The King Loves: Episodes 17-18
Whoa. WHOA. This show is bringing its A game today, and as a result, I have so many feeeels! Everything we’ve been building toward is finally clashing and shaking our characters to their fundamental cores. As usual, the boys are pushed to the brink, and are asked to rise to challenges designed to drive them apart (including their own personality foibles) and turn them against one another. Unbeknownst to Won, at the center of their conflict is San, who seems determined to do everything she can to protect everyone but herself.
EPISODE 17 RECAP
We return to the most awkward tea party in Goryeo: Princess Wonsung plays it cool regarding Dan’s surprise arrival, only to reveal her trump card in the form of a veiled San. Won recognizes her as Minister Eun’s scarred daughter, and Princess Wonsung tries to give Won a hint by detailing San’s disappearing scar from an expert physician’s magic touch.
Won doesn’t really put the pieces together, so Princess Wonsung instructs San to remove her veil. San is taken aback, realizing only now that she’s also been caught in Princess Wonsung’s trap. Won gasps to finally learn San’s true identity, as Princess Wonsung watches their reactions keenly.
Princess Wonsung grills San on Minister Eun’s treasonous intentions by scheming to have San disqualified from being a Yuan tribute with the fake scar nonsense. She adds a tidbit about San’s near-forced marriage to Jeon, indicating that she’s figured everything out already.
The princess then moves over to Dan to ask what Won had told her when he had invited her to the tea party. Dan peeks over to Won, who is stunned into silence as he stares back at San.
The scene ends, and we go back three days prior to Won and San’s conversation on the bridge.
We see Won tell San cryptically that if she ever finds out his secret (i.e. his real identity), she may come to dislike him. Even so, he says that for him, she would always be his “number one,” and she should never forget it.
San has something to say also, and hands Won her mother’s ring, which she wears around her neck. Won refuses to accept the gift, citing its preciousness, but San insists, explaining that should he ever need something from her, all he must do is present the ring to her and she’ll grant it.
The prospect excites him, and though he’s suspicious, when San tries to take it back, Won pulls it out of her reach. Ha.
That evening, San returns home to find Boo-yong waiting for her. San rudely tries to send Boo-yong away, so Boo-yong calls San by her real name, which stops San in her tracks.
She meaningful calls San “agasshi” (suggesting that San is highborn), and San’s eyes widen. San threatens Boo-yong with her dagger, snarling at Boo-yong for speaking nonsense.
To calm her down, Boo-yong mentions Won’s hypothetical complicity in San’s lie, and adds that the king would be very interested in the topic.
Won returns home as well and receives a status report on Dan’s well-being from Jin Gwan. At Jin Gwan’s sullen expression, Won promises to stop Dan from being sent to Yuan, and he tells the lovestruck guard not to worry.
Jin Gwan doesn’t perk up at the promise, which prompts Won to guess that something else has gone wrong. It has, and Jin Gwan informs Won of Rin’s visit to Princess Wonsung’s, implying that Rin is being held there against his will.
Won heads to his mother’s and casts Rin a disapproving glare as he walks in. Princess Wonsung seems delighted to see Won, but Won only wants to talk about Rin.
Princess Wonsung explains patiently that Rin is helping her compile the many tribute gifts to be sent to Yuan. Won doesn’t buy her answer, so he goes directly to Rin and demands that he tell him what he is doing with his mother. Won already knows that Rin is here on behalf of Dan, but he tells Rin that he should have come to him first, and not his mother.
Rin denies everything, so Won says with a hurt look in his eyes, “You don’t trust me.” Oof. That look.
Won then turns toward his mother and drops to his knees, vowing to beg for months if that’s what it takes to save Dan. Won says to his mother that Rin personally asked him to prevent the marriage between Jeon and San, because he worried it might be a detriment to Won. He did it knowing it would impact Jeon and Dan negatively.
Princess Wonsung grows enraged to see Won kneeling for what she views as a trifling matter, and tells Won how she purposefully used honorifics with him from the moment he was born, because she knew that one day he would become king.
