Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Dontcha love this screenshot of Mei Changsu and Jingyan working together, deep in concentration, at the same table?? They are so in sync; I love it. 🤩
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! ❤️
This doesn’t feel like a very exciting episode, but it does feel like we get several key developments which are important to our story.
First of all, it does feel like Consort Jing might be on to Mei Changsu’s real identity as Lin Shu, judging from how emotional she gets while telling Jingyan to treat Mei Changsu well, and from how she keeps sending those snack baskets over to Mei Changsu. The impression I get, is that Consort Jing’s sending those snack baskets to Jingyan with greater frequency than before, but this is only my assumption, since Zhan Ying only remarks that Consort Jing makes it a point to always send a basket for Mei Changsu as well.
And, even though he accepts his mother’s excuse that she’s growing old and that’s why she’s harping on the same things without realizing it, Jingyan is suspicious enough, that there is more to this than meets the eye, that he spends days poring over the travelogue, and transcribing the notes that Mei Changsu’s written, in an attempt to decipher the secret, but to no avail. I guess Jingyan’s not going to find out Mei Changsu’s identity just yet.
It isn’t long before Jingyan gets busy and has no more time to puzzle over this, with his promotion to Noble Prince of the Third Rank, which comes with fancy new robes, a gold seal, and a five-pearl crown.
Ahh. So this is what all that talk about awarding pearls was about, in our early episodes. Those pearls aren’t just any old pearls; those pearls represent the rank of the prince in question. No wonder Prince Yu being awarded extra pearls at the beginning of our story had been a big deal.
Prince Yu does get all excited about pearls this time too, but this time, he’s very upset at Jingyan being the one to receive those pearls. Mei Changsu’s logic in trying to calm Prince Yu down – that the Emperor’s just trying to maintain balance in the court, while preparing to depose the Crown Prince – does sound quite tenable, even though Prince Yu doesn’t seem to buy it very much. I’m impressed that Mei Changsu’s even able to come up with a spin on this, that would make the situation appear favorable to Prince Yu. He really is a consummate spin doctor, ha.
This episode, I rather like the idea that Jingyan doesn’t need to actively recruit people to be on his side, in his quest for the throne; that once he gains momentum in his quest, people will naturally come to be on his side.
First, there’s the conversation between Jingyan and Consort Jing, where they discuss why Mei Changsu had not agreed to recruit Gao Zhan to be on their side.
I do find the tangent that Consort Jing goes on, quite meaningful, in that she points out to Jingyan that Mei Changsu’s other, unspoken reason for not recruiting Gao Zhan to be in their camp, is to avoid implicating Consort Jing, which he knows Jingyan would be unwilling to do. With Consort Jing consistently speaking up for Mei Changsu in front of Jingyan, I’m more convinced than ever, that she actually knows his identity, and is simply keeping quiet about it.
The other instance that the idea that people will naturally come to be on Jingyan’s side, is during Zhan Ying’s conversation with Jingyan. I like that we get to hear how Jingyan’s men have evolved and grown over time, and have naturally become more motivated to do greater and more meaningful things, as Jingyan himself has grown in credibility and standing.
It seems that everyone’s sitting up and taking notice of Jingyan, such that even the rumors that the palace maids bring back to the Empress, are all about how impressive Jingyan is, and how there’s basically not much difference between him and Prince Yu. Of particular interest, is the tidbit that, because of the debate that Prince Yu had initiated in an earlier episode, it’s now been established clearly, that since the Crown Prince is born of a concubine, and there is no difference in standing between him and Prince Yu, therefore all princes born of concubines have the same birth right.
Ohhh. Had Mei Changsu prompted the idea for the debate, and then supported it, with the thought in mind, that the conclusion of the debate would benefit Jingyan in the long term? If so, wow. I’m really impressed by how farsighted he is, in his strategizing.
