EPISODE 11 RECAP
Ki Chul backs the king into a corner, telling him of the plan unfolding right this very minute. His underlings have already begun assassinating the names on Gongmin’s roster—the ones he meant to bring in as supporters—and the doctor plays a role in part of it.
As we saw, Eun-soo is given her “choice” of who will be next to go: the princess, the doctor, or the warrior. Ack! If it were me, my thought process would be: damn, damn, and maybe he can defend himself?
The baddies have also kidnapped Eun-soo’s latest patient, young Yi Seong-gye. (Aka future Joseon founder, aka future Choi Young killer, aka Eun-soo’s current existential dilemma.)
Choi Young heads out, telling Gongmin to stall for time. With the help of his Suribang mates, he takes down the armed men holding Yi Seong-gye captive. Sigh. I want to tell this director: Making it slow-motion doesn’t turn boring into cool. Sadly, not everyone’s gifted with action scenes. *Dreams of what could have been.*
Young asks the boy where Eun-soo was taken. He doesn’t know, but Dae-man picks up the trail and directs them thither.
Hwasuin presses Eun-soo for her answer, because she was instructed to kill the person Eun-soo most valued. Yeah, you’re not really selling anyone on the whole “Tell me” part of the deal.
Hwasuin explains that this is Ki Chul’s way of winning over his people, to remove those close to them. Eun-soo asks if Ki Chul gave that poison to the young ex-king, and gets back the confirmation.
Asked whom to kill first, Eun-soo retorts that they can choose whomever she likes, because she’s not answering such a bullshit question. Hwasuin tries to force her cooperation by threatening to kill Yi Seong-gye, but Eun-soo just says, “Do it, if you want.”
That actually merits a confused look between the assassins. Eun-soo continues, saying, “I know you can’t kill me yet. Other people? Kill them or not, what do I care?”
She tries to leave, and Eum-ja draws his sword to Eun-soo’s neck to stop her. She calls his bluff, walking forward into the blade’s path… and he withdraws the sword. Damn, that’s ballsy. I like.
Eum-ja’s super-sensitive hearing clues him in to the arrival of Woodalchi, who face off to fight. Eum-ja decides he’ll call the doctor’s bluff as well: Does she truly not care about other people dying? He lifts his flute to play.
She freezes in her tracks. The death note has the men clutching their heads in pain, and finally she runs back to tell him to stop.
Before he has the chance to stop, an arrow whizzes by his face and forces the interruption. It’s one of Suribang’s archers, and now Young joins his men. He checks on Eun-soo, wiping the blood from her ears, then confronts the baddies. “What’ll it be?” he asks. “Will you continue, or retreat?”
Hwasuin concedes that they’ve learned what they came for—it’s Choi Young, isn’t it? “He runs to find you every time, without fail.”
Woodalchi allows Eum-ja and Hwasuin to walk away without a fight. Then Young turns to Eun-soo, but she knocks his hand aside and turns away silently. He lets her walk on alone, though escorted (by a nervous Deok-man who adorably has no idea what to do with her).
Back in the palace, Ki Chul informs Gongmin that there’s a reason that he (Ki Chul) is so confident while the king, notably, is not: The king is hung up on stupid ideals, like wanting to be a good king. Go figure. The people don’t want to love their king, he says, and they’ll complain no matter what he does. You’ve got to keep them fed to appease them—but not too much, or they’ll revolt: “Just enough. Withholding some.”
Young returns and reports that the princess and Eun-soo are safe, but five people from their list have been killed. The same message was left at each site: “If you know your mistakes, fix them.”
Ki Chul is smug that his threat has been transmitted to anyone in the nation—don’t side with the king. OR DIE.
Gongmin fumes at the loss of lives, but he regroups and counters: At midmonth, he will hold a royal lecture. It’s an event where the king’s supporters with gather to advise him, and Gongmin invites Ki Chul to attend.
Ki Chul is displeased. By convening Gongmin’s people, the king is patently disregarding his warning (not to have any people), and he starts to advance on the king. His hand flexes angrily with ki.
