Gu Family Book: Episode 11
There’s nothing like reuniting with your first love to make you totally confused about your best-friend-who’s-totally-not-your-girlfriend-you-swear. The love triangles take a front seat in this episode and complicate matters in a good way, because sometimes you have to get what you’ve always wanted to know whether or not you really wanted it.
EPISODE 11 RECAP
We backtrack a little, to catch the tail end of a conversation between Kang-chi and his teacher. As Kang-chi digs into his bounty chicken, Teacher Gong asks what he’s doing all this for. He says it’s so that he can return to his family—Tae-seo, Chung-jo, and the folks at the Hundred Year Inn.
Teacher Gong asks, “And what if they don’t want you anymore… will you still become human then?” Kang-chi’s smile fades at the suggestion. It’s clearly never occurred to him that his family might not want him to return.
Fast forward to the night that closed the last episode: Jo Gwan-woong declares that he has changed his mind, and will have Chung-jo brought to his bedroom that night. Chung-jo drops her tray in the hall, and he walks past her to smarm: “I’ll see you after the sun sets.”
Tae-seo begs on his hands and knees for Kang-chi to rescue Chung-jo. Kang-chi tries to calm him down, but he screams at him to please take Chung-jo and run. “Run away someplace far and live happily together. As her brother, I give you permission, so run away someplace far. Please.” Whoa. Did he just give Kang-chi permission to marry her? No wonder Yeo-wool has that look on her face.
Chung-jo stands in that same spot, too stunned to believe what she heard, and begs Soo-ryun to tell her she heard wrong. One look from Soo-ryun confirms the nightmare as real, so she grabs a piece of the bowl she dropped and puts it to her wrist, wailing that she’d rather die.
Soo-ryun slaps her across the face, not without sympathy, but to knock some sense into her. Her words are cold, but sadly true: “Do you think your death will change the world?”
She tells her that the world is littered with deaths far more tragic than hers, and what she needs to do is live, and survive, no matter what. She’s not warm and fuzzy, but I am glad she’s around to keep Chung-jo from turning into Seo-hwa.
Yeo-wool is distracted all day and ends class early to go find Kang-chi. I love that she paces back and forth in front of him, waiting for him to notice. He doesn’t, so she plops down next to him anyway and just asks directly, as is her style: “So are you going?”
Kang-chi says that Chung-jo will still say no if he asks her to run away, and besides, she still doesn’t know what he is. He sighs that he doesn’t know where to begin to tell her the truth, and he doesn’t have confidence that she’ll accept him once she knows.
Yeo-wool says he doesn’t know—Chung-jo could say that it doesn’t matter whether he’s half-beast, and that no matter how his eyes and his face might change, he’s still him on the inside. But not everyone’s as cool as you, hon.
He asks if that’s really possible. Er, you mean you’ve already forgotten that that’s exactly what Yeo-wool said to you when she found out? Doofus. Yeo-wool says that if she likes him, and if her love is sincere, then a woman can be that way. He laughs out loud, “How would you know a woman’s heart?” She glares, “Hey, I’m a woman too!” Whoops.
He quickly starts trying to explain, and says that she and Chung-jo grew up so differently, and Chung-jo’s like a precious flower grown in a greenhouse. Oh just ram that foot further in your mouth, why don’t you.
Yeo-wool: “Whether she’s a flower in a greenhouse or a weed in a field, a woman’s heart in love is the same!” Aw, you’re not a weed! He just goes right back to teasing her, wondering what she’d know about love.
She insists that she does too know about love, so he just eggs her on: “You’ve been in love?” Yeo-wool: “Of course I have… not… yet.” He laughs again, and she says you don’t have to have been in love to know.
He argues that she can’t possibly know what it’s like to toss and turn all night because you’re filled with anticipation, or to have your heart swayed or broken with one smile or one breath from that person. Until then, she doesn’t know love.
She pouts and relents that fine, he knows and she doesn’t, and he can be awesome all by himself. Heh. But Kang-chi changes his tone and says, “Don’t worry, I won’t leave without saying goodbye.”
He says that if he does decide to leave with Chung-jo, she’ll be the first to know. That’s not very reassuring. He goes back to joking around with her and wonders when she’ll grow up and have a relationship of her own, and tousles her hair.
