Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! What a pivotal set of episodes this turned out to be. I feel like this screenshot really says it all. If ya know, ya know?
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! ❤️
In the excitement of everything that went down during the birthday banquet itself, it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be a lot of emotional fallout from, well, everything.
First, there’s Grand Princess Liyang making her apologies for how she’s basically lied to the Zhuos all these years, in order to protect her son. That’s true; if she hadn’t known at the point when one baby had died (we had an interesting discussion about this in the last Open Thread; you can check out my mom’s take, and CP’s interesting findings here), she had definitely known, as Jingrui had then grown into his father’s likeness, and she’d kept up the ruse, in order to keep Jingrui safe, while the Zhuos had continued to love him like a son. That does feel like a betrayal of sorts, given how open-hearted the Zhuos have been towards Jingrui and towards this unusual arrangement as a whole, all these years.
I have to say, I find Mrs. Zhuo a very gracious person. When Liyang asks that they have mercy on her daughter Xie Qi, who is their daughter-in-law, I’m really impressed that Mrs. Zhuo is able to say – right then and there, while her emotional wounds are still so fresh – that the sins of the previous generation will not be held against the younger generation. That’s so gracious of her.
The part that really gets me, though, is when Jingrui calls out to his Zhuo parents, and kneels before them, sobbing.
Augh. It hit me all over again, at this point, just how this entire reveal is tearing Jingrui apart, on the inside. He’s loved and respected the Zhuos his whole life, and seen them as his parents, and now, they’re suddenly.. not. I can feel all the parental love that the Zhuos have for Jingrui, come pouring out, as they embrace him, and tell him that he’s a good boy, and this isn’t his fault.
I almost want Jingrui to just continue his relationship with them regardless, until I remember that, 1, Zhuo Dingfeng is most likely about to die, because he’s decided to bear the consequences of his misdeeds, in order to testify against Xie Yu, and 2, it would be too painful a reminder for Mrs. Zhuo, of her deceased baby, every time she saw Jingrui. It is probably kinder to close their ties now, even though this, too, is a painful thing. 😭
I’m actually really quite surprised by the conversation that Liyang has with Xie Yu, in the aftermath. I think the thing that surprises me the most, is that there appears to be genuine care between them. I’d assumed that Xie Yu had married Liyang as a political move, and I’d also assumed that Liyang would have hated being married to her rapist. But here, in this moment, Xie Yu’s expressing that he genuinely likes her, while she, on the other hand, is literally offering to die with him, if dying alone would make him feel lonely. I mean, that’s a huge offer, and I’m stunned that Liyang would even make it.
The fact that Xie Yu is not willing to admit defeat despite how the odds are stacked so heavily against him, and is willing to risk his family’s honor, and the family’s noble title, for one last bid for victory, shows just how tenacious and ambitious he is. Well, that, and self-centered too, since he really doesn’t seem to care that his actions will inevitably affect his entire family, including future generations.
I did like the debrief between Prince Jing, Mei Changsu and Commander Meng, afterwards. This is the first time they’re having a conversation like this, where Commander Meng is also in on the secret mission, to put Prince Jing on the throne, so this feels quite momentous.
It’s quite thrilling to hear the details of how Mei Changsu guided things along, so that Prince Yu would come to know the truth of Liyang’s scandal and Jingrui’s birth. It really was so meticulously planned, with rumors being started, so that Banruo would carry them to Prince Yu, as well as investigate the rumors on her own, and then with Gong Yu’s failed assassination attempt on Xie Yu, so that she could seek refuge with Banruo, and thus tell her the story of her own grudge against Xie Yu. Talk about being a puppet master! This is why Prince Yu always thinks that Mei Changsu is helping him, and not the other way around.
The other thing that strikes me during this conversation, is how Mei Changsu is so careful in managing the dynamics of how he and Commander Meng relate to Prince Jing. From Commander Meng’s point of view, Mei Changsu is Lin Shu, and deserves all of his trust and unquestioning confidence. However, Mei Changsu is right, from Prince Jing’s point of view, it wouldn’t make sense for Commander Meng to defend Mei Changsu so strongly and so unquestioningly.
I wonder if Commander Meng’s small slip will give Prince Jing food for thought?
It’s so tragic that Xie Qi dies in childbirth. She seems to have suffered a lot, through no fault of her own. Her husband had barely been around because he’d been busy doing dark deeds for Xie Yu, and then, now, she dies in childbirth without getting to see her husband one last time. Dang. That’s so sad. The only consolation is that the baby survives, and gets to be with his father in the end.
Xia Dong’s shifu Xia Jiang comes back to Jinling, and right away, he proves to be quite the force to be reckoned with.
