Like our crown prince tells her, our leading lady finds her way into the eastern palace, a.k.a “the place where the sun rises first.” Before he can confide in her, though, our heroine must pass a small test and prove her skills to our crown prince firsthand.
Picking up where we left off, Hwan stops Jae-yi from spilling the beans and telling everyone about the secret letter. Desperate for Hwan’s help, Jae-yi begs down on her knees. Thus, Hwan makes up his mind. If Jae-yi wants to be one of his people, she ought to find her way into the eastern palace. If she makes it through, he will allow her to do what she wants, regardless of anything.
To Jae-yi, lying to everyone that Hwan appoints her as his eunuch is the same as finding her way. I find it funny how everyone readily believes her and gives her the eunuch’s uniform. Not even a single person checks anything. I mean, our ice-hearted crown prince is set against appointing any more people, to his servants’ dismay. But out of nowhere, someone claims to be a newly appointed eunuch, and no one even asks what that eunuch’s name is.
Getting her hands on a eunuch’s robe might be easy, but finding her way inside that vast palace is clearly no easy feat. As luck would have it, princess Hayeon, Hwan’s sister, is coincidentally on her way to visit her orabeoni after his hunting trip.
Just as I was thinking about the possibility of making Hayeon fall in love with a disguised-as-a-man Jae-yi, we get a typical saeguk fusion scene of Hayeon tripping and landing in Jae-yi’s arms. I don’t know if we are getting a weird love triangle, but for now, meeting Hayeon proves helpful to Jae-yi, who otherwise may keep roaming around till the night to find her way.
We also learn through flashbacks that this isn’t Jae-yi’s first time cross-dressing as a man. In her hometown, she used to dress like a man before and go out at night to investigate mysterious cases and help innocent people clear their names. Which for sure earns her a scolding from her father whenever he catches her, but it isn’t like Jae-yi will let it get to her.
Instead of giving in to society’s constraints and getting confined in the women’s quarters, Jae-yi continues going around catching criminals with the help of her dear friend Ga-ram. So, this is how people mistook the one who solved the cases as her brother, not her. It makes sense as when asked about her name, Jae-yi would have told other people her brother’s name, not hers.
Back to Hayeon’s visit, Hwan, having recognized Jae-yi in eunuch clothes, is speechless as it slipped his mind that someone as strong-willed and resourceful as Jae-yi would get to pull off the difficult task of entering the eastern palace that easily. Prince Myungan, Hwan’s younger brother, also joins them. It is beautiful how the three siblings have a sort of affectionate relationship despite the palace politics.
It may be a simple gesture, but Hwan promising to teach Myungan how to ride a horse speaks volumes to me. Hwan considers Myungan not as a rival to the throne but as a younger brother he cherishes. With many episodes ahead of us, I don’t know what the plot has in store for us, but please, writer-nim, keep this relationship unchanged to the end.
To settle the score, Hwan gives Jae-yi a bit of a scare when he suggests she get transferred to Hayeon’s palace instead, but Jae-yi has got a way with words. How can a bird sit on two branches? She will remain stuck to Hwan till the end. But Jae-yi gets into a deeper pickle when asked about her name. Finally, someone remembered to check some basic information.
For a moment, Jae-yi can’t utter a word, assuming she is already doomed. But luckily, Hwan meddles in. Did she also forget her name, as if getting lost in the palace wasn’t enough? Her name is Soon-dol. I am stunned at how Hwan can be icy cold at one moment and kind-hearted to Jae-yi at the other.
But that kind gesture doesn’t mean he has agreed to help Jae-yi in her pursuit of the actual murder. She might have caught a notorious thief and a serial killer in the past. Still, Hwan has to check her skills for himself, giving her a summary of cases she has to solve for him to join hands with her. Hilariously enough, just as Jae-yi is trying to prove her worth to Hwan, Ga-ram is boasting about her broom-fighting skills and how she used to help Jae-yi with her investigations.
Unlike their rough first meeting, it looks like things have smoothed over a bit between our leads. Not only does Hwan give Jae-yi the identity of a eunuch who went missing in the flood incident, but he also provides her with a separate room to stay in and some food.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that the said place is where Hwan stayed over the last year after getting shot by an arrow incident. Watching Jae-yi envision all the horrible moments Hwan endured in that secret place was too heartbreaking.
For an entire year, Hwan kept trying over and over to recover from his injury and get back in the saddle regarding his archery and calligraphy skills. It may sound like an exaggeration, but I won’t find it surprising if Hwan indeed shot thousands of arrows and used a thousand sheets of paper to get his skills back.
For the first time in a while, Jae-yi sleeps comfortably to the point she forgets everything about her new position and sleeps in on her first day. It is funny watching her running around and getting dressed on her way. She can’t tell the way this time either, but after identifying the way to the eastern palace with the place where the sun rises first, I doubt she will get lost again.
Jae-yi makes it through except for a minor issue, forgetting to wear her socks and having to borrow a pair from another eunuch. It cracks me up how the other eunuchs keep eavesdropping on Hwan and Jae-yi, betting that Jae-yi will be fired on her first day. But unlike their expectations, Hwan low-key helps Jae-yi perform her duties. It looks like Jae-yi has been so busy playing detective with Ga-ram to realize a robe is put on before a belt or to learn how to tie a robe.
For the first time since the beginning of the drama, we see Hwan smiling genuinely without being the slightest bit tense. Looking at Jae-yi’s face so closely reminds him of their childhood encounter. And we end the episode with our leads reminiscing on their moments together.
As much as I want to ignore the best friend betrayal arc, I know deep down that we will revisit it several times throughout the drama. And it doesn’t help the situation the slightest bit when Sung-on deliberately hides evidence that might point to his father, the left state councilor, as the mastermind behind the blood incident from before.
Sung-on’s father might delude himself and his son into thinking that it is the officials’ way of taming Hwan and bringing him to realize the royal court’s influence. But I hope they know that is their greed speaking. Yes, royal blood alone doesn’t qualify Hwan as the next king, but under-the-table tactics aren’t any better.