Nokdu Flower: Episodes 5-6
The loss of a defining skill that gave any sense of one’s worth and identity doesn’t seem to a worthwhile sacrifice to just gain back a name. But the restoration of a name means finding a new place in society — and seeing with new eyes the ramification of having authoritative power over the starving and unfortunate.
EPISODES 5-6 RECAP
Master Baek rides back into Gobu, much to all the townspeople’s chagrin — not to mention the Donghak followers. The only people happy to see him are his family and his servants.
Yi-hyun and his mother are relieved to reunited, as are Yi-kang and his mother — but Yi-hyun’s mother yells at Yi-kang for not taking better care of Master Baek and forcing Yi-hyun to risk his own life (and forgo his civil service exam) to save their father. Except of course Yi-kang did risk his life — and got stabbed through the hand for the trouble.
The soldiers (which include Master Baek’s son-in-law) drag Ja-in to Master Baek, who looks like she’s ready to spit fire. Master Baek chides them for being so rough with her, and the two of them sit down to talk. She furiously demands that he tell her why he’s doing all this, and he pulls out the Sabal Tongmun.
Master Baek points out that if she had given the Sabal Tongmun to the magistrate right away, the riot could have been avoided. Ja-in scoffs that if Master Baek isn’t trying to falsely accuse her, he should take it to the Inspector General in charge of stopping the riot. But she blanches when Master Baek says that the Inspector General is Lee Yong-tae, a name that apparently means something to her — and not something good.
Yi-hyun bursts in, demanding that his father let Ja-in go — after all, she saved Master Baek’s life. But Master Baek says he’s only doing this because she saved his life. If he were dead, then he wouldn’t care that all his rice has been stolen and that his house is in tatters. He’s back now, and he wants what’s rightfully his.
Plus, he’s giving her a way out that won’t end in her being imprisoned or possibly hanged. Reluctantly, she pulls out the contract she made Master Baek sign, the one where he promised to sell her all his rice for half-price.
Pleased, Master Baek slides the Sabal Tongmun to her as he takes the contract, and the two rip up their respective papers. Now they no longer have leverage over each other.
Ja-in is still angry as she leaves Master Baek’s home, but at least she’s free. Yi-kang stops her, demanding to know why she didn’t turn in the Sabal Tongmun to the magistrate, but she just grumps at him to get of her way. He spots a necklace partially hidden in her hanbok and pulls it out — it’s a cross. That means she follows Christianity, not the Donghak religion.
Yi-kang is bewildered that someone who isn’t even a part of Donghak would protect them, and Ja-in spits out she did it so that rascals like him would die. Yi-kang grabs her by the elbow and warns her that she better not be seen by him again, but she just shrugs him off and storms away.
His mother brings the doctor to look at Yi-kang’s hand, relieved that it’s not too serious — but the doctor just means he won’t have to cut off the hand. Pfff. Yi-kang’s tendons are severed, so he won’t be able to use his fingers to hold anything — like the knives he’s so skilled in throwing.
Word gets back to Master Baek and the rest of the family, who (except for Yi-hyun and Master Baek) laugh at the idea that Yi-kang won’t be able to intimidate the townspeople anymore. Which means he’s useless to them.
Lady Baek pleads with her husband to pay Yi-kang off and send him and his mother far away (not that she hasn’t been looking for any excuse to send Yi-kang’s mother away for years).
Inspector Lee Yong-tae and the rest of his men arrive in Gobu and terrorize the townspeople, arresting them and forcing them to reveal anyone who is working with the Donghak followers — or be killed. One of them rats out Teacher Hwang, who is sent to prison.
The new magistrate pleads his case before Inspector Lee, since Teacher Hwang is an aristocrat and well-respected, and could quite possibly become the next leader in what is essentially the House of Lords. Instead, they should punish the other Donghak members that they caught.
But Inspector Lee is not about to let an aristocrat, no matter how important, walk away from punishment, and vows that Teacher Hwang should get the same punishment as any other traitor — death. No wonder Master Baek called Inspector Lee “the Grim Reaper.”
