Editor: Val Kaye Taozen
Photos cr. : SBS
The news starts to spread through Hanyang, causing no little anxiety to Hong Mae, who now knows why Hwang Jin Ki was asking for a coffin the night before. Jeong Hee Ryang, the rebel, also heard the news and goes to meet with Yi In Jwa. He demands that In Jwa wait for the king to die of natural causes, but in return In Jwa asks if he has given up his plans for the throne. They agree to support each other and swear a blood oath to seal their alliance.
Back at the palace, Yeoning is not willing to accept the story the ministers have spread around to explain Yeonryung's death. But he is chastened when both the Crown Prince and the Noron ministers point out to him that he is the obvious beneficiary of his brother's death and it would be best if he were to let it pass quietly without trying to find out the truth.
Having failed to stir up suspicion and enmity among the ministers, Yi In Jwa turns to the brothers, shaken as they are by all of the recent tragedies. He meets Yeoning at Yeonryung's funeral and elaborately points out that there are three still remaining in line for the throne: the Crown Prince, Yeoning, and . . . one who is close at hand. He hints broadly enough that, despite his scornful rejection of In Jwa's suggestions, Yeoning begins to doubt Baek Dae Gil's intentions.
Dae Gil, meanwhile, meets with Jeong Hee Ryang. Jeong tells him that In Jwa killed the young prince, and Yeoning is covering it up. The palace is corrupt and bloody, he says, and the violence there only harms the people further. Why should Dae Gil support a rotten government—why not join Jeong in his rebellion? Dae Gil, after all, has a legitimate right to the throne and, thus, would give legitimacy to the rebellion. As a final enticement, Jeong offers Dae Gil Yi In Jwa's life if he joins.
Dae Gil and Yeoning meet, full of the doubts and fears planted in them by the two traitorous allies. Dae Gil demands to know why Yeoning is not investigating his brother's death when he must know it was In Jwa's doing. Is this not the same as admitting that he's glad? Yeoning, in return, claims Dae Gil has lied to him. When Dae Gil denies it, Yeoning asks, “Who is your birth father?” Dae Gil hesitates, and the prince asks another one: “Have you met with the rebel Jeong?” Dae Gil's reticence is all the proof Yeoning needs. He continues, telling his brother, “Had I known you were Father's son, I would never have befriended you.” Dae Gil leaves in disgust, saying he finally understands Yi In Jwa's “great moral cause”--Joseon, and Yeoning, are rotten to the core.
The latest sign of rot—the confiscation of goods that Yeonryung had given to the poor—tips the balance for Dae Gil. He goes back to Jeong and agrees to become the king he wants, if he will cut ties with Yi In Jwa. To test his resolve, Jeong asks him to oversee a transaction that evening. When the time comes, Dae Gil hands over the agreed amount but demands to know why the goods aren't being given to the people. As if on cue, someone starts battering down the gates, and a crowd of peasants burst into the compound. Before Jeong Hee Ryang can organize his men against them, however, Kim Chae Gun marches in with his soldiers to take charge. Dae Gil had been setting Jeong up, all along.
Through his various sources of information, Dae Gil had discovered that Jeong was the very one oppressing the people through the confiscation of Yeonryung's gifts. Dae Gil tells Jeong that he never wanted to be king, nor a rebel. The only thing he wants is for ordinary people to be able to live like human beings.
Jeong grabs a sword to attack Dae Gil. But when Dae Gil tries to strike back, one of the peasants stops him, allowing Jeong the opportunity to escape. The peasant explains he wanted to save Dae Gil from dirtying his hands with blood. Jeong runs but is quickly surrounded by soldiers again, this time led by Yeoning. Kim Chae Gun had told him of the plan. The brothers exchange a glance across the rejoicing peasantry—perhaps their friendship can still be salvaged.
While ransacking Jeong's secret hideout, Dae Gil discovers opium and other evidence to incriminate the rebel. Yeoning tells him the king will be glad, to which Dae Gil retorts, “I didn't do it for the king.” Yeoning points out that “working for the people is the work of the king.”
When the king hears that Dae Gil brought about Jeong's arrest, he orders Yeoning to bring him for an audience. When they are alone, he asks what Dae Gil's plans are for the future. Dae Gil tells him that he feels resentment for the difficult life he has had to endure. However, he does not want to be connected to the palace, but left free to live out his life as best he can as a citizen. The king reminds him that “an older brother must act like an older brother; a younger brother must act like a younger brother. This is a fundamental moral duty.”
In a subsequent meeting, the king asks his eldest son what he intends to do with Yeoning once he becomes king: will he kill him, or let him live? The Crown Prince is unwilling to admit his father is dying, much less decide what to do about his brother.
Finally, King Sukjong promises Yeoning that he will leave a way for him to stay alive. He foretells that Yeoning will be king, but warns him neither to make enemies, nor to ally himself too closely, with Baek Dae Gil. Their paths are different, and they must accept that.
The episode ends with Dae Gil hearing the King's death being announced from the roof of the palace.
I have really had my curiosity and interest renewed in this episode because of the relationship between the brothers. The tension is mounting between Yeoning and Dae Gil as they try to negotiate the differences of their public roles and views of what is good for the country going forward. This would be interesting in itself, but their friendship has become further complicated by fraternal hierarchy. It was a challenge to sort out their feelings and behavior when it became known that Suk Bin was mother to both. It had not occurred to me that Yeoning was as yet unaware of Dae Gil's true father, so to see him grapple with that new difficulty was unexpected, and poignant. I find both brothers attractive in their essential decency and desire to do right—especially since that desire does not preclude feelings of jealousy and uncertainty. Watching them continue to strive against their lesser selves, choosing to trust each other, work together, and protect each other, is beautiful. I am eager to keep watching to see if they can keep it up. I am afraid that at some point they will be forced to turn against each other, but until then, I am finding their delicate balancing act absolutely riveting.