The King Loves: Episodes 3-4
I went into this show expecting more of a heavier tone, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how breezy and fun these episodes are. The show is shot beautifully, and the characters are hilarious while also having substance and intelligence, so I’m feeling optimistic and giddy from all the cuteness. There’s still a lot of story that we have yet to get to, but overall, this was a very solid opening week for The King Loves.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
We return to the top of the mountain, following our heroes’ close brush with death. We see the scene of San landing on top of Won from Rin’s perspective, which prompts him to revisit his first meeting with Won years earlier on the royal dais.
In the past, we see that Rin’s younger self had approached Won as he stood alone shortly after being admonished by his father for setting his royal falcon free. This time, we hear Rin explaining their first meeting in voiceover.
Won had asked Rin about the people who lived where Rin is from, and that’s how they ended up in Namdae, the largest marketplace in the area. Won had been fascinated by every little thing as though it was all new to him, but when Rin tried to tell him more about the marketplace, Won snobbishly claimed to already know all about it.
Won, who appears to be the type to say everything that’s on his mind, had instructed Rin to use banmal with him, and to call him by his name. Rin was uncomfortable with the lack of formalities, but Won didn’t give in: “From now on, you are my friend. Treat me as a friend. That’s a royal order.”
Rin had reported the exchange back to his father, and was told that Won seemed like a lonely person. His father advised Rin to act as Won’s friend, but to never forget the class lines that divide the two boys, because Won will become king, and a king cannot have friends.
In voiceover, Rin says that back then he didn’t know the meaning of his father’s words, or how a person could control parts of their heart.
We flash forward to Won and San sharing a moment of wide-eyed surprise as San lands on top of him before San jumps off, leaving Won blinking rapidly. Poor Rin is forgotten and forced to climb up from his near-death experience on his own.
The three proceed on their journey through pouring rain and steep, treacherous mountainsides in search of the remote cave where Teacher Lee has stored his special wines. Won calls Teacher Lee crazy for putting them through this, and San agrees.
The rain picks up just as the trio arrive at their destination. However, before they enter the cave, San reminds the boys of their promise to only take a cupful of the wine, wagging a stern finger at them. Won cutely mirrors the finger she holds up in cheerful acknowledgement, while Rin hurries to usher them inside.
Rin sends Won in first after San, intending to look for some firewood. Before he goes, Won asks Rin if he recognizes San, who he believes to be Bi-yeon, but Rin says that he doesn’t. Won replies that seven years is a long time to remember someone after only a brief meeting, and he praises his own sharp memory, ha.
Rin walks back out into the rain and catches droplets in his hand, a thoughtful expression crossing his face. It appears that he lied to Won about not remembering San, since he recalls the day he had gone ahead into Minister Eun’s estate for reconnaissance while Won stayed by the wall.
A younger Rin had seen San putting pieces of paper into a fire, which represented all the Eun guardsmen that died that day. She sobbed the entire time and called out each of their names in mourning. She sweetly thanked the burning pieces of paper for sacrificing their lives for her, then sent a paper lantern into the sky in their honor.
Right afterward, San ran into Won, and Rin witnessed the scene we saw in the last episode, where Won delivered Madam Eun’s final words. Won held San’s hands comfortingly as she cried, and although Rin had been ready to protect the prince (even pulling out a dagger), he narrates wistfully that he was the first one to see San, and the first who wanted to hold her hand.
We return to the present and find San searching through rows of onggi (earthenware jars) filled with a wide assortment of wines. The cave is dark, and she barely avoids bumping into Won with her candle and setting him on fire.
Won is upset that San has yet to recognize him from seven years ago and proceeds to insult and badger her, as if it might jog her memory. She doesn’t even dignify his questions with a response, and walks away after shooting him a dirty look.
Soon, San finds the wine, and with their mission completed, she finally allows herself to acknowledge the cold. Won grows concerned that she may fall ill, but thankfully, Rin finally returns with the firewood.
Rin takes note of the chill, and begins to remove his outer coat hastily. San chuckles to herself, feeling pleased by Rin’s thoughtfulness, then positions herself so that he can put his coat over her shoulders… only for Rin to cover Won instead. Hahahaha!
San overcomes her embarrassment and suggests that they take a sip of a less special Arabian wine to warm up their insides.
Rin scoops out a cupful of the wine, and again, San thinks he’s doing it for her only for him to walk away and hand it to Won. After Won takes a sip, Rin asks if he can feel his body warming up, and Won expresses his shock at how strong the alcohol is, adding that this isn’t like any wine he’s had before.
