Poor old Dol Bok is still not his usual driven self. Dam has left him to go back to the palace and reading his father’s will only brings more despair. He’s really lost the will to live when he turns up at the palace to ‘kill’ the king. After a couple of failed suicide attempts and more time alone he goes to say goodbye to his guard friends. Looks like he’s leaving for good. He’s having his own meltdown but meanwhile the king is in trouble too as Milbon have discovered what his secret project is and they have a plan to stop it. The palace is in chaos when the truth is revealed. The king devises a plan to remove all the evidence from the palace to keep his work safe, but Milbon lie in wait to intercept it. Dam/So Yi and the prince are in danger as they set off with the precious cargo. And Dol Bok is their only hope…
Dol Bok confronts the king who knows why he’s come. (He even TOLD HIM to follow his own path after all). So as Dol Bok stands before him angry and emotional, the king gets up and starts to walk towards him. Mu Hyul is uncomfortable and keeps close to him with an eye on Dol Bok. The two men stare at each other. Dol Bok is uptight, the king calm. Suddenly Dol Bok draws his sword and moves to strike the king but of course Mu Hyul draws his sword to block him. Maybe the king trusts Mu Hyul to protect him, but it seems there is another reason he’s so unflustered.
Even though Dol Bok’s sword is near his throat, the king orders Mu Hyul to put his sword down! Mu Hyul is aghast – and refuses to do this. Dol Bok is confused too. Then the king edges nearer and nearer towards Dol Bok’s sword until it is right against his neck. He even taunts him to finish the job. All the while he stares at Dol Bok as if he can read his thoughts. ‘You didn’t come here to kill me’, he says in the end. ‘You came here to be killed’. In frustration Dol Bok lashes out and then puts his sword to his own throat, but Mu Hyul just pushes him to the floor. The king chuckles at the irony of his would-be murderer trying to commit suicide instead!
Dol Bok doesn’t understand why the king would save him. So then the king explains what happened the night that his father died. And Dol Bok realises that it was the king who saved him and hid him in the barn. And he learns that because of what happened, the king is making a writing system for the people and he wants Dol Bok to judge it too. But Dol Bok just laughs. When can the common people make time to learn to read? And what’s the point of them learning to read anyway he asks? It won’t give them food or clothes or make them into yangban. And they still won’t have any power.
He takes the crumpled will out and throws it on the floor. He cries out in agony what his father should have written – ‘I am innocent. I committed no crime. Get revenge.’ But then he emotionally repeats what really is in the will: His father blames himself for causing all this trouble because he’s ‘an idiot’ and can’t read. He tells his son to learn how to read, serve the king, and live well. Dol Bok admits that he did come to the palace to die. But acknowledges that he can’t even manage that. He leaves despondently but the king shouts after him to stay and fight. But it seems Dol Bok has given up and feels he has lost everything since Dam (and even his father) support the king. Dam rushes out after him begging him not to go, but he just walks away.
Milbon members are all shocked to hear that Chae Yoon is really Dol Bok. They have managed to get hold of Chae Yoon’s investigation notes and the Biba Saron, the Buddhist scriptures. They have gathered other clues too and are trying to work out what they all mean – the characters that Yun Pil tried to burn, the letters that Yun Pil swallowed in the printing building, and the scholar Chang Seong Soo’s ID badge represents the erotic pictures that he had. Then there’s the dissection. What does it all mean they wonder?
Jeong Gi Joon calls on Lee Shin Chok and Hae Gang. He’s in character as the butcher when he arrives and Minister Lee’s servant is told they are not to be disturbed. The servant looks surprised. He acts like a servant at first, but as soon as he comes inside his demeanour changes and instead the two scholars bow to him.
It looks like they have accepted him as their leader but I think Minister Lee is still a slippery customer. But to show his allegiance Minister Lee says he has managed to get hold of a mold for printing that has something to do with the king’s work. They can’t read it – it’s in hangul. It says 른 (reun) But actually they are looking at it the wrong way around. It really says 글 (geul) as in 글자. (字 geul-ja – letter) But they guess Yun Pil was making something for printing.
