Tamra the Island: Episode 2
Funny and sweet. The characters are lively and the scenery continues to be gorgeous; the island setting and time period give this drama a bright dash of whimsy.
Like with Episode 1, there are still some rough patches, but on the whole I got a kick out of this episode. Seo Woo is not only bubbly and cute, she also shows some emotional layers and an ability to traverse the gamut of emotions at the drop of a hat. There’s also something quite sweet and innocent about her relationship to William as Beo-jin continues to take care of him.
SONG OF THE DAY
Eco Bridge – “서른 한번째 봄” (Thirty-first spring) [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
As you can tell from the image up top, Kyu is the winner in the race to the chamber pot. (Since this is how the episode opens, I figured the image doesn’t count as a spoiler).
Kyu wins the race uncontested, because at the last minute the old man (who warned Beo-jin that foreigners get killed) grabs William out of the way, for his own safety. It’s best he remain out of sight to avoid trouble.
Once in the safety of William’s cave, the old man sees the blond wig and deduces that it was William’s. He finds it interesting and offers a trade — he’ll take the blond wig, and William can have a carved mask.
That evening, horses are stolen from a stable while a stable hand sleeps nearby.
The next day, Kyu overhears a woman begging officers for the release of her husband, the man who was supposed to keep watch. She promises that they will recover the stolen horses, but the men have their orders from Lord Kim Yi-bang. Although Kyu retains his cool air, he feels uncomfortable as the man is dragged away and flogged in punishment.
Kyu takes it upon himself to look into the horse mystery and makes his way to a stable that keeps horses to be paid in tribute to the king. The farmhand sighs that all the good horses are being stolen, and/or taken by the government.
When Beo-jin comes to see William, they are able to correct each other’s misconceptions of their names, but then find themselves at an impasse with their language barrier. It’s then that William gets the idea to use the wet sand to draw pictures explaining his story. His voiceover (in Korean) accompanying the pictures explains how he set sail and got shipwrecked, and is for the viewer’s benefit since William can’t speak Korean with Beo-jin.
(By the way, the voiceover is spoken by Hwang Chan-bin/Pierre, and his Korean is quite impressive. Really good accent; his Korean is better than his English, in fact.)
I said in the previous recap that Kyu has to face the hard reality that on Tamra, there’s no currency in pride. Let me amend that thought — his lofty pride won’t get him anywhere, but the island natives sure know how to use his for their own gain.
Example: Kyu arrives at the watering hole to fill a jug of water for the household. Seeing a woman struggle with her heavy load, he does the chivalrous thing and takes her jug for her. He feels pretty good about it, too, and the local girls sigh at his generosity. So naturally, when another woman pointedly indicates her own jug, he repeats the gesture… and again… and again. Of course, he could refuse, but he’s got a rather high opinion of himself, and the flattery forces him to continue.
As he finishes the task, he comes face-to-face with the local official, Kim Yi-bang, who again misinterprets his interactions with the ladies as shameless flirting. Kim is a suspicious sort, and he’s also heard of Kyu’s record so he’s prejudiced against him. Kyu isn’t as easily cowed as the villagers and challenges Lord Kim to do his job and not worry about him. Kim is unused to people standing up to him, so his relationship with Kyu is contentious from the start.
On his way back, Kyu notices suspicious tracks in the ground, in the shape of a horseshoe.
The more experienced women divers set sail for an overnight excursion, meaning that the lower-level divers are left behind. However, Beo-jin is taken along, which is a source of griping among the other young divers in her group, who complain that she’s getting undeserved special treatment because her mother is the leader.
Even the older divers grumble, because Beo-jin hasn’t earned her spot — not that she wants it. She’s only here because her mother has dragged her along. Even when she tries to help, the others wave her away because she’s more hindrance than assistance at her skill level.
This makes her feel inadequate and upset, and she breaks down later. It’s not her fault she’s not a good diver, or that she’s here on this trip, and yet she’s the butt of jokes and a source of constant complaints.
Gruff Mom essentially tells her to suck it up: she says, in a matter-of-fact way, that everyone born in Tamra becomes a diver. Nerves raw, Beo-jin wails, “So why did you give birth to me?”
It does seem that Mom feels bad, perhaps not understanding till now just how bad Beo-jin has been made to feel, but it’s not in her nature to be warm and fuzzy, so she doesn’t comfort her.
I find Beo-jin so relatable in this moment that it’s hard not to feel for her. She’s stuck in her provincial hometown and trying to hang in there by doing a job that she’s no good at, which people resent her for doing. But given the circumstances and the social structure, she has no other options.
Thus Beo-jin is still feeling dejected when she goes to check on William, who’s happy to see her. She tells him that when he leaves, he has to take her with him, and makes him pinky-swear.
Beo-jin airs her grievances although she knows he can’t understand, explaining how she wants to leave Tamra and go somewhere else, somewhere bigger. Even though he doesn’t know what she’s saying, William takes her hand and smiles reassuringly, and Beo-jin admits that she feels better.
Her detour to William’s cave means she has to sneak back home late that night, which is when she runs into Kyu. They’re both a little jumpy because they both don’t want to admit the reason they were out — and what’s hilarious is that Kyu’s reason is hidden behind his back. (The chamber pot.)
Beo-jin notices that he’s holding something, and he maneuvers defensively to keep the chamber pot hidden. This escalates into a brief scuffle, at which point Beo-jin’s mother opens her door and looks upon them both disapprovingly.
Beo-jin scampers off to her room, shooting Kyu an annoyed glare. He returns the sentiment whole-heartedly.
