Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 5
With Gil-dong’s childhood behind us, we’re introduced to the simplicity of his adulthood. While Amogae was the dark, morally-compromised hero, Gil-dong seems to be the exact opposite: simple, dorky, and quite fearful. It’s an anticlimactic introduction to our hero but in the best way because Gil-dong is just an adorable little boy in a grown man’s body. He’s got plenty of growth to endure in the coming days, and we’ve got plenty of episodes ahead of us to watch it unfold.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
As Gil-hyun makes fake silver taels in the forge, his sister EORINI approaches him with a bouquet of field grass and asks when Gil-dong orabeoni (a ye olde word for oppa) will return.
Now much older, Amogae looks over his flourishing village and thinks to himself: “I didn’t die, and I survived. My children didn’t die. They survived as well.”
We flashback to the time when Amogae waved to his crying children on top of the hill, while on his way to trade his rotting goods. He had promised that he would bring back scholarly Chinese texts for Gil-hyun and taffy for Gil-dong. We return to the present, where older Gil-dong sits on a hill looking pensive.
Rumors of a famous peddler spread among the nobles’ daughters. This peddler can help single women get married and help childless couples become fertile. So while he may simply be a merchant of women’s goods, they call him the “merchant of craftiness.”
Ga-ryung (the captive we briefly saw in the first episode) tells Nok-soo (the concubine in the first episode) the success stories from this merchant, but she expresses doubt. Ga-ryung insists that it’s real and tells her that this merchant can share how to capture a man’s heart. That seems to catch Nok-soo attention, as she momentarily stops painting.
As Gil-dong returns home, a crowd of children follow him singing along and eating his rice cakes. He’s intercepted by Ga-ryung, who checks his identity and baits him with alcohol to meet her unni, since he’s also rumored to drink like a fish.
Behind the shade, Nok-soo requests Gil-dong’s service in helping her capture a man’s heart. He can’t guarantee success and asks to know who she’s targeting, to which she answers, “The king. I want to make the king my man.” Gil-dong scoffs and asks her to reveal her face. She signals Ga-ryung to lift the shade, and they stare at each other, the tension growing.
Upon seeing Nok-soo’s face, Gil-dong disses her by saying that she’s not the fairest woman, as the rumors make her out to be. Ga-ryung lets out an exasperated gasp, but Nok-soo uses the diss to her advantage: This is way she’s so talented, since seducing people with a pretty face would be too simple, wouldn’t it?
She asks if Gil-dong would be able to help her win the king’s heart, but Gil-dong gives her a different offer. He jokingly asks her to be his partner instead, since he likes her audacity. Before he continues with his insincere offer, he’s slapped across the face by Ga-ryung, which comically snaps us out of the dramatic scene. He’s shocked by the sudden slap, and she scolds him for speaking to Nok-soo so rudely.
Nok-soo stops her before she gets carried away, and Gil-dong gives Nok-soo his real answer. He refuses to help, since he doesn’t even know how the king looks like and because his younger sister’s birthday is approaching. He bought her new shoes, and he can’t wait to give them to her. He tells Nok-soo that next time they meet, it’ll be fate. He also bids Ga-ryung a cheeky farewell and gets on his way.
He skips onward with his entourage of children trailing behind him as Ga-ryung watches him curiously. We hear a voiceover of a conversation between two men talking about Gil-dong’s merchant work. They say that women fall lovesick with him after he offers them goods, and one man claims that he sells something other than women’s items. He refers to it vaguely as “whatchamacallit,” but he’s implying that Gil-dong may be selling his body.
As Gil-dong continues his trek home, he thinks back to his interactions with Nok-soo and the slap from Ga-ryung. He shakes his head and says that she’s charming. He doesn’t specify who, but we can presume that it’s Ga-ryung he’s talking about, since he touches his slapped cheek and smiles.
Before he enters the bamboo forest, Gil-dong is stopped by fellow travelers, who invite him to walk through the dangerous tiger forest together once a few more people join their group. Gil-dong assures them that tigers are not that scary, as he’s faced a tiger before, but the travelers don’t believe him. One traveler urges the other to continue with his news about the Ikhwari elder getting in a fight with the gangster Heotaehak, and Gil-dong listens in.
