Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜 - Episode 18 (Recap)

kakashi: We do not often get to see Mei Changsu's vulnerable side. In fact, he not only seems to be one of the smartest people alive, he is also in almost total control of the situation around him. At this point, we are expecting it to go well for him. And it is - another milestone is reached in this episode. And yet, we are once again reminded of the exceptionally heavy burden this man is carrying and get a glimpse of the daily struggles he is going through. Wanna bet he does not only have occasional but rather frequent nightmares? Great job of making me very afraid for him.
JoAnne: It bothers me a little that I'm not obsessed with this drama like you two. I like it a lot, I completely agree with your estimation of the quality of every aspect, and it's a thoroughly enjoyable, memorable experience - especially due to the additional commentary with which we're blessed - but I don't feel it in my gut the way you do. The way I do for some of the characters in that OTHER know the one. I feel sad about this.
Eleanor: That's okay Jo. You don't have to adore it quite like we do. Your commentary and insight makes this a wonderful experience to comment here together and that's more than enough for me. And maybe you will love it more later, or not, and that's okay. And yes, Kakashi, I imagine he has awful and terrible nightmares. You could always snuggle up to him and comfort him when he has them though. I'm sure he'd appreciate it. 

Episode 18

Banruo discovers a hidden room behind one of the walls in Sue Zhe's house. It contains... books. And detailed records on court officials! Banruo gets a scare when something flashes by outside, so she puts the document back into its envelope and exits the room fairly quickly after that.
I hope she gets walled up alive in some secret chamber. No, wait. We don't know what her deal is, yet. I take it back.
Nah, I'm okay with walling her up alive somewhere. Even if we don't know her story yet, she seems like she's up to no good. Mei Chang Su doesn't really like her, and that's enough for me. That purple outfit though, stunning!
The competition is over! Xiachung has found the scroll and beams like a lighthouse, that's how pleased he is. The others are still searching though and nobody has deemed it important to tell them that the manuscript has been found, hehe. Nihuang is curious about Banruo - Xiachung, who observed her during the search, says she has some special skills. Yu says nothing but seems slightly ... embarrassed?
Get your mind out of the gutter, Yu.
Jo, I can't stop laughing. 

