Although last week’s cliffhanger was a good one (Mi Ryung stabbed the Prince!), this week starts with the identification of Court Lady Kim’s body. The Prince’s eunuch delivers the news to the Princess, who is shocked. She wants to know why Court Lady Kim was stabbed. The eunuch confides that he suspects it was Court Lady Kim who stole Dal Hyang’s letter.
But the Princess knows that if Court Lady Kim stole the letter, she did so for the mysterious woman that the Prince had ordered Dal Hyang to follow. And though she had restrained herself from asking before, now she must know: who is this woman? The eunuch tells her that her name is Mi Ryung, and she was the first choice to be the Prince’s wife. The Princess’s jaw drops even more. After all, the first choice died. Wasn’t it true that she hanged herself? The eunuch says that Mi Ryung is definitely dead. “But her servant, Hyang Sun [the alias Mi Ryung sometimes uses], is alive.” (WHAT?!)
Now we return to the beginning of the Prince’s meeting with Mi Ryung. The Prince wants to know how she’s been. Mi Ryung’s expression is wounded, but her voice is angry. “What are you curious about? My last five years? Or how I didn’t die that night?” “Both.”
Mi Ryung’s horrifying story starts with her suicide, which the Prince had ordered. But it isn’t a suicide, as we see. The Prince’s eunuch is there, and personally orders his henchmen to tie up Mi Ryung and hang her, as she cries and screams and begs that she doesn’t want to die, that she wants to talk to the Prince. Her pleas are ignored, and as the stool is kicked out from under her feet, the eunuch lights a fire in her room. But he waits until Mi Ryung’s body stops moving to sound the alarm.
“Everyone abandoned me. But one servant saved me.” We see a man cut Mi Ryung down, though not before she’s burned by the fire, which explains the scars Dal Hyang saw on her shoulder. Safe in the woods, the man tells Mi Ryung that she’s dead now, that Mi Ryung and Hyang Sun both don’t exist anymore. “So now… you’re mine.” Mi Ryung is terrified, but the man touches her face and tells her that he’s liked her for a long time: “When you were with the Prince, pretending you were the daughter of our master, I was devastated. I knew this would happen. You can’t love the person that’s not meant for you. But we’re well-suited.” Mi Ryung, voice quavering, orders him not to touch her, but he doesn’t listen.
Back in the present Mi Ryung coldly tells the Prince that that was when she realized that all men are the same: “They pretend to be sincere, but they always have their own purpose. They’re all the same, whether they’re a servant or a prince.” So she killed the man, and made it look like a suicide. Another piece of the puzzle falls into place: this man was the servant who provided the identification of Mi Ryung’s body to her father, who was too upset to see it. This was the man who “confirmed” her death. Mi Ryung killed him because he attacked her, but in so doing she helped to make sure that everyone believed that she really was dead.
Mi Ryung tells the Prince that she feels no guilt over killing the servant. “I didn’t do anything wrong. It was all of you that used me. I never asked to be Mi Ryung. But they forced me to. I just did what they told me, since I was only a slave! I didn’t want to die for something I had no choice in.” Okay, it all makes sense now. Mi Ryung was always Hyang Sun, the slave masquerading as the noble lady. But when the Prince found out, he ordered her to commit suicide. Wow. I do not have happy feelings about the Prince right now.
Back in the flashback, Mi Ryung wanders through town, dirty, bloodied, and in her undergarments. A man, who looks rather well-off, buys her dinner and asks if she wants to go to Later Jin with him. She does, but while he doesn’t ask her to pay with money, she does have to pay with her body. Mi Ryung in the present says that it was at that time that she learned how to control men. Using that power, she became the sixth wife of a wealthy Manchu man. And using one of her poison needles, she killed that man and took her share of his fortune.
Now that she had money and time, Mi Ryung decided to seek out the Prince. That was how she met Kim Ja Jum—she needed someone with a connection to the Prince, and he needed a spy fluent in Manchu. “But I didn’t know I’d see you again so easily. I was going to approach you slowly and quietly to surprise you. It must be so horrible for you. The woman you thought dead is alive.”
