With each episode I love Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love just that little bit more. This isn’t a diss on the drama in the slightest. My love is growing steadily because the drama pulls that out of me with its rich tapestry of romance blended beautifully with re-worked political intrigue from that certain time period in Joseon history. It’s not historically accurate, but it’s dramatically gripping, and whether a viewer can accept that plays a big part in whether the drama works or not. There are no ah-ha gotcha moments so my interest in this drama grows like taking a slow deep breath, as opposed to hyperventilating. I feel like the production has a sure grip on the story it wants to tell so I sit back and soak up the narrative without the urge to overreach. I don’t crave spoilers here the way I do for my other current crack drama King Flower, because this story is so much greater than just the OTP getting together. The Prince Boksun-led coup is clearly not going to succeed, but that is almost beside the point.
I got shivers with the conversation between Lee Soon and his uncle Prince Boksun, and when the time came to execute the traitors, I actually felt sadness for them. Who is to say they are the criminals in a world whether power goes to the one who succeeds as opposed to some ordained righteous law. Lee Soon hasn’t showed to me that he is the best choice to be King, I support him because he inherited the spot and ought to have a go at it. But I expect a passed-over prince like Prince Boksun to vy for the throne, because otherwise his life has no meaning. He’ll always be living at the whim of the King, and he experienced so painfully the loss of Hong Joo just because he couldn’t be with a girl that was one of likely hundreds serving the King who never even noticed her. How does one live not having any control over one’s fate? Right now we see everyone in this story suffers the same chains of their position in life, and one thing that really fascinates about Ok Jung’s love with Lee Soon is how both are truly shifting the paradigm in order to be together. But getting there isn’t going to be easy in the slightest.
Episode 7 recap:
The sword dancers are entertaining the birthday party for Minister Heo and Lee Soon watches intently. A cup of tea is delivered and when he takes a sip, he sees the warning from Jang Hyun about the upcoming assassination.
When the lead sword dancer rushes towards Lee Soon with her sword drawn, he unsheathes his own sword hidden in his sleeve and deflects her blade. He cuts her down and then all hell breaks loose.
Minister Heo and Prince Boksun’s men surround the party and appear to have Lee Soon cornered. Prince Boksun walks out to triumphantly finish his coup. Lee Soon isn’t scared at all and is rather disdainful of Prince Boksun’s desire to be King.
He would give up the position if Prince Boksun actually worried about how to govern the country, but all he sees is Prince Boksun worrying about how to obtain the position of King. He comes from a place of envy and desire for power, not to rule the country and make it a good place. Lee Soon believes he earned the position of King not by his birth, but by all the challenges he’s faced and overcome.
Hyun Moo and his men arrive in time and quickly turn the tides. Prince Boksun and Minister Heo’s coup is over before it started. Minister Heo’s son tries to grab a sword himself and stab Lee Soon only to be felled by a bullet to the leg.
As the traitors are rounded up, Jang Hyun thinks to himself that Ok Jung picked the right guy.
Lee Soon tells Prince Boksun to give up now, and Prince Dongpyung also asks his hyung to stop. Prince Boksun looks to the Heavens and then falls to his knees.
Ok Jung finishes washing the clothes and heads back to the laundry department. She sees a Palace Guard walking past and thinks it might be Lee Soon. She calls for him to stop but when the guy turns around she sees it’s not him. Ok Jung then learns from another court lady that Prince Boksun just tried to stage a coup and failed and has been captured.
Minister Kim is torturing the traitors with relish, demanding they all confess. Minister Heo’s son tries to shoulder all the blame but Minister Heo confesses because he’s going to die anyway. When Prince Boksun is asked to confess, he laughs and makes an analogy that he and Lee Soon are simply the flower and leaf of a type of plant that can never bloom at the same time. One can bloom only when the other dies, and right now is the blooming period of Lee Soon. That is all.
Prince Dongpyung talks with Lee Soon about Prince Boksun and Lee Soon hears about the analogy. Prince Dongpyung reveals that the businessman Jang Hyun was the one who sent that secret warning to Lee Soon about the method of assassination.
