Our heroine now has two suitors with two completely different approaches vying for her affections, and with restrictions aplenty, hers doesn’t seem the most enviable position to be in. Despite everyone having something to say in the matter, ultimately the choice is up to Su, even if that means she’ll have to find a way to make her voice heard if she hopes to change her present, much less the future.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
After his “You are mine” speech, So goes in for the kiss, and Su struggles weakly against him. Then, she goes still as a tear runs down her cheek. Only then does So pull away, his eyes intent on her face, her shaking hands.
He stumbles backward, regret over his actions seeping in. Su continues to cry silently until So grabs her by the wrist and pulls her after him. Next thing we see is fourteenth prince Jung spotting the two leaving the palace on horseback.
Jung reports what he saw to Wook, who’s in disbelief that Su would have left the palace in the first place—and with So, for that matter. He loses his temper at the fact that she, a court lady, left the palace, though Jung says that So wouldn’t have been concerned about breaking that most sacred of rules. If anyone’s going to pay, it’ll be Su.
That’s what Jung is worried about the most, and he won’t accept Wook’s order for him to just stay in the palace. He wants to help Wook look for Su, since he knows what would happen to her if she gets caught. Wook apologizes for still thinking of Jung as a child, and accepts his offer to help.
We find the two escapees looking out at the sunrise on horseback, and their conversation can only be heard in voiceover as Su notes that neither of them will be safe now. “Then should we run away?” So’s voice replies. “If you want to, I will.”
On their feet now, So explains that he had been wanting to bring her here. She looks up at him as he offers a small smile in return, but her gaze returns to the rolling waves. He asks her if she still wants him to leave the palace, claiming that he’s never brought misfortune or used his sword without caring for the costs.
Only now does Su try to convince herself that the visions she saw of So as King Gwangjong must have been a hallucination, and even if they weren’t, she should still try to stop him. When she speaks, she gives him platitudes about living life with a smile (and without spilling blood) no matter where he ends up living.
So says she needs to just say the word and he’ll run away with her, but Su insists that as a court lady, she can’t leave the palace. But the real reason is much more complicated: “I have feelings for another.” So: “Baek-ah?” Hah. Okay, he really is clueless.
When she says it isn’t, So says it’s fine as long as it’s not Baek-ah. Because he’d have to kill whoever it is she does have feelings for, and he likes Baek-ah. “You already belonged to me the day Yeonhwa was beating you and I called you mine,” he adds. “You saw me for who I was. There was no need for explanations or excuses.”
As far as her being afraid of him, he says he doesn’t believe it. “You are the only one on my side. Therefore, I am not sorry for anything. Not for kissing you, or for bringing you out here.” He adds that he won’t be sorry even if he makes threats against her for having feelings for another man, and hands her a hairpin.
Su shakes her head as she looks down at the gift, insisting that she’d only meant to help him, and that she never intended for him to have feelings for her. “Try running away from me then,” he says with a smile. Putting the hairpin in her hands, he tells her she can throw it away if she so chooses.
Wook and Jung see them on the road and promptly dismount, with Su worrying that her absence from the palace has already been noted. Wook looks positively livid as So makes it so that Jung can’t escort Su off the horse. He’ll be the one to return her to the palace.
At least Wook has enough sense to tell him that people will start to talk if they return to the palace together, but So counters that the king already gave Su to him. “Gave her to you?” Wook repeats the words, clearly not liking the taste of them in his mouth.
But then Su inexplicably says that she’ll go back to the palace with So, leaving Wook and Jung with no other options. I wonder if it’s because So would have to take the responsibility of removing her from the palace rather than the two other princes, but it’s hard to be sure.
Wook makes So promise that nothing will happen to Su on his watch before he lets them set off. “This is the last time I’ll send her away like this,” Wook tells Jung, a dangerous look in his eyes.
