What a fantastic episode for our men. This really should be The Sun Embraces That Other Sun (And Heck, Also Those Other Friendly Suns, While We’re At It). Yes, the two suns are brothers and that would require breaking a number of taboos, but hey, I’m game if you are. Sigh. Another ratings increase (the ninth straight one) with today’s episode bringing in a 37.1%. (Ratings were 7.5% for Captain and 4.5% for Wild Romance.) Good grief. I mean, I’m entertained so I’m not complaining — it’s just way beyond my expectation. Timing and circumstance really have so much to do with which shows hit which numbers; previous sageuk hits Princess’s Man and Tree With Deep Roots are both better dramas, but they aired in different circumstances. But Moon/Sun can thank them for setting the stage for it to come in and dominate. SONG OF THE DAY Feelbay – “낮잠” (Midday nap) [ Download ]
EPISODE 10 RECAP In his bedchamber, Hwon addresses Wol in language that I’m sure must have been carefully and intentionally selected to hint at the underlying sexual tension driving everything — this drama’s whole conflict centers around sex, after all — as he tells her she must make him forget his exhaustion and put his pain to bed. She says she will, as the spiritual object she believes herself to be. Standing just outside, Bo-kyung cracks open the doors and is immediately alarmed at Hwon’s reaction to Wol, and readies to storm in. But Woon pushes the door closed and she loses the moment. She glares at him, but forces a smile as she tells Hwon’s entourage that she was merely worried about the king. Back in her own room, Bo-kyung breaks down in angry tears. Her fears have been realized, because she had recognized that Hwon was looking at the shaman with the eyes of a man for a woman, not a king for his good-luck charm. Hwon calls for the court doctor, surprising all by saying it’s not for him, but for Wol. Hyung-sun protests, because the royal physician is reserved for royalty. Hwon says that her job is to absorb the evil energy from him, and therefore ensuring her health is for the king’s benefit, overriding Hyung-sun’s horrified protests. Hwon reads a book while his physician attends to Wol, although he can’t help sending her longing glances, which don’t escape Hyung-sun’s notice. Then, Wol takes her usual position and watches over Hwon’s sleep. After she leaves, Hwon opens his eyes, not having slept after all. Woon is given the note taken from Wol, intended for the king, and in the morning he gives it to Hwon. It basically tells him that though she’s not considered a person, she wishes to be the king’s citizen. He recalls his harsh words earlier, and reads this as a rebuke of his dismissal of her worth: “She means that a shaman is still a person, so I shouldn’t disregard her.” Hyung-sun muses that it’s rare enough for a shaman to know how to write, but also that she’d dare send this kind of message. Yet this also stirs another memory, of another letter he received from a 13-year-old. His thoughts echo his 15-year-old words: “How could I forget you?” Hyung-sun knows what he’s thinking, and gently reminds him that Wol is is not Yeon-woo. Hwon gets defensive and can’t even bear to hear Hyung-sun continue with the reminder that she’s dead, and he angrily shuts him up. Hyung-sun informs him of Bo-kyung’s visit and entreats Hwon to consider her feelings, and how hurt she must have felt to have abandoned pride to come to him. Bo-kyung is moping in her room when she receives word that the king plans to see her. This is great news for all the queens, especially queens mother and dowager. Granny attributes this to the shaman-charm, who has single-handedly improved the king’s health and facilitated reconciliation with Bo-kyung, and she takes this as proof that Wol is indeed the successor to Nok-young. She decides to request another fortune-reading to move the consummation date up while things are looking good. Bo-kyung happily receives Hwon, who mentions her unannounced nighttime visit. She says it was purely out of concern for him but he cuts to the heart of the matter, as always, insinuating that it was really about keeping tabs on him. He says that there was no person in his room that night, merely an amulet, as a way of dismissing her concerns — See? It’s just a thing. No reason for you to interfere. The words are polite but there’s a menacing quality to Hwon’s tone, and Bo-kyung is ill at ease. Hwon reminds her that they are to keep their space until the consummation in a month, and Bo-kyung understands that he’s really warning her not to visit his quarters again. Bo-kyung grapples with her frustration after he leaves, wondering what he is trying to hide from her, and why he has to go so far as to order her away. She breaks down in tears as she wonders if the thing he’s covering up for is love. First the dead girl, and now the lowly shaman? She orders her lady in waiting to find a court lady with close access to the king. She wants someone to watch the king’s visits with his shaman-charm and report to her — secretly, of course. Yang-myung returns to town to search for Wol, to no avail. He recalls Wol assuring him that she was safe, and wonders if that’s true. He passes a group of young court shamans, and Jan-shil recognizes him from that time years ago when he saved her from the quack peddlers. She runs after him, adorably calling him “Oraboni” and grabbing him in a bear hug. He doesn’t recognize her, all grown now, and is confused until she reminds him of the “magic stone” he once talked about. Memory thus jogged, Yang-myung greets her warmly. Jan-shil tells him she’s no longer a phony seer but the