A strong episode, which plays out with tension and intensity in both its emotional and political threads. Best of all, we see our hero — the indifferent, rushes-headlong-into-death Psycho warrior — caught in the throes of conflict. Finally, a crack in his stoic outer shell! He bleeds! He cries! He’s human after all!
He may be the object of desire caught between enemies in this battle for power (the good guy covets his loyalty, and the big bad wants to add him to his collection of Specials), but I do love how this is one pawn who ain’t going down without a fight. Sigh. Don’t hate me because I’m so popular. *Flips mane of glory.*
SONG OF THE DAY
Faith OST – “걸음이 느려서” (Slowing my steps) [ Download ]
EPISODE 7 RECAP
Choi Young leads Eun-soo and former king Chungjeong away as they come under attack. The ambushers are led by Hwasuin, so clearly baddies.
To their shock, those very warriors then turn around and defend them when the king’s men arrive — a calculated move designed to make Choi Young seem like a traitor, plotting against Gongmin.
Hwasuin tells him his two options: Go home a traitor, or come along with her. He’d prefer a third option to go home, but time’s ticking and men are dying. Eun-soo asks which side of the fight they’re on, but he doesn’t have a good response — that’s the big question.
She blurts, “Then let’s just slip away, like we don’t know about this!” It’s in her usual oversimplified and straight-to-the-point way… and he smiles. Good idea, doc.
He sends Eun-soo and Chungjeong ahead first (“Will you be okay, Youngie?” asks the child, which is adorable), then fights. His shield takes a beating, but not even Hwasuin’s fireballs are enough to stop him. He rejoins the other two and issues instructions for Eun-soo to accompany Chunjeong onward; he has things to take care of first.
She’s freaked and overwhelmed, but he tells her to not protest for once and just do as he says — as long as they continue onward and hide well, he’ll find them. What, do you have secret night vision too?
No, but apparently he does have some kind of superspeed that enables him to attack in a flash. Go, Young, go! (Hey, surely we’re on a first-name basis by this point, aren’t we?)
In the woods, Woodalchi’s No. 3 warrior Joo-seok comes upon a hunters’ campground. He’s been ordered here by boss Choong-seok to slip away and bring their leader back, in an effort to wriggle him out of this whole political standoff.
A hunter approaches and assures Joo-seok that he’s not an enemy. Joo-seok is suspicious, but he warily follows when the hunter mentions knowing how to find Choi Young. The latest word pegging Young as a plotter to enthrone Chungjeong, however, has him gaping in shock. By now the news has spread far and wide, and that can only mean bad things to come.
Advisor Jo indulges in a round of I told you so, telling Gongmin he knew Young was not to be trusted. His words add cracks to Gongmin’s already wavering faith, whispering all those doubts about how it explains how Young was able to accomplish everything single-handedly — because he was plotting with Ki Chul from the start. Can we just call him Iago now and be done with it?
Auntie Choi dashes through the palace to the healing ward, and asks Deoki whether the fast runner kid is awake yet. Thankfully Dae-man has been revived from his dust-poisoning, though still weak.
Princess Noguk summons him, so off he goes despite Deoki’s protests. He’s the sole witness to what occurred at Ki Chul’s home when Young barged in to retrieve Eun-soo, and confirms that they went to see Chungjeong on Ki Chul’s orders.
Noguk rattles off her questions in rapid-fire, barely giving Dae-man the chance to respond. Though I suppose if he has no immediate answer, she figures it’s not worth hearing. Dae-man exclaims that Young has not given his loyalty to Ki Chul, but nobody can explain why he followed his orders to see the former king.
Both Jang Bin and Aunt Choi offer up possible explanations — maybe he was threatened with the doctor’s life. Noguk dismisses them, however, saying she has no care to see things from Young’s point of view. It’s harsh, but she says bitterly, “Rather than siding with the wronged party, it’s far easier to scorn him, and more fun.”
Eun-soo follows Young’s instructions and takes shelter in an old cottage, where she tenses to hear someone’s approach. She grabs a dagger and swings, only to find that it’s Young.
Ha, he has a contradictory, two-fold criticism of her approach: First, that she stabbed without figuring out who it was, and second, that if she were gonna stab, she should’ve committed to it.
She instructs him to clean the blood from his face, and shoves him away from Chungjeong lest he wake “the boy.” Young takes issue with her speaking thusly of the former king but complies, while Chungjeong sleeps fitfully. It is rather sweet of Eun-soo to take on a maternal role to the boy, because he’s got enough people observing the proprieties and keeping their distance around him; what he lacks is that normal affection and closeness.
