It’s an educational trip with a Buddhism slant today, which turns out to be pretty enlightening, actually. “Educational” isn’t something you’d think would necessarily be fun… but with these five personalities involved in the lesson, their interaction is bound to be entertaining, any way you slice it.
EPISODE 356. Broadcast on October 16, 2011.
girlfriday: It’s the boys’ 100th trip, which I guess makes sense since their 200th episode passed not long ago. They’re gathered in Kyungju for the opening, dressed in hiking gear, which Ji-won points out was a horrible way to be greeted in the morning.
javabeans: This may be glass-half-full thinking, but with Ho-dong gone, I do like that the opening duties are split five ways, and that each person is contributing more, in more equal amounts. It’s not necessarily something the show is telling them to do, but they seem motivated by a personal sense of responsibility to fill in for the loss. Even Ji-won, who had plenty of screentime before, is all goofy and outspoken now.
girlfriday: Yeah, it’s really nice to see the quiet guys like Tae-woong or Jong-min speak up more, and do their part to try and help fill Ho-dong’s shoes.
javabeans: Ha, as they’re doing the opening, Ji-won out-Su-geun’s Su-geun by bowing to the ground, hands and knees and all. Is he also picking up Su-geun’s habit of stealing joke-thunder?
girlfriday: Apparently Na PD gave the boys reading material to prepare for today’s shoot (there’s homework now?), about Korea’s history and national treasures, and Jong-min says he read the book cover-to-cover. Seung-gi tests him by asking about something that stood out in the book, and Jong-min mentions the famous tower that Queen Seon-deok built. Tae-woong chimes in: “I was standing next to her when she built that.” HA.
javabeans: Isn’t it funny how Tae-woong’s the resident sageuk expert? Ya do one drama… But for the purposes of today’s mission, they do need a real expert, and a guest is brought in, history scholar/professor/author Yoo Hong-joon. He has so many academic credits that they scroll his CV down the screen like the Star Wars legacy.
girlfriday: It’s always cute to see celebrities awed by someone else. They’re like, we read your book! And now you’re here!
javabeans: And he’s like, “I know who you are too! I saw you on TV!” And then calls Tae-woong Jong-min. Heh.
girlfriday: He tells them that he’s going to take them to Kyungju’s Namsan, and Seung-gi’s like, “Kyungju has a namsan [south mountain] too?” The professor has to point out that yes, if you’re on the south side of any set of mountains, that’d be the south mountain.
javabeans: Heh. It’s like Main Street. Or Broadway.
girlfriday: It’s just funny that growing up in Seoul means that you think yours is the only Namsan. Oh, Seung-gi.
javabeans: Professor Yoo starts explaining about kings and tombs, and Jong-min bursts out excitedly, “You mean for King Jinpyeong?” Professor Yoo points out that there were 52 Silla kings — how like Jong-min to fixate on the one he knows. Tae-woong chimes in, “I know his real name, too. Jo Min-ki.” HAHA. Should we be grateful for the existence of sageuks that these boys know ANY history?
girlfriday: Pfft. Is Tae-woong going to be making Seon-deok jokes all day?
javabeans: I think Tae-woong is going to be making Seon-deok jokes all his life, or until he gets a new sageuk, whichever comes first.
girlfriday: It’s also really cute to know that some actors fixate on certain characters they’ve played as much as viewers do. Most actors try so hard to distance themselves from famous characters, like it’s a big ol’ burden. Professor Yoo takes them to their first piece of history, the remnants of what is, essentially a bar. It’s like a lazy river with little shots of liquor floating around.
javabeans: It’s called “po-seok” and the guys guess that it means four (or po, Korean-accent-style) stones. The professor laughs and tells them it’s shaped like Eun Ji-won’s favorite food (“Sausage? Fried egg?” “I guess you have a lot of favorite foods”) — abalone — which is where the Chinese character for “po” comes from.
girlfriday: He explains that everyone would sit around it, and if a cup of liquor stopped in front of you, you would drink, and then recite a line from a poem. Su-geun: “They had bokbulbok back then?”
javabeans: I think the lesson is more: Koreans have a long, long history of drinking.
girlfriday: Ah. So we can blame HISTORY! It’s in our genes!
javabeans: The professor has 7 treasures of Namsan to show them today, which he describes as an outdoor museum of Buddhism. Everyone heads to the bus, where they complain of being hungry. Na PD is all smug — HE ate — but the others had to be there for 4am call. I love that they urge the esteemed guest to tell Na PD how historical travels require good nutrition in your belly, as an excuse to stop for food.
