Open Thread: Nirvana in Fire Episodes 13, 14 & 15

Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! It definitely feels like things are gearing up, these episodes, for bigger and more exciting thrills ahead! I hope you guys are enjoying the ride! (And, isn’t this just a great shot of our Divine Talent Mei Changsu? So much thoughtful intent, so perfectly framed. 🤩)

Here are our usual ground rules, before we begin:

1. Please don’t post spoilers in the Open Thread, except for events that have happened in the show, up to this point. If you really need to talk about a spoiler, it is possible to use the new spoiler tags, but please know that spoilers are still visible (ie, not hidden) in the email notification that you receive, of the comment in question. We have quite a few first-time viewers among us, and we don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

2. Discussions on this thread don’t have to close when newer threads open, just so you know! But as we progress through our group watch, please keep the discussions clear of spoilers from future episodes, so that future readers coming to this thread won’t be accidentally spoiled. Does that make sense?

Without further ado, here are my reactions to this set of episodes; have fun in the Open Thread, everyone! ❤️

My thoughts

Episode 13

We get an important reveal about the smuggled gunpowder case this episode, but first, we learn that Minister He is bedridden because he’s too distraught over his son’s inevitable execution, for killing Qiu Ze, and therefore, work at the Ministry of Personnel has come to a halt.

As Prince Yu makes some interim arrangements, he muses that it will be difficult to get Minister He to pick himself up, which is when Banruo advises that since Qiu Ze’s father, Count Wenyuan, is looking to avenge his son, with a life for a life, they can simply give him a life.

Ooh. I wonder what poor scapegoat Banruo has in mind, to render in exchange for Young Minister He?

Meanwhile, Yujin and Jingrui pay Mei Changsu a visit, and Yujin brings a gift of several baskets of mandarins freshly delivered from Lingnan. Interestingly, Fei Liu, who usually loves mandarins, sniffs one, and discards it without eating it. This, combined with Yujin’s excited rambling, where he mentions that the mandarins were shipped directly from Lingnan Province by official cargo ships via the Fu River, which need not stop for checks, gives Mei Changsu pause for thought.

I am in awe of how Mei Changsu’s mind works. With his casual remark that Yujin should be visiting the Empress since she’s taken ill, he manages to ascertain that Yujin’s father, Marquis Yan, is not on close terms with the Empress, even though they are siblings. And, he also manages to determine that Marquis Yan is generally not big on new year celebrations, preferring to spend his time cultivating his medicine-making skills. These are two very key pieces of information which will come into play later in the episode.

Next, Prince Jing pays his monthly visit to Concubine Jing, and Concubine Jing tells him the information that she’s gathered, from the time she’d sniffed the Empress’s teacup. Prince Jing wastes no time in paying Mei Changsu a visit, in order to share this information. I like this idea, that Prince Jing now trusts Mei Changsu so well, that Mei Changsu would be the first person he would seek out, to discuss a perplexing matter such as this.

We learn that the Empress was poisoned by a type of grass called ruanhui, which, when ingested, causes dizziness, loss of strength in the limbs, and a reduced appetite, which last for 6-7 days. How very curious indeed, that someone would go to the trouble of poisoning the Empress, and yet, use such a light hand about it. Mei Changsu absently fingers his sleeve as he ponders the information, and this catches Prince Jing’s attention. Ooh.

Clearly, even though Mei Changsu now looks nothing like he’d used to, when he’d been Lin Shu, and even though he’s gone to the trouble of changing his handwriting, like we’ve seen, there are still personal habits and quirks that stay with him. I’d love for Prince Jing to figure out that Mei Changsu is, indeed, his best friend Lin Shu, but, as we’ve discussed, that in itself has its risks. Let’s see how this pans out.

I’m intrigued that seeing this, gives Prince Jing a bit of a start, and that he would even mention it to Mei Changsu. Could he be testing Mei Changsu..? For now, Mei Changsu brushes it off with a pretty convincing counter-point, that it’s probably a habit that many others have, besides him.

Prince Jing and Mei Changsu discuss the illegal fireworks case that Shen Zhui is investigating, and Mei Changsu asks Prince Jing if he is satisfied with the officials whom he’s recommended to Prince Jing. Prince Jing expresses that he’s very happy with them, because they’re all good officials, and the conversation turns to the question of sincerity. Prince Jing is uncomfortable that he can’t face these officials with absolute sincerity (because of his secret quest for the throne), and Mei Changsu counters that sincerity and artifice are both needed, particularly in something so dangerous as the fight for the Crown.

What’s interesting to me about this scene, is how much Mei Changsu leans into his “bad guy” sort of persona, as he illustrates what it means to have both sincerity and artifice. It’s almost as if he wants Prince Jing to think badly of him.

It’s also very interesting to me, that Prince Jing seems distinctly uncomfortable, that Mei Changsu is making himself out to be such a cruel and heartless person. Is this because Prince Jing sees that Mei Changsu is not a cruel and heartless person? Or is it because Prince Jing is uncomfortable at being associated with a cruel and heartless person? Or perhaps it is both?

I do like the idea that Mei Changsu presents, that while Prince Jing looks at character, Mei Changsu looks at talent; sometimes it’s character that is most needful, and sometimes it is talent. This makes the two of them appear very complementary to me.

When Prince Jing reminds Mei Changsu that people repay in kind what they receive, Mei Changsu replies that he doesn’t care about that, and he also doesn’t care about what methods Prince Jing may use to test him; he knows what he’s loyal to, and he’s never thought to betray anyone. At this point, I feel like Mei Changsu almost looks like he’s in a trance, while he stares into the fire. I feel like this conversation has touched a deep, raw nerve, for him.

We see Noble Consort Yue approach the Emperor and, making a show of being concerned for the Empress’s health, suggest that Noble Consort Xushu be appointed to assist in the ceremonial rituals.

I’m pretty sure that Noble Consort Yue’s intention here, is to get the Emperor to have her assist in the rituals in the Empress’s stead, but her efforts come to naught, because the Emperor simply concedes that even though he hadn’t been happy about the debate, that it had been the right thing to do. He even reminds Noble Consort Yue to mind her sense of propriety in front of the Empress, and Noble Consort Yue does look rather disappointed, underneath her demure smile.

While this is going on, Mei Changsu paces, with Li Gang by his side, as he works to piece together the various fragments of intel that he’s gathered, about the gunpowder smuggling case. He stops in his tracks, when he connects the gunpowder to an intent to blow up the year-end ritual ceremony, and in turn, connects the smuggling to someone who’s no ordinary person, since they are able to make use of the official cargo ships for the transport of the gunpowder, while making use of the Ministry of State Revenue and the illegal fireworks factory as a cover-up.

Mei Changsu pays a visit to Yujin’s residence, asking to meet Yujin’s father, Marquis Yan. While waiting for Marquis Yan to return, Mei Changsu chats with Yujin and Jingrui, and, at Yujin’s expression of admiration for envoy Lin Xiangru from the historical records, Mei Changsu proceeds to tell them the story of an amazing envoy from Liang, from 37 years ago, who had, at the age of 20, threaded through enemy camps alone, and debated with their ministers, thus forming rifts in their alliance, which had then given the Liang forces the opportunity to successfully fight off the enemies.

Yujin is thoroughly shocked to learn that this envoy is none other than his own father, Marquis Yan.

