Y’know, I thought last week’s episodes were a marked cut better than they’d been, but THIS episode is pure awesomeness. No-reservations, no-qualifiers awesome. Some of our long-running threads thankfully get dealt with and put away (for now), while we kick off a whole new chapter with a new twist and a ton of possibilities. This show just took a turn, and it’s tons of honest-to-goodness rollickin’ fun.
SONG OF THE DAY
Romantic Punch – “눈치채 줄래요 (Didn’t you know)” [ Download ]
EPISODE 11 RECAP
Woo-chi is caught in the silver mine by ex-eunuch Doong-gae, who recognizes him as Lee Chi. He offers to drag him out and off him, but just before an agitated Mu-yeon steps in, Kang-rim stops him (thank goodness, because she’d probably out herself). He asks: “Who sent you?”
Phew, that means he doesn’t actually recognize Woo-chi in disguise. (As an aside: I know that Woo-chi’s powers are supposed to give him a totally different face, and that we just don’t see the big change because Cha Tae-hyun is playing all of Woo-chi’s guises, but don’tcha think narratively speaking they should’ve made that differentiation clearer? At least give him a prosthetic nose or something!)
The only way to divert their suspicion is to come up with a really good story, and Woo-chi goes for broke: He was sent by the king. He says the king knows about the silver’s existence and sent him to report whether it’s true that they’re mining it without authorization. Kang-rim turns to Ma Sook and decides, “He’s lying.” Gulp. Can he sense it? But no, it must just be his deduction, because he says that if the king knew, Minister Oh would have tipped them off.
Ma Sook doesn’t look as skeptical, however, and I wonder if it’s because he can imagine Minister Oh turning on them. He asks Woo-chi how the king knew, but Woo-chi says a lowly guy like him wouldn’t be privy to that.
Aha, and then Woo-chi gets very clever: He tells the baddies that the king sent someone from the news office because he wanted a news report sent back. Thus if Lee Chi isn’t able to write back, the king will assume that they are indeed mining here and will send his troops.
Ma Sook accepts the story (which is technically true), and tells Kang-rim they’ll confine Lee Chi but let him send back daily reports to allay suspicion.
Woo-chi is chained up and locked in a shed, where Doong-gae cackles that he’ll never escape alive. Of course, it takes him all of two seconds to bust out of those chains, make the guards fall asleep, leave the shed, and then reawaken them.
He visits Mu-yeon next, who is going to give me a heart attack with her nervous reactions. She’s not very convincing as a liar, and her constant agitation is bound to give her away. She’s kicked her plan in motion, though, and tells him that the others don’t appear to know that she planted explosives in the mine, which she’ll set off after drawing Ma Sook and Kang-rim inside. There’s a brief round of “No, I’ll do it” and “No, I will”s as both of them insist on playing hero.
Woo-chi’s alternative plan is to free the slave laborers by ridding the majunja influence and setting a diversion fire, but Mu-yeon says that won’t stop them from mining. They’ll just enslave more men and keep going. Back to her plan to kill the two ringleaders.
Woo-chi argues that she’s endangering her own life, but she argues that she has to do it because she helped things get to this point. Then she eases his worries by saying she’s got a way of escaping… but why do I feel like she’s just lying to get him to agree?
Ma Sook drops by and asks if she was talking to somebody just now. Mu-yeon answers that he must have heard her reading, which seems to stir his suspicions, although he doesn’t press. Oh, he knows. He has to know.
To confirm his gut feeling, he asks Kang-rim if he’s felt strange vibes from Mu-yeon recently, because there’s something he can’t quite put his finger on. Oh, phew. That means he isn’t certain, even if he does have his guard raised, and when Kang-rim says he’s just feeling hypersensitive because of the mining project, Ma Sook sighs, “That may be so.”
He does order Kang-rim to keep an extra-close eye on her and report any oddities, which makes Kang-rim think back to the way Lee Chi had spoken up for Mu-yeon in the mine. He doesn’t explain the flashback, but one look at the warehouse confirms that Lee Chi’s gone. Then more bad news: The majunja shed is on fire.
Kang-rim deduces that Lee Chi is behind the arson and heads the hunting party. Mu-yeon sneaks out after they’re gone and exchanges a look with Woo-chi—oh yay, so they did decide to work together after all. Thank you.
