One of my favourite episodes!
This is by far, one of my favourite episodes because of the sheer number of reveals, the execution of scenes and also the tension. Overall, I thought the episode was bittersweet and left me with a sort of heaviness hanging over me, knowing that episode 13 is going to be sad.
Our first big reveal of the episode is when the King chooses to dethrone the Crown Prince, not because Dam-I went against a royal relative but because he always knew she was a girl and wants her to live her own life now. He found out on the day the former Crown Princess died as he overheard their conversation. Dam-I asks if he would have made the same decision (to let her be killed at birth) but he does not answer.
I had only wished that the King told Dam-I that he knew her secret so that she hadn’t needed to live in fear for the past 15 years. Nonetheless, from the perspective of the plot, I think it makes sense that actually more people knew about her secret than she knew and that they were all trying to protect her or keeping her safe in their own ways.
Soon after, Ji Un arrives at the palace with no regard for his own safety as he is only worried for Hwi, having heard about her dethronement. He happens to see her entering their flower garden/hideout, and follows after her. When Dam-I sees him, recollections of their time together flood her memories and she smiles in tears.
Ji Un walks up to her and grabs her in an embrace.
Dam-I leans into the embrace for a few moments before pushing him away, asking him to leave because he cannot be here. Ji Un however tells her that no matter what she says, he will protect her and stay by her side now. He was wrong for leaving her in the first place.
Her eyes quiver as she feels touched by his words, and Ji Un slowly moves in to kiss her, accompanied by Lyn’s One and Only.
Given that this is the first kiss, I like how the kiss is slow and tender, and that the camera panned out after a few moments for us to take in the scene with the couple standing in the garden.
Did anyone else also realise that both Ji Un and Dam-I had a tear flowing down their cheek as they kiss?
Given Rowoon’s track record in She Will Never Know, I have no doubt that kiss scenes could/would be really great.
After the kiss, as the couple sits quietly at the side of the pavilion, Dam-I tells Ji Un that her future always scares her and feels burdensome. She hopes that he will go on his own path as she will go on hers.
Ji Un knows what she’s trying to say and grabs her hand, telling her that no matter where she goes, he will stay by her side. However, Dam-I wants him to be happy just like how he wanted her to be and she slowly removes her hand from his grip.”This is the last favour I ask from you, Tutor Jung.”
Now we have a beautiful sort of breakup scene accompanied by Baek Ji-Young’s If I. I also thought Rowoon did a great job in showing his quiet desperation to convince Dam-I.
Ominous music hits in the next scene where Lord Sangheon looks at a pot of green stuff (?). Oh no, is someone gonna get poisoned? Lord Sangheon tells Jung Seok-Jo to bring the Crown Prince back at his command, and that “it will not take long.” I think one of the shortcomings of the show is that we just know Jung is devoted to Lord Sangheon, without being given an explanation for the why. It didn’t seem like he was doing it for power, but rather that he believed in whatever causes Lord Sangheon is gunning for. He doesn’t kill people because the lives were frivolous (or at least not in the same way as Prince Changun had taken the life of Jan-I), but more with a relentless, cold-blooded focus and pursuit as if he’s doing it for some greater cause. Except there is no greater cause and only Lord Sangheon’s thirst for power.
I also like that Dam-I had a farewell catch-up with Prince Jehyeon before she leaves the palace and that he is crying because he genuinely feels sorry. Whilst Dam-I had always been in a difficult position, stuck in the political machinations of the palace, she wasn’t always as alone as she thought. I also felt like this was yet another evolution in her character; who still remembers that not so long ago, she was known as the Ice Prince who pushed everyone away?
The King chooses not to see Dam-I for the last time and she leaves the palace after saying her farewells outside his quarters, but it is revealed that he has his own plans and commands Commander Yoon to take care of his child henceforth.
During the procession of leaving the palace, Dam-I notices red ribbons being tied on the branches of the trees along the way and knows immediately that this is the doing of Ji Un, as a throwback to the flowers she had admired and he had looked at while pining for her. She asks Eunuch Hong to bring her one of those ribbons and later, Ji Un who is hurrying to tie ribbons on the parallel path above the forest runs into the procession.
Dam-I gives him a small comforted smile and Ji Un returns it.
She slightly lifts her sleeve to show that she has tied the ribbon around her wrist before the procession goes a different path. Small exchanges of expression like this really impress me and I could rewatch this scene again and again. This is not something I had expected, and it hits me somewhere that Ji Un is staying true to his promise and tries to give Hwi some comfort as she leaves the palace, showing that he is always there for her even if she cannot see him.
Ji Un runs into a small group of masked men and overhears their conversation to keep Jung’s men away until the Prince is safe and away. Turns out, the King had plans for Commander Yoon to orchestrate an “abduction” of the Crown Prince so that they can bring her to a safe house, out of the reach of Lord Sangheon.
Hyun is also in on this plan and helps to make it such that Dam-I walks alone for a few seconds before Commander Yoon swoops in on her and rushes her away. Jung Seok Jo rushes after them and we all know how deadly his archery skills are, so it is with perfect timing that Ji Un comes in from the side and attacks his father so that Yoon can leave with Hwi.
Ugh, there is something incredibly attractive about this scene (and Rowoon).
At the safe house, Dam-I is given a letter from the King and it is revealed that he had tried to keep her out of the politics in his own way. Because he knew she was a girl and in danger of her secret being found out, it was for this reason that he wanted to appoint Prince Jehyeon as the crown prince instead. To be honest, I had wanted to type the very same thing in my previous review but I stopped myself because it was stated in the show that Dam-I is likely to be killed if she’s dethroned so I wasn’t sure how this would factor into the King’s decisions, but I suppose he had considered this and this is the reason why he is trying to sneak the crown prince away.