Young blocks his path, and Ki Chul places his frosty hand on Young’s armor. There they stand, both hands charging with ki, Ki Chul’s ice versus Young’s electricity. It seems like an even match… until Young lets out a gasp of pain. Still, he manages to throw off Ki Chul’s hand.
Ki Chul tersely agrees to attend the advisory lecture, then storms out. Young says he’s fine, and they beeline to the princess’s quarters to check on her. Gongmin grabs Noguk’s hand, knocking her tea aside, in an urgent way reminiscent of their first meeting. From now on, he declares that she’ll live in his palace, until they can guarantee that everything in her palace is free of danger.
As they leave, he tells her that Ki Chul threatened her safety, to which she merely answers, “I heard.” He jerks to a stop, then realizes her hand is in his and lets go of it. She agrees to stay with him, and that relieves his concern a bit. Hilariously, as the guards resume walking in step with the king, Lady Choi jerks an Woodalchi back and orders the entourage to walk slower. Ha, cute.
It’s only once he’s safely alone that Young checks on his shoulder, and finds it bruised (burned?) blue from Ki Chul’s energy.
Eun-soo paces, mulling over the threat to Young’s life. She heads to the hospital ward, where the injured Woodalchi are having their ears treated, and overhears Yi Seong-gye chatting enthusiastically to Young. Ha, he’s actually regaling Young with the stories he’s heard about him, basically telling Young how awesome he is.
Young takes a moment to teach the boy a few things, like how you shouldn’t covet anyone’s sword. And: “If a hundred enemies lie in wait for you, run away.” The boy gapes, and Young explains that if you’re really after the one guy hiding behind the hundred, why bother fighting the hundred? This is so cute. Young may be hot as the warrior, but he’s downright adorable as the hyung.
He spots Eun-soo at the door, and they have an uncomfortable conversation, all awkwardness and avoidant eyes. He asks to speak with her, and they head outside while Dol-bae and Deok-man smilingly take note. Ha, the Woodalchi are such romantics.
Young asks Eun-soo whether that boy is the one who kills him in the future, saying he doesn’t think the kid will be able to. He adds that he intends to request permission to leave the palace, so he can escort her to heaven’s door.
She reminds him that there’s no guarantee that the door will be open, plus he’s busy with important business with the king. He warns that it’s not safe for her here, because the number of people seeking to use her future knowledge will keep growing.
Eun-soo supposes that he would have fought Ki Chul if he’d deemed her to be in danger living under his roof. Who would win that fight? Young answers that he’d lose. To make sure she’s absolutely clear, Eun-soo asks whether “losing” means dying. He says yes.
So basically, what we’re getting at is: He would die to keep his promise, and she’s not loving that it’s a burden tied to her. She says she has to think it over.
Young notes that she doesn’t smile now, and asks if this is just because she’s with him, “Or have you become unable to smile?” You know, there’s something quaint and sweet about the way they speak to each other super plainly, because there’s a 700-year generation gap between them and they want to make sure that absolutely nothing is lost in translation. Dialogue that is this on-the-nose is usually an issue of bad writing, but in their case it’s subverted by the whole time-skip thing, making it poignant.
At the House of Ki, Hwasuin asks what Ki Chul plans to do with Choi Young now; he values the man, but can’t have him. Ki Chul answers that there’s still one way: Win over the king first. Then Choi Young will fall in line.
He doesn’t seem to think this will be much of a task, and is more concerned with figuring out who will appear at the king’s lecture. So he can kill them all. To that end, he intends to make contact with a secret group of assassins with a fearsome reputation; it’s time to swap kings. Before he does, though, he’ll make sure to show Gongmin his place.
Hwasuin asks if she should drag Eun-soo here, or leave her be. Ki Chul calls her a useful but foolish woman who doesn’t understand the ways of this world. She’s powerless without the king or Choi Young, so he decrees, “She’ll come crawling here of her own accord.”
Gongmin turns his attention to the upcoming lecture; he doesn’t have much time to amass his people. Advisor Jo huffs that this will be easy, because they’ve got the doctor on their side. She’s from heaven and saved the princess and Choi Young and Yi Seong-gye—soon all of Goryeo will hear of it, and it’ll be a stamp of approval.