In the meantime, I’m really worried about Tong Lu. Fourth Sister seems to have snagged his heart with just a few choice sentences, delivered with fake breathy earnestness, topped with an artful fall into his arms. Ack. Poor innocent Tong Lu. I feel like he’s about to be eaten by wolves. I can’t look. 🙈
It’s significant that the Emperor summons Jingyan alongside Prince Yu, when he wants to discuss the drought situation, and the disaster relief needed. What a terrible – though unsurprising – reveal we get via Shen Zhui’s visit to Jingyan’s manor, that the Crown Prince and Prince Yu have both been engaging in corruption around the relief rations, for years, such that the people who are actually in need only get a fraction of what the Court dispatches. Ugh. They really don’t care about the common folk that they are supposed to be caring for.
I really like the case that Jingyan makes for volunteering himself for the job; it shows wisdom and foresight, and also, a willingness to get out there and get his hands dirty. It’s too bad that Prince Yu is so wily that he manages to nudge the Emperor into choosing him for the task, by fake-volunteering his own assets as disaster relief, while the Emperor makes up his mind about whom he wants to assign the overseeing of the disaster relief. Dang. Has Prince Yu won this round, then?
Again, this feels like a pretty muted episode, even though there are things that are shifting in our drama world. Of course, given how Show rolls, this is more likely to be the lull before the storm, rather than a simple case of Show not having a great deal to serve up.
I’m impressed with how Jingyan looks genuinely regretful about not managing to convince the Emperor of his suitability for the disaster relief task. The way he apologizes to Shen Zhui feels very sincere, to me. I’m surprised by Shen Zhui’s remark about wishing a lightning bolt to hit Prince Yu on the head, because that’s so out of character, for him to speak out of line like this. But, I rationalize that perhaps this is to show us how comfortable he feels with Jingyan.
It seems that Mei Changsu’s response plan, is part serendipity and part strategy, given that the Jiangzuo Alliance just happened to have hijacked gifts that were on their way to Prince Yu, and the sender of those gifts just happened to have been the Mayor of Yuezhou, which is one of the disaster areas due to receive disaster relief.
I must say, Mei Changsu is shrewd to decide to use the power of public opinion in aid of their case, since he’s probably correct in his guess that the Emperor is simply pretending not to know that Prince Yu has been receiving gifts.
How smart, to spread rumors about the gifts, to the people of Yuezhou! Given that Yuezhou is suffering from a drought, it’s all the more unacceptable that the Mayor would draw on already severely limited resources, in order to send gifts to Prince Yu.
I’m happy that this results in the Emperor being extremely displeased with Prince Yu, and reassigning the disaster relief management to Jingyan. Muahaha. It pleases me that Prince Yu’s sly scheme to force the Emperor’s hand ultimately fails, and fails hard. It also pleases me to see that Cai Quan really has no qualms about rebutting Prince Yu, in front of the Emperor. He really doesn’t bother to give Prince Yu any “face” and Prince Yu’s frustration at everything that Cai Quan does, is so great to see.
This must be a huge blow to Prince Yu, considering how he’s still drunk at home, even after Jingyan’s been gone for 2 weeks, to oversee the administration of the disaster relief. I do wonder if Prince Yu would have continued to wallow like this, if Banruo hadn’t purposefully provoked him with the strong suggestion that it is Jingyan and not Prince Yu, who has the assistance of the Divine Talent.
I’m surprised that despite his drunk state, Prince Yu is able to think clearly enough, to recognize that, 1, Banruo’s true intention in provoking him with this idea, is so that Prince Yu would use his resources to take down Mei Changsu and the Jiangzuo Alliance, which, to Banruo, would serve as revenge for Mei Changsu having weakened Hong Xiu Zhao by removing so many of her spies; and 2, Removing Mei Changsu won’t actually solve the problem, because Jingyan does have merit of his own.
How worrying, that Prince Yu’s new target, is to get rid of Jingyan himself. And how evil-shrewd he is, to think of using the treason case of Prince Qi and the Chiyan Army. That could potentially hurt Jingyan quite a bit, in terms of favor with the Emperor. I do wonder whether Prince Yu is out for Jingyan’s blood, though. If he’s as cruel as the Emperor – which is what others like Marquis Yan say of him – then it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think that perhaps Prince Yu is desperate enough to get rid of Jingyan’s shadow, that he’d have him killed. Yikes.
