Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜 - Episode 23 (Recap)

Xie Yu is finally going down ... or is he? The Director of the Xuanjing Bureau, Xiajiang seems like a very smart and devious man. But is he smart and devious enough for Mei Changsu? This episode brings us an awesome battle of self-control and wits between Xie Yu and Mei Changsu, who face each other as opponents directly for the first time. Mei Changsu once again shows how well he masters the game of manipulation, but as always, controlling this game of revenge he has started takes all his strength. 
JoAnne: Ah! I'm so excited to be getting back to this! And this picture is perfect for reminding me of everything about these men - excellent skills as always, my friend.
Eleanor: Word. That's probably outdated slang these days. Oh well. I am also super excited to get back to this! It's really interesting how different the relationship between these two actors is in Nirvana in Fire and in The Disguiser. Just a random musing. 

Episode 23

Mei Changsu and Prince Yu are discussing Xiajiang's slightly surprising behavior towards Xie Yu - whom he seems to be helping, despite his fabled loyalty to the emperor. Mei Changsu suggests it may be because Xie Yu did something for Xiajing - something that should not become common knowledge. However, that is just a guess, Mei Changsu adds; he needs to go see Xie Yu personally to verify. Prince Yu says it will not be a big deal to get him access to the prison (useful when the Ministry of Justice is in your pocket, yup).
Also, not a guess, yup. Or is it? Do you think that Mei Changsu has always known about Xiajiang?
I think he knows or strongly suspects something at this point, but is hedging his bets that if he lets Prince Yu in on this idea, he will do the digging and get into trouble perhaps. 
Director Xiajiang is returning to the Bureau when he notices something strange ... a sound, a presence! Ah, I know exactly who it is ... He asks Xiachun, who comes to greet him, whether Xiadong, who is still being punished for meddling with things, has been quiet - she has. We also learn that Xiaqiu may soon come back, but in the middle of talking, Xiajiang spins around in alarm ... it's that sound again! He thinks somebody is here, but Xiachun can't see anyone, so they dismiss it.
Look, up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in the blink of an eye - it's Fei Lui!!!!! (Right?  I watched this a really long time ago...)
Me too. I'm still trying to calibrate myself and remember where in the story we are. Haha. I bet it's Fei Liu. His name does have something to do with flying if I remember correctly. 
A well-behaved Xiadong is reading in her room, when somebody throws a stone in (luckily, they don't have windows). She thinks it's Xiachun at first (is he prone to pranks? that's a surprise!), but lo and behold! It's Fei Liu, perching on a roof outside, trying to get her attention. He has a message to deliver from his master, which is asking her to go somewhere.
It is! It is Fei Lui! Man, I have missed that kid.
Um, I just adore the filters they used for these two scenes and how the colour for each set of clothing not only matches each other, but the filters and lighting for the scene. 
Xie Yu is sitting in the Imperial Prison, reserved for the upper class prisoners. In particular, there is a cell reserved for members of the Royal family ... this is where Prince Qi was held. When Mei Changsu comes in, his gaze lingers... he looks grave.
Don't worry bebe, it will be alright.
I just teared up. This show. Just thinking about Prince Qi makes me sad. I can't even imagine how Lin Shu must be feeling right now. 
He is led to Xie Yu's cell. The Marquis hardly reacts when Mei Changsu appears in front of him (by the way, in an interview, Liu Yi Jun said that this was the first scene he filmed in the drama) ... it seems he just feels bitter and mistreated and thinks Mei Changsu has come to gloat. Well ... not exactly. Mei Changsu tells Xie Yu that both of them know that everything the Elder Zhuo said about him is true; but he also knows that Xie Yu is keeping quiet about certain things for Xiajiang's sake.
The inside of this man's head is fascinating to me.
Both of them. Xie Yu really is an excellent antagonist. 

