Gu Family Book: Episode 12
We’re halfway through the series and it’s a turning point for every character, as friendships, romances, and family loyalty all get tested when the beast is let loose. It’s like taking a bear that’s happy to live in the zoo, sticking it in the wild, and poking it repeatedly with a stick. Humans are dumb sometimes.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
We begin with another flashback conversation, as Dam Pyung-joon asks the monk So-jung whether Kang-chi can really become human, and if it’s safe for him to be around people.
So-jung knows he’s worried about his daughter, and tells him the same thing he told her—that their fate could end in either Yeo-wool or Kang-chi’s death. He warns Master Dam that once a fated union has started on its course, no human being can change that course. Like that’s gonna stop a dad.
Back to the mountains, where Kang-chi has just been sold out by Tae-seo (or the zombie wearing Tae-seo’s meatsuit; one can never be too sure). He does the worst possible thing and pulls Kang-chi’s magical bracelet off, thinking that it’s the source of his strength.
As soon as it comes off, the wind kicks up, and huddled in the center of the circle, Kang-chi begins to change.
Yeo-wool and Gon have been trekking through the woods in search of them, and she feels the change in the air.
Tae-seo and Chung-jo watch in horror, as Kang-chi rises in his gumiho form. Kang-chi approaches, and they shrink back in fear and disgust. Seeing an opportunity to attack, the leader of the gang lunges at Kang-chi with a giant blade, and just gets swatted away like a fly.
Tae-seo sees that and swings his sword at Kang-chi, and in defense, Kang-chi swipes his giants claws… right across Tae-seo’s chest. Oh noes. It was self-defense! Still, this is very bad.
Kang-chi looks down at his hands in horror, as Tae-seo crumples to the ground. Kang-chi comes to his senses and reaches out to him, but Chung-jo screams for him to stay away, and starts throwing stones, and leaves, and anything she can get her hands on. Oof, that’s heartbreaking. Those leaves cut deeper than any knife.
He calls out to her, but she cries, “Get away from me! Get away from me!” She screams so loud that Yeo-wool and Gon can hear where they are, and start running in their direction.
Chung-jo faints, and when Kang-chi kneels beside her, the thugs surround him, and attack. The beastly scream reverberates down the mountainside.
But by the time Gon and Yeo-wool arrive at the scene, all that’s left behind is a bloodied gang, all dead or nearly dying. Their leader ekes out Kang-chi’s name, and then Gon finds his bracelet on the ground.
There’s no sign of Kang-chi yet, but he must’ve taken off with Chung-jo, because Tae-seo is stumbling through the woods, clutching his bleeding chest and calling Chung-jo’s name.
Lee Soon-shin comes to the school to confront Master Dam about letting Kang-chi go against his orders, and Master Dam lies that he couldn’t handle the task of looking after him.
Lee Soon-shin knows it was personal, but they don’t have a chance to argue because they get word that Jo Gwan-woong’s men have been spotted closing in on Kang-chi. And also… Yeo-wool and Gon are missing.
They spot Jo Gwan-woong’s men as well, and wonder how they knew Kang-chi was headed this way. Please tell me you’ll go mole hunting as soon as this immediate danger has passed.
Now they have to race against those guys to find Kang-chi first, but Yeo-wool has an idea where he went. Sure enough, when Chung-jo opens her eyes, she’s inside the cave in the Moonlight Garden.
She shrinks back when she sees Kang-chi, who’s huddled in the corner clutching a bleeding arm (his own, I mean. Kinda funny that that needs clarifying). He manages to convince her, “It’s me—Kang-chi…”
And she gasps, “Kang-chi? Were you… not human?” He apologizes for letting her see him this way, but all she can think about is Tae-seo, and asks where he is. He just hangs his head without responding, and she asks haltingly, “Did you kill him?” He gets up to go closer, but she jumps back, screaming: “Get away! Don’t come near me!” Aaaack. Don’t kick the puppy while he’s down!
As he stands there, frozen, she cries, “You’re not Kang-chi! Kang-chi would never be a monster like you!” She takes off running, and hears Kang-chi’s terrifying growl echo in the cave behind her.
She runs for her life, as Yeo-wool and Gon run in circles trying to get to the Moonlight Garden. They realize they’ve been going in circles, and she can’t for the life of her find her way back there.
Chung-jo runs and runs and runs… right into Jo Gwan-woong’s men. He comes to the woods to see for himself, and the thugs get rounded up for questioning. It turns out they’re all alive, and they say that Kang-chi turned into a monster as soon as that bracelet came off.
