Our heroine finally does some stepping up this hour, and it couldn’t come at a more welcome time. Just when we thought we’d lost our eyes and ears into this strange world of princes and transparent political machinations, we get a semblance of that back with the resurgence of Su as a thinking, decision-making human being. All this action will probably end in high stakes death threats for her, but what else is new?
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Given the choice between saving Su or remaining faithful to the late King Hyejong, So drops his sword and drops to his knees before Yo. With tears in his eyes, So grits out his allegiance to the new KING JEONGJONG, third monarch of Goryeo.
We get a flashback of a young Crown Prince Mu, an equally young Astronomer Choi, and a tiny So (before he was scarred). Astronomer Choi had reassured Mu that he had the star of a king, but he’d asked Mu what he would do if his lifeline didn’t last very long.
The young prince had claimed that the length of his life wasn’t as important as who he spent his final days with, proving that he had a good temperament even as a child. That’s when So Lite chimed in to say that he wanted to become king too, and Astronomer Choi told him not to worry—he would also become king.
In the present, Astronomer Choi looks down at the pitiful corpse of King Hyejong and calls upon the other princes to respectfully see to his remains. Elsewhere in the room, Su whispers for So to rise to his feet, claiming that all of this happened because of her.
In answer, So drags her out of the palace, only to be stopped by ninth prince Won. Won delightfully informs him that under the new king’s command, if Su were to somehow disappear from Damiwon, then he’d spread the news throughout Goryeo that she poisoned the late King Hyejong.
There’s turmoil over at tenth prince Eun’s home as King Jeongjong seeks to solidify his power by ridding himself of his pesky brother. Eun and his wife have already escaped though, so the king returns to the palace to commend Wook on his evil deeds. Apparently, it was Wook who advised him to use Su to keep So in check.
The king’s uncle, Minister of the Left Wang Shik-ryeom, bids Wook to kneel before his new king. Wook keeps his poker face on as he does so, repeating the same chants of “Manseh!” as So did earlier.
King Jeongjong sits on the throne he coveted for so long, decreeing that Eun must be found in order for their plot (of making Eun’s grandfather seem as though he was planning a revolt, or something) to work. I love how Wook is all, “If only we knew a hunting dog skilled in matters like these…”
Eun’s grandfather Wang Gyu is caught and executed, along with other members of Eun’s family. Queen Sinmyeongsunseong watches the butchery and smiles her biggest smile yet, since she couldn’t be any prouder of her son. I’m officially convinced that this woman is the devil.
However, what King Jeongjong says next takes her by surprise: He wants her out of palace affairs, which he’ll take care of from now on. She can just live comfortably, which is not what the new Queen Mother wants.
She’s especially incensed that King Jeongjong is even entertaining the idea of keeping So around, despite Jeongjong’s claims that So saved his life by holding back when he stabbed him on the edge of the cliff. He gives So the mission Wook not-so-subtly hinted at: Find Eun and kill him. If he doesn’t, then he’ll be putting Baek-ah, Astronomer Choi, and even Su in danger.
After So’s gone, the king proves that he’s not grateful at all to So for saving his life, and finds the sympathy So showed him upsetting. As to why he’s keeping him around, he tells his mother that it’s more fun to try taming him for now.
So tells Grand General Park and Astronomer Choi of the new mission the king’s given him, but leaves out the part about killing both Eun and his wife. Since Soon-deok is General Park’s daughter, he warns So that he won’t stand by and let his daughter get caught up in a fight amongst princes.
Later, So pulls Su aside to tell her that it’s now common knowledge that the king died from mercury poisoning, but no one knows who the culprit is. He wants her to lay low for the time he’ll be out of the palace, and tells her to go to Astronomer Choi if she’s in danger.
Su knows enough to guess that she’s been used against So for the mission he has to go on, but he simply pats her on the head and tells her not to worry about it before he pulls her into a farewell embrace.
Despite knowing that only she and Chae-ryung attended to the king, and despite Chae-ryung’s immediately suspicious protestations that it most definitely wasn’t her, Su doesn’t suspect her in the slightest. There goes that.
But when Chae-ryung tells her that Eun’s entire family was killed, Su has a dramatic flashback to what So just told her about having to leave the palace to hunt down a traitor. She knows now that he was talking about Eun and panics.
She shuffles around listlessly afterward, only seeming to come back to reality when Soon-deok approaches her, disguised as a court lady. Since Eun trusts Su, they tell her that they only need to hide in her room until they can prepare safe passage out. Su promises to do what she can to help them.
