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Red Heart: Episodes 11-12

Driven to the brink of desperation, the queen dowager commences an insatiable quest for power. While our other players scramble to counter her moves, the seeds of a previously sown plot may already be starting to show their first leaves.

 
EPISODES 11-12 WEECAP

Resuming from where we left off last week, the queen dowager threatens Gye-won that if he tries to kick her out of the palace again, what will burn next won’t be a mere palanquin, but her.

Elsewhere in the palace, Minister Jo pleads for mercy from Jung, on behalf of his wayward daughter. In the face of Jung’s unsympathetic responses, however, he ultimately reveals that the true mastermind was the queen dowager.

Tae isn’t privy to this information, but he’s determined to uncover the truth himself. Recognizing that Yeon-hee had a part to play in the scheme, regardless of how large or small her role was, Tae seeks her out — and delivers a cold warning that any attempt to harm Jung will be considered treason.

Jung is adamant on revealing the queen dowager’s attempt on her life, and pursuing the appropriate punishment as recompense for her harrowing ordeal. She isn’t mollified by Gye-won’s attempts to reason with her, until he reveals his plan to retire to the countryside, far away from the internal court. In exchange, he urges her to bury this incident.

Jung instead pays the queen dowager a visit under the guise of reassuring her that she won’t escalate the issue, since Gye-won’s chosen to shoulder the repercussions in her stead. That’s news to the queen dowager, who’s shaken by the revelation.

She requests for Gye-won to delay his resignation by three days, so she can collect her thoughts — but it’s actually because the prophetic monk told her that her wish will be fulfilled in three days, and she’s banking on it as her last hope.

Tae leaves the palace for the rain-calling ceremony, and miraculously, it rains. Joy erupts all around, but elsewhere the monk is feverishly chanting, and then all of a sudden Tae coughs up blood and keels over.

A physician’s examination reveals severe damage to Tae’s spleen and stomach, which points to the ingestion of poison. Tae shows no signs of waking up, and it dawns on Gye-won that if the king passes away with no heir, the person that has the power to select the next successor is none other than the queen dowager.

She takes it one step further, however, and announces that she will be taking over as regent until Tae wakes up. Her declaration is met with controversy and murmurs of treason, since Tae is incapacitated but still alive.

The ministers protest by gathering at Tae’s quarters instead of the court, and Gye-won urges the queen dowager to stop before it’s too late. Instead, she counters that she’s discovered a newfound purpose — she will tear down the Joseon that Gye-won worked so hard to build.

Pained tears in his eyes, Gye-won reminds her that she knows better than anyone how much of his life he’s poured into this country. He vows to depose her if she chooses to pose a threat to the foundation of Joseon, making clear his choice of the country over her.

Phew, Tae begins to show signs of stirring, though for the sake of his safety Jung chooses to keep it under wraps for now. To avoid any assassination attempts by the queen dowager, Jung decides to escort Tae out of the palace. The queen dowager is surprisingly amenable to the idea — turns out the monk advised her to move Tae out, so that his death won’t cause bad luck to befall the palace.

Astute as always, Gye-won points out that the queen dowager’s easy agreement indicates laxer security outside the palace. He offers the protection of his servants and the royal stamps, and Jung accepts.

I find it so interesting how the tables have turned; at the beginning of this drama, I’d expected Gye-won and Jung to constantly be on opposing ends of the chess board. Yet now they’ve teamed up against a common enemy, one that threatens what they both hold dear — to one, it’s her beloved man, and to the other, it’s his beloved country.

Gye-won’s abandonment pushes the queen dowager over the edge of the precipice she’s been precariously teetering on, and she spirals even further in her quest to consolidate power. Not only does she coerce the chief scholar to rescind the appeal against her regency by threatening to kill his son right before his eyes, but she also incites Yeon-hee to seize this opportunity and get rid of Jung.

That involves a made-up letter accusing Jung of assuming a false identity, which gives the queen dowager the justification to bar Jung from leaving the palace. Yeon-hee then has Ddong-geum captured, threatening to torture and kill her if she doesn’t confess to penning that letter. Staunchly loyal Ddong-geum refuses to betray Jung, and the next we see her she’s been beaten bloody (but still barely alive).

Gye-won proves his acuity yet again when he recognizes that there must be someone orchestrating this whole scheme behind the queen dowager. He tracks down the monk’s father, who reveals that the son he sold off to gamblers was taken by an unknown man with a large scar on his hand.

