when he tells her smugly that Yeok just tried to kill the king.
In his prison cell, Yeok finally has a moment to go over the flurry of events: Yeonsangun driving Yeok’s sword into his own stomach, Secretary Im calling it treason, and Yeonsangun whispering a sendoff in Yeok’s ear. Yeok realizes now that it was his brother’s plan all along to kill him.
Meanwhile Chae-kyung is brought to the king’s private library, and she remembers him telling her that she would have to pay the price for not keeping her word. Aghast, she wonders if Yeok is the price.
Minister Shin rushes to the palace, and Yeonsangun asks if he’s disappointed to see him alive and well. He says that all this is because his ministers did such a poor job of catching Yeok, so he got them the justification and evidence that they need to kill Yeok free and clear. Wow, you’re not even going to pretend to be innocent, are you?
It’s then that Minister Shin is struck with just how far Yeonsangun has crossed the line, and he looks positively heartbroken. Yeonsangun can’t handle that look on Minister Shin’s face, reading it as scorn, though the only thing Minister Shin says is to ask if Yeonsangun is okay.
Yeonsangun orders him to give up his title and be under house arrest until further notice, and tears spill down Minister Shin’s face as he just solemnly bows and accepts the punishment.
The queen dowager reels at the news of Yeok’s arrest, and Secretary Im shakes his head at the futile cries of the other ministers to an empty throne.
Yeok is tormented by nightmares of Seo-no’s execution and the night he almost died on his way to exile all those years ago, and wakes in a cold sweat. At the same time, Yeonsangun walks into the prison and stops before Yeok’s cell, where he dramatically holds out his arm and asks, “How was my performance?” Aaaaaauuugggggh!
Yeok screams and flails against the bars like a caged animal, and Yeonsangun says he did all this because he needed the justification to kill Yeok and erase him completely, so that no one could ever speak his name again.
Yeok cries that all he’s doing is covering the sky with his hand, and doing this won’t erase his existence. “How could you do a thing so horrendous? I will never, ever forgive you!” Yeok bellows.
But Yeonsangun just chuckles, calling it funny that Yeok thinks he’ll have a chance to forgive or not. He says that first thing tomorrow morning, Yeok will face execution by dismemberment. Yeok growls that he’ll have to really make sure to kill him this time, otherwise Yeonsangun will be the one to die.
Yeonsangun says that Yeok is the same as ever—nothing but a powerless prince who speaks empty words. “How many more times will you have to die to grow up?” he says as he saunters out, leaving Yeok stewing in rage.
Yeonsangun asks after Chae-kyung and the eunuch tells him that she’s refusing to swallow even a drop of water. She greets him weakly, and Yeonsangun tells her that she’s not allowed to live or die without his permission—that is her punishment.
She asks to be killed instead, and he says that’d be too easy, but he’ll consider it after her husband is killed tomorrow. Chae-kyung knows better than to blindly defend Yeok in front of him, so she asks him to consider her and her family, who are now connected to Yeok in marriage and must be killed or become slaves if he is found guilty of treason.
Yeonsangun does claim responsibility in that regard, but he points out that sending Yeok into exile didn’t work out so well the last time, obviously intent on Yeok’s death. Stricken, Chae-kyung drops to her knees and offers, “I will stay by Your Majesty’s side for the rest of my life.” Noooooooooooooo!
That gets his attention, and she says in a shaky voice that as long as she stays by Yeonsangun’s side as a hostage, Yeok won’t be able to strike him easily. She says that she’ll stay as long as it takes for him to rest at ease, even if that means the rest of her life.
Yeonsangun asks what happens if he trusts her word now, and Yeok comes to rescue her later, or she tries to run away. The fact that you are into this idea is so disturbing. He decides that he can’t trust her, so he’ll have to cut the tendon in Yeok’s foot so that he can’t even take care of his own body, making it impossible for him to dream of treason. What. The. Bloody. Hell.
Yeonsangun says that the punishment is intended for thieves, calling it perfect for Yeok: “Since he tried to steal what is mine—my position, my people, my life.” He offers that or death, and Chae-kyung cries as she asks for Yeok’s life to be spared.
Yeok’s friends are horrified to hear of the punishment, and Deputy Commander Park says that they’ll have to find a way to save him.
