Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜 - Episode 21 (Recap)

In the previous episode, we left Mei Changsu and Xie Yu facing each other in the courtyard. And even though there are many people around them, it is clear that ultimately, this is a duel between those two. Both are calm and collected, still smiling even - but lets not fool ourselves; this is a deadly game. And for at least one of them, this will most definitely not end well... 
JoAnne: Despite my anger discussed at length in the previous post and comments, I'm hoping that it's Xie Yu who isn't happy at the end of this, of course.
Eleanor: I am wishing now that I had taken one of those heart fortifying pills to get through this duel of wits and outsmarting. And it had better be Xie Yu who meets his not so happy end. 

Episode 21

Xie Yu sends one of his guys to check whether Prince Yu is really waiting outside... and whispers something into his ear. Can't be good. The guy runs outside, where he is of course noticed by Prince Yu and his soldiers - but he gets on a horse and rides away, rather than looking for them. They decide not to stop him or go after him. Prince Yu's reasoning: "what trouble can one person cause?" ARE YOU STUPID?!
I think we know the answer to that question.
*chortles* and this is why Prince Yu would just never quite make a good emperor. It's the small things that count in the end as well as the big things. 
Inside, Mei Changsu - still in cocky mode - says that Miss Gong Yu should finish telling her story, seeing how they're just waiting and not fighting. Maybe it turns out to be just a misunderstanding anyway and the Zhuos will shake everyone's hand and walk away happy? Okay, not cocky-mode. Bastard-mode.
See? He's enjoying this. Ah well, he's human after all.
I'm enjoying Xie Yu being taken down as well. Hmmm, maybe I'm a little more Machiavellian than I'd like to admit :)
And thus, Gong Yu continues. Because his wife was pregnant, her father wanted to stop being an assassin, but the guild had one last assignment for him: murdering an unborn child for an important official. He trailed the Grand Princess for a month, in vain ... and the night she gave birth, in the confusion of the fire caused by lightening, he could not strike either. But the following night, he returned, and killed a baby. Only... it was the wrong one. Xie Yu was furious and ordered him to go back, but Gong Yu's father fled with her mother. Her family was on the run for two whole years, before her father hid her mother and her baby in a brothel, and led the assassins away from his family. To never return. He was killed by Xie Yu's men.
When will bad guys learn that if they agree to do an evil deed for someone powerful, that powerful person is going to turn around and have them killed? What is it about 'no loose ends' that's so hard for these people to grasp? "I know he's a horrible man but he'll do right by ME, I'm sure of it." Duh. Of course, I fail to have much sympathy for Miss Gong's father in this situation. 
Yeah. I feel sympathy for Gong Yu though. As I do Jingrui and all the other children, like Lin Shu, Jingyan, Yujin too, caught up in all the utter chaos and evil that has come from Xie Yu's evil plotting, and all the people he's used in his web of lies and deception. Ugh. The whole thing is just so terrible and frustrating. 
Yeah, and because Liyang knew quite well who was killed that night and at whose orders, she protected the surviving infant with all she had, not letting him our of her sight for even a second. And over the years, Xie Yu's murderous intent diminished ... or did he let him live because he was the perfect means to befriend the Zhuos from Tianquan Manor?
What a pair.
I think it was the latter. It was the perfect way to build a relationship with the Zhuos that he could manipulate and use for whatever he wanted. Ugh. Horrid man. 
The truth of being manipulated all these years is too much for Zhuo Dingfeng - he almost collapses. Luckily, he took a heart-protection pill before! (LOL - can I please get some of these too)
This is a pretty nifty invention, I agree.
Those would be marvelous to have. 
Xie Yu sees no wrong in what he did - supporting the Crown Prince is the only right thing to do and all the success and glory he promised the Zhuos will naturally flow their way as soon as he is Emperor. Hello, says Mr. Su ... what about they guy you sent to check on Prince Yu, has he returned? Haha, says Xie Yu, good of you to notice, I was actually just biding his time. He has, in fact, sent for the Capital patrols. These are soldiers he has trained personally and they're far more numerous and skilled than Prince Yu's house guards.
Ahhh, you shit. But why would they do anything here?
Horrid, horrid man. 
Their duty is to protect the safety of the Capital (Prince Yu storming a high ranking official's house would be considered very much going against said safety) - and Xie Yu is making damn sure they will not enter his mansion, so that nobody can accuse him of using them wrongly for his personal use. And he lifts his hand again to give the order to kill ...
Uh, doesn't the safety of the capital include its citizens, who are about to be murdered by you, Yu?
I'm guessing that he, as the highest ranking official, deserves more protection.
And I'm sure that once everyone is dead, he'll spin the story whichever way serves him best. 
 ... but sweet Xie Bi storms forward and falls to his knees in front of his father. The Zhuos are not just friends, they are family! He cannot harm them! Oh my, Xie Yu gets furious at this! And when Xie Bi threatens to cut his own throat if he harms the Zhuos, Xie Yu tells him to go ahead and do it. He then disarms his son very easily and has guards lead him away. And the worst dad of the year award goes to...
Wow. Just, wow. How does this guy justify himself to himself?
No words. No words. How does he sleep at night? I hope those 70,000 ghosts of the Chiyan Army haunt the crap out of him. 
Now, he orders the women out of the yard. How considerate. As for the rest ... kill them all! Outside, the Capital patrols arrive and take position at the entrance to Xie Yu's residence. Yup, Prince Yu, that didn't exactly go well. Now you can't storm in anymore without an excuse.

