[Recap] “Secret Door” Episodes 3-4
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We left off last week with Prince Lee Sun finding out the death of his best friend Shin Heung Bok (who also happened to have secretly held onto the Maenge) was a suicide. However, Ji Dam (the sole witness and a murder-mystery writer to boot) knows it’s not true and she decides to do a little investigating of her own. If they only knew it was King Yeongjo who’d covered everything up…
The head of the investigation team, Hong Gye Hee, says witnesses said Shin Heung Bok always cursed the royal family and therefore committed high treason. Before the ministers and the prince can reach a verdict, however, the king’s order arrives: Shin Heung Bok is a traitor. His lands are to be confiscated and his family enslaved.
The prince, after rereading the last message Shin Heung Bok had given him, simply can’t believe that he’d be a traitor. He goes to meet with King Yeongjo to ask him to let him reopen the case. The king asks him why Lee Sun is so sure Heung Bok was innocent, and when the prince tells him it was because they were friends, King Yeongjo goes into a flying rage: Nobody can be a friend to the prince! Hasn’t he learned that yet? But the king finally relents and gives Lee Sun the green light.
Upon finding Shin Heung Bok’s case has been reopened, Kim Taek becomes angry at the king. The king tells him that he just needs to protect the Maenge and is about to leave when Kim Taek threatens him: 30 years ago, on that night the previous king died, they ended up on the same boat. The king tries to laugh him off, telling him that he’s a king now, not a scared prince like he was back them. Kim Taek says that if he dies, so does the king. Later, Kim Taek sends his ninja-like men out to get ready for war.
When Ji Dam finds out the verdict, she first vents her anger to the gisaeng Woon Shim. She’s particularly annoyed at her and the police officer Min Woo Seob, because they both told her to step away from the case, and now they’ve come up with a bogus result! She decides therefore to do her own investigation and goes back to the bridge where the murder actually took place. She envisions Shin Heung Bok’s fall — including his name tag (like a dog tag, but made of wood) falling off the body as well, and ends up finding it in the rocks below.
The guard Min Woo Seob is also unsatisfied with the results of the investigation. He knows the evidence hasn’t been properly analyzed, and he wants to help the prince with his investigation as well. However, his father, Min Baek Sang (who works with Kim Taek) calls him home to show him a piece of evidence that was never turned in during the first investigation. Min Woo can’t believe his eyes — did his father truly kill Heung Bok? Baek Sang tells Min Woo to report him to the police, but first Min Woo has to kill him with his own hands.
Prince Lee Sun arrives at the bridge with his team of investigators just as Ji Dam leaves the place. The prince orders his men to look for any sign of Heung Bok, including anything to do with the illegal library since he was going to meet Ji Dam there. So he has one of his eunuchs put a message inside one of the bamboo tubes for the illegal library people to find it, saying he’s looking for her.
At the same moment, Ji Dam wonders the same thing: if Heung Bok was there to meet with her about the illegal books, then where is the book he wanted to return?
Turns out the book is in Minister Park Moon Soo’s hands, and he hides it inside a secret compartment in the wall… and the prince’s message goes straight into gisaeng Woon Shim’s hands.
Park Moon Soo goes to confront the prince about the wisdom of his reopening the case. Which means Lee Sun should be extra careful. But the prince doesn’t care. He knows there’s something wrong with the case, because he’s found the journal of Shin Heung Bok’s best friend, Heo Jung Woon, and nowhere in it does it mention that the murdered artist ever cursed the royal family!
Ji Dam’s back in action, and in looking for the book Shin Heung Bok was supposed to give her, she discovers that Heo Jung Woon was having an affair with one of the gisaeng girls under Woon Shim. Unfortunately, when Ji Dam goes to see the gisaeng, the latter is in tears because Jung Woon told her Heung Bok was actually murdered and that Jung Woon might be next.
Kim Taek meets with Inspector Hong Gye Hee and, when the latter realizes it’s the king who was behind the whole cover up, agrees to stop the prince’s investigation.
