There may be a delay in posting this week's episode summary. I always post them on Friday night, and tonight's is in draft form...but a bad storm swept through the NW suburbs this afternoon and 80,000 people are without power, including me.
I'm not sure what I'll find when I get home from work, but the summary needs the usual amount of editing so it may be a while before it's finished and posted. Bear with me--it's coming ASAP.
I hate to do this, guys, but I'm gonna have to push this episode for another week. I had no power for two days, and there was a tree downed in my parents' front yard and lots of stuff for me to deal with all over. Nobody was hurt, no serious damage (although darn it that was a nice tree--ten-inch trunk and it snapped like a twig, right at the base), but I've gotten behind on everything.
So please forgive yet another episode being pushed back a week; unless there's another act of God it will not happen again. The 56 summary will be posted here this coming Friday.
Come on, you two boys, grow up and settle it like adults...But no; the duel begins. Gongmin is a better swordsman than he was back in Yanjing, we can see that immediately and so can SD. They take a few runs at each other, and Gongmin gets a slash in that puts a tiny tear in SD's robe. Is that a victory? Doesn't seem to be...but it does stop them for the moment. Gongmin starts talking. Says he's heard all sorts of rumors of SD committing adultery with officials' consorts in return for political favors, "and that some even bestowed you their daughters to gain riches and fame." SD is horrified. "The only power I have," he shouts, "was bestowed upon me by Your Majesty!" And you can take it back whenever you wish. Then it's back-and-forth about the shrine, much the same as before. Eventually SD gets to the bottom line: deal with Liaodong, move the capital, clear out your political enemies and reform the government. "After you accomplish all such things, it shall never be too late to complete your shrine, Sire!" Gongmin steps forward and puts his sword to SD's throat. "Were it not for Princess Noguk, I would not have achieved a single thing!" I'm so tormented by her death, "I dream and plot and anguish over my own death every single day! What is the use of keeping on living? What joy would life bring me?!" SD fires right back, "The joy your people can give you, Sire!" Wow, good answer. He adds, With everything you've done for me, "It was Your Majesty who made a decent person out of me! So how could I fail to understand your despair and anguish for losing Her Majesty?" Says he'll build him the shrine and it will be magnificent. Just not right now. Gongmin glares at him...and tosses his sword aside. And now he's pleading rather than ordering. "I give you my word. Once we complete the shrine, I shall become the ruler you always wanted me to be. And I shall follow your every wish." But SD shakes his head. "You cannot, Sire." And then says of the authority that Gongmin granted him, "it was not done merely to answer your every whim, Sire!" That is a brave, brave thing for him to say. He kneels before his king and presents him the sword he's holding. As in, kill me if you wish. Gongmin takes the sword and immediately backswings...and then shouts, "I shall take back every and all authority I have ever given you!" Throws the sword down in frustration and storms off. Wow.
SD goes back into the temple and kneels before Noguk's portrait. "Your Majesty. Is this what you wish for?" Well of course it isn't. "A single shrine is beclouding our country's future!"
"Summon the two directors immediately! I shall assume the reins of power from this moment on." It's very late at night now; Gongmin has returned home in a snit and wants to see Lee Chun Bu and Lee In Im. But Eunuch Choi has to tell him it won't do any good. "If you are to summon Their Excellencies, you must first gain consent from the Prime Minister." Now that can't possibly be true, can it? Apparently so, as Gongmin learns to his shock (and as we learn to ours). "You even entrusted him the royal seal, so you cannot do anything without his consent." Gongmin is aghast at the corner he's painted himself into. "Are you telling me that, despite this crown on my head, I must gain his consent to reign as this country's ruler?!" Yep, that's it exactly. "What shall I do to find a solution?" Choi doesn't want to come right out and says it..."But unless Shin Don steps down of his own volition, there seems to be no other way, Sire." Gongmin's eyes are darting back and forth like crazy, his mind racing. Choi leaves the room, and whispers something into the ear of Hong Ryun, who's standing there in the hallway. Hong gasps. What was that about?
Choi and two other eunuchs head over to SD's home.
Hong Ryun and another junior eunuch in the youth palace guards are in the room with Gongmin now, as he sits and eats a late-night meal in his nightclothes. The other Eunuch is named Han An; he's new. Gongmin motions the pair forward...they're reluctant, but he barks at them so they move forward and sit down...and he offers them some wine. They don't drink, at least Hong doesn't, not yet, but he says "I could handle a sip or two, Sire" when Gongmin offers it. So he pours Hong a drink and with a hearty laugh says they'll be drinking buddies now!
