EPISODE 16 RECAP
We take a few steps back to when Jun was racing to save Yeon-hee from her captor, Poong-yeon. This time, we see that as he was riding off on his horse with Yeon-hee, Poong-yeon had tried to fling a knife at Jun—no, to Jun. Attached was a message that we don’t get to see, but, by Jun’s expression, it wasn’t what he expected.
Poong-yeon made sure to present the unconscious Yeon-hee to Hong-joo’s minions as proof that he hadn’t backed out on their plan. He told them to go on and fetch Hong-joo. He turned toward the direction of their meeting place, but paused once the minions left. As soon as he was positive they were gone, he took a different route.
Now back in the present, Poong-yeon locks the door to the abandoned house he’d left Yeon-hee in. He thinks back to the wish he’d had for Yeon-hee to walk a comfortable path covered in flower petals, before her curse had taken over everyone’s lives. Hong-joo sees his hesitation and reminds him that this is the only way to get his old Yeon-hee back. He brings his hands up to the doors and summons his spiritual fire, turning away as the entire building is engulfed in flames.
Hong-joo’s eyes shine with delight as she watches the building fall apart. But, wait… Her smile twists into a frown as she realizes something’s off. Flustered, she checks her arm, and to her shock, it’s still covered in scabby thorns. She marches up to the building, but a strong force pushes her back and burns her hands into a dark charcoal black.
Poong-yeon just stands to the side, showing no concern at all. Because he knows that Yeon-hee’s completely safe. In fact, she’s in an entirely different building. Oh, phew. And gee, thanks for scaring us, Poong-yeon!
Jun somehow finds the building and hurries to untie her, anxious to make sure that Yeon-hee is okay. His eyes find hers, and the second she registers his face, Yeon-hee melts into a puddle of relief. She grasps onto him, and he silently holds her as she cries on his shoulder.
The empty building Poong-yeon just burned is now in pieces. With no sign of a body in the wreckage, Hong-joo demands to know where the princess has gone. Poong-yeon practically shrugs. “What are you so furious about?” he calmly asks. Hong-joo tries her best to keep her composure, but she nearly explodes as she says they need to burn the princess and they need to do it now—they’re wasting time.
Hong-joo walks away from Poong-yeon, leaving him to flash back to when his father had told him to use the sacred fire to help Hong-joo. Now we see that at that very moment, Poong-yeon had been thinking about Hyun-seo’s earlier warning not to trust his father’s words.
Poong-yeon hurries back to the other building to make sure Jun got to Yeon-hee—aha, the message he’d shot at Jun was a map to her location. Poong-yeon tries to approach her, but Jun blocks him. Jun wants to know what on earth was going through Poong-yeon’s head, and Poong-yeon explains that he had to find out Hong-joo’s true intentions, which is why he went through with the kidnapping.
Now that Poong-yeon fully knows Hong-joo’s intentions of killing the princess by spiritual fire, he tells them that the power of fire has been passed down to him, and that Yeon-hee’s safe because he won’t use it on her. Jun is still nervous knowing that Hong-joo is trying to kill Yeon-hee, so he storms off to go find the shaman. “I know where she is,” Poong-yeon calls out, stopping Jun in his tracks.
Hong-joo returns to her lair and confronts Hyun-seo, though she’s unaware that he’s huddled over in pain. She wishes he hadn’t given up his powers to make Yeon-hee the talisman shield. If he still had his firepower, they could’ve killed the princess by now. He turns to face her and the anguish he’s clearly in only upsets her more. “You started all this,” she tells him, “I never wanted you to be like this.”
Hyun-seo wheezes out a strangled “Please!” And though it hurts Hong-joo to see him like this, she can’t just let him go. She reactivates his curse with a fresh whiff of black smoke, and he’s right back to the emotionless Hyun-seo. Hong-joo orders him to remove Yeon-hee’s talisman shield, because once Yeon-hee is vulnerable to her curse again, Heo Jun will collapse and the princess’ white hair will be publicly unveiled, leaving her nowhere to hide.
Ok isn’t exactly adjusting to prison all that well, so he tries to butter up the guards, telling them to call his mother for some money in exchange for his freedom. If only this guy could hear how laughably pathetic he sounds right now.
In town, Soon-deuk drops in on Yo-gwang to see what’s going on with Jun. With so much troubling him, Yo-gwang mindlessly voices his worries to her. Soon-deuk questions how comfortable he’s acting around her and asks if he maybe likes her. “No!” he shouts, a little too loudly. Soon-deuk suggests he get over her since he has enough problems as it is, and she’d only hurt him. She prances off, and Yo-gwang yells after her that he only likes really tall women. Ha.
