As the story hurtles to a close, our fair heroes find themselves each facing a personal trial as they try to save Seon-joon and restore Sungkyunkwan’s honour. More importantly, this is the episode where yours truly officially joined the Cult of Gu Yong-ha.
Okay, so we know that Yoon-hee is safe. Jae-shin, on the other hand, is one sword away from becoming a human shish kebab. As if getting skewered once wasn’t enough, Jae-shin forces himself up and basically asks the captain to fillet him again. The latter duly obliges.
Oh God, Jae-shin. Will you just screw your bloody code of honour and flee already, you moron!
The captain advances upon our half-dead hero but is interrupted by his men before he can finish him off. There’s no one in Jongmyo! Satisfied that he no longer has to play the sacrificial lamb, Jae-shin manages to out-limp the soldiers, thanks to the K-drama Law of Inverse Reality, which states that no matter how badly injured, the good guy will always outrun the bad guys.
Yong-ha has once again foreseen the trouble his stupid friend of 10 years would get himself into and has made all the necessary arrangements to haul Jae-shin’s ass back to safety. To evade the troops, Yong-ha tells his servants to take the route through Banchon so that the soldiers won’t be able to follow them.
News of the Hong Byuk Seo’s escape reaches In-soo and his father, and the former pounces on the fact that they were abetted by the guards of a private household. A grim little smile crosses his face. Oh he knows exactly whose household those guards belong to, all right.
Sungkyunkwan. Yoon-hee is fretting over the fact that Yong-ha and Jae-shin have yet to return and wonders if she should go look for them. Thankfully for Seon-joon, the school servants appear to remind them that it is almost time for curfew. Yoon-hee’s frustration is short-lived as she turns around and sees Yong-ha and an almost dead Jae-shin struggling to make their way toward them.
Meanwhile, hellbent on arresting the Hong Byuk Seo, In-soo ignores the servants’ protests and orders his father’s men to storm Sungkyunkwan. It’s time to show everyone that the President of the Student Council means business.
Roused from their sleep, the scholars can only stare in disbelief as they watch the soldiers carry out In-soo’s orders. Whatever happened to Sungkyunkwan being a safe haven? Even Go Bong is affected by the way the soldiers are desecrating the library but does In-soo care? Hell no! He’s going to haul the masked avenger back with him if it’s the last thing he does, dammit!
They advance to Centre Room Two but there’s no one there. Guessing that they must be in Yong-ha’s room, In-soo makes his way there and sure enough, sees Yoon-hee standing outside.
Seon-joon and Yong-ha look at each other in trepidation as they hear the gathering voices outside. The latter rises to go outside and face In-soo but Seon-joon stops him, telling him that his witty repartees won’t be enough to save Jae-shin this time.
Offering to take Jae-shin’s place, he tells Yong-ha that principles dictate…oh who is he kidding? Just look at the fool! There’s no way Geol Oh is going to survive in prison in his current condition.
As the rest of the scholars gather around In-soo and Yoon-hee, Yong-ha emerges from his room and tells him to stop digging his own grave. All the scholars are watching him. Does he really want to be the first student president to violate Sungkyunkwan’s sanctity?
But In-soo refuses to be dissuaded. He tells Yong-ha that he’s going to be the first president to show them what power really means. He motions to the guards to search his room but what they find soon wipes the smirk off his face.
In-soo demands to know what they’re up to. As much as he hates Seon-joon’s guts, he also knows that there’s no way that nerd could possibly be the masked avenger.
Unfortunately because the Drama Gods are out to spite him, his father turns up and promptly orders the guards to haul Seon-joon away. In-soo protests but the minister tells him to shut it. Oh yes, revenge is a dish best served with your enemy’s son trussed up like a turkey. He tells his son that he’ll take care of things from here.
And with that Seon-joon is dragged away, much to Yoon-hee’s horror.
Lee Manor. The Left Prime Minister is beyond stupefied to hear that Seon-joon has been arrested. Come again? That stupid boy child…Hong Byuk Seo…how? Why…? Whuh…?
