Gaksital: Episode 16
Three little words change everything, for hero and villain alike. It’s as frightening to watch Shunji’s descent into darkness as it is uplifting to watch Kang-to finally become a human being. That their mutual paths happen to collide where love and ideology live—well that’s just the cherry on top of my Gaksital sundae.
EPISODE 16 RECAP
Kang-to runs in to save Mok Dan, falling right into Shunji’s trap. It’s not a good day for the good guys. He leads her out by the hand, only to walk right into Shunji.
Shunji levels his gun at Kang-to with a smug little smirk, “It was you. Nice to see you, Gaksital.” I’ve been holding my breath since yesterday…
But Kang-to’s expression doesn’t change. Whew, have you been practicing your double identity acting skills? Because we were worried for a while.
Shunji asks again if he’s Gaksital, and Kang-to just tells him to put down his gun and move aside. “I only came because I was worried about Mok Dan.” She yanks her hand out of Kang-to’s grasp.
Now it’s Shunji’s turn to be surprised – why on earth should Kang-to care about Mok Dan?
Kang-to: “Because you might kill her at any moment. I couldn’t take it. Knowing plainly that you were going to kill her, I had to do anything I could to get her out of here.”
Shunji: “Because you’re Gaksital?” Kang-to: “No! Because I love her!” Whoa. Okay, now Mok Dan is like, whatchoo talkin’ ’bout? I kind of love that he’s confessing his big love and her skin is probably crawling.
It’s the only thing Kang-to can say in this moment short of outing his secret identity, because he’s certainly caught red-handed in the damsel-saving department. And I think it brilliantly satisfies Shunji’s suspicion and betrayal, because if everything Kang-to had done in the name of protecting his buddy’s girl was really because he loved her too… well then that answers a hell of a lot of Shunji’s questions. Well played.
Shunji glares, no less hurt and betrayed than if Kang-to had donned the mask right then and there, and tells him to say it again. Kang-to yells it this time: “I. Love. This. Woman!” Shunji yells in return, for Koiso and his men to come and arrest these two at once. Aw man.
But Kang-to protests, “I’ll walk in on my own two feet! Loving a woman isn’t against the law, is it?” Hee. Well technically, loverboy, you trying to escape with a fugitive is the part where the handcuffs come in, but thanks for the adorable.
He takes Mok Dan’s hand again and screams at Koiso to get out of the way. But Shunji isn’t having any more heroes run off holding her hand, and cuffs Kang-to right then and there.
He cuffs Mok Dan with a pained look on his face, and then orders them to be taken away.
Kang-to gets tossed into an interrogation room, where Koiso beats the living crap out of him for sport. Shunji watches creepily from the other room.
Rie finds out that Kang-to ran in to save Mok Dan, ruining the plan to catch Gaksital, and throwing his whole career away at that. She laughs bitterly, calling him an idiot for being blinded by his love.
But it’s really jealousy that fuels her anger too, wondering what that girl is to him, to risk everything he’s worked so hard to build. Her reaction doesn’t go lost on Katsuyama, and she catches herself.
She turns her own words onto herself, as she thinks, “Ueno Rie, why are you acting like this, after coming this far?” She reminds herself that killing Lee Kang-to should be nothing to her.
Mok Dan gets locked away, thankfully without the same welcome treatment that Kang-to is getting. She crouches in her cell and mulls over the two giant bombs that just exploded in her face: Lee Kang-to l-l-loves her? Shunji called Kang-to Gaksital?
She shakes the thoughts loose—there’s no way. And I don’t blame her for not believing either, as they are legitimately crazy from her point of view. Kang-to is the devil, not the hero.
Shunji watches her, fraught with angst. Koiso continues to terrorize Kang-to, scoffing that he had the gall to love the woman Shunji “licked.” Ew, like this-is-my-cupcake? That’s offensive AND gross.
Shunji comes in and yells at Koiso for beating Kang-to before they’ve even interrogated him. WUT. Oh no you di’n’t just pretend that you weren’t watching that beatdown from the beginning and ordered it yourself! You can’t be bad cop AND good cop!
But that’s exactly what he does, coming in like the sensitive friend and offering a handkerchief to wipe the blood from his brow. Evil!
He sits down and gets to the point: “Since when?” It’s telling that when all is said and done, that’s what Shunji cares about. He reminds Kang-to that he’s the one who shot Mok Dan.