Meanwhile, Prince Yu is having servants beaten, in hopes of getting a confession related to the Empress’s poisoning. No confessions are forthcoming, however, and this gives Prince Yu pause.

Upon Marquis Yan’s return, Mei Changsu essentially confronts him with his conclusion, that Marquis Yan, is, in fact, the person who had smuggled in gunpowder, intending to kill the Emperor by rigging the censer with gunpowder, designed to explode when the Emperor ignited the fuse with the burning of sacrificial notes.

Not only that, Mei Changsu states evenly that even though Marquis Yan is not on close terms with his sister the Empress, he values family ties enough, to find a way to prevent the Empress from attending the ceremony – which explains the light-handed poisoning.

Wow. What a reveal! 🤯 It’s amazing how Mei Changsu’s mind works, piecing together all these seemingly unrelated fragments of information, to form one cohesive whole. I’m so impressed, honestly.

When Marquis Yan asks Mei Changsu if it was the Empress’s illness that had made Mei Changsu suspicious of him, Mei Changsu answers that it was actually the mandarins, because it is indeed strange, that Marquis Yan, who famously won’t even spend new year’s with his family, would make a special order of mandarins just for the occasion. Mmm. Fair point, though I do think most people wouldn’t be able to make that connection!

It all comes out, that Marquis Yan had been in love with Noble Consort Chen, who’d been taken from him by the Emperor, after he’d worked to help the Emperor ascend the throne. Marquis Yan had tried to let it go, and move on with his life, telling himself that it was fine as long as she was happy in the palace. However, with the Chiyan Army case, her son Prince Qi had been sentenced to death, and Noble Consort Chen had committed suicide soon after. Ack. What a tragic story! 💔

Marquis Yan says that if not for his pursuit of Dao, he would have joined them in death long ago, and now, he’s willing to pay any price, if he can kill the Emperor.

Mei Changsu counters that this plan of Marquis Yan’s, would only result in chaos, where the court would be in disarray, the borders would be unguarded, and Prince Yu and the Crown Prince would just continue fighting each other. Not only that, all the people who had died unjustly, would still be branded as traitors.

Despite Mei Changsu’s words, Marquis Yan is still adamant about wanting to kill the Emperor, which is when Mei Changsu reminds him to spare a thought for Yujin, his son, who would ultimately be implicated, if Marquis Yan is charged with regicide. Mei Changsu makes an earnest suggestion to Marquis Yan, to stop, while he still can.

Meanwhile, Commander Meng inspects the altar for the year-end ritual ceremony, and finds the fuse hidden in the censer. He removes it, looking darkly troubled.

Episode 14

Marquis Yan is pretty stunned to realize that the purpose of Mei Changsu’s confrontation, isn’t to bring him down, but simply, to stop him from acting on his plan. He is understandably suspicious of Mei Changsu’s intentions, particularly since Mei Changsu does not appear to want anything in return from Marquis Yan, for keeping his secret. I mean, that’s totally not how things tend to work, particularly when it’s anything to do with palace politics and potential treason, right?

Mei Changsu manages to convince Marquis Yan that he recognizes and appreciates Marquis Yan’s devotion (to Noble Consort Chen) and loyalty (to Commander Lin, who, unbeknownst to Marquis Yan, is actually Mei Changsu’s – or rather Lin Shu’s – father), and wants to save him.

We also learn from Marquis Yan’s expression of concern, that among the princes, Prince Yu is most like the Emperor, in that he is cold and cruel, even though he may appear righteous. That’s interesting information, because thus far, we have not seen the Emperor reveal that much of his cold and cruel nature. Mei Changsu basically sidesteps Marquis Yan’s expression of befuddlement at why a person of such talent as Mei Changsu, would align himself with a person such as Prince Yu, and advises Marquis Yan not to think too much.

I do think it’s a distinct sign of respect, when Marquis Yan’s parting request of Mei Changsu, is that if anything were to happen to him, that Mei Changsu would save Yujin, out of consideration for their friendship.

Also, I think it’s so humane and considerate of Mei Changsu, to actually convince Marquis Yan to spend new year’s eve with Yujin. We learn this in retrospect, since we don’t actually see the two men talking about it, but from the way Mei Changsu gives Yujin the news, to the way Marquis Yan does actually invite Yujin to welcome the new year with him later in the episode, it’s clear that this had indeed been part of their conversation.

Next, we learn that what Banruo had meant, in suggesting to Prince Yu that they give Count Wenyuan a life for a life, is that they replace Young Master He with a lookalike. Gosh, wouldn’t that mean that they plan to have some poor innocent dude executed in Young Master He’s place? That’s terrible. 😱

Prince Yu doesn’t appear too thrilled at this either, but he doesn’t seem to be that conflicted either, musing that they don’t have a choice in the matter, because of how much Minister He treasures his son (and how much Prince Yu needs Minister He to be fully functional, which he leaves unsaid).

This means that not only is Minister of Personnel, Minister He, involved in this scheme, Minister of Justice, Qi Min, is involved as well, because it is only with his complicity, that they are able to swop out Young Minister He with his lookalike. Minister Qi advises Minister He not to allow his son to spend new year’s at home, to which Minister He readily agrees.

Meanwhile, Shen Zhui notes with curiosity, Minister He’s sudden revival from his bedridden state. I thought Shen Zhui’s observation a very keen one; that because Minister He had been suffering from an ailment of the heart, the remedy that would cause him to rise from his bed, would have to have been a remedy for the heart as well. That’s such a penetrating observation, isn’t it? Shen Zhui’s quite the wise sage, it looks like.

I’m quite amused that Li Gang affably hits on the possibility of a lookalike scheme in Young Master He’s case, when thinking aloud about the matter with Mei Changsu, though I’m sure Mei Changsu himself would have arrived at a similar conclusion on his own. There’s something really good-natured and easygoing about Li Gang, that I really like. Also, how shrewd of Mei Changsu, to act on this, by using Xie Yu.

Essentially, he’s making use of the fierce contention between Prince Yu and the Crown Prince to his advantage. All he has to do, is feed Xie Yu the damning information about Minister He and Minister Qi, and Xie Yu wastes no time in taking them down.

Thanks to Minister He taking his son home to see his grandmother one last time, Xie Yu, with Count Wenyuan in tow, is able to catch father and son redhanded, as Minister He is trying to get his son to leave, early the next morning. You can practically hear the sound of Minister He and Minister Qi going down at the same time, with Count Wenyuan’s decisive declaration, that he’s going to drag Minister He before the Emperor.

Yujin discusses the case with Jingrui, and when Yujin criticizes the ministers for their scheming, Jingrui quotes Mei Changsu, saying, “Is this all the fault of the ministers? An Emperor is the source. Clear springs begets clear flows, turbid springs begets turbid waters. (From “A Gentlemans’ Way” by Xunzhi.) Right now in the Court, treating others with sincerity is considered naivety. If you don’t scheme, you are immature; the social vogue is as such. Whose fault is it?”

This conversation is the trigger, which causes Yujin to question whether Mei Changsu is indeed helping Prince Yu, as everyone assumes.

We see Mei Changsu and Nihuang exchanging thoughts on the situation, which means that Nihuang is fully aware of Mei Changsu’s intentions, with regard to the politics of the court. Nihuang reacts with some surprise at the idea that Mei Changsu intends to bring down Xie Yu, but Mei Changsu replies matter-of-factly, that he’s planned everything from a long time ago.