Choi is kneeling before SD, and tells him that "His Majesty has murderous intents against you." SD says without hesitation that he'll be returning the royal seal in the morning. Meaning, the king has nothing to worry about any more. Choi looks at him in horror. "That cannot be!" Huh? "The moment you return that seal to him, a crimson tide shall swelter the palace." Now what does that mean? "His Majesty...has fallen into derangement." Well we can all see that...but wait, it's not just what we can see. "Every night, His Majesty summons young boys...So slovenly is the spectacle, I do not dare repeat..." SD goes bananas and orders Choi dragged out of the room for suggesting such things. But Choi doesn't back down. "Your Highness! I have been serving His Majesty for close to two decades. How could I possibly not know His Majesty's every move? His Majesty is completely deranged!" SD cannot possibly disregard him, even as outlandish as this all sounds.
Now Gongmin and the two eunuchs are having a great old time drinking up. All three are well-loosened-up by the alcohol. Oh wait, they're not alone any more; three of the consorts are there too (all but Hyebi). And now Ikbi accepts Gongmin's offer of a drink...
"...and is drinking the night away with them?!" Oh, there's Hyebi; she's gone right to the QD and apparently woke her up to tell her what's happening. Hyebi adds, "Ikbi's demeanor is unconscionable." Which the QD says she already knows about. Then Hyebi proposes that they summon "that lady His Majesty met outside the palace"--meaning Ban Ya. "It might help His Majesty regain..." It's a good idea, really, and generous of Hyebi to suggest it, given her own position. "I am looking all over for her," the QD answers immediately, knowing it might well help Gongmin's state of mind. Lady Kim is in the room with them, listening intently but saying nothing.
Gongmin finally passes out. But now Ikbi is pouring drinks to the two young eunuchs and being awfully friendly with them. And now the third consort, I believe that's Shinbi, she's starting to get friendly too. The fourth one, that would be Jeongbi, she's a little young for all this and just sort of sits there looking uncomfortable.
SD is sitting there alone, trying to sort out what he's just heard.
Eunuch Choi has left SD and Won Hyeon escorts him out of the yard. Choi has something to tell him: that Gongmin will be taking a trip in the next few weeks to visit the tombs of Kings Gwangjong and Munjong. "Security will be feeble, so do not squander this opportunity." Won's eyes bug out and he looks at Choi in shock. "What are you trying to suggest?" But Choi knows who he's talking to--as in, someone who will act. "Carve these words on your mind. Only a fatal blow can deal with a rabid dog. Let it survive, and many people will be harmed." He walks back into the night, letting loose a surprisingly evil laugh!
Now Ikbi is running around the palace grounds with Hong Ryun and giggling. They look at each other like, well you know, and then rush off, I guess to her place.
Next day: Well look at this, SD has shown up at the palace with the royal seal! So he's doing it after all, despite Choi's warning. Lee In Im spots him there and goes right to Lee Chun Bu. "We must stop him! Should the Regent step down, only death awaits us all!" Well that's odd, considering how In Im was talking about ditching him in just the previous episode! Sheesh!
"What is this?" Gongmin knows darned well what it is; it's the royal seal. SD has it placed on the table in front of him. Gongmin takes one look at it. "Take it back." Huh?! Gongmin just said last night he wanted it returned! "I entrusted all state affairs to my Prime Minister, so take it back." SD says he wasn't even aware the seal was given to him! Is that possible? Maybe...anyway, SD reminds Gongmin that he never once took any action without getting his approval first. "You never did," Gongmin agrees. SD turns to leave. "If you decided to leave the seal to me," Gongmin says, "does not that imply you also should leave your post?" Gongmin laughs cynically as SD walks away without an answer.
Kim Sok Myeong goes and tells a disgusted QD about the seal being in SD's possession. "How contemptible! It is only natural Pyeonjo would prance around boasting such demeanor." Ugh, she is just one rant after another. He gave it back, lady!
SD tells the two Lees that he's submitting his resignation so that Gongmin can fully assume power again. Chun Bu begs him not to--"Should you step down now, everything we accomplished would be in vain!"--and asks him at least to wait until the capital is moved. "If you leave your post now, it will be hard for His Majesty to protect his throne."
