EPISODE 14 RECAP
Feeling as if he’s all out of options, Poong-yeon winds up in Hong-joo’s lair, asking if her black magic can grab hold of someone’s heart. More than that, he wonders if pouring out his hate towards those at fault will release some of the agony he’s feeling in his heart.
Sensing another potential mouse to trap, Hong-joo smiles and asks if returning Yeon-hee to him is all he wants. She tells him if that’s the case, he has to get rid of that vicious cursed child that has possessed her and taken control. Thankfully, Poong-yeon isn’t completely out of it and warns her not to toy with him. Hong-joo retorts that if he doesn’t believe her, she’ll have to give him proof.
She conjures up a spell that reaches the urn she’d left in the queen dowager’s room. Black smoke rises from the urn, but the queen dowager wakes up and frantically douses the urn with water. She’s able to get rid of the smoke long enough to call out to her guards, but she gets no response. With no one coming to her aid, she’s helpless as Hong-joo’s spell takes hold of her.
The next morning, Yeon-hee finds the queen dowager bedridden. She tenses when she notices the queen dowager’s hands have turned grey.
Hong-joo informs the king that as long as the spell isn’t broken, the queen dowager won’t make it past tomorrow night. A smile forms on the king’s face, but it immediately disappears when Hong-joo voices her worries about the princess. Since the queen dowager is Yeon-hee’s mother, she won’t just stand by and do nothing.
She asks the king if there’s anyone he trusts to protect him. The king’s face falls, unable to say anything. Hong-joo says it’s a shame that he no longer has Poong-yeon by his side. The king: “Don’t ever say that name in front of me again.”
Yeon-hee, Jun, and Yo-gwang have Hyun-seo inspect the queen dowager and eagerly wait for his diagnosis. Unbeknownst to them, his eyes flash, once again under Hong-joo’s command. In her lair, Hong-joo says out loud that the queen dowager is under the influence of black magic. Now acting as her puppet, Hyun-seo repeats everything she says, telling the trio the only way to break the spell is to find the talisman that triggered it.
Hyun-seo tries to get up and nearly collapses. Yeon-hee rushes to his side, asking if he’s okay. He looks at her, the struggle to return to his real self evident in his eyes. It looks like he just might break through—even Hong-joo takes a breath—but Hong-joo’s hold on him stays strong and he insists he’s fine. Yo-gwang doesn’t look so convinced, but he remains silent.
Jun walks Yeon-hee out of the queen dowager’s quarters, telling her not to worry—they’ll search through every crevice of the palace to find the talisman that’s killing the queen dowager with black magic. She’s about to give him a grateful smile when a pain in her chest stops her. She looks up just in time to see a star fall in the night sky.
She thinks back to Yo-gwang telling her they only had twenty days until the Northern Star disappears, and in the meantime, she’d start feeling weaker. So she was slowly dying just as the Mauigeumseo said, she realized. She asked Yo-gwang not tell Jun or Poong-yeon about it. With hope, she reminded him they still had to light the candles. “I won’t die,” she said confidently.
But in the present, the pain in her chest is too much and she passes out, the curse tattoo behind her ear flashing an intense red, which Jun notices. He holds her up so she doesn’t collapse, and takes her back to her room where he sits by her bedside and wipes at her forehead tenderly. He remembers reading the passage in the Mauigeumseo about the Northern Star and her dwindling time, looking worried about her deteriorating strength.
Yeon-hee comes to and weakly says she must’ve been too stressed over the queen dowager’s sudden illness. Jun can see through her lies, but he just smiles and tells her to get some more sleep, and he’ll stay by her side. She falls back asleep almost instantly. Her curse mark flashes again, leaving Jun unsettled.
Ok rushes to the king’s side after hearing of Poong-yeon’s dismissal. Ok swears that from now on, he’ll be protecting the king. However, the king doesn’t exactly look comforted. “Can you even put your own life on the line to protect me?” he asks.
