-We open up where we left off: the emperor learns that Li'er is carrying another man's child and insists that she abort it. She basically tells him over my dead body, and he holds a sword to her throat. He is so furious that he actually looks like he might cry. He orders his men to keep an eye on her and threatens to kill anyone who fails at their task.
-Before read moreleaving, he issues an order to Li Zhong to make sure the doctor keeps the news a secret. (This was a bit surprising. I thought he would order the doctor to be killed but then I guess that is even more suspicious).
-Now during all of this, Jing Ke has been riding to the city to rescue Li'er. This is awfully filmed and you have to see it to really see why. It looks incredibly fake, like he is riding a stationary horse and a movie of the forest is behind him, playing.
-In the next scene, the emperor's highest ranked concubines are all invited to a special dinner. This is cause for excitement since he largely neglects them. He introduces his newest concubine and his language is very specific--he basically says this is Miss Gongsun Li--so write off the bat he is telling them she is a commoner--and confers upon her a title of Virtuous Lady, something that is not usually earned unless you are very special, like a princess, or birthed a child.
-Ruo'er (Madame Chu) is the highest ranked harem member as she is the eldest, and she proceeds to administer tests clearly meant to humiliate her in front of the other women, to basically put her in her place. And the emperor's smug expression is telling, because he usually only wears it when he has plotted it--so we, the audience, can infer that he planned all of this, wanting to punish her for her behavior, which has hurt him. Very immature.
-She is asked to recite a poem, and Li'er's response is awesome--she maintains an incredibly flat affect as she recites a carefully picked poem--it is a poem composed by Xui Gui, a Queen from the state of Wey, where Ruo'er is from, and it describes her love and loyalty to the Duke of Xui, who was very domineering and how she never took it personally but was always calm and devoted. Both the emperor and Ruo'er are surprised by this, Ruo'er because she cannot insult her, and the emperor because it is like a sarcastic jab since she loathes him--she again regains control and does not allow others to shake her--
-Ruo'er next asks Li'er to showcase some of her martial arts talent, and the emperor is only too happy to oblige. He wants her to miscarry, showing that he is so filled with anger over the fact that she is pregnant with another man's child and not his own that he would risk her health.
-Naturally, Li'er is upset. And the person she is to face is General Meng, easily the best martial artist in the State of Qin. Ruo'er ups the anty by offering a spectacular prize of 500 gold pieces and ten horses to the winner. She also makes a point to tell General Meng that he would lose face if he lost to a concubine. Li'er asks the emperor that if she wins she would like her bronze dagger back, and he never agrees.
-Li'er almost loses but she waits until she finds an opening and wins. General Meng takes the loss well, and she asks for the dagger but is denied, upsetting her. The emperor then quietly tells her, out of earshot to everyone else, that his gift to her is allowing her to keep the child.
-That night, Jing Ke infiltrates the city and knocks out a guard and steals his army. What he is attempting is basic suicidal but his anger and worry for the woman he loves overrides all of that. He fails, and is captured.
-Also that night, the emperor visits Li'er and makes her promise to never leave Qin in order for keeping the child and to also swear to name him as the father. She agrees. He gets a bit physical but because of her utterly flat affect--like a person going to execution instead of going to bed, he does not force her. The fact that she also tells him she hates him because Qin has killed her parents and grandfather doesn't help. I mean, to say 'well, at least he didn't rape her' is pretty stupid. He has established that he isn't a very lovable or likable guy. I can only point out that at the very least it is reflective of history.
-Apparently, after this episode he left and visited Madame Jing, something which angers Ruo'er who has admitted to her servant that she is afraid the emperor will never visit her, I guess she is aware that she is getting older, and newer, younger women will come in. It is a sad fate, so she uses her power as a senior member of the harem to basically threaten Madame Jing later. Throughout all of this it is apparent that the harem has lived in harmony because the emperor has basically ignored them all. They want this, but they also want to see him, which creates conflict. Ruo'er monitors the emperor's visits to Li'er, which tend to end in him never staying the whole night and him leaving angry. She hopes that he will grow tired of her once the newnesss fades away.
-The episode ends with Jing Ke getting more brutal torture and the emperor finally deciding that he can't wait for Li'er to like him, and it implies that he is going to coerce her into sleeping with him.
My thoughts: The episode is important because it continues to affirm that the emperor is incredibly insecure where Li'er is concerned. He wants things from her almost without even working to earn them: love, respect, friendship--this is all part of his personality, he is like a bulldozer and up until now he has gotten what he wants through force and coercion. But matters of the heart are not the same, and while in matters of the state this may earn him the respect of others, it won't in the bedroom. It only reaffirms all the reasons why she dislikes him and adds fuel to the fire.
The fact that he has let her keep the child can mean two things: either he isn't quite as ruthless as one would think (which isn't saying a whole lot) or he plans to use the child to manipulate her. I am guessing the latter is more likely because he is very cunning and very ruthless. For now, I think he would be satisfied if she showed him any kind of consideration even if it is fake, because he is that desperate for her to want him back. Of course, these are only shallow gains and he will be greedy for the real thing. Whether or not that happens would be on Li'er, because I don't know what he could do that could make her genuinely love him without it being mistaken for Stockholm syndrome. He would have to do something that would earn her respect, regardless of how he has treated her.