king or clown?
What makes a king and hero? One who walks the talk? Wook thinks helping a traitor attain the throne and betraying him later to attain the throne himself would make him a hero. It is a cynical opinion but not an improbable one since the clueless citizens wouldn’t know better. But would So make a better king with that streak of cold-blooded ruthlessness running through him? His father seems to think so based on the fact that So will not lose to anyone and can defeat everyone, and seems to have a rather solid backbone in place. Then we have that moral compass to worry about – Wook or So? I’m ruling out Yo since he has no morals at all. Another Lee Jun Ki screen cap bonanza. The man is beautiful beyond belief. I’m breathless…completely, euphorically breathless.
What the international version did not have – the scene where the Crown Prince airs his thoughts on the open competition for the heir-apparent position; the portion during the Yeon Hwa-So conversation where So states that he is nothing without Soo. Apologies for any typos – I’ve trying to recap this as quickly as possible and I’m losing precious sleep in the process… my eyes are half-closed as I hit the “publish” key. HA. But this drama and LJK have stolen my heart…so I’m happy to sacrifice a little snooze and be a little woozy at work.
The King orders So to be sent to Later Jin as an envoy. It is a dangerous task, as Ji Mong points out. So accepts the order readily on one condition – the king lets Soo stay on Damiwon. The King is displeased that he is still defending Soo but So says Soo is not one person he can abandon. When So leaves the room, the king orders Ji Mong to send Soo somewhere the princes can’t meet and see her. If So can’t forget Soo, it is his job as a father to make sure his son does.
Ji Mong visits Soo, who still is shattered by Lady Oh’s death. He muses that Lady Oh had the eloquence of a queen but not the destiny to be one – was that her luck or misfortune? Soo claims resignedly that Lady Oh died because of her, but Ji Mong refutes her saying that the older lady died without regrets, so Soo shouldn’t feel that way. Ji Mong breaks the news that Soo is to be sent somewhere where the princely boys won’t be able to see her and Soo doesn’t think it is a half-bad idea. I don’t blame her.
So is packing up for his trip, and makes sure to bring his makeup complete with powder puff. HEH. Soo appears and they exchange tiny smiles. They go for a stroll and So asks Soo how she is coping with Lady Oh’s death. He advises the more difficult, the more painful the matter, the sooner she should try to get over it. That gives Soo the opening she needs: she implores Soo to forget her and move on with his life.
So being So shrugs off her words of wisdom, and tells her to stop staying such words – just stay put at Damiwon and wait for his return. Soo takes out the hairpin he gave her, stating that she won’t be waiting for him. He is being sent away because of her – she knows how So hated being sent away previously and how happy he was when he was allowed back into the palace. She is bringing misfortune to those around her.
So answers smoothly then he is the one who seems to be bringing misfortune to those around him and Soo doesn’t seem to be an exception. Awwww…he turning her words on him is becoming a habit… a very cute one. But still, he isn’t going to let her go. He yanks her towards him in the signature So Hug Manoeuvre and lowers his head purposely. Soo attempts to deflect his action and he teases, “Idiot. I told you I won’t do it without your permission.” He releases her and steps back. He takes a quick survey of their surroundings and satisfied that there are no prying eyes in sight, he steps in and drops a quick peck on her kiss. And grins devilishly after, “I lied.” Okay…a playful So is a devastating So to poor me…swwwwooon.
So snatches back the hairpin from her – he’s borrowing it as a good luck charm…AND he will definitely be back. His cheeriness fades when he turns away from her. He knows there is a high probability that Soo isn’t going to wait for him and he is well aware of that. That and he is concerned for her safety. Soo says in her voiceover that she won’t wait for him, even if he risks his life for her and calls her his… she just can’t.
So turns around and waves, flashing a killer smile that obliterates my train of thought. LJK…gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Apparently, Soo isn’t unaffected either as she agonises that she is scared each time they meet. She loves someone else, but she is finding hard to ignore So. Later, as Soo limps back to her quarters, Wook sees her. He stops himself from calling her and turns to leave. Soo, sensing a presence, turns around and spots Wook. She doesn’t call him either so they both go their separate ways.