Xie Yu laughs ... he thinks Mei Changsu is too impatient, mentioning Xiajiang so quickly. So he also feels superior (like he is just biding his time in prison, it being a mere inconvenience), and it seems under the impression that Mei Changsu is just here because Prince Yu is getting impatient about the death sentence. Well ... not exactly.
He has complete faith that this is going to work out in the end. He's one of those 'if I'm not dead, I've still got a chance' people. I tend to agree.
Yeah, I'm worried that the is somehow going to weasel his way out of this one too. Argh! 
Mei Changsu slowly walks towards a patch with a bit of hay, where he sits down (yeah, make sure your bum does not get cold!). He pulls something to eat from his sleeve and, in a leisurely chatting tone, suggests that Xie Yu is probably asking himself how and why he lost to him. But he does not have to think too hard: he has come here today to tell him.
One should never poke a bear, though, Mei Changsu.
Mei Changsu might be the bigger bear not to poke though. I trust that he knows exactly what he's doing. 
He offers him some cookies (Xie Yu is still pointedly not even looking at him though) and then says: "You lost to me because you are stupid". Ha! And adds: "And because I'm smarter than you". And while he's at it, Xiajiang is also smarter than Xie Yu. Much smarter. For the first time, Xie Yu shows a bit of a reaction. But still, he is also showing great self-control and composure, because he seems not in the least angry. Maybe because he does not take Mei Changsu seriously? Mei Changsu continues and says that his plight is not over. As long as Xiajiang is around, Xie Yu will keep losing. Yup, now we definitely get a reaction.
Okay I will admit that this caught me by surprise first time around, and I laughed just as hard this time as last time.
Haha. Xie Yu, be afraid. Be very afraid. Mei Chang Su. You have such an intense and calculating gaze. 
Mei Changsu gets up and starts walking up and down, telling Xie Yu what he thinks Xiajiang will do: first, he'll come visit him and will make a deal with him: a life for keeping secrets (spot on, MCS!). He will honor his promise of course and will makes sure Xie Yu walks out of this prison alive. Next, Xie Yu will become an "exile convict" among many, who will be sent to an inhospitable place. He will be forgotten. Meaningless. He will take Xiajiang's secret to a (likely) early grave, because killing him will not be a big deal and an easy way to ensure that Xiajiang's secrets will never be revealed. And the winner is: Xiajiang.
Right? Because the worst thing to do would be to leave that 'hopeless' man alive - what's he got to lose? That makes him very dangerous. Xiajiang pretty much HAS to kill him.
See Xie Yu, Mei Chang Su just wants to help you stay alive. Haha. Well, of course he has another agenda too. Did Xie Yu seriously think that Xiajiang was going to be all buddy buddy with him forever?
While Mei Changsu speaks, Xie Yu's face portrays more and more anger and shock ... and hate. And a tiny bit of fear? Finally, Mei Changsu sits back down, this time in front of him, and asks Xie Yu whether they should have a proper conversation now. Yes, he HAS his attention for sure now.
And ours, and my respect when I consider that this was the FIRST scene they shot? Impressive. They began their 'relationship' with the highest emotions and then built the rest around that.
So excellent. So so excellent. I have such respect for these actors, the producers, and directors, and the editing team, and the set designers. Just all of it. To get such a performance and then edit it so well. So much respect. 
Mei Changsu suggests the Marquis should seize this last opportunity to speak - after this, there will be none. Ah, but Xie Yu is NOT ready to betray Xiajiang! He believes that there is trust between them. Friendship, even. Xiajiang is his only hope! And he certainly won't believe in Mei Changsu, who is to blame for his current predicament!
I'm telling you, this guy is fascinating. He does not think he's a bad person. He doesn't even think 'well, I do bad things but it's okay because...'  He simply does not view these things as bad. They're just what they are, and he has always acted correctly in response to them.
He is very interesting. I think this is a very interesting philosophical and ethical concept of politics. If one doesn't think it is wrong, and there is no universal agreement on what is wrong, what is wrong? I mean, I have my thoughts and ideas, but the questions of: what is good? what is evil? are incredibly difficult to define to make everyone happy. 

