We start episode 12 with a meeting between Chun and Lord Hong. Chun tells him that with the Crown Prince being deposed, it seems that Lord Hong has achieved his ends. He then asks about the Plan.
Next we see the King burning the scrolls that have the maps on them. Lord Hong says that they have only half of the Plan, and that they need to catch Ji Sun to get the rest. So, clearly they think or know that the plan was not only these maps, but that the book her father removed from the temple had these maps plus other information, and that the book part of it is still hidden somewhere.
Then Lord Hong asks if Chun has heard of another book that the Prince had – the one detailing the martial arts – this is the one Gwang Taek compiled and gave to the Sado – so I’ll call it the Martial Arts Handbook. Hong tells Chun that if he can get that book and learn the secrets in it, Chun will be the best martial artist not only in Joseon, but also in Qing. Chun asks if he isn’t the best now, and Hong reminds him that Gwang Taek is said by many to be better.
Chun tells Hong he doesn’t need no stinking book. He could have written that book, so there is no use in him finding it. Hong says, well, whatever, but he still wants to find it, and when he does, he’ll send it to Chun.
Then he tells Chun that despite the Crown Prince being deposed, he’s still a threat, because the King might reinstate him at some point. So Chun asks if he wants the Crown Prince killed. Hong says he has a better plan, but that he’ll need Chun’s help with it.
And then we arrive at where we were at the end of Episode 11 – Un and assassins are headed to Sa Mo’s to kill the people there. Un stabs the first of his sleeping friends. As the second awakens, Un paralyzes him with an acupuncture needle, and then stabs him as well. This one, Sang Gak, recognizes him, and says “Un? It’s you?” and collapses. As Un leaves the room, the third of the mountain boys, Yong Geol, arrives (presumably from the outhouse) and encounters the assassins. As he’s fighting an assassin, Un walks up behind him and stabs him as well. As the two other assassins scurry off and Un walks away, Yong Geol throws a knife that slices Un’s arm.
Un dismisses the other assassins, and tells them he’ll stay behind to clean things up, and so they gallop off. He checks on Yong Geol, and carries him back into the room with the other two boys. He checks on them, grabs his medical kit and treats their wounds.
Meanwhile, Ji Sun finds Gwang Taek anxiously standing in the courtyard of the bandits hideout. For some reason, he says, he was just uneasy. Cho Rip and Dong Soo also get up and Dong Soo asks if Un came back to the hideout. Dong Soo and Cho Rip get ready to return to palace, leaving Sa Mo in the care of Ji Sun and Jin Ki.
Back at the palace, Commander Im tries to come up with a plan to save the Crown Prince’s life, as the King has ordered him to do. His two trusty lieutenants offer to help, but he orders them to guard the Prince’s son instead. He plans to use the boys to help him.
At the Assassins lair, Ji polishes her sword as Chun asks her if today was when she was going to meet Gwang Taek, and what was her answer. She tells him it’s not his concern. One of the assassins returns and tells Chun that Un did the attack on the mountain boys perfectly.
Ji goes out into the fields to meet Gwang Taek. He asks for her answer – will she leave with him? She tells him that this is the last time they’ll meet. They draw their swords and spar. (While it isn’t even close to the scale of Duelist swordplay as foreplay sparring, or even the Damo “I’m pissed off because I was worried, so we’re going to spar” sparring, it’s a pretty nice little dance they are doing there.)
In a pause, she asks if he’s holding back because he thinks she’s old or weak, and asks him to show what he’s learned while he was gone. More swordplay ensues, and finally they stop. She tells him that she’s seen what he’s learned. She says they won’t meet again. She asks him to please take care, and starts to leave.
He turns and tells her that he’s met Hwang Jin Ki by chance. He tells her that Jin Ki’s daughter looks like her. She tells him it’s been a long time, to let it go. He repeats that he wants to spend his life with her. She tells him that things have gone too far, she can’t do that..
Dong Soo and Cho Rip arrive at Sa Mo’s to find Un sitting there with the injured boys. Jang Mi (the nice lady) tells them about the attack. Commander Im arrives, and gets caught up with the news. Im asks Un why he’s there, and Un said he came by to check on them, and found them. Jang Mi agrees that she also came to check on them, and found Un treating them. Im looks as if things aren’t quite adding up, and gives Un another look. He sees the cut on his shoulder and offers to treat it. Un lies and says he got it leaving the palace, but Im knows it wasn’t from that. Im questions him again, and tells him not to lie.