And, given how Mei Changsu’s showing signs of poorer health than usual this episode, I have a nagging feeling that Mei Changsu might not be strong enough to give Jingyan advice when he most needs it – when Prince Yu makes his move to attack him. Double yikes. 😬
Banruo is very shrewd to point out that Xia Jiang, having been majorly involved in the treason case of Prince Qi and the Chiyan Army, would never want to see Jingyan take the throne, since Jingyan himself has never accepted the verdict on the case. This does make a plausible case, that Xia Jiang might be willing to work with Prince Yu, to take down Jingyan.
Plus, there’s that key tidbit of information that Banruo drops, that her teacher, Princess Xuanji of the Hua Tribe, had been an old friend of Xia Jiang’s. Hrmm.. We have been looking for a connection between Xia Jiang and Princess Xuanji, since we found out that Princess Xuanji had plotted to destroy the Chiyan Army. I’m curious to know more about this old friendship.
Also, Xia Jiang’s shady side is already starting to show, what with him sending an assassin to try to kill Liyang for Xie Yu’s incriminating letter that she still carries. The gall, to attempt to murder royalty! That already tells us about the kind of daring that Xia Jiang has. 😳
It really does seem that Consort Jing knows about Mei Changsu’s identity, and is choosing to keep it a secret.
How perceptive of Mei Changsu, to figure this out, with the circumstantial evidence that he manages to gather, that, 1, the boxes of snacks delivered to him and Jingyan are identical, 2, Consort Jing hasn’t included any hazelnut pastries despite them being Jingyan’s favorite, and 3, she knows he is extremely allergic to hazelnuts. Wow, when he puts it that way, it’s a pretty persuasive case, isn’t it? After all Consort Jing dotes on Jingyan, and used to make hazelnut pastries for him as a matter of habit.
I’d like to know how Fourth Sister managed to pass the Jiangzuo Alliance background check. After all, the Alliance does give me the impression that it’s very thorough? It seems that she’s had a whole new identity created, with character references all sorted, to be able to pass that check. I bet Junniang isn’t even her real name. Gah. But now Tong Lu’s looking so happy and relieved to hear that his beloved Junniang isn’t someone he needs to be suspicious of, and it looks as if he’s off to serve up whatever’s left of his heart to her, on a platter. Ah, I can’t look. 🙈
I’m also very curious to know why Mei Changsu is seeking out Marquis Yan. What special favor or mission does this involve? And why is it so important, that Mei Changsu has to go in person to see Marquis Yan? This feels potentially momentous.
Once again, I feel like this episode is shifting things into place, for Something Bigger. It’s not that Stuff doesn’t happen; we do get several developments that feel quite key to our story. It’s just.. these feel like they are but supporting arcs, there only to pave the way for bigger arcs to come, that are likely to blow our minds, the way Show blew our minds with Jingrui’s birthday banquet.
I quite enjoyed watching Marquis Yan’s surprise, at the realization that Mei Changsu is there, not to ask him to help Prince Yu, but to assist Prince Jing. It’s a narrative-tilting piece of information, and I like the detail, that Marquis Yan needs a Moment, to reshuffle the various pieces of information in his brain. It’s safe to say that this changes everything; even the way Marquis Yan looks at Mei Changsu is completely different, henceforth. Not only is he a lot less guarded, there’s a fresh sense of respect in his eyes, which is really quite refreshing to see.
One of the biggest highlights of the scene, for me, is how Marquis Yan not only thinks to have Yujin present, but makes it a point to speak with Yujin, upon making the decision to accept Mei Changsu’s request to support Prince Jing. This is a huge change, for the man who used to be so reclusive that he’d hardly ever see his own son. Now, it feels like Marquis Yan has taken Yujin into his confidence, and Yujin’s open-hearted response is utterly moving.
When Marquis Yan says that if things go wrong, Yujin would be “implicated,” he’s basically saying that Yujin might have to die with him, if he’s convicted of treason. The fact that Yujin doesn’t even hesitate to pledge his loyalty to his father, even under such circumstances, is so moving, to me. He trusts his father implicitly, to the extent of laying down his life. Tear. I feel like this father and son pair have come such a long way, from the time that we first met them.
