Funn’s Thoughts: The Baffling Non-Existent Palace Struggle in “The Confidant”

Funn’s Note: The following are not episode recaps but are ramblings and torrents of disbelief for The Confidant <大太監>. All merely personal opinion.

Watched until episode 29…

You know, there are so many things I love about The Confidant. The acting, some characters like An Dehai, Pang Sam Soon and of course Li Lianying who is slowly becoming more of a man than a coward. There are some characters I love to hate, like Seung Hei, Cixi and of course the one destined for most hate, Cian. And also Tim Sau. In fact by the end of episode I believe 29, I am convinced Cian and Tim Sau caused the downfall of the empire and only Lianying and Cixi can save the empire! Very dangerous precedent this series is forming, as Yoda will say.

I also like some scenes in episode 29, such as Tongzhi explaining why he had given up on himself and dedicated his entire time to having fun, in one moving scene Sam Soon got down on his knees and tearfully said to the emperor, “Your majesty promised us loyal servants that you will always help us, you will always be on our side no matter what. But your majesty has broken your promise. Your loyal servant is now bullied and cornered by his enemies in all 4 corners and your majesty did not come to rescue me. Why your majesty has forsaken your promise?”

Tongzhi woke up for one split second from his angry moment and explained why… “Mother said I am useless. Those ministers talk behind my back and call me useless. I am nothing but a puppet emperor. So what if I do well? No one cares! Since everyone has marked me as a useless emperor, and so I shall be!!! I will be the most useless of them all!!” It was a very sad moment and I blame Cixi. I don’t get her; when he worked hard and sneaked out of the palace to actually see the problems of the people, she scolded him and said he was too stupid to make use of his ministers and therefore unfit to be emperor. I thought that was especially harsh and I was thinking, “What does she want him to do?!”

But on a good note, let me declare, I have forgiven Seung Hei! Why? Well the princess died when he was forced to go and administer medicine to Cian by that dastardly Tim Sau and so Seung Hei blamed Cian and scolded her. The moment he scolded her, I forgave him. He had the guts to say what he said,”You evil black hearted woman! Why are you still alive and all the good people dead? The princess didn’t deserve to die. But you, you deserve death and yet here you are, alive”. In modern speech, Seung Hei could have save his breath and just scream “DIE BITCH DIE!!!!!!” And when he was imprisoned as he explained why he refused to help Cian, the way he said it, I swear Seung Hei will go mad one day. He said with a tinge of a smile that grew into a full blown wide grin as he said, “Why won’t I? Right now, she would be feeling the full effects of her illness. She will be in tremendous pain, she will be suffering, and in 7 days, she will die. She deserves to die in the most painful way for what she did to the princess and Dehai” and I swear he was smiling. Kudos to Raymond Wong for that piece of fantastic acting, that satisfied look of a man who is happy to know his enemy is suffering. But of course it turns out Cian was well, not even sick and Seung Hei was baffled and he was carried away crying “WHY ARE YOU STILL ALIVE? WHY AREN’T YOU DEAD?! There is no justice in this world, there is no fairness, you evil black hearted woman, you are still alive when you should be in hell for what you did!!”

At that moment, I said “Seung Hei, bless you!” Yes I forgive him! I know he was selfish in An Dehai’s case but he was a fool for love. He was also not that nice when he knew the princess didn’t love him anymore but what he did after, the way he cared for her, the way he didn’t care if he lived or die as long as if he could save her, he will kill himself as sorry to An Dehai, the way he scolded Cian, made me forgive him. Lianying and Sam Soon have also forgiven him.

All these are the good stuff.

The Baffling Non-Existent Palace Struggle Story

And that is exactly what I don’t get. The entire story now until the end is the threat posed by Cian to the emperor and to Cixi and the empire and how Lianying came back to “clean the house of rubbish” as he puts it that way. So Tim Sau declared Lianying to be public enemy no. 1 and in return Lianying asks Cixi to give him a 4th ranked official as his title which is really very high and a pearl on top of his hat. Basically he is now “Big Eunuch”. Terribly exciting except…

where is the struggle?

