Hong Gil Dong: Episode 4
Ooh, Episode 4 was good. It was fast-paced, had romantic developments on more than one front, incorporated several action segments, and dug into the political intrigue. All that and while moving forward multiple story lines. It catapults us from what has been somewhat scattered (albeit entertaining) setup material right into the heart of the conflict. The series has begun in earnest.
It was also, as I recall from sifting through the screencaps, a very pretty episode.
SONG OF THE DAY
Garina Project – “변했죠” (I’ve changed) [ zShare download ]
EPISODE 4 RECAP
After being pulled from the water by Gil Dong, Enok experiences a mix of gratitude for being saved and embarrassment for the unplanned “kiss.” Gil Dong, on the other hand, matter-of-factly tells her not to forget this day. She misinterprets, thinking he means the kiss, but he clarifies that this is the second time he’s saved her life. Relieved, Enok vows to repay him somehow.
Grandpa Heo ruminates over Hae Myung’s fortune-telling, wondering how such a rough-and-tumble girl like Enok could end up as royalty, and how such a lazy bum like Gil Dong could become a hero. Still, Hae Myung was right when he accurately saw that Heo was childless, even though there’s no way he could have known that Enok wasn’t his blood relation.
Meanwhile, the agitated king is determined to build his new and improved palace (now with fewer ghosts!), and village men are ruthlessly rounded up and conscripted into construction work. Lady Noh sees this as a great opportunity to sneak a spy into the palace. For some reason (and if I missed the explanation, please let me know), the civil service exam (which is a big event, as men from all over the country will descend upon the city to take the exam) is the deadline by which Chang Whe must recover the stolen sword…
… which is in Minister Hong’s keeping. The sword’s significance is that it corroborates Chang Whe’s claim to the throne as its rightful heir with an inscription of authority on the blade. Minister Hong’s theft of the sword from the original minister (whom he killed) helps the current king’s cause, because that piece of evidence has remained hidden.
His wife and son, meanwhile, are eager to rat out Gil Dong for planning to run away (which is cause for execution), but Minister Hong silences In Hyung’s tattling and tells him to worry about his own problems (namely, the upcoming exam). And worry he does. His angry wife accuses Hong of favoring Gil Dong, and they make cryptic remarks about how she had Gil Dong’s mother killed. The wife leaves, then mutters, “And I’d do it again.”
And what is her solution to her dear son’s exam woes? She proposes they bribe his way through it. Ah, the staunch faith of a loving mother. But as his father keeps a tight rein on the family funds, they’ll have to figure out a way to obtain the money and deflect blame. Who better than the family scapegoat, Gil Dong?
Gil Dong confides to Enok that when he learned the truth of his mother’s death, he realized the way of the world — that he would always be a servant, always remain low. That’s when he first met Hae Myung, who tells his side of the story to Grandpa Heo. Although we cut back and forth between both men’s retelling of the same story, there are some key differences between the lesson taught and the lesson actually learned:
Hae Myung describes making the young boy clean and sweep in order to teach him self-discipline; but Gil Dong learned instead that nothing in life is free. Hae Myung made him hang from a tree branch to teach him patience; Gil Dong fell from the branch and learned that he could trust no one in this world. Hae Myung made the boy fill a leaking barrel to teach him non-possessiveness; Gil Dong learned that when one works oneself to the bone, nothing remains (Enok: “Ah, so that’s why you’re so lazy!”). And finally, bowing in prayer supposedly taught tranquillity; Gil Dong, whose pants were torn in the backside as he knelt, learned to be shameless.
For now, Gil Dong’s priority is to quickly earn enough money to buy passage on the next boat to China, and Enok volunteers her efforts. After all, she owes him. Gil Dong takes a good look at her, then smiles: “Yeah, you’ll make a good lure.”
With her beauty? Feminine wiles?
No — as wild animal bait!
Together, they hunt a variety of animals (foxes, bears, tigers) which they sell for a nice sum. Gil Dong learns from Merchant Wang that the next boat leaves the next morning, and assures the frazzled shopkeeper he will be on it.
Talk of Gil Dong’s departure subdues Enok, though, since she’s grown fond of him. On their way through the village, they get caught in a sudden rain, and take temporary shelter under opposite roofs. Enok watches him and wonders what their relationship is, and tells herself (unconvincingly) that they’re friends. Friends who lurrrve each other! Sorry, my inner thirteen-year-old speaking there.
