Aw, I love this show. It’s so damn cute and earnest and lovable. You have a hero who spends his days playing Hong Gil-dong Jr. in the streets, a no-nonsense heroine with a mighty sword, and a story world filled with myths and magic that’s just barely been tapped. But at the core, it’s just got a whole lot of heart.
The Monday-Tuesday race has been tight, but ratings continue to rise for Gu Family Book, with Episode 4 at 15.1%. God of the Workplace followed close behind at 14.2%, and Jang Ok-jung came in at 7.0%.
EPISODE 4 RECAP
We start off with a recap of Mom and Dad’s love story, destined for tragedy, and then catch up to Kang-chi and Yeo-wool’s fateful meeting under the crescent moon and peach blossom tree. The same blue lights that once used to follow Dad around now surround Kang-chi.
He ekes out his brave speech that he’ll protect her… before passing out in her arms. Heh. But the words trigger a memory for Yeo-wool, and she has a momentary flashback to being attacked by a scary dog as a little girl, when a boy had jumped out and said those same words.
She looks up at the tree and the moon and remembers the monk’s warning that this is the fate she should avoid.
Back at the Hundred Years Inn, Tae-seo is the only one there to run the estate in the absence of his father, and he gets a late-night surprise—a large entourage arrives and suddenly demands rooms. Uh-oh, did they just let our baddie Jo Gwan-woong walk right into the place?
And of course, Dad’s receiving the warning from Dam Pyung-joon this very moment—Jo Gwan-woong is on a murder spree and Lord Park is very possibly the next target. Oh, ya think?
Jo Gwan-woong introduces himself ominously and when Tae-seo tries to tell them there aren’t enough rooms to house them all, the head minion demands they make room. Eep.
Poor Tae-seo doesn’t know what to do, and asks his servant where Kang-chi is, sighing that he’d be absent at a time like this. Aw, I like that he looks for Kang-chi in his time of need despite all their bickering.
But Kang-chi’s too busy playing sleeping beauty at the moment, as Yeo-wool keeps watch. She stares and stares and finally pokes him in the cheek… which just gets him snoring.
Gon arrives after throwing the henchmen off his trail and tries kicking Kang-chi awake, to no avail. Yeo-wool thinks he must’ve been drugged, but Gon isn’t satisfied and tests out a theory, by yanking out his sword and slamming it down right at Kang-chi’s head. Whoa.
It’s certainly enough to jolt Kang-chi awake, and he rolls out of the way just in time, as the sword slices his pillow. Well good morning to you too. Yeesh. He demands to know who they are, and Gon points out that the polite thing to do would be to introduce himself first.
So Kang-chi says he’s from the Hundred Years Inn, and they raise an eyebrow at the familiar name. He asks who they are, and then Gon says smugly that he doesn’t identify himself to people he doesn’t know. HA. I think I’m going to like these two together. Their bickering and posturing is hilarious.
Kang-chi attacks, and Gon doesn’t even break a sweat as he trips Kang-chi and sends him flying, again and again. Finally Yeo-wool steps in between them and asks Kang-chi if this is the way he treats people who save his life, and he balks—You? Saved me? (He assumes she’s a boy, but it’s the pint-sized-ness of her that he’s scoffing at.)
She sends a spin-kick flying at his face to prove her point. Ha.
Cut to: Kang-chi being led by Yeo-wool on a rope, like a dog. He finally turns around to try and reason with her that the ropes are a bit much for his pride: “I’m not a puppy!” I beg to differ.
She says that she can’t trust him, and it’s suspicious anyway that the son of the Hundred Years Inn would be chased by henchmen, unless he’s a thief (he shakes his head no), or has women problems. He gulps.
She takes that to mean he’s a scoundrel, and Kang-chi swears up and down that it’s not that kind of lady trouble. The way she just rolls her eyes and doesn’t let him explain is just priceless.
He pleads with her to de-rope him before they reach the inn to save him the mortification, but it’s too late because Tae-seo’s servant comes running up to them calling out his name.
When Yeo-wool refuses to comply, Kang-chi whirls around and throws his arms around Yeo-wool and announces that they’re his new friends that he met in the woods. Hee. Yeo-wool squirms, and Gon has a silent freakout at Kang-chi hugging her. Love it.
But they’ve got bigger problems, as they find out when they finally let the servant get a word in…
Back at the inn, Tae-seo explains that he doesn’t have the rooms—guests would have to be kicked out in order to house them all. Jo Gwan-woong doesn’t skip a beat and says that’s what he should do then. Oh crap. I don’t want Tae-seo to bow to this evil guy, but I’m also terrified for him.
He sticks to his principles and says he can’t do that, and Jo Gwan-woong can’t believe that he’d dare inconvenience the Important Man while lowly people reside in the rooms. Tae-seo says that every guest at their inn is treated equally, and that is how his father has always run the place. Damn, I’m impressed. Those are some principled balls of steel ya got there.
