As our daydream continues we find Hae Soo in the clutches of the Dog Wolf of Goryeo. He refuses to release her and challenges his brother, the 8th prince, with a steely stare. The 8th prince lowers his sword. He has no wish to fight with his brother. In a trembling voice, she tells Wang So that she had only lost her way in the woods. The 8th prince assures him that they will find another assassin. Wang So pushes Hae Soo away from him and toward Wang Wook. She lifts a trembling hand and points… “There were dead men over there.” Both of the prince’s eyes widen. They have found the trail of the assassins again!!
Back at the palace, the crown prince questions his own decision to have Wang So replace him for the ritual. The astrologer protests that Wang So made his own choice. The Crown Prince worries about Wang So’s injury. He regrets having put his brother in danger.
Wang Wook, Wang So, and Hae Soo stand in the middle of the bamboo forest. They do their best to pierce the darkness of the forest with their eyes but no matter how they try they cannot locate any of the murdered assassins. Wang So demands that Hae So repeats what she saw. She protests that she knows what she saw. The men had been stabbed from behind. “They were here” she declares. Just as Wang So is losing patience, Wang Wook finds splattered blood at the base of a few bamboo trees. Wang Wook believes that the attack was well planned, especially since all the bodies have been removed from the forest floor. Wang Wook suggests they wait until daylight to search again and for now treating their wounds would be best. This frustrates Wang So even more and demonstrates clearly that Wang Wook has no idea how much Wang So had lost that night. He storms off leaving Wang Wook and Hae So alone in the forest. Hae Soo collapses and begins to cry. What did she do that was so wrong? Why does that man always want to kill her whenever they meet? At first, Wang Wook is a bit overwhelmed by the womanly display of emotion but soon a smile warms his face and he comforts Hae So while she cries like a child.
Back at the Palace, Queen Witch is taking yet another bath, post ritual assassination failure. She throws flowers and hits the water like a spoiled child. As her servants dress her, 3rd prince comes in to console his mother and reassure her that they will never be found out, as all the assassins are dead. They discuss how they were double-crossed and how the astrologer might be a bit difficult to read as well. The Witch asks her son to find out if Wang So really had learned martial arts but again is assured by the 3rd prince. No one ever came to visit him while he was in Shinju. (Is it just me or is their relationship a bit creepy?)
Wang So’s left arm is wounded from an assassin’s blade and his half sister Yeon Hwa attends to his wound. “This isn’t work for a princess”, he protests. “It’s not for a servant to do either” she retorts. She asks how long he will stay in Shinju. She would like for him to remain in Songak and learn from the scholars there. He says that he is not like Wang Wook. He prefers to catch animals in the mountains. She compliments his ability to hide his true feelings. She begins to wipe his face and there is an uncomfortable moment that one might expect when two exceptionally hot half-siblings faces are dangerously close to one another. (Did I say that out loud??) Wang So breaks the moment and stands to leave. Yeon Hwa has gathered her tray of medicine and bandages and just makes it to the door when Wang So speaks. “I have often wondered what kind of a woman you had become.” His statement is a combination of admiration and thanks, and she can only smile bashfully as she leaves Wang So alone in the room.
In a room at the 8th prince’s house, Hae Soo is receiving treatment from a servant as a worried Myung Hee looks on. “You could have been seriously injured, why were you there?” Lady Myung Hee interrogates. Hae Soo looks uncertainly at Prince Wang Wook and he shakes his head warding her away from telling his ailing wife the truth of the evening’s events. Hae Soo lies, “I got lost” and she manages a sheepish smile. She cheerfully says that she is lucky she is only a little hurt. It’s like a miracle. Wang Wook can only smile behind his wife’s back at Hae Soo’s embellishments. Myung Hee tells her to go and rest and she quickly seizes the chance to escape further interrogation. She jumps to her feet but Chae Ryung is not finished dressing her wound. It doesn’t matter to Hae Soo and she quickly scurries from the room. Once she is gone Myung Hee apologized to her husband for being a burden to him but he will not allow her to go on. He has never thought of Hae Soo as a burden. Quite the opposite, she is a source of happiness to him. It seems when others come to him they are asking many things of him but Hae Soo is not that way. “She is a breath of fresh air and I cannot wait to see her again.” A statement like that would get a slap on the back of the head from most wives but Myung He keeps her face almost frozen and thanks her husband for caring for her family. At first, you cannot tell if she is angry or hurt by his innocent yet thoughtless statements. She smiles at him but you can see the wheels turning in her head. What will she do with this new information?
