Haechi: Episodes 31-32
Things are changing so fast for our crown prince in particular and the kingdom as a whole, and Yi Geum wastes no time taking advantage of his good fortune while he can. Sadly, his good luck comes at a steep price, and there could be a great loss if he can’t get into the mind of his enemy and head them off before they can enact their plans for revenge.
EPISODE 31: “The Trace of Evil”
Yi Tan crouches outside his home, hiding from the guards and muttering, “What did I do wrong? What did I do that was so wrong??” He hears a young child’s voice, crying out apologies to his father, and he’s torn back to his own childhood.
His father had been furious that he couldn’t read, yelling that Yi Tan would never claim the throne if he’s stupid. Despite his tattered clothing and filthy cottage, Yi Tan’s father had insisted that he was royal blood, and the country belonged to his family. Yi Tan clearly got his rage issues from Daddy.
Yi Tan is caught by a guard, and he goes terrifyingly cold as he walks up to the man and stabs him to death.
Yi Geum learns that Yi Tan is in the palace and orders the guards to block the exit gates. Covered in his victim’s blood and still carrying his dagger, Yi Tan wanders the palace until he finds King Kyungjong, who’s come out to see what’s going on. He fixates on the king, not even seeing the guards, until Yi Geum bellows his name and he turns to look at his nemesis.
Yi Geum holds his sword to Yi Tan’s throat, and Yi Tan drops his dagger and kneels. Chuckling madly to himself, he says he’s not here for the king, so he’ll go with Yi Geum. He declares that he won’t die alone — when he dies, he’s taking Yi Geum with him.
To save her from harming herself, Dal-moon has locked Yoon-young in a room, but she screams that she’ll die anyway if Yi Tan isn’t made king. She sobs that she’d rather die than return to being Bok-dan.
In the aftermath of Moon-soo’s raid on Ji-kwang’s gibang, Ji-kwang and all of his underlings are arrested by Yi Geum’s guards. Ji-kwang is led right past Byung-joo, and despite being tied, he manages to break away from his guards and punch Byung-joo. Jang-dal and Ah-bong grab Ji-kwang and Moon-soo walks over to squeeze his family jewels, warning him calmly to behave. I didn’t think I could like Moon-soo more than I already do, but I was wrong.
Moon-soo also kneels down to tell Byung-joo that now, he’s being looked down on even by lowlifes. He growls, “That’s why you should have lived right when you had the chance.” Byung-joo sends one last pleading look to the Saheonbu officials, but not one of them speaks out for him.
In the morning, Geon-tae tells Dal-moon that Yoon-young has calmed down. He says that Yi Tan has been arrested, and Dal-moon asks if the guards were looking for anyone else. Geon-tae says that he doesn’t understand why Dal-moon cares about a woman like her, but he promises to protect her until it’s safe.
Dal-moon says he knows it’s wrong to hide Yoon-young, because she’s a wicked woman who will do anything to get her way, and she even urged Yi Tan to do evil things. But he continues that Yoon-young might not have turned out this way if she’d been born into a better situation. He tells Geon-tae that he hasn’t done anything to give her what she wants, but he can’t just watch her die.
Yi Geum calls together the king’s guards to discuss the possibility of any coups or rebellions, but the guards says that last night’s “attack” on the palace was just Yi Tan by himself. Security has been strengthened in the palace and in the city, and Yi Geum tells them to keep it up until further notice.
Byung-joo refuses to confess his crimes, but he asks Moon-soo, if their situations were reversed, how long he could remain a strong, righteous officer. He asks if Moon-soo could stay so upright if Yi Geum fell and he lost his connections. He maintains that if he were acknowledged for his capabilities, he wouldn’t have become corrupted.
After the meeting, Minister Lee tells Yi Geum that the Saheonbu’s interrogations of Byung-joo and Ji-kwang will end soon. Yi Tan is still holding out, so Yi Geum goes to talk to him personally, telling him to confess to killing Yi Hwan because he was going to be made crown prince instead of Yi Tan.