So brings Su back to a waiting Court Lady Oh, and immediately takes the blame for removing Su from the palace. Once he leaves, Court Lady Oh blames Su’s small act of kindness as the reason why So’s feelings have gotten out of control, and the only advice she has is for Su to wait for So’s feelings to subside.
Third prince Yo imparts some tips on archery to Wook, who keeps missing the mark. Yo claims that he always imagines a person as the target, and in this case, he’s clearly imagining So as he hits the target time and again. While Wook claims to take the higher road, he keeps missing, and Yo tsks at what he perceives as weakness.
Yo knows that the king is sending him away from the palace to die, but he’s resolved that he’ll come back safe and sound. He plants the seed of doubt in Wook’s mind as to who he should be targeting in the meantime—and Wook, seemingly filled with new resolve, draws his bow and fires. It’s a bullseye.
Su and Wook meet again in the not-so-secret cave beneath the baths, where she tries to explain that she only chose to return with So to be sure that Wook wouldn’t get in trouble. “I am not angry,” Wook assures her. “I am just disappointed.” Oof, that’s always worse.
Wook claims that he was always too busy worrying about the consequences of taking her out of Damiwon, yet while he was agonizing, So took the action that he couldn’t. Now, he says that he’ll request the king’s permission to marry her.
Her eyes widen at this, and Wook explains that he almost lost her to the king—he won’t make the mistake of losing her again. Su was the one who brought joy and laughter back into his life, and because of that, he’s willing to leave the palace to live the rest of his days with her, and give her all the love he never gave Lady Hae.
“Therefore, Su… will you be my wife?” Su’s instantly flooded with conflicting thoughts, as she tells herself that he won’t ever change, nor will he ever hurt her. (Is she using So as a point of comparison?) She would be happy with him. But if Gwangjong were to kill him…
Wook doesn’t get to hear any of this inner monologue, so he’s left to wonder if she no longer wants to be with him. Su says that isn’t so, prompting Wook to ask for an answer: “Will you marry me?”
Before she can answer, Court Lady Oh intervenes to take the two to task for their secret meeting. If word were to get out, Su would be killed, and Wook would be stripped of his rank and punished. Why do I get the feeling that she’s pro-So?
Once they’re alone, Court Lady Oh asks Su to leave the palace with her while she recuperates from her illness. In reality, she’s known about Su and Wook, and wants to remove Su from what she sees as a dangerous situation.
Su disagrees, saying that Wook asked her to marry him, and she wants to say yes. Court Lady Oh’s disapproval couldn’t be any more clear as she mentions that it simply wouldn’t work with So in play—the two brothers would be at each other’s throats, and she’d be in danger.
Again, Su disagrees. She trusts Wook, and knows he’s not the type to change. At this, Court Lady Oh loses her cool as she says that the palace has a way of changing people, and it’s a place where promises mean nothing. Only now does she tell her that the man she once gave her heart to is now the king of Goryeo, and though they were once lovers, the throne was more important to him.
And she, wanting to stay by his side, resolved to live as his court lady. But tears form in her eyes as she tells Su that while she once addressed the king as her lover, now she’s in charge of bathing the women who will actually be his lovers.
Regardless, Su says that she knows she can trust Wook—as long as he has no ambition for the throne, they can be happy. Court Lady Oh can only sigh, having failed to convince her.
After a night spent brooding over the hairpin So gave her, Su finds So waiting outside her quarters. He’s done a less than admirable job covering his scar, so Su invites him inside in order to help. In voiceover, she says that she’s not afraid of him, nor does she hate him. She just worries about him.
As she applies the makeup over his scar, Su tries explaining that there are different types of affection. Naturally, someone feels affection for another who helps them through a difficult time, but they’d be more inclined to call that person a friend. What she worries about, she claims, is that So might be confusing friendly affection for love.
