Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 12
I mean this in a good way (or at least not in a bad way):
Sometimes I feel like the people working on Chil Woo put in a long day of hard work… and then look at the clock, realize it’s dinner time, and hurry to finish off whatever they’ve got left for the day so they can hit happy hour. At a certain point, things feel slapped together, as though something that would normally be given several takes to perfect were instead accepted on the first try.
Actually, let me amend the analogy. Rather than cutting out early for dinner, it’s like they were working really hard and took a break to put in a power nap, only they overslept. So now it’s morning and they’re like, “Oh crap, this stuff’s due in an hour!” and start throwing stuff together randomly, some of it complete, and some of it less so.
Normally that would be a bad thing. But with Chil Woo it just makes everything funnier. Especially since you’re not always given warning when it switches from one to the other.
SONG OF THE DAY
My Aunt Mary – “기억의 기억” (Memory’s memory) [ Download ]
EPISODE 12 RECAP
The trap. Min and Jaja are surrounded by Orroz’s swordsmen when Chil Woo interrupts, grabbing one man and holding a sword to his neck. He orders everyone to stop or the man gets it.
Too bad for him, Orroz doesn’t care so much about bargaining for his man’s life. The guy had already sworn to give up his life for his boss anyway; Orroz tells Chil Woo to go ahead and kill the guy: “If you don’t, I will.”
Not exactly the reaction he was going for. But still, this has provided enough of a distraction that Min and Jaja are able to fight back, catching the assassins off-guard. A full-scale rumble erupts, with Chil Woo and Orroz breaking away from the pack for their own one-on-one swordfight.
But Orroz pauses when he sees the way Chil Woo handles his sword, noticing the distinctive patterns of his swings and movements. It recalls the techniques of his own father (his biological traitor father, that is), and his momentary shock interrupts his concentration. He manages to fling off Chil Woo’s mask, but Chil Woo covers his face with his hand and escapes.
Chil Woo asks for ten days’ leave (to devote to rescuing So Yoon), which everyone finds ridiculous. When his boss repeats his request back to him incredulously, Chil Woo makes up an excuse. Actually… he’s sick! Yeah, sick! The others scoff that he’s the healthiest of them all, and his boss asks what exactly isn’t feeling well. Chil Woo fishes for an answer, saying his head (which nobody buys, either). Irritated, he persists, finally devolving into a kiddie whine, “Let me take my break!” I admit, I laughed out loud at his tantrum.
Mom and Grandma are equally incredulous, thinking him crazy for taking so much time off work. He defends himself, saying, “I really am in pain,” which draws their concern. Is that true? He answers, completely seriously, “Yes. My heart hurts.” In disgust, they resume hitting him.
(When Chil Woo is at its jokey best, it almost resembles sketch comedy.)
The A-Team still has the swordsman from last night in their keeping, and attempt to get him to spill about his headquarters, his boss, or any information that might help them locate So Yoon. The guy is derisive, sneering at them and refusing to talk, which causes Jaja to growl in frustration at their lack of progress. Min and Chil Woo attempt to think of an alternate plan, as this one isn’t working.
Jaja’s frustration erupts into an argument with Min; he throws a jar to the ground in anger. The two men continue their arguing outside, allowing the blindfolded swordsman a chance to grope around for a broken piece of the jar. He uses the shard to cut his ropes free.
(Lee Eon is so bad — SO bad — in this scene. But I will forgive the horrendous acting here because this time it’s actually meant to be bad.)
Prime Minister Kim again interrogates So Yoon, who holds firm to her stance that she knows nothing. Infuriated at her silence, he demands to know who she thinks she is. She answers calmly with her name, her upper-class family’s name, and her fate as a tribute bride dragged off to China: “My country abandoned me, and my family abandoned me.” Heuk San watches from the sidelines, seemingly affected by her suffering.
The swordsman is able to work free of his bindings and sneaks outside — but this has all been planned by the assassins, so that they can follow him back to his hideout. He stumbles along through the forest and comes upon a peasant farmer with a cart, whom he asks for help in hiding from pursuers. The kindly peasant is happy to help, but methinks the guy should’ve been looking a little closer at his face:
Chil Woo (keeping his face lowered) hides the man in bales of hay and offers to take him to his destination, while surreptitiously signaling to Jaja and Min, who follow behind. The man’s directions lead them to the location of Orroz’s assassin headquarters.
Heuk San is ordered by his father to kill So Yoon, because she provides no information but is too dangerous to be released. Heuk San tends to her bleeding arm, wrapping a bandanna around it, and gives her one last chance to save herself. He wants to know who the masked assassin is. So Yoon answers, “I truly don’t know,” sealing her fate.
Heuk San angrily demands to know why she’d give up her life to protect the prince’s son. She answers that it’s not because of WHO he is, but rather because she made a promise. Heuk San (frustrated and impassioned, losing his control for once) demands, “Do you know why you weren’t able to kill me in Jeju? Do you think it’s because you misfired? No, it’s because killing a person is something you do in your heart, not by gun or by sword.”
Heuk San raises his sword to strike, struggling with himself, and So Yoon closes her eyes, waiting for death. But that thing he just told her holds true for himself as well — he can’t kill her in his heart, so therefore the sword remains unswung.
