"It isn’t a crime to use deceit as a strategy, whether it's in battle or in court. Why should I be criticized for that?" Lee In Im is matter-of-fact and totally unrepentant. Choi manages to get himself under control, in part because of some direct words from Seonggye. He lowers his sword and storms away with a snarl. "You did very well,” In Im tells Seonggye with a proud smile and no small measure of relief.
JD is visiting Seonggye now, for the first time in quite a while. "It will all be over soon," JD says with confidence. There will be huge noise in the court about Choi’s deceit-induced resignation, and with Lee In Im so ill, "Choi will have a chance to counterattack soon"...and he’s right; at the next council meeting Choi’s allies make a big stink about it. To no avail. At least not immediately. But the meeting gets way out of hand. Im Gyeongmi, who holds Choi’s title now, is running the show and he’s much more argumentative and impatient than Lee In Im was. Not only do the generals who support Choi walk out, but even In Im’s nephew Ha Ryun walks out in frustration over Im’s overagressiveness.
Im and Yeom Heungbang report to Lee In Im like they’re supposed to. The three wonder how Choi found out about the tuberculosis, and decide somebody should be watching him to see who might be helping him. They choose Seonggye for the job, because he’s still in the capital and because this will be an acid test of his loyalty, since he used to be close political allies with Choi.
Seonggye gets the word and isn’t happy about it at all. But Bangwon can tell that it’s a loyalty test and tells him he has to do it, like it or not.
Evening: as Choi is meeting with generals Bae and Byeon to discuss the situation, he notices a shadow outside the room. The intruder is quickly caught. It’s Bangwon’s associate Jo Yeonggyu. (Subtitling calls him “aide,” so I guess he’s employed by Bangwon.) A terrible job of spying; couldn’t Seonggye find anybody better? Choi is furious and heads right to Seonggye’s house, with his servants dragging Jo along as proof. "I thought of you as a son," Choi tells Seonggye, and proceeds to give him a good scolding. Seonggye apologizes but it doesn’t seem to do much good. Choi basically tells him he’s done with him, and turns around and heads home.
From a distance, Lee In Im’s bodyguard has watched all this unfold; he goes back home and reports it to Lee. Lee wonders whether or not he can finally trust Seonggye unconditionally now.
Bangwon: “Choi didn’t seem to know Jo got caught on purpose.” JD: “Then Lee In Im wouldn’t know either.” Well how about that—it was all a ruse! HA!! How great is this!? JD figures it will be enough for In Im to finally let his guard down.
The next day: King Wu has summoned Im Gyeongmi and Yeom Heungbang and ordered them to cough up some of their personal wealth to the depleted royal treasury. He’s all bent out of shape because he hasn’t been able to hold banquets like he wants to. (As in, his personal parties.) Yeom immediately suggests that he not have so many banquets—which is totally the wrong thing to say. Then Im says they’ll go discuss it with the other officials—which is an even worse thing to say. The king gets so ticked at them, he goes to Lee In Im and complains. “It’s not because they lack loyalty,” In Im tells him; “they just lack experience as ministers.” Later on we see Im and Yeom commiserating because they just gave up half their personal wealth. But Yeom isn’t worried about it: “We'll just have to gather more." And he’ll start with teaching Jo Ban a lesson for busting him; he’s going to get Jo’s land back again. Im looks doubtful about the wisdom of that.
Baekju: Nam Eun has taken some of the royal horses for a walk into the countryside, to find them some grazing lands. But now look at this, here comes Yeom’s squad of club-wielding servants. They rudely shove Nam aside...
...on their way to Jo Ban’s estate. They trash the place and severely beat Jo. Nam has followed them and steps in to try to stop them, and shockingly he manages to whup the head servant and then another one (where did THAT come from? Who’d have expected it) but the others gang up on him he ends up getting beaten as well.
Evening, outside the royal jail: "You should have just fed the horses. Why did you interfere?" JD has come and bailed Nam out. Cost a pretty penny to do it. Nam wants to go kill that head servant’s head, but talks him out of it. “Kill the source of evil," as in, the whole corrupt country. Nam is shocked by the treasonous tone, but he's intrigued.
