The Hong sisters are getting better at plot transitions — today we get a new storyline, a new baddie — although I still think they’ve got much room for improvement. But their stories have consistently been dramatic and engaging, which isn’t always an easy feat when you’re working with multiple different plots that don’t connect with one another. Despite the lack of continuity between story threads (Gil Dong being framed for murder, girls abducted into slavery, sword-stealing), the character development keeps the flow intact, and that makes for a drama that’s exciting and addicting, even if it’s kinda low on the finesse meter.
SONG OF THE DAY
Sweet Sorrow – “Lost” from their recent second album. [ zShare download ]
EPISODE 16 RECAP
As you may have guessed, the kissy scene is a bit of a fakeout, since it doesn’t result in an actual kiss, but it’s cute nonetheless. And the suggestive undertones are real, so it’s still satisfying on that count. Leaning over Enok, Gil Dong says in a warm, flirty tone:
Gil Dong: “You don’t feel anything, even like this? Your gaze is unsteady. This isn’t how one regards a leader in respect.”
Gil Dong: “Look at that, you’re having trouble breathing too. Go on, breathe. Or do you need emergency CPR? If you close your eyes, I’ll give it a try.”
Trembling, Enok nervously tells him she can breathe; she doesn’t need CPR. (Silly girl!) Gil Dong finds her valiant efforts to control her attraction amusing, and lets go of her.
He tells her (totally playing on her attraction by retreating) that he’ll abide by her wishes, and admires her patience and fortitude. Pretending not to notice her agitation, he leaves with a cheery “Jiayou!”
Enok’s return “Jiayou” is much less enthusiastic. After Gil Dong leaves, she tries to get a hold of her thoughts.
Hae Myung asks Gil Dong if he’s decided to accept Enok into the fold, and he answers, “Yes, we’re going to stay together now.” Hae Myung warns it’ll be difficult, and Gil Dong understands:
“But forcing ourselves to be apart is hard on her, and me too. We’ll stay together and watch over each other.”
Adorably, Gil Dong grumbles that Enok has developed a “useless” sense of patience and fortitude. But he’s willing to adjust to Enok’s wishes: “I should match her pace, and take it slow.”
Which just goes to show that Gil Dong has decided at last to stop fighting their relationship and let it happen. (Yay! and Finally!) In the Hong sisters’ previous dramas, I’ve noticed a tendency for the guy to take longer in coming around to the romance (Mong Ryong in Chun Hyang; Gong Chan in My Girl) — but once they do, there’s no changing their minds. They’re in for good. I’m trusting in this pattern again for Hong Gil Dong.
Eun Hye’s newfound knowledge of Enok’s identity has provided her with a moral quandary: Still unable to get over her love for Gil Dong, she knows this information would drastically affect his relationship with Enok. She knows she can’t be with him:
“But it makes me so angry. I can’t have him, but someone with an even bigger reason to not have him is right now at his side. … I keep having these wrong thoughts, awful thoughts wanting to tell him [about Enok] even if it’s just to hurt him.”
For the moment, she realizes that such a line of action would be wrong, but who knows how long her reason will keep her jealousy in check?
Chang Whe, who understands the power he’s been given in the form of Hwal Bin Dang’s support, tells Lady Noh that his duty to be king isn’t because of the sword but, as Gil Dong said, because of the people: “If I’m with him, can I become the kind of king the people would want?”
Lady Noh reminds him of the dangers that lie therein: It’s true that Gil Dong’s support will bolster Chang Whe in his goals. Gil Dong’s involvement will win the common people’s support for Chang Whe, while the sword will win the nobility: “However, think carefully. The people Hong Gil Dong fights are the nobility.”
Chang Whe, flirting with the dark side, tells her ominously, “I hold two swords in my hands — Hong Gil Dong and the Sa Yin sword. I want to use both.” (Lady Noh doesn’t waste her time with foreplay and grabs the dark side by the balls — she considers Gil Dong a dangerous liability, and wants to get rid of him for good. Again.)
