Things get kicked into high gear with evil swinging into action, and our good guys rising to meet the challenge. We’re also counting down on our hero’s whole secret identity, which doesn’t have very much longer during which to remain secret. With such a ticking clock on our hand, there’s a lot of plot to get through quickly to set us up for the next phase, so let’s get right to it.
Ratings: The top two shows are pretty close, with Gu Family Book still in the lead at 14.4%. God of the Workplace is close behind at 14.2%, while Jang Ok-jung seems headed for mania drama territory with a brewing romance but low ratings of 6.9%.
SONG OF THE DAY
Raspberry Field – “On Saturday Afternoon” [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
So begins the ambush, as orchestrated by our resident baddie Jo Gwan-woong—or as he calls it, the “hunt.”
Thus Kang-chi and Yeo-wool find themselves surrounded by a small army of ninjas, whose supernatural powers allow them to materialize out of dark mist. The ninja-phantoms draw their swords, and our heroes prepare for battle.
Slashing their swords through the phantoms only makes them dissipate back into black mist, though I suppose that’s better than nothing. Kang-chi’s caught by surprise and gets sliced in the arm in his distraction, butYeo-wool keeps her cool, having dealt with these foes before. Even a kick through the phantom’s body will make it disappear, which is good news for Mr. Brute Force here, who launches into the fray with fists and feet.
Inside, the head ninja reveals his true face to Lord Park (having disguised himself as monk So-jung) and demands to know the secret of Kang-chi and his bracelet. However, he’s interrupted by the arrival of Lord Park’s head guard, Han-no, who jumps to his defense.
Outside, Kang-chi gets slashed in the back, though he’s more frustrated than pained—there’s just no way to beat these guys. Yeo-wool gives him the tip that they have to just find the one real guy among them and defeat him in order to defeat his doppelgangers.
So the Agent Smith-style barrage continues, though Han-no and his men also join in the fight from the other side. It’s not looking good for our guys, tiring now, and Yeo-wool gets cut in the arm too. Kang-chi scours the crowd, trying to find their weak link.
And then, as the fighting crescendos and a ninja launches himself in the air at Yeo-wool, Kang-chi leaps in front of her and blocks the sword—with his bare arm. Yeeeeeouch.
The scenario sends Yeo-wool into a flashback we’ve only been teased with previously, of herself in childhood being cornered by a wild dog. She’d been huddled in fear, but a little boy had ordered her to stay put and promised, “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” And when the dog had attacked, the boy had thrust out his forearm, gritting his teeth while the dog tore up his arm.
Now Kang-chi grabs the blade with his free hand (yeeeeeouch x2) and his bracelet glows red. “I’ve got you,” he says with a smile. The ninja widens his eyes as he’s kicked back, and all the phantoms poof into black mist. One other attacker remains standing, but throws a smoke bomb and escapes.
With safety restored Kang-chi starts feeling pain, though he assures Yeo-wool that it’s nothing, just as he did as a little boy. She whacks him upside the head, ha. Naturally he’s surprised, and says she could just say thank you. Yeo-wool yells that he could’ve gotten himself killed, whacks him a second time, and declares, “I’m not so weak and defenseless that I need you to save my life for me.” Thank goodness for that.
Yeo-wool stomps off still shaken, and finishes her flashback: Even as Young Kang-chi is getting his arm shredded, he tells her not to worry. Soon he soothes the dog enough to tell it to go home, and just like that the dog trots off, calm as you please. Figures, dramaland’s marquee puppy is a dog whisperer.
Young Kang-chi then shows off some fighting moves to assure her it doesn’t hurt that much, which results in: “Hiiiiiyah—ow ow ow!” Haha. Glad to see some things don’t change.
He hears that she’s a recent visitor to the Hundred Years Inn, and boasts how he’s not afraid of anything in the world. At which point a huge spider comes down on its thread and freaks the living daylights out of him. She teases him by pretending there’s another one, which leads him to trip and fall on her. Uh, I get the intent but these kids are babies. Can we put away the Baek Ji-young song till they’ve at least hit puberty?
He warns her not to tell anybody about this, or else, or else… “Imma make you my wife!” Lol. Is that a threat or a promise?
Aw, how’s a girl supposed to run away from that kind of fate? Maybe that’s why Yeo-wool swears and kicks a tree, which is how Gon finds her. He flips out over her wound, though she dismisses his worry. She does admit, though, that it was thanks to Kang-chi that she lived.
