Writer: Rika Setiati
Editors: Val Kaye Taozen & Tabby Cat
Photos credit: SBS
Summary of thought
A change in a person’s attitude is influenced by their position. The throne makes you carry the weight of power; thus, more consideration has to be taken and everyone’s interests and influence taken more into consideration. Seeing episode 21, I get the intense message about the meaning of the throne and its power. Those two things caused Yeoning to lose so many Noron ministers who supported him, including the most caring minister on whom Yeoning had already placed his trust. King Gyeongjong, in his sickness, suffers more to try to protect the throne. And it’s eating Yi In Jwa more and more, who has tried so many bad things and neglects the flowing blood from each person involved, as if they were nothing. In this episode, I’m seeing the bad side of a game of thrones and how it affects all the characters. Surprisingly, although it was so short, because of the throne, too, King Gyeongjong changed fast into a more mature person. I love how this episode gives so much time to him to show the good side of his character. And I’m so happy the one who remains as normal person and is not influenced or eaten by throne and power is Baek Dae Gil.
Recaps and thought/comment
After King Gyeongjong pushes Dae Gil away and raises his sword one more time to kill Yeoning, Dae Gil unveils King Sukjong’s last wish. He says King Sukjong already knew that after he died, the Noron faction would reject him as the king, and the Soron faction would take advantage of the situation. Dae Gil said he was told to protect Yeoning, “…as his older brother, I will put my life on the line.”
Listening, King Gyeongjong asks the eunuchs for confirmation. They assure him that what Dae Gil said is correct. King Gyeongjong drops the sword and tells Yeoning that this is the last time he saves him. As for the Noron faction, he will not forgive them. He will execute all of them. Ignoring their pleas, King Gyeongjong tells Yeoning to protect himself and demands he no longer take part in government affairs. After coughing up more blood, he leaves.
Yeoning, trembling, doesn’t know what to do to save the Noron ministers’ lives. Dae Gil promises to look for a way and asks Yeoning to keep calm. Yeoning just nods. Meanwhile, the Noron ministers are being tortured. Ironically, in a comfortable room, Yi In Jwa is having drinks with the Soron ministers, laughing happily about their victory.
Dae Gil hand the King the blood oath he holds as evidence of Yi In Jwa’s treason. He explains that Yi In Jwa got the Norons to name the successor. He, further, says the assassination attempt of the king, the poisoning of the food, and the spreading of gossip are examples of Yi In Jwa’s actions. He again asks the King to reconsider and forgive Noron faction. Instead of executing them, Dae Gil suggests just executing Yi In Jwa.
The King disagrees. For him, the fact that Yi In Jwa might be treasonous is not related to the Norons’ acts. Furthermore, the Noron faction is not a puppet of Yi In Jwa’s. What’s important for the King is the Norons refused to accept his being King. Therefore, they have to die. Dae Gil argues, but the King remains firm, “The Noron faction and Yi In Jwa, I will punish them as I see fit.” Dae Gil hopelessly reports back to Yeoning, who, shocked and shaking, angrily tosses the table in front of him.
The execution day arrives. Dae Gil and Kim Chae Gun can only watch as the Noron ministers, on the execution stage, await the blade. Meanwhile, Yeoning makes one last effort to convince the King to change his decision because the Norons made an error in judgment out of their loyalty to Yeoning, not as a treasonous act.
Failing to change the King’s mind, Yeoning rushes the execution. Unable to break through the guards, he can only look, in tears, into Kim Chang Jib eyes. This minister proudly states he does not see their act as treasonous, and strengthening his voice, says his last wish to Yeoning, “You must stand tall until the end! You must survive and reform this nation’s government!”
With that, Kim Chang Jib dies. One by one, the Noron ministers are killed. Blood flows from their necks. Yeoning yells, cries, full of tears, and asks what exactly they have done so wrong to be punished this way. Dae Gil holds him back and reminds his brother to not let himself injured. Suffering in pain and grief, Yeoning crawls to the execution stage. Still loudly crying, he says, “I’m sorry, I promise you...(I will get vengeance on your behalf), trust me, and wait for me... I’m sorry.”
