Recap: Sungkyunkwan Scandal Ep. 17

Our fair heroes find themselves on a mission to locate the Geum Deung Ji Sa, and as they inch closer to their goal, strained family ties come under further duress and sacrifices are made. Will they come out of this unscathed? (You already know the answer to this, but let’s just relive the journey, okay?) 

Lesson 17

The King informs our fair heroes of his plans to move the capital to Hwaseong and build a utopia. It will be a city without class distinctions or political factions. You’ll excuse me if I’m not exactly getting all excited about this. It’s too bad George Orwell was born two centuries later because the King would have benefited from reading Animal Farm.

However, in order for this to happen, they have to find his late father’s will, the location of which lies within the text of the late professor Kim’s resignation letter. Professor Jung proceeds to tell them what happened to a certain Sungkyunkwan professor and scholar ten years ago. Jae-shin knows this story all too well but for the others, it’s their first time hearing it.

Secret HQ. Our Fab Four relocate to their hideaway under the bookshop, where Yoon-hee announces her determination to find the King’s will. It’s her chance to get to know the father she never knew. Jae-shin is on board too as he wants to know what kind of a world his brother gave his life up for. Well, that settles it then. What else is there for Seon-joon and Yong-ha to do but go along with their better halves?

Royal Palace. The Prime Minister is puzzled. He asks the King why he decided to involve Yong-ha in this affair since he is neither a Namin or a Soron. (Ahjusshi, it’s because he’s fabulous!) The latter replies cryptically that Scholar Gu represents the new Joseon that he is trying to create.

Secret HQ. There is a riddle hidden in the late Professor’s letter and to find the late King’s will, they have to crack it first. What we have next is a clever little sequence that shows how the professor used paja (basic Chinese characters) as a code. Our fair heroes eventually find out that the will and the Geum Deung Ji Sa that the Hong Byuk Seo has been talking about are one and the same thing.

Woonjong Street. The Minister of War and his son are having a bit of a disagreement over how to handle Jae-shin. In-soo wants to arrest him in Sungkyunkwan and haul his ass to the criminal tribunal for treason. However, Minister Ha thinks sending the troops into the university is too rash a move. It would be better to plan it such that the King has no choice but to sentence him to death.

This does not sit well with In-soo, who is itching to get his own back at the Jalgeum Quartet (and given how shabbily the script has been treating him, who can blame him?) He feels his father is being too cautious. After Ha Senior leaves, he asks one of the aides to lend him some men so he can arrest Jae-shin before the latter re-enters Sungkyunkwan.

Secret HQ. Time for a division of labour! Since they like cracking their brains so much and he hates shit like that, Jae-shin assigns Yoon-hee and Seon-joon the task of decoding the text.

Wait! What about your bestest buddy in the whole wide world? A long-suffering Jae-shin suppresses his urge to roll his eyes and grabs a delighted Yong-ha by the scruff of his collar. Overjoyed that he gets to be with his BFF (and that he doesn’t have to let his fabulous get-up go to waste in a dank underground cellar), he babbles his goodbyes as his friend pushes him out resignedly.

OMG, this is going to be so much fun, you guys! Whee!

Once outside, Jae-shin reveals that he was just playing dumb (like we didn’t already know that). He knows exactly what the Geum Deung Ji Sa is and tells Yong-ha that it’s the reason the Norons got rid of his brother. Yong-ha is puzzled. So why didn’t he say anything about that while he was in there? However, before Jae-shin can expound on what makes him tick as a character, he’s got to deal with In-soo first.

What do you want now, In-soo?

With a smug little smirk, Ha Junior tells them that he’s here to take Jae-shin back for questioning. It’s a credit to the actors that everyone manages to keep a straight face whenever someone whips out the poster of the Hong Byuk Seo. Yong-ha is with us on this and retorts that with that drawing, In-soo would make a better Hong Byuk Seo. However, Ha Junior will not be thwarted this time! He tells them that he has evidence of Jae-shin’s involvement in the matter and whips out the latter’s bracelet, only to find as the soldiers seize Jae-shin, that he is wearing a similar bracelet, as is Yong-ha.

In-soo cannot believe his luck even though he should be used to it by now

As In-soo seethes and fumes impotently once again, Yong-ha plucks Jae-shin’s bracelet out of his hands. Since he doesn’t need it anymore, he won’t mind if they take the bracelet back with them for Daemul, right? *sigh* In-soo, please light an offering to the Drama Gods so they’ll stop hating you so much.