Into the mine he goes, where he easily fights the henchman and sets to releasing the laborers from their trances. When Doong-gae arrives with more henchmen, Woo-chi blows them back and continues ushering the workers to safety.
Mu-yeon heads inside the now-empty mine alone and gets to work placing the explosives in strategic locations. That accomplished, she returns to camp and tips Kang-rim off to Lee Chi’s escape mission, which sends him racing to the mine.
Ma Sook gets even more bad news: The kings troops are on their way, led by Minister Oh himself, numbering in the thousands. Ha. Worst day ever. Ma Sook grumbles that this confirms that you should never trust a nobleman’s word, which might be a little more stirring if it were coming from anybody else.
He is urged to hide the mine’s entrance and flee, but instead he becomes more resolute. No, he’ll counter with a plan of his own: Set explosives into the stone cliffs. Hm, are these matching His and Hers attack plans coincidence?
Ma Sook vows that he cannot let dozens of years of planning fall to ruin, and he can’t let the silver mine fall into the king’s hands—there’s no getting to it then. So he has to blow the rock in so that nobody can get inside. Uh, does that include you? I guess so, ’cause he vows, “If I can’t have it, nobody can.”
Mu-yeon rushes in wearing a distraught face to tell him that Kang-rim went to the mine to chase Lee Chi, but got very hurt. Aw, I do feel a pang to see that Ma Sook looks worried, and he hurries to help.
Mu-yeon accompanies Ma Sook inside, then slips away to begin her work. Uncle and Nephew meet inside, confused at the conflicting stories, although it’s odd that Mu-yeon should have supplied the information. Ma Sook realizes, “It’s a trap. Let’s get out.”
But they stop short to see Mu-yeon facing them resolutely, telling them she’s waited for this moment. She recites, “Using magic powers for the people can save the world, but using them for yourself brings ruin to the world and to the people. That is what I learned.”
She says they’ve killed too many for their greed, and will end everything here. She lights the fuse on the ground with her torch, and when Kang-rim urges his uncle to escape she raises her arms, ready to strike.
Woo-chi comes barreling in and yells at her to run out; he’ll hold them off. She stays put, saying that this is her job to finish.
Of course he doesn’t just leave her to save himself, so Mu-yeon whirls on Woo-chi and blows him back with her powers, then shoots more up into the cave’s ceiling. The cave starts tumbling down and explosives start to trigger, sending rock cascading down between them. Woo-chi is blown out of the cave while the other three remain in it.
In horror, Woo-chi watches as the stone Buddha cracks and crumbles. All he can do is cry out her name.
Then… we reopen a year later.
A fussy governor sits at the head table at his inauguration feast, but finds nothing to his liking. Newly arrived from the capital, he has classic city slicker snootiness, sneering at the ugly gisaengs and the measly locals.
The governor is appeased by the head local official, who offers a bribe of money and jewelry, although the governor even sniffs at the smallness of that. At least he gets the promise of a date with the one gisaeng in the area who’s reputed a great beauty, Chu-wol, who is sent to his bedroom that evening.
He eagerly awaits Chu-wol’s arrival, practically drooling as she enters in her gisaeng finery… and then reveals her face. It’s Woo-chi, PWAHAHA.
This time his powers haven’t masked his actual looks because the governor recoils in horror and accuses him of playing tricks. Woo-chi assures him that nobody’s around to interrupt, smiling with a hilarious gleam in his eye.
Then he transforms into his real appearance and gives his name. In the year that’s transpired he has built up quite the reputation, because the governor immediately recognizes the name Jeon Woo-chi and starts groveling, offering up his bribe box.
Woo-chi charges him with all his misdeeds, like starting his job by drinking and feasting rather than actually governing, and taking bribes. The governor begs for mercy, and Woo-chi hits upon the perfect punishment.
Cut to: The governor, tied to a tree in the snowy courtyard in nothing but his nightclothes, for all the locals to see. He wears a sign on his back: “Congratulations on your new appointment. -Wizard Jeon Woo-chi.”