In an effort to save Teacher Hwang, Master Baek had offered him a get-out-jail card by promising to fix things with the magistrate if he agreed to let Yi-hyun marry Teacher Hwang’s daughter, Myung-shin.
Master Baek, determined to crawl his way up to a higher status through his son, points out that Teacher Hwang only has one daughter and therefore his aristocratic bloodline will end if she doesn’t get married. But Teacher Hwang would rather his bloodline die out than become in-laws with the Baek family.
Poor Yi-kang is desperately trying to get a second (and third, and forth) opinion from the local doctors whether or not his hand can be fixed, but it’s hopeless. He drinks himself into a rage, determined to teach all the townspeople who attacked him and his mother a lesson.
His mother slaps him, pointing out that Bong-joon saved his life. She yells at Yi-kang, reminding him that Bong-joon might have hated what Yi-kang did, but he pitied Yi-kang as a person.
By stabbing him in the hand, Bong-joon gave back Yi-kang’s right to live like a human, and not like a nameless dog. He gave Yi-kang a second chance, but if all Yi-kang wants to do is drink and beat up innocent people, then, fine. She won’t stop him.
Yi-hyun and Myung-shin hurry to the government offices when they find out that Teacher Hwang has been given the death penalty. But Inspector Lee’s men refuse let them in, so all they can do is stand helplessly outside as they listen to the cries of pain as the Inspector Lee’s men torture Teacher Hwang.
In his drunken staggerings, Yi-kang finds them there, and realizes that his brother is trying to save Teacher Hwang. But Yi-kang angrily points out that Teacher Hwang was one of the instigators of the riot — Teacher Hwang is the reason their father has to walk with a cane.
Yi-hyun knows all this, just like he knows that the Donghak leaders caused Yi-kang to no longer be able to use his hand. But his eyes pool with tears as he pleads with Yi-kang for help.
Reluctantly, Yi-kang meets with to Master Baek, telling him to go to Yi-hyun and Myung-shim. But Master Baek is more interested in Yi-kang’s crippled hand, pointing out that those who can’t earn their keep, aren’t part of the family. Yi-kang is brave enough to push back, asking what Master Baek will do if Yi-kang can’t “earn his keep.”
Amused, Master Baek says that he guesses Yi-kang will have to take over the business. To Yi-kang’s stunned bafflement, Master Baek points out that with his permanent limp, he’s in no condition to continue working, so someone else should carry on the work.
Myung-shin visits her battered and barely-clinging to life father in prison. She tearfully pleads with him to drop his pride and beg forgiveness from Inspector Lee, since if he’s tortured one more day, there’s no way he’ll survive. But he just passes out from the pain.
Yi-hyun discovers that his father is responsible for Teacher Hwang being imprisoned and tortured, just because Teacher Hwang refused to let his daughter marry Yi-hyun. Furious at being used as a pawn in Master Baek’s greed for status, Yi-hyun asks what his father will do if Yi-hyun personally refuses to marry Myung-shin.
Master Baek laughs at such an outrageous idea, since who wouldn’t want to marry up? But Yi-hyun knows that his father would go to any lengths to get what he wants, and bitterly laughs at himself for all the effort he went through to save his father.
He thought perhaps by saving his father’s life, then Master Baek might change — might become a little more human. But Master Baek cynically says he lost his humanity a long time ago.
At the prison, Master Baek brings Teacher Hwang the wedding certificate, because by hook or by crook, he’s going to make his son the government minister he always wanted. He doesn’t care about being in-laws with Teacher Hwang — he just wants Yi-hyun to have the good life he deserves.
Ja-in meets with her Japanese buyer, who offers to lower the fine of not fulfilling her rice order if she finds Bong-joon. Turns out the Japanese buyer is really a spy and wants to get Bong-joon and the other Donghak followers to side with Japan and their growing empire. It won’t be easy to find Bong-joon, though, because Bong-joon’s gone deep into hiding.
