EPISODE 5 RECAP
Ki Chul arrives at court, feigning concern for his king, and demands to know who has been whispering lies in his ear. He accuses Eun-soo, who’s at a loss as to how to respond, although royal doc Jang Bin advises her to stay put to avoid escalating the trouble.
It’s Gongmin who breaks the tension by laughing — so this is the Ki Chul he heard so much about. He says in a conciliatory, almost flattering tone that he owes his current position to Ki Chul and his sister (Qi Empress, a Goryeo woman who became empress of the Yuan Dynasty).
The empress had told him that her brother would look after him, even advising him not to be alarmed should he refuse to bow, or if he boldly approached the throne (and yup, there Ki Chul is, hovering over the throne, showing ballsy disregard for court manners).
Either the empress really knew her brother or Gongmin is a shrewd thinker, because he’s totally defanged Ki Chul’s challenge. He adds that doesn’t take this as disrespect — he knows Ki Chul is acting out of loyalty and sincerity.
Ki Chul asks if they really believe the healer is from heaven. Princess Noguk speaks up: “I believe it.” She shows her neck injury and credits Eun-soo for healing her: “Is there another physician in the land with that kind of talent?”
Jang Bin whispers that Eun-soo should behave as a heaven-sent doctor. To which she’s all, Uh, and how would that be? Ki Chul tsks-tsks that the king has been fooled — was it Choi Young who fed him such silliness? Drag him here immediately!
Eun-soo contradicts, “That is not possible.” As his doctor, nobody is allowed to do anything without her permission. She’s a little hesitant in her delivery, but her stance is firm.
Ki Chul won’t abide a charlatan like her ordering him around, and he starts to override her… only to have Eun-soo balk at his wording (calling her a bitch) and his use of banmal. HA. I love that he’s winding up to make this pompous tirade against her, and she basically cuts him down with Eh, shut yer trap.
Eun-soo says she’s way too old to put up with this and even challenges, “How old are you?” Haha, there’s nothing like modern-day egalitarianism to put a royal in his place. She adds that she’s put up with a ton of difficult patients before so he’s small beans. Muttering like half-ajumma, half-gangster, she warns that she’ll let this issue go here, out of respect for the king.
Pfffft. This is cracking me up. Even when Ki Chul growls, “Do you wish to die?” she isn’t cowed. Instead, she confirms, “Is this guy’s name Ki Chul? Oh right, I remember!” It’s her hazy history coming back to her, and she says, “Yuan doesn’t stick around much longer and ends in ruin!” LOL.
Eun-soo refers to her past-kings-of-Korea mnemonic song, which reminds her that the Ming Dynasty is on its way soon to replace Yuan. “Ki Chul-sshi! I even remembered how you die.” Everyone starts at that, and she adds like a smug child, “But I won’t tell you. Why? Because you’re a pain in the ass.”
I. Love. Her. She gets in Ki Chul’s face like a wannabe gangsta, spelling out F-U-C-K and telling him in English to “Go to hell.” She’s terrible at it, which just makes it more awesome. And that look on his face? Somebody make a meme out of it, please.
It’s not exactly god-like behavior, but she sure is bizarre enough to pass for some kind of otherworldly being. The confrontation does sap her energy, and Eun-soo stumbles once she’s out of sight. Jang Bin helps her up and congratulates her on a job well done.
Eun-soo returns to Choi Young’s sickbed, determined to save him if only for the simple reason that she can’t get back home without him. His sword wound isn’t looking so great, and she gets to work cutting it open to remove pus and rotten flesh. Jang Bin whips up a medicine to treat the area.
Choi Young remains in his dream-sleep, where he fishes with his father. Dad asks the vague question of whether that person is still in his heart, and Choi Young says yes, that he hasn’t been able to let go. It’s worded like he’s unable to forget a dead loved one, and a flashback clarifies the matter:
We’re back in his Jeokwoldae days, and Choi Young trains with his fellow warrior, the one who’d been degraded by the king. They fight and flirt, which seems like a dangerous combination to me. But it gives her the chance to tell him, “Don’t worry about your back, because I’ll always be there.”
