Recap: Sungkyunkwan Scandal Ep. 18

The lot of fathers isn’t easy. To paraphrase the Swedish writer August Strindberg, daddy’s thankless role requires him to be the provider for all and the enemy of all. In this episode, as one man’s legacy comes to light, another finds himself embroiled in a cold war with his only son. Moral of the story: think twice before having children. 


Lesson 18

Thanks to Yong-ha’s lack of a volume control, the cat is now out of the bag. One look at Yoon-hee’s distraught face is all Jae-shin needs to know that he is not going to be able to bring any value to this conversation.

Okay, awkward...

Kicking ass is one thing, getting in touch with his feelings and seeing a girl cry is quite another, and he silently makes a beeline for the door, leaving Yong-ha in charge of damage control.

Faced with the imminent demise of his relationship with his girlfriend and father, Seon-joon announces that he will find out who’s responsible for the land deed. Concerned, Yong-ha asks if he is up to it. Well, replies Seon-joon, if his father is truly guilty, isn’t he the most appropriate person to bring him to justice?

We cut to find Jae-shin observing the manly, time-honoured tradition of drowning one’s frustrations/feelings in alcohol. As is to be expected, it doesn’t take long for Yong-ha to find him or figure out why he wanted to stop looking for his brother’s murderer. It’s because he didn’t want Yoon-hee to get hurt from finding out about the Left Prime Minister’s involvement, isn’t it?

Seriously Yong-ha, if your outfit gets any brighter, Jae-shin is going to go blind

Take one shot of soju if the answer is in the affirmative! Jae-shin duly chugs. Yong-ha sighs, shaking his head at his friend’s doomed, dogged devotion to Yoon-hee. When did she and Seon-joon…the look on his friend’s face stops him. No, when did he know those two were together? Jae-shin cracks a tiny bitter smile.

Okaaay, time to change the subject! Yong-ha fills Jae-shin in on Seon-joon’s decision to confront his father about the land deed, which causes his friend to look up in surprise and concern. The hell?

Lee Manor. Seon-joon, who has never flinched from anything standing in the way of his principles, now faces his biggest challenge yet. With steely resolve, he sits before his father and asks him for the truth. How did his land deed end up in the hands of a mere patrol guard?

Minister Lee obviously didn’t get to where he is just by sitting pretty and playing go. He’s got a pretty good idea what this is all about and he tells his son to stop pursuing the matter. Unfortunately for him, his son has a backbone that’s harder than his head.

Well if Seon-joon thinks that a piece of paper is going to guilt-trip him into admitting that he was wrong about the whole Prince Sado affair, he’s got another thing coming. Lee Senior tells him that he has no regrets about what he did. His belief that the good of the country comes before familial relationships remains the same.

Seon-joon counters: if he believes what he did was right, then why is he so afraid of the Geum Deung Ji Sa?

The minister corrects him. He is afraid, not of the Geum Deung Ji Sa, but the irrational emotions brought about by family ties. The remorse that the late king felt for sentencing Prince Sado to death and the desire of the current monarch to exonerate his father are emotions that will plunge the country into violence and bloodshed. He assures his son that history will reveal him to be the loyal statesman that he is and tells him that if he continues looking for the Geum Deung Ji Sa, their heads may end up rolling for his romantic ideals.

Seon-joon refuses to budge. He asks the minister if he destroyed the Geum Deung Ji Sa and sacrificed Yoon-hee’s father and Jae-shin’s brother to protect their family. Lee Senior denies his involvement but Seon-joon’s unable to take his word for it because the land deed proves otherwise. Standing up, he bows and turns to leave, only for the incensed minister to stop him: “How dare you turn your back on your father, boy?”

Seon-joon coolly reminds the minister of what he said earlier—that there are times when fathers and sons have to overlook family ties to achieve what’s right. From now on, he will be his enemy.

Sungkyunkwan library. Against his better judgement, Jae-shin finds himself watching Yoon-hee as she angsts over her star-crossed romance with Seon-joon.

