Now that the action has really gotten going, the silly humor has been curbed to manageable bite sizes, I think. There are still plenty of instances of the trademark Hong sisters jokiness, but it’s inserted at greater intervals and with a little more restraint.
SONG OF THE DAY
F.T. Island – “너 올 때까지” (Until you arrive). I love the string intro on this, brief though it is.
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EPISODE 6 RECAP
Gil Dong realizes that Chang Whe is the one responsible for the murders blamed on him, and the two fight it out.
Chisu corners Enok and demands to know why she’s following. She insists on her innocence, but he becomes suspicious upon hearing Enok mention Chang Whe’s stab wound. He realizes she knows more than she should — as does Lady Noh, who arrives on the scene and looks at Enok with interest.
The men grudgingly acknowledge each other’s fighting skills, and manage to injure one another (mildly) before Gil Dong disarms Chang Whe. He asks, “Why’d you kill those bandits?”
Chang Whe snarls back, “You’d better quit while you’re ahead. Those who stupidly involve themselves in my business — the government troops, your minister father, whoever — I’ll kill them all.” Therefore, he continues, Gil Dong had better run along if he doesn’t want to die.
That angers Gil Dong:
“You treat a person’s life like it’s nothing. Why are you so righteous about killing someone?”
At that point, Chisu and backup fighters arrive, and Gil Dong is forced to escape. Chang Whe tells his men not to pursue since Gil Dong doesn’t seem to know anything, but becomes alarmed to hear that Lady Noh took notice of Enok.
He has good reason for alarm — Lady Noh invites Enok to the merchants’ headquarters to find out how much she knows, which turns out to be more than she’s comfortable with. She also learns a disturbing coincidence — Enok shares the same unusual name as the girl she’s searching for. She asks if her last name is Yoo; Enok doesn’t seem to know she’s adopted, and says she’s a Heo.
With that pesky coincidence explained away, Lady Noh decides Enok must be killed. She tells Enok to help herself to the food, then has her men fill the chamber with poisonous gas.
Oblivious, Enok eats happily.
A few seconds later, the door bursts open; Chang Whe rushes to rescue Enok. Lady Noh is understandably surprised, but Chang Whe merely says, “This girl saved my life. I do not wish to kill her.”
After Enok is given an antidote, Chang Whe watches her sleep, recalling Gil Dong’s words uneasily. He wonders to Lady Noh whether it’s true that he doesn’t respect people’s lives; she answers, “In order to accomplish great things, sacrifices are necessary.” And since the sacrifices are always other people’s lives, Lady Noh doesn’t mind at all.
Gil Dong, on the other hand, is at a loss, wondering about his next move, when he remembers Yeon’s offer of assistance. He finds the appointed contact, the young Gom (gōm, which means “bear”). Gom immediately realizes this must be Gil Dong, and sets out a network of red flags to alert the group: “Now we wait.”
Gom is kind of adorable — he’s quirky, exuberant, and yes, ever so prancey. But it’s cute, and he takes to Gil Dong right away, calling him “hyung” without reserve. I’m also guessing there’s probably a lot more to him than meets the eye.
Pretty soon, the bandits convene and greet their summoner.
Yeon: “I knew you’d come. … Just say the word. We’ll help you with whatever you need.”
(After Gil Dong’s faced such cold reception from the cruel, cruel world, their unconditional support is enough to bring a tear to your eye.)
Gil Dong asks if they’re still set on going after Chang Whe’s merchant group: “Let’s do it together.”
Enok awakens with a pounding head, not knowing what happened. Chang Whe tells her she fainted without elaborating on the details, and Enok can’t believe it — she’s not the type to faint. “Fainting is for delicate ladies.” But sudden movement makes her light-headed, and she wonders (with girlish pleasure), “I’ve never fainted before. To think, I had such a delicate, gentle side to me!” Chang Whe smiles in amusement.
After eating, she tells Chang Whe she has to leave and help her friend with something. He asks if she’s talking about Gil Dong, and she assures him that all the rumors are false — Gil Dong isn’t the guilty party; he was framed. She vows to help Gil Dong bring the culprits to justice, and Chang Whe realizes to his dismay that he’s just made another unknowing enemy. (I’m just glad he HAS such an emotion as dismay. I think secretly he’s glad too, after being forced to be stoic for so long.) Chisu warns that if he lets her go freely now, she might come back later; Chang Whe says grimly, “I guess I’ll have to kill her then.”