Boudoir de Yong-ha. As scholar Gu plays nurse to Jae-shin, he tells Yoon-hee not to worry too much, assuring her that nothing bad will happen to Seon-joon. He’s the Left Prime Minister’s only son, after all. The Minister of War wouldn’t dare do anything reckless. Uh Yong-ha, didn’t your intelligence network update you on the ministers’ falling out?
Jae-shin stirs into consciousness and grabs Yong-ha’s wrist. What did he just say Seon-joon did? Did that idiot confess to being the Hong Byuk Seo? Yong-ha tells him gently that Seon-joon did it for his sake because there’s no way he’s going to survive in prison right now. Poor Jae-shin seethes in impotent frustration. Of all the times for his body to give up on him…
Yong-ha assures them that Seon-joon’s sacrifice will not be for naught. He is going to make In-soo pay for letting the troops besmirch Sungkyunkwan’s honour. A doubting Yoon-hee asks if he can really bring Ha junior to justice.
Okay, everyone. Altogether now: Of course, he’s Gu Yong-ha!
Chez Minister of War. Despite In-soo telling him repeatedly that Seon-joon is not the Hong Byuk Seo, Minister Ha is too caught up in his revenge fantasy to care. Still smarting over the Left Prime Minister’s shabby treatment, he tells his son that he will make Seon-joon the bloody Hong Byuk Seo. See if that old man will come crawling to him for forgiveness.
Prison. Minister Lee has come to talk some sense into his son and as he waddles up to Seon-joon’s cell, his gaze falls on his couple ring. This is just great. First the stupid boy gets himself arrested and now he has a secret girlfriend. Teenagers *sigh*
Daddy Lee decides to deal with the more important issue first and asks him if he is really planning on atoning for events that took place ten years ago. Again he reiterates that he didn’t do anything wrong but Seon-joon respectfully reminds him that he isn’t entirely blameless either given that he helped to cover up the crime.
Daddy Lee tries another tack and tells him that in defying him, he’s chosen a painful path for himself. No, replies his pig-headed son. He is merely following the path that he was taught.
A charged silence passes between them before the minister finally walks away. As he does so, Seon-joon’s expression softens, the regret and pain of going against his father written all over his face.
Sungkyunkwan. News that Seon-joon has been transferred to the Minister of Justice’s lair is spreading through the university. Yoon-hee wonders whether Minister Moon will use Seon-joon to avenge his son’s death but Jae-shin, whose powers of recovery are obviously nothing short of miraculous, strides in and tells her not a chance. He’s not going to let Seon-joon get hurt (aww…) and besides, who’d believe that that clumsy fool is the Hong Byuk Seo?
Yoon-hee blocks his path just as our noble idiot is about to offer himself up as a sacrificial lamb yet again. No way is she going to forgive him if he lets Seon-joon’s effort go to waste like that.
And then she adds the clincher: if it had been up to her, she would have done the same for him.
Seriously, can’t she just live with the both of them in sin?
Jae-shin cracks a smile. Even so, he needs to tell his father that the Left Prime Minister isn’t responsible for his brother’s death. It’s the only way they can save Seon-joon. Yoon-hee looks up at him with those large Bambi eyes in disbelief: is it really true?
In reply, he tells her that she doesn’t have to worry anymore (translation: you can stop angsting over your star-crossed romance already.)
Before he strides off into the sunset, he reminds Yong-ha not to forget about bringing In-soo to task. For the first time in this episode, Yong-ha breaks into a smile. Of course, he’s—but Jae-shin cuts him off. Yeah, yeah. He’s Gu Yong-ha.
Moon Manor. Not one to waste time on pleasantries, Jae-shin cuts straight to the chase and tells his father that a) Seon-joon is innocent and b) that the Left Prime Minister has nothing to do with his brother’s death.
However Minister Moon is as pig-headed as his son and Seon-joon combined. What difference does it make if Seon-joon is guilty or not? He’s been waiting far too long for this day to come so quit getting in his way dammit!
