Welcome to the Open Thread, everyone! Today we have Mei Changsu headlining our post, because I find this shot of him so gently compelling. Also, can you believe that we’ve only got 3 episodes left? 😱
Edit: I would normally announce the brainstorming for the next group watch alongside this penultimate post for this show, but since NIF’s such a long show, I thought everyone might appreciate a bit of a breather between this group watch and the next. So I will put up the brainstorming post next week, alongside our final NIF Open Thread. (Thanks manukajoe, for checking in!)
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! ❤️
The Big Event this episode, is the Emperor summoning Mei Changsu to the Palace, on Xia Jiang’s persistent claim that Mei Changsu is actually Lin Shu.
There are couple of things that strike me, right off the bat. Some, irreverent, like how it’s so hard to get things done without advancements like Google and mobile phones, ha. That would have saved a lot of tension and drama, if the Emperor had been able to Google the Poison of the Bitter Flame, or if Jingyan had been able to call Mei Changsu, to tell him not to enter the Palace. I know, this is so irrelevant, I’m sorry! 🙈
Another thing that strikes me, is how important it is, to be shrewd, and to have good connections, within the palace. It’s only thanks to Noble Consort Jing’s seemingly innocuous gift of a bowl of white lotus soup to the Emperor, that gives Gao Zhan the opportunity to send a warning to Noble Consort Jing. You really do have to think five steps ahead, in order to survive in the palace, I think.
And, even though we’ve seen hints of it from time to time, I do think this is the most overt we’ve seen, in terms of Gao Zhan showing that he’s on anyone’s side.
Not only does he send that warning via Noble Consort Jing’s maid, he also feigns puzzlement, so that he can point out to the Emperor that there is no evidence to prove that Mei Changsu is Lin Shu. Plus, he also alerts everyone to the suspicious nature of the wine, by innocently pointing out which cup of wine is meant for Mei Changsu. He really is quite the MVP, this episode!
One other thing that strikes me, is how Jingyan, Nihuang and Commander Meng are all ready to storm the Palace, in order to rescue Mei Changsu.
I mean.. that would be an outright revolt, which would be punishable by death, of the individuals and their entire families.. right? Which means that to avoid that, they would have to storm the palace, and kill the Emperor.. right? And they plan this without hesitation, in what feels like the urgency of the moment. It blows my mind quite a bit, to see that they would be willing to stage a rebellion, for Mei Changsu’s sake.
Our characters are too smart to not know the implications of the rescue that they’re planning, so I can only put it down to Mei Changsu being that important to them, that they’d feel it worth taking such a risk.
As for the “interrogation” in the throne room, where Mei Changsu, Jingyan and Xia Jiang share an audience with the Emperor, my mom pointed out two things to me.
The first is, this possibility, was likely a big reason for Mei Changsu choosing not to tell Jingyan his true identity. When Xia Jiang accuses Mei Changsu of being Lin Shu, Jingyan’s eyes literally look like they’re about to pop out of his head. And he easily protests that this is an illogical assumption, and that he doesn’t believe it.
My mom’s point is, if Jingyan had known, he may not have been able to put up such a convincingly innocent response. His immediate reaction to Xia Jiang’s accusation, would have more likely been fear (for Lin Shu’s safety) rather than disbelief, and that would have been a tell-tale sign of Jingyan being in cahoots with Lin Shu.
I think that’s a great point, actually. Even though we’ve seen Jingyan act reasonably well on occasion, there have also been times when he’s been too stiff and straightforward, when he would have benefited from putting up a more cool and detached act. Also, given how vehemently Jingyan had protested at Xia Jiang taking Mei Changsu into Xuanjing Bureau for questioning, when he hadn’t even known that this was Lin Shu, it’s easy to imagine that Jingyan would likely also be unable to contain himself in this situation, if he knew that Lin Shu’s cover was close to being blown.
The other thing that my mom said about this scene, is how Xia Jiang’s very good at distracting the Emperor, and how clear-thinking Mei Changsu is, to bring the Emperor’s attention to where it needs to be.
Xia Jiang’s strategy is to draw the Emperor’s attention to the various pieces of circumstantial evidence that point to Mei Changsu possibly being Lin Shu, and he even shifts the focus of the discussion, to why Mei Changsu would have chosen to assist Jingyan instead of the previous Crown Prince, or Prince Yu. In Xia Jiang’s estimation, it’s because of Mei Changsu, that both the previous Crown Prince and Prince Yu, who had been powerful and favored, had fallen within two short years of Mei Changsu’s arrival in Jinling.