The bandits are tickled to learn that Gil Dong shares grievances against their enemy. Gil Dong asks if they’ve already formulated a plan, and Su Geun declares proudly, “Of course!” Behind him, Mal Nyeo and Yeon roll their eyes, as Su Geun reveals his foolproof strategy — to win over the heart of surely-lonely Lady Noh! Mal Nyeo cuts in: “Nope, we have nothing.”
Gil Dong sighs, “I wasn’t expecting anything, but still I’m disappointed. Is that any way to seek revenge on an enemy?”
Gil Dong, on the other hand, is intent on bringing down the entire group. The group that, at the moment, is finalizing their plot to infiltrate the palace. With one day left before the civil service exam, they’ve arranged to have soldiers and weapons smuggled into the construction site. The bandits watch Chang Whe’s men and the location where the explosives are stashed, devising a plan to sneak into the storehouse.
Meanwhile, Minister Hong is uneasy about the stolen sword and of being found out for his old crimes. Now, some more pieces fall into place — the man he killed was part of the royal family, who had the nearest claim to the succession after the (supposed) death of Chang Whe. The man’s daughter, Yoo Enok, had disappeared when his household was attacked and was presumed dead (which explains Hae Myung’s prediction that Enok is/will be royal). With no other royal descendants available, the illegitimate Kwang Whe was able to assume the crown, and anyone who knew about the existence of the sword was killed.
For now, Kwang Whe laughs off Minister Hong’s worries as paranoia over one little burglar and won’t heed his precautions to delay the civil service exam under such uncertain conditions.
Worried about Gil Dong, Enok asks Merchant Wang if he’s seen him (he hasn’t), and curiously notes the arrival of Eun Hye, who asks Merchant Wang the same thing. At the mention of Gil Dong, Eun Hye invites Enok home and asks her to pass along a message:
“Please tell him that I’m sorry I could not go with him that day. I couldn’t under the circumstances. It was only a short while, but the time I spent with him… I enjoyed it.”
Enok goes home and mopes, bothered by the implication that Gil Dong had asked Eun Hye to go with him somewhere. Grandpa Heo doesn’t make things any better, speculating that Gil Dong must’ve tried to convince Eun Hye to run away with him as lovers; scared, the lady must have resisted.
Feeling unfeminine in comparison to the noble Eun Hye, Enok primps by the waterside, attempting to look more ladylike. She’s interrupted by Gil Dong’s arrival, and gives him a warm welcome. Enok passes along Eun Hye’s message and hesitantly asks where he wanted to take Eun Hye:
Enok: “If there’s somewhere you need to go… I could go with you.”
Gil Dong: “If I really asked you to come with me, would you?”
[Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Uh, excuse the knee-jerk response. Some things can’t be controlled.]
Gil Dong warns, “What if it’s scary and dangerous?” Enok reminds him that she hunted tigers with him; she’s not afraid. Gil Dong turns serious: “You don’t have to come with me, and don’t look for me either,” which causes Enok’s face to fall in disappointment. But her spirits lift when he adds, “Just wait for me. When I settle everything, I’ll come and find you.”
After eating, Enok nods off to sleep; Gil Dong wakes her and tells her to go back to the temple. She mumbles sleepily, “Don’t go. Talk with me a little more.” He moves to sit next to her and resumes warning her not to interfere with his plans tomorrow, but she nods off again, resting her head on his shoulder.
He tells the sleeping Enok:
“If you come with me, you’ll be in danger. I don’t want that for you, so I can’t ask you to come with me right now. But… if things improve… there are tigers in China too. Should we go catch them together? …Want to go with me then?”
Then, it’s the big day: the day of the civil service exam, the day Chang Whe sets his attack plan in motion, the day Gil Dong and the bandits embark on their revenge plan.
Chang Whe’s plan involves several parts: first, Minister Choi is given the sword and will await his post within the palace. Chang Whe himself will pose as an exam-taker. And his second-in-command will bring the explosives to the palace construction site, where a flare will be sent up — green smoke if things are progressing smoothly, red smoke if there are problems.