Poor Eun still thinks that he can get help from his brothers, but it’s Su who puts a stop to that line of thinking when she reveals that So’s been sent to find him. She carefully sidesteps around telling him what’s happened to his family, and thankfully, he’s blissful in his ignorance. Soon-deok seems to know much more, but of course, she’d be mad to tell him now.
Evil minister Park Young-gyu is in attendance as Woo-hee tries to broker a deal with the new king for the benefit of the starving people of the Later Baekje region. King Jeongjong seems wary of her claims that she no longer has revenge on her mind, and proposes a different deal, one that would be more beneficial to him. (We don’t get to hear what it is.)
While at a tavern with So, Baek-ah makes it clear that he doesn’t trust or respect their new king, and worries whether So actually plans to capture Eun and take him back. “You don’t trust me either,” So says ruefully, causing Baek-ah to backpedal quickly. He’s managed to track down four boats that Eun and his wife could take, but he doesn’t know which of them they will take yet.
Woo-hee finds the two half-brothers and exchanges pleasant greetings with So, who knows that Su will be happy to see her. But it’s when Woo-hee says that she’ll return to the gyobang that Baek-ah sputters, and he doesn’t seem soothed when she tells him that she won’t be a gisaeng, but just a dance instructor. As they talk, the sinister Minister Park watches.
So confronts Wook over the very suspicious events surrounding their late brother’s death, explaining that the plot to poison him with mercury for two years was much too detailed for someone like Won to come up with. It could’ve only been Wook, and the fact that the king hasn’t killed him means that he’s working with Jeongjong.
Wook forces a smile as he claims that So has always been suspicious of him, and throws back So’s accusation that he killed their brother with one of his own: “How about you? Are you going to become the king’s dog and kill Eun?”
He claims that they’re both just struggling to survive, causing So to ask what changed him. “I did not poison the late king,” Wook finally says. It doesn’t seem like So believes him.
Since Su’s been called to tend to him, Jeongjong asks her what she would do if she were tortured for a confession about the mercury in the bathwater, which she denies having any part of. Su manages to win some points when she says that she would blame it on him, even if she died doing so.
Impressed, King Jeongjong interestingly notes that she’s the same as she used to be when she was younger (interesting because no one seems to mention that the actual Su had a past), and assures her that he won’t get rid of the only leverage he has over his brothers.
With that in mind, Su asks him to divulge who the real culprit was just to sate her curiosity—she won’t be able to tell anyone anyway, since all Jeongjong would have to do is accuse her of killing the king to make her disappear.
Before he can answer, Wook’s entrance is announced, and Jeongjong smiles wickedly as he says that Wook arrived right on time. Su just got her answer, and she can’t control her expression as she turns to look at Wook. Jeongjong just fans the flames by telling Wook that Su is simply dying to know who poisoned the king, and gets a kick out of Wook falsely claiming that the king died of an illness.
Once they’re outside, Su seems to already know the answer when she asks Wook whether he had any hand in the poisoning. It seems like she’s testing to see whether he’d lie to her directly, but the scene abruptly cuts to Queen Sinjeong tearing into Wook for his latest string of traitorous decisions.
“Is it because of Hae Su?” the queen asks. Much to her dismay, Wook answers, “Yes. I did think of her. It is because of her. Su said I tried to have everything for myself, and that that was wrong. But what of it? I tried to protect my family and my heart. What’s so wrong about that? Mother, you told me to live a proper life, and I lived my life that way. So… why am I still lonely?”
With tears in his eyes and on his cheeks, Wook claims that he’s already chosen the path he has to follow. He will get what he wants even if it means taking a different path than what he once intended: “I will no longer lose what I desire like a fool.”
Cut back to him and Su (oh, it was a flashback) as he flatly tells her, “I have done nothing wrong.”
So finds Su after hearing about her meeting with the king, though she assuages his fears by telling him that the king has no plans to kill her or kick her out of the palace. So knows it’s because the king plans to use her to manipulate him, but he’s just happy she’s safe for now.
In stark contrast to Wook, So comes clean to Su about being sent to hunt Eun down when she broaches the topic. Even though the king wants Eun dead, So says he’ll do whatever he can to help Eun escape, though that doesn’t jive with the premonition Su had about So cutting Eun down in cold blood.
