recap: Jang Ok Jung, Live in love Episode 24 (finale)

And we have come to the end of the journey. And I’m proud to say I’m glad I stuck through with the drama despite the many hiccups. I actually found the ending satisfying. I started bawling from the moment DP handed OJ the bowl of poison, until the end with LS’s haunting soliloquy. I’m fine with an understated finale as long it touches me in the right places and gives the OTP their due. I don’t need endless wailing and a bucket of tears. Cue to Faith’s super simple but absolutely beautiful ending.

But back to JOJ’s last episode, it was the conversations rather than the action that were paramount. OJ asking LS to order her death, DP begging LS to spare OJ’s life, OJ asking CS to bring her back to the palace so that she can die in LS’s arms, OJ telling LS why she came back. So that their love will remain untarnished till the very end. So that no one would ever doubt they loved each other. So no one will ever doubt she loved him. And most importantly, it was so LS himself would never, ever doubt OJ loved him, even when she was no longer in the world. And from his last words to her that he loved her, he finally realised just how much she loved him.

And to Yoo Ah In and Kim Tae Hee….they were the reason why I kept to the drama. They were gorgeous as a pair and individually, and plain spectacular in most of their scenes together. KTH has my heart for her splendid portrayal of OJ, despite the crazy writing at times. YAI nailed LS, from the kingly swagger to the emotional gravitas required. And their chemistry is just off-the-charts. I mean this is the first time I’ve seen such palpable chemistry between an OTP in a death scene.

Here goes:
DY marches in all tiny and huffy and announces that she has proof that OJ was involved in black magic, which ultimately led to the death of the late queen. She produces the straw doll like a child showing off her latest toy. She continues that she found it in Chwi Seon Dang, and LS warns that DY has to bear responsibility for what she is saying. LS promises to get to the bottom of the matter, but he appears unsettled.

OJ and her court lady are clearing up the room. The court lady says she will make sure it is cleared properly and asks OJ to leave first. LS walks in, with DY beside him. DY declares that this is the evidence backing up her story. LS is shocked and ask OJ why she arranged for such a ritual. OJ replies she only did it in order to get Yoon healed and to cleanse the place of IK’s spirit. DY cuts in and says OJ is lying – she wasn’t trying to counter IK, but the late IH. LS watches the exchange, flustered. OJ demands why DY is accusing of her of such when Minister Kim says holding such rituals are against palace rules anyway, doesn’t matter the reason.

LS orders for all of OJ’s staff to be arrested and investigated. He also puts OJ under house arrest. OJ looks at him fearfully and for the first time, LS is helpless to defend her. He knows she is telling the truth about praying for Yoon, but the rituals are akin to committing treason. He has to openly investigate the matter. OJ’s maids are tortured, while Minister Kim and lackeys strategise how to use this event to their advantage.

OJ wants to seek an audience with LS, but HM says she isn’t allowed to leave Chwi Seon Dang. She pleads with him to help her pass a message to LS, but HM refuses. Just then, LS arrives. He asks her whether she was really just praying for the Yoon’s recovery and OJ promises that what all she was praying for. LS believes her, and says he will get her out of this and return her the position of being Yoon’s mother again (Yoon was officially given to IH to raise as her own).

The court ladies are searching the room where the ritual was held and find IH’s accessory, planted by DY, who declares it proof that OJ was out to harm IH. The ministers meet with LS. They condemn OJ guilty of the heinous crime and demand her execution. LS is aware all of this is a trap, but he can’t do anything. The scholars gather outside the gate and plead for the king to execute OJ. DP and LS are together and LS says Yoon will be pulled into this mess sooner or later.

OJ visits her court lady in jail and apologises for getting her into this fix. The scholars are still outside, demanding that for the sake of the country, LS cannot continue to protect Hee Bin and Seja. LS is drinking in his quarters, troubled and shattered. He later tells HM that he wants to see his OJ. They meet at their bridge and OJ is worried to see LS so drunk. LS holds her hand and says he just wants to remain like that, being with her, for a while. One of OJ’s maids cave under torture and falsely confesses that the ritual was held by OJ to get rid of IH. Minister Kim is pleased.