Won offers Rin a taste to see for himself, and he nods in agreement. Meanwhile, San studies their exchange and remarks that the boys’ relationship seem to be a bit deeper than friendship…
Rin adamantly denies it before she can finish her sentence, causing San to facetiously ask what exactly he’s denying so vehemently. Ha.
The implication is totally lost on a clueless Won, but San takes great pleasure in teasing Rin, who becomes anxious while refuting the innuendo. She laughs so hard at Rin’s reaction that she topples over onto her back, and only then does she realize that she’s hungry.
At a very lavish-looking teahouse, Song In receives a report informing him of Won’s trip to Teacher Lee’s. He finds the development amusing, and says so aloud to his female companion, OK BOO-YONG.
Song In says that Teacher Lee is a “sly fox” that pretends to be a drunkard, and is currently in exile after angering the king by speaking his mind. Apparently, as Song In explains, the final exchange between Teacher Lee and the king was so heated that even as Teacher Lee was being dragged away by soldiers, he continued to criticize the king for his faults.
Boo-yong asks why Won would meet such a man, but Song In dismisses Won’s reasons as unimportant, and calls Boo-yong over to his side. They flirt with each other, and when Boo-yong makes a comment about the foolishness of royals, Song In kisses her to quiet her dangerous words.
In the throne room, Minister SONG BANG-YOUNG (Choi Jong-Hwan), one of the king’s advisors and Song In’s cousin, criticizes Won for constantly sneaking out of palace, and advocates for Won’s deposition.
Minister Song adds that allowing Won (whose mother is a princess from Yuan) to become king may mean putting Goryeo under total Yuan control. The other ministers gasp at the claim, but Minister Song argues that it’s the people who voice such fears, not him.
WANG YOUNG, Rin’s father, argues against Minister Song, saying that selective hearing of the people’s cries may be equally as a damaging as ignoring their cries altogether. He then describes how Won often goes undercover outside the palace to learn more about the common people, painting his excursions in a more positive light.
Instead of being pleased, the king shoots back that Won will use what he learns outside the palace to lecture him on how to be a better king, which makes it sound like Won’s done this many times before.
This gets the king worked up, and he calls for Won to be brought before him, only to be informed that Won has gone missing again. Furious, the king demands that Won be found immediately, and sends out troops to retrieve him.
Princess Wonsung (Won’s mother and wife to the king) receives word from her court lady about the chatter calling for Won’s deposition. She heads immediately to her son’s quarters, draws a sword, and drags the tip threateningly across the ground as she walks.
Princess Wonsung asks the head eunuch where Won is then swings the sword at the man, stopping just short of his head after he lies to her about Won’s whereabouts. She knows he’s lying, because the king would never send royal soldiers if Won was in Namdae, which is near the palace.
She repeats her question, and this time, she gets the truth. But when the eunuch tells her that her son went to the Doota mountains, her eyes go wide with recognition.
Princess Wonsung and the king figure out who Won went to see at around the same time, and Princess Wonsung knows Teacher Lee as someone revered by the people for speaking against the unpopular King Chungryeol.
Princess Wonsung deduces that Won probably wishes to have Teacher Lee join as an advisor and earn the loyalty of the scholars who follow Teacher Lee. However, she worries that the move will provide an opportunity for Won’s political opponents to accuse him of treason, given Teacher Lee’s exile.
Thus, she orders that Won be brought back alone through any means necessary before the king’s men can find him, and sends out one of her faithful Yuan aids, FURATAI, to perform the task.
San passes out after drinking, and Won sweetly covers her in Rin’s outer layer. He stares down at her tenderly, then marvels at how she can sleep so soundly with two men around. Rin isn’t so sure that she’s really sleeping, but Won confirms it, then demonstrates by waving his hand in front of her face while grinning.
He touches her face and realizes that her skin is cold, so Rin suggests dryly that Won’s hand might be too warm. Won is adoring as he fusses over San, and while Rin obliges his interest, he’s also intensely watchful of the two.
Suddenly, Won lies down next to San on the straw mat, then calls Rin over to join them.
Rin hesitates before doing as he’s told, even obeying Won’s orders to scoot in closer. Won stares at the sleeping San, and comments on how San is still strange in the same way she was before. Feeling uncomfortable, Rin averts his gaze and stares up at the sky.
The wine crew returns to Teacher Lee the next morning, just in time for breakfast. One of the students asks San about Won and Rin, so San explains that they earned one cupful of the alcohol. The student groans because Teacher Lee will only accept one drink today, which means that only one of them can ask their question.
