We leap right into the action, with Dong Soo battling his way through the assassins to get to Ji Sun at the end of the wharf.
He and Ji Sun continue their argument about Fate. She wants to know if she can believe that her fate can change, and if she can believe in him. He tells her all she has to do is take one step off that path. He grabs her hand and starts making their way back up the wharf.
The envoy orders the guards to attack Dong Soo, but Un orders them to stand back. Facing each other, Un and Dong Soo have an odd little reunion, each greeting the other with a mixture of relief and wariness. After the customary threats, Dong Soo tells Ji Sun to escape, while he starts fighting Un.
We see that various other people have arrived on the scene to witness this confrontation, including Jin Ju and the painter Kim Hong Do. Dong Soo actually gets in the first hit, cutting Un’s cheek. As they fight on, Un gets into a position where he could kill Dong Soo, but can’t bring himself to do it. Dong Soo tells him that this is his true self, that he can’t be a true assassin. Dong Soo says that he knows he’s the weaker fighter, but unlike Un who thinks his fate is to be a killer, Dong Soo doesn’t believe in Fate. (beat us to death with the theme of the day, eh Show?)
Anyway, as well as trying to persuade him back from the Dark Side, Dong Soo is saying that Un is throwing this fight, and Dong Soo knows it. As they break apart again, it’s Gwang Taek and Sa Mo’s turn to show up. Gwang Taek tells them to stop, and they march down the wharf. Gwang Taek grimly draws his sword on Dae Ung, who tells him that he’s acting to fast, and points to the nearby wharf where 2 assassins have caught Ji Sun and are holding swords to her throat.
Then Un waves the book at Gwang Taek and taunts him some more. Just then, a fire arrow hits the book, and Dae Ung drops it. Jin Ju fires another into the book and it goes up in flames. Cho Rip arrives at the other wharf and takes out the 2 assassins, freeing Ji Sun (GO CHO RIP!).
Dae Ung orders the guards to attack, and as they circle and prepare to fight, Dong Soo tells them to stop.
Now, we stop mid-fight to go visit Chun and Ji at the assassins headquarters. Chun has decided to take a journey. Now that the Plan has been discovered and dispatched, his tasks there are done. So he’s set himself a new task. He is going to take the list of martial artists and fighters and go out and duel them, one by one. He figures it will take at least a year, and Gwang Taek’s name is the last one the list. He asks Ji if she wants to go with him, and then tells her to do as she pleases.
Back at the wharf, all of the interested parties are now on the wharf near the ship. Dong Soo says that things can’t be left like this, or it will all repeat itself. He takes a torch, and asks Ji Sun if she wants to change her fate. She nods. He tells her that it will be very painful, enough that she will want to die.
He yells at them all to watch carefully, that he is destroying the Plan. And with that, he tells Ji Sun there is no other way, and asks if they should continue. She nods, and turns around. After telling everyone that this will destroy that so-called fate and prove that anything is possible, Dong Soo burns Ji Sun’s back, destroying the tattoo.
Finally, Dong Soo drops the torch and catches Ji Sun as she collapses. Dae Ung and the envoy retreat to the ship and escape.
That evening, everyone is hanging around waiting, as Gu Hyang the gisaeng treats Ji Sun’s burns. Sa Mo has words with Un, asking him how he could he become an assassin? Gwang Taek stops him and instead asks when Un joined the assassins. Un has a flashback to the night he followed Chun, but mostly stands silent. Gwang Taek tells him to leave. Sa Mo objects that if they let Un leave now, he’ll never leave the assassins. But Gwang Taek looks at Un and tells him that Un should have learned that he can still change his fate.
As Un leaves, Dong Soo stops him and tells him that this is going to be the last time he loses to Un. Un agrees that it may be. Dong Soo asks him if it is possible for him to return (ie, leave the assassins). Dong Soo says that he’ll wait for him. Un thanks him, and rides away. Through a series of flashbacks, we get a voiceover of Un saying that he wishes he could go back.
Back at the assassins headquarters, Un is freaked out to learn from Ji that Chun has left. So now, Ji says that Un is in charge. When he protests that Ji is still there, she says that from the day he arrived, Chun was intending him to take over. And not only that, but if you try to leave, the assassins hunt you down and kill you. The only thing to do is for him to become the next Chun.
He has a moment as he realizes that there is no way back for him in this situation.
