EPISODE 18 RECAP
Hong-joo and her shaman army invade Cheongbing Temple, but Yeon-hee and Jun have already fled in the middle of the night.
Hong-joo asks the king for his royal soldiers to help capture Yeon-hee, and the king asks if Hong-joo is trying to absolve herself of her crimes by doing this. He reminds her that their motives happen to align on this one thing, and after the princess is captured, he plans to make Hong-joo pay for her crimes. She assures him that all she wants is for Yeon-hee to die.
But in order to kill Yeon-hee, they’ll need Poong-yeon’s spiritual firepower, and the king is skeptical that Poong-yeon would agree, when he’s already defied the king’s orders once to save Yeon-hee’s life. But Hong-joo says with confidence that Poong-yeon will heed his orders this time.
Out in town, the plague keeps claiming more lives, and Yo-gwang and Soon-deuk are worried when they see people gathering to charge the palace and demand the princess’s life, while others burn her portrait in prayer.
Meanwhile, Jun and Yeon-hee continue to race through the woods holding hands. Run faster!
Yo-gwang hasn’t found Yeon-hee yet, but he tells Poong-yeon that maybe it’s better this way, after seeing the people’s hatred against her in the marketplace. Poong-yeon says they still have to find Yeon-hee before Hong-joo does. Well, you don’t say.
They decide to split up, but Poong-yeon’s step falters, and his eyes flash with that disturbingly similar look that Hyun-seo has whenever Hong-joo is controlling him. The wound from Hong-joo’s black magic knife is obviously bothering him, though he doesn’t let on that anything is wrong.
After a day of running, Yeon-hee’s strength starts to flag, so Jun stoops down in front of her to offer a piggyback ride. He has to pull her onto his back, but she doesn’t fight it, and honestly they both look happier this way.
But as soon as Jun picks her up, Yeon-hee’s stomach gurgles and she’s embarrassed by the noise. Jun just smiles, thinking it cute, and goes fishing in the river for something to eat.
The longer Jun flails about in the river, the more Yeon-hee resigns herself to starving today, but Jun refuses to accept defeat and insists he won’t let her go hungry. I don’t know, I’m with Yeon-hee on this. The poking-a-fish-with-a-stick plan doesn’t seem to be going so well.
Yeon-hee is amused just watching him, but she suddenly winces in pain, and this time her vision goes hazy and Jun becomes a blurry figure. She tries not to alarm Jun and smiles for his benefit, but he can tell the Northern Star is affecting her again, and smiles to cover up his worry.
They spend the night in a cave, and Jun admits that it’s nice to be here with her. He playfully takes on a serious tone and asks Yeon-hee to name all the things she liked about today, and she thinks before answering, “I liked walking in the mountains holding hands.” He smiles.
“And I liked when you carried me on your back when we crossed the stream,” she adds. He practically beams. “It was fun when you couldn’t catch that fish,” she teases. He scowls, but then she says, “And I like being here with you.”
Jun says in turn that he liked seeing her smile today. Yeon-hee actually seems sad to hear him say that, and she wonders aloud—if she hadn’t been cursed, would they never have met?
Jun thinks back to their first meeting and everything they’ve been through up until now, and says wistfully, “We would’ve lived ordinary lives like we did today, and then we would’ve met in a very ordinary way—one day, we’d recognize each other while coming and going, and the ordinary days would come to shine. We’d keep wanting to see each other, and we’d smile when we met, and all the moments we had together would start to feel short. And we’d want to hold on to the time we had with each other, forever…”
He looks over at her and sees that she’s fallen asleep on his shoulder, and adds, “Like I do now.” Oh, swoon. He lifts a hand to her forehead to check her temperature, and looks alarmed at her condition.
As Hong-joo’s shaman army continues to hunt them down in the woods, Yo-gwang and Soon-deuk check Cheongbing Temple, just in case they’ve returned. Yo-gwang says that he wouldn’t normally bring just anyone here, but these are dire circumstances, and Soon-deuk just takes everything in, wide-eyed.
