Protecting The Secret
Episode 3 of Under the Queen’s Umbrella picks up right where we left off with that bombshell reveal at the end of last week’s chapter. Queen Im Hwa-Ryeong watches as Prince Gyeosong applies makeup. It would appear that she actually already knew about this though, and she speaks to him outside later that evening, telling him he needs to focus on his studies and his exams.
Out of all the Grand Princes, he’s the one with the most promise and Hwa-Ryeong confirms as much, telling him to do as she asks and shrugging off his pleas for being allowed to wander the palace as it gives him a chance “to breathe.”
The Selection exam gets underway, the “Chosi”, which is the first examination of cohort selection. The Princes all show up and predictably Hwa-Ryeong is late, rushing around the palace (which seems to be a consistent theme in this show, doesn’t it!) Unfortunately, the Queen Dowager is not about to let Hwa-Ryeong have her way, and she continues to build up her lapdog, Consort Hwang, to thwart her.
Hwa-Ryeong visits the sickly Crown Prince, where the physician there hands over a book. It turns out he’s been recording everything to do with his treatment leading up to his current collapse. He’s been falling unconscious over longer periods of time over the past few weeks.
With the Crown Prince absent and not waking up it’s arousing suspicions across the palace. Hwa-Ryeong makes the bold decision of cancelling all of the Crown Prince’s engagements, courtesy of Eunuch Hong, which is only going to exacerbate matters.
Meanwhile, the Chosi gets underway and there are several questions that the candidates need to answer, each harder than the last. Various mothers pray or bide their time, hoping their sons will come out of this on top.
As for Hwa-Ryeong, she stays with the Crown Prince and encourages him to get some rest to focus on his recovery. The Crown Prince rises to his feet though and declines, pointing out he has duties and if he doesn’t attend them, the palace will be thrown into disarray. “Can you manage your symptoms?” She asks, and with that the Prince signs. He cannot, of course, and it’s only getting worse too.
After the examhas concluded, the government officials begin to mark the papers but quickly figure out which is Prince Uiseong’s, given his language, and give him an unfair advantage. The two names that show up the next day are, obviously, Prince Uiseong but also Prince Bogeom. Surprisingly, Prince Seongnam and Prince Gyeseong also make the list too!
The second examination is in four days, and the King gives the order that those who have passed will be in attendance to take this. Hwa-Ryeong suddenly shows up with big news regarding the Crown prince. Of course, the rumours about his sickness have spread and some of the government officials are scheming against him.
The recent news is that it’s a skin condition and the more cunning among them wonder how this will affect the palace going forward.
With Prince Uiseong failing to come in first place, Official Hwang Won-Hyeong feeds back to Consort Hwang what’s been happening. At the same time, Court Lady Shin brings Hwa-Ryeong out into the courtyard, where she intends to face the true Prince Gyeseong that evening. She sneaks in just as before and notices a beautiful painting on the ground, along with all the makeup. She sits at the table thoughtfully, fingering the various items.
The Queen Dowager continues to operate in the shadows, demanding answers from Court Lady Shin. She doesn’t given much away but does confirm that the Crown Prince is recovering and on the mend.
She’s put under fire by Dowager though, who brings up Gyeseong and the rumours spreading across the palace. She does well to deflect though, and aside from admitting that the Crown Prince is recovering, doesn’t give away about Gyeseong’s antics late at night.
Queen Dowager intends to change that though, and wants to oust his secret. Hwa-Ryeong decides to try and get rid of all the evidence but on her way out, she’s stopped by the Queen Dowager who happens to be walking with the King. She’s offered to walk with them, and doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter.
While out and about, Queen Dowager brings up the secret chamber but Hwa-Ryeong gets there first ahead of them. In fact, she burns the entire building to the ground in a bid to get rid of any evidence. It seems to do the trick and as the flames lick hungrily up the side of the building, Dowager arrives too late and realizes her plan has been thwarted. She turns and walks away in anger, while Gyeseong hides and can barely hold back his tears.
In the courtyard, while Hwa-Ryeong is getting ready for the big Banquet the following night, Queen Dowager shows up and tells Hwa-Ryeong that next time she’ll make sure to oust Gyeseong’s “disgusting” secret. Hwa-Ryeong remains confident and stead-fast, determined to do everything she can to protect her sons.
That night, Hwa-Ryeong explains her actions but Gyeseong is having none of it, believing she should have turned the other cheek and ignored what was happening.
Hwa-Ryeong shows him exactly why she’s done this. As the rain lashes down, Hwa-Ryeong takes her son out to town and stands guard while he dresses up in beautiful gear and has his portrait painted. She sits outside with Court Lady Shin, saddened that she’s lost a son.
She knows Gyeseong must have been scared and decides to stand by her son no matter what.
It’s a really beautiful moment and one that shows just how far Hwa-Ryeong’s loyalty to her children goes. After the painting is done, Hwa-Ryeong encourages her son to always look at that when he wants to see his true self.
“No matter how you look, you will always be my son,” Hwa-Ryeong says, and hands over her favourite hairpin to him. She would have given it to her daughter if she could, so it seems right to give it on to Gyeseong.
It’s such a brilliant moment and as the pair walk together, under the queen’s umbrella no less, they prepare to head back to the palace.
The Episode Review
A beautiful end concludes this episode of Under The Queen’s Umbrella which is really coming into its own here. You really get a sense in this episode how deeply Hwa-Ryeong’s loyalty to her sons goes and her chat with Gyeseong right at the end is a definite highlight of the whole show thus far.
The simple but effective rivalry between Queen Dowager and Hwa-Ryeong is what’s making this show so watchable and the former is brought to life beautifully by Kim Hae-Sook, who is one of my personal favourite Korean actresses. She’s an absolute workhorse and incredibly versatile in a range of different roles.
Alongside that though are a number of other intriguing characters and you just know there’s going to be some corruption among the government officials brought forward to cause even more drama here! Either way though, the ending leaves the door wide open for what should be a very intriguing episode to follow tomorrow!