Okay, I’m happier with this episode. There’s a nice balance of character development, epic face-offs, cute couple moments, and emotional payoffs for conflicts that we’ve been circling for a while. And no, I’m not just happier because there are nekkid hijinks. At least… not entirely.
EPISODE 20 RECAP
As per her arrangement with Tae-seo, Seo-hwa sends her assassin to kill Jo Gwan-woong that night. The killer gets the jump on him, and he’s sooo close to getting a sword through his skull… when someone else shows up and kills the killer before he can kill. Dammit.
The second killer steps into the light… and it’s Trusty Minion Numero Uno, back from the nearly-dead. I don’t know why, but I’m happy for you two. You seemed lonely without each other. Jo Gwan-woong just yells at the poor faithful minion for taking so long. Oh just admit that you missed him, you big evil lug.
They run for safety, but things go from bad to worse when they discover that their dead guards have been sucked dry—this is no ninja-killing. And then as the wind blows through, an ominous dark figure approaches.
Minion knows exactly what they’re dealing with, but this is the first time Jo Gwan-woong has seen Wol-ryung in twenty years, and he goes slackjawed. “I saw you die…”
At the same time, Master Dam points his sword at Kang-chi and yells at him to take his bracelet off because he’s going to attack. Kang-chi just stands there dumbfounded.
Wol-ryung knocks out all of Jo Gwan-woong’s remaining men without so much as batting an eyelash, and asks how he knows him—is he the person who made him this way? Jo Gwan-woong is confused that Wol-ryung can’t remember, but he’s quick to point the blame where it belongs: “Yoon Seo-hwa! She did this to you!” Wol-ryung repeats the name to himself and then demands to know who she is.
Yeo-wool goes to see Seo-hwa that night and just asks outright if Seo-hwa can’t return to Kang-chi: “You’re his mother, aren’t you? I don’t know the reasons behind why you left him in the river, but can’t you return to him as his mother now?” She says that Kang-chi has so many scars from his youth, but couldn’t they start over now, to try and mend them?
Back at school, Kang-chi refuses to fight Master Dam. He doesn’t have much of a choice though, because he just attacks sword-first and Kang-chi has to fight back defensively.
Master Dam: “Defeat me. If you can’t, I will cut you down.” Waitaminute. You mean that figuratively, right?
Teacher Gong tells little Sung that Kang-chi is about to face Master Dam’s Extreme Sword Training—the kind that only ends when one sword cuts down the other… and only one man is left alive.
Wut. Dad, there’s no need to be suicidal about it! Whatever happened to teaching a grasshopper the ways of the sword, yunno, with schooling? Teacher Gong explains that a master’s job is to make his disciples strong, and risking his life to do so is the height of what a master can do, and something he can only do but once in his lifetime. Yeaaaah… could it be because of the DYING?
Flashback to Master Dam making his decision; Gon protests. Master says it’s his fault that Kang-chi’s father ended up this way, and the only thing he can do is to make Kang-chi stronger. He apologizes to Gon that his final training will not be for him, and asks him to bring Kang-chi here.
Back to the fight, where Kang-chi looks up at Master Dam, hurt and confused. Master Dam just continues to provoke him without explanation, even slicing him in the arm to spill blood.
Kang-chi finally accepts that he’s serious and takes off his bracelet and tosses it to Gon. Master Dam grips his sword and both men growl as they get ready to charge.
Seo-hwa admits plainly to her associates that she sent assassins to kill Jo Gwan-woong last night, and declares that Tae-seo will take over Jo Gwan-woong’s role in their plans. But Pil-mok argues that she’s jeopardizing political gain for her personal vendetta.
He tells her to step outside, where she’s shocked to find Jo Gwan-woong alive and well. Clearly you underestimated his cockroachy abilities. She still doesn’t realize how things have shifted during the night, and orders her men to kill Jo Gwan-woong right now.
They surround the pair of them and draw their swords… but when she looks, they’re all pointed at her. Pil-mok steps over to Jo Gwan-woong’s side, which isn’t even a surprise to anyone but Seo-hwa, and asks her to recant her order.
Yeo-wool sneaks back into her room in the morning, where her teacher is standing there waiting to catch her red-handed. She asks if Teacher ratted her out to Dad, and she sighs that she couldn’t even if she wanted to—he’s been training all night without rest.
At that, Yeo-wool comes tearing out to the courtyard, where Kang-chi and Dad are running themselves ragged in a fight. Teacher Gong stops her from intervening—this is Master Dam’s decision.
