Ha, can I just say how odd it is to have a conversation with my mother about how adorable Jung Il-woo is? She knows him mostly from High Kick, although I told her he is so very much improved here. Case in point: there are a few key scenes in this episode where he is particularly good.
This drama is also one of those where I don’t see the actors so much as the characters, which is to everyone’s credit for doing such a nice job integrating themselves not only into their characters, but with each other’s characters and the overall narrative.
SONG OF THE DAY
Jang Yoon-ju – “오늘, 고마운 하루” (Today, a thankful day) [ Download ]
EPISODE 18: “Kim Ja-jeom”
After being shot, Iljimae collapses in the forest, where some children find him. They wrap his arm and worry over his obviously serious condition, but can’t take them back with them, and leave him lying there.
Going in and out of consciousness, Iljimae drags himself to the temple while half-delirious with pain, where he is discovered by Yeol-gong.
Wol-hee is left alone to wait for Keol-chi, and lingers in the city late into the evening, worrying why he doesn’t return. A kindly older man asks what she’s doing, and extends a helping hand. If she doesn’t mind sharing with his daughter, he can put her up for the night.
Wol-hee doesn’t have anyplace to turn to for the night, so she follows him home. Once there, however, she starts to grow uneasy because something is off about him — he’s a little too eager to offer her a room. He leans in close to her and makes suggestive comments, causing her to shrink back and protest. The man says he’s lonely — his wife and daughter are off at her family’s home and have been gone for months — and grabs her. Wol-hee fights back and scrambles to the door — which opens to reveal a disapproving monk.
It’s kind of funny how Yeol-gong reduces the old man into an apologetic ball of shame with a few caustic words. The man begs for leniency when the monk threatens to report this to the man’s wife, and Yeol-gong gains his promise not to try anything overnight, since he’s sought his home for a night’s shelter.
That night, Wol-hee tries to sleep, and clutches the monk’s sleeve as though for assurance of his protection. It’s rather sweet.
In the morning, Yeol-gong leads her back to the temple, saying he knows where the person she’s looking for is. When the monk seems to know who she and Keol-chi are, she realizes this must be Yeol-gong, of whom Iljimae has spoken several times. She presumes he refers to Keol-chi, whom she’d worried had gotten caught by police.
But no, he means Iljimae — and hearing that makes Wol-hee stop in her tracks. She decides she doesn’t want to go, still feeling the sting of his rejection.
Yeol-gong doesn’t try to persuade her, and instead employs some effective reverse psychology, saying that he’s got to hurry back with his package of medicine. At this, Wol-hee is alarmed — is Iljimae ill? The monk tells her of the gunshot wound and paints Iljimae’s condition as very serious (although I think he’s exaggerating a bit to get Wol-hee to come along).
It does the trick, because Wol-hee hurries past him and races back to the temple. She sees Iljimae lying unconscious, and gets busy tending to him. She brews medicine and stays bedside for several days.
The narrator explains that the poison of the gunshot would have killed someone weaker than Iljimae, but she means that in a hopeful way: “And Wol-hee’s care was just a bit stronger than that poison.”
As he sleeps, Iljimae mutters her name, and says in agitation, “Wol-hee, don’t go. You can’t go.” If Wol-hee was feeling slighted, this is proof that she does mean a lot to him, and hearing this is a revelation to her, as well as being a great comfort.
Later, he mumbles, “Mother, where are you?” That one doesn’t elicit much of a reaction, but finally, he says, “Dal…”
That last one makes her frown, which eases when he mutters “Wol-hee” again. In a hilarious moment, when his unconscious mutterings cycle back to Dal-yi’s name, Wol-hee is now annoyed and pinches his lips shut to cut him off. HAHA.
And finally, we are shown the sheet of paper she has been marking while Iljimae sleeps — a TALLY SHEET of how many times he’s mumbled Dal-yi’s name (on the left) versus her own (right). What a hoot! I guess she’s feeling secure enough about his maternal affection not to tally up how many times he calls out for his mother?