Cue record scratch. Ok’s head pops up and his eyes dart everywhere except the king’s face. Ok stutters yes. The king was told somebody might kill him, so he says he’ll need Ok to stay by him at all times and protect him. Ok’s head pops up again with a “Pardon? I mean, y-yes! I-I will protect you!” The king scoffs—as do I—and sends him out, declining his protection. Ok goes straight to his mother to tell her what happened thinking he dodged death, and she nearly clocks him for showing hesitation when he should’ve expressed more devotion to the king.
The king goes out for a stroll, his servants hanging back. Poong-yeon watches him from a distance, remembering Hong-joo telling him to look out for the king since he no longer has anyone he can trust by his side. She urged Poong-yeon to see clearly what it is that is threatening the king’s life and to only believe what his eyes see.
The king runs into Yeon-hee and asks if she’s on her way to visit the queen dowager. He feigns concern and says he can’t help but worry that it’ll cause rumors, all the problems arising coincidentally after she entered the palace. Yeon-hee doesn’t bat an eyelash and tells the king he should be worrying about Hong-joo.
Yeon-hee: “Please don’t be lured by whatever that person says. Your Majesty is the father who raises this nation’s people, who look up to you to lead them. When the father is somehow unstable, how uneasy must the people of the country feel?”
The king isn’t listening though. He just points out the fact that she resembles her mother so much, and wonders if Yeon-hee could possibly be interested in the throne, like her mother was. He suggests she start acting like a princess, frolicking in the flowers, instead of being arrogant.
Yeon-hee rejoins her friends as Yo-gwang makes a tracking amulet for the talisman holding the queen dowager’s curse. The boys go out searching while Yeon-hee stays with her mother. They light the tracker on fire and launch it into the air. Yo-gwang prays for its powers until it bursts into a small orb of green light, and the boys follow it.
Meanwhile, the queen dowager starts squirming in her sleep. She clasps her throat, struggling to breathe. Yeon-hee watches with tears in her eyes as her mother suffers until she just can’t take it anymore. She takes off and charges right into Hong-joo’s lair.
She demands that Hong-joo quit her tricks and tell her where the talisman is. Hong-joo steps closer to Yeon-hee, insisting her black magic isn’t enough to take the queen dowager down. There’s someone else out there who hates the queen dowager even more than Hong-joo does…
Which is right when the tracking orb leads the boys to the king’s quarters. Yeon-hee can hardly believe it. “Are you saying His Majesty is the one who cursed the queen dowager?” she asks. Hong-joo confirms this with a wicked twinkle in her eye.
Hong-joo says the talisman that contained that murderous hatred towards the queen dowager is now in the hands of the owner of that hatred. In other words, to save the queen, Yeon-hee must harm the king. Hong-joo expresses fake sympathy, saying it looks like she’ll have to either die for committing treason or simply let the queen dowager die.
Back at the king’s quarters, the boys enter his room after knocking out the guards with a smoke bomb. They figure since the orb led them there, the talisman must be among the king’s belongings. They search the entire room, but come up with nothing. They wonder where in the world it could be when they’re startled by the sound of the doors opening.
The king returns after getting some fresh air and thinking over Yeon-hee’s words earlier. Jun and Yo-gwang dart behind the folded screen before the king trudges in, the wounds on his body weighing down on him. As the king inspects his bloody shoulder covered in horrific thorns, Jun peeks around the screen, completely shellshocked at the king’s unusual condition.
Outside, Poong-yeon takes notice of the unconscious guards and enters the king’s room, remaining calm and collected. The king doesn’t want him here, but Poong-yeon insists he has something to tell him, eyeing the folded screen. He maintains a steady voice as he slowly removes his sword from its sheath. The king watches this, suddenly fully aware of the situation.
Poong-yeon swiftly knocks the screen over, causing Jun and Yo-gwang to come tumbling out. Poong-yeon is confused when he sees Yo-gwang, while the king demands to know why they’re trespassing. Paranoid, the king figures they must be trying to kill him.
Jun tries to explain that they were just trying to help the queen dowager, but the king cuts him off: “So it was the queen dowager who ordered you to do this?” He’s convinced now that this is the case. As the king and Jun argue, Yo-gwang notices something protruding from the king’s chest.
Yo-gwang’s eyes grow wide. Carved right into the king’s skin is the talisman they’d been searching for. He reaches for his dagger.