She realizes that he hasn’t slept in ages and joins him in sitting by the wall, which makes him fidget and relocate to a pillar across the room. So she gets right up and follows him to the pillar, ha. He has no idea what she means, but she pats her shoulder and tells him to lean.
He’s all, You’re saying a man should lean on a woman’s shoulder? like that’s some great sign of weakness. She retorts, “I’m saying the person who’s more tired should lean on the one who’s more refreshed. Why drag gender into it?” Love it.
She points out that he’s got a reputation for sleeping, and mimics his men’s voices in a mini one-woman show. She prattles on about the merits of sleep, and wouldn’t you know it, his head nods off and drops onto her shoulder, just like that. Eun-soo checks his pulse and his temperature. All’s well.
Joo-seok’s hunter guide leads him through the woods, on the path to catching up with Young. The hunter’s so familiar with this area that he picks up signs easily, headed in the right direction.
In the morning, Eun-soo checks on Chungjeong’s ear condition. It’s the tumors in his inner ear that are pressing on his nerves and causing him headaches. She gives him an aspirin for the pain, but Young presses her to do more. Eun-soo snipes that she’s sooooo sorry she didn’t raid a pharmaceutical stash when he kidnapped her — too bad he didn’t give her a little more warning.
Eun-soo distracts Chungjeong by sharing her “special technique” from the future of how to deal with pain, which is basically a gag routine that makes him smile.
Young senses a presence and shushes them suddenly. He heads outside to investigate, just as Joo-seok arrives and approaches stealthily.
I enjoy the cut where you see Joo-seok leaving the hunter behind and sneaking closer, then turning around to see the man in a headlock. Young’s all, “What’s with this guy?” Ha.
Hwasuin reports to Ki Chul that they lost Young, and he tells her good job: “If you’d caught him, it would have been no fun.” O…kay. That’s one way to make that glass half-full.
The hunter explains that he was told to track Young down and bring him to the local governor — he wants to hear Young’s side of the story for himself, to decide whether he was set up or not. Eun-soo worries that Chungjeong can’t travel for long stretches, but Young figures that they can’t keep running forever. Though he doesn’t know or trust the governor, he’ll have to meet him.
He tells Joo-seok to return to the palace and convey a message to the king. Joo-seok worries that it’ll be a bad idea, since he was sent here without the king’s knowledge, and Gongmin will not be pleased to hear that they’ve been doing things behind his back.
Young says the king won’t literally kill the messenger — “though I can’t say that with confidence,” haha. In fact, he leans in to tell Joo-seok something in advance, in case the king should in fact off him in rage: “I’m sorry.” Dude, not helping.
Palace. Mealtime is a hilariously tense affair, with the king and princess eyeing each other coldly and Gongmin telling Jang Bin to act as messenger; he literally has him relay his words to the princess who’s sitting right there.
Gongmin asks passive-aggressively if she prepared this vast spread for him despite not caring about it because she’s soooooo worried for Choi Young. They glare daggers at each other while talking to Jang Bin, until Gongmin’s temper bubbles over and he calls her crazy to want to go see Ki Chul.
Noguk declares, “I want to ask for a switch. The Woodalchi leader and the doctor, for me.” It’s a crazy proposition, but she argues that as the Yuan princess, Ki Chul won’t be able to mistreat her, no matter how boldly he behaves. She’s also prepared to offer more — perhaps in the way of money or soldiers.
Gongmin grabs her and demands, “How far must you go to make me pathetic? The king of a nation has just lost his most faithful retainer. Even if he turned his back on me, I can have nothing to say. But now even my queen must stab at my incompetence, abandoning me, and to act on her own?” He asks if he’s that pathetic: “Do you like him that much? Must you go that far for him?”
Noguk trembles a bit as she answers, “I thought that you would need him more than someone like me.”
Awwwww. It’s sweet, if only they were on the same page, like, ever. Gongmin doesn’t understand, so she explains, “You may not know, but I… I…”
And then a voice interrupts. Arrrrrgh. It’s Advisor Jo and company, being stopped by Woodalchi. They’re here to shine light on Choi Young’s betrayal, which has both Choong-seok and Gongmin leaping to his defense. Aw. If only they were in the defense together, instead of both trying to handle it alone and mucking it up.
Gongmin starts to make his excuse for Young, but Advisor Jo declares that they have confirmed reports that Young has been in secret communication with his men. Oh, crap crap crap.
The king’s council — who have been miffed at being pushed aside in favor of Woodalchi — are eager to convince Gongmin to cast them out, wanting to take up their place in his confidence. They accuse Woodalchi of holding the poor, naive king hostage.