Neither Young nor Gongmin like this idea, but when Young tries to argue, Gongmin cuts him short—he has all the same concerns, but what other choice do they have? Young argues that this is exactly what Ki Chul does, killing people to win hearts and then showing them off.
Gongmin bristles to be likened to Ki Chul, and moreover is offended that Young would dare criticize him. Young says he’ll gather the loyal supporters, without selling out the doctor.
“So you can return her and keep your promise,” Gongmin says accusingly, like it’s selfish of him. “Naturally,” Young replies, like it’s not.
Gongmin accepts the challenge, telling him to go ahead and bring those supporters. If he can do it, Gongmin will send the doctor on her way.
Eun-soo decides to take matters into her own hands, starting with a reminder to “Don’t worry, be happy.” Remembering Young’s comment, she puts a smile on her face, determined not to turn into someone who’s lost the ability to smile. Which is why we love her, I’m pretty sure.
She asks Deok-man for directions and writes them down—there’s no way Ki Chul is just going to hand over her diary, so she’ll go to heaven’s door and wait for it to open. She explains this to Jang Bin and asks how much money she’ll need, thinking to ask the queen for expenses (calling her queen-nim, which is adorable).
Jang Bin asks if she’s talked this over with Choi Young. Obviously she hasn’t. He asks if being here is so frightening, when she has Woodalchi for protection. She answers that she’s most afraid of herself: “I don’t know what I might do here, and that’s frightening.” She doesn’t want to be responsible for history, which seems wise. I have a Dr. Jin I’d like to introduce you to.
A cadre of warriors wearing veiled hats arrives at Ki Chul’s home; they’re the group he hired. Ki Chul hands over payment and sends them to do their job, which includes surveillance of a particular woman.
Choi Young and his Suribang buddies arrive at the house of their first recruit, a renowned scholar by the name of Lee Saek. Yet the man they find is lazy, irritable, and sleepy. Omo, he’s perfect for Young.
Young won’t put up with a slur on the king, though, and drags Lee Saek up, having a message to convey to his teacher. The man grumps that his teacher isn’t likely to understand the words of mere brutes, but Young states the message: If Teacher’s got the stones to meet Young, send word.
Jang Bin finds Eun-soo’s room empty, and Deoki confirms that she left. Sure enough, Eun-soo is on the road, in disguise in men’s clothing with her sheet of directions.
She stops to ask a traveler whether she’s on the right road, keeping her face hidden and attempting her best sageuk-speak. (It’s laughably bad.) She continues on her way, and peers down the road… where Young stands casually waiting, leaning against a tree. Ha. Well, that didn’t get her very far.
She ducks her head and continues in a different direction, but he grabs her sack and holds her back. She tries to kick back and wriggle free, but he’s not havin’ it.
Young rebukes his men for doing a lousy job watching over her. Deok-man protests that she worked so hard running away and they could hardly tie her up to keep her at the palace, so… that’s how they ended up here.
Young accompanies Eun-soo on the road, chiding her for her paltry escape plan. He says he hasn’t decided yet whether to force her back or persuade her with words, but she stops him and proposes an end to the promise. She’ll forgive the kidnapping, chalk it up to lousy fate, and relieve him of the promise to return her home.
He supposes that she’s feeling guilty, and worried that he’ll die on her behalf. She doesn’t answer, intent on going her way, and instructs him on the workings of the handshake: to say hello, to greet someone upon reunion, and to say goodbye. She holds out a hand.
Young grabs it, but rather than shaking, he holds on and turns around, pulling her along as he heads back the way they came. He declares that it was a promise HE made, and therefore he’ll be the one to decide whether to honor it.
Eun-soo warns that if he drags her back, she’ll just run away again. He picks up on her word choice: “run away.”
Eun-soo says she can’t stand by and watch people being hurt on her account anymore: “And I don’t want to cry anymore because of you. So let me go.” Ending a promise is easy, she says; all they have to do is let it go.
He doesn’t have an argument for that. So when she grabs her sack from his grasp, he reluctantly lets go. Eun-soo continues on her path to heaven’s door… and around the way, a black-veiled mercenary spies on her.
