The King Loves: Episodes 35-36
Some great performances highlight these episodes as our trio tries to navigate their way through perilous times. Even though it’s been building for a long while now, Won’s descent into darkness comes at the worst possible time, but a certain poisonous relationship may just offer some hope. Rin and San struggle with what it means to be Won’s friend as his vortex of grief and anger threatens to consume all of them, but an impulsive decision by Won may settle things once and for all.
EPISODE 35 RECAP
As Rin waits on the bridge for San, we hear his narration, “Ever since I was young, I was always one step behind. It was not because I was slow. I chose to stay at the back… It made me happy to see you happy.”
The doors to Princess Wonsung’s chambers open, and Won slowly makes his way to his mother’s body. When he sees her, Won’s face crumples as sobs of grief overcome him. A physician explains that Princess Wonsung had been ill for some time, but Won grabs him and screams, “That is not why she died!”
When Won calls for Court Lady Jo, Eunuch Kim informs him that she was taken for interrogation on Rin’s orders, so he yells for Furatai and learns that he died guarding Princess Wonsung. A female guard kneels before Won and tearfully explains that all of the guards who accompanied his mother to the king’s palace were killed. She makes sure that he knows that when Princess Wonsung emerged from the king’s palace, she specifically mentioned that Boo-yong was there.
San makes her way through the palace grounds but hides when she hears Generals Ko Sung and Lim Chi-young approach. She hears them discuss a rumor that the king murdered the queen and that private armies are on the move. General Lim Chi-young worries that in the event of a civil war, he isn’t sure whose side to support, but their conversation is cut short when they learn that Won is headed for the king’s palace.
Rin races along the palace grounds but hides when he sees Minister Song on his way to meet Song In. After Song In dispatches Moo-suk and his men on an assignment, Minister Song chastises him for making his move. Song In assures him that he wouldn’t have killed Furatai without a plan in place—he just didn’t expect Princess Wonsung to die so soon.
Boo-yong is with the king when Song In checks on his condition and tells Minister Song, “I need you to bring either Wang Jeon or Wang Rin to hear the king’s will.” Uh-oh. Minister Song can’t believe his ears when Song In confides, “The king will never wake up.”
Song In explains that he intends to make use of Won’s desire for revenge and orders the agitated Minister Song, “Just bring one of the Wang brothers. We need a king.” Once she’s alone, Boo-yong prepares more incense for the king to make Song In’s plan a reality.
Song In sees Won approaching and manages to get away, but Minister Song walks right into him. He falls to his knees and pretends to know nothing about Princess Wonsung’s death, but when Won places a sword against his neck, Minister Song admits that Princess Wonsung visited the king and became angry when she saw Boo-yong.
Won doubts that Boo-yong’s presence alone angered his mother, so Minister Song lies that the king shouted at Princess Wonsung and had her guards killed when they tried to protect her. When Minister Song informs Won that the king is in his bedroom, he only wants to know, “Is she with him?”
Boo-yong places some incense in a container next to the king and then immediately drinks a cup of tea. She freezes when Rin enters the room and proceeds to hurl the container across the room.
Boo-yong runs right into Won as she escapes from the king’s room. Like his mother had done herself once before, Won drags a sword along the ground as he walks, and when Boo-yong stumbles and falls to the floor, he simply announces, “Here she is.”
Won demands to know why Boo-yong did what she did to his mother, but Boo-yong protests that she had nothing to do with Princess Wonsung’s death. The tip of his sword grates along the floor as Won steps closer and tells Boo-yong that she should have at least waited a few days.
Numbly, Won recalls that he refused to meet with his mother because he didn’t trust her, unaware that it was his last chance to see her. He points the sword at Boo-yong and softly chides, “You should have given me another chance to see her and to talk to her. I have more things to say to her.”
Suddenly defiant, Boo-yong looks Won in the eye and stuns him as she claims, “Her Highness brought this upon herself. If she had left, she would be alive… she should have lived a quiet life. Why did she come and meddle with me?”
Won swings his sword, and blood sprays across a screen as Boo-yong falls back. San yells out when she arrives and she hugs Won from behind as she begs him to stop. Won pries San’s hands from his waist and pushes her to the ground so that he can continue on to his father’s rooms, dragging the sword along the way.
