Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 15
There’s plenty to celebrate for our Hong clan as they prove their worth to their greatest client: the king. Gil-dong proves his ability as the new Great Elder, with his intelligence, ambition, and his strength. But even with great success, his life is threatened by the very strength that makes him valuable. He’s warned not to take this immense power for granted, and he’s challenged to rethink his way of using his gifts. But the question is, will he change for the better, or continue down his current path?
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Weak and dying, Lord Noh prompts Gil-hyun to contemplate the true meaning of loyalty and vows to promote Gil-hyun to a higher rank as his final gesture to protect the king from those who act out of spite. He’s referring to some of our main players — Nok-soo, Gil-dong, and Choongwongoon — and warns us of their power: “These spiteful people can manipulate the king and the people to resolve their grudges.”
Madam Jo brings Scholar Song to meet Choongwongoon, and she explains that the estranged royal helped her bring justice to Amogae for murdering her husband. Choongwongoon has doubts about Scholar Song’s ability to help him, but Scholar Song isn’t bothered by the skepticism. He simply introduces himself as an ordinary citizen, searching tirelessly for someone to become a pillar for the nation. Then, he pointedly asks if Choongwongoon’s motive for punishing Amogae was actually to seize Amogae’s wealth.
Offended by Scholar Song’s contempt, Choonwongoon sends them away and retreats to his room. Madam Jo follows him inside and pleads that he tell Scholar Song his true story. She insists that Scholar Song will be able to help him, and she whispers to him the true identity of Scholar Song, which sparks a realization in Choonwongoon’s eyes.
Gil-dong and his Hong family find Park Ha-sun’s house, which looks pretty shabby for the home of a nobleman. He’s not home, and the female servant says that her noble reads all day and lives humbly. Gil-dong decides to leave without meeting with the helpful noble and orders Soboori to not bribe this nobleman, because he doesn’t want to corrupt upright scholars like Park Ha-sun. After Gil-dong leaves, Gil-hyun (code name: Park Ha-sun) returns to his home; thus, another opportunity for a brotherly reunion is lost.
Later that night, Choongwongoon invites Scholar Song into his room and reveals his true motives for punishing Amogae. He truly believed that as a member of the royal family, he had an obligation to preserve social order. Scholar Song asks if Choongwongoon intends to get revenge on Gil-dong if he’s released from exile, and Choongwongoon vows to retaliate against not only Gil-dong, but his whole clan.
At the palace, Nok-soo bows to the king in gratitude for the retribution against the wretched old noble who scarred her mother and herself. Yeonsangun asks for a token of her gratitude, requesting her heart. But Nok-soo responds that she cannot give her heart to him, since she already gave it to another man. Yeonsangun laughs at her audacity, more intrigued than before.
As Nok-soo leaves, Eunuch Kim follows and asks if the man who took her heart is Gil-dong. She answers with a question: Why did he think Gil-dong would never become the mighty one to change history? He responds with a reference to Gil-dong as the clever witness (he doesn’t reveal that it was Gil-dong to Nok-soo) at the grand court who wasted his talents. He says that if the one does not use the strength and talents granted by the heavens, one cannot change history. He ends their conversation at that, leaving Nok-soo more vexed and pensive in his wake.
The king’s servile minister, Ja-kwang, presents the rows of scholars who helped the king seize power. The king wishes to reward them, so first, he asks Jeong-hak about his request. Jeong-hak asks for a nice home for his mother, and he’s complimented for being a dutiful son. Next, the king turns to Gil-hyun, who requests to work as an incognito traveler outside the palace so that he can be the real eyes and ears for the king. Yeonsangun is pleased by Gil-hyun’s response and commends him for his extraordinary dedication.
After their meeting with the king, Jeong-hak expresses his surprise at Gil-hyun’s decision to work as a traveler outside the palace and wonders about his motivations. As they converse, a group of young maids passes by, and we return to the closing scene of the previous episode. A purple ribbon drops to the ground, and a girl quickly goes back to retrieve it. We see that it’s Eorini, well and alive as a palace maid in training.