Once out of In-soo’s sight, Jae-shin tells Yong-ha that he is going to find the Geum Deung Ji Sa and tear a new blowhole in the person responsible for his brother’s death. Ever the faithful sidekick, Yong-ha is instantly on board: No need to go into the details, just tell him what he needs him to do.

Secret HQ. Yoon-hee is having a crisis of faith and wonders if she will be able to decode her father’s riddle given that she knows so little about him. Seon-joon, who has been listening quietly all this while, walks over and kneels before her. He tells her no matter the circumstance, he will always be by her side—when she grows weary, when she starts regretting her decision, when she feels like giving up, when she feels frustrated…even if they end up with nothing, he will always be her rock.

Good God, I swear if you don’t marry this man, Yoon-hee, I will.

Professor Jung’s office. It looks like the professor is also in on Jae-shin’s alter-ego. He tells him to stop playing Hong Byuk Seo to avoid giving the Norons the upper hand. If he gets caught now, not even his father will be able to save him. Jae-shin sneers. His father? Oh please. Like he’s going to be able to do anything about it.

As he turns to leave, Professor Jung tells him that his writings bear a resemblance to his brother’s. Was he trying to emulate him?

In reply, Jae-shin quotes one of his favourite poems, which surprise, surprise, turns out to be something the professor wrote in his youth. It’s a clever way of showing that he isn’t just blindly following in his brother’s footsteps, but that a) he’s driven by his own principles and b) he’s quite the intellectual as well. If Professor Jung is impressed, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he tells Jae-shin that he’s still going to flunk out of class if he continues to play hooky.

Secret HQ. Time to go up for some air. Ever the gentleman, Seon-joon volunteers to crank the lift up. However his privileged upbringing has made him unaccustomed to doing anything more strenuous than turning the pages of a book. Yoon-hee sweetly offers him a hand and then because this show knows how to give the audience what it wants, the lift lurches, causing our two idiots to crash into each other.

Hello Seon-joon, are you happy to feel me against you or is that a book in your hanbok?

Before they can cause the wiring to melt with all their UST, the bookseller pops his head in, apologizing for the malfunction (Oh, I assure you it has nothing to do with the lift being faulty.) He frowns: Is something overheating? Why is it so hot in here? *ahem*

They leave the bookseller’s shop and Seon-joon tries his hand at flirting, “try” being the operative word here. He asks her if she was trying to stop the lift on purpose with her strength.

Er…honey, I don’t think this is the right way to go about it. Turn back while you still can. Yoon-hee gives him a look which pretty much says, “What the hell are you talking about?”

He reminds her of what happened at the library, batting his eyelids for added effect. As you can imagine, it doesn’t take more than five seconds for his plan to backfire on him. Mortified, Yoon-hee leaves, assuring him that he can forget about such a thing ever happening again.

Catching up with her in Sungkyunkwan, he tries a different tack: How’s she supposed to achieve anything great if she’s so fickle? Mission Abort, Seon-joon! Abort, I say!

Like she’s going to fall for that. Giving him a pat on the shoulder, she assures him that she has every intention of keeping her promise. Meanwhile, who should witness this entire exchange but Jae-shin? He smiles a wry little smile as he watches our two lovebirds take off. Oh Geol Oh…

Library. Yoon-hee is looking for information that will help her locate the Geum Deung Ji Sa but what she finds instead are Seon-joon’s little apology notes that have been cleverly cribbed from Confucian edicts. In 21st century parlance: “I’m sorry, BB. It was just a joke, I swear! Please don’t be mad anymore. Smile =)”

Oh yes, Seon-joon is whipped.

Yoon-hee’s amusement reaches a high when Cute Soron faction leader beats her to the book with Seon-joon’s last little pink note. Like a marathon sprinter, he races over and snatches the book away before his reputation can go down the toilet.

Oh this is going to be good. Humbling himself before the older scholar, he asks the latter to make do with another book first. Woo Tak cannot believe his eyes. When did stone-cold LSJ become human? When, for that matter, did stone-cold LSJ learn how to smile?

Crisis over, Seon-joon takes out the note from the book and passes it to Yoon-hee. The final message? I love you.

Over in another part of town, Yong-ha has put on his detective cap and is resorting to his tried-and-tested method of bribery and street smarts to gain access to the records at Han Sung Bu.

