Now it feels like we’ve finally dispensed with the setup to get to the actual meat of the character interactions, which is a definite plus in my book. Even if everything in this hour revolves around a newly introduced (and swiftly resolved) problem, it at least gives our heroine more opportunities to form new alliances, or to strengthen the ones she already has. One thing’s for sure—her makeup brings all the boys to the yard.
EPISODE 8 RECAP
Continuing straight from where we left off last week, So demands that Su look at his scarred face properly. He tells her how he hates that look she gave him, and adds that he doesn’t ever want to see it from her again.
Confused, Su asks him what look he’s talking about. Growing angrier, So claims that it’s a look of pity, and he doesn’t need her, of all people, to feel sorry for him. As he slowly loosens his grip on her wrist, he leaves her with a warning: “Stay out of my sight. Next time… I don’t know what I’ll do to you.”
Su is left to lean against the same column for support after he leaves, looking more than a little dazed and concerned by their encounter.
That night, So is back to wearing his mask as he lies under the stars in Astronomer Choi’s tower. Thirteenth prince Baek-ah finds his older brother in much more agreeable spirits as he apologizes for not putting a stop to the unmasking earlier. For the record, he also adds that errant tenth prince Eun regrets what he did.
So mentions that Baek-ah didn’t look at him when he unmasked himself, and Baek-ah replies that he was worried it would upset So if he did. So sighs that feelings are so fickle—he can be mad at one person for looking, and one person for not looking. Yeah, tell us about it.
At least Baek-ah stands up for Su, who he says was just manipulated by the much-eyeliner’d third prince Yo. So cuts him off, not wanting to hear any more about Su.
Along with Court Lady Oh, Su attends to the king’s morning routine, which includes a light smattering of cosmetics. He backhandedly reminds Su of her place when it comes to the princes, who she admits she hasn’t seen much of lately, before Court Lady Oh coifs the king’s hair into a topknot.
Queen Sinmyeongsunseong intervenes in this process, demanding that the court lady allow her to do the tending. She’s offended by the simple wooden pin Court Lady Oh was to use to secure the topknot, until King Taejo informs the queen that he’s dressing simply to reflect the drought their nation is suffering.
In keeping with that theme, all the princes enjoy the personalized tea Su serves them—well, all except for So, who admonishes her for serving tea when there’s such a drought going on.
Su takes Baek-ah aside afterward to make sure he didn’t make a mistake in telling her all of So’s favorite things to eat and drink. It’s funny when Baek-ah comments that he had to give her everyone’s favorites so it would be less obvious that she was catering specifically to So, which is why it upsets her that So rejected her offer.
She’s frustrated that So seems to only be angry with her, which even Baek-ah confirms—he forgave Eun right away, so why is he still so sore at Su? Baek-ah has a suspicion, but Su tries to bow out before the other court ladies see them.
Unfortunately, Baek-ah intentionally doesn’t let her go, which only makes things look worse. Su is punished by the other girls and by Court Lady Oh, who warns her to stay away from the princes and out of trouble.
Soon-deok, Grand General park’s daughter, finally works up the courage to face tenth prince Eun directly. Her stuttering problem prevents her from getting her thoughts out properly, and Eun is doubly unhelpful, his only concern being that the drought has left him with nothing to do.
But she has a solution to his boredom, and takes him to a spot where she’s set a trap. Eun is too impatient to wait, but Soon-deok pulls him down when she sees a bird approach the trap. The fact that she gets to hold Eun’s hand, however inadvertently, makes her break out into a wide grin.
They wait for the right opportunity to spring the trap, and Eun couldn’t be more excited that they’ll get to eat it… at least until Soon-deok breaks the bird’s neck. Disgusted, he calls her a murderer and leaves, and poor, clueless Soon-deok is left to wonder if he was upset because he wanted to eat the bird alive. Hah.
Her father watches the display and tsks from a distance, eventually sitting down with his daughter to cook the bite-sized bird. It’s adorable how he tries to attack Eun’s lack of manliness to make his daughter feel better: “What kind of man can’t even catch a bird?” Soon-deok: “I can catch them.” Grand General Park: “Then… how can he protect his wife and children!” Soon-deok: “I can protect us.”
It’s both funny and sad that Soon-deok has accounted for all these possibilities in her mind, though we’re not let in on the whole story between her and Eun. It seems like her father knows that she’s leaning toward Eun, and has given up on dissuading her.
Eighth prince Wook heads over to Damiwon, presumably to see Su, but he finds the doors barred with a note that since the palace will be holding a ritual to bring rain, all outside access will be blocked. Later that night, Su finds a note near her bedside, and is just barely able to make out the Hanja characters to realize that Wook wants to meet her in the secret entrance to the baths.