Choi Young whirls her around and down to the grass, saying, “Don’t ever leave my sight. That way, I can protect you.” It’s not even double entendre at this point, is it?
He leans in to kiss her, but then she fades from sight and he finds himself alone in the woods. As he races to find (stop?) her, they both think of the recent scene with the king that resulted in their leader’s death.
She uses her whip to swing herself into a tree, flinging her red-moon bandanna into the air, and jumps. The bandanna flies into Choi Young’s hands, and he knows she’s gone.
Back in our present timeline, Choi Young’s body starts to convulse. They hold down his limbs to keep him steady and Eun-soo despairs, not understanding why he won’t wake up. She rants to Jang Bin — they treated his wound and stabilized him, so why is he still out?
Jang Bin says that Choi Young has been injured before, and managed to heal himself without much medical treatment. He says the lesser doctor fixes the wound, but a better one fixes the person. So she’s treated the injury, but not yet the person.
She recognizes that line of thinking from her own med student days; it suggests that Choi Young doesn’t have the will to live. But she can’t leave it be, she says — it’s why she became a cosmetic surgeon although she specialized in cardiothoracic (chest) surgery. She was good at it, too: “But I disliked patients.”
She frames it (as usual) in terms of money, where the simple eyelid tuck brings in easy money. Whereas the difficult, complicated chest-opening surgery… well, it’s not-so-easy money.
Jang Bin asks if she’s ever killed a patient, and she huffily replies no. He supposes, “Then you’re afraid you’ll kill him.” That if Choi Young dies, he’ll be her first death.
More dreaming. Now Choi Young sits at his fishing hole alone, covered in frost.
Over at the House of Ki, younger brother Ki Won and his advisor discuss the doctor. Ki Won admits (in hushed voice) that he got the chills at her death forecast — it doesn’t sound like she was just spouting nonsense. Worse yet, there’s that weird angry phrase she hurled at him (her F-U, haha) — you know, the one that sounded like a death incantation.
Ki Chul decides to reevaluate his stance on the woman, then scolds Ki Won for not bringing Choi Young to them as ordered.
The advisor reports that Choi Young is hanging in life-and-death limbo, perhaps cursed.
Ki Chul returns to the palace that very night, this time giving the king a proper bow as he requests an audience. Gongmin lets him kneel for an extra moment, then says, “Ah, I was so startled to receive your respects that I have let you bow for too long.” So sly.
The reason for his visit is because Ki Chul has deciphered the note Choi Young had shown him relating to the murder of the king’s council. The meaning: the previous king (now exiled) will die if Gongmin becomes king. Thus it’s an appeal to the previous king’s supporters to help him, and proof of treason.
Ki Chul confesses that was the one who killed the advisors, for king and country.
We know that the letter was faked, as the blood wasn’t human. That means Ki Chul has found a way to kill the king’s faithful supporters by accusing them of rebellion, and Gongmin contemplates his next move. Choi Young had outlined his two options: Either confront him with the lie, or play ignorant and go along with it.
Gongmin makes up his mind: He laughs and agrees, and even proposes giving Ki Chul an award for his service. But since he’s not sure what would be appropriate, what would Ki Chul suggest?
Ki Chul makes his request: There is a patient in his household suffering from an illness that can only be cured by a heavenly physician. “If she is truly from heaven, she will naturally be able to fix that disease. If she is unable, then I, acting on behalf of your majesty, will secretly eliminate her.”
Gongmin tells him to cut to the chase: What does he want? Ki Chul answers that he wants the king on his side, and intends to rid all obstacles — whether that’s Eun-soo or Choi Young.
Gongmin asks, is he saying he wants the king to be a complacent puppet who does Ki Chul’s bidding? No is the response — he wants his heart. Collecting them is a pastime he enjoys (uh, figuratively at least, not literal hearts), and the harder to obtain, the more thrilling the chase.
The king agrees to play this game, starting with the doctor — will he be able to win her heart (loyalty) as well? He’ll give him a week — if he can win her over, she’s his to keep. If he fails, Ki Chul is to return her unharmed.
Choi Yong’s body is growing colder, but Eun-soo has no way to treat him without the proper tools. Sighing, she talks to him, telling him she understands how he feels, and “why you became a psycho.” (Heh.)
