Aha, just when you think things are going one way, they’re really heading another. The show pulls out a surprise to keep us—and more importantly, the characters—on our toes. It’s something I appreciate in theory, though I have to admit that sometimes I’d really rather not have all that extra angst. At least there’s a bit of funny sprinkled throughout to liven up the joint.
EPISODE 20 RECAP
With Kang-rim bound by the trap, Woo-chi raises his hand to perform the spell to rid the world of him. But as the energy swirls in his hand, ready to unleash, Mu-yeon grabs his arm to stop him.
Incredulous, Woo-chi points out that Kang-rim has committed unspeakable crimes and must pay. She argues that killing him won’t bring back the dead, and what’s more, there’s still Ma Sook on his side. They need to focus on finding him and averting their greater plan. I see the point to her words, yet they would be more compelling if I thought she was speaking out of cool logic and not sympathy. Kang-rim actually laughs at this evidence of discord, and challenges Woo-chi to kill him.
There’s no time for that, however, because troops are approaching and they’ll have to run away themselves to avoid being seen. Woo-chi knocks Kang-rim out with a touch of the hand, then relocates both Kang-rim and his talisman-prison to a safehouse elsewhere.
Outside his temporary prison, Mu-yeon blocks Woo-chi’s path and refuses to let him kill Kang-rim, calling him a victim in Ma Sook’s grand plan. Woo-chi sees her point, but there have been too many victims of his villainy for him to let Kang-rim go free now, a stance Hye-ryung firmly supports. She glares down Mu-yeon and tells Woo-chi not to listen to her excuses, determined to do the offing if Woo-chi can’t.
Woo-chi is interrupted with more pressing news, however, and heads to palace where the Ming envoy has arrived. Ha, he falls back on his trusty ol’ “I was having digestion problems” excuse to explain his absence to Oh Kyu, demonstrated with butt-clench and all. You have to admit it’s got its uses, since nobody wants to think about your bowel issues any longer than necessary, and Oh Kyu hurries him along to cover the story since Lee Chi is the reporter most versed in Ming culture.
Kang-rim struggles against the talisman’s powers, not gaining any ground, and asks Mu-yeon why she’d argue to spare him. She reminds him that they’re friends, and that the Kang-rim she knows was a good person who always looked out for his friends and loved the people. I get that she’s looking at this thing glass-half-full here, but she’s missing that key word: was.
Kang-rim doesn’t really want to hear it either, but she presses on, saying that he can have a change of heart. Revenge would accomplish nothing, but if he joins them and they combine all their powers, they can stop Ma Sook’s grand scheme.
Not only does she assure him, “I believe in you,” Mu-yeon even dangles the carrot: If Kang-rim promises to join their team, she can let him go before Woo-chi gets back. Gahhh, don’t get stupid all of a sudden! Bah. I see where this is headed and I am a total grumpy cat about it.
The Joseon court finds itself on tenterhooks as it entertains the Ming envoy, who is, to put it succinctly, a boor. He’s loud and demanding and complains that they’ve failed his demand to supply a different woman in his bed every night. The court has provided him with his choice of gisaengs, but this gluttonous lech wants noblewomen, not gisaengs. That idea is offensive to our Joseon ministers, but they’re afraid to stand up to him.
Minister Oh informs the envoy that they can’t just go around stealing noble ladies, so the envoy demands that the ministers give up all their daughters. Ugh. He’s gross. They sure aren’t going for nuance with this one.
The king enters and does what he can to placate the envoy, speaking calmly (despite the hate-glares he’s trying to contain) and offering to see to his entertainment personally. He joins the party.
Woo-chi and Bong-gu listen from the door, shaking their heads in disgust. The problem is, Joseon needs Ming’s recognition of legitimacy as a matter of national safety and sovereignty, so they can’t risk offending the envoy.
Good thing Woo-chi’s on it, and he devises his plan, which starts with Bong-gu stealing hairs from Minister Jang. Ha, he’s gradually giving Bong-gu more autonomy to do things on his own, and tells him to figure out how he’s going to do it. That’s cute; he’s graduating from mindless minion to legit sidekick.
Bong-gu scratches his head for a minute before deciding on his favorite spell, the superspeed charm that allows him to zip right by Minister Jang and yank his beard, unseen. Hee. Woo-chi then ties the hairs around a straw man and starts his spell…
Inside the party, Minister Jang literally stops mid-speech and starts jerking his head from side to side, all while Woo-chi chants to his doll, “Get up… get up and stand in front of the envoy…” Woo-chi positions the doll to “walk” forward, and Minister Jang does the same. He stomps right up to the envoy’s face, points a finger, and booms, “You fiend!” Ha.
