Gaksital: Episode 4
One major connection is made, and another thwarted. One hero laments what he’s done to his family for his country, while the other laments what he’s done to his countrymen for his family. It’s such a gripping, heartbreaking irony at the center of it all.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
Gaksital beats down the assassin who’s after Kang-to, only to have Little Bro show up just in time to corner him at gunpoint. He thinks to himself, “It’s me, Kang-to, your brother,” but says nothing, even as Kang-to prepares to arrest him.
But the hitman stirs awake and launches his knife at Kang-to… and Gaksital sees it just in time to step in its path. Kang-to shoots the hitman and stares intently at Gaksital, “Did you just… save me? Who are you?”
He reaches for the mask…
But a dark figure swoops down from behind, knocking Kang-to unconscious. Damnit! I don’t even know if I’m upset or relieved! It’s Baek Gun, here to help Gaksital, whom he calls “Young master.”
They leave Kang-to lying in the street, unconscious.
The title card tells us that Baek Gun was their father’s right-hand warrior-slash-bodyguard (in Joseon pre-occupation, the Lee family was of noble birth). He tends to Kang-san’s bullet wound and suggests that maybe it’s time to tell Little Master (Kang-to) the truth about Gaksital and their father’s wrongful death.
But Kang-san says no: “Do you think that if he found out, Kang-to would take my side? If he knew I was Gaksital, he’d put me away.” Aw, Hyung, you’re killing me right now. I know he’s far gone, but you’re just as wrong to keep him from the truth. You’re assuming that it’s a foregone conclusion, but you never gave him an ounce of faith!
Baek Gun thinks that it’s possible Kang-to will come around and take their side if he knew the truth. Yes! Or how about we let him decide? But Kang-san is sure that he won’t, and doesn’t want to put Mom through the trauma of watching one son lock the other away.
He says that even in the off chance that Kang-to were to side with them, what could he possibly do to help? “He’d just be in danger.” As opposed to the danger he’s in right now? BAH.
Baek Gun apologizes for the burden he gave to Kang-san (Ah, so he’s M. I wonder if the burden he speaks of is the truth about his father, or actually the Gaksital mask/persona.) Kang-san disagrees that it’s a burden—Baek Gun saved him and gave him purpose.
Flashback to Kang-san, tied up and tortured for his connection to the independence army. He had adopted the village idiot persona in jail as a mode of survival, and had been burdened with guilt by the fact that he was doing so to save himself because he couldn’t take the torture.
But Baek Gun was the one who helped him turn that into a cover, and gave him a reason to fight—to avenge his father’s death and aid the independence movement.
Back in the present, he says they have to hurry with their mission before Kang-to catches on. The corrupt doctor spoke about Dad—it’s only a matter of time before they make the connection and find out that Kang-san is Gaksital.
Then he turns around to face his Wall of Baddies (it’s like Google Maps: The Plot Version) filled with clippings of the members of secret society Kishokai and their numerous crimes (for which they are publicly lauded, natch).
Kishokai meets, now five members remaining of the original seven. Why is it always the Council of Five? Pretty boys come in fours, bad guys come in fives. The doctor tells them they are Gaksital’s target—they who betrayed Lee Sun. Oh, innnnnnteresting.
Flashback to 13 years ago (1919), when Lee Sun had met with the members of Kishokai, as they pledged allegiance to one another and the plan to extract Emperor Gojong from palace confiment.
Lee Sun and Baek Gun arrived that night with other soldiers to escort the king, and upon arrival, discovered that he had been killed, and they had been betrayed.
[Gojong went from being the king of Joseon to the first emperor of the Korean Empire, only to be forced to abdicate by the Japanese and confined to a palace. His sudden death sparked the independence movement to go full force.]
Back in the present, the members of Kishokai lament not killing Lee Sun that night, like they were supposed to. Kimura just gets angry at them for worrying, and barks that Kishokai will guard their lives.
Kenji bursts in to announce (while sweating bullets) that Director Kono is looking for Dad, because… um… the hitman they sent after Kang-to is dead. Whoops.
Kono throws a fit at Kimura—how could this man have gotten free to take another shot at killing Kang-to? And what connection does Kimura have to the men who died, and Gaksital? Kimura gives no answers, and Kono tells them not to interfere with Kang-to’s investigation anymore.
Kang-to tries to relax at the club with his buddies, but thoughts keep drifting back to his confrontation with Gaksital. Why did he jump in front of that knife? He shakes the thought loose and heads out to the stage.
