If we spent 2 episodes setting up the stage to capture Heo Gyun last week, then this week 2 episodes were spent on actually capturing him. Sageuk, you and your speed, there’s no traffic police around monitoring you. Could you please move faster?
We get a surprise return of Ja-kyung, who’s back to protect Hwa-yi. He appears just in time to fend off the assassins attacking both Hwa-yi and Joo Won, though the latter was already heavily wounded before Ja-kyung arrived. He tells Hwa-yi to escape with Joo Won first, after making his identity known to Hwa-yi. The assassination of Heo Gyun was foiled too, as Lee Yi-chum brings his men to confront Heo Gyun. Joo Won’s injury was reported to Gwanghae, who immediately sends the royal doctor to tend to him. On a side note, as the Chief Eunuch reports back to Gwanghae, he passes Gwanghae the jade bracelet that Joo Won bought, but has not yet given to Hwa-yi, and Gwanghae realises Joo Won’s feelings for Hwa-yi.
Kim Kae-shi goes to confront Queen Inmok, and the latter is frightened that Kim Kae-shi already knows who Hwa-yi is. Kim Kae-shi also tries to kill Hwa-yi, but she’s smart enough to realise that the medicine sent to her (at the end of Episode 20) must have been laced by poison, and confronts instead the medical officer who brought her the medicine.
Gwanghae and Lee Yi-chum sets a trap to turn Heo Gyun and Kang Joo-seon against each other, which is meant for them to know it’s a trap, and to play right into Gwanghae’s hands, which is what I think. Heo Gyun seeks out Kang Joo-seon on his own accord, and once again they decided to work together (Kang provides the firearms from Ming China to Heo Gyun, while the latter carries out the plan to kill Gwanghae).
Hwa-yi pretends to work with Heo Gyun, but the latter is inherently suspicious of everyone, and the plan which Hwa-yi knows of to kill Gwanghae is not the actual plan that Heo Gyun has in mind. Hwa-yi relates to Gwanghae that the plan is to kill Gwanghae while he returns from paying respects to King Seonjo at the royal tomb, which was what was told to her. It turns out that Heo Gyun’s real plan is to bomb the entire explosives storage at the Department of Artillery, which is close to the route which Gwanghae will take on his return from the royal tomb. I do wonder how Hwa-yi managed to escape the explosion, and get the bomb explode somewhere else instead of the explosives storage.
In Woo decides to oust his father once and for all, because he simply does not want to take the same path as his father, selling his soul for power. I’m not sure how long that’ll last, although here, he provided all the evidence to Lee Yi-chum that Gwanghae needs, to confirm that Kang Joo-seon is the mastermind behind the various attempts to weaken Gwanghae’s power. Kang Joo-seon however, thought his son is well on his way to Ming China, and goes to capture Heo Gyun instead. He wants to show Gwanghae how deeply has his influence infiltrated the court, but Gwanghae drops him the bomb that In Woo has confessed everything that Kang Joo-seon is masterminding. Gwanghae also lets Kang Joo-seon off, for reasons I don’t quite get, but I’m sure we’ll get there in the next few episodes.
The execution scene of Heo Gyun reminds me of The Princess’ Man (awesome drama there), which is a method reserved only for those committed of high treason. I’m not quite sure how the domestic audience react to the way Heo Gyun is written here, a shrewd and calculative person. It’s recorded in history that he was involved in a coup, so his death here it of no surprise. But I do wonder, for the creator of Hong Gil-dong, where the literature advocates an equal society, is the real Heo Gyun anywhere near what’s depicted in Show?