The only reason I’m writing about this drama is because I’m a big fan of its female lead Kim Yoo-jung.
I first saw Kim Yoo-jung in “Dong Yi” where she was about 9 or 10 years old. Then I saw her in “Hwang Jin Yi” (she was probably 3 or 4 years old), “Iljimae” (probably the same age), “Painter of the Wind” (she was around 5 years old), and in “The Moon That Embraces The Sun” (she was probably 13). I even watched “May Queen” (a non-sageuk) when I found out she was in it.
Kim Yoo-jung has rightfully earned her reputation as Korea’s best child actor. Now at age 17, she’s playing more mature roles. With her talent, she can be Korea’s next international star (after Lee Young-ae).
But how I wish that Kim Yoo-jung would never grow up! How I wish she would always be 9 or 10 years old like when she played the young Dong-yi!
I assumed that you will be reading these recaps and watching the videos chronologically.
(1) I narrated the main actions in each episode without revealing the plot’s twists and turns.
(2) At the beginning of each synopsis starting with Episode 2, I placed in a table some of the major twists and turns of the previous episode. But because you have already watched the video of the previous episode, they aren’t spoilers anymore.
(I used this same structure in my recaps of “Six Flying Dragons,” “The King’s Doctor,” and “A Jewel in the Palace.”)
Episode 1: “Destiny in the moonlight”
Hong Sam-non (aka “Ra On”) is an 18-year old girl masquerading as a man and earning a living as a street performer and as a relationship counselor for love-struck men.
She’s on the run from some men to whom she owes a lot of money. She also gets into trouble with the authorities.
To help pay for her debts, Ra On accepts her counselee’s offer to pretend to be him and meet the woman he loves. But the woman turns out to be a man!
Unknown to Ra On, the man is none other than Crown Prince Hyomyeong, who’s trying to protect his love-struck, younger sister. The Crown Prince (aka “Yi Yeong”) may be a troublemaker in the Palace, but he has a soft spot for his sister.
Episode 2: “A road leading to you”
|Episode 1 recap:|
Ra On escapes, leaving Crown Prince Hyomyeong stranded in the deep hole, but she ends up later on as a candidate eunuch. Trying to escape from the Palace, she runs into Crown Prince Hyomyeong (who’s now disguised as a warrior).
She goes to an assignment given her by the Head Eunuch who has begun to dislike her. There, Ra On meets again the young man (“Kim Yoon-sung”) who saved her from the soldiers. Unknown to her, he is the Prime Minister’s grandson.
The Prime Minister is the power behind the distracted and apprehensive King, and he plans to use the Queen’s pregnancy to his advantage.
Ra On also meets a strange warrior, who’s really the Crown Prince’s bodyguard (“Kim Byung-yeon”).
Ra On becomes further confused with the Crown Prince’s real identity — first he was a young master, then a warrior, and then a eunuch. Getting drunk one evening, Ra On gets into trouble again with the Crown Prince.
But later on, she faces a much bigger problem when she gets kidnapped.
With the way Ep. 2 ends, a lot of netizens are saying that right at the very start of Ep. 3, Ra On will finally find out that the young master-warrior-eunuch is actually the Crown Prince. But I don’t think so. Why? Well, watch on YouTube the official trailers/teasers, and you’ll find out why!
I think that the revelation will happen late part of Ep. 3 or even in Ep. 4 or 5. The relationship as friends or confidantes between Ra On and the young master-warrior-eunuch must be developed first.
Episode 3: “I Am Standing Behind You”
The Crown Prince arrives just in time to save Ra On, and he persuades the Princess to forget everything.
Ra On fails to recognize that the man she knows as the young master-warrior-eunuch is actually the Crown Prince.
Later on, to Ra On’s despair, she qualifies as a eunuch. She wants to directly confront the Crown Prince about it, but Yi Yeong (whom she calls “Silver Spoon”) and Byung-yeon stop her.
Ra On is assigned to serve in the residence of Consort Park — someone close to the Crown Prince ever since his mother died seven years ago.
Consort Park asks Ra On to give her letter to the King. But Ra On runs into trouble at the King’s quarters. Seeing her predicament, Kim Yoon-sung takes her some place.