On the eve of the new year, we see various celebrations in progress; the princes ready themselves to receive gifts bestowed by the Emperor; a joint family celebration is held between the Xie and Zhuo families; Yujin spends a quiet but meaningful time with his father; everyone at Mei Changsu’s manor warmly gets together to eat dumplings.

While the Emperor’s gift of special dishes to various honorable families are distributed, the vibe at the joint family celebration at the Xie household is warm and jovial, with everyone seeming to dote on Jingrui extra. Brother-in-law Qingyao has even prepared a special stallion as a gift for Jingrui.

Interestingly, Xie Yu and Zhuo Dingfeng insist on excusing themselves early, even though, in previous years, they would wait together for the arrival of the special gift bestowed by the Emperor. Even more interestingly, Zhuo Dingfeng gives Qingyao a Meaningful Look, at which Qingyao immediately moves to take Jingrui away, on the pretext of showing him the stallion.

The next thing we know, a group of Imperial Guards, along with the eunuch bearing the gifts, are attacked and slain by a masked attacker – and we see that the masked attacker is none other than Zhuo Dingfeng. Hrmm. I wonder what this scheme is about? Why would Xie Yu have Zhuo Dingfeng kill this group of guards, and the eunuch too?

Poor Commander Meng. The Emperor takes him to task for not guarding the palace grounds and its surrounding areas sufficiently, and not only orders that he be given 20 lashings, but also, that he solve the case within 30 days, or face further punishment. Yikes. That’s quite terrible? How would Commander Meng be in good shape to investigate the case, if he needs to recover from being flogged? 😱

When Nihuang asks Mei Changsu whether he needs her to ask the Emperor for mercy on Commander Meng, Mei Changsu expresses that it’s not Commander Meng’s current situation that is cause for concern. It’s that, if there are further cases that crop up before this one is solved, that this would erode the Emperor’s trust in Commander Meng.

..And, as it turns out, that is exactly what Xie Yu has in mind.

He tells Zhuo Dingfeng to lie low for the time being, because, even though this recent attack on the Imperial Guards went smoothly, the close relationship between the two families would invite suspicion, if Zhuo Dingfeng were to be involved in Xie Yu’s other schemes.

This is when we learn that Xie Yu has already asked Zhuo Dingfeng to recruit highly skilled martial arts experts, for such a time as this. He’s determined to now find other opportunities to undermine Commander Meng’s credibility in the palace, using these martial arts experts.

Poor Commander Meng, getting targeted like this, even though he’s not actively scheming against anybody. I feel bad for him. 😭

Episode 15

I just love the way Mei Changsu’s mind works; he’s brilliant, is what he is.

It’s amazing to me, that via a relatively quick process of deduction and elimination, Mei Changsu manages to figure out that Xie Yu is the most likely person behind the attack on the eunuch and the Imperial Guards. Essentially, Xie Yu has the most to gain from Commander Meng losing his position, and would even be a prime candidate for Commander Meng’s replacement; a position that would give Marquis Xie much-coveted opportunity to control the Palace.

On a side note, I do like this repeated motif, of Mei Changsu discussing things with Nihuang. It’s a smallish thing, but it makes their relationship feel that much closer, because they’d most certainly have to be in regular contact, in order for these conversations to happen as often as they appear to.

Also, we see that Nihuang addresses Mei Changsu as 兄长 (xiōngzhǎng); this is simply a more formal way to say 哥哥 (gēge). I’m assuming that this difference between her past and current terms of address towards Lin Shu, has to do with her own maturity. It was probably fine to address him as 哥哥 (gēge) in her teens, but now, it’s probably more proper to address him as 兄长 (xiōngzhǎng).

Mei Changsu has a sudden realization, that it’s important that this case involving Commander Meng, must not be perceived to have anything to do with the fight for the crown, because this would touch a raw nerve with the Emperor, and be counter-productive, which is why he rushes  immediately to see Prince Yu, to talk with him about this.

While this is going on, the Emperor assigns the case to Inspectors Xia Chun and Xia Dong from Xuanjing Bureau, just like Xie Yu had predicted. The Emperor acknowledges that he doesn’t actually expect Commander Meng to be able to solve the case, and had only commanded him to solve it, as a way of intimidating him. He orders both inspectors to investigate covertly, and solve the case.

It’s interesting to see Xia Chun and Xia Dong exchange thoughts during their preliminary investigations, as it reveals to us how their minds work, just like how we’d seen Mei Changsu’s mind work, while thinking about the same case. I suppose they need to be thorough in considering all possibilities, but it is rather amusing to me, that in the amount of time they spend on futile theories like it being a mugging, or someone wanting revenge on the eunuch, Mei Changsu had already arrived at his logical and very correct conclusion.

I will say, though, that it does appear that Xia Dong’s arguably a better investigator than Xia Chun, given that she’s the one whose train of thought is more accurate and makes more sense, while Xia Chun’s theory about Jiangzuo Alliance being behind the attack makes no sense at all.

Meanwhile, Mei Changsu’s displeasure is quite clear, as he awaits Prince Yu’s return from the palace. On Banruo’s advice, Prince Yu has gone to ask for mercy on Commander Meng’s behalf. Mei Changsu explains to a somewhat perplexed Prince Yu, upon his return, why it is not a good idea for the Emperor to think that Prince Yu is trying to get on close terms with Commander Meng.

Essentially, it is because this would imply that Prince Yu hopes to have Commander Meng on his side, and at his command, in the future. On top of this, Mei Changsu also talks Prince Yu through the potential scenario of Commander Meng losing his position, which would then make things ripe for Xie Yu to step in.

Prince Yu is suitably chastened, and poor Banruo looks worried and troubled, because her counsel to Prince Yu has just been proven unsound; her advice now looks like child’s play, in comparison to how Mei Changsu analyzes the situation.

Next, we see that Mei Changsu already has Li Gang investigating which martial arts experts Tianquan Manor has been in contact with in the last several years, and he’s also ordered heavy surveillance of Xie Mansion.

At the same time, we see that Mei Changsu receives an update via homing pigeon, that Lin Chen’s mission in Southern Chu has gone smoothly. Mei Changsu instructs Li Gang to send a reply, that Lin Chen should arrive in the Capital before 12th April, so as not to interfere with their plans.

(OHH. We learn later this episode, that Jingrui’s birthday is on 12th April, AND, we see that Mei Changsu agrees to attend the banquet. This definitely seems related!)

Mei Changsu then pays Commander Meng a visit, and essentially tells him to focus on getting better, and not bother too much about solving the case, because it’s not for him to solve. However, Mei Changsu does make a promise to Commander Meng, that he will not let Xie Yu off, for daring to touch Commander Meng. I love how Mei Changsu basically says (and I paraphrase), “Since they want to play on my grounds, I’ll show ’em who’s boss.” 😆

Ooh. It feels at least a little bit significant, that at their next meeting, Nihuang clues in on the fact that Mei Changsu’s hands are unusually cold. Mei Changsu brushes it off, saying that he’d just touched some cold water, but it’s easy to see that this observation does unsettle Nihuang, at least a little bit.

Also, Mei Changsu makes a very keen deduction, that if Commander Meng comes out as being able to solve a case that even the famed Xuanjing Bureau is unable to solve, it wouldn’t be a pleasant surprise for the Emperor at all, and would instead strike fear into the Emperor. After all, an Emperor’s always on his guard against people who might possibly be a danger to him, right?