Passing by in a man-held carriage (what do you call those things, anyway?, similar to a rickshaw) is Eun Hye. Her interest having been piqued during their last encounter, she gets out to talk to Gil Dong, who still thinks she’s a gisaeng. She tells him she’s on an errand and, preying on his sympathies, says she needs to find the apothecary, but she’s lost in the unfamiliar marketplace. If she gets back late, she’ll be in trouble.
With a reluctant sense of chivalry (Gil Dong isn’t too interested in her), Gil Dong tells Enok (curious, not jealous!) to wait for him, and ushers Eun Hye to her destination. He promptly turns back, leaving Eun Hye calling after him, “But what’s your name?” She doesn’t get her answer, but she’s determined to find out, saying wistfully, “He’s so interesting…”
On the murder mystery front, Chang Whe and Lady Noh have come up with a way to suss out which high-ranking minister has stolen their secret sword. Lady Noh is sure that the guilty party will be one of the men in attendance at a feast; they will go posing as rich merchants from China.
Chang Whe is introduced as royalty from the Ming dynastic line, which pleases Minister Seo, who’s a lover of all things Chinese. (Hence his penchant for collecting expensive Chinese items.) Chang Whe presents him with a sword that’s supposedly a gift from the Ming royals, and mentions that he’s heard there is a similarly inscribed sword in the Chosun kingdom. Minister Seo is oblivious (just happy with his new toy), but Minister Hong is suspiciously quiet, growing fidgety when Seo innocently says that if the sword exists, it was in the keeping of Hong’s close friend who died in a brutal raid many years before. Hong disavows any knowledge of the sword.
Chang Whe picks up on Hong’s suspicious behavior, as does another minister, whose curiosity had already been pricked during the king’s ramblings. I don’t know his name yet but it’s this minister here. He confides his concerns to Lady Noh and Chang Whe: “To protect the current king, he must have killed his friend and hidden the secret of the inscribed sword.”
In Hyung and his mother devise a plan to kill two birds with one stone: frame Gil Dong and steal money to bribe In Hyung’s way through the exam. They pick rogues who, if you will recall, had lost money to Gil Dong in a gambling game early in Episode 1. The leader will wear Gil Dong’s clothes and leave behind a sash, and the bandits are just happy to be given authority to thieve a rich nobleman’s home.
Over dinner, Enok casually inquires about Eun Hye — she sure was pretty. Who was she? Are they close? (Doeshelikelikeherorjustlikeher?) Gil Dong: ” I don’t know her and we’re not close.” Enok: “Then why’d you go with her?” Gil Dong: “Like you said, she’s pretty.”
That makes Enok feel bad, and Gil Dong calls her a dummy. Enok retorts, “If I’m such a dummy, why do you hang out with me?” That makes him think for a moment: “Huh. That’s true. I don’t usually hang around with anybody, why do I hang around you? Well, you were annoying at times, but it wasn’t so bad. You were sad that I left, happy that I came back, comforted me by saying, ‘Jiayou!’ You’re all right.” Spirits lifted, Enok offers to buy him a drink at the gisaeng house —
— which is hosting a special dancing show. (The flyers are hilarious: “Fantastic Indian-style belly dancing! One day only! Includes appetizer, 10 nyang, 1 percent discount for all civil service exam takers!”) If you look closely, the main belly dancer is none other than the bandit Mal Nyeo.
Spotting Gil Dong, who drinks in a private room with Enok, Mal Nyeo waits for Enok to leave before approaching.
Gil Dong: “I thought you were a thief, but you’re a gisaeng?”
Mal Nyeo: “Thieving’s the side job. Gisaeng’s the main job.”
Gil Dong: “Aren’t you busy. Are you currently doing your side job or main job?”
Mal Nyeo: “Side job. You should join us.”
Gil Dong: “No thanks. Thieves are annoying.”
Mal Nyeo suddenly lashes out in attack; Gil Dong’s quick reflexes counter, and they engage in a short hand-to-hand fight. Although Mal Nyeo is cunning, Gil Dong efficiently gains the upper hand and leaves with the line: “I’ll welcome you whenever you’re back to your main job.”
He and Enok (happily oblivious to his interlude with Mal Nyeo) leave, only to be stopped short by Su Geun, who’s all worked up over finding their leader’s killer. (Su Geun makes me giggle. He’s so amusingly impetuous.)
