The intrigue of the inner court heats up while Master Jin makes an epic return. This episode solidifies a political partnership while introducing troubles to come (and giving viewers a heavier dose of the heated romance, if that is even possible).
We open with the King- who is astounded to hear that the retainers have returned to the court. He is in awe of Ok Jung’s actions that caused an end to the protests and rushes off to go see her at the Queen Mother’s chamber, where she is begging forgiveness. As the King approaches he hears his Mother give his favorite concubine a tongue lashing. As featured in the end of last episode we hear the Queen Mother admit that she gave Ok Jung infertility medicine. Ok Jung realizes the King is listening and with a glint in her eye tells the Queen Mother she understands her desire to not witness the tainting of the royal blood. At her words the King jumps in and shouts at his Mother- he demands to know the truth.
The Queen Mother stutters and then finally admits her guilt. But it is a justifiable action she yells, as she is protecting the royal bloodline from such filth as Ok Jung. Ok Jung plays up the “I am kind hearted” act and asks the King to stop being angry at his mother, her concern is all Ok Jung’s fault after all. The Queen Mother becomes enraged at the concubines ploy and starts to go towards Ok Jung but then falls. Ok Jung reaches out an arm in concern for the Queen Mother but has her face slapped in response. The King looks on shocked and shouts out in anger. He orders the Queen Mother to be taken back to her chamber and Ok Jung to hers before he stalks away. The King retreats to ponder the shocking events he has just learned of.
Next we find the King visiting Ok Jung. He tells her he is sorry that his Mother assaulted her and questions how she survived it. Ok Jung tells him she kept it a secret because she feared it would make him hate his mother. Her words bode well with him and he again apologizes and then asks if she will do him a favor. She responds that she will and he tells her he wishes her to give birth to his child. She initially protests that the Queen should have his child first but then is silent as they embrace.
The Queen Mother is fuming. The Queen comes to visit and the two discuss a plan of action to win back the favor of the King. Of course the plan involves the royal shaman- who dutifully comes to visit. The woman who has the first born son of the King will be the woman in power which leaves the shaman to foretell if the Queen will be the lucky one. After her reading of the Queen the shaman tells the Queen Mother in confidence that the Queen is in fact barren- but there is a catch. If the King sleeps with her in three days at 10:00 (way to be specific) then she will get pregnant. The date is set and it becomes an official function. Apparently the royal shaman can do all sorts of things- like tell the King and Queen when to have sex. What power.
The Southern Party (The queen dowager and friends) learn of the official sleepover and discuss actions to stop the event- as this is an official decree from the royal astrology office to try to stop it would cause mass opposition from the retainers. As the event is being discussed Ok Jung cryptically smiles. What is she thinking?
The King is ready to build a fortress to strengthen the Northern defenses. He decides to appoint a member of the Southern Party to oversee the project however he is advised this will cause great commotion in the court. Meanwhile Ok Jung is meeting with Lord Jo (the man the King wants to appoint) and reveals her plan- whispers on the pillow aka doing what your concubine suggests. Ok Jung’s supposed influence will be a ploy to allow the King to carry out the desired regime change. Ok Jung realizes that everyone will blame her for the shakeup therefore taking pressure off of the king.
Queen In Hyun learns from her court lady that Ok Jung was involved in said court ladies kidnapping. Enraged In Hyun storms off to see Ok Jung. Facing her, the Queen verbally lashes out at Ok Jung’s role in the kidnapping. Ok Jung responds by teasing the Queen with the reason the court lady was nabbed to begin with – in order to blackmail the Queen’s father for his attempted murder of Ok Jung. In Hyun will hear none of it however before she can further lash out at Ok Jung the King arrives. Meekly the Queen leaves, a gaze of hatred in her eyes.
The King and Ok Jung take a walk where he congratulates her for bringing the retainers back- whatever the means she used to accomplish this. While the two walk the father in laws of the Western party look on and discuss their need to halt Ok Jung’s power.
The big night has arrived. The King sets out for the Queen’s chambers but on the way he is side tracked- wearing a lavender hanbok Ok Jung stares on at his procession. The King orders a stop to the journey and like a moth to a flame follows Ok Jung into her quarters. The two begin to talk when the Queen, upon the King not appearing at her chambers, finds the two together. The King does not see her but Ok Jung does and in her best femme fatale impersonation begins to kiss the King so he does not notice her presence. The Queen leaves, angry at what she has witnessed. Later she tells her maid that there is nothing she can do- she cannot become angry at Ok Jung in front of the King.
Ok Jung and the King spend the night together. Ok Jung tells the King there will be trouble tomorrow and he acknowledges their political partnership- his sudden change of retainers will be blamed on her. Ok Jung playfully remarks that this means her whispers on the pillow (basically the blame the court will put on her for the sudden rise of the Southern party) is all false and she has no power. The King tells her that she should not discount her influence so fast; she should try it. They then embrace.
The court gathers to hear the dismissal of several Western party retainers, to be replaced by members of the Southern party. As the King has anticipated the retainers argue and blame Ok Jung. The monarch plays off of their suggestions brilliantly- pointing out that they have blamed natural disasters on his concubine and are insinuating that no less than the king has taken a bribe. He angrily dismisses the court leaving the retainers to look like superstitious fools.
