Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 10
The first parts of Gil-dong’s revenge plan are set into motion, and slowly I can start to see the big picture of how events will lead up to the final showdown against Yeonsangun. My heart goes out to the faltering king even as I’m rooting for the hero to prevail, because most of the events that pit them against each other seem to be a tragic result of social inequality and inevitable differences in their childhoods rather than a true hatred of each other. Had they been born in a different era, I think they could have even been friends, so the realization that class differences can create such a divide is even more devastating.
EPISODE 10 RECAP
Gil-dong gives Heotaehak a choice: live the rest of his life as Choongwongoon’s hunting dog, or join the Amogae Avengers. At first, Heotaehak doesn’t see the benefits of joining Gil-dong’s crew, but then Gil-dong points out that he would no longer be living as a beast, but treated as an actual human being. He offers to give Heotaehak a share of the profit once they take their silver mine back from Choongwongoon. Knowing that Choongwongoon would never give him the same type of deal, Heotaehak seems to reconsider Gil-dong’s offer.
Ga-ryung pats down Gil-dong, checking to see if he’s sustained any injuries from their Heotaehak-kidnapping raid, and she asks him if he’s all right while the other bandit hyungs smile on approvingly. Meanwhile, Eop-san is making his greetings to the Ikhwari Great Elder. He presents Amogae with a pink flower shoe; it’s the one that Gil-dong brought as a travel present for Eorini all those months ago. Eop-san tells Amogae that someone was found dead with the shoe tightly clutched to her chest, and he suspects that it might have been Eorini. Amogae takes the shoe gently, but tells Eop-san not to tell Gil-dong. Although Eop-san protests because Gil-dong has been looking everywhere for them, Amogae insists that it’s family business.
Later, Gil-dong announces his strengthened resolution to find his siblings while Eop-san looks away shiftily. Ga-ryung then brings a huge basket of snacks that Gil-dong wants to take away, because he’s already told her not to cook for them. However, she insists that she’s not serving them; the food is for her to eat.
She asks for some rice wine while confessing that she doesn’t normally drink, but wants some to warm up because of the cold weather. So Gil-dong, trying to be considerate, pours her a half bowl, but when he stops pouring, she looks at him expectantly to continue. The others tell him to give her a full bowl, and she downs it like a well-seasoned drinker.
Perhaps it’s just kid-sister affection, but Gil-dong smiles as he warms up a hot stone for her to sleep on. Ga-ryung has already passed out like a ton of bricks, so he and Soboori take her to her room. Soboori tells Gil-dong that he thinks Ga-ryung really likes him, and Gil-dong replies that it’s not like that. But when Soboori leaves the room first, Gil-dong takes out the warmed stone he hid in his back pocket and places it by Ga-ryung’s side. On his way out of the room, she kicks him, and it reminds him of the time Eorini came to sleep with him and Gil-hyun because she was afraid of the dark and ended up kicking both of them nonstop in her dream state.
The memory sends him into a spiral of emotional pain, and he rushes outside for a breath of air. Amogae, who has also been wracking with silent sobs after hearing Eop-san’s upsetting news about Eorini, hears Gil-dong outside and follows him to the forest.
He sees Gil-dong splitting a tree with his bare fist, and when his son howls, it seems like the heavens answer back, because a gust of wind blows that makes Amogae stumble back. He looks awed to see that Gil-dong’s powers have returned to him again. He approaches the now-spent Gil-dong with a welcoming look and says: “Your strength has returned.”
Thinking of his son’s future, Amogae tells Gil-dong to forget about everything and just focus on himself. He tells him not to walk to same path as him, because while he was able to gain power and fear, he never gained respectability because of his illegal deeds. Knowing that Gil-dong’s returned strength has made it possible, Amogae says that he wants the brightest possible future for his son as a great general of this nation. Crying, Gil-dong replies to his father that he cannot just ignore the injustices that their family has suffered, adding that he wouldn’t be able to do anything without first taking revenge.
