A good episode, with an even better ending.
Maybe it’s Chil Woo‘s frequently kooky directing, or its seemingly low production value (it definitely doesn’t have the money poured into it that its competitors do), but I think the drama’s rather good plotting has been obscured by other factors. (Or maybe it’s just been that way for me.) Even with the occasional flights of zaniness that have been peppered throughout, there’s a carefully laid out story underneath it, which is unfolding at a nice pace. The tone keeps it from being overly grave or hit-you-over-the-head dramatic, true, but that doesn’t negate the layers of plot that hold it up.
SONG OF THE DAY
Eco Bridge – “독” (Poison) [ Download ]
EPISODE 14 RECAP
After So Yoon reveals that Chul Seok is the dead prince’s youngest son, the others look over at the corner of the room — where Chul Seok is just rising from a nap. So Yoon rushes to him, and is therefore able to prevent Chul Seok from noticing that Jaja, having just realized this is the crown prince, has fallen to his knees in an automatic gesture of respect. The others are frozen in surprise at the news of his true identity, but So Yoon manages to treat Chul Seok with her usual sisterly concern, telling him she was worried sick when he ran off without word.
I don’t know why exactly, but I love that Jaja fell to his knees. It’s exactly the sort of simple, unquestioning loyalty that is so in character for him.
Chul Seok notices everyone staring at him oddly, but doesn’t know why. He’d escaped from So Yoon’s watch earlier in the village because he didn’t want to run away to a far-off, strange locale. He pleads with her to let them both stay here with Chil Woo and the others, because he likes things as they are. So Yoon agrees (at least for the moment), just relieved that he wasn’t captured by their enemies.
Chil Woo takes So Yoon aside, frustrated and disappointed that she’d kept this all to herself for all this time. It pains him that she didn’t see fit to share this burden with him, but So Yoon tells him she didn’t want to betray the prince’s trust. Chil Woo asks, “What about me?” She reminds him that she’d already betrayed his trust years ago by forsaking the promise to meet him (when she’d begged him to take her away).
That takes us to a flashback when she was a nobleman’s daughter and their relationship status was reversed — she was high-born, he low (or, if not low, at least of the commoner class). She’d begged him to save her from being dragged off to China and to run away together. He had jumped into action to do just that.
It’s a little heartbreaking (heartbreaking is too strong a word, but I mean something along those lines) to see how much Chil Woo was willing to throw away to save her, because in addition to leaving his adoptive family and Woo Young behind, this meant giving up his revenge mission to find his father’s betrayer. He’d been learning the art of swordplay from Heuk San’s now-blind father for that purpose alone. The blind man had attempted to dissuade Chil Woo from his intention to run away, reminding Chil Woo of his father’s killer; Heuk San’s father promised to reveal his knowledge of the traitor once Chil Woo was ready to take on the challenge.
Chil Woo had merely answered, “I’ll live not knowing. I’ll forget.”
He’d gone to meet So Yoon that night, but she’d never showed up. Presumably he didn’t see her again until she’d returned years later from China.
Now, he tells So Yoon, “If you left like that, you should have gone on to be happy. For your sake, and mine.”
He goes on to denounce her loyalty to a dead man: “Promise? What’s so great about that promise? Prince So Hyun is a wicked man. Begging you to take care of [Chul Seok], to save him, to do something a dead person couldn’t even do himself. If he died, that was the end of it. How heavy is the burden for the person who has to carry that promise for the rest of their lives? Do you understand that?”
So Yoon answers, “Yes, it’s heavy. It’s heavy, and frightening. But I can only try to keep the promise.”
The key issue now becomes keeping Chul Seok (and So Yoon) safe. Warrants are out for their arrest under false pretenses, so the only way they can move to another, more secure location is through a clever disguise. Chil Woo has a safe hiding spot in mind, but transporting the fugitive pair is the tricky part.
Yeon Doo comes up with the idea of dressing them as corpses, which will need outside help. Chil Woo goes to someone they’d helped earlier, the old man with the missing arm, who is only too willing to repay the favor that the assassins had done him. He takes on the task of smuggling them outside the city.
To aid them, Chil Woo’s father convinces their bumbling officer colleagues to go along in this plan, telling them a simplified version of the story: So Yoon escaped the clutches of the evil Chinese general and is on the run for her freedom. The guys know and like So Yoon, so they’re willing to go along. Their plan is to take over checkpoint duty from the officials who are posted at the city gates to inspect traffic.
However, they run into complications when the chief of the other department becomes suspicious when they try to take over the guard post. When the wagon bearing Chil Woo, So Yoon, and Chul Seok’s “corpses” comes to the checkpoint, there’s nothing Chil Woo’s father can do to interfere. The guards’ inspection involves poking and burning the corpses’ feet to make sure there are no people being smuggled out, and Chil Woo’s feet are about to meet such a fate, when a distraction saves them.
