IN WHICH I’M SLAYED BY THE SWEET AND THE STIRRING. . .
This is not a recap. How can I recap anything when I’m tethered to my bed in the emergency ward? Because I kept trying to float out the window, the nurses tied me down and ordered: Behave. Otherwise we’re sending the war minister’s guards after you.
Ha. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but no threat in the world is going to stop me from floating out of my skin. Why? Because I’ve been slayed, that’s why. Slayed by the heaping servings of sweet and stirring that Sungkyunkwan Scandal keeps dishing out, mercilessly. Slayed and yet floating. Doesn’t make sense, right? Well, much of this post will be the incoherent ramblings of a Sungkyunkwan Scandal nutcase, so skip them if you wish and zip to the end where a poll awaits.
How did I end up in this state, star-crossed and hyperventilating, like the two resident dimwits when they caught sight of Hyo-eun? Wait, scratch that. How could I not end up in this state?
It all started in Episode 5. Remember how Sun-joon was injured by some disgruntled Soron students who didn’t like him staying in the East quarters? The idiots caused a pile of poles to fall on him, thus necessitating a visit to the infirmary and a burst of tears from Micky Yoochun’s 800,000 official fans (and a newly hatched unofficial one).
That accident brought out a side of Sun-joon hitherto unseen: an obstinate doggedness.
See how he punished his still-injured body by practicing relentlessly for the archery competition, in rain or shine, painful shoulder be damned. See how I swooned in tandem, transfixed by our hero’s Strength of Character in the Midst of Testing!
Now check out Episode 6 where that same strength persists, even though he is fully recovered. See how he whips Yoon-hee into shape for the competition! Do not mistake what he’s doing to her as torture; he’s merely emulating the martial arts masters of yore. Tough love is the order of the day.
Perhaps he’s galvanized by her audacity. “We need to win the competition,” she tells him, omitting to add that she’s struck a deal with the professor who now knows she’s Yoon-hee and not Yoon-shik. She wins, she stays. She loses, she’s out of Sungkyunkwan, headed for the netherworld. Hearing her words, Sun-joon raises an eyebrow. If he’s surprised, he does not show it, not too overtly.
Or perhaps he’s irked by In-soo’s arrogance and insolence, the latter ridiculing the king for championing equality by filling Sungkyunkwan with non-nobility like Yoon-hee. Since Sun-joon, by remaining in the East quarters, is all about breaking societal strictures, an In-soo victory in the competition would be akin to rubbing Sun-joon’s nose in the dirt. Why should he, Sun-joon, give the snooty student president that pleasure?
“If a man sets himself a goal, then he should do everything he can to attain it.”
And so the training begins. And so begins thundie’s rapid descent into the slayed-by-Sungkyunkwan-Scandal club. Because how can anyone’s heart, no matter how hardened, be indifferent to the sweetness of it all?
He hangs her from a tree, yes, but he also steadies her as she sways in fear. He doesn’t let her run up the hills alone, he runs with her.
He keeps track of the time, of her every little progress. When she’s tired, he pushes her, willing her spirit to press on further and not give up. When she’s truly tired, he lets her rest, her head on his shoulder, his eyes gazing at her with a mix of tenderness and empathy.
He says little most of the time, but you can tell he’s acutely attuned to her state of mind and body. He sets her goals that she can achieve, gradually making the target a little harder and farther. When she succeeds, ever so slowly, his face breaks into a slight smile. They have a long way to go before she is even remotely ready for the competition much less win it, but his quiet determination steers her forward.
I don’t know about you, but my heart was so full watching their training I thought it would burst out of my body.
How I love these two! Our Yoon-hee demonstrating once again that she will rise above her circumstances, even though a death sentence hangs over her head should she fail to keep her end of the bargain with Prof. Jung. Every time she is knocked down, she picks herself up. A bully like In-soo can’t intimidate her; Sun-joon’s punishing training methods can’t deter her. In fact, she trains every opportunity she gets, choosing to run everywhere rather than walk, working her muscles even in class.
And Sun-joon, Lee Sun-joon. Throwing himself completely into Yoon-hee’s training even though it really isn’t terribly important for him to win the archery competition. After all, as his father’s son, his future is secure. As Yong-ha noted in Episode 4, Sun-joon doesn’t even need to be in Sungkyunkwan. Yet he trains her, and trains himself, with the utmost resolve.
To share a goal with another person, and to share and pursue it with such single-mindedness. To stand alongside—understanding, helping, rebuking and spurring—their individual traits complementing each other (he reserved and principled, she fearless and idealistic) so that together they are better than one… How can the sight of their deepening friendship not cause me to sigh with happiness and levitate?