Jun and Yeon-hee head out while it’s still dark, and for about two seconds, they look like a happy pair of lovebirds on a midnight stroll. But Yeon-hee suddenly doubles over in pain while clenching her heart, and it’s at that moment that Hong-joo’s shamans happen to come upon them. Damn, I knew that wouldn’t last.
They run as fast as they can, but it’s not long before Jun and Yeon-hee are surrounded by shamans and royal guards. Jun pulls Yeon-hee behind him and draws his sword to fight them off. For being vastly outnumbered, he does a decent job of keeping them at bay.
But they continue to close in, and Jun and Yeon-hee start backing away. Yeon-hee’s eyes flash as she tries to ignite her powers, but it’s as if she doesn’t have the energy for a full blast, and the attempt actually weakens her more, making her curse tattoo flash red.
She collapses from the pain, and Jun’s concern for her is the perfect distraction for the shamans to get the upper hand with him, and they slash him with their swords, sending him tumbling backwards over the cliff’s edge. Ack, nooooo!
He falls down the massive cliff and lands in the river below as Yeon-hee screams his name. She cries helplessly as his limp body floats downriver, unable to do anything to save him.
It looks like it’s over for Yeon-hee too, with Hong-joo’s shamans surrounding her. But just then, the shaman army gets ambushed from behind, and Yeon-hee looks up to see Poong-yeon tearing through them swiftly with his sword. He picks her up and carries her away to safety.
By the time he puts Yeon-hee down in the cave, she’s passed out. She comes to and immediately scrambles up to go look for Jun, and Poong-yeon has to hold her back because the royal guards are still scouring the woods for her.
Yeon-hee doesn’t care about her safety when Jun is out there alone, and cries desperately for Poong-yeon to let her leave. Poong-yeon urges her to calm down and promises to go out and look for Jun.
He looks heartbroken to see Yeon-hee break down, crying, “Jun didn’t do anything wrong! It’s all my fault. It’s all because of me. Why Jun… Because of me… What if Jun dies?! He can’t! Please, he can’t! He can’t… please…”
Poong-yeon pats her quietly on the back as she cries, and then heads out to go look for Jun. All he finds is a boot that washed up in the river.
While she sleeps in the cave, Yeon-hee has a dream, in which she comes upon Jun in the woods. But when she calls out to him and approaches, he turns to look at her with a sad expression and walks away, and her vision blurs.
Back in the cave, Yeon-hee’s eyes open with a start, and they flash red. Uh-oh. The sky darkens and a bolt of lightning strikes down, and the next thing we know, Yeon-hee is marching right up to the palace gate. The guards draw their swords, but Yeon-hee doesn’t even break step as she sends them flying, her telekinetic powers back in full force.
The king is displeased to hear that Hong-joo lost Yeon-hee yet again. They’re interrupted by the queen dowager, who’s just gotten news of the king sending his army after the princess. The king says that there’s nothing to be done to save Yeon-hee, now that the people have seen her true form.
The queen dowager counters that she’ll make it public knowledge that the king suffered from an illness caused by black magic, that he used black magic to try and cure himself, and that he’s being controlled by a shaman. He challenges her to go ahead and say all of it, if she’s intent on destroying the royal family. Hong-joo points out the hypocrisy of the queen dowager suddenly caring so much about the princess, and asks if she isn’t just trying to keep her own sins hidden.
A gust of wind blows through the hall, making everyone uneasy. Lanterns shake and guards go tumbling into walls, and they stare agape as Yeon-hee marches right up to them and asks the king, “Does the sight of me scare you?” Her eyes flash red, and nobody looks more shocked than Hong-joo.
Outside the palace gates, Jun’s half-brother Ok is about to be transported when a group of henchmen jump the prison guards and help him escape. Oh is he still alive? We should put him in the cockroach category too.
After searching all night, Poong-yeon finally finds Jun lying on a rock in the river, looking bedraggled and barely alive. Jun asks after Yeon-hee first thing when he opens his eyes, and Poong-yeon assures him that she’s all right.
They hobble back to the safety of the cave, except now that he’s got Jun here, Poong-yeon discovers that Yeon-hee is gone. Gah, this is like that brain teaser where you have to cross the river a billion times just to get your shit together in one place without your wolf eating your goat or whatever.
