A lot better than the previous episode, since all the stuff that was set up in Episode 15 starts to play out now.
(Still no Zorro, Orroz, or fancy horse tricks, though. I’m being patient — they’re probably winding up for the big finish, with four episodes remaining — but I’d better have me some action shenaniganery back in full swing soon!)
SONG OF THE DAY
Airbag – “선인장” (Cactus) [ Download ]
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Heuk San’s father starts to reveal himself as the Muryundang traitor, but Chil Woo stops him with on (an empty) threat of death. But the blind man ignores the warning and continues, “I killed your father.”
Chil Woo’s face collapses in tears, and he drops the sword. Everyone looks on in stunned silence, but their shock is compounded when Chil Woo whispers, “I know.”
He explains that he’d found out the truth the night before he was planning to run away with So Yoon — he’d gone to visit his father’s grave, and seen Heuk San’s father already there, paying his respects. The blind man had sobbed his grief and guilt, saying he had intended to teach Chil Woo all he could in the martial arts to prepare him to avenge his father, and then reveal himself as the traitor and offer up his life as that vengeance. But with Chil Woo abandoning the cause, he now feels even more wretched than before.
That night, Chil Woo had sneaked in while the man had been sleeping, intending on killing him. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it, and so ran off instead to meet So Yoon.
In emotional turmoil, Chil Woo had waited for So Yoon, wanting to turn to her for support: “Please come quickly, please.” But as we know, she never showed up.
Back in the present, Chil Woo continues, in a low, pained near-whisper, “After that day, I don’t know how I lived on. After that day, the world changed so completely. And you think to bring this up again now?”
Chil Woo’s comrades remain in quiet shock over these revelations, most of all So Yoon, who hadn’t realized this part of Chil Woo’s life. He continues dully (Eric’s very good in this scene):
Chil Woo: “I want to have something to protect. The revenge against my enemies, my father’s dying wishes, Woo Young — I couldn’t protect anything. I want to protect something, while I can.”
Chil Woo goes outside to grapple with his grief alone. So Yoon comes upon him hesitantly, and a flashback shows us that she had come to meet Chil Woo the night she promised. But she couldn’t bring herself to ruin his life and bring him pain, so she’d left before he saw her.
Now, though, she provides the consolation she hadn’t realized he needed back then (better late than never, I suppose). She stays even when he tells her to go away, that he’ll be back to himself in a while.
So Yoon drops her formal addresses (she’s been speaking to him all this while in formal speech, as a servant would address a government official), and now talks to him plainly as an old friend. “Chil Woo,” she says, using his name for the first time since she’s come back from China (she’s addressed him previously as najang eoreun, which is akin to saying “Sir” or “Officer”). “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Chil Woo.”
Chil Woo cries in her arms, and she cries a little, too.
The next morning, Chil Woo talks to (a still-repentant) Heuk San’s father, who is still beating himself up over his prior crimes (and rightly so, I think). But Chil Woo is more or less back to his normal self, or if not normal then at least under control, and tells the man not to give up on life: “You find when you live day by day that at one point you die. Until that happens, live with hope.”
The old man has no illusions of hope, but Chil Woo presses a bandanna into the man’s hand, saying it belonged to Heuk San. He found the bandanna in the forest a few days ago, and believes Heuk San is still alive.
Yup, he’s alive all right, and he’s on his way with a group of officers to rout out the rebels at Muryundang. He doesn’t become aware of their destination until the last minute, however, since the higher-ups are being tight-lipped about their mission.
They probably would have been successful in ambushing the current occupants, but Yeon Doo is able to arrive first, having been tipped off by Chil Woo’s dad the day before. (Chil Woo’s dad is part of the invading party, but his hope was that Yeon Doo would be able to warn everyone of the danger in time.)
Yeon Doo’s only a few minutes ahead of the others, so they must hurry to escape without being seen. Heuk San’s father takes the lead and motions them over to a hidden back escape route (literally a case of the blind leading the blind, heh).