Consort Park later on asks Ra On to burn all her letters and the King’s replies. But just as she is about to burn the last reply-letter the King sent, Byung-yeon quickly stops her.
Episode 4: “After The Play Ends”
|Episode 3 recap:|
The Queen (Kim Yoon-sung’s aunt) slaps Ra On for insisting on bringing Consort Park’s letter to the King. But despite that, Ra On still slips the letter among the petitions sent to the King.
The King’s blank reply-letter is actually written with apple vinegar, and as Byung-yeon shows Ra On, the characters appear when the letter is held near a flame.
Through Ra On, the King and Consort Park are reunited.
But the King is tormented by nightmares of 2,000 people dying because of him, and so he tells Yi Yeong that he will abdicate. Yi Yeong agrees to be the Crown Prince Regent, but insists that in times of difficulties, the King must act toward him just like a father would.
(In a flashback, Yi Yeong remembers how the King refused to do anything despite knowing that the Queen was murdered. Now, the King says that doing nothing has been the only way to protect everyone he loves.)
Ra On finally recognizes that the man she calls “Silver Spoon” is the Crown Prince.
The King’s plan to appoint Yi Yeong as the Crown Prince Regent is opposed by the Prime Minister who says that the plan must first be approved by the Qing Empire. Yi Yeong then tells the assembly that he will make a good impression on the Qing envoy during the King’s birthday celebration.
Yi Yeong finally reveals himself as the Crown Prince to Ra On. Dumbstruck at first, Ra On then begins laughing, thinking that the young master-warrior-eunuch is now masquerading as the Crown Prince.
Ra On is assigned to look after the Crown Prince’s needs, especially with helping prepare for the King’s birthday celebration. Because Kim Yoon-sung has previously met the envoy, he also helps prepare things for the celebration.
While the Crown Prince goes to consult a certain Master Jeong, Yoon-sung takes Ra On to the marketplace where the rain soon falls on them.
Byung-yeon tells Ra On that everyone must do their best to help Yi Yeong in preparing for the celebration. A lot of people — like the Prime Minister and his daughter the Queen — want to see the Crown Prince fail miserably in front of the Qing envoy.
As the celebration begins, the Queen puts into action her plan to sabotage Yi Yeong’s preparations.
Episode 5: “Tell Me Your Wish”
Yoon-sung helps Ra On hide from Yi Yeong and the eunuchs looking for her. But Ra On still insists to Yoon-sung that she’s a boy and that she had to take the dancer’s place to save Yi Yeong from being embarrassed in front of everyone.
Later on, the Princess and Ra On are having tea in a boat, with the Princess asking about the young master who sent the letters to her. Something Ra On said upsets the Princess, who suddenly stands up, rocking the boat. Ra On falls into the water, but she doesn’t know how to swim.
Ra On goes to dry off at Jahyeondang (the place where she has been staying in with Byung-yeon). Yoon-sung hurries after her and places a blanket around her.
That night, a feverish Ra On dreams about her mother and the night they got separated. In her hazy mind, Ra On thinks that the man beside her and comforting her is Byung-yeon.
Ra On is given a 3-day vacation for “Chuseok” (harvest festival), and Yoon-sung makes her promise to spend the festival’s last few hours with him.
At the festival, the young master who sent the letters sees the Princess and her attendant.
Yoon-sung wants to go and meet Ra On at the festival, but his grandfather (the Prime Minister) orders him to stay and get to know the new Minister of Culture and Education.
At the Palace, Yi Yeong remembers Ra On’s feverish words about her mother and decides to go to the festival.
Episode 6: “When You Want To Tell Me Your Secret”
The tension between Yi Yeong and Yoon-sung over Ra On ends only when two gisaengs arrive.
While Ra On and Yoon-sung are walking together, they get caught up in the middle of soldiers chasing after a masked man who had just robbed a nobleman’s house. The mask falls off the man’s face, and Ra On picks up the mask.
Yi Yeong becomes cold and indifferent towards Ra On. At the archery range, he meets Jo Ha-yeon — the daughter of the new Minister of Culture and Education and a former playmate of the Princess.