Lee Chi is back at his news job, sniffing around for stories, and listens in amusement as police rant about that pesky troublemaker Jeon Woo-chi. Lee Chi asks his boss why they’re not reporting about Jeon Woo-chi’s latest exploit, only to hear that Jeon Woo-chi has been pushed back for a more pressing story about another bandit—a thief who runs around marking his future targets by sending them a drawing of a butterfly. Ha! Like Iljimae then?
Woo-chi’s actually miffed, and mutters to Bong-gu, “Is Butterfly more famous than me?” Bong-gu points out that the other guy is pretty audacious, sending the drawing like a taunt to catch him. Woo-chi bristles, but denies that he’s bothered.
As he walks down the street, Woo-chi catches a glimpse of a passing woman and flags her down, crying out, “Mu-yeon-ah!” It’s not her, and he returns home in disappointment.
Aw, Hye-ryung is at home and no longer treats him with derision, so they must have gotten past the whole I-impersonated-your-dead-brother hitch. She also appears to know a lot about Woo-chi, because she can tell he’s thinking of Mu-yeon and reminds him that she’s got to be dead.
Then Hye-ryung holds out a hand, expecting a little something from the corrupt governor’s raided stash—after all, she’s the one who tipped him off. Aww yeah, this is great. She’s his Lois Lane after all, his sidekick and partner in crime.
She pouts at the mere hair ribbon he presents, wanting at least a nice hair ornament or something. He chides that he went to punish that corrupt governor, not steal from him, and says he bought that ribbon. She concedes that it’s a pretty color.
Woo-chi sinks into flashback of Mu-yeon sending the cave crashing, and talks as though she’s here to listen: “Mu-yeon-ah, I’ve become quite famous these days. I’m using the life you saved to live like this. You’re still alive, aren’t you?”
In the palace, the king asks So-chil if there’s any news on Jeon Woo-chi, and smiles to hear about the governor’s punishment. But his heart sinks at the news that his people are suffering particularly harshly this winter. They’ve run out of grain and have taken to eating grass.
Aggrieved, the king orders So-chil to use the private royal stores and distribute them. Lee Chi interviews peasants receiving aid, pleased to report on the king’s generosity, but a look at the king’s premium rice reveals that it’s actually rotten. Something’s fishy.
Avenger Woo-chi makes his next appearance at the royal storehouse, where he’s literally buried the official in charge under piles of straw. He swapped out the king’s good rice, didn’t he?
Woo-chi takes his suspicions to Chan-hwi, whose stiff reaction I find endearing since he chides for Woo-chi to scram—if they’re seen together, he’ll have to arrest him.
That’s enough to get the palace moving to find out the rotten one in their midst. Chan-hwi interviews the warehouse guard, who reveals that it was the work of the chief royal secretary, Minister Jang.
Lee Chi comes sniffing around in his nosy reporter role, pretending he doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s pestering Chan-hwi for the story when Minister Jang comes storming up in displeasure, having heard of the direction Chan-hwi’s taking this investigation.
After dismissing the reporter, Minister Jang demands the record book Chan-hwi is about to deliver to the royal investigators. Chan-hwi stands his ground, infuriating the minister, and says he’ll follow the law. Minister Jang goes over his head to Chan-hwi’s boss, ordering him to arrest the officer who’s trying to pin him for a crime he didn’t commit. Oy.
Thankfully, Lee Chi’s still around to note that the case isn’t unraveling quite the way it’s supposed to. Guess who this is a job for?
The king is in fits of worry, feeling terrible that Chan-hwi has been arrested for no reason. So-chil sighs that he wishes he could have stopped the minister, while the king says naively that Minister Jang must be punished. With heavy heart, So-chil has to inform the king of his own law that because Minister Jang is at the top level of government, short of treason he basically has a get-out-of-jail-free card; even if they find him guilty of this crime, he can’t be punished.
Woo-chi pays a visit to Chan-hwi in jail, offering him his hand and saying he’s here to get him out, since it’s because of him that he’s in jail in the first place. Naturally our principled officer refuses, since his job is to catch criminals according to the law.
Woo-chi scoffs at him and his law. If it’s the law to rot in jail for a crime you didn’t commit, “Why observe that law? You should toss it out.”