Yi Tan says it wasn’t him, but then he whispers the words he said to Yi Hwan as he stabbed him: Remember, you’re dying because of your hyung. He tells Yi Geum, “The one who killed Prince Yoon-ryong is you. If you hadn’t interfered with me, poor Yi Hwan wouldn’t have died.”
Yi Geum lunges across the table at Yi Tan, who asks how he’s any different from Yi Geum. He snarls that if a peasant like Yi Geum can take the throne, then he should have it instead, but Yi Geum just yells that he’ll make Yi Tan pay for his crimes. Minister Lee begs Yi Geum to calm down and let Yi Tan be judged by royal law, so Yi Geum reluctantly lets him go.
They turn to leave, but Yi Tan starts to laugh again like this is the funniest damn thing he’s ever seen. Unable to hold his tongue anymore, Minister Lee says that the reason it’s Yi Geum and not him is because of the choices Yi Geum and Yi Tan made, and the people they became because of them. He tells Yi Tan that if he doesn’t understand what he’s saying, then there’s no hope for him.
Once they’re alone, Minister Lee apologizes to Yi Geum for overstepping, but Yi Geum just asks what he meant about different choices. Minister Lee says that Yi Geum always acts for the sake of a cause rather than for himself, and that that’s one of the reasons he and Minister Jo chose to support him as the future king.
Minister Min and Chief Justice Jo and the palace officials gather to hear the king’s decision on the treason accusations. King Kyungjong concludes that there was manipulation of evidence with the intention of falsely accusing the crown prince, but that the scholars involved did commit treason outside of those facts, and he sentences them to exile.
Noron Minister Lee and Prime Minister Kim are found guilty of treason when King Kyungjong himself was crown prince, and are sentenced with poisoning. As for Yi Tan, he’s convicted of manipulating the case for his own selfish ends, and he’s sentenced to being exiled in a thorn hedge then death by poison.
Minister Min arranges to talk with Noron Minister Lee and Prime Minister Kim as they’re being led to their punishments. He says kindly that any of them could end up like this, and asks them not to leave this world with regrets.
Prime Minister Kim says that during Sukjong’s reign, his father was made to drink poison, and that he told his sons not to become court officials but he ignored that request. Minister Min promises to help their descendants as much as he can, and they thank him tearfully.
But Minister Lee says that they’ll be forgotten soon and nobody will learn from what they’re going through, not even Minister Min. Agreeing, Minister Min asks how they would change things when everyone seems to live for power. As they’re led away to their deaths, Minister Min bows to them one last time.
Dal-moon hears that Yoon-young is refusing to eat so he brings her food. She says he was always too nice to her and calls him stupid, and that she won’t thank him for it. She yells at him to leave her alone, and he says he will since he doesn’t want to cling to someone who left him, he just wanted to make sure she’s alive.
He stands to leave, but Yoon-young backhugs him and says he’ll regret letting her live, because eventually she’ll hurt him. Dal-moon says it’s okay as long as she’s alive, and behind his back, Yoon-young’s eyes go hard.
Yi Geum leaves the palace to visit Moon-soo and Dal-moon, and Jo-hong asks cheekily if they’re planning a wild night since Yeo-ji is away on Saheonbu business. Yi Geum is all innocence, but Jo-hong keeps poking at him for a reaction to Yeo-ji’s name. He notices that Ja-dong is missing, and Jo-hong says he’s at the Royal Infirmary — evidently a mysterious bloodstain showed up on a post, freaking out the court ladies.
Moon-soo, Ah-bong, and Jang-dal are drinking at Dal-moon’s hideout, and they pass the wine to Moon-soo and tell him to apologize to Dal-moon for believing he was a traitor. Moon-soo protests that Dal-moon should have told him what he was planning, and things get silly when Dal-moon complains that Moon-soo nearly broke his neck so Moon-soo blows on it like a sore booboo. LOL, Dal-moon is ticklish!
Yi Geum shows up and quips that Moon-soo blew in his ear, too, and Dal-moon jokes back that he heard about Yi Geum being gay. Yi Geum says that was just a rumor, but Moon-soo isn’t married… Moon-soo turns to Jang-dal and Ah-bong for backup, but Ah-bong says he has doubts and Jang-dal points out that the only female Moon-soo is close to is Yeo-ji, his “sworn brother.” LOL, Moon-soo jumps on the table, threatening to drop his pants and show them exactly how manly he is.
