Who will be the Ultimate Conqueror? This week the Running Man cast conquer nations and lands to add to their ever-growing empire. Careful that another kingdom doesn’t come to steal the land from under your nose. Because land can be more precious than gold.
EPISODE 99. Broadcast on June 17, 2012.
We open on a fine summer day at Changuimun (one of the four smaller gates of northern Hanyang, modern day Seoul). Just as the cast wonders about who today’s guests might be, someone runs through the gate – it’s Gary, who’s arrived late.
Today’s guests seem to explain our current location: actors Lee Tae-gon (King Gwanggaeto the Great) and Im Ho (I Love Lee Tae-ri, King Gwanggaeto the Great, Queen Seon-deok). Having wrapped up their latest sageuk project, King Gwanggaeto the Great together they’re here to insert some variety in their lives. And after filming 92 episodes, I can’t blame ’em.
I think I’m in love with Tae-gon already as he (literally) pushes Jae-suk aside to greet the cast. Jong-kook astutely points out that Jae-suk can’t pull his A-list Celebrity Friends card today, noting his use of ‘Tae-gon sshi’ (equivalent to ‘Mister’). Jae-suk whispers back: “It’s ’cause he can fight well…”
Despite the age gap (Im Ho was born in 1970 whereas Tae-gon is a 1977er), we can see that Im Ho is on the receiving end of the scolding stick. He sighs, “This is how I lived for a year.” I guess it’s tough to revert back to regular social hierarchy when you’ve played The Great Conqueror for so long.
Im Ho’s played his fair share of kings as well and he explains that in a given 50 episode series, he’ll spend a majority of time doing one of three things: eating, lying in bed, or lying dead. HA.
Today’s mission is to conquer as much of the 9 areas. Time to choose teams/kingdoms. Im Ho chooses Spartakooks as his protector (Jae-suk: “The king in this kingdom might change soon”) and Tae-gon makes direct eye contact with Jae-suk. I foresee lots of hits and a rough road of subservience ahead.
The kingdoms are as follows: Ho Kingdom (Im Ho, Jong-kook, Kwang-soo) Gon Kingdom (Lee Tae-gon, Haha, Jae-suk) and Song Kingdom (Ji-hyo, Gary, Suk-jin).
Wait a minute – Gary and Tae-gon are donggap? And Tae-gon has to call Jong-kook ‘hyung’? My mind is blown right now.
Jae-suk has enough trouble as it is looking directly at Tae-gon and when he tests the waters, teasing him about Tae-gon’s immaturity, Tae-gon deadpans, “Do I have to play it up for variety or for real?” Don’t wake the sleeping dragon!
Haha likens Tae-gon’s competitive spirit to Choi Min-soo and he answers that he thinks he’s far more considerate. Maybe, but not any less scary right now.
Cut to: Im Ho being berated by Jong-kook. I swear nagging his hyungs must be a pastime for Spartakooks.
Both the Ho and Song Kingdoms stop by the parlor shop where they’ll have to withstand getting a Trump style ‘do (that awful 80/20 part). Problem is, they’re up against that same martial arts expert PD we saw chasing you with a cart a few weeks ago.
What ensues is absolute hilarity and I’m more amused by the outcome than the whole fight to avoid the inevitable combover. Dude, that’s a whole lotta mousse you’re slathering on that comb so it’s no wonder that it gets practically everywhere.
Jong-kook is the only one who can overtake the PD (though the PD just cracked up just looking at him before they started) and the staff insert CGI as if he were the Hulk. HA – Gary actually looks better than he did before.
The staff tweak the rules and surprisingly, it’s Kwang-soo who’s able to hold up against the PD long enough to declare victory for the Ho Kingdom. Aww look at him rejoicing with the comb still stuck in his hair.
Meanwhile, the Gon Kingdom pull up to a cafe where they need to get the resident cat, Maru, to hop onto their knees (Kitty!!). I love their various tactics to try to lure Maru near them. Haha: “Come eat the Grasshopper!” Jae-suk: “Maru! *slaps knees*” Tae-gon: “C’mere Maru, hyung wants to talk to you.” No matter how hard they try, Maru simply ignores them… like any cat would.
That doesn’t dissuade Tae-gon from giving up and he uses a cat toy to coax Maru instead. I’m more amused right now just watching him in Serious Mode, ignoring his teammates (and pushes Jae-suk’s chair around with his feet) to draw Maru’s attention.
After what feels like an eternity and a day, Maru finally jumps on top of them and they’re in the clear. Oh hi product placement of digital camera with fancy schmany upload abilities! Didn’t think we’d be seeing each other so soon.
In the car, Jae-suk asks if Tae-gon is hungry because he keeps suggesting they head to a restaurant next. Tae-gon uses the excuse that the roads are better, etc. but I saw you swallow some spit there, man. ‘S okay to be hungry – it’s not the staff is going to make sure you eat!
They ask him to give a cheer – regal sageuk style – and Tae-gon bellows, “Gather up your strength everyone!” and then breaks into the cutest smile. Off to the restaurant.
