Omg. Strongest Chil Woo is AWESOME (-ly bad). But still, awesome!
It is SO corny, and that makes it so, so good.
I never thought I’d say this, but one of its best assets right now is its terrible acting. I don’t know if they’re being bad on purpose, or if they’re just not naturally suited to the material, but in any case I’d like to tell them: Thank you. A show that is not meant to be good is best being very, very bad. It couldn’t’a happened without you.
SONG OF THE DAY
Hooligan – “상상웃음” (Imaginary laugh) [ Download ]
EPISODE 4 RECAP
After Chil Woo and Min barge in and find their targets already dead, they brood over who could have done it. There’s precious little they know about the backwards-Z assassin, their reverse-Zorro, or as I will now call him, ORROZ.
We finally get a glimpse of this guy, aka Lee Eon of Coffee Prince, playing a kind of silent but menacing assassin. Only, he’s kind of terrible at glowering (and his crying looks like laughing, honestly) so he doesn’t quite pull off the effect he’s going for. (Lee Eon, ya know I love you, but you’re kinda (awesomely!) bad here.)
He was hired by the nobleman from the previous episode (Douchebag’s father). Having fulfilled his job, he gets paid in gold pieces and claims the other half of his fee — the nobleman frees a mother-daughter pair from bondage. They don’t understand why he’s helping them, but he shows them a turtle-embroidered handkerchief, which bears special meaning, having belonged to the woman’s son. We later come to know Lee Eon as a former royal bodyguard, and he contorts his face in the semblance of sadness as he explains that he was a friend of her dead son, and is helping them for his sake.
Two things I love about Chil Woo’s day job: first, his police corps is kind of a bumbling, slapdash unit, in contrast to how I’ve usually seen police depicted (efficient and impersonal); second, he’s always sleepy and bored at work — how many of us can relate? — in keeping with his new moonlighting job. How very Veronica Mars of him.
The unit is given news that they’ll all be on duty during the upcoming birthday feast for a Chinese ambassador. They’re instructed to be careful not to ruffle any feathers for the VIP’s banquet.
More baddies. I don’t know their names, but you’ll get to know the trio, led by the evil guy in blue. The evil deed o’ the day deals with the enslavement of women, and no sooner does the bodyguard release the mother and daughter pair than they run into trouble. They’re rounded up with other women, to be sold off into slavery. Gee, I’m starting to get the impression that the Joseon era wasn’t such a great time to be a woman.
Chil Woo’s unit decides to earn some extra money by going through the roster of indentured women and freeing all those who aren’t on the list — random innocent women were often stolen and sold off — because apparently it’s okay to enslave SOME women but not others. The police all dress in plainclothes to check out the scene, which is where Chil Woo comes across the women, who had been shot with arrows as they tried to escape.
The woman asks Chil Woo with her dying breath to avenge her wrong (how do all these dying people automatically know Chil Woo is in the business of vengeance?), and gives him the gold pieces. Once more confronted with the general suckiness of humanity, Chil Woo decides to take on their cause and avenge their deaths.
To do that, he starts with the gold, which is distinctive and can be traced back to the nobleman. Chil Woo consults with Min, who’s busy researching more about their mystery Orroz, whom they think may be the man we know as the bodyguard. Putting the pieces together, Chil Woo speculates that there must be a hidden reason for the dying slave woman to be in possession of the gold pieces belonging to the man who hired Orroz.
So Yoon spies the Bodyguard and recognizes him from her days back in China. While their relationship specifics aren’t clear, So Yoon knows his current mission and disapproves; she tries to convince him to give up the idea as too dangerous. But he tells her he’s a dead man any way, and he cannot die without first claiming justice.
He assures her he has a plan, so when So Yoon later spies him dressed in disguise as a peasant, she fears for whatever he has cooked up.
So Yoon goes to Chil Woo’s father for help, happening upon the man as Chil Woo is urinating just a few feet away. Chil Woo jumps out of sight to avoid an awkward encounter, and overhears So Yoon ask his father to meet her later about a matter to be kept secret from Chil Woo.