Leaving the execution, Yeoning tells his guard to leave him. Alone in his mother’s room, he says, as if his parents were still there, he doesn’t want to lose anymore of his people. After this hard day, Seol Im and Grandpa welcome Dae Gil home. When they ask why Dae Gil is not staying with his brother, he replies he can do nothing now for Yeoning.
Having thought about the blood oath, the King summons Yi In Jwa. He tests Yi In Jwa by asking his advice on what he should do about Yeoning. Shamelessly, Yi In Jwa confidently says the King should pull out the roots of rebellion to prevent it rising up again. He tells the King to execute Yeoning, implying Yeoning is the root of the rebellion.
And although the King seemed to reject Dae Gil’s thoughts on Yi In Jwa, this time he suspects Yi In Jwa as the one who caused the execution of a hundred Norons, the one who persuaded Noron ministers, and the one who instigated the incident that led to their deaths. Understanding the direction of the conversation, Yi In Jwa lightly interjects that he has no power to effect the Noron ministers’ actions. The King, increasing the angry tone of his voice, responds that Yi In Jwa must then see him as easier target if Yi In Jwa says has no power to influence Noron ministers. Well, I love how King Gyeongjong reacts to Yi In Jwa this way, although in the past I was so upset, almost thinking he was so weak.
The King presents the blood oath. Yi In Jwa is surprised, and wonders if the time has finally come for him to make a real move. Although the King tries to corner Yi In Jwa, this man still tries manipulating the King. Dropping to his knees, he protests that all of his acts were done to save the King and help him to attain the throne. Well, yes, the King remembers all things Yi In Jwa did, and he admits Yi In Jwa words are partly right that he could not get his father’s sympathy and even felt threatened by Yeoning and the Noron ministers.
The King says, “The promise I made for you, I held it deep in my heart.” Ripping up the blood oath (Oh, no!) he continues, “However, just as you said, rebellion can rise up again. In return for me sparing your life... you will not be able to step inside this palace ever again. You will lose everything that you own.” Yi In Jwa challenges the King (oh this man!), “Why don’t you kill me instead?” The King ignores him and tells him to not become involved in State affairs again (similar answer he said to Yeoning). Furthermore, he tells Yi In Jwa that the rebel Jeong will be executed tomorrow.
The Soron faction ministers acknowledge the blood oath between Yi In Jwa and Jeong. They consider washing their hands of him and throwing him out as a useless sword. Checking the situation, Yi In Jwa enters the ministers’ room and is so upset when the ministers turn their backs on him as well. Well, they clearly only took benefits from him and remain unshaken by Yi In Jwa’s threats.
Dae Gil reports to Yeoning that the King decided to throw Yi In Jwa out of the palace, and the old man will lose everything. Yeoning thinks it is already useless because all the people who were trapped in his scheme would not return to life.
Leaving the Soron ministers, Yi In Jwa visits the rebel Jeong in jail and tells him, “They say the soul looks good if you die while eating. You will be executed tomorrow.” He, then, throws a small medicinal pellet into Jeong’s food and hints, “I think you need to die in order for me to live. The body may rot for a moment, but the soul will not leave the body.” He leaves just as the other rebels begin throwing up the blood.
Meanwhile, Dae Gil reminds Yeoning, seeing how depressed he is, “You need to stand up again! For all those that died for you, you must stand up again!” Yeoning silently cries again, listening to Dae Gil. Suddenly, his guard enters and reports that Jeong and his people committed suicide.
Dae Gil rushes out to find the criminals dead. He checks the bodies and lifts the cover over Jeong’s face. He holds his breath and seems to be thinking something. He then reports to the King.
The King, already aware of the rebels’ deaths, questions Dae Gil, asking if that means his plan failed. Dae Gil replies, “Not yet.” He requests the King mobilize the Euigeumbu, the Office of the Inspector General, the Police, and the Hansung Regional District. He wants to tighten the noose around Yi In Jwa’s throat. Dae Gil’s wish is approved.
