Don’t ask me why I, not Thundie or Serendipity, bless their infinitely superior writing skills, am recapping this episode of Sungkyunkwan Scandal (“SKKS”). All I remember is that one minute I was sitting on my arse minding my own business whilst chewing on some rubbery eucalyptus leaves, and the next minute I was feverishly recapping SKKS. It may or may not involve a high speed pursuit, some bad fruit, and a case of the badly-needed-subber.
[Tis the third reason, I confess, although I wish it was a high-speed pursuit instead, one involving a certain Yoo Ah-in. Hugs and kisses to ockoala for coming to my rescue at such short notice! I will be back after Serendipity with more SKKS recaps. –thundie]
Let it be known that I am pinch-hitting, so go easy on me, please? With that said, I hope each and every one of you is watching SKKS, and not flitting about here and there reading recaps only. This is one darn easy-on-the-eyes drama, absolutely riveting to watch. Start downloading the episode while you read on.
I guarantee you’ll want to watch it, either for the first time or for the not-so-first-time. Since I’m a last-minute-substitute on this recap, I apologize for it lacking any zip. Yup, it’s creativity = zero, efficiency = mansei! It would take me longer to write a creative recap than it would take the new Mars rover to rocket from earth and land on said planet.
In the rainy darkened forest, the royal police force is running fast in pursuit of their prey, a young man they believe is in possession of a contraband book. We know from the end of episode 1 that said young man is Joseon’s most upstanding citizen, Lee Sun Joon, who has been set-up by Ha In Soo and his cronies to get in a heap of trouble (and Yoon Hee has been used as an unwitting pawn in the plot to frame Sun Joon).
Yoon Hee, who was just pushed off a ledge by Sun Joon in an effective but ouchy attempt to protect her from capture, is chafing at her mistreatment by “Scholar Wang” and determined to still get paid for delivering the book. She desperately needs the money to stave off her not-so-bright future as the slave girl/plaything of the skeevy Minister of War.
Just as Yoon Hee is about to get up, she is suddenly grabbed from behind and a hand clamped around her mouth. It’s not the resident forest pervert. It’s just Sun Joon, who has found Yoon Hee and is yet again attempting to protect her. The royal police force has reached their hiding place, but are on top of the boulder which conceals their location, and is scouring the vicinity for them.
As the rain comes down steadily, Sun Joon keeps his hand clamped over Yoon Hee’s mouth, and tightens his grip around her shoulders – their anxiety and proximity feeding off one another and increasing the physical tension of the moment. Finally, the royal police force leaves, and Yoon Hee uses a finger to pry Sun Joon’s hand off her mouth.
A quick detour to In Soo and his cohorts shows them enjoying a meal and waiting for news of Sun Joon’s downfall. Alas, news comes that Sun Joon got away. A particularly dim crony notes that he thought Sun Joon was just a flowery scholar, who knew his physical skills were also quite remarkable – Sun Joon is definitely a talent.
Said dim crony gets a swift kick to the head to shut his trap, while In Soo glares daggers at nothing in particular, just got daggery eyes. Yong Ha continues to wax about how this increases the fun of it all. Yong Ha needs to get a new hobby, soon, and preferably one where he sweats a lot and gains a six-pack. Plotting does not become him. Smirking, however, does.
Back to still-stuck-in-the-rain Yoon Hee, who tells Sun Joon to pay for the book she delivered, all fifty nyangs. Sun Joon, who clearly didn’t think he needed to come equipped with cash, doesn’t have any on him. He tells Yoon Hee that he will pay her at the exam. Yoon Hee wants to go to Sun Joon’s room this very night if that’s the only way for her to get paid. Sun Joon’s spine gets even straighter (yes, apparently that is possible), and he states that he would never break a promise, especially not for a mere fifty nyang.