He’s quickly joined by the cooler-headed Yeon and Mal Nyeo, who want to know where leader is buried.
Watching the trio pay their respects, Gil Dong wonders at their devotion. He tells them it’s pointless to go after revenge — their quarry (Chang Whe’s faction) is too powerful: “Are you going to risk your lives for a dead man?” Yeon tells him solemnly: “Our leader was a man worth risking our lives for.” He also tells Gil Dong to contact them if he ever needs help.
The guy playing Kwang Whe shows us some more of his enjoyably volatile acting as the king enjoys himself in the arms of a gisaeng, who assures him that she will bear him a royal son. Unexpectedly, Kwang Whe flies into a fury, throwing her to the ground for her insolence. He accuses her of aiming too high, revealing his own inferiority complex over having been born illegitimate to a concubine. He orders the gisaeng to be executed: “There’s one more ghost to haunt me.”
Lady Noh plays flattering tribute to Minister Seo with a bribe for his cooperation, because she’s planting one of her men as part of the palace construction crew: Chisu (imo, one of the more intriguing characters and a much better actor than the wooden Jang Geun Seok, sorry to say. Broody silence? Check. Fierce loyalty? Check. Hot martial arts skills? Check. Hot in general? Check-check-check.).
While Gil Dong observes the boat leaving for China, Enok voices lame reasons (she’s fresh out of good ones) why he shouldn’t go.
Enok: “The boat’s too small. It’ll probably flip right over. You shouldn’t take boats like that.”
Gil Dong: “It looks bigger than the last one.”
Enok: “If you go to China now, it’ll be cold. You’ll probably freeze to death.”
Gil Dong: “I won’t die.”
Enok: “Doesn’t it look like typhoon weather?”
Gil Dong: “Would you like it if a typhoon came and the boat couldn’t leave?”
Gil Dong: “Why?”
Enok: “What if you don’t go? … I just… well… I’d rather you didn’t go to China and stayed here. Gil Dong, can’t you stay?”
Gil Dong stares at her strangely for a moment before answering that he’s leaving. But her words give him pause, and he wonders if he should stay.
Eun Hye visits the gisaeng house to ask about Gil Dong, giving her nanny yet more heart palpitations. The head gisaeng, Mae Hyang, isn’t inclined to be helpful to the pretty, uppity young thing, but Eun Hye dangles a purse of money and orders: “Tell me about him.”
And now, for the main action:
Acting under In Hyung and his mother’s instructions, the trio of hired thieves steal into Minister Hong’s quarters. (They must act tonight, because Gil Dong is leaving the next day.) Hong’s wife has prepared everything — the servants are kept occupied with a special treat of liquor; the minister is diverted toward warmer rooms for the night; and Gil Dong is summoned.
The thieves follow their orders, and grab a few additional items while they’re at it. The head thief drops Gil Dong’s sash, then spies the inscribed sword and decides to take it.
Unfortunately, another group of thieves has also chosen this night for their raid:
Chang Whe, Chisu, and company arrive to steal back the sword, catching the first thieves mid-raid. Chang Whe is taken by surprise and stabbed; one of the hired thieves is killed; and the other two escape with the sword.
Chang Whe orders Chisu to give chase and recover the sword, while he staggers out on his own, injured.
Therefore, Gil Dong is alone when he arrives at the ransacked room, and recognizes the dead thief. In Hyung barges in with reinforcements, ready to gleefully arrest Gil Dong, but even he’s caught in the horror of the moment. Things have rapidly spun out of his control.
Gil Dong sees that he’ll be blamed, and runs away while the household sounds the alarm. In Hyung tells his mother that Gil Dong wasn’t holding a sword. Although he was happy to frame Gil Dong for minor thievery, it appears the man does have a conscience, and this is pushing his boundaries. His mother insists they know nothing, that Gil Dong is responsible for everything.
In the village, a bleeding Chang Whe grabs Enok, asks for her help, then passes out.
Back at thief headquarters, the leader believes he was set up by In Hyung, and orders his men to flee. But they’re caught unawares by Chisu, who fights them all and takes back the sword.
Now that Gil Dong knows the thieves involved, he heads for their lair, but arrives too late — Chisu has already fled.
And Gil Dong once again finds himself caught in an incriminating position by the magistrate’s men.