Another dance? Oh phew, this time he sings a song. (It’s at least a tick below the dancing on the cheese-o-meter.) He sings a song about what kind of oppa he is, but midway through the song, his thoughts drift back to the moment Gaksital saved him.
Everyone in the crowd pauses, as he shakes the thought loose again, and stalks out.
Aaaaah, I love it—the noir step-into-a-puddle-reflecting-the-sign-above shot. The 30s movie touches (like the one-street set) Make. My. Day.
He gets onto his motorcycle to drive away when his friend Tamao comes running out. He tells Kang-to to enjoy the action-movie spectacle and ride it out—he’ll catch Gaksital.
Kang-to asks, calling him by his Korean name, “If they are Joseon people, from 3-year olds to 80-year olds, you know they all want to kill me, right? But when I was in danger, someone risked his life to save me. Who would that be?”
Tamao scoffs, “If it’s not family, why would anyone save YOU?” But Kang-to isn’t laughing. “Family…?” It hits him. He races home.
At the same time, Kang-san is hurriedly wrapping up his bloody clothes to get rid of. But before he can take one step out of the room, Kang-to comes charging in. Ohgodohgodohgod. He looks down at the bloody clothes, “Is it Hyung? Was it Hyung?!”
He scrambles to get a look at Kang-san’s leg to see if he has a bullet wound. Kang-san tells him to stop, that he’s scared, and calls out to Mom, screaming at the top of his lungs.
Mom comes charging in just in time to pull Kang-to away. And then Kang-san starts seizing on the ground, saying over and over, “Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!” Oof, I know he’s faking it, but it still hurts because of what Kang-to did to him.
Mom asks if Kang-to’s happy, seeing what he did to his hyung. She screams that Kang-san gets attacked and beaten up every time Kang-to wrongs Joseon people.
Kang-to steps back. He didn’t know that Hyung was bearing the brunt of his people’s hate. He looks at the bloody clothes in his hands with a pained look and stumbles out. Kang-san barely contains his sobs.
A train carries Rie into town. An assy reporter from the Kyung-sung Ilbo decides to hit on her, (I’m thinking he’s probably Newspaper Honcho’s son, since news is the Park family’s domain) and her… bodyguard? Valet? Pocket Samurai? Katsuyama Jun side-eyes the exchange from another table.
On his way to her table, the reporter runs into a waiter and then blames him for ruining a suit that’s worth more than the waiter’s life. Rie quietly accepts his offer to play poker to pass the time, only she wipes the floor with them on bluff after bluff.
She wins everything, and then reminds the reporter that they had a deal. Cut to: naked reporter, and Rie walking out with his suit. She stops to call the waiter over and gives him the suit that supposedly costs more than his life. “Don’t you want to wear it?” Man, I love this character.
She exits the station and walks up to Kenji and his lackey, holding up a sign for her name. But before she can tell them who she is, Reporter Guy runs after her (while still putting on clothes, heh) and grabs her by the wrist.
He thinks it convenient that Kenji is standing right there, and tells him to arrest this woman for illegal gambling. Kenji brushes him off in annoyance, saying he’s here to meet someone, but Newspaper Man counters with the headline in tomorrow’s press: Police officer blatantly ignores crime.
Kenji hilariously turns on a dime and tells his minion to arrest her. Jun takes a step forward (he seems like someone who kills a man in two seconds when mobilized) but Rie puts a hand up to stop him.
They get taken to the station and questioned, but she remains silent. Kenji saunters over, and I’m just dying from the embarrassment to come. Please, dig your grave deep and wide.
He peers at them like common criminals, and empties one of her suitcases. Jun takes another step forward, itching to get slicey, but Rie again stops him with one hand raised.
Kenji digs through the belongings to find an album with Rie’s face on it. He asks if she’s a singer, and then taunts her to sing them a song. All the officers laugh and smile lecherously as Kenji pokes at her face with the album. Jun is half a second from ripping his head off…
But suddenly Chief Kimura calls out for Kenji to stop, and storms in with a punch to his son’s face. Dayum. He bows at the waist apologetically. Kenji doesn’t understand what the hell is going on, so Dad has to spell it out for him: this is Ueno Rie, daughter of Ueno Hideki, aka God.
Kenji gasps, kneeling instantly with his forehead to the ground. Dad apologizes again, and Rie steps forward. Without a word, she SLAPS Kimura across the face. Damn. And Chief Kimura can do nothing but bow again.
Rie: “I will tell Father that your welcome was outstanding.” And then she stops to crush Kenji’s fingers under her heel before walking out. So awesome.