Chan-hwi barks at Woo-chi to leave, and Woo-chi grudgingly consents—though he does promise (or threaten?) to bust him out somehow.
The next morning, Minister Jang steps out to an ominous sight: A butterfly drawing dangling from his gate. HA! This isn’t really the butterfly bandit, is it? It’s Woo-chi, right?
Except… Woo-chi is surprised to hear of the drawing. If it wasn’t him, then… OH WAIT. I’m having an idea… and it’s a good one… must let it bake.
Woo-chi is actually annoyed at Butterfly for beating him to the punch, because he was gonna go there tonight. He decides to show up anyway—to show Butterfly who’s boss. LOL. Or, you know, you could work together. Bong-gu chimes in, saying that Butterfly sure has balls for encroaching on his turf when everyone knows Jeon Woo-chi’s got Hanyang covered. Butterfly should stick to the south, and he’ll stick to the north. So petty. I love it.
Woo-chi arrives at Minister Jang’s estate that night, which has been beefed up with added security. Determined not to let his reputation get pushed aside by some other dude, he makes his move and infiltrates the house while wearing a mask.
Only, Minister Jang has been expecting trickery and has placed a pillow decoy in his bed. Woo-chi wonders where he went… and gets a sword to his neck.
Pull back to reveal: It’s MU-YEON. Yesssss.
They don’t recognize each other as they’re both wearing masks, but Woo-chi knocks Butterfly’s sword aside and accuses her of stepping on his toes. He charges at her… and her mask falls off.
She charges at him and he pulls his off too. Oh, tears. They approach incredulously, both overwhelmed with emotion.
She tells him she barely escaped the mine with her life. She’d stopped breathing and was unconscious for so long that she lost her powers. Woo-chi’s just thrilled that she’s alive.
But first, there’s the matter of a corrupt minister to deal with. He falls out from where Butterfly had stuck him, bound and gagged, and pleads for mercy. Woo-chi and Mu-yeon smile at each other and get back to the punishment at hand.
They tie Minister Jang up, wielding the punishment paddle and asking how many hits he feels he deserves. Woo-chi says he merits too many for himself alone to dole out. Send in the clones!
Ha, and out pop a team of Woo-chis, some of them giggling, some playing around with the paddle, and one particularly wimpy one who keeps whining, “It’s so cold!” Clone Woo-chis are so adorable.
Minister Jang cracks after two hits, blubbering that he’ll do whatever they want. Woo-chi actually chides him for disappointing the two waiting clones who have yet to do anything, to which wimpy clone shivers, “I’m fine, really. Don’t call me in winter.”
Woo-chi entertains the deal. What’ll he do in exchange for mercy?
Minister Jang will return the stolen rice, open up his personal stores to the public, and release Chan-hwi. Woo-chi warns him to keep his promise, lest he want the clone numbers to increase the next time. Mu-yeon slaps on her butterfly drawing to his forehead, adding herself into the threat.
Woo-chi and Mu-yeon exit together, smiling and light-hearted, and sit atop a roof for a pleasant chat in the snow. He asks why she’s acting as Butterfly when it’ll be dangerous work without her powers, but she says she’s committed so many wrongs that this was how she could ease her conscience. She adds that the thought occurred to her that she might run into him in this line of work, though it’s still amazing that she did.
He asks if she has a place to live, and she hedges a bit, saying she has no permanent residence but makes do, going here and there. He suggests they live together, and she protests, saying she doesn’t want to be a burden. He prods and prods, and next thing we know he’s leading her home with him, dressed now in regular clothing.
Hye-ryung protests that he can’t just bring anybody home, bristling at the sight of a pretty young lady here with not-oppa. Myung-gi doesn’t have any spare rooms for Mu-yeon but suggests she share a room with Hye-ryung, who’s steamrollered into agreeing.
Myung-gi’s just as giddy as Hye-ryung is surly, assuming this is his future wife. She figures out right away that this is Mu-yeon, asking if they’re really getting hitched. He tells her that they just have work to do together and asks her to take good care of their guest.
The air is tense between the ladies, and Hye-ryung says pointedly that she knows all about Jeon Woo-chi and that Mu-yeon has given him a lot of pain. Mu-yeon nods, saying he almost died a few times because of her.
