Woot, an episode packed with payoffs and some nice momentum for the romance, which finally starts to gain some traction when Kang-to gets reassigned as Mok Dan’s watchdog. I think it’s time she yanks on that invisible leash and gives Kang-to a little payback. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of her hating him while loving his alter ego.
SONG OF THE DAY
Gaksital OST – 4men “I Couldn’t Do It” [ Download ]
EPISODE 10 RECAP
We backtrack a little, to Shunji’s initiation into super-secret society Kishokai. Dad sits by with a smile, while Rie conducts the ceremony from behind a screen.
She tells Shunji that he must pledge his allegiance with his life, and to that end, he must sign “ki” in his own blood. What, no hazing, no secret handshake? You people need to up your secret ritual game.
So by the time Shunji is leading the meeting where he declares that he will kill Gaksital with his own hands, he’s already a shiny new member of the Bad News Bears.
He assigns new Gaksital-related assignments to everyone, and puts Kang-to and Abe on circus watch, which is blatantly like putting your head detective on the traffic beat.
Kang-to doesn’t seem to like that, judging from the WTF-eyebrows that he’s sporting today. He follows Shunji into his office and apologizes for yesterday—arresting Kimura was just about following orders, nothing personal.
But Shunji returns the gesture with an icy cold stare. He tells Kang-to not to come into this office whenever he pleases. Surprised, Kang-to tries to soften the tension, “Shunji…”
But he’s not having any of that bros-are-thicker-than-blood, not anymore, and challenges Kang-to not to cross the professional line: he’s the boss and Kang-to should keep personal feelings aside.
Kang-to bows respectfully and assures him that he won’t be crossing that line anymore, but counters that Shunji should keep personal feelings aside too, and not reassign detectives off Gaksital cases because of them. Touché.
But Shunji has made up his mind, and Kang-to is to stay on circus watch 24 hours a day. Kang-to gets the message loud and clear: Don’t even bother coming into the office. He storms out.
He sends Abe ahead of him and takes a detour to shine his shoes and check in with Baek Gun. Kang-to sighs that Shunji’s going all commando on Gaksital, “but he’s the only friend I have.” That… just makes my heart bleed, for the both of you.
Baek Gun worries and asks if he’ll be okay going up against his only friend, and Kang-to just says resignedly, “I started it. I have to finish it.” At the same time, Shunji is reporting to Dad and saying the same about Gaksital: that he started it and has to finish it himself.
Kimura asks what the plan is to catch Gaksital, and Shunji says they’ve always been chasing his tail, so it’s inevitable that they’d always lose him. But if they set up someone to become a target for Gaksital, then they’ll be ahead of him for the first time.
Shunji says that bank president Jo is the perfect bait. He was caught once for cheating Koreans out of their money, but let go. If he were to cheat them yet again, Gaksital would surely seek revenge and kill Jo. And they’ll be ready when he does.
Oh man, this is why Shunji is scarier than Kenji – he’s got the brains. He asks Dad about Jo’s latest scheme, to wipe out the Korean marketplace so that Kishokai Chairman Ueno can raise up a giant mall there.
On the ONE tiny stretch of land where Koreans are allowed to earn their measly living?? Gah, my blood pressure’s skyrocketing.
Jo puts on a disguise, thinking it’ll keep him safe, and then phase one of his plan begins. The marketplace people get slapped with fines for receiving stolen goods–the money that Gaksital took from Kimura and gave to the people.
Then phase two: Jo sets up shop as a nice new loan shark, here to give the people loans in these troubled times. I hope you get staked. Many times.
Meanwhile Abe gives himself a little pep talk before facing the circus folk, and announces with a very shaky voice that he and Kang-to will be taking responsibility for the circus troop from here on out.
Dong-nyun steps up to coo that the troop’s got an awful lot of pretty single girls – how are the two of them going to take responsibility for them all? Hee. Abe stammers that that’s not the kind of responsibility he meant, and I love Abe, but I’m seriously wondering how he ever passed the police exam.
