Bad, bad things happen this episode. Bad Ok Jung being stupid things. I need a drink.
We start off with the King and Queen having what appears to be an unusually friendly meeting. That is until his majesty brings up In Hyun’s past dream, you know the one where she said Ok Jung was a reincarnated animal out for revenge? Yeah, that one. The Queen’s hands begin to shake at the mention of her past faux pas, leaving the King to smile.
We return to the Main Hall and the scene that ended Episode 18- The king asking the retainers to dethrone the Queen. Surprisingly many are against the idea; In Hyun’s popularity with the people combined with the King’s lack of reason to kick her out are weighing on them.
We cut to Ok Jung, her brother (now a retainer), and Minister Jo. They are discussing the situation and Ok Jung is none too pleased- how could the Southern Party not support her?! Ok Jung’s brother suggests that she intervene and borrow a play from the deceased Queen Mother- aka I have a son, look at my son, did you know he is the future king?
Ok Jung meets with the retainers while holding the crown prince. She sternly reprimands their indecision at kicking out In Hyun and naming herself Queen.
Prince D is visiting with the King and the man is back to his old sounding board self. The King is pissed that the retainers will not dethrone the Queen, even worse they have the scholars supporting their decision; all of which has been brought on by the King’s father in law. His majesty remarks that he will be happy to see dear old father in law’s last plot against him- after all the two of them have been battling it out since Sukjong’s Crown Prince Days.
The King gets his chance rather quickly when a petition is delivered. Enraged by its contents and even more enraged by its writer (of course, his father in law) he is informed that the man himself is busy kneeling in front of the King’s chambers begging for his consideration.
The King rushes out and throws down the scroll. How dare Minister Min write a petition denouncing the King’s decision around the Crown Prince? Minister Min, with a bevy of scholars behind him, remarks that the King should not talk; after all he is trying to dethrone the Queen without reason.
His majesty quickly rebuts this accusation, asking Minister Min if he will give up his life if there is in fact a reason for In Hyun to be dethroned. Ever the loyal and conniving Dad, Minister Min agrees, after all the Queen is so beloved by everyone there could not possibly be a reason. But…there is.
The King graciously explains how In Hyun has committed three of the seven sins of a bad wife: she exhibited jealousy by spreading word of her dream of Ok Jung’s evil, she has not had a son, and she shamed the late Queen Mother by saying she appeared in the anti-Ok-Jung-dream.
Minister Min realizes the mistake he made when he said he would lay down his life, the King’s reasoning is strong and supported by the scholars (who quietly back away from their support of Min).
We cut to In Hyun who has just been notified of her Father’s future execution. Resolute to not let this happen she rushes to the King.
In Hyun pleads with the King- pleas that fall on deaf ears. The King calmly explains that Min’s life is his present for the Southern Party and that all he wants is for In Hyun to go bye-bye. She proposes a solution; she will be deposed and her father will live. Her big twist is her revelation that she once saved the Crown Prince’s life (from the assassin her Dad sent…doesn’t that kind of cancel her good deed out?). The King calls in his secretary and announces In Hyun’s demotion, presumptuously saving her father from death. The Queen is resigned in her demeanor, tears quietly streaming.
Ok Jung emerges from her chambers, her role as Queen now certain. Tears of a different kind, this time of joy, mark her newfound role. Ok Jung immediately goes to see the King.
While entering the King’s quarters Ok Jung glimpses Maid Choi, smugly walking with a tea tray. Ok Jung’s expression turns sour- is she suspecting something?
Once OK Jung arrives at the King’s room she is told that his majesty is busy with the person he holds the most dearly in the world. You can see that Ok Jung looks worried; is he with the maid? She reluctantly enters and her fears are put to rest, the King is holding his infant son. He tells Ok Jung that she should return to her quarters, he has sent her a present she should meet in person. Ok Jung happily departs.