Now that danger’s gone, Kang-chi is hilariously wimpy as his wounds are treated, whining that it hurts to the head servant whom he calls Father (it was his surname, Choi, that Kang-chi was granted). Only now does he realize that he doesn’t even know the name of “that guy” he fought with. Gon appears to supply it, calling him “Young Master Dam,” so I guess Yeo-wool IS supposed to be disguised as a young man instead of just being mistaken for one. You’d think Gon would be more careful about calling her “young lady” when they’re together, then.
I love how grudging Gon is with the medicine Yeo-wool sent for Kang-chi, even surlier than usual. Then he gets all hot and bothered when he returns to their room and finds Yeo-wool with her top off, although she’s totally blasé about him seeing her half-dressed.
She makes sure that Gon properly conveyed her thanks, which he confirms with a vague “Yes I did… more or less.” Flashback to the moment shows him calling Kang-chi a pain in the ass instead.
Yeo-wool asks how he responded, and Kang-chi’s angry “Wanna fight? Son of a bitch!” gets translated into “He didn’t say much. More or less.” Ha, close enough? Hee. I love petty jealous bodyguard, especially when he’s paired with petty jealous hero.
Han-no reports the results of the fight to Lord Park. One assassin got away, but Kang-chi apprehended the one he knocked down and recognized him as Jo Gwan-woong’s man.
Han-no also informs him that the reason he was able to return to the inn in time to save Lord Park was because of the aid of a monk named So-jung, who had warned him of danger. Currently So-jung is out in the woods, sighing up at the moon that Kang-chi only has ten more days left till he turns twenty. Eep! I have no idea what happens at twenty, but this drama has taught me to be wary of any ten-day time span.
Chung-jo hears of the fight and finds Kang-chi outside, pushing past his “I’m okay” facade to challenge him—why does he say he’s fine when he’s clearly hurting inside? Just admit it: “At least in front of me, you don’t have to act like you’re okay.”
Kang-chi smiles and tells her he’s really okay; seeing her has made him all better, and she’s more effective than any medicine in the world. Moved, Chung-jo hugs him and tearily wonders, “Could I leave you behind and live on?”
He holds her too, and across the yard Yeo-wool whirls around and leaves the scene.
Righteous and principled Tae-seo insists that deal with Jo Gwan-woong properly and not let it be hushed up. So the next day he pays a visit to inform him that one of his assassins has been caught at the inn. Tae-seo is brimming with fury, wanting to have Jo dragged in by police for questioning, but out of respect for Jo’s position he demands merely that Jo apologize to his father and explain his actions. Not that Jo Gwan-woong will comply, of course, but he does get points for trying; Tae-seo actually matches him pretty well, force for force.
Preparations for Chung-jo’s wedding proceed, and have her sinking into gloomier depths. She thinks back to the embrace the other night, and how he’d promised to do whatever she wanted of him. But she’d known too well that he wouldn’t be able to betray her father or brother just to be with her forever. And neither could she.
So-jung finds Kang-chi sitting by himself and sidles up to him, acting like a friendly guest at the inn. But Kang-chi realizes he’s no ordinary stranger when So-jung says he’s only got ten days left till he’s twenty, then warns him not to stay at the inn tonight. He feels a similar energy to one he felt twenty years ago, and it’s imperative that he stay away until sunrise tomorrow. “You must, Kang-chi.”
Tae-seo is alerted to the arrival of guests, and takes a minute to recognize Yeo-wool, who’s only now presenting herself officially. He greets her with a wide grin and calls her Lady Yeo-wool, which is cute, but it’s Gon’s hilarious WTF looks that make the moment. You can practically hear his inner monologue: Another one? How many yahoos do I have to put up with? He has the best deadpan reaction shots.
The two fathers confer, with Dam Pyung-joon confirming that the assassins used a type of black arts. It’s something he’s seen before, and it points to Jo Gwan-woong aligning himself with foreign (Japanese) forces. It also explains the mysterious serial killings and points to more disturbances in store for the future.
Dam Pyung-joon suggests that Lord Park offer himself as support to Jo Gwan-woong. Hm, a fake-out strategy then?
Another man joins them and is treated with awed deference. He’s introduced as Lee Soon-shin—ah, that Lee Soon-shin then? The famed commander and war hero?
