Welcome back to Chasing Dramas! The podcast that discusses Chinese culture and history through historical Chinese dramas. Today we are discussing Episode 58 of Empresses in the Palace, 后宫甄嬛传. We are your hosts, Cathy and Karen.
In the last 2 episodes, our main character, 甄嬛 returned to the palace, pregnant with the 17th prince’s child, but has made the emperor believe the child was his. The reason 甄嬛 did this was to 1) save her father’s life and 2) try to enact revenge on behalf of the 17th prince who was presumed dead. We find out that he is alive but she’s stuck returning to the palace.
Now that she’s back, she is now no longer the 汉 woman, 甄嬛, instead, she is the Manchu woman, 钮祜禄甄嬛。She’s powerful, well dressed, and has an affinity for red lipstick.
In the last episode, she was stopped by her former friend, 安陵容, who came to give her some “advice” which were more like threats. 甄嬛 returns to her palace and we start the episode here. As always, we will do an episode recap and analysis at the end of the episode.
As 甄嬛 returns to her palace, her maid/sister, 浣碧 is all in a huff because clearly 安陵容 had a pouch that contained the terrible 麝香 or musk. See? Now any time you smell ANYTHING, you know it might be 麝香。 That’s why the Empress, so many episodes back, said she never likes any scent or fragrance that is not natural. On command, 甄嬛 asks her other trusty maid 瑾汐about the lay of the land in the palace. Fortunately, 瑾汐 is paired up with the Emperor’s head eunuch, 苏培盛 and he tells her how 安陵容 and 祺嫔 are very favored in the palace but the Empress generally favors 祺嫔。 甄嬛 can guess why. 祺嫔 is arrogant yet simple, much easier to manipulate. You can see the change in tone and behaviour now from 甄嬛. She has her sources of information and knows how to manage her enemies. She is generally on the offensive rather than the defensive.
The biggest asset 甄嬛 could ever have acquired in the palace, is having the Emperor’s head eunuch 苏培盛 on her side. Since he’s in front of the Emperor most of the time, he’s able to put in a good word for her or request things on her behalf. In the next scene, 苏培盛 does just that. While the Emperor is in his study doing work, 苏培盛 brings some soup for the emperor and mentions that 甄嬛 is generally a little down. A visit from her family would most likely cheer her up. This prompts the emperor to allow her sick father to visit once he is recovered.
The emperor visits 甄嬛 to tell her the news. She is very pleased to hear that her father will be able to see her. Now I’m wondering if 瑾汐 asked 苏培盛 to make this ask, or if 苏培盛did it out of his own kindness. I’m hoping the latter, but, regardless the end result is positive. She is much more at ease.
To continue reinforcing how powerful and influential 苏培盛is, he steers the conversation next towards where the Emperor will be staying that night. The Emperor initially says to stay with 甄嬛 but 甄嬛 says he’s not supposed to stay with her so she nudges him elsewhere. He says fine, I’ll go visit 宁贵人. She’s the concubine who was formerly a lowly horse tamer maid. Here is where 苏培盛 is impactful. He says sure, we’ll let 宁贵人 know that you will be arriving, but when we pass where 祺嫔 lives, we’ll probably hear her grumbles. The Emperor is a little surprised by this and asks if 祺嫔 always says negative things. And here is where 苏培盛 chooses his words wisely, he says, I’ve only heard it a few times. But it’s no wonder. THe empress dowager doesn’t like 宁贵人, so it’s no surprise others don’t either. This promptly annoys the Emperor. He even says, the empress dowager is the empress dowager, who does 祺嫔 think she is.
I really haven’t noticed this in previous viewings but 苏培盛 is planting the seeds of annoyance and distrust in the Emperor’s mind about 祺嫔。甄嬛 says he shouldn’t mind, but on cue, a eunuch comes to alert the emperor that 祺嫔 isn’t feeling well. Does the emperor want to go take a look? The emperor initially was like um no and tells the eunuch to lie to 祺嫔 as to why he won’t go. Once he’s gone, 甄嬛 actually recommends the Emperor to see 祺嫔。Could it be out of the kindness of her heart? Absolutely not.
At 祺嫔’s palace, 祺嫔 is beating her servants, one in particular, because the Emperor isn’t coming. But who comes to see her? The emperor. 祺嫔 is in shock and immediately kneels to the ground. She knows this doesn’t look good.