Jun insists on going back out to search for Yeon-hee too, gaping stab wound and all. When Poong-yeon worries about his condition, Jun says that Yeon-hee is in worse shape than he is.
Poong-yeon explains that she lost her mind when she thought Jun had died, and Jun rightly deduces that she might’ve gone to the palace. He asks Poong-yeon to hurry there ahead of him. But as soon as Poong-yeon turns to leave, his body goes limp and he turns around to face Jun with a menacing glare, his eyes flashing white. Oh no…
In the palace, the king asks in terror if Yeon-hee is here to kill him, and she wonders matter-of-factly why not, when they’re all beside themselves trying to kill her.
The queen dowager tries to get through to Yeon-hee, but Yeon-hee just says bitterly that the queen dowager needn’t worry anymore, “Because Jun is dead. They killed him!” Her anger bubbles up and everything begins to rattle again.
Yeon-hee demands to know why she has to live or die according to their whims, and Hong-joo sees her chance and interjects: “You were born because of their selfishness and their greed! You were born to die.”
Hong-joo fans the flames, prodding Yeon-hee to question why she should risk her life to break her curse for their sake, when all they did was abandon her. Hong-joo says that’s what royals do—they use you and throw you away—just like they did to Yeon-hee’s real mother.
This is the first mention that Yeon-hee has ever heard of her biological mother, and the queen dowager freezes in horror. Hong-joo tells Yeon-hee the truth—that she was born out of Hong-joo’s black magic, used to move Yeon-hee and her twin brother out of the court lady who conceived them and into the queen dowager, who was barren.
Hong-joo makes sure not to leave out the best part: “And the queen dowager is the one who killed your biological mother.” Even the king looks horrified, and Yeon-hee looks over at the queen dowager with pained eyes.
Hong-joo eggs Yeon-hee on to give that curse right back to those who inflicted it upon her. But Yeon-hee turns to Hong-joo and replies coldly, “Shut up. That must be the revenge you want on the royal family. What does it have to do with me, whether or not you have a grudge? Why do I have to die for your revenge?!”
Yeon-hee’s eyes flash red again, and Hong-joo looks legitimately terrified. Yeon-hee asks why she has to be sacrificed for their greed, and Hong-joo starts seeing Yeon-hee’s biological mother Hae-ran in her place, screaming that they’re the ones who should die. Yeon-hee shakes her head and decides, “No, I don’t need anything anymore. Let’s all die together!”
With that, Yeon-hee/Hae-ran rushes at Hong-joo and grabs her by the throat, choking her violently.
Back in the cave, Jun sees that Poong-yeon is being affected by black magic and asks him to remember who he is. But Poong-yeon just glares and says he’s hated Jun ever since he first saw Jun with Yeon-hee. “If it weren’t for you, I’d be the one by Yeon-hee’s side right now,” Poong-yeon hisses.
Jun urges him to remember that he almost killed Yeon-hee the last time he succumbed to Hong-joo’s black magic. It’s no use though, as Poong-yeon continues to fixate on Jun being the source of all his problems, like he’s raring for a fight.
But Jun remains centered and reminds Poong-yeon that he’s let go of his heart already, and that he needs to fight off the black whispers that are trying to take over. With urgency, Jun pleads with him to think of what he wants to protect most in this world, and reminds him that Yeon-hee is in danger.
That seems to do the trick, and Poong-yeon’s eyes glow white again and he returns to his old self. Weakened by the black magic, Poong-yeon only has enough energy to tell Jun to hurry and save Yeon-hee, before he passes out.
At the palace, the queen dowager and the king try to intervene, but Yeon-hee knocks them both out with sharp looks.
With Hong-joo still firmly in her grasp, Yeon-hee cries, “I just wanted to live an ordinary life like other people! I wanted to live an ordinary life with that person. Is that so wrong? Why do the people I love have to die?!”
Her gaze turns murderous, and she squeezes tightly around Hong-joo’s neck…
Suddenly the air goes still, and Jun’s voice quietly calls out, “Yeon-hee-ya… don’t do it.” She drops Hong-joo instantly, who falls unconscious to the floor.
