There was actually some pretty decent emoting by Eric today. I think he’s a mostly uneven actor who’s capable of occasional strong performances (see: Que Sera Sera), but for the most part I find his role as Chil Woo pretty laughable. Not because of him, per se, but because of the overall tone of the drama. Even when Strongest Chil Woo dips into seriousness, a lot of times the weird directing brings out a campy tone rather than the actual honest emotion of a scene. But I liked Eric in today’s episode, which was a little more *real* than previous episodes. And, of course, Gu Hye-sun is good as well, and continues to be the only main cast member who still thinks she’s acting in a real sageuk.
SONG OF THE DAY
Spicy Soda – “사막으로 가다” (Going to the desert) [ Download ]
EPISODE 11 RECAP
At the end of Episode 10, the ugly general dragged off So Yoon with him to take back to China (again?), and because Chil Woo and his assassin buddies were busy frolicking in a mountain pond, it seemed that Orroz would be the one to save this damsel in distress (say it all together now: again?). Except now we see that rescue’s not quite what Orroz has in mind.
On their way back from saving the women from slavery, the tres amigos pause so Min can thank them for helping save his sister. To repay him, he tells Chil Woo that he’ll have So Yoon freed from her government post/enslavement, so he’d better prepare to get married. Chil Woo wonders at the change of heart, since Min had been unwilling to bend the rules even to save his sister, to which Min replies that it’s a task he’ll find difficult and doesn’t want to do, but he’ll manage it this once. Chil Woo rejoices.
But he’s too late, as So Yoon was taken away and is now being kept in a government building. There, the general questions her about her relationship with Prince So Hyun and what she knew about his and his wife’s mysterious deaths. So Yoon trembles in fear, but sticks to her story that she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. When he makes it clear that he doesn’t believe her denials, she takes a ballsy tack, telling him she wants to speak to the emperor. That startles the general, who takes that as an admission that she does know something after all. So Yoon sticks to her guns and insists on seeing the emperor.
When Chil Woo arrives home, he finds So Yoon gone. Bet he wishes he spent less time frolicking and more time rushing back now, huh? Intent on freeing So Yoon, Chil Woo races off to catch up to her.
He finds the general’s regiment and charges in solo, too bent on saving So Yoon to wait for backup or devise any sort of scheme. He cuts down the soldiers in his path, not even listening to So Yoon’s cries for him to stop. She looks on in horror, knowing he’s doomed, especially when the general’s men raise their muskets and take aim.
Upon the order to fire, the muskets shoot their rounds at Chil Woo, who uses a dead man as a human shield to absorb most of the bullets, except for one or two that tear into his left arm. The commander orders Chil Woo to give up if he wants to survive, but he persists like some kind of desperate Terminator, limping along toward So Yoon. The muskets are raised for another round, and So Yoon begs him to give up and stop for his own safety. He grits out, “And lose you again? I won’t do that. I can’t!”
The guns raise and take aim again, only to be brought down when daggers come whizzing through the air and strike down the soldiers from behind. The soldiers turn in the other direction to see the new intruders, who hurl more knives, all hitting their marks with deadly precision. It’s Orroz and his endless supply of flying daggers!
In no time, the soldiers are cut down, leaving only Chil Woo, So Yoon, and Orroz’s men standing. The look on Orroz’s face as he sees So Yoon tending to Chil Woo is proof enough that he’s hiding some deep-rooted lovey-dovey feelings theretoward (reverse Stockholm syndrome?). Oh, Love Triangle, sure took you long enough to manifest yourself. But he keeps his emotions under wraps as he approaches.
Chil Woo thanks Orroz for his assistance and vows he’ll repay him for this kindness. Orroz answers, “There’s no need to pay me back. Hand her over.”
Chil Woo can’t do that, and shields So Yoon protectively. In response, Orroz attacks, and the two briefly struggle in a hand-to-hand fight, but Chil Woo’s already seriously injured and can’t hold his own. He’s knocked to the ground. Orroz’s subordinate takes this as his cue to mete out Chil Woo’s punishment, and raises his sword to strike. So Yoon blocks Chil Woo with her own body, crying out in protest. If she goes with them, there’s no need to kill Chil Woo. Orroz hesitates, so his man swings downward with his sword — which Orroz then intercepts with his own sword, breaking the tip off his subordinate’s. He couldn’t just say, “No”?
So Yoon is dragged off with Orroz and his men, leaving Chil Woo to attempt to crawl along on the ground. He reaches to grab something, then collapses.
(I thought this was a great scene.)
So Yoon is tied up and kept in a shed for the night, after which Orroz reports back to his father, Prime Minister Kim, who’s perturbed to hear that they’d killed all the soldiers — the goal had merely been to bring So Yoon back. (Orroz explains that because of Chil Woo’s presence, they were forced to act more decisively.) Although he keeps his own feelings close to the vest, he’s uneasy when his father announces that he’ll be questioning So Yoon later. His father also tells him of So Yoon’s demand to talk to the emperor directly, which (1) suggests that So Yoon knows something important, and (2) is risky for Orroz himself, because she may be ready to spill that Chul Seok is still alive, which reveals his own lapse in not killing him years ago.