Yi Yeong begins to suffer from insomnia, and the Royal Physician says that he’s sick with a disease that afflicts widows and nuns.
Eunuch Ma wants to gain the favor of the Qing envoy. He knows that the envoy wants to see again the dancer from the King’s birthday celebration. And so, he brings Ra On at night to the envoy’s quarters.
Episode 7: “Confession”
The Queen is more amused than shocked when she hears the rumors about Yi Yeong. But she becomes angry when a court maid is found to be pregnant. Since the King has not become involved with court maids for a long time, the highest officials among the eunuchs order a new physical examination for all eunuchs.
Yoon-sung continues to pursue Ra On. He runs to her in the Palace after her ordeal with the Qing envoy and later on gives her a special gift.
The Prime Minister tells Yoon-sung that he has already arranged his marriage, and Minister Jo tells the same thing to Ha-yeon.
The Prime Minister informs the King about the increasing activities among the remnants of the Hong Gyae Nae rebellion.
Ra On finds out that Eunuch Ma is involved in a romantic relationship with a court maid. But the court maid wants to end it. Ra On offers to help Eunuch Ma to publicly express his love for the court maid.
But the Head Eunuch and the Queen find out about it.
Episode 8: “You Don’t Know Anything”
Before Yi Yeong confessed his love and kissed Ra On in the garden, he has already found out that Ra On is a woman.
But Ra On doesn’t know that Yi Yeong has found out her secret; she thinks that he really likes men, not women. As he begins to treat her with affection, Ra On becomes uncomfortable, especially with the eunuchs and court attendants watching them.
Yi Yeong and Yoon-sung confer at the library about the results of the civil service exams. Yi Yeong is angry that those who passed are all members of the Kim clan. Just then, Ra On comes into the library. Yoon-sung remembers Ra On’s answer to his offer to help her leave the Palace.
On Ha-yeon’s initiative, she meets Yoon-sung, her prospective husband. Later on, Ha-yeon also meets Eunuch Hong (aka Ra On).
Yi Yeong wants the civil service exams to be held again, but his plan runs into a roadblock. He also orders Byung-yeon to find the rebel leader’s daughter before the ministers do. But he later on finds Byung-yeon and himself involved in a street fight, with Ha-yeon caught in the middle of everything.
Episode 9: “The Moment The Heart’s Lock Is Opened”
Despite Yi Yeong’s emotional appeals, Ra On says, “Yes, I’m a woman, but I’ve never lived as a woman.” She apologizes to Yi Yeong and leaves.
Unknown to Yi Yeong and Ra On, Byung-yeon has heard everything they said. He faces a dilemma knowing that Ra On is the rebel leader’s daughter.
With the Head Eunuch’s permission, Ra On leaves the East Palace and is assigned to Consort Park’s residence. A crisis later on ensues when the Princess (Consort Park’s child) goes missing.
With the ministers boycotting the meetings and the scholars protesting at the Palace gate, Yi Yeong turns to Teacher Dasan for advice.
The Prime Minister scolds Yoon-sung for siding with Yi Yeong on the issue of the civil service exams. He tells Yoon-sung what political power is all about.
Ha-yeon continues to befriend Eunuch Hong (aka Ra On) hoping that in the process, she’ll get to see Yi Yeong.
The Princess has not been able to speak after a traumatic event several years ago. And so, Ra On teaches her how to communicate using hand signals. Ra On says that they’re alike because “I’m also hiding a lot of things like you.”
Later, Ra On meets Yi Yeong in the library. She returns the bracelet and pleads, “Let me leave the Palace.”
Episode 10: “Like A Fairy Tale”
Ra On agrees to stay in the Palace with Yi Yeong, and he starts to call her “Ra On” instead of “Eunuch Hong” or “Hong Sam-non.” They begin spending happy moments together, like when Ra On tells Yi Yeong the fairy tale of the mermaid and the Crown Prince.
The rebels become bolder as they scatter in broad daylight leaflets calling for a revolution. The King thus becomes more paranoid and orders that everyone in the Palace be searched. Yi Yeong vows to end the “wretched relationship” between the King, the Prime Minister, and Hong Gyung Nae.