Amogae hears the news of gangster Heotaehak, and Ilchung explains that he’s a business man who’s done almost everything to make money. In particular, he’s made money from creating counterfeit civil status documents, through which he’s turned nomads into slaves and created a business by selling them off. Gil-hyun warns his father that Heotaehak is disparaging their cloth business, and he advises that they meet soon.
As advised, Amogae meets with Heotaehak for a tense business discussion over drinks. Heotaehak describes his lucrative business of selling nomad-turned-slaves. Due to the severe drought, there are an endless amount of nomads that cause the king great stress. Heotaehak claims that people like him relieve such pressures off the king and provide these nomads with a means of survival. And for him, it’s like catching gold with his bare hands with limited effort.
Amogae wonders why he’s looking to share such a lucrative business, so Heotaehak explains that his work — turning free people into slaves — is illegal and wants to use Amogae’s extensive connections with government officials to preserve his business. In return, he offers Amogae’s forty percent of the profit.
Hearing the deal, Amogae nods at the potential profitability, but he refuses the offer. He acknowledges that they’re both engaging in illegal work, so he’s in no place to argue which business is dirtier or cleaner; however, he doesn’t do business selling people, especially one that turns young children into slaves. Heotaehak tries to appeal with the profits of this business, but Amogae asserts that he nor his people will engage in such business.
We return to the Gil-dong, listening in on the travelers’ gossip about the fight between his father and Heotaehak. One traveler says that Heotaehak isn’t just any gangster and that his underlings are all former warriors. They figure that the neighborhood gangsters can’t prevail over bloodthirsty warriors.
Another merchant joins the traveler group with more opinions against Amogae. He can tell Amogae used to be slave, just based on his name. He works at the slave courts, and he says that all slaves who rebel against their current status are eventually ruined, so Amogae is bound to be ruined sooner or later.
Gil-dong chimes in on this conversation by sarcastically agreeing that all people who don’t know their place should be gone to make this world livable. He tells the travelers to promise to obediently remain in their class, no matter the injustices done on their family. He specifically targets the new traveler by urging him to vow to pass on his miserable slave status to his children, and that comment initiates a fight.
Soboori and Yonggae wonder when Gil-dong will return, since he always returns in time for Eorini’s birthday, but Amogae feigns disinterest. Just then, Gil-dong opens the door, and the group warmly welcomes him back. Gil-dong offers to bow his father upon his return, but Amogae leaves the room, telling his son to eat first.
Sitting on the rocks outside, Gil-hyun assures Gil-dong that their father was the most worried, even though he may not show it. Gil-dong doesn’t seem convinced and proceeds to offer his brother a gift. It’s a rare book, and upon seeing his Gil-hyun’s pleasure, Gil-dong wonders why he won’t take the civil service exam. Gil-hyun argues that people like them will only get the grunt work, even if they pass the exam.
Suddenly, a pair of hands covers Gil-dong’s eyes — it’s Eorini, and she tells her brother to guess who it is. He guesses that it’s his “ugly” sister, and she’s adorably offended at the comment, which prompts Gil-dong to jokingly call her even uglier.
Gil-dong bows to his father, and Soboori asks how his travels were. Gil-dong describes all the beautiful ladies he met in his travels, and Soboori quickly tries to divert the conversation into one about settling down. He agrees that he should find someone to marry, but he pointedly asks who would want to marry the son of a gangster. At that comment, Amogae leaves the room, followed by Gil-hyun. Once his father leaves, Gil-dong worriedly asks Soboori about Heotaehak, but Soboori assures him that they have it under control.
That night, Gil-hyun tells Gil-dong not to worry about their invincible father, but that doesn’t seem to quiet any of his concerns. Their worries are interrupted by Eorini, who comes into her brothers’ room with her pillow, claiming that she’s too scared to sleep alone. The brothers reluctantly let her sleep between them, and we soon see the reason for their hesitance, as she flails around in her sleep. She effectively chokes both brothers with her arms and kicks them in sensitive places, while the brothers laugh about their sister’s unbreakable habit.