The king is done with these two. He orders Poong-yeon to kill them right now. Staring right at Jun, Poong-yeon raises his sword above his head…
“Please stop this!” Yeon-hee’s firm voice stops him cold. She stares him down, her eyes pleading. Poong-yeon seems to soften at her presence. That is, until Jun calls her name. Before Jun can step toward her, Poong-yeon’s expression hardens again and his sword is back on Jun’s throat.
The king steps forward instead, feeling as if he just caught the princess red-handed. She’s not paying attention though; all she sees is the talisman on his chest. Fuming that this only proves her ill intentions towards him, the king orders Poong-yeon to kill her too. But Poong-yeon is still as a statue, allowing Jun and Yo-gwang the chance to escape his hold and jump in front of Yeon-hee.
Something settles within Poong-yeon as he numbly stares at the woman he thought he loved. Hong-joo’s words echo in his head. “Only when you kill the vicious cursed child will the kind and innocent Yeon-hee return.” Oh no.
He slowly makes his way to Yeon-hee, Hong-joo’s voice in his head and the king’s voice in his ear, telling him this sister of his tried to shed royal blood. Poong-yeon raises his sword, but with the horrified expression on Yeon-hee’s face, he just can’t do it.
The king snatches the sword and shoves Poong-yeon aside. “If you won’t kill her, I will,” he seethes. He tries to lunge at Yeon-hee, but she’s too quick for him. She grabs Yo-gwang’s dagger and buries it in the king’s chest, destroying the talisman. Hong-joo feels the full impact of the curse breaking and collapses, while the queen dowager sits up, her pain subsiding.
But, of course, all Poong-yeon and the king see is what looks like Yeon-hee attempting murder. Once she sees that the symbol has disappeared from the king’s chest, Yeon-hee retracts the dagger. The king falls to the floor, angrier than ever. He shouts to the guards outside and orders them to arrest Yeon-hee for trying to kill him.
The guards drag Yeon-hee and the boys out and head towards the prison. Hong-joo then saunters into the king’s room, and the first thing she does is give Poong-yeon the “I told you so” lecture. Does he understand now, she asks, that she is no longer the old Yeon-hee? That she is now just a cursed being? Poong-yeon just picks up his sword and leaves, emotionally drained. Um, is no one going to help the bleeding king lying on the floor?
Once separated, Yeon-hee is taken to her own cell. However, Yo-gwang manages to cut the ties around his wrists and break free. Together, he and Jun fight off the guards until there’s only one person left in their way: Poong-yeon.
Jun attempts to get past him with his sword, but Poong-yeon pins him against a wall, telling him it’s no use running back to Yeon-hee; there’s nothing he can do. Jun fiercely protests, but Poong-yeon stands his ground. Finally, Jun gives up and lets Yo-gwang drag him out of there.
As soon as they come to a stop, Jun tries to turn back again, intent on saving Yeon-hee. Yo-gwang reaffirms Poong-yeon’s words—acting recklessly could lead to worsening her sentence. Frustrated, Jun demands to know what the king’s deal is. Why is he trying to get rid of Yeon-hee? Yo-gwang finally tells him that the king thinks Yeon-hee is the source of his mysterious illness. They both know that’s hogwash, so it all points back to Hong-joo.
The only problem is, as long as the king remains Hong-joo’s puppet, he’ll never believe what they say. Determination sets into Jun’s shoulders. If they can’t tell the king, they’ll have to show him.
Hong-joo rushes to Hyun-seo’s side, thrilled that at last, he can use his great powers for her. She leads the possessed Hyun-seo to Yeon-hee’s prison cell, where Hong-joo’s minions have already posted a string of talismans to keep her powers contained.
Yeon-hee jumps up at the sight of Hyun-seo, calling out “Father!” But she can sense something’s wrong. Hong-joo looks up at Hyun-seo expectantly, willing him to light this place on fire with the spiritual force he holds within. It’s what Hong-joo tried to have him do when Yeon-hee was an infant, and the only way to kill her now. Under Hong-joo’s full command, his eyes flash in response, and his dead expression causes Yeon-hee to back away in fear.