"Hard to protect my throne?!" Wow, that was fast; the two Lees went straight to Gongmin and pitched him the same argument. All of those nobles who had to give back their land are making more trouble lately, we learn, and there are rumors of Choi Young secretly training troops on his own, even though he was demoted. Gongmin is angry that Chun Bu would imply he's can't protect his own throne, but then Chun Bu drops the hammer: "If you wish to continue the shrine construction, you still need the Regent's support. Should rumors about you abandoning the Regent leak outside, our people will not take this lying down!" Give SD the seal back, Chun Bu bravely says, and just focus on the shrine for now. And he's saying it without any support from Lee In Im, who seems reluctant to say anything.
As the Lees walk away from the palace, talking agitatedly about trying to survive this political crisis, back inside Gongmin fumes. "He first talks about stepping down, and then uses Lee Chun Bu to press me behind my back." Not true, but in his present state of mind he assumes it is.
Council meeting: Everyone's gathered. Gongmin marches in and walks up the steps to his throne. Glares contemptibly at them all and sits down. Then tells them he's decided to suspend the shrine's construction! Because "our people's suffering finds no quelling," he says. That sets the room buzzing approvingly. Then he adds, "I now plan to rule on my own until the construction will start again." That sets the room buzzing again, but not approvingly. Eunuch Choi announces that Gongmin will first make that trip to the kings' tombs, and upon return will assume full power again. All the officials can do is offer the usual "Your grace is immeasurable!" shouts...which, oddly enough, are started by Lee In Im.
"'Your grace is immeasurable'?! Are you out of your mind?" Looks like a rift between Lee Chun Bu and Lee In Im. "That is where the tide is heading!", In Im argues; "Everyone wishes to see the Prime Minister step down." And now they're shouting at each other.
Choi Young and Secretary Gyeong are visiting Lee In Bok again, talking about trying to impeach SD. Choi and Gyeong are eager to try, but Lee knows that the only issue that SD and the king disagree on is the shrine construction. If that gets resolved, the two will probably reconcile in short order. Still too risky right now, he says; we need to wait a little longer. So his two guests leave. Choi assures Gyeong that Lee Seong Gye "is on our same boat." Then Gyeong mutters that "There is word Pyeonjo is scheming treason" rather than give up power (baloney!) and that he and the king will be having a big fight soon. "We must take that opportunity and rid ourselves of both at the same time!" Gyeong doesn't even care who replaces Gongmin. "Ha! Royals come in abundant numbers. We can just choose one amongst them." Yikes.
Well here's an interesting scene: Choseon is sitting before the QD! Will there be an apology for the horrible beating? Apparently not. The QD looks very uncomfortable but won't acknowledge going overboard. Anyway..."Do you wish to see him, Your Highness?" "He is my only grandson, so why would I not?" Choseon tells her she's looking for the kid (lie)...but when she asks about bringing Ban Ya to the palace for a visit too, well, no deal. "We shan't allow such an unvirtuous specimen in this palace!" But she had just told Hyebi she wanted to find her! Ugh.
Choseon leaves; Lady Kim follows her out and warns her that the QD intends to raise Monino here in the palace.
Now it's lunchtime for the QD and Deoknyeong has joined her. Tells her host that it would be better for Gongmin to father "a legitimate heir from one of his consorts," of course...But with Gongmin showing no interest in his them...maybe it's best to turn to someone else in the royal family. The QD snaps at her. "That is inadmissible! I have no intention of being ousted from this palace!" Oh, that is very interesting.
Choseon returns home and tells Won Hyeon about her visit. Won says they have to act now. "Before His Majesty heads to the tombs in pilgrimage, we must bring Monino here, and send him to the palace." And he and two of his men immediately mount horses and head off, presumably to Gaetae Temple...
...oh wait, not to Gaetae. They're out in the woods now, in the middle of nowhere...and here's some sort of military training camp! Combat training and archery practice. What's going on? Won goes to the guy who appears to be in charge. "On the way from the king's pilgrimage, we shall ambush him, and execute our plans."
"Does the prime minister know of this?" Lee Chun Bu has just been told something by an underling named Gi Hyeon. Hey, isn't he one of the two men who went to the training camp with Won Hyeon? "This must remain a secret. If he learns of this, he will try to stop His Majesty's retinue." So it's about the assassination plot. Wow, why is Gi telling Lee about this?