How very suspicious, that on the night where a fire breaks out in the Palace, Jingrui actually sees Qingyao returning to the Xie Mansion at an unusually late hour. I’m pretty sure this means that Qingyao was somehow involved in setting that fire at the Palace, even though the Imperial Guards are reported to have swiftly executed the eunuch who’s supposedly the culprit. Hrmm.. I wonder how Qingyao would have been involved, because his behavior definitely seems suspicious.

Unfortunately for the Empress, the Emperor harshly blames her for not taking better care of Inner Court matters, just as Prince Yu (likely under Mei Changsu’s counsel) had predicted. As a result, the Empress comes down on any and all wrongdoers in the Inner Court with a harsh hand, ordering every single offender to be put to death by flogging. Yikes. That’s harsh too.

I’m rather troubled about the fact that Gong Yu pays a visit to Mei Changsu’s residence, even though she does not get to see him. I mean, if she’s under strict orders not to go to the manor without permission, might it not be possible that it’s because it’s important for her not to be seen as connected to Mei Changsu? I’m a little concerned that perhaps Gong Yu might have been spotted entering the manor? You can’t ever be too careful, in this world that’s full of people anxious to take one another down?

Speaking of whom, we see Xie Yu spinning terrible and completely untrue tales about Shen Zhui making up cases to harm the Crown Prince, and feeding those tales to Zhuo Dingfeng and Zhuo Qingyao. He even tells them that Shen Zhui is definitely on Prince Yu’s side, and orders them to destroy all evidence that Shen Zhui might have obtained in his investigations – and then adds that if necessary, they can destroy Shen Zhui too. Ugh. Lies!

Meanwhile, Shen Zhui pays Prince Jing a visit at his home, and it’s nice to see them have a relaxed conversation together.

When Prince Jing hears that Shen Zhui’s investigation on the illegal fireworks factory case is going well, and that he’s getting ready to report his findings to the Court once it resumes on the 16th day of the new year (I assume it has to be the 16th at the earliest because the Chinese new year is 15 days long), he cautions Shen Zhui that he ought to be more careful, and shouldn’t walk around so freely. I’m glad that Prince Jing thinks to send Shen Zhui off with his second-in-command, Lie Zhanying, as his escort, because we see Qingyao lurking around the corner, watching Shen Zhui’s every move.

I love how shrewd Mei Changsu is. The way he asks Jingrui to demonstrate his martial arts prowess to him, is in the context of friendly concern, but clearly, he gains some insights from the demonstration. Namely, he gets to observe the sword technique which is practiced by Zhuo Dingfeng, since Zhuo Dingfeng is the one who taught Jingrui, and he also gets to confirm that Qingyao also practices the technique, and is, in fact, much more well-versed than Jingrui himself.

How intriguing, that when Li Gang reports back to Mei Changsu, with the list of martial arts experts who have been associated with Tianquan Manor, Mei Changsu doesn’t even bother to look at the list. He only instructs that each of these experts be challenged to fights in accordance with Jianghu rules, and beaten just bad enough, so that they’d be unable to get out of bed.

Ooh. Look at Mei Changsu disarming Xie Yu’s weapons, even before those weapons are called into action! 🤩

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phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago

Character Reference Guide
(In order of appearance and description is based on their place in drama at time of appearance)

Episode 13

  • Marquis Yan – Yujin’s father and brother of the Empress, spends lots of time in the temple, the son of Imperial Tutor Yan, known as the ‘Imperial Uncle’
  • Consort Xu – has been married to the Emperor the longest but is a non-factor in drama as we never see her

Episode 14

  • Xie Qi – Jingrui’s pregnant sister who is married to Zhuo son, attended New Year Family celebration
  • Madame Zhuo – Mother of the Zhuo clan, attended New Year Family celebration, friend of Grand Princess Liyang

Episode 15

  • Xia Chun – Xuanjing Bureau official, one of the three Xia orphans who were raised by Xia Jiang   
beez
4 months ago

@Ele Nash – thanks for that. I didn’t know that “Jing” is a royal name but during my struggle to keep track of the characters in my first watch I did keep grumbling about “why is everybody named Jing?!”

beez
4 months ago

Ohhhh yeah.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago

Poor Marquis Yan…his backstory is so tragic.

Prince Jing is starting to suspect MCS’s true identity. I can’t wait until he figures the truth.

At least the doppelganger dude is saved, yay!

Marquis Ning is a true evil mastermind. I hope he gets what he deserves, but I don’t want his wife and son to suffer…

beez
4 months ago

Or is Yan’s religious devotion all been a ploy for years while he plotted his revenge? Could staying at the temple keep him out of sight of Court spies and the Emperor?

BE
BE
4 months ago

Ep 15
Love your comments K on this episode, and I have nothing more to add to your and phl1rxd”s commentaries except at this point in show I too want to give a shout out to Mr. Understated and Underrated, and wonderfully understated in his acting the role, Li Gang as played by Wang Hong. As Natalia points out he is insightful, in a wonderfully backhanded way, utterly loyal, and perfect as right hand man for MCS as a spy almost invisible as he is.

Last edited 4 months ago by BE
BE
BE
4 months ago

Ep 13 addendum: I had wondered why earlier in show camera so often provided close ups of MCS rubbing his sleeve, a gesture so unconscious and of such nature one might infer it goes back to infancy as a tactile way baby MCS shut off his internal noise and over the years became a trigger for extreme mental focus.

Ep 14
Recently watching show Chocolate, I was distinctly reminded how completely food like rhythm and melody is as much a signafier of geography (and culture) as language, seeing Fei Liu at New Years made me wonder how universal and how far back the tradition of New Years dumplings in China and among people with Chinese heritage. Dumplings, yum.

Xie is a worthy opponent for MCS, planning for a single attack over a year in advance, not unlike MCS (as he reveals to Nihuang) planning to take down all these ministers well in advance.

I loved the MCS/Yujin interview. Up to this point Yujin, sweetheart that he is, has bordered on a bit frivolous, as revealed by his ignorance of his own father’s heroic exploits. But after his father had a heart to heart with him, and Yujin comes to see MCS to express his gratitude for saving his family and the reputatation of its heritage, that sweetness of Yujin’s appears amplified and deepened. He was a boy, now he is a man and his sweetness has gone from juice to wine.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

Oh bravo BE!

Ele Nash
4 months ago

All excellent stuff, excellently summarised, kfangurl. Ah, Mei Changsu in a sea of green 😍
So, I’ve nothing important to note other than I hope Nihuang is more than just someone for Mei Changsu to ‘explain’ things to? She’s too good a character to just be sitting with him nodding, rocking the gorgeous head piece, and worrying about his health, right? I do like Yujin, unexpectedly smart, and Jingrui, unexpectedly awesome with a sword. And lastly, I’m totally peeved at the Emperor for flogging Commander Meng. I hope he had someone nice applying that medicine to his bottom…