The next morning, Chae-kyung stands by Yeonsangun’s side as Yeok is brought out to face his official charge. He flails when he sees Chae-kyung there, and screams that his wife is innocent in all this and pleads for her to be sent home. Augh, my heart can’t handle this.
Yeok fights against his ropes and wails for Chae-kyung not to be made to watch this, calling it too cruel a punishment for her. Yeok desperately signals for her to go, but she fights her tears and says she’ll stay to watch.
As Yeonsangun sits back and Chae-kyung wrings her hands in agony, Secretary Im declares the formal charge for injuring the king. The guards place a bit in Yeok’s mouth and they ready a blade at his heel… I can’t watch this. I can’t!
Yeok braces himself, and the guard asks Yeok in a low voice to endure… and then there’s a horrible splicing noise as his tendon is severed. *shudder*
Chae-kyung shuts her eyes instinctively, but she tells herself she must watch, so that she she never forgets what happened here today—the king’s brutality, Yeok’s suffering, and her own foolishness.
Yeok is unconscious when he’s taken home and tended to by Nanny and his friends, and we hear Secretary Im’s voiceover declaring the rest of his punishment: Yeok is forbidden from meeting with anyone from the palace, Chae-kyung is to be confined until Yeok’s loyalty is confirmed, and Yeok will never be reinstated in the royal family for the rest of his life.
Sometime later, Yeok finally stirs awake with Gwang-oh and Seok-hee by his side. He recognizes his house and asks where Chae-kyung is, and Gwang-oh hesitates before giving it to him straight—that she’s in the palace because that was the deal she agreed to in exchange for sparing Yeok’s life.
Naturally Yeok springs up in anger, but he only gets as far as sitting up before doubling over in pain. He clutches his injured foot and beats the ground, furious at his helpless state.
Chae-kyung remains stoic and detached inside the palace, hardly giving Eunuch Song a glance when he arrives with rows and rows of court ladies holding gifts from the king. Does Yeonsangun seriously think he’ll win her over with trinkets?!
She stops Eunuch Song to ask if there’s been any word from her parents or from Yeok, but he says no, and she goes back to staring blankly at the closed door.
Yeok stirs awake again, and this time he lights up to see Chae-kyung sitting beside him. His face turns soft as he asks brightly how she came, and she says her husband was injured, so how could she not come to him?
She helps him sit up and tends to his wound, which she says is healing nicely. He says that can’t be the case, sounding like a little boy as he insists that it still hurts a lot. She says with a smile that what’s hurting isn’t his ankle, but his heart: “And if you want to heal your heart, you have to hurry up and take me home. Are you going to keep leaving me all alone like this?”
He asks what she’s talking about when they’re together right now, but Chae-kyung says gently, “This is a dream. The reason we can be together right now is because this is a dream.”
Yeok starts to panic and clutches her hand, pleading with her not to go away. But when he reaches out to touch her face, she disappears before his eyes like a ghost.
He looks around the empty room, fully awake and having hallucinated the whole thing. Nanny comes in with medicine and guesses that he had another nightmare, and she asks what use it is for his body to heal if his heart is still like this.
Yeok seems to finally come to his senses, and he muses that Nanny must hate him. Tears pool in her eyes and she says that she hates him to death, and then slaps her own mouth for being unable to lie. But she adds that Yeok is the only person Chae-kyung can trust, which means she has to trust him too.
The queen dowager lies awake that night, and we see Deputy Commander Park reassuring her in flashback that the officer who carried out Yeok’s punishment didn’t actually cut his tendon. Oh phew. He’d told her that Yeok would take time to heal, but that he should still be able to walk.
Yeonsangun stumbles into the queen dowager’s bedchambers drunk, saying that he had another dream about Yeok. He slurs that he killed Yeok in his dreams as he does every night, but no matter how many times he kills him, Yeok persists in coming back to him, and he asks her if she knows how to kill him for good.
The queen dowager says that it’s her fault, because all this time she trusted Yeonsangun’s promises because she was being a mother to both him and Yeok. She calls that her mistake, and her blood boils as she spits that Yeonsangun’s own paranoia and suspicion will drive all of his people away, and he will live his entire life in solitude.