Meanwhile, So is all ready for his mission, looking mighty pretty. He slips on the mask, which lends him a menacing air. And some serious badass. I guess he figures this would instil a sense of fear with the people of the Later Jin since his reputation is infamous when he wore his mask. And off he goes, riding like the wind in forbidding dark robes, leading his troops, looking every inch a king. So LJK is genuinely an adept horse rider, based on the BTS clips I’ve watched. Guess he naturally picked up the skill since he has acted in a dozen sageuks. But hell yeah, LJK on horseback never fails to take my breath away.
Soo is sent away. Jung rushes to find Wook to inform the latter that Soo is no longer at Damiwon. Wook had been writing “Hae Soo” on the paper…sigh. I feel sorry for Wook yet I wish he would do more than mope around doing useless things like that. Wook takes off to Damiwon and he is shocked to see Soo’s room cleaned of her belongings. He screams her name and Soo hears him from a distance. Again, another useless act. URGH.
Yeon Hwa and Yo’s mom have a chat about the missing maid that Wook killed earlier. Yo’s mom acknowledges that Yeon Hwa is similar to her and they will make good partners. Yeon Hwa scoffs that she doesn’t want to be partners any longer – she knows Yo’s mom was behind her mother’s expulsion from the palace after being accused of causing Lady Oh to miscarry. Plus, she warns the older woman never to make her mother kneel again. I don’t like Yeon Hwa but I respect the fact that she is ballsy enough to stand up for her mother and against Yo’s mom. Yo’s mom isn’t impressed but Yo is. He has met with his uncle who is willing to support him on one condition – move the capitol.
One year passes. So the king has issued an edict that any prince can inherit the throne and Yo brings in clansmen to support his bid for the throne. Jung is no longer hiding behind the skirts of his mother – he is off fighting pirates to much success. And interestingly, he has not been visiting his mom either. Good for him. Yo reminds him to visit their mom but Jung snorts that his mom is fine since he has Yo by her side. HA. Love that. Yo comments that Jung has changed since he starting hanging out with Wook.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prince worries not about the open competition for the throne, but for those around him. Meanwhile, Baek Ah is busy watching Woo Hee practise her sword dance and points out that she keeps getting the last move wrong – she keeps brandishing her sword instead of curbing it. Oh well, it’s a no brainer at this point in time as to why. The scene in the preview where Woo Hee stabs the king is her imagination.
Yo presents Yeon Hwa with a promise ring – he’ll divorce all his wives and marry her when he is king. Yeon Hwa is not convinced, knowing that his first wife is the daughter of the vice-premier. Wook sees them together and chides Yo that they are to appear to be at odds in public – he visiting Yeon Hwa would dispute that. When Yo leaves, Yeon Hwa stresses that Wook should be aiming for the throne instead of helping Yo to get there.
Wook drawls that a traitor (Yo) is going to inherit the throne but when a traitor defeats a traitor, the latter becomes a hero. He is referring to himself and he remarks that the ring Yo had given Yeon Hwa looks good on her. He is certain Yeon Hwa can assist him in some way to defeat Yo eventually. I guess he means deploying her feminine wiles and being a hostage, and Yeon Hwa is disconcerted that he can suggest such. Wook reminds her that she owes him huge debt – one that needs repaying. Yikes.
Soo has been demoted to a water maid and is bullied by the other maids when she continually refuses to divulge more information about the princes, and they know that Lady Oh died to save her. Soo fights back but can’t do much to help herself. Jung and Wook watch from a distance as Soo is picked on by the other maids…and she is carrying a limp. OUCH. The poor girl. If you recall, her skirts were bloodied at the legs when So visited her in prison. The torture must have left permanent damage or her wounds weren’t treated properly.
Wook suspects Jung took another route to show his older brother how Soo is. Jung admits he knows about Wook’s and Soo’s past relationship and can’t believe his older brother is not doing anything to help Soo. Wook states Soo was abandoned by the king and he can’t go against the royal order. If the writer follows the Chinese script, Soo eventually ends up with Jung in her last days. He’s probably the brother who causes her the least pain emotionally, plus he has a crush on her. Baek Ah, on the other hand, remains a platonic friend to Soo.
Soo is by the river at night eating rice balls when Wook visits her. He asks after her, and about her leg. He knows Jung has been bringing medicine to her – the lovely boy, bless his heart. Soo claims her leg only hurts after a hard day at work or when she is in the water… which is all the time since she is a water maid? Wook asks her how she is and whether she hates him, and she answers she misses him. She repeats that and asks Wook whether he missed her, even once? He admit he does every day, every second. Yeah, whatever. I miss So every day, every second too until another week comes around.