BE
BE
4 months ago

I am really enjoying how as show goes on, you are giving yourself more room to go beyond your wonderfully lucid and detailed highlight reels and noting as well how what you are watching is leading to your musings in response to them. No one I have seen in the critic business does this better than you K.
Ep 13 thoughts:
Show has an interesting way of telling its story, moving both backward and forward simultaneously. Introduction to Marquis Yan seems to have a dual purpose, not only does it add an interesting plot complication to the gunpowder conspiracy being plotted as a mechanism to catch Crown Prince stupid from greed, but introduces a wealth of material about show’s backstory via Yan’s backstory vis a vis the venn diagram emerging about the several players in the tragic set of events that set in motion the whole nine yards of NIF. In addition, it presents in relief the difference between MCS’ plotting and mere revenge, which Yan’s Guy Fawkes blow it all up and the emperor to smithereens is really all about. And finally presents a foil to Marquis Xie, our dynamic duo’s respective dads. So much in the detailing of this plot (show already chock a block with foreshadows, of which K is really beginning to pick up on in commentary here and for the rest of us too, when they make us go hmmn, send us of into red herring waters, or will only later lead to “ah-hah’s.” Plotting is the essential feature of story and at the same time show construction. What a tour de force of dramatic conceit and why show is so good for yakking about, even if the pace is sometimes seemingly slow and the actual action not really so much a major element, but rather an occasionally entertaining distraction, in this flying sword history.
Vis a vis Consort Yue, only in such an incredibly rigid patriarchal royal structure (think Consort Jing is only allowed to see her son because of his status as a secondary prince and her status in the consort pecking order on specifically assigned days), could a woman adopt, let alone get away with that ultra girly girly, baby faced, baby talking persona as a front for what is obviously an exceedingly manipulative self. One wonders if the Emperor not only sees through it as one would absolutely expect he would but finds it attractive, erotic even–patting the couch next to him for her to sit down. For me, my goodness do I find her repulsive.
A pinch of gunpowder on your mandarins–dee-lish! I finally understand the meaning of the title…salvation in hell.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

Ah BE – love the venn diagram reference! I burst out laughing over “my goodness do I find her repulsive.” I feel the same.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

When all the the info is in, phl1rxd, I am hoping for that venn diagram if you can figure out how to produce it, yuk…no pressure you understand.

Natalia
Natalia
4 months ago

A few views/questions about eps 13-15:

Episode 13: I am impressed by how clever Mei Changsu is. I don’t know if you are familiar with Judge Dee, Mei Changsu strongly reminded me of him. To go from Yujin’s rambling about mandarins to uncovering the whole plot to kill the Emperor was simply impressive. Also, Li Gang would be an ideal Watson. I just loved how he accidentally figured out Banruo’s plan to swap prisoners (in episode 15).
The scene between MCS and the Marquis Yan was so good.
And a question: General Meng finds there’s something going on with the altar, but did we see something coming out of it? Was it mentioned again? Did I miss something?

Episode 14, random thoughts:

  • Banruo kind of sucks as a counselor in this episode (and episode 15)
  • What a weird arrangement the Xe and Zhuo families have with respect to Jangrui. I know there was a mix up at birth etc but still, I find it strange that he calls everyone mother and father and he’s everyone’s brother!

I loved how Yujin is figuring out that MCS is not helping Prince Yu after all. Yujin is a lot smarter than the appears, it would seem.
Have I mentioned that I love how EVIL Marquis Xie is? (maybe 20 times so far…) With how clever and scheming he is, it is kind of puzzling how he’s not more powerful – I expect him to go down now that MCS is back in town, but it’s strange that he hasn’t taken more advantage of his obvious mental superiority up to now. Unless the Emperor is also much more cunning than he looks and he’s controlling Xie so far.

Episode 15, random thought: With respect to Xia Dong, I really wonder if women in ancient China could hold offices like that (Police inspector?). Seems pretty cool if this is the case. And yes, Xia Dong does look more competent than her colleague.
Nihuang seems to spend quite some time in MCS’s residence. I wonder if this would be socially acceptable back then.
Also, I don’t really like it that MCS is purposefully not letting Nihuang know that he’s seriously ill. I imagine he doesn’t want to make her worry, but it doesn’t seem fair.

manukajoe
manukajoe
4 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

I saw a video recently that explained how this style of Chinese wuxia stories, novels, movies mostly started with the author Jin Yong, who wrote The Condor Heroes. He laid out the concepts and rules like Tolkien did for Western High Fantasy. So as I understand it a lot of things are not historical exactly, rather they are stylised, and maybe women can have more freedom in this fictional history.

Last edited 4 months ago by manukajoe
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

Hi Natalie – I love your comparison of Li Gang to Dr. Watson. I 💖Li Gong.

Q: General Meng finds there’s something going on with the altar, but did we see something coming out of it? Was it mentioned again? Did I miss something?
A: MCS already knew that Marquis Yan planned to kill the Emperor by making the altar explode, so he sent Meng Zhi to remove the fuse (that piece of rope hidden in the sacrificial altar) and get rid of the gunpowder. Novel excerpt – As soon as the Emperor lights the incense to worship the heavens, he will ignite the fuse hidden in the furnace, and the entire altar will explode.” Source This would have killed whomever was close to the altar – the Emperor and the Empress.

As the Empress is Marquis Yan’s sister, he arranged for her to be given enough of that herb to make her sick for a few days so she would not be able to stand next to the Emperor at that altar. I hope I answered your question.

Natalia
Natalia
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Oh that makes sense; Meng was there to remove the fuse, he didn’t just discovered it. Thanks!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

Yes Natalie – our MCS was 10 steps ahead as always and sent Meng Zhi even before his conversation with Marquis Yan.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
4 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

Yay, another fan of Judge Dee!

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
4 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

The birth situation which was described very briefly in one of the early episodes calls to mind the story in the bible where King Solomon had to adjudicate between two women, one mother’s baby died during the night and she stole the other mother’s baby. Both claimed the baby was theirs and when King Solomon said let’s cut the baby in half with a sword to be fair, the fake mother said yes and the real mother cried and said she would give the baby to the fake mother, and that’s how King Solomon discerned the true mother.

In NIF, the Emperor played the King Solomon role, and decreed that the two families share Jingrui. The Emperor even gave JIngrui his own surname – Xiao. That’s why Xiao Jingrui’s naming convention sounds like the other royal princes – Xiao Jinghuan, Xiao Jingxuan, Xiao Jingyan etc. I only caught the story of the Emperor giving him this name on my second watch, on my first watch I was puzzled why Jingrui had a royal name.

Last edited 4 months ago by Elaine Phua
GuruGulabKhatri
GuruGulabKhatri
4 months ago

The only way I can get through these episodes is with copious amounts of popcorn! I am more than happy to be the fly on the wall to these proceedings, rather than a part of them. What a cutthroat environment!
Also, I haven’t seen it mentioned here, but I realized the Nihuang greeted MCS differently when he visits the Mu Manor. Instead of the bow with the hands folded in the front, she does a small curtsy? I think it caught my eye because I haven’t seen anyone else do it.
Also also, Commander Meng is surprisingly upbeat for someone who was flogged 20 times.

BE
BE
4 months ago

“What a cutthroat environment….” Literally if you are door dashing Palace New Years treats.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
4 months ago

Speaking of the small curtsy that Nihuang did, did anyone else notice Mu Qing’s delighted grin when she did it? He obviously took note of his big sis’ new behaviour around MCS. He even alluded to MCS possibly becoming his brother-in-law soon when she told him to listen to MCS’ advice to learn military strategies and he said “Yes, I understand that whatever you say I have to listen to, and now whatever Mr. Su says, I need to listen too!” Cue awkward looks from MCS and Nihuang lol

manukajoe
manukajoe
4 months ago

Show seems to have settled into an episodic routine at this point, each episode pretty much focuses on the latest scandal/machination.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Hi Joe – the pace is a bit slow now as we are in set up mode, but in a few episodes you will need to hold onto your horses as it goes Boom, and then Boom and then Boom. I promise Joe! 🧨🧨🧨

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Boom. LOL. Strikes me that MCS’ plotting like show full of misdirection with little skirmishes setting up a big battle. What I have been noticing is at first appeared that one thing would lead to the next, now there are things happening all over with the march toward something bigger, MCS is like a trapper who sets bait with his catches for bigger catches as he goes.

