Guess what I did on my snow day off! Lol. I can’t wait to bite down into this historical romance piece. I thought I would be confused with all the names but I think I did well or maybe the show did well in introducing and letting the characters make an impression. But do double check for me as history isn’t my best forte!
Episode 1 RECAP:
We open the first episode seeing Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (actor Qin Han) and his beloved consort Yang Gui Fei (Zeng Li) performing outside in broad daylight. Then we cut to a dozen of men galloping in the woods, led by our hero, Prince Li Chu (Allen Ren Jia Lun), alongside him is his trusted bodyguard, Feng Sheng Yi (Cao Xi Ge). Then the narrator tells us about a corrupted official – Prime Minister Yang Guo Zhong (Du Yuan), who is second cousin to Yang Gui Fei; hence his rise to the emperor’s notice. Yang Guo Zhong leads a group of soldiers to the Wei manor and on record of him bewitching the prince and hatching a plan of treason, his whole clan will be executed. As Wei Jian’s misdeeds are listed, Crown Prince Li Heng (Wang Jin Song) hurries to plead his royal father, stating that he bears no thought of usurping the throne, which falls on deaf ears as Emperor Xuanzong and Consort Yang continue leering at each other.
Wei Jian’s whole family is brutally cut down. As Yang Guo Zhong descends the steps, he asks his underling whether they have sent someone to stop Guang Ping Wang (this is Prince Li Chu’s title) from returning to the palace. Because he’s Emperor Xuanzong’s beloved grandchild, his return might ruin Yang Guo Zhong’s plan. As expected, Li Chu and his entourage are attacked mid-way and while he nimbly knocks away the flying sticks of death, I think he should hire better bodyguards because they fall over one-by-one, leaving only him, his sidekick Sheng Yi and a few others left. He asks whether help is sent to He Ling Yi and Sheng Yi says yes, they should be close. On cue, Li Chu blows into his whistle and a slew of flying ninjas cut down the masked men, led by a female – she’s He Ling Yi, second-in-command general of Prince Li Chu’s household. She gives Li Chu the assurance to leave the scene.
Back at the palace, Yang Guo Zhong greets the King and it’s only now the Emperor registers there are other beings in the area, not once glancing at his kneeling son Li Heng nearby. He asks Consort Yang if she’s tired, but when she replies no, he asks her to change into a new outfit then. Emperor Xuanzong turns to Yang Official and asks how things are settled on his end and Yang Guo Zhong says he’s received the admittance letter of crime from Wei Jian. Li Heng claims innocence in Wei Jian’s conspiracy but the King calls his son greedy, biting more than he can chew. Li Heng cries out again, that if the Wei’s family did conspire to usurp the throne, he would readily depose his crown princess, who is Wei Jian’s sister.
After dodging another attempt on his life, Li Chu makes it to the palace safely, with Emperor Xuanzong demanding to know why he returned when he was sent to Guanzhong to aid the flood. “Is it to plead in your father’s place?” Oh. He’s Li Heng’s son. My brain is understanding now. Li Chu makes the case that he only returned because the department in charge of distributing relief food keeps stalling and the man in charge is no other than Yang Guo Zhong’s son, Yang Xuan. He glares at Yang Guo Zhong and asks the whereabouts of the supplies, “Did they disappear or did they fall in Prime Minister’s hands?”
Ohhh.. Balls of steel, this young one. Even his dad is trembling but he has the audacity to stare at the snake in the eye!
Immediately, Yang Guo Zhong kneels down and declares that some problems must have arisen among the subordinates and pleads for some time to make matters cleared. The snake leaves the scene and Emperor Xuanzong forgives his grandson and tells him to stand up, but Li Chu looks heavily at his trembling father and speaks up about Crown Prince’s loyalty to the Imperial Family while treating the people as his own. Emperor Xuanzong relents but grants the deposal of Crown Princess, which raises Li Chu’s red flags and he wonders what his mother has done. “Royal Grandfather, you can’t just listen to one’s side and declares her guilty.” While upset at possibly being called the innocent blamer in the story, Emperor Xuanzong tells them both to leave the palace, and Li Chu’s request for time to clear his mother’s name is not answered.
A slow sad instrumental song sets the scene as Crown Princess – Consort Wei, slowly removes her jewelry and is then disrobed by her servants. Soldiers lead her out in commoner’s clothing and Li Chu calls out to his mother. She calls him silly for calling her mother as she is now without that title and he insists that she’s his only mother. He pleads her to not blame his father because he didn’t have a choice. She understands her own husband, recalling how Emperor Xuanzong had decapitated three royal sons in one day. The moment she married into the royal family, she knows her fate: a luxury life runs hand-in-hand with a fearsome life. She does not allow her feelings to run wild but it’s unfortunate for her own son, as he’s born to walk down this path. She knows he’s child who values emotions but emotions are useless in the palace. Li Chu: “Mother, don’t say that. I will definitely clear your name and uncle’s.”