Gongmin confronts them — is this true? Choong-seok can’t lie, and immediately bows.
Next thing you know, Ki Won is strutting into Woodalchi headquarters informing them that their leader is being considered a traitor, and the rest of them are to stay in confinement for the time being.
The hunter leads Young, Eun-soo, and Chungjeong to his governor’s estate. Eun-soo tends to the boy while Young speaks with the governor, telling him that the king will believe his explanation that it was a trap. That’s nice that you have such faith in the king, but I worry for you, Young-ah.
The governor seems a wise and friendly sort, and it’s enough to make Young suspicious. He asks for the man’s reasons for helping — is it because he actually does support the reinstatement of Chungjeong as king? Which would be a dangerous, treacherous thing.
The governor laughs, and says he’s a civil servant, and alludes to three important factors in maintaining that status quo. Young isn’t much interested in such abstracts, and the governor offers to tell him at a later date.
Eun-soo starts picking herbs for medicinal purposes, and identifies some plants for Young (mint, for instance, goes into moijtos, she recalls with a longing sigh). It’s too bad she doesn’t know exactly how to go about transforming the plants into medicine, and she wonders what you do with it. Juice it? Boil it?
He’s all, Aren’t you a doctor? She explains the modernity of not having to make the stuff, just getting to prescribe it, then plucks a flower and offers it to him. He stares at her blankly. She explains that it’s a gift, which he of course ignores.
Eun-soo instructs him to stand still while she checks something on his head… and sticks the flower in his hair. HA. She dies laughing, then says it’s just ’cause the flower smells nice and should cover up that blood smell. Suuuure, and it’s nothing to do with the symbology of flower-in-hair equaling crazy person?
They return to their quarters to rejoin Chungjeong, only to find the building stationed with guards. The governor assures Young that it’s for protection and ushers them away for refreshment. Uh, there’s something about Young’s uneasiness that makes me nervous in turn, but he goes along for now.
He has a reason to be suspicious, because inside the room sits Ki Chul with Chungjeong. The young boy trembles as Ki Chul lays out his carefully laid plans: that Young is on the hook for treason, and intends to reinstate Chungjeong as king. Thus Ki Chul will have to capture Young and deliver him to the king, being the loyal servant that he is.
Chungjeong cries that this is a trap, and Ki Chul confirms it plainly, saying that he concocted it so that he could take Choi Young for his own, and the doctor who would come as a package deal. He adds with a little sneer that it’s also ’cause he hasn’t quite taken to the new king, who needs to be taught some manners. Ki Chul asks if Chungjeong would like to be king again, offering to help him in the process.
Chungjeong tells Ki Chul that he may not know much, but he does know for sure that Young is not a traitor. Ki Chul starts to say that you never know what happens when push comes to shove, but Chungjeong says, “Youngie is too lazy, so he doesn’t do those things.” You know, he’s got a point there.
But he doesn’t mean it as a joke, arguing that plotting a huge rebellion would take tireless planning and work — something Young is intrinsically not suited for. Aw, poor naive ex-king, thinking logic has a place in politics. Ki Chul says as much, informing him that the truth of the matter doesn’t much matter. All he cares about is whether he should kill Young or save him.
This transpires as Young and Eun-soo sit down to eat with the governor. She stuffs her face happily, but he’s impatient to check on Chungjeong and tries to leave the table, only to be waylaid by the governor.
The governor asks what Young would do, hypothetically speaking, if Chungjeong were to ask him to make him king again. Young disregards the question entirely, saying he’ll pretend not to have heard it.
Chungjeong asks, does this mean Ki Chul will spare his life if Young kneels before him and begs forgiveness? Ki Chul says yes, it’s just that simple. But Chungjeong knows Young wouldn’t play along — he won’t beg for his life. Ki Chul offers to make a wager, arguing that everyone — Young included — ends up abandoning their people to save themselves.
Another set of what-ifs unfolds in this conversation as Ki Chul pulls out a small vial, saying that it’s a kind of poison that burns up your insides if you ingest it. He tells the boy to offer the vial to Young, telling him that if Young takes the poison, Ki Chul will spare Chungjeong. If Young dies, the rebellion dies, and Chungjeong is safe.
It’s like the Gift of the Magi, the reverse evil version, times two. Would you force the one you love to betray himself to save you? Just to test whether their faith is so great that they comply? Or, conversely, they betray you and prove that their faith is not so great after all? It’s like he’s the opposite of King Solomon, who solved contentious disputes with wisdom, which I’m pretty sure makes Ki Chul the evil twin. Isn’t there a Goryeo-era Saw movie he should be starring in?
