Haechi: Episodes 25-26
It’s bad enough to find yourself in a situation where everything you do can be interpreted badly, and turned against you in ways you never intended. But when you’re the crown prince, and a misunderstanding can mean your death, every move you make has to be weighed and calculated and examined form every side before you make it. Our prince has gotten himself in an awful tangle of lies, deception, and even treason – all because he wants to be a fair and considerate ruler.
EPISODE 25: “Temptation”
Yi Tan hires someone to write up a petition, which he has delivered to the king, that requests that Yi Geum be allowed to rule the country in place of the king. It plays into King Kyungjong and the ministers’ worst fear — that Yi Geum will want to seize control before King Kyungjong lives out his natural lifespan.
Yi Tan visits Yi Geum to gloat that there will soon be a storm in the palace. Dal-moon learns of Yi Tan’s dangerous political move, but he tells Geon-tae not to do anything for now.
A furious Chief Justice Jo yells at the other Soron ministers for not taking the petition seriously enough. They cancel Yi Geum’s daily lessons, and Yi Geum wonders if this is the beginning of the “storm” Yi Tan mentioned.
Hyuk is now the section chief, which means he’s in charge of appointments to all three agencies — Saheonbu, Saganwon (Office of Censors), and Hongmungwan (Office of Special Advisers). He puts together an announcement that he’s decided to re-evaluate every single official from all three agencies, which causes a mild panic when it’s posted.
Moon-soo looks so proud when he reads the announcement, knowing that if rank appointments were made due to corruption, the officials could be demoted, or even fired and arrested. The officials see this as a flimsy excuse cooked up by Hyuk and Yi Geum to enact political change, and Byung-joo says that Hyuk is just throwing his weight around because the king and crown prince are behind him.
The king is actually surprised by Hyuk’s decision, and Hyuk visits the palace to discuss it with him and Yi Geum together. But, having seen the so-called petition, King Kyungjong now sees Yi Geum and Hyuk as a potential threat to his rule.
Soron Minister Lee and Minister Jo defend Yi Geum, saying that the petition is just a petition and nothing more, but Chief Justice Jo argues that it’s suggesting that the king retire and let Yi Geum rule. Soron Minister Lee insists that the Yi Geum he knows wouldn’t threaten the king, but Chief Justice Jo says he’s being threatened, regardless.
Yi Geum tells King Kyungjong that, while he believes Hyuk to be essential to the reform he wants to enact, he thinks that the agency officials should be given a chance to change themselves before they’re evaluated from an outside perspective. He says that he doesn’t want this to burden the king, which the king hears as “I don’t think you can handle it,” which is not at all what Yi Geum means.
Hyuk agrees with Yi Geum, and King Kyungjong sneers that they must think he’s a ridiculous king. Yi Geum finally realizes that something is terribly off, but King Kyungjong cuts off his attempt to explain and tells them to do as Yi Geum suggests, and for all reports to go to the Crown Prince Palace, even all approval requests.
Looking horrified, Yi Geum says they can’t do that, but King Kyungjong snaps that he’ll be good at it — better than himself. Oh, crap. Hyuk asks Yi Geum why the king is acting strange, but Yi Geum says he’ll explain later.
The Norons still don’t know what the petition said, only that the Sorons are suddenly acting very suspicious. Minister Min guesses that there’s a problem they’re trying to hide, and he tells his lackeys to find an informant and learn what the petition was about.
Yi Geum heads straight to Dal-moon and tells him what Yi Tan said, and how the king was behaving. But Dal-moon lies that his people haven’t seen Yi Tan acting strangely at all, so Yi Geum assumes that the king’s suspicion is about something else. Dal-moon offers to find out for him, and Geon-tae overhears them talking and wonders why Dal-moon is lying.
Byung-joo stops by Ji-kwang’s gibang because the officials from the three agencies are gathering there for a meeting. He objects to Ji-kwang’s blasé attitude and draws his sword, but he’s called to the meeting, and after he walks away, Yi Tan comes out of hiding. He says that Byung-joo is another chess piece that will help him gain the throne by getting rid of the crown prince, and instructs Ji-kwang to tell him what Yi Tan said.
