Working in the palace may have its downfalls, but when it has perks, it has perks. Su gets to know the princes a little bit better, and the princes get to know her and her bubbly attitude even more than before. She makes an impression on everyone she meets, that’s for sure—but with the hearts of at least two men (and counting), these relatively uncomplicated days might soon seem like a faraway dream.
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Su tries out her new court lady digs to face Court Lady Oh (who I’d mistaken as a concubine—in reality, she’s sanggung, the highest attainable rank for a court lady, charged with managing the palace), who asks Su about her knowledge of herbs.
She’s more than happy to tell her superior about how much she knows about both herbs and cosmetics, but when the court lady asks her whether she can read and write, Su shrinks considerably as she murmurs, “No.”
Outside, she finds So waiting, and is chipper as ever as she tells him about her new appointment and how great she’ll be at it—did he know she was good with makeup? She also acknowledges that the whole affair with the king must’ve been shocking for him, but wasn’t it great that she didn’t have to marry him?
Suddenly, So grabs her bandaged wrist. “You could have died,” he finally says. “If the cut were any deeper, you would have.” Su’s smile disappears as she somberly says that shedidn’t die, but that’s not good enough for So, who tears into her about scarring herself and the ramifications of becoming a court lady, since she might never be able to leave the palace now. If that’s the case, he asks, why didn’t she just marry the king?
“I don’t know!” she answers in her defense. She tells him that she just couldn’t go through with it, and knew that only she could save herself. Tears well up in her eyes as she tells him this, but So just answers by calling her a fool. Then, his soft underbelly shows as he adds, “Don’t think about doing that again. I won’t ever forgive you.”
So gives her a pessimistic tour of one of the palace lakes, explaining the rigors of palace life and how everyone within its walls is alone. Relentlessly optimistic, Su says she’ll be fine since she’s not alone, and indicates the prince standing next to her as proof.
She’s confident that no matter what happens, she’ll be able to endure, and even So is inclined to believe it just based on her positive attitude. Though he doesn’t resist quipping that palace life certainly won’t be boring with her around now, he can’t help but smile once he’s turned away from her.
Princess Yeonhwa has a candlelight chat with her brother Wook, telling him that she’s looking into another match for him. Wook says one arranged marriage was enough, but Yeonhwa feels deeply about this issue—if he doesn’t marry advantageously, then they may as well let Queen Sinmyeongsunseong drive their family out of the palace.
It seems like she’s alluding to the queen’s dark past since Wook says he’s forgotten it, and he advises Yeonhwa to do the same. But she keeps going, insisting that since third prince Yo entered into a political marriage, he must have eyes on the throne. If the evil queen drives Crown Prince Mu out, then her and her brother’s future is obvious: “We die, or we get cast out.”
Wook switches topics slightly, and asks if Yeonhwa still likes So. She replies that she would like anyone who can help her, whether that be So or anyone else. “Whether it’s an arranged marriage or I’m sold off, I will not enter into a marriage that does not help you,” she adds, making it clear that her endgame is to see Wook crowned as king.
Meanwhile, Crown Prince Mu mulls over his own future as Astronomer Choi treats him for his illness. That same illness caused him to miss another morning assembly with the king, causing the crown prince to worry that he might be dethroned.
Astronomer Choi does his best to cheer the crown prince up, assuring him that he was born under the star of an emperor—he wouldn’t con the nation about something so huge, so all the crown prince needs to do is focus on his illness.
We’re introduced to Grand General PARK SOO-KYUNG (Sung Dong-il) and his daughter, PARK SOON-DEOK, who wears men’s armor and who seems, for all intents and purposes, to be a warrior. Her relationship with her father is adorable, as she refuses to give him the skin of a bear she presumably killed, claiming that it’s for someone else.
They’ve arrived at the palace, and Grand General Park goes straight to see King Taejo. From their discussion, it sounds as if fourth prince So was once in General Park’s care, and he’s the one who taught the prince martial arts. It’s clear that he thinks highly of So, enough to suggest that were it not for the scar on his face, he’d make a fine crown prince.
After the general and Astronomer Choi have a thoroughly ajusshi-like verbal sparring session, we find all the princes having a bit of fun. Split into teams of four, they each hoist their champion onto their shoulders (for Yo’s team, it’s fourteenth prince Jung, and for Crown Prince Mu’s, it’s tenth prince Eun) to do “battle” with the other team’s champion.
Yo eyes So on the other team specifically as he says that he won’t lose today, and both teams rush each other in an attempt to knock the other’s champion off balance. There’s laughs and smiles all around.
Next we see the princes at their studies, but before we have time to figure out what’s going on, we cut to So (in his team outfit from earlier, strange) and Grand General Park doing some catching up. Though So insists that he’s been occupying his brain during his time at the palace, the grand general cavalierly mentions all those men So killed before setting them on fire.
