Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 3
SO MUCH better this week. I don’t know why this drama didn’t start off with something like this episode—a central conflict, a clear plot, a bad-guy-schemapalooza, and strong characterizations. Why it started off with that big jumble of CG and storyline overload, I don’t know. Not when this episode brings the funny and the mystery in a much more cohesive and compelling way.
I almost think you could start watching here and pick up pretty easily—perhaps even more than if you’d been trying to make heads or tails of last week’s confusion. So c’mon, dive in, the water’s nice.
SONG OF THE DAY
Urban Zakapa – “날아가다” (Fly away) [ Download ]
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Lee Chi tracks the mysterious man through the marketplace, and Kang-rim has by now resumed his normal wizard (dosa) appearance. It’s not clear whether Lee Chi has recognized his old pal-turned-nemesis, but he does know that this is the baddie responsible for murdering that old woman and framing Bong-gu for it.
He follows Kang-rim outside the city, but Kang-rim senses that he’s picked up a tail and hastens his getaway into the woods. Lee Chi loses sight of him… then falls through the forest floor.
Whoomp! A pit has been disguised here and he falls a long, long way down. He gets knocked out at the bottom, while Kang-rim and his troop of ninjas peer into the pit. Kang-rim must not recognize Lee Chi, since he just wonders why he’s being followed. He orders a ninja-minion to take care of him.
Lee Chi jerks awake as piles of dirt fly on top of him—he’s being buried alive. He’s more annoyed than worried, since he’s got powers of his own to call upon—although his incantation gets interrupted with every shovelful of new dirt, HA.
He manages, though, and flies out of the pit, now in his normal guise as Jeon Woo-chi. He demands to know where Kang-rim is and gets attacked by the ninjas. Woo-chi easily parries, then blows them away (literally, heh) with his wind-power. It’s kinda badass how easily he fights, especially since the ninjas appear endowed with supernatural skills as well.
Woo-chi sends a sword pointing at a minion’s throat as a threat, but before the ninja can give up Kang-rim’s location, some other power sends the sword into the man’s neck.
The palace officers are facing a new challenge with Bong-gu, the four-fingered suspect who can’t be guilty. Thanks to Lee Chi’s sleuthing, Chan-hwi and Eun-woo know he’s not their culprit, but what are they to do when the guy’s cackling that he did it?
Chan-hwi tells his boss that the confession isn’t real, since he’s under the spell of the majunja. But the boss isn’t concerned with the truth so much as he is about preserving their necks; if word got out that someone broke into prison (never mind bewitched the prisoner), they’re in deep doo-doo. Better to go with the obvious choice: the prisoner caught at the scene of the crime who confesses to doing the deed.
Lee Chi catches up to Chan-hwi to protest, but Chan-hwi’s hands are tied. The chief already got permission to hang Bong-gu tomorrow.
Lee Chi is outraged at this miscarriage of justice, and shouts that he’s sorely disappointed in Chan-hwi—he’d considered him one of a very few people in the palace who could be respected, but he must’ve been wrong. Those words get under Chan-hwi’s skin.
The young king, Lee Geo, is served a plate of humble dduk (rice cake), saying that he had a craving for the childhood taste of his nanny’s cooking. Now that she’s gone, the only person who can replicate it is her daughter, and he indicates Eun-woo. Oh, interesting. The damo is the dead nanny’s daughter?
The king asks for a moment alone with Eun-woo, saying he wishes to reminisce on old times. But the moment the other attendant leaves the room he hurriedly beckons her closer and asks, “Did you confirm it?”
Late that night, Hye-ryung bangs on the apothecary’s door like she’s in a panic. She pays him for her father’s medicine and says she’s here to ask him something, which he misinterprets as a come-on. Heh. But Mak-gae and the rest of the crew enter the room and quickly take him down; it’s cute the way they leap to her aid.
She calls them off, and they stop beating up the apothecary, although Mak-gae gets in one extra kick for good measure. And with that misunderstanding out of the way, on to business: Who was the man who was with him the other day?
