Remember that whole ending scene in the last episode, where Prince Lee Sun loses his cool and starts choking Chief Inspector Hong Gye Hee and the king turns instead on his own son? Well, it was all in Lee Sun’s mind. Surprisingly, the crown prince decides to play the game and agrees to not only pour the drink for Gye Hee as a sign of apology, but to also make him a minister of war.
Minister Kim Taek is celebrating at the gibang with the rest of the Noh party. Enters Hong Gye Hee who’s congratulated on his new post, and immediately Kim Taek wants him to abolish a law that protects powerless civilian military service personnel. A law the king himself passed.
Park Moon Soo immediately warns the king about this plan, saying if this keeps on, the whole Joseon kingdom will be under Noh command! The king retorts it’s Moon Soo’s fault for not taking care of the Maenge ten years prior, as he was asked to do. Moon Soo retorts it was the fault of the sinful fire that took over the library as well as the lives of two innocent people, a fire caused by someone obsessed with the destruction of the Maenge. *Cough Cough* That means you, oh my king.
Prince Lee Sun goes to the royal library to check on the documents implicated in Shin Heung Bok’s crime (namely his suicide note and the letters he supposedly sent in which he cursed the prince). Minister Chae Je Gong asks him: “Didn’t you say the writing in those letters looked exactly the same as Shin Heung Bok’s?” This sparks an idea in the prince’s mind and he rushes to find Ji Dam. Lee Sun finds the intrepid novelist at home and he proceeds to ask Ji Dam’s father for his permission to borrow Ji Dam’s talents as an investigator. Though her father’s scared for her, he can’t find it in himself to stop her doing what she feels is right. In exchange, Lee Sun vows to protect her himself.
At the same time, prince Lee Sun’s wife has a nasty run-in with king Yeongjo’s pregnant royal concubine. When the latter becomes too nosy and annoying, Lady Hyegyeong pulls rank on her. The royal concubine immediately goes to complain to the king and asks him to exercise his own authority over the prince to show Lady Hyegyeong who has the real power, but the king says it’s not quite time for that yet. Worried about the prince’s activities, Lady asks her father to put a stop to his actions because she suspects they’re dangerous (especially after seeing Ji Dam running about the palace at night, a girl she believes to be a peasant).
As asked, Ji Dam examines Heung Bok’s supposed suicide note and letters and proves to both the prince and Chae Je Gong that they’re fake. This means that if they find the forger, they will finally unravel the mystery behind Heung Bok’s death. Out of all the people she knows, Ji Dam states only three people are capable of such work: Park Yoong Moo, So Chum Jae, and Chun Seung Sae. The moment she mentions Seung Sae, the prince knows he’s the culprit, for the man was one of the witnesses called upon to testify against dead Heung Bok!
Na Chul Joo’s also has his men investigating things on their own for Park Moon Soo. They find out the western gang has a shadow man who meets regularly with none other than Chun Seung Sae. So if they catch the assassin, they’ll be able to figure out the mastermind. Unfortunately, Kim Taek’s man finds the drunk forger first, and orders him to destroy all evidence of his acts before skipping out of town. That night, Chun Seung Sae follows his orders and is on his way out when he is intercepted by Prince Lee Sun, Chae Je Gong and Ji Dam. At first, Seung Sae fights back, but when the prince disarms him, someone else shoots an arrow at them. Lee Sun throws himself to protect Ji Dam and gets hurt in return. Seung Sae uses that moment of distraction to run away but gets shot in the back and dies before the prince can get a name out of him.
The shadow man is about to kill Ji Dam too when Na Chul Joo arrives on the scene and stops him. The assassin manages to escape, but not before Na Chul Joo cuts him on the face, a cut that may give him a scar under the left eye.
The prince and the others return to Ji Dam’s secret place, for he can’t get treated at the palace by a doctor if he wants to keep his activities secret. More than being angry at losing his lead, Lee Sun is angry another life was lost and is scared that, as he uncovers this conspiracy, more people will die. For to him, every life is just as important as his own. And though he’s going to continue with the investigation, he tells Ji Dam to stay out of it from now on.
Park Moon Soo wonders whether the forger only did Heung Bok’s documents, or if he had time to do something else. His suspicions prove right for the assassin not only had Seung Sae forge Heung Bok’s papers, but also a copy of the Maenge itself!
When he returns to the palace, Lee Sun finds his father waiting for him. As soon as the king sees that Lee Sun’s hurt, his paternal instincts surface and he wants to know who did it to him. Lee Sun tells him it is those who are threatening the king and made him pick Gye Hee as minister of Military Affairs who shot him. King Yeongjo pretends not to know what he’s talking about, and shows him it’s because Gye Hee’s an excellent worker that he picked him for the job. He then asks Lee Sun what he would do in his place. Lee Sun answers that he will continue with his investigation until the truth is revealed. Still playing the innocent card, King Yeongjo tells his son to let him know should he come up with any new piece of information. The prince readily agrees, but in his private quarters we find him brewing with repressed anger.
Prince Lee Sun is still trying to figure out the meaning of Heo Jung Woon’s bloody message “Whabootado” when minister Chae Je Gong enters to tell him the arrows that were shot at them came from their own military office, and there’s still no sign of Heung Bok’s sketchbook. Unfortunately, finding out what Whabootado means is not the only thing of import to him—he needs to also find out how all of his secret information is leaking.
King Yeongjo has called Kim Taek over to ask him why he’s attempted to assassinate the prince and demands the assassin’s head. And Kim Taek better hurry if he wants to keep his head on his shoulders for much longer.