BE
BE
3 months ago
Reply to  manukajoe

@manukahoe: I would say if you are going to stick with this through 18, do really hold out till 21. Show does move at a rather glacial (or stately pace, take your pick), and that is a feature not a bug, but that is not to say it is utterly bereft of deeply dramatic turns. Episode 21!***

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Great point Fangurl – he is not being careful. Whew – it is a pretty awful way to die. It certainly looks awful.

Xia Chun even names the 3 sects that use this, but Xia Dong and Xia Chun must be able to prove it was him and his sect that did the killing.

I also think that Zhuo Dingfeng feels that the Marquis has enough influence that he can deflect if it gets to the point where he is being accused.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

So Fangurl, I invite you to think about the future…and you will see again how brilliant our MCS is. I cannot say anything else or I will spoil. My lips are sealed. Sigh! I will bring this up later because you really made a super good point.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Will do Fangurl.

Ele Nash
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I literally gasped at that stabbing – it looked real and gruesome!

Geo
Geo
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

@KFG: I think Zhu Dingfeng probably didn’t have the luxury of disguising his technique, after all he is fighting 6 imperial guards who while no match for him individually, could be dangerous as a group. He is also the consummate professional, leaving no evidence and as last resort has the Marquis to cover for him.

j3ffc
j3ffc
3 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

And didn’t we see someone else, in a very early episode if not E1, being dispatched that way? Yet another of the 10, 214 connections I am sure I am missing….

Geo
Geo
3 months ago
Reply to  j3ffc

You’re right, in ep 1, the guard who is on his way to invite Prince Yu to dinner is killed in the same fashion by the assassin, clearly from Tianquan Manor. Good catch, j3ffc. The assassin also goes for Prince Yu’s throat in the assassination attempt, clearly a tried and true method of killing.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago

Super 3 Episode Review Fangurl! Nobody does it better. I know you are happy to see Marquis Yan again! My guy shows up next week and I am excited!

E13- The Boys Are Back In Town! Refreshed from their hot springs vacation in Huqiu, the Darling Dynamic Duo are back thank goodness. I love how this makes MCS smile which is a pretty rare occurrence unless you count the times Fei Liu amuses him. Probing into the mandarin dilemma, I watch the mind of Minolta clicking! 

I feel so sorry for Yujin. He has experienced loneliness and sorrow because he basically has had no family support. His mother has died and his father ignores him. Jingrui is really his only family. I must say that despite this Yujin has retained a level of happiness that is quite endearing.

I don’t know about you, but I do not think taking Fei Liu to a brothel is the best idea. What do you guys think?

I love how MCS tries to cover up the nervous habit he has with his fingers when Prince Jing notices it. Fangurl asks – Could he be testing Mei Changsu..? I think that he does start to do this in little moments from here on in.After all, he is that friend that Prince Jing is talking about so fondly. When he says “I never thought to betray anybody” he is referring to the Lin (his) family and their charge of treason and it hits you right in the gut.

How does Prince Jing not recognize his best friend, Lin Shu, right in front of him? Well, Prince Jing has a pure, steadfast heart full of loyalty but he is not very intuitive. We are grateful for this. I believe he sees things in black and white while MCS is so very multi colored. There is a lot of room for conversation on this subject later on.

I am so glad that Prince Jing asks for protection for Minister Shen from the Jiangzuo Alliance.  

Consort Yue is slithering her way back in…

MCS and Fei Liu show up at Yujin’s house and interupt Yujin and Jingrui’s polo practice. We all learn a lot here. I found MCS’ conversation with Marquis Yan painful. Marquis Yan feels so betrayed. It helps to understand that when Marquis Yan says “If it wasn’t for my study of the Dao I would probably be with them already”, I think what he means is “I would have killed myself as well rather than deal with the pain I have had in my heart for the last 12 years”. This is a man who has lost his nearest and dearest because of the Emperor. I can only imagine how hard this conversation was for MCS as well.

As Lin Shu, MCS knows all these people and spent years of his childhood among them so he already knows their stories. More on this later. Yet he sits among them and no one but a choice few realize this. He must always operate behind the scenes due to the danger of being exposed as Lin Shu. This puzzle piece is but one of many to come!

Let me commend actor Wang Jinsong for his outstanding performance in the above scene. It is breathtaking and I feel every bit of his anger and rage.

Our dear Meng Zhi to the rescue!

E13 Recap

  • Consort Jing is an expert desert maker
  • We learned some cold, hard facts this episode

DID YOU KNOW…

  • MCS slept on a heated brick bed.
  • Here is a passage from the novel when J & Y visit MCS after they return from the hot springs: “Identity is like a person’s second skin, and if it is torn, I fear he would be changed beyond all recognition”… Xiao Jingrui. This so moved MCS’ heart that he became ill and fainted, unconscious for the entire night. Source
  • In the novel MCS knows there is gunpowder on the mandarins as he had received a sable from Fairy Gong Yu. Sables were supposed to warn you if there was gunpowder nearby as they would become agitated at the smell. In the drama Fei Liu replaces the little sable. Personally, I like Fei Liu better. Source
  • MCS then gave that sable to Prince Jing for protection when out and about the capital. Prince Jing thought it awful that MCS would give away a present a young lady had gifted to him – poor Fairy Gong Yu!  Excerpt: In truth, it was not that he [MCS] did not understand these principles of getting along with other people, it was only that he had a goal in his heart he must achieve even with his dying breath, and so everything else had grown dim by comparison. Since he had chosen Prince Jing as his lord, naturally he must put him first in everything he did, and so he did not have any energy left over to consider Gong Yu’s feelings. Source
  • In the novel it was Fei Liu who hit the polo ball into the envoy’s palanquin. The boys had Fei Liu mount up and practice polo with them while MCS waited for Marquis Yan to return from the temple. Fei Liu became so enraged with the polo stick that he smashed it into pieces.
  • What Marquis Yan had planned counted as treason and was worthy of a death sentence up to the ninth generation – OUCH!

——————————————————————

E14- Marquis Yan must feel cleansed of some of his pain and I think it is because after all these years he could talk about it. This is a taboo subject after all. I am sure this had some effect on his relationship with Yujin.

Case of the Body Swappers. Some poor schmuck will be killed. Pretty sad. Pearly whites Minister Qi (in the Prince Yu camp) is in on the scheme and makes the substitution.

Don’t you love how Minister Shen Zhui catches a whiff of ‘something’s’ up? My man! I don’t know about you but I feel better that Minister Shen is in Prince Jing’s camp. This dude has some smarts and morals to boot.

I love how MCS lets Marquis of Ning do all the dirty work. Down goes two of Prince Yu’s Ministers in one fell swoop. (pearly whites Minister of Justice Qi Min and Minister of Personnel/Appointments He Jingzhong) No one does ‘dirty’ more effectively than Xie Yu, Marquis of Ning.