At mention of the name Lee Chi, both Hye-ryung and her father react with hope and relief. They’ve found their lost brother and son. The apothecary doesn’t recall ever hearing the guy talk about family, but she’s sure there’s a reason for that and asks where to find him.
Lee Chi is currently at his office, though distracted with worries over Bong-gu’s impending execution. He can’t let the innocent man hang, but what can he do?
Pesky editor Oh Kyu calls an end to their work session, since it’s time for the morning delivery of the news to the king’s officials. Lee Chi comes up with a plan, hanging back when his department heads over to make their delivery and returning to the office unseen.
He resumes his Woo-chi persona, and uses his powers… this time to create replica Woo-chis, who sit down and get to work. Badass! I want one of those, although with my luck all my replicas would revolt and leave me with all the work.
Woo-chi tells his clone army to hurry, since they don’t have much time, and they get to work writing. Ha, one Woo-chi clone is beset with a coughing fit, which merits an annoyed glare from the Woo-chi next to him. Cute. Another Woo-chi nods off to sleep, and another doodles. Hehe. See, your army is only as good as its original, isn’t it? I love how exasperated Woo-chi gets with his clones, because he can hardly blame them when it’s exactly what he does. Literally.
Oh Kyu barges in to collect the wayward Lee Chi, only to freak out at the room full of Woo-chis. Hilariously, the Woo-chis all just find this very amusing, and one jumps in front of him to basically yell, “Boo!” While Oh Kyu is having fits, the clones absorb back into the original, who chuckles as he toys with his boss a little. Oh Kyu totally doesn’t recognize him as Lee Chi, which is a bit silly but okay, I suppose is the sustaining principle behind Superman.
Woo-chi introduces himself as “Jeon Woo-chi-nim,” but cuts the encounter short by freezing Oh Kyu with one touch to the forehead. Waving a mystical mirror in front of his face, Woo-chi alters his boss’s memory and sends him slumping to the ground.
Then he runs to the palace with his last-minute scrolls, announcing last-minute news.
It’s a race against the clock, because Bong-gu is taken to the gallows for his execution. The order is given, and Chan-hwi holds back his own misgivings while the noose is tightened. But just then, the spell lifts and Bong-gu goes from chuckling about his guilt to gasping about his innocence.
Just then, a retinue of palace officials interrupts to deliver the king’s order to stop the proceedings (with Lee Chi peeking out from the back of the pack). Chan-hwi immediately orders the release while the decree is given to the presiding minister. Lee Chi gives Bong-gu another wink.
Back at the office, Oh Kyu gapes to hear that he somehow authorized the last-minute report alerting the king to the wrongly accused prisoner. Lee Chi “reminds” him how he was so insistent on giving the authorization and how he stamped his own name to it, while Oh Kyu sputters confusedly.
The king and his entourage arrive at the paper’s office; Lee Geo shocks them by praising Oh Kyu for his good work. Lee Chi cocks his head to hear the king talk about the precious value of a life and how important it was to preserve it—surprised, perhaps, like it’s more than he expected.
The intervention gives Chan-hwi some relief from his guilty conscience, but not enough; he throws himself into training, thinking of Lee Chi’s words.
Eun-woo is delivered a gift from the king in thanks for her dduk, which turns out to be a new pair of socks. It’s more than that, though, because Eun-woo tears at the lining to pull out a hidden message.
Lee Geo explains saving Bong-gu’s life, since he’s connected to events surrounding the dethroned previous king. He wonders, why would anybody kill the king’s old nanny? He confides that there is nobody he can trust in the palace; politicians made him king for their own purposes. One of them must be behind the murder.
As a flashback shows Lee Go writing this message secretly, we get a glimpse at his fearfulness, and how isolated and confused he is. It tugs your heart a bit, as does the fact that he has nobody to talk to but Eun-woo, a childhood buddy from when he was raised by his nanny.
She eats the paper after reading it.
With the apothecary Myung-gi’s help, Hye-ryung and her father settle down in Lee Chi’s room to await his return. He hasn’t been home in a while, but she declares that they’ll stay a month if they have to.
