This episode was a total downer. Look, we have to get through these tough times to make it out on the other side, but I didn’t expect things to get so bleak! Everyone got their hearts drop kicked, including me. Let’s relive the heartache, shall we?
Yeon Woo starts queen lessons which, judging by her attempts at queenliness, she desperately needs. Hwon sends her snacks (Hwon sure does love offering people snacks) and a letter telling her he wishes he could see her every day, but he’ll have to wait until they are wed. I guess that means no more late night puppet shows.
The Queen Dowager goes to Nok Young and tells her it’s time to kill Yeon Woo. Nok Young does a spell that summons a smoke monster that travels to Yeon Woo’s room and strangles her. (This smoke monster is eerily similar to Lost’s smoke monster. They’re probably smoke monster cousins.) Yeon Woo tries to crawl to the door to get help, but she’s overcome by Smokey’s power and falls unconscious.
The Queen Dowager asks Nok Young when they can confirm Yeon Woo’s death. Nok Young replies that whether Yeon Woo lives or dies is up to the heavens, and they’ll have to wait and see. The Queen Dowager is pissed – didn’t she make it clear she wants Yeon Woo dead? Nok Young assures her that Yeon Woo will suddenly contract a serious mystery illness that cannot be treated, and if she is to die, that’s the thing that will kill her. The Queen Dowager decides to cover all her bases, and tells Nok Young that if the sickness doesn’t take her, Nok Young must kill Yeon Woo with her own hands.
The Queen Dowager then opens the door to a side room to reveal a terrified Min Hwa. She tells Min Hwa in a sweet yet sinister voice that now Min Hwa can have everything she’s ever wanted. Min Hwa basically gets shoved in a little room to witness things getting super crazy and sinister. It’s just like “Trapped in the Closet.” Kind of.
The king meets with his ministers to decide what to do about Yeon Woo, who has, as predicted, fallen ill with a mysterious sickness. It’s decided that she must be removed from the palace so she won’t become some kind of Typhoid Mary and end up killing the entire royal family. Yeon Woo is dragged out of her room just as Hwon is running to see her. Hwon’s eyes are all red, and he cries and yells to Yeon Woo as she’s dragged away. Hwon and Yeon Woo are both crying, heartbroken, as the Queen Dowager watches from the sidelines as her evil plot unfolds.
The Queen Dowager remembers Minister Yoon telling her that the prince isn’t a dummy, and he knows how politics works. He mobilized a mini revolution in Sungkyunkwan! The Queen Dowager calls her grandson in for a talk. She tells him that he needs to forget about Yeon Woo. In fact, she tells him, this is all his fault. If he hadn’t gotten Sungkyunkwan involved, Yeon Woo would just be a normal girl. She would have fallen ill at home and been cared for by her mother, and her illness wouldn’t have any political drama around it. The Queen Dowager totally buries Hwon in guilt, and he gets more and more upset. He didn’t just lose his wife – he lost his wife and potentially ruined her entire family.
Yeon Woo is convalescing at home. Her mother is kind of losing it. She becomes Mama Bear Heo and tells the doctor he must to absolutely everything to save Yeon Woo. She begs him until she has a breakdown, and ends up fainting. The family is in a shambles. Nok Young arrives at the Heo house and tells Minister Heo that she was brought there by the heavens to help. She says that Yeon Woo is sick because a spell has been cast on her, and she wants to help (she conveniently leaves out who cast the spell).
Minister Yoon celebrates his evil plan moving forward. He’s overheard saying Yeon Woo will never return to the palace alive by Bo Kyung, who is horrified. Yoon tells her that if she’s going to try and win the prince’s heart, she needs to let go of all guilt and sympathy. Funny, I thought Bo Kyung already was free of guilt and sympathy, seeing as she’s responsible for Seol being beaten to a bloody pulp. Does no one remember that?
Back to Nok Young and Papa Heo. Nok Young tells him that the only way to cure Yeon Woo is to possess her with the spirit of a shaman who will fight off the illness. Minister Heo asks if there’s any other way to treat the illness, and she says yes, but it will take a life sacrifice. Heo is quick to offer himself to save his daughter, but Nok Young says that it can only be Yeon Woo’s life. Okay, so you’re saying to cure Yeon Woo of disease you have to kill her? I think that works with everyone. You know, once you’re dead any diseases you may be afflicted with are kind of irrelevant.
The ministers are arguing over replacing the would-be-queen. Hwon is in his room, going nuts. He tells Hyung Sun that he can’t stand all the drama, and he doesn’t have anyone to talk to. I’m sure that made Hyung Sun feel super appreciated. He remembers the third member of his hyung’s gang: Woon! Hwon finds a group of guards practicing sword fighting and asks who was the high scorer at their soccer game. All the guards look at Woon, and Hwon asks Woon and another guard to follow him.
Cut to an almost naked guard shivering in Hwon’s room. Why? Because Hwon wants to keep the gay rumors pouring in. No, Hwon wants to put on a guard’s uniform to sneak in to see Yeon Woo. Aw.