Soo says that is enough for her while Wook mumbles everything will be better soon. He can’t help her and can’t ask the king for her hand right now. WHATEVER, WOOK. Soo doesn’t look convinced this time. Wook pleads Soo not to fall sick – don’t make him feel worse than he already does. WHAT??? She’s the one suffering while he has the cheek to say that? Urgh. Be gone with Wookie-Washy! I want my Stubborn So!
Wheeee!! Our Black Knight is back and reports to the king. The king takes note of So’s findings and wants him to spy on the Kitan for his next mission. So flatly refuses, stating that the king did not keep to his end of the bargain. That is, to let Soo stay on in Damiwon. HA. LOVE HIS GUTS. Daddy is furious So still has his heart set on So and scowls that a king must be prepared to give up anyone for the nation. So states he doesn’t give a damn, plus he is not a king and doesn’t want to be king. He knows he is supposed to support the Crown Prince but he wants the king to cut him free – he wants to live like a human being for once. He stalks off charismatically, looking beautiful beyond words. Lee Jun Ki…why so handsome? The king is left fuming. HA.
General Park tries to defend So’s attitude but instead the King comments rather proudly that So has grown up – he can now defeat anyone and won’t lose to anyone. Was that a test? The king smiles that the can now die in peace and warns his loyal subjects they should prepare for his death. I love General Park’s reaction…HA!
Soo is out hanging laundry and we see So peeping at her. She sees him but thinks she is hallucinating when he disappears the next second. But suddenly, she senses his presence. And lo and behold…the deep, sexy drawl is back. And Lee Hi’s song. Can they just release the full song, please!!!
Soo states, “You just won’t listen. I told you to stay put at Damiwon. You are even prettier as a water maid than a palace maid.” And he steps out and envelopes her in a comforting, gentle hug. GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. This is what I call romantic. Soo doesn’t move away – I think she needs the hug though she refuses to admit it. So resumes, ” I miss you.” GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Soo finally moves away, saying he shouldn’t be here and she’ll pretend he never came by. So doesn’t listen to her and instead turns her towards him so that he can take a good look at her. He picks up her bruised hands and gahhh..you can tell his heart is aching but he smiles sweetly, ” You look exactly the same as before. Pretty.” My heart…the sweetness of it all.
Soo is distracted by his mask, demanding to know why he is wearing it. Is the make-up not working or has the wound festered? So takes off his mask and reveals perfect skin – and a perfect LJK. He says he wore the mask to as to not forget her, that he needed to come back alive for her, to see her again. Again my poor heart.
Soo reminds him that she’s no longer a palace maid but a water maid – they cannot be associated any longer. Since he is back and well, and he has seen that she is alive and well, they should end this now.
She limps away and So follows her. He tells her this isn’t the place for her and says he will get out her out. She shakes him away, demanding that he leave her alone. She’s here because she can’t live or die. After a day of back-breaking work, she can almost forget she caused Lady Oh’s death and all painful memories.
So reaches out for her, saying he can find another way for her to forget. But Soo confesses that So is the last person she wants to see. She is reminded of all bad and painful memories every time she sees him. OUCH. Inwardly, Soo is just trying to drive him away to prevent more trouble. She insists she’ll stay here – she’ll live and survive. So should go on with his life and live it peacefully, without harming and hurting others. So watches her limp away, his heart breaking for her. LJK ah…OMO.
Soo is brooding in her room when Ji Mong seeks her out. The next time we know, Ji Mong is offering the ailing king a new brew of tea to help his appetite. The king takes one sip and know it was Soo who brewed it and orders Ji Mong to bring her to him.
Meanwhile, Yeon Hwa visits So and proposes to him. He is shocked, figuring he heard her wrong. HAHAHAHA. Yeon Hwa gripes that she isn’t satisfied being a princess or just any other royal…she wants to be queen. So snorts in amusement saying that he ain’t that person – he is the person furthest away from that. Yeon Hwa concurs that much is true but she realised that above all, she is a woman. She has been in love with So for the longest time and they think they are fated for each other.