That same day, Ji Dam’s father asks Woon Shim to hide Ji Dam with her as a gisaeng. The moment her transformation is over, Ji Dam seeks out Heo Jung Woon’s former gisaeng lover only to find her room ransacked. Ji Dam deduces immediately that she was kidnapped and proceeds to search her place. And in her drawers she discovers Heung Bok’s sketchbook!
Lee Sun is now at the military office under the pretense of having a firing test with the troops. But really, he’s there to find the assassin whose face was cut by Na Chul Joo. During the gun shooting trial, it turns out only one of the military officers can’t find his mark—the scarred one. Apparently, that man can’t use a bow either, though he’s good with his fists. But when Lee Sun checks his fingerprints, they’re hyper-calloused. Looks like someone’s been training quite hard to get better at the bow and arrow. So is he truly that bad, or is he pretending?
Pressed for time, the assassin makes his move and sends the Soh ministers a secret message telling them he has the Maenge and that he’s willing to trade for it. One of the Soh ministers decides to get his hand on it to exact his vengeance against the king. This incites Kim Moon Soo to meet with Kim Taek and let him know that the Maenge he has is a forgery. When he realizes this, Kim Taek is furious. Kim Taek meets immediately with Kang Pil Jae, the assassin. Kim Taek demands the original Maenge back, but Pil Jae uses it as leverage so Kim Taek and his faction can’t cut him and his gang off whenever he’s done with them.
Having found the precious sketchbook, Ji Dam decides she needs to meet with Prince Lee Sun. She’s found out that, before his death, Heung Bok drew the portraits of a number of people from the Noh faction, including the prince’s father-in-law. Lee Sun and Chae Je Gong wonder if he could be the one behind the leaks, which would imply the prince’s own wife is implicated as well.
Lee Sun therefore calls his wife over and asks her to find something better to do than have him tailed. She retorts he needs to stay with the palace girls if he wants to have some fun instead of bringing in a strange, and he responds that she needs to get her mind out of the gutter. When Lee Sun leaves, it is clear that she has feelings for him but is too proud to show them.
Later, King Yeongjo meets up with Kim Taek again and threatens the latter to provide him with the assassin’s head soon or die himself. Kim Taek reveals then that the Maenge is now unfortunately in the assassin’s hand, which complicates matters quite a bit. The news seems to have unhinged the king quite a bit and he calls Moon Soo over to ask him to get the Maenge for him. He pleads with the minister for help, for he needs the Maenge to rule properly and have a chance to protect his people properly. But Moon Soo doesn’t trust the king anymore and tells him he should have been an actor instead of a king.
That night, the servants are preparing the prince’s sleeping quarters. One of them looks shifty, however, and conceals a knife up her sleeve. At that very same moment, the prince is going over Heung Bok’s sketchbook once again and realizes Chinese characters have been written in it in code format (“Googyul”). That is the key to Heo Jung Woon’s riddle: Hwabootado isn’t a knife but is instead located in the art center. Unfortunately, Kang Pil Jae is listening in on him…
…and he reports immediately to Kim Taek who throws him a knife like the one the servant had and orders him to kill both Ji Dam and the prince!
When Ji Dam finally returns to the gibang, a bunch of soldiers suddenly enter and catch her on the presmise. Thankfully, she and Woo Shim are quick-witted and play dumb, saying the portrait might look like her, but that the soldier is wrong. But the soldier isn’t fooled and orders Ji Dam to serve him that night (despite being on duty).
So Ji Dam finds herself serving the soldier. The dirty man is ready to put his paws all over her when Woon Shim interrupts him: the gibang is now closed. Angered, the soldier storms outside only to find prince Lee Sun waiting for his night of fun, and the soldiers are forced to leave. Lee Sun finds Ji Dam still shaken, though she puts on a brave face. However, since the gibang is no longer safe for her, Lee Sun asks her to go to the art center with him.
On their way to the art center, Lee Sun and Ji Dam suddenly find themselves surrounded by armed men. Though Lee Sun manages to defend both himself and Ji Dam quite well, there’s only so much one man can do against many. Thankfully, Na Chul Joo (there’s no doubt it’s him) and his eastern gang come to save the day, and both Lee Sun and Ji Dam take that opportunity to flee.
When they reach the art center, Lee Sun examines Heung Bok’s paintings, for Hwabootado actually stands for “Ban Chado,” the painting Heung Bok did of a royal ceremony. And in that painting must be the culprit…
Thoughts and Conjectures
I still find the story visually quite appealing, the acting amazing, and the mystery still very much present. I would do with some of the flashbacks however, as they sometimes tend to rehash information we already know or have pieced together and therefore slow the story down. Though the fights are very realistic, I feel they lack a certain oomph to really make my heart skip a beat and make my adrenaline level spike (perhaps I’ve been too brainwashed by Hollywood?).
My favorite character now is Ji Dam’s father. I absolutely love him—he’s so forward thinking and evidently adores his only daughter. And he’s not stupid: he knows that no matter what he does or says (short of locking her up), she’s going to do what her heart tells her to, so why not help her be as safe as he can make her?
Ji Dam’s transformation into a gisaeng was fun to watch:
I don’t know about you, but King Yeongjo is definitely scaring me by now (the freaky background music when he loses it in front of Moon Soo doesn’t help either). I’m starting to wonder if this drama isn’t reversing the “traditional” roles of the mentally unstable prince with that of the king (another plausible reason for having a father decide to kill his own son, and in a terribly cruel way to boot). Unless the writer is going with the hypothesis that insanity is genetic and the prince will degenerate later on as well (thereby precipitating his death)?
I guess there’s only one way to find out: watch the next episodes!