Jae-shin's stealth techniques include wearing clothes that let him blend in with his surroundings

Because the heart wants what it cannot have, he finds himself walking over to where she is sitting. Closing her book, he tells her, in typical Geol Oh fashion, that if she continues reading so late into the night, she is going to remain a shorty. Too bad Yoon-hee doesn’t look into his eyes and see the million things his heart wants to say. Poor baby…

He settles for being her book buddy as he walks her back to their dorm. I’ll admit I wasn’t paying attention to Yoon-hee babbling about the Geum Deung Ji Sa because I was too busy checking Jae-shin out, okay? Darling, your priorities are out of whack. You should be changing your clothes on a regular basis before your heart gets broken not after.

Telling her to take things one step at a time, Jae-shin then makes Geolrim shippers very happy by telling her that he is going to sleep in his buddy’s room to avoid her “bad sleeping habits”. As he hands over her books, his eyes fall on the ring she is wearing (Dear Drama Gods, I’m pretty sure Jae-shin gets that he and Yoon-hee are not meant to be. Can you please stop grinding his heart to dust already?)

Yoon-hee stops him before he leaves. Does he think it’s true that Minister Lee is involved in the affair? Ever so magnanimously, Jae-shin smiles and tells her not to worry so much. They’ll find out the truth of the matter when Seon-joon returns.

The next day at the Secret HQ. Her nerves getting the better of her, Yoon-hee tells Yong-ha that she will go to look for Seon-joon. Ever the voice of reason, he tells her that he will return in his own time. In any case, the whole affair took place ten years ago. She’s not going to change the course of history just by waiting for him outside. Besides, someone is already way ahead of her.

Sure enough Jae-shin is waiting for a depressed Seon-joon. Time for them to have a talk, man to man. Once alone, Jae-shin advises Seon-joon to drop his search for the person behind the land deed. Jae-shin says that he is also going to stop pursuing the matter. After all, their mission is to find the Geum Deung Ji Sa, not the murderer.

However Jae-shin forgets that nothing gets between Seon-joon and his Calvin Kleins principles. Seon-joon respectfully argues that since they can’t decipher the late professor’s will, finding the culprit(s) may be the only way they can find the Geum Deung Ji Sa. Besides, hasn’t he been looking for his brother’s killer as well?

Jae-shin cuts him off, telling him that he’s no longer going to play hero. There are times when people become cowards and keep silent because they have someone they want to protect. Isn’t that the case for him with Kim Yoon-shik? Seon-joon turns to leave but Jae-shin stops him. If he continues walking down his pig-headed path of righteousness, does he really think Yoon-hee is going to forgive him?

Again, Seon-joon refuses to budge. In order to be forgiven, one must first atone for one’s wrongdoings. In any case, Yoon-hee isn’t the only person from whom he needs to seek forgiveness. Before he leaves, he assures Jae-shin that he will do his best not to let Yoon-hee get hurt.

Okay, you guys have got to stop being so awesome. You are spoiling the market for the rest of the male species.

Secret HQ. Time for Seon-joon to show what his cojones are made of, which means looking his girlfriend in the eye and telling her that yes, his father is the rat bastard who murdered her father.

To her credit, Yoon-hee doesn’t descend into shrill hysteria (thank GOD) but takes the news as calmly as can be expected of someone in her position. Understandably, it’s quite a bombshell to get her mind around and she leaves, telling Seon-joon that it would be too cruel to expect her to continue listening to him.

Nevertheless he follows after her, and Jae-shin stops Yong-ha from going after those two because goddammit, which part of personal space doesn’t he understand?

No puppy, you have to stay

Once outside, Seon-joon tells Yoon-hee that he wants to apologize on his father’s behalf. If she cannot forgive him, he’ll just have to take it like a man. But if she’ll allow it, he’ll do everything he can to put matters right and find the Geum Deung Ji Sa alongside her.

Still reeling from the shock of his earlier admission, Yoon-hee asks him how finding the Geum Deung Ji Sa is going to change anything. Could he please just give her some time alone to think about things?

Too bad Confucius didn’t write a manual for heartbroken lovers. At a loss over what to do, Seon-joon can only gaze forlornly at Yoon-hee’s departing figure. Fortunately for him, being part of the Jalgeum Quartet means that you’ll never have to walk alone and Yong-ha shows up (with Jae-shin tagging along) to tell him that what he needs now is a drinking buddy.

