What, you thought I wasn’t going to recap this? I’ve had a little setback; I miss one or two episodes a week due to brownouts during primetime, but never fear, we will persevere. I adore this drama too much to not weigh in on why I love it. I do have some questions as to why there seems to be only a few citizens of Yangdon– there are too few people in attendance at major events. If that’s the case, how has the country survived so long in this age without getting swallowed up by its bigger neighbors? I know this is probably because only a few members of the cast did the filming in Bhutan for the Yangdon scenes, but couldn’t they have gotten some locals to act as the crowd for the crowd scenes or something to add verisimilitude?
Many of the Yangdon scenes were filmed in Dzongkha, the national language of Bhutan, which stands in for the kingdom of Yangdon, and then dubbed over in Filipino, so the lip movements don’t match the dialogue. Also, I’ve noticed that Enrique Gil, who plays Jao, sort of resembles Bhutan’s present king, and Kathryn Bernardo, who plays Ariya/Mikay, sort of resembles the present queen.
The first episode opens with the camera panning across a mountain landscape, and following the flight of an eagle until it passes over a palace on the mountainside.
We then see a man and a woman flying a kite in the middle of a field. The man proposes to the woman, who then asks what he would say to his father. He answers that he doesn’t care– he loves her, so would she marry him and be his queen? His proposal, however, is interrupted by an attendant who says “Your highness, the king…!”
The man, Prince Anand of Yangdon (Albert Martinez), then makes a very, very long trip– riding a bike at full speed down the road to the palace, then running across a very, very long bridge to the palace, and up several flights of stairs to the room where the old king (a cameo by Dante Rivero) lies near death. He arrives in time for his father to give him his blessing and ask him to be good to Yangdon and love it more than he does. The old king then places the crown on his son’s head, and pronounces him king of Yangdon before he lies back on his pillow and dies.
Elsewhere, Ashi Behati (Gretchen Barretto) steps out of a van by the side of the road and leisurely scans the countryside before approaching some tents set out in a field. It’s a Philippine medical mission– the woman who was with the prince earlier, Isabel (a cameo by 2005 Miss International Precious Lara Quigaman), is really a Filipino doctor attached to the mission. She faces a long line of children, and gently treats one child and speaks to it in Dzongkha; the child in turn giggles and thanks her in Filipino. Behati approaches Isabel and speaks to her in Dzongkha, saying that she’s not sure if this is good, that the mission has been here for quite a long time. She then takes Isabel’s speechlessness for incomprehension, and casts a slur on her language skills before switching to English to ask the other woman if she’s sure that staying here and treating all these people is worth the trouble. Isabel answers politely that they’re doing all that they can to help the people of Yangdon. Behati is precluded from making more insulting remarks by the sound of a tolling bell, announcing the death of the king.
Next we see Behati in her own house, brushing her hair, musing that she’s been waiting a long time for this. In flashback, we see her younger self running to her father, who is lying bloodied on the ground in front of a burning building. Before he dies, he asks her to do everything to restore to their clan the power that had been taken from them.
Behati then goes to the palace to witness the formal announcement by Dasho Kencho (cameo by Christian Vasquez), the head of the drukpah (Yangdon’s legislature) , that the old king is dead, and he has passed his crown to his son, now King Anand. The new king speaks to the people from a palace balcony, promising to love and take care of Yangdon as his father did, and asking his people to help him, hoping that they will love him like they did his father. Below, in the audience, Isabel smiles up at him, and at the end of his speech, he smiles down at her, which is not lost on Behati, who looks from one to the other.
The new king then tackles the drukpah on Isabel’s behalf, stating that this is the woman he wants for his wife. One member of the drukpah objects that Isabel is not one of them, she’s a foreigner who doesn’t even know their culture, and a commoner. The king says that he loves her, and that she will grow to know their culture. As for commoners, isn’t Behati not of noble blood, yet married to Dasho Kencho?
Anand wins over the drukpah, of course, and marries Isabel and crowns her queen in a simple private ceremony involving vows and drinking from goblets of wine. He then presents her to the people as Queen Isabel. As the royal couple walks out of the palace to join the people outside, Behati, who is one of the nobles lining the path, steps on the train of Isabel’s gown so that it rips. Isabel glances back and sums up the situation; when her new husband asks what the matter is, she waves it off and acts as if nothing has happened. She then joins a group of women dancing in a circle, while Behati watches from the top of the stairs, seething.
Soon, Isabel announces that she’s pregnant, which makes King Anand very happy. She gives birth to a girl, who is named Ariya in a ceremony presided over by monks. The head monk says that the princess has a very lucky name, and hopes that she will be very fortunate in life.
In Kencho and Behati’s mansion, Behati spends some time with her own baby son, telling him she will be gone for a while to visit the palace and say hello to the king and queen. Her husband frets that they don’t have a gift for the princess, but Behati assures him she’s thought of something.