Meanwhile, rumors have sprung up of a “white shadow” lurking near the village stealing things. He is first seen when the women are out on their overnight excursion — and without the women around, the men simper in fear. Hilarious.
We can guess the true identity of the thief, and see him for ourselves when William dons the mask and heads out. The thief had only stolen food, as William had grown hungry with Beo-jin away and had failed at his fishing attempt. He tries to keep out of people’s way, but is seen by a man walking along a darkened path. The man is totally drunk, however, and doesn’t get an accurate impression.
However, Kyu is very much sober and holds a knife to William, commanding him to stop. Nervous, William tries to run off, but Kyu lashes out. William isn’t much of a fighter, and soon his mask falls off — but curiously, Kyu seems to recognize him and stares in shock. William does not recognize Kyu and runs away, leaving the mask where it drops on the ground.
In the morning, the man who was punished for the stolen horses has been killed from his injuries, and his widow mourns. The drunkard bursts in with news of their thief, wailing that he stole all of their medallions. The people listen, alarmed, until he describes the man as such an outlandish monster that they don’t take him seriously.
On the other hand, Kyu is determined to get to the bottom of things, and returns to inspect the location of his encounter with William. He doesn’t find anything, but spies Kim Yi-bang sneaking along in the forest, who retrieves a horseshoe from the ground.
Beo-jin and William are hunting rabbits in the forest when a strange man grabs Beo-jin. She panics and fears that he’s here to take William, and bites the man, rushing to grab William away to safety. But William recognizes the intruder and greets him happily: It’s Yan.
They trade stories of how they came to be here. William assures Yan that Beo-jin is trustworthy, but Yan is more suspicious. In contrast, William’s a little dim — or let’s just call him trusting — because he believes Yan’s story that he also coincidentally washed ashore here.
Yan deduces that they’re too far south to be on Joseon land (the Korean peninsula), and must be on Tamra. He thinks they’re in danger, as Tamra natives are known for being fiercely closed-off. William resists Yan’s urging to leave for Nagasaki immediately, saying he needs his “precious treasure” back, although he also thinks of Beo-jin.
Yan, being the cool pragmatist, is not as friendly with Beo-jin and remains aloof when she drops by. It’s very cute when she turns to leave and William surprises her by saying, in Korean, “Wait.” He’s been picking up words here and there, and knows enough to tell her “I’m okay” as he gives her back her blade. He’s attached a little braided rope to it for decoration, made of his own blond hair. He’s mostly parroting things Beo-jin has said, but they make sense in context and she is delighted.
With her trusty blade back, Beo-jin snags a prime catch. Keut-soon, the best of their rank, looks at the blond braid jealously when another girl suggests that Kyu has given it to her. All the local girls fancy him, Keut-soon in particular, although Beo-jin doesn’t get the appeal. However, she can’t reveal where she really got it so she nods that it was from Kyu.
Growing more suspicious, Kyu tracks Kim Yi-bang — only to be waylaid by a possessive Keut-soon who demands to know why he gave that rope to Beo-jin. Is he interested in her?
Distracted, Kyu keeps an eye on his quarry and grabs her out of the way as Kim passes — which, naturally, Keut-soon interprets as romantic interest. Kyu disentangles himself and hurries away from her.
Kim later reports to the government office, showing the horseshoe and explaining that he found it near the village. Mysteriously, he assures his superior that he has “taken care of” all evidence, and is warned to take care with the medallions.
Beo-jin finds William’s mask, which Kyu snatches from her and comments on. He then takes her blade and wants to know why she told people that he’d given her the gold braided rope. Where did this come from? He drops the name “Iyani,” expecting a reaction, but it rings no bell. She grabs her things back and dashes off nervously.
Beo-jin takes the mask back to William and asks, “Did you come to my village?” Worriedly, she warns him of the danger, gesturing that it’s dangerous for him to come to the village.
Only, they’re being watched by a new intruder — Kyu has followed Beo-jin to the cave and walks into their midst.
I haven’t figured out the specifics of the gender-sexual politics of the island, but it appears that Tamra’s women-led society also means that there’s a difference in how courtships are handled. The local girls all sigh and swoon over Park Kyu — he’s rich, he’s tall, he’s good-looking — which is a dynamic we’re familiar with. However, take the relationship of Beo-jin’s parents, above left. He’s timid and sensitive, but likes making little gestures of affection for her. She, on the other hand, is a little uncomfortable with displays of affection, being so tough and no-nonsense in her everyday demeanor. So when they’re alone together, they have this awkward energy reminiscent of junior high kids, and it’s adorable.
But I’m not sure what the guidelines for marriage/courtship are, because Mom’s fellow diver (above right) also has the hots for Beo-jin’s dad, and often flirts with him. Yet rather than thinking this is odd, Mom and Dad end up sneaking about and avoiding her when they’re together, as though they shouldn’t be together. Interesting?
I was trying to decide how I felt about Hwang Chan-bin (William), and to decide whether he sucked or was holding his own. When he speaks English with Beo-jin, it’s bearable because it’s in line with how we often speak in real life when trying to overcome a language barrier — slowly and with exaggeration. When he speaks English with English-speaking characters like Yan, his awkward acting is more apparent, but I think I’m going to give him a pass on this.
Reason: I can understand how difficult it is to find an appropriate actor for the role — a young, handsome Caucasian who makes a convincing blond (per the manhwa character), speaks decent Korean (in order to communicate with the production), and speaks English (for the role). An added bonus, though not strictly necessary, is his sweet, placid air that makes William a likable character. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, maybe, but endearing despite the stiff acting. Given those criteria, they were probably lucky to snag Hwang Chan-bin at all.