But he’s not the only one struggling, she argues — but people live anyway, fighting tooth and nail. “Because… because…” she pauses, tearing up… and notices he’s stopped breathing. Eun-soo begins CPR on his unresponsive body. On the dream-side, Choi Young sits covered in snow, looking blank.
Jang Bin tries to stop her, telling her it’s all over since he’s not breathing. Crying, Eun-soo insists she won’t let him go this way: “You told me to stay by you, that you’d protect me!” Hm, those words are an echo of what he’d promised his old love.
She resumes CPR, her tears falling on his face. In his dream-state, that tear lands on his face as her voice rings in his ear: “You said you’d protect me!”
And then, that tear breaks through his icy outer shell (way to be literal, guys), revealing warm skin underneath. Just as Jang Bin is about to give up hope, they realize he’s come back.
Noguk bursts into the king’s chambers, upset at the news that he’s letting Ki Chul have the doctor. When he takes issue with her lack of respect, she throws that right back at him, saying his is a bigger concern.
He asks if her manners are to blame for this rudeness, or if it’s because she’s the princess of the powerful Yuan while he’s a powerless little king. She replies that the hunted prey thinks everyone is out to get it — just like him. He can’t send away the doctor and Choi Young, two people he needs for his own safety.
Gongmin asks sarcastically if she’s worried about him — what about her calling Choi Young secretly to her chambers? “Was that for my sake, too?” Noguk just replies, “I did not know you had such interest in me.”
He demands a response. She says that if the king falls, so does she — so of course she’s worried about him. That’s why she ran to see him, ignoring the rules of propriety, because she couldn’t sit still and do nothing.
That shocks Gongmin, who starts to approach. But she stops him with her apology: “I will not seek you out or ask questions of you anymore. Pray forgive me.”
Ki Won barges into the hospital ward with armed men, here to take the doctor away. The Woodalchi men draw their swords against him, and Jang Bin steps in to demand proof that this is a royal command, since they’re also under royal orders to protect.
Ki Won orders his men into action, and a fight breaks out. Eun-soo hears the scuffle and emerges from the room, her appearance stopping the action. Several officers lay injured on the ground, and she sees that they’re still alive and literally calls time-out. Ha.
Ki Won tries to command her to follow his orders, but she brushes that aside (“I’ll hear what you have to say later”) to tend to his soldier. Just before another round of fighting is about to break out, Woodalchi No. 2 Choong-seok steps in and confirms the royal decree.
With no other recourse, Eun-soo is dragged off.
The news is reported to Noguk in the morning, who wonders if the doctor will be killed. And if that happens, will Choi Young die too?
Speaking of whom, Choi Young finally wakes. He’s weak and in pain but suits up, intending to get the doctor right back. How could they just let her go, royal command or not? He tells Jang Bin he could’ve knocked her unconscious and argued that she couldn’t be moved.
Jang Bin asks incredulously if the king’s protector is really going to ignore the king’s command. But he doesn’t stop him, and instead hands over a pouch of medicine and the warning not to use his ki if he can, lest he push too hard and render himself unable to use it ever again.
He adds that Ki Chul is using false pretenses to get rid of the doctor, and warns that he’ll accuse Choi Young as well. What is his plan to counter that?
Choi Young: “Frontal attack.” It’s the same response he had when he kidnapped Eun-soo (er, the first time) and blasted aside the SWAT officers. Um, he just told you not to use your lightning powers!
Off he goes (with his trusty police shield tucked behind him, HA), riding alone (and trailed quietly by Dae-man) to Ki Chul’s front gate, where he announces himself and requests an audience.
Ki Chul is displeased with his informants’ contradictory reports: Choi Young was supposed to be on the verge of death, and the doctor was deemed an outright quack. But could the stories be true? Could she really be from heaven, and Hwata’s true disciple?
His advisor tries to argue that they’re all crazy, but Ki Chul isn’t convinced. Would anyone else dare confront him and say they could foresee his death? And is anyone else capable of ordering him to kneel and bow his head, as Choi Young did?