He has to blame himself, and himself alone, Mei Changsu says quietly. And he should stop thinking of himself as important. He is a nobody, since he lost all his power and influence. He, himself, has only come to the prison because he is interested in Xiajiang. Xie Yu is a completely meaningless person to him, though one he wants to exploit as long as he remains marginally useful. And as for Xiajing being his path to survival... very sorry, says Mei Changsu, he has already blocked that path for him.
Now that is the way to hurt this guy - tell him he doesn't matter.
Mei Chang Su. His mind has such power and control and understanding of people and events and what needs to happen. Scary and impressive at the same time. 

Xiajiang is drinking tea with Prince Yu. After some praise for Xiajiang's modesty, Prince Yu mentions he is here about Xie Yu's case. Small matters, really, but Zhuo Dinfeng told him that he was told by Xie Yu to kill a school teacher, but that in fact, Xiajiang was behind it all! That, surely, isn't true? Xiajiang barely blinks when he asks who says so ... Zhuo Dinfeng? Yes, Prince Yu, confirms. And Xie Yu backed the story, but only until Xiajiang came back to the capital.
I continue to feel a teeny bit sorry for the idiot prince.
It's like MCS wrote him a script, which he happily recites because he thinks they are his own thoughts. I guess it is rather pitiful. 
Xiajiang asks why Prince Yu needs to verify with him, then, seeing how Xie Yu denied that it's true. Ah, just the usual procedure, says Prince Yu. He needs Xiajiang to confirm it personally, for the records. And thus, Xiajiang says, with quiet vigor, that this case has absolutely nothing to do with him.
Man, I love your pictures. Always. Forever. You've got an eye - and either really good timing or a lot of patience.
What Jo said. Also, I am super crazy impressed that Xiajiang is one of the directors for the drama. He is soooooooo excellent!
In the prison, Xie Yu is definitely losing his cool. Mei Changsu has dropped the "teacher"-bomb and Xie Yu half shouts that Zhuo knows nothing of this case, nothing! Yeah, sure, says Mei Changsu, that's exactly the point. Smart Mr. Xiajiang will know exactly WHO told Prince Yu about it. It must have been Xie Yu! Right now, Xiajiang most certainly must think that Xie Yu betrayed him - if there ever was trust between them, it's gone for sure now. Xie Yu's death will come as soon as he's out of this prison: He has become a liability.
And MCS sits there as cool as cucumber. And with excellent posture to boot. How did hyper Hu Ge manage these scenes? How?!
Oh wow. Devious. So brilliant. (And so beautifully shot)
All I could think was 'Burrrrrrrrrrrn' in Ashton's Kutcher's voice from That 70's Show.

