Ooh, Episode 5 is good. And with Strongest Chil Woo, “good” really means “bad,” but you probably already guessed that.
This series isn’t just funny. It’s hysterical. I’m pretty hard to surprise, but I have to admit there’s always a moment or two in each episode that literally makes my jaw drop open in disbelief. It’s almost enough of a farce to liveblog.
SONG OF THE DAY
Strongest Chil Woo OST – “기다려요” (Wait) by Han Eol. I really like the instrumentation of this track; it reminds me of other fusion pop musicians Sorea and I.S. (Infinite of Sound). In fact, doesn’t it sound like this song? But in a good way; they’re different despite their obvious stylistic similarities. [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
Today’s story deals with the all-important civil service exam (think SATs, but worse, and chauvinist to boot), passage of which was required to enter into government service. This dude is KIM JO HYUN, a scholar who’s pretty smart but not as smart as his girlfriend OHT BONG, who’s the famous quasi-anonymous poet going by the name “Seok Hyung.” Nobody but Kim knows the poet’s true identity; everyone believes Seok to be a man.
Apparently Oht Bong lovingly prodded (read: nagged) her dear lover to enter into civil service, going so far as to dress as a man to take his test for him. (Insert a “Who’s wearing the pants?” joke here.) Because of the importance of the exam, cheating and bribes were rampant, so I suppose we are to take this behavior as par for the course. Kim tells her earnestly that he feels bad asking her to do this, but when he joins the government, he will work to include the skills of talented women like herself. He’s exploiting her abilities for HER sake! For their future! Isn’t he noble?
Kim does so well that not only does he pass, he earns the notice of the king, who awards him with a royal gift (an embroidered pouch) for coming in first place. He also asks Kim to confirm whether he’s really Seok Hyung, as the king is a great admirer of the poet’s work. With such temptation before his eyes, Kim lets his ambition overcome him and takes the chance to impress the king. Why yes, he IS Seok Hyung.
We are finally introduced to Kim Byul playing feisty shopkeeper YEON DOO, who witnesses the happy couple (Kim and Oht Bong) embracing after he is awarded his prize. Oht Bong is proud of her man, but Kim is overcome with a sudden selfish impulse now that he’s been given power and assumed the identity of Seok Hyung. Oht Bong would only be a complication. He strangles her in a fit of greed.
Obviously he went to the Eric school of acting whereby the amount of shock one feels is indicated by the amount of white you see in their eyes. See? Very very white = very shocked at self’s actions.
Dropping his pouch by Oht Bong’s prone body, Kim staggers away. Once outside, we get a flashback of the pouch dropping, just in case you’ve forgotten what happened in the last thirty seconds, and he rushes back to retrieve it — only, the body’s gone. Wow, Yeon Doo’s pretty spry for her size.
Yeon Doo takes Oht Bong home, who’s injured so badly that she might not survive.
Chil Woo and his buddies meet at their assassin headquarters, aka the wishing pond. Min has called the gathering to formalize their roles and come up with guidelines (SO like a bureaucrat), but Chil Woo isn’t having it. He expresses his suspicion of the upper classes and doesn’t trust them to be fair or honest. Yes, the ASSASSIN has moral issues with club rules.
Although Min and Jaja seem ready to jump into business together, Chil Woo’s like the guy who’s gotten what he’s wanted from his one-night stand and now tells them, “Thanks, it’s been fun.” They can all continue to pursue their elusive Orroz, but they can do it separately. Chil Woo’s more amenable to partnering with Jaja, a fellow commoner, and suggests they leave the nobleman out of their partnership; noblemen can’t be trusted not to stab you in the back.
Chil Woo asks Jaja about So Yoon’s past, and her relationship to the deceased Prince So Hyun. Jaja answers that when she was dragged off to China, she’d attempted to commit suicide, as a preferable fate to being a concubine. However, the prince interceded and saved her.
Jaja suggests that Chil Woo put the moves on Lady So Yoon, since it’s obvious he lurrrves her. Chil Woo protests — she’s not that kind of lady — but to Jaja’s wee brain, it’s so simple: He makes a pass at her, and she either slaps him (to which he can say, meekly, “Sorry”) or she accepts his advance.
Speaking of whom, So Yoon is alone at the river, doing the laundry in the middle of the night. You know your life sucks when the other slaves sneer at you because they get to be banquet slaves while you’re stuck being a laundry slave. I imagine this is what it would be like at a Cinderella convention — once you get those girls together, they’d all form cliques and pick on the weakest one, thinking, “Yay, finally I get to be the evil stepsister,” forgetting how that story actually ends.
So Yoon takes a moment to think back to her hunny Chil Woo, and smiles to see the night air fill with CG fireflies, attempting to catch one. Chil Woo watches from water’s edge.
Oh Chil Woo, if only you could muster a tear, this would be a nice emotional moment to do so. He gazes at So Yoon longingly as she starts to cry, ostensibly mourning the loss of The Love That Could Have Been.
