If you’re like me and you’ve been (im)patiently waiting for the bromance to kick in, then this is the episode for you. The love story gets some great forward motion as well, but it’s the bromance I came for, and I was not disappointed. And not a moment too soon, because events surrounding Sun-woo and Ji-dwi are swiftly reaching a point where they’re going to need all the help they can get.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Ah Ro watches as Sun-woo tumbles from his horse and lies on the ground, unconscious. She tries to revive him, crying that she never got to tell him how she really feels, and that she’s glad he’s not really her brother. Sun-woo suddenly sits up, cups the back of Ah Ro’s head, and kisses her.
He ends the kiss, and they look at each other for a long moment, Ah Ro stammering half-words in her nervousness. Sun-woo leans in to kiss her again and she closes her eyes, but instead, he passes out.
Yeo-wool finds them when Sun-woo’s horse comes back alone, and they take Sun-woo back to the infirmary, where his friends stand around him worriedly. Ban-ryu wonders why he’s here, and Su-ho fusses at him that he should be worried when his roommate is ill. Su-ho grumbles that he feels bad for the woman who marries Ban-ryu, and Ban-ryu can’t look him in the eye, hee.
Ah Ro is in a bit of a shock as well, but that night, she sits by Sun-woo’s bedside to keep watch over him. She wonders why he’s not waking yet, then worries that he’ll forget their kiss when he does wake up. She realizes that Sun-woo is freezing and covers him with the blanket, then warms her hands to put them on his face. It’s not enough, so she thinks for just a minute before climbing in bed with him, telling herself that it’s what any good doctor would do to help a patient.
Sun-woo turns in his sleep to face Ah Ro, and she smiles to find his face so close to hers. She wishes he’d wake up and see her there with him, thinking that they’d have a lot to talk about.
However, Sun-woo wakes the next morning to find himself being snuggled by both Yeo-wool and Su-ho. He sits up in stark horror, and realizes that Ji-dwi and Ban-ryu are there too, watching them all sleep. Ji-dwi explains that he sent Ah Ro to get some sleep, since she’s been watching over Sun-woo for four days. Okay, that’s worrying.
Sun-woo dresses and finds Ah Ro sleeping soundly in her own bed. He reaches out to touch her face, but thinks better of it. When Ah Ro finally wakes, she finds herself alone.
Worried, she goes looking for Sun-woo, and finds him in sword practice with the rest of the Hwarang. She waves when she catches his eye, but he pretends not to see her, so she moves to a doorway and waves even harder. Sun-woo doesn’t acknowledge her, and she wonders if he’s breaking up with her before they even start.
She waits at the mess hall to ask how he’s feeling, and Sun-woo gives her a short, curt answer. He leaves her confused after a brief thanks for saving his life (which she has to ask for), and Ji-dwi notices how Sun-woo’s behavior upsets her.
The rest of the boys see it too, and Su-ho takes Sun-woo to task for being rude to her when she took such good care of him. Yeo-wool comments cheekily that they don’t seem much like brother and sister.
Over the wall, Ah Ro asks her friend Soo-yeon if a man can forget kissing a woman. She remembers that Su-ho forgot what happened between Soo-yeon and Ban-ryu, but Soo-yeon argues that kissing is a on a whole different level. Soo-yeon guesses that the guy could be regretting the kiss or may just have changed his mind, the way her brother does ten times a day.
Ji-dwi stops Sun-woo on his way back out to the archery range and suggests a match. Sun-woo declines, and Ji-dwi grabs his wrist and asks why he’s being so dismissive of Ah Ro. Sun-woo angrily yanks his arm away, which sends the dragon-head bracelet flying off his wrist.
Sun-woo tells Ji-dwi to mind his own business, but Ji-dwi says that he has too much interest in Ah Ro to do that. Frustrated, Sun-woo agrees to the archery match, and they head out together. Behind them, troublemaker Kang Sung finds the dragon-head bracelet and gets a nasty gleam in his eye.