And because the only way Jae-shin knows how to deal with problems is to meet them head on, he tells his father he’ll just turn himself in if his father doesn’t release Seon-joon.
*sigh* Do you seriously think your father’s going to let you serve your ass up on a platter to the Minister of War? Really? Sure enough, Jae-shin finds himself surrounded by his father’s men. Oh dear, it looks like Operation Rescue Seon-joon is not going well at all.
Sungkyunkwan. We see Yong-ha getting ready to open a can of whoop-ass on In-soo. Together with the Cute Soron faction leader, he marches up to In-soo and informs him that they are going to put him on trial for letting the royal guards enter Sungkyunkwan.
However something about Ha Junior’s expression is not quite right. Given that he’s just been threatened with impeachment, why isn’t he glaring a hole into anybody’s head?
The reason for this soon becomes apparent when he tells Yong-ha that he won’t be able to execute his grand plan because if he goes ahead with the trial, he’ll expose him for lying about his noble status.
Oh crap. Yong-ha turns to look at In-soo, his eyes the size of saucers. For once, he has no witty comeback. Ha Junior sneers. How long was he planning to keep up the charade with his fancy clothes? Oh well, he’ll see him at the hearing. That is if he still has the guts to show up, of course.
Thoroughly shaken, Yong-ha staggers away slowly, ignoring the babble of voices around him. Once alone, he smiles bitterly to himself. It looks like things have taken an interesting turn.
Chambre d’In-soo. As Byung-choon gloats about Yong-ha’s predicament, In-soo tells his groupies that it’s going to be a cold day in hell before he lets a student protest secure the release of his nemesis. At this, Kang-moo remarks that allowing the royal guards to enter Sungkyunkwan wasn’t the best move on his part; not only did a few students get injured, the whole incident wasn’t exactly what you’d call a good PR exercise either. Go Bong, who is looking far from a happy camper, agrees.
A word of advice In-soo: when the man who’s been mostly silent for the past 19 episodes and the resident idiot start questioning your actions, it’s usually a sign that your grip on power is slipping.
Over in another part of the school, Yoon-hee comes across an uncharacteristically sombre Yong-ha, who tells her that a) Jae-shin is under house arrest and b) Operation Rescue Seon-joon has just hit another road block. It looks like he won’t be able to lead the appeal against In-soo after all, he tells her hollowly, unable to bring his eyes to meet hers.
The time for In-soo’s trial is drawing near. Yong-ha sits in his room, conflicted, knowing that public humiliation is a guarantee if he attends the trial.
However Seon-joon and Jae-shin’s words come flooding back to him and no matter how much he dreads the resulting backlash from the scholars, there’s no way he can let his friends down. And so, with a grim determination, he rises and walks out to face his nemesis.
The trial plays out as expected and after the obligatory back and forth in which In-soo declares that he has no intention of apologising or starting an appeal to release Seon-joon, he lays Yong-ha out to dry and announces that he has been lying to everyone about his social status. On cue, Byung-choon passes around copies of Yong-ha’s family lineage to the stunned scholars.
Knowing that there’s nothing left for him to do but admit the truth, Yong-ha confesses that his family comes from a long line of merchants. His father had bought a title and dressed him up as a yangban to perpetuate the idea that their family hailed from nobility. Ignoring the scholars’ heckles, he bravely continues, announcing that he will be handing over the responsibility of leading the protest to Yoon-hee, not because of his status but because he is ashamed of himself.
That done, he turns to face In-soo and tells him that from now on his threats will no longer have any effect on him because they are in Sungkyunkwan and he is Gu Yong-ha.