Chang Whe sends Chisu and his men to the Hwal Bin Dang headquarters to deliver weapons, and sends a message for Enok — merely that he’s doing well without her, and still able to occasionally laugh. It’s a total lie, but he wants to put her at ease, and Enok, bless her everlasting simple heart, has no reason to disbelieve it. (Chang Whe tells himself again that he can manage fine without her — and I might feel more for him if it weren’t for that horrible ballad that always serves as Chang Whe’s mopey-sad-times anthem. It’s that one by Park Wan Kyu on the OST — the one that’s as poignant as a power ballad by a ’80s glam-rock hair band — and is just so emo that I crack up whenever it’s played.)
I think we can all safely presume that Chisu is madly in love with his master (which isn’t to say I seriously think he’s gay — the intensity of his devotion and man-love for Chang Whe practically transcends romance and sexuality — although a gay Chisu would still totally be hot) — and Chisu can’t bear to have Chang Whe continue to mope without Enok’s awareness of his feelings. And so, he starts to tell her, “Actually, that’s not it—” but cuts himself short, as it’s not his place to say. Oh Chisu, you’re so tragic.
Meanwhile, after some initial dick-measuring between the Yongmun fighters and the Hwal Bin Dang bandits, the two groups settle in and bond with each other. Su Geun entertains with uproarious stories, Gom playfully steals a sword, Mal Nyeo flirts, and Yeon falls in love with a beautifully made weapon.
Grandpa Heo’s old myths about Gil Dong make a comeback once the story becomes known of his confrontation with the king. The stories of Gil Dong’s amazing abilities are too unbelievable to be true, but the villagers start buying into them because how else could he have engineered such a successful escape from the palace, with so many guards?
Kwang Whe, meanwhile, is consumed by his need to capture Gil Dong, to the exclusion of all other issues. He orders his men to make Gil Dong their number 1 priority. I suspect he is not alone in that line of reasoning.
Get used to this guy, because he’s our new bad guy, probably for the next few episodes. A Chinese ambassador, he’s here on official government business (and the government ministers are put on their best behavior to receive their VIP visitor), but wastes no time with his own nefarious plan to addict the populace onto opium. Already a large number of people are hooked, enabled by dirt-cheap prices — once the people are sufficiently addicted, he plans to drastically raise opium prices. Evil! Also called: Starbucks.
Gil Dong hears of the opium, and taking down the opium dealer becomes Hwal Bin Dang’s next mission. Their goal will be aided by Chang Whe & Co., who are already involved because Minister Seo has engaged the Yongmun merchants to help host a banquet for the ambassador.
Gil Dong plots out Hwal Bin Dang’s moves, and asks which of the bandits will accompany him on his first task. Immediately, Enok’s hand shoots up in the air, Hermione-style, and the other guys play along and remove themselves. Gom, however, may just equal Enok in his lack of perception and happily volunteers himself, causing Yeon to shove his hand back down. Hehe.
So Gil Dong takes Enok with him to the gisaeng house to find out about the source of the opium.
At one point, a gisaeng takes an interest in Enok, thinking she’s a new young gentleman; to avoid trouble, Gil Dong quickly distracts her by bringing the gisaeng to sit on his own lap. He flirts with her, then smoothly asks about the “merchandise” that’s such a hit these days.
Enok is not amused.
The gisaeng brings them to meet the opium dealer, who’s reluctant to give Gil Dong what he wants (large quantities of opium for resale). But he changes his mind when the gisaeng warns them to escape because “soldiers” are coming on a “raid.” Not knowing that it’s Su Geun dressed as a policeman leading the bandits, the dealer expresses his gratitude to Gil Dong for getting him out of the mess, and leads them to his home base — an opium den.
Gil Dong and Enok are shocked at the grim sight of people lolling around, barely conscious, hopped up on poppies. The dealer brings an opium pipe for Gil Dong to sample his merchandise, and Gil Dong tries to decline, unsuccessfully. It becomes increasingly clear that he’ll have to smoke some, since the dealer tells him that a dealer who’s addicted to the stuff will sell it better. (I’ve heard it said that a dealer actually shouldn’t sample his own wares — you’d consume all your merchandise and end up with no profits — but let’s let that slide for now.)