That can only point to one man, and it’s Tae’s trusted eunuch, who’s in the midst of saving the monk from assassins. He makes quick work of the attackers, then offers a hand to help the monk up, calling him Si-wol — the hidden card Tae has been talking about.

With his plan unfolding just as he intended, Tae opens his eyes, fully conscious and cognizant.

Yet again, Tae is ahead of the game, and it really goes to show how arduously he’s been preparing and waiting for the right moment to strike. He’s successfully turned Gye-won and the queen dowager against each other, and he now has sufficient justification to oust his opponents on the grounds of treason.

Just as his mother once did, Tae faked a poisoning to reclaim power. I find the parallel quite poignant, as well as how both diverge — the late queen’s actions were born out of desperation, whereas Tae’s strategy is calculated and controlled.

The same can’t be said for the queen dowager, whose descent into the exact tyranny that Gye-won despises was quite painful to watch. She’s been so mired in her hurt and abandonment that it’s turned into vindictive anger, and she’s now determined to rail against all the principles that Gye-won forsook her for.

It’s a tragedy in the making, and while I don’t condone her actions one bit, I do feel for her. She was used as a pawn and pushed into a lonely life, and while her current plight is of her own making, there’s something compellingly human about her simple longing for acknowledgement and love.

 
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Guysssss! The King isn't useless after all; I was getting worried. Phew!

I was glad that our suspicions about Tae's involvement with the monk proved to be true. It looks like he has been working on this plan for quite some time. Seeing how the Queen Dowager unraveled, I can't see how she will escape this (except through some master mind plot of PGW).

Must Park Gye-Won be this smart? 😂 I would have loved it if he had spent at least one episode figuring out the truth behind the monk.

I really love where the writers went with PGW. Seeing him protect the throne and go against the Queen Dowager was beautiful.

Ugh, I felt bad for Ttong-geum. I hope she survives

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So will LT and YJ now go against each other because of PGW? Obviously they have different opinions of him.

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They might... Let's see

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Yay for Tae! The show strikes a balance of smartness in all the characters. I feel this was a much needed move. Tae can't simply trust PGW because he now sides with Yoo Jung. PGW needs to prove he's on their side, though he isn't all that innocent either to be forgiven easily. He remians the person behind Tae's mother and Yoo jung's family's demise. Though he didn't do all that on his own.

Btw good point on the comparison between Queen Inyoung and Tae using the same method. Queen Inyoung played out a smart move but thanks to the king, it was wasted. Tae at least does not follow in his father's footsteps. That's good enough.

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I'd been feeling half-hearted about this show and hadn't gotten around to it last week. So imagine my surprise when I finally watched everything together this week. What a relief to know the king isn't as incompetent as I thought and is also scheming.

I loved where they went with the dowager's character. She didn't end up as another queen dowager who only schemes against her daughter-in-law. Her decision to grab the very power which had isolated her and made her miserable 👏. Loved the confrontation with Gye-won too. I'm excited about this show again!

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Longing for acknowledgement and love does not explain the queen dowager's cruelty and brutality. She sacrificed her life until now to be Gye-won's chess piece, but her current fury and determination to rule her world have made her cold, ruthless, and totally unsympathetic. I will be glad when she is deposed and sent away and no longer takes up major screen time.

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I knew the King was working with the monk! Yay for him having a plan. What will PGW do next?

I find the Queen Dowager quite compelling. She's lived such a lonely life, with no chance of a family or life of her own. Good drama with her and PGW this week.

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That and probably that he is si wol was kind of predictable, especially how the show has been giving equal time for all characters to show their smartness. However, still the way it folded out was remarkable. That's the beauty of this show it makes the journey towards predictable setups quite unpredictable and then adds more to them.

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Honestly, I was like PLOT TWIST, lol. When I thought he would die, I said to myself, well damn, and then at the end when he got up, I said well damn. These were unexpected developments and I dug it. Yes King, prove me wrong.

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The more I see PGW unfold, the more my respect for him grows. He is a very good example of a worthy antihero/foil. He wasn’t blind after all, he knows why he descended to this path and is ready to damn anything that injures his cause which by the way is one justification I haven’t seen in a saguek character well expressed since Queen Seondeok’s Mishil. Progressively, I am left in admiration.
The king was thinking big after all. I hope PGW will go unscathed from the Queen Dowager’s brilliant plot.