The other thing I find interesting about the scene, is how Marquis Yan almost hits the nail on the head, when he asks Mei Changsu if he’d been from Prince Qi’s household. What Marquis Yan says is true; there has to be a personal reason for someone such as Mei Changsu to choose to support Prince Jing in his quest for the throne. The apparent lack of personal connection – rather than Marquis Yan being unable to make a sound judgment – is the reason that Marquis Yan had been so convinced before, that Mei Changsu was on Prince Yu’s side.
In fact, Marquis Yan’s response to Mei Changsu’s initial claim, that he’s in this for fame and power, is spot-on: “I may have only met you only on two occasions, but from what I can tell, fame and power is too paltry, it is not your style.” … “Jiangzuo Alliance has its place in the pugilist world; Chief Mei, you have your own pride. The lure of fame and power, the forces of Imperial Power, you would naturally dismiss them. I thought it over, the only possible reason is because of ties in the past.”
You’re so close, Marquis Yan!
Mei Changsu’s answer – “I was a youth who admired Prince Qi, and wanted to support him. That motivation has not changed, hence why you have the Mei Changsu of today” – is an approximation of the truth, and it feels significant, that this is the closest to the truth that Mei Changsu’s revealed, to someone who’s not from his existing inner circle.
While Mei Changsu gains an ally in Marquis Yan, Prince Yu busies himself with forming an alliance with Xia Jiang. This episode is the first proper look we’re getting at Xia Jiang in his villain persona, and I must say, he cuts a pretty intimidating figure. For one thing, Wang Yongquan, who plays Xia Jiang, has a ton of screen presence. From the minute Xia Jiang appears at that summer palace, he commands the room, even though he’s keeping an audience with royalty.
For another, Xia Jiang’s plan to take down Prince Jing is pretty shrewd. Even though he’s sworn off getting involved in faction fights, he seems to have a pretty spot-on understanding of Prince Jing’s character; more so than Prince Yu himself, it seems.
It feels like Xia Jiang’s going to be the one calling the shots in this partnership, not Prince Yu, judging from how this conversation goes.
While we’re on the topic of Xia Jiang, I’m curious to know how much his minions know, about what he’s doing. I mean, Xia Dong isn’t supposed to know, but now we’ve seen that he’s got other, smaller minion who have been trailing Liyang and looking for an opportunity to do something bad to her.
I mean, it’s possible that their instruction is to steal the letter from her, but I’m guessing that the instruction also includes an order to kill her. After all, last episode, we’d seen that minion approach Liyang’s carriage with a knife. Does that mean that these Xuanjing Bureau people, who are officially supposed to be upholding justice, are out there blatantly following Xia Jiang’s orders to “take action” against the Grand Princess? 😳
I suppose they’re not so interested in upholding justice, so much as they are dedicated to being secret service operatives?
Meanwhile, Tong Lu’s completely smitten with Junniang, and I’m relieved that Zhen Ping notices how distracted Tong Lu is. At least this puts Mei Changsu’s camp on their guard, to see if anything is amiss with Tong Lu.
I must say, Tong Lu’s completely guileless, when it comes to Junniang. My head imploded a bit, when Tong Lu told Junniang that he’d told his Uncle about her, when he’d first met her, and Uncle had said that there weren’t any issues with her. That’s a supremely weird thing to say, honestly, and it would have probably freaked out any other prospective bride – except Junniang, who’s already onto the fact that Tong Lu’s likely linked to some kind of intelligence network. My point is, that’s just how unguarded Tong Lu is, around Junniang, and this worries me.
The other thing that worries me, is that Xia Jiang and Prince Yu agree that Mei Changsu might well be able to deter Prince Jing from paying heed to Wei Qi, when they capture him – and therefore the idea on the table, as we end the episode, is that they prevent Prince Jing from taking Mei Changsu’s advice. One way or another, they’re going to try to isolate Prince Jing, in order to entrap him.
On top of all that, our Divine Talent Mei Changsu is very ill and all laid up in bed, with strict instructions from Physician Yan that he cannot be disturbed, for fear of endangering his life. Gah. This is a recipe for trouble, it feels like, and I’m pretty sure we’re going to see it all go down, in next week’s set of episodes. Time to buckle up?