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Nokdu Flower: Episodes 11-12

War is officially declared, the battle-lines are drawn, and each brother finds themselves on the opposite side. One brother by choice, since it offers him a new chance at life, and the other by coercion. The latter discovers the truth behind his conscription, and the betrayal hits hard as the idealistic scholar gradually transitions into a ruthless soldier.

 
EPISODES 11-12 RECAP

The mountain scouts march ahead of the Donghak followers, Yi-kang happily with them, beaming at the farmer peasants working in the fields. The peasants aren’t impressed with him, but they cheer in delight when they realize that Bong-joon and his army are walking by.

The Donghak religion grows as more people join Bong-joon, and he sets up a camp to train the new followers in battle-ready skills. That includes old rifles, of which the mountain scouts have greatest skill. Kyung-sun trains the other men on how to quickly load the rifles. Yi-kang is enthusiastic, but his crippled hand makes it difficult for him to do everything with only his left hand, and he accidentally shoots out the bamboo tamper into Kyung-sun’s chest.

Annoyed, Kyung-sun wants Bong-joon to move Yi-kang to another division, but Bong-joon wryly points out that Yi-kang is the only person who’s ever been able to shoot Kyung-sun, and they need every man they can get to fight against the governmental army.

In Gobu, which has been taken over again by the government, Ja-in reports back to the military leaders about what she saw at Baek mountain. I guess she’s taking her spy duties seriously, and not merely as an excuse to look for Yi-kang. She warns them that Bong-joon is building a large army, but the generals merely dismiss her as a woman who’s only there to provide good food and drink for the officers.

That’ll be difficult, since all the storehouses were raided by the Donghak followers. It also means the Baek family is now broke, so Ja-in’s effort to get help from Master Baek is a bust. But Master Baek is curious if, in her travels as a supplier for the army, she ran into Yi-hyun or Yi-kang. With a faint smirk, Ja-in slyly says that she’s too preoccupied with making money to notice anyone else.

The Gobu soldiers march to join up with the rest of the regiment, and some of the conscripted men stumble as they vomit. The starving men drank some tainted well water last night during their watch — and Yi-hyun was one of them. He faints, and is rushed to the outpost camp.

Ja-in tends to him — she not only deals in guns, but she also has a store of medicine. Yi-hyun muses that he’s once more indebted to her, but she tells him that he doesn’t owe her anything. Then she hands him a present from Myung-shin — it’s the robe Myung-shin was embroidering in anticipation of their wedding day. She wanted to give it to Yi-hyun as a symbol that she is fighting alongside him.

In the Donghak camp, the men stop for lunch. Yi-kang is excited for his meal, but he’s still persona non grata with the rest of the men, particularly the chef who is originally from Gobu. The chef just barely stops himself from hocking a loogie into Yi-kang’s bowl.

No one wants to sit with Yi-kang, either, although a few of the mountain scouts find him entertaining (ha, they still refer to him by the “Punching Bag” nickname). The men boast of their expertise with the blade and gunpowder, and Yi-kang wonders if they can teach them how to shoot a gun.

One of the men, an ex-monk who has been observing Yi-kang and the dynamics around him, tells Yi-kang to give up his gun — it would be better served in another man’s hands, since they’re already short on weapons.

Yi-kang demands to know how he’ll be able to fight and defend himself with only one hand — is the monk asking him to just die? But the man says that if Yi-kang can land a punch on him, then he’ll give back the gun.

For a thug like Yi-kang, it seems like a no-brainer, but the monk is a skilled fighter and easily avoids Yi-kang’s swinging fists, finally landing a blow that temporarily knocks Yi-kang out. Ahhh, yes, he’s definitely keeping that “Punching Bag” nickname.

Despite the lack of food in Gobu, Deok-ki manages to find some that will hopefully appease the officers. But he fears it won’t be enough. Ja-in tells him to go to Jeonju to buy more. Deok-ki doesn’t want to leave her alone at the military camp, but she shows him the small pistol she always carries — she’ll be safe enough.

The conscripted men take a break from marching, and in that time, a few deserters are rounded up. The commanding officer yells at a few of the other non-deserter conscripts — including Yi-hyun — to step forward, and behead the deserters as punishment.

Yi-hyun hesitates, and the commanding officer points his sword at Yi-hyun, ordering him to obey the command to kill the deserter. Weasel and Yi-hyun’s brother-in-law also arrive and watch as, with a sudden burst of rage, Yi-hyun slices off the man’s head.

Everyone is shocked, including Yi-hyun himself, as the blood drips off the blade. Weasel and Yi-hyun’s brother-in-law stare in horror at Yi-hyun as he dazedly staggers away from the body, but Yi-hyun’s stunned expression switches to a terrifying grin as he pushes past the officials.

Weasel and brother-in-law are there to make a case that Yi-hyun shouldn’t be serving — that it was an accident the scholar records were burned, and besides, Yi-hyun isn’t in a condition to be in the army. But the pompous magistrate refuses to accept their plea, since it will make it look like he curries favor and accepts bribes.

However, he thinks Yi-hyun would make a good official once the war ends. Yi-hyun is still determined to take the civil service exam, though. The magistrate admits he saw Yi-hyun’s name on the list of scholars when he first was appointed at Gobu, which surprises Yi-hyun, since that list was supposedly burned when the Donghak followers first occupied Gobu — before the magistrate ever arrived in town.

In the Donghak camp, Yi-kang practices fighting against a straw dummy, attempting to emulate the martial arts moves the monk used against him. Bong-joon interrupts, giving his approval that Yi-kang is preparing for battle. Yi-kang makes one of his sassy little jokes, but Bong-joon is dead serious — as he should be, since there’s a very real chance that they could die in the war.

Yi-kang isn’t afraid, because he wears a Donghak talisman on his back which means that he won’t get shot in the skirmish. But Bong-joon says that the label means “weak and powerless” — as in, it is the weak and powerless who will change the world. Bong-joon points out that Yi-kang’s crippled hand makes for a convenient weapon.

The Donghak leaders analyze the current map of where the governmental armies are, and discuss their next step, since the military is close enough to arrive at the Donghak camp within a day. Some of the leaders want to fight, some want to fall back and wait another day, but Bong-joon decides to meet them in the middle — disguised as peddlers.

Yi-kang watches as Kyung-sun tells the mountain scouts how to impersonate a peddler, then pleads to join them. Kyung-sun says he’ll be a liability, but the monk vouches for Yi-kang, promising that if Yi-kang betrays them, he’ll be sure to kill Yi-kang before Yi-kang can kill him.

In disguise, the scouts and Yi-kang make their way along the military route. Not that peddlers are necessarily safer than soldiers, since the peddlers want to protect their interest in supporting the government, which means killing any defectors and Donghak followers.

