Hi, I’m thunderbolt and I’m the last of the 2009 year-end reviewers writing a Chuno recap. That means there are five of us recapping what many believe will be crowned Drama of the Year. Some detractors, however, think Chuno is more joke than jewel. Varying opinions aside (and it is not unusual to feel conflicted about the drama’s merits and flaws, changing one’s mind from episode to episode or even frame to frame), there is no denying we are looking at some truly outstanding production values.
As this is my first recap for Dramabeans, I must warn readers that my recaps have been likened to grandmothers’ tales, filled with digressions and make-believe. Also, my inability to think or write linearly (read: “As It Unfolds”) means my comments are scattered everywhere. Don’t send a ferocious slave hunter (eyes blazing, dagger pointing sideways) after me because of that!
SONG OF THE DAY
Return of Iljimae OST (Yearning) by Bae Hae-sun. I recently finished The Return of Iljimae and can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve chosen two songs whose titles and lyrics match the scenes being recapped.
[ Download ]
“YOU’RE ALIVE… THANK YOU.”
As Episode 14 opens, in a marketplace suddenly bedecked with drape after colorful drape, Dae-gil gazes into the distance, with an expression that is more puzzlement than shock. He drops the fabric he is fingering and walks forward unsteadily. Something has caught his attention, but is it Un-nyun?
Moments earlier, Un-nyun had spotted him first. As she stared in stunned disbelief, he appeared to have seen her as well, their eyes locking across a distance of about 30-40 paces. It was with that cliffhanger that Episode 13 ended, leaving us unable to breathe until the next episode.
But did he really see her? Before we find the answer in Episode 14, let’s revisit Episode 7 where Dae-gil had just knifed a woman fleeing with runaway slave Song Ta-ha. As the wounded woman slumped downwards on Tae-ha’s horse, Dae-gil caught a glimpse of her face.
Was that… was that Un-nyun? The Un-nyun he had been searching for the last ten years? Did he… did he just throw a dagger into the back of the only woman he had ever loved?
“Our eyes are cunning enough to let us see whatever we wish for.” With those words, and with example after example of how Dae-gil had erroneously pounced on women he thought were Un-nyun, General Choi and Wang-son managed to get Dae-gil to concede dejectedly that his eyes were deceiving him.
So, are Dae-gil’s eyes deceiving him again in Episode 14? Does he think he sees Un-nyun, or is he really seeing someone or something else? My guess is the latter. Every previous sighting or near-sighting of her was always accompanied by a flashback of happier days. In Episode 11 as he raced towards Unju Temple, thinking she was there. In Episode 12 when he finally saw her, just as she and Tae-ha were about to join each other in conjugal ties.
If he really sees her at the marketplace, there should be a flashback of them exchanging stones or playing a chaste version of peekaboo with the sheets (no wonder it took ages to do laundry in the Lee household, what with the slave girl so distracted). If he really sees her, he would have followed her, not necessarily to be seen, but just to be nearby because that is as close as he will allow himself to be, now that she is married. If he really sees her, his face ought to be filled with a terrible, hollow pain, the kind that gnaws away at your insides because you know that what you most desire will forever remain unattainable.
But no, Dae-gil merely looks quizzical at the beginning of Episode 14. So I put it to you, dear readers, that what Dae-gil sees is not Un-nyun but the ghost of Baek-ho, still wearing the sword that Dae-gil last graced him with.
No need for conjectures with Un-nyun, however; her eyes aren’t toying with her. As she edges closer, like one in a fog, seeing and yet unsure if what she is seeing is real, her eyes fill with tears. In front of her is the man she has loved longer than anyone else, the man she believes to be dead. Now he stands, at a distance, a warm smile on his face, hands behind his back, as real as the other humans around him.
Then he looks up. And just as quickly, Un-nyun runs behind a pillar. He mustn’t see her, she who now belongs to another man. As he walks up the street, his eyes searching for something that has now vanished, she senses his presence and presses her palm to her mouth, so hard it seems the blood will drain from her. He mustn’t hear her cry.