As expected, Jo Gwan-woong doesn’t take it very well, and Tae-seo ends up with a sword at his throat. His mother and sister hear what’s happening, and Chung-jo wonders where the guards and Kang-chi are. Lady Yoon avoids her gaze. I think guilt would be giving her too much credit, but perhaps she’s regretting her timing in kicking him out?
Back on the road, Kang-chi turns to Yeo-wool and drops the posturing attitude. He asks sincerely for her to untie the ropes because something’s wrong at the inn. She looks into his eyes and thinks again that there’s somewhere she’s seen those eyes before…
The situation at the inn goes from bad to worse when Jo Gwan-woong takes Tae-seo’s equal treatment mantra and runs with it, twisting his words to make it sound like he’s blatantly going against the law of the land.
Lady Yoon rushes to the scene to apologize for her young and impetuous son, and tries to placate Jo Gwan-woong by insisting that she’ll make room at the inn, even as Tae-seo argues with Mom that they can’t do that. But she kneels before him to ask for mercy.
Chung-jo arrives behind the crowd looking for her mother, and in that split second Jo Gwan-woong’s eyes flicker with recognition—but it’s Seo-hwa he sees in her. Ew. He looks at Chung-jo with these eyes… Ack. Ack. Make it stop.
Suddenly someone steps in front of Chung-jo to block his view. Oh phew, it’s Kang-chi. Ohmygah that was the longest flesh crawl ever. What took you so long?
He and Tae-seo exchange the cutest smiles and he apologizes for being late. He introduces himself as Choi Kang-chi, and when Jo Gwan-woong demands to know what he does around here, Kang-chi explains that he’s the one who chases out the rabblerousers at the inn.
Jo Gwan-woong practically stomps his feet with the Do you KNOW who I am? and Kang-chi makes it clear that he doesn’t much care. The henchmen all draw their swords around him, and he just stands there, still offering to let them go quietly if they want.
Yeo-wool and Gon watch from the rooftop, and she makes a move to jump into the fight, but Gon holds her back.
The henchmen attack, and Kang-chi fights them off unarmed in about three seconds, and turns their own swords back on them. Curiously, Jo Gwan-woong’s head minion just watches the fight, and notes Kang-chi’s glowing red bracelet. Uh-oh.
Jo Gwan-woong laughs it up to save face, and declares this place verrrrry interesting. He gives Chung-jo one last creepy smile before leaving, only revealing how furious he really is once he’s alone.
Yeo-wool and Gon are impressed at Kang-chi’s fighting skills, since that wasn’t really their first impression of him. Gon notes Yeo-wool drifting off into thought, as she thinks again that she’s seen Kang-chi somewhere before.
Lord Park returns home in the morning and demands to know where his guards were in this time of need. Head guard Han-no just bows his head, exchanging guilty glances with Lady Yoon.
Kang-chi steps in to say that this was all his fault, launching into this elaborate lie about how he ran off and the guards came after him, and then they lost each other in the woods, and oh yeah he was drunk, and um…
Lord Park asks if they think he’s an idiot, so Kang-chi just goes the route of the louder the apology the better, and he and Han-no just take turns bowing, “It’s my fault! No, it’s my fault! Punish me! No, punish me!”
Finally Tae-seo saves them both by suggesting that the more urgent matter is how to deal with Jo Gwan-woong. Dad doesn’t say much of what he learned, but Mom argues that they have to go apologize to the man if they don’t want the future of their inn to be doomed. She makes a point of blaming Kang-chi, which just adds to her hatefulness.
She sits Kang-chi down on her own to ask why he came back—did he not take her warning seriously? He says he came because the inn was in danger, but she argues that he did more harm than good last night. He asks with these pleading eyes why she’s never liked him: “Tell me what it is and I’ll fix it!” Awww, Kang-chi. You break my heart.
She answers honestly that he’s always been an ominous presence, from the day he entered this house, and that she has feared his whole life that he’d bring harm to her children. He of course doesn’t understand, and swears that he’d give his life to protect Tae-seo and Chung-jo.
Lady Yoon: “How can I trust the word of a thing that might not even be human!” Gasp. He asks what she means, but she’s called outside and he’s left wondering at her turn of phrase. As he walks out he sees Chung-jo surrounded by new garments in preparation for her wedding, and sighs wistfully in her direction.
Yeo-wool finds him in the courtyard and sizes him up right away—so he dared to fall in love with the owner’s daughter and got kicked out for overstepping, huh? He doesn’t answer.
He wonders how she got in here, and she tells him that they’re staying at the inn. When he turns to go, she takes out her stick and whaps him over the head for no reason… and then reels in shock—why didn’t he evade the strike?
