This episode has our junior concubine bringing her delusional ambitions to new heights while the palace is visited by illness. The love between our OTP is still strong but challenged by Suk Won’s amateur scheming. On to the recap!
We return to the awkward palace meeting of the year- In Hyun returning to the Queen’s quarters as Ok Jung vacates, with Suk Won looking on for good measure. The former Queen and the current Queen converse. In Hyun is shocked to learn that Ok Jung has not been demoted to commoner but will only relocate to Chwi Seon Dang. After all when she lost the seat of Queen she was demoted and exiled. Looks like it is apparent the King still loves Ok Jung. Our young concubine remains smug and congratulates In Hyun on being reinstated as Ok Jung makes her way to Chwi Seon Dang.
In Hyun reenters the Queen’s chambers and in her head gives thanks to her Dad for restoring her to the palace. She vows to never have the seat of Queen stolen from her again. Suddenly she grabs her chest. Uh oh- is In Hyun sick!
Ok Jung arrives back at the Chwi Seon Dang as a sad melody plays. She smiles faintly at the sign above her old quarters, after all this is not a bad place that she is being sent to. She remembers the good things that happened here, such as the birth of her son and her appointment as Queen.
The King himself appears and grasps Ok Jung’s (now back to being called Hee Bin) hand, leading her into the place. He tells her he could not let her enter this place alone, her first steps into her new-old home should be with him. Awwwwww! It is starting to feel like things may be okay after all.
As they enter Lee Soon tells Ok Jung that she must get through this rough patch because good times will soon return. She tells him not to worry, she has never given up hope and as long as they are together she can get through anything.
We cut to Master Jin who is having tea. He is lamenting the fact that Ok Jung was not kicked out and exiled but only demoted to Hee Bin. His gisaeng friend explains that is just how Kings are. She then asks him when he is going back to China now that Uncle Jang is dead.
The King meets with the retainers (the new-old Western Party retainers) in the main hall. He leaps right into business, which happens to be another scroll asking him to execute Ok Jung’s brothers. The Western Party is surprisingly divided in their opinions. The older retainers and the younger retainers of the party each give their reasoning for having him killed or letting him live. Before we can fully dive into the Western Parties sudden differences in opinion the King’s chief eunuch rushes in with news- In Hyun’s father just passed away.
In Hyun pays a visit to the King. Lee Soon tells her that her father was the only politician that he has dealt with that kept him on his toes; in essence he became such a good politician because of dear old evil Dad. The King explains that this dynamic with her Dad may be one of the reasons he stayed so far away from her, she was the daughter of his political enemy (wait…what about staying away from her cause he didn’t like the conniving things she did?). He tells her the role of Queen suits her.
Uncle Prince D meets with the King. He is worried about the clinic, they lack medicine and funds. The King tells him he will never give up on the clinic. Prince D asks about what will happen to Ok Jung’s brother (Prince D’s old friend). The King says that if he kills big brother the next target will inevitably become Ok Jung and after that the crown prince, all the more reason to not kill Hae Jee.
Meanwhile In Hyun is playing with the Crown Prince. Suk Won is there too and she questions why the Queen likes the child so much- after all his mother caused so much trouble for In Hyun. The Queen tells the girl to be quiet as the child might hear. Suk Won then questions how the King is treating In Hyun these days. She tells the Queen she hopes that the King and her are in love but then throws in an offer- if they are not and In Hyun will not get pregnant anytime soon she is willing to bare the King’s child and give it to In Hyun to raise. You stupid, stupid girl! Seriously-did you think the Queen would jump at this chance?!
In Hyun tells the girl to STFU, before she can give Suk Won even more of a dressing down she cringes, an apparent pain shooting through her chest. Suk Won asks the Queen if she is sick. In Hyun responds by saying she is just tired. Sure…
Uncle Prince D is meeting with Ok Jung. They talk about her current situation, Ok Jung assures him that everything is fine. Her only issue is that she misses her son. Prince D tells her he has looked into her big brother’s situation and found that he was setup by the Western Party. Ok Jung voices the fact she was suspicious once she considered the news of Suk Won’s pregnancy that started the entire issue. She concluded there was no pregnancy or miscarriage- it was all fake.
In Hyun discusses Suk Won with her maid. She thought the girl would be easily controlled but realizes Suk Won is a force in her own right. In Hyun remarks that this must be her fate- to be pushed around by concubines.