The King wants to protect Yi Yeong and to win back the people’s hearts with a stable kingdom. He meets a government minister whose family isn’t controlled by the Kim clan and plans a marriage between Yi Yeong and the minister’s daughter.
The Prime Minister and the other ministers plan to derail the planned marriage. Later, the Prime Minister visits the pregnant and fretful Queen.
Ra On finds out about Yi Yeong’s upcoming marriage; as she seeks solace under a tree, Yoon-sung comes along. Later, Yoon-sung meets and speaks boldly with Yi Yeong.
Yi Yeong tells the King that he cannot marry someone for political reasons. When the King refuses to reconsider, Yi Yeong seeks advice from some people he trusts.
Yi Yeong has become fond of a young child who visits the Palace. But the search ordered by the King results in the child’s arrest. As the hysterical child is dragged away by soldiers, Byung-yeon remembers what happened to his father.
When Byung-yeon later on goes to the rebel headquarters, he’s suddenly surrounded and forced to kneel by other rebels. His rebel master then asks him why he lied about not finding “Hong Ra On.” The master draws his sword and raises it to kill Byung-yeon.
|Episode 10 recap:|
The King plans a marriage between Yi Yeong and Ha-yeon, Minister Jo’s daughter. Yi Yeong doesn’t want a political marriage, but Ha-yeon tells her father that she’s willing to do everything to help the Crown Prince.
When the Queen frets about Yi Yeong becoming King, the Prime Minister tells her not to worry. He says: “You were a gisaeng, but I made you queen.”
Later, the Queen visits a pregnant court maid who has been locked up on her orders. Unknown even to the Prime Minister, a shaman has told the Queen that the baby she’s carrying is female; the Queen plans to switch babies at the right time.
Yoon-sung boldly tells Yi Yeong that he loves Ra On and that Yi Yeong must spare her the heartache of seeing all the preparations for his upcoming marriage.
Yi Yeong later on seeks help from Teacher Dasan and young Master Jung (who has become part of the Crown Prince Protectorate Office).
Yi Yeong has met in the Palace the young girl who sold the wish lanterns to him. But the soldiers find rebel leaflets in her wagon and arrest her. The King tells Yi Yeong to punish the girl severely and to make an example out of her. As the girl is taken away, Byung-yeon remembers his father who was accused of and killed for treason.
As the rebel leader is about to kill Byung-yeon, he is stopped by the rebel movement’s real leader — none other than Eunuch Kim, the King’s faithful, old eunuch!
Eunuch Kim promises that, at the next meeting of the “Baek Woon group,” he will bring Hong Ra On with him.
Yi Yeong finds a way that can allow Ra On to stay with him in the Palace as a woman. As Ra On waits happily for Yi Yeong, she meets Eunuch Kim who, to her shock, calls her “Hong Ra On.”
1. Crown Prince Hyomyeong (from Wikipedia)
Crown Prince Hyomyeong (18 September 1809 - 25 June 1830), born Yi Yeong and posthumously called King Munjo, was a prince of the Joseon Dynasty.
The prince is the eldest son of King Sunjo, husband of Queen Senjong and father of King Heonjong.
In 1817, the prince was admitted to the Sungkyunkwan. In 1819, he was titled Crown Prince of Joseon. A genius in literature and the arts, he created several court dances to validate and augment the King’s control over the government.
Known to have pursued various political reforms, the prince served as Regent in 1827 until his death 3 years later at age 20.
Crown Prince Hyomyeong and Court Dancing
Hyomyeong, The Crown Prince Who Loved Dancing
2. Kim Byung-yeon (Yi Yeong’s bodyguard in this drama) is based on the historical figure who was a “famous revolutionary Joseon poet.”
3. King Sunjo (Yi Yeong’s father) is haunted by nightmares of dead persons. Wikipedia explains:
Since he ascended the throne at a young age, Queen Dowager Jeongsun, the second queen of King Yeongjo, ruled as queen regent, which allowed her to wield power over state affairs. Despite King Sunjo’s efforts to reform politics, the fundamental principles of government deteriorated. The state examination became disordered and corruption in the government personnel administration prevailed. This resulted in disorder in society and various kinds of riots broke out among the people, including the revolt by Hong Gyeongnae.