Yo-gwang finds Jun back at Cheongbing Temple, observing the candles. Now that Poong-yeon has inherited his father’s powers, they recognize that Hong-joo is becoming a bigger threat to Yeon-hee’s life. Jun can’t help but wonder what would happen if Hong-joo couldn’t use her black magic anymore. Then, she would just be like any other human. Yo-gwang doesn’t believe there’s a way, but Jun is determined to find one.
Poong-yeon cautiously enters Hong-joo’s current hideout, and finds a strange chest. He reaches toward it, but the magic surrounding it turns his hand black and blocks him from opening it. “What are you doing here?” Hong-joo says from behind him. He says he was looking for her because he wants to know what her next step is. She matter-of-factly says that she must capture the princess, and she’s sure Hyun-seo will help them somehow.
This confuses Poong-yeon. “You ought to know—Choi Hyun-seo is on our side now,” Hong-joo says. Poong-yeon wants to know what Hong-joo did to his father, and she finally tells him that she used black magic to save him from death. Hong-joo starts to say that Hyun-seo must be with Yeon-hee right now, but Poong-yeon is already out the door.
Hyun-seo sits down with Yeon-hee and asks why she doesn’t look so good—he wonders if it’s because the disappearance of the Northern Star is getting closer. Yeon-hee doesn’t answer. She just has one question—when he had visited her in prison with Hong-joo, did he intend to kill her? She tells him she knows Hong-joo lured him there. And she also knows Hyun-seo would never really hurt her. Yeon-hee: “So… Please come back to us, Father.” Hyun-seo’s eyes flash white.
Terrified, Yeon-hee scrambles out of her chair. Hyun-seo backs her slowly into a corner, until she’s trapped and scrambling on her back, and he’s hovering menacingly above her. He reaches out to her to remove the talisman shield by force, when Yeon-hee’s eyes flash purple and she uses her powers to push him away.
But Hong-joo’s magic is too powerful against Yeon-hee’s, and Hyun-seo approaches again. He lifts his hands to her head and starts the spell to break the talisman shield, while Yeon-hee cringes in pain. The white slowly spreads back into her hair.
As Jun and Yo-gwang return to the palace, Jun hunches over in pain as well. Poong-yeon reaches them and sees the symbol of Yeon-hee’s curse appear on Jun’s neck again. Poong-yeon takes off running. Unable to move, Jun tells Yo-gwang to quickly get to Yeon-hee too.
Poong-yeon gets to Yeon-hee first, but the evil look in his father’s eyes freezes Poong-yeon in place. He soon snaps out of it and shoves Hyun-seo away from Yeon-hee. But Hyun-seo is too strong and he flings Poong-yeon across the room. Luckily, Yo-gwang gets there just in time and shields Yeon-hee.
Jun is the last to make it and tries to hold Hyun-seo off, but is thrown to the ground. As Hyun-seo approaches Yeon-hee again with a murderous look, Poong-yeon has no choice. He blasts Hyun-seo with his incredible firepower, knocking Hyun-seo unconscious. Hong-joo gasps from her hideout. The scar from their blood bond glistens. Oh no, is Hyun-seo dead?
Not quite yet. Our heroes tie Hyun-seo to a chair, still unconscious. Now that it’s come to this, Jun insists they must somehow get rid of Hong-joo’s black magic. Jun decides to confront Hong-joo himself, but Poong-yeon stops him and goes instead, reminding them that Hong-joo believes that Poong-yeon is on her side. But Yeon-hee’s worried—it’s Hong-joo’s black magic that’s keeping Hyun-seo alive.
Hyun-seo comes to, but it’s not the Hyun-seo they were hoping for. Still possessed, he mocks Yeon-hee, telling her she sure has a tough life, especially since all those by her side are fated to die.
Yeon-hee stares him down in anger and says, “Hong-joo. It’s you, isn’t it?” Jun stops her right there. He kneels to Hyun-seo’s eye level, also addressing Hong-joo directly. Jun says he didn’t want to speak to someone who’s not even human. Hong-joo scoffs and wonders how Jun was able to cure the king. Jun smirks, and asks in return when she possessed Hyun-seo’s mind.