At this point, Xie Yu explodes in anger and he rushes towards Mei Changsu, screaming, but his chains are not long enough to reach the man - like a vicious dog, chained to his hut. Ah, the humiliation...
See? Stunning work. All of you.
And Mei Chang Su doesn't even flinch. Xie Yu has definitely lost his cool. Can't really blame him. 
Xie Yu does not understand why Mei Changsu is destroying him so utterly (yes, how could he) - but Mei Changsu just smiles ever so lightly and claims he is just a means to reach his goals, like he said before. This? Nothing personal. But he will tell him again: it is his choice now in whom he wants to believe.
It's a genuine confusion. Why destroy his life? What's he done that's so bad, first of all, and second of all, whatever he's done, what's it to Mei Changsu? This is what's in his head, and man is he good at showing us what's in his head. I love this guy. Favorite villain of the year.
Seriously. He is a phenomenal actor. I am so glad we've been able to see him in two shows we love! 
And Xie Yu breaks down completely, as he realizes what kind of situation he has been put in. He struggles to regain his composure and then agrees to tell Mei Changsu what he wants to know ... though he is quite suspicious about why Mei Changsu wants to know about that teacher so badly. The reason given is good enough though: it is valuable information for Prince Yu to make sure the Bureau (who seems to be on the Crown Prince's side from their actions) cannot move against him. In addition, it will give them power to manipulate the Bureau, if needed.
*rubs hands together gleefully for what's to come*
Ah yes! This next scene is so good (in a very cathartic way) And all the fallout too! 
And thus, a very disheartened Xie Yu starts his tale: 13 years ago, the now murdered teacher wrote a letter at Xiajiang's order. In it, he expertly copied the handwriting of Nie Feng (that is Xiadong's late husband)... And at that moment, the camera pans over to the next cell, in which Prince Jing and Xiadong stand quietly, listening to everything.
Well, I mean, I'm not gleeful about THIS part. This part is wrenching.
But beautiful at the same time. I am tearing up again. Oh my heart goes out to Xia Dong. And then skips a beat for Prince Jing. Ack. I have problems o.O 
The content of the forged letter was a cry for help from Nie Feng, who reported that General Lin Xie intended to rebel. Because Nie Feng found out about it, Lin Xie sent him on a suicide mission. So... the crucial letter in the Chiyan army treason case was FAKE. And on top of this, Xie Yu never rushed there to "help him" and arrived too late because Nie Feng had already died. No, Xie Yu himself ambushed and killed Nie Feng's soldiers. He then brought back his remains and the letter as evidence and that was the beginning of the end of the Lin-family and all their soldiers.
Can you imagine - it's Mei Changsu's family, Jing's best friend, Xiadong's wife. This man just openly admitted to participating in betraying them all, and for Xiadong, it's even worse, really - her husband was just a prop in a play.
I kind of want someone to go in and stab Xie Yu in the heart. Right now. Rage and tears. What he did was so appallingly terrible! 
 What a shock this is to everyone. I really hope that Xie Yu did not see the tears in Mr. Su's eyes...
Any human hearing this story should have tears in their eyes.
I have tears just looking at these screencaps and thinking about it. 
Shaken deeply, Prince Jing seeks out his mother, even though it's not one of his visiting days. He misses his cousin very dearly. Oh no... he even cries.
Poor man. A soldier prepares himself mentally to lose his friends in battle and can console himself with 'honor.'  To have suffered for insisting on loyalty all these years, while missing his friend desperately - it doesn't really feel any better to know you were right. Confirmation of betrayal makes you suffer the pain of it all over again.
This scene pretty much gutted me while watching it. Oh Prince Jing. Prince Jing. And the fallen Chiyan Army. 
While Xiadong goes to her husband's grave to meditate, Mei Changsu just sits in his room and stares into nothingness. For hours. His attendants are so worried they fetch the physician. But he simply tells them to make sure the Chief takes his medicine in a few hours. He seems to know what ails him.
Honestly, I feel the depth of their pain more now, reading this, than I did at the time I was watching. There is no peace in knowing that you were right - because now you have to live forever with the knowledge that you were right, and your loved one is gone for no good reason. It's as if they die again, right there, and every day that you wake up and know this truth, they die one more time.
I am starting to cry. *takes break because I can't read or type right now*
But the sadness does not pass, not for a long time. When the little bell sounds that announces the arrival of Prince Jing in the secret passage, Mei Changsu sighs heavily and needs a minute before he lets in his old friend. They sit across from each other in silence for a long, long time.
Hug each other, guys. It's okay.
Seriously. Hug. Now. 
When Mei Changsu finally speaks, it is not of the Chiyan army, but of Xiajiang, whom they have neutralized for the moment, through creating a rift between him and Xiadong, plus by confirming that he is not taking sides in the fights for the crown. Prince Jing remains silent, and when asked about his thoughts, it is to reprimand Mr. Su for thinking only that after hearing Xie Yu's confession, for saying the Chiyan army case is "old" and should best be left alone. I hate these kind of scenes between these two men .... Prince Jing will feel HORRIBLE when he finds out who Mr. Su really is.
DOES he find out?
He has to. I will be very angry if he doesn't. But yes, he will feel terrible. Awful. 
But what has really changed, Mei Changsu asks? The only thing new today was that they learned of a missing piece in the puzzle they were not fully able to understand before. Hotheaded Jingyan wants to investigate the "old" case and prove to the world what injustice was done and then .... and then? Does he want to bring this up in front of the Emperor? Mei Changsu asks. Ah, you fool ... do you really think the Emperor, though he would not have known about the fake letter, knew fully well what he was doing?
I think that it is entirely possible that the Emperor is one of those people who can simply...'not see' things, and that this would be a thing he would not see. On some level he would have to be at least suspicious, but I bet you anything that knowing it consciously would have required putting together a couple pieces of information, and that he would never take that step.
Because he is a paranoid, power-hungry man, and completely the wrong sort of person you want as an emperor. Argh! It makes me so angry that Prince Jing cannot do anything and that even though Mei Chang Su is calm, logical, collected - I am sure Lin Shu wants to go and run a sword through all involved. 
Prince Jing gets it ... and does not. Why was his father so suspicious of Prince Qi? Why did he have him killed? Because Xiajiang gave him a good reason for it, is Mei Changsu's answer. Did the Emperor believe in the rebel-accusations? Yes, most likely, says Mei Changsu. That is why he was so extremely cruel. How lucky that Prince Jing was absent from the court that time...
More pain to come soon, folks!
Yes, thank goodness Jingyan was away. Thank goodness. 