Teacher Hwang reluctantly agrees to let Yi-hyun marry Myung-shin, which sets him free from prison. Yi-hyun offers Teacher Hwawng a chance to back out of the promise, but Teacher Hwang has his pride, so Yi-hyun and Myung-shin will marry.
Yi-hyun doesn’t look very happy about this arranged marriage, but Myung-shin accepts it gracefully. Ha, she’s more concerned about them addressing each other properly now that they’re going to be more than just childhood friends than his concern her family will look down on her for marrying him. Yep, it might be a forced relationship for Yi-hyun, but Myung-shin still has her heart-eyes for him.
Ooohhhh, Yi-kang is dressed in fancy duds that mark him as part of the Baek family proper. Master Baek takes him to the magistrate, who hopes that the town council will vote Yi-kang in as part of the council. Master Baek looks pleased, but Yi-kang looks uncomfortable in his shiny new clothes and hat that shows he’s now someone of importance. He also feels the constant need to hide his bandaged hand.
He runs into his old thug buddies, one of whom is brutally attacking some of the Donghak townspeople, trying to literally beat the religion out of them.
Yi-kang intervenes and orders the Donghak men to go home. His thug buddy takes offense that Yi-kang has changed, assuming it’s because Yi-kang’s become all high-and-mighty due to his new status.
As he sits in on the sniveling official taking taxes and trying to coerce information about the Donghak followers out of the townspeople, Yi-kang daydreams about when his hand wasn’t crippled and he could sling knives with perfect agility. The money the official receives is going directly to Yi-hyun’s wedding fund, it seems.
When he gets home, his mother refuses to talk to him, and throws back the money Yi-kang gives her. She doesn’t approve of his new career, but before they can argue about it, Yi-hyun arrives to invite them to dinner. In the main house. With the rest of the family. Which they’ve never done before. It’s a big deal.
Everyone except Yi-hyun is stunned by this invitation. Yi-hyun’s sister especially is furious that commoners should join them at the table, pointing out the mockery of having the servant who birthed Master Baek’s illegitimate son sitting directly next to Lady Baek.
At least Lady Baek tries to keep the peace by telling everyone to keep a stiff upper lip, and Yi-kang protectively grips his nervous mother’s hand. Master Baek reminds everyone that this is a night of celebration for Yi-hyun’s upcoming wedding, and Yi-kang and his mother are there by special invitation.
Yi-kang — with his crippled hand — carefully feeds his mother the celebratory rice cake. Now both Yi-kang and his mother have broken bread at the Baek family table. But they’re still not particularly welcome, as the Baek women weep into their rice cakes.
Afterwards, Yi-hyun reassures Yi-kang that the family will get used to it after awhile. Aw, Yi-kang is going to miss his younger brother after he moves away to be married. Then the two of them go play Robin Hood to the poor family that gave all their money in taxes to the greedy officials, and return that money to them! Double aw!
Yi-hyun is thrilled, but Yi-kang is uncomfortable, because such generosity suits Yi-hyun, but not Yi-kang, aka old “What’s-his-name,” the servant dog of Master Baek, the enforcer that the villagers hate.
Refusing to accept that excuse, Yi-hyun points out that Bong-joon got rid of “What’s-his-name” and saved Yi-kang. Even though crippling a man’s dominant hand might not seem like an act of a savior, Bong-joon killed the hand of the thug that brutally terrorized the Gobu people, and now the left hand belongs to Yi-kang, the man.
Yi-kang can’t argue with Yi-hyun’s wise words, and it doesn’t look like he really wants to. Holding out his left hand, Yi-kang congratulates Yi-hyun on his wedding. Aw, he really is becoming more civilized, even if Yi-hyun teases his brother for not giving him a gift.
Late at night, Ja-in’s arms are full of ledgers as she and Deok-ki walk through town, trying to figure out how they’ll find Bong-joon. Two men men bump into them, their hats low so their faces aren’t seen, but Ja-in recognizes the voice belonging to one of Bong-joon’s most trusted men.