Now Jo Gwan-woong puts all the pieces together—Wol-ryung and Seo-hwa had a child. He realizes that it was Seo-hwa’s murderous glare he saw in Kang-chi’s eyes that night that Park Mu-sol died, and he murmurs to himself how such a thing is possible.
His men drag Tae-seo back, and he kneels before Jo Gwan-woong to beg for his sister’s freedom. But he just kicks Tae-seo away since he’s not needed anymore, and instead threatens Chung-jo with her brother’s death if she doesn’t tell him where Kang-chi is.
She swears that she doesn’t remember how to get back there, so Jo Gwan-woong says her brother will hang tomorrow, and they get dragged apart, screaming for each other. And just to tie up loose ends, he has the entire gang slaughtered anyway.
He goes to confront Dam Pyung-joon about letting Seo-hwa live twenty years ago, leading to Kang-chi’s birth. Master Dam’s silence is enough to convince Jo Gwan-woong that his suspicions were right, and he vows to find out why he’s protecting Kang-chi.
Yeo-wool can’t bring herself to turn back, knowing what a hard time Kang-chi must be having without his bracelet.
Once Kang-chi calms down a little, he decides to head back down to retrieve the bracelet, and finds the gang of dead bounty hunters. Aw man, you totally didn’t murder these guys, even though it really looks that way.
There’s no bracelet, but he looks off in the distance, “Yeo-wool-ah.” Can you… smell her?
As he starts to walk away, the leader of the gang stirs awake and begs for Kang-chi to save him. He growls, “Why should I? The world would be better off with you dead.” The man swears he was wrong and pleads for his life.
Kang-chi turns back and grabs the man’s own dagger and raises it…
Cut to: nighttime at the martial arts school, as the guards take turn on watch, on high alert for Jo Gwan-woong’s men. Kang-chi sneaks in, though he’s not doing a very good job of it, considering, yunno, he lives there.
The men surround him and demand to see his face, so he has no choice but to show it, and they all gasp. Master Dam comes out, and seeing Kang-chi this way immediately makes him think of Wol-ryung.
Kang-chi says he’s here to see Yeo-wool, and asks to be let in. Master Dam refuses to let him see his daughter looking that way, and turns him down. Not a good idea.
Kang-chi growls, and one of the men lunges at him like an idiot. Kang-chi pins him to the ground by the neck, and refuses to listen to Master Dam’s orders to let him go. He says he’ll kill anyone who tries to kill him first, so Master Dam sighs that he has no choice then, but to cut his throat himself.
He reaches for his sword, but Yeo-wool arrives just in time to call out to her father and stop him. She runs to stand between them. Dad argues that Kang-chi is not human, and demands that she get out of the way.
Yeo-wool: “No, I don’t want to.” Dayum. The moment of defiance shocks him, and Gon, whose jaw drops. She continues, “You’re the one who told me that there’s no such thing as bad people, that there are only bad circumstances. Kang-chi is the same!”
She argues that Kang-chi isn’t bad, and begs him to put away his sword. “Kang-chi did nothing wrong! It’s not his fault!” Moved by her words, Kang-chi loosens his grip and stands up.
But Dad refuses to give in, and orders her to move aside. Kang-chi’s anger starts to bubble up to the surface again…
And then, without a word, Yeo-wool turns around and marches right over to Kang-chi, and takes his hand—his bloody, beasty claw-hand—and stands by his side. No. Way. Everyone goes slackjawed, and no one’s more surprised than Kang-chi.
She interlaces their fingers and holds his hand, and then answers her father, “No. I won’t stand down. Ever.” Why are you so cool?
Kang-chi looks at her, thinking to himself, “Yeo-wool-ah…” and as he does, his eyes change back, his veins recede, and his claws disappear. They all see it—how he changes back to regular old Kang-chi before their eyes.
As they stand there looking at each other, So-jung’s answer to Master Dam is repeated in voiceover: “A fate that has already begun cannot be undone by human strength.” They smile into each other’s eyes, and Master Dam finally takes his hand off his sword.
Lee Soon-shin sits down with Kang-chi in the aftermath, and asks what happened. As a tear falls, he says that his only family betrayed him, threw stones at him, and called him a monster.
Lee Soon-shin argues: “What matters is not how others see you, but how you see yourself.” Kang-chi says he can’t change the fact that he’s half-beast, and when Lee Soon-shin asks what he wants to live as, Kang-chi just wallows in despair, not seeing a point to any of it.
Lee Soon-shin: “A man needs only a friend to share his thoughts, a loved one to share his heart, and a country for which he can give his life to defend, and he can say he has lived the best of lives.”
Kang-chi’s still on his pity parade though, and says that there’s no one who would share those things with someone like him, who has the dirty blood of a beast running through his veins. But thankfully Lee Soon-shin isn’t about to let the pity party win, and reminds him that what determines the kind of person he is isn’t his blood, but his will. So he asks again, “What do you want to live as?”