It was even more shocking that he had planned to give Lord Changcheon greater power so as to counter Lord Sangheon’s power over Dam-I. Though I’m not sure if this works out in the long run, but the good intentions bring a twist to his character. But it was hard for him to see her because she reminds him of his mistake. And now, he will not repeat the same mistake.
“Yi Hwi. It was your brother’s name, but now it is your name. You were the Crown Prince of Joseon and you were my only daughter.”
Such beautiful words. For so long, she was seen as impersonating her brother and only pretending to be the crown prince. For the first time in this show, someone acknowledges that she IS the crown prince and Hwi is now her name. And that that does not detract from her being his daughter. It is so bittersweet and poetic that the reconciliation between father and daughter happens not face to face, but through a letter, which further highlights the poignancy of how the King had loved her in his own ways. The fact that he even gave her a parting gift of a hanbok just seals the deal for me.
Lord Sangheon meets the King and says some cryptic things about the wind being chilly and “May you stay healthy”. Honestly anyone can see that he has murderous intent towards the King; how did the King even so confidently drink his tea?? Ten bucks that the poison is in the tea.
The palace guards rush to the dock to try and catch Hwi, knowing that she will try to leave the capital.
Ji Un is also on the dock but narrowly misses Dam-I as she walks past in a woman outfit.
Yoon has to leave her to board the boat alone because the soldiers know his face, but he is soon accosted by Jung who is once again, scary and murderous. But why, Jung??
As Dam-I stands alone on the boat, a guard asks to see her face fully. She clutches on to her cover tightly and Ji Un suddenly appears from the side, pretending to be her husband and asking why the guard is trying to see his wife’s beautiful face.
The rest of the women on the boat join in on the ruckus and the guard leaves in embarrassment, but one of the girls notices Dam-I’s palace/men shoes (?).
For someone who is so smart, Ji Un is incredibly SLOW HAHA as he comments that Hwi looks good in a female disguise.
Dam-I looks away awkwardly LOL. When they reach the shores, Dam-I updates Ji Un on her father’s plans for her which delight Ji Un because all she has to do now is to leave.
And she can live with him! Dam-I smiles as he talks about how good his life was in Onyang but freezes as she tries to confess that she’s a woman. Just as she’s about to spill her secret, Ji Un’s father has caught up to them. I suspect that the girl on the boat earlier must have alerted the royal guards.
While the couple runs, one of the guards shoots at Dam-I and the arrow grazes her arm before she gets thrown to the ground.
As she looks back at Jung, Jung suddenly gets reminded of all those years ago when he shot at the Crown Prince, and he starts to realise something.
She starts losing a lot of blood and needs Ji Un’s help in running away. In contrast to the first time the couple runs away from the guards, this scene made me feel quite sad because they just want TO BE HAPPY TOGETHER.
I know some people thought she suddenly became weak for no reason /very damsel in distress trope, but I thought this was fine because 1. how is she going to run fast in that hanbok?? She has always been training in men’s clothes. 2. She doesn’t have any weapons with her. 3. She’s probably tired and worn out already. This woman has been dethroned and cried the entire night over her father’s letter, come on.
Ji Un rushes her to a river and asks her to rest by the tree while he gets some herbs for her. I am incredibly nervous that he’s leaving her alone, and thought that she was hallucinating Ji Un wiping her sweat away, but thank goodness it wasn’t a dream. Her wound has become infected and Ji Un wants to help put the herbs on it.
She stops his hand and says, “I will do it myself.”
As she slowly brings her shirt off, the music starts building in tension.
When the top comes off and her chest is shown to be bound, Ji Un’s eyes flicker and widen.
“This is my secret.”
And there, we end off with Lyn’s voice again. Ughhh I love her OST so much that it rings in my head at night when I TRY TO SLEEP. I’ve also watched that ending scene 5 times in a roll because I just love the reveal so much. Nothing too dramatic or exaggerated, and the timing was awesome. Park Eun Bin nailed the execution of the trepidation of the reveal and I like that Rowoon is just mostly stunned.
With this episode, it doesn’t matter anymore whether Ji Un likes the crown prince as a guy or girl. Let’s just follow the flow but my gut feeling is that Ji Un still likes her as a girl because he clearly thought that she was very pretty in her hanbok and all this likening of her to a woman just didn’t seem very gay to me to be honest.
I’ve also not mentioned this in any of my reviews/recaps, but Ji Un is subtly such an all-rounder / impossible character. He is smart, not just in a medical, physician way or philosophical, tutor way (both at that!) but also good in physical fighting probably in part thanks to his father. It is so fun and attractive to watch him pop up in Dam-I’s life in different capacities. Now I’m just wondering how they are going to reveal that she’s Dam-I? This guy is in the dark for not just one, BUT TWO, huge secrets. Poor guy.
Spoilers for EP13
In the preview for episode 13, we see the couple resting quietly and lovingly by the river, but that tragedy soon hits because the king is dead and the crown prince is brought back to the palace. Yoon also seems to be cornered and Eunuch Hong and Court Lady Kim are both caught. Dam-I also orders Ji Un to stay away from her from now on. Can we just give this couple a break already?
See you guys in the next episode!
P.S Google is not indexing any of my posts on The King’s Affection, which means they do not show up on a general search for the show nor even if you search specifically for my website. I would be grateful if you could share or comment on this article if you had enjoyed it so that we can all be TKA fans together!<3