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We pick up this week with the recently-stabbed Prince being brought back to the palace, where his wife is waiting. In his room, she stays by his side until the doctor tending the wound somehow causes a spurt of blood to shoot at her face. She faints, and I can’t say that I blame her. It’s pretty gross.
The Princess wakes up in her own room, but she immediately returns to the Prince’s side, where she takes over for the nurse currently wiping his brow. Except it’s not a nurse—it’s Mi Ryung, who really should be leaving the country so as to escape the wrath of Kim Ja Jum. Mi Ryung watches the Princess tend to her husband, staring so intently that even the Princess notices. But as Mi Ryung is leaving, the Princess remembers that she’s seen her face before, at the ceremony for the men who passed the civil service exam. And the Princess knows who that woman was.
The Princess runs after Mi Ryung, not caring that it’s pouring rain outside. Finally she catches up. “Are you Hyang Sun?” [With regards to Mi Ryung/Hyang Sun: I will call her Mi Ryung, because that’s how we got to know her. But in scenes where both Mi Ryungs are discussed—the original Mi Ryung, and our fake Mi Ryung—I will mostly call our Mi Ryung by her original name, Hyang Sun.] The Princess is shocked that Mi Ryung dared to come to the palace after the sin that she committed. It turns out Mi Ryung came out of concern, to make sure that the Prince wasn’t dead: “Funny, right? I tried to kill him. But I couldn’t leave because I was worried.” Well, ‘funny’ isn’t the word that I’d use…
Mi Ryung freely confesses to stabbing the Prince, but she insists that he let her do it. “He said he missed me, even after I stabbed him.” I think my heart just broke for the Princess. Mi Ryung forgave the Prince everything because he said that to her. She reflects that both she and the Princess have pathetic lives. After all, the Princess had a man she loved, but now is a wife ‘in title only’. But still, Mi Ryung is jealous of the Princess.
With that, Mi Ryung leaves, bowing deeply to the Princess and wishing her a happy life with the Prince. She may even be sincere. (What I loved about that scene was that it wasn’t a catfight over a man at all. It was just two women, both of whom have had so many of their choices taken away from them. I really felt for both Mi Ryung and the Princess.)
The Princess returns to the Prince’s room, soaked and crying. “What do I know about you?” But the Prince is sleeping, and can’t reply.
Meanwhile, Dal Hyang is taken to jail, where he gets to share a cell with Seung Po, Min Seo, and their slaves. Though the two Musketeers greet him warmly, it’s Pan Soi who’s the most excited to see his former master. It’s adorable.
Now we see a montage of what happens during the month that Dal Hyang, Seung Po, and Min Seo are in jail (they are kept up-to-date by the Prince’s eunuch). Teacher Choi convinces the Princess to help smuggle Yong Gol Dae out of the palace, disguised as a member of her retinue. While she does that, Teacher Choi asks the King to take back his order for Yong Gol Dae to be beheaded. The King is reluctant (as are some ministers), but he eventually agrees. As soon as the order is rescinded, Yong Gol Dae is found and comes to the palace for proper negotiations, which are not exactly successful, but do at least stave off war for the time being. Kim Ja Jum, still under suspicion for his possible role in the Prince’s stabbing, is demoted and leaves Hanyang in disgrace.
But Dal Hyang’s voiceover tells us that what is most important to him is what he himself experienced. So to him, the most notable thing that happened during his month in prison is this: the Princess visited him.
She comes when all of his cellmates are sleeping, and though she acts calm, she’s upset. Why is Dal Hyang here, after she asked the Prince to keep his distance from her former love? Dal Hyang ruefully tells her that his destiny is linked with these men. Translation: he’s sticking around even if she doesn’t want him to. He also makes sure to tell her that he found the letter, and burned it properly. But when the Princess asks who stole the letter from her, Dal Hyang says that it was No Soo (he doesn’t know that the Princess knows about Mi Ryung).
Seeing that Dal Hyang has blood on his face from a cut, she beckons him forward so that she can wipe it off. He grins and says that he’s glad he’s in prison, because now when he gets older and writes his memoirs, he can tell the story of the time the Princess cleaned his wound. The Princess is moved by this—nobody in the palace ever thanks her for anything. Dal Hyang smiles wider. He wants the Princess to be happy, he says. I wonder if he’s the only person who can honestly say that.
Their conversation is cut off as Dal Hyang’s cellmates wake up. The Princess wipes away her tears and smiles, saying that she’s come to check on everyone for the Prince. They’ll only have to wait for a bit longer.
Once a month has passed, our six inmates are finally let outside. We see them being led, still bound, through the palace complex. Their destination: a courtyard for punishment, which literally brings Seung Po up short. It turns out he isn’t too keen on being punished. Not that I can blame him. Based on the heavy wooden paddles waiting for them in the courtyard, it looks like their punishment will be like spanking, but with a lot more pain.