girlfriday: Su-geun, Jong-min, and Seung-gi are all aflutter trying to impress the professor with the fact that they’ve read his book, but Professor Yoo seems to care more what Ji-won thinks. Either that or he’s got that teacher sixth-sense thing that knows who’s done the reading and who hasn’t.
javabeans: Ji-won proclaims that he’ll read it all now, though, since he knows who wrote it: “I don’t read books by people I don’t know.” HA. Well, that’s ONE excuse to keep your reading list small.
girlfriday: Seung-gi: “Is that why you never read any textbooks? Because you didn’t know the authors?” Keh. This earns Ji-won the spot next to Professor Yoo for the rest of the hike though, as they joke that Ji-won is the special needs student in the class. Jong-min: “Hyung, you really have to graduate this year.” Seung-gi: “He’s been going to grade school for 30 years now…” HA.
javabeans: Hehe, the professor isn’t above getting a few jokes in of his own. The group hikes up through the forest and arrives at the ruins of a large stone Buddha, now missing its head. Professor: “If Kang Ho-dong were here, his head would be the perfect size…” Seung-gi: “That’s what we call life-size!”
girlfriday: They reach their first sight, a series of Buddhas carved into the side of a mountain. Professor Yoo announces that he’ll be giving a quiz at each stop, to give them a chance to earn their lunch. The boys start panicking. Jong-min: “Is it a nonsense quiz?” Hee. Yes, we called a professor here and had you read his book, to quiz you on puns.
javabeans: Ji-won’s first to essay a guess on what two items the Buddhas down below were holding. “One was holding love…” Professor Yoo: “No, it’s an item.” Hahaha. After a couple wrong guesses (“rice soup?”) Tae-woong guesses lotus and wins money for lunch. Na PD has set up foods for purchase later, and Su-geun jokes, “Have you gone into business?” The “money” he earns is the equivalent of, say, Disney Dollars, except these have Seung-gi’s face on them instead of Mickey Mouse. (Seung-gi as Astro Boy, I might add.)
girlfriday: I love it. Each bill has a different member’s face on it, and they’re worth ridiculous amounts — like tens of millions of won. Su-geun: “That means one chocopie’s gonna be 200 million won.” Aw, man, he’s right, isn’t he? Evil!
javabeans: Next question: There are holes carved into the stone at regular intervals. Why? Ji-won shouts to answer first: “So that a helicopter can grab it to fly away with!” Oh, not-so-Genius-won.
girlfriday: Kekeke. I half expected him to finish that sentence, “…so that aliens could haul it away to study us!”
javabeans: (Sometimes when watching High Kick 3, I see Ji-won instead of wacky Seung-yoon, aka the kid who dips eggs into his bellybutton full of salt. Especially in yesterday’s episode, where he’s convinced the world is a cube.)
girlfriday: Ha. Yeah, that’s pure Eun Ji-won.
javabeans: Jong-min asks if they’d get credit for finding new treasures, and the professor says there’s a cash prize. Suddenly everyone’s a lot more interested in their surroundings, as though they’re in a scavenger hunt that’s guaranteed to yield treasure.
girlfriday: It’s adorable to watch the boys in field-trip mode, legitimately excited to learn new things and asking Teacher all sorts of questions. I love that adults need no prompting to immediately revert to grade-school behavior, like raising your hand to get called on. The professor gives another quiz and Ji-won immediately jumps to answer, getting it right on the first try.
javabeans: It’s a question of restoration (the Buddha was ruined during an anti-Buddhist period), which the professor refers to as a sort of plastic surgery, and Ji-won guesses which part was re-created. Seung-gi’s all, “Our special student is improving!” Ji-won: “I have a lot of interest in plastic surgery.”
girlfriday: Suddenly the special needs kid races to the head of the class. Professor Yoo marvels at his gumption: “He has no fear of being wrong. People are always afraid of giving the wrong answer, but he’s not.” Look who’s Teacher’s Pet now!
javabeans: Even if Seung-gi adds that that’s because Ji-won freely spits out guesses because he knows nothing in the first place.
girlfriday: Sometimes it pays to slack off? Ji-won scores a whopping 3 billion won for his answer.
javabeans: They make the steep climb up to the top for the next treasure/quiz station, and Seung-gi looks a little abashed when his gasping self is easily passed by a PD carrying 20kg of gear. Seung-gi wins this question by guessing what sets this Buddha apart from the others. I love that he explains to his “class” before confirming that his theory was right. (At least it is!) He wins a 10 billion won fake-bill, which hysterically bears Tae-woong’s face…as “Tae-sook” — the pigtailed, twist-dancing ‘50s schoolgirl rival to Baek Ji-young from the viewers tour.