Ten years ago, there was a huge event that had attracted many foreign dignitaries. As a result, the only way Professor Kim and Scholar Moon could have travelled from Wolchol Mountain to the palace with the Geum Deung Ji Sa was if they were accompanied by Han Sung Bu officials. He finds out that there were five officials whose whereabouts were unaccounted for that night and deduces that one of them must have experienced a reversal of fortune following that night’s events.

Because he is Gu Yong-ha, it does not take him long to weasel information out of the corrupt officials.

Seedy gambling den. Remember Officer Yoon? Turns out he is so far in debt that he is contemplating selling his wife and daughter to save his sorry ass.

Ten years ago, his luck was in the dumps as well, except that he managed to turn his fortunes around. Who was the person who helped him? The kindly proprietress tells Yong-ha that he should look out for himself first. Uh oh. What’s dad doing here? Time for Plan B—run!

Maison de Gu. As can be seen, Yong-ha’s father is cut from a very different cloth from his son, having none of the latter’s refined airs; though he is wealthy, Gu Senior is not a man of noble birth. And so Yong-ha’s secret is out of the bag: he belongs not to a noble family but to the nouveau riche.  A salt-of-the-earth type with business on his brain, his father is trying to advance his family’s social standing through his son’s marriage. He tells Yong-ha the girl in question is from a distinguished family. If he marries her, his children will no longer have to be half-nobles. Yong-ha refuses and scoffs at the mention that she is from a good family. If a family that is willing to trade its daughter for money can be considered good, then Joseon is littered with illustrious families.

Yong-ha also has daddy issues

His father changes the subject. So he hears that he’s been hanging out with the Left Prime Minister’s son. That’s good. Although he doesn’t like Jae-shin, he tells his son to hang on to him because who knows when the Sorons might seize power? Unwilling to hear his father insult his friend any longer, Yong-ha stands up to leave, telling him spitefully that he’s got his bases covered should the Namins ever rise to the top of the food chain. Unperturbed, his father gets the last word in: stop playing detective. It’s best not to draw too much attention to himself just in case trouble finds him instead of his friends.

Yong-ha leaves his house dejectedly, too preoccupied to notice Byung-choon and Go Bong spying on him. Turns out that they’ve been sent by In-soo to dig up dirt on his family.

Chez Minister of Justice. Thanks to a tip-off from a depressed Yong-ha, who’s contemplating dropping out of their mission, Jae-shin goes to his father’s office to dig up records on Officer Yoon. What he finds instead is his father’s personal record book that’s filled with the comings-and-goings of his two devious colleagues.

Turns out that Daddy Moon has been playing vigilante himself, albeit in a more inconspicuous manner. What, did he really think he’d let his son’s death go unavenged? He tells a stunned Jae-shin that he’s been slowly biding his time to bring his two devious colleagues to justice and that the time is almost nigh, so will he please leave the investigation to the professionals and not complicate matters by getting his ass caught in a slingshot?

Jae-shin: Sorry seems to be the hardest word

*sigh* Both father and son are so similar—so hellbent on playing the silent, stoic protector and so handicapped when it comes to expressing themselves.

Centre Room Two. Yoon-hee and Seon-joon are hard at work decoding her father’s letter. Well, she is. Seon-joon has more urgent matters occupying his mind—like how to hold his girlfriend’s hand without being too obvious about it. The future of Joseon? Oh, that can take a back seat for now. This is so much more important!

Jae-shin returns, only to remember that their room has turned into a love nest, which leaves him with two choices: 1) spend the rest of the night trying to keep the contents of his stomach from revisiting him or 2) give them their privacy. Jae-shin knows from experience that being mortally wounded is a lot less painful than having your heart turned into confetti, so he manfully retires to his tree, along with his faithful bottle of soju, to spend the night.

This is what happens when your roommates hook up and you become the third wheel

Lee Manor. Minister Ha is still trying to resurrect his daughter’s engagement to Seon-joon and he tells his colleague that perhaps it’s time for them to step in. After all, once they share a bed, they’ll learn, despite their feelings, that all men and women are the same. You, sir, are a douchebag.

Their talk is interrupted, much to Minister Scumbag’s dismay, by Officer Yoon, who has come to remind them of services rendered ten years ago. He tells them that the King’s men are on his trail and investigating the land deed he received. He’ll keep his mouth shut if the ministers give him money to clear his debts and escape from the capital.

Karma has come to bite the Minister of War in the ass

Once they are alone, Minister Ha immediately offers to get rid of Yoon but his colleague vetoes his idea: Do you really want to get caught by the King, you pathetic old windbag?