San joins Won in the king’s empty bedroom as he yells out, “Why did you kill her? Why? What did she do so wrong?” San pulls Won into a hug, but he eventually pushes her away, throws down his sword, and screams out in anger and grief.
It’s nighttime when Goo-hyung is admitted to a heavily guarded house and reports through a set of closed doors, “Around midnight tonight, they will begin the mourning. They could not wait around for His Majesty anymore.” Inside, Rin, Teacher Lee, and his trusted assistant sit with the still unconscious king.
Teacher Lee examines the container that held Boo-young’s incense and affirms that it smells like poison. Rin confides that the incense was always burning in the king’s room and is convinced that it weakened the healthy king.
When Rin asks for a way to revive the king, Teacher Lee informs him that with Boo-yong dead, they must consult a royal doctor. He sends his assistant to bring his friend, who happens to be a royal doctor.
Teacher Lee sits with Rin to confirm his theory, “The original plan was for you to begin the deliberative council and… while I wrap the council up, you were going to run away with my assets.”
When Rin admits to the plan, Teacher Lee kindly urges that there’s still time and advises that they should run away before dawn. Rin looks at the king as Teacher Lee encourages, “When you run away, you should never look back. Just look ahead.”
Later, Teacher Lee finds Rin in the courtyard and asks, “Why are you still here?” Rin admits, “It feels like I have a stone tied around my ankle,” then adds, “I am sure Lady San is with His Majesty right now… she would not be able to leave him alone at a time like this.”
When Rin worries about Won being left alone, Teacher Lee realizes that he’s the stone that’s holding Rin back. Rin decides it’s not the right time to leave and promises, “After I get rid of this stone. After I take a load off of my ankles and heart, then I will go.”
Song In somberly approaches the spot where Boo-yong was killed, her blood still pooled on the floor. He recalls that he was just on the other side of the door when she protested that Princess Wonsung’s death wasn’t her fault.
Boo-yong saw him and gave him a small smile before she defiantly blamed Princess Wonsung for her interference. Song In squeezes his eyes shut as he remembers the moment that Won’s sword struck Boo-yong, while he did nothing.
He wanders into the king’s chambers and imagines Boo-yong greeting him with a hug as she shares how much she missed him. He drops to the floor and screams as he shakes with rage and eventually vows, “Crown Prince Wang Won. You did something you should not have. You must pay the price.”
While Won is dressed in a white robe for his mother’s funeral, San meets Bi-yeon outside with a message for Rin, “I apologize for not being there. I am not being detained. It is not yet time to leave, and that is why I cannot go.” When Bi-yeon wonders when San will rejoin them, she decides, “When I see the crown prince smile, I will go.”
Still dressed as one of his guards, San joins Won as Princess Wonsung’s funeral begins. Court Lady Jo sets a bouquet of peonies on a table and then places Princess Wonsung’s shoes in a fire. Accompanied by Yuan chants, Won waves his mother’s robe in circles as Rin witnesses everything from the rooftop.
Won stands in the middle of the king’s chambers as his guards conduct a thorough search. San enters the quarters just as Jang Eui brings in a guard who testifies that a carriage left the palace at noon. The guard admits that the carriage wasn’t inspected because it was driven by Rin, so Won concludes that he took the king.
Won’s guards haven’t found what he’s looking for, and a detained minister confesses that he delivered the king’s seal that morning. Won assumes that Rin took the king’s seal as well and orders Jang Eui to have guards monitor Dan’s chambers in case he contacts her. When Jang Eui hesitates, Won reminds him that he was just given a royal command.
Once the guards leave, Won confronts San about her disguise, “Did you sneak out and return, or are you about to leave?” When she admits that she came back, Won coldly explains that she’s now his hostage, since Rin is sure to return for her.
Rin confronts Song In about Princess Wonsung’s death and demands to know his plan. Song In eventually admits that he contacted the emperor and requested the king’s abdication, since he’s too weak to manage his duties.
He adds the Won isn’t a suitable successor because he killed someone considered to be his other mother, “He must be deposed. We will suggest that you become king.” Rin also learns that Song In isn’t concerned about the king’s approval, since he has the king’s seal and can do whatever he wants.