It looks like the Song Kingdom has thought the same thing and they gulp at the delicious food (Did I just take 5 screencaps of this? I did.). Only the team who correctly identifies the dish to its explanation gets to eat. No free lunch in Running Man!
Gary explains for the Song Kingdom which seems like a great choice considering he’s a rapper and he can channel that creative energy but it doesn’t quite translate to his teammates. Like how a black sesame seed rice cake is “Chewy / Something else inside bursts inside/ and sweetens my tongue/”
Outside, we see Tae-gon explaining the dishes to “his men” in that same sageuk tone and they beg for forgiveness when they get it wrong. “Forgive us Your Highness!” Tae-gon corrects: “Your Majesty.”
Their sageuk roleplay can be heard from inside and Gary steps out to explain the rules (only strict descriptions of the taste are allowed) and Tae-gon roars, “What is this?! Go away!” and Gary squeaks out, “Friend hyung!” (Those born in the same year can call each other ‘friends’ to become closer. Adding the more respectful hyung makes it more detached yet hilarious.)
The Song Kingdom gets their dish correct literally seconds before the Gon Kingdom does. No lunch but time to conquer more lands!
The Ho Kingdom are busy playing Speed Picture Charades and it’s a good thing the staff writer can draw fairly well because the guesses remain relatively consistent… it’s just that Im Ho isn’t the greatest guesser. As usual, he gets yelled at by Jong-kook. Aww.
The Gon Kingdom arrive at their next location with the Song Kingdom right at their tail. They’ll need to toss an ice cream stick a trash can to conquer this land.
Did Tae-gon just chomp down on the ice cream in two bites? Twice?! Then he simply dusts off the ice as if it were some nuisance. Wouldn’t you get brain freeze? He goes for Toss 4 (cue epic Last Match song) and misses.
While Ji-hyo struggles to down just one ice cream bar, we cut to Tae-gon who’s busy melting two with his hands and exposing it to sunlight. HAHAHA. I’m sure he’s not even trying to upstage the other kingdom on purpose.
No matter how many times I see him down that thing in 2 bites, I burst out laughing every single time. Another large bite later, Tae-gon aims for the goal… and misses again. How many is this man going to have to eat?! But it’s the Song Kingdom who win again as Ji-hyo coolly sinks it into the basket. Daebak.
We flashback to all of Tae-gon’s tactics and failed attempts as the Gon Kingdom stare in shock at the lucky shot.
Maknae FD welcomes the Gon Kingdom at their next stop where they’ll need to correctly answer 5 multiplication problems. But it’s just their luck that they run into the Song Kingdom for the third time today.
So they decide to up the stakes for punishment from getting splashed on their backs to being splashed with water from the opposing team. This oughta be interesting.
Heh, I love how not only has Gary started to call Tae-gon “Friend hyung” but Suk-jin’s adopted the similar, “Dongsaeng hyung” as well.
Suk-jin deals out some wicked water shots at the Gon Kingdom but that’s nothing compared to Tae-gon’s revenge. You don’t anger the king that’s for sure. He’s at least cool about getting hit by water himself then exacts his revenge as Ji-hyo gets a string of problems incorrect. Suk-jin: “Whose side are you on?!”
The water attacks get personal but then the Gon Kingdom pulls through, finally defeating the Song Kingdom.
We follow up with the Ho Kingdom who has just completed another mission (and are those pink earmuffs Im Ho is wearing?) and that brings our tally to Ho: 3, Gon: 2, Song: 3 with one final area left to conquer remaining.
Even though we haven’t kept up with the Ho Kingdom all day, we get the general jist: Ho does as he’s told by the Hulk Commander aka Jong-kook. Like how Jong-kook re-explains the mission to him again and warns, “Don’t do anything else except what I tell you too!”
The other nations cluck on the sidelines, “But you’re the king! What’s wrong with that country?!” At least he’s not the only one being yelled at because Kwang-soo gets the brunt of the scolding as well.
All the teams fail to jump 5 times with their rulers and it’s the Ho Kingdom’s turn again. Aw, and Tae-gon really is considerate, cheering on Im Ho on the sidelines. Taking Jong-kook’s tip that he should burst in like the wind just like Tae-gon did, Im Ho bides his time…and then runs straight into the rope. Poor king can’t catch a break today!
Jong-kook continues to lecture him through Jump Rope 101: “*tang* *tang* You have to come in then!”
The cast comments on how it seems the ex-Monday Couple seem like they’re on better terms now if they can snipe at each other so coolly, like Demi Moore and Bruce Willis.
It’s the Gon Kingdom who acquire the last bit of land and they give the floor to the Ho Kingdom to try jump roping together one last time. They succeed with flying colors. Yay!
At the final mission location, the kingdoms will have the chance to acquire other nations’ land by ripping off their name tags. You know, even though it’s been nearly 2 years, I’m still impressed by the creative ways the staff works to enhance the simple “rip rip rip” concept.
The Gon Kingdom strategize how to distribute their land and Tae-gon focuses to learn the best way to rip off someone else’s name tag. He’s a quick study, so I’m not too worried.
