Although Tamra the Island has finished airing, gallivanter and myself have volunteered to continue Javabeans’ efforts to offer recaps to Dramabeans readers. So, in the next weeks, we’re hoping to share detailed recaps, thoughts and opinions on this little treasure of a drama.
Now a side note for Tamra: Unfortunately the powers of MBC decided to cut the original 20 episodes to 16 episodes and by Episode 10 we start seeing the weird effects of crazy editing to keep the storylines flowing. What we’re also hoping to do is recap the original episodes once the DVD release comes out. It’ll be interesting to do a comparison between the editions and look at how much more of the characters/plot/themes we see in an extra 4 hours of viewing time- watch this space!
Otherwise, it’s easy to write about Tamra retrospectively but this could spoil it for first time readers/watchers so we’ll try to recap as we watched it the first time round, keeping the surprises and discoveries fresh.
We really hope you enjoy the recaps; happy reading!
Episode 3 opens as the previous one ended: Park Kyu walks in on Beo Jin, William and Yan hiding in the cave as Beo Jin communicates with William how dangerous it is to wander into the village.
Kyu seems undisturbed by the sight of William and Yan and asks if they are castaways to which William responds with, ‘my treasure’ (referring to the chamber pot from Episode One).
Yan steps forward to attack and the situation looks as if it might become tense, however, Beo Jin quickly steps in to explain that they are friends. She doesn’t get very far because Kyu cuts her off by listing, in quite an interrogative manner, her strange behaviour and asks if she knows how much of a crime it is to hide foreigners. Furthermore, he threatens that if she doesn’t tell him the truth he’ll go straight to the authorities with what she’s been up to.
Beo Jin begs Kyu not to go to the authorities because even though they don’t communicate well, she believes William is a good person and she doesn’t want him to die. She reasons that he’s not like Kyu, who has been exiled for a crime, but that William just happened to be shipwrecked on Tamra, which isn’t his fault.
Beo Jin introduces Yan and William to Kyu and Kyu is surprised to hear that Yan is from Nagasaki, making him Japanese. This obviously means something because Beo Jin covers her mouth in surprise. Yan seems to understand and looks away.
Now cue one of the most incongruent pieces of dialogue EVER (which thankfully only last a few seconds) where William has a sneaky bit of fun with Kyu’s name, which resembles the apparently well known 14th century phrase ‘f*** you’. It’s embarrassing to the say the least, not for the characters, but for the writing and only William ends up laughing at his own joke.
Even if the scene is awkward, Kyu, at least, seems to understand that he’s been insulted in some way and stalks off, Beo Jin hot at his heels. Worried that if William is found out and taken to Han Yang (the capital), where he will be killed, Beo Jin blurts that she’ll do anything for Kyu if he keeps his discovery a secret.
A sly smile spreads across Kyu’s face and he agrees depending on the outcome of her performance. He immediately corrects her speech, making sure she uses honorific forms of address and clearly has lots of fun in the next scene where we see an exhausted Beo Jin perform all sorts of odd jobs and chores for Kyu as he sits like a Lord fanning himself in the middle of her home back in the village.
At night William sets down a firefly lantern and muses over his treasure (thinking about Beo Jin), whilst an anxious Yan reprimands his indecision, saying they should try and set sail on a small boat for Nagasaki as soon as possible. William seems oblivious to Yan’s urgency and fondly recites the phrases Beo Jin has taught him, finally hiding himself with the mask the old man gave him.
Meanwhile, at the Han Yan Suh Rin Merchant’s Union, a mysterious lady in a red coldly questions a couple merchants. It seems as though they tried to take some of the union’s goods and in order to teach them and those watching a lesson, she cuts a rope that is attached to their necks, sending them to their death.
By the way she dresses and questions her workers we can assume that she is not only a wealthy merchant, but in charge of what looks like quite a large operation.
As the music blackens, she sets her sights upon a box filled with high quality dried abalone and (what we can assume are the stolen) prized horses from Tamra.
In a highly decorated room, she makes it clear that she’s obviously in the know because she charges her right hand man, Il Gan, to journey to Tamra, mysteriously mentioning the tribute thief. We don’t know how she is involved because the ominous scene soon changes back to the bright cheer of the Sun Bang Gol village, as the call for tributes rally the people together.
All the villagers display their highest quality goods on a large table ready for inspection. Because of the recent thievery, Yi Bang declares that each night, watchers will guard the tributes from the thieves in turns and first to take watch is Beo Jin’s family.
The inspection is routinely carried out until Yi Bang notices the lack of abalones. The divers explain that they were not able to catch as many this time round and that they are going to use their tribute badges to make up for it. Everybody has their tribute badge apart from Beo Jin, who’s still missing hers from her encounter with Kyu (from Episode One).