Parts of the character on the mould are also in the other clues. Jeong Gi Joon realises it’s not Buddhist scriptures but Sanskrit. And after some thought and comparing all the characters that they have gathered, he puts two and two together thinking back to the dissection he performed on the throat. He finally realises that the king is making letters. He laughs his head off thinking HOW STUPID the king is – he has let scholars die just for this? AND he dissected a corpse. This makes Jeong Gi Joon more determined that it’s time to get rid of the Institute of Learning. (But his reaction just shows why the king kept his project quiet!)
The various sections of the palace continue about their business unaware of what is about to start. Park Po and Cho Tak are on guard wondering where Chae Yoon is. The King is worrying if Dol Bok will return. But Minister Lee is busy trying to get the other ministers worked up. He’s started his mission to weaken the king’s power and complains about the excessive orders coming from the Yemungwan 예문관 (the government office in charge of recording the king’s orders) He also notes that some of the scholars spend time unofficially with the king….which is a big NO NO.
While all this is going on, Yoon Pyeong, the assassin, gives himself up confessing to the murders of the scholars! What’s going on here? The king is telling his team how essential it is to keep their project secret until it is ready when he’s told about the assassin. And so Jeong In Ji is sent to the Uigeumbu police department to see what’s going on. The assassin is tied up and repeats his confession. He’s even brought evidence – including the biba saron and ID badge. The ‘butcher’ confirms that the needle is indeed the one used to kill Yun Pil. (It’s so creepy how everyone trusts the butcher now) There are posters all around the area with his written confession telling everyone why he did it! (Aha! So this is how they get the secret out) Minister Lee’s eyes scan the paper quickly but his eyes say he’s not surprised by what he reads.
The confession states that the assassin knew there was some secret work going on so started to investigate. He realised that some scholars were given secret orders from the king. Ho Dam was studying Sanskrit from the Biba Saron. Yun Pil was making unreadable letters. Chang Seong Soo was studying other scripts. The scholars that he killed all had tattoos because they belonged to this secret group. He believes Song Sam Moon also has a tattoo. And if he does, then this proves what he says is true. And he states that the reason he did all this was because he believes this secret work goes against Ming and civil society because the king is making a new writing system. OH!
At the Institute of Learning, the scholars have read the confession too and when Song Sam Moon comes in they grab him and search him for the tattoo. They see it on his arm and there is shock all around. The head of the Institute demands to know if he is making letters but Sam Moon refuses to say anything. The head is angry but sends Sam Moon and Park Paeng Nyeon away for safety. But he wants to keep the scholars quiet about this.
The ministers are angry too. It goes against the laws of Joseon for the king to carry out work without their knowledge. But Milbon are rubbing their hands in glee sure that Sambong’s vision can now be accomplished. Jeong Gi Joon has got it all figured out. He is targeting all the departments at the palace to turn against the king. Starting with the Yemungwan 여문관. Then officials from the Sahyonbu 사헌부 (which deals with inspections and impeachment) march to the Institute of Learning to question Song Sam Moon.
The head of the Institute refuses to co-operate. Why are his scholars being treated like criminals when the real criminal is the murderer? (He has a point here) But he is against a new writing system too – he thinks that all the neighbouring countries which have their own writing systems are uncivilised! Meanwhile, the king hears that officials are all refusing to work until the truth is revealed.
Then for the cherry on the cake – Hae Gang kneels in front of the palace and begs the king to tell them if he is really making a new (barbarian) writing system. The king realises that Jeong Gi Joon and Milbon are behind all this. And he knows the officials will start investigating the Gyunsungjeon first – his office where he carries out his work – so he decides that they will have to move all the evidence from there tonight. But Milbon are watching the building though…
Now here’s a sweet scene between the prime minister and the king. Even with all the chaos in the palace, the prime minister is perfectly calm – Mind you, he was also the prime minister during King Taejong’s reign, so he has probably seen it all!
It’s the first time we’ve seen the two men together like this and it’s rather charming. (They have their own tea pots. How cute. And their sitting positions are also interesting. The king faces out from behind his desk but the prime minister doesn’t face him directly but sits facing another wall! This must be more respectful? ) We learn that the prime minister heard from the king years ago that he wanted to make a new writing system. (So this is no surprise to him.) But he didn’t know that he had carried it out. Seems he’s not against it though. But he recommends that the king put the project on hold for now.