And despite the sadness of the moment, it’s actually a positive sign for Chil Woo, who has had no encouragement from So Yoon thus far. Because the tears mean she still has feelings for him! And while he must work out his emotions that night on horseback (naturally), in the morning, his mood is buoyed, even happy.
Thus it’s with a nonchalant swagger that Chil Woo strolls into So Yoon’s home the next morning for breakfast. As though it is the most natural thing in the world, Chil Woo sits down and starts eating, to So Yoon’s surprise.
She eyes him distrustfully, asking why he’s here and what he’s doing. Chil Woo merely digs into his food and tells her he’s here because he’s hungry. And it’s breakfast time. Duh.
(I know his intentions are good, but isn’t it kind of mean for a government official to be stealing food from a slave?)
After breakfast, Chil Woo makes his way through the marketplace on his way to work, and sees Yeon Doo in her element, attracting the masses with her wares. She draws interest by dancing with a drum, then offering free gifts. Chil Woo claims one.
Yeon Doo is struck upon seeing Chil Woo, sensing that she’s seen him before. As he walks away, she remembers — he was the assassin who killed Heo Won Do just as he’d been about to assault her.
That evening, Chil Woo takes So Yoon to a town ritual/ceremony involving walking around a tower with a lantern. Again, So Yoon asks what’s up with his change in behavior, feeling awkward at his sudden kindly attention.
While Chil Woo is distracted watching So Yoon, a pink blur speeds by him and deposits a note in his hand. Startled, he looks around but sees nobody.
Murderous Boyfriend Kim meets secretly with Chil Woo’s father to request his services (Chil Woo’s father does odd jobs, many of which verge on the wrong side of the law, to make extra cash at night). He wants the woman named Oht Bong found and brought to him, and will pay a hefty sum.
Chil Woo’s mysterious note reads like a threat; it refers to Chil Woo’s identity as an assassin. Min accuses Chil Woo of being careless in his assassin-ly activities to have been identified, but just as they’re about to come to blows, they’re interrupted by darts whizzing by.
It’s a masked intruder! Only, she may be wearing a mask but is otherwise dressed in her bright pink hanbok, so I don’t know who Yeon Doo thinks she’s fooling. She hurtles through the air — literally — toward them, flying past in a tumbling sequence of cartwheels and backflips (guess that gymnastics training for Taereung National Village really came in handy) before Chil Woo manages to knock her down.
Plucky Yeon Doo (some might call her hard-headed or annoying, but I find her adorable) isn’t fazed in the least and announces that she’s here to commission their assassin services. It was her note they received, and she jogs their memories by reminding them of Heo Won Do’s assassination as the first time she saw both Chil Woo and Min: “You were really cool!”
So naturally they tie her to a tree.
Instead of listening to her story about a man trying to strangle a woman to death, they write her off as an annoyance. Even when she produces the embroidered pouch as proof, they dismiss her, telling her to use her time-out to reflect upon her behavior. Chil Woo clarifies that despite their, uh, string of assassinations, they’re not really assassins. They were acting under extenuating circumstances! He warns her not to do anything stupid because she’ll just put herself in danger.
It’s not that they think she’s lying — they do believe her accusation against the scholar, and it sparks conflict between Chil Woo and Min. Chil Woo uses this as an example of noblemen being backstabby, angering Min with his blanket mistrust of all nobles. As for Yeon Doo, they don’t place much importance on her complaint and want to be rid of her.
It’s no surprise that their behavior provokes her further, and she’s not one to take this lying down. In the village the next day, she confronts Chil Woo boldly, calling Chil Woo “Assassin Oppa.” He nervously laughs it off in front of his father (who doesn’t believe it anyway), and ushers his dad away, calling Yeon Doo mentally unbalanced. She shouts after him, announcing to the marketplace that “Assassin Chil Woo is a coward!”
When Kim is given leadership of Chil Woo’s unit, Chil Woo’s father recognizes their new leader as the man who’d made the secret request to find the missing woman. He introduces himself as Kim’s investigator.
Meanwhile, Yeon Doo isn’t giving up in her quest for justice, and takes her drum to the palace gates, where she attracts a crowd by announcing that one of the palace officers is harboring a secret identity. She creates a stir, while Chil Woo looks on nervously, unable to interfere without drawing attention to himself — but then she catches a glimpse of Kim. Recognizing him as the attempted murderer, she falls into a faint. I guess there are still some things in the world that can shut her up.
Kim orders Chil Woo’s father to capture the girl. Chil Woo and Min come to the same conclusion that it’s best to keep a close watch on Yeon Doo, and set out to find her.
Alas, they are late, arriving at Yeon Doo’s in time to see a group of ruffians running away with a body-sized bag slung over one man’s shoulder. Hmm, what could that be?
They follow the group, readying to interfere, when the ringleader arrives: Chil Woo’s father.