San enters Princess Wonsung’s chambers and discovers the fallen peony. Won finds her gathering its petals and confesses, “I thought you had left because I could not find you.” San explains, “When I was young, you relayed me my mother’s last message. I remembered something to tell you: [Princess Wonsung] told me how she grew to like peonies.”
When Won admits that his mother never told him her story, San explains that his mother often stole the glances of the crown prince of Goryeo (future King Chungryeol) when he visited and that one day, he offered her a peony. San offers Won the petals and explains, “Right before she died, she asked for a peony. They gave her one, and she held it to her heart. I guess it was this one.”
Won takes the petals of his mother’s last peony as he admits that he was all that his mother had, but her attention burdened him, so he acted out and avoided her palace, where he felt suffocated.
Won sadly notes that his mother chose death because the king and his people planned to humiliate her. San takes his arm and urges him to stop thinking about her, but Won tosses it off and warns, “I will pretend not to know your feelings for Rin. Give it up as fast as you can. If you do that, Rin will get a chance to live.”
With that, Won walks away and leaves San alone to consider his words.
EPISODE 36 RECAP
The royal doctor determines that the gravely ill king was poisoned with a slow acting toxin and likely experienced nightmares and hallucinations until he absorbed enough poison to cause organ failure. An antidote is his only hope, and the doctor explains that it’s usually made at the same time as the poison, in case the culprit experiences accidental exposure.
Bi-yeon exits the guarded house during the night to meet Moo-suk. He wonders what all of those men are protecting, so Bi-yeon volunteers that it must be someone noble because they sent for a royal doctor.
A badly battered Eunuch Choi lies on the floor of Won’s chambers whiles General Ko Sung explains that he was locked up in Princess Wonsung’s palace after she interrogated him. With San present, Won demands to be told everything that Eunuch Choi knows, but he says nothing until he’s about to be taken away.
Eunuch Choi looks at San as he confesses, “I just did as I was told. I had no idea how that would affect anyone.” He admits that Boo-yong gave him her father’s medicine: “She told me to leave the medicine in the queen’s room and to make sure that you saw it there.”
Won grabs Eunuch Choi and demands to know who was behind the murder, and learns that Minister Song and Song In were involved, among others. Eunuch Choi asks for San’s understanding as he confesses, “I did this for the pure-blooded prince and for the next king of Goryeo. I only did this for the sake of this country.”
Won tosses Eunuch Choi aside as he realizes that he falsely accused his mother of Minister Eun’s murder, while San comes to terms with the truth that her father’s death was designed to implicate Princess Wonsung.
General Ko Sung leads a raid on the king’s hidden palace and finds Prince Gangyang in a sorry state, while General Lim Chi-young arrests Wang Young in place of his missing sons.
When Won’s guards raid Song In’s teahouse, Jang Eui finds one of the co-conspirators that Eunuch Choi named in Minister Eun’s murder. Won sees San on the upper floor and notices when someone passes behind a curtain and catches her eye. And then, he loses sight of her when some guards bring him a chest filled with silver and scrolls.
Inside the teahouse, Rin pulls San into one of the rooms. After he makes sure that she’s all right, he admits, “I had a lot to say, but I cannot remember anything.” San tells him that Princess Wonsung didn’t order her father’s death and that it was the men around the king, but Rin admits that he already knows. When San asks Rin if he’s joined those men, he admits that he has and promises to explain everything to her soon.
San urges Rin to explain himself to Won, who she is sure will understand, but he sadly shakes his head in reply. When Won calls out for San, Rin takes her hand and explains that because he can’t get inside the palace, he needs her to search Boo-yong’s body for an antidote.
When San walks into the hallway, Won brushes past her to look out of the window just as Rin turns around. He runs after Rin and sees him at the end of a busy street, where he lingers for just a few seconds before he disappears from sight. San catches up and looks on sadly as Won yells out, “Wang Rin! Show yourself!” Then he quietly wonders, “Where are you?”
As Rin runs away, he bumps into two young boys in the middle of a race. He remembers his boyhood escapades with Won and his declaration: “As of now, you are my friend. Treat me as such. That is an order.”