So takes her hand as he tells her that he doesn’t differentiate between friendship and love—it’s all the same to him. He knows that she’s trying to push him away, but her tactics won’t work on him. As he says this, he grabs her around the waist, pulls her close, and begins to lean in for a kiss…
But Su quickly covers her mouth with her hand. Amused, he tells her not to worry, since he won’t try kissing her without her permission again. Thank goodness for small favors.
Jung finds Su on the palace grounds and explains that he was worried about Su when she went off with So, but she says they only went to see the sunrise. It was fun, even.
She tells him to try thinking of things from his brother’s perspective, since he was never able to receive their mother’s love. Jung just says that his mother and Yo have changed since So came into the palace, and sighs wistfully for the uncomplicated nature of the past. The days that Su spent her days smiling at Wook were their happiest, he claims, and Su agrees.
Wook meets with his mother and Princess Yeonhwa to announce his plans to request the king’s permission to marry Su. He doesn’t want the throne and wishes to live with Su in the Northern city of Hwangju. He may as well have slapped Yeonhwa in the face with the way she reacts, with her spitting that he’d just be leaving her and their mother without protection.
Surprisingly, Queen Sinjeong intervenes to give Wook her permission to follow his heart, though she warns him to be prepared. Once he leaves, Yeonhwa tears into her mother for not stopping him, even though the queen reasons that she’s tired of vying for the throne, and knows that Wook must be too.
Without Wook’s protection as king, Yeonhwa says, they’ll just be pushed out of the palace, or worse. That’s when Yeonhwa declares that she no longer intends to just live as the sister of a king—she’ll become the wife of one, and rule over him.
Queen Sinjeong is powerless to stop her as she goes straight to Queen Sinmyeongsunseong with a “story” to share. We don’t get to hear what it is, but this alliance is probably the last thing anyone needed.
Baek-ah’s heard a new dancer has arrived at the gibang, and goes to see the new girl for himself… only to recognize Woo-hee, the sword dancer from the forest. She grows suspicious when she recognizes him, though he claims he just comes to the gibang to play accompaniment for the gisaeng there.
She’s content to just shoo him away, but Baek-ah says that they should share names now that they’ve met three times. She claims her name is Bok-soon, but her attempt at secrecy is foiled when one of the other gisaeng immediately calls out, “Woo-hee-ya!” Hah.
Queen Sinmyeongsunseong and ninth prince Won meet with minister Park Young-gyu in order to ask his advice on how to separate the king from So. Minister Park says that they’ll have to make the king believe that So is Crown Prince Mu’s enemy, so all the queen needs to do is act like she supports So—he’ll handle the rest.
Won then claims he stole one of the crown prince’s secret documents and gave it to So, that way the crown prince will think So stole it. The queen believes all their preparations are going swimmingly.
Baek-ah pays a visit to So to ask him if it’s true that he took Su out of the palace—and if so, he wants to know what his half-brother is thinking. Since Su is a court lady, there could be severe ramifications for her if she’s caught, and Baek-ah doesn’t want So making things any harder on her.
So says that wasn’t his intention, and confesses that he’s not all that good at relating with others. But he has no intention of making things difficult for her, and when he says that, Baek-ah realizes that his feelings for Su are real. So claps a hand on Baek-ah’s shoulder as he says that he and Su are the only people he truly cares about.
They’re interrupted by Astronomer Choi bearing bad news for Crown Prince Mu—his mother’s family has been accused of embezzling tax money, so the ministers are calling for him to be deposed. The ministers instead want So to be installed as the new crown prince, since he’s been the nation’s hero after the rain ritual.
Ninth prince Won plays his part in the plot by claiming that all of this happened because he told So about the dealings of Mu’s unscrupulous uncle, making it seem as though So was the one who made that letter public. He acts completely innocent, leaving Crown Prince Mu to suspect So.
Seeking to nip this problem in the bud, King Taejo informs So that he’ll be sent back to Shinju. Despite the king knowing that Queen Sinmyeongsunseong’s machinations are the reason that So’s name has been put in for the crown prince position, the only viable solution the king can think of is to send So away.
