A tender episode that brings genuine warmth amidst the bustling palace backdrop.
We are on the second week of this K-Drama series – we recap Netflix’s Under the Queen’s Umbrella season 1, episode 3.
Continuing its momentum, Under the Queen’s Umbrella had a strong third installment. Dealing sensitively with the Prince Gyeseong (played by Yoo Seon-ho) storyline was a major positive, while the ongoing palace controversy is continuing to raise the stakes and tensions. With a nice balance between good and evil, heart-warming and cynical, so far, this is proving to be an intriguing release.
Under the Queen’s Umbrella season 1, episode 3 recap
As Consort Ko leaves Prince Gyeseong alone, smug that she knows what he is concealing, the Queen (played by Kim Hye-soo) is told of her need to get rid of her son’s “secret chamber” to eliminate the risk of his private life becoming public knowledge. The royal does have some sort of plan, believing the feminine items can be passed off as belonging to a court lady, as long as her trusted child does not visit the secluded place until the end of his exam. Later on, Consort Ko is warned by Queen Dowager Cho to forget what she has seen or heard about the matter unless certain of it, given it could cost lives. “If I ever hear a similar rumour in the palace, I will assume that you have been running your mouth,” the elder disappointedly adds, before instructing that Prince Simso is afforded “proper” education and guidance.
On a walk, the Queen subtly tells Prince Gyeseong to stop what he confidentially does, wanting him to focus solely on studying. This is not readily agreed to, with the Grand Prince believing his secret chamber is the only place he can breathe in, but Hwa-ryeong further expresses her desire to be listened to, “just this once.”
Next, we watch as the first exam of the cohort selection process (chosi) gets set to commence. It’s a tense, competitive environment, though behind the bustle stands Consort Hwang, who is noticeably confident in discussing how “insufficient” is not in her vocabulary in regard to preparation, clearly backing her son to thrive. Elsewhere, the Queen tends to the unconscious Crown Prince, worried by his suddenly worsened condition. Then, Her Majesty receives a journal belonging to the heir to the throne, containing a myriad of notes on his developing illness which now causes more regular collapsing.
While the Queen cancels the Crown Prince’s schedule, prioritising his recovery over the rumours spreading throughout the palace, the candidates for cohort complete their first test, which quizzes them on arithmetic and composition. Outside, mothers pray, knowing their sons must succeed here to participate in any further evaluations.
After the Queen successfully persuades the awakened Crown Prince to concentrate on his health, she is told by Court Lady Shin that the cohort selection exam questions differed from ones given in previous years, which has confused the candidates. That, and examinees were also asked to create two half-moons with one line, meaning out of the box thinking was also evaluated. Concurrently, Queen Dowager Cho unhappily pokes around Prince Gyeseong’s secret chamber, taking in all the surroundings.
As the King cheerfully oversees the highly subjective marking of the exams, the concubines of the palace speculate on the results alleged to be “predictable” due to the more distinguished mothers ordering tutors, and/or expert scribes. Following that, we witness the grading system get skewed in favour of Uiseong, and become privy to the wise nature of Prince Seongnam’s answers.
Continuing, it’s soon announced Prince Uiseong, Prince Bogeom, Grand Prince Seongnam and Grand Prince Gyeseong all progressed past the first exam. This isn’t an exclusively happy occasion though, and Consort Ko feels angered by her son’s failures to the point she storms off, not believing he has tried his best. Anyway, for the lucky few who did pass, they will reconvene for a second test in four days.
Amidst Won-hyeong’s speculation that this selection process may result in more than just someone becoming cohort, fuel is added to the fire when he is present for a meeting with the King over the Crown Prince’s future schedule. Specifically, Hwa-ryeong wants permission to send her son to a hot spring, to prevent the worsening of his “skin disease” (the King is still in the dark over the true nature of the Crown Prince’s condition), something duly consented to. Meanwhile, others theorise that the heir to the throne is in a “dire” situation as he is secretly transported to the quarters of Her Majesty.
Stirring the pot, Won-hyeong convinces Consort Hwang to keep a keen eye on the quarters of the Queen to receive more information on the health status of the Crown Prince. The concubine wants to know what happened with her son’s exam, however, confused as to why Uiseong didn’t finish first. Still, Hwang isn’t unhappy, and instead wants to use the newly learnt unpredictability of the King to better prepare her child for the second test. “The prince who becomes the cohort of the Crown Prince will be able to take his place,” she cynically adds.
