EPISODE 22 RECAP
Hatty the Assassin comes after Eun-soo in Woodalchi headquarters, but thankfully Dae-man is quick on his feet and alerts everyone of the intruder. Thank goodness ONE of you is paying attention.
Dae-man rushes to protect Eun-soo, and she hurriedly grabs one of the antidote experiments… which she drops in the scuffle. And then it gets stomped on.
With Eun-soo out of reach, Hatty just grabs her surgical tools and leaves. Crap, is this the end of the roomie arrangement, if he knows where to find her?
Meanwhile, Gongmin prepares to go face Deok-heung for his sentencing. He tells the queen that he’s wanted to kill him so many times for what he did to her and to their baby, but no one, not even Young, understands what he’s doing and why.
Noguk: “I do. I understand.” Aw. You can actually see his heart rise up at her words, and he says he might take a while. She just smiles, “I will be waiting.”
Eun-soo huddles in a corner, crying, and Lady Choi gets called over to help. Eun-soo just hugs her and cries into her shoulder on sight, and Aunt stands there dumbfounded. She finally pats her a few times on the back. It’s kind of like watching the Terminator trying to comfort a puppy.
They go back to the room and Eun-soo panics that it’s all destroyed. She sees Aunt pick up Young’s Jeokwoldae bandana from the rubble, and asks if it was what he used to tie around his sword—a memento of his fiancée.
Eun-soo starts to break down in tears as she asks how long Young wasn’t okay after she died. She explains that with the antidote experiments all destroyed, she has to start again, but there isn’t enough time before heaven’s door opens.
And if she stays behind but doesn’t succeed in making an antidote, then she dies. “If it doesn’t work and I die… what will become of him?” Oof, that’s heartbreaking that it’s her first concern.
Aunt asks if she really intends to stay behind. Eun-soo: “Does that make me crazy? It’s crazy. But if I just go like this, I think I’ll really go insane. Every day I’ll be thinking: Is that person okay? Is he really okay? Is he okay?”
Aunt tells her to ask him directly. He’s not one to talk about his feelings so he might be bad at it, “but he will answer if you ask him.”
Sohn Yoo meets with Ki Chul and offers up the official document for Yuan’s support of Deok-heung. He asks Deok-heung what he’ll do as king of Goryeo, and he says he’ll hand the country over to Yuan, give Ki Chul a handsome reward, and offers Sohn Yoo one as well.
The envoy agrees and hands over the document, not because of the offer of riches, but because at least with this guy in power, it means Yuan will have control. Ki Chul asks if he isn’t a Goryeo man, and Sohn Yoo says he was once, “back when I had hope.”
But watching how his country was being run, he has long since given up that hope, and now thinks it better for Yuan to have control. Aw, but maybe Gongmin could’ve turned that disillusioned frown upside-down, envoy man.
He leaves the meeting and furtively takes a look at… a pocket watch? Er? Oh is that the last of Hwata’s things? Or something new??
Gongmin and Young approach their meeting with Deok-heung, and Gongmin says things could get ugly. Did he say goodbye to the doctor? Young says he intends to return to her, so no, he didn’t give any special farewells.
Gongmin sits across the table from Deok-heung and offers up a deal: if he gives up his kinship to the royal family and leaves the country, he will be spared his life. Deok-heung laughs, calling him “Nephew” and says that Yuan has already made him the new king.
They contend that Gongmin is the one being a traitor and conspirator now, and soldiers come rushing in. Gongmin says he’s even prepared his council so that they could both stand before them and allow them to choose their king – do they really need to shed blood?
Deok-heung just laughs and makes his exit, leaving Ki Chul and his troops to handle Gongmin. Young and the Woodalchi fight their way through.
The council hears of the attack, and then Noguk meets with them to convey the king’s request. She gives them the royal seal, and his final decree that if something should happen to him, they are to act in his place.
Young tries to lead the king away, but Gongmin refuses to budge, until his council comes through. It’s understandably frustrating for Young, but the king is finally putting his faith—and his life—in his people’s hands. It’s risky as hell (especially considering how wishy-washy they’ve been before), but hugely significant. I just hope for your sake those scholars woke up feeling decisive today. It’d be a first.
The royal army just sits on pins and needles, desperate to act and help rescue the king, but their hands are tied until the council decides what to do. The council gets word that Yuan has given the throne to Deok-heung, and it throws them into a tizzy: Back Gongmin and start a war? Or throw him to the wolves and serve Deok-heung as king?
The Woodalchi back Gongmin into a room they’ve secured, while Young slices through Ki Chul’s soldiers like a badass.