And, it does seem like the Emperor is being drawn along by Xia Jiang’s flawed logic, until Mei Changsu interjects, to remind everyone that, 1, the previous Crown Prince’s fall had been his own doing (which the Emperor is most clear about), and 2, it was Xia Jiang – and not Mei Changsu – who had been involved in the rebellion staged by Prince Yu.
I love the fiery way Mei Changsu levels the question at Xia Jiang, “Did I force him to start a rebellion?”
Plus, Mei Changsu’s point – that Jingyan could have easily held back, in the rescue on Jiu An Mountain, and that would have easily gained him the throne, if that’s what he was after – is ironclad. It’s true that Jingyan had given his all to rescue the Emperor, and then had given back the military seal without hesitation. Not only that, Mei Changsu also points out, by bringing up Consort Yue and Prince Xian, that underneath it all, this is all related to the fight for the throne. Ahh. Finally. The Emperor is seeing clearly again.
HOWEVER. Xia Jiang knows the Emperor too well. Even while he’s being carried out of there (after trying to kill Mei Changsu on the spot, gasp!), he yells a reminder to the Emperor, that it’s safer to kill the innocent, than to set the guilty free.
..And that hits the Emperor exactly in his insecurities, which is why he orders poisoned wine for Mei Changsu. I’m so thankful for Gao Zhan innocently sounding the alarm, and for Jingyan stepping forward, to take that cup of wine from Mei Changsu’s hand. And, I’m so thankful that Jingyan doesn’t foolishly drink that wine, but pours it on the floor. Ohthankgoodness.
It’s a relief to everyone outside the palace, that Jingyan and Mei Changsu leave the Palace unscathed (also, phew, no rebellion!), but Jingyan’s mind is clearly still reeling from everything that’s happened. This scene, of him walking through the Palace, so regally, and yet, half in a daze, as he thinks upon the various times when Mei Changsu’s behavior had given him pause, is so beautifully done.
I am SO READY, for Jingyan to officially know the truth now.
Poor Jingyan. It’s such a heartbreaking, surreal moment for him, as he talks with Noble Consort Jing, about Mei Changsu’s true identity. There’s such a little boy lostness about him, as he laments that he’s the only one who hadn’t known. Aw. There’s such a plaintive cry in his voice, as he says that, and he’s clearly grappling with a lot of guilt, for not having recognized Xiao Shu, on his own. I can’t help but feel sorry for him. 😭
Noble Consort Jing does an admirable job of talking Jingyan through this, telling him that Xiao Shu’s expectations and hopes for Jingyan are different from that of other people. And, when Jingyan asks the uncomfortable question about whether Xiao Shu is very ill, Noble Consort Jing’s answer says all that needs to be said, “I’m only going to say this one thing, fulfill his wish.”
Augh. I believe that Jingyan knows, with this simple statement, that his Xiao Shu, just now found, won’t be long for the world. What a rollercoaster of heartbreak this is for poor Jingyan.
I’d expected – ok, hoped – that Jingyan would get to speak with his Xiao Shu again, sometime this episode, but instead, life goes on as planned, and my head implodes a bit, at the thought that Jingyan doesn’t get to reunite with Xiao Shu, for what feels like many days, after finding out his true identity. How could he stand it..? 🥺 But, as my mom pointed out to me, with Jingyan now living at the Eastern Palace, they can no longer meet in secret, and with this suspicion around Mei Changsu’s identity, it’s not safe for them to meet either.
Again, shout-out to Gao Zhan, for knowing exactly how to put the Emperor’s restless mind at ease.
Gao Zhan’s explanation for why he doesn’t think Mei Changsu is Lin Shu – that if Mei Changsu was really Lin Shu, Jingyan would have never allowed for him to be taken in for interrogation at Xuanjing Bureau – is perfectly reasonable, and is watertight enough for the Emperor to accept as true. Yes, the logic is faulty, but this just shows how strong Jingyan’s friendship with Lin Shu was; that it’s easy to believe that if Mei Changsu were really Lin Shu, there is no chance that Jingyan would not know about it.
On a tangent, this is another reason why it turned out to be beneficial for Jingyan not to have known Mei Changsu’s identity, at the point when Xia Jiang asked to interrogate Mei Changsu at Xuanjing Bureau. I do believe that if Jingyan had known, he would have never allowed it, even if it meant stepping even more out of line than he’d done, when he’d believed that Mei Changsu was simply Mei Changsu.
After this scene with Gao Zhan, in particular, I became curious to know exactly what Gao Zhan knows, because, from his actions, it’s clear that he’s working to protect Mei Changsu. Yet, we’ve never been explicitly shown what he knows, and who he supports.