He goes on to rail about the envoy’s behavior, thundering on with Woo-chi providing all the outrage behind the scenes. Bong-gu even gets a try (his tirade includes an aside to Woo-chi, in his saturi, hee) and then Woo-chi takes back the mike—er, the straw doll—and threatens to kill the envoy. Under Woo-chi’s influence, Minister Jang grabs a sword and brandishes it at the man… and then corrects himself when Woo-chi has second thoughts and decides that death is too extreme. Instead, he orders the envoy to apologize to the king.
Everyone’s amazed at Minister Jang’s balls, and the Ming envoy is so spooked he blubbers an apology. Mission thus accomplished, the possession ends and Minister Jang slumps to the ground, wondering what just happened. Heh, his colleague congratulates him for being so authoritative, but Minister Oh isn’t pleased, warning them that the envoy is hardly going to take this lying down. They’ll have to suffer for Minister Jang’s reckless tantrum. And Minister Jang wonders blankly, “What’d I do?”
Bong-gu has the same worry, asking what happens if the envoy attacks with Ming armies. Woo-chi writes up his news report while cackling in glee, assuring him that this won’t happen since the envoy will have forgotten everything already—he’s worked his forgetfulness spell. Admittedly this is a funny prank, but doesn’t forgetting sort of negate the whole usefulness of the show? I dunno, it seems like a half-baked plan to me.
Speaking of half-baked… we return to the shed where Kang-rim mulls over Mu-yeon’s proposition and asks what she’d do if she set him free and he didn’t join her side. She says earnestly (some might say dimly) that she believes in him because Kang-rim has never broken a promise to him. Then as proof of her faith in his innate goodness, she offers to let him out first, and then let him make his choice. Lordy, I get that it’s a sweet vote of confidence, but when that choice is between being a decent person and continuing on a murderous rampage to take over the country, don’t you suppose that perhaps the risk is a bit too high?
Mu-yeon breaks the talisman’s seal, and the magic powers release their hold on Kang-rim. She offers him her hand encouragingly, and after a long moment Kang-rim stands up… and stalks outside, totally ignoring her hand. Is this a good time to say DUH?
Woo-chi arrives in the morning to find his team fractured, the men injured. Told about Kang-rim’s release, he finds Mu-yeon facing her crushing disappointment. She explains that she wanted to show Kang-rim her trust, and Woo-chi pretty much echoes me in yelling, “Are you crazy?” She’s sorry now, but he bites out that sorry doesn’t cut it.
Hye-ryung is fuming as well, pointing out that Kang-rim not only killed her father, he also injured Myung-gi and Chul-gyun to spring his minions. That means Mu-yeon betrayed them all and she demands, “Do you think that excuse will earn you forgiveness?” Hye-ryung glares at Woo-chi too, warning him to stop protecting Mu-yeon. (The thing is, I bet Mu-yeon’s faith ends up being paid off, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s infuriating.)
Kang-rim returns to Ma Sook and uneasily makes an excuse for his overnight absence, lying that he wasn’t able to encounter Woo-chi last night after all. Ma Sook doesn’t press him on it, and instructs him to once again feed Minister Oh his dream of being king—gotta feed his ambitions and keep their own plan in motion.
Woo-chi finds Mu-yeon looking grave and asks why she did something she’s now regretting. That just makes her dig in her heels and turn stubborn, though, saying that she doesn’t regret it. Ugh, I hate this argument; it’s just frustrating.
Her insistence in believing in Kang-rim makes Woo-chi angrier, and he doesn’t understand what she’s basing her faith in. Mu-yeon argues that they have to extend the hand to Kang-rim first, and says with this edge to her voice that if Woo-chi no longer loves her she’ll be happy to leave. I’m gonna say that if you’re Honey, I’m not sure you have any place being the snippy one.
Kang-rim orders his men to find Chul-gyun, because he’ll lead to Jeon Woo-chi. This is something our Scoobies anticipate, and Chul-gyun even contemplates drastically altering his facial hair for a better disguise. He asks Woo-chi for some magical help on that front, which gets Myung-gi chiming in that he wants more hair too while he’s at it. Ha. Woo-chi just tells Chul-gyun to stay indoors, and out of the baddies’ sight.