The thought of using the opium sickens both Enok and Gil Dong, but they can’t risk making the dealer suspicious. Finally, Enok snatches the pipe and smokes it — Gil Dong is helpless to protest — and assures the dealer that it’s good stuff.
They seal the transaction, then part ways. Enok feels sick from the effects of the drug, and when Gil Dong asks why she took it, she answers that Gil Dong couldn’t risk becoming impaired.
Gil Dong carries her home.
Over the next few days, Hwal Bin Dang monitors the opium dealers and keeps an eye on their movements. They locate their main warehouse as the Chinese ambassador’s quarters.
Gil Dong confers with Chang Whe, and they settle their plans. Gil Dong intends to infiltrate the warehouse and confiscate all the opium. Chang Whe will handle things on the ambassador’s side.
(Gil Dong loiters after they finish their business, leading Chang Whe to ask if he wants anything further. Gil Dong hesitates, then says: “I’m hungry. Give me some crackers. Your crackers here are pretty good.” HAAAAAA.)
A message is delivered — shot on an arrow — to the palace guards, outlining the map Gil Dong has drawn of their opium-related targets. A message is scrawled indicating that Hwal Bin Dang will be raiding the marked spots. In Hyung takes this as a challenge by Gil Dong, and orders his men to move out. Shortsighted In Hyung falls straight for the bait — the police will stake out the marked locations, and while they’re occupied, Yongmun will host the feast for the Chinese ambassador and Korean government officials at the gisaeng club, and Hwal Bin Dang will steal into the ambassador’s quarters to take the opium.
At the dinner, it’s obvious that the Chinese ambassador, who sees Korea as a puny little country to be subjugated, grates on the nerves of the proud government officials (in attendance are Ministers Hong, Seo, and Choi, among others), but they can’t upset diplomatic relations and offend their important guest. Minister Seo is perfectly willing indulge the ambassador in obsequious kowtowing, but Minister Hong has a particularly hard time.
Gil Dong raids the opium warehouse successfully, but confronts an unexpected obstacle — it’s the Chinese ambassador’s secret weapon, a giant of a man who I assume is meant to look much bigger through camera tricks and angles but instead looks like a freaky variation on the Nutcracker. He IS creepy, though.
After getting the crap beat out of himself, Gil Dong regroups and manages to take down the giant. Hwal Bin Dang gathers the crates of opium, then heads for the banquet —
— which Gil Dong crashes unceremoniously. He storms across the table and kicks the corrupt ambassador to the ground, disgusted with his evil deeds.
He’s recognized by the ministers (including his father), and the alarm is raised, immediately bringing armed guards to capture the infamous Hong Gil Dong. But just as quickly, the Yongmun warriors poised above (in disguise) draw their own weapons to cover Gil Dong.
Gil Dong snarls at everyone — the ambassador, the officials — to get their act together (meaning to stop being so corrupt, yo), then goes outside. Chang Whe directs everyone to follow him outside to see with their own eyes the “merchandise” brought to their country by the ambassador.
Everyone pours outside to see Gil Dong reveal what’s hidden in the crates — large amounts of opium. And just as he sets the drugs on fire (hm, is that completely safe? Isn’t opium smoked?), Chang Whe looks up and spies one of his own men in the window, poised to shoot Gil Dong.
In the chaos of the moment nobody else has noticed the sniper, other than Lady Noh, who ordered the hit in the first place, eager to dispose of Gil Dong. With no time to shout a warning, Chang Whe makes a quick, rash decision —
He leaps in front of Gil Dong and takes the arrow in the chest instead, shocking everyone.
Well. You can’t really argue with an arrow to the chest, can you? Chang Whe, you show signs of greatness, and your constant flirting with the dark side continues to make me nervous. Gil Dong represents both your biggest strength and weakness; strength because his faith in you proves you’re worthy of having faith in, and weakness because your selfish desires always threaten to overthrow your better half, being that you’re jealous that he’s won the heart of the girl AND your people. But when you took the arrow, at least for now it shows that you chose to be strong instead of weak, and I can’t really knock that.
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 15
- Hong Gil Dong: Episode 14
- 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