The King Loves: Episodes 37-38
I almost can’t believe we’re so close to the end, but these two episodes certainly did give me some closure. After several weeks of high-stakes misunderstandings and battles to end all battles, it’s finally time for some much needed heart-to-hearts and frank conversations about love—and more importantly, friendship. Sometimes it isn’t easy to give love in a way that someone needs it, and maybe even harder to receive it. But in the end, there still is so much love here between our main trio, and so, I’m optimistic.
EPISODE 37 RECAP
San watches helplessly as Won declares war against Rin and orders him to draw his sword and try to take the crown. The fight is swiftly decided after Rin drops his sword and allows Won to strike him across the chest, causing him to fall to the ground as San tearfully races to his side.
She holds Rin in her arms as he fades and closes his eyes. Meanwhile, Won drops his sword, horrified by what he’s done.
Later, after things have settled, Won visits his still-unconscious father in his royal quarters, with Wang Young attending at his bedside. The royal physician confirms that the king’s condition is stable thanks to San, who brought the antidote in time.
Won reaches down to grab the antidote bottle from the table, but Wang Young snatches it away before he can. Wang Young dismisses the physician and tells Won privately that the poison has been accumulating in the king’s body over a long period of time, surmising that the king has been out of sorts for a while.
He concludes that the person who caused Princess Wonsung’s death that day in the king’s chambers likely was not the king. Won isn’t surprised by his deduction, but he does want to know why Wang Young is keeping the antidote bottle from him.
Finally, he just asks Wang Young if he’s afraid that he will smash the bottle in fury to strengthen his chances of becoming king.
Wang Young tells Won suddenly that the king cares for Princess Wonsung very much, and that sometimes love is difficult to see and runs so deeply that it can manifest as hatred, thereby losing its form. He advises Won to take pity on such love instead of turning to anger.
Won starts to figure it out, and asks if that was the reason Rin hid the king—and why Wang Young is now protecting the king when his son’s life hangs in the balance—because they feared Won’s reckless rage and vengefulness.
Wang Young doesn’t confirm or deny it, but that’s an answer in and of itself.
Won sits beside the king and takes his father’s frail hand. He tells his sleeping father that this is probably the first time he’s ever held his hand before adding darkly that there are so many people around the king, and though he keeps killing them, more still remain, and now he’s tired.
Won asks his father how he can still have so many people around him when he never trusted anyone and would even pit rivals against each other then reward them with treats, whereas he (Won) killed only a few of those around himself and is now alone.
He stares at his father for a long moment sadly, then gets up to leave. He tells Wang Young that he won’t visit his father for a while so he needn’t worry about standing vigil, and should visit his son and daughter instead.
At Geumgajeong, a royal physician tells San that Won’s blade missed Rin’s vitals but severed a large vein, and so all they can do now is wait. San enters Rin’s room and sits beside him, looking over his unconscious form as tears well in her eyes.
She complains aloud about Rin being much weaker than he looks, since the wound wasn’t even that deep, and she asks how he can protect their country with such frailty. She allows him one night to sleep well and recover, but she adds that he must wake up when morning comes.
She brushes his bangs out of his face, then stills and asks quietly, “But… why did you do it?”
It’s the same question Won is contemplating in his room over at the palace. He realizes that Rin would rather hurt himself than to ever hurt him, but he doesn’t know why. (Yes you do!)
Meanwhile, San has some insight into Rin’s thought processes, and presumes that Rin knew that Won would never strike him with the intention to kill, but instead would weaken the blow at the last moment because of their long and enduring friendship.
Tears fall from San’s eyes as she berates Rin for scaring her with his performance, and she nearly whacks him in anger, but then sees his bloodied bandage and stops herself. Instead, she begs him to wake up.
She picks up his stained robes before she goes, and finds a folded envelope as it falls to the floor.
Elsewhere, Moo-suk forces an upset Bi-yeon to meet with Song In. She recognizes him immediately, then looks at Moo-suk with betrayal when it’s finally revealed who he works for, but Moo-suk remains expressionless. Song In promises her that he isn’t a bad person, and that San is in danger and needs her help.