Deok-ki immediately takes off running after them, chasing them through the maze of the town, but he eventually loses them. When he returns to Ja-in, she finds her staring at the slogans on the government offices that now cover up the “Wanted” posters of Bong-joon, warning that the Donghak people will riot again.
Inspector Lee takes this warning seriously by terrorizing the townspeople to get any information. The townspeople flee, but the Inspector’s men catch up to them and start to slaughter the townspeople. One pulls out his sward to kill a child, but he’s shot in the back — by Bong-joon!
Bong-joon is with some of his men, and they charge into battle agains the Inspector’s men. The Donghak followers win, but not without some casualties — at least they saved the child.
Meanwhile, the Baek family are giddy about all the expensive wedding presents that are arriving, thrilled that their family will now have a nobleman. Lady Baek is splashing out for the wedding, unconcerned about the cost of things since she knows they’ve got a huge store of rice hidden in their mountain fortress.
Master Baek is more interested in the rumors that Bong-joon has reappeared and that Donghak is preparing for another uprising. One of Master Baek’s men orders some of the townspeople to move the stored rice to another more secure location, but as he does, he’s interrupted by an arrow — masked men swarm the store, tying up Master Baek’s workers and burning everything down.
When Master Baek and his sons arrive, there are only broken and charred remains of his precious rice storage. Master Baek vows to destroy all the Donghak people in revenge, but Yi-kang finds it hard to believe that the Donghak followers would do such needless destruction when that food could have fed so many people.
It’s a wise suspicion, since the real culprit is Ja-in’s father, who ordered some men to destroy the store but make it look like it was done by the Donghak people. Ja-in immediately realizes her father’s involvement, stunned that he would do something so cruel. Her father always taught her that sellable goods were more important than people, so why would he destroy something so precious as food stores?
Her dad was just getting back at Master Baek for the way he treated Ja-in, though. He angrily points out that it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and if she wants to make money, that’s how she should treat people. Hey, it sounds like he went to same school of ruthless self-serving greed as Master Baek!
Ja-in holds her head up high as she says that’s her father’s world — not hers. Her father can keep his money — she wants nothing to do with it.
Deok-ki reports back to her that the Gobu officials blame Bong-joon for the attack on the rice store, but she’s more surprised that Yi-kang is preparing to becoming an official because of his injury.
Yi-hyun stops by — not for a friendly chat, but because he needs something: a gun. He expertly rattles off the exact type of rifle he wants, explaining he needs it to defend himself in case of another riot. Ja-in points out that such a modern weapon is difficult to use, but Yi-hyun reassures her he was trained how to shoot during his studies in Japan.
Even so, Ja-in isn’t sure she can get it for him, since her relationship with the Japanese merchants has been destroyed due to Master Baek refusing to sell her rice. Yi-hyun apologizes for his father, adding that Donghak followers burned down Master Baek’s rice store.
They both eye each other carefully, and Yi-hyun adds that it seems odd that the men who burned down the rice store went out of their way to convince everyone that they’re Donghak followers. He tells her a story about how, when he was younger, the other boys used to beat him up in school because he was the teacher’s pet.
But one day, Yi-kang disguised himself as a student and beat the bullies up for Yi-hyun. After that, no one bothered Yi-hyun again. So now he suggests that perhaps her father has done the same thing for her, except with a burning down a rice store in place of beating up a bully.
Ja-in plays it cool, never admitting anything, but they both know the other knows the truth. Their words are eloquently layered as Yi-hyun, in metaphor, warns Ja-in not to mess with Master Baek again.
Back in Gobu, Master Baek sends Yi-kang out to collect even more fees and taxes so that they can pay off Yi-hyun’s wedding, now that their precious rice has been destroyed. Back to the thug life, as Yi-kang joins up with his buddies and they swagger through town.
At least, Yi-kang’s buddies swagger, but Yi-kang struggles with the effect of being given a second chance at a new life. Even though the townspeople scatter in terror before them, Yi-kang’s voice trembles with uncertainty as he yells at them.