“They all deserved to die,” So states, but it’s clear that the general isn’t so convinced. Despite the fact that he taught So how to kill, he clarifies that he only did so in order for So to have the power to protect someone else, and he didn’t intend for him to use those powers for murder.
So still insists that what he did was just because it helped the royal family (and thus the nation), leading the general to ask what’s keeping him in the palace. He doesn’t get a straight answer out of So, and seems to know that all the answers So gives him aren’t all that truthful.
He knows that only one prince will remain in the palace, and that’s the prince who will sit on the throne. Again he asks what So’s real reason for staying in the palace is, but So gives him a silent look rather than an answer.
Court Lady Oh and Su go to check in on Queen Sinjeong, who’s been suffering from chronic headaches lately. Su is as bubbly as ever as she tells the queen that she’s happy in her new appointment, and offers to make her more soap if she liked the last batch.
But before she can step in to adjust the queen’s makeup, Court Lady Oh sends her out, since she’s still too new to attend to a queen. Once they’re alone, Queen Sinjeong admits her genuine concern for the court lady, who she knows suffers from chronic stomach pain. She wants to arrange for her to see the royal doctor, but Court Lady Oh politely demurs.
Su ends up drawn to the sounds of a man screaming, and it turns out to be Crown Prince Mu. Shirtless, his torso and arms are covered with angry red sores, and he screams that it feels like insects are crawling over his body. Su seems to recognize the symptoms of eczema, and rushes to stop the prince from applying cold water to his skin, which would only make it worse.
The crown prince angrily grabs her by her clothes for her interference, but is calmed somewhat when Su asks if his condition gets worse after eating certain foods, or after sweating. Now that he’s listening, Su advises him to only take baths in hot water, and looks through the available herbs to make a concoction she can apply topically to soothe his symptoms.
Court Lady Oh sees this and throws a fit, which includes throwing Su to the ground. She punishes Su by having her hold up heavy medical texts while kneeling, though she’s the slightest bit interested in how Su knew to use peppermint for itching. Su explains that she knows how to treat it because her mother suffered from the same illness, but Court Lady Oh warns her never to speak of the crown prince’s illness to anyone. She seems to be coming from a caring place, at least.
Su is sent to water the plants in the garden, unaware that she’s thrown water onto a napping Prince So. He hears her grumbling about how she doesn’t like her job, and when she mentions running away, he makes himself known: “Run away? Where do you think you can hide from the king of Goryeo?”
She blusters that she didn’t actually mean it, and So seems to know this. He hears her out as she complains that she has so much talent that’s just being overlooked here, and catches her slip about being right about how to treat the crown prince.
He warns her to be careful about what she says, since another slip might land her in a much worse place than Damiwon Palace. She gives him tips about how the crown prince can manage his illness, and he puts to bed her groundless worry that Court Lady Oh went too far with her—with the crown prince’s life on the line, Court Lady Oh actually let her off easy.
Then, with a smile, he adds that based on what he’s seen with her watering skills, she’s not so much overflowing with talent as she is lacking talent. He proceeds to give her some tips on naming plants in order to help them grow, and seems to be coming up with tree names on the fly to try and cheer her up.
So then tells her about a tree he named when he was in Shinju, though he also tells her of how he burned it down on a cold night to ward off wolves. But then he abruptly switches to a much lighter tone as he pokes Su in the head and tells her not to think about running—she should commit to the choice she’s made and work hard.
She does as he instructed and throws herself into her work, however exhausting. She’s still a bit clumsy, and Wook steals moments of her time before Court Lady Oh can notice. Awwwww. Just seeing him seems to re-energize Su.
Su makes some sort of poultice for tenth prince Eun’s fingers, though we don’t know why. He’s annoyed at having to leave it, until Su informs him that if that herb is left on until the first snow falls, then the wearer’s first love will come to them. He looks at Su and smiles, thinking that he’ll finally have some luck then.
Wook comes upon Su trying to practice reading and writing, and corrects her mistakes. This is the first he’s heard about her not being able to read, so when he asks her how she was able to read his poem, she tells him that Lady Hae read it for her. His face falls at that, as he says to himself that he owes his late wife.
He watches her continue to try writing and laughs, eventually covering her hand with his own so he can help her write properly. She’s too busy staring at his close proximity to notice what he’s doing with the paper, and he draws even closer to her as they start their next character: his name, Wook. “It means the rising sun,” he adds, and she smiles.
The smile leaves him when he notices the scar on her wrist, now old, and he ties a bracelet onto her wrist to cover it. The red thread is to protect her from misfortune, and the jade symbolizes a happy relationship. “Please promise me… that you will never take it off,” he says.
Su looks up at him and nods, breaking out into a small smile. Wook assures her that he’ll return her to where she belongs, and tells her to wait for him. Then, he leans forward and kisses her on the forehead, causing her to really smile. D’aww.