And then Shin Nan-da asks how that bite on his leg is, clucking that the child was recently bit by a rabid dog… he’s not displaying any symptoms, is he? This whole thing cracks me up, mostly because Abe falls for it hook, line and sinker.
Before they know it, he’s puling down his pants in a panic to have them look at the bite. He falls flat on his face, with his pants down. Literally. While this is for their amusement, it’s also a diversion to give Mok Dan and Boss Jo a chance to sneak away.
They call Damsari, but get no answer, and worry that he’s already on his way to see them. His mustache disguise might fool anyone else (me included, heh), but not Kang-to, the man who put him away.
Boss Jo decides to try and cut him off, but Mok Dan says it’ll be more noticeable if the boss isn’t around, so she’ll go instead. Little do you know that Kang-to would notice your absence more than anyone’s.
She packs a bundle of laundry as her cover and heads down the mountain road… and right into Kang-to’s path. So much for stealth, eh? He asks where she’s running off to, and she says in her most hateful tone that it’s her turn to do laundry, and keeps walking.
He snatches the bundle out of her hand and grabs her by the wrist, reminding her that it’s now his job to stick by her side 24 hours a day. Is that… a smile on your face? She of course reads it as a cat-put-on-mouse-duty kind of smile, but we know it’s real. Okay, that’s cute.
She grabs the bundle and pulls away, and he runs after her like a little boy. She runs, he runs; she walks, he walks. I think I’m going to like this new assignment of his.
They get to the pension and the manager is hilariously taken aback to see Mok Dan walk in with Kang-to, and all it takes is one silent mouth-snarl from Kang-to to make the man nearly pee his pants. Sometimes, Evil Kang-to is funny.
She’s really here to try and send a message to her father via the men posing as soldiers, but they’re out, so she asks the manager to tell her if they return.
Kang-to watches Mok Dan do laundry with a smile, and then notices her knife. (The last time he saw it, he lost it at the bottom of the river, so he’d be surprised to see it back in her possession.)
The memories of Boon-yi bring tears to his eyes, and Mok Dan nervously registers his gaze and turns to look at him, completely thrown by the strangeness of his intense look.
It’s just a split second, and then he recovers by sniping at her to wash faster, which sets the world back on its axis. But only for a moment, because then he gets annoyed that she’s washing one article of clothing at a time, and steps in to wash them for her.
She stares at him, totally confused. I find his tiny acts of sweetness cute, even though obviously, not going to make up for the massive amounts of evil on his rap sheet.
At the Angel Club, Reporter Park declares that he’s going to abide by his journalistic integrity (When did he get some of that?) and report the truth about Gaksital being alive. Tasha gets a message from a man, and she opens the letter to find it completely blank. She asks to meet him in the VIP room, and walks in to find… Damsari? Whoa, suddenly very interested in Tasha. Is she a spy for the Independence?
Apparently she’s been waiting a long time for the blank-page message to arrive, and gives him a package from someone named Yang Baek. It’s a fancy cane, but he opens it to find papers wrapped inside: police station blueprints. The plot thickens.
He also asks after Kang-to and whether or not he still frequents the place. Curious.
Kang-to watches Mok Dan hang the laundry out to dry, and the way he keeps smiling at her, he’s gonna blow his cover in no time.
She keeps looking at him like he’s a freakshow, which I honestly would too, given the strangeness of the man she most hates, going googly-eyed at her.
Suddenly they’re interrupted by Shunji, who stomps up to Mok Dan full of purpose… and then yells at Kang-to to watch her ’round the clock if they’re going to capture Gaksital. Um, did you come all the way over here just to yell that at her? Do you cops have some kind of evil outburst per diem quota to fulfill or something?
Mok Dan’s eyes fill with hurt tears, and Kang-to notes the sadness and tension between them, and it strikes a nerve.