First of, Cian is powerless. I don’t get Cixi don’t just chop off Tim Sau’s head? She said she gave up on her son who accused her of adultery with Dehai. Cian wants to make life hell for Cixi. So she made sure Tongzhi is a useless emperor having fun all day. BUT so? So the power struggle is…what? Because Cixi is still ruling the country. Cixi basically can just chop off Tim Sau’s head, kick out Chan Fuk and put Cian under house arrest. Why not since Cixi is RULING the country and Cian is doing what?

Secondly, the emperor is powerless. So what if Cian made him useless, how can that threaten Cixi? It only solidifies her position as Cixi now is the de-facto ruler. Make her feel heartsick? Like that will cause her hell?

Thirdly, Cian using the eunuchs for her grand plan of tormenting Cixi. But what eunuchs she used? Ling Tim Sau who is a joker to tell you the truth. Cian could have given Tim Sau a 4th rank position but she has no power to do so. Instead Cixi gave Lianying that ranking! So what’s the point of Tim Sau turning evil? What does he get in the end?

Finally, what is Cian’s grand plans anyway? Because the way I see it Prince Gong is still working well with Cixi! Prince Gong is a righteous man, he says what he thinks and what he sees. He is not evil. He is not even on Cian’s team. Cixi is still fine. So what is her grand plan? To be a nuisance? What a small minded “grand” plan that is!

The problem with The Confidant right now is it isn’t logical. Forget about historical accuracy. When An Dehai died, my historically accurate side went away with his death. I miss him so. For me the idea of Lianying killing the bad guys had me salivating. Their deaths will be deserving. I am not talking about that logic. I am talking about story integrity.

Here we have a story about power struggle but it was at the end a petty family squabble where one can right the damage but refuses (Cixi), one is going insane (Cian) and one who is torn in the middle (Tongzhi) with one by the side not aware what is happening (Prince Gong). It is not a reasonable power struggle. I mean so what if the emperor is useless? Cixi is there, she can run the country. What possible thing can Cian do to ruin Cixi’s life? Right now, probably killing her favourite eunuch, An Dehai, causing a misunderstanding between Tongzhi and Cixi but then nothing comes out of that misunderstanding.

Since history is screwed, why not follow half of real history? Why not show Cixi on Tongzhi’s good side and Tongzhi favouring Cian and push aside Cixi? Why not make Cian influence Prince Gong to hate Cixi? Why not Cian run the country, put Cixi under house arrest? Why not make it bigger and not make it so petty?

I seriously do not get the so called power struggle because the way I see it Cixi is still in power comfortably. So all these stuff done by Tim Sau is pointless.

My prediction of the last episode will be Prince Gong forced to take out the letter punishing Cixi. I suppose maybe I will get to see Prince Gong being misled about Cixi and at the end dramatically save Cixi. Or maybe not. Maybe Lianying will kill the enemies but the way I see it, the enemies probably fall down and hit their own heads and die. Both Cixi and Lianying’s hands will be free of blood since like I said, series is going all out to show them in a good light. Perhaps when Tongzhi dies, Cian switches back to good woman role.

Because my biggest problem with this series is making Cian the villain. It doesn’t make sense for her grand plan, whatever that is. I would have hoped Cixi was stubborn and unreasonable. Why not make Prince Gong the bad guy? I mean leave Cian alone!

But Maggie Shiu is masterful as Cian. When she was very sick, I could hear her voice trembling. When she is evil, there is a certain satisfaction in her voice. Absolutely fantastic performance.

Natalie Tong is the poor empress but again so little time, so little to do. I just feel there are some good characters wasted and they’re not the eunuchs. But since this series is about eunuchs, I must say the focus is right. But the one person that is very related to the eunuchs is Cixi and I still find her bland. In fact I find her Cixi deep down in that heart of hers is one evil minded woman. Because I just don’t get her. Cian I know. She will be mad soon. But Cixi and the way she scolded her son at the beginning doesn’t make sense.