Eunuch Kim checks in with the newly appointed royal craftsman, Soboori, and tells him that his job is not only to prepare the king’s garments. He says that the royal craftsman must also build the king’s dignity. Soboori has no idea what that means, but Eunuch Kim’s subtle side-eye shuts up his joking mannerisms. Eunuch Kim clarifies that they need the best for the king and orders three-hundred nyang (or taels of silver) in two months.
It’s an excessive order from Eunuch Kim, and our bandits seem worried. Gil-dong decides that they’ll need to expand their silver mine and find the best workers to fulfill that order. But soon after the order, Eunuch Kim requests that Soboori rush the process even more, since the king expressed disapproval of the faded cloth on his royal carriage. Soboori’s slight slip of the tongue in a moment of pressure reveals that there’s another figure above him who rules the silver mines, and Eunuch Kim demands to meet the true head of the mines.
Eunuch Kim is escorted to the Hanyang house by Soboori, and Gil-dong announce his entrance into the room. When the two come face to face, they stare at each other in a silent moment of recognition.
As Soboori and Ilchung nervously wait outside the room, Gil-dong and Eunuch Kim comment on their fateful encounter. Gil-dong assumes that this is their first encounter after the gibang, but Eunuch Kim reveals that he saw Gil-dong fairly recently, in his role as “footstool.” Tensions are elevated, and Gil-dong chugs some alcohol to admit to his fraud. He explains that he owed Choongwongoon retribution and asks Eunuch Kim why he didn’t disclose Gil-dong’s identity during the hearing. Crafty Eunuch Kim merely shrugs with an “I don’t know” before taking his leave.
Yeonsangun writes as he tells Eunuch Kim about the ruler he hopes to be. He surely wants to be a good and wise king, but more importantly, he intends to be a dignified monarch. He tells Eunuch Kim that he plans to host a banquet soon and wants to see a dignified look with blue peacock feathers. But on that top of that, it seems that the king has ordered the purchase of many more delicacies, and these purchases are quickly depleting the national treasury.
Eunuch Kim requests to meet Gil-dong again, and this time, they’re talking business. Eunuch Kim reveals that he doesn’t like Choongwongoon and admits that he rooted for Gil-dong in the hearing in hopes that the king would lose affection for the greedy royal. Reciprocating the honesty, Gil-dong explains that he offered the silver mine because it was the only way for him as a gangster to show dedication. Eunuch Kim acknowledges Gil-dong’s audacity (he framed a royal, after all) and proposes a lucrative business deal that would help establish the king’s dignity.
The bandits are shocked to hear about their new business deal with the king, but Gil-dong already has a plan. He reminds the bandit team about the previous alcohol prohibition that spiked the prices up to ten times the original value. In partnership with the king, Gil-dong suggests that they create a storage of alcohol to sell in preparation of a prohibition. Gil-dong proposes this plan to Eunuch Kim and claims that this would frame the king as a dignified ruler concerned for his people while vilifying wealthy nobles for engaging in illegal activity. Gil-dong offers to transfer all the profits to the royal treasury, and Eunuch Kim is pleased with the plan.
The king asks his ministers how he can be a good king, and one minister hesitantly proposes an alcohol ban in response to the poor crops this season. The king agrees with the proposal and orders a prohibition, exempting the elderly who need alcohol as medicine and the poor who sell alcohol for a living. The ministers praise their majesty’s wisdom, and Eunuch Kim smiles.
The announcement of the prohibition falls just as the taste test for the alcohol is complete, and our Bandit HQ becomes Alcohol Central for all the “ill” wealthy nobles who need alcohol for medicine. Our bandits are paid the overpriced value for the alcohol and celebrate their success with their own round of “medicine.” Meanwhile, Gil-hyun watches wealthy nobles drinking frivolously at a gibang, and he sends a report of his observations to the king.
When Yeonsangun hears of this disobedience, he orders for the imprisonment of all the criminals. But in the village, Yonggae and Segul watch the poor being selectively captured while the rich continue to drink away their worries. Keutsae tries to bring this to Gil-dong’s attention, but he doesn’t show any sympathy and simply orders them to protect their alcohol storage well. But the heightened tensions inevitably lead to a break-in by the local gang, who shatter all the pots and effectively ruin their business.
