Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Augh. This shot of Mei Changsu is so full of pathos, isn’t it? His expression says so much, without him having to say anything at all. 😭💔
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 felt like a relatively muted episode, when compared against the tension and thrills of the last few episodes, but it all feels organic and necessary. There is fallout to be reckoned with, and that reckoning takes time.
I’m a little bit surprised by how despondent Prince Yu is, as we begin our episode. After all, when we’d last seen him, he’d managed to avoid the joint trial by the 3 Judiciaries, as petitioned by Cai Quan and Shen Zhui, which I’d considered a bit of a win, given his circumstances. However, Prince Yu’s more forward looking than I am, for sure; he’s already forecast that he will have no other opportunities to fight for the throne, given the Emperor’s disappointment in him, for having joined hands with Xuanjing Bureau to deceive him.
I did feel rather sorry for Cai Quan, who’s still really upset and sore about the Emperor sweeping the illegal fireworks factory case under the rug. Like I said, I’d be mad in his shoes too. What does strike me, though, as he rants to Shen Zhui, is how Cai Quan’s focus is the sense of injustice to the people who’d died in the explosion. It’s clearer than ever, that his moves are not politically motivated; he just really wants a just administration that can answer to the people. It’s heartening, though, to hear that both Shen Zhui and Cai Quan have hope that Prince Jing will eventually be able to create that just administration. Also, Shen Zhui’s such an earnest friend; I love the way he breaks out his 60-year-old wine in an effort to console Cai Quan. That’s cute.
It’s no surprise to me, that Consort Jing navigates her conversations with the Emperor with wisdom and shrewdness. To the Emperor, he’s just having some idle conversation with her, as he enjoys a relaxing massage. But Consort Jing’s astute answers, to his various questions and remarks, essentially work to position Jingyan in a more favorable light with the Emperor.
For example, when the Emperor says that he will make it up to Jingyan, for suffering the injustice of being wrongly accused by Xia Jiang, Consort Jing’s remark, that Jingyan’s fortune is bad, and therefore he cannot take too much of the Emperor’s favor, is so smart. Because of what she says, the Emperor defends Jingyan’s right to receive his favor, and goes so far as to assure her that he will ensure that Jingyan is more than able to withstand the weight of his favor, which I take to mean that the Emperor will accord Jingyan with additional support and whatever rank or resources necessary, to protect him from naysayers &/or schemers.
Not only that, when the topic of Mei Changsu comes up, Consort Jing carefully says that Jingyan hasn’t spoken about him, and then asks a few questions about Mei Changsu, on the pretext of knowing more about him, which eventually leads to the Emperor not only instructing her to tell Jingyan to consult Mei Changsu more, but also offering to take her on the Spring Hunt, so that she will have a chance to meet the elusive but famous Mei Changsu. I count that a bit of a coup, really.
Significantly, the Emperor even goes so far as to say that it’s time for Consort Jing and Jingyan to start thinking more ambitiously, and that he likes how Jingyan doesn’t build factions within the court, and is fair in how he manages things. Praise and approval from the Emperor, who had once disdained Jingyan for being too straightforward? Wow. This is progress indeed! Mei Changsu’s strategy really is bearing fruit, and I somehow feel a great sense of satisfaction about this.
On the other side of things, I was super relieved when Commander Meng hears about the Wujin poison pill from Xia Dong when he visits her in prison, and I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how and where the antidote would be found – only to feel quite blindsided, when Physician Yan pronounces that the Poison of the Bitter Flame, which is the poison that is affecting Mei Changsu (and which presumably is the source of his ill health), had basically destroyed the Wujin poison upon its entry into Mei Changsu’s body. What?!? Ok, I definitely hadn’t seen that coming. 🤯
I don’t know how much actual poison sense that makes, since I know nothing about poisons, but there is a saying in Chinese – 以毒攻毒 (“yǐdúgōngdú) – which literally translates as fighting a poison with another poison, so I’ll willingly buy the idea that Show’s serving up, that Mei Changsu’s not in need of the antidote for the Wujin poison.
The other thing that I’d been waiting for – that Jingyan gets to hear Xiao Xin’s testimony – also happens this episode. YES. Finally, Jingyan comes to know that it was Xia Jiang’s and Prince Yu’s doing all along; that Mei Changsu had never sent that message, to say that it’d be fine to allow Consort Jing to be inconvenienced for a while.
It’s a big lesson for Jingyan. Not only does he learn that his straightforward character is easy to read and manipulate, he also becomes more cognizant of the fact that he’d harbored doubts about Mei Changsu, despite having agreed to work with him. The self-reproach is written all over his face; it’s clear that he is deeply regretful for having misunderstood Mei Changsu, when he should have trusted him.