(And yes, they are friends in the most platonic sense of the word, because he hasn’t the tiniest notion that she’s a female. Even if he should keel over when he finds out, I’m positive that their strong friendship will tide them over the initial shock and will not rock the foundation of everything that they have built together thus far.)
So when she finally scores a bull’s-eye and the relief is so overwhelming she covers her mouth as though in disbelief and he in turn does something he has yet to do in the drama—smile wide enough for his teeth to be showing—I gave up the fight and simply floated out the door and into the clouds.
If you think I came back to earth after a brief spell, think again. Because Yoon-hee and Sun-joon aren’t the only ones doling out the sweet in this episode, there’s their roommate, the guy nicknamed Crazy Horse, remember?
Yes, I’m speaking (my eyes rapidly glazing over at the mere mention) of one Moon Jae-shin. He has been watching Yoon-hee all along, with mild interest at first, and then with growing concern. No matter how hard she tries, she just can’t hit bull’s-eye. Either Sun-joon is failing miserably as her archery coach or something else is causing her arrows to miss the mark every single time.
What is the best archer at Sungkyunkwan to do? Why, scoop her up like she’s a sack of beans, sling her over his shoulder, and march her to a quiet spot for some personal physiotherapy. Of the alcoholic kind. Taking a jar of wine, he grabs her hand, the one with the bloody welts from all the bow-pulling, and immerses it into the stinging liquid.
She struggles to break free, unable to bear the pain, but still he holds her. “This is how to make your hand heal,” he explains, and sure enough, the pain dissipates. Sun-joon may assume, when she later hits her first bull’s-eye, that it’s the result of their unrelenting training and her sheer doggedness, but you and I know Jae-shin deserves some credit, too.
Touched by Crazy Horse’s kindness, she flashes a bright smile at him and goes off happily. He smiles shyly back, but barely has she left when the weirdest thing happens. An onslaught of the hiccups!
Oh, I squealed and replayed the scene, squealed and replayed the scene, about a hundred times. How adorable is that, huh? No, not my squealing, but his hiccupping! And that dazed look on his face, as if he’s just seen a dozen orange hippos pirouetting in front of him.
Well, well, Jae-shin, you’re a goner, that’s for sure. You may claim to Yong-ha that you are having the hiccups because In-soo’s sister, Hyo-eun, is in the vicinity with her maidservant, but you can’t hide anything from us sharp-eyed viewers. We know, and so will you… eventually. Just wait till you realize you’ve been sleeping next to a woman in the East quarters, ha! Just because you didn’t hiccup in Yoon-hee’s presence until now doesn’t mean you can feign ignorance. It just means that something is awakening inside you, this special antenna that is going to provide plenty of giggles for us later.
Speaking of goner, poor Hyo-eun is experiencing the first pangs of unrequited love. She comes to Sungkyunkwan all ready to woo Mr. Perfect, but he’s as comfortable with her as he might be with an empress dowager. Still, chancing upon the two together from a distance, Yoon-hee thinks they might be a couple in the making. Her eyes cloud over and she feels an unease she has never felt before. To hide that odd quickening in her heart, she chews her food with more gusto than normal.
Now that you understand why this episode serves out enough of the sweet to last me a year (and I want more, of course, a lot more), let me tell you about the stirring. You see, sweet makes my heart feel like exploding, but stirring makes my heart go all melty-soft. Stirring makes me cry.
First, we learn in this episode that the masked archer is Jae-shin. Ah! Then we see him get hurt, very badly. No!
Even as Jae-shin is fleeing the war minister’s guards, an arrow piercing his body, his two roommates are missing him in their room. Where is Crazy Horse? Is he going to miss tomorrow’s competition? Little do they know that he has managed to shake off his pursuers and is now hiding inside Sungkyunkwan, close to where the janitors are patrolling the grounds. They hear a thud where he lands but choose to pretend it’s merely some stray animal. And just like that, a lump emerges in my throat. How very kind of them to not betray one of their own.
Second, the king urges the war minister to swiftly catch the masked archer, but not to do it during the archery competition itself. Perhaps he suspects the wanted man is a Sungkyunkwan student? Whatever the reason, I love our king for not being some crazed despot screaming “Off with his head!”
Third and last, and the most stirring moment of all, when all hope seems lost and Yoon-hee and Sun-joon stare a disqualification in the face, the missing roommate turns up to take his place at the competition.
Can you tell he was semi-comatose the night before? Can you imagine how he struggled to pull himself together, his body weak from bleeding too much? Nothing on his face gives anything away. He smiles, and the other two smile as well. Me? I’m prone on the ground, too overwhelmed by my emotions.
A drama that I wasn’t even planning to watch is now fast becoming a drug. Have mercy on me, Sungkyunkwan Scandal!