Princess Agents Episode 1 Recap
Princess Agents is a Chinese drama adapted from the novel 11處特工皇妃 (11 Chu Te Gong Huang Fei) by Xiao Xiang Dong Er. The drama is set during the Warring Period where Western Wei enslaved a large number of civilians. Jing Xiao Liu [Zhao Li Ying/Zanilia Zhao] is a lowborn woman with a mysterious past who becomes a slave in the mighty Yuwen household and is reunited with her siblings. After her older brother and sister die, she vows to fight to protect the remainder of her family (two younger siblings) and becomes involved with the Prince of Northern Yan, Yan Xun [Dou Xiao/Shawn Dou], and the fourth young master of Yuwen Manor, Yuwen Yue [Lin Geng Xin].
If you are familiar with the novel this drama is based, the plots are similar in the major events, but also very different. The original novel is about a top secret agent who is killed in an explosion during a mission and whose consciousness either travels to the past or to another dimension where she lands in the body of a seven year-old child. All of the main cast are children to teens initially, so you can understand why the production crew and scriptwriters went the way they did. Just a tidbit of information for you there.
The drama opens with a woman falling into water and sinking hard and fast until she slams into a rock. Most people in this world know who they are, but this woman does not. I think partly because of the fall, our leading lady does have some memory issues, but she hasn’t forgotten everything—it’s just jumbled and fragmented. Also, after the fall the marking of a flower on the woman’s back completely disappears like magic. This young woman wonders who she is and how she can survive in this chaotic world that she lives in. She has a hazy memory of a woman calling “Chu Qiao” and telling the young girl in her memories to become strong before riding away. This young girl then runs home to her father where he says her name is now Jing Xiao Liu, so who is she exactly? We then get a montage of scenes of the young girl being trained, fighting in a battle, and a brief glimpse of the fight that sent her over a cliff into the water below.
Jing Xiao Liu is picked up and put into a carriage filled with frightened women who have no idea just where they are being taken to. She is befriended by a young girl known only as “Curly Hair” [Jiang Yi Yi]. When asked her own name in return, she hesitates before responding with “Jing Xiao Liu.” Curly hair asks what Xiao Liu did that was wrong and Xiao Liu replies she caused big trouble. Xiao Liu’s stomach picks this time to rumble ravenously and Curly Hair takes out her meager food to share. Xiao Liu is touched and assures Curly Hair that she does not have to fear since she is there with her.
The carriages of young women then stop at an encampment near some dunes and they are ushered into tents where they are forced to change into white clothes with characters embroidered on them. Xiao Liu stares a the clothing while Curly Hair says she feels something is very wrong. Oh, this little girl has no idea just how wrong it is. If I compare what will happen with events from Western history, think gladiators and the coliseum and the sports done at the expense of slaves’ lives.
We then shift to a city where a group of young men wildly run through the streets to the screams of women’s delight. Of course, they do cause issues with their recklessness and wild riding – nearly injuring citizens and overturning carts. The young men are the Prince of Northern Yan, Yan Xun; the 13th Prince of Wei State, Yuan Song [Niu Jun Feng]; the eldest son of the Wei household, Wei Suye [Chen Si Han]; the second son of the Zhao household, Zhao Xifeng [Jin Han]; and Yuwen Huai [Wang Yan Lin] who is the grandchild of the third concubine of the Yuwen household. As you can imagine, Huai’s status is much lower given he is only the child of a concubine and this constantly causes dissatisfaction for him and the drive to elevate himself above the others.
Yuan Song complains of their recklessness which has endangered the citizens and Huai talks of a game he has made just for them outside the city. He then asks Prince Yan Xun (this prince is a hostage prince—he is there as leverage to keep his father in check) where his best friend Yuwen Yue is. Yan Xun laughs and says his friend follows his heart and the group leaves to have fun without him. Although, laughter is soon cast aside when the noble gentleman learn what Huai has planned. They are on a platform overlooking the group of maids that were brought in earlier. The maids wear white clothing with the names of the men. The game is simple…the men must protect their maids which the others will be targeting…and lets add in very hungry and angry wolves that will be uncaged to prey upon the women as well.