Yeonsangun darts up and raises a hand to strike her, and the queen dowager tenses in anticipation. But he suddenly stops in mid-air and lowers his hand, and grinds out that she should shut up if she wants to live.
He sits on his throne and scoffs at her words, thinking that she was never truly a mother to him because Yeok always came first. He decides he’ll have to save his own mother, and orders for the women who conspired against her to be brought to him.
Two of his father’s concubines are brought in—the ones who were allegedly responsible for his mother’s poisoning—along with their sons. He has the women covered with sacks and the princes are then handed clubs… and he orders them to beat their own mothers to death. Holy crap.
When they kneel and refuse to do as they’re told, Yeonsangun grabs the club himself and begins to brutally beat the concubines to death with his own hands.
As Yeonsangun continues his bloody purge and the streets become littered with dead bodies, Chae-kyung narrates, “That night, the king became a monster. A flood began that no one could stop and no one could understand, and a bloody wind began to blow throughout the palace. The court ministers began to worry that Joseon was ruined, and the people lost the country and the king who would protect them.”
Nok-soo is the one who tells Chae-kyung all about what’s going on in and out of the palace, seeming to enjoy her pained reactions. She makes sure to tell Chae-kyung that the queen dowager is next on the chopping block, and warns her not to intervene because Yeonsangun is not the same king she used to know.
Nanny tries to get Yeok to eat, but seeing the table of food just makes him think of Chae-kyung asking him to like her food because she makes it with love, and he can’t bring himself to eat. Nanny says tearfully that she misses Chae-kyung too.
The boys come by with more updates of the king’s bloody rampage, as well as the lines of people at the palace with bribes and tributes for the king. Gwang-oh knows that Yeok just wants to hear about Chae-kyung, who’s still confined, and his mother, who is under scrutiny and not in very good health. He assures Yeok that her condition is not so serious that he has to worry.
Yeonsangun seems disinterested in his table full of rare delicacies, and asks his eunuch to go find out how Yeok is doing, and whether he can walk. So the eunuch pays Yeok a sneaky visit, motioning for the servants not to announce him. He spots Yeok hobbling around in the courtyard with a large cane, struggling to go a few feet before he falls.
Yeok drags his foot behind him like dead weight, but it turns out to be a show for the king’s benefit, as he smirks to himself out of the eunuch’s line of sight. In his room, he puts weight on his injured foot and takes a tentative step.
The eunuch stops to examine Yeok’s cane, when Nanny discovers him lurking and throws salt at him until he leaves. Yeok thinks to himself that the king is already bored.
Using his cane, Yeok walks to two side-by-side graves out in a field—Seo-no who is now buried next to his father. He remembers Seo-no’s words that the king would never change and says he was right, because there is no more hope for the king.
Yeok vows to pull the king down himself to fulfill Seo-no’s wishes and leave him with no regrets.
Yeonsangun comes to see Chae-kyung, who stiffens and greets him with detachment and cold civility. He sees that she’s shut off and leaves right away, promising to return the next day. Day after day he repeats this ritual, as if hoping that she’ll magically thaw.
Yeok and the Snail Brides go over the possibilities of storming the palace. Though the royal guards outnumber them, there are some officers stationed in the palace who are loyal to Deputy Commander Park and would be on their side. The problem is the military, because if they are called in, there’s no way to defeat their numbers. Yeok decides that they’ll have to lure them out of the palace then, and even out of the city.
On yet another visit from Yeonsangun, Chae-kyung finally asks why he comes here every day, whether he has something to say to her or is here to make sure Yeok hasn’t come for her.
Yeonsangun scoffs that Yeok couldn’t come here when he can’t even walk. He admits that he comes here because he finds it so unbelievable that she’s here, and he has to see for himself every day to believe it.
Chae-kyung says she’d been avoiding his gaze until now because she didn’t know how to respond to him, or how to look him in the eye. She argues that if he really loved her as a woman, he shouldn’t have had her marry Yeok, because then at least they could have remained friend and family.
Yeonsangun is skeptical that she wouldn’t have married Yeok anyway, and argues that rather than having them unmarried and longing for each other, it was better to have them marry and come to hate each other.
