There are inescapable consequences for the choices we make, even under duress. If anything, this episode is the culmination of Lu Zhen’s journey in the palace of isolation. With the Dowager Concubine dying, Lu Zhen’s life may be in danger (well, more than usual).
Lu Xu goes to see the Dowager Empress with a letter written by the Dowager Concubine to the Khan of Qi Hu (where the Dowager Concubine is originally princess of). It’s proof of secret communications detailing various government issues. The Dowager Empress deduces that this is why the Khan of Qi Hu hasn’t been very loyal to Dai and why the Dowager Empress’s merchant caravans kept getting robbed.
Lu Xu begs for her life and for her to be moved from the palace of Isolation, but is harshly refused. Lou Qing Qiang gives the Dowager Empress an idea on how to kill to birds with one stone, namely, how to kill the Dowager Concubine and frame Gao Zhan for it, using Lu Xu. If Lu Xu does it well, then she can have her freedom. Lu Xu agrees.
Lu Xu, having gotten her orders from the Dowager Empress, goes to see the Dowager Concubine, saying that she’s bringing gifts from Gao Zhan, her godson. Naturally the Dowager Concubine doesn’t believe her, asking why in the five years Lu Xu has been by her side, she’s never mentioned. Lu Xu lies that she only recognizes one mistress, but her cousin works for Gao Zhan and once Gao Zhan had heard about the mistreatment the Dowager Concubine has received he wants to make it better with gifts. The Dowager Concubine tests Lu Xu by asking her who Gao Zhan’s second in command was and Lu Xu answers that it was Uncle Zhong, the guard and general. The Dowager Concubine knows this is true and happily accepts the gifts, one of which is a box of incense say to be able to cure her headaches.
The Dowager Concubine asks after Lu Zhen, who wasn’t there to serve her and finds out that Lu Zhen had hurt her leg and was resting. In reality, Lu Zhen had found Lou Qing Qiang and asked her for help about the Dowager Concubine’s plan to kill her servants to take to the after life with her. Lu Zhen had seen the Dowager Concubine burn her favorite furs and things, when Lu Zhen asked her about it, the Dowager Concubine explained that she didn’t want to the Dowager Empress to have it, so by burning it, it will accompany her to the after life.
Later when Lu Zhen took the Dowager Concubine back to her bedroom, Lu Zhen sees a letter that has the words of “Live sacrifice” on it and becomes worried that she will be sacrificed when the Dowager Concubine dies. Lu Zhen goes to seek Lou Qing Qiang who tells her to stay in her room for a couple of days and everything will take care of itself.
Lu Zhen is in her room when the Dowager Concubine comes in for a visit. Lu Zhen feels guilty as she lies and the Dowager Concubine tells her to take care of herself. The Dowager Concubine knows that she hasn’t many days to live and needs Lu Zhen to promise to do something for her. It might be scary and dangerous, but Lu Zhen has to agree to do it. Lu Zhen agrees and the Dowager concubine tells her that she can take a few days off, if Lu Zhen gets bored, she can go the back yard and water the Dowager Concubine’s favorite tree.
Lu Zhen, not knowing what is to become of her life, begins to set her affairs in order, in case she dies with the Dowager Concubine. She writes a letter to Gao Zhan and tells him that even though they haven’t been friends for a long time, they’ve gone through so much that she feels she can trust him to help avenge her father.
Lu Zhen hears a scream “The Dowager Concubine has Died!” and rushes out of her room. She sees the Dowager in the front hall of the palace, in her throne, passed out. Dan Niang, who has also been in the room faints as well. Lu Zhen smells something strange and notices the incense, that had been sent in today as part of Gao Zhan’s gift. Lu Zhen realizes that the incense was poisonous and that while the Dowager Concubine has fainted, she’s not dead but quite close to it.