The A-Team watches over an unconscious Chil Woo, worried for his health. Min wonders what the general could want with So Yoon; Jaja answers simplistically that she was dragged off because she’s pretty. Oh Jaja, bless his soul. But because Min’s brain is a full-grown one, he’s sure there’s something more to it.
When Chil Woo awakens, he reveals what he’d been clutching in his hand: the broken sword tip. He calls for Chul Seok and asks him to find out whose sword the blade came from (since Chul Seok knows of such things, being a knife-sharpener).
So Yoon is moved to Orroz’s estate and kept in a barn. She works off her blindfold, peers outside and sees Orroz, dressed as Heuk San, standing in the yard. Recognizing him as the helpful nobleman, she calls out, telling him she’s been kidnapped and asking for his help. She doesn’t recognize him as Orroz, and is shocked when Heuk San reveals his identity to her plainly as the Jeju island assassin.
He tells her coolly that she’d promised to raise Chul Seok as an ignorant peasant boy, and accuses her of breaking her promise with her intention to talk to the emperor. So Yoon insists that she’s never said a word to anybody about Chul Seok and that the boy knows nothing of his heritage, and begs him to help her again. Heuk San delivers a reality check, telling her, “I might have to kill you myself to shut you up. And still you ask for my help?”
Back at home, Chil Woo must wait for leads regarding So Yoon’s whereabouts, and sinks into depressed gloom over losing her again.
Prime Minister Kim grows more suspicious when he hears that So Yoon may have connections to the three assassins. He questions her over what she was going to tell the emperor, to which she insists she knows nothing. She gives the plausible-sounding excuse that she was afraid the general would kill her, so she said whatever she could think of to save herself. Kim gives her credit for coming up with a good answer, but he doesn’t believe a word. When she sticks to her story, he has her whipped and tortured. Heuk San watches uncomfortably as the torture continues, wincing a few times; So Yoon remains steadfast and doesn’t break.
A new request for help comes in. Chil Woo’s father intends to turn down the case because they’re busy with their own matters, but the supplicant’s story piques his interest, and he therefore tells the man that he’ll discuss the matter with his colleagues and return a final answer the next night.
The case does capture the assassins’ interest, as the man who requested their help is the servant of one of Min’s former historian colleagues. The servant explains that his master had retired to his hometown after the spate of murders of the other scholars, but is now set upon going out to a secret meeting. He requests the assassins’ help in ensuring the safety of his master.
Chul Seok tracks down the blacksmith who forged the sword from which the tip had broken off. The blacksmith doesn’t recall who had commissioned the sword, but he and Chul Seok deduce that the man is bound to come back for a new sword — a man doesn’t remain faithful to one sword for seven or eight years and then switch blacksmiths, after all. Therefore Chil Woo and Chul Seok stake out the blacksmith’s workshop overnight, keeping an eye out.
In the morning, Chul Seok identifies the warrior as the one he’d seen previously. Chil Woo follows the swordsman and spies as he meets with another man to discuss Orroz’s plans for that night.
(Aren’t people going to notice holes in their door/paper? Or that person-shaped shadow lurking outside? Honestly, Chil Woo, you’re lucky you didn’t get a dagger to the face.)
“비상” (bi-sang/emergency) [ Download ] ::
Magical Hour brings us our customary transformation, but this time the team splits up for the night, with Chil Woo following the swordsman, and Min and Jaja meeting their contact to get in touch with Min’s ex-colleague. Meanwhile, So Yoon despairs, left alone in the aftermath of her torture.
Chil Woo stalks his prey through the forest while willing So Yoon to wait long enough for him to come for her this time (like she’s going anywhere). The swordsman’s instincts sense Chil Woo’s presence, and he hurls a dagger backward at his follower, but Chil Woo moves quickly and evades notice. (What are they doing going through all that trouble of finding a broken sword tip when they could’ve just asked around to find which guy had commissioned dozens and dozens of daggers to throw around everywhere?)
Min and Jaja meet their servant contact in a clearing in the woods, which is suspiciously empty. The servant signals to their unseen company, and soon the two of them are surrounded, with Orroz leading the pack of attackers. They were expecting all three assassins to be in attendance, but aren’t much fazed to only see two.
But all is well, because their third amigo is near at hand! Just as we think Min and Jaja are completely cornered, one of the men closing in around them lifts his head. It’s our assassin in disguise (in disguise)!
Despite the lack of corny absurdity in today’s episode, I thought it was a pretty good one (mostly in part because of those rare — for Chil Woo — flashes of actual emotion). Chil Woo is perhaps its rollicking best when it’s being glib and unserious, but I liked this dip into more traditional dramatic tension. (And I’m pretty sure we’re gearing up for a whole spate of ridiculous tomorrow anyway.)
One thing I like about Chil Woo the Character is his undying, unwavering devotion to So Yoon. I’m not sure that the Grand Eternal Love between the two of them is believable, but I appreciate having a hero who’s not wishy-washy about his affections, which isn’t always the case. (I guess that’s one grudging point I’ll have to give Winter Sonata, too.) He rushes to save her at every opportunity (and boy, are there a lot of them), he grins like a fool whenever she so much as smiles in his direction, he giggles when he holds her hand. Dude’s been in love with her since he was a kid, and ain’t nothing going to change his mind. That’s commitment.