Banruo is in fact still in the house, still going through boxes ... currently one that contains wooden trinkets. Oh! those are Fei Liu's wooden figures he played with before! She seems annoyed and closes the box roughly. When she turns around, there is Fei Liu staring angrily at her from behind the shelf and she drops the box with a scream.
I hope he leaves rotten mandarins in all your cupboards.  No matter what your back story is, sneaking through people's stuff is wrong.
Sneaksy Banruo! I would definitely NOT want to get on Fei Liu's bad side. I also hope he leaves rotten mandarins all over her house and in her clothing. 
The three younglings have now heard from Li Gang that the scroll has been found and go back to the others. Yujin is quite disappointed that Xiachun has found the treasure. In comes Fei Liu, unhappily handing Mei Changsu his box: the eagle's wing is broken off! Banruo apologizes (she does not seem sincere though) and Prince Yu promises to find new - and as he adds, 'interesting' - toys, but Fei Liu just hates everything.
Since nothing ever happens for no reason in this drama, I assume that having another reason to hate Banruo will be important for future Fei Lui action. I even wonder if the fact that the toy is an eagle is significant, honestly.  
I can't remember if it is or not, but yeah, if Fei Liu doesn't like you, I think it's a pretty done deal that we don't have to like that person. I'm also really annoyed that she isn't more apologetic. Does she not get that (a) Mei Chang Su is pretty powerful and (b) you don't piss off Fei Liu. You just don't. *pats his head and gives him a nice mandarin*
When the others have left, Yujin invites Su "on a spring outing" for the next day, but Su declines - his health does not permit such adventures. All the guests have left now ... one would think! But no, General Meng and Nihuang are already back, using a back door. Meng says Mei Changsu scared him half to death with his game, he sat on pins and needles. Two experts at hidden mechanisms! And he let them roam free in the house!
Meng the worried, scolding mother. I love it!
How many back doors and secret entrances does Su have in this house?! Knowing that Hu Ge and Chen Long are BFFs in RL makes this scene just even better. So cute! And Yujin, he's just so cute!
Yes, and he even specifically designed this game for them, Su says. If both of them could not find the secret passage, then it's really a secret passage, he adds. It's the one that leads to Prince Jing's palace! And indeed, Mei Changsu was quite confident that nobody would discover it: he built that the secret room specifically to hide the passage. And now, a visit to Prince Jing is in order! Maybe Meng wants to join him? Meng is all enthusiastic and even gets Mei Changsu's coat, but our strategist just sighs... you dummy.
Sometimes it's embarrassing to like you, Meng. Step up your game!
Haha. He's like a giant puppy. 
Meng does not get it, so Nihuang explains. If Meng just walks in together with Su, there will be all sorts of questions asked. As of now, the Prince does not know how close they are. Meng then comes up with all kinds of half-witted things he could tell Prince Jing to explain why he walked out of the passage together with Su but ....... #fail. Su says: "Do you think he's you? So easy to trick" TT____TT
The way they  just look down and close their have the gift of the gif, my friend.
Isn't there some sort of award that we can get for Kakashi, like world's best giffer? Poor Meng Zhi, he is a little slow on the uptake sometimes. But we still love him. 
Meng is ... awwww, he really does not get it! Agitated, he tells Su he should just tell Prince Jing the truth! Oh, but a look at Mei Changsu shuts him up quickly. Under NO circumstances, Mei Changsu repeats, are they allowed to tell Jingyan who he really is.
Meng's topknot is too tight, I think.
And now my heart hurts. Jingyan. I totally get why they can't tell him, but still, my heart hurts. 
Meng still does not understand! Why must Su carry the entire burden himself? If he just told Prince Jing... "He'll ruin things", Mei Changsu cuts him short. He is cooperating right now and going for the Crown only because he has no distractions; he does not need to care whether the things he does affect Mei Changsu. If he knew that he was Lin Shu, he would try to protect him. He would be concerned all the time. Like them.
Meng, please. Stand there. Be strong. Be stalwart. Just, you it with your mouth shut. Stoic! Be stoic!
What is it about this show! Every time I start thinking about Lin Shu/Su Zhe and Jingyan, my eyes start welling up with tears. My heart. My heart. 
Mortified, cause she understands hints, Nihuang apologizes. She never wanted to cause trouble! (when she was so protective of him in front of Prince Jing) Su smiles a little and adds that he feels more relaxed if Jingyan does not know. They know each other too well. As Mei Changsu, he can more easily scheme. And there is nothing wrong with how Jing looks at Mei Changsu, even if he thinks he may have given Prince Yu the advice to blow up the factory. They need to stop being so emotional. Emotions lead to mistakes. And that will lead to many people dying. They both get it now! And they vow to be there for him. He is touched. And probably saddened.
He just told them that emotion leads to mistakes, though.
Oh Su Zhe. Nihuang, stay and hug him. He needs a hug. I know he just said all that stuff about emotions, but he needs a hug. He really does. 
Prince Yu is a bit miffed at Banruo for fooling him into thinking she was just interested in Mei Changsu's new garden. In fact, he fears that Su might think badly of him now, for lying about his intentions. He then thinks the game was particularly planned for just him (he would, wouldn't he). Banruo tells him about the records of court officials she found and surmises that Lang Ya Hall had nothing to do with Mei Changsu coming to the Capital. He must have been planning for a loooong time.
I fail to see how the two are mutually exclusive, Banruo. Just because you're right doesn't mean I'm going to ignore your MASSIVE leap there.
She's impulsive that one. She doesn't think things through enough and it's bound to get her into trouble at some point. Especially if she's trying to outwit Su, help Prince Yu, and perhaps follow through with her own agenda. 
Prince Yu is not surprised by that though. Lang Ya Hall does not predict things, it only reviews. It was therefore necessary for Mei Changsu to have the intention and the talent to mold the court for the Hall to list him in the first place. Being icky patronizing, he then tells her she just needs to look at the big picture to get it.
Did he just fucking boop her nose? Or maybe he was confirming the size of the royal wee(nie), perhaps?
I think he wants to touch her. Like a lot. And he's pretending he doesn't. 
She asks him later whether he has ever heard anybody talk about the Exiled Prince from Southern Chu (we have, back in Episode 4). He has too, of course - and he tells her about Auntie Liyang's scandalous love affair with said prince. But as soon as the hostage prince left, the Grand Princess married Xie Yu - a low ranking officer at the time. That was the beginning of his rise to power.
And why, exactly, was that allowed to happen? I mean, think about it. She was the Grand Princess, and he was a low-ranking official. He rapes her. Instead of suddenly posting him to Outer Mongolia where he conveniently gets eaten by a tiger, they reward him by allowing him to marry up. #IDunGeddit
I think it's very much the "defile the woman, then marry her" scheme that is still allowed in many parts of the world today. It's how men can get women they want, who don't want them. It's vile and barbaric and I have zero tolerance for it. And that whole, "damaged goods". Plus, he had support from other people in the palace. They were all scheming way back then to get Xie Yu into having more power. 

