I’m feeling a teensy bit of disjointedness for Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love. It mostly comes from the feeling that the delicate details, heady aura, and thoughtful political battle of wits is being pushed aside for more heavy-handed doses of everything. Now that Ok Jung and Lee Soon are romancing out in the open, suddenly everyone around them ratchets up the war of words and back-stabbing tactics. I like Ok Jung and In Hyun quite a lot, but I’m not buying so readily the intense power plays between the elders such as Great Dowager Queen Jo openly rubbing In Hyun’s unconsummated marriage in her face, or Dowager Queen Kim hating on Ok Jung so openly and doing what she did at the end of episode 11. It’s like the makjang has arrived at JOJ land where I was still bathing in the sensation of romance blossoming unexpectedly but with far-reaching consequences. I’m not getting a good sense of the passage of time in this drama, so while months and years could have passed onscreen it feels like crap keeps happening to Ok Jung every day.
Poor girl can’t get a break, though I’m loving the newly emerging bitchy hauteur in her attitude towards In Hyun and everyone in the snotty Palace. What’s even better is that Ok Jung is merely hiding away her kind and sacrificing nature to let her vengeful side out. She’s not bad, she’s merely rising up to meet the challenges of loving a King and fighting for the right to be by his side. Minister Min is proving to be a formidable opponent, what he lacks in subtlety he makes up for in balls to pull off murder and mayhem as necessary to ensure his power is preserved through his daughter. It’s both personal and ideological, and that I can respect. Same with Jang Hyun, he wants power so he cannot be looked down upon and he wants revenge for Hong Joo. I hope Lee Soon wises up quickly that his enemies are both outside and inside the Palace walls, and starts to be even more tactical and proactive when it comes to protecting Ok Jung and shaving power from the Soron faction.
Episode 11 recap:
On the day of the Royal Wedding, In Hyun is dressed as a Queen and being officially brought into the Palace. As her procession nears the Palace gates, she turns and sees Ok Jung standing there.
Ok Jung stares directly at In Hyun without bowing, her eyes filled with challenge and intensity. In Hyun clutches her robe nervously and then tells her attendants lower the curtains to end the stare down. Ok Jung remembers her exchange with Jang Hyun – she will become Lee Soon’s most highly ranked Consort while Jang Hyun gets to be the father-in-law to the King.
Lee Soon and In Hyun hold their wedding ceremony and this time its even more awkward and cold than the one between Lee Soon and In Kyung.
In Hyun smiles believing she has achieved her main goal in life, through there is a price to pay. The voiceover is a reminder that Lee Soon agreed to marry In Hyun because she promised to bring Ok Jung into the Palace once she is Queen and can make all the decisions in the back Palace.
Jang Hyun, Hee Jae, and Ok Jung sit in Jang Hyun’s study to discuss how to get her back into the Palace. Hee Jae wants Ok Jung to enter in style this time. Jang Hyun’s suggestion is to use the reach of the Great Dowager Queen as well as his promise to present his “flower” to Lee Soon. He wants her to work fast before Queen In Hyun gets pregnant otherwise she can’t achieve her goal of becoming the top ranked Consort.
Lee Soon and In Hyun are alone on their wedding night. Lee Soon says In Hyun must be more concerned about the Queen position than of him.
Lee Soon gets up and leaves In Hyun alone for the night, once again not consummating his relationship with his Queen. In Hyun speaks up quietly and asks him to join her to pay their respects to the Dowagers in the morning together and not let them worry. Lee Soon doesn’t answer and leaves.
Lee Soon meets with Hyun Moo to discuss how to find Ok Jung who has gone missing. Prince Dongpyung arrives and tells Lee Soon that the place Ok Jung disappeared from has been located.
Lee Soon, Prince Dongpyung, and Hyun Moo go to the burnt out shed and see no traces of Ok Jung. Lee Soon worries that something terrible has happened to Ok Jung but tries to convince himself she’s fine. Hyun Moo wonders if the Dowager Queen did this but Lee Soon thinks she didn’t.