Minister Kim is torturing Jang Hyun and Lee Soon comes out to put a stop to it. Lee Soon asks why Jang Hyun betrayed Prince Boksun. Jang Hyun goes where the money leads, and he has a “flower” that is his secret weapon and hope and he believes Lee Soon is better suited than Prince Boksun to make it bloom. Lee Soon laughs and says he’ll spare Jang Hyun’s life and see where this “flower” will lead him.
Ok Jung is asking around the seamstresses if anyone knows a man named Lee Soon. The head court lady overhears and chides her, yelling if she is looking to go serve the Inner Chamber (the King’s quarters) like all the women desire? Ok Jung is clueless so had no idea what she said wrong. She is given the task of ironing all the undergarments from now on.
All the ministers are gathered in court and urging Lee Soon to bring back Minister Min and the exiled Sorons, claiming only Minister Min can bring order and stability back to the court. Lee Soon remembers his dad’s warning to trust no one, and he wonders if he’s playing at a game that he has no chance of winning?
Lee Soon relents and Minister Min and his followers return to court. They run into each other and exchange pleasantries. But inside Minister Min thinks that he’s served in the courts of three Kings now so he’ll continue to survive even as this pipsqueak King leaves the throne. In fact, Lee Soon will soon realize that he is the real power governing Joseon. Lee Soon thinks to himself that he will suck Minister Min dry and spit out his carcass, that is how he will make use of Minister Min.
Lee Soon has ordered a public execution of the traitors.
Minister Heo, his son and others, and finally Prince Boksun, all kneel as an executioner prepares to wield his sword. As the traitors fall one by one, blood splatters on the remaining men’s faces as they stoically meet their end.
Prince Boksun screams in rage at Lee Soon before he, too, falls under the sword of the executioner.
Lee Soon gets a report that the executions have been carried out.
Jang Hyun is released from prison and learns from Ok Jung’s brother that she is in the Palace but working as a seamstress. He’s angry because that will get them nowhere.
Jang Hyun goes to see Minister Jo and reveals that Ok Jung and Lee Soon actually know each other and appear to have feelings for each other. He reveals Ok Jung does not know the man she likes is the King, she thinks he’s just a Palace guard. It is in their best interests to work together and there is a good chance Ok Jung can become a concubine to the King.
Prince Dongpyung comes to the store to find Ok Jung and learns from Hyang Ah that she went to the Qing dynasty with her mom. He’s totally crestfallen that she left just like that. After he leaves, we see that Ok Jung’s brother asked Hyang Ah to lie and not tell Prince Dongpyung that Ok Jung has entered the Palace. Ok Jung’s brother promises to introduce Hyang Ah to his rich friend in the Qing dynasty for helping him.
Minister Jo reveals to the Great Dowager Queen Jo that Ok Jung knows Lee Soon but not his real identity. They decide to start moving on their plans since the Noron faction has fallen and now the Great Dowager Queen Jo has no support behind her. She extends an invitation to the King to have tea with her, saying that all they need to do is lure the tiger into the foxes den.
Ok Jung is sewing and comes across the undershirt she made for Lee Soon. She’s surprised to see it there.
Ok Jung is suddenly dragged out and forcibly bathed to go serve the King. As she is being bathed she thinks back to what the court lady said about her desiring to serve the King when she mentioned Lee Soon’s name, and how that undershirt came to be here. She makes the connection.
Ok Jung is brought to the Great Dowager Queen’s chamber and told to go inside and serve them.
When Ok Jung walks inside, the Great Dowager Queen Jo is dining with Lee Soon. Ok Jung and Lee Soon see each other again and both recognize each other.
Ok Jung trembles as she walks forth to serve them food. Lee Soon quickly gets his game face on but the Queen has already registered his expression upon seeing Ok Jung and looks pleased. The Great Dowager Queen Jo makes an excuse and quickly leaves.
Lee Soon cuts to the chase and angrily demands to know if Ok Jung purposely approached him from their very first meeting. He asks if all those series of coincidences were purposely staged by her? He thinks she’s been plotting to lure him in with her beauty.
Ok Jung is so shocked at knowing that he is the King, and to hear his accusations is even more painful. She says that is not true.