real deal, one of the shamans of Seongsucheong. And that makes the pieces fall into place for Yang-myung — Seongsucheong is the safest place for a shaman in the city — and he asks urgently whether a girl named Wol is among them. But Jan-shil remembers how furiously Nok-young warned her to keep her mouth shut about moon/sun related talk, especially regarding Yeon-woo, and the bodily harm she was threatened with. So she shakes her head no and says that there’s nobody like that around. Jan-shil goes to Wol’s room with a heavy heart, sorry for lying. Sleeping Wol has a fitful dream, and relives the memory of that long-ago night at the festival. Out of context, though, the sight of Hwon wearing that big mask is spooky, and the dream has teh tone of a nightmare. Just as he lifts the mask to reveal his face, she wakes up. It’s a recurring nightmare that always ends before seeing his face. Wol’s particularly disappointed tonight, feeling like she was just about to see his face. Seol is there when she wakes and thinks sympathetically that the face she wants so badly to see is the one she looks on every night. That evening, Hwon is waiting for Wol when she enters and refers to her letter, which conveyed her resentment of him. She protests that she didn’t mean it in that sense, and he allows that maybe she doesn’t resent him — but she did mean it as a reproach. She answers that she only meant to say that she would undertake her duty to the best of her abilities, and that misunderstanding is bound to arise if the reader of the note approaches it with preconceived notions. If he felt something in her note, perhaps it’s because there was a reason he made that inference. Hwon reads into that remark as well, supposing that she’s insinuating that he’s ruling badly. Even though Wol has a tendency to speak in poetic riddles, Hwon does seem to be overreacting this time and he gets worked up, reminding her of her place and that he is not to be trifled with. He exclaims, “I am Joseon’s…!” in much the same way he had at their first encounter. Hwon cuts himself off, recalling that very thing, and declares he’s in need of some air. Wol, as his charm, is ordered to follow him outside. He orders his entourage to stay at a distance, keeping only Wol nearby with the excuse that she’s his charm. They stand outside the closed palace building that was once hers, and that stirs a memory — of young Hwon crying after her as Yeon-woo was kicked out. Assuming her medium powers are responsible for the vision, Wol asks if this place holds sad memories for the king: “Was the person who shed tears at this place… you?” He looms over her and asks intently, “What did you see?” Then he grabs her even closer — rawr! — and asks if she knows this because of her supernatural powers. She says yes, and he tells her to use those powers, then, to answer a question: “What do you think I’m going to do now?” Watching from across the courtyard, Hyung-sun and Woon avert their eyes as Hwon asks whether she thinks he would embrace her, disregarding her status. And then he eyes his uncomfortable staff, all shifting and looking down — and grabs Wol’s hand to run away. HA! (I love that he was being intentionally discomfiting to get everyone to look away.) Racing across the palace grounds, Hwon ducks into an empty building and demands to know who she really is: “You are not Wol.” But she has no other identity, and she says that before he gave her a name, she was just a nameless shaman. Hwon looks at her entreatingly, asking, “Do you really not know me? Have you truly never met me?” Wol asks if he’s looking to find Yeon-woo in her, and if her resemblance to that woman is why he’s keeping her close. He looks devastated as she tells him that she isn’t that person. Lashing out, he says she’s overstepped her bounds for assuming he cared for her, and that she’s a mere charm, not a person. Who is she to send him into such chaos? He warns her to keep away — if she crosses the line again, he won’t forgive her. His entourage awaits outside, and he leaves with them, dismissing Wol’s services for tonight. He does send Woon to follow her back to her quarters, though. Nok-young finds Wol outside and asks in concern if something happened, alarmed when Wol asks, “Who am I?” She confesses that she’s seeing strange visions, and while they must be someone else’s memories, they feel like her emotions. Not really believing it, Wol asks, “I can’t be the owner of those memories, can I? No matter how much I resemble her, I can’t become her, can I?” As though she wishes she were, so she could have the king’s love or maybe just ease his pain. Seol witnesses the conversation with tears of sympathy. Yeom freaks out to have Yang-myung pop up outside his house, and the two friends are then further freaked out by the silent arrival of a third party — Woon. Ha. Woon is here to convey Hwon’s orders to Yeom to appear at the palace, and on his way out gets a glimpse of a letter written on familiarly bright yellow parchment. Yeom explains it as an old letter from Yeon-woo. Seol once more visits Yeom’s house to get a glimpse of him, not seeing that Woon has clocked her shadowy presence. He surprises her with an attack and asks who sent her. Seol knocks his sword aside and runs away. The two remaining friends have a drink, and Yeom asks whether it’s true that Yang-myung has a new sweetheart, wondering what she’s like. Yang-myung reminisces about that one instance eight years ago, on the night before Yeon-woo was to be decided as the princess bride. He’d offered to take her away, but she had dismissed him by telling him not to joke, and he had let it go at that.
