Haechi: Episodes 23-24
Every time our crown prince solves one issue, another, scarier one crops up. His enemies have failed to attack him personally, so their next move it to try and undermine his supporters’ trust in him. The poor prince can’t catch a break, not even in romance, although at least when it comes to politics he has a bit of an idea what on earth he’s doing.
EPISODE 23: “A criminal transaction”
Yeo-ji asks to be made a court lady in the Crown Prince Palace so that she can protect Yi Geum, but he tells her that being a court lady involves more than just palace chores. To demonstrate the kind of thing that may be expected of her, he takes her hands and leans in as if to kiss her. Yeo-ji doesn’t back away, but Yi Geum does, and he apologizes for his behavior.
He asks if she understands that these things can happen whether she likes it or not, and tells her not to mention becoming a court lady again. He leaves with Ja-dong, after taking one longing look back towards Yeo-ji. She runs into Moon-soo on her way back to the house, and he notices that she’s acting strange.
A pair of patrolmen catch some servants with a palanquin who are out past curfew. One servant tries to bribe a patrolmen to let it go this time, but the other looks in the palanquin and finds it stuffed full of ingots. The servant’s master, Section Chief Kwon, is furious, and the servant says he took care of things, but that his master should ask the police chief for help just in case.
It’s time for the yearly Jinkyunggrye, where the king sets an example by doing farm work, and Queen Inwon smiles at the simple peasant breakfast that King Kyungjong And Yi Geum will eat that morning. The Soron minsters chuckle at the king’s forgetfulness of how to plant rice despite him doing this every year, but they praise Yi Geum for getting the hang of it quickly. Only Chief Justice Jo looks at Yi Geum with suspicion.
Later, the farmer that was overseeing them approaches Yi Geum, wishing to bow to him and thank him for listening to the people. Yi Geum makes him get up, but the farmer gushes that he’ll make a great king, which wipes the indulgent smile off King Kyungjong’s face.
The storyteller entertains the people by reenacting Yi Geum’s impassioned speech on taxes, and aww, it makes Ah-bong and Jang-dal get all weepy every time they hear it. The Saheonbu officials are angry that the people are praising Yi Geum and criticizing them for arresting him, and they’re worried that there could be bloody consequences. But Byung-joo declares that nothing can shake up the Saheonbu, because nobody has authority over them, not even the king.
Young-han gathers the inspectors and gives them a speech about it being their duty to guide the people to the right path. He hands out assignments, deliberately passing over Hyuk and Moon-soo. Moon-soo immediately apologizes for yelling at Young-han and even barks for him, then snuggles up on Young-han until he gives him a case.
Afterward, Hyuk asks Moon-soo what happened in there. Moon-soo says he needs to gain power, and to gain power he needs cases, and to get cases he has to suck up to the team leader. He suggests they find other inspectors who agree with them that the Saheonbu is doing wrong things.
Hyuk asks what’s up with Yeo-ji lately, and we see her woolgathering while Ah-bong and Jang-dal wonder why she’s acting so weird and even skipping meals. She beckons over Ah-bong, who preemptively apologizes for whatever he did wrong, hee. She says she just needs to ask him something, so he moves closer, though he still looks terrified.
Yi Geum wanders the palace, unable to stop thinking about his almost-kiss with Yeo-ji. Jo-hong asks why he’s sighing so heavily, but he just says he did something he shouldn’t have done. Jo-hong can tell from Yi Geum’s blush that Yeo-ji was involved, and she tells him that for a crown prince, there’s no such thing as forbidden love, so there’s really nothing he needs to do about it.
Yeo-ji tells Ah-bong what happened, though not who the guy was. She asks him if it’s like what happens in love songs, and he confirms that it means exactly what she thinks it means.
A grim-faced Dal-moon visits Yoon-young, who looks terrified of him, though Yi Tan laughs and asks if he’s that Dal-moon. Apparently he called Dal-moon to see him, curious at Yoon-young’s reaction when he mentioned Dal-moon’s name. Dal-moon refuses to confirm whether he’s worked for Minister Min, but Yi Tan offers him a job anyway.
