The Secret Is Out
Episode 17 of The King’s Affection begins with Commander Yoon sacrificing himself to let Ga-On live. Pushing him back, he takes a volley of arrows to allow the bodyguard to survive. When Ga-On heads back to the palace, he hands over the ledger to Hwi and shakily tells her that the officer has fallen.
Seok-Jo soon shows up to reveal the news officially, telling her she should go visit the fallen officer at his grave. Now, it seems there are others at the grave too. Numerous assassins wait in the tall grass, eventually ambushing Hwi and Ji-Un. The thing is, the assassins are being led by her uncle and as he looks set to hit the killing blow, Seok-Jo of all people jumps in to protect the pair.
Hwi is convinced that the assassins were sent by Lord Changun and thanks Seok-Jo for his help. He decides to lead the pair through the grass, finding a safe passage for them both back to the palace. The thing is, he knows their secret and as he keeps it to himself, Changun reports back the same news to Wonsan. Despite his best efforts, Changun is unsure whether Hwi is really a female or not.
Back at the palace, Hyun shows up and learns about the attack. Hwi decides they should keep it secret for now, breaking the bad news that Changun was behind the attack. Hyun promises to stay by her side for now. At the same time, Ji-Un speaks to his father about his interjection. He’s impassive to the whole affair but is clearly concerned about his son growing closer to Hwi.
Meanwhile, Ga-On heads to the physician’s, where he runs into Yeong-Ji. She very clearly has affection for him and can’t stop smiling while handing over some medicine. This playful moment soon paves way for Ga-On stepping up his investigative efforts. The man responsible for murdering the chief eunuch shows up at the physician’s, typified by his scarred hand. Ga-On watches from the shadows as this man heads inside.
While this is going on, Prince Wonsan approaches the Queen Dowager and makes the pledge that the King must have been a twin since he found the umbilical cord. She brushes aside these concerns, convinced this is a mistake. There can’t be royal twins and warns him against this line of thinking. After all, he could well be seen to be undermining and trying to usurp the King.
Now, as the palace isn’t in uproar, Wonsan believes that if the palace is quiet then it… confirms that Hwi is a woman. Really? How does he figure that? Anyway, the palace is inevitably quiet and he walks away grinning, believing this to be true.
News of Hwi’s closeness to Ji-Un spreads across to Ha-Kyung too. She overhears the other maids talking and immediately grows suspicious. In fact, rumours are abound that Hwi may actually prefer male company to females,. While Ha-Kyung brushes this off, she can’t shake that it may be true, given she doesn’t want to sleep with her.
These rumours grow from whispers to side-eyed glances and suspicions. Court Lady Kim realizes this and suggests Hwi not see Ji-Un for a while, at least until these murmurs die down.
The Queen Dowager eventually confronts Hwi about these rumours. As they head out for archery together, she warns that the more she stays childless, the more these rumours will grow. In fact, she forces Hwi to come up with an excuse to get rid of Ji-Un from the palace. Instead, she dances around this and claims she’ll look out for her own residence. In other words “no I won’t get rid of him.”
This causes quite the commotion though when Ha-Kyung shows up. She pleads with Hwi to allow her to bear the heir to the throne, promising to do what she can to provide a King for the throne. The thing is, this obviously isn’t going to work because… well you guys know why, I won’t spell it out!
Meanwhile, Changun frequents his local bar and begins spreading rumours (but they’re not really rumours) about Hwi being a woman. It’s dangerous stuff, especially if this catches wind.
At the same time, Seok-Jo is confronted by the Left State Minister who warns that these rumours are starting to grow too big – and Ji-Un hanging around Hwi isn’t helping. “Do not disappoint me.” He says, warning that Ji-Un’s position is resting precariously on Seok-Jo’s actions.
Inside the palace, Eunuch Hong takes Ji-Un aside to talk. He asks politely for Ji-Un to hold off seeing Hwi for the time being and not visiting her chambers. This is only compounded further when Ji-Un finds out about a bridal letter. He’s going to be married off. His mother implores Ji-Un not to pursue Hwi and send a letter back to So-Eun.
Ji-Un refuses to do so though, prompting Seok-Jo to take him aside and admit the truth. He knows that Hwi is a woman and threatens to kill her and commit treason in order to save Ji-Un. He tells Ji-Un to leave town after the upcoming wedding too. If he doesn’t, then he’ll kill Hwi.
Meanwhile, Changun is found out in the woods. Seok-Jo hears him mention that Hwi is a woman and gives chase. We knew this would cause problems and with a slash of his sword, Seok-Jo kills Changun outright, making sure the secret stays buried with him.
Back at the palace, both Ji-Un and Hwi wind up running into each other that night. Ji-Un beaks the news that he’s getting married. He claims it’s what he wants but Hwi sees straight through this lie. “This is where I should stop,” Ji-Un whispers and walks away. Despite Hwi ordering him to pause, Ji-Un continues to walk on, tears stinging his cheeks.
The Episode Review
Poor Hwi and Ji-un. We knew this was going to end badly and alas, it has. Seok-Jo is the wildcard in all this though and given his ruthless streak, it was always going to end with him confronting his son and threatening to kill Hwi. In order to keep her safe, Ji-Un takes the noble option of leaving and agreeing to his father’s wishes of marrying, even if that’s not what he wants.
The forbidden love between the two has been the strongest element of this show and the added inclusion of the political issues has really helped to give this show some much-needed tension alongside that romance.
The two leads have great chemistry too and while this episode mostly tackled the rumours spiraling out of control, there’s some good work done to forward both Ha-Kyung and Seok-Jo’s characters as well. Commander Yoon’s death is a tough blow to take, especially as it means Hwi do0esn’t have that protective barrier around her, and that vulnerability is rife for exploitation.
Quite what will happen tomorrow is anyone’s guess but this historical drama is ramping up for quite the dramatic finish.