Jackpot: Episode 11
Our prince and pauper end up realizing that they’re on the same side this episode, and if there’s one thing Jackpot has gotten right from the start, it’s their odd couple relationship as unwilling friends. I have a feeling that the time for antagonism will come, or maybe not even then—when they’re facing such a common enemy in Injwa, they don’t have the luxury to turn on each other. To defeat an all-knowing, all-seeing villain, they’ll need all the help they can get.
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N-Sonic – “Excalibur” [ Download ]
EPISODE 11 RECAP
After Dae-gil declares his intention to crush every gambling room in the capital, he explains the white mask he’s been donning as part of his tactic to know the enemy he’s fighting against (aka Injwa).
Injwa finds this thought amusing, and wonders if Dae-gil even knows the difference between his enemies and allies. But then he sighs, musing that Dae-gil hasn’t managed to break out of the shell his thirst for revenge has put him in. “It’s time for you to get over your father’s death,” he adds. O rly? How about you get over all your lifelong grudges?
He says this while offering the white mask back to Dae-gil, who deliberately drops it and steps on it. “If I was only thinking about avenging my father, you would have died a hundred times by my hands,” Dae-gil responds. He needs Injwa, just the way he knows Injwa needs him.
Not liking the idea of someone presuming to know something about him, Injwa challenges Dae-gil as to what he thinks he really knows about him. “I know one thing for certain: You can never be an ally. Not to me, the king, or the citizens of this nation.”
The Three Gamblers Injwa’s amassed on his side bristle at the challenge, but declare that they’re more than ready to face whatever Dae-gil throws at them. Before leaving, Dae-gil makes sure to throw over his shoulder, “Remember, I let you live today,” to a very unhappy Injwa.
Looking at the white mask sends Injwa back into his memories as a young nobleman learning the teachings of Confucius and Mencius from his grandfather. But he’d come to realize that the world was much different from what those teachings would have him believe.
After witnessing poverty, plague, and various other societal ills, Injwa got himself in trouble for speaking his mind on a civil exam. His “advice,” as he called it, got him a sound beating by the higher-ups, which led him to the conclusion that no matter how much Confucius and Mencius were taught, their society would never be able to implement those teachings to the fullest, and the citizens would never be considered owners of their own nation.
Everything changed when his family was killed as part of the Gapsul Hwanguk, a purge of anyone who backed the deposed Queen Inhyun. Though even the family’s servants were killed and his father cut down right before his eyes, Injwa Lite was left alive, for reasons we’ll never know.
Injwa enters his own flashback as an adult and locks eyes with his devastated past self, handing him the white mask he’d use to hide behind until the day he could take his revenge. Now, he believes Dae-gil is walking the same path that he once took.
Outside, a quick cut and jarring music accompany Jin-ki’s challenge to Dae-gil, and Dae-gil’s inhumanly quick, nonviolent reaction. Jin-ki then expresses his doubts to Injwa about him wanting to make Dae-gil king (because that’s a thing now), though Injwa defends his decision as the only rational one.
For his plan to work, he needs a political outsider, one who’s hit rock bottom and knows what it’s like to be a suffering citizen. Dae-gil fits that bill perfectly, since his royal blood gives him claim to the throne.
We still don’t know who the old man is that Prince Yeoning sought out, only that he has a ledger of merchant misdeeds that can be used against Injwa. He was planning to sell the ledger to Injwa for five hundred nyang, but if Yeoning wants it, he’ll have to pay a thousand.
Five hundred for the ledger itself, the other five for the old man’s life, since Injwa won’t let him live if he gives it to Yeoning. The prince agrees on the condition that the old man testify in front of the other ministers, and suddenly the old man isn’t concerned about the price anymore. All he wants in return for the ledger is for Yeoning to protect him.
Yeoning entrusts the task of protecting the old man to his right-hand man, since the elder can’t be allowed to die before he can testify. (He’s going to die before he testifies, isn’t he.)