The Great Dowager Queen Jo summons Minister Jo into the Palace and learns that the King has gone in search of Ok Jung, which makes her exceedingly happy that the Noron faction has a chance to rebuild. Great Dowager Queen Jo is even more thrilled to hear from her court lady that the King did not consummate his relationship with Queen In Hyun on their wedding night.
Lee Soon and Queen In Hyun go to pay their respects to the two Dowager Queens. Dowager Queen Kim is ecstatic her dreams have come true and keeps complimenting the new couple as being so compatible.
Great Dowager Queen Jo instead points out that the newlyweds don’t see happy at all, and goads them on whether the wedding night wasn’t satisfactory or perhaps they didn’t even spend it together. She compliments In Hyun on being a very good wife since she just got married and is already working towards finding a concubine for her husband the King. In Hyun’s hand shakes while Dowager Queen Kim says this is not appropriate conversation.
Queen In Hyun sits in her chambers and she remembers being so nervous that her hands shakes when she picks up her tea cup. She also remembers seeing Ok Jung outside the Palace as she was entering. She summons her Court Lady Joo (the one who used to serve In Kyung and was responsible for abducting Ok Jung) and asks about bringing Ok Jung into the Palace, admitting she saw Ok Jung earlier.
Court Lady Joo, who thinks Ok Jung is dead, grows very nervous and says its not possible, suggesting In Hyun saw wrong. In Hyun knows the King is waiting for Ok Jung and she promised to help find her……Court Lady Joo says this must not happen and that woman will bring trouble for Minister Min. In Hyun realizes that her father may have played a role in the disappearance of Ok Jung.
Great Dowager Queen Jo has Ok Jung secretly brought into the Palace that night, wanting to strike while the iron is hot. She is happy to hear the King once again did not visit the Queen’s chambers and is alone tonight.
Dowager Queen Kim is still pretty sick but when she hears that the King has left his Queen alone for the night again, she rushes out to get them to spend the night together.
As Dowager Queen Kim walks through the Palace, she runs into a cloaked and covered Ok Jung. She hears that Great Dowager Queen Jo is bringing this girl in and demands to see her face immediately.
Before Ok Jung reveals herself, Queen In Hyun arrives and distracts Dowager Queen Kim. They head to find the King while Ok Jung safely makes her getaway and enters the Palace.
Lee Soon hears from his eunuch that Great Dowager Queen Jo wants to invite him over for tea. He remembers her trick last time to introduce Ok Jung to him and laughs that she’s trying again with another girl. He declines, but then senses something may be up and ends up going.
Lee Soon arrives at Great Dowager Jo’s residence and walks in to the side chamber to find a tea set placed there. Lee Soon turns around when the door opens and Ok Jung walks in and takes off her cloak.
Lee Soon is relieved and ecstatic to see her while Ok Jung cries happy tears to see him. They embrace and Ok Jung assures him that she’s really here, she’s really beside him. To see him again she’s come back. He is angry that she didn’t contact him when she was fine. Ok Jung says from now on she will not covet but will instead fight for what she wants despite what others say.
Lee Soon teases that she’s still so beautiful even when she cries and teases that she’s such a smooth talker.
Dowager Queen Kim and Queen In Hyun arrive at the King’s residence to find him but is told by his eunuch that the King is out for a walk and he doesn’t know where he went. Queen In Hyun is very perceptive and thinks back to the woman who was just brought into the Palace.
Lee Soon and Ok Jung sit facing each other and holding hands, finally reminiscing about their childhood encounters. Ok Jung reveals that she thought the young master purposely missed their date because of her lowly background. That is why she wants to forget that memory. Lee Soon says he wanted to go but couldn’t and it wasn’t because of her lowly birth.
Lee Soon is just so happy to have finally found her, confirming that what he said to her back them was his genuine words. He pulls her in for another hug and is so happy she’s finally returned to him. He wants her to wear the most glorious and shining clothes in the entire world.