“Both are under my roof right now,” he says, and trades a knowing look with his flutist of death, Eum-ja. That’s not supposed to be a sexy look, is it? And Eum-ja happens to be… petting a cat? That’s random. Or are we picking up narrative devices from Inspector Gadget now? Don’t worry dudes, we already know you’re eeeeeevil, cat overlord or no.
Gongmin doesn’t react strongly to hearing of Choi Young’s departure, although he does say reproachfully that his “frontal attack” mission is an act of mockery to the king, who’s working so hard to pull his own tricks. He looks saddened and disappointed as he says he’d told Choi Young he trusted him, but it’s clear Choi Young doesn’t trust him back: “The princess could not trust me and ran to shout her reproaches, and Choi Young could not trust me and left prepared to die, without one word to me.”
Gongmin gets worked up as he mutters angrily that Choi Young must have felt consulting with the king was useless, “Since the king is so cowardly and incompetent and shameless!” He’s near tears as he says it would have been harder to believe that such a king let the doctor go with a plan in mind.
He wonders how he’s supposed to endure as king when there’s nobody who believes in him.
Choi Young waits outside in the courtyard. As Eum-ja leads him inside, he looks around — noting the guard formation, perhaps? — and spots Eun-soo off in the distance, tied to a chair. He immediately heads toward her, knocking guards aside, and reaches the chair.
Only, it’s not Eun-soo after all. It’s fire-handed Hwasuin, and she whirls around and throws a red-hot cup at him. It bursts into flames against his shield, and they smirk at each other. She’s all, Wasn’t the disguise great? Didn’t I look like her? He tosses back that the woman he knows would never have just been sitting there quietly, which, HA. True enough.
Hwasuin leaps onto the rooftop and leaves Choi Young on the ground, surrounded by soldiers. He beats them all down anyway, and while the scuffle occurs on the ground the others watch from their perches above — Ki Chul, Eum-ja, and Hwasuin.
Ki Chul notices that Choi Young isn’t using his ki, and gives the order for Eum-ja to sound his deathnote. His advisor protests — Eum-ja hasn’t yet been able to hone his abilities to kill a single target, and there’s bound to be collateral damage. Aw, so there’s a killer in dramaland who isn’t a genius?
Ki Chul gives the signal anyway.
Eum-ja starts playing, and the shrill sound sends everyone reeling. Choi Young falters, and so do his opponents. The soldiers succumb quickest, while Ki Chul calls upon his own mysterious power to frost over his ears, shielding them.
Choi Young starts to bleed from the ears as well, but he finds the strength to stand. He marshals his ki, which sends energy sparking all around him, and Ki Chul crows in triumph to see proof of it.
Choi Young’s ki-charged shield acts as a shield against the deathnote as well. The mystical forces act like a powerful wind against him, but he approaches and sends the wind slamming back at Eum-ja.
Before more fighting breaks out, a whistle sounds. It’s Dae-man, signaling from his rooftop perch.
In the palace, the entire Woodalchi force kneels before the king, begging for permission to send reinforcements to help their general. Gongmin refuses. Choong-seok argues passionately of their deep loyalty to the king, saying that there’s a reason for Choi Young disregarding the order, and they must save him in order to know it.
Gongmin flatly rejects him, and makes it very clear that contradiction his order makes them all traitors. And then he cleverly revises history: Woodalchi is aware of the king’s order, but Choi Young is not, because they have not seen him since yesterday and they do not know where he’s gone. Got it?
Now they realize that Gongmin is protecting him — although that also means denying him physical protection.
Thankfully he’s beyond needing it: Dae-man has located Eun-soo and directs Choi Young inside the house, fighting off remaining guards.
He smashes the lock and opens the door — and Eun-soo greets him with relief, “Psycho.”
She’s more concerned with his health and cups his face in her hand to check his temperature, relieved that he’s back to health.
Just then, the rest of the Baddies interrupt the reunion, led by Ki Chul. Choi Young reminds them that she is the king’s physician, and that he’d best remember his manners. Ki Chul notes his adherence to propriety, asking if he considers it more important than life.
Choi Young laughs, “Of course not. I’m only mentioning manners to buy myself some time. I’m thinking to take her and run away, you see.”