Another one (or in this case, two) bite the dust. While Jingrui waxes poetic, the dynamic duo discuss why in the name of all that is good would MCS chose Prince Yu? Yujin, being the astute cookie that he is, guesses the real situation. I love these two so much!

Party like its 599-ish. Happy New Year! The Emperor is holding his traditional New Year party and I am disheartened to see who is hanging on his arm.

The Marquis of Ning and his family celebration are unique as the family connections are unique. Jingrui is promised a Ferghana Horse as a present which is a big deal.

My heart is warmed by the scene of Yujin alongside his father Marquis Yan in a deep discussion. Yujin is so happy that it makes me happy. What is even nicer is seeing Yujin thank MCS the following day.   

MCS and company are also celebrating the New Year. Aunt Ji has made dumplings and thank goodness because Physician Yan is still mad about being swept away.

When one of the Royal food deliveries is ambushed, the Emperor commands Meng Zhi undergo 20 whacks. It is important here to note that the murdered all have had a sword thrust through their throats. Note in E1 when that dude was walking along the corridor and was stabbed in the neck in exactly the same manner. This is one of the signature moves of the Zhuo family Tianquan Manor sect as well as the ‘flying sword around the body’ move.  

On an aside – Prince Yu’s wife is sitting behind him at the New Year feast with my favorite outfit of the entire drama (in all its peacock-like gorgeousness).

E14 Recap

  • Ferghana horses were imported into China from Central Asia. They were said to sweat blood but it is believed that they suffered from parasites which turned the horses’ sweat red. Their history into China is a good read.
  • Marquis of Ning is a right nasty piece of work
  • I can’t stop imagining Nihuang and Lin Shu when they were young having brilliant discussions.

 
DID YOU KNOW…

  • From the novel: The real reason Nihuang kept MCS waiting (for an hour until he feel asleep in his palanquin), when he and Fei Liu paid a New Year’s visit to the Mu Manor in the novel, is because their calling card got mixed up with others.
  • Nihuang was also baking deserts. Fei Liu, after tasting one of her cakes, declared that it “Tastes Bad!” and after an initial awkward moment, they all began to laugh at his honesty.
  • Fei Liu cannot lie and cannot even learn to lie.

——————————————————————

E15 – Nasty, rotten and evil (and I hate to admit it but for the most part pretty smart) Marquis of Ning knows that to really shake things up when he has to scare the Emperor. He has his number, doesn’t he? This really annoys me that the Emperor can be so manipulated.

MCS and Nihuang continue their conversation on who, what and why. We get a glimpse into the mind of MCS as he analyzes the situation and it is fascinating. He measures all the possibilities and discovers the motivation behind the murders. Not only that, but he looks into the future to assess potential damage. Yes Fangurl – the man is brilliant.

The Emperor calls upon Xia Dong and Xia Chun from the Xuanjing Bureau to take up the murder case. Xia Dong determines that the method of murder is significant – that crosswise stab through the neck. Xia Chun is able to name three sects that use this method of killing and Zhuo father’s Tianquan Manor is one of them.

I am getting a great deal of satisfaction seeing MCS ignore and then pull Banruo down a few notches by dismissing her plan as a very bad idea. MCS is giving her the freezing cold shoulder and I love it. Here we are witnessing one of Prince Yu’s flaws – when he wants something so badly (to win Meng Zhi over to his side for his military strength/position) he does not stop and think of cause and effect.

To be honest, being the Empress is not a job I would ever want to hold. In fact I would stay as far away from the Palace as I could.

Fei Liu is fighting the urge to abuse the carrier pigeon that has arrived from Langya Hall’s Lin Chen. As he was punished the last time he did it (he even plucked its feathers out) he brings it to MCS. Lin Chen really has teased Fei Liu terribly over the years. Please remember this exchange between MCS and Li Gang.

MCS and Fei Liu visit poor Meng Zhi who has a huge pain in his axx right about now. He def needs a little TLC which he will not get from Fei Liu. We get to see a second of Lin Shu at the end of the conversation and I like it.

I love how Nihuang is so attentive to MCS and hands him the pot to warm his hands. She takes his ignoring that action very well. After a brief second of pain that we see flash across her eyes she is right back to business. Nihuang is exceptional. It crosses your mind that the two of them are so well suited to each other. Sigh, sigh and sigh! Their conversation is important to remember.

Burning Down the House..uh Palace! Here is the second attack in as many days by the Marquis and the Zhuos. And it is so close to home as it is on Palace grounds. Take a minute and imagine yourself as the Empress getting blamed by the Emperor for negligence of your duties while the Noble Consort Yue stands there and gets patted on the hand.

Fairy Gong Yu is so dang pitiful. She is so in love with MCS that she shows up at his house. And, as Fangurl points out – this is oh so very dangerous!

Jingrui does some digging in the dirt about his sister Xie Qi’s husband – the Zhuo son. I think Jingrui is losing some of his innocense. Note – the red flowers in her hair are stunning.

I love how Minister Shen Zhui is stirring the pot uncovering all the corruption. Marquis Ning pretty much tells the Zhuo father/son team to kill this minister along with all the evidence he has collected. I would say it is a little too late for the Zhuo men to show some conscientious spine and balk at murder of an elected official. This to me is why Marquis of Ning is really nasty – he is using these two to do all his dirty deeds while keeping his hands clean. All the more vile because they are part of his actual family through marriage and long bonds. Not to mention that the Jianghu stayed out of politics.

Again, something tells me that bringing Fei Liu to a brothel is not a good idea at all.

MCS is very troubled. Why is he so troubled?

E15 Recap

  • Xia Dong is reluctant to share her suspicions with her colleague. Is this because she is starting to trust MCS?
  • Every girl needs a dab of gold on the middle of their lower lip like the Empress.
  • Take note of MCS’ scars on the right side of his face – we will discuss this later

DID YOU KNOW…

  • It’s Xia Time! The top three officials from the Xuanjing Bureau are Xia Dong, Xia Chen and Xia Qiu. They were all orphans raised by the leader of the Bureau Xia Jiang who we will meet later. He is their Shifu. They all took his surname Xia and were named after the seasons: Xia Jiang = ‘summer river’; Xia Dong = ‘summer winter’; Xia Qiu = ‘summer autumn’; Xia Chun = ‘summer spring’. In the novel Xia Dong and Xia Qui are twins. We will meet Xia Qui a little later.
  • From the novel – Li Gang has an exceptional memory, and could recite a list of orders quickly given to him by MCS after only hearing it once
  • From the novel – Not only was the Zhuo son married to Marquis of Ning’s daughter but there were plans to marry brother Xie Bi to one of the Zhuo daughters (novel only)
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

You know Fangurl, I appreciated Marquis Yan more with every watch. He certainly grew on me! He has such an air of elegance.

No to the Brothel! LOL!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Thanks to our little Tong Lu! LOL! Casting was brilliant. When we get to the end I have a video where the casting is mentioned and just how well they worked together. Too many spoilers so it has to wait.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Speaking of

Spoiler
the convo with MCS and Jing as an example of MCS’ ability to make use of people with both trust and artistry is, if you about what will happen, something that is laced with irony.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

I haven’t seen any other C drama or wuxia drama, but of all the actors in show, Wang Jin Song, enacting Marquis Yan, immediately reminded me of several Korean sageuk character actor ensemble staples. So much so, I would be willing to wager that he is well known in C drama circles for his character acting chops.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

You know BE, I am planning on catching the CDrama Sparrow. He has a supporting role in this and he won a few awards for that role. He has quite an impressive resume.