Back at her chambers she discovers the Queen’s robes. We are reminded of the time so long ago, during Ok Jung and the King’s adolescence, when he told her he would find an outfit that would make her class no longer a factor. That outfit is the Queen’s robes.
The coronation of Ok Jung as Queen takes place. The King smiles fondly as she walks up the aisle towards him; apparently pleased with his Queen and the situation at hand.
Meanwhile In Hyun is departing from the Queen’s quarters. Her maids are openly sobbing at her dismissal. Before her is a simple white palanquin, the same palanquin that Ok Jung took the last time the Queen kicked her out of the palace (karma is a bitch, isn’t it?). Before she can leave the royal shaman rushes up to break the news- the latest royal shaman vision is that In Hyun will one day return as Queen.
After the coronation Ok Jung decides it is time to go to her new quarters. As she enters she encounters In Hyun, who has yet to leave due to being delayed by the shaman. The two engage in a tense discussion.
In Hyun alludes to her future return, as seen in the vision of the shaman. Ok Jung denounces this, while In Hyun responds with annoying smiles and you-just-wait-and-sees. In Hyun further warns Ok Jung that her position is nowhere near secure, after all the King is the King once his favor disappears. OK Jung, with her recent maid worries, seems shaken by this piece of advice. Yet she rallies and tells In Hyun she will protect the role of Queen no matter what and not allow others to covet it. With that In Hyun enters the palanquin.
We see both women tearing up- In Hyun sobbing in the palanquin as she is dismissed from the palace and her life as Queen. Ok Jung has tears in her eyes as she watches In Hyun leave; did the words of warning In Hyun spoke cut deep down into her subconscious anxiety?
In Hyun arrives at her new home- a place that was gifted to her family upon her royal marriage. Her court maid can’t understand her decision to live out her exile here; won’t it be too painful of a reminder of her current situation? The deposed Queen explains that this is the perfect place to stage a comeback, a constant reminder of what could be hers again.
Maid Choi arrives at In Hyun’s new digs to bring back an item from the palace (the clothes In Hyun wore when she arrived at the palace to be married, ouch!). In Hyun questions the girl on her life in the palace and receives frank but immaturely honest answers.
Jang Ok Jong is in the middle of a nightmare. She is dreaming that the King has rushed to visit In Hyun, replaying the exact scene where Ok Jung herself stopped the King from spending the night with the Queen. Only this time Ok Jung is playing the unloved third wheel. She wakes up with a start and announces that she is going to go see the King, middle of the night or not.
Ok Jung arrives at the King’s chambers and is told that she cannot go in, his majesty is meeting with the retainers. Ok Jung, in her newfound batshit craziness, pushes her way inside. She sees a maid with a tea tray walking towards her and instinctually slaps her down; screaming at her for being in the King’s chambers at such a late hour.
Much to Ok Jung’s shock she looks over the fallen maid and sees the King doing exactly what she was told – meeting with the retainers. The King yells at her, questioning her behavior.
Ok Jung returns to the Queen’s quarters and repents to her maid- how could she, the new Queen, have shown such rude behavior? As she questions her bad side Prince D arrives.
Prince D tries to comfort Ok Jung and instinctually (via his unrequited love for the woman) holds out his hand to stroke her cheek. Unfortunately for both of them the King is watching from the shadows, none too pleased at his Uncle’s obvious desire for the Queen. The King leaves, Ok Jung glimpses him as he departs.
Next we find Prince D arriving at the King’s chambers, ready to drink with his buddy. The captain of the royal guards stops him and lays it on the line- don’t lust after the Queen because doing so is going to further isolate the King from everyone. Prince D tries to act like the suggestion is malarkey but it is clear that the message is received.
Ok Jung’s brother is walking in the market when he spots a familiar face- the palace maid that aided in Ok Jung’s self-poisoning. The woman was supposed to be far, far away. Angered at her presence big brother chases the woman. Unfortunately for him Master Jin is watching. Sensing something big he catches the maid first and brings her back to his ginseang house fortress. There he learns that the woman has a big secret, a really big secret.