Gil-dong meets with Eunuch Kim once more to request that he turn a blind eye to the gang fights that will ensue that evening. And as expected, the rival local gang show up to challenge Gil-dong and the bandits. One by one, Ilchung, Segul, Keutsae, and Eop-san join Yonggae to relive their prime and fight the gang. Prayer beads in hand, Gil-dong watches his bandits dominate in the fight and spots the gang leader in the back. He (literally) flies towards the leader and grabs the knife directed at this neck. Gil-dong disarms and cripples his opponent with ease, and the gang ultimately surrenders.
From afar, Mori watches this fight and fixates on Gil-dong. He’s definitely plotting something.
Ga-ryung paces nervously as she waits for the bandits — but more importantly, Gil-dong — to return from the fight. They all return safely, but Ga-ryung notices Gil-dong’s bleeding hand and runs out to find the doctor, despite his own lack of concern. As she runs through the village, Mori spots her and recognizes her as the servant who insisted on joining Heotaehak’s house. Putting the pieces together, he realizes that she must belong to Gil-dong’s clan.
Later that night, Ga-ryung holds Gil-dong’s injured hand as he sleeps, and she tells him not to get hurt anymore. She says that if he continues getting hurt, she may die. Gil-dong peeks his eyes open and silently watches Ga-ryung at his bedside, seeing that she’s worried sick.
Gil-dong delivers the silver taels to Eunuch Kim, who grins that they exceeded his expectations. Before he leaves, he tells Gil-dong that it’s a shame that he decided to become a gangster, since he once thought that Gil-dong was truly the Might Child Who Lived. That leaves Gil-dong in a mood, and Ga-ryung notices that he’s still in a funk that night during dinner.
The Bandit HQ dinner is interrupted by a mysterious guest who lets herself into the house and looks around at everyone at the table. Gil-dong finally turns around to face the woman, and she recognizes him as Amogae’s son.
Everyone tries to eavesdrop outside the room, and the mysterious woman introduces herself as the Jirisan shaman who blessed the Ikhwari Tree, which Amogae claimed would support a great energy from Joseon. She regrets that she was unable to see his father again before he passed and shares that Amogae’s biggest concern was always about how to let Gil-dong survive. She glares at him and says that in his current state, his body will be destroyed.
Soboori barges in at that comment, but the shaman continues with her scolding. She says that the gift of extraordinary strength from the heavens is not being usedt properly. She warns him that if this strength is misused, the bearer of the strength will die. She leaves with repeated tut-tuts of disapproval.
The bandits throw salt at the entrance to fend off the bad energy of the unwelcome guest, and Gil-dong assures Ilchung that the shaman was just a crazy lady spewing nonsense. But alone in his room that night, Gil-dong holds his beads with a pensive look and thinks back to his father’s words about living out his life. But then he hears some noise outside and goes to check who it is.
It’s Ga-ryung, throwing an excessive amount of salt in piles to fend of the crazy lady. Gil-dong finds her actions amusing and comments that she must have depleted their whole salt supply. Ga-ryung assures Gil-dong that the shaman’s words were all fake and mentions a similar crazy lady from her youth.
Gil-dong urges her to talk more about her youth, and she says that there’s little to talk about. She came from family of many children and took care of the younger and older family members. Her father sold her off when times got rough, but she says she doesn’t hate him for it. In fact, she may have even enjoyed her time at the gibang even more because she wasn’t treated as harshly.
She looks down, embarrassed at her poor ordinary childhood, but Gil-dong reaches out to touch her hair. He still likes her, he says. He finds her boldness pretty and feels sympathetic because she smiles so often. He drops his hand after being momentarily lost in voicing his swoony thoughts and tells her to go to bed, but Ga-ryung looks too flattered to do so.
At the palace, Eorini watches into the musician troupe right outside the door. One of the musicians confronts Nok-soo about the rumors of her acting capriciously in front of the king, and she says that Nok-soo doesn’t belong in the troupe. Nok-soo slaps her in response, saying that no one tells her where she belongs. She warns the naïve musician that confronting her will involve a futile fight, since she’s crazy, and everyone else is just ordinary.
Nok-soo transforms her intense face into a soft smile and tells the now-crying musician that she should practice her dance performance for the king. Mesmerized by Nok-soo, Eorini continues to watch at the door until she’s peeled away by another palace maid.