At this moment, just as he turns to look in the direction of Un-nyun’s pillar, Seol-hwa runs up with a cheery “Orabeoni!” and pulls him away. And now Un-nyun’s expression changes, from shock to a mix of hurt and curiosity. Who is this woman and what is she to Dae-gil? They seem so close, the woman pulling on his arm and he smiling indulgently at her. Are they lovers? But even if they are, does it matter?
“Young Master, you’re alive. Thank you. For being still alive… thank you. For looking so happy… thank you.”
Un-nyun does not know, but the cheerful woman walking and bantering with Dae-gil is actually weeping inside.
When was the last time Seol-hwa received a gift from anyone? When was the last time someone brought her to the marketplace and asked her to choose a pretty garment? Something tells her that Dae-gil’s unusual act is a harbinger of impending separation, for hadn’t he left her many times before? To be abandoned again and again… What else is new? All she can do is cling to him for now, to savor (and bottle up) this fleeting happiness.
So, even as he grumbles that she is taking too much time to pick his gift for her, even as her tears threaten but do not fall at how perfunctory the whole exercise is to him (because she knows how deeply he is hurting inside despite his appearance of normalcy), she smiles brightly and prances like a child on a carefree day.
“I WILL SPEND THE REST OF MY DAYS… WITH YOU.”
Thus they leave, Seol-hwa and Dae-gil back to that temporary abode they share with Choi and Wang-son, and Un-nyun to the seowon (scholars’ retreat) where her new husband is waiting for her.
As Tae-ha enters their room, he finds Un-nyun sitting in a stupor. She does not register his presence even though he asks if there’s anything the matter, and not until he presses her thigh. (Shouting into her ear would have worked better, but every verbal or physical exchange between this couple has been tempered to such a point it is nigh impossible to imagine them ever hollering at each other.)
Startled, Un-nyun blurts out an unconvincing “I came back empty-handed because there was nothing to buy at the market,” excuses herself, and stumbles out to the kitchen where she huddles next to the stove. (And all the while I’m waving my hands frantically because she is much too close to the flames!)
What follows is Un-nyun’s second flashback of Dae-gil in this episode. Whereas the first was of their “I can see you behind those sheets” game, the second is of a wintry night long ago. In a kitchen much like the present one, a cold and glum Un-nyun is sitting on the floor, lost in her thoughts. Dae-gil comes in and gently slips a pair of new shoes on her feet. He then makes a promise to her: “I will spend the rest of my days… together with you.” When he leaves, she runs after him, her tears mingling with the snow falling on her face. She kisses him, he stares wonderingly at her (perhaps because this is the first time their lips have met), and kisses her back.
For that memory, for the lost years and crushed hopes, for a love that she will never experience again, she cries now as though her heart is about to break.
(Lee Da-hae is so amazing in this episode I take back every disparaging comment I’ve ever made about her acting in Chuno. Like the flowers on the Jeju Island cliffs, she was simply waiting for the right time to bloom. And bloomed she has!)
And now, before I move away from Un-nyun and pick up the other key developments in Episode 14, allow me to take you (kicking and screaming) on a little sleuth hunt.
In the previous episode, Dae-gil is standing outside Tae-ha and Un-nyun’s matrimonial chambers (which is just an airy term for honeymoon suite) when he spies her shoes. He seems transfixed by them, and his act of turning them around is both loving and heartbreaking. By all accounts these would appear to be the same shoes that he gave her in that kitchen many years ago.
But are they the same shoes? And how is that relevant in this recap, Ms. Thundie?
Well, because other than a stone which has now gone missing, the shoes would be the only other tangible thing he has given her. Because this particular memory seems to bring her the most pain, as evident from the way she weeps in this episode. And because, if they are the same shoes, that throws up a skirtful of new revelations about her feelings for Tae-ha.
You see, if you chase the clues in the previous episodes (and I did, never mind that it makes me look like some lunatic), you will note the color of Un-nyun’s shoes while she and Tae-ha were on the run. They are BLACK.
(To prove it, I took a screencap of a certain marketplace pursuit in Episode 6. And no, I’m not posting it here because there’s no need to hit you on the head with the incriminating evidence. It might also revive a most cantankerous “How in the world are her clothes so clean?” debate and I don’t really want to go there, not after having made peace with LDH in Episode 14.)