Surprisingly, it’s Dong Soo who tells Im that the wound is from the assassins attack, and that Un got it defending them. Im is still suspicious, but says they’ll know the truth when the boys wake up. Just then, of course, Sang Gak, the one who recognized Un wakes up. He sees Un, and starts to yell at him. Then he realizes that the other two boys are there and asks how they are. Quickly realizing that they are all alive, and that Un could have killed them, Sang Gak lies. He says that he didn’t recognize any of the attackers, and that Un should have gotten there sooner to save them.
Im tells them he’ll meet them at the palace, and as Un leaves, he stops to thank Sang Gak. He tells Un that he’d better have a good explanation, but in the meantime, he thanks Un for letting them live.
Jang Mi sits in the courtyard wailing that she wants to go check on Sa Mo, but has to take care of the boys. Jang Mi So, on the other hand, practices throwing stars. Her aunt berates her for being useless, she should be making porridge for the boys instead. What use is martial arts in finding a nice husband? Mi So, in the first real scene she’s had other than mooning after the boys, points out that she learned martial arts from her father alongside Un and Dong Soo when they were young. She hasn’t forgotten anything, including who killed her father. Jang Mi tries to tell her this is nuts, and Mi So tells her that she has a revenge she wants, and she goes stomping off. (Mostly I included this because it’s the first real scene Mi So has had in a while, and it would be awesome if she got to do more stuff like Jin Ju.)
Ok. Back at the palace, Hong1 fetches Un to see his father, Lord Hong. Lord Hong asks Un if he thinks he’ll be able to advance in rank with just skill. Un asks him what advice he’d give him.
Lord Hong’s advice is – 1) be loyal to a stronger person to the point of death; 2) to never show weakness to those who are weaker than you; 3) if someone is in your way, take them out; 4) trample over anyone who is in your path.
Then he tells Un, since you are one of the assassins, why are you serving the Prince? Un is shocked that Lord Hong knows. Lord Hong tells him that he knows everything that happens in the palace.
The Crown Prince is in jail, and Commander Im tells the boys that this was the only way to keep him alive. Now they have to come up with a way to get him out of the palace. Un objects that the Prince will be a fugitive the rest of his life. Im tells them that they are going to put in a substitute for the Prince, so that no one will know the Prince is free. Dong Soo points out that this would mean death for that person. Im says it could mean jail for life, who knows until they hear the sentence. But he wants a volunteer.
Dong Soo volunteers. He says that Un has a great future because of his talents, and Cho Rip would be frightened, so he’ll do it. As they leave, Cho Rip doubles back to speak to Im. He overhears Im saying that he can’t allow Dong Soo to do it because he’s the last of the family line, and Gwang Taek gave an arm for his life. He can’t let that life be thrown away.
At the palace, Cho Rip tries to tell Dong Soo that he owes him his life, and Dong Soo cuts him off saying that he’d said he’d be the substitute, and he can’t go back on his word.
The Norons meet and are celebrating, but Lord Hong tells them that it’s not over yet. He wants Gwang Taek taken care of as well. So when they arrive back at Sa Mo’s they find troops waiting with orders for Gwang Taek. There is an edict to send him of to investigate the suspicious movements of some Japanese. Basically, they are sending him on a wild goose chase.
Gwang Taek insists he has to obey the edict, while Sa Mo argues that it’s probably a forgery. Gwang Taek goes to the palace to consult with Commander Im, but is turned back by a guard who points out that a curfew is in effect. So he goes to see Lord Hong, who is waiting for him. Hong tells him that the royal decree is not a forgery, and that he should obey it. He then offers Gwang Taek a drink, which he has poisoned.
As Gwang Taek walks away, he collapses in the street, spitting up blood. Meanwhile, Cho Rip brings a bottle to share with Dong Soo. And Sa Mo paces waiting for Gwang Taek to return.
The Crown Prince is escorted from his cell, and from his own cell, General Seo gives him a final formal bow. As Commander Im helps the Crown Prince with his robes, Cho Rip arrives. He drugged Dong Soo’s drink, and he offers himself as the substitute for the Prince. This is the first that the Prince has heard of this plan to save him, and he isn’t happy about sacrificing Cho Rip to save himself. Commander Im tells him this is the only way, and Cho Rip rather bravely asks the Prince to allow him to make this choice.