He tells Bi-yeon simply that Won attacked Rin with a sword out of jealousy over San’s love for Rin. Moreover, driven by madness, Won also killed the king’s concubine and poisoned the king. He recounts these events to Bi-yeon with a deranged look in his eyes as she sniffles in anguish.
Won goes to Geumgajeong late in the night to visit Rin, but ends up running into San sitting outside. He watches her for a beat, but when she turns to see him, he looks away, visibly upset.
He asks what she’s doing sitting outside at such a late hour, and she replies that she was waiting for him to come, since he is probably very worried about Rin. He tries to deny it, but she insists that he is, and this time, he doesn’t argue.
Won asks after Rin’s condition, and is relieved to hear that he’ll be fine.
She begins to describe how she’ll miss the charming, little road in front of the inn when she grows old, and together they stare at the empty path as their memories together flood them.
Won looks ashamed for a moment, and San describes how she began pushing people away after her mother died. She puts her arm out its entire length and says that no matter how kind and welcoming Teacher Lee and his students were, they could not penetrate that distance.
But, somehow she kept forgetting about that distance whenever she was with Rin and Won. She thinks about the first night she spent at the inn, where she nearly slept outside in the cold, much to the boys’ shared bewilderment.
Won says with some finality in his voice that he slew Rin, but San offers kindly that the wound wasn’t deep because Won wouldn’t be able to finish Rin off for good.
Won seems determined to become the villain and tells San that eight years ago, he knew the bandits were going to raid San’s caravan, but he said nothing. She asks why, and he says that he thought the bandits looked like a joke, but now he realizes that it sounds like an excuse in hindsight.
San seems resigned to the events from eight years ago that led to her mother’s death, and says that the moment Won went wrong was not then, but the day he greeted her at Teacher Lee’s school, and the time he waited for her at Geumgajeong for the first time. Then finally, when they ultimately became friends.
She tells Won that little by little he opened her heart, which had been closed all those years.
They grow emotional, and so San calls him to sit next to her, but he refuses, feeling sorry for himself. She then pulls out the folded paper she found in Rin’s clothing and threatens to not give him the note if he doesn’t obey.
It’s a letter to Won, written by Rin, but Won grumbles that important words should be said in person instead. San agrees with Won that Rin was in the wrong for saving all his words till after he was dead and prepares to rip it up, which, of course, gets Won jumping to save it. He complains about her teasing, but then finally smiles.
At a temple, Song In continues unraveling as he talks to his phantom Boo-yong, quoting something she had said before about him simply becoming king himself, instead of making one. He says that he called her naive then because a kingmaker only needs to win over the king, whereas a king needs to win over everyone.
Minister Song watches Song In from nearby with displeasure. He heads inside a building and speaks to a detained Teacher Lee, and Song supposes that there will be upheaval in the country soon.
Minister Song seems willing to pledge his loyalty to Won, since Won has taken in some of the king’s allies in an attempt to stabilize the country, but he’s worried about Song In, who is consumed with hatred for Won.
Teacher Lee knows that it’s because Boo-yong and Song In were lovers, surprising Minister Song with his intel (or as he puts it, “good ears”). Song In is on the warpath, but Teacher Lee only smiles, because he’s amused that Minister Song has decided to be so candid about Song In’s treason.
The real reason for his candor is because Minister Song wants Teacher Lee’s advice on whose side he should take in the brewing war to protect his position and assets. He laughs wildly to himself, while Teacher Lee merely observes.
Won unfolds Rin’s letter when he’s alone and reads Rin’s words. Rin opens by asking for Won’s understanding, since he chose to disclose his thoughts in this letter instead of discussing them with Won in person.
He’s included a list of names of the people who hold “power in the shadows” in Goryeo, but who are not loyal to the king. Rin tells Won that these men do not care who is king, as long as they can control him.
He adds that they oppose Won because he is far too clever to be controlled, and they use his mixed heritage in an attempt to delegitimize him. King Chungryeol has been good to them, but has lately been gaining too much power, and now they seek a weaker replacement.