The Prince denies it. He regretted ordering her death every day for the last five years. Mi Ryung doesn’t believe him, but the Prince insists that if she wants to get back at him for what happened, that’s fine. Mi Ryung laughs bitterly through her tears. “Do you think I’m still that innocent Mi Ryung?” The Prince says it doesn’t matter how she takes her revenge on him. He’ll accept whatever she does. Mi Ryung snarls that he’ll regret saying that, pulls out a knife, and stabs him in the chest. The motion propels the Prince backward, knocking dishware off the table. The shattering sound alerts Dal Hyang upstairs, and he comes running down, No Soo behind him.
At first, Dal Hyang thinks that Mi Ryung and the Prince are embracing, but then he sees the knife and the blood. The Prince tells him to leave, but Dal Hyang refuses: “No servant would back up after seeing this.” But the Prince stands firm—this is between him and Mi Ryung. Dal Hyang clearly isn’t happy, but he lets No Soo drag him out of the room.
Mi Ryung, still crying, asks the Prince if he’s in pain. Does this hurt him like it hurt when she was hanged? The Prince’s only response is to wipe her tears and tell her that he missed her. Mi Ryung pulls out the knife and drops it on the ground.
Kim Ja Jum wonders why the Prince hasn’t given him an answer to his proposal (that either they join together to ally with the Manchu, or the King finds out that the Prince has taken Yong Gol Dae hostage). The Prince only has until tonight to respond, but Kim Ja Jum is confident that he will agree—what other choice does he have?
But as day turns into night, Dal Hyang is still waiting for the Prince to emerge from Mi Ryung’s secret room. When he finally comes out, he is alone. He ignores Dal Hyang’s inquiry about his health and tells No Soo to take Mi Ryung and leave immediately. Kim Ja Jum will make his move soon, so they need to leave Joseon and never return.
Outside, Dal Hyang is upset that they are letting Mi Ryung and No Soo go free—after all, Mi Ryung killed a court maid, No Soo killed Court Lady Kim, and both of them stabbed the Prince. But the Prince has Dal Hyang’s letter, so Mi Ryung can’t hurt the Princess with it. He gives the letter to Dal Hyang and walks away, turning back to see Dal Hyang throw it in a fire. Aw.
Dal Hyang walks over as the Prince mounts and starts to leave. He turns back slightly, telling Dal Hyang that now he’s seen what life in Hanyang is. “In this city, you never reminisce about your first love. Look what happened to me by doing that.” He’s trying for a bit of his old smirk, but he’s too obviously troubled for it to entirely work.
The Prince’s next stop is Teacher Choi Myung Gil’s house (he’s also a minister, but the Prince thinks of him as a teacher, so I’ll mostly be calling him “Teacher Choi”), but he tells Dal Hyang that he’s free to go home as his mission is completed. “I was going to include you in my team once you completed this mission. But I guess our destiny ends here. Too bad.” Just as I am about to yell at my screen that the Prince can go back on his stupid bet with Dal Hyang whenever he wants, he adds, “Actually, the Princess asked me to keep you away from me. Though I’m not sure who that’s for.” And with that, he rides off, leaving Dal Hyang standing alone in the street.
The voiceover tells us that Dal Hyang later wrote about this day in his memoirs: “The Prince’s words were all correct. The King’s order was only an excuse [for defying the Prince about Yong Gol Dae]. I didn’t like him from the start. I was upset that he took my woman. And he didn’t even love her. It seemed he didn’t deserve my loyalty or my woman’s devotion. But that day, I changed my mind, seeing him covered in blood. I knew that his first love, like mine, was in his heart.” As Dal Hyang narrates this passage, we see him following the Prince to Choi Myung Gil’s house. The Prince is obviously weak, and sways in his saddle. Eventually he falls forward, and when Dal Hyang runs to see if he’s all right, he notices some papers that have fallen from the Prince’s robe to the ground.
Dal Hyang piggybacks the Prince the rest of the way to Choi Myung Gil’s house, where Seung Po and Min Seo are waiting with the teacher. Everyone is horrified by the sight of the unconscious Prince.