Inside Thunderdome, Kang-chi is busy running and spinning and hiding, and we find out that he’s basically spent the whole night dodging, but not fighting back. Master Dam calls him out on it, but Kang-chi says he doesn’t want to fight him.
Master Dam: “If you can’t fight me, how do you expect to fight your father?” It’s only THEN that Kang-chi realizes what all this is for. He’s not exactly the brightest bulb, our Gumiho Baby.
Master Dam isn’t wrong—he asks how Kang-chi plans to defeat his father when he can’t even fight him. Gon tells Kang-chi to use all his strength. He says no one here really knows the full extent of Kang-chi’s abilities, and it’s up to him to bring that to the surface.
Gon: “Master is trying to awaken that in you. Use your full potential strength. Anything less than your sincerity in that is an affront to Master.” So Kang-chi finally fights back, but Master Dam tells him he’s still weak, and orders him to remember the things that brought out his full strength.
Kang-chi thinks, and realizes that all the times when Yeo-wool was in danger, or his father was being attacked, he had called up an inner strength. He draws that out and attacks Master Dam, and gains the upper hand.
But when the moment comes to strike, Kang-chi hesitates. And seeing that window of opportunity, Master Dam skewers him right through the middle with his sword. Aaack. “Never hesitate. The moment you hesitate, you die, and so do the people you wish to protect.”
Master Dam: “Strength is compassion fighting against cruelty. Strength is simultaneously carrying warm ties of friendship and cold duty. That is why—to be strong is to be lonely. And only when you can bear those things, can you win.”
He tells Kang-chi to return when his wound is healed, and they take a break.
Pil-mok gives Jo Gwan-woong a gift to try and mend bridges, and he lights up as he peeks inside the box. A gun? We’re giving the evil bastard rapist sociopath A GUN? And in exchange, Jo Gwan-woong tells him all about Lee Soon-shin’s turtle ship plans.
Yeo-wool comes to check on Kang-chi and brings him a change of clothes. She totally undresses him to check his stab wound, in the most innocent clinical way—but it leaves him completely flustered. Her lack of awareness isn’t exactly believable, but it is cute.
She asks why he’s putting the shirt back on when she brought him the new one to change into, so he takes a deep breath and gets ready to undress, and then decides he’ll turn around to do it, only to feel even weirder that she’s still watching him.
He has to instruct her to turn around before taking his shirt off, and then realizes he has to reach over to get the other shirt. She fumbles to help him, and they end up touching hands in the middle… so she ends up seeing him nekkid anyway. Ha.
He hurriedly puts the shirt on while she bursts into laughter, and then he sidles up behind her to tease that she likes half-naked men. She says defensively that she doesn’t like ALL half-naked men, to which he coos, “So do you like it because it’s me?”
He squishes her face in his hands and gives her a cute little kiss, and he either kisses her three times or the director’s got another case of repeato fever.
He hugs her and asks if she thinks he can be strong, worried that he can’t handle what’s to come. Yeo-wool: “You’re already strong. You’re the only one who doesn’t know it yet.” Aw.
Gon comes by to check on Kang-chi, and when there’s no answer at the door, he swings it open… but Kang-chi and Yeo-wool are sitting at a desk like good little kids, pretending like there wasn’t just a mad scramble to un-hug.
He announces a visitor, and Chung-jo comes in to say that Seo-hwa is in danger, and planning to leave. We see that Pil-mok secured her a boat and left her no choice but to go, arguing that she was the one who betrayed them, and not the other way around.
Kang-chi says he doesn’t care to see her, Yeo-wool urges him to reconsider—this might be his last chance to see his mother and she doesn’t want him to have regrets.
He whirls around with tears firing up, and says she’s a woman who threw him away in a river because he was so disgusting, and then when she met him twenty years later, said it wasn’t any of her concern whether he was stomped to death. “What kind of mother is that?”
He cries that she’s long been erased from his life, since the moment he was thrown in a river. He says the word mother is wasted on her, and begs Yeo-wool to never mention her again.
He stalks off, almost turns back because he feels bad, but just walks away. Chung-jo leaves behind the shirt she’s been sewing for Kang-chi and goes without a word.
Tae-seo gets a mystery letter, and it’s really too bad that his character has been reduced to Pensive Stare Man, because that’s all he’s been doing for entire episodes.
