This is a episode commentary. It is intended for someone who has seen this episode, and will contain episode spoilers.

Jewel in the Palace: Episode 4 Commentary

One of the criticisms I’ve read about the Korean animated movie Oseam is that the emotion the viewer should feel for the two children in the movie is forced. While I don’t feel the same, I do see where the sentiment comes from. This episode of Jewel in the Palace reminds me of this criticism, except that everything which happens flows smoothly, naturally.

Since her first scenes in episode two, Jang-Geum is shown to have a desire to learn and a love for knowledge. Her mother was a court lady, and because of this had the knowledge to teach Jang-Geum many things. As well, Jang-Geum surely learned a lot about foods from her mother. She comments in episode four about learning in town the method she used to stop the bleeding of Yeun-Seng’s arm. She learned about boiling the water to clean it after the sandstorm to keep foods from spoiling, resulting in her group being the only one whose food didn’t spoil overnight.

No matter what Jang-Geum went through this episode, it’s Yeun-Seng who had to do the peeling with a sore, wounded arm at the end of the prior episode. I thought it seemed exaggerated of her to be holding her shoulder so much (something along the lines of, “You’re not hurt that bad, so you can stop holding your arm”), but she was genuinely hurt. This might also be the reason for the unhappy look on her face while Jang-Geum was preoccupied with being fascinated by the meal preparation. Likewise, it may have contributed to the crying following Lady Han’s return.

Already Jang-Geum is fulfilling the prophecy for her. The king has been avoiding the doctor-advised ginger, and indirectly because of Jang-Geum’s actions, he has begun to include ginger in his meals. Of course, it’s Lady Han who took the ingredients and made them into something Jungjong would eat. This goes hand-in-hand with Lady Han’s lesson for Jang-Geum, about catering to the needs of the one who will be eating the served meal. It’s also something which comes up a lot in the animated series, Janggeum’s Dream.

Lady Han continues to look for signs of her friend. It interests me that Chef Gang Duk-Gu is helping Lady Han in searching for Lady Park, without either knowing that Suh Jang-Geum is Park’s daughter. Pansul and Lady Choi know something, however. Thankfully Myeong was able to fool them into believing her child to be a boy, or else Jang-Geum’s life would certainly be in danger.

In the animated Janggeum’s Dream, I tried multiple times to like Yeong-ro as a person, but she continued to disappoint, stubbornly sticking to her character. Young-Ro in Jewel in the Palace is seen to be bossy right from the start. When Jang-Geum gets double lashings, Young-Ro smiles with pleasure. When Yeun-Seng opens the classroom door so Jang-Geum can overhear the lessons, Young-Ro is quick to get up and close the door. Her classist views prevail, and she uses these views instilled within her against Jang-Geum every chance she gets. Whether it’s throwing her out of the room, or trying to knock over her water basin to disqualify Jang-Geum from taking the test, Young-Ro’s prejudice guides her actions. Or, perhaps, her desired actions are easily accounted for by means of prejudice.

It’s a girl named Chang-Yee who tells Jang-Geum to dress up and meet with the highest court lady. Jang-Geum acknowledges to Yeun-Seng that it was Young-Ro’s doing. Is this Chang-Yee the same character as Chang-I in Janggeum’s Dream? Her shown name, 창이, is one of the few I’m actually able to read, and the spelling matches Chang-I’s (just romanized differently). It’ll be interesting to see the difference between the two. If Chang-Yee appears as a minor character in later episodes, I’ll be sure to watch what becomes of her.

Jang-Geum and Keum-Young are able to share something in common in their twice meeting at night. Jang-Geum’s repeating the rumors about Keum-Young (whether they be true or false, something Jang-Geum acknowledges not knowing whether), this stands to be the first thing to hinder their potential friendship. Still, Keum-Young doesn’t appear to hold anything against Jang-Geum for it, offering to her the secret of placing the pine need into the nut. This is something Jang-Geum could not do on her own because of having never learned how.

The location of Jang-Geum and Keum-Young’s meeting looks to me to be the same place the animated Janggeum encounters Little Red (as I call him, for lack of knowing the character’s name).

Pansul mentions Pil-Du; I gather this is the man who stopped at Duk-Gu’s to find out about Myeong and her “son” from two years prior. Either that, or the man is working for Lady Han to find Myeong.

During the test, Jang-Geum is asked to list all the ranks of Jung 3rd degree. The teacher’s reaction suggests that she didn’t teach all of this yet. The better reaction is from the other ladies, and they look as if they don’t even know all of them themselves.

Even though I can’t understand what’s said during the next episode preview, what with the lack of subtitles and all, I do like the upped saturation of colors used. It sets it apart from the look of the episode, and was a good idea.

One of the things I tried to understand in Janggeum’s Dream was the difference between a soldier (Jeong-ho, Suro) being called what sounded like “naori” and “daori”. In this episode of Jewel in the Palace, one of the students is asked to “differentiate between De-Gaum, Young-Gaum and Nau-Ri.” The student who answers explains that “Jung 2nd degree and up are called Dae-Gaum,” and “Jong 2nd degree, and Jung 3rd degree are Young-Gaum.” She finished by stating that “everything under Jong 3rd degree is called Nau-Ri.” This must be the same “naori” I heard in Janggeum’s Dream. Now that I know one of its romanizations, maybe I’ll be able to figure out its Korean spelling, and then I can find out more information about Nau-Ri, and hopefully about “Dau-Ri”. Reading up on “Jung” and “De-Gaum”, etc. should be a decent starting place.

I actually found myself able to read some of the written names on screen this episode. There were six names which appeared on the screen. The first was 분이 (Bun-I; Bun-Lee), one of the teen court ladies. Second was 용제선 (Yeon Je-Seon), the girl staying in the same place as Keum-Young. I had trouble with the third, shown alongside the hilarious “soldier in the fire and light department” (I liked that guy!). I was able to make out “멸?군” (myeol-[something]-gun), and that was followed by more text. Next was 창이, or Chang-Yee, the girl who told Jang-Geum to ready to meet with the highest court lady. In the room with the highest court lady was the name ???, with more text after it. Finally, the girl who berates Jang-Geum for being so forward as to enter on the highest court lady has the name 조-방 (Jo-Bang).

There was a very worrisome subtitle in this episode, as Jang-Geum speaks her desire to become the highest kitchen lady “asap”. Part of subtitling a series such as Jewel in the Palace, the series being a historic drama, should be to keep the dialogue within the era. Having someone say “asap” doesn’t exactly give a feel of 1500’s Korea to me.

One Response to “Jewel in the Palace: Episode 4 Commentary”

  1. sarah-film Says:

    I have to agree with you on his one, the character Jang-Geum actually evolved dramatically after the first episode.