In the meeting, Byung-joo vehemently argues that they can’t let the king and crown prince trample them. He learns that they’re being given a chance to get rid of the corrupt officials themselves, and he yells that it’s a plot to divide them. But the Saheonbu officials see this as a signal from the king and Yi Geum to hand over Byung-joo, as he’s known to be at odds with Yi Geum — and he’s a Namin, on top of it.
He hears them planning to betray him, so he goes back to the Saheonbu headquarters and tells Young-han to burn all the evidence from the cases he’s been working on. Moon-soo walks in and sees papers everywhere, and he says casually that Byung-joo must be worried about something.
He picks up one letter and refuses to give it back, saying that it’s evidence of Byung-joo’s corruption. He invites his Saheonbu friends in and announces that he’s been charged with inspecting Byung-joo for corruption. Ah-bong and Jang-dal hold Byung-joo back from attacking Moon-soo, and Moon-soo tells Byung-joo that the officials are sacrificing him to save themselves. He promises to find all corrupted officials and send them away.
Yi Geum meets with his friends after dark, who report that their plan worked — the Saheonbu officials gave up Byung-joo almost immediately. Yi Geum still feels bad for him, since he was turned in mostly because he’s not a Noron, but Moon-soo reassures the prince that this won’t end with Byung-joo. Yi Geum warns Moon-soo not to let his guard down, because this could lead to political reform, but it could also backfire on them.
Yeo-ji asks how things are at the palace, where she heard he’s gathering information. He sidesteps the question, telling her it’s nothing to be concerned about, but she senses he’s not being truthful. Moon-soo finds her still worrying later, but he says he’s just reminding himself that she’s the manly maknae of their brotherly group.
He adds awkwardly that he hopes the three of them can remain sworn brothers, and seems a little disappointed when Yeo-ji says that she’s worried about Yi Geum. Moon-soo asks about the thing she mentioned to Yi Geum, so she tells him that Yi Geum and Dal-moon are observing the king and she’s worried about why.
The king refuses to see Yi Geum that evening, claiming indigestion, and when Yi Geum says he should bring the king medicine, Chief Justice Jo intercedes and declares that he’ll do that from now on. Yi Geum asks if this is what the king wants, and Chief Justice Jo says it is, and that Yi Geum can’t override the king’s orders.
In the king’s quarters, Chief Justice Jo advises King Kyungjong to punish Yi Geum so that he won’t try to go against him again. King Kyungjong says that Yi Geum may not even know about the petition, but Chief Justice Jo says that the fact is, someone wants Yi Geum to rule vicariously, which makes Yi Geum a threat.
Geon-tae brings Dal-moon a note, which he tells Geon-tae to show to Yi Geum immediately. It’s the contents of the petition, and it has Yi Geum storming out of his room as Ja-dong explains to Jo-hong that it could lead to a treason accusation, even if they know Yi Geum would never want such a thing.
Yi Geum accuses Minister Min of being behind the false petition, and Minister Min awkwardly dismisses the other man in the room. He tells Yi Geum that that was one of the royal secretaries, who had brought him a copy of the appeal, which wouldn’t be necessary if he’d written it. He says it wasn’t him, and that he can’t figure out who it was.
Dal-moon visits Yoon-young and tells her that he’s been following Yi Tan, and he’s discovered that Yi Tan is trying to corner the crown prince. He mentions the petition and asks if it was Yi Tan’s plan to get rid of Yi Geum, and he can tell from her expression that it’s true. She asks why Dal-moon didn’t he tell Yi Geum, and Dal-moon says that he was lured by temptation and lost his judgment.
He says that humans can be tempted for different reasons, even when they know it’s wrong. Yoon-young tells him that the crown prince isn’t fit to be king, trying to entice him to side with Yi Tan, and he asks if he’s finally capable of giving her what she wants.
