Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜 - Episode 11 (Recap)

Ah, a monumental, incredibly moving episode! And the beauty of Hu Ge reaches new (dangerous) heights. If you have not yet been sucked in by Nirvana in Fire, this is the episode that will do you in for sure.
JoAnne:  I feel as though I need to go back and re-watch this one.  It was late and I think I imagined some of it...
dewaanifordrama: I haven't even started commenting and already I'm reaching for the tissues. So much beauty, all tinged with poignant sadness. 

Episode 11

Imperial Uncle Ji is a witness to He Wenxin's case! He was there the night of the murder. Oh shit, right, Prince Yu? The only reason nobody knows yet is that our poor, lazy Magistrate did not dare summon the Emperor's brother. Banruo's conclusion: He Wenxin cannot be saved. And they must be careful because the Ministry of Justice could be implicated in this as well.
Something about this couple makes it look to me as though they are in pajamas even though they are fully dressed.
Hahahahahahahahahahaha. Oh my goodness yes!

Hmmm, Prince Yu is very touchy-feely with this woman ... who wants no special reward, by the way. Being able to help him is reward enough! The Princess Consort interrupts all this almost-hugging; she is bringing Prince Yu some supper. Banruo looks at her in a strange way. Wonder what that is about. 
That was a very interesting moment, there. I'm sure we'll be rewarded for patience, though.
Their whole dynamic is super fascinating really. What does Banruo really want from all this? I have some answers, but that woman rather fascinates me. 
The Crown Prince is quite chipper today, with all the fun happenings recently ... but Xie Yu sternly reminds him that he should have other priorities right now: reinstating his mother! Since she is gone, they have no idea what is going on in the inner palace anymore. And Xie Yu even has a plan for how to do it! It's almost New Year. There is an end of year ceremony, during which the Emperor will pray. Only high ranking concubines can be with him. The Crown Prince, as the successor, has to hold his parents' dress at one stage to show his filial piety. But how can it be filial piety if his real mother isn't there?
Wouldn't it be less filial to go against his father's wishes?
I am so glad that I am not the Minister of Rites who has to plan this headache of a ceremony. 

Xie Yu goes to the Minister of Rites, Chen Yuanzhi, in passing helping him with a wayward son, and makes a case for reinstating Concubine Yue. She is the Crown Prince's mother after all! It would be terrible if she had to kneel outside. And thus, Xie Yu makes Chen write a petition (gently hinting at that wayward son's scandals. What a scumbag).
At a certain point, I can't help thinking: just make your kids BEHAVE, Ministers, and you won't have all this trouble.
Seriously! An ounce of prevention is worth waaaaaaaay more than a pound of cure. Isn't that how the idiom goes? 
Just when Minister of Rites reports the "issue" to the Emperor, the Marquis also "happens" to come by, to give some military report. Asked what his "neutral" opinion is on reinstating Yue to Noble Consort, he "reluctantly" says that many thought the punishment too harsh anyway and enough punishment has been served. The fucker even tries to turn the tables on Nihuang, making it look like she took advantage of the situation! And of course, our Mr. Suspicious hears that well ...
Too harsh? She plotted to have a hero of the nation raped and discredited. To have a favorite of the Emperor married off to a low-life for her own personal benefit despite a royal wish for something else. How is being confined to quarters and reduced in rank too harsh?
My blood boiled at when he tried to blame Nihuang. Ugh. And to think that the Emperor is actually giving them the time of day! Ugh! Ugh! Ugh! 
Well, it's decided then: Consort Yue will be re-instated. Prince Yu has a rage-fit when he hears about it - and it takes his beautiful Princess Consort Zhu Lan Jin (Jiang Lin Yan) to calm him. She has prepared a list of gifts for the Emperor and the Empress for New Year and wants him to review it. Remembering how much his mother likes this woman, Yu sends her to comfort the Empress.
Her head piece. No. But that robe is gorgeous.
Ugh! These palace machinations. Ugh. No words. 
Also having a rage-fit: Mu Qing. Xiadong isn't calm and collected either. Only Nihuang isn't about to explode ... somewhat resigned, she sees this as slap on the wrist. The southern border has been peaceful for a while, this is the perfect time to control the military. Her brother suggests they talk to Mr. Su and it seems she quite likes that suggestion. It's been a while, right?
What did she do to deserve a slap on the wrist, though?
It's a complete insult to Nihuang to have Consort Yue reinstated. It's basically the Emperor saying that what happened wasn't a big deal and again he isn't really intent on justice. Her honour basically means nothing to him. And because the whole deal was so public, everyone else knows too. [Just a little note, I meant to clarify - by public I just mean that lots of people knew what really happened, but I do know that the whole ordeal was not made public to the whole court. Sorry for the confusion]