This is a huge blow, for our upright Jingyan to realize that when he’d cut ties with Mei Changsu, how unfair it had been to Mei Changsu, and yet, how far Mei Changsu had gone, not only to persuade Jingyan not to give up their partnership, but also, to realize Jingyan’s desire, of saving Wei Zheng, even to his own detriment. I can imagine the turmoil and guilt that Jingyan feels, as all the pieces shift into place in his mind.
It’s no wonder that when Jingyan receives news that Mei Changsu’s been poisoned by Xia Jiang, he is so determined to get the antidote, that he looks like he really would take the risk to kill Xia Jiang for it, if necessary, even though Xia Jiang’s trial isn’t even over yet.
The scene where Jingyan and Commander Meng confront Xia Jiang in his prison cell, is pretty gripping stuff, partly because of Jingyan’s and Commander Meng’s barely controlled fury, but also, because Wang Yong Quan, who plays Xia Jiang, has such a commanding screen presence, even when he’s all disheveled and bound in chains.
The way Xia Jiang doesn’t back down, even when Commander Meng’s got him in a death grip, and even continues to taunt Jingyan, shows just how ballsy he is. It really seems like he won’t cower, even if it’s in the face of death.
Even after Jingyan and Commander Meng leave him, you can see that his mind is still racing. My guess is that he’s trying to figure out what’s going on, and how that can help him get out of this predicament. Based on his secret conversation with Banruo (whom I had trouble recognizing, without her signature red eyeliner!), Prince Yu has a chance to secure Xia Jiang’s release, and it has something to do with the Spring Hunt. Looks like our Big Villain hasn’t fully fallen yet.
We end the episode on a thoughtfully poignant note, with Jingyan going to see his mother, and talking with her about Mei Changsu, Wei Zheng, and most of all, Lin Shu.
This feels like an important processing step for Jingyan, because he’s finally able to articulate how much he owes Mei Changsu, how much he wants to solve the Chiyan case, and how much he wishes that Lin Shu were still alive. Augh. There’s a lot of heartbreak that Jingyan’s still nursing, and from the concerned, compassionate expression on Consort Jing’s face, I really half expected her to tell Jingyan the truth right there; that his beloved Lin Shu, whom he misses so dearly, is right there before his eyes. 😭💔
But, Consort Jing has more self-control than I give her credit for; she doesn’t tell Jingyan. But she does mention that even if Lin Shu were able to come back alive, he wouldn’t be the same Lin Shu that he once was. Ahh. I kind of think that Consort Jing is preparing Jingyan, in case he does come to know of Mei Changsu’s true identity one day. She is always so shrewd and so wise!
How poignant, to hear that Lin Shu had asked Jingyan to bring him back a pearl from Donghai, but even though Jingyan had brought back the pearl as requested, Lin Shu wasn’t alive to receive it from him. Oof. That’s gotta hurt. 💔
Again, this felt like a relatively muted episode, but, with this show, I can feel assured that our story’s not resting on its laurels, but rather, is taking a studied approach to putting things in place for our next big wave of excitement.
It’s just really good to see Mei Changsu well enough to be up and about, and even enjoying a few chuckles, while watching Commander Meng spar with Fei Liu. That’s a welcome relief, after seeing him fade in and out of consciousness for the last little while. It’s also heartwarming to see how relieved everyone around Mei Changsu is, to see him feel better. I’m always most touched by the heartfelt loyalty of Li Gang and Zhen Ping; they are so sincerely thankful that he’s doing better, and it warms my heart to see it.
I’m also touched by the fact that in Mei Changsu’s eyes, the first order of business, now that he’s better, is to look into Tong Lu’s situation. I feel like most other people in his position would have hastened to turn their backs on Tong Lu, since it’s clear that Tong Lu’s given up at least some intel on Jiangzuo Alliance. However, Mei Changsu’s trust in Tong Lu is strong enough, that he doesn’t doubt Tong Lu, in spite of the circumstances. Instead of turning his back on Tong Lu, he’s assigning resources that are already limited, to check on Tong Lu.
The other smallish beat that gives me a sense of satisfaction, is when Noble Consort Yue is demoted, and Consort Jing is promoted to Noble Consort Jing, in her place.
Given that earlier in the episode, we see the Empress snidely nudge Noble Consort Yue to get a hold of herself, so that someone else isn’t promoted to take her place, this feels like a bit of a slap in the face, not only to Noble Consort Yue, but to the Empress as well. Muahaha. I did get a bit of satisfaction outta this, though I do worry a bit, over how the Empress is now likely going to do her best to make things difficult for Noble Consort Jing.
On this note, I have to say, Noble Consort Jing’s palace maneuvers are so graceful, that sometimes, you wonder whether she actually means to nudge the Emperor in a certain direction, or if she really just happens to inspire him a certain way. For example, the way she confirms that the creams are the correct ones to send to Consort Hui, while massaging the Emperor, triggers him to ask what the creams are and what they’re for, which is how she has an opening to relate the story of how Consort Hui’s hands hurt because the Empress wants her to produce two copies of the Buddhist scriptures on short notice.