A mere fifty nyang, Yoon Hee knows that the money isn’t “merely” anything, but can mean the difference between a life of honor or a life of hopeless despair. She tells Sun Joon that the latest he can deliver the money is tomorrow, and she tells him that she has no intention of sitting for the exam in two days. She moves to leave, but Sun Joon stops her to ask her name – which she gives as Kim Yoon Shik (her younger brother’s name).
Sun Joon calls her Scholar Kim Yoon Shik, and extols her to sit for the exam. Since she feels the injustice of a society which cheats to climb the ranks, and longs for a society where the common folks are taken care of, Sun Joon tells her to sit for the exam and use her own hands to make the society she so longs for and present her reforms directly to the King. Yoon Hee tells Sun Joon that it’s all wishful thinking, Joseon is NOT a system where talent and skill can determine of success. Yoon Hee, so young and already so embittered, life sucks sometimes.
In the morning, the King is fishing by the lake, and he tells his Left Minister (Sun Joon’s father) and the Minister of War (In Soo’s father), that he has been lax in paying more attention to the civil exams. The King states that he will personally be involved in the upcoming exam. An official notice gets posted, and would-be-cheaters ten villages over all burn their cheat fans/sheets/toilet paper.
Yoon Hee shows up at the bookseller, who is sadly packing away all his for-sale cheating appliances, and asks if a man named Lee Sun Joon came and left the book money. The bookseller says no, but tells Yoon Hee that he has another opportunity for Yoon Hee to take the exam. Yoon Hee says that the King will be watching, and any cheating could mean death if caught. The bookseller remarks that clearly Yoon Hee values her life too much to take this risk, but Yoon Hee stops him and says that she will need to be highly compensated, a hundred nyang for taking this exam.
That night, Yoon Hee sleeplessly tosses in her bed, alternatively thinking about the punishment of drinking poison if she was caught cheating, or becoming the woman of the Minister of War. Yeah, clearly Yoon Hee would rather take the chance that could end in death, as its preferable to being owned by the old fart. If only someone would tell him that a girl thinks death is the lesser of two evils compared to him. That would wipe the sneer right off his face.
The day of the exam dawns, and so does the day of Yoon Hee’s entrance into the household of the Minister of War. As she is being prettied up for her departure, she asks for some privacy to say her goodbyes. Thank god for the invention of ladies covering themselves up with their outerwear, as a covered up Yoon Hee boards the paladin and is whisked away. Unsurprisingly, the Yoon Hee in the paladin is actually Yoon Shik, and the real Yoon Hee has barely made it to the exam site.
Yoon Hee looks around for her contact, and the King arrives to begin the exam and unveil the exam question. Yoon Hee suddenly hears Sun Joon’s voice, who asks her if she is looking for her contact. He states that he was the one who hired her to take the exam. The Sun Joon raises his hand (omo!) and loudly proclaims that there is someone not following protocol. Déjà vu, anyone?
Sung Joon stands up and announces himself as not following protocol, as he has spilled ink accidentally on Yoon Hee’s exam paper, so Yoon Hee needs a new sheet. The proctor asks Yoon Hee for a name plate so that she can be handed a new sheet. Faced with the prospect of a hundred lashes, Yoon Hee reluctantly pulls out her brother’s name plate. She is now officially taking the exam as Kim Yoon Shik.
After the exam, Yoon Hee tries to leave with all the test-takers, but everyone is barred from leaving by the announcement that the King will judge the exam immediately and select the passers. The Minister of War tells the Left Minister that he should stop the King from this nonsense. It’s just the civil exam to enter Sungkyunkwan, the King should not be personally overseeing the exam, much less personally judging each exam answer sheet.
Yoon Hee is called before the King, and asked point-blank to explain her answer on the exam. The King’s question is “Use knowledge to create the will of a scholar”, and hidden in Yoon Hee’s response is the declaration that she is not fit to become a scholar because she intended to use knowledge to cheat. She admits that she entered the exam site intending to take the exam for another person, and even though that didn’t occur, her intentions were not honorable.