Rin concludes that as long as he lives, they will use him as a means to weaken Won and his reign (what about Jeon?). He adds heartbreakingly that he was honored to follow, protect, and be with Won all these years. Oh, you precious peach.
But, Rin continues, even so, he fell in love with the woman Won loved, and soon became unable to control his ardent feelings. He knows his crime is punishable by death, and will accept it. However, if he survives Won’s sword, then he hopes to leave and live far away.
As Rin reads his letter in voiceover, Won’s face wrinkles in conflict as he mulls over Rin’s words, and he consults his heart for the right thing to do.
The next morning, the royal physician clears Rin from imminent danger and predicts that he will wake soon, leaving San alarmed by Rin’s prognosis and rapid rate of recovery.
San goes back upstairs to check on Rin, but unlike the night before, she seems troubled. She tells Rin that he’ll be fine now but trails off before she saying that that means he won’t need her anymore.
Tears streak across her face when she leans down to study his sleeping face, her own face full of longing as she tries to remember his profile in detail.
Later, Rin stirs and slowly opens his eyes to see San asleep next to him. Half-awake, he says, “You are in my dream.” He closes his eyes again and falls back to sleep.
The second time he wakes, he’s more lucid, but alone.
Won calls a meeting in the throne room with his ministers and takes out the list of names Rin wrote down, then begins his purge. Royal guards enter the throne room, and Won orders the officials secretly imprisoned and interrogated. Instead, a rumor should be spread that Won is useless and drinking day and night again.
Won orders the commanders assembled, then perks up when he hears that Rin has awoken, only to grow anxious when San is reported missing.
Meanwhile, in the palace, another sleeping beauty awakens: the king.
EPISODE 38 RECAP
At the inn, Rin is helped down the stairs by the cart pullers and immediately asks for San’s whereabouts. The cart pullers give Rin the bundle she left behind for him, then start bickering, since San told them to delay Rin as long as possible.
Rin tears open the bundle, looking for a letter, but he only finds some clothing. The cart pullers remember a message San asked them to deliver to Rin: “I will return in seven years. If you are still with the crown prince, I will find you.”
His face crumples despairingly and realizes that if San is determined to hide, then he will never be able to find her.
Finally awake, the king chows down on some breakfast, his appetite returning. He asks Minister Song where Boo-yong is, and after some hesitation, he’s told that she’s dead.
He thinks it’s a joke, but Wang Young doesn’t laugh. Minister Song describes how Won personally killed Boo-yong and details how distraught Boo-yong was after Princess Wonsung’s death…
The king’s face falls at the news, and he looks to Wang Young for confirmation. He smashes the bowl in his hand when Wang Young doesn’t refute it, but refuses to believe the truth. His reaction to Princess Wonsung’s death is comparatively far more grief-stricken than his reaction to Boo-yong’s (even as a joke), and he gasps in disbelief and anguish.
The search is on for San, and Jang Eui reports to Won about a witness seeing someone that fits San’s description leaving town. Won thinks back to the rest of the conversation he had the previous night with San outside the inn, and grows worried.
In a flashback, San asks Won if he really won’t visit Rin because of his guilt, but he only gets up to leave and thanks her for delivering the letter.
She follows after him, and as they walk, San tells Won that she thought about what it would be like if she had never known that he was the crown prince. He teases her for her rude behavior toward him when they first met, and she calls him petty for holding a grudge for so long.
He graciously forgives her because she let him “lean” on her that day they hugged. He’d told her then to think that he had slipped on some snow and fell into her arms.
San balances on a rock and Won warns that she will slip, so she asks if he would catch her. He replies that he won’t, stating, “My insides are very twisted.”
He then poses her hypothetical back to her and asks her to describe how different their life would be if she had never known his identity.
She says, “Whether I knew or not, it was the same. I liked you… a lot. At first, I was envious. You both had a friendship that I had never had, and I wanted to join in. After that, I could not help but like you. Each time we met, you gave me things I could never receive elsewhere.”
She adds that she had thought that Won was weird by granting her wishes before she even asked, but she was not someone who knew how to receive. Won replies that conversely, he was someone who did not know how to give, adding that at first, he wanted to keep San caged up like a bird, or take her far away.