Kim Ja-jeom calls his shaman lady to get information about Iljimae’s whereabouts, although her words frustrate him because they’re so vague and indecipherable — her clues are along the lines of “a pike has been driven in, an anchor has been dropped.” She conjures up an image of a red pillar, with reins tied to it, and a stone building.
She seems mildly annoyed that he wants everything spelled out in layman’s terms, but explains that a red pillar indicates either a royal palace or a Buddhist temple. Furthermore, the subject is injured, bleeding, and at a stone building in the mountains. However, something is blocking her vision and she can’t get a clearer image.
(Her incomplete vision is explained by the fact that Yeol-gong senses malicious energy at the temple and blocks it with some chanting.)
Iljimae is improving, although he still hasn’t woken up. As she watches over him, Wol-hee steals a kiss, which is witnessed when a new monk suddenly appears — Dok-bo. He leers and flusters Wol-hee, and while we know very little about him, his attitude gives him the air of a villain.
Wol-hee lays her head down next to Iljimae’s to rest, and a few moments later, Iljimae’s eyes open.
This is a really wonderful scene, with strong acting by both as Iljimae turns slowly to see Wol-hee lying next to him. Her eyes open slowly, and both slowly register what they’re seeing.
Ignoring his pain, Iljimae sits up, looking at her in disbelief; he’d still believed she was dead. She tells him assuringly, “It’s me, Wol-hee.” With a shaking voice, Iljimae says, “Wol-hee’s dead.”
Wol-hee: “I didn’t die. I lived.”
Iljimae: “You lived?”
Wol-hee: “Yes. I lived.”
Iljimae: “I behaved wrongly. I won’t let lose you again.”
Surviving a near-fatal gunshot wound doesn’t get him off the hook with Yeol-gong, however, who beats Iljimae with a wooden stick for killing a man. Wol-hee watches worriedly while Iljimae accepts the punishment stoically.
Iljimae reveals his motives, because Lord Kwon was going to sell out the country to China. But the monk tells him it wasn’t his place to act in judgment — he is not justified in killing.
Iljimae says, voice low: “I’d lost my mind. I thought Wol-hee had died.” That makes her look at him questioningly (again, this proves her “death” affected him more profoundly than she had thought), while he continues, “But now, I will not kill anymore. I will follow the teachings of the Buddha who sent her back alive.”
Yeol-gong asks if he can swear that, and Iljimae does. The monk starts to resume the beating, but now Wol-hee pleads with him to stop, and swoops in to block Iljimae from being hit; she argues that if the monk wants to hit someone, he’d better hit her first.
Yeol-gong stops, but tells Iljimae that it isn’t his place to choose which men to punish — nobody gave him that job. He acted as he did to save Iljimae.
Meanwhile. Once again, Wang Hweng-bo is bored, and needs more mischief to satisfy him. This time, he proposes to Sung-kae that they sell medicine and make some money. It doesn’t matter that they have no medicine or the money with which to buy it — because they can just use dirt! The two set to work digging up dirt to roll into pellets, which Wang Hweng-bo gleefully adds to with his own spit and earwax. Ugh.
Then, he draws a crowd in the marketplace by showing off his remarkable strength and fighting skills, which we know are part of his natural skill set but which he tells everyone is the result of a wondrous new medicine. The pellets are potent and strength-enhancing, but only on sale for one day, because he’ll be leaving soon.
He receives an enthusiastic response, and bystanders figure they’d better take advantage of this one-time deal and get this amazing medicine now.
A voice calls out and kills the buzz, suggesting the medicine is fake. It’s Yang-po, and he challenges Wang Hweng-bo to take some of the “medicine” himself to demonstrate its efficacy.
Wang Hweng-bo tries to think up excuses to avoid this — knowing what went into the fake pellets — and stammers that he’s eaten too many and it’s not good when taken in high doses. Finally, he gives in and reluctantly chews one… but can’t swallow it and gags in disgust.