Ok Jung and Suk Won have a meeting. Suk Won is all smug smiles, apparently secure in her plotting abilities. Ok Jung reminds the girl if she is to ever become queen she will have to oust Ok Jung all together. Suk Won confirms that is the plan. Ok Jung reminds her that having a son is pretty much her only ticket up. Suk Won remarks that this is true as well and since the Queen is not having one….
Ok Jung gives a verbal smack down to Suk Won, asking who she is to talk about the Queen that way (now, call me crazy but if In Hyun and Ok Jung have someone like Suk Won around they seem to be of a like mind. Why couldn’t she have been there since the beginning? I am convinced if we had a Suk Won from the start these two women would be making a quilt and braiding each other’s hair). Suk Won blows of the reprimand and proceeds to question Ok Jung on the future; things are not looking so bright for Ok Jung now that the retainers of the Western party are in charge.
Ok Jung tells the girl that she does not need retainers as she has the King and her son. Plus the King wants her to have a whole gaggle of kids. Suk Won still tries the “But who knows how you will end up” game but Ok Jung reminds her the role of concubine is based on the King’s favor. Suk Won dares her to ask the King about his favor- Ok Jung says she will. Ha! Take that Suk Won! Ok Jung totally won this one.
In Hyun and her “son” are outside playing ball. Ok Jung wanders by and sees them, looking with longing eyes from afar. Suddenly In Hyun stumbles and grasps her head. She recovers quickly but her momentary bout of sickness made her turn and notice Ok Jung. She tells the palace maid to take the crown prince to see Ok Jung for a while. Wow. They really are almost-kind-of getting along!
Ok Jung is touched that she is allowed time with her son. She stares after In Hyun with a happy look on her face. The King shows up and sees Ok Jung walking away with their son. He thanks In Hyun for allowing the visitation and then invites her to take a walk.
The two stroll in the palace. Suddenly In Hyun collapses. She is taken to her room. The King waits by her bedside. The royal physician is there and he reveals that the Queen has been sick since she came back to the palace.
Ok Jung enjoys the time she has with her son, playing ball with the little boy. Suddenly (again!) the crown Prince collapses.
The King rushes to his son’s sick bed but is stopped by the royal physician. The boy may have small pox so he should not go in the room. The King enters anyway. Ok Jung is also at their child’s side as the physician examines the boy and confirms the disease is the highly contagious small pox.
The King wonders aloud how so much tragedy has befallen the palace, with the Queen and now the crown Prince. This is the first time Ok Jung hears of In Hyun’s illness. She looks upset at knowing the Queen is not feeling well.
We see Ok Jung’s Mom pay a visit to a shaman. NOoooo! No! The shaman tells her someone is about to die. But if a prayer is made in time then the death will be averted. Did I already say Nooooooooooooo!
Uncle Prince D meets with Ok Jung. She tells D that she wants to make an offering. Prince D reminds her she cannot- after all shamanism is frowned upon in the palace after the late Queen Mother got sick from her shaman ice bath.
Ok Jung’s Mom comes to visit her grandson and tells Ok Jung she has to make an offering and prayer to save her son. Mom tells Ok Jung if this is not done someone will die. Ok Jung looks terrified at her Mother’s words.
We cut to later that night; the crown prince has taken a turn for the worse. The King rushes in to his son’s sick room. Ok Jung is in tears, Lee Soon tells her she must remain strong for their son. Ok Jung apologizes for her weakness as the two hold hands, comforting each other.
Ok Jung returns to her quarters where she directs her maid to call in the shaman and her mother. Her maid reminds her what Uncle Prince D said; not a good idea. Ok Jung dismisses this and tells her to fetch the magic lady anyway. The maid complies and brings Mom and Shaman to the palace.
As they are entering the palace Suk Won happens upon them. She asks the maid who the two women are and is told they are relatives of Ok Jung (smart maid, don’t answer “The shaman”) Suk Won is not so easily fooled as she notices the shaman’s robes hidden under the woman’s cloak. She tells her maid to follow the women.
The shaman, Mom and Ok Jung meet at Chwi Seon Dang. The shaman repeats her prophecy, they must make an offering or someone will die. She suddenly channels Queen Inkyung, who directs them to make the offering to her if they want to avert the death.
Ok Jung is still not so sure and asks her Mom what she should do. Mom tells her she should follow the shaman and not hesitate to do what she can to save the crown prince. Ok Jung finally agrees and asks what she must do.
