How will the Crown Prince choose the female historians and what future lies for those who will pass this test of mind and heart?
The palace is filled with several women as they scurry down to a seat on the ground and prepare for a life changing event. Hae Ryung takes a seat as we are treated to a flashback from the night before. Walking along the busy streets, she sees the poster for the female historian exam. She secretly meets up with her husband-to-be and implores him to break off their engagement. Hae Ryung was successfully able to convince him because as we all know, he indeed did not push through with the wedding.
The question for the test is revealed to be: A solar eclipse is believed to be an occurrence that reprimands Kings for their shortcomings. Solar eclipse rituals are performed to satiate the heavens but this phenomenon still happens. Therefore, how can a King prevent a solar eclipse?🌒 As time passes, we see that some ladies have finished, some are given cheat sheets, while Hae Ryung’s paper remains blank. She seems hesitant to write down her answer but proceeds to do so before time runs out.
Officials and historians browse through the answers and they come across a particular one that they deem brazen and inappropriate. As the Crown Prince enters the room, he quickly filters through the papers and asks Officer Min to recommend him a notable answer. He hands him Hae Ryung’s much to the other officers’ complaints. She explained that solar eclipses occur because it is a natural phenomenon caused by the movement of heavenly bodies. She suggests to create a book to help explain this truth so that people will not be misinformed about it in the future. As the Crown Prince finishes reading her paper, he also concludes that her response was indeed blatant.
A shortlist of women candidates are posted instructing them to meet with the Crown Prince. It seems like he wants to meet them face-to-face but I don’t think that’s a good thing😅 Hae Ryung is summoned inside to meet Prince Lee Jin and he scolds her for giving such a frank answer that could get her killed. The Crown Prince enlightens Hae Ryung by telling her that Joseon is a poor country and that a majority of people cannot even afford to have food on their table or even seek proper medicinal care. Having access to a book that can provide information would be the least of their concerns. He states that the rituals are performed to calm people and let them know that despite the sun seemingly disappearing, things will still turn out okay. Hae Ryung is speechless and distraught after this. But daaaamn, they both got a point!🙊
After that heated discussion, the Crown Prince meets the shortlisted women again as another man announces the names of those who passed. Hae Ryung was surprised that she was called out, among 3 other women (Heo A Ran, Oh In Im, and including Sa Hui). I loved how they all beamed with giddiness and pride as the Crown Prince handed them each a red congratulatory letter.
Normal activities resume in the palace not long afterwards. Prince Lee Rim gets a visit from his brother giving him an identification tag to use whenever he needs it and slyly informs him that he can go to the Royal Villas for some R&R. He gets to go with his eunuch but before they leave for that place, both of them pay a visit to the bookstore owner. Prince Lee Rim asks for the name of the fake Maehwa and the owner blurts out Hae Ryung’s name. With a mischievous look on his face, he contemplates what is probably his next move for revenge against her.
As the Prince arrives in the Royal Villas, he is greeted by a very cute dog and sees an engraved marking on the ground mentioning the name Ho Dam. As he tries to relax inside the hot spring, he again has a nightmare and hears the name Ho Dam. Restless, he tries to dig up the spot where he saw the tombstone earlier but can’t seem to find it at night. Eunuch Sam Bo is worried because he thinks that the Prince is merely hallucinating.
Hae Ryung can’t contain her excitement as she longingly savors her historian uniform and smiles giddily while looking at the mirror. She excitedly goes to work the next day only to have officials scoff at them and her other fellow historians when they converge before the palace gate. The 1st sign of opposition is underway and I can only imagine what other horrors the four women will encounter once they actually start working.
The four women experience first hand the male historians’ displeasure towards them. They are ridiculed, belittled, and treated below their rank as they do chores such as getting water, cleaning the floor, and even running laps since they felt sleepy. The girls complain about being worked like slaves and come to the conclusion that this could be a form of hazing towards them. Sa Hui comes up with a plan and suggests to Officer Min to conduct a hazing ritual for them to get their frustration and pettiness over with. He doesn’t like the idea but Sa Hui uses the argument of gender equality and well, who can argue against that right? The head historian, Officer Yang, thinks the idea is ludicrous if they think that this will get them to accept them but they come up with their own plan too.
As night falls, they all meet at a kisaeng parlor. Being the jerks that they are, the male historians goad them into drinking alcohol from a bowl instead of a cup. Sa Hui obliges by drinking but her discomfort is evident after the 2nd full bowl. Hae Ryung intervenes by drinking the 3rd bowl and tells Officer Yang that as a sign of the male historians affection towards them to drink, she wants to return the favor. It becomes a last (wo) man standing match wherein Hae Ryung and Officer Yang trade drinking bowls of alcohol. I know Hae Ryung can hold her liquor since she drinks with her brother but I didn’t expect she could outlast him, haha!💪🏻 Seeing her succeed was such a great sight as she proves that women can also drink as hard as men and the hazing ritual is done.
The next morning, Hae Ryung is running late and a guard does not allow her to go inside the palace. A different guard tells her that she can go through another entrance and she ends up, coincidentally, at Prince Lee Rim’s quarters at Nokseodang. She hides behind a rock when she heard Eunuch Sam Bo call out the court ladies. A figure behind her taps her shoulder as she dismisses it. The voice speaks: “Are you lost?” And once again, Hae Ryung and Prince Lee Rim meet in the most unexpected circumstances.
At first, I thought it was gender inequality and severely rude that Hae Ryung and the other girls were being treated unfairly. But after giving it some thought, it’s not like if you’re a newly appointed male historian, you don’t get the same crappy treatment too. If I demand for equality in being treated fairly in the workplace, shouldn’t that also extend to being treated badly too? Nobody should be treated poorly but regardless of whether I’m a woman or a man, I am not exempted from experiencing hardships and problems. It is a different matter altogether if physical or sexual abuse is used of course. But as weird as it sounds, true equality shouldn’t just apply to good or the advantageous circumstances in life.
The actor playing Crown Prince Lee Jin is so good…and handsome too, hahaha! I thought it was kind of cruel of him to berate Hae Ryung harshly only to have him pass her but I understand his intentions for doing so. What he said about the ritual being performed to calm people down made sense too, especially being in his position, and it’s like a lightbulb went off in my head when this scene unfolded. I hope Hae Ryung applies the same fervor in listening to other people’s opinions and facts like how she willingly absorbs new information she reads in books👂🏻❤️