Keol-chi, who has been caught by policemen and put to work cleaning out the latrine, tries to run away. Given that he does this without any planning or savvy, he’s quickly caught and brought before Gu Ja-myung.
Officer Gu wants information regarding Iljimae, but Keol-chi insists that he hasn’t heard from him and has lost contact. In his eagerness to emphasize just how much he doesn’t know, Keol-chi lets slip mention of their mountain cottage, a fact that does not slip by Gu. He orders his men to ready themselves with the team of archers and head out.
Hearing that Keol-chi is being held by the police, Iljimae heads out to rescue him, and finds Wol-hee reluctant to send him off. He guesses, “You’re afraid I’ll leave again?”
That’s hitting the nail on the head, since she’s still feeling nervous that he might disappear like before. By way of reassurance, Iljimae gives her a heartfelt thanks for surviving, and says, “I’ll definitely never let you go again.” I do believe he means it, too.
Meanwhile, Kim Ja-jeom receives another mysterious visitor, this time the monk Dok-bo, whose motives in this episode remain unclear. The man definitely gives off villain vibes, however, and the ominous words he tells Kim Ja-jeom suggest that he is a threat to Iljimae: He promises Lord Kim that he has a present to give him. (Implication: He will deliver Iljimae to Kim.)
He’s got competition, though, because the police are also intent on capturing Iljimae. Gu Ja-myung leads his officers to the mountain cottage that Keol-chi accidentally mentioned, and they approach the house with bows and arrows at the ready, prepared to fight at any moment.
Iljimae happens to be in the house when he senses the oncoming danger, and has just enough time to hide before the officers burst in. He sneaks into a crawlspace up near the ceiling, and remains quiet while the officers search the premises and declare it empty.
Gu figures that Iljimae will be looking for Keol-chi, and gives two men the order to remain behind to stand guard. The rest clear out and head back.
Therefore, the temple is left undefended when the gun-toting hunters appear with a new target in their sights. With Iljimae gone, they’re after his woman, and acting on Kim Ja-jeom’s orders to bring her back. They know of her relationship with Iljimae and intend to use her as bait to lure him out.
The hunters, led by Park Su-dong, grab Wol-hee and attempt to drag her off, but hilariously (recalling the earlier scene with the frisky old man), Yeol-gong’s arrival subdues their bad behavior.
It’s pretty amusing how they all calm down and bow their heads before the monk — they may kill and kidnap, but they know to respect a religious authority, it seems. Then again, I suppose life isn’t so different now, either. However, even respect for Yeol-gong doesn’t convince them to give up their plan. Rather, it just makes them more civil about it.
Gu Ja-myung releases Keol-chi from jail, and while at first I suspected he might be freeing him as bait for Iljimae, I think it’s just as likely that he’s gotten as much use out of him as he can. Iljimae, who came ready to break Keol-chi out, approaches him in the marketplace.
Reunited, they start to head away, stopping briefly as Keol-chi brushes by Baek-mae, who has just arrived in Hanyang. Something about her appearance tickles at Keol-chi’s memory, and he pauses to ponder her familiar face. When he remembers how he knows her, he bursts out to Iljimae that the woman is — possibly, maybe — his mother. He’s not absolutely sure, but she looks a lot like her.
Iljimae starts to rush off in that direction, but she has moved on and they have lost sight of her.
Baek-mae explains her purpose for returning to Hanyang to Soo-ryun, who sees her (with disappointment) in front of the police station. Baek-mae has been feeling uneasy and having bad dreams — which she’s never had before — and worried that Officer Gu’s safety is endangered. Soo-ryun wonders if Baek-mae’s dreams are related to Iljimae’s current troubles instead, and hesitantly brings up the subject. Soo-ryun explains that Iljimae has committed murder, and the police are looking into the case to figure out why.
After her initial shock, Baek-mae registers the implications of Iljimae’s crime, realizing that this means that the police must capture him now. She frets that she should have stayed home and waited for news with faith, because her trip to Hanyang suggests that “I said I trusted in him, but in truth I must not have.”