In-soo looks at him, incomprehension and a whole bundle of other jumbled up feelings churning inside him. This is obviously not what he had expected Yong-ha to do. (Note: I’ve always believed In-soo to be far more sentimental than he lets on and just as with Cho-sun, he wants nothing more than for Yong-ha to acknowledge him with the respect he thinks he deserves. Alas! If only his social skills were more developed…)
Trial over, Yong-ha returns to his room, only to find his expensive toys and clothes lying unceremoniously on the ground. Instead of being upset, he shrugs, laughing it off. Oh well, it’s a small price to pay for the lie that he has been living.
Now that the charade has come to an end, he reveals to Yoon-hee the real reason he wanted to find the Geum Deung Ji Sa—to see if it would be possible to bring about a world where one’s social status didn’t matter.
He apologizes for passing over such a heavy responsibility to her but she’s the only one who can lead the student protest and save Seon-joon’s ass right now. And though she may doubt herself, there’s no other person who wants to save him more than her, is there?
Unfortunately, the scholars are still mad that Yong-ha lied to them and refuse to have anything to do with the petition. How can they take their word that Seon-joon is not the Hong Byuk Seo?
Seriously, you guys are morons. I don’t even know how you managed to pass the college entrance exam. If LSJ were really the masked avenger, all his letters would have sounded like this: Norons, you are against the law, my principles yadda, yadda, yadda *rinse wash repeat*
Along comes In-soo and his groupies to stir up trouble. He tells the other students that if they don’t want to end up being an outcast like Yong-ha, they had better think twice before signing that damn piece of paper.
As the chickens scholars scatter, In-soo leaves Yoon-hee with a piece of advice: Determination counts for nothing; It’s people with power who make things happen. Well, up yours, In-soo. Yoon-hee tells him that she will make that power hers. Mark her words: he’s going to be sorry he ever allowed his father’s guards into Sungkyunkwan before the next morning’s over.
Yoon-hee = AWESOME
Royal Palace. The King is now in a pickle. Unless the real Hong Byuk Seo is caught, Seon-joon may have to shoulder the price for being an outlaw. Is he willing to bear these consequences?
He replies that his father had always taught him to choose the more difficult path as opposed to the easy way out. This way, even if he doesn’t succeed, he’ll have no regrets.
Faced with this sanguine response, the King asks him if he resents him for coming in between them. Really, your Highness. What do you expect Seon-joon to say? Yes, I hate you and I hope you die?
Library. Yoon-hee vexes indignantly to Yong-ha, unable to believe how the other scholars can suspect Seon-joon of being the Hong Byuk Seo when they’ve spent so much time together. Once again, Scholar Gu waxes philosophical: No matter how much time they spend together, people can’t always be expected to understand everything about one another. After all, even roommates don’t always understand the feelings of the person they’re living with.
Oh the subtext! Unfortunately, the law of K-dramas states that this is wasted on the cross-dressing female. When it comes to love, fortune favours the one who can spell out their feelings in bold flashing neon lights.
Well, you can ponder the mysteries of the human heart later, kids. The Chancellor, who is still clinging onto the hope of getting a promotion (this time via saving Seon-joon’s ass), pops up and tells them that they can get him acquitted by proving that the real Hong Byuk Seo is still at large.
Time to kickstart Operation Rescue Seon-joon 2.0. Unfortunately for Yong-ha’s sartorial sensibilities, it means having to wear an all-black hanbok. (Cheer up, puppy! Black’s going to be all the rage in a few centuries down the road!)
Yoon-hee tries to placate him by saying that it matches the colour of his hair. Ha ha. Soon-dol, on the other hand, is just grateful for a chance to save his young master. Their first stop? Jae-shin’s home.
Moon Manor. Poor Geol Oh is not taking well to being kept under house arrest and fortunately (or unfortunately) his condition is preventing his father from sedating him. He pleads with his father to release Seon-joon, telling him that he’s not going to bring his dead brother back to life just by taking his revenge against the Left Prime Minister. He adds that if he had really wanted to avenge his brother’s death, he shouldn’t have remained silent back then. But the minister replies that it was because of him that he had kept quiet. That was the only way he could amass the power that he has now. And the time has finally come for him to use that power.