Hye-ryung stiffens and retorts that he almost died because of her too, refusing to give up an inch. Poor girl. She’s just in for a world of pain, isn’t she? Aw, but because Hye-ryung’s a decent girl at heart she feels bad about the sleeping conditions—she can’t give Mu-yeon the old tattered blanket. Yet when Woo-chi comes in with a brand-new one just for Mu-yeon, it makes her feel even worse.
Mu-yeon joins Woo-chi outside, and he asks her to be understanding of Hye-ryung’s prickliness. He explains the backstory about the real Lee Chi dying because of him, and says he’ll repay that debt to her. He talks of Hye-ryung like she still carries a grudge, but Mu-yeon says she doesn’t think it’s dislike; she thinks Hye-ryung’s taking care of him.
At the news office, Bong-gu regales Woo-chi with the story of Minister Jang’s miraculous transformation. He suddenly opened up his stores for the people’s use and released an innocent man from prison—all in all, it’s not so bad for the minister, who gets to come out of this smelling like a rose. But Bong-gu knows it was all Woo-chi’s doing and asks for the details. Woo-chi does the whole modesty bit, but he clearly LOVES it.
Editor Oh Kyu pulls Woo-chi aside to ask him a favor. He has picked out luxurious silk for the queen’s birthday and wants Lee Chi to write something for him, since that’s his forte. Woo-chi says that the king isn’t that fond of lavish gifts, but Oh Kyu assures him that the queen is quite different. She loves being showered in lavishness.
Uh-oh. I don’t like how this brings a concerned look to Woo-chi’s face, or the eager way the young queen sits up to be presented with a pile of gifts.
Courtiers line up outside the queen’s quarters to make their offerings, and Oh Kyu worries that his gift may be paltry. Apparently she made a point to have the word of her birthday spread through the palace, so she’s clearly expecting—demanding—a good showing.
Lee Chi hadn’t pegged the queen for being so materialistic, but Oh Kyu says she’s from a pretty poor family; she must have a lot of people she needs to help.
The queen smiles sweetly at Oh Kyu and thanks him for his gift. Sitting in the back corner, Woo-chi shoots her a sharp look and thinks to himself, “There’s someone here who must be scolded tonight.”
Ha! I love this turn. (Also: Poor king! So idealistic and faithful in such a corrupt world, and painfully naive. Even his own wife undermines him, albeit unintentionally.)
A lot of times, dramas feel broken up when they end one portion of the story and begin another. This episode marks a whole new chapter opening for the story, but I don’t find the shift jarring. If anything it’s a refreshing change; when the big confrontation went down in the silver mine I was thinking it felt pretty grand-scale, like the kind of thing you might see in a penultimate episode. To have the Ma Sook arc run its full course and conclude, leaving room for a fresh series of conflicts? It feels like a gift.
I know I’d be mighty tired if the same Mu-yeon angst continued playing out for twenty episodes, but now we get to actually have a cute buddy cop action comedy—how great is that? The love triangle probably won’t be much of a conflict for the guy at the center, but I’m already endeared to Hye-ryung despite the fact that her love is dooooomed, so this provides a nice conflict for her.
Plus there’s an extra little bite to that heartache, because I feel like the two ladies would actually be friends without the romance getting in the way of that—and if we’re lucky, maybe they’ll end up friends anyway. It’s like Woo-chi gets to work with his Lois Lane on one hand, and… Robin on the other? I dunno, my superhero metaphors tend to get away from me.
In any case, what this does is open up a whole new world of superhero action fun, with Jeon Woo-chi becoming a fighter for justice swooping in to keep Joseon’s corrupt in line—marked by a petty streak to keep him uproarious. Getting peeved that Butterfly is stealing his righteous-bandit thunder? Hilarious. Lazy Woo-chi whining about the cold? Priceless. This kind of offbeat humor is where the show was always its best, in my opinion—and Cha Tae-hyun would be wasted otherwise—so the fact that we’ve swept out a bunch of Dark Bad Guy angst and replaced it with zippy laughs is an unexpected boon. I’m half-expecting Ma Sook and Kang-rim to make reappearances somewhere down the line (that can’t be the last we’ve seen of them, right?), but until that happens, this will do just nicely.