Lee Soon suddenly moves over and presses Ok Jung on the ground as he hovers over her. Since she’s been trying to seduce him, then he might as well sample the goods now. He demands to know if she’s angling for the King’s favor and to be made a concubine?
Ok Jung cries over the misunderstanding and says no, how could he think that? Lee Soon asks if she’s saying no to the King’s advances? Ok Jung says yes, she is saying NO to his royal benediction. Lee Soon gets off Ok Jung. Ok Jung points was the one who told her that he was a Palace guard. The person she was looking for was the leader of the Palace guard Lee Soon. If she knew that he was the King, she would have never entered the Palace to find him. He asks why she entered the Palace and Ok Jung says to make the best clothes.
He asks if she really didn’t know until she saw him, but we know that Ok Jung had put the pieces together during the bath so she can’t lie that she didn’t know until this very moment. Lee Soon feels so betrayed that he tells Ok Jung to be a seamstress like she intended and stay out of his way, never showing up before him again. Lee Soon angrily huffs off, leaving Ok Jung crying in his room while he goes to target practice. LOL, someone has a lot of pent up frustration to let off.
In Hyun is out doing charitable work at the indigent persons clinic. Queen In Kyung also comes out to help the sick and the two friends greet each other. Queen In Kyung says that In Hyun is such a kind person, and she’s here because her husband the King goes to visit the people at times so as his wife she wants to do the same. A person suffering from small pox is brought in and little sick child collapses in front of In Kyung. She leans down to help him and starts coughing from her asthma.
In Hyun talks with her father Minister Min who wants her to enter the Palace as a concubine. In Hyun refuses because a starving lion will never lower itself to eat grass.
Queen In Kyung walks through the Palace and passes by the seamstress wing. She runs into Ok Jung and recognizes her, very happy to see her here. She pulls Ok Jung aside and asks why she is here? Ok Jung says she has her hardship reasons and In Kyung understands. She is just happy to have a friend from outside to talk to and asks Ok Jung to visit her. She heard the King visited a woman last night and thinks she’s likely more beautiful than her. Ok Jung tells In Kyung not to listen to gossip. Prince Dongpyung is walking through the Palace and thinks he spots Ok Jung, but she’s gone in a flash and he thinks he conjured her up since she’s supposed to be in the Qing dynasty.
In Hyun and another noble woman visit Queen In Kyung in the Palace. The other girl is very cruel and makes snide suggestions about In Kyung’s loveless and unconsummated marriage with the King. In Hyun chides the other lady and says that is just gossip.
Lee Soon walks by and sees it, electing to support Queen In Kyung so he walks over and is very solicitous and warm towards her in front of In Hyun and the other girl. He purposes stares at In Hyun as he grabs In Kyung’s hand and leads her away. It’s like a challenge almost and you can see In Hyun’s pride is riled up.
After they walk away holding hands, In Kyung pulls her hand away already aware it was for show. Lee Soon explains that he needs to stand up for the honor of the royal family and no one can mock them. Theirs may be an arranged marriage and he doesn’t love her, but she is his wife and he will protect her honor and pride. In Kyung is so touched and asks to walk a bit longer with him. Lee Soon takes her hand again and they happily walk through the Palace. Ok Jung sees Lee Soon and Queen In Kyung walking hand in hand and is very sad.
In Hyun goes to see her father Minister Min and reveals that she wants to enter the Palace as a concubine, she’s changed her mind. Sometimes the ordained path doesn’t work and one needs to be willing to take a different route as long as it leads to the same place. All she asks for is to go through proper protocol and she wants a title.
Queen In Kyung is embroidering and starts to feel unwell.
In Kyung is getting dolled up for her wedding night and she has Ok Jung brought over to style her up since she did such a good job before.
Lee Soon is told that tonight is the previously scheduled wedding night but if he wants to cancel again…… Lee Soon has been thinking about Ok Jung and this times decides to put her behind him and agrees to consummate the marriage. Lee Soon broods before the wedding night.
In Kyung looks very unwell as Ok Jung is dressing her and in the end she collapses in Ok Jung’s lap.
The royal physician is summoned and Queen In Kyung is diagnosed as having contracted contagious small pox. Everyone freaks out and the Dowager Queen orders that this news be kept from the King.
