The cliffhangers at the ends of odd-numbered episodes never bother me, because I can wait a day to find out what happens next. The ones at the end of EVEN-numbered episodes, however! They are another beast altogether. And I do mean beast.
SONG OF THE DAY
My Aunt Mary – “원” (wish) [ zShare download ]
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Enok peers into the warehouse filled with young girls, one of whom is Shim Chung. Being brave and resourceful, Chung is the only one with the guts to stand up to Choi Chul Joo when he enters the room with his men to leer at his girls. Unfortunately, he spies Enok in the window and sends his men after her.
Enok puts up a good fight against the three henchmen, but she — just like Su Geun previously — is felled when Choi whacks his heavy walking stick against her back. Must be the all-powerful staff of doom or something, the way these skilled fighters are immediately incapacitated by one hit.
Choi intends to get rid of Enok (can’t have her endangering their operation) but he’s stopped by Chang Whe’s arrival. Chang Whe snarls that if Choi kills Enok, Chang Whe will kill him in turn. How romantic.
Enok assures Chang Whe she’ll call the authorities, and rushes off. While she’s away, Choi tells Chang Whe he’d better make sure Enok doesn’t talk. If she does, she’ll put Chang Whe at risk too, because he’s complicit in this. Chang Whe hears the girls screaming for help from within the warehouse, briefly battling his conscience before ignoring them and walking away. My hero.
By the time Enok returns with guardsmen, Choi has cleared out the warehouse and his watchman denies Enok’s story. It looks like she’s crying wolf, and the guards cart her off for punishment for making up stories. The punishment turns out to be spanking. Insert inappropriate joke here.
Su Geun recovers from his beating and wails in horror to realize that he’s lost one of his testicles. Yep, you read that right. Partially castrated — a harsh pill for our Casanova. He’s half the man he used to be.
He staggers around yelling, “It’s gone!” while the others sigh, “Must hurt.” I’m surprised he even has the strength to stagger around.
Enok recalls hearing Shim Chung’s father’s name and goes to look for him — at the same time that Gil Dong does the same. As she makes her way there, a series of sequences toys with our expectations, making you think that at any turn, she may run right into Gil Dong — but they’re false alarms. But that shouldn’t surprise us — this is a Hong sisters drama. They’re gonna drag out the road to reunion in the most tension-filled way possible, naturally.
Gil Dong arrives first and talks to the guilt-ridden father about his debt to Choi Chul Joo. Gil Dong leaves as Enok is on her way toward the house, and they miss each other, not even aware they were so close.
Talking to the blind man confirms Enok’s suspicions of Choi’s evildoing. She assures the man that she’ll do whatever she can to bring his daughter home. She’ll find help from someone “smart, in a high position.”
Meaning Chang Whe, of course. She’s all fired up and rarin’ to go rescuing and assumes he’ll assist, and therefore can’t understand Chang Whe’s indifference. He says it’s none of his business; why should he help? Enok pleads, “You’re someone with power, and you’re a good person.”
That adds to Chang Whe’s guilt, and he snaps back at her, “I’m not a good person.” When Enok reminds him that he saved her, he shouts, “Yes! I saved you, so say your thank you and leave!”
Realizing something, Enok asks tentatively, “If I interfere, does that complicate matters for you? Are you… involved in that man’s business? Did you know everything when you lent him your warehouse?” Chang Whe answers, “Yes, I knew. I knew and did nothing, so I won’t save them either.”
Disillusioned, Enok backs away: “I can’t just leave this alone. I’m sorry.”
She leaves Chang Whe to his self-loathing — I imagine self-loathing must figure largely in his reaction. Having the girl you like realize you’re a coward, then walk away to do what you cannot, has got to feel emasculating. Even more than Lopsided Su Geun must be feeling about now.
Lady Noh, witnessing the exchange, decides Enok has too much influence over Chang Whe, and cannot allow the Puppet Prince to be corrupted by Enok’s morals. She must do something about the girl.