Inside, the battle has begun. I notice with appreciation that Mrs. Zhuo is also a great fighter. (That was a fun surprise!) The Zhous take most of the hits and look quite bloody already, but then, Jingrui joins the mêlée! (Go Jingrui you awesome person you!) And saves his pugilist mom's life. The yard now looks like this:
Yes, the Princess from Southern Chu and the Swordmaster Yue are also fighting, which infuriates Xie Yu even more, seeing how the Prince said he wouldn't interfere ("ah, but I don't control them", he says, haha). Xie Yu screams for more guards and they start flooding the yard. Is this Mei Changsu's "Oh SHIT" face? I'm not sure.
I think it's his 'I DGAF' face. He could lose everyone in this courtyard in pursuit of his goal and it wouldn't change his plans at all.
I have a feeling he planned enough to calculate this outcome. 
Okay, now the time has come for Meng to take some action, too. Haha, awesome, he's the best! Xiadong has quite enough and launches some special fireworks, a signal from the Xuanjing Bureau. So what does she think, who will get here first, Mei Changsu asks her, Xiachun or Prince Yu? Well, Yu certainly takes it as a signal to get moving.
She couldn't have done that ten minutes ago?
Maybe she had to know for sure the Capitol patrols were coming? 
Wow, Xiadong is about as angry with Mei Changsu as JoAnne was during the last recap because she tells him to stop being a bored smart-ass and find a way out for them pronto. Yes, it's about time!! Things are heating up by the second. But look at this, Mei Changsu knows full well how to get out - there is a secret passage at the back of the room. Fei Liu opens it with his super strength and all our 'good' guys manage to escape and slam the heavy door shut before any of the bad guys can enter. Behind it, there is the Xie Family's shrine room. Luckily, Jingrui knows the way out. He doesn't even look at Mei Changsu when he addresses him. Looks quite unfixable, this ex-friendship.
Yeah, I'd say they're done. I don't see how it could be otherwise. Even if Jingrui eventually feels that it was better for him to know the truth about himself, even if he comes to learn about the reasons behind Mei Changsu's maneuvering, I don't think Jingrui (or anyone alive) could just calmly say 'Oh, cool, I totally get why you deliberately sought out my friendship and then planned to reveal secrets in the most painful way possible. Let's go get some ice cream, huh?'
It is a sacrifice Mei Chang Su made to burn that bridge. Lin Shu might never have his cousin's friendship now, but Mei Chang Su is one step closer to bringing justice to 70,000 other people. And who knows, maybe Jingrui might forgive him in time, but certainly not tonight. And maybe never. 
Well, Xie Yu obviously knows how to open his own secret door, which means the troops are after them in seconds! I notice that by now, Mei Changsu has the decency to look a little stressed himself. They have reached a part of the mansion with a lake on it and are only halfway across some footbridge, when the guards reach them. Meng and Swordmaster Yue manage to hold one of the bridges (it leads to a little pavilion on stilts, in which the others have taken shelter) easily, but Xie Yu calls for the bowmen from the Capital patrols. Uh-oh. You better get off that bridge, Meng-darling. 
Hurry, hurry! But how can the capital police allow themselves to be involved?
I'm sure enough of them are in Xie Yu's back pocket for him to be able to use them how he wants to.
Prince Yu is still at the entrance, which is still blocked by the Capital patrol guys - who won't budge. Not even for a Prince. Entering such a high official's residence by force cannot be permitted. But all of a sudden, Marquis Yan Que, Yujin's father, appears!! Oh! He makes quite the impression!! He even makes Xie Yu leave the lake and come see him personally.
'Hi, umm, sorry to be a party pooper but it IS after 10 pm and we do have a noise ordinance. Would you mind cutting back on the murder and mayhem? I've got to be up early tomorrow."
LOL I am loving Marquis Yan Que more and more! He is awesome! 
The mood isn't very good inside the pavilion. Jingrui is silently crying, his sister would like to comfort him but doesn't know how, and Xiadong is still very angry at Mei Changsu. She calls him a backstabbing liar (well, she uses other words, but that is what she means) and asks whether he got his reputation as Divine Talent like this. Ouch, these words sting...