Mei Changsu is currently burning texts and throwing mandarins to Fei Liu. I won't lie, Hu Ge in that light blue tunic is .........
...only mildly appealing?
❤❤❤❤ for Hu Ge looking stunning and just the general adorableness of the scene. Fei Liu really is like a giant puppy. 
Meng comes in, amazed that his friend is still idling around, with Consort Yue being reinstated and all. That does neither surprise nor interest Mei Changsu much, but when he hears about the Year End ceremony, he perks right up. Why does the Crown Prince need his blood mother there? Does he not have an Imperial Mother? When he hears about the Minister of Rites' petition, he decides to "shake him up a bit".
Oh, I like this. What's he thinking of now... (Are those his real eyebrows in this picture?)
Hehehehehe. When Si Zhe gets excited, things really start to get interesting! 
The Crown Prince is smug and smiling next time the court convenes, but Prince Yu has prepared a little something (with a little help from our Su, of course): a complaint about Minister Chen, brought forward by an officer. The issue is this: The Minister of Rites should have realized all these years that overriding the Queen for the Consort was wrong and unfilial. The rites have been done wrong! Yu suggests that they invite Confucian scholars from outside to debate the matter, since the court is divided. Such debates were also held by previous esteemed Emperors and are considered examples of good governance. Ah, if that's so.... request ... granted! (Wow, Emperor is easy to manipulate... even though he's pissed to be nudged into this)
He was thinking he could get some of that loving again!
Hahahahahahaha. Oh Mr. Emperor sir. Mei Changsu knows how to work you. 
The Empress is a bit wary about the whole thing (smart woman), but Yu is as keen as mustard - he considers this a great opportunity to remind the court of a very crucial thing: all the princes are sons of concubines. The current Crown Prince is neither the oldest nor the son of the Empress. He can easily be replaced. Replace him! Replace him!
It's always a point of surprise for me, coming from a history of 'oldest son is most important.'