Hong-joo tells Jun to give up—they can’t get rid of her black magic. They’ll just have to deal with Hyun-seo the way he is now, unable to kill nor save him. Jun laughs dryly. Since Hong-joo is treating Hyun-seo this way, Jun deducts that she doesn’t want to see Hyun-seo die either. That strikes a chord within Hong-joo.
Hong-joo is so distracted by Jun’s comment that Poong-yeon surprises her as he comes up behind her and tries to light her on fire with his powers. She dives for that chest Poong-yeon couldn’t open earlier, and pulls out a large dagger. They struggle and Poong-yeon’s grasp sears into Hong-joo’s arm. In order to free herself, she slashes at his chest, while at the same time, Poong-yeon’s touch sets her sleeve on fire. Hong-joo’s able to pat the fire out, but Poong-yeon drops like a rock.
Hyun-seo’s eyes flash once more, and when he looks up again… it’s really Hyun-seo! He looks around, dazed. He and Yeon-hee exchange tender looks, but there’s no time. Hong-joo may take control again. Jun quickly asks Hyun-seo if he knows how to take Hong-joo’s black magic away. Hyun-seo tells them they must find the original source of her magic, the Blade of Black Magic.
Hyun-seo remembers that the day Hong-joo started her black magic, the first thing she grabbed was a dagger. They must find it and burn it with spiritual fire. Jun recalls Hong-joo using that very dagger to stab him when she’d ambushed them in Cheongbing Temple and broken his talisman shield.
Before they can ask any more questions, Hyun-seo’s eyes flash, bringing Hong-joo back in control. “I see you’ve sent me a rat,” she voices through Hyun-seo. Yeon-hee asks what she’s done to Poong-yeon, and Hong-joo tells Yeon-hee to come to Seohyang Forest in person if she wants to see Poong-yeon again.
The queen dowager walks in on them, taking in the whole scene. She sighs, distressed that they’ve lost a worthy ally. Yeon-hee insists that she will find a way to save Hyun-seo. The queen dowager wants to know if that’s what brought Jun back to the palace. She’s thankful for all the help he’s given Yeon-hee, but she offers to give Jun royal guards to help with his quest, so that Yeon-hee doesn’t have to be around him anymore.
Yeon-hee defends him, saying that Jun risks his life without hesitation to save hers, and she wants to protect him in the same way. The queen still can’t allow it. Though she grew up outside the palace, Yeon-hee’s still a princess, and the queen dowager is worried that people are already speaking ill of the unmarried princess running around with a man of low birth. She orders Yeon-hee to stay away from him. Jun hears all of this while hiding around the corner, and walks off with his head low.
The queen dowager comes to a decision and rushes to see the king. She asks that they change the head of the Taoist temple. She recommends someone the king knows very well: Choi Poong-yeon. She’s well aware of the king’s feelings toward Poong-yeon, but he’s the only person she trusts to protect Yeon-hee. The king is skeptical, but agrees to think it over.
Yeon-hee makes up her mind and heads for the door, but Jun grabs her arm. He knows what she’s thinking right now, but tells her not to go to Hong-joo; he’ll go instead. Yeon-hee argues that Jun can’t go it alone. Yeon-hee’s plan is to use herself as bait to draw Hong-joo out, so Jun has a chance to find the Blade of Black Magic.
Still, Jun doesn’t want her getting hurt. “If something bad happens to you, what am I supposed to do?” he asks her, tears stinging his eyes. Yeon-hee promises she won’t get hurt. She clutches his hand and says she’s going to Hong-joo because she trusts Jun, and argues that Jun should trust her and find the dagger. It takes every ounce of willpower he has, but he finally lets her go, Yo-gwang right behind her for protection.
Jun starts to head out as well, when Hyun-seo—the real Hyun-seo—warns him to be careful. The slightest touch from Hong-joo’s dagger could be the end for Jun. Since it’s easy for black magic to infiltrate the weak-hearted, Hyun-seo stresses that Jun has to be strong and can’t let his heart be swayed, or the black magic will swallow him whole.
Jun easily finds Hong-joo’s new hideout with the map Poong-yeon gave him. He finds Poong-yeon, but he’s still unconscious. And just a few feet away, Jun spots the chest. It opens on its own, revealing the dagger clouded in black magic. An eerie voice echoes all around him, hissing that once they get enough use out of him, his friends will all abandon him—even the girl he loves.
Bracing himself, Jun grabs the dagger, and its magic affects him instantly. He remembers Hyun-seo’s warning, but Jun can’t help it—the magic starts to get to him.
