Red Heart: Episodes 7-8
Secrets are revealed, and the ensuing fallout pushes each of our main characters into a corner. Will they choose love, or power? And is it ever possible to have both?
EPISODES 7-8 WEECAP
Jung vows to Gye-won that she’ll earn the king’s affection, but we all know she already has. So when she pays Tae a visit in broad daylight “simply to see his face,” it leads to a private moment in which Jung confesses her love for him.
Tae says the words back, and though he clearly means it too, there’s pain fraught in his gaze. Yet again, Tae asserts that his love pales in the face of what he must do; the woman he needs is not Jung, so she should stop trying to tempt him under Gye-won’s orders. Oof, the way Tae can’t meet her gaze as he tells her all this…
Needing justification to push forward with the queen’s selection, Gye-won seeks the queen dowager out with a request — to vacate her position. We see this scene juxtaposed with one from the past, in which Gye-won asks her to become the then-king’s concubine, and tears fall from both their eyes.
In the present, the queen dowager points out that it would be too suspicious for her to suddenly fall sick out of nowhere. Offering up a small, sad smile, she takes several steps back, tipping herself towards the lake.
All along, Gye-won has been painted as someone who would willingly sacrifice love for power, but for once his emotions win out. He races towards the queen dowager in a panic, grasping her hand and falling into the water together.
Afterwards, it’s played off as a mere accident, though Tae is obviously suspicious of the whole matter. In any case, the queen dowager’s absence leaves the internal court clear, and the two concubines are pushed to step up.
Of course, that sets the stage for calculated internal strife. Once the scandalous news of palace servants taking sides and fighting reaches the ministers’ ears, it isn’t long before they’re beseeching Tae to choose a queen.
Tae catches on quick, though. With the help of his trusty eunuch, he quickly finds out that Jung’s court lady orchestrated the conflict that started at the supplies office.
Tae heads to Jung’s quarters to confront her, and after sending her servants out, Jung finally confesses that she doesn’t want to survive alone again. Despite losing her entire family before, this time, she’ll make sure to protect the people that entered the palace for her sake.
In the meantime, the conflict escalates. A royal family member was caught having intimate relations with a court lady, which sparks debate between the scholars and the royals over whether he ought to be exiled or merely put on probation. Tae’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.
With all this turmoil unfolding in the background, Jung makes a bold and shocking decision — she reveals to Gye-won that she is the deposed crown princess, long thought to be dead.
It’s quite a bit of brilliant timing; Gye-won can’t oust her now without threatening his own position and losing his grasp on his goals. Jung declares that from this moment on, she’ll threaten him — the tables have been turned.
Meanwhile, the seeds of conflict are also sowed between Gye-won and his son Nam-sang. Upon finding out that Nam-sang relayed Jung’s suggestion to the scholars, which put Jung’s path to the throne in a precarious position, Gye-won declares that he must crown the future king himself.
Of course, that’s met with protest from Nam-sang, who points out his power-hungry father’s arrogance. Gye-won erupts in anger, screaming at his son and hurling his sword to the floor.
Seeing his father in a new light for the first time, Nam-sang is clearly shaken, and tears cloud his eyes as he realizes just how deeply his father’s morals (or lack thereof) conflict with his own.
Unfortunately, Gye-won isn’t fazed one bit by his son’s dissent. Gye-won hatches a plot to poison Jung’s tea, but the queen dowager almost becomes collateral damage (until Gye-won arrives just in time to snatch away her cup).
It’s clear Gye-won feels threatened by Jung, who’s smart enough to realize that he was behind the plot that framed her family. She’s no pushover, and she’s determined to stand her ground against Gye-won’s treachery.
Gye-won isn’t pulling any punches, though, and he soon finds out that Tae’s trusty eunuch was responsible for saving a young Jung and hiding her away in the village she grew up in.
That sends Gye-won to confront Tae in a rage, but Tae points out that Gye-won is equally culpable — he submitted a traitor’s daughter for the queen selection process.
Right on cue, Jung enters the room, declaring herself to be the former crown princess. To the shock of both men, she names Gye-won as the person who saved her back then. Accusing Gye-won of treason, Jung entreats Tae to turn her into the State Tribunal and investigate the matter properly.
Whoa, that’s one move I didn’t see coming. Jung managed to set all the pieces in place right under Gye-won’s nose; she’s already gotten all the people involved in her rescue to corroborate their stories and pin Gye-won as the mastermind.
Tae understands that this means Jung will also be executed, however, which makes him reluctant to act. Privately, Jung reassures Tae of her conviction; she would rather die for his cause than live forever on the run.
Gritting his teeth through his tears, Tae vows to honor her sacrifice and rise as Joseon’s true king.
The heart wants what it wants, though, and Tae ends up apologizing to Yeon-hee and walking out on their consummation night. He heads straight for Jung instead, finding her gazing out forlornly over the lake. Overwhelmed by love and longing, he pulls her into a kiss, consequences be damned.
I’ll be honest, Jung’s sacrifice didn’t quite land for me the way it was intended to. Coming this early in the story, I think it was pretty obvious it wouldn’t work out the way she hoped. (If a drama really dared to kill off its heroine halfway through, I’d commend it for its bravery, though I imagine it’d also incite a lot of angry viewers.)
Now that a good deal of the cards have been laid out on the table, I’m anticipating Gye-won’s retaliation. He’s definitely not going to take this humiliation lying down, and with emotions running high on both sides, it looks like the fight’s only going to get uglier.