Jin Ju has taken over caring for Ji Sun, and Dong Soo stops by to thank her for her help. She’s embarrassed as he realizes she was also burned by her own fire arrows. He tends to the burn, and tells her to say when if it hurts or it won’t get better. Her voiceover says that it hurts, but because of him (awwww, heartbreak city here). She says she has to go home, and tells Dong Soo to take good care of Ji Sun.
As Dong Soo watches over Ji Sun, he recalls Ji’s lecture that if he has things and people he wants to protect, he needs to get stronger.
Ji Sun awakens, and her voiceover and her flashbacks tells us that she never thought she could change her fate because that was what she was always told. However, Dong Soo taught her that it could change.
Next we see Dong Soo piggybacking Ji Sun back home, along with the rest of his crew. Jang Mi and Mi So note that with Ji Sun alive and Dong Soo back to normal, all they need is for Un to return for things to be put right.
Un, however, is busy at the assassins headquarters. Gu Hyang tells him that Ji Sun’s burns should heal and not affect her much. She tells him that this result is a thousand times better than Ji Sun’s previous burden. Un’s voiceover wonders if he would have been able to burn Ji Sun like that.
Gwang Taek is headed off, and Dong Soo chases after him to the courtyard. He goes down on his knees and asks Gwang Taek to teach him.
Jin Ju, on the other hand, is asking for drinks apparently planning on getting plastered. Kim Dong Ho arrives and asks how Ji Sun is doing.
Un visits with Lord Hong, who questions why Un is now in charge of the Assassins. Un freaks Lord Hong out by insisting that Hong raise his speech when addressing him. He tells Hong that he may be young, but he’s the Master of the Assassins and will be treated properly. Hong takes offense, and the creepy bodyguard draws his sword on Un. Un reminds Hong of some advice he had given him, and that he’s the stronger one here, so will be unyielding in front of them. He takes his leave, with Hong fuming behind him.
Chun, meanwhile, has gone off on his travels, encountering nameless swordsmen and dueling them.
Back at the palace, the Prince visits the King, and discusses his studies of the Classic of History. The King gives the Prince a problem to solve – it involves a balance and some weights. The test is to find the correct balance between the king, scholars and people as represented by the scale and weights. As he works, he flashes back to Gwang Taek giving him the Crown Prince’s half coin – and he shifts weight to the people.
Dong Soo is getting his first lessons from Gwang Taek, which mostly involve him failing miserably. So THIS voiceover uses both Chun and Dong Soo to tell us that footwork is the basic foundation of any martial art.
The Prince reports back to the King with his solution to the puzzle, placing equal weight on the court and the people, but with weight in the middle for the King. His explanation is that the King should not swing from side to side but be the unwavering center that balances things. The King approves and tells him to not worry about factions but listen to other views and be balanced. The King tells him that if the Norons collapse his power may collapse as well. The Prince, however, says that he thinks a king should think more of the commoners. This angers both the King and the Queen, who tell him that the country is run by the King and scholars, not the people. Lord Hong and the Queen’s father snicker on the sidelines to hear the Prince getting in trouble.
Lord Hong encounters Gwang Taek, and when Gwang Taek tries to ignore him, Hong tells him that he should be more careful. Hong accuses him of sucking up to the Prince. Gwang Taek, on the other hand, tells Hong that he’s a stinking little rat. Hong warns Gwang Taek that Dong Soo will likely have a short life, just like his father. And now for Hong’s flashback, we go all the way back to episode 1 and Gwang Taek losing his arm.
Cho Rip sits down to drink with Dong Soo and tells him that he feels out of place. He’s not good with weapons and he doesn’t think he’s a good fighter. Dong Soo tells him that he’s wrong, it’s just that he’s been hanging out with them, and so doesn’t look good by comparison (true that). Cho Rip points out that Un isn’t there, and Dong Soo nods and says let’s not to talk about Un anymore. Cho Rip says that it looks like Dong Soo will be studying with Gwang Taek, and Dong Soo tells him ok, what is it? Cho Rip says he is going to return to his home. He says that he thought about things when he was in the rice chest. (now for Cho Rip’s obligatory flashback!) He thought that he could do more with something he was better at, which was studying.
Gwang Taek meets with Dong Soo and Sa Mo and tells them that they are leaving. He says Lord Hong is gunning for Dong Soo, so they’re going to go off and train off where he trained with Dong Soo’s father back in the day.