They need to find Xie Yu's weakness, Banruo says. There's a trader from Southern Chu that has a few interesting things to say... and she whispers into the Prince's ear ... until he jerks back and exclaims "Xiao Jingrui??". Oh no... Jingrui's secret heritage is going to be revealed!
And again: PLEASE. The two families live together like blood and Jingrui spends half his time in the pugilist world because he's half pugilist, but his mother is the Grand Princess and his father was a court official, so, not pugilist - not to mention that he's the older brother, and yet it's his younger brother that is the acknowledged heir to the Ning fortune, whatever that might be...I think Jingrui's story is known. Don't just conveniently pop it out like it's a secret all of a sudden, show.
I think that only a few people "know" for sure. I think the show is also just reminding us because we might have forgotten what happened in episode 4 - seeing as this show likes to give us a bazillion pieces of information. So maybe not so much secret as reminder? 
At the Su residence, they're still discussing Prince Jing. Nihuang says that it won't be easy to get him onto the throne, he is just so inept at power games. What she sees as shortcomings will be his strength once he is Emperor, says Mei Changsu. The kingdom is suffering because all the current Emperor and his spawn knows are power games. Prince Jing, thanks to his brother Qi's influence, is the only person who is not morally corrupt. He will be able to heal the Kingdom.
And I say to you, my brothers and sisters, buh-LIEVE in the Jing! Buh-LIEVE in the Jing, and rise! Rise, I tell you! For the Jing is good, and he can heal what ails you.
First image that popped into my head was Mushu, the dragon voiced by Eddie Murphy, in Mulan, and him announcing what you just typed. 

Do they now understand why Mei Changsu cannot reveal who he is? "I am someone who has crawled out of hell, poison has seeped deep into my bones. Let me be the one to do insidious and vicious deeds. I must preserve Jingyan's heart." TT____________TT
I mean, it's not like you're hurting kittens, Mei Changsu. Not that you're above that...sigh. I miss Disguiser.
He might hurt some kittens though and it pains him. He's just trying to protect everyone. It's who Lin Shu is. moonlil was telling me that in the book, Jingyan often took the blame for Lin Shu's escapades etc. and now Lin Shu is trying to shield Jingyan from making choices that will pain him. 
Consort Hui and Consort Jing discuss court matters ... it seems an envoy from Southern Chu is coming, seeking a marriage alliance. Wait a second ... hmmm.... anyway, it will be one of the Princes that will be married off, but which one? Consort Hui fears it going to be one of their sons (noooooo, not Prince Jing! Leave him alone!!)
In my head I thought, oh wow, Jing's mom's last name is the same as his first name, his name is Jing Jing. I should go to bed.
LOL Prince Jing's name is Xiao Jingyan. And yes, don't marry Jingyan! 

