Jackpot: Episode 23
With a revolt in full swing, our two brothers are left on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to solving it. The choices come down to killing everyone or killing no one, and you can probably guess which brother takes which stance—and while it shouldn’t be so simple, it really, really is. If nothing else, no one will be able to say Dae-gil isn’t heroic enough, just like no one can say Injwa isn’t villainous enough—they’re both extremes at all times, and Jackpot makes sure we know it.
EPISODE 23 RECAP
Dae-gil tells Injwa to just give up this whole rebellion thing now that his provisions have been burned, his horses have been taken, and his men are down with diarrhea. (All of this thanks to Dae-gil’s efforts, of course.)
Predictably, Injwa has no such plans, and introduces kingly hopeful Mil Poong-goon instead. Unimpressed, Dae-gil warns Injwa and the small army gathered behind him of the army the king’s amassing to take them down—an army Injwa already knows about due to having a spy in the palace.
Even with the amount of men Dae-gil’s put out of commission, Injwa still has over a hundred thousand men ready to back him up. He’s going to take this fight all the way, despite Dae-gil’s threat that it won’t be long before everyone sees the kind of person Injwa really is. “I will stop you,” Dae-gil vows, before bravely riding away.
While Injwa orders his army forward without the men taken down with illness, Dae-gil’s people treat the sick in order to bring them over to their side. (Though I wonder how happy they’d be to learn they’re getting the cure from the same people who gave them the poison in the first place.)
Dae-gil sends messages via homing pigeons to Yeon-hwa, who delivers them to King Yeongjo’s right-hand man in turn. Afterward, he promises all the concerned rebels that there’ll be no repercussions for them for participating in the rebellion—the king himself said so.
But when Seol-im asks him if the king actually said so, Dae-gil looks a bit shifty. Uh oh.
Dae-gil’s message gets delivered to King Yeongjo, offering a glimmer of hope for the concerned king—he’s cut down Injwa’s forces by half, but that doesn’t mean they can rest easy. Even with only half his forces, Injwa can still overtake the king’s army, and eventually the capital.
In order to stop that from happening, King Yeongjo plans to go to Anseong himself, unable to sit idly by while Injwa gets closer and closer. What he doesn’t know is that Dae-gil has a plan to stop the rebel forces before they can even reach Anseong, banking on the unfed army to stop at a smaller village before reaching the pivotal city.
Dae-gil receives a heartening message from Chae-gun, saying that he’s found Traitor Jeong, and will make sure that no innocent people get harmed in the process of taking him down.
Back in the capital, Yeon-hwa updates new ally Hong Mae on the three-part plan Dae-gil’s already initiated with the first step, which was to take the rebels’ provisions and their horses. The next step will be to retake Cheongju Fortress from the rebels, and will spread the rumor that Injwa’s rebellion has failed in order to deter more rebels from joining his cause.
Since the truth is unverifiable, they spread the lie that Injwa’s forces were defeated at Anseong, despite the fact that no battle has yet taken place there. The rumors are enough to dissuade some would-be traitors, leading to a confrontation between Injwa’s right-hand man Park Pil-hyun and a government official who backs out on their deal.
But when news arrives that King Yeongjo’s taking the army to Anseong ahead of schedule, Dae-gil resolves to go there himself in order to stop him. Meanwhile, Injwa proves to be the worst motivational speaker ever as he tries to rally his starving and unwilling troops into action by telling them to just dig deep. They do, but only to find edible roots.
Left with no other choice but to try feeding his men, Injwa and a small contingent raid the nearest village for supplies, which is exactly what Dae-gil was counting on. The small band of villagers rebel against having their stores taken, only for Injwa to order that they all be locked up and burned.
Jin-ki has a moral objection to this, but Injwa says it’s all in service to their great plan. He sets the storehouse on fire with the villagers locked inside, having to stop Jin-ki from saving them with a generic: “This is for the good of our cause!” Wait, aren’t you in this cause for The People? Like the people you just burned alive? Who buys you?
