The Flower in Prison, Episodes 18 & 19

TL;DR: Our heroes succeed in their second operation against Nan-jung, but it comes with a price. And Ji-hun discovers he does have standards and morals after all. Surprise!

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I half expected this bid for the salt contracts to fail for our heroes after their spectacular win against Nan-jung in the prior week’s episodes. So while they technically lost the distribution rights to Nan-jung, they tricked her into taking a massive loss on her salt while simultaneously accepting a higher, private military contract instead. I am going to cry (a small) foul over that, though, since King Myungjong had to sweep in to save the day in a flashback. I don’t think the military’s shortage of salt was mentioned earlier, either. It feels less like a win they had to work for and more like something lucky they stumbled upon, as opposed to their great con in order to feed the Jeonokseo prisoners. While their con re: the bid did take some slick work, it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as the previous week’s shenanigans.

However, the salt bidding drama was a great way to move the plot forward—an enraged Nan-jung is a dangerous woman, and she is back on top of her plotting game with this counterstrike. She knows what it’s like to be hungry for something, and she barely had to do anything to get Jong-hwe to do her bidding. While I’m annoyed this insufferable character finally got something he wanted, I’m hoping against hope that the net result will be less annoyance with the Jeonokseo background characters and the endless circle of “wait, I didn’t get enough of a cut of the illicit money” boo-hooing that has plagued the show since its start.

The salt bidding also pushed forward the discord between Nan-jung and Won-hyung, to the point where Nan-jung more or less tattled on Won-hyun for (unfathomably) favoring the biological son he easily abandoned in childhood. I’m glad Queen Dowager Munjeong reprimanded him for that—everyone else can tell you ought to be taking Nan-jung’s side on this, what is wrong with you? (I would much rather he stand up for the rest of his villainous family, too. Can’t you see what a perfect, diabolical match you and Nan-jung are? Your abandoned son will never love you and will only use you in order to bring you and your wife down.) And in the end, he folded and forced Ji-hun to do his job and investigate the bribery at the Jeonokseo.

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I’m still not all that impressed with Ji-hun’s wavering heart, though at this point, I think I’ll just have to accept it. Ji-hun claimed to his adoptive father that he only went along with the fabricated treason and torture because he thought he was doing what was best for him and his family, but now he can’t do it any longer.

(What about the falsely accused? Do you care about what you did to them at all? Or is this just your filial piety angst forcing you not to ally with the dude who killed your grandfather? Answers: What about them? Not at all. Yep.)

Okay, sure, I guess I’ll go with this, but I would much rather have seen this internal turmoil during those actual events, not as a cop out after the fact. I’ll just mark this one down as a bit of mangled plot progression and move on, I suppose. Even I have gotten bored on harping on it even though he still winds up investigating Ok-nyeo and company.

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Jealousy has popped up again this week, though at least I didn’t have to sit through an endless parade of women being jealous of Ok-nyeo. That’s not to say that I enjoyed Tae-won’s petty jealousy, of course—I’m irritated by his demand that Ok-nyeo stop meeting the disguised King Myungjong. It’s one thing to be concerned for her safety and having unrealized romantic feelings for someone and quite another to police who she hangs out with. Blah.

I’m hoping this won’t evolve into a full-blown love triangle because that’s way less interesting to me than the non-romantic plots Ok-nyeo has going on with both Tae-won and Myungjong. I’ll even say I don’t mind the burgeoning thing going on between Ok-nyeo and Tae-won. I like that she calls him out on his silly jealousy and that he will drop everything to help her when he hears she’s in danger. Please focus on that and on Myungjong learning to become a king in more than name with Ok-nyeo’s help, and don’t drag her into any romantic messes.

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Especially since the mysterious court lady refused to be of any help and has neither confirmed nor denied the possibility that Ok-nyeo is, in fact, the secret love child of the previous king. Let’s skip the possibility of half-sibling incest entirely, okay?

By the Numbers

  • Maids with a death wish: 1
  • Unnecessary flashbacks: 3
  • Slaps: 5
  • Goons Ok-nyeo got to beat up: 10
  • Market loss: 8,000 nyang
  • Bechdel Test: 17 episodes passed

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