Choi Young is dressed incognito, under a low-brimmed hat, strolling through the market. Surreptitiously strikes up a conversation with someone named Lee In. Hey, that's the other guy who went with Won! "What is he scheming?", Choi asks. Lee tells him...and asks, "Should I tell His Majesty right now?" Wow, it seems like both of them are double agents, sort of. "Even if you tell him now," Choi replies, "he will not believe you." Tells Lee to get word to LSG for now. "Should anything befall His Majesty, it would be treason, so it will never be too late to deal with them later." Oh boy this is getting weird....
Gaetae Temple: Deokun and Auntie are outside frantically worried about Ban Ya. And now we see why. Inside, Ban Ya is desperately clutching her child. Choseon has come here and wants to take Monino to the palace. Ban Ya says she has to meet the king first, or "I cannot let Monino go." Choseon fires back rudely, "How dare you covet dreams that will never be possible? Would His Majesty feel anything for a lowly slattern like you?" Good heavens that was harsh. Park Seobang is in the room with them and Choseon orders him to take the boy from Ban Ya. Ultimately he does, and despite Ban Ya's and Deokun's and Auntie's frantic tries to stop it, Choseon and Park head away, leaving a devastated Ban Ya behind. "Do not forget your mother, Monino!", she cries out.
Choseon on horseback holds the baby as Park leads the horse through the countryside home. "No reason for her to weep," Choseon says of the devastated Ban Ya. "That was her destiny." Very cruel.
Nighttime: SD is outside staring at the sky. Won is there with him. "Are you awaiting word from His Majesty? His Majesty shall never summon you again." And he may be right.
Same night: Choseon has brought the baby straight to see the QD. Looks just like his father, the QD says, beaming at her grandson. Wants to hold him, but "He is still very bashful," Choseon says, and the QD nods; she understands. Then Choseon asks her if she can raise the boy herself, at her home! The QD is skeptical: "Would someone without children like you be able to do so? Choseon's stunning answer: "Being pregnant for the first time, I think I can now understand what motherly love really means." Doink! The QD is momentarily shocked...and then chuckles. "Ohh...right. Then again, nobody would dare call Pyeonjo a monk. Many moons have passed since he renounced the cloth." Choseon is a little uncomfortable, but still smiling and proud. But wait, isn't pregnancy a mortal danger for her?
Same evening: Hey, it's Lee Seong Gye! Visiting the palace and getting congratulations from Gongmin for his great work up in Liaodong. But apparently, as LSG explains, they couldn't hold the territory. "We lacked troops, so we had to renounce our Liaodong conquest, and withdraw back to the Northeast Region." Gongmin says that was good enough for now--that it delivered an appropriately intimidating message to Ming. "Should we ever decide to invade," LSG answers, "we could conquer Liaodong." But then Gongmin changes the subject; says I summoned you here for something even more important. Just name it, LSG answers; "I am prepared to walk into the flames of dissolution for your sake!" Gongmin nods and thanks him...but doesn't give any details for now. "For the time being, enjoy some rest in the capital."
LSG leaves the palace, and on his way out is met by Eunuch Choi. "Commander--You are the only one His Majesty trusts. Whatever happens, you must protect him to the end." LSG turns back and looks at the palace...
...and inside, Gongmin smiles to himself, looking reassured, so Choi must be right about that.
Well Choseon got her wish! The baby is at her house.
Shin Don is shocked: "How could you give them Monino? He is her only flesh and blood." He's angry that the baby was taken from its mother. "The same goes for His Majesty," Choseon fires back...and yeah, that's true too (assuming it's his kid). SD wants the boy sent back to Gaetae, but Choseon's answer troubles him: "Should anything happen to His Majesty, wouldn't Monino inherit his throne?" Now why should she say any such thing? Horrified, he realizes that something's up. "What on earth are you people scheming?" Come on, she says, without admitting anything; "You don't realize how many people wish for his demise." And everyone wants a stronger, more stable king, she says, not flinching as he gets angrier and angrier. With the king getting his authority back, she says, he's getting stronger and stronger and the officials are flocking behind him. Of course they are, he answers; he's the king! But she says "You still don't realize it? You are the only opposition His Majesty has left. Once he deals with you, he will become our absolute ruler." And then what? What will he do with all that power? "Will he use it for the sake of our people?!" Well if the shrine situation is any indication....