Kang-to: “Yes. I shot that woman in the chest.” He calls himself a raving lunatic who did anything to catch Gaksital, running all over town just to catch one rat—almost catching him every time, going madder and madder every time he got close. It’s believable because it’s true.
He caught a bug thinking he’d use it as bait to catch the rat, and says again, “I shot that woman in the chest. But as I carried her bleeding body to the hospital, all I could think the whole time was, ‘If she dies like this, how will I catch him?'”
Oof, that’s twisted. Not true, but not far from the truth of who he was. And then with tears streaming down his face, he admits that when she woke up, he couldn’t have been happier. He didn’t care about all the names she called him or what she thought of him—he was just so grateful that she was alive.
He told himself it couldn’t be—she was Damsari’s daughter and Shunji’s girl. But no matter how much he knew he couldn’t, there was no controlling his heart.
He says that Shunji is in exactly the same position now, going mad trying to catch Gaksital, and ready to kill Mok Dan to do it. He couldn’t just stand by and let that happen, to Mok Dan or to his friend.
That rattles Shunji enough that he goes clamoring out of the room. He thinks to himself as he shakes, “Kimura Shunji, have you gone mad? How could you think that Kang-to was Gaksital? No matter how crazy you are because of Gaksital…. How?”
Phew. Who knew that a confession of love would turn out to be the perfect cover?
Meanwhile, Boss Jo paces nervously in his room at the inn. Damsari’s associates barge in posing as Chinese tourists, and knock out the two police guards swiftly, taking their places. Nice.
Damsari’s cover wife comes into the room and announces that she’s here to mete out Jo’s punishment. Oh no. Are you here to kill him? She asks how he could betray the movement, and Mok Dan, who was a daughter to him.
But he’s prepared to pay the price, and refuses to give excuses for what he did. He hands over an envelope of money to get them out safely, and shuts his eyes, ready for death. She obliges and takes out her knife…
She swings, but stops in midair. She tries again, but can’t bring herself to do it. Boss Jo opens his eyes and she turns to go. Shin Nanda, who has pushed his way into the room to share a bowl of noodles, faints. Ha.
Jo runs after them and tucks the envelope of money into one of the comrades’ pockets, and sees them off with a grateful smile.
Back to Shunji, still reeling in the hallway. One dangling thread comes back to him though—on the morning of the anniversary, he got a phone call from Governor Wada’s office saying that Kang-to asked for Choi Tae-gon’s contact information. Uh-oh.
He storms back in to ask about it, and Kang-to just says he was checking up on the name. Shunji presses him about missing Damsari in disguise at the party, even seeming like he kept Shunji away to protect him.
Kang-to just sneers that it seems that way in his head because he’s suspicious now. I do enjoy that he’s playing mind games with Shunji, to dish a little of what he’s been served.
Shunji says fine (a point he can’t argue too harshly, since he missed Damsari in disguise as well), but what about knowing Mok Dan’s name… Boon-yi? How does he know it?
Kang-to turns the tables and interrogates Shunji in return: “How do YOU know that I know it?” Nice. See, this is what I’ve been dying to see. Shunji can’t out-cop Kang-to, not when push comes to shove.
He smiles and asks accusingly, “Did you hear me ask Damsari to save Boon-yi? And THAT’s why you thought I was Gaksital?” He laughs at that ridiculous line of reasoning and blows up at Shunji for setting up that whole show, just to trap him.
He yells, “Koiso!” And then hilariously, Koiso comes running in on command, like the obedient dog that he is. Even he realizes he’s come in on Kang-to’s command without thinking, and kicks himself.
Kang-to demands he take these cuffs off at once, and orders it so fiercely that Koiso almost does it. But Shunji says he won’t be freed till the suspicions are cleared. Kang-to: “Kimura Shunji, have you really gone mad?”
He reminds Shunji that he’s the one who caught Damsari—he investigated every friend, relative, and semi-acquaintance that he ever had. “Do you think I wouldn’t know something like his daughter’s name when she was young?!” Man, Kang-to is so much hotter when he’s being smart.
He sits back and says fine—let’s say he’s on Damsari’s side. Would he have to beg and plead to know where Boon-yi is, to save her? Good point. And why are the men who tried to kill him at the Angel Club that night on wanted posters all over town as Damsari’s accomplices?
He slams his cuffed hands on the table. “Kimura Shunji! Get it together! Damsari tried to have me killed!” Shunji orders Koiso to bring the Angel Club employees down to the station at once, to confirm the story.
