Woo-wee, things just got kicked up a notch.
Just something I’ve noticed over the Hong sisters’ three previous drama series —
[Glass half empty perspective]: Their secondary romantic pairings tend not to be that compelling. I may like the secondary characters, but I’ve never actually believed the main pairing to be in danger…
[Glass half full perspective] …but perhaps that’s because their primary couples are always so very appealing. It just doesn’t leave room for the others to squeeze their way to true contender status. Chun Hyang and Mong Ryong, Yoorin and Gong Chan, even Anna and Chul Soo. And now Enok and Gil Dong.
SONG OF THE DAY
Love & Pop – “For You” [ zShare download ]
EPISODE 14 RECAP
Chang Whe issues his challenge to Gil Dong — he’ll help Gil Dong rescue his team if Gil Dong fights his father. Specifically, Chang Whe wants his damn sword back (always with the sword fixation! Y’know, Freud would have a lot of things to say about that) and tells Gil Dong to steal it — from the king.
So, in playing people against each other, Chang Whe’s set up a pretty easy position for himself. All he needs to do is lend some nominal backup troops to Gil Dong’s cause, and he achieves multiple goals with very little dirt, or blood, polluting his own hands: (1) If Gil Dong survives, fine, but if he dies, that’s one less rival to deal with, (2) He gets his sword back and moves one step closer to legitimacy, (3) He deals his usurper brother a blow, (4) He weakens Hong, who’s both his brother’s biggest supporter and the one responsible for Chang Whe’s mother’s death.
Gil Dong doesn’t give an immediate answer — he’s too outraged by Chang Whe’s callous manipulating — but Chang Whe’s assured that he’ll get what he wants.
Gom suffers flashbacks to horrors he’d experienced before being adopted into the band of robbers. I hadn’t realized he was so young (I figured he was in his mid-teens) but he’s only twelve years old, and he’s been not only traumatized, but left with a crushing case of survivor’s guilt. He’d watched his family being beaten by soldiers (and was himself beaten) but escaped as his family yelled at him to run away.
Still in shock, Gom remembers those words shouted at him to run away, and his panicked mind conflates the present with the past — he tries to flee, which causes the soldiers to stop and beat him. Yeon, bless his heart, jumps in front of Gom to try to take his beating for him.
Whimpering, “Please spare me,” Gom finally bursts out that he’ll confess everything — who the bandits are, where they hide. The soldiers take him to Minister Hong.
The bandits, trying to figure a way to rescue their guys, are most worried for Gom and rightly so. Gil Dong explains that Gom might hurt himself — he’s been burdened with guilt when everyone he knew was destroyed. He’d explained to Gil Dong one day:
“I shouldn’t laugh. Not a bad kid like me. I shouldn’t be happy. So when feel too happy, if I start to enjoy myself, the voice inside tells me I can’t be too happy. That I can’t laugh. …I’m afraid I’ll turn into a bad guy against you and everyone.”
Gil Dong’s fears prove correct, because Gom’s rational side battles his fear-stricken side, preventing him from betraying his friends. Afraid he’ll buckle under his own weakness, Gom clamps his hand over his mouth — and literally bites his tongue, so hard that he spews blood. Ew. And yet, aw.
Chang Whe sits with a dejected Enok, who’s coming to terms with the reality of Gil Dong’s circumstances. She confesses, “When it was just the Gallant Moonlight Stranger, he was cool and admirable. But now that I know it was Gil Dong, I wish it weren’t him. I wish he wouldn’t do such dangerous things.”
Chang Whe, though disappointed that she’s only thinking of Gil Dong, tells her that it’s normal for all people to act like that when someone becomes precious to them — “You become selfish in trying to protect that. It’s not just you. … I’m like that too.” But (bless her soul) she’s still determined to find a way to be with Gil Dong. She just hasn’t found the solution yet.
Because the citizens support Hwal Bin Dang, Minister Hong disseminates false information that the captured robbers aren’t them, but a villainous gang who’ve committed lots of dastardly deeds. Public opinion turns sour against the captives, leaving the remaining Hwal Bin Dang members outraged to hear snooty noblemen insulting them. In a fury, Gil Dong mutters, “They’ve messed with the wrong guy!”
He accepts Chang Whe’s proposal, positively bursting with righteous indignation. He’ll steal the sword, but he has one thing to tell Chang Whe first. Chang Whe had said Gil Dong was living a stopped life as a dead man, but who does he think he is, acting so superior and looking down on Gil Dong?