Minister Moon Soo has been called to have a private meeting with King Yeongjo who wants to play Go with him. A game of double entendre begins:
King: I think you’ve gotten a lot better at this. Are you actually trying to be better than me?
Moon Soo: I don’t intend on winning a game of Go with you.
The king laughs, saying he knows Moon Soo took Heung Bok’s body to the royal well.
Moon Soo doesn’t try to deny it and instead asks the king to straighten up history, saying there’s no hope for any future for power without justice. Moon Soo says he could reveal the truth about the Maenge and, if lucky, bring Kim Taek down too. The king isn’t happy and tells Moon Soo not to mess with him or he’ll kill him before he can start a war.
True to his word, Hong Gye Hee wants to prevent Prince Lee Sun from finding Ji Dam and orders a search of every secret library in town.
Guards arrive at Ji Dam’s house, while her father and his people are still working on copying their books for their illegal library. They rush to put everything away as the guards enter. Unfortunately, the leader finds the secret entrance to the underground library and finds Ji Dam’s father all alone. After a close call, the guards finally leave for good. But this is a sign things are getting too dangerous for Ji Dam, and her father asks Na Chul Joo to take care of her. So Ji Dam ends up in hiding with the warrior, but she hates having to do this when she herself writes about people who, no matter what, will do all to prevent another unjust death from happening!
The crown prince meets with Woon Shim and questions her about Ji Dam, noting how strange it is the young girl has been able to evade capture so many times…u nless she’s been helped (hint hint, wink wink). Of course, Woon Shim claims ignorance, but the prince doesn’t trust her and decides to post someone to surveil her.
The moment Lee Sun’s gone, Woon Shim meets with Hong Gye Hee to tell him the same — she knows nothing!
The prince returns to the palace to the minister in charge of questioning them has sent them away, because he couldn’t find anything suspicious about them. Lee Sun’s angry, but he has another ace up his sleeve: The artists who worked with Shin Heung Bok who have just arrived at his summons. But Heo Jung Woon isn’t amongst them as he disappeared right after Heung Bok’s death. Could it then be Jung Woon who’s the murderer?
But Heo Jung Woon is right to be hiding, because Kim Taek is also looking for him. Unfortunately for him, however, Park Moon Soo finds his hiding spot (via the gisaeng lover). When Jung Woon accuses him of killing his friend, Park Moon Soo agrees and tells him to tell the prince everything.
Before he can go see the prince, however, Heo Jung Woon wants to figure out who Shin Heung Bok had painted in his drawing of the royal court ceremony. But people are already on his trail and, as he leaves, a guard tells Heo Jung Woon that he’s here to escort him to the palace. The artist believes it’s the prince who sent him and follows him willingly…
… only to find himself tied up to a chair, a thousand torture implements lined up before him. And Prince Lee Sun ready for his interrogation.
To everyone’s surprise, the crown prince doesn’t want Heo Jung Woon tortured because even if he’s a suspect, he hasn’t been proven guilty yet. Instead, he has him untied and brought a chair to interrogate him. Though he’s ridden by both guilt and fear, Heo Jung Woon finally hands Lee Sun a letter Heung Bok wrote him — one that shows Heung Bok always hated the royal family and slandering them. The prince doesn’t want to believe him, however, and begs him to tell the truth. But Heo Jung Woon won’t, because he and his family have been threatened with death otherwise.
When the interrogation is over, minister Park Moon Soo asks Heo Jung Woon what went wrong, while the Prince decides to compare the supposed letter from Heung Bok to other letters from the murdered artist, and they all speak slanders against the prince. There is even a suicide note. The prince orders minister Chae Je Gong to leave, but the man says he won’t until he signs the closure of the case.
Minister Chae Je insists, for if he doesn’t do so and keeps trying to prove Heung Bok innocent, Lee Sun may lose his position of crown prince. But the prince doesn’t care about that — he’s lost more than that in the loss of his friend — and he runs away.
