I know many JOJ fans have chosen to drop this drama and I don’t blame them. Episode 16 was actually pretty decent, but the catastrophe of Episode 15 was just too great a blow to many.
OJ and LS’s love cooling off is certainly a turn-off in a certain sense, but strangely, I want to know how their love is tested until the very end. And I know I sound like a broken record and a mite sadistic, but I just want to see how KTH self-destructs as OJ. She has being really fantastic so far and I don’t think she will disappoint me when it comes to portraying the ultimate tragedy facing OJ.
The torturing of the palace maids continues and they still deny knowing anything. IH’s court lady suddenly recalls seeing a palace maid enter the kitchen as she was leaving, but she didn’t get a good look at her.
LS is with DP and he is deeply perplexed by the situation: he can’t come up with an explanation no matter how he tries to figure it out. He wonders whether he was the real target of the poisoning…the intended target could be OJ. DP suspects the same thing, saying that a number of people in the palace that OJ is the one who tests LS’s meals for poison. They both suspect Minister Min as he has the biggest bone to pick with OJ. IH is pacing in her room, trying to figure things out, too.
OJ is having tea with LS and her hand trembles as she is pouring out the tea. It’s probably due to the after effects of the poison and also a reflection of her psychological state. She’s worried that the king may find out what happened. LS mentions she hasn’t recovered from her poisoning, but OJ says she feels all the better upon seeing him. LS asks her why she is so uneasy and jumpy, to which OJ nervously replies whether that is how she appears to him? She is unable to meet his eyes full-on and looks away, obviously jittery. LS notes her reaction in thoughtful silence.
The Dowager is coughing fitfully and wearily informs the physician that her condition is getting worse. The physician says OJ is recovering well and anxious to conceive again and he lets slip that he told OJ about IH being infertile and she’s downright furious. OJ is sewing in her room, looking weak. The Dowager barges in and screams that she knows OJ is behind the poisoning incident. OJ denies it, but the Dowager presses on and reveals she is aware that OJ knows that IH is infertile.
OJ denies the fact yet again, and the Dowager says she planned all this in order to get rid of IH. She wants OJ to confess everything to LS immediately. OJ says she can do it, but this will only cause the queen more harm. IH herself is afraid of how the king will react if he knew she was barren. The Dowager concedes the point, but says she will not back off and they’ll see whose side LS will stand on in the end. OJ looks worried at her words.
The ministers of both factions are coming up with reasons on why the opposition may be responsible for OJ’s poisoning. Minister Jo suggests they dispose IH if her palace maids are found guilty, but Minister Min’s side argue this is not a good enough reason to dispose the queen.
LS utters that the crime doesn’t seem serious because it wasn’t him but OJ, who almost died. OJ meets with JH and they realise they are not out of the danger zone yet. On the other hand, LS is in his room, thinking of both women. He recalls what his father’s instructions to trust no one, but himself. He wonders whether he can’t trust anyone his whole life.
The Dowager’s condition is taking a turn for the worse, and she is determined to help the queen before she dies. The palace maids are ready to confess and LS, IH and OJ make their way to the where the investigation is being held. LS ‘s expression is unreadable as he stares at both women. The palace maid who was in charge of making the dishes confesses that she added poison to the food. When the king demands she reveal the mastermind, she looks at both IH and OJ, who are both nervous, too.
But the Dowager barges in and claims responsibility for the whole incident. She just hates OJ and her lowly status, and just wants to get rid of OJ and that’s why she attempted to poison her. Everyone is in disbelief, including LS. He doesn’t believe his mother will do such a thing. OJ is shocked that the queen is willing to take the fall in order to save the queen. The Dowager collapses and LS is frantic. The Dowager is at her deathbed and implores LS to protect IH. She passes away.
LS is kneeling in front of her tablet, when OJ walks into the room. He doesn’t acknowledge her and she prepares to leave. IH arrives at the same time and sits beside LS and he doesn’t protest. OJ watches them sitting together as the door to the room slowly closes. It is a reversal of fate and a bitter pill for OJ to swallow. This is the first sign that her relationship with LS is no longer what it used to be. For the first time, he doesn’t find comfort in her presence.
CS is thinking back on how he tried to pay JH off for OJ’s freedom and how he found out about JH’s part in his adoptive mother’s death. The poodle gisaeng interrupted his thoughts and says there is a message from Minister Min. CS lights up, knowing that he will be meeting the king.
OJ is out walking around the palace grounds, her face as dark as her clothes. LS watches her detachedly from afar but doesn’t approach her. DP comes up to him and remarks that OJ just passed by. LS comments that he has been thinking of a lot these days, since both of his parents have passed away. He has been wondering about the true meaning of sincerity and there are things he is afraid of. DP replies that the king has things he is afraid of? LS counters that he is not a monster, but a human, too.
LS shares with DP that he is unable to feel the sincerity of someone’s heart and he is scared. DP guesses he is referring to OJ and asks whether he is suspecting OJ’s love for him. LS replies more than confirming her sincerity, he is more afraid of the decisions he has to make after he has made that confirmation. As a king, as a ruler of a country. Not as a man who will do anything for one woman. He is afraid they will lose everything they had and shared in the past.
OJ spots LS in plain clothes, preparing to go out of the palace. She is about to approach him, when he turns around and sees her. He turns his face away coldly and OJ freezes, heartbroken and devastated. KTH’s expression here? Perfect, perfect, perfect. I could feel her desolation, pain and abandonment. Kudos to the tragically haunting score that added to the hopelessness of the moment.