She grins from ear to ear when she finds him there, and he admits that Chae-ryung told him of the location when he expressed his frustration at being unable to see Su. Aw.
Sitting in the dark cave, Wook remarks on how easy it would be for her to use the tunnel to escape the palace. Su knows this well, but tells him how So told her that there would be no way for her to truly escape the king. Since Damiwon suits her well, she says she’d rather wait until she can leave the palace with the king’s blessing.
“Until then… could you… not forget me?” she asks hesitantly. By way of reply, Wook tells her that if the upcoming rain ritual produces rain, the king will be apt to grant favors accordingly. He’ll request that the king free her from her service, which causes Su’s face to light up from within at the thought of being able to return to his house.
Wook smiles broadly as he says that when she does return, he’ll buy everything she’ll need to make soap, and fill the house with all her favorite supplies. Su jokes that Princess Yeonhwa would hate that, but adds quietly, “I desperately hope it will rain. It has to.” Wook agrees.
She closes her eyes as she rests her head on his shoulder, and Wook can only smile as he holds her hand and leans in closer.
Su helps treat Crown Prince Mu’s condition before he heads off to quell a rebellion caused by the ongoing drought. The crown prince, appreciative of her help and discretion, says that he’s left her a necklace back at Damiwon.
So pops in to tell the crown prince that everything’s ready, looking visibly unhappy to find Su there as well. Once the two are left alone, So seems suspicious of the basket of supplies she’s carrying out of the tent, and sees her being apprehended by Queen Sinmyeongsunseong’s court ladies outside.
Su is brought before the queen and third prince Yo, and is asked to account for her absence. Yo calls her out for being with the crown prince and demands to know what she was up to. The basket she carried is used as evidence against her, and the herbs inside cause the queen to ask Su if the crown prince is ill.
When Su claims to know nothing, the queen grabs her by the hair. So sees this but doesn’t interfere—thankfully, Court Lady Oh does, with a working alibi for Su’s whereabouts.
Though Queen Sinmyeongsunseong questions Court Lady Oh’s claim that she sent Su to tend to the king, the court lady is sharp, and asks if the queen would have preferred thatshe tend to him herself. After a stare-down, the queen leaves.
So approaches his mother afterward, though as usual, she’s less than thrilled to see him. He’s not as concerned about her demeanor toward him as he is about the way she treats others—most notably Court Lady Oh and Su. No matter how much contempt she has, he cautions her, she should also maintain her dignity. Now the queen can’t help but wonder if this is all because of Su.
Court Lady Oh looks to be having some stomach trouble again, and is in no mood for Su’s gratitude. She turns around and slaps the girl across the face for going against her orders to stay away from the crown prince. Court Lady Oh says she regrets ever taking her in.
This finally seems to break Su, who asks what she’s done so wrong in treating the crown prince. Why shouldn’t she, if she knows how? When Court Lady Oh says she knows nothing of the palace, Su agrees, but then asks why Oh hasn’t bothered to teach her. Why, out of all the other court ladies, does Oh treat her so hatefully?
With a hand over her stomach and sweat on her brow, Court Lady Oh finally says that she gets so upset with Su because she reminds her of herself when she was younger—she’s too trustful and too good. “A girl like you could easily die here,” she says. She adds that she’s worried… but before she can say more, she doubles over in pain.
She wakes in her bed with Su tending to her, though her attempts to be gruff enough to make the girl leave don’t work—now that Su knows she was just being hard on her because she cared about her, she’s not scared of her anymore. Court Lady Oh’s demeanor changes, and soon both she and Su are smiling at each other over the terrible porridge Su made.
King Taejo performs the rain ritual to plead for the heavens to end the drought by kneeling repeatedly in supplication. It’s a strain on his knees and his stamina, so Astronomer Choi suggests that one of the princes take over for him.
In order to make the selection fair, all the princes put their names in a pot to be drawn at random. Yo scares the rest of his brothers by claiming that the people will call for their blood should the ritual fail to bring rain, at least until So aptly points out that the ritual isn’t held to make it rain, it’s held until there’s rain.
“A person cannot move the heavens. We just have to make it look as though they can,” So adds. Lo and behold, his name is chosen by the king to take over the ritual, and So has no choice but to accept.
He doesn’t get to just bow at the temple like his father did—he has to first walk through the capital as part of the ceremony, which subjects him to the ridicule of the people for being more monster than man. Believing that a masked prince won’t help their cause any, they throw stones at him, and sling what might very well be feces on him. (It also looks like mud, but they’re in a drought, so.)
So still does his best to go through with the ritual, offering no verbal complaint. By the time he actually makes it to the palace covered in muck, Queen Sinmyeongsunseong actually smiles to see him so, as does Yo.