It enters his mind and feeds him all the negative comments he’s been told his entire life, from Poong-yeon calling him helpless, to his stepmother telling him to live as if he were dead, to his own mother yelling at him to beg Ok’s forgiveness, to the queen dowager telling Yeon-hee that a person cannot change the station they were born into, and ordering her to keep her distance from Jun. Then he remembers Ok’s words that Jun himself was responsible for his own mother’s death.
It all becomes too much for Jun and he seems to pass out. A few heartbeats later, his hand once again clutches the sword. Jun raises his head, and there’s a deadly white glint in his eye, exactly the color of Hyun-seo’s eyes when he’s been possessed by Hong-joo’s black magic. And in the palace, Hyun-seo breaks free of his ropes and makes his escape.
Yeon-hee and Yo-gwang reach the forest and come face-to-face with Hong-joo. Hong-joo tells them not to try anything funny if they want Poong-yeon back alive and well. Yeon-hee tries to distract her, calling Hong-joo’s magic impressive for being able to save Hyun-seo’s life. Hong-joo wonders if Yeon-hee could sacrifice herself for Hyun-seo like he did for her. Yeon-hee confirms that this is why she’s here.
Hong-joo’s eyes dart behind them and she takes note of Jun’s absence. “Why would I bring him when I came to die?” Yeon-hee asks. But Hong-joo’s too smart for them. She realizes where Jun must be, and she rushes back to her hideout, leaving her minions to keep Yeon-hee here. Yo-gwang struggles to fight all of them, but Yeon-hee’s eyes flare purple and she puts them down with one glare, and they chase after Hong-joo.
Hong-joo returns to find Jun sitting on the floor, still clutching the dagger and looking out of his mind. Hong-joo can hardly believe it. “What a foolish man you are! Touching black magic on your own!” she laughs. Yeon-hee and Yo-gwang burst in behind her, horrified to see the state that Jun is in.
Jun stands up, glancing at Yeon-hee briefly, his expression unreadable. He turns to face Hong-joo as if ready to hear her orders. And then… Jun smirks. OMG, yes!
“You think I’m you?” Jun asks Hong-joo. He nods toward the figure behind him. Poong-yeon has regained consciousness and is standing behind him. Double yes! With the same burning hatred glowing in his eyes, Poong-yeon uses his power to light a spiritual fire.
Hong-joo looks more terrified than she’s ever been, as Jun waves her precious dagger in her face. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, he dumps it into the fire.
Hong-joo screams and jumps in to save it, but the force of the fire shoves her back and her own black magic starts to choke her violently from within. As the dagger gets destroyed by the flames, Hong-joo writhes painfully and vomits blood until she’s a heap on the floor. Every bit of black magic is drained out of her body until she’s pale as a ghost, and she looks up at Jun.
Is it weird that I’m cackling? Because I’m totally cackling. That ending was just what I needed after weeks and weeks of our heroes getting stomped on by this shaman. I had faith that Jun was strong enough to win over the black magic’s hold on him, but this show does have a tendency to mess with me. I can only hope that this massive triumph finally gives the good guys the upper hand.
Speaking of messing with me, I should’ve known that Poong-yeon would’ve never gone as far as to kill Yeon-hee. He was desperate, but that would’ve just made him straight-up crazy. The twist did take me by surprise, but considering how much Poong-yeon cares for Yeon-hee, it makes more sense that he would’ve taken more precaution. Now that I think about it, putting Hong-joo’s trust in him to his advantage was genius. I just wish the show had given out more hints on his scheme, because for the longest time, I was really starting to believe Poong-yeon was losing it. Either way, I’m pleased with how things ended up.
I’m not too pleased that the queen dowager is still pushing this issue with Jun’s social standing—we so don’t need that cliché right now—but I do like that that element was another factor that hit a sensitive area with Jun. His biggest weakness has always been the burden of his background, so taking another hit from the mother of the girl he loves… just, oof. His agony was palpable as the black magic taunted him.
And I couldn’t be prouder of Jun for finding the strength within him to push away every self-doubt he’s ever felt for Yeon-hee’s safety. After this triumph over Hong-joo, I have enough reason to believe Jun can overcome whatever obstacles may come his and Yeon-hee’s way, even a royal mother-in-law. I’m curious as to how the last four episodes will play out now that their biggest threat has been rendered powerless. All I know is that Heo Jun’s signature smirk is now one of my most favorite things ever.