Yeon Woo is a little delirious, but is happy to see Hwon. They have a sweet exchange, and all three of us start tearing up. Hwon gives Yeon Woo a hairpin and tells her it’s the moon embracing the sun. The sun is a red ball, representing the king, and the moon is a white ball, that’s his wife. He explains that he gave it to her to represent the two of them, and that she holds his heart, so she must return to his side as soon as she can.
Woon stands guard outside, and Yeom joins him for a little chat. The two boys catch Seol spying on them, and she runs off scared. Yeom comments that she must like Woon, but Woon disagrees. Yeom tells him that Seol is interested in sword fighting, and her style is very similar to Woon’s. It’s like Yeom is trying to play matchmaker, but Seol most likely likes Yeom, and Woon seems to realize that too. Yeom! I thought you were a top scholar! All you do is act dumb.
On their walk back to the palace, Hwon asks if he can call Woon by his nickname instead of his full name, Kim Jae Woon. Woon agrees and Hwon immediately say, “Woon, thank you.” Hwon tears up again and says that Yeon Woo is in pain and there’s nothing he can do – even as the Crown Prince of the country… But it’s because he’s the Crown Prince of the country that his hands are tied.
Yang Myung heads toward a town marketplace, hoping to sell some rabbits he’s caught, but instead ends up in and underground fight club. At first he’s a fierce competitor, but mid-fight he starts thinking about Yeon Woo, and gives up the fight and lets his opponent beat the crap out of him. Later, while trying to eat lunch, Yang Myung overhears some men talking. They’re guessing when Minister Yoon’s daughter will become the Crown Prince’s betrothed, and when the current queen in training will die. Yang Myung is shocked, and (out of nowhere) gets a horse and rides off to see if Yeon Woo is ok.
Minister Heo decides to send Yeom away. Yeom is, rightfully, upset. He’s close to his sister and wants to be there for her in her time of need. But Dad doesn’t want Yeom to be infected with the disease, especially because Yeom works for the prince.
As Yeom is about to go he sees Seol peeking around the corner. He goes to her and asks that she take care of Yeon Woo while he’s gone. Seol is going to have a hard time keeping her promise to Yeom – Minister Heo is sending her off to work for anther family. She begs him to let her stay by Yeon Woo’s side, and he assures her he will bring her back when Yeon Woo recovers. It seems Papa Heo wants to take Nok Young up on her offer to off Yeon Woo, and wants to get rid of anyone who might try to stop him, or misunderstand his intentions.
Yeon Woo’s condition is getting worse. She’s coughing up blood now, and it looks like she’s completely unresponsive. Minister Heo sends for Nok Young, who gives him medicine that will let Yeon Woo die peacefully. As Nok Young walks away, she says in voiceover that she’s sinned against Minister Heo and his family, and that she will spend all of her next life repaying them.
Yeon Woo uses her last bit of strength to write a letter to Hwon. As she writes, Hwon has a vision of her in his room. She asks him if he knows why she gave him the plant. He thinks she already told him, but there’s more to it than that. She wanted to make sure he wrote back to her, so she sent him a mysterious present as a way of being sure she got a reply. Hwon laughs and tells her she could have just said she wanted to hear from him. He wakes up to an empty room.
Minister Heo brews up the medicine he got from Nok Young and brings it to Yeon Woo. From the way Yeon Woo looks at her father, I think she knows exactly what that medicine is going to do. She tells her father she’s ready to take the medicine – she doesn’t want to feel sick anymore. With shaking hands, her father feeds her the medicine, and tells Yeon Woo that he’ll hold her in her arms until she falls asleep. She holds the hairpin Hwon gave her. Yeon Woo dies, and both her parents weep over her. While I weep over my laptop.
Hwon gets the news about Yeon Woo’s death and goes into a stupor. He walks outside in a trance and is stopped by palace guards. The Queen Dowager has ordered that the Crown Prince be kept in his quarters all day. Hwon struggles against the guards, saying that there’s one thing he has left to say to his Crown Princess. Hwon sobs and calls Yeon Woo’s name while the guards hold him back.
A few thoughts…
This is what I looked like throughout this whole episode:
I knew things were going to get serious – it had been sweet and funny for a little too long – but I didn’t expect and entire episode of crying. Everywhere I turned there was someone getting their heart broken, someone crying, someone DYING. Even my favorite comedic relief, Min Hwa, was sidelined by tragedy.
And my precious Yang Myung! How will he cope with the news of Yeon Woo’s death? If he needs some loving arms to comfort him, I’m here and ready. Even though I’m Team Yang Myung, this episode made me really like Hwon. Watching him struggle with the harsh realities of being prince AND having his first love taken away AND then having his first love die? That’s a lot to deal with. Hwon was humanized for me in this episode, I’m just sorry it took so much angst to make me like him.
Here’s to a next episode of laughs, Min Hwa tantrums, Yang Myung eye candy, and Yeon Woo’s reincarnation.