Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Boy, do things get cracking, this set of episodes – I hope you guys are ready for all the action that goes down! Also, isn’t this just such a gorgeous shot of Mei Changsu? The dark background; the embroidery on his sleeves; the intent, meaningful look in his eyes; it all comes together so beautifully. 🤩
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! ❤️
I know I keep saying this, but this episode, it feels even more, that things are shifting into place for Something Big that is to come.
Although I thought the way Commander Meng gets himself into Prince Jing’s study was pretty clumsy and obvious, I do like the thinking behind it. It’s very fitting, that Commander Meng steps forward and pledge himself to support Prince Jing in his fight for the throne.
After all, this really is where his heart is, knowing what he knows about what Lin Shu and his family went through. And once Commander Meng’s overtly pledged his allegiance to Prince Jing, he wouldn’t need to be excluded from Prince Jing’s conversations with Mei Changsu, nor would he need to pretend not to know what’s going on. And we know that Commander Meng isn’t always so great with the pretending, right?
What an important conversation, where Prince Jing finally gets to hear some details about what had happened to Prince Qi, Noble Consort Chen, the Lin family, and the Chiyan Army. I hadn’t realized that Prince Jing hadn’t known anything except the vaguest of details around what had happened, because he’d been stationed elsewhere, and by the time he’d come back to Jinling, the subject had become taboo.
I can’t imagine what that must have been like for Prince Jing, actually. To think that he’d come back from Donghai after his assignment, to find that his best friend, his best friend’s family, his dearest brother, and that brother’s mother, had all died. 😭
I like that Commander Meng lays it all out for Prince Jing, because not only is this much needed clarity for Prince Jing, it’s helpful for us too, as an audience, to get an overview of what went down. To think that Xie Yu had brought an accusation against Prince Qi and Lin Xie to the Emperor, claiming that they were colluding with Da Yu in order to stage a rebellion.
I was talking about this with my mom (whom, as you probably know by now, loves this show and has seen it 6 times), and Mom explained that because Noble Consort Chen had originally been from the Lin family, it’s highly believable – especially to our very suspicious Emperor – that the Lin family would stage a rebellion in an effort to put Prince Qi on the throne. Prince Qi did have Lin blood running in his veins, after all.
..Does this mean that Xie Yu had masterminded this, in order to get rid of Prince Qi (who had been Crown Prince at the time), so that the current Crown Prince would be able to take his place? That’s quite mind-boggling. 🤯
This is quite possibly the most emotion we’ve seen Prince Jing show so far, and it’s poignant to see how much this affects him; how important these people were – are – to him. I’m pleased to hear Prince Jing declare that he will investigate the case thoroughly, in order to clear Prince Qi’s and the Lin family’s names, because that’s essentially what Mei Changsu is doing, so in a way, they are aligned. Well, except for the fact that Mei Changsu is intent on carrying out rogue justice on Xie Yu, but I don’t blame him, honestly, knowing what we know.
Concubine Jing is a wise lady indeed. Based on what we’ve seen of her shrewdness and tact, I do think that the way she answers the Emperor’s question about what she thinks of Prince Yu, is designed to look completely innocent, but is meant to point the Emperor to the fact that Prince Yu’s influence in the court is greater than the Crown Prince’s. I think that’s why the Emperor immediately moves to not only promote Concubine Jing to the rank of Consort, but also, to move the Crown Prince back to the Eastern Palace, so that the perceived imbalance between him and Prince Yu is less pronounced.
As Mei Changsu puts it to Li Gang, the Emperor is less concerned about the people’s lives who were lost in the explosion of the illegal fireworks factory, and more interested in controlling the dynamics of the court.
Speaking of whom, I’d actually been slightly puzzled about why the Emperor had felt it necessary to send Nihuang back to Yunnan, with the arrival of the envoy from Southern Chu. As my mom explained it to me (thanks, Mom!), Princess Nihuang has always guarded the southern border for the kingdom of Liang, and there have always been tensions between the kingdoms of Liang and Southern Chu.
With the Southern Chu entourage arriving in Liang, our suspicious Emperor is likely concerned that the Southern Chu might have some nefarious scheme up their sleeves – and that is why he wants Nihuang to be there in Yunnan, to protect the southern border from any potential attacks that the Southern Chu might wage.
And of course, the reason that the Emperor insists that Mu Qing stay behind in Jinling, is so that he can basically use Mu Qing’s safety as leverage, to ensure that Nihuang will stay focused and faithful in protecting Liang’s interests.
