Last episode, it was revealed that the portraits causing all the drama among the royal court were … to put not too fine a point on it, terrible. There’s no danger of that happening here at Exiern. Scott has only been hiring the best artists that he can find for the work. Of course, this all costs money and that has an impact on how frequently such pages can be produced and oh, by the way, has it ever been mentioned that Exiern has a Patreon (

Right then, on with the show. No more unrelated subject matter distractions this week, just a reminder that we’re doing this to provide you with something not unrelated to add to the one page a week at present (note those last two words, they may be significant – in a good way that is).

Well, looks like Zhang Peng has everything sorted out to his satisfaction as he theatrically boxes the air as part of what is undoubtedly his morning constitutional. He just has to present a convincing miscarriage for a pregnancy that never was and make sure Zhao’s Wife is protected and she can give Qi Sheng the son he wants as a successor and even more importantly, Zhang Peng does not. Being a man and all, that’s kind of understandable.

You might remember when the thought occurred to another hero, the one whose exciting tale unfolding here for over eleven years now, the thought of pregnancy didn’t appeal to him either.

We learn at this point that the original doctor (Dr Song) that Zhang Peng met and who we also noticed as he does that we haven’t seen for awhile, is not coming back. Apparently, Zhang Peng’s repeated beatings traumatized him so much that he went and became a monk. Yes, surprise all round at that news.

So, Zhang Peng has to settle for the Zhang family doctor who they paid to say Zhang Peng was pregnant as a counter to Zhao’s Wife. Understandably, Zhang Peng is not so keen on him for those very reasons. So Lu Li is sent to get to get him instead. Looks like Obamacare (“You can keep your doctor.”) came just a bit too late for our hero.

While Zhang Peng demolishes some kind of poultry with all the elegance of someone in a rush at a truck stop, Lu Li comes racing back with the news that the former Empress has ordered the termination of Zhao’s Wife’s pregnancy and has sent the equivalent of a goon squad with a powerful agent to induce termination.

Zhang Peng races off to stop them but he gets there too late and stumbles onto a terrifying sight. Zhao’s Wife, looking grimmer than we’ve ever seen her. You know Sadako from The Ring and Kayako from The Grudge? They have nothing on Zhao’s Wife here, she literally looks terrifying in broad daylight. I think I’d have a coronary if I saw this in the dark.

Zhang Peng is actually horrified – at what’s been done as well. He seems to genuinely try to console her, saying that he knows from personal experience of women in his past (but the future, don’t forget – try and wrap your head around that one) that have had abortions forced on them and that they need support (that statement just raised a whole lot of other questions).

Zhao’s Wife is having none of it. She just can’t see it as anything other than a power play (which she is losing by the way) and repeatedly asks Zhang Peng who is he acting for (as there’s no-one else in sight and I don’t think it’s budget limitations this time). She just can’t see it being anything else as it seems she’s incapable of seeing people think any other way that she is (that’s probably a lot to do with why she’s losing).

At this point she says there’s no difference had she drunk the abortive agent or not as she was never pregnant (cue a mass chorus from the audience including comments that appeared on the screen at Viki all saying “WE KNEW IT!”). As for why she chose to reveal this at all, well plot and driving it forward I guess, I really couldn’t think of another reason, to be honest.

Anyway, as it’s evil scheme revelation time, we might as well strap in and enjoy the ride. Zhao’s Wife reveals she was trying to manipulate Qi Sheng and was betting on the painting being planted on her sister (by her being adopted) triggering a retaliatory response. Basically she was betting on what she’d known her sister’s personality had been like as far as she knew all her life.

Unfortunately, since the tumble into the lake that Zhao’s Wife caused, her sister exited for parts unknown and Zhang Peng had stepped in. The plan to make her sister try to make Zhao’s Wife suffer for planting the painting and hence have Qi Sheng side with her failed utterly as Zhang Peng behaved in completely the opposite way than she expected.

She says she thought Zhang Peng was being really superficial with her behaviour all this time and this gambit would expose the true self she expected to be beneath. As already described, that didn’t happen. Instead of getting Qi Sheng’s support, it’s had the opposite effect.

Zhang Peng tells Zhao’s Wife that she’s really been very stupid this time. He says she’s really misread the situation. He even goes as far as to say not to try this again and instead try something else in future to win him back. Putting it bluntly, if Zhao’s Wife had simply done nothing at all, she’d have been much better off than she is now. The look on her face as Zhang Peng leaves might even seem to indicate that she fianlly realizes that just a bit too late.

Zhang Peng leaves Yu Lan Hall and Zhao’s Wife behind with Lu Li in tow. Lu Li is wondering why Zhang Peng is so upset, among other things, this derails his plans with the Ninth Brother to gain an edge over Qi Sheng as it was rather dependent on Zhao’s Wife actually being pregnant.

Oh well, on to at least getting Zhang Peng’s non-pregnancy out of the way if nothing else. So Dr Zhang (yes apparently his surname was Zhang, I guess it makes sense when they said he was the Zhang family doctor, I suppose we just read the emphasis wrong, perhaps?).