“No matter how bothersome things were, do you know how hard I lived my life? You say I only attack from the back? Living in hiding and attacking from the back — do you know how difficult that is?! I’m not dead! I’ve worked my ass off! How can a dead guy do that?! Fine. From now on, I won’t strike from the back, I’ll attack head-on! Before I steal your sword for you, I’m going to do everything I want to do!”
He caps that off in a sarcastic rage: “So why don’t you help us thieve, your royal highness?”
(I’ve said it before so I won’t belabor the point, but a scene like this makes the contrast so stark — Kang Ji Hwan is simmering with various emotions, but Jang Geun Seok is so placid and blah. Chang Whe’s supposed to be cool, but that doesn’t mean he should lack intensity. Sigh.)
With newfound determination, Gil Dong directs Hwal Bin Dang in some last-minute tasks before getting down to the business of sword-stealing. They infiltrate the homes of corrupt noblemen and steal back what rightfully belongs to their people. This time, Gil Dong doesn’t bother covering his face, as he’s decided to live out in the open now.
They leave messages that read, “Hwal Bin Dang was here” and distribute their loot to the poor.
And then, it’s time to get down to business.
Gil Dong’s rescue plan starts by reclaiming Hwal Bin Dang’s identity. The people’s sympathies are swayed back in favor of Hwal Bin Dang now they realize their government lied about the prisoners’ identities. Not that public outcry will save the prisoners, but it would’ve been much easier for the government to execute the criminals had the public believed they were evil savages instead of the benevolent Hwal Bin Dang.
Gil Dong meets Enok, and can tell from her subdued demeanor that reality has finally sunk in.
Gil Dong: “I’m going to keep fighting. I won’t run away anymore, and soon I’ll be captured. I won’t die — I won’t throw my life away like last time. I’ll do everything I can to survive. But if you’re like this, it makes me uneasy. I’m uneasy that you’ll come looking for me. Uneasy that you’ll chase after me thinking you’re faster than an arrow, and I’ll keep turning back to look. So stay out of sight, away from me. I have to run away to survive, and looking back at you is bothersome. So let go of me and go.”
Unwilling to give up, Enok asks Gil Dong (and moves him, I think, with her unflagging devotion):
Enok: “Then… I’ll keep watch over you from far away, out of your sight. I won’t chase after you, and I won’t make you uneasy. I’ll just watch from afar. Is it okay if I do that?”
Gil Dong: “Can you do that? Can you watch me being captured, and observe from a distance?”
Sobering, Enok doesn’t have an answer for that. She closes her eyes, and when she opens them, Gil Dong is gone.
Time to move. This night, Gom, Yeon, and the other captured robbers are going to be executed. Gil Dong takes the leader’s staff from Su Geun and tells his men that since he started this, he’ll be responsible. The men give them their loyalty.
Minister Hong presides over the execution, delaying things hoping that Gil Dong will show up, since this was an elaborate setup to draw him in. Gom shakes with fear, but Yeon says that at least they’ll die as Hwal Bin Dang, with a little dignity. The people who’ve come to watch, who’ve been helped by the generous thieves, pledge their loyalty to the condemned prisoners.
And, at the last minute, Gil Dong announces his arrival.
Father faces son. Meanwhile, the people can’t believe the dead Hong Gil Dong is alive — and now the leader of Hwal Bin Dang.
Hong orders his men to capture Gil Dong, but Gil Dong tells them to first release the prisoners. If they refuse to let them go, he’s prepared to battle it out here and now — and indicates the wall of fighters he’s brought along. Standing at the ready are the rest of Hwal Bin Dang, as well as Chang Whe’s soldiers.
Gil Dong says he’ll surrender himself if the men are released — and calls Hong “Father” in front of everyone. Left with little choice, Hong orders the prisoners freed.
Just as Gil Dong is about to give himself up, he looks into the crowd — and sees Enok there, lending her silent support. When he’d asked if she could stand by and watch him be captured, she had no answer, but she has one now. They have a silent exchange — she mouths to him her encouragement, “Jiayou!” — and Chang Whe watches from a distance, dismayed.
With tears in his eyes, Gil Dong gives himself up.
He’s imprisoned and tortured. His father doesn’t understand what Gil Dong is doing, frustrated and angry that his son has wasted his life becoming a thief. Gil Dong: “You know very well who the bigger thief is!”
Minister Hong tells him that he could have him released and sent far away. But Gil Dong has determined to reclaim his life, and tells his father he won’t run away anymore. The world allowed him to do nothing, so he’s doing his best to change the world.
Gil Dong: “When I was a child, wanting to be your son and not knowing what to do, I asked you what I could and should do with myself. But now, I’m going to ask the world.”