From his conversation with Xie Yu in the prison, it quickly becomes clear that Xia Jiang isn’t as clean or righteous as one might like to think the Head of Xuanjing Bureau to be.
Given that he offers to keep Xie Yu alive, if Xie Yu will keep his silence to the very end, this already tells us that Xia Jiang is a shady character. He’s basically interfering with the justice that he’s supposed to uphold. Plus, the fact that he and Xie Yu have had private agreements in the past, also tells us that Xia Jiang’s probably on the darker side of things.
This background puts everything that he does this episode, in a very suspicious light, doesn’t it? He doesn’t punish Xia Dong because he’s so righteous; he punishes her and keeps her grounded, so that she won’t be able to go snooping around Xie Yu’s case. And he doesn’t point out the manner in which Xie Yu’s brought to justice to the Emperor for nothing; he does it in order to distract the Emperor from Xie Yu’s crimes, and cast suspicion on Prince Yu, for having schemed to drag Xie Yu down.
How interesting, that Mei Changsu finds a connection between Xia Jiang and Xie Yu so quickly, even though they are not known to be close. All he needs is Prince Yu’s account of what’s happened, and a list of the assassinations that Zhuo Dingfeng’s carried out for Xie Yu, and it’s enough for him to piece together the likelihood that some of these people had been assassinated, not for Xie Yu’s purposes per se, but perhaps as a favor to someone else, ie, Xia Jiang.
Ooh. Impressive. Our Divine Talent really is brilliant.
Wow. The conversation that Mei Changsu has with Xie Yu in prison, turns out to be pivotal indeed.
The way Mei Changsu makes it such that he’s doing Prince Yu a favor by visiting Xie Yu, in order to persuade him to talk about the deal that he has with Xia Jiang, is clever, but that’s something that we’ve already come to expect, from the way Mei Changsu manages Prince Yu.
I’m more impressed with how Mei Changsu basically plays Xie Yu and Xia Jiang against each other, with Prince Yu going to tell Xia Jiang that Xie Yu’s already confessed that he’d had Li Chongxin killed for Xia Jiang, while Mei Changsu casually paints a picture for Xie Yu, where he’s already lost Xia Jiang’s trust, and Xia Jiang will likely have Xie Yu killed, in order to silence him.
I thought it was particularly fitting, for Mei Changsu to remind Xie Yu that he himself had been determined to silence Zhuo Dingfeng, not too long ago. With that in mind, it’s not hard for Xie Yu to believe that Xia Jiang would want to silence a longtime collaborator too.
That moment when Xie Yu realizes that Mei Changsu has him cornered, is so dramatic. The way Xie Yu desperately but ineffectually lunges at Mei Changsu, bellowing his name, and then the way he collapses in a defeated heap, asking what he needs to do, is a great illustration of the tsunami level of emotion that he’s just gone through.
I can only imagine how much Xie Yu hates Mei Changsu right now, and yet, he has no choice but to cooperate with him. There’s got to be a lot of conflicting emotions there. And then later, as he makes his confession, it’s interesting to see how he can’t seem to look Mei Changsu in the eye. Does Xie Yu have a conscience after all?
And, what a confession we get, from Xie Yu. It seems Mei Changsu had anticipated the details of this confession too, judging from how he arranges for Prince Jing and Xia Dong to secretly listen in.
The machinations that Xia Jiang and Xie Yu had collaborated on, are stunningly cruel. I mean, we’d already seen some of it play out via the flashbacks that we’ve been shown, but it’s still gutting, to know how everything had been orchestrated.
That fake letter from General Nie had been instrumental in framing Lin Xie and Prince Qi, and they’d had the scholar who’d written that letter for them, killed. Talk about being used and abused.
Importantly (and my mom pointed this out to me), we learn that the fake letter had been written on Xia Jiang’s orders, and not Xie Yu’s. This means that the whole conspiracy to take down Prince Qi, Lin Xie, and the entire Chiyan Army, had been pushed by Xia Jiang, and Xie Yu had just been along for the ride. Woah.
How unspeakably horrible, that Xie Yu had gone out there, on the pretext of saving General Nie from the alleged suicide mission that Lin Xie had sent him on, in order to kill him. That’s an angel turning out to be a devil. And it’s so much worse, that he then brings back General Nie’s remains to Xia Dong, as if he’d tried to save him, but had failed. That’s a devil pretending to be an angel. Gah. It’s nauseating, honestly.
And because of this, Lin Xie had been framed for colluding with Da Yu in order to put Prince Qi on the throne – thus leading to Prince Qi’s death sentence, and Noble Consort Chen’s suicide. It’s altogether horrifying to have it all laid out like this, even though we’d already understood the gist of what had gone down.