The governor presses Young to answer his what-if scenario, not so nice and friendly after all. Young replies, “Then I would have to kill him.” Damn. Eek, those are entrapping words!
Young explains that he is the sitting king’s Woodalchi, and thus his job is to eliminate those who would harm the king.
Ki Chul says either one must die a traitor. He reasons that Young’s life is already as good as dead, so he may as well die saving Chungjeong. The boy asks if there’s any way to save Young… and gets back the answer that he must forfeit his own life, then. Remember: evil genius here making the rules!
Eun-soo tries to step in, telling Young of one way out: Send her with Chungjeong to heaven’s portal, where she can take the boy and get him surgery and chemotheraphy. He argues that the portal is likely still closed, but she argues that staying here means they all die.
She asks him to go with her, telling him that in her world, he can stop killing.
Joo-seok returns to the palace, only to be apprehended per the orders to keep Woodalchi in confinement. He fights back, aided by Dae-man, who uses his sling to take out soldiers from the rooftop. Aw, Dragonball’s all better now.
Young returns to find Chungjeong alone, shivering in bed. He’s sweating and his arms are covered in a rash. Oh no! He poisoned himself, didn’t he? The poor, sweet boy.
Young finds the empty vial in his hands and sniffs it. Chungjeong confirms that he took it, and one look at his chest shows it riddled with burns and sores. Worse yet, the poison results in a lingering, excruciating death.
Frantically, Young yells at Eun-soo to do something. She tells him there’s nothing she can do, but he orders her to bring water anyway.
While he cradles Chungjeong, the boy confides that Ki Chul told him how to save Young. Oh, that brings a tear to my eye. Ki Chul delivers this whole cynical diatribe on the selfish nature of man, and the one thing Chungjeong takes from it is: If I die, Young can live.
Young fumes at the mention of Ki Chul. Was he the one to poison him?
Chungjeong says with a hint of satisfaction (agonized satisfaction, mind you) that Ki Chul didn’t know one thing: that he was dying anyway. So he must have sensed his cancer was killing him, even though Eun-soo never said anything explicit about his prognosis.
“That’s why he told me to give this poison to you. But why would I do that?” He starts panting and asks, “Will I be able to go there? To heaven?”
Young fights back tears and assures him of course. Chungjeong asks him to describe it for him, so Young holds him close and describes once more the sights and sounds of 2012 Seoul, with its endless sea of lights: “So if you go there, even in the dark night, you will not lose your way.”
Chungjeong cries that he’s in so much pain. Young tells him he’ll end his hurting, and asks his permission. Oh no. Oh no.
Chungjeong asks him to stop the pain.
With one arm, Young reaches for the blade at his belt, and with the other he cradles the boy close. And in that one swift motion, he ends it. Ack!
Eun-soo runs in with water, and sees Young’s hand dripping with blood, clutching a knife. She gasps in horror, “Did you kill him? Is that what you are?”
Young wipes his tears before she sees them, and says in his clipped normal voice that they’ve been betrayed and must make haste out of here. Eun-soo stumbles in her shock — it looks like she’s trying to get away from him — and he pulls her to him, telling her fiercely, “Do as I say. Stay by my side. That’s how I can protect you. How many times do I have to tell you?”
But she yanks back and cries, “Get your hands off me! Get those dirty hands away.” Ouuuch. She doesn’t know the truth, and he’s just not the type to defend himself, is he?
He pleads for her not to leave — she’s in danger out of his reach — but she exits anyway, crying. He follows her out, and in her haste to gain distance, she trips down the stairs…
And lands in Ki Chul’s arms. Huh. Well that, I didn’t see coming.
Young growls Ki Chul’s name and draws his sword. But Chun Eum-ja jumps in front, engaging him in a swordfight. I’d say Young easily has the upper hand in the sword skills, but mostly he’s furious at the interruption, glaring all the while at Ki Chul, who is joined by Hwasuin.
Young lets the ki build up in his body, then knocks Eum-ja aside and hurls his shield at Hwasuin. But Ki Chul reacts, using his own supernatural powers to halt the shield in midair, freezing it over and shattering it into tiny bits.
Ki Chul asks after Chungjeong, which enrages Young even more. Eum-ja gets in his way again, and this time he just SLAMS his sword into his with a mighty swing. Damn, that’s hot.
But he’s outnumbered, and outmaneuvered as well — the governor’s guards surround him with swords drawn. Ki Chul instructs them to drag off the traitor.
Young watches as Hwasuin holds Eun-soo back. She’s crying, but remains where she is.