She starts to argue but then just coldly turns him away, asking him not to come by so often because he makes her uncomfortable. He’s hurt by that and asks why, and she points out that he’s going to kill her someday.
He asks why she would think such a thing, and Chae-kyung replies, “If something happens to you, I will die, because I am your family. If something happens to the prince, I will die, because I am his wife. I will likely live this life not wholly dead even if I die, and not wholly alive even if I live.”
She concludes with an angry tremor to her voice, “So do not expect anything of me. I have nothing left to give you but a dead heart.” *slow clap*
Once alone, Chae-kyung thinks to herself that she will continue to wait half-dead like this for Yeok to come, knowing that when he comes for her, she will have to choose whose person she will live and die as.
Yeok sets his plan into motion, and writes an update from the Snail Brides in an alarmist tone, describing the rebel forces that are invading the south and making their way up to attack the palace. In reality it’s Myung-hye, Gwang-oh, and Seok-hee who are leading the charge, freeing prisoners and amassing more manpower for the cause.
Deputy Commander Park seems fearful of losing what he’s worked so hard for to these unknown rebels, and stirs the ministers into action, urging them to pick a side so that they can act swiftly and not end up as collateral damage in the bloody war.
Secretary Im cancels another session of court because the king isn’t feeling well, and the disgruntled ministers say that this is why rebellion is brewing all over the country. He deems the so-called rebellion a trifling matter and doesn’t bother reporting it to the king.
Myung-hye returns home, where her uncle shares his concerns over this rebel army, whose agenda they don’t know. She assures him that it’s nothing to worry about, and lets him in on the fact that this was Yeok’s plan all along.
Yeok shares his real plan with Deputy Commander Park and tells him that according to rumor, the numbers in this rebel army are growing by the day. By the time the rebels reach the capital, the king’s forces will know they are outnumbered and run for their lives, leaving the palace unmanned.
That’s when Yeok plans to infiltrate the palace and fight Yeonsangun directly, and he asks for Deputy Commander Park to use his forces to buy him that time. Park asks why Yeok kept this a secret from his own supporters, and he says it was to prevent betrayal and push them to act, knowing that people value their own lives above all else, and will choose a side if they think they will die otherwise.
Yeonsangun ignores another of Minister Shin’s daily letters, but then he thinks better of it and takes the whole collection to Chae-kyung, and asks her to read them to him. She complies, reading letter after letter filled with pleasant memories that her father shared with the king, since he was a young prince.
They only anger Yeonsangun more, and he turns his anger on Chae-kyung, wondering why she isn’t wearing the expensive cloth or ornaments he had sent to her. She says that she’s the wife of a criminal, thinking it unseemly to be wearing lavish things, and he just huffs and says he’ll bring them himself from now on.
Once she’s alone, Chae-kyung clutches her father’s letters and asks him tearfully what she’s supposed to do now.
Deputy Commander Park watches Minister Shin write another letter to the king and wonders how Yeonsangun chased out someone so faithful. Park gets right to the point and says that it’s time to choose sides, and that he’s already chosen his: He’s going to pull Yeonsangun down from the throne and make Yeok king.
Minister Shin is horrified that he’s really going to go through with the coup, but Deputy Commander Park just tells him he’ll have to make a choice too, though it’ll be a more difficult choice for him: his sister or his daughter.
Park says if it’s hard to decide, he’ll rephrase it: “Will you die as the king’s liege, or will you live as your daughter’s father?” He says that if Minister Shin’s choice is to live as Chae-kyung’s father, he should do nothing tonight. But if he chooses to go out, his actions will be understood as an attempt to warn the king, and that he has chosen to stand against them.
Yeok prepares himself for tonight’s attack, and slides the handle of his cane out to reveal a sword hidden inside. The boys come by to say that the rebels are nearing the capital, so it’s time.
They hide in the woods and lie in wait for a shipment of royal tributes to come by as scheduled, and they easily overtake the small entourage. They leave the men stripped and tied up, and Yeok leads his men right up to the palace gate dressed as officers. Nice.
The guards stop Yeok, wanting a bribe to let them through, when suddenly one of the guards peers at Yeok curiously and starts to suspect him. Everyone’s hands go to their swords in a tense beat… but then the former minister of interior shows up just in time to let them pass, sharing a knowing look with Yeok.