Koiso has the staff dragged in, and Tasha asks that the others be let go, thinking they’re here because they opened the club against the new laws. But Shunji shows the pictures of Damsari’s men and asks if they’re the ones who attacked Kang-to at the club.
Tasha keeps her mouth shut, since as we know, she’s a part of the independence. But one of the girls tells the waiter to fess up—”You know that the men who tried to kill Kang-to oppa were independence army!”
Shunji lets the others go and drags the waiter down to the torture cellar. The guy is scared witless, and Shunji makes him look directly into Damsari’s eyes—was this man there when the attempt was taken on Kang-to’s life? Were they his associates?
It doesn’t take much to make him break, and the waiter confesses to seeing them all that night: the two men on the wanted posters, and Damsari there, along with the woman too. He knew they were independence when they attacked Kang-to.
Well thank goodness for you. Damsari sighs to have his comrades outed, but that’s nothing compared to the sigh of relief from me that Kang-to’s story checks out. Shunji tells Koiso to let Kang-to go.
Koiso uncuffs Kang-to with a scowl, and Kang-to just saunters out without a word. Aw man, you couldn’t have shoved his head through a door, just for the satisfaction? Sometimes I miss Evil Kang-to.
He comes out just in time to see Mok Dan being led into Shunji’s office. They lock eyes for a moment, and then Kang-to watches with alarm as Shunji shuts the blinds with her inside. Oh that’s creepy. Stop creeping me out, Shunji!
It gets worse, as he steps closer and closer to her, reaching out to touch her face. But she steps back, and his hand lingers, unable to make contact. He puts his hands on her shoulders and asks with concern if she isn’t hurt, if she’s okay. Dude, that is WAY creepier than just beating her up. What are you, Jekyll and Hyde?
She pushes him away with disgust, “Let go of me.” He pleads with her to give up the location of Damsari’s comrades, saying that he doesn’t want to torture her or her father. But what, they’re making you do it? Don’t you do it, Shunji. Don’t you go there! Gah, I can feel his soul slipping through my fingers like sand.
He begs her to give them up, because right now it’s the only way to save her father. It’s with sincerity that he says he wants to save her, and asks for her to save him by remaining alive. But catching Gaksital is the only way that Damsari will ever have a chance to walk free.
Mok Dan starts to cry, not knowing what to do, and asks to see her father. Shunji agrees to let them be together, and asks her to think it over carefully.
Kang-to watches with a hairy eyeball as Shunji has her taken to the torture room. He tells Kang-to that he’s off the Damsari case, the reason for which should be obvious. But Kang-to takes issue with that—aren’t they two peas in a pod, as far as conflict of interest goes?
Kang-to: “Didn’t I ask you if you could protect that woman till the end? I folded when you said that you couldn’t give her up even if she had killed your brother. But you couldn’t protect her. Hands off. From now on, I’M going to protect her.”
Oooh, them’s fightin’ words. He adds defiantly that he’s going to stay on this case and see it through to the end, and walks off. I like this dynamic SO much better. Yay for the return of badass Kang-to!
Mok Dan gets led inside to see her father, and she gasps at the sight of him, hanging there bloody and unconscious. Kang-to comes in and orders Koiso and Abe out, and unchains Damsari.
He lays him down on the ground, and he opens his eyes to see Mok Dan crying over him.
Tamao has dinner with his parents, the count and countess, and starts to ask some really interesting questions, after being privy to the events of the day (in particular being belittled by Koiso for being Korean, and hearing about Damsari’s condition). He asks Dad if he never regrets choosing to betray his Joseon heritage to be pro-Japanese.
Dad says he made the decision with tears of blood, knowing that Japan was the future, but Tamao gives a little chuckle, knowing that Dad is not the type to cry tears of blood over anything.
He asks if they know how much he was hated in school for being a traitor to his country, but his parents cluck that those people will regret it, and they made the right choice because Japan will never be defeated.
Tamao sighs, “Then why do I feel so dirty? I almost wish Gaksital would hit me on the back of the head with his iron flute.”
It’s so interesting to see Tamao’s development alongside Kang-to’s, independent of the other. They were always buddies because of that shared choice to be hated, in choosing a life of success and comfort at the cost of becoming traitors to their own people. But the independence movement’s stand, and Damsari—it’s shaking their foundations.
Kono asks for a report in the morning, and asks why Kang-to’s face is cut up. To Shunji’s surprise, he says it’s nothing. Kono gets impatient with the boys for giving Mok Dan the night to think it over like saying no is an option, and goes to interrogate her himself. Shunji and Kang-to follow with worried eyes.