When Lee Sun finally returns to the castle, he meets King Yeongjo who offers him the following words of consolation: As a prince, he should never have friends, even if he’s lonely.
And thus Shin Heung Bok’s pronounced a traitor and his family is to be destroyed.
Ji Dam witnesses Heung Bok’s mother and sister being dragged away by guards to be sold as slaves to the North, while Woon Shim destroys Ji Dam’s portrait that had been spread out when the prince was looking for the witness to Heung Bok’s murder. She’s about to do the same with the prince’s note asking to meet with Ji Dam when Ji Dam arrives.
Ji Dam can’t believe Woon Shim lied to her about such an important message. Woon Shim tries to dissuade her, but Ji Dam is determined to make things right. So four days later, Woon Shim and her people help Ji Dam infiltrate the palace in a large coffer.
That night, the prince is working out his anger by practicing sword fighting with the guards. He hasn’t eaten anything since the decree was signed, and is still unable to appease his mind. Quickly, he forces the guard to switch to live swords and attacks the man relentlessly. Later on, Ji Dam gets out of her hiding place and, after disguising herself as a noble lady, takes out her map of the palace in search of the prince.
However, as Ji Dam is roaming the palace, Lee Sun’s wife and her court ladies catch her and notice immediately Ji Dam’s wearing Lady Hyegyeong’s clothes. Ji Dam runs away but Lady Hyegyeong orders her arrest. But what the servants don’t know is that she’s an excellent runner, and she runs away to the prince’s area of the palace.
Lady Hyegyeong goes straight to the prince’s quarters and forces her entry… only to find the prince is bathing. The prince tells her to either join him or leave and close the door. Embarrassed, his wife finally decides to leave. Turns out Ji Dam was hiding behind a screen. A good thing she didn’t get caught or she’d have been killed.
But Ji Dam came to tell him the truth, and she presents Lee Sun with Heung Bok’s ID tag which she found at the bridge, the scene of Heung Bok’s death. Lee Sun believes her immediately — not only does she have his real ID, but Heung Bok never broke his promises. The prince asks for her name before leaving her to mourn his friend once again.
When he gets over his crying, the prince interrogates Ji Dam privately. She tells him she knows Heo Jung Woon lied because she knows the gisaeng to whom he told the truth about the matter. Lee Sun is satisfied with her answers. They both escape the palace to find Heo Jung Woon…
… only to find he’s been assassinated as well. Ji Dam finds a suicide note in his papers. But Lee Sun finds the true message, written in blood by Jung Woon before dying: “Whabootado.” The prince wonders if he meant “knife.” Ji Dam picks up the knife left next to Jung Woon’s body — could it be this knife? For she knows the owner of that knife.
Straight away both Ji Dam and Lee Sun enter Na Chul Joo’s lair (that of the swordsmen of the East, or something to that effect), asking him why he killed Heo Jung Woon. Chul Joo retorts he has nothing to do with the case but Ji Dam brings him his knife. Turns out one of his men had lost his knife and even tried to cut off his ear to punish himself for losing his weapon. So it seems his gang’s actually being framed for the murder. Lee Sun asks him if any of his men uses Whabootado, but Chul Joo’s never heard of it.
Angry, the prince takes the knife and leaves. Ji Dam makes to follow him but Na Chul Joo cuts her off and asks her to answer his questions now. Who is that guy? When he finds out the truth, Chul Joo apologizes to the prince, then takes him and Ji Dam to Heung Bok’s tomb.
We find King Yeongjo reminiscing about what happened a few years prior about Lee Sun painting his friend’s portrait — despite having his hands frozen from begging the king for days on end in the cold not to abdicate. How happy he seemed then, because he had a friend. Like a true parent, the king has kept all the drawings his son has made throughout the years. And through them, he can see when Lee Sun finally opened up his heart to someone else for the first time. And, for the first time, we see the king wondering how much happier the crown prince would have been if he’d been born to an artist instead of to a king. Instead, Lee Sun has to live in the palace where everyone, the king included, is disgusting, and King Yeongjo is truly sad about that.
