Chinese Dramas, Drama Recaps

Recap: Love and Redemption (Ep. 18)

Hao Chen tries to limit Xuan Ji’s recovery of her memories and attachment to Si Feng. Yuan Lang continues to be intrigued by Xuan Ji and her sword and challenges her to prove her sincerity toward Si Feng.


Recap

Ling Long wakes up shackled to a bed. Some servants bring her food but don’t respond to her questions. They place the food just out of reach. Ling Long stretches out her head to nudge the tray closer, then looks up as Wu Tong enters with a laugh. He taunts her with the food, allowing her to eat some of her favorite chicken dish before ripping it away and stuffing a different dish in her face. Her tears seem to delight him.

Wu Tong lies down to sleep and puts his hand on Ling Long’s leg. She shrinks away, then contemplates choking him with the chains while he sleeps. She starts to bring the chains toward his neck, but his eyes snap open and he flings her off the bed.

Hao Chen summons Dingkun from Xuan Ji’s sleeping body and frowns at the weapon with misgiving. He recalls the day she first picked out Dingkun from all the celestial weapons in the heavenly realm. She had connected with it immediately, ignoring Si Ming’s warning that the weapon was inauspicious and full of evil energy. Now, Hao Chen tries to sever the connection between Dingkun and Xuan Ji, but is unsuccessful. His attempt summons Si Ming down from the heavenly realm. The God of War’s life column had been affected by Hao Chen’s attempt to separate the two.

Si Ming starts to lecture Hao Chen on why he had to let her pick the sword in the first place, then catches himself, remembering who he’s speaking to. Hao Chen tries to lock the celestial energy of the weapon in an attempt to suppress its evil energy. He manages to suppress something, but isn’t sure how long it will last. He instructs Si Ming to return to his own palace and keep an eye on the God of War’s life column. She must not be allowed to recover her memories.

Si Ming goes back up to the heavenly realm and seals the God of War’s life column and her memories. Teng She knocks on the door to his palace with some big news that he makes Si Ming promise not to tell Bai Lin: he’s lost Dingkun. Teng She wants to know where the God of War is doing her time in the mortal world, claiming he wants to find her so he can get Dingkun back, not because he’s trying to fight her again. Si Ming claims he doesn’t know.

Xuan Ji wakes up to find Hao Chen outside her room. Her first questions are all about Si Feng and making sure he’s okay. Hao Chen heard everything on the beach and asks how she could so casually agree to marry someone. Lize Palace matters are their own problem. Does she really plan on renouncing her promise to him to prioritize protecting the secret place above all? Is she really so willing to abandon her father and sister and spend the rest of her life with someone else? Xuan Ji admits she didn’t think that far ahead, but she refuses to go with Hao Chen to the Lize Palace folks and go back on her word. She made a promise.

Hao Chen asks what she was doing on Gaoshi Mountain. Xuan Ji confesses she went to look for the mirror. She wants to recover her six senses and experience the world like everyone else. Hao Chen is furious and says that she no longer needs to spend time training in the outside world. For the rest of the time that they’re on Fuyu Island, he orders her to train her spells every day. Then she’s to report promptly back to Xuyang Peak. Xuan Ji protests, but Hao Chen isn’t compromising.

Ruo Yu asks Yuan Lang if he should take Si Feng back to Lize Palace like initially ordered. Yuan Lang says that because Xuan Ji was willing to put her own life on the line for Si Feng, he’s allowed to stay. He asks to see the pieces of the mask and observes them with interest. The mask is made from the bark of the Kunlun tree that never dies. Isn’t it interesting that it broke so easily? He’s curious to see whether Xuan Ji is sincere about Si Feng and hands the pieces of the mask back to Ruo Yu, telling him to give them a try.

Hao Chen observes a piece of mask that he picked up and recognizes it as the lovers’ curse. He knows that since the mask was removed but the curse not lifted, Si Feng is locked into trying to get Xuan Ji to love him.

Xuan Ji takes advantage of Hao Chen’s absence to try and sneak out and see Si Feng. Yuan Lang appears in her way, wanting to finish their earlier battle. Xuan Ji doesn’t want to fight, but Yuan Lang threatens to take Si Feng away if she doesn’t comply. She draws her weapon. Xuan Ji strikes, but Yuan Lang easily deflects, knocking her back. Si Feng catches her.