Things are tense when one of the main peddlers finds Kyung-sun suspect. Kyung-sun is ready to draw his sword and fight, but Deok-ki suddenly arrives with Ja-in’s peddlers, and Yi-kang springs forward, greeting him like a long lost brother, smothering him with hugs and kisses. Bwahaha! Deok-ki is totally confused, but at least Yi-kang proves his worth to Kyung-sun and the mountain scouts as Deok-ki endorses them to the suspicious peddlers.

The scouts join the rest of the peddlers, but Deok-ki pulls Yi-kang aside. He knows Yi-kang is Donghak, and assumes that they’re trying to sneak into the government army. Yi-kang insists they’re only trying to get medicine for the wounded men, but Deok-ki warns Yi-kang that he should go to the inn when he gets a chance, so he can at least see his mother again.

It might be his last chance, since Deok-ki’s war experience means he knows that no peasant with only bamboo as a weapon will survive against the government army, with their swords and guns. Aw, but then Yi-kang asks after Ja-in, telling Deok-ki to pass along the message that he says “hi.”

Thanks to the scouts gaining access to the military lines, the Donghak men now are able to quietly flank the road that the army is marching along. The soldiers are taken by surprise by the ambush, and at first the Donghak men have the upper-hand.

But nearby are the Gobu soldiers and the rest of the camp, who quickly join the fray — including Yi-hyun, who turns into the “ruthless warrior” as he kills anyone who attacks him. Many men on both sides are killed in the battle, and once Bong-joon realizes that military reinforcements are arriving, he orders the Donghak men to retreat.

After the battle, Ja-in wanders along the pathway strewn with dead bodies, anxiously inspecting every Donghak body for the tell-tale glove on the right hand. Yi-hyun spots her and tells her that his brother isn’t there.

They’re both relieved, but Yi-hyun is more amused that Yi-kang essentially has his own Myung-shin to fight along side him — or at least within his heart. Aha, so the leather glove is Ja-in’s version of an embroidered robe.

Yi-hyun spots Weasel pilfering a dead man’s garments and confronts the startled official. Yi-hyun demands to know how the magistrate saw the list of scholars when it was supposedly burned in the riot. Because that means someone lied in order to send Yi-hyun to war, and possibly to his death.

Weasel, with Yi-hyun’s blade pressed against his neck, gasps out that Teacher Hwang ordered him to do it, and Weasel couldn’t say anything because Teacher Hwang is blackmailing him. Furious, Yi-hyun raises his dagger to strike, but Ja-in calls out his name.

Coming to his senses, Yi-hyun drops the blade and staggers away to brood in the rain as he realizes the extent of Teacher Hwang’s betrayal. The man who he used to revere and hold in higher regard than his own father has now ruined his life.

Teacher Hwang feels no remorse, even when Master Baek visits to discuss the fact that there’s no reason the wedding shouldn’t continue as planned (even if Master Baek has lost his fortune). Master Baek genuinely believes the Donghak followers will be defeated soon, and that Yi-hyun will return safe-and-sound. Teacher Hwang merely laughs.

The peddlers arrive at the new military outpost — both real peddlers and the scouts in disguise. Ja-in is pleased to see another group of peddlers there, and their leader asks about Deok-ki, mentioning that they ran into someone called What’s-his-name.

Realizing that Yi-kang must be somewhere close, Ja-in wanders the military camp, searching for him. Huddled under a tent, the scouts wait out the rain as they ask Yi-kang about his fancy glove, teasing him when he admits it was a gift from a woman. Yi-kang loses himself in happy memories as he describes Ja-in to them (“She’s beautiful!”).

Ja-in is so close to Yi-kang — he’s mere feet away, hidden by boxes, but she can’t see him, and just when she seems to notice some men under the tent, she’s called away by another peddler. NoooOOOOOoooooooOOOOO! They’re so close!

The military officials are reveling in their “victory” with some wine, food, and women. They have no fear of Donghak men attacking the camp — although they should, since that’s exactly what happens in the middle of the night. The Donghak men set the outskirts of the camp up in flame, while the scouts infiltrate the gunpowder storage.

Meanwhile, Ja-in arrives at the officer’s tent with more food, but she’s disgusted and infuriated when she sees the terrified women in the officers arms. She angrily confronts the drunk general, but they’re interrupted by a huge blast as the weapons tent is blown up by the Donghak scouts.

The officers rush out of the tent, and the scouts and Yi-kang proudly shed their peddler disguises to reveal that they’re Donghak. Ja-in also runs out and sees the rush of Donghak followers run into the camp to fight against the unprepared soldiers.

A battle ensues, but even though the soldiers have the home turf, the Donghak men have the element of surprise, and it’s pretty even fight. Watching from a distance is Yi-hyun, who seems emotionally detached from it all.

Yi-kang is nearly killed by the drunk general, but the ex-monk saves Yi-kang with his super awesome swordsmanship. All through the camp are men fighting for their lives — it’s bloody and messy and brutal.

Deok-ki is at the inn in Jeonju, though, where he delivers a message from Yi-kang to his mother. Mom reads the letter, which reassures her that he’s doing well. He describes the place he’s living as peaceful and that he has no time to be bored, thanks to all the wonderful friends he’s made.

He adds that he’s on his way to a place he’s always want to go, and even though it might take a while to get there due to a difficult path, he’ll continue to walk along nevertheless.

Interspersed with Mom reading the letter are scenes from the bloody nighttime battlefield, including Yi-kang fighting off the soldiers. He sees Ja-in being dragged away by the soldiers and fights them off her.

Yi-kang and Ja-in suddenly come face-to-face, and they’re both so stunned to see each other that the chaos around them almost seems to stop and fade away.

But the battle doesn’t end, and as soldiers rush to drag Ja-in away from the skirmish, she screams out his name, struggling to free herself. But Yi-kang must focus on the war and fight for his life.

His letter concludes with a reassurance that his mother needn’t worry about him.

 
COMMENTS

Oh, my heart. I don’t know how much more of this “so close, yet so far” dramatic nonsense between Yi-kang and Ja-in I can take, but at least they got to see each other! For a few seconds! Before possibly dying in battle! Augh, I do love how much they care about each other (not that they’d ever admit it, either to each other or anyone else — or to themselves), and that despite their tough personas, they’re always on the lookout for each other. Well, Ja-in more so than Yi-kang, but that’s only because he didn’t know that she was part of the military suppliers so likely assumed she was safe at the inn. But it’s killing me that it’s been two episodes and we still haven’t had a proper reunion. C’mon, show! I need some snappy teasing banter and longing gazes! And maybe a little skinship!