She walks out of the station just as Kang-to is walking in, and they pass each other in This Is Important slow motion.
She either recognizes him, or she likes what she sees. Don’t blame ya. Jun follows behind her and clocks her reaction.
Kang-to finds out that his unit has been reassigned to protection duty for some VIP and he fumes—he needs everyone on Gaksital’s case. Kenji comes in and he takes issue with the reassignment.
But Kenji’s so riled up from his encounter with Rie that he just sticks a pistol in Kang-to’s face (with his bandaged hand, ha). Kang-to laughs and just walks right up to it, sticking his forehead at the barrel.
Kang-to: “The thing about Joseon barley is, the more you step on it, the better it grows.” Oooh, is that some nationalistic pride creeping out? Of Kang-to?
Mok Dan walks down the street at night, dressed as a man. She keeps out of sight and sneaks into the motel where she was staying. Probably to find that knife.
Kang-to drives angrily and aimlessly for a while, and finds himself outside that motel. He stops for a moment just to get some air and turns to go, but then something catches his eye. Oh no. It’s Mok Dan’s flashlight, moving through the dark halls.
He takes off running inside. Luckily he scares the motel manager awake loudly enough for her to hear someone come in. She scrambles to hide while he pushes past the manager with his gun drawn, creeping down the hall. Seriously, why so creepy?
She finds her knife where she left it, and opens the same window she jumped out of last time. But it catches with a clang and he bursts through the door. She finally gets it open and squeezes through… but he grabs her and yanks her back in. ACK!
She takes out her knife and swings at him but he disarms her quickly. When he slams her up against a wall and turns on the lights, he’s the one with the knife in his hand.
He holds her down with one arm and yanks her disguise off with the other, smirking with his trademark, “Bingo.” He knew she’d come back here, and asks where Gaksital is.
She says she doesn’t know, and swears she just came back for her knife. “This knife?” He scoffs, putting it up to her face. But that’s when he sees it. His face changes and he looks up at her. “Why….”
He finishes the rest in his head, “…do you have this? I gave this to Boon-yi…”
He lifts up her hair to check her right ear. He sees a little bump—it sends him reeling. She doesn’t lose her moment to escape, and pushes him away, taking back the knife before jumping out the window.
He just collapses in a heap, eyes welling up with tears.
Flashback to 13 years ago. Lee Sun and Baek Gun lead their family across the Amrok River into China. Boon runs out into their path, begging them to save her. She takes them to her mother, but by the time they get to her, she’s already dead.
Kang-to watches all this from the wagon, and the chyron tells us his name was Lee Young then. Lordy. WHY DOES EVERYONE HAVE TEN THOUSAND NAMES? Okay, it’s fine. I’ll get over it.
Kang-to runs up to Dad to say that they can’t leave these people behind, and so that’s how Boon/Dan came to meet him, and call him “young master.” He tends to her wounds (how he sees that little bump above her ear) and they spend a month together on the road, sharing their food, playing together in the snow.
She sees the knife that Kang-to carries and he tells her not to touch it—his father made it for him, and he’s never to let it out of his sight. She tells him a knife is useless if you can’t fight, but he says he can—his hyung taught him how.
Mom finds them adorable and agrees to Kang-to’s request that they find Boon’s father and all live together. He and Boon pinky swear to it.
Just then, the now-deceased Judge Choi had ambushed them with an army of mercenaries. They chase them off the mountain road and into an open field, where they knock out one man after another.
The wagon goes toppling over. While Dad and Baek Gun fight, Kang-san rushes to get Kang-to, Boon, and Mother out safely. Mom tells the little ones to run first, so Kang-to takes off holding Boon’s hand.
They hide but the mercenaries are closing in. Kang-to makes a decision, and gives Boon his knife, promising that they’ll find each other someday. He just asks her to stay alive. She cries, asking where he’s going, and he turns back to hug her one last time.
And then he goes running out into the killers’ path to draw them away from her. Aw. Little Kang-to was so heroic!
But his little legs can only carry him so far before he trips and falls, and the guy with the crazy scary blade catches up to him in no time. He readies his sword… Kang-to closes his eyes…
…and then the sound of sword through flesh. He opens his eyes to see the man fall and Hyung standing behind him with a shocked look on his face. (Kang-san’s name back then was Lee In.)
Kang-to goes running into Hyung’s arms, and they run to Mom, calling out for them. But Kang-to screams for them to turn back for Boon. He looks back and sees her standing there… as another assassin swings his sword right at her head.