I love that the hitter is just as surprised, and she points out that a guy who can fight off all those attackers should obviously be able to avoid being hit. He says that was a different situation—they smelled of blood (curious, I know he doesn’t mean it literally, but it could be).
She finds him even more curious—so his fighting ability actually changes according to the situation? She challenges him to a friendly swordfight, and Kang-chi looks her up and down with a laugh (still assuming she’s a really short man) and warns her to put away her sword before she gets hurt.
He starts to walk away, when she casually calls out, “Giant spider.” He stops in his tracks. “The thing you’re most afraid of in the whole world are big spiders, right?” He turns in shock and stares for a while, and then puffs up his chest to insist that she’s wrong.
So then she points: “It’s a giant spider!” He leaps up with hoppy feet like a little boy: “Where?! Where!” And after all that he still has the gall to insist he’s not afraid. She watches him go and says aloud: “So it was you…”
Lord Park and Tae-seo seek out Jo Gwan-woong, who purposely makes them stand there and wait while he does nothing, just to prove a point. When they’re finally called in, Lord Park introduces himself and apologizes for his children’s rash behavior last night.
Jo Gwan-woong wastes no time in offering up suggestions for how to appease him, and says that he’s being really gracious with his offer since he could try Tae-seo as a traitor, but instead will settle for Kang-chi being hit 200 times.
Lord Park says that Kang-chi is like a son to him, and offers to give him anything else in exchange. Jo Gwan-woong gets a glint in his eye and asks for the Hundred Years Inn then… “Ah I see, that’s too much? Then how about your daughter?” NO.
Both Tae-seo and Lord Park’s blood starts to boil, and in case we weren’t quite sure that Jo Gwan-woong was evil, their conversation gets intercut with a frog swallowing a butterfly whole, just to drive the point home.
Lord Park takes a moment, and then gets on his knees. “I will take the 200 blows. My children’s sins are their father’s, so I will be hit in their stead.” Wow. Tae-seo protests and Jo Gwan-woong quakes in silent rage.
Next thing we know, he’s letting them go. His minion asks why and Jo Gwan-woong says that Lord Park is more beloved by the people than the king—punishing him gets him nowhere. He says he knew this man would be a difficult opponent, but didn’t expect this. He orders his minion to kill Lord Park quietly, and make it look like Kang-chi is the killer.
Meanwhile, Kang-chi is busy trailing after Yeo-wool and Gon in the marketplace, thinking he’s being super stealthy. Gon: “He’s still following us.” Yeo-wool: “I know. Leave him be.”
He loses them with one simple distraction, and twirls around in the street, wondering how they slipped away. Pwahaha, his go-to explanation is that they must be ghosts. They watch from around the corner and Yeo-wool wonders what to make of him: “Is he a moron or a genius?” Uh…
But then he gets distracted on his super secret mission when he finds that thug who ripped them off for 50 nyang the other day, extorting street vendors for more money. He greets the leader with a big smile.
Yeo-wool arrives at an inn to meet a contact, and she hands over a record she’s made of the string of murders that she’s been investigating. As expected, they overlap with Jo Gwan-woong’s latest acquisitions.
They’re interrupted when Kang-chi’s fight with the thugs spills over into the inn, and they join the crowd to see what’s going on. Kang-chi lines up the baddies on their knees and threatens them to give up their money, and Yeo-wool’s contact sighs at the behavior, assuming that Kang-chi is robbing the men in broad daylight.
Yeo-wool steps up to put a stop to it… when Kang-chi calls out: “Line up!” Suddenly the market vendors all line up, each telling Kang-chi how much the gangsters extorted from them today, thanking him for returning their hard-earned money.
Kang-chi tells the thugs to stop stealing from the poor, and suggests that if they must steal, they should stick to the rich. They chant his name through the streets like a hero. D’awww, so many feels.
Yeo-wool looks on with a smile, though Gon can only manage a raised eyebrow. Heh. She looks into the crowd and notices a familiar face—the monk who gave her the cryptic warning. He doesn’t see her, and just smiles proudly at Kang-chi.
She runs after him to ask what happens if she doesn’t avoid that fate, or if she can’t. So-jung says gravely that one of them may die, and that these things are up to heaven. She’s left standing in the street, wondering if one of them could really die, and looks back at Kang-chi.
Kang-chi returns home that night with gifts of liquor and food from the street vendors, and he presents them to his father (Lord Park’s head servant, the one whose surname he took that day at the river).
The Park family enjoys a quiet moment together as they talk about Chung-jo’s upcoming marriage and Tae-seo’s possible fear of girls (because he refuses to do anything marriage-minded), and Kang-chi watches from the distance. Gah, that pangs my heart so—the longing look at the happy family.
Han-no comes by to tell him not to dream. He doesn’t have a place there. But Kang-chi says just watching them makes him happy. He gives Han-no the food in his hand, without an ounce of anger at what happened last night.
