Hong Gil Dong: Episode 17
Just when I’d thought we’d settled into a pattern of plots and bad guys, trust the Hong sisters to mix things up. Yay for unpredictability.
SONG OF THE DAY
Sorri (소히) – “누구에게” (To whom) [ zShare download ]
EPISODE 17 RECAP
Shot. The Hwal Bin Dang members quickly retreat to get Chang Whe to safety, while the Yongmun guys look on in shock and the government officials try to figure out who’s whom and on which side. Minister Seo, for instance, is blithely unaware of the significance of what just happened until Minister Hong, shrewd as he is, identifies the shot man as the prince. He’s also recognized Enok as part of Gil Dong’s group.
Gil Dong and Enok tend to Chang Whe, fading fast — the wound was fairly shallow, but the arrow was tipped in poison, and he’s wracked with chills. Gil Dong rushes off to retrieve its antidote, leaving Enok to watch over Chang Whe.
Lady Noh and Minister Choi know time is ticking for Chang Whe, but their hands are tied by Minister Hong, who’s determined to get to the bottom of everything.
A subtle power play ensues; Lady Noh is forced to remain in Hong’s presence while he interrogates her men, unable to leave or have a private word with anyone. After all, to the outside world, Yongmun and Hwal Bin Dang are unrelated. Nobody knows they’ve been working together, so Yongmun’s official position is that Gil Dong has nothing to do with them. Therefore Lady Noh is coerced into cooperation with Hong to avoid looking guilty or suspicious.
Overcome with worry, Enok tries to keep Chang Whe conscious, babbling that he must stay awake, that he mustn’t die. Chang Whe reminds her of the last time they were in these circumstances, when she tended to his stab wound in Episode 5. He admits that he’d almost killed her while she slept — she doesn’t care, she forgives him — but realized that day that he wouldn’t be able to kill her:
Chang Whe: “With you by my side, I became a true person.”
She tells him her luck is good, so by extension:
Enok: “With you by my side, your luck will be good, and you’ll live.”
Chang Whe registers the meaning of that, and tells her to stay with him, then — it’s a promise.
Hong’s divide-and-conquer strategy throws everyone at Yongmun into chaos. Lady Noh is the only one with access to the antidote, but she’s not allowed to interact with anyone. Chisu and the subordinates are running around trying to find Chang Whe, but even if they could find him they have no access to the antidote, and Hong’s soldiers bar them from entry to the building. Likewise, Gil Dong has no access to the building either, and with time running out, fighting would take too much time. He needs a way to slip inside quietly, without suspicion.
…which leads him to Eun Hye, who’s surprised but not necessarily displeased to see Gil Dong sneak into her room in the middle of the night. Really, there are worse ways to be woken up.
She cheers to hear Gil Dong say he’s come for her help, and asks: “You’re here because you need me?” Those words are particularly welcome given how he’d previously turned her away, saying he didn’t need her when he was imprisoned at the palace.
Eun Hye’s arrival at the Yongmun headquarters comes just in the nick of time — both Chisu and Lady Noh had come to the conclusion, separately, to resort to desperate measures. That would have ended in violence and also blown their cover, endangering their plans and their lives.
Luckily, Eun Hye is admitted inside, and her story is good enough to allay Minister Hong’s suspicions. She tells Lady Noh that she’s come to collect the “medicine” she’d promised to deliver earlier. If it wouldn’t be any trouble, would it be all right if Lady Noh stepped aside for just a short moment to give her the medicine? Minister Hong consents, after his inquiry over the nature of the medicine is answered with that response guaranteed to make all men shudder and quickly dismiss the topic: It’s for “women’s cramps.”
Eun Hye gives the antidote to Gil Dong after first using it to blackmail him into acknowledging her as “one of them.” (She doesn’t mean to join Hwal Bin Dang; just to be allowed with them instead of constantly dismissed.) Left with no choice, Gil Dong assents, and the antidote is administered.
Though Chang Whe improves, he’s still weak and in pain, requiring them to devise a cautious ploy to remove him to safety. Eun Hye once again offers her aid, which is again grudgingly accepted, as her presence offers them what no disguise can provide: a cloak of legitimacy.
The Hwal Bin Dang bandits dress as servants and carry Eun Hye inside a palanquin, inside which Chang Whe is hidden. When they’re stopped at a checkpoint, Eun Hye asserts her coldest, haughtiest demeanor to cow the guard into letting them pass, and the group makes it to Hwal Bin Dang’s mountain headquarters without further incident.
Gil Dong faces Lady Noh, and there’s no love lost between either of them. He calls her out for acting outside of Chang Whe’s orders, and she reminds him of their cross-purposes:
Lady Noh: “The world you fight is the world he is to rule.”