Shunji storms off and gets back in his car, and then watches Mok Dan from the distance, his face changing to the sweet Shunji who’s still in love with her. She sees him looking back at her, and quickly wipes away the tears.
Kang-to can do nothing but watch, her tears for another man just stabbing him in the heart.
She runs inside to tell the manager that she has to be somewhere by sunset, and Kang-to overhears her. At the same time, Damsari’s accomplice trio walks in. Thinking quickly, Mok Dan yells at Kang-to, asking if he’s going to keep watching her 24 hours a day.
The men give a little nod that they understand and keep walking past… but Kang-to calls out for them to stop. Oh no. I thought her shouting was a little obvious. Did she give herself away?
But she doesn’t give him time to find out, and takes off running. Oh, because you know he has to follow? Nice. He does, and then decides to just let her go.
He heads to his tree and changes into Gaksital. Okay, I can’t be the only one thinking this, but where does he find the time to shampoo his hair between every costume change? I suppose his superhero costume isn’t as time-consuming as squeezing into tights and then underwear or anything, but it’s definitely a mystery. What, these questions plague me, okay?
Mok Dan runs to her spot to wait for Gaksital and sees her message still hanging from the tree, disappointed that he didn’t read it. But he surprises her by galloping up, just in time.
They finally stand face-to-face, well face-to-mask, and she asks if he’s okay and not hurt. She thanks him for being alive, and says that she scoured the whole river looking for him, afraid that she would never be able to thank him for saving her life over and over.
She takes out her knife and tells him that’s where she found it, and now she knows who he is. He starts to turn away from her, but she stops him and says that it doesn’t matter to her whether he’s the young master or not.
Mok Dan: The Joseon people, and I… because of you, because of Gaksital… we find the strength to keep on living. Thank you.
Tears fall from her eyes. She tells him that her father is like him, fighting for their people, and wants desperately to meet him, just once. She gives him instructions to leave a note for Choi Tae-gon at his hotel, for when and where to meet.
He leaps onto his horse (still so cool) and she pleads with him to help her father just once. He rides away.
Nightfall at Gaksital’s hideaway. Baek Gun comes in to find Kang-to just sitting numbly, not having touched his food. I love this. I really wish we could see more of Kang-to’s inner turmoil, because suddenly being thanked as a hero for the people, well that’s gotta spin him around.
Meanwhile, Damsari and associates wait for contact, but wonder if Mok Dan even managed to get away from Kang-to long enough to get the message to Gaksital, let alone whether Gaksital would be willing to help them.
They wonder if they need to take care of Kang-to… but the phone rings and Mok Dan (under a sleeping Abe’s watch, heh) tells Dad that she got the message to Gaksital. They breathe a sigh of relief.
Damsari looks over the police station blueprints and lays out the plan—if Gaksital can keep the cops distracted, they can sneak into the armory and get what they need…
The plan is to set off an explosion during the big anniversary event to celebrate the colonization (and the establishment of the government general, hence the statue of Wada for the occasion). And bombs? Whoa. Talk about upping the stakes.
Kang-to is still sitting in the same spot late into the night, as he ponders Mok Dan’s request to meet Damsari. He sighs, not knowing what he should do.
Kimura reports to Rie about the plan to take over the Korean marketplace, with only a few last holdouts remaining. You mean the last few people you didn’t manage to bankrupt? She’s mighty pleased that both things are within grasp—taking over the market, and killing Gaksital.
They’re interrupted by a phone call from Chairman Ueno, and Rie excitedly tells him about the marketplace. But contrary to expectation, he blows up at her for losing sight of her mission. She’s provided zero results since she’s been in Kyungsung, and she’s still playing hide and seek with Gaksital.
Ueno warns her that if she does not succeed in this mission, she will have to go back to being Chae Hong-joo. That sends shivers down her spine, and she firmly replies, “Until the day I die, no even if I die and become bone dust, I am your daughter, Ueno Rie.”
