Joseon Attorney: Episodes 11-12
Betrayed and disillusioned, our hero strikes out, determined to work alone. Meanwhile, our spurned heroine can only watch from the sidelines, trapped by her status and the web of lies she’s woven.
The secret of Yeon-joo’s identity is out in the open, and the fallout isn’t pretty. Han-soo can only laugh incredulously, feeling like he’s been played for a fool. Hurt by Yeon-joo’s deceit, he rejects her testimony in his defense, willingly letting the guards arrest him. He’d sooner walk into an interrogation on his own two feet than accept help from a liar.
Having promised the queen dowager to distance herself from Han-soo as long as she spares his life, Yeon-joo prepares to move out of the merchant inn. In the process, she finds a letter Han-soo left for her, in which he apologizes for firing her and pushing her away. Enclosed are two jade rings — his true gift to her. Oof, his sincerity hits harder in hindsight.
In a bid to prove Han-soo’s innocence, Dong-chi makes his rounds around town, desperately searching for people who might have seen Han-soo elsewhere at the time of Judge Choo’s murder. It doesn’t take long for him to amass a whole crowd composed of people who genuinely want to repay Han-soo’s kindness. Unfortunately, their testimonies hold no weight, since they’ve all been helped by Han-soo before.
Then, a voice rings out. It’s the leader of the thugs — since he’d been tailing Han-soo round the clock, he can vouch for his innocence. With that, Han-soo is exonerated at long last.
So, why did the thug leader JUNG CHU-SOO (Lee Chan-jong) testify in Han-soo’s favor, after antagonizing him all this time? The answer leads us to the case of the week, since Chu-soo needs Han-soo’s attorney services.
See, Chu-soo hadn’t always been a thug. In the wake of their father’s death from overexertion, Chu-soo and his brother had been determined to escape the life of a tenant farmer. They’d been pinning their hopes on this one law — if one can cultivate a barren terrain within three years, one can claim ownership of the freshly fertile land. Then it had all fallen through. At the last minute, the local magistrate WON DAE-HAN (Lee Jae-woon) had bought the land, effectively stealing it from right under his brother’s nose.
It’s the perfect opportunity to take Councilor Yoo — and all other wealthy landowners — down a peg. If Han-soo sets a precedent by winning this case, it’ll open the gates for peasants to file lawsuits against noblemen and take back their land.
Due to Councilor Yoo and Magistrate Won’s sly machinations, both of Han-soo’s plans to gather testimonies and reveal the deed forgery fall through. Seeing no other option, Yeon-joo presents an alternative solution. The enemy has chosen to play dirty, but so can they. By forging an ownership transferral document between Chu-soo and Master Jo, they’ll be able to prevent Magistrate Won from stealing the land.
The problem with this plan, however, is this: it allows Chu-soo to farm the land as if it were his own, as long as he pays a percentage of his earnings to the treasury. Han-soo rails against this idea, arguing that a true victory for the farmers would liberate and empower them with independence, not trap them in servitude yet again.
I find it interesting how their roles have essentially been reversed; Han-soo has become the impassioned idealist, while Yeon-joo is now cynically pragmatic and willing to bend the rules. It really reflects how much the role of a princess confines and drains her, as compared to the liberation that her peasant persona afforded.
Determined to reject Yeon-joo’s assistance, Han-soo rescinds the lawsuit. Everyone is shocked, but of course our genius attorney has a trick up his sleeve. He announces that the farmers have destroyed the embankment they’d been forced to build — the magistrate had demanded that he back off and return things to how they originally were, so he’s simply following suit! Magistrate Won wails over his flooded plot of land, knowing he cannot cultivate it back to fertility within the allotted time frame. He forfeits the land deed, allowing Chu-soo to reclaim his rightful land.