What a blow to Xia Dong, to realize that the shifu whom she’s obeyed and respected all these years, had basically schemed to have her husband killed for his own purposes and ambition.
That’s a world-tilting sort of realization, and I can totally understand why Xia Dong would basically almost keel over right there outside the prison doors, in this screenshot above. I do admire her, though, for thinking to apologize to Prince Jing, for the grudge that she’s held against him all these years. That takes strength of character, and Xia Dong demonstrates that she has it in spades.
Afterwards, it’s so poignant to see everyone basically reel from it all, in their own ways.
That scene, of Jingyan visiting his mother, and telling her that he misses Xiao Shu, is so poignant. That look on his face, is like that of a lost little boy, honestly. Jingyan really does yearn for his best friend. 😭 And then there’s how Mei Changsu himself broods silently in his study, lost in his thoughts, and unwilling to speak to anyone, so much so that even Li Gang and Zhen Ping don’t dare to approach him to ask him to take his medicine.
Xie Yu’s confession has touched some very tender, raw nerves for our characters, and many of these wounds that have been unearthed, are still fresh, after all these years.
I find it significant, that once again, it’s Jingyan who seeks out Mei Changsu via the secret passageway. Any hint that we get, that he trusts Mei Changsu and wants to connect with him, makes me happy.
It’s understandable that Jingyan, being the straightforward, righteous person that he is, would expect Mei Changsu to do something with the confession that they’ve gotten from Xie Yu. His desire to clear the names of Prince Qi and the Lin family is very natural, and the wrongful accusation so deep, that I would be surprised if he’d wanted anything less.
I am amazed, really, that Mei Changsu is able gather himself together, and advise Jingyan in such an objective manner, considering that he is, in fact, Lin Shu, who has suffered directly from this conspiracy.
Mei Changsu’s insight is so keen, that the Emperor had himself been suspicious enough of Prince Qi, that he’d willingly believed the accusations that Xie Yu had brought against him. It hadn’t been the conspiracy per se, that had brought about Prince Qi’s death; it had been the Emperor’s suspicious nature.
On this note, I thought it would be apt to share with you guys what my mom pointed out to me, in relation to the Emperor’s suspicious nature.
As we’ve learned, Lin Xie and Marquis Yan had helped the Emperor to ascend the throne. Subsequent to that, the Emperor had then found ways to connect himself with their families through marriage, in service of finding ways to secure and assure their long-term alignment with him.
This is why he had married Yueyao (who then became Noble Consort Chen), who had been Lin Xie’s sister, even though his good friend and supporter Marquis Yan had been in love with her. This way, the Emperor would have the loyalty of Lin Xie and the army that he commanded. And then, to secure Marquis Yan’s loyalty and keep him in check (despite his betrayal of stealing Yueyao), he then married Marquis Yan’s sister, who is now our Empress.
On top of all this, it is highly likely that Lin Xie’s marriage to Grand Princess Jinyang, who had been the Emperor’s sister and Lin Shu’s mother, had been a political move by the Emperor as well, to keep Lin Xie doubly aligned to him.
This is why the family tree is as complicated as it is; Mom says you guys were right to blame everything on the Emperor, in the last Open Thread. 😆 Also, this helps us to see that the Emperor didn’t become a suspicious man all of a sudden; he’s always been the deeply suspicious, scheming type.
This scene between Jingyan and Mei Changsu is so important, and so full of powerful emotion. Augh.
I did wonder, a bit, why Mei Changsu would dissuade Jingyan from investigating the Chiyan case, when in actual fact, I believe he himself would investigate it anyway, and I think that it’s probably because he’s isn’t Lin Shu to Jingyan right now; he’s Mei Changsu the strategist. And it makes more sense for Mei Changsu the strategist, to advise Jingyan thus, because it is true that investigating the case will not actually help Jingyan’s quest for the throne.
As we’ve seen, Mei Changsu is very meticulous when it comes to calibrating how he and the people around him, like Commander Meng, ought to relate with Jingyan, given that Jingyan does not know that he is Lin Shu.
I have to say, though, Jingyan’s emotional, righteous, loyal response is completely affecting. Mei Changsu looks genuinely moved, to see how much this means to Jingyan. It’s this look, that makes me think that Mei Changsu had been sincere, in asking Jingyan not to investigate the case (vs. the idea that he’d perhaps been testing Jingyan), and is so moved by Jingyan’s sincerity, that he does actually change his mind and pledge to assist Jingyan in the investigation.