Yeo-wool practices her sword skills in the courtyard, the monk’s words ringing in her ears as she thinks back to the young boy who seems so much like Kang-chi. Kang-chi watches her for a while and applauds, and then asks how she knew about his fear of spiders—do they know each other?
She turns the question around on him—do they know each other? Have they met before? He says he doesn’t remember.
Yeo-wool: “Then we haven’t met. A meeting that isn’t remembered has no meaning.”
She starts to walk away, and then he calls out: “If I remember? Then will it have meaning? They stand there looking at each other in a charged moment… and then suddenly he lunges at her.
A flying star comes out of nowhere and just misses her head. A black-clad assassin runs across the rooftop, and they give chase.
Lord Park senses a presence nearby and asks who’s there. A wind blows through his room and puts the lights out. He relights the candle, and out of the darkness steps So-jung. Oh thank goodness. Get him to safety!
Jo Gwan-woong chuckles to himself that the hunt has begun…
Kang-chi and Yeo-wool catch up to the one assassin they were chasing… only to watch as more of them appear before their eyes like vapor. One by one they fill the rooftop, and then they start appearing on the ground, right in front of them.
Kang-chi asks what they are, and Yeo-wool says they’re phantoms. In seconds they’re surrounded, and they stand back-to-back, looking out at the frightening sight.
Lord Park asks if So-jung is here now that the twenty years is up, and asks to know more about Kang-chi’s true nature, and about what power that bracelet holds. Wait. Waitaminute. I don’t like that look in So-jung’s eye. That’s not really him, is it? Crud.
Lord Park admits that he let the bracelet fall off the night he brought Kang-chi home, and that’s when he saw it. So-jung prods him to tell exactly what he saw that night. Lord Park starts to explain that there was an accident and a small wound… and then stops short.
He can sense something’s not right. His voice takes on an edge: “Who are you?” He calls out to his servants, but So-jung pulls a sword to his throat, and then as the camera pans he lets the spell fade and shows his true face. It’s Jo Gwan-woong’s right-hand man. With the sword at Lord Park’s neck, he demands to know more about Kang-chi.
Outside, the army of phantom assassins narrows in. They draw their swords on cue. I love Kang-chi’s confusion: Wait, phantoms have swords? Is this a thing? She warns him to be careful, while he’s still slackjawed that such creatures exist.
She draws her sword. He raises his fists…
Aw, end of episode? But I want to see the epic fight! Whatever you do, please don’t kill off Lord Park. Why does every drama introduce us to awesome dads and then kill them off? Dramaland: where good dads go to die. It was heartbreaking enough that Wol-ryung had to die so tragically after being betrayed by his only love in a thousand years. How about you throw us a bone and let the surrogate father live?
I’m already really invested in the characters and the conflict that exists purely from a nobleman/slave class divide and how Kang-chi is part of the family but not. There’s enough there even without the gumiho conflict (though of course I’m dying for those secrets/powers to be discovered), to carry the heart of Kang-chi’s emotional journey as an outsider. All of it—watching the happy family from afar, loving the nobleman’s daughter he can never be with, doing anything to be accepted and loved—it’s so immediately compelling and your heart just goes out to him.
Yeo-wool is a great character too, with her toughness and her quirks. She still needs more development, because for now we’re left to infer that she just lets people assume that she’s a man until she feels like correcting them. It’s not a crossdressing drama so I don’t expect the gender misunderstanding to go on too long (or even to make that big a difference, save for Kang-chi’s one big moment of mortifying oops, which I look forward to). But I do think it’s important for us to know—why that’s her preference, why she lives as a warrior and not a noblewoman. I’m sure I’ll like the answers, but I hope she gets the same treatment as a character and that we get a solid setup for her too. And how great is this trio:
My favorite thing in the whole episode was Kang-chi’s little Jeon Woo-chi/Hong Gil-dong moment in the marketplace, which tells us everything we need to know about him—that he was raised right, and that it’s in his nature to help the weak and use his strength to do good. Not only is it a heartwarming character moment, but key people get to witness this about him—Yeo-wool, who immediately changes her mind about him, and the monk So-jung who gets to see that Wol-ryung’s son grew up to be a good man.
There are definitely one-dimensional characters (especially in the villain realm) but overall the story is really engrossing, even before Kang-chi discovers his true nature. Though the baddie Jo Gwan-woong is Just Evil Incarnate, now that we know he has access to magic and that there are darker realms of the mythology that we haven’t explored, I’m more interested in the bigger picture. Of course the immediate concern is that all these people seem to think that Kang-chi’s bracelet is the source of his power, when in fact it’s what reins it in… and that discovery is going to be a heady one, least of all for the young man who never once guessed that he’s not a real boy. Talk about your rude awakenings.