Once they’re inside, their sentences are read. The slaves are free to go, because they were only following their masters’ orders. Dal Hyang will receive 20 strokes. Seung Po and Min Seo, as the Prince’s bodyguards, are to get 60 strokes each. Wow. The slaves are pretty happy, but our Musketeers are anything but [although Dal Hyang technically isn’t a Musketeer, there will be situations, such as right now, where I write as though he were, just because it’s clearer].
Cut to: the Musketeers, tied down and awaiting punishment. Seung Po grumbles that the Prince should wake up and stop this. They’ve taken the fall for him, so he should be here for them. Min Seo and Dal Hyang heartily agree, but the Prince doesn’t arrive before the punishment starts. First up: Seung Po. (I have to say, although this scene is mainly played for laughs, it sounds like they’re hitting him really hard. Ouch.)
But Seung Po has only been hit seven times when the Prince finally arrives, fashionably late. He tells the officer in charge to hold off on the punishment for now—these men were only following his orders, so he’s going to ask the King to release them. They’re untied, but Seung Po is outraged by the injustice that only he got hit. (I have to say, I sort of agree with him!) The Prince is hilariously unsympathetic.
But the King is still angry with his son (whom he now thinks is a gambler). The Prince acted foolishly, and made his father feel stupid for trusting him. The Prince apologizes, and promises to devote himself to politics and studying. But the King has a different project in mind: it’s time for the Prince to make a baby. The Prince promises to do his best, but he doesn’t look enthusiastic. In return, the King agrees to let the Prince’s men go, but he doesn’t want his son hanging out with those bad influences anymore. The Prince agrees, but something tells me they won’t be kept apart for long.
The former inmates all go to Seung Po’s house, where their host spends all of his time complaining about his pain. Dal Hyang also gets to meet Seung Po’s wife (and mistakes her for Seung Po’s mother, HA) and children. He’s especially surprised by the four children, but Seung Po seems fond of them, even if he can’t tell his daughters apart.
Before they can settle in, however, Dal Hyang, Min Seo, and Seung Po are called outside to receive the King’s order. Min Seo and Seung Po are both banned from work for 100 days (the latter is thrilled, the former less so), and Dal Hyang is to report back for duty as an envoy guard immediately. And the King does mean immediately—Dal Hyang (along with Pan Soi, who is overjoyed to return to his service) has to run to make sure Yong Gol Dae’s party doesn’t leave for the border without him.
Luckily, Dal Hyang arrives in time, and gets made fun of by Yong Gol Dae (in Manchu, of course) for his trouble. He also meets the Prince’s eunuch, who has brought a gift from his master: the Prince’s own sword. And it comes with a note: “You dear boy. You swore your loyalty to me on your own. I guess I have no choice but to take you in. Use this sword only for good. You’re touched, right? I know, I’m too awesome.” Amazing. The soundtrack kicks the epic up to 11 as Dal Hyang examines his gift and smiles. Even when they’re apart, this bromance is the best.
Up north, Kim Ja Jum receives word that the Manchu party is riding for the border, and they’ll stay with him when they arrive. Kim Ja Jum reflects to himself that it would be better if Yong Gol Dae were dead, now that he’s allied with the Prince.
No sooner has the royal messenger left than Kim Ja Jum has another visitor: No Soo, who has come north with Mi Ryung. She fell sick on the road, and No Soo is taking advantage of her illness to deliver her into the hands of Kim Ja Jum—the man she betrayed.
Back at the palace, the Prince tries to leave his quarters, only to be stopped by the King’s eunuch, who sends him right into the Princess’s room.
The Princess has heard the King’s order and is ready. The Prince assures her that he’ll just be staying for a little bit, to avoid making his father angry. But the Princess is on a mission: after downing two shots, she cozies up to the Prince, takes off his hat, and starts undoing the clasps and knots of his robes. Wow, she’s really going for it. The Prince, who seems too shocked to react, asks her what she’s doing. Answer: she’s following the King’s order. She’s been advised by women at the temple that in order to carry out her duty, she should act like a gisaeng at night. HA. And then she kisses her husband.
But the Prince would rather struggle than just give in. The struggle leads to the Princess falling on top of her husband, but in the most awkward way possible. The scene takes a turn from very funny to very sad as the Princess realizes that even under direct orders from his father, the Prince can’t bring himself to touch her. She climbs off of him, crying, and the Prince just lies there, her tears on his face, looking, to his credit, just as troubled by his own cruelty as I am.
But he pulls himself together, trying to return to his normal sardonic tone as he tells the Princess that this isn’t worth crying over. He just didn’t know how to react when she started acting differently. Maybe this will happen, but later, when she isn’t trying to act like a gisaeng.
The Princess won’t take this lying down, however (hurray!). “You must have kissed her goodbye,” she sobs. “How did you let her go when it hurt you so much?” That gets the Prince’s attention. What is the Princess talking about? She tells him that Mi Ryung came to him when he was wounded.
Kim Ja Jum goes to visit Mi Ryung, and remembers what No Soo told him of her betrayal, her strange actions towards the Prince, and what No Soo had discovered about her past.