On a terrifying note: yikes, Yi-hyun. I’d previously thought that Yoon Shi-yoon was a little underutilized in the early episodes, but wow — he’s definitely proving his worth now. I’ve mostly seen him play the goofy romantic lead or the pretty prince, so this darker turn is all new to me, but I’m loving it. Watching Yi-hyun gradually be taken over by the darkness in him is so riveting. You can see the flashes of humanity when he’s horrified by the easy (and almost gleeful) way he kills other people, including innocent men (like the deserter). Yet you can tell that he’s losing faith in everything that once grounded him. Where is the evil in taking another man’s life when your own life has been destroyed?

Teacher Hwang was Yi-hyun’s ideal — Yi-hyun had looked up to him as almost like a god. Teacher Hwang taught Yi-hyunabout equality and respect for others, no matter their class (even though his viewpoint was more cemented in intellectual enlightenment than a religious faction like Donghak). With Teacher Hwang’s blessing, Yi-hyun believed that he could change the corrupt government from within — and now his mentor and role model has thrown him to the wolves. Not only that, but his own brother essentially abandoned him. Not completely abandoned — there’s obviously some love and affection between the brothers (says the recapper, still clinging to her blind, foolish hope of a happily-ever-after bromance). But Yi-kang is building a new life filled with hope, and Yi-hyun is slowly turning into a monster.

The brother’s fortunes are turning — Yi-kang, who started with nothing, is beginning to have the blessed life that Yi-hyun used to have (well, it’s still a far cry from being a scholar with a rich father who paid for everything, but it’s still something). For the first time in Yi-kang’s life, he is surrounded by people who want to support him and help him live his best life. Well, as much as that is possible, considering that most of them don’t trust him yet (although there are glimmers of hope!). Yi-kang is gaining a mentor in Bong-joon, he has someone who loves him (yeah, I said it, Ja-in!), and, if the Donghak army wins the war, could live the peaceful life that he never thought was possible growing up, back when he was nothing but a servant in his father’s house.

Whereas Yi-hyun is gradually losing everything. So no wonder that he’s turning into his basest self, becoming no better than What’s-his-name who used to bully and beat-up people. I just hope that Yi-hyun doesn’t fall too far past the point where he can’t be redeemed.

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"I just hope that Yi-hyun doesn’t fall too far past the point where he can’t be redeemed."
-OMG. My heart. I'm afraid we're going downhill with this hope.. Yeah YH's world went crumbling down at the realization that Hwang betrayed him. And we know it's the closest person that brings the deepest pain. As you said, If YK's journey is uphill, YH's is downhill.. It's hard to accept but it's happening right before our eyes. Even though YH respected his brother's decision to join Donghak (and is genuinely happy that he found his lot), YH still holds his belief against the Donghak way of living. And he has become unafraid to do whatever means (killing) to stop them. I'm so afraid of what gonna happen to out brothers. Are they going to end up one-on-one, face to face in battle? Please no.

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This eps reminded me that this is, indeed, a difficult drama to watch. Continuous war, rampant corruption, casual violence, wide-spread poverty, betrayal and backstabbing, and I don't know what else. It felt like for every sympathetic decision Ja-in made and every good deed Yi-kang did, there's one more disheartening truth Yi-hyun had to face. His disilussionment about his father's cruelty to his own family, the true nature of his teacher, the horror of war, of killing someone and watching people died in front of his eyes was hard to watch. I felt like witnessing something inside him broken bit by bit, and I'm already dreading what would become of him if this continued.

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I appreciate how unflinchingly all of the horrors are portrayed without seeming gratuitous or over-done. It presents the dire conditions realistically but leaves room for hope, so it isn't suffocating to watch.

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The minute Yi-hyun's sword slashed that deserters body was also the moment his world was slashed to bits. The quickness of it all .... the ease of it .... and add to this, the revelation regarding Teacher Hwang. All this will consume Yi-hyun from here on in, I think, and if this is only the beginning of his descent into dark, dark place we better brace ourselves, for where he'll end up will be truly sad.

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I'm replying a month later to your comment, but yes, I'm bracing myself for Yi-hyun's descent into darkness. That moment was fundamental. I was horrified even while I was amazed at YSY's acting there.

Teacher Hwang is the classic example of those Joseon scholars who say they want the best for the people but ultimately are too obsessed with their status and privileges. At first I admired his loyalty when he pulled out of the rebellion because it was headed towards treason. But trying to get Yi-hyun killed was a no-no. I hope he gets his just desserts.

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Thank you very much @odilettante for the recap!!

I think that this is the best Yoon Shi-Yoon character (Yi-Hyun) & performance, it reminds me of Gaksital's Shunji (played by Park Ki-Woong).

And talking about Gaksital, Yi-Kang & Yi-Hyun are following the same path as Lee Kang-To & Kimura Shunji, respectively

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I've been really impressed by Yoon Shi-yoon's portrayal of Yi-hyun. He's done such a 180 from the early episodes to now, but it feels organic.

I hadn't made the Gaksital connection, but you're right. I keep meaning to go back and watch that show, as it's one of my all-time favorites, but then I'm like, "am I really ready to put myself through that again?" Haha.

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My heart still bleeds for Shunji. :'(
At least here we don't have both brothers falling for the same girl (I hope).

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Ohhh... I see the connection you've made there.. Yeah Kangto chose the people while Shunji chose to serve the Japanese..
Somehow we're just in a different era. Maybe that's just how life is--no matter what era we live in. Brothers can fight for different beliefs, different perspectives.
Re YSY: indeed he is amazing here. I'm continually drawn to his character despite its downhill trajectory.

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My heart truly bleeds for Yi-hyun... he is really a kind and good person at heart, but is only turning dark because he has no avenue to express his grave disappointment in the people closest to him (especially Teacher Hwang). Looking forward to more exceptional performances by Yoon shi-yoon and I really hope that both Yi-kang and Yi-hyun are still alive when the drama ends!!

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Lol. Let's hope together

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What happened to the rest of the recaps? Did they drop this drama?

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I'm all caught up and this drama is, to put it simply, daebak. This PD was born to do sageuks.

- On Baek Yi-hyun: I've always liked Yoon Shi Yoon, but he had a slight tendency to overact with his rom-com characters. Not here. He is retrained but still manages to convey a multitude of emotions. My heartu breaks every time he sinks lower into a nihilistic attitude.

- On Baek Yi-kang: It's heartwarming to see him find an identity, and to have a NAME for goodness' sakes. I don't think there is happiness for him in the long-term (*cries*) but he's really living every day to the fullest. And he has a sort of family now.

- On Song Ja In: My girl. So fierce and determined, but she's not a cold-hearted merchant like her father. I love how she took care of Yi-hyun like a younger brother, or like a friend. I'm shipping her with Yi-kang, doomed though that romance may be.

- On General Nokdu: Out of all the cast, I think Choi Moo-sung is the least charismatic, at least for the leader of a massive rebellion. I Can't help but compare him to another ideologue: Jeong Do-Jeon in SIX FLYING DRAGONS. I didn't like JDJ as a character, but Kim Myung Min played him to perfection.

