Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜 - Episode 22 (Recap)

We're starting to deal with the aftermath of the birthday-party-from-hell, and it ain't pretty.
JoAnne:  This drama is so rich in every way... it makes me want to read the novel.  Is the novel translated into English, dear Comment Crew? Or were you all reading it in Chinese?  Is it strange to want to learn a language so that you can read one novel?  ... I know the answer to that is 'yes.'
Eleanor: There is no official translation, but I compiled a bunch of links to some bloggers who are translating it into English. Here are those links. And yes, I have more than once thought that I need to learn Chinese so I can read the novel etc. That and talk with Wang Kai ;)

Episode 22

After getting the promise from Prince Yu, Liyang slowly makes her way over to the Zhuos. She knows how selfish she has been, but asks them not to punish her daughter, their daughter-in-law for her crimes. Mrs. Zhuo tells her that they from the pugilist world never punish the next generation for the wrongdoings of their parents - she has nothing to worry about.
Those poor sweet kids. I'm surprised she didn't go into labor that night, all that stress and emotion!
The Zhuos just get more awesome with each episode. 
Next, Prince Yu steps closer and offers the Zhuos refuge at his place. And then.... oh Jingrui.... he kowtows in front of the Zhuos, to overwhelmed for words. Mrs. Zhuo urges him to get up and Mr. Zhuo tells him that he is a good child - he is to blame for nothing. And they hug him. Upon hearing all this, Mei Changsu sighs heavily ... and seems so very weary.
I can't help but admire how generous and kind they are and I like them more and more.
They are so magnanimous. I feel so much for Jingrui right now. His whole world as he knows it, and that of the Zhuos has just collapsed. 
Xie Yu is praying ... Liyang joins him in the ancestral room, to ask him whether he hates her. For protecting her son and the Zhuo family, for betraying him. She realized how big his crime was when he struggled so much to kill these people despite the risk. If he is convicted, all he ever was, all the Xie-family stands for will be dust. But Xie Yu STILL sees no fault in his actions: he has lived his whole life believing that you simply need to be on the winning side.
I struggle sometimes with how to feel about a person who has got everything SO backwards. There's an element of pity that comes into play: he's not crazy; he's not hurting people because he enjoys hurting people; it's not even really a sense of entitlement: he honestly believes this is the way that you are supposed to be. It naturally leads me to wonder what/who caused him to think that way. Yes, he's a bastard. But within the context of his world view, he's an ambitious man who has worked hard to get where he is; a man who loves his wife and family and provides well for them. He feels pain and disappointment relative to his beliefs. How can you not feel a bit sorry for someone so wrong? It doesn't mean he's forgiven, but it stings a bit, watching him. I think it's a very good actor who can find that bit of humanity in a man who does nothing that anyone should admire.
Yes. I think it's something this actor does particularly well. And I love that the writing for the drama reflects the complex layering of human thought and emotion that is very real. 
Well, something clearly went wrong with that plan, hm, Xie Yu? Liyang suggests to him that he should kill himself, even handing him her knife. The dishonor for the Xie family, so she thinks, is going to be too great. Better die now, with his pride intact. "I cannot save your life", she says, "but I can save your reputation". She is even ready to join him in the underworld, right after she has settled the children.
I don't know how to feel about this. Kill yourself to avoid punishment? Coward. Kill yourself to avoid destroying the family reputation? Part of me thinks that's avoiding what's deserved...but then again, there are other people in that family who haven't done anything wrong. Still - wouldn't there be gossip about a double-suicide? Wouldn't speculation destroy their reputations and those of their family members anyway? The final possibility - kill yourself in judgement of your own actions - doesn't even seem to be on the table. And I'm not really in favor of it, anyway.
I also think it's cowardly and if he still can't really see that what he's done is wrong, it's not really going to be much of a solution (for all the reasons you listed) for the people left behind. 
He pulls her towards him and hugs her very close (damn, that knife in his hand is making me nervous!!). He tells her that he loves her very much - but he does not want to die. He will fight until the end! Death truly means losing everything - so he may as well consume everything he has in that fight.
Because he doesn't think he's done anything wrong. He'd do it all again, and it's worth it to him to die trying to make that last chance of success come through.
I think that his love for her, twisted as it is, seems to anchor what semblance of humanity he possesses. I really want to know how he cannot see that disregarding human life so callously can't be wrong. It's just something I cannot wrap my head around. 
Mei Changsu is on his way home, Prince Yu is quite concerned for him. Me too! He seems extremely tired. Under a pretense (it's already curfew time!), Mei Changsu gets Meng to accompany him home (Prince Jing is waiting there!). At home, with Banruo, Prince Yu is extremely happy about his victory, but all of a sudden, he asks her whether she also thinks the relationship between Commander Meng and Mei Changsu is ... out of the ordinary? Oh shit.