As Myung-gi exits, he sees Lee Chi arriving and asks if he’s really got a father and sister. He describes the pair sitting in his room as “suspicious,” and wonders if they’re using the family line as a cover—he shrewdly asks whether Lee Chi perhaps messed around with a young lady, haha.
Lee Chi makes a lame “Uh, I left something at work, I’ll be right back” excuse to hurry away before his so-called relatives see him. Which Myung-gi interprets to mean he did mess with a woman, for sure. Ha.
Hye-ryung perks up to hear voices outside and excitedly asks if her brother is home yet. She deflates once again to see nobody, although Lee Chi steals a glance at her from around the corner.
He doesn’t recognize Hye-ryung at all, which means that whatever the backstory turns out to be, Woo-chi isn’t actually Lee Chi. (Hey, they had the same face. I wondered. We could’ve been dealing with yet more amnesia for all we knew.)
On to a private meeting between our nefarious dragon-tattooed Ma Sook and… ah, our high-ranking Minister Oh. This makes sense. Minister Oh was the smug-looking politician presiding over the hanging, and he seemed awfully shifty next to his puppet king—something tells me he’s the puppetmaster. (He’s also Editor Oh Kyu’s father, which explains a lot about that guy’s attitude.)
Ma Sook picked a good man to curry favor with, since Minister Oh is powerful and corruptible. He gives him an envelope of money, saying prettily that he hopes it’s not too laughably small to be of service. Minister Oh apologizes for not being able to finish off that execution as Ma Sook requested, since they had to obey the king’s command.
Pleasantries over, Minister Oh turns stern regarding their plans, thinking the murder turned out pointless after all, as the dethroned king is growing weaker (in support) and therefore not worth restoring. He warns not to do anything without his approval. Ma Sook meekly agrees, but adds his own warning that Minister Oh mustn’t treat him as a hunting dog. Yeah, that’s one dog you don’t want turning on you.
As the minister is led out, Ma Sook turns to his nephew—Kang-rim—who asks whether he’s working too hard to win over Minister Oh over. Ma Sook doesn’t think so, because the minister is not one to be manipulated, and would not tolerate what the Ma wizards are planning. Hence all the flattery and bribery.
The Ma men are ready to proceed to the next phase of their plan, which entails sending Mu-yeon into the palace on her own. Ma Sook tells his nephew not to worry about her, because she’s strong enough to break through the palace’s protective enchantments (or rather, protection from enchantments). It’s why they brought her here, and once that happens, they’ll be well on their way to finding out that big secret.
Mu-yeon is thus admitted to the palace as a maid, and uses that access to locate the location of one of the palace’s counter-charms. She affixes a talisman to negate its spell.
But her presence is noted by Chan-hwi, who stops her to ask about her being in a restricted area. He doesn’t recognize her, but sends two of his men to accompany her on her way. He doesn’t appear to trust her entirely, though her story holds for now.
Arriving at the library that she is supposedly meant to clean, Mu-yeon notes the strong protection around it. First she needs to get rid of her guards, and that’s easy enough since they don’t really want to baby-sit the cleaning girl anyway.
Mu-yeon manages to pass through the mystical barrier and enters the library. She strategically places her talismans inside, and they do their work. Outside, the head eunuch senses the disturbance and realizes the protections have been broken: There’s an intruder in the palace. He orders his attendant to hurry and “move the thing,” and to bring him the palace maid.
Our baddies are anticipating the move, and this means that tonight is their one opportunity to intercept the “thing” as it’s being transferred. Kang-rim mobilizes their private ninja army, striking before the royal guards can swing into motion. They start by setting fire to the prisons and releasing convicts, and the royal guards hurry to the scene.
Lee Chi has Bong-gu secretly brought to him that night, to ask questions about the scene he witnessed. What was the conversation he overheard before he was framed for murder?
It’s all gibberish to Lee Chi—palace, library, night of full moon, palace maid… Then Bong-gu remembers a crucial bit about which palace library in question, sending Lee Chi running.