Thanks for the recaps @odilettante! I hope you aren't drowning in work and can keep recapping this wonderful show.

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I agree except for your thoughts on General Nokdu here and Jeong Do-Jeon as portrayed in Six Flying Dragons. Not that I know anything about Korean history but from these two shows, General Nokdu seems to be of the common people while Jeon Do Jeon was a scholar and politician. So it fits to me that the General would not be as eloquently dpoken in his speeches as a man such as Jeon Do Jeon, who was also a published writer. Feel free to correct my facts as they only come from drama watching and sometimes looking at Wikipedia for a bit more background into the characters.

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My thoughts have changed since I wrote the comments above. Nokdu was really eloquent. He speaks in a simple and persuasive way.

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This wrapped up so well today that I was hoping to come to Dramabeans and read through all the recaps. I hope you pick it back up and finish recapping it. I've watched excellent Kdramas that blow the final episode so when one leaves you with that satisfied feeling, that can't be taken lightly.

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I searched for NOKDU FLOWER recaps online and can you believe it that I couldn't find any besides on DB? So I tried my hand at pseudo-recapping the drama where @odilettante left off, but wow, this is hard work, especially in a drama where so much happens and there are so many characters!

I don't think I can recap the whole thing, but at least I'm having fun re-watching (and learning the names this time, lol). For what it's worth...

Episode 13 pseudo recap PART 1

Yi-Kang and Ja-In get a good look at each other, but then the battle frenzy tears them apart and Ja-In is dragged away by soldiers. Song Bong Gil tells Deok-Ki that the provincial army was utterly defeated at Hwangto, and staggers thinking about his daughter.

Yi-Kang finds General Nokdu (Jeon Bong-Joon) at the battle site, strewn with corpses of men and women alike. Yi-Kang says he thought he’d feel exhilarated by the victory, but instead he feels disturbed. He asks if Injeukcheon (the Donghak religious tenet that all people are deities) really awaits at the end of their road. Nokdu: “We must find it ourselves, now that the doors are open.”

Ja-In wakes up on the ground a bit further away, and is noticed by two peasants scavenging among the dead. They drag her down a slope, possibly to rape her (ugh, my heart sank), but two shots are heard. Ja-In, shown holding her smoking pistol, is surrounded by the Donghak vanguard. Pale and trembling, she is taken to a tent blindfolded, and tied to a post. Yi-kang walks in and demands she is released. Didn’t they say they would release prisoners, and besides, she’s a woman? Commander Kyung-Sun is nonplussed and orders she be watched carefully, since her father is the chief peddler of the province.

Back at Gobu, Myung-Sim meets Yi-Hyun, and she throws herself in his arms regardless of his blood-stained clothes, thanking him for returning alive. Teacher Hwang interrupts, clearly not pleased to see Yu-Hyun again. Sitting down, he tells Yi-Hyun to think of it as a learning experience. Yi-hyun gives a small smile and agrees that he did learn something very valuable, and that the lesson was harsh (i.e.: that his teacher sent him to war to be killed). Yi-hyun reminds him that his marriage with Myung-Sim is set to happen soon, but Teacher Hwang obviously wants to postpone a marriage that he considers degrading for his noble family, so he gives the excuse that the times are chaotic and says they will speak again later.

At the Baek household, things are looking grim because disgruntled peasants now see it as their chance to get their revenge, and they beat Baek Ga to a pulp (karma dude). Yi-hyun appears and threatens to shoot them so they leave. Baek Ga asks why he didn’t bring along his half-brother and Yi-hyun scoffs. The family is shocked to learn that Yi-kang has become a Donghak member, an enemy.

Ja-in and Yi-kang catch up while she’s a prisoner, in their classic banter way. She grumbles that he’s a rebel, but...

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Episode 13 pseudo-recap PART 2

She grumbles that he’s a rebel, but he’s all “I’m fighting for the welfare of the people”. She asks how is hand is, and he acknowledges that “It is bearable apart from the fact that this glove is not great.” She solemnly thanks him, because she had felt afraid until she saw him. Yi-kang: “Were you only thankful?” She gives him the stink eye, and he mumbles that he was just joking to make her relax. She threatens to hit him if he makes another joke, her old spunk back.

A group of loyal soldiers from Jinsan arrive clamouring for the peddler woman in the tent (cameo by Yoon Kyung-Sang and Lee Joon-Hyuk). With a throwback to their pupil-master relationship in SIX FLYING DRAGONS, Joon-hyuk pulls out the infamous book on the “Eastern Twin Dragon Method” and Kyung-Sang demonstrates a few of the moves, to the bewilderment and amusement of everyone else. Yi-kang hilariously convinces them that the woman in question is Nokdu’s lover and they leave.

Teacher Hwang takes a tray to his sister because she hasn’t been eating, and notices that she’s reading the Geumo Shinwa, a collection of short stories by Kim Si Seub. Myung-Sim perks up and says they are suuuper addictive (the equivalent of Joseon kdramas?). She enthusiastically shows him her favourite story: a romance between an average scholar studying for the civil service exam and a noble lady, who marry despite their families’ objection. She recounts that she cried a lot reading the story (no, don’t say that!). Teacher Hwang looks pensive when she re-affirms that she really likes Yi-hyun. Meanwhile the Baek family discuss the situation, worried because Teacher Hwang keeps postponing the wedding. Baek Ga wonders why Yi-kang joined the rebel Donghak movement, and Yi-hyun coldly replies: “I thought you knew. You pushed him in that direction.” He walks out and heads towards a dark shed, where weasly Hong Ga is tied up. He begs for water, but Yi-hyun doesn’t reply. Chills.

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Episode 13 pseudo-recap PART 3

At the Donghak camp, the news spreads that the Joseon government army is coming. The commanders gather to discuss, and they learn that they will be facing an army of 1000 men. That doesn't sound like much, but they are armed with enough gunpowder and machine guns. The Donghak leaders make a plan: rather than fight at Jeonju fortress, they will lure them out. General Nokdu meets with Ja-In, who’s sarcastically asks if they treat innocent civilians like this. Nokdu replies that she is an army supplier, not an innocent civilian, because she takes money from soldiers who might die anytime, plus she is a merchant who got her privilege through bribes. Ja-in retorts that privilege is a right. Nokdu replies: “Privilege is power, not a right.” Nokdu calls her out for landing herself in this mess by volunteering to come to the battlefield to keep her petty rights and gain new privileges. He informs a seething Ja-in that he intends to end the privileges of peddlers, but right now, he needs to negotiate something with her father, and he will use her as collateral.