Scholar Song speaks with Gil-hyun, who has introduced himself as Park Ha-sung, the grandson of Park Won-il, the dead nobleman he found. At first, he asks a question about Gil-hyun’s past, but almost sensing that anything out of Gil-hyun’s mouth would be a lie, he stops himself by telling Gil-hyun that he won’t pry.
The scholar reveals that he knew Gil-hyun’s supposed grandfather and the circumstances that lead to his family’s self-imposed exile into the mountains. He just asks that Gil-hyun consider taking the national civil service exam, but Gil-hyun replies that he has no thoughts of doing so. Although Scholar Song tries to persuade him and tells him that the door is always open, Gil-hyun just makes his final bow and leaves.
Gil-hyun heads toward Ikhwari, but on his way, he runs into some travelers who tell him the news that the Great Ikhwari Elder was flogged to death and that the town has been dying since then. Gil-hyun falls into a daze as he continues to the place where he spent his formative years. But on the far outskirts of town, he sees that Ikhwari is no longer the thriving place he remembers and makes a decision. He returns to Scholar Song and announces to him that he would like to take the national state exam. He asks if he’d even be worthy to take it, but Scholar Song just says that he recognizes the desperation in Gil-hyun’s eyes.
Gil-dong approaches Heotaehak in a midnight meeting and asks if his mind is made up yet. He reassures Heotaehak that a share of the silver mine will be his once they get it back. When Heotaehak agrees, Gil-dong tells him that the next stage of their plan is to return the “kidnapped” Magistrate Eom.
To do this, the Amogae Avengers stage a fake hostage situation with Magistrate Eom all tied up. When Heotaehak shows up with Mori and a group of his men, it’s almost too easy to take back the fearful magistrate.
Magistrate Eom puts on quite the performance in front of Choongwongoon, praising Heotaehak to heaven and back for his rescue. It seems like that good will goes a long way, because later, when Heotaehak conferences with Gil-dong, he expresses that Choongwongoon looks like he trusts him again. He tells Gil-dong about the royal’s impending trip to the capital to meet with the king, and Gil-dong orders him to use him and his men as part of Choongwongoon’s retinue.
Mistress Jo feeds grilled meat to her son, Soo-hak, and catches up with him on his school’s latest gossip: a new kid (Park Ha-sung/Gil-hyun) has joined them. When Mistress Jo hears that the young scholar’s family was involved in a political scandal that resulted in their exile, she cautions Soo-hak not to become too friendly with the newcomer. Fearing that the relationship would be detrimental toward Soo-hak’s own future with the king, Mistress Jo commands her son not to disobey, despite his insistence that he feels a connection with Park Ha-sung.
I guess he’s not as much of a mama’s boy as he seems, because later, scenes show him introducing himself warmly to Park Ha-sung/Gil-hyun. But Soo-hak goes by a different name now: JO JEONG-HAK. He tells Gil-hyun briefly that he did go through a name change in his childhood after his father died because his mother wanted to change his fortune, and Gil-hyun doesn’t recognize the name as his former master’s son. (Whoa, double hidden identities. Oh my!) Scholar Song watches the budding friendship with interested eyes. It’s also revealed that the questions for the national exam will be directly given by the king.
Then we cut to Yeonsangun, who still seems to be plagued by his disobedient court. Outside the palace, a full protest is in session to argue against the Buddhist prayer ceremony that he wanted to hold for his deceased mother, the dethroned queen. Yeonsangun expresses his frustrations to Eunuch Kim, saying that all these nobles are only using Confucianism as a front, and that it’s just a meaningless pretense for gaining political power.
Before his daily courtly session, Yeonsangun hesitates at the door because he’s still not confident about his abilities to stay true to himself and oppose the scholar nobles until the end, but Eunuch Kim persuades him to go in. Although he showed anxiety before, it’s so refreshing to see Yeonsangun finally take charge of his own destiny and deliver a devastatingly charismatic takedown to his unruly nobles.