So wonders whether he can keep trusting Astronomer Choi, since he didn’t even know that Yo would become king. Choi admits as much, but claims that Yo was born with the star of a traitor, so there must have been some deviation along the way that caused him to change course and become king. They’re not going to try and blame this on Su, are they?
Wook keeps repeating the words of warning Su once gave him about So, since he now feels like her prophecy is coming true—everything is becoming So’s, and Wook can’t stop him. “What should I do?” he wonders.
Despite Soon-deok’s best(?) efforts to blend in as a court lady, Jung is able to recognize her by her quick reflexes. Luckily, he’s Team Eun, and joins in on their plans to get Eun and his wife safely out of the palace. Since all the ways out are closed, Su remembers the secret tunnel beneath the palace.
Soon-deok wants to see her father before she leaves, but Su doesn’t think that’s a good idea—it’d put her too close to So. Soon-deok asks why Su doesn’t trust So considering the relationship they have, seeming to trust So more than Su does.
Her words, along with King Taejo’s “Do not get so hung up on the future that you lose what you have now” advice causes Su to admit that Soon-deok is right about trusting So. She volunteers to fetch Astronomer Choi herself, which she was reluctant to do before because of his ties to So, and ends up leaving him a note when he isn’t in his tower. That’s safe.
Jung and Soon-deok work together to clear the rocks blocking the secret tunnel, and he seems mildly discomfited by her constantly brushing her sweat-soaked hair away. He gives her a hairpin of Su’s to hold her hair back, causing her to wonder if the pin belongs to the woman he loves.
He smiles as he admits that the hairpin’s owner risked her life for him, specifically remembering the time Su saved him from those thugs in the forest by waving a stick around. Admitting that he fell in love with her when he saw her sing, he now admits that he hopes that she’ll only sing for him one day. Aww.
Soon-deok can relate to him, having felt the same feelings once herself. She describes her childhood (as we see it in flashback), claiming that she was always different from the other girls because she didn’t like the same girly things. That’s when Eun Lite offered her a ring made of flowers, which she happily accepted.
In the present, Soon-deok tells Jung to have courage when it comes to the woman he loves. She’ll be cheering him on, but Jung gives himself his own cheer: “Fighting!” Cute.
Princess Yeonhwa pays a formal visit to the new King Jeongjong, deliberately showing off the ring he once gave her. Jeongjong laughs at the sight of it, and tells her that he’ll be sending her off to the Khitan to be married. “Congratulations on your marriage, Yeonhwa-ya.”
Yeonhwa can’t help but wonder why it is that everyone who sits on that throne tries to control her through marriage: “You must believe there is no better way to control a woman other than marriage. I’m disappointed in you.” But Jeongjong reminds her that her brother betrayed him, so he can’t very well accept her as his queen.
Now that the Jeongjong avenue is closed, Yeonhwa thinks about So, and how he already proclaimed to love someone else. Left with no other options, all she can do is cry.
Because Eun is suffering from cabin fever so badly, Soon-deok allows him one excursion to the baths, since those aren’t occupied at night. Eun tries to get some while he’s at it, but Soon-deok avoids his grasps for her clothes.
She’s wowed when Eun makes her a rabbit out of a towel, so he decides to make all sorts of things for them to play with, which includes two toy boats that they use to race against each other. When Eun wins (because she let him), he prepares to give her a smack on the inside of her wrist, only to notice that her wrist is already reddened from him doing that too much. Yikes. At least he refrains this time.
Soon-deok then gifts him with his favorite slingshot, which she managed to take with them despite all the chaos. Eun admits that he never wanted to be a prince, and Soon-deok says that they’ll be able to live out their dreams freely once they move to the island of Tamra.
Eun returns the favor by giving his wife an ornament to wear, though at first, she thinks he’s gotten it for Su. Embarrassed, he says that it was for her, and repeats the same words he’d said when he gave her the flower ring as children about “all pretty girls” liking such things.
Of course, Eun is quick to say that she’s just okay and not necessarily pretty, but Soon-deok is so overcome with happiness that she kisses him. Then, she suddenly grows paranoid that kissing could make her pregnant, causing Eun to maturely note that they should’ve lived happily like this from the very beginning. But now, it’s business time.
Yeonhwa comes to the baths looking for Su the next day, and like Chae-ryung, she takes notice of all the homemade toys suddenly lying about. She orders Su to leave So immediately, and claims that she can get Su married out to a decent family.
Su says that the reason she wants to marry So (and not just into any good family) is because he makes her feel like she’s worth something, adding that she has no reason to leave him as long as he stays true to her.