She shouts at Won to rise, but he refuses until she gives her word that she will not send Dan to Yuan. Rin joins Won on the floor and implores him to stand, but Won doesn’t move.
Princess Wonsung tells Won that Dan has already been removed from the list, but the look in her eyes is deeply disturbed, as if she’s finally realizing how strong Won’s attachment to Rin is. Rin reiterates Princess Wonsung’s claims, which finally convinces Won. (But he doesn’t know why Dan isn’t being sent, and that Rin sacrificed himself for it.)
In a carriage, Boo-yong stares at San intrigued, then tells her about Won’s announcement to the king regarding his feelings for San. They exchange barbs back and forth, until San asks Boo-yong where they are headed.
Instead of giving a straight answer, Boo-yong tells San that the person they are going to said that if he were of royal blood, then he would have kept San for himself.
They arrive at a commoner’s house, where a group of commoners and royal soldiers surround a dead body. Song In appears besides San and tells her that the daughter of the household was taken to be sent to Yuan as a palace maid.
In flashback, we see a group of soldiers roughly grabbing the young girl from her home. Her mother rushed out to stop them, but was pushed aside before being beaten by the guards. Her father arrived to fend off the soldiers, but was subsequently killed for defending his family.
Grieving for her husband and daughter, the mother later committed suicide, leaving behind a mourning son. Song In tells San that so many citizens of Goryeo have similar stories of losing precious daughters to become tributes.
San watches the villagers carry the father’s body away, and when the group knocks into her, Song In grabs her by the waist and pulls her aside. They share a prolonged moment of closeness, until San rips his hand away.
She demands to know what Song In is cooking up by showing her the scene. He explains that he wanted her to see the tragedy for herself, then mentions how Teacher Lee once spoke of a rare and promising student with a compassionate heart who cares for the poor and the weak.
San retorts that Song In is suspicious and has dubious spies all over the place, including one next to the king, as she pointedly looks over to Boo-yong standing nearby. San begins to leave, which prompts Song In to ask San to join him in helping the powerless people of Goryeo.
At home, Bi-yeon hears a sound outside and goes to see if it’s San coming home. She calls out to San formally, even while she herself is dressed like a noblewoman and wearing her veil. She finds one of the servants unconscious on the ground, then turns around just in time to see Furatai approach.
He subdues her and carries her to a hidden part of the garden before interrogating her on her identity. She lies nervously that she was Minister Eun’s daughter, but Furatai sees through her and soon holds a sword against her throat.
He raises it after Bi-yeon continually refuses to confess who she is, but right before he’s about to strike her, an arrow whizzes by to stop him. He surrenders immediately, then flees the scene.
After he leaves, Moo-suk emerges from the shadows and hurries to Bi-yeon. He catches her as she faints and sees the scar on her cheek, realizing the mix-up seven years ago. He then picks her up and carries her back to her room. (What is with the romantic music?)
The next morning, Won storms into the Yuan envoy’s office where all the tribute items are being stored, and pretends to be searching for the perfect gift to send his esteemed grandfather, the emperor of Yuan.
Turns out he’s really looking for the list of tributes to Yuan to confirm Dan’s removal, but doesn’t find it. Jin Gwan brings Won a scroll, which Won then throws down in anger after reading its contents.
He manages to force his mother (using a little bit of blackmail) to release Rin, who is brought directly to Geumgajeong. Upon his arrival, Rin is ambushed by Won, and soon, they are engaged in a sparring match.
The fight is one-sided since Rin refuses to do anything but defend himself, so Won screams at Rin to fight him properly. Rin senses something else behind Won’s actions, and tells Won to say what he means instead of beating around the bush.
Won takes issue with Rin always allowing himself to be defeated by him in everything they’ve ever competed in. Finally, Rin kicks Won full force, but as soon as he does, all of Won’s bodyguards descend to restrain Rin. Won orders his men not to touch Rin, then walks up to him.