If the shoes that Un-nyun wore on her wedding day (and in Episode 14 when she sees Dae-gil) are the same shoes that Dae-gil gave her, that means she kept them hidden somewhere in the folds of her mourning clothes as she and Tae-ha trudged from capital to plain to outback to island and back to capital again. Or… Tae-ha kept them for her in the folds of his tattered clothes, the sweetheart. Either way, each possibility is quite the feat, considering how much running and flying (he, not she) they had to do.
IF (because the doubts, they are growing) they are the same shoes, why is she wearing them on, of all days, the day she gets wedded to a man who is nothing like Dae-gil (especially in vocal qualities)? What does that say about her feelings for General Song Tae-ha, runaway slave now restored to his rightful place as guardian of the little prince? Isn’t it a form of betrayal to wear something which ties her to the memory of her first love, even as she is pledging her heart and body to a new love?
I thus put it to you, dear readers (the five still reading this recap), that the shoes that Dae-gil caressed in Episode 13 are not the same shoes that Un-nyun remembers in Episode 14. If they were, she would have looked at them as she crouched in the kitchen, crying from the depths of her being.
(However, should it transpire somewhere in Episodes 20-24, all of which I have yet to watch, that Un-nyun tells Dae-gil most tearfully that she has kept the shoes all this while, please not be rolling on the floor laughing at what a lousy detective I am. Much obliged.)
“DO THEIR VISION AND MINE DIFFER?”
The whole time Un-nyun is at the marketplace, her husband is at the seowon attending a meeting about a most pressing matter.
Unable to stop Tae-ha’s wedding in Episode 13, Scholar Jo is now impatient to get things rolling. They have an existing crown prince, Prince Bong-rim, to overthrow in order that the rightful crown prince, little Prince Seok-gyun, can be reinstated. To ensure the success of their revolt, they need money and troops.
Jo gives Tae-ha and his men some nyang and a list of names. They are names of yangban and former courtiers who have promised to augment their cause by providing the aid they need. Tae-ha and his men must now leave the seowon and each try to contact the supporters on their list.
Alarmed that Jo wants to procure more troops and weapons (because doesn’t that suggest he’s preparing for war and bloodshed?), Tae-ha urges caution.
Song Tae-ha: I believe legitimacy and just cause are not the primary concerns now.
Scholar Jo: And what else could possibly matter? If we all take up arms, we can repel that treacherous king and his fake sycophants in one strike!
Song Tae-ha: Instead of deliberating how to rebuild our nation, shouldn’t we first decide the tenets that will anchor the rebuilding?
As Jo and Tae-ha face off in a lopsided war of words (the former is noticeably agitated while the latter is his usual impassive self), the men listening to the exchange have unspoken concerns which they will only ask their general, away from Jo’s earshot.
“Are we supposed to take up arms against our former colleagues?” “Aren’t we used to civilian officers exploiting us military men for their own agendas?” “I did not survive the torment of Jeju (leaving my beloved’s body behind) to become their varlet.” (This last line from a broken Han-seom, still grieving the tragic death of the court lady.)
Acutely aware of his subordinate’s pain, Tae-ha asks gently, “Han-seom, do their vision and mine differ? And is having another point of view necessarily wrong? You cannot let a mere disagreement cloud our greater goal.” (Unknown to the men, someone is watching and listening to them. We will discuss this person separately afterwards.)
Later that day, her deportment betraying no signs of having seen a ‘ghost’ that morning, Un-nyun is serving her husband his noon meal. (And I wonder where the little prince has gone to; there is no sign of him in this episode.) He asks her what kind of country she wants Joseon to become; she replies at first that she can’t offer any deep answers, being a woman and all. But soon her thoughts spill over, in tandem with her tears.
Un-nyun: Of all the things I’ve heard in my life, do you know what was the most discouraging? That this world will never change. That it is pointless to dream or even think about it. That I should accept the life I’ve been given.