Cut to Yi-kang disguised with beard and glasses at the gates of Jeonju, and ho-ho laughing at the guards’ amazement that he has such a mature-looking son and a young wife (his two Donghak companions also in disguise), who manage to laugh nervously. They pass the inspection gates while Yi-kang grumbles about their terrible acting skills. They send a message to the Jeonju Inn via flying knife, and then walk through the marketplace. Yi-kang sees his mother and freezes.

END OF EPISODE

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Episode 14 pseudo-recap PART 1

Yi Kang freezes when he sees his mother in the streets of Jeonju. She walks past, not recognising him in his disguise. Having delivered their message , Yi-kang and his companions leave. Sitting by a campfire that evening, Beo-dul notices his despondent mood and asks why he didn’t at least say hello to his mother. He asks about her parents. We learn that they are both dead, and that her father was a hunter who was preyed upon by nobles. Yi-kang remembers Ja-in telling him that Yi-hyun was conscripted into the army by his Teacher Hwang. Determined, he declares that “Beo-dul, we will hunt the aristocrats.” He gives her a warm look and Beo-dul says she’s going to sleep, looking a little bit flustered.

Chief Peddler Song, having received the message and decided that a merchant needs to sell, sends Deok-Ki with the desired goods to a familiar-looking hut in the mountains (is this another cameo from SIX FLYING DRAGONS?). In exchange, Ja-in is set free, with the advice to not blab about what she has seen. We don’t get a glimpse of what the goods are, and Deok-Ki curiously asks what they are for. Just then Beo-dul and Beon-gae come running and inform their commander that Yi-kang has run away. Ja-in overhears and hurries towards Gobu, worried that Yi-Kang might get caught and beheaded (since he is still wanted to murder). Deok-Ki scolds her for acting like this, saying Yi-kang must be responsible for his choices, and convinces her to go back to Jeonju.

The Donghak vanguard discuss what to do. Giant monk Hae-Sung and the young ones want to go back for Yi-kang, but commander Kyung-Sun isn’t convinced. What kind of army is so generous to someone who ran away? “He is our comrade no matter what. I will go back for him,” says Hae-Sung. In the end young Beo-dul and Beon-gae seem to get permission.

Back at Gobu, Yi-kang runs into his former thug minion, who is adorably happy to see him alive. Yi-hyun takes off the blood-stained robe that Myung-Sim had embroidered for him. He leaves the house carrying two lanterns and gift box. Yi-kang shows up and asks if Yi-hyun will still proceed with the marriage knowing Teacher Hwang tried to kill him, and Yi-hyun says that it is a promise between the families, and between himself and Myung-Sim. Yi-kang then says he will accompany him, since he promised to deliver his wedding gift box, and smears his face in black to avoid being recognised. Yi-Kang’s former minion Eok-Si (?) acts as the crier. Meanwhile, a group of noblemen meet with Teacher Hwang and invite him to be the leader of their own army, formed of nobles and scholars, the “People’s Army”.

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Episode 14 pseudo-recap PART 2

Startled by the noise outside, Teacher Hwang and Myung-Sim come to the door, where they find Yi-hyun and his two attendants. Yi-hyun smilingly states that tomorrow is his wedding day. Teacher Hwang has a hard time containing his fury, but he heads inside to chat with Yi-hyun, who pulls out Weasel Hong’s identity tag and says that he will bury what happened. Hwang realizes that Yi-hyun knows he tried to kill him, and yells at him to get out. Yi-hyun just repeats: “Please buy the wedding box.” Myung-Sim and the other nobles rush into the room while Teacher Hwang grabs his sword and confirms that yes, he enlisted Yi-hyun as a local soldier and prayed he would die on the battlefield rather than have to marry into that offensive family. He calls off the wedding. Yi-hyun, still kneeling, looks up and with clenched teeth says “Lord Hwang, you reap what you sow.”

The other nobles drag Yi-hyun outside, beat him up, and kick him out saying he should be grateful they let him live after dishonouring his teacher and a noble, etc. etc. Yi-Kang picks him up and takes him home. The wedding box is left by the door and Myung-Sim sobs inconsolably.

Meanwhile Ja-In and Deok-Ki sit by a fire and she wonders if Yi-kang is safe. Deok-Ki smiles as he tells her that it was not compassion that had clouded her judgement, but love. He laughs and teases her, and she cries in realisation of her feelings.

Back in an ally of Gobu, Yi-hyun and Yi-kang are waylaid by a group of beggars (?), who hold them at knife's edge until Beo-dul and Beon-gae swoop in to save them. They want to leave quickly, but Yi-hyun asks them to wait while he serves his brother some home-cooked food (okay…) Eating together always meant something to the two-half brothers, so Yi-kang can’t refuse. While the young ones dig into the food, Yi-hyun speaks to Yi-kang outside. Essentially, he wants him to leave the Donghak army, because they will lose against the Joseon army, which is better equipped. Yi-hyun says he has seen the might of Western weapons and modern armies in Japan, but Yi-kang counters that ten men cannot defeat one man who fights for his life with fury. The air grows tense as Yi-hyun drily insists “come home, and become an official”. He offers to clear Yi-kang’s name with the magistrate, and as a bonus, to offer the heads of the two young Donghak members eating inside. Frazzled, Yi-kang runs into the room to find his two companions passed out.

Yi-hyun tells him that he will raise up his family again and invites Yi-kang to join him: “Our father’s words were true after all. You have to eat, or you will be eaten.” Yi-kang begs him to stop, but Yi-hyun says it’s too late: soldiers are already on their way to arrest the Donghak members. All Yi-kang has to do is turn a blind eye, says Yi-Hyun. Everyone does it, so he will do it too. Yi-kang stares in amazement at the betrayal and panics.

END OF EPISODE.

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This was a great episode so I have to pseudo-recap it!

Episode 15 pseudo-recap PART 1

Yi-hyun tells his half-brother to come back to the family, but Yi-kang replies: “No, the loyal soldiers are my family now.” Members of the People’s Army barge in. Yi-kang charges at them with his knife. He’s soon defeated, but Yi-hyun emerges from the shadows holding Beo-dul’s Mauser rifle and shoots a nobleman and another man who tries to get away. He turns to Yi-kang and says “Leave this house with your new family. You’re not my brother any more.”

Yi-kang half carries, half drags his two companions, coming face to face with Baek Ga, who mutely tells him to leave. With one last look at his father, Yi-kang crosses the threshold of his old home for good. The three make their way through a deserted Gobu, trailed by a group of scary-looking beggars. Finally, they reach the woods and Yi-kang turns to make a last stand, his energy spent and his two young companions still weak from the drugs. To his surprise, the beggars only want to join the Donghak army. Yi-kang scolds them for not telling him sooner, and they all head off together singing.