A figure walks through a passage ... this is not Mei Changsu, judging by the regal robes! No, Mei Changsu lies dreaming, but it's nightmares that plague him, of death and destruction, all dead, all dead... Fei Liu shakes him awake, calling his name. Someone is knocking!
You know when you have that dream, the one where you're falling, and you jerk awake just a split second before you're going to hit bottom? I always heard that if you actually do hit the ground in your dream, you wake up dead. I mean, you die. In real life. I wonder how anyone ever knew that to say it though? Because anyone who experienced it, I mean - they're dead now, right? So how'd they tell anybody? In all the ghost stories I ever read or heard, no ghost ever said 'I fell downnnnnnnnn and then woke up deaaaaaad, whooooooooo'
Hahahahaha, I hate those falling dreams! That looks like Jingyan walking down a hallway. How is it that I can even tell from a partial back shot that it's Wang Kai? o.O
Mei Changsu collects himself (it's horrible to see him so rattled) and pushes aside some book shelves ... Prince Jing is standing behind them. It's an ungodly hour, but Mei Changsu does not seem angry or surprised. Prince Jing has come to inform him that he will be out of town for three days, per orders of his father. But he has come because of that envoy from Southern Chu, his mother has told him about. It'll be easy to avoid having him married off, Su assures him, they just need to make sure that Prince Jing's birth date does not match the Princess'.
Doesn't that sort of seem like it's out of their hands, though? The two facts would be known already, and it's not like they can be changed.
Maybe Su can mess with her horoscope? Or he already knows it? And don't worry, Jingyan, you can just marry me. I promise I'll take good care of you. 
Prince Jing is quite impressed by Mei Changsu's sphere of influence - and just like Banruo before, he guesses correctly that Mei Changsu must have planned his visit to the Capital for quite some time in advance. But there is something our little Prince does not understand: why does Mei Changsu, one of the smartest people in the world, choose him? Is it because making him succeed will add so much more credit to his fame? ahahaha.
What, like picking the ugly girl to transform into Miss America?
Oh Jingyan, don't be so hard on yourself. Be who Su knows you can be! 
Ah, but Prince Jing suspects more ... Mei Changsu's particular interest in Tingshen makes him wonder whether he actually knew his brother, Prince Qi? Su evades the question by saying that he always wanted to work under Qi when he was young ... a wish that will now never come to pass.
I think my sense of disconnect is entirely related to Mei Changsu's wig. I hate it like you can't even imagine. I have no idea why, but I suspect it's related to the weird sideburns.  Jing has them, too, though, and I don't feel the same intensity. The hairlines are so Planet of the Apes. I know! I'm so sorry! This is probably too mean to leave in. I'm so tired...I'll re-read this tomorrow. What do you guys think?
I know you're not the only person who feels that way. The wigs have never bothered me at all. We get to see their beautiful foreheads so much more this way. Oh Lin Shu and Jingyan. My heart. It just hurts. Stupid evil plotting that messed up this lovely bromance!
Mu Qing has news about Minister He (the one who switched out his son for a commoner): he will be demoted to status of clerk and sent to the provinces. His son will go back to prison and will eventually be executed. The Minister of Justice Qi will be exiled, and 15 officials who knew about the case with him. Mu Qing has also noticed something quite interesting, he adds: power in the court is not shifting, it is actually diminishing. The more the two princes fight, the less power they possess.
Lil cutie, trying to use his brain
He is adorabubble. 
What a headache for the Emperor! Prince Jing is back and reports that all is normal with the army he was sent to check upon. He comments on how tired his father looks and the Emperor shares his troubles. Who should he elect to be the new Minister of Justice? Jingyan says he has no clue ... how could he, seeing how he never got involved in court matters before recently. That gives the Emperor an idea though! There was this guy ... what's his name? Who wrote a very pleasing report... That would be one Cai Quan, Prince Jing knows. Well, look who just got another Minister after his wishes... The Emperor's Eunuch Gao Zhan looks at Jing as he were thinking: oh you little sly one, amazing what you are doing.
Talk about irritating sideburns, Gao Zhan takes the cake. Seriously though, what is with my hair hang up?
All I can think now is: it must take an awful lot of effort to make sure that Gao Zhan's sideburns stay sleek and carefully unknotted. So much work! But then, I quit worrying about that and just stare lovingly at the gorgeousness that is Prince Jing. Seriously. Hearts. Coming. Out. Of. My. Eyes. 
Who the heck is this guy?! Prince Yu goes - and then tasks his adviser to try and get him onto his side. Banruo massages Prince Yu's shoulders (iiiiih, I don't trust her! She's sneaky). More visits to Su might be necessary in the future, Prince Yu remarks bitterly. Things are not going well for him.
I'm going to love it to pieces if she turns out to be a secret good guy, because she is so straightforwardly not one for us, so far.
These two. It's like they pretend there's only advising going on. 
But apparently, there are rumors that the Emperor will dethrone the Crown Prince in favor of Prince Yu. The Emperor wants to hear Meng's opinion about it - but I think our dummy was briefed quite well! He gives non-answers to everything, which amuses the Emperor. The Eunuch suggests they walk for a bit and they do. That walk takes him to a place where there is a strong herb smell. It's Consort Jing's medicine garden! By the way, I absolutely love the interactions between the Emperor and his Eunuch :D
I do too, side-burns that look like hairy little tails aside.
They do look like tails! Little rat tails. Is that mean of me? 
Meng visits Prince Jing's training ground ... and Meng starts talking about Prince Jing's famous bow that he would like to see. No need to bring it out, he will go see it in the room! (Jing smiles!!! He smiles!!) Oh, but what is this?! Meng discovers the secret passage "by coincidence" while he roams around in Prince Jing's room! 
He didn't handle that too badly, did he? Okay Meng, I can claim you in public again.
Kakashi, where is the gif of Prince Jing smiling? (JK it's okay, you don't have to). Haha. I'm just being silly. It's not like I don't already have a million Wang Kai smiling gifs stored on my phone...