Since it’s now nighttime and the Prince is nowhere to be seen, Kim Ja Jum concludes that there will be no alliance between them. It’s time to go to the palace! But when his servant asks him if he plans to tell the King about Yong Gol Dae, Kim Ja Jum replies that that information is far too valuable to waste. All he needs to do is turn the naturally suspicious King against his son, a process he’s already started.
Case in point: the King sits in the throne room, empty except for him and his eunuch, and reads the scroll Kim Ja Jum gave him, remembering Kim’s warning that there might be a traitor highly placed in the Palace. There’s an incredibly cool sequence as the King, desperate to figure out who the traitor is, imagines ghostly versions of his ministers filling the throne room. He stalks past them, considering each one before deciding against their guilt. Each time he determines that a man isn’t a traitor, the man’s shade evaporates. It’s a really neat effect. He briefly wonders if Choi Myung Gil might be the culprit, but ultimately decides that he’s too straight for that. Before long, the throne room is empty—the King can’t figure out who the traitor might be. He tells his eunuch to get the Prince, so that he can discuss the problem with his son.
But then he remembers the Prince’s mysterious absence the night he had his nightmare, and his convenient reappearance. Maybe… Suddenly, the Prince appears in his usual seat, the same as the ministers before him. But where the ministers were transparent, the Prince is completely solid, staring combatively at his father.
In her room, the Princess remembers the Prince’s eunuch telling her that the real Mi Ryung’s body was found in a well. Then she remembers meeting a woman, apparently the real Mi Ryung’s mother, who weeps that her daughter died in her place. “Hyang Sun will be my scar forever!”
Just then, the Prince’s eunuch arrives. She asks him not to tell the Prince about what she has learned, since he didn’t want her to know about Hyang Sun. He agrees, then tells her that the King is looking for her. He wanted to speak with the Prince, but since his son is at Teacher Choi’s house, he’s asked for the Princess instead.
Back at Teacher Choi’s house, Dal Hyang is stuck in the courtyard, watching the silhouettes of the doctor, Teacher Choi, Seung Po, and Min Seo as they try to figure out what to do. He takes the paper the Prince dropped out of his robes. Dal Hyang, didn’t your mother teach you that it’s rude to read other people’s letters?
Inside, the doctor frets that although the Prince’s wound isn’t deep, he’s lost too much blood. He needs to be taken to the Palace so that the royal doctors can treat him. Teacher Choi isn’t happy about this, but if it’s what is necessary to save the Prince, he’s for it. Seung Po points out that they have no way of explaining how the Prince came to be stabbed. Besides, Kim Ja Jum already told the entire court that one of the traitors was wounded, and he’s undoubtedly on his way to the Palace already. The circumstances are too suspicious for the King to ignore. (I’m impressed that Seung Po can be so logical!) Min Seo agrees, adding that they could all be killed attempting to protect Yong Gol Dae. Teacher Choi concludes that only one option remains: they must go to Kim Ja Jum, promise him whatever he wants, and figure out the rest later. Min Seo protests—the Prince said he would never make a deal with Kim. Teacher Choi points out that with the Prince’s life in danger, this is their only choice.
Outside, Dal Hyang finishes reading the Prince’s paper just as Teacher Choi joins him. Teacher Choi wants to know where they were, what happened, and who stabbed the Prince. Dal Hyang can’t answer, but he hands Teacher Choi the paper. “He jeopardized his life for this.” Teacher Choi scans the paper and asks how Dal Hyang got this information. But instead of answering, Dal Hyang responds with a question of his own: “What is it to protect the country? You asked me to think about how I’d protect the country. I’ve thought long and hard, but there was no answer. The more I thought, the more confused I became. Yes, I understand that the government is full of opportunists. But I don’t know what the right way is. Is what the Prince is doing right? Is protecting Yong Gol Dae worth the life of the Prince? I know it’s to prevent the war, but it’s also deceiving the King. Can the justice overrule the process?”
Teacher Choi replies that history will decide if they made the right choices. But personally, he can’t forgive those who let people die. But this is the crux of Dal Hyang’s confusion: what if the man letting others die is the King? Can his actions be excused? Teacher Choi can’t say. “That’s for you to answer. I have my answer. You make your own answer. You have the choice. If you take their justification, you serve the government with all your heart. If you take the opportunistic path, you go to Kim Ja Jum, and you’ll likely become successful. If you take practicality, you’ll help us. If you don’t take any of them, you may leave here as a commoner.”