The best part? Han-soo had pulled a fast one over the magistrate. He’d simply had the farmers move the stakes that demarcated the land’s boundaries, arranging them around a wetland. Since Magistrate Won only cared about owning the land and profiting off it, he hadn’t bothered to remember its exact location. The original land is still intact, allowing Chu-soo to carry on his brother’s legacy.
The case may have ended on a high note, but our lovebirds’ relationship is in shambles. Since Yeon-joo can no longer chase her happiness as So-won, she’ll do whatever she can as a princess. Thus, she decides to marry Ji-sun, in order to protect Han-soo and strike against Councilor Yoo from within. To Han-soo, however, the news of their potential union deals yet another blow to his heart.
Not only is their class divide painfully apparent, but there’s also the matter of her possible involvement in his father’s death. One night, when Han-soo heads to the empty merchant inn to reminisce, he comes face-to-face with Yeon-joo in her royal fineries. She gives him the envelope that once contained his father’s letter, but he’s still doubtful of her. For all he knows, the late king could have been involved in his father’s death. Coldly, Han-soo declares that Yeon-joo isn’t a blessing to him, but a curse — they’re too ill-fated to be together.
The next day, Han-soo makes his way to the palace, loudly demanding an audience with the king. Over a bottle of wine, he pointedly remarks about the opulence of Hyul’s palace, challenging Hyul to prove that he is capable of protecting the people of his country. When Ji-sun joins the table, we’re treated to a humorous moment as he and Han-soo snipe back and forth at each other right in front of the king. Then Hyul mentions that it’s Yeon-joo’s birthday, and Han-soo excuses himself, realizing bitterly that he’d fallen for yet another one of her lies.
Meanwhile, Yeon-joo hears about Han-soo’s palace call, and she runs to him immediately. She loses a shoe in the process, and that’s when she realizes her attendants have dressed her in a new pair of shoes that aren’t the ones Han-soo gifted her. Taking off her remaining shoe, Yeon-joo walks off in just her socks, determined to prove a point.
Then she comes face-to-face with Han-soo, who picks up her abandoned shoes and places them by her feet. It’s an echo of his first birthday gift to her, but this time, he tells her that he hopes these shoes will lead her anywhere — as long as it’s not in his direction.
To Han-soo, Yeon-joo had been the singular constant in his life. She was the only person who wasn’t tied to his revenge; the only person he’d trusted enough to bare his heart to. So it’s understandably a heavy blow to find out that such a person not only deceived him, but was also supposedly making use of him for her own benefit. It was hard to watch Han-soo regard Yeon-joo in such a sardonic and scornful manner, but I could empathize with him.
Meanwhile, I’m liking Ji-sun more and more with each passing week. It’s clear he has an innately good character; he’s always waiting in the wings for Yeon-joo, despite knowing she’ll likely never reciprocate his love. I was simultaneously relieved and impressed by Ji-sun’s willingness to do the right thing and help Han-soo, even though he’s his romantic rival. It was nice to see them working together to help Chu-soo, and I wish we’d gotten this partnership sooner in the show. Hopefully Han-soo and Yeon-joo sort out their issues soon, because our main trio could seriously pose a triple threat to Councilor Yoo and his corrupt cronies.
We end the week with Eun-soo about to be discovered by Han-soo, who’s just decided it’s finally time to pay his estranged sister a visit. He has no idea of her whereabouts — he simply assumes she’s living well with her husband — but she’s keenly aware of his.
Eun-soo has been keeping an eye on her brother all this time, and upon hearing the news of his arrest, she’d left a chest of silver ingots for Dong-chi to find. Though she might not have been able to show herself, she still wanted to help in whatever way she could.
With Han-soo finally drawing near, I’m hoping a sibling reunion is on the horizon. I can’t wait to see the fallout of Councilor Yoo’s lies, as well as what our siblings will achieve together once everything is revealed. Will she be his final client, and Councillor Yoo his final opponent? Or will they devise a method outside of the courtroom to take this evasive villain down once and for all?