Days later: Lee In Im finally trusts Seonggye. Asks him if he’ll assume command of guarding the palace.
Hey, the king's drunk again, big surprise. He wonders what Im and Yeom will do if Lee In Im dies. "They're so greedy and heartless...they will act like they own this world. This won't do." So he heads straight to Choi Yeong’s home. "Father was a bit mischievous," he tells Choi, trying to excuse In Im’s deceit. And he adds, "I miss your nagging." Tells him he’s not happy with Im and Yeom, and says, "Sharpen your sword since I might be calling you soon." Choi looks very uncomfortable with this.
Wow, busy night: Now JD has come to see Choi. Wonders why Choi hasn’t revealed Lee In Im’s illness...and then informs Choi that Jo Ban was beaten again and his land retaken.
Next day: Look at this—Jo Ban has rounded up his own men; they’ve stormed into Yeom Heungbang’s home in Baekju, beaten Yeom’s men unconscious, and Jo Ban has killed the head servant! Says he's going to ask the king for forgiveness now.
Lee In Im gets word of it and goes bananas. A former minister committing a murder—this has become huge. “Your corruption will be revealed and you will be impeached." he tells Im and Yeom. And then tells them to cover it up by spinning into a treasonous conspiracy led Choi Yeong! Which shocks them both; this is going awfully far, even for In Im. They balk, so he screams at them. "Do it!! It will scare people more. A minister has to be crazy when he shows his power."
So Im pitches it to the king. Jo was going to assassinate you and Yeom’s servant was spying on him and got caught, so Jo killed him. We’re investigating to find the ringleader, he adds. Is the king really buying this from the guy he was just complaining about?
Bangwon and JD can see exactly what’s developing. They realize Choi is in danger, and they tell Seonggye, who goes straight to Choi’s house, and also sends a message to Jiran at their army camp.
Evening: Alone, Choi walks into the palace complex. Seonggye is on guard; Choi snubs him and heads in to see the king. And guess what, he has a surprise: a letter that Jo Ban wrote and gave him after he killed that servant. It’s a message to the king about exactly what happened and why. And stressing that there’s no treasonous plot; it’s all a deception. Finally the light bulb goes on in the kings’ head and he wants to arrest Im, Yeom, and Lee In Im too. But who will do it? Those guys are so powerful and can muster plenty of muscle to protect them. Choi wants to do it, but the king knows they can’t match their strength. And then Seonggye walks in. Very inappropriate...but he kneels. "From this moment on, I will protect you and this country with Choi Yeong. I will gather my private soldiers and eliminate Lee In Im, Im Gyeongmi and Yeom Heungbang. Please give me your approval!" The king’s eyes widen and Choi gasps.
Couldn't agree more. This was the best episode yet. Right up there with the good ones in IYSS and GKS. One great scene after another. The fake spying, totally fooled me and it cracked me up laughing. It was like, How could they have given the job to somebody so inept? And it was a total JD plot. Loved it. More with JD and Nam Eun, those two guys have such good chemistry. And now it looks like Lee In Im is coming apart as he desperately tries to keep his power base intact.
And the guy playing Im Gyeongmi, he's another one who's doing a great job. Perfect choice for the part. I don't know what happens to him after this in real history but I'd hate to see him leave now because he's so much fun to watch. He and Yeom doing the stooge/flunky/thug thing, it's very, very entertaining.
And I even got an answer to my wondering about whether or not that well-field land system could possibly help Goryeo. JD comes back and says no, it wouldn't work for Goryeo "but it will work in the new country I am going to create." I probably annoy some of you guys with the arcane policy things I tend to focus on...but I loved that they came back to the topic and answered the question. Very rigorous and thorough writing, to be so attentive to that kind of detail.
If all this keeps up, this series is going to end up being one of the greats.
P.S. But exhausting, you're 100 percent right. It's a shame this episode came at the end of a four-episode weekend, because people may have been a little too worn down to fully enjoy it. Four a week is way, way too much.