Yang-myung: “If I hadn’t disguised it as a joke… If I’d had more courage, and held out my hand… If I had shown my true feelings and asked her to run away… would she be with me now?”
Seol finds Wol waiting up when she returns, and explains that she was visiting her former owners’ house. Wol smiles and says they must have been good people for her to still feel attached, and Seol answers that they were: “When I was not even treated like a beast, they treated me as a person and gave me the pretty name Seol.” She finishes the thought in her head, adding, “That’s the kind of person you were.” After Yang-myung leaves, Yeom goes to Yeon-woo’s old room… where he finds her old chest. OH THANK GOD. Will somebody find that damn letter already? Yeom remembers Yeon-woo’s words about going through with the bridal selection despite her family’s worries. He lifts the lid to find the scrap of paper, curiously out of place, which immediately grabs his attention. He pulls it out, and sees that it’s addressed to the Crown Prince. Yang-myung walks along the deserted road, stopping short at the sight of a dark figure. It’s Jan-shil, and she tells him emotionally that she’s sorry, and that she’ll help him find the woman he’s looking for. She grabs him in a hug, crying, “Because you saved my life. I’ll repay that kindness, I promise.” Yeom visits his mother prior to making his trip to the palace. Min-hwa’s disappointed he didn’t tell her in advance so she could go with him, and Mom asks if she’s angry. Min-hwa says no, not angry — uneasy. Because if her husband goes to the palace alone… Cut to: Yeom, stirring up a frenzy among the court ladies, just like old times. Hwon warmly receives Yeom, whom he still calls Teacher, and invites him to settle in for a chat. Our axis of evil plays the role of today’s political exposition fairies as they receive word of Yeom’s sudden appearance at court and try to unravel its significance. I guess “Because I wanna hang out with my friend” doesn’t compute with this council of backstabbing conspirators? One minister comically complains that his hottie ranking slips whenever Yeom’s around, but then they get to the crux of the problem: As the princess’s husband, Yeom isn’t supposed have anything to do with politics, and thus his presence at court is dangerous. His very existence is problematic on a symbolic level (not unlike Yang-myung), since there are those willing to rally around him, perhaps moved by his father’s lingering influence. Yeom has deliberated over the letter, and now presents it to the king, explaining that he decided the right thing to do was to return it to the rightful recipient. Hwon can’t hide his emotion as he confirms that this is Yeon-woo’s last letter to him. Bowing respectfully, Yeom advises Yeom to forget her now, and to remember his wife. He says that Yeon-woo wouldn’t have wanted him to stay stuck in her shadow either. Hwon notes sadly that everybody is telling him to forget her. After Yeom leaves, he sits there staring at the unopened letter for a long while, and finally reads it.
Yeon-woo: “Crown Prince, I gather the last of my strength to leave this letter. I do not know if it will cause trouble or even if it will reach you, but I write this anyway. Before I leave, even only through the things I have learned from you, I was very happy. But now you must stop blaming yourself, and think of me as a memory. My father will bring me medicine soon. Then I will no longer be able to see you. You must forget me, and years later become a good and wise king.”