Everyone is ushered through a tent, which hides a path leading out of Muryundang, but the last two are Chil Woo and Heuk San’s father, and they are spotted. An officer sounds an alert, bringing backup officers in close pursuit. With little time, the blind man insists that Chil Woo join the others and pushes him through the entryway, then confronts the soldiers. He catches them off-guard by acting daft, then fights them — even blind, he holds his own until he meets a formidable match in Heuk San.
They clash, the blind man stumbles down to the ground, and his mask is whisked off. Heuk San recognizes his father (who naturally can’t recognize him back) and wrestles with his emotions. He pauses with his sword raised for a long moment, unable to kill his father. He allows him to escape, then covers up his actions by telling the others that their targets went off in another direction.
The other officers believe him, but one person has witnessed the entire exchange — Prime Minister Kim’s man. Who is in turn being watched by Heuk San’s two guardsmen.
It’s funny how our A-Team is being followed by PM Kim’s man, who’s in turn being followed by Heuk San’s men. Everyone’s following everyone. What happens when Chil Woo finds PM Kim and everyone converges in some big circle jerk of surveillance and espionage? Sorry, was that crude? I meant big circle prayer session.
Chil Woo’s group is able to sneak through caves and into the forest. They think for a moment of possible places to go, and decide that the safest place is actually the place where they are least expected to turn — back home, of course. With a warrant out for So Yoon’s arrest, for instance, nobody would expect her to actually be IN the city. So back to the city it is.
The king is displeased to hear of their rebels escaping. He didn’t seem so before, but he’s starting to sound rather paranoid and unhinged (shades of Hong Gil Dong‘s Kwang Whe?), for instance in the way he insists his son was out to usurp him. From what we’ve seen so far, Prince So Hyun seemed like a respectful, decent man, so I suspect his father was projecting fears that had no basis.
Kim’s man reports to the prime minister what he saw at Muryundang, and how Heuk San had spared the life of a blind man. Kim recalls how he himself had blinded Heuk San’s father after the Muryundang massacre (then shot with arrows, falling down a steep hill to be assumed dead). Now Kim wonders if he could be the man in question.
Heuk San is apprised of his father’s current movements, but still hasn’t found out the reason behind them. Nor has he discovered why the prime minister had attacked Muryundang all those years ago in the first place.
He also belatedly hears that So Yoon was supposed to have been hidden away at Muryundang (which shows that Heuk San is being kept out of the loop, most likely purposely). Still unable to reconcile his bio-dad’s sudden reappearance, he tries to figure out the relation of his father to So Yoon and everything else.
PM Kim gathers his supporters to discuss the missing historical document, suspecting that the prince’s two aides (Choi and Jo are their last names) are in possession of the historical record.
The meeting is interrupted by the sudden appearance of the king, who takes over the proceedings. He identifies Min as a problem — he’s moral and upright to a fault, and needs to be watched in case he mobilizes people to act. The king gives his men ten days to find the document — if they don’t, they’ll pay with their lives.
Min is thinking along the same lines of garnering support, summoning influential people together and building up his cause to dethrone the king. But in order to do so effectively, they need that document as proof of the prince’s murder.
This’ll be another clash of wills for Min and Chil Woo, since Chil Woo remains unconvinced that dethronement is a viable solution (and even if it is, he doesn’t want a part in it).
Chil Woo walks in on Heuk San’s father begging for So Yoon to take him to his son. He desperately wants to see his son and confess; So Yoon refuses, telling him that if he is discovered, they all will die.
However, she feels pity for his plea and asks Chil Woo for advice, adding that Heuk San had saved her life in Jeju Island. Chil Woo mutters, “Things sure are complicated,” and asks why he’d done that. She answers that Heuk San had been reminded of Chil Woo’s own father giving his life to protect the children.
Sardonically, Chil Woo notes, “I can’t even protect you when I try, but I see my dead father was able to.”