Young drops his sword, all fight gone, and gets shoved to his knees.
I thought this was the strongest episode thus far, and felt that the pieces were finally meshing together in a nicely cohesive way. We’re seeing the theme of faith really come to the fore, after being hinted at and tossed around in previous episodes.
(Production note: When the drama was first announced, it was Faith, or shin-eui, in just hangul. Then the producers added the hanja to clarify that the title meant heavenly doctor. Closer to airing, they swapped out those hanja for those meaning faith and loyalty instead. Thus she’s the heavenly doctor, but the drama’s really about faith.)
This question of loyalty, and winning each other’s “hearts” — in a time when you could die on the mere question of loyalty — is really the power play between Gongmin and Ki Chul, which I find fascinating. Yes, they do tend to talk in metaphors and roundabout ways so we’re still left wondering just exactly Ki Chul means to do with said loyalty — or if he’s just trying to win them ’cause it’s a challenge, and he’s a sick fuck — but the basic power struggle is an interesting one. A refreshing change from your typical sageuk, where the primary motivator is grabbing the throne. I’m sure Ki Chul wants that, too, but he gets so much sadistic pleasure out of the other stuff that I’m almost convinced the throne is incidental. It’s the icing on the cake, not the main dish.
It’s also why I continue to find Gongmin one of the most complex and compelling characters, even though (or perhaps because) he isn’t strictly the most likable. He’s weak and insecure and sporting a raging Napoleon complex — a reference to his inferiority complex, not to his height, although the actor’s short stature definitely enhances the point in a nice way. He’s riddled with doubts — and hey, it’s not without reason, since that’s what’s keeping him alive and the country from more political strife. And those struggles make for a rich character who promises lots of development over the course of the show.
I’ll be honest, though, in saying that I continue to feel faintly dissatisfied with the show as well, even with my expectations adjusted away from the fantasy/genre aspect of the plot (because it’s just not as fantasy as its premise supports, and I accept that). It’s funny that the show manages to simultaneously exceed my expectations and yet, also somehow disappoint them.
I’ve been trying to pinpoint the source, because I actually do quite enjoy the show and I feel like it has the makings of something really good — not just decent, but actually strong and rich. It’s like giving top-shelf ingredients and state-of-the-art tools to a mediocre cook — you get a taste of that quality base, but without the artist’s flash of inspiration and the skill to pull it all together, you tend to end up with just ingredients. On this I blame the director, because I am generally enjoying the writing and the acting.
And while I’m not sure I’ve narrowed in on the exact culprit of my malaise, I feel like I’m in the general vicinity in thinking it’s because Faith is actually trying to be a more conventional drama than it should be.
For instance, the romance. I actually like this pairing, both on a character level and an actor level, and I think they’ve got nice chemistry together. I enjoy watching their scenes, whether it’s bickering or something weightier. But I feel like the drama is shortchanging itself in making its loveline a strict paint-by-numbers affair. You’ve got these interesting characters and situations, and yet you fall back on the usual staples, like falling into each other’s arms “accidentally,” or having the hero gaze fondly on the heroine while she displays an act of kindness to another character. The head-on-shoulder, the horseback ride bickering, etc. I want to feel excited by their little interactions, but the director — again I blame him primarily, though this is also a writing thing — chooses to portray them in the most stock way. Bah.
This drama is working a fresh angle on a few familiar storylines, and I want its execution to match its freshness. I love when it throws us for a loop, when it manages a surprise. Like Eun-soo being afraid of Young and looking at him with horror, like he’s a monster — that was a strong moment, built up nicely over the course of the show, and culminating in a great confrontation. And when she loses faith in him, well, he just gives up. That gets me in the gut, makes me feel the Ooof of what it feels to lose that one last person — and to your twisted mortal enemy, no less.
I want more of that stuff, and less of the easy stock rom-com moments, please! ‘Cause when you’re working with such potentially great elements, why fall back on the same old stuff and guarantee yourself mediocrity, rather than reaching for better?
And while I’m requesting things, can we please have more infuriated Young? Because here’s the thing: Lee Min-ho is love. Love love love. I freely admit it. But I also recognize that he’s not quite doing it for me in Faith, which I noted before, and because I’m so used to him being stoic and restrained, now I’m starting to wonder if it’s less “restrained acting” and more “uh, can he do something else now?”
Yet when he breaks out and rages and cries and fights things, he’s suddenly alive. I wonder if that’s why he was so compelling in Boys Before Flowers — because that was a character that forced him to always be ON. He was pure emotion, and it was great. Which is why this episode was an awesome turning point for Young — I hope it only keeps building from here.