Er…clearly Seon-joon is still scarred by memories of what happened in episode four. Never mind, Geol Oh will be more than happy to drink his share! Giving Seon-joon a friendly pat on the shoulder and Jae-shin one on the bottom (so that he doesn’t feel left out of course, hee!) they head into a nearby tavern to commiserate and bond.

House of Kim. Yoon-hee returns home to ask her mother for the truth about her father’s death. However, the latter refuses because she doesn’t want her daughter to bear a grudge against the world. Those who defy the status quo ultimately meet their end at their hands. That was how her father lost his life and she doesn’t want Yoon-hee to end up the same way.

Yoon-hee replies that it would have been better if she had told her this earlier, implying that she would never have allowed herself to fall in love with Seon-joon.

We cut to find the real Yoon-shik offering his sister some brotherly comfort. She tells him that she doesn’t have fond memories of their father because she was always relegated to sitting outdoors while he got to sit with their father and listen to him read. Whenever she thinks of him, all she can remember is his silhouette by the door.

And then Yoon-shik reveals the heartbreaking truth. The person their father was reading to was her, not him. That was why he was always sitting so close to the door and reading books that were too difficult for him to understand.

In his diary, the late professor laments his inability to help his daughter rise above her station in life; despite her intelligence, Joseon is not the kind of society to grant women the same opportunities as men. In the world they live in, they are second-class citizens at best. Yoon-hee’s tears fall as she realizes just how much she has misjudged her father.

Is there anyone who watched this scene dry-eyed? I didn’t think so either.

Sungkyunkwan. In a conversation with Professor Jung, Yoon-hee wonders if her father knew that his life was in danger – wouldn’t this explain why he left clues in his letter to lead them to the Geum Deung Ji Sa? The professor muses that she may be right. After all, he was the one who moved it from its original resting place in Jongmyo to a temple in Wolchol Mountain. This puzzles Yoon-hee: why did he do such a dangerous thing? Well, shouldn’t it be obvious by now, girl? The professor tells her that he did it not just to help the King realize his vision for a new Joseon but also to pave the way for a new societal order so she could have more opportunities in life.

Secret HQ. Armed with the knowledge gleaned from her father’s diary and her conversation with the professor, Yoon-hee announces to the rest of the Jalgeum Quartet that the Geum Deung Ji Sa lays hidden in Sungkyunkwan. They’ve been looking at the letter wrong; it isn’t a will or a resignation letter but a missive written by someone who wanted Sungkyunkwan to live up to its name and become an academic institution that would break away from archaic traditions and value true talent instead of discriminating against gender and social status.

Yong-ha, are you trying to make up for the lack of light in the room with your outfit?

Okay, it looks like we are finally getting somewhere. Time to break out the maps and blueprints.

Library. Seeing Yoon-hee struggling to reach a map at the top of one of the shelves, Seon-joon helps her retrieve it and in the process sees that she has taken off her ring.

Let me just say how much I like the restraint shown by both parties in this scene. If this had been another teen drama, it would probably have devolved into an overblown angst-o-rama but you get very little of those florid, over-the-top emotions here.

Gently removing her hand from his, Yoon-hee confesses that she had always resented her father, thinking that he didn’t care about her at all but now that she knows the truth, finding the Geum Deung Ji Sa is her only way of getting to know the man she never knew.

As she speaks, the tears that have been welling up in her eyes start to fall and Seon-joon gently wipes them off, telling her she doesn’t have to explain herself any further. No matter what, he’ll make sure they find the Geum Deung Ji Sa.

Lee Manor. Just like his son, Minister Ha also doesn’t know when to give up and he continues to pester the Left Prime Minister about his daughter’s marriage to Seon-joon.

Minister Lee looks up from the plant he is cleaning to silence his colleague with a look, before adding that he should tell In-soo to keep an eye on the Jalgeum Quartet; the King is filling their heads with fluff and nonsense, no thanks to the friggin’ Geum Deung Ji Sa.

Minister Ha is puzzled: “Why ask my son to do it when Seon-joon…oh, I see…”

Minister Lee’s face turns as constipated as his dignity will allow and because Minister Ha doesn’t know when to shut up, he starts nagging his colleague about not putting their foot down earlier and insisting their children get married.