Rin also remembers his father’s warning: “Do not try to be a real friend. The crown prince will be king. He cannot have friends.” In the present, Rin stands alone as he admits to himself that he never understood, “How are real friends different from any other friends? Where should I draw the line?”
Song In prepares ink and admits that he was never really interested in Goryeo and its people. He turns to the chair beside him to confess to an imaginary Boo-yong, “The world is a board, and the people are my chess pieces.”
Minister Song runs up after hearing that the king was found and urges Song In to bring him back. He’s horrified when he learns that the king will only live a few more days without the antidote, since that means that Won will become king.
Minister Song panics, certain that they’ll be killed, but Song In acts unconcerned as he addresses the empty chair and explains to Boo-yong, “The crown prince will soon find out how it feels to see someone you cherish die.” Song In’s words stop making sense, and a bewildered Minister Song watches as he prepares to write a letter. (The king isn’t the only one who needs that antidote.)
Teacher Lee turns down the offer of a carriage from Goo-hyung and opts to travel to the palace on foot. Along the way, Teacher Lee explains to his assistant that Won doesn’t like to drink, but they’re interrupted when they suddenly find themselves surrounded by Moo-suk’s men.
Wang Young’s voice is heard asking Won, “How many people are you arresting? Generals, ministers, officials, and now, even the eunuchs.” Won reminds his father-in-law that he was brought to the palace to be interrogated, but Wang Young argues that while the men that he’s after are guilty of abuse, there are still rules that need to be followed.
Won is alarmed when Jang Eui returns alone, and then recalls that San asked to be excused. He checks a string at his waist and notices that his emblem is missing, which is what San uses to get into the building where Boo-yong’s body is stored.
San steels herself to pull back the mat that covers Boo-yong and apologizes for the intrusion. She searches the pocket in Boo-yong’s sleeve and becomes anxious when she finds nothing, but a search of the second sleeve produces a small bottle.
Won exits his rooms just as Jeon is escorted to the palace after turning himself in. Jeon kneels before Won and confesses, “I know where the king is. He is with my brother, Rin.”
Wang Young urges Jeon to share what he knows, so he presents Won with a scroll and says, “It is the king’s letter announcing that he will abdicate in Rin’s favor… I am sure Rin threatened him and stole his seal.” (How are he and Rin even related?) Won tears open the scroll and reads the letter that bears his father’s seal.
Without an explanation, Moo-suk walks into the house where the king is hidden and pulls Bi-yeon away.
Rin and the doctor are with the king when they suddenly hear a noise outside. Rin grabs his sword as he runs out, only to be confronted by Jang Eui and Won’s guards, who check the room and discover the king inside.
When Rin prevents Won from approaching the king, the guards, with the exception of Jang Eui, point their swords at Rin. Rin wants to know what Won plans to do to the king, but Won ignores him to order a search of the house and orders that anyone who resists will be killed.
Won declares, “Wang Rin. His men killed the queen and abducted the king to plot treason.”
Won steps closer to Rin to ask menacingly, “Why are you still standing? You should kneel and await my command.” Rin dares to asks for a promise first: “The King has been unconscious for a while. He needs healing.” To this, Won just angrily hisses, “I will look after my father.”
Rin tries to warn Won as he says, “The men you spoke of are spread throughout Goryeo. Even if you eliminate a few, they go so deep that it will not be easy.” Won takes the words as a threat, even as Rin adds, “If you wish to do this, eliminate them at once without hesitation.”
Won presents the letter of abdication as Rin narrates, “I was always a step behind you… only then could I see you clearly.” Won insists that Rin wanted the throne for a particular reason as his narration continues, “If I so much as got distracted, I feared that you would be crushed completely.”
Won orders, “Get out of my sight. Do not let me see you again,” but he’s interrupted when San cries, “Move! Get out of my way.” The guards block her, but when San looks at Rin, Won grabs a sword and warns her not to step forward or make a sound.
Won draws the sword and approaches Rin as he demands, “You need not yield to me. Cut me down if you can. Become king.” With a savage look, Won points his sword as Rin remembers, “You were always on edge.”
Rin pulls out his sword and moves into position as he looks over at San and realizes, “Despite your situation, I must now leave you. I am sorry, dear friend.”