Sungkyunkwan. Hell has officially frozen over. Lee Seon-joon playing hooky? Who woulda thunk it? Certainly not the Chancellor.

It turns out scholars Lee and Kim have decided to go to the bookshop to see if the banned books can help them in their cause. Since our lovebirds are multi-taskers as well, they manage to turn their trip into a quasi-date. After all, those books will always be in the bookshop. Time away from watchful eyes, on the hand, is in short supply so better make use of whatever chance they can get!

Seedy gambling den. Trust Yong-ha to bounce back quickly from his crisis of confidence. He manages, with the help of the proprietress, to get his hands on a copy of Officer Yoon’s land deed, which means they’re one step closer to finding out the person responsible for this whole sorry state of affairs.

Bookseller’s. Seon-joon tells Yoon-hee to go ahead first and she enters the shop only to see Hyo-eun. As if things weren’t already awkward enough, the latter asks Yoon-hee to help her change Seon-joon’s mind about their engagement, telling her that it’s not just a question of personal feelings; this marriage is a union between their families as well, and as such, can’t be tossed aside so lightly just because he’s had a change of heart.

Still as lovelorn as ever, she tells Yoon-hee that silly and immature though she may be, her feelings for him are true.

I give up. I’m not going to say anything anymore.

Yoon-hee is saved from sabotaging her own relationship by Seon-joon, whose face falls the moment he sees the scene before him. Trying to give them time alone to sort things out, Yoon-hee excuses herself, only to have Seon-joon stop her. This is something she needs to hear as well.

Seon-joon apologises to Hyo-eun for breaking off their engagement but tells her he will not change his mind because he already loves someone else. He tells Hyo-eun not to waste any more time on him and grabbing Yoon-hee’s wrist, they leave the bookstore. Once again, they’re both too preoccupied to notice Jae-shin watching them in the background.

He drags her to an alleyway and proceeds to chew her out —what the hell did she mean by saying she’d give them some space? Ever the pragmatic one, Yoon-hee tells him she’s always known that he’d have to marry the Minister of War’s daughter some day. She’s just happy they can be together now. It would be too greedy of her to hope for more.

Whatever you can say about Seon-joon, once he makes up his mind about what he wants, there’s no turning back. Well, he tells her, she had better start thinking about their future now, dammit, because his head is close to exploding—it’s all he’s been able to think about.

Still unwilling to get her hopes up, she protests feebly that they’re too different. So what? Seon-joon tells her he’s changed so much because of her. If he can step out of the ivory tower that he’s been living in, why can’t she step out of the world in which she’s confined herself? By telling herself that it isn’t possible for them to be together, she’s not being less greedy. She’s just pushing him away.

However, growing up poor has made Yoon-hee wary of things that come her way too easily. She tells him she’s scared—she’s not used to liking someone this much or being this happy every day.

Knowing that words have no place now, Seon-joon pulls her into a hug as she turns to leave.

He’d seal it with a kiss as well, unfortunately, those gats aren’t exactly conducive for making out. The levity of the moment dispels the hovering cloud of gloom and laughing, Yoon-hee takes Seon-joon’s hand as a gesture of truce, telling him that they should hurry–their seniors are waiting for them.

Secret HQ. Speaking of seniors, Jae-shin is telling Yong-ha that there’s been a change of plans: since their mission is to find the Geum Deung Ji Sa, they should focus on that instead of finding out who was responsible for his brother’s death. What he doesn’t say is that he doesn’t want to wreck Yoon-hee and Seon-joon’s budding relationship. Only problem here is that Yong-ha isn’t stupid and true to form, he instantly catches on: He knows who the culprit is, doesn’t he?

We cut to find that Seon-joon, despite being a nerd and all, is actually quite the romantic. He’s gone and bought couple rings, and as he slips hers onto her finger, he tells her that there’s no way things are going to end between them when they leave Sungkyunkwan because he’ll just start over again every day.

Seriously, Yoon-hee. Just marry the man already.

Because this show knows how to please an audience, the lift acts up again and sends Yoon-hee crashing into him. I swear, if they still don’t kiss at this point, someone should check to see if they have a pulse.

Thankfully, although Seon-joon may be a nerd, he’s also a man, and taking matters into his own hands, he removes her hat, and then his, and leans in…

I feel a great disturbance in cyberspace, as if thousands of Cassies suddenly cried out in terror and were stunned into silence after seeing their beloved idol kiss another woman on screen.