Days later: Officials are lined up outside a palace gate to bid Gongmin farewell. He's off on his trip to visit the former kings' tombs. Inside the gates, the youth palace guard eunuchs are lined up awaiting his emergence from inside the palace. Master Bou is there too, waiting, with Jihyo. Guess they're coming along as well.
The king is paying respects to his mother before he leaves. Makes her (and Princess Deoknyeong too, she's there) very happy by telling her that "After I honor our ancestors, I plan to assume the reins of power again." He leaves them, finds Bou and Jihyo outside and thanks them for joining him..and they're off. Not a very large group, is it? And it doesn't look like there are any regular soldiers! Just the eunuchs. In fact, the entire party is only thirteen people! (That's ridiculous.)
No sooner do they leave then Lee Saek goes to Lee In Bok and expresses his concern about the lack of a proper guard for the king. Lee is remarkably unconcerned; says Gongmin must have it all under control. But clearly the answer surprises Saek. Why doesn't In Bok care more?
Lee Chun Bu is pacing back and forth in his office, worried, and angry at Lee In Im. "You switch allegiance as often as a slattern changes her petticoat!" But In Im says he's just going with the flow. "That is how the world turns around, what can you do?"
Oh no wonder Lee In Bok is so calm: here comes Lee Seong Gye with some of his men! "You need not worry" he tells In Bok, speaking about the king's safety. "My troops are waiting in ambush all around." How about that!
As the king's small party gallops through the countryside, we see a black-clad squad waiting to intercept them. (It's daytime! Black?)
SD is fuming mad at Won Hyeon. But Won doesn't back down. "Didn't you escape from your hermitage for our people's sake?!" Just watch and wait, Won says; "After we install Monino in His Majesty's stead, you can be his Regent." It's too late to stop this, he says.
But SD will try. He charges out, mounts a horse and heads off by himself.
Gongmin has reached one of the tombs. There's a small shrine there and he's paying his respects.
SD heads down the same country path, galloping madly to reach the king's party...
...while Won sits there with a fanatic determination in his voice and face. "We won't move to Seogyeong with him as our ruler! In Seogyeong we will erect new dwellings!"
Wow, what a terrific episode this was! Start to finish, it was jam-packed. The duel scene, how could I doubt this series...no they didn't turn it into some kind of historical silliness; it just ended up with them confronting each other about all of the big issues. The setting was great, in the darkness with just the two of them like that. It was all set up for dramatic purposes, of course, but it was great. And SD saying You didn't give me that power so I could be your flunky, and reminding Gongmin about the people's happiness, that was a very well-written sequence and showed what a brave character he was.
And give the series credit, it isn't ducking the ugly stuff in real history about what Gongmin was getting into after Noguk died. I doubt they'll be very explicit about showing it, but they're not avoiding the ugly history here. How great is that.
Another thing I liked was the QD snapping at Princess Deoknyeong. "I have no intention of being ousted from this palace!" All of a sudden. Really enjoyed that because it was one of those psychological sort of moments were you see what's motivating a character. She was so scarred by what happened to her with her husband--understandably--that now we can see it's why she's acting the way she is about Monino. Nice piece of writing.
Wow, Choseon sure can be ruthless...I wouldn't have expected such callousness from her to yank that baby out of its mother's arms like she did. And then to say Ban Ya shouldn't cry because this is her destiny, wow. And after that she asks to raise the kid and says that her pregnancy has given her maternal insight? Boy oh boy, her own kid, well you might as well sign that kid up for therapy right now. That is going to be one rough childhood.
But speaking of which...isn't pregnancy supposed to be a mortal danger for her? Remember that's how she knew so much about Noguk's difficulties. They need to address that right away in the next episode; it didn't make sense.
There was only one thing I didn't like in the episode, something I've harped about before: the king's traveling party consists of a whopping thirteen people. Give me a break! That's absolutely ridiculous. Funny thing is, in Gongmin's present mental state, they could have written something into the story about him insisting on a small party for some irrational reason and made it fit. But the king just galloping through the countryside like that with virtually no protection, that's just dumb.
But that aside, terrific episode, easily one of the best of the series.
P.S. Oh yeah, one other thing I didn't like: So they send a squad of assassins out to kill Gongmin, and of course they're wearing all-black--what else would k-historical assassins wear--but these guys are out there in broad daylight! They couldn't be more conspicuous, out there in the wilderness like that. Not exactly rocket scientists, are they.