Princess Yeonhwa, in disguise, orders a court lady to deliver a vial of what’s probably poison to a very specific court lady. (Su, perhaps?) Though Yeonhwa warns the woman not to speak a word of this to Queen Sinmyeongsunseong, it seems the court lady does just that.
So bursts into his mother’s room then to demand answers, though his mother only demurs, claiming that she was just trying to help him get the throne. Isn’t that what he said he wanted?
He tells her to stop pretending like she does anything for his sake, but his mother just smiles at him as she tells him that the crown prince will die from drinking poisoned tea on the ninth day of the ninth month—she’s already delivered the poison, so he can’t stop it now.
So begs to differ, but his mother practically laughs. Even if he tells someone that she delivered the poison, she’ll just claim she did it to make her son king.
“Try to stop it if you can,” she challenges. “But you’ll only be tightening the noose around your own neck.” She manages to stop him when she mentions how the king is trying to drive him out, but if the crown prince dies from poison, So will take his place. One measly court lady will die, and he’ll have everything he wants.
Understandably, So is wary of trusting her, though not wary enough. She bats her eyes at him and claims that she fully supports him and trusts him not to kill his brothers. Dramatic music tells us he’s considering her proposition. No, So! Don’t trust that witch!
Minister Park Young-gyu is called to the gibang to meet with Woo-hee, who pressures him about a rebellion. As the last princess of Baekje (one of the Three Kingdoms, which King Taejo unified into Goryeo), she wants to kill the king, and she threatens to tell the people of Baekje of his treachery should he fail to help her.
He reveals that he’s her uncle by marriage, and all but dares her to make him bend to her will. What power does she have? Woo-hee threatens him with her silver dagger, but when they spot Baek-ah nearby, she acts like a gisaeng fighting off a suitor trying to have his way with her. Her uncle plays along and stalks off.
Baek-ah seems to recognize the minister, but before he can connect the dots, he rushes over to ask Woo-hee if she’s okay. Bitterly, she says that if he was going to see what was happening and not rush in to save her, then he should’ve stuck with that choice. He says it didn’t look like she needed his help and dangles the norigae ornament she dropped in front of her, teasing that it doesn’t seem like she wants it back.
After Wook pays a visit to his late wife’s grave to ask her to watch over him and Su, he joins the royal family in an afternoon of games and general merriment (which so happens to take place on the ninth day of the ninth month). So focuses intently on the crown prince every time he seems about to drink.
The family plays a drinking game based around who can recite stanzas from a famous poem by Zhong Hui, and they motion to the next person who must drink and recite the next part of the poem. But when it’s Jung’s turn, he can’t remember it. Hah.
Queen Sinmyeongsunseong notices that Crown Prince Mu is reluctant to take a drink, which opens an opportunity for the poisoned tea to be delivered instead. The one part of the plan So wasn’t let in on, though, was that Su was to be the doomed court lady delivering the poisoned tea.
Tenth prince Eun and his new wife Soon-deok are late to the party, and end up running into Su as she’s on her way to deliver the tea. Eun’s a bit icy to Su, claiming that he doesn’t want to see her face if he can avoid it. After he storms off, Soon-deok asks Su why she didn’t just take her offer to become Eun’s second wife.
Su admires Soon-deok’s consideration for her husband, and bids her to take care of her husband. Soon-deok gets a little offended at Su’s specific advice, claiming that Eun is her responsibility now.
The tea Su brings to the crown prince is first tested for poison by a silver spoon, but before it arrives, So loses his nerve and prepares to tell the crown prince everything. But once he sees Su and realizes the predicament she’s in, he goes silent.
When he speaks again, he covers smoothly by saying that he’d like for his brother to pour three drinks for him. Princess Yeonhwa looks nervous as the clueless Su takes the tea to So, who then drops the cup. He claims he was just being clumsy, so Su is asked to pour him another, this time in a fresh (and hopefully poison-free) cup.