CP
CP
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

Marquis Yan is one of my favourite supporting characters in this drama! He’s quite prolific (and well-known in Cdrama circles, as most actors who have been working this long are). Have you guys seen Ode To Joy? It’s a Cdrama by the same production company, Daylight Entertainment. Wang Jin Song plays a very different character there – slightly annoying but also quite lovely at times, and its cool to see his range! It’s a great drama btw, as most dramas made by DE are – I guarantee you’ll recognize a lot of familiar faces too 😉

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  CP

CP – I loved Ode to Joy 1 and 2. What a great group! I waited for new episodes to come out. They changed the cast for 3 so not sure if it will be as good.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Given Fei Liu’s…um shall we say amazing body control and general physical talents, he certainly might ruin some poor young woman, if she took his fancy, trying to make her living at the erotic arts with anyone else. Talk about the “dalliance of eagles!” But that is only if she took his fancy. More likely he would make faces at the lot of the ladies there and fly off on his own looking for a fight with someone. Ah, the short story adjunct to the whole show…Fei Liu goes to a Brothel.
Ah MCS musing at the suggestion!

Last edited 4 months ago by BE
phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  BE

BE – I agree with you and I think that he would do the following: cross his arms, snort, hmpf and fly away looking for a fight. It would not be good. Maybe MCS was musing about how long this entire process may take.

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

My take is he doesn’t take it seriously in the least but rather is thinking of the whole idea’s complete absurdity.
And give our young man some credit, alternatively, the right woman, maybe she smells like mandarin oranges or plum blossoms,and well, how can you possibly say there would be any ceiling for him? or her in that case?

Last edited 4 months ago by BE
Geo
Geo
3 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

This sidebar could make a whole episode with comedic relief (?); the boys take Fei Lu to a brothel! As long as there are mandarins, I suspect Fei Lu would be game.

BE
BE
3 months ago
Reply to  Geo

That rascal!

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  kfangurl

What do y’all think would happen if Fei Lu went to the brothel? I can’t imagine.

beez
4 months ago
Reply to  beez

Nevermind. I’m reading all your thoughts on it now. 😊

Natalia
Natalia
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

“On an aside – Prince Yu’s wife is sitting behind him at the New Year feast with my favorite outfit of the entire drama (in all its peacock-like gorgeousness)”.
Now I have to rewatch it!
“Take note of MCS’ scars on the right side of his face – we will discuss this later”. What scars??? I hope you have seen this at least twice, otherwise how don’t I ever notice anything?????
And my thanks for eplaining the Xia situation, I thought that “Xia”means inspector or something!!

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

Hi Natalie – 😅She wears that dress again in a future episode and I must say it is my favorite costume in the entire drama. It is so stunning.

Hu Ge (MCS) has scars around his right eye (our left looking straight at him) from a very bad traffic accident. He was out of work for almost a year and had to have plastic surgery. Notice that his right eye appears a tad bit larger than his left. There is a tie into the drama but it contains a spoiler so I will explain the tie-in a bit later. He has a lot of make up on but there are some scenes where the lighting makes these scars more visible. He is still so handsome and the scars bring character to his look.

I am a bit reluctant to admit that I have watched it 10 times and with these group watch write-ups it now makes 11. I take heart Natalie that there are folks put there who have watched NIF many more times than I have. 😏 I still find new things even now.

Ele Nash
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

@ph1rxd Thanks for the explanation about his eye. I kept thinking what an oddly-placed overly subtle scar they’ve given him – but, oh, it’s the actor’s actual scar! He is so handsome. When Mei Changsu and Nihuang are on screen together, I have to force myself to read the subtitles and not just gawk at their beautiful faces 😍😍

phl1rxd
phl1rxd
4 months ago
Reply to  Ele Nash

Hi Ele – yes they are so beautiful and they did such a good job on their roles that their relationship feels completely natural.

He also has a scar on his cheek by the side of his nose and on his forehead but they are very thin. His assitant who was driving the vehicle died in the accident, It was pretty serious and filming on The Legend of the Condor Heroes had to be stopped while he recovered. He was exhausted from filming and was asleep in the back seat and this may be what saved his life. You can defintely tell in his before and after photos. I personally think the scars give him character.

Ele Nash
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

How awful. Poor guy.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Quick comment on Marquis Yan saying :”if it wasn’t for my study of Tao I would have joined them already”, I actually didn’t interpret that as him killing himself to join them, I thought he meant, if it wasn’t for him being known to be secluded away from politics and focusing on Taoism, he would probably have been swept up in the Chiyan treason accusation and executed too. I found the backstory shared by Marquis Yan so touching, we find out that Lin Shu/MCS’ father Lin Xie was close as brothers with the Emperor, yet later branded a traitor! Game of Thrones-level intrigues that is.

Natalia
Natalia
4 months ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

I am currently watching ep. 16 and it is only now that I discovered that when you said “he’s their Shifu” for the Xia siblings it was not a Kung Fu Panda reference as I had thought… (ahem, the embarrassment…)

Trent
4 months ago

Thanks for the breakdown, great stuff, as always!

Just a couple of quick observations:
It seems a little bit incongruous to me that Marquis Yan has been cultivating the Dao so assiduously but was still so in thrall to thoughts of revenge as to put an actual assassination attempt together. Far cry from Zhuangzi’s carefree “wandering on the Way” (yes, yes, to be fair, by this point in history I believe Daoist cultivation had developed well beyond the philosophical texts of the masters and become syncretized with a bunch of quasi-alchemical, quasi-magical practices, so it’s probably believable that revenge plot and Daoist cultivation were not strictly inconsistent. But still…) (to Marquis Yan’s distinct credit, he was susceptible to the well-reasoned arguments and moral suasion that MCS was able to bring to bear, so).

I also want to know what’s up with Gong Yu. We haven’t seen much of her, but for the limited screen time, I’m liking her a fair amount. There’s got to be some backstory lurking there, right? Clearly she has a thing for MCS, and he’s not having it, but….

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  Trent

It has struck me that Marquis Yan’s taoist fascination has more to do with it allowing him to live a reclusive life despite his noble status and past as a diplomatic mucky muck. Probably too it has lent him time to see more deeply into the nature of things. Meeting MCS at that distinct point in time, his great good fortune.

Geo
Geo
3 months ago
Reply to  BE

I agree that his devotion to Taoism is meant to insulate him from the politics and intrigues of the court. While I don’t question his genuine beliefs, I think it also serves as a convenient shield from the suspicions and schemes of others. Who would suspect the reclusive Taoist disciple of assassinating the emperor?

BE
BE
4 months ago
Reply to  Trent

Something there is about Gong Yu. And we haven’t even seen her in her guqin rockstar mode yet. What a bonnet, the snow white Versace Lampshade, she was sporting on the visit to the MCS mansion. No one would notice someone dressed like that…right?

j3ffc
j3ffc
3 months ago
Reply to  BE

I know! For a second I thought she might be a stylized ghost or something.

Leslie
4 months ago

Quick first share, there was something very special about the the New Year’s family scenes. I’ve heard and read about the significance of the New Year to families in Chinese culture, but never really had the intimate look into family life – albeit, on a royal scale – episode 14 gave us. The greetings to parents and grandparents, the giving of red envelopes, the eating of favorite foods, the family jokes, and the overall tone of joy were so heartwarming and beautiful. Very appreciative of this inside look.

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