An apology is in order. I should never have doubted you Ok Jung!
We pick up where we left off -with the King barging in on Ok Jung’s you-slept-with-my-husband beating. His majesty is none too happy but much to my own delight does not give in to Maid Choi’s plea for help.
Instead he orders everyone, including Choi, to leave so he can have some alone time with the Queen. Once the couple is sans servants they begin a heated conversation; Lee Soon cannot believe that Ok Jung showed so much jealousy. Ok Jung cannot believe that Lee Soon let go of her hand. Lee Soon cannot believe that Ok Jung would even consider the reality that he was the one to sever their connection (there is a whole lot of “I can’t believe you did…” in this fight). Ok Jung collapses and tearfully tries to explain herself. The King will hear none of it and derides her for being a poor example of a Queen (after all the Queen is the Mother of the country). He deals the final blow when he tells her she needs to make Maid Choi a level four Concubine.
Ok Jung is devastated and his majesty stalks off in anger.
We check in with the still exiled In Hyun. She is meeting with her gleeful maid. Why is her servant so happy? Because it looks like the mighty Ok Jung has been replaced with the naïve Maid Choi. In Hyun is quick to remind the maid that the King’s love for Ok Jung is stronger than that; there will certainly be many more battles before Jang is ousted.
Maid Choi is promoted to a level four concubine in a court ceremony. Just as Ok Jung had to do the newly minted concubine must pay her respects to the Queen. The two meet-only this time Ok Jung is in the position of authority. Choi is gleeful at her promotion and tries to rub it in to Ok Jung. The Queen, anxiety and all, tells Choi it cannot be so. Just as the seat of King is decided by the heavens so is the seat of the Queen. Basically “Listen biotch, it ain’t gonna happen.”
The King sits at his desk, fuming over Uncle Jang. It has been awhile now since he learned that dear old Uncle had poisoned his Mom, it seems that now is the time for him to act on it. Lee Soon calls the captain of the royal guards and instructs him to call Uncle Jang to the palace. Our captain is apparently an Ok Jung fan -after receiving his order he mentions that the Queen seems to be very upset. We cut to Uncle Jang busy writing in a ledger. He stashes his book away in a hiding spot. Seems like this must be important- secret important. Uncle Jang arrives to see the King. Meanwhile we see the royal guard bust into Uncle Jang’s house. They begin searching the place top to bottom. Uncle’s faithful servant rushes into his study and tries to protect the hidden book, alas his actions are for naught as the guards rush in and capture the book. The King is busy questioning Uncle Jang on how he feels about not making father-in-law. The good natured inquiry turns serious as his majesty wonders how his Mother would feel if her poisoner was his father in-law. Uh Oh. Uncle Jang looks surprised. The man is downright shocked when the royal physician, the one and only person who Uncle Jang bribed to put the poison in the Queen Mother’s food, is dragged in and made to confess. Jang (ever the conniver) tries to talk his way out the situation. He asks the King how this will look, the Uncle of the Queen being arrested for poisoning the Queen Mother? And what about Ok Jung- how can the King assure his son’s untainted lineage if the boy’s great Uncle killed his Great Grandmother? Lee Soon, as usual, had already thought this through and delivers the public reason Uncle Jang will be imprisoned. The King throws down the ledger book. The item contains ten years’ worth of bribes given to Western party retainers. Jang tries to talk his way out of the situation again; but this time he goes for the throat. He accuses the King of covering up Ok Jung’s self-poisoning and then plants the seed in his head about Ok Jung’ s knowledge of the Queen Mother’s poisoning. Uncle Jang is quickly arrested and dragged from the throne room. The King watches, a pained look overwhelming his face as he is left alone. Apparently he is a little shook up by Uncle Jang’s words. Ok Jung is walking through a palace courtyard when she encounters Southern Party retainers. They inform her that her Uncle has been locked up. The Queen pays a visit to the King to ask why her Uncle has been arrested. He tells her to go question the man himself as he will not reveal her Uncle’s crimes. Ok Jung goes to do just that. She visits dear old Uncle in prison and is quickly rewarded by a crazy eyed Uncle Jang. He tells all of the scheming and poisonings were committed to make her Queen-so in other words the investigation will be coming around to see her soon. We see the King make his way into the jail, eavesdropping on the conversation. Does he really believe that Ok Jung knew about the poisoning of his Mother? In a move that made me love Ok Jung again she tells her