He tells them that he may be a disobedient son, but if they also don’t obey his words, they are being disobedient to the current king. Half-menacingly, he adds that perhaps they don’t recognize him as the lawful king, which would be grounds for treason. In this single declaration, Yeonsangun pits himself against many of the Confucian scholars, and on the spot, all the nobles agree with him.
As soon as he walks out, Yeonsangun strides with a happy bounce in his step, finally thinking that he’s found his groove. He tells Eunuch Kim that maybe he does have what it takes to become a great ruler like his father. But his relief is short-lived, because the minor nobles have gathered in a strike against him in the palace courtyards. They chant their great disapproval at his authoritarian declarations, denouncing his actions because they aren’t what a sage king would do, and Yeonsangun’s temper and annoyance level rises.
When Heotaehak begins to prepare for Choongwongoon’s journey to the capital, he tells Mori to stay out of it and just guard the silver mines. Although Mori looks like he wants to protest, he doesn’t say anything.
Gil-dong and the others begin their in-disguise mission to infiltrate Choongwongoon’s traveling party. Ilchung, speaking of his old days at the temple where he would paint all day, starts applying their disguises, adding a fake mole here, a mustache there, and a wig for good measure. At the end of all of it, Gil-dong looks like a rough-hewn but clean-cut laborer, and Ga-ryung’s eyes keep straying toward him, although she also applauds the others for their transformations. Before he leaves, Gil-dong speaks with Amogae, who tells him the truth about the entire complicated situation surrounding Master Jo’s death and Choongwongoon’s involvement with Mistress Jo.
The following morning, they set out to be part of Choongwongoon’s retinue with Gil-dong as a the lead horse’s groom. When Ga-ryung calls Gil-dong “orabeoni” in a last greeting, he actually acknowledges her. Well it’s about time, after ignoring her for the past three episodes! Meanwhile, Yonggae and Segul uneasily watch their past colleagues-in-crime from behind the trees. (What do you know, they didn’t leave after all…)
When Choongwongoon steps out of his manse and into the streets, Gil-dong even kneels first to serve as the footstool for the royal to get on top of his horse. At this lowly gesture, Choongwongoon compliments Heotaehak for training the help well, while the other Amogae Avengers watch the scene unfold with gritted teeth. But Gil-dong’s expression is satisfied as he views receiving Choongwongoon’s good opinion as the next step in his revenge.
However, their ruse is almost discovered when a past customer of Gil-dong the Merchant comes along, asking him to visit her again and help her with her fertility issues. She’s on the verge of saying his name with Choongwongoon looking on suspiciously when Yonggae and Segul burst in on the scene and carry her away, loudly claiming that their mistress took her husband’s leaving too hard and become mad in the process. Like that, the royal’s suspicions are allayed, and Gil-dong breathes a sigh of relief.
At the palace, the king is yet again being troubled by his wayward nobles, who continue to demonstrate loudly and relentlessly in front of the gates as they ask for him to follow the way of Confucius and interrogate a nobleman called Lord Noh. A disheartened Yeonsangun tells Eunuch Kim that he thinks the other nobles don’t see him as the rightful king because he is the son of the dethroned queen. Despondently, he asks that Eunuch Kim gather a large bouquet of chrysanthemums (presumably to lay upon her burial mound).
Eunuch Kim promises that he’ll bring the best and most beautiful flowers to his king. On his way out, he encounters Nok-soo, who expresses her disappointment in him because she thought he favored her when she was in the gibang. The eunuch replies that he doesn’t think she, as a woman in love with another man, deserves someone like the king. She, in turn, makes a bet with him that she will leave the palace if she is unable to tempt the king and give him a measure of comfort during this difficult time of his transitioning reign.