So sad, too bad. At least he has the grace to look ashamed. I know, I know, a greater good. I'm not ready to let it go yet. I'll get there.
I want to give Lin Shu a hug. I really feel for him. Maybe even more than for Jingrui (who I also feel deeply for). If Xia Dong ever finds out who Mei Chang Su is, she might regret some of the harshness here (even if there is some truth to it). 
Mei Changsu walks over to the Zhuos, who are all badly wounded, worst of all Zhuo Dingfeng. Mei Changsu hands some special ointment to them. A very pale Gong Yu comes and kneels in front of the Zhuos, telling them she understands if they want to kill her for what her father did to their son. But Mrs. Zhuo tells her that this is not her sin - she will not seek revenge for this by killing her.
I honestly like the Zhuos more and more each time we see them.
They are pretty awesome. I also so glad that Jingrui is so decent that even once he knows he technically has no blood ties to them, he sides with them as if he does have filial duty to them. He's a good, good man that Jingrui. 
But how will they behave towards Xie Yu, is what Mei Changsu is interested in. He convinces them that only Xie Yu's death will see them live in peace. If they just report him, Zhuo Dingfeng will not be spared either. Of course, honorable fools will be honorable fools: Zhuo Dingfeng chooses to go down with Xie Yu, if Mei Changsu can promise to protect his wife, son, and the son's unborn child.
Oh please, man. You were TRICKED. I guess I can see it as a sense of responsibility and culpability, though.
He has killed people etc. while in Xie Yu's employ and recognizes he does have blood on his hands - even if he was tricked and used by Evil Xie Yu and doesn't share full responsibility. 
Xie Yu has made his way to the entrance of his manor and greets Marquis Yan and Prince Yu really friendly. Xiachun has also arrived. Yan says he is here because his son has not yet returned from the party. But Xie Yu says it's all good, he'll take good care of his guests. Yu says that they will enter the Manor, no matter what. Those are fighting words!
Honestly, Yu, shut up. You had a chance to be of value and you blew it. Just be quiet now and let the smart people talk.
Actually, why doesn't he just go home because he's not doing anything worthwhile. 
Xie Yu even invokes the Imperial writing on his wall, but Marquis Yan ... does NOT CARE. I love him. He takes a slow step up the stairs ... and another. Prince Yu smiles, lifts his hand ... and all his guards get ready to fight.
Meanwhile, Yu gets all ready with his crazy eyes.
Oh my goodness! I LOVE Marquis Yan! 
The situation at the gate is heating up... this will be a horrible, bloody mess!!! Just when it's about to explode, a female voice calls out to "stop". It's Grand Princess Liyang. Xie Yu tells his wife that he is about to deal with this situation, but she tells him to let them in. He doesn't want to? Fine. And she draws her knife and holds it to her throat. Does she really mean to abandon him for Jingrui? Xie Yu asks, his words choked by emotion.
Again with the late and overly dramatic gestures. Could this not have been done 20 minutes ago?
Well, everything couldn't happen all at once. That would be total chaos to try and film. And did Xie Yu actually think that she would choose him over Jingrui? Is the man stupid? 
At the same time, arrows start flying at the lake - and our friends quickly take cover! But how long will they be able to hold out?! It looks dire, but then, somebody shouts to stop shooting. We can breathe again. "It's time for things to end", Mei Changsu whispers.
You should listen to yourself, Mei Changsu.
Wait, what's he supposed to stop? Pursuing the Chiyan case? I don't really think that's an option at this point. He's already reached the point of no return right now. There's too much at stake and too many people involved for him to stop. It would do more harm than good. 
No, I think he just meant his particular plot point :) He wants to go to bed, the poor man
Marquis Yan takes his rattled son home, Xiadong tells Mei Changsu that she does not really like to be used as a pawn. Careful, Su... she's onto you! They part ways kinda smiling though, because he knows she is only interested in her own cases, and she tells him to tell Prince Yu to not come running to her for any of this.
As someone pointed out earlier somewhere, XiaDong is not exactly lily white in her behavior, either - but I do like her calling a spade a spade tonight, not gonna lie.
And a spade like Mei Chang Su is getting the job done. 