Dal-moon says he only came because he wants Yi Tan’s men to stop bothering him. He dumps out the tea Yi Tan poured for him and says he doesn’t work for dogs who pretend to be human. He stands to leave and Yi Tan attacks him with his sword, but Dal-moon calmly grabs the blade.
Yi Tan twists the sword until blood runs down the blade, but Dal-moon doesn’t even flinch. Yoon-young screams that Yi Tan wanted to win over Dal-moon, then she rips off part of her skirt to bandage Dal-moon’s hand. Yi Tan accuses Dal-moon of working for Yi Geum out of greed for money and power, and Dal-moon agrees that he wanted those things at one time, because of a girl.
While pointedly looking at Yoon-young, he says that the girl wanted more than to live on the streets, but he couldn’t give her that. We see in flashback that Dal-moon was the boy who saved Yoon-young from jumping from the cliff, and she’d told him her name was Bok-dan.
She follows Dal-moon outside and asks if he knew she was here. He just says, with no animosity in his voice, that she looks nice in her silk clothes, then turns away.
The case Moon-soo is working involves a woman whose husband died, but she refuses to let him be buried. He takes Jang-dal and Ah-bong with him, though Ah-bong is late because he’s been answering Yeo-ji’s questions about men. Moon-soo still seems worried about her, but before he can ask anything, they hear someone scream nearby.
It’s the woman whose husband died, and she’s threatening to cut her own throat before she’ll let the police touch her husband’s body. When she sees Moon-soo, she sobs that her husband was murdered. He asks her to explain, then back at the Saheonbu, he tells Hyuk that her husband was a patrol officer whose murder is being made to look like an accident by the police bureau.
Moon-soo had examined the man, who supposedly fell from a bridge to his death, but there were no bruises indicating a fall. He’d wondered why the police would cover up the death of one of their own members, until he’d turned the body over and found three stab wounds in a straight line in the man’s back. The wounds perfectly match the trident carried by the police officers.
Byung-joo is summoned by the police chief, and they’re joined by Section Chief Kwon. Byung-joo knows that Section Chief Kwon was recently caught accepting a bribe by the patrol, and we see that on that night, when the patrolman had insisted that this was illegal, he’d been stabbed by his own partner. Byung-joo asks the name of the inspector who’s stirring everything up.
Word gets back to the king, who tells Yi Geum, who admits that he’s good friends with Moon-soo. He looks scared when he hears that Moon-soo is trying to investigate the section chief.
Moon-soo catches the patrolman who killed his partner, and Yeo-ji searches the man’s room and finds the kickback he was given. They tackle him when he tries to run, and Moon-soo asks who gave him the order.
Byung-joo punishes Young-han for giving Moon-soo his case, and when Moon-soo returns to the Saheonbu, Byung-joo punches him in the face and tells him to drop his investigation. Moon-soo calmly says he’ll continue, because the suspect was already arrested, as well as Section Chief Kwon.
In fact, the case is completely wrapped up. Moon-soo tells Byung-joo that it started as a simple civil case, but ended with murder and corruption, backed by Section Chief Kwon. Moon-soo asks if he can close the case, rendering Byung-joo speechless.
Yi Geum asks what will happen if Moon-soo proves Section Chief Kwon guilty. Soron Minister Lee says that Section Chief Kwon will be impeached and can be replaced, which will give the king the chance to appoint a Soron to a high position. Yi Geum asks if the Norons and Minister Min will let that happen, having monopolized the position for a long time, and he has an idea for who to appoint.
He arranges to meet with Hyuk and says that he’s recommended him for the position of Section Chief of Personnel, because despite being from a Noron family, Hyuk isn’t politically affiliated, and he’s impartial and fair. He believes that Hyuk can help bring the reform the king wants, but he warns Hyuk that if he accepts the job, he’ll be a huge target. Hyuk replies that things will be harder for Yi Geum than for him, but that if Yi Geum promises to stick by him, he’ll gladly accept the position.