She smiles and says that Won wouldn’t have been able to do that, because even though he doesn’t act like it, she knows that he cares deeply for his country. He says that he seems to have cherished her too much—too much to hold her back.
She suddenly wishes Won good health and tries to get up, but stumbles forward into Won’s arms. Won states dryly that he knew this would happen, but for the first time, instead of fleeing from the proximity, San put her arms around Won and holds him close.
Back in the present, Won realizes sadly that San was bidding him farewell.
Meanwhile, Song In continues to lose his mind, and grows snappish when Moo-suk asks what he should do with Bi-yeon after she’s done (though what she’s doing remains unclear).
Moo-suk asks if he must kill her afterwards, and Song In says that she’ll be a liability for them later. He warns that if Moo-suk cannot do it, then he will order someone else to, leaving Moo-suk with no choice but to nod in acknowledgment.
He confers with Bi-yeon secretly, and they discuss a plan he had told her beforehand (and off-screen), but Bi-yeon expresses her doubts about the plan, which will involve getting “her” outside. Bi-yeon seems to think this is related to San and a matter of life and death, but she’s still afraid.
She asks Moo-suk if her actions will help San live, and if he confirms it himself, then she says she will believe him. He then takes her hand and leads her away. Ugh, why are you believing him!? You know what, whatever, believe him then—just get off the screen.
Out in her private garden, Dan is deep in thought when she hears Bi-yeon making a ruckus outside, since she’s desperate to deliver a message from San.
Dan allows her inside, and also allows a moment of privacy (even from Jin Gwan) with Bi-yeon so that she can relay San’s message. Dan wonders why San didn’t come to talk herself and instead wants to speak outside the palace, since she knows that Dan isn’t free to go as she pleases.
Bi-yeon answers mysteriously that San cannot enter the palace anymore, lest she be seen by Won. Dan becomes confused by Bi-yeon’s riddles and grows skeptical after Bi-yeon expressly tells Dan that she must meet San alone, without any escorts.
It looks as if Bi-yeon’s mission is about to fail, so she blurts out that San is pregnant but does not know who the father is, and so she wants to speak to Dan about the matter. And so, Dan orders Jin Gwan to tell Won that she must meet with him immediately.
Unfortunately, Won is outside the palace tracking down San. He listens to a witness telling him of a potential San sighting and hears a troubling detail of how a group of men surrounded her and apprehended her. Welp, that certainly sounds like San.
After the man gives his testimony, Rin appears behind Won, having been conducting his own one-man search.
Worried, Won tells Rin not to bow in greeting, then asks if he is okay. Cutely, Rin tells Won honestly that he’s in pain, causing Won to look guilt-ridden before he whines about having to apologize (you really should, though). Rin declares that their fight was fair, but his sword slipped, leading Won to smile briefly.
Won pauses, then says forebodingly that he’s getting a bad feeling about all this.
Song In rides up to Minister Eun’s deserted estate and enters one of the rooms, where he greets a tied up San. He seems at ease as San glared venomously and asks what he’s planning, but he only tells her to be patient because “she” is coming.
Enter Dan and Bi-yeon, who arrive together at Minister Eun’s estate. Bi-yeon is immediately taken away by Moo-suk’s men, and Moo-suk escorts the princess to the main stage. She’s confused and frightened to see San tied up in her old house, with Song In lording over her.
Alarmed, San demands to know what is going on, and when Moo-suk forces Dan to sit, she rages at him for carelessly manhandling the crown princess. Song In chuckles and tells San to calm herself, then tells them both that they will be drinking some tea.
He pours both cups and tells them that one of them will go with him as a hostage, while the other will drink a poisoned cup of tea—made by Boo-yong. The poison is allegedly painless, but will slowly shut down a person’s organs—and with that, he invites them to choose who will take the poison.
San speaks up with a hardened expression and apologizes before recommending Dan to die via poison. (Oh?) She fears that Dan wouldn’t be able to survive a day in Song In’s insufferable keeping, and would be better off dying now. Hahahaha! The vicious shade!