The next morning, as Gil-dong tries (but fails) to play cat’s cradle with his sister, Keutsae approaches him to suggest a visit to the gisaeng house. Gil-dong tells Keutsae that he’ll be cold rice (read: completely ignored) if he goes there with Gil-dong, and Eorini agrees. Gil-dong asks about his father, and Keutsae tells him that he left to meet with Magistrate Eom. He only took Soboori, Yonggae, and Ilchung, while the rest of the crew is off on their own. That sets off red flags for Gil-dong, and he rushes out in search of his father.
Gisaeng friend Sun-ah greets Amogae as he enters the gisaeng house to meet with Magistrate Eom. As they wait in the room, a drunk man stumbles in and spits curses at Amogae. Defensive Yonggae gets up to deal with the disruptive drunk and fights off the rest of the intruders. When the intruders make a run for it, Yonggae and Ilchung chase after them, and Soboori ventures outside to see where they ran off to. Sensing a strange silence, Soboori begins to turn around but gets knocked unconscious before he sees who hit him. After he falls, we see that it’s Heotaehak’s underlings.
Worried for his father’s safety, Gil-dong runs through the snow to the gisaeng house and quickly backpedals at the corner when he sees a group of Heotaehak’s warriors blocking off the entrance. Inside, Amogae puts down his glass when he senses his enemy’s presence. Heotaehak’s son enters the room with his underlings and tells Amogae that he’s like a tiger without its claws. Outside, Gil-dong clumsily climbs over the wall into the gisaeng house to try and save his father, but unfortunately he’s faced with a group of warriors. Oh no.
Heotaehak’s son tells Amogae that this unfortunate situation is his fault, for failing to train his underlings to not leave his side. Amogae asks what he plans to do, so he takes out his sword, saying that his father wants Amogae’s life. Not so fast, says a voice from behind. It’s Gil-hyun, with the rest of Amogae’s crew. Amogae says that they knew about Heotaehak’s tactics beforehand, and that’s the son’s cue to flee.
A fight breaks out outside, and Amogae strolls out to witness the scene. Soboori shows up, recovered but still in pain from the knock to the head, and they hear Gil-dong yelling for his father. He runs toward his father, and in his moment of confusion at the sight of the fight, he’s captured again by his opponents. Gil-dong swings wildly, missing every punch, and Amogae watches curiously. Eventually, Yonggae steps in to save Gil-dong, who’s then dragged away to safety.
The two sides gather outside the gisaeng house with their troops, ready to fight. Keutsae belatedly joins the Amogae Avengers, and each member prepares their weapons: Keutsae with his fist, all grown-up neighborhood hyung Eobsan with his gloved fist, Ilchung with his fan, Gil-hyun with his knife, Yonggae with his two beaters, and Segul with his rope. Yonggae yells a battle cry, and they run into the brawl.
Heotaehak’s son puts up a good fight, but he’s ultimately outnumbered by Team Amogae. On top of that, Heotaehak is dragged to the scene, all roped up and terrified. Amogae teases Heotaehak by asking whether he should cut off his tongue or his down-there, and that causes him to pee his pants.
His son has to look away from this mortifying sight, and Amogae decides that he’ll cut off one of Heotaehak’s ears, so that he’ll listen only with one ear to Amogae’s words. Soboori holds the ear, and Amogae slices the ear off, as Gil-dong watches with watering eyes.
Amogae’s people celebrate their victory with drinks, and Gil-hyun apologizes to Gil-dong for leaving him in the dark. Drunk Yonggae mocks Gil-dong for yelling for his father like a frightened child, but he quickly shuts up when he notices his crush, Geumran. He tries to sober up and practices his lines in front of the brothers. He calls for Geumran, but when she approaches, he chickens out and says he never called for her. Gil-dong asks if he’s scared of women, and Yonggae nods while sitting on Gil-dong’s lap like a small child, ha.