Poor So looks frightened from the ordeal, only to shake with anger when he sees even Su looking at first away from him, then right at him. Defeated, he drops the ceremonial jug and runs away.
Queen Sinmyeongsunseong, pleased with this recent turn of events, has something even worse up her sleeve—she and Yo have conspired to have the crown prince attacked by thieves on his way back to the palace. Yo comments on how he had been the one who hoped to be in charge of the rain ritual, yet So was chosen instead.
The queen believes that it was King Taejo and Astronomer Choi who conspired to make sure So was chosen, having no belief that it was by some divine chance. Even so, she still sees this as an opportunity for Yo to gain more of a foothold to the throne, though we’re not told exactly how.
Su goes looking for So, who she finds napping in a boat (the boat’s stuck in mud due to the drought). She almost falls over, but either Su was faking sleep or his reflexes are so quick that he’s able to pull her to safety.
Of course, that means pulling her down with him, and the two share a moment as they find themselves in such close proximity. Su finally scrambles up to tell him that it’s time for him to come out of hiding now. He shouldn’t take what happened too hard, she adds—the people are just desperate and angry.
So snaps that he doesn’t want her pity, then asks if she knows why she was born. She admits that she’s thought about it, but there’s no answer. She can only determine how she’ll live, and she doesn’t want to live a life controlled by others. “No one in this world has an easy life,” she adds sagely.
He at least pays attention while she talks, but pretends as though he’s above it as he resumes fake-napping. At her advice that he return to the rain ritual and forget what happened, he calls her out for pretending to know everything about the world when she’s still so young.
That night, Su thinks over So’s question about why she thinks she was born and, unable to sleep, she attempts to concoct her own BB cream and succeeds.
It’s the day of the rain ritual, and Crown Prince Mu has yet to show up. Worried that something must have happened to him, Astronomer Choi volunteers to go find the crown prince himself. But since that would mean leaving So to appease the people on his own, So declines.
Astronomer Choi gets on his case about being too obsessed with the scar on his face, and advises him to get over it if he hopes to be able to help the crown prince and resolve his mommy issues. That’s when So realizes that Choi made it so that his name was picked.
The astronomer doesn’t deny it, but adds that he just wanted to help him build his confidence. So sees it as a lowly appointment in and of itself, thinking that Astronomer Choi just needed a slave to perform the ritual until it rained.
“If it rains because of that slave,” the astronomer says, throwing So’s words back at him, “then that slave will become a king!” Ah, so now the plan comes out—he’d only wanted to help So’s standing with his own family and the people, in order to make sure So stood in solidarity with the crown prince. But, he adds, he can only set the table. It’s up to So to take charge of his own destiny.
Resolved, So grabs a new set of ceremonial robes to perform the ritual, only to be stopped by Su, who claims to have found a way to rid him of his mask. Sitting him down before her table of makeup, she takes off his mask. They both look into each other’s eyes for a long, charged moment, until Su brushes his bangs aside to reveal the full extent of the scar.
He grows nervous when she reaches up to touch it, tracing her finger down the long, crooked line. Suddenly, he grabs her by the wrist and asks if she’s not afraid of his face. “Do you feel sorry for me?” She answers back that she can’t feel sorry for someone who’s always threatening her—and besides, the man behind the scar matters more.
She only finds it unfair that he’s had to suffer all his life because of a scar no bigger than the palm of her hand, causing him to search her face as he asks if he can really trust her. Su says that because she’s been betrayed so much in her own life, she will make it so that he can trust her by not changing who she is. If he trusts her, she adds, she won’t betray that trust.
“As long as it’s you… I can put myself in your hands,” So says quietly. “Do as you wish. I am now yours.” (He uses the same language as he did when he said she was “his” earlier on, only now, it’s reversed.)
Su sets to her work in covering his scar as we cut to the king and family waiting for the ritual to resume. The ministers suggest that the king appoint Yo to head the ritual since the crown prince has yet to show.
Feeling sure of himself, Yo tells Astonomer Choi that he should stop expecting the crown prince—he won’t be showing up anytime soon. Subtlety, Yo. Heard of it?
We find Su applying makeup to So’s scar, and once it’s done, she holds up a reflective surface for him to see for himself. He then grabs her by the shoulders when she rises and turns her to face him in all his unscarred beauty.
“Do you remember? I told you that you were mine,” So says. “Then and now, and the moment you touched my face… I decided that you would be mine. So prepare your heart from this point forward. I… will never let you go.”
He leans in as if to kiss her, causing Su to go still with shock. Seeming to sense her reluctance, So doesn’t push things further, and gently loosens his grasp on her shoulders. He leaves, and Su’s hand goes to her wrist, where Wook’s bracelet still rests.