Throughout the city, the people pray and keep vigil for Gil Dong, their adopted protector.
Chang Whe is relieved that Enok is no longer rushing around after Gil Dong, but she tells him she’s still thinking hard about a solution to her dilemma:
“I’ve got to stay by Gil Dong’s side, but I don’t know how I can remain with him as a friend. I’m going to think harder about it.”
You can’t say the girl is a fast thinker, but she’s a determined one. Chang Whe is further disappointed by her answer, and asks her almost urgently:
“Can’t you stay with me? Don’t go to him, and stay here. I’ll protect you and make sure you’re not put in danger, so stay by my side.”
Enok misinterprets this as mere concern, and tells him not to worry about her. “I can protect myself. That way, I can protect Gil Dong, too. Thank you for worrying about me.” (Like I said, she’s sweet but not exactly quick on the uptake.) Chang Whe, however, feels her words like a blow. I almost even feel sorry for him.
For more one-sided love, we turn to Eun Hye, who stands up to her father to visit Gil Dong in jail. She even threatens herself with bodily harm, and her father’s weak will is no match for her determined one.
Pained to see him in such a condition, Eun Hye tells Gil Dong she’ll save him somehow. She’ll get her father to help — in the end he’ll do whatever he can to make her happy — but Gil Dong tells her to go back. And even if he makes it out alive, he doesn’t want to see her anymore.
Although Eun Hye is stricken with fear for his safety, finally she has to ask, hurt and angry:
Eun Hye: “Even in this situation, are you saying you don’t need me?”
Gil Dong: “Thanks, but I don’t. Go.”
At this, Eun Hye hardens, stops her tears, and exits. I wonder if this will be her turning point… Don’t you know the cardinal dating rule, Gil Dong? You don’t spurn crazy! (Especially excessively devoted crazy.)
In case you’re wondering what the point of Gil Dong’s surrender was, let me assure you that there IS a point. The next phase of the plan requires a big sacrifice of Mal Nyeo. So big, in fact, that everyone worries that she won’t make it out alive. Even if she does, it’s a highly distasteful role — the king’s one-night concubine. Kwang Whe periodically brings in gisaengs for a night or so, but in order to “preserve” the royalty’s “honor,” the gisaengs are killed afterward to keep the matter quiet. Mal Nyeo offers herself up as the gisaeng in order to enter the palace and steal the sword.
Unfortunately, on the night she’s to be delivered to the palace, she’s spied by the ginseng merchant from previously, who’s angry at the mishandling of his merchandise. A fight erupts in the club, and Mal Nyeo is injured.
Enok helps her dress her wound, but it’s unlikely she’s in decent enough condition to carry out her role. Enok offers herself as a replacement, which Mal Nyeo heartily dislikes. Not only might she die, she has to prostitute herself to the king. Mal Nyeo warns, “It’s the world’s most fearful and dirty thing.”
But Enok doesn’t care — she wants to do it. The instant she hears that Mal Nyeo’s plan was for the purpose of saving Gil Dong, she’s convinced. Enok’s been thinking all episode long of how to stay with Gil Dong, and she’s finally figured out a solution — she can become one of them. She’ll join Hwal Bin Dang, and this will be her first mission.
Enok is dressed up as a gisaeng and delivered to the palace, where Minister Choi (Chang Whe’s ally) passes her information. He also recognizes her and notices she’s not the bandit who was supposed to be here. The plan for Enok is to steal the sword, after which Chang Whe’s people will take over. If they fail, she will most likely die in the palace.
Elsewhere, Gil Dong demands to be taken before the king. He has a message from Chang Whe, and refuses to tell anyone but the king himself. One of the guards, an ally in disguise, hands Gil Dong a concealed shard as he’s taken to the gisaeng quarters, where the king is.
Chang Whe isn’t overly worried until Minister Choi tells him that the undercover gisaeng is one of their employees — that errand girl. Chang Whe’s stunned — “Do you mean it’s Enok?” Minister Choi, on the other hand, is startled to hear her name. Since Choi remembers the murder of her parents, I wonder how long it’ll take him to put the pieces together and identify Enok as the dead official’s daughter.
Enok is brought before the king, who takes an immediate liking to her. She’s peculiar, and as he examines her, he’s both insulted and amused that she dares look him in the eye.
Gil Dong is delivered to the king mid-inspection. Kwang Whe asks his visitor, “Are you Hong Gil Dong?”
Enok looks up at the mention of the name — and as Gil Dong recognizes her, he realizes the plan just took a turn.
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 13
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 12
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 11
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 10
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 9
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 8
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 7
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 6
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 5
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 4
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 3
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 2
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 1