This sends the other divers into a fury and a tearful Beo Jin is pushed to face Yi Bang. Kyu watches quietly from a distance as the other divers bully a now crying and hugely apologetic Beo Jin. Beo Jin’s mother enters the scene and confronts them all by declaring that she will meet the quota for the missing abalone herself.
Back at the house, Beo Jin’s mother gets ready to set off and curtly tells Beo Jin to stay at home even though Beo Jin is ready to lend a helping hand. From his room, Kyu witnesses the entire interchange and wonders that he should have given her the found tribute badge earlier.
Thinking of what to do to help, Kyu presents the tribute badge to the village elder who thanks Kyu for him looking out for the villagers like this. Judging by Kyu’s face, it’s unexpected and I wonder if he doesn’t feel a little undeserving of the elder’s thanks.
At night, Beo Jin grumpily blames Kyu for her troubles as she hastily packs some rice cakes for William, whom she’s not been able to see the whole day.
Hurriedly taking the rice cakes, she runs off into the night only to run into William himself, who is wearing his mask. Immediately worried for his safety, Beo Jin reprimands his boldness only to be answered with, ‘Have you eaten?’ which melts her anger and takes us to a beautiful scene amongst lanterns lights and billowing red dyed clothe as they eat and talk.
William remarks how pretty the clothe looks and Beo Jin offers to teach him how it is made. A split billow later reveals Kyu in the background who watches the couple go off.
Meanwhile, Il Gan arrives to Tamra at night with a handful of cronies. He heads straight for Yi Bang who recognises him and warily welcomes him to the official stronghold. It seems as though Il Gan has managed to pass himself off as part of a ‘covert police’ and he coldly berates Yi Bang for telling everyone about their arrival.
Yi Bang’s intentions seem honourable though as he asks if the tribute thievery has been reported to the central government. Il Gan assures him he will put an end to it, that his identity must remain a secret and that he is now in command. Yi Bang’s glance, however, suggests some dubiousness towards his new ‘boss’.
Early the next day, Beo Jin takes out the newly dyed clothe she made with William and starts cheerfully measuring it against Kyu’s back. Thinking she’s making it for him (we assume it’s for William), he tells her it needs to be well made and that because of his pale skin, it’d probably clash with his complexion.
The conversation is interrupted by Yi Bang, who arrives at the house to relay the discovery of the lost tribute badge, which was given to him via the elder, via Kyu. At this, Kyu starts flapping his fan furiously as Beo Jin, realising that he had it all along turns on Kyu and makes for revenge. Cue a spirited and fun chase around the house between Beo Jin and Kyu. Their frivolities are instantly halted by the piercing but tired gaze of Beo Jin’s mother who’s obviously come back from a hard day’s diving.
Beo Jin, eager to spill the beans on Kyu and the tribute badge is stopped mid sentence as Kyu growls the word, ‘cave’ at her, reminding her of their deal.
In order to make up for the tribute badge incident, Kyu decides to do Beo Jin a favour and teach her to write the Han Gul script. His teaching method is of the old school ‘copy me’ variety and after some practice, gets Beo Jin to write the words, ‘pony’ and ‘goldfish’. It doesn’t look as though Beo Jin’s really got the hang of it and he mutters that she really is a goldfish who hasn’t learned anything. Beo Jin, who seems to have tried her best, retorts that at least she can teach language well (referring to William) and irritated, pouts rather fishily in annoyance.
At night, we see Il Gan walk to Tamra Island’s port and he asks a subordinate if a boat has been prepared for the last day of the month. The subordinate replies affirmatively, stating that they will arrive at the Dragon-head Shore inn on time. He then asks if the Japanese can be trusted but the look on Il Gan’s face quietens him in an instant. All of this is seen and overheard by a hidden Yan who heads straight for the Dragon-head Shore Inn.
In the next scene we see Yi Bang ask Il Gan if he tried to smuggle the tributed goods. Il Gan’s answers point to the secret trades happening on Tamra Island and a sneaky shot at Il Gan’s face shows that his confidence has asserted itself sufficiently to ensure Yi Bang’s loyalty.
At the village tribute storage, Jang Shin (Beo Jin’s father) is the first to keep watch and unfortunately he keeps dozing off into sleep; prime time for someone to spike the watchman’s water jar with a suspicious sleeping powder. Beo Jin arrives to wake him up and in an attempt to perk him up, gives him some water. Not knowing the water is spiked, they both fall into a deep sleep whilst the tribute thieves take off with the goods in the night.
That same night, Yan and William head for the Dragon-head Shore Inn where Yan introduces himself as a merchant from the Ishida Merchant’s Union to traders who look as though they are doing some dodgy dealing on Tamra Island.