Dong Soo asks Ji Sun if she’ll come with them, and she thanks him but refuses. She says she wants to find her own path (hey, props to you girl). He asks if she’ll wait for him, and she agrees. And they hug, witnessed by Cho Rip and Jin Ju.
Ji arrives at the crack of dawn, startling the heck out Jang Mi and Mi So. However, all she wants is to cook a meal for Gwang Taek before he leaves. Jun Ju arrives and pitches in as well, making rice balls for their journey.
They all head off, and as a parting request Dong Soo asks Jin Ju to look after Ji Sun. (oh you are DENSE, Dong Soo.)
Anyway, Cho Rip returns home, shatters his glasses, which were apparently a disguise, and it’s revealed that he’s really the son of a yangban family, and is named Hong Guk Yeong (at which point I start yelling at the screen – because this has tipped my coincidence meter into the red. Even for THIS show that’s going just a bit far. We’ve drifted into yet another alternate reality here.)
Chun is still off traveling the scenic byways of Joseon to track down the other fighters. It’s not that he wants to kill them, just duel them to prove who is better.
At the palace, Lord Hong puts in objections to the Prince being guarded by the late Crown Prince’s guards. Clearly they are a bad influence. The King agrees to dismiss the guards, but in turn declares that General Seo is getting pardoned and reinstated. The Norons throw a hissy over that, but the King insists, and appoints General Seo to a naval command.
Ji Sun heads out to the market, making copious notes, and vowing to show Dong Soo that she has made her own path. She also runs into Kim Hong Do, who sketches her on the sly, Jin Ju and Gu Hyang, who both keep an eye on her. Ji Sun notes a serious fashion lapse! There are no fur hats! Alas! What’s a girl to do?
Gu Hyang reports back to Un, who seems to understand that Ji Sun has found herself a business opportunity. Ji Sun heads out to the one place she has heard of that has fur hats, taking the mountain boys as guards. Un lurks in the background, also keeping an eye out. Ji Sun trades a hair ornament for the hat.
Ji Sun goes to Jin Ki and organizes the purchase of shearling to make into hats. Jin Ju is reluctantly pulled into being the shearling buyer.
Gwang Taek and Dong Soo finally arrive at their destination, a little place in the middle of nowhere. Dong Soo is miffed that instead of training, he’s mostly put in charge of chores. Like cooking. And fanning Gwang Taek while playing go. (Wax on, wax off, Daniel)
And now! High Noon, Chun-style. He crosses another one off his list.
Dong Soo’s lessons start in earnest. Gwang Taek tells him that he will have to exceed Gwang Taek’s skills, and as Dong Soo kneels and swears he’ll succeed, we end episode 15.
This episode was a bridge, it finished the previous plotlines and set everyone in place for the second half of the show.
If there was one more flashback, I swear we might as well have been watching a highlight reel of the previous episodes. And again with the voiceovers! It was like the director had taken the lazy way out.
I do feel sorry for Un, who really is trapped as an assassin. He wanted to find a way out, but knows that you can’t really leave except in a coffin. Not to mention he spent the previous episode trying to figure out how to save Ji Sun, but Dong Soo went to an extreme he hadn’t even contemplated.
And of course, there’s Jin Ju and her crush on Dong Soo, which everyone but him realizes. Heck, she even told Ji Sun. Alas!
Now, personally, I am not a huge Ji Sun fan. I do get why the Korean audience in particular likes her. She’s the noble daughter par excellence, but has enough spunk to shoot arrows and start a business. My problem is more with the actress playing the adult Ji Sun. I liked the younger one more, as she was more expressive – still controlled, but expressive. The adult Ji Sun just has so few expressions that it’s annoying to watch. But she still hasn’t reached the status of wanting to feed her to alligators.
And I noted earlier, when Cho Rip turned into Hong Guk Yeong, I nearly burst a blood vessel. Seriously, Show? You had to go there? Particularly when we saw Cho Rip being recruited in the streets, it makes no sense, and is annoying in trying to draw every single major historical figure of this era into this fantasy. I could have lived all series without this particular twist. Oh well.
On the other hand, Chun was off playing, so we had the interspersed Chun fighting scenes to warm the cockles of my heart. Gotta take the good with the bad!