uncle she could never, ever poison the mother of the one she loves. Even if said Mom was a mean to her she could never hurt the man she loves. Ok Jung fighting! Happy to see your sensible self is back! The King has overhears Ok Jung’s words, his expression turning serious. Ok Jung pleads for her Uncle to just leave somewhere, she will ask for mercy. Uncle Jang is as set on his goal as ever (avenge his daughter) and tells Ok Jung he will never ever leave. Ok Jung announces that she will cut all of her ties with him. Dear old Uncle responds by telling the Queen that such a feat will not be easy; severing her relationship with the person that helped her to the top. A few days later we find his majesty is at his desk, thinking about what he heard at the jail. His chief eunuch pays a visit to tell him about the afternoon’s schedule. A meeting, another meeting, oh yeah- and Prince D is back. Yay! We cut to the man himself. He runs into Ok Jung’s brother and is informed of recent events; more specifically Uncle Prince D is informed of the newest palace concubine. His concern for Ok Jung ever strong he rushes to meet the Queen. Ok Jung and Prince D meet in her quarters to discuss the situation. Ok Jung tearfully admits the state of current affairs (pun intended). We cut to his majesty being notified that his afternoon meeting was cancelled. He decides to go visit the Queen with his newfound free time. Bad timing! Bad timing! Seriously, Ok Jung needs to hire someone just to delay this guy for ten minutes, he shows up at the worst of times!
Back to Prince D and OK Jung -they are still talking about the new concubine. The King shows up and is met with the Queen’s maid looking shocked face at his arrival. Sensing someone is visiting the Queen he barges in, obviously mad at the situation. As soon as the King realizes it is Uncle Prince D visiting he puts on a fake, super fake, faker than fake smile. The trio sit down and Lee Soon immediately starts with the “I should leave since you have a visitor- why would you come see my wife before me?” statements. He then leaves. Ok Jung looks upset, sensing the King’s jealousy and anger. She quickly departs to follow the King, committed to setting the situation right. The King must be pissed because he is playing bow and arrows. Alone. Yikes! Choi shows up and asks the King to teach her archery. Ready to tell the new concubine to beat it Lee Soon stops when he realizes Ok Jung has arrived at the archery grounds. His majesty replays the image of Prince D and Ok Jung in his mind and lets jealousy get the better of him. With Ok Jung looking on the King back hugs Choi and attempts to teach her how to shoot a bow. Arghhhhh! I want to slap this man right now! The Queen looks heartbroken (understandably so) and rushes from the archery grounds. The King sees this and as soon as Ok Jung is gone he yells at Choi to leave. Choi cannot understand his change in mood, but departs. Prince D arrives as Choi is leaving. With a look of a condemnation he tells Lee Soon he has something to confess. The two BFFs meet over drinks. Uncle Prince D launches into his confession. He loved Ok Jung. Signal the King’s awkward pause mid-drink. But never fear, he overcame this love because Ok Jung only sees him as a brother. Un-pause drink. Prince D waits for punishment. Instead his majesty asks him to head the royal clinic. Uncle is surprised and happily accepts. The King confirms that he wants Prince D to stay by his side. Awwww! Bromance back on! The Queen takes a midnight stroll, reflecting on her misdeeds. She realizes she has failed miserably at the role of Queen and acted out of character in her desire to attain her position. The King receives a message, Ok Jung has asked for him. Lee Soon looks curious, considering the summons. We return to Ok Jung, still alone by the stream. The King arrives, as requested. Ok Jung pours out her motivations and her failures to Lee Soon. She has been a failure of a Queen and not a good person. If he still will hold her hand after all of this she will do better, work harder to become the Queen and Mother he wants her to be. Lee Soon extends his hand and tells Ok Jung he will never let her hand go- she will have to be the first to sever their commitment. The two embrace, tearfully reuniting after their recent challenges. We are treated to an Ok Jung is reforming herself montage complete with flower cutting, sewing at the tailor’s chambers, and concern for her servants. Ok Jung fighting! Next we find father in-law #1 visiting In Hyun. Their plot to capture the hearts of the people is still in full swing and this time they have a new weapon….get ready for it….none other than a trashy novel! The novel tells the story of a man who married a kind woman. Once he realized his wife could not have a child he got rid of her for an evil seductress concubine. Sound familiar? Yeah, it is the trashed up propaganda version of In Hyun’s deposal. Unfortunately