Dan looks at San outraged, while Song In studies San, thoroughly intrigued. He says that Dan is the one who stole the position of crown princess from San, and she must hold a grudge—a logic that San is happy to lean into and exploit.
San only asks that she be able to serve the tea to Dan herself, and so Moo-suk unties her. Song In pours a generous amount of the poison into only one of the cups, and the women eye it fearfully.
Dan asks what she ever did to San to deserve this death sentence, but San merely replies that it would be great if they were reborn as sweet sisters in their next lives.
Meanwhile, after finding an anonymous note on an arrow (in conjunction with discovering that Dan is missing), Jin Gwan delivers the note to Won and Rin. He informs them that San is also being held hostage, and the boys hurry out to save them.
Back in her old house, San reaches for the poisoned cup, and when Song In and Moo-suk are momentarily distracted by a sound from outside, she switches them in one fluid motion.
She hands Dan the untampered cup and tells Dan not to be afraid, but right before the cup is transferred over, Song In stops them and instructs San to drink (the poisoned cup) at the same time.
San says in voiceover: “I have come across many precious people in my life, which most people cannot even dream of. I was dearly beloved. That is enough for me.”
Dan stays silent, but dawning horror washes over her as she realizes that San is about to sacrifice herself. When they both dawdle, Song In tilts the tea toward Dan’s face to force her to drink before looking over to San, who smiles resignedly to herself. San stares down at her poisoned cup, then closes her eyes and drinks as a single tear falls.
I really liked the focus on San and Won in these episodes. San finally explained what she was feeling by telling Won that she really cares for him, but cannot accept his feelings for her because they are incompatible with who she is, and who she became as a direct result of his inaction eight years ago. His mistake and cowardice brought her so many years of suffering, and though he regrets it deeply, and though she forgives him now, San is forever changed by those events.
I think it’s really interesting that San talks about being unable to receive love, because it makes so much sense given that this entire show she’s been constantly fixated on giving what she thinks is the highest form of love to both Won and Rin by doing everything in her power to protect their friendship—even if it meant sacrificing her heart, and herself. It’s also the way she loved her father, and how her father loved her—this loving with restraint. Her final message to Rin about staying by Won’s side remains true to that spirit, along with her wholehearted and selfless belief in their friendship and their ability to bring out the best in each other when she isn’t part of the equation. It think she’s confident that she can love him from afar, because that’s what’s she done for years, and if her being near brings him or Won pain, then she cannot bear it.
It’s tragic that Won can never tell his mother how much she means to him, or how sorry he is for not being there when she needed him most, but I really like how the show has given Won these moments of awareness. We can visibly see him growing and trying to become a better and less bullheaded leader. He’s innately shrewd and calculating, but now he’s learned how much damage his unchecked rage and ruthlessness can bring to those he loves. And more importantly, he is coming to see how his stubbornness and bloodlust can drive those he loves to extremes in order to protect him from himself. I’ve really enjoyed watching Won grown throughout these episodes.
Onto less positive notes, I was incredibly frustrated that Bi-yeon again proved that she doesn’t have a working brain and is instead a robot programed to serve the plot, but I don’t want to spend too much energy being annoyed by her. At this point, the only outcome that’s going to satisfy me in terms of her ending is if she skewers Moo-suk with a sword, then later becomes a badass business woman and rises to the level of Minister Eun, eventually employing a crippled Moo-suk as her footman.
I am also disappointed by the heavy-handed glossing over of important political and social tensions in this era by attributing them to the “shadow powers” that be, and their one-dimensional villainy. That said, I prefer more time spent on the relationships between the trio, so I guess it’s for the best. I could barely tolerate Song In (or Minister Song for that matter) in this show, so not adding more shallow political blabbing was probably the right move.
Speaking of Song In, he ended up being so toothless, didn’t he? His clichéd descent into insanity sort of makes his eventual demise less satisfying somehow. He made Boo-yong use her body to manipulate the king while still claiming to love her, and her death is the thing that breaks him? I know he’s a troubled person, but everything about him rings hollow. It almost doesn’t matter since Princess Wonsung was so compelling as both an antagonist and ally in this show, which ultimately means that Song In can go die off-screen and not be missed.
- 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