Seung Po and Min Seo approach, and Teacher Choi shows them the Prince’s paper, saying that they have their solution. But the two of them will have to be punished for failing to protect the Prince. And what about Dal Hyang? How will he serve the country?
But we don’t get to hear his answer, because it’s time to put a plan into action. First up: Min Seo, who pours alcohol on the Prince’s face and clothes and tells the doctor that they must leave Teacher Choi’s house.
Next up: Seung Po, who takes two servants (one of whom is Pan Soi) to an armory to remove some guns (and an axe! I’m seriously curious about how this plan involves an axe). Then he asks if his wife is asleep.
She is, in fact, though she is not happy that her husband, who hasn’t been home in days, has only returned to ask for money. But she must give in, because we cut to Seung Po joining Min Seo in the street. Min Seo and his servant have been pouring alcohol on themselves, though when Seung Po is handed a bottle, he just drinks it. Heh. Min Seo warns him that the authorities will arrive soon after they fire a gun. Just what do they intend to do? Seung Po doesn’t set my mind or those of his servants at ease as he asks them if they are ready to die with their master. Pan Soi is especially nervous: “I should’ve gone with Park Dal Hyang!”
This part of the plan turns out to be simple, albeit chaotic: Seung Po demands entry into Kim Ja Jum’s house, claiming that the minister stole 300 nyang from him (the exact amount that Seung Po borrowed from him wife). When Kim Ja Jum’s servants resist, Seung Po shoots a gun in the air and gallops through the gate, followed by Min Seo and their servants (it should be noted that while Seung Po is predictably really good at playing drunk, Min Seo is hilariously terrible, with his straight back and stern expression). While the others cause a scene in the courtyard, Seung Po makes a beeline for Kim Ja Jum’s private room, where he pulls aside the screen to reveal a locked cabinet, which he opens with the axe (I love that the axe ended up being necessary!). Inside the cabinet, he finds a paper, which he gives to Pan Soi, to be delivered immediately to Teacher Choi. Just as the authorities arrive, Seung Po starts to act drunk again and takes a pouch of coins out of his robes, announcing that he’s found his 300 nyang.
Meanwhile, Dal Hyang catches up to Kim Ja Jum just as the minister is about to reach the Palace. He has brought the Prince’s reply to Kim Ja Jum’s proposition. The minister is a little suspicious as he notes that he’s never seen Dal Hyang before, and his unease only rises when Dal Hyang says that he works for the Prince unofficially. How can he perform such sensitive work without an official position? Dal Hyang brushes aside Kim’s questions and tells him to read the Prince’s letter. But the letter isn’t in the Prince’s handwriting. Dal Hyang, who has been amusingly flippant throughout this entire exchange, tells the minister that Choi Myung Gil wrote this letter for the Prince. And what a letter it is: “I have a list of all the names and money sources who promised their loyalty to the Manchu. Who has the upper hand now?” A second sheet proves to be a copy of that list (wow, Mi Ryung may have stabbed the Prince, but she really came through for him here!).
Since both the Prince and Kim Ja Jum have dirt on each other, the letter concludes, they will both have to stay silent. So the Prince declines the minister’s offer. Kim Ja Jum is unimpressed. This list that Dal Hyang gave him is a copy, and therefore useless. He rips it up. Dal Hyang’s voice is almost reassuring as he agrees. That’s why the original copy, with the minister’s signature—which Seung Po is in the process of stealing—is already in the Prince’s possession.
Kim Ja Jum is smart enough to concede that he’s lost this round. But how did the Prince find out about the list? Dal Hyang’s only response is a piece of advice his father used to give him: “Be careful of women all the time.” Kim gets the message: Mi Ryung betrayed him.