While I pity the Dowager, I can’t help but praise her brilliant move. So many tyrants in history wouldn’t have arose if the Internal Court rose to the occasion, except she is on the villainous side. I guess Bloody Heart is making a statement to the now passed members of the Internal Court.
Lady Cho will be the undoing of definitely herself and/and not that of her family. Girl, you do not learn at all, do you?
Ttonggeum really needs to work on speed, when it is needed. Who walks dreamily, gazing at every feature on the escape route when their life depends on it? I was even thinking she would be caught at the end of the tunnel, but no, she was caught in transit. Work on your speed, woman.

Even though it seems like the Queen Dowager is walking into the trap the King has set for her, I'm sure the King was not expecting her to descend to this level, so how he will have to deal with the aftermath of this unstable move of his. And for someone to pull such a move, she is ready to descend further to protect herself till she has inflicted the damage she intends to. How far will she go, though?

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Ttonggeum drives me bananas. She is the dumb in a sea of intelligence and it drives me crazy. Lady Cho is naive, but Ttonggeum actively does dumb things. Smh, lol.

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This has me nodding and laughing at the difference between both dummies. Bananas😂😂...not fair at all, it is unthinkable 🤣🤣.

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the plot twist was quite delicious i must say and was not expecting it AT ALL. It Just goes to show that the king is excellent at playing the long game. Lining all his players up so perfectly that everyone falls into his trap. cant wait for next week!

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This show is so good.

I love how every character has moments of brilliance and others where they fall short or are ruled by their emotions. And of course, as I've mentioned before, I really enjoy the way the female characters are shown to be as complex, intelligent, and calculating as the men. How satisfying to hear the Queen Dowager, while standing next to the palanquin she defiantly set fire to, scoff at how men (like the Left Minister himself) always assumed "delicate flowers" couldn't possibly be crafty enough to be treasonous. I can't fully embrace her power hungry antics, but I do appreciate that I know exactly what brought her to this point and it's not simple greed or a desire for revenge. She's grasping at whatever agency can be afforded to her in a time when women by and large had no real control over their own lives.

I also have a tiny bit of empathy for Yeon-hee because the King did blatantly manipulate her for his own gain, but it was still satisfying to see him quietly and fiercely admonish her for attempting to murder Consort Park. (As an aside, I don't understand why the King refers to Jung as Consort Park in private, not only because it's not her real name, but also because it would just remind him time and again of the Left Minister's scheme.)

I did start to wonder at one point if the King could have been working with the monk, but was still impressed with the big reveal. I was also glad that Tae came up with his own plan when everyone around him--including his beloved Jung--controls what information reaches his ears. It was a risky plan, but a clever and necessary one.

Finally, I like the evolution of Gye Won's character. At first he seemed to be a generic minister always in search of an angle, but now it's easier to view him as a human being with many conflicting desires. I like the tentative partnership he and Jung share; even if they are allies by necessity rather than choice, he clearly respects her and I see her starting to slowly value his opinion without there being a sense that she has forgotten what he did to her family.

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Actually the subtitles are misleading. Th King addresses Jung simply with her Consort title - the last name Park is not mentioned. This is standard practice - he also addresses Yeon-hee with her assigned Concubine rank.

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Thank you for that clarification!

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These episodes were intense and impressive. I was flabbergasted at the Queen Dowager's crazy thirst for power. On one hand, it wasn't that surprising to see her change when she knew she was no longer useful. Fight or die. It certainly made her character more interesting. It was just wild seeing how far she went. She was mesmerizing in that ultra fancy outfit.

Glad that Tae has his own plan! Wasn't expecting him to have a connection with the monk. I was a little suspicious of Eunuch Jung when he suggested the Jeolla location to Jung. It was mighty convenient that he happened to have the exact badge needed to go there that no one else would notice missing.

My perception of Gye Won has changed. His character is more complex than I thought. I thought he used the country as his excuse, but he seems to truly care for it instead of being a power-hungry elite.

Felt terrible for Ddong-geum, but I wish she had escaped to the bamboo village way earlier. She can't handle the palace politics and manipulative characters. She is Jung's weakness.

Good point about the parallel between Tae and his mother. So heartwrenching. I hope he and Jung survives all this.

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So had LT been taking small doses of poison all along to build up his body's immunity? Perhaps he will die in the end, leaving PGW and YJ to take care of the young prince (her son with LT).

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