On the short walk back to her quarters she encounters Wang So and asks an unsure “What now?” He slowly approaches her and suddenly she becomes an informational chatterbox of the events that she witnessed. None of the details are different. Everything is just the same as the first time she told the prince’s what she had witnessed. Wang So’s calm demeanor dissolves along with his patience for her chin music and he grabs her face in one hand to silence her. (What’s the deal with face grabbing?) He demands that she think harder. She must remember everything. Wang Wook rounds the corner to find Hae Soo once again in the grip of the Wolf Dog of Goryeo. Wang Wook gently tells his brother “enough” and the two men engage in a brief moment of wrist wrestling. Wang So roughly releases Hae Soo and she plops on the step with a frustrated frown. Suddenly her memory is shaken loose and she recalls the leader of the assassin group. He was wearing fur. All the other were dressed in black. She remembers clearly now. The brother’s eyes widen in recognition and Wang So asks if she saw the leaders face. She didn’t. But is that a good thing or a bad thing. For now, we don’t know. Wang So presses her. “Does anyone else know what you do?” She says that no one else is bothering her for the information, who else would know?’ Wang So instructs her to forget what she’s seen. Ahhhh, it’s a good thing she didn’t see a face, really really good. Wang Wook feels that she will be safer if no one knows what she’s seen but I don’t think that is the angle that Wang So is seeing it. “Can I go now?” she asks wearily while rolling her eyes at Wang So. As she leaves Wang So barks at her back “Don’t show up in front of me again.” This stops her in her tracks. She’s had enough. She turns and faces Wang So and flatly asks “What did I do wrong? You told him to kill me. You said you’d kill me yourself. Am I supposed to do nothing?” Wang So is incredulous. She continues… “Am I just supposed to die?” Her eyes accuse him of being completely unfair and it seems for a moment that he has felt those same words himself. Others had expected him to die and he didn’t. Wang Wook steps between them and Wang So begins to walk away but not before she can throw one more barb at him. “Is it a crime to want to live? Everyone wants to live. Why are you picking on me?” And now we know that Wang So has had those very thoughts. The memory is too much and he quickly leaves. She calls him a name to his back and then remembers herself and turns to Wang Wook with a regretful look.
Wang Wook lights candles in her room and suggests she leaves them lit as “bad dreams cannot remain in the light.” She asks if he has bad dreams, after all, he’s killed a man. He says he does not because he was only acting to protect his family. She listens carefully and wonders how he can be comfortable if he can still remember such things. She promises that she will not be a worry to him anymore and will do her best to take care of things on her own.
In the throne room, the next day the Crown Prince and Wang So stand before their father the King. He is being given a briefing, from the Crown Prince, on the events of last night. It seems the assassins were acrobatic performers in Songak and their bodies are being studied even now. The Crown Prince promises to find the assassins. The Kings attention turns to Wang So. He asks about his injury and Wang So minimizes the severity of his wound. Now the King wants to know why he stood in for the Crown Prince. He explains that the Crown Prince had saved his life 15 years prior and he wanted to repay him. He also asks to stay in Songak to continue the investigation of the assassination attempt. The King grants his request and tells the court astrologer to send word to the Kangs that Wang So will be staying in Songak longer than expected.
Back at the royal jjimjabong, the royal brothers (Dressed as Goryeo Power Rangers) have gathered once again for some drinks and gossip. And as per usual, their conversation turns to the 4th prince. They are finding it difficult to believe that he has not been instructed in martial arts considering his skillful performance at the ritual and ensuing sword fight. Wang Wook asks the 3rd prince if he didn’t chase the assassins the night before. The 3rd prince says he did but that he got lost along the way and missed them. The King arrives and his 6 sons bow to him. He notices the 10th princes shiner and wants to know who has been beating on his son. He confesses to a fight and the King immediately demands to know who he fought with.
News has reached Hae So that she will be punished but she doesn’t know how severely. The 10th prince arrives on a horse with attendants in tow. He announces that he has arrived with her punishment and after a little back and forth of who did what to who and why the 10th prince dismisses the servants so that he can have a private word with Hae Soo. He has trouble finding his words at first but then confesses that she is the first girl to ever fight with him. Considering his brother’s schoolyard instructions about romance, he is convinced that not only is she interested in him but that he is interested in her as well. She thanks him for keeping her from being punished and sarcastically invites him to come by anytime and she will fight with him without holding back. The 10th prince cannot believe what he is hearing. She’s invited him to drop by. The outcome is even better than he thought. He is so happy that he barely registers that she has left him standing alone with a goofy smile decorating his face.