4. Episode 4 introduces the character “Master Jeong” (aka Teacher Dasan), who is based on the historical adviser of King Sunjo. The character is played by Ahn Nae-sang, who also played the King in Episode 1-6 of “The Moon That Embraces The Sun” (where Kim Yoo-jung also appeared in). Later on, Ahn Nae-sang played the adoptive father of Kim Yoo-jung’s character in “May Queen.”
5. Up until Episode 4, we still don’t know why Ra On is masquerading as a boy. The drama will, of course, reveal later on the reason, but one reason could be her family’s involvement in the historical “Hong Gyeong-Nae rebellion.”
The videos below do not have English sub, and so, I’ve provided summaries of what the scenes are all about. After clicking the “Play” button, click “Watch on YouTube” for the video to open in a new tab.
1. Ra On’s dance in Episode 4:
With the principal dancer missing, Ra On decides to dress up in the dancer’s clothes. She then goes to the venue and presents a beautiful dance. She mesmerizes everyone, especially Yi Yeong because the dance was based on his childhood memories of his mother dancing under the rain.
Kim Yoo-jung dance rehearsal (she reportedly practiced her dance number in Episode 4 for two months)
2. How Ra On passes the eunuch’s physical exam:
Ra On’s friends pass their physical exam. But she refuses to drop her pants even when ordered by the examiner. Just then, another eunuch comes in, announcing that the Queen has fainted. As the examiner hastily leaves, he drops the seal, and the seal lands on Ra On’s record. The seal lands halfway between “Pass” and “Fail.” The eunuch who takes over doesn’t know if Ra On passed or failed, but he finally says, “Hong Sam-non, pass!”
3. The drunken puppy bites the Crown Prince’s finger
While Yi Yeong and Kim Byung-yeon are drinking, Ra On suddenly appears between them. She asks Yi Yeong who he really is — a young master, a warrior, or a eunuch? She then asks Byung-yeon if he’s a ghost who lives in that dark, deserted hall, but Byung-yeon simply glares at her.
Ra On then sees the silver pin on Yi Yeong’s hair, and she reaches up to touch it. But Byung-yeon quickly grabs her hand and orders her not to touch Yi Yeong. Yi Yeong tells him to relax.
Yi Yeong is about to drink some wine, but Ra On snatches the cup from him and drinks it. Not satisfied, she drinks the whole bottle of wine.
As Ra On drunkenly laments her life, she annoys Yi Yeong and Byung-yeon. Byung-yeon agrees with Yi Yeong that a puppy must be trained harshly in order to become obedient. And so, Yi Yeong begins training the puppy (aka Ra On) to follow directions with his finger. But the image of the Head Eunuch appears in Ra On’s mind. She thinks that she’s going to be tossed out of the Palace anyway, and so, she bites down hard on Yi Yeong’s finger.
|From Episode 3: selective or differential focusing|
|From Episode 3: shooting the sun, golden hours|
|From Episode 3: natural frame, local frame|
|From Episode 3: shallow depth of field|
|From Episode 3: selective or differential focusing|
|From Episode 4: shallow depth of field; selective or differential focusing|
|From Episode 4: picture diagonal (composition); shallow depth of field|
|From Episode 4: low angle shot, low angle point of view|
|From Episode 4: natural frame (local frame)|
|From Episode 4: shallow depth of field; selective or differential focusing|
|From Episode 4: compressed or stacked perspective|
|From Episode 5: natural frame, scale|
|From Episode 5: line of direction|
|From Episode 5: low angle shot / low angle point of view, shooting the sun|
|From Episode 5: shooting against the light|
|From Episode 6: silhouette, shooting the sun|
|From Episode 7: natural frames, rule of thirds|
|From Episode 7: out-of-focus foliage serving as partial frame|
|From Episode 8: scale, focus on the eyes, line of direction|
|From Episode 9: shape, natural frames|
|From Episode 9: reflections|
|From Episode 10: rule of thirds, partial frame, low angle shot|
|From Episode 10: shooting at night|
|From Episode 10: rule of thirds, silhouette, golden hours|