Writer: Rossi Yan
Editors: Val Kaye Taozen & Tabby Cat
Pictures credit: SBS
In the palace
The episode begins with the king who, when confronting the Crown Prince, suddenly feels dizzy and reels, then falls onto his frightened son and passes out. Everyone in the palace is worried; Yeoning runs in and enters the chambers, where the doctor takes care of the king. His younger brother cries and calls for their father to wake up. The Crown Prince is quietly waiting.
In Hanyang another filial son is looking for a dear person. After averting the questions of Seol Im by asking her to find Yeon Hwa, Dae Gil starts to search around, feeling the anxiety of someone’s presence. Hiding behind the corner, Man Geum is shaking from fear and agitation. His son approaches and calls him, not believing his eyes. Man Geum asks him not to come, but the stunned Dae Gil wants to know what happened and how his father is still alive. The gambler says he is sorry, but this is not enough for the young man. With tearful eyes he asks the reason for the fake death.
Back in the palace, Yeoning is trying to find out about the king’s condition. The royal doctor finally admits that the reason for him passing out could be the opium that is added to the incense which the ruler inhales. The Crown Prince also is shocked to hear about the opium and the doctor, trembling, says it was kept in secret from everyone.
Prince Yeoning goes to the royal doctors’ premises to inspect the herbs given to his father. He asks why such a strong substance was needed and learns that for the last two years the king was in a great pain caused by gallstones, which even made him vomit blood. The Crown Prince also arrives, ordering that they look into the opium and how the goods were delivered to the palace.
Already calmer but still tearful, Dae Gil wants to know what exactly was the deal Man Geum had with In Jwa. He reminds his father, that the throne was never his dream, he never wanted such thing. He asks his father to rejoin him, but the gambler refuses–Dae Gil’s life belongs to the people. He keeps speaking in riddles and finally tells his son a secret, which stays only between them. The reunion is interrupted by the girls who are curious about the strange man with the hat. Man Geum reminds his adoptive son to remember his words and disappears with the promise to return.
The Grandpa is agitated to learn Dae Gil saw his father and also wants to meet him, but the young man is sad by the decision of Man Geum to keep hiding. Chae Gun appears to tell his group of friends that the king passed out, and he has to stay to watch over his Lord. Dae Gil says right away it is Yi In Jwa’s handiwork. If not, because the monster is in the jail, then it’s rebel Jeong’s.
In the cells, the shaman receives a vision and informs In Jwa that the king is still alive. A Soron party member comes to prison to speak with Yi In Jwa and admits his luck in avoiding execution. He promises to persuade the Crown Prince to declare the prisoners innocent and to release them. Knowing exactly what the visitor expects, Yi In Jwa offers to secure him a position in the Royal secretariat or the Ministry of Justice. Or a sword to wield–to get rid of the Noron faction ministers.
Meanwhile in the throne room, the ministers are debating in front of the Crown Prince the fate of Yi In Jwa. The Soron faction is asking pardon for the criminals and the Norons insist on proceeding with the execution. The Crown Prince is not willing to make public executions while his father is ailing. Prince Yeoning openly asks if the traitor will be released, which makes his older brother call him out to speak in private.
Outside in the garden, the Crown Prince asks his brother why he is so disobedient. Yeoning reminds him of the aftermath when the king wakes up. The heir to the throne gets furious and proclaims his own right to make decisions. The words of Yeoning, that Yi In Jwa is a rebel who wants to become a king, sparks his anger towards his younger brother. All the resentment he felt in the night before the planned execution when Prince Yeoning came to his quarters with the army mobilization badge now makes him see his brother as an enemy. As a backflash, we hear the words of the mother to The Crown Prince when she was taken away to be executed and gave her son the bitter advice not to forgive the people who cause trouble for him.
Searching for answers, Dae Gil visits Yi In Jwa in the prison and questions him about the deal with Man Geum. The prisoner is not surprised the father and son met. Dae Gil openly admits that until a moment ago he was ready to stop everything and go far away with his father. But now he has no courage to forgive and forget everything. In Jwa laughs that the strong will of the young tiger is what makes him not give up on Dae Gil. He promises to come looking for him after being released.