King Yeongjo gets updated on Dae-gil’s progress against Injwa, and remembers how Dae-gil laid his plan to defeat Injwa to him. He’s completed the first two parts of the plan (cutting Injwa’s forces in half and starting malicious rumors), but we don’t hear the third part.
When Mil Poong-goon raises his objections to Injwa sacking a village, Injwa again uses a vague “I did what I had to do” excuse, not bothering to elaborate. Mil Poong-goon shows him the wagon of pilfered food, which has gone untouched by the men, who couldn’t bring themselves to eat stolen provisions.
Injwa still stands by what he’s done as being necessary, though Mil Poong-goon no longer wants to be a part of his cause—he’s in this for the people, and Injwa clearly isn’t. Injwa doesn’t help his own cause by ruthlessly killing one of the men responsible for telling Mil Poong-goon about the whole sacking-and-burning thing, only to then turn to the wannabe king and say, “Please trust me.”
Jin-ki follows Injwa’s instructions to bury the man he killed, and leaves Mil Poong-goon at the gravesite. Mil Poong-goon apologizes to the dead man, and then… goes on with the rebellion anyway? (*throws hands up*)
Dae-gil finally reaches the fortress in Anseong where King Yeongjo has taken his men to confront him over reneging on their agreement—he was supposed to give him five days to catch Injwa before bringing the army in.
In an even tone, King Yeongjo informs him that today is the fifth day, and while he acknowledges Dae-gil’s accomplishments in slowing Injwa down, it’s time for him and his army to bring a real end to Injwa. Dae-gil tries to appeal to the king’s sympathy, reminding him that those people with Injwa are still his people, and he has a responsibility to protect them.
King Yeongjo replies by saying that those people have deserted him, which isn’t enough for Dae-gil—he managed to get half of Injwa’s troops to desert him without using force. He has faith in the people, he claims, and if Yeongjo would only rekindle his own faith, they could work together to bring about a bloodless end to the revolt.
While that’s all well and good to King Yeongjo, the truth is that they can’t risk losing Anseong to the rebels, since there’d be no stopping them from taking the capital after that. Now, both their theories will be put to the test, since Injwa and his men arrive at the fortress gates.
King Yeongjo orders that all the rebels be killed, but Dae-gil won’t let this go without a fight. “They are your people!” he yells. “They are traitors!” Yeongjo fires back. Their fight escalates to the point where Dae-gil declares that he can no longer keep the promise he made to the late King Sukjong to protect Yeongjo.
Drawing his sword, Dae-gil launches at the king, only to be stopped by his bodyguard. King Yeongjo reacts unblinkingly as Dae-gil fights off the bodyguard, ready to face off against the other military officers at the king’s side. But then those two officers suddenly turn their swords on him—they’re the “hidden cards” Injwa told Jin-ki about, which he secured through his ties with Queen Dowager Seonui.
Injwa laughs maniacally as a white flag is flown over the fortress walls, a signal to him that his plan succeeded and the king is dead. The gates are opened and his army advances through without resistance… and then the gates are closed.
Injwa’s left in shock as the king’s archers return to their posts, all aiming for him. King Yeongjo appears atop the gates with Dae-gil as proof that Injwa’s plan backfired, causing him and Jin-ki to bravely run away.
Mil Poong-goon is left with the troops within the fortress, and in a turnabout, tells them that they’re all free now. He tells them that Injwa didn’t have a great cause after all, and was only looking to serve his own greed and ambition.
A flashback tells us that Mil Poong-goon has been in cahoots with Dae-gil since Injwa killed that last man in cold blood, and we discover that turning Mil Poong-goon against Injwa was the third and most essential part of Dae-gil’s plan.
His attempt on the king’s life is also explained as a tactic necessary to draw out the traitors in his midst, and to use them to lure Injwa’s forces in by waving the symbolic white flag.
King Yeongjo makes good on his promise to forgive those rebels who stormed the fortress if they put down their weapons. They all do, and bow down in allegiance to the king. Mil Poong-goon also bows to him, causing Yeongjo to remark that Dae-gil’s saved the people again. But from this point forward, he’ll take care of things.