The King demands to know who hired Yoon Hee to cheat, and before Yoon Hee can say anything, Sun Joon stands up and declares that he was the person in question. He admits to hiring Yoon Hee, not to cheat for him, but as a ruse to get Yoon Hee to the exam site so that he can sit for the exam. Sun Joon proclaims that Yoon Hee is a talent with a caring heart for the people’s plight, and should be given the opportunity to become an asset for Joseon as a scholar.
Sun Joon states that if Joseon is a society where an impoverished talent like Yoon Hee cannot have a chance to serve the people, then Sun Joon also does not want to become a scholar for this regime. The King furiously asks whether Sun Joon hired Yoon Hee to cheat in order to test the King’s will? Sun Joon responds that if he were to become a scholar for the King, then he must be willing to live and die for the King, and Sun Joon is not someone who is afraid of death in standing up for what is right.
The King gets up, and walks to both Yoon Hee and Sun Joon. Instead of ordering “off with their heads” for their insubordination and presumptuousness, the King orders them both to be punished by attending Sunkyunkwan and boarding there. He wants them both to serve Joseon, and he tells Yoon Hee that he will remember her face. Talk about being stuck between a rock (unyielding and principled Sung Joon) and a hard place (upstanding and practical King Jeong Jo).
Yoon Hee accepts the appointment before the King, but upon leaving its clear she has no intention of following through with the admission to Sungkyunkwan. Sun Joon isn’t just a principled guy, he’s also quite calculating. He gives Yoon Hee the fifty nyang book money, plus two nyang interest, and then tells her that Sungkyunkwan students give free medical care and medicine, as well as a nice stipend. Money is the most persuasive argument for Yoon Hee at this time.
In Soo and his band of buttheads are discussing what happened at the exam today, and how the King personally admitted Sun Joon into Sungkyunkwan. The lackeys are all atwitter, exclaiming over Sun Joon’s continued extraordinary feats (and admitting that some guys wet and pooped their pants in fear during the King’s grading ceremony). They wonder who this Kim Yoon Shik fellow is, and Yong Ha informs them all that it’s the guy who some of them have been paying to write cheat sheets.
In Soo stands and announces that in Sungkyunkwan, he wields absolute power and even the King is below him. He wants to make sure Sun Joon is cut down to size. That night, Yoon Hee takes the one hundred nyang to the household of the Minister of War, and retrieves her badly beaten brother Yoon Shik. The Minister of War doesn’t like being thwarted, but is willing to wait it out for Yoon Hee to capitulate.
That night, Sun Joon has a man-to-man talk with daddy dearest, who is cooler than a polar bear sunning himself with sunglasses. The Left Minister asks his son whether the King passed the test Sun Joon gave. Sun Joon says he has decided to attend Sungkyunkwan, clearly implying that his decision means the King did not fail, but Sun Joon cannot state the King passed. His father says that he feels the same way about Sun Joon, and that he will continue to watch and see how Sun Joon develops, pass or fail.
Back at the Kim abode, Yoon Hee informs her worried mother about the latest developments in her already complicated life. Yoon Hee gives her mom the speech that Sun Joon gave, about wanting to change their society. Mom is still against it, until Yoon Shik steps in and supports Yoon Hee, which is essentially dooming himself to a life of being a no one, as he will have to relinquish his name tag for Yoon Hee to use. Both siblings continue to live for one another, and this time Yoon Shik is going to make the sacrifice.
The day arrives where Yoon Hee leaves to enter Sungkyunkwan, and she dons her best male attire. Mom and Yoon Shik have prepared a food offering for Yoon Hee, and she is educated that the offering is meant for her elder classmates during the initiation ceremony. Mom also gives Yoon Hee the hair ornament she normally wears, and cautions her never to allow her true gender to be revealed. Brother Yoon Shik calls Yoon Hee by her new name, and tells her they both need to bring honor to this name they share together. Awww, group hug, group hug everybody.