The Song Kingdom (whom the caption tells us has no strength at all) walk in, they’re immediately attacked by the Gon Kingdom in the elevator. Eep – Gary does his best to stall the other men as Ji-hyo flees. Why? ‘Cause she has all three of their lands under her tag.
Everyone else watches as Tae-gon overpowers Gary, ripping off his name tag only to find it blank. Damn, that’s some strength.
The Ho Kingdom observe all of this from a distance and try out their walkie talkies. Im Ho tests: “Save me.” HA.
The other nations look for Ji-hyo and Suk-in who have mysteriously disappeared. And then an announcement – Im Ho is eliminated. Huh?! When?!
The news seem to confuse his own teammates too and Jong-kook watches as Im Ho is taken away…
Suspicions fall on notorious traitor Kwang-soo who claims they were apart for just a moment. They wonder if Im Ho was overpowered 2:1 but Suk-jin was in another part of the building. Tae-gon muses, “Does that mean he lost to Ji-hyo 1:1?” HA.
He runs into Suk-jin and Ji-hyo a little later both of whom plead innocence. Suk-jin proposes if they can take out the Ho Kingdom, they’ll hand over their land. I love how Ji-hyo’s all, No I don’t wanna do that!
Tae-gon gives them a head start but then leads them straight into the arms of the other teams. They jump on Suk-jin first and once he’s dealt with, that puts Ji-hyo in an extremely dangerous situation.
Ji-hyo looks to Jong-kook, who’s silently been assessing the situation and informs him to think hard: It’ll be a 3 vs. 2 battle if she’s taken out. Jong-kook tell warns them not to eliminate her, but they do. She points at Kwang-soo, “Let’s see how well you end up!” despite his protests that he wasn’t the one who eliminated her.
But the Ace knows that something’s off and Kwang-soo sure is assertive about ripping off name tags today…
In jail, Suk-jin tells us that it’s true – it was Kwang-soo who eliminated Im Ho.
Flashback to before the opening and Kwang-soo nearly breaks down with tears of joy as Mr. PD issues his spy mission to eliminate all the Running Man cast. We see Kwang-soo taking out Im Ho near the start.
Back to the present as Tae-gon arrives at that same conclusion while Kwang-soo gapes, stuttering in response. Tae-gon picks up on that odd hint as Jae-suk asks outright if he’s a spy. Then Tae-gon asks: “What’s that? Spy? What’s a spy?” Have you never seen Running Man?
Kwang-soo asks what happens if it isn’t true and Tae-gon coolly responds, “If not, I’ll buy you something delicious.”
All of this information starts to confuse Jong-kook who sends Kwang-soo off that he “needs some time to think.” Sending him away for now is “the best present I can give you.” Out of context, one might think they were breaking up or something.
Safe for now, Kwang-soo collapses to the ground, finding the entire spy role tiring and he looks straight at the camera that there’s more to do and he’s not ready for it. So they can make him be a spy again 2 years from now.
Jae-suk suspects there’s more than one spy… and Haha pipes, “You think it’s me?” He calls for Tae-gon for backup who appears like lightning and they start to close in on Jong-kook… who proposes that they can continue this standoff after they’ve eliminated Kwang-soo first.
It’s still betrayal but it makes sense and Kwang-soo hears this exchange overhead. He breaks down, “I really can’t be a spy!”
Tae-gon runs into Kwang-soo and explains to him that the race can’t start while he’s still in the game. Kwang-soo asks again what if he’s not and Tae-gon pulls the “I’ll buy you food” card again.
He attacks Kwang-soo who reaches for Tae-gon’s back as well… and they simultaneously eliminate each other.
Once Jae-suk discovers the truth, he screams for Jong-kook: “Catch Haha!” Haha reasons that all they as the Gon Kingdom have to do to win is to eliminate Jong-kook but Jae-suk isn’t so sure…
…which is when Kwang-soo reveals that there’s another spy who remains…
The three remaining men go through a round of It’s not me! Jae-suk asks Haha, “Are you a spy” to which he evades and Jae-suk noticed before that Haha didn’t offer his back to safeguard their land.
Both men suggest that Jae-suk can eliminate them if he rips off the other name tag. It seems that the suspicion radar pings more for Haha as he screams, “Think of your wife and child!”
Jong-kook closes in on Haha who issues a last warning, “Once he takes me out, he’s going to pounce on you.” That makes sense but Jae-suk has already made his decision. After Jong-kook tears of Haha’s name tag, Haha bursts into a rage and declares, “I’m a spy!”
We see that Haha also joined Kwang-soo this morning, both picked at spies for being the best at betraying their own.
Back to Haha who marches into jail, grabbing Kwang-soo by the hair, telling him that eliminating Im Ho was the first mistake. “I told you we should have gotten rid of Jong-kook first!” Tae-gon: “So Kwang-soo ruined everything?”
The jailed hear the noise outside and Ji-hyo wonders if they can’t watch.
Sure they can watch Jong-kook play with his food, tossing Jae-suk around a few times before finally eliminating him. He wins it all for the Ho Kingdom.
All bow down to Jong-kook – the Ultimate Conqueror.