Yeo-wool paces in the yard until Kang-chi comes out, and she rushes over, worried that he got yelled at. He just gazes at her in wonder, and finally asks, “How… how is it that you’re so good to me?”
She thinks about it and just answers in her honest way: “Because… I just want to do anything for you. That’s how I feel right now.” As they stand there, we hear Kang-chi’s answer to Lee Soon-shin in voiceover: “I want to become a person. Not half like this, but a whole person.”
It moves Lee Soon-shin to tears, and he takes his hand as Kang-chi breaks down in sobs like a little boy.
Back in the woods, the leader of the gang wakes up, alive and well. Yay, I knew Kang-chi would do the right thing. Flashback to earlier, when Kang-chi took the dagger and cut his own hand to pour his blood in the wound.
He sighs that he doesn’t know why he’s saving someone like him or if it’s even going to work, but it does, and the blue lights of healing appear, making him pass out in shock. I guess he needs a name, now that Kang-chi saved his life. Ma Bong-chul it is. Don’t make me regret Kang-chi’s good deed, Bong-chul.
Jo Gwan-woong has Chung-jo brought into his room, and wastes no time offering her a deal, with her brother’s life hanging in the balance: “Become mine, and I will become yours.”
She says she’d rather die than be with the man who killed her parents, but he pulls her close and says her father died for Kang-chi and her mother abandoned her, and the only person she can rely on in this world is herself. He tells her to do whatever it takes to survive in this world. I would almost agree with you, except for the part where you’re a rapist.
She fights back, but it’s no use, and he fucking rapes her. God I hate him. And then to drive the point home, we cut to a flower falling from a tree. Seriously, a fallen flower? This is what we’re going with? The metaphor inserts on this show make me laugh out loud, and not in a good way.
In the morning, Yeo-wool braces herself to face her grumpy dad, and tries the bright and cheery approach. It doesn’t go well. He asks how she could do such a thing, and insists that this isn’t a fate she can handle.
But she says that if Kang-chi finds the Gu Family Book and becomes human, his fate will change and so will the monk’s prediction. “I won’t avoid facing the present just because of a future that may or may not happen.”
She says she’s going to face things head-on, because that’s what he taught her. Poor Dad. She keeps using his own life lessons against him. Kang-chi broods in his room and just keeps looking at his hand, thinking of the moment Yeo-wool stood up to defend him.
Chung-jo puts her clothes on in the morning with this deadened look in her eyes, and then the bastard has Tae-seo brought in so he can see the price she paid to spare his life. That’s just cruel.
Chung-jo runs out, and Tae-seo goes insane, grabbing a sword and swinging wildly. Jo Gwan-woong doesn’t even flinch, and his minion pins Tae-seo down.
Even after all that, he orders Tae-seo to find out what Lee Soon-shin is using the silver for, and threatens that Chung-jo will pay an even bigger price if he doesn’t come through. Okay, this needs to stop. It’s getting ridiculous. At some point, someone’s going to stop being an idiot about listening to the bad guy, right?
Chung-jo returns to the gisaeng house on her own, and even threatens Wol-sun for the head gisaeng title as soon as she steps foot inside. She goes straight to Soo-ryun and asks with tears in her eyes if it’s really true that this isn’t the end.
She says she wants to become a gisaeng (the kind who specializes as an entertainer, like Soo-ryun). “I want to become a gisaeng and live my life over again.”
Tae-seo returns to the martial arts school, battered and bloodied, and collapses at Master Dam’s feet. Kang-chi sees him and turns away, thinking of his betrayal, but then he remembers Lord Park’s dying words for him to protect Tae-seo and Chung-jo, and he stops.
Tae-seo tells Master Dam that he always wanted to become like his father, but he’s discovered that in a world where his father doesn’t exist, he amounts to nothing. He cries that he hates how pathetic and weak he is.
Kang-chi interrupts in a brusque tone, “How long are you going to whine and cry?” Ha. He tells Tae-seo to look at him, but he refuses and turns his head. So Kang-chi grabs by the collar to stand him up, and demands that he look him straight in the eye.
Kang-chi: “Please, you have to look at me. How else will I be able to show you my true face? What happened to me, why I look like a monster, how scared I am, how lonely I feel… I want to tell somebody those things. But you’re the only person I could tell them to! So please, look at me, Tae-seo-ya. Look at me!”
They’re both crying by now, and so am I, and then Tae-seo finally turns to look him in the eye. He screams in murderous rage and starts hitting Kang-chi over and over and over again.