Lee Sun return to Heo Jung Woon’s murder scene and replace everything as it was found to let the criminal believe everything went according to plan. Ji Dam tells Lee Sun she’ll testify, but he tells her if she does so, she’ll be the next target. And he can’t let her do that. Instead, they need to work secretly. However, Lee Sun does erase the blood message.
Ji Dam takes the crown prince to her writing den, a place only she knows of. He realizes then that she’s the secret library’s courier, and she tells him someone figured out who the murderer was before her second book came out. The prince realizes that’s how she ended up witnessing Heung Bok’s murder. She asks him if he found the book Shin Heung Bok was supposed to return to her, but he says no. And not just the book was missing, but his sketchbook as well, which he used as a journal. Ji Dam hands Lee Sun the results of her own, independent investigations which includes how police officers ignored her testimony to cover up the case. This makes Lee Sun suspect Park Moon Soo since he was the one to recommend the lead investigator.
At the same time, Na Chul Joo secretly meets with minister Park Moon Soo. Chul Joo wants to know who killed Shin Heung Bok, considering he found Moon Soo in front of Heung Bok’s corpse at the bottom of the bridge, then helped him put the body down the well. Moon Soo tells him to forget everything, but Chul Joo tells him it’s too late since the prince already knows.
Right at that moment, Lee Sun arrives. While telling Moon Soo about Heo Jung Woon’s death, he says he realized that the reason Moon Soo recommended he investigate the case was so that he, Lee Sun, would catch up with the minister and what he knew. Lee Sun knows it’s not Moon Soo who did it, because he sticks too much to the truth. Lee Sun asks him then what was the document both artists saw that caused their deaths, and who was behind the murders. But Moon Soo tells Lee Sun only he can find the truth, and to not trust anyone, not even his own teacher.
In the early morning, the prince leaves his teacher, minister Park Moon Soo, feeling totally and utterly dejected. Later, the police find Jung Woon’s body and conclude it’s a suicide and Kim Taek has a field day because his plan worked out perfectly (oh yeah, he’s totally enjoying his role as an evil mastermind!), while Heo Jung Woon’s body is taken away, and Ji Dam returns to find the gisaeng who was Jung Woon’s lover grieving.
Lee Sun orders minister Chae Je Gong to investigate the people who were involved in the initial investigation. Secretly, of course. The minister can’t believe there’s someone out there who’d go like this against the prince. The prince smirks — and person has the capability of controlling the chief of police, nonetheless!
Later, crown prince Lee Sun has been called in by the king his father to have a fancy picnic, and Hong Gye Hee happens to be present as well. Turns out Hong Gye Hee has turned in his resignation letter and wants to leave, so the king is trying to have Lee Sun and the investigator reconcile to prevent it and even asks Lee Sun to give Gye Hee one of the highest positions in the government. But, in a fit of justified rage, Lee Sun throws the bottle of alcohol instead…
…and tries to kill off Hong Gye Hee, but the king intervenes, threatening to kill his own son!
Thoughts and Conjectures
It’s becoming a lot easier to follow what is going on — probably because I’m getting used to the slew of characters in this show (it feels like watching a Game of Thrones episode, sans dragons and set in the Joseon era).
Lee Sun, being a sensitive soul, is very emotional, too emotional for politics and, worse, can’t hide it. On top of that, he’s way ahead of his time in terms of ideas (allowing people to educate themselves, people being considered innocent until proven guilty, etc.). But he should know how dangerous that is (has he not studied Giordano Bruno and how that poor man was burned at the stake for declaring the Earth went travels around the sun?).
Though Lee Sun’s lost his best and only friend, he forms new friendships with Ji Dam, who’s got some crazy analytical skills—better than Sherlock I’d say, in the case of the fallen nametag — and Na Chul Joo. Their secret investigative team is going to be interesting to watch in the following episodes.
And the three of them better be discrete, for it’s very obvious that King Yeongjo’s first priority is to retain his throne, more so than being a good father and, as we know, committing filicide.