Wol-ryung meets Jo Gwan-woong at the inn and demands to be told where Seo-hwa is, per their agreement. Jo Gwan-woong wants something in exchange for the information so Wol-ryung just grabs his throat and says he won’t kill him then. Serves you right for thinking you can make a deal with a demon.
Kang-chi goes to see Bong-chul, and as they share a chicken he asks how Bong-chul’s mother is doing. He smiles forlornly as Bong-chul chatters away about his nagging mom, and muses, “That’s what mothers are like, huh? They worry, and nag.”
Bong-chul wonders why he’s so long in the face, and guesses that he must’ve had his heart broken by that flower-young-master he’s always with. Pffffft. Kang-chi: “Who?” Bong-chul: “That pretty boy you’re always with.”
Yeo-wool pops up behind him: “Who me?” Kang-chi laughs and feels justified that Yeo-wool looks like a boy to other people, and Bong-chul gapes, “What? Is he going around pretending to be a girl?” Hee.
I love that Kang-chi is more concerned about being right than actually correcting Bong-chul about his liking boys. Yeo-wool punishes them both by yanking them up by their ears.
On their way back home, Yeo-wool says she came to tell him something, and admits that she went to go see his mother last night.
We watch Seo-hwa leave the Hundred Year Inn, and exchange a knowing nod with Tae-seo before making her exit. Pil-mok the Backstabber does as expected and orders his men to “take care of it” without mistakes.
Back at school, it’s time for Kang-chi to face off with Master Dam, and this time he comes prepared for battle. He says he’ll finish this quickly.
In voiceover we hear what Yeo-wool told him about her meeting with Seo-hwa. “She said she’s a sinner.” Flashback to last night: Seo-hwa tells her that she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in twenty years because of what she did to Wol-ryung and Kang-chi. Seo-hwa: “I cannot ask for that child’s forgiveness. I cannot return.”
Yeo-wool tells Kang-chi that he needs to first forgive her, for his mother to be able to return to him.
Back to the fight, where Kang-chi asks what the sword is to Master Dam. His answer is simple: “Everything.” They run at each other full force, and this time Kang-chi doesn’t hold back.
He gets in close and raises his hand… and takes a swipe. Everyone gasps. Blood trickles down, and Master Dam’s sword falls to the ground.
When we pull back we see that it’s just his arm that’s covered in blood, and Kang-chi says he’s defeated his sword, so he wins. Kang-chi breaks into a smile, and Master Dam’s face changes too—he looks surprised.
Kang-chi hurriedly runs out to catch up to his mother, and Yeo-wool looks back at Dad as if to ask for permission. Dad lets her go (yay) and sends Gon with them.
Teacher Gong bandages up his arm and asks what it was he saw after the fight that surprised him, and Master Dam says Kang-chi has figured it out.
This time we see what Master Dam saw—Kang-chi won the fight and smiled, and then changed back to his human face without his bracelet and without Yeo-wool. He says it might be time to send him off on his quest to find the Gu Family Book. Oh that thing. Are we still doing that?
Meanwhile Seo-hwa’s entourage doesn’t get very far before they’re ambushed. The woman who played her decoy is her last line of defense, and when they come for Seo-hwa, she dies protecting her.
The assassins have her surrounded, which is the perfect timing for the Three Musketeers to come to her rescue. They stand there surveying the scene for a hilariously long time, arguing about how to divide up the opponents evenly.
Yeo-wool tells Kang-chi that she and Gon can handle the baddies, and tells him to get Mom out of here. I love this trio of avengers stuff. They’re so cute.
Fight! A few men drag Seo-hwa away in the fray, but Kang-chi swoops in with a flying kick and saves her. Aw, he’s so much like Old Wol-ryung right now. Speak of the devil—Wol-ryung arrives and finds the empty sedan but no sign of Seo-hwa.
Kang-chi puts out a hand to help Seo-hwa up, but she grabs a sword instead and starts to walk away, saying that she has things to do, and people to kill. He begs her to come with him, but she screams in a murderous rage that she has to kill the people who did this to her family, to his father and to her.
Kang-chi: “WHAT ABOUT ME?!” *whimper*
He grabs her arm and asks with pleading eyes, “Do you only see the people you have to kill? Do you not see me?!” Waaaah.
“Do you not see the person who ran for his life to save you? Do you not see your son? I’m your son. But I’m your son, Mother!” She breaks down in tears at his words, and finally drops the sword.