Now Ki Chul laughs, thinking it impossible to breach his line of supernaturally gifted soldiers. Does he have backup hidden out of sight?
Choi Young replies that he’s on a personal mission, unbeknownst to the king. Ki Chul: “Personal mission? Why?”
Choi Young: “Do you not understand the meaning of personal? I came here because I love that woman.”
Cue derp! faces from all. Even Ki Chul is all, Durrrrr, what?
Choi Young points out that the woman he loves got dragged off in the night; what man would stand idly by? He asks, “So can you not just let us leave, before more people get hurt?”
I have no illusions that Choi Young meant the love confession at face value, despite the signs of a growing bond between them. But what I do enjoy about this show so far is that the war of rhetoric is so witty and sharp; all the characters are generally aware of their opponent’s true feelings, but with a carefully wielded argument here and a twist of wordplay there, they’re able to maneuver around each other. It’s like a game of chess; the movements are transparent, but that doesn’t mean all the strategies are obvious to all.
And then Eun-soo barges into the midst of this delicate balance and screws it all up by acting with her usual irrepressible stubbornness. I love it, because it’s like a standard sageuk with all the usual suspects… but perverted by this bold dash of anachronistic humor.
As I said, I’m really enjoying Kim Hee-sun in this drama; Eun-soo is by far my favorite character, with her plain talking and lack of respect for historical figures (mostly ’cause she doesn’t know them so well, which is a nice touch). The fish-out-of-water scenario is an expected one for this genre, but I love that in this drama it’s not the fish who flails and struggles — it’s the fish who makes everyone else off-kilter and confused.
Yes, Kim Hee-sun has always had a reputation of being more known for her beauty than her acting (along the lines of, say, Song Hye-gyo), but her lightweight flightiness is perfect for this drama. She’s the comic relief, making the gravitas of the sageuk genre seem absurd in relief. I love how every time Ki Chul winds up to exert his influence, she just takes wind right out of his sails and leaves him scratching his head.
And let’s face it, the fact that you have Yoo Oh-sung making such great Derpfaces — while headlining as the Big Bad with evil powers and the pointy mustache to boot — totally makes his over-the-top villainy worth it. Because without the comedy, I’d say that yes, the baddies really are comically one-note, in an unintentional way. I’d much rather be laughing on purpose.
In fact, I think this drama is best when it’s being comedic. That may not be a universal opinion, but I find it much more interesting when you’re playing the grandiosity of the setting directly against the outrageousness of the plot and being cut down by Eun-soo’s “Don’t give me bullshit” attitude. The drama is cheeky and sly when it hangs a lantern on its genre like that, and while I fully expect the plot to get heavier as we progress into the series, I really, really hope it doesn’t lose its sense of humor.
And that isn’t to say that the drama doesn’t have depth, because I’m really loving the king’s trajectory, as well as Ryu Deok-hwan’s wonderful, sensitive performance. His marriage seems like a case of sadly crossed wires, where pride and insecurities are intruding, on both ends.
I actually don’t believe the princess has any romantic designs on Choi Young, although I can see why the drama may be playing it ambiguously. As I see it, she’s too devoted to Gongmin, if only he could see it through his own insecurities, but as she says his own frantic-prey mentality has him lashing out, using defense as offense. Perhaps it’s a critical strategy as a weak monarch, but as a husband who clearly seems to love his wife despite their baggage — dude, it’s really messing up your game.
I’d argue that Noguk is clearly in love with him as well, and has been from the first time she met him. But it’s a nice misunderstanding to have him jealous of his new best friend, jumping to conclusions — as he is wont to do — to accuse her. And that knee-jerk response is, ironically, why he isn’t trusted despite feeling he’s extended his trust outward. He has, but it’s with both hands, and one’s always ready to jerk it back at the first sign. I get it, it’s self-preservational. But it also makes him walk dangerously close to the other side, where one bad day, one bad misunderstanding, is all it takes to shove him over the edge, Othello-style. All he needs is his Iago whispering in his ear. Yet he also shows signs of greatness, and I’m pulling for him to realize that within himself.