As soon as he introduces himself, officials storm the inn; Yan manages to quickly escape in time to warn William (who was hiding just outside the inn) to run.
After a pretty intense chase in the forest, William and Yan are split up. William trips up and manages to thinly escape being seen by the officials who pass him by. Looking around, William sees a cave and discovers the stash of stolen tribute items from the village. Of course, he has no idea that these are from the village and all he sees are jars and boxes full of the brightest and best foods Tamra Island has to offer a very hungry castaway.
The next morning, Beo Jin and her father wake up a little frazzled that they slept through the entire night. A yawning Beo Jin returns home and Kyu is impressed that she stayed up so late to help her father. As she gives him a drink of water the villagers cry out that Beo Jin’s father is being arrested. The officials drag Jang Shin to the government office where he will most certainly be beaten.
Beo Jin starts blaming herself, thinking that if only she’d stayed awake, none of this would have happened. She tells a pensive Kyu that she’ll find out who did this and ensure justice is done. Kyu, who is obviously distressed himself at what’s happened to the family, takes Beo Jin to William’s cave. At first, Beo Jin won’t have it but Kyu reminds her of stolen items that she’s bound to have seen in the cave. Sure enough, William and Yan are in the cave munching on the stolen tribute items.
William offers her a stolen abalone and at this, Beo Jin breaks down. Kyu berates William for taking the goods that the villagers laboured for with their sweat and tears and chastises them for causing trouble and pain for the townsfolk.
Kyu resolutely announces that William and Yan must be taken to the authorities. Beo Jin is torn between protecting William and saving her father. At this point, Yan decides they should all go to the cave in order to explain where William and Yan got the goods from. As they walk, Kyu starts to have a sneaky feeling that Yan understands Korean perfectly well as he hears Beo Jin’s warning to stay clear of a thorny bush and side steps (whilst William walks straight into it).
They get to the cave but it’s empty. Kyu finds evidence that the jars where placed there and deduces that it must be a temporary hiding place for the thieves. Kyu knows that Beo Jin needs to dive and make up for the lost goods and berates her for being too concerned with William and Yan and not enough for her father. Even though they didn’t steal the food, they still ate it, so they need to take responsibility.
So Beo Jin and William go diving and ironically, William is a much better diver than Beo Jin, filling his net with large and juicy abalone. Not one for getting his skirts wet, Kyu orders them to head back to the sea and get some more as they’ve only filled a quarter of their basket. In a little scene that is both cute but awkward (for the characters), Beo Jin turns to Kyu before she goes for her second dive and haltingly thanks Kyu for helping and for keeping William a secret. There’s not much Kyu can say to this Beo Jin quickly rushes off.
It’s now dusk and Kyu tells them that they shouldn’t dive at night because it’s dangerous. William insists they stay and continue diving. It’s Kyu and William’s first ‘face-off’ and you can sense the tension between the two men as Beo Jin, herself, is torn between safety and getting the job done. She opts for getting the job done with William and Kyu’s displeasure at her choice is clearly written on his face. Using William’s firefly lamp (don’t ask how it manages to stay air tight in the water), they manage to dive well into the night.
Back in his store cupboard room, Kyu reflects over Beo Jin’s decision to let go of him and he looks out of his room, knowing that Beo Jin is with William. And indeed, back in the cave, an exhausted Beo Jin and William lie down together to rest.
Beo Jin: It’s weird. Even if we can’t communicate, I feel comfortable around you. I feel like I’m in a completely different world with you.
William: Different world?
Beo Jin: Even though I go to the same sea I always go to, it feels completely different when I’m with you. When I close my eyes and open them again, I feel as though I could live freely without ever having to dive again.
The feelings Kyu had the previous night spill over into their morning encounter because he curtly makes it clear that William isn’t needed and can’t go any further inland. He and Beo Jin bump into Beo Jin’s mother outside the officials’ holding. She’s also been busy diving for abalone. Although it feels as though Kyu’s taking the kudos for William’s hard work, if it wasn’t for his insistence, maybe their abalone wouldn’t have been enough to free Jang Shin. The quiet interchange between the family and Kyu is quite sweet and marks a change in the way they see the ‘Exile’. The villagers all celebrate with drumming and dancing and Jeong Joo-Ri’s dancing captures the Tamra mood brilliantly.
During the celebration Beo Jin is quizzed over how she managed to get so many abalone given her awful diving skills. At that moment, Yi Bang walks in on the celebration and asks Beo Jin the same question. She answers that she dived during the day and throughout the night but he doesn’t believe her. At this Kyu stands next to Beo Jin and attests that she worked from early in the morning til late with him.
Yi Bang is quite incredulous that a nobleman would go diving with a woman all night but Kyu declares that he is only an exile living among peasants and that aiding the household where he’s staying was the least he could do.