She studies the character that stands for his name that night, and thinks on the meaning behind it. She also studies her new bracelet, and mulls over how she’s happy to wait, because she likes Wook. “If I’m with him… I think I would be okay being Hae Su, and not Go Ha-jin.”
Baek-ah gets caught drawing pictures of the common people by a common girl, who calls him out for looking down on them and mocking their suffering. But she’s not so common after all, since she wears an expensive trinket, and the men attending her call her “Princess.” She must be in hiding.
It’s tenth prince Eun’s birthday, and the princes all gather for a ceremonial dinner and round of drinks. Wook spends his time not-so-subtly looking to spot Su from the crowd of attending court ladies, while Eun’s brothers (under Crown Prince Mu’s direction) switch out the alcohol Eun’s drinking for something that’s probably much stronger.
Princess Yeonhwa organized the event, and makes it known that she’ll be married off soon to a powerful family far outside the palace. Yo is not happy, and Eun doesn’t know any better, since he gets wasted in no time at all.
Yo drags Yeonhwa out to tell her to just come to him rather than be married off (yes, he means it exactly the way you wish he wasn’t), since he knows that she wants to make her brother, Wook, the king. But if that happened, she’d still only be a princess—if she married him, she’d be queen.
For as mean as Yeonhwa can be, she aptly fires back that she wouldn’t be Yo’s first wife, so this whole queen talk doesn’t really hold much water. Would he give up his other wives for her? “I don’t give up what’s mine just to get a girl,” Yo growls, before pulling her in against her will. Then, he leans in to kiss her…
But thankfully So sees and interrupts before he can. Yo leaves in a huff, and So tells Yeonhwa to take Yo off her balancing scales (implying that she’s weighing all her options), because she won’t get what she wants from Yo. She counters that if he doesn’t want her to marry Yo, he should offer her something better: “Do you not want to step onto my scale?” Every time she comes onto him I feel like hitting her with a rolled-up newspaper.
After being given leave by Court Lady Oh to throw her own party for Eun, Su sets up decorations, replete with her own chibi drawings of the prince, she finds Eun drunkenly stumbling back to his quarters. He’s so drunk he sees three of her, and she just shakes her head.
Thirteenth prince Baek-ah and fourteenth prince Jung also leave the party, only to come face to face with a bear… or rather, the general’s daughter, Soon-deok, wearing her bear pelt. Baek-ah recognizes her immediately, and she just brushes past them with a surly look on her face, intent on getting to her target.
Eun is over the moon when Su shows him the party spread she’s prepared for him, and is more than happy to wear the silly birthday hat she’s made for him. Su thanks him for being the first friend she made in Goryeo, and tells him she has an even more special gift: She sings “Happy Birthday” for him, while adding some flourishes of her own. Wait, is that… the robot? Is she doing the robot?
So sees the display and laughs, much to Princess Yeonhwa’s ire. The other princes soon come upon them, with Crown Prince Mu revealing that he was in on the plot to let Court Lady Oh let Su take the day. It’s hilarious how all the princes get after ninth prince Won for comparing Su to a gisaeng, even though he meant it in the good way. (Gisaeng were known for their singing and dancing, which wasn’t a very common practice for noble ladies.)
But the boys all want her to sing for them too, even though Eun would rather keep her all to himself. Su obliges, and they all fall silent as she launches into a simple, yet thoroughly modern song. So and Wook seem most entranced by her, but it seems safe to say that all the boys have now fallen under her spell.
So seems especially moved, and once he becomes aware of it, he awkwardly leaves. A morose-looking Soon-deok watches from beneath her bear suit—is she looking at Eun? I can’t tell.
Jealous over Su’s little display, Princess Yeonhwa tries to send her off when the boys aren’t looking. Su doesn’t take kindly to the princess reminding her of her place, but luckily, Crown Prince Mu intervenes. It was he who gave Su permission to throw the party, because Eun enjoys spending time with her. That was the present he thought to give to his little brother.
Princess Yeonhwa acts nice as she takes her leave, but not before shooting Su a terrible glare. The crown prince and Su get to share a friendly moment, with him thanking her for helping him, and Su promising to help him in the future if he ever needs it.
Eun gets his presents next, and while some are toys (which he loves), Jung gifts him a book, which he’s much less happy about. Wook and Su smile at each other as Eun opens his gifts, but then they all get a shock when Soon-deok, still dressed as a bear, lays a paw on Eun’s shoulder.
It takes a moment for Eun to recognize her as Grand General Park’s daughter, and she stutters that the pelt is for him as she hands it over. She stutters enough for it to seem like a problem, and Eun breaks her poor heart by not liking her gift. (From the sound of it, she used to gift him bear pelts when they were younger, which he didn’t even like back then.)