Queen In Hyun is called to go meet Lee Soon and she happily thinks that he is finally ready to consummate their marriage. Ok Jung tells Lee Soon that when she was walking on the street she saw the new Queen In Hyun and their eyes met. But In Hyun purposely ignored her and lowered her curtains. Lee Soon looks upset and Ok Jung has successfully revealed that In Hyun has known she was alive but didn’t do anything to bring her to Lee Soon.
In Hyun sits down across from a calm Lee Soon and he begins by asking her to fulfill her promise. She asks which promise and he says “Jang Ok Jung.” He asks whether she knows where Ok Jung is and she says she will bring Ok Jung in if she knew where she was. In Hyun asks if he found Ok Jung and Lee Soon says yes, rather than waiting for In Hyun to find her he has already found her. Lee Soon suddenly calls Ok Jung in as she makes her impactful entrance.
The three of them stare at each other with Ok Jung looking very smug indeed. In Hyun’s hand shakes and she asks where Ok Jung has been lately? Lee Soon says it doesn’t matter, now In Hyun needs to fulfill her promise and convince the ministers and Dowager Queen to agree. Ok Jung humbly asks whether Queen In Hyun has been well since they last met and thanks her for agreeing to allow her to stay. Ok Jung bows very respectfully to In Hyun but her eyes remain full of challenge.
The next day, Queen In Hyun discusses with Court Lady Joo about the arrival of Ok Jung and making her a Court Lady. Court Lady Joo keeps saying it can’t happen but In Hyun says she cannot break a promise. Court Lady Joo quickly sends word to Minister Min.
Minister Min is furious Ok Jung isn’t dead and starts planning his next attempt to get rid of her. Court Lady Joo says they cannot tell In Hyun the truth about trying to off Ok Jung before. Minister Min plans to get Court Lady Joo out of the Palace before she gets into trouble.
Lee Soon knows Ok Jung’s background now because last night she handed him a letter from Jang Hyun which explained that Ok Jung was the “flower” he was preparing. Ok Jung explains how she was planning to go to the Qing dynasty for various reasons but had no choice but to stay and enter the Palace and accept help from her Uncle. He wants her to become the King’s woman. Lee Soon laughs and says she already is his woman.
Lee Soon summons Minister Jo and asks directly whether the Great Dowager Queen Jo, Minister Jo, Jang Hyun, and Ok Jung are all part of the Noron faction. Minister Jo gets nervous but Lee Soon says he was already in love with Ok Jung and the Noron plotting came later. Lee Soon doesn’t want the Soron faction to get stronger but he can’t forgive what the Noron faction tried to do to him. He is willing to use the Noron faction to temper the Soron faction. But first he needs to deal with the problem with the Qing dynasty and when he get a chance he will reward Minister Jo with a suitable position.
All the court ladies and palace maids are discussing that a court lady has received the King’s affection and is about to be officially given a position. Queen In Hyun walks out before all the gathered Palace ladies and announces that there is a new Court Lady who will be serving the King.
Ok Jung proudly walks out and introduces herself as the Special Court Lady Jang Ok Jung. She asks everyone to take care of her and thanks the Queen for her grace.
Ok Jung is taken to her own private residence and she sits down and takes a deep breath. She seems very torn about her future.
Minister Min meets with In Hyun and warns her not to let Jang Ok Jung stay in the Palace. In Hyun says she will handle things her way.
Queen In Hyun goes to see Dowager Queen Kim who also tells her not to let that witch Jang Ok Jung stay in the Palace. Queen In Hyun calmly says as Queen this is her duty to place court ladies to serve the King. It is also her duty to see to the needs of her husband. Dowager Queen Kim thinks Queen In Hyun is bringing trouble upon herself with Ok Jung.