It’s no wonder Mu Qing is upset, and I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for Nihuang, to be separated from her Lin Shu gege, so soon after she’d found him again.
It’s so poignant to see Nihuang break decorum, and tell her Lin Shu gege that she just wants to run away with him and live happily together, where she can forget about being a princess, and he can forget about being Mei Changsu.
It’s even more poignant, to see Mei Changsu put aside his usual propriety, and embrace Nihuang. That’s huge, because from what we’ve seen, he’s always so careful to keep a proper distance from her, not only because of his assumed identity, but also, I think, to protect Nihuang’s heart. And yet, here, in this moment, he puts all of that aside, and just holds her, as she cries.
He looks so haunted, as he tells her, that he, too, is looking forward to the day that he can be Lin Shu again. Augh. That’s heartbreaking. 💔
I hate that Nihuang has to leave, and that her Lin Shu gege isn’t able to send her off like everyone else is. That’s got to be so hard for Nihuang. 😭
How curious, though, that Prince Ling from Southern Chu comes along to pick a fight as Nihuang leaves, and specifically asks for Jingrui to fight against his cousin, Niannian.
I wonder why Niannian is so intent on sparring with Jingrui, particularly if her master is already due to fight with Father Zhuo?
Lately, it seems that anything that’s worth anything, has something to do with Jingrui. I wonder if Niannian’s fixation on Jingrui, is in any way connected to the Birthday Surprise that Mei Changsu is planning?
After all, even Gong Yu’s presence at the birthday banquet seems to be specially calculated as well. That whole fake assassination attempt on Xie Yu, followed by Gong Yu showing up injured in front of Banruo, turns out to be all part of Mei Changsu’s blueprint. It’s quite thrilling, actually, to realize that Mei Changsu had planned all this, knowing that it would nudge Prince Yu to come knocking, to ask for guidance.
That’s exactly what Prince Yu does, even as Gong Yu starts to make her way to the banquet, escorted by Yujin.
My memory of this show is hazy enough, that I don’t actually know what to expect at the birthday banquet. Whatever it is, though, I’m sure it’s going to be mind-blowing, if Mei Changsu has planned it so meticulously for so long. I mean, the fact that Mei Changsu’s birthday gift to Jingrui is a bottle of heart medicine, already tells us something? 😅
The birthday party of the century gets under way, and even though the party’s not yet over by the time we finish this episode, I’m gonna say it’s already living up to the expectations that Show’s set for it.
There are layers of intrigue, in that, first we have Xia Dong wanting to test Zhuo Dingfeng’s sword technique, because of her suspicions around his involvement in the case of the killing of the eunuch and imperial guards, and then there’s the Big Reveal of Jingrui’s birth secret.
The first act, of Xia Dong wanting to test Zhuo Dingfeng’s sword technique, essentially has two scenes; we have Round 1, with Xia Dong herself sparring with Zhuo Dingfeng, and then Round 2, when Yue Xiuze shows up to challenge Zhuo Dingfeng according to their much earlier promise.
Of course, Xie Yu doesn’t want Zhuo Dingfeng to spar with Yue Xiuze, because, as Xia Dong and Commander Meng note, Zhuo Dingfeng wouldn’t be able to refrain from using his signature sword technique, when pitting his skills against such a strong opponent.
..But Zhuo Dingfeng decides to accept the challenge anyway, because that’s the honorable thing to do, by Jianghu standards.
Given the tight spot that he finds himself in, I actually think he chose a reasonably clever way out: to accept the challenge so that he adheres to Jianghu standards, but to hold back and not reveal his sword technique, so that he doesn’t give Xia Dong and Commander Meng any clues for their investigation. This gets him wounded, which is a downside, but it puts an end to the showdown, and I think that that was his plan all along.
I don’t believe that this fighting stuff is Mei Changsu’s planning, however. It does seem like this fighting stuff just happened to go down, on the same evening that Jingrui’s birth secret was planned to be revealed. (We do get confirmation in episode 21, that Yue Xiuze had intentionally challenged Zhuo Dingfeng before the reveal of Jingrui’s birth secret, because he hadn’t wanted to fight a distracted Zhuo Dingfeng, and he knew that Zhuo Dingfeng would be hugely distracted, once the birth secret was revealed.)
The main event, it seems, is the Big Reveal, that Jingrui’s father really is the hostage prince from Southern Chu, who is now King of Southern Chu.