With tears in his eyes, Won asks if Rin intended to leave as a hostage without him knowing, then berates Rin for thinking that way. Rin states that he meant to tell him eventually, but Won doesn’t believe him.
Won asks, his voice breaking, if Rin truly wants to see him go crazy. As Won speaks, Rin thinks to himself:
“The prince has been deceived by me. As expected, His Highness has no idea. It isn’t for his sake that I want to leave. The reason why I want to leave… is because of me.”
San appears behind Won at that moment, and Rin stares at her in longing as he adds, “It is because my heart is crumbling apart piece by piece everyday.” Won turns around to look at San and fakes a smile to act as if all is well.
Afterwards, San prepares an ice pack for Won’s bleeding lip, then smothers him when he complains about the coldness. Won realizes San knows that he and Rin were fighting for real, and asks why she isn’t curious to know the reason. She plays it off like it isn’t a big deal, and doesn’t really answer.
Rin hovers around the table where Won and San are sitting, but San is careful not to look up at him, and so Rin retreats to stare out the window.
Their behavior isn’t lost on Won, who notes to himself:
“When did it start? These two won’t look each other in the eye. Instead, she looks at me. She talks to me in a kind voice. And she smiles. And the guy who cannot fake a smile or lie looks elsewhere, stops talking, and goes into hiding. Now, he is determined to leave far away. It’s not like they don’t want to look at each other, but they work hard to ignore each other.”
Won studies them closely as San fusses over him with the ice pack and Rin pretends not to notice.
Won tattles on Rin for offering himself as a hostage to San, and for the first time, she looks right at Rin in alarm. Rin downplays the situation, but Won explains to San that that’s the real reason they were fighting.
Rin leaves to retrieve medicine for Won, and Won watches San’s eyes follow Rin as he goes. He reclaims her attention and tells her not to worry because he’ll ensure that Rin won’t leave for Yuan. She believes him, which pleases him greatly, since it shows her trust in him.
He takes her by the hand as he tells her how complicated the situation has become because of Rin’s sacrifice. She offers to help, but he tells her that all she needs to do is answer who is his “number one.”
She looks nervous before answering, but finally says that it’s her, and he smiles. Soon, she becomes insecure with his hand holding hers, and pulls away, which brings a darkened expression to Won’s face.
She walks away, and Won watches her intently, his expression anxious.
EPISODE 18 RECAP
King Chungryeol and Minister Song play baduk, where the latter tells the king about the queen’s upcoming match-making tea party. The king doesn’t seem that interested in the topic, since he’s more worried about when Boo-yong will return to his side.
Minister Song tells the king of a rumor that Princess Wonsung is interested in making one girl in particular the crown princess, with the rest being a mere formality.
Speaking of, Princess Wonsung arrives at Minister Eun’s to meet his daughter. Meanwhile, Won reports Rin’s hostage-tribute situation to Wang Young. Jeon panics at the thought of being sent next, and Wang Young warns Jeon to mind his words.
Won correctly guesses that Wang Young rushed the marriage with San to keep Dan from leaving, and so he apologizes for disrupting their plans.
Princess Wonsung is brought to Bi-yeon, but is told by Furatai that she is the fake daughter. She searches among the group of servants and eventually finds San in her commoner garb and no scar, recognizing her just by the way San looks at her.
Minister Eun tries to take all the blame for the lie, so Princess Wonsung informs them, in grisly detail, of what happened to the other minister whose daughter pretended to become a monk to escape being a tribute: torture and exile.
San gets to her knees and begs Princess Wonsung to spare her sickly father from torture, and volunteers to receive both her and her father’s punishment. She mentions how Minister Eun will be a powerful supporter for Princess Wonsung given his influence and deep connections around the world.
Simultaneously, Won asks for Wang Young’s permission to marry Dan, as Princess Wonsung tells San that her fate is contingent on her being selected as the crown princess during the tea party.
