Prince Lee Rim gets to prove himself to his father that he’s more than just a troublemaker in his eyes. But with a life threatening mission that gets him out of the palace and deep into the real Joseon, will he come back the same person..?
Let’s rewind a bit from last episode’s cliffhanger. In the Royal Court, the King, Crown Prince, and the advisors are discussing about the threat of smallpox spreading all over Joseon. Second State Councilor advises that calming down the people regarding this should be #1 priority. He tells them that a representative from the Royal family should go directly to Pyongyang to show that they really care and prevent a possible rebellion from happening. The Crown Prince is okay with this idea but the King thinks hard and storms off as an idea comes to his mind.
We’re back at Prince Lee Rim’s quarters as the King is there to tell him to go instead of the Crown Prince. Hae Ryung volunteers to go on the trip as well sharing that she’s had smallpox before as no other historians wants to go to the affected areas. The Queen visits the King in his quarters and asks if the rumor that Prince Lee Rim is indeed leaving to go to the affected area is true. She gets furious when he confirms it and spits out that he is doing this because the Prince is not his legitimate son. Well, I’ll be damned😵
Meanwhile, Hae Ryung and Jae Kyung have a tender moment as he tells her to be careful. I was expecting him to dissuade her from going but instead, he supported Hae Ryung’s decision😊 With his encouragement, it shows a healthy sibling relationship between them as he understands that this is something that Hae Ryung wants to do.
Prince Lee Rim is pleasantly surprised at the sight of Hae Ryung as part of the crew that will accompany him on his trip, they share a secret smile as he moves past her. As they stop for awhile on a riverbank, the Prince gets jealous seeing Officer Min offers a bowl of water to Hae Ryung. Prince Lee Rim’s face changes as she tells Officer Min that he is actually a sweet person because of the very gesture that he had just did and that he went along with the trip because he was worried of sending her alone. He couldn’t get a word in edgewise as she continues that he’ll just say that it was because of his sense of duty that he went along the trip.
Back at Hanyang, Sa Hui wonders why workers are transporting so many beans into their warehouse. It turns out that her father thought of hoarding this because he can sell it at a higher price when the news about smallpox spreads in the city. This is because such beans can be used to make samdueum, a type of special tea that can prevent smallpox. Sa Hui is disappointed and lectures her father that he should choose moral influence over his greediness. He counters back that she wouldn’t be able to enjoy her life now if he hadn’t accumulated the wealth he had doing such kind of deeds.
After a few days, the Prince arrives at Haeju, a nearby town to Pyongyang. Two officers tell them that the situation is improving and that the medicines sent by the palace has been helpful in treating the people. He seems pleased and smiles from ear to ear about the good news. Officer Min is not as convinced and asks 1 of the 2 officials, the governor of Pyongyang, why he is at Haeju despite the situation improving. He makes up an excuse saying that when he heard the Prince was visiting, he had to personally be there to greet him. Hmm, flimsy.
As the Prince settles down in his room, he comes up with a plan when Sam Bo mentioned that the province they are in now has a beach that they can visit. Excited to spend time with Hae Ryung, they walked along the shore, felt the sand in between their toes, and relished the refreshing splash of water on their feet. It’s a moment that brings them closer and I couldn’t be happier💞
As the Prince and Hae Ryung head back, they run into her would-be husband, Scholar Lee, leaving Haeju. He gets to meet Prince Lee Rim privately and discloses the truth that the reports about Pyongyang are false. Doctors have abandoned their posts and government officials of affected areas have fled, saving themselves while taking the medicines and available food with them. Both the Prince and Hae Ryung are bothered with this information and want to go to Pyongyang to see the situation themselves.
They have no choice but to go through the forest because guards stop them from entering the infected area. They meet a group of men who have come from Pyongyang and tell them that villagers are stuck inside, left to die from either hunger or the disease. Prince Lee Rim gets into a heated argument with one of the men as he gets upset that they are taking advantage of the people by selling ingredients at a high price.
As they run away and try to find a way in, they come across an isolated house. They meet a mom and daughter who have ran away from one of the afflicted villages and the former begs Hae Ryung to please take her child with them. She is conflicted with this because of the risk that she could already be infected with smallpox. Prince Lee Rim argues that they could still do something but Hae Ryung is firm about the risks of the disease spreading in Haeju and that if people found about her, they might end up doing something worse compared to when she just stays there.
Once back in Haeju, Prince Lee Rim confronts the 2 officials about the real situation of the village. The other official, Governor Yun, admits that he sent the false report because other issues such as theft and arson became more rampant than the epidemic spreading. He defends himself stating that if the news had reached Hanyang, people would surely panic and caused a huge commotion. Prince Lee Rim gets angrier and demands to go to Pyongyang with relief goods and medicine in tow.
Finally able to see the dire situation themselves, it’s not a lovely sight as fumes and the laments of villagers fill the air with death and despair. Some people are covered with straw mats while others are helplessly lying down on the ground. As they continue to walk around, they are shocked to see a section of the village with healthy kids playing and even eating happily with each other. Prince Lee Rim spots someone dabbing an open wound of a child and he orders her to stop.
The reveal about Prince Lee Rim not being the King’s legitimate son was a bit anticlimactic as the focus shifted to the smallpox outbreak. I wonder though why he didn’t just disown him secretly but maybe the Queen had a hand in protecting him. I don’t have any theories yet on how this happened and I’m not even sure if he’s of royal blood anymore. But I don’t want to speculate and just enjoy the slow reveal when I get there😜
Again, I want to emphasize the power they are giving to the women in Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung. Even Sa Hui who although does spy for the Second State Councilor, is fed up with her father’s backhanded ways. Although it is true that she is enjoying the rotten fruits of his labor, she equally experienced all the hardships and discrimination as a female historian. I also like Mo Hwa because she’s strong and independent, and like Hae Ryung, is not afraid to embrace progress. Can we have an episode where the girls all band together and do something life changing to Joseon? Yes please!🌸