Leaving his thugs to do the dirty work, one of them happily runs up to Yi-kang with a fistful of coins. Yi-kang contemplates the coins, remembering how happy the poor woman was to get her money back, the night he and his brother played Robin Hood.
The thug that Yi-kang clashed with earlier now starts to threaten a young woman, looking as though he’s about to rape her. Yi-kang suddenly intervenes and knocks the guy out using the coins as a makeshift weapon. He tosses the money at the terrified girl, telling her to give it to her mother. Aw, Yi-hyun was right to trust his hyung.
But now Yi-kang has to face the music. He stands before his father and tells Master Baek that he can’t become an official. Laughing, Master Baek asks Yi-kang if he’s gone crazy, but Yi-kang quietly says he’s completely sane — which is why he’s making this decision.
Master Baek slaps Yi-kang, trying to knock some sense into him, but Yi-kang glares at his father, staring him straight in the eye as he repeats that he won’t become a government official.
This conflict is so delicious. I am loving every step of Yi-kang’s journey of reformation. The start of a hero’s journey is never easy, but Yi-kang is taking that first step, which is the most important one. His gradual breakdown in confusion is so, so perfect — you can tell he’s going through the motions of his thug life, because that’s all he really knows what to do, but he can’t do it because his right hand no longer gives him the power that it used to. By stabbing that knife through Yi-kang’s hand, Bong-joon removed the only identity Yi-kang ever had, and now he’s having to create a new one with the less dominant left hand, one that hasn’t been trained to hold chopsticks, much less shoot daggers into people’s hearts. In that way, he’s like a little child again, trying to figure out who he is. And finally, after a life spent obeying orders, he’s now learning to speak up for himself, for Baek Yi-kang.
I adored the brotherly-bonding over their Robin Hood shenanigans, although I continue to dread that their camaraderie is doomed. I mean, I want them to stay buddy-buddy as they rectify all the terrible things their father has done, but that’s not where the story is taking us, is it? I’m not ready to have my heart ripped out, so for now, I’m just going to stick my fingers in my ears and convince myself that Yi-kang and Yi-hyun are best bros for life and nothing will come between them. La-la-la-LA!
At least we finally get a little more Yoon Shi-yoon. He was vastly under utilized in the premiere, to the point where I had to keep reminding myself he was still in this show. He still is underutilized, but I’m hoping that as the story progresses, we’ll get more of him. Admittedly, this is really Yi-kang’s story, but I love that Yi-hyun gets to be at least a little bit of a catalyst. I also love that Yi-hyun is genuinely intelligent. It’s one thing to say that your character is a geeeeenius, but to actually have him quickly figure out what’s really going on is quite refreshing. I’m just worried that his intelligence will actually become a hindrance later on, when his idealism clashes against reality.
I suppose I can’t let a recap go by without gushing over Ja-in, who continues to be awesome. The conversation she had with her father about her not wanting to live in his world was definitely the highlight of the episode. Considering that Bong-joon is determined to create a revolution through the force of a belief, it’s interesting to see that the kernels he and his men have already planted, almost at random, are beginning to take root. Ja-in is a ruthless businesswoman, but she also is discovering there’s perhaps more to life than trying to get the best deal possible. Just like Yi-kang is struggling with taking money from the poor and starving. They’re both realizing that perhaps this world they’ve grown up in, the one where their corrupt fathers bribed their way to riches and authority and seemingly a perfect life at the cost of the peasants and townspeople, isn’t the world they really want to live in after all.
- Premiere Watch: Nokdu Flower
- Character posters for SBS sageuk Nokdu Flower
- Yoon Shi-yoon taps into his dark side for SBS’s Nokdu Flower
- The yangban, the merchant, and the rebel leader in SBS’s Mung Bean Flower
- Jo Jung-seok becomes a rebel leader for SBS’s Mung Bean Flower
- Choi Moo-sung, Byung Heon joins Jo Jung-seok in SBS sageuk
- Jo Jung-seok, Yoon Shi-yoon offered brother roles in SBS sageuk