So grows more amused and states that he doesn’t believe in fate though he does admit he was once a little shaken by her. Anyway, he wants someone else and Yeon Hwa guesses it is Soo. She whines that Soo will only cause him misfortune and prevent from achieving greatness but So dismisses that: he is now sure that he is nothing without Soo. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. More than the actual words, it is his unwavering steadfastness that has me swooning.
Soo goes to meet the king. She blanches at his feeble appearance, knowing that he doesn’t have much longer to live. The king notices her expression and spells out he knows that she thinks he is a dying man. And surprisingly, he makes known that he knows she isn’t the real Hae Soo but an impostor. Over the past year, he has conducted his own investigation into her past, servants at Wook’s residence, her so-called family, and knows she ain’t Hae Soo. He asks her where she hails from. When Soo struggles to answer, he shrewdly notes that she seems to have the same fortune-telling abilities as Ji Mong. That means she does know So is destined to be king, doesn’t she? Wowwww…totally didn’t expect this. Soo is shell-shocked at the king’s revelation. She asked to be sent far, far away from the palace.
The king mentions that Soo Yeon (Lady Oh) treated Soo like her daughter, so he will do so, too. He advises her not to do anything but just stay at the palace and watch everything unfold. Don’t try to interfere and do anything – just sit back and watch. It is a pretty awesome suggestion by the king. He muses that it is destined that both the Crown Prince and So would be king but he isn’t too sure how that will play out. Soo steps out of the palace, shaken as she hears the cries and screams of war and fighting around her.
Baek Ah is with Woo Hee, who is practising furiously. She stumbles and he frets over him. She has scars on her wrists and he asks nicely whether he can ask the reason. She nods and he asks her whether he can hug her…and just pulls her into his arms without waiting for answer. HAHAHAHA. Hanging around too much with So, huh? He apologises for being around during her difficult times and she mutters that was before she got to know him to which Baek Ah says that makes him feel more sorry. He says he’ll like to make happy memories with her from now on and implores her to trust him. Woo Hee pushes him away, saying she has no such expectations of him and runs off.
So Woo Hee and Soo know each other apparently. They bumped into each other before and both noticed they had scars, but didn’t question each other. Soo assures Woo Hee that Baek Ah visits the gisaeng house only because he wants to see her and is a good person. When Soo presses Woo Hee for more information, Woo Hee says the less Soo knows, the better and safer she will be. Anyway, Woo Hee is performing at a party for the king and she wants Soo to do her makeup. She wants Soo to make her look unforgettable and stand out from the crowd…this is how she wants to be remembered.
Yo’s plan is set in motion – his plan to use Woo Hee to murder the king at the party with the clansmen. He is in cahoots with his uncle and reminds the older man not to divulge their plan to his mother. His mother is a strange one – her love for the king is as great as her hatred for him. Wook manages to convince the sickly king to attend the party.
Wook preps for the party and wears armour under his robes. The party goes on as planned. So is all dressed up for it and seeks Soo out instead. He extends the hairpin to her and proposes marriage – this is only way to get her out of the water maid duties. Soo turns him down (then I’ll accept on your behalf, honey) and he sighs heavily, “If you really dislike me that much, you can divorce me once you are out of the palace. I’ll willing to do this for you so let’s just get married first.” Ooooommmmmph. He really will do anything for her…even if he doesn’t benefit him. His end goal is ensure her happiness and freedom, with and without him, and that’s the striking difference between he and Wook .
Soo, recalling the King’s words, changes her tune and says that So has many great things to accomplish and doesn’t to leave the palace for someone like her. Plus, the king cares and worries for him a lot. So isn’t moved, citing that the king is a king first, father second. He is always testing the princes.
Soo turns solemn and questions So, “If you can become king, will you still leave?” So does his style again and questions her back,” If I become king, will you leave?” All he wants is to be able to live freely and peacefully with her – nothing else matters, even the throne. He presses the hairpin into her palm, “Let’s do it together. You are my person, aren’t you?” As So stares intently into her eyes, Soo is almost tempted to do take up his offer, knowing he is capable of doing as promised. But she shakes him off, saying they can’t get married.
And she spots Wook standing behind them. He has heard everything. Soo runs off and So chases her but is stopped by Wook , who snickers that it is unheard of a prince marrying a water maid. I love that WTH sideway glance So slides him. So snarls that he jolly well marries who he wants and Wook rails that Soo is in this state because she got caught between So and his scheming mother. Yeah, you would like to believe that, Wook.