OJ sits in her room and thinks back about her time in the palace and all that she went through. She also thinks of what LS has done for her and the promise that he will never let go of her hand. She goes to find LS. They face each other tearfully for a moment, before OJ says she has a request. She implores LS to protect Yoon until the end. LS says making sure Yoon ascends to the throne is the reason of his being. OJ smiles and says he needs to do only that.

She asks for him to let her commit suicide, and let her death be documented as ordered by the king. She doesn’t want to be a shackle to him and Yoon, thus she pleads for him to issue the order. LS mulls over it, and says he will find a way for OJ to live. Even if there seems to be no way, he will create a way for her. Ah, so this is the full content of what this episode’s preview.

LS meets with the ministers and declares OJ guilty of the crime. He says he will order her to take her own life. The ministers are still not satisfied and want Yoon to be punished, too. LS is furious: he is ordering the death of the mother of the crown prince and the woman he loves.

DY and OJ meet and OJ says DY can go ahead and experience being in the queen’s position. She’ll know how scary it is. Plus, DY is lowborn like her, so she will encounter equal difficulty. DY says she will definitely sit in the position one day. OJ says DY’s dirty deed will be exposed one day and DY is defiant, saying she did nothing wrong. OJ counters that though no one knows what DY did, DY herself is aware of it. That shuts DY up and she leaves in a huff.

OJ’s mother visits with Yoon in tow. OJ’s mother blames herself for the whole mess, but OJ disagrees. She says Yoon recovered in the end, so she is not to be blamed. DP rushes to LS’s quarters and ask him to rescind his order for OJ’s suicide. He says LS can’t sincerely want this outcome, but LS counters it doesn’t matter whether he means it or not. It is a decision he is making as a king. DP reminds LS he once said OJ was someone he was willing to give up the throne for. Furthermore, she is the mother of his child. How can he ruthlessly go ahead with his order?

DP drops to his knees and says he is asking LS to spare OJ’s life for the LS’s sake. He knows LS: if OJ dies, LS’s heart will die with her. LS says OJ is his woman, was his queen. He will take care of the matter himself. DP refuses to give up. He says if OJ dies, LS will lose the person closest to him. Every day, every night, LS’s heart won’t be able to endure the pain of her gone.

DP begs him to take back the order and spare OJ’s life. For LS himself, for the love they shared. LS replies with that for himself, he has to kill that woman….a tear slips from LS’s eyes. Heartbreaking scene…YAI’s acting here is stellar. I don’t care he didn’t cry a river. All that choked swallows, watery eyes and that lone tear did the job for me.

CS is dead upset that LS has ordered OJ to kill herself – is the king not human? How can he order the death of his lover and the mother of his child? The gisaeng says LS is doing all this to protect Yoon. CS asks the gisaeng to make preparations – he is going to offer his wealth to Minister Kim. I guess he wants to bribe him in exchange for OJ’s life. CS meets Minister Kim, and offers him everything he posesses in Hanyang, saying it’s a gift of gratitude for helping him handle JH. But he has a dream: he wants to know what it is like having the king’s woman.

Minister Kim is affronted and asks CS what he takes Joseon for? It is not a place where a mere merchant can experience what a king has, even if it is a woman. Minister Kim tears up CS’s offer and barks at him to contempt to go back to China. The ministers discuss that LS seem to allowing OJ’s death too easily. They reason it is because of Yoon – the king is willing to abandon OJ for his son. Minister Kim says he suspects LS has other plans in mind.

HM arrives to escort OJ to a temple. YB informs LS OJ is leaving and he rushes out to see her. OJ looks around the palace fondly for the last time as she is being escorted away. LS stops the palanquin and she gets out. He says he won’t be able to see her when she commits suicide. He says he wasn’t able to protect her until the end in this palace and ask her not to forgive him.