Ji-dwi and Sun-woo send arrow after arrow at flying straw discs, and they’re pretty evenly matched. Ji-dwi even compliments Sun-woo on his skill after just a short time. He notices that Sun-woo’s hand is getting badly blistered, and warns Sun-woo not to overdo it.
They decide to shoot one more arrow, and they both nail the flying disc perfectly. They exchange wry looks and laugh, the animosity between them a little lighter now.
Their Nandos, Dan-se and Pa Oh, watch from a short distance as Ji-dwi keeps Sun-woo company while he soaks his hand in the river. Pa Oh says that Sun-woo will never be as good as Ji-dwi, both in looks and in archery. Dan-se counters that Sun-woo is pretty good after only ten days of practice, then asks Pa Oh how old he really is.
Pa Oh insists he’s twenty-two, but falters when Dan-se says that he’s twenty-two. Pa Oh claims he was born earlier in the year than Dan-se, and Dan-se deadpans that he was born in January. PFFT. Now, Pa Oh has to endure the humiliation of banmal, since technically, he and Dan-se are donggap (same age friends). Haha.
On the other side of the river, Ji-dwi asks Sun-woo who he really is, to be so capable and fearless. Sun-woo fires back that Ji-dwi also seems to be hiding a lot. Ji-dwi admits that he’s never had a single friend in his whole life, “And right now, I think you’re my only friend.” Awww.
Sun-woo spits in disbelief, and Ji-dwi takes offense at Sun-woo’s incredulous reaction, telling him that later, he’ll be really amazed at what a great confession that was. Sun-woo just grabs him and drags him into the river for a good dunking, and they play like children while Pa Oh and Dan-se look on.
Later, as they’re drying off, Ji-dwi asks again why Sun-woo is ignoring Ah Ro. Sun-woo says that he’s scared of himself, and he looks almost ashamed.
Upriver, Ah Ro sits by the water and wonders if Sun-woo really did forget their kiss. She figures that he must remember or he wouldn’t be acting so cold, so she thinks he must regret it. She kicks her feet in frustration, and flips a shoe into the water.
It’s picked up a short ways downstream by Sun-woo, and he nervously teases Ah Ro that she’s still throwing her shoes around. Ah Ro grouches that if he can remember that, he should remember something else, and Sun-woo crouches down next to her.
He puts her shoe back on, and says that he does remember. Ah Ro asks why he’s ignoring her, and Sun-woo admits that when he sees her, he wants to hug her and run away with her.
Sun-woo says that he still wants to hug her, but he’s afraid she’ll crumble to pieces. He apologizes, and that night when they both stay up late thinking about each other, it’s with happy smiles on their faces.
Sun-woo remembers the moment that he’d stood to go, Ah Ro had hugged him from behind and said she missed him. Sun-woo had smiled a huge happy smile and clasped her hands, and they’d stood there for a while, just enjoying the moment.
The next day, Sun-woo sneaks into the infirmary to leave Ah Ro a bouquet of marigolds. He’s so nervous he barks his shin on his way out, and Ah Ro finds the flowers later. She spends the whole day cleaning the room and periodically smiling at her flowers.
This time, when Ah Ro waves at Sun-woo during sword practice, he sends her a shy little grin in reply. Ji-dwi mutters to himself when he spots Ah Ro waving to Sun-woo, but he’s distracted when he spots Princess Sookmyung watching the Hwarang practice.
The princess goes to see Hwa-gong, and she tells him that she knows he doesn’t like her here, but he has to deal with it. She asks if he knows why sacred bone is sacred bone: “Because we don’t share with others.” Hwa-gong gives her the backhanded compliment that she’s just like her mother.
Sookmyung says that to her, the Hwarang is just a tool that exists to protect the royal family. She says that they’re too weak to be called Silla’s warriors, and Hwa-gong’s smile begins to take on a steel edge. He assures her that they’re being trained by the best, but Sookmyung clarifies that they should be fighting to the death.