He closes his eyes in terror.
Oh, so he thought she was dead all this time? Back in the present, Kang-to sits there trembling as he starts to piece it all together, now recalling every moment with Mok Dan in horror. “You… you were Boon-yi…”
Mok Dan comes back to the circus safely, and the troop breathes a sigh of relief. They argue that they can’t keep slipping through Lee Kang-to’s fingers, and ask Boss Jo to move the circus out of town. But he refuses to go anywhere, saying that there’s a reason they have to be here. Mok Dan lights up in gratitude, knowing it’s because he’s in league with her father.
He says that he’ll go face Kang-to alone, and Mok Dan says she’ll help. Soon the rest are all agreeing to pitch in. Kye-soon the circus turncoat spies on them with an evil grin.
Shunji drinks alone at the club, thinking over Mok Dan’s hate-filled words, asking how he could be friends with, well, the devil himself as far as she’s concerned.
Kang-to saunters in and steals the beer right out of Shunji’s hand. (He’s already second-guessing your friendship and you’re stealing the man’s liquor?) He drinks it and another, clearly still rattled but trying to cover it up in his usual way.
He starts to unload on Shunji. “The girl I have to kill… the girl I have to capture and use as bait to get Gaksital…” He looks up at Shunji, “What if she were your first love?” Oh, I love the twistiness of the line. He means it as a hypothetical question, as in, she’s MY first love, only he’s asking it like, what would you do if she were YOUR first love?
Only… she’s both.
Kang-to asks what he’d do, and then with grim determination says, “I’m still going to kill her.” *gasp* Kang-to!
“If it’s to lure Gakistal, I can rip some little bitch to shreds and grind her bones to spread on every mountain, along the entire length and breath of this land!”
He screams furiously that he can do it, that he’s Lee Kang-to, as if convincing himself that this is who he is.
Shunji gets up, horrified, and throws Kang-to to the ground with one punch. He contains himself and tells him to go home. Aw, home-home, as in don’t come to my home? Kang-to just lies there on the floor, fury turning into a laugh that scares me.
He walks home later, and turns back at the front door with a deep sigh. But then he hears his mother’s voice out in the yard, praying for Kang-san to get better, and then for Kang-to to grow up and mature, and live like a person.
She asks that the punishment for all his sins be cast onto her. It brings tears to his eyes, and mine.
Kang-san lies awake, and then pretends to be asleep when Kang-to comes in. He sits by Hyung and asks sweetly if he’s badly hurt, wondering who it was that beat up his hyung, because he’s gonna kill him. It’s so adorably childish of him. Why can’t you be this nice when he’s awake?
He lies down next to him with a hand on Hyung’s shoulder. He talks to him as if he’s listening, but only because he thinks Kang-san is asleep.
He asks if he remembers that day when Dad was killed and they went running. He had made a promise to Boon to just stay alive and he’d find her, no matter what. “I thought she died that day. But she’s alive. What do I do? I have to kill her.”
Kang-san listens with his back turned, as Kang-to admits, “I don’t want to live this way either.” He says he wants to work a job that makes Mom happy. But Hyung doesn’t know—how hard he worked at jobs that paid nothing.
He couldn’t even make enough to feed three mouths, and slaved away to pay for Hyung’s tuition, thinking that if he could just graduate from university, he could change their family’s situation.
As he says this, Kang-to’s tears start to fall sideways down his face, and Kang-san cries the same way. It’s heartbreaking. Crying, he asks:
Kang-to: Why does a bastard with no money, no backing, and no learning have to pledge loyalty to those bastards to eat and live in this world?
He clutches Hyung’s shoulder, crying, “I don’t know. I don’t know a better way than this one. Hyung. Hyung! Say something, Hyung!” Oof, I can’t stop the tears. Kang-san barely manages to stay silent as his tears come pouring out.
Kang-to breaks down sobbing and buries his head in Hyung’s back, as he cries himself to sleep. Could you BE any more heartbreaking?
Mom wakes up in the morning to find Kang-san skipping home with Kang-to’s favorite fish because he came home last night. Mom lights up, and Kang-san goes running into the kitchen, so excited because he bought a fat one. I know it’s fake, but I still love the idiot version so much.
Kang-to wakes up from a fitful sleep (I’d argue you’re incapable of sleeping well, Torture Boy) and Kang-san comes running in to say that Mom has made a delicious breakfast. Kang-to says he has to work, but Hyung drags him out anyway.