Dong Soo awakens and flips out to find a note from Cho Rip. Commander Im stops him from interfering, and tells him that once the Prince escapes they can try to save Cho Rip. Dong Soo is not a happy camper and collapses in tears.
Crown Prince Sado hears his sentence – to be imprisoned in a rice chest.
Dong Soo is sent to find Gwang Taek and inform him of the plans, but he only finds Sa Mo and Ji Sun at home. Dong Soo doesn’t tell Sa Mo the whole plan, and so the mountain boys and Sa Mo head out to track down Gwang Taek.
Dong Soo takes Ji Sun with him to meet up with the Crown Prince, and with her on a horse makes his way through town. Dong Soo spots bad guys, and so sends Ji Sun on ahead and bars the way.
Commander Im’s loyal lieutenants disable the guards who are guarding the rice chest and Cho Rip takes the place of the Crown Prince. The lieutenants lead the Prince to a secret passage, and make their final bows.
Meanwhile, Un leaves the place with a covered cart and some other guards, followed by Lord Hong’s creepy bodyguard. The bodyguard is ordered to relay this to Chun.
Chun gets the message and tells Ji not to come. He doesn’t think she’ll fight Gwang Taek, and it’s likely he’ll be there. If so, they’ll fight to the death.
The assassins block the path of the cart, and battle commences. All of the guards are killed, with the main guard finally realizing that Un was standing with the assassins. They flip open the covering of the cart to find a contraption that shoots multiple arrows and kills many of the assassins (Saw that on Mythbusters, actually. Neat contraption, it’s called a hwacha, and is pretty cool). Un is stunned to realize that he hadn’t been trusted with the whole escape plan, and Im had set up this and him as a diversion.
Im and the Crown Prince make their way through the escape tunnel, and as he reaches the end of it, the Prince makes a final ceremonial bow in the direction of the King. They reach the rendezvous point, however the others are not there. The assassins and creepy bodyguard, however, are.
Battle again commences, with Im wielding a mean sword, while the Crown Prince uses his pole weapon.
Just as Im takes a couple of arrows and starts to collapse, Chun gallops in and intervenes. Oddly enough, he throttles the creepy bodyguard to death for not dueling properly – instead of fighting sword to sword with Im, he had allowed Im to be attacked by arrows.
Chun allows Im and the Prince to move on, stalking them until they reach a better spot. Chun voices his regrets, but says he has no choice but to kill them. And off we go again!
In the end, the Prince kills the last of the assassins, and Im is fighting Chun as Un and the other remaining assassin from their fight arrive. Im breaks off his fight to confront Un. Un stands and allows Im to attack him, but as the sword comes down on his neck, Chun blocks it and tells Im that Un was always an assassin, and he can’t allow Im to kill their next successor.
Chun mortally wounds Im, and then asks if Un wants to finish him off. Un apologizes to Im, draws his sword, and, tears dropping from his eyes, stabs him.
As the Crown Prince arrives, Im takes his leave, sheathes his sword and drops into a formal kneeling position, and there….dies.
Chun and Un start to leave, leaving behind the Crown Prince begging Im to live. A very very pissed off Crown Prince reaches for his pole weapon and starts to stalk Chun.
And there, with Im kneeling in the forest, dead, we end episode 12.
IM!!! Show, you killed COMMANDER IM??!!! Oh man. This show is not shy about bumping people off, is it?
Then there is the curious case of Un and the mountain boys. Sang Gak knows that it was Un who stabbed him, however, he also knows that Un could have, but didn’t, kill him. So putting his trust in his friend Un that there was some other reason behind it, he covers for Un. Dong Soo lies as well, saying that Un was injured by the assassins who hurt Sa Mo.
I’m not sure if Im bought it totally, but Dong Soo is fairly certain that Un has something going on with the assassins. Im clearly kept Un out of the loop about the Prince’s escape plans. If Un was not an assassin, he would have fought off the attack and accepted that this was a diversion. However, if Un was an assassin, it would unmask him – and so it did.
BTW, just to be clear, the Prince’s sentence was meant to be a death sentence. He wasn’t just going to be imprisoned in the rice chest, he was meant to die there.
As for the fight at the end….SHOW!!! You killed IM!!! I’ll miss you. Sniff.