It’s a festival for Amogae’s people, and they’ve gathered around to watch Gil-dong arm wrestle Keutsae, who’s supposedly the strongest of them all. Gil-dong visibly struggles to stay in the game, as Eorini cheers on her brother. From afar, Amogae watches the match and announces that whoever wins the match will win a great prize. Gil-dong’s face cringes as he musters all of his strength, and he ends up winning, much to his own surprise.
Gil-dong brags to his brother and father about his win, and we briefly flash back to young Gil-dong’s manifested strength. Amogae and Gil-hyun seem to remember this time with a hint of concern, while Eobsan hyung claims that Gil-dong is actually really strong. No one believes him, though, seeing how he couldn’t even defend himself earlier that day. Nevertheless, the villagers are celebratory, and they sing and dance loudly. Amogae watches his people celebrate and smiles.
Everyone passes out, and Amogae walks through the pile of drunken bodies. Gil-dong approaches him and asks for his prize from winning the arm wrestling match. Amogae agrees to hear his request, so Gil-dong drops to his knees to ask that they flee Ikhwari. He’s worried that Heotaeak will seek revenge and knows that many others are out to kill his father. He found a nice place with good land and water and begs his father to establish a quiet farming life there.
Amogae asks if the land and water are really nice, but he’s only giving Gil-dong a false sense of hope. He asks his son, “Don’t you know what will happen if we live as farmers?” Gil-dong responds with the same question, “Don’t you know what will happen if we continue to live as thieves?” Gil-hyun overhears Gil-dong’s disrespectful plea and drags him away for a scolding.
At the large tree decorated with cloth, Gil-hyun yells at his brother that in the land of Ikhwari, their father is the king and the heavens. Gil-dong acknowledges that everyone knows of Elder Amogae now, but he asks his brother if he knows how their mother died. He says that their father killed their mother, specifically their father’s greed. “People who don’t know their place will die before fulfilling their full time. If we continue to live like this, we will all die. Father will die, [you] will die, and Eorini will die before her time as well.”
From behind, Amogae asks his son, “Gil-dong, then do you think you can live out your life?” Amogae touches the tree and tells his sons about its history. The tree was gifted from a shaman from Jirisan, with the purpose of supporting a great energy that will inhabit Joseon. Amogae says that he then asked the shaman how Gil-dong will live his life out. He doesn’t share the response but asks Gil-dong to wrestle against him, without going easy.
They begin the wrestling match, and they seem evenly matched. As they round in circles, Gil-dong experiences a moment of great strength and lifts his father up. Amogae tells his son to keep using his strength, but Gil-dong eventually gives up and puts his father down. Angered by this, Amogae throws Gil-dong on the ground.
When Gil-dong looks up, Amogae demands that they wrestle again, but he says that he can’t. Amogae tells Gil-dong to uproot the tree or break the rock, but he cries that he can’t. Amogae approaches his crying son and asks why he can’t. He wonders if his encounter with the tiger has anything to do with Gil-dong’s reluctance to use his power. But Gil-dong claims that it was all a lie — he never saw a tiger. At some moment, he lost his strength, and he cries that he’s nothing now.
Amogae looks at his crying son and sees the spitting image of young Gil-dong crying at his father. More sympathetic now, Amogae wipes the tears on Gil-dong’s face and holds his son’s face in his hands. That evening, he summons Soboori and says that he’s going to rest now, meaning he’s going to pass on his business. Gil-hyun watches Gil-dong sleep, looking troubled about his brother.
The next morning, Soboori asks Gil-dong if he asked his father to give up his business. Soboori knows that Gil-dong must be the one who convinced his father, and while Soboori looks worried, Gil-dong runs away overjoyed. He goes to his father and confirms his plans to settle into the farming life. His father walks out saying, “Farming life should be nice. Plant barley and beans. And maybe even two pigs.”
Gil-dong cautiously asks Gil-hyun if he doesn’t want their father to give up their business. Gil-hyun says that it’s his father’s choice, but he’s also tired of people out for their father’s life. The brothers smile at each other, finally in agreement.
Eorini asks Gil-dong if she’ll have to work on the farm now, and Gil-dong says that he’d rather not have their “ugly” sister do any work. She pouts at being called ugly again, but he quickly appeases her by gifting her with a new pair of shoes. And with that, he’s off on another merchant travel as Eorini yells at her brother to come home sooner this time.