The 13th prince (also a Wang Wook) Baek-ah, is sitting on the patio of a village tavern making drawings of the village life below him. A fight takes his interest and he rushes to the ringside to paint the pugilists in action. He suddenly realizes that that his brother, 14th prince Wang Jung, is one of the fighters. Wang Jung realizes that his brother has been painting the fight and now has what is the equivalent of photographic evidence that he’s dressed as a commoner and engaging in fights. 14th begs 13th to give him the picture. The grapple in the street and 14th eventually ends up taking the picture from his brother. He runs down the street with the pilfered drawing book and disappears into the crowd. His brother smiles after him, good-naturedly accepting his defeat.
The 13th prince had plans after his drawing excursion in town. He is now at the 8th prince’s residence playing music for Myung Hee. When his song is finished they both watch Hae Soo from a distance. She is standing by a wall and it almost seems that she is practicing for a play as she repeats words and phrases over and over. Their conversation turns serious as Myung Hee says that Hae Soo reminds her of the 13th prince. He begins to take offense until Myung Hee explains… “Nothing holds her back and she says things that others would never think of. She is very free and enjoys fun things. She hates to lose and gets angry, The resemblance in their personalities are so much that she would believe it if someone said they were siblings.” to this the 13th prince smiles. She says that Hae Soo is his sister, not her. The 13th prince tells her to stop and reminds her that she knows his feelings for her very well. (Wait…. What??) They share a longing look that speaks of a far deeper relationship than that of brother-in-law/ sister-in-law.
In the royal morgue, ashen white bodies are laid on tables. The crown Prince and Wang So examine the bodies while the astrologer holds a cloth over his nose. The crown prince opens the mouth of one of the bodies and peers in. He sees something strange and shows Wang So. Wang So rushes to another body and opens its mouth. He is horrified to find the same thing. The astrologer takes a peek and begins to dry heave loudly. It seems not one of our assassins has a tongue. What must they have been promised, that they were willing to cut out their own tongues? Are they professional assassins? A few assassin group names are thrown out but on one says a word. Suddenly the light goes on in the crown prince’s head. Daegyuhwan Hell he proclaims. It is an assassin group made up of fallen monks who had committed graves sins. Once the fallen monks are punished they are excluded from their holy order. Wang So wonders aloud, “who could be behind this?” But Wang So already knows the answer to his question. He drags the 3rd prince to an enclosed walkway and pushes him against the wall. Face to face, he accuses his brother and 3rd prince initially denies it but his face gives him away. He cannot hide the truth when Wang So asks if their mother is involved. Wang So is buried under the information and the weight of it shows on his face. Inside the entry hall to the royal jjimjabong, Wang So watches his mother move about easily, laughing and talking with her youngest son as though she were guilty of nothing. He can only stare in disbelief.
At 8th princes house, a bit of royal closet spring cleaning is taking place. Myung Hee is donating some clothing to the village. The weather has been cold and there are those who could benefit from these unused garments. (Usually, those that know they are dying start giving things away. Just sayin’) Hae Soo suggests that Myung Hee goes into town with her husband to give the garments and to distribute food to the needy. Hae Soo does Myung Hee’s makeup. As she does she remembers her old life and what happened to her. Someone pretended to be a friend to her when really all she was trying to do was get close to her boyfriend. She had even done this “friends” make-up, only to find out she was making this woman beautiful for HER boyfriend. They took her for everything. Even her house was not off limits. Hae Soo realizes she is talking about a life that Myung Hee does not know about and writes off the story to a nightmare. Myung Hee sees her reflection in the mirror and cannot believe the transformation. She looks healthy.
Her smile is broad and she wears it to the market to pass out food with her husband. Wang Wook notices but also cannot help but notice Hae Soo as well. A bit later he finds her in an herbal shop taking in the fragrance of the many open boxes. Wang Wook presents her with a small container of ointment for her neck. When she does a poor job of applying it, he sits by her side to help her. Here is another close quarters moment. It is awkward and feels a bit dangerous as his wife could walk in at any time.
Later, as the sun is going down Wang Wook and Hae Soo walk across a stone bridge next to a beautiful gazebo. (I had an ahjusshi ask me if I was a Russian prostitute in that very gazebo. He would ask me if I was Russian and I would tell him I was an American. And then he’d ask me again if I was Russian and then he’d add some eyebrow gymnastics. I would insist that I was American. Then he gave me serious side eye, look through his eyebrows and ask me a third time if I was Russian. But I digress) As they cross the bridge, Myung Hee is waiting for them. The look on her face says she knows what even Wang Wook doesn’t yet. He is falling for Hae Soo.