The Queen goes to visit Ok Jung and tells her the story of Lu Zhi, the 3rd century BC Han dynasty Empress who had her rival-a concubine- put to death in a horrible manner. Ok Jung tries to play off the story (which includes a tale of poisoning the concubine’s son) and leaves however she is visibly shaken by the veiled threat.
The King is hanging out, playing bows and arrows with Uncle Prince D. The two discuss the change of court and Ok Jung’s role as the patsy of the scheme. Uncle worries for her safety in the face of such blame however the King announces that he is protecting her with all of his might.
Ok Jung visits the tailor’s chambers where she questions her old nemesis about the fire that killed their teacher. She learns that it was started by a man with a tattoo. We cut to the new guy, departing from a boat. Coincidentally he runs into Ok Jung’s brother, an encounter in which he drops books that look a lot like the ones Ok Jung collected for fashion purposes. Ok Jung’s brother does not recognize the man so apparently his past familiarity was with Ok Jung and not her brother.
The new guy, who goes by Master Jin, visits a grand house that he wants to purchase. We then see him meet with the Queen’s Father in law. During the meeting we are told that Master Jin is the adoptive son of a man with power at the Chinese court, which impresses our father in law. Master Jin clarifies that his one goal is to take down Ok Jung’s uncle. Yikes- this should be interesting.
We cut to Ok Jung’s uncle and brother who are discussing the arrival of a powerful merchant from the Chinese court, Master Jin. Cryptically Uncle remarks that he dreads hearing that name, giving a hint that there is a deep association between them despite Ok Jung’s brother having failed to recognize the man.
The Queen visits the Queen Mother and suggests a royal mean-girls turndown of Ok Jung: invite her Mother to the upcoming court party. The Queen Mother agrees since Mom is Ok Jung’s one weakness plus there are rumors that Mom was once a slave and mistress to Lord Jo.
The King bids a morning farewell to Ok Jung (who is ecstatic at her mother visiting). We cut to her mother entering the palace. On her way to the party she runs into Lord Jo. The father in laws (and quite a few of the Western party retainers nonetheless) see this and start the whispers about her slave/mistress origins. Meanwhile Ok Jung is skillfully distracted by requests from the Queen Mother to mix makeup. Anxious to greet her mother Ok Jung reluctantly allows a court maid to do so instead.
Ok Jung’s mother arrives at the party only to be told she is of too low of a class to sit with the other women. She is given a straw mat to sit on and heckled with taunts about her slave origins. Ok Jung arrives and is enraged at her mother’s treatment. She faces the Queen and Queen Mother and in her anger slaps the court maid that she instructed to greet her mother. The Queen, in all of her newfound bitchiness, scolds Ok Jung for her actions. Ok Jung retorts that she is in the right, the maid is below her in social status, and that while she herself will face discrimination she will not allow her mother to be treated in such a way. The two women stare each other down.
I am anxious to see where the “first time locked in a burning building” plot is going. While definitely hinted at in prior episodes the fact that we have finally been introduced to the updated version of the boy from way back and learned details of who started the fire leads me to believe that the circumstances surrounding the incident are about to carve into our story in a big way. I think some of my hesitancy is because I am happy with where we are going thus far- court intrigue and the fight for control. This new element- which undoubtedly is part of the larger fight for power- is a huge unknown that could move the story in a good or in a horrible way. The fact that this long lost guy is super rich, after Ok Jung’s uncle, and in love with her indicates he is not going away anytime soon- and he is probably going to be a major player in Ok Jung’s life come future episodes. All of which leads me to plead: I love you story, please don’t let this new guy drag you down.
Queen In Hyun finally started playing the game- apparently all it took was immense rage and jealousy to get her going. Who would have thunk it. In Hyun’s ability to scheme with the best of them is tested in this episode- first with a miserably failed plan of intimidating Ok Jung and secondly with a successful bid to piss her off. In Hyun has some learning to do but I have no doubt she is a quick learner, she has that evil gaze almost perfected in only one episode.
Speaking of evil gazes, I am loving the glint in Ok Jung’s eyes when she is staring down the latest wave of hatred against her (and for the record I still don’t hate her for her actions). I love this character’s transformation into a politically savvy woman that can face her challenges and those of her lover head on. This episode gave us the best fight face Ok Jung so far but taught us that in her hyped up political plotting mode this woman still has weaknesses, a sign that no matter what she is still not a heartless and soulless schemer.
The King and Ok Jung’s political partnership is a highlight of this episode. Last episode the King stepped back to let Ok Jung take charge of the political scheme of the moment, this episode bore the fruit of their partnership. I love how these two understand the first conclusion that the court will come to and play off of it for their own causes’ benefit. Genius. In addition to their political relationship their romance is in full swing: am I the only one that just about died during the “have my baby” speech?
I am left to wonder- will Ok Jung’s position at court withstand her defense of her Mother (I think so)? Will In Hyun step up her plotting (probably)? And who has that terrible tattoo? Episode 14 I need you!