Lee Soon goes to visit Queen In Kyung but he’s stopped at the door by his mother Dowager Queen Kim. She prevents him from going in and says there is a small pox outbreak in the Palace and he needs to move to the Summer Palace immediately. He wants to wait for In Kyung and go together but the Dowager Queen says In Kyung needs to get ready and will follow shortly. Ok Jung walks out of In Kyung’s quarters and sees Lee Soon.
None of the court ladies are willing to take care of In Kyung because they are all too scared. Ok Jung steps forward and volunteers.
Ok Jung tends to the very sick and fading fast In Kyung. Poor girl is covered with small pox boils but Ok Jung touches her and tends to her without fear.
Ok Jung holds up In Kyung up and hears that all she wants is for her husband Lee Soon to come visit her. She knows she’s going to die and she misses him so much. Ok Jung cries and promises that she will bring the King to visit her.
Lee Soon is being carried through the Palace and stops to observe the lake. Ok Jung rushes to intercept him before he leaves for the Summer Palace and finds him. He’s upset to see her since he told her never to show up before him. She reveals that Queen In Kyung is on her deathbed and wants desperately to see the King.
Lee Soon realizes just how sick the Queen is and agrees to go. Dowager Queen Kim arrives and tries to prevent him but this time he’s made up his mind and is determined to go. The Dowager Queen glares daggers at Ok Jung.
Lee Soon says that In Kyung is his wife and how could the husband not go see her because of fear of getting sick. That is not the action of a real man. The Dowager Queen points out that as King he has a duty to stay healthy for his country, especially in light of the recent coup and instability. Lee Soon says he will leave it up to the Heavens then whether he will get sick from seeing In Kyung. Lee Soon rushes off to the horror of the Dowager Queen.
Thoughts of Mine:
This drama is so good its truly astounding how the domestic Korean audience are missing out on something genuinely entertaining without being overly simplistic. So far I enjoy every single character and their arc. Prince Boksun’s coup was understandable and commendable in his own way, who’s to say he won’t be a better ruler and otherwise his life has no purpose than as the spare son of a former King. The Norons were honorable in their own way, going out with their heads held high and facing their execution without fear. Coups and power plays are the bread and butter of everything that makes up history in any country, and its not inherently a despicable act insomuch as its taking a chance to change the people in charge. Succeed or fail, life goes on with the victor in charge. I don’t blame the traitors here for their attempt to off Lee Soon, but I am happy they failed because I think Lee Soon has shown that he’s a better person to rule over Joseon than Prince Boksun. I think Prince Dongpyung’s friendship and support for Lee Soon speaks volumes, because right now he’s the one least involved in politicking and I trust his judgment a lot. It’s so sad that he’s already missing Ok Jung, and when he glimpsed Ok Jung in the Palace and called out “Ok Jung-ah” my heart just broke. I think his unrequited love for Ok Jung will be such a meaningful thread in this story, adding a wistful sadness that doesn’t come with strings attached when everything else pretty much comes with a “what can you do for me” give-and-take.
I was pretty much putty during the heated and crazy chemistry filled confrontation between Ok Jung and Lee Soon. Whomever dares to say Yoo Ah In and Kim Tae Hee have no chemistry better be read to bring it because I will back their explosive yet tender chemistry with all the fire power my pen holds. Kim Tae Hee continues to astound me with her acting which improves episode by episode. She is literally blooming in this drama as an actress, and from her bathing scene (which was so beautiful even I felt myself being wowed by her allure) to the way she cried for In Kyung’s illness despite the fact that they love the same man, she was so on it wasn’t even debatable. What she lacks in finesse she makes up for in emotional connection with the camera and her co-stars, so for the first time ever, she is the reason this drama has really come to life. Yoo Ah In is fantastic as Lee Soon, but it is Ok Jung that is the heart and soul of the viewer’s immersion into this story. To be honest, Lee Soon scares me. He scares me with his intensity, how extreme he is because he’s always on. When he desires Ok Jung to when he feels betrayed by her, he lets his emotions out when he’s with her that normally be keeps tightly bottled up inside. Theirs will surely be a dysfunctional relationship because of the cruel circumstances of their position and places in society, but it will also be one where all they have is each other against the world.