Suddenly, he looks down. Oh noes. His hand starts to rattle, and he quickly takes his sword in his left hand. Egad, this is getting really bad…
Thankfully he’s still a killing machine with his left hand, but it’s not exactly the best consolation. Dol-bae catches up to him, and then watches from behind, as Young tries to hold his sword with his right hand. It crashes to the ground on contact.
Everybody’s heart drops five stories, including mine. Young picks it back up with his left hand and walks away, not knowing that Dol-bae has seen the whole thing.
He tells Gongmin that 900 more enemy soldiers are on their way here, but they’re just sitting ducks. Young: “I might not be able to protect you.”
He knows that the king is expecting the council to use his seal and send their troops here, but Young says those councilmen are weak and right about now they’re sitting there debating until their heads burst. Well, you’re not wrong.
But Gongmin argues that they have to become strong. If they remain weak, he can do nothing as king, and if he’s going to drag his people into a war, he needs their permission. Young: “Do you trust the people?”
Gongmin: “I now consider myself one of the people.” Young understands, and prepares his men for the seemingly insurmountable battle headed their way.
Eun-soo sits in a daze, and finds Young’s aspirin bottle among his things. She takes out the little flower and holds it in her hand. She asks how dangerous it is for Young where he is, and Dae-man does his best to instill confidence in the general.
She muses, “There will be a lot of blood.” He asks what she’s thinking. Eun-soo: “Just that living here would be like this, and that he’s lived his whole life this way.”
The council is infuriatingly slow, debating the merits of voting by majority, while everybody’s lives are at stake. GAH. Noguk starts to look ghostly pale, like she’s seconds away from fainting.
More and more enemy soldiers arrive, and Young stands alone, waiting for them to come to him. I just always love that moment.
He steadies his sword. My nerves are a wreck. But he cuts through them swiftly, and makes the second wave of men back away in fear.
Ki Chul’s minion breaks into the prison to free Flute Boy and Firestarter, who only complain that he took so long. Way to be grateful, guys.
Deok-heung complains that they haven’t gone to the palace yet, and Ki Chul finally loses his patience, screeeaming that they can’t just do that when they haven’t killed Gongmin yet. I love that he’s blowing a gasket, like Deok-heung is just an annoying little child.
Ki Chul is also noticeably shivering, almost as if his icy ki powers are chilling him from the inside now. His minion arrives to announce that more troops are on their way, and he says this is what they’ve been waiting for.
The council KEEPS going ’round and ’round, and finally Noguk bursts out: “Just say that you’re abandoning him! Just say that you’re abandoning your king. He trusts you and is waiting—he’ll wait a night, a hundred more—but I can’t watch this anymore, so just say that you’re throwing him away. Do you neither have the courage to abandon him, nor the courage to choose him?”
Damn, can we put her in charge?
Finally, the royal army gets the decree to go save the king. They head out. Ki Chul’s minion comes running in to give them the news, and Ki Chul just shakes his head, “That’s impossible.”
He swears they’re already here, but Ki Chul refuses to believe it. I seriously think he’s a few marbles short. Well, more than usual I mean.
And Deok-heung must sense that he’s not going to be protected by sticking with McBonkers over here, because he slips out the first chance he gets.
I love that the royal army arrives to find the compound littered with bodies, and Young standing exactly in the same place he was before. Ever the stoic badass.
They go in to report to the king, and he lights up at their arrival—are they here because the council is backing him? They are! Hurrah!
Young goes after Deok-heung, but Hatty the Assassin arrives to get him out first. Drat.
The Woodalchi finally arrive back home, and Eun-soo comes running out to meet Young. He walks past her since they’ve got an audience, but when she follows him into the room, he avoids her gaze and starts to walk out with clothes to change.
She stops him and says she’ll help him with his armor, and he backs away, “This isn’t my blood.” She says she knows, and that he doesn’t have to shut down around her.
She puts her arms around him and hugs him, even in his bloody armor, to show him that it’s okay. Aw. They’ve come so far since the days she’d call him a murderer and shrink away in disgust.
Noguk pours Gongmin a drink, as he rattles off all the things he’d like to do to Deok-heung, and she just asks in her usual way what his one concern of the day is. I like that her strategy for dealing with the worrywart king is to tell him he only gets one a day.
He smiles, “In the day you move the council’s hearts, and at night you seek to know the king’s?” He says that he feels unsettled about making Young pay the price—he got his just cause (for war) but Young alone had to shed blood for him to get it.