girlfriday: Someone on the staff had a field day at the 1N2D treasury.
javabeans: Hey, if your graphic arts skills are usually limited to posterboard charts and spinny wheels, this is your one time to shine.
girlfriday: Oh, I’d have printed enough to buy an island. A fake island, mind you, but a big one!
javabeans: Aw, the professor has made gifts for each member, and personally drawn something on each fan to match their personalities. It’s so cute — they look like classical fans, but the words are customized. Su-geun’s says, “I pray for safe driving,” since he’s always the driver on their trips. Jong-min’s picture is of a scholarly hall, with the words wishing him wealth. The image comes from the 1000 won bill, and the professor explains that each beat of the fan is supposed to yield 1000 won. Jong-min beats at the air furiously, ha. It’s such a witty set of gifts; I wish they showed them all.
girlfriday: The professor then takes them to a set of large stones with symmetrical grooves set into them, and asks how they got that way. He explains how they would pour water into the center of large rocks, then wait till they froze (and expanded), naturally splitting the rocks in half. Wow, my mind has just been science-blown.
javabeans: Next up is a stop at a stone pagoda (a tahb) that’s over a thousand years old. Professor Yoo asks “Eun Cho-ding” what a tahb is, and Su-geun quips, “You’d better not say Big Bang.” Heh, TOP is everywhere. Ji-won gets the answer wrong a different way (“It means the best!” as in tahb = top). And sageuk master Tae-woong steps up once more to guess right.
girlfriday: It’s time for Na PD’s Snack Shack to open for business. They each count their ridiculous riches, but then Na PD starts to uncover the price tags for each item: A piece of chocolate: 100 million won. HA.
javabeans: So sad. Jong-min only has that much, so he has to cash in now for a piece the size of a Jolly Rancher, because the prices only get more sadistic from there. An iced caramel macchiato, for instance, is 3 billion won. The “really awesome” lunchbox? 10 billion won. Seung-gi’s the only one with some spending power, and even buys a drink for the professor. Su-geun has enough for a really plain serving of kimbap, with only pickled radish inside. He marvels, “Even when my family was dirt-poor, we didn’t eat like this!” Ji-won hands over his leftover cash to Tae-woong, who pools with Jong-min for one pitiful roll of kimbap.
girlfriday: It’s really the world’s most sadistic snack shop. Which I suppose isn’t a surprise, given who owns the joint.
javabeans: Seung-gi shares his lunch (the only decent offering) with their special guest while the other boys eat their lunches sadly. Even the professor’s all, “But Su-geun’s kimbap looked so pathetic.” The professor eats his fill, then sighs that leaving leftovers would be a sin. Tae-woong chimes in, “I’ll help you not to sin.”
girlfriday: After lunch they start the long trek to treasure #6, which is carved into the side of massive cliff.
javabeans: Holy crap that stone ledge is tiny. Ji-won and Jong-min are put out in front, and Ji-won first freaks out at the precarious view, and then at the huge stone face staring back at him, inches away.
girlfriday: When he backs up in surprise, it makes my heart go thunk. He’s literally one bad lean away from going kersplat down the side of the mountain.
javabeans: Hee, it’s Tae-woong and Seung-gi’s turn next, and Ji-won and Jong-min enjoy pulling the same bit on them: Look to your left (view), look to your right (omghugefacecrap).
girlfriday: Seung-gi can’t even do the turn to look at it, because he’s crap-his-pants afraid of heights. But then, it’s photo op time, and there’s nothing like a camera to cure that pesky fear of falling to your death.
javabeans: Then it’s time for the Seven Buddhas, which is really quite remarkable in scope and craftsmanship. Three are carved into a wall of rock, and in front of that is a four-sided pillar, with one buddha on each side. The professor explains that while all of today’s sites are designated as Kyungju Namsan’s treasures, recently this last one has been elevated to national treasure.
girlfriday: Is it wrong if “national treasure” now always makes me think of Best Love?
javabeans: Ha. My first thought at the pagoda was the tahb = top joke in Best Love.
girlfriday: So basically, we come from the Uhm Tae-woong school of drama-as-history.
javabeans: Hey, if popular culture is to thank for my understanding of history, then I’m gonna call that a good thing.
girlfriday: You won’t hear any arguments from me. I learned my math from Sesame Street, my science from Battlestar Galactica, and my English from Buffy.
javabeans: Better something than nothing, eh?