She asks if that wasn’t Hwa-gong’s original intent, parroting his exact words: “Sides are taken, where the strong overtake the weak.” Hwa-gong asks who the spy is, but Sookmyung just says that he already knew there was a spy. She tells him that the fight will take place in ten days, and to train them well so that no one dies.
Sun-woo finally realizes that he’s missing the dragon-head bracelet, and he and Ji-dwi go looking for it. Ji-dwi is even more upset than Sun-woo, but he has to back off when Sun-woo is confused by his reaction. Kang Sung watches them, holding the bracelet and smirking.
Ji-dwi gets Pa Oh to search, and Pa Oh fusses at him for not telling him he didn’t have the bracelet all this time. Pa Oh says he could have just killed Sun-woo and gotten it back, but Ji-dwi says that he can’t, because he owes Sun-woo a debt. Pa Oh argues that the king of Silla owes nothing to anyone, but Ji-dwi says sadly that Sun-woo’s friend died because of him. He admits that he likes Sun-woo, and he likes his “sister” even more.
Kang Sung takes the dragon-head bracelet to Minister Park, who is very interested in who had it before it was lost. Kang Sung tells him it was Sun-woo, and Minister Park compares the bracelet to the previous king’s wax seal. The seal depicts two dragons face-to-face, holding a ring in their mouths, exactly like the bracelet.
Ji-dwi has a nightmare that night, in which he watches helplessly as his mother, the queen regent, fires an arrow straight into Ah Ro’s heart.
Queen Regent Jiso sits fondling a knife, and says in a detached voice that people call her a cruel mother. She clamps her hand around the knife’s blade, drawing blood, and bodyguard Hyun Chu kneels beside her to pry her fingers off the knife.
The queen regent doesn’t seem to notice the blood or the pain, and she says that she fears nothing as long as she can protect the sacred bone. She says that she’ll do anything to ensure that her son and his offspring inherit Silla.
She’s terrified that Ah Ro’s knowledge of Ji-dwi as king will ruin all of her plans, so Hyun Chu offers to kill Ah Ro. The queen regent says that nobody can know why she’s killed, not even Ah Ro. The next day, the queen regent meets with Princess Sookmyung, and tells her that there’s something she must do.
The princess visits Ah Ro for an examination, and Ah Ro determines that she has weak kidneys and “coldness” around her lungs. Sookmyung says that she’s stronger now, and asks Ah Ro to be her personal doctor. Ah Ro starts to say that she’s in charge of all of Hwarang, but Sookmyung interrupts to point out that her mother would be reassured if Ah Ro agrees.
Ah Ro remembers how the queen regent wanted her killed, and the princess notes her fear. She says that all Ah Ro has to do is come when she calls, and Ah Ro is forced to agree.
As Hwa-gong reflects on his conversation with Sookmyung, merchant Joo-ki sneaks up and startles him. Joo-ki has heard that the princess is planning a fight, and Hwa-gong is surprised by the news that she’s training some of her own men in preparation.
Sun-woo creeps up behind Ah Ro as she’s walking and reaches down as if to take her hand. He stops himself when he sees how worried she is and taps her on the shoulder instead, and he asks where she really went when she disappeared on the night of the Moon Festival.
He says he looked everywhere for her, and Ah Ro nervously suggests they must have just missed each other. Sun-woo doesn’t look like he believes her, but he lets it go for now. He walks Ah Ro to the Hwarang gates, where she meets up with her father, Ji-gong.
That night, Ji-gong looks at his tiny bottle of poison and remembers that his visitor, Hwi-kyung, had warned him that the queen regent won’t stop until Ah Ro is dead. Hwi-kyung had told him to protect his daughter from the queen, and Ji-gong seems to be contemplating the vial of poison as a means do to so.