Ja-In and Deok-Ki are taking a break while she cleans her pistol (with a lot of fussing by Deok-Ki), when a few Joseon soldiers come by. At the army headquarters, a Cute Captain is also fussing about the way his men clean their rifles. The Joseon detachment arrives with the two peddlers in tow. Their captain (who shall be known as Captain Snake because I never got his name) scoffs that Jeolla peddlers must be cowards to have a woman as army supplier, and decides that Deok-Ki would make a good guide. He gets angry when Ja-In replies that they only take orders from the governor. Deok-Ki tries to calm him down but he gets beaten for his efforts. Cute Captain intervenes, fortunately.

Cute Captain’s name is Lee Kyu Tae, and Deok-Ki was his army sergeant back in the day. He takes Deok-Ki to meet the commander, who at first laughs to see Deok-Ki has become a mere peddler, but then accuses him of being embarrassment to the Joseon army. Thanks to the commander, we hear that Deok-Ki resigned during the rebellion of 1882 and even declared in front of everyone that he did not become a soldier to fight his own people. The commander tells him to get out.

Lee Kyu-Tae apologises as Deok-Ki and Ja-In prepare to leave. He tells them that the commander is very loyal to Queen Min and wants to get this over with so he can return to the palace. Deok-Ki warns him to not look down on the Donghak peasant army, but Lee Kyu Tae is confident they can win thanks to the machine guns and without waiting for the provincial army.

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Episode 15 pseudo-recap PART 2

General Nokdu receives the goods from Chief Peddler Song, which we finally see: carts full of cotton. He tells his mystified colleagues that they will fight the machine guns with cotton. Yi-kang gets punished for putting his companions in danger: he is no longer part of the Donghak Vanguard and is demoted to spear-man. He apologises to Beo-dul and Beon-gae for his brother’s actions, and Beon-gae hands him a bamboo-spear, telling him to live for a long time so he can torment him. General Nokdu arrives and Yi-kang asks for permission to kill Teacher Hwang, who ruined his little brother. He defends Yi-hyun, who always treated him like a brother in spite of being born from a slave, and who told him to live like a decent human being. Nokdu just tells him that he should kill someone more powerful, and he’ll find out who that is once he becomes a true loyal soldier.

Teacher Hwang visits Yi-hyun in his prison cell, not convinced how the Donghak members under effects of narcotics had been able to escape. Yi-hyun says, with a scary look, that he only knows two things: revenge, and more revenge. Hwang tries to get evidence to incriminate Yi-hyun, but the magistrate confirms that the bullets came from the Mauser rifle of the Donghak rebels. The magistrate asserts that elegant scholar Yi-hyun would never kill anyone (little does he know...).

Yi-hyun is released and tells his parents to forget the wedding and move on, but Baek Ga delivers his kind of wisdom: what goes round will come round; they will just bide their time while the armies fight it out.

A map shows the Donghak and Joseon armies on the move. The chyron says “April 23, 1894, Hwangryonchon, Jangseong, Jeolla Province.” A group of beggars intercept the Joseon army by a river, begging for food. When they look up they see row after row of bamboo spears in front of them. The Joseon army starts firing their cannons, raising clouds of sand while Donghak men fall. Commander Kyung-Sun shouts for them to stand their ground while Nokdu remains silent, but things are not looking good. Then Yi-kang starts to shout the Donghak religious tenet “Serving deity, I am transformed to follow the divine will. Eternally not forgetting, I become aware of all!” This rallies the rest, who take up the chant.

Before the cannons can start firing again, a Donghak troop led by Kim Gae Nam emerge from the tall grass by the river and the battle begins in earnest. Meanwhile the beggars, forgotten by the side, pour water into the cannons and render them useless, after which they are cut down by Joseon soldiers. Kim Gae Nam’s forces retreat to the tall grass with the Joseon infantry after them, and the commander calls for the machine guns. He’s fallen for Nokdu’s trap. The Donghak members roll out bales of cotton wrapped in straw mattresses and get behind them to protect themselves. The machine guns tear into the cotton rolls, setting some of them on fire and killing men like...

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Episode 15 pseudo-recap PART 3

The machine guns tear into the cotton rolls, setting some of them on fire and killing men like flies, but Yi-kang guides his group towards another cotton roll, and joining their fluffy but deadly forces they roll all the way up to the machine guns. Then it’s sword against bamboo-spear, and the Joseon commander orders a retreat. It’s a victory!

END OF EPISODE

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Episode 16 pseudo-recap PART 1

Ja-In and Deok-Ki return to the Jeonju Peddler’s Inn, where they are greeted warmly by Yoo-Wol (Yi-kang’s mom). Chief Peddler Song tells everyone that the Joseon army was crushed at Jangseong.

Ja-In counts the money she earned as army supplier of the provincial troops, and is joined by Yoo-Wol, who is happy as can be because her son sent her a letter saying he was with good friends in a decent place. Ja-In recalls the words of Yi-kang and General Nokdu, rebuking her for making money from men who die. Images of soldiers buying food and later being killed in battle come to her mind. She rubs the blood-stained coins as if trying to erase the blood, but she can’t. She breaks down into pitiful sobs and Yoo-Wol comforts her like only mothers know how.

At Gobu, all soldiers all called to duty again. Madam Baek panics and tells Yi-hyun to flee until this is all over, but he tells her not to worry – he won’t be a lowly solider this time. He goes to his father and declares his intention of becoming an official. Baek Ga tells him to shut up; he would rather bury him than see him become an official. Yi-hyun takes him to the shed where Weasel Hong is tied up and informs him that Hong colluded with Teacher Hwang during the initial revolt, revealing Baek Ga’s whereabouts. Yi-hyun asks his father to recommend him as an official, and when Baek Ga again refuses he loses his cool: “Please, admit to it already! The son who took the civil service exam, the Baek family you dreamed of – it has failed. It has completely failed.” Yi-hyun exits and Baek-Ga grabs a broken bit of pottery. In a series of terrifying fade-outs, we see Weasel Hong’s eyes widen and blood drips to the floor.

Defeated, Baek Ga sits in his office the next morning. He reminds Yi-hyun that once he is sworn in he cannot do anything else for ten years, and neither will the government pay him (!) so he must find other ways to survive. Father and son head to the ceremony that will make Yi-hyun an official, which looks more like a funeral for Baek Ga while Yi-hyun is deadly calm. In a flashback, we see Baek Ga telling Yi-hyun that he had lived as a poor official all his life, but he wanted to die the father of a minister.

Teacher Hwang hears the news and roars that Myung-Sim should forget Yi-hyun since he has become a lowly official. Myung-Sim asks if he was always this cruel. Looking a bit regretful, Hwang explains that he resents himself the most (Baek Ga comes second). He aspires to be a nobleman who lives according to Confucian ideals, and yet he cannot change his mind precisely because he is a nobleman. His old self died the day that he burned the list of Confucian scholars with Yi-hyung’s name on it. Myung-Sim cries silently.