Consort Wei tells Li Chu not to be reckless and relays the message his uncle wanted to say to him: “Keep your eyes on two people with close relations to Yang Guo Zhong. One is Tibetian general Dong Ze Bu and the other is Shen Yi Zhi.” They part ways, with her promise to pray for him at the monastery and his promise to bring her back home. She adjusts his collar for a moment and taps his chest a few times before turning away. Omi. One classy mother-son pair.
With the dramatic plot of our hero’s life out of the way, we head straight into our heroine’s light-hearted story… for now. A lady tiptoes around a classroom and this is Shen Zhen Zhu (Jing Tian), daughter of Governor of Hu Zhou. Turns out her younger brother, Shen An (child actor Huang Tian Qi), is a student in the class and he struggles to create a poem. Not to worry, his sister throws her own poem in to save his day. Aww, I’m gonna adore this sister-brother bond!
Li Chu listens as his bodyguard Sheng Yi connects the relationship between Tibetian General Dong Ze Bu and Yang Guo Zhong as past cohorts, but the former also holds evidence of Yang’s betrayal, causing Tang army to suffer defeats whenever wars break out between the two empires. Now Li Chu understands why Yang Guo Zhong wants to kill Dong Ze Bu, which means he needs to find Dong Ze Bu and secure the incriminating evidence first. As for the other name – Shen Yi Zhi, Sheng Yi has yet to find anything suspicious about the person as he’s known for being a righteous official, even Yang Guo Zhong failed on multiple occasions to lure him to his side.
Li Chu then asks if Sheng Yi heard of a name Wan Zhi Song in jianghu, and he has; the person is said to know everything that happens under the sun. Determined to find what hidden cards Shen Yi Zhi has in his hands, Li Chu sets out for a plan.
Our plucky heroine and her brother sneak back home but they’re caught by their father, Shen Yi Zhi, who asks if Zhen Zhu took the test for her little brother once again at school. Little brother hides behind his sister and Zhen Zhu says she did it voluntarily, knowing that the kids bully her brother for not being as quick-witted as them. Father Shen sighs, she’s been taking tests for her brother for a while now, making the other teachers think that he’s a prodigy for skipping three grades. Zhen Zhu exhales longingly, if she could take the examination and be accepted into Hanlin Academy, she would be thrilled, and maybe she could then travel and see the world.
Father Shen chides her for thinking about holding brushes and writing poems over attending to her female duties, but Zhen Zhu smiles knowingly and wonders out loud why her father let Chinese Poet Li Bai accept her as a student back then. Father Shen cries out that he’s been regretting it, adding that she’s eighteen now, the ripe age to get married.
Hearing the word marriage freaks her out and she grabs a hold of her father, hoping to play around for a few more years beside him. He can only tsk tsk at his adorable daughter, speechless.
In her room, Zhen Zhu takes out a white pendant as she recalls the story behind it. Years ago, when she had sneaked outside to attend a festival, she fell into a lake and was rescued by a young boy. (Side thought: I thought she would time-travel! LOL.) I’m pretty impressed with her and the boy’s ability to see crystal clear under murky waters. XD In her fear, she grabbed a hold of his pendant and yanked it right off. Zhen Zhu’s maid, Su Ci (Mi Mi), enters the room and asks her lady if she’s reminiscing about the same boy again. Of course she is, kids in dramaland remembers events even when they are babies. *cackles*
Zhen Zhu then asks about her fortune sticks interpretation and Su Ci dejectedly relays the message from the monk; he can’t reveal heaven’s secrets. In the roll of paper, it reads, “One person, one horse, one jianghu. The Beauty and her confidant fail to recognize each other.” Zhen Zhu ponders the two lines and appears determined to locate her savior.
The said savior is deep in thought when comical music rattles in the background, introducing his younger brother, Li Tan (Qin Jun Jie), who’s here because he heard about the wife recruitment for the royal princes of right ages. Relieved, Li Chu doesn’t find the idea so frightening because the Emperor is clearly trying to use marriages as away to smooth the tense air. Li Tan finds it cumbersome, especially after the emperor assigned Consort Zhang as Crown Princess. While Li Chu readily accepts a new Royal Mom in his mother’s place, he also shows class and maturity by complimenting Consort Zhang’s kindness. However, Li Tan refuses to call another person his mother. Which gets him an earful from Li Chu, “Tan Er, there are things you can harbor in your heart but cannot say out loud.” To Li Tan, it’s okay to say these things between them, and Li Chu finally breaks into a smile, thinking about his brother’s future wife. Li Tan says he won’t accept a lady with ordinary beauty. Lol.