We’re back to the same argument between King Yeongjo and Dae-gil over what to do with the hundred thousand advancing soldiers, with Yeongjo wanting to use military force to stop them and Dae-gil seeking a more diplomatic solution. At least he gives Dae-gil until tonight to come up with a way to stop Park Pil-hyun and Traitor Jeong’s troops, but this is his last chance.
King Yeongjo reminds Dae-gil that they can’t avoid sacrifice on this one, and that he’ll plead for the people’s forgiveness once he’s put an end to the revolt. He’ll do everything he can to make it up to the people and risk being called a tyrant in the process, he adds, but he has to protect them first.
Even though Injwa only has about eight thousand men left, and even though none of them are trained soldiers, he’s prepared to sacrifice all of them for what he believes in. They seem to be drawing a parallel between Injwa and King Yeongjo by cutting back and forth between the both of them being obstinate and unyielding.
Injwa knew that the king would come with his soldiers that evening, and his prediction comes true as the king orders his soldiers to attack the frightened men guarding Injwa’s camp. Jin-ki joins the fray, killing soldiers left and right, but then Dae-gil comes riding up to demand that the king stop now.
He points out that Injwa’s men are just being used as human shields, but King Yeongjo says they’re all traitors, and must be killed. He has his riflemen aim right for the line of men, and somehow Dae-gil thinks it’s a good idea to… take one for the people?
Dae-gil rides toward the camp as the riflemen fire, getting shot in the back along with scores of Injwa’s men. He struggles to his feet to see the carnage in front of him, and calls for Injwa’s men to lay down their arms. What cause is it that they think they’re fighting for?
Injwa repeats his line about necessary sacrifices, which somehow rallies his men to keep up the line. King Yeongjo prepares his men to fire again, only for Dae-gil to spread out his arms as he looks to the rifleman, in a futile attempt to block the line of men with his body.
He’s soon joined by Seol-im, Grandpa, and a contingent of the rebels they turned, all locking their arms in solidarity. King Yeongjo immediately calls for his men to stand down, flashing back to the promise Dae-gil made to prove that the rebels aren’t just rebels that need to be killed in order to be properly dealt with.
Apparently this demonstration is his way of proving that point, since King Yeongjo puts a stop to the attack. Dae-gil, bleeding from his gunshot wounds, stumbles over to Injwa to tell him he’s finished. But he has a choice to make, and that choice will decide the fate of the men standing beside him.
Injwa claims that he’s ready to die along with all his men, only to be stopped when Dae-gil says he’ll join him. Without Mil Poong-goon, he knows Injwa has no viable path to the throne, so he needs him. If Injwa can prove to him that his cause is just, Dae-gil promises to join hands with him. (This has to all be part of his plan, right?)
Rather than having Injwa actually prove himself, since that’d mean he’d have to explain himself, Dae-gil offers to leave it up to fate. He proffers the bent-up coin that Injwa once gave him, the same one that ended up saving his life.
“This coin will decide our fate, and the fate of Joseon,” Dae-gil says. “Let’s bet it all on one round.” Injwa laughs, but agrees. Dae-gil sets the rules: if Injwa wins, Dae-gil will give up fighting him. And if Dae-gil wins, Injwa will give up his great cause.
Dae-gil sets the coin spinning on the table, but covers it with a cup before either of them can see it fall. Injwa calls the front side of the coin, and Dae-gil chooses the back. Injwa wonders if fate will choose him or Dae-gil, only for Dae-gil to remark that he never makes a bet he’s not sure he’ll win.
He lifts the cup, revealing the back side of the coin face up. Despite there being a fifty-fifty chance, Injwa seems very surprised he lost, and unsurprisingly declares that he has no intention of keeping his side of the bargain. Why would he need to, when one hundred thousand men are on their way to him right now?
That’s when Dae-gil informs him that Park Pil-hyun and Traitor Jeong won’t be coming to his aid. We see Park Pil-hyun and his men come up against a ditch they can’t cross (seemingly created by Man-geum), as well as Chae-gun finding Traitor Jeong, who runs from him.