As Tae-ha listens, unaware that the right thing to do at that moment is to gather his wife into his arms and wipe away her tears, Un-nyun smiles (because she knows which battles aren’t worth fighting, reforming a spouse’s blank expression being one of them) and urges him to eat.
That night, Tae-ha and his trusty subordinates meet in the courtyard again. Earlier, they had yet another heated exchange with Scholar Jo, with the latter questioning their commitment and insisting that they must depart at dawn the very next day. Although Tae-ha questioned the need to be in such a hurry, Jo argued that he was simply carrying out their late master’s wishes.
“We will have to leave,” says Tae-ha to his men. No matter the points of disagreement between them and Jo, they are on the same side after all. (Watching them this time is Dae-gil, his intention no longer to capture Tae-ha but only to find Wang-son.)
As the men retire for the night, Tae-ha returns to his chambers where his bride is waiting for him.
They lie next to each other, wrapped in thoughts that the other is not privy to. Seeing Dae-gil that morning has rekindled more than memories of their love; it has revived old forgotten demons. She thinks now of her brother’s words about the untold joy of being reborn as non-slaves, and of her lie to Tae-ha when they were on the run.
“There is no way slave hunters are trailing me. I am no slave.”
(I rather miss the scruffy Tae-ha. How about you? Just look at his clean and expressionless face below, whether lying horizontal or sitting upright, and you can understand why Un-nyun finds it so hard to spill the beans about anything to him.)
“I have something to tell you… There are many things I have not told you.”
Return of Iljimae OST (Men are all the same) by Park Jung-eun. [ Download ]
“SHOOTING IS ALL ABOUT COURAGE.”
On the other side of town, deep in the woods and in a side plot that I still can’t connect with the main story arc, Eop-bok and Cho-bok have gathered with five other would-be slave revolutionaries. Four of them hold muskets, two are armed with farming equipment, and Cho-bok has her basket slung over her shoulder. All are beside themselves with nervous excitement.
Following the instructions of a mysterious leader who has yet to reveal himself (choosing to communicate instead through secret missives), our revolutionaries are waiting to ambush a group of yangban (nobility). These yangban, who are led by a man named Yoo, purportedly capture runaway slaves and sell them to slave smugglers for three to four nyang each. This immediately qualifies them to be called motherless asswipes (or “bastards,” if you prefer something more pithy).
As they lie in wait, Eop-bok gives the slaves final instructions. Proper firing procedures aside, he tells them that shooting is all about courage. Ggeut-bong assures him, albeit with false bravado, that he is ready to spill yangban blood and that all it takes is just aiming his weapon at the target and firing. “If it could only be that simple, all my worries would be over,” Eop-bok replies solemnly. He then tells Cho-bok to leave, but she replies that she wants to stick around and make herself useful. “It’s too dangerous here,” he insists.
Two details are telling here. First, no one is quite sure when Yoo and his crew will make an appearance. It could be today or tomorrow. The path isn’t well-worn and few people take it on any given day. “We’ll just have to wait,” says Eop-bok. His reply is surprising because it suggests the lax control that the slaves’ keepers have over them. See how easily and frequently the slaves are able to meet, whether by day or night. No wonder many make a dash for freedom, wretched consequences be damned.
Second, Cho-bok is a curious case because she has obviously been schooled in reading and writing, being the only one among the slaves who can read Eonmeun*. Given how learned (and fearless) she is, and the fact that her slave chores do not involve flinging herself into mud on a daily or even monthly basis, why is her face perpetually mud-smeared? And why, if she is able to keep her teeth so pearly-white, does she not take more care with her skin? She and Eop-bok clearly have feelings for each other, so shouldn’t she want to look her cleanest for him? It’s befuddling, truly.
(*Eonmeun literally means “vulgar script” and was the ancient name for the Korean alphabet invented in 1444 during King Sejong’s reign. Since classical Chinese, Hanja, had been the de rigueur script in Korea all along, Joseon nobility considered Eonmeun a low-class script meant for the masses and were thus strongly opposed to it.