The Hwarang are surprised when the princess shows up to talk to them, and it’s announced that they will be staging a fight ten days from now. The princess will be judging, and they will be scored on swordsmanship, horsemanship, and archery. Ji-dwi scoffs to himself that Sookmyung hasn’t changed a bit.
The Hwarang are told that this won’t be like their previous challenges — in this fight, they could actually die.
The princess suggests that the Hwarang be sent out to hunt as training for the upcoming fight. Hwa-gong’s assistant brings up the fact that the royal family has forbidden hunting animals in these woods, but she argues that to a soldier, it doesn’t matter who his opponent is.
The Hwarang are sent to hunt, and they’re told that they can hunt any animal, but the first person to bring in a deer will be the winner. Yeo-wool follows Sookmyung’s line of sight to see that she’s staring intently at Sun-woo, and he quips that he sees where her heart lies.
Meanwhile, Minister Park is thinking of doing some hunting of his own. He contemplates the dragon-head bracelet, wondering how he can flush Sammaekjong from his hiding place in the Hwarang.
Princess Sookmyung’s attendant goes to Ah Ro, worried that the princess went out hunting when she hasn’t been feeling well. She asks Ah Ro to go out and find the princess, describing a suspiciously specific place for her to look.
Ban-ryu, Su-ho, Ji-dwi, and Sun-woo are all together in the woods when the princess rides past them on her horse. She stops for a moment to stare at Sun-woo again, then rides on.
Su-ho says that she doesn’t resemble her mother at all, smiling a besotted smile, which makes everyone glare at him. Su-ho says that a real woman doesn’t show her heart easily, and calls the queen regent “the woman of women.” Ha, Ji-dwi looks at Su-ho like he’s completely grossed out. The guys get back to hunting, worried that the princess could take down the first deer and show them all up.
Ah Ro walks through the woods, searching for the princess. Sookmyung watches her from uphill, sighting Ah Ro down her arrow. We see in flashback that the queen regent had ordered her to kill Ah Ro, and to make sure she’s not seen.
Nearby, Sun-woo takes a shot at a small deer and misses, and he gives chase. He finds himself near where Ah Ro is searching for the princess, but he doesn’t even have time to call out to her before an arrow goes winging just over her shoulder, too close for comfort.
Sookmyung lines up a second shot, and lets her arrow fly. Sun-woo rushes to throw himself in front of Ah Ro, and he takes the arrow meant for her. Ah Ro screams for help, and Ji-dwi hears her cries and reins his horse towards the sound of her voice.
Sun-woo gasps that he’s okay, but he’s bleeding and in a lot of pain. He sees Ah Ro’s tears and tells her not to cry, and struggles to sit up. He whispers for Ah Ro to pull the arrow out, but she hesitates, and he has to pull it out himself.
Sun-woo looks up in time to see Princess Sookmyung make a run for her horse, and Ji-dwi shows up and chases after her. He catches up to her, and approaches to ask why she did it. She doesn’t recognize him as her half-brother and the king, as he was sent away such a long time ago, and she warns him to remember who he’s speaking to.
Ji-dwi ignores her and bellows, “Why did you do it?!” With fury in his eyes, he tells her never to do this again. He warns Sookmyung that if she ever harms Ah Ro, he won’t let it go.
Ah Ro gets Sun-woo back to the infirmary and doctors his wound, crying as she asks why he took the arrow for her. He says that it’s nothing, but she worries how long it will be until he’s really hurt in her defense.
Sun-woo whispers to Ah Ro not to cry, saying that seeing her cry hurts him more than the arrow wound. He reaches up to touch Ah Ro’s face, but then he remembers Ji-gong’s plea to protect her, no matter what. He lowers his hand, and she continues crying.
The princess sits in her room, remembering how Sun-woo threw himself in front of her arrow to save Ah Ro, and how Ji-dwi threatened her if she ever hurt Ah Ro again. It’s hard to tell what she’s thinking, as she has such iron control over her expressions.