Don't go being perceptive while I'm reigned to admire you simply for your wide shoulders and broad chest, Yu. You're not someone I want to like, so let's just leave it physical, okay?
Yeah, can't he just wallow is his self-congratulation and not worry about Mei Chang Su. I hope his doctor is awake because I think he's going to need him very badly. 
Prince Jing is also concerned about Mei Changsu, but the strategist is not interested in discussing his health. Mei Changsu explains how everything came about ... he placed people everywhere, to spread rumors about the Grand Princess' scandal and how similar Jingrui and the Prince from Southern Chu look. Banruo caught the bait (haha, her again) and started to investigate. Then, Miss Gong Yu deliberately failed at her assassination attempt of Xie Yu, which then led to Gong Yu telling Banruo all about the infant-story.
So devilishly complex. Such a bastard, too. It's not what he's attempting to do that bothers me, it's the theater of it - I think because that smacks of vengeance to me, rather than the pursuit of justice. It makes very good watching, though!
I can't and won't think of him like that. He shared information and left hints and allowed people to make choices whether or not to follow up on them. And what does justice look like? How would that play out? The court is corrupt, Jingrui's familial line crosses borders, there are about half a million things gone wrong in the kingdom, what avenues are left open other than the shadowed ways of pulling strings using his pugilist connections? What other option is there? And that's an honest question. What does justice in this situation look like? 
Prince Yu then came to Mei Changsu to plan the downfall of Xie Yu. Mei Changsu also made sure he would meet the Prince and Princess from Southern Chu (the latter looking very much like Jingrui, this drama wants us to believe) and make them part of the plan. Meng comments euphorically how extraordinary it is that they came to the Capital just at the right time. Oh, Meng ...
Just hush, man. Look handsome, be there with muscle when we need it. Maybe some snuggles. Shhhh.
Poor Meng. In his defense, it is a bit hard to keep up with all of Su's plans. 
But what about his friend, Jingrui? Meng asks - won't he harbor hard feelings towards him? Prince Jing has a pragmatic view on this: if Mr. Su had not been so harsh, he would not have severed Jingrui's relationship with Xie Yu as cleanly. Wise words, oh Prince.
I get it, I get it. Convince me that he did it that way BECAUSE his goal was to save Jingrui, and I'll buy it as bitter medicine to save the patient and swing around to admiring the doctor. I just don't think that was his primary purpose in that particular set up, but it could be my recent rage fit clouding my vision.
If I remember correctly, there is a point later on where a conversation happens that confirms that it was a purpose to save Jingrui. I don't think it's spoiling too much to say so. And I think there was a comment in the last recap that confirmed that from the novel. Su also is very careful to never praise Mei Chang Su's deeds (to make MCS look better) or to try and clarify that he makes an decisions made based one emotion. That his heart hurts let's us know that that's all BS and he does try and protect who he can. That Prince Jing is the one to articulate this thought also indicates that it's true (due to his straightforward nature). I also don't think there can necessarily be a "primary" purpose in this. There are always multiple things happening with each part of the plan. To make the severing so public, while it hurts so abominably, also ensures that there is no question that Jingrui is free from Xie Yu's crimes. It's a revelation to everyone and Jingrui can't fake the shock. No one can doubt the veracity of all the revelations that took place that night. 
There is one more thing on Mei Changsu's mind: General Meng must make sure to impress the Prince from Southern Chu on the hunt that is coming up. Otherwise, he will leave under the impression that all the generals in the court are manipulative bastards like Xie Yu. And that would not be good ... Jingyan agrees, but Meng hears it as insult to Mei Changsu and goes on the defensive. Vehemently. Not again, you fool! I wonder what Prince Jing is thinking.
Meng, relax.
Thoughtful Jingyan *swoon*
Anyway, Meng does not seem to understand the danger from Southern Chu (does he get anything right?! ) - or in fact, from all their neighbors. If it becomes known how their court is basically immobilized by power struggles, invasions become much more likely. Hence, they must demonstrate strength whenever they can! After Prince Jing has left, a chagrined Meng asks what he has done wrong, so Mei Changsu explains again: "He's the lord, you are his general, I am a tactician. You must behave accordingly". Get it, Meng?!
Not to mention which, for a military leader you are shockingly lacking in strategic analysis. You might not want that widely known.
Poor Meng, he's the audience's literary device to explain things in case we don't catch on as quickly as Jingyan for the strategizing parts. 
Meng, ever the concerned friend, asks whether Mei Changsu feels guilty over what happened to Jingrui before he leaves ... but then quickly walks away, murmuring that he misspoke again. But hell yeah... Mei Changsu's conscience weighs heavy on him.
He thinks it's worth it, though, so there's not much point in feeling sorry for him. I do feel sorry about his life in general, though. He really got dealt a crappy hand.
Well, I can and will feel sorry for him. He has been dealt a crappy hand and instead of hiding in the mountains, living out his days in freedom and relative happiness, the hero has become the anti-hero and has made and will continue to make sacrifices that are literally killing him. 