Lu Zhen says that someone higher up has to know about this and that the Dowager Concubine is dying, so Lu Zhen needs to go and alert someone. Lu Xu tells her that the Royal Concubine and Gao Zhan are one team and they are probably in on it, telling them would be useless. Lu Zhen says she will go find the Dowager Empress and Lu Xu tells her that the Dowager Empress in out of the palace. Lu Zhen says that she has to do something, she’s already done wrong by ignoring the maid’s plot of poison the Dowager Concubine, Lu Zhe has to go and alert the Emperor. Lu Xu shrilly tells her that it would be suicide to run around the palace without permission, since it is punishable by death to do so. Lu Zhen says that she’s already prepared, since she believes that the Dowager Concubine wants her to die with her, so even if she goes to find the emperor and dies, it’ll be fine. One way or another, Lu Zhen believes that she’s going to die, so she’d rather die with a clear conscience.
With that Lu Zhen goes to the Emperor’s palace and is stopped by Eunuchs. She yells and yells for the Emperor and actually is able to get the news to him.
He follows her to the palace of isolation and find the Dowager Concubine to be in the last throes of death.
The Dowager Concubine is glad to see him in her last moments and takes the pains to let him know that Gao Zhan has been framed for the issues of trying to kill her. The Dowager Concubine also gives the Emperor her Will.
Lu Xu tries to accuse Gao Zhan of poisoning the Dowager Concubine but is stopped doing so by the Dowager Concubine standing up to Gao Zhan. Then when the Dowager Concubine mentions that someone else is behind her death, Lu Xu tries to tell everyone that it was the Dowager Empress, only to be stopped by Dan Niang and the Dowager Concubine through shouting her down and muffling her mouth, knowing that it would be a dangerous situation if all the truth be revealed.
After all, the Dowager Empress is the Emperor’s mother and this would probably cause an all out war. The Dowager Concubine tells the emperor that the harem has too many secrets and that he would be best to leave them alone.
She turns to Lu Zhen and says “Good Child, About the sacrifice for the funeral … with me…with me…to die…” which everyone in the room took to mean that the Dowager Concubine wants Lu Zhen to die with her.
The Emperor asks Lu Zhen if she’s prepared to do so, and Lu Zhen resolutely says yes, she’s been preparing for this moment, but can the Emperor spare all the maids? The Emperor is sad and reluctant about the Dowager Concubine’s request to sacrifice Lu Zhen, but he has to obey the wishes. He grants Lu Zhen’s request willingly and tells his eunuch to read the other parts of the will, he has no heart to read it.
The Eunuch smiles as he reads the contents and shows the Emperor. The Emperor triumphantly smiles as well and reads it aloud. Lu Zhen is to be elevated to the 1st Rank of maids and Lu Xu, who is responsible for the death of the Dowager Concubine will be sacrificed. Lu Xu faints as she hears the news and the Emperor orders her to be dragged out and killed.
The Dowager Empress hears the news and is extremely angry that Lu Xu had almost accused the Dowager Empress of having a hand in the Dowager Concubine’s death. She asks if the Emperor believed it, and Lou Qing Qiang says that the Emperor just wants the issue to go away, proven by the fact that he killed Lu Xu so quickly. The Dowager Empress asks if anyone else has heard Lu Xu talk, and learns that all the maids did. She tells Lou Qing Qiang to go and “take care” of them all.
Thoughts – When I first watched this episode I was pretty confused. I feel like the cut away what Lu Xu has revealed to the maids so I believe that she has outed the Dowager Empress but then again, sometimes there are giant holes in the plot that it’s better to just ignore them. So I realized that the factions of the Dowager Empress wants to blame Gao Zhan and the Royal Concubine for the death of the Dowager Concubine, which is explained as clearly as…not at all, it was pretty bungled up.
Lu Zhen’s choice and her guilty conscience clearly shows that she’s a saint, she’s responsible, and if she was ever on American TV, the critics would crucify her. Often times heroines in dramas are shown to never be evil, and while this show plays with the idea of making the wrong choices, it never lets her go off the deep end. She’s always going to take the high road, and that as a tv watcher definitely gets boring after a while. Luckily next episode there is a lot of cute interaction between Gao Zhan and Lu Zhen, so it makes up for the way to idealized version of Lu Zhen (at least in my twisted mind).