He bumps into Jo Mal Seng on his way out. The two older scholars seem conflicted about what’s going on but still supportive of the king. In Jo Mal Seng we have a safe pair of hands. He was so aggressive when King Taejong was around (he had to be!) but although he’s mellowed a bit, he’s extremely loyal and genuinely seems to want to support the king. He mentions that King Taejong told him not to go against the new king – just focus on catching Milbon. And he has dutifully done this. While other younger ministers are easily rattled and persuaded to turn against the king, these older ministers are not so rash. And it’s kind of a relief to see this.
Meanwhile, Dol Bok sits alone drinking. The barren surroundings really reflect what he has now – nothing. He has left his friends and job and probably the nearest thing to a home he has had since his father died. Oh Dol Bok. He has lived his life for revenge so now what is he going to do? Echoing the way the king and the scholars offered liquor to Jeong Do Jeon, he holds up what looks like some kind of makali in a ritual to his father. In his drunken, miserable state, he sees visions of his father and Dam’s father. The ghosts talk to him and he’s happy for a while until they disappear and he’s alone again.
Back at the palace Hae Gang has managed to gather quite a crowd of scholars all bowing and demanding to know the truth. Then Dol Bok arrives! And he’s looking much better. Park Po and Cho Tak are arguing as usual and wondering where Chae Yoon is, when they hear someone arrive. They look around to see their friend Chae Yoon and like long lost lovers they run over and grab him and hug him to bits. I enjoy their male bonding and camaraderie scenes.
While they sit out at the shikdang diner they talk about the rumour of a new writing system. And nobody is enthusiastic. Cho Tak thinks it would be a pain to have to learn another writing system after having studied thousands of Chinese characters. And what’s the point? Chae Yoon listens to their opinions. But a little girl points out one of the problems with using the Chinese characters to write their language – She wants to be able to write a name that can’t be written properly with Chinese characters because of the pronunciation.
Later the guards spend some guy time together – but really – does Park Po have to cut his toe nails so close to Chae Yoon’s face? Listening to their conversation, it seems that Chae Yoon is planning to live a quiet life somewhere.
Suddenly Chae Yoon sees Dam (now So Yi again) coming towards them. Much to Park Po’s amusement, he rushes in to hide. So she knows he’s back? Of course Park Po doesn’t know what happened between them and he’s surprised that So Yi wants to see Chae Yoon – they have never got on well in the palace. (He’s also shocked that she can speak) But Park Po is a terrible liar – he’s so funny the way he fondles the leaves and curls up his toes trying to act believable. He tells her that Chae Yoon has just ‘popped out’. She eyes him icily and hands him a note to pass on to him. Chae Yoon watches her leave and in his mind tells her that there is no more Dol Bok so she should just live as So Yi.
Milbon realise that the king plans to move tonight so they plan to intercept the evidence. The king is packing up all the evidence but mixing in decoys. And So Yi has memorised everything and will sort it all out later. Then, at night two palanquins leave the palace. Milbon guess the evidence will be inside and the Milbon military gets ready to attack.
Chae Yoon reads the note from So Yi – she wants to meet him to tell him something. But he wants to make a clean break and has packed his little nap-sack. He leaves two notes on the table for his guard friends. Then he blows out the candle and leaves. Ahh.
The Milbon soldiers attack all the palanquin carriers and take the palanquins away. But they don’t find anything in them. (This is a bit harsh for the decoy palanquin carriers – the king must have known they would all be killed) Milbon soon realise that the evidence must be being taken away in the regular carriers used by the servants leaving the 조지소.Chojiso (the building that stores/makes paper)
Sure enough all the materials are in a lowly cart with an ox and a couple of nobi servants. But the prince and So Yi are there too checking that the materials are still there. They are. Chae Yoon arrives just to see her from a distance. She looks around but he just turns and walks away.
He walks away satisfied that she is all right, but then sees a group of nobi walking past with a cart. He doesn’t think anything of it at first. But then his instinct tells him that something is not right. He starts thinking about the nobi and feels they were suspicious. Suddenly he turns and runs back to the place where So Yi and the prince were. But all that’s left are two dead nobi.
Meanwhile, the Milbon soldiers are calmly wheeling the cart away with So Yi and the prince bound and gagged inside. But it’s not over yet. Dol Bok arrives and calls out to the Milbon soldiers. ‘You don’t know who we are’ the soldiers shout. ‘It doesn’t matter who you are’, he replies. ‘It matters who I am. And I am Dol Bok.’ Hurray. Dol Bok is back!