On her way to Sungkyunkwan, Yoon Hee runs into a small commotion at a tavern, where a disheveled young man has been ejected for not paying his tab. It’s the same grubby young man who rescued Yoon Hee from the thugs in episode 1 (and which we know to be another student at Sungkyunkwan – and I’ll be nice and tell you his name is Moon Jae Shin).
Sun Joon walks to Sungkyunkwan, and his manservant tags along all sad that he’s got to be parted from his beloved doronim (young master). Yoon Hee is recognized at the entrance since what happened at the exam site has spread like wildfire. The admitting porter states that Kim Yoon Shik is indeed as fair of face as rumors go. Sun Joon’s manservant loudly proclaims that he’s too fair of face, one would think he’s a girl. Yup, Yoon Hee hasn’t stepped foot into the school and already her gender is open to conjecture, albeit unwittingly.
Sun Joon is also recognized at the door, this time for being the son of the all-important and powerful Left Minister, and he’s immediately given the VIP treatment. Yoon Hee immediately meets a couple of incoming students, and she sets about walking through the grounds and getting acquainted with the surroundings. Meanwhile, Sun Joon throws the school chancellor’s offers of privileged treatment back in his face and asks to be treated equally, as all students ought to be.
Yoon Hee, and all the students, will be assigned to shared rooms, and she is nervous at hearing this latest development. Yong Ha sidles up to her, murmuring that Lee Sun Joon would likely end up at the West Wing (where the students from his family’s political faction all reside), and the other roommate, nicknamed Goel Ro, which means crazy horse, likely won’t ever be around. Yong Ha then takes the chance to bear hug Yoon Hee, and confirm his suspicions about her true gender.
As Yoon Hee moves into her room, she discovers that Sun Joon didn’t end up in the West Wing, but rather is bucking tradition and has become her roommate in one of the East Wing rooms. Yoon Hee is upset, but leaves the room as all the students go attend the initiation ceremony. Said ceremony appears to consist of a bunch of hooded and shrouded dudes gesticulating in lame ways and performing some ritual.
The incoming students are called upon one by one to proffer their foodstuff offerings, which are all highly prized delicacies. Until Yoon Hee presents her meager offering of rice cakes, which are kicked aside by a jerk upperclassman and deemed not food suitable for even pigs or dogs. Yoon Hee confronts him on whether any of the learned texts state that you can reject food because it is of poor origin.
Sun Joon joins the fray by picking up the fallen cakes, and offering it to the jerk, as precious food made from the toil and sweat of the common citizens. The jerk proclaims that he’s a yanban (nobleman) and cannot partake of this dreck. Sun Joon takes a bite of the simple cake, and states that the jerk has just shamed all yanbans. Yong Ha cracks up at this ballsy move, and takes the entire basket of cakes and flounces around offering it to all the students, and taking a bite himself.
Sun Joon looks straight at In Soo, presiding over the proceedings like a pouty and sullen regent, and states that the purpose of attending Sungkyunkwan is to obtain knowledge to serve the people. If the upperclassmen cannot accept this principle, then the new students ought not to accord the upperclassmen any recognition. Nice one, Sun Joon! The jerk upperclassman grimaces but finally takes a bite of the rice cake.
Now it’s clear to everyone watching the initiation ceremony that Sun Joon is about to become persona non grata at Sungkyunkwan, because In Soo as the head of the school has just made him his number one enemy. The ceremony continues as In Soo announces that all the new students have to now complete a task as written on a piece of paper handed to each person by a certain time.
Heading out to complete their respective tasks, Yoon Hee asks Sun Joon why he stepped in back there? Was Sun Joon worried about Yoon Hee? Sun Joon states that he was merely standing up for the principles he believes in. Sun Joon and his set of principles are clearly conjoined twins, better get used to it being around, Yoon Hee! We might have the drama ending on the OT3 of Sun Joon, Yoon Hee, and Plipo (my nickname for Sun Joon’s principles). Plipo is probably a nuisance in bed, though.