Naturally, that gets Chil Woo’s attention, while also firing up some irrational jealousy at what So Yoon could possibly have to tell his father that she wouldn’t tell him.
That night, So Yoon asks Chil Woo’s father for help. Chil Woo overhears as she nervously tells him that a man will attempt to assassinate the ambassador. Reporting the man directly to the authorities is a risky idea, and may further endanger her (since she knew the man), so she asks Chil Woo’s father to step in and make sure that the man is kept under watch until the ambassador leaves in a few days.
Chil Woo’s father is as good as his word, but unfortunately, his word’s not very good. He sends a group of bandits to subdue the bodyguard, but they’re no match for his superior strength and skill. He easily works free of their trap.
Meanwhile, Chil Woo asks So Yoon about the mystery assassin, admitting that he overheard her conversation. Hearing that the man’s attempt may bring her further danger, Chil Woo’s worried for her safety, but So Yoon tells him insistently to stay out of her affairs. He looks longingly after her. I don’t think he knows how to look at her otherwise.
Feast day. To impress upon us that the ambassador is an evil guy who deserves to die, he’s a pompous ass to the court ministers and sneers down his nose at them. He cheats one of the ministers by demanding 10 times the worth of a monkey, but then again, if a minister is idiot enough to pay that much for a monkey, maybe he doesn’t deserve his money?
Chil Woo and his father stand outside, bored, on guard duty. Hearing that the Bodyguard got free of the trap laid out for him, they realize the ambassador’s life is in danger, and burst inside. Chil Woo quickly scans the courtyard, surveying possible hiding places and disguises, until he spots the ambassador being carried away by a guard, drunk.
The next thing we know, we’re in the ambassador’s inner quarters, and the man helping him there turns out to be none other than Chil Woo himself. Therefore he’s on guard and ready when the bodyguard charges out of his hiding space — come on, doesn’t anyone hide anywhere other than behind the screen? — and we have a sword clash of truly lame proportions. (Ehn! Take that!)
Bodyguard breaks away and escapes on horseback, but first nicks Chil Woo on the chest, marking him with a backward Z. Chil Woo is in quick pursuit, and triumphantly snaps his whip to his saddle — only to find himself dragged along behind the horse. First he’s pulled along on his stomach — ouch — and then kicks up to his feet, “boarding” along with a plate/disc at his feet.
Chil Woo careens through the marketplace, keeping his balance, until he maneuvers his way up a ramp-like board and soars in the air — LANDING DIRECTLY IN THE SADDLE. Oh hello there. Nice of you to drop in.
And yet, victory is short-lived, because Chil Woo doesn’t keep an eye on the road ahead of him and therefore doesn’t duck in time to avoid being smacked by an overhanging roof. The guy gets away, while Chil Woo slides to the ground, wind knocked out of him.
Determined to find the man, Chil Woo asks So Yoon again who he is and where to find him. Chil Woo knows she’s not telling the whole truth, but she won’t disclose anything further.
Lucky for him, observant Min spies a few leaves dotted with blood and is on the trail. He follows the blood until he arrives at its source — the bodyguard, IN A TREE, tending to his wounds.
They fight, and yes, that is the bodyguard hanging horizontally off a tree trunk using naught but the strength of his ankles. Impressive.
Chil Woo jumps into the fray, brandishing his whip, and successfully entangles his opponent until he’s trapped against the tree. But just as Min raises a sword against him, So Yoon rushes in front of him and protests. She begs him to tell them the whole story, and to clear his name. He wasn’t the one who killed Min’s colleagues or Woo Young’s father.
And so we get a flashback to the days when the Bodyguard was one of the soldiers who protected the now-murdered prince. His fellow guards had set up camp for the night when a mysterious, black-garbed assassin — the real Orroz — swooped in and cut down every last one of his friends, including the guy whose mother and sister he’d sought to save earlier this episode. The Bodyguard, who had been separated from the group, managed to escape with only a backwards-Z on his chest — saved by the need to poop! — and is now on a mission to gain revenge. Orroz is linked to the ambassador; thus the assassination attempt.