Yuan Lang finds it interesting that Xuan Ji was unable to defend herself properly. Perhaps she isn’t the sword’s true owner? Si Feng asks him what he’s trying to do. Yuan Lang claims he was just curious about her weapon. Si Feng asks Yuan Lang to keep his distance from Xuan Ji. Yuan Lang teleports into their faces, unhappy with the disrespectful way with which Si Feng is addressing him.

Xuan Ji shields Si Feng again, repeating that she already agreed to marry Si Feng. Yuan Lang says that because the mask was still wearing a frown, that means she isn’t sincere. But since Si Feng is the head disciple, Yuan Lang will give them another chance. He summons a piece of mask and holds it out. If Xuan Ji plants the piece of mask and her heart is sincere, it will grow a heart lantern that will glow when Si Feng holds it. If she succeeds, that will be proof enough for Yuan Lang to take back to Lize Palace.

Xuan Ji grabs the piece of mask, thinking it’s no big deal. Yuan Lang teleports away, saying he awaits the results. Si Feng asks Xuan Ji why she didn’t use Dingkun’s power to defend herself against Yuan Lang. She’s not sure why she couldn’t — maybe Dingkun was just being temperamental. She runs off to plant the mask.

Hao Chen returns to the Shaoyang courtyard and calls Si Feng out for entering without permission, calling it inappropriate. Si Feng greets Hao Chen and says that Xuan Ji has mentioned him often. He gives Hao Chen credit for training Xuan Ji. Hao Chen icily responds that he hasn’t heard Xuan Ji mention Si Feng at all. He warns Si Feng that Xuan Ji is naive and may say anything in order to help others, but Si Feng shouldn’t take her words to heart, nor should he expect any sort of result.

Xuan Ji stays up for two days without eating or sleeping, tending to her plant and hoping for it to sprout. She finally faints after trying too hard. Hao Chen walks in and frowns at the sight. Xuan Ji is the “unintentional” one (the “one without intentions”, but also literally meaning “without a heart”). How could she grow a heart lantern? Si Feng deserves to suffer the consequences of his own actions by bothering her.

Hao Chen is about to walk away when the heart lantern blooms in Xuan Ji’s pot. He stares it in shock. He only left Xuan Ji alone for a few months and she’s already developed the desire for love? This will ruin her last chance to succeed in this tribulation.

Hao Chen destroys Xuan Ji’s heart lantern and sends his own piece of mask into her soil. Tomorrow will mark the second day since she started her attempt to grow the heart lantern. Nothing will grow now, and that means Si Feng should give up too.

A couple of Lize Palace disciples gossip about Si Feng and taunt him. Ruo Yu speaks up on his behalf. Si Feng notices a scar on Ruo Yu’s cheek and asks about it. Ruo Yu explains that he’ll still have to go through the Thirteen Tribulations later after he returns to Lize Palace; the scar is just his initial warning. Si Feng admits he naively thought that Lize Palace had finally found some humanity in their punishment.

Xuan Ji wakes up to find a heart lantern in the pot next to her. She beams in relief and runs off to go find Si Feng with it in her hands, glowing. Hao Chen spots her running off with the lantern in her hand, surprised, and tries to follow, but then Si Ming appears. Si Ming is giddy that Hao Chen was able to grow a heart lantern for Xuan Ji. It’s especially surprising because Hao Chen supposedly practiced the Wuqing technique and should have no emotions. Hao Chen sternly lectures Si Ming for not minding his own business. Si Ming looks chastised, but still seems delighted by this turn of events.

Members of all three sects have gathered to see what will happen with Si Feng, Xuan Ji, and the heart lantern. Yuan Lang taunts Si Feng, saying it looks like Xuan Ji didn’t succeed after all, when she doesn’t show. But then she comes running up with the glowing heart lantern in her hand. Yuan Lang looks extremely amused and tells Xuan Ji to transfer it to Si Feng. If it still glows, then it’ll mean the one in her heart is him.

Xuan Ji hands the heart lantern to Si Feng. The light within it fades away. Yuan Lang smiles even more and gloats that it looks like Si Feng isn’t the person that Xuan Ji loves. Si Feng staggers back a step.

Hao Chen strides in and says that Xuan Ji was sincere in wanting to help Si Feng, but that her motivation came from just that — a place of wanting to help, not true love. She was just trying to do a good deed. Now that the misunderstanding has been cleared up, Xuan Ji should be free to go.

Xuan Ji stares up at Si Feng with tear-filled eyes, asking if she messed up somehow. Si Feng forces a smile back and says that she’s already done everything she can. He’ll figure out the rest. He’ll be okay.