Hyun-seo approaches her cell and motions his hands to summon the fire. Over. And over. But nothing happens. He makes the same motion like a malfunctioning robot, his face still blank. Hong-joo doesn’t understand. She grabs his hand, perplexed by the scar left from their blood bond.
Hong-joo returns to her lair in a daze, contemplating this new problem that’s arisen. Hyun-seo has lost the spiritual force—a force that is passed on to the head Taoist master from generation to generation. She’s positive that ability wouldn’t have just disappeared… She stops in her tracks, thinking, “Could it be possible?”
Much to the king’s dismay, he gets a visit from a now recovered queen dowager. But contrary to what he thinks, the queen isn’t here to gloat. She’s here to apologize. She explains Yeon-hee’s intentions of breaking Hong-joo’s curse, but the king’s not hearing it. To him, Yeon-hee’s just a criminal.
The queen clenches her jaw. “I’ll withdraw the regency,” she says. That certainly gets the king’s attention. But even this gesture doesn’t seem to move him. He tells her to go ahead and take the throne—isn’t that why she had the princess try to kill him? He sends the queen out, having nothing left to say.
The queen dowager runs into Hong-joo out in the corridors. Hong-joo feigns concern over her health, but the queen dowager is far past all the nice talk and gets right to it, asking why Hong-joo didn’t just kill her. Hong-joo repeats that it’s not the queen dowager she wants dead. The queen dowager counters that since she survived, she’ll watch Hong-joo suffer for her sins herself. And she won’t let her daughter be taken away from her.
The king goes out to think again, flashing back to an encounter with Hong-joo after he got stabbed. Hong-joo had said outright that she used him as bait to capture the princess. That was it for the king—after toying with his life, how could he trust her? He egged her on, poking her in the shoulder and asking if she could even heal his illness.
Hong-joo grabbed his arm, her black magic seeping into it and creating a new patch of thorns. Getting in his face, she’d told him to just do what she says. After all, it was she who had gotten him the throne in the first place. She did it because she knew he was weak, narrow-minded, and timid—with zero capacity of being king. With each jab, the king lost a bit of confidence, looking more and more like a kicked puppy.
Now, more confused than ever, the king sighs and bends over in pain, grabbing onto a nearby post. Mere seconds later, an arrow holding a note lands inches from his hand. It’s from Jun, telling the king to meet him tomorrow to reveal the real Red Cloak. If he doesn’t come, Jun will reveal Red Cloak’s identity in front of the whole marketplace.
We see Jun watching the king from afar, leaving after confirming the message was read. Hong-joo’s minions take note of his departure from the palace, and they report back to Hong-joo.
Jun makes his way back to Cheongbing Temple, where he’s been holding Sol-gae captive all this time. Jun tells her of his meeting with the king tomorrow, and promises to show her the true face of the one she trusts.
The following day, Jun escorts Sol-gae through the forest to meet with the king. As soon as they’re in a clearing, the two are ambushed by Hong-joo’s minions and their arrows. One arrow gets Sol-gae right in the chest and she goes down.
Once the lead minion confirms she must be done for, she halts the others and calls them back. They tell Hong-joo the problem is taken care of. Hong-joo nods, telling them they did a good job. “She was a smart girl,” she says, “what a pity.” Their mission now accomplished, they make their way out of the forest.
Once the coast is clear, Jun pops out to watch them leave. The king comes out from behind a tree, having seen everything, and they exchange knowing glances. Jun then helps Sol-gae to another spot, an arrow still embedded in her chest. Jun asks if she’s okay, and instead of answering, she just removes her mask. Oh, it’s Yo-gwang! Okay, did not expect that, Show. One point for you.
Jun pulls the arrow out for him—fortunately stopped by the vest Yo-gwang is wearing underneath. They look up to see Sol-gae approach, taking in what she just witnessed. A flashback shows Jun revealing his entire plan to Sol-gae, daring her to see what would happen if they lured Hong-joo out.
Back in the present, Jun presents her with the arrow that could have very well pierced her own chest. Jun suggests she quit getting blood on her hands for someone who would do this to her. He says after witnessing that, there’s no need to feel any more burden. It hits Sol-gae all at once and she sheds a tear.