The shaman pulls out her shaman kit and gives Ok Jung a talisman with Queen Inkyung’s name on it. The name is burnt and the shaman begins to stab a doll and hop around and ring bells. Hmmm…that’s…weird. Ok Jung and Mom begin to pray. Suk Won watches from a crack in the door, giving us her signature smug smile as she leaves the shamanistic ritual. The women continue to pray as we cut back and forth from the crown prince’s sick bed, In Hyun’s sick bed, and the ritual. In Hyun begins to convulse and awakes up with a scream. She immediately collapses into unconsciousness. Her maid hears her and calls for the doctor.
The next day Ok Jung is back at her son’s bedside when she sees her son’s fingers move. The physician examines the boy and says that his pulse has stabilized and the boy’s fever has gone way down. Ok Jung starts to cry with happiness at the news that her son is apparently recovering.
Ok Jung is strolling through the palace grounds when she overhears some maids talking. It seems that Suk Won has way more supporters in the palace than she does. The maids notice her and fall silent but the damage is done. If In Hyun dies what will happen to Ok Jung if Suk Won has a larger following?
Back in her quarters Ok Jung is visited by Lord Jo, who has heard of In Hyun’s illness. He tells Ok Jung that this is their chance, if the Queen dies Ok Jung can return to the queen’s chambers. Ok Jung tells Lord Jo that Suk Won will stand in their way plus at this moment she is only worried for her child. In other words- take your plotting elsewhere.
Suk Won is meeting with father in law one. She asks him what will happen if In Hyun dies. Could a concubine rise up to be Queen? Father in law reminds Suk Won that the concubine that would rise up is not her but Hee Bin. Suk Won says that won’t happen, she has proof of something.
That night the King is drinking with Uncle Prince D. Apparently he has had too much to drink as Prince D tells him it is time to go to bed. Ignoring his Uncle, Lee Soon goes into drunk truth telling mode. He is regretting how he kicked out In Hyun. Prince D tells him he did what he had to as King. Lee Soon says he cannot count how many times he has hurt people just because he is King, if he had been born a commoner he would have been so much happier. Prince D tells him jokingly that he could never have handled being a commoner, he is too driven to be a humble and ordinary man. Plus why does he want to live the common life? The King is comforted by this. The captain of the royal guard enters and announces that In Hyun has taken a turn for the worse.
Ok Jung rushes to the queen’s chamber, apparently In Hyun has called for her. Ok Jung enters her former quarters and kneels next to the Queen. In Hyun, visibly weak, reminds Ok Jung of the moment they first met so long ago at Ok Jung’s dress shop. She reminisces about Ok Jung saying she wanted to make dresses that made men fall in love with the dress’s wearer. In Hyun admits those words confused her until she saw the King. At that time she realized what Ok Jung meant, what it meant to fall in love. But at that time she also realized the King hated her.
Ok Jung tries to tell In Hyun the King never felt hatred for her. In Hyun further reveals that she thought if she could become Queen again she would be happy, her pride and family restored. She also says the King could have loved her if Ok Jung was not around.
Ok Jung continues their come clean discussion by saying that In Hyun is in fact a good Queen. In Hyun says she had to carry her family till the end, even watching her Dad cause such problems for her husband. She asks Ok Jung to protect Lee Soon until the end. Ok Jung says if there is another life in their future they should walk hand in hand. In Hyun weakly reaches out and grabs Ok Jung’s hand in hers, tearfully agreeing that they should have been friends.
We cut to Suk Won who is busy snooping around Ok Jung’s room. She finds the shaman doll on the still standing altar and smiles, evidence in hand.
The King is visiting In Hyun. The King tells the Queen she has to get better; In Hyun asks if she recovers will that result in him finally paying attention to her? The king responds by holding her hand. In Hyun remarks that she has waited a long time for him to hold her hand. The King begins to apologize for how he has hurt her. In Hyun tells him something similar to what she told Ok Jung, she was forced to become Queen to carry her family. All she really wanted was to love and be loved by Lee Soon. She says if she could do it all over she would never have fallen in love with the King, it hurt her too much and she was too lonely. Yet in retrospect the time she spent with the King made up for it and she doesn’t regret it in the end. With tears streaming down her cheeks she turns away.
We are treated to a flashback of the King’s first meeting with In Hyun, the moment he chose Inkyung over her. We see their royal wedding and then In Hyun’s eviction from the palace as Ok Jung is crowned Queen. The scene were In Hyun reenters the palace completes the flashback.
