EPISODE 13 RECAP
Choi Young fights off the faster-than-the-speed-of-film mercenary soldiers, taking them down with seeming ease, although he’s also growing gradually weaker. I’m hoping this is merely the side effect of his swordfight with Ki Chul and not something more dire.
Eun-soo is approached by the Uncle of Dubious Allegiance, aka Deok-heung (or Deokheunggun; he was the son of a king and a concubine, sharing a father with Gongmin’s father). She’s suspicious at the sight of her diary, figuring this means he’s on Ki Chul’s side. Smiling uncle agrees readily. So not so dubious then.
Deok-heung clarifies that he’s not returning her diary to her; he’s merely doing as Ki Chul told him: Show her that he possesses it, and she’ll follow him back. Eun-soo’s not amused with this little power play and has a message for Ki Chul: Screw the diary, and if he wants to play, he can just play by himself.
He asks what the diary is, and whether it’s true she’s a heavenly doctor who can see the future. Eun-soo glares and leaves him hanging.
Young makes it back to the palace in one piece, and stops at the meeting spot Eun-soo had designated for their daily partner meetings. She’s not there, though, since she’s busy handing out homemade toothpaste to a group of Woodalchi men, saying that healthy teeth make for strong warriors.
Young interrupts all grumpy-like, barking at them and sending them scattering. Eun-soo heads to his quarters and orders him to sit so she can take a look at his injuries. He rattles off excuses like how he has to go see the king and change his clothes, and she cuts him off, “HERE!” I know it’s too much to hope she means change your clothes here, but you know, once it’s been thought, the image isn’t about to leave my brain.
Eun-soo adds that she could get the princess’s royal order: “So that as your personal physician, I can grab you at any time and look you over!” So there’s a job title for that? I’m halfway there already.
He tries to hold back his injured right hand, but she insists and sees that he’ll need stitches. She asks after the shoulder and thigh slices he incurred from Ki Chul, and Young replies with his characteristic understatement that he’s fine, and he was just grazed. He’s totally lying! Close personal inspection is needed. I volunteer myself.
She gets to work stitching, and sighs that all her supplies are dwindling as she uses up her last bandage on his arm. Young tells her that the mercenaries won’t be back, and that he’s stationed a lookout to report on strange occurrences. He also worries to see her limping, though that’s just because the knife he strapped there is awkward. Oh, you. Is the indifferent warrior turning into a hovering mother hen?
Eun-soo takes in the view of the palace garden, taking her time to see it fully for the first time. She tells her court lady that she figures it’ll take her a long while to return home, so she’ll have to get acquainted with this world. She adds, “If I see it properly and remember it, I feel like I won’t be able to leave this world.”
But she perks up right away, asking her two ladies in waiting what their names are and what makeup they use, since she’s just about gone through her makeup stash. Ha, I love that they toss in that detail, that Eun-soo’s been faithfully wearing her modern-day makeup all along. I mean, we could obviously see that, but most of the time we’re just left to assume it’s movie magic.
Young has his audience with the king, who has been worried sick in his absence and urges him up from his kneeling stance, telling him he doesn’t have to observe those formalities with him. Aw.
Young reports that the scholars will not be the target of more attacks. He was supposedly the only person who knew where the king’s supporters were being harbored and none of the mercenaries tried to get information out of him, they just tried to kill him. He will now escort the scholars to the palace safely, “But the one to keep them safe is you.”
Lady Choi has misgivings, though: if Ki Chul gave up on the scholars, he must have something else up his sleeve. Gongmin wonders what that could be, but Young excuses himself from the speculation, asking the king to handle the politics. Lady Choi mutters that his manners with the king are taking a downturn, which is just cute, and Young apologizes. Heh.
Deok-heung returns to Ki Chul and fills him in on his encounter with Eun-soo. He asks if Ki Chul called him out of hiding and all the way here just to see her, and Ki Chul adds, “Not just to see. I’d like you to help in bringing her to me.”
Ki Chul doesn’t seem too concerned about the king’s claim on her, because he figures that will be resolved when they get rid of the Woodalchi protecting her. If Deok-heung succeeds in bringing her—not just through force, but willingly—Ki Chul offers him whatever he wants. Ah, and if this is an out-of-power member of the royal family… methinks Ki Chul has just found his replacement king.
Deok-heung asks what he wants that requires the doctor. Ki Chul answers, “All I need is the doctor. That’s all I want.”