Dal-moon and Yi Geum wander away to talk, leaving Moon-soo still ranting about how extremely not gay he is. Yi Geum thanks Dal-moon for his help, and Dal-moon apologizes that he couldn’t tell Yi Geum his plans. He says he has another secret, but that he can’t reveal this one, and Yi Geum accepts that he must have a good reason.
Dal-moon asks when Yi Tan’s sentence to drink poison will be carried out, thinking that the sooner, the better. He says that the look on Yi Tan’s face on the day he was exiled worried him.
The king notices that the lights are on in the Royal Palace, and when he enters his chambers, he sees Yi Geum wearing the king’s royal scarlet robes. Yi Geum sits on the throne, glaring at King Kyungjong… and then King Kyungjong wakes up.
Again, he wonders if he persecuted Yi Geum just because he was scared. Eunuch Jo finds him clutching his chest in pain, and King Kyungjong orders him to summon the chief royal secretary. In the morning, King Kyungjong tells Queen Inwon his plans and asks her a favor, and with a smile on her face, she delivers a message to Yi Geum from the king.
King Kyungjong tells Minister Min and Chief Justice Jo that he’s making a special order — as of today, he’s ordering that Yi Geum will govern the country vicariously. He says it’s not a trap for Yi Geum, but a plan to calm the confusion in the palace.
Yi Geum objects, but Queen Inwon says that she was sent to convince him because the king knew he’d protest. She and King Kyungjong know that King Sukjong wanted Yi Geum to be his successor, and since Yi Geum wasn’t raised in the palace, King Kyungjong wants time to teach Yi Geum how to rule.
Queen Inwon tells Yi Geum that King Kyungjong is very serious about this, and asks him to accept it graciously as the late king’s will. She adds that she wants to see the brothers working together for the future of the kingdom, and Yi Geum finally relents.
He visits his father’s memorial and remembers how Sukjong was disappointed in his frivolous ways. He’d argued that that was all he was worth, but his father had said that Yi Geum had the right qualities to be king. He’d asked Yi Geum to show the world those traits, and now Yi Geum cries that he wasn’t able to do that before Sukjong died.
He collects himself and enters the council room, where King Kyungjong announces that he will be governing vicariously from now on. Yi Geum takes his seat in front of the king, and he tells the court that he has a lot to learn, and looks forward to learning from them.
As his first action, he says he will be conducting personnel appointments of the three government agencies, beginning with replacing the Saheonbu’s chief inspector with Minister Lee. Nobody looks more surprised than Minister Lee himself, but it’s Minister Min who speaks up. Yi Geum asks if Minister Min plans to argue with him on his very first day, then calls Minister Lee forward to be appointed.
He says that the country has become corrupt because the Saheonbu has failed to do its job of monitoring government officials and fairly enforcing the law. He gives Minister Lee the responsibility of reforming the Saheonbu, and Minister Lee swears on his life to do everything Yi Geum asks.
The Saheonbu line up to meet their new chief inspector for the first time, but the first thing now-Chief Inspector Lee does is do away with the “empty formality” of bowing to him every morning. Instead, he says that there will be a meeting every morning.
The inspectors wonder what he means, but Hyuk shows up to translate: he’s telling them to put their energy towards working hard. The guys are thrilled to see Hyuk back and in Saheonbu uniform again, wearing the team leader insignia, and Hyuk says that Chief Inspector Lee asked him back.
Minister Min tells Yi Geum that even though it’s tradition to accept the first decision made by the king’s proxy, he was surprised that Yi Geum used the opportunity to strike at the Saheonbu. Yi Geum says he only wants to restore discipline to the Saheonbu, and when Minister Min says that can’t be done with just a new leader, Yi Geum retorts that he’s only getting started.