..And so, I did what any fangurl with a rich resource in Mom would do; I consulted Mom again, heh.
Mom pointed out that Gao Zhan’s been serving the royal family for many years, and would have not only seen Lin Shu grow up, he would have also been very familiar with his parents, especially since Lin Shu’s mother was Grand Princess Jinyang, the Emperor’s sister. And, being in the background, and seeing and hearing all the things that have happened in the court, he might well have personal feelings about Grand Princess Jinyang’s death, when her husband and son had been accused of treason.
Additionally, when all this stuff with the secret letter being sent to Consort Yue had gone down, and the Emperor had that secret meeting with Xia Jiang, Gao Zhan was there, observing everything, and hearing everything. As we’ve seen, Gao Zhan’s a very shrewd and intelligent person, and so, it’s likely that he’d pieced everything together, and working on his best deduction that Mei Changsu is indeed Lin Shu, he’s doing what he can, to protect him.
Ah, I’m so glad we have Gao Zhan! He’s like a silent guardian angel of sorts, isn’t he, stepping in where necessary, to nudge things in a certain direction, in order to protect those whom he deems need protection. 🥰
I was mildly amused by how Lin Chen solved the whole conundrum of how to get Xia Dong back in prison, after Minister Cai discovered Gong Yu in her place; more than that, I’m grateful that, with Mei Changsu ill in bed, he’s there to nudge Commander Meng into investigating how the news of the swap had leaked in the first place. Ahh. No wonder Mei Changsu had asked Lin Chen whether he wanted to advise Jingyan in his place; he really is quite up to the task, it seems.
What I’m more interested to talk about, is the appearance of Xia Jiang’s wife and son, at the end of the episode. That threw me for a bit of a loop, since, based on Marquis Yan’s conversation with Xia Jiang, I’d believed them both to be dead.
Again, Mom to the rescue, heh. Mom’s analysis is that the letter, while functioning as a farewell note to those in the city, had not actually contained specifics as to the wellbeing of either wife or child.
However, with it being a farewell note, it did line up nicely, with the fib that Marquis Yan told Xia Jiang, that his son had died young, and his wife was in poor health and not long for this world either. As for why Marquis Yan told that lie, it was very likely to give Xia Jiang a big enough shock, that would distract him and cloud his judgment, so that he wouldn’t catch on to the real reason why Marquis Yan had invited him out of the city.
How handy, that Madam Han is able to provide information on the various followers of Xia Jiang whom she’d known of, who were Hua tribe spies. That’s exactly the information that Mei Changsu needs, in his effort to root out Banruo’s remaining network.
I’m curious to know who the person is, whom Mei Changsu pinpoints to Lin Chen, saying that he has plans for this person, and so would like Lin Chen not to touch them. I’m also very curious to know the contents of the letter that Mei Changsu gives to Xia Jiang in prison. Both such mysterious plot points, and both pointing to the likelihood of more excitement, coming up next in our story.
Ahh. We finally get to see Jingyan and Mei Changsu together this episode, like I’ve been waiting for. I have mixed feelings about how this pans out, in that, while it is somewhat cathartic to see them finally relating as Jingyan and Lin Shu, it is still a rather angsty experience for them (and for me), because there’s so much that remains tamped down.
I feel like it’s encapsulated in this screenshot, where it’s Jingyan who desires more from Xiao Shu, and it’s Xiao Shu, who keeps looking resolutely ahead.
Importantly, Jingyan’s finally moving forward in pushing for the retrial of the Chiyan case, and that moment at the beginning of the episode, when he says to Mei Changsu, “Don’t worry Prince Qi and the Chiyan case will be resolved soon,” is a small but very significant indication, of how Jingyan’s entire perspective, concerning Mei Changsu and the Chiyan case, has changed.
Before, he’d considered Mei Changsu an outsider who could never understand how he felt about the Chiyan case, but now, he’s assuring Mei Changsu – as an insider, who’s even more involved than Jingyan himself – that he will make sure to get the case retried, and bring the truth to light.
It’s a momentous step, because this is THE thing that Mei Changsu – and our entire story – has been gunning for, all this time. It’s surreal to think that this thing that we’ve been waiting for, for 50 whole episodes, is finally starting to happen.
An important piece of the puzzle slips into place, that will help Jingyan in his cause: news of Xie Yu’s death reaches the capital, which means that the letter which Grand Princess Liyang has been carrying, can finally be opened.
Before we get to that, however, Xie Bi sets off to do his last duty as Xie Yu’s son; to collect his body and bury him. And Yujin, in his bright and guileless way, generously sends Xie Bi off, and even gives him a map and some money for the journey.