Both set off on their tasks, because to fail would mean expulsion. Sun Joon is tasked with plucking the fairest of the lotus flower (which refers to In Soo’s flighty younger sister), and Yoon Hee is tasked with obtaining the undergarments of Cho Sun, the most famous gisang in all of Joseon. It’s clear from next conversation between In Soo and Yong Ha that both Sun Joon and Yoon Hee have been set up purposely to fail. They have been given impossible tasks.
Yoon Hee arrives at the gisang house, and asks to see Cho Sun. She is taken to a room full of other gisangs, who have fun teasing her pretty boy looks. In her haste to escape from these playfully pawing ladies, Yoon Hee accidentally falls into the room where the Minister of War is enjoying an evening with the ladies. And cross-dressing Yoon Hee comes face-to-face with the man who wants to own her.
Thoughts of Mine:
I’m bitter. I’m really really bitter. When I offered dearest Thundie my sevices as a back-up recapper of SKKS, I should have added a caveat. I will only recap an episode that has Yoo Ah In, aka Moon Jae Shin aka Goel Ro aka Pool Boy/Ninja Assasin, in more than a quarter of the scenes in said episode. But then, not only did I get an episode that did not meet this caveat, I got an episode where literally Yoo Ah In had a blink-and-miss throwaway scene!
[Not just blink-and-miss, aigoo, the guy’s as swift as a speeding train and as slippery as an eel. Most of my screencaps of him are a blur! But just to appease you, here’s another yummy but blurry image of Pool Boy. –thundie]
I’m going to go pout over there for a few minutes. *Pouts, so unfair* Okay, I’m back. She owes me one. But on the upside, this was one meaty episode. I swear I thought two hours worth of material had been shown when the episode ended, because it’s hard to believe so much happened in the span of an hour. Yoon Hee escaped the police, took the exam, got busted by the King, escaped her lecherous debtor, entered Sungkyunkwan, made friends, made enemies, got fondled by gisangs, and ran back into her lecherous debtor.
At this pace, 1 episode of SKKS is like 8 episodes worth of Playful Kiss. LOL, I love Playful Kiss, and I know mentioning it with SKKS is like comparing apples and oranges. But it’s fair to note that SKKS is a fast-paced, heavy-on-the-plot drama, and Playful Kiss is not so much that. I only bring up my darling Playful Kiss as an example of a type of drama on the opposite end of the scale as SKKS. One is an ambling pony ride in the meadow, the other a black stallion in a cross-country race.
With that said, you cannot miss an episode of SKKS. It’s a story that has so many layers and complications, the joy is watching it all get built up, and then watching as it all gets peeled away. Like building a Jenga tower of misconceptions, lies, betrayals, and confusion, and then dismantling said Jenga tower with understanding, honesty, patience, and camaraderie. And then let’s pretend the Jenga tower is a boy Jenga pretending to be a girl Jenga. Oh, are we in for a world of fun at Sungkyunkwan.
SKKS is the second youngster-focused sageuk I have watched, and is fast rocketing up my favorite sageuks list. I’m not nearly as in love with it as some other viewers, and I definitely don’t yet feel the “my heart is gonna burst from the excitement and emotion tug” that I felt for Tamra the Island. But we have a long ways to go, and SKKS has so much potential to be a memorable and outstanding sageuk when all is said and done.
So far, I like all the characters, I like all the actors, and I wholeheartedly love the story. I, of course, am a founding member of The Moony Faction (along with hjkomo), and want to alert you all to the existence of a forum for which all things Moon Jae Shin can be appreciated, savored, and drooled over. I’ll let Thundie and Serendipity drool over the other two guys. Moony has been claimed, let it be said. Hope I didn’t bore you all to bits with my attempt at recapping SKKS. ockoala here, signing off with a Moony Fighting! \^^/