The bandits devise a plan to save the girls — they’ll need to locate Choi’s ship, contact the girls’ parents, and find sufficient bait with which to lure Choi into their scheme. (The scene on the bridge is, in my humble estimation, kinda lame with the bandits copying Gil Dong’s gestures in exaggerated synchronization — it’s the Hong sisters’ tendency to overdo the corny slapstick — but it’s saved by Gil Dong pointing out how cool their coordination looks. Guys thinking they’re cool when they’re not = dorky, but in a cute sort of way.)
At the gisaeng club, Mal Nyeo finds a rich patron, a ginseng merchant, to be their unknowing ally. She distracts him and copies his seal, which Gil Dong uses to obtain the key to his storeroom. Mal Nyeo keeps the man occupied with a lovers’ vacation until the operation is over.
Then, Gil Dong dresses like the ginseng merchant and goes to the gambling house, which Choi is known to frequent (looking for poor saps to lend money to). Gil Dong puts on a show of losing heavily and attracts Choi’s notice.
Gil Dong pretends to be dull-witted and gambling-obsessed, making him an easy mark for the greedy Choi. Thus Choi believes he’s got the upper hand and asks for collateral. Gil Dong mentions his high-quality ginseng and shows the merchandise to Choi, who immediately recognizes their value.
Choi sees a great opportunity to make money off Gil Dong’s ginseng (especially since Gil Dong seems like a stupid merchant with no nose for business), and negotiates a deal. He’ll sell the ginseng in China (along with the slave girls) for a huge profit, and in exchange for a delayed payment, he promises to pay Gil Dong a generous interest rate. Choi figures that he’ll easily make back his money tenfold.
Without Chang Whe’s help, Enok doesn’t know how to rescue the captured girls, and takes to following Choi around unsuccessfully. Because of Chang Whe’s threat, Choi doesn’t hurt her, but Enok makes no headway.
She runs into Eun Hye, who has meanwhile tracked down the source of the bells that Gil Dong had been so interested in, which are linked to Choi Chul Joo. So when she sees Enok trying to deal with Choi, she pulls her aside and gives some seemingly wise advice about the problem. She suggests that Enok stay away from the dangerous Choi, and try instead to talk to a different, more sympathetic guard. Additionally, she promises to raise the issue with her father. Enok thanks Eun Hye for her help and rushes off to find a guardsman who will listen.
Eun Hye’s nanny asks if she’ll really tell Minister Seo about Enok’s problem, and Eun Hye answers (bitterly?), “Yes. But he won’t listen.” Her friendly manner drops and she says that if Enok keeps trying to get close to Choi, she might run into Gil Dong, and Eun Hye doesn’t want that.
I suspect most people can’t stand Eun Hye, but for some reason I really like her, in the same way that I like In Hyung despite his flaws. I’m probably the only one, but I’m okay with that. It must be their layered characters that appeal to me, or the knowledge that in the end they won’t be much of a match for either Enok or Gil Dong. They’ll be unsuccessful third wheels for a while, making the ride uncomfortable for the main couple, but they’ll most likely fall by the wayside in the end.
The other third wheel (fifth wheel?) still feels the sting of Gil Dong’s Big Question (“Why must you go so far? Why must you be king?”). The wails of his anguished citizens ring in his ears, and he tells himself, “I cannot doubt. I won’t be shaken.” But when Chang Whe takes aim, he (literally) misses the mark. Symbolism!
Minister Hong requests a meeting with Lady Noh, and asks her to look into the matter of weapons traffickers. Lady Noh asks why he would make this request of her, and Seo answers that her agency has contacts in high places. (The ministers, on the other hand, are bound by bribes and find their hands tied.)