While realization dawns on Injwa, Dae-gil describes what happened to Traitor Jeong and Park Pil-hyun, the former of whom was caught by Chae-gun, and the latter of whom was given over to the authorities by Man-geum. Dae-gil tells Injwa that there is no help coming for him.
Injwa orders his men to do something, but they all stand down. Even Jin-ki turns his sword against Injwa, and accuses him of lying—he was supposed to crown a king for the people, but in the end, he couldn’t even feed them and used them as human shields.
Jin-ki admits that he’s been conflicted as of late, but now his choices come down to killing Injwa himself, or dying with him. He’s chosen to kill his former master, but just as he prepares to swing his sword down on Injwa’s neck, Dae-gil cries, “No!” NO.
“His life belongs to the people,” Dae-gil says. “Now is not the time.”
King Yeongjo’s soldiers move in to peacefully disarm the people and arrest Injwa. “It’s over now, Yi Injwa,” Dae-gil adds, and Injwa just growls his name in return. Again.
Yes, let’s delay Injwa’s demise, because that’s never backfired spectacularly before. Let’s give him over to the people, because he’s never orchestrated an escape from the middle of a public square before. Or a prison. Or an execution platform. More time for Injwa has always yielded positive results!
There’s a certain amount of comfort in knowing that Injwa’s fate will be decided one way or the other with the finale, though I’m curious as to what new conflict Jackpot might try picking up to fill its final hour if the whole revolt issue has already been sorted out. As long as they don’t suddenly turn Dae-gil into a revolutionary after the throne, whatever it is can’t be so bad, right? Right.
The thought that it might all come down to the two brothers worries me a little, since they’ve gone from being two characters to being two sides of an argument as of late. I found it actively difficult to understand Dae-gil as the episode wore on, despite his viewpoint being relatively simple: save ALL the people. Theoretically, that should be heroic, and in most ways it is—but at the point where Dae-gil’s taking bullets for The People (in as general a sense as possible) and protecting rebels indiscriminately simply by virtue of them being The People, he started to feel less like a person and more like a misguided idea.
Because, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what Dae-gil thought would happen if King Yeongjo did as he wanted and just let The People get what they wanted, which was to see him dead. It seemed like Dae-gil was much less concerned with stopping the revolt than he was about stopping King Yeongjo from doing anything about it, which leaves me confused as to whose good he thought he was working for. It feels like they were trying to paint King Yeongjo as being rigid and unyielding, but I got the exact opposite impression: King Yeongjo seemed to be the only one willing to compromise for peace while Dae-gil chased unrealistic—but idealistically nice-sounding—goals.
It’s easy to make a blanket decision like Dae-gil did, so maybe that’s why I empathized more with the tough decisions King Yeongjo was having to make, and the consequences he was prepared to take on. I believed him fully when he said he’d do nothing but repent once the rebellion was stopped, because he wasn’t being unreasonable in wanting to stop Injwa’s massive army before it could reach the capital. It wasn’t even that unreasonable for him to want to kill the people out to kill him, and I’d like to think that the reason he gave Dae-gil chance after chance was because he didn’t want to end up killing his own people.
But at the point where he had an entire army bearing down on him, what decision would Dae-gil have wanted King Yeongjo to make instead? What would’ve happened if Dae-gil couldn’t win The People over using only his charm? Those are questions I would’ve liked to see answered, if only because Dae-gil was able to accomplish everything he set out to do relatively easily (again). Granted, he got shot, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to all the things that haven’t managed to kill him. Yet.
- Jackpot: Episode 22
- Jackpot: Episode 21
- Jackpot: Episode 20
- Jackpot: Episode 19
- Jackpot: Episode 18
- Jackpot: Episode 17
- Jackpot: Episode 16
- Jackpot: Episode 15
- Jackpot: Episode 14
- Jackpot: Episode 13
- Jackpot: Episode 12
- Jackpot: Episode 11
- 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