Outside, Yeoning sees his hyung and reveals to him the reasons of king’s poisoning. But the bigger problem is that the ministers are against Yi In Jwa's execution. The Soron party kneels in front of the Crown Prince and solemnly begs that his crimes be pardoned. The regent generously declares Yi In Jwa innocent and orders his release. The verdict causes the Noron faction to protest loudly, while the Sorons can’t hide their contentment. The four prisoners are released and meet the Crown Prince to express their gratitude. Only one wicked smile reveals In Jwa’s real feelings.
Dae Gil is summoned to meet the Crown Prince who is very curious about the young man whose name he has heard so often lately. He notices the king’s sword and feels jealousy for not having received such a gift from his father. Instead of answering Dae Gil’s question about why In Jwa was released, the Crown Prince starts hinting at the resemblance Dae Gil has to Suk Bin, Yeoning, even the king. He reveals that as a kid he witnessed the torture of Man Geum and asks in what year the young gambler was born. Dae Gil chooses to lie that he doesn’t know. The Crown Prince finally says that In Jwa recommended him to a government position. Because of his lack of qualifications and the mistrust of the Prince towards a rebel like In Jwa, Dae Gil is asked to keep an eye on the scholar. As a pupil of Kim Chae Gun, he is assigned as a special military officer in the Forbidden Guard division.
Kim Chae Gun gives the uniform to his pupil. Dae Gil’s first thought is to refuse the post, but his Master says the orders of the Crown Prince are a royal command. Besides, it is not a high position. Dae Gil puts the uniform on but still looks displeased. His master gives him a soldier badge and says the soldiers have more freedom to come and go in the palace, nobody inspects them. Dae Gil still grumbles, and Chae Gun tells him to have some pride as a soldier now.
The acupuncture treatment of the king shows results, and he finally opens his eyes. His youngest son greets him with joy, but the first person the king wants to see is Kim Chae Gun. Before speaking with his faithful warrior, Sukjong listens to the royal order of the release for Yi In Jwa, read by a trembling clerk. The Crown Prince is prostrate in reverence in front of the king. Sukjong wants to hear why the rebel was freed and shows his disappointment by throwing the table with his food. The Crown Prince openly tells his father he is resentful because he is not accepted by the king as his brothers are, despite being the firstborn and heir.
Yeoning finds Kim Chae Gun by the king’s order and is surprised to see Dae Gil as a soldier. The two brothers are cautious with each other. The prince is suspecting the recommendation of In Jwa aims to drive them apart and asks: Are you an enemy or an ally?
Before receiving an answer, Yeoning is called away by a Noron minister, and Dae Gil walks away, thinking about his brother’s words. His Grandpa and Seol Im try to cheer him up with little success. All his thoughts are to protect his people.
The king gives a direct order to Kim Chae Gun–kill Yi In Jwa. No surprise attacks or assassinations. Open the door with self-assurance. Bring him the head of his enemy!
The scholar has an unexpected visitor–the rebel Jeong Hee Ryang. In Jwa thanks him for the “favour” of poisoning the king. The rebel only says it was unfortunate the plan didn’t work. The real reason he came, however, is Baek Dae Gil–does In Jwa really want to make him a king? The scholar is suspicious about the ambition of Jeong, but the rebel doesn’t want the throne. He is cautious himself. If all In Jwa has is luck, that is not enough to be his ally. Now Jeong will test Yi In Jwa–the king is awake and will make a move. He will wait to see the reaction of In Jwa.
It’s night and Dam Seo visits the grave of her father to pour rice wine and honor him. It’s his death anniversary–so says the same Jeong, who arrives as a friend of her father. His recalls with regret both the deaths of so many people in the rebellion in 1697 and that of her father. She reveals that her teacher never came to this grave to plead for forgiveness. Jeong tries to explain why and asks her to think carefully what she means to In Jwa–probably everything. In the end, he reveals that Chae Gun has been sent to kill her teacher that night.
Yi in Jwa and his two guards wait with uneasiness in the porch of his home. The one suggests that they go into hiding, but Jin Ki is ready to fight. In Jwa decides it’s better to pack and go, but it’s too late. The front door breaks open by the rolling body of a guard and Chae Gun steps in. He declares that he has received a royal command and he’s come for the head of the king’s enemy.
Dae Gil is having dinner with his little family when he senses a menace. He asks his grandpa to take Seol Im and hide inside the house, then searches for the threat. A strange man attacks him and they tussle around the house, with kicking and punching. Finally Dae Gil gains the upper hand and demands to know Dam Seo’s whereabouts.