She insists she’ll get rid of anyone who endangers Chang Whe; Gil Dong asks if she thinks her way is keeping Chang Whe safe. Touché. Gil Dong warns her that if Chang Whe stomps over everything in his path to get to the throne he is supposedly meant to inherit, he may end up as crazed as the current king: “To be different from him, he wants to become the kind of king that the people he protects would want him to be.” Gil Dong tells Lady Noh to get her act together, else there’ll be trouble all around.
At the mountain stronghold, Enok tends to Chang Whe, who wonders if he can protect “those he holds dearest” and become the person they want him to be. She asks who those “dear” people are, and he says he means it in a general sense (i.e., his citizens), and one special person in particular. Puzzled, she guesses, “Gil Dong?” HAHA. Chang Whe answers, “He’s someone to work alongside, not protect. …In truth, he’s someone I’m afraid of losing to.” Thick-headed as she is, Enok has no idea what he fears losing, and Chang Whe sighs, “You’re the same as ever.”
She intends to leave him to his sleep, but Chang Whe asks her to stay, reminding her of the promise not to leave his side. Enok says she meant that in a metaphorical sense, in the sense that she wanted him not to die, but stays until he falls asleep.
She then remembers that Gil Dong was also injured in his fight, and mixes a remedy while wondering why he’s spending so much time talking to Eun Hye. Not that she need worry, since the answer’s a lot less sexy than her fears.
Gil Dong shows Eun Hye to her room for the night, warning her that they won’t put up with her extravagant demands here. Eun Hye tells him she won’t issue ridiculous orders anymore, prompting him to reply that at least she recognizes that they were ridiculous. Eun Hye admits she only spoke that way because she didn’t know how to talk to him, and he tells her to be honest, like now. Eun Hye muses how great it would’ve been if they could’ve started off on the right foot — she’d speak honestly, and he’d be nicer, like he is now.
But Gil Dong quickly bursts her bubble, telling her this is their last time talking like this — she needs to return to her side of the line. He tries help her get over him by explaining he’s a bad guy (which, dude, is a tactic that NEVER works). For instance, knowing she was his brother’s fiancée, part of why he didn’t turn her away immediately was to get back at his brother: “Don’t let yourself be used by a thief like me.”
Her hurt turns Eun Hye cold, and she tells him, “I knew. I’m not stupid.” After he leaves, she tells herself:
Eun Hye: “I’ll return — I can’t cross the line and come here. Instead, I’ll pull you over the line to my side, so I can have you.”
Minister Hong orders his man to find out everything he can about Enok — her identity, her background, her family. Boy, is he in for a rude awakening or what?
Gil Dong finally makes his way back to check on Enok, who’s fallen asleep mixing her medicinal concoction. Immediately he reverts to his adorable, immature-boy behavior, sad that his injuries were neglected in light of Chang Whe’s graver ones.
“I hurt here too,” he pouts like an ignored child. Touching his bloody lip:
Gil Dong: “It really hurts all over. If I don’t get treated immediately, I might be in big trouble. I need emergency CPR.”
He draws back: “All better.”
In the morning, however, his attitude with awake Enok is the complete reverse: she comments on him getting beat up by the giant, and Gil Dong says defensively, “Beat up? I beat him up more!”
Enok says she’ll mix him a medicinal brew too, but Gil Dong dismisses it, smiling and touching a finger to his lips: “Let him have the bitter medicine. I’ve got a different prescription. It’s pretty effective, so I don’t hurt at all.” Enok doesn’t get his implication, and tells him to share with Chang Whe if it’s so good. Gil Dong, possessively: “No way! It’s mine!”
Gil Dong thanks Chang Whe for intercepting the arrow and saving his life. Amusingly, the two men engage in their own jostling for position — it’s like a good-natured unwillingness to let the other have the upper hand.
Chang Whe says that his act gained him something more — Gil Dong’s support: “You can’t betray me now.” Gil Dong contradicts him, saying that since Chang Whe risked himself to help Gil Dong, it’s in fact Gil Dong who has earned Chang Whe’s support. They wonder: “Have we both earned each other’s support then?”
Hilariously, the exchange makes both uncomfortable, so Gil Dong awkwardly tells Chang Whe to return home. Chang Whe retorts: “I was gonna go anyway.” Ah, they’re such little boys — first fighting over toys, then fighting to be the bigger man and share their toys.