As the fight rages on at the prison, Kang-rim suddenly calls in a retreat. They run away, sending the royal guard chasing. Curiously, the intruders don’t run away with the freed prisoners, but rather use them as human shields. The guards just keep shooting arrows after them, but the sharp Chan-hwi finds this all very strange.
He realizes that this leaves the palace unguarded and urges his superior to turn back. His stodgy boss barks that they’re not leaving the criminals to run free and presses on after the intruders. Chan-hwi takes a small contingent with him and heads back to the palace.
Lee Chi arrives to find the library totally empty, and heads inside to look for clues. He ducks for cover to hear someone enter, and sees a court lady and a eunuch—ah, here to move the item to safety. The lady begins an incantation, and the bookshelves move of their own accord and into formation, opening a portal at the center.
Up rises a pedestal bearing a box, which contains a scroll. The eunuch returns the pedestal to its hiding place while the court lady takes the scroll.
But a figure drops from the ceiling: a masked Mu-yeon. She uses her powers to block the court lady’s exit, and the girl gasps, “But spells can’t work in here.” Lee Chi’s shocked, wondering who this could be—it doesn’t look like Kang-rim…
Mu-yeon knocks out the girl and takes the scroll, just as her mask falls off and reveals her face. Woo-chi leaps out of hiding and calls out her name: “It’s me, Jeon Woo-chi!”
Mu-yeon turns to face him, but doesn’t betray recognition. She blows him back with a spell and launches an attack. He doesn’t want to fight back and just dodges while pleading with her.
Chan-hwi arrives outside the building with his men, and Mu-yeon hears their approach. She bursts out of a window and leaps onto a rooftop to her escape.
Woo-chi starts to chase, but is stopped by the fallen court lady. She pleads with him, “Please, you must get back that drawing. That drawing… an incredible secret…” Then she collapses.
Woo-chi jumps atop a roof, easily evading palace guards, and uses his super-seeing powers to scan the distance for Mu-yeon. He doesn’t see her, but it does give him time to spot damo Eun-woo before she fires a barrage of arrows at him, which he evades with a series of acrobatic rolls and leaps.
The officers follow on foot, and run straight into Lee Chi. He’s back in his reporter garb and assumes his bumbling role, saying he hasn’t seen anything strange. That gets him off the hook, though no closer to finding Mu-yeon or her stolen drawing.
She delivers those to Ma Sook, who unrolls a drawing of tiger. It looks ordinary to my eye, but he smiles with pleasure.
Mu-yeon shakes off the memory of Woo-chi in the library, and tells Kang-rim that nothing noteworthy happened. But it’s the first hint of emotion we’ve seen from her after falling under Ma Sook’s spell.
Woo-chi scours the landscape for a sign of her, thinking back to memories of happier times. In his flashback, Mu-yeon laughs to see a butterfly flitting about her and landing on her shoulder, talking to it like it’s a person. The butterfly changes into Woo-chi, who asks how she knew it was him.
She answers, “Whatever you change into, wherever you are, I can recognize you.” Aw. That’s sweet. That leads us to the kiss we’d seen before, both in his memories and her tortured dreams.
Fighting his tears, Woo-chi asks now, “Mu-yeon-ah, where are you? You said you could recognize me wherever I was.”
In the morning, the court is in uproar over the death last night—the court lady died from Mu-yeon’s attack.
Lee Chi reports the library disturbance to Oh Kyu, though he can’t exactly give away details of the situation that he’s not supposed to be privy to. But it gets his editor moving to inspect the scene himself.
Inside the library, the court lady hangs from the beams. Interesting. So naturally everyone assumes it was suicide—everybody but Chan-hwi, who cautions that they can’t jump to conclusions yet.
The officers inside the library overhear Oh Kyu outside, trying to gain entry. Most vote to keep him out, but Minister Oh allows that he may enter and do his job—probably because suicide is exactly what he wants people to think happened.
Oh Kyu and Lee Chi enter. Lee Chi sees the dead woman, immediately realizes something is amiss and tries to make sense of the discrepancy. He looks over… and recognizes the eunuch she was with last night.
Minister Oh orders the body taken away, wanting the case closed, but Chan-hwi speaks up. He saw a suspicious figure jump through the window last night and run away… but today the window is back to normal.