Liyang assures Jingrui she has no desire to kill herself and then tells a crying Princess Nian Nian that Jingrui is old enough to decide for himself what to do. Whether he wants to go and see his father or stay where he is is up to him. She then strikes a deal with Prince Yu: if he promises her to "not implicate others" and "to treat the Zhuos well" (she means forever), she will not report anything about tonight to the Emperor.
REPORT IT. Why does he get to continue to be the Minister after this? She's doing this to protect the Zhuos, I guess. And Mei Changsu won't want it to end yet because the really big reveal is yet to come, of course. Oh well. Gee, maybe you COULD have gotten the Zhuos away from him some other way, Mei Changsu. Hmmmm.
I think this is about her telling Yu that it'll be his show. Liyang will not get involved in any capacity.
Yeah, I think she doesn't want to be a witness and get politically involved is what she's saying I think. That and she does maybe feel a teensy bit bad about the hell she's helped put the Zhuos through. 


Xie Yu has lost, at least for the moment, but it is hard to feel any relief over it. The price for it is just so damn high... Of course, Zhuo Dingfeng would choose the honorable road of paying for his crimes (I didn't expect anything else from him), but it seems so very, very unfair. Should a trusting fool be punished for his stupidity?
I think there's some room for leniency and compassion but yes, he was killing people.  He thought he was doing a good thing because Yu told him it was a good thing, but he was still committing murder.
I don't think I will feel any relief until Xie Yu is in prison somewhere locked away where he can't do anything bad to anyone ever again. Though at this point, I don't think that's certain he will get caught. 

Jingrui is an entirely different case. He is still paralyzed by what he has been dropped on him tonight, but in all honesty, I hope he realizes before long that this will be FOR THE BETTER. Xie Yu is just the worst of the worst. The scummiest of the scum. Everybody who has no blood of his should go party! Jingrui has another problem, though, and that is his mother. Her crime is very, very severe too. She gets a few brownie points for saving the evening (and the Zhuos), but I do hope she has to pay for covering up her husband's horrible deeds for so long. Utterly selfish. Shame!
How fortunate for her that securing the Zhuos safety also keeps her position in society assured.
Jingrui needs a therapist after tonight. I do not envy him the burden placed on his shoulders. Knowing him though, he will probably do the best filial things he can to the most people. I don't like that he was hurt so deeply, but I do hope that he can find his happiness again eventually. 

In terms of dramatics, this episode was done so damn well again. First, Marquis Yan's (unexpected) appearance. He is a great side character because he cares nothing for what the Emperor might think - remember that he absolutely hates him. I loved the moment Xie Yu's triumphant smirk was wiped from his face, when Marquis Yan started to walk towards him, and gave Prince Yu enough courage to order his men to charge.
I did like that. You could see his confidence start to crumble, almost see in his eyes the panic that watching his world disappear would give him.
Marquis Yan is the man. I would totally watch a spin-off drama about his escapades. He's also the sort of character that seems so understated so we all underestimate him, and especially Xie Yu. 

The second great moment is when Liyang appears. It was utterly unexpected too, but so full of meaning... It gives us hope that not all is lost in Jingrui's life, because this (influential) woman chooses him over her husband. Her actions are in fact the only thing that can stop Xie Yu's insanity. She is his only weakness, so to speak, because he seems to truly love her (though I'm having a hard time believing he is even capable of real love).
He seems to love her - it's genuine on his part, but stunted - not what we would consider 'real' love since it's mostly about possessing her, having her be happy (but with him), and his ability to give her things (that he wants for himself anyway.)  Real love would have had him help her run away with the prince from Southern Chu, if he even knew about it in time.  Real love would have had him go through with the charade her mother set up, but not ACTUALLY rape the woman he was going to marry. Real love wouldn't have tried to murder her child.
What Jo said. She really is Xie Yu's weakness because no one in their right mind would ever think that she would choose him over Jingrui. Let's hope she does some more good to redeem herself a bit more. Man, what an episode!