So Yoon then tells him, “You can protect me now.” While Chil Woo wonders if this means what he thinks it means, she continues:
So Yoon: “I’ve felt so sorry to you for all that happened that I couldn’t bring myself to accept your feelings… but now I’ll let go of my guilty feelings. Instead, I want to feel gratitude. Please protect me and Chul Seok. I want to change everything now.”
With this new development, Chil Woo goes to Min and makes a proposal: “Let’s make a deal. I’ll give you the document, and you forget So Yoon and Chul Seok completely.”
Min is insulted at the thought of striking a deal, but Chil Woo tells him to take it or leave it.
At court, the king sees Min and is immediately on his guard. Prime Minister Kim advises him to hold back and see what Min does, as it seems he isn’t aware of the king’s suspicions yet.
Min makes a polite greeting and explains his absence as a result of recent illness. After he departs, the king blusters at Min’s attitude, offended with what he interprets as an “I don’t care what you do to me” tone. But Prime Minister Kim warns him that Min is not to be trifled with — not yet.
Scholars and noblemen are called for a meeting, where Min discloses the existence of the historical document — as well as the survival of the youngest son of Prince So Hyun. The man in green is particularly eager to know the details, but concludes that they aren’t ready to make a move yet. (He then runs to inform the prime minister of this latest news — just when you thought the conspiracy couldn’t get more complicated, one of Min’s contacts is actually allied with Prime Minister Kim. His findings confirm Kim’s suspicions, that the child So Yoon had left Jeju Island with is the prince’s son.)
Min asks Chil Woo again for the document, saying that while he doesn’t do deals, he has three requests (ooh, fancy scholar man likes playing with semantics). Min wants (1) the document, (2) for Chil Woo to take care of Chul Seok until the time is right, and (3) in the event of Min’s failure, if he should die in his attempt to overthrow the king, Chil Woo will disappear with So Yoon and Chul Seok, where no one will ever find them.
Chil Woo agrees.
Still, Chil Woo expresses misgivings about handing over the document, unsure if he should have burned it instead. This may very possibly get Min killed, after all. Min merely answers philosophically that everyone dies when the time comes.
So Chil Woo hands over the box to Min.
Back at assassin headquarters, Chul Seok broods — it turns out he was actually awake to hear the adults discussing him, and has become aware of his parentage. He’s interrupted by the arrival of Yeon Doo, who comes bearing books and a document — THE document — intending on finding out what’s going on. She knows the others are involved in something and feels the childish need to be included, pouting over being left in the dark while her “assassin oppas” busy themselves with something “really really important.”
Sensing that the document is the key to their secret matters, she brings texts to look up the coded document, which she’s dug up from Chil Woo’s backyard, and sets out with Chul Seok’s help to decipher the characters.
And just as she starts to read the now-readable document, we flash over to Min and Chil Woo, reacting to finding the precious box empty.
Now that we see how Heuk San’s father was attacked and left for dead after the Muryundang massacre, it’s pretty clear he was a mere pawn in this power game orchestrated by the prime minister. I suppose that makes his position all the more tragic, because it probably means that he HAD believed in Muryundang as a utopian society. It’s possible he wasn’t a spy to begin with, but believed in the society until he was somehow swayed aside (this is my conjecture). So his actions weren’t only traitorous to the others, they betrayed his own happiness.
The fact that he’s believed Heuk San to be dead all these years, and then finds him raised as the son of the prime minister, makes his life just that much more tragic. It’s probable that father and son ally themselves to work on the same side, but right now the father doesn’t know that the son is having misgivings about the prime minister’s actions. As far as he knows, his son was taken from him (not saying he didn’t deserve it since he instigated the betrayal) and given to his enemy.
Oh, and I liked the little cheeky nods to reality when the characters react to these revelations, saying things like, “This is really an ABSURD level of coincidence!” and “This sure is getting complicated.” Tell me about it.
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 15
- Strongest Chil Woo: Episode 14
- 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