Wang Wook carries his wife into her bedroom and carefully places her in bed. While smoothing the covers his hand meets Hae Soo’s. Another awkward moment and Hae Soo quickly leaves the room. Moments later we find her in the rock tower prayer yard. She prays to her mother and tells her not to cry for her anymore. She speaks of her heart and its wavering towards things it shouldn’t. On her way back from prayers she finds a sullen and silent Wang So. It almost appears as if she has caught him crying. He refuses to look at her and she leaves him there alone.
The next day Wang So drives his horse quickly away from the 8th prince’s house. His horse cannot go fast enough and it seems that he is on fire. He has something to accomplish, but what? He rides to the bottom of a sheer rock face. At the top, there is an ornate temple. He climbs the stone steps and makes his way into the temple. It appears deserted but there is fire burning in the braziers . He stops and listens intently but there is no sound. He closes his eyes and waits. Without warning, a masked monk appears from nowhere and suddenly the fight is on. Wang So is surrounded, by no less than 20 men. He asks “Where is your leader? Can none of you speak a word?” He is attacked but his attacker has his throat cut for his trouble. With blades flashing and hair flying , one by one, Wang So defeats the cowled, tongueless monks. Splattered in their blood he slides to a stop as the last one falls beneath his blade.
Suddenly, a pair of chamber door burst off their hinges to reveal a yellow-robed monk with a large staff. Wang So asks if he is the one in charge. He tells Wang So that these men were burdened by their sins and were punished by having their tongues cut out. The monk asks whom Wang So has done this for. There is silence and then the monk asks if the Queen knows what he is doing. Wang So says he has found a man who talks too much in a place where people should not speak. He levels his sword at the monk and we know what will follow. A short fight with a quick death but not before he reminds the monk that he had lived for the queen so he shouldn’t mind dying for her. Wang So leaves the temple in flames as he returns home bloodied and exhausted. The Crown Prince and his men arrive at the temple to find it on fire. The prince orders the soldiers to put the fire out and locate any survivors but we know it is far too late for that.
Back at the palace, a shadowy figure makes its way into the bedroom of Queen Witch. Is this shadow only a nightmare or worse?? The witch sits up in bed and demands to know who is in her room. Wang So, still covered in blood, walks to his mother’s bedside and says “It’s me, mother”. She draws back in fear. “How dare you come in here!” she says indignantly. Wang So approaches closer still. His expression is placid and calm. The Dog Wolf of Goryeo smiles for his clearly frightened mother. He’s got a present for you Queen Witch but we aren’t sure you’re gonna like it.
Our plot begins to build and build and I’m really looking forward to seeing all the intricacies it has to offer. We are almost done with our character introductions at this point. We know who’s bad and we know who’s good and we know who’s been tortured mentally for no apparent reason. The family dynamic is growing also and we see the interwoven relationships between a strangely blended family. Boys will be boys and brothers will fight but this family may take the cake in double crosses and attempted fratricide.
We have yet to hear from the 9th prince. We know he’s a bit of a cheese ball when it comes to conversation, but what are his hobbies and more importantly, what is his role in this group of kids and cutthroats? I also want to see more from the Crown Prince. There are hints that there is a close relationship between him and Wang So but we haven’t seen the why’s and wherefores yet.
Wang So is still damaged, damaged, damaged. He lives to please and his actions show it. He comes when he’s called like the nickname he’s been given. He bows and dances when the occasion calls for it and covers his mother’s crimes with murder in order to protect her. What won’t he do to gain her love? It is painful to watch someone so confused and hurt when all of his good intentions net him zero return. Even the smallest gain (being granted an extension on his stay in Songak) will ultimately be taken from him and he knows it.
I’m also enjoying the interaction of our female characters. This looks like it will be just as much a story about women as it is a love story dominated by men. Hae Soo is simply adorable and I can’t help but feel sorry for her while she is being constantly bullied by those around her. Although she cries, at least she stands up for herself even against powerful men. If you haven’t noticed, not a single one of them is put off by it. In fact, they admire her for it.
Myung Hee is the kind sister that every girl would wish for. More and more I adore her scenes together with Hae Soo. Sadly, I know that those scenes will come to an end as this episode made clear that her health is declining rapidly. I will hate to see her go. But go she must, for our good and kind 8th prince would instantly become a miserable cheating rat if he were to begin fooling around while his wife was gravely ill. Having said that, I am aware it is unfair to judge him by today’s fidelity standards. But even now it seems that what are rules for commoners do not necessarily apply to royalty.
That’s it for now. Bring on the boyfriend braw!! It’s gonna be a fight like no other. At least I sure hope it is.