The Queen’s Gambit
Episode 7 of Under The Queen’s Umbrella starts with Hwa-Ryeong immediately confronting the nursemaid about hurting the little Prince. She shakily retorts that her family had been held hostage. Hwa-Ryeong promises to save her family but only if she gives up who gave the order. She refuses to do so, claiming they’re far more formidable than her. Not willing to talk, the Nursemaid commits suicide.
Hwa-Ryeong and the others immediately search for the poison but a small fire springs out at the bedchamber. Hwa-Ryeong is shocked and immediately tells Court Lady Shin not to let anyone into her quarters without alerting her first. “Keep an eye out for the movements of the Queen Dowager,” She warns.
The Crown Princess is worried and wants to leave the palace, even threatening to kill herself, claiming she has no reason to live after losing the Crown Prince. Hwa-Ryeong is incredulous, refusing and suggesting she put that same effort into protecting the Grand Heir.
The Queen Dowager threatens the King, reminding him that she’s the one who put him on the throne, having previously killed off the Crown Prince to let him ascend. Standing before him, the Queen Dowager demands he give his consent for the taekhyeon, otherwise she’s going straight for the Queen and will take her down.
Speaking of the Queen, her doting sons show up to check on her and hand over some food. They know she’s had a hard day and remind her she needs to take care of herself. It’s a really kind gesture, and the chicken dumplings they have for her are a delicious treat. The Princes point out the danger of Taekhyeon, worrying that he and his brothers could be killed if it goes ahead.
Seongnam heads to the King and tells him the Queen had no part in the alternate medicine; he’s the one who picked it up from Master Toji. He decides to come clean, adamant that it’s not the cause of death. The King grants him permission to find witnesses and confirm as much. Unfortunately, Hwa-Ryeong’s investigation doesn’t go much better, finding absolutely no evidence of poison anywhere.
The Queen Dowager gets no closer to finding out what Hwa-Ryeong is up to, but that’s not for the want of trying. She slaps around Court Lady Shin and tries to find answers. However, it’s Shin who comes away with answers when the Queen Dowager admits she’s not going to bring up the deposed Queen the following day at the interrogation as it would be too risky. The Dowager is clearly using this as a trump card, determined to keep it close to her chest for a later time.
Seongnam immediately rides out to find witnesses who can confirm the alternative medicine works. Unfortunately, Master Toji is nowhere to be found, heading to the dispensary Toji used and looking around. The thing is time of the essence, especially with the interrogation continuing and Physician Kwon’s integrity hanging on by a thread.
In the courtyard, Kwon finally caves and reveals that it was the Queen Hwa-Ryeong who gave him the alternate medicine. It seems the torture has been too much, and the Queen is too stunned to lie, admitting she gave it to him.
“However, I do not agree that the medicine caused the Crown Prince to die.” She’s adamant they can prove the medicine wasn’t responsible and foul play is at work. She also brings up that the medicine was not hers per-se but actually from the Crown Princess. It’s a huge shocker and one that feels like an absolute bombshell. Everyone is shocked, leading to the King ordering the Princess’s chambers to be searched. Now, this is rather clever given we know the Crown Princess has been involved in a poisoning situation of her own. And unfortunately, they also find medicine.
The Crown Prince points out that she did decoct medicine for chronic itching but is adamant that all herbs were found inside the palace and not from outside. However, there’s no records of this, so it puts her in a bad position. And as a result, Hwa-Ryeong concedes and claims that medicine is what killed the Crown Prince, having successfully deflected her own life but losing the Princess in the process.
With the interrogation about to begin against them, the Chief State Councilor believes this is a great opportunity to remove both the Queen and the Grand Heir. Of course, he immediately pedals the same idea as before, deciding the Queen should be deposed. He even questions the idea of an execution too, which certainly shocks the King.
The King knows that Seongnam is the one who brought the medicine in but he’s in a difficult position. The Queen has already motioned for the Princess, who has admitted to bringing medicine in, albeit not foreign medicine. There doesn’t seem to be a solution to undo this.
That night, the Queen surprises the Queen Dowager, deciding they should go ahead and enact the taekhyeon after all. The Queen calls the Dowager’s bluff, and with the Councilor there too, Hwa-Ryeong suggests they stop this game, and the petty, silly idea of executions and instead, complete the game they’ve started playing.
On top of that, she also suggests demoting the Crown Princess and the Grand Heir. The irony here, of course, is that it would give the Crown Princess a chance to leave the palace, which is precisely what she was asking for originally. She also throws out the bombshell idea of her stepping down as the Queen as well, if the taekheyon works against her and she’s unable to have any of the royals step up.
Unfortunately, plans are already in place to kill the pair of them as soon as they end up outside the palace gates. Thankfully, Hwa-Ryeong has foreseen this and the Chief State Councilor is shocked to learn they’ve made it safely without being ambushed on the road.
There, she greets Hwa-Ryeong and the others warmly, as we come to learn that actually Hwa-Ryeong warned the Princess of all this ahead of time, and she agreed to try and endure for the sake of the kingdom. Furthermore, Physician Kwon slinks away, leaving a note for Hwa-Ryeong confirming his shame and that he can’t bring himself to face her. He couldn’t endure the torture anymore and that’s why he spoke up. H’s convinced that the medicine wasn’t what killed the prince.
The King is given some encouraging words from Hwa-Ryeong before he enacts the Taekhyeon, pointing out he should judge the candidates fairly and although judging it himself. It’s certainly reckless but Hwa-Ryeong is cunning. She brings up how she’s been preparing for this and whispers something in Court Lady Shin’s ear.
Hwa-Ryeong relays her plans to the Royal Concubines, telling them all that she intends to settle this via a contest. It’s already started too, and begins with all the Princes being grabbed and thrust away deep in the forst. Gathered together, they’re told to get changed and make it through a race, with points awarded for position of arrival. As they all begin running, the episode comes to a close.
The Episode Review
So it seems like this Taekhyeon is going ahead after all, with the Queen seemingly armed with a plan up her sleeve to dissuade what’s happening inside the palace. It’s certainly a risky plan though and it seems like this race is only going to be phase 1 of what’s otherwise a series of games to find the winner and the new Crown Prince.
From start to finish this episode has been great, with lots of tension and suspense throughout. Beginning with the nursemaid and ending with the race, there’s so much to unpack in that time.
Learning more about the King’s backstory is another nice inclusion, while the Queen Dowager and the Chief State Councilor being outed by Hwa-Ryeong, who just about manages to sidestep the medicine issue in the courtyard, is a good way of rounding out that storyline.
Either way though, the Taekhyeon looks like it’s on now and quite who will come out on top remains to be seen.