Sun-woo stumbles out of the infirmary and finds Ji-dwi waiting for him. Ji-dwi asks if he’s okay and apologizes, and Sun-woo asks why. Before Ji-dwi answers, an arrow flies above their heads to hit a nearby building, and a sign unfurls that says: There is a king among the Hwarang.
The Hwarang all come to look, and they wonder what this means as Ji-dwi’s face blanches. Ah Ro looks at him, the only one who knows he’s the king. Hwa-gong pushes through them to see the banner, and goes up to tear the word “king” down.
He tells the Hwarang that he’ll overlook this if it’s a joke, but warns them that there had better not be a motive behind this. The Hwarang disperse, all but Ji-dwi, Ah Ro, and Sun-woo, who stare at the word “king” on the banner lying on the ground.
It begins to rain, but not one of the three moves a muscle.
I thought this was a pretty good cliffhanger — what will happen next? It seems obvious that the banner was Minister Park’s doing, so what’s his motive behind outing the fact that there’s a king among the Hwarang? Surely he’s intending to cause unrest and fighting among the Hwarang, but I wonder if he has another purpose for letting the cat out of the bag before he knows who the hidden king is. I’m guessing he’s hoping to cause the hidden king to grow nervous and careless, and make some mistake to out himself.
And it’s interesting that Sun-woo stayed behind in the courtyard along with Ji-dwi and Ah Ro. I understand why they stayed… Ji-dwi is in shock, and Ah Ro knows that he’s the king the banner refers to. But why is Sun-woo so stunned? He’s pretty smart, so is he putting the clues together from his previous conversation with Ji-dwi where they admitted they both have secrets? I hope he’s figured out the truth about Ji-dwi, because I would love for these three to be bonded together by this huge secret.
We learned a lot more about the princess in this episode, and I think that I badly misjudged her character when she was first introduced. I thought she was going to be a strong presence to help the Hwarang, but apparently she’s just there to give the queen regent an inside look at the Hwarang by acting as a spy and assassin. Her suggestion that they fight to the death just appalled me — if you have your warriors who are still in training fighting and killing each other, you won’t have any warriors left before long. Particularly when those warriors are limited to the sons of the elite class… there are only so many highborn sons to go around. Kill these off and there won’t be any more. I’m hoping the whole “to the death” part is to heighten the Hwarang boys’ sense of urgency as they compete in more dangerous conditions than before, and not that it’s meant to be a literal death match.
I find Sun-woo and Ah Ro a lot more interesting when they aren’t pining around moping after each other — they’re pretty cute once they admitted to their feelings. Their simple romance is proving to be enough for me, since every love story doesn’t have to be flashy and full of fireworks. There’s something to be said for a quiet, steady kind of love, the kind that doesn’t need a lot of drama or excitement to flourish. I see Sun-woo and Ah Ro as being surrounded by drama, between the political tug-of-war going on, the queen regent trying to kill Ah Ro through the princess, Sun-woo trying to make his way in a world he doesn’t belong to, and Ah Ro’s lifelong family tragedy. No wonder they just want to quietly love each other without having to worry about whether they’re even going to survive from one day to the next.
I was happy when they were finally able to be honest with each other and admit the feelings they’ve been holding in. Sun-woo’s confession by the river was so open and honest, you could feel that he was finally relaxing around Ah Ro after all this time. And Ah Ro just seems glad that she’s not so conflicted on the inside anymore, now that she knows Sun-woo and she aren’t really related (I think she felt it before, but having that proof is better). It doesn’t mean their road will be easy, because everyone around them still thinks they are siblings, and it’s not like either of them are good at hiding it. It’s interesting that, as soon as Sun-woo and Ah Ro’s relationship changed, all the rest of Sun-woo’s Hwarang roommates felt something off. It’s obvious they wouldn’t be able to keep their feelings for each other a secret for long, though I wasn’t expecting everyone to be onto them quite this fast. But at least they both have some peace from knowing that their feelings are returned.