Stunned, Yeon-hee trembles as she turns around, and the second she lays eyes on Jun, tears spill out. He walks over to her slowly, a little unsteady on his feet, and she doesn’t breathe again until he’s right in front of her.
He just wraps his arms around her silently, and it’s only then that she looks like she believes he’s really here. Even as guards rush in and surround them with swords, they stand there in their own little world, holding onto each other tightly.
Poong-yeon wakes up in the cave and remembers what happened, and rushes out to find Yeon-hee.
But by now Yeon-hee is already locked up in a prison cell lined with talismans. The curse tattoo on her neck glows, and then it starts to spread, like a river of lava that’s branching off and growing.
Jun kneels before the king and says that this happened because Yeon-hee thought he was dead, but the king has no interest in their love story and only cares that Yeon-hee intended to kill him. Jun begs for Yeon-hee’s life and offers to go out there and heal all of the people suffering from the plague, to prove that she’s not the cause of it.
But the king is beside himself with the revelation that the princess, born of the main line of royal descent, is cursed. (Because it’s the perfect thing to undermine the main royal birth line, and legitimize his indirect line in the process.) The king says plainly that he doesn’t care whether Yeon-hee is the cause of the plague or not.
Jun sheds a tear and reminds the king that he wanted to be a good ruler, but this is avoiding responsibility out of fear. Jun cries for the king to look at his people’s suffering and find true solutions, but that makes the king snap, and he orders for Jun to be imprisoned too.
Poong-yeon barges into the prison to make sure that Yeon-hee is okay, and says with regret that he shouldn’t have left her alone. He tells her not to worry—he knows that running away isn’t what she wants, so he’s going to find his own way to protect her. He vows to make it so that they can’t do anything to her.
He can’t bring himself to speak this part out loud, but says to himself that he likes her very much. Why does this sound like goodbye? As he walks out, Sol-gae peeks out from around the corner.
Poong-yeon then takes out a small bottle and fights against the black magic inside himself as he tries to bring the bottle to his lips. Oh no, is it poison?
But before he can drink it, Hong-joo arrives and has him tied up in chains, and chides him for taking the cowardly way out. She whispers in his ear to just keep thinking of the pain of loving someone without getting anything in return, and the black magic takes over once again.
Ok wonders why the people seem so down, and hears that the princess’s curse is causing a plague. He thinks capturing her would be a good way to regain favor, that is, until he hears about her throwing people with just a look.
And then for some reason we repeat the scene from Episode 17, in which Hong-joo commands Hyun-seo to bring her the final page of the Mauigeumseo. Afterwards Hyun-seo goes straight to Yo-gwang at Cheongbing Temple and demands the last page of the Mauigeumseo, and sees right through Yo-gwang’s bluff that he burned it ages ago. Yo-gwang tells Soon-deuk to hide and manages to gain the upper hand, pulling his sword on Hyun-seo first.
Hyun-seo calls Yo-gwang useless and challenges him to go ahead and deliver the killing blow. Yo-gwang grips his sword tightly and raises it above his head, shaking so hard that it rattles. But he drops it at the last second, unable to kill his teacher.
It’s the moment Hyun-seo was waiting for, and he stealthily draws a dagger out of his sleeve and stabs Yo-gwang right in the gut. Hyun-seo takes the last page of the Mauigeumseo and coldly shakes off Yo-gwang’s attempts to remind him of his daughter Yeon-hee.
That night, the queen dowager receives word that Yeon-hee is to be burned at the stake tomorrow morning, and she grieves for her poor child.
Poong-yeon struggles against his chains and tries to use his firepower to break free, but the black magic continues to weaken him.
At the temple, Soon-deuk sits by Yo-gwang all night, trying to nurse him back to health.
And Jun sits in his prison cell, ineffectually yanking at his chains and wondering if this is really the end, and there’s nothing he can do for Yeon-hee.
At daybreak, Sol-gae fights Hong-joo’s shamans to get to Poong-yeon, and urges him to wake up and protect the person he cherishes. She says she no longer wants to see him living with regret.
But Hong-joo arrives with her army, and despite Sol-gae’s fighting skills, she’s no match for Hong-joo’s ruthlessness. When Sol-gae has been injured, Hong-joo grabs a sword and slices her clean through the middle, reminding Sol-gae that she’d warned her about love being her downfall.