He’s here to request funds in order to build up the navy, in case of foreign attack by sea. The mood is a bit tense because Lord Park insists on a clear explanation (and his unwillingness to back down is a bit of an affront), but Lee Soon-shin concedes and shows him the plans for his massive, heavily fortified warship.
Lee has been denied funds by the state, but he’s certain the ship is necessary to preserving the country’s safety. Lord Park is convinced, and settles down for more serious talks in private.
Kang-chi arrives outside Lord Park’s pavilion and wonders what Yeo-wool and Gon are doing there. She’s still huffy about his alleged ingratitude about the medicine and the hug she witnessed, so she makes Gon her messenger while Kang-chi stands right there in front of her. Ha.
That tickles his temper, and his temper tickles Gon’s temper, and soon our two boys are growling in each other’s faces about ripping each other’s hands off. But before things come to actual fisticuffs, head guard Han-no intervenes, scolding the both of them for kicking up a commotion under his watch. Kang-chi actually points a finger, all, Hyungniiiiim! He started it!
Han-no warns them both to cool it, and the two boys literally shove back from each other and pout. Hmph!
Once they’re in complete privacy, Lord Park steps aside as a secret door is revealed. He leads the men into the secret chamber… where he stores all his riches. If he weren’t such a principled fuddy-duddy, I’d be wondering where Lord Park got all his cash money (or rather, how), but in any case we know he’s the good guy here and he pledges every penny to Lee Soon-shin’s war funds, asking him to protect Joseon with it. Eee! This is a much better chamber of secrets than that other one.
Jo Gwan-woong hears of of the visit, and with his rivals swinging into motion he decides it’s his turn to act. He heads to the authorities and reports a man missing—a man who had been dispatched to investigate a treason case. To (where else?) Hundred Years Inn. Ack. So you’re raising the stakes that far, huh?
As Lee Soon-shin takes his leave, Lord Park introduces Kang-chi to him, speaking of him in superlative terms and asking the commander to teach him if the occasion rises. But Kang-chi refuses straightaway, insisting he isn’t going anywhere and that he won’t serve anybody other than Lord Park. But Lee Soon-shin chuckles at his loyalty (while Yeo-wool mouths, “Dummy”).
Yeo-wool walks her father out as he asks about Kang-chi’s character. Yeo-wool starts out with insults, but quickly adds that he’s not a bad guy either, lest Dad get the wrong idea. (Watching Gon’s reactions should be an extra game; he likes the insults and frowns at praise. Hee.) Dad just says that there’s something about Kang-chi that bothers him (or niggles at his mind, more ilke), though he doesn’t explain what.
Dam Pyung-joon instructs Gon (out of Yeo-wool’s earshot) to keep a close eye on Kang-chi and alert him should anything strange occur.
Jo Gwan-woong makes his preparations, with the entire police force at his beck and call. They storm the Hundred Years Inn just as the wedding procession arrives—and a gift crashes to the ground when the table breaks, just in case we didn’t get that this is a bad omen.
The officers are ordered to search every inch of the place for a hidden traitor. And whaddaya know, there happens to be one of Jo Gwan-woong’s men being held captive here after all…
Kang-chi is ready to leap into the fray at first notice, but today he hears a strange voice on the wind calling his name warningly. He recalls the monk’s warning and sees that the sun is about to set—this is the event he was meant to avoid. Outside, the monk watches the gates and tries to will Kang-chi to leave.
The officers ransack the house and emerge with the ninja captive, whom Jo gwan-woong was sent to investigate the rebels’ actions. Tae-seo fires back that it’s the assassin sent to kill his father, and now we’ve got a game of he-said-he-said.
Lord Park addresses Jo directly, asking what he’s up to. What’s he planning that he’s allied himself with those using black arts?
Alas, the ransacking turns up an incriminating-looking letter in Lord Park’s possession, marked with the bow and arrow symbol used by Dam Pyung-joon. And unfortunately, Jo Gwan-woong is shrewd enough to twist this to fit his story—that his name in the letter and the assassins’ mark point to Lord Park being involved in treasonous plots.
It’s not exactly airtight evidence, but Jo Gwan-woong threatens the officials with a similar fate, and thus Lord Park and Tae-seo are arrested. Wife and daughter arrive as they’re being tied up, and Jo steps up to offer up the same words he offered up to Seo-hwa’s father: that he’ll be sure to take the girl once she’s been sold to the government as a slave. Ick. Shudders.