By writing the secret missives in Eonmeun, the mysterious leader/s of the slave uprising obviously wanted to emphasize the divide between them and the yangban. More importantly, given the yangban’s revulsion toward Eonmeun, they would most likely have refused to learn it. In fact, it would take more than 400 years before Eonmeun replaced Hanja as the script of choice in Korea. By this time, a scholar called Ju Si-gyeong had coined a new name for Eonmeun. Hangeul means “great script,” which certainly sounds more pleasing than vulgar script, doesn’t it?)
Dismissed by Eop-bok, a sulky Cho-bok is making her way back when she suddenly sees Yoo and his men. According to the missive, their yangban target should comprise just four or five men, which is why Eop-bok has gathered only five slaves for this ambush. Now Cho-bok stares in horror as she counts the number of yangban marching past her, their faces set and determined. 1, 2, 3… More than ten of them!
Meanwhile, Eop-bok and the five other slaves are trying to keep themselves warm in the chilly weather. They rub and knock together what look like fossilized dinosaur eggs, white versions of the black stones that Dae-gil used to give to Un-nyun. Just as it seems they might have to settle in for a long and cold wait, one of the slaves spies the yangban approaching in the distance. The slaves immediately scramble to their positions.
What ensues is quite laughable, if you’re a mere bystander. But if you are Ggeut-bong or one of the other three slaves assigned to fire the muskets, the sight before you can make you crap your pants. How in the world to take down twelve men all at once? Didn’t the missive state that it would be a small group they have to slay? If they shoot randomly at the center of the group, that would do, right?
As expected, Eop-bok stays calm and hits his targets, one by one. Ggeut-bong manages a couple of shots, but drops his musket and flees when he is almost set upon by a yangban who is then quickly shot dead by Eop-bok. The other slaves flee as well, tails between their legs, frightened out of their wits by the yangban and their swords. Only Eop-bok remains, but he too will soon have to run as an incensed Yoo charges towards him. As chaser and chased dash through the woods, a quick-thinking Cho-bok saves her beloved by directing Yoo away from Eop-bok.
A semi-successful mission (three yangban down, the rest still prancing around) thus ends, with Ggeut-bong and gang having to do much explaining later. Cho-bok manages to retrieve the slaves’ abandoned muskets and is duly rewarded with a piggyback ride from Eop-bok that night. All’s well that ends well, unless you’re a dead yangban or a sheepish Ggeut-bong.
“WHAT KIND OF PALAVER ARE YOU PRATTLING?”
Just as the slaves and their uncertain side plot keep us entertained (in a mild no-falling-off-chairs way) every episode, so we can’t do without the obligatory appearance of our Comic Characters. Among them, Ahn Suk-hwan as Artist Bang gives us his best acting ever; I simply adore him to bits in Chuno. Alas, I’ve been inconsolable ever since Yoon Moon-sik, playing the peevish horse vet, exited the stage for the most confounding of reasons. How I miss his droll sense of humor!
First funny characters to appear in Episode 14 are Cheon Ji-ho and Officer Oh (although one can argue that Ggeut-bong was the first; I contend, however, that Ggeut-bong’s bumbling has been rehashed to death and isn’t so hysterical anymore).
Ji-ho demands to know where the bodies of his underlings have been dumped. Oh skirts the question by wondering why the men hanged themselves at the Apgujeong Pavilion, a place that’s off-limits to anyone not born into nobility or possessing the ability to spout airy hogwash. He, whom we fondly call Two-Face on account of how he can smile at you one moment and then turn around and stab you in the back, then asks Ji-ho what he was doing on the day his men breathed their last.
“Why, ran out of folks to suspect, did you?” Ji-ho snaps back. He then reminds Oh that they have shared more in life than prattle (having oiled Oh’s palm too many times to recount) and that there’s no way he’s following the latter back to the capital bureau for interrogation. “I ain’t stupid, you dolt” (or similar) brings the conversation to an abrupt close.
Eavesdropping the entire time are the two jumo, both still jumpy after witnessing what a ‘routine’ trip to the capital bureau did to the elderly horse vet. After Oh leaves in a huff (because Ji-ho essentially tells him to buzz off), Junior Jumo declares loudly: “I’m going to marry General Choi.” She also calls Oh a drooling buffoon, although why she should connect the two men in the same breath is a mystery. Still, her words promptly cause Senior Jumo (who has the hots for Choi) to drop her tray, not once but twice. And voila, Joseon crockeries, they do not break!