“Now I know why I’ve always hated you,” Yeonhwa grits out. “Feelings and marriage are just silly games to you. It isn’t life and death for you like it is for me.” After promising to make Su pay for her refusal to bend to her wishes, Yeonhwa storms off.
Wook advises King Jeongjong to get rid of So as soon as possible, but even the king has enough sense to know that it’s too soon for him to act without arousing suspicion. In that case, Wook claims his only chance is to drive a wedge between So’s two biggest allies: General Park and Astronomer Choi.
Yeonhwa barges in unannounced and intent on making a deal: If they like what she has to say, then she doesn’t have to be married off. It’s only revealed in a scene with her and So that Yeonhwa revealed Eun’s hiding place, having recognized the towel-animals in the Damiwon bath as his doing.
Su sees Eun and Soon-deok to the secret entrance of the cave and tells them that Jung will be waiting for them on the other side. Soon-deok thanks her, and Eun says he’ll see her when he returns, which seem like some famous last words if there ever were any.
Before they can enter the tunnel, Jung comes rushing out to tell them to run—there are guards everywhere. He’ll hold them off for as long as he can.
Su tries to find another escape route, but they’re surrounded by the sounds of swords and screams. Soon-deok tells Su to take Eun, assuring him that they won’t dare to kill her, a general’s daughter. I don’t think she honestly believes it, but she wants Eun to so that he can escape.
Despite Su’s best efforts to drag him away, Eun refuses to leave his wife. “What can I do?” he sighs. “I am all she has.”
And then, he pulls himself from Su’s grasp. She can only look after him with tears in her eyes.
Huzzah, Su did something! It’s amazing what a difference a little proactivity makes, since I suddenly found myself invested in her story this episode. And all it took was for her to have things she wanted to accomplish! How hard was that?
But in all seriousness, it really did feel like she was wandering around without goals or anything she necessarily wanted, which made it intensely difficult for me to get on board with pretty much anything she was doing. And on a much larger scale, I still don’t know what she wants out of her time here in Goryeo, and found it somewhat confusing that she suddenly reverted back to fearing So based on her still unexplained premonition. And then she reverted back to not fearing him based on other people’s advice, which was a bit disappointing—I would’ve liked for her own feelings about So to dictate how she felt about him, rather than other people having to remind her that she should trust him based off her feelings.
On a smaller episodic scale though, I was just happy that I could finally follow her, though I’m wary of trusting the show to keep delivering on the Su front after they let us down following that epic Court Lady Oh episode. Still, we’re at that stage in the game where we have to take what we can get, so I’ll take Su finally thinking for herself and even (gasp) defending herself. Against a king, no less! And I could completely buy that she’d do whatever she could to save Eun because he was her first friend in Goryeo, so giving her that common goal with both Eun and Jung went such a long way toward making her more relatable to us.
Even without Su’s premonition, dramas have taught us that hope is bad, and too much of it will kill you. So when we started spending a disproportionate amount of time with Eun and Soon-deok while they planned their escape, we pretty much knew that they were doomed. The show only cemented that fact by suddenly giving tons of screen time to the couple, which for once, was actually bearable. Most of that credit belongs to Soon-deok, who’s simply way too good for Eun—and the tragedy is that he didn’t realize what a saint of a wife he had until it was too late.
And though Jung’s been pretty low on the princely totem pole up until now, his role’s been increasing these past few weeks, and I actually like where we’ve ended up with him. His one-sided crush on Su is likely going to bite him and us in the behind later, but the show was smart to use its one remaining and uncommitted prince (Baek-ah’s sort of been decommissioned with whatever it is Woo-hee’s still around for) to help move the plot along. Even though everyone’s pretty much had a crush on Su by now, I really felt for Jung and his innocent, pure love for our heroine in ways that I never felt for Eun when he was in the throes of his one-sided love. Maybe it’s easier because we know what’ll happen to Eun even if I’m dreading whatever Su-related reasons the show might cook up to justify it, but not knowing what’ll happen to Jung is much more frightening.
At least Yo is making for a more entertaining king than his predecessor, though I couldn’t be more disinterested with the political machinations in this show. It feels like they’re checking the boxes for the basic requirements needed to make a fight for the throne seem appealing, but the story’s been so erratic when it comes to the succession of kings that it’s hard to really drum up interest when everyone on the throne or hovering directly around it is terrible. Yes, that means you too, Wook.