Chang Whe seems to have come to the understanding that his leg of the love triangle is the unrequited one, and seems (to me) to be taking a step back. It’s not that he’s giving her up, but he knows a useless fight when he sees one. Still, he’s found a new way to frame their relationship, which makes his position seem less pitiful:
Chang Whe: “You said you had to be with [Gil Dong]. But I’ve decided to travel with him as well, which means you and I are going together too. … So don’t forget that I’m here by your side. Thank you for telling me I’m important to you. With those words, I’ll be able to hold on for a good while.”
The Lady Noh/Chang Whe confrontation, to my disappointment, does not result in a richly deserved Lady Noh bitchslap. True, she does seem genuinely horrified at having nearly killed Chang Whe, but she’s got a lot of attempted murdering to make up for and one measly conversation won’t erase all that. But I suppose I’ll have to be satisfied with her teary assurance that she will no longer overstep Chang Whe, or act without his orders. Perhaps we are to note that her normally dark blood-red lipstick has been muted to a lighter pink — a sign of softening?
Chang Whe is firm with her, but not angry — he merely says that he wants to earn the right to rule from his people, not merely through the decree of the sword.
The Hwal Bin Dang guys recognize that same integrity in Chang Whe, conceding that the guy does seem different from your usual nobleman. Gom asks, “If a person like him becomes king, would the world change?” Su Geun asks if Gil Dong trusts him, to which Gil Dong answers: “He says he’s with us without hesitation, so we have to trust him.”
The citizenry arrive at similar conclusions, figuring that if the long-lost prince is on Gil Dong’s side, perhaps he’ll be a king who’ll save the people. The problem, then, is that the same principle that makes Chang Whe popular with the people raises disapproval with the nobility.
In Hyung (poor sap!) is as misguided as ever — in the absence of wisdom or skill, he clings to his anger at Gil Dong, foolishly believing that killing Gil Dong will solve his problems and win Eun Hye’s heart. She tells him that In Hyung will never have her affections — the day she fell for Gil Dong was the day In Hyung betrayed him (Episode 5, in the gisaeng club when he stabbed him in the arm). In Hyung, who never learns, vows: “I will catch him, and your heart too.”
You know what’s so sad about In Hyung? With the affection and faith of a good woman, he could really be a good man. But he’s so weak that when he’s surrounded by corruption and weakness, he is his own downfall.
Gil Dong’s legend continues to grow, to the point where everything is attributed to him. For instance, the latest strangeness is a series of deaths committed by ghosts — which are then attributed to Gil Dong, despite the fact that there’s nothing connecting him to the deaths.
Gil Dong puts no store in ghosts, though, and explains that he’ll have to find out more about the dead nobleman: “If you find out more about the dead guy, you’ll find the killer.”
So, Gil Dong heads to the gisaeng club to ask about the latest dead guy. Ridiculous Minister Seo is also there, scoping out prospective new husbands for Eun Hye. Having seen how stubbornly she’s fixated on Gil Dong, Seo figures that he’ll find someone who looks like Gil Dong to replace her infatuation. Seo sighs over the young, well-dressed noblemen there and wonders why Eun Hye couldn’t fall for any of them instead.
While talking to the gisaengs, Gil Dong overhears a scuffle, and sees a young nobleman beating a gisaeng, cursing at her and kicking her to the ground. Clearly something must be done about the matter.
Disgusted with the woman-beater, Gil Dong barges into the man’s room. A few blows later, the matter is concluded swiftly, and in no time Gil Dong is drinking their liquor and scolding them. The men fearfully cower, asking why he — a fellow nobleman — is behaving thus with them. (Gil Dong: “Calling me your fellow nobleman just embarrasses me.”)
They ask who he is. Gil Dong answers that everything these days is pinned on Hwal Bin Dang: “Just consider me Hwal Bin Dang.”
As Gil Dong exits the club, Seo immediately takes notice of the man — he’s well-dressed (therefore must be a nobleman):
Seo: “Plus, he looks just like that thief — he’s just Eun Hye’s type! He’ll do. Ah, my son-in-law!”
On Gil Dong’s walk home, he senses something strange. Figuring he’s probably being followed, he ducks into a building, but his uneasiness just grows. He looks around, always a half-second too late to see the creepy figure moving behind him, wondering what’s out there.
Gil Dong: “Aw, dammit. They’re scary.”
Yikes. Ghosts, for real? Let me tell ya, these are the freakiest types of ghosts — the traditional Korean kind, with their white shroud-y-looking dresses and black hair and all that creepy flying-floating in the air. I couldn’t look at a television properly for a month after I saw The Ring (which plays on the same kind of old-school ghost imagery). And yet, I have to give them credit for laying in early what seemed like a silly throwaway joke at the time — remember the absurd ghost/zombie argument from Episode 2?
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