So drinks the first cup without incident, though he begins to falter before he can drink the second. He covers again, continuing his toast to the prince as he downs the second cup. As Su pours him a third, So sends a look to his decidedly unapologetic mother as he thinks, “It wasn’t the cup, but the tea you poisoned.”
She practically shrugs, leaving So to bear his pain in silence as he takes the third cup from Su and realizes that he’s drinking poison she poured for him. His hand shakes as he takes it, but his toast doesn’t falter. He looks at Su as he brings the cup to his lips, while Princess Yeonhwa looks ready to jump out of her seat.
Because of So’s toasts, the crown prince requests that the king not send him away to Shinju as planned. Su, still clueless, goes to prepare more tea, while So looks after her longingly and tries to control his shaking.
So excuses himself gracefully, but the world around him begins to blur as he starts walking away. All he can do is try to control the symptoms long enough to get out of sight, even as blood trickles from his clenched lips.
Now that’s a noble sacrifice. I admit to being pretty disappointed in So for going along with his mother’s plan on any level, because he should know better by now than to trust her. And for a while there, it seemed like he really did know better, so the only reason I can think of for him to have let himself be fooled was that he truly does desire the throne.
What confuses me is how openly awful Queen Sinmyeongsunseong gets to be without any repercussions whatsoever. I’m honestly surprised that there’s a soul in the palace who isn’t aware of her machinations, which she may as well be announcing from the top of the palace roof, for all the subtlety involved. And yet, even with her explanations, her true motivations aren’t clear—specifically, with what she hoped to accomplish by letting So know about the poisoning. It was clear to us that she was manipulating him yet again, but to what end? I wouldn’t buy that she counted on So drinking the poison himself, but then again, I don’t buy a whole lot when it comes to her.
It’s at least worth noting that So might’ve stopped the poisoning himself by implicating his mother, though he had no choice but to switch tactics when Su arrived. He’s not entirely free of guilt since he tacitly agreed to the poisoning at first, but seeing the way he literally poisoned himself to save the woman he now loves helped erase any lingering feelings of doubt. The fact that he realized the irony in drinking the poison she poured him was doubly sad, because his sacrifice was twofold—and neither party he was saving had any idea that they were even being saved.
Maybe it’s just me being morbid at heart, but So’s sacrifice on Su’s behalf seemed a much more romantic gesture than his unapologetic steamrolling over her feelings from the start of the episode. Even though I do get the steamrolling to a degree, and understand that he’s just not adept at expressing his feelings. He wants so badly to have Su all to himself that he’s missing the essential aspects of actually wooing her, and thinks that if he can possess her, then the only person who’s ever shown him any real affection will stay by his side and continue to support him.
He has a certain amount of self-awareness to know that he’s not the best at being social, but that self-awareness only gets him so far. Although it was funny how clueless he was when Su told him that she liked someone else—enough to think that it was Baek-ah—it’s not so funny when he follows that question up with a threat to kill whoever it is that she likes. And, as he added, to deliberately not be sorry about saying that.
Su’s reactions would be in keeping with a woman who was actually from that time period, but this episode more than ever had me wondering where all of Su’s modern sensibilities went. Even if we take into account that she’s been living in Goryeo for a while and has grown accustomed to life there, her being a time traveler had absolutely zero impact on her actions this episode. It’s not even that I’d like her being from the future to play a bigger role, but it’d be helpful if she spoke up for herself once in a while. Telling So that she liked someone else was a step in the right direction, but then saying nothing to his threats to kill said person felt like we took three steps back. If she’s not afraid of him anymore, what’s preventing her from speaking in her own defense? Or from speaking much at all? I feel like we actually still know just as much about Su as we did starting out, which isn’t that much at all. Here’s hoping that our modern girl will find her voice sooner rather than later.