The guys digress for a moment as Chil Woo and father argue back and forth about their respective nighttime activities. Dad can’t believe his son is actually an assassin, and son wants to know why Dad is running around kidnapping young girls.
Which reminds them to free their captive, who warns them that Oht Bong’s in danger. They return to Yeon Doo’s home, which has been ransacked, but the intruders weren’t able to find the hidden room where Oht Bong is recovering.
Min spies some sheets of poetry lying around, which Yeon Doo explains were written by Oht Bong. Min deduces that the woman must be the poet Seok Hyung, and Yeon Doo informs them that Oht Bong has been in and out of consciousness, awakening to write poetry. As we all do.
In a series of still photos, we see Oht Bong in happier times with Kim before he turned evil. What, no budget for a montage?
Once more, Min and Chil Woo butt heads over what must be done about Oht Bong. Min wants to take special care before condemning Kim because he’s a powerful person, which chafes Chil Woo’s sense of egalitarianism. He’s offended at Min’s implication that he can kill baddies easily but not important people because one is worth less than the other: “All people’s lives are valued equally!” Yes, and Chil Woo takes those lives equally easily!
Jaja breaks up the argument by saying that if they confirm Kim is the baddie, problem solved.
And so, we hear those beats, those castanets, those rhythmic claps, that signal MAGICAL HOUR is upon us.
I would be happy enough to have the same ridiculous sequence replayed in every episode, but some wonderful genius decided to gift us with NEW footage as Chil Woo SOMERSAULTS toward his Batman-esque costume cove, shakes out his flowing locks, and snaps on METAL WRISTBANDS. Oh, if only he had the boomerang tiara to match.
But we’re not done, because then he must backflip away and flick back his sheer black robe with a flourish.
Then, their plan is set in motion. Chil Woo’s father delivers Oht Bong to Kim, only to have Kim turn on Chil Woo’s dad as well. At his signal, armed men rush in brandishing swords, ready to strike. He’s going to kill not just the pesky girlfriend but Mr. Choi as well. (Kim even tells Oht Bong that he can’t let this once-in-a-lifetime chance pass him by. And that this is actually HER mistake because she enabled this life opportunity. Wow, way to blame the victim.)
But of course they don’t get the chance, because our Assassin Trio swoops in to save the day. You mean that “Under Pressure” riff is going to be a recurring theme song?? Oh, happy day. That is awesome for its righteous cheesiness.
Jaja hurls his axe into a tree, and Chil Woo snaps his whip around the axe handle. I expect him to whip the axe back toward them, but instead it remains fastened to the tree, and Chil Woo swings the whip upward toward the villains, and HOLY SHIT THEY DID NOT JUST ALL JUMP-ROPE.
Wow, they really are jump-roping with the whip. My happiness is complete.
But no, I hath spoken too quickly, because then Chil Woo engages in hand-to-hand combat, only it’s more like sword-to-hand combat as he blocks the blades with his metal-plated arms. His forearms SPARK, and he tells them, “Doesn’t hurt!”
And finally, they all have Kim at swordpoint, ready to strike the deathblow.
Except, then Oht Bong interjects, “Don’t kill him!” She argues some crap like how he wasn’t a bad person until recently, and that it’s partially her fault for pushing him toward government office. I’m starting to get annoyed — way to push feminism back to the, uh, I suppose contemporary era for Chil Woo — because this is classic victimspeak where the woman blames herself for making her man hit her because she “deserved it.” She whines that if Kim dies, then it’s like she dies, too.
Stupid cow. Stupid, merciful cow.
But it’s okay, because Kim isn’t smart enough to stop while he’s ahead. Chil Woo tells Kim that they’ll spare him, but he must then tell the truth about the identity of the poet Seok Hyung. Kim goes ballistic, accusing Oht Bong of engineering this because she wants the glory. First of all? It’s HER glory to begin with. Second of all? I’m sure she went through all this trouble to almost die, numerous times, just to piss you off.
In a rage, Kim rushes at her with a hidden knife, and Min reacts quickly, stabbing him before he can reach her. He sinks to the ground, and she sobs.
(So does she die now too? Or was she just being poetic?)
The next morning, Chil Woo leaves home to head toward work, and spots So Yoon loitering in front of his house. Curious, he asks her why she’s there, and she stammers that she was just in the neighborhood on her way to work.
At her continued flustered behavior, Chil Woo clues in, guessing that she’s there because she was worried about him. She mumbles her denial, but Chil Woo has caught on and grins.
So Yoon also walks away smiling (to herself) — but she passes the mysterious black-garbed ORROZ and instantly feels a negative energy from him. She’s overcome with a sense of something ominous, while Chil Woo remains cheerful, unaware.
I have but one wish for Chil Woo, and that is for things to continue in the vein they have been progressing. I want to see what they pull out of their collective hats that will top horse acrobatics, jump-roping with a whip, Wonder Woman cuffs, and random acts of gymnastics.