The King and the retainers meet in the main hall. It becomes extremely apparent that the retainers of the Southern Party are not doing their jobs, they consistently report that everything is okay in the realm despite obvious problems (a pandemic, civilian unrest). The King admonishes their incompetence and leaves the main hall.
His majesty is obviously having a bad day as we find him playing bow and arrows by himself. But never fear, Prince D arrives to ask his majesty to tone down the anger. The King responds by blowing off steam about the parties (including his thought about switching parties-which freaks out Prince D as this would mean bye-bye Ok Jung). The monarch then asks his Uncle when he is leaving- after all he needs to go to China to ask the court to approve Ok Jung as the Joseon Queen. Prince D says soon.
The King responds with a calmly delivered set of “My Ok Jung” this and “My Ok Jung” that. He is clearly marking his territory and warning his Uncle- back off from my woman or else.
Ok Jung meets with the wives of Chinese diplomats in order to further her case with the Chinese throne. She gives them makeup made by the palace cosmetics division, prior to her gift we are given a feeling that the cosmetics may have been tampered with.
After the meeting Ok Jung walks with her brother, who congratulates her on her ability to charm the Chinese women. As they walk they run into a group of palace maids, who deliver the obligatory bow at the site of their sovereign’s wife. Ok Jung notices that one maid looks up slightly as the others bow- it is Maid Choi. As the maids depart Ok Jung orders her court lady to see that Maid Choi is either kicked out or demoted to a role in which she will not be seen by the king- she is too flirtatious. Her brother looks at her, worried at her sudden paranoia.
Finally, for the first time since her bitch slap of the palace maid, the King asks for Ok Jung. Delighted she arrives at his room to find that there is an unexpected visitor. Ok Jung enters the room and is shocked to see Master Jin there. The King announces that this man has gifted her a palanquin. Ok Jung turns white as a ghost, her nervousness evident. The King smiles, not letting any sign of his knowledge of Master Jin and Ok Jong’s relationship or lack thereof to show.
Finally Master Jin mentions that he met a former palace maid with an interesting story. Had anyone been poisoned recently? Ok Jung looks ready to have a heart attack as Master Jin slowly gets to the point- the maid, you see, told him that…………
Arghhhhhhh!!!! What is Master Jin going to say! This is a torturous cliffhanger because I could honestly see this situation going either way. Jin could say that the maid accused Ok Jung and plant the seed in the King’s head (even though I think it was probably already planted and the accusation would not come to much immediately) or could make up nonsense (to make Ok Jung nervous and know he is not kidding around). I want to know! Right now!
Okay, I will stop my tantrum. This episode really played up how history repeats itself. From In Hyun telling Ok Jung what comes around goes around to OK Jung acting exactly like her predecessors, all full of jealousy and anxiety, viewers were left with the impression that these women are left in an unbreakable circle of treachery. Which is kind of disappointing because I want to shout “Ra-ra Ok Jung broke the cycle of horribleness”! But I cannot because she is starting to act in a way that puts her earlier sense and kindness to shame.
To play devil’s advocate I can also see that Ok Jung is faced with a maid lusting after the King, not unlike how others in her position were faced with her own relationship with the monarch. So does this justify the actions of old?
So again I will ask myself- do I hate Ok Jung’s character? No, not yet. I am just disappointed. I wanted her to rise up and overcome the stupidity and jealousy of the past but she is falling right into the same traps of situation and innuendo. We still have five more episodes for her to shift back to more sensible behavior but as history tells us (I will say it again, this show makes me hate history) Ok Jung will most likely just spiral to her downfall.
Which is why Ok Jung may become a 14 episode drama for me. I will be in complete denial about the last 10 episodes. Seriously. What 10 episodes?!
Next episode, with all of your potential, why are you so far away….