Young is called by the scholar’s teacher, Lee Je-hyun, who receives him in what looks like a hidden school or salon, with other scholars and elders present. His question: What is the king like? They have heard of Young and his detachment to riches and power, based on his service to the prior king. Furthermore, Lee and his colleagues have all let go of idealistic hopes for Goryeo, and are doing what they can to get by for themselves. So they need to know: Why this king?
Lady Choi fills Gongmin and Noguk in on the meeting taking place: Lee Je-hyun is a man with a wide network of contacts, renowned enough that Noguk has heard his name back in Yuan. The man was powerful (or persuasive) enough that when Yuan proposed uniting with (usurping) Goryeo, he traveled to Yuan in person and managed to block the move. They wonder if he will be swayed.
Young answers the man’s questions, of whether the king seems merciful to his subjects (he’s never seen him interact, so he wouldn’t know), or whether he’d put his life on the line for Goryeo (he’s never been tested, so Young doesn’t know). And if they were to support the king, what could he offer them in return?
That line of questioning is going round in circles, so Young asks, “What kind of king do you elders want?” He asks, almost scornfully, whether they’re sitting around waiting for some Buddha-like, merciful, classically-educated-from-birth soul to show up and shower them in blessings, so they can support him.
Lee Je-hyun repeats his earlier question, of why Young is serving this king. Young replies, “Because he is the first king I have chosen on my own.” Ooh. Good answer.
When asked why he chose Gongmin, Young describes him as sometimes weak and fearful, often second-guessing his decisions or regretting his actions: “But this man knew shame.” And so, Young decided that before he dulled to that sense of shame, he would have to protect him.
Lee Je-hyun says that in order to attend the midmonth lecture, he’ll first have to stay alive. Will Choi Young be able to protect him and his people? (Ack, with the promises. Like the dude isn’t already burdened with enough lives.)
It’s not so easy that Young immediately responds. His steps home are heavy, and he thinks it over. We’re left hanging for the moment, not hearing his answer.
Eun-soo pauses in her journey to eat, and looks up at her constant watchguard Deok-man, seeing Young in his place. It’s almost this (unintentionally?) hilarious moment, like she’s hallucinating him instead of Deok-man; talk about a poor substitute.
She apologizes for putting him through the trouble, and Deok-man assures her that it’s no trouble, and that she can’t travel alone with all the dangers of the road. Plus, he adds bashfully, “I like it here.” Oh, does puppy have a crush? Poor boy, since all she sees is Young.
Sadly, she continues not to see Black Veil tracking her every move.
Young reports to the king, and they have this very cute grumpy sparring match where Gongmin pretends to be put out at Young’s way of speaking (“Do you always have to win every exchange?”). Lee Je-hyun agreed to come to the lecture, and the doctor left the palace.
Young adds that Woodalchi men are trained to respond to crisis in any situation, and advises Gongmin to always keep them by his side. Gongmin is all, Duh, of course, but this makes me suddenly nervous. Why are you talking about the future as though you’re not part of it?
To make that nervousness worse, he says that with Lee Je-hyun on his side, he’ll be able to make Goryeo strong, and also wishes the king well with his queen. Stuff you say to people you won’t be seeing for a while.
Lady Choi informs Young that the assassin group has entered the city. Young grimaces; so Ki Chul really does intend to kill every potential supporter to the king. Aunt can’t believe he promised to protect the teacher, including everyone in his group—how can Young take on everyone alone?
Young sighs that Mae Hee couldn’t believe it either, that he could protect her. Ah, his dead sweetheart. And neither could “that person.”
Aunt wonders who he means. Young says he can’t remember Mae Hee’s face anymore. What if he meets her in the afterlife and can’t recognize her? “So before I forget her, I’ll have to meet her.”
Ack! Don’t give Death Wish a reason to be romantic about it! Aunt is alarmed, picking up on his line of thought, and asks what he means. He answers, “I’m thinking over what it is I can do.” Can we add surviving to that list, please?
Young adds that his father always told him that the best strategy was the simplest. LIKE LIVING, you punk.