Kimura watches all this with a curious eye. Ueno smiles to hear her answer, and his minion asks if he needed to scare Rie like that. Ueno chuckles and says that in order to control a person’s heart, one must grab hold of their weakness. And Rie’s weakness is her Korean heritage.
Bank-president-turned-loan-shark Jo gives loans left and right with favorable interest rates… the catch of course being that the collateral for said loan is the deed to each shopkeeper’s shop.
But with no options left, they sign the contracts and hand over their deeds, and walk out with bundles of cash. Jo just sits back and crosses off each shop on the map, one by one.
Suddenly, a man covering his face with a large hat gets up from his seat in the waiting area and snatches the map out of Jo’s hand. He looks up, startled, and then jumps again to find Kang-to smiling back at him.
Kang-to wonders what he’s doing with all these Joseon people coming in and out of here all day, and then decides he feels an itch to call Kimura and tell him about their secret meeting if he doesn’t start talking.
Jo quickly changes his mind and whispers the scheme into Kang-to’s ear. His face grows dark. Can we get to the stabby part now?
The problem is, Shunji’s already got his eye on Jo as Gaksital’s next target, and has the place surrounded. He sees Kang-to walk out, and we think he’s in the clear with that big hat, but a near-collision with a car sends his face right into Shunji’s line of sight. Damn.
Shunji drives up, fuming, and they move elsewhere to talk. He demands to know what Kang-to was doing there dressed like that, instead of watching Mok Dan. Kang-to scoffs at being put on sentry duty and says that Gaksital was HIS case.
I like this argument because it’s most consistent with Past Kang-to – that everyone chased Damsari for years, but Kang-to caught him in months, and he’s been on Gaksital’s trail longer than anyone.
He asks if Shunji really thinks that he, a cop for all of a week, can do a better job catching Gaksital. Shunji agrees that he thought Kang-to would be his ace in the hole when it came to catching him.
That is, until he realized that Kang-to was Kono’s right hand, and that they are in league against his father. He says he finally understands now why Kenji accused him of putting a knife to Dad’s throat when he chose to side with his friend Kang-to.
Kang-to just lets out a sigh. “Perhaps you and I were always, from the beginning, unable to be friends. If that moment comes when I put a knife to your father’s throat… don’t hesitate.” Damn. He leaves Shunji in shock.
The Count and Countess squeal in shock at the news that “Choi Tae-gon” (aka mustachioed Damsari) is shutting down his gold mine to go open a school.
He gifts them some wild ginseng he dug up at the mine, and then asks them for the clinch favor—an invite to the Colonization Anniversary party, so they can pay their respects to the governor general.
Kang-to saunters into a hotel in a snazzy suit (rawr) and takes a seat with a vantage point of the message board. He watches as Damsari comes in and checks it, saddened that it contains no word from Gaksital.
Kang-to holds a note in his hand, still contemplating whether or not to do it, when Damsari comes down again to check one more time. Still nothing. His face falls.
But just then, Abe comes running in and calls out to Kang-to. Drat. Alarmed, Damsari makes a stealthy exit and Kang-to sighs, the opportunity now gone.
Abe whines that the whole police force is being taken out tonight, without them. The dinner will be at the gisaeng house. The location piques Kang-to’s interest, and he sends Abe along and picks up the phone.
He calls Masako (Jo’s favorite gisaeng) to ask for a date. She says that she can’t tonight, and tells him what he called to hear: because President Jo has collected all of the shopkeepers’ deeds, Kimura is coming to throw him a dinner. “Bingo.”
But this is a game of bingo that worries me, because at the same time, Shunji is working on his master plan to catch Gaksital at this very event. He asks if the rumors have been spread thoroughly, and Kye-soon comes to report that she told everyone that the loan shark and the bank president are one and the same, and that everyone will lose their shops.