He then brings up Yang Guo Zhong’s grand daughter harboring a crush on Li Chu and the involved party snickers at the irony, “Now they want to put their paws in our household?” Soon after, their father, Crown Prince Li Heng, announces his entrance by calling Tan’s name, confirming the marriage talk, as well as reminding them to be careful as to not push Yang Guo Zhong’s buttons. With Yang Guo Zhong’s granddaughter as the potential candidate for Li Chu, Li Chu adds that if he cannot avoid, he shall happily confront. “Getting a bride from the Yang manor doesn’t mean our manor will automatically change our surname to Yang, right?” Li Chu challenges. He then lets his father handle the marriage issue, citing a more important plan in his mind.
Li Tan hurries to his father’s side, asking if it’s okay for him to pick any lady for himself since he doesn’t have a designated wife yet.
The candidate recruitment news travel to Zhen Zhu’s ears through her maid and she grows panicky at the idea, asking Su Ci to schedule a meeting for her with a close friend she calls An Er Ge. His full name is An Qing Xu (Mao Zi Jun). We immediately cut to their conversation where she wants a follow-up on his search for Wan Zhi Song. Clearly disappointed at her inquiry, Qing Xu says as much, dropping the news that he’s recruited to go to war with Khitan and hoping that she called him out today to talk about that. Of course, this is also news to her but she receives it with full-on confidence that he will return victorious. Moreover, it’s a chance for him to gain approval from his dad, General An Lu Shan.
Thrilled at her high opinion of him, Qing Xu finally reveals the tidbit he got on Wan Zhi Song: newest spotting of him is in Xianyang and Zhen Zhu calculates it isn’t far from Chang’An. Even Qing Xu knows she wants to ask about her savior’s whereabouts. This is not even a secret. Lol. What puzzles Qing Xu is why she holds this person so dear to heart just because he saved her ONE time. “I can save you 10 times!” Aww… Mao Zi Jun…
He tells her to drop the idea of searching for the man because he hides his name and face and only shows up for the same alcohol drink at Zui Xian Tavern, however, the tavern only produces one bottle of that drink a year. Why did you tell her that, you silly doofus?! At last, he allows himself to let her pursue that mission and maybe her hope will wither when she fails. Good luck with that, loverboy.
Hearing the extra piece of information, Zhen Zhu perks up and is about to head her way when Qing Xu grabs her arm and then immediately lets go and tightens his hold on his clothing. He wants her to know how he has treated her ever since they were little and hopes that if she can’t find that person this time… “Would you marry me?” The question takes Zhen Zhu by surprise and Qing Xu hurries to add that she doesn’t have to answer him now. He can wait to hear an answer once she’s back. Oh…my heart!
Zhen Zhu bids farewell to her parents and assures them that the world contains many beauties and she might not be the one to catch the royal eye. Her father thinks otherwise, he named her Zhen Zhu (meaning pearl) with the intention of wanting her to shine. He believes she will get chosen but her mother is the wise one who doesn’t want her daughter to enter the palace door. Dad gives her a safety pendant and wishes her the best.
On the horse carriage, Zhen Zhu asks Hong Rui whether they are near Xianyang and tells Su Ci to do as they prepped before. The maid is clearly worried but Zhen Zhu says it’s okay, the most they will get is some yelling from her dad. At an inn in Xianyang, Su Ci relays the news that Zhen Zhu feels a little sick from the traveling and needs a day to recuperate. Of course everyone thinks it’s only fair for their lady to feel unwell. Walking out disguised as men, Zhen Zhu and Hong Rui quickly disappear to the side. When asked where they are going, Zhen Zhu says excitedly, “Zui Xian Tavern.”
— END —
Kappy: A solid opening. I was afraid of the jarring cut between tragedy and comedy, but the show kept it smooth with the transition. Jing Tian’s Zhen Zhu is beyond adorable and I like that she’s very natural, never overplaying the bubbliness and always maintaining that youthful energy and strength with ease. Allen Ren Jia Lun was at his best with his mother and in scenes where he appears a bit more sharp and cunning. As for Qin Jun Jie, it looks like another rehash of Shu Shu from Chusen, which disappoints me a little but we still have a long way to go.
The thing that didn’t sit well with me is the established connections from the past. Do we really need another childhood obsession? I have plenty of that from Kdramaland. Lol. I also didn’t like being thrown in at such an early stage for Mao Zi Jun’s pining. Love the dude but I need backstory and more buildup. What I feel for him now is all the residual feelings from Chusen. Also, the OTP’s insistence on finding this mysterious man, Wan Zhi Song, has me scratching my head. They both are well-educated and practical, they should be above believing an all-knowing being. Feels like a poor device to put them on the same path to each other, which I wish was done in a smarter way.
But I can’t wait for them to meet! Eeeeeeeeeeeee! See you in episode 2!