Young thinks back to his first meeting with the king, and how Gongmin had put his trust in him and asked to be taught how to fight.
Ki Chul opens up Hwata’s supposed diary, and out falls a piece of paper. Um. Okay, that’s a weird short scene.
Lady Choi voices her worries to Noguk, who agrees that Young must be stopped. But Lady Choi knows he’s not one to listen to someone else, and what’s more, he’s already started to act: His room has been packed up.
Lady Choi wonders if there’s one person—”that person”—who might be able to persuade him, and she’s got a good idea who. She says this in the hearing of Ki Chul’s mole, who perks up at the tidbit. Thankfully there are no names spoken, though that’s no guarantee of anything.
On the princess’s order, Lady Choi rides madly out of the palace, arriving to intercept Eun-soo late that night.
She says she came in the hopes that Eun-soo would be able to talk reason into Young. She explains about Young’s fiancée, the young woman he remembers by keeping a strip tied to his sword hilt. Their teacher died at the hands of the king, and the woman couldn’t handle being the cause of it, killing herself a few days later. After that point, Young changed, doing nothing but sleep or fight.
But lately she has felt a change in him, like he’s motivated to try things again—and she wonders whether it’s because of Eun-soo. She asks for confirmation: Did Eun-soo tell him she couldn’t trust him? That she didn’t need him anymore?
Eun-soo gasps in dread, recognizing that line of thinking. Thus Aunt fears that he decided to go where he’s more needed: “To die.” No, I don’t quite follow his logic, but I suppose that’s the point: He be talkin’ crazy talk.
Young prepares for a confrontation that night and tries to send Dae-man home. Dae-man refuses to leave, like the loyal puppy he is, so Young tells him he’ll ruin the trap. Dae-man wonders at that, skeptical since Young is all about frontal assault.
Young sighs that it sounds strange, doesn’t it? He scoffs to himself that there’s nothing to look back on, but admits, “I think I’m afraid.” Does that mean you change your mind? Sadly I think it means he’s just going to be suicidal AND afraid. He gets up to leave, and orders Dae-man to stay put.
Ki Chul’s court lady mole hands off a secret note, which gets conveyed to Ki Chul. He’s pleased at the message: Young is on his way to see him, prepared to die.
Eun-soo jumps into action, riding back toward the capital to stop Young, suspecting that he’s going to face Ki Chul. And she knows, since he told her earlier, that he’d lose that fight.
Young walks on.
What I like about this episode is how openly Eun-soo and Young speak to each other, given how budding lovers tend to speak in dramas at this juncture (read: denial, self-preservation, avoidance). Those other reactions are realistic and often supported by plot, so it’s not automatically a bad thing, but I do appreciate when there’s enough other conflict to enable our main couple to be fairly honest about their feelings. In this case, you’ve got a homicidal maniac on the loose collecting hearts, however metaphorical those may be, so we can afford to let Young reveal some of his heart and not, say, spoil the conflict.
Granted, they’re not exactly announcing to each other, “I like you,” but I think they’re coming along pretty nicely for this phase of the show. The fact that Young is so frank about it to Aunt surprised me, but I suppose a man on a death march feels it won’t kill him to reveal a little about his feelings. Not when the evil villain on the other side is the one who’d actually do the killing.
For a drama titled Faith, I find that the plot is doing a pretty good job about being all about faith without necessarily hitting us over the head with it. As much as I think Young’s crazy to go courting death, it makes sense that it’s this loss of trust that takes him there, and that his reaction to Eun-soo’s rejection of his protection is conflated with Mae Hee.
I might have felt he was being rather dramatic to go charging into certain death because the pretty girl didn’t want his protection anymore (especially when it’s pretty clear it’s out of guilt, not hate), but it makes a lot of sense when you link it to the deaths of his fiancée and beloved teacher. Which we know were hugely traumatic and influential in shaping him as the man he is now. I know he was a grown man at the time, but I think the word formativestill applies to a 22-year-old experiencing something that monumental.
Of course, I’m still looking forward to our heroine knocking some sense into him. ‘Cause… she’s gonna knock some sense into that thick skull, right?