When the prince hears that Dae-gil is in town, he invites him for a drink at the gibang. His first question is to ask whether Dae-gil is at all curious about Dam-seo, to which Dae-gil replies that he’s got bigger things to worry about. They both know he’s talking about Injwa.
There’s a funny moment where Yeoning is scandalized by Dae-gil’s lack of manners when he just holds out his cup for Yeoning to fill, made even funnier by Dae-gil’s unapologetic nature. But then it’s back to business, with Yeoning saying, “Even though we cannot be friends, I thought we could become comrades for the same cause.”
As for Yeoning’s perception that Dae-gil wants Injwa for revenge, Dae-gil parrots what he said to Injwa, in that Injwa would already be dead if all he wanted was revenge. But as for what else he wants, he won’t divulge them, neither will Yeoning divulge his own.
Regardless, Dae-gil would rather opt out of Yeoning’s alliance, which surprises the prince. When he gets up, Yeoning can’t help but notice the sword at his side, the one his father gave him, and asks if Dae-gil knows the meaning behind it.
In flashback, Dae-gil remembers Chae-gun’s words to him as he practiced with that sword: “There are swords that kill, and swords that save. Which will you hold in your hands?” In the present, Dae-gil’s answer sounds completely unrelated to what we just saw, as he tells Yeoning that the meaning behind the sword is to that its owner should take one decisive action, rather than just thinking about it a hundred times over.
Prince Yeoning comes to court with detailed requests: the first is that they abolish cruel and unusual punishments like execution and forced branding, the second is that they bring back the sinmungo, a large drum hung on a palace tower which allowed the citizens to beat it so that their complaints could be heard by the king, and the third is that they change the gyunyeokbeop, or Military Service Tax, to extend to everyone. (The tax was put in place to allow commoners to pay the government in cloth in order to receive exemption from military services, but was a very corrupt system and abusive to the commoners who used it.)
The only reaction he gets from his father is the question: “If I were to do all that you say, would my reign become more peaceful?” But Yeoning’s not done, and has one last request, pertaining to the ledger book the old man gave him. He seeks to abolish the monopoly of the merchant class over trade, in order to open trade to everyone.
Dae-gil spots Grandpa Eyepatch in the market, who couldn’t be more happy to see his adopted grandson. Their happy reunion doesn’t last long—a group of official thugs comes to take everything Eyepatch is selling, since he’s not licensed to sell goods within so many miles of the capital. If only there were someone to stand up for merchant rights in the royal court…
Over dinner, Dae-gil gifts his grandpa with a hefty bag of money he’s made, which makes him very happy. But it’s not for free—Eyepatch has made him a detailed map of the capital, and all its key casinos. Each one houses a financial backer for Injwa, like Hong Mae, the shamanistic gibang madam, and the Three Gamblers.
The Three Gamblers are Injwa’s legs, and he’ll have to cut those off first, just like he promised. Yook Gwishin is first on his list, since he was the one who brought so much misery upon the poor slave girl, Seol-im.
Meanwhile, Prince Yeoning and Crown Prince Yoon discuss the merits of the changes the former’s trying to bring about with the merchant ban, with Yeoning arguing that the ban only benefits the rich and leaves the people to starve.
Even if his older brother is to listen to him, which it seems like he might, he needs the other half of the ledger first. Yeoning will have to depend on the old man to act as a witness to what’s not written in the ledger, which is pretty much everything that would make it damning (it only lists the people who gave bribes, not who accepted or how much). But first, Injwa has to go, no matter that the crown prince considers him a friend.
As always, Injwa knows what’s going to happen before it does, and predicts that Yeoning will run into some trouble with Chief State Councilor Kim Chang-jip and the Noron faction over the license ban. That’s exactly what happens, though Yeoning won’t allow himself to be cowed by the group of ministers.
After Yeoning checks on his visibly ailing mother to explain how his proposed change to the license ban is really his way of getting at Injwa, he visits the ministers most frightened by the idea of lifting the ban, since it’d remove a good chunk of their revenue.