The bandits, meanwhile, are unaware of Chang Whe’s plan and move to infiltrate their weapons store. Mal Nyeo sabotages their wagon while Gil Dong hides in the false bottom of another wagon.
Inside the palace, Chang Whe stakes out his position amid the mad rush as test-takers fight for their spots. In Hyung — who has no backup plan since he was unable to hire his replacement test-taker — has been vacillating between taking the test honestly and trying to find a last-ditch cheating plan. He takes up a spot intending on looking over someone else’s shoulder.
Kwang Whe arrives to preside over the exam, and the citizens all bow. Chang Whe also bows, but in a nice added touch, he remains fairly upright — as though it’s demeaning for himself, the rightful king, to have to bow before his usurper.
Thanks to the bandits’ tampering, the cart bearing the hidden explosives breaks down in the forest. Gom “happens” to come by with another cart (where Gil Dong hides). Chang Whe’s men buy the wagon hurriedly, intent on completing their plan, and thus Gil Dong is brought right into the palace.
The bandits watch worriedly and wonder why the merchant group is smuggling weapons into the palace. They hadn’t anticipated this move. Unfortunately, they have no way inside and can only watch from a distance.
Thus Gil Dong finds himself delivered into the midst of the hornet’s nest when he emerges from the wagon’s false bottom.
Almost immediately, he’s recognized by the palace guards. Vastly outnumbered, he does his best to hold them at bay, and the ensuing fight results in an incendiary combination — warming fires are spilled, crates are broken, explosives roll right into the flames.
The explosions follow in quick succession. Chang Whe can tell from the source of the booms that something’s wrong. Test-takers panic. Gil Dong runs from both the explosions and the guards. Watching from outside the palace, Lady Noh sees the red flare and knows their plot has failed.
Amid the panicking test participants, Chang Whe’s faction stands conspicuously still, and Kwang Whe notices the man glaring so furiously at him. It doesn’t seem that he recognizes Chang Whe as the face haunting his nightmares, but he DOES know that this man is responsible for the mayhem, and he orders his men to capture the infidels.
That, of course, is a daunting prospect, given that locking in panicking masses only heightens the ensuing pandemonium. The palace gates are closed, and guards attempt to keep everyone locked inside.
By chance, Gil Dong comes face to face with Chang Whe; both know that the other is responsible for the mess they’re in. They glare. Eyes narrow. Fists clench. Tumbleweed rolls by. (Okay, three out of four.)
And then, Gil Dong is spurred into motion again, chased by more guards. Gom shouts to him from the wall; he’s prepared an escape route. Gil Dong flees over the wall and onto the cart driven by Su Geun, and they speed away from the palace…
A kdrama wouldn’t be a kdrama without some kind of convoluted love-relationship geometry. The standard is the love rectangle — two triangles, really, centered around the main couple. I think kdrama fans are so benumbed to the familiar dynamics of that structure that it’s a welcome change to find something, anything, different in the relationship chart. Sometimes the result is a hopelessly convoluted mess (ahem, Witch Amusement), where multiple love lines muck up the dynamics.
Here, at least the main foursome aren’t all in love with each other. Enok, Gil Dong, Chang Whe = fairly typical love triangle. Gil Dong, Enok, Eun Hye = again, comfortably familiar dynamics.
But in Enok’s triangle, she’s coming to care for Gil Dong as a person, but Chang Whe’s really just flattering her vanity. Furthermore, she and Chang Whe are now taking sides on opposite sides as enemies (although she doesn’t know that yet — I wonder if Gil Dong will enlighten her, or if he’ll sacrifice that knowledge to let her pursue supposed happiness with Chang Whe). And yet, because of Enok’s royal lineage, she and Chang Whe also become united in their fight against Kwang Whe. Interestingly, that sets up a choice for Enok — will she align her loyalties and loves according to her current identity, or her birthright?
And Eun Hye brings the added complication of In Hyung — surely the weak-willed In Hyung will not be happy to realize that Gil Dong has won his fair lady’s heart. I’m a sucker for romantic storylines, but I like them all the more when they’re wrought with deeper significance, and here the multiple political intrigues enhance the love entanglements.
At this point, if you’re not hooked by now, you probably won’t be; if you are, hopefully we’re all in it for the long haul.