But at least it is interesting with Lianying back in the palace and a changed man. He was always the coward and An Dehai the gungho guy. Even in death An Dehai retained his gungho-ness. Lianying whilst is happy outside with his sifu, Sin Yung and their adopted son, inside he is struggling with his anger. He is angry because he new An Dehai was wrongly accused and died pitifully. I was thinking please don’t show him returning to the palace to save Cixi. And thankfully, in one of the best moments in this episode, right up there with Seung Hei scolding and cursing Cian, is Lianying saying he wants to go back to the palace to avenge An Dehai’s death. Same goes for Seung Hei who vows to fight Cian to avenge for the princess and An Dehai’s death. Everybody got his (and his) priorities right. That is perhaps the most logical moment. Of course Lianying was also right when he said “Eunuchs scheming against one another for power is expected and I won’t argue with that. But using the emperor’s well being as a pawn is something I will not accept.”

Good point! Even if I don’t get how one Lianying can save the palace. Because there are no other eunuchs?

Anyway episode 29 featured a short conversation between Lianying, Sinyung and one young scholar named Kang youwei (Hong Yau Wai) and he proposes that an emperor that can’t even rule over his own household can’t possibly be trusted to rule over the empire. Meaning if you can’t even straighten your household, what more can you do for the empire? People must not be selfish to one’s own needs and must do what is right. That and his deep desire to avenge Dehai’s death drove Lianying back into the palace, with Sinyung’s blessing.

So is this Kang Youwei real?

Google says.. YES!! Got pictures also!!


Who is he?

Political reformer hated by Cixi.

There, history screwed again but oh who cares!! Lianying, KILL! KILL! KILL!!!

Oh how TVB has brainwashed me!

Related Commentaries on “The Confidant”

This commentary is written by Funn Lim and was originally posted at

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  1. i am dissappointed with the story, start up quite good and at the end the story line quite lame. Sounds like Tim Sau basically turn the palace upside down. He is only medium rank eunuch.

    1. I agree, ever since An De Hai’s eventual downfall began. It seems forced and has slightly lost steam although we have the final 4 episodes to go, so we’ll see how they play out.

  2. I was hoping Michelle would turn evil one day but she seems helpless in the series just let Cian to bully her. Tim Sau’s enormous power in the palace is illogical. That guy can just kicked Elliot to floor while Elliot’s rank is considered the biggest eunuch too right?

    1. Cause Cian supported him and now she withdraws her support for Tim Sau, see the correlation? Very logical

      1. No corelation and not logical, unless you add that Cixi also hates him for causing An Dehai’s death. If not it doesn’t make sense since when has Cian ever had any power at all?

      2. P/S Michelle will never turn evil. This series is obvious from day 1 is pro Cixi.

      3. Yea, it’s pretty logical and there’s a correlation. Cixi has probably never taken any real notice of Tim Sau since his role wasn’t as important. You’re also forgetting Chan Fuk is probably her top priority over Tim Sau. Seung Hai was the culprit who sealed the deal on Cian’s plan so it all fits nicely. She may hate him, but I guarantee you if anything her concerns will be towards Cian more.

        Cian doesn’t have any politcal power so to speak but her power is very real. Bear in mind they both have to approve of policies so even if she doesn’t wield it like Cixi in making all the decisions for the country, she is a major influence if she wants to be. She just hasn’t exercised it like Cixi in the series but when she wants something even Cixi has to take her into consideration such as the wedding for Ang DeHai. So yes, her power is very real in a different way.

      4. I don’t get why Cixi needs to turn evil or if this series is pro-Cixi. All I see from this series is things are from Cixi’s perspective. People do things based on their own judgment and reason accordingly based on their own ideleologies. For example, do you think Hitler thought he doing evil when he set into motion the Holocaust? If Nazi Germany won WW2, do you think history will remember him as an evil man? We would most likely all be hailing the Fuhrer like the Chinese did with Mao during the height of his cult.

        This Cixi is more in line with the recent biographies of her after “The Dragon Lady” was published some 20 years ago. A closer examination of her based on diaries and letters of people who had actually met her and not based off the material source by people who connected plots and dots together by themselves. If you remember back to the episode with the story teller getting Lianying all pissed off, that’s more in line with how people know her today. Through half-lies and half-truth but believing it like it’s actual history.

        She just also happened to be born at the wrong time as she precided over a decaying dynasty. At this point in time, she probably didn’t suspect that the Qing Dynasty would be ending anytime soon. Her biography as a cruel greedy tyrant was written by Edmund Backhouse for western viewing pleasure and in 1991 they proved that the diary he used as his main source was in fact fraudulent.