As they jab each other playfully, Master Dam watches from around the corner with a grave look on his face. Flashback to him asking Teacher Gong what he thinks of Kang-chi. Teacher Gong remains vague, and turns the question around on Master Dam—why does he keep him at a distance?
Master Dam admits that he killed Kang-chi’s father twenty years ago. Teacher Gong: “So are you afraid that he’ll seek revenge, or is there something else?” Back in the present, Master Dam watches Yeo-wool smiling and laughing with Kang-chi and sighs. He asks Gon to look after everyone and leaves for a trip.
Chung-jo has a tearful reunion with her servant, who’s here on an errand to deliver a package from Jo Gwan-woong. Chung-jo asks after her family, and it’s only now that she finds out that her mother died. The dispersal of information in this drama, I swear.
The other gisaengs storm in to open the package from Jo Gwan-woong, and reel at the box of expensive gifts that even Wol-sun has never received. She sneers jealously that if Chung-jo is to sleep with the man who killed her father, this should be the price. Damn.
The servant girl stammers in shock, and then runs back to the inn to tell the others, and urges them to find Kang-chi. Problem is, Jo Gwan-woong is watching the whole thing, and when his minion asks if they should stop them, he says they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to.
He tells his men to surround the gisaeng house, because tonight Kang-chi will be walking to his own death.
Ok-man runs to tell Kang-chi the news, and he just gapes, Who’s doing what, with whom? He immediately turns to go, but Yeo-wool stands in his way. “Something’s not right here.” Well thank goodness one of you has a brain.
She says this smells like a trap. Kang-chi thinks about it and agrees that she could be right… except that doesn’t change the fact that he still has to go and save her. Well, I can’t argue with that.
Yeo-wool says fine, she’ll go with him. Both Gon and Kang-chi chime in unison that she won’t, and she wonders when they became so close. They try to reason with her, and Kang-chi refuses to be indebted to her again, but she reminds him that she’s a better fighter than he is, and basically, she just out-bosses them. Heh.
Ok-man wonders if they ought to tell Tae-seo, but Kang-chi thinks that’ll be worse, so they agree not to say anything. Tae-seo is listening in anyway, but as we know now, he’s also partly to blame for this trap.
Teacher Gong happens by and asks Tae-seo what’s going on. He offers a word of advice, in his yoda-esque way: his eyes may be clouded but that doesn’t mean he should lose his sense of judgment.
Jo Gwan-woong heads to the gisaeng house as Chung-jo awaits her fate. Soo-ryun paces till nightfall, until she finally she comes to a decision, and tells her staff to un-light every lantern and close the doors—they won’t be receiving any guests tonight.
She asks for a straw mat to be put out by the entrance, and they wonder what she’s planning to do. Jo Gwan-woong arrives to find the place dark and empty, save for Soo-ryun on the straw mat, prepared to greet him.
He reminds her of his orders, but she says she failed to fight his orders once twenty years ago, and lost two lives because of it. She asks if he remembers. Oh I think he might.
Soo-ryun asks him to rescind his orders… “Or cut my throat.” Whoa. Now this I didn’t see coming. The problem is, he doesn’t seem too broken up about having to kill her to get what he wants, so he reaches for his sword and raises it…
But Kang-chi’s voice calls out from the rooftop just in time. He jumps down and takes one knee before Soo-ryun, bowing in gratitude for what she did to protect to Chung-jo. “I won’t forget it.”
He says he’ll take over from here, and then turns his attention to Jo Gwan-woong, sighing, “You again?” Seriously. He muses that they sure do see a lot of each other, and warns that he should stop trying to take what isn’t his.
Jo Gwan-woong narrows his eyes, “Are you saying that Chung-jo is yours?” Kang-chi chides that people aren’t things, to be had or not had, and Jo Gwan-woong figures he must really want to die. On his call his army of minions jumps out from the shadows and surrounds them.
Yeo-wool’s voice rings in Kang-chi’s ears, as he thinks back to her warning for him not to fight, because his objective is to get Chung-jo out safely. She says she has a plan, and tells him to run.
So that’s exactly what he does, taking everyone except Jo Gwan-woong away from the gisaeng house. In the meantime, Yeo-wool sneaks in and scares Chung-jo with a hand over her mouth: “I’m a friend of Kang-chi’s.”