Young gathers his men to plan security for tomorrow’s lecture, with the arrival of all the scholars. They’ll need multiple lines of defense, both inside and outside the palace. There aren’t enough men to go around, so Young puts his men in charge of guarding the interior, while he’ll take care of the outside. All alone?
Young instructs Joo-seok to be so tight with security not even a mouse could get by, and Joo-seok overzealously promises not to let even an ant by. With this hilarious dryness, Choong-seok picks up something from the ground and flicks it at him: “An ant.”
On to Man-bo’s, where Young negotiates how much to pay ajusshi and ajumma for feeding and housing the scholars. Man-bo grumps that Young is a stingier businessman than they are. I love that ajumma acts like this is a negotiation (“You’ll give us five, right? Five.”) and Young doesn’t budge an inch (“Two”) even as she keeps going (“Three, then, okay?”).
Dae-man comes running up to tell him that the doctor is out shopping in the marketplace, to Young’s annoyance. She’s with her two ladies looking at cosmetic ingredients, when ajumma butts in and asks what she’s mumbling about. It’s her stall, and then Man-bo snatches the pouch out of Eun-soo’s hand to say he’ll just give it to her. The movement causes the ladies to draw their swords, though, and Man-bo’s wondering why the hostile response.
Young comes up behind them, and ajumma tells him, “She sure is a looker.” Man-bo adds that she must be from heaven, all right. This cracks me up. It’s like the parental third degree, but totally backward, and with swords.
They continue on, and Eun-soo tells Young of her plan to become a Goryeo businesswoman and hit it big. The plan: Make lots of soap and distribute it for free, and when the people find they can’t live without it, she’ll start charging. Plus, she’ll target all the noble ladies, and it’ll be a hit. Ah, the tried-and-true hook-’em-early tactic. Eun-soo even has a sales strategy, and chirps, “In my time, there’s this thing called a pyramid…”
As they walk, ajumma and ajusshi watch from a nearby rooftop and note how Young is smiling—and not like just some ghost, “but like a living person.”
Then Deok-heung steps into their path, greeting Eun-soo and guessing that her surly companion is the Woodalchi. Young eyes him suspiciously and doesn’t bow his head until he’s told he’s the king’s uncle, while Eun-soo declines his offer to join them. Young takes note of Eum-ja and Hwasuin hanging around in the distance, sizing up the situation.
He asks why Eun-soo didn’t tell him she’d met the man earlier, and orders Dae-man to Lady Choi immediately, to inform her that Deok-heung and Ki Chul are in cahoots. He also orders the two ladies in waiting to report the doctor’s every movement to himself and Lady Choi. He reminds Eun-soo, “You said we should tell each other everything.”
She hesitates to explain, but he presses. She says that if she’d told him, Young would have felt burdened to go retrieve that diary from Deok-heung. He can’t deny that.
Then she spots Eum-ja and Hwasuin in the distance, which has her panicking and darting off in the opposite direction.
Dae-man delivers the news to Lady Choi, who immediately goes to inform the princess. But the tidbit she conveys—spoken extra-loud for the mole’s benefit—is merely, “The doctor is making something quite interesting.” She talks aloud about Eun-soo’s cosmetics enterprise, all while writing the true message on paper for Noguk to read.
Noguk doesn’t know who Deok-heung is, but upon hearing (er, reading) that he’s the king’s only remaining kinsman, her eyes widen in alarm. They come to the logical conclusion, that Ki Chul has decided to back a new king. Noguk asks how long they’ll be keeping the mole in place, and Lady Choi replies that she still has further use, so they’ll leave her for now.
Then, Noguk resumes speaking aloud and instructs Lady Choi to prepare a table for tonight—Noguk will present the king with liquor. Omo. Is the queen making the first move? Is somebody gonna get some?
Ajumma and ajusshi discuss Deok-heung, basically filling us in on some exposition about the man’s history: He was born to a court lady and the king, and evicted from the palace along with his mother as a young child. He spent his life in hiding, which is how he’s still alive as the sole remaining royal relative.
Meanwhile, Young browses a table full of daggers. Is he buying a smaller one for Eun-soo’s ankle strap? Aw, it shouldn’t be romantic for a man to buy a woman a dagger, but whaddaya know.