They sit in silence at first, Kang-san busily picking the meat off the fish to put in Kang-to’s bowl. He tells Hyung to stop, but Mom tells him Kang-san went to the market at daybreak, just to get Kang-to’s favorite fish.
Without a word, Kang-to starts eating heartily, knowing it’ll make Hyung happy. Mom sees that he’s finished his soup and pushes hers over silently. He finishes hers. Kang-san gives him his bowl too with a huge smile, and Kang-to takes that too.
Kang-san beams, so happy to find some way to express his love. He insists on only picking at the bones of the fish, and Kang-to feeds him a mouthful. Awwwwww. I luff this family breakfast scene. You people are killing me.
While the Lee family eats, the circus family dons masks and costumes with resolute faces, as if preparing for battle. Oh, I don’t like this. I know there are many of you, but you are circus folk, not warriors.
Kang-san sees Kang-to off and they wave goodbye to each other for the day. But Kang-to barely gets twenty feet from his house before a dagger comes flying at his head. Whoa, you have seriously spidey reflexes there. He leans back just enough to avoid being stabbed in the face.
He looks up at the dagger-thrower, a masked person wearing a hanbok. He gives chase all the way into the center of town, where a group is putting on a show for a crowd. He scans the masks and finds the one he’s been chasing.
He raises his gun. Someone shoots a slingshot to knock the gun out of his hand and Boss Jo in the big green mask tries to overpower Kang-to. But he easily fights him off and reaches for his gun…
Just as the dagger-thrower leaps into the air with a knife in hand…
He shoots. Straight through the chest.
He looks down to see who it is, and finds Mok Dan’s knife on the ground. He picks it up, terrified, and then peels the mask from her face.
It’s her. She’s unconscious. He holds her close, realizing what he’s done.
Man, talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is what happens when you keep saying things you don’t mean! And by the by, how many dramas am I going to recap where the hero shoots the heroine in the heart? Let’s not turn that into a regular thing, okay dramaland? Yeesh. As if the torture weren’t bad enough.
The everybody-is-everybody’s-first-love thing is really annoyingly just THERE, so we have to deal with it, since it’s now been confirmed. The first love thing I could do without, but I really like that Kang-to was the first to find out the Boon connection, because I want her to keep hating him. Is that wrong? It’s just, it makes for such a good conflict if say, Lois Lane were to hate Clark Kent’s guts and want to kill him, while being in love with Superman. Right? Better. Well, that’s if Kang-to ever turns his life around, because right now, things are still looking grim in heroville.
In all honesty, I could watch the current dynamic play out for an entire drama because it’s such good conflict between the brothers, and we get such a layered set of clashing beliefs and motivations behind everything. I love and hate them both for what they’re doing, to each other AND society at large.
It’s interesting that despite the onslaught of names and faces, when you strip it all down, the baddie plot is really just City Hunter all over again. There’s a Council of Five, the same guy is the President in one and the Chief of Police in the other, and it all begins with one massive betrayal, as they plot against one of their own. I’m fine with it mechanically, since I loved what City Hunter did in its episodic baddie-of-the-week takedowns. I just wish it wasn’t such a carbon copy.
I’m already so excited for Rie and Kang-to to meet. All they did was pass each other by, but I have a feeling this is the pairing I’m going to care about, despite knowing it’s doomed. I just love both characters so much, and hers is a backstory I’m dying to know. She’s such an intriguing character.
And I know he’s hateful, but I already love Kang-to. I can’t help it. He’s just trying to feed his family! Gah, no, that doesn’t justify what he’s doing, but when he asks his brother to find him a better way, it just makes me die inside, thinking about what he’s convinced himself of, just to live with what he’s done as he sells his soul for his family. I can see how it might be easier to just let go, tell yourself you’re the bad guy, and turn off your conscience rather than fight to justify everything or let yourself feel. But just when you think he’s turned it off completely, he turns out to still be a little kid who cries on his hyung’s shoulder when he thinks no one is looking. How can you not love him? It’s impossible! See, it’s not my fault!
- Gaksital: Episode 3
- Gaksital: Episode 2
- Gaksital (Bridal Mask): Episode 1
- A detailed look at the main characters of Bridal Mask
- And now, for a look at Bridal Mask’s other leads
- Bridal Mask resumes shoots, releases stills
- Bus crash on set of Bridal Mask results in fatality
- Joo-won tweets from set of Bridal Mask
- Joo Won gets his leading lady in Bridal Mask
- Joo Won takes the lead in Bridal Mask