As the smallpox outbreak opens everyone’s eyes, Prince Lee Rim makes a decision for the first time as a governing royalty. Restless and doubtful, he embarks on a perilous task that puts both his life and reputation at stake. Hae Ryung also struggles with the consequences of a choice she made and has to accept the fact that you just can’t save everyone.
A physician goes to the group and he and Mo Hwa bow before Prince Lee Rim’s presence. He becomes a bit hysterical about what Mo Hwa was doing and the physician explains that she was performing a medical procedure called variolation. It’s where a healthy host is infected with a small portion of the virus which can lead to immunization to the disease. Prince Lee Rim is not convinced of the method and orders them to stop doing it immediately.
Later at night, the Prince asks Sam Bo if he indeed did the right thing. Sam Bo is defensive and tells him that Mo Hwa’s explanation made sense because of course he is supportive towards his wife. Even as the Prince interjected that his decision was for the safety of the people, Sam Bo remains stingy and sarcastically tells him that since he’s made his decision anyway, he should stick with it and have a peace of mind. I do think that Sam Bo is biased on this one and if it wasn’t his wife who was performing the method, he’d back the Prince’s decision 100%.
Hae Ryung helps Mo Hwa the next day as she expresses her admiration towards her dedication to aid the infected. Mo Hwa asks Hae Ryung if she’s not afraid of contracting the disease and she tells her that she had smallpox as a kid and thinks that the same medical method was performed on her since she has a small scar on her arm.
Determined to bring the mother and daughter to Pyongyang, Hae Ryung decides to go back to the isolated house. She is rendered speechless as she sees the child lying beside her wailing mother, lifeless. She is devastated about this development and starts sobbing outside the house. Back at Pyongyang, Mo Hwa sees her in a daze and comforts her about what just happened. She advises Hae Ryung that there are some things in life that you just have to deal with and no one is to blame. She should instead focus her time and energy into doing something better. With this, Mo Hwa hands her the book about variolation to read.
On the same night, Hae Ryung hands over the book for Prince Lee Rim to read. She explains that fluid from cowpox lesions are injected into people, although they can get sick at first, the long-term effect is immunization against smallpox. The Prince deems this nonsensical and gets annoyed at her insistence, but Hae Ryung explains that if she was one of the infected, she’d be willing to try anything because of her desperation. She implores him to read the book and if he still decides to be against variolation, she’ll fully accept his decision then.
Prince Lee Rim tosses and turns in his mat and eventually gives in to reading the book. He opens to read the first page, and another, then another. Flasbacks of the author, Yeongan, showed him going around town to administer the shots but people were afraid to be inserted with pus from animals. Although there were 36 people who had a full recovery, he couldn’t win over the rest. He also stated that this isn’t the time to leave one’s fate up to the heavens and that they ought to do something as human beings to save their fellow human beings.
The next morning, the Prince meets with Mo Hwa regarding what he had read. Although he states that the idea is still ludicrous to him, he’s willing to give the method a try. He declares that he wants to have a public demonstration to prove to the people that he, a Prince of Joseon, is willing to undertake this procedure to prove its effectivity. Despite the officials pleas to not go through with it, he is firm about his decision.
As Mo Hwa collects pus from the lesions of cows, the Second State Councilor sends his men to take her thanks to Jae Kyung’s information that she is in Pyongyang. People had gathered to see Prince Lee Rim’s demonstration as he goes through with the incision and infusion of pus on his arm.
Mo Hwa runs away from the men who have arrived and finds herself in the middle of two opposite sides: On her left are men on horses and on the right are the thugs who chased after her inside the village. The former came to save her, probably sent by Jae Kyung. I suppose he told the Second State Councilor her whereabouts to avoid getting suspected that he knows more than he lets on. It was a dangerous risk though but at least she was saved. News of her disappearance though couldn’t have come at a worse timing because Prince Lee Rim is highly feverish and is sick.