You know, it’s a good thing Joseon is not at war because there is no way this guy is a master strategist. Minister Lee has finally had enough and snaps that there will not be any marriage—not now, not ever. Doesn’t he know the marriage was the cause of all this trouble? Minister Ha starts to protest but is silenced by his colleague, who tells him he will not repeat himself again.

Incensed, Minister Ha leaves for Moran-gak, where he rants about his ungrateful colleague to an indifferent Cho-sun. Who was the one who helped him get to where he is today? He’ll show that ungrateful old fool no one makes him and his daughter lose face like that! But first, he’ll need someone to do his dirty work for him. Wanna guess whose wrist he grabs?

Cho-sun starts to protest but is interrupted by the appearance of the minister’s son. OMG In-soo, can you not sense that something is amiss between your father and the object of your obsession? Some lovelorn Romeo you are.

We cut to Seon-joon, who is running all over town looking for Officer Yoon. Darling, as much as I love you for trying so hard, please leave the sleuthing to Yong-ha. Your straight arrow approach is not going to get you anywhere.

Secret HQ. Scholar Lee is late for their latest pow wow session and Yong-ha muses that such behavior is uncharacteristic of Seon-joon. Jae-shin says they ought to wait a while more since he’s not the type to blow them off. Ah, counters Yong-ha, but given the circumstances, isn’t it only natural for him to renege on his promise? He can understand why Seon-joon is doing what he’s doing—the gravity of finding out his father’s involvement in this affair overshadows the King’s grand vision.

They eventually decide to proceed without him. Based on the clues, they narrow the possible locations down to the lecture hall, the library and the civil service examination site. Hang on, says Yong-ha. Where are they supposed to begin? Surely they’re not going to dig up the land surrounding these places? Jae-shin reminds them that there’s one more clue—“a nation’s beginning”—which he interprets to mean the literacy temple, otherwise known as the place where the ancestral tablets are kept.

Unfortunately, their search efforts turn out to be futile. Where the devil could it be? Yoon-hee thinks for a bit. Maybe they’re going about this the wrong way. What if the secret code is being used not to hide the Geum Deung Ji Sa but to reveal its whereabouts? She tells them that she’ll hit the books again. She’s sure it’s hidden somewhere in Sungkyunkwan.

Thanks to his father’s tip-off, In-soo now knows that the Jalgeum Quartet are poring through Sungkyunkwan’s maps. He and his groupies come across Yong-ha just as the latter is hopping out of the library and they proceed to taunt him.

What’s he been doing? Stealing? Having fun with the ladies? Go Bong gasps. Horsing around with guys? Er, I think you’re describing the movie version of Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Go Bong.

Yong-ha shrugs it off. Sticks and stones, you guys! Ha Jr is obviously more sentimental than he lets on and he tells Yong-ha that he’ll give him some advice on account of their past history (what is this history you keep talking about, In-soo?): stop hanging out with Jae-shin and Seon-joon. He’s not like them at all.

*sigh* In-soo, don’t you know by now that the only person who gets away with telling him what to do is Jae-shin and maybe, just maybe, his father?

Yong-ha returns the favour by giving him some sartorial advice of his own: The more mis-matched one’s outfit, the more boldly one should wear it. Take it from him—there’s a reason why he’s Joseon’s most fashionable dresser! Right now, what In-soo is wearing is a bit tacky.

And with that, Yong-ha twirls merrily away. Byung-choon offers to teach him a lesson but In-soo tells him not to bother. Yong-ha will get his comeuppance soon enough.

We cut to Seon-joon, who in his dogged search for Officer Yoon goes where his common sense would normally fear to tread, i.e. a gambling den. It doesn’t take long for the gamblers to take a dislike to his face and things go horribly pear-shaped from there as fists fly, as does news of his altercation.

Who's up for a game of Where's Seon-joon?

The rest of our intrepid heroes rush to the gambling den, only to find a battered and bruised Seon-joon sitting all by his lonesome. Yong-ha’s all “Who are you and what have you done to Lee Seon-joon?”

Quietly, Seon-joon explains that he decided to look for Officer Yoon instead of wasting more time trying to decode the professor’s letter.