Back with Gil-dong and company, Yonggae and Segul show up, finally to rejoin the gang. At first, they stare and tsk at the two weak-hearted friends’ temporary betrayal, but when Yonggae and Segul reveal that they’ve been following them the entire time and that they’ve missed them terribly, they meld into a giant group hug.
Choongwongoon awaits his audience with the king with increasing impatience and resorts to bribing an official to gain entry. The Amogae Avengers wait outside for Choongwongoon to come out, debating whether the king eats, sleeps, and poops like a real person. Gil-dong thinks the king is just a man, but the others disagree, telling Gil-dong that he’s being naive.
When Choongwongoon finally gains his private interview with the king, he bows lowly and almost crawls into the room in a showy display of servility. Choongwongoon begins his greetings to the king by saying that he’s been a bad subject to have lived so far from the king for so long. It’s his ploy to get reinstated into the capital after being exiled by the former king, Yeonsangun’s father.
Despite their fond remembrances of Yeonsangun’s childhood when Choongwongoon would visit often, the king traps his uncle into staying in exile with words. Ooh, I did not expect that. And when Choongwongoon realizes that Yeonsangun doesn’t want him to stay, his expression turns into one of inner fury. He leaves the palace in a depressed mood, but just as he crosses the threshold, a messenger from the king calls him back. Receiving and reading the king’s letter, Choongwongoon weeps with joy because it reads: “I will never forget you, Choongwongoon, for being a source of support in my childhood. However, right now, I am facing much opposition from the courtly officials who wish to seek any fault they can find. So I regret not being able to keep you by my side at this moment.”
Choongwongoon celebrates receiving the king’s favor at a gibang later that night with Heotaehak. The royal recognizes Gil-dong when he comes in with a large jug of wine as the person who knelt for him earlier that day, and so he nicknames him “foot stool.”
They all drink heavily together and pass out from too much imbibing. Gil-dong is the first to wake up, and he’s tempted to bash Choongwongoon’s head in with the wine jug. But remembering what his father told him about the court trial that left him a cripple, Gil-dong decides to continue to uphold his promise to enact public revenge on Choongwongoon.
During his talk with his father, Amogae had revealed that Choongwongoon had prevailed successfully because he had Mistress Jo by his side. In addition, he cautioned Gil-dong that once he murders someone, he can never go back to the person he was before, and that stays Gil-don’g hands from crashing the jug on Choongwongoon’s smug sleeping face.
The Amogae Avengers are waiting outside eagerly when Gil-dong comes out, and they ask why he didn’t kill Choongwongoon while he had the chance. Gil-dong says that he doesn’t want to give Choongwongoon such an easy death; he wants him to suffer for his crimes. The next step in Gil-dong’s plan is to find all of their past contacts in the capital city and see if those people are willing to stand by Amogae’s side. One by one, they track down different scholars, merchants, and guards who were indebted to Amogae back in the day.
They interview one guard in particular who knows everything about the inner workings of the palace, with Keutsae and Yonggae sitting right next to him threateningly. Gil-dong tells the guard to think carefully before deciding his next move, because the king and Choongwongoon are far away while Amogae’s band is near. In a private setting, he asks the guard to give him more details on one illustrious personage in the palace, and when he guard asks who, he replies, “The king.”
Scholar Song gives his last words of advice to Gil-hyun before he leaves for the capital to take the national civil service exam. He tells him to forget all the book learning and just focus on capturing the king’s heart.
The man in question, Yeonsangun, is alone in his bedchambers and still looking troubled over his problems when a delicately socked foot enters his room.
It’s Nok-soo, in a white mourning ceremonial Buddhist gown. She’s been allowed into the king’s presence by Eunuch Kim, who seems to have taken on her bet. Nok-soo dances a solemn but elegant and beautiful solo performance for the king, and he shows a pleased smile in response.