One down, another to go. Jun walks straight up to the king’s room, and the guards automatically let him in. Jun kneels before his king, ready to reveal the truth.
Poong-yeon wanders into the prison, unable to drag himself all the way to Yeon-hee’s cell. “Just think of her as an evil spirit,” a voice calls out. Hong-joo steps closer to him. “If a person is possessed by an evil spirit, shouldn’t we kick it out?” She assures him that if Yeon-hee’s curse is removed, she’ll return to the Yeon-hee he once knew. As long as he helps Hong-joo.
Yeon-hee grows more restless when she looks out her window and sees yet another star fall in the sky. She’s running out of time. She’s surprised to see Poong-yeon come in, but he just throws her a blanket and leaves without a word. Outside, Hong-joo’s minions are waiting for him.
The next thing we know, Poong-yeon wakes up in a locked room filled with unlit candles. He looks up to see the face of a ghost and goes ballistic. He flails around, telling the ghost to get away, his motions lighting the candles around him.
In awe, he concentrates on one candle with a shaky hand, and surely enough, it lights up too. Hidden behind a curtain, Hong-joo watches him with a satisfied smile. She’s found what she was looking for.
Jun firmly states that it is Hong-joo’s black magic that is to blame for the king’s illness, not Yeon-hee. After having shown the king that Hong-joo was the real murderer behind Red Cloak, Jun will now show the king that she is the cause of all of his pain.
All Jun asks is that the king spare Yeon-hee’s life. A humorless laugh escapes the king’s mouth. He doesn’t see why he should easily trust Jun and hand over the princess. He turns his back on Jun.
“Your Majesty!” Jun calls out as he looks the king dead in the eye, “I will try to heal your illness.”
All right, that’s what I’m talking about, Jun! Those last few minutes really had me worried for our heroes, but I’m so happy to see their little group slowly growing in terms of allies. Each time Yeon-hee and Jun successfully untangle someone out of Hong-joo’s web, it just feels so rewarding. And if they can get the king fully on their side, it might be the most rewarding moment for me yet. It’s been frustrating, to say the least, watching the king completely lose himself (and his sanity) in Hong-joo’s lies and manipulations. I was almost beginning to think he was too far gone to be saved, but this episode proved to me that underneath all that corruption is a young man who just wants to be a good king for his country.
In that flashback when Hong-joo had revealed she chose him as king because he was weak, I could see something break within him. After hearing he’d been used as bait to get to Yeon-hee, he had to hear that he had been used by Hong-joo this entire time. And even though I’ve been angry with him the past few episodes, it really pained me to watch that realization wash over his face. Which is why this ending has me so excited for the events to come. If Jun can really ease the king over to their side, I see the beginning of a very beautiful bromance between king and royal physician (Please, please give me that bromance!) and the beginning of Hong-joo’s end.
But it can’t be done with the king alone. Along with the queen dowager and now Sol-gae, it’s such a relief to see more and more characters open their eyes to the deceit so plainly laid in front of them by Hong-joo’s black magic. They’ve both suffered and though it’s undeniable they’ve done some terrible, unforgivable things, I hope we see them make up for it by helping our team. Except now, we have Poong-yeon to worry about.
Poong-yeon has been unstable for a while now, so I guess it was only natural for him to fall into Hong-joo’s manipulations. Like a lot of these characters, I feel so bad for him but I also want to punch him. He’s allowing his fears of losing the old innocent Yeon-hee to drive him crazy, hurting Yeon-hee and the people around her. I just can’t believe he’s willing to accept that getting rid of the new cursed Yeon-hee will turn things back to normal. It makes it sound like her cursed side is a leech latching onto her rather than just being a part of who she is now. It doesn’t make sense to me, so I don’t understand why it makes sense to him, other than the fact that he’s in such a deep level of desperation that he’s willing to do anything to get her back. On the surface, that can sound romantic, but it’s so easy for that desperation to shift into obsession. Does that make me dislike his character? Not really. That desperation is just a weakness of his, a weakness that Hong-joo fed off of. I just hope he can save himself before this weakness becomes his downfall.