Rin breaks his gaze with San and turns his sorrow-filled eyes to Won as he raises his sword. He yells as he swings his sword, and when it clashes with Won’s, he’s surprised by the intensity of the contact.
Won’s eyes are cold and hostile as he pushes Rin away and raises his sword over his head, but Rin allows his sword to fall to the ground just as Won brings his down, slashing him.
Dazed, Rin tries to look for San as he struggles to stand, and Won watches as he falls to his knees. San pushes past the guards to run to Rin’s side and manages to catch him as he falls. She cradles Rin’s head in her lap as he bleeds from his wound, while Won stands alone.
Strong performances by Im Shi-wan and Hong Jong-hyun anchored these episodes as Won unraveled in the wake of his mother’s death and swallowed the lies fed to him about his lifelong friend. Won’s emotions were all over the place, and Im Shi-wan was spectacular as he cried, raged, and quietly threatened one person after another. Right there with him was Hong Jong-hyun, who embodied a Rin who remained steady until the end, even though his heart was breaking. That final confrontation was incredibly sad, and I can’t see how these two can salvage their friendship (that is, if Rin survives), because Won was all about burning bridges.
With all of Won’s sword swinging, it’s almost miraculous that only one person is confirmed dead, but Boo-yong was asking for it. I have no idea what her reason was for baiting Won, but I’m suspecting that she and Song In may have been affected by that poisonous incense. While it’s true that Won is falling apart at the most delicate time, the same can be said for Song In. His hallucinations, along with the antidote that San recovered, may just be enough to undermine the plot to kill the king and depose Won.
The characters that we met as children have grown up, and at this point in the drama, we see their relationships come full circle. While Won was the one to deliver her mother’s final message to San, she in turn delivered the petals of Princess Wonsung’s final peony (the symbol of her lifelong, one-sided love for the king) to her only child. Rin has always struggled with what it means to be a friend to Won, especially now that he’s accepted that it’s time to leave him. Rin has been prepared time and again to bid Won farewell — as a tribute to Yuan, inspector general to Jeolla, to escape to Saracen with San — and every time, he’s been held back because Won won’t let him go. Now that Won is finally ready to release Rin, it’s on his terms, and in his current state of mind, that means death. Because of his guilt over loving San, Rin is ready to accept that fate and finds some peace in the fact that, in the end, he placed no limits on his friendship with Won.
While Won has been more than happy to be on the receiving end of his friends’ loyalty, he hasn’t been able to return that loyalty in kind to either Rin or San. I’ve never understood how Won could value Rin so highly, yet fail to realize that a woman might prefer Rin over him. On top of that, Won falls into the same trap that his father did and believes the duplicitous words of Minister Song, Song In, and Jeon over his lifelong friend. If San can put her faith in Rin and trust him unconditionally, why can’t Won? Does he need to discredit Rin so that he can justify taking San for himself? Rin found himself in an impossible situation as Song In squeezed him with threats to both San and the king. Rin had to distance himself from Won to keep them safe, and rather than stand by him, Won was quick to believe that his friend had abandoned him for the throne and a woman (although Won chose San over Rin way back in Episode 10). Likewise, he turned on San this week as he made her a hostage, threatened Rin’s life unless she gave up her feelings for him, and warned her not to make a sound as he challenged Rin because he might kill her. Not cool.
Won has never grasped the self-giving aspect of pure love, but Rin and San both have that capability. As Rin told Won, he’s no longer a child, and it’s time for the prince to grow up. Won acknowledged his regret that he wasn’t a beautiful flower for his mother — instead, he was a thorny bush and responded to her pain by causing her more pain. The king’s warning to Rin was frighteningly accurate: “Stay close and they will prick and poison you.” Yes, Won is grieving, but that’s no excuse for his behavior, and his father-in-law told him as much. It’s possible that his attack on Rin will knock some sense into Won and that he’ll realize that the most selfless expression of friendship will be to let both Rin and San go — after Won’s recent actions, he can’t honestly expect San to embrace a life with him at the palace.
As Won faces the after effects of his reckless actions and learns the truth about Rin (and hopefully San’s true feelings), he will have to ask himself if he ever really knew Rin at all. Rin’s focus was always Won, and after these episodes, if Rin survives, Won should grasp the opportunity to focus on his best and oldest friend.
- 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