We return to the present where In Hyun slips away into eternal rest, the King holding her hand. The King remains by her bedside into the night as the palace Eunuchs officially announce the Queen’s death. Once his majesty finally leaves In Hyun the palace servants collapse in the courtyard in official mourning.
Ok Jung is waiting outside of the Queen’s Chambers, upset at In Hyun’s death. She stares at the King and he looks back, the pair seemingly finding comfort in each other’s presence.
Suk Won is meeting with In Hyun’s maid. The maid, who has always hated Ok Jung (since she was slapped by her during that evil palace tea time so long ago), tells Suk Won they cannot let Hee bin become Queen again. Suk Won shows the maid the shamanistic doll and asks her if she has ever seen something like that, she found it at Ok Jung’s quarters. The maid immediately says Ok Jung must have put a spell on In Hyun- Suk Won must do something about it. Suk Won says she will and gets the maid’s agreement to help her to prevent Hee Bin from becoming Queen.
Ok Jung returns to her room and tells her maid that they need to clear away the shamanistic altar. With In Hyun’s death they have not had time. Plus if the retainers find she had an altar they will corner his majesty and force his hand.
The King is meeting with the retainers in the main hall. He announces the location of In Hyun’s tomb. After the announcement Father in law one says he has something to report… more specifically he has someone here to make a report. The king agrees to let the person into the main hall, much to his surprise Suk Won enters the room.
Suk Won tells the retainers and the King that Ok Jung set up an altar and put a curse on In Hyun- and she has proof. The King raises his voice in anger as he questions Suk Won on her accusation- how could Ok Jung have placed a curse on In Hyun?!
Still happy. This episode did not make me shake my fist or hate the show so I take that as a good sign; especially since this is the next to last entry in this series. The love between Ok Jung and Lee Soon is still going strong. It was clear that both Ok Jung and Lee Soon are supporting each other emotionally- during In Hyun’s illness and death and their son’s bout with small pox they gave each other a person to lean on. Which makes me really think there is no way that in the next episode Lee Soon will up and poison this women, especially on the word of the junior concubine.
The three characters of In Hyun, Ok Jung, and Lee Soon were front and center this episode. This trio, their fates inevitably entwined, finally came clean and recognized their bond. While watching their reconciliation I found that it seemed a little too late, and not just because of In Hyun’s passing. After all that they have been through, and all that they have done to each other, I found that the “Ra ra I actually like you and think you are great” revelations they had together seemed out of character. In Hyun and Ok Jung especially; while I found the deathbed scene touching (I may have had something in my eye while watching ) I thought their sudden mutual-like was something that happened too quickly given their history. I mean just a few episodes ago they were playing throw-each-other-out-of-the-palace. But I can see it from a different perspective as well (though one I do not feel as strongly about); with the politically savvy men in their lives gone- Uncle Jang and Dad Min- the women were able to get past the power struggle and realize they could have been buddies all along. But this scenario just makes them seem weak, and weak is not how I see these two women. Far from it.
In Hyun’s deathbed scene with Lee Soon was touching. It may have been too overt of a moment but when In Hyun told the King how long she has been waiting to hold his hand it threw me back to how much the King has never let go of Ok Jung’s hand. He has always kept his love near all while In Hyun was on the sidelines dreaming of one nineteenth of that love and support. Irony kicks in considering the only time she was able to hold the hand that so steadily grasp Ok Jung’s was in her last moments. The image of hands grasp together meant different things for both women. For Ok Jung it has been a sign of unwavering support, for In Hyun it was a desired physical sign of affection. Which one was more powerful of an image is hard to say.
Suk Won, once again, came out looking like a bratty no nothing that should be banned from the big leagues of palace intrigue. While she has figured out she needs others on her side (reference her meeting with father in law one and In Hyun’s maid) she is betting a whole lot on that doll she found in Ok Jung’s room. The only way I see that she will get her way is if the altar is still there, and then she will only get her way with the retainers and not the King. I really think Lee Soon would not have Ok Jung killed based only on this- I mean for crying out loud he covered up her self-poisoning!
As of this post the finale has already aired in Korea. I have no idea how this show ends- but I have my own theories, hopes, and dreams. I am sad to see this drama finish as it has been my crack for these last twelve weeks. But all good things must end, and it is time for Jang Ok Jung to fade into drama land. Hold on, I think I have something in my eye yet again. Umm…I definitely have something in my eye. Tomorrow is going to be rough!
So, finale…why are you so far away?!