Back at Hanyang, Sa Hui’s father is shocked to see the beans from his warehouse being emptied and loaded to various wagons. He demands to know who apparently ordered them to do this and they reveal Sa Hui as the culprit. He is summoned by the Crown Prince and is presented with a chest filled with expensive silk in return for giving up the herbs to help the people. He gives a hearty but pretentious laugh and says that it was his pleasure to do so but when outside, he throws a tantrum and mutters to himself that the cost of the silk is nothing compared to the cost of the beans, haha😈
The Crown Prince confronts Sa Hui who happens to be the historian on duty in the same room that he knows she was the one who made this happen. I thought he’d praise her for doing such a noble act despite going against her father but instead, he lectures her that the latter was able to avoid punishment since the act is considered a “donation” and she gets to record it. She looks hurt by this accusation and reads aloud that she wrote in her book of records that her father (Section Chief) bought the herbs to earn money. The Crown Prince halts her to stop and she sneers at him saying that she didn’t do it to help her father but rather as a duty of being a good citizen. Aww yeah, go tell the stupid Crown Prince off 😏
Everyone is relieved as Prince Lee Rim wakes up and asks for water. When the physician examines him, he confirms to the Prince that he is indeed getting better. Villagers have lined up to get variolation as the Prince sits in the middle of the place as a testament of the method’s positive results. He meets up with Hae Ryung later that night to give her boiled pork as a gift for because she must have been worried about him all this time. It’s not a pick-up line but oh boy, the Prince needs to step up his game, hahaha!😉 He gets surprised that she doesn’t admit her concern but tells him that she is happy that he’s finally feeling better. Prince Lee Rim smiles brightly at this.
On a lighter note, Hae Ryung orders the Prince and Officer Min to help out in the village instead of just observing what is going on. It’s a funny sequence of scenes as they both struggle to feed children and are useless in doing various chores. I will always admire Hae Ryung’s spunkiness in being able to command people who have a higher rank than her, I suppose it helps that she has a good relationship with both but it shows that in a time of a crisis, one’s social status is not an exemption to perform hard work😜
It’s time for Prince Lee Rim to go back to the palace and he is met with disapproval from his father, the King. He slaps him on the face for disobeying his orders to stop the treatment and Prince Lee Rim apologizes for his actions. The King scoffs at his apology saying that he doesn’t mean it but before he orders to have him punished, the Crown Prince intervenes. Tension bubbles as the Prince is on his knees and both Officer Min and Hae Ryung get up on their knees, with their quill and book on hand, ready to record history unfolding right before them.
Finally, the Prince is on fire!🔥 I’ve waited so long for him to step up and become a more responsible adult. Him doing something concrete regarding the country’s problems is the growth that he needs to become a more well-rounded person. I don’t think he’ll grow out of his giddy smiles and positive aura, perhaps his next biggest challenge is whether or not he’ll rebel against his father.
At first, I thought that Yeongan could be Hae Ryung’s father but since their surname is different and Mo Hwa didn’t react too much even when Hae Ryung shared about her past experience with smallpox, maybe they aren’t related. I’ve always assumed that Ho Dam is the Queen’s husband and the current King’s father but I’m curious if it’s another person altogether. Mo Hwa and Jae Kyung know so many secrets I hope they find a way to work together and shed more light on weight of the book.
I know I haven’t been mentioning the possible romantic connection between Sa Hui and the Crown Prince because I wanted to wait for a significant moment before writing about them. I loved that she was able to defend her actions towards him and proved that she is different from her father. Crown Prince Lee Jin’s interpretation of her action is valid but is it really a crime, strictly speaking, when you hoard something but bought it with your own money? Of course this is ethically unacceptable given the situation, but I personally think what Sa Hui did made more sense in terms of punishing her father. I’m not invested in this team-up yet but to see Sa Hui shine on her own terms is pretty swell😁
I’m excited for next week’s episodes as the Crown Princess finally makes her debut and will surely stir up more trouble in the palace 🎎