Lady Noh answers that her agency doesn’t trade in weapons but will look into it. She senses that Hong is suspicious of her and resolves to be more careful. She reminds Chang Whe that with Hong on the alert, it’s even more imperative that their deal with Choi go smoothly. It’s in their best interest for Choi to leave for China without any problems, because if Choi is entangled in troubles, they will be dragged in.
Lady Noh senses Chang Whe’s unease and tells him there are many more citizens who need him, implying that this is a small sacrifice to pay. Well, just as long as there’s a reason for the sacrifice! I’d hate for all those people to die for nothing. I’m sure they’ll rest easier in their graves knowing their bodies could provide a nice footstool for Chang Whe to step upon on his way up to the throne.
Meanwhile, In Hyung has little to do this episode, but perhaps it’s worth noting that he’s now one of the royal guards, though he’s as immature as ever. He and his mother, along with Minister Seo, look forward to his upcoming marriage to Eun Hye.
The bandits’ scheme runs smoothly in all aspects but one — enlisting the aid of the girls’ parents. Su Geun goes to home after home, but the parents refuse to talk to him, denying selling their daughters.
Gil Dong proposes a different tactic, so Su Geun goes back to the parents to inform them that one of the girls died while running away. They have the girl’s body; it’s up to the parents to identify and claim their daughter.
Enok has done all she can to get people to listen to her about the captured girls, but ultimately is unsuccessful. She rages to her grandfather, “They’re all smart and powerful! Why are they pretending not to know anything?!” Her grandfather answers, “They pretend not to know anything because they’re smart.” She refuses to give up, even though Grandpa Heo tells her that there are some things that just cannot be helped.
Enok returns to Chung’s blind father, sorry and embarrassed at not being able to do anything. She explains, dissolving into tears:
“Even though I saw everything clearly with my own eyes, I couldn’t do anything. I’m so dumb that I don’t know what to do. I went to smarter, high-ranking people for help, but they all pretend not to know what I’m talking about. … I’m sorry.”
Chang Whe, who has heard of Enok’s fruitless attempts, watches from a distance as she cries with Chung’s father.
That night, the worried parents of the sold girls come to meet the bandits to identify the dead body. Yeon says, “At least they came to claim their daughter,” but Gil Dong is perhaps more insightful, if cynical (insinuating they came to appease their guilt):
“That’s not it. They came hoping it’s not their daughter, to confirm that this isn’t their child.”
When the body is uncovered, her mother sobs over her daughter’s corpse, while Su Geun delivers a stirring speech:
Su Geun: “My sister was also sold off and died. So I know how you feel — that you couldn’t do anything about it, that you might have died too. That you had no power to stop it. That no matter what excuse I gave, the one who died was that child and not me, a fact that would never change. That for the rest of my life I could never forgive myself for selling my sister away.”
And then Gil Dong cuts in, his voice hard (tough love time), telling them not to collapse into self-pity:
“So for the sake of your daughters, act. There’s no point in giving up on everything using the excuse that you’re poor and weak. If you step on a worm, it’ll squirm. That worm may seem silly and insignificant, but there’s a chance it could knock someone down in fright and kill them. I’m helping you because you’re weak. But we’re not that strong either. Which is why we must do it together. If we don’t do something now, you’ll live like this guy, wrapped in your guilt for the rest of your lives. His sister and this child here are dead, but your daughters are still alive. So they can be saved.”
It’s a pretty good speech, with stirring background music as well. The parents pledge their help, and Gil Dong lays out their goal — to prevent the boat from leaving.
The daughters, bless their hearts, are doing their best to save themselves in the meantime. Following Chung’s brave lead, they use the broken glass from Enok’s (Gil Dong’s) sunglasses to try to cut out of their bonds.
Obligatory Crazy Kwang Whe scene. He asks Minister Hong if he regrets helping Kwang Whe claim the throne. Kwang Whe says Hong mustn’t regret it, not after all the people they killed to get there: “But I’ve forgotten what this throne even means.”