Meanwhile, Yi In Jwa explains to his confederates that the King turned his back on him because Dae Gil had the blood oath. He doesn’t care, though, since he already has a backup plan, and they can forget the king who is already dying. But Dae Gil is a step ahead of him. The officers, commanded by the King, arrive at his house. I guess this action is missing from Yi In Jwa thinking, so it is too late for him to prevent the inspection. Not only his residence is raided, the shaman’s house is raided as well. Yi In Jwa angrily says he plans to strike first.
As predicted by Dae Gil, Jeong still lives. As soon as he wakes up, he meets Park Pil Hyun, another Yi In Jwa ally, to discuss their plan, already understanding that Yi In Jwa will take his sword out. Jeong comments that the city will be turned upside down tomorrow. Will it be?
Meanwhile, Kim Chae Gun asks Dae Gil if is he certain that Yi In Jwa will make a move tomorrow. Dae Gil confidently replies he will make a move, otherwise he will end up dying. At the same time, Park Pil Hyun tells Jeong he will slash the king’s throat and start a new world tomorrow.
The next day, Yi In Jwa stands in front of the palace gate, thinking he will take everything back. He enters the palace (that’s what he means by taking benefits from King once again) and easily reaches the palace bell with the help of a guard who kills another guard.
Yi In Jwa strikes the bell. A maid, some soldiers, a eunuch, and a Soron member move as soon as they hear the bell. A Soron minister and the King ask why the bell is ringing. But Dae Gil deciphers the meaning: the first bell sounded 5 times, then 9 times. It means Mu-Shin. A code of rebellion, along with the two fishes symbol painting held by the King.
Yi In Jwa yells for rebels to rise up, to those who suffered from the corrupted government and the impact of it. Three soldiers enter Yeoning’s room and are surprised when Yeoning is not there. He, too, understood the meaning of the bells. A rebel Soron tells the Inspector General’s Official to arrest all officials in charge of administrative and executive affairs. And a eunuch and a maid go to King’s chamber.
Dae Gil, however, figured out Yi In Jwa’s plan. He approaches Yi In Jwa near the bell tower and asks Yi In Jwa, “Is this everything? The rebels that you planted inside the palace?” Exactly, Dae Gil, that’s what I thought seeing the small number of the rebels. All across the palace, the rebels are arrested.
Realizing he’s lost, Yi In Jwa again tries to manipulate Dae Gil, saying he truly wanted Dae Gil to be king. Dae Gil replies that if Yi In Jwa is such genius at being able to see into the future (Ah, so that is why he always knows everything. He is a clairvoyant!), why couldn’t he read Dae Gil’s face well, “How could you think I look like someone who’d become a king?”
Yi In Jwa grabs a sword to kill Dae Gil, but, of course, soldiers arrive to stop him, followed by the King. Now the King clearly sees who exactly is the rebel. And, oh my god, Yi In Jwa is still so shameless, saying it is misunderstanding and asks for evidence. I guess, like me, the King lost his patience. He yells, calling forth the evidence: Yi In Jwa’s captured rebels. And still, still, deep in his mind, although it’s already a dead end at that moment, Yi In Jwa still has that spirit, that it is not over yet. Oh my....
The next day, Yi In Jwa is tied to a stake in the middle of city so everyone can see him. The King mandates there will be no trial for Yi In Jwa. He will be executed after dark. Hong Mae provokes the angry crowd even further until they throw eggs at Yi In Jwa. Observing the situation, Dae Gil comes forward and stands close to Yi In Jwa. Yi In Jwa is so mad at him, saying it’s better for him to be killed than be humiliated this way. Dae Gil says the King made this decision because it will show the rest of Yi In Jwa’s followers the last pathetic moment of his life so they will not try another rebellion.
Still angry, Yi In Jwa asks how much Dae Gil knows. Dae Gil mentions a really significant name: Park Pil Hyun. Yi In Jwa, surprised, asks how Dae Gil knows. Dae Gil answers back with a question, “What do you think my father has been up to after he left me?” Yi In Jwa tries to dig out more information. Instead of answering, Dae Gil changes the subject to Jeong whom he knew was not dead, adding that Yi In Jwa gave Jeong a drug to slow down his heartbeat, adding he chose to let Jeong go to see where he went. And Dae Gil is certain Jeong will not be able to get into the city. Dae Gil, at last, says they will meet again after sunset.