With tears in his eyes, Jae-shin finally admits that he’s been wrong about him all these years. In his grief, he had always assumed that he loved his brother more: “I thought I was hurting more than you. I’m sorry…I was wrong, Father!” It’s a poignant moment that’s made all the more so given the difficulty Jae-shin has articulating his feelings. He begs his father to release Seon-joon, telling him that their lives have barely begun and that it would suck if he has to continue hating him.
However, Daddy Moon needs time to stew in this sudden revelation. Also, agreeing immediately would make him look too easy so he leaves, and poor Jae-shin sinks to the ground in anguish, clutching his broken heart.
Moon Manor—exterior. With Soon-dol acting as a decoy, Yong-ha manages to fool the guards and break into the storeroom where Jae-shin is being held captive. Overjoyed at being reunited with the love of his life best friend, Yong-ha smooshes his face and glues himself to hugs him. Oh, he’s never going to let him go, all right.
Grimacing, Jae-shin’s all “what the hell’s wrong with him?” but Yoon-hee beams, telling him that Yong-ha has been especially awesome today. Just hug him back already!
Word of his son’s escape soon reaches Minister Moon, who looks as if he has been expecting this news. He tells his servant to let them be.
Secret HQ. Time to prove that Seon-joon is not the Hong Byuk Seo. The rest of J4 scatter the notes that Jae-shin has written, which basically declare that the real messenger is still at large and that Seon-joon is not the culprit.
Mission accomplished. They decide to visit Seon-joon to tell him the good news but first, there are more pressing things for Yong-ha to settle—like changing out of his hideous outfit. He tells Jae-shin and Yoon-hee to go ahead first, throwing his friend a little wink.
Off Jae-shin and Yoon-hee go, the latter an excited bundle of nerves as she babbles about Seon-joon, Seon-joon and Seon-joon. Jae-shin walks alongside her in silence. This is starting to look like a bad idea.
Finally he stops. This isn’t going to work, he tells her, adding that she should go ahead without him. Too excited about seeing Seon-joon, Yoon-hee decides to respect his decision and just as she is about to leave, he calls out to her: “Have I ever said this before? Thank you.”
Yoon-hee smiles, puzzled. Why’s he thanking her? What did she do?
Jae-shin continues simply, “For being you…thank you.”
And then in the time-honoured tradition of the Second Lead, he smiles as he watches her walk away from him, her figure becoming smaller as the distance between them widens…
And just when I thought it was safe for me to take the bandages off my heart, you do this to me, Jae-shin. Damn you!
We cut to see Hyo-eun and the long-suffering Beo Deol making their way to see Seon-joon as well. This cannot be good. The latter frets that In-soo and her father won’t be happy if they find out about this but Hyo-eun says it’s all her fault Seon-joon ended up in jail. She can’t just sit around and pretend that nothing’s happened.
*sigh* And what are you planning to do when you see him? Ask him to marry you to appease your father? Why don’t you ask your father to let him go instead, hmm?
Prison. Yoon-hee sees Seon-joon asleep and after staring wistfully at his side profile, she rises to leave (seriously, what is with all the upping and leaving in this drama?) However his trusty Yoon-hee detector starts buzzing and he wakes up in time to stop her, whereupon they proceed to have a lover’s exchange.
Though she tells him that she’s glad that his father isn’t responsible for her father’s death, Seon-joon insists that he still wants her forgiveness because it’s not as if the minister is entirely innocent. She tells him to stop beating himself up, reminding him that they can’t help who their parents are. And then she tells him that what she can give him is not forgiveness but her heart.
Of course, who should overhear this exchange but Hyo-eun and Beo Deul?
Outside, Yong-ha finds Jae-shin standing all by himself and figures out instantly what must have happened. Offering his lovelorn friend some advice, he tells him to forget her, lest this unrequited longing becomes a habit. Let this be the last time he’s watching her like this.
Sungkyunkwan. It looks like Jae-shin’s messages worked their magic after all. Convinced that Scholar Lee is not the Hong Byuk Seo, the scholars turn up in full force to sign the petition for Seon-joon’s release and make peace with Yong-ha.