Won preemptively asks that he be given the chance, but San immediately yields to Won before he even finishes asking. San lies about some business she needs to take care of in her hometown, giving Won the perfect in to meet with the teacher.
Stunned by her generosity, Won harasses her for an explanation and offers to pay her, which earns a prompt scolding from San for trying to put a price on her sacrifice. Won admits that he feels bad, but he’s interrupted by her sneeze. And ha, she indulgently wipes her dripping nose on his sleeve before trotting off.
The gross factor doesn’t really fluster him much as he offers to treat her to some delicious wine in Namdae, but San just walks away.
Won finally gets the chance to ask Teacher Lee his question. It’s an analogy, and he describes himself as being from a family that raises sheep. He explains that they have shepherd dogs to protect the flock, but one day, a wolf came in and bred with one of the shepherd dogs, so now they have a wolf-dog.
Won wants to know if the wolf-dog can become a good shepherd dog or if it will need to be cast out or killed (aw), and Teacher Lee humorously says he has no idea since it’s up to the wolf-dog to decide its fate. Won adds that the sheep are fearful of the wolf-dog, as if it might change the calculus of Teacher Lee’s answer, but he just agrees with Won, stating that the sheep’s fear is a given.
Teacher Lee looks at Won curiously before asking a pointed question about his surname, which he supposes is that of the Khan clan. Recognizing him as the prince, Teacher Lee teases Won for his analogy before offering his formal greeting, but Won does not look happy to be recognized.
Meanwhile, Furatai arrives at Teacher Lee’s home and finds JIN GWAN and JANG EUI, Won’s adorable and kind of goofy bodyguards. They find Rin and tell him that Won needs to leave immediately.
San sees Rin rush out to meet Jin Gwan and Jang Eui, and is told shortly after about the royal soldiers storming the school. The soldiers search every room, until San offers to take them to Teacher Lee and his visitors (since they expect Won to be with the teacher).
The king’s soldiers infiltrate the building that San directs them to, but when they find Teacher Lee, he’s sitting with someone who’s not Won (and reflexively clutches his precious snow dew wine, haha).
Won makes it back to the palace without incident and goes to meet with his father. Won puts on a drunken act, pretending that he was too busy partying undercover to come any sooner, but the king doesn’t look like he’s buying the cover. Won maintains his performance until he glances over to the side to see that Song In is watching the exchange.
The king looks exasperated by his son and adds grievously that if Won were a smidgen dumber, he would have died. A slew of complicated emotions cross the king’s face (sadness? relief?) before he orders Won removed from his room. What exactly is happening here?
Outside the king’s quarters, Rin waits for Won, and briefly sees Song In leave the building. The scholar nods at Rin, then leaves without saying a word.
Next, Rin sees Princess Wonsung, who slaps him across the face and growls at Rin for letting Won go to Teacher Lee. She accuses Rin of scheming to have Won captured with Teacher Lee so that his father, Wang Young, can dethrone Won and install one of his sons instead.
She hisses that Rin stays beside Won for that very reason and only acts like his friend before warning Rin to remember his place, or he’ll die by her hands.
Thankfully, Won emerges before Princess Wonsung can administer any more of her poison, and the boys share a meaningful gaze. Oh nooo, you guys are the star-crossed ones!
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Rin finds Won in his quarters later, and Won hands him medicine for the cut on his lip, which was inflicted by Princess Wonsung. Rin says he’s okay, but Won forces him to accept it, if only to make himself feel better about the whole thing. Rin accepts Won’s concern and applies the balm, but Won interrupts to take over after he deems Rin’s technique insufficient. Oh, you two.
Won scolds Rin for letting himself get cornered by his mother, and Rin argues that she appeared out of nowhere. Won asks Rin to understand his mother’s behavior, since it is informed by the deep tension between their families.
Rin does understand, because he knows that his older brother, Wang Jeon, does openly covet Won’s seat. Won casually remarks that he should just let Jeon have his position since it isn’t all that fun anyway. Won then makes a bad joke about his deposition, which Rin replies isn’t funny in the least, and so Won recalls San’s similar, lukewarm reaction to his humor.
He tells Rin what he knows about San: She was kicked out of the Eun home for failing to protect Madam Eun, then wandered around for a while until she ended up at Teacher Lee’s.
Rin is taken aback that Won has thought consistently of San over the years, and Won attributes it to the guilt he feels for the course her life took thanks to his involvement (or lack thereof) in Madam Eun’s death. He also feels shame over the fact that he never took responsibility for his mistake, and has remained silent all along.