Later, Won waits outside for Dan to arrive so that he may ask her to marry him, but before she arrives, he reflects aloud on his relative powerlessness and hopes for understanding. Jin Gwan appears from the corner, and bows to Won in recognition. Poor baby.
After Princess Wonsung leaves, Bi-yeon helps San pick out a suitable outfit for the tea party. She urges San to make the prince fall in love with her, but San is lost in thought, and Bi-yeon guesses that San must be thinking about “him.”
She advise San to forget him, but San suddenly asks if Bi-yeon’s heart races at the thought of the man who saved her. Eww, gross! No!
Bi-yeon calls her out on changing the topic and San replies vaguely that if the crown prince sees her tomorrow, “One will be pleased. He might even clap, and commend me.” She gets a weary look in her eyes and adds, “The other… will be very sad. Not because of me, but because of the other man. He has to go very far away.”
Bi-yeon becomes confused by San’s riddles, as San describes how both men will soon become unhappy and hate her for it. She then remarks that knowing a man’s heart is the hardest thing of all.
Later that night, after Won conditionally proposes to Dan, Rin visits her. He sits outside her door and stares up at the moon while Dan remains inside as they chat.
Rin quietly tells Dan that she does not have to marry Won because her name is no longer on the list of tributes. Dan tears, recalling Won’s harsh words about never being able to make her his first priority.
Rin asks if Dan can accept that kind of marriage, and she swears that she’s fine with that, but Rin says that she won’t be, because the closer she is to Won, the worse she will feel. Dan argues that he doesn’t understand her one-sided feelings and deep longing for Won, adding that she cannot give Won up because her heart is out of control.
She asks Rin if he thinks she’s crazy, and he answers that he does not. He smiles and says that they are so alike before apologizing suddenly.
He doesn’t explain himself, and when Dan opens the door to confront him, he’s already gone.
The next morning, Rin pays San a visit. She finds him sitting on the roof of her room, and jumps up to join him. He tells her that he wants to take her to Geumgajeong where Won is, so that she can tell him the truth about her identity.
He already knows about the tea party and wants Won to be armed with all the information before making his choice, because only then can he choose correctly.
San surmises that Rin is trying to say that Won should not choose Dan. He’s surprised that she knows, and she tells him that Song In told her about Dan.
We flash back to see the rest of Song In’s conversation with San, where he apologized for their first meeting. He explained that he was acting out of desperation and supposed she must think that he’s evil. He added that the person she trusts (Won) is considered evil by the people of Goryeo.
In return, San called Song In a rebel who doesn’t value life, and one who likes to twist words to serve his schemes. But she’d listened when he revealed Dan’s circumstances to her.
We move out of the flashback, and San asks Rin if Song In was telling the truth about Dan being a tribute. Rin confirms it, but says that Dan’s situation has been resolved. San figures that Rin is going in Dan’s place, but he doesn’t want to discuss it and tries to hurry her to Won.
San follows when he gets up, only to lose her balance and stumble forward. Rin springs forward and catches her around the waist, and his embrace triggers San’s memory as she realizes that Rin is the masked man who saved her at Song In’s teahouse so many nights ago.
She calls out to him, but he runs off and tells her that he’ll wait outside for her to get changed.
Internally, San thinks, “Now, I know whose hands held me safe that night. If I ask why, he will say his friend sent him to watch me. Now, I know why every now and then my heart pounded and ached. They have a beautiful friendship. They look great together. I am afraid that I will ruin their friendship.”
They arrive at Geumgajeong, and Rin urges her inside, promising her that Won will be happy to learn the truth. She walks through the doors and thinks, “I have only one thing to do. I must do all I can to ensure that they can stay close to each other as they always did. It would make me feel lonely, but that is my friendship.”
We return to the scene at the tea party from the beginning of the episode as Dan struggles to answer Princess Wonsung’s question, so Won interrupts and tells his mother what he had told Dan. He had told Dan about the party and how he was supposed to pick his wife there, but then he asks San if she also knew all of this before coming today.