Jin Ki pulls his sword and jumps from the porch to meet Chae Gun. The fight is cruel and bloody, as the royal swordsman manages to wound him. Moo Myung comes to help, but they are both defeated. Chae Gun jumps onto the porch and confronts his target. In Jwa is still stunned that the King is sending killers openly. Chae Gun stabs him firmly close to the heart.
Two arrows hit the pillars on the both sides of the royal swordsman. It’s Dam Seo, who runs in and gets between the two men, pulling an arrow on the warrior. The words of rebel Jeong made a big impact to her, reviving all the past moments she had with her teacher and making her remember the tender side he showed her, calling her a daughter. Now Dam Seo wants to forgive. Chae Gun tells her to step aside, but she says he will have to kill her first before killing her teacher.
The swordsman knocks her bow away. So she gets up and shields her adoptive father with her body. Dae Gil arrives and is terrified to see her in danger. He calls to his master to stop, but Chae Gun can only think about fulfilling the royal command. Dam Seo makes a final decision–she grabs the sword pointed at In Jwa and stabs it deeply in her own chest. The blood runs from her mouth and with her last strength she asks that he accept her life instead of her teacher’s. The three men watch, appalled.
Dam Seo falls on the floor, and In Jwa kneels over her not understanding. Her last words to him are that she resented him, the killer of his father, so much, but all this hatred is a heavy burden and she wants to stop–both hating and asking for forgiveness. She turns her head towards Dae Gil and her last thoughts are that she should have asked for forgiveness with her life long ago. Then she dies.
In Jwa, inconsolable, cries her name as Dae Gil walks slowly towards them, grief-stricken. Chae Gun pulls his sword again, ready to finish his task. In Jwa looks at him in fury and shouts, “Kill me now! Kill me!” Suddenly life saving badge is thrown at the warrior’s feet and he stops. It’s Dae Gil, using the badge his master gave him. Chae Gun asks if he really wants to use it to save In Jwa, and Dae Gil reminds him about the swords which kill and the swords which save people. Just once they can save the monster because Dam Seo sacrificed her life for him. Kim Chae Gun retreats but warns that they will regret saving In Jwa.
Dae Gil takes his first love’s body and slowly walks away from the house. Outside, Prince Yeoning runs up just in time to see the horrid truth–Dam Seo is dead. He touches her face in a last caress. Both he and Dae Gil look heartbroken.
The Buddhist monks prepare a pyre for Dam Seo on the beach of a beautiful river. The two brothers are there to say farewell before the fire incinerates her body and hides her forever from their eyes, full of pain.
Dae Gil walks alone remembering the moments he had with Dam Seo and how he wanted to see her smile when everything was over. He wanted to build a world where she could smile. But he couldn’t protect her….
In Jwa scatters the ashes of Dam Seo over the river and his heart is overtaken by the desire for revenge. When the time comes, he pays a visit to the young prince, Yeonryung. His words about the blood bearers–the Crown Prince, Yeoning and Yeonryung--are vague, until he says the king prefers the youngest of his sons. The prince is confused. In Jwa asks if he wants to become a king. Or does he want to join the rebellion and turn Joseon upside down? The prince calls for guards to throw this strange person out, but nobody comes. The monster says his daughter died at the hands of the king. His family was killed, and friends lost! In Jwa pulls a needle from his sleeve and stabs it in the neck of the prince, causing paralysis and dreadful pain. Moo Myung enters the room and reminds him of the aftermath of killing the boy. Yi In Jwa says this is not enough for his pain to disappear. He draws a sword and stabs the prince, telling him to blame his father--this will only end when one of them dies!
To do the recap of this episode I watch it three times in a row. And every time all the things that happened in the story looked more and more coherent and reasoned. I couldn’t accept the death of Dam Seo, but this was the only way she found to deal with her inner demons. Her perspective in life was distorted from the beginning, and she didn’t see the new world Dae Gil wanted to share with her. Also she couldn’t take the hand Yeoning was giving her even as a friend. Looking from the other side –what could she possibly give to these young men when her own life was something she couldn’t value? I hope after all this suffering our heroes will walk out stronger and ready to accept any challenge. I am eager to see them in action!_________________________________________