Thus they make it past the checkpoint freely, but are seen by Heuk San’s men, who recognize Chil Woo and immediately pursue them.
Chil Woo grabs control of the wagon and charges away, while Chul Seok and So Yoon grab bottles (containing inflammatory stuff, possibly alcohol, or gunpowder) and throw them on the ground. The bottles explode and create enough damage to their pursuers to allow their getaway.
As for their distraction…
Yeon Doo (and a village boy) run through the village, and because she is dressed to resemble So Yoon, hasty officials assume she is their fugitive. When she is caught and brought before the police chief, he asks why she ran (her answer: “I had to pee.” HA). She’s all innocence and feigned ignorance.
Meanwhile. Min regards his king with growing suspicion, and speaks to some colleagues to confirm the facts of So Yoon’s story. Everything seems to fit together, and he also discovers that all the scholars who accompanied the prince to China have since died, excepting two (the two men who’d loyally served the prince).
Min finds one of those former scholars begging in the street, acting addled and ridiculous. He addresses the man as the scholar he used to be, but the man persists in his crazy shtick. Min angrily turns his sword on the man, as though blaming him for reducing himself to this beggarly state, but finally Min accepts that his “last hope” is gone, and instead turns the sword on himself. At that, the beggar finally drops his insane act and comes clean about his identity.
Jaja seeks out the other scholar, who is now living life loosely, drinking and cavorting with women. Like his former colleague, this man also clings to his persona when confronted and continues his drunken act. Jaja intends to drag him off for some questioning, but they’re stopped by the arrival of Min and the disguised beggar.
Time for some truth. Both men have despaired at their situation because they have no proof of their claims, and without proof, there’s nothing they can do about the prince’s death. Furthermore, their return to Korea was met with suspicion, and for years they were watched closely. Even now, they’re still monitored by the king’s men, although the scrutiny has eased somewhat.
Min tells them that he has proof, although it’s not the missing historical record that they’ve heard of (but not read themselves). He assures them that when the time is right, he will be able to get a hold of that document, but for now he has something even more important: the prince’s youngest son.
This revelation is met with shock, but also hope.
Poor injured Orroz has missed out on most of the action today, but he awakens now in the empty shed where he’d collapsed the day before. His father is still scouring the mountainside for him, having located the cave with Heuk San’s dropped handkerchief and bloodied footprints.
One gets the sense that Heuk San’s father is more concerned about losing an asset than a son. He also recalls how Heuk San had asked previously if he (the adopted father) had ever heard from his biological one. His reaction suggests that he’s hiding something from Heuk San regarding his biological father, although we don’t know what that is yet.
So Yoon and Chil Woo pause on their way to their eventual hideout, passing the time in thoughtful silence.
So Yoon wonders what would have happened if she hadn’t been sent off to China, and Chil Woo answers matter-of-factly that she would have remained a nobleman’s daughter, married well, and currently be a nobleman’s wife. But So Yoon amends her statement, clarifying, “What if I’d kept my promise and ran away with you?”
Finally, they arrive at their destination. Chil Woo has never spoken of his early life to So Yoon, although she had heard some of the stories from Woo Young when they were younger. Chil Woo explains that this will be their hideout, the abandoned settlement where his father had once proclaimed that all were equal. This is also where he’d studied martial arts and sword skills with Heuk San’s father with the intention of one day avenging his father’s murder.
The settlement should be deserted and safe, he assures her.
It’s too bad everybody else has arrived at the same conclusion today. Chil Woo leaves them to get settled and to go get some food, and returns at about the same time that several others also do, each of them unaware of the presence of the others.
I dig this ending, which sets us up for one heck of a confrontation. It’s a setup that (at least for me) wasn’t completely predictable or projected miles in advance, and yet when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
Heuk San had just arrived the day before and passed out in pain. His adopted father (prime minister Kim) goes out searching for him, and arrives at the same location. Chil Woo, meanwhile, would have assumed the area to be abandoned because even nearly ten years ago, he and Heuk San’s father were the only people using the location. And Heuk San’s father has been coming back and forth all these years, and has no reason to expect that all the ghosts of his past would convene to meet him at once today.
It’s enough to anticipate the reunion between Heuk San and Chil Woo, but throw in a few traitors and manipulative father figures, and it’s sure to be an explosive combination. They’d better just not fake us all out and backtrack in the next episode. (ONE fakeout I’ll give them, but I’ll be really annoyed if the whole thing is a fakeout. Somebody had better be confronting somebody else in Episode 15 — I don’t even care which combination it is.)
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 13
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 12
- 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