Yuan Song is horrified by this and refuses to participate in something so barbaric. Xifeng, however, is all for this cruel game. Even if Yuan Song doesn’t participate, his maids will still be slaughtered. Wei Suye also doesn’t seem completely happy with this and at first urges a change to the game, but decides it will be fine as long as he protects his maids. Yuwen Huai then starts goading Yan Xun who comes from a noble background with a great fighter as a father. Yan Xun says that he uses his sword to kill traitors and rebels, not innocent women. Yuwen Huai says that these maids are all sentenced to death. If they survive until one incense stick is burned, then the death sentence will be repealed. Yuan Song tries to delay the start of the game that Xifeng is eager to play by stating Yuwen Yue has still not arrived. Yuwen Haui smirks and says that Yuwen Yue is probably at home playing with a girl.
We then get to meet Yuwen Yue. He returns to his manor to read and there is a maid warming his bed with her naked body. She urges him to come to her and he does listen. She complains that it is impolite to make a woman make the first move. Yuwen Yue counters by saying if he moves first, then he will not be able to see her skills. She rolls on top of him and leans in close and out pops a blade from her mouth. Yuwen Yue easily dodges and the maid rolls off the bed and quickly dresses herself in the bed drapery. She then pulls out thin needles and launches them at him before trying to escape through the window. Yuwen Yue easily catches her needles and launches them back interrupting her escape attempt.
Yuwen Yue puts on his outer robe once more and walks out. The maid asks how he knew it was a setup. From the beginning as everything the maid did to kill him was wrong. You see, he has already survived so many assasisation attempts. While this was the first time anyone tried a “honey trap” (using a woman to kill him), it was still not enough to trick him into letting his guard down. His cousin Yuwen Huai will be disappointed once more. Guards arrive and Yuwen Yue goes to leave. The maid shouts that he is poisoned with something from the incense burner—does he not want the cure? Yuwen Yue calmly replies she is the one who has been poisoned and asks his righthand man Yue Qi [Xin Shao Lin] to get him his horse. Yuwen Yue then digs in his heels and goes to find Yuwen Huai at the hunting grounds. The interesting thing to note is that it is daylight at the hunting fields, but nearly dark at Yuwen Yue’s…weird time inconsistency.
An interesting thing to note is that throughout this series, Yuwen Yue and Xiao Liu/Chu Qiao have very stoic expressions. These two are good at schooling their emotions and not showing what they really feel or think. So…when you see these two emoting, it’s a pleasant surprise. And just because their characters aren’t expressing themselves openly often, it is not dull or bad by any means.
Back at the hunting grounds, the hunt is underway. Xifeng and Yuwen Huai are having fun targeting the easiest targets—the maids. So not only must Xiao Liu and Curly Hair survive the unleashed wolves, they need to survive the arrows being shot at them. Curly Hair cannot believe they have become sport for the nobility like this. Yuan Song is horrified by the carnage and begs the superiorly skilled Yan Xun to save the maids. Yan Xun then begins targeting the wolves as does Yuan Song (Yan Xun’s arrows hit the target more often than Yuan Song’s). Xiao Liu is a born leader. She does try not only to save herself and Curly Hair, but she also tries to lead the other maids to freedom and safety.
During the ensuing carnage, Yan Xun saves Xiao Liu and Curly Hair from Yuwen Huai and the wolves several times. Yuwen Huai is quite interested in Xiao Liu because she manages to dodge several arrows herself and she also fights back and kills a few wolves as well. To the men she has natural talent, but does not display the necessary skills to show she is trained in any martial arts. Yuwen Huai complains it is not fun when Yan Xun shoots down his arrows aimed at Xiao Liu—doesn’t Yan Xun want the princess’ fine wine? Nope. Yan Xun has no interest in the wine, but he is very interested in having that maid. Yuwen Huai had better not harm her.
Yuwen Yue arrives at the hunting grounds and stays out of sight of his “friends” and guards while viewing the site below him with an impassive face. Meanwhile, it’s at this time Xiao Liu is cornered by two wolves and shows her awesome skills thus catching even Yuwen Yue’s eye. Of course, being human and not having her full martial arts skills, Xiao Liu does take damage to her shoulder and leg from the wolves’ fangs, but she persists and defeats them. Xiao Liu then rushes back just in time to save Curly Hair from another wolf. Yuwen Huai is impressed, but it’s time to bring this bloody game to an end. He calls for horses to pursue the remaining maids who band together to try to run away and survive.