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Episode 16 pseudo-recap PART 2

At the Donghak camp, Kyung-Sun approaches Yi-kang hesitatingly. Yi-kang’s ear twitches as if hoping to hear what he wants to hear. Kyun-Sun mouths for him to return to the Vanguard and scurries off to avoid Yi-kang’s effusive thanks. Stories about General Nokdu are already circulating around the camp. The Vanguard soldiers listen as the butcher Dong Rok-gae narrates (in a sequence worthy of Chinese wuxia) how Nokdu was shot by five soldiers, but he simply caught all five bullets in his hand and flung them back, knocking out all his enemies. Yi-kang joins them, and Kim Ga hands him a welcoming drink of “water”. Beo-dul sniffs the flask suspiciously. Yi-kang declares he suddenly feels thirty. Soon everyone except a few are drinking merrily.

The leaders are discussing the lack of discipline when a messenger from the King arrives, bearing a yeonum. The messenger orders everyone to kneel before reading the letter, which essentially states that Nokdu should disperse his men or they will be considered traitors. Nokdu declares: “We did not gather to hear a message of the king. We rose up to make sure he heard ours. Tell the king. Until our demands are met, we will not disperse. We have no intention of harming the King.” The messenger flies into a rage ("How dare youuu"), but Nokdu stands up and slashes him across the chest. Everyone stares in shock. Nokdu proclaims that anyone who is not afraid to become a traitor should stay. He points to their banner; all they want is to help the nation and save the people. Yi-kang stutters “General Nokdu, manseh”, then louder. Others take up the cry and finally the whole camp rings with “Long live General Nokdu!” (In a nice touch, magnolia trees are blooming, which is appropriate since we are in early spring). The Donghak army heads to Jeonju, while Dong Rok sings a ditty: Let us go, let us go. Slowly, slowly. We cannot go if we are crippled.

Meanwhile, Jeonju is in disarray. The magistrate almost forgets to change his outfit before escaping through packed streets (pretending to be Kim Gae Nam no less, haha). The posse is led by Yi-hyun’s rotund brother-in-law, who does not see his wife in the crowd and swats her aside. Chief Peddler Song refuses to leave so Deok-Ki carries him out. The Donghak army arrive and the people open the gates. Yi-kang and his mother reunite while Ja-in watches them, smiling.

Over at Gobu, Yi-hyun sits down with the magistrate and Teacher Hwang. The magistrate wants to send the local soldiers to Jeonju but he can’t lead them himself. Yi-hyun agrees and recommends Teacher Hwang for the post, since he has experience as an army leader and he has always taught that one must sacrifice their life for the nation. Teacher Hwang can hardly refuse. He remembers Yi-hyun’s threatening words: “I want revenge, and even more revenge.”

END OF EPISODE

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Episode 17-18 pseudo-recap
Episode 17 PART 1

At the magistrate’s office, Yi-hyun recommends Teacher Hwang as the leader of the local soldiers, which he cannot refuse. Outside, Yi-hyun introduces Weasel Hong (now a crooked, bent creature) as a new government slave, who was punished for burning the list of scholars and having Yi-hyun conscripted as a local soldier. (Of course, this is what Teacher Hwang concocted with Hong). Yi-hyun comments casually that if there were a mastermind behind Hong, and if that mastermind happened to be a nobleman, the magistrate would not have dared to punish him. Hwang knows that Yi-hyun is trying to punish him himself, but he vows that Yi-hyun won’t have his way because he is in charge of the soldiers. Going home, he warns his sister Myung-Sim to stay away from the Baek family.

Baek Ga explains the situation to his horrified wife: only Yi-hyun or Hwang will come back. Yi-hyun looks at his father with zero emotion. Myung-Sim comes to meet Yi-hyun. She stammers that it’s unthinkable but she can’t help thinking it… so she’s come to ask Yi-hyun to forgive her brother. He replies: “I had too much respect for him to forgive him.”

At Jeonju, the peddlers are accused of monopolising commerce, conspiring with corrupt officials, stealing from civilians and killing Donghak members. The Jeonju Peddler’s Inn is closed down and Yi-kang himself burns the peddler certificates. Ja-in turns off her lamp and refuses to speak to him.

The next day, Yoo-Wol feeds the Donghak Vanguard and hears that they are set to leave tomorrow, with Hanyang as the ultimate destination. Ja-in cleans up the mess outside the peddler’s inn. Yi-kang arrives saying nobody was hurt and her father is safe, so she shouldn’t be so sad. She tells him that the inn was her home and the peddlers raised her since her mother died at childbirth – they even changed her diapers. Yi-kang: “Everyone is nice if you get to know them. We should blame it on the world we are living in.”

Trying to cheer her up, he challenges her to a game of coin-tossing. She warns him she’s an expert, and soon enough Yi-kang is enduring the forehead-flicking. He finally wins one round but Ja-in runs away. He chases her through the marketplace, running into Beo-dul and Beon-gae, who can’t believe the lovey-dovey scene. Ja-in hops onto a swing and orders Yi-kang to push her, who happily complies. She asks why he is nice to him. Is it because she took in his mother? He is about to confess... when a cannonball lands in the lake below them. Soon it’s an inferno, and the swing is left abandoned.

The Joseon army commander (whose name is Hong Gye Hoon) is directing the cannons to fire on the walls of Jeonju, when the Gobu soldiers arrive under Teacher Hwang, with Yi-hyun as a subordinate official. A bullet pierces hits one of the gunners, and the commander realises the Donghak members have a long-distance rifle.

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Episode 17PART 2

Yi-hyun offers to take out the gun and asks to borrow a telescope. The commander: “You have a nice rifle. If you miss you will pay for your arrogance.” Yi-hyun weaves his way through the woods until he is near the walls. He hides behind a rock and looks through the telescope, spying Yi-kang. He sees monk Hae Sung manning the gun, takes careful aim, and shoots. The gun breaks with a crack. All that Yi-kang sees is a fleeting white figure.

The commander is impressed by Yi-hyun’s sharp-shooting skills and takes him under his service. Teacher Hwang is indignant but the commander retorts that this is not a village school and he could be punished for not respecting him. Meanwhile, the Donghak leaders discuss how to avoid a long siege at Jeonju so they can go support the troops rising in Chungcheong.

A night, the Donghak vanguard guard the wall. They discuss the boring tactics of the Joseon army, and call the commander a coward because during the rebellion of 1882 he fled with Queen Min instead of fighting (oh, so that explains the queen’s deep resentment of the peasant rebels…) We hear of a Lord Daewon who was sent to China, whom monk Hae-Sung ruefully says would not have let the country come to this. Yi-kang says they should fight harder so the Min family wouldn’t trust Qing China so much.