The most important scene in this episode to me is when Meng (awwwww, dummy), Nihuang and Mei Changsu discuss Prince Jing. It's not the first time that Mei Changsu speaks of sinning in order to keep Jingyan pure. I remember we had a brief discussion about the fact that you are just as guilty of a crime if your adviser commits it for you - which is of course true, but I guess ONLY if you are the one who tells the adviser to do it or you know of something really bad he is going to do and do not stop the person. In the case of Mei Changsu, he does not plan to tell Jingyan anything, though. His plan is to just pull the strings in the background until Jing ascends to the throne.
I think being guilty and being responsible might be two different things, and that while he might not be guilty of the crimes, he'd be responsible for them, in at least a karmic sense. And it's splitting hairs, really, anyway, because Jing knows Mei Changsu believes he has a right to do something bad to bring about something good. He's not wrong about that. He's wrong about the level of bad, maybe, but he's not wrong about the idea. So he does know. Not knowing the details in advance doesn't make him innocent.
I think it's also about pain. He wants to spare Jingyan the pain of making the decision. And I think there are things that Jingyan might never know that Su Zhe did and so he can't suffer from that pain of knowing what was done, whether or not he is in some sense responsible for the fallout. In some ways, we are all guilty of things that the people around us have done. If we have a smartphone, we are guilty of possibly allowing a child to dig through toxic metals with a spoon so we can have a piece of technology. Or we might benefit from slave labour or criminal activity in the production of a product or economic status because of the country we live in. Maybe that's a weird tangent, but it's something I think about. How much am I guilty of when I didn't actually make someone do something terrible, yet I am still buying this smartphone that I know might have a shady background because of how precious metals are mined. It gets really tricky to philosophize about guilt and culpability. Sorry if that was a weird tangent. For me, it's more about sparing him pain. Su Zhe knows how Jingyan feels about Lin Shu, and that Jingyan would never allow Lin Shu to be hurt. It's about more than guilt or doing bad things, it's about not letting Jingyan hurt more than he already is. And if Jingyan knows who Lin Shu is and what he's gone through, there's no way in hell Jingyan, that stubborn water buffalo, will sit still for a minute and do nothing about it. 

That's exactly why Jingyan is so suspicious of him, of course - he is very smart and he quite clearly realizes that Mei Changsu does a lot of things behind his back, potentially manipulating him. And he does not strike me as a guy who likes to be manipulated!
And yet he's allowing it to happen.
I think Jingyan is unsure of what exactly he wants. I think he's going with his gut here. And even though he's suspicious, he also trusts Mei Changsu implicitly. 

Several people are starting to ask questions about Mei Changsu's intentions now. That makes me very uneasy. I really wonder how long he can keep fooling everybody like he is right now. Not forever, that much is clear!
My theory:  Mei Changsu is himself an imposter, carefully coached by the Beast - the REAL Lin Shu.
LOL. Forget the politics. I'm just going to look at Prince Jing and be happy.