CS goes to meet LS at the gisaeng house and HM is shocked when he recognises CS from their previous run-in. LS is surprised, too but happy. LS wants to know how CS intends to work with him. CS says he is interested in making a trade with LS. LS wonders what they can trade, and CS says he can help LS handle Minister Min. In return, there is something from the palace that CS wants. LS is amused and requests to know what that item is. CS answers with a smile that he will let LS know when the time is right. He also asks whether he can visit the palace. LS agrees, saying that isn’t a big deal. But LS eyes CS sharply with wariness.
IH dreams about the deceased Dowager, who implies that OJ is a stumbling block to LS. OJ was a beast that LS killed in his past life (At least that is what I think it means). She summons the Dowager’s court lady the next morning and shares her dream with the latter. The latter implores her to tell the king, as it is an omen.
IH visits LS and he is cordial and somewhat affable. Their relationship probably improved after the death of the Dowager. IH launches straight into explaining the meaning of her dream and mentions that OJ is the epitome of trouble in all forms. She also mentions that OJ isn’t getting pregnant, no matter how hard the king is trying.
LS stops her, saying she must hate OJ so much for her to have a dream like this. He refuses to make any decision based on a dream. IH contradicts him saying the Dowager must be desperate to get to LS and that’s why she appeared in IH’s dreams. IH claims she is trying to save LS by revealing the dream to him. LS cuts her off saying she is up to something again. He informs her he knows very well how she schemed together with the Dowager when she was alive. IH doesn’t have anything to say to that and LS dismisses her angrily.
JH’s henchman is seen with the palace maid who poisoned the food. HJ arrives on the scene and they intend to kill her. HJ announces that OJ can be at ease – he, as her older brother, will make sure everything will go according to plan and will protect her.
LS is playing with chess with Minister Min and the older man mentions he had a dream the night before about a dragon who went into the arms of IH. LS remarks that his dream is in line with IH’s, who dreamt a dream that implied that OJ is unable to conceive. Minister Min meets with his daughter and says the dream may mean that IH is in danger. He will have to speed things up in handling LS and OJ.
Nasty rumours are spreading about OJ saying her birth father is Minister Jo. Minister Min and his faction uses her shady birthright as an excuse to kick out OJ from the palace. Again. LS is annoyed at their tactics and kicks off them out of his hall instead.
OJ is at GD’s bedside and the older woman implores OJ to give birth to a son soon. And she warns OJ again about the king. She asks OJ to be extra watchful, especially after she gives birth. OJ cannot take LS as a man; he is a king and only a king.
IH goes to see OJ and tells her bluntly she is a stumbling block to the king. For the king’s good, OJ has to leave the palace. OJ is furious on hearing that suggestion and she says she will never do so. She is upset and tells IH she is not feeling well and wants to be excused. IH allows her to leave, but ask her to think about the issue carefully. OJ stomps back to her quarters and collapses in anger. She later finds out she is pregnant and is elated.
She asks LS to meet her and he does. He comments they haven’t met like that for a long time, admiring the moon together. OJ reminds him what he promised her before – that he will never let go of her hand. She goes on to say that she has news for him. And once he knows what it is, he cannot let her hand go forever. He is curious to know what news she has for him.
She excitedly breaks the news that she is pregnant and he doesn’t show any reaction at first. He is shocked and relieved, with all the trouble in court and IH and her father’s weird dreams.OJ is worried at his lack of reaction, but he turns around with his arms opened wide. She runs into them and he says that ultimately, she still has to be his choice (As in picking the ministers over her and vice versa. Now that she’s pregnant, they can’t kick her out).
He says he is very happy as he has waited for this moment for so long. OJ promises she will definitely give birth to a son and LS says once they have their son, they can prepare to battle with the ministers. He says in a voiceover she must have a son and LS will ensure his son will be the strongest king in Joseon.
We finally meet Dong Yi, played by Seungyeon. She stares after the king covetously as he walks by. OJ invites her mother to the palace and shares the good news with her. OJ later seeks the audience of the queen and says she will follow the queen’s suggestion to leave the palace. But before that, she wants to clear her name of all the rumours.
She sits with the ministers, hidden behind a screen. She asks for the screen to be removed, but Minister Min says they are not allowed to see the faces of the concubines. OJ says the sincerity can only been seen through the eyes and orders the screen to be removed. She ticks off all the bad stuff about her, from her inability to conceive to her being the illegitimate daughter of Minister Jo. She says she has agreed to leave the palace, but before that she wants to clear her name. Firstly, she is the daughter of a merchant and not Minister Jo. Secondly, she is carrying the King’s child. Who are they to kick her out of the palace now???
The relationship between LS and OJ is disintegrating and there’s nothing they both can do about it. The forces are working against them. The pregnancy is just a temporal lifeline. LS isn’t jumping for joy at the news not because he doesn’t feel anything. But he is weighing the implications of OJ having a son and how it just saved her from the ministers’ manipulations. As GD warned OJ, LS is a king first and foremost.
I’m guessing CS will inform OJ that JH was responsible for her teacher’s death and OJ will join hands with him to take down JH. To do that, she has to sacrifice herself and play to JH’s whims until the moment she exposes him. But at that point, she’ll be too far gone for salvation and LS`has to execute her no matter what.
All in all, the episode was a little shaky in terms of flow, but the writing was more logical and cohesive this time around. I’m not appeased, but relieved that the writer has regained some of her senses and footing.