Envoy Sohn Yoo tells Deok-heung to leave the country, if he ever hopes to return someday. He digs in his heels, “But I’m the king!” Buddy, look around—you are not the king. He packs up his own belongings as he says all this, including Eun-soo’s surgical tools.
So Deok-heung, ever the rat who finds another escape hatch, goes to Ki Chul and says he knows where Hwata’s things are. The way Ki Chul lights up at the mention of heaven is so great. He’s just a barrel of nuts now.
Deok-heung describes the film canister with the letter inside that Eun-soo had, and says that he burned the back pages of the diary, but hid the rest of the items in the safest place imaginable… the palace, natch.
Eun-soo tests Young’s hand again, but can’t find anything outwardly wrong. She needs to see it act up to know what’s wrong, and brings over his sword. I’m just glad he’s even telling her about his hand issues, because he’s just the type to ignore it.
I love that he uses the sword as an excuse to put his arms around her, as he tells her about it. It was his teacher’s, and it’s called the Noble Sword. It never dulls, it unsheathes quietly, and it gleams even in the dark. He says it doesn’t usually stain with blood either, but yesterday he saw it bloody.
She looks at it in her hands, “I stabbed you with this sword.” He says it stabbed his teacher too. Yikes, that’s true—is it always meant to kill its master? I don’t know if I like this enchanted god sword if it’s going to turn on us.
Eun-soo asks how hard it was for him when his teacher died—did he sleep so much afterwards because he wanted to see him in his dreams? He says he did at first, but stopped showing up, even though he waited.
She asks if he’d still be sleeping now, if he hadn’t met her. He says he doesn’t know. He sighs that he couldn’t catch the man who poisoned her, and looks down at the sword, musing that it’s not cutting the people it should, and only killing the ones to be pitied.
She looks over at her antidote experiments worriedly, but doesn’t say a word.
In the morning, the king gives the order for the army to capture Ki Chul and Deok-heung. He asks Young to stay behind and asks how much time is left before heaven’s door opens. He says 14 days.
Gongmin tells him to just go out today, and then spend the rest of the time with Eun-soo, saying that he heard about her losing the antidote. Ha, well that didn’t take long. Young gapes at the news. Dae-man stutters that he was told not to say anything, and tells Young that she cried a lot. “When she cries, I can’t say anything.” Ha.
He goes to Aunt who confirms it, and tells him that Eun-soo’s only concern was what’ll happen to him if she dies.
Young does his job and goes to see Sohn Yoo, having tracked Deok-heung here. The envoy tells him he’s already in Yuan by now, and Young sends his men to sweep the place anyway.
Sohn Yoo asks after Eun-soo, saying he met her and knows she’s from heaven. He says he let her be, since he knows there’s no cure for her poison, but warns cryptically that Young might die if he stays by her side, and adds a warning to watch out for Ki Chul.
Are you just against Eun-soo meddling with history, or do you actually know something?
Young braces himself outside his door, and then goes in but finds the room empty. He looks in the antidote jars—they’re empty. He sends the whole table crashing to the ground in a fury.
Eun-soo checks on Noguk and says she’s doing very well. She gives her (and Aunt) some soaps she made, and Noguk guesses that she’s preparing to say goodbye. Eun-soo says she’ll answer that question now, about her future with the king.
She asks if she says they don’t have another child until ten years later, what will they do in the meantime? Stop seeing each other? Noguk smiles, understanding what she means. Eun-soo says they don’t have very long together, “less than a hundred years in fact, so you should spend every day like today, loving each other.” Aw. Good answer.
Noguk doesn’t know the word “love,” so Eun-soo teaches it to her: “Liking someone so much you cannot measure it in words. Missing him even when he is beside you. Love.”
Young catches up to her as she’s leaving the queen’s room, and he asks her angrily why she didn’t tell him what happened. What was her plan? Eun-soo: “To act like everything’s fine.” He asks how everything can be fine, but she says calmly that the Woodalchi protected her, and the antidotes were ruined but she’s starting again.
He demands to know how she’s going to find a cure in time before she dies, and she takes issue with all the death talk when she’s making an effort to live. Young: “Just once… just this once, I broke a promise. In breaking my promise to send you back, I was selfish just this once. Without a plan, without strength, with no way to protect you! What have I done?”
Eun-soo corrects him: “Who makes a promise alone?” But he’s already made up his mind: “I take it back, my request for you to stay.” No! You can’t do that! No take-backs! Tell him there are no take-backs!
The big lug won’t listen to reason, and stalks off. Sigh.