I do think that Princess Niannian’s request of Grand Princess Liyang, to return her brother to her, is weird and unreasonable. I mean, Grand Princess Liyang didn’t kidnap Jingrui or anything; she’s his mother. Of course it’s natural and reasonable for Grand Princess Liyang to have kept Jingrui by her side. What else does Niannian expect? For this reason, I find Niannian’s request very oddly worded. Jingrui was never stolen from her. 🙄 It would have made more sense if Niannian had simply requested for Jingrui to be given the chance to get to know his father and other members of his family.
Also for this same reason, I find Niannian rather unlikable, and therefore, when she’s trying to talk while Grand Princess Liyang is comforting a very shocked Jingrui, I’m SO pleased when Yujin basically tells her to shut up. THANK YOU, Yujin!
Poor Jingrui. Before this birthday banquet, he’d already been feeling a disquiet over the fact that the people in his life weren’t quite turning out to be what he’d always believed them to be. This new information, however, basically turns his entire world upside down and inside out. Now he knows that neither of his fathers is actually his father, and henceforth, his life will never be the same as it once was.
From the way Jingrui drops to his knees in what feels like a stunned stupor, I feel like I can practically see his brain imploding on itself, and he comes to the realization that his whole life is essentially one big lie. Gah. That’s got to be really rough. 😭 And, given what a pure-hearted, decent, loyal sort of person Jingrui’s shown himself to be, it’s extra heartbreaking to see him have to endure this complete and utter upheaval. 💔
After the hints that Show’s dropped about Grand Princess Liyang having been in love with the hostage prince from Southern Chu, however, I must say that it wasn’t really a surprise to me, to learn the confirmed details of Jingrui’s birth secret. I was admittedly quite surprised, though, by how Princess Niannian went about it, what with asking that Grand Princess Liyang return her brother to her and all.
Also, the other thing that I was surprised by, is the reveal of how Gong Yu’s backstory and personal grudge fits into everything. From the way Mei Changsu had so deliberately made a way for Gong Yu to be present at the birthday banquet, I’d had an inkling that Gong Yu would have an important part to play. I just had no idea what Gong Yu’s grudge could be.
It really was quite shocking, to find out that Gong Yu’s father had been tasked to kill Jingrui when he’d been a baby, but had killed the wrong baby – the Zhuo family’s baby – instead, which had then led to Xie Yu wanting to have the entire family killed, because the job hadn’t been done properly. Yikes. So that’s what had really gone down, on the stormy night where one baby had died, supposedly from being dropped. That hadn’t been an accident; that had been murder. 😳
To think that all these years, Xie Yu had known that he’d been behind the death of Zhuo Dingfeng’s son, but had continued to use him for his own political ambition, allowing Zhuo Dingfeng to believe that he was half a father to Jingrui. Basically, “I killed your son, but you don’t know it, so let me use you anyway.” That’s really, really evil, wouldn’t you say? Dang.
Also, now that Xie Yu calls in all his soldiers, in a bid to take control of the situation, I understand why Mei Changsu had felt it necessary to involve Prince Yu, and have him waiting outside with troops at the ready. It was because he’d expected that things would come to this, and that Xie Yu would fall back on brute force, when backed into a corner. The best part is, as always, Prince Yu still thinks that it’s Mei Changsu who’s helping him, and not the other way around.
On top of all this, it feels like a nice bonus (as well as a small spot of levity), that Fei Liu had fun cutting all the strings of the bows in the weaponry room. I kinda love that Mei Changsu thought to give Fei Liu something fun to do, that would help with the overall grand plan.
Woah. What an action-packed episode this turned out to be. And here I’d thought that we’d gotten the meat of the reveals, in episode 20! 😅
As it turns out, there is much more to Gong Yu’s story, and it’s Mei Changsu who invites her to finish telling her story, so that the Zhuo family has full information.
I’d already found Xie Yu’s use of the Zhuo family disturbing enough with the reveals in episode 20, but this episode, we’re told that he’d actively tried to have both babies killed, to make doubly sure that his goal of killing the prince’s baby was achieved. This means that he had specific intent to kill the Zhuo’s baby, after all. And here he is, having used the Zhuo family to his advantage all these years. Wow.
Apparently, it was the political advantage that he realized he could enjoy, by partnering with the Zhuo family, that had dulled his desire to kill Jingrui. And, in the meantime, Grand Princess Liyang had hovered so close to Jingrui, that Xie Yu had had no chance to kill him. What a nightmare for the Grand Princess, honestly.