He says in the end, he is the one who lets go of her hand. OJ smiles and says whatever he has done for her, it is enough for her. LS makes a move towards her but halts in his step. I think he is afraid if he allows himself to hug her, he wouldn’t be able to let her go. And as usual, OJ understands him without a need for words. He backs away and turns away, his eyes filled with tears.

CS is summoned by the king, and LS says he was right in suspecting that CS coveted OJ from the start, as a man. LS continues that though CS tried to bring down OJ, he is the only person who can save OJ now is CS. CS counters that LS is the one who ordered OJ’s death, but now he wants to save her? LS says Minister Kim and his faction will never let OJ off, so he rather she leaves the palace without the knowledge of the ministers. LS says he has considered giving up the throne, but he has to handle his own matters. He ask CS to take OJ far away and he says only HM knows of this plan.

The scene cuts to a flashback of OJ’s mother confessing that she was the one who instigated the ritual. LS says he knows OJ meant to cause no harm, but the world won’t accept that OJ was only sincerely praying for Yoon. He tells OJ’s mother he won’t take clear OJ’s name of cursing the late queen. Another flashback of OJ watching LS’s departing back, sobbing. Her mother watches quietly, knowing what LS has planned.

OJ goes to pray at the temple with her mother. While she is resting, someone comes to knock her out. HM puts his sword to CS’s throat and says he needs to keep OJ alive, no matter what. It is an order from the king. CS tells OJ’s mother he will bring OJ back to China and ensure she survives. OJ’s mother pretends to be OJ and gets into the palanquin. IH’s court lady sees the palanquin and informs DY that OJ is back at the palace. DY wonders why OJ didn’t run away.

DP is stumbling around like a madman and he arrives at the place where OJ is supposed to take her life, but she’s not there. DP goes to look for HM, who tells him that the king has sent OJ away. DP goes to find LS and realises it was all a ruse to save OJ from death. LS says how he could kill OJ? He definitely will not let go of her hand. That he swore to her. He is even thinking of giving up his throne to save her. DP is shocked and LS smiles that he is just a normal man after all.

OJ wakes up and finds out from CS that this is all the plan of LS. She asks CS to take her back to the palace. She knows if she disappears, LS and Yoon will be put in a difficult position. She says it is her turn to protect both of them. She says her place of death has to in the palace, with the king. This has been her reason for living. She begs CS to take her back to the king. This way, she can protect the love she shares with LS. CS finally agrees. He will take her back so that she can protect her love, and by he doing so, he can protect his own love for her.

The ministers are in uproar as there is news that OJ has disappeared from the palace. Minister Kim says they will have to go to Chwi Seon Dang to confirm this. The poison is being prepared and OJ returns to the palace. HM informs LS that OJ has returned to the palace and he is horrified. OJ is hugging Yoon in tearful farewell and Minister Kim and lackeys arrive to check on her. She steps out of her quarters and sees DP. She approaches the table where she is to drink the poison. LS sits in his room, knowing he can’t do anything.

The maid is going to give OJ the bowl of poison when DP offers to do it instead. I totally started bawling from here. DP crying, but yet smiling encouragingly at OJ. OJ pays her final respects to LS and downs the bowl of poison. LS finally snaps out of his stupor and rushes to find OJ. OJ starts choking as the poison takes effect and LS rushes in and goes to her side.

He pulls her into his arms and said she shouldn’t have returned. OJ says how could she not return? She wants to spend her last moments in his arms. She says she has being living for their love and she wants to protect their love till the end. She passes away and LS is devastated. No wails, but I felt his raw pain. The way he mumbled her name. YAI – love you here. He says that he loves her. He loved her. Tears are pouring down my cheeks at this point. The scene cuts to the lonely figure of LS on his throne.

LS goes to their bridge. In a soliloquy, he says she protected her love to the end. She lived her life like the bright fireworks. From now on, there will be no one in this world who LS can lean his lonely shoulders on and no one to wipe his tears. The only woman I, Lee Soon, ever loved, Jang Ok Jung, is no longer in this world. LS doubles over and grieves for the woman who loved, lived and died for him… and only him.

The scene cuts to show their tombs as of today, next to each other in death.