This week I took the plunge and started learning Korean. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but always put off due to the sheer complexity of the language. However, running in the humid heat and listening to audio tapes, I did pick up some useful tips about the alphabet and the dialect. It’s certainly no easy task. Even 40 minutes in I felt completely overwhelmed but I’m determined to learn this beautiful language.
It’s ironic then that Rookie Historian this week sees this clash of cultures come to the forefront of its most recent episode, managing to successfully blend humour and drama together in one of the best episodes of the show’s run. It may be late in the game, but if Rookie Historian can keep up this momentum, we could be in with a real treat of a drama to come.
We begin with Goo putting make-up on while Prince Lee sees the female historian everywhere he looks. Needing to get some air, he heads outside and begins meditating. With closed eyes and a relaxed expression, Goo approaches and wakes him up, asking what he was doing. Sensing that she might be making him uncomfortable, Goo questions the Prince over his emotions, receiving the cold shoulder instead. As she leans in and kisses him, they head inside the Palace.
Meanwhile out on the lake, a mysterious man approaches from outside Joseon and is captured, quickly brought infront of the main palace. Sensing he may be a spy, the Crown Prince decides to meet him along with the rest of the Officers as back-up. As the men and women gawp at his Western ethnicity, the Crown Prince asks him questions in Korean, receiving a blank expression in return. Realizing they need to try and get through to him, they try a number of different languages before he begins speaking French. This prompts Goo to question whether he may be a Beopranseoin (French National). However, before she can think any further the prisoner feigns a stomach ache and manages to evade capture.
As the rest of the palace fret over where he might be hiding, Officer Yang demands the clerks get back to work. However, unbeknownst to them the intruder shows up infront of Prince Lee where Sam-Bo tries to knock him down, only to receive a stiff kick to the face. Thankfully, Prince Lee’s bash with a bowl is enough to knock the man down. However, he manages to escape again, prompting the Royal Court to hold an emergency meeting regarding the situation.
With the threat of Catholicism spreading thanks to the French National’s influence, the King snaps, telling the guards to root out everyone whose a Catholic, with no exceptions. As the historians take a deep breath, the guards are dispatched and begin their searches across the palace grounds, rooting out all the crosses and catholic symbols they can find.
Officer Min takes the cross from Seong and prepares to take the fall for him, forced to show his hands by the guards. However, he stands tall and refuses, causing the men to move on to investigating the records room instead. Min approaches Seong in private and tells him he could lose his life for being a Catholic. After telling the man it’s a petty thing to die over, he stands tall and replies it’s not lowly and explains his belief to his fellow Officer.
Unknown to them, the Western intruder happens to be hiding amongst the scrolls. Managing to escape, he comes across Sam-Bo and Prince Lee, where he speaks to them in Korean and they agree to hide him there for the time being.
Back at Prince Lee’s, the man tells the others his name is Jean Baptiste and it turns out he’s actually a merchant who spends his time selling books to people. They ask him why he’s in Korea and it turns out he’s chasing a man named Kim in order to get his money back. Outside, Goo questions the man’s story in private, discussing the complexity of the Korean language and possible ulterior motives he may have with Prince Lee. After warning him not to let his guard down, Jean interrupts and breaks up the conversation.
As Goo heads back home, Prince Lee stews over her words, eventually catching up with Jean late at night while the rest of the house is asleep. They discuss the state of French politics together, leaving Prince Lee thinking over the differences in their cultures. As the episode closes out, the physician from the village meets Goo’s brother, where she realizes that she’s not actually his sister. Piecing together the fragments of what she’s been told, the physician stares, stunned, before heading outside to face Goo where the two lock eyes.
Rookie Historian hasn’t always had the most consistent runs but the past few episodes have really solidified the blend between comedy and drama. The sound effects are such a wonderful and bizarre touch too and for the most part they work really well here. More so than the other episodes, this Korean drama has really done well this episode to juggle both of these genres in a compelling and well written manner.
The inclusion of the Western national is a really intriguing and clever dynamic to throw into the show too and this clash of cultures works well here to emphasize how different these two nationalities are. Whether it be Sam-Bo hilariously commenting that Jean’s name sounds like a sneeze, or the subtle difference in customs, these are handled surprisingly well with the balance of humour and drama spilling over to this plot point too.
With an almighty cliffhanger at the end, the door is left wide open for where tomorrow’s episode may go. Who is Goo Hae-Ryung? Is she a royal? Is her brother actually her Father? Or was she kidnapped from her real family? Wild theories I know but with an unclear ending, there’s enough here to conjure up plenty of thought provoking questions. Roll on tomorrow for the answers!