Gongmin tells his advisors that he intends to give his scholar-supporters official government offices. It’s for their protection; Ki Chul can’t kill them so easily then. Told that he has to get the approval from another body of officials, Gongmin declares that he’ll abolish that department, since they’re all under Ki Chul’s thumb.
Ki Chul still has the ability to create offices, it seems, and he makes one for Deuk-heung. It’s not a position under Gongmin’s authority, but the Yuan empress’s, who we know is Ki Chul’s sister.
Deuk-heung has no response, and Ki Chul asks what he thinks. The response: “Nothing. I think nothing. That is what’s kept me alive this long.” Hm. Interesting level of disinterest here. I wonder if Ki Chul’s disappointed in it; he doesn’t like strong kings who oppose him, but he does like strength in people.
Deuk-heung confirms that he was called because Ki Chul wants him to replace the current king. Ki Chul asks what kind of king he’d like to be, and he answers, “One who’s around a long time.”
Lady Choi drops in on the king, relaying Noguk’s request to have him over for drinks tonight. At that word, the eunuch drops his book and falls to his knees in alarm. Ha, I’m not so sure it’s something you should be sorry about. Lady Choi smiles to herself, and Gongmin looks at them all in confusion.
Gongmin arrives in the princess’s quarters that night, and Lady Choi orders all the ladies to “close your ears, and close your thoughts—just guard for those coming in.”
Noguk shares her concerns over Ki Chul’s activities, and suggests sending an envoy to her Yuan relatives. If Ki Chul is to overthrow the current king he’ll need some sort of justification, and if they can beat him to the punch in asking for the empire’s help, it could prevent a coup. She pleads, “Please, let me help.”
Gongmin doesn’t respond, and instead presents her with the gifts he has brought. There’s jewelry in one box, and the second box he prefaces by asking, “Do you remember?”
Inside she finds a scarf, which is the one she’d worn to veil her face the first time they met. He asks now what he’s guessed all this while—that she knew who he was, and didn’t say a word about her identity. He’d wondered why, thinking perhaps she was toying with him.
A flashback shows us how that encounter ended years ago: After he’d asked her to marry him (so he wouldn’t have to marry the Yuan princess), he’d gone to fetch someone. But when he return to get Noguk, she’d gone, leaving only that scarf behind.
He tells her that while he is king, he doesn’t have much—not power, not support. The only thing he has is his principles, and he will protect his own people. Noguk sees sadly that accepting Yuan’s help, and therefore hers, goes against his principles.
Gongmin replies, “I have already broken my principles once—I swore that I would never hold a Yuan woman dear in my heart. But I broke that.”
Finally! A straight, honest confession! He continues, “I tried to resist, but you’d already entered my heart. I couldn’t force you out, and that’s why I treated you so coldly. Will you help such a weak me to not break my principles again?”
He brushes a tear from her cheek, then takes her hand.
A weapons delivery arrives at Woodalchi headquarters, with a large chest holding swords and a small chest meant to be delivered to Young directly. The men aren’t aware of an order, which immediately makes me worry for that little box, which Deok-man takes to deliver to his boss. He leaves it in Young’s room.
The big day arrives at court. Gongmin and his advisors (along with the Ki faction) take their positions, and Young leads in the scholars. They present themselves to the king.
Eun-soo talks with Jang Bin, memorizing new medicinal terms and lamenting her aging memory. I hear ya, sister. They cross paths with Deok-heung and pass with brief nods, and Eun-soo wonders if it’s okay to dismiss him as unimportant—after all, he wasn’t significant enough to show up on her history tests.
Gongmin begins the proceedings, asking for his scholars to advise him along the way. He begins by dismissing Ki Won from his office (for neglecting his office, having shown up for work exactly two days since he’s been king), followed by one of his advisors (for doing nothing in the past year, according to court logs).
Ki Chul protests the king’s methods, but Gongmin cuts him short—the office governing senior statesmen (which is Ki Chul’s province) that he was supposed to consult for these matters was abolished this morning. Gongmin then confers a senior office upon Lee Je-hyun, his head scholar.
Then a newcomer joins the proceedings: Deok-heung, who greets his nephew for their first meeting ever, and offers his assistance to the king in his new position. Gongmin replies that if that’s true, he’s grateful for the help. There’s a brief standoff between them as Deok-heung says the office he just abolished was created by Deok-heung’s father. Gongmin replies that he knows this. Tension!