Won comments on how Rin has forgotten all about the incident even though he can’t, and Rin averts his gaze immediately, but doesn’t reply. Instead, he changes the topic and thanks Won for the medicine.
After Rin leaves, he orders Jang Eui to locate San, since Won wants to see her again. Jang Eui replies that he’ll send some men to go get her, but Rin says that he’ll meet with her personally.
Rin returns home and happens upon his brother Jeon muttering to Song In about how he doesn’t want to see “that mixed-breed prince.” He watches his brother walk off and gets this faraway look in his eyes as he flashes back to seven years ago.
We return to the scene of carnage, where Minister Eun’s men were ravaged and Madam Eun killed while Rin and Won watched helplessly nearby. Jeon had arrived soon after and Rin tried to run out to talk to Jeon, but was stopped by Won’s then-bodyguards.
He had overheard the masked man tell one of his men to “tell the master that the girl ran away,” then saw that same man go directly to Jeon.
Later, Rin angrily confronted Jeon for orchestrating the entire massacre. Jeon had grabbed Rin by the collar, guessing that Won was with Rin, and flipped the accusation back at Rin, asking him what he and Won were doing while all those people died while he risked his life to help.
Jeon has a talent for twisting things around, and he even asked Rin about the rumor that Won likes to go out undercover and watch poor people starve. Rin had staunchly defended Won against that accusation, and so Jeon had changed his tune and offered to forget that Won and Rin were ever there that day.
Jeon added that Won was already hated by everyone in the country because of his lineage, so he warned Rin to be quiet and not make things worse for Won.
The memory ends, and Rin receives word from Jang Eui on San’s location, but is informed that Won had asked Jin Gwan separately to also look for San. Jin Gwan reports the same thing to Won, and Won realizes that San is headed toward the capital.
He worries about her walking such a long distance on her own, so Jin Gwan offers to capture her, but Won is confused by the suggestion since he sees no purpose in detaining her. Instead, he has something else in mind…
Cue one of Won’s men oh-so-casually walking by San with a bucket of water. Parched, she asks the man where she can find a well, and without replying, he brusquely fills up her water jug before running away. Oh my god, that was hilarious!
Another team of Won’s men stop a bunch of shady-looking men after they set their eyes on San. She doesn’t seem to sense anything amiss, not even after a shop owner gives her a mountain of meat buns for one measly coin. The camera pans out, and we see Jin Gwan and Won sitting on the next table over.
Won loudly mentions a place in Ansan with delicious Arabian wine before not-so-secretly feeding Jin Gwan the line he’s supposed to say next. Jin Gwan robotically asks for directions to the place with the good wine, and Won helpfully gives very specific instructions. LOL, I could watch them do this all day.
Won shields his face from San’s view, and San doesn’t seem to suspect a thing. She heads off immediately after their performance, and furtively pockets two meat buns for the road. Hilariously, the stern-looking shop owner stops San to give her the rest of the meat buns in a handy to-go bag. Full service!
San munches on more buns as she journeys, and Won watches her eat from afar, feeling satisfied. Based on San’s rate of consumption, Won concludes that they will need to set up another food stand for her, and so Jin Gwan runs ahead to arrange it. Hee.
The air suddenly changes to a melancholy mood, and Won thanks San for living well all these years, and for coming back into his life.
San’s journey takes her to back home, where she recalls the night her father sent her away to live with Teacher Lee. She asked her father when she could come home, but he had heartbreakingly replied, “Never is for the best.”
He had explained to her that they fooled the world into thinking that Bi-yeon is San, but if San stayed nearby, then their secret could one day be revealed. San promised she would protect their secret if only she could stay close, but her father had added that the risk was too great with the enemies their family had.
Through tears, San swore never to call him “Father,” but her father said she could be sent to Yuan as a tribute unless he hid her. His parting gift was her alias, “So-ah,” which meant “small wild flower in a vast meadow.” The name also represented his wish for her to live a quiet, peaceful life.
In the present, a partially masked Bi-yeon comes running out of the house, and they tearfully embrace. The girls catch up over some tea, and San learns of her father’s recent business trip to Yuan. San suggests finding a nice widow for her father to marry, so that she can nag at him and worry about his health.
The thought leads Bi-yeon to mention the suspicious people she’s seen around Minister Eun lately, though she mentions that Minister Eun has always turned them away. San theorizes it might be some family trying to marry off their daughter to a powerful man, then adds teasingly that she’ll have to report this to her mother.
San sneaks into her mother’s memorial altar after she’s sure no one is around, but she doesn’t notice Rin spying on her from high above. It isn’t long before her father joins her, and the two share a warm reunion. Minister Eun frets over his daughter’s rough hands, but San soothes his concerns.