After recapping so many Disguiser episodes, returning to Lang Ya Bang is like going back to a different world, a quiet, extremely beautiful garden, in which time flows at half the speed. I am struck by the extreme beauty of this production again, in which each and every camera angle seems chosen with utmost care. The prison set is amazing, and the acting ... out of this world. Both Hu Ge and Liu Yi Jun manage to convey a range of intense emotions with so little! Nothing much happens in this long scene, and yet, so much. Slowly, patiently, Mei Changsu manages to destroy Xie Yu's pride and hope, without losing control even once. Until the very end, that is, when the awful truth about "the letter" is revealed.
Reliving it with the knowledge that this was their first scene together for the drama, I am even more impressed. 
I just want to hug the whole team. Everyone. So amazing! So wonderful to watch. 

With all the knowledge that Mei Changsu has acquired about his enemies, he did not know the details of the link between the teacher-case and his father's death. When he talks to Prince Jing about it, he pretends it means "nothing", that it is a mere detail in the grand scheme of injustice, but I do not believe him. His shock at that very moment and his immense struggle to not let Xie Yu SEE his emotions tells a different story. Knowing in detail who did what in such a plot changes the focus of hate, does it not. It makes it more personal. And sure, Mei Changsu is after a much bigger kind of revenge, but the guilt of these two individuals plus the Emperor is beyond the guilt of all the minor characters that were involved.
How do you not jump up and strike them dead? How does that hate not choke you to death, drive you mad with rage?
Seriously. I can imagine the hot-headed Lin Shu doing just that - killing them all. 

It was a very emotional episode on so many levels. But among the people there, I think it is the hardest for Xiadong. Not only did she hear who killed her husband, but she also had to realize that she had been so utterly wrong all this time. All her hatred towards the Lin-family, and towards Prince Jing for his support of that family, was misdirected. It'll take her a while to get over this.
Ah, I never even remembered all of that, although now that you bring it up I remember it being one of my first thoughts watching her and Jing learn the truth together. Funny because back then I thought that was the big deal, and now I'm more struck by the meaninglessness of her husband's death. He was set decoration. 
I think that in some ways her hate has probably kept her alive and functioning, but now she has to redirect that and reforge connections with Prince Jing. While I'm sure that Su wanted them both to know the information, I think that he also knows that Prince Jing needs Xia Dong's support in his planned fight for the throne, so to have them both there together, will help that. 

And finally: The more I get to know about the real-life Hu Ge, the more I can appreciate what he pulled off in this drama. This is acting taken to another level. Hugs and kisses, man.
Right?  Because we've learned that overgrown boy Ming Tai has way more in common with Hu Ge than Mei Changsu does.
Hu Ge. You are amazing! 

(Btw, subbers: MarquisE is the female form, Xie Yu is a Marquis without the final E).
The Madam is correct. ; )
Indeed she is :)