Knowing this, he tells them that if they cut their ties with Injwa, he’ll be more lenient toward them in the passing of his new law. That’s when Injwa chooses to enter, and reassures the ministers that he can take care of their Yeoning problem.
He sends Nameless to kill the old man who gave Yeoning the ledger, but security’s too tight. The task is left up to Hong Mae, who’s able to poison the old man’s drink while entertaining him with her gisaengs.
Hong Mae voices her displeasure with the dirty work she’s having to do to Injwa, who reminds her of the deal they once made when he first took over her casino. Back then, he told her that if she performed three tasks for him, he’d return it to her. Killing the old man counts as one.
Needless to say, Prince Yeoning is not happy that his only witness is dead. He expresses his remorse and sympathy to the old man’s grieving son, only to reveal that the son isn’t grieving—and for that matter, he may not even be the old man’s son. This is some kind of ploy.
Injwa knew Yeoning would come knocking on his pavilion, and knock he does, to accuse Injwa of killing the old man. When Injwa tells him to just get to the point, Yeoning does, and punches him right in the jaw. Hah! Just do that one hundred more times, please and thank you.
Naturally, Injwa just laughs, claiming to be disappointed in the prince—he expected more than that. And Yeoning, for his part, tells him that he can look forward to what he’ll dish out in the future.
Having guessed that the old man’s son wasn’t actually his son, Prince Yeoning stages a raid on the small merchant union where the fake son, BAEK JOONG-KI, acts as leader. With Merchant Baek and his cohorts arrested, Yeoning asks him for the other half of the ledger, which he knows he has.
Merchant Baek has been protecting the ledger, and initially doesn’t believe Yeoning when he says that they’re on the same side. Being a prince, Yeoning stands against everything the small merchants believe in, so it’s up to Yeoning to convince him that he’s the only one fighting for their rights.
“What do I need to do in order for you to trust me?” he asks. Merchant Baek pulls at his collar to reveal a brand placed there by Yook Gwishin, a brand which all the other small merchants also sport. They borrowed money from Yook Gwishin, and were branded as slaves when they weren’t able to pay it back. If Yeoning saves them from Yook Gwishin, they’ll trust him.
Yeoning and Dae-gil end up descending upon the same township where Yook Gwishin rules as despot over the poor and disenfranchised. If there’s an evil deal to be made, he’ll make it, whether it’s selling corpses, making living people into corpses, or cutting off women’s hair to mark them as slaves.
Dae-gil can’t help but remember Ahgwi’s cruelty as he lorded over his slaves, and Prince Yeoning’s hand on his shoulder isn’t enough to stop him. He advances anyway, just as a dagger lands on the table where slave papers are being processed. Yeoning must’ve thrown it.
While Dae-gil is left to fight the thugs, Yeoning tries gaining entry to Yook Gwishin’s gambling den, only to find that without money, he must be stamped first (presumably with the amount of debt he can take on?). Dae-gil joins him in line to confront him over the stunt he pulled back there, only for Yeoning to reply that he had to test his potential partner’s skills.
“So, what’s your plan?” Dae-gil asks, and Yeoning’s face lights up at the prospect of Dae-gil actually partnering up with him. Dae-gil plays it cool, and even negotiates a higher “worth” for his stamp (one hundred nyang), while Yeoning is valued at a measly twenty nyang. Thirty, if he’s nice enough.
Dae-gil pokes fun at how little Yeoning is worth without his princely title behind him, causing Yeoning to bristle at that and at Dae-gil’s consistent use of informal speech with him.
Their little tiff is broken up when they’re surrounded by Yook Gwishin’s thugs, but Dae-gil’s able to dispose of them easily. We next see the power couple burst through the casino doors, and Yeoning’s declaration that Yook Gwishin come to meet them only causes more thugs to come at them.
Yeoning pats Dae-gil on the back, letting him take things from here, while he sneaks into a nearby room. Dae-gil fights off the thugs until he’s recognized by Yook Gwishin. Displaying the hundred-nyang stamp on his wrist, Dae-gil challenges him to a game, which is the reason he’s come.