Leaving Yi In Jwa, Dae Gil meets with the King again. The King says he appreciates all Dae Gil has done, but he worries that blood will not stop flowing in the palace. Coughing blood again, he explains he does not have much time left. He already knows from the palace doctor he has really only a short time left since his sickness has been so long and cannot be cured.
Aware of King’s health, the Soron ministers predict the King will embrace Yeoning again because he has no heir. They worry they’ll lose their lives if Yeoning become the king. But the “big eye” minister strongly opposes a king borne of a lowly water maid. As a result, an assassination attempt ensues. Fortunately, Yeoning recognizes it, and he’s motivated to stay strong. Seeing Yeoning’s increased appetite, Dae Gil is happy. But, then, suddenly Yeoning collapses. The doctor says it’s not poison, but if Yeoning ate the wrong taproot, it could cause death. Hearing this, Yeoning wants meet the King.
Wow! So many things happen in a half-day at the palace, right before Yi In Jwa is executed. Talking about that, Dae Gil leaves the palace again and discusses with Kim Chae Gun the progress on Jeong and Park Pil Hyun. Kim Chae Gun says they escaped.
At the same time, Yeoning begs the King for protection, saying the Soron ministers are plotting to kill him. The King replies that he has no inclination whatsoever to stop Soron faction’s efforts. Yeoning, as Crown Prince, will just have to accept the situation. But by himself, the King seems to think about it carefully. The Queen joins him as he reflects on his feelings about the sunset that, for him, is a sad one, not beautiful as his wife mentions. “Once the sun sets, it is gone without a trace. It feels empty and destroyed.” Usually the sky is symbol of the king, so you can bet that is what he means with the sun.
King Gyeongjong looks deeply into his wife’s eyes. He shares his worries at leaving the queen without an heir and wonders how the queen will protect herself from harm. (Maybe harm means the palace’s typical bloody conflict? Oh, my thought).The Queen catches his worries and asks him to stay strong. But the King replies, “As long as I sit on the throne, I belong to all the people. My fate is keeping the royal family stable and serving the people. However....(realizing his dream will not come true) I am very sorry.”
Feeling confident the fight has ended, Kim Chae Gun asks Dae Gil what he will do once Yi In Jwa is dead. Dae Gil smiles and says he will decide once Yi In Jwa really dies. Dae Gil’s careful thinking is right: Moo Myung and Hwang Jin Ki succeed in releasing Yi In Jwa.
Kim Chae Gun, Dae Gil, and their armies race after Yi In Jwa until they reach the forest. Using his sharp hearing, Dae Gil detects Yi In Jwa and his team. In a panic, Hwang Jin Ki says he will hold off everyone while Moo Myung and Yi In Jwa head to the river.
Hwang Jin Ki and Kim Chae Gun fight each other as Dae Gil and the rest run after Yi In Jwa. Twice, Hwan Jin Ki is injured by Kim Chae Gun’s sword. At the end of the battle, Hwang Jin Ki decides to jump off a cliff.
Realizing how close Dae Gil and his army are, Moo Myung decides to switch clothes with Yi In Jwa, just as they reach the river. So, when Dae Gil shoots an arrow at the man in the boat, it is Moo Myung that gets hit in the back. Dae Gil refuses give up. After hearing from Kim Chae Gun that Hwang Jin Ki jumped off a cliff, all of them try to find Yi In Jwa in the forest again.
Meanwhile in the palace, Yeoning visits the King in his room. He heard that the King has not eaten for two days so he brings food the King likes: a raw crab and persimmons. Seeing the food, King Gyeongjong asks if Yeoning has made a decision. Instead of answering the question, Yeoning says he’ll call the court lady to test the food. King Gyeongjong says no, and for few seconds, they look at each other.
Yeoning asks permission to leave. When he just turns his back, the King says, softly, “Yeoning, I’m sorry.” Hearing this, Yeoning says to himself, “As for forgiveness, I will plead for forgiveness from you.”
Deep in the forest, while Dae Gil, Kim Cha Geun and the army search, Yi In Jwa silently hides beneath the leaves.
And in the palace, after Yeoning leaves the king’s chamber, an official announces the King has passed away.