Unfazed (and completely clueless), Junior Jumo continues, “When General Choi returns, I’m barging into his room and threatening to kill myself if he does not marry me!” She, who has obviously mastered the art of praising one and dissing another in the same breath, then proceeds to call sweet and innocent Artist Bang, who has never harmed a fly in his life, a crawly old fart.
Hmm, the real old fart in the drama is evil Left State Councilor Lee Gyeong-shik. Minutes before his brief appearance in this episode, his favorite gisaeng Chan is teaching a newly-arrived gisaeng, Dong-dong, the ropes of the trade. Not that Dong-dong needs teaching, mind you, she being Pyeongyang’s most prized gisaeng. (No explanation is given why she is now in Chan’s upscale gisaeng house.) In a terse exchange that resembles two purring cats sharpening their claws for a kill, the two women manage to forge a bond that might involve nightly “How to shut a bitch up for good” ruminations.
Lee arrives and is soon put in a mirthful mood by Dong-dong, now called Jeni (against her will). When Jeni proclaims her intention (in front of Chan) to become Joseon’s foremost gisaeng, Lee is so tickled he can barely contain himself, thus treating us to a rare glimpse of his yellow teeth. I can barely contain myself too (the head-scratching, that is). The purpose of this scene escapes me completely.
“WANG-SON, YOU FOOL!”
To understand Wang-son’s behaviour in Episode 14, we need to quickly recap his quarrel with Dae-gil in the previous episode. Certain that Tae-ha was hiding in the seowon, Wang-son insisted that they capture him right away. Dae-gil, his heart in pieces after witnessing Un-nyun’s marriage, replied that they should sleep first and then act tomorrow. But when the next day dawned, Dae-gil told Wang-son and Choi that they should forget about capturing Tae-ha and just return to Hanyang. That set off a fight among the three men, which ended as swiftly as it started.
Unknown to Dae-gil and Choi, Wang-son decides (in this episode) that he’s not letting 500 nyang just slip through his fingers. He will capture Tae-ha himself. So off he goes to the seowon, swift-footed and with a jolly heart, endearing himself to us every second he’s on the screen. No one is more angst-free in this drama than our adorable Wang-son.
True enough, as soon as Wang-son hops onto the outer wall of the seowon (wearing the same gleeful expression that he normally wears before deflowering yet another willing ‘victim’), who should he see? Why, Tae-ha himself, unarmed and ready to offer himself on a platter. What a stroke of good luck!
Alas (and it’s the same confounded habit that plagued Kim Ji-seok’s vampire character in Hometown of Legends 2009), Wang-son takes his own sweet time to strike. By then who should appear but Tae-ha’s men, now unknowingly shielding their leader from the line of Wang-son’s arrow. Wang-son waits for the men to leave, but “The prattling knows no end!” and it looks like the sun will set before he gets a chance to hit his target.
Wang-son decides that he can’t take on Tae-ha and his men by himself; he needs Dae-gil and General Choi. As he is walking back and counting the number of men that he spied at the seowon, he senses a presence behind him.
And so we are treated (and I’m referring strictly to the swordplay and the flying on rooftops and the pulsating music, not to poor Wang-son having part of his fringe lopped off, etc.) to another signature Chuno fighting scene, this one involving resident villain Hwang Cheol-woong. Only a few metaphor-laced words are exchanged and they fairly drip with sarcasm.
Hwang Cheol-woong: You prance about like a raging fly.
Wang-son: And what’s wrong with that? Even eagles cannot catch flies!
Hwang Cheol-woong: Who sent you here?
Wang-son: Who knows? Eat this instead! (more fighting) Who are you, to be beating me up this way?
Hwang Cheol-woong: Speak or you will die!
No match for Hwang, Wang-son lies bleeding on the ground, presumably dead. (And I feel, for the first time, anger at the turn of events. How can a favorite character kill off another favorite character? No!) He is dragged away, his blood forming a trail even as General Choi is frantically searching for him.