that is also what we see in current history books. The book is sweeping the populous. Even palace maids are reading it, an event that leads to a copy making its way to Ok Jung. She orders that all of the copies in the palace should be burnt; Lee Soon should never see the thing. Ok Jung decides to get to the heart of this novel business and makes a trip to see In Hyun. The ex-Queen’s maid just about faints when she sees Ok Jung. How could she come here?! In Hyun and Ok Jung meet. In Hyun denies being the source of the novel. She also questions Ok Jung’s reason for visiting- from what she heard there is a new concubine in town. Ok Jung admits that she is nervous but explains that the King’s love is not so fickle. So good luck In Hyun. When Ok Jung returns to the palace she rushes to her son. The infant has grown since we last saw him. Ok Jung hugs him tightly whispering that the must grow up to be a strong King that protects her. In Hyun’s words clearly upset her. Ok Jung’s brother is busy meeting with father in-law #1 -who offers him a bribe. Big brother turns down the money and cites this offer as evidence that there is a scheme to oust Ok Jung and reinstate In Hyun. We cut away from the two meeting before we see the final portion of the meeting- did big brother take the bribe in the end? We flash back to father in-law’s meeting with Master Jin. A multi stepped plan is explained by Jin; win the hearts of the people and cause chaos in Ok Jung’s family. So that is why the Western Party is trying to bribe big brother! The King and Queen are out for a stroll when the King remarks Uncle Prince D is badly in need of people to help at the clinic. Ok Jung, with her recently recovered soul, announces that she will volunteer. The King is obviously happy at her words. The Western Party finds out about Ok Jung’s volunteer stint and decide to sabotage. Their first step is to have Choi remain at the palace after Ok Jung has left for the clinic. Then she will “accidently” run into the King while reading the Ok-Jung-is-evil novel. Choi does as she is told (and I mean literally told, she cannot read so In Hyun helps her memorize the book’s plot) and waits for the King where he is likely to walk by. Lee Soon sees Choi holding a book. He dismisses his servants and sits beside her. He asks her what she is reading. She dutifully recites what In Hyun taught her; the King sees right through this plot. He asks her when she could possibly have learned to read, as low class as she is. Choi tries to change the subject but it is obvious the jig is up. Next we catch up with Uncle Prince D at the clinic. The place is bustling with people. An announcement rings through the clinic- her majesty the Queen has arrived. Prince D looks towards the gate but instead of Ok Jung he sees In Hyun enter the clinic. The people, who know that In Hyun is the heroine of the novel of the moment, surround her and happily bow to her. Prince D approaches and tells her he does not need her help. Unfortunately for him, he says this as the actual Queen arrives (because turning down a volunteer when another arrives kind of makes everything seem a little shady). Ok Jung is greeted by an icy crowd. The people scowl at her and refuse to bow. The crowd parts long enough for her to glimpse In Hyun.
The people grow angry as they discuss Ok Jung’s role in the novel- the evil concubine that will cause a nation to fall. As the crowd becomes worked up and hostile the King arrives. A look of shock overcomes Lee Soon’s face as he looks on at the angry crowd, their rage directed at Ok Jung.
I apologize Ok Jung. I started hating you when I really should have just been mad at you. Because I will not forget the completely idiotic things you did but I will forgive. This episode gave this character back her soul and I feel bad I ever doubted her.
This show’s finale is very near; three episodes and counting. Theories have inundated my brain of late. How exactly will they wrap up this tale? As of this episode I am starting to think the ending will be bad…but not all that bad. At least narratively. So how do I see it ending? I anticipate popular opinion causing Lee Soon to oust Ok Jung and end in the King signing her death order (as history tells us). The King, with the goal of listening to his people, will be driven to remove his own happiness in order to live up to the task he inherited; the role of the leader of Joseon. A role that is only successful when the populous is happy and secure.
I anticipate it because in my mind this is currently the best case scenario. In addition I can see how this ending would be fitting given the narrative. But I will still cry. And probably imagine myself writing the scriptwriter a letter about how they should think about rainbows and unicorns more often. And convince myself the show ended when the main couple were in their lovey dovey stage. Because that is how I like to live. Cheers! Episode 22 why are you so far away?!