Before Yo can make it to the ceremonial palanquin, So stops him, though he’s back to wearing his mask. He claims that only he and the crown prince have the right to be in the palanquin, and in his anger, Yo punches the mask off his face.
But when So rises from picking it up, Yo can’t believe his eyes. So takes his place in the palanquin and departs, ending up in the same place as before on his march to the palace. The people are ready to start throwing stones again, until they notice that his scar is gone.
Thinking it some sort of divine sign, the people all begin to bow to So as he walks among them, all of them praying for rain. Astronomer Choi looks pleased as he walks behind the prince, but Yo, looking from afar, looks positively murderous.
The royal family is surprised to see So walk back into the palace with the people supporting him rather than throwing stones, which makes the evil queen very, very angry. That, and she expected the son she actually loves to head the ritual.
All the princes react with restrained surprise to see So’s unblemished face, but it’s Wook who seems to figure out how such a thing could’ve happened. He looks over to Su, who’s only got eyes for So. Is that… is that jealousy? Please say yes.
Queen Sinmyeongsunseong is at a loss when she sees So’s face, but is unable to say anything as So heads up the steps toward the ceremonial altar. He turns to look at all gathered, his eyes resting specifically on Su. He smiles, she smiles back…
But suddenly the scene in front of her changes. She sees the unmarred So in a king’s garb atop the steps, his smile gone. Just as quickly, the scene returns to normal, but Su is still shaken.
Then, what starts as a few droplets turns into a torrential downpour. There’s surprise and jubilation among the royal family, though Queen Sinmyeongsunseong couldn’t look any more unhappy with all these developments if she tried.
Astronomer Choi just smiles, his plan having worked. Su, however, looks more frightened now than ever as So turns back to look at her. She can’t help from wondering if So will become King Gwangjong, the fourth king of Goryeo.
So turns back toward the altar and smiles a dangerous smile, as the rain washes the makeup away to reveal his scar once more.
That last shot was great, not just because it gave us a frightening glimpse into that side of So we know to be lurking there, but because it’s an actual appropriate use of the close-up. I’ve been deliberately not commenting on PD Kim Kyu-tae’s work in this drama, preferring to wait to see the whole of it before weighing in, though it’s no secret that I’ve found his style and approach problematic over the years. And while he chronically overuses close-ups to the point where they lose their meaning, sometimes, the style yields positive results. In this case, getting close-ups of So’s face sans scar worked very well—getting endless close-ups of Su staring, not so much. But I’ll take what I can get, even if it means relying on luck and an actor’s ability to make some of the more questionable shot choices mean something.
Seeing So look so calculated near the end raises some concerns, the least of which being: How well do we actually know him? Like Astronomer Choi noted, he’s completely capable of killing people, yet completely powerless when it comes to his scar and his own insecurity. I wonder if, by helping to disguise the deformity that’s held So back all this time, Su’s actually created the monster she seems to think King Gwangjong is. That seems to be the reason she suddenly saw a flash of the future (or imagined it), of So as king with a scarless face. Which also brings up a whole host of questions about how Su is or isn’t impacting history with her presence in the past. It’s not an issue the show seemed to want to touch with a ten foot pole until now, and even then, I don’t know if they were making the direct correlation that Su just opened the door for So to become King Gwangjong. Or maybe they were, who knows.
I wish So had gotten more of a moment with the mirror before he turned all his attention to Su, if only because it would’ve been nice to see more of a meaningful reaction from him after he saw the one thing that’s held him back his entire life just disappear before his eyes. It seems like such a missed opportunity to not showcase the range of emotions we can only imagine he had at seeing himself as normal. But at least we got a glimpse of it in his thankfulness toward Su, despite there being more to their moment than just gratitude.
But one did get the feeling that all So’s ever wanted is someone he could trust and depend on, and maybe even love—it’s difficult to separate his need to be accepted and wanted by his mother with the solace he’s now found in Su. All that acceptance he could never get from Mommy Dearest, he suddenly has from Su. All that compassion he wanted, he now has. So it’s not so out of line to believe that all he needed from Su was her permission to trust her in order to fall for her completely, enough to where he’d declare himself to be hers. Granted, he also declared her to be his, but at least this time was an even trade, an “I am yours, and you are mine,” sort of scenario. It would’ve been nice to get Su’s input on this, but there’s plenty of time.
At least she grasped enough of the situation with So to think of Wook’s bracelet, which symbolizes the promise she made with him. What’s extra interesting about them is how the show even reinforced their relationship this episode—while it was left to Wook to tell her to wait for him last episode, it was Su who more or less asked the same of him this round. I’ve come to love those two together so much that I’m worried about all the conflict that last sequence of scenes promised (in the best way possible), with Wook looking at Su, and Su looking at So. Don’t break his smolder, Moon Lovers. Pretty please?