Minister Min says that this is why Yi Tan shouldn’t have been caught that night. He tells Yi Geum that he saw Yi Tan in the palace and wondered why he didn’t run, and Yi Geum asks what he means. A few minutes later, Yi Geum asks Minister Jo what time the special judiciary committee guard witnessed Yi Tan that night. He realizes that Yi Tan had plenty of time to escape, and wonders why Yi Tan would stay instead.
Exiled and guarded behind the thorn hedge, Yi Tan thinks that Yoon-young knows what to do now. He smiles to himself and mumbles, “This is not the end for us…” Meanwhile, Yoon-young leaves her safe room and tells Geon-tae that she’ll be back, but Geon-tae doesn’t trust her and follows.
Yi Geum sends Minister Jo to the Department of Justice for every bit of information he can find on Yi Tan. He recalls Yi Tan saying that he knew Yi Geum would come for him and how easily he surrendered, and that if he dies, he’s taking Yi Geum with him. He’d had plenty of time to run, and Dal-moon had noticed a strange look on his face the day he was exiled — it certainly feels to Yi Geum like Yi Tan is up to something.
King Kyungjong’s chest pains are getting worse, until one makes him faint while he’s drinking his medicine. The royal physician doesn’t know what’s wrong with the king, and Yi Geum yells at him for it.
While he’s at the Royal Infirmary, Ja-dong shows Yi Geum where the mysterious bloodstain was found. Yi Geum puts the clues together and guesses that Yi Tan was in the infirmary the night he was captured, and he comes to a horrific conclusion.
The king is coughing up blood, barely conscious, and he only seems to get worse when Queen Seonui has him drink some medicine. Yi Geum bursts in, knocks the medicine out of her hand, and issues an order that King Kyungjong is to have no more medicine from the Royal Infirmary.
Wow, a lot happened in this episode! Haechi just gets better every week as Yi Geum steps into his power as crown prince, and now vicarious ruler. I’ve been looking forward to this since the first episode — getting to see Yi Geum rearrange the country’s political landscape into one that benefits the people first instead of those already in power, and do it in a way that nobody can argue that he’s making the changes for all the right reasons. Even Minister Min is going to have trouble opposing Yi Geum, especially since we saw that he used to be idealistic and hopeful too, before the previous regime destroyed his family. I still don’t trust him, but I think that Minister Min may end up being Yi Geum’s strongest supporter before this is all over.
One of the biggest changes is Moon-soo who, in just a few episodes, has gone from over-eager hanger-on, to competent inspector, to king badass of the Saheonbu, and I love it. He’s even got the Saheonbu officials dancing to his tune. Early in the show, I had wondered how such a goofball could ever change so much that he becomes one of Joseon’s most famous anti-corruption officials, but now I see it. It’s sad that it took the murder of a friend to give Moon-soo the conviction and motivation to do what he can to make sure it never happens again, but I think that Jung-seok would have gladly given his life voluntarily if he’d known the effect it would have on Moon-soo in particular, and the Saheonbu as a whole.
Yi Tan is truly insane, and from that flashback to his childhood, he probably never had a chance at a normal life. His father seemed to be nearly as unstable as Yi Tan is, screaming at a child and putting the entire weight of a throne on his small back. Yi Tan was told at a young age that it was all on him to restore their family to their rightful place in the palace, so it’s no wonder that he grew up obsessed with taking the throne back for his family. It seems obvious that he broke into the Royal Infirmary to lace the king’s medicine with poison, the one he was told has no antidote, but I’m not quite sure how poisoning the king furthers his plans. And he’s also got Yoon-young doing something for him, which I’m sure will be very bad, and will break poor Dal-moon’s heart even further.
It’s a measure of his insanity that Yi Tan doesn’t understand what makes Yi Geum a better future king, and even just a better man, than him. As Minister Lee said, Yi Geum makes his choices based on what’s best for the cause or the country, and not what’s best for himself, and that’s what makes him the right man to be king (and it was kind of adorable that Yi Geum didn’t even know this — it’s so ingrained in his personality that it never even occurred to him to be different). Yi Tan has only ever had selfish reasons for wanting to be king, and in the end, those selfish wishes will probably be what brings him down.
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