Ideally, I would imagine more Exiern pages per week would be better than less. After all, 3 a fortnight is better than one a week and two a week is even better and so on (obvious proviso, standards have to be maintained). Still however, even if it were possible that there could be three pages a week, four even and let’s say why not even five … even with an extremely generous 2 minutes per page to study each page remarkably extensively, that still only accounts for 10 minutes a week. That still leaves us with about 167 hours and 50 minutes to fill.
Sure, some of that will be stuff like eating, sleeping, working, transit to and from working (and all that’s before we even touch on all the other miscellaneous activities that make up the week), but somehow I suspect that there’s still going to be more time to fill than even the fastest production rate of Exiern can manage on its own.
So, I guess the point I’m getting at there’ll always a be look out for the most potentially interesting stuff out there that can fill the gap between one page of Exiern and the next. Well, it’s a good a reason as any, I suppose.
This week’s review title is from a recent Lifetime movie you might have heard of, most likely in the United States. The original 1996 film had a relatively straightforward setup with our young heroine finding out her boyfriend is more of the obsessive stalker type than she’s comfortable with.
In this 2016 remake, it’s a bit different. It’s a lesbian couple, the more dangerous one initially is a vampire and there’s an incredible amount of fake blood thrown around even for a production of Macbeth. Throw in James Franco and well, at the very least, regardless of whether it’s good or bad, well it’s certainly different.
Have a look at the trailer and see for yourself.
See? Told you.
So that’s our probably far too long explanation of where this week’s review title comes from. It’s also where we start this week’s episode. Zhang Peng’s not sleeping with danger but he is asleep – and soon to be in very clear and present danger.
Seemingly recovered from the trauma of inadvertent sexytimes with the Crown Prince for now at least, Zhang Peng is doing what he does the best, professional snoozing. Seriously, he could doze for China in the modern Olympics (you know, if either of those things existed yet and being lazy was an Olympic sport).
This peaceful solitude doesn’t last long (well, you’d hope so as otherwise it would make for a very boring episode) as Zhang Peng is rudely flicked awake by the Crown Prince. We also get to see that his slap happiness from the previous episode has left one hell of a welt on Zhang Peng’s face.
What passes for affection from the Crown Prince (and what we’d call in the modern era manhandling) and application of some anti-welt medication he brought with him later, the Crown Prince reveals that his investigations have found that Zhao’s Wife faked the whole disintegrating soccer uniform on the pitch and he actually, by his standards, apologizes.
Zhang Peng is understandably quite cross though he does actually understand why the Crown Prince has to cover for his mistress and that it’s in Zhang Peng’s best interests for him to keep doing so.
However, instead of quitting while he’s ahead, once again he forgets where he is and who people think he is, worst of who the Crown Prince is to him, and tries to have a mano-a-mano talk with the Crown Prince about Zhao’s Wife and once again confuses everyone with the wit and wisdom of his futurespeak.
After the lead-in about what green tea girls are (shy and demure on the outside and cunning and manipulative on the inside – what is it with China, the colour green and infidelity anyway?), he wonders out loud what the Crown Prince could possibly see in her for those very reasons.
Zhang Peng then commits a huge blunder by then saying he’s gotten romantically involved with many a girl like that in the past.
Luckily, the Crown Prince – as do all past people to Zhang Peng’s messages from the future – dismisses it yet again as nonsense in a fog of confusion. He also doesn’t consider that his wife could be a lesbian either as it appears by his (lack of) reaction yet again to his wife’s stated interest in women because lesbians obviously hadn’t been invented yet (it’s the only explanation I can think of to explain it).
The next scene has Zhang Peng adding to his repertoire of competitive reclining by lounging in a very nice outdoor bath. Enter the flyboy Yang Yan, who once again shows he’s yet to stick the landing, this time toppling straight into the outdoor bath after contacting the ground. Turns out he can’t swim either but if he just stopped panicking for a moment, he’d see he wouldn’t drown if he just stood up. It takes Zhang Peng slapping some sense into him to make him calm down.
It’s then that Yang Yan gets all modest even though he’s been spying on Zhang Peng all this time, revealed by the fact he’s brought better anti-slapped face medicine on behalf of the Ninth Prince to one up his brother, the Crown Prince, something Yang Yan tipped him off about by lurking on the roof. Zhang Peng is understandably unimpressed and tells him he’s even more stupid than the Crown Prince. Considering Zhang Peng doesn’t think much of the Crown Prince, this is quite a burn.
The main reason for Yang Yan ‘dropping in’ (literally) was that the Ninth Prince wanted to invite Zhang Peng out for dinner. Zhang Peng really isn’t interested (looks like his attempts to repel potential male love interests by being as obnoxious as possible is somehow having the reverse effect). Yang Yan leaves with a take-off that was much better than his earlier landing.
However, he wasn’t gone for long. Not one to take no for an answer, he returns while Zhang Peng is constructively using his time practicing throwing fruit into the air and catching it in his mouth – and gasses him with a paralytic agent. Zhang Peng unintentionally gets him back when Yang Yan trips over and plants his face into Zhang Peng’s feet. From the look in his face, I’m to assume they were rather smelly.
Zhang Peng eventually does wake up and finds himself thinking he’s back in 2015 because it looks like he’s in a modern high class restaurant. Then he looks around and finds he hasn’t left the village we call the past, complete with its number one idiot looking at him.
Enter the Ninth Prince who innocently says that he thought Zhang Peng wasn’t coming. If you had any doubt about believing him, it’s certainly amplified by Yang Yan straight up says he had planned to give Zhang Peng two choices, volunteer or be carried here anyway. Zhang Peng glares at him complete with the pointed finger I’ll deal with you later look.