She clasps his face in her hands and weeps, crying that she’s sorry that he has a mother like her. He cries and says it one more time: “Mother.” She calls his name and hugs him close, as they both cry.
Things start to get sticky for Yeo-wool and Gon, because the ninjas just keep coming. Are they magically multiplying or something? I’m worried that Gon is so busy protecting Yeo-wool that he’s going to miss something, but suddenly a masked swordsman comes flying in to join them on their side.
Gon immediately recognizes Tae-seo by his moves, and they make a plan to get Yeo-wool out safely.
Kang-chi brings Seo-hwa to So-jung’s house where he’s supposed to meet up with the others, and turns to go check on them. She grabs his hand and tells him to be careful, and he smiles at the first word of motherly concern he’s ever heard in his whole life.
He leaves, and now I’m terrified she’s going to die. He takes a few steps, when suddenly something makes him stop. Oh crap, can he feel Wol-ryung coming?
Seo-hwa looks up at the sound of footsteps, and gasps to see Wol-ryung walking toward her. Her eyes fill with tears and she trembles as she asks, “Wol-ryung? Wol-ryung, is that you?”
He just looks back at her coldly, curiously, and asks who she is. “Do you know me?” She just repeats his name as tears fall. And then… Kang-chi steps in between them. Oh noes.
He looks up at Wol-ryung defiantly. “No. No more. Don’t kill anyone else. I won’t let you kill anymore. I… am going to stop you… Wol-ryung.”
Wol-ryung narrows his eyes at the challenge, as Seo-hwa looks from father to son. Kang-chi’s eyes fill with tears, but he stands his ground.
Okay, that was a pretty awesome cliffhanger. It was nice to have Kang-chi reunite with Seo-hwa before facing off with Wol-ryung because now there are bigger emotional stakes in the showdown, and even though I don’t think Seo-hwa is long for this world now that she’s served her story purpose, I find myself concerned for her survival. The ending really plays up the idea of the brave kid standing up to his tyrannical father, and I think the emotional weight of that comes from the reunion with Mom. Go figure, what one tearful outburst of mommy-longing can do to make you care.
I don’t find Wol-ryung nearly as interesting since he got black-veined and became Amnesiac the Destroyer, but I’m hoping for a turnaround late in the game. I still expect Kang-chi to have to kill him, but wouldn’t it be more epic if he had to do it knowing the old Wol-ryung was still in there somewhere? I know, I’m a sadist. But that’s how you get the real emotional punch out of the situation.
Though Master Dam’s epic training session didn’t have to go on for as long as it did, I’m glad that he finally got to do something useful on this show other than ground his daughter. I was starting to forget that he’s the real teacher around here. I’ve never disliked Dad, but he always just seemed like an oversight—a character you move around like a chess piece but don’t give any layer or personality to. But there was finally something to root for in him when he took it upon himself to train Kang-chi for battle. I didn’t expect him to die, but I believed he was ready to, which is the more important part. Because killing your father-in-law is no way to start a relationship, and I’m pretty sure Kang-chi knows that. I do wish the sequence had just gone on without a break though, because what was the point of losing all the tension you had built up from two weary men who fought all night until daybreak? Shooting yourself the foot for no reason.
The thing I like about the way this show doles out angst is that between Kang-chi and Yeo-wool, someone always says the thing you want them to say. If Kang-chi’s having a pity party, Yeo-wool puts a stop to it. And when Seo-hwa is so blind with vengeance and self-loathing that she pushes her own son away, he just says out loud the thing we’re all thinking: And what about the son you could love now, instead of just adding him to the list of regrets and things that went wrong in your life? A hero who kicks ass is great, but a hero who speaks his mind is better. That quiet suffering? It’s for the birds.
- Gu Family Book: Episode 19
- Gu Family Book: Episode 18
- Gu Family Book: Episode 17
- Gu Family Book: Episode 16
- Gu Family Book: Episode 15
- Gu Family Book: Episode 14
- Gu Family Book: Episode 13
- Gu Family Book: Episode 12
- Gu Family Book: Episode 11
- Gu Family Book: Episode 10
- Gu Family Book: Episode 9
- Gu Family Book: Episode 8
- Gu Family Book: Episode 7
- Gu Family Book: Episode 6
- Gu Family Book: Episode 5
- Gu Family Book: Episode 4
- Gu Family Book: Episode 3
- Gu Family Book: Episode 2
- Gu Family Book: Episode 1