Yong-ha, ever the astute one, tells him it’s not like him to act without thinking. Is he doing this to find the Geum Deung Ji Sa or to clear his father’s name?

Seon-joon: I want the truth!

Yong-ha: You can’t handle the truth! Er…maybe you can. It all depends on whether you’re prepared to accept that you may no longer enjoy your status as the Left Prime Minister’s son if the Geum Deung Ji Sa is found.

Seon-joon turns to look at Yoon-hee before answering. It’s better than being the son of a criminal who murdered his friends’ brother and father.

This proves too much for Yoon-hee and she leaves, with Seon-joon following closely behind. She tells him to stop what he is doing; she can’t bear to watch him go against his father any longer. Even though she cannot remember what he looked like, it still fills her with sorrow when she thinks of him so she can only imagine what it must be like for him given how much he loves his father.

Seon-joon throws his arms around her just as she walks away and tells her he was doing it because he wanted her forgiveness; while she was taking her father’s place as the family’s breadwinner, he was living in luxury, oblivious to what she was going through. If he could turn back the time, he would repay her for all the privileges he enjoyed while she was suffering.

Back in the gambling den, Yong-ha muses that Seon-joon has a way of surprising people the more one gets to know him. Even though he respects the hell out of his father, he’s still determined to turn his back on him. More than anyone else, Jae-shin should know how tortuous it is to hate one’s own father.

Royal palace. The King asks Professor Jung how the Jalgeum Quartet are faring with their quest, to which the latter replies that they must be doing quite well because they haven’t asked him for help yet. The King muses that this must be the last lesson that the professor left behind. Only question is: what was he trying to teach them?

The only person in high spirits in this episode is Officer Yoon, who is now making his merry way to the countryside after clearing his debts, oblivious to the fact that Seon-joon is following closely behind. Yoon doesn’t make it very far before Cho-sun makes her presence known with a strategically placed dart. A struggle ensues as Seon-joon tries to save his ass but alas, Seon-joon’s a nerd not a fighter and he is no match for the awesomeness that is Cho-sun.

Fortunately, Jae-shin swoops in to save the day. Yay! Disarming her, he turns to Seon-joon and demands: why the hell did you walk so fast? I thought I was going to die trying to catch up with you. Ha ha.

Seon-joon and Officer Yoon do their best Keanu Reeves impression: Whoa

Cho-sun manages to break free of Jae-shin’s grasp and he darts off in pursuit of her. Another scuffle ensues and he manages to pull off her face mask to confirm her identity before she wrests free and escapes again. Seriously, I’d be on their ship faster than you could say “OTP” if there were any chance of a second season.

So hot together, these two

Library. Yoon-hee has a Eureka moment as she traces the route taken by her father and recalls what Professor Jung told her earlier— that the Geum Deung Ji Sa was originally kept in Jongmyo. That’s it! That’s the place where the nation begins. To prepare for the day when his grandson would need power, the late king had hidden the Geum Deung Ji Sa under the ancestral tablets…that’s what “the place where learning is headed” means! (Basically, this alludes to the ambitions of most Sungkyunkwan scholars i.e. to get a position as a government official after graduating.)

Yoon-hee grabs her things and rushes off. In her haste she fails to notice Byung-choon and Go Bong lurking in the library, and she doesn’t see In-soo and Kang Moo as she sprints past them either.

Unfortunately for our fair heroes, In-soo is not stupid and he deduces that she is headed towards Jongmyo from the books and maps she has left on the table. Uh oh.

Over in another part of town, Seon-joon and Jae-shin are playing good cop and bad cop as they try to wring out the truth from Officer Yoon. Unfortunately, he isn’t one of their fan girls so their combined charms have no effect on him.

Yong-ha, on the other hand, is all for working smart and he goes straight to the weakest link—Yoon’s corrupt cronies, who soon spill that the Minister of War is the one who helped him clear his debts.

Meanwhile, after much back and forth, Officer Yoon finally spits out that it was Minister Ha who ordered him to kill the professor and Jae-shin’s brother. Minister Lee merely offered him the land deed to shut him up after he found out what had happened.