Well, the snitch is a good snitch, because the shopkeepers are crying over the news in no time. Shunji asks if Koiso has prepared for every contingency, and Koiso assures him that they have men in every position.
At the gisaeng house that night, ninjas (or police officers dressed as such) arrive on the rooftops. Kimura congratulates Jo on a job well done, and a drunk and happy Jo just wants what he asked for—sanctuary in Japan, since he has no business future here.
Kimura assures him it’ll all be taken care of, and Jo goes to get the contracts, pleased as punch. It always cracks me up that evil villains never stop to think that their evil cohorts are… EVIL.
Jo grabs the contracts from his room and turns around to find Gaksital glowering over him. He immediately drops to the ground and offers up the papers in exchange for his life.
Gaksital points his stick at Jo and scoffs that he already spared his life once. “I am here to punish you for your evil deeds!”
He swings and delivers one massive blow to the head, and Jo falls dead instantly.
Gaksital pockets the papers and runs out, only to be ambushed by black-clad assassins. He fights off their swords with nothing but his stick and manages to get past them…
Where Shunji is waiting with his sword drawn. Crap. He makes a terrifying and badass leap, blade over his head, straight at Gaksital.
They clash and lock, and Shunji smiles.
That look in Shunji’s eyes in the last moment is eerily similar to Kenji’s bloodthirsty look. It sends proper chills down my spine. The fracturing of his friendship with Kang-to has so many shades, and it’s really interesting to see Shunji grow belatedly empathetic towards his brother and his father. I like that he’s got some Kimura darkness creeping out at the seams, even though he’s still clearly torn between his heart (for Mok Dan and Kang-to) and his duty.
I loved the culmination of the bank president’s evil scheme and the way each character’s path converged there for different reasons. That was fantastic stuff. Kang-to gets there starting from the Gaksital frame job the night his hyung died, all the way through Jo’s string of crimes. And Shunji goes at it the back way, joining Kishokai to learn who Gaksital’s targets are, and then offering up Jo’s neck on the chopping block as bait. It’s smart and thrilling, and best of all, dark. In this world, everyone’s out for blood.
But here’s the thing. I still want to know what Kang-to-as-Gaksital is thinking, way more than what we’re being given. In my mind he’s doing all this for revenge, and to finish his brother’s mission out of duty and guilt. But it’s not something we’re explicitly told. We want to be with his thought process, but as Gaksital we’re only privy to his actions. As Kang-to, we get much more entry into his thoughts, but Kang-to is someone we know through and through. It’s Kang-to as the supposed hero that’s new and needs explaining.
I want to know if playing Gaksital and punishing people like Jo for his sins is something that he’s doing because that’s Gaksital’s role, or as a cover for revenge (but if so, why not kill him the first time?) and I want to know if he’s buying into the ideology. Does he think that Jo was wrong because he’s a liar and a con artist, or is it because he cheated the Joseon people?
My sense is that Mok Dan’s speech about what Gaksital means to the people and to her probably shook him up, because that’s not necessarily what he’s fighting for. (I think he might be okay with that being a side effect or even the perception since he took up his brother’s persona.) But I want more transparency in that respect, because I’m still not convinced that the drama isn’t just copping out and landing Kang-to in the hero suit without the proper transformation. If we’re on the slow and dark path to redemption, then great. But if we somehow skipped it and went straight to hero, I’ll cry.
And the problem is, I don’t know for sure. That’s an oversight in the writing that I thought would get addressed sooner, but I’m scared it might not. I still have faith that we’re on the right trajectory, but I honestly need a little more from the writing when it comes to Kang-to behind the mask. Does he believe in what he’s doing, or is he just walking in his hyung’s shoes because that’s his only connection to anything in this world? Right now it’s just a gaping hole in the show, and I feel like it would take very little to assure me that the hole is there by design, and that Kang-to is asking himself these questions that I’m asking of him. Just throw me a bone, Show. That’s all I ask.