As they sit down for a game of baduk, peasants are brought into the room and dusted with black and white powder. Yook Gwishin describes them as being worth only ten nyang, and thus, only useful to him as human baduk pieces.
If Dae-gil doesn’t like it, he can become the owner of the casino and do as he pleases. But if he loses, then he’ll die. (Wait, so is Yook Gwishin betting his casino against Dae-gil’s life?)
While Yook Gwishin is otherwise distracted, Yeoning sneaks into the cellar containing Merchant Baek’s slave papers, and those of his comrades. If he brings them back to Merchant Baek, he’ll get the other half of the ledger in payment.
Unfortunately for him, Jin-ki’s been lying in wait, so he’ll have to get through him if he wants to get those records.
In the casino proper, the human baduk pieces are held at sword point, since they’ll be killed if their corresponding game pieces are eliminated. Dae-gil did not sign up for this game, and makes his point clear by slicing the board in half.
“I don’t want to call myself a human anymore after seeing what you do,” Dae-gil says, adding that he’s having to hold himself back from drawing and quartering the human trafficker where he stands.
The angrier Yook Gwishin gets, the more emboldened Dae-gil feels, since it’ll be much easier for him to kill a raging beast. But suddenly, a voice breaks the tension: “That’s enough.”
It’s Seol-im, who walks up to their table. “It’s been a while, Baek Dae-gil.”
Dae-gil can only stare at her in shock as he says, “Seol-im-ah.”
On the one hand, Injwa got punched in the face, and I’ll gladly take any act of violence toward that man. On the other hand, man, is Jackpot an oppressively bleak affair sometimes. I know Joseon could be a very dark place where human beings could be used as living (and dying) baduk pieces, and it’s totally within the show’s right to show us the awful side of life back then, but still.
Maybe that attitude of omnipresent misery will be lifted somewhat if we ever see our good guys win, and maybe this is all an elaborate set-up so that we can root for them to emerge victorious. The thing is, an audience’s hope and expectations are a finite resource that must be cultivated and cared for. You can’t just expect an audience to hold out hope till the bitter end if you don’t give them something to hope for in the interim, which is kind of where we’re at currently.
Right now, our two heroes presumably have the same long-term goal, and an infinite amount of ways to go about it. Both want to see Injwa’s downfall, and somehow that downfall can only be accomplished by attacking Injwa’s revenue sources, which means overtaking the casinos run by Hong Mae, the gibang madam, and the Three Gamblers. Yeoning’s working on a political scale to cripple Injwa’s influence, so I can see where the two brothers’ overall plans might coalesce, and where that could be fun.
It’s just in the whole getting there part that things become more difficult, since it seems clear by now that in order to reach the big boss that is Injwa, the brothers will have to fight their way through the newly established chain of casino commandos to get there. And what then? We’ve spent more time with Yeoning to know that he has a more concrete plan when it comes to Injwa and plenty of reasons to want to see him gone, but Dae-gil made sure to tell us twice this episode that if he wanted revenge on Injwa, he’d be dead already.
So, in the absence of revenge, what is it that Dae-gil wants? We can assume that revenge still plays a part of it, but if he’s got a bigger plan in mind, it’d be helpful for us to know it. Same goes for Injwa, whose flashback didn’t really help to engender sympathy for him, since we still don’t know exactly what it is he wants and why. Certainly he can’t be gunning for a monarchial change to help the people, since all he’s ever done is help special interests and fill his own coffers. While we’re here, at what point did Injwa decide he wanted to make Dae-gil king, anyway? Was it before or after he broke his bones, stabbed him, and threw him off a cliff? Just curious.
- Jackpot: Episode 10
- Jackpot: Episode 9
- Jackpot: Episode 8
- Jackpot: Episode 7
- Jackpot: Episode 6
- Jackpot: Episode 5
- Jackpot: Episode 4
- Jackpot: Episode 3
- Jackpot: Episode 2
- Jackpot: Episode 1
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- Hyun-woo added to Jackpot as King Gyeongjong
- Choi Min-soo offered role of King Sukjong in Jackpot