Poong-yeon crumbles at the sight, and he remembers their first meeting, when he’d rescued Sol-gae as a child slave and offered to keep her fed if she wanted to follow him. Sol-gae sheds a final tear and says she’s sorry, and dies.
Poong-yeon’s grief overtakes him, and his rage allows the black magic to finally take control.
Yeon-hee is dragged from her cell and wheeled through town before arriving at the palace gates for her public execution. She’s thrown at Hong-joo’s feet, and shocked to see Poong-yeon looking so dead-eyed. He robotically takes his place for the fire ritual, and Yeon-hee realizes that he’s not going to save her.
They tie Yeon-hee to the stake and order the fire lit, and the resounding drum alerts everyone in the palace that she’s about to be burned. Jun hears the drum in the distance and gets up frantically in his cell; the king hangs his head; the queen dowager is frozen in shock.
Hong-joo nods, and Poong-yeon walks up to Yeon-hee and looks her right in the eye. But it’s not enough to break his trance, and he reaches his hands out, lighting the wood on fire beneath her. Nooooo! Hong-joo cracks a little smile, and Yeon-hee squirms as the flames rise up and close in on her.
Ohmygoodness. Burned at the stake? This is where we’re ending the episode? Dastardly but smart, I’ll give them that. It’s certainly the best cliffhanger yet, and even though I don’t expect Yeon-hee to die in the fire (because we have two more episodes! She can’t!), the imagery is going to haunt me for a week, and right now I don’t see how she’s going to get herself out of this. Every good guy is either injured, jailed, or possessed by black magic, and I was pinning my hopes on Poong-yeon, but he just lit the girl he loves on fire. ON FIRE. It’s not like I was rooting for him to succeed with his noble idiocy plan of poisoning himself, but at this point I see why he thought to do it. Surely there will be one more chance for Poong-yeon to turn this around and make himself useful, right?
It was just really nice to get an episode that brought the focus back to Jun and Yeon-hee, because I find their love story to be surprisingly moving. It’s innocent, but it isn’t juvenile, and I genuinely appreciate the way their love has grown organically for their characters without feeling forced. It’s usually Jun who gets the big moving moments, like when he told Yeon-hee she was the same girl whether cursed or not, or in this episode when he imagined how they would’ve met under ordinary circumstances and been together forever, knowing full well that in real life Yeon-hee is slowly dying. Their earnest longing for a normal life together drives me crazy because it’s just so attainable, and yet so out of reach for them. It’s so little! Why can’t they have it?!
But it was Yeon-hee’s love that got the spotlight in this episode, which actually had me clapping in excitement. She’s usually on the receiving end—of all the love, the protection, even the hatred—which has often made her passive in the story (plotwise, not in personality). But when she thought they killed Jun, she unleashed a new kind of fury that was awesome to watch. I hadn’t realized until then how it had always been Jun confirming their love, but when she broke down in such agony at the thought that they’d taken him away, I felt so clearly how he meant everything to her, and it was gratifying to see that love in action.
Her reunion with Jun was lovely too, because they didn’t need any fanfare or dramatics—Yeon-hee’s despair at losing Jun had said it all—and I kind of loved how utterly simple it was for her to return to herself the second she knew he was alive. It was a nice callback to have Jun save her from murdering the person she hates too, the same way she pulled him back from the brink when he almost murdered Ok.
I’m just happy that the women in this drama are powerful, and that despite needing a lot of saving on a regular basis, Yeon-hee showed how strong and capable she is in her own right. She’s also the only person who actually scares Hong-joo, and I’d like to see the two of them facing off one-on-one more often, because that’s when the fireworks really go off. Truth be told, Yeon-hee is more interesting when she’s stripped of all her allies and forced to fight her own battles. For the sake of the story, I almost wish Yeon-hee had thought Jun were dead for longer than she did, though by then there might’ve been some dead bodies in her wake. It’s just… is it wrong to wish Jun had come just late enough to be rid of Hong-joo for good? I know, nothing says “I love you” like a vengeful bloodbath, right? There’s a flaw in that logic somewhere, but I can’t help but wish he’d run a little slower.