On his way out, Gil-dong stops by the Shaman Tree and stacks a rock for his prayer. He prays that his father and family will be safe during his travels, especially since their father has decided to lead a new life now. He adorably leans in to hear the silent response from the tree and thanks it for the protection. He happily walks off, but a gust of wind blows and knocks down the rock stack. Bad omen.
Magistrate Eom offers to introduce Amogae to Choongwongoon, a man of royal blood who became infamous for killing one of his lady servants. Amogae isn’t interested in a connection with such a person, but Magistrate Eom convinces him by suggesting that this connection may be useful for his sons’ futures.
At the royalty’s house, Amogae asks Magistrate Eom if the royal families look any different. Magistrate Eom confirms that they do and jokingly says that Choongwongoon looks like a pig. They laugh while lying prostrate and immediately stand up to greet the entering royal prince.
Choongwongoon (Kim Jung-tae) greets his guests, and Amogae humbly asks how a royal person would look for a person like him. Rumor has spread about Heotaeak’s defeat, and Choongwongoon requests a job from Amogae. He throws a scroll at him, and Amogae unrolls it to find a picture of a woman. She’s a runaway servant girl, and Choongwongoon wants to find her. He adds that if there is a man by her side, they can go ahead and kill him.
It’s a barbaric request, and Amogae sits in silence. We see Gil-dong happily walking off on his merchant travels, and we hear Amogae’s agreement to farm life voiceover the scene — “Farming life should be nice. Plant barley and beans. And maybe even two pigs.” — hinting that the prospect of the simple life is at stake.
The simple farming life was never a possibility, was it? To Gil-dong, it was the dream, but it never seemed possible for Amogae. He’s come too far to return to a simple and innocent life, and he’s become far too infamous to escape imminent death. It was clear that Amogae and Gil-dong disapproved of each other’s life choices due to fundamental disagreements about each other’s fate, and I think that was the core of the father-son conflict we saw in the first half of the episode. Amogae believed that Gil-dong was wasting his potential and gift of strength, and Gil-dong believed that his father was greed for wealth beyond his life’s determined quota. Despite the tension between Gil-dong and Amogae, it was also clear that they care about each other more than they let show. I found it sweet and humanizing to see Amogae take off his Ikhwari Elder mask and finally embrace Gil-dong as his father in the end, even if his promise to pursue a farmer’s life would never be fulfilled.
It’s an interesting conflict that continued to pop up throughout the episode — whether one should strive for social mobility or stay complacent in maintaining social order. I find Amogae’s approach with determining and stretching his own fate more appealing, and I presume that Gil-dong will soon adopt this philosophy once he realizes the means through which he must protect his family. I’m curious about Gil-dong’s Mighty Child abilities, which actually seem nonexistent at this point. It doesn’t seem like he’s just pretending that his mighty strength just doesn’t exist, as he seems equally if not more frustrated with his inability to use his strength. I’m with Amogae on his hunch that the tiger interaction had something to do with the loss of power, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll regain his power.
Until then, I’m pleased with the Gil-dong we have right now. I really enjoyed the dorky and simple Gil-dong we were introduced to, since he seems like the complete opposite of our expected hero. He was incredibly cautious and child-like, and I loved the juxtaposition he provided in the setting of his father’s duplicity. Gil-dong and his interactions were much more comical than I had anticipated, and I enjoyed how Gil-dong was the comic relief to his father’s intense life-or-death games. Yoon Kyung-sang is doing great with balancing palpable tension and despair with his simple and adorable side. I wouldn’t have expected any less from him, and I’m excited to see how much more we’ll get to see in the coming episodes.
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 4
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 3
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 2
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 1
- Twisted ambitions clash in posters and teaser for Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People
- The bloody battle for the people’s hearts begins in Rebel
- Yoon Kyun-sang’s sorrowful tears in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People teaser
- First glimpse of MBC’s Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People
- Rebel Hong Gil-dong becomes Thief Who Stole the People