We cut to later that evening, when the proceedings are over and the king broods alone in his stateroom. He has ordered everyone to stay away, but Young joins him inside and finds him in a pensive mood.
Gongmin asks if the primary reason Young joined his side was to honor his promise to the doctor. To do so he needed to fight Ki Chul, and that required power. Hence the king.
Young asks, “Is the order of events important?” Gongmin tells him that he keeps having these doubts—that if he were to hand Eun-soo over to Ki Chul, perhaps that would solve things. But that means Young would leave him, finding it pointless to serve a king who doesn’t honor his word. Young doesn’t answer, though perhaps he doesn’t have to when the answer is obvious.
Eun-soo has nightmares, thinking of all the people she’s seen die. When her memory lands on her stabbing Young, and him running the sword in deeper, she wakes up with a cry.
Young hears it from outside, but Jang Bin prevents him from entering her room, telling him she has nightmares every night. Young had no idea, and Jang Bin says, “It’s because she fools you, with her smiling face.”
Eum-ja and Hwasuin are relegated to babysitting the king-to-be, who enjoys this idle lifestyle with gisaengs to feed him and drink with. Hwasuin’s bored out of her mind, and you know she’s dying to be out in the world where all the fun is, with men to play with or roast, or sometimes both.
Sitting in the second-floor window, Eum-ja notices Young strolling into the street below, bending to pick up a rock, and then hurling it straight at him. It’s easily blocked with Eum-ja’s flute, but Young hurls another rock. The baddies visibly perk up; finally a little excitement.
Below the window, Dae-man also hurls a rock upward, but he does that more stealthily, so while the baddies are distracted by Young, he knocks the flute away. Ah! Thank you for that! There are only so many bleeding ears you can watch before you’ve had enough.
Dae-man darts off with the flute, and Young smiles. Now it’s Eum-ja who’s frantic and he pursues.
Young looks up at Hwasuin and beckons her near with a wave. Aw, honey. She didn’t even need the invitation. She leaves Deok-heung to continue his exploits… and a shadow looms at the door. The gisaengs immediately rise and open to reveal the Suribang swordsman, the white-clad man with the crush on Young. Ah, so this was ALL planned?
Hwasuin skips down to meet Young, who’s here to deliver a warning: Don’t show herself in front of the doc anymore, since Eun-soo’s afraid of her. Hwasuin taunts, “And if I do anyway?” Young smirks that her right hand will no longer be attached to her body. Then he figures he’s stalled long enough and heads off, leaving Hwasuin puzzling over his meaning.
She runs back inside to find the room empty and signs of a struggle. Drat that pretty boy!
Deok-heung is blindfolded and kidnapped by Suribang men, who deliver him to Young. Deok-heung huffs that this is a violation of law, that Woodalchi must be acting on behalf of the king.
Young smiles that nope, he’s merely the guy who saved Deok-heung from being set upon by thieves. And while he’s rescuing him, might he also make a request? He has the doctor’s diary, doesn’t he?
Deok-heung scoffs that he wouldn’t keep something so important on his person. That’s already back in Ki Chul’s safeguarded drawer. Young tells him, “I’d like you to get it somehow and return it to the doctor.” He says that Eun-soo believes the diary to hold the answer for returning her to heaven, so perhaps Deok-heung could work with her in that goal. He reminds him that if Ki Chul were to figure out the diary’s secret himself, he would have no need of Deok-heung. And that would mean his death.
Deok-heung asks what would Young gain from this. He answers that his mind would rest at ease. Young leaves with a few warnings: These thieves might attack at any moment, and in the future Young may not rescue him, and the doctor is good with knives so he’d better not treat her badly.
Young returns to the palace, where he sees Eun-soo deep in round 1 of her get-rich-in-Goryeo scheme: She hands out soaps to the court ladies and Woodalchi men. “This time is free of charge!”
Then he meets her outside for a knife training session, replacing her heavy one with the pretty new one he bought. She takes a few practice swipes with the dagger, although it looks more like she’s trying to cast a spell with it.
He teaches her better ways to hold it and stab, which basically amounts to a lot of panting and close holds. Aw, the soldier’s flirting. She mocks his serious attitude and cracks up, even getting a smile out of him.
She smiles at the view and says it’s nice here, but he knows she’d still rather be back home, “And you’re holding that in, aren’t you?”