        It’s like saying Cao Cao was evil cause you read ROTK, but in reality it was probably the times that forced it onto him. Either eat or be eaten.

  3. I’d rather there be a little more focus on the politics of the time instead of the eunuch love stories. If they really want to showcase Cixi in a good light, show how she settled the Taiping Rebellion where no one else could. Probably her most positive contribution.

    Prince Gong also not doing much. He actually did some big things in terms of dealing with foreigners, but the series only makes passing mention. He had quite a lot of power before being ousted by Cixi, yet the power struggle between Prince Gong and Cixi is almost non-existent save for that decree. You’re right, should have made Prince Gong the villain instead of Ci’an.

    Sidenote: Prince Gong was responsible for negotiating the Convention of Peking to end the Second Opium War ( He also had a big part in the Self-Strengthening Movement, which was only shown at the beginning of the series, with the bicycle and talk about building a railroad.

    And I’ll bet no one knows which one is Prince Chun. He’s the father of the future Guangxu, so has some significance too. But all he’s doing is standing there. His name has literally been mentioned once throughtout the whole series.

    1. I agree, a bit more politics would have been nice. The eunuch’s love stories on a whole were just shallow and felt like they were inserted in just so they could wrap things up near the end. Lots of time wasted on driving the point home about how they’re human, can love but can’t have kids and how pitiful they are in general.

      I still don’t see the Cixi in a good light thing going on. She acts with the dignity befitting of a monarch and probably has EQ that’s through the roof after governing for a decade and juggling external and internal pressure. But I keep in mind this is from her perspective and during this era, it was relatively peaceful anyway so I guess the focus was more on the internal workings of the palace rather then any serious external threats. I do think though that Prince Gong should’ve been kept around longer.

      I know which one is Prince Chun. It was kind of obvious when they were all eating at the table discussing Tongzhi’s marriage and then he mentions something about politics and Cixi immediately asks why he’s so rattled up about it when he’s usually so docile. He might have a bigger role if there’s a sequel as he fills in for Prince Gong but I have a feeling he’ll be overshadowed by the other big players like Kang Youwei (political reformer who spoke to Lianying and convinced him he needed to go back), Yuan Shiki, Sun Yat-sen (probably a smaller background role till later), etc.

      1. The love stories are seriously annoying because it’s always like “I love you, but I’m not a real man, go find someone else who is.” At least if they show more of the Emperor-Empress love story, where the Emperor IS a real man. Natalie Tong’s role is basically useless here.

        Honestly, I don’t even remember if that was the scene with Prince Chun because he has such little significance. If there is a sequel, he does need a somewhat bigger role. The guy who played Kang Youwei is Stanley Cheung (Ka Ming from WHB), I wonder if the same guy would be cast in a sequel.

    2. Yes know about Prince Chun except for a while I thought he was Puyi’s great great rgreat grandfather of something.

  4. I am extremely disappointed with this drama – almost to the point of despising it!

  5. No doubt the acting for this drama is first class but my older logical adult self cannot accept the plot. I keep on thinking Moonlight Resonance and fear yelling and clapping and song breaking out in random scenes.

    Disrespect, insolence, or committing crimes/errors such that the eunuchs have committed were easy grounds to be punished by death. Even if death was avoided there were literally hundreds or thousands of other eunuchs patiently waiting their turn. So instead of showcasing the head eunuchs as smarter and a step ahead of everyone – writers/directors opted to just make everyone else dumber.

  6. The mention about Cian’s tedious and pointless plotting reminded me of an episode of Drew Carey (old US comedy) where several employees vowed to make one middle manager’s everyday life hell for 10 years (like by throwing sawdust in his coffee or making sure there is no toilet paper when he goes to the bathroom) because he accidentally caused each of them to miss a major event or lose a promotion.

  7. The cast for The Confidant is undoubtedly great, with Wayne, Michelle, Raymond Cho, Power Chan (Love him in this) etc. However, I find the plot is lacking in some ways. Some episodes are fine but the others do not flow that smoothly, my personal opinion though

  8. Holy cow… I’m on episode 22 right now and I’m shocked to read about all the twists. I thought all along that An Dehai was going to be the villain for the latter half of the series. That’s A LOT of stuff to happen in 8 episodes.