We cut to Yong-ha who, on his way back to Sungkyunkwan, sees the royal guards and In-soo making their way towards Jongmyo with a vengeance. Oh dear, this can’t be good…

Library. Jae-shin asks Seon-joon why he isn’t looking for Yoon-hee to tell her that the Minister of War is the one responsible for her father’s death. Shouldn’t she be the first to know? And then he adds that it’s a relief that things turned out the way they did because it would have been really tiring if he had to spend the rest of his life hating him. Altogether now: Awww…our boys are finally learning how to play nice (and about time too!)

Enter the harbinger of bad news Yong-ha. Okay boys, you can smile at each other later. Where’s Daemul? Oh crap, she went to Jongmyo? The hell? If In-soo and his men catch her, she’s as good as dead!

With Yoon-hee’s life at stake, it’s time for Jae-shin to play Sydney Carton. He reminds Seon-joon of his promise never to let her get hurt and tells him to go to her while he holds off the royal guards.

And with that, it’s yet another race against time for our fair heroes as we cut to find Yoon-hee making very slow progress (seriously girl, a little urgency please?) while Jae-shin, who has reprised his Hong Byuk Seo role, finds himself out of arrows, outnumbered and surrounded. This does not look good at all.

A sudden noise stops Yoon-hee in her tracks. Someone’s coming. Quick, hide! Unfortunately, she’s stuck like a deer caught in the headlights. Thankfully her guardian angel is working overtime and the person in question turns out to be Seon-joon. As he pulls her into a hug, we cut to find Jae-shin falling to the ground…




How ridiculous is it that I’m still doing this three weeks after the drama has ended? Thank God there are only two more episodes to go.


  1. To h*ll with 3 weeks behind time. I still enjoy reading your recaps even though i’ve finished watching SKKS. Your thoughts and comments are hilarious and i always anticipate those when reading the caps. Great work as usual.

    Seems that “those darn hats” are still being a b*stard when it comes to SJ and Yoon Hee having some lovey dovey moes. ( *lol*

    Aaah….i love Gul-oh! But i feel it’ll be supremely difficult to be the second love of his love. How can you beat those bambi eyes?~♥

  2. @Niki: OMG, I am so happy you’re still reading my recaps! Everyone’s been babbling about Secret Garden and Marry Me, Mary and here I am still churning out SKKS recaps. So thank you for sticking around!

    As for Gul-oh, I’m sure time will heal the pain and he will eventually move on. If not, I am sure we can rely on Yong-ha to do something about it. Ha! :)

    @neda: My pleasure. Thank you!

  3. That was awesome as always. Sometimes I wonder whether we r troubling u asking for recaps even after the series has ended. But I have so much fun reading ur recaps that can’t help being selfish! No, really, we need such recaps more now that d series has ended. Like u said, I was also impressed with the restraint shown on all sides after the huge discovery, especially on d part of d OTP. Yoon Hee looks so different when she’s at home, no? She is more subdued, more the elder sister with so much tenderness on her face when she looks at her bro.
    Last episode when she told Sun Joon that she was happy just being around him and in Sungkyunkwan, I wondered for a moment whether she was being too modest. But when I saw her in her home this episode, I understood what SKK really means to her – the only place where she can let her hair down, figuratively of course:-)

    1. Thanks, novkid! For me right now, finishing this is a matter of discipline. It would be way too easy to stop now and say that I’ve lost steam, interest blah blah blah. This will teach me to bite off more than I can chew.

      I think in general, this show has managed to keep the histrionics to a minimum, which I heartily approve. I’ve said this before: I have no patience for operatic displays of grief (you know the kind that comes with surround-sound wailing and a reservoir of tears.) I don’t think that turning on the waterworks is a measure of an actor or actress’s acting ability or that you need people to cry their eyes out in order to convey emotional depth.

      When I started watching this show, I didn’t have much expectations for Park Min-young’s character. All I wanted was for her not to be annoying. I am so glad that she turned out to be sassier and smarter than the average female crossdresser because it would have seriously put a dampener on my enjoyment of the show if she had been a crying dimwit.

  4. I AM STICKING AROUND TOOOOOO! Love your recaps. Please carry on. In fact, I love the fact that it is 3 weeks late! It dilutes my skks withdrawal symptoms =)

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