Yi Geum is convinced that Minister Min isn’t behind the petition, but he also believes Dal-moon when he says it wasn’t Yi Tan. With that in mind, he wonders who on earth it could have been.
While helping Moon-soo look through Byung-joo’s documents, Yeo-ji finds a list of people he’s been in the process of impeaching – all of whom are Sorons, and most of whom were framed. Moon-soo says he must have been bribed, and instructs the team to look for evidence of bribery, to make sure that he can never become an official again. Ah-bong rushes in, breathlessly gasping something about trouble at the palace.
The Sorons convene to discuss Yi Geum, while Yi Geum himself approaches the king about the petition. King Kyungjong asks Yi Geum his opinion on the petition’s suggestion that he take over the royal duties. Yi Geum says that the suggestion is treason and tells the king not to be bothered by such manipulation.
But the king snarls that Yi Geum gained the people’s trust with his speech, then attempted to end the corruption of the three agencies, so it seems to him that Yi Geum is already involved in politics. But when Yi Geum tries to deny it, King Kyungjong shocks him by saying that he’s considering granting the petition and handing over the royal duties to Yi Geum.
He has a smaller throne brought in and directs Yi Geum to sit and perform the royal duties, while he sits back and watches like everyone wants him to do.
Moon-soo is scared for Yi Geum, knowing that Yi Geum wouldn’t want any of this. Dal-moon says that words are cheap in the palace, and that Yi Geum’s only hope is to perform a repentance ritual, where Yi Geum would beg until the king punished him. But it infuriates Moon-soo, who knows Yi Geum didn’t do anything wrong.
But that’s exactly what Yi Geum does — he writes a formal apology, then removes his crown prince trappings and kneels in front of the king’s palace, prepared to formally beg forgiveness. When Minister Min hears of this, he decides to let the Sorons handle it, since they don’t know who started it.
Soron Minister Lee approaches Yi Geum, who asks if he still believes he covets the throne, like he did when Yi Geum first entered the palace. He looks devastated as he wonders to himself if this is how things end, and if there’s nothing he can do.
Yeo-ji dresses in disguise as a court lady, and she finds Jo-hong in the palace to ask where Yi Geum is. Jo-hong says she can’t see him today, so Yeo-ji asks if she can at least check on him from a distance.
A distraught Minister Jo rants that they should be protecting the crown prince, so Soron Minister Lee asks Queen Inwon to appeal to the king. She says that the king is just sensitive, but Minister Lee warns that if they don’t stop this, someone will exploit the situation to drive an even bigger wedge between King Kyungjong and Yi Geum.
As the pounding rain lowers everyone’s spirits even further, Geon-tae tells Dal-moon that he’ll follow his orders, but he that thinks it’s wrong if Dal-moon truly plans to abandon Yi Geum. Meanwhile, Yi Geum remains on his knees in the courtyard, shivering from the cold and wet.
Yi Tan tells Byung-joo that this entire thing was his idea, and that he’s not afraid of Byung-joo turning him in because he knows he probably won’t be in the Saheonbu much longer. He said he sees a lot of himself in Byung-joo — someone who went through a lot to get where he is so he won’t give it up easily, and who wants to destroy Yi Geum.
Byung-joo says it won’t be as simple as a fake petition, but Yi Tan says he has a lot more planned. He offers to make Byung-joo the head of Saheonbu if he helps him get rid of Yi Geum and become king. He gives Byung-joo a scroll on which is written everything they need to attack Yi Geum, but Yi Tan says almost dreamily that it’s not time yet, because Yi Geum is currently torturing himself doing his repentance ritual.
Poor Yi Geum looks ill and close to death, and Jo-hong begs him to give up before he harms himself. He tells Ja-dong to take her away, holding back his tears at the sound of her misery.
Queen Inwon does talk to King Kyungjong, saying that she understands how both he and Yi Geum feel. She tells King Kyungjong that he lives with the fear of being dethroned, but he’s making Yi Geum go through that same pain. She appeals to his sense of what’s right, saying that he’s being shaken by evil words.