The king is enchanted. I am enchanted. Everyone should watch this scene so they can be enchanted by the alluring Nok-soo. Honey Lee is killing it in this role as the divisive femme fatale with a tragic past. I love every scene where she dances or sings, and I definitely think multiple re-watches are often necessary to appreciate the beauty of her subtle movements. As a non-Buddhist myself, I’m not quite sure how having a ceremony to honor the dead would go against Confucian principles, but I’m sure that staging that private mourning dance for Yeonsangun has earned Nok-soo at least a million brownie points in his books.
Is it bad to say that I want Yeonsangun to be successful in stamping out the meddling nobles? Of course I understand that a good ruler should govern by the wishes of his people, but I wholeheartedly agree with him that these people of his seem to be engaging in a gridlock just for gridlock’s sake, not to preserve any loyalty to a particular philosophy as they pretend to be. Clearly, I can see that his disappointment and inferiority complex is leading him down a dark hole where he’ll become blinded to the truth and blame people that don’t deserve it. But for now, he’s such a sympathetic character who’s just weak because of the circumstances of his upbringing. Especially with Gil-hyun about to enter the palace and meet Yeonsangun, I wonder how their relationship will play out, and whether when Gil-hyun reunites with Gil-dong, it’ll be with them on opposing sides.
It’s interesting to see how the brothers’ reactions to their fathers’ deaths differed so drastically. Gil-dong vowed revenge and death, determined to find his siblings until the end. However, Gil-hyun suffered the requisite emotional pain of learning his parent’s death, but then he immediately went back to Scholar Song to pursue his dreams. He didn’t even try to find Eorini or Gil-dong and just assumed that they were dead based on the passing words of random travelers. I’m not ready to write off Gil-hyun as a selfish brother, but now I don’t know whether he’ll end up choosing the right side once he realizes that his family is alive.
Meanwhile, I’m adoring this puppy-love vibe between Gil-dong and Ga-ryung. They both obviously care for each other, perhaps not to the same extent, but they definitely have a connection. She’s such a spunky sidekick to his badass hero, but one who still brings out his protective side. I’m not sure what will tip Gil-dong over the edge from brotherly affection to romantic desire, but hopefully, something will get through his thick skull soon. Actually, let me take that back—I want a resolution to his and Nok-soo’s relationship before any Gil-dong/Ga-ryung progress happens, because it seems like they’re still yearning for each other in their own separate silent ways despite their parting, and because I wouldn’t want him to be a cheater (although she technically did it first).
Gil-dong didn’t look like he thinks of Nok-soo as often as he did in previous episodes, but of course there’s a lot on his mind, including his multi-step revenge plan. Speaking of which, when Yonggae pointed out that Gil-dong was even more ruthless than his father, I was taken aback. Amogae has committed murder, for goodness sakes—what can be more ruthless than that? But, looking from Yonggae’s standpoint, he does have a good argument to make, because Amogae never turned away his brothers even if they betrayed or ran away from him (i.e. the Amogae Avengers and Magistrate Eom when they came back), but Gil-dong didn’t hesitate to order them to cut ties with any disloyal members.
It’s one of the ways that the show manages to display the stark contrast between Gil-dong and Yeonsangun. While Gil-dong cherishes his many relationships, he knows what true friendship and loyalty is and what is not. However, Yeonsangun, who has grown up with a severe lack of love in his life, can’t distinguish the difference between groveling to a future prince and real affection. So when Choongwongoon came to him, he pretended nonchalance at first—but secretly, Yeonsangun has been so thirsty for love that he will take it anywhere he can get it, even if it’s from the psychopath uncle his father hated. I wish there could be a happy ending where Yeonsangun and Gil-dong come to understand each other over multiple jugs of wine and join forces and overhaul the corrupt social system. But any glance at history tells us that this can only end badly, so I hope that Gil-dong’s revolution changes something for the Joseon people by giving them the dream of equality.
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 9
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 8
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 7
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 6
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 5
- 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