In the Palace, the Princess bows to the King, who immediately starts bombarding her with questions about where the Prince is. The Princess says that her husband is at Choi Myung Gil’s house, but the King doesn’t believe her, reminding her that she had to make up excuses hiding the Prince’s whereabouts the night of his bad dream as well. His voice becomes heated as he tells the visibly frightened Princess that she mustn’t lie to him, even though he knows she has been. “Is [the Prince] really part of the conspiracy?” The terrible thing about this scene is that the King is right. He is being lied to. But the Princess is completely innocent of what her husband is getting up to, and the Prince’s actions are all to defend the crown anyway. The King is just too paranoid and suspicious to understand this.
Just in time, Dal Hyang arrives to tell the King that the Prince has been stabbed—the result of a gambling evening gone awry. Dal Hyang doesn’t know the name of the stabber, though, only that he’s a wealthy man. The King is furious, but it’s a brilliant solution: a gambling addiction explains the Prince’s mysterious disappearances perfectly. And while the King finds his son’s actions pathetic, at least they’re no longer treasonous. The King demands that the Prince be located and brought back to the Palace.
Meanwhile, Kim Ja Jum arrives at the gibang where Mi Ryung was staying, only to discover that her secret room is empty. He observes the mess and picks up the bloody knife, wondering what happened, and where Mi Ryung has gone. But then Kim’s servant spots a man lying on a mat in the corner: the Prince. They pull back his cover to reveal his robe, stained with blood from the stab wound. Kim Ja Jum is shocked—why is the Prince here? What happened?
Dal Hyang’s timing is perfect this evening, though, so before Kim Ja Jum can leave, a unit of guards has arrived, accompanied by Dal Hyang, who is bound like a prisoner. The guard captain recognizes Kim Ja Jum (and notices the bloody knife in his hand), and asks him why he is here. Dal Hyang adds, in a perfectly innocent voice, “Weren’t you at the gambling parlor too?” (The more I see of this plan, the more convinced I am that Choi Myung Gil is an evil genius.)
A messenger arrives, announcing that the Prince’s men have been arrested at Kim Ja Jum’s house over a gambling problem. Things aren’t looking good for Minister Kim. The guard captain decides to take him in for questioning, since he’s obviously involved somehow. Kim can’t help but laugh as he’s led out of the secret room.
As they leave, Kim asks Dal Hyang to remind him of his name, which he promises he’ll remember forever. He muses that he hadn’t counted on the Prince having hidden people like Dal Hyang and Mi Ryung. But he understands that the Prince needs people—he’s the sort of man who can’t be alone.
The Prince wakes up just as the doctors are starting to move him. Outside the gibang, he sees Dal Hyang, and tells his stretcher-bearers to wait. Dal Hyang walks over to the Prince and asks how he feels. The Prince (rather rudely) ignores the question and asks why Dal Hyang is still here. But Dal Hyang isn’t going home. He can’t go home. He knows that the Prince cheated to win in their fight, so their bet doesn’t count. “When you get stronger, we’ll fight again.” The Prince, miraculously still snarky, says that Dal Hyang’s going to be in prison for the rest of his life. How will they compete again? Dal Hyang smiles. “You’ll release me somehow, since I’m your guy.” The Prince is able to muster up some feeble indignation: “Who said that you’re my guy?” Everybody says that, Dal Hyang tells him. “So you have no choice. I’m your man. I’m not that flexible of a person. So if I decide one way, I only see that way. So please prove it. That my choice was right.”
The bromance is ON.
This episode was a great mixture of fun (the plan to justify the Prince’s stab wound and catch Kim Ja Jum at the same time was brilliant and a blast to watch) and dark (Mi Ryung’s story completely gutted me). And the Prince’s incapacitation gave the rest of his team the opportunity to shine, from Min Seo and his inability to act drunk to Choi Myung Gil, who I’m starting to be a little scared of (it helps that he’s played by Jun Noh Min, who I already love from Gaksital and Nine, and who brings such wisdom and wit to the role).
That said, for an episode whose title is ‘Mi Ryung and Hyang Sun’, there was relatively little Mi Ryung after the first twenty minutes. I’d love to see her play a bigger role in the coming weeks, because she’s such a fascinating character—and the same goes for the Princess!
What did you think? Is everyone as excited as I am that Dal Hyang and the Prince are now officially a bromantic item? Any ideas on how they’re going to deal with the fact that they still have Yong Gol Dae locked in the library? What about Mi Ryung–what do you think is next for her?