Mok Dan lies next to Dad in the torture room, reminiscing about the date tree in their yard, and how she’d climb atop his shoulders to pick the dates, and how his face would turn white with worry that she’d fall.
He takes her hand in his, “Boon-ah, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I’m your father.” She smiles back, “I’m happy. I’m really happy that you’re my father.” He cries a tear.
Kono comes charging in with Kang-to and Shunji in tow. They sit Damsari up and Kono plays good cop, tsk-tsking the underlings for treating Damsari this way. He offers a sweet, comfy life for him and his daughter—all he has to do is tell them who Gaksital is.
Damsari laughs that he’ll stop fighting when he’s dead. Kono: “Will you have to watch your daughter die to wake up?!” Kang-to freaks out and pleads with Damsari to tell them what he knows.
Shunji in turn asks Mok Dan to give up her father’s accomplices, like she agreed. She turns to him coldly, “I never made that kind of promise with you.” Kono orders the boys to throw Mok Dan in the box. Of nails? Nooooo!
They’re both like, shitshitshitshitshitshit.
Kang-to tries again, the desperation crackling in his voice, “Do you want to die? Are you going to die like this? Say what you know! Please! Talk! Talk!”
She remains stoic, until Dad starts to cry.
Mok Dan: “Father, don’t cry. We promised all night that we wouldn’t cry. We promised… that we wouldn’t submit before beasts.” Damn. She stares right into Kang-to’s eyes as she says the words.
And then she adds, “Lee Kang-to, I’ll request one thing of you. Please, cover my father’s eyes. If you’re a human being, please cover my father’s eyes!” Oof, the look in Kang-to’s eyes guts me.
Kono goes to grab her, and she pulls free, shouting, “I’ll go in there! With my own two feet!” Damn, balls of steel. Kang-to and Shunji both stand there, frozen, as she walks to her certain death.
Damsari screams, “Boon-ah! Boon-ah!” She stands in front of the box and takes one final shaky breath. Kang-to’s eyes fill with tears and I keep looking back and forth at him and Shunji, wondering who’ll be the one to break rank and stop her.
She opens the door…
But it’s Kono who stops her just in time. Ohthankgod. Proving that it was just a threat to get them to talk, he grabs her in disbelief, asking how a girl with her entire life ahead of her could be so reckless.
Or I dunno—maybe she believes in something? She spits back fiercely, “Should I beg for my life to beasts who would kill a child in front of her parents? If I die, I die, but I will not kneel before beasts.” *fistpump*
Kono orders Damsari transferred and Mok Dan locked up, and father and daughter embrace in a flood of tears and relief.
Shunji lets out a little sigh and stumbles out, leaving Kang-to shaken up.
Kang-to barges into Shunji’s office to get the keys to unlock Damsari—they have to move him per Kono’s orders. But Shunji asks why he’s in such a hurry, wanting to wait another day to get more information out of him.
He clearly knows something that Kang-to doesn’t, because Shunji is sure that he’ll be dead as soon as he’s transferred. But Kang-to’s probably thinking of the transfer as the perfect opportunity for a rescue, and fights back that he’s following Kono’s orders.
Shunji storms into Kono’s office to propose a plan, and Kono calls him no different from his father—they can’t behave that way. But Shunji argues that giving up Damsari like this means everything is in vain and they are no closer to finding Gaksital.
He says that they’ve just witnessed the lengths to which father and daughter will go—they’ll die before they talk. It’s a dead end. The only way to draw Damsari’s accomplices and Gaksital out all in one blow… is to publicly execute Damsari.
Holy hell, Shunji! Somebody tell me he’s kidding. He’s not kidding, is he? Kang-to overhears the conversation, and goes running off in horror.
At the same time, Damsari tells Mok Dan that after he gets transferred, the only person who can help her is Lee Kang-to. She looks at Dad like he’s been sniffing glue—he should know better than anyone what kind of monster Kang-to is.
But Damsari sticks to his instincts that Kang-to is a Korean at heart: “He showed tears in front of me as he begged that he wanted to save you, that he had to save you.”
She looks at him in shock. Kang-to’s confession that he loves her rings in her ears, confusing her more than ever.
Just then, Kang-to and Abe burst into the room, and Kang-to orders Damsari to be moved to the penitentiary. Mok Dan panics—what will they do to him there? Will he be executed right away? But Kang-to just shouts at Abe to hurry.