Woodalchi headquarters is stormed by officers, who don’t explain their purpose but are led by a familiar face—it’s the supposed deliveryman who brought the weapons delivery earlier. I knew he was shifty. He points out Deok-man as a guilty party, though we have no idea what the charge is, and the men ransack Young’s quarters. Oh no, was that box a plant for insidious evidence? The men find a letter in his chest.
Deok-heung has found Young’s words convincing after all, because he arrives at Eun-soo’s door and assures her that today he hasn’t been sent by Ki Chul. He’s here of his own accord, and he holds up the diary, which he managed to swipe. Thus he can’t let her keep it, but she can take a look. His condition is that he be with her as she reads.
Eun-soo peers at the diary, which she doesn’t seem to recognize at all, though she calls bullshit on the assertion that it’s from a thousand years ago. She points to the writing, saying that that paper hasn’t aged that much, and you can still see indentations from the highligheter pen. She doesn’t know what the writing means, with its combination of numbers and English letters.
Young catches a glimpse of them poring over the book, but as soon as he steps inside he’s apprehended. He’s taken to the stateroom, where Gongmin waits looking chagrined. Seated at the table are Lee Je-hyun, his student Lee Saek, and Ki Chul. They ask if he recognizes that red box, and he doesn’t.
Gongmin informs him that his new officials have taken on their very first assignment—rooting out Choi Young’s corruption. Whaa? Were they really not on the king’s side after all?
Lee Saek accuses him of taking a bribe for a measly sum, ordering inferior weapons with court money to profit from the savings. Wasn’t this a City Hunter episode? It’s so absurd that Young can only laugh, and Gongmin knows just as well that this is a mistake. If ever a facial expression said *headdesk* his would be it.
But the new officials are firm, reminding the king that he told them not to be swayed by power or other forces. Plus, the king had granted Woodalchi with extraordinary privileges, which in their principled minds, can only lead to corruption. Sigh. So they’re not against the king; they’re just taking this job way too seriously and leaving no room for other explanations.
Glowering, Young bends down to glare into Ki Chul’s eyes. He tells him, “If you were going to frame me for something, you should have chosen high treason.”
Lee Saek asks Young to confirm that he’s never seen the document recording the transaction—and that means that the crime lies with the men who accepted the package behind his back. Namely, Deok-man and Dolbae.
Young looks back at his men. Ki Chul sneers. Rock, meet hard place.
We knew the happy streak couldn’t last, didn’t we? That’s the nature of a conflict like this, and really, also the fun of it. I’m not gonna pretend that the back-and-forth strategy and rivalry between Faith’s two camps is nearly as exhilarating as it was in writer Song’s previous Story of a Man, but the conflict bears some of the same hallmarks. Namely, two evenly matched foes who win some, then lose some, then win some again.
I don’t mind this kind of interplay, because that’s what gives us clever traps and plans like we’ve been seeing in the past few episodes. The strength of one forces the other to up his game, and that kind of rising to the occasion is what makes the showdown fun to watch. When Ki Chul seemed all-powerful and unbeatable—and imbued with extra supernatural powers, to boot—it felt like the story was static. When we got to see him being weakened by his ki expenditures and told that Young was so strong he couldn’t be beaten without resorting to using those skills, Ki Chul suddenly got a lot more interesting.
I’m not sure how I feel about this latest twist since the frame job is just so obvious, but I admit I got a big kick out of the very weary exasperation with which Gongmin faced his new recruits. It was partially genuine concern, and partially “What monster have I created?”
I like that we’re seeing Eun-soo display some signs of trauma, because it seems like these extreme fantasy plots like time travel often brush aside the effects of its premise. It’s as if we’re so used to these situations that the dramas shortcut past some of the basic plot elements that we’ve all seen before… but also shortcut past the emotional effects as well.
Granted, this drama isn’t exactly rocking it in the execution department, and there are edits and cuts where I just wish these emotions were dealt with more subtly, more interestingly. But I’m glad that they’re being addressed at all, and that Young recognizes it as well. At this point I’m not sure I can see a way for this couple to have their happy ever after… or even their happy for the foreseeable future. She clearly belongs elsewhere, and could you imagine Young in the modern day? We already got a glimpse of that, and I’m not sure Seoul needs a reckless Terminator bumbling around stabbing things. I do trust that the show will address the dilemma, because while the directing just seems to be getting clunkier, at least the story remains on solid ground.