He does, however, order his man to find Chul Seok in the village and kill him
Chil Woo, Min and Jaja arrive at the mountain stronghold and begin searching for So Yoon. Chil Woo finds the ring she’d dropped, indicating her recent presence, and hides when she’s brought into the shed and tied up again. Min and Jaja create a distraction to draw Heuk San outside, while Chil Woo frees So Yoon and takes her away on horseback.
Realizing what’s happening, Heuk San chases on horseback. A dagger thrown into Chil Woo’s horse sends them crashing to the ground, enabling Heuk San to grab So Yoon and take off with her. Min and Jaja ride up and the pursuit resumes; Min manages to shoot Heuk San in the back with an arrow. The force of the blow sends both Heuk San and So Yoon tumbling to the ground and rolling down a steep slope.
When they regain consciousness, they’re both badly injured — she from her torture sessions, he from the arrow jutting out of his chest. Heuk San grimly grabs the broken shaft and drags it out, and keeps a firm grip on So Yoon. They end up taking temporary shelter in a cave.
Heuk San gradually falls unconscious, his grip slackening. So Yoon gets up and starts to leave, then rethinks matters and turns back to take Heuk San’s sword out of its scabbard. (Run, you silly girl!) She holds it up, and contemplates killing Heuk San, recalling their encounter when he’d tried to kill her in the Jeju Island massacre… but how he spared her… how he protected her in the village… how he rescued her from being married off to China… and how he couldn’t kill her earlier today. She drops the sword.
(Sigh. Foolish girl. This is why you’re always getting stuck in trouble. You can’t even save yourself when the door’s wide open!)
The three assassins scour the forest all night for So Yoon, but can’t find any traces of her or Heuk San. Finally, Chil Woo comes across the bandanna that had fallen from So Yoon’s arm, and recognizes it — while he’s not 100% positive it’s the same one he’d given to Heuk San when they were kids, it’s too much of a coincidence to ignore. He compares this bandanna with the one he’d exchanged with Heuk San, and tries to reconcile the two.
This spins him off into his own series of flashbacks, which intertwine with Heuk San’s flashbacks in a nicely structured exchange that I thought was well done.
Heuk San awakens to see that not only is So Yoon still there, she’s been tending to his wound. He asks why she didn’t run, why she didn’t kill him. She responds in kind, asking why he wasn’t able to kill her all those times.
Seemingly changing the subject, Heuk San asks, “What kind of man was your father? My father was a slave, and also a traitor.” He relates his origins with a trace of bitterness, explaining what we already know about that day their village was attacked, which we revisit in flashbacks. He tells her, “That man [Chil Woo’s father] gave his life to save his betrayer’s son…. I wanted to hear at least an excuse for why he [my father] had done what he’d done. But he didn’t appear.”
It was then that he was taken in by his adoptive father, who trained him from youth to be a cold-blooded killer. His own biological father disappeared and he never knew what happened to him, nor did he ever get his explanation.
But Chil Woo had a different experience — he’d been adopted into the Choi family when one day, Heuk San’s father had appeared out of the blue, now blind. From that point on, Heuk San’s father had trained Chil Woo in martial arts and swordfighting techniques, spurring him on with the motivation to avenge his father’s death.
So Yoon hears Heuk San’s story with sympathy, but reminds him, “I asked why you couldn’t kill me.” Heuk San answers that this is all part of his explanation, coming to the conclusion: “Because murder is done in the heart. Because I can’t kill you in my heart.”
But, he tells So Yoon, the other day he met a man who exhibited the exact same sword skills as his father. He and Chil Woo arrive at the same conclusion about the other’s identity at the same time…
A few words on our characters:
I do not love So Yoon as a character. I can have sympathy for her past and respect that she’s been through a crapload of trauma and suffering, but her character seems intrinsically timid, and it’s just not as fun to watch as, say, Yeon Doo. But I do like Gu Hye-sun’s performance, and think she’s doing a very good job tapping into some very realistic emotional moments with So Yoon, so in the end I don’t actually dislike So Yoon, either. It’s too bad she’s not a character I can really get behind, but at least she doesn’t turn me off the drama (ahem, Choi Kang-hee).
I know Chil Woo is nothing like Hong Gil Dong, and doing recaps for both series makes me more aware of their differences than their similarities. But still, there are a few comparisons that must be drawn, for example Yoo Ah-in as Orroz/Heuk San versus Jang Geun-seok as Chang Whe. If you’ll recall, I had a few issues with Chang Whe as a character, but also with Jang Geun-seok’s wooden and awkward portrayal. Maybe it’s the looks, maybe it’s the bamboo hat, but Orroz and Chang Whe strike me with their similarities in both appearance and character — they both have repressed their personal feelings for “the greater good” and find their rigid outlooks shaken for love of a woman.
But Yoo Ah-in’s doing a really good job being both cold AND emotive, proving that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I therefore find Heuk San a lot more intriguing. For instance, it’s interesting that Heuk San seems to recognize that he was manipulated to be his (adoptive) father’s puppet, but he bears this as his burden rather than trying to fight it. Is this a sense of guilt at play? Or does he feel honor-bound to give up his entire life to being a machine for someone else?
Another curious dynamic: Chil Woo and Heuk San were both raised by men who shaped them after themselves. Perhaps the boys were too young to see an alternative, or perhaps they didn’t care that they were being molded, but their current lives as assassins are therefore probably much less coincidental than it had seemed at first.
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 11
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 10
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 9
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 8
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 7
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 6
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 5
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 4
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 3
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episodes 1 & 2