I find it utterly moving, that these two men bow to each other like this; Mei Changsu to pledge his allegiance, and Jingyan, to express his thanks. Augh. This legit gave me chills. 😭
I’m really sad that Royal Great Gran passes away, but I can see how this would be useful, narratively speaking. For one thing, it gives Nihuang a valid reason to return to Jinling, and for another, it makes Xie Yu’s pardon from the death sentence easier to accept for everyone, since the state is in mourning.
I appreciate the fact that Nihuang’s able to tell Mei Changsu that Royal Great Gran had looked peaceful, because Mei Changsu himself is unable to go see her to pay his respects. I feel like hearing that she at least looked peaceful, would be of some comfort to him.
This conversation is the first time that Mei Changsu talks about possibly not being part of Nihuang’s future, and the look of horror on Nihuang’s face, as he says this, is really heartbreaking. Poor Nihuang still doesn’t know how ill Mei Changsu is, and I can only imagine how devastated she would be, to know that he doesn’t have much time left.
I’d imagined that Nihuang’s return would mean that she’d be able to at least be around Mei Changsu, but instead, she ends up volunteering to observe Royal Great Gran’s wake at Mount Wei for a year. Ack. I hadn’t seen that coming. This is far from the OTP reunion that I’d hoped for.
However, I can understand why Mei Changsu would think it better for her to stay away from Jinling. I think it’s partly true, that he feels her presence would divide his focus, but at the same time, I think he wants to spare her the agony of being so near to him, and yet so far from him. He cannot promise her a future with him, and keeping her in limbo, hurts her, and I think it hurts him too. 💔
Although I’m not surprised that Mei Changsu makes a request through Grand Princess Liyang, that Xie Yu write a detailed confession, I am admittedly rather surprised by the logic of it, which Xie Yu sees immediately. If this confession letter exists, it actually helps to keep Xie Yu alive, because once he’s dead, there’s no longer any need to guard the contents of the letter. I honestly may have never seen that, if Xie Yu hadn’t spelled it out for me. It’s narrative events like these that convince me that I wouldn’t survive in this drama world, heh.
I’m quite touched by Liyang’s grace and what appears to be genuine care towards Xie Yu. I mean, it must be tempting to read the letter, to learn the truth that’s contained within, but she pledges to never read it, saying that she doesn’t want to know what he’s done in the past. I feel like part of this decision, is to preserve her goodwill towards him. I’m guessing that she instinctively knows that reading it will cause her to lose any remaining respect for him.
I do wonder whether Xie Yu will manage to stay alive, though, given that Xia Dong’s shooting him dangerously murderous looks. Seeking to avenge her husband’s death, is definitely the sort of thing that I would imagine she’d do. And, it seems that Mei Changsu had anticipated such, as well, from the way he talks with Jingyan. Will Xia Dong hold it in, and not confront Xia Jiang over her husband’s death, like Mei Changsu hopes?
The thing that grabs my attention more, in this scene, is how Jingyan is again reminded of Lin Shu, by Mei Changsu. Although Commander Meng had once said that Mei Changsu’s changed so much that not a trace of Lin Shu remains, it is true that mannerisms and personal ticks are things that tend to continue, even if almost everything else has changed. I love that Jingyan’s picking up on these Lin Shu vibes from Mei Changsu, not only from his personal habit of fingering his robe like we saw before, but also, from the way he gets so engrossed when he talks about things like the strategies around military provisions.
It’s such an echo to what Master Zhou had said in episode 12, when Jingyan says that if Mei Changsu had had the opportunity to meet Lin Shu, they would have been great friends – like he and Mei Changsu are. Eee!! Jingyan’s outright said that he’s great friends with Mei Changsu; isn’t this a huge development?!? 🤩
It seems that with the Emperor growing more and more frustrated with the incessant fighting between the Crown Prince and Prince Yu, he’s beginning to find Consort Jing and Jingyan a refreshing change of pace. I just like the idea that after being forgotten all these years, Consort Jing is suddenly finding herself in favor with the Emperor, just for being herself. I love her; there’s something so soothing and graceful about her presence. ❤️
It seems that the Emperor’s suspicious nature is never far away. I mean, the moment Jingyan asks for his reward to be the pardon of an exiled prisoner, the Emperor literally starts banging on the table, demanding to know where Jingyan’s learned to start recruiting people to be on his side.
I do kinda love that Jingyan doesn’t give in to his mother’s silent urging to drop the issue, but continues to press in to ask for this as his reward, because only the Emperor is in the position to pardon the prisoner. It feels like a breakthrough, that Emperor Dad likes that Jingyan chooses not to abuse his power as a prince, and affably grants Jingyan’s request.
Might Jingyan finally find himself in the Emperor’s favor, after being the disfavored prince for so long?