She asks for Soo-ryun not to tell Gu she was here, and says, “I’m much more fearful now than I was before, that I might lose one of the two.”
Iljimae and Keol-chi return to the temple, only to hear that Wol-hee was dragged off by the hunters. Iljimae is upset that Yeol-gong just let them take her, but he counters that he’s a mere monk — does he expect him to fight back? Also, the group of hunters all carried guns.
They also left a message for Iljimae, saying that he is to bring what he’d stolen from Lord Kwon and deliver it to Kim Ja-jeom. (This refers to the secret letter that he’d burned.)
This effectively proves that Kim Ja-jeom is involved in the treason plot — and furthermore, he must be the man who was behind Lord Kwon’s actions.
This brings them to the home of Bae Sun-dal and Cha-dol, who are thrilled to have Iljimae in their midst. (Hilariously, they’re like groupies or fanboys, both grabbing onto his hands in awe. Iljimae withdraws his hand from Cha-dol’s grasp, mildly uncomfortable with the attention.)
The reason for this visit is because their home happens to be next door to Kim Ja-jeom. Iljimae asks them for information about the household and layout of Kim’s property, trying to glean useful details for his rescue of Wol-hee.
At the moment, Wol-hee is being kept in a large storeroom on the property, although she’s not so scared this time. On the contrary, she anticipates Iljimae swooping in to her rescue with near-cheerfulness.
Her reaction turns to disgust when Kim Ja-jeom checks in on her; he’s mighty pleased to have fetched such powerful bait. With Wol-hee securely stowed away, Park Su-dong’s team of hunters scatter and take up hiding places to ready themselves for Iljimae’s arrival.
However, another reading with the fortune-teller yields a bit of a reprieve, because she tells Kim that she can’t sense anything now, and that Iljimae will not make an attempt for at least ten more days.
That puts Kim at ease, and he assures the hunters that they can come out of their hiding spaces. There’s no point in being so uncomfortably stationed when they won’t be needed for another week. Furthermore, he’s feeling complacent that even if Iljimae were to show up, the team of armed hunters would be more than suitably equipped to defeat him.
Thus he calls for drinks and gisaengs and hosts a party that night.
Park Su-dong isn’t nearly as relaxed, and remains on his guard, not enjoying the revelry. He steps outside, away from the party, where he encounters a well-dressed young nobleman…
As a villain, I have to say that Kim Ja-jeom is pretty effective, although a little cartoonishly evil. I think I’m okay with that, though, given that we need someone to be pulling the strings behind the scenes and coordinating all this evil to befall Iljimae. His presence allows for the plot to incorporate a lot of different characters while still tying into the overall narrative, which has to do with the conspiracy plot.
The best scene in this episode had to be the reunion between Iljimae and Wol-hee, because it’s an example of a scene that felt really “in the moment” — genuine, accessible, and realistic. I also think that Jung Il-woo and Yoon Jin-seo are doing a really great job acting off each other, and you don’t (or, at least, I don’t) stop to think about them as actors more than their characters. (You also can’t really tell she’s four years older than him, can you?)
One more thing: They’ve dragged out Iljimae’s reunion with his mother for-ev-er and I’m dying to see how they finally do meet, but for some odd reason, I’m not upset that we’ve had to wait this long. Just very curious about the future. This must be what it’s like to prolong plot points based on substantive story development, rather than dragging out a reunion for flimsy reasons purely to prolong the (artificial) tension. Really, it’s got to be a rare occurrence to have a plot tease actually work FOR the drama, rather than against it.
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 17
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 16
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 15
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 14
- Jung Il-woo talks about acting, fame, and the future
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 13
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 12
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 11
- Jung Il-woo is happiest with script in hand
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 10
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 9
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 8
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 7
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 6
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 5
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 4
- Return of Iljimae: Episode 3
- The Return of Iljimae premieres: Episodes 1 & 2
- Flower boy power
- Return of Iljimae sold to Japan