The emperor is very angry to see 祺嫔 behave this way, especially after learning that 祺嫔 has been beating the maid who used to work for 甄嬛. 欣贵人, who is in the same palace and has been belittled by 祺嫔 for a long time, swiftly uses this opportunity to explain how 祺嫔 uses her 嫔 or Concubine title over her so that she can’t even protect her servants from such abuse. These words, I’m assuming chosen very wisely, prompt’s the Emperor that 祺嫔 isn’t deserving of this title. He demotes her, moves her to another residence and places her under confinement. All managing responsibilities of the palace will now fall to 欣贵人.
Tada. And with that! 甄嬛 is able to put 祺嫔 in her place and gain an ally in 欣贵人。 After all, it was 欣贵人 who came to 甄嬛 in the last episode to ask for help and be on the same team. This seems simple enough of an obstacle to remove. 甄嬛 didn’t have to do much work. She leveraged 祺嫔’s own arrogance to bring about her punishment. Oh and she has to thank 苏培盛。
In the next scene， 甄嬛 stops by to visit the Empress Dowager along with the Emperor. There, she shares a big secret. She’s actually having twins! That’s why her stomach looks bigger than normal. That’s quite a pleasant surprise isn’t it? Look at those genes from the 17th prince. It means she doesn’t have to hide the fact that her pregnancy is actually earlier than expected because who is going to really know how big a stomach is with twins. The empress dowager and the emperor are very excited but 甄嬛 requests they keep this information a secret until she gives birth. Part of this is her master plan. 甄嬛 wants to bait those who are ill willed against her because they will surely think her pregnancy is too big and suggest she actually cheated. Well, she did, but the twins luckily hide this fact.
During this conversation, the Empress Dowager mentions that the Empress is still sick. The Emperor should speak to the Imperial Astronomer qin tian jian again to see what’s going on. The Emperor agrees and we get to the next scene.
The emperor has a meeting with Qin Tian Jian but instead of the Imperial Astronomer, he’s meeting with the deputy. This guy says the top guy is sick, so that’s why he’s here. A few months ago, the Imperial Astronomer persuaded the Emperor that Zhen Huan was unlucky due to the current alignment of the stars. This astronomer acknowledges that over the past few months, the danger has subsided but a new threat is written in the stars. This time the Jing or Well mansion and 鬼 or Ghost mansions of Vermilion Bird of the South Symbols both appear in the sky. It’s unlucky, whoever lives in the southside of the palace that has parents or names that include characters relating to wood or 木 should be avoided.
Don’t get any of this BUT it’s quite clear, the Emperor will avoid whoever fits that criteria. Su Pei Sheng is listening to this on the side and he makes a recommendation. Once again! MVP right here! Su Pei Sheng is the key person here. He pipes up that An Ling Rong fits the bill.
The Emperor is somewhat suspicious at first but Su Pei Sheng gives several reasons why it could be her. The Empress is still unhealthy, it could be due to her close associate with An Ling Rong. The Astronomer simply states that this woman should be away from people. With this recommendation, the Emperor orders An Ling Rong to be confined or restricted. Oh look – one more of the Empress’s posse is now confined.
If you remember though that in the last episode, Shen Mei Zhuang was the one to say that this deputy in Qin Tian Jian is probably someone they can rely on. I’m assuming she and Zhen Huan did something behind the scenes to cause the Head to fall ill, thereby giving the deputy this opportunity to speak to the Emperor. And what do you know? The emperor makes this guy the head. I don’t know if Shen Mei ZHuang and Zhen HUan fed him these lines about making An Ling Rong a bad omen. It’s suggested that this is in fact what happened. Otherwise, it seems too neat that their enemy is now being isolated from her master. A simple and effective way to separate An Ling Rong from support and not once will the Emperor suspect Zhen Huan or Shen Mei Zhuang had anything to do with it. These ladies are definitely building up a list of people to rely on and is quite impressive.
Now this is where we get to, how shall I say a sad but funny part of the episode.
The emperor decides to visit Shen Mei Zhuang who now lives in Zhen Huan’s previous residence, Sui Yu Xuan. This is quite the event and everyone knows. Su Pei Sheng comes to tell Zhen Huan who is playing chinese go with another concubine, Duan Fei. They’re all very surprised about this meeting because Shen Mei ZHuang has avoided seeing the Emperor for quite some time and the Emperor himself has refrained from visiting her. The Empress Dowager also hears this news and is happy to hear it.
Seriously. The emperor visits someone and the entire palace knows in an instant.