The eunuchs alert the king to a new problem — a report of treason from the Saheonbu. Moon-soo belatedly learns of Byung-joo’s release, and the treason case, and he guesses that the two are linked. Byung-joo has taken the Saheonbu guards, and they arrest a group of young nobles who were together at Ji-kwang’s gibang, complaining about their fathers’ involvement in the crown prince issues.
All of Yi Geum’s strength is going towards saying conscious, and after a while, Yi Tan drops a canteen of water in his lap and tells him to drink. He urges Yi Geum to hold out, because he’ll feel sad if he isn’t the one to bring him down. Yi Geum gasps for Yi Tan to worry about himself, and that he’ll kill him so that he won’t feel sad.
They break apart when the king is announced. King Kyungjong tells Yi Geum that he tried to trust him and think of him as a brother instead of an enemy, but that Yi Geum tried to bring his sword against him. He throws a paper in front of Yi Geum, and Yi Geum looks up at him, terrified of how this may have gotten even worse.
Wow, Yi Geum is really being put to the test to prove that he deserves to be king. He’s in a terrible position because every time he does something good, it’s flipped on him and made to look like something bad. If he lies low and tries to stay out of the spotlight, nobody believes he’s capable of ruling the country. If he gets the support of the people, Yi Tan makes it look like the people want him to rule now instead of King Kyungjong. Yi Geum almost literally can’t win, and I feel like his luck is going to run out soon if he doesn’t find some way to get King Kyungjong to trust that he in no way wants to take the throne from him before it’s his turn.
As much as it kills me, I’ll give Yi Tan credit that his plan to create a fake petition suggesting that Yi Geum vicariously run the country was pretty ingenious. It played into everyone’s worst fear — that Yi Geum, being only a few years younger than King Kyungjong, would get impatient waiting for the king to die and try to find a way to rule before his time. In fact, history tells us that this was a concern when the king died mysteriously, though Yi Geum was eventually exonerated due to his positive reputation and the fact that the king ate badly stored seafood in the middle of summer. But I digress — Yi Tan has found a way to throw pretty much every person in the palace into a tizzy with his petition, and he’s only getting started, and unless someone discovers what he’s doing and stops him, people are going to die.
Even Dal-moon, who I thought was a rock until now, is wavering because he’s reconnected with his first love. He’s clearly still shaken by Yoon-young, and he still wants to give her what she wants, which is money, power, and status. I do believe that initially, Yoon-young was thrown for a loop to see Dal-moon and that she has some unresolved feelings for him as well, but in this episode she had no problem attempting to manipulate him into helping Yi Tan become king so that she can be queen. I still trust that Dal-moon will make the right decision and help Yi Geum in the end, but it’s going to be heartwrenching to watch him struggle with denying Yoon-young.
On the flip side, I love Moon-soo’s confidence these days! He’s always had more than his fair share of confidence, but before he passed the civil service exam and became a Saheonbu inspector, he didn’t really have much to back it up. But now he’s achieved his goals, he’s friends with the crown prince, he has supporters within the Saheonbu, and he’s firmly on the moral side of the political issues, so his confidence is bolstered by a sense of self-possession that he didn’t have before. It’s a calmer, more grounded type of poise and levelheadedness that drives Moon-soo these days, which is awesome because it’s a lot more menacing to his enemies than his previous flailing that he’d “get them all,” but with no plan or backing to make it happen.
I feel like Moon-soo is Yi Geum’s key to finding a way to earn his king’s trust, and calm the fears of the political factions. Moon-soo may not be a brilliant tactical mind, but he has an unwavering sense of fairness and justice, and a dogged determination to make things right no matter how long it takes. The only thing that could sway Moon-soo’s loyalty would be if his feelings for Yeo-ji got in the way of his devotion to Yi Geum, but I feel like he’s so honest and his dedication to Yi Geum began long before he started noticing Yeo-ji, that while he may let himself be sad that she doesn’t return his feelings, he won’t let it stand in the way of helping Yi Geum.
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