She says that she did, and her confirmation looks as if it’s breaking his heart word by word. He asks if she knew everything before asking for her favor yesterday, including his identity, and his eyes fill with tears when she replies that she did.
We cut back to San visiting Won at Geumgajeong the day before. San entered Won’s chambers to his total shock then told him of her favor, which she wanted him to deliver to the crown prince.
She asked for the crown prince to completely ignore “her mistress” at the tea party, even if he likes her.
Won had wondered if San hoped her mistress wouldn’t marry the crown prince, and she confirmed it, explaining that her mistress is in love with another man. GAH! OH BOY!
Finally, we go back to the tea party, where Won looks at San furiously, feeling completely betrayed. Suddenly, he addresses the room and makes his announcement for his choice of wife. He calls Dan to his side and names her his princess.
Princess Wonsung watches with a complicated expression, as San’s eyes shine with emotion.
San! What are you doing? I kind of understand why San is stonewalling Won, but I also really don’t understand. First Rin, and now San. Everyone needs to get into a room and hash everything out instead of having all these internal monologues about what they feel or notice or realize without ever speaking about these things aloud. I have to side with Won today, because he’s been repeatedly telling his friends to come to him and trust him. It’s tragic that they can’t seem to do that when it matters most. Argh! So frustrating!
I honestly liked the way Rin and Won worked things out—not necessarily the fighting part (though it was funny to see all the guards immediately pin Rin after he finally got in one hit), but the reasons. I like that Won continues to challenge Rin to defend his interpretation of their friendship, and his noble idiocy. You can see that Won truly, deeply, and desperately wants Rin to rely on him, but it’s difficult for Rin, and that remains the heart of their conflict. It wasn’t even wholly about San, instead it was regarding this basic truth about their friendship that they have never been able to agree on.
On that topic, I was thrilled that Rin’s explanation for wanting to go to Yuan was for himself and not for Won. You could read that in several ways, but I choose to believe that it isn’t only because Rin is conditioned to defer to Won, but also because he doesn’t want to fight with his friend, since it isn’t in his nature. And though his actions are being interpreted as selfless, to Rin, they feel selfish, and I like that sentiment. It’s a very important distinction for his character.
I’m kind of afraid that San’s betrayal might be Won’s breaking point. He’s been so patient with Rin thus far, and I really dread to see it go up in smoke, even though I feel it coming. I really want to give Won more credit because he’s been dogged about this friendship and is always trying to do the right thing, but man, I would totally understand if he couldn’t get past this blow in the short-term.
I also would really like to know what San is thinking, because Princess Wonsung was pretty clear about her two options. I doubt we’ll see Minister Eun be tortured to death, but if San returns to that horrible interrogation room, I’ll be very annoyed. Saving Won and Rin’s friendship is really sweet (and abstractly a very poetic sentiment, given the themes of this drama—I like that she said it was her way of friendship), but talking it out probably makes more sense, and is ultimately kinder to Won. I really hope San begins to see the error of her thought process, and how it could be more destructive to the people she cares for.
By the way, I love what they’re doing with Princess Wonsung, because she’s a fascinating character and is acted so well. The character can be over the top, but today she dialed it down and had these powerful, silent moments, which gave us great insight into the character. The actress nailed those complex expressions, and I really enjoyed those scenes.
On another note, my favorite scene today was between Dan and Rin. These two make my heart explode with their love for one another, and it almost makes me forget that Jeon is their brother. Gah, they’re so sweet and wonderful, but absolutely heartbreaking! Speaking of baddies, are they seriously trying to set up a Moo-suk and Bi-yeon loveline? Guyliner literally slashed her in the face with a sword, and killed Madam Eun. I don’t care how many babies he saves from oddly edited stampeding horses, he hasn’t redeemed himself.
That aside, I’m really encouraged by how things are shaping up, and very excited (and nervous) to see what is around the corner for all our characters.
- 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