Section Chief Kwon pleads to Minister Min for mercy, admitting that he took bribes but swearing he’s not responsible for the murder. Minister Min bellows that Section Chief Kwon was to preserve the Norons, knowing that the Sorons will try to fill the position with another Soron. He leaves to do damage control, and Yi Tan watches him go, muttering that Minister Min will need him soon.
That evening Yi Geum meets with his friends, and Minister Min notices when Yi Geum and Yeo-ji catch each other’s eye and share a quiet little moment. Yi Geum praises Moon-soo for doing a good job on his case, and Moon-soo is thrilled to hear that Hyuk will be promoted to Section Chief of Personnel tomorrow (which means that one of his duties will be appointing Saheonbu leaders).
Dal-moon is concerned that the Norons will oppose it, but Yi Geum promises to work with the king on that. He asks Dal-moon to keep an eye on Yi Tan, knowing that Yi Tan will probably try to cause some sort of problem. Before he leaves, Yeo-ji asks to speak to him in private. The others go inside, and Moon-soo asks Ah-bong if Yeo-ji was asking him about intimate things between men and women.
Yeo-ji asks Yi Geum if his behavior the other night means what Ah-bong told her — that he wants to fight. Wait, what? HAHA. It turns out that Yeo-ji’s description of Yi Geum’s actions sounded very confrontational to Ah-bong, though Yeo-ji admits that she “misunderstood” and thought Yi Geum had feelings for her.
She thinks that Yi Geum was checking her fighting skills, but Yi Geum assures her that that’s not at all what he meant. She asks again to become a court lady to protect him, and Yi Geum laughs to himself that he stayed up nights worrying for nothing, because she didn’t even understand what he did.
He tells Yeo-ji that her skills are good but she still shouldn’t work at the palace, because women should be protected by men. Yeo-ji says she’s a damo before she’s a woman, but Yi Geum counters he’s a man before he’s the crown prince. He tells Yeo-ji that he likes being on the same side with her, even if she doesn’t feel the same as he does.
Moon-soo slips outside, and as he watches the two friends talk, he wonders if Yi Geum could be in love with Yeo-ji.
Yoon-young finds Dal-moon and says she needs to talk with him. She tells him that she’s fine, living a good life with beautiful clothes and a big house, her voice growing louder and angrier. She says that she never should have been born a peasant, and Dal-moon sighs that she hasn’t changed at all.
He tells Yoon-young to go home before Yi Tan finds out she’s here, but she says he already knows, because she told him she’d persuade Dal-moon to join his side. She begs him to help Yi Tan become king, but he tells her to stop being cruel. Yoon-young says that he’s always known she’s a bad woman, and he lets go of her in defeat.
Yi Tan hosts a party at Ji-kwang’s gibang for the nobles he calls “the horses that will escort me to the palace.” Ji-kwang asks who they are, but Yi Tan tells him to just do as he’s told and fetch him a noble who’s talented at writing. Ji-kwang names an astronomical price, but Yi Tan seems impressed by his shameless greed.
The Saheonbu officials are enraged by Hyuk’s new appointment, which gives him authority over their personnel. They consider this a declaration of war from the king, Yi Geum, and the Sorons, and Byung-joo warns them to stay alert if they don’t want to lose.
Meanwhile, Young-han wails that he would have been nicer to Hyuk if he’d known he would be their superior. The newer Saheonbu inspectors say that it would be nice if the ones in charge were as worried about the country as they are about their jobs, but Moon-soo urges them to stay strong and cooperate for now.
Minister Lee and Prime Minister Kim visit Yi Geum in the palace on his request, and he belatedly thanks them for their help in making him crown prince. They’re confused by his friendliness, as they’re both Norons, and Minister Lee assumes he’s looking to gain power by coaxing them to his side.