On another note, if Boy Wonder can get the screen to steam up just by removing their hats, imagine what’s going to happen once he graduates to their hanboks.

Unfortunately for our lovebirds, their afterglow is rudely interrupted by Yong-ha who, despite Jae-shin’s attempt to shush him, rudely blurts out: What? You mean Lee Seon-joon’s father is behind all these incidents?

Uh oh. Looks like the shit hath hitteth the fan

Well, it’s a good thing you got that kiss, kids, because I don’t think there’ll be an encore anytime soon.


As much as I love this show, I had a number of issues with this episode because it was such a splotchy one. I may probably be the only one to think this but I felt the introduction to the whole Geum Deung Ji Sa (GDJS) affair could have been done better. I don’t understand why neither the King nor Professor Jung told them that the late King’s will = the GDJS right at the beginning. For me, the scene where Yoon-hee and Seon-joon were cracking the paja code was wasted potential because it didn’t do anything to advance the story (though I’ll admit the special effects were cool.) I felt this scene was a case of style over substance because it was being clever for the sake of being clever. Everybody knows they’re looking for the GDJS, can we please move on?

And as much as I like it when Yong-ha outsmarts In-soo, I just didn’t buy the whole bracelets scenario. Barring the question of how Yong-ha managed to get his hands on them when they were with the King the entire time, I have to say In-soo’s reaction to being thwarted yet again is another question mark for me. I find it hard to believe that he would let them go without saying or doing anything. I’ve throttled my disbelief a few times for you, Show, but this is a bit much. You might as well have him roll over and play dead if this is going to be the case.

Is there anything I liked about this episode? Why, yes! I’m happy Gu Senior has finally made an appearance because his relationship with his son sheds a whole new light on what makes Yong-ha tick. When his character synopsis hinted at an underlying sadness, I always thought that it was referring to a failed romance of some sort. But this is so much more interesting! I like the father-son dynamics and how Gu Senior has such a hold over his son. I’m really sorry that he didn’t appear earlier  because it would have been so much fun to see him press Yong-ha’s buttons and put him in his place.

Anyway, Lady Krb has written a really enjoyable fanfic about a certain merchant and his son. It’s well worth several reads, so please go check it out if you haven’t done so already!


  1. Yeah, though it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the show, I too agree that the GDJS plot could have been resolved in a more detailed manner n tying up the loose ends would have made it better. As to how Gu Yong Ha got the bracelets so fast, i can only imagine that it was the first thing he bought when he came out from the secret meeting room. It is easier than believing Yoon Hee got time to dress up as a gisang with that elaborate hair-do n all in the 12th or 13th episode!

    I too liked the fact that Yong Ha’s angst wasn’t over some love affair, but over his identity. I wish they had some more episodes, would have given greater complexity to several issues. But, overall, I liked this episode. The date was fun n i was savoring the fun part knowing 18 was going to be angsty.

    Btw, LOL@”he doesn’t have to let his fabulous get-up go to waste in a dank underground cellar” n” I feel a great disturbance in cyberspace, as if thousands of Cassies suddenly cried out in terror and were stunned into silence after seeing their beloved idol kiss another woman on screen”.

    But, thanks for continuing with the recaps. Now just 3 more to go n eagerly looking forwd to them!

    1. Hmm…I guess what bothered me about the bracelets scene wasn’t so much how Yong-ha got them but the way the events leading up to it were set up (i.e. starting from when In-soo was staring at JS’s bracelet at the end of ep 16), not to mention In-soo’s reaction (or lack thereof) to being stymied again. I rewatch the episodes when writing the recaps so these things kinda jump out at me.

      Yes, the date scene was cute. I only wish that there had been a wedding scene but I guess that’s what fan fics are for!

  2. Yeah, that bracelet as a plot device was not subtle at all. It would have been better if there had not been multiple shots of In Soo noticing the bracelet, without any reason for the same. I am sure these things that u mention will stick out when I re-watch them again. Planning to do that after a month or so when, hopefully, I start forgetting scenes. But after all the recaps I am reading, not very likely :-(

    Though that evil laugh of In Soo was not very convincing the first time around, I wish the drama gods had given him at least one more chance to improve upon it! Or may be since Murphy’s law always worked in the case of In soo without exception, perhaps he has learned to keep his expectations low n is slowly becoming a stoic like LSJ at the beginning.

    I agree that a wedding scene would have been fun, but like u said, may be they wanted the fans’ imagination to run wild!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s