Meanwhile, Wei Zheng, Zhen Ping and Li Gang eagerly present Lin Chen with a precious blade of Bingxu grass, which they believe will be able to cure Mei Changsu of the Poison of the Bitter Flame. I.. can’t figure out the purpose of introducing this Bingxu grass, only to tell us that Mei Changsu would never agree to use it for treatment, because the treatment involves 10 people giving up their lives, in order to save the one.
My best guess, is that this plot point is to establish that, 1, Mei Changsu’s followers are so devoted and loyal to him, that they would easily choose death, if it meant Mei Changsu’s survival, and 2, Mei Changsu is too honorable to ever agree to such a treatment; that he would rather choose death, than to lose his morals by allowing 10 people to die, just so that he might live.
Also, I think this is also possibly to amp up the tragedy of Mei Changsu’s impending death; that it’s not that there is no way for him to live, but the way is so inhumane and cruel, that he would rather die. 😭
That said, bearing in mind that this show is unlikely to introduce things just for the heck of it, it’s entirely possible that this blade of Bingxu grass will come up again, in future episodes.
Y’know, I’d thought that when Noble Consort Jing urged Jingyan to fulfill Xiao Shu’s last wish, she’d been abundantly – albeit indirectly – clear, that Mei Changsu doesn’t have long to live. However, it does appear that Jingyan’s in denial about this, judging from the way he wants to make it such that Mei Changsu can become Lin Shu again, and live as Lin Shu again.
He literally looks devastated, when Mei Changsu explains why it would be better for him to never live as Lin Shu again.
I mean, the way Mei Changsu explains it, it makes a lot of sense. Mei Changsu has created a reputation for being a shrewd but amoral strategist, while Lin Shu’s reputation is that of an upright and virtuous young marshal. Having Mei Changsu take on Lin Shu’s identity would ultimately taint Lin Shu’s reputation, which is the opposite of the result that they are working towards.
Also, Mei Changsu has a point, in saying that it would be difficult for people to believe that he and Lin Shu are the same person, and it would be undesirable to have this sense of distrust and unbelief associated with Lin Shu’s identity as well.
Poor Jingyan, though. He looks crushed to realize that his hope of reinstating Lin Shu is nothing more than a pipe dream now.
A number of you have been missing Jingrui in our drama world, and this episode, he’s finally back! And just in time, too, because without Xie Bi there, Grand Princess Liyang is alone and thus more vulnerable to attack from assassins who are way too interested in the letter that she carries.
It’s good to have Jingrui back, though it does feel like he’s thrust into a moral dilemma the very minute he gets home. Poor Jingrui. Will he ever not be conflicted, again?
I do appreciate his righteous nature, though. The moment he reads that letter, and realizes the gross injustice that has been done, he’s ready to fly out of there, to give voice to the voiceless, even though it is a dangerous mission with little chance of success or survival.
Jingrui’s insistence that he wants to do something about the letter, is the reason Grand Princess Liyang decides to approach Jingyan. I’m pretty sure that without Jingrui’s involvement, Grand Princess Liyang would have never thought to give the letter to Jingyan.
I found it quite jarring, to see Grand Princess Liyang act so coldly towards Mei Changsu, and I had to remind myself that she has not seen nor met Mei Changsu ever since the fateful night that changed her family forever – which Mei Changsu had had a big hand in orchestrating. I can see why she might hold a grudge against him.
It’s clearly very disconcerting for her, to realize that Jingyan trusts Mei Changsu so much, that even though she specifically requests that Mei Changsu should leave, so that she can have a private word with Jingyan, Jingyan is resolute that Mei Changsu can be treated as if he’s Jingyan himself; if it’s something that Jingyan can hear, Mei Changsu can hear it too. That’s a huge statement, and I feel like this is Jingyan honoring his friendship with Xiao Shu, in his own way.
When Jingyan makes his request of Grand Princess Liyang, however, to go public with the letter’s contents at the Emperor’s birthday banquet, in front of all the members of the royal family and the court officials, Grand Princess Liyang basically crumples in fear, and then even asks what benefit it would be to her, to undertake such a dangerous task.
Ooh. The way Mei Changsu responds, so full of righteous indignation, followed by such a deep sense of disappointment, is quite startling. It’s absolutely not the kind of reaction that one would expect from an amoral strategist, that’s for sure.
I have to admit, I took a fair bit of satisfaction from seeing Jingyan dismiss his Aunt, politely but firmly, in favor of Mei Changsu. Aunt does look rather dismayed at this turn of events. Will she surprise us, by changing her mind?