In old China, being a daughter-in-law means having to be obedient and subservient to parents-in-law. In Meili's case, having just mother-in-law was more than enough to cause her endless miseries. This classic mother-in-law and daughter-in-law problem was further compounded by her favouritism towards another daughter-in-law, first wife Su Ying.
Su Ying's parents were typical of those who wished for their daughter to 'marry up' the social ladder. She tried her level best to be close and be nice to the Empress Dowager and Emperor so that she could be matched with a prince, and that person happened to be Qing Xuan. Having identified their target, Su Ying had been exceptionally nice to Qing Xuan's widowed mother. The Emperor actually decreed that they be married. But because Qing Xuan fell in love with Princess Meili, it was compromised that Su Ying be the first wife and Meili second. This was further complicated by having the second wife married first! So it was to be a loveless marriage with first wife and a more loving but troublesome marriage with second wife.
In the old days, being housewives meant living with parents-in-law, though in this case, in different sections of the family house.
In the previous episode, it was clear that Meili's son, Yun Ke, could never be made a prince like his half-brother, Yun Jue. Therefore, the only way for Yun Ke to be successful was by being meritorious in his studies. At an assessment examination, it was clear that Yun Ke was way ahead of Yun Jue. When asked about his performance, Yun Ke said he was able to answer all the questions, while Yun Jue said he could only answer one!
However Yun Ke's prospect of being able to excel and be successful later, by excelling in his studies was shortlived. There were efforts by official Ke Tu, who was instigated by Su Ying's father Zha Mu Lang, to introduce a palace requirement that the students must be of princely status instead of just being meritorious in studies. Knowing full well the unfavourable implication of this rule on Yun Ke, Qing Xuan strongly opposed it. But with only Prince Ning to support him, they were outnumbered by the other officials. The Emperor had no choice but to agree to the proposal.
Later, a small group of officials were commenting on Qing Xuan's reason for opposing the proposal and it touched on his personal wish for the benefit of his son, Yun Ke. Then, someone mentioned about the gossip going round about Yun Ke's doubtful parentage, that he could be Yong He's. Another disagreed, asking 'Why would Qing Xuan bother if Yun Ke is not his own son?' Qing Xuan overheard the conversations and he assaulted the one who started the malicious gossip. When he was attacking him, the Emperor happened to walk near and was furious at Qing Xuan's unbecoming behaviour.
Again, it was to be Qing Xuan's rash action which caused a royal dilemma. While Empress Dowager tried to explain the reason behind Qing Xuan's action, the Emperor had no choice but to make an example of his unbecoming behaviour of beating up a fellow official in public. He was to be exiled to Khejiang, until he repented.
Once again, Qing Xuan's mother was furious because her son acted rashly and it had again to do with Meili! She called her a 'black star' or someone who brings bad luck to the family.
Meanwhile, while Qing Xuan was packing for his trip and he saw a folded yellow cloth hidden behind his books. He thought to himself that if only this result (blood test) was favourable, things would have been different. When Su Ying came in, she noticed the bright yellow cloth and was visibly upset. Qing Xuan said she had been a good wife but he had not been a good husband. When Su Ying asked him whether he loves her, he could only say, 'I'm sorry.' It was like the last straw and for the first time, she said to him sternly that he was not to worry when away and that she would look after the household. With Meili, he said he was sorry for what she had been through, but Meili reassured him that she had never regretted marrying him.
When Qing Xuan was ready to leave, Yun Ke promised that he would look after his mum during his absence, while Yun Jue was more interested in having presents when he returns.
As soon as Qing Xuan left the house, his mother went into action to mete out punishment according to her house rules. She took out the cane and began hitting Meili while she knelt, calling her a 'black star' who brought endless bad luck to the family. Yun Ke appealed for her to stop, even suggested that he be beaten instead. At this stage of the story, there is no doubt Meili would experience more cruelty at the hands of her mother-in-law and first wife, and without the protection of husband, life for Meili would be increasingly unbearable.