He cries, asking, “How much must she have hurt? How painful must it have been?” He asks Hyung-sun to bring him his old chest, and sobs that he can’t remember Yeon-woo’s handwriting anymore. He has to see her old letter as confirmation. Bo-kyung’s court spy reports to her about the king’s nighttime stroll, as well as Yeom’s visit. He was seen in troubled spirits afterward and asked for a chest bearing the hanja character for rain. Bo-kyung seems to recognize this immediately, with some concern. Hwon takes out the old letter, the apology she’d spent so much time on. But as he reads, it triggers another thought and he fumbles for a different letter — the one he recently received. Hwon compares the handwriting of the letters, which contain some of the same words. He orders Wol brought to him immediately. Wol is escorted to his quarters, but along the way she’s jerked to the side by Yang-myung, who asks intently, “Do you recognize me?” As he does, Hwon finishes his comparison and looks up with conviction.
COMMENTS Ack! He knows! They both know! You’re just going to cut out here?? Right, of course you’re going to cut out here; you don’t get to 30%+ ratings by just giving it away, I guess. I’ll give it to this show — even in a slower episode (which is what I thought of this one), it always pulls out a cliffhanger designed to rope us back like a crack addict at the bottom of his pipe, or however else you run out of crack. I said before that I wished Bo-kyung had been developed differently, to not be so outright malicious from the start, and that feeling is growing. I understand that she was raised by a villainous father, but she would have been such an interesting character if she had been allowed to “choose” her evil, so to speak, rather than have been marked from the start as a dark soul. This also stems from Kim Min-seo’s portrayal of Bo-kyung, which I think is fantastic. And yet the problem is, I think she’s giving the character depth that isn’t there in the writing. That’s not as bad a problem as the reverse scenario, but it does give me moments of confusion as a viewer. As a child, when she saw the lovebirds slipping away from the festival and cried, I felt nothing for her because there was nothing to show why she should feel so crushed; they had no existing relationship, and she’d never even looked at him admiringly. She could have been smitten by him at the soccer match, but again, wasted opportunity. Thus I felt (and still feel) that Bo-kyung’s issue is about jealousy over all the things Yeon-woo had, rather than jealousy over the king’s heart — because as far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t care for Hwon, the person. It’s all about what this represents: She’s always felt inferior to Yeon-woo, and her insecurities aren’t dead just because the girl (supposedly) is. It would have been a wonderful thing to explore, wouldn’t it? Here’s what I would have done: In their youths, I would have had Bo-kyung misunderstanding Hwon’s request to see her in secret, rather than realizing the truth in two minutes. She could have then built him up in her mind for days and read signs into everything, so when she later found out he meant to see Yeon-woo, that crushing disappointment would have had some bite. Then she could feel hurt over their relationship, whereas right now I feel like she’s a toddler unwilling to relinquish a toy because it’s hers. I’m not saying we can’t enjoy what we have, because I’m going with the story that’s given to us and it’s still entertaining. It’s just rather one-dimensional, ignoring its early potential to cultivate richer characters and more believable emotions. I have found the continued dumping on Han Ga-in a bit excessive, but it’s true that she doesn’t measure up to the men. I like her quite a lot in this role when she’s with Seol and Jan-shil, and I love that this drama shows us some solid female friendship, as fierce and loyal as any bromance. (More of that, please!) Han is managing the sageuk-speak pretty well and I think she bears a striking physical resemblance to child counterpart Kim Yoo-jung, so good casting on the looks front. But it’s too bad that Kim Soo-hyun blows her out of the water, and so does Kim Min-seo. I never really thought Yeon-woo was terribly nuanced a character to begin with, though, even in childhood; she was the simplest role of them all, and I partly blame the writing for being flat on that front. That’s true of a lot of the characters, actually, and we are just blessed in some cases with some actors who transcend their material. And boy, did they transcend in this episode. Kim Soo-hyun was pretty much on fire the whole episode through, whether he was being hurt, furious, confused, or heartbroken. And Jung Il-woo is at his best when he’s letting down that mask of mirth, as he did when he confessed to Yeom that perhaps he might have been able to keep Yeon-woo alive and with him if he’d been emotionally sincere. He’s wrong about that — y’know, Fate and all — but that regret is a bitter pill to swallow.