Lee Chi sees that they’re all inclined to dismiss suspicions, and accidentally-on-purposes knocks into a bookshelf. That sends a particular stack of books crashing down, revealing the fresh bloodstains on one, which sharp-eyed Chan-hwi notices.
The two shifty-eyed eunuchs trade uneasy looks, and Minister oh reluctantly has to agree to continue the investigation. A closer look at the body reveals a needle in her neck, which points to murder.
Furthermore, a notebook is found… and Lee Chi belatedly realizes that his own is missing. Oh noes! Aww, crap.
I’m so much happier with this episode than last week’s, which were such a jumble of… stuff. It was fusion, it was fantasy, it was comedy, it was a smorgasbord of characters, it was all action but no explanation. I don’t care how well-known a story is (and Jeon Woo-chi really is one of the lesser-known characters in the Joseon-fictional-hero canon, so the show really shouldn’t be doing any assuming), you’ve still got to establish the characters as people. People who have feelings and motivations and rationales for behavior.
Episode 2 gave us a peek at Kang-rim’s psyche, explaining why he would betray his best friend and bewitch his (one-sided-)love, and why he’s got an inferiority complex almost as big as his overcompensation reflex. This episode gives more weight to Mu-yeon, finally, who interestingly seems to feel inklings of emotion even when awake. I’d assumed that most of her rebellion against Ma Sook’s possession spell was occurring at night, in her sleep, from the way we’ve seen her suffering through nightmares. But there’s a flash of cognizance when she thinks back to Woo-chi, which makes me wonder whether she can fight the thing while conscious. Or perhaps it’s that her feelings for Woo-chi spur the biggest reactions.
In any case, it makes for some sure-to-be-interesting confrontations, especially since Woo-chi can’t bring himself to fight her. His teacher warned that the Mu-yeon he loved was gone now, and that she would be nigh impossible to recover once Ma Sook sank his clutches into her, but Woo-chi clearly holds out hope. I wonder how far that will extend; it’s a pretty great weakness as far as heroes go, considering that his blind spot IS his enemy. They’ll be sure to exploit it.
Aside from Woo-chi, I also enjoyed the glimpses into a couple of our side characters, namely Eun-woo and Chan-hwi. I love the portrait of this upright, noble, and dogged officer trying to do the right thing, but tangled up by a corrupt system. He’s a principled bureaucrat, which just might be the most tragic thing ever. Humorless and persistent, he reminds me of our beloved prosecutor in City Hunter, and how can you not love the guy who remains pure of integrity in a morass of crumbling morality?
Chan-hwi may end up being a thorn in Woo-chi’s side, but not in an annoying way (unlike, say, editor Oh Kyu—who at least is funny) because you’re really rooting for both of them. It’s just that sometimes their objectives are bound to conflict.
Eun-woo is a bit more mysterious, but I’m intrigued by her connection to the young king, as well as the king himself. They apparently grew up together, but ended up on complete extremes of the social class divide, with him at the pinnacle and she pretty much at the very bottom as a damo. It makes it extra meaningful that they’ve got that connection regardless, especially since it goes back ages, which means a lot for a king who’s cut off from any trustworthy people.
We’re starting to see stirrings of something in Woo-chi, I think, given the way he looked so surprised to hear the king saying something actually meaningful. And unexpected. It’s pretty naive of him to espouse the value of a man’s life when the man in question is a lowly nobody, but it just may be what makes him worth fighting for. It also makes me want to see the king rise up and prove himself to be much more than his puppetmasters anticipated.
All in all, the story is coming together nicely, bolstered by a solid mix of characters. It’s a nice surprise, and also a relief.
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 2
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 1
- Character introductions and kisses for Jeon Woo-chi
- Jung Jin-young cameos as Jeon Woo-chi’s teacher
- Jeon Woo-chi’s wizard war
- Fusion action and laughs for Jeon Woo-chi
- Baek Jin-hee’s first shoot for Jeon Woo-chi
- UEE, the action star
- Filming begins on Jeon Woo-chi