The dream-planting does its job, and Minister Oh comes to the baddies to ask what he should do, if, hypothetically speaking, the dream were to play out in real life. Ma Sook feeds that fire, reminding him that he’s a powerful man who has already turned a weak little boy into king. What can’t he do?
The idea appeals to Minister Oh more and more, and his attention turns to a more practical concern: He has no blood tie to the royalty to legitimize him as potential king. Kang-rim suggests that if more “accidents” were to befall the other princes, and the current king as well, well, the lack of blood tie becomes moot. So now we’re going from mere usurpation to full-on dynastic overthrow, huh? It just gets bigger and bigger. I suppose that IS how all the dynasties fell in history. But you, sir, are no Yi Seong-gye.
Woo-chi hears some alarming breaking news: Another prince has died after suffering an earache. It’s mighty suspicious on multiple counts, and he takes the concern to Chan-hwi, who’s busy training extra-hard after his defeat at Kang-rim’s hands. It’s nice of Woo-chi to pick up on that and tell him not to worry about it, since it’s no failure to lose to magic.
Woo-chi shares his suspicions about the prince’s death and asks Chan-hwi for a favor, to look into an autopsy for symptoms of possible poisoning. It looks likely that the young boy had poison poured into his ear, and the king is furious when Chan-hwi tells him about it. This also elevates the king’s own risk, and he cautions the king to be extra-careful for his own safety.
The prince’s sudden death provides a nice distraction for Kang-rim’s henchmen, who are running amok and causing mayhem. The marketplace owners continue to be in trouble, but nobody’s paying much attention to them either.
Woo-chi takes that as his job for the night and handily knocks down henchmen left and right. Easy peasy.
Kang-rim is thinking back to Mu-yeon’s offer of truce when he hears word of the attack. Not only has Woo-chi dared mess with him again, he also stole all the business contracts and tax monies that they’d worked so hard to cheat away from the owners. Boo hoo.
With his men out of commission, Kang-rim has to ask Minister Oh to offer up more. Their plan is in such a critical stage that they can’t risk Woo-chi interfering with it. The minister gives his approval, since he’s hungry to get his throne.
The head of the royal guard offers Lee Chi the information that a special task force is being assembled specifically to catch Jeon Woo-chi with false rumors designed to lure him in. Good thing Woo-chi’s got an insider. Though he can help reacting a little to hear that the orders are to kill on sight, not capture alive.
Kang-rim becomes aware of picking up a tail while walking through the village that night, and sneaks up on his follower. It’s Mu-yeon, dressed in her Butterfly bandit gear, and she’s been waiting for him. He’s suspicious by her trust in him, like there must be another reason she’d want to talk to him, and asks if she’s regretting setting him free the first time.
She says that she’s left Woo-chi, or maybe she’s been left, she’s not entirely sure. She starts to cry a little, wondering if she was wrong to believe the two men would reconcile their differences. But the reason for seeking Kang-rim out tonight is to make one last request before she leaves: When he and Woo-chi finally meet, don’t kill each other.
Her faith does seem to be wearing him down, little by little, and he asks if she has a place to stay. She intends to resume wandering, so he gruffly takes her aside and rents out a room for her. Oh, this can’t end well.
When he returns to Ma Sook later, he’s again evasive and uneasy, though Ma Sook doesn’t press. He’s not an idiot, though, and from his expression we can tell he knows enough to be on alert.
The Scooby gang wonder where Mu-yeon is, figuring that she must be out getting some air. Woo-chi and Hye-ryung are both still upset with her, though Hye-ryung’s barbs have the opposite effect in making Woo-chi feel pangs of remorse, and he tells her to cut it out.
The next day, Hye-ryung catches a glimpse of Kang-rim in the marketplace… buying a pretty pair of women’s shoes. Following him, she sees him presenting Mu-yeon with the shoes, which she accepts with a happy smile.
She stomps right back home and tells Woo-chi he’s a fool, sacrificing himself for that kind of woman. The kind of woman who’s smiling her face off right this minute in Kang-rim’s company.
The two are currently sitting down for tea in one of his daily visits. He tells her he’ll be going somewhere for the time being, and doesn’t explain where, though it looks like she has a pretty good guess.
She sees him off without getting that answer—and that cozy goodbye scene gets witnessed by a henchman. Ma Sook’s, this time. Ruh-roh.
Woo-chi arrives soon after Kang-rim leaves, and she urges him to hurry and go after him—he’s gone to kill another prince. Now she reveals that this was her plan all along, to let Kang-rim go so she could figure out his plan. While her hope that he’d repent was real, it was only a secondary concern, and one she has learned to give up on. She’s recognized that he’s past the point of no return.