What I’m curious to know, though, is how Grand Princess Liyang had known that Jingrui was her son? If there had been no identifying marks on the newborns, and if even Mrs. Zhuo hadn’t been able to tell if the baby was her own, how had the Grand Princess known, and with so much conviction, at that?
I’m also curious to know why Xie Yu hadn’t hired another assassin to finish the botched job, even as his men hunted down Gong Yu’s father. It’s not like he was the only assassin available on the market?
That said, I’m struck by how shrewd, and also, how cold Xie Yu is.
I say shrewd, because he was quick to think of summoning the Guard barrack to protect his manor. Even though he is not permitted to use them for his personal purposes, having them stand outside his manor, preventing other people from entering, is just within the confines of their jurisdiction, so he isn’t misusing them, technically. And as along as they are standing guard outside his manor, Prince Yu and his men, Xia Chun and his men, and Marquis Yan, are all unable to enter. That’s really sharp-witted of Xie Yu, wouldn’t you say?
And I say cold, because Xie Yu doesn’t hesitate to order everyone killed, including the Zhuo family, who have been his allies for years, and including Yujin, who is his nephew, and Jingrui himself as well.
Plus, he doesn’t even flinch, when his own son Xie Bi puts a sword to his own throat, to implore his father to stop what he’s doing. I know he’s counting on Xie Bi not to go through with slitting his own throat, because he knows Xie Bi’s temperament and understands him to be a coward, but the thing is, he’s willing to take that chance. He doesn’t even look a little bit conflicted at the thought of Xie Bi potentially killing himself. And Xie Bi is his own flesh and blood, too. That’s really cold, isn’t it?
The only thing that stops Xie Yu, in the end, is Grand Princess Liyang putting a knife to her own throat. I have to wonder whether this is because Xie Yu has any actual affection for his wife, or if he’s only considering the fact that she is the Emperor’s sister. After seeing how Xie Yu is, with everyone else, I’m leaning towards the fact that it’s because she’s the Emperor’s sister, and he can’t afford to have her die on him.
In the meantime, though, I am curious to know how Mei Changsu had known about the secret passageway in Xie Yu’s manor. I know he’d stayed there for a period of time, but that doesn’t tell us how he’d known about the passageway?
I also wanted to say, it’s pretty cool to see Commander Meng fight alongside Yue Xiuze, and the two of them continuously knocking down waves of men like dominos, because they are at the top of the bridge, and have gravity working in their favor. What a smart way to maximize their limited resources, eh?
With these two martial arts experts holding the fort, I can buy that the others would have time for important conversations, while taking refuge.
I’m impressed that Gong Yu would invite the Zhuo family to take revenge on her, for her father’s act of killing their child, just like she’s seeking revenge from Xie Yu, for killing her father. It’s human nature to only think of one’s own injustice and pain, and thus not see the injustice and pain of others, so the very fact that she’d think of the Zhuo family’s potential desire for revenge, really increases my respect for her by quite a few notches.
I’m also impressed with Mrs. Zhuo, for having the presence of mind to see through her pain, that the death of her baby had nothing to do with Gong Yu. In a world where vengeance is often sought from the descendants of the perpetrator, I feel this is extremely gracious.
Mei Changsu’s conversation with Zhuo Dingfeng seems especially important; this is when Zhuo Dingfeng realizes properly, that he really is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he doesn’t come against Xie Yu and expose all his crimes, Xie Yu will kill him, but if he comes against Xie Yu, he himself will inevitably be implicated as an accessory.
I appreciate that Zhuo Dingfeng is willing to shoulder all the blame on his own, in order to protect his family, but we don’t see whether Mei Changsu is able to accede to his request, because that’s when arrows start raining down on everyone. This is when it occurs to me, that Mei Changsu really is risking his life, in order to take down Xie Yu. Even though Fei Liu is there, there was never any guarantee that Mei Changsu would get out of this alive.
Grand Princess Liyang really is our MVP, because not only does she force Xie Yu’s hand, to allow Prince Yu et al. to enter the manor, she also forces Prince Yu to promise not to implicate other people in the night’s events, and also, to treat the Zhuos well, not just for the time being, but for the long haul. Plus, she sends Princess Niannian packing as well, which I’m personally very pleased about. She’s so soft-spoken, but she can be such a badass, when it comes to protecting the people she cares about. 🤩
Looks like Xie Yu’s downfall is coming up next, and I’m suitably curious to see how that all shakes out, after everything that’s happened during this set of episodes.