Abe carries Damsari out on his back, and Mok Dan runs to follow. Kang-to stops her. “Listen closely. Before we arrive at the prison, I’m going to help your father escape.”
She’s like, Is it opposite day?
But just outside the police station, Damsari’s associates are keeping an eye on their activity from their car. They see their leader being driven away for his transfer, and decide to follow. Oh no. You people are going to muck things up, aren’t you?
Shunji comes out of his meeting with Kono huffing and puffing. He calls Dad to tell him that Wada and Kono are just going to execute Damsari without gleaning anything useful from him first.
Rie orders them to go ahead with the plan anyway, and Shunji calls the station into action: they have to stop that truck from reaching the prison. Manhunt!
Kang-to rides along next to Damsari, when they reach a car on the narrow mountain pass. He orders two men to inspect it before moving it out of the way, when Damsari’s comrades open fire from behind the trees, killing the officers left and right.
Bullets come flying, and Damsari tries to use the opportunity to push Kang-to away and make a run for it. But Kang-to follows right on his heels.
Only… what he thinks is Kang-to running to catch him is really Kang-to running to shield him from bullets. They hide behind a tree, and then Kang-to shoots… one of his own policemen. Damsari looks over at him, floored.
AAAAAAAHHHHH! I LOVE IT.
That moment when Damsari realizes that Kang-to isn’t a traitor… that look on his face? So. Good.
Shunji and his men race toward them.
The comrades surround Kang-to and Damsari, and order him to release their leader. He complies, and Damsari turns to look back at him, as if to say thanks.
But his accomplice draws his weapon on Kang-to. Damsari shouts “No!” and moves to stop him…
When a shot rings out.
The comrade gets hit and slumps to the ground. And behind him stands Shunji with his gun drawn. Oh noes.
And of course: Face-Off. The end.
I’ll give Show a cookie if we can get one episode that doesn’t end with Shunji pointing his gun at Kang-to. JUST ONE. But I’ll take tension over nothing any day, and at least this time there’s more to be found out, if Kang-to can’t explain why he looks like he’s handing Damsari over without a fight.
I really like where we’re going with Damsari and Kang-to’s relationship. When Damsari told Mok Dan to ask Kang-to for help, it was so moving to think that he’s the one person who would have faith that Kang-to had a heart beneath it all. And then he alone witnesses Kang-to’s actions to help him escape, which is just that perfect hero discovery moment that has me cheering on the edge of my seat. He sees proof of that faith before his very eyes, which is so gratifying for us.
I hope that eventually he’ll be the one to know that Kang-to is Gaksital. I want Damsari to find out without telling Mok Dan, not only to acknowledge him, but to give him some guidance and purpose. Until then, the fact that he’s the one to change Lee Kang-to the person is so perfect. By the end of the episode, I don’t even know if Kang-to is saving Damsari because he’s Mok Dan’s father or because he’s the leader of the independence.
The fact that he’s willing to show a little more of his true nature without the mask on in front of Mok Dan and her father is a huge step for Kang-to. I love it for the moment of utter confusion from the good guys, and for the connection that it gives Kang-to in the real world. Perhaps from here on out, everything about the Bruce Wayne half of his life won’t be a total lie. Maybe he can be honest and question the side that he’s chosen, and not be hated, even if it’s just by one other person in the world.
And though Mok Dan will always get caught and will always be the pawn in this game, I do appreciate that she has strength and conviction. I love her vitriol at her oppressors, her refusal to kneel or beg. And for Kang-to to witness it must shake him to his core. He’d do anything to save her, but she’d die for the cause. And that conflict, without even bringing Gaksital into the equation, is a fantastic way to uproot the two boys’ battle over who will protect her.
I was so glad to see the return of smart, calculating Kang-to, though he is still arguably less of a shark than when he was evil. But his counter-moves to Shunji in this episode were pitch-perfect, in giving Shunji just enough to make his suspicions true (loving Mok Dan all this while behind his back), while making him feel like an idiot for jumping to wild conclusions about being Gaksital. I just love any point at which our hero’s back is up against a wall and he has to think on his feet.
I can’t wait for the Kang-to/Mok Dan/Gaksital love triangle to get going in earnest, because her WTF reactions to Kang-to being in love with her pretty much make my day. And it’s just going to get better and better the more confusingly good Kang-to becomes. I just know it’s going to break my heart when she rejects him and goes running into Gaksital’s arms, which he can’t blame her for, and yet will crush him. Now that’s good angst.