That then leads to her suggesting that the Emperor persuade the Empress to go easier on Consort Hui, which then gets the Emperor thinking of another idea. And part of that idea, apparently, is to assign Consort Hui’s son Jingting, to oversee the Xuanjing Bureau case, because Jingting will be fair and accurate in handling it.
The maneuvers are all so gentle and slight, that I sometimes wonder if they were ever there, to begin with. She’s such a master, truly. If she were a villainess type, she’d be super scary and formidable, don’t you think? 😜
I’m intrigued by Commander Meng’s visit to Xia Jiang, this episode. It felt like I was watching a game of dare, with each side trying to outwit the other, on his word alone. I do wonder how true it is, that Xia Jiang’s two supervisors had died. Also, are we talking about Xia Chun and Xia Qiu, I wonder?
After all, they’d been Xia Jiang’s main supervisors at Xuanjing Bureau.. But then again, Commander Meng had assured Xia Dong, that because Xia Qiu hadn’t been present when everything had gone down, he wouldn’t be implicated. Hrmm. 🤔 Are we talking about a different set of supervisors, or is Commander Meng pulling a fast one on Xia Jiang, in order to get him to make the confession that the Emperor wants?
Because Xia Jiang is our Big Villain, it does give me a sense of satisfaction, to see him apparently blindsided and at a loss, after hearing Commander Meng’s words. In particular, I get an inexplicable sense of glee, from Xia Jiang’s disbelief, that Mei Changsu hasn’t died from the Wujin poison pill. Yes, it doesn’t make any sense in his understanding of the world, and for some reason, this pleases me. Muahaha.
I’m also inordinately amused by how the Emperor keeps telling Jingyan to seek out Mei Changsu, and Jingyan resolutely acts naive and innocent as to why that might be the case. Oh, the irony. If the Emperor only knew, that Jingyan’s been consulting with Mei Changsu, long before the Emperor ever thought of Jingyan as a potential candidate to succeed the throne.
I did also low-key enjoy the scene of Jingyan sitting with Mei Changsu, with Shen Zhui and Cai Quan along for the ride. It’s pretty cool, to see how much enjoyment Shen Zhui and Cai Quan derive, from the opportunity to discuss politics and philosophy with Mei Changsu.
What sticks in my mind more, though, is what Mei Changsu says to Commander Meng, about why Jingyan is going to the trouble of bringing Shen Zhui and Cai Quan with him, to visit. It’s a thought that’s deep with pathos; that when all is said and done, everything – including the tunnel, Su Residence, and Mei Changsu himself – will eventually fade away without a trace, and this is Jingyan’s way of helping Mei Changsu to leave traces of himself. Ack. That’s a sad thought. 😭
Meanwhile, with Prince Yu continuing to wallow in his misery, Xia Jiang urges Banruo to open the silk pouch that Princess Xuanji had left for her, for a time when she had no options left. What is in the pouch?!?? I can’t even imagine, honestly. Also, is Wei Zheng really at Mu Manor, like Jingyan suspects?
Ok, wow. That pouch gives up a secret that I absolutely did not see coming. Prince Yu’s mother was Princess Xuanjing’s elder sister Princess Linglong, and therefore he has Hua blood? And that’s why Princess Xuanjing had specifically assigned Banruo to stay by Prince Yu’s side, to assist him to the throne? I’m.. gonna need a minute. Woah. 🤯
No wonder the Emperor had kept Prince Yu’s mother’s background so hush hush, all these years. Also, what is this, that the Emperor had taken Princess Linglong as his concubine, but had then reneged on whatever promises he’d made to Princess Linglong, and had had the Hua Tribe eliminated for their alleged alliance with Da Yu, after ascending the throne?
I have to admit to feeling rather confused about this, and so I consulted my mom about it, and from what she tells me, basically, the then would-be Emperor had formed that alliance with the Hua Tribe by marrying Princess Linglong, so that the Hua Tribe would help get rid of Da Yu, an enemy that stood in his way. Upon ascension of the throne, however, he reneged on the promise represented by the alliance, and instead of using his power to strengthen the Hua Tribe, he used his power to eliminate them. And it’s because he eliminated the tribe of his own concubine, that he’s had to keep Prince Yu’s mother’s identity a secret all these years. Gosh. That’s evil, and cruel. 😳
In talking about it with Gao Zhan now, the Emperor remarks that if Prince Yu had proved himself worthy, he would have considered giving him the throne. However, my mom points out – and I do agree with her – that it’s a lot easier for him to say that, now that Prince Yu’s been taken out of the running.