  9. This series is rubbish have been fast-forward the last 10 episodes I think. A total waste of time.

  10. I am convinced Seung Hei will never die. He is living, amongst us now! Why?

    1. fell for princess – didn’t die
    2. eloped with princess – didn’t die
    3. aborted princess child without consent – didn’t die
    4. framed Cixi – didn’t die
    5. framed An De hai – didn’t die but Cixi refused to help him. But why not KILL him?
    6. beaten to a pulp by Tim Sau – just a few drops of blood
    7. Insulted Cian – didn’t die
    8. Vowed to kill himself when princess is cured. Since princess is dead, he still didn’t kill himself
    9 betrayed his friend- no one even thought of at least slapping him 10 times like Damien did to Vincent in SSSS

    I am waiting for 10. I am convinced; Seung Hei is a vampire. He sucks the logic out of why is he still alive at this point.

    And I still don’t get why a big eunuch like Chan Fuk would do what he did to be kicked out and then do what he did to be big eunuch again and yet get kicked out, again.

    Maybe life is indeed too simple and peachy in forbidden palace- need some drama.

    The only one sorta on point in character wise is Tong Zhi.

  11. Hate to agree that the plot is not as thick as some other ancient series and lost some steam towards the end. But, in another light, it’s good that I don’t have to be too worked up over it. Some series like the Curse of Royal Harem, they get me all so frustrated and ‘excited’ cuz the schemings too damn high, lol…with The Confidant, I’d say the level is bearable. Kinda like……peaceful.

  12. Remember this?

    1. fell for princess – didn’t die
    2. eloped with princess – didn’t die
    3. aborted princess child without consent – didn’t die
    4. framed Cixi – didn’t die
    5. framed An De hai – didn’t die but Cixi refused to help him. But why not KILL him?
    6. beaten to a pulp by Tim Sau – just a few drops of blood
    7. Insulted Cian – didn’t die
    8. Vowed to kill himself when princess is cured. Since princess is dead, he still didn’t kill himself
    9 betrayed his friend- no one even thought of at least slapping him 10 times like Damien did to Vincent in SSSS”

    I have a 10.

    10. coercing others in attempted assassination of the emperor – didn’t die


    He is now a vigilante serial killer except perhaps his last act of killing will be himself.

    The only consistent character in terms of history and logic is Tong Zhi. Poor boy, dying.

    And it is not spoilers by the way. He did die, at 18 but of course in this series they gave him a few more years so I suppose those are bargain years.

    1. Sheung Hei still didn’t die at the end, LOL!! What the heck, right?? He attempted to strangle Cian but still lived. Not bad, haha…

      1. Yes, I forgot.

        11. poisoning a few maids, attempted poisoning of Cian and attempted murder on cian by strangling – STILL LIVES


      2. He’s the true ‘for fung wong’ aka fire Phoenix that never dies instead of Sam Shun, if you ask me! *continues laughing from the ridiculousness*

      3. After watching the finale, I too am convinced Seung Hai is either the real Phoenix or the God of Medicine in the flesh blessed with logic defying capabilities. So many reasons to die just bounce and deflect off him and he gets a free ticket out of the capital. The closest he came to death was when Cian said “He tried to kill me, off with his head!” but oddly enough everyone just seemed to ignore that order and tossed him in a cell so he could “cool off his head and think on it”.

        I feel his character was written just so it could serve as a cataylst for others to change and because he was devoted to his love that he somehow was granted immunity in all wrongdoings for the sake of love.

        That’s just poor and lazy script writing.

    2. Tongzhi dying was the best part imo of this finale. A last stroke of sudden brilliance for an emperor who didn’t do much with his life but in his dying moment he saw everything clearly for one brief moment and took it upon himself to perform one final deed for his mother whom he misunderstood for the majority of his life.

      I would’ve given that scene a nomination for the Best Scene Award if they had one.

  13. I told you guys a couple of weeks ago that this series was a disappointment and poorly scripted yet many people were raving on how great it was.

    I’m only watching it as there’s nothing else to watch. I rate this series 5/10. I’ve still got the 4 remaining eps to watch but I suggest those who haven’t seen any. Then don’t even bother.