One by one the remainder of the maids falls to arrows and wolves until only Curly Hair and Xiao Liu are left. It is at this time that the whistling arrow is released to signify the incense stick has burnt completely. Of course, Yuwen Huai being the scum that he is, ignores the rules he set forth and releases another arrow and this time Curly Hair is the target. After trying so hard to survive together, Xiao Liu is horrified to see the younger woman die. Despite the complaints being hurled at Yuwen Huai, he releases another arrow as there must be no survivors. Yan Xun also shoots to try to shoot down the other man’s arrow, but no luck. Instead, Yuwen Yue actually goes into action and brings out a crossbow loaded with a special weapon. As it hurls through the air, the ice surrounding a thin needle quickly melts and stops Yuwen Huai’s arrow in the nick of time. Thus Xiao Liu becomes the sole survivor of the hunt. Ironically enough, she is wearing the clothes with Yuwen Yue’s name on them so he wins by default even though he did not participate.
Xifeng teases Yuwen Huai saying that even he misses sometimes. Yan Xun smiles happily that the woman he tried hard to save has survived. Yuwen Yue decides that he has save her here and now her fate is in her own hands. He leaves without ever making his presence known, but Yan Xun definitely suspects something. Anywho, Xifeng cannot resist teasing Yuwen Huai more after Yan Xun compliments how talented the maids are in the Yuwen household. Xifeng laughs and states that Xiao Liu now belongs to Yuwen Yue and not Yuwen Huai. Wei Suye then states they must keep their promise and pardon the surviving maid. Yuwen Huai asks how can he possibly pardon a guilty maid. Yan Xun laughs. Since Yuwen Huai cheated it is no wonder that he cannot keep his promise to save Xiao Liu. Yuan Song then declares that as a prince of Wei, he will officially pardon the maid. Yuwen Huai then leaves in a sulky huff.
The others turn to follow and only Yan Xun remains behind smiling as he watches Xiao Liu. Men come to clean up the dead bodies, but Xiao Liu refuses to relinquish Curly Hair. She is thus kicked and beaten until she lets go. She is then brought to Yan Xun and is forced to kneel in front of him. He reaches out to touch her head and she jerks back and yells at him not to touch her. Yan Xun smiles at this show of rebellion and looks at the needled in his hand. Yuwen Yue is indeed impressive. He then looks back to Xiao Liu and asks for her name. Xiao Liu responds saying that she will never give him her name until the day she no longer needs to humble herself before him. She is then picked up and dragged away. He calls after her saying she is the most interesting person he’s ever met. He walks towards the steward and tells him to take Xiao Liu back safely. Once Yan Xun gives his warning, he walks away and the steward says that Xiao Liu will pay for upsetting Yuwen Huai.
Steward Zhu brings Xiao Liu to the Yuwen Yue household and hands her over to the head maid who says she is not a maid of their household. Zhu then tells her what happened and how Xiao Liu angered Yuwen Huai and made him lose his bet. He then asks the other woman to lock Xiao Liu in the woodshed and treat her poorly to make her suffer as payback. Xiao Liu is conscious enough to hear this. Meanwhile, another male slave is hiding and listening as well. It seems he recognizes Xiao Liu and is not happy with Steward Zhu’s evil plan.
Xiao Liu lays in the woodshed with her untreated wounds. What kind of world is it that she lives in? Those rich lords were crueler and scarier than the hungry wolves. To them, people’s lives meant nothing. She grabs handful of straw and vows to make them pay someday. It’s at this time the door opens and in comes the male slave we saw earlier. Xiao Liu struggles to sit up and he quickly kneels beside her. There is no need to be afraid, he is her fifth brother. Xiao Liu looks confused. Her brother? Yes, her fifth brother (older than her since he uses “ge” versus “di”), doesn’t she remember him? He says that she has probably forgotten since she left home years ago.
Fifth brother then touches her arm and Xiao Liu flinches. How is it that his little sister is hurt so badly? He helps Xiao Liu to sit against a pile of wood. How did she survive the evil hunting grounds? 30 maids were taken and she was the only survivor. He then asks to see all of her wounds. She weakly tells him that she is fine. Fifth brother than hangs his head an apologizes. He slams his fist into the ground and says it is all his fault for not being able to protect her. Xiao Liu is quick to say that it isn’t his fault at all. He then gathers himself and says she must be hungry. He pulls out a small bowl heaped to the top with rice, vegetables, and a piece of meat. Xiao Liu refuses the food over and over again. Fifth brother says she must not be stubborn as she needs to eat since she needs nourishment to recover from her wounds. Xiao Liu says she does not eat fat and fifth brother quickly eats the fat on the meat and asks again if she will eat. Xiao Liu nods.
My guess, since she doesn’t really have much of a memory left, this is a test. She overhears Zhu and the head maid talking about torturing her, so she is making certain the food is not poisoned. Thus, fifth brother would not have taken a giant bite of the food if it was. This proves the food is safe for her to eat.