Prince Yu reports all of Xie Yu's misdeeds to the Emperor (well, all the ones he knows about ). They're based on the confessions of Zhuo Dingfeng. Who, by the way, claims that Grand Princess Liyang had no idea about the whole thing. Prince Yu takes the opportunity to ask for a pardon for her children. Granted! 
Well that worked out.
The Zhuos get more and more awesome. I get that Liyang did some bad things, but doing this ensures safety for the next generation. I approve. 
Not long after, Xie Qi gives birth to Zhuo Qingyao's child ... and dies in childbirth. The child survives - and will live in the pugilist world, as of the last wish of the young miss.
Mei Changsu starts coughing after he receives the news. It's like his body can't take any more of this. Zhen Ping runs to get the physician, and only when he thinks he is alone, Mei Changsu allows the full extent of his ailment to show. But he wasn't alone... When he looks up, Fei Liu sits across from him, stating the obvious: "Su-gege isn't well". Mei Changsu lies that he is alright, and Feo Liu asks: "Will you get better?".
Do we ever find out what exactly is wrong with him and why he looks so different?
Yes, we do. Perhaps this is part of the reason why I so strongly defend him. 
"I will", he whispers. "You know why?"
Fei Liu does not.
"Because a person's heart will become harder and harder".
(This makes me cry every time)
Except...he's dying, right? So he won't get better. I'd think he was saying it to make Fei Liu feel better but the message is...not a feel good message.
I'm crying too. I cried while watching the first time too. Every time. It just gets me. I think he's also saying that while Mei Chang Su must appear cold and calculating, but really, it hurts him so much too. It is, however, a price he is willing to pay. 
Xie Yu is in prison, his assets are seized. Is this the end for him? It is not!! The Director of the Xuanjing Bureau, Xiajiang (Wang Yong Quan) is back! The first thing he does is scold Xiadong for being at the Xie Yu's Manor the night things went south. It's against their policy to get involved in politics! He then runs to the Emperor and tells him that somebody used the Xuanjing Bureau as a weapon without his Majesty's consent. Mr. Suspicious orders him to investigate. He also gets asked to visit Xie Yu in the Emperor's stead. Fuck this, they're totally old acquaintances! Xiajiang promises to help him get out if he keeps his mouth shut.
Xiajiang looks like Morgan Freeman.
Damn. Damn. Damn. Isn't the actor who plays Xia Jiang one of the directors? I think so. (Yes, an executive director) He's so excellent. And now that you mention it, he does look like Morgan Freeman. 
Some time passes. Tonglu informs Mei Changsu about the gifts Prince Jing was rewarded for his bravery during the hunt. Prince Yu and the Crown Prince also sent presents, followed by courtiers'. Prince Jing only accepted his brothers' gifts. Also, Mr. Shisan started to deal with Banruo's spies; they have exposed 7 or 8. However, there is no news about Xie Yu's sentence. Mei Changsu remarks that a certain someone will feel anxious then, and indeed, Prince Yu is here! 
Haha. Prince Yu. Regular like clockwork.
It seems that Xie Yu has only confessed to crimes he committed to help the Crown Prince but to none that encroached on imperial powers (like the eunuch murder). He also claims Zhuo Dingfeng framed him for revenge. BASTARD! Prince Yu is smart enough to realize that his father's mildness towards Xie Yu has something to do with Xiajiang ... but what?
Figure it out! Figure it out! I do love the way Mei Changsu has people working diligently to bring each other down, never realizing that they're falling, too.
I'm so nervous about Xie Yu. I wouldn't put it past Xia Jiang to get him out of prison. 
Mei Changsu asks him whether he got that list from Zhuo Dingfeng: with all the assassination targets. He has - and Mei Changsu remarks that there are quite many really "weird" names on that list ... people with no connection at all to Xie Yu. What if Xie Yu also had people killed for somebody else? What if that somebody else ... was Xiajiang?
Which means he did, of course.
Seriously, how many hours did Mei Chang Su spend in the library figuring this all out. He's Sherlock before Sherlock even existed. 