Kool and the Gang pack up their belongings in preparation to flee to Yuan, but Ki Chul refuses to leave without retrieving his Hwata toys. They argue, but he won’t budge without them, “Because they’re MINE.”
He wants Eun-soo too, of course, and says all they need to draw her out is Young. Good luck with that. But then Hwasuin remembers seeing Young’s trembling hand, and says she’ll happily face-off against him.
Flute Boy asks Ki Chul why he’s so obsessed with Eun-soo anyway, and Ki Chul wonders himself if it’s because he can’t have her that he wants her so badly. I believe this is why the phrase No shit, Sherlock was invented.
Eun-soo sits with fresh yellow flowers, thinking back to all the times Young protected her, from the very beginning. Mostly this montage just makes me miss his ponytail.
Choong-seok finds her and says it’s getting late, wanting to escort her back safely. He adds awkwardly that Young just doesn’t know how to express it, but “his temperament isn’t… totally foul.” HAHAHA. I luff him.
She humors him, not letting on how sweet Young actually is, and Choong-seok says if it’s really uncomfortable in that room, he can try and find her another one. He says the boys talk about always finding a pair of chairs put together like a makeshift bed, and he guesses that Young would never give up his bed for anyone. Heh. This cracks me up.
When she returns to the room, Young just stands there like a statue, and says they’ll leave first thing in the morning. She says he said what he wanted and left, so now it’s her turn: “I’m going to make my medicine, and I’m going to remain here.”
Young says no, but she cuts him off, “I’m going to stay behind, and be by your side. And I’m not going to waste my days worrying about whether I’ll stay or go based on something like this.”
Young: “Do you know what you’re saying?” Eun-soo: “I know. If it goes wrong, I could die. In front of your eyes. If that happens, watch over me. Hold me until the end. And don’t leave me alone.”
He actually scoffs, and storms out. Are you not listening to her?
And then he storms back inside and orders her to pack right now, and he’ll haul her to heaven’s door slung over his shoulder if he has to. She asks what happens after that—doesn’t he care what happens to her? He says she’ll get to live.
Eun-soo: I’ll live. I’ll live in my room. I’ll see people whose faces I don’t know. I’ll say things I don’t mean all day. And then at night I’ll return to my empty room. As I fall asleep, I’ll call out, “Are you there?” I know there won’t be an answer. And then I’ll wake up in the morning, and live another day just like that. Like a person who’s already dead. Do you not know what living like that is like? You do know, because you’ll live the same way.
He says that the last few days while she was dying, he couldn’t even stay by her side. “Instead of finding a cure to save my woman, I was running around killing people! How can I protect you? How can you ask me to stay by your side?!”
She looks up at him through her tears, and then suddenly, his hand starts to quake. Oh no. It stops them both in their tracks, and she clutches it to her heart, crying.
There are a million ways their conflict could’ve played out, but I’m happy with it namely because of Eun-soo. She’s a character that I’ve liked from day one, because she speaks her mind and doesn’t let anyone make her decisions for her. So when Young acts like a noble idiot, I know she won’t stand for it and let him get away with it. She’s built up enough trust there, that I know: even if she goes, it’ll be her choice.
I expected as much from him, in that Young only sees his self-worth as a protector, and nothing more. So when he fails to keep her safe, when he knows with near-certainty that if she stays she’ll die, he can’t compute any other option. He is his honor, and his word. And his word was to protect her. It’s a nice return to the conflict that opened the show, now heightened (and complicated, natch) by love.
What I like is that these two characters have been so clearly solidified that it feels perfectly in character for him to refuse and be stupidly noble, and for her to call him out on why that’s stupid. I can stand for him to do the infuriating thing if I know she’ll nip it in the bud. I love her declaration to him because it’s not noble at all. It would be more selfless of her to leave him behind so that he could sleep at night knowing she was alive. But she also knows that it wouldn’t be living. And isn’t that why he fell in love with her in the first place—because she made him question the difference between living and existing? Because he saw that she knew how to live each day truly alive?
And that’s why we love her too, because she’d rather choose to stay near him, if even for one more day, and if she has to die, she’d rather die in his arms. I hope that Young will come full circle and understand why that’s living, and that it’s probably the answer to the very thing he’s been searching for all these years.
I wish that Eun-soo hadn’t been poisoned the first time, because here it works to force the question between life, death, and love, whereas before it was just a plot maneuver, and sort of took the punch out of the second time. I honestly wish a great number of things (So. Many. Things.) in this show had been handled differently, but now that we’re near the finish line, I’m happy with where we are in the central conflict, and that it’s been crafted to deal with—not the meaning of life—but the meaning of living.