At the same time, the Princess tells her husband of her visit to the wife of Minister Yoon—the real Mi Ryung’s mother, who told her the whole story. “Then I began to understand you.” The Prince stays silent.
And now we see what it is the Princess and No Soo discovered—the missing pieces of Mi Ryung’s story. Except, of course, our Mi Ryung isn’t the real Mi Ryung. Originally, she was Hyang Sun, a slave who served Mi Ryung, a girl who was nobly born but suffered from a sort of developmental disorder. The real Mi Ryung was slow, and acted like a young child. It was her servant, Hyang Sun, who was beautiful and smart. So Mi Ryung’s mother, ashamed of her daughter, started having Hyang Sun dress up in Mi Ryung’s clothes. She took her out in public as her daughter.
But the plan got out of control. Rumors of Hyang Sun’s beauty spread to the Queen, who requested that Hyang Sun be entered as a candidate in the Prince’s search for a wife.
At first, Mi Ryung’s mother is horrified—she can’t bring a fake daughter to Court! But Hyang Sun, who we’re starting to see is far too clever for her own good, says that she can. After all, there will be many candidates. Surely Hyang Sun won’t be chosen. There’s no need to confess. The charade will die down naturally once she isn’t picked to be the Prince’s bride. Mi Ryung’s mother gives in.
But no sooner has Hyang Sun arrived at Court than she and the Prince see each other—and it’s love at first sight. The Prince makes it clear that Hyang Sun is the one, sneaking out of the palace to visit her at home at night.
Minister Yoon returns to Hanyang when Hyang Sun is chosen as the next Princess. Unlike his wife, he has no doubts that they must tell the truth immediately, regardless of the consequences.
But clever Hyang Sun has her own idea—she should just be the new Mi Ryung. Everyone already thinks she is Mi Ryung. The Queen likes her. The Prince loves her. Why not take the real Mi Ryung away to a country house and let Hyang Sun complete her transformation into a real noble lady?
Minister Yoon is outraged. Hyang Sun is a slave, and nothing can change that. Hyang Sun, truly angry now, yells that the Minister has already abandoned his daughter because she embarrasses him. “I’ll be the Princess! I was selected on my own merit! I deserve this. I’m Mi Ryung, who’ll be the Princess.”
Minister Yoon is not impressed by her argument, and strikes her. And now Hyang Sun has her worst idea yet: Minister Yoon can’t bring the real Mi Ryung to Court if there is no real Mi Ryung. So Hyang Sun wakes her young mistress up, leads her outside, and pushes her down the well.
There’s only one problem (besides the fact that Hyang Sun is now a murderer, of course): The Prince sees her do it. Oh dear. (The thing is, even though what Hyang Sun/Mi Ryung did is unquestionably horrible—the real Mi Ryung was completely innocent—I still feel for her. We see how this amazing future she’d never even dreamed of is snatched away, and it’s painful. It doesn’t justify what she does, but I do still have sympathy for her.)
Back in the present, Kim Ja Jum arrives to meet Mi Ryung, who is clearly sick and bound like a criminal. He remembers No Soo’s words: “Her obsession with him has not ended yet. She won’t eat or drink. She’s just ready to die like that.”
Back in the palace, the Princess repeats that she can understand her husband. And she wants to console him, but she fears she can’t. There is no room for her in the Prince’s heart. So she has a favor to ask him—a favor she’s earned, after helping him with Yong Gol Dae. “Please, set me aside. It has been five years, but I’ve had no child. I should’ve been kicked out of here a long time ago. If you abandon me, no one will question you.” The Prince was clearly not expecting this.
Back up north, Kim Ja Jum chides Mi Ryung for not telling him her full plan. He says that he could have helped her. He tells her that if she wants to be the Princess, she should join his team for real. Mi Ryung doesn’t respond, but we can see that his words have power over her.
The Princess continues to make her case. She can’t live like this anymore. The Prince doesn’t say no, but he does ask if she knows what happens to women who’ve been set aside. The Princess doesn’t care. “I want to live with a man who loves me, even if it’s just one day. Please, set me aside.”
Wow. I loved this episode. Yes, it didn’t have as much action as last week, but it really put the spotlight on the ladies of our cast, which made the emotional stakes get higher and higher. I could watch an entire episode of just the Prince and Princess—her desperately trying to please him, even though she knows it’s impossible, him breaking her heart because his own is already in pieces. And Mi Ryung! She makes me so conflicted, because even though she’s done terrible things, we can always see the pain and yearning that motivate her. (I don’t even have the words to say how wonderful Lee Jin Wook, Seo Hyun Jin, and Yoo In Young are in these roles. The whole cast of “The Three Musketeers” is excellent, but these three especially are doing some stellar work.)
What did you think? Did you like this quieter, more emotional episode, or are you ready for the boys to start being Musketeers again? Let us know in the comments!
Be sure to catch “The Three Musketeers” every Sunday, exclusively in the US/Canada on SoompiTV. (All of the quotes in this recap are taken from SoompiTV’s subs.)