The mood noticeably dampens as the villagers disperse. However, it is Beo Jin’s mother who looks quietly on at Kyu as he sits. Wordlessly, she offers him a drink, a gesture that surprises and shocks the others. Knowing how much this gesture means to her, Kyu happily accepts. He, too, pours a drink for her and together they acknowledge each other in a scene that needs no other expression than each others’ actions.
The next morning heralds the arrival of a ‘monster’ and the villagers wake up to the strange sight of the crazy old man sporting a mop of curly blonde hair. The villagers crowd round and beat him for stealing their food but Beo Jin quickly intercedes on his behalf. The villagers aren’t having it and after an exchange of insults, Beo Jin’s mother reprimands them all for picking on someone less fortunate than themselves.
Taking a swig of water from his water gourd, he warns them that being careful with what’s in your drinking water is paramount for health and safety.
Beo Jin drags him past Kyu and Beo Sil who receive further warnings regarding water. It’s a nod to the watchman’s water jar and Kyu remembers Jang Shin telling him how he couldn’t understand how he fell sleep during his night’s watch. He only remembers eating a little snack and drinking some water. It’s enough of a clue for Kyu who immediately heads for the watchman’s area. He pokes around, ignoring the guard on duty until he sees the water jar. Quickly opening the lid, Kyu spots a suspicious looking white residue on the edge of the jar.
He puts his hand in the water, as if looking for something, but the guard, just doing his duty, pushes him away from the jar. When Kyu sees the guard filling his own gourd with the drinking water from the jar, he quickly snatches it from the guard and asks to borrow (read take) it from him. He starts to walk off but changes his mind and destroys the watchman’s water jar with a stick to prevent anyone else taking a drink from it in the future.
Some of the scenes are certainly awkward, not least the bizarre nod to the modern English language but although I personally dislike it when they do that, one could argue that these moments add the unique flavour Island, which is what makes it likeable. I just wish they’d iron out the creases so they didn’t stick out so much.
The stolen tribute plot which is interweaved with Il Gan, the mysterious lady in red and Yan’s desperation to leave doesn’t seem to flow too smoothly as a current subplot and although I get the feeling they are inextricably woven together, I hope the editing will help the audience figure out exactly what’s going on. However, the few mysteries we’ve been exposed to so far do provide a suitably ominous mood to the feel of what is so far, a light hearted drama.
In terms of the characters, I think we’re starting to see some complexities from Kyu- he started off as a proud, arrogant character but I think he’s starting soften in Episode Three in terms of his affection for Beo Jin (as hidden as it is) and for the family and townsfolk in general. His investigatory tendencies are also intriguing me and I wonder whether he believes his exiled status is a swipe card for basically, doing anything. Yan on the other hand is really interesting me simply because I think he’s just plain shady. What is he doing hanging around with love-struck William and what are his connections with the various merchant groups? As for William himself, he reminds me of Oliver Twist in the sense that he’s annoyingly a little too innocent and innately ‘good’ (read ‘bland’). I think those, it’s this goodness that makes it all the more interesting for Kyu.
Speaking of which, I am thoroughly enjoying the modern-yet-set-back-in-the-day love triangle twist that is fast developing between Beo Jin, William and Kyu. Kyu is like the stuck up and stuff chaebol-esque character who clearly has to win the love of the bog standard girl who’s falling for an apparentally normal Joe; but there’s the twist! William isn’t a normal Joe- he’s white, he’s a nobleman, he’s a castaway and he’s socially and politically dangerous = hugely exciting and so refreshingly far removed from the typical Kdrama love triangle formula (no terminal illnesses so far….)
Added to the mix is Beo Jin’s confession (if you could call it that) to William after their diving expedition and I think this is what makes Tamra the Island so appealing and exciting on lots of different levels. Despite her dippiness, she does have an awareness of how imprisoned she is within the traditions and expectations of her family and her sex as a female diver. I think a lot of why she is drawn towards William is because he easily offers an exciting sense of freedom, being a foreigner, (the obvious point) and having an open and trusting personality, which is similar to hers. Kyu, on the other hand, seems to have none of the ease of conversation and openness that William has towards Beo Jin and I think the way he struggles with himself endears his character with the audience more, if anything, because we get to see the side of him that Beo Jin is yet to (I hope!) discover.
- Tamra will get a full director’s cut DVD
- The business of kdrama extensions and cuts
- Tamra will air complete version overseas, not at home
- Fans are spitting mad at Tamra’s curtailment
- Tamra gets shortened to 16 episodes
- My Name Is: Seo Woo
- Western actors becoming more visible on Korean TV
- Tamra the Island: Episode 2
- Tamra the Island: Episode 1
- Tamra cast members refute dating rumors