Kang-chi runs and runs, and when he gets to a crowded inn, the minions suddenly stop. They see Kang-chi running down one street, and then another, and then another. Hahahaha. Did he just pull a Jeon Woo-chi?
It’s the low-rent non-magic version, but there’s nothing better than an army of clones to throw baddies off your scent. It works, and they chase the Kang-chi look-alikes while he slips away. What he doesn’t see is that Tae-seo arrives just as he’s leaving, though we don’t see what he’s here to say.
Soo-ryun finds Chung-jo’s room empty and tells her staff to find her immediately, but to keep it quiet—if word gets out that she ran, it’s the end for her. Meanwhile, Yeo-wool leads Chung-jo through the woods, and they head to the place where she and Kang-chi are supposed to meet.
Teacher Gong finds Gon pacing in the yard, and picks up on his true worry right away. He asks if he’s so concerned about Yeo-wool and Kang-chi, why he doesn’t act on his feelings more assertively. Gon: “I am just her shadow. I can love her, but the choice is not mine.” And that right there is why the bodyguard never gets the girl.
The teacher wonders where Master Dam ran off to, just as we see him arrive to meet So-jung.
Yeo-wool takes Chung-jo to an abandoned house in the woods (perhaps the same one she took him to when they first met), and Chung-jo asks her name. I half expect her to stick with Dam-gun, but Yeo-wool tells her that they know each other, and that she’s Dam Pyung-joon’s daughter.
The decoy Kang-chis arrive with the real Kang-chi on their heels, and he brightly reports to Yeo-wool that he did exactly as told. But then he sees Chung-jo and rushes over to her, asking if she’s okay.
But this time she says that it’s not okay: “Nothing is okay.” She throws her arms around him and cries into his shoulder, and the other boys cough awkwardly and turn away, leaving Yeo-wool standing there alone to watch the embrace.
Kang-chi just reassures her that everything will be okay from now on, now that she’s here with him. Awww.
Gon is still standing in the courtyard at dawn, and the way he lights up when Yeo-wool arrives just kills me. She just walks past him with a reassuring pat on the shoulder as they both smile.
The rest of the boys walk in behind her, along with Chung-jo and Kang-chi. Tae-seo rushes in to see his sister, and their reunion actually gets me a little teary-eyed. They cry as they hug, and she asks what they’re going to do now. Tae-seo it’s okay; from now on, he’ll protect her.
Kang-chi listens from just outside the door, and then turns around to see Yeo-wool looking back at him.
Master Dam asks So-jung to tell him everything he knows about Kang-chi, and asks if he really can become human, and if it’s safe for him to be around people. So-jung guesses right away that he’s worried about his daughter, but says that Fate cannot be deterred by people.
Master Dam thinks back to all the events that led to this—killing Wol-ryung, letting Seo-hwa live, Yeo-wool asking for his help to save Kang-chi—and realizes that he’s the one who helped it along.
He returns home to find Chung-jo with her brother, and has a fit at Yeo-wool for disobeying yet again for Kang-chi. He says that he already had Soo-ryun’s promise to protect Chung-jo, and now they’ve put everyone in danger.
Tae-seo says that it’s his fault, since he’s the one who asked Kang-chi to rescue her, but Master Dam points out that right now the bigger question isn’t who’s to blame, but what on earth they’re going to do.
Kang-chi interrupts to declare that he’ll take Chung-jo and leave, and Yeo-wool starts to argue. But he cuts her off and says this is the best way to keep everyone alive. As long as Tae-seo gives his permission, that is. All eyes turn to him.
And then we get the flashback to his conversation with Mind Control Minion—he had taken responsibility for everything, and told them to arrest him. But the minion scoffs that it’s not Tae-seo they want; it’s Kang-chi. If he wants to keep the martial arts school and his sister safe, he’ll have to hand Kang-chi over.
Back in the present, Kang-chi asks what Tae-seo wants, and he shuts his eyes as tears fall. He asks Kang-chi to do it—to run away with his sister. Poor Yeo-wool.
Outside, Chung-jo stares at the statue that sits in the middle of the courtyard, and then remembers the same mark on the ointment that Kang-chi gave her. It triggers a memory, and she finally recalls meeting Yeo-wool as a child.
She had handed her the same little jar, and asked her to give it to “him.” I’m guessing Kang-chi, post-dog-bite? But instead, Chung-jo had thrown it into a pond in a fit of jealousy.