He continues, skipping along unsteadily, “When I’ve forgotten everything, you may regret it then.”
Chang Whe also talks of regrets, to Chisu — how he’d done whatever he could to get where he is. But then he saw Enok crying, and her tears seemed to rebuke him: “If I continue along like this, what will remain of me?” Perhaps the two brothers aren’t so different after all. They’re like a Before and After comparison, one a cautionary tale to the other.
In her creepily observant manner, Lady Noh sees this and goes to Choi, telling him to take Enok with him on the boat to China.
Enok is with Chung’s blind father when Chung herself stumbles home. She and a few other girls managed to escape, although the other girls were caught. She was the only one to make it out, and assured the girls she would get help.
Enok realizes that Choi will know Chung would head home, and are likely on their way. With no time to escape, Enok tells them to hide while she acts as decoy. She assures them she can run faster than an arrow, and takes off to give the father and daughter time to escape.
Gil Dong (masquerading as the ginseng merchant) meets with Choi and overhears that the blind man’s daughter escaped. Gil Dong rushes to their house and finds them hiding, and tries to usher them away. When they mention the girl that helped them, he’s struck by Chung’s description — the girl ran off saying she was faster than an arrow, that she’d hunted tigers. The blind man adds that she’s a kind girl who sells medicine, and Gil Dong asks, “Her name… what’s her name?”
The man identifies their helper as Heo Enok, and Gil Dong races off after her.
Enok has managed to elude capture, but she’s tiring and outnumbered. She races through the village, followed closely by Choi’s men, when out of nowhere, she’s grabbed and pulled aside —
Gil Dong holds his hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. Enok senses something about him, and tries to turn to face him. Hurriedly, Gil Dong covers Enok’s eyes (yeah, that’s not suspicious at all) as she asks: “Who are you?”
Episode 10 was better than Episode 9, although I still think it was a little choppy. The promise of Enok/Gil Dong’s upcoming reunion, though, makes up for its flaws — just as long as they actually DO meet! There’d better be nothing keeping them apart after this close encounter, or I’m calling shenanigans.
Chang Whe’s struggle with his conscience is interesting, and necessary. Right now he’s falling woefully short of the qualifications of a good leader, and I really like that Enok has realized this. Her ideal of the handsome Bamboo Hat Gentleman has taken a strong dose of reality, and it’s not pretty. I think Enok’s compassionate enough that she won’t turn on Chang Whe (pity him, maybe), but it highlights the difference in their values. Of course it’s significant that she and Gil Dong have the same reaction and same impulse to help, even if they go about it in different ways. It’s not that they’re right for each other merely because they’ve grown fond of each other (although that’s true) — they’re right for each other because they complement each other’s values and will, hopefully, bring out the best in one another. Chang Whe, on the other hand, needs Enok far more than she needs him. It’s a lopsided relationship dynamic.
Choi is pretty good as a new source of The Evil, even if he’s a little TOO evil. I like my villains with a healthy dose of humanism (like Kwang Whe), and Choi Chul Joo is a caricature. You could argue that traffickers of underage girls into prostitution aren’t redeemable material, but hey, I can ask for a little nuance.
Which, as you may have guessed, isn’t exactly the Hong sisters’ forte. Nuance, I mean. The writers are great at twisty-turny, fast-moving plots, and they have a lively sense of humor, even if it’s kind of lowbrow and unsophisticated at times. But subtle they are not. I wish they’d trust their audience more, because they tend to hammer in their points repeatedly rather than allowing you to draw your own conclusions. For instance, when Gil Dong finds out Enok helped the blind man, we could’ve guessed with the “faster than an arrow” comment. But then they had to add the line about the girl hunting tigers. If that isn’t enough, they further identify her as a medicine peddler. I’d like to think Gil Dong’s a smart guy who doesn’t need to then ask for her name on top of that. Would Sir like a picture too? Mayhap some surveillance video, or DNA verification?