    I thought the curse of the royal harem was better…. Atleast more scheming.

    1. Curse of the royal harem was rubbish and some awful performances. At least The Confidant has consistent good performances by everyone, Natalie Tong included.

      1. Hmm, I beg to differ. Curse of Royal Harem wasn’t that bad. In fact, the ending of Myolie and Joel was very touching! Performances was good by all of the casts, except for the miscasting of Jessica in her role. And I did say before that CRH has more evil plots and schemes than The Confidant, thus giving me more heartburns. So in some ways, I’m glad The Confidant isn’t as complicated and has less of heart boiling moments.

      2. “In fact, the ending of Myolie and Joel was very touching!”

        If I remember correctly, wasn’t that the scene with ridiculous CGI and lame accidental death? The only one worth watching was Joel in that series though. And maybe Cheung Kwok Keung as the loyal eunuch. Never mind Myolie being OTT or Jessica’s blandness, the worst performance I found (or was it the character’s fault?) came from Gigi Wong. Unfortunately.

      3. Well.. we watch these dramas for the dramas!

        Its a waste of time to just watch something that floats about with not much happening. Forget about historical accuracy and relevance, if you want that.. watch a documentary. We want drama, claws, teeth and memorable scenes..

        I’m not doubting the performances of the casts in TC.. it’s just the storyline… zZZzzZZZzzzzz.

        Btw.. i think Wayne Lai is a way over-rated actor. Don’t get why so many people like him.. he seems be playing the same character no matter which character he is portraying..

      4. Hmm, skinnymocha…was there any CGI in their death scene? Dont recall…but I thought the love they have for each other was quite good when they finally died together. Yeah, I like KK Cheung in his potrayal too!! He’s always so underrated…even as Prince Gong in The Confidant – his role was quite significant, yet nothing for him in awards or recognition!!

      5. There wasn’t any CGI? Was this the one with the cheesy sunset scene? Argh, I need to go rewatch it then. As for KK Cheung, he’s been so consistently good that people probably take him for granted.

  14. Just watched the finale. Feeble attempt to align with history at the end.

  15. Can some history expert explain to me who is this 薄伦 guy that Natalie wants Oscar to pass the throne to? Why does making him the king makes Natalie the next empress dowager? He cannot be Oscar’s kid right?!

    1. Historically, Natalie’s character wanted to be the Dowager Empress but Cixi prevented this from happening. She was isolated and eventually hanged herself, when her father refused to come to her aid when he responded to her request for aid, “You know what to do.”

      Before every Emperor dies, he leaves a decree/will dictating who will inherit the throne and who will be the Regent. If Natalie’s plan went accordingly, she would be the Dowager Empress and rule like Cixi with a young puppet Emperor on the throne.

      Cixi and Cian will become Great/Grand Dowager Empress. In name, they will be of higher rank than Natalie. However in reality Natalie will hold absolute power.

      1. Really don’t get why people keep saying that TVB brainwashes people or distorts history?

        You all have a brain….. So use it!

      2. Hardly think kids believe everything they see on tv.. especially historical drama.

        They can distinguish the difference between movie dramas and docos.

    1. I doubt they know nor care who is Cixi or Cian since they probably can’t read much anyway. Someone told me this series is dangerous. It changes history, it changes perceptions. I wouldn’t say I agree with her assessment, since we can all find out for ourselves with a bit of research. But I admit it can be a powerful motivator in the sense either you’re so curious you will google and form an opinion or you accept what it is and start to doubt the generally accepted opinion.

      1. it happen to my sister daughter after watching TC. This little girl owns facebook about 20 friends mostly relatives include me.She started google disneyland, legoland where her elder brother taught her.
        She cant read , the most she see image, in other words she is starting using her brain on history facts

      2. Yes indeed this series distorted history facts.Comment by “Djojs” make sense, we watch TVB Drama mainly for entertainment.
        As for me I had read numerous books on Cixi,but after watching TC I still google for real facts

  16. @Funn Lim , forget to comment regards to your many posting at this site..I always enjoy reading your post and comment, you are good . Thanks

  17. I thought in history it was stated that the evil Empress was Cixi and Cian was often described as the benevolent one.

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