On this point, Prince Yu’s probably more accurate in his estimation that the Emperor had never seriously considered him as a potential successor, because of his Hua lineage. Honestly, I think the Emperor would have been too suspicious of what might happen, if Prince Yu came to find out about his mother’s identity.
On a side note, isn’t it quite ironic, that the Emperor says of Prince Yu, “You reap what you sow,” when really, he’s the one we’re watching in the process of reaping what he’s sown.
I do feel a bit sorry for Prince Yu, because he’s just realized that his own mother had died because of his father, which basically makes his entire life a lie. No wonder he’s all torn up and disillusioned.
The way Prince Yu says, with sword in hand, “How you got the throne in the past, today, I too can do the same,” tells us that the Emperor had gained the throne via a coup (although we’re not told whether it was against his father or a brother), and now, Prince Yu is going to literally follow in his father’s footsteps, and plan a coup. Ohhh. This is going to be action-packed and exciting, no matter what happens, right? 😱
The other big event this episode, is Wei Zheng arriving at the Su Residence, and meeting first with Mei Changsu, and then with Prince Jing.
Guh. The way Wei Zheng rushes forward and addresses Mei Changsu by his military rank of Young Marshal, had me getting emotional. I hadn’t noticed it on my first watch, but upon being addressed as Young Marshal, the entire way Mei Changsu carries himself changes, even if but for a moment. Suddenly, there is a strength in his gaze, his voice and his gestures. For just this moment, he’s fully himself again, and not hiding behind an alias. It’s pretty moving stuff to witness. 🥲
And then, when Jingyan arrives, with Commander Meng and Zhanying in tow, and they all sit down to hear Wei Zheng’s account of what had happened at Meiling, it’s such a charged, emotional moment.
What a terrible thing to realize that the reason the Chiyan Army had been successfully wiped out, is because the troops that Xia Jiang and Xie Yu had brought to Meiling, had attacked the Chiyan Army, after they’d already spent themselves in battle – and then, those same troops had claimed the credit for the battles that the Chiyan Army had spent themselves to win. To think that Wei Zheng – and likely many others too – had thought that these troops had arrived to help them. How completely shocking it must have been, to have been attacked by troops whom you’d assumed were on your side? It’s so tragic, really.
The thing that moves me the most, in this scene, is how Jingyan concludes, with his heart in his throat and tears in his eyes, that Lin Shu absolutely can’t come back now. And there is his Xiao Shu, looking on at him with the same tears mirrored in his eyes, unable to reveal his identity. The wistfulness is so thick on both sides, that I feel like I could cut it with a knife.
The star-crossed bromantic feels; it’s too much. 😭💔
I can understand Jingyan’s fury, and his burning desire to redress the wrongs done to the members of the Chiyan Army, but Mei Changsu has a point; it would be nigh impossible to get the Emperor to admit his mistake – and his admission, is key to the reopening of the case. I’m glad that Commander Meng is there to back Mei Changsu up on this point; I was half afraid that Jingyan would go ballistic on Mei Changsu again, like how he’d lost it, back when Mei Changsu had tried to dissuade him from saving Wei Zheng.
How refreshing, then, to actually see Jingyan give instructions to Wei Zheng to follow whatever orders Mei Changsu might have for him, while he stays at Su Residence. Ahh. It does feel like something fundamental has shifted for Jingyan. Are we perhaps glimpsing some of that trust that he’d regretted not having, in Mei Changsu before?
Poor Tong Lu. I kinda hate that Fourth Sister lies to him in order to trick him into revealing details about Mei Changsu and the Jiangzuo network, though I reason that she really doesn’t have much choice but to trust Banruo and just hope that Banruo still stay true to her promise, to let them go when she gets what she wants. This look of betrayal, though. It really feels like Tong Lu’s heart is being crushed into a million pieces, right in this moment.
I’m anticipating that our following set of episodes is going to be exciting, because where we leave off, Prince Yu is firmly in place at the palace, getting ready to pull off a coup, and claim the throne as his own. It’s pretty uncanny to imagine the Emperor perhaps doing something similar, all those years ago, when he’d pulled off his own coup for the throne. This father and son pair are really too alike, though they are reluctant to admit it.
And how about that meeting between Noble Consort Jing and Mei Changsu, where she purposely spills tea on his sleeve, so that she can check for the same mole that Nihuang had once tried to check for as well?
I was a little confused at first, in that it made me wonder whether Noble Consort Jing really doubted her belief, that Mei Changsu is Lin Shu. But I suppose it’s human nature to want confirmation, and in concrete form, if possible. Noble Consort Jing’s been convinced for some time now, that Mei Changsu really is Lin Shu.. Will she really be thrown off by the lack of an identifying mole on his arm? I’m guessing that she’ll find another way to confirm his identity.
From the expression on his face, it’s safe to say that Mei Changsu clearly knows that she knows, though. I wonder if we’ll get to witness a proper reunion soon, between aunt and nephew? 🥺