I should add at this point that there was much hilarity every time a doctor appeared as they supposedly have a symbol identical to the Chanel logo on their hats. It’s probably a coincidence but I wouldn’t be totally surprised if it was a function of the budget yet again, somehow.

Anyway, he says a bunch of stuff about the pulse blah blah blah and by the way, you’re really pregnant. Like totally for realz. I think we also knew this. There was a screaming inevitability about this development too from some way off when you think about it. It might also explain all those recent events of Zhang Peng drinking something and immediately doing a spit take in the last few episodes. Maybe it wasn’t a reaction to something said at the time after all.

Yes, the doctor did take a bribe, he freely admits that but he said that it turned out to be necessarily as the previous and first time he examined the Empress, there was an actual genuine pregnancy back them.

After the earlier nervous laughter/disbelief from Zhang Peng, cue the smash zoom, an enraged Zhang Peng demanding why he wasn’t told of this, a feeble defense from the doctor saying he did tell the truth about the diagnosis and that’s why he said take the recommended medicine (and he also slips in a more worrying development that he told the Emperor).

Then comes the beating. Zhang Peng as he pursued the errant doctor that “I’m going to beat you to death.” It’s quite an impressive beating and quite lives up to the promise from Zhang Peng. It’s much worse than anything we saw meted out to Dr Song and that was enough to turn him into a monk.

Post mortem time – not literally, though I wouldn’t be surprised to hear there’s a corpse just off screen somewhere. Zhang Peng incredulously declares “How did this happen?” (well, I’m sure we have some theories there …) and just as incredulously is in disbelief over that one drunken incident being the cause.

We’re going to stop things here for a moment for a public service announcement. Not all of the following are applicable to this particular character and situation but it’s good knowledge to have. It’s not impossible to get pregnant even if: you’re a virgin and that was the first time; condoms are used – they reduce risk but don’t eliminate it; ditto rhythm method.

Frankly, let’s be blunt, there’s usually not really any penis in vagina situations which are 100% risk free where there’s two no reason to think they’re not both working sets of reproductive equipment scenarios (there’s always very particular exceptions to any rule but then that’s why they’re called exceptions).

Finally to emphasis that last point, sometimes life finds a way. I knew of one person who was the youngest in the family by just a bit, if I remember this correctly they beat a vasectomy, a condom (to be doubly sure), a spermicide (x3) and tied tubes (x4). I suppose that could explain why I found them so persistent in general.

Lu Li says her mistress should have known given that there hadn’t been a period in three months. However, we already knew it was irregular at best. A few things then happen in quick succession. Zhang Peng screams “I’m big guy/never had a child/how could I know?”, Lu Li says it’s a gift from heaven given everything that’s happened and how well her mistress has handled it given all the events that befallen them.

Zhang Peng is clearly [INTERNALLY SCREAMING] Dear God! Why Me!”, gives Lu Li a look not unlike the one she did to the doctor just before his savage beating (probably due to that last remark) and then spectacularly faints.

OK, you might remember all that vomiting three months ago. That wasn’t due to morning sickness as it was the very next day. No, that was the very heterosexual ladies man Zhang Peng having realized he’d gotten drunk had sex with another man. Now, that other man, Qi Sheng, thought he was having sex with his seemingly very female wife (the ethics of her being blind drunk are another issue that should get serious attention – preindustrial pre-China or not) but from Zhang Peng’s point of view, that hardly makes things any better now, did it? Well, as we’ve now learned, things are about to get a whole lot worse for our hero.

Anyway, cut to the next scene where we find Zhang Peng back in his accommodation in Xi Sheng Palace. Lu Li wants to know why he’s seated on the floor upright and Zhang Peng points out just being pregnant doesn’t necessarily make someone a cripple. Lu Li has brought some bird’s nest porridge and I know from seeing the original Japanese Iron Chef, that that stuff is hideously expensive (like down payment on a pretty decent house expensive).

Of course, that’s Qi Sheng’s cue to lurk up uninvited as usual and he’s especially unwelcome this time around for obvious reasons. The following exchange is had. Zhang Peng says he can’t do this. Well, obviously he’s not. As most men in a similar situation would be, not thrilled about it either. Qi Sheng said he agreed with this.

There’s a brief moment of relief and excitement on hearing this from Zhang Peng as undoubtedly he things he can put an end to this situation. It doesn’t last (it never does when Qi Sheng is involved). Qi Sheng then says he found out he was happy (to hear this news). You wouldn’t know it to look at it him. Did we ever mention his penchant for being stony-faced before?

Zhang Peng tries the gambit of saying the Zhang family’s power will increase if there is a heir from their line. So Qi Sheng offers to eliminate the whole Zhang family if that’s a problem. Zhang Peng quickly backtracks and tries again by saying he’d be a bad role model with his personality. Qi Sheng says there’ll be a nanny anyway if needed – another idea shot down but they’re fast degrading in quality.

We suspect Qi Sheng is getting offended that the person he thinks is his wife doesn’t want to raise a child with him – to be fair, there’s lots of reasons as to why not including attempted murder of said wife but we haven’t got all day to recap all that now.