Yeo-wool and Gon run in to stop it, but Master Dam puts a hand up, so they stand back. Tae-seo wails on Kang-chi, but he just takes it, until Tae-seo gets it all out of his system, and stops, fist in midair.
Kang-chi: “That’s right. Friends look at each other like this, Tae-seo-ya.” It breaks him, and he collapses in tears. Kang-chi hugs him as they both cry. Awwww.
And then suddenly Teacher Gong plays exposition fairy, to say that Kang-chi’s sincere heart eventually broke Tae-seo’s spell. It did? My god, that spell was handled SO BADLY. I can’t even.
Anyway, Teacher Gong asks what Master Dam plans to do next, and he says it’s time to face Jo Gwan-woong head-on. Teacher Gong likes the sound of that, and wonders if it’s time to unite the Men of Honor.
Jo Gwan-woong gets word that the Men of Honor are gathering in support of Lee Soon-shin, and it starts to worry him. He gets a message from an ally of his own though, which makes him smile.
Yeo-wool announces that she’s been assigned to Kang-chi Patrol by her father (Aw is that his way of giving in?) and Kang-chi pretends to be put out by it, until Gon shows up to say he’s also on the team, and then he really scowls.
She hands him his first assignment: to count the beans in a sack. Ha, is this more like a keep-the-gumiho-busy-with-useless-tasks sort of assignment? She sits next to him while he counts them one at a time, and asks if he knows anything about his birth parents. He loses his concentration and has to start all over, and she just smiles.
Jo Gwan-woong’s visitor arrives from Japan, with a mysterious woman in tow, who’s kept veiled and announced as the wife of an official. He looks at the sedan curiously.
Suddenly a wind blows through, and Kang-chi looks up, “What was that?” Omo. Omo. Is it…?
Deep in the mountains, a patch of green vine starts to yellow and die, and then it spreads, until it reaches Wol-ryung’s face. His eyes dart open, glowing a fiery red.
Kang-chi stands up, rattled. He can feel it. Can he feel it?
Wol-ryung’s back! Okay, so he’s probably evil, and that’s going to mess with Kang-chi’s head so badly I don’t even want to think about it, but still… he’s back! And just in time too, because the Jo Gwan-woong pulling the Park siblings’ puppet strings in tandem was just about driving me over the edge. We really need a new arc up in here, and the return of Daddy Gumiho is going to be a huge relief. I’m glad we’re moving forward in other ways too, as the good guys start to gather their forces and new characters come through town.
I feel like Veiled Lady’s arrival being in lockstep with Wol-ryung’s awakening cannot be a coincidence, and I’m worried that it means she might be Seo-hwa. I hope that’s too far-fetched, but who knows. I’d rather her be a witch or some other magic-wielding enemy, because frankly, one evil reincarnated parent is enough to deal with.
This had better be the end of Tae-seo’s spell-zombie days. That whole arc was so mishandled it makes me tear my hair out, because the emotional beats between Kang-chi and Tae-seo were all there—everything from the heartbreaking betrayal in the last episode to their bromantic makeup in this one hit the right beats and made me care about their fractured relationship. But that goddamned spell came and went as it pleased, with no logical rules, no reason, and no true consequence. And when it broke, instead of being shown the moment where love conquers magic, we have to be told after the fact. WHAT. What a wasted opportunity. Could there be no CG spared? One poof over his eyeballs? Anything?
Everything that happened with Tae-seo would’ve been better without the spell in the first place—true betrayal would make Kang-chi’s forgiveness all the more poignant, and his redemption would mean more. I’m just glad it’s over, because I do think their friendship has all the right ingredients for something great, and maybe now that everyone has his own free will, we can get somewhere interesting.
We knew this day was coming for Chung-jo, but damn, that didn’t make it any easier. I sincerely hope that she’s the one who gets to stab Jo Gwan-woong someday, but in the meantime, her resolve and her darker side are some great character developments for her, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Soo-ryun can make of her.
But the most moving scene of the episode was really Yeo-wool standing up to her father and taking Kang-chi’s hand. That it comes on the heels of Tae-seo’s betrayal and Chung-jo’s abject terror at seeing his true face—it makes a really strong impact. And though she’s doing it to save him from Dad, what she really does is save him from himself yet again. I’m pretty sure Kang-chi would give into his pity party without her, that’s for sure. While it’s understandable the way everyone else reacts to Kang-chi’s gumiho face, it’s the fact that he’s so ashamed that he can’t look at himself that kills me. That’s why it works so well when it’s brought back around in his speech to Tae-seo. But it’s Yeo-wool who first does what even Kang-chi can’t do—face him as he is, look him in the eyes, and hold his hand, beast or man. Now that’s love.