She looks up to see Kang-chi chasing Yeo-wool out of the meeting. He ignores her requests not to talk to him, and she finally bursts: “You said I’d be the first to know!” Aw. He says that her father has already taken on too much risk in hiding Tae-seo, and he can’t hide Chung-jo too.
She asks where he’ll go, and he says there must be somewhere for two people to live in hiding. Yeo-wool: “You said you wanted to become a person!” He’s surprised at her outburst, and tries to get a word in, “Dam-gun… Dam-gun…”
But she can’t believe his will to be human only amounted to this, and refuses to speak to him. She turns around to go, so he grabs her by the arm, “Yeo-wool-ah!”
He spins her around to face him, and her eyes start to fill with tears. It shocks him so much that he just stands there looking at her, until she can’t hold in her tears anymore and breaks away.
She shuts the door behind her, and he finally speaks to her through the door: “I’m sorry, Dam Yeo-wool. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you first that I’m leaving. And I’m sorry that I couldn’t keep my word like a man, and gave up so irresponsibly. And also… thank you, for always being on my side even if this is all I am. Enduring the death of the person who was my heaven, overcoming my circumstances even when I couldn’t accept myself—that’s all because of you. I’ll never forget it. I won’t be able to forget.”
He reaches his hand out to the door, as she cries on the other side. He walks away, and she falls to the floor in sobs.
Kang-chi sits on the stoop outside, still processing what just happened, as Chung-jo watches from a distance.
Jo Gwan-woong actually gets so pissed at his minion for letting Kang-chi slip away again that he doesn’t even listen to his new plan, and instead hires the local thug to catch Kang-chi and kill him.
Kang-chi and Chung-jo prepare to leave and say their final goodbyes, and he lingers to look around for Yeo-wool. It doesn’t go unnoticed by Chung-jo, and Gon says that she’s training and asked not to be disturbed.
Tae-seo nods at them from a distance and they turn to go. Kang-chi stops to give one last look back, as he thinks to himself: “I wanted to say one final goodbye. Be well, Dam Yeo-wool.”
They walk out, and Teacher Gong sighs that he’s really gone. Master Dam thinks to himself that if he can stop Fate this way, he will. Lee Soon-shin isn’t as happy to hear about the decision that was made without consulting him, and heads toward the school.
Kang-chi and Chung-jo walk through the woods, but it’s no time before they’re found. It can only mean Tae-seo caved, right? Sure enough, Head Minion tells someone he did well, and there’s Tae-seo, standing right next to him.
He says he delivered Kang-chi into their hands, so they have to let his sister go as promised. The minion one-ups him and hands him a sword—he’ll keep that promise as long as Tae-seo cuts Kang-chi’s throat himself. Oh you’re not gonna fall for this, right?
Tae-seo takes the sword. The minion reminds him to cut Kang-chi’s bracelet off first. Ack! Don’t do that! As they walk away, the minion tells his men to kill Tae-seo and Chung-jo as soon as it’s done. Well duh.
Yeo-wool busts out of her room frantically, full of regret. “I shouldn’t have let him go that way…” Gon asks what she can possibly do, but she says she can catch up to Kang-chi by nightfall. He reminds her that he has another woman by his side, and her eyes fill with tears as she says she’s not going to do anything, but she just has to say goodbye.
Kang-chi and Chung-jo rest for a drink of water, and she points out that he hasn’t said one word since they’ve left. She asks if she’s become a burden to him, and he balks, saying that protecting her is what he’s meant to do.
She leans on him. “I don’t know. You just seem different, like you’ve become a different person in the time I haven’t seen you. You feel far away.”
He doesn’t say anything, but just looks down at his bracelet. He thinks of Yeo-wool’s words that maybe she’ll accept him for who he is, because he’s still Kang-chi.
He screws up the nerve to tell her the truth, and says he has something to say. He adds as a prelude that he’ll do anything to protect her, even give up his life, and then tells her that he found out who his parents were.
He starts, “My father…” but of course they get interrupted by the thugs, who surround them. They chain Kang-chi by every limb, in a scene eerily similar to the one where Seo-hwa discovered Wol-ryung’s true nature.