So takes some time to himself, but he can’t stop from thinking about Su. Baek-ah tries to bring him back to the festivities, and resorts to pulling him back when So doesn’t want to go.
Inside, Yo seems to deliberately ask Eun what gift So gave him, only for Eun to reply that it was enough that So even came. Yo claims that there’s a special present only So could give before whispering something to Eun, only for him to reply that So wouldn’t give him something like that. I wonder what game Yo’s playing.
Eun runs over to Su to ask if she knows anything about the gift, and if she can help him get it. That’s when Baek-ah drags So back into the party, and he can’t help but smile a little when he catches Su smiling at him.
Yo puts So on the spot for not getting a gift, so So offers to get his younger brother anything he wants in return. Eun makes him promise, and once he does, Eun innocently asks: “Show me your face without the mask!” So that’s what Yo suggested. What a douche.
Crown Prince Mu admonishes Eun for asking for such a gift, and Eun ends up implicating Su in the plot, because he can’t seem to take a hint. So relents and carefully unties his mask in front of everyone.
Revealing his whole face, his scarred face, causes Princess Yeonhwa’s hand to go to her mouth in shock. So locks eyes with Su before he finally can’t take anymore and leaves. Yo laughs, and Yeonhwa demands that Eun apologize to his older brother. Crown Prince Mu admonishes the lot of them, but mostly Yo, for exploiting people’s weak spots far too often.
Yo scoffs at the crown prince’s words, and wonders aloud if he must’ve taken it personally when he said Mu’s in-laws were too lowly, and that he had a lot of nerve to remain as crown prince. Yikes.
Su chases after So, who ends up taking out his frustration on her. She tries to get him to stay so that he can hear Eun’s apology or else he’ll rip all the brothers apart, but So uses the hand she lays on his own to push her up against a column.
“Look at me. Look at me properly!” he commands, face to face with her now. “That look… that look in your eyes… I hate it so much that it makes me crazy.”
Su can only stare at him with that look, and he stares right back.
Way to go, Eun. You’re young, but you’re not so young that you wouldn’t understand social cues, or the difference between right and wrong. It would’ve made more sense if he was still drunk, but he seemed to sober up rather quickly between the first round of festivities and the third—why’d he have to go and do that? And just when So was trying to be an accommodating older brother, too.
It feels like So gets kicked every time he’s even remotely happy, which is more of a reason for him to turn his back against the world than if he were to get kicked every time he was down. Every moment of happiness has to be earned, and it always comes at a cost, so it figures that So would be extra wary of opening up to others and becoming vulnerable. And though Yo might disagree, what So did in unmasking himself took more guts than it would’ve taken to just keep his mask on. He made a promise, and he had his pride to consider. Now, all bets are off.
This now seems like a minor issue when there’s such systemic editing problems going on, but I do wish the production had been a bit braver with So’s scar. Though the show established how unwanted any bodily flaws are among royalty, enough to justify why So would be ashamed of even light scarring on his face, it’s not enough to even distract from how pretty he is. I totally realize that’s hardly a valid complaint, but it would’ve been truly tragic if the scar was more than just a couple scratches, enough for So to feel like he had to hide that ugliness from the world. Right now, we have to kind of put ourselves in the time period to understand just how big of a deal that scar is—of course, it wouldn’t be pretty in any time period. Maybe it’s just that Lee Jun-ki sells it too well, so on this side of the screen I’m just left to think that the scar isn’t as distracting as it seems meant to be. Again, hardly a complaint, I know.
I like that this episode more or less established So’s crush on Su, and for once, warranted an actual flashback montage of their moments together. We needed to be reminded that they did have these meaningful moments, and it would make sense that So didn’t think much of them until his new feelings came to light. Now, he remembers every moment because it means something, which means trouble is bound to brew for the too-cute Wook and Su couple. (That calligraphy scene? Stick a fork in me, I was done.)
It’s a bit harder to reconcile the vulnerable So we’ve kinda sorta come to know with the cold-hearted, brutal prince that he can be, and nothing brought that more into focus than So’s conversation with Grand General Park. Though we barely got to see General Park, it became clear that his moral compass operates much differently than So’s—and that So, even when reminded of this, would choose to stand by his horrific actions without even a shred of remorse. It didn’t seem like false bravado as much as So being fully convinced that what he did was just and good, which is actually more frightening than if he was just putting up a front. Don’t let the dark side have you, So!
On the other hand, it was refreshing to see Su having more interaction with the princes, which helped to justify their attentiveness toward her. While it’s still strange to think of the levelheaded crown prince temporarily losing his mind, it served to help him see that Su only ever means well, effectively netting her another strong ally. Plus, that birthday party was adorable, and even more so because the crown prince sanctioned it. Regardless, Eun’s going to have to work to make up for what he just pulled, birthday or no. Good luck.