So bits out that he is disgusted by Wook’s incompetence – all he had to know was to prove Soo’s innocence since So gave him clues but but he could not do even that. HELL, YEAH.
Anyway, back at the party. Won Hee is performing with her troupe. Baek Ah joins the spectators, watching her avidly. Won Hee spots him, and spots his princely robes. She is dismayed but determined to continue her mission. Baek Ah continues to watch her but his smile slowly fades as he senses something is amiss – her expression, her attitude and the fact that she kept up with a stabbing motion for her last move during practice. It hits him what she is going to do. Won Hee flies towards her the king, her sword aimed straight at him…but Baek Ah jumps in her way and she stabs him instead. NNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! My baby! This is so chillingly reminiscent of the poison incident.
Baek Ah smiles a little even in his pain, happy to have stopped the murder of his father, and more so, stopping the woman he loves from committing an unpardonable sin. Meanwhile, Wook and So grab each other by the collar – So scorns at Wook’s style of just thinking, and not putting his thoughts into action. Plus, Soo is no longer his relative and thus, she has nothing to do with him. So doesn’t miss the fact that Wook is wearing armour under his robes. Just you wait, Wook…wait till So finds out his baby Baek Ah got hurt because of your devious plan with Yo.
Pretty sure Baek Ah didn’t die since he appears alongside So in battle later on. But what a way to get Baek Ah involved in the story big time. I appreciated the fact that he was sharp and intelligent enough to realise Woo Hee had another plan going on and his bravery for preventing the assassination. So would be so proud of him. He is really So’s person, all right. And my Joo Hyukie did fine here… could see his growing discomfort and horror…well done, boy!
The unexpected twist was the king questioning Soo about her authenticity and then accepting readily she is an impostor. But he is a king and he won’t let such trivial matters bother him – he is more worried that Soo will interfere with So’s destiny to become king. Now it makes sense why he allowed General Park to train So in secret while he was being banished to Shinju. I don’t think the king is against So becoming king but doesn’t want it to be at the expense of the Crown Prince.
Maybe that’s why he decided on the open competition for the position of crown prince. He was giving time to So to prove his worth, ability and capability. And So didn’t disappoint. In fact, the king seemed proud that So stood up against him rather than just slinking away in defeat. He respected So for standing up for his beliefs and following through with his decisions, and thinks that a king needs to do that in order to weather cranky ministers and enemies.
Oh, Wook. You started off so well but now…you are just shifting blame to whoever you fancy. I cheered when So called out on his incompetence, which literally landed Soo in jail since Wook did not prove her innocence. We know he has his reasons but he needs to know that by protecting his family, he sacrificed Soo. And that conversation by the river where he uttered more empty promises? Shame on him. When there is a will, there is a way. He could have found some reason to help Soo, as Jung said.
And So… what an amazing character. So complex yet so simple and straightforward in ways of the heart. LJK makes So sooo interesting, unveiling new facets of his character each time, with every scene. That scene where he visits Soo for the first time after his return, when he kept up the light-hearted conversation on how pretty she was, but at the same thing noticing her frailty, her wounds…GAHHHHH. Broke my heart…LJK’s teasing tone yet his eyes spoke volumes about his aching heart.
And the proposal scene – where he offers to divorce Soo once she is out of the palace. Ooommmph. For someone who keeps insisting Soo belongs to him and is his person, he is willing to let her leave him if that secures her happiness and freedom. If that is not love, what is? I mean, knowing So, he may hunt her down after a few months, but I believe he is genuinely prepared to let her go if she insists. Soo knows that – and that scares her as much as it moves her. Wook has nothing on So and she knows.
And LJK???? Another electrifying performance. He has chemistry with everyone. Though unfortunately, he has less chemistry with IU since he is obviously overwhelming her with his intensity and she just doesn’t where to look, or what to do most of the time. NJK has negative chemistry with Seo Hyun, which just makes his scenes with her so grating to the eye. It’s amusing that he had much more chemistry with Kim So Hyun and Kim Sae Ron – maybe because their superior acting chops draws out the chemistry. I mean he has great rapport with LJK and their bromance is fantastic.