Minister Min leads his followers into the palace to confront Yi Geum, noting out loud that things have been pretty chaotic since Yi Geum became crown prince. He says that politics need stability, but Yi Geum fires back that the only people who believe that are the ones who are scared of change or have something to lose.
Minister Min tells Yi Geum that he just sees the Norons as a joke and is doing all this to show that he’s different from them. He says that only fools believe they can do something different from others, because they’re blind to their own limitations.
Seething, Yi Geum silences the Soron ministers’ objections and tells Minister Min to finish his arrogant speech. He asks if calling him a fool is Minister Min’s way of showing loyalty to his crown prince, and Minister Min croons that he would never do such a thing. But he says he has something rude to say: What makes Yi Geum think that the Sorons will be different?
He advises Yi Geum to stick to what others have always done, which is already a great achievement. He says that soon, Yi Geum will realize that he needs to be as great as the Norons in order to keep the country safe.
Yi Tan finds a man who’s capable of the eloquent writing he needs, and soon after, the Chief Royal Secretary receives a petition that causes alarm among the Sorons. Even the calm Chief Justice Jo gets upset for the first time.
The king is equally incensed when he learns of the petition. Chief Justice Jo says he’s telling the king about it, not to protect the crown prince, but because this could be used against the king himself. The petition requests that Yi Geum rule the country vicariously — in other words, in place of the king.
Yi Tan shows up at the palace and seeks out Yi Geum, who says he has no time to listen to Yi Tan’s nonsense. Yi Tan says he’d be smart to listen to what he has to say, and tells him that soon there will be an inferno in the palace that will blow Yi Geum away. Yi Geum asks what he’s planning, but Yi Tan just grins evilly.
This is the first thing that Yi Tan has done that I think is actually smart and has a chance of working. He’s using the people’s well-meant support of Yi Geum to undermine the king’s trust in his crown prince, and make him think that Yi Geum wants to rule now, when the truth is that Yi Geum is content to wait his turn. It’s a valid fear on King Kyungjong’s part, because Yi Geum isn’t that much younger than him, so if he were greedier he might decide to kill the king to gain the throne that much faster. We can only hope that Yi Geum has proved himself loyal and supportive enough of King Kyungjong that the king will realize that none of this is Yi Geum’s idea.
I love Yi Geum in all of his forms, especially Weepy Emotional Yi Geum, but I think that Angry Yi Geum is my favorite Yi Geum. When he draws himself up and his eyes start flashing, and he verbally smacks down whoever is trying to put him in his place, you can see the great king he will become. That’s the self-confidence I’ve been wanting to see from Yi Geum since the beginning, and happily, it’s showing up more and more often as he settles into his role as crown prince and faces his detractors. And yet again, I credit Jung In-woo’s incredible acting ability that earlier in the drama, Yi Geum looked a bit afraid when he had to stand up for himself, but instead of fear, now he just looks offended when he has to confront someone.
It’s about time Yeo-ji realized why Yi Geum acts so weird around her, and for once I don’t think it’s disingenuous for a drama character to have no clue a guy liked her. Other than making strained faces, Yi Geum has done a pretty good job hiding his feelings, and Yeo-ji is so job-focused that it’s understandable that she might not notice. Not to mention, she’s a damo, who were of the very lowest social class, while he’s a prince… so it probably never even entered her mind that a relationship with him might be a possibility. And I love that Yeo-ji just came right out and asked Yi Geum why he acted strange that night. It’s not in her nature to be coy or beat around the bush, so asking him plainly was very in-line with her personality.
I hadn’t seen any signs before this episode that Moon-soo had feelings for Yeo-ji, though I’m not surprised at all by his reaction to learning of Yi Geum’s feelings. Yeo-ji is strong, smart, and also happens to be beautiful, so I’d be more surprised if Moon-soo didn’t have feelings for her. I’ve even thought, in previous episodes where they worked closely together, that they would make a great couple. But there’s no competing with a crown prince who has a heart of gold and who looks at the object of his affections like she makes the earth rotate, so I don’t think this will work out for our sweet-hearted Moon-soo.
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