Yuan Lang says that the sincerity with which Xuan Ji wanted to help Si Feng is so moving that he won’t pursue further punishment for Si Feng. She can rest assured of that. Si Feng forces another smile and tells Xuan Ji again that everything will be okay. Hao Chen tells Xuan Ji that it’s time for them to leave and starts walking away. Xuan Ji reluctantly follows, but keeps glancing back at Si Feng.

Once they’re gone, Yuan Lang tells Si Feng he’s free to do whatever he wishes now. There’s no punishment he can give that will be more painful than the lovers’ curse itself. He leaves.

Ruo Yu turns sympathetically to Si Feng, whose tears have started to fall. But Si Feng says that from the start, Xuan Ji was always different from other people. So unless she makes the choice to reject him herself, he won’t believe anything else.

Xuan Ji practices a meditative spell at night and it’s going well, but then she gets distracted by thoughts of Si Feng. The clouds above her, once calm, turn stormy and lightning starts striking down at her. She tries to dodge until someone calms the skies above — Si Feng.

Si Feng asks if she feels anything in her heart for him. She isn’t sure what he means. He says that he already tried to make himself clear in the wine cellar the other night, but if that wasn’t clear enough, maybe he needs to try something else. He grabs her by the waist and pulls her close, then leans in and kisses her, while she looks wide-eyed and confused.

Xuan Ji’s heart starts pounding uncomfortably as he kisses her and she quickly springs away. Xuan Ji summons a piece of fruit and holds it out to Si Feng as an offering, trying to fix the awkwardness between them. But Si Feng backs her up against a tree and grabs her hand, knocking the fruit away. He tells her that he likes her, more than anyone else or anything, and he doesn’t want to share her with anyone. He pulls out the hairpin his father gave his mother and presses it into her hand, saying he wants to give it to her as a token of his feelings for her.

But Xuan Ji remembers the trouble she caused by casually accepting Min Yan’s gift. She can’t let that happen again. She pushes the hairpin back into Si Feng’s hand and tells him that she didn’t know he would become so weird after she took off his mask. If she’d known, she wouldn’t have taken it off. Then she runs away.

Yu Ning finds Xuan Ji huddled, fully-clothed, in a bath of cold water in her room. Xuan Ji tells her that she feels hot and uncomfortable. Is she sick or under some kind of spell? How come her head is full of Si Feng? Yu Ning smiles knowingly and says that she is under a kind of spell — it’s called having her heart moved. Yu Ning relates to it with her own feelings for Pian Pian. They would be together if not for the fact that it would disrupt their training and cultivation. That knowledge makes Xuan Ji frown. Yu Ning says that in the end, it’s up to each person to choose for themselves.

Hao Chen listens from outside and frowns. Later, he watches as Xuan Ji tries to practice her meditative spell and decides that he needs to stop her situation from getting worse. He warns her that the way she’s feeling is symptomatic of getting too close to someone. She should try to keep her distance, otherwise it will interfere with her cultivation. Xuan Ji listens and nods, but frowns after he leaves.


Commentary

At first, I thought Hao Chen was the bland and boring one, but now that we get to know more of his story, he’s becoming more and more interesting. I know Hao Chen did some things this episode to sabotage Si Feng and Xuan Ji, but I can’t help but feel bad for him and want things to work out for him. I have so much empathy for how he’s watched and loved Xuan Ji for so long but been unwilling to admit it to himself. The fact that he planted his own mask in Xuan Ji’s pot, thinking it wouldn’t become anything, only to see it turn into a huge, glowing heart lantern in Xuan Ji’s hands made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

What’s frustrating is that he seems to think being emotionless is the only way to achieve immortality, perhaps because that’s his signature trait. But based on his conversation with Heng Yang, we know that there are alternatives. Just as there is this “without love” technique, Heng Yang acknowledged that there is also a “with love” technique that is possibly even more powerful. I suppose Hao Chen has his reasons for thinking that love is Xuan Ji’s doom, because he’s seen her fail several times before, but maybe it’s also because of his own stubbornness and refusal to acknowledge that there could be other ways.

I don’t know that I necessarily ship Xuan Ji and Hao Chen together. I just ship Hao Chen finding his own happiness until he gives me a real reason not to. Part of it may also be because I still find Si Feng so bland as a lead. I mean, he’s fine. But at this point Xuan Ji is really carrying the whole drama on her back.

Yuan Lang continues to be so fascinating! He’s kind of a chaotic neutral, Loki-esque character. He’s not actively evil — nor is he good — but he seems endlessly amused by irony and strife and a good show, and that makes for a good show.

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