They hold him back, and then… Tae-seo appears. Both Chung-jo and Kang-chi call out to him, but he approaches menacingly, “I’m here to cut your throat, Kang-chi-ya.” Augh, the look in poor Kang-chi’s eyes.
Back to the conversation that opened the episode, where Teacher Gong asks what he’ll do if his family doesn’t want him anymore, and if they’ve changed just as he has. Kang-chi thinks about it for a second, and then says with a smile that it’ll never happen.
Kang-chi: “Tae-seo and Chung-jo would never betray me.”
Teacher Gong: “Kang-chi-ya, humans are much weaker than you think they are.”
He looks at Tae-seo in utter shock, as a single tear falls. Teacher Gong continues, “Because they are weak, they are often cruel.”
Kang-chi asks why, Tae-seo says that Chung-jo is the only family he has left, so he had no choice, to protect her.
He asks for his forgiveness, and then approaches. He grabs his wrist, and then Kang-chi looks up in true terror, realizing what he’s about to do. He quakes as Tae-seo reaches to pull the bracelet off, and Kang-chi screams, “No! Tae-seo-ya, don’t do it. No! Please!”
Tae-seo yanks it off, and utter panic sets in. “Noooooooooo!”
Man my heart actually lurched when Kang-chi cried in panic, because I don’t want them finding out this way. It was a good use of repeated setups, to call back to Wol-ryung that way, because we immediately felt the gravity of the moment. I do think that the half-gumiho reveal is far more threatening to Kang-chi than getting stabbed again, so it was a great place to end the episode.
The problem is, Tae-seo’s setup was done all wrong, so I couldn’t be as invested in the storyline as I wanted to be. The betrayal doesn’t cut as deep as it’s supposed to because he’s still under that damned spell, and I don’t know the extent of his mental free will anymore. Is it really betrayal? Because it feels like betrayal. But is he just a spell puppet? So then is it still betrayal, or just mind control? Does he still want to kill Kang-chi to avenge his father? Because he’s not wearing blindfolds anymore and there was no explanation for that either. See what I mean?
If the point is to show human weakness and have Tae-seo cross that line to betray Kang-chi, I’m all for that—it’s in keeping with the themes from the start of the show, it’s emotionally moving, and the boys play it really well. In fact, the reason I feel for them as much as I do is because of the performances. But at the end of the day, if Tae-seo is just being manipulated and controlled, it doesn’t have the same emotional resonance. I want it to, but it’s a hair shy. They should’ve cut him loose from the spell as soon as the good guys found out about it, or written in some magical cure at the start of this episode. Because I think the betrayal from Kang-chi’s only family (and his entire reason for living and wanting to become human) is a really critical juncture for the character. Thankfully it doesn’t matter on Kang-chi’s end since he believes it to be true, and plus if they’re about to witness his gumiho transformation, he’ll have bigger problems on his hands. But urg, Tae-seo was really frustrating in this episode, because he’s either stupid or spellbound, and I’m afraid that it might be both.
I think we’re in a good place with the romance, and it helps that I like all the characters involved. So far nobody’s out to spoil someone else’s love life, and I hope it stays that way. The flashback with Yeo-wool and Chung-jo hinted that Chung-jo might have a vindictive side, but I hope that stays firmly in the past. I still don’t see why the love triangle has to ALSO have happened in the past, since I’m plenty invested in it in the present. It’s just redundant, and also ridiculous since the past version is with tiny tiny children.
But at least the love triangles finally came to the foreground in this episode. Bringing Chung-jo to the school and having Kang-chi run away with her wasn’t a huge surprise, but you figure the hero has to try the obvious route at least once. More importantly, it was a great way to bring up some feelings between Yeo-wool and Kang-chi that might’ve stayed buried otherwise. I love the moment when he notices how visibly distraught she is that he’s leaving, because it’s just simple and honest, and not something she can hide.
The thing that got to me was actually when Chung-jo voiced her fears that Kang-chi felt like he had become a different person in the time they had spent away from each other. Because he has, in the gumiho sense, but he has in other ways too, which I don’t think he even knows yet. Kang-chi and Yeo-wool are slowly developing my favorite kind of romantic conflict in dramas—the best-friends-to-lovers setup, where the bond is easy and natural, and grows slowly over time, while we’re screaming at them to wake up and smell the destiny. It’s a fun kind of screaming, I swear.