Xiao Liu eats and tears up. Is it delicious? Xiao Liu replies it is the most delicious meal she’s ever eaten. Fifth brother is happier watching her eat and having her like the food versus if he was just eating it himself. Fifth brother scolds her for saying something like that when she is still so young. He then says that was her favorite food when she was home. She always gave him the fat to eat. He then says that he will do everything to protect her and make her happy. Does Xiao Liu trust him? Xiao Liu smiles and nods. Fifth brother explains he is a personal servant of Yuwen Yue and he is a middle ranked servant among those that wear copper bells. Her older sister and two younger sisters are also in the Yuwen household as well. Xiao Liu grabs his hand and asks after them. They are just fine. He will have two of them look after her while he gets her some medicine.
Fifth brother, whose name is Lin Xi, meets with Zhi Xiang who quickly asks after Xiao Liu. He tells her that Xiao Liu is heavily injured. What can they do to get medicine for Xiao Liu? Zhi Xiang tells Lin Xi that Yuwen Yue is hold hearted and since Lin Xi just started as his personal assistant, he cannot ask their master directly. Also, since Madame Song (the head maid lady) and Steward Zhu are out to kill Xiao Liu, they need to be very careful. Zhi Xiang promises to think of a way to get the medicine for their younger sister. This worries Lin Xi, but she tells him not to as saving Xiao Liu is their top priority.
The next day Yuwen Yue is out shooting arrows with Yan Xun watching and giving him praise for his great skill (a lot of arrows around the tiny circle that is the middle of the target. Yuwen Yue says that during the hunt none of Yan Xun’s arrows missed their intended target. Is the prince through with playing around?Yan Xun says he is still fooling around, but as a prince living in this country, he must have skills to compete against the other nobles with skills. Thus archery and horseback riding are his indulgences. Yan Xun then asks how Yuwen Yue knew he never missed a shot. Not waiting for an answer, Yan Xun changes to the topic to Princess Yuan Chun [Li Qin], affectionately called Chun’er. This princess of Wei (and Yuan Song’s sister) is obsessed with Yan Xun and wishes to throw him a birthday party.
Yan Xun then begs Yuwen Yue to help him escape from the princess’s clutches and all the fuss it would mean with her throwing the party. Yuwen Yue coldly asks why he should help his friend. Yan Xun quickly says he lacks the skills Yuwen Yue has for infighting and the like, so please can’t his friend help him? This doesn’t seem to please our cold-faced young master and he walks away saying Yan Xun’s mother is the dowager empress’s favorite adopted daughter while his father is close friends with the emperor. Doesn’t it make sense that they throw a party for Yan Xun then?Yan Xun again states he does not want Chun’er to throw him the party. The princess is innocent and spunky and determined to glue herself to his side while he just views her as an adorable little sister. Yuwen Yue then agrees to host the party and invite all the dandies like Yan Xun so this way he can keep his distance from Chun’er.
Hearing this pleases Yan Xun greatly and he brings the topic back again to the hunt now that he’s gotten what he wanted. He hands back the needle he took from Xiao Liu’s hair and tells Yuwen Yue not to say he owes him anything in the future. He then asks why Yuwen Yue saved that maid since that is not something he would normally do. Yuwen Yue keeps his stone face and asks Yan Xun to just say what is on his mind. Yan Xun says his friend is really odd. Does he have a crush on the maid? Yuwen Yue states he is simply a maid. If that is the case, can Yuwen Yue give the girl to Yan Xun? She is a fighter and reminds him of the wildcats on the steppes of his home country. She even fought off the wolves! Yuwen Yue gets up and tells Yan Xun that he can take Xiao Liu if he really likes her. Yan Xun repeats his words and says if he is not careful, he really will take the girl away.
The acting is good and even the CGI is decent compared to some very low-budget CGI normally seen in dramas. I love the moments we have Xiao Liu and Yuwen Yue together as well as Yan Xun and Xiao Liu. This drama has quite the complicated plot and there are times that you cannot understand what is going on in our leads’ minds. This drama aired several episodes a week, so trying to keep up with it was quite hard, so I waited on recaps making sure this wouldn’t turn into a drama I completely hated. Thus I am doing these now. There is a TV version and an uncut version for this show. Uncut is generally better than the TV versions and I always recommend watching those if you can find them. Through all of this episode and more so throughout the series, I kept trying to figure out why Duo Xiao was so familiar to me. I finally figured it out. He played 14th Prince in the Palace movie that starred Ivy Chen and Zhao Li Ying as well.