Minister Min is discussing national matters with Lee Soon in court and talk turns to the relations between Joseon and the Qing dynasty. He wants to hand the matter to Minister Jo to deal with the border conflict. Minister Min points out he belongs to the Noron faction but Lee Soon says Minister Jo did not participate in the coup and he can help bring ties closer with the Qing dynasty. Minister Min agrees to do it but looks PISSED.
Ok Jung is summoned to meet with Queen In Hyun, who sighs about why their fates are so deeply intertwined. She tells Ok Jung to let her know if there is any problem she encounters in the Palace. Queen In Hyun brings up Court Lady Joo who has been sent away to recover from an illness. Ok Jung clearly knows now she is the one who abducted her. But Ok Jung keeps this knowledge close to the best and laughs it off, saying that she is the court lady who used to serve Queen In Kyung. Ok Jung says that when Court Lady Joo returns, to send word to her that Ok Jung has a present for her. Ooooooh, scary Ok Jung.
Ok Jung asks Queen In Hyun if she can visit the seamstress wing since she used to work there. Queen In Hyun allows her.
Ok Jung returns to the seamstress wing and immediately hear all the maids and court ladies loudly gossiping about her using her feminine wiles to seduce the King.
Ok Jung runs into Prince Dongpyung and she tells him that she has been made a Court Lady. Prince Dongpyung is worried about her and wonders what happened before? Ok Jung says she was one foot in the grave and now she is even more grateful to be back in the Palace with the King. She will never let herself be powerless or taken away from the King. Ok Jung tears up about how she faces so much opposition in the Palace from all the women and gets Prince Dongpyung’s sympathy. Her job is to amass as many Noron faction members around the King as possible to strength her position. Prince Dongpyung asks if she really wants to walk that road and Ok Jung says she has no choice.
Dowager Queen Kim summons the shaman again to complain that she is getting sicker. The shaman says the spirit protecting Dowager Queen Kim is under attack and is getting stronger. It’s a evil force that cannot co-exist with the Dowager Queen Kim. She asks how to get rid of that witchy woman.
Ok Jung meets with Court Lady Uhm who was nice to her when they worked together. Ok Jung thanks her for her friendship and sticking up for her.
Lee Soon is handling government papers and is totally impatient to get back to Ok Jung. His poor eunuch keeps handing him more papers to approve and Lee Soon finally yells at him to hand it all over at once so he can do it all.
Ok Jung and Court Lady Uhm are in Ok Jung’s quarters and looking at needle work as Ok Jung prepares to make her own clothes. Queen In Hyun arrives and chides Ok Jung for doing needle work since she’s not a serving court lady anymore.
Suddenly Lee Soon calls out through the door for his Ok Jung, loudly saying that he’s come all this way to find her because he misses her so much. He walks in surprised to see In Hyun there. The mood is awkward so In Hyun makes her leave.
As In Hyun walks out, she turns and see Lee Soon grab Ok Jung’s hand and sits her down so he can lay his head on her lap. Ok Jung massages his head and turns to give In Hyun a smug smile.
In Hyun quickly darts out after witnessing Ok Jung and Lee Soon’s open intimacy. She later wonders what he has with Ok Jung that makes Lee Soon smile so openly like that, when he hasn’t even once smiled at her.
Great Dowager Queen Jo and Ok Jung are strolling through the Palace. Great Dowager Queen Jo gives a jade to Ok Jung as she is so pleased Ok Jung has received the King’s affection. It a piece she brought from her family when she married into the Palace and she never had a child to hand it down to. Ok Jung is very touched and accepts it.
They run into Dowager Queen Kim who is out strolling with Queen In Hyun. The two Dowager Queens immediately start sassing each other. Dowager Queen Kim says a lowly person cannot be raised up simply by receiving the King’s affection. Great Dowager Queen mocks Queen In Hyun for sleeping alone every night and points out that Ok Jung has received the King’s affection and might even be carrying the next heir to the throne.