A man comes to report that the long-distance rifle is broken beyond repair, but he hardly gets his message out when he is shot. It’s Yi-hyun. He picks them off one by one. A second man is shot. A third. A fourth. A fifth. Beo-dul peers into the dark but she only sees a spark every time Yi-hyun fires. Yi-kang finally reacts and orders everyone to put out the fires, and it becomes silent once more.

Back at the Joseon camp, Teacher Hwang confronts Yi-hyun. “Did you learn to kill people in Japan?” he accuses. Yi-hyun repeats his father’s mantra, using “kill” instead of “eat”: “If I do not want to be killed, then I must kill. I have to survive.” Teacher Hwang calls him shameful, since the Donghak members were not attacking him. Yi-hyun states that he is not the shameful one, the war is.

Meanwhile the Donghak vanguard shiver at their posts since they cannot light fires. Yi-kang hugs Beon-gae to keep him warm, but the youngster says he should hug Song Ja-in instead. The whole troop starts teasing him (except Beo-dul, who looks unhappy). He asks if any of them are guaranteed to return home alive, and states that he should not hurt a wonderful woman like Ja-in. At the same time, Ja-in is praying at a make-shift Catholic chapel while a priest recites the Our Father. She begs God to protect Yi-kang.

At early dawn, General Nokdu stands outside his headquarters and observes that the wind is humid, so there will be a thick mist this morning. He gives the order to attack.

END OF EPISODE

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Episode 18 PART 1

As Nokdu predicted, a thick mist hangs over the bamboo forests near Jeonju. Teacher Hwang and the Gobu soldiers ready their swords when they see shapes advancing towards them. It’s not a Donghak troop but the provincial army (better late than never). They are led by Yi-hyun’s rotund brother-in-law, who spits when he sees Teacher Hwang.

The Joseon commander orders Yi-hyun to find Nokdu and kill him. In the eerie light of dawn the Donghak peasants creep through the bamboo forest, led by Nokdu himself. Teacher Hwang and his men hear running footsteps, but they don’t see the Donghak members until they are almost upon them. Myung-Sim wakes up from a nightmare. Teacher Hwang fights for his life, unable to see anything that happens around him. Yi-kang runs to the battle from one direction, and Yi-hyun from the other. Yi-hyun somehow recognises Teacher Hwang’s silhouette. He readies his gun and is about to shoot when he remembers Myung Sim’s words: “Please forgive him”. His hands shake. Hwang is wounded by a bamboo-spear, loses his sword, and tumbles to the ground fighting with whatever he can find. He smashes the head of a peasant with a rock until he kills the man, only to find a sword aimed at his neck. It’s General Nokdu. Hwang roars “Kill me!” and Nokdu raises his sword, but just then a bullet grazes his head. Yi-hyun shoots again, wounding Nokdu in the leg. Yi-kang arrives and helps him escape. Yi-hyun steps forward, killing two more Donghak members while Hwang watches.

Daylight arrives. Teacher Hwang is still sitting in a daze, surrounded by corpses. Yi-hyun throws him a bandage for his wound. Hwang asks why he didn’t kill him when it was the perfect chance. Yi-hyun replies: “I saw the look on your face. You looked terrified. I think I wanted to see that look one more time.” (Wait, does he mean that? I thought Myung Sim’s words stopped him!)

Yi-kang bursts into the ex-Peddler’s Inn calling desperately for medicine. Ja-in gives him the supplies. He’s about to rush off but she tells him to stop and breathe. He looks into her eyes and calms down. Heaving, he sobs that the general is severely wounded. Ja-in tells him that what matters is he fought well and came back alive. Throwing her arms around him, she says: “Thank you for breathing next to me. All I can do is pray. But I will pray and pray that you stay alive. Promise you will stay alive.” Yi-kang gently unwraps her arms: “A loyal soldier lives an ephemeral life and dies a brave death. You should not give your heart to me.” Ja-in is left in tears.

Nokdu undergoes rudimentary surgery while Yi-kang’s mother tends to the wounded outside. They receive news of trouble in Naju, where another People’s Army is being raised against them. Nokdu decides to send Kyung Sun there lest this new contingent join the Joseon troops. That means the Donghak Vanguard needs a new boss.

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Episode 18 PART 2

Monk Hae-Sung is the eldest but he refuses to lead them, so Dong-Rok offers himself as second-eldest. Kim Ga jokes that the handsomest he should be the leader, and Kyung-Sun nods. Hopeful, Kim Ga asks if he really means it, and Kyung Sun replies: “Yes. Move aside” while the others giggle. “Commander Baek, please look after the general.”

Yoo-Wol finds Ja-in attempting to help out and tells her she might get into trouble. “I might as well become a Donghak member then” says Ja-in. They hear that Yi-kang has been promoted, but neither of the women look happy about it.

Yi-kang walks into Gyeonggijeon Shrine, where he finds Nokdu writing something on the floor. Nokdu asks if he knows what this place is, and Yi-kang recites that it’s where the portrait of King Taejo was. Nokdu explains that this is the heart of the Joseon dynasty, and that at the beginning of the rebellion he had decided to write his Reform Bill in that sacred place. Yi-kang reads the twelve demands, though we only hear a few: “Punish the corrupt officials, punish those who abuse their power, punish those with improper conduct… burn all slave documents.” Nokdu claims he wanted to give the people a beautiful world but already 500 men have died for that. Yi-kang says he will do his best to protect him and thanks him for allowing him to live as a loyal soldier.

A poster appears in Jeonju, offering a reward for anyone who kills Nokdu. Ja-in can see the hand of nobles behind this – now that they think Nokdu is defeated, they are trying to gain the upper hand. Back in her room, she hears a door creak. She she stands up, pistol in hand, but it's only Deok-Ki taking some gold, who reports that her father couldn’t get out of Jeonju. Worried, she visits her father at his abandoned hut hide-out, where he is fuming because Nokdu looked down on peddlers and closed down his inn.

The Donghak vanguard are still guarding the walls of Jeonju night in the dark, in case the “Ogre” comes. Every time the Ogre shoots, someone dies. One man doesn’t take them seriously and tries to light his pipe with flint and stone. Kim Ga wants in too, and disobeys Yi-kang when he tells him to stand down. Yi-hyun sees the sparks and takes aim. Yi-kang pushes Kim Ga down just when the guy holding the flint falls, shot through the head. Yi-kang comes up with a plan. He grabs one of the flint-stones and tosses it into the air. Beon-gae uses his slingshot to hit the other rock and create a spark. Yi-hyun fires, letting Beo-dul know his exact location. She shoots and hits him in the arm. Yi-kang says “Let go get that ogre.” They run down the steps while Yi-hyun grimaces in pain.

END OF EPISODE

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