Su Zhe and Nihuang are walking and politely conversing in a plum paradise at her palace. He praises her on her emotional restraint: so much frustration since she got to the capital, but no anger. To her, all that scheming is just frustrating.
God, she's just so beautiful, isn't she? They'd make a stunning couple but for his fragility. It's more noticeable because she just radiates energy and health.
When they are together like this, they are like a gorgeous, beautiful, sumptuous painting. A feast for the eyes. 
Man, she is beautiful. Su Zhe thinks so too, that much is obvious ... and when a flower petal falls on her head a shoulder, he impulsively removes them, causing her to turn in surprise. Oh. My.
I love it when I write something, read the next paragraph, and there we are, similar thoughts!
When the two of them are together, it is like they are one. To reach out and remove the blossom comes as naturally to Su as breathing. All their history in a small moment. 
He walks on, pretending nothing happened, praising the beauty of Mu Palace. They start talking about the princes and their fighting, but when she says that Prince Yu seems more noble than others, Mei Changsu politely disagrees. He seems more noble only in appearance. Not one of the princes is better than the other. She mentions Jingyan in surprise - is she guessing what he is up to? He smiles a little and then asks whether it would be possible to get her brother to help him with something.
You are toying with fire, Mei Changsu.
But oh such beautiful fire. 
Concubine Yue is back (hate her!!!) and scheming already - she tells her son that he just needs to invite the better Confucian scholars than his brother to win this debate. It's just a matter of money. The earnest Prince Yu is doing all he can to make his scholars feel very welcome. But then, he hears of his brother's efforts!! They now feel they might be disadvantaged.
I can't help but like Yu a little bit, sometimes.
He is a lovely character. So multi-faceted. 
Yu runs to Mei Changsu, who feigns surprise at this development. Ah, but if they could get Master Zhuo to come... the scholar says. He is a hermit and hates politics, but Su "has heard" that Mu Qing has already gone to the temple he is staying at to get him to come. At Nihuang's orders, of course, because she has a grudge. But ... will a kid like Mu Qing be able to convince this hermit scholar? Well yeah ... if he has a little something from Mei Changsu! A yellow cicada signet.
He is really involving a lot of people in his 'secret' campaign. It worries me.
I trust Su completely. I'm actually not worried at all. 
And you know what? Nihuang got her hands on a written note of Mei Changsu in the process ... with the directions to the hermit scholar. She goes and carefully unpacks a red lacquer box ... where she keeps her treasures. Among them, a note written by Lin Shu. She looks at the two notes, searching, hoping....... but they are not the same.
I won't lie, it hurt to watch her reaction. Much like my affection for Psycho Kitten in Disguiser, my strongest affinity in this drama is with the woman who loves the man, not the man himself.
Oh Nihuang. Nihuang. It was heartbreaking to watch her reaction. Her gut and heart are telling her that this has to be Lin Shu, but she can't find any evidence. Oh Nihuang. Oh Lin Shu. 
In the capital, the debate begins!!! But where is the fabled scholar?! We don't see Mei Changsu nervous very often, but he is certainly restless. Has it been too long? Will the old master not remember? Will they lose the debate?! 
No matter how well you understand human psychology, using people as pawns in a game of political chess leaves you susceptible to twists of fate. I'd be nervous, too. You plan and you evaluate risk and then you double check and plan some more, but you cannot control everything.
I trust you Su!!! But yes, no matter how brilliantly one plans, one cannot control every detail nor the people in the plan. But at least we get some time to gaze upon the beauty of Hu Ge's face. 
And they wait ...
And wait...
And then, they're here! Finally! (Jingyan was the one who looked the best when the old man walked in, that's why I put his picture here.)
I think Wang Kai might look best in historical attire. I do not feel that way about Hu Ge.
Wang Kai looks good all the time. You can put as many pictures of him as you want :)
And into the fire the wooden badge goes. Bye, Minister of Rites.
The badges: I love them deeply.  They may have the names of the men he intends to ruin written on them, but they contain his memories and his love for men whose names are no longer written anywhere.
Jo, that was a really beautiful way to phrase that. I love it. Thank you!  
But Su does not feel victorious. The ghosts of the past are heavy on his mind - and maybe all the fretting and worrying is taking its toll on his frail body. Reaching out his hand to the coal, he burns himself and then bitterly says, half laughing, half crying, that these hands used to bend bows and tame horses. But now, they can only hide in the dark and stir the pot. Oh my poor, poor, poor Lin Shu...
I think he's getting more sad by the day. Perhaps he imagined that as each man fell victim to his own bad judgement, he'd feel a lifting of his own burden. I don't think he does, though.
Oh Lin Shu. This scene broke my heart and shattered it into a million pieces. I think he knew that this would be painful; and it is only he beginning of trying to put the ghosts of the past to rest to give them peace. Lin Shu himself is almost a ghost as well. 
The debate is over, and Prince Jing is visiting his mother. "I'm joining the fight for the Crown", he informs her gravely. Which side? she wants to know. "My own", he replies. For all the unjustly dead. He has her blessing.
She looks very worried, though.
But also a little bit proud. 
Somewhere outside the city, Mei Changsu gets ready to meet with old Master Zhuo. We will see what happens in the next recap!


That plum blossom scene is so so so beautiful!!! I'm in shocked awe. So little said, but so many feelings implied! He can't hide his true identity around her, it's futile. And she know, she knows, how can she not know her love! And then, the disappointment and shock for her to find out that she might be wrong ... because who could fundamentally change his handwriting? But the saddest of all things in this episode is Su Zhe's utter dispair at his weakness ... it breaks my heart. I think he is getting afraid that he might not have enough time for his revenge. There is only so much control he has over the situation ... and it could go so horribly wrong at any time!
It must have been hard be patient and to wait for the right moment, knowing that his health was getting worse every year. Every time he got sick, it could have been too late.
The poignant sadness that pervades each of Nihuang and Su Zhe's interactions hurts. It is so tragically beautiful. And Su Zhe's despair also breaks my heart. But just like all those who love and trust and support him, I want to as well. Su Zhe, know that we love you and want you to succeed!