The final throw of the dice is that Zhang Peng says it’s now a problem who so much as “I don’t have the skill/patience.” and “I can’t take it.”. At this point, Qi Sheng gets angry at that and says words to the effect that it’s the responsibility of any wife and how could a wife do anything else?

There’s a lot to unpack about the implications of all these statements but the upshot is that Zhang Peng’s gambit has totally and utterly failed. Zhang Peng is also told that if anything happens to the potential next in line for the throne, there’ll be no forgiveness. Given that Qi Sheng is the Emperor, the implications of that are rather terminal. So, Zhang Peng is rather stuck at the moment. He finally got the protection from harm he was after (for about 6 more months at least) but it’s obviously not what he had in mind at all.

Qi Sheng had the royal chef make what he understood the Empress’s favourite dish of durian congee. Yes, that smelly fruit is back. Qi Sheng’s idea of doing something nice? Zhang Peng rather unconvincingly fakes a headache. Cut to the next scene where Zhang Peng’s back at Xi Sheng Palace and clearly losing his mind after all his setbacks as he starts plucking imaginary duck out of the air to eat, something he said he’d much rather be eating than durians in any form. As someone pointed on the on-screen comments, as the Empress, why not just ask for some?

As luck would have it, eternal creeper Yang Yan drops in. Having heard all of this, he comes bearing duck (his attempts at playing Guess Who? fail miserably because, well, who else could it be, really?). He even calls himself the Night Hero for this. Could he sound anymore like a fast food delivery service at this point? Given all the spying and crawling over his roof at night, Zhang Peng still has the acuity to ask if this means he’s seeing Zhang Peng when he’s having a bath and the like. Yang Yan says he has principles and is not looking. Zhang Peng then equally reasonably asks if he has intentions towards Zhang Peng’s personage.

No again he says, as Zhang Peng’s the Empress and the Ninth Prince’s love (and this remarkably passes unremarked on by anyone). Yang Yan says that he likes Zhang Peng but not like that like. I think he thinks they have a brother-sister thing going on. Zhang Peng then asks if looks or inner character are more important. Yang Yan says inner character as he’s not superficial. So, from this, Zhang Peng says it seems like Yang Yan likes men. That’s …that’s actually kind of logical knowing what we know.

Well, Yang Yan doesn’t and couldn’t have known Zhang Peng’s true nature, so I guess that’s not being fair (well, not completely) and then he does say he would like to meet someone like Zhang Peng but not actually Zhang Peng (because, you know – taken … and taken). Yang Yan also makes the fair point that it’s unlikely that he’s going to guard Zhang Peng forever.

Probably grateful for the distraction, Zhang Peng says he’ll speak to the Zhang family and look into it. He also says to bring Spicy Black Duck the next time. Then I think what happened next is they were just finding the food very hot and the spices were catching up to them or something as they both make a whole bunch of ridiculous like “hot hot hot” sounds and Yang Yan runs off. Idiots, the lot of them.

Just some final housekeeping to go in this episode. Zhao’s Wife dancing around as usual. To keep a long story short(er), Qi Sheng comes to break up with her. Basically the fake pregnancy and the attempted planting of the painting to frame Zhang Peng was the final straw. The only reason there wasn’t a severe punishment according to Qi Sheng is that the Empress stopped him. He then makes the observation that their personalities seemed to have flipped according to him.

Reading between the lines, it seems like how the then Zhang Peng Peng was, was enough to (from Qi Sheng’s point of view) drive him to Zhao’s Wife, who he found was more generous, sensitive and understanding (OK, that part ended up as actual lines later on). Now he finds it the reverse.

Paradoxically, since Zhang Peng came on board, all his efforts to repel Qi Sheng have both had the reverse effect of somehow attracting Qi Sheng’s attention and leading to Zhao’s Wife’s increasingly desperate attempts to hold onto Qi Sheng actually propel him towards his wife even more. Funny how unintended consequences work, isn’t it? He says she can stay there or go and he all but says he doesn’t care either way.

Yes, I know and I agree. Qi Sheng’s a flaming big hypocrite. Accusing Zhao’s Wife as such “You did so many things that’s against against conscience.” Cheating on all four of his wives with the wife of his brother, Prince Zhao. Never mind what it did to him up to the point of trying to have everyone killed. This guy … I don’t even, you know?

The final end run of this episode is Zhang Peng saying to the woman who is the mother of the body he’s occupying, so for all intents and purposes his own for now until he can get back home (does anyone ever wonder about his actual parents back in our time?) that he has something important to discuss. No, not the pregnancy, which he really wants to get away from thinking about if there’s nothing else he can do about it and instead, could we find a wife for the son of General Yang Yun Mr Aerial Deliveryman himself, Yang Yan?

This has the effect of restarting the tears of joy from the mother of Zhang Peng Peng (and which inevitably sucked in Lu Li into its vortex of serial weeping) because instead of one happy occasion, there’ll be two. The name of this lucky individual in this arranged marriage? Zhang Ling Ling because of course it is.