He leers in his creepy perv way… but then Kang-chi’s voice bellows, “SAYS WHO?” Oh right, history isn’t just gonna repeat itself this time. Phew! Also, Oh no!
Kang-chi shoves aside the officers and releases the ropes. He warns all the intruders to back off quietly, giving them his usual count to three. Upon hearing the word “treason” leveled against them, he scoffs—if the righteous and generous Lord Park is guilty of treason when he feeds the poor who have been failed by their own country, then what does that make Jo Gwan-woong, who actively robs those people to shore up his own coffers?
Kang-chi takes on the first man who attacks him, disarming him with a harsh warning. But then a second man grabs his sword suddenly, and Lord Park reacts instinctively… and jumps in front to save Kang-chi. Ack!
Everyone watches in horror as Lord Park is stabbed through the chest and gurgles blood. Even Jo Gwan-woong is stunned, but that doesn’t compare to Kang-chi’s rage as he knocks the attacker, then grabs Lord Park as he falls.
As Kang-chi he sobs over him, Lord Park asks, “Are you hurt?” He reminds him, “Don’t forget. You are just like my son. You must… protect… our Tae-seo and Chung-jo.”
With that, Lord Park dies.
Kang-chi begs him to wake up. A fierce wind blows through the estate, knocking people over, and So-jung senses the disturbance.
As the wind subsides, Kang-chi looks up, finds Jo Gwan-woong, and glares hatefully at him. His eyes burn green, beast-like, as he growls, “I will kill you.”
Well, now you’ve done it, Evil Baddie. Gone and woken the sleeping beast. Good luck with staying alive now.
Today’s episode felt a bit choppy to me, which I attribute to the show needing to set us up for the big reveal once Kang-chi actually turns twenty and his true nature is discovered. I’ve liked the pacing of the first four episodes so I almost forgot that we’re still at the very nascent stages of our hero’s journey, since he doesn’t even have a big cause to fight for yet, or know who he is. Since the drama is supposed to be about Kang-chi trying to find a way to become human—hence the need for the whole Gu Family Book in the first place—it’s probably best we move along to him realizing he’s not.
That said, there were smoother ways to transition between plot points, with the introduction of Lee Soon-shin being jammed in there and Phase Two of Badness McBadderson’s plan being unleashed. I don’t mind the nature of his plotting (treason plots are sageuk’s greatest narrative friends, in that they raise stakes sky-high and keep dramas moving quickly), but how we got there was awfully quick.
Not to mention the way Lord Park died. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why he needed to die, even though as a loving father figure and all-around decent human being it’s too bad we have to lose him from the show. But now Kang-chi has something to avenge, and the nature of Dad’s sacrifice may prove pretty rich dramatic fodder for his relationships with Tae-seo and Chung-jo in the future. So in that sense I was fine saying goodbye to Lord Park.
It’s just that, puh-lease, you couldn’t think of a better, more logical way to off him? Kang-chi’s the guy with superhuman strength and fighting skills and a knack for cheating death in combat, and the helpless nobleman jumps in to take the sword? Ack! And even if he were in mortal peril, I surely didn’t feel that sense of danger in the moment (whether you blame it on hurried editing or writing is up to you). Again, the intent works; it’s the rushed result that feels like it missed a step.
I still thoroughly enjoy the show, so I’m not knocking its appeal—it’s wholly entertaining. I do think it’s worth pointing out that I think its gorgeous camera and appealing cast do obscure some flaws, or at least minimize their effects. I did feel that the drop in cohesiveness was more noticeable this episode, which makes me wonder whether we’re now in live-shoot mode. Which is fine—I’ve watched enjoyable live-shoot sageuks before, and even when camera quality dips I don’t care so much if the story continues to entertain. And that’s what I like about this drama, and what all dramas should remember: That you can’t manufacture heart, or quantify it. This show engages me in the heart, which is why I’m invested and coming back for more. That, and the hilarious, petty byplay between Kang-chi and Gon, of course. That stuff makes my day.
- Gu Family Book: Episode 4
- Gu Family Book: Episode 3
- Gu Family Book: Episode 2
- Gu Family Book: Episode 1
- Gu Family Book’s half-gumiho rises
- Teaser poster and stills for Gu Family Book
- Stills galore for upcoming spring dramas
- A look at Gu Family Book’s leading ladies
- The action begins on Gu Family Book