San cries and tells her father how much she missed him, then the two hug. Rin watches only their silhouettes from outside, and is shocked when they embrace.
Meanwhile, Won has arrived at the Ansan place with good Arabian wine, and waits for San to arrive. He complains to a stray dog about how he imagines Rin would nag at him for setting up a meeting like this without hammering down the details. Won praises himself for not telling Rin, thus sparing himself from the nagging, but we cut to outside the building and see that Rin’s already waiting there.
Rin looks up at the tree—abloom with white blossoms—and tenses when he hears someone approach. He’s surprised to see San there, and lowers his guard with a smirk.
San enters the restaurant and doesn’t seem at all surprised to see Won. She plops down and steals his drink, then asks Won what kind of crime warrants royal soldiers chasing after him. Won spins her words around and makes fun of her for aiding a criminal.
She replies vaguely that it’s payment for her debt to him, then repeats her mother’s last words, the ones that he’d spoken to her when they were children. Outraged, Won asks why she pretended not to know him, but she only says that she’s been grateful to him, adding that they’re even now since she helped him with the wine.
She tells Won that she doesn’t want anyone to know that she’s the maid from that day, and hopes they never meet again. He challenges her and asks what will happen if he refuses, and so she replies gravely that she’ll probably have to kill him then. San isn’t kidding, and the look in her eyes verifies it, but Won only smiles.
Won describes his very birth as a crime, and if she should kill him, then many people would rejoice. He adds that only one person would cry for him if that were to happen. San guesses he means Rin, and Won confirms it before adding that he hasn’t died yet because he fears Rin would cry. D’aww.
As Rin overhears their conversation from outside, Won says darkly that once he decides that it’s time for him to die, on that day, he’ll seek her out to finish the job. She grows angry by what she perceives to be a bad joke, and gets up to leave. So his voice becomes louder as he grants her the authority to kill him at any time.
Won stands up to join her and announces, “In that case, and for that reason, I will need to continue seeing you.”
If you are someone only reading the recaps to try a get a sense of whether this show is worth watching, then I suggest trying out the first four episodes anyway. The selling point is really the wonderfully warm and silly relationship between Won and Rin, whose charm is hard to fully communicate through the recap. (Also, Jin Gwan and Jang Eui are the cutest little numbskulls and I demand a spin-off of their side adventures!)
The relationship between Won and Rin is the bedrock of this drama, and it’s refreshingly built on kindness and a deep devotion, which is rarer between two male lead characters vying for one woman’s heart. It’s clear that their friendship is paramount over all other meaningful relationships they have in their lives, which will bode nicely with the angst sure to come.
I’m split on whether I like the main romance, but I did enjoy San when she was part of the trio, because it brought out more of Won’s royal assiness, which is always fun. Im Shi-wan is predictably the highlight out of the three, but the other two do well with their characters, and I’m grateful that neither is drawing too much attention to their weaknesses. In fact, I think I actually like Hong Jong-hyun as Rin, which I never expected to.
I do find those recurring voiceovers (which broadly describe the boys’ great, retrospective love for San and their deep friendship) a bit hokey, but I love the flashbacks to the past because the kid actors add great layers to the characters. They really setup the relationships between each other very well, which made me warm to the main adult trio much sooner than I otherwise might have.
I certainly would not mind spending several episodes exclusively on the kid actors, which would be par for the course with a sageuk, but I think this interspersed narrative style is important to the development of the romance. So I’ll endure the whiplash, even though I do think the transitions between time periods could be a bit more elegant and fluid.
On another note, I am getting some Faith vibes from the king and Princess Wonsung, who are very dramatic and play these larger-than-life characters, similar to the villains in Faith. The comparison makes me nervous because the lead characters in Faith weren’t necessarily matching the tone of the villains, which ended up for a jarring viewing experience. Since it’s the same writer, I worry it might be her tendency in sageuks to take a more grandiose and theatrical vibe with some of her characters, but I’m crossing my fingers that we don’t lose this cheeky spirit that I love.
- The King Loves: Episodes 1-2
- Premiere Watch: School 2017, The King Loves, Man Who Dies to Live, Reunited Worlds
- A house and friendship divided in The King Loves
- Tension in a garden of flowers for The King Loves
- Assassin-filled forests and masked dances in The King Loves
- Main writer behind The King Loves revealed to be Song Ji-nah
- The King Loves to play in azalea-filled forests
- Yoon-ah steals the hearts of two best friends in The King Loves
- Im Shi-wan as a young prince for MBC’s The King Loves