The truth is, Shen Mei Zhuang had her heart broken way back when during her fake pregnancy scandal. She was tricked into believing she was pregnant by the powerful Hua Fei and was severely punished by the Emperor. Since then, she has become very detached towards him and does not care for his attention. So, she turned her focus towards caring for the Empress Dowager. During dinner with the Emperor, the Emperor pretty much says he knows that the reason why Shen Mei Zhuang moved to Zhen Huan’s old residence was to avoid him for these years.
As they’re having this rather somber discussion, the Empress Dowager decides to help them along and send them a bottle of liquor that will um…help them with their emotions. Her maid drops off the liquor. He pointedly asks her what type of liquor this is. She doesn’t hesitate and point blank tells him that it’s to help the 2 of them spend a good evening together, courtesy of his mother.
That’s pretty funny to be honest.
But unfortunately, this drink serves the exact opposite purpose and shortly after the maid leaves, the Emperor also decides to leave. I mean it makes sense. Bringing this drink means that they two need help getting to where they should be. The Emperor probably doesn’t mind, but he feels a barrier from Shen Mei Zhuang and doesn’t want to force her. PArt of me thinks it’s more ego driven. He doesn’t want to resort to such means for a woman to be with him. He wants her to be willing on her own. She clearly isn’t so he leaves.
Shen Mei Zhuang is understandably sad, not because he left, but because she thinks he’s hypocritical. And that’s fair. She laments why he’s saying all these heartfelt things when he was the one to break her heart in the first place?
She is saddened and starts to drink the liquor alone in her residence, without her servants. After a while, she becomes drunk, crying in her room.
Her servants, worried about her, quickly call for the Imperial Doctor Wen Shi Chu to come provide some medicine to sober up. He hurriedly arrives to see her in a pretty drunk state. He tells the servant to boil the medicine and is then alone with Shen Mei Zhuang. Though he tries to persuade her to stop drinking, she turns around and asks him to drink with her. He worridley obliges but i think in an instant, you look at his face, he realizes that he had liquor that has some additional ingredients in it.
He doesn’t stop drinking though. He continues to drink a few more glasses with her as she shares her inner most thoughts. Her loneliness, her sadness.
One thing leads to another…and he carries her off screen….
Hey! This is a very classy drama.
Once again, the Emperor is now a man that wears a green hat. What does that mean? We’ll discuss at the end of the episode.
Moving on – Zhen Huan meets Ye Lan Yi, Ning Gui Ren. The former horse tamer maid of the 17th prince. We didn’t mention in our recap of ep 56 but they met briefly before on the same topic they’re discussing now – He Huan Hua. it translates to Persian Silk Tree. This flower is the 17th prince’s favorite flower which hints to how both Zhen Huan and Ye Lan Yi fancy the handsome man.
It’s pouring outside and Zhen Huan basically just invites herself over to Ye Lan Yi’s palace. They step in and the first thing Zhen Huan notices is the cats that Ye Lan Yi owns. She’s extremely nervous, I mean why wouldn’t she be? She’s pregnant and the last time she was out with a cat around, someone miscarried.
Later that evening the Emperor arrives to tell Zhen Huan that he’s been informed that there’ve been some subtle rumors flying around the Imperial Palace. Zhen Huan assuages the Emperor and requests that he doesn’t repeat them to her. It’s not worth the effort to address any of these.
What do you think they are about? Well, we find out immediately in the next scene.
The episode ends with the Emperor dining with the Empress. All seems fine but then the Empress decides to personally bring up these rumors. The timing is impeccable, as a positive for Zhen Huan, and a negative for the Empress. The Empress hints that the rumors are about Zhen Huan’s pregnancy…apparently her tummy is a bit too big for whatever month she’s in…could it be that the baby isn’t yours? I love it – the Emperor just sort of has a blank stare but you can totally tell that he’s annoyed. He doesn’t tell her about the twins but he believes that’s the true reason. The Emperor bluntly tells her to ignore these rumors and just leave the affairs of the Imperial Palace to others. He then walks away after eating one bite. Ouch – the Empress doesn’t know what hit her. She definitely believes Zhen Huan cheated but can’t figure out why the Emperor isn’t suspicious.
Well that’s it for the recap. This was a fun episode! Zhen Huan finally takes agency and successfully wins a round against Qi Pin. The Empress Dowager tried to push things along between her son and 沈眉庄 but um it was another man who spent the night…how exciting!