Yang Yan had let slip that the Ninth Prince had planned a surprise for Zhang Peng which was to see the sea. It still turns out to be a surprise as it was a metaphorical sea of lit lanterns at night across all the buildings you can see from the Ninth Prince’s balcony. It’s very nice.
We get an important history lesson. It turns out that their grandfather liked the Third Brother most (must be his winning personality, I guess) and he asked their father to make him Crown Prince. Turns out their grandfather quite liked Zhang Peng Peng too and had the two of them put in close contact which presumably led to the two of them ending up married.
We find out that as children, the Ninth Prince thinks Zhang Peng Peng liked him more than the Third Prince (seems plausible) and that he probably was both indulged too much and didn’t appreciate the value of things as they were just handed to him. The subtext was obvious.
Choice quote of the evening is the Ninth Prince to Zhang Peng after already remarking the Crown Princess seems different lately: “Your mind should still be the same as in the past. It hasn’t changed, right?” (Ha!)
It’s also confirmed that attempts to repel everyone is just piquing their interests. Law of Unintended Consequences from the point of Zhang Peng but one of the first and foremost Laws of Drama for us viewers as the Ninth Prince confirms his love for the Crown Princess regardless of what she says and does in response to this. Zhang Peng, who just happens to be piloting the Crown Princess’s body at the moment and hence not being interested has repeatedly tried to make this clear up to and including some choice glaring but it doesn’t seem to be working. He ends up making his excuses and leaving.
… Only to find himself in another, larger frypan when he finds the Crown Prince waiting for his return as we saw earlier when he woke and frankly quite terrified Lu Li. Zhang Peng exhibits his expert skills of reading people’s faces to deduce that the Crown Prince didn’t know where he went.
The first thing the Crown Prince says is that he knew where Zhang Peng went. If there was any doubt before, I think it’s all but gone now as to how Zhang Peng gets caught up in so many disasters of his own making.
Zhang Peng demands to know why the Crown Prince is here. He asks as to whether he needs a reason? The tone is highly suggestive of being a rhetorical question. A good point being that he is the Crown Prince. Zhang Peng overcompensates by overplaying the submissive princess at this point in trying to walk back his question. Awkwardness ensues and not for the first time between these two.
The Crown Prince says he’s just here to casually ask a question (yeah right) where he wonders what kind of man his wife likes. A modest, mature and serious man or a romantic, carefree, young and handsome man. No, can’t possibly be based on any real-life people here now, can it? Zhang Peng in one of his many asides to the audience this episode re-emphasizes that he doesn’t like men at all (well, obviously).
There’s also an odd remark when Zhang Peng says that “it’s not important what kind of man I like. Love can transcend gender.” Which is weird because I have no idea what that has to do with any of the questions asked. Still just recording it here for posterity, precisely because it was such a weird thing to say in light of the previous aside as well.
Anyway, getting back to the line of the Crown Prince’s questioning, the subtext quickly becomes pushed to the forefront when the Crown Prince flat out asks Zhang Peng who attracts girls more, he or the Ninth Prince (asks the man with five wives and a mistress)
(Danger Will Robinson!)
Zhang Peng tries to point out that he (in the role of Zhang Peng Peng) is already the Crown Prince’s consort so it’s a moot point. The Crown Prince says to treat tonight as an informal talk as if he wasn’t the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess wasn’t a consort.
(It’s a trap you fool!)
Short version, Zhang Peng goes for the carefree option. I think he’s talking about himself, the Crown Prince clearly thinks Zhang Peng is talking about the Ninth Prince and once again, Zhang Peng was thinking he was talking with one of his modern day drinking buddies as opposed to someone from a different era who has a hair trigger and literal powers of life and death over almost everyone, Zhang Peng included.
Zhang Peng almost immediately afterwards realizes he’s screwed up and to quote Whoopi Goldberg (ask your parents, kids) from the movie Ghost (again, ask your parents), “You in danger, girl.” So much for an informal chat, especially after the Crown Prince ominously told Zhang Peng he “chose wrong”. Interesting as it was supposedly meant to be a hypothetical exercise about two people who couldn’t possibly be real now, could they?
Cut to the final scenes where we see Zhang Peng has started to really get into the whole princess thing, ordering everyone about, dressing spectacularly just for casual homewear and engaging in recreational flower arranging and pruning. His place in the pecking order is quickly established when word comes by that the Crown Prince has been sent to inspect a military base in place of the emperor and wants the Crown Princess to join him. Nothing suspicious about that at all, is there?
Zhang Peng really doesn’t want to go but also really doesn’t have a choice. Apparently it seems since his arrival that he’s learned how to ride a horse. He also has another opportunity to break out his brothel creeping clothes for the trip. Somehow, I feel this trip is not going to end well.
A special note to finish this week’s synopsis off. A special shoutout to the actress playing Zhang Peng back in the past. There’s a lot of asides to the camera when she’s addressing the audience. The change in her expression combined with the overdub of the male actor’s voice who we saw playing Zhang Peng for all of 5 minutes at the start of the first episode really sells that there’s a man inside someone who everyone else sees as the Crown Princess.
Then there’s the Crown Prince. It may sound like we’re making fun of the fact he almost always seems to be carved from a block of granite (and those few times he’s not, it’s just a step up to a slightly less dense stone) but for starters, his countenance is quite terrifying. Appropriate for someone with absolute power over almost everyone.
Also, when Zhang Peng gives an answer he doesn’t want to hear, there’s a subtle shift in his countenance that I thought made it clear that he’s quite furious and just a bit jealous. It’s some top notch work here precisely because there’s so little movement that conveys this.
I really think there’s trouble on the horizon and I think we’re going to find out really soon into the next episode. I guess we’ll see you then.