Great Dowager Queen Jo says that if Ok Jung has the King’s child, she’ll get to experience being a grandmother first. Queen In Hyun meets Ok Jung’s eyes and can see the challenge and determination there. Dowager Queen Kim screams that the heir must come from noble blood and she will never allow the lowly bitch to carry the King’s heir.
After the two sides part ways, Great Dowager Queen lets out a sigh of satisfaction since its been so long since she has had the upper hand with Dowager Queen Kim. Ok Jung compliments Great Dowager Queen Jo on being so awesome back there.
Dowager Queen Kim drinks her medicine and complains about Great Dowager Queen Jo. She thought her to be an old useless lady, who knew she was like a thousand year old snake evil spirit laying in wait in the Palace. Minister Min comes to talk with Dowager Queen Kim and brings up Lee Soon showering affection on Jang Ok Jung while refusing to consummate his marriage to In Hyun. They need to worry about Ok Jung bearing the heir to the throne. Dowager Queen Kim refuses to let that happen and they plot to get rid of her.
Lee Soon and Ok Jung are taking a stroll through the Palace holding hands.
They run into Minister Min, which causes Ok Jung’s face to darken and she releases Lee Soon’s hand. Ok Jung and Minister Min act like they don’t know each other but shoot daggers at each other as she remembers how he tried to burn her alive.
Court Lady Uhm is now serving Ok Jung and has helped prepare her for bed. Suddenly a bunch of court ladies storm into her quarters and drag Ok Jung away while locking Court Lady Uhm up.
Ok Jung is barefoot and blind folded and dragged to a secret location. Court Lady Uhm escapes and rushes to see Great Dowager Queen Jo and finds her head Court Lady to inform them that Ok Jung has been abducted by Dowager Queen Kim’s court ladies.
Lee Soon is finishing up for the night and stares at the moon, wondering if he should go to Queen In Hyun’s chambers or Ok Jung’s.
Lee Soon decides to go to Ok Jung’s chambers and heads over there only to discover the door ajar, the chamber in a mess and no Ok Jung anywhere.
Ok Jung is brought before Dowager Queen Kim who smugly announces that no low born witch is going to bear her son’s child. If Ok Jung wants to live in this Palace, she needs to drink medicine that will ensure she can never bear a child.
Ok Jung screams that her body is to serve the King and this cannot be allowed. She has a bowl of medicine brought over and Ok Jung restrained and the medicine forcefully poured down her throat.
Lee Soon runs around looking for Ok Jung, who is screaming for him.
Thoughts of Mine:
This felt like a transition episode so I don’t have a lot to say, what’s good is still good but I’m not seeing this drama get better with each episode the way it did earlier. It feels like its treading water, with the same old conflicts but played out in different ways. Dowager Queen Kim hates Ok Jung and schemes to get rid of the threat she poses, In Hyun is caught between duty to position and her father, Ok Jung fights for her right to be with Lee Soon, Great Dowager Queen Jo bickers with her nemesis Dowager Queen Kim, Minister Min looks constipated that his grand plans for Joseon domination through In Hyun isn’t going swimmingly. You get the drift. It’s been a grand ride for the first 10 episodes but now I need the drama to pick itself up from taking a break and start running again. I think its ridiculous second male lead Hyun Chi Soo still hasn’t shown up (man, just end Jae Hee‘s misery and write him off the show completely) but the romance between Lee Soon and Ok Jung hasn’t grown any deeper than he loves spending time with her. Ok Jung has realized there is more at stake than just living a happy life with Lee Soon in the Palace, but he still seems like a kid discovering the first blush of youthful love without a understanding of the price to pay. Lee Soon needs to step back and take control of the Palace, then move on towards his enemies on the outsidel. Kim Tae Hee is rocking my socks off still with her evolving Jang Ok Jung, the looks of smugness she shoots towards In Hyun might be premature and inappropriate, but it still makes me want to give her a high five. I still love JOJ but a drama can’t aspire to be great unless it keeps delivering the goods by building the story layer after layer.