But wait. Where the heck is Geol Oh? Yong-ha smiles. Well, speak of the devil.
Jae-shin’s all decked out in his Sunday best and he makes his way slowly towards them, trying to look nonchalant and failing miserably. He fidgets under Yoon-hee’s gaze and smiles bashfully. To crib a line from Park Min-young at the Golden Disk awards, if you had dressed up like this from the beginning, maybe the drama would have ended differently. Hee!
But you don’t expect them to leave for the King’s palace without an encounter with In-soo and his groupies, do you? Ha Junior’s death glare is out in full force and he tries to intimidate Yoon-hee into giving up the student protest.
Yoon-hee awesomely refuses to be cowed and reiterates her position: they are going to the King to ask for Seon-joon’s acquittal and to extract an apology from the Minister of War. Will he lead them as Sungkyunkwan’s president?
In-soo’s eyeballs have just about glared a hole in Yoon-hee’s head. He scowls, telling her he will do no such thing. That’s too bad, she replies. It looks like she’ll have to lead the demonstration since they can no longer acknowledge him as their president.
In-soo loses it right then and yells at all of them to stop. However Yoon-hee doesn’t give him the benefit of a second look and strides off with the rest of the students following suit, all except Yong-ha, who remains behind to have the last word. Didn’t he warn him that all the students were watching him? He tells In-soo that they aren’t the ones who abandoned him; rather, he’s the one who turned his back on Sungkyunkwan first.
However In-soo’s fall from grace is far from over. Go Bong tells him that he too is going to follow them because even an idiot like him can see that he’s in the wrong. Furious, In-soo whips around but Kang Moo stops him from punching Go Bong’s lights out, telling him that he can’t bear to watch him sink any lower. And with that, In-soo’s little gang is down to him and Byung-choon.
Royal palace. Led by Yoon-hee, the scholars present their appeal to the King. You’ve got to admit that she’s doing a fine job of rising to the occasion. As she surveys the scholars kneeling before the palace gates, she finally realises what it means to be a Sungkyunkwan scholar.
As she awaits the King’s decision in one of the rooms, she has an epiphany while playing with her father’s puzzle box. Back then, he had laid out the puzzle in front of her and told her that it represented her… as well as hope.
Things start falling into place as she realizes that they’ve all been on the wrong trail all this while. The place where the nation begins is, as Jae-shin had told her before, Banchon.
Rushing out to the university’s main entrance, she starts digging around the gate.
Meanwhile, we cut to In-soo, who still cannot believe the hand that Fate has dealt him. Right at that moment, his sister and Beo Deul return and Yoon-hee’s own fate is sealed as he overhears that she is a girl.
Sungkyunkwan. Yoon-hee’s efforts are finally rewarded as she uncovers a wooden coffer. She’s found it! She’s found the Geum Deng Ji Sa!
OMG, I understand you’re excited and all but can’t you take the damn thing inside? Do you really have to read the letters in full view of everyone?
This was one of my favourite episodes, not least because it finally revealed the man behind Gu Yong-ha’s mask. My other favourite moment was the exchange Jae-shin had with Yoon-hee when he officially let go of his unrequited love for her. It was so understated, so perfect and so him. *swoon*
On another note, I know there are people who have expressed their frustration with Yoon-hee for not acknowledging his feelings but I don’t think this is her fault. In fact, I think she’s been very reciprocative throughout the show; their relationship hasn’t been a one-way street where she’s constantly on the receiving end. She has been there for him in his hour of need, she’s helped him, and quite frankly, if I were to compare shows, I would argue that she’s been a better friend to him than Minam was with Shin-woo in You’re Beautiful. The only problem is that cross-dressing female characters are really dense when it comes to feelings. As I said, you really have to spell it out for them in bold otherwise they won’t be able to get it. And sadly Jae-shin isn’t the most eloquent character when it comes to expressing what he feels.