Following on from an acknowledgment that the Crown Prince must prove he is healthy to properly quell the rumours about his illness, the Queen heads into Gyeseong’s secret chamber. There, Hwa-ryeong tenderly looks around, perhaps having a sort of emotional realisation. Then, we move forward, watching Consort Tae revel in her son’s first-placed finish in the opening cohort evaluation exam, and receive an offer to have Queen Dowager Cho support Prince Bogeum. Yet in exchange, the energetic concubine may just have to sacrifice her life.
Discovering that Royal Physician Yoo Sang-uk died alongside his son in a house fire, the Queen appears extremely suspicious of this recurring theme, expressing her anguish in the fact nobody is alive who can recall what happened to the late Crown Prince Taein. Elsewhere, Queen Dowager Cho is told the truth about the current Crown Prince privately recovering in Hwa-ryeong’s quarters by none other than Court Lady Shin. The elder is in a generally inquisitive mood, wishing to find out if the heir to the throne is actually recuperating (he is, apparently), in addition to who Shin believes is the brightest Grand Prince, knowing it will allow an indistinct question to subsequently be asked about Gyeseong’s big secret. Then, when the Court Lady is sent away, Cho states both the King and Queen should find out about the confidential side to Gyeseong’s life she knows about, but doesn’t quite believe they are privy to.
In the middle of the Crown Prince’s currently unsuccessful treatment, Court Lady Shin arrives at the scene to break the news about Queen Dowager Cho’s awareness of Grand Prince Gyeseong’s private life. Panicked, the Queen instantly wants to go to her son’s quarters in a bid to stop him travelling to his secret chamber, but is immediately thrust into going on a walk with Her Royal Highness, and the King. As a result, Court Lady Shin is subtly sent to deal with things, though this too proves difficult given Gyeseong has already left to travel to the place he is meant to avoid.
Unsurprisingly, Queen Dowager Cho soon touts the idea of going somewhere new to the royals, meaning Grand Prince Gyeseong’s secret chamber. As such, Court Lady Shin interrupts proceedings to tell the Queen there has been an issue with the banquet (code for her need to intervene), leading to Hwa-ryeong dismissing herself so she can head right to the secluded area. Soon, we see the result of all this commotion, with Gyeseong arriving at his safe space in time to see it burn, while the Queen Dowager bitterly exits the vicinity, unable to get her way. Later on, the elder threatens the Queen, promising to reveal the “ugly truth” to the world next time around, despite a lack of evidence.
In quick time, Queen Dowager Cho ups the ante further, stating a need for the Crown Prince to regain his health, and for the Grand Princes to be brought “to their senses” should they want to avoid being replaced. Happy to express she can put the son of a concubine on the throne again, the elder is outwardly confident in the face of the annoyed Queen. Concurrently, Gyeseong observes the wreckage, distraught, until something triggers determination within him.
Hearing that the isolated chamber’s fire was able to be put out so quickly because of a report from a court lady who works for the Queen, Gyeseong immediately goes to see his mother. Here, she admits to her wrongdoing, claiming it was to protect the son who is arguing that his “everything” has been destroyed. What follows is a heated discussion on shame, hiding oneself and turning a blind eye, concluded by the Queen showing Gyeseong to a place he gets his picture drawn while wearing female clothes.
Outside, Hwa-ryeong admits to Court Lady Shin she is not ok, feeling she has lost her son, and at the same time worrying about the cohort selection. Still, the Queen sympathises with Gyeseong, understanding his fear in accepting who he is, which is why she “couldn’t look away.” Positively, it seems here that Court Lady Shin is happy to commit her loyalty to Her Majesty, accepting her inability to turn back now. “Starting from tomorrow, the real battle begins,” the Queen then states, clearly motivated.
Emotionally, Prince Gyeseong looks at the completed picture of himself prior to heading outside to embrace his waiting mother. “One should not reveal everything in their heart,” the Queen says, wanting the Grand Prince to look at the painting from now on if he wants to see his “true self.” Claiming she wasn’t upset by the situation, Hwa-ryeong adds that Gyeseong will always be her child, before gifting him her favourite hairpin passed down from her mother.
Together, the two members of the royal family begin to walk together, Gyeseong clearly content. “There will come a day when those who have different wishes from those of others no longer have to hide,” the Queen narrates during this scene, sensitively ending the episode.
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