Earlier, Choi had returned to their quarters. Seeing no one around, and showing how well he knows the mind of Wang-son, he immediately surmises that the latter has gone off to the seowon to capture Tae-ha. “Wang-son, you fool!”
Running as though his life depends on it, Choi finds the clues scattered on a blood-stained ground. All of them point to an end for Wang-son that is too much for Choi to grasp.
As he keeps searching, deep into the night, Choi suddenly sees a flash in the sky. It’s the signal flares that he, Dae-gil and Wang-son would use on their slave hunts. Wang-son must be alive!
But it is not Wang-son that Choi sees at the location where the flares were fired, it is Hwang.
“My brother… where is he?” Choi yells, his words causing more tears to fall (from my eyes, not Hwang’s; I am still dazed and upset that Wang-son is dead so early in the drama).
Hwang replies that he gets to ask the questions, not Choi. The two men then go at each other, in the process igniting Wang-son’s unused signal flares on the ground and setting off, literally, a fighting scene replete with fireworks.
It is spectacular stuff until I see where it is all leading to…
Hwang Cheol-woong. You did not just pierce General Choi’s chest, no!
I don’t understand our villain, do you? What has turned Hwang into this merciless beast who positively revels in spilling blood? Granted he has been used and misused by his father-in-law, the one tickled pink by a gisaeng earlier. Granted his trip to Jeju Island to capture one former general and one grandson of the king went awry, and he had to limp back to Hanyang with a bleeding shoulder and a wounded pride. Okay, so he spent a brief spell in a cell, surrounded by lowlives. But he emerged none the worse for wear, didn’t he? Did someone kill his beloved, strip him of his wealth, and steal his favourite stallion?
Moreover, given that he is supposedly hunting down Song Tae-ha, shouldn’t he be thrilled to see that one lad has beaten him to the hunted? Shouldn’t he hail Wang-son with delight and say, “Salutations, comrade, I see we have a common enemy. What say you that we join forces?” And since he is so curious about who sent Wang-son to capture Tae-ha, does it make sense for him to slay our resident cutie-pie? Doesn’t he know that dead men tell no tales?
If… If Hwang kills General Choi in the next episode, I’m going to turn him into a purple toad, never mind that the very name Lee Jong-hyuk sends me into flights of fangirly hysteria.
“IT’S TIME YOU GO YOUR OWN WAY.”
And now, to end this recap, allow me to take you, dear reader (yes, you, the only one still sticking around; you have my utmost gratitude) to where we started, back to Dae-gil and Seol-hwa.
After returning to their quarters, Dae-gil discovers that Wang-son has gone missing. Like Choi, he too deduces that the youngest member of their threesome has scooted off on his own Tae-ha hunt. So he dashes off, leaving Seol-hwa to sing that now too-familiar refrain: “Orabeoni, where are you going?”
Dae-gil fails to find Wang-son at the seowon and decides to go back. Spent (emotionally and physically) and anxious (about Wang-son), he is irked that Seol-hwa is wiping the floor in such close proximity to him and like one possessed. “From now on I will cook and sew for you,” she replies with a false perkiness. “Why would you?” he grunts with characteristic civility (or lack thereof).
Telling her that she should go to Mount Worak to find a man called Jjakgwi who can protect and help her settle down, he explains that he’s going to stop slave hunting. “It’s time you go your own way. I will provide money for your trip.” When she counters that she did not follow him for his money and asks if he’s quitting his trade because of Un-nyun (because he became a slave hunter in the first place in order to find her, didn’t he?), he explodes. “HOW DARE YOU!”
As Seol-hwa’s eyes fill with tears (and I’ve stopped counting how many times he has hurt her), our walking volcano steps outside for some fresh air. In a faraway place, a signal flare flies into the night sky, the very flare that lured Choi to Hwang. Dae-gil sees it and dashes out at once. It must be Wang-son!
Will Dae-gil get there in time to save General Choi from Hwang? Or will he find instead the bodies of the two men who have become the only family he has left in this world? Stay tuned to find out!