Min and Chil Woo are forced to admit that his story has the ring of truth, which is further supported by the letters he’s carved into his own forehead (“must kill”) which serve as a reminder to his mission. He couldn’t just tie a string around his finger?
The Bodyguard insists that he will kill the ambassador and storms off.
Chil Woo and his fellow police officers are charged with accompanying the ambassador to safety as he leaves the capital. Although they’re on alert for the possible assassin, everyone’s a little perplexed to see a barrel rolling down the hill toward them — who else thought Donkey Kong? — until it explodes. More barrels head down the hill, and more explosions are set off, as we see the Bodyguard at the top of the hill rolling the cylinders (presumably filled with gunpowder) and Min igniting them with flaming arrows.
In the ensuing chaos, everyone scatters but for Chil Woo, who maintains a cool head and charges up the hill on horseback. Along the way, the ambassador (begging for help) is helped on horseback behind Chil Woo, and together they gallop away to safety.
The ambassador blubbers his appreciation and assures Chil Woo he will be rewarded, so excited to have escaped harm that it takes him a moment to register what’s happening when the Bodyguard suddenly appears alongside Chil Woo. Min gallops on horseback on the other side.
The following scene is so absurd that even I, who was prepared for all levels of insanity, was dumbfounded at the sight, slackjawed and muttering, “Chil Woo, what the hell???” As with previous episodes, we make this jump from mildly campy to full-on cheese-mania near the 1 hour mark, which I am now going to call Magical Hour.
To describe in words: Chil Woo smirks at his accomplices and smoothly works his way onto to another horse, leaving the ambassador baffled at first, then fighting a growing sense of horror as he realizes he’s been delivered straight to the lion’s den. Chil Woo and his boys whoop and cheer as Chil Woo informs the man that they’re actually all in it together, and strikes his best “I’m the king of the world!” pose. The Bodyguard cheerfully tells the man that in his next lifetime, he ought to be reborn as a mangy dog since he’s not fit for humanity.
And then, the three men start performing tricks off their galloping horses, doing flips on the saddles and jumping from one side of the horse to the other, to the strains of Bowie’s iconic “Under Pressure,” I SHIT YOU NOT. First of all, huh? Second, when did they have all this time to practice their synchronized routine? No wonder Chil Woo’s always falling asleep at work. There is no explanation for why they are doing this or why we are witnessing this. Well, the reason is that the director is an idiot, but there’s no good reason. The boys leap across a gap in the sand that the ambassador cannot handle, and he falls from the horse to his death. The boys ride off into the sunset.
But why describe in words what can be described in wonderful, wonderful images?
And then we hear the unmistakable sounds — that drumbeat, or is it castanets? — that signal my favorite part of the episode is about to make its appearance, that most magical part of Magical Hour: transformation time!
The three amigos each take one gold piece and swear their allegiance to this cause, and share a (non-terrorist) fist bump. They separate to suit up. Chil Woo dons his black outfit in his secret closet, Min wears his white one in his refined quarters, and the Bodyguard dresses IN HIS TREE. No, I’m serious, he has a TREE HUT. What is he, some kind of tree whisperer?
Min also gives the Bodyguard a new name to mark his new identity — JA JA, which refers to his forehead death tattoo character.
Then we’re back at the Gate of Smoke and Backlights (monster truck rally, anyone?), and they all give each other meaningful looks and charge forward to their next mission. Onward ho!
Only, right away they’re cornered by men, led by the woman-trafficking Evil Trio.
Caught off guard for a moment, our heroes take in the scene (I love that Min has to raise the edge of his white veil to see what the hell’s going on) before Ja Ja swings into action (literally) by spinning his mace — yes, he has a mace — over his head in a large circle, keeping their enemies at bay.
Chil Woo and Min jokingly wonder if it was a good idea bringing Ja Ja into their midst, and then prepare to engage in the impending fight.
I don’t have much to add today because I think I’ve already said it. All I’ll add is, after the relative boredom of Episode 3, I’m relieved to be back in the thick of craziness, and hope for sanity’s sake that they keep this up. Chil Woo has a tendency to drag when it’s not being outlandish, and I don’t know how much boredom I can take if that’s not regularly interspersed with the funny.