Gil-dong delivers another batch of silver taels to Eunuch Kim while Ga-ryung eavesdrops on the conversation, as Eunuch Kim asks if he’s ever wondered about Nok-soo. Gil-dong admits that he’s heard rumors of her being in the musician troupe at the palace, and asks if she’s there. Eunuch Kim says that there’s nobody named Gong-hwa (Nok-soo’s former name) at the palace.
Ga-ryung finds Gil-dong outside and tells him that she’s decided to wait. She claims she’s happy enough to be able to see him every day, and then she smiles at him. Gil-dong watches her walk away, looking confused and really not getting the hint.
Scholar Song tells Choongwongoon that there may be a way for him to escape exile if he pulls the right strings. He has a special eye for desperation, and he tells Choongwongoon of a particular student of his (Gil-hyun) who is a pure product of his work. He claims that he will be able to help Choongwongoon as he did for that student before telling Choongwongoon that he must leave behind his older self. The question is, is he ready to do that?
The Hong family gathers to celebrate their successes, and Gil-dong delegates the business to his fellow bandits. Ga-ryung speaks up and says that she wants a job too: She wants to be a storyteller, and Gil-dong says that she can do whatever she wants. They cheer to their prosperity.
We see the flourishing Hong family in little snippets: Yonggae manages the alcohol business, Keutsae regulates the Hwalbin House, and Seggul oversees the silver mines. Gil-dong peeks into Ga-ryung’s room and sees her happily reading a book. At the palace, Eorini smiles in her sleep with her purple ribbon in hand. Gil-hyun looks conflicted, but Yeonsangun laughs in genuine happiness (perhaps more blissful ignorance) about his ruling. Meanwhile, Choongwongoon tries to turn his life around by engaging with books and puts a knife on his book to discourage himself from nodding off.
Holding his prayer beads behind him, Gil-dong watches his kingdom working in harmony. A smiling Eorini walks around the palace, and we transition out of her childhood as we see two older palace maids come into focus, but we have yet to see how they’re related.
While our main players still remain separate in their respective roles, we see how their involvement with the king and the palace will likely result in their fated reunion — whether it’s for good or for ill. With Gil-dong’s business deals established, the plot was getting pretty routine (take a drink for every time Gil-dong met up with Eunuch Kim), so I think it was a good time for a time skip.
It’ll be interesting to see how entrenched Gil-dong’s business is in the royal palace, and I wonder how the antagonism between Gil-dong and Yeonsangun will be prompted. Everything seems quite harmonious now, and the erratic king couldn’t be happier. It’s a peaceful time. But we know things are about to change, and I’m curious to find out what changes Gil-dong’s attitude towards the king. From Gil-dong’s disregard for the targeted poor people in response to the alcohol ban, he doesn’t seem to represent the people right now. Instead, he just seems to be a gangster, filling in the role left empty by his father.
I enjoyed how this episode played strongly on dramatic irony, with the siblings being so close yet unable to recognize each other’s existence. And especially with Eunuch Kim, who speaks so abstractly that only we can understand what he truly means. He’s a tricky fellow who speaks in many languages. Most of his words are only thinly veiled versions of the truth, but the veil is just opaque enough that the other person has no idea what the hell he’s talking about. It’s simultaneously frustrating and fascinating to have such an intelligent character on screen. He seems to be speaking to us as the audience, which makes the show a little cheekier. I feel like I’m in on a secret, and that feeling is the exact sort of engagement this show wants to have in order to keep its audience throughout the whole run.
As Eunuch Kim and the shaman warned, it seems that this gangster life does not bode well for Gil-dong’s survival. I don’t see any threats to Gil-dong’s life right now, so I’m interested to see how that threat will change the way Gil-dong uses his strength. I’m with both Eunuch Kim and the shaman, in that I’m disappointed in Gil-dong for not using his strength productively, for the good of the people. He simply uses it as a tool, and if a life-threatening situation and multiple warnings are what it takes for Gil-dong to finally use his gifts for the right things, I’m for it. Just don’t hurt Gil-dong too much, for my sake and for Ga-ryung’s.
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- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 12
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 11
- Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People: Episode 10
- 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