At the palace, the king and queen with the princess are receiving gifts and good wishes from the guests. Behati offers their gift, a box containing a handkerchief which she had embroidered with the symbols of Yangdon (the central figure is a dragon), saying that as long the princess carries it with her, she carries the kingdom with her wherever she goes. One of the attendants objects, however, that a handkerchief is not a fitting gift for a baby since it symbolizes tears. Behati protests that that was not her intention– the king takes her at face value and thanks her for the gift. She walks away slowly, doing her best slinky walk, and smiles slightly as the princess begins to cry.
Later, Isabel voices her desire for the princess to see the Philippines and know the other half of her heritage, mentioning all the scenic places she’d like her daughter to see (foreshadowing!). Anand promises that one day they will make that trip, but for now they have to stay in their kingdom.
In her mansion, Behati comes into the nursery to see her son Jao crying. Instead of worrying, she is happy, saying that his voice is the voice of a king, and she hopes that someday all of Yangdon will hear it. Someday, she promises her son.
The king and queen go about their duties– Anand oversees the construction of a new irrigation system for the farmers, and Isabel talks with the farmers’ wives and admires their babies. Behati watches from a distance, thinking in voiceover “You took the power from my clan, but someday it will return to me and my son– we will be happy then, and it will be your turn to suffer.” Later, in the palace garden, she speaks to Isabel in that way she has of speaking Dzongkha and then saying something else in English, telling her that for a lowly doctor with the medical mission, she sure went straight to being queen.
One would think that the citizens would appreciate Anand’s plans for Yangdon– however, some don’t, including a group that meets at Behati’s house. They think that Anand is destroying their heritage by introducing new things. Behati does her best to fan the fire, especially because if they topple the king, her own husband as head of the drukpah would be next in line to the throne. Dasho Kencho nips that idea in the bud, however, standing firm on his belief that Anand is a good king.
So King Anand goes about his plans of introducing improvements to Yangdon– electricity for more places, a water system, computers, the Internet…
He and his family set out on a trip. He kisses his wife and child, wishing they could go in the same car, but Isabel laughingly waves him off, saying it’s protocol for them to have separate cars.
Meanwhile, two people meet in a forest– a man and a woman wearing a hood. They make references to the weather going along with their plans, since it’s going to rain. The two go to a hut where the man shows the woman some dynamite, and she pays him for a job he’s going to do. That sounds ominous…
The royal family begins their journey. Anand keeps looking back to check on the other car, where Ariya is fretting.
Someone puts dynamite in place among some rocks…
…ominous music plays as the cars traverse a mountain road, and someone emerges from hiding after they pass– it’s the man who met with the woman, Pratchit (Allen Dizon). Anand speaks over the phone with Isabel in the other car, who tells him that Ariya won’t stop crying. By then it’s raining pretty hard, and Anand gives his driver an order to turn around and go back to the palace.
Isabel tells her husband she’s feeling scared. The cars begin to turn back… the dynamite explodes, triggering a rock slide that rains down on the car carrying the queen and the princess. Isabel screams and clutches her baby…
The phone call cut off, and the king realizes something has happened. They retrace their route and finds huge rocks on the road…
The rock slide carries the car down the mountainside. Isabel and Ariya are thrown out of the car, and Pratchit walks towards them… at first Isabel tries to ask him for help, but then he takes out a knife. She knows what he wants to do, and tries to shield her child, begging for him to spare Ariya’s life.
At the hut, the woman, whose name is Jin (played by Nina Dolino), meets Pratchit again. He tells her he’s done what she asked, and receives his payment. Jin commends him for doing something for the good of Yangdon, and orders him to burn the hut to remove all the evidence… only, a baby starts crying.
Jin demands to know what the child is doing there, and he answers that he can’t kill an innocent. In a flashback, we see that Pratchit had not touched Isabel at all– she’d asked that if he kills her and her child, he should stab them holding each other, but died of her injuries from the crash. Pratchit tells Jin that if she wants, she can do the killing, since he’s done enough. However, Jin also can’t bring herself to kill a baby.
The king ordered his soldiers to search for the queen and the princess– he later finds his dead wife, but not the child. He thus orders the soldiers not to stop searching till the princess is found, and keeps staring at their life-size family portrait in the palace, where Ariya is laughing.
Jin brings the child home, calling for her maid, who turns out to be a Filipina, Esmeralda (Sharmaine Suarez). She had been asking her for permission to go home, so now Jin is letting her go. “You will bring this child with you and you will make sure that this child never returns.” Esme is full of questions– who’s the child, and why? But Jin tells her not to ask questions– she’ll pay Esme a lot of moneysoshe’ll never be poor again, and will personallyescort