Already moving on to the next target, are we, Mei Changsu? I hope you know what you are doing ... Several things are worrisome, besides his bad health. You probably only need to be half-smart to realize that something is a bit fishy about this guy. Even Prince Yu is noticing things, and he hasn't struck me as the most perceptive person so far! If people start looking more closely at Mei Changsu, he is in real danger. Especially if that person is Xiajiang. 
I have been wondering for a while what happens once it's commonly known that he's Lin Shu. I've just been assuming it happens, but when? And whether he loses some of his friends once they realize he was fooling them.
Isn't there a phrase about hiding in plain sight? I think that for most people it's just completely incomprehensible to think Lin Shu is alive and even if he were alive, most people would assume that he would want to avoid certain death. And the people who love Lin Shu most would just be happy to know he's alive I think. I don't think any anger would survive very long. 

Apart from that, the drama showed us a heavenly punishment for Grand Princess Liyang, who seemed to walk away scot-free: the death of her daughter. I can't say I'm happy about it, but Zhuo Qingyao gets to be with his child at least.
So much for the children not paying for the sins of their parents...but yes, get that baby away from the court.
Well, she could have died in childbirth without the party from hell, though I'm certain it was a contributing factor. It's not like mother mortality in childbirth isn't still a problem in our 21st century world, never mind the 4th century. Though I should still clarify - I think it's horrible that she died and so far it seems that Liyang isn't going to be more heavily punished. 

And Mei Changsu? His guilt is addressed several times (by Commander Meng, the great Ape), which wouldn't even have been necessary. It was obvious enough. The reason why that very short scene between Su and Fei Liu makes me bawl my eyes out is because Mei Changsu lies to this child-warrior, twice in fact. He isn't well and he isn't getting better. He lies, and yet, he wants to believe in this lie himself - that it will get better because he will cease to feel things. He wants to believe and we don't believe him in the least; he will never stop feeling. The pain will only grow and there is nobody in the whole wide world who can lessen his burden.
It is sad. When I think of who he was, and what he looked forward to in his life, and how it was all torn away by the greed of another man, I feel very, very sorry for him. He lost everything, even his own identity.
Oh Su Zhe. I want to believe your lies as well. *cries*