Once inside, they change uniforms again so that they’re dressed as royal guards, and they replace the queen dowager’s servants with their own people before Yeok goes inside to see her. He takes her hand and says reassuringly that he’s here now. And she just cries in relief.
Chae-kyung sits up in bed thinking of the ring Yeok gave her, and she’s startled by a noise outside and the guard who suddenly enters her room. She readies a dagger to defend herself, when the man kneels down and takes off his mask.
It’s Yeok, of course, who whispers that it’s him and that he knows she’s waited a long time for him to come. She’s still so stunned that she doesn’t seem to believe her own eyes, though tears pool instantly at the sight of him.
He sits beside her and gently takes her hand as he asks, “Have you already forgotten my touch?” She finally starts to believe he’s really there, and reaches out tentatively to touch his face. I love the way he leans into her hand.
Chae-kyung begins to sob at the touch, and he smiles at her and pulls her into an embrace.
Thank goodness, a reunion! I will take whatever small breadcrumb of happiness you give me and subsist on it for a week if I have to. That was a rough episode for me. At some point during Yeok’s torture I actually had to mute the sound because I couldn’t handle it, only to realize that Chae-kyung was narrating through it, which is when the cursing began because in the end I had to watch Yeok being cut up twice. If I had known, I would’ve bribed javabeans with cookies to swap episodes with me! *still shuddering*
By now, it shouldn’t surprise me in the least when Yeonsangun does things like agreeing to lock Chae-kyung up for a lifetime just to keep her, and yet I’m still shocked, because he seems to understand on an intellectual level that he only has her shell and not her heart… but when he was marveling at her soulless presence at his side, I got the sense that he was happy, if even for that minute of each day. How could he be so disconnected from the fact that he’s the one causing her so much pain? And how could he miss the fact that her very choice to stay by his side is an act of love for Yeok? The crazy part is, he doesn’t seem to care, like he would be content to just have her shell for the rest of his life. My brain keeps doing cartwheels trying to follow his twisted logic, and I always end up exhausted and turned around (not to mention disturbed—what kind of madness is forcing your brothers to beat their mothers to death?).
But as an act of self-sacrifice on Chae-kyung’s part, I found her deal with the king to be brave and rather smart, because at that point there was no other way to save Yeok from certain death. There are really only two things Yeonsangun wants—Yeok’s death and Chae-kyung—and she’s in the rare position to leverage one for the other. Also, in my eyes a lifetime of captivity to a psychotic king is a far bigger sacrifice than dying in Yeok’s place, for instance, which seems merciful in comparison. Everything about the way she handled herself while in captivity made me respect her more, from her quiet dignity to her refusal to let Yeonsangun have an inch. It’s just so quietly satisfying that all Yeonsangun wants is for her to resent Yeok, and all she ever does is find new ways to show and tell him how devoted she is to her husband.
It was Yeok that really broke me though, because he was experiencing six kinds of hell in this episode, but every time he’s with Chae-kyung, it’s like all of the fury and righteous anger leaves his body, and he just becomes a sweet puppy. It was the moments of happiness that gutted me, not the torture, but I guess it’s really the juxtaposition of agony and joy, and the glimpses of what life could be if this weren’t his reality.
Now that the coup is in motion, it really does feel like the beginning of the end, and on that front the show is moving even faster and it’s great to have things even more pared down to just the essential plot—the final showdown between brothers and Chae-kyung’s choice, be it family or love. I wish I could say that the worst is behind us, but we all know that it’s really time to buckle up and prepare the tissues.
- Seven Day Queen: Episode 1
- Premiere Watch: My Sassy Girl, Seven Day Queen, Best Hit, Duel
- Arranged marriages and love at first sight for the Seven Day Queen
- Queen for a week, heartbreak to last a lifetime
- Seven Day Queen’s young lovers realize their tragic fates
- Elegant tears and waking forbidden hearts in Seven Day Queen
- Thwarted kisses and rom-com hijinks in Seven Day Queen
- Blood, thorns, and tears in first teaser for Seven Day Queen
- Seven Day Queen team puts in their first four hours at script read