Well, that’s not quite so bad. And yet, I’m still annoyed with you. Urg!
Woo-chi wants to go off together to stop Kang-rim, but she’s got more to this plan of hers, and she needs him to fend off Kang-rim and buy her time. Because she’ll be here, awaiting Ma Sook.
Woo-chi naturally balks at this self-sacrificial plan (much like her other one from the cave explosion), but she argues somewhat convincingly that Ma Sook is not someone they can get a shot at easily, but Kang-rim is one of his surefire triggers. He’ll be so enraged that he’ll be a bit less careful and this is her last chance to kill him, which is also her only way to atone for her own wrongs.
With tears falling from both of their eyes, they embrace and part ways—
this is quite possibly goodbye, and they know it.
Kang-rim infiltrates the prince’s home that night and finds the young boy asleep in bed. He draws on his magic to deliver the deathblow… and the boy turns to straw. A Jeon Woo-chi classic.
Speaking of whom, Woo-chi precedes small army of men, headed by Chan-hwi, and block off Kang-rim’s exit. They face him with arrows notched to bows, and Chan-hwi gives the signal. Not sure how good arrows are going to be against a wizard who has command over the elements, and sure enough Kang-rim flies into the air and evades them. Woo-chi jumps after him.
Ma Sook marches over to face Mu-yeon with his grim(mer) face on, while she waits looking quite peaceful, even greeting him with a bow. Ma Sook orders his men out of the room, proving right her point about him having a blind spot where Kang-rim is involved, which only she can exploit.
She informs Ma Sook of her intention to kill him (Uh, is that really something you want to telegraph?) and prepares her dagger. It’s really no match for the black cloud of evil he sends her way… but Woo-chi darts in at the last minute with his super-speed and whirls her out of harm’s way. What, did he give up on Kang-rim then?
Thankfully Mu-yeon can still fire off the dagger, and it lands right in Ma Sook’s chest. He looks down at the knife in shock, hanging there for a long moment, and manages to vow, “I won’t die like this. I can’t die like this.”
But you know, he’s only human after all. He collapses on the ground, looking shocked.
Okay, I am mightily relieved that the fake-out ended up being a fake-out after all and not, say, a whiplash character change that jerked us around because it added conflict. Yes, the show gets some points for turning an aggravating storyline into a reversal that isn’t what it first seems. Yet I can’t get rid of the annoyance that welled up for the majority of the episode when Mu-yeon was just being naive, and Woo-chi brimming with exasperation. Yes, faith in an old friend is a good thing, but after a certain number of mass murders aren’t you obliged to let the current record trump the old one? So the fake-out also has the unintended side effect of getting my hackles up about her character, and that’s not really the desired effect—c’mon, are you trying to make me hate everyone in the final stretch?
Part of the reason I found it a flawed move was that it really highlights what an empty romance this couple has. I accept that Woo-chi loves Mu-yeon for their past together… but this show has sort of done most of its romancing in the past and not given us much to go on in the present. A few cute looks here, a few hand-holds there, and that’s about it. I don’t feel their bond in an emotional way.
It’s to the show’s credit that it hasn’t really been a huge detriment till now, because when we’re focusing on comedy and capers, that stuff is more like icing on the cake. We’ve got bigger things to worry about, so the fluffy love story on the side doesn’t need to feel weighty. Thus it’s when moments like this arise that we really see the hole, because now their bond—as lovers, friends, teammates—is challenged and I find myself wondering, “So?” It didn’t feel like a huge deal to the relationship dynamics when she took up new digs at Kang-rim’s direction, though it should have. Shouldn’t it?
That said, at least the main plot is escalating nicely in time for our finale run-up. I’m not entirely convinced Ma Sook is dead—this show has a way of killing people and not really killing them—but I suppose narratively it would make sense if he finally did bite it. Otherwise we’re echoing the silver mine scenario too closely, and this way we get a chance for the big evil to step aside and leave the real dilemma to our main characters. What will Kang-rim do without an oppressive, frightful father-devil-master character dictating his every move? Does he continue the plot